Chapter Four – Reprimand and Respect
Everyone's pointing their fingers
Always condemning me
Nobody knows what I believe
Lyrics from '45' by Shinedown
It was a few hours after they had returned from Canada, and Sheppard was at a loose end. McKay was still in the meeting with the powers-that-be regarding the Arcturus Project, and he was getting worried about how long the meeting was going on for. He knew McKay had messed up, but he also knew that McKay was not the only one to blame for it all. That they should have realised how much Collins' death was weighing on Rodney's conscience, affecting his judgement. And the military wouldn't haven given up on the weapon easily, and it might very well have ended up the same, or worse. If he hadn't been with McKay, then there was a good chance McKay and whoever had gone with him would be dead. And who knew who the military would have sent with McKay? Or how many?
No, if the higher ups were looking for a scapegoat, then they were wrong. McKay had messed up, but others had, or would have, as well.
He knew he was hovering around the meeting room, and he knew he had attracted attention from others, but he didn't really care. In fact, he was feeling pretty annoyed at not being allowed to attend the meeting himself. They should be asking him why he had chosen to back McKay. He should be there, to defend Rodney where possible, and to take some of the blame himself. For not protecting McKay from himself.
He heard the door to the meeting room opening, and moved to one side. General Landry and some others left, but not Rodney. He approached the room, unsure whether to enter or not. He could hear people talking, so hung back slightly.
"You okay, McKay?" a female voice he didn't recognise asked.
"Fine. No worse than I expected." Rodney sounded defensive.
"You should get some rest."
"Yeah, and everything will look better in the morning. It's a long time since I believed in that particular fairy tale," he snapped.
"You're still impossible," the voice said in frustration, and then softened slightly, "and you should still get some rest."
He heard someone heading for the door, and slipped to one side. A woman left the room… ah, not just any woman. Colonel Carter of SG-1. He sighed, and headed into the room. Rodney was alone, and he looked… well, defeated. Damn.
"Hey, I was beginning to think the meeting would go on forever."
Rodney stood tiredly. John hadn't seen him look so drained for a long time.
"So, how did it go?" he asked, worried by McKay's silence.
"They tore a strip off me, and I pointed out some truths they didn't want to hear. Like how they were just pissed because the weapon was gone, even though it wouldn't have worked. How they were looking for a scapegoat and that I wasn't it," he sighed, "it didn't go too well. They threatened to have me assigned back to Earth."
"Don't worry, I called their bluff on that one. They know I'm needed on Atlantis. Besides, Elizabeth wouldn't have allowed it, and she has more say than they like to admit."
"So, you'll be coming back?"
"Good." John smiled, "that's all that matters. Who cares what they think, anyway?"
"I do." Rodney grimaced, "well, I care what she thinks, that it. Couldn't care less about the others."
"She? Oh, Colonel Carter?"
"Yeah." Rodney looked away, sighing, "we didn't get off to a good start. I was… my normal obnoxious self when we first met. Even called her a dumb blonde." Rodney shook his head at that, "didn't go down too well, as you can imagine. I ended up in Russia not long after."
"Yeah, ouch. The second time wasn't much better. In fact, my 'solution' got her hurt, as well as making the situation worse. Still, she seemed not to hate me so much in the end. Even, perhaps, like me a little. I was hoping that my time on Atlantis might help. That she might respect me. I guess I messed that up. Can't imagine she has any respect for me now."
"You don't know that."
"She really means something to you, doesn't she?"
"I…admire her," he said and then smiled slightly, "and you have to admit, she is hot. I mean, really hot. And intelligent. Not as smart as me, maybe, but…" he sighed, shaking his head, "who am I kidding? She could hardly stand me before this mess, and I can't see that this will help matters any."
John was surprised by McKay's openness. And he could see just how much gaining Carter's respect meant to him.
"Come on, let's get something to eat. And then I think you should get some rest. They've put a couple of rooms aside for us for tonight."
"Alright. Tomorrow I'm heading out to my apartment. I don't intend to hang around here waiting for the Daedalus to arrive."
"Sounds like a good idea. Of course, I don't have much choice. I suppose I could get a hotel room somewhere… or crash on someone's floor, maybe?"
