Title: Nonlinear Phenomena
Author: Christi (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Spoilers: Very passing mentions of S3 and S4 casting stuff.
Word Count: 2,440
Written For: suzy_queue
Prompt: costumes/disguises, bonfire, mutual genuine affection and/or romance
Author's Notes/Summary: So, I meant to do the threesome prompt because I’ve always wanted to try that particular threesome, but ended up rushed and out of time and only coming up with vaguely angsty ideas, anyway. Thus, you get this: introspective, but still happy McKay/Cadman because at the end of the day, I do love them so. Also, I hope you don’t mind that I am inflicting a bizarre, experimental (for me) form of story-telling on you. I thought it could be fun. Hope it suits!
60 Minutes Ago
McKay doesn’t want to be here.
Unfortunately, he didn’t really get a vote.
is a perfectly nice sort of planet, he supposes. Really, the weather outside
right now reminds him of
But he’s not here for a hike. He’s here because the Eridonians want to trade and invited all of Atlantis to their harvest festival as some kind of grand gesture. Apparently, just outside of the tent he’s now standing in is a bonfire, lots of food, dancing and general merriment.
While he’s most definitely against the merriment and he’s never managed to understand how having an open fire in a crowd of people is a good thing, food would not be unwelcome right about now.
Except that he’s reasonably certain that he’s put on his ‘ceremonial vestments’ wrong again. To be fair, they basically seem to be some kind of insanely complicated wrap dress, so it’s not entirely pathetic that he’s trapped inside, trying to figure them out.
He just…really doesn’t want to be here.
60 Minutes from Now
Kissing her, time ceases to function correctly. He is an hour ago, he is next week, he is right now – it doesn’t matter so long as this doesn’t stop.
Unfortunately, it does. She pulls away suddenly, glaring at him sternly. “Just so we’re clear. Is this the alien cider doing this, or is it Rodney McKay? Because I mean, the cider was good, but definitely not worthy of more than PG rated thoughts.”
He rolls his eyes, trying to draw her closer, to bring her back, to get her to keep doing that thing she had been doing so well. “No, this is definitely all me.”
Maybe it’s a trick of the dying firelight, or maybe the shadow that passes across her face is real, but he sees it either way. “Are you sure?”
For once, he is. It’s a nice change, to be absolutely certain about something. “Positive.”
Once she believes him, she is there again, and it’s like they’re sinking, a slow slide straight into something entirely new. “What do you know,” she breathes against his mouth, “you are a genius.”
49 Minutes Ago
He finds Sheppard lurking outside, watching the festivities with folded arms. “Took you long enough, Rodney,” he comments.
“Oh, like you just slipped into this ridiculous get up,” McKay can’t help but shoot back.
“Don’t say that,” Sheppard frowns. “I’m sort of working this whole robe thing.”
The really infuriating part is that he is. Sometimes, Rodney finds himself fantasizing about a planet that has some sort of magical garb that would make him look like Adonis and Sheppard like Quasimodo.
Except, with Rodney’s luck, hunchback would be all the rage on that planet.
“Just shut up, would you?” he asks, wanting this all to be over so he can get away from the fire hazard and the crowds and put on shoes, because who thought traipsing around in the woods barefoot was a good idea?
“Someone’s grouchy. Want some of the local brew? It’s actually pretty good.”
“No,” Rodney replies shortly.
As he recently was reminded, nothing good happens when he drinks.
56 Minutes from Now
They’ve drifted away from the crowd, into the trees where the light is just a soft glow and the chill of the air has begun to soothe too long overheated skin. He’s letting her lead them because for once, Rodney McKay has no idea what comes next. There’s no scientific formula he can turn to, no probability that can be relied on.
just Cadman, and she seems just as much of a mess as he is. “Rodney,” she asks,
“was it really just too much of Zelenka’s rot gut and missing
He wishes he had an answer for her – something reassuring or even just something definite. Instead, all he has is the truth. “I don’t know.”
With firelight flickering over her face, he remembers what it was like to try and share his body with her. He remembers how constant she was, always there, and while it was annoying and invasive and horrible at times, it was also…reassuring.
It was nice not to feel so alone.
