Day 1

Title: Day 1
Author: tarotgal
Fandom: Stargate Atlantis
Rating: PG
Pairing: McShep
Disclaimer: Not my characters, not my 'verse. I don't get paid a cent to play. Please don't sue and make things worse.
Summary: Rodney’s got a cold, but he still has to save the station from certain disaster.
Note: Part of the 12 Ficlets in 12 Days project 2011-2012. Requested by greeneyes_fan


Day 1

John looked from the digital clock, steadily counting down, to Rodney, steadily losing his ability to function, and back again. “Uh, Rodney?”

He gave a long, hard sniff. “Not now.”

“Yes now. You’ve only got five minutes to do this. Now 4 minutes and fifty-four seconds.”

“Yes. Yes. I know.”

John paused, waiting for the moment of brilliance to come and the clock to stop heralding their impending doom. But the numbers kept dropping. “Then maybe you should think about keeping this part of the station from blowing up.”

“That’s what I’m trying to do, but it’s impossible to short circuit this thing.” He paused, eyes closing tightly. He raised a hand to his face. “h’CHIHhhh!” Another hard sniff later, Rodney pulled his eyes open. “Look, I have to type in the right combination and that’s mathematically improbable to choose at random. I have to determine the right one to get this countdown to stop.”

“Great. How about doing it now?”

Rodney looked up, exasperated. “Would you please just shut up and let me do this?” he almost shouted. The strength of the words scratched his throat coming out and made him cough. He turned, arm bent over his face, coughing hard. John stepped close and placed a hand on his back, not patting but rubbing. When Rodney lowered his arm, his face was flushed.

And there were only 2 minutes left.

With a single-mindedness Rodney reserved for only the most important situations, Rodney poked at the control panel, going through sequence after sequence until the countdown stopped abruptly with twenty-two seconds left to go.

John stared at the clock. Rodney stared at the clock. But a full minute later, it still read twenty-two seconds.

Rodney closed his eyes and sighed, slumping against John’s chest. The man’s arm wrapped reassuringly around him. “See? I knew you I could do it.”

Sometimes Rodney just needed a little pressure. And trying to deactivate a bomb while his head was filled with cold was definitely pressure enough. “Yes. Right. That’s three down and nine to go.” Rodney scrubbed his palm over his head forehead. “Can I go back and see Carson again first? I feel like crap, John.”

Every time Rodney got sick, the only thing that seemed to make him feel better was complaining. John was used to his exaggerations. “You’re going to feel even worse if one of the elevators activates and all of Atlantis explodes.”

Rodney nodded. “That’s why I shut off the… the… the sys…” He took a sharp breath and snapped forward from the force of a strong “heh’CHShhhhhh! Ugh!” He dug a moist tissue out of his pocket and it fell apart as he dabbed it at his nose. “Cad I at least go get sub tissues?”

“Sure, if you want to walk up eight flights of stairs and a mile and a half of corridors to get to the infirmary from here. And it’s even further to our quarters.” He looked around. “You could always go door to door, seeing if any of the ancients left a box of Kleenex behind when they left Atlantis, but something tells me—”

“All right!” Rodney groaned. He snuffled miserably into his sleeve. “You’re making me feel like I’m back in grade three. Mrs. Kruger’s class. I had dusting duty and you know how I’m allergic. Well I didn’t realize how allergic until that day. I started dusting and I… I… hehh-CHXXSHiHHH!

John finished for him. “You sneezed, rubbed your nose on your sleeve, and defused another bomb?”

Rodney looked at him, exasperated. “Yes, that’s it exactly. How’d you know?” With a sigh, he headed after John down the next corridor.

Two control panels later, Rodney was barely holding on. The communicator beeped and Rodney groaned. “What is it, Radek?”

“I diffused the two bombs at stations numbers eight and nine.”

“Good for you,” Rodney replied shortly. “I’ve done five so far. And I’m sick.” He coughed into his shoulder. “Are you going to station ten now?”

“Of course, Rodney.”

Rodney cut the communication and quickened his pace to keep up with John. But his breathing was shallow and he had a stitch in his side. John glanced over his shoulder and smiled. He slowed down just a little. “Is it just me, or does Zelenka’s accent get stronger when he’s annoyed?”

