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The Plan

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PLAN A 

“I’m deathly allergic to citrus,” says McKay before John has even sat down. 

“Citrus?” John replies as he slumps down in the chair in front of McKay’s desk. 

"Citrus and stupidity. Lemons, oranges, grapefruits—coming into contact with any kind of citrus will kill me. Stupidity merely makes me want to kill myself." 

John doesn’t even try to hold back the grin. When he’d returned indoors from the balcony where Doctor Weir asked him to think about who he wanted on the flagship team, McKay's dulcet tones had been resonating around the gate room. Brisk, demanding, efficient. Directing order in the chaos. Who better than the self-proclaimed smartest man in two galaxies to be the first addition to the team? He’d jogged down the steps and asked McKay on the spot. McKay had snapped at him—I'm far too busy to be on a gate team, Major!—and gone back to berating the scurrying scientists. John was a little taken aback, but okay sure, maybe not the best timing; he needs to make a plan. He'd try again, catch McKay at a better time. In his native habitat perhaps. 

“Kavanagh! What the hell are you doing here?!” McKay shouts across John’s shoulder to the other side of the lab. “When I said out of my sight I meant out of my sight, not skulking in the corner of the lab! Go! Away!” McKay turns back to John. “He dropped a Naquadah Generator on Kusanagi’s foot. It’s not broken but...she cried. Well...more like she wept. I had to hug her, Major.” 

“No!” 

"Yes! Can you imagine? Me? I'm not a therapist, I don't have a PhD in hand holding and hugging and whatnot. There's snot on the shoulder of my jacket. I had to give her a packet of my 4-ply, extra soft tissues. I brought them for my hay fever and instead I had to waste them on unnecessary tears. It's not like there's a convenience store just a wormhole away stocking Kleenex. Until Kavanagh can find something to replace them, he’s banned from the main lab.” 

“Right. Yeah, so about the team...” 

"Didn't I make myself clear? I'm not suited to an off-world team. I'm far too busy and between my allergies and hay fever, I'll probably drop dead on the first mission. Knowing my luck, the first place we visit would be a planet-wide citrus grove.” 

McKay swivels his chair back round to the computer screen and starts typing. John’s been in the Air Force long enough to know when he’s been dismissed. There goes Plan A. 

  

PLAN B 

Plan B comes to him later in the day at dinner. McKay’s already sitting at a table, spearing chicken fricassee with one hand and scrolling on a tablet with the other. His eyes briefly flick up to John when he approaches, then immediately go back to the tablet. 

John puts down his tray. He makes sure to place it so the extra pudding cup is directly in McKay’s line of sight. “Whatcha reading?” he asks. McKay doesn’t look up. 

“Hmm? Oh. Energy consumption projections. Even though we’re no longer submerged we need to make some tough decisions about what energy use is and isn’t essential to our survival.” He pokes at the tablet a couple of times with his index finger. “I’m trying to balance need vs want, critical vs comfort. We need to minimise our energy use until we find more power sources. Zed-P-M’s preferably, but there may be technology native to the Pegasus galaxy that we would be able to interface with Atlantis like the Naquadah Generators. Needless to say, everyone’s idea of ‘essential’ differs, but I’m setting the bar high: if going without something won’t kill us, it’s not essential.” 

“Tough call to make,” says John, agreeably. “But don’t forget morale. The impact hot showers can have on productivity can’t be overstated.” 

McKay looks up at this. 

“There’s no use heating up the water if we don’t have the power to desalinate it and...hey! How did you get two puddings?” 

"Being the head of the military has its perks, McKay." 

“I’m the head of the science department! I have hypoglycaemia! If anyone needs an extra pudding it’s me.” 

“Hypoglycaemia? Like diabetes?” asks John, concerned. Maybe having McKay on the gate team would be dangerous for him. He hadn’t considered that. 

"No, not like diabetes. My blood sugar doesn't spike, it only crashes. I have to eat regularly to keep it level." McKay hesitates and bites his lip. "Could I…?" 

“Sure, it’s all yours,” says John amiably. “I always take care of my team.” 

McKay’s outstretched hand pauses over the pudding cup before it gets snatched back. “Team? Oh, well…uh, actually, you know, you’re far too skinny for a soldier...” 

“Airman,” corrected John. 

“Airman, right. Much, much too skinny. You need that more than I do. We need to bulk you up a bit. You need to be able to survive the cold showers. Besides, I have things to do in the lab. Important things. I’d better get back.” McKay flees the mess, barely pausing to bus his unfinished dinner tray and John sighs. So much for bribery. 

  

PLAN C 

John tracks McKay down in the lab after breakfast. He feels a little guilty about this one, but desperate times and all that. 

"So, Teyla was asking about you last night," he says as he leans against the worktop. It was technically true, he'd asked her to join the team, and she'd agreed and asked him about McKay, about his skill set and what kind of weapons he could handle. 

“Who’s Teyla?” asks McKay absently, sipping his second morning coffee and inspecting an ancient device. It’s multifaceted and green, like stained glass. 

“The Athosian leader.” Hot, female, Athosian leader. Leather. Laces. Breasts. Legs. Who doesn’t like that? 

