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Day Break

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~~~~~

Rodney McKay woke up, climbed out of bed, and stumbled to the bathroom without quite opening his eyes. "Shower, shower, shower," he said, and he fumbled for the controls with one hand as he peed. It was all about economy of time, really. If you didn't stop long enough to ever really fall asleep and waking up was all about getting to the coffee before Zelenka had gotten to the dregs, you could save the universe ten times before breakfast.

"Breakfast," he said as the water from the four shower heads beat down on his shoulders. The Ancients could have left things a little better labeled when they left, but sometimes, like when he was in one of their marvelous, marvelous showers, Rodney was inclined to forgive them. "Eggs." He sighed mournfully, jerked off fast and rough because there wasn't time for anything else, and was half in his clothes before the shower heads had even stopped dripping.

He grabbed his laptop, grabbed his other laptop, and headed for the conference room. "Coffee," he said. Zelenka looked at him, sighed a little, and handed over a tin mug. Rodney drained it in three gulps, winced at the harsh flavor of it--Zelenka could never be convinced to add sugar and cream--and sat down. He opened one laptop, then the other, and then looked up.

"Well," he said to Kavanagh, Mauriten and Paull, "I hope you realize that your calculations have proved that the universe is in fact made of Jell-O, raw sewage pumped into the ocean will float to the sky, and the continent is over-populated with sea monkeys. I'm hoping you were trying to make me laugh. I'm hoping that none of you actually intended to pass off these reports as science when they are clearly punch lines."

Mauriten's lower lip trembled. "Dr. McKay," he said, sounding desperate, "I really, I don't--I swear I double-checked all--"

Zelenka leaned forward and nodded at Mauriten. "Yes, yes," he said. "It is clear, you have done well, Dr. McKay merely wishes to call, ah, small errors to your attention. Remember that sea monkeys quite typically live in the sea, and everything will be fine." He patted Mauriten's hand briefly, still nodding, and Mauriten nodded back, looking grateful for the moment of mercy.

Rodney rolled his eyes but it was true, the guy wasn't even that far off. The little shrimpie things really did look like sea monkeys, except for the claws and wings and silky tails. But spotting three on an entire continent did not quite equal vast over-population. "Go," he said, pointing at the door. "Go back to the continent, and see if you can bring back better statistics. Can you do that? Are you sure? Do I need one of the Athosian kids to show you how to count? Good."

"You," Rodney said to Paull, who snapped to almost military attention. "Remember the basic rules of gravity--I can't believe I just had to remind one of this team of gravity--and if they change abruptly, so that things we pump out drop upwards, I will let you know."

"It is unlikely," Zelenka said. "Gravity appears constant. If you like, I have books. Many describe this force in terms you will comprehend."

"I haven't been sleeping well," Paull said, and Rodney looked at Zelenka. Paull was generally a good scientist, one of the best on the team, quiet and efficient and unshakeable, which was the reason her errors were so disappointing. "It's no excuse, but I--"

"It is an excuse," Rodney said, a little more gently. "It's an excuse, and it's a bad one. If you're not sleeping, you need to let someone know before you, oh, mess up a calculation and rain raw sewage down upon our heads."

"You will go to Dr. Beckett," Zelenka said. "You will go now. Then you will nap, and when you are refreshed, you will come to my lab and I will work with you until I am, what is the word, reassured."

Paull nodded. She still wasn't looking at either of them, gazing into the air between them instead, which ticked Rodney right off. He wasn't going to have his team picking up bad military habits, like pretending you heard and would obey when secretly you had heard and were thinking about rebelling. "Paull," he said. "You look like hell, and if you don't look better in twenty-four hours, you'll be out on the continent with Mauriten. You don't want that, do you? He'll have you counting leaves, Paull. Leaves. It'll be relaxing. Look at me and tell me that's what you'd rather be doing."

Paull looked at him, and then sighed and nodded. "I'd rather chew glass," she said, and Rodney nodded. So would he. So would everyone. Mauriten was a bore.

"And, best for last, Dr. Kavanagh." Rodney leaned forward over the table, and Kavanagh looked him right in the eye. "Dr. Kavanagh, I've been meaning to ask, do you remember what it was that I saw in your work when I asked you to join this team? Was it perhaps the comic relief? Was I hoping for your brilliant Bill Cosby impersonation to shake up our weary, humorless lives?"

"You saw the best physicist the SGC had," Kavanagh said.

Zelenka chuckled. "Ah, yes. Well, I had been wondering, why is universe red and squishy? Is that a slice of apple in orbit around sun? Yes! Relief! The best physicist has explained all!"

"Jell-O," Rodney said. "Jell-O, Dr. Kavanagh. What's next, oceans of Kool-Aid? That's not snow, that's vanilla ice cream?"

Kavanagh sneered. "You'd like that, wouldn't you? You'd--"

"Reduced to fat jokes," Rodney told Zelenka. "And he doesn't even tell them with a funny voice."

Zelenka nodded somberly. "It is a very poor impersonation. Lieutenant Ford's Madonna is far superior."

"Maybe if you wear a joker's hat," Rodney said. "You know, with the bells."

"Dunce cap," Zelenka said.

"Ah, how fitting. We'll have to see if we can have the Athosians make one large enough. In the meantime--really, Kavanagh. I expect better of you."

Kavanagh looked like a fish, opening and closing his mouth in what was probably an attempt to get a word in edgewise. "You should loosen the ponytail," Rodney told him. "Now, go. Dr. Weir will be here for a meeting in a few moments, and I don't want her to ask any of you a question you couldn't answer, like 'what color is the sky' or 'which way is down'."

Mauriten and Paull looked at each other, looked at Kavanagh, and turned to go. Kavanagh ignored them, leaned forward with his hands on the table, and quietly said, "I hope you get off on this, McKay. That'll make it more fun when the tables are turned and you're revealed for the moron that you are."

Rodney sighed. "If only I were. I'd be the happiest man alive. Now go before I get bored of this discussion."

Kavanagh glared, then pushed himself away from the table and said, "I'm done here," and swaggered off with as much stiff, forced nonchalance as one man could possibly fake.

"Can you believe him?" Rodney asked Zelenka. "He's done here, like it was his discussion. Ha!"

