A/N: Ok, so this originated as a McKeller fic, and it still is, but I got a bit carried away and it's a lot longer than I'd planned... :P There's a bit of Sheyla in it too. Took me two days to write the darn thing. So now my neck hurts from bending over the laptop keyboard, lol ;)
Hope you enjoy it, and I really love hearing what you guys think, so reviews are most welcome!
When Rodney McKay had geared up to go on a search and rescue mission with Sheppard's team, plus Dr. Keller with three of her medical staff, neither he nor the seven other people assigned to the task had been prepared for what would happen over the course of the next few hours.
Upon arriving to the planet, by jumper, where the distress call originated nothing seemed to be right.
They had landed in a clearing on the edge of the forest that bordered the small, pre-industrial settlement that the people of Atlantis had helped the locals to build.
But not before they caught a glimpse of what was happening.
There were fires all over the village. Houses, barns, shops, wagons. Pretty much anything that was higher than five feet was on fire. The flames licked at the night sky, brightening the scene to the point where it looked nearly as light as day. Residue from weapons fire was visible both on the ground, in the form of long, black scorch marks, and on the off-the-chart readings the jumper's sensors were picking up. The residue appeared to have a high concentration of a certain type of radiation.
The kind that was unique to Replicator weapon's fire.
From the sky, no movement was visible below. The once happy, sunshine-filled little town had been reduced to a fiery wasteland.
The jumper touched down in silence as the eight people on board let the horror of what they had seen sink in.
"All those people…" Teyla murmured, starring off blankly into the space ahead of her, tears in her eyes. Sheppard rose from the pilot's seat and the company took that as a sign that they had to get working, helping whomever they could find, presuming that they found anyone alive. All except for Teyla. She still sat starring out the front window of the jumper as a tear rolled down her cheek.
John noticed her, and stopped gathering his equipment. He walked over to her seat and crouched beside her.
"Hey," he said, quietly enough so that no one else could hear, "I know that this is hard. What happened here… is pure evil." He looked into her face with earnest. "You have to be strong, Teyla. We have to get out there and do our job."
She nodded twice, still looking straight ahead, refusing to meet the compassion and care that was evident in the way he looked at her. John reached up and wiped away the lone tear that trickled down the side of her face. Teyla closed her eyes and took a deep, calming breath. When she opened them, she had finally turned to face John. Despite the situation that they were currently in, Teyla managed a small smile, just from looking into his gentle, encouraging eyes.
"There you go…" John said, smiling in return. "Ready?"
"Yes, I believe so," she replied in a shaky voice.
"Good." John's smile widened as he spoke. They both rose and made for the back of the jumper, where the drawbridge-like door had already been opened and equipment and medical supplies were being unloaded and set up.
As they were about to exit the jumper, John turned to Teyla one more time and said in an undertone, "You'll be ok. I know you will." And with that, he wrapped one arm around her and drew her in for a quick, one-armed hug.
Rodney saw all this happening from several feet away. He noticed the way that Sheppard looked at Teyla, and not just now, but all the time. Every day, in fact. And he saw the way she looked at him. How could he not? Their feelings for each other were painfully obvious. The smiles at breakfast when everyone else was barely awake, the two hour block that was booked for their sparring sessions at least once every week, the random touches those two shared on a daily basis, like a simple shoulder to shoulder contact as they brushed by each other on the way out of the briefing room. McKay rolled his eyes. Really, how thick can you be?, Rodney thought to himself. Sure, Sheppard isn't that bright, but he's not that stupid either.
The preliminary searches turned up nothing. Absolutely no life signs, according to the bio-sensors and a preliminary visual inspection of the burning area. It didn't look like whoever had sent the distress call would be able to tell them exactly what had happened, still, they had a pretty good guess at what had taken place: the annihilation of another perfectly peaceful human settlement. That put an even heavier cloud of depression over the heads of the present company.
There was no immediate danger of a forest fire, but there was a chance that some of the houses that had only recently caught fire and the possessions inside them could be spared.
