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16 April 2007 @ 07:35 pm
We Used To Be Friends (The ComeOnNowSugar, BringItOnBringItOnYeah Remix) [SGA McKay/Weir PG-13]  
Title: We Used To Be Friends (The ComeOnNowSugar, BringItOnBringItOnYeah Remix)
Author: justabi
Summary: A long time ago we used to be friends, but I haven't thought of you lately at all.
Rating: PG-13
Fandom: Stargate Atlantis
Warnings: n/a
Spoilers: The Return Part I, Tao of Rodney
Original story: [ tag, you’re it ] by kho

We Used To Be Friends

Elizabeth. Rodney. Call me back. It’s about… no, no, no, don’t touch that, do you… are you trying to make all of the blood come pouring out of your ears, or is that just a cool side effect in IDIOT LAND?

Elizabeth smiles, shakes her head and erases the message. The familiarity of his voice berating his minions only gives her a slight pang of heartache. She pulls the covers over her head and stays in bed anyway.

The king sized hotel bed with it's 500 thread count sheets and enormous fluffy down comforter is infinitely nicer than her tiny, smaller-than-twin sized, hard as a rock, beloved, terribly-missed bed in Atlantis anyway. She needs to get a bed of her own, an apartment of her own now that she's back on Earth. Her old house isn't her home anymore. It belongs to Simon and his new wife and Elizabeth's dog.

Where will she live? What will she do with herself? Why do the men in her life always steal her pets? Is she ripe enough to need a shower more than she needs to go back to sleep? Pressing questions, all, but they shall have to wait for tomorrow. Unless Stargate Command calls with better questions for her, she has big plans to spend the day underneath the fluffy, white duvet and try not to dream of home.

As it turns out she dreams of Atlantis anyway.

Elizabeth looks out at the sea beneath the balcony off her office, the same blue-green-gold of the water reflected in the walls of her office, the walls of Atlantis. John stands next to her smiling back at something in the gate room. She turns around to share the joke, half a smile already curling the edges of her mouth until she sees Rodney McKay wearing Bermuda shorts instead of his uniform pants and sandals with tube socks pulled up to his knees. The open wormhole behind him ripples like the sea behind her. Rodney's yelling, “No, no, no, don’t touch that!” frantically at Peter Grodin who only bothers to cover half his smirk with a hand strategically placed over his mouth.

She wakes with a smile on her face and stretches languidly with a yawn. As she rolls over ever-so-casually to check her phone, her smile fades. There are of course no messages. She pads across the plush carpet to the cool tile floor of the bathroom. An hour and forty-five minutes later she emerges from the deep tub and it's twelve jets relaxed and ready to face the day. Apartment hunting waits for no woman. As lovely as her suite is, the SGC stopped footing the bill after the first week.

She envisions a charming three story townhouse with high ceilings and dark wood accents and a spectacular view from the balcony. People vacation in Colorado just for a chance to spend a week with the views here, after all. Garden of the Gods, they call it. Perhaps she will call her mother once she has a nice place for her to come visit. Yes, once she has her townhouse she will let her mother know she's back.

She needs new clothes, she decides as she puts on the most casual, yet tasteful, of her three ensembles not part of a uniform. A woman can never have too many suits, but there is also something to be said for comfort. She recognizes the image in the mirror as she walks out the door and it stops her short for a minute. The first day of her internship at the United Nations she had walked out the door with that same look on her face: a bright facade of excitement with grim determination to make the best of things covering over the hollowness of loss in her eyes, exactly the same but for a few tell-tale lines around her eyes.

It worked out just fine when she was twenty-two and it will work out now. She shakes her head to rid herself of the memories, clenches her hands into fists at her side and walks out the door.

It’s Rodney. Again. Did I mention it was important?

Elizabeth kicks off her shoes, trailing bags and articles of clothing from the moment she hears the click of the door closing. She drops heavily to the couch and rubs the arch of her right foot through her pantyhose. While she might not have found a single townhome she could envision herself in, she had found Old Navy and is now the proud owner of thirteen almost entirely cotton sweat suits in a variety of colors. Just like her first year of graduate school, only they call them Yoga pants now and come with Lycra. Not one of them has a university logo on the chest and none are worn soft by hours of use, but not one of them smells like anyone at all and that has to be an improvement.

The message light on her phone flickers at her from across the room. A second wind hits her as she lunges across the bed to grab it. She listens to Rodney's eighteenth message since they've returned before rolling onto her back and flinging her arms wide. The phone makes a satisfying thump as it hits the armoir. She stares at the shiny specks in the ceiling and remembers going to the planetarium in college, tries not to remember the night sky over Atlantis.

That first year in Atlantis John and Rodney had named the constellations visible from the south pier and somehow the names had stuck. The flecks on the ceiling over her clock radio made an almost perfect copy of the constellation Bat Signal and over by the door to the bathroom was a grouping of sparkles that reminded her of the constellation Brainiac named for it's constant position in the sky all year directly line of sight from Rodney's lab. And over the small desk in the corner ... she swipes at her eyes when she sees Orion, the constellation she'd picked out in glow in the dark stars over her bed after a bottle of wine on her honeymoon after the police had released them.

She scrubs herself pink in the shower and climbs back into bed where she stays for two days.

Hey. It’s me. I’m assuming you know my voice by now. Don’t worry about the thing before, I got it. Just wanted to touch base with you. Ask you how you’re doing? Settling in? And… you have a dog, yes? How’s your dog? I haven’t… that is. Oh, just call me back.

She doesn't, but she does get dressed. She gets dressed and goes and finds an apartment because she can't stand the thought of Rodney, Dr. Rodney McKay worried about her being settled. It's almost insulting. The small talk and the dog and touching base are all just such a joke, but still not quite funny. Her apartment is small and it's pay by the week, but it's furnished and close to the mountain in case they should need her.

