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Author's Chapter Notes: ‘So, Sheppard sat forward, clasping his hands together on the table. ‘Why not?’


'You're kidding.'

'No, will you be quiet?'

'You're not? Seriously? No, you're kidding!'

'Sheppard! Shut up, will you?!'

'Katie Brown, Katie Brown? But she's a smart girl, why would she want to get involved with someone like you?'

'Some people, Sheppard, like brains in a man, not just brawn,' McKay replied loftily. 'Dr Brown is an intellectual, attractive woman who finds my company stimulating,' he added, putting the last word in deliberately.

'Get over yourself McKay; it’s probably a pity-date.'

'It’s not a date, it’s dinner, a dinner with friends. Friends like Katie, me, and, uh, you...'

'Me! What the hell am I doing there, McKay?'

'Because I, uh, because it’s a social event, to encourage teambuilding,' McKay replied slowly.

'Oh, stop stealing my ideas. Why don't you and Dr Brown go out, enjoy yourselves!' Sheppard grinned exuberantly; he was enjoying watching McKay squirm.

'What's gotten into you?' McKay asked curiously as Sheppard picked up a gadget he knew nothing about from the workbench and started fiddling with it. Suddenly his eyes grew wide, 'Elizabeth? ' he hissed incredulously.

'Now who's a loudmouth. And no, for your information, McKay, Elizabeth and I are just friends, we're working out our differences. That's all.'

'Yeah right,' McKay smirked.

'Hey, if you want my co-operation over Katie Brown, maybe you should play nice, McKay,' Sheppard returned, putting down the doohickey and heading for the door, 'Gateroom, one hour!' he shot back.

McKay let him go with a groan. He had too much to do to run after Sheppard now, but he made a mental note to make the effort to be nicer to him lately. That was going to take effort, he thought, picking up his laptop again. For the next thirty minutes he forgot all about Major Sheppard, but couldn't move his brain away from the question of Dr Katie Brown.

He caught Sheppard on the way to the Gate later, catching him by the elbow. 'Hey, uh, sorry, okay, about, uh, you and Elizabeth.'

Sheppard raised an eyebrow, slung his weapon across his chest and waited.

'So, you, um, wanna ride shotgun on this date?'

Sheppard had thought about this for nearly an hour. He could wind Rodney up, refuse, go along and do the third wheel thing, or kill two birds with one stone - put Rodney off his guard and get Elizabeth out of her office for a little RnR. They'd been getting along better, she'd relaxed and he'd eased up, but they still hadn't stepped quite out of their workday ritual yet.

‘Cool,' he replied, watching Rodney's face fall with shock and stopped himself from grinning too much. Behind him the Gate started spinning, the control room dialling their destination right on time. Without another word, he turned his back on Rodney and headed down the stairs, two at a time. He wouldn't say another word about it, which would drive McKay nuts. Barely holding off the smile he turned to glance up at the balcony. Sure enough, Weir was there. He raised a hand before turning back as the event horizon established itself with a watery whoosh.

Shit, he thought, I still have to tell Elizabeth.

It wasn’t worth putting off, Sheppard reflected as he stepped through the Gate back on Atlantis several hours later. The mission had been uneventful and that didn’t really help him stall the moment; but he was confident she wouldn’t say no. This was to get Rodney out of his shell, encourage his social life, make him happy, ensure his wellbeing- yeah, that last one worked, he took care of his crew but Elizabeth liked to conspire with Heightmeyer to make sure everyone’s psyche was as in order as their gear.

As soon as the briefing was over, he waited for his team to file to the doorway before waving a discreet hand at Elizabeth, shooing her back into her seat. She'd half risen out of her chair, but now she sat back down, abruptly confused. Sheppard normally tried to quit out of meetings as soon as possible. He rose, closed the door and took the seat opposite her. 'I told McKay we'd ride shotgun on his date tomorrow night,' Sheppard let the words fly rather than try to lead her up to it. Getting her suspicious first wasn’t going to get her on side.

What?!

‘Shotgun. Date. McKay. You. Me,’ he repeated slowly, trying to keep the humour going.

‘I heard what you said, John! But it’s hardly a good idea to, what, double date? Really? I’m Commander of Atlantis in the middle of the Pegasus Galaxy, following in the footsteps of ascended beings of great genius and I actually just said the words “double date”,’ Weir responded with consternation written all over her face. ‘I think I know how Dr Who feels when he grows a new face.’

Sheppard grinned broadly, ‘you want weird? I never thought I’d hear you say “Dr Who”, say “Star Trek”,’ he urged her quickly.

‘John!’ She tried but Weir couldn’t hold back the smile at the mischief written all over his face. ‘What am I going to do with you?’

‘I could think of a few things,’ he responded, arching an eyebrow. Elizabeth ignored him, switching back to the conversation he started.

‘So, this dinner. Doesn’t Dr Brown trust McKay enough to be alone with him, or is it the other way around,’ she added, ironically.

Sheppard dropped the line of enquiry, it was giving his brain too much trouble in the functioning department. Instead he cleared his throat and crossed his arms. ‘Rodney wants it to appear as teambuilding thing, he wants to get to know her better without screwing up too much. We should be able to keep him from doing that between us.’

‘I’m not sure about that,’ Elizabeth muttered.

AND,’ he thought he’d better say it again for clarification, ‘I did say I’d have to ask you first.’

‘Yes, but to terms you already agreed to,’ she replied, leaning forward on the table and fixing him with a glare.

She had him there. He gave a slow single nod, and admitted it, ‘ye-es. BUT,’ he added quickly, ‘it’s in the interests of Dr McKay’s wellbeing. Heightmeyer told him he had to socialise more with his peers.’

‘I heard,’ Elizabeth groaned, ‘before he gave her a lecture on Colonel Carter and Einstein being more his peers than anyone on Atlantis, including her.’ At which point, so the tale went, Heightmeyer had led him gently from her office and loudly announced her thanks to Dr McKay for promising to her next shift cleaning the cafeteria. Since several crewmen were walking by she included them in the conversation, pretty much forcing McKay into a socially awkward situation where he couldn’t say no without appearing the worst kind of heel. He’d skipped his weekly psyche evaluation the following week, and Heightmeyer hadn’t mentioned it. He did clean the cafeteria with the rest of the shift however, and found that the therapist had left instructions for him to be involved in a team activity for the entire shift. ‘C’mon, it’ll be good for him,’ John went on. ‘The point is-‘

‘I get your point,’ she forestalled him the prepared speech he was about to launch into.

‘So, Sheppard sat forward, clasping his hands together on the table. ‘Why not?’

Why not? Elizabeth was still asking herself that question after dinner, in her quarters as the moon rose over the black ocean. She watched it drape a silvery path across the waves and sighed, wondering when life got so complicated. She looked around for a moment, and then nearly laughed. She was Commander of an alien city in another galaxy. This time last year she hadn't heard of anything beyond her solar system. Going to dinner with three of her senior staff was hardly along the lines of complicated compared to that. Slipping into bed, she let the problem go,if she didn't read anything into it, then neither would anyone else.

Besides, it would be good for Rodney, but not Elizabeth herself. Nope. Not. At. All.


Chapter End Notes: Video: Link to riding shotgun on McKay's date and related scenes (0:35/2:45 to 0:51/2:45)

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