Word Count: 13,325
Rating: PG13.
Category: AU. Angst.
Story Status: Complete
Summary:  John is worried about Rodney’s reaction to bad news from Earth, and goes looking for him. And finds a rather drunk scientist, ready to bare his soul.

Author's Notes: Set after ‘Trinity’, Season Two.  This wasn’t AU when written, but the episode ‘McKay and Mrs Miller’ in Season Three made it one, especially as I have Jeannie being older than Rodney!

Beta: Thank you to Jayne Perry for the beta-reading.

By Leesa Perrie

Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three, Chapter Four


Chapter One – Failure and Forgiving

“You don’t know what it’s like to be me
To be hurt, to feel lost
To be left out in the dark
To be kicked, when you’re down
To feel like you’ve been pushed around
To be on the edge of breaking down
When no one’s there to save you…”

Lyrics from ‘Welcome to my Life’ by Simple Plan


Rodney stormed out of the office, leaving Sheppard, Beckett and Elizabeth staring at each other in concern in his wake.

“Well, that went well,” Sheppard said dryly.

“I don’t understand,” Elizabeth said. “Why wouldn’t he want to attend his parents’ funeral?”

”Might just be shock,” John suggested, shrugging his shoulders. “Not easy to find out both of your parents have died in a car crash.”

”Somehow I doubt that’s the reason,” Carson said, sighing.

“You know something we don’t?” John asked him.

“No, but I can guess.  There must be a reason for Rodney to be the way he is.  His lack of people skills, not to mention his paranoiac tendencies.  Wouldn’t surprise me to find out his childhood was less than wonderful, nor that his parents weren’t paragons of virtue either.”

“He never speaks about them, as far as I know,” John said thoughtfully.

“Aye.  He did mention his sister when he thought he was dying from that nanovirus a while back, but he admitted that they were estranged.  Sounds like he was estranged from his parents as well.”

“Even so, don’t you think he should go?”

“Aye, perhaps.  But he obviously doesn’t.  Though if you mention his sister being there, it might help convince him to go.  Help build some bridges with her, rather than have something else between them.  Assuming she wasn’t estranged from them as well, of course.  I ken he still cares for her, despite whatever pushed them apart.”

“I think someone should try and talk to him.  I don’t like the idea of him doing something he might regret later,” Elizabeth said.

“I’ll talk to him,” John volunteered.

“Be careful, lad.  If he doesn’t want to talk about it, there’s no use forcing him.”

“I won’t force him… just try and convince him it’s a good idea to talk to someone, even if that someone isn’t me.”

“Okay, just be careful, John.  Things have been strained enough round here after Doranda,” Elizabeth sighed. “He’s still carrying some guilt over the death of Collins, even if he won’t admit to it.  And over nearly getting you killed as well.”

“I’ll be careful.”


Rodney had intended to go to his lab, but instead found himself in his quarters.  He hadn’t meant to lose it like that in front of the others, but they were so sure he would need time off to attend the funeral.  Well, he didn’t.  But they hadn’t accepted that so easily, hence his blow up.

He sighed.  He knew he shouldn’t leave things as they were, but he really did not want to go into his reasons or into his crappy childhood with them, or with anyone for that matter. Why couldn’t they just leave him alone?

Because they were worried about him, a voice inside said.  But he didn’t believe it.  Couldn’t afford to let himself.  After all, he’d nearly killed Sheppard and himself at Doranda, had caused Collins’ death, and had destroyed five sixths of a solar system. 

He wasn’t stupid.  Despite his apologies, he couldn’t believe for a moment that they would, or could, forgive him.  Or that they might care about him.  No one wanted anything to do with a failure, and that’s what he was.  Sure, he had saved their asses several times, and would probably do so again, but deep inside, he knew, he was a failure.  Despite all his intellect, all his achievements, he was a failure.

His dad had said so.  And his mom.  Constantly.  They were right.

He closed his eyes.  He felt nothing.  No sadness at their deaths.  Okay, actually, he did feel something.  Relief.  Relief that they were gone.  So what kind of person did that make him? 

A failure.  He couldn’t even feel remorse at their passing.  Couldn’t feel anything but relief that he would never have to see them again.  Never have to deal with their hatred.  Their scorn.  And that made him a failure, as surely as blowing up most of a solar system did.

It was better just to forget it.  Forget them. 

Better not to expect anything from anyone, like friendship.  Easier that way.  He’d let himself slip recently.  Let people mean something to him.  But no more.  He couldn’t take anymore of it. 

If he didn’t care, then no one could hurt him.  He needed to get back to what his was.  A social failure.  A loner.

It was the only way to survive.

The only way to avoid the look of disappointment in people’s eyes when he let them down.

And he always let them down, in the end.


Sheppard had decided to wait a little while before finding McKay, give him some time to calm down.  It had been an hour since McKay had stormed out and he was hoping that would be long enough.

McKay wasn’t in the lab, so he headed for McKay’s quarters.  Hopefully he’d find him there.

He really wasn’t sure what he was going to say.  He had a feeling that he was about to open up a particularly nasty can of worms.  He hadn’t had a brilliant upbringing himself, but at least he knew he’d been loved.  Even when he annoyed or disappointed one or other parent, he was still loved.  And forgiven, most of the time, anyway.  The idea of being estranged from his family; he couldn’t begin to understand how that could happen.  His parents were dead, had died some years ago now, and the thought of not attending their funerals seemed wrong.  He’d moved heaven and earth to attend each one.

He knew bad things happened out there, to others.  Abuse of various kinds.  He truly hoped Rodney had never suffered that.  But what else could cause him to react like this?

No, he had a bad feeling about this.  And that was if he could get McKay to open up.  And that was a big if.  Especially as he’d pretty much told McKay he didn’t trust him. 

This wasn’t going to be pretty.


Rodney had a bottle of whisky hidden in his room.  He’d smuggled it back from Earth.  Carson knew about it, had even shared a ‘dram’ or two with him. 

He didn’t like to drink alone.  In fact, he rarely imbibed much alcohol.  Had imbibed more since finding people to share with, like Carson.  Or Sheppard.

Maybe he should give it to Carson, he liked a good Scotch malt whisky.  He didn’t think he’d be sharing a drink with friends…with anyone any time soon.  And drinking alone was just too sad.  Too much like his dad.

Oh, to hell with it!  He opened the bottle, found a glass, and drank some.  And then some more.  And some more.  His dad would be so proud of him; following in his footsteps, getting drunk as a skunk.  Strange saying that.  When did a skunk ever get drunk?  His dad, now yeah, he got drunk.  Often.  Not a true alcoholic.  He didn’t drink all the time.  But every so often, he’d get blind drunk, and mean.  Even meaner than when he was sober.

Yeah, his dad would be so proud of him right now. 

Even as he was getting blind drunk, a part of him was crying out; that he was just proving them right, that he was a failure, that he was just like them, and that they were winning, with every drop he drunk, and with every person he pushed away, they were winning,

But right now, he couldn’t care less who was winning.

He just wanted to forget.


Okay, McKay hadn’t answered his door.  So, did he go away, or did he risk his wrath by overriding the lock?

He sighed.  No, overriding the lock was not a good idea.  It was hardly an emergency.  He tried once more to get a response.  Nothing.  Maybe he wasn’t there.  He turned to walk away just as the door opened.  And a not-too-steady looking McKay looked at him.

“Go ‘way,” he muttered, and then went back into his room.

Crap, was that alcohol he smelled?  McKay looked wasted.  He followed him into his room, and looked around.  Okay, one almost empty whisky bottle, and several items that appeared to have been thrown against the wall recently.  And one definitely drunk astrophysicist.  Not good.

“Hey,” he said.

McKay spun around, a little too quickly, and started to sink to the ground.  Sheppard grabbed his arms, and moved him over to his bed.

“Tol’ you go ‘way,” he slurred.

“No can do.”


“You’re drunk, and I don’t think you’re safe to be left alone in this state.”

Rodney snorted.

“Drunk.  Like a goo’ little daddy’s boy,” he giggled. “Drunk like a skunk.  Why a skunk?”

“Probably because it rhymes,” Sheppard answered absently.  He picked up the whisky bottle and took it into the bathroom, throwing the last of it down the drain.

“Hey!  Good stuff tha’!  Carson’ll kill ya…throwin’ good stuff away.”

“I’ll take that risk.” He turned to see Rodney on the floor, leaning against his bed.  He was looking rather green.  Sheppard grabbed a bowl, and rushed over to the man, just as he started to be sick.