If she called Rodney back, she could tell him that she's settled just fine, thank you very much, that her apartment doesn't take pets, and that she doesn't need him to continue calling her for her to remember his voice today. But she won't be calling him back any time soon, particularly not today, and maybe not ever, depending on how annoyed she gets. It's petty, and she knows it, but she can't make herself care about Rodney McKay's feelings on her anniversary.

She drinks a pitcher of margaritas and calls her mother, who can be counted on to never, ever, ever talk about Elizabeth's disastrous 32 week marriage, but who also has an uncanny memory for dates and tries to comfort her without ever mentioning anything unpleasant. It's even worse on her birthday. Elizabeth had found it suffocating when she was younger, but right now, she wants her mother. And a box of cookies.

Elizabeth, it’s Rodney, and you’re not fooling me. Ignoring me will not make me go away. I’m onto you.

She continues to ignore him.

Instead of calling him back she calls the SGC to see if they need her. They don't. They assure her that they will call her if they do. Which they don't.

She paints her toenails hot pink, then changes her mind and paints them red, then changes her mind again, walks back down to Walgreen's and buys seven shades of polish without a hint of red in them. She is annoyed when, three hours later, she realizes that she has painted her toes the exact blue of the science team. She leaves them blue. The smell of acetone is starting to make her dizzy anyway.

When she was in college, hot pink had been her favorite color, but the week before she started her internship at the U.N., she switched to red, her new favorite color. Red was a much more mature color, a powerful color; hot pink was the color of indigestion and other non-food related bad choices. But all she could think of when she saw red now was the color of the shirts she'd worn every day for three years walking the halls of Atlantis and the ache in her chest that feels as though it will never go away.

Blue the color of the sky over Atlantis in the morning just after all the reds and pinks and oranges of dawn have faded away, the same color as the sky in Colorado Springs, seems better somehow. Rodney could probably explain why the color of the sky is the same on practically every planet they've ever visited, but she doesn't call him to ask. John could probably explain the phenomenon as well, that was the sort of question he'd have asked Rodney at least once, but his explanation might actually be intelligible in his own special chocolate-and-peanut butter kind of way. She doesn't call him, either.

I always thought having minions was supposed to be fun, but apparently it’s just downright annoying. The endless stream of coffee almost makes up for it though. Almost.

Elizabeth laughs and chokes a little bit on her chai soy latte. She and John were the only ones who found Rodney's twelve-cup-a-day habit endearing on Atlantis. The ensuing twelve day caffeine withdrawal headache near the end of the first year had been somewhat less endearing. Rodney had begun to wear on even John by the end of the fourth day. Carson said he'd been after Rodney for years to cut back and enjoyed the thrill of saying, “I bloody well told you so,” entirely too much to give Rodney anything at all for the pain beyond a glass of water.

Elizabeth had taken her beloved bottle of Excedrin Migraine and left it on his bedside table after the fifth day. She wasn't above letting him suffer for a little while after all, but the sight of him all alone in the conference room slumped over the table with his head cradled in his hands when he thought no one was looking was too much for her to resist. She suspects now that Carson would have caved had she not taken matters into her own hands, but as it turned out, the Athosian women had a root one could chew that was better than Excedrin and Midol put together, so it had all worked out.

After wiping the chai off her face with a napkin, she hangs up on her voicemail, smiles and goes back to reading her shamefully trashy romance novel.

I am going to shock you out of your isolation, I’ve decided. I know you women like to gossip. I just had sex in the back of my lab with a woman whose name I’ve already forgotten. Go ahead. Call me and berate me for being an inconsiderate, chauvinistic misogynist. Or, just… call me. That’d be fine too.

If there was one thing that could put her off bagels and lox for the rest of her life it's eating them while thinking about Rodney having sex with some woman in the back of his lab. She thinks that she should know better by now than to be surprised by anything he does, but sometimes she can't help herself. It's not that the thought of Rodney having sex is so shocking, half of Atlantis had thought about sleeping with Rodney once or twice. She herself has indulged in ... thoughts, on occasion, just as she had about Carson after he was particularly doctorly or John when he'd been particularly ... John. There was even one memorable thought about Major Lorne and the back side of her hairbrush. Closed communities were like that.

Besides which, Rodney could be remarkably noble every now and again and that was a very attractive quality. He'd stepped in front of a gun for her without even thinking once. She'd had a number of thoughts about him after that. On the other hand, Rodney was also remarkably thick about such matters and that tended to be very off-putting as well. Most people didn't consider him quite worth the effort. Frankly, she's surprised that he even noticed that someone was offering.

But it's more than that. It's not just that he's oblivious, it's that Rodney has never, to her knowledge, had random sex. Of course, she hadn't sat him down when she offered him the job as Head of Sciences and asked him to dish about his complete sexual history since coming in his pants at age twenty (a fact which she has always wished she did not know.) They don't have sleepovers and braid each other's hair while gossiping about their past lovers and the way John's pants slide down his hips a little when he slouches. But despite that she does know Rodney, better than almost anyone, and has always thought of him as a man with too much respect for women to use them so casually. It's people in general Rodney has no respect for, and stupid people in particular with no other categories at all.

If they were on Atlantis ... but they aren't and she doesn't have the energy to berate Rodney for something that is none of her business anymore.

Hey. So. It’s occurring to me that now that you don’t have to deal with me perhaps you’re purposefully not. And if that’s the case, I’d appreciate a call back telling me so. I think you owe me that much at least.

She would have thought that, too, once, but she isn't the polite, politic girl her parents brought up anymore and hasn't been for a long time.

Three years in a galaxy far, far away… uh. Hypothetically. Were I to have been in a galaxy far, far away, hypothetically, I would think that the thing I’d miss most was fast food. McDonald's. Big Macs. Apple pies… that are neither pies, nor actual apples I think. French fries, right out of the vat. It turns out though… or would, since this is only hypothetical… that fast food? Gets old very quick. I can’t tell you how much I’m wishing I could have some of Teyla’s stew. That smelled disgusting, but good god did it taste good.