Zelenka was frowning, staring off towards the doors. "And we will never get him to wear the cap."

~~~~~

Ford brought muffins to Rodney's next meeting, the briefing on their L3M-295 mission. "Dantano," he said. "Tastes kind of like blueberry."

Rodney was already half through one by the time Ford finished his sentence. "Blueberry," he said dreamily, his eyes closed and his mouth full. "Hey--"

"You're not allergic to dantano," John said. He sat down across from Rodney, who could feel him staring. "Do you ever chew?"

"I had to straighten out the idiots this morning." Rodney shoved the last of the muffin into his mouth and opened his eyes to stare at John and yes, he did chew, thank you. "I missed breakfast; I'm starving to death. And I tell you, Mauriten makes one more stupid mistake and I want him fed to his stupid sea monkeys."

"The sea monkeys? I think they eat flowers," Ford said doubtfully.

"Nothing in this galaxy eats flowers, Lieutenant. It's all carnivores and Venus fly traps." Rodney started unwrapping a second muffin. "Just means there's more dantano for us. Which of the carnivores are going to try to kill us tomorrow, Teyla?"

Teyla smiled at him. "The people of Arculageo are very kind, Dr. McKay. You will most certainly enjoy your visit there."

Everyone stared at her. "Ford?" John asked.

"Sir?"

"How much kindness are we prepared to withstand?"

Ford grinned. "Lots, sir."

"Good. And the animals of Arculageo, Teyla? Any big, toothy sea monkeys?"

Teyla shook her head. "They raise some cattle, and there are herds of a peaceful grazer called zendo, but few large animals and almost no predators."

"Ford? How many zendo are we prepared to withstand?"

"Depends on how kind the Arculeo-ians?--are, sir."

Rodney finished the second muffin. "Are the zendo edible?" he asked through a sip of coffee.

"Almost everything is edible if prepared correctly," Teyla said.

"So, no," Rodney said.

"But we'll eat 'em anyway." John smirked at him and Rodney smirked back.

"Some of us don't have delicate stomachs, true enough."

"Yeah, and some of us don't need a tester, McKay. You know Johnson's terrified that you're gonna really piss someone off and get him poisoned?"

"Johnson tasted one thing for me," Rodney said. "And it was a damn good thing too because I could've died."

"It was the mess' new version of hot chocolate, Rodney."

"Exactly."

Elizabeth coughed. "And if we're ready to go back to the business at hand?"

"You spoil our fun," Rodney told her, and they settled down to listen to Teyla's description of people whose idea of a good time really was watching paint dry.

~~~~~

After the briefing, Rodney grabbed lunch--hopefully the zendo would be more tasty than whatever mystery meat was being served in the sandwiches--and finally, finally headed off for the labs. He was in a warm, cheery good mood, and the techs could tell as soon as he walked in. They all ran away as fast as they could go.

He settled down at his favorite station and put down his laptops, and said to Zelenka, "Next time, can I be the bad cop?"

Zelenka peered at him over the top of his glasses. "You misunderstand," he said. "You are already bad cop."

"The bad cop is the nice one who lets people think they're going to get away with stuff," Rodney said. "The good cop is the voice of righteousness!"

Zelenka sighed. "When I have more knowledge of pop culture than Americans, things are very bad," he said.

"I'm Canadian."

"Canadian, American." Zelenka waved his hand. "Do I care?"

"Their national sport is baseball," Rodney said, and that alone was fuel enough for a lecture, but Zelenka had turned his back and was ostentatiously not listening. "Radek! Baseball!"

"Keep your assigned role," Zelenka said. "I could not possibly hope to be, ah, as good a cop as you."

"Hmph." Rodney glared at the back of Zelenka's head. "If you insist," he said.

"Play with device I left you," Zelenka said. "I insist. You will like it. It has buttons."

Rodney eyed him, suspicious. "Did you check to make sure it wasn't going to blow up first?"

"Yes."

"Light me on fire?"

"Yes."

"Did you check to make sure that it--"

"Rodney." Zelenka looked over his shoulder. "You would prefer I have someone else discover its function?"

Rodney picked up the little rectangle and cradled it protectively. "No." He was generous, but not that generous. If he'd been able to have his way, he'd be the only one to touch anything, ever.

The new device was small, and slim, and had two buttons. One was blue and circular, the other was green and shaped like an isosceles triangle, point edging backwards. "Hmm," he said. It fit into his hand in a familiar way. "It looks like a remote control."

"This is why I saved it for you," Zelenka said.

"But what kind of people only have play and rewind?"

Zelenka sighed. "The kind of people who build flying cities and puddle jumpers and stargates but not tea kettles. Now, shut up. Some of us work here."

Rodney shut up. With any luck, this would be the device that was the key to recharging a ZPM, but Rodney almost hoped it was a remote. He'd love to press a button and have the huge flat monitors convert instantly to the Ancient version of television. They were a civilized people. Surely they'd had something like hockey.

He checked to make sure that Zelenka was at the proper distance--close enough to see if the new technology was doing something awful to him, far enough away to probably be out of range and therefore available to call for help. Then he pressed the blue circle button.

Nothing.

"Huh," he said, and pressed the backward triangle.

~~~~~

Rodney McKay woke up, climbed out of bed, and stumbled to the bathroom without quite opening his eyes. "Coffee, coffee, coffee," he said, but there was peeing and showering to get through first. Maybe there was a way to set a coffee maker next to his bed, on a timer, so that coffee could be fresh and steaming the moment he opened his eyes. Just like home.

"Coffee," he said as the water from the four shower heads beat down on his shoulders. "Coffee and pancakes." He sighed and shook his head. The best thing he'd have all day was this shower, with a steaming cup of the weak, weak coffee everyone brewed coming in second. If he had the time, he'd show them all a thing or two about making coffee, but he didn't even have the time to enjoy jerking off in the shower.

He sighed again and took care of himself quickly, biting his lower lip, tilting his head back so the water slid down his chest smooth as a caress, and when he was done, he stumbled out of the shower and into his clothes before his hair had stopped dripping.

He grabbed his laptop, grabbed his other laptop, hesitated, put down the second laptop and grabbed the other other one. Then he headed for the conference room, ignoring the occasional 'Good morning, Dr. McKay,' and 'Could you--' as he went. If he stopped, if he stopped for three seconds, the whole flow of the day would be lost and the sun would implode. Probably. It was going to be that kind of day in that kind of galaxy, he could already tell.

"Coffee," he said, then stole the mug that was set in front of Zelenka, and drained it in three gulps. It was godawful, but better than nothing. "Thanks," he said to Zelenka, who sighed at him, and then he sat down. He opened one laptop, opened the other laptop, studied the screens, and then looked up.

"Well," he said to Kavanagh, Mauriten and Paull, "I hope you realize that your calculations have proved that the universe is in fact made of blue cheese, raw sewage pumped into the ocean will instantly form glaciers, and the continent is facing a severe shortage of sea monkeys. I'm hoping you were trying to make me laugh. I'm hoping that none of you actually intended to pass off these reports as science when they are clearly pranks."

The door to the conference room opened just as Mauriten's lower lip was beginning to quiver. Sheppard poked his head in, then nodded. "Sorry to spoil your fun, Dr. McKay," he said, "but could I speak to you for a couple minutes?"

Rodney frowned at him. Sheppard looked even more disheveled than he usually did. His shirt was creased, and his hair was very nearly flat. "Briefing. One hour," he said. "It'll wait. Now, Kavanagh--"

"It won't wait," Sheppard said. He was smiling. It wasn't any more forced than normal, but it still made Rodney hesitate. Then he said, "Please," and Rodney got up and followed him out into the hallway.

"What?" he snapped when the door had closed behind them. "What is it? Emergency? Mystery? Drama that cannot wait an hour?" He took a step backwards. "Oh, please don't tell me the Athosian women are fighting over who gets to bear your first child."

Sheppard frowned at him. "Hey. Is that your idea of emergency, mystery, or drama? Wait--don't answer that." He leaned closer. "Rodney. It's yesterday."

Rodney frowned back. "What about yesterday?"

"Today is still yesterday," Sheppard said, and then he shook his head. "Or yesterday was today. I haven't decided which yet."

"Did you go swimming off the South Pier again?" Rodney put the back of his hand against Sheppard's forehead. "You know that makes you hallucinate." No fever. He grabbed Sheppard's wrist and checked his pulse. "We have a briefing in an hour, and I'm not going to ask Elizabeth to reschedule just because you're high," he said.

John was trying to pull his wrist free. "You seriously haven't noticed? C'mon, McKay! Yesterday was punish the idiots day!"

Rodney dropped Sheppard's wrist, then crossed his arms over his chest and tilted his head. No fever, and his pulse was steady, but Sheppard's eyes were a little wild, and his hair was definitely flat. Rodney sighed. "I'll reschedule the briefing," he said. Stop for three seconds and the sun would implode or your teammates would come to you when they were high or the Wraith would attack. It was just the way the galaxy worked.

Sheppard wasn't going anywhere, was staring at Rodney with his mouth gaping open. Rodney sighed again, uncrossed his arms, turned Sheppard in the right direction and shoved. "Go," he said. "Sleep. Wake up when you're sane again, and we'll have the briefing then. Okay? All right? Can I go back to my meeting now? Zelenka's going to drink my coffee if I don't."

"Yeah," Sheppard said, and he walked away slowly, scratching the back of his neck. "Maybe that's not a bad idea. I'll, uh. I'll let you know, I guess. If I wake up sane."

"Very good," Rodney said, making little shooing motions. "Thank you. Nice talking to you. Very interesting conversation. Goodbye."

Sheppard waved over his shoulder, then turned the corner. Rodney stayed in the hallway a moment more, shaking his head--what was Sheppard thinking? What if the water off the South Pier was toxic?--and then walked back into his meeting.

"Coffee," he said, and stole Zelenka's mug again.

