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[ The Unpredictability of Attraction ]
When General Landry informs Sam that she’s needed in the Pegasus Galaxy in the wake of Elizabeth’s absence -- and no one would call it anything other than that no matter how doubtful they thought her return -- she blinks at him. “Sir?”
Landry folds his arms over his desk and nods. “For the time being.”
“Uh,” Sam says, laughing slightly. “Sir, I’m not sure you’re aware, but Doctor McKay and I --”
“I’m aware that there have been issues between the two of you in the past, but do you honestly mean to tell me that your personal relationship with the chief science officer of an expedition that just lost its leader of the last three years is rancorous enough that you would say no to working in the city of the Ancients? That’s like Mecca to you, isn’t it?”
“Well, it’s like Mecca to Daniel; to me, it’s just really cool,” she says, and then clears her throat. “This isn’t a request, is it, sir? You’re not offering me the position so much as…”
“You ship out in 48 hours,” he says, grinning. “You can work out your problems with your ex-boyfriend on your own time.”
“Sir, he’s not…” She sighs, pursing her lips. “My professional relationship with McKay is what I was referring to. I have not nor will I ever be current, future, or ex with him.”
He nods. “Weren’t you married to him in that other universe?”
“Aw, man,” she grumbles, fiddling with her fingernails. “Ya know, I’m really getting tired of being teased about that; I never should have put it in my mission report. I shouldn’t be held responsible for her actions -- she wasn’t even me. She was still a major and… and… Clearly, that universe was not in any way related to ours. I mean, you were a massive --”
“Colonel?” Landry levels her with a look and she slumps slightly in her seat.
“-- jerk,” she finishes lamely, breaking off with a sigh.
His mouth flattens. “I believe you have some packing to do.”
“Yes, sir,” she says. She stands and comes to attention.
She hears him laughing as she closes the door behind her.
“Shit,” she says to herself, and then trudges home to start packing.
When she arrives in Atlantis, it’s to a flurry of commotion and confusion, people greeting her hesitantly as though welcoming her is admitting Elizabeth is gone for good. It is awkward and unsettling, and she has to resist the urge to make a citywide announcement that she is just the Step-Mom; she’s not in any way trying to replace the Mom they all love and respect.
John presents her with the most thoughtful gift of all, though later he confesses that it had actually been Rodney’s gift. “Sorry,” he says with a careless shrug. “I hadn’t thought ahead to, ya know, get you anything, and… It’s easy to fuck with McKay. I really do welcome you, though.”
She leans against her desk, a wry grin on her face. “No offense taken, Colonel.” She laughs then and rolls her eyes. “The look on his face when he saw that on my desk? I wish I could have taken a picture for you.”
John looks so truly disappointed that she laughs even harder.
Lorne finds her at the end of her first week and pulls her into one of the empty conference rooms that no one uses. “Okay, I need to explain how this base works,” he says. He then proceeds to tell her that she can throw out the rulebook because Pegasus doesn’t adhere to it. “This ain’t the SGC, Colonel,” he says with a wry grin. “The military protocol is relaxed enough to be virtually unrecognizable, but it works here. It’s something you get used to.”
He isn't kidding. In the cafeteria, there are no quartered off sections: military here, science there, soft-sciences elsewhere, medical on the fringe. They all meld together like a smorgasbord of people, a Dinty Moore Beef Stew of togetherness unlike anything at the SGC. The military respects the science department to a degree she never would have foreseen.
“How did you manage that,” she asks Rodney, reaching out to hold him back after a morning briefing.
He grins. “Let's just say that they learned fairly quickly that if you piss off the science team, your existence becomes miserable very soon thereafter.”
“Ah,” she says, nodding her head. “See that’s the problem with the SGC base. We don’t all live together. Messing with environmentals wasn’t an option.”
“Messing with the environmentals, transporters not going where they’re meant to go, unfortunate assignments for KP duty,” he said, ticking it off on his fingers. “It helps to have the military leader in your back pocket.”