Her freezer is stocked with Chunky Monkey and Cherry Garcia, just for good measure. Guilty pleasures she hadn't indulged in since she treated herself after the negotiations for the North African non-nuclear proliferation treaty were completed, years ago, seem a necessity now.

Her last pint before leaving Earth was a month before she was given clearance from the IOA. It wasn't that she hadn't wanted that burst of sweet and salt, creamy and crunchy and perfect on her tongue, because she had. There were times after being thrust into taking charge of the Stargate program that she wanted nothing more in the world, except perhaps a stiff drink, but there hadn't been time for grocery stores or gas station freezers. Simon would have bought ice cream had she asked, but amid the flurry of activity, the long days inside the mountain and the long nights reading files on the couch under the Tiffany lamp her mother had bought her, it had simply slipped her mind.

Or more accurately, amid the mountain of things she couldn't tell him, that she wanted Ben & Jerry's and fifteen minutes alone in the tub to enjoy it seemed too petty and insignificant to mention. She couldn't tell Simon about the impending doom constantly looming over the Earth from sentient machines and parasites and honest to god aliens, couldn't tell him about gateways to other worlds or extra terrestrial allies. And then, when the whole of her life seemed to fall together perfectly together to lead up to that one true purpose for her life, the one adventure she had always been meant to have, Atlantis, she couldn't, or wouldn't, or at any rate didn't tell Simon.

The plain truth of it is this: in all the excitement, she had not thought of him once until Jack O'Neill told her he'd gotten clearance for her to tell Simon about the mission. She had forgotten him as completely as she had forgotten her ambition to take her father's place as Ambassador to her beloved United Nations.

At the same time, the IOA gave Elizabeth carte blanch to recruit anyone who possessed the skills and clearance required for her mission and her mind had reeled with the possibilities. That the candidates also needed to possess a certain replaceability, not only in the current work, but in their life, hardly gave her pause. It was not as if the brilliant minds she planned to lure into coming with her on this adventure didn't belong to adults fully capable of making their own decisions.

She asked Sam Carter to head the science division of the Atlantis mission, which Sam declined gracefully, just as Elizabeth had known she would. Colonial Carter and the rest of SG-1 were far too integral to the security of the planet, however much the prospect appealed to any of them. General O'Neill had made that very clear. Sam did have a recommendation for the position, though, just as Elizabeth had hoped.

“Rodney McKay. He's the single most obnoxious man I have ever met, but he is a good man and a good scientist and besides, I can't imagine anyone here will miss him if you end up shooting him to shut him up.”

Her stomach dropped a thousand feet and she had to grip the arms of her chair just to stay upright. Because she trusted Sam implicitly, she said the only thing she could, as calmly as she could. “Where is he?”

“Siberia, but only because it was as far away as I could send him at the time.”

Alright. Here’s the deal. It’s Rodney by the way. I’ve spoken to Sheppard, I’ve spoken to Carson, I’ve spoken to Radek. None of us have spoken to you, and all of us have attempted to. And honestly I’m starting to be a little concerned. Not that concerned, mind you, but… just. Call one of us back. Just. One of us okay?

Elizabeth had listened to one of Carson's well meaning messages. Unlike Rodney, Carson does have the ability to make her feel guilty about not calling back. She prefers to delete them as soon as she hears his voice.

Radek has not tried to contact her, as such. Instead he has sent her fat packages filled with clippings that she doesn't know what to do with. She speaks 8 languages and reads 12, and it's nice to practice her skills on the seemingly random assortment of journal articles and newspaper stories and glossy pages from magazines, but not one of the packages has included a note or anything at all that might be construed as requiring a response.

John Sheppard has left her a total of one message since returning to Earth:

“Do you think if I stop answering my phone McKay will stop calling me? How's that working out for you?”

She doesn't believe for a second that John is calling of his own volition, but the effort makes her smile.

I hear Sheppard’s got the team from hell. I call it cosmic justice, for how much of a saint I was. Stop laughing, Elizabeth, I can hear you over here.

She doesn't laugh, though. Instead she thinks about all the times John's reports included Rodney saving them all at the last possible second, or the times Teyla had told her how very brave Rodney had been in her unofficial debriefing after the team debriefing was over and Elizabeth wanted to hear the real story. She remembers the look of amazement and delight on Rodney's face when he told her that Sheppard had asked him to join his team and then proceeded to half-heartedly complain about all the time it would take away from his very important work in the lab.

She has a sudden image of a 9-year-old Rodney sitting on the ice at the edge of the hockey rink with scraped up knees and a bloody lip, big blue eyes brimming with unshed tears, completely unnoticed by anyone, and brushes swiftly at her own eyes. Sometimes you can know a person too well for your own good.

Have you ever heard of Limewire? Apparently Napster is the only pirating company that has to actually conform to the rules of a civilized society. Also, it took me twenty minutes to download the new Tragically Hip album, which would have taken me at least thirty minutes to get to the store to buy it.

It had in point of fact taken forty-five minutes to purchase her copy. She blames her impulse to buy it on the corrupting influences of her youth. Damn Marian and her, “Oh, Lizzy, lets go to Ontario for our senior trip! It'll be so much fun!”

And now “Ahead by a Century” is on a nonstop loop in her head, just like the day she stormed the compound housing SGC's Russian counterpart in Siberia. She'd been on a plane for what seemed like days and her fists were compulsively clenching and releasing at her sides. They offered her a drink, but she was beyond courtesy at that point and asked rather abruptly to please be shown to Dr. McKay as soon as possible.

Her escort left her at the end of a narrow corridor with a nod at the proper door. It had a very small reinforced glass window where she paused to collect herself. There were a thousand things screaming to be said in her mind, all too jumbled up to be coherent.

