by Jordan McKenzie

Characters: McKay, Sheppard, Teyla, Beckett and Zelenka.
Timeline: Takes place after the episode PHANTOMS.


Part I

For the third time since he’d left the lab, he dropped a particularly uncooperative piece of cable. Sighing with frustration, he once again leaned awkwardly in an attempt at retrieval. Frustration gave way to out and out aggravation however when the lean led to the fall of a second piece of cable. Mumbling in Czech, he went to his knees and dumped the lot onto the floor.

“Dr. Zelenka, are you alright?”

The scientist looked up to catch the concerned gaze of Teyla Emmagan. He quickly looked away, feeling embarrassed when he realized he was effectively blocking the corridor. “I apologize,” he said as he began to gather up the mess he’d made.

“No need. May I help you?” She knelt across the cable clutter from him and began gathering a laptop and a variety of other computer paraphernalia.

“Thank you. I can carry it all, if you would not mind loading my arms.”

“Where are you heading with these things?”

“To the infirmary; they are for Rodney.”

“Dr. McKay is in the infirmary?” She asked worriedly.

“Oh, no, no, he is not sick. He is analyzing problems with medical scanners for Doctor Beckett. He sent me to gather for him since he is also busy monitoring his experiment with ZedPM.”

The Athosian nodded her understanding. “It is good of you to assist Dr. McKay, especially since I am sure you have many important projects of your own to complete.”

Zelenka smiled gratitude evident on his face. “Thank you. I do have things to do, but Rodney can be very insistent.”

“Yes,” she agreed.

“I do not mind really. He is actually assisting me with experiment on Jumper.”

“I thought he was working in the infirmary with Dr. Beckett.”

“He is. That is why I gather additional monitoring equipment. Rodney frequently works on many things at same time. It means more leg work for those around him, but...” His voice trailed off when another errant piece fell to the floor.

Teyla smiled as the man blew a breath that caused the hair on his forehead to flutter across the rim of his glasses. She bent to retrieve the fallen item. “I think I will help carry these things. I’m heading to the infirmary myself.”

“To help Colonel Sheppard? I heard he was being released today.”

“Actually, to help Dr. Beckett.”

He raised an eyebrow.

“Dr. Beckett thought the Colonel’s release might actually result in the Colonel doing as he was told if I escorted him to his quarters. His knee is still not healed and he needs to rest.”

“Ah, the doctor is a wise man,” Zelenka said, snickering.

“More an experienced man, I think.”

Zelenka laughed out loud while Teyla reached to take more of the equipment from his arms. As his load lessened he noticed the iPod she carried. “I see you have been listening to music.”

“Yes. Thank you again for loaning me your collection. I have found it very enlightening. Many of the pieces are very beautiful. Some I find confusing, but I enjoyed them all.”

“I would like to hear songs and music from your culture one day.”

Together they began a slow walk towards the infirmary. “Perhaps that would be possible the next time we visit the mainland. Many of my people are very gifted in voice and instrument.”

Teyla looked down at the iPod when she heard silence coming from the earphones that rested on her neck. With one hand she reached down to direct the device to repeat the last selection. She frowned as she fumbled with the buttons.

“Perhaps I may help you now?” Zelenka asked.

“I have found one piece of music here which seems very familiar to me. I’ve been playing it over and over, but I can’t think how.”

“Here,” he reached for the iPod, “I put it on loop for you. It will automatically repeat it’s self.”

The music began again and Teyla heard the sound of violins once again. Zelenka watched her eyes sparkle as she reached to slide an earphone back in place. Curious as to what could bring such a pleasant look to her face; he tipped the iPod towards himself and read the display.

“Ah, George Frideric Handel, he was superb composer. I too like this arrangement very much. You say it sounds familiar?”

“Perhaps familiar is the wrong word. It reminds me of something.”

“Well, please keep it as long as you like. I have had little time lately to even think of music.”

She tipped her head in thanks. That’s when she heard the shout coming from the distant corridor.

“Where is he? I send him on a simple errand and he lollygags! Radek!”

Zelenka closed his eyes and shook his head. “Ah, my master’s voice.”

Brown eyes questioned him.

“Only joking.”

Again there was a cry from down the corridor, “Zelenka! Where the devil are you? I need those…” Then, a loud, sizzling BOOM was heard, followed shortly by a startled scream.

