Once somebody starts spreading rumors that you worship Cthulhu it can be hard to dissuade them. Especially if you've been born and bred to do just that. Crossover with the Mythos.
Follow-up of "Sitting in a Tin Can", also on Wraithbait. Spoilers for late season four and early season five.
Crossovers > Slash Pairings, Slash Pairings > McKay/Zelenka Characters:
Jennifer Keller, John Sheppard, Other, Radek Zelenka, Rodney McKay, Ronon Dex, Samantha Carter, Steven Caldwell, Teyla Emmagan
Angst, AU - Alternate Universe, Drama, Episode Related, Friendship, SeriesWarnings:
The Shadow Over Atlantis
02 Aug 2008 Updated:
08 Aug 2009
I purposefully left "Sitting in a Tin Can" a bit open at the end. This story is why.
1. John Sheppard by La Chatte Noire
2. Ronon Dex by La Chatte Noire
3. Steven Caldwell by La Chatte Noire
4. Teyla Emmagan by La Chatte Noire
5. Jeannie Miller by La Chatte Noire
6. Atlantis by La Chatte Noire
7. Epilogue by La Chatte Noire
So I was watching the episode Broken Ties and was struck by the sheer size of McKay's canon bathtub. I have squeezed into smaller jacuzzis with five other people.
"Check," said a smug voice in the semi-darkness. In a room only partially lit of quarters left vacant for the past month sat two scientists near a well-carnaged chessboard. Dr. Rodney McKay was celebrating his return to Atlantis after two weeks trapped in a puddlejumper and two more weeks trapped on the Daedalus by playing chess with Dr. Radek Zelenka. Naked. In the bathtub.
"What?" Rodney said in protest of Radek's check. He sloshed over to the side of the tub and pondered over the setup of damp regulation-plastic pieces on a splashed board. Black bishop held white king in check. He dipped low in the water, submerging almost to the eyes, and hummed in thought. Only three possible moves open to him, two involving the sacrifice of a piece. One saved his pieces but would end badly for his queen and then quickly the game. Fine, two possible moves. Sacrifice a pawn and leave his remaining knight open or sacrifice his last rook and hopefully tempt Radek into taking it, thus losing him his remaining bishop. Radek relied on his bishops. Rodney relied on his queen and his knights. Fine then. "There," Rodney said, moving his rook in place to block the check.
"Hmm," Radek acknowledged.
"Anything interesting happen while I was gone?" Rodney asked.
"So I was thinking of kidnapping a big Russian woman named Helga and breeding my half-human spawn with her," Rodney said, testing something.
"I ate all of the Daedalus's chocolate shipments before they got here."
"You did what?!"
"Oh so that gets your attention."
"Chocolate is like naqahdah," Radek defended. "You did not really..."
"No, it's safe."
"Good. I would hate to have to kill you."
"Look who's taking," Rodney pointed out.
"For loss of chocolate I would kill," Radek said.
"What? Get over here so I can eat your head."
Radek smiled. "She used to say that," he said fondly. He glanced down at the board and saw an opening. He moved his knight around on the board to a previously ignored spot. "She also made same mistake. Checkmate."
Rodney sputtered, water sloshing out of the tub as he slid over to the edge to get a better look at the board. Checking and double-checking the board didn't change the fact that Radek had won. He grumbled about humans being lucky and sank completely underwater.
Radek grinned and leaned over to set the board back up. He didn't get more than a few pieces when he felt hands wrap around his waist and pull him back in the water. He laughed openly as those hands turned to arms holding him prisoner and a toothed maw gnawed playfully at his scalp. The water shifted around them as Rodney surfaced behind him to breathe without letting go. He gave up trying to eat Radek's head to instead nuzzle his neck and didn't hold back the purr rising from his throat.
Isolation in a puddlejumper had been hell, impotent pacing on the Daedalus had been torture but here on Atlantis in a bathtub with a friend he was home.
Dr. Kavanagh prowled the corridors and hallways he used to know so well. He left because of persecution and mistrust to crawl back to the SGC. After some coaxing and a few well-timed deaths he'd been let back onto an SG team as the scientist assigned to SG-15. And then one too many rows with his commander left him assigned to man Midway station. Alone.
For a very long time.
He considered himself lucky that he'd still been training to take over station operations when it was destroyed though he found he had a bit more sympathy than before for McKay and his time in Siberia.
He still didn't feel comfortable on Atlantis. He still sensed the mistrustful looks and now there was an even more sinister undertone he thought maybe he could sense.
It was likely that having a Cthulhu worshipper as a boss was warping the minds of the researchers. If that were the case then Kavanagh considered himself lucky that he'd left before the cult spread.
Even after two years away his feet followed a familiar path to the physics labs. Still the same workstations, still the same open door to a room walled with whiteboards, still the half-used excuse for McKay's office. Ancient tech still cluttered the desks and shelves, haphazard post-it notes declaring danger, power stores, threats of death, and the occasional "no idea".
"Peter?" asked a surprised feminine voice. "W-what are you doing here?"
Kavanagh turned to face his addressor to see a familiar face. "Miko, you're still here I see," he said.
Dr. Kusanagi blushed slightly. "Yes, I have calculations to finish," she admitted. "But why are you here? Surely you have not come back."
"No, I'm just here until the Daedalus leaves," he assured. "Even with Weir gone I'm not sure I would want to stay, what with McKay still in charge of science and him being a Cthulhu worshipper and all."
Miko scowled at Kavanagh's careless dismissal of Dr. Weir but it lessened to annoyed confusion when Kavanagh mentioned Cthulhu. "I was unaware Dr. McKay worshipped Cthulhu," she said.
"Oh he does," Kavanagh said sagely.
"You are joking."
"I'm not, I swear," he said, eyes shifting a bit to make sure they weren't being watched. "You weren't there, Miko. The dreams that man has send him screaming praises to the Great Old Ones in a half-asleep stupor. I'm telling you, he's mad. He's probably always been mad, long before day one."
"Then you are mistaken," she said firmly. "And embarrassing yourself. You want to leave before someone else sees you acting like this."
"He's got you blinded to his blasphemies, doesn't he?!" Kavanagh demanded.
The door slid open as Dr. Zelenka stepped in to fetch his laptop, preparing to take it to his quarters for some math by loud music. "Kavanagh," he said evenly, lips barely raised in a sneer.
"Zelenka, you were always the most level-headed of us all," Kavanagh said quickly, daring to feel hope that someone might be convinced. "You of all people have to believe me, McKay is a Cthulhu cultist!"
Mirth drew a finger up Radek's spine and he fought to keep his expression neutral. "Rodney does not worship Cthulhu," he said in calm explanation. "Cthulhu is high priest on Earth to Great Old Ones. This is not Earth thus worship of Cthulhu does not yield results here."
Kavanagh's hope drained from his face.
Radek continued. "With no high priest to Great Old Ones here to act as intermediary we need worship Great Old Ones themselves," he explained. "Like most of us Rodney worships Yog-Sothoth." He gave Miko a look and hoped she picked up on his fight not to laugh.
She did. "Yes, because Yog-Sothoth is the gate," she agreed.
Kavanagh looked in horror at the both of them before picking it up. "You're both mocking me!"
Radek lost the fight and hooted with laughter. "Is too easy!" he crowed between howls. Miko giggled unabashed as Kavanagh gave a huff and stormed out of the labs, grumbling.
It was Colonel Carter who originally fielded the complaint. She contacted Colonel Caldwell as it fit a complaint he'd fielded on the Daedalus and frankly he deserved some closure to it. He contacted Colonel Sheppard because if their hunch on the identity of the ringleader was correct then they would need him to ensure cooperation and extract confession.
Thus the three of them strode with varying degrees of authority and purposefulness to the physics lab. The door opened on silent command and they three filed in silently to stand and wait.
Rodney sat hunched over his computer, spine and neck losing most of their bipedal straightness to a curve that looked downright simian. He tapped away at a particularly tricky piece of math while humming tunelessly to himself. Once he cracked his neck with a sickening pop that only the three Colonels seemed to acknowledge or even hear before falling back into his simian slump.
Odd that the cracking of his neck seemed to lengthen it a little bit.
Sheppard knew firsthand how long Rodney could take when hip-deep in math. He cleared his throat. Didn't work. He did it again. Still didn't work. The other scientists kept their distance, unwilling to get between the military and their oblivious comrade.
He played dirty. Sheppard took a power bar out of his pocket and crinkled the wrapper loudly. He could see Rodney's ears prick up. He unwrapped it and gently blew the smell of chocolate power bar at Rodney. He heard Rodney give a marginally human growl of wanting. He took a bite and let slip a groan of almost carnal pleasure.
"What is it, Sheppard?" Rodney asked, both annoyed at the interruption and anticipating chocolate. He turned around. "Colonels?" he asked, taken aback. "Is something wrong?"
"I got a complaint today," Carter said, starting right in. "Against no one in particular but it fits an MO. Dr. Kavanagh came to me fearing for his mind because of what he called 'blatant Cthulhu-worship running rampant in the halls'. Now before you laugh I point out that the man was both serious and scared out of his wits. Would you happen to have any idea what happened here?"
"We know it was you, Dr. McKay," Caldwell said. "These complaints started in some capacity two weeks ago on the Daedalus, you remember. From Dr. Kavanagh. Accusing you of being a Cthulhu worshipper."
"Yes, yes I remember," Rodney said. "Has anyone explained to him that Great Cthulhu's power doesn't extend much further than planet Earth and thus any worship of Great Cthulhu out here is going to be both useless and harmless?"
"Yes," said a small voice. Kusanagi tried to make herself even smaller as four sets of eyes turned on her. "That is, Radek and I explained to him that worship of Great Cthulhu doesn't work out here and that worship of Yog-Sothoth is more practical."
"Which is true," McKay said quickly in her defense. And then he turned to her. "And why did Kavanagh need this to be explained to him?"
Miko blushed slightly under Rodney's sharp gaze. "Kavanagh comes in here and starts accusing you of worshipping Cthulhu," she defended. "And then when I don't immediately agree with him he accuses me of being brainwashed by you and in league with your dark powers. Then Zelenka comes in and we explain things to Kavanagh and he goes away."
"And is this how it happened, Zelenka?" Sheppard asked, addressing Radek at his workstation.
"Yes it is," Radek confirmed.
"Well that clears that up," McKay offered. "Kavanagh's been exaggerating again."
"No it doesn't," Caldwell insisted. "This started two weeks ago after we picked up your jumper stranded. You and Sheppard were the only Atlantis personnel inside and it was you, McKay, whom Kavanagh immediately began rumors about. Explain that."
"I can shed some light on that, Colonel," Sheppard said. "McKay has nightmares that frankly have some of the same qualities as night terrors. Such as screaming. I was there when Kavanagh started whispering Mythos things into McKay's ear while he slept in order to steer his dreams to certain, shall we say, Cthulhu-based topics. The fact that McKay spent every night after screaming about Cthulhu-based topics has a defined cause."
"Kavanagh himself," Carter concluded. "Right. Sorry for suspecting you, McKay. Also you might want to sit up straight if you ever want to move your neck again."
Rodney waved the colonels out the door before trying to straighten his spine. It ached, didn't work, and dropped back down into the practiced slump. Hmm. Maybe he would talk to Zelenka and Dr. Keller about this, find out if Deep Ones naturally had curved spines or if he really was screwing up his neck.
The day before the Daedalus left orbit dawned in the usual way. Personnel scheduled to leave said their goodbyes, some temporary, some permanent, and awaited scheduled beam-outs. A couple of pieces of tech deemed safe and potentially useful on Earth were transported under watchful eyes to ATA-free areas of the ship. Orders for goods, items, and the expected request for certain specimens for transplant were fielded.
The botanists figured if they requested cacao, robusta, and arabica specimens for transplant often enough then eventually someone at the SGC would take pity. The SGC figured that so long as they were able to control shipments of coffee and chocolate then Atlantis was less likely to try to break away as a free city-state. It was a three year long stalemate by now with no sign of letting up.
After being mocked by Colonel Carter for his report of disturbing and frankly dangerous cult-worship in the city Dr. Kavanagh had been ordered to return to the Daedalus and stay there until he felt he could be civil without causing trouble. Thus on the Daedalus he'd stayed, grumbling about how no one was willing to listen to him.
It was on that day before while Colonel Caldwell was taking one last round through the city when Colonel Sheppard caught up to him with a request.
"What is it, Sheppard?" Caldwell asked.
"I have a favor to ask," Sheppard admitted. "I need some files from the Department of Defense or the State Department or whoever it was who was involved in this." He handed Caldwell a sheet of paper, real paper, with some information scribbled on it.
Caldwell looked it over, pausing when he saw the year listed for the actions referenced. "These raids took place 80 years ago," he pointed out. "The statute of limitations was up decades ago. You can just file a Freedom of Information Act request to get them."
"The statute of limitations for the Roswell crash was up ten years ago," Sheppard pointed out. "And yet Project Bluebook is still classified. With all due respect, Sir, a Freedom of Information Act request is going to get me nowhere."
Caldwell made a sound of agreement. "Any reason why you need these files?" he asked. "Something I should know?"
"On the record, no," Sheppard said. "Off the record..."
"You suspect someone?"
"One of my men said I should look for these files," Sheppard said. It was true enough; McKay was on his team and therefore counted as one of his men. "Something about his family being from Innsmouth. I reread Lovecraft's version of events however I refuse to make any decision or judgment until after I see these files for myself."
"And you don't want to tell me in case someone asks," Caldwell observed.
"Plausible deniability and all, Sir."
"Understandable. But Sheppard, I've been in the Air Force longer than you. It used to be fairly standard protocol to be briefed on some of the contents of these files. They are disturbing."
Caldwell gave Sheppard a blank look. "In 1928 the FBI led the raids on Innsmouth, Massachusetts," he said quietly. "Men, women, and children were rounded up, imprisoned, executed, and left to die because they were different. And then not 15 years later we had the gall to act shocked when Hitler did the same thing. Until 30 years ago there were standing orders to shoot on sight anyone suspected of having Innsmouth blood. I recommend not eating anything before reading the files I bring back."
Sheppard looked and felt ill enough from that description alone to understand Caldwell's recommendation. "That's disgusting," he whispered.
"It was," Caldwell agreed. He continued his rounds, leaving a pale and shaking shadow of a man in the hallway.
Sheppard fell back against the wall, shuddering in revulsion at what Caldwell was implying. He splayed his hands against the city's walls and Listened. Atlantis thrummed around him, grounding him through his own emotions. He felt a familiar caress in his mind, the city herself reaching out to him same as he reached for her. Questioning. Understanding. Mirrored sorrow. Outrage for the fallen. Sympathy for the survivors. Compassion for the descendants. An image flashed through his mind, supplied by her. Immense joy as a finned and scaled humanoid creature swam through her sunken corridors, a creature he knew.
Sheppard pulled away from the wall, needing a moment to steady himself as her voice quieted and the feelings faded. His feet wandered off without his permission, leaving Sheppard to wonder not for the first time if perhaps Atlantis could control the ATA-active as surely as they controlled her.
Their destination was familiar. Sheppard wasn't sure why Rodney would be in his quarters but Atlantis assured him that he was. He rang the chime.
And was surprised when the door opened to reveal Rodney wearing a large number of bubbles and a bathrobe that stuck to his soaking wet body. He was dripping water and bubbles everywhere and looked both annoyed and rather confused. "Yes?" he asked.
Sheppard had no idea what he was going to say. He tried to come up with something. "You're all wet," he settled on.
"I was in the bathtub," Rodney pointed out. "Was there an actual something or did you come by just to drag me out of hot water and perfect bubbles?"
"I put in a request for those files on the Innsmouth raids," he said.
Rodney immediately tensed and looked around. "That's great, get in here," he said quickly.
