When it happened, they were, predictably – though you never know what can happen in Atlantis these days – off world, in a room full of Ancient… stuff McKay had been gushing over and tinkering with for the past hour or two. Meanwhile Teyla had an indulgent smile on her face and Ronon just looked bored.
Sheppard had been about to suggest they go back to Atlantis to tell Elizabeth about their discovery – or rather, drag Rodney away with the promise they’d be back soon – when the lights flickered out, leaving them in darkness.
There was a collective shuffle to reach for their lamp torches, along with a mildly exasperated “What did you do now McKay?” from Sheppard, but no answer.
Then suddenly the lights were back on, and they found themselves one team member short.
And no idea how that had happened.
“You know, this is a very very bad idea,” Rodney babbled as he was led away, a blindfold covering his eyes. “The people I’m with – you saw them right? I know they don’t look like much – well, Ronon does – that’s the big one. But the other two, I know Sheppard’s got ridiculous hair and Teyla, well, she looks nice too, but they’re all very strong, and their weapons are very powerful and deadly, and they’re going to come for me, and really, I think you should just let me go – and not hurt me, because that’ll make them angry too and –”
He wasn’t really sure what was going on – or rather, he knew all too well, genius here, and honestly, again? He was never going to hear the end of it – if he made it out of here alive. And of course he would, what a silly notion to think that he wouldn’t! Rodney McKay wasn’t silly, no sir, he was a genius, smartest man in two galaxies. There was no way he was going to meet his end on this planet, because granted, it had very promising bits of Ancient technology, but otherwise, it was lots of sand and burning sun, and Rodney didn’t like either.
Anyway, he was too valuable. They wouldn’t kill him. They probably wanted him to build a bomb or something – of course, they would have spotted that he was the smart one. One day, he really wished it would happen to Sheppard. Then he would see it wasn’t all that easy. And Rodney would have a good laugh.
So there he was, his hands tied in front of him and a blindfold on his face. There must have been some sort of transporting device inside that room because one minute he was happily going through something that might have been the location of a ZPM and the next he was standing in front of three men wearing dresses, minus his weapon and radio. And no, it hadn’t been his fault.
One thing had to be said though. His captors had been rather nice about it, very polite – as far as kidnappers went, and Rodney was starting to have some experience on the subject.
Gradually, other noises appeared around them, other people, and Rodney was still being led forward.
“– really, I assure you, you’ve got the wrong man. My friends are looking for me right now and I really should get back to them, they must be worried. Not that there is any reason to be worried, right? I mean you’re not planning to hurt me. Are you? Because –”
Suddenly, Rodney was jerked to a stop and he instinctively shut up. They removed his blindfold and he blinked, trying to adjust to the faint light. They were in some sort of Ancient-looking room and Rodney’s eyes immediately wandered to look at the equipment.
Then someone cleared his throat and Rodney got his attention back to where it was supposed to be.
More robe-clad men.
Well… They didn’t look that bad. But then the Genii had looked like farmers. Maybe they were priest-looking Satanists? About to sacrifice Rodney to the Ancient God? Let’s hope not. Had to give Sheppard some time to mount a rescue after all. Had to get Zelenka first so he would figure out the transporter thingy, and that alone would take some time. And really, that was the inconvenience with Rodney being the one kidnapped so often. It would all have been over much more quickly if he could participate in his own rescue.
No weapon in sight though, that was good, right?
And really, they didn’t look that bad. They were even smiling.
Was that a good sign?
Sheppard was pacing back and forth in the Chamber, getting on Zelenka’s nerves. The scientist had arrived 15 minutes earlier, after a rather frantic call from Sheppard saying Rodney had been taken, and obviously wasn’t working fast enough for the Colonel’s liking.
During the time it had taken him to get there, Sheppard had tried thinking ‘on’ as hard as he could, hoping to trigger whatever it was that had taken Rodney. He had only managed to make some weird-looking circle start spinning – which Zelenka had taken one look at upon entering and told him to shut off this instant.
Sheppard hadn’t tried since.
So instead, he was pacing, and getting on Zelenka’s nerves.
“Colonel, you need stop pacing. This is very complex technology.”
Sheppard huffed annoyingly, but stopped. For the next 5 minutes.
Then he started it up again.
Zelenka sighed. It was going to be a long day.
Rodney stared at the man in front of him.
“Excuse me? You want me to what?”