“Oh, yeah, good stuff alright,” Sheppard sighed, rubbing McKay’s back as he seemingly tried to spew his entire stomach up.  He wrinkled his nose.  Oh yuck.

When Rodney had finished, John took the bowl into the bathroom and got rid of the contents.  He grabbed a glass and filled it with water.  Had to keep McKay hydrated, try and stave off the hangover he was bound to get.  Rodney was not going to be a happy bunny when that kicked in.

“Here, take a few sips of this,” he said, offering the glass to Rodney, who took a sip.

“Not whisky.”

“No, not whisky.  Just water.”

Rodney sipped some more, his eyes tracking lazily around his room.

“Why you here?” he asked Sheppard.

“I came to see if you were alright.  Maybe to talk.  Guess that can wait, though.”

“Abou’ what?”


“Talk ‘bout what?” McKay said again.

“Like I said, that can wait.”

“’Bout parents.” Rodney nodded to himself.  “Don’t wanna talk ‘bout them.”

“I kind of guessed that earlier,” Sheppard said. “But it would be better to talk about them, than to get drunk.”

“Heh, dad used to ge’ drunk.  Couple a times a month.  Blamed me.  She blamed me too.  Said he never got drunk ‘fore I was born.” Rodney blinked. “Mom ‘n’ dad argued.  Blamed me for tha’ too.  My fault.  Shouldn’t a been born.  Was mistake.  Big mistake.”

“You know,” Sheppard said quietly. “It sounds like they were idiots to me.”

“No.  I’m idiot.  Failure.  They were right.”

“Hey, where’s that ego of yours?  You’re no idiot, McKay, and you know it.”

“I’m no good.  Wi’ people.  No good.  They hurt you.  Turn on you.  Say they your friend, then side ‘gainst you.  Best not to let ‘em,” Rodney paused. “Not to let ‘em close.  Forgot that.  Forgot that here.  Let people close.  Hurts.”

Sheppard closed his eyes.  Yeah, big nasty can of worms time.  He hadn’t realised how… vulnerable… Rodney was.  How unsure of himself, and the people around him.   Damn, McKay was sure good at hiding his true insecurities.  The ego and the bluster hid the truth.

He wasn’t sure how to respond.  He wasn’t a damn shrink.  But he was a friend.  Sure, their friendship was strained right now, but he was still a friend.

“You hate me,” Rodney continued.

“What?  No, I don’t.”

“Ever’one hates me.  Made mistake.  Big stupid mistake.  Like me,” he giggled. “I was big stupid mistake.  So, now ever’one knows I a failure.  No good.  No one want to be my friend now.”

Damn, was he crying?  Sheppard rolled his eyes.  Wonderful, McKay makes a great drunk.  Maudlin in the extreme.  He huffed a little at that.  Figures.  After all, McKay did most things to the extreme.

“I don’t hate you,” he said. “Nor does Carson or Elizabeth.  Neither do Teyla or Ronon… or even Radek.”

“No.  No forgiveness.  No’ really.  Say one thing, think other.  People like that.  Tricky.  No’ fall for it.”

Sheppard sat next to Rodney, propping himself up against the bed. 

“Okay.  Some people are like that, I guess.  But not me, and not them.”

“S’okay.  No need to lie.  Messed up.  Big time.  Know that.  Been there, done that, got scars to prove it.” Rodney sighed. “Big scars for big mistake.”

“Scars?”  Sheppard didn’t know if McKay was talking about physical or mental scars, but he feared the meant both.  “What scars?  What happened?”

“I wanted to learn.  So I experimented at home.  Big mistake.  Made big mistake.  It exploded.  Lucky wasn’t killed.  Burned down tree house.  Not my tree house, Jeannie’s.  Nothin’ good like that for me.  She was mad.  They were mad.  Got beaten,” Rodney paused. “Got scars on back.  Carson seen ‘em.  Told him some story.  Can’t ‘member what now.  Not truth.”

“They beat you often?”

“Nah, just couple of times a year, maybe.  When I forget and did somethin’ stupid,” he paused. “Thought college be better than home.  Wrong.  People hate me for being so good at stuff.  Or bully me to do work for ‘em.  Or steal my work.  Say they friends, then steal my work.  Best not to have friends.  Friends turn on you.”

Sheppard moved closer to McKay, nudging his arm.

“Not this friend,” he said. “I know things have been difficult, but I won’t turn on you.  You’re still my friend, even after Doranda.  You’re still on the team, aren’t you?  I wouldn’t keep you on the team if I didn’t like you.  You don’t see me taking Kavanagh off world, do you?”

“Kav’nag’s a schmuck,” Rodney slurred.

“Yeah, but even if he wasn’t, even if he was smart as you, I wouldn’t have him on my team.”

Rodney turned red blurring eyes towards Sheppard, frowning.

“Don’t hate me?”

“Of course not!” Sheppard rolled his eyes. “Come on, get it through you’re not-usually-so-thick skull.  I. Don’t. Hate. You.”

Rodney blinked several times, and then looked away.

“They hated me.”

“Your parents?”

“Didn’t wan’ me.  Didn’t wan’ ‘nother child.  Happy with one.  Jeannie...” Rodney closed his eyes. “Then mistake happen.  Want ‘nother girl.  Got me.” He opened his eyes, and looked at Sheppard. “They hate each other.  Argue.  ‘Bout me.” McKay looked away. “Say my fault they argue.  My fault he drink.  My fault she on drugs.”


“Anti-depre…depressants.  ‘Cos of me.  Jeannie, she liked me when I was small.  Then, she change.  Not wan’ me around.  Start believe them.  I cause of all trouble.  My fault family no good.” Rodney blinked rapidly. “Thought she loved me.  Not sure now.”

“Hey, she was just a kid.  Things are probably different now.  It’s not your fault your parents were the way they were.  Certainly not your fault for being born.  And, well, I’m glad you were born.  So are a lot of other people here, despite your… abrasive personality.”

“I sent her a video.  When we thought we were gonna die.  Sent messages home. You know?”

“Yeah, I know.  Before the siege started.”

“She never responded.  Phoned her when we got to Earth, got answer phone.  Never returned call.  Sent her a letter.  No reply.  She hates me,” Rodney stated. “Always hate me now.”

Sheppard felt angry at these people, these so called family.  How could they have treated Rodney like this?  He hoped he never saw this Jeannie, for her sake.

“You have family here, Rodney.  Not by blood, but by choice.  That’s even better, isn’t it?  That people have chosen you as a friend, as a family member?”

As he said this, he was aware of McKay listing to one side, and realised he was falling asleep.

“Okay, let’s get you onto your bed,” he muttered, struggling and eventually succeeding in getting McKay onto his bed, and out of his shoes.  He threw a blanket over the man, and then sat down in a chair.  There was no way he was leaving McKay alone tonight.

Though he did contact Carson before settling to his vigil.


Chapter Two – Uncertain and Unsteady

“There's secrets in this life that I can't hide
Well somewhere in this darkness there's a light that I can't find
Well maybe it's too far away
Or maybe I'm just blind”

Lyrics from ‘When I’m Gone’ by 3 Door Down


Rodney awoke to the mother of all headaches.  He had a feeling that moving would be a very bad idea.  In fact, even opening his eyes seemed like a less than sterling idea, so he didn’t.  He did, however, let out a low groan.

“You awake there, Rodney?”

Okay, so what was Sheppard doing in his room? And then the memories of the night before hit him.  Oh crap, way to go there, Rodney.  Getting drunk and moaning about his the past was a sure-fire way of keeping the Colonel’s respect.  Not.

“Okay, play possum if you want, but I know you’re awake.  And probably in a world of pain right now.”

He peeled open one eye.  Well, not brilliant, but not as bad as he feared, so he peeled the other one open as well.  Slowly, he turned his head towards Sheppard and squinted at the blurry image before him.

“Wha’…” his throat felt dry, and he could swear something had crawled into his mouth to die.  He tried again. “Why you here?”

“Thought someone should keep an eye on you.” 

He felt Sheppard pull him up, and he groaned, trying to push the Colonel’s hands away so that he could lie back down, but failing.

“Ah, ah, ah,” John scolded. “You need something to drink.  And I’m suspecting some headache tablets would go down well right about now?”

He felt some tablets pressed into one of his hands, and a glass placed against his lips.  He drank a little, and then managed the gargantuan effort of raising his hand to place the tablets in his mouth, and then swallowed them with some more water.