~~~~~

Back at the labs, he sat at his counter, scowling at his laptop. He wasn't getting any work done and he knew it. There were a couple hours to kill before the rescheduled briefing, and plenty to be done--he should be celebrating alone time in the lab by plowing through the piles of reports he'd been ignoring for two days. Instead, he was worrying about Sheppard.

The last time he'd gone swimming off the South Pier, he hadn't been quite so incoherent. Rodney wondered if repeated exposure heightened the effects of whatever it was in the water there. He wondered if maybe it was sunstroke. Mental collapse. Brain tumor. Manly hunger. Brain tumor.

He tapped his comm. "Major Sheppard? Hey. Major Sheppard."

"What, Rodney."

"You're not dying of a brain tumor, are you? Some undiagnosed medical condition? Freak exposure to--you know, you've been around a lot of nuclear explosions lately. Not to mention the Genii bunker. And the South Pier."

"Your concern is overwhelming," Sheppard said dryly. "No. I'm fine."

Rodney hesitated. How did one ask a crazy man delicate questions? He couldn't even ask sane people delicate questions. "Is it still yesterday?"

"It could be," Sheppard said. "We talked, what, forty-five minutes ago? It's probably still yesterday, then. Can I go back to sleep now?"

"If you're sure you're not going to have a hemorrhage and die," Rodney said. "Then I suppose."

"Thanks," John said, and Rodney sighed, turned off the comm, stared at his laptop some more.

He tapped his comm. "Major Sheppard?"

"What?"

"Uh. Just, uh checking." He turned the comm back off and sat, then pushed back from the table. If he couldn't think coherently, he could at least touch stuff. Worst case scenario, he spent a couple hours sorting things into piles of stuff that turned on, stuff that might turn on for Sheppard, and stuff that might blow up if turned on by anyone.

The third pile was really, really large when he came across the Ancient remote control. "Hello," he said. It looked harmless, unlike the thing with spikes, and uncomplicated, unlike the thing that looked to be a cross between a fork, a kazoo, and an antelope. One round blue button, one backwards green triangle. He put it in the pile of stuff he was going to try to turn on when Zelenka got back to the lab--that was the rule, no one worked on unknown Ancient technology alone anymore, not after what had happened to Miko, whose hair might never grow normally again. He went back to work sorting.

Two minutes later he was holding the remote. The idea of Ancient television had irresistible appeal. They were a civilized people; they probably had porn.

He looked around the lab, uneasy. Zelenka wasn't due back for probably ten, fifteen minutes. The Major was off having some sort of inexplicable nervous collapse. No one else was--well, frankly, no one else was good enough to watch his back. But the remote didn't look dangerous. It didn't feel dangerous either, which was why the thing that looked like an innocent golf ball had gone into the blowing up pile. Rodney had learned to trust his instincts when it came to bad tech vibes.

"Just this once," he said. He screwed his eyes shut, then opened one a little to peek, and pressed the blue button.

Nothing.