Rodney fixed Sheppard with a fiery glare. "Look, this is not something I am going to discuss in the corridor no matter how naked I am," he said through gritted teeth. "So either go away and never approach me about this again or get in here!"
Sheppard pushed past Rodney into the room, willing the door shut and locked behind them. He still didn't know what to say. His hands flailed a bit of their own accord, trying to open a discourse but each time they fell useless before words could be found. "I don't know what to say," he admitted. "I asked Caldwell for the files."
"Caldwell?" Rodney asked, his voice dark and body tense.
"I didn't tell him anything," Sheppard promised. "I told him I wanted the files but not why. He's apparently seen them before. He compared what the federal government did there to Hitler." He stared at Rodney, face fallen in disbelief and fear. "What did they do there?"
Rodney slumped down into a chair, uncaring that he still dripped water everywhere. A hand reached up to absently brush at a patch of bubbles near his ear that were popping particularly loudly. "Those who raided Innsmouth had orders to round up everyone in the town," he murmured quietly. "Anyone who resisted was to be killed, made an example of. And of course people resisted. Men, women, children, they were all shot for resisting. Those who didn't were rounded up like animals and sent to prisons, camps. The town was dynamited. Orders were disobeyed though, that's the only reason I exist. Children young enough to look untainted were lost in orphanages where they would be safe. At least, that's the story I was told."
Sheppard had thousands of questions, words all clamoring for voice but in the end only one made it out. "Why?"
Rodney looked at John, sadness filling his big blue eyes. "We were different," he said as though that were a valid reason. "And I hate to sound the devil's advocate but Caldwell's analogy is a bit off. Hitler targeted groups different only in religion or sexual preference. We were much more different than that. Mankind's greatest fear has always been that of the unknown and to be frank you didn't get much more unknown than us in the '20s."
"That's still no excuse," Sheppard insisted.
"I know," Rodney whispered. He stared at his hands, eyes tracing the thickening gray scale creeping down the backs of his hands. A silence stretched between them. "Thank you," he whispered, breaking that silence. "Even if you change your mind after reading the files, thank you for your understanding now."
"McKay, I read Lovecraft's version of events," Sheppard said. "I know what a Deep One is. I still don't care. What they did was horrifying and I can see why you're scared of people finding out."
Nictitating membranes blinked in sudden surprise. Rodney looked right at John and blinked them again to gauge his reaction. When the man didn't seem at all phased Rodney relaxed with a soft whine before darting forward and enveloping John in a very wet hug.
Sheppard didn't quite tense but he didn't move, not quite sure what to do. He settled on lightly patting Rodney's back, hands lingering at the curious feel of hardened scales through threadbare robe. "Um, Rodney? You're very wet."
"Huh? Oh, sorry," Rodney said, pulling back. He found himself starting to purr as he let go of Sheppard and drifted back to his chair.
Sheppard looked down at his wet clothes with a sense of 'bleh' before noticing the sound filling the room. He traced it to Rodney who was looking at him like he was a particularly compelling equation. "You're purring," he observed.
Rodney nodded, hopeful and a touch embarrassed. It happens sometimes, he mouthed, not feeling up to breaking the purr by speaking.
"Wait, so you can't talk while purring?" Sheppard asked. At Rodney's nod John started thinking. "I should get you to purr more often if it'll get you to shut up once in a while."
"Hey!" Rodney protested, the purr stopping suddenly. "If you're going to be like that then I'm just going to get back to work."
"Weren't you in the tub?"
"The water helps me think," Rodney admitted. "I swear, the best ideas flow underwater. It works better when I've got Zelenka in here with me and ideas can flow without needing words."
"I'm not sure I wanted to know that," Sheppard pointed out.
"My bathtub has room for at least three, want to come in?" Rodney asked with a leer as he left John for his waiting tub. Robe was dropped to the floor right before he surrendered to the siren call of hot soapy water.
"How about if I pass?" Sheppard asked, following anyway out of curiosity. He stalled in the doorway to see Rodney sprawled in his bubble bath. "And how in hell did you get a tub this huge? It's like a jacuzzi!"
Rodney curled his sprawl a bit and sank below the surface. He popped back up, covered in bubbles. "I told you it fits at least three."
"At least," John agreed. He knelt down next to the bath as Rodney shook the bubbles from his hands and went back to tapping at his tablet. "So what're you working on?"
"If you're that interested, get in," Rodney ordered. "Otherwise go away and let me work. And get naked, socks and underwear leave a funny feel to the water."
Sheppard got up and started to leave. He paused at the bathroom doorway and looked back to see Rodney in a relaxed sprawl as he worked on some calculation or other. He really didn't have anything else to do today that couldn't be put off until Caldwell wasn't around to criticize him. Besides, he felt this was something he needed to do.
Clothes dropped soundlessly before a second person slid into bubbly water. "You'd better have towels somewhere, McKay," John said, stretching out with a groan.
The room filled again with the sound of purring.
The room was quiet as Radek Zelenka worked on trying to streamline the ZPM's power output. Rodney McKay sat next to him, brooding on the past month. The water in the tub was cool and salty, unaltered seawater drawn for him by the city. Radek shivered and pressed against Rodney's side for warmth for the third time.
"You're cold," Rodney said absently.
"Is fine," Radek dismissed.
Rodney draped an arm around Radek's bare shoulders and held him close to share warmth. Radek shifted position until he was almost snuggling in Rodney's embrace.
"I talked with Carson today," Rodney said absently.
Radek looked up from his tablet, trying to make sense of Rodney's statement. "Carson is still in stasis," he pointed out.
"Doesn't mean I can't talk to him," Rodney said.
"You said you talked with him."
"Yes, well, it was like talking with him," Rodney defended.
"I know. I miss him too."
"I'm taking his advice. I told Sheppard about me."
Radek paused in his calculations and set his tablet down on a low table Rodney had moved next to the bathtub for this purpose. "You told him?" he asked softly, turning all his attention on Rodney. "How did he react?"
"I don't think it matters to him what I am," Rodney said, a faint smile gracing his features. "He got into the bathtub with me."
"That's wonderful," Radek said breathily, his own grin matching Rodney's.
Rodney's smile fell. "I'm going to have to start telling people," he mused. He absently rubbed at the silvery scaling on the backs of his hands. "It's getting harder and harder to hide and humans don't remain oblivious forever. I prefer telling people as opposed to them finding out accidentally."
"I know the feeling." Radek mused quietly, attention drifting as he leaned back into Rodney's warm embrace. "I think Miko knows."
"Why do you say that?" Rodney asked.
"We were discussing using jumpers underwater for better survey of ocean floor and the underwater jumper bay was mentioned," Radek said. "I remember we cannot use it because control room is flooded. She asked why you could not operate controls."
Rodney tensed up, holding Radek tighter against him without thinking. "Miko asked why I couldn't operate the controls in a flooded room?" he asked. "Just like that?"
"We were alone," Radek defended. "And yes, just like that. She was confused when I told her you could not. She said later then when you had changed enough."
"She does know," Rodney whispered. "And she doesn't care either."
"I do not think she cares," Radek agreed.
Rodney went silent as he fell back into his brooding and Radek went back to his calculations. Five people knew about him now. Of those five only one had shown fear or disgust and Dr. Jennifer Keller had gotten over most of that in a few short months to become a friend. He'd been changing fast ever since his brush with ascension, probably something that the machine had done to him. There were people he had to tell first, people close to him. Two people. "I'm going to tell Ronon next," he murmured.
"And then I'm going to eat all the chocolate in Atlantis."
"Hmm. Wait, what?"
End part 1
In which there is language issues and overreaction.
"I still can't believe I delivered a baby," Dr. Rodney McKay said. He was in the Atlantis infirmary, this time as a visitor rather than a patient. John Sheppard lounged propped-up on the infirmary bed, mind just a bit fuzzy from the low level painkillers keeping him from feeling his insides. Rodney stood next to the bed, shifting from foot to foot. He was still a little jazzed from the adrenaline of Teyla's rescue, John surviving surgery, and delivering a baby.
"Neither can I," John said, deadpanned.
Rodney didn't acknowledge the sarcasm. "I'm serious, it was just so amazing," he babbled. "I had to keep talking the whole time I was holding him because if I didn't I knew I was just gonna start purring and never stop. You have no idea what it's like to welcome someone into the universe like that!"
"McKay," Sheppard warned. He gave a significant look around, noticing one of the medics giving them both a weird look.
"What?" Rodney looked around as well, going still when he realized how careless he was being in such a public place.
"Don't wanna know," the medic said. "Going away now, k?" She left the area to busy herself in the stockroom.
"Oh shit," Rodney whispered.
"Not to curb your enthusiasm or anything but hows about we hold off discussing things like this until after I get outta here?" John said calmly. "I'm stuck here anyway, I'll talk to her."
"Just don't say anything," Rodney pleaded. "If people have to know I want to be the one to tell them."
"Sure," John said. "I'll just tell her you really like cats."
"Oh ha ha."
It was only six days before Colonel Sheppard was discharged from the infirmary with orders to go to his office and do paperwork. Dr. Keller made it clear that noncompliance would be met with exile, or as she put it with an amused smirk, 'grounded without privileges like a naughty 5 year old.' Thus Sheppard had taken a page out of the X-Files handbook and was tossing pencils at the ceiling. He had the wrong type of ceiling; they didn't stick so he instead tried to aim them in a bulls-eye pattern around an imaginary spot.
Sheppard sat up and tried to look busy when his door chimed. He woke his computer up and looked at the screen full of empty forms. Damn. "Come in."
Rodney walked in. Something crunched under his foot. He looked down to see a floor strewn with pencils, looked up to see the occasional tickmark of graphite on the ceiling. "Is Agent Mulder bored?" he asked.
"Hey, Scully," John countered. "What's the new case?"
Rodney gave John a withering look. "Agent Mulder is supposed to be doing paperwork," he pointed out. "And I can't be Scully, I don't have the hair for it. Teyla can be Scully."
"Nah," John said. "Doesn't fit."
"You haven't done any work at all have you?" Rodney guessed.
Sheppard gave him an 'are you kidding' look.
"Right. Then you're going to help me figure something out."
"I'm not cleared for light-switch duty."
"This isn't that," Rodney said, gathering up all the courage he could. When that failed he tried for false bravado. "I need to tell Ronon and Teyla about me," he blurted.
John sat back, impressed that Rodney was taking this step. "Then tell them," he said.
"It-it can't be that simple," Rodney insisted, nervously wringing his hands. "They don't have any previous knowledge of the situation and they'll have no idea why they need to keep it quiet and I'll have to explain how it works and you're the only person I've ever actually told and even then I failed because all I could do was direct you to figuring it out yourself and I still really think that if this gets out I'm gonna get shot and I don't wanna get shot, not when I've come this far but it's going to be impossible to hide this from people eventually and oh hell I'm going to have to tell Sam at some point and she's gonna shoot me for hitting on her for years when I knew I wasn't even human because how could I not know--"
"Rodney!" John scolded.
"Words can be organized in sentences. After each sentence you take a breath."
"Are you even listening to what I'm saying?!" Rodney demanded.
"Yes I am." John pinched the bridge of his nose to ward off the headache. "You're worried that people will find out. You're also realizing that people are going to find out anyway. Thus you're worried that people are going to be angry at you when they find out."
"I'm worried they're going to shoot me," Rodney pointed out. "Big difference from mere angry."
"I'm going to shoot you if you don't calm down," Sheppard promised.
"You've shot me before," Rodney said, calling John's bluff.
"Which is how you know I'll have no problem doing it again," Sheppard said calmly.
"Right," Rodney said, taking a seat. Sitting down might make him seem less nervous. "So I want to tell them separately, I think it'll be easier that way if there's only one of them at a time. And I want to tell Ronon first."
"Why Ronon?" John asked.
"Well, Teyla has the baby and she's worried about the father Kenan--"
"Close enough. Point is she's busy and I don't want to be adding to her stresses by dragging her into something as big as me being a Deep One hybrid."
"I still don't think it'll be as big of a thing for them as it is for you," John pointed out.
"That's because I'm the one in the throes of the Change here!"
"Okay, okay," John said, conceding to try and prevent the rant before it began. "We'll tell Ronon first. Any idea how to do it?"
"No," Rodney said quietly, giving John a pouting look.
"That's why you're here," John said for clarification.
"Yes, yes it is."
"Think visual aids might help?" John asked.
"What? I dunno, are you allowed to take a bath yet?"
"You don't need me to take a bath with you, McKay."
"But it helps me think!"
"Doesn't Zelenka know?" John asked, getting exasperated. "Can't you ask him to take a bath with you?"
"We do that all the time," Rodney said. "But when I take a bath with him we always end up coming up with ZedPM calculations or ingenious plans or doing other stuff."
"I'm going to regret asking this but what 'other stuff'?" John asked before he could stop himself. He watched the blush rise to Rodney's cheeks. "Don't answer that," he said before Rodney could open his mouth. "I don't want to know."
"Good choice," Rodney admitted. "So are you cleared for a bath? We can play chess, I'll even let you beat me."
"I beat you at chess anyway," John pointed out.
"Great, I've got tonight off and I know you're not really doing anything. So I'll see you then?" Rodney got up and almost bolted out the door before Sheppard could decline. John sighed and slumped over to stare at the blank forms mocking him from his computer's screen. He might as well show up.
Atlantis opened the door for him when John showed up to Rodney's quarters that night. He followed the sounds of water and voices to the bathroom. Wait, voices?
"And colonel finally shows up," announced a familiar, accented voice. Radek Zelenka sat in the bathtub next to a lounging McKay.
"I figured three heads are better than one," Rodney said with a shrug. He slipped underwater before popping back up nearer to the door.
"Regrettably I can't join you," John said. "Stitches, Keller would have my head."
"Yeah, I talked to her about that," Rodney said. "She cleared you for twenty minutes if we used seawater and kept physical activity to a minimum."
Sheppard gave the two scientists a wary look. "What exactly did you tell her?" he asked.
"Same thing the both of you know," Rodney assured. "Now get naked and get in here, I need the ideas from your head."
Sheppard shook his head with a sigh of surrender before starting to take off his shirt. "There is something fundamentally wrong with my life," he lamented.
"Yeah, yeah, get in line."
John gave in and stripped down to his skin, ignoring the slight pull of stitches in his side as he moved. He dipped a toe in the bathtub, wary of the temperature. And held back a moan at the warmth. "McKay, only you would have a saltwater hot tub," he said, stepping in. He sat down and groaned as warm water caressed all his muscles into relaxing.
"I'm sure I'm not the only one," Rodney said before slipping underwater with a long exhale. The sides of his neck swelled momentarily as gills tried to burst open but failed. He closed his eyes and tried to clear his mind by counter-intuitively filling his mind with thoughts of the two people in the water with him.
"Is he all right?" John asked after Rodney went under.
"Is fine," Radek assured.
"So why exactly are we here?" John asked. "McKay never really explained why, he only ever said that ideas flow best underwater. Do you know what that even means?"
"Deep Ones communicate among each other semi-telepathically," Radek explained. "As Change progresses he gains more control over his mind. Deep Ones who complete Change can communicate complex thoughts with simple sound and mental contact. I have been on receiving end before, is wonderful thing, very intense."
"It's a learned skill, isn't it?"
Sheppard drew his legs to his chest in an unconscious protective gesture. "He's at a severe disadvantage, isn't he?" he asked quietly. "No one else to teach him anything, not even in dreams."
"Deep Ones lead connected lives," Radek said just as quietly. "Theirs is collective unconscious ruled by Father Dagon and Mother Hydra. A Deep One's nest is family, friends, whole life, everything. Y'ha-nthlei is Rodney's nest by blood but is too far to hear."
The water felt like ice to John for a second as he shuddered through an epiphany. "We're his nest, aren't we?" he whispered. "Atlantis is his home and we're his nest. All of us."