“Rodney!” John Sheppard’s voice could be heard shouting.

Teyla and Zelenka ran the last fifty feet of hallway and stopped abruptly in the doorway to the infirmary. The room buzzed with activity… medical staff appeared from different corners of the facility, alerted by the small explosion, and a couple of science techs appeared to be protectively checking computer terminals set up around the room. From where they stood they could see the Colonel sitting on the floor leaning over someone, his crutches lying abandoned five or six feet behind. There was an Ancient Exam Table preventing them from seeing who lay face up beneath Sheppard’s ministrations, but they had their suspicions. A familiar groan came in confirmation.

“Rodney?” John asked quietly, trying to ignore the electronic spitting coming from the exam table. “Come on, buddy. You okay?”

Another groan, then Teyla saw McKay’s feet twitch. She rounded the bed just as Beckett knelt opposite her team leader.

Carson tapped Rodney’s face a couple of times. “Rodney, can you hear me?”

The scientist stirred, raising a hand to swipe away the fingers that slapped his face. The attempt went wide and his hand clumsily came to rest on his own chest.

“You in there, McKay?” Sheppard asked, seeing the scientist shudder.

Beckett leaned over his friend’s face and pried his eyelids open one at a time. McKay moaned, squeezing his eyes shut, drawing his shoulders upwards and arching his neck. He blew a long shuddering breath out, but neglected to draw air in again.

“McKay, come on, snap out of it,” Sheppard ordered.

“Let’s try to sit him up,” Carson suggested.

Both men grasped an arm and gently raised their friend upright. He was trembling when Beckett reached for the back of his neck and tried to force his head forward. “Come on, lad, you need to be takin’ a breath now.”

“McKay,” John said the name with a tone that lay somewhere between fear and warning.

“Doc, what’s he doing?”

“He’s not breathin’. Rodney, listen to me. You need to relax.”

When the tremors in McKay’s body increased, Sheppard quickly maneuvered himself into a position over the scientist. “McKay, damn it, breath! That’s an order!” With that he swung his hand around and brought it down hard against the rigid back. Rodney sucked in a painful breath upon impact and soon began coughing. Carson cradled the distressed man until the fit subsided.

After several minutes of hacking, tears rolled down Rodney’s face. “Why?” He ground out hoarsely.

“Why what?” John asked, rubbing at an aching knee as he tried to settle himself next to McKay.

“Why’d… you … hit me?” He wheezed against Carson’s shoulder. “Shooting me… not enough for you?”

“You’re just not going to let that go, are you?”

Rodney wiped his face with a trembling hand. “Probably not.” He coughed again. “What happened?”

Beckett pulled away from McKay when he was sure the man wouldn’t topple over. “I’m assuming there was a power discharge from the Med Scanner; sent you ankle over elbow.”

“Ow,” the scientist moaned, reaching for his back as he made a feeble attempt to rise. “Interesting visual, Carson, feels pretty accurate.” The attempt failed and he plopped on his backside.

“Sit still, take a moment.” Satisfied when Rodney took his advice, Carson looked at his other patient who was gripping his thigh above his bandaged knee. “How bad, Colonel?”

“Good, I’m good,” John lied.

“I thought so.”

Teyla came to squat beside Sheppard. Carson looked relieved at the sight of her, realizing his back up hadn’t let him down. “Teyla lass, do you think you could be helping the Colonel over to that exam table?” He nodded towards the nearest bed that wasn’t sizzling and belching sparks. The Athosian smiled warmly and began the task of getting John to his feet and across the room.

“Oh no,” Rodney muttered.

“What?” Carson asked.

“The computer.”

The doctor followed his friend’s sight and spotted the laptop he’d been using to analyze the Ancient Exam/Scanner table. The poor device had taken its last reading and lay in shambles in a patch of black on the floor. The cables that snaked from it to the table also appeared to have suffered the overload.

Beckett watched McKay wearily rub his face. “I’m sorry, Rodney. But better the computer than you. How are you feeling now?”


“Dr. McKay,” a soft female voice called from somewhere behind the two men. “There appears to be a fluctuation of readings on this terminal.”