Lorne, however, tells a different story. “Yeah, no, they did do that. I worked with McKay one of my first missions here and I guess I was maybe…” He smirks, shrugging. “Okay, I was definitely an asshole to him. My quarters were in the thirties for a week.”
He perches on the edge of her desk and continues. “But mostly it’s the fact that they save our asses just as much as we save theirs. It’s difficult to be an asshole to a guy you owe your life to.”
Aside from the incredibly, god-awfully awkward moment when she’d first arrived and Rodney felt the need to “clear the air” about their “unrequited lust” and confess to being in a relationship, Sam finds that working with Rodney isn’t nearly as unpleasant as it had been in the past.
In fact, she realizes, he is even more brilliant than she’d begrudgingly forced herself to admit all those years ago when he’d been rude and callous and conceited. Not that he’s ever stopped being any of those things, but she sees now that he is also more. It’s not something she’d really noticed about him in the few times they’d worked together since.
When she confesses she really hadn't been looking forward to putting up with Rodney on a regular basis, John tells her, “He’s still the same on the surface now as he was when I first met him. He can be a real asshole, but… After four years on my team, I’ve realized that, mostly, that’s all bullshit posturing.”
Surprisingly, she finds she isn’t needed all that much in the labs. She’d assumed that she would have an impossibly full plate as commander of Atlantis with the paperwork involved, fighting with the IOA, dealing with offworld missions, the military, and the science team. She does, but she isn’t needed to save the day at the last minute because, generally, by the time she gets to a computer, Rodney is already halfway to solving the problem.
It actually makes her a little sad, in a nostalgic sort of way. She finds herself standing back and watching Rodney’s fingers flying over his laptop as he barks out orders, and Zelenka and Simpson run around doing his bidding, and thinking: That used to be me.
She’s never been prone to professional jealousy but it would be a lie to say there aren't times when she resents that it's Rodney saving the day and not her. But then a team comes home from off-world injured and she remembers why she's there, and that who saves the day doesn't matter, only that it is saved.
It is both surprising and not that Rodney makes a great CSO. When she thinks about being under his leadership, she cringes, expecting yelling and insults and intolerance for mistakes.
All of that is true, but when she goes down to the labs, she also sees moments that explain why very few scientists have ever requested to be released from Rodney’s team. In fact, there’s only one that springs to mind and that’s Kavanaugh; no surprise as Sam herself had found it difficult to work with him.
One evening while she views from the sidelines, chatting idly with Simpson about her latest project, she watches a young scientist fresh from the Daedalus’ latest drop timidly approach Rodney.
“Dr. McKay, I think I’ve finished my calculations on the jumper hyperdrive project. Would you mind looking them over?” she asks, biting her lip and obviously bracing herself for Rodney’s special brand of snark.
Rodney looks at her and raises an eyebrow. “Tell me why I’m saying no, Sellers.”
The woman steps back. “Um.”
Rodney just continues looking at her, waiting patiently. Sam’s so distracted watching this that she doesn’t notice Simpson moving back to her table and resuming her work.
“Because I should go over it myself until I'm sure it's correct before bringing it to you,” she says, her voice a question.
Rodney smiles, expression softening. “Exactly, Sellers. When you can come to me with a statement instead of a question, then I will look over your work.”
Sam finds herself smiling and feeling oddly proud of Rodney.
When the duplicate copies of Elizabeth Weir and the rest of AR-1 show up, John is stoic and quietly sad, and smiles at Sam when she puts a hand on his shoulder. He averts his eyes and walks away. He very clearly does not have anything to say about the issue, other than to inform her that someone would clean out Elizabeth’s quarters to send her personal items home.
Rodney, on the other hand, is openly heart-broken, eyes shining with unshed tears, mouth turned down in misery. He works non-stop in his lab for days, and Sam finds herself standing in the doorway and watching him, worrying about him. Wondering if he’s eating enough, if he’s getting enough sleep.
She watches his people rally around him, both his science team and his off-world team. The lab continues to work around him seamlessly, obviously motivated by a need to please him even when his mind is elsewhere. She had half-expected the need to step in and take up where Rodney left off, but Radek is there well before her, handing out assignments and checking over people’s work.
