Author's Note: This was written for the 2006 McKay/Weir Ficathon. Chance requested: a high school/college reunion, jealous!Rodney or jealous!Elizabeth, a trip to the hospital, and ice cream.
Bountiful thanks to my two wonderful betas, the-Bookworm-Princess and mari4212.
Rodney McKay's head jerked up sharply from where it had been resting on his outstretched arm. Blinking, he tried to determine what had woken him as he absently wiped a small puddle of saliva from the equations he'd been working on the night before.
"Rodney?" the soft call came again, this time accompanied by a light knock on the door.
"Yeah," he called hoarsely. Yawning, he added, "Come in."
Elizabeth stepped through the door, frowning lightly when she saw Rodney's tousled form hunched over his desk.
"Did you fall asleep working again?" she admonished, though with more concern than sternness.
"No," Rodney lied, trying unsuccessfully to stifle another yawn. Elizabeth just raised an eyebrow. "Did you need something?"
"I was just going to talk to you about the submersible jumper project," she shrugged. "It can wait."
"No, no," he insisted, waving vaguely toward his desk. "Sit down. Talk. I'm listening," he finished, though his words were garbled by yet another yawn.
"If you're sure you're not too tired," Elizabeth agreed. "Although, you might want to put on some pants."
"Sorry?" Rodney looked down to see dozens of yellow circles smiling jollily back up at him. Leaping from his seat, he backed hastily into his bathroom, trying desperately to cover himself as he muttered, "I just…more comfortable…present…my sister…"
Elizabeth tried not to grin at Rodney's discomfort. Glancing away from the poor mortified scientist, her gaze fell on his extraordinarily messy desk. The surface was covered with various sheets of paper, most filled with incomprehensible squiggles and pencil-sketched diagrams. Peeking out from underneath a jumper schematic, however, was a corner of something that didn't look like it belonged. Something bright red, and shiny. Judging from the sounds in the bathroom, Rodney had decided to do more than just put on some pants, so Elizabeth tugged the curious item out and perused it.
"20 YEARS," it blared across the top in bold grey letters. "Come meet old friends and reunite with your senior class." Beneath were details specifying the when and where of the reunion for "NTCI's Red & Grey Norsemen of '86!" Flipping the card over, Elizabeth found a short note scrawled next to Rodney's address (like all expedition members, he maintained a sort of PO box at the SGC).
"Rodney," it read, in a distinctly feminine hand, "I was working for the Alumni Association on this reunion and noticed you weren't on the list. Didn't want you to miss out, so I looked you up. I really hope to see you there!" It was signed "April Bingham," a name which sounded somewhat familiar to Elizabeth. With a small twinge of…jealousy, she remembered the video which Lt. Ford had shown her, in which Rodney had rambled at some length about a girl named April.
"Okay, so, submersible jumpers," Rodney started, emerging from the bathroom in clean clothes – pants included – and toweling his hair dry. "Radek overlooked some things, which I wasn't going to complain about at the time seeing that he was helping save my life, but now I need to go back and –"
"Rodney," Elizabeth interrupted gently. He stopped abruptly. "I didn't mean to pry, but I found this," she waved the reunion invitation, "on your desk."
"Hmm? Oh, yes," he nodded vaguely. "It came in the mail on the last Daedalus run. What about it?"
"Are you going to go?"
He looked surprised. "I don't…I mean, it's in Toronto. Plus, you know, I don't really remember anyone from high school…"
"Seems like someone remembered you," Elizabeth pointed out. He reddened slightly. "She went to all the trouble to send you an invitation, Rodney. I think you should go."
"B-but," he stammered, "the city. The jumpers, the scientists, the-the ZedPM!"
"You're overdue for some leave," she told him matter-of-factly. "And I have an in-person check-in with General Landry scheduled that week. Come with me through the 'gate and take a couple of days off. The city can survive without you for a month, Rodney."
"You look nervous, Rodney," Elizabeth commented, raising an eyebrow in both amusement and concern.
"I'm not nervous," he replied defensively, tugging at his tie. "Just…apprehensive."
"Is that why you asked me along?"
He was looking distinctly uncomfortable now. "High school doesn't hold the fondest memories for me, all right? I just thought I might like a…a friendly face there. Besides, you're the one who talked me into coming in the first place."
"Guilty," she admitted, smiling gently. "Try to relax, though, Rodney. Reunions are supposed to be fun." Biting back a grin, she added, "April Bingham won't see you coming, in that suit."
