I'm sorry this is taking me so long. I know where I want it to go but I'm struggling to get there. Thank you to everyone that is still reading & reviewing.

Chapter 5

McKay remained uncharacteristically silent as they walked back towards the gate and his body language was practically screaming his desire to be left alone. The rest of his team honoured the silent demand for space but their concerned eyes returned to him again and again and they stayed closer to him than normal, unconsciously grouping together to protect the wounded member of their team, despite the fact that the wound was not physical. Everything felt wrong without the constant soundtrack of his voice and the dispirited slump of his shoulders and his apparent lack of curiosity about the data crystals he had been given, spoke volumes about his distressed state of mind.

They were almost to the gate when Teyla finally broke the tense silence. She drew the recording of his performance from her pocket and, stopping him with a gentle touch on his arm, placed the crystal in his hand, saying as she did so, "This is not mine to keep. It has already been taken from you against your wishes once. I will not steal it a second time, however much I may wish to hear it again."

McKay looked down at the small crystal for a moment, then his hand closed around it convulsively. He gave a single, jerky nod of thanks but remained silent and would not meet her eyes. Teyla looked at Sheppard over McKay's shoulder and read the silent instruction to join Ronon, who had moved ahead of them to the DHD, and give the two men some space. She inclined her head in reluctant agreement and squeezed McKay's arm affectionately before turning and walking away.

"McKay..." Sheppard said slowly, struggling to find the words for what he had heard, but needing to say something to help ease his friend's pain.

You were amazing. That was beautiful. Can I hear it again? The thoughts ran through his mind like lighting but before he could voice any of them, McKay shoved the crystal into his pocket and said sharply, "Don't! Whatever you're going to say, whatever crack you want to make, just...don't, alright. I don't want to talk about this."

Sheppard hesitated but at that moment McKay looked up and, for a split second, their eyes met before his gaze skittered away again and the shadows in his friend's normally clear gaze were enough to make him agree, wanting nothing more than to get him home. "Okay," he said softly, his tone far gentler than normal, "we'll talk later."

One of McKay's shoulders hitched up in a minuscule shrug that could have been agreement or dismissal but he said nothing more and after a second they continued walking towards the gate.

Teyla smiled at them gently as they rejoined her and Ronon near the DHD and Ronon gave McKay a comforting pat on the shoulder that nearly buckled the smaller man's knees before the two of them dialled the gate and walked through. Sheppard and McKay followed but there was one thing that Sheppard felt couldn't be left unsaid and just before he took the last step through the event horizon, he paused said seriously, "Hey, Rodney? Your piano teacher was an idiot." For a moment, he savoured the other man's look of wide-eyed, blinking surprise and then he clapped him on the same shoulder as Ronon and shoved him into the wormhole.

... ... ...

TBC...