She wanted to say, “What the hell were you thinking?!” and, “I can't believe you stole my cat. You hate cats!” and, “I was a grown woman, damnit! It was my choice and you took it from me.” and, “How could you do that to me?” and, “It's been almost 15 years. You couldn't pick up a god damned telephone and call me in fifteen years?” and even in one treacherous corner of her heart she wants to say, “Did you ever really love me?” She wanted to say all of it, and more, but she didn’t, couldn’t, not then, not now, not ever.

She almost turned and walked away then, got on the plane and picked another brilliant scientist to offer the job of a lifetime, but she saw his shoulders drop just the way they always had when Rodney was frustrated and miserable and she couldn't go without him, not after reading his file. She couldn't knock either, so she just wiped the sweat off her hand on the leg of her pants and opened the door.

Rodney didn't even look away from his computer, just snapped his fingers three times and made a grabby motion that she'd always found adorable, except when he did it at dinner, and said, “That better be the good stuff this time. I can't be expected to function at my usual level of genius if you people keep forcing me to drink that sludge in the cafeteria.”

And then she laughed. “Nice to see you, too, Rodney.”

He spun around so fast he almost lost his balance, steadied himself and stared at her with his mouth hanging open for almost an entire minute. When they were married, she had wished he would just tell her how he felt about things, but in that moment she couldn't imagine why. Everything he thought, all his feelings and insecurity flowed across his face one after another until she almost dizzy with it. He didn't hide anything, until he did. His jaw set and his posture changed and seeing the walls he'd built for himself that he'd never had when they were young made her heart ache.

After he collected himself he said, “Hello, Elizabeth. It's lovely to see you, again, but unless you have a particle accelerator in your back pocket or a cup of really good coffee, I'm a very busy man and I have work to do.”

To which she smiled bigger than she had in years and said, “Well, I don't have any coffee, but if you come with me to Atlantis, I can see about the particle accelerator.”

Rodney had SGC clearance higher than your average three star general, so the destination couldn't have been a surprise. None the less, he looked stunned and a little hesitant as he said, “Really?”

She took a step in his direction and reached up her hand to touch him, but stopped herself just before her fingers reached his hand. “Really. I'd like you to be the Chief Science Officer for the expedition. You can pick your own staff. You can requisition any equipment you think you might need.”

This time he smiled as he said, “Really?” was blinding and he was bouncing a little on the soles of his feet.

Elizabeth. I am fully capable of physically coming down there and literally forcing you to interact with the public. Don’t think I won’t.

When Elizabeth was 21 her father physically drove down to Mexico to bail her out of jail where she was staying compliments of the Federales on drug charges. Her friend Marian had bought the bag of pot off a guy on the corner and given it to Elizabeth as a wedding gift. Marian had been so overcome with guilt that instead of taking Elizabeth's ATM card and clearing out her accounts to pay the “fine”, Marian had instead gone to the US Embassy and told the whole sordid tale of their spontaneous trip, Elizabeth's spur of the moment marriage and Marian's own criminal possession of illegal narcotics in the hope that the Embassy could negotiate for their release without wiping out Elizabeth's savings account.

Instead, the Embassy called Elizabeth's father. There was a reason Elizabeth had asked Marian not to bother with diplomacy. The State Department flagged the request and rerouted it before it ever hit regular channels. The Federales would have set her “fine” significantly higher had they known whose daughter she was.

When her father arrived at the dingy little Mexican jail he paid her fine out of Elizabeth's trust fund, but he refused to get Rodney out along with her. She and her father had a magnificent fight during which he reminded her that her trust fund was contingent upon her being unmarried, as they had not wanted her to fall victim to fortune hunters and assumed that any man she married would be more than capable of taking care of her financially. Unlike Rodney, who couldn't quite afford to take care of his laundry.

The Ambassador also let her know in no uncertain terms that he would not be bailing her out of any more mistakes and should she continue on this shockingly reckless course he would not be responsible for her, or anyone else who might come along, financially or otherwise. The insinuation that she'd only married Rodney because she was pregnant stung so much that said several unladylike things which would have given her mother a stroke, and told her father to fuck off. Which he did. While she was still in a Mexican jail.

In the end, Marian cleaned out Elizabeth's savings as well as her own, pawned Elizabeth's car and all her worldly possessions which turned out to be enough to make bail and a deposit on the tiniest, most poorly furnished apartment she had ever seen where she moved from the sorority house with her shiny new husband, her books and her cat. Their passports were flagged and they were somewhat worse for wear after their honeymoon in jail, but they were happy and they had done it on their own.

She did not speak to her father again before he died of a heart attack two years later, long after her marriage was over, and she doesn't think she would have if he'd lived another decade. Elizabeth doesn't fancy Rodney's chances at coming down there and forcing her to do anything. She goes back to watching Send Me No Flowers in her pajamas and thinks that perhaps she will take a shower tomorrow.

Zelenka just spent forty five minutes of my precious time yelling at me in Czech. He then said thank you for listening, and hung up on me. I tell you, the world’s gone mad.

When Elizabeth looked up the file of one Dr. Rodney McKay, approximately thirteen seconds after Sam Carter left her office, she was only granted partial access. Apparently her clearance to know about the existence of alien life wasn't high enough for some of Rodney's earlier work with the government. The only part of the file she was allowed from the time before they shuffled him off to Area 51 were dates of service and his personnel profile.

The original hire date in his file grabbed her eye as it coincided exactly with her twenty-second birthday. Dr. McKay was twenty-four and just months from completing a third PhD in Computer Science to compliment the first two in Astrophysics and Mechanical Engineering, but the NSA had classified his research up to and including the name of his thesis. There was a note that a sealed file existed detailing the terms of Dr. McKay's voluntary agreement to the classification of that and all future work and a term of no less than seven years employ by the NSA.

The file also noted that Dr. McKay was single, never married, with no criminal history, first approached by the CIA at 12 in reference to another sealed file, and had been actively recruited from that time until the time of his hire, twelve years later, and had refused all monetary awards offered, even through civilian channels, as had his sister, one Jean Miller, formerly Jean McKay, another sealed file.

