Rodney looked around from the computer monitor he was working at and saw Sheppard standing – leaning – in the doorway. The main lab was quiet now – any of his team who'd decided to work late (or were up very early) were all in the containment room, tying up the loose ends of the failed experiment. He was only using the lights right above him – because energy conservation became an issue when you spent a whole ZPM getting another you home (a whole ZPM: it made his stomach churn just thinking about it) – so Sheppard was sandwiched in a dark area between the light in the hallway and the circle surrounding Rodney and his workstation. The graceful lines of his body were silhouetted and the little features of his face were picked out as if he were in candlelight. He looked ethereal.
Rodney, however, thought he probably looked like shit. He hadn't been able to sleep, and Rod, damn his cheerful self (literally), had managed in his brief appearance to make so many issues crowd Rodney's brain that he couldn't even pick them apart yet; couldn't tell where one ended and another began or if it was all just one big, never-ending ball of psychoses.
"Hey." Oh, and would you listen to that, he sounded like shit too. "What's up?"
Sheppard shoved his hands in his pockets. "Nothing much, I just wanted to, you know, talk to you about something."
Rodney quickly saved his work and turned to face Sheppard. "Oh, God. Really?"
Sheppard came further into the lab until he was properly lit. He winced. "I know. But, yeah."
"Oh, God," Rodney repeated. "Okay, come over here, attempt to say whatever it is you feel you have to say, and we'll get it all over with as fast as possible."
Sheppard's face took on a determined look as he came closer. "Right."
Rodney watched cautiously as he stood there. Give him a team of soldiers to send into a battle and he had all the words. Give him a team of soldiers who'd come back from a battle and he had all the words. Put him somewhere with one person and something personal to say and he imploded. Rodney would never have understood it if he hadn't been the same way, except he had teams of scientists instead of soldiers.
"You, uhm, you know that I wouldn't have," John paused, lips pursed momentarily. "I would never have replaced you with Rod, you know, on the team. You know that, right?"
Right there, Rodney thought. Right there – that was a single of line of psychosis pulled out of the mess and identified.
"Of course you wouldn't have, he was insane."
Sheppard came closer and leaned on the work surface beside Rodney. "Rodney, seriously," he said, quietly.
Rodney swallowed. "As a matter of fact, I didn't know that, no. I mean, he was adventurous and he played golf and whatever else he did."
Sheppard looked up at him with one eyebrow raised. "He went for a run with Ronon. And kept up, mostly."
Rodney waved a hand. "Yes, well, exactly. And he went on a suicide mission – I would have thought you'd be the best of friends."
Sheppard elbowed him none too gently in the ribs. "That position's kind of taken, you moron."
Rodney melodramatically rubbed his side. "Ow!"
Sheppard sighed. "Rodney."
Rodney stopped and looked at him. "What?"
Sheppard looked like he was steeling himself against torture. "I could have the choice of anyone, another you included, and there wouldn't be a choice. You're Rodney McKay – our Rodney McKay – and you were right, there is only one you."
Rodney could feel his eyes widening and heat crawling up his neck and face. "I was right? Well, of course I was right."
Sheppard shifted slightly until he was perched on the edge of the table. "I know this whole 'I Can't Believe It's Not Rodney' thing's been weird. And your sister was here, and we lost a ZPM, and people kept bringing up Duranda."
Rodney flinched despite himself, and Sheppard put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed lightly. "I just wanted to make sure you knew that you're, you know, always gonna get the team emails, okay?"
Rodney, feeling more than a bit shaken, nodded. "Okay."
"Okay then." Sheppard squeezed his shoulder again and then stood up straight and made for the door.
"Sheppard." Sheppard stopped and turned around again. Rodney coughed uneasily. "John. You know that if I had the choice of anybody – even a you who's a member of Mensa – to lead me into certain death and weird alien rituals, there wouldn't be a choice on this end, either."
"You'd go for the Mensa guy every time, I know," Sheppard said, smirking.
Rodney walked forward and put a restraining hand on Sheppard's arm. "John."
John looked at him and nodded. "I know."
Rodney removed his hand. "Okay then."
John turned around and walked away again. "And get some sleep, buddy, you look like crap," he called back, before disappearing into Atlantis. Rodney stood in the semi-dark lab and took a deep breath. Letting it out slowly, he went over to the computer and shut it off. It could wait – he felt like shit. He needed to sleep.
At the doorway he thought out all the lights in the lab, and walked off down the brightly-lit corridor towards the transporter and his bed. And, okay, so they'd lost a whole ZPM, but they were almost there with the 'gate bridge. They'd find a way. They always did.
Sheppard was standing in the transporter when it came into view, about to press his destination. He paused when he saw Rodney, and Rodney stopped dead in the middle of the hallway, memory crashing into him. But this time Sheppard smiled and waved him forward and said, "well come on, if you're coming, Meredith," and Rodney jogged into the transporter and stood side by side with John as the doors closed.