“Gotta go,” he muttered, dreading the trip to the bathroom, but aware that his bladder was not going to wait for the tablets to kick in.

“Okay, here we go.” Sheppard helped him to stand, and guided him into the bathroom. “I hope you can manage on your own now, I have no intention of hanging around in here watching you pee.”

“I’ll manage.”  And he did, just.  He washed his hands and looked at the not-so-attractive face in the mirror.  He closed his eyes a moment, and then decided he really needed to clean his teeth and try and get rid of the awful taste in his mouth.

Once finished, he headed into his room, to find Sheppard waiting for him, and helping him back to his bed.

“Thanks,” he mumbled.

“So, you remember much of last night’s conversation?”

“Hmm.  Yeah.  Sorry, didn’t mean to bother you.”

He heard Sheppard sigh in frustration.

“It wasn’t a bother.  Rather enlightening, actually.”

Oh great.  He hoped Sheppard wasn’t about to try and psychoanalyse him or something.  Bad enough when a professional tried to.

“Sounds like your parents weren’t too good at it, you know, bringing you up and all that.”

“They hated me.  What else matters?  Just drop it, please.”

He felt the bed dip slightly, and realised John had sat down next to him. 

“Might help to talk about it.”

“Already have.  Last night.” He really just wanted to be left alone right now, but he knew Sheppard could be tenacious at times once he got a hold of something.  Somehow, he figured this was going to be one of those times.

“You said your dad beat you.”

He sighed.  Oh yes, this was so going to be one of those times.  And he really didn’t feel up to fighting with John right now.  He resigned himself to telling the whole sorry tale of his childhood.  And braced himself for the pity he really didn’t need. 

“Only occasionally.  When I did something to annoy him.  Like blowing up Jeannie’s tree house, or building a model of a nuclear bomb for the science fair.  Or that time he took the us to a family picnic held by his work, and I ruined it all by getting stung by a bee and having an allergic reaction,” he paused a moment. “He said it was my fault I got stung, I shouldn’t have annoyed the bee.  As if I would do something stupid like that!  One of the other kids there had caught the bee in a bottle and shook it around, and then thought it would be a good idea to release it next to me.  I panicked, and tried to wave it away, and it stung me.”

“You tell your dad about the other kid?”

“No point.  He wouldn’t have believed me, and would have punished me for telling lies and trying to get the kid in trouble.”

“So instead he punished you for ruining the day by having an allergic reaction to a bee sting?  Sounds pretty crap to me.”

He closed his eyes, drawing a deep breath.

“Yeah.  But it was only once, maybe twice, a year that he got mad enough to hit me.”

“Still doesn’t make it right.”

“I know that!” He looked at John. “I know that, okay?  But I was a lot better off than those kids who got hit everyday, or worse.”

“But he still hit you.  Must have used something to leave scars.”

“A belt, okay?  He used a belt.”

Rodney looked away, embarrassed by his outburst.

“Most of the time, it was okay though.  Well, relatively, I guess.  I mean, they were always arguing, always saying what a pain I was, how their life would be so much better if I hadn’t been born.  Especially when he got drunk. He didn’t get violent, but he got mean.  Said things, you know?  He, both of them actually, knew how to use words to hurt people.”

“To hurt you.”

“Yes, to hurt me.  Happy now?”

“No,” Sheppard said. “You didn’t deserve it.”

“Didn’t I?” Rodney clenched his fists, hunching over slightly. “Maybe I did.  Maybe they were right and things would have been better if I hadn’t been born.”

“Shit, Rodney, you don’t really think that, do you?”

“Sometimes,” he admitted quietly.  “I know I was neglected.  And I’m not stupid, I know what they did was a form of abuse.  Mental abuse.  And that that can be every bit as bad as physical abuse.  But…it’s hard sometimes.  And I can’t help but wonder if things would have been better for them, for Jeannie, if I hadn’t been around.”

“I doubt it,” Sheppard said. “You were just a convenient scapegoat.  I bet their problems would still have been there without you.”

“Probably.  Maybe.”

“Well, I’m glad you were born.  And a lot of people here on Atlantis are as well.  You’ve saved our asses enough, after all.”

Rodney was quiet for a while, relieved that Sheppard didn’t push him, but let him be quiet.  Let him think.  Not that he thoughts were very nice.  Memories of his childhood, and things gone wrong, and over it all, Doranda.  And he really didn’t want to discuss that. 

“You know, they used to say that I went out of my way to inconvenience them.  Like the citrus allergy, it was just another inconvenience.  Having to check ingredients of everything.  And, when the hypoglycaemia started, that was just another inconvenience.” He looked at John. “Do you realise how rare it is for someone who isn’t diabetic to have hypoglycaemia?  Very.  The doctors wanted to do some tests, rule out a few things that could be causing it.  My parents refused to have the tests done, saying they didn’t have time to spare running me around for them.  Well, accept they did have a few done, just enough to rule out any tumours, as some tumours can cause it, but none of the other tests.  Had to wait until I was at college to get them done myself.  Not that it helped in the end.  I’m one of those rare individuals whose hypoglycaemia cannot be explained by so called medical science.” He shook his head.

“I know I’m considered a hypochondriac, and I admit, sometimes I am.  But the citrus allergy and the hypoglycaemia are real threats to me, and yet they are considered a joke amongst everyone.  I’m considered a joke.  And I know I’m only put up with because of my genius, my intellect.  So, when I make a mistake, and everyone realises that I’m not quite the genius I think I am, people turn away.” 

He didn’t realise he was wringing his hands, until John put his own over them to stop him.  But he couldn’t look at Sheppard.

“When I’m right, I’m Rodney McKay, that egotistical bastard who saved Atlantis.  When I’m wrong, I’m Rodney McKay, the biggest joke around.”

“That’s not true, McKay.”

“Isn’t it?  It’s the way it’s been since I can remember.  People use me to get what they want, or put up with me because of my brilliance; ignore me and laugh about me behind my back when I’m wrong.  Or just plain hate me.  I thought, maybe, just maybe, thing’s were different here.  But I can’t let myself think that.  I made a mistake here, on Atlantis.  I started to let people mean something to me.  But that only gives them the power to hurt me.  And I’m tired of being hurt.”


Sheppard took a good look at Rodney.  He had never seen him so… defeated.

“You know it’s not like that here.  Not really.”

“Do I?”

“You have friends here, Rodney.  Teyla, Beckett, Zelenka, Weir, me.” He looked at McKay. “You’re not alone.  And you’re not a joke, okay?  Sure, we tease, but that’s what friends do.  Doesn’t mean we don’t care.”

“I…” Rodney started, and then paused before continuing. “Part of me knows that true, but part of me… part of me is afraid to believe it.”

“Then you need to conquer that fear and start believing it.  I know it’s not been easy, this last week or so, but just because we’re upset doesn’t mean we hate you.  You made a mistake, and it’s up to us to make sure something like Doranda doesn’t happen again.”

“I let my ego get the better of me.”

“Yeah, and maybe we let you.”

“I didn’t want Collins’ death to be for nothing.  If I could make the weapon work…”

“You didn’t know he would die.”

“I should have been more careful…something…”

“Leadership carries responsibilities, and you’re not the only one who has given an order that has led to the death of another person, people even.  It happens.”

“Doesn’t make it any easier to live with.”

“No,” John paused, thinking briefly of some of the men who had died as a result of his orders in the past.  “But you have to find a way to go on.  We all make mistakes.  I’ve made mistakes since coming to Atlantis.  Hell, I woke the wraith!  All you can do is deal with it and move on.”

“It’s hard.  I…” Rodney sighed again. “I have to fight the ghosts from the past.  My parents, telling me I’m a failure.  Socially, physically…in every way but one,” he gave a sad laugh. “Even they had to admit my IQ was high, that I wasn’t a failure in that area, just in every other area of my life.  And then there’s those who have betrayed me, pretended to be my friend for their own purposes, and then turned on me when I was no longer of use to them.  I’m used to be despised by the people around me.  I’m not used to friendship.  Real friendship.  Even after all this time on Atlantis, I find it hard to believe it’s real.  That if I made a mistake, like at Doranda, that I wouldn’t be discarded.  That the friendships wouldn’t prove to be hollow.”

“You’re still on the team. Okay, we have a problem we need to work on, but you’re still my friend, and I still want you on the team.  Still want to spend time with you, Rodney McKay, my friend, not just with Doctor Rodney McKay, super-scientist.”