"Huh," he said. "Okay. Just this twice," and he touched the green triangle.

~~~~~

Rodney McKay woke up too tired to get out of bed. This was not an infrequent occurrence and he' d discovered that the only thing to do about it was get up anyway. "Nap later," he promised his body as he dragged himself up and stumbled into the shower, but he knew he wouldn't do it. He'd forget and be too busy and drink a lot of caffeine and go to sleep way too late and way too tired to be rested in the morning. The way he figured it, he was working on 15, 20 years of sleep deprivation.

"Sleeeeeep," he said as he slumped against the wall of the shower. "Sleep sleep sleep sleep." But it was punish the idiots day, and he only had fifteen minutes. He wasted a couple of them with a power nap that almost became his doom when he shifted and his foot skidded across the slick wet tile, and wasted minutes meant no time for jerking off, and jerking off was part of the morning ritual. The whole day was going to be a disaster, he just knew it. He groaned and turned off the shower and got into his clothes while composing a mental list of all the things that were going to go wrong.

He grabbed his laptops and opened the door, and ran right into Major Sheppard. It was very unfair. That hadn't even been on the list.

"Good morning, Rodney," Sheppard said. "Mind if I stick with you today?"

Rodney eyed him suspiciously. His hair was flat, his eyes were shadowed and wild, and he was smiling like his face was about to break. "Yes," he said. "Something's wrong with you, and I don't want to catch it."

"Oh, if only you would," Sheppard said, and Rodney took a step back. Sheppard rolled his eyes. "Relax, I'm not contagious. It's just that something weird is going on, and since you're the normal epicenter of weird--"

"I am not," Rodney said. "You're the one who makes things weird. I just happen to be around a lot when you do."

Sheppard smiled. "Then I should follow you around so you can keep an eye on me."

"Hmph." Rodney eyed him. The Major had that look of steely determination going. It could easily be mistaken for his look of flat boredom, but the smile was slightly more dangerous. Rodney weighed the pros and cons of going against that look--pros: fun, cons: he'd lose--and said, "Fine, but it's idiots day, and you're not allowed to interrupt." He brushed past Sheppard and headed down the hall.

"I always wanted to know what punish the idiots day was like," Sheppard said, trailing him. "I figured it'd be like a normal day off-world, but directed at other people for once."

"Oh, if only you aspired to half these levels of idiocy, Major," Rodney said. "On your worst day, you're only a tenth the moron Mauriten is. Of course, on your best day you're only a tenth the genius I am, so it balances out for you."

"Thanks, McKay," Sheppard said, and Rodney turned his head, surprised. It had sounded like the Major meant it. Sheppard smiled at him, and it wasn't nearly as brittle as it had been before. He'd heard the compliment after all. It wasn't a surprise--he really wasn't stupid--but Rodney hated it when he slipped like that.

He scowled to make up for it. "Yes, well, don't let it go to your head," and stomped into the conference room. "Coffee?" he asked, and stole Zelenka's mug. He sat down and opened the laptops while Zelenka grumbled at him in Czech, and Sheppard settled himself, lounging in the chair next to him. Chairs less meant for lounging had never been built, but something about Sheppard made standing at attention look like a slouch.

Rodney studied his screens and pondered where he would begin. Mauriten was so easy, and it was always good to build up to things like Kavanagh, but Paull didn't really deserve too much abuse, she just needed to be shown what the consequences of shoddy workmanship were besides horrible smelly death, and with the Major there, the temptation to show off a little was overwhelming.

"Well," he said to the three scientists standing across from him, "I hope you realize that your calculations have proved that the universe does not actually exist anymore--what happened, Kavanagh, did the langoliers eat it?--raw sewage pumped into the ocean will come to life and do an entertaining tap number for us, and the sea monkeys on the continent will soon be evolved enough for strip malls. I hope these reports are pranks. I hope it's actually my birthday, and you are the clowns Elizabeth hired for my party."

"Clowns," Zelenka said solemnly, "are very disturbing. We do not need them; we have Wraith. I am certain that laptops were stolen, and reports were written by Athosian children."

"And I'm certain that you didn't even bother to read my report," Kavanagh said. He leaned forward across the desk, smirking. "Or maybe it was above your understanding?"

Rodney sighed. "Yes, as so many things are, like the color red, and potatoes, and how you got your head that far up your ass."

Kavanagh leaned forward even more, getting right into Rodney's face, and Rodney raised his eyebrows. Kavanagh was a lot of things, but intimidating wasn't one of them. Sheppard shifted anyway, the lounging becoming something else, almost a warning; Kavanagh looked at him and laughed. "What, McKay, you had to bring your boyfriend for backup?"

Rodney said, "No. I brought him because he's pretty. You, Kavanagh--right now, I can't even figure out why I brought you to this galaxy. Get out of my sight before I have you demoted to washing dishes and windows and my laundry."

Kavanagh stared at him, and Rodney held it. He could see Sheppard lounging and bristling at the same time, and was aware of Zelenka quietly assigning punishments to Mauriten and Paull, but he didn't lose focus. "You're not actually a bad scientist," he said, after a while. "In fact, there really are reasons why I wanted you here. But you've got an attitude problem, and the difference between yours and mine is that you're not in charge here. Now, seriously, go away and think about what the hell you're doing. Come back when you can show me you're capable of working with this team."

Kavanagh pushed back from the table. "I'll be reporting this conversation to Dr. Weir," he said stiffly. "For all the good it'll do me. She's twice the arrogant fool you are."

Rodney watched him go, then frowned at Mauriten and Paull until they took the hint and followed him, clearly grateful to escape.

"Am I wrong, or was that actually a touching, conciliatory moment?" Sheppard asked, raising an eyebrow.

Zelenka coughed, then closed his laptop and stole his cup back. "We have them, sometimes," he said dryly. "Rodney is almost nice, Kavanagh is almost human. For a few days, work will go well. Then Kavanagh will rebel again, and Rodney will yell again, and life will be normal. Is fine entertainment. We all enjoy it."

Rodney nodded. "It's a routine," he said. "Everyone needs routine, this far from home. And hey, we blow off some steam. Which speaking of--is there more coffee?"

Zelenka grabbed his laptop, clutched his cup close to his chest, and shook his head. "No more for you," he said sternly on his way out the door. "Steal from someone else. Bring some with you when you come back to the lab, I am not making any."

"Liar," Rodney called after him, and then he sat back in his chair, frowning over his laptops. Zelenka would too be making more coffee, he was just so selfish that he wouldn't share--

"So," Sheppard said thoughtfully, and Rodney looked up to find him grinning. "You really think I'm pretty?"

"Oh, hell," he said, and Ford came into the room with a cheery smile, muffins, and salvation.

~~~~~

The briefing about L3M-295 was long, boring, long, tedious, long, and Sheppard stared thoughtfully at him the whole time. As soon as it was over, Rodney shut down his laptops and headed for the door, hoping against hope that Elizabeth would need Sheppard to stay behind, but the Major followed after him and trailed him all the way to the labs.

"I have work," he said as he set up at his station. "Important work. Lots of important work, nothing else to see here, you should move right along."

"No," Sheppard said, and he sat down at one of the other stations. There was a pile of devices awaiting sorting, cataloguing, and study and he sifted through them casually. "Are there any of these that I shouldn't touch?" he asked as he touched all of them, and Rodney rolled his eyes.

Zelenka looked up from his work. "I am surprised to see you, Major," he said. "More surprised that you were not dragged in. Is something the matter?"

"Maybe, maybe not," Sheppard said, recklessly touching stuff, sorting it into piles of what would light up and what wouldn't. The only thing that prevented him from exploding things on a daily basis was pure blind luck, Rodney had decided, and maybe the city's love for people with the gene. Sheppard fished a sleek grey rectangle out of the rapidly diminishing stack of uncatalogued devices. "Hey, this looks like a remote control."

Zelenka nodded. "Yes, yes, my thoughts exactly. Can you make it work?"

"Haven't really missed television." Sheppard tossed the rectangle into the air and caught it again, making Rodney wince. He plucked it from Sheppard's hand and brought it back to his work station, cradling it protectively.

"Maybe you haven't, but I'd kill for a Twilight Zone marathon," he muttered. "You know, it really does look like a remote." He looked up. Sheppard and Zelenka were both out of range unless it was a neat little nuclear weapon, so he took a deep breath and pressed the blue circle at one end of the device.