"Does she need lessons in Earth tech? I could teach her," McKay says, the corner of his mouth twitching. Almost a smile, almost. Then he frowns. "Actually, I'd get Kusanagi or Grodin to do that, I wouldn't have the time. Has anyone walked her through the IDC protocol? I'd hate for her to get squished on the gate's shield like a bug. She's smart. Not physics smart, life smart. Survival smart. She seems like she'd be really good in a fight." 

“She is. She’s on the team too.” Take the bait, McKay.  

McKay looks up, twirling the device in his hands. “Teyla’s on your team?” he asks, eyes widening in surprise. Attaboy!  

“Yeah, like you said she’s smart, she’s native to Pegasus, and she’s totally bad-ass. Kicks ass like Xena.” John silently prays Teyla will never find out he said that. “She’ll watch your six.” 

My six? We covered this, didn't we? I'm not joining your team, Major. I'm the head of the science department. If you need a scientist, I can assign one and she can watch their six, or I can send you a list, otherwise, I have things I need to do," says McKay, opening his top drawer with a frown and dropping the device inside. 

"Look McKay—" begins John. 

McKay taps his earpiece as he closes the drawer. “Kavanagh! Why am I still waiting for the shield analysis? Are you dead? Have you fallen off the edge of the city?” 

Okay, tits and ass are a no-go. He's getting desperate now, he's going to have to pull out the big guns. 

  

PLAN D 

“So, McKay, about that list?” asks John as he jogs up the corridor to catch up. McKay’s stride doesn’t alter, he doesn't even turn his head from the laptop he’s prodding as he replies. 

“Zelenka is the best choice, his knowledge of Ancient tech is passable. He grew up under the Russian occupation of the Czech Republic so he’s resourceful, knows how to duck and hide. He can hack anything you can’t shoot into compliance.” 

“Does he even want to be on a team?” asks John. 

“No idea, you can ask him yourself. He didn’t go off-world at the SGC but he’s actually competent in practical science, not just theoretical science, so he’s the best choice.” 

“Right, okay, but suppose he says no...” 

“Grodin actually has been on an off-world team. No complaints in his file. He specialises in Ancient weaponry. He’s the man you want if you’re looking for ordnance, don’t let his British-Gentleman persona fool you.” 

“I think Grodin has already been assigned to AR-3.” 

"Well, that's your own fault for being too slow then Major," grumbles McKay. 

“The thing is, being the premier recon team, we’re going to be the first contact team...” 

“The first-to-get-shot-at team you mean,” interrupts McKay. 

"...but we're also going to be the first-to-encounter-shiny-new-tech team. Whoever comes with us needs to be able to think on their feet, decide if the technology we've found is useful or worthless or dangerous or a viable power source, and that's easy enough in a lab but in the field, it's going to be a big challenge. When we encounter brand new, never-been-seen technology, I need a scientist with the knowledge and authority to make that kind of judgement on the fly. I need them to get it right first time. That's a lot of responsibility." 

"This isn't Earth, Major, we have who we have. I've emailed you the list of personnel and their qualifications and experience. You'll just have to make the best choice from a limited selection. You need to remember that these people are the best of the best in their respective fields. Granted none of them are me—" 

"Yes, that's the thing—" 

"—but they are the brightest and bravest of what Earth science has to offer. Any one of them would be a benefit to your team. Good day, Major." 

McKay takes an unexpected turn down a side corridor and John is left standing there like an idiot, watching McKay bulldoze his way around a corner, making a group of junior airmen scatter like tenpins. 

  

PLAN E 

This is it. He's got it. He's going in for the kill. He has a whole speech prepared, it's possibly the best speech of his life. Better than the defence he prepared after his black mark. Better than any best man speech he's given, even better than the speech he made at his own wedding. It's foolproof; measured, rational, calculated. McKay's a scientist, it'll appeal to his modus operandi, he'll fold under the power of logic. 

McKay’s assigned quarters are close to the lab but far from the rest of the population. It’s clear this is by design, not chance, and John wonders if it’s McKay’s choice or someone else’s prudence. 

The door opens as he approaches and McKay is out of bed and on his feet before it closes behind him, feet bare, expression tense. 

“Major...” he begins. 

“McKay! Will you just shut up and listen to me for a second?” barks John. 

And the thing is, he does. McKay looks at him, silent, blue eyes narrowed with suspicion, his brow tight, but suddenly there is a change and his face is open and vulnerable and oh, oh , finally John gets it. What’s been going on here, with both of them. He’s going to have to go off script. Fuck the plan. 

This is what he says. 

"McKay...Rodney...look. It has to be you, okay? There's no one else who...I can't explain it. It's not just about knowledge or, or, ability or...authority, or...god. Look, everything is messed up, I wasn't supposed to be in charge here, I was only brought for my genes. I didn't expect to have my own team or make decisions affecting the whole expedition. I need someone I can trust with me, someone who can help me make the right choices, someone who'll question me and keep me honest. A friend." 

This is what he doesn’t say. 

You’ve got me all turned around. I don’t want you for your brain. I just want you by my side.  

But he doesn’t need to. 

“Okay Sheppard. I’ll join your team.”