"Hmm, what? Oh," Rodney looked at him in surprise, "you mean my floor?"
"Well, that's if you don't mind the company. If you want to be alone, that's okay, but, well, if you want…"
And Rodney smiled. A tired smile, but no less brilliant in John's eyes.
"I just can't seem to get rid of you, can I?" he said, "you're welcome to stay. I think I might have an air mattress hanging around somewhere…from my one and only attempt at camping some years ago."
"Sounds like luxury to me."
It was gone midnight. After a somewhat subdued meal, McKay had retired to his temporary quarters, and now John was prowling the corridors of SGC, trying not to worry about how quiet McKay had been after the meeting, and wishing he could have been in there to try and take some of the heat for him.
His wanderings brought him down to the science labs, and he wasn't too surprised when he realised where he was. He wondered which lab was Carter's, not that she was likely to be here at this time of night. Then again, his experience with a lot of scientists suggested she could be.
He should probably stay out of this. He had no idea of what Carter thought of McKay. She might hate his guts for all he knew. He didn't think so from the snatch of conversation he had overheard. In fact, he had a feeling that Rodney was wrong when he thought he'd lost any respect she might have had for him. And if that was the case, then he needed to find a way to let McKay know.
He came to a lab that was occupied, and sure enough, it was Colonel Carter who was burning the midnight oil, so to speak. He wandered in, unsure of what to say, if anything. He was a little in awe of the SG-1 team despite his own experiences in the Pegasus galaxy, if he was being honest. Not that he was going to admit that to anyone, of course.
He looked up and saw Carter watching him curiously.
"Oh, hi," he said.
"Anything I can do for you, Colonel Sheppard?"
"Oh, not really," he put on his most charming smile, "just taking a walk before I turn in."
Carter looked at the clock, and then back at him with a smile.
"Up late, aren't you?" She asked.
"I could say the same for you too," he replied.
"Ah," she turned back to her computer, "got involved in an experiment."
"I understand. Happens a lot on Atlantis too. McKay's the worst. I swear, you put an Ancient artefact in front of him and the universe disappears until he's figured out what it does and how it works. Fortunately he doesn't forget to eat, but sleep?"
"It's a curse," she said with a grin, "a lot of us scientists suffer from it. So what has you wandering around this late?"
"Oh, me. Well, I'm well known for my nocturnal wanderings. McKay claims that I'm part bat."
She laughed at that.
"McKay has a way with words, doesn't he?" she said, shaking her head slightly. "I've read some of the reports from Atlantis. He's changed."
"I don't know about that. Personally, I think it's more a case of discovering who is really was all along. Of course, it wouldn't do to tell him that." He moved further into the lab. "Actually, I'm a little…concerned…about him. I get the feeling the meeting didn't go too well."
"No," she sighed, "but he held his own. And it helped that Dr Weir and Dr Zelenka had sent in reports defending him to some extent and making it clear he was needed on Atlantis."
"I hadn't realised they had done that," he said in surprise, "Damn, if I'd have known…" he looked away briefly, "I should have been in that damned meeting anyway."
"I think he was somewhat surprised himself, though he hid it well. Personally, I didn't see any point in holding the meeting, especially when he's just lost his parents."
"Yeah, he's not handling that too well."
"He told me once how they argued all the time and blamed him."
"Yeah, he had a rough childhood by all accounts. He wasn't going to attend the funeral, but I persuaded him it might be best. Put some old ghosts to rest, that sort of thing. Not so sure it was a good idea now. It hit him harder than he expected, and his sister…" he trailed off, unsure if he should have said as much as he had.
"Basically told him to go to hell in all but words."
"Yeah, oh. To be honest, I just want to get him back to Atlantis, where his friends are." He shrugged his shoulders.
"It's good, that he has friends. He's not the most…easy person to get on with."
"No, but he's worth the effort. He's pulled our asses out of the fire more times than I can remember. Saved my life more than once. Risked his own life to do it." He smiled, "he might rant and whine and complain, not to mention his massive ego and total lack of tact or diplomacy, but he comes through time and time again. And even when he's terrified, he does what needs to be done to save the city or a friend. He does some of his best work when he's terrified."
