Title: Breaking Promises.

Setting: Second season - towards the end of Trinity.

Spoilers: Trinity

Rating: K.

Disclaimer: All characters etc are owned by someone else. No money made. No copyright infringements intended.

Summary: Sequel to 'Promises, Promises' - Missing scene from Trinity. A promise is broken.

A/N Thanks Kiky.

Breaking Promises

Rodney McKay ran his eyes over the laptop screen one last time. He hoped that the email carried the right mixture of apology and gratitude, but he really couldn't tell anymore. His hand hovered over the keyboard for a few moments after he'd finished scanning the page, then he very deliberately pressed 'send'.

Okay, he couldn't put it off any longer, it was time.

He closed down the laptop and set it aside, clearing a small space on his desk amongst the accumulated clutter of disassembled gadgets, unwashed coffee mugs and overdue paperwork.

Maybe he should tidy up a bit first.

He stood, picking up the nearest mug and looking vaguely around his office for somewhere to put it. His gaze wandered aimlessly for several seconds before he placed the mug back on his desk in precisely the same spot from which he had picked it up. He knew that he was stalling, unwilling to even think about what he needed to do next.

There was a way out, of course. Another way. That was his job here in Pegasus, wasn't it? To find another way. He was a genius; the one with all the answers.

He brought his fist down hard on the desk, and welcomed the sudden pain. Physical hurt was so much easier to deal with than the other kind; the deep, gnawing agony that made him want to crawl away and hide from the world.

He'd failed. He didn't mean he'd 'blown up five sixths of a solar system', failed, or 'destroyed the Dorandan weapon and with it any chance of using the technology against the Wraith', failed, or even 'proved that he was fallible', failed. No, he'd let down the one person whose trust and respect mattered more to him than he cared to admit.

A pale blue envelope was half hidden behind a stack of papers on his desk, only a top corner showing. Rodney reached for it, then paused, pulling his hand back.

He didn't need to open the envelope to know what was inside. A few scraps of paper, mostly pages ripped from spiral binders or corners torn off sheets of legal. Each one had been read and re-read a hundred times over the past months, usually with a smile. Each scrap represented a promise that someone had made to him in lieu of a birthday present.

One represented more than just a promise. It meant his salvation. In orange crayon and a childish scrawl, Sheppard had written 'Get Out of Jail Free.'

Rodney hadn't truly understood the power of that promise, until now.

If he closed his eyes, he could see Sheppard flourishing the scrap in front of a tableful of puzzled faces. 'Sometime in the future, Rodney, you're gonna do something that warrants a balling-out. But this will allow you to avoid it. If you hand me this piece of paper then, I promise, whatever you have done, no more will be said.'

It was that easy.

Rodney didn't have a single doubt that the Colonel would honour his promise. In less than ten minutes it could be as if nothing had happened on Doranda. He and Sheppard could be back to how they had been before.

It really was that easy.

He reached out again and picked up the envelope. It had been used and reused several times; half a dozen names had been neatly crossed off the back, leaving only his own undeleted. He'd never actually looked at the other names before. Sheppard's name was immediately above his own, as he might have expected, above that, the name of a Marine sergeant who Rodney probably wouldn't recognise if he met him in a hallway. Above that, Dr Collins.

Collins had died on Doranda. Rodney had sent him into the Access Tube to manually boost the containment field. There had been a power spike, and he had died. And then Rodney had used his death as an argument in persuading Sheppard to help him go back to Doranda and try again. It didn't matter that Rodney had genuinely believed every word that he had said to Sheppard.

He had been so sure that going back was the right thing to do. He had been so sure that he could succeed where the Ancients had failed. He had been so sure that he was right.

He turned the envelope over and gently peeled back the old, cracking sticky-tape that held it closed.

Sheppard's promise was at the front of the small wad of papers. Rodney took it out and carefully unfolded it.

Even now, it had the ability to make him smile, although the smile didn't reach his eyes.

Taking a deep breath, he reached across the desk and picked up a book of matches, a souvenir from somewhere.

Some things in life were just too big; even for a 'Get Out of Jail Free' card.

The promise burned brightly for a few seconds, then it was gone.

He'd apologised to Elizabeth and Radek; he'd even thanked Caldwell by email.

It was time to find Sheppard.