Radek hadn't thought of that before and it clearly showed on his face. Yet it made sense, it made very real sense. He opened his mouth to answer but whatever answer he might have had was cut off as Rodney splashed to the surface with a great gasp of air.
"I'm not telling Ronon by inviting him into my bath," Rodney said. "Could you two please think about how I'm going to tell people instead of why?"
"Sorry," John said.
"After mention of Cthulhu worship did you not find people pulling pranks on you?" Radek asked.
"Technically I'm still finding random things sent to me," Rodney admitted.
"Something I should know about?" Sheppard asked.
"Nah, it amuses me," Rodney dismissed. "Emailed photomanips of Mythos-related artwork with terribly worded but amusing captions, bad horror movies from the 80s showing up in my office, stuffed plushies of Elder Gods, copies of Lovecraft stories, harmless things. I got a great poster I'm going to put on my office door; I think it's from a webcomic."
"Last one was Keller," Radek revealed. "I was in lab when she dropped it off."
"Huh. I should do something back." Rodney gave a tiny gasp as he was hit in the head with an idea. An idea not his own. He looked straight at John and grinned. "That is an excellent idea," he said.
"Is it?" Radek asked.
"What is?" John asked.
"You're the one who had it," Rodney pointed out. He gave a dark giggle before stretching out in the water. Laughter deepened in tone until it lapsed into a purr and he slipped underwater.
"What was idea?" Radek asked.
"I don't know," John admitted. He looked down at a happy Rodney and tried to ignore the way the water all around them nearly vibrated with the force of Rodney's purr. "And doesn't he need to breathe?"
Radek shrugged. "Not so much as you think."
They planned to tell him at the next team movie night, relying on the fact that Torren was now old enough for colic to start setting in. Combine a screaming baby with the stress of Kanaan being held on the mainland like a prisoner of war and Teyla was too exhausted to do much more than exist at the moment.
Torren had been handed off to Dr. Keller for the evening so Teyla could get some much needed sleep on the night when Sheppard and McKay planned on telling Ronon.
Ronon showed up at Sheppard's quarters with the bowl of popcorn and was let in. McKay was already there, wringing his hands and in general being even more nervous than usual. "What's with him?" Ronon asked, grabbing a handful of popcorn from the bowl in his arms.
McKay paced back and forth around the room, hands wringing, eyes shifting, and in general looking like he was trying to think their way out of certain death again. "There's something I have to tell you," he admitted. "Something important, very important."
"Then tell me," Ronon said.
Rodney stopped his pacing to stare incredulously at the man. "I can't just do that!" he insisted.
Sheppard sighed from the doorway. "McKay is a Deep One hybrid," he said, deadpanned.
Ronon took in McKay's look of utter horror and betrayal. He had no idea what that even meant. "This is some Earth thing, right?" he asked.
"I cannot believe you just told him!" Rodney shrieked.
"So what's it mean?" Ronon asked.
Rodney glared at Sheppard in anger while gesturing silently for him to pick up the pieces of shattered plan that littered the metaphorical floor. Emotions ran fierce and high in a set procession of fury, fear, impatience, fear again, depression, and finally acceptance. Ronon found himself reaching for the popcorn again while he watched the play of emotions. If it weren't so serious he'd have found it more entertaining than some movie.
Rodney sighed in defeat. "There are more than just humans on Earth," he admitted quietly. "Other civilizations, other sentient species just as capable of doing everything the Tau'ri have done, probably even more. One such civilization is an aquatic race, amphibians with an underwater empire. They're capable of wandering onto the land and they do it often."
"So what's the big deal?" Ronon asked.
"They're called Deep Ones," Rodney whispered. "Short version is that they appear to a village of people. In exchange for worship and virgins and sacrifice the Deep Ones bring prosperity and protection. At least that's how it starts."
"Sounds a bit like the Wraith," Ronon said, a dangerous tone coming to his voice.
Rodney winced as though struck. "They're not," he whispered. "It's a trade agreement. In return for abundant fishing and gold the Deep Ones ask for the opportunity to breed with their human allies. The children from these breedings look human at first but once they grow up they slowly turn into Deep Ones and take to the water, ah, they move to living in the ocean. The Deep Ones worship their own gods and the humans just pick up the practice. They're nothing like the Wraith; no one eats anyone else."
"And McKay is a hybrid like this?
Rodney nodded sadly.
"Can I see?"
Rodney sputtered indignantly. "W-what?!"
"Can I see?" Ronon asked again.
Rodney swelled up like a mad hen, about to declare that Ronon not only couldn't see but was insulting him by merely asking. One look at Sheppard and he deflated a bit before grumblingly taking off his shirt and turning halfway around.
Ronon's eyebrows rose. He forgot himself for a moment to reach forward and stroke a finger down the shimmery diamond-shaped overlapping scales that covered McKay's back. He noted how Rodney flinched as fingertip traced the edge of one scale. "Does it hurt?" he asked.
Rodney shook his head. "Just, I'm not comfortable with this," he said quickly, pulling away. Nervousness rose again as shirt quickly went back on, leaving Ronon with little more than a touch and a glimpse.
"So what you're saying is you're a monster," Ronon stated.
Rodney sagged under mental anguish. "I hate that word," he whispered before scampering out of the room. He ran out of Sheppard's quarters, ran until he reached his own without caring who he passed or what was shouted at him.
"What did I say?" Ronon asked.
"You called him a monster," Sheppard said, anger lacing his words.
"It fits him," Ronon said, leaning back with a shrug. It took him a moment of being glared daggers at to realize what was going on. "I think 'monster' means something different on Earth than it does here," he realized.
"I should hope so," Sheppard growled. "Because a good example of what we would call a monster is the Wraith."
Ronon was shocked. He found himself hoping that the word had been misinterpreted because his definition of the word that Sheppard was using to describe the Wraith was much more benign than Sheppard realized. "That is not what I meant," he said gruffly.
"Well what did you mean?" Sheppard asked, still angry.
Ronon stared incredulously at John, confused at needing to explain something so simple as what a monster was. "Have the humans of Earth ever knowingly shared their world with a different race?" he asked. "A race of beings as intelligent or nearly as intelligent as your own, maybe the two races don't talk to each other, maybe they trade, maybe they fight, but everyone agrees they're people like yourselves, a different species of people? Obviously you do share your world, McKay is the proof. Don't your people know that?"
Sheppard shook his head. "They don't know it," he admitted. "And those who do tend to call them 'animals'."
Incredulity bled into faint disgust. "I really do not like Earth," Ronon said.
"I can understand that."
"To us in this Galaxy a monster is just a way of defining someone as belonging to your world but not being of your species," Ronon said, trying to explain it. "It's even said the Ancestors knew monsters, five-sided cylindrical beings with wings that taught them how to build the Ancestral Rings."
It finally hit Sheppard how different their definitions of the word were. His anger disappeared in a flash of shock and understanding. "We should probably talk to Rodney," he said. "That's not how he thinks you consider him."
Rodney lay miserable at the bottom of his bathtub and wished that he could drown. He cursed himself for being led into optimism by Sheppard and Zelenka and even Miko. He should have known, he had known that Ronon wouldn't react the same way. Deep Ones were too different than people, especially the people of the Pegasus Galaxy.
The Deep Ones of Innsmouth were too much like the Wraith for Ronon to ever be able to reconcile the McKay he knew before and the McKay he knew existed now. Rodney knew that would happen. Even though the Deep Ones never ate the bulk of their victims, the fact that humans were their victims, the fact that these human victims felt the Deep One's taint for generations made them too horrifying.
Too much like the Wraith.
I'm a monster, he thought to himself in the water. It was something he'd known but never really accepted, much less thought about. His father had been a monster, a depraved hypocrite who prided himself in being the Marsh family patriarch without actually taking up any of the duties and responsibilities therein. His mother had been a victim, a half-mad thrall who worshipped the ground her husband trod on while envying his change. His sister had only been eight when their father killed himself because of some misplaced sense of shame, possibly at what he had done with his life but more likely because he'd managed to spawn a daughter with no trace of the Deep One's taint.
He still remembered his mother's last words. You're gettin' the Look, Meredith. Just like your father. But promise me, Meredith. Promise me you won't be throwin' it away like he did. Promise me you'll take to the water, embrace it. Please.
Rodney knew he'd been a monster the moment when he let his mother die without giving her an answer, without telling her the words she desperately needed to hear.
He leaned up to surface enough for a breath before slipping back under. He wished he had his gills so he'd never have to surface, never have to leave Atlantis. He could dive off his balcony into the waters below and never have to come back. It would hurt to leave his nest but he'd get over it, make a new nest. He'd already managed it once, he could do it again.
No, that wasn't true and he knew it. He didn't know if he could leave Atlantis, even to take to the water. He didn't know if he'd survive leaving his nest behind again.
He needed his nest. And they needed him. All of them.
The door opened for Sheppard and Ronon without much protest. They were in McKay's quarters, such as they were. The bed was unmade, clothes were strewn over most surfaces, there were no less than three separate laptops in various states of activity, and the place had a definite fishy smell to it. Ronon immediately understood why they'd never had a team night in Rodney's rooms; they were less like the dwelling of a human and more like the lair of an animal.
Ronon could immediately appreciate that. It made the place feel lived-in.
He followed Sheppard to what he figured was the bathroom except it was much larger than his. As was the bath. Ronon settled down on the floor of the room next to the tub and stared into the water at the form curled up within. Silvery-green scales stood out against the dull pink-beige of the tub itself. The still fairly human form of Rodney McKay stretched out slightly as he leaned up enough for his head to breach the surface, eyes closed. He took a few slow breaths, gills straining to open beneath the skin of his neck. One long inhale before he slipped back under to lie on the bottom. Eyes opened in the water to stare unseeing at nothing.
Ronon stretched a hand forward to the surface of the water and let it barely dip in. Cold.
Rodney's eyes suddenly went more alert. This was someone new, he could feel it. A comforting hand stroked down the scales of his shoulder and arm. It reached further down past elbow and wrist to grasp his hand and squeeze. Rodney squeezed back.
Ronon reached down with his other hand and ran a finger along the thin scales of Rodney's side. A finger became a whole hand that rested against his skin quietly, an anchor to try and bring McKay back from himself.
Rodney closed his eyes, a few stray bubbles escaping his lips. He could feel the emotions behind those hands, the newness and wonder behind companionship and honor, lots of honor. Respect. Friendship. Maybe a little bit of brotherhood. Rodney's hairs all stood on end as he realized who it was. His eyes opened and he turned over to look at the water-distorted face above.
"I'm sorry I made you run like that," Ronon said. "It was my fault. I didn't know your world has a very different definition of the word 'monster' than mine. You're nothing like the Wraith. You're you."
Rodney smiled slightly, a sad little smile.
"I hope we can put this behind us," Ronon said. "And I'm honored that you trust me with this."
Rodney brought a hand up to cover Ronon's and slide up his arm to grip a bicep. It was hard to forgive this soon but if Ronon was making this effort then Rodney could make his own.
It might take a little while but they'd be okay.
Not all mornings were created equal. This one was shaping up to be horrible. Dr. Keller trudged into her office with a mug of the half-burnt swill left in the bottom of the coffeemaker after sitting on the burner since the night before. Her nose wrinkled in disgust every time she took a swig but she needed the caffeine after the events and dreams of last night.
Maybe McKay's condition was getting to her but she'd never dreamed of turning into a ship and flying through space before. Especially not a Wraith ship, that was just weird upon weird.
Keller almost missed the rolled up poster on her desk, as it was she'd knocked it to the floor before realizing it was there. She groaned and snatched it up, not entirely feeling up to opening it.
Morbid curiosity won out and she unrolled a 45cm by 75cm poster. And immediately started laughing. "Hey, Biro, get a look at this," she called.
Dr. Biro poked her head in. "What?" She burst out laughing too when Keller showed her the poster. "Oh that is priceless! Who sent it?"
"I think I know," Keller mused, remembering the poster she'd sent to McKay and how it ended up on his office door.
"You have to put it up, you absolutely have to," Biro urged.
"I'm going to," Keller said. "Right on my office door." Suddenly her morning looked a whole lot better.
End part 2
The beta of this chapter is iffy, I admit. It's just that I need to get this chapter up right now before RL circumstances get in my mind's way. If it needs a rewrite someone prod me and I'll get to it later.
Because sometimes rumors spread. And sometimes no one cares. Spoilers for The Seed.
"And frankly I've been looking over the personnel files and I'm a bit worried," droned on the sleepy male voice. Colonel Steven Caldwell fought not to yawn as Mr. Woolsey continued his conference. "Especially with the events uncovered on the Daedalus's last visit. Is it true, Colonel, that you fielded complaints from a scientist that Dr. McKay and possibly several of his more, shall we say, favored scientists were worshipers in a dangerous Earth-based cult?"
"That's the Cthulhu incident, isn't it?" Caldwell asked. "I point out that those complaints were officially found to be poorly executed attempts at personal attack against Dr. McKay and his science team. Dr. Kavanagh has a history of antagonizing his superiors and then attempting to get them into trouble when authority is used to confront that antagonizing."
"This Dr. Kavanagh voiced many concerns during the time he was with the Atlantis expedition, including concerns that the IOA has had and feels were never resolved in a satisfactory manner."
"This Dr. Kavanagh was also the only member of Atlantis personnel who followed without question the orders of the Goa-uld placed in me by the Trust," Caldwell growled. "Even when it became clear to him that doing so would jeopardize the expedition, the Daedalus, and the lives of everyone involved."
"There is no proof he knew what he was doing."
"There is no proof he knew otherwise."
Woolsey gulped at the dangerous look on the Colonel's face and knew that he had struck a very sensitive nerve. "G-getting back to the m-matter at hand," he said, stammering a bit. "These allegations of a Cthulhu cult on Atlantis are serious a-and the IOA feels they were not fully investigated."
"Officially the case is closed," Caldwell reiterated.
"Then there is an unofficial stance?"
"Of course," Caldwell said. "Given worship of Cthulhu himself would yield poor results so far from R'lyeh it is much more practical to send sacrifices to the Great Old Ones themselves. If there were a theoretical cult on Atlantis, and I'm not saying there is, then worship of Yog-Sothoth would be most likely as Yog-Sothoth is the gate. The unofficial stance is given that so long as the gate continues to operate, no one ends up dead and no one ends up going mad, then no one at the SGC really cares. The SGC feels the IOA would do well to accept and perhaps adopt this unofficial stance, just in case."
Woolsey stared at Caldwell, all words lost to him. The most he could muster was a tiny squeak.
"Glad we agree," Caldwell said before taking the chance to escape the meeting. He nearly ran from the makeshift conference room to his quarters. Technically he'd said he'd return to the bridge after three hours and the conference with Woolsey had only taken two.
It was good to be the captain of a Daedalus-class battle cruiser. His quarters had amenities like a desk and a bathtub and more than one room. He took full advantage of having a comfy chair by sitting in it and putting his feet on his desk. Sometimes he thought that maybe he'd spent too much time around John Sheppard; his desk didn't deserve to have booted feet on it.
But it was comfy.
The chime on his door rang and Caldwell grabbed the nearest thing he could reach and tried to look busy with it. It was a stack of files, paper files. Some rustling and he figured he looked busy enough. "What?" he called.
The door opened to a slightly flustered Woolsey, apparently unwilling to let the matter drop. He was about to begin a probably long and possibly well thought out rant when he noticed paper. And files. "Oh, I didn't know you were busy with actual work," Woolsey said. "I'll leave you to your files but we will continue our discussion." Woolsey left and the door slid closed.
Caldwell looked at the door, taken aback by the apparent power that paper forms had over this man. He resolved to keep a stack of papers on his desk for just this situation in the future.
Curiosity had him begin looking through the papers he'd picked up. Ah yes, the Innsmouth files for Sheppard. He'd pulled a number of favors to get these. For some of the more specialized files he'd needed to go to General O'Neill himself.
