Rodney sat in the mess hall and debated did he really need a third cup of coffee. As he debated he watched Sheppard, the Colonel was leaning on the edge of Lorne's table and had been for the last ten minutes or so, it looked decidedly uncomfortable one hip perched like that. As if he could feel McKay's eyes boring into his back, the Colonel moved with feline grace over to McKay's table.
Dropping his breakfast tray there he sat down, the grey congealing mess of pseudo oatmeal had all the appeal of wallpaper paste, judging by Sheppard's face after a bare spoonful it probably tasted just as good.
"It's your own fault you know. Should have eaten it, when it was hot instead of talking for the last ten minutes or so. With Lorne." McKay felt compelled to say
"Aww, McKay, you checking up on me?" Sheppard said, his eyes sparkling with amusement, his mouth curled in that teasing flirty manner, that usually made Rodney's pulse race.
"Don't be so stupid", McKay spluttered out his fingers mercilessly shredding an innocent muffin sitting forgotten on his plate"Why on earth would I*Be checking up on you*
The sparkle left Sheppard's eyes, his face settled into the usual mask of barely concealed indifference. He shoved his chair back, snatching up his tray and walked to the end of the chow line to dump it. When Rodney glanced up it was to see the retreating back of the Colonel leaving the hall.
McKay uneasiness around the Colonel had started about a week ago.
As usual Rodney worked long hours in his Laboratory, had left late,gone to bed late, and woke up late for breakfast.
He had walked to the mess hall lined up, turned with his tray to see Sheppard huddled over a table with Lorne. The Colonel had got up to leave and his hand had lain for a moment longer than necessary on Lorne's shoulder.
Over the next few days Rodney had seen the small intimate gesture repeated while it was normal for Sheppard to talk to Lorne, the man was his 2ICafter all the touches were not. He had asked Sheppard to come over to his rooms,they could play some Chess or watch a movie and Sheppard had declined without a reason. And now today,Sheppard's reaction to Rodney's comment. Weired.
Rodney was sitting at his table, sipping tepid coffee and pieces of his shredded bread roll when Ronon heavily sat down"What's wrong McKay." Ronon asked leaning over the table to steal bacon strips from the unattended plate. That McKay didn't yell or smack his hand away let Ronon see all was no right with the usually food hogging Scientist.
"McKay, What's wrong. Tell me"
Rodneys eyes took in Ronon at his table even the blatant bacon stealing without a murmur. Then he spoke slowly almost hesitantly not his rapid machine gun delivery
"It's nothing, it's everything ok. It's Sheppard, he and Lorne are having a thing, you know, er " McKay waved his hand.
Ronon started to laugh. Loud and long.
"You think Sheppard and Lorne are fu"
"Don't say it please Ronon, not that word"
"Ok so you think they are" and here Ronon waved his hand like McKay had. "And what you're jealouse. You want Lorne"
"God no" McKay said
"So it's Sheppard you want?" Ronon supplied
"No. Maybe. Yes", Rodney whispered
"Have you told him,you should you know. Want me to tell him" Ronon offered matter of factly
"No I haven't not yet. Please don't say anything Ronon. If you value constant hot water you won't" Rodney threatened
"You seem to have forgotten I was a runner for seven years, hot water was a little in short supply, McKay" but seeing Rodney's scared face he agreed not to say anything to anybody.
. Atlantis, the fickle crabby old girl she could be decided to have a hissy fit.
McKay, Zelenka, Simpson and a new guy Tellbuck had been fighting massive Electrical Surges through the 10,000 year old circuitry for more than eight hours, as soon as one had been detected and diffused then another elsewhere became a danger. To cover more ground and try to anticipate the next area of concern the team had been split, each person had been allocated a marine as standard protection protocol,
Lorne had gone to the Mess hall and was more than a little shocked and disappointed to see Metcalf, one of the men on protection detail standing there, walking over to berate the man for leaving his post, the side door in the kitchen opened and a member of staff came out with a heavily laden tray he off loaded on Metcalf," There's three roast beast and one veggie sandwiches,the waters been in the freezer so it's got ice in it, there's cookies and some of those cherry apples that McKay likes."