"I admit that we didn't meet in the best of circumstances, but it's possible I underestimated him and his potential," she sighed.
"Yeah, most people do. And he did call you a dumb blonde, apparently."
"He told you that?"
"Yeah. Think he regrets that you both started off on the wrong foot like that."
"He can be a real jerk," she said, "but he redeemed himself somewhat the second time we met, eventually."
"Look, I'm probably speaking out of turn here, and I know he'd make my life miserable if he knew I was telling you this, but he really seems to admire you. And that's pretty amazing, when you think about it. The man doesn't admire many people other than himself." He smirked slightly at that last bit.
Carter seemed surprised by his comments.
"Uh huh. And it's killing him thinking that any small amount of respect you might have had for him is probably gone due to his recent mistake."
"Oh," she was quiet for a moment, and then sighed, "I think I need to talk to him. I do respect him for what he has achieved on Atlantis. And I'm not just talking about the technology, but the fact he goes on missions, and has friends. That he's found his place in the universe and embraced it, despite the dangers involved. And yes, he made a mistake. Let that big old ego of his get the better of him. But it's not like I haven't made mistakes in the past, and we all have egos that we have had to deal with. It's just that his is so in your face, whereas most of us keep them hidden to some extent."
He relaxed, relieved by her words.
"You'll talk to him, then?"
"And you won't mention this conversation?"
"Why? You afraid of his wrath?" she laughed.
"Hey, I don't want to get on his wrong side. Been there, done that, had the environmental controls in my quarters freeze my ass off for a couple of days as a result of it! Not to mention a certain deserving pain in the ass scientist, who makes Rodney seem like the diplomatic sort, had the water cut off in his quarters, and it took nearly a week to fix that little 'gremlin'. No, I know better than to piss him off!"
"I wouldn't want you to suffer any other 'gremlins' to make your life difficult," she said with a grin, "but I will mention that you were concerned for him. He'll probably figure out you came to see me anyway."
"I suppose so. Guess I'll just have to cope," he looked at his watch, "Suppose I'd better go to bed." He glanced back at her, grinning cheekily, "don't let your experiment suck you in too much."
"I won't," she said with a smile.
He headed for his quarters, feeling somewhat lighter than he had for a while now.
Rodney headed to the mess for breakfast, before Sheppard and he headed out to his apartment. He couldn't believe he was letting the Colonel bunk down at his place, and had no doubt he was going to regret it. Still, he had to admit, he didn't really want to be alone right now.
Grabbing some food, or what passed for food here, and some coffee, he found a seat in the corner, away from anyone else. Okay, he might not want to be alone, but he was picky about who he wanted to spend any time with. And he was a long way from anyone, other than Sheppard, who he might want to spend time with right now, and the Colonel was apparently 'taking care of business' before heading out with him in a bit.
He had just started in on the almost-food, when someone approached his table.
"Mind if I join you?"
He looked up, startled to see Sam standing there.
"Um, if you want," he stammered out. Crap, he really didn't want to talk to her. He'd rather not know for certain how much she didn't like or respect him at the moment. Regardless, she sat down and started in on her breakfast.
"So, I hear you're heading off base for a bit."
"Yes. Thought I'd check my apartment was still in one piece."
"Colonel Sheppard's staying with you, so I've heard."
He grimaced, and then sighed.
"He's a leach. Can't get rid of him. Believe me, I've tried."
"I thought he was supposed to be part bat?" she asked, smiling.
"Oh." He narrowed his eyes, "been up to his nocturnal wanderings, I take it."
"And he just happened to bump into you?"
"No, I don't think it was purely by chance he ended up at my lab last night. Of course, he didn't want me to mention that. He's worried he might find gremlins at work in his quarters when he returns to Atlantis. You didn't really cause his room to freeze up, did you?"
"Oh yes, I did. He deserved it, too, " he said, smiling at the memory.
"And who was it who had his water cut off for nearly a week?"
"That would be telling, though I will say that it was Zelenka who let it go on for a week. I had only planned for a couple of days," he smirked, "now pissing of Zelenka is far more dangerous than pissing me off. Sneaky little Czech, I'm just glad he hasn't pulled anything on me, yet. Though I'd probably deserve it if he did." He looked away, a haunted look returning to his eyes, "especially lately."