Sheppard saw McKay smile at that.



McKay snorted softly, rolling his eyes.


Super-scientist?  Really, Sheppard was every bit as bad as Ford had been at naming things.  But it helped, to know that the Colonel still considered him a friend.  He knew he would have to work to regain his complete trust, and he hoped that he could manage that. 

It was true, what he had told Sheppard, about fighting his past.  He didn’t think he had any true friends before coming to Atlantis.  Even Sam, despite his efforts to convince himself otherwise, barely tolerated him at best.  So this friendship thing was still new to him.  He was getting better at it, but… there were times like now that the doubts and the fears returned. 

“You know, going to the funeral might exorcise some of those ghosts,” Sheppard suggested.

“Or it might just reopen the wounds.  And I really don’t need that right now.”

”Think it’s too late, don’t you?” Sheppard raised his eyebrows.  “Or did you get drunk just for the fun of it?”

He sighed, and rubbed a hand over his eyes.

“No, not for fun.  I’m not sure why I did it.  Self-pity springs to mind.”

“So, you going?”

“I don’t think so.  Why should I honour them that way?  Not like they deserve it.”

“True.  But won’t Jeannie be there?  Maybe you could mend some fences.”

“I doubt it.  I’ve tried to make contact since regaining contact with Earth, but she hasn’t replied.  It’s clear she’s not interested in mending any fences between us.  She won’t expect me to be at their funeral, anyway, so it won’t be a surprise to her when I’m not.”

“But if you do go, you’ll be able to see her in person.  And the fact you have gone could be enough to start things off.”

It was clear Sheppard wasn’t giving up on this easily.

“Look, don’t think of it as honouring your parents, but as making sure that they are really gone.  Maybe finding some closure, knowing that they can’t hurt you anymore.  And if the relationship with your sister improves because of it, then that’s an added bonus.”

“And if she really does hate me?”

“Then it’s her loss, not yours.  And at least you’ll know where you stand.  If she’s too stupid to see that your parents were wrong, or that you’ve changed, then she doesn’t deserve you as a brother anyway.”

“I guess.”

“I know it would hurt, but isn’t it worth the risk?”


“And you don’t have to go alone.  I’m sure Elizabeth will agree to let Beckett or me go with you.”

“You… you’d do that?”

“Yes.  So would Carson.”

He wasn’t sure about the idea.  If Jeannie rejected him… but he wouldn’t be alone… and maybe John was right.  Maybe it was time to lay the past to rest.

“Okay, I’ll go.  And I admit I’d appreciate your company.”

“Sure, no problems.  That’s what friends do for it each other.  Help out in times of need.”

He managed a small smile at that.


“So, I guess I’d better call Beckett now?”


“Carson wants to see you.  Probably offer you some nice meds to make you feel better.”

“Oh great, you told him I got drunk, right?”

“Hey, I was worried about you, so I called him last night after you passed out.  He came over, checked you out, and told me to make sure to contact him when you woke up.”

“Lovely.  Who else did you tell?”

“No one.  And Carson won’t tell anyone either… not this time.  Of course, do this again and he might feel he needs to tell Elizabeth…”

“Believe me, I have no intention of doing anything as stupid as this again.  Who knows how many brain cells I killed off last night alone!”

“Good.” Sheppard activated his radio. “Beckett?”

“Aye, Colonel, has he woken up, then?”


“I’ll be right down.”

They sat in silence whilst waiting for Carson to come.  He really did feel awful, and his stomach was threatening a revolt.  He was studiously ignoring it.  Heaving right now would be a world of hurt, though he knew he could only fight it for so long.  He hoped Carson brought something for the nausea.

A few minutes passed and then there was a knock at his door.  Sheppard got up and opened it, letting one unhappy looking doctor into his room.  Great.  Just what he needed, a lecture on the evils of getting drunk.

“I hear you drank the last of the whisky,” Carson said, narrowing his eyes. “And here I thought you were going to share it with me.”

“Well, I guess I wasn’t thinking too clearly,” Rodney said quietly.

“Aye, or not thinking at all, more likely.” Carson sighed. “Okay, let’s take a look at you, you daft fool.”

Carson checked him over briefly.

“Well, nothing unexpected.  You’re dehydrated and probably have a massive headache, right?” Rodney nodded, and Carson continued. “What about nausea?”

“Yeah,” he responded.

“Okay, well I can do something about that.” Beckett took a vial and attached it to a needle. “This will help take the edge of the nausea and the headache.”

He looked at the needle.  He’d never been overly fond of them, but right now… He thrust his arm out.

“Then fill me up,” he said, grimacing when the needle went in.

“You need to drink, get yourself hydrated, and you need to eat something.  Believe me, you’ll feel better for it.” Carson shook his head. “I can’t believe you finished the bottle on your own.”

“I didn’t,” he said, looking at Sheppard briefly before turning back to the Scot. “The Colonel there poured the last of it down the drain.”

“He did what?” Carson exclaimed, turning to pin Sheppard with a glare. “You can’t be going around throwing an excellent Scotch malt whisky down the drain, lad!  What are you?  Some damn Sassenach?”

“Hey, I didn’t want to risk him finishing it off, Doc!  Besides, it just a bit of alcohol.”

“Just a bit of alcohol?” the Scot said, outraged. “I’ll have you know it’s made with the purest of Scottish water, with a history that goes back centuries.  There’s history in every bottle, every drop.  You can’t be throwing history away like that!” 

And Carson winked at Rodney, as he tried to hide his smirk, but John caught the exchange.

“You winding me up, Doc?” he growled.

“Yes, of course I’m winding you up, Colonel.  After all, it’s just a bit of alcohol.  Very nice alcohol, and expensive at that, but nothing more.”

Sheppard shook his head, rolling his eyes. 

“Now, away with you, lad.  You look like you need a rest.  I bet you didn’t rest much last night?” Carson said to Sheppard.

“I’m okay.”

“No, you’re not.  You’re exhausted.  Go get some rest, Rodney here will be fine.  I’ll be checking up on him regularly today.”

“Okay.” John sighed, knowing there was little point in arguing with Beckett. “See you later.”

As soon as John was gone, Carson turned back to Rodney.

“I’ll get a bite to eat from the mess for you, and I want you to drink some water whilst I’m gone.  I hope you’ve learnt your lesson?”

“Oh, believe me, I have,” he said, grimacing slightly and turning his red rimmed eyes to Carson. “As I told Sheppard, I have no intention of doing anything as stupid as this again.”

“Good.” Carson got up and grabbed a glass, filling it with water and handing it to Rodney. “I’ll be back shortly with some food.  Don’t worry, it won’t be anything heavy.  I don’t think your stomach could handle that right now.”

He watched Carson leave, and could hearing him muttering about the ‘daft galoot’ as he left. 

He drank some of the water, and then laid down on his bed.  He was beginning to feel a little less nauseous, and the headache had abated slightly.  And he was feeling better about others things as well.  Like friendships.  He knew he probably should talk some of this over with Heightmeyer, but he really didn’t want to.  Maybe talking to Sheppard would be enough.  Though he probably owed Carson and Elizabeth at least some sort of explanation for his reaction yesterday, and to Carson for getting so blindingly drunk.  It would mean letting his guard down a little, but maybe it was time to start trusting others with this.

Sure, it was a scary thought, but John had seemed fine with him.  Not pitying him or despising his weakness, but, if anything, John had been pissed at his parents.  And at Jeannie too.  He smiled at that thought, that someone cared enough to get pissed at those that had hurt him.  It was a novel feeling, but one he found he liked.

Maybe he wasn’t such a failure at this friendship thing after all.


Chapter Three -  Disowned and Dismayed

“Everything I do just comes undone
And everything is torn apart”

Lyrics from ‘The Hardest Part’ by Coldplay


Rodney and John had stepped through the gate back to the SGC and, thankfully, no one at the SGC had bothered them as they headed out to Canada for the funeral of McKay’s parents.  Sheppard was grateful for that, knowing that some of the higher ups wanted to take the opportunity to talk to Rodney in person about the events at Doranda, but in the light of McKay’s personal situation had been persuaded to wait on that.  He knew Rodney suspected he would need to defend himself at some point before returning to Atlantis.  But right now, he figured that Rodney was fighting enough ghosts from his past without having to rehash his recent mistake as well, especially for people who were probably looking for a scapegoat.

McKay had been strangely quiet since returning to Earth, but he put it down to the stress the guy was under.  He knew Rodney wasn’t looking forward to the funeral, hadn’t even wanted to go really.  That the astrophysicist was afraid of his sister’s reaction to him being there. 

