"I'm taking comp time," he told his boss sleepily over the radio. "Radek can handle it."
The science staff assured themselves it was a temporary lapse, possibly caused by nanites or vicious space syphilis that was eating at his brain. Certainly, he would be back to scream and swear at them by Tuesday morning, possibly even berate them for his own absence.
This belief persisted until Tuesday, when Miko Kusanagi arrived at the lab at 0600 AST, cursing herself for being so tardy. A yellow post-it note stood alone on Rodney's office door:
Don't you dare pick my lock, Zelenka
-and it's still lock picking if you do it by moving crystals around.
Miko dropped her coffee mug in shock. This just confirmed she had been right about Rodney's delicate condition. She ran screaming into the morning; she had to be retrieved and carried bodily back to the labs by David Parrish, and that's where all the trouble started.
By Wednesday, it had become a crisis.
Waylaid in her office by a horde of angry scientists, Elizabeth Weir gave them her most placating smile. "I'm sure it's nothing," she told them. "We are all under a lot of stress, as you know, and Doctor McKay hasn't taken a day off voluntarily since joining us here."
"You can't cover up for him any longer!" an ethnographer shouted from somewhere in the back. "We know it's the alien baby!"
There was a generalized clamor from amongst the well educated rabble.
"No, it's Satedan humping sickness!"
"I think it's just bottle flu."
"Admit it! He's locked away in a love nest!"
"Wait, isn't that what Satedan humping sickness is?"
"Satedan humping sickness is not a euphemism! It is a very serious disease!"
"Please, Elizabeth," Radek Zelenka pleaded with her over the mob, looking up at her with earnest, sad eyes. "We have had two unplanned explosions, a malfunction in the greenhouses, half a resignation, and a fist fight. We need McKay."
Elizabeth sighed, unable to resist Radek when he looked so pitiful. "If he's not back in the morning, I'll see what I can do."
On Thursday, Elizabeth sent in the cavalry.
The cavalry's name was John Sheppard.
When she planned this sortie, Elizabeth had not been counting on the fact that Rodney would answer the door muzzy with sleep, clad only in baggy boxer shorts and a t-shirt emblazoned with happy looking penguin wearing a viking helmet, looking more uncharacteristically adorable than he had over the course of the previous six months all taken together. She had been completely unprepared for the possibility that this would have a profound impact on John, who, after setting aside the lunch he'd brought up and locking the door, all but tackled Rodney into the bed.
Elizabeth would doubtlessly had a back up plan if she'd known Rodney's adorability had been a factor; this is yet another demonstration of why one cannot go into an unknown situation without being in full possession of the facts.
"You woke me up," Rodney complained mildly, after a longish bout of enthusiastic kissing.
"It's one in the afternoon," his boyfriend said, pulling the covers up over his feet.
Rodney looked at him as if he didn't see the problem.
"What have you been doing all this time?" John asked before biting into his sandwich.
"Watching Blake's 7," he said, yawning and stealing John's apple. "I finally won my DVDs back from Zelenka."
"You've already seen every episode."
"Yeah, and I like them, so now I'm seeing them again."
"What brought this on, anyway?" John prompted.
"I just realized I was wasting a valuable resource."
"And that would be?"
Rodney raised a finger in a gesture that clearly said an explanation was forthcoming. "Longer days on this planet means 90 hour pay periods, right?"
"Sure," John allowed.
"I usually work at least 18 hours a day, which means I only need to work five days a pay period. I haven't taken a personal day. Ever."
"I see where this is going," he said, setting aside his food and getting closer.
Rodney gave him a slightly evil smile. "I would hope so."
John rolled his eyes. "So, how much comp time do you have?"
He shrugged. "About a year and a half."
"Oh yeah. I mean, practically everybody should have that much. Even if they stopped the mission tomorrow, I'd be on my way to tenure somewhere before they got us all off the payroll."
"I never thought of it that way before." John glanced at his watch. "I should really get back. Are you sure you aren't ready to go back to the lab? Radek and Elizabeth are starting to worry about you."
"Tell them that I appreciate their concern, but we all know that by next week, I'm going to be so bored out of my skull that I'd go running with Ronon," he said, and John snorted at him, "but right now, I just want to sit around in my room and do stuff that doesn't require pants."