"So what's all this then, Metcalf" Lorne asked
The marine stood up straight as he could with the heavy tray" It's food,Sir, for Doctor McKay and his team"
"Did McKay ask you to do this?"
"No Sir,Dr McKay and his people are too busy tracking down the surges, so I that is we me and the other guys take it in turns making sure those people have food,Sir."
Then "If you're gonna report me for leaving my post sir I understand"
Lorne looked at the younger man's earnest face and said
"Yeah, gonna report you, but make it a Commendation. See Sheppard loves it when people use their initiative and you and your guys did just that. Now go you've got hungry folks to take care of. Hey what about you and your guys food?"
Metcalf smiled"All taken care of,when I get back Peters goes on a food run for us ,Sir"
Lorne chuckled yeah all under control
It was thirteen hours later when McKay could safely say all the Surges had been stopped, he said grateful thanks to his team and sent them off with the reminder they were off duty for the next24hrs. He thanked their military escorts for all they had done, the food had been a very pleasant and welcome discovery, power bars had very limited appeal after a few hours of hot, dusty work. He was going to write his report with comments about the Marines and how well they performed.
When he got back to his quarters his EMail had a short message from Sheppard *Good work Rodney and team* all Rodney wanted right now was a shower and sleep.
Although Sheppard still acted the good buddy best friend Rodney couldn't help think that's what it was Acting. He was sure there was something going on between Lorne and the Colonel something if he was honest, he would have wanted for himself.
Once again he decided to watch and wait. Only now he had to be extra careful, after telling Ronon he now worried if it would be mentioned when they sparred or what ever it was the two of them did in the gym.
After another sleepless night Rodney resolved to go to Sheppard's quarters and get it sorted once and for all.
Rodney was well known for his blunt tactless but trueful speach, he could do this.
Rodney knocked, loudly, on Sheppard's door. No answer. He pressed the door chimes, again no answer. He placed his hand on the door and asked Atlantis to open the door for him. It slid open. Rodney walked in. From the tiny bathroom he heard the shower shut off. John came out, a skimpy towel wrapped around his hips, another in his hands as he dried his hair. He saw Rodney standing by the door, but what he saw was the way McKay's eyes skimmed over his body,"See something you like McKay?"
What Rodney had seen were the deep finger mark bruises on John's upper arms. Sheppard saw where McKay's eyes were fixed and laughed"Lorne and I were sparring last night"
All the words Rodney had wanted to say dried up in his throat and all he managed to croak out was an invite to watch the latest Agents of Shield dvds. John had to decline, he was going on Night Patrol with Lorne as he was short handed, sorry another time.
Rodney spat out his resentment and anger in a "Well don't let me detain you then" and all but ran out of there leaving John to wonder what the hell had just happened.
Rodneys vile mood spilled over into his workspace.
When two of the research team fled in tears Radek had had enough of it and yelled and screamed at McKay, accusing him of acting like a tyrant, the people who worked here deserved better. McKay countered if they couldn't stand a little shouting, they were either in the wrong place, job or both.
After another few hours of Rodney's increasing bad mood Radek sent everyone left home. He saved his work, shutdown his terminal and with a few curt words left.
The Atlantis labs were not a cheery place, and of course Fate stuck her nose in and things were going to take a turn for the worse.
After 13 hours of brooding,swearing and throwing a couple of mugs Rodney left his lab. The transporter stopped and as he stepped out Rodney saw Sheppard emerge from Lorne's quarters. There was nothing remarkable in that, he had said Night Patrol. But that didn't account for Why John was buttoning up his shirt. Or the jacket over his arm. Or why he was carrying his sidearm
Rodney fell into the open transporter. Pressed a destination on the lit up map, while his guts went into rebellion. He was disgorged by an airy balcony, the cool air felt good on his heated face. A moment later the coffee he'd been fuelling himself on made an unwelcome reappearance. His throat felt every bit scalded by the acidic aftertaste of coffee as by the mean and cheap words he had screamed. He felt he was seriously loosing it. The falling tears surprised him but felt so good to release his misery. He stayed until the sky started to lighten before going back to his quarters, feeling ashamed of his bad behaviour, he Emailed Radek apologising and said he would work from his quarters today.