Nothing. He looked up again, and Sheppard and Zelenka were watching him curiously. He put his thumb down on the green triangle and said, "They were a civilized people, surely they had--"

~~~~~

Rodney McKay slept through his alarm for a good twenty minutes, and then woke up almost too tired to turn it off, and definitely too late to take a shower unless he wanted to miss out on punishing the idiots. That would never do; Zelenka would be too mean to them if left on his own.

Someone banged on his door. He thought about not getting up to answer it, and while he was thinking, it opened.

Major Sheppard stepped into his room looking ruffled and sleep-deprived and insane, and said, "Okay, listen, at some point today you're going to touch something that starts the whole day over again, and I am here to stop you."

Rodney blinked, then scowled at him and struggled to sit up. "How do you know it's me that does it?" he asked. "It could be you. It could be Zelenka. It could, it could be one of the Athosians. You can't automatically go around blaming me for your delus--"

"I can too, because it was you yesterday." He paused, then shrugged. "Or not yesterday but earlier today. Later in the last version of today." Rodney stared at him, and Sheppard stared back. "Today has happened like three times already," he said. "It's starting to give me a headache. Get up, or you're going to be late for yelling at people."

Rodney put his head in his hands and sighed. Sheppard had a headache? Rodney wasn't even out of bed yet, and his temples were already throbbing. Too much talking before coffee. He said, "Turn around or go away. I need to get up to get to caffeine, and I didn't dress for company."

Sheppard smiled at him. "I don't mind," he said, but when Rodney just looked up, surprised, and didn't move, he sighed and turned his back.

Wary, Rodney threw back the covers, climbed out of bed and grabbed some clothes, keeping an eye on Sheppard the whole time. "Delusional," he muttered on his way into the bathroom. "Delusional, delusional, delusional." He threw a longing glance at his shower, but just peed, dressed in a hurry, brushed his teeth, washed his hands and face and went back out to find Sheppard waiting for him, looking smug.

"Don't look so suspicious, Rodney," he said. "I barely peeked."

"Do you need to see Carson?" Rodney asked. "Have you hit your head? Or, oh, I could have Dr. Height--"

"Late for the idiots," Sheppard said, tapping his watch. "You don't want to miss that, do you? I didn't think so. Let's go."

Rodney hesitated, but Sheppard was doing the steely-determination look, which was fun to go up against but there wasn't time, and besides he'd only lose. "Okay," he said reluctantly, grabbing his stuff. "But you have to promise to not be crazy for an hour or so."

"I promise," Sheppard said, looking even more smug and satisfied and insane. He stepped back and the door opened and he held out his hand, gesturing Rodney out. "After you."

"Seriously," Rodney said, edging past him carefully. "If you're going to be insane, you can't come, because--"

"I won't be any more insane than I was in the last version of today," Sheppard said.

"So not reassuring," Rodney said, and walked down the hall, feeling Sheppard's gaze on his back the whole way to the conference room. "Coffee," he said when they got there, relieved, and he reached for Zelenka's mug.

Zelenka swatted his hand away.

"Hey!"

"You have your own," Zelenka said. "Major Sheppard brought it for you before he went to get you. Say thank you to the nice man; if you had stolen mine this morning, you would now be missing fingers."

Rodney turned and looked at Sheppard, who was already lounging in one of the uncomfortable chairs, making it look like a cozy recliner. "I knew you'd need it," he said smugly, and nudged the mug forward.

"Lucky guess," Rodney said, then he sat down, opened his laptop, and took a long sip of the coffee, then made a face. "Too much cream and sugar," he said, but even that couldn't dull the happy caffeine buzz. Even looking at Kavanagh, Mauriten and Paull's grim faces couldn't dull the happy buzz. They just made the anticipation stronger.

He studied the screens, rereading here and there, then shook his head and sighed. "Well," he said, leaning forward. "Congratulations, you've broken the universe, created a golem made of refuse, and developed a new species of sea monkey. Would any of you like to tell me why?"

"Maybe they're running another experiment," Sheppard said. "One where they find out just where your breaking point is."

Rodney turned to scowl at him. Sheppard smiled back, all raised eyebrows and dark circles under his eyes."I said you could come to the meeting, I didn't say you could talk."

"Why is he at the meeting?" Kavanagh asked. Rodney opened his mouth to flay him with an insult that would have him quaking in his sneakers, his hair wisping from the too-tight ponytail, his bulgy eyes watering--

And Sheppard said, "I'm here because Rodney thinks I'm pretty."

Things went rapidly downhill from there.

~~~~~

Day Break, Pt 2

Chapter Text

~~~~~

"Stop sulking," Sheppard said as he followed Rodney from the conference room after the briefing.

"I'm not."

"You are too. You haven't said three words at me since--"

"Yes, well, why should I? You--I could've taken him!" Rodney stomped into the transporter. "And if you had to hold me back, could you have picked something other than my belt to do it with? Kavanagh's leash joke wasn't funny."

"None of Kavanagh's jokes are funny."

"He has this one about three Marines, a hooker and a drunken lla--but that's not the point. The point is, don't do that." He stomped out of the transporter and into the labs. The techs got one look at him and silently fled, which was good; Zelenka took one look at him, raised an eyebrow, then pointed at the coffee pot and went back to work, which was better.

Sheppard poked around in the pile of stuff that was to be sorted into other, more meaningful piles. They'd had him do that a few times before, when he'd come too close to the labs and gotten dragged in. He had a real ability to sense which devices were dead, and which might still work. He couldn't tell the dangerous ones from the others, which would have been truly helpful, but he made part of the cataloguing go faster, at least. Rodney set up his laptops, got coffee, said, "And don't touch anything that'll kill us all," before sitting down at his table to work.

For a while, he managed to get lost in the ever fascinating world of reports backlog, and forget all about the frustration of punish the idiots day--Sheppard had ruined that! The highlight of his week! He had nothing to look forward to now but the same old things; saving the universe, saving the city, saving all their asses and turning right around to save them all again.

"Major, Major," Zelenka said, sounding vaguely panicked. "You should not touch so--no, you cannot take that one, it has not been catalogued!"

Rodney looked up, and Sheppard was sliding a small, silver rectangle into his pocket and looking at Zelenka innocently, like it wasn't blatant thievery.

"Is that the thing you want to make sure I don't touch?" he asked Sheppard, who nodded without looking at him, still smiling at Zelenka. "Will it blow up, fry your brain, make you see things that aren't there, call the Wraith to us, or turn our shampoo into hair dye?"

"I don't know about the dye thing," Sheppard said. "But the rest of it, no."

"Then let him take it," Rodney said, and Zelenka turned to stare at him, wide-eyed. "It's not obviously dangerous, and I know for a fact that he doesn't plan to use it for anything, so indulge him." He leaned forward and said in a stage whisper, "Major Sheppard has gone insane today."

"Ah," Zelenka says. "Yes. Understandable. Who has not? For example, I was just to ask for a screwdriver and some peanut butter, please."

Rodney tossed a screw driver and Sheppard fished the peanut butter out of the not-so-secret snack drawer.

"Thanks," Sheppard said when he passed Rodney's table top on his way. "I'm glad you stopped sulking."

"Who says I did?" Rodney said, and then he sniffed and went back to work.

~~~~~

Much to Rodney's surprise, Major Sheppard stayed in the labs until long after Zelenka had gotten hungry--the peanut butter hadn't been for eating--and gone to the mess for dinner. It wasn't until he'd sorted through the entire pile of devices, two days work for anyone else, that he pushed back his stool and stood, stretching with a sigh.

"You can't fool me into thinking you're just going to work straight through with no dinner," he said, leaning on Rodney's work table. "And if that's what you were actually going to do, seriously, are you crazy?"

"I have snacks," Rodney muttered, typing more quickly. About half the keys he hit were wrong, but he could go back and fix them later. The point was to make Sheppard think he was busy busy, very busy, so busy that he should be left alone to work in peace.

"It's chipped mystery meat," Sheppard said. "On toast. With real potatoes."

Rodney hesitated. If there were real potatoes, and he waited too long, guaranteed they'd be gone before he got there. "Fine," he said reluctantly, saving his work and shutting down. "But I'm coming back to work after dinner, and you're going to go do something. Else. Away from here."

"I promise I won't come back here after dinner," Sheppard said, and it was the innocent smile again, the one that made Rodney nervous, made the native women of other planets crazy, and made the protective fathers of native women on other planets reach for their weapons. He was up to something, and it wasn't going to be good.

