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Acceptable Losses


Rodney kept working furiously at one of the stations in the control room. The very station seemed to exude a malicious air and steadfastly refused him access to the subroutines linking the Command Chair to the receptor unit he and Zelenka had installed in 'Jumper Two, but then, the station used to be Grodin's. Poetic justice; evidently the crystals and processors themselves blamed Peter's superior for their master's untimely death.

Rodney scowled and pressed the "enter" triangle viciously, but the error message still kept flashing on his screen. He thought of Carson's face in the aftermath of Major Sheppard's launch of 'Jumper One, with the damned bomb on board, and flinched. Beckett's face had been a study in horrified realization. With Sheppard going out the hero's way, what choice did a man have -- any man -- but do the same for the sake of the greater good? The doctor feared that as one of Atlantis' few people genetically capable of piloting a 'Jumper, he'd be forced to go out next in a blaze of glory.

And the damned Scot would do it, too. But Atlantis needed its head physician, and Rodney was not willing to lose a friend to a suicide mission.

Suicide mission...

He desperately tried to keep the thoughts at bay, but to no avail... he once again saw the expression on John's face when time was running out, when he'd hurried into the 'Jumper, brushing Rodney aside as if he didn't matter, as if his own fucking life didn't matter...

It mattered a great deal to Rodney, although it shouldn't have. Not any longer. Not after the Major had taken his heart and stamped it into the ground; at least that was what the hollow sensation in Rodney's chest felt like. Broken. Bleeding. Lost.

A generous man would have been forgiving, would have understood. But Rodney didn't consider himself an understanding person, and even faced with a plethora of good reasons, he refused to accept that it had to end.

They'd been so good together. Stupid, irrelevant things like so-called regulations, ostensibly taken right out of the Middle Ages, shouldn't matter. Hell, he'd even been willing to keep it a secret, but no, that hadn't been enough for "the-fucking-USAF-owns-me" Sheppard.

The greater part of his brain kept working on the subroutines and his fingers flew over the keys of the keyboard interfaced with the unit, his eyes glued to the Ancient script scrolling across the screen. All the while, a small, hurt part of him couldn't help but remember the previous day...

***

Zelenka, Kavanaugh, Simpson and the others had stumbled to their quarters after they had successfully -- or so they thought at the time -- rerouted the connection between the Command Chair and the puddlejumpers' mainframes. Rodney felt like he'd be crashing any second, too. It was as if he could actually feel the concentration of the stimulants in his blood dissolving, and tiredness was a shadow closing in on his consciousness, looming like certain death.

He felt awful. He knew he should eat something before he crashed as his blood sugar had to be a finger's breadth above zero, but even that seemed like too much effort. Rodney was barely aware that he was sitting in front of his laptop, his head pillowed on his arms, and a second away from unconsciousness. His eyes had long since left behind the 'gritty' stage and reached one he could only describe as "rocks and boulders soaked in acid". He wondered when he'd be needing glasses. One more step on the dork scale towards utter geekdom. Wonderful.

When, barely perceptibly, light steps came nearer, he immediately knew it was John. No one moved quite like the way he did, plus the effortless way the door had slid open had been a dead giveaway. He smiled, his face still buried in his arms, and waited for a worried Major to tuck him into bed, forcibly if need be. They would have to be circumspect, and even the few nights they usually dared to stay at each other's place would be too much of a risk now that Everett and his pet Marines were here.

Still, a bit of friendly teasing and some honest-to-God care whether he lived or died from hypoglycaemia or overwork would be heaven right now. He waited in anticipation, the leaden deadness of his limbs now easier to bear.

The words, when they came, were not what he had expected, and the hoped-for touch to his shoulder never came.

"McKay, we have to talk."

Rodney sat up slowly, groaning and trying to unkink his back. It felt like a monumental effort to open his eyes, and the fucking rocks scratched over his corneas. He blinked blearily until the indistinct shadow in front of him resolved itself into a certain Major with experimental hair. He sighed.

"John, whatever it is, surely it can wait until I have actually returned to consciousness. Like, you know, after at least five hours of sleep." He shot an annoyed glance at the other man and attempted to stand up, "Ow, ow, ow! Hunchback of Notre Dame here -- what about some help?"

Sheppard's set expression scared him more than the lack of a friendly hand helping him stay upright.

"We have to talk. Now."

"You must be kidding; I'm hardly able to string two sentences together, much less two thoughts, and unless you want to tell me you've found a way to blow the two hive ships out of space without the mines and the drones we lost in the Wraiths' last attack, I'll just stumble off to my quarters and fall unconscious now, thank you very much."

He pushed past Sheppard, a litany of not now, not now running through his head. Whatever the Major wanted to tell him, he sensed that it would be highly unpleasant. Normally he considered himself a man better of knowing than left in the dark, but past experience had taught him whenever there was a certain tone in someone's voice, it usually ended with him pressing his face into his cat's fur and trying to ignore the sounds of someone moving out. This time he'd just like to skip the lecture of "You are an arrogant, overbearing asshole and I'm sorry I wasted _insert correct time period here_ of my life with you."

He'd almost reached the door, stumbling in his hurry to leave and not listen, when a hand closed around his biceps and stopped his movement.

Two weeks ago, that would have been a prelude to a scorching kiss, shared stifled laughter and the promise of a bout of amazing sex at the end of the day. Today, it was the beginning of the end.

Sheppard pressed him against the wall, one hand on Rodney's right shoulder, digging into the muscle, the other at his throat, keeping him immobile. "Listen to me," he hissed. "This is not a joke, and no, it cannot wait, and if you can still talk a mile a minute, I doubt that you're unable to string two sentences together."