That was one of the great things about working under Jack O'Neill, Caldwell thought. Jack had seen most of it all during his time in the SGC. That which he hadn't seen he was willing to wait on information before forming an opinion about. It made him feel less guilty about having to admit to the general that Sheppard needed these files because he had reason to suspect that one of his men was a Deep One of Innsmouth blood.
"So why does Sheppard need the files if he already knows?" O'Neill had asked.
"He says he wants to read the files before making any judgment," Caldwell had answered. "Unofficially, of course."
"Of course," Jack said. "So unofficially there are Deep Ones and cultists of Yog-Sothoth running around Atlantis."
"Unofficially I'm not sure there are cultists, Sir. Unofficially I think it's just common pranking gone a bit off the deep end."
"If there were then unofficially I don't think it would be a problem. It might in fact end up being useful. I know that unofficially the stargate here on Earth tended to be a bit less bumpy on the exit after Daniel began paying lip-service to Yog-Sothoth before each trip through."
"Are you saying...?"
"Officially I'm not saying anything," O'Neill said. "But, unofficially, so long as no one dies, goes mad, and the gate keeps working, then the SGC doesn't care. We don't want to know and we don't care. I'm extending that unofficial policy to Deep Ones on Atlantis. So long as no one dies, goes mad, or gets raped, then the SGC won't care. I'll make sure of it. Besides, wouldn't having a sea monster in an expedition to a city in the middle of the ocean be a good idea anyway? Be even better if it ended up being a scientist."
The conversation had returned to less weird topics after that until O'Neill promised to get the files out of various archives before the Daedalus left and the meeting ended.
And now Caldwell held those files in his hands. He'd gotten the generic overview back in the early 80s but not much more than that, though it was more than enough to know that what the FBI and Naval Intelligence had done was an atrocity.
He flipped open the files.
General O'Neill had spared no security clearance. Caldwell hadn't even known there were autopsy reports of Deep Ones until now. The stories had always described Deep Ones as giant clumsy frogs with lidless eyes but these descriptions were a bit different, describing nictitating membranes, streamlined bodies, and dexterous hands. Lovecraft hadn't done them justice, he thought. They're much more sentient, more human than he ever realized.
Among the files were photographs of the hybrids taken after the raids, broken and bitter people reduced to imprisonment for the crime of existing. They all had certain peculiarities to their form, the well-documented 'Innsmouth Look' of a balding head, big watery eyes, long hunched neck marred by creases on each side, and visible patches of scaly skin similar to plaque psoriasis.
Something in the photographs seemed very familiar.
Caldwell picked up a new file documenting the decade's worth of observations of the transformation of two hybrids, apparently brother and sister. Bernard and Barbara Marsh had been in their late teens when they were captured in the Marsh mansion along with representatives of three generations of the Marsh family all the way down to the five year old daughter of Esther Marsh. He found it odd that he couldn't find any mention of the child Rosalyn Marsh other than she was lost soon after the raids.
He put thoughts of a missing little girl from 80 years ago out of his mind and went back to the cataloged observations of the two siblings. The file on Barbara was interesting. It spoke of how the webbing on her hands showed up soon after capture. Scales followed after, running down her spine, and then the usual symptoms of the Innsmouth Look followed by skeletal changes to her spine and skull along with the loss of hair. In the end she'd been killed trying to escape, a disjointedly reported affair possibly involving mind control or maybe just an overactive imagination.
Caldwell opened the file on Bernard and began looking it over. The hairs on the back of his neck stood stiff as he saw these pictures. Bernard's transformation had taken the same general route though he'd had the beginnings of a dorsal fin forming when they finally executed him out of some sense of possibly pity but more likely a loss of funding. At each stage the family resemblance was uncanny.
He knew who the Deep One was.
Caldwell mulled it over for a few moments. Technically Sheppard had been correct; Dr. McKay was on his SG team and thus loosely could be counted as one of 'his men'.
"Huh," he said to the empty room.
After the fiasco involving a cocoon, a clone, and a virus Caldwell finally found time outside of crisis to beam down to the city. He wasn't sure he trusted anyone else with the files in his hand, even with the SGC's unofficial policies.
Although he probably should have known better than to try and hide the confidential nature of the files behind a completely blank folder. The fact that it didn't have a military logo or the SGC symbol on it was enough to turn heads and trigger curiosity among the civilians.
He found Sheppard by following the noise, ending up in the gym where the Lt. Colonel was familiarizing himself with the new marines by beating them into submission in hand-to-hand. He waited until the current challenger ended up on the floor and tapped out before announcing himself. "I thought you were supposed to be taking it easy," he announced loudly.
"I am taking it easy," Sheppard said. "I get punched in the gut all the time."
"That was taking it easy?!" whimpered the marine on the ground.
"Welcome to the Pegasus Galaxy," Sheppard said. "Where even the little girls can kick your ass. No one knows why, maybe it's the radiation we've all been exposed to."
"Can I talk to you?" Caldwell said, covering amusement with annoyance. "In private."
"Right," Sheppard said. He followed Caldwell out of the gym. "So, office?"
"I have those files you asked for," Caldwell said without preamble, handing them to him. "We need to discuss them."
"I know," Sheppard said, a bit puzzled by the fact that they were discussing this in public. "So, office?"
"And I believe Dr. McKay would like to be there."
Color drained from Sheppard's face, confirming Caldwell's suspicions.
"So, office?" Caldwell said, mimicking Sheppard's gesture exactly.
"Right," Sheppard said, going quiet. He followed a few steps behind Caldwell, unconsciously gauging the man's physical strength, observing his movements for weaknesses, noting where he held his weapons. Maybe it was McKay's paranoia about people finding out but he found himself considering how he was going to kill this man if it was revealed that McKay was to be punished for what he was.
The door opened to the office and Sheppard followed Caldwell in. Paper files went to the desk. "McKay is terrified the SGC will order his execution," Sheppard said.
"He doesn't have to be," Caldwell assured.
"And how do you know?" John asked.
"The SGC had a previous unofficial stance on cults of Yog-Sothoth. In general they don't care so long as no one dies, no one goes insane, and the gate still works. I spoke to General O'Neill and he agreed to extend that stance of not caring about it to the presence of Deep Ones on Atlantis."
"So the SGC doesn't care? McKay's not going to get shot for this?"
"O'Neill's words were 'so long as no one dies, goes mad, or gets raped, then the SGC won't care.' He even went so far as to mention that having a Deep One stationed in a city that floats in the middle of the ocean is a good idea."
Sheppard sank heavily into his desk chair with a long sigh of relief. "Steven, I have no problem in telling you that I was prepared to kill you if you told me McKay had to die because of this," he said.
"If I had been told that McKay needed to die because of this I would no longer be in command of the Daedalus," Caldwell said sincerely. "I would have resigned right there."
Sheppard nodded and put a hand to his radio. "Sheppard to McKay," he said.
"What is it?" Rodney answered through the earpiece. "And would you have any idea why the radio chatter thinks we're fucking? I am having a helluva time convincing people that we're not sleeping together."
"What? Nevermind, just, can you come to my office?"
"What for? We're trying to, you know, fix the giant hole you made in the wall out here."
"Fine." The radio went quiet.
Caldwell pulled up a chair. "So I hear Woolsey broke his first rules," he said, trying to start a conversation.
"Yeah, he sounded almost ashamed," Sheppard said. "Went on about how if he couldn't rely on the rules then what could he rely on. I didn't have the heart to tell him that you can't be 'by the book' in a place that has no book."
"I'd have liked to see the look on his face," Caldwell lamented.
"I did see it," Sheppard said quietly. "It wasn't pretty. I've seen people look more broken than he did but not often. It was like his whole world had shattered around him."
"I see." Caldwell looked down at his hands, not sure what to say next. "Maybe he'll take my advice, then," he finally mumbled.
"You gave Woolsey advice?"
"I told him the IOA would do well to adopt the SGC's unofficial policy as its own."
"Well, it's a rule that he can follow," John mused. "Maybe he'll latch onto it. I've seen people go a bit loopy out here, collect things around them to protect them from their own knowledge."
"You think Woolsey will start surrounding himself with his rules?"
"More likely just the rules that work, random collections of rules that have proven useful at times."
"Still doesn't sound stable."
"It really isn't," John said, a manic little giggle escaping him as he said it. "But then the whole SGC probably thinks we're all more than a bit loopy out here so what's the difference?"
Caldwell watched Sheppard warily, waiting until the mad giggling was brought under control.
"I'm sorry, it's just..." Sheppard trailed off.
"Don't want to know," Caldwell said.
The door chimed and opened. Rodney stormed in. "Okay, Sheppard, what is it that's so important that I--" He stopped suddenly when he saw Caldwell sitting there. "Oh hell no," he whimpered.
"So I can assume you've put together the fact that I know?" Caldwell asked dryly.
Rodney McKay did something he hadn't done in a long time, something he would claim afterwards didn't happen. He fainted dead away.
Sheppard gave Caldwell an amused look. "I think you scared him," he said, deadpanned.
Caldwell rubbed the crown of his bald head. "I didn't think he'd faint," he said, puzzled.
"Well he still thinks the military wants to shoot him for the whole Innsmouth thing," John explained. He dragged Rodney into a sitting position and started tapping his wrists.
"Are those gills on his neck?" Caldwell asked, pointing out ridges in McKay's neck. They were visible only because of the awkward angle of Rodney's neck and lolling head.
"Yeah. We think they're fully formed by now but for some reason they haven't burst yet."
John shrugged. "Rodney has a number of weird terms for stages in his Change," he explained. "The skin on his neck hasn't torn or rotted off or whatever gross thing it's going to do in order to expose his gills."
Caldwell gave Sheppard a look that very plainly said eww. "I can see why you use his terms for these things."
John slid open one of Rodney's eyes and suppressed a shudder at the sight of half-closed nictitating membrane over a semiconscious eyeball. "Hey," he called. "Wake up in there." Nictitating membrane slid closed. "I have coffee," John tempted. "Look. Caldwell's just here to talk. You're not going to get shot."
Membrane slid open to reveal a wakeful eyeball. "How do you know?" Rodney asked.
"I'm not here to shoot you, McKay," Caldwell said. "In fact I have good news."
Rodney opened his eyes. "Good news?" he asked. "So I'm not dead?"
"There is no official anything on Mythos-related activities but unofficially there is a general policy of 'don't care'."
Rodney sighed, relief flooding his features until a thought struck him and nervousness returned. "Exactly how high up is this policy coming from?" he asked.
"General O'Neill himself," Caldwell assured. "He even went so far as to say that having a Deep One in Atlantis made sense given this city is in the middle of the ocean."
Relief came back and Rodney fell backwards to lean against the wall. "I'm not dead," he murmured, giggling softly. "Not gonna get shot." Mad laughter softened into purring as it finally hit him.
Caldwell took a step back and gave Sheppard a wary look. He relaxed slightly when he didn't see any sign of Sheppard reacting to a threat but this was still very weird. He was very glad he wouldn't have to deal with this every day.
"Dr. McKay, I request you take this poster down," Woolsey said in a tone that made it clear this was a demand more than anything.
Rodney had to admit, he was impressed for a moment by the gall Woolsey was showing by storming into the lab without so much as a 'hello' or an invitation and announcing his presence by making demands. That moment lasted just long enough for Rodney to realize it was a demand. He glowered at the bald man. This is MY lab, Rodney thought through that glower. No one makes demands but me. "Why?" he asked aloud, trying to sound innocent.
Woolsey sputtered before just glaring at McKay and pointing to the poster in question. It was a gray-white monochrome of Cthulhu, of a very peculiar-looking Cthulhu. Great Cthulhu stood tall and thin in sweeping robes, tiny wings held behind him. He had an amused and inviting look on his tentacled face and both hands were held in front of him in a 'thumbs up' gesture. He was standing on a small altar that had 'Buddy Cthulhu' carved into it and a few red runes ran along the sides of the poster's black background.
"That doesn't answer why," Rodney pointed out.
"It's bad for morale," Woolsey claimed. "After being accused of worshiping Cthulhu I can't believe you'd willingly advertise the very thing you were accused of!"
Rodney turned to the rest of the scientists in the lab. "Does anyone think this is bad for morale?" he asked, gesturing to the poster. After a round of 'no's he turned back to face Woolsey. "Not bad for morale," he pointed out.
"And as for the other concern, I keep this poster up as a reminder of how absurd it is to accuse someone of worshiping Great Cthulhu out here."
Woolsey fumed for a few moments while more and more scientists filed in through back doors and the whiteboard room to watch. "You're as bad as Keller," he accused.
"Oh?" Rodney said, baiting his prey.
"Yes!" Woolsey exclaimed, falling for the bait. "She's got this poster of a looming silhouette on her office door with the caption 'Dr. Jack Barnes says: Science is not for pussies!' Do you know who Dr. Barnes is?!"
"Of course. He proved that the sting of the Irukandji jellyfish causes the most excruciating pain known on Earth, which lasts for hours. He did this by rubbing said jellyfish on himself and his son and seeing what happened. I happen to agree with that poster; science is definitely not for pussies."
"That is a horribly morbid thing to have on the wall of an infirmary!" Woolsey shouted.
"And have there been complaints?" Rodney asked smugly.
"No," Woolsey admitted.
"And have there been complaints about Great Cthulhu on my door?"
Woolsey was about to admit defeat when he picked up on something. "McKay, say the word 'cthulhu'."
"Now say the name 'Cthulhu'."
Rodney tried to say just the name but habit kicked in. "Great Cthulhu."
"You can't even say his name without a title!" Woolsey accused. "How can you possibly expect me to believe you're not a worshiper?!"
Anger led to superiority and superiority led to recklessness as McKay stood tall and loomed over the furious human. "I also call them Father Dagon and Mother Hydra," he growled. "Does that make me a Deep One?"
Woolsey pulled himself together, shaking with frustration. He turned and left the lab without a word.
Rodney tensed up and took a slow look around the room to see most of the science department staring at him with various looks of shock. He shook as panic began taking over and fled the room.
Zelenka took in the staring scientists as they began murmuring amongst themselves. He left the lab, following where he felt Rodney might be. He ended up in an empty corridor where he found Rodney leaning against the wall near hyperventilation.
"Why did I say that?" Rodney muttered in a panicked rasp. "Why did I say anything? Why didn't I just drop it? That was the single stupidest thing I have ever said or done in my whole life!"
"You can still fix," Radek offered. "You can go back in there and fix."
"They all know now!" Rodney whimpered. "How do I fix that?!"
"That is up to you. You can say it was attempt to get rise out of Woolsey. You can say you meant nothing. You can say you really do worship Cthulhu. You can even tell the truth. Is all up to you."
Rodney pulled Radek into a hug, squeezing the man tight to try and ground himself. His breathing slowed and calmed as Radek soothed him with gentle hands, kind thoughts, and soft lips. Rodney sighed at feather-kisses up his neck to his ear, returned them as a soft nuzzle at Radek's cheek.
"We should go back," Radek whispered.
Rodney made a whining sound. He didn't want to.
Radek pulled away. "Remember, is your choice," he said before sliding a hand down to Rodney's and pulling him gently along. They ended up back at the lab, Radek letting go of Rodney's hand just before entering.
The murmuring buzz of conversation slowed and stopped in audible waves emanating from the door as Rodney stepped inside. He gave everyone a once-over, matching their stares with one of his own. Before he could ruffle his feathers and demand they all get back to work a small voice drifted forward. "Dr. McKay?"
"What?" Rodney snapped.
The voice had an owner who stepped forward. Rodney couldn't place a name, his mind was too busy fixating over the fact that this was one of the marine biologists. He braced himself.
"Dr. McKay, marine science has been wondering when and if we might be able to use the underwater puddlejumper bay," he asked. "The control room is still underwater and is likely to remain so but we feel launching a couple of surveys from underwater will give us a better idea of the effect that local currents and marine life might have on the city."