The scientist on the floor tried to make it to his knees. “Well, that figures.” Carson gave him a hand and he eventually managed to make it to his feet, albeit unsteadily.

“Which experiment does that computer monitor?” the doctor asked.

“I have a theory as to why the gate has a limited window for wormhole activation.”

“I thought that was an immutable fact of wormhole travel. 38 minutes is as long as the gate can remain active at one time.”

“It is. I’m theorizing why. If I know why, perhaps I can work a way around it,” he snapped irritably.

Carson stared at him.


Beckett crossed over to the Colonel, trying to hide the fact he was truly impressed with the scientist’s ambitions.

McKay leaned against the edge of the ailing Exam table, trying to regroup. He looked up and spotted Zelenka still standing in the infirmary door bearing a load of equipment. “There you are,” he growled. “You might want to check your computer for catastrophe as well. We seem to be inundated today.”

The technician overseeing Zelenka’s computer stepped aside as the Czech moved to check the simulation he was running on the jumper’s newest enhancement. “Nemoz’ný,” he muttered.


“These readings cannot be correct.”

Rodney looked to the ceiling and took a deep breath. Slowly he dropped his head and turned to join Zelenka.


Part 2

Sheppard jumped when Beckett reached to examine his knee. He’d been so intent on making sure McKay would stay on his feet that he hadn’t seen the CMO near his bedside.

“Whoa now,” Carson said.

“What? Oh yeah, sorry Doc.” John shifted on the mattress and nodded in the scientist’s direction. “Is he going to be okay?”

“Well, he should be sitting down right now, but convincing Rodney of that when he has a bee in his
bonnet …” He let the comment hang in the air as he examined the swollen knee beneath his fingers. “Right now I want to make sure you’re all right. How does that feel?” Beckett gently manipulated his patient’s leg.

John leaned back against propped elbows as if he were trying to separate himself from the damaged limb. His face turned red and he blew out a strained, “fine,” between clenched teeth.

“Well, Colonel it appears you’ve set yourself back a bit.” Beckett recognized the look of panic that crossed Sheppard’s face and quickly added, “But I don’t think it’ll require you staying in the infirmary. I want you to listen to me though; you have to stay off this leg. If you don’t, you’ll find your backside in here so fast…”

“Okay, okay. I get it. I’ll stay off the leg.”

Teyla grinned and shook her head. She wondered if either of the two men really believed that promise.

“There, try that.” The three at the exam table turned to see Rodney tapping away at Radek’s computer. “Let me know when it reaches 75 percent then we can enter the second string of equations.” Zelenka nodded.

McKay turned back to the Ancient Exam/Scanner and stared it down as if he were about to scold a mischievous child. The look on his face was of concentration so intense he seemed to shake. “Now, you!” He said firmly as he approached the apparatus, knelt down and began to replace the burned out laptop with the new one Zelenka brought back from his lab. When the replacement computer booted up, it blipped abnormally. “Don’t!” Rodney shouted as he pointed a finger at the Scanner in reprimand. The blip vanished and he smiled approvingly.

The scientist looked over his shoulder. “Okay, Carson, you ready to fix this thing?”

Beckett gripped Sheppard’s shoulder as if trying to draw strength before he wandered over to the man kneeling on the floor. “Rodney, maybe we shouldn’t be doing this now?”

“I thought you were so desperate to get this Scanner up and running. I do believe your words were ‘this piece of technology could enhance patient treatment immeasurably. We shouldn’t, we can’t, be without it. Every moment we delay could mean the difference between life and death’. Yes, I believe that’s how you put it.”

“Yes, yes.” Damn the man’s memory.

Rodney stood next to the Scanner. “Alright then, let’s get to work. I need someone with the ATA gene on the table.” He patted the device for good measure and looked back and forth between Beckett and Sheppard.

“Absolutely not,” the doctor said, disbelieving he’d heard the request.

When Beckett declined, McKay looked squarely at Sheppard.

Beckett saw the hungry-wolf look on Rodney’s face and placed himself strategically between hunter and prey. “Oh, no you don’t. I will not have the Colonel put at risk. He’s still recovering from his last bout with ancient devices.” He pointed at the man’s knee for emphasis. John raised an eyebrow but didn’t say a word. He had to behave himself if he hoped to leave the infirmary today.

