Notes and warnings:
There is gentle slash within. In fact, this is my first slash SGA story, so comments are more than appreciated.
Written for the ReelSGA challenge. Based on the film, "The Shop Around the Corner", a summary of which follows the story. Likewise a summary of "Mystery Science Theater 3000", which is mentioned. You don't need to have seen either one to get this story.
Two lines of French used. Translations at end.
A few of mild swears.
Spoilers: Based just after the season two episode, Trinity, with Rodney's incident with the Dorandan solar system. You don't need to have seen that ep in order to understand this story.
"I could use some advice, here," Rodney typed, fingers flying as the information appeared in the message board's form. He'd picked the alias "Rock Hardballs" for this particular series of entries to the Atlantis-wide forums, trying to remain anonymous. Or at least somewhat, because any true fan of "Mystery Science Theatre" would recognise the reference, and half the damn station probably knew that Rodney McKay was a true fan of the show. Still, it was just a stupid, meaningless name. Maybe he'd change it later.
Fingers hovering over the keyboard, Rodney leaned toward the monitor, rereading the long message that he'd written. Finally satisfied, he hit "enter". Logging back in under "McKay", he went to play in the "Star Trek" forum.
Rodney actually kept several aliases for use on these boards. Of course, when the techies had built the forums, they'd made them so that multiple aliases were impossible. But come on, Rodney thought, his mouth twisting into a wry grin, and aloud he said, "Please." People half as smart as he would have no problem breaking through that limitation. And sometimes he just needed to post things anonymously, to try to get some honest feedback.
Like this time. He looked up from the keyboard of his laptop, taking in the muted sunlight as it was filtered through the window of his quarters.
It was Major Sheppard. Colonel Sheppard. Whatever. The fact was, the man was making him nuts.
Rodney shook his head and pushed away from his desk. He stood and went to the window, letting the soft light bathe him as his eyes traced the variations in the milky glass. Sheppard had a very special way of driving him crazy, and he knew that half the time the man did it deliberately, trying to get a rise out of him. But there had always been an underlying playfulness and a respect there. A trust.
Not now, though. Rodney placed his palm against the cool glass as if drawing strength from it. That trust was gone.
He shook his head. His fault. His...he fought to find the right word. Hubris? Arrogance? Sheppard had backed him when he'd wanted to go back down to Doranda, convinced against all evidence that Rodney could get Arcturus working again. Instead, Rodney had managed to destroy most of the Dorandan solar system through his own over-confidence and conceit.
He'd known that everyone else would protest, but he'd refused to listen. He'd just been so damned sure. So he'd used Sheppard - there, he'd said it - he'd USED the trust they'd built in order to get back down to Arcturus.
He'd traded their friendship for...for what? He tapped a finger gently against the glass. For nothing. For...
Forget it. Rodney spun and returned to his desk, peering down at the bright monitor. Sliding into his chair, he returned to his original posting, pleased to see that a few people had responded.
"Oh, poor baby. Had a fight? Buy him flowers," one poster responded. Rodney rolled his eyes. Useless.
The next person wrote, "Come see my band! Friday night, 8pm..." Rodney skipped the rest.
There...what the third person, calling themselves "Fluffy", had written. That seemed valuable. "You say that you lost his trust. I'm sure that's true, but trust is something that you'd had to earn. You may be able to earn it back. But what I wonder is if there isn't something else going on there? Think about it, Rock."
Blinking quickly, confused, Rodney logged in and started typing a reply. "What? What?" he wrote impatiently.
The message appeared on the screen, and almost immediately, Fluffy replied, "Not to be trite, but I think you may have hurt his feelings."
Hurt his feelings? Rodney frowned. Did Sheppard actually HAVE feelings? No, wait, of course he did, but he was military and all that. Hadn't all that been bred out of him or, like, beaten out of him in basic?
True, the man seemed to be avoiding him lately. While they used to have casual conversations in the hallway, or even catch the occasional meal together, now their interactions were strictly work-related. Strictly professional. Cold, if he thought about it.
Damn. Maybe Fluffy was right.
God, he sucked at this. Not that he himself was unfeeling or anything - far from it - but he'd never been all that great at the whole touchy-feely thing. He'd hurt plenty of people's feelings in the past - a gift of his acerbic wit and impatience with idiocy. And a part of him had always felt a bit badly, afterwards. But normally, if he hurt someone, he didn't do much about it. Eventually, things would either blow over or they wouldn't. And if they didn't, so what? But this time he found himself...He rubbed a hand across his eyes. He wasn't sure what, but he wanted to see if he could make this better. He smiled slightly. Maybe he was growing up? His mum would be so proud, he thought, putting a sarcastic twist to the last word.
So he typed, "What do I do?"
x-x Rodney juggled a cup of coffee in one hand and a donut in the other while he tried to keep his files, tucked under the other arm, from sliding away. Moving fast, he glanced down at his watch: he was late for the meeting. Even worse, it was his own meeting, so they'd all be there, waiting for him, and...he looked down as he took a sip of coffee. When he looked back up, he saw Sheppard pass without so much as a by-your-leave.