Teyla comes in and speaks softly into his ear, imploring him to come back out, to come join them for a meal together, to stop trapping himself in his work.
John doesn’t say much at all, just brings him coffee and slips him sandwiches and powerbars.
Ronon swats him on the back, sometimes on the ass, and physically drags him out of his chair and down the hall. He’s all brute force and no diplomacy or sympathy at all, but he’s the only one who actually gets Rodney out of his chair and moving.
She thinks about him telling her all those years ago that Teal’c was already dead, that after 48 hours there was no reason to hold on to any hope they’d ever get him back. Rodney had held out hope for Elizabeth for months, and only at that realization does Sam finally forgive him.
Despite the relative ease in working with Rodney now -- as compared to the infuriating experience of working with him seven years ago -- there are still moments when she finds arguing with Rodney is much easier than talking to him.
“McKay, that’s an order.”
“No,” she says, and feels vaguely distracted at the way John’s eyes dart back and forth between her and Rodney, his teeth biting into his lip as he attempts to hold back what Sam can only assume are snickers. “Are you five? Do you think if you keep asking me I’m going to give in? No, you may not continue to make your idiot underlings, as you so maturely put it, sit in the corner wearing a dunce cap.”
Rodney crosses his arms and pouts at her, his lower lip sticking out. “Well, it’s effective,” he says finally, and apparently whining is an art form for him. He is very good at it. “I made Carlsberg do it last week and he hasn’t fucked up once since.”
She rolls her eyes, huffing out an annoyed breath. John turns away from them so she can’t see his smirk. John might be great at covert operations in the field, but he’s awful at hiding his obvious amusement when it comes to Rodney. “Regardless, Rodney. Stop it.”
“You know, I’m not military,” Rodney says, his arms falling to dangle at his sides. He obviously knows he’s lost this fight but he’s got to try one last time -- that last little bark the Chihuahua gives even after the door is closed. “Technically, you can’t order me to do anything.”
Sam rises and plants her hands on her desk. “Technically, Dr. McKay, I am commander of this base, and as such, am fully within my rights to order you whenever I damn well please,” she says, raising an eyebrow at him. “Now. The matter is closed. You will burn that dunce cap and never, ever humiliate a member of your science team in such a public fashion again so long as I am here.”
Rodney leaves with his head down and John drops all pretenses, laughing and sinking into the chair opposite her. “You know he’s just gonna do it in private now, right?”
She sighs. “Okay, honestly, I think the dunce cap is funny. God knows I’ve wanted to do it before. But I can’t in good conscience continue to allow him to humiliate his department.” She shrugged. “What he does out of the view of the rest of the science team, however…”
“Right,” John says, nodding and smirking, slouching in his seat and crossing his arms. “Gotcha.”
A week before Woolsey is scheduled to arrive at the six-month mark, Sam asks for evaluations to be turned in. John’s are unsurprisingly concise, to the point, and nondescript. He has very little negative to say unless the Marine or airman in question requires a transfer. Sam finds more detailed information in Lorne’s briefs.
John’s report says, “Satisfactory performance but needs discipline.”
Lorne’s report says, “While proficient in weapons and satisfactory in hand to hand, he lacks discipline and the ability to keep his mouth shut. Resistant to authority but not to the point of outright defiance. Suggest more one on one training with Ronon, and more duty time in the labs with Dr. McKay.”
Sam easily translates this to mean he needs his ass kicked and needs to go toe to toe with someone who's not in his chain of command and won’t be intimidated by his attitude.
Her translations prove accurate in her and John’s morning briefings. “Yeah, he’s a punk, thinks just because his Dad is a career politician that he doesn't have to conform.” He shrugs, grinning. “Lorne’s on it.”
She learns by watching that John leads by example and through the people he surrounds himself with, and he surrounds himself with only the best. He delegates to Lorne, Ronon, and Teyla, and only steps in when need be. His people follow him because they love him, not because he demands them to. It’s a subtle difference, but one that makes his men and women fiercely loyal.