A group of Marine Biologist were in one of the underwater Observations Rooms when a viewing window cracked, the two man escort got the Scientist to a place of safety just as the window imploded. The two men shut the Bulkhead Door, to stop the corridor from flooding. They died.
Everybody on the Expedition lived with the knowledge it was a dangerous place to be, the city was old, very old and the Power Surges a few weeks ago was a case in point, and now a flooded corridor and two men dead. It was a sobering thought.
Rodney had realised his childish and inappropriate behaviour had caused problems and with two of the Marines drowned wanted to see Sheppard. The man took it so very personally. The Burden of Command was a heavy weight to bear. For all his comments that his people were idiots brainless clods, he felt the same grief when someone died, especially in a stupid preventable accident they maybe idiots but they were His idiots.
Digging out a six-pack of beer, McKay made for their spot a favourite place on the pier. Here they hashed out problems, put their World to rights and got pleasantly buzzed.
Only this time no Sheppard.
Rodney guessed having a few beers and talking wasn't going to be enough to blot out the horror of today.
Whereas Lorne's arms and bed was.
Rodney was here now so why not have a beer. He uncapped the bottle and swallowed half, then downed the rest. It was real beer Canadian, not that weak crap Sheppard liked. Dammit he'd have another. So the second led on to a third. He was really buzzing now and you know what, he was Doctor M, Rodney McKay, PhD, PhD, and he was going to march down to Major Evan Lorne's quarters and tell him to take his Military Paws of Lt.Colonel John Sheppard cos Sheppard was His.long before Lorne had even stepped foot on Atlantis he and Sheppard had been a Team, Buddies, Best Friends. He was gonna go, right now in fact. McKay passed out before he could put his great idea in action. He was found hours later by the Night Patrol. And taken to his quarters to sleep it off.
Lorne and Sheppard had gone over the Accident Report to try and understand why two of their men had died. The answer had been the Bulkhead Door could only be locked down from the Inside. It was to insure that no one could be locked in by accident. It was another Ancestors complete disregarde of life. They had known that someone would have to die to prevent flooding of the lower levels. Sheppard wished he had one of the Ascended bastards here now.
The service for the two men had been a bittersweet moment. They had died after making sure their Charges had been safe, and that Atlantis was safe. Then locked the door knowing what would happen. Lorne was not to suprised when one of the men had been identified as Metcalf
Rodneys head felt like it was filled with cotton wool.
What the hell had he been thinking, getting drunk and pissing off both Sheppard and Lorne. Thank God he'd passed out before making a bigger ass of himself he vaguely remembered being brought to his quarters by a couple of the night patrol so he'd passed out.
There was still the matter of Ronon, that couldn't be avoided for much longer, he saw the question in his face and had to say he was working on it before Ronon carried out his threat.
The laboratory was a quiet hive of activity when Rodney walked in. Radek turned from his terminal and faced McKay, his crossed arms and stoney features were not encouraging but Rodney stepped forward and clasped Radeks shoulder, "I am very sorry Radek for being an ass to you. You didn't deserve it!"
"Not me you should apologize to, Rodney, It's your people here, they work hard long hours and you act like bear with sore leg. Apologise to them, now, and all forgotten"
Rodney stared at the sea of faces turned in his direction, swallowed, "I'm really sorry for acting like a complete ass, it's my problem, not yours and I shouldn't have taken it out on you. Radeks right, you all Do work long and hard hours and I don't tell you enough that I appreciate all you do so I'm saying it now, before the next wave of fubars happen. Right back to work.",
Radek stared at McKay, stunned by the man's words. He hadn't expected that. Then Rodney said he was going back to his quarters and Radek had asked if there was anything he could do to help and McKay had shaken his head, his problem remember."Radek, it's bear with a sore Head, Not Leg" and he was gone.
