Alfredo steps into the bar and makes McKay right off – can’t miss that twitchy, hand-flailing restlessness as the guy harangues the bartender about something to do with lemon in his drink. Oh yeah: McKay’s jonesing bad.
Fine, fine, so there was a reason for Sherlock’s text, but Alfredo’s still pissed at Sherlock for setting up the meet in a goddam bar – booze was never a big trigger for him but it’s the principle of the thing, and ain’t never just the one addiction floating around in a joint like this.
Alfredo perches himself further down the bar, orders a soda and watches McKay in the mirror. Sure enough, he’s staring at two guys over the far side where it’s darker. Alfredo doesn’t need to watch for long to figure they’re doing a deal. It’s clear McKay sees it as well. He’s even twitchier, and he keeps touching the left breast of his black leather jacket: Alfredo figures that’s where his buyin’ money’s stashed.
“You don’t wanna do that.” Alfredo slides onto the stool by McKay, shoots him a sidelong look.
“Excuse me?” McKay’s bristling, but there’s an edge of guilt and panic. “Who in hell are you?” His eyes dart involuntarily across to the shadows where the dealer’s negotiating. “And, and do what? I wasn’t doing anything.” His hands twitch and clench on his bottle, some foreign beer.
“I’m Alfredo.” He doesn’t offer to shake; figures they’re not at that point yet. He tilts his thumb at the dealer. “You gonna tell me you ain’t in line for what that guy’s selling?”
McKay goes pale, mouth a furious downward slant. His shoulders hunch. “I don’t know who the hell you are or what you want, but you can–” He spins around, eyes wide, clutching the beer bottle protectively to his chest. “Oh my god, are you from the SGC? Are they spying on me? Or, or, the Trust? Is that it? Planning to blackmail–”
“Whoa there, calm down,” says Alfredo, trying to radiate reassurance. McKay’s seconds away from losing it – that shit fucks you up with the paranoia and Alfredo remembers too damn well what it feels like. “I got no idea who the SGC or the Trust are, but I ain’t from them. Sherlock sent me.”
McKay goggles at him, speechless, which from what Alfredo’s seen so far, probably isn’t that common an occurrence.
“Texted me, see?” says Alfredo. Maybe if he shows McKay the text the guy’ll calm down and not burst a blood vessel. He holds out his phone.
Rodney McKay needs your help - Al’s Harbor Bar. Pity to see a fine mind ruined and genius is no barrier to this particular idiocy, as we know.
Alfredo shrugs. “He knew I was in the Bay area on a consulting job, and I guess he knows you, McKay.”
McKay’s still looking like someone slapped him with a wet fish. “But, but, we only met once.” He frowns at Alfredo. “Some think tank thing they flew me to New York for. We barely talked.”
“Once is all Sherlock’d need to figure out all sortsa shit about you.” Alfredo catches McKay’s eye. “ ’sides, he’s an addict, too.”
McKay shuts down, but he’s got no poker-face. He looks away, bites his lip. “I don’t know what–”
“Yeah, you do,” Alfredo says gently. “I’m one as well. Same shit – uppers, right?” McKay looks stricken. “Look,” Alfredo says before McKay can come out with more horseshit denials, “I’m what they call a sponsor. Got myself cleaned up and now I help others. I’m Sherlock’s sponsor in New York but I’m here for a while, like I said. Be happy to help you, if you want that.”
McKay slumps on his stool, elbows on the bar and head in hands, muttering. “God, is it that obvious? It’s an occupational hazard in front-line military work. Life or death situations, you can’t sleep when you have to save–” He breaks off, winces, looks up at Alfredo. “But you haven’t been read in, have you?”
“Read in?” Alfredo asks, unsure if it’s drugs or withdrawal talking, or if McKay’s kind of nuts, like Sherlock. Genius nuts.