Rodney evaluations are, on the other hand, notably informative. He sends a formal report ready to be handed over to the brass and on each is a sticky-note that does the translations for her.
The report says, “Shows potential. Needs more field experience. Suggest off-world team placement for low-impact missions.”
The sticky note says, in his tiny scrawl, “Competent but lacks self-confidence. Requires handholding. This would be endearing in a botanist or other insignificant or inconsequential field, but not in an astrophysicist, where a lack of self-confidence can result in death. Put him on a team with one of the Athosian women who has the tolerance required to feed his ego and he might make a Zelenka 2.0 one day.”
Sam had told Rodney once that it was a shame that he’d shown her his softer side as she’d been much more attracted to him when she hated him. She’d said it to fuck with him, but it had also been true. Unfortunately for her sanity, it was still true.
The worst part is that she does it to herself.
After Ellis had dressed him down so thoroughly regarding the Replicators, he’s so dejected that John tells her he isn’t working as effectively as he normally does. “He doesn’t even respond to chocolate pudding,” John says, looking stricken. He spreads his hands out helplessly. “Chocolate! I even stole a can of whipped cream and he still didn’t crack a grin.”
She goes down to his lab late that night, when virtually everyone else is in bed, and watches him staring down at his computer looking bewildered and stressed out and depressed.
“Still feeling sorry for yourself, I see,” she says, because this is how they interact. If it were Daniel, she would have offered an ear to listen, maybe taken him out for drinks. Rodney, though -- she only knows to argue with him. “Maybe Ellis was right.”
“Excuse me,” he says, eyes flashing angrily.
She leans over his lab table and props her head on her fists. “Well, if you’re gonna let that comment of his about your manhood distract you so much, maybe he wasn’t that far off.”
He points at her. “Nice try, Colonel. Sheppard told me you stood up for me.”
“That was before I knew you were gonna give up,” Sam says with a shrug, trailing a finger over the lab table casually. “It’s been two weeks and still… nothing.”
“I haven’t given up,” he yells, voice going high. “This is incredibly complex code!”
“I don’t know,” she says, shaking her head. “I just remember I kept hearing you bragging to everyone that this code was your bitch and now you’re sitting here at two in the morning glaring at it like it kicked your puppy.”
“For your information, O Anointed One,” he starts, and then he’s off, insult after insult, condemnations and recriminations and barbs flung at her and everyone at the SGC, at everyone in the military, at Ellis and Caldwell, and even at John. He’s ranting and raving and snarling and red-faced and pissed, and she finds herself smiling.
It starts then, as he’s pointing at her hair and telling her that she’d been much more eye-candy worthy when it was short and pixie-like, this urge to kiss him creeping up her spine. There is something about an outraged Rodney McKay that makes her feel on fire, and somewhere along the line of hating him as a person, she’d forgotten just how much he got under her skin and made her want things that she would never admit to under any circumstance.
“And furthermore,” he yells, and then he stops, his finger inches from her nose. His eyes widen and his mouth forms into an O and then he’s typing. “Oh,” he says, his voice breathless and full of wonder. “Oh, oh, why didn’t I ever think of that, how has that… oh, I am a fucking genius, Carter, you don’t even understand the depths of my brain power,” he says, and still, he steadily types. Fingers hitting the keys at least 100 words per minute as he continuously talks about how right he is, how smart he is, how much smarter than her he is.
And that’s what gets her. Not the insults or the barbs, not the shuffling feet and stammering way he has when he's being contrite or conciliatory, not even the rare moment when he’s cocksure and something almost approaching suave when he gives her the once over in clear appreciation and says something untoward. The wonder of discovery, the jolt of a new idea on a stalled out project, the sheer happiness at his own brilliance -- that is her undoing.
With a fire low in her belly, she inches closer to stand next to him, watching the concentration, imagining she can see the way the gears in his head are turning. Smart has always been sexy to her, and that -- coupled with the way his mouth tilts down just a little in concentration, the way his eyes flash, the way his fingers fly through the air and on the keyboard -- makes her ache.