"So talk; as you see, I'm your captive audience," Rodney sneered, and just like that, the warm tone underlying their verbal sparring matches as of late disappeared, and the hostility from the days immediately after Chaya came back into their relationship.

Sheppard just stared at him for a moment, then, surprisingly, the hands holding him in place dropped and the Major turned his back on him. Sheppard kept stalking to and fro in the corner of the lab, his hands aimlessly combing through is wayward hair. "Look, McKay, this is not an easy decision for me, so you could do me the damned-well courtesy of listening of what I have to say before you fucking explode, okay?"

"You're breaking up with me," Rodney said dumbly.

"Yes, that... what did you just say? How did you--?"

"Please, Major, don't take me for an idiot, would you? Now that Everett and his buddies are here, I am no longer worth the risk, isn't that it? Tell it to me straight." Rodney choked on a bout of sarcastic laughter, his stomach a cold, heavy weight. So he'd called it right. John was breaking up with him.

"That has nothing to do with risk or you not being worth it, it..." Sheppard snapped his mouth shut, flushed angrily and continued pacing, "It's not like that, okay? It's... complicated."

"I'm sure it is. When you've figured it out, please tell me the details. On second thought, don't. Anyway, good night, Major." Rodney reached for the doorpad.

Sheppard was in his face so fast he felt like he'd missed a second of reality. "Damn it, Rodney, would it be too much to ask for to have you listen to me for a moment? I like you, okay? I like you a lot, and I absolutely loved what we did together. But I'm no longer the ranking military officer here, and whatever interpretation we put onto "don't ask, don't tell" doesn't cut it anymore. Everett hasn't been here over seven months with no hope of returning home to Earth. He's a by-the-book hardass, and he'll gladly see me and Elizabeth removed from whatever power we still have if it comes to light that I... that we... and that Elizabeth tolerated it." He stopped, running out of steam, and ran a shaking hand through his hair.

Rodney just stared at him impassively, feeling as if he was floating. He was so tired, and so numb, and it really didn't matter.

"Fuck!" Sheppard punched his fist into the wall and bit back a yell of pain. "Rodney... you have to understand. He blames me for Sumner's death, and he's already threatened Teyla and the Athosians, and he would have cut Elizabeth totally out of the loop if I hadn't forced him to let her sit in, and all that in front of his men. He hates me. If he ever learnt of this, he would make it into our downfall, and if General O'Neill were officially told about it, he--"

Rodney felt hysterical laughter bubbling up once more. "O'Neill? That's a joke. The man is screwing his archaeologist behind the Pentagon's back, and you think he'd--"

"He would have to," Sheppard yelled. "That's the "don't tell" part, remember? I don't want to end up in Leavenworth, I don't want Teyla to end up in Steve's cage, and I don't want Elizabeth shut out because I can't keep it in my pants!"

"Thanks so much! So that was all it was -- some fucking among teammates?" Rodney yelled back, cut to the quick, "I think I understand perfectly well, Major. And if I may remind you -- it was you who insisted we tell Elizabeth, and persuaded her to accept it if we managed to behave professionally in the field. We could have agreed to turn it low, hell, even to let it rest for a few weeks, but no, you, Mr high-handed officer, have to make the decision for both of us. Is that what you call "acceptable losses" in grunt speak?! Excuse me if the situation doesn't exactly make me delirious with joy. First we fucked, then you fucked us up, and now I only want to get the fuck away from you. I hope your imbecile regulations keep you warm at night, Major!"

Rodney stormed out of the room, and this time not even Sheppard's attempt to mentally close the door before he did was quick enough to keep up with his righteous fury.

He used the nearest transporter and locked the door to his quarters behind himself. A few manipulations at the control pad, and not even Mr ATA gene himself would manage to pry the door open. Sparks crackled, and Rodney was unsure if he'd get the door open again come morning, but he didn't care.

Rodney fell onto his bed and stared at the ceiling for many hours, his eyes dry and unmoving. He slept a mere three hours before Zelenka's call over the intercom dragged him back into life in an Atlantis on the brink of total annihilation.

Then the short breather they'd all gotten ended, and the real war began.

And the remote-control of the 'Jumpers via the Chair failed, and Sheppard... and John... left on a suicide mission.

***

Rodney continued typing away furiously, and was almost certain the subroutines started yielding. Zelenka was next to him, Kavanaugh two seats away, and time was running out.

He refused to let himself be distracted by the yelling from the radios, although he did not miss the frantic calls for Teyla and Ford. John's life was in danger, and, by God, if he managed to remote-launch the second 'Jumper, perhaps John's sacrifice would be unnecessary. He would not give up hope; not after everything they'd seen, said and done. He was a damned genius, and fuck if the universe didn't owe him something.

Another line of Ancient script flashed on the screen, and Rodney raised his head in Zelenka's direction, a scream on his lips.


"Stargate: Atlantis" ficlet by allaire mikháil, 2.191 words, McKay/Sheppard, McKay POV, rated PG-13.

This ficlet is a tag for the season 1 finale, "The Siege Part II", and was inspired by the McShep interaction highlighted in various songvids, especially the two set to "Head over Feet" by Alanis Morissette. I watch the scenes and I can hear McKay and Sheppard talking in my head, and that thrills me to no end. I so hope TPTB won't screw up this fandom for me, too.
ljalyse, thank you not only for the creation of www.wraithbait.com, but also for hunting down the typos that managed to get away from me.


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