“Teach us.” They all nodded emphatically at that, but Rodney kept staring. Was it a trick? “You make the machines work. You fix them. We saw. We can make them work too –” At that, they started nodding again, looking positively gleeful “– but we can’t fix them. They break down, and we don’t know what to do.” There, they shook their head sadly, and Rodney thought he heard a sniffle.
Another unstable civilisation. He wondered if it had anything to do with the in-breeding. Probably. But back to the subject at hand.
“Couldn’t you have asked? I can’t believe the nerve of you people! Going around kidnapping people!”
And now they all looked very sad, like Rodney had just kicked their puppy.
“We thought –”
“Uh-uh, you didn’t think, that’s the problem. Look, why don’t you let me go, and I’ll see what I can do about fixing whatever needs fixing.”
But they were shaking their heads stubbornly again and Rodney wanted to bang his on the nearest hard surface. It was the kids-planet all over again.
“No fixing. Teaching. So we can do it ourselves next time.”
Oh. Well at least that was new. They weren’t completely stupid. Which didn’t mean Rodney could help them. Ancient technology was, after all, fairly complex, and depending on their level of its understanding, it might just be wishful thinking.
Not that he planned on spending months here anyway. Atlantis would fall to pieces waiting for him to come back. Sheppard’d better hurry.
“Look,” he started carefully. “Me and my people can teach you what we know, but you have to let me go first, okay?”
Again, head shakes everywhere.
“You are staying with us.”
Now, that was just plain annoying. He wondered what would happen if he just turned and left. They didn’t seem very threatening. Just very… moody. Who knew what they would do?
“We will give you great reward.”
Rodney perked up at that. Maybe they had some cool Ancient technology?
“That’s nice. What sort of reward?”
One of the ‘grand priests’ gestured behind him and a panel opened.
His eyes lit up.
He was doomed.
Sheppard was getting more and more frustrated – and worried, though he wasn’t about to admit that, even if they all knew it already. Rodney could take care of himself – and it was weird to actually mean that, because he remembered Rodney when they had first met, and he wouldn’t have trusted the man to look after himself back then. Anyhow, kidnapping meant they wanted something from him, they just had to find him before he exceeded his usefulness – or drove his captors to murder.
Zelenka was muttering in Czech and they weren’t getting anywhere. When the scientist actually bothered with answering his – repeated – questions, it didn’t look good. Ironically, there were just too many new technologies in the room to say which did what at first glance. And testing them all would take days, if not months. Worse, for all they knew, it was possible that the mechanism may only be switched on from the outside – or wherever they had taken Rodney.
John had just given a report to Elizabeth on their – inexistent – progress when the lights started flickering again. John braced himself and took point, because they were not going to be taken unprepared twice, but nothing happened. Instead…
“Yes, yes, I see what you mean. The lights. Annoying. Will have to fix that too.”
John gaped. Then checked the room again. Nope, still no Rodney. So unless he had become invisible…
“Colonel? Can you hear me?”
Zelenka beat him to it. “Yes Rodney, we hear you.”
“Where the hell are you?” John wasn’t about to be outdone.
“Well, see, those… nice… people want me to teach them how to fix anything Ancient because it seems their city is breaking down.”
“Out of the question. Now get back here.”
“Thank you Colonel, I hadn’t thought of that one. They don’t want me to leave. And they have a ZedPM.”
“A ZedPM, Colonel,” Rodney’s voice resonated in the room, filled with wonder. “They said I could have it when I’m done teaching them.”
Well… that was tempting. Still…
“We’re not going to leave you there. Can’t we send someone else to teach them? Zelenka is here.”
Sheppard ignored the indignant ‘hey’ from Radek. Rodney, when he answered, sounded smugger than usual.
“Why, thank you Sheppard. I know it’s unlikely Atlantis will survive without me but unfortunately they really don’t seem inclined to letting me leave.”
O-kay. So everything wasn’t as swell as Rodney had made it appear. Typical. Trust the man to whine about any and all little problems and up-coming dooms, but there were some things he was just as likely to shut up about in some short of misplaced bravery so typically Rodney.
“Everything alright there Rodney?”
“Of course!” Rodney answered tastily, “I’ve just been kidnapped again by a group of lunatics with mood swings who want me to teach them things it might take them years to understand. Everything’s perfect!”
Oh. That was bad. Years without Rodney would be … wrong, on so many levels.
“Okay… How would they feel about some company then? I’ll stay with you.”
And yeah, Elizabeth was going to kill him, because then it would be her Head of Science and her Military Commander both missing for years.