Rodney glanced at Sheppard as they began to move - to run - out towards the closest house that looked like it had only recently become a towering inferno. His face had changed since McKay had seen him talking to Teyla. He wasn't displaying much emotion, like he had gone cold. Numb. His way of blocking out the pain.
He looked around at the rest of the group. Teyla was silent, but there were a few tears visible in her eyes by the light of the crackling flames. She was being strong for John. But as tough as she could appear to be, Teyla's heart was warm and kind. Even though she had already seen many hardships involving the wraith, death on this scale was still something that disturbed her to her very core.
Ronon was, well, just Ronon. He rarely, if not never told anyone what was up, and that hadn't changed now. But when Ronon was angry, it was obvious to everyone. And he was angry now. His hands were probably screaming to lay themselves on the necks of the ones they all knew were responsible for this horror.
When they had almost reached the house, Rodney glanced sideways at Jennifer as she ran beside him. Her eyes looked watery, but then again, that could have been from the smoke that was beginning to make everyone cough and wipe their eyes. But Rodney was pretty sure that those were tears. He'd never seen Jennifer cry before. She didn't seem like the kind of person who would cry. She was too guarded, too quiet, too… smart to break down on the job. He would never cry on the job. But… looking into her face, seeing the same pain he'd seen in Sheppard's, Rodney wasn't sure if it was just his imagination, but he could've sworn that there was fear there too…. he suddenly felt the compulsion to reach out and take her hand as they ran.
Whoa. Where did that come from?
Rodney pushed the idea out of his mind as they split up, spreading out around the building, and assessing the situation to seeing if there was a way to salvage any of what was there. Rodney suddenly heard Jennifer's yell over the roar of the flames. The group ran to the sound of her voice. Rodney hadn't heard what she'd been saying; he just prayed that she wasn't hurt.
Jennifer had found the door. Well, technically speaking, the door had blown off its hinges, probably the result of an oil lamp coming in contact with the fire inside the house. What remained of a doorway looked like their best bet.
"I'll go in first," Jennifer offered, her voice slightly raised due to the fact that it was harder to hear this close to the inferno.
"No way!" Sheppard called back, "It's too dangerous. This was a bad idea. Just look at the place! It's falling apart faster than we can decide what to do about it. Besides-," he gestured helplessly, showing the first sign of what he was feeling behind his emotional barrier, "there's no one in there. There's no one anywhere."
As if it heard him, the Ancient biosensor that Sheppard still held clenched in his had began beeping. Puzzled, John looked down at the small display screen and his eyes widened. "Son of a …" he trailed off. Looking up at the burning building, he spoke, barely audible over the constant roar in everyone's ears, "there's someone in there."
Jennifer's face suddenly changed- not happy, no, but a kind of excitement. A strong belief that she could save a life that fateful day. All she had to do was look at Colonel Sheppard to re-ask her question.
"Out of the question," he replied bluntly. He held up the biosensor. "Look at the life sign! It's flickering. Flickering. Whoever is in there, they're almost gone. And as much as I despise the idea of leaving someone behind…" he paused and took a quick, yet deep breath before resuming, "This is suicide, going in there is," he gestured frantically at the burning house, "I don't want to lose one of my team on a hopeless rescue attempt." His eyes, now swimming with a mixture of tears from the smoke and from the words that he had to speak, no matter how painful they were, were staring into Jennifer's. Pleading.
Jennifer looked shocked. But she straightened up. Rodney could've sworn that he saw her lower lip tremble, just for a second. "If someone is alive in there, even if their chances are one to a million, I have to try. It's… it's what I do. It's why I'm me… why I'm here. I don't expect you to fully understand it."
Her speech caught the group, including Sheppard, temporarily off guard.
She seized the opportunity, turned, medical bag in hand, and dove into the house.
"Keller!" John yelled, peering into the doorway into which she had just run, then staggering back as a wave of heat slammed into him. "KELLER!!"
