It was strange to be back in the same galaxy as him. Not, to be completely honest, that Sam had spent much time thinking about his absence during his years away from the Milky Way. Rodney McKay had never really been her most favourite person in the universe and the few times that she'd seen him since he'd left for Atlantis hadn't exactly set her yearning for his company. Although, that wasn't entirely true in so much as – well – it was complicated.
For a start, the times she had seen him hadn't been what you'd call normal, not even by her standards. Just look at the 'trip' she'd made into that Alternate Universe, stuck there, and no-one to turn to but McKay, and to make matters just that bit weirder, it was a McKay who saw her as an ex-wife. Sam had said things, nice things, about her own McKay, things that she hadn't truly meant, but which had stuck in her head afterwards, all the more so because of the realisation that she did think of him as hers. Like she had some kind of proprietary rights over him. It was a realisation that had disturbed her.
Then there'd been the meeting with him in the company of his sister. She'd felt an instant rapport with Jeannie Miller and had spent a good few days denying to herself what it was about the bubbly Canadian that so attracted her. She'd managed to play the I have no idea what you're talking about game with herself until she'd been faced with them side by side on the other end of a video link and the amused words had slipped from her about their cute Canadian way of saying, sorry? It had been the first warning in her head to let her know that she was on dangerous ground. Dangerous ground because while she wasn't bothered by the experience of finding a woman appealing, she was bothered by the thought that it might be said woman's similarity to McKay that was hitting her subconscious tickle point.
The moment she realised that she'd caught herself wondering absently what it would be like to take to take the pair of them to bed, she'd known that the dangerous ground had mutated into a minefield.
A smile, a laugh, the professional mask back in place, and nobody would ever have guessed how warm she was inside. Least of all not them, least of all not him. Because there was something about him that itched.
She'd had plenty of years to ponder on what that something was.
It wasn't that he was an unattractive man – he wasn't – and he certainly wasn't a stupid one. His arrogance was a mark against him, but arrogance she could deal with more than effectively in her own little ways. As for his self-depreciating moments, when the doubt crept in at the corners of his fat-headedness, well, she found them kind of endearing. The social ineptitude had lessened slightly over the years and, besides, she'd moved in enough like-minded circles to not consider it abnormal.
No, what bothered her was the way he worshipped her. It was unsettling and it was overpowering. Perhaps a different woman might have found it intoxicating to know that she had a man under her control like that, but not Sam. She'd never been sure what to make of it. What her head told her should find flattering, her gut told her was suffocating, and her spirit raced in the opposite direction. Worship is too much like dependence. Gods need their disciples.
Sam needed her freedom.
She never gave him a chance.
And besides, he was frankly more than a little irritating.
But then – but then there was the name. Strange, too, how that affected her. Everyone says that a rose by a different name would smell as sweet, and perhaps that's true for roses, but it isn't true for everything. She'd spent so long with an emotional and mental wall constructed between them, keeping her safe from the asphyxiating adoration of Rodney McKay, that she'd stumbled and tripped at the sudden appearance of Mer. She still didn't understand how he could have kept it concealed from her. She'd read his files in the past and there'd been no mention of it. And yet there it was, the name on Jeannie's lips.
Perhaps it had been a clause in his work contract, to keep it secret. Sam wouldn't have put it past him. Clearly he hated the sound of it; clearly he thought that a name like Meredith castrated him in others' eyes.
But it didn't. Not on Jeannie's lips, and not in Sam's ears. There was something about it, something about Mer, like the sound of the oceans, pale blue and cool grey, the colour of his eyes, that caught her in the stomach. Caught her so that she had to cover it up with laughter and a face showing nothing but amused astonishment.
Sam, Samantha, Sammy, Carter, Sam of all people knew what difference a name made.
She hadn't had time to think about it, about any of it, during the mess of finding Atlantis, the mess of what happened to Doctor Weir, the mess of helping them, helping him, working, surviving, existing. He whined, but he was good in a crisis. She'd acknowledged to herself that he was the kind of man she'd like at her back during moments of life and death decisions. She'd told herself that she would never tell him that, because he was McKay. She'd told herself that none of it mattered anyway, that none of it made any difference. He was a colleague. She was a professional. He'd told her that he was seeing someone. She'd looked amused and mildly irritated. He'd looked annoyed. She 'd told herself she was being an unexpected idiot.
It was strange being back in the same galaxy as him. Strange, what a difference it made. Strange, the way that you didn't realise how much the absence of something mattered until you were back in its presence.
He'd changed. Or she had. They worked. They worked together. They worked well together. He was Rodney. And she was—
'Sam... come back to bed.'
His voice behind her, pulling through the space between them. The sound of sheets moving, of footsteps on the floor. She didn't turn. She looked across the ocean. Her voice, smiling as she spoke: 'I don't know how you can sleep with a view like this, McKay. It simply begs observation.' Her face, inches from the window ,cool with night, half ignoring his presence behind her.
His hands on her bare shoulders, soft and rough, refusing to be ignored.
She'd thought he'd be timid, shy, incapable.
She'd thought wrong.
He was Rodney and she was – she was awash in a sea of implications, complications. The most beautiful complications she'd ever seen.
Strange, to be worshipped.
Stranger, not to mind.
Summary: Sam had always avoided the thought of Rodney, but now she's moved onto new ground... Spoilers for SG-1's episode 10.13 "The Road Not Taken" and SGA's episode 3.08 "McKay And Mrs Miller".