Equipment Failure - posted May 9, 2006
Pairing: none (could be read as McKay/Sheppard
Word Count: ~1370
Summary: "It happens to everyone."
written for the sga_flashfic This is Not Happening Challenge.
paused outside the door to McKay’s lab. Rodney had practically run out
of the briefing with an embarrassed look on his face and a stammered
explanation about needing to get to the lab. Elizabeth had kept John
behind to clarify a few things, but the whole time she could see his
eyes darting towards the door until finally she gave up and said,
“Fine. Go talk to him, but we’re not finished.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he
drawled at her as he bounced out of his chair, setting off at a
half-jog in the direction of the labs. She’d pushed down the immediate don’t
call me ma’am,
and decided if she left the two of them to their own devices, they’d
probably never report back to finish the debrief. It wouldn’t be the
first time they’d skipped out on her. So, she followed at a leisurely
pace, figuring she’d give Sheppard a little time to deal with whatever
had McKay flustered, but then, dammit, they were telling her the whole
story of what had happened on MX4-792. Somebody had to keep up with the
The door to the lab was open, and she could hear
Rodney’s voice, tight and angry. “Is that supposed to make me feel
“Rodney, it happens to everyone. Don’t worry about it.” Sheppard
sounded genuinely sympathetic.
“No, no, no. Not to me!”
“Look, sometimes things happen. No matter how much you want it to,
stuff doesn’t always work. You can’t take it personally.”
that was interesting. Elizabeth chanced a peek through the door to see
John standing with one hand on Rodney’s shoulder. Rodney wasn’t meeting
“I—that’s never happened before. I didn’t know what to
do.” Rodney raised his head and Elizabeth pulled back from the doorway,
but Rodney was completely focused on Sheppard. “I’m not used to not
knowing what to do.”
“You did just fine,” John said, giving Rodney’s shoulder a pat.
used to things working when I want them to. It was so frustrating to
not be able to—” Rodney let out a breath and took a step back, leaning
against the lab counter. “Well, you were there. You know what happened.”
equipment failure is a fact of life. No matter how much you want it to
work at that moment, no matter how much adrenaline’s pumping through
you, it doesn’t change things. Sometimes it doesn’t cooperate.”
I guess.” Rodney’s eyes had dropped back down to the floor. He was
rubbing the toe of one shoe against the other. John sighed and leaned
back against the table beside him.
“You know, it’s happened to me.”
“Lots of times. More times than I can count.”
and it’s always at the worst possible moment. There was this one time,
I was pinned down by a bunch of guys, and wham, nothing. Absolutely
Elizabeth shook her head. The visual was … disconcerting.
“If you’re just lying to make me feel better …” Rodney glanced over at
John carefully. “Well, I appreciate it.”
John smiled and shrugged. “It’s the truth. People don’t like to talk
about it, but it happens. To everyone.”
waited in silence and wondered if there was more to come. She really
wanted there to be more. She was about to step through the door to
insist they finish the debriefing when she heard John’s voice.
“I could look at it for you,” he offered.
“You’d do that?”
“Sure. It’s kind of my responsibility, you know. After all, I was the
one who showed you how to use it.”
stopped just short of pounding her head against the wall in abject
frustration. Every single good-looking man on Atlantis and …
“Well, I guess it wouldn’t hurt if you’d—”
here!” John insisted in an urgent whisper that still managed to carry
all the way to the door. “Jeez, you know how it freaks out your people.
You can’t just whip it out and start waving it around the lab like
Elizabeth blushed in spite of herself.
“Do you see
anybody else here?” Rodney sounded terse. “When it’s just you and me, I
figure I’m safe pulling it out. Besides, it’s not working,
remember? The likelihood of getting off a stray—”
there’s no point taking chances. We don’t know what the exact problem
is or even if it’s permanent. We don’t want it going off without
“I wouldn’t—I’m very careful!” Rodney was sputtering again.
“Yeah. I don’t think Sergeant Bates would necessarily agree.”
“That—that was an accident!”
first, Rodney.” Elizabeth could hear the smirk in John’s voice. She
tried to remember if there’d been any kind of incident with McKay and
Bates. Oh. Well, now everything made perfect sense. She didn’t know
whether to be relieved or disappointed.
“That was totally uncalled for, Sheppard.”
“I’m just saying, I don’t want to end up in the infirmary trying to
explain to Carson how—”
“Yes, yes, your ass is perfectly safe, Major. Can we just let it drop
already? That was—”
accident,” John finished soothingly. “Could’ve happened to anyone. I
know. Now, are you cleaning it regularly? Like I told you to?”
could hear inarticulate sputters. She dropped her head and grinned.
Very few people could reduce Rodney to irate speechlessness. John had a
particular knack for it.
“Are you using the oil on it like I showed you?”
I’m doing everything exactly as you showed me, and it still didn’t
work, which, as you’ve been trying to tell me for the last ten minutes
is not my fault, it’s stupid equipment failure—”
Elizabeth could almost feel the tension building up in Rodney’s voice.
the U.S. military can spend billions on weapons, but not figure out how
to make them work when it really matters, like, say for example when
your team leader is about to be impaled on the end of a long
and pointy spear, and the damn gun won’t do anything—“
Elizabeth could see John moving back to the position she’d originally
found them in, John standing with his hands on Rodney’s shoulders, and
he was shaking Rodney just a little.
“—and if Ford hadn’t been
right there, you would’ve been dead, and it doesn’t matter if you call
it equipment failure, it still would’ve been … it would’ve been …”
blue eyes looked large and frightened and Elizabeth could fill in the
blanks. She’d forgotten how often they came close to losing someone
“It wouldn’t have been your fault,” Sheppard said
firmly, just enough edge in his voice to get McKay’s full attention.
“The damn gun jammed, McKay. And I don’t really want you shooting
people anyway; not if you don’t have to. It’s not your job.”
it’s my job to protect you, not the other way around.” He held up a
hand to cut Rodney off. “And I’m grateful for the times you’ve been
there, but it’s not expected. Ever. You can’t control everything in the
universe, Rodney, no matter how big your brain is. Sometimes shit
happens, and it happens to us more than most people.”
Elizabeth didn’t think she’d ever heard Rodney call him that. The
familiarity of it was soothing somehow. She realized she’d come to
depend on them, not only for their loyalty to Atlantis, but to one
another as well.
“I’m fine, Rodney. Now, let’s take this
malfunctioning piece of equipment to the armoury and see if we can’t
figure out why it won’t fire. Think we can do that?”
Rodney said, placated for the moment, but Elizabeth was pretty sure
she'd be listening to them argue for the next several years. If they
lived that long. She slid down the hallway in the opposite direction to
the armoury; when they left the room, they didn’t even glance in her
“See? That wasn’t so hard, was it? If you’re good, maybe I’ll even let
you try the rocket launcher.”
“Really?” Rodney’s enthusiasm was audible.
“No,” John said, settling his hand lightly on the small of Rodney’s
back, guiding him down the hallway.
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