Rodney flushed and started tugging at his tie again. Clearing his throat several times, he stammered, "You-you look, ah, really nice, too."
Elizabeth accepted the compliment graciously, noting with some disappointment Rodney's continued reaction to the mention of his high-school sweetheart. She had brought up April's name a couple of times since finding the invitation in Rodney's room, subtly of course, and he always blushed and changed the subject. She enjoyed teasing him, but part of her wondered what all had happened between the two.
"Mezza Notte," the cabbie called, screeching to a halt. Rodney blinked at the restaurant and swallowed hard.
"It'll be all right, Rodney," Elizabeth assured him, placing an encouraging hand on his arm. He looked at her hand as if he didn't know what to do with it, then nodded slowly and opened the door.
Stepping out of the cab, Rodney only just remembered to turn around and assist Elizabeth. That tradition seemed a little silly to him, frankly. Elizabeth led a joint military/scientific expedition in another galaxy; he was sure she was perfectly capable of getting out of a cab by herself. Nevertheless, she would think him rude if he didn't.
The pair stepped into the restaurant, greeted by the warm scent of baking bread and mixed spices. The maitre d' – Rodney wondered briefly, detachedly, if they were still called maitres d' in Italian restaurants – smiled at them and pulled two menus from his hidden cache. His gaze and stiff smile never flickered as he beckoned a waiter and shoved the menus into his hands.
"Welcome to Mezza Notte Trattoria. Two this evening?" he asked professionally, even managing a passable Italian accent.
"We're, uh, we're here for the –" Rodney began.
"Reunion?" the maitre d' finished. "Magnifico! Paulo, show the lovely couple to the private room."
Paulo – incongruously blond and blue-eyed – obliged, leading Rodney and Elizabeth toward a glassed-in chamber on the far side of the room. There were several people already inside but the room was far from full. Paulo ushered them through the door and into the eager clutches of one April Bingham.
She squinted at them for a moment, puzzled, before asking, "Rodney? Rodney McKay, is that you?"
Rodney's eyes darted back and forth, looking for an escape. None presented itself, so he gave April a little wave and a small, "Hi."
"Oh my goodness!" she gushed, taking his hand and leading him toward a table. "I can't believe you actually came!"
Elizabeth, unnoticed or ignored by April, watched the blonde talk animatedly at Rodney while he, clearly nervous, twisted his tie in his hands and avoided her gaze. She frowned slightly, wondering vaguely why she never made Rodney nervous like that. Deciding that she ought to stay with Rodney – she was his moral support, after all – she made her way over to the table April had commandeered.
"…and Mr. Zahradnik was so mad he almost kicked us out of the club!" April was saying with a laugh. "Old Z-Hat, remember him? Crazy as a loon." Rodney frowned, and April rushed on, "Oh, I know you liked him, Rodney. And he was a genius. But really, the things he said…Didn't he believe in aliens? And he tried to tell us something about those, whatchamacallits, Loraxian wormholes or whatever."
"Lorentzian," Rodney corrected, but April didn't seem to hear.
She had apparently tired of the discussion of their old teacher and suddenly exclaimed, "Have you tried the appetizers yet? They're phenomenal. I'm really glad we could get this place; usually it's booked solid. Oh, Rodney, who's your friend?" she added seamlessly, finally noticing Elizabeth.
"Oh," Rodney stammered, "this is, this is Elizabeth Weir, my…ah…"
"Friend," Elizabeth stepped in, saving Rodney. She shook April's hand firmly, smiling pleasantly but glaring coolly at the blonde. She had taken a great dislike to April, not caring for how she threw herself at Rodney but didn't seem to regard him as a person. She didn't listen to him, and Elizabeth couldn't stand people who didn't listen to others.
April blinked uncomfortably under Elizabeth's unflinching gaze and withdrew her hand quickly. Flustered, she made her way to her seat and attempted to eat a napkin that happened to be lying near her bread plate.
"Rodney McKay!" a voice boomed from behind them. Both Elizabeth and Rodney turned and were greeted by a widely grinning mouth. Attached to the toothy smirk was a man smaller than Elizabeth would have guessed judging by his voice, wearing an impeccably tailored suit and holding cocktail glasses in both hands.
"Dozer Natali," Rodney sighed. Elizabeth waited for an introduction but when none was forthcoming, took the initiative herself.
"Elizabeth Weir," she introduced, extending her hand before remembering that the man's hands were full.
He deftly switched one glass from his right hand to his left, however, expertly balancing the two in one grip. "Desiderio Natali," he returned, lowering his lips gently to her hand. "Vince."