They went down to the mess together and Rodney dropped off the laptops while Sheppard grabbed them a place in line. There was a method to the madness of dinner time. You could trust that people on different schedules would be pouring in regularly, and anything with flavor would be gone if you sat with your stuff till someone from your group or team or department had gone through the line and could guard it. Not that they had a big problem with theft on Atlantis, but scientists tended to be paranoid about their work, and the military members of the mission tended to just be paranoid. It had taken a couple weeks to sort it out, but eventually everyone had come to rely on the fact that you could leave your stuff at a table and it'd be there when you got back, but if you lost your place in line, forget it.

When he got into line, Sheppard handed him a tray, then proceeded to load it up for him. Kavanagh would've eaten and gone already, but Rodney imagined that there had been gossip, and that he could feel eyes on his back, watching the two of them speculatively. "Stop it," he hissed, and Sheppard looked up from the sort-of gravy he was pouring over Rodney's potatoes.

"What?" he said, raising an eyebrow, and Rodney jerked a shoulder. Sheppard looked behind him and nodded, presumably at someone who was watching, the source of the tight, itchy feeling between Rodney's shoulder blades--and then smiled at Rodney. "Don't worry about it. I'm not."

"I'm not worrying about it, I'm worried that you're not worried, but that's just because you have clearly been involved in some freak blowdryer accident that cost you all your spare brain cells," Rodney said. "I am done with that today. You want to make sure people believe whatever crap it is that Kavanagh spreads? Fine. Hand me dessert."

Sheppard handed him dessert. It was a bread thing, sweet, with a little frosting, and he got the biggest piece available. He raised an eyebrow at Sheppard, who shrugged and got his own piece, and followed him back to the table. Rodney ate fast, eyes on the wall, and fortunately Sheppard didn't try to talk to him. But he followed again when Rodney went to dump his tray, and he grabbed one of the laptops before Rodney could get it.

"I'm holding it ransom," he said, strolling along calmly. Rodney stalked after him and tried, tried so hard, not to make a scene in the mess. Not making scenes was not his forte, and people clearly noticed that something was up, but everyone who chanced to meet his gaze looked away and most of them weren't smirking. That was all he could really ask for.

Sheppard headed down the long hall to his room, ignoring the transporter by the mess, ignoring Rodney's outraged and mumbled insults, which wasn't a surprise. He'd had it planned all along--that damned innocent smile--and he had probably been expecting Rodney to be cranky. He probably hadn't cared. He was like that.

"After you," he said when they'd reached his room, and Rodney stalked in, dropped the laptop on Sheppard's painfully neat desk, and turned around, ready to give Sheppard a real talking to for A) being crazy, B) worrying him, C) being a jerk, D) being a liar, of all things, E) being a thief, and worst of all, F) being an idiot.

"I wish you weren't so mad," Sheppard said before he even had a chance to start his litany of complaints, giving him the stupid fake puppy dog look, chin tipped down, mouth pouty, eyes wide. "Really, I had your best interests at heart."

"Give it up," Rodney said. He threw his hands up. "What do I have to do to convince you that I'm not mad, make a little set of best friends forever bracelets after school?"

Sheppard crossed his arms over his chest and tilted his head. "You're mad because I stopped you from punching Kavanagh when you wanted to punch me."

Rodney snorted. "You started our little contretemps in there, but I didn't want--"

"You thought I made a joke about something you were keeping secret, right?" Sheppard said and he was suddenly all intensity, all watchful eyes and quiet voice, three feet closer to Rodney without seeming to have moved at all. "You're not good at secrets, but you were really working on that one, huh?"

"I'm exceptionally good at keeping secrets, Major," Rodney lied. "I know things your President doesn't even have the clearance to know, let alone your average--"

Sheppard shook his head. "Not about you. You tell two math stories and a physics joke and complain about a bruise you don't remember getting, and it's like you just opened everything right up. I feel like I know more about you than the people I've worked with for years. But I didn't know--the last today, Kavanagh asked you why you'd brought me to the meeting, and you said because I was pretty. And it was just something you said to get to him, but it was like a math joke too--it opened you up. You slipped, and I learned something, and the more I watched you yesterday, the more I got what you'd been hiding."

"Good for you," Rodney said. "Congratulations, really. I'll throw you a party--a Major Sheppard Went and Figured Something Out Party. Cake and funny hats for everyone else, cake and humiliation for me. Sounds marvelous!"

Sheppard shook his head again, took a step closer. "I'd rather have this instead," he said, and Rodney just barely had time to blink before the Major was on him, a hand on his cheek, kissing him, changing Rodney's world.

Sheppard wasn't smooth. It was like being back in high school again, making out with people who weren't quite sure they were supposed to be doing what they were doing, and thrilled by how good it felt. But he wasn't bad, either. He had long, fine hands that made Rodney shiver, bewildered by the intensity of his own reaction, and he made little noises in the back of his throat when Rodney mapped out his arms and chest and stomach with his mouth, and between them they did all right at driving each other crazy.

"You said I was pretty," Sheppard muttered against Rodney's neck at one point, and then he was snickering, pinching Rodney's nipples and laughing at the same time.

Rodney waved his hands, but that made them feel so empty. He put them back on Sheppard's body, filling them up, and said, "I lied, I lied, you're not--" but there weren't words for what Sheppard was, so Rodney just kissed him.

"You're going to stay here tonight," Sheppard said after that, his hands on the zipper of Rodney's pants, his mouth hot against Rodney's collarbone, the hollow of his throat.

Rodney tipped his head back even as he said, "What, you think you can kiss me and then just take over? No. I'm going back to my own room after this, and we're both going to sleep, and we'll wake up in the morning and--"