“Colonel,” he says. She blinks and realizes he’s stopped typing and is looking at her with something like understanding and something like disbelief.
She kisses him. She initiates it, standing next to him in the empty lab, wanting to lean over and taste the sharp line of his lips with her tongue so bad that she actually forgets who she is, whom she is with, and what she is doing.
When she pulls back, he’s looking at her with wonder and confusion, his hand rising to touch his lips. “Colonel,” he says again.
“Sorry,” she says, taking a quick step back. “I --”
“No,” he says, stepping forward and taking her by the arm. “Wait, don’t go --”
“Get some sleep, McKay,” she says, standing up straighter. She turns and strides out, cursing herself.
She avoids him and he avoids her until the inevitable happens, though she hadn’t realized it was inevitable until it was actually happening.
He did it. He actually did it; he came up with a plan to destroy the Replicators once and for all. A crazy, impossible plan that only he could have come up with in that cracked, perfect brain of his. And it worked.
He shows up at her quarters that night just after she’s changed into sweats and a tank top, bra off and hair down, almost about to go to sleep. She opens the door and blinks at him as he bulldozes by her before she can even get his name past her lips.
“I did it,” he says, like he still didn’t believe it.
“You did,” she agrees, smiling at him and crossing her arms over her chest. She is acutely aware that her quarters are cold and her nipples are pert and at attention beneath the thin material of her tank top.
He quickly marches up to her, eyes flashing, the adrenaline obviously still pumping through his veins, and she understands that. Understands that after an improbable save no one believed could be pulled off but had been, the adrenaline makes you feel high, and dizzy, and amazing.
He stops in front of her and looks her right in the eyes and she knows that this game is over. There is no use fighting it because the fire is in her belly, her resolve has already melted, and she wants him more than she’s wanted anyone in a very long time.
“You kissed me,” he says.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she says, because she’s supposed to argue. She doesn’t know how not to argue with Rodney. “When did this supposed kiss happen?”
He grins, though, bouncing on the balls of his feet. “Oh, no, you don’t! You kissed me, and I pulled off the inconceivable today, and I saw the way you looked at me and you don’t want to want me but you do,” he says, jabbing a finger into her collarbone. “You want me!”
Her eyes flick to the side and she hugs her arms tighter to her chest. “It would be incredibly unprofessional if you and I were to --”
“Oh, my god,” he says, breathless and somehow standing even closer. She can smell the beer on his breath from his celebratory hurrah with John. He’s not drunk, though, eyes sharp and alert. “You’re not denying it.”
Short of breath and feeling just this side of crazy, she stands her ground and continues to not deny it.
“Oh,” he says, and then he steps forward, cups her face in his hands, and kisses her.
He kisses her with his wide mouth and clever tongue, and every nerve ending in her body zings from it. She uncrosses her arms and resettles them on his broad chest, muscular now from his trips through the gate with his team. She brushes her thumbs over his nipples and grins against his mouth at his sharp intake of breath.
“Oh, wow,” he moans, and it sends shivers down her spine. She thrums with want and need. “You’re really gonna let this happen.”
“Stop talking me out of it,” she says, and then nips his lips before pulling back and reaching down to take his shirt off, skimming her hands up his chest as she does.
“I knew you were hot,” he says, grinning and reaching over to crush her to him, his arms winding around her, hands going to her ass to pull her against him. His mouth remains on hers as his hard on rubs against her through his pants and her sweats. She feels her knees give just a little with anticipation. “Seven years I’ve wanted this.”
She pushes him towards the bed and when he falls onto it, she reaches up and takes her own shirt off. He stares up at her with his mouth agape at the sight of her breasts. She kneels on the floor and reaches over to undo his pants, taking them down an inch at a time, her fingers trailing over each inch of bared skin. He leans over and kisses her as he kicks his pants off his feet, and she wriggles out of her sweats in time to straddle him, rocking against him as they kiss. Her breasts brush over his chest and her head spins.
