Title: You Were Always On My Mind
Written: January 27th, 2006 – January 28th, 2006
Takes Place: 9th season; no real spoilers other than Carter having rejoined SG-1. But total spoilers for SG:A up through the episode "Grace Under Pressure", including a reference to the episode "Letters from Pegasus". This fic assumes an S/J relationship offscreen, while also containing one small reference to Carter's engagement to Pete near the end of season 8.
Summary: Mostly Carter insight. SG-1 / SG:A crossover, sorta. Carter gets a message from McKay after his experience in the submerged puddle jumper.
Rating: PG, or whatever that equates to in ff . net's weird new rating system.
Disclaimer: Not mine, as much as I wish I could have a Rodney of my own. Sure, he'd probably tick me off after a day or two, but I'd get good use out of him, first. g
Author's Note: Oh my God, how great was "Grace Under Pressure"? It a nice nod to season 7 of SG-1's "Grace", and cool the way his hallucination just happens to be of the very same person who had had all of the hallucinations in that earlier episode. I do so love continuity. And I do love me some McKay, also – always have – especially when he interacts with Carter (Dude, I actually misted up at the end when she waved goodbye to him, the expression on his face was just that great).
How sad is it, though, that I'm enjoying Atlantis way more than SG-1 this season? It's so bad that when the episode ended last night I rewound and taped over it with the the SG:A episode immediately.
By the way, the song "You were always on my mind" does not feature in this fic, in any of its many incarnations; I just thought it was fitting.
"You Were Always On My Mind"
Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter ascended the steps to the Control Room and headed over to Sergeant Davis's position. As per usual, he was seated before the primary dialing computer, tapping away at his keyboard in response to the data being transmitted through the open wormhole. Warning-red lights flashed across his profile intermittently while the klaxons blared all around them, casting the other half of his face into black shadow. "What's going on?" she asked, resting a hand on the back of the Sergeant's chair.
At her voice he turned his head slightly in her direction (recalling to Carter's mind General Landry's recent nickname of "Radar"), but never broke eye contact with the monitor. She knew he was ever vigilant, also, of the status of the wormhole. "We're getting the weekly report from Atlantis. Doctor McKay's compression program is decoding now."
Carter nodded to herself, watching the progress bar grow as the data unpacked itself from the tight configuration Atlantis's head scientist had developed specifically to fit as much information as possible into a short transmission burst, back before they'd gotten a ZPM of their own. It made sense to continue using it, however, to allow for less active gate time. In fact, Carter had adapted the program to several of the SGC's systems and it had freed up considerable space on their hard drives, increasing overall efficiency.
With a sound oddly similar to that of a long zipper being yanked up, the wormhole shut down. A moment later the klaxons fell silent, and the Control Room returned to its typical state of lighted control panels twinkling in the dim illumination of base "night".
After eight full years, the sounds of humming computers and fingers flying over keyboards were familiar ones. Comforting, even. They meant that everything was running smoothly. But a quick, quiet series of gentle beeps drew her attention again to Sergeant Davis's computer. The data from Atlantis had been decoded and several messages in particular had been flagged for immediate attention. The silver-haired Sergeant had already begun to print up reports that would soon be collated and delivered to the appropriate personnel. The largest stack by far, Carter knew, would go to General Landry as the commander of the SGC. But she and Daniel would probably receive a good number, also.
SG-1's resident archaeologist was still a bit miffed that he had missed the Daedelus's first trip to Atlantis, but made up for it by absorbing all of the knowledge he could from their reports. Having been an ascended being twice now, himself, his interest in the Ancients was pretty close to home and he was always keen to learn more about them.
Being the science and technology expert of the flagship gate team, Atlantis's tech reports would have been of special interest to Carter in any case. But as she was still trying to keep a handle on the R&D program out at Area 51 they were especially useful.
And so it was no great surprise to her when Davis handed her a sheaf of papers from the printer. "These are for you, ma'am."
"Thank you, Sergeant," Carter replied absently, already scanning the first page. Before she could get too involved, however, Davis passed her something else. A compact disk, fresh from the CDR-W drive of his computer.
"And this," Davis said.
Carter frowned. "What is it?"
The Sergeant glanced at his monitor and shrugged when he turned back to her. "It's marked as a video message."
As he wandered off – no doubt to pester General Landry with a host of new forms to sign – Carter winced. The last video message she'd gotten from Atlantis had featured a very long, rambling monologue from McKay in which he talked about everything from a nonsensical spiel about leadership, to his preference of cats over dogs, to a kind of compliment to Carter herself that had, unfortunately, quickly degenerated into an embarrassingly obvious reference to what he did at night while thinking about her.