Dr. McKay's personality profile suggests that despite his extreme usefulness, he was considered to be a security risk should he spend too much time unsupervised. Dr. McKay has difficulty keeping secrets from those close to him and is easily distracted by emotional attachments, therefore he should not be allowed to form any but the most superficial liaisons with cleared personnel. Because he is so prone to deep involvement in his work to the exclusion of all else, and a pointed lack of social skills, it should not be difficult to keep him isolated without his knowledge.

Sometimes Elizabeth really hated her government.

It’s two o’clock in the morning and I can not sleep because I’m terrified that you’re lying in a ditch, or your bathtub, with your wrists slit. Elizabeth. You can not deprive me of my sleep like this. You also can not ignore me to the point which I am worried enough to actually call you at two o’clock in the morning to tell you how worried I am. Please, Elizabeth. Call someone. And yes, I really did just say please.

Jean Miller had not particularly liked Elizabeth when they finally met on Atlantis. “I've heard a lot about you,” Jeanie had said and then proceeded to avoid Elizabeth with only the thinnest pretense at cordiality for the next several days.

It was fine, Elizabeth told herself. With all the new things and people, not to mention the project for which she had specifically been brought to Atlantis, Jeanie had a lot on her mind. She might have gone on telling herself that if she hadn't run into John and Teyla and Ronon having lunch with Jeanie in the cafeteria one day. Elizabeth could hear John's braying laugh all the way from the hall. She smiled to herself as she filled her tray and walked over to the table. John pulled out a chair and told her to have a seat.

Just as Elizabeth said, “Well, I don't mind if I do,” Jeanie stood up abruptly and made a beeline for the door. The fabled Canadian politeness had never much shown itself in Rodney, either, so Elizabeth didn't know why she was even surprised, but somehow she had thought Jeanie might have gotten a dose of tact that Rodney missed.

After several more incidents like the one in the cafeteria, Elizabeth had given up trying to figure out what she could have done to so offend the other women. Thus she was appropriately shocked when Jeanie burst through the door to her quarters talking a mile a minute in the middle of a conversation for which Elizabeth had no frame of reference.

“Can't believe you had the audacity to just show up out of the blue and offer him a job, in another galaxy no less, never mind his family, never mind the danger. He quit his life for you. Twice! What were you thinking?”

“Excuse me?”

“You know, you are just like our mother. Meredith always followed her around and did whatever she told him to do, too, like nothing else was important. You can't imagine the pressure he put on himself because he thought if he could be good enough she'd like him. When I was seven he played that damned piano for three days solid, perfectly, even though his fat little fingers were bleeding because he'd gotten it into his mind that it would some how make her come back. And you are just as cold and mercenary as she was.”

“I was sorry to hear about your mother's death, but I don't see--”

“Our mother isn't dead, Dr. Weir. Or at least, she wasn't dead the last time the Boston Philharmonic played in Toronto, not that I care one way or the other. Did Meredith tell you our mother was dead? Christ, Mer.”

“No, I suppose I just assumed, from the way he spoke of them, that both your parents had passed.”

“Our dad died a few weeks after I finished grade 12, but Mum just left us one day when her ambition got the best of her. Told Mer he was technically proficient, but that he'd never be a true artist before she was just *poof* gone. Broke Mer's heart. And then you and your your your confidentiality agreements!” Then Jeanie threw her hands in the air and stormed off as suddenly as she came.

Elizabeth hates to let people be right about her, not that it's likely she'll ever see Mrs. Jean Miller again, but it's the principle of the thing. She picks up the receiver and dials Rodney's number. Still, when she hears Rodney's voice answer the line, “What could you idiots possibly have done now that necessitates you calling me at o-dark-thirty in the morning?” she can't stop herself from slamming the phone back into the cradle.

There are cats having very loud sex outside of my window, and I would like to formally lodge a complaint on how patently unfair it is that felines are getting more action than me.

For some reason this message makes her smile. She takes out her laptop and starts writing, at first a story about her beloved cat Kelvin and his antics in the sorority house. The she writes about the time she caught Rodney begrudgingly allowing Kelvin to sit curled up in his lap in a moment of weakness; Rodney hated cats, had a twenty-minute rant about how unsanitary they are, how disloyal and in general a scourge upon the Earth. Three weeks later Rodney abducted that same cat and Elizabeth had not been able to help the moment of weakness she had a decade and a half later when she saw the only picture in Rodney's room was a picture of Kelvin. She hadn't needed that pudding cup anyway.

After a while she finds herself writing about her college years in general, her time interning at the United Nations, and then somehow it is two days later and she hasn't brushed her teeth once but she's telling the stories of what makes her happy, what she's proud of, mistakes she's made, she's telling stories of Atlantis. She's writing her memoirs and she has a purpose that she hasn't had in all the weeks they've been back on Earth.

So. Since you won’t speak to anyone, I’ll just keep you abreast of the situation as I know it. Sheppard’s team is a bunch of idiots and he’s absolutely miserable and god, terrible at hiding it. Carson spends more time on the phone with his mother than is expressly healthy, and he’s cried no less than three times while on the phone with me about missing that same mother. Zelenka actually told me he wished I were with him to yell at his people for him because they don’t listen to him, and Zelenka never likes to admit that my methods are ever better than his. So here’s the point. We’re all miserable, Elizabeth. We all miss Atlantis. And we’re all, yes, depressed. I’ve probably drunk more in the past two weeks than I did in the two years prior to leaving for Atlantis. You’re not alone. We’re right here. It helps. I know it doesn’t seem like it would, but… it helps. And you don’t have to talk about it, you can just make up a story about how everything’s hunky dory over there for you, but. Just. God damnit, Elizabeth. Talk to us.

Elizabeth appreciates the concern but she's busy and she doesn't have time to commiserate with Rodney or anyone else.