Rodney was panicking. How stupid was she to think that a), she could save that person in there who couldn't be clinging to life by much more than a thread, and that b), she'd even make it out of there alive!
He already knew what he should do, what he had to do. It was equally stupid, but right now, his sense of right and wrong were smothered by the overwhelming fear that the longer he waited, the greater the chance that Jennifer would end up killing herself in a vain attempt to save an already doomed life.
"Damn it, damn it, damn it…" Rodney muttered under his breath. And with those last few words of wisdom, he charged the doorway, distantly hearing a few voices, Sheppard's being the loudest by far, yelling his name.
The second he stepped over threshold, McKay could feel the heat. If he thought it was bad outside, then that was nothing compared to this. The heat mixed with the smoke was suffocating, almost claustrophobic, but Rodney managed to make his feet move forward, while avoiding the flames at the same time.
It stung to keep his eyes open, but McKay opened them anyway. He spotted Jennifer crouching on the floor beside a body so badly burnt that it seemed impossible that they could still be alive. She was trying to perform CPR on the person, but didn't seem to be having much luck. The air she was breathing wouldn't be able to bring him back. It was toxic to a healthy person, much less someone on the brink of death.
But Rodney did have to admire her dedication and skill. She already had a miniature IV drip in the person's arm. Even in these terrible conditions, she was still saving a life. Or trying to.
The house gave an ominous shudder. It was coming down, and he had to get Jennifer out of there. Rodney ran to her and tried to pull her up from her patient's side, but she resisted.
"No! No, I have to save him!" She screamed, kicking and struggling so much that Rodney had to wrap his arms around her from behind to get her under control. It broke Rodney's heart to do this to her, but if they didn't get out of there soon, they'd all die.
"NO!!" Jennifer screamed again and again, hitting and kicking at any and every part of Rodney that she could, but he took it.
"Let him die, just let him go!" he yelled. "He wouldn't want to live like this, he wouldn't want that! We have to go NOW!" Rodney struggled to hold her still amidst the hungry flames as well as keeping them moving, however slowly, towards the exit. "I'm not losing you, Jen, I won't let you die, I just can't. So work with me and help me save yourself," he whispered in her ear, for now his throat was dry as a bone from the smoke and the effort of yelling.
Jennifer continued to scream and cry. Rodney wouldn't stop moving.
Finally, they made it to the exit. Rodney used his weight to throw them both out the doorway, flames licking at its edges.
The shock of being out of the intense heat was beyond weird. Throwing yourself outside of the house was like throwing yourself into a cooler. Rodney was in shock. Everything was smoky. His eyesight was fuzzy. When things came into focus a few seconds later, Rodney realized that he was lying on his side on the scorched ground, still close to the house… which was now nothing but a giant bonfire. They'd only just made it. His arms were still wrapped around Jennifer from behind. She was shaking from, what Rodney thought, was a combination of grief, shock, and inhaling too much of the toxic air.
Someone put their hand on his shoulder. He looked up to see Sheppard, Ronon, Teyla, and the three medical staff members bending over him. Rodney tried to speak, but his throat was dry as sand, and he ended up coughing instead. One of the medical staff tried to make him release his grip on Jennifer, and initially, he wouldn't let her go. After much prying and coaxing on the rest of the party's behalf, Rodney finally released her, but only because he began feeling himself go limp and then he blacked out.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
"Shhh, don't wake him up!"
Beep. Beep. Beep.
When Rodney opened his eyes, they stung. A lot. So he simply closed them again, and the pain eased.
"Oi! Look, he opened his eyes."
Rodney opened his mouth, trying to tell whoever was making such a racket to can it or else, but all that came out was a hoarse cough.
"Someone give him some water."
"Yeah, I got some right here…"
Rodney felt a straw on his mouth and slurped. It was like slurping a piece of heaven. The water soothed his throat in a matter or seconds, so he decided to try opening his eyes so he could see who he would be yelling at.