Carter remembered watching that part while her whole face radiated heat, mortified beyond belief…especially since General O'Neill and the rest of her team was in the room with her, assessing which messages could be released to friends and family verbatim, and which would have to be edited. She would never forget Daniel's muffled laugh-turned-cough, and Jack's raised eyebrows as he glanced at her. Only Teal'c had spared her the indignity of bringing further attention to her. Carter herself had closed her eyes against the room, fervently wishing she were someplace else. But she could still hear McKay prattling away. It went on for an eternity as Carter did her level best to ignore the amusement around her in the room.
Then, abruptly, he had sounded very serious. When Carter peeked, she saw that he was sitting up straight in his chair for the first time since the beginning of the (inordinately long) message, his features firm with resolution.
"My sister," he'd said. "Ford, cut everything else, just…um, keep this part, okay?"
And though the "letter" that followed wasn't quite as personal as one might've expected from a brother to his sister, it was markedly different from the rest of his message (which the unseen Ford had, lamentably, neglected to edit). He'd exhibited actual regret over their estrangement, and a wish for them to be closer if he made it out of his mission to Atlantis alive. And then Carter had felt it: a sort of empathy for the usually irritating Doctor Rodney McKay. It wasn't the first time she'd felt this softening toward him, but it always surprised her. She was actually in the perfect position to understand exactly where the other scientist was coming from.
It was so easy to get wrapped up in work, and a career, and the sheer knowledge being gained that sometimes it was easy to let other things – important things – slip by. And then one day it becomes horrifyingly apparent that while you spent the past eight years in a whirlwind of battles and fascinating new science and fulfilling your academic dreams, life has marched relentlessly on by. Then suddenly you wake up one day and you're a hell of a lot closer to forty than you were when it all started, wondering where most of your childbearing years went. You start worrying, wondering if it's too late to have the kind of life you'd been too busy to want. So maybe you do something about it, and jump at the first opportunity that comes along. Maybe you settle, though your heart lies elsewhere. Maybe you commit yourself to a perfectly acceptable man that you know loves you, but never looks at you with his eyebrows raised and a faint smirk on his face in a gentle, teasing expression, evoking so much meaning and emotion with just one look that leaves you with a restless churning in your stomach as you come to know that you've made a horrible mistake, and you shouldn't have said "yes", after all.
Okay, Carter thought as she shook herself free of the memory. Perhaps she hadn't known exactly what McKay was going through nearly a year ago, but she could definitely identify with the effects of 'scientific haze' (as Daniel had termed it), and suddenly realizing that it wasn't everything. For all of the man's arrogant bluster and sarcastic witticisms, McKay had given her real glimpses of humanity, here and there. And one advantage to his no-holds-barred method of speaking was that he didn't spare himself, either. His utter honesty was refreshing, sometimes. He could be cutting on occasion – abrasive, even – but would just as readily admit when he was wrong, or to having feelings for someone. Of course, that last trait specifically was one Carter could happily have lived without. Maybe this message wouldn't be as embarrassing as the last one.
Hopeful, but realistic, Carter opted to view the new message alone in her lab…with the door shut and locked behind her. If McKay started being a little too open and honest about his attraction to her again this time, at least no one else would be around to hear it. While she might have been secretly flattered by his continued attentions (with the understanding that it would go absolutely nowhere, ever), and took perverse pleasure in the verbal sparring they engaged in whenever he was at the SGC, she certainly had no desire to broadcast those facts to anyone else on base.
Settling the CD into its place in the drive tray of her laptop, Carter pressed it in and waited for the video to launch. A moment later it did, and McKay popped up her screen. As most of his reports came from Atlantis's lab, Carter only recognized the room he was in as his personal quarters from the very first video message he'd sent. The one General O'Neill had nicknamed "Fan mail for Carter".
McKay was alone, and dressed only in his science-blue undershirt; his gray jacket was slung over the back of a chair behind him. Carter got the sense that he either hadn't finished dressing for the work day, or else he'd just returned from it.
Either way, he looked a little tired, and a lot thoughtful. And…a little trepidatious? Addressing the camera, McKay began. "Hey Sam. It's McKay. Uh, Rodney. Naturally. How many other McKays would be calling you from another galaxy?"
Carter rolled her eyes just as her phone rang. Not bothering to pause the video playback, she reached for the receiver. "Carter."
"Why aren't you home, yet?"
At his familiar voice, a smile automatically graced Carter's lips. "Hey. Atlantis had their weekly check-in, and I got a bunch of reports."
"And the reason you can't look at these week-old reports tomorrow?" the man on the other end of the line wanted to know.
"Well, I could. I will," she amended, knowing he'd only nag her if he thought she was going to be cooped up in her lab all night. "But there was a video message from McKay, too, and I thought it might be important."