“Carson,” Rodney began in a placating tone, “If I hope to figure out why this thing isn’t working properly I need someone with the gene on the Scanner. Since the Colonel is injured already, it might give the device something to sink its teeth into. Sort of challenge it into working.”

“Rubbish. It’s a bloody machine, Rodney. It doesn’t have your ego to challenge!” He regretted the insult as soon as it left his lips. But, even if the comment had been issued as an insult, it didn’t appear to have been received as one.

“True,” Rodney said, still using a mollifying tone. “But it may give it something to work with.”

Sheppard cleared his throat and opened his mouth to say something. Carson wheeled around and aimed a fierce scowl. “No!”

“Carson, do you want this thing fixed today or not?” McKay asked impatiently.

“I… Rodney, the thing just knocked you on your ass! Now you want me to get on top of it?”

“I was working through the access panel underneath it. The blast happened there because that’s where the crystals are located. If anything you’ll be safe ‘on top’ because the table it’s self will protect you.”

“You’re not convincing me, Rodney.”

McKay crossed his arms in annoyance and waited for the doctor to see sense.

Beckett looked around the room and realized he was suddenly the object of everyone’s attention. “Lovely,” he mumbled. He threw his hands up in defeat. “Alright, alright, let’s get on with it.”

“Great. Hop on the table and make yourself comfortable. I’ll just run a couple of scans.” The scientist was already in the floor leaning over his laptop.

Teyla, John and Radek shared a giggle with the other techs in the room. The two men were never dull to watch. Sheppard offered the Athosian an invitation and a hand up to sit next to him on the bed so she could better see the show.

Carson nervously took a seat on the ailing Scanner as his friend began a one-sided conversation with it. “There… Oh, no.”

“What is it, Rodney? You’re not about to set this thing off again, are you?”

The Canadian stood up indignantly. “For your information, I didn’t set it off the last time. No, it’s just being… Ancient.”

“So you’re saying you can’t fix it,” John challenged.

“No, I’m not saying that. I’m merely trying to work here while the technologically- challenged sit over there and make fun of me. Do you mind?” Rodney began drumming his fingers against his chest, his eyes closed and his head bowed. Thinking often resulted in very distinctive physical McKayisms. Everyone in the room recognized the ‘tells’ that were so characteristically his own.

“Dr. McKay,” a breathless voice interrupted. Rodney opened one eye and looked up to see another of his staff enter the room.

“Thinking here, Dr. Ketchum.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, sir, but you’re needed in the lab,” she said.

“Is the lab intact, Doctor?”

“Uh, yes sir.”

“Has someone died?”

Eyes opening wide in surprise, she answered, “No, sir.”

“Then I’m still thinking here and I need you to wait your turn. If you can handle it, do. If you can’t, I’ll be with you shortly.”

“Uh, yes sir,” Ketchum said slowly as if trying to get the license number of the steamroller that had just passed over her.

Radek shook his head, knowing full well how she felt. He was about to offer words of comfort to his fellow scientist when he heard a chirping sound coming from his laptop. “Rodney,” he called.

At the same time, an alarm sounded from the third computer in the room. The tech in charge timidly called out as well. “Dr. McKay.”

Rodney raised his sights to the ceiling again. “Oh, of course, let’s all chime in at once.” The irritation in his voice was raw and dangerous, the tension in the room growing by the second.

Sheppard saw the warning signs of the inevitable eruption of Mount McKay, and decided it was time to focus the man’s attention. “Too much for you, Rodney? Figures.”

Teyla recognized her team leader’s attempt, having seen it many times in the past, and hoped that the confrontation would have the desired effect. It seemed that McKay’s hands couldn’t clench any tighter and she was certain his jaw would be crushed under the pressure of gritted teeth.

Suddenly Rodney’s name was uttered at the same time from five directions: Dr. Ketchum was at a loss to understand why she was waiting, the science tech was at a loss to understand what to do next about monitoring a theory she was ultimately unable to understand, Zelenka was feeling irritated that his simulation even needed McKay’s attention to begin with, Beckett was beginning to worry about his friend’s continual swaying to one side, and Sheppard wanted to mediate all parties before Rodney blew a gasket. Alas, in the end, Sheppard failed.