Sometimes, when he’s not remembering that Carson loved her first or that she’s always got a quip at the ready and how much that annoys him, she still makes him feel like that. Like there’s still a part of her there, under his skin, tying them together.
“Well,” she says hesitantly. “I guess the best way to test an experiment is to repeat it.”
Slowly, as though waiting for him to stop her, she kisses him.
Because he finds it impossible to do anything else, he kisses her back.
37 Minutes Ago
“Hey, isn’t that Lt. Cadman over there?”
The question elicits a spear of pure panic in Rodney’s gut. “Where?”
“There, by the…no, I’ve lost her. It was definitely her, though. You know, I haven’t seen her in awhile. Not since the night we all ended up playing poker and trying out Zelenka’s moonshine. Didn’t I hear that you and she…?”
Rodney wonders if John is being deliberately obtuse – if he sees Rodney’s obvious and extreme discomfort and just doesn’t care. He can never really tell with Sheppard. “No, you didn’t.”
Sheppard looks unconvinced. Which he should be, considering that the reports he had heard were probably eerily close to the truth.
That night had been the last time Rodney had consumed an alcoholic beverage of any sort. And while he has no desire whatsoever to repeat that night, the mere mention of Laura Cadman has him reaching for the nearest liquor.
Grabbing Sheppard’s cup is surprisingly easy, and he downs three gulps of the alien brew without thinking. Surprisingly, Sheppard was right; it is good – sort of like apple cider that’s fermented.
So, after a breath, he greedily swallows some more. Maybe, just maybe, he can drink himself straight into tomorrow, away from revelry and bonfires and nostalgia and his dead best friend’s ex.
42 Minutes from Now
When they stop dancing, it’s because they physically can’t go on. His legs are rubber and every breath is an effort and he can’t actually believe he just spent the better part of an hour twirling around in a dress.
His life is strange, and it’s made even stranger by the realization that life-sucking aliens don’t trip him up, but dancing with a woman makes him reflect on his life’s own particular brand of oddity.
“Thanks for making me do that,” he finally manages to gasp out.
She looks at him strangely, and he wonders how he’s already managed to screw this up. “I didn’t make you do anything.”
He tries to make light of it; tries to make it a joke. “Ah. Must have been the spiked cider, then.”
He should know by now that his jokes really aren’t that funny.
“Oh. Like the last time was all Zelenka’s disgusting moonshine?”
Her sigh is heavy and hopeful all at the same time. “Rodney. Take a walk with me, would you?”
With a nod, he follows her into the woods, and he can’t help but be amused by the fact that it seems that he’s going on a hike after all.
21 Minutes Ago
She finds them when Rodney is working his way through glass number three, with John standing next to him, slightly bewildered. Thankfully, Rodney isn’t in the middle of a sip when Sheppard abruptly says, “Hey Cadman. Looking good.”
Rodney turns and sees her and she does look good – apparently, everyone can pull off the alien wardrobe except him.
“Thank you, sir,” she replies cheerily, even doing a little sashay to show off her perfectly draped outfit. “I attended a lot of toga parties at the Academy.”
“Nice,” Sheppard says by way of approval, which causes Rodney to roll his eyes. He does, however, manage to remain stonily silent.
After a moment, both members of his company join him.
Of course, Sheppard bails out first – social snafus aren’t really his cup of tea, when all is said and done. For Rodney, they’re sort of a byproduct of living.
“Well, I’m just going to…go find where Ronon and Teyla have wandered off to,” Sheppard states before edging away, leaving them alone.
“What a chicken,” Laura says, though there’s a fondness in her tone that belies the words.
“No kidding,” Rodney grumbles – without the added sugary coating.
Silence, which has never really been the norm for their interactions, now seems to be their default setting. He wishes he knew what to say that would fill the void.
28 Minutes from Now
God, he’s dizzy. What’s more, he’s sure it shows in his clumsy footing, magnifying his already graceless efforts.
Strangely, he doesn’t care.
He is more concerned with his hands, which have refused to release Cadman from his grip since she dragged him here. They are sweaty, and keep sliding against her palms, as though she is always one wrong step away from disappearing.
It makes him hold on that much tighter.