"…heard about the Ori. What is it with these bad guys, anyway? The Goa'uld, the Wraith, the Ori...they're all these…these overdressed, over-inflated, overly dramatic, obsessed people. They're never content to just stay at home and order from the QVC network, are they? They've always got to go out and ruin everyone else's life. If they lived on Earth they'd have become televangelists…"
"McKay, huh?" he asked, and his voice was too deliberately casual to be genuine. "Isn't he the one who spanks his – "
"Yes!" Carter interrupted. "Yes, and you know it perfectly well. Must that always be the first thing you think of when he's mentioned? He helped save your life once, you know."
"It must," he confirmed. "And considering that we saved all life as he knew it at least seven or eight times before he even knew about me, or about the stargate, I'd say we're even. What's he want this time, a pair of your underwear?"
Carter nearly snorted, amused at the idea despite herself. She always had that reaction to him. "I don't know," she said, "I'd just started watching when you called."
Indeed, McKay had continued to ramble on in the background, looking increasingly frustrated. Then he said something that caught her attention and she actually tuned out the voice on the phone in order to better hear the one on the video message. "…I guess I'm still a little tired from the whole 'trapped in a freezing tin can on the bottom of the ocean all alone with a concussion for hours' thing."
Carter blinked, wondering what had happened and irresistibly reminded of her own, similar experience two years prior. She listened as he went on.
"All right look, I'm just going to come to the point, here. When I was on that ship, all alone…I wasn't exactly all alone because you were there. I mean, I know it wasn't you; of course it wasn't you. You were a hallucination. A really annoying, uncooperative, fully dressed hallucination. You know, it's amazing, you were a product of my own mind, and yet you still argued with me at every opportunity, insisting you were right and I was wrong. I guess I reproduced you pretty faithfully, huh? Anyway…I know this sounds crazy, but that's okay because I was crazy at the time. Suffering from a concussion, anyway. And hypothermia. Oh, and apoxia for awhile. Not to mention I have this little problem with tight spaces…but never mind all that. The point is that I was out of it. And even though I know it wasn't really you, some part of my mind manifested you in order to help me get through it. So…I just wanted to say…thanks. I know you have no idea what I'm talking about, but you…sort of…helped me stay alive. I…I think it could only have been you there; you're the only one who… Anyway, I don't think I would have made it otherwise. So…thanks."
Mouth gaping open, eyes wide, Carter was distracted from the video by another voice calling her name. When "Sam" didn't work, the voice switched to a brisk, barked "Carter!" Abruptly she realized that she was still holding the receiver, but it had slid down her neck as she'd watched, becoming more and more amazed by what she heard.
She raised it again to her ear. "Sorry, I'm here. I uh…I dropped the phone. Listen, I'm going to head out of here in a few. Call me back at home in about half an hour?"
"Sure," he said after a brief pause. "And we're still on for this weekend, right?"
Carter smiled again, shaking off for the moment McKay's astounding revelation and injecting a bit of seduction into her tone. "We'd better be. I picked up some self-warming massage oil the other day. It heats up when you blow on it or rub it. Oh, and some new bubble bath. Vanilla sugar. I think I might actually try that out tonight."
There was another pause from O'Neill's end of the line, but this time when his voice came back there was another quality to it altogether. "Hurry home," he advised in a tight voice, and hung up.
Carter grinned to herself as she replaced the receiver, then sat down again before her laptop. It was almost unbelievable, McKay's story…eerie the way it mirrored her experience when she was trapped on board the Prometheus with a concussion of her own. Her hallucinations had been her father and teammates, and she couldn't help but wonder what it meant. Was it just two similar minds reacting to the same stimuli in the same fashion? Or was there something deeper that explained it?
Either way, she was once again in a perfect spot to understand completely his confession, and his odd sense of gratitude. And the position again gave her a unique insight into the mind of Rodney McKay. He always seemed to draw a conglomeration of feelings out of her…aggravation, frustration, amusement and – occasionally – understanding. Though he mostly annoyed the crap out of her, sometimes he could be…touching. Like when he had called her an artist and looked so obviously distraught over having gotten her injured. And now…sending a message across billions of light-years to say thanks for existing, basically. For being important enough to him that a hallucination of her was enough to get him through a life threatening situation. She knew what that was like, and wasn't quite sure what to make of the fact that she'd been his Jack, Daniel and Teal'c.
Still reeling from his surprising disclosure, thinking favorably that perhaps there was hope yet for Doctor Rodney McKay, Carter gave her attention to the end of the video.
"…oh, and by the way…do you happen to own a light blue bra? Sort of lacy, matches your eyes? Looks great wet?..."