His eyes still stung, but it wasn't as bad now. The first thing McKay noticed was that he was in the infirmary.
Duh. Where else would there be that annoying beeping noise and an equally annoying bunch of people who didn't know how to shut up?
Sheppard, Teyla and Ronon were all at his bedside. When he looked at them, they all smiled.
"Hey, buddy," Ronon grinned, giving him a clap on the shoulder.
"Hey, how are ya feeling? You gave us quite the scare, you know, McKay," Sheppard said, raising his eyebrows for emphasis.
At first, Rodney didn't have a clue what they were talking about. Then it all came back in a rush. The fire. The burning house. All the vivid images were back in his head.
"I… I need to see Jennifer," he croaked. The rest of the team exchanged looks. Rodney suddenly felt very scared. She was ok, right?
"Dr. Keller is… still unconscious and she has suffered a few second degree burns," Teyla explained, "You have both been unconscious for about twenty-four hours."
"But she's ok?" Rodney asked, begging for clarification.
"Yeah, as far as we can tell," Ronon replied, folding his arms and sitting down on the empty bed to Rodney's right.
"Well," John added, running a hand through his messy hair, making it even messier in the process, "She did inhale a heck of a lot more smoke than you did."
"Can I see her anyways?" He wasn't that sick. Geez.
"It's best that you rest and regain your strength," John said as Teyla nodded in agreement. Sheppard glanced around, as if to check if they were alone, which they were. "That was pretty amazing, what you did."
Rodney suddenly felt put on the spot. He looked down at his bed sheets and twiddles then in between his fingers, shrugging. "Anyone would have done it."
"Yeah, but you did. You were the one who saved her ass," Ronon argued, a grin appearing on his face again.
Rodney just shrugged again. "Like I said, anyone would do it. I was just the idiot who ran into the burning building first." He tried to smile, but it didn't come off so well. Deep down, he knew that he did it because… just because. He promptly changed the subject. "What about the guy she was trying to save?"
More looks exchanged, but these were sadder than before. Teyla looked down at the floor for a minute before raising her head and looking at Rodney square in the eyes, as tears welled up in her own. "His life sign died out on the biosensor just as Jennifer ran to help him, and never came back on. While you two were back here, receiving your treatment, we scanned the rest of the village, the rubble…" Tears began to fall silently down her cheeks yet again at the memory, but her voice stayed strong. "We found more bodies… in the rubble." She pulled a loose strand of hair behind her ear and took a deep, shuddering breath. "Almost all of the villagers have been accounted for."
Ronon looked down at his folded arms, trying to hide is own grief. The anger was gone, leaving just that. Grief. In doing so, he missed what McKay had a clear view of from his low, bed-level plane of vision.
John had stepped closer to Teyla when he'd seen that she was upset. Now, his hand had gently taken a hold of hers, and, lacing his fingers with hers, he began stroking her hand with his thumb.
Rodney was not the only one surprised by this action. Teyla looked up into John's face, questioningly. Again, just like when Rodney had seen them together at the back of the jumper, John's face was different. Caring, empathetic, warm, and affectionate. That's how he looked at her. As much as Rodney had a strong dislike for cheesy lovey-dovey stuff, he found this scene truly beautiful. Teyla looked back at him with all the same feelings. Those emotions were in her smile and the way her beautiful brown eyes danced and sparkled when they were cast on his image.
From his perspective, Rodney thought they had it easy. They really, really liked, maybe even loved, each other and that was that. No complications, no questions, no nada. McKay felt a twinge of jealously arise somewhere inside of him. Admittedly, they were a pretty cute couple. And he didn't wish anything else but true happiness for them. Again, there was that cheesy love stuff, but for now, he didn't mind it.
For the first time that he could remember, the only thing that Rodney McKay could think was… wow.