"Vince?" she asked curiously as he handed her one of the martinis. Rodney frowned, unnoticed by Vince.
"Vincenzo," he explained, "my middle name."
"And 'Dozer'?" she pressed, drawn to the man's charm but wary of Rodney's initial cold reaction to him.
"A nickname from a long-ago past," he dismissed, waving his hand vaguely. "From my somewhat difficult-to-pronounce given name."
"And your tendency to flatten anyone in your path," Rodney snorted under his breath.
"That was a long time ago, Panty-Rod," Vince fired back. His eyes, hardening, flicked briefly toward Rodney but his smile – directed toward Elizabeth but somehow not for her – never faltered. Rodney scowled at the derisive name and seemed to shrink slightly.
"Nice to meet you," Elizabeth closed the conversation firmly and steered Rodney toward a table. He threw her a brief, grateful glance as he sat and picked up a menu.
Despite their best efforts, Elizabeth and Rodney had ended up in the corner of the room seated with both April and Vince – both of whom were trying to catch the attention of their respective interests. For her part, Elizabeth tried her best to be polite and respond to Vince's conversation. Rodney, on the other hand, withdrew further into himself with each course. By the end of the second salad course, he was talking in monosyllables – a sure indication something was wrong – and avoiding eye contact with everyone. Elizabeth attempted to draw him into the conversation occasionally, April far more often, but Rodney did not respond to their efforts, choosing instead to devote himself wholly to his food.
As Paulo cleared the salad plates and replaced them with tall glasses of sorbet, Rodney was the first to reach for his spoon and attack the frozen palate cleanser. He took an enormous bite, seemed not to notice how absolutely cold it was, swallowed, and reached for more, his expression vacant.
Elizabeth took a much smaller spoonful and savored the taste of lemon sliding down her throat. Suddenly, she realized –
"Rodney, stop!" she cried, swinging her arm violently to stop the next spoonful from reaching his mouth. The spoon, knocked from Rodney's fingers, flew across the table and landed with a clatter on the floor behind Vince. The sorbet it had held escaped mid-flight and found a suitable target in Vince's perfectly greased and coiffed hair. The scene was frozen in an awkward tableau for a few seconds before,
"Are you crazy?" April shrieked, staring at Elizabeth as if she had sprouted an extra head.
"What the hell was that for?" Vince snarled, attempting to remove the melting ice from his hair with little success.
Before Elizabeth could answer, Rodney got a very strange look on his face. Standing slowly, he clutched his throat and began frantically searching his pockets – first his pants, then his jacket.
"McKay, that act was old in the tenth grade," Vince rolled his eyes.
"He has a point, Rodney," April giggled nervously. "How about you sit down and we just forget this all happened?"
"He's allergic to citrus, you fools!" Elizabeth spat, standing to help Rodney in his search for his EpiPen. When no one moved, she shouted, "Call 911! Now!"
There was a sudden flurry of action as the entire reunion stood and tried to get a better view of what was happening. Elizabeth heard a voice saying, "Mezza Notte…not breathing…" but it didn't really register in her mind. She was entirely focused on Rodney. He finally found his EpiPen in an inner pocket of his jacket but dropped it as he aimed for his thigh. Elizabeth helped him to the floor, alarmed by both the blue tinge his lips were taking on and the look of utter panic in his eyes. Stabbing the needle into his thigh, she counted aloud, never taking her eyes off his face. Time slowed to a crawl as she discarded the empty injector and moved to Rodney's side, trying to make him more comfortable as he struggled, gasping, to breathe. She took his head in her hands, whispering, "Just hang on, Rodney, you're going to be fine" and wondering whether she was telling him or herself.
It seemed an eternity before the paramedics arrived, storming into the restaurant with a gurney and shoving the reunion attendees aside as they moved toward Rodney. One gently pulled Elizabeth away from Rodney's prone form but she followed them out to the ambulance, April, Vince, and half the class of '86 trailing behind. Elizabeth was climbing into the back of the vehicle, hardly aware of her actions, when April tugged on her dress.
"I want to go with him," she pouted. "He was kind of…my boyfriend in high school."
Elizabeth glared at her, completely spent of diplomacy. "Back off, Barbie," she growled, snatching her dress from April's grasp and taking a seat as the ambulance sped away.