There was a brief silence during which Sheppard could only guess McKay was talking to his captors and then:
“Hum… they said no. But they’ll agree to marital visits.”
Sheppard grinned. Then reminded himself the situation wasn’t funny. It could even be a problem, considering Rodney wasn’t married. But it would give them a chance to assess the situation from the inside. He shared a quick questioning look with Teyla who understood and nodded her assent.
“Fine, we’ll send Teyla. When?”
“Hum, actually, Colonel, they meant you.”
Sheppard’s jaw dropped. From the corner of his eyes he could see Ronon smirking and Teyla looking as serene as ever, if a little smug. Radek suddenly seemed absorbed by a piece of machinery.
In the end, Rodney had convinced: 1) his captors to let him talk to Sheppard (or he would most likely end up blowing up that room, and think about all the nice technology destroyed!), and 2) Sheppard that really, he had no idea why they thought he and Sheppard were married (and really, he didn’t – he might have been very insistent about Sheppard’s worry for his safety, but it wasn’t his fault if these people jumped to conclusions).
And so he found himself being led back towards the main part of the ‘city’, and into his new quarters. Sitting himself on the bed, he bounced experimentally and was pleased to note it was just the way it should be. Maybe he should bargain for a mattress along with the ZPM.
He was pulled from his thoughts when more robe-wearing people entered, carrying trays of food.
“Oh good, that’s good. I’m starving. There is no lemon in any of this, is there? Because that could kill me. And you wouldn’t want that, would you? What am I talking about, you don’t even know what a lemon is. So listen, if I start choking and all, you’d better go find one of my people quick because I only have one epi-pen with me. Okay?”
Unfortunately, he only got a blank look from his … were they his servants? Because that would be kind of cool – if he didn’t die from anaphylactic shock first. Rodney eyed the food with some amount of distrust, annoyed that Sheppard wasn’t there to try it first and say if he tasted anything lemon-y. But he wasn’t going to starve either.
Taking a small bite, he munched over it thoughtfully – it wasn’t bad – before swallowing.
When nothing happened, he tried again and repeated the action with the next course. And was happy to find himself still alive. It would have been a great loss for everybody had he died – well, except the Wraith. And the Genii, probably. And… okay, focusing now.
The next morning, he was brought to what appeared to be a classroom. And Rodney remembered he was supposed to teach those people. Now, Rodney didn’t mind teaching, per say. He just didn’t like having stupid students. And, considering his standards, everybody was pretty much stupid to him.
A man stepped forward. “Hello. My name is Eol. I’ll be your assistant.”
Rodney eyed him up and down. “Does that mean you’re the less stupid of the bunch?”
Eol didn’t react. He just motioned towards the rest of the people in the room who had an eager look on their faces. That wouldn’t last long.
“Those are your pupils. They are the brightest minds we have and were selected for the honor of being here.”
Rodney didn’t look impressed. At all. Brightest minds. Very well. “You!” he snapped, pointing at the nearest one. The others took a step back, eagerness fading to wariness. Good, that was good. “What’s the first rule about Ancient technology?”
The man looked at him with wide eyes. Clearly, he had no idea. What a bunch of idiots.
He was going to be here forever.
Sheppard and his team, along with Zelenka, had gone back to Atlantis after talking to Rodney and agreeing on the first ‘marital visit’ being a week away. And that was something Sheppard couldn’t wrap his mind around.
Elizabeth was waiting for them in the gate room and gestured towards her office. She didn’t look happy. But that was okay. John wasn’t either.
“What’s going on, John?” she asked the minute the door closed behind him and his team.
“Whoever took Rodney want him to teach them about Ancient technology in exchange to a ZPM,” he summed up the situation.
“How long do you think it’s going to be?” she asked, obviously torn.
“Long, according to Rodney.”
“That is unacceptable,” Elizabeth stated. “We need Rodney here.”
“I agree,” Sheppard said. “But Zelenka says it’ll take some time before he can figure out how to make the transporter work. Until then, we don’t have much of a choice but wait.”
Elizabeth looked ready to interrupt and John raised a hand in the air.
“However, they did agree to a visit, in one week. We can start planning an extraction when I come back.”
“Good, that’s good,” Elizabeth said, relieved. “You and your team can –”
“Actually…” Sheppard cleared his throat, looking a bit uncomfortable. “I’m the only one who can go.”
Elizabeth looked surprised but John wasn’t about to add anything else. Unfortunately, Teyla did. Traitor.
