SUMMARY: McKay, Sheppard, and a bottle of whiskey. Basically an excuse for a few Shep-centric conversations that these two would never have sober. Not slash. 1st up- So, how did John end up taking the Mensa test anyway?

NOTE: The tone of this story is actually turning out much lighter than I was intending. It was just too hard to have a forty-year-old guy telling a story about high school, while keeping it all serious. So, sorry for the unevenness!

NOTE 2: Teeny tiny reference () to 'Bonding with McKay' from my fic Seven Days in Atlantis, but you in no way need to read that story for this to make sense. At least I hope this makes sense…

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Chapter 2- The Mensa Test

"You're a member of MENSA?"
"No, but I took the test."
"When?"
"I don't want to talk about this now, Rodney."

SGA- Brotherhood

Warily he hedged, "Okay, umm… since you brought it up… how in the hell did you end up taking the Mensa test anyway?"

Sheppard rubbed a callused hand across his face and groaned, "Ugh, not that again. Just let it go already, McKay."

Rodney snatched the liquor bottle back and whined, "I can't believe you're pulling this already, you just told me five seconds ago to ask anything."

A flinch crossed the pilot's face, as he nodded at the grating reminder, "Okay, Fine…. If you must know, I might have had some teenage issues with authority."

Rodney snorted.

The boyish Colonel responded with a sad smile, "Yeah, well it didn't exactly keep me out of trouble." The half smile slipped into his infamous lopsided grin. "When I first started high school, I was the kid that everyone loved to hate-- wild hair, skateboard, surfboard, loud music and an attitude."

Sheppard met Rodney's eyes in challenge (fully aware that the man was desperately fighting to hold in a biting one-liner for that clear setup) before he continued on with a smirk, "Anyway, I got by. But I was working out some trust issues, and didn't exactly make it easy on my teachers."

The military man actually looked somewhat embarrassed at that last admission. Rodney knew it'd be a whole lot more awkward if Sheppard realized that he'd already been clued-in to part of the story behind those 'trust issues'. ()

The Colonel cracked his knuckles and continued, "Sophomore year, I had this math teacher, Mr. Werner. He hated guys like me. At that point, I wasn't putting much of an effort into school. But the guy pissed me off enough that I made sure to ace his tests. He'd accuse me of cheating; I'd tell him to prove it; you get the picture. One day I got his stupid bonus equation without even trying, so he decided to drag me to the principal."

Sheppard looked away at a point on the ceiling and fumbled, "Of course, I already had a few strikes on my record for fighting and talking back.…. I might have been suspected for some innocent pranks…. and may or may not have allegedly broken up with the principal's daughter…. so…"

Rodney rolled his eyes, "For crying out loud Sheppard!"

Ducking his head, the pilot growled, "McKay, do you want to hear the story or not?"

He'd never heard Rodney shut up so fast.

Sheppard licked his lower lip and eyed up the bottle in the scientist's grasp, "So, Mr. Werner was on a mission to get me expelled. He said there was no way I could have answered such an advanced question. He even brought in some of my other teachers to vouch for what a moron I was. I told them I'd take any test they wanted, and he thought he was being clever by proposing the Mensa exam."

Clearly self-conscious, the pilot was rushing through the details now, "Anyway, I took the test and passed…No, I won't tell you my score…. The only reason I took the stupid thing was to get out of trouble. It kept me from being thrown out of school and I couldn't do that to my old man. I certainly didn't take it to become part of some snobby club."

Sheppard closed with a final sigh, "Afterward, the school didn't know exactly what to do with me. Mr. Werner hated me more than ever, and he made my life hell until I transferred schools again."

Not bothering to hide his cynicism, McKay responded dryly, "Yeah, right, and the school didn't do anything?"

The other man scoffed, "Hell, no. The teachers were just bummed they couldn't kick me out. But we were restationed at the end of that year anyway, so I got be someone else's problem."

Rodney reacted with snort of disgust, "…Incompetent American education system… never would have happened in Canada."

The familiar show of rancor made Sheppard smile, "McKay, it's not a big deal. I only passed a stupid test. After that, I even grew up a bit. In my next few schools, I made a bit more of an effort to make sure I got into the Air Force…. That freak puzzle on Duranda was the only time Mensa's ever come up since…. and we both saw how well that turned out."

Suppressing his guilt over the lost ZPM, Rodney swallowed a gulp of whiskey and retorted, "You're a real idiot, you know that?"

The obstinate Colonel grunted, "Yeah."

His laugh trailed off and his eyes darkened. "Anyway, like I said, after talking to Rod I just can't stop wondering about that alternate reality, where my own punk attitude didn't drag me down… There, I took the damn test because someone thought I was smart and wanted me to go somewhere. Believe it or not, in Rod's world, I was the teacher's pet. I stopped just short of a pocket protector, with a silver spoon shoved up my.…"

Torn between amusement and concern, Rodney protested, "Sheppard!"

The distracted Colonel continued on as if he hadn't heard, "I mean come on, that other me figured out how to create a bridge across alternate realities!! A big day for me is if I blow something up..."

With more than a touch of anger, Rodney snarled, "Right, because you're such a failure."

Sheppard nodded sadly, "Look McKay, don't get me wrong, I love my life on Atlantis. I've never had anything like this, ever. But I'm also realistic about what I'm good for: flying, taking foolish risks, and honestly…killing…."

Reading his pain and guilt Rodney turned a bit green.

Sheppard's fingers clenched into whitened fists at his sides, "In that other reality, most of my work is in the lab. There, I've never had to kill. I didn't take Sumner's life. I haven't ordered brave soldiers to their deaths…. So, like I said before, I wouldn't trade my life here for anything. But, that doesn't mean I can't have a moment of envy for a life without the regrets and nightmares..."

The heavy silence is broken by Rodney's stuttered response, "Um, listen. I already know you won't believe anything I say about how important you are around here... So, uh, I just wanted to say that I'm sorry if bugging you about the Mensa thing made any of this worse."

Despite his bitterness, Sheppard almost smiled at the awkward apology, "That's okay, McKay. Career paths is hardly the only thing that I'm wasting time being jealous at myself over right now."

McKay shook his head at the confusing statement. After Sheppard's last confession, he wasn't sure if he even wanted to know any more. But as usual, the scientist's stubborn curiosity won out – and he forced an impatient expression onto his face.

Turning away from his intense glare, the military leader sheepishly raised a hand to the back of his neck, "Uh, did I ever tell you I was married?"

Tilting back the whiskey bottle to take a sip, Rodney almost swallowed his own tongue. With a reddened face, he turned back to his drunken teammate. This time his impatience was in no way faked, "What do you mean you were married?!!"

TBC