This was it, Rodney could feel it. He could squash the rumors right now by insisting that he hadn't meant anything by his comments except to make Woolsey's arguments sound even more absurd. It would stop the rumors for now but what about later when he was too Changed to keep those rumors quiet. No matter how fully he destroyed ideas now they would only surface again, likely in the near future. Or he could stop hiding. He could just admit it to himself and to his scientists, his nest. For the first time in his life he could live without this secret.
He could be free.
Rodney McKay made his choice. "Not yet," he said. "Soon but not yet."
End part 3
Part 4 might be a bit of a wait, I apologize.
Sometimes the direct approach is easiest.
Teyla Emmagan was having a good day. She'd spoken to Dr. Keller about Torren's crying the week before; Jennifer had called it 'colic' and recommended Teyla cut down on the earth foods she ate. The doctor's advice was sound; Torren hadn't had a screaming fit since she changed her diet. In addition to the good news she'd just learned from Mr. Woolsey that Kanaan was cleared to come to Atlantis, to come home.
There was one thing eating at the back of her mind. Rumors were abounding about her friends. The one about John Sheppard and Rodney McKay was amusing but the one about Rodney as something called a 'deep one' was odd. She didn't like the undercurrents of fear and disgust she sometimes caught surrounding that rumor nor did she like the fact that no one would tell her what a 'deep one' was.
She pushed that thought to the back of her mind where it belonged and wandered into the cafeteria, Torren in her arms. Rodney was just leaving, ranting at one of his scientists about not sleeping with Sheppard. Sheppard and Ronon were both watching the exchange, amused. Teyla wordlessly handed Torren to Ronon and picked through the daily offerings for Pegasus-native foods, all while listening to the rant.
"What can I do to convince you that I'm not fucking Sheppard?" Rodney pleaded.
"You can't," his opponent said. "Methinks you doth protest too much."
Rodney sputtered indignantly. "You'd protest too if you were me. I mean, look at him! He doesn't have an ass, he has a suggestion of a place where an ass should be found."
"Hey!" Sheppard called from across the room. "I heard that!"
"So you admit you've looked."
"Are you kidding? Everyone and their mom has looked."
Teyla had to hide her laughter as she sat down across from a pouting Sheppard. She gave him an apologetic look.
Rodney was about to continue his rant when Radek Zelenka walked by with a tray in his hands. Rodney grabbed the tray, slammed it to a table, grabbed Radek by his shirt, and pulled him in for a plundering kiss.
Jaws dropped, bets were lost, calls on the radio made, and threats to get the hose were voiced before lips pulled breathlessly away from each other.
"You've not ambushed me like that before," Radek said, his voice bordering on a purr as he traced a fingertip up and down Rodney's uniform jacket.
"Remind me to do it more often," Rodney murmured, arms sliding around Radek's frame to hold him close. He placed a softer kiss to Radek's lips, opening his mouth to lick gently at willing lips.
"Ahem," came an interrupting noise.
Lips pulled away from each other as two sets of eyes looked in utter disdain at the owner of that interrupting noise. Woolsey stood there, hands crossed over his chest, foot tapping on the floor. He was about to open his mouth when another interruption came.
"Technically since they're both international and neither are military then no rules have been broken here," said one of the marines.
Woolsey looked around at the people watching and sighed. "Just, get a room," he said, waving irritably at the two scientists.
Rodney purred openly before dragging Radek off, tray forgotten.
Ronon smiled in greeting to Teyla, the most he could do while under doctor's orders not to talk.
"That should take care of the rumors surrounding the two of you, no?" Teyla said. She offered to take Torren from Ronon. Ronon pretended not to notice and bounced a bit while Torren made happy baby noises. Teyla conceded and dug into her meal.
"I hope so," John admitted. "Still, he could have been a little more..."
Ronon raised an eyebrow in question.
"I mean, I have an ass, right?" John asked.
Teyla almost choked as laughter met a mouthful of food. She swallowed painfully, drank some water, and saw the pitifully hopeful Sheppard was giving her. "Well, John, some people appreciate something round and fleshy to grab while making love," she said gently. "You don't quite have anything soft enough for a lover to really grab onto."
Sheppard pointedly ignored Ronon's grin of total amusement and the way his shoulders shook with silent laughter. "So you're saying I don't have an ass?" he asked.
"No, John, you don't have an ass to speak of."
Sheppard went back to pouting.
Ronon noticed Torren was mewling and rooting around for a nipple. He shifted Torren to one arm, poked Teyla, and mimed his spare hand over his own chest as though grabbing an invisible breast.
"The one moment I get a chance to eat something," she bemoaned. Teyla took Torren gently from Ronon's arms and made ready to leave.
"Oh just feed him here," sighed a defeated voice. Mr. Woolsey sat himself at their table uninvited and was met with a chorus of raised eyebrows.
"Are you sure?" Teyla asked. "I can leave."
"More scandalous things have happened in the past five minutes," Woolsey dismissed.
Teyla, Ronon, and John looked at one another, shrugged, and Teyla settled back down. She slipped her shirt halfway off and cradled Torren so he could suckle. She returned to her voracious eating.
From across the room there came a soft "moo" followed by a loud crunch as the guy who "moo"-ed at Teyla was punched in the nose. Woolsey's expression turned angry.
"Don't bother," Sheppard murmured, coaxing Woolsey down. "He got what he deserved for it."
"Still..." Woolsey growled.
"He gets his nose broken enough he'll learn not to 'moo' over it," Sheppard pointed out. "More effective than actually getting involved. Let it go."
"Mr. Woolsey, I am curious about something I've been hearing lately," Teyla said, distracting him from the situation at hand. "What is a 'deep one'? I have heard several of the expedition members call Dr. McKay such a thing."
The table went quiet as Sheppard and Woolsey attempted to avoid looking uncomfortable. "Perhaps that is something Dr. McKay should answer," Woolsey said slowly.
"I have not been able to corner him alone since I first heard the term," Teyla admitted. "He is now always accompanied by his fellow scientists."
"Probably a good thing," Sheppard mumbled. Ronon prodded Sheppard under the table with his foot and gestured at Woolsey. He made semi-random motions with his hands in an attempt at communication, not realizing his eyes and expression said enough. Teyla nodded in understanding while Woolsey looked on, confused. "That's going to be necessary, yes," Sheppard agreed.
"What?" Woolsey asked.
"What is the IOA's stance on Deep Ones?" Sheppard asked.
"I-I don't know," Woolsey admitted. "I haven't had a chance to ask my superiors."
"Consider for a hypothetical moment that you're here in the Pegasus galaxy like the rest of us and a situation arises, such as your head scientist is outed as a Deep One, where you can't afford to wait to contact your superiors." Sheppard ignored the dirty look Woolsey gave him. "Continuing to stay hypothetical here, imagine for a moment that said head scientist now has a constant honor guard of fellow scientists who recognize that even though the military has an unofficial policy towards Deep Ones it is only unofficial and thus no one who decides to, say, conspire against, injure, even murder said Deep One can officially be charged with a crime higher than animal cruelty because said Deep One technically isn't human. Out here, Woolsey, you are the IOA because you're the only IOA out here. It is ultimately your decision. I suggest you make it."
"You don't honestly think people here would do something like that?" Woolsey asked.
"Most I would say no," Sheppard admitted. "Some I'm not so sure. The latest group just off the Daedalus, I fear some of them would. The new marines tend not to consider the civilians even worthy of being out here, not until a few months have passed and they get a chance to see how things work out here."
"I'm still not entirely sure how things work out here," Woolsey admitted.
"We can tell," Ronon said in a scratchy, deadpanned voice. He coughed at the use of his voice and grabbed for something to drink.
"I'll think about it," Woolsey said quietly before leaving, meal largely untouched.
"Is being a 'deep one' that serious?" Teyla asked.
Ronon shook his head 'no', visibly weighted down by sadness.
"Humans from Earth tend to overreact," Sheppard said as a quiet explanation. "They don't like the idea of sharing their planet with any other civilization, especially one that can interbreed with them. Leads to some pretty heinous crimes committed in the name of human purity."
Teyla sat back, shocked. Torren pulled away from his mother's nipple and started to cry.
Teyla found Rodney and Zelenka arguing in the hall. Both seemed unknowing or uncaring of their mussed hair, haphazard clothing, and the stench of pleasure surrounding them as they appeared to be arguing over whether to return to the lab or the mess hall.
"I need return to cafeteria," Zelenka insisted. "I have not been eaten all day."
"I should hope not," Rodney said, suddenly amused.
"I mean I have not had food all day," Zelenka corrected quickly. "I need eat something."
"Then go eat, nothing's stopping you."
"You must come with!"
"No I don't, I have to go to the lab."
Zelenka sighed. "Fine, I will come with."
"You don't need to come with me," Rodney pointed out. "I don't need a babysitter."
"Maybe not babysitter but I need come with you."
"Why?" Rodney demanded.
"You cannot be left alone!" Zelenka shouted.
Rodney gaped at Radek before finding his voice again. "Since when?!"
"We are afraid for you," Radek admitted. "Ever since you told we are afraid for you. There are... newer military who are afraid of you because you are Deep One. We fear what they might do to you, we all fear."
"And if there's someone with me all the time they won't be likely to try anything," Rodney finished solemnly.
"Nor will they try to pin something on you," Radek agreed. "We will not be leaving you alone, Rodney. Someone need come with you wherever you go."
Teyla chose that moment to enter the conversation. "You can return to the cafeteria, Dr. Zelenka," she offered. "I will escort Dr. McKay to the labs. I have some matters I need to discuss with him in private."
Radek glanced at Rodney then back at Teyla, unsure. "Are you sure?" he asked, addressing them both.
"Go eat," Rodney dismissed.
"He will be safe with me, Dr. Zelenka," Teyla assured before leading Rodney off.
Radek stood in the corridor and watched as they left. Only once they'd turned the corner did he start back to the cafeteria but not before radioing Miko of the situation.
Rodney and Teyla walked in silence, a silence not entirely uncomfortable. Rodney opened his mouth to fill that silence with speech, if only to stop it from being so silent but Teyla beat him to it. "I have heard this term used to describe you and I have not been able to find anyone willing to define it," she said. "What is a 'Deep One'?"
Rodney sighed. He should have expected this. He went for the straight explanation. "A Deep One is an amphibian from Earth's oceans," he explained, face carefully neutral. "They interbreed with the humans from Earth in exchange for material wealth or plentiful fishing. The hybrids from this interbreeding grow up looking human but at some point they change, turning into Deep Ones like their ancestors."
"I see," Teyla said. "And you're such a hybrid?"
"Yes," Rodney admitted.
"And why do the other scientists fear for you?" she asked.
He sighed again. "Because the last true Deep One in my bloodline was my great great great grandmother. That scares some of the humans from Earth because..." He gestured randomly, trying to find the words to explain it but couldn't.
"Because they might have Deep One ancestors and not know it?" Teyla supplied.
"That's one reason," Rodney admitted. "Another is that a Deep One who's taken to the water, fully Changed I mean, doesn't really look very human or attractive anymore and Earth humans have those weird taboos and things about sex and mating."
"I've noticed," Teyla said. "Especially the new ones from the Daedalus."
"Yeah, it's like that every time," Rodney pointed out.
"Once you've changed will you remain here on Atlantis?"
"I don't see why not," he said, relieved that this was going so easily. "I mean, I'll still be able to communicate and it's not like I'll be losing my mental facilities any time soon and I know Ronon's been itching to try shooting at me with a Wraith stunner to see if my scales deflect it. Even if I have to stay underwater for a while we're working on ways I can work with the marine scientists to stay active and useful here in the city."
"I'm glad you won't be leaving," she said.
Rodney graced Teyla with a stunning grin as they came to the labs. He wrapped her in a squeezing hug before pulling away and getting to work. She smiled after him and left.
The last straggler wandered into the staff meeting Mr. Woolsey had called. Dr. McKay stumbled in like it were the day after a frat party, a mug of coffee in each hand, his laptop tucked under one arm, a bag slung over the other arm, and water dripping everywhere.
"How good of you to show up, Dr. McKay," Woolsey said sarcastically.
The sarcasm was lost as Rodney slumped into a seat and started draining one mug of coffee.
"Regardless, let's continue. Dr. McKay, we need to clear something up. Are you in fact a Deep One hybrid?"
Rodney held up a finger for quiet as he finished with the first mug. "Ah, wha'?" he asked dreamily as he set it down.
"Are you in fact a Deep One hybrid?" Woolsey repeated.
Rodney scratched the underside of his neck. "Yes, yes I am," he said. He yawned.
"What were you doing last night, McKay?" Sheppard asked.
"Hmm? Oh." Rodney opened the bag and pulled out what looked like a dull blue-green squishy sea urchin. "I was un'er the city picking these off the stardrives," he explained. "They're chewing on the con'uits, probably why we've been losing power through them. I'm gonna send a few of these to biology, a few to chemistry, and a few to the cooks. They dun smell poisonous, might taste pretty good an' it'll take care of our protein shortages."
"So your gills, they burst last night?" Sheppard asked quietly.
Rodney yawned and stretched his neck as he did. Gill slits opened behind his jaw before closing again, hidden beneath what looked like little more than creases on his neck.
"That answers that," Keller said, almost in awe.
"Mmm hmm," Rodney hummed.
Woolsey stared openly, eyebrows raised. Maybe having a Deep One in the city wouldn't be such a bad thing after all.
"So has the IOA reached a decision?" Teyla asked.
"No," Woolsey admitted. "They've requested that I resend my request."
"Vogons," Sheppard mumbled under his breath.
"What was that, Colonel?"
"Tell me you've read the Hitchiker's Guide. The IOA are like Vogons, they're not going to make a decision if they can help it."
"They'll come up with a decision," Woolsey defended. "They have to, it's their job."
"Yes, well while you're waiting for their decision I've made one of my own," Sheppard pointed out. "I've spread word of the SGC's unofficial policy and made it known that we've adopted it here. I've also made it known that anyone who violates that policy will be unofficially dealt with. You won't have to do any paperwork; you don't even have to know about it. Consider it plausible deniability."
"Okay," Woolsey said, unsure.
"Mr. Woolsey, you're the IOA out here," Teyla pointed out. "No one else will make your decisions for you. If you can't do that then we're perfectly able to take that responsibility from you."
"Fine, fine," Woolsey said, trying to stave off the feeling of a mutiny brewing under him. "Dr. McKay, how soon until the labs have some results on those sea creatures eating the stardrives?"
"Dunno, maybe a day or three?" Rodney said, sipping his second mug of coffee. "Dunno how long biology's gonna take."
"How long would it take to remove the sea creatures from the stardrives?" Woolsey asked.
"If I can get Zelenka to map out the worst of the power loss an' we start from there, dunno, couple a days? A week? The worst of it'll be gone with a day a work." Coffee started kicking in and Rodney began to lose his sleepy slurring.
"Right, get to it then," Woolsey said, closing his file folders to signal the end of the meeting. Dr. Keller and Teyla left, Sheppard stayed a few moments to watch amused as Rodney gathered up his stuff before leaving, and Rodney was the last one out. Woolsey stayed behind to think.
His head of science was a Deep One. And he'd already demonstrated how that might be useful. But still, a Deep One.
This would require some thought.
He had no idea how to proceed.
End part 4
Spoilers for The Shrine. Rodney never did tell his sister...
Czech translations at the end. They're less necessary than you think.
The parasite was gone, they'd returned to Atlantis, and Jeannie Miller sat by Meredith's bed as he recovered. They'd saved his mind but she knew there was no way to save his body. Oh god, he was hideous. It was the same condition that drove their father to commit suicide, she was sure of it.
Dr. Keller came over to sit next to her. "You okay?" she asked.
Jeannie smiled wryly. "I hope we did the right thing," she said.
"I do too."