“It would appear that Dr. McKay’s captors believe him and Colonel Sheppard to be married,” she stated with a wicked twinkle in her eyes.
Elizabeth blinked. Then she started looking concerned.
“Teyla, Ronon, you can’t mention this to anybody.”
“Thank you,” John said. At least someone was taking his side.
“John could get in a lot of trouble if his military found out,” Elizabeth went on and it was John’s turn to look flabbergasted.
“What?” he sputtered. “What are you talking about?”
“John, you know I don’t agree with the American military policy of DADT. You have my support here on Atlantis,” Elizabeth nodded, looking very proud of him. And he hated to burst her bubble – except not really, he didn’t – but:
“McKay and I aren’t together!”
“Of course not, John. And we’re not asking you if you are either,” Elizabeth approved before moving the discussion on a less ‘delicate’ subject.
Sheppard just listened dumbly, not paying attention to what was being said.
It seemed everybody, aliens included, thought he and McKay were a couple.
Where did that come from?
As it turned out, he had the whole week to ponder that out. And it passed slowly. He had never noticed before how much McKay took up of his time, be it having to drag him from his lab at Zelenka’s demand (plea) or being dragged there to think ‘on’ his latest gadget. The worst thing was how quiet everything was. The city, it seemed, missed Rodney too.
But that didn’t mean he was in love with the man. Of course not. And he still didn’t know why they all seemed to make that assumption. Big macho Air Force Colonel here. Yes sir.
Then came the day of the ‘marital visit’.
The trip back to the rendezvous point went without a hitch and John found himself back into that room, lights flickering, and then he was somewhere else entirely, blindfolded and led away by men wearing… was that a dress?
After some time, the blindfold came off and he found himself in what looked like an underground city. Distant yelling set him on edge – it did sound a lot like Rodney, what were they doing to him? – but he didn’t seem in pain. In fact, he sounded a lot like when he ranted about the sheer stupidity of the entire world.
“No no nonononononono!!! What do you think you’re doing! Are you utterly stupid? Because if you are, you can leave right now! This is a class for remotely intelligent if deeply ignorant people! Try to blow us all up again and you’re fired!” Rodney stopped to take a breath and seemed to think for a second. Then he turned and whispered to the man next to him. “Can I fire people?” At the other’s nod, his expression brightened. “Cool! Elizabeth won’t let me.”
Turning back to his ‘students’, who were eyeing him with a mix of terror and awe, he waved his hand. “Now who wants to be next?”
That was when he spotted Sheppard and his expression brightened.
“Colonel! You’re here. Good, good. That means we’re done for today, right?” He looked expectantly around and got frantic nods. “Thank God.”
Then he grabbed Sheppard’s sleeve and proceeded to drag him out of the room.
“Where are we going?”
“My quarters. Shut up.”
John complied, shrugging it off as another of McKay’s quirks. It was only when they had reached his room that Rodney let go of him.
“Please, please, please, tell me you’re going to get me out of here. I can’t take much more of these idiots, they’re driving me crazy!”
“Now, Rodney,” John drawled. “What about the ZPM?”
And immediately kicked himself when Rodney’s face fell. “Oh, right. The ZedPM. But still, you have a contingency plan, right? Because the way things are going, I’m here for the next twenty years at best, and we’re going to need the ZedPM – and me – a lot sooner.”
Which was true. But there was something else he had been meaning to ask Rodney.
“Look, McKay. Do you have any idea why they think we’re married?”
“That’s what you’re worried about?” And from the colour of Rodney’s face, he was getting ready for another full blown-out rant. “Now is not the time to worry about your masculinity – although if you ask me, I think the hair might have something to do with it. No, this is about me, dying of old age surrounded by idiots.”
“But it’s not just them! Elizabeth too.”
“Elizabeth thinks we’re married?”
“Well, no,” John rolled his eyes, “but she thinks we’re… you know.”
“And I repeat, Now Is Not The Time.”
“You don’t mind?”
“No, why should I? I mean, it’s flattering really,” Rodney answered with a distracted air, his mind clearly elsewhere, and that was unacceptable. For some reason.
“Flattering?!?” Maybe McKay really was losing it.
“Well, yeah. Look at you. And you should be flattered too. I mean, I’m a genius, and you’d the one who made me forsake my ardent love for Samantha Carter. I’d feel very good about it if I were you.”
“Forget it.” John sighed. Clearly, McKay wouldn’t be the one to give him the answer he was looking for.