He lays her down on her bed, hands running down her naked body in an achingly slow pattern as his tongue winds with hers. When he reaches between her thighs and fits his hand just there, she moans and arches into the touch and he moans right back, cock bumping against her thigh with the helpless hitch of his hips.
“I find you incredibly sexy,” he mutters against her jaw and he turns to watch his hand doing things to her that make her clutch at his back.
“I find you incredibly annoying,” she answers back, but all of its meaning is lost in the way she squeezes her eyes shut and sighs as his fingers delve inside of her in a perfect rhythm. It’s not surprising that he knows what to do with them. She’s been fascinated with the speed of his hands for the past few months, on his tablet typing furiously, in the air drawing symbols, creating infuriatingly beautiful lines of code so quick the naked eye can barely keep up. She’s more than once found herself thinking about his long, agile fingers, what they might feel like on her body, inside of her.
He grins against her neck; she can feel his mouth quirking against her skin. “But sexy also, right?”
She hooks a knee up as her hips buck into his touch. “Regrettably, yes,” she says, voice raw and hoarse, breathless. “McKay, condom, drawer, now.”
“God, yes,” he says, and then he’s fumbling in her nightstand, sending things crashing to the floor. She hears shattering glass but she doesn’t care because he comes back with a condom and rips it open with his teeth. He kneels on her bed and hisses as he rolls it on, and then centers himself over her. “Last chance to tell me to go to hell.”
“Didn’t I tell you to shut up,” she says, and then reaches up to grab the back of his neck, hauling him down to her to kiss him again because she can’t get enough of that mouth.
He slides into her easily and fills her up. It feels incredible, his tongue in her mouth, his cock inside her, his hips starting to move against her. His hand is cupping her breast, thumb brushing over a taut and sensitive nipple. Her arousal just ratchets up and up and up until she feels like she’s going to spill over with it.
The pace is slow at first but quickly becomes something erratic, wild and base, animalistic, and she’s clawing at his back and unable to rein in her moans. He seals his mouth over hers until she can’t breath, her arms winding around the back of his neck as he goes harder and faster, and she’s building and building and building toward what she knows is going to be an amazing orgasm.
She comes from her head to her toes, convulsing around him. He’s babbling but she doesn’t know what he’s saying because it lasts for minutes, rocks her to her core. It’s been building up for seven years, seven years of anger and hatred and reluctant respect and want and lust. It all comes to a head here in her bed on Atlantis on the night that they destroyed the things that killed the leader she replaced. There’s a perfect analogy in this that she could come up with but she’s too exhausted to even think about being coherent.
When he comes, he says, “Oh, Sam,” and he says it in a way that makes her heart ache and she has to kiss him, slow and sweet.
Afterward, he rolls off of her panting, and keeps a hand on her belly.
A little while later, after they both can breathe again and her head has stopped spinning, she covers his hand with hers and says softly, to take the sting out of it, “I’m kind of disgusted with myself.”
He laughs and she smiles. “But you wanna do it again, right?”
She rolls her eyes and turns her head to look at him. One side of her mouth quirks up. “Maybe.”
After Sam breaks her leg, she’s surprised and touched at how thoughtful Rodney can be. He brings her lunch and coffee and carries her notes to and from the conference room and her office. She doesn’t ask him to and he doesn’t ask if she wants him to, he just does it. John does too, but only belatedly, because he’s nice and chivalrous but kind of oblivious.
“Oh, right, yeah,” he says when Rodney reaches for her papers, and hangs his head a little, scratching the back of his neck. “Is there, um, anything else you need help with?”
“I’m fine,” she says, feeling awkward and obvious as Rodney walks ahead of them to her office to deposit her paperwork. “This really isn’t necessary. I can function fine on my own.”
John laughs and shrugs. “He surprises you sometimes, right? You think he’s not paying attention but he is. He’s actually kind of generous in his own Rodney-specific way.”
She thinks John knows by the way he looks from her to Rodney with a small smile playing over his lips.