One thing Jeannie usually refused to admit to herself was that she'd inhereted the McKay bluntness. She hid it well but in the end... "He has a degenerative genetic disease," she pointed out. "Why haven't you done anything about it?"
Keller looked at Jeannie thoughtfully. Rodney had said once that he'd never said anything to his sister but she wasn't sure if she'd believed it. Now she did. "What do you know about it?" she asked.
"I know Dad had it," Jeannie said, remembering. "I know it drove him to commit suicide."
"What did he look like when he died? If you're okay with me asking."
"I barely recognized him," Jeannie said, not really hearing Dr. Keller anymore. "His skin was covered in grey-silver plaques, his hands and feet were webbed, his spine was all hunched over, the skin on his neck was folded over on itself but his face..." She shuddered in disgust. "He didn't look human anymore. And Meredith has the same thing. Tell me, did he ever ask you to fix it?"
"No," Keller admitted. "He never did."
"What about Carson?"
Keller nodded sadly. "Rodney did ask Carson a few times but he wouldn't do it," she said.
"'Wouldn't'?" Jeannie asked, horrified.
"Couldn't do it, either," Keller said in defense. "It's not a disease, Mrs. Miller, nor is it degenerative. But it is genetic."
"I suggest you ask Rodney about it when he wakes up," Keller said, getting up. "Why don't you go and get some sleep? I'm going to be here all night."
"No, it's okay," Jeannie said. "I'd like to be here when he wakes up."
"Well, it could be a while," Keller said, trying to inject some humor into the room. "He does love to sleep, our Rodney."
"You should have seen him when he was a teenager."
"Who can sleep with all the talking?" asked a drowsy voice from the bed. Rodney opened his eyes and turned to look on them both.
"Hi!" Jeannie exclaimed.
"Hi," Rodney murmured.
"You still, uh..." Jeannie gestured to her own head in an effort to find only moderately insulting words. "...all there?"
Rodney smirked at her effort. "Well there was so much to spare," he mocked.
Keller and Jeannie smiled ruefully.
Rodney turned his attention to Keller. "Thank you," he said.
"You're welcome," she said.
"It was scary," he admitted.
"For me too," she said.
Rodney nodded and looked away.
"You hungry?" Keller asked.
Rodney waved his hand in a 'so-so' motion. "Peckish," he said, attempting nonchalance.
The girls laughed and Keller left to go order him something.
Jeannie tucked her brother in and smiled, relieved by the fact that he was not just alive but himself again.
Jeannie had been so happy, so relieved that Meredith was recovered that she forgot her conversation with Dr. Keller and all mention of the degenerative disease passed from their father. As such when she found Meredith at the door she expected nothing more than for him to wish her a safe trip home.
"I see you're packing," Rodney said in opening.
"Well, yeah, the Daedalus leaves tomorrow," Jeannie pointed out.
Rodney walked in without invitation and sat down on the bed. He gestured for her to sit down.
"What is it, is something wrong?" Jeannie asked. "Don't tell me it didn't really work."
"It worked just fine, the parasite's gone, just sit down," Rodney said, annoyed and nervous.
"Oh good," Jeannie said, sitting next to her brother. She figured this would be one of those brother-sister moments they seemed to miss out on when they were children.
"So it was suggested that I should talk to you," Rodney began. "About Dad."
Whatever Jeannie was expecting it wasn't that. "What brought this up?"
"You did. When I was waking up. Jennifer kind of threatened to exile me to my quarters if I didn't talk to you about it."
Jeannie snorted at that. "Wait, she threatened to send you to your room?"
"She did, didn't she?" Jeannie snickered.
"Do you want to talk about Dad or should I just go get myself sent to my room?" Rodney demanded, moving to get up and leave.
"Stay," Jeannie pleaded. "I don't particularly want to talk about Dad but just, stay, please?"
Rodney sat back down. He tentatively reached out for her as she just as tentatively slid closer. He ended up with an arm over her shoulders as she snuggled against his side. They could probably have counted on one hand the number of hugs they'd shared in the past decade until this moment. This hug made all of six in ten years.
"You smell like fish," Jeannie said, ending the moment.
"Yeah, that happens," Rodney said.
"And when did this start?"
Rodney sighed. "This is what I needed to come talk to you about." He got up and started pacing the room. "Dad always liked me best. You know this as well as I but did you ever know why?"
Jeannie scowled. "I assumed it was because I was a girl," she said, disgusted.
"No, that's not why," Rodney said. "If that were so then he wouldn't have encouraged you to go into mathematics the way he did and I was doing."
"He didn't encourage, he demanded."
"Don't you think if he were being sexist he'd have demanded you go into something more girly? Like English?"
"Yes, well... Hey!"
"I didn't entirely enjoy Dad's attention, believe me."
Jeannie looked at her brother, horrified and disgusted. "Oh my god, he didn't..."
Rodney didn't realize for a moment but when he did he cringed with his own disgust. "Oh eww, Jeannie!" he exclaimed. "Of course not! Eww!"
"Okay," she said, relaxing a bit. "You just scared me there."
"What exactly made you think Dad raped me?!" Rodney demanded, still disgusted.
"Just the way you said it, I don't know!"
"You scare me, you know that Jeannie?" Rodney said. "No, that's not why Dad liked me more. It's something much less creepy. Or more, I'm not sure how you'd think of this."
"It's this degenerative genetic disease as you called it. Dad loved you less because you don't have it. You're normal, Jeannie, and Dad considered that a personal failure. It's why he committed suicide."
"What?" Jeannie whispered.
Rodney took his sister's hands in his own and looked her in the eyes. "Out of Gramma and Dad and you and I, you were the only one born without the Gift," he said solemnly. He blinked, letting her see nictitating membranes for the first time. "You were the only one born human."
Jeannie snatched her hands away, shrieking. She got up and backed away. "What the hell are you?! Where's my brother?!"
"Dammit, Jeannie, I AM your brother!"
"No, no no you're not," she whimpered. "My brother's human, my brother's normal."
"I'm not," he whispered. "I never was normal. Not Gramma, not Dad, not me. None of us were normal or human, ever."
"That's not true. It can't be true. It's not true, I tell you!"
He got up and rushed her, grabbing her around the arms to hold her in place. "I swear to you on Mother's grave it's true," he pleaded.
"What are you?" she asked in a small, broken voice.
"We're Deep Ones," he murmured. "Lovecraft got it right. Gramma's real name was Rosalyn Marsh. She escaped the raids on the town of Innsmouth in 1928. I'm almost done with the Change, Jeannie. Just like Gramma Changed. Just like how Dad was almost Changed."
"It's not possible," Jeannie whimpered.
"It is," he breathed.
Jeannie started struggling. "No! No no no it's not possible! There's no such thing!"
"Let me GO!" she screamed.
"Let me go you, you MONSTER!"
Rodney let go of her as though she burned him and stepped back. He let despair flow freely. "Please don't call me that," he whispered.
"That's what you are, isn't it?!" Jeannie shrieked. "You're a monster, just like Dad! A monster pretending to be my brother!"
Something broke within him. Rodney just barely stopped himself from falling apart right there. "You don't mean that," he begged.
"Get out!" she screamed. "Leave! Just like Dad left! You've done it once before it should be easy, just go away!"
Rodney slowly slithered to the door.
Jeannie grabbed for something to throw, one of her packed shirts. "Leave me alone, you monster!" she screamed. "I never want to see you again!" She let the shirt fly.
Rodney dodged the projectile and ran away.
Jeannie stood staring at the door for a few minutes, gasping for breath. Gasps turned to sobs and before she knew it she was huddled next to the bed, crying. She didn't know why this was happening but she couldn't shake the feeling that she'd just lost her brother again.
This time there was no mystical shrine to bring him back.
Dr. Keller called on Zelenka who called on Sheppard who ended up being tasked with finding Rodney. John found him on the East Pier, legs dangling over the edge as he gazed sadly into the waters below. "Hey, buddy," John said in cautious greeting.
Rodney made a noncommittal noise.
John sat down next to him and looked down. "It's a long way down," he observed.
"Why are you out here, John?" Rodney asked.
Sheppard shrugged. "I heard what Keller had you do," he said. "I take it it didn't go well."
Rodney shook his head. "I won't be surprised if she never wanted to speak to me again."
John reached up and put a hand on Rodney's shoulder. "I'm sorry," he said.
Rodney sighed and leaned into the touch. A sob escaped before he could reach up and wipe his nose in an attempt to cover it.
John rubbed Rodney's shoulder. "Hey, how about we take a bath?" he asked.
Rodney shuddered. "Only if it's warm. And saltwater."
John got up and offered a hand. "It can be whatever you want it to be."
Jeannie couldn't sleep. She hadn't left her loaned quarters since throwing things at Rodney. She was hungry but too nauseous to eat, exhausted but too wound up to sleep. Instead she gave up, found a robe and slippers, and wandered off into the city. She traced a path she knew well enough and ended up in the dining hall. The smell of food had all but dissipated into the faint sterile scent of wrapped sandwiches and the burnt ring on the bottom of the coffee machines. The lights were low and the tables empty save for one person sitting with a cup of tea.
"Haven't seen you in a while," Jennifer acknowledged as Jeannie sat down across from her.
Jeannie shrugged in that McKay way.
"What happened?" Jennifer asked.
"When you found out my brother was a... a, a Deep One, how did you deal with it?" Jeannie asked.
Dr. Keller sat back and sipped at her tea. "I found out before I even met him," she admitted. "I was taking over for Dr. Beckett after he died and I was curious. I had all of Carson's passwords so the first thing I did was go to the most heavily encrypted file in the system. Rodney's, of course. I read what was happening to him and immediately told Elizabeth I couldn't do this."
"But you're still here," Jeannie pointed out.
"Yep. Elizabeth didn't know about your brother's... condition, so I never told her why I couldn't do this. As such she wouldn't let me leave. So I just bit the bullet and went to your brother's quarters to meet him. He was arrogant and condescending and completely understood why I was afraid. There I was, walking into the lair of a person who terrified me because he wasn't human and he understood. He just kind of hugged me and purred and talked to me and it made it easier to deal with."
"Are you sure this is the same Meredith we're talking about?" Jeannie asked.
"Okay so he was still an arrogant jerk about it," Keller admitted. "That doesn't mean he didn't understand."
"Yeah well I think I pushed his so-called 'understanding' a bit too far today," Jeannie said glumly. "I doubt he'll ever want to talk to me again."
"You should at least try."
Jeannie shook her head. "I don't think so," she said. "You don't know Mer like I do. No, it's probably better if I just leave and never come back."
Jennifer looked at her sadly. Jeannie didn't realize, maybe couldn't even see just how much her brother had changed, mentally and emotionally. She likely would never see it unless she was shown. Keller got an idea. "You look like you need some tea," she said.
Jeannie looked at the selection at the counter. "Maybe some tea will help calm my nerves," she agreed. She got up to make herself some only to find a hand on her arm stopping her.
"I have a stash if you'd like some," Keller offered. "Earl grey. Chocolate. Even beer."
Jeannie thought for a few moments before agreeing. They left the dining hall, Keller leading the way. "You know, I haven't seen much in the way of chocolate here," she said, trying to make conversation.
"Chocolate is almost a form of currency here," Keller explained. "It's only used for the exchange of big-ticket goods and services. Like, you know, days off or to settle bets or to apologize for shooting someone."
"Who would give someone chocolate as an apology for shooting them?" Jeannie asked in disbelief.
"Rodney's been shot," Keller said as an example. "Couple of times. Both times he wouldn't forgive John for it until John forked over chocolate as an apology. Although in the colonel's defense he wasn't the one who pulled the trigger the first time and the second time was just a flesh wound."
"Wait, are you saying John Sheppard shot Meredith at some point?" Jeannie demanded.
"John shot a few people that day," Keller said. "He luckily didn't kill anyone and everyone forgave him after only minimal hazing. He did have to pay for favor in beer and chocolate but that's to be expected. I'd be surprised if his stash has fully recovered even now. That's what happens, I guess, when the SGC keeps a tight grip on chocolate shipments." They stopped in front of a door and Keller waved her hand at the chime.
"Wait, aren't we headed to your quarters?" Jeannie asked. "Why use the chime?"
Jeannie's question was answered when the door opened to find a dripping wet Sheppard at the door, robe sticking to his naked body. "Hi Jennifer," he said.
"What's going on?" Jeannie demanded.
"Is there a naked party I didn't know about?" Keller asked.
"Hey, the bathtub fits three," Sheppard pointed out. "Probably more."
"I'll pass. Hey, we need to come in."
"Not until I know what's going on!" Jeannie demanded.
"Someone at the door?" asked a voice from deeper in the room. Rodney wandered out of the bathroom, dripping wet and pulling on his own robe. He opened his mouth to say more but stopped as soon as he saw who it was.
Jeannie's eyes widened as she saw her brother step into the room. He was dripping wet and covered in not just skin-plaques but actual scales. His feet were webbed and for a second she could have sworn he had a fin going down his back. She took a step back to leave and leave quickly but stopped when a pair of hands gripped her arms. Both Sheppard and Keller had an arm and were pulling her inside. "Let me go, he doesn't want to talk to me," she pleaded.
"Just let her go, she doesn't want to see me," Rodney whispered.
As soon as Jeannie was inside Sheppard closed the door and begged Atlantis to lock it tight until he authorized it open. "Okay, siblings, now look," he said. "Both of you thinks the other hates them. Now I'm sure both of you have very good reason to believe that but we're going to clear this up. Tonight. Because trust me, if it's not done now it never will be."
"Oh and you're the expert?" Jeannie snapped.
"All things considered, yes," Sheppard said.
"I'm sorry," she said quickly.
Sheppard ignored her and went over to Rodney. "You should try talking to her," he said quietly.
"Oh and we all know how well that went last time," Rodney snarled. "I'm the one who had to dodge having things thrown at me, I'm the one who had to listen to my sister screaming at me about how she never wanted to see me again, well I say let her have her wish, Colonel. She never wants to see me again, fine. She can just go back to Earth and never darken my Nest again!" He stormed off back into the bathroom. A loud shriek, a growl, and a splash were heard before the swearing started. A naked Zelenka wandered out, not even bothering with a robe.
"That obr šupinatý srdcovka(1) threw me out of the tub!" Zelenka complained.
"I heard that!" came the shout from the bathroom.
"C'mere and I will!"
"Boys!" Keller scolded.
Zelenka finally registered the women in the room. And the fact that he was naked. He ignored this fact, confident that the room was not cold. "Good evening, ladies," he greeted. Sheppard and Keller both rolled their eyes as Zelenka sauntered over to Jeannie and took her hand to kiss it. She pulled her hand away as soon as his lips left it. "My apologies, Mrs. Miller, for your terrible night thus far," he murmured. "Perhaps is something I can do?"
There was a gray-green blur and a scaly arm wrapped around Zelenka's waist, dragging him back a step. "You can stop flirting with my little sister," Rodney said, growling the words near Zelenka's ear.
"I'm not sixteen, Mer," Jeannie said, scowling. "I don't need you to protect me from creepy naked men."
"The creepy naked man is thinking otherwise," Zelenka offered. "In fact I am thinking since men are naked women should be as well. For balance."
"Excuse us," Rodney said, dragging Zelenka off to the bathroom. There was a sudden splash and a stream of curses in Czech. The profanity continued until Rodney returned, alone. And still naked.
"I didn't know you could do that with a goat," Sheppard said.
"You speak Czech?" Keller asked.
"Speak, no," Sheppard said. "Understand, yes. Especially when he starts on about mothers, goats, and windows."
"Mer, you're missing something," Jeannie pointed out. She was eyeing his crotch where instead of the dangle of human male genitals all she could see was a vertical slit in pale satiny skin.
"They're internal," Rodney said. "Everything."
Jeannie gave him a look of amused disbelief.
"It comes out when I need it," Rodney defended.