When he feels like she is safely his and he can stop worrying, he finds it hard to hold on to a clear thought. There is something about this moment reminds him of playing the piano - of how much he had loved it, of how it had made him feel before he was told to stop playing.
Science, he sometimes thinks, was a poor balm for the wounded soul it was implied he didn’t have. Science never makes him feel like this.
But then, maybe it’s not the dancing or the piano or the cider. Maybe it’s just her.
13 Minutes Ago
“You know, Rodney, I’m not sure this really counts as participating,” Cadman points out.
McKay glances down at himself, swathed in weird robes and standing in bare feet despite the autumn chill. “What do you mean? I’ve got the get up and I’m standing here, watching politely and trying to say as little as possible.”
That last part had actually been a strongly worded suggestion made by Samantha Carter, but there is no reason Cadman needs to know that.
“Exactly,” she clarifies. “You’re standing here. Watching. Didn’t the Eridonians say something about joining them in their festivities?”
Despite popular opinion, women aren’t a complete mystery to McKay. (He did grow up with a sister, after all.) He knows enough, for example, to recognize her words for the not-so-subtle hint that they are.
He’s just doing his best to ignore it.
15 Minutes from Now
He hadn’t been kidding when he said he couldn’t dance.
Thankfully, it doesn’t seem to matter. This isn’t really dancing, anyway. It is…spinning. Circles of circles, with light and heat and Cadman there with him. It is fast and dizzy and he sort of feels like throwing up, but in the best possible way.
Cadman’s normally pale features are further blurred by the brilliant light from the flames, so that her face is a bright spot of almost unbearable white against the black evening. She is glowing.
It figures, he can’t help but think. She does everything else. Why not glow?
But before he can build up a good bit of annoyance about it, before he can pull away, McKay realizes something.
He’s tripping over his own feet and dripping with sweat and feels like he could fall over any minute. And he loves it.
2 Minutes Ago
“So, what do you say, Rodney? Shall we dance?”
The question is surprising, but what really takes him aback is that he almost says yes. The word is dangling on the edge of his tongue before he catches it, and instead it lingers there, waiting.
His eyes slide behind her to the fire, around which people spin in joyous, aimless circles. He watches them and wonders what it feels like to be that free.
“My many superb qualities aside, Cadman, I’m not exactly known for being light on my feet,” he finally answers.
She shrugs, as though this means nothing – as though his hesitation is an irrelevant factor in her grander plans. “I’m tough. If you step on my feet, I’m pretty sure I can take it.”
Robbed of his one flimsy excuse, McKay just stares at her, gulping quite in spite of himself, which seems to amuse her.
“Geez, Rodney, if it’s such a menacing thought, you can go ahead and forget I asked,” she teases, beginning to turn away – to leave.
“No!” he protests, relieved when she turns back. “It’s not that. I just….”
But for once, Rodney McKay has no words at the ready. So they stand in a breathless silence, waiting for whatever comes next.
4 Minutes from Now
It’s hot by the fire, which might seem like a redundancy, but it’s the sort of heat that merits repeated notation. As she leads him closer and closer to the roaring center of the circle, the heat envelopes him. He wonders why he never knew that an entirely separate world could exist only thirty feet away as easily as it could thirty thousand light years.
He expected to be a stumbling block, disrupting the flow of dance. Instead, it flows around them as easily as water parting for a rock. Cadman isn’t content with this, though, and he can feel her hand pulling at him, urging him to join in.
Predictably, he thinks about it too much. He stumbles. He is off balance.
McKay wonders why everything about this woman has to disgruntle him. He’s always considered himself to be an immovable object – Dr. Rodney McKay through and through. But Laura Cadman, it seems, might just be his irresistible force. She is the thing paradoxes are made of.
He thinks she would probably consider that a compliment. And really, it sort of is. In a scientifically impossible kind of way.
“Come on,” he somehow hears her mutter.
In that moment, McKay knows the limit of his own ego – he knows that not even the immovable Dr. Rodney McKay can resist an irresistible force.
So he moves. He begins to dance.
Eventually, he has to respond. Eventually, he has to breathe. Eventually, he has to decide what matters more – what has been or what could be.
As he tentatively reaches out his hand, hers is there to lead the way.