Things got pretty fuzzy after that. The ambulance ride seemed to take forever, the paramedics firing questions at Elizabeth and hovering over Rodney like swarming flies. She answered their staccato bursts of interrogation – allergic reaction; lemon; yes, epinephrine had been administered; thirty…eight, she thought; no, she wasn't aware of any other allergies – without really realizing what was going on. Her eyes kept drifting toward Rodney's face, swollen and pale and blue and so horribly devoid of life. The tube protruding from his mouth didn't help, either.
When they reached the hospital, Elizabeth tried to follow Rodney and the paramedics but a nurse intervened and guided her, somewhat forcefully, to a waiting area. She sat, numb, staring blankly at a spot on the wall behind the nurses' station for a long time. At some point, tears began streaming down her cheeks and though she had always prided herself on having control over her emotions, she was powerless to stop them.
She felt a small hand on her knee and looked down into a pair of bright blue eyes. A young boy stood next to her, patting her lightly on the knee and gazing at her sympathetically.
"It's okay," he said brightly. "Doctors make it all better."
"Zeke!" a woman called, hurrying towards them. She took the boy by the hand and led him away quickly, glancing briefly at Elizabeth with disgust. "Ezekiel Ryan, what have I told you about talking to strangers?"
Elizabeth watched as Zeke followed his mother dutifully out of the waiting area. Just before they turned the corner, he looked back at Elizabeth and gave her a huge smile. The boy's ingenuousness was heartwarming and his simple belief that the hospital staff would 'make it all better' was strangely comforting. Finding a new strength, Elizabeth rose and approached the nurses' station.
"I'm looking for a patient," she started, assertively. "Rodney McKay. He came in about an hour ago with an allergic reaction. Anaphylaxis," she clarified.
"Are you family?" the nurse asked, eying Elizabeth critically.
"Yes," Elizabeth answered, reasoning that the entire Atlantis expedition had grown together so much over the past couple of years that they could be considered as close as, or closer than, many families.
The nurse typed something into the computer. "There's an anaphylactic patient being monitored in 107D. I can have someone take you back there in ten minutes."
"Thank you, I can find it," Elizabeth replied, starting off down the hall. She half-anticipated the nurse to come running after her shouting "Halt" but she reached the room without incident. Opening the door cautiously, she almost regretted not taking the nurse's offer; there were eight beds in the large room, each surrounded by a privacy curtain, and with no apparent indication of which might be bed 'D'.
Deciding that the only way to find out was to start looking, she peered around the closest curtain to the door. The bed was occupied by a person in a full-body cast and Elizabeth quickly pulled the curtain closed. The next held a man wearing an enormous cowboy hat, snoring loudly with a magazine splayed open over his chest. She wondered briefly what was wrong with him, until she noticed the way the sheets flattened at the end of his right knee. Moving on, she found the third bed filled by a young man whose head was wrapped in bandages. He was sitting up and writing a letter on a clipboard, scribbling furiously for a few seconds before pausing to consider what he had written. He glanced up when he heard the curtain move, frowning slightly at the invasion of his privacy. Elizabeth smiled sheepishly and dropped the curtain quickly, moving to the next bed.
The man in the next chamber was not alone; a nurse hovered over him, checking the various machines he was attached to, noting something on his chart every so often. He looked pretty awful, his face swollen and pale and obscured by an oxygen mask, and it took Elizabeth several seconds to realize it was Rodney. By that time, her presence had attracted the attention of the nurse.
"Ma'am, you can't be in here," she stated firmly, moving toward Elizabeth with purpose.
"Please, I –" Elizabeth started, grasping for words. It was difficult; she kept getting distracted by the horrible rasping noises of Rodney trying to breathe. "I just…please."
The nurse – her nametag read SueAnn – faltered, glancing sympathetically from Elizabeth to Rodney's unconscious figure. Something about Elizabeth's tone, or maybe her face, must have convinced her; she sighed and gestured toward the chair next to the bed.
"You can't be in here unsupervised," she amended her earlier statement. "You are immediate family, aren't you?" Elizabeth only nodded, her eyes fixed on Rodney. She sat down in the chair, which squeaked loudly in protest. Her hands, desperate for something to do, began fiddling with the fringe on the hem of her dress. She realized, detachedly, that she must look rather odd wearing a fairly formal dress and sitting next to a man wearing nothing but a hospital gown; she wondered, too, where Rodney's clothes had gone. She supposed they were in a closet somewhere, prepared for when he was ready to leave the hospital.
She was distracted from her pointless train of thought by activity around Rodney's head. SueAnn removed the bulky oxygen mask from his face and replaced it with a slim cannula under his nose. Elizabeth thought his face had taken on a bit more color; instead of matching roughly the color of his sheets, it was now more the shade of a very thick cream.
