Doctor's Excuse

Rodney limped into the infirmary in what he'd been sure was an entirely convincing way, right up until the moment Doctor Keller had caught sight of him from across the room and started walking over. She looked tired, her hair pulled back into a limp ponytail that had about as much animation to it as her facial expression. The infirmary itself wasn't as busy as it had been in recent days--and while this had seemed like the perfect setting for his plan just ten minutes ago, now it was making him feel a little ashamed of himself.

After all, Jennifer deserved a break more than he deserved to get out of doing paperwork, no matter how many pages of checkboxes and one-line notes he was expected to fill out for personnel he only knew by the sound of their apologies.

"Rodney," Jennifer said, managing to sound weary, annoyed, and concerned all at once. "What--" she paused, as if re-thinking her approach, and when her tone brightened considerably as she spoke again, Rodney felt like a complete, insensitive fraud. "What can I help you with?" The 'this time' was implied.

He'd been halfway through the doorway when they'd registered each other's presence, and by the way her eyebrows had creased as she'd looked down at his ankle, she must have seen him limping. Rodney felt the seconds tick by as he stood there, stupidly braced against the wall holding his weight off of his left leg as he opened his mouth a few times, gestured meaningfully, and hoped a really plausible excuse would drop out on cue. It didn't.

"You hurt your ankle?" Jennifer asked in a tone that rode the edge of patience and frustration.

"What? No, no. I'm fine," Rodney blurted out, dropping his foot to the floor and leaning on it cautiously. "I must have walked it off." He smiled at her wanly and fought the unexpected urge to signal his apology with his eyes as he turned to go. Instead of looking relieved, nodding, and walking away like she was supposed to, however, Keller let out a huff of air and reached out to stop him.

"You've never 'walked it off' in your life, McKay," she said in a teasing voice tinged only slightly with exasperation. "Come on." Jennifer tugged at his left elbow with surprising strength, and Rodney tripped after her, torn between guilt and satisfaction that his ruse had worked.

"No, really--you don't have to look at it," he told her seriously, right before she pointed to a chair in the diagnostic room she'd led him into and he'd found himself sitting down rather abruptly.

"Did you hit your head, too?" she asked grimly, her back to him as she rifled through the cupboard. "Because, I don't think I've ever heard you say that before."

She started to turn around, and when Rodney saw a stain of something dark brown on her sleeve, he groaned, shut his eyes, and resolved to actually trip on something the next time he wanted to fake an injury, because he really, really hated this guilt thing.

"Look, I probably should have--hit my head, I mean--because I was just... I'm fine, so, go back to whatever it is you do when there's no one to make you miserable, and I'll go back to the lab and look for another way to avoid--"

"You know you're backing into a corner of the room, not out the door, right?" Jennifer informed him gently.

"Excellent. Now all I have to do is trip over a bedpan for my humiliation to be complete," Rodney groaned, studiously avoiding looking at Keller. "I'll just be going--"

"What, you don't like Cheetos?"

That didn't make any sense at all, and was patently untrue.

"Of course--but, what does that... What?" he babbled, completely confused. Jennifer was leaning against the cupboard with a bag of honest-to-god Cheetos, casually munching as she watched him with an amused expression on her face.

"You act like you're the only one with performance reviews due," she said tartly. "You're like, the third person today with Paperwork-itis."

Rodney drew himself up to his full height and crossed his arms defiantly.

"I could have been--"

"But you weren't." She held out the bag. "You wouldn't leave me to juggle schedules and reviews and god only knows who else is going to come in here procrastinating with--" she made air quotes with fingers dusted orange with processed cheese "'food poisoning' and 'the really bad headache I only seem to get twice a year' are you?"

Rodney just stared at her, then gingerly liberated a few Cheetos from the proffered bag.

"I mean, honestly! Where do I get to run off to when I need a break?" Jennifer asked, reasonably.

"Huh. I didn't think of that," Rodney said, sitting down and narrowing his eyes at the cupboard behind her. "Got anything else in there?"

"That depends," Jennifer said, her face lighting into a brilliant smile. "How bad's your ankle?"

"Oh," Rodney mimed a sliding fall with his hands, ignoring the sprinkle of powdered cheese they left in their wake. "You know me. I'll be explaining my symptoms for at least fifteen minutes."

"Make it a half hour, and there's a handful of M&Ms in there with your name on them," Keller said.

"It's a deal."