A week later, Rodney McKay found himself outside Jennifer's quarters, bouncing on the balls of his toes, waiting as patiently as he could for her to open the door. He'd been released from the infirmary later the day he woke up, but Jennifer hadn't woken up for another two days after Rodney had, and had only been released late last night. Rodney still hadn't gotten the chance to see her since he'd rescued her from the burning house. He wouldn't even admit it to himself, but he was nervous. God, he hoped it wouldn't be awkward. Then again, he tended to make pretty much any situation awkward, even if it wasn't already uncomfortable. Rodney sighed. Basically, he told himself, you can only screw this up. And the only way to go after you hit bottom is up.
Another sigh. This pep talk wasn't working as well as he'd hoped.
The door chime sounded from inside, and then the door was open, and Jennifer Keller was standing in front of him.
"Jennifer," Rodney simply stated, for he could only get out that much before he saw her current state. If Rodney's jaw wasn't hinged to his skull, it would've hit the floor when he dropped it. He quickly reminded himself that it was probably better if he kept it closed, and did so.
Her right arm from the elbow down, with the exception of her fingers, was wrapped in bandages. She was wearing loose khaki shorts because her left leg was so heavily bandaged that wearing pants would obviously be very uncomfortable. The midsection of her plain, white tank top bulged slightly, and Rodney could guess that there were more dressings under there.
Jennifer looked up at him with a small smile. Rodney couldn't tell if it was a happy one or not.
However, the more immediate matter was that she had caught him staring.
"You - you look, um…" he began, trying to mask his awkwardness and failing miserably.
"Not so good, I know, McKay, believe me I know," she finished for him, glancing down at her bandages. She sighed a very tired-sounding sigh. "Do you want to come in?" She asked, tipping her head back into the room.
"Sure, yeah…. Here, let me get that for you," Rodney offered, swiping his hand over the door crystals once they were both in.
Jennifer rolled her eyes and limped over to the base of the bed. "Rodney," she said with a small chuckle, "I got hurt. I'm not paralyzed or in a wheelchair." She raised her eyebrows at him and sat down on the foot of the bed. "You don't have to look after me."
Rodney quickly nodded. "Oh, I know, you see, it's just that I didn't want you to, um, overwork yourself," he ended, trying to act casual.
Ah, well, that's much easier said than done.
Jennifer rested her arms on her knees and looked down at her hands, one bandaged, one not. She didn't even look up when Rodney sat down beside her.
Something was up with her, Rodney was sure of it now. Sure, she looked tired, and she had every right to be, but there was something else. Something that was adding to the ill at ease atmosphere that hung in the air that had nothing to do with Rodney's personality.
But how to ask her about it? McKay had only begun to map out his plan of attack, a detailed method that illustrated exactly how he would slowly win her trust, when she broke in-
"Why exactly did you pull me out of that house, Rodney?"
Well, so much for that strategy.
"You could've… died. What choice did I have?" Rodney replied, slightly baffled at the simplicity of the question. He was expecting the matter that was troubling her to be bigger, more important, not nearly so straight-forward.
Jennifer changed her position before responding. She clasped her hands together and used the tops of her knees to support her elbows. She rested her head against her clasped hands and looked sideways at Rodney. Yes, there! In her eyes. There was a sadness that Rodney could only recall seeing once, in his own eyes, when he was adjusting his tie in the mirror before Carson's funeral. It was a deep, deep sorrow that could only come from the ache that the death of another brought. His heart went out to her, but he didn't dare let her know that.
"I could have saved that man in that burning house," Jennifer stated in a flat, even tone, "It wouldn't have been easy, but I could have saved him, and he could have carried on with his life. He'd have just lost his village, but he could have started again. We could have taken him in. His life could have continued… even thrived." Jennifer's voice had begun to grow in strength. By the end of her small speech, she was on her feet.
The young doctor raked her un-bandaged left hand through her hair and spun to face the noticeably perplexed Rodney. "I mean-," she cut off and threw her hands up in exasperation. "I'm grateful that you saved me, I really am," she continued, now pacing back and forth in front of Rodney, who was, by now, utterly bewildered by her unexpected change of emotion. "But you don't seem to get it," she added, pointing a finger at McKay. "I am a doctor! I do whatever I can to save someone's life, even if it means risking my own."