Sheppard was grinning, Rodney could feel it, and his hand did something evil and wanton to Rodney's aching dick, and Rodney said, "Yeah, okay, I'll stay."

~~~~~

Rodney McKay woke up. The alarm wasn't going off, but it was very bright in his room, which could only mean trouble. He didn't even want to turn his head to look at the clock. If he'd slept through the alarm and no one had come to wake him, it could only mean a limited number of things, the most likely of which was that everyone else was dead and he was all alone in the city and would either be killed or slowly go insane.

Then his door opened and Major Sheppard stumbled into the room.

"I cancelled your meeting and the briefing and told Zelenka you wouldn't be in the labs today," he said while Rodney was still fighting his covers so he could sit up, and he took a small silver device out of his pocket. He waved it in Rodney's face before dropping it on the desk. "You're not touching that, you're not leaving the room, you're not doing anything until it stops being today."

Rodney stared at him, then slumped back against his pillows. "I thought everyone was dead," he said, staring at the ceiling. His heart was racing. "I overslept and no one came to get me!"

"When I woke up and you weren't--well, when I woke up, I figured you'd need the sleep," Sheppard said. Then he sat on the edge of Rodney's bed, rubbed his face, and fell over backwards, pinning Rodney's legs to the mattress. "Let me break it down for you. We're living Groundhog's Day, the movie, and it has something to do with you touching that device. I've touched it myself and nothing happens, but you touch it and we--it's like you're resetting the day, and we keep having the same damn morning. Except yesterday, I made sure you didn't touch, and yet here we are. Today again."

Rodney fought both Sheppard's weight and the covers, and managed to shove himself up on his elbows. Sheppard turned his head, saw Rodney looking at him, and said, "I'm really tired. We keep going back to about the same time. I'd been up for an hour by then and started the inventory, and that's how it keeps happening, I'm back doing inventory." He snorted. "The definition of Hell, huh? Eternal inventory."

He did look tired, and worn down, and there was something not right in the way he was looking at Rodney. Also, there were the pinned legs. Rodney cleared his throat and said, "Well, if you let me get up, I can walk you to the infirmary, and they can find out what kind of psychotic episode you've had, and--"

Sheppard closed his eyes, and didn't move. "I'm not crazy," he said quietly. "I've told you that a couple todays in a row. It's starting to get to me that you don't believe it."

Rodney hesitated. On the one hand, Groundhog's Day? On the other hand, it was Sheppard, who didn't really lie, wasn't normally insane, and wasn't prone to collapsing on Rodney's bed for no good reason.

Plus, it was Atlantis.

"Okay," he said. "Bring me the thing."

Sheppard stared at him, then narrowed his eyes. "You believe me? Or are you just humoring the crazy--you know what, don't answer that. Also, no."

"Don't look at me like that. What's the worst that can happen, we start today over from, what, a half hour ago?"

"Forty-five minutes," Sheppard said. "Give or take a couple days."

Rodney rolled his eyes and struggled to knee the Major in the back, barely managing to nudge him forcefully. Who knew the man was so heavy? He looked underfed all the time. Maybe it was just the slimming effects of the black shirts. Rodney nudged again and said, "Come on, I haven't got all day--ha. Well. Anyway, bring me the thing!"

"Don't make me regret this, Rodney," Sheppard said after a moment's hesitation, and then he got to his feet and snatched the thing off the desk. Not graceful, Rodney noted. Tired.

"And my laptop. No, not that one, my other--no! The other one--yes, finally, thank you. Toolkit's under the--good." Sheppard dumped the laptop, the tools and the device in Rodney's lap, then sat down next to him. Rodney had to move over. "There's not enough room in my lap for you too," he said irritably, and Sheppard grinned at him. Even the grin was tired, but there was a gleam in Sheppard's eyes that made it clear the man still had some energy. "What," Rodney said, wary, and Sheppard shook his head. "What!"

"I'll tell you later. For now, just. Fix time, or something, would you?"

"Fix time, he says, like it's something I'm used to doing before I've had my coffee." Rodney scanned the device, then the list of catalogued artifacts. "Huh. No record of an Ancient remote control, more's the pity. No reports of a time machine either."

"They had one, in the jumper," John said. "The one the other Elizabeth escaped in."

Rodney nodded. "We could be looking at a prototype, or perhaps mark two of the same device." The idea was certainly plausible, and he could feel his brain struggling through the lack of coffee to reach excitement. "Tell me, what did I do before that made you think I triggered it?"

"You touched the buttons."

Rodney turned his head to stare. The Major was closer than he was used to--well, maybe not for running/shooting/falling over each other/hiding types of situations, but certainly for home and cozy in Atlantis situations. He tried to scoot a little farther away, but almost fell off the other side of the bed. "All I did was touch the--you could take the chair," he said. "I know you know how to use one. Sort of."

Sheppard raised an eyebrow. "I'm feeling pretty comfy, Rodney, but thanks for the offer," he said. "You touched the blue button, then you touched the green one, and then the world went reboot."

"And when you touched it?"

Sheppard shrugged. "Did the same thing as you, and nothing happened."

"Did the same thing as me?" Rodney threw up his hands and Sheppard jerked back to avoid getting punched in the nose. "I give you credit for having half a brain half the time," he ranted, "and you go and do something stupid like exactly what I--well, exactly what you know caused the problem in the first place?"

"I thought maybe it was a full gene thing," Sheppard said defensively. "Like maybe when you touched it, it misfired!"

Rodney groaned. "A full gene thing. Right. Yes. Very clever and clearly erroneous deduction, Major Sheppard. Congratulations, you're ready to come be part of the science team."

"Thanks, I think I'll pass on that," Sheppard said dryly. "So can you fix this or what?"

"I think it's safe to assume that there's a way to fix it."

"And by that you mean, yes?"

Rodney rolled his eyes. "Yes, yes, of course yes. But how do I. Okay." He leaned over and grabbed a notebook off the low table he was using as a night stand, pulled the pen clipped to the binder free of its cover. He flipped through to an empty page and began to write. "Dear Self, Major Sheppard has handed you this note and an Ancient device with two buttons. You pressed the blue, then the green, and started Groundhog's Day. You pressed the green, then the blue to stop it. If you're reading this note, that failed. Please press the blue button only. Sincerely, You. (Dr. R. McKay)." Then he tore out the page and handed it to Major Sheppard.

"The remote stayed in my pocket after the restart, so okay, but how will you know it's really from you?" Sheppard asked. "Maybe you should leave some kind of code."

"Like what, the monkeys run at midnight? What good is a code going to do when I don't remember making it?"

"Okay, so not a code." Sheppard stole his pen and uncapped it with his teeth. "There's a birthmark on your right inner thigh," he mumbled around the cap, writing the words underneath Rodney's own note. His handwriting wasn't as dark or as neat as Rodney's, both spikier and loopier. "And this might be overkill but who knows: you also have a scar on your left ass cheek, from a tragic childhood cannonball incident. Signed, John." He studied his handiwork, was apparently satisfied, then folded the note in precise quarters and tucked it in his pocket.

Rodney gaped at him. "How--you'd have to be looking pretty close to see either of those, Major, and I certainly don't remember telling you anything about The Incident--"

Sheppard was smiling at him again, all satisfied gleam.

"We did not," Rodney said, and Sheppard nodded, then leaned over and kissed him hard, knowingly, not at all a first time kiss. At first, Rodney didn't respond, had no idea what to do, and the Major slid an arm around him, hand settling with firm, hot pressure against the small of his back, and he gasped and opened his mouth. A quick, slick slide of the Major's tongue against his own, and then the kiss was over.

"A couple times last night," Sheppard said smugly. "I think that's part of why I'm so tired today. I hardly got any sleep before I was back to inventory."

"A couple times." Rodney gaped at him. "I take it it was--good?"

"The blow job you gave me immediately went into the top three of all time."

"Only the top three?" Rodney said, insulted.

Sheppard patted his leg. "Well, you know what they say about first times, Rodney."

"Yeah--that they're not supposed to happen twice."

Sheppard grinned at him. "So if this doesn't work, we'll do something else for the next first time. Hey, I'm just trying to look on the bright side. If I get to have a couple first times with you before I die of exhaustion, the universe will seem like a slightly less unjust place. Could you press the buttons, please, before we get distracted?"

"A couple times." Rodney took a deep breath. "You're so giving me details later," he said, and pressed the green button.

~~~~~

Rodney McKay woke up, and Major Sheppard was sitting beside him on the bed. He blinked and Sheppard said, "All our meetings for today are cancelled. Sit up," then held out a coffee, waiting until Rodney had managed to push himself up before handing it to him.

Rodney eyed him suspiciously, then took a sip and sighed happily. Perfection. Just the right amount of cream and sugar and even knowing both were fake wouldn't have dulled the caffeine buzz. Too bad Sheppard's slightly grim, tired face had already taken the edge off it. He took another sip and braced himself for the worst. "What happened?"