Apparently some people are stupid enough to think that if you drink a carbonated beverage and eat pop rocks at the same time, you’ll die. People are that stupid. I just spent twenty minutes telling… oh hell, I don’t remember who it was, but it took me twenty minutes to convince them they weren’t going to die. And the only thing that actually got through to them was me pointing out the fact that it had been twenty minutes and if they were going to die from it then surely it would’ve already happened.

She laughs so hard she snorts Diet Dr. Pepper out her nose all over her laptop.

She hasn't laughed so hard since college. She takes a break from writing to make microwave popcorn and watch Real Genius, another guilty pleasure dating back from her impressionable youth. She had seen it in the theater 13 times her freshman year at Berkeley with Marian and it had been years since Elizabeth had wanted to see it. She thought seriously about tracking Marian down, but she could not remember Marian's married name and gave it up as a lost cause.

Yeah. It’s Rodney. Carson’s going to come over there to check on you and if that doesn’t work I’m planning out right now a list of things to talk about while I sit on your doorstep as long as it takes to get you to come outside and shut me up. So if you don’t want to hear my diatribe on the intolerance of gays in the American military in my most obnoxious tone at two o’clock in the morning, you’ll talk to him. I’m flying out tomorrow, so should you not be at dinner, you can expect to hear my loud obnoxious voice say around… 9pm? Good for you? It’s a date. I might even bring Sheppard with me. We can bicker loudly and annoy your neighbors.

This message gives Elizabeth pause for a moment. She imagines Rodney and John bickering about the intolerance of gays in the American military and feels a pang of something in her chest. Two days later when they are all back in Atlantis and the excitement of the rescue is over, she lies on her bed, her bed in her quarters in her home, she thinks about it again. She finds that she is neither as hurt nor as disinterested as she might have thought at the change she can see in Rodney and John's relationship.

Because something has clearly changed in the time they were back on Earth.

It had to happen sometime, she tells herself. Rodney was bound to notice sometime that he was only alone because he chose to be and she cannot fault him for his taste. Well, except his bizarre fixation with Celine Dion, but she's heard Chuck singing “If You Asked Me To” in the gateroom late at night when he thinks no one can hear him, so it's probably a Canadian thing. But she's happy for them. Really. It's just that there is a niggling bit of regret and more jealousy on all sides than she would have expected.

She wonders bitterly if Rodney's NSA buddies could wipe a dishonorable discharge for Conduct Unbecoming.

She shakes her head. If she had wanted him, there were a thousand times she could have had him, not the least of which was while they were both stuck on Earth and Rodney was leaving her messages every night. If she'd called him just once ... but she didn't and she doesn't really want Rodney back. It's just those moments when he makes her laugh and she wants to throw her arms around his neck and laugh into his throat. When he touches her arm so protectively, when he stands up for her, when he steps in front of a gun for her, and she wants to take him back to her room and take him to bed and wrap herself up in him for a night and feel ... something she hasn't felt in a long time.

Elizabeth. It’s Rodney. You’ll likely never get this message, as we’ll either be dead or… hypothetically, in a galaxy far, far away. I just wanted to say I had a wonderful time at dinner, it was good to see you still alive and kicking and… I just. Never do that again. Never scare me like that again. I care for you Elizabeth. There, I’ve said it. And trust me, the only reason I’m telling you this is because we’re about to embark on a mission that’s surely fated for a fiery death, and you’ll never hear this. Should I be wrong on that count, please ignore everything I’ve said, and have a nice day.

One night they were lying on their bed, well, the broken futon frame Rodney had repaired with parts from his lab with a layer of egg crate over the top, just underneath the military surplus sleeping bag they pretended was a futon. They were lying on their bed, naked, bodies glistening with sweat and afterglow under the thinnest of sheets in the middle of December. Rodney lay flat on his back staring at the ceiling under their glow-in-the-dark stars while Elizabeth draped herself half over him, her face nestled between his chest and his shoulder, snuggled in for warmth.

Rodney said, “We don't have enough money for tuition next semester.”

They'd had this conversation before, and Elizabeth's line was, “We'll work it out. We can take out student loans. It's only one semester and we'll both be done.”

But this time Rodney didn't wait for her to say it, just barreled on. “Your government offered me a job today.”


“They offered me a ridiculous amount of money. More than enough for tuition and a better apartment, even a house if you wanted one. More than I would know what to do with. I told them I'd think about it, but I just can't do it. They'll classify everything I do for the rest of my life and I'll never get my Nobel. As much as I ... as much as I care for you, I can't give that up. Not even for you.”

Elizabeth nipped him on the chest and told him she'd never want him to give up his dreams for her, that they'd take out student loans and it would all work out and promptly forgot about the conversation.

Ten weeks later, the week before her birthday, she received a letter in the mail accepting her for an internship at the United Nations pending a background check by the State Department and her enrollment in the graduate school of her choice. She was so excited that she squealed and launched herself at Rodney singing, she is embarrassed to remember, You must be my lucky star. She sang and laughed and forced Rodney to dance all around their 350 square foot studio apartment until they collapsed in a heap on their not-quite-a-futon. Rodney kissed her head and told her he knew she could do it without her father.

Everything in the world looked bright until it occurred to her that her father actually wasn't behind the scenes pulling strings for her and unlike when she applied for the internship, she now had a criminal narcotics possession charge on her record. She considered calling her father, picked the phone up and dialed a hundred times, but she couldn't do it. Rodney held her and kissed her forehead and told her they'd think of something, but she knew there wasn't really anything to be done.

The next day when she came home from her job at the diner the apartment was empty, or rather, emptier than usual. A card with Wonder Woman on the front was stuck to the refrigerator with one of Rodney's homemade magnets. Inside it said:

I'm sorry, Elizabeth. I got a better offer.

P.S. I'm taking the cat. (We have a special bond.)

Her trust fund kicked in the next day.

Almost twenty years later when Rodney thinks he's dying he writes her a book. The dedication is just as short and just as devastating.

For my wife, of whom I have always been proud.