Rodney turned to watch him go, pensive. Last night, Fluffy had suggested that he try to find a way to break through to Sheppard, starting with a casual conversation.
Meeting be damned, Rodney turned and followed him. "Hey!" he said, catching up to Sheppard in a few quick strides. When Sheppard stopped, Rodney stopped too, his files almost slipping from his grasp.
The Colonelreached over and tucked the files under Rodney's arm. He stood there a moment, apparently waiting for Rodney to say more.
"Um, thanks," Rodney said, awkwardly. He felt the heat rise to his cheeks as Sheppard continued to stare at him, unspeaking, one eyebrow raised in a question. "I was wondering..." Rodney said, not sure of how to continue. "...You free for breakfast?" he said quickly, feeling like a complete ass.
Sheppard frowned, then glanced pointedly at Rodney's coffee and donut. "You already seem to have that covered," Sheppard said with a hint of amusement.
"Right," Rodney said, feeling even more foolish. "Maybe later?"
"Maybe," Sheppard replied with a shrug, walking away.
So much for that plan, Rodney thought.
"I tried to talk to him, but he refused," Rodney typed, the screen the only point of light in his otherwise dark room. He'd been unable to sleep, his thoughts disturbed by the situation with Sheppard and the meaning, if any, behind their strange encounter in the corridor. "Well, not exactly refused," he amended. "More like 'couldn't be bothered'."
He yawned, pressing a hand to his mouth as he waited for Fluffy's reply. It was late, and he wasn't sure if Fluffy was even online. Still, he wanted to get her feedback before he tried sleeping again.
After a few minutes, a new message appeared in the thread. "What are you still doing up?" Fluffy wrote.
"I could ask you the same thing," Rodney replied, his fingers flying across the keyboard.
"I was watching a movie with some friends," Fluffy wrote.
"Which one?" Rodney asked.
"Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan."
Rodney typed, "KAAAAAHHHNNNN!" When he hit "enter", he saw that Fluffy had typed the same damn thing, and he smiled. A woman after his own heart.
"Back to the point, though," Fluffy wrote. "If it's important to you, keep trying."
Rodney stood just inside the door of his lab, waiting for Sheppard to jog by. Every day, the Major ran past this very spot at...Rodney glanced at his watch...5:34pm. You could set a clock by him.
With a minute to go, Rodney stepped into the hallway, a folder tucked under his arm. He pulled out one of the papers and, pretending to read through it, slowly started walking down the corridor. He'd almost reached the corner when he heard the pounding of feet from around the bend. Calculating the angle at which the runner would most likely round the corner, he took a step and...BAM, he went flying backwards, losing his breath from the impact with the runner. He hit the wall and, papers flying, he slid down its surface, gasping for breath.
"Jesus Christ, Rodney," Sheppard said from above. Sheppard squatted down in front of him, trying to catch his eye. "You all right?"
"Ow," he said plaintively, one hand on the shoulder where the Major had hit him, the other on the back of his head where it had hit the wall. He looked into Sheppard's eyes, staring at the colour variations. There was green there, and brown, and soft honey tones...
Maybe this whole "bump into Shep" thing hadn't been such a great plan. He'd figured that it'd be guaranteed to get the man to react to his presence, maybe to get a conversation started.
Sheppard frowned at him, and Rodney frowned back. Then he squinted into Sheppard's eyes. "Is that teal?" he asked before he could stop himself. Sheppard said something in response, and Rodney cocked his head to the side, wincing when the movement caused the corridor to swirl around him. "Oh," he said under his breath, blinking rapidly.
He watched as Sheppard used his ever-present radio to call someone - he assumed Carson.
So much for that plan.
"So, did you watch any films tonight?" Rodney typed, laptop propped up on his legs as he sat back against the pillows. Carson had confined him to bed for the rest of the day, diagnosing him with a mild concussion. He'd also forbidden him from using the computer, saying that it would only worsen his headache. But a couple of minutes online, what could that hurt? And he was, after all, in bed, so technically he was within the letter of the law. Sort of. And Rodney needed some Fluffy advice.
"Yeah," Fluffy responded. "Mystery Science Theater 3000."
"What, the film?"
"No. An episode. I think it was 'Diabolik'. The one when they return to Earth..."
Rodney grinned and typed, "...and end up sitting in Mike's apartment watching bad films and riffing off them?"
"Cool." Rodney nodded, then winced when the movement increased his headache. He decided to come to the point. "So things didn't go so great with my friend today..."
By the end of the conversation, Rodney had come up with another plan.
Rodney crouched behind the pillar, projectiles spinning past him as Sheppard, kneeling beside him, tried to clear a path to the 'gate. The Major set loose another volley of weapons fire, and Rodney shrank back further, cringing as the noise of the weapons fire worsened his headache. So much for that plan.
Damn, this mission was supposed to be so simple...