She buzzes Rodney late one night on the comms and asks him to come see her. He shows up obviously thinking she’s called him for sex, and his smile drops a little when he sees her expression.
“Did you tell him?”
Rodney’s hands twist together. “Tell who what?”
“Sheppard,” she says, crossing her arms and propping her leg on the chair beside her bed.
He frowns in confusion. “Tell Sheppard what?”
“About us, McKay,” she says slowly. “About the two of us sleeping together.”
“Oh,” he says, freezing. “I… should I not have?”
She closes her eyes and lets her head drop forward. “Rodney. I wish you hadn’t done that.”
“I’m sorry?” He steps forward and looks at her nervously. “He asked. He’s known about my feelings for you and he… noticed things.”
She sighs and leans back against the headboard of her bed. “Okay,” she says, nodding. “I just… I was hoping this wouldn’t spread around the base, McKay.”
“I’ve only told him,” he says, taking a step back and lifting his chin up. “I’m not besmirching your honor, Sam.”
She arches an eyebrow at him. “That’s not what I meant.”
“Look, he’s good at discreet,” Rodney says, stepping towards the door. “Don’t worry, no one else will know about us.”
“Rodney,” she calls, but he’s already left.
“And Lorne says the new guys are shaping up nicely,” John finishes, smacking his paper down on the desk. “Of course, he always says that. Ronon, on the other hand, says they aren’t worth shit.”
Sam grins. “And Ronon always says that as well.”
He laughs, nodding. “So I figure? About 50/50.” He hesitates, and waves his hand. “Well. 70/30. Ronon’s a little too harsh sometimes.”
She looks down at her notes. “Well, that’s all I have to talk about, John.” She looks at him. “Anything you want to bring to my attention?”
He hesitates in the middle of rising out of his chair, looking at her. “Uh. Actually, yeah,” he says, sitting back down and leaning forward. “But not about anything official.”
She presses her lips together. “All right.”
“About Rodney,” he says, grimacing and looking away.
She breathes out through her nose. “Listen, Colonel, I’m not prepared to speak to you about my personal--”
“Sorry, I know, none of my business,” he says, standing and holding up his hands. “I just wanted to say… He wasn’t bragging.”
She looks up at him. “What?”
“He wasn’t bragging about it,” he says, avoiding looking at her, standing stiff and straight. He’s clearly uncomfortable, but willing to push forward. “About you and him. I just noticed a difference between the way you acted around each other. I asked. He didn’t volunteer anything, he just confirmed.”
A wry smiles plays on her lips. “What about 'don't ask, don't tell' do you not understand, Colonel?”
He grins back, finally meeting her eyes again. “Sorry. Never was good at following the rules.”
She nods, leaning back in her chair. “Understood, John.”
“Good,” he says, nodding and backing towards the door. “Okay, I’m gonna…”
He leaves and she’s left sitting there, feeling confused.
When Teyla gets taken and Carson shows back up, it’s a double whammy. The base is buzzing, wild with rumors and uncertainty. This is the part of leadership she hates because she, too, is uncertain and thrown, but she has to act as if she’s not for the good of the base.
The look Rodney gives her when she tells him they can’t trust Carson stings.
They come back from the mission empty-handed. They had been so close to rescuing Teyla, only to watch her slip from their grasp as Michael’s cruiser took off. The look on all of their faces makes her gut ache.
John says, “We’ll get her back,” so many times, it starts to lose all meaning.
Then they have to put Carson in stasis and Rodney looks so close to breaking that Sam has to hold herself back from hugging him in front of everyone. She has to remind herself that, out here in the open, she is the leader; she needs to be strong.
That night, however, she goes to Rodney’s room and walks in to find him sitting on his bed, staring off in the distance, and it’s Elizabeth all over again. Except this time, he’s lost his best friend for the second time.
She sits down next to him and doesn’t say anything, just leans against him so he knows she’s there.
“I can’t keep losing people,” he says softly, staring at a spot on his floor.
“I’m sorry,” she says, and puts her hand on his leg in comfort.