The rest of the visit passed too quickly. Sheppard listened to McKay drone on and on about the sheer stupidity of the natives, and how his genius was wasted on them, and how was Atlantis? Nothing had blown up yet?
When it was time to leave, John wasn’t closer to figuring his little ‘problem’ out.
The next few weeks were hell for Rodney. Never again, he decided, would he complain about the people he worked with on Atlantis – a resolution he fully intended to keep, and would, for about one hour. Which, he would decide then, was a lot.
It wasn’t that the people of M3X… wherever he was… were stupid. Oh, what the hell, yes, they were stupid! And while Rodney could admire – on a purely subconscious level – their aspiration for knowledge, he couldn’t see why it had to be through him. Couldn’t they figure it out on their own? Trials and errors, that was the way to do it. Same way he had when he had first been confronted with Ancient technology years ago. Those things hadn’t come with a manual after all – except they probably had, but the military often forgot to bring those along.
Anyway, he had provided them with the basics. They could do without him now. Except no, they didn’t see things that way. They wanted to know everything.
And then there was the Colonel who hadn’t yet figured out how to get him out. And that wasn’t very nice. Had it been Sheppard stuck here, Rodney was sure he would already have come up with something. And what was this about Elizabeth thinking they were married? Not that Rodney had anything against the idea. It would be kind of cool, actually. Sex. On regular basis. With Sheppard.
It would have been even nicer if he hadn’t been STUCK HERE, going batshit crazy.
Sheppard, on the other hand, spent his time going on boring missions – and wishing a couple of times they had Rodney with them when they had to run for their life after inadvertently activating a piece of alien technology – and trying to answer the biggest question in the universe. No, not What Man’s Purpose on Earth/Atlantis Was, but why everybody persisted in believing he was gay. With McKay no less.
He didn’t have much help figuring it out either. He had tried asking Elizabeth once, who had acted all supportive and concerned again – not helping – and it wasn’t like he could grab the nearest person and just ask. Military personnel were out of the question, and he’d rather not risk it with the civilians. Which left Ronon – who had looked at him blankly when he had asked – and Teyla – who had just looked mysterious. Again, not helping. At all.
On his fourth visit, he was greeted once again by the familiar sound of Rodney’s shouts – which were strangely welcomed after another week of silence. And clearly there had to be something wrong with him. Maybe it was all that marriage talk.
“I can’t believe I spent the last month trying to teach you something! Did you even listen to what I said last week? Red is BAD, B-A-D, it means things are going to blow up any time soon and if you can’t fix it, you’d better run if you want to live another day!”
When Rodney spotted him, he rounded on him. “You! Finally! My room, NOW.”
John didn’t even think to protest. In fact, he was a bit turned on. Oh no. He was doomed.
“It’s depleted!” Rodney shrieked as soon as the door closed behind them. “The ZedPM is depleted! I can’t believe I spent the last month trying to teach them something their little brain obviously can’t grasp, and all for nothing!”
Rodney was turning an alarming shade of red, and no, John wasn’t worried. Just like he wasn’t turned on.
“Rodney. RODNEY! Breathe. How do you know it’s depleted?”
“How do I know?” Rodney screamed, “You moron! I ran tests, that’s how I know. There is no spike of energy coming from the room they keep it in! Which means, depleted!”
“Well, I have good news then. Here,” Sheppard handed him a small chip, and suddenly bright light enclosed them both and they found themselves aboard the Daedalus, on orbit above the planet.
Rodney blinked. Opened and shut his mouth a couple of times. Then his eyes narrowed dangerously and he glared at John.
“Just how long have you had this ‘plan’ in mind?”
John fidgeted a little, glancing around the deck in hope of finding some support and getting none. Caldwell was smirking, no less! Resigning himself to being yelled at, John dragged Rodney away to the nearest private space, which happened to be a closet. And no, he wasn’t reading anything into that.
“Colonel! I demand an answer!”
“Oh my God! It’s true! You could have taken me out of there weeks ago! You… you traitor!” he sputtered.
“Look, the Daedalus arrived only two weeks ago. Before that, there was no way –”
“TWO WEEKS!” Rodney bellowed. “FOURTEEN WHOLE DAYS!”
“But the ZPM –”
“Was depleted! I can’t believe –”
John sighed. Clearly, Rodney wasn’t stopping anytime soon. Then he had the best idea ever.
He kissed him.
That worked like a charm.
And it was kind of nice too.
Alright, very nice.
Maybe there had been something in all that ‘togetherness’ talk after all.