"He's recovering well," SueAnn noted, filling the silence.
"Really?" Elizabeth asked, grateful for the conversation. "He looks awful."
"Well, he had a particularly severe reaction," SueAnn explained. "The swelling's gone down considerably, but it was very bad. He was without air for several minutes."
"Didn't the EpiPen do anything?" Elizabeth asked, disturbed by the account of Rodney's very near brush with death.
"It doesn't stop the reaction," SueAnn answered, "but epinephrine definitely helps. If he hadn't had the injection, chances for his survival would have been…" She paused, noting the horrified look barely hidden behind Elizabeth's eyes. "Well, it likely saved his life. Right now we've got him on antihistamines and catecholamine to stop the reaction and reduce the swelling, and a saline drip to re-hydrate him. His airway's already opened enough for him to be receiving minimal oxygen; he was extubated about 15 minutes before you got here. That's a good sign."
"Why is he still unconscious?"
"He's not in a coma; he's just sleeping. His body needs time and rest to recover. Anaphylactic shock is very hard on the system. After he wakes up, we'll need to monitor him for at least four more hours."
Elizabeth nodded her understanding and returned to her vigil. She watched, fascinated, as Rodney's chest rose and fell, the rhythm of life comforting her. One hand rested lightly on his stomach, a heart monitor clipped to one finger; as she watched, the hand twitched and slid off. She reached for it, intending to place it back on his stomach, but was surprised by its coldness. Taking his hand between hers, being careful of the clip on his finger, she slowly rubbed warmth into it, blowing warm air over his icy fingers. He responded with a small squeeze and she looked up, hoping to see the familiar blue eyes opening in further affirmation of recovery, but Rodney was still sound asleep. He was even snoring lightly now, his mouth cracked open and a small line of saliva trailing down his cheek.
"I need to go check on some other patients," SueAnn said quietly. "I'll let you stay here, as long as you don't agitate him…or break anything," she added with a small smile. Elizabeth smiled gratefully and SueAnn left, closing the curtain behind her.
Turning back to Rodney, Elizabeth noted with some amusement that the stream of drool on his face had grown. Fishing a Kleenex from her purse, she stood and gently wiped his cheek dry, closing his mouth while she was at it. Looking down at him from a standing position, Elizabeth marveled at how frail he seemed. Rodney was always such a bundle of energy, always so animated and full of life, it was strange and sobering to see him lying helpless in a hospital bed – no matter how many times it happened. True, Rodney landed in Carson's infirmary often, but it had never been this bad; the closest he had come was maybe the incident with the enzyme, but even then he had at least been awake and somewhat his usual, talkative self.
It was encouraging to see the color returning to his face, however. Even his lips were taking on a pinker tinge and Elizabeth smirked slightly as those lips twitched with whatever dream Rodney was having.
Impulsively, she leaned down and brushed her lips lightly against his. She didn't know why she did it, or what she was expecting, but she certainly didn't expect to find his lips responding to hers. Startled at first, she quickly realized that she wasn't all that opposed to the idea.
She didn't hear the sound of running feet and only when SueAnn burst into the small area with a startled, "Oh!" did the rapid beeping of the heart monitor register. Elizabeth wasn't positive, but she thought that perhaps it hadn't been going that fast earlier. Embarrassed, she pulled away from Rodney and straightened.
After determining that Rodney was in no immediate danger, SueAnn glanced at Elizabeth with a wry grin. "I thought I told you not to agitate him." Elizabeth returned her grin sheepishly.
"Excuse me," Rodney croaked, waving a limp hand with great effort. His mouth continued moving but nothing came out, save some odd rasping noises.
"I'll go get you some ice chips," SueAnn told him sympathetically, leaving the curtained area.
With SueAnn gone, Rodney turned toward Elizabeth. His eyes were full of questions but wonderfully free of the terror she had last seen in them.
"Welcome back, Rodney," she said, unable to contain her relieved smile.
"–aa–" he attempted hoarsely.
"Shh, don't try to talk," she advised him, fruitlessly.
Swallowing several times, he tried again. "That was…some welcome," he managed, his voice barely above a whisper. Despite his obvious discomfort, he was smirking. "Maybe I should…go away…more often."
Elizabeth raised an eyebrow, willing to play the game. "There are easier ways of getting my attention, Rodney."
Nurse SueAnn Duckett, carrying a cup of ice chips into Room 107, heard the heart monitor in bed D accelerate rapidly. Smiling to herself, she decided that the ice chips could wait.