They have sex that night and it’s the complete opposite of what it was the last time. It’s slow and deliberate -- and sad. She aches for all new reasons as she kisses away the tears he doesn’t want her to see.
She stays the whole night, holding his hand in hers silently as he blinks up at the ceiling. She thinks she understands the other Carter now, from the other universe. How, in that universe, she could have married Rodney McKay, while she knows in this one, it will never happen.
It’s almost a shame, she thinks.
For the entire twelve days that John is gone, Rodney is absolutely manic. Yelling and screaming, pitching fits, bitching at anyone and everyone that comes across his path. On day six, she sits by his side at his computer and helps him decipher the good leads from the bad ones because, at this point, he can’t tell them apart anymore.
Lorne is quietly angry and looks murderous every time he and Ronon come back through the gate after another failed search.
“Oh, God,” Rodney says on day ten, blinking dumbly at his computer screen. “He’s gone. There’s nothing. I can’t… Sam, there’s nowhere to go from here; he’s just gone.” He looks up at her as if his whole world has shattered. She puts a hand on his shoulder and says nothing because there is nothing to say.
The look on his face when John comes back makes her say a little prayer of thanks up to the heavens because she’s certain that if John hadn’t ever come back, they would have lost Rodney right then and there.
They have sex for the third and final time after they get back from the Daedalus, with Teyla back home safe and sound with a perfectly healthy baby boy, and John out of surgery and in recovery.
In her room, he strips her bare and traces the lines of her body with his hands. He looks up at her and grins wide and beautiful. “I delivered a baby.”
She laughs until he takes her breath away with his fingers and his tongue. He brings her off twice that night, once with his tongue and once with him inside of her, and she stops thinking about the future and the what-ifs.
Whatever will be, will be. Fate will answer her questions when it’s time.
Fate answers her question in the form of Woolsey, and after she commiserates with Landry about the idiocy of the IOA, she sinks dejectedly down in front of her computer and opens her email to catch up on what she’s missed.
She has dinner with Mitchell and Daniel and Teal’c. They all agree on how unfair it is, that she must be so disappointed, and how the IOA is a bunch of fucktards. She really has to hand it to Daniel for that one because it actually makes her laugh.
There are twenty emails in her inbox at the next databurst a week later.
Lorne’s reads simply: “Fucking IOA.”
John’s is the same, but even more vehement: “I cannot believe they did this. Well, I can because politicians never did give a damn about what the guys on the ground think. Elizabeth always told me the IOA were a bunch of blowhards that couldn’t see the forest for the trees but she was more diplomatic than I am. And cursed less than I do. This is asinine. Bunch of pussies. This is bullshit.”
To Lorne, she replies: “Yup.”
To John, she replies: “Couldn’t have said it better myself. The company line is that now that the Replicators have been destroyed, there is no longer a need for the base to be headed by a military official. The actual story is that the IOA’s… well. What you said.”
She doesn’t read Rodney’s yet.
She goes shopping with Vala and, much to her surprise, tells her about Rodney. Vala wants all the details and, over coffee, Sam tells her more than she would have thought she was willing to share. Vala grins, bounces in her seat a little, and says, “Well, well, Samantha. He did seem quite clever with his hands.”
When she gets back to her computer, she opens Rodney’s email.
“I am at a loss,” it reads. “And the things I want to say will get me fired, so I will trust that you can infer them on your own.”
She smiles and types back her response: “We had a good run, Rodney. I was pissed, and still am of course, but can we really expect better of the IOA? At this point, they have shown us their collective asses so many times that I can’t say I’m surprised they did this or that they did it in this fashion. It was a pleasure working with you. It was a pleasure for a multitude of reasons, of course. And about that project we were working on? Please, feel free to move forward on it without me. It was a great idea, Rodney, it really was. You should find someone else to help you complete it.”
She gets a response a week later.
It reads: “Nice metaphor, Sam. I read you loud and clear, though I dismiss the suggestion. I will be taking a two-week leave next month. Would you like to get dinner?”
She’s not as surprised as she should be when she answers yes.