Rodney stood by the transporter, half hidden. He had seen Sheppard walk down the hallway to Lorne's quarters. He would give it 15 minutes, then go in that room and confront the pair of them. He Needed to know. Even if it broke his heart, and forfeited his long friendship with the Colonel.
Taking a deep breath he moved forwards. When he reached the door he didn't knock or ring the chimes, just put his hand on it and it slid open. He walked into the room and stopped dead at what he saw. While neither of the men were naked, they weren't wearing Atlantis Issue. Instead they had longsleeved white smock tops, they were standing in front of two easels, both had half finished oil painting on them. In the background, on a TV a soft voice informed"This is your World, you can do whatever you want"
After steeling himself for quite a different scene the shock relief was palpable. It was Lorne who spoke up.
"Doctor McKay,Rodney, a bit surprised to see you here. Didn't know you were interested in painting."
All the time Lorne was talking ,McKay was looking at the wet oils applied in an artistic and we'll composed manner. He couldn't speak, not yet anyway, his heart had been racing away, his mind with all manner of images. But This. Never would he have thought of This.
Not explaining his reasons for being here Rodney did speak. "When I was in High School, he Bob Ross visited and gave a demonstration of his Art. For a month after wannabe artists all competed to have their work put on the Schools Website. Such a waste of resources" McKay tutted, after walking away from Lorne's work. It had to be said Lorne certainly had an artistic"eye"
"So not your thing then, Rodney" Lorne asked grinning
"Good God no. Science was, is, and always be my 'thing'as you put it Lorne.
Sheppard had been standing in silence, watching McKay. He had seen Rodney's face when he burst in, seen the shock and relief. He had heard about McKay's loud and nasty row with Zelenka. Been told by Collman and Surtees finding McKay's drunk form on the pier and had heard them sniggering about "Lorne getting his paws off of his John" though he had pretended not to hear them, had thanked them. Little bits and pieces were now forming a picture in John's head and seeing McKay's face had now completed it. He didn't mention it for the moment, he needed more data first. So instead he called McKay over to view his artwork.
Rodney stepped forward and gave it all the consideration he given Lorne's. He twisted his head one way then the other, closed one eye, stepped closer then moved further back, then nodded.
"Well McKay, what do you think?"
"My honest opinion, Colonel?
"Well my true and honest opinion would be. Don't give up the day job"
The stupid rush of joy and everything else, Sheppard and Lorne weren't lovers just painting buddies the laughter just burst out of McKay.
Sheppard pouted, and McKay started laughing all over again. He had to leave, now. Any minute he'd start crying. Saying his Goodnights, and see you laters, he fled.
He almost skipped down the hallway, his heart and mood lighter than it had been in days, weeks. Rodney knew his first port of call was Ronon. Rodney found him in the gym beating on some Marines. He waited till the last one picked himself up, shook hands with Ronon and left.
"You told him didn't you?" Ronon growled out, slapping McKay on the back so hard he stumbled.
Rodney didn't see any reason to contradict Ronon, just yet, so nodded, then to forstall any more questions invited Ronon to join him in the Mess hall. Magic words Mess hall they stopped anymore talk.
Rodneys mind wasn't on food, however, tomorrow he'd invite Sheppard for a game of chess or a movie.
Bob Ross used to issue a challenge during his lessons. He would say"This is your Bravery Test" right before he painted a huge tree through the middle of his work. Well Rodney had issued his own bravery test to himself. He would Insist Sheppard joined him, then he would get to the bottom of those teasing flirty moves, and hopefully they meant what Rodney so wanted them to mean. Bob Ross also had another saying, that you were only limited by your imagination. Rodney had a vast unlimited one. All being well this he would show to Shep no to John.
Ronons voice filtered into McKay's head asking again why they were going to the Mess
"Cake Ronon, chocolate cake. Triple layered chocolate cake!!!"
Yeah Rodney muttered to himself. Tomorrow Sheppard tonight a slice or three of chocolate cake.