A Long Time Ago

I got married on the beach in Tijuana when I was 21 in a hot pink tube top, a denim miniskirt and upwards of thirty black rubber bracelets. We spent our honeymoon in a Mexican jail for drug possession and 32 weeks later he got a better offer from his (non-existent) secretary, stiffed me for his half of the rent and stole my cat, with whom he claimed a “special bond”.

I used to tell the story at cocktail parties whenever well-meaning ambassadors' wives would ask me why no one had snapped me up and married me, yet. By the time I got to the part where stole my cat they would laugh and smile and pat my hand and tell me that a charming young woman like me was sure to find a nice young man soon.

Only one person ever took me seriously when I told that story and I haven't told the story since. You see, the story can't be true because I never married. I never married and I have never been to Mexico, let alone spent time in a Mexican jail, or any jail at all for that matter, else I never would have been an intern at the UN, never become an up and coming diplomat, never given clearance by the IOA, never put in charge of Atlantis. I told the story, not the humorous anecdote I told at parties, but the whole, sordid, true story, the night Simon Wallace asked me to marry him nearly a decade later. Even then, I got it wrong, but I would not know that for many years.

Rodney McKay tutored Physics, Calculus, Mechanical Engineering and a host of other subjects to make rent at UC Berkley while working near constantly on his research for his third PhD, something to do with computer languages and number theory that I never understood. They tried making him teach undergrad sections, but the general student outcry by the end of his first semester was so great that the department heads felt it would be better to just leave him in the labs where he only occasionally traumatized other grad students. After an incident hushed up by the higher ups, Rodney was also forced to retake Ethics, the class for which I had a part time job as Teaching Assistant.

My father spoiled me all my childhood and it was no different at college. I had always been told that I was brilliant, tested out of my freshman and half my sophomore years at school and at 21 had been accepted to the Yale Center for International and Area Studies for my graduate work in International Relations. I was a shoe in for several prestigious internships due in some part to my father's connections, but largely, I flattered myself, on my own merit. My life was perfect, on the right career path with the right friends and the right activities on my resume. I was ambitious, partly for myself, and partly for my father, but I was still young and carefree. According to my father I laughed entirely too much to be dignified, but he said it with a smile, so I never took him too seriously.

Rodney made me laugh like no one I have ever met and his smile in return was more brilliant even than he was and I loved him the way you can only love your first love: with no logic, no limits and no defenses. He loved me, too. I know he did. He never said it, not in those words, but with parents like his I never expected it. But he did love me; I could feel it in the way he looked at me, the way he touched me like I was fragile and infinitely precious to him, the way he threw his life into disorder for me, the way he smiled when we were together, the way he made me feel like the only woman in the entire world. But more importantly, as it turned out, he loved me more than he loved his Nobel.

He repeated in Spanish after the Padre on that beach in Tijuana wearing a shockingly bland shot sleeved Hawaiian shirt on top of his long sleeved Brainiac t-shirt and Bermuda shorts with the Birkenstocks I had given him as a gift for his birthday and white tube socks pulled up to his knees, all topped off with an enormous straw hat to keep out the sun, even though it was dark out. He was keeping his lifetime radiation log even then. I couldn't stop myself laughing and falling into his arms and kissing him, much too soon for the Padre's taste, at the end of his mush mouthed Spanish vows when he tacked on, “And I promise to dedicate my Nobel to you. Unless you get yours first, in which case all I can promise is I'll try not to get too drunk at the ceremony.”
10pmpacifictime on April 22nd, 2007 07:56 pm (UTC)
The link to the original story needs to be fixed.
flava_page on April 26th, 2007 05:27 am (UTC)
Got it! Thanks!
abbyleeabbylee on April 22nd, 2007 08:44 pm (UTC)
Wow. This story packed an extra punch for me because I tend not to read headers so I didn't realize at all what could be coming. But even without that, it's a wonderful weaving between the series and the original fic. Plus, you've really fleshed Elizabeth out into someone both fallible and respectable, which is sometimes a had balance to find. And I love the way that everything just sort of tilts without changing.
just abi: sweetnessjustabi on April 30th, 2007 04:52 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! I think fallible and respectable is a good description of her. I love that it came across that way.
Catesheafrotherdon on April 22nd, 2007 10:30 pm (UTC)
asdhfjklasd! That is the most incredible story - to tease out such a beautiful character study of Elizabeth from those fragments of Rodney's phone calls, and then to embed that twist, to pull it all together and to make it make sense that yes, of course, they could be exactly those people to one another. Wow - I adored this. So, so good.
just abi: Hallucinationjustabi on April 30th, 2007 04:56 am (UTC)
Yay! You know, I had myself totally talked into that that really is who Rodney and Elizabeth are to each other. Like freakishly convinced. I'm glad that I'm not the only crazy person. I just have always felt that there was some kind of special relationship between Rodney and Elizabeth because she is the only one he unconditionally respects and he is the only one that she shows such ... affection in the face of complete exasperation. Thank you!
(no subject) - judithozaxy on July 17th, 2008 12:30 am (UTC) (Expand)
quite magical: john + rodney (chess)dogeared on April 22nd, 2007 11:08 pm (UTC)
Oh, how cool—Elizabeth feels so complex and so real!
just abi: Hamujustabi on April 30th, 2007 04:56 am (UTC)
Yay! Thank you! That makes me all kinds of happy.
AN ENIGMA GAVE A PARADOX A VERY SPECIAL HUG: sciencemelayneseahawk on April 22nd, 2007 11:55 pm (UTC)
*does a double-take* Didn't see that coming. Nice.
just abi: Wraithjustabi on April 30th, 2007 04:58 am (UTC)
Yay! Thank you! *happy*
kHo: sga- lizkho on April 23rd, 2007 04:57 am (UTC)
It so totally didn't even occur to me to check for my story on here! How much of an idiot am I?! LOL.

Oh my god. That story came out of mine?! I so totally didn't expect that much goodness to come out of a weird little dialogue only experiment that I prettied up and called a fic!