The Canadian reached to grasp the short hair on his head, pulled tightly and then thrust his hands into the air. “That’s it! Everyone just shut up! Not a word! Not a single solitary word!” He looked at Carson, still seated on the exam table, beginning to open his mouth to object. Rodney cut him short with a sharp, “Un-unh! I don’t want to hear it!”

The room fell silent, absolutely soundless. Not even the air-recycling system dared run too loudly. Everyone watched as McKay took in several long breaths. He pulled his raised hands down to shoulder level, keeping his palms facing out in self-defense. He closed his eyes and began thinking. He maintained this posture for two or three full minutes before a confused look washed over his features. Without moving he asked in all seriousness, “Okay, so why am I hearing violins?”


Part 3

McKay took the palm of one of his raised hands and began hitting the side of his head. “Oh, no, no, no, not good, that little blast must have damaged my hearing.” He shook his head rapidly and began to twitch. “Can you not hear them? I mean they’re nice, but I’m a piano man myself.”

“Hear what, Rodney?” Carson was getting worried. His friend swayed once again and leaned on the table Beckett occupied.

“The violins, Carson, keep up.”

Teyla grew concerned. “Violins?” she asked. “What are violins?”

Zelenka cleared his throat from across the room. “Musical instruments, Teyla,” he answered, pointing to his ear. “Like the ones you have been listening to.”

She put a hand to her own ear and realized the earphone she had been wearing had fallen to dangle loosely around her neck. Quickly tucking it underneath her hair and into her ear again, she apologized to McKay and tried to make herself as inconspicuous as possible next to Sheppard.

The Colonel couldn’t suppress a chuckle and turned to check out the iPod. “I knew I heard something, but I thought it sounded more like oboes. Now if you want to hear a really cool instrument you need to try...”

Rodney cleared his throat loudly and commanded center stage of the infirmary. The room fell silent once again. Everyone present remained absolutely still and watched as McKay appeared to fall into a trance. The man stared blankly at the wall opposite him, his shoulders and spine rigid, his hands fisted together, thumbs extended upwards alternately tapping his chest. His thumbs and a slight sway were the only indications that Rodney actually occupied his body.

Carson was about to reach out and shake Rodney when he saw the man’s face go from its self-imposed stupor to a look of Ohmigosh-I-Know-The-Meaning-Of-Life-And-It’s-Absolutely-Not-Freaking-42! He watched as the scientist’s thumb and second finger on both hands began their trademark snapping. Eyes grew wide as every solution to every problem appeared to be queuing for retrieval inside his head. The group inside the room could feel the energy that was McKay and stood ready for the dance to begin.

No one was disappointed.

The Canadian spun in a large lazy circle, firing instructions to the onlookers.

“Carson, lie down. Zelenka, keep an eye on that monitor, you should be at 72 percent already. You,” he aimed a sharp look towards the tech at his computer, “tell me.”

John and Telya watched as Carson reluctantly pulled his legs onto the table, Zelenka monitored his computer and the tech obediently rattled off information.

Running calculations in his head, Rodney hesitated only seconds before advising his assistant the next steps to follow. The tech, happy to be occupied, quickly did as she was told.

McKay continued his circle until he faced Dr. Ketchum. “Your turn,” he snapped, both in tone and with fingers. Called to task, she related an accident in the lab and awaited the stream of information she knew would be forthcoming. Rodney didn’t let her down. He considered the situation for less than fifteen seconds before issuing very specific commands. Ketchum, who appeared to be chastising herself for not seeing the solution, nodded and turned to flee the infirmary.

Completing his circle of the room, Rodney looked at Carson who remained in a sitting position. “You still up?” Before the doctor could answer, he was forced down by a hand to his forehead. “Stay.”

Teyla smiled as she watched Beckett cross his arms over his chest. He was indignant, but he was not about to move. It was remarkable, she thought, how McKay worked, how he battled problems with such confidence and enthusiasm. He made it all appear so easy, so graceful. Then it occurred to her…

Sheppard felt Teyla shift beside him and lower herself from the mattress. A look fell across her face he’d seen before, a look of wonder mixed with realization, much like when she’d first seen Atlantis. Across the room, Zelenka noticed the look as well and knew instantly she had figured it out. She now understood the familiarity of the music she had so favored.

