Beth Weir looked up from her tray of food, spying him in the middle of the mostly empty mess hall. He was with the woman who'd arrived earlier. Dr. Carter was blonde, leggy and a total geek - and somehow exactly what her boss went for. Well McKay wasn't really her boss, just that everyone thought of him as such because he was, quite frankly, the bossiest man she knew. Everything had to be done his way, and people around the facility preferred to attempt to do things to his standard rather than the way they might otherwise have tried, if only to ease the humiliation and harassment by the man. He was feared, but he was also often right: McKay got results.
At least where work was concerned. This was the third blonde she'd seen him chatting up since she'd been recruited for the project for her linguistic talents. It wasn't quite the setting she'd imagined working in when she was younger, having had a vehement stance against the military, but life went in funny directions sometimes and this is where it had led her; working on a top secret project, just one of so many people responsible for figuring out the secrets of the craft that had been discovered.
She sat down, placing her notes on the table and starting on her food while she tried to translate the next part of the puzzle. She'd been working on several inscriptions for quite a while, and this one was stumping her. She was sure it meant something about freedom; release? escape...? McKay had laughed off her initial thought that it might say "Pull here to open." It had only been a joke, but she'd come under his scrutiny - wild eyes flashing at her, as if she dared have an opinion on it that wasn't deadly serious. She'd fled at that, scurrying off like all the others had learnt to do when he lashed out with his sardonic tongue.
Since then, she'd avoided him, edging away from the scenes he made, keeping out of the limelight. Instead, she watched him, trying to figure out the man upon whom so much depended. That was how she knew about his habits, his fondness for blondes, blonde scientists in particular, though there was far more to him than that and his intelligence.
He was frustrated. She could see that every time the team tried to activate the ship, because every time the latest theory dreamt up would turn into just that, a pipe dream, a meaningless guess that did nothing, changed nothing, and he'd use that brain to lament the lack of art in his colleagues. Blaming everyone but himself, or rather not voicing any self-doubt.
He was afraid. That was the key to him. Underneath the quick to mouth off scientist there was a man who was scared, sick to the teeth of failing. Yet he did so each day, completely unable to solve the mystery. Furthermore, he still got up and came to work and tried again, torturing his soul for the chance he might succeed and get the recognition he deserved. She knew he would deserve it, because he did work hard as well as pushing others to their limits.
Everyone thought of him as the typical genius, IQ through the roof and a grade A jerk. That was what they expected, and he provided. It all slotted in nicely to the overall plan to get work done because it provided him an excuse to batter the assistants for results and begrudge technicians for shoddy work - people were sometimes too nice, but he didn't work under any pretenses whatsoever, not as far as most could see.
But he seemed to hold onto the idea that he stood a chance with a woman like Dr. Carter, an odd pretense that she'd seen fail several times already, his pattern never broken. He always went for the blondes, the smart blondes; she doubted he could tolerate anyone too far below his own level. Then he'd shmooze them like there was no tomorrow, making himself seem desperate. He probably was and just didn't know it, thinking he was being smooth and attentive, but it only tended to result in the uninterested parties on the receiving end running away, wanting to put as much distance as possible between them and him.
She glanced up now, as she ate her chicken salad, and noticed a nervous Carter very obviously spilling her drink all over her skirt on purpose. McKay got up, looking actually concerned for once rather than instantly upping the smarm and offering to 'help'. When he actually got to that part, still lacking the level of innuendo that she'd expected he'd show, Carter was waving him off and quickly made her exit, scurrying out of sight, probably with the excuse of going to the ladies room to clean it up.
And McKay sat there waiting, picking at his lemon chicken and glancing towards the entrance intermittently. He actually seemed to believe Carter might return, that she might like him, ignoring all evidence to the contrary like the overly clumsy spillage from Carter and the fact Carter had been deftly moving away from him as far as possible when she sat at the table and to avoid their elbows touching. The woman had outright squirmed when he'd clasped his hand forcibly over hers as he tried to not-so-subtly to flirt with her, as if his signals had needed to be any stronger.
