Author's Note: I've had a number of requests in the past few months to continue this story. This is the only chapter that I had in my head while writing this originally and, thus, it's most likely going to be the one and only update. However, if anyone sends me some ideas, I might try to run with them.
She didn't want to go inside, didn't want to face him one-on-one. But she had to. She had to force herself to take a deep breath, force herself to reach out and take hold of the handle and twist.
She had to because she's the leader of this base and as the leader it's her responsibility to take care of personnel problems and Rodney, ever since that night, had become his very own personnel problem. She never noticed it- or maybe she wasn't trying to notice it- but others have been mentioning his unbearable moodiness to her. Actually, a lot of people have been telling her about how unbearable he had become and begged for her to talk to him and find out what's the problem.
"Come in, come in. It's not like I don't have mountains of work to accomplish."
"Oh… Colonel. I don't have those reports finished yet."
"That's not it."
Sam despised this side of Rodney- this angry, closed off person he can become.
"Can we talk?"
He froze. Just stopped, head bowed and stylus hovering over his computer pad. "What would you want to do that for?"
"Rodney-" She can feel the dozens of eyes glancing at them, all the curious people trying to see what Colonel Carter and Doctor overly snotty McKay will do. "Can we go out to the balcony?"
It was as if he just remembered where they were and he snapped his head up to look around at the lab. All eyes turned down. He tossed the pad and stylus onto his desk and jerked his head in the direction of the door.
The walk was quiet- completely silent and unbearably awkward. It seemed to take forever to get there- much longer than necessary.
She had no idea what to say. Absolutely no idea. And he wasn't help her by crossing his arms and looking over at her. "So?"
It would be best just to say it. "Some people have brought to my attention that you seem… snappier than usual."
"Snappier? I'm no more snappy than I've ever been."
Sam huffed. "I've noticed too, Rodney. You seem stressed. Maybe-"
"Stressed? Who's stressed? There's just an entire city that could blow up at any moment, there's limited power that could just evaporate on us, there's only a couple thousand of life-sucking aliens out there hunting us down. What's there to be stressed about?"
"I'm fine, Colonel." Her rank straightened her back and she almost missed him saying, "Nothing to get concerned over. Can I…?"
She looked him straight in eye, crossed her own arms over her chest, and told him in her best authoritarian voice, "This isn't over."
"Okay. What else would you like to comment on?"
Right, she needed more to talk about. Her arms drop to her sides and she sighed in defeat. "What's wrong, Rodney?"
"Wrong? Nothing's wrong."
"I think I can tell when something's bothering you."
"Oh, can you? With that vast knowledge of who I am, I'm sure you noticed immediately how perturbed I am and used that brilliant little brain of yours to figure it all out. So, discussion over. Thank-you for your time."
"McKay." There's something in her tone that made him freeze and slowly he turned to look at her. She took a breath, letting her eyes fall closed as she collected her thoughts and tried to figure out what to say to him. "Rodney… I hurt you. I get that. Can we please just talk about-"
"Talk about what? The night that never happened? Afraid I don't know what you're talking about."
Now he was just pissing her off. "Okay! I get it! I'm an ass! I'm an idiot! Now, can we have a civilized conversation for five seconds?"
"A conversation about what? What is there to talk about? You don't want me. That was made perfectly clear. We moved on. End of story."
"That's not fair. Look, it had nothing to do with you-"
"That's right. It's not me, it's you."
"McKay, we're just not compatible."
"Not compatible? You call that night 'not compatible'?"
She sighed, only because she needed to slow the conversation down. "Look, you, me- we work well together but a relationship? Rodney, I don't think we could survive something like that. We'd just end up hating each other, making things awkward and impossible to work around each other."
"It worked in that other reality."
She tried to breath slowly. Her eyes fell closed and she blocked out the world as she calmed herself down.
Footsteps echoed on the balcony floor; clothes rustled in the breeze; she could feel him moving closer to her. His voice was soft as he breathes, "Would you prefer him? The soft, gentle McKay? The one who knows you better than you know yourself? You just want that back- the ability to feel good without worrying about the consequences of letting yourself go."
She opened her eyes half way through his questions. There was pain in his grey orbs. Deep pain. She couldn't handle seeing him like that, because she knew that he's right, completely right. And so she looked away. Without those sad eyes staring at her, she tried to think of something to say to him and tried to think of a real answer- for herself, if not him.
"Rodney, it would never work between us-"
"How do you know? What do you really know about me?"
"I-" She looked away, "Exactly. We don't really know each other."
"Isn't that the point of dating? To get to know each other?"
"You want to date me now?" He shrugged. "Rodney," she shook her head, "I don't think…"
"That we're compatible. I got that." He turned away from her, but she can hear that his breathing is off and his head is bowed and she tried not to think of what she just did to him. "What do you know about me anyway? How can you make that decision just like that?" He turned on his heels to face her and she saw the passion in his eyes. "I'm not who you think I am." His voice was harsh and raw. "I'm not that man you met all those years ago. I'm not the man who left Earth for Atlantis. And I'm not the man in that other reality. You don't know anything about me anymore." He breathed as if his lungs hadn't meet air in years. "But I'd like you to know more about the man I am now."
Air passed over her lips and she tried to hold his eyes. "McKay… You don't know me. I am almost certain that I'm not the woman you imagine I am."
He chuckled. "Pretty close." She slapped him on the arm, playfully smiling at him.
But then she sobered. "I still don't think it's a good idea to pursue this."
He nodded at her, sighing. "Yeah."
The balcony grew silent, all but the wind blowing over their faces. The thought hit her suddenly. "Besides, Rodney… don't you have a girlfriend or something?"
For one of the palest men she's ever met, he managed to pale to an almost ghostly white. His eyes went wide and his mouth fell open. "Katie. Shit."
Sam just watched the fear and disgust and pain and horror pass over his face. She wanted to think of him as an ass, the biggest bastard she had ever met for being able to forget about her. But she couldn't, because she could tell how much he loved this Katie and she could also tell how huge of an impression she made on him if he could forget about someone like that.
She moved closer to him. "Rodney, I honestly think you're a good guy. You certainly have your moments. But I just don't think it's going to work out. As great as that night was, it's probably best if we just forget about it."
He held her eye as she talked and when she reached the end, slowly he made himself nod. "Yeah. I guess," he sighed, "I doubt that's going to happen though."
She smiled at him as he ran his eyes over her body. "Stop undressing me with your eyes."
"I wasn't." A smirk grew over his face and, almost but not quite guiltily, his eyes ran over her again. "Until now." Even as she laughed, she smacked him in the chest. "Ow."