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There was a biologist in Rodney's chair in the mess hall. It was ridiculous--everyone knew Rodney sat in that particular chair at that particular table. He'd been sitting there since they set this place up; it was understood, for Christ's sake. That spot was his.

"Up," he told the biologist.

She lifted her gaze from the bowl of hot cereal in front of her and blinked at him, rather bovinely, he thought.

"Up up up," he said, tugging at her elbow. "You're in my chair. Come on--you've had your fun."

"I'm sorry," she said, "What?"

The flag on her sleeve said she was American, so the problem likely wasn't language-based. "Are you deaf, then?" Rodney said. "Or just stupid? Because this isn't a difficult concept, I mean..."

"McKay. Quit terrorizing people. You can sit with me."

Rodney turned his glare to the Major, who had one hand balancing his tray of food and the other on Rodney’s sleeve. Sheppard beamed at him. Rodney jerked his arm away. "That’s my seat," he said. But Sheppard had ruined everything. Rodney just sounded childish now, not at all like a man with a legitimate concern. He pressed his lips together. “All right,” he told the biologist. “You win. But let’s not make a habit of this, hmm? In fact, if I ever see you here again, you’ll be fired. Like that.” He snapped his fingers.

Sheppard rolled his eyes and grabbed Rodney’s sleeve again. This time he didn’t let go until Rodney was walking too. They took seats across from each other at a table near the back of the room. Rodney set about arranging the contents of his tray in the proper order for easy one-handed access so he could consume them without looking up from his laptop. But after a moment or so, he had to stop because Sheppard was watching him.

“What?” he said.

“Fired, huh?” Sheppard was smirking or something. It was...disquieting.

Rodney narrowed his eyes. “What are you smirking about?”

“Nothing, nothing. I’m just interested to hear your plans for dealing with the unemployed in Atlantis. Did you have thoughts about some sort of insurance program or something? Maybe an institute of retraining?”

Rodney curled his lip. “No, actually,” he said, flipping his laptop open. “I was thinking more along the lines of ritual sacrifice. Can you pass me the salt?”

Sheppard passed it to him. “Oh, well. So long as you have a plan.”

They ate in silence for a while. Sheppard had a truly disgusting amount of food on his tray, along with his allotment of coffee. Rodney couldn’t help but sneak glances at him between scanning his morning update emails; Sheppard was working his way steadily through the food like a machine in need of refueling.

“How do you do that?” Rodney asked finally.

Sheppard glanced up, still chewing. “What?”

“Eat like that. All of that. I mean...it’s early, Major.”

Sheppard shrugged, wiping his mouth with a napkin. “I got a lot of stuff to do today. Don’t know when I’ll get to eat again. You just...do it.” He took a sip of coffee. “How do you eat without looking? I’ve been watching you--it’s impressive.”

Rodney narrowed his eyes, but Sheppard seemed to be asking in earnest. There was no mockery in his expression, anyway. “Just practice, I suppose.” They looked at each other for a moment in silence. Rodney tore his gaze away first, reaching for a swallow of his own coffee before flipping his screen to the next email in the queue. Something about the chem lab needing a cd player to improve everyone’s morale. Rodney read it twice but that was really what it said. Sometimes he wished he really did have the authority to institute capitol punishment.

“What’s up?” Sheppard asked. “You’re looking more disgusted than usual.”

Rodney waved a hand at the screen. “Pff,” he said. “Chemists. They’re asking for a stereo. Saying it’ll boost morale. Idiotic waste of time, but you can’t expect anything better from chemists, really. They’re notoriously either metal-heads or drug addicts--or both.”

Sheppard nodded, sopping up the last of the syrup on his plate with the remnants of a sausage. “Like para-pro’s,” he said. “The guys who work in resupply or whatever.” He leaned across the table, lowering his voice confidentially. “They’re always potheads. One of the great military mysteries, how they always manage to have a supply of the stuff, no matter where you send them.” He sat back in his seat, smiling. Rodney smiled back. There was a small silence.

“Well,” Sheppard said finally. “This was...weirdly pleasant, McKay.”

Rodney rolled his eyes. “Oh, thanks,” he said. He couldn’t help but keep smiling, though.

“We should...I mean if you’re not too busy, we could maybe...”

Rodney nodded. “Yeah, good. Tomorrow, then.” Sheppard grinned and picked up his tray. And when Rodney wrote his response to the chemists, he didn’t even threaten them. Much.


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