McKay flaps a dismissive hand then drops his head back in his hands again. His voice is blurred, like he’s close to tears. “No, no, I can’t tell you…suffice to say I work for the military as a…a scientist. I was, ah, captured. Behind…behind enemy lines and I was, we were, force-fed…something like speed, yes, you got that part right. Massive doses – well, the massive dose was my escape plan, but it didn’t, I couldn’t, and I thought John was dead, don’t you see? The withdrawal almost killed me, and it’s always there, always pulling at me because it’s not as though there’s any damn down time is there? It’s always do this now McKay and save us all, McKay, and I can’t, I can’t, I just can’t, and I needed…an edge…and then we were here, and John almost died again and Ronon did, ah, he almost, that is…and we’re stuck here on Ea-…I mean we’re stuck in San Francisco and the thing with Jen and me’s falling apart, and it’s always been John anyway but I can’t tell him, and this shit’s all around me, drugs, speed, it’s everywhere and I can’t, I can’t…” he trails off, face still buried in his hands, shoulders quivering.
Alfredo risks a hand on his shoulder, squeezes sympathetically. “Yeah you can. It ain’t easy, but you can. I’ll help, and I bet you got friends who’d–”
“Yeah, he’s got friends,” a hard voice says behind them.
Alfredo turns, sees a steely-eyed man with dark hair, graying at the temples. He’s in jeans, leather bomber jacket, but there’s something about the way he holds himself. Military.
“John?” McKay says, his face a mix of hope and hurt. “What are you doing here?”
“Worried about you – you keep disappearing.” He shoots Alfredo a wary glance. “Then Jennifer…” He frowns. “Well, she said I should come find you, something about maybe you’d let me help you since she couldn’t.” He moves in a little, deftly positioning himself between McKay and Alfredo.
“Christ,” mutters McKay. “Does everyone know?”
“Who’s your…friend, Rodney?” asks this John dude, giving Alfredo a narrow-eyed look.
“He’s, he’s…what was your name again?”
Alfredo rolls his eyes. “Alfredo Llamosa,” he says. Addicts. You got to be patient with them.
“Yes, well, that guy Sherlock Holmes – you remember I told you about him? Consulting detective in New York, almost as brilliant as – yes, well. Anyway…Sherlock, he asked Alfredo here to help me.”
Alfredo nods, tries to look helpful. He sees McKay take a breath, square his shoulders. Dude’s brave, got to give him that, for all the twitching and flailing.
“I, I’m an addict, John. Since, you know. With Ford, when he, and Ronon and Teyla too. Yes, well. I’ve, I’ve been fighting it, and on At–”, the military guy John twitches warningly, “–where we were, well there’s no way of getting, because Carson was very stingy with the good…and then Jennifer, well of course I couldn’t…but back here…” He subsides, blue eyes wide, staring hopelessly at John, hands fluttering to rest. “It, it crept up on me again,” he mutters, looking down.
“Yeah, I know,” says John. McKay looks up, shocked. “Jeez, Rodney, how could I not know? It’s you. I’ve been worried sick, but I didn’t want to get between you and Jennifer.”
“Yes, well,” says McKay in a small voice. “I don’t think there is a me and Jennifer any more, not really.”
“God, buddy, I’m sorry,” says John. He gives McKay an awkward pat on the arm.
“Yes…um…well, I don’t think I am, actually. I was just running away from…from a lot of things.” He lifts his head, gives John a challenging look. “I don’t want to run away any more.”
“Okay,” says John slowly. “I, um. I don’t wanna run away either.” Then he cracks a grin, and tentatively, the corner of McKay’s mouth quirks up into a smile.
“Man,” says Alfredo, shaking his head. “You are two sorry-ass communicators. But that’s cool, we can work on that.”
The guy, John, goes all stiff and military again. “Look, buddy. I don’t know who you think you are, but like I said, Rodney’s got friends. We’ll look after him. I’ll look after him.”
“Ain’t exactly your area of expertise, though, is it?” Alfredo points out. “And sometimes it’s better to have someone to talk to who’s not…” he shoots a glance between the two of them, “quite so close.”
“He’s right, John,” says McKay, embarrassed but dogged. “I do need someone who’s been through this, and Sherlock recommends him.”
Alfredo holds his hand out to John. “Hi,” he says. “My name’s Alfredo Llamosa. I used to jack cars and do drugs, and I’ve been sober now for more ’n three years. I’m Rodney’s sponsor.”
– the end –