Rodney was still confused and a little taken aback. "But - but what you did was so… so stupid, so reckless, it was suicide! I can't believe I even went in there after you!" He was on his feet now too, facing her.
"Rodney McKay, you listen to me and you listen to me good," Jennifer retorted as she took a step closer to Rodney, now clearly more than just exasperated. "I know that I dove into that burning building to try and save a man's life. Yet, why you decided to 'play the hero' and come in there after me? That I will never understand!"
"Hey!" Rodney shouted back, though totally unaware that he was doing so. He was more than just a little offended now. "I came in there to save you. Not the guy that you were saving because as far as I could tell, he was as good as gone long before you had ever gotten there!"
There was a pause in the shouting match, even though neither noticed just how loud they were being until now. Rodney was breathing heavily. Jennifer got tears in her eyes. Her fists were clenched at her sides, trembling slightly.
"You don't know that," she said softly, barely above a whisper. "Now," Jennifer raised a bandaged hand and pointed in the direction of the exit, "you should leave. Please."
Rodney hesitated only for a second, but then obliged and left in a sulk.
In spite of his anger, McKay was taken aback when, half-way down the corridor, a sob reached his ears, and he had a pretty good idea whose it was. A small part of him wanted to go back and comfort her, but that little voice in his head was overruled quickly.
Way. To. Go.
"Don't you go there!" Rodney hissed at his own pessimistic self. He didn't need that now. Not now, on top of everything, including his guilt.
Jennifer didn't know how long she sat at the foot of her bed crying. It could have been thirty minutes, an hour, or more. All she knew was that she was already regretting all the things she'd said to McKay. She hadn't meant to yell, but he could be so… difficult sometimes, so stubborn that it was enough to drive anyone stark mad. She didn't want to think of the people who had to work for him every single day.
She forced herself to take a deep breath like Teyla had taught her in their meditation sessions. Letting it all out as she exhaled….
Her bandages needed to come off for a while to air out the burns. It wasn't pretty, but she took off the dressings that had been lovingly applied by her staff. They had gone out of their way to make sure that their boss was as comfortable as was possible, tending to her every need. They'd wanted her to stay in the infirmary for another few days, but she had insisted that she was alright.
If she got cooped up for too long, she got agitated and restless. Jennifer loved being in the infirmary. It was her work, which was, in pretty much every respect, her life. But she liked being there as a doctor, not as a patient. It wasn't that she minded being pampered, but all that she had been able to think about for the past week was the trauma of that search and rescue gone wrong, so she never felt fully relaxed.
Once all the bandages were off, Jennifer covered her bed in a clean sheet so that she could lie down without worrying about getting blood or puss on her nice duvet. Lying on her side aggravated the one burn around her midriff, so she rolled onto her back. Yes, that was much better. She stared up at the ceiling and tried to let her mind go blank so she wouldn't have to think about anything, if only for a little while. Eventually, she managed to clear her head of everything.
Images of Rodney kept popping up in her mind's eye. His fearful yet determined face as they'd approached the blazing village; the strength and care he'd displayed when he pulled her out of the burning house; the sadness and stubbornness he had looked at her with earlier during their argument.
There was more to Rodney McKay than most people thought. Yes, he was self-centered, rude, arrogant, bad with people, and the total opposite of a social butterfly, but then Jennifer remembered what he'd whispered to her when he was 'attempting' to save her life. Rodney's words echoed in her head.
"Let him die, just let him go!"
Jennifer closed her eyes, trying to block it all out.
"He wouldn't want to live like this, he wouldn't want that!"
But if she could have saved him, which there was, in her mind, no doubt about…
"We have to go NOW!"
The vividness of the memory was bringing her back to that moment, when the smoke was so thick she could scarcely breathe, when she could feel the fire reaching out for her… and when Rodney protectively wrapped her in his arms.
