Atlantis slash


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The Proof of This is Left as an Exercise for the Reader

Title: The Proof of This is Left as an Exercise for the Reader

Author: kageygirl

E-mail: kageygirl@gmail.com

URL: http://www.kageygirl.com

Feedback: LiveJournal

Archive: Ask first.

Fandom: Stargate Atlantis

Pairing: McKay/Sheppard UST

Rating: G

Feedback: Please and thank you.

Spoilers: "Underground."

Beta: Thanks to Leah (maching_monkey) and wickdzoot, who did what they could with what I gave them. The rest is all on me. *g*

Disclaimer: Have they been to the planet where the wearing of clothing is punishable by death? No? Then they ain't mine. No money being made here (though if the producers wanted to run with the "clothing=death" idea, I hereby cede all rights to it).

Summary: "And yet you seem to be unclear on when to shut the hell up."

"So. You know 'almost everything about almost everything,' do you?"

Rodney glanced up from his laptop, still half-absorbed by the algorithms he'd been running. Across the lab counter, Major Sheppard was leaning on his palms, staring at Rodney through narrowed eyes.

Rodney had no idea what had set him off this time, but he hoped it wouldn't take too long for Sheppard to get whatever it was out of his system. Extracting information from the Wraith data device was taking far too long—if the Genii, as backwards as they were, had been able to interface with the thing, Peter's team should have been doing much better, and Rodney was busy trying to find a way to speed up the process.

"I would say that's a fair assessment, yes," he said, without a trace of irony, because it was true, after all. True enough for whatever purposes Sheppard could possibly have, anyway.

"And yet you seem to be unclear on when to shut the hell up." Sheppard said it conversationally—well, what Rodney had found to be "conversational" where Sheppard was concerned, which for anyone else would have been "aggravatingly smug" and "borderline antagonistic." But given Rodney's extensive experience with being antagonized fully, and aggravated by all manner of attitudes, Sheppard's demeanor didn't really bother him.

At least Sheppard wasn't wasting his time with false pleasantries or small talk.

Rodney saved his work, because he had the distinct impression that this would turn out to be one of those conversations—where Sheppard completely derailed his train of thought without the slightest hint of remorse—and gave Sheppard his full attention. "Considering how often my expertise is both vital and relevant to the topic at hand, I'm having difficulty imagining a situation where my input is unwarranted."

Sheppard smiled grimly and rounded the counter to stand in front of Rodney, dropping his hands on his hips in a move that was probably supposed to be intimidating. Rodney just crossed his arms and pivoted to face him.

Sheppard said, "All right, I'll spell it out for you. For future reference, your input is unwarranted in any situation where telling the bad guys just how smart you are puts you in the running for 'best potential hostage ever.'" He glared at Rodney. "What the hell were you thinking?"

"I was thinking that Cowen was considering shooting us on the spot," Rodney snapped. "Pardon me for believing the situation required our biggest bargaining chip."

Sheppard rested a hip against the counter. "That's not your call to make."

Rodney squinted at him. "I'm sorry—am I not supposed to have a vested interest in my own survival?"

Lowering his eyebrows, Sheppard said, "You're supposed to let me do the talking."

Rodney rolled his eyes. "Given that you'd already talked your way into trading explosives for beans, Major, I think a little concern on my part about your negotiating skills was completely understandable."

Something in Sheppard's expression shifted, just a bit. "I'm starting to think that you don't trust me with your safety, McKay."

Rodney tilted his head to the side, watching Sheppard from a different angle, because he wasn't sure what to make of the look on his face. "Oh, please. Despite the cocky pilot act, I know that you know it's in your own best interest to see to the well-being of the best mind on Atlantis. You're smart enough to realize that the alternative would be, shall we say, tactically unsound."

Sheppard drew his eyebrows together as he looked at Rodney. "I'm not talking about 'the best mind on Atlantis.' I'm talking about you, personally, Rodney." He frowned, curling his fingers around the edge of the countertop. "You don't trust me to keep you safe."

"That's not true." It came out too quickly, almost automatically, and Sheppard looked at him askance.

"It's not."

Rodney paused, but Sheppard fixed him with a level stare, and he finally shook his head reluctantly. "Not really, no."

Sheppard folded his arms over his chest and leaned back against the countertop. "Okay. Then explain to me what happened down there."

Rodney drew in a breath and tried to order his thoughts, to come up with a way to answer the question without having to lay out the steps in between. "I don't—I'm not—" He sighed, starting over. "It's not something that I'm in the habit of doing."

Sheppard's eyes were unreadable, and Rodney continued warily. "Trusting people. It's, it's dangerous."