"We all make mistakes," Sam said quietly.
"You wouldn't have. If you had been in charge, you wouldn't have destroyed most of a solar system, not to mention nearly get your friend and yourself blown up with it," he closed his eyes. Sam reached out and patted his hand briefly, causing him to look at her.
"We all make mistakes, McKay. I might not have done what you did in that situation, but I've made other mistakes with far reaching consequences. You let your ego get the better of you, I've let my emotions do the same. The replicator me, for instance. I made some bad judgments there." And then she grinned, "welcome to the human race, McKay."
"Oh, very funny," he muttered, feeling better than he had for days. "So, what exactly did the Colonel say about me? How much payback am I talking here?"
"Only that you were having a tough time of things. I'm sorry to hear about your parents, by the way. I know you weren't close, but it's still a lousy thing to have to deal with."
"Perhaps," he said, clearly not wanting to talk about that.
"And that he was worried about you. Seems to me like he's a good friend. And I'm glad that you've found some, good friends, that is." She paused for a moment, "and I have to admit to being…impressed, and surprised, by you being on a first contact team."
"Don't let it go to your head, McKay, but yes. I didn't think you had it in you. I was wrong, and I'm sorry about that."
"So," he paused, and then that familiar smug look returned to his face, "does this mean you fancy me? Oh, what am I saying? Of course you do…"
"Not even in your dreams, McKay," she threatened.
"Ah, playing hard to get? Really, so childish. Why don't you just admit to it and be done with it?"
"You…" she shook her head, "are still the most annoying, irritating and obnoxious person I've ever met…"
"I take it you haven't met Kavanagh, then?" A voice said, causing them to jump slightly.
"Colonel, how long have you be eavesdropping on our conversation?" McKay lifted an eyebrow.
"Just long enough to know Carter doesn't fancy you." John smiled, and then turned to Samantha, "trust me, Kavanagh makes McKay look like a veritable saint."
"In which case, I hope never to meet the guy. McKay's bad enough."
"I am still here, you know?" his slightly outraged voice said.
"Oh, he's not that bad, once you get past the whining and the ego. Really." John smirked.
"Now that's just…so not nice."
"And his lack of people skills, and hypochondria." Sheppard continued.
"I am not a hypochondriac…"
"Oh, and his almost constant complaining, and his rants and tantrums…"
"I do not rant. And I certainly do not have tantrums…"
"Boys!" Sam said, interrupting their insults, "really, you're worse than kids." She grinned, "and I thought that Jack and Daniel were bad."
"Oh now, that's just insulting," he exclaimed.
"Actually," Sheppard stated, "I think I'll take it as a compliment."
"You would," he said, shaking his head.
"So, when are you heading out?" Carter asked.
"When McKay here is ready." Sheppard said turning to him, looking at the partially eaten food, "you gonna finish that, or can I tempt you away with the promise of waffles at a diner…"
He looked at the remains of his breakfast, and then back at Sheppard.
"Just about anything would be better than this. How come the SGC food is so bad?"
"It's one of those mysteries that are beyond explanation," Sam grinned, "and believe me, it's been researched by some of the best."
"Oh, so that's what SG-1 gets up to in its spare time, then?" Sheppard teased.
"Not anymore. We gave it up as a lost cause some time ago. Though I think Mitchell wants us to re-explore it."
"All very interesting, I'm sure, but I think we'll go and find some real food," he interrupted, "this even makes that tuttle root soup that Teyla's been experimenting with seem good. And that's saying something!"
He stood, gathering his tray up.
"Well, good seeing you again, Sam."
"And you, though I can't believe I'm saying that."
"You're such a riot," he muttered, taking his tray over to the clean up area. He returned shortly, rubbing his hands together.
"So, you coming, Sheppard?" he asked.
"Yeah, I'm coming. Nice meeting you, Colonel."
"You too." Sam turned to look at McKay, "and take care out there."
"We will," he replied, "or at least, I will. The Colonel on the other hand…"
And the teasing continued as they left the mess and headed out in search of a decent meal.
Author's Note: Written before seeing any season three episodes, and certainly the one in which we are going to meet Jeannie. I guess after that episode is shown, this will become AU. Oh well…