"I'm not losing you, Jen, I won't let you die, I just can't."
A lump was forming in her throat, and no matter what she did, it wouldn't let up even the slightest bit.
"So work with me and help me save yourself."
Jen hadn't done a thing to make Rodney's job easier. She'd done the complete opposite. But he'd still managed to pull her out of there alive and relatively unharmed, compared to what injuries she might have sustained if she'd been in there much longer.
All that… and I didn't even tell him 'thank you', she mused, now feeling as guilty as hell.
"Oh my God…." she mumbled, "How could I have been such an idiot?!" She needed to see him, tell him she was sorry for… everything. Jennifer sat up quickly, fully forgetting that her burns were out of their dressings. The sudden jerk of movement sent waves of pain up and down her upper body and into her leg. It hurt so much, but she bit her tongue until it bled to keep from screaming.
Standing was painful, but Jennifer was determined. She got some fresh dressings and covered up her burns before striding out into the corridor. They were still pretty gruesome, and she didn't want to gross anyone, especially Rodney, out of their wits.
Rodney blew out the match and chucked it in the garbage. He put his hands on his hips and took a sweep of the room to admire his handy work.
He had transformed the empty never-before-been-used quarters into a work of art. The Ancient's idea of architecture was never something that Rodney found to his liking, so he got an idea from the way that Teyla had decorated her quarters. She used beautiful Athosian cloths and embroidery to adorn the walls and sweep down from the ceiling to make the room appear more natural, more like the tents her people lived in.
Rodney had done the exact same thing expect his cloths were a mixture of Athosian and Earth-based. It wasn't anything close to what Teyla had, but it was good enough. The nicest, thinnest cloths were saved to put over the windows, their patters casting elegant shadows across the floor as the very late afternoon sunlight filtered through them. The bed had been shoved into a far corner so it would be out of the way, and the couch had been brought forward so that it was up against the small round coffee table. The table had been draped with a floor-length cream-colored cloth that looked nice enough to be a table cloth, even though it wasn't. There were candles set up everywhere; another tip he took from Teyla's room. The table was set for two, the wine was poured, and the candles were all lit. All in all, McKay was quite proud of himself.
Now to go find his guest.
Again, much easier said then done.
Rodney had contemplated how he would approach Jen. If he went to her quarters, she might close the door in his face. If she didn't, how would one go about asking her to have dinner with them? He didn't want it to sound like a date or anything, because it wasn't, but Rodney was betting she wouldn't see it that way.
What if she wasn't even in her quarters? The city was huge! It wasn't like he could spend all night looking for her. And using the headsets were out of the question. It would sound ridiculous. "Dr. Keller? Please report to spare quarters number eight for dinner."
Yeah, um, that was a definite no.
Rodney was still debating what to do when a voice come on the radio.
"McKay? This is Dr. Keller. Do you copy?" Rodney froze. She sure had a way of turning his plans to dust with her impeccable timing. "McKay? Do you read?"
He turned on his headset. "Yes, yes, I read you."
"Where are you?"
"Umm," Rodney stammered, wondering if he should broadcast his location for the whole of Atlantis to hear, "Spare quarters number eight."
"The spare quarters?"
"Yes," Rodney replied with a slight grumble. There really was no need to say it more than once.
"What are you doing there?"
"Oh, nothing, nothing at all, but I was just wondering, um, could you meet me here, I need to ask your medical opinion on something." It was a flat-out lie, but that didn't matter right now.
"Is it an emergency?"
For a moment, the radio was silent.
"Ok, I'll… be right there."
"Great! See you soon, or then whenever you get here is fine, there's really no rush," Rodney began to babble, but caught himself before it got to be too much.
When Jennifer arrived outside spare quarters eight, she could hear movement inside. She was nervous; it was useless trying to hide the fact from herself. She still didn't know what she would say to Rodney, but she sucked at speeches anyway, so that didn't really matter right now. She took a deep breath and exhaled as she knocked three times on the door.