They arrived in Toronto the evening before the funeral was to be held.  Rodney had made it quite clear that he didn’t intend to do any more than attend the ceremony, and then go back to the SGC, to face whatever was waiting for him.  Get it over with, and then just wait for the Daedalus to arrive from Atlantis, and head back as soon as possible. 

John was hoping he could get Rodney to put off the return to the SGC for a day or two, to give him time to deal with the personal problems this was bound to cause.  And he had no doubts there would be some problems from all of this.  McKay might be doing his best impression of an uncaring individual where his parents’ deaths were concerned, but he knew differently.  There was a lot of pain in there, and he didn’t want Rodney anywhere near the SGC when it hit him.  And it would hit him, he was sure of that.

And he would be there for him when it did.  It was what friends did for each other, and he wasn’t going to abandon McKay when he needed a friend most of all.  No matter what he thought of past events, McKay was still a friend, and he intended to make sure the scientist knew that.  He hoped it would help settle some of the ghosts lurking in McKay’s past.


There were maybe twenty people in the chapel, which surprised Sheppard.  He had expected more.  Everyone were paying their respects to McKay’s parents before sitting down for the start of the service.  He hadn’t realised it would be an open casket service, and he looked at Rodney, concerned that it might be too much for him.  McKay had seen enough dead bodies without seeing his parents’ as well.  But Rodney didn’t seemed surprised, so he had probably already known what to expect.

“I suppose I should say my goodbyes,” Rodney said reluctantly, heading down the aisle.  Sheppard kept pace with him, trying to ignore the looks from the other mourners.  He was a stranger here, and he had a feeling that Rodney was as well to many of these people.

Rodney stopped by his mother’s casket, his face unreadable, then moved on to his father’s.  And then turned abruptly and stalked out.  Sheppard had to move fast to keep up with him.  Crap, but McKay could shift when he wanted to.

He caught up with him outside, leaning against one of the chapel’s walls.

“You okay?”

Rodney looked at him, and John was disturbed to see that his eyes were red.  It was clear Rodney was holding back tears.  McKay looked away.

“Not really,” he whispered.  “You know, before I got here, all I felt was relief.  Relief that I would never hear them tearing me apart ever again.  But now, seeing them…” McKay closed his eyes and turned his head away, trying to get control of his emotions.  “They don’t deserve my grief.  I shouldn’t feel like this.”

“Hey, they may have been rotten parents, but they were still your parents.  It’s bound to affect you.  Just means you’re human, like the rest of us.”

“I don’t think I can go through with this.”

Sheppard placed his hand on Rodney’s arm, patting it gently.

“That’s okay.  You don’t have to go back in if you don’t feel up to it.”

“I know.” Rodney looked out over the graveyard behind the chapel.  “It’s all a sham, you know?  This Christian burial.”

“Look, I know you don’t believe, but others do…”

“That’s not what I mean!”


“My parents only ever attended church for christenings, marriages and funerals.  They didn’t really believe in God.  They thought the bible stories were just stories.  Fables made up a long time ago.  If they were Christians, they wouldn’t have believed that.  So this whole thing is a sham.  They weren’t believers, so they shouldn’t be having a religious ceremony.”


“No.  It’s all lies and deceit, just like they were.  Fitting, I suppose.  It’s all about image, not about belief.  And that’s how they were, all image.  I bet most of the people didn’t know what they were really like.  Probably didn’t know about his drinking, for a start.  That was secret; after all, they had an image to preserve.  An image they need to preserve even in death.”

Rodney fell silent after his outburst.  John waited, knowing there was nothing he could say to help right now.

“I should go back in before the service starts.” McKay gave a sour huff of laughter. “They have an image to preserve, and my being there will help preserve it.  But I won’t be joining in any of the service.  I don’t believe, and I won’t be a hypocrite by pretending otherwise.”

“Okay,” Sheppard said, following McKay back into the chapel.  McKay took a seat right at the back, as far from the other mourners as possible, and John sat next to him, offering a silent support.

All through the service, McKay sat stiff and silent.  He scowled during the eulogies, obviously disagreeing with every word said.  But he kept silent.

When the service ended, they quickly slipped out and McKay moved off to one side so that the other mourners could follow the casket bearers to the graves first.  He then moved after them, hanging back.

“So, which one is Jeannie?” John asked.

“The one at the front, with her husband and two sons.”

“Oh.  Any other relatives here?”


“No cousins or uncles or aunts?”

“No, we don’t have any cousins and the only aunt we had died some time back.  Most of the people here are presumably my parents’ friends and associates, maybe a few of Jeannie’s.  I don’t recognise any of them.”

“Is that why you’re hanging back?”

“Huh.  They probably don’t know who I am, or if they do, they’ll have heard all the bad things about me.  Either way, I don’t intend to go near them.”

They arrived at the two graves, situated next to each other, and remained silent throughout the interment.  Afterwards, everyone started to drift away, until only Jeannie and her husband were left at the gravesides.  Rodney moved towards her, but stopped when Jeannie’s husband glared at him over his wife’s shoulder.  He sighed.

“I guess now isn’t a good time.”

McKay turned to leave, but Sheppard held onto his arm.  Jeannie had looked over to Rodney and was now heading his way.  McKay turned back, and waited.

“What are you doing here?” Jeannie asked, sounding angry. “Come to make sure that they’re really gone?” She looked at him in disgust. “Well, you’ve seen for yourself that they are, so you can just go now.” 

And with that, she turned her back and walked away, not waiting to hear Rodney’s reply. 

Rodney stood there, stunned by her anger, her hatred.  Sheppard made a move as if to go after Jeannie, but McKay grabbed his arm.


“She had no right to do that to you,” Sheppard said, incensed at Jeannie’s words.  He had never seen his friend looking so dejected before, and all he really wanted to do was shake some sense into McKay’s sister.

“It’s what I suspected.  Not what I hoped for, but what I expected.  Going after her won’t make any difference.” Rodney turned away. “Let’s just go.”

Sheppard stood for a moment, anger warring inside him, but finally relented and headed back to the car with McKay.


As soon as they reached the hotel, McKay disappeared into his room, stating that he wanted to be alone for a while.  Sheppard wasn’t sure if that was a good idea, but decided to let him be.  He’d check up on Rodney later, drag him off to the restaurant for a meal, or order room service.  Whichever seemed appropriate.

In the meantime, he went for a run around the hotel grounds, hoping that he could jog some of his anger at Jeannie and McKay’s parents out.  He needed to be calm when he met up with Rodney later.


McKay sat on the couch in his room, trying to hold back tears.  There was no way he was going to cry.  Not for his parents.  Not even for Jeannie.  He wasn’t going to let them take him down, hurt him.  Not anymore. 

But… he hadn’t realised how hard it was going to be, seeing them in their caskets, dead.  He hated them, told himself so over and over again…but they were his parents.  And deep down, he knew he cared.  He just wished he didn’t.  After all, they had never really cared for him.

And Jeannie… he knew, he’d known before seeing her, that she still hated him.  He shouldn’t have allowed John to talk him into this.  He really hadn’t needed to see her hatred for him up front like that.  And yet… at least he knew where he stood now.  And that was alone.  Well, as far as blood relatives went, anyway.

So, who needed them?  Who needed her?  It was only since being on Atlantis that he had allowed himself to admit that he still cared for Jeannie… but seeing as she didn’t care about him, it was time to let that go.  To forget about her.  Or, at least, try to.  He didn’t need her or her brood.  He didn’t need blood relatives.

He had people like John, and Carson, and Radek, maybe even Elizabeth and Teyla.  He snorted, even that Ronon, perhaps?  Maybe.  Who knew?  The guy was so taciturn, he almost made Teal’c seem verbose.  Hmm, now that could be an interesting situation if the two ever met…

Anyway, going back to his friends, sure, they were still pissed at him for Doranda, but they still cared.  John had said so, and he believed him.  Had to, or else he really would have no one but himself.  And he didn’t want to be alone anymore.  He’d spent most of his life alone… so called friends tended to use and then discard him, so he’d given up on friendship.  But now… now he had tasted true friendship.  And he didn’t want to go back to how he was before.

So, forget about his so called family here on Earth.  He had a surrogate family on Atlantis, and he may be in disgrace, but they wouldn’t turn on him.  He had to believe that.  And that they would forgive him. 