Jeannie giggled and gave Keller a look. And stopped giggling when Keller held up her hands a distance apart, giving a measurement. "Seriously?!" Jeannie cried. Keller nodded sagely. Jeannie looked back at Rodney who was grinning proudly.
"He's like a dolphin that way," Sheppard said.
"Squee," Rodney said in the blandest way possible while still sounding vaguely like a dolphin.
"I don't know if I'm impressed or horrified," Jeannie said.
"Go for impressed," Sheppard suggested. "I think you've been horrified enough for one day."
Jeannie had to agree as she sat down on the edge of Rodney's unmade bed. She looked around to see his organizational skills hadn't improved any since childhood. Clothes and papers were still everywhere, the bed was unmade, there was a computer left on that was playing chess with itself, and the room itself seemed to have its own funk. The childhood familiarity helped to convince her that this was indeed her brother. "You're right," she said. "I think I have been."
Rodney pushed some things and most of the covers off the bed and sat down next to his sister. "You know, sometimes I used to wish I was like you," he said. "Normal. Human. I wouldn't be in the throes of this Change, I wouldn't have to worry about people finding out, I won't have to leave everyone I cared about when the Change finished. And then I came here, to Atlantis. The Change stopped for awhile and when it began again and people started finding out it wasn't so bad. Most everyone has accepted it and those who haven't tend to just stay away from me. And now I won't even have to leave when the Change is over, I can stay in the city with my Nest, my family."
"So you're going to stay here?" Jeannie asked.
"Yes." Rodney sighed. "Asking Katie to marry me was a mistake. I'm not human, I shouldn't be trying to live up to their ideals. Besides, the moment she found out what I am she transferred out of the city, just to get away from the idea... Well, needless to say it was a mistake."
"You don't have to give up being human," Jeannie pleaded, hopeful. "What if you find someone you love? Who loves you for who and... what... you are?"
Rodney smiled bashfully and glanced at Sheppard, Keller, and lingered on Zelenka as he came in from the bathroom again. "I already have," he said. "Several someones. My entire Nest, actually."
"I mean romantically," Jeannie pointed out, willing the mental image of orgies out of her head.
Rodney started purring as Zelenka blushed just enough to be obvious.
Jeannie looked between Rodney and Zelenka, disbelief visible on her features. "No, he's creepy," she said.
So am I, Rodney mouthed, unable to speak through the purr.
"So is he," Radek pointed out.
An evil realization entered Jeannie's head. "Wait, you can't talk while you're purring," she said.
Rodney gave her an annoyed look but didn't stop the purr, especially not when Zelenka sauntered over and trailed a hand down Rodney's neck to his dorsal spines.
She filed away the information and was inundated by a mental image of Meredith home for some holiday in the future, unable to tell Madison 'no' because he was purring too much. Jeannie's sisterly glee was tempered by thoughts of Madison. "How will this affect my daughter?" she asked softly.
Rodney's purrs slowed and stopped at that. "I don't know," he admitted. "Sometimes Deep One blood can skip generations. Sometimes it just fades away."
"How will I know?" she asked.
Rodney glanced at Sheppard, at Keller, at Zelenka. Each gave him a slight nod of encouragement. He took a breath before answering. "Her dreams," he said. "If she has the Taint she'll start dreaming about the ocean at some point. Maybe in a few years, maybe even now, I don't know. She might not even tell you when it starts. You just have to trust that even if she does have it, the Change won't begin until puberty or after. She could live twenty, forty years, maybe longer without taking to the water."
Jeannie fell quiet. She stared at her hands, remembering the last conversation she had with her daughter before leaving for the Pegasus Galaxy this time. A conversation about Madison's dreams, about cute fishies and dark oceans and meeting her Great Grandmother in a ruined city. "Then she has it," she whispered. "The dreams, they've already begun."
Rodney made a tiny sound, almost like a 'murr' and wrapped his arms around his sister. He pulled her close and petted her hair, taking comfort in the fact that she let him. She didn't pull away. Instead she closed her eyes and seemed to accept it.
"I have no idea how I'm going to tell Kaleb," Jeannie admitted after saying her goodbyes. It was the next day and she had but minutes before her scheduled beam-out to the Daedalus. "And what if I need to talk to someone about this on the Daedalus? I'm not going to pretend to assume that anyone really knows..."
"Colonel Caldwell knows," Rodney said. "You can ask him, he's a good guy once you get past the... yeah..."
"Right," Jeannie said, disbelief coloring her tone.
"And if Kaleb needs convincing, well, it's summer, right? He's a teacher, he's not working right now, take a road trip around New England for a few weeks. Visit Miskatonic, wander around the anthropology department looking for old guys and wait for one of them to start following you to stare at Madison. One conversation is all it'll take."
"Just go there and wander around?" Jeannie asked, still disbelieving.
"Well, you could go to their library and mention my name," Rodney said. "I still went by Meredith half the time I was there, remember. Or you could always try Boston, I heard while Dad was still active in the Esoteric Order that there was a growing population of hybrids there."
"Maybe we'll just stick to the university," Jeannie said.
Rodney wrapped her up in one last hug. "Whatever you do just don't be like Dad," he whispered. "Don't keep it from your own family. Kaleb deserves to know, Madison is his daughter after all."
"When did you get so wise?" Jeannie asked.
"I think it was when my secret got out accidentally and my whole science department cared more about being able to explore underwater than the fact that their department head was a mutant."
"You're not a mutant."
"Close enough." Rodney stepped back as the Asgard beam was activated and Jeannie disappeared to the Daedalus.
That, he had to admit, could have gone a lot worse.
End part 5
(1) - giant scaly frog
(2) - Bite me!
Bit of a grossness warning in the beginning here. Also, apologies for taking so long.
It was only a matter of time. McKay knew it, Sheppard knew it, Zelenka knew it, Keller knew it, even Woolsey knew it. They all knew it was coming but no one expected it. No one knew what would really happen.
It began like any other night when Rodney fell asleep in the bathtub. He woke up in the morning a bit groggy from the minor oxygen deprivation of relying on one's gills in too small a space. Sit up, a stretch and a yawn, a shake to try and wake himself up, and a faint splat as something hit the water.
Wait, what? Rodney looked down and stared for a moment before it hit him. With a squeal of "EWWW!" he threw himself out of the bathtub.
He was no medical doctor but last he checked it was considered bad when one's ear fell off.
The nurse on duty was only slightly confused when a soaking wet figure wrapped in a white sheet came running into the infirmary, a trail of water behind. This nurse was fairly new but was familiar enough with the personnel to know that as weird as some of the nutjobs stationed on Atlantis were, only very few would come running into the infirmary soaking wet wearing nothing but a sheet. A wet sheet gone translucent. "Dr. McKay?" he asked.
"I need... to see... Keller..." Rodney gasped.
"How about I radio for her and let's take a look, shall we?" the nurse asked.
Rodney growled and held up his former ear.
The nurse didn't quite cover his sense of 'eww' before disappearing in the back and radioing for Dr. Keller.
Rodney growled at the wait, shifting from one foot to the other. He refused to sit down, instead choosing to stand in the center of the room to make as much of a nuisance of himself as possible. He found himself scratching as his wet sheet dried out and his skin started itching terribly.
Another nurse came up behind him and reached out with a tentative hand to place it on his shoulder. "Maybe you should sit down," she suggested.
Rodney growled before turning to her. He stared her down and snarled until she scurried away. He went back to scratching at the sparse patches of skin that were still marginally human, stopping only when he'd pulled one off. He stopped and stared, not even breathing as he looked at the slightly sore patch of arm and the fresh blue-green scales that had been hiding under dead skin. There was a panicked moment where he tried to put the patch of skin back on. A long whimper trailed from his throat when it didn't work, ending only when a familiar voice reached him through the whoosh of doors.
"It's god-awful A.M., McKay," Dr. Keller groaned. "What is it?"
Rodney turned in his panic to her voice and held up his ear. He whimpered.
Jennifer's own sense of 'eww' came to the forefront with a facial expression before being quickly hidden under professional detachment. "Okay, let's get you out from under that sheet and onto an exam table," she ordered. "Anything else fall off?"
"J-just some skin," Rodney whispered. "This is really gross."
"I don't doubt it," Keller agreed, clearing the area of nurses, guards, or anyone who might end up watching. "C'mon, give me the sheet."
The sheet fell and Jennifer forgot to breathe for a moment. She'd gotten used to the visual of Rodney in his half-transformed state, was used to the sight of scales and silver fading seamlessly into patches of humanity. What she hadn't expected was to see all of those patches of humanity peeling off at the same time like a bad case of sunburn or an aggressive leprosy. "O-okay, let's get you on the table," she said, unsure.
"What's going on?" Rodney pleaded in a small voice.
Jennifer didn't answer until she had him on the exam table and the Ancient scanner running. "If you were anyone else I would have no idea," she admitted. "But I think I know."
"Y-you can fix it, right?" Rodney asked.
The scanner finished and Keller poked at the results. Great patches of red flashed on the screen where the body differed from the baseline scan done just a few weeks ago. "I doubt it," she said softly.
"What?!" Rodney jumped up to see the scanner's results before shrinking back with a whine.
"Other than this, do you feel okay?" Jennifer asked, bringing out the old tools of medicine: tongue depressor, stethoscope, some smaller scopes, and an endoscope.
"W-well, I've got heart palpitations and my mouth is getting really dry and I'm lightheaded and-and my hands are shaking..."
"So nothing out of the ordinary," she mused, tapping at the scanner again. She moved the base scan into McKay's file and set up the newer scan as the current base scan before tapping out a quick message to Woolsey.
"Then what's going on?!" he demanded.
"I think you're taking to the water," she said. "Right now."
"Out of the question!" Woolsey ranted in the conference room. He, McKay, Keller, Sheppard, Ronon, and Teyla were assembled just a few hours after McKay's rude awakening. "I cannot have him taking to the water, not now!"
"Surely now is a better time than others we have experienced," Teyla said diplomatically.
"Yeah," Sheppard agreed. "The Wraith have been quiet, we haven't been paid a visit by any of Michael's surprises, we don't have any new enemies we've really been dealing with, compared to most of our time out here it's downright peaceful."
"I haven't had any particularly new and exciting breakthroughs for months," McKay pointed out. "It's just been the basic finding and cataloguing of Ancient tech."
"That's not the point!" Woolsey insisted.
"I don't think this is something you can stop," Ronon pointed out. "When it happens it happens."
"At the very least let us study the process," Keller suggested.
"Wait, what?!" McKay demanded.
"Don't you think Carson would like to see you take to the water?" she asked. Rodney looked uncomfortable.
"He would," Rodney admitted in a small voice. "I know he would. More than anything."
"Then it's settled," Keller prompted. "You'll stay in the city until Carson arrives, meanwhile we can study the process. You'll have time to finish whatever it is you're working on in the lab and hopefully we'll stay lucky."
"It is not settled," Woolsey muttered.
"Why not just let him take to the water?" Ronon asked.
"Was there something I missed?" Keller asked smugly.
"Will Rodney be expected to perform duties offworld?" Teyla asked.
"I can't!" McKay burst before attempting to clear his throat. Instead he made a rasping sound of gill fans brushing. "I mean, what if something happens offworld and I lose myself? Or if we come across new natives who decide to kill us because my other ear falls off in front of them? I don't know what happens to a hybrid's mind when they become a Deep One. What if I stop being Rodney McKay? I don't want to go through that again, ever."
"Rodney..." Sheppard said, trailing off. Comforting words just wouldn't come, not when he knew McKay was right.
"Would Lorne's team be up to taking over SGA-1's duties?" Woolsey asked in a soft voice.
Sheppard nodded. "I'm sure they'd be fine with that," he said. "And I've been grooming Major Teldy to take command of a team. She and her team can take up some of the slack when they're ready."
Woolsey sighed. He'd known that the department heads of Atlantis worked together like a well-oiled machine, he'd seen it in action. He just hadn't gotten to the point where he didn't resent that machine working without him. "Fine," he said. "SGA-1 is grounded until further notice. Colonel, tell Major Teldy to get her team together. Dr. Keller, take good notes. Dr. Beckett will be contacted and should be here on the next Daedalus run. Dr. McKay... finish your work. Dismissed, all of you."
Dr. Zelenka was taking advantage of a bet won recently. He was enjoying his day off with a good book and pilfered cocoa powder lightly flavoring his cup of coffee. It was a newer book, hoarded from prying eyes and ears for months as he waited for a chance to read it cover-to-cover in one sitting. It was a respect he liked to award murder mysteries, especially murder mysteries of the erotic fantasy kind.
Thus when his radio beeped he considered his swearing well-warranted. "Jaký!" he snapped.
"Um, Dr. Zelenka, there's a problem in the lab that requires your attention," came the timid voice.
"Am on day off!" Zelenka scolded. "You are new. Day off is sacred. Bother McKay."
"I can't, sir," said the new guy. "Dr. McKay is the problem."
A dilemma warred in Zelenka's mind for a moment. He was seriously tempted to continue his novel because at almost every level a hot succubus investigating a horny faun about the murder of a druid was much more interesting than saving someone who probably deserved it on some level from Rodney's wrath. He sighed as loyalty weighed itself as greater than erotic fantasy. "Where is McKay?" he asked.
Radek found Rodney in the lab, muttering at himself while writing on the wall. He'd begun on the white boards but filled them quickly and moved to the walls themselves. They were characters Radek knew, could read them once.
"Dr. McKay?" Radek asked. "Rodney?"
Rodney stopped his drawing in the middle of a glyph. He popped his head up, blinking and darting his head like a confused animal. He went back to his glyph, this time taking to muttering. "Keep me here, the humans, they keep me here. Make me solve things for them, yes. Puny humans, takes lots of them, trap the deep one. Can't hear the others. Can't hear the Old Ones. Alone. Not alone? Nest. Nest, hear nest. Humans? No, humans don't make nest, do they? My nest. Need them, need the nest."
Radek stepped closer and put a hand to Rodney's shoulder.
Rodney tensed all activity stopping. It returned with a shudder as he turned around. "Radek?" he asked. "Help me..." He fainted. Radek caught him, was pulled to the floor by Rodney's weight.
A medical team ran in. "Where's the patient?!" a nurse demanded. Said nurse looked sheepish when realizing it was probably the passed-out guy whom everyone was eyeing with worry. He pulled Rodney off of Radek. "What happened to him?"
"He needs to take to water," Radek said. "He is losing self. He needs us to let him go."
"I'm sorry but we can't let that happen." The medical team got Rodney strapped to a gurney and carted off.
"Then he will get worse," Radek murmured. He looked around at the glyphs papering the walls. Non-Euclidean calculations interspersed with lamentations of loneliness. Rodney couldn't hear them unless there was water involved. Not yet.
Silence. Alone. Nest, can't hear the nest. See lines but no colors, hear words but no voices. No one. Radek? John? Ronon? Teyla? Jennifer?
I see you, Jennifer. I see your lines far far away. Why can't I see your colors? I hear your words. Why can't I know your voice? Where are the others?
I'm alone, can anybody hear me? Why am I tied down?! Why doesn't anybody listen to me?
Where am I? It's so dry, so dry it hurts. Oh Dagon it hurts. Why does it hurt? My neck, it burns.
Somebody, please hear me! I'm alone. I'm tied down to a bed made of pain and dry and sterile. I, I can't hear anyone! All the colors are gone! My nest, they're all gone! John! Ronon! Radek! I need you! Somebody, please let me go...
Atlantis? Please tell them to let me go... I have to go... I have to take to the water... I can't hear the nest or the Father or the Mother or Great Cthulhu, Atlantis. All I can hear is you...
Get me out of here...
Night fell on an uneasy expedition. Sheppard found Zelenka in the labs, hiding under McKay's desk. The scientist was staring off into space, muttering, barely aware of his surroundings. Sheppard himself didn't feel much better. He had the sudden terrible urge to join Zelenka under the desk in insane mutterings, was barely able to shake it off. "I can't hear him either," John said.