The Athosian watched as Rodney lowered himself to his knees and began manipulating the crystals beneath the Scanner. Making adjustments with his left hand, he keyed information into the laptop with his right. There was an unexpected spark from the access panel but he didn’t react. A voice atop the scanner, however, did relate anxiety.

“Rodney?” Beckett called nervously.

“Relax, Carson. I’m fine, you’re fine. We’re all good.” Then the scientist’s typing hand left his keyboard and motioned towards Zelenka. “Radek, 75 percent, begin entering the next equations.” Rodney never looked up.

The Czech looked down at his monitor in surprise. Exactly 75 percent, how on earth did his colleague know that without looking? Responding with practiced efficiency, he keyed the data into the computer.

It was amazing, Teyla concluded; every movement, every direction perfectly executed in time with the music which filled her ears. Utilizing her own talents of observation, she allowed what she heard to mesh with what she saw. A small delegation of oboes presented their problem. They spoke with an arrogant calm that belied their importance. Then the violins entered the fray in argument with the sound of creativity and intellect. They were the genius that would lead to resolution. The quarrel continued until the violins sang their triumph. But, as life would have it, another set of problems pushed their way to the foreground.

The music was a quarrel; wind instruments presenting the problem, stringed instruments resolving them. Teyla suddenly felt insight into Rodney McKay. She may never understand the man, and she would certainly never be able to comprehend the knowledge the man’s brain contained, but perhaps she could now feel his soul.

She continued to listen to the orchestra in her head. The music was spirited and strong-willed, yet beautifully refined in their cadence and movement. The battles were engaged and eventually the war won as the array of violins, hence genius, persisted and cried victory.

Teyla beamed. Zelenka, comfortable now with his simulation moved to her side. Sheppard eased off the bed and joined them.

“Teyla, everything okay?” John asked in a soft voice so as not to disturb McKay.

“You have figured it out, about the music, yes?” Radek asked as well.

She nodded, listening to the arrangement again as it looped on the iPod.

“Figured what out? What’s going on?” Sheppard was beginning to feel like the odd man out.

“Teyla has been struggling with a piece of music, finding it disturbingly familiar. It would seem that this particular piece reminds her of someone.” Radek looked over his shoulder at the man working in the floor. “Knowing this arrangement as I do, I think I agree, though I would never admit to Rodney such a beautiful piece reminds me of him.”

“Hunh?” Sheppard was bewildered. “You’re kidding, right? Rodney McKay a beautiful piece of music?”

Teyla heard the Colonel’s comment and removed the earpiece from her ear and placed it into his. Sheppard listened and watched.

“Dr. McKay,” a voice called from the radio in Rodney’s ear. The trio observing the scientist saw him tap the earpiece in response. Radek chuckled when he heard the man’s simple answer of, “Leave a message,” saw him tap his radio again and then return to his work. He arose to peek at the doctor, making sure the man was still lying down, and then turned to the tech monitoring his experiment. “Any fluctuations now?” he asked. When the assistant shook her head, he ducked beneath the Scanner again. Every movement was flawless and simply executed. Sheppard had to admit, the music truly did seem to fit.

“I wouldn’t have believed it, but you’re right. It’s like the man is conducting an orchestra,” John said, handing the earpiece back to Teyla.

“Oh, it’s much more than that,” Teyla answered. “Rodney isn’t the conductor, he’s the music.”

Sheppard and Zelenka looked at Teyla with huge grins on their faces. “Only you, Teyla,” the Colonel said, trying to hide a laugh.

“ ‘Only me’ what?” she asked, a little perturbed.

“Only you could set Rodney McKay to music!”


The End


A/N: This story is the result of spending entirely too many hours in the car commuting back and forth to work (three hours a day). To occupy my mind I listen to classical music and movie soundtracks. When I came across George Frideric Handel’s THE ARRIVAL OF THE QUEEN OF SHEBA I was mesmerized. Since I often relate music to storylines and characters, it didn’t surprise me when Rodney popped into my head. This music is so wonderfully McKay! If you would like to hear the music I’m referring to, try a CD named FOR A LAZY AFTERNOON, THE ARRIVAL OF THE QUEEN OF SHEBA. Hmm, I wonder if there’s a piece of classical music that would suit John Sheppard? Any suggestions? Thanks for reading!


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© Jordan McKenzie 2006