And tomorrow… he had a meeting set up in the late afternoon with General Landry and some others to talk about Doranda.  No doubt they would be putting all the blame on him…and he was to blame for a lot of the events, he knew.  But he wasn’t going to let them blame him for everything.  For the loss of a potential weapon, for a start.  No one could have made it work, no matter how long it was studied for.  He knew that now.  Wished he’d realised it before… but he knew it now, and he’d make sure they knew it too. 

He sighed.  The worst part would be the fact that Sam would be there.  And he really didn’t want to have to face that.  He knew that any respect he might have earned from her was probably gone.  Would be after the meeting, for certain.  And that hurt more than he wanted to admit.

If he was honest, and right now he seemed to be being honest with himself, he knew she barely tolerated him.  She didn’t hate him, or at least, he didn’t think so.  Not any more.  But that didn’t make them friends.  Certainly didn’t make them more than friends… despite his wish otherwise.  Damn, but she was hot!  And intelligent.  And not interested in him.

He admired her.  He wanted her respect.  But… he guessed that Doranda would merely confirm her worst thoughts about him and his ego.  And destroy any respect she had for him.  He didn’t want to see that in person.  Really, he didn’t.  He wished she wasn’t going to be at the meeting, but they needed someone there who could understand the ‘techno-babble’.  And better Sam than someone like that Dr Lee.  How he remained employed at the SGC was beyond Rodney. Really, the guy was a moron.

This was so not helping, sitting here wallowing in self-pity.  A nice hot shower, a change of clothes, and some food would be good. 

And some company, too.


Rodney entered John’s room, glad that they had gotten two rooms next to each other with an adjoining door.  He wasn’t surprised to see that Sheppard wasn’t there.  He looked round the room, and spotted a note propped on a table, which he read.


Gone for a run round the grounds.
Took the cell, ring me if you need me for anything.


He smiled.  Typical.  Okay.  He’d go for a walk around the grounds.  Sooner or later the Colonel and he would cross paths.  But there was no way he was going to be talked into joining him for a run.  Uh, uh, no way. Besides, he wasn’t wearing the right clothes for that.

He left the hotel and headed into the gardens at the back.  They weren’t very big, so it wouldn’t take long to find Sheppard.  And then maybe they could go eat.  He knew of a bar not far from here.  Well, if the place was still there and still served the best steaks in Toronto.  It had been years since he’d been back to his home city, so who knew what the place was like now?  Still, it was worth a look, especially if it hadn’t changed in all this time.  Those steaks were to kill for.  Well, not quite literally, but almost…


John had jogged around the hotel grounds, making several laps as they weren’t very big, when he spotted McKay sitting on a bench, watching him approach.  He stopped when he reached him.

“Hey,” he said, starting to do some stretching and warming down exercises.

“Nice run?” McKay asked.

“Yeah.  You okay?”

“Sure.  I was thinking about checking out a bar I used to go to now and then.  Served the best steaks in Toronto.  I’m hoping it’s still there, and still as good.  I still dream of those steaks…”

Sheppard laughed at the dreamy look on McKay’s face.

“Trust you to dream of steaks,” he teased.

“Oh, and you weren’t dreaming of popcorn when it ran out that time?” Rodney responded.

“No,” John said, adding somewhat sheepishly. “Well, okay, maybe once or twice.”

 “Oh, I’m certain it would have been more than that,” Rodney stated with assurance. “So, you want to shower first, Mr Sweaty?”

John looked at his sweaty clothes and smiled.

“Oh, I don’t know, thought I’d go like this…”

He grinned at McKay’s disgusted expression, and then shook his head.

“Only kidding, McKay.  You going to come in or wait for me here?”

“I’ll wait here.  But I’m warning you now, I’m hungry, so you’d better hurry, or I might just go without you.”

“No, you won’t.  Or have you forgotten that I’ve got the car keys?” he said with a smirk and headed for his room.  It was nice to have the last word for once.


After John had showered and changed, he and McKay headed towards the hire car.  John decided now was as a good time as any to convince McKay to postpone the return to the SGC.

“You ever been to Niagara Falls?”

“Yes, why?” Rodney answered suspiciously.

“Well, I was hoping we could go tomorrow.  I’ve never been, and seeing as we’re virtually next door to them, I thought it would be a good time to go.”

“I have a meeting to attend tomorrow, you know that.”

“I’m sure they’ll understand if you want to rearrange it, what with everything.” John looked at Rodney, and carried on before he could interrupt. “Come on, one day won’t hurt.  I’d really like to see the Falls.”

“They’re not that special, not when compared to some of those falls on M1K-439.”

“McKay,” Sheppard hissed.

“What?  Oh come on, no one’s listening to us!  And it’s true.  You’d be disappointed after…”

“It’s not the same,” John interrupted him. “I want to see the best that Earth has to offer.  If we were close to the Grand Canyon, I’d want to see that too!”

“Humph.” Rodney looked annoyed. “Niagara isn’t the best.  The Angel Falls in Venezuela are taller for a start, the tallest on Earth in fact, and the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe are the largest curtain of falling water.  Niagara just happens to be the most famous.”

“You’re a real spoilsport, aren’t you?  And how come you know all this?  It’s hardly physics,”  John grumped good naturedly.

“I got fed up with people going on about Niagara being the greatest waterfall on Earth, and so memorized why it isn’t.  It really used to annoy my,” there was the slightest of pauses, “Parents.”

“I can imagine,” Sheppard said. “But I still want to go.  It’s not like I’ll be going to the other two any time soon.  Come on, don’t be a pain.”

Sheppard watched carefully, ready to argue his point more if it was necessary.  Of course, he also threw McKay his best ‘puppy dog’s eyes’.  McKay merely snorted at the look.

“Okay, fine.  We’ll go.” Rodney shook his head. “You’re worse than a little kid.  And you know what I think of them.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know.”

“You, however, can ring the SGC and rearrange the meeting.  You want to go so much, you can deal with the paper pushers.”

“That’s okay.  I’ve already rearranged the meeting for the day after tomorrow anyway.” John grinned.  Oh, the look on McKay’s face when he realised he’d been had… it was priceless.

“You, you…” Rodney spluttered, and then threw his hands up in defeat. “You’re a real pain, you know that?  What if I’d said no.”

“I wasn’t going to take no for an answer,” John said, grinning even more. “And would have used the fact that I’d already rearranged the meeting as a reason to go, if needed.”

Rodney rolled his eyes at that, while John smirked.  He was glad McKay hadn’t made things too difficult, but there was had been no way he would have accepted a ‘no’ on this.  He’d have pushed for another day if he’d felt he could get away with it, but somehow he knew that would have been asking too much.  McKay could be stubborn at times… well, most of the time, actually.

“So, you hungry?  What am I saying, you’re always hungry.  Let’s go find that bar you mentioned,” John said, as they finally arrived at the hire car.

“I’m not always hungry.  Can I help it if I need to eat regularly to avoid a hypoglycaemic attack?” Rodney huffed.

“You’re always hungry, McKay, take it from someone who knows.”

The good natured bantering continued all the way to the bar, which was still serving the best steaks in Toronto.


They spent most of the next day at the Falls, with McKay complaining about how commercialised the place was, and what was it with all these damned tourists and their crass souvenirs.  Sheppard managed to drag him onto the boat that went close to the falls, after threatening to drag him onto one of the air tours instead, and spent the time putting up with further comments from Rodney that if he wanted to be cold and wet there were much more interesting places to do it, and he didn’t want to be cold and wet in the first place.  And that if he caught a cold Sheppard could look forward to some nasty paybacks in his near future…

Sheppard was just glad to see Rodney back to his normal self.


Chapter Four – Reprimand and Respect

“Everyone's pointing their fingers
Always condemning me
Nobody knows what I believe”

Lyrics from ‘45’ by Shinedown


It was a few hours after they had returned from Canada, and Sheppard was at a loose end.  McKay was still in the meeting with the powers-that-be regarding the Arcturus Project, and he was getting worried about how long the meeting was going on for.  He knew McKay had messed up, but he also knew that McKay was not the only one to blame for it all.  That they should have realised how much Collins’ death was weighing on Rodney’s conscience, affecting his judgement.  And the military wouldn’t haven given up on the weapon easily, and it might very well have ended up the same, or worse.  If he hadn’t been with McKay, then there was a good chance McKay and whoever had gone with him would be dead.  And who knew who the military would have sent with McKay? Or how many?
No, if the higher ups were looking for a scapegoat, then they were wrong.  McKay had messed up, but others had, or would have, as well.