By the time Beth had gotten to her jello, McKay had stopped checking for Carter's arrival. He also hadn't eaten a single bite more, which was definitely worrying. Lemon chicken was his favourite dish, as he'd loudly proclaimed to Carter, and besides that, it would be generally disconcerting to have McKay put off his food. She was sure it counted as a sign of the coming apocalypse or something equally dire for lab assistants all over the base.
She picked up her virtually empty tray and walked to his table, standing off to the side, studying him intently before speaking.
"Dr. McKay?" she questioned lightly. The response she was used to in this setting would be a gruff "What!" spoken through a mouthful of food and full of exasperation, clearly aimed at diverting all but the most insistent subordinates with tasks deemed important enough to incur his wrath. He didn't appear to hear her the first time, so she tried a more direct approach, one that would, under normal circumstances, probably get her quite rant from him.
It seemed enough to stun him out of his morose daydreaming at least.
"Huh, what the ...?"
He looked up at her, blinking a few time as he tried to grasp the situation no doubt. It wasn't long before he was back to form.
"Do I know you?" he asked scathingly, making it clear that if she didn't come up with something good in the next few seconds then she'd wish she didn't know him.
"Dr. Elizabeth Weir – Linguistics." she said, placing emphasis on her qualification; she'd never dare introduce herself to this man without making them be known because she knew he judged people on academic achievements.
His eyes narrowed, accepting her presence, but he prompted her for further explanation.
"And you want what exactly?"
Her eyes blazed into his, and he might have flinched at the strength of the opposition. She thought better of giving the short truthful answer to that question and instead impertinently took a seat opposite him, pushing both trays out of the way and sitting up straight and businesslike.
McKay stuttered part of an exclamation but never truly voiced anything in reaction, just sat there stunned as she began.
"I bet you're wondering where the lovely Dr. Carter went, correct?"
He nodded, eyes glaring at her, but letting her go wherever she intended to with this line of questioning.
"And I bet you were wondering where Colonel Hassav went too last week and Dr. Jones the week before that; why it is that these perfectly sane women desert you when you're being so courteous and friendly."
He didn't nod; he didn't say a thing. He sat there, blue eyes steely, watching her and waiting for that last catch to this. He was surprised when Beth sprang into motion, moving like a cat in for the kill, with her mouth quickly resting by his ear to speak her final words upon the matter. This advice he'd not asked for, though had needed, somehow accepted, and now it seemed to her he waited with baited breath as she pressed out the seconds before revealing it.
Your problem is you try too hard, when really you don't have to try at all.
It was only the faintest of whispers, her breath no doubt faint to his ears but still there and warm against his neck, still distracting somewhat. She doubted that last line had been processed before the next stunning event, that of her lips meeting his.
It wasn't like she'd expected, though she hadn't put much forethought into the idea. The outcomes she'd guessed at had involved him telling her to get lost long before she'd gotten to this bit, or if she did, with him quickly extracting himself and accusing her of harassment, which would have been ironic considering the general conduct of his with anyone blonde and vaguely intelligent. However, she hadn't expected this – the tease of his lips on hers and something a little like an appreciative moan from him. This was as far from him from pulling away as you could get without the involvement of tongues, and it was only the wolf whistles of Luke, the server, and several others in the mess hall that ended it there, with her sensibility to extract herself neatly overriding any other motivations that had arisen.
She moved away at a normal pace, not saying a thing and acting casual, only giving a slight pause when she got to the doorway – looking back, she glimpsed Rodney McKay digging into his food heartily, even though it was now cold. She smiled at this. She probably deserved praise and adoration for having saved most of the people on the base from the sullen mood that would have been the result of Carters' abrupt departure and avoidance of McKay. After all, things were back to normal for everyone else, but for her at least, they were altogether different now. He could be obtuse about women, but he wasn't going to live down, nor forget, a public scene like that anytime soon. Given enough time, she hoped he would figure out exactly what she'd meant. Maybe when he did, she'd let him know she was actually a blonde.