Sheppard shifted his arms a little, though the rest of his body was intently still. "Dangerous?"

Rodney felt a smile dragging at the corner of his mouth, though it was more wry than happy. "Well, relatively dangerous, I suppose. Depending on the circumstances."

He looked past Sheppard and gestured with one hand. "If someone else drops an exponent in a theoretical proof, I might end up wasting a ridiculous amount of valuable time tracking down the error. On the other hand, if someone screws up the settings on a naquadah generator…?"

He spread his fingers out, and Sheppard nodded. "Boom."

"Very large boom. And I'd really prefer to avoid being vaporized, thank you."

Sheppard was regarding him thoughtfully. It was disquieting, because Rodney wasn't sure what Sheppard felt required such scrutiny. "So, you've kind of gotten into the habit of checking other people's work. Out of self-preservation. It's a… professional… distrust."

"More of a necessity than a habit, really."

"Because dying over someone else's mistake would really be annoying."

Rodney grimaced. "Well, I'd rather not die for an exceptionally long time anyway, annoying or not."

"I understand." Sheppard smiled, just a little, and something about it gave Rodney the sinking feeling that the conversation was about to go sideways on him.

He rubbed his thumb across the side of his forefinger, nodding to cover his discomfort. "Good. That's—so, you see, it's nothing personal."

"Yeah, I get it." Sheppard stuck his hands in his pockets, still watching too closely, his eyes a little too bright. "It's the same with food, right? You can't afford to trust other people about the citrus thing, because it might kill you."

"I—yes, actually." He'd never thought about it in those terms before, never considered it a pattern of behavior. He blinked at Sheppard, standing there innocently and making god only knew what alarming connections in his head.

Sheppard leaned forward a little, and lowered his voice. "I guess I'll just have to work harder to earn your trust, Rodney."

The smart thing to do, the only really intelligent thing to do, would be to leave it at that, to let Sheppard go away and to get back to work and forget about this conversation, because it was far too disconcerting. He had enough to worry about without dwelling on Sheppard and his sharp, watchful gaze, even if it seemed to be directed at him more and more often.

But he'd apparently decided to forego intelligence for the duration, because he said, "No, I… I do trust you, Major." And he wasn't sure why his voice had gone soft, too, unless he was matching Sheppard's tone.

He realized, a second too late, that given everything he'd just told Sheppard, what he'd said didn't really make any kind of intuitive sense.

It had to be true, though, based solely on the evidence alone—after all, Rodney would hardly be the type to keep going offworld, to go on missions like infiltrating a Wraith hive ship if he didn't have some insane-yet-repeatedly-substantiated reason to believe that he'd get home safely.

And even though the major sometimes seemed to be laid-back almost to the point of apathy about how he led his team, they were all still around. They'd even managed to escape any sort of permanent damage.

So Rodney must trust Sheppard, even if he wasn't looking too closely at the reasons. He'd always been impatient with having to show his work, because if he had the right answer, he shouldn't really be forced to prove how he'd gotten there. Even now, people who should have known better were remarkably reluctant to just take it on faith that he knew what he was talking about.

Right now, though, he was nervous that Sheppard would demand an explanation, because, really, Rodney would, in his position. What he'd said sounded utterly unreasonable, objectively speaking.

But Sheppard just gave him a surprised, genuine smile, like it made perfect sense, and maybe it did in Sheppard's world, where logic was disturbingly mutable, the laws of physics appeared to be radically different, and universal constants… weren't. "Cool," Sheppard said. "Glad to hear it." He squeezed Rodney's arm, and Rodney absurdly kept still, as if physical stability could possibly affect his mental balance.

Sheppard pulled his hand away slowly, as if he could tell how badly he'd disrupted Rodney's equilibrium. He was still smiling, though now it was turning mischievous. "Just—try not to sell yourself off to any more science-loving aliens in the future, okay? You really are irreplaceable."

Rodney shook himself, just a little, and lifted his chin. "I'm well aware of that, Major. I've said so repeatedly."

"Yeah, I know." Sheppard looked down at the floor, then back up at Rodney. "But my concern for your welfare has nothing to do with your brain, Rodney."

Rodney felt his eyes widening, and he couldn't pick out a single reply from the jumble of thoughts in his head. Sheppard ducked his head and pointed a thumb at the door. "I'm gonna go now, let you get back to work." He headed for the door, pausing to send Rodney an oddly warm grin before moving out into the hallway. Rodney just stared at him the whole way, before finally turning back to his laptop.

Where he had to reread the notes he'd saved, because he'd completely forgotten what he was working on.