This is fantastic. I love the background you gve Elizabeth and Rodney's relationship, both present and past, and just. I don't even have the words for the awesomeness that I think this is.

Thank you so much! I love it!!!
just abi: I <3 Ujustabi on April 30th, 2007 04:59 am (UTC)
Hee! I am so glad that you liked it. I had really hoped that you would.
(no subject) - kho on April 30th, 2007 05:10 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - justabi on April 30th, 2007 05:17 am (UTC) (Expand)
lastscorpion on April 24th, 2007 03:51 am (UTC)
Poor Elizabeth! I guess I forgot that she burned way more bridges to get to Atlantis than most of them did. LOL at Why do the men in her life always steal her pets? I had assumed, reading the original story, that Rodney was lying about the nameless girl in the lab so as to get a rise out of Elizabeth -- looks like it worked! LOL! But not well enough to get her to call him back and yell at him. And, oh, what a cool twist ending! Terrific!
just abi: Hugs are good for the Souljustabi on April 30th, 2007 05:00 am (UTC)
Yay! It makes me happy that some humor came through and that you enjoyed it. Thank you!
amiteeamitee on April 24th, 2007 07:08 pm (UTC)
Oh man, this broke my heart. *SIGH*
just abi: Rodneyjustabi on April 30th, 2007 05:02 am (UTC)
*hugs* Me, too. Like a lot. It's hard to write a story about how first love doesn't have to end in disaster to be over and yet still be there. Or maybe that's just me. Thank you!
Know when to walk away: teylabriar_pipe on April 25th, 2007 04:52 am (UTC)
Oh wow. Oh wow.

I liked the original quite a bit - I have a soft spot for phone message fics, and that this one was one-sided just made it better. But you somehow took Rodney's Rodney-ness from his messages and spun it out into Elizabeth's life in a way I just did not see coming. I'm sitting here with a goofy grin on my face because I love the idea of McWeir, I just rarely see it done in a way that convinces me. Certainly I've never read one that packed quite this punch.

My favorite part, though? How Simon and Rodney both stole her pets. (Though I really liked the dedication of Rodney's book, too. *g*)
just abi: Rodneyjustabi on April 30th, 2007 05:05 am (UTC)
Hee. I love the idea of McWeir, too. I mean, I love the idea of Rodney and just about anybody, so I may not be a great judge, but I think they work together. I am terribly pleased that this worked for you. Thank you so much.

Also? The dedication was my favorite part, too. When I tried to write this out linearly I would always be sniffling when I got to that part. Oh, the drama!
Lady Agnewladyagnew on April 26th, 2007 09:46 am (UTC)
Brilliant. You made Elizabeth a well-rounded character, and have me aching for her and laughing with her, and I don't even like her as a character! Love how delicately reasoned this is, and how... I don't know how to put this: nothing huge or dramatic happens, but you spun something really compelling from actions that aren't inherently dramatic. Does that make sense? I just know that I enjoyed reading it, waiting for those pleasurable bursting surprises and revelations, cuddlied warm in Elizabeth's personality. Thank you!
just abi: Hallucinationjustabi on April 30th, 2007 05:08 am (UTC)
*bounce* I am so happy that you could feel for Elizabeth even not liking her as a character. That is awesome. And you're right, nothing dramatic happens, but I am tremendously pleased that you found it compelling. Thank you so much.
Nicparanoidangel42 on April 26th, 2007 10:27 am (UTC)
I really love this. I'm not that keen on McKay/Weir, but I loved the relationship between them in this, and the story you tell of Weir's life. I can see this being exactly what happened.
just abi: Wraithjustabi on April 30th, 2007 05:10 am (UTC)
OMG Pink!Dalek!!! *dies* You make me so happy saying that you can see this being what happened, because while I was writing this I was seriously, totally convinced myself. *happy* Thank you!
(Deleted comment)
just abi: Wraithjustabi on April 30th, 2007 05:11 am (UTC)
I'm so glad that it worked for you, even though you aren't a McKay/Weir fan. That is an excellent compliment. Thank you.
Sophonisbasaphanibaal on April 28th, 2007 04:48 am (UTC)
I like this a lot. I like the ending scene, and parting-for-your-own-good (especially when the other party wouldn't let them if they'd known) is something of a kink of mine, and I like the way that it's both in the past and not, and this is the first fic I've read that really convinced me that McKay/Weir could have worked at some point in time, even if not during the period when I watch their interaction.

Actually, this or something very like it is probably going to go into my mental backstory for the two of them now.
just abi: Rodneyjustabi on April 30th, 2007 05:12 am (UTC)
God, parting-for-your-own-good is a total kink of mine as well. It just makes me incomprehencibly happy that you found this plausible enough to go into your mental backstory for them. Thank you!
murklinsmurklins on April 29th, 2007 07:11 pm (UTC)
I read this a few days ago and really enjoyed it, but didn't comment. Luckily, I have to update all my bookmarks to reflect the revealed authors, so I had an excellent reason to come back. :)

I love the reference to VM in the title, the hint that this is a mystery, that there is something that needs to be revealed. This is just very *clever* all around, clever ideas and clever writing. I love seeing Elizabeth written by someone who thinks she's interesting, and I love that she gets such a fascinating backstory.

Really, an amazing remix.
just abi: Veronicajustabi on April 30th, 2007 05:14 am (UTC)
OH MY GOD! You totally got the thing with the title! *flails with happiness* And I have always wanted to be clever. Thank you!
(no subject) - murklins on April 30th, 2007 08:11 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - justabi on May 5th, 2007 04:38 am (UTC) (Expand)
the creases and flecks in the maptropes on May 4th, 2007 08:52 pm (UTC)
This is fully amazing. I'm kind of speechless.
just abi: Eyes are the windows to the soul.justabi on May 5th, 2007 04:39 am (UTC)
Awwww. Thank you. *happy*