John leaned over off the side of the bed, snatching up his radio from his jacket. "Lorne, this is Sheppard."
The answer was almost instantaneous. "This is Lorne, sir."
"I'm going out of service effective immediately," he said with a smirk.
"Affirmative. See you tomorrow, sir."
Rodney looked faintly amused. "I meant I was going to watch old TV shows and do crossword puzzles."
John cocked an eyebrow at him. "You're complaining?"
He rolled his eyes, tangling his legs into John's. "I'm not an idiot."
John smiled. "Hey, do you think we could get the Daedalus a Netflix account?"
By Friday, Lab 4 had mutinied and declared themselves a sovereign research facility, and certain of the Marines were providing armed support. When Radek locked himself in the jumper bay and refused to come out unless under Air Force protection, Elizabeth realized she needed to send in reinforcements.
Teyla Emmagan and Ronon Dex knocked at Rodney's quarters at ten a.m. After a few moments, John answered the door, wearing boxer shorts and a t-shirt bearing the legend, "Flirt harder, I'm a physicist" which was entirely too big on him. "Hey, guys," he mumbled sleepily.
"Is it not imprudent to be answering the wrong door, John?" Teyla told him, looking faintly scandalized on his behalf.
"I reprogrammed a lifesigns detector," Rodney called from the bed. "If you'd read as Terrans, we'd have hid in the closet."
"Real subtle, McKay," John drawled.
"Are either of you planning to come to work today?" she tried. "We should be considering new missions."
"We were actually just about to watch a couple of superhero movies," John said, scratching at the back of his head. "They're a little cheesy, but-"
"Are there gonna be explosions?" Ronon cut in.
"I'm in," he said, shouldering past John. Teyla sighed and gave up.
By noon, John was starting to regret not having gone for the closet.
"Why wouldn't you wanna be Johnny Storm?" Ronon asked. "He's flying."
"I can fly," John replied, sulking only the tiniest bit.
"But he's on fire," he replied, sounding suitably impressed.
"Do you really think I'm similar to Susan Storm?" Teyla mused, stroking Ronon's hair thoughtfully. "She seems fragile and unable to control herself."
"Well, if Sheppard doesn't want to be on fire," Ronon said, his tone of voice indicating that such a thing was an unthinkable offense, "you're Ben, I'll be Johnny, McKay's Reed, and Sheppard's Susan."
"What?" John said. "No- Teyla, are you gonna stand for that?"
"Ben Grimm is a gentle and noble person who would do anything for his friends and who can also lift a small car," she replied, considering it. "I would think anyone would want to be compared to him."
"And he gets to hook up with that hot blind girl," Ronon added, but then he looked vaguely disturbed. "I don't really want to think about how."
"I told you I was Reed," Rodney said, poking John in the side. "I win."
"Look, let's watch the second one," John offered, "then you'll see why I'm right."
Saturday, the linguistics department led a successful offense against the botanists; fortunately, Katie Brown let it slip that she'd minored in anthropology, and thus an alliance was born.
Meanwhile, Evan Lorne was sent in to retrieve his commanding officer.
"Is that Spider-Man 1 or 2?" he asked when he eventually tracked them down. Ronon shushed him and pointed to the couch.
In the afternoon on Sunday, Radek was exiled from his own lab for daring to suggest a peace treaty. It didn't matter, though, because the other engineers ran out of coffee just after he left and immediately capitulated to the demands of the biological coalition.
He would have been sorely embarrassed by their behavior, but he was already in Rodney's room, arguing with John about Superman's costume. Lorne and Teyla were dispatched to find him a chair; and that was when Rodney looked around and realized that his peaceful boredom was a thing of the past.
He slipped an arm around his boyfriend while Lorne wasn't looking and started mentally composing a list of data to be analyzed.
On Monday morning, Rodney McKay and John Sheppard finally went back to work.
Atlantis breathed a sigh of relief.
Unfortunately, the damage was done; they'd already introduced Ronon Dex, who also hadn't realized that everyone else was getting paid to do this, to the notion of compensatory time.
But that's a story for another day.