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Author's Chapter Notes: ‘I think you can safely say our cover is blown,’ she remarked.

‘What’s this now?’ Carson asked. He had wandered into the mess hall seeking lunch and ended up abandoning the whole idea in favour of the apparent pow-wow at one of the far corner tables. Rodney, looking possibly more puffed up than usual, was presiding over an informal meeting. Heightmeyer, Miller, Ford, Ronan and Teyla were all there. Rodney had tried to chivvy Carson himself into lunch half hour ago, but obviously he hadn’t been McKay’s only target.

Heightmeyer would have come to limit trouble and get ahead of current rumours so she could tackle them head on. Ford would be here in Sheppard’s best interests, Miller because McKay probably lied outright and Teyla to put the stops on Rodney- along with Ronan because she would need someone tall and angry-looking to help encourage him without an outright threat being made.

He didn’t know why he had been targeted but he could guess. Rodney wasn’t going to take his advice about the stitches.

‘Carson, uh, I didn’t think you were coming.’

‘Decided it was a bad idea of after all, Rod’nay? I thought we talked aboot this?’ Carson enquired, crossing his arms and directing a hooded glare at his friend.

‘Yes, well, I just... I’m concerned, about operations in the city. I just wondered if anyone else had, uh, noticed anything. That’s all.’

‘Since you are not subtle by nature, Dr McKay, why don’t we address what s troubling you outright?’ It was Heightmeyer. Sometimes you had to lead Rodney to water to make him drink.

‘I know this sounds crazy, but, uh, it’s about Dr Weir and Major Sheppard. They appear to be quite, shall we say?, close?. I think there’s definitely more going on here. I’m right aren’t I?’ he delivered his final sentence, straightening up slowly, as if he had just revealed something of great import and was quite clever for figuring it out.

‘That’s it?’ Ronan growled in a dark voice, barely glancing up.

‘You’re just getting that now,’ Ford muttered from his seat.

‘It is none of our business Rodney,’ Teyla began.

‘Rod’nay!’ Carson exclaimed in dismay. They all spoke at once, none of them noticing the very pair they were discussing slipping into the mess hall and collecting their lunch, taking a seat not too far away and wondering what a number of the core staff were up to in the corner.

Heightmeyer just sat back, crossing her arms and already considering strategies. She already knew Sheppard was in neckdeep as far as Weir was concerned and whilst she had seen a certain level of reciprocation, both of them had been avoiding her for weeks, citing they were far too busy but would make time soon. She had cornered Sheppard a few days ago but he had been unusually good at deflection- it was obviously the Weir influence. She would need to see them together now, but later, and discreetly. For now, she had to diffuse the Rodney Rumour Mill.

Sheppard watched the display with interest and a dark look in his eyes. Rodney would pay for this, one way or another. He should have come to Sheppard himself if he had an issue. Or Elizabeth, or Heightmeyer if he felt he couldn’t talk to them about it! But this, in the mess hall for crying out loud! This was exactly what Elizabeth had wanted to avoid.

She had looked uncomfortable for a few minutes there. He was confident that no one else could hear what was being said, the mess hall was mostly empty, it being a touch early for lunch, which was precisely why he’d been able to goad her out from behind her desk. Pierson had shot them a smile, he was fairly sure the only reason Weir ever went off duty for ten minutes was Sheppard’s watchful eye. He was also fairly sure what was going on between on, but frankly he could see they were nothing but good for each other and Atlantis, so he did his job, supervised Gate room operations and kept his nose out. He had a good view up here and only Heightmeyer and Ford really knew how much he saw. They shared many of the same traits.

But now Elizabeth was looking more relaxed. She turned away from the tableau, shooting him a wry grin and sinking back in her chair, picking up a slice of melon, or as close to melon as they could gather from the mainland. The Athosians were a crucial aid to Atlantis in keeping her food stores stocked. ‘I think you can safely say our cover is blown,’ she remarked.

Her distinct tones were not loud, but carried enough for Teyla to hold up her hand and lean forward to delicately inform the table that the subject of their discussions were behind them. Ronan glanced at her, ‘you only just noticed?’

‘Why did you say so in the first place then?’ she asked, gritting her teeth and embarrased for her friends that they would think they were the subject of rumours and tawdry gossip.

‘Why? We’re not saying anything we wouldn’t say to their faces,’ he shot a glare at Rodney, ‘are we?’ he asked pointedly.

Rodney looked flustered for a moment, opening and closing his mouth briefly before realising there was no excuse he could make without making him appear exactly like an underhanded old gossip. With Ronan’s eyes on him, he wasn’t keen on making that statement. Instead he pushed back his shoulders and crossed his arms again.

‘No, no we’re not,’ he replied, the end of his sentence sounding more confident than the beginning. Taking a breath he walked straight over to Weir and Sheppard’s table, Carson right by elbow in case he he needed to drag Rodney away before Sheppard shot him.

‘Okay, so, uh, we get there’s, uh...’ he appeared lost for words, ‘something going on? I just, uh, I don't get the act. You're not the only ones-' he stopped short before finishing his sentence as Jon shot him a look that promised a great deal of pain if he kept speaking.

'Do you make it a point of personally involving yourself in the details of everyone's relationship on Atlantis, Dr McKay?' Weir carefuly set down her coffee and looked up at him, fixing him with a direct, penetrating gaze.

'No, of course not, I just-'

'Thought it would be acceptable to treat myself and Major Sheppard to speculation and discussions in the most public meeting place on Atlantis because you thought it was- what? Appropriate?'

'I'm allowed to have concerns,' McKay defended himself. Carson was looking more and more uncomfortable by the minute and the other were by the table, tense as they tried not to watch the fall out that was obviously coming McKay's way.

'Your concerns, yes. Such concerns should be laid before an appropriate members of the senior staff, such as myself, Major Sheppard, Dr Carson or Dr Heightmeyer in private, she added sternly. These concens would be treated with the utmost care and confidentiality. However, you chose to parade them before as many base personnel as you could, probably hoping more would join you. You've made excellent progress here in the last ten months, Rodney, I am disappointed to see you behaving in this fashion. Perhaps Dr Heightmeyer,' she raised her voice slightly so the ash-blond woman could hear her, 'would like to see you for a few extra sessions whilst you work out what is really going on here.'

Weir stood, obviously with the intent of closing the conversation and lifted her tray. 'Good day, gentlemen,' she glanced down at Jon, 'good day, Major Sheppard.' And then she had walked away, leaving the mess behind her. Sheppard grinned into his glass and then raised it in a mock toast to McKay.

'You really know how to piss people off, you know that McKay?' Sehppard enquired before standing up and stalking off with his tray. He ditched it near the doors and walked through leaving a confused physicist behind him. He wasn't concerned by Elizabeth's words nor even the form of address she had used on him. When she felt under pressure, precise, cool formality was like a bullet proof vset for for her. He would find her later, in the meantime he didn't want to add fuel to McKay's little fire.

Chapter End Notes: Video: Link to scene where Rodney says there's more going on, the hospital bed scene cuts back to the last chapter, and then back to "our cover is blown" in this chapter. It's a tiny bit out of sequence from the video but I couldn't write it together in the correct order because what Rodney says before and after the video hospital scene connects in a single paragraph. (1:43/2:45 to 1:53/2:45)

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