He knew he was hovering around the meeting room, and he knew he had attracted attention from others, but he didn’t really care.  In fact, he was feeling pretty annoyed at not being allowed to attend the meeting himself.  They should be asking him why he had chosen to back McKay.  He should be there, to defend Rodney where possible, and to take some of the blame himself.  For not protecting McKay from himself. 

He heard the door to the meeting room opening, and moved to one side.  General Landry and some others left, but not Rodney.  He approached the room, unsure whether to enter or not.  He could hear people talking, so hung back slightly.

“You okay, McKay?” A female voice he didn’t recognise asked.

“Fine.  No worse than I expected.” Rodney sounded defensive.

“You should get some rest.”

“Yeah, and everything will look better in the morning.  It’s a long time since I believed in that particular fairy tale,” he snapped.

“You’re still impossible,” the voice said in frustration, and then softened slightly. “And you should still get some rest.”

He heard someone heading for the door, and slipped to one side.  A woman left the room… ah, not just any woman.  Colonel Carter of SG-1.  He sighed, and headed into the room.  Rodney was alone, and he looked… well, defeated.  Damn.

“Hey, I was beginning to think the meeting would go on forever.”

Rodney stood tiredly.  John hadn’t seen him look so drained for a long time.

“So, how did it go?” he asked, worried by McKay’s silence.

“They tore a strip off me, and I pointed out some truths they didn’t want to hear.  Like how they were just pissed because the weapon was gone, even though it wouldn’t have worked.  How they were looking for a scapegoat and that I wasn’t it.” He sighed. “It didn’t go too well.  They threatened to have me assigned back to Earth.”


“Don’t worry, I called their bluff on that one.  They know I’m needed on Atlantis.  Besides, Elizabeth wouldn’t have allowed it, and she has more say than they like to admit.”

“So, you’ll be coming back?”

“Of course.”

“Good,” John said, smiling. “That’s all that matters.  Who cares what they think, anyway?”

“I do,” Rodney muttered. “Well, I care what she thinks, that it.  Couldn’t care less about the others.”

“She?  Oh, Colonel Carter?”

“Yeah.” Rodney looked away, sighing. “We didn’t get off to a good start.  I was… my normal obnoxious self when we first met.  Even called her a dumb blonde.” Rodney shook his head at that. “Didn’t go down too well, as you can imagine.  I ended up in Russia not long after.”


“Yeah, ouch.  The second time wasn’t much better.  In fact, my ‘solution’ got her hurt, as well as making the situation worse.  Still, she seemed not to hate me so much in the end.  Even, perhaps, like me a little.  I was hoping that my time on Atlantis might help.  That she might respect me.  I guess I messed that up.  Can’t imagine she has any respect for me now.”

“You don’t know that.”

“Don’t I?”

“She really means something to you, doesn’t she?”

“I… admire her,” he said and then smiled slightly. “And you have to admit, she is hot.  I mean, really hot.  And intelligent.  Not as smart as me, maybe, but…” He sighed, shaking his head. “Who am I kidding?  She could hardly stand me before this mess, and I can’t see that this will help matters any.”

John was surprised by McKay’s openness.  And he could see just how much gaining Carter’s respect meant to him. 

“Come on, let’s get something to eat.  And then I think you should get some rest.  They’ve put a couple of rooms aside for us for tonight.”

“Alright.  Tomorrow I’m heading out to my apartment.  I don’t intend to hang around here waiting for the Daedalus to arrive.”

“Sounds like a good idea.  Of course, I don’t have much choice.  I suppose I could get a hotel room somewhere… or crash on someone’s floor, maybe?” 

“Hmm, what?  Oh.” Rodney looked at him in surprise. “You mean my floor?”

“Well, that’s if you don’t mind the company.  If you want to be alone, that’s okay, but, well, if you want…”

And Rodney smiled.  A tired smile, but no less brilliant in John’s eyes.

“I just can’t seem to get rid of you, can I?” he said. “You’re welcome to stay.  I think I might have an air mattress hanging around somewhere…from my one and only attempt at camping some years ago.”

“Sounds like luxury to me.”


It was gone midnight.  After a somewhat subdued meal, McKay had retired to his temporary quarters, and now John was prowling the corridors of SGC, trying not to worry about how quiet McKay had been after the meeting, and wishing he could have been in there to try and take some of the heat for him.

His wanderings brought him down to the science labs, and he wasn’t too surprised when he realised where he was.  He wondered which lab was Carter’s, not that she was likely to be here at this time of night.  Then again, his experience with a lot of scientists suggested she could be.

He should probably stay out of this.  He had no idea of what Carter thought of McKay.  She might hate his guts for all he knew.  He didn’t think so from the snatch of conversation he had overheard.  In fact, he had a feeling that Rodney was wrong when he thought he’d lost any respect she might have had for him.  And if that was the case, then he needed to find a way to let McKay know.

He came to a lab that was occupied, and sure enough, it was Colonel Carter who was burning the midnight oil, so to speak.  He wandered in, unsure of what to say, if anything.  He was a little in awe of the SG-1 team despite his own experiences in the Pegasus galaxy, if he was being honest.  Not that he was going to admit that to anyone, of course.


He looked up and saw Carter watching him curiously.

“Oh, hi,” he said.

“Anything I can do for you, Colonel Sheppard?”

“Oh, not really.” He put on his most charming smile. “Just taking a walk before I turn in.”

Carter looked at the clock, and then back at him with a smile.

“Up late, aren’t you?” she asked.

“I could say the same for you too,” he replied.

“Ah,” she said, turning back to her computer. “Got involved in an experiment.”

“I understand.  Happens a lot on Atlantis too.  McKay’s the worst.  I swear, you put an Ancient artefact in front of him and the universe disappears until he’s figured out what it does and how it works.  Fortunately he doesn’t forget to eat, but sleep?”

“It’s a curse,” she said with a grin. “A lot of us scientists suffer from it.  So what has you wandering around this late?”

“Oh, me.  Well, I’m well known for my nocturnal wanderings.  McKay claims that I’m part bat.”

She laughed at that.

“McKay has a way with words, doesn’t he?” she said, shaking her head slightly.  “I’ve read some of the reports from Atlantis.  He’s changed.”

“I don’t know about that.  Personally, I think it’s more a case of discovering who is really was all along.  Of course, it wouldn’t do to tell him that.” He moved further into the lab.  “Actually, I’m a little… concerned… about him.  I get the feeling the meeting didn’t go too well.”

“No,” she sighed. “But he held his own.  And it helped that Dr Weir and Dr Zelenka had sent in reports defending him to some extent and making it clear he was needed on Atlantis.”

“I hadn’t realised they had done that,” he said in surprise. “Damn, if I’d have known…” He looked away briefly. “I should have been in that damned meeting anyway.”

“I think he was somewhat surprised himself, though he hid it well.  Personally, I didn’t see any point in holding the meeting, especially when he’s just lost his parents.”

“Yeah, he’s not handling that too well.”

“He told me once how they argued all the time and blamed him.”

“Yeah, he had a rough childhood by all accounts.  He wasn’t going to attend the funeral, but I persuaded him it might be best.  Put some old ghosts to rest, that sort of thing.  Not so sure it was a good idea now.  It hit him harder than he expected, and his sister…” he trailed off, unsure if he should have said as much as he had.

“His sister?”

“Basically told him to go to hell in all but words.”


“Yeah, oh.  To be honest, I just want to get him back to Atlantis, where his friends are.” He shrugged his shoulders.

“It’s good, that he has friends.  He’s not the most… easy person to get on with.”

“No, but he’s worth the effort.  He’s pulled our asses out of the fire more times than I can remember.  Saved my life more than once.  Risked his own life to do it.” He smiled. “He might rant and whine and complain, not to mention his massive ego and total lack of tact or diplomacy, but he comes through time and time again.  And even when he’s terrified, he does what needs to be done to save the city or a friend.  He does some of his best work when he’s terrified.”

“I admit that we didn’t meet in the best of circumstances, but it’s possible I underestimated him and his potential.”

“Yeah, most people do.  And he did call you a dumb blonde, apparently.”

“He told you that?”

“Yeah.  Think he regrets that you both started off on the wrong foot like that.”

“He can be a real jerk,” she said. “But he redeemed himself somewhat the second time we met, eventually.”