Some shuffling on the other side, and then the door chime sounded and Rodney appeared in the doorway.
"Hi," she half mumbled, wondering how to approach this and mentally kicking herself for not being more prepared.
"Hey!" Rodney grinned. Wow, he was sure in a good mood. "Come on in…" he beckoned and stepped aside so that Jen could see what was inside.
Her eyes went wide. Obviously, Rodney's request for her 'medical opinion' was just a ploy to get her here.
The place had been spruced up, cleaned up, and was looking suspiciously a lot like Teyla's quarters. It was almost… romantic, what with all the candles and wine that had been set out and perfectly arranged.
"I know it's not much," Rodney stated with a smile and a dismissing wave of his hand, "but it's the best I could do for you."
Jennifer turned to him with the biggest, most beautiful smile that Rodney had ever seen. It warmed him all the way down to his toes. "Are you kidding me?" she asked with a small chuckle of incredulity. "This is amazing, Rodney!"
He shrugged, unable to wipe the happy little grin off his face that was the after-effect of seeing her smile at him. "It was the best I could do to make it up to you."
Jennifer looked at him questioningly. "Make it up to me…?" Then comprehension dawned on her face, and her smile faded. Then she did something that surprised even her.
She hugged him.
As of now, McKay decided that 'shocked' was the understatement of the year.
"You shouldn't be doing this for me, I should be doing it for you," she said, her voice slightly muffled from pressing herself into Rodney's jacket.
Rodney tried to hug her back without seeming too awkward (again), so he placed one hand on her back and the other around her shoulders while resting his chin on her shoulder. "No, it's not you. You shouldn't be sorry. I… I screwed up."
Jen was astonished by his confession. As far as she knew, Rodney McKay didn't admit he screwed anything up. Ever.
"You were doing your job," McKay continued, "And you stuck to it even though Sheppard told you not to. You believed in saving that man's life so much that you were willing to risk everything for it. And I, I mean, we, the rest of the team couldn't accept that."
Jennifer gave Rodney an extra squeeze before releasing him and taking his hands in hers. "I overreacted," she said with sincerity, "We were both doing our jobs, and the unique circumstances that we were in forced our jobs to conflict and… we got in each other's way, in a manner of speaking." She looked up into his face and made sure that her eyes were locked with his before resuming, "I was… a complete idiot. I didn't have the right to treat you like that, especially when you had just saved my ass," she added with a small, playful smile, which Rodney was only too glad to return.
"So I guess we both screwed up, eh?" Rodney affirmed.
Jen shrugged. "Yeah, you could say that." Rodney nodded to show his own agreement.
Then Jennifer remembered something. "You know," she said with a slightly mischievous smile, "I never got to properly thank you for saving me. Before all the yelling stated…"
"You don't have to, really, I know…" Rodney began, but was cut off as Jen placed a finger on his lips to silence him.
He shut up real good.
"Yes, I should," she said softly, now placing both her hands on either side of his neck. She looked into his eyes. "Thank you, Rodney McKay, for saving my life." With that, she reached up on her tip-toes and planted a kiss on his lips.
The whole world felt like it was spinning. They stood there for a while, lost in each other's touch, savoring every moment of their new-found affection for each other that neither would ever forget. The kiss lasted longer than Jennifer had guessed it would, but she didn't mind one bit. Evidently, neither did Rodney.
When they finally broke apart, Jen found Rodney's hands around her waist. She smiled up at him, feeling herself blush. He, on the other hand, looked a bit feint; dazed, even.
"Wh-what was that for?" he asked, still totally and utterly bemused.
Jennifer giggled at him. "Come on, Rodney, let's eat, before it get cold!" She took him by the hand and led him over to the tiny little table by the sofa. "Hungry?" she asked, turning and flashing him one of her brilliant smiles that was so bright it seemed to physically illuminate her delicate features.
Rodney's face beamed. "Always."
The End :)