Shaking his head, “Annoyed? No. that was more like his stress accent. When he’s especially frustrated he speaks completely in Czech. Do you know what ‘You’re going to kill us all. We’re all going to die!’ is in Czech? “

“Can’t say that I do.”

“Well, I didn’t either until I met Zelenka.”

John smirked and put his hand on Rodney’s lower back, making sure Rodney kept going. “Seven down, five to go, right?”

“Right,” Rodney agreed, sniffling. “And then can I get some tissues?”

“Sure, Rodney. When they’re all diffused, I’ll get you as many tissues as you want.”

“You pro… promise?” Rodney snuffled again into his sleeve, which was becoming less and less useful by the second. “hehChishhhhh! Sniff! Sniff!

Rodney figured out the right sequence for the next one in only one minute. The following one, however, took him more than four. John had complete faith in Rodney McKay, but he still closed his eyes during the last one, not able to watch as Rodney activated the countdown in order to diffuse the bomb. The man only had five minutes each time to find the right combination.

With Zelenka done with stations ten and eleven, Rodney headed out to the last station. He was halfway there when he slumped against the wall, coughing and snuffling. He winced as he swallowed, and whimpered. “John, I can’t make it.”

John kissed the top of Rodney’s head and massaged the back of Rodney’s neck. “Yes you can. I know you can.”

“Can’t.” He coughed again. “Need a tissue. Gonna… hehh… hehhhhh…” John slid his arm around him and pulled Rodney close. Rodney struggled for a second; he didn’t like being manhandled into a position not of his own choosing. But then he rubbed his face—itchy nose and all—into John’s shirt. “hehhh… hehh-CHIHShhhhhhhh!

This time, John winced, but he also rubbed Rodney’s back. “Bless you.”

Snfff, sniff, sniiiiffffff!” He nuzzled into John’s chest affectionately. “Wanna go home.”

“Just one more bomb and you’ll be done, all right? You don’t want Zalenka to to get there before you and steal all the glory, do you?”

With a groan, Rodney pulled away and trudged forward. He was in better shape now than he had been when they’d arrived at Atlantis; so much hiking through rough terrain, walking to and from gates, and running for one’s life had a way of increasing stamina. Still, a sick Rodney was less than a perfect specimen. By the time they got to the last bomb, he was wheezing and coughing constantly.

He was also shivering. Rodney went for the bomb, but right before he switched it on in order to start defusing it, John gave a sudden “Wait!”

Rodney jumped back, shaking. His eyes were wide. “That’s a great way of giving someone a heart attack, you know!”

John nodded. “Sorry. But…” He took off his jacket and stepped close, putting it around Rodney. Rodney was wider at the shoulders—really, he was wider all around—but the jacket still had John’s warmth on it and it felt good around him. “You were shaking, Rodney. I don’t want you pressing buttons while you’re shaking.” John checked Rodney’s forehead for fever. “You feel pretty warm.”

“Uh, sniff, sniff, where have you been the last few hours? I’m sick, John.” He gave an intense, violent shiver as he turned back to start work on the bomb. He activated it, and the countdown started at five minutes. But Rodney shivered again and his finger slipped off a button. “Damn it!” Rodney jumped as John came close. John stood, pressed right behind him, wrapping both arms around Rodney. A few seconds later, Rodney was nice and warm and narrowing down the combination possibilities.

John heard footsteps and looked over to see Zalenka and Miko.

“Has he already activated the bomb?” Zalenka asked.

John nodded.

Rodney nodded as well. “And he’s just deactivated it.”

“Good,” Zalenka sighed with relief.

“Yes, I know. I’m… brilliant.” Instead of waiting for praise, Rodney’s eyes fluttered closed and he fell back against John.

It seemed like only seconds, but when Rodney came to, he found himself in bed, in his quarters, but still in John’s arms. He heard Carson’s unmistakable Scottish accent. “Not much I can do for a cold. Just keep him warm and comfortable. Lots of fluids and healthy foods, aye?”

Rodney stirred, murmuring, “And tissues?”

John laughed. “Uh, Rodney?”

He sniffed. “What now?”

“Open your eyes,” John whispered.

Rodney did, and saw a stack of no fewer than ten Kleenex boxes stacked on the bed, nightstand, and floor within reach. Rodney helped himself to one immediately, rubbing his tender nose.