“Look, I’m probably speaking out of turn here, and I know he’d make my life miserable if he knew I was telling you this, but he really seems to admire you.  And that’s pretty amazing, when you think about it.  The man doesn’t admire many people other than himself.” He smirked slightly at that last bit.

Carter seemed surprised by his comments.

“Admires me?”

“Uh huh.  And it’s killing him thinking that any small amount of respect you might have had for him is probably gone due to his recent mistake.”

“Oh.” She was quiet for a moment, and then sighed. “I think I need to talk to him.  I do respect him for what he has achieved on Atlantis. And I’m not just talking about the technology, but the fact he goes on missions, and has friends.  That he’s found his place in the universe and embraced it, despite the dangers involved.  And yes, he made a mistake.  Let that big ego of his get the better of him.  But it’s not like I haven’t made mistakes in the past, and we all have egos that we have had to deal with.  It’s just that his is so in your face, whereas most of us keep them hidden to some extent.”

He relaxed, relieved by her words.

“You’ll talk to him, then?”


“And you won’t mention this conversation?”

“Why?  You afraid of his wrath?” She laughed.

“Hey, I don’t want to get on his wrong side.  Been there, done that, had the environmental controls in my quarters freeze my ass off for a couple of days as a result of it!  Not to mention a certain deserving pain in the ass scientist, who makes Rodney seem like the diplomatic sort, had the water cut off in his quarters, and it took nearly a week to fix that little ‘gremlin’.  No, I know better than to piss him off!”

“I wouldn’t want you to suffer any other ‘gremlins’ to make your life difficult,” she said with a grin. “But I will mention that you were concerned for him.  He’ll probably figure out you came to see me anyway.”

“I suppose so.  Guess I’ll just have to cope.” He looked at his watch. “Suppose I’d better go to bed.” He glanced back at her, grinning cheekily. “Don’t let your experiment suck you in too much.”

“I won’t,” she said with a smile.

He headed for his quarters, feeling somewhat lighter than he had for a while now.


Rodney headed to the mess for breakfast, before Sheppard and he headed out to his apartment.  He couldn’t believe he was letting the Colonel bunk down at his place, and had no doubt he was going to regret it.  Still, he had to admit, he didn’t really want to be alone right now. 

Grabbing some food, or what passed for food here, and some coffee, he found a seat in the corner, away from anyone else.  Okay, he might not want to be alone, but he was picky about who he wanted to spend any time with.  And he was a long way from anyone, other than Sheppard, who he might want to spend time with right now, and the Colonel was apparently ‘taking care of business’ before heading out with him in a bit.

He had just started in on the almost-food, when someone approached his table.

“Mind if I join you?”

He looked up, startled to see Sam standing there. 

“Um, if you want,” he stammered out.  Crap, he really didn’t want to talk to her.  He’d rather not know for certain how much she didn’t like or respect him at the moment.  Regardless, she sat down and started in on her breakfast.

“So, I hear you’re heading off base for a bit.”

“Yes.  Thought I’d check my apartment was still in one piece.”

“Colonel Sheppard’s staying with you, so I’ve heard.”

He grimaced, and then sighed.

“He’s a leach.  Can’t get rid of him.  Believe me, I’ve tried.”

“I thought he was supposed to be part bat?” she asked, smiling.

“Oh.” He narrowed his eyes. “Been up to his nocturnal wanderings, I take it.”


“And he just happened to bump into you?”

“No, I don’t think it was purely by chance he ended up at my lab last night.  Of course, he didn’t want me to mention that.  He’s worried he might find gremlins at work in his quarters when he returns to Atlantis.  You didn’t really cause his room to freeze up, did you?”

“Oh yes, I did.  He deserved it, too, ” he said, smiling at the memory.

“And who was it who had his water cut off for nearly a week?”

“That would be telling, though I will say that it was Zelenka who let it go on for a week.  I had only planned for a couple of days.” He smirked. “Now pissing off Zelenka is far more dangerous than pissing me off.  Sneaky little Czech, I’m just glad he hasn’t pulled anything on me, yet.  Though I’d probably deserve it if he did,” he paused and looked away, a haunted look returning to his eyes. “Especially lately.”

“We all make mistakes,” Sam said quietly.

“You wouldn’t have.  If you had been in charge, you wouldn’t have destroyed most of a solar system, not to mention nearly get your friend and yourself blown up with it.” He closed his eyes.  Sam reached out and patted his hand briefly, causing him to look at her.

“We all make mistakes, McKay.  I might not have done what you did in that situation, but I’ve made other mistakes with far reaching consequences.  You let your ego get the better of you, I’ve let my emotions do the same.  The replicator me, for instance.  I made some bad judgments there.” And then she grinned. “Welcome to the human race, McKay.”

“Oh, very funny,” he muttered, feeling better than he had for days.  “So, what exactly did the Colonel say about me?  How much payback am I talking here?”

“Only that you were having a tough time of things.  I’m sorry to hear about your parents, by the way.  I know you weren’t close, but it’s still a lousy thing to have to deal with.”

“Perhaps,” he said, clearly not wanting to talk about that.

“And that he was worried about you.  Seems to me like he’s a good friend.  And I’m glad that you’ve found some, good friends, that is,” she paused for a moment. “And I have to admit to being…impressed, and surprised, by you being on a first contact team.”


“Don’t let it go to your head, McKay, but yes.  I didn’t think you had it in you.  I was wrong, and I’m sorry about that.”

“So,” he paused, and then that familiar smug look returned to his face. “Does this mean you fancy me?  Oh, what am I saying?  Of course you do…”

“Not even in your dreams, McKay,” she threatened.

“Ah, playing hard to get?  Really, so childish.  Why don’t you just admit to it and be done with it?”

“You…” she shook her head. “Are still the most annoying, irritating and obnoxious person I’ve ever met…”

“I take it you haven’t met Kavanagh, then?” A voice said, causing them to jump slightly.

“Colonel, how long have you be eavesdropping on our conversation?” McKay lifted an eyebrow.

“Just long enough to know Carter doesn’t fancy you,” John said, smiling and then turning to Sam. “Trust me, Kavanagh makes McKay look like a veritable saint.”

“In which case, I hope never to meet the guy.  McKay’s bad enough.”

“I am still here, you know?” his slightly outraged voice said.

“Oh, he’s not that bad, once you get past the whining and the ego.  Really.” John smirked.

“Now that’s just… so not nice.”

“And his lack of people skills, and hypochondria,” Sheppard continued.

“I am not a hypochondriac…”

“Oh, and his almost constant complaining, and his rants and tantrums…”

”I do not rant.  And I certainly do not have tantrums…”

“Boys!” Sam said, interrupting their insults. “Really, you’re worse than kids.” She grinned. “And I thought that Jack and Daniel were bad.”

“Oh now, that’s just insulting,” he exclaimed.

“Actually,” Sheppard stated. “I think I’ll take it as a compliment.”

“You would,” he said, shaking his head. 

“So, when are you heading out?” Carter asked.

“When McKay here is ready,” Sheppard said turning to him, looking at the partially eaten food. “You gonna finish that, or can I tempt you away with the promise of waffles at a diner…”

He looked at the remains of his breakfast, and then back at Sheppard.

“Just about anything would be better than this.  How come the SGC food is so bad?”

“It’s one of those mysteries that are beyond explanation.” Sam grinned. “And believe me, it’s been researched by some of the best.”

“Oh, so that’s what SG-1 gets up to in its spare time, then?” Sheppard teased.

“Not anymore.  We gave it up as a lost cause some time ago.  Though I think Mitchell wants us to re-explore it.”

“All very interesting, I’m sure, but I think we’ll go and find some real food,” he interrupted. “This even makes that tuttle root soup that Teyla’s been experimenting with seem good.  And that’s saying something!”

He stood, gathering his tray up.

“Well, good seeing you again, Sam.”

“And you, though I can’t believe I’m saying that.”

“You’re such a riot,” he muttered, taking his tray over to the clean up area.  He returned shortly, rubbing his hands together.

“So, you coming, Sheppard?” he asked.

“Yeah, I’m coming.  Nice meeting you, Colonel.”

“You too.” Sam turned to look at McKay. “And take care out there.”

“We will,” he replied. “Or at least, I will.  The Colonel on the other hand…”

And the teasing continued as they left the mess and headed out in search of a decent meal.

The End

Author's Notes: I  realised after writing this that in ‘Letters from Pegasus’ McKay says he has never been to Niagara Falls, but in this story he has - a slight error on my part.  Oh well, it's an AU now anyway, thanks to Season Three!

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