Disclaimer – not mine, never were, never will be (sob)
“How long is this going to take?” Willow rubbed her brows in frustration before answering.
“Well it depends on how many times you interrupt me Rodney.” He glanced over his shoulder to see where Ronon was. Seeing the other man was out of earshot he continued.
“All of my scans indicated that there was nothing here.”
“And I’m telling you I can *feel* something is here.” Willow sighed and focussed her attention on McKay. “I need to concentrate, alright? Just give me a little bit of space and some quiet and we’ll be out of here in no time.” He glowered at her before finally nodding and moving off further along the monument. Willow watched cautiously until he appeared to get interested in something he’d seen. Returning her attention to the carvings in front of her she drew a few deep breaths and once again tried to identify the sensation she was getting.
Sheppard watched as the redhead settled down once more now she’d gotten rid of McKay. He’d been tempted to intervene but both he and Ronon had decided that Willow need to learn to deal with Rodney without them running constant interference.
He tensed as there was an ominous rumbling, experience told him to check on McKay trusting the Ronon would deal with Willow. However he was surprised to discover that Willow was lunging from where she’d been sat serenely to throw herself at Rodney.
Shepard and Ronon arrived beside them at the same time. Willow was leaning groggily against the wall but McKay was lying unmoving on the floor. He dropped to his knees and felt at his neck.
“I can’t find a pulse.” He felt Teyla move up beside him as they prepared to give CPR. He felt a flush of relief as the body reacted to their touch taking a gasp of air but remained unresponsive. The flow of words from Willow interrupted his relief.
“Of course there must be a pulse. I’m right here. Oh Lord, that’s my body. I’m a ghost! An incorporeal spirit, that’ll be left to roam on this forsaken planet alone. How will they cope with out me? I didn’t even tell Zelenka about the power spikes in the naquada generators.” Sheppard couldn’t help but stare at her horrified.
“Of course it’s me. Oh you can see me, but if I’m me what’s that!” He exclaimed pointing at the body on the floor. He stared in shock at the feminine hand he found extended before him.
“For the love of God why do these things always happen to me!” He began to run his hands over his body checking that it was really happening, pinching his arm to make sure he was awake. As his hands continued to wander Ronon reached out and gripped him tightly.
“No. No peeking, no touching and don’t hurt her again.” Rodney looked at the tall warrior. He bit back a retort as seeing the man’s turmoil between protecting Willow in Rodney’s body and simply protecting her body.
“OK, OK I won’t do anything, er inappropriate but I just wanted to make sure this was really me and,” He fell silent and sighed deeply knowing he wouldn’t win before looking to Sheppard. “What are you going to do to fix this?”
“Me!” Sheppard fought not to snap further, after all McKay was partly right he was hardly in a fit state to do anything about, this, whatever this was. Why did this keep happening to them? “Come on McKay you’re an old hat at the whole body swap thing.”
“It’s hardly the same thing and besides last time I was still in me! Oh my god I’m never going to get back, I’m going to be stuck as a girl for the rest of my life! I’ve probably lost dozens of IQ points and more are dying every second. What if all of me doesn’t fit in here? I could be brain damaged or impeded in some way. They won’t want me on Atlantis anymore; they’ll send me back to Earth.” Rodney had begun to work himself into a full on panic attack but John was distracted as Ronon called out that Rodney, no Willow was starting to come round.
“Ow, Ow.” She cracked open an eye. “What happened, Ro?” He didn’t get a chance to reply before the Sheppard jumped in.
“How are you feeling Willow?” She caught an odd look in the Colonel’s eye as he asked the question which set her big-bad radar pinging.
“Weird.” She answered cautiously. “I feel like someone’s sitting on me and my arms and legs are kinda heavy. Why, how worried should I be?” She caught his nervous glance of his shoulder and pulled herself upright with Ronon’s help to see what the problem was.
“In the name of the Goddess,” Her voice was barely above a whisper as she stared in utter fascination at her doppelganger. She looked questioningly at the others. “Is this the world without shrimp, or is she another vamp me or something?”
“No, that’s McKay.” Ronon’s tone had a hint of amusement to it. She automatically slapped his arm at his mocking of her before realising it wasn’t a joke and that wasn’t her hand.
“Crapola!” Unfortunately her seemingly calm reaction to the whole thing just sent McKay completely off the deep end. As his rant became more frantic Willow felt the hairs on her, his, their arms begin to rise.
“Uh oh. Ro, grab him you’ve got to calm him down right now. Not you John.” She grabbed his leg to stop him from going to over. “My magic is reacting to his uncontrolled emotions, Ronon’s kinda immune. If we can calm him down we should be OK.”
“Should? What happens if should doesn’t work?” He looked between them concern etched on his face.
“I doubt he’ll be able to access all of my power but my body has a natural reserve of magical energy that’s large enough that if it goes kablooey we won’t have time to say ‘Oh shit’” John stared at her for moment.
“You’re taking it all fairly calmly.”
“Freaking on the inside.” Her eyes barely left Ronon and McKay. It was really odd to see herself interacting with someone else. No wonder people looked at her and Ro funny; he was so much bigger than her. Obviously she knew she was always looking up and everything but the impact looking on from the outside made the difference seem even more substantial