"I told Elizabeth what's going on, and unlike you, she doesn't think I'm insane. Everyone is taking the day off, until further notice," Sheppard said, and then handed him a scanner, his laptop, his tools, a small Ancient device, and a folded piece of paper.

"Wow, it's just like Christmas, only with work," Rodney said. "What do you expect me to do with this mess?"

"Drink the coffee, read the note, play with your toys, save my life," Sheppard said. "I'm getting damn tired of inventory, you know. There's only so many times you can abruptly find yourself counting the same case of bullets before it gets a little old."

"Inventory," Rodney said. "Crap! That means it's punish--"

"Cancelled," Sheppard said, and for a moment his face went past grim to ferocious. He took a deep breath, shook his head. "It's a long story. Just, trust me, you've already had your thrill for the week, a couple times over."

Rodney stared at him. "Why don't I just read the note," he said, and leaned over to put the coffee cup on his bedside table. He picked up the neatly folded piece of paper and read it.

He refolded it. He put it back down in his lap. He picked the coffee cup up again, and took a long, steady gulp. "You'd have to be looking pretty close to--"

"See the Cannonball Scar. Yes. You would be, and I was." Sheppard shook his head. "It's a note from us regarding our current problem of being trapped in time, and all you can think about is the Cannonball--actually, never mind. I'm trapped in this too, and I can't stop thinking about it either. Could you press the blue button, please?"

"You wouldn't have handed me my stuff if you'd thought I would just press the blue button on. Uh, on my own say so," Rodney said, picking up the scanner. "Which is the only reason why I'm not saying lalala, elaborate prank, very good MIT class of Pegasus. Now shut up while I do this. Also, go sit somewhere else. You're creeping me out."

"I don't have the energy." Sheppard slid down until he was lying flat on his back on Rodney's bed, his hands crossed over his stomach. Rodney stared at him for a moment, then, feeling brave, reached out to brush his hair back off his forehead. After all, Sheppard wasn't real big on lying to him, and if he wasn't lying then he'd seen the scar, the birthmark, had maybe touched them. That gave Rodney some kind of right to touch too, didn't it? Maybe even a responsibility. And Sheppard turned into the touch, though he didn't open his eyes. After a moment, he sighed. "I'm so ready for tomorrow," he said, and Rodney went back to work.

"No mention of it," he said, after skimming through his list of catalogued devices. "Or of anything that even looks like it. Are you sure--"

"Yes," Sheppard said. "And you said yourself last today, it might be a prototype or something. The other Elizabeth, time-travel, no DeLorean jokes."

"The DeLorean was, itself, a joke," Rodney said, and took a deep breath. He leaned over and grabbed his notebook and his pen, then scribbled, 'PS, if touching just the blue button fails, press them at the same time. Other than that, I'm out of ideas. PPS, find out why Maj John remembers and you don't, but he can't work the device and you can. Device imprints? You 1st to use. JS strongest gene. Ancients to start day over knowing what happened, genetic drift and art. gene cause mild misfire? Discuss w/CB. PPPS, get revenge for JS experiencing a first time that you don't remember. Sincerely, You.' He folded the note up and handed it to John, then said, "Well, here goes nothing," and pressed the blue button.

And waited.

And waited.

"How will we know it wor--oh," he said. John was asleep, the note gripped in his hand, his mouth open and slack. He would be a drooler, Rodney thought. Two droolers in one bed was always a delight.

Well, there were certainly worse ways to pass the time before finding out if it had worked, particularly considering that nothing he did was going to stay done if they'd failed. He put the device down, then moved the laptop, tools, and scanner on to the floor. His room was full of light, but it was kind of nice. He hadn't taken a nap in the sunshine since, jeez, well before he left for Pegasus. He laid back down, careful not to knock John off the bed, then closed his eyes, and almost instantly fell back to sleep.

~~~~~

Rodney McKay woke and slept and woke again, deep sleep but restless. Sometimes he ate something from his stash of Powerbars and Athosian cookie things, and he woke John up to make sure he ate too. A couple times, he headed blindly for the bathroom, feeling limp and weak and hot, like he'd slept too much but needed more. And in the afternoon, he stumbled out to the control room to make sure everything was running okay, but the small skeleton staff that Elizabeth had apparently left in place waved him off. For once, he only double-checked their work, then hurried back to his room. As soon as he laid down again, he was asleep; his body trying to make up for all the years it had gone without, in one fell swoop.

Every time he woke, he was pressed as tightly to John's side as he could get, or had an arm across him, or was tangled with him in the sheets. He'd always slept on his back and he'd never been one to snuggle up to another person in bed. He wasn't even the kind of guy who particularly wished there was someone to snuggle up with. It was weird, like he'd been ignoring something else he'd needed for too long and his body was making up for the years of that too.

At dusk, John untangled long enough to do a quick sweep of Atlantis' security with Ford and the rest of the security personnel, but he was back before dark, crawling back onto the bed and murmurming, "Shh, shh," when Rodney started to ask. "It's all fine, it's still today but I wasn't expecting tomorrow yet," and wrapping himself around Rodney with his mouth pressed to the back of his neck.

And once, well after midnight, he woke with John's mouth on his skin, tasting him, John's hand wrapped around his dick, squeezing but not moving. "Did it work?" he asked, and felt the light graze of teeth over his skin. "Yes," he gasped, tipping his head back, spreading his legs, but John only kissed him.

"Too early to tell. We made it to midnight before," he whispered. "But I woke up and read your note." Rodney could feel him smiling. "Revenge for two first times you don't remember? No. We'll wait and see if it worked. I just," and they were kissing again, breathing deep and hard, and Rodney soaked up every second because he'd been starving for it.

It had been, oh, almost a year since he'd gotten laid, which was bad but not the kind of desperation bad that would normally have had him whining when John's other hand slid down his back and rested in the small of it, pressing them together. A year of abstinence was nothing compared to the desire in him; it had to be something else.

It was a long time until John's hands slowed, longer still till the burn faded to more manageable levels. "Wait," John whispered, and his eyes closed. It took Rodney a little longer to fall asleep again, but he did; he closed his eyes again, and slept much more peacefully after that.

~~~~~

Then Rodney McKay woke up an hour before his alarm was supposed to go off, and it wasn't quite light in his room, and his stomach grumbled. "Breakfast," he said. "Coffee. Eggs." Beside him, John laughed, and Rodney's head whipped around so fast that he almost knocked himself out of the bed.

Fortunately, John had a good grip on him.

"You're here," he said. "It worked! It worked!"

"I don't know why you're so excited," John said. "I was the one in inventory Hell!"

"And I'm the one who gets the first time now," Rodney said, and he had a hand on either side of John's face, stubble rasping against his palms. "Although, it's not fair--it's kind of creepy--because you remember the other first time and I'll never get that back."

John rolled his eyes. "I seduced you fair and square. You called me pretty, I didn't know if I was ever going to get out of that day, it might have been my only chance! But if you want, we can go find those goggles, the ones that cause the week of amnesia, and then you can have the creepy first time."

"Hmph," Rodney said, considering it. "Elizabeth is going to have enough questions when we turn the remote over to her, so, no. But don't think I'm not going to hold it over your head for years!"

"That sounds fine to me," John said, grinning, and he pulled Rodney down.