Zelenka snapped his eyes to the source of the voice, seemed to stare directly into John's soul. "Alone," he rasped.
John nodded. "We're experiencing Rodney's emotional state," he explained. "We have to fight the urge to give in."
"It hurts," Radek whimpered.
"It hurts me too," John admitted. "We have to make it stop hurting."
"We're his nest. We need to be there for him."
"How?" Radek asked in a whisper.
Triumph shot through John's eyes. So Radek wasn't completely gone... "We need to break Rodney out of the isolation room."
John and Radek flitted around in the darkness mere minutes later, no real plan yet formed. All they had was the need to get Rodney out. Night patrols were few at the late hour, the corridors dark, the halls eerily empty. John could almost feel the city herself guiding them, drawing them along a predetermined path.
They met Ronon at the door to the isolation room. "Sheppard, I won't let you stop me," Ronon warned. "McKay needs to take to the water."
"Is why we're here," Radek quickly said. John nodded in agreement before asking the door to open.
Jennifer stood over a semi-conscious Rodney. She seemed almost afraid to touch him but unable to prevent herself from trying. "So alone," she whispered.
"Dr. Keller?" Sheppard asked.
"No!" Jennifer shrieked, throwing herself back. She stared at the newcomers, gasping. "You won't hurt him, I won't let you!"
"We have to get him to water," Radek explained. "Is why we're here. Is why you're here. You know this."
Jennifer stared at Rodney before sighing. She nodded, almost ashamed. "I, I thought I could control myself," she said. "His mind is so strong..."
"He is telepath, unable to hear us," Radek agreed. "He needs to take to water before he dies or before he kills."
"Then let's go," Ronon said, striding up to undo the straps holding Rodney's twitching, straining body to the bed. As the last strap was undone, Rodney's eyes shot open. He pulled himself into a crouching position on the bed and stared at each of them in turn before bolting out the door.
To: Mr. Robert Woolsey
From: Major Evan Lorne
Re: Report on Dr. McKay's escape
Dr. Rodney McKay escaped the isolation room last night. He exerted a form of telepathic control over several members of the expedition, including Lt. Colonel John Sheppard, Dr. Radek Zelenka, Dr. Jennifer Keller, and Specialist Ronon Dex. Dr. McKay took to the water late last night at 25:48 Atlantean time. His subcutaneous transmitter was found in his quarters this morning at 02:19 Atlantean time in a patch of skin shed from his underarm. At current we have no way of tracking Dr. McKay or determining if he's still alive. It is my recommendation as military second-in-command that no one involved in Dr. McKay's escape could or should be held accountable for their actions.
McKay's gone, sir.
End part 6
Okay, now it's almost done.
I finished it!
Remind me not to get started on an idea of this size and scope when I'm about to go through that much of an upheaval IRL.
Two weeks later...
"I'm... sorry you weren't here when Dr. McKay took to the water," Richard Woolsey said. He was taking a walk around one of the lesser-used piers with Dr. Beckett.
"Aye," Carson said absently. He stared out over the water, wondering aloud how Rodney was getting on.
"He's gone," Woolsey said uncomfortably. "No one's seen or heard from him ever since he left two weeks ago. We have no way of tracking him or even knowing if he's still alive. If he is still out there I doubt he'd be our McKay anymore."
Carson stopped, confusion and thought taking residence on his features. "Tha's nae what I heard from the scientists," he said.
Woolsey scoffed. "Is Dr. Zelenka still refusing to accept his promotion?"
Carson gave Woolsey a look of disdain. "Just because ye've given up on McKay dinnae mean the others 'ave too," he said, accent deepening with his annoyance.
"And what am I supposed to do?!" Woolsey demanded. "Even if McKay is still himself, which I doubt, we have no way of finding him and he hasn't exactly been trying very hard to contact us. The best I can hope for is that his mind didn't suffer before he stopped being human enough for us to comprehend."
"'E dinnae ascend, his body transformed," Carson defended. "'E's shown some changes in 'is mind but nothing tha's gonna be destroyin' it! 'E's still out there, alone."
"You didn't see him right before he took to the water," Woolsey said, going quiet. "No human being acts like that. We had him in isolation to try and keep him human long enough for... well, long enough. The thrashing, the sounds he made, no human being is capable of that."
"An' then 'e spoke mentally to 'is nest an' brought them all in ta release 'im from isolation, I saw th' records. 'E couldn' do tha' unless e' were still Rodney."
"If you say so," Woolsey said, unconvinced. He left Carson at the end of the pier.
Carson spared a glance at Woolsey before turning to the open water before him. "Where be ye, Rodney?"
Carson poked his head in the science department's conference room, trying to find Zelenka so they could speak. The room was in use, Zelenka and a slew of other scientists listening to a presentation.
"Barring someone figuring out how to shut down the conduits leading to the stardrives and thus permanently grounding the city, our findings show that sustainable harvest with almost no loss from the ZPM can be achieved with one sacrificial Mark II generator if its power output is kept at 23%," said the presenter, a young woman Carson didn't know. "We think we can get away with biweekly harvests on the outlying colonies, monthly harvests on the inner breeding colonies. Assuming a storm doesn't blow us into one of the polar gyres, the population should remain stable."
"That'll saddle us with a 57% surplus of dead sea urchins," said a man with an acid burn marring the lid of one eye. Carson recognized him as Pirate Pete.
"Useful for trade," Radek pointed out. "When is next harvest, Dr. Morgan?"
"Going on right now, sir," the presenter answered.
"Inform me when finished," Radek said, sensing they were being watched. He glanced to Carson in the doorway before turning back to the table. "Sea urchin meat should be worth much on open markets, especially if is for information." He got up, motioning for the meeting to end.
"So when did Pirate Pete take the eyepatch off?" Carson asked as an opening. He earned a surprised look from Pete, a look which lapsed into embarrassment.
"He rarely wears it," Radek admitted. They left the conference room. "He only wears eyepatch when you're in city."
"So has he regained his sight in that eye?"
Radek shrugged. "Is a pool going," he admitted. "Jennifer refuses to say and we cannot tell from him."
"Hmm." Carson stayed silent for a few moments as they walked the corridors, ending at the dining hall.
"Is something you wanted to ask?"
"You didn't tell me he never returned," Carson said quietly.
"I see you spoke to Woolsey," Radek said knowingly.
"Yes, how so?" asked a voice behind them. Woolsey stood there, tray in hand.
"I can tell," Radek said with a shrug.
Woolsey's eyes narrowed.
Their radios crackled to life as Jumper 8 requested docking in the underwater bay.
"Do you have someone in the control room?" Woolsey asked. "Was Colonel Sheppard informed about your use of the underwater gear?"
"Sure..." came the reluctant reply from the jumper.
"What do you mean 'sure'?!" Woolsey demanded.
"Yes, sir, we have someone in the control room. We have verbal permission for the use of everything involved."
"From whom?" Woolsey asked.
There was a pause as the pilot of the jumper seemed to ponder that question before offering "the head of the science department" as an answer.
Woolsey looked pointedly at Radek. "They have permission," Radek defended.
"Very well, carry on," Woolsey said before sparing Zelenka a suspicious glance and returning his empty tray.
Carson waited until Woolsey had left the room before drawing Radek aside. "You're hiding him, aren't you?" Carson accused. "You're hiding Rodney in the city. He's still here."
Colonel Sheppard found his days boring. With Rodney 'missing' he had no reason to visit the science labs, prepare for missions, or even evade paperwork and there was only so much time he could spend practicing with Ronon, talking shop with Lorne, or torturing marines.
He was so bored he found himself closing his copy of War and Peace. A chill ran up his spine as he realized he'd actually finished it. He refused to believe himself a superstitious man and stamped down the feeling. Maybe something familiar would give him something to do; even if Rodney wasn't there to annoy, someone interesting was always in the science labs.
He found Zelenka in the conference room, seemingly having sequestered every white board in the city to line its walls. The boards were covered in equations, notes, the occasional rune in Ancient and R'lyean. "These are new," he said as an opening.
"And when are you knowing all of ZPM calculations?" Zelenka asked. He was holding a tablet and seemed to be transcribing what was on it onto the board. Every now and then he'd switch pens to a different color and make a notation before going back to transcribing.
"Not every day you find them in R'lyean," Sheppard pointed out.
"They were downloaded from labs in lower level," Zelenka said absently. "No one has been going there until now."
"So can I say 'hi' to Rodney myself or do I have to go through you?"
Zelenka paused in his transcription before continuing. "Is not my choice," he said.
"Look, I know Rodney thinks he should be alone and I know you're protecting him but we're his Nest. All of us. Barring that we're his friends."
Radek gave Sheppard a sad, determined look. "Come with me then," he said.
The lab was peaceful, no distractions aside from the gentle sounds of his breathing in the emptiness. Rodney McKay tapped out a few commands to download more of the lab's records into a tablet so it could be looked at in the main lab. He let the city's currents pull him to and fro in the cool slowness.
A sound disturbed his ponderous work, a couple of splashes at the surface above. As calming as downloading the information from the flooded labs was he did have other work to do. A sigh of water pushed past gills and he finished his download before gathering the other three tablets full of precious data and swimming to the access hatch.
He popped his head out of the open hatch, nostrils opening and lungs inflating. He blinked away nictitating membranes and looked up into the smiling face of...
"John?" Rodney asked. "Where's Radek?"
"In the lab," Sheppard said easily. "I asked him to let me make the exchange." He held up a stack of dry tablets to match the wet stack in Rodney's hands.
"You shouldn't have to see me like this," Rodney mumbled, dropping low in the water to hide his appearance.
"And you need to get over this idea of yours that we're going to treat you differently now that you've taken to the water."
"Except I look hideous."
John snorted. Rodney gave him a glare then a 'hmmph.' "Have you taken a look at yourself?" Sheppard asked.
"Of course I have," Rodney snapped. "Water refraction. The whole surface above you is a mirror if you look at it just right. I've seen how I look, scales and fins and gills and hideous."
"Well I haven't," Sheppard said. "And I'm not going to just take your word for it so c'mon, out of the water."
Rodney gaped in shock before shaking his head.
"McKay, I'm your friend. This is your Nest. You have no reason to hide down here."
"Give me one good reason."
"If you don't then Zelenka will take all the credit for this science you're finding? Because Woolsey's going to find out at some point anyway? Because we all miss you?"
"Wait, you all miss me?" Rodney asked.
"Yeah, we do."
Rodney curled up in the waters flooding the access shaft. "I-I didn't think anyone would," he whispered.
"You never do."
Rodney passed the tablets up, seeming to make a decision. "Okay."
Rumor that Sheppard was seen leading a cloaked and sopping wet figure up from the flooded areas spread through Atlantis like a wildfire. Some told tale of an animalistic bundle of wet fabric bounding around like a deranged frog, others spoke of a limping bipedality, still others claimed it weaved about like it was still swimming. A number of the military claimed it had a tail trailing behind, most weren't so sure. It growled, purred, hissed, shrieked, or croaked, depending on who told the tale and when. Descriptions and speculations on what it looked like under all that fabric varied wildly, agreeing only on that it was probably scaly, greenish, and had gills.
Only one thing was known for sure. McKay was back.
Rodney didn't even have time to take off the cloak before he was accosted from behind by an excited Scotsman. "Unhand me, Carson," he shrieked.
"Ah've been worried sick, ye great lug," Carson scolded, accent thick. He'd ran up behind McKay and accosted the scientist with a sudden hug and barely understandable babbling. "Firs' Ah'm whisked off on th' Daedalus while hearin' ye migh' nae be aroun' when I get 'ere an' then Ah'm findin' meself bein' told by tha' pencil-pushin' Yank tha' yer gone fer gud! Yer lucky Ah've been havin' words with yer Nest, Rodney, so Ah knew ye were aroun' somewhere or ye an' Ah'd be havin' words righ' abou' naow."
"Words wouldn't be that bad of an idea, will you calm down so I can understand you?!"
Carson let go of Rodney, instead reaching for his cloak and pulling it off. The fabric fell to the floor with a wet splut.
Big blue eyes blinked at the dry of the air with nictitating membranes. Long fingers grasped at empty air, their webbing long-since torn out. Gills gasped under armored gill plates. Blue-green scales flowed and blended from the striped spinal fin to the silken satiny white underbelly. Carson ignored it all, instead focusing on the familiar nervous movement of those fingers, the emotion in big blue eyes. Genius and superiority oozed from every pore in an inept attempt to cover doubt and social ineptitude. Hands found what they were looking for and bashfully tried to pull the cloak back on.
"I know I'm hideous," Rodney whispered.
"Yer nae hideous," Carson murmured, reaching out to gently pet gleaming scales. "Yer beautiful."
"I am not."
"Aye, ye are."
Rodney still lay under the scanner waiting for news on his future while Woolsey, Carson, and Keller looked at the scans. Dr. Keller brought up Rodney's entire folder and laid out all of the scans ever taken of him on Atlantis in chronological order.
"And this is supposed to convince me?" Woolsey asked.
"I don't see why not," Keller said. She pointed out certain features to each one. "The red patches in each scan represent differences between that scan and the previous. I suggest looking at the green patches, they tell a better story."
Woolsey looked closer at each one. "The brain's never been touched," he realized.
"An' the spleen an' the digestive trac' and the long bones," Carson added. "But th' brain's the thing, innit?"
"At no point has Rodney's brain been altered by his transformation," Keller clarified. "Therefore there is no reason to believe that he's somehow become someone entirely different. In fact, so long as he passes a psychological exam I'd say there's no reason not to give him back his job. Unless the IOA has anything they'd like to claim."
Woolsey shifted uncomfortably as he looked from doctor to doctor. He glanced at the bed where Rodney had sat up and was waiting impatiently. "I... Well, the IOA has not made any sort of decision," he stammered. "Last I spoke with my superiors they were 'discussing' it and would get back to me on their findings."
"And how many weeks are you willing to wait for them to 'discuss' it? How long are you willing to wait before taking matters into your own hands? Whatever the IOA decides it is still your responsibility to enact whichever decision you happen to recognize as the correct one, whether that be sitting on your thumb while the expedition falls apart around you or stepping up to the responsibility you assumed when you had yourself declared head of this city. Whatever happens, whatever the IOA may decide, it is your responsibility. It is entirely yours. Choose."
"But, but what if the IOA makes their decision and it isn't the one I made?"
"I dun think that'll be yer problem, Richard," Carson pointed out. "I think they'll rather be waitin' fer you to make the decision then adopt whatever you decide. An' take the credit o' course."
"Of course," Woolsey muttered. "Fine, he stays."
"You shot me!" came the watery shriek from the infirmary.
Dr. Keller gave Ronon a look as Rodney pointed accusingly at the culprit.
"He asked me to," Ronon said as explanation.
"You shot me in the head! My scales have melted, who knows how badly I've been burned because of you and your willingness to indulge insane ideas."
Jennifer poked at the slightly fused scales on the bridge of Rodney's nose, noting how he was too busy arguing to notice. "You're fine, McKay."
"What? Are you sure?"
"It's just superficial, it'll go away when your scales shed," Keller explained.
"And how do you know?!" Rodney demanded. "We don't even know my scales will shed, how can you be sure this 'superficial' damage will heal?"
"You've been shedding scales off and on for as long as I've known you," Keller pointed out. "You're not going to stop now that you're a deep one."
Rodney pouted, arms crossed.
Carson finished compiling his data on McKay. He lurked in the shadows of the infirmary, tapping at an unused workstation. He watched the antics with sad interest. Things were returning to normal around Atlantis; the IOA gave their answer, the military kept in line, the scientists supportive, the medical data complete. He'd done all he needed to do here, all he could do. His place was elsewhere.
The others, the Nest, this was their home. It was past time for Carson Beckett to go home as well.
Though this story is finished and makes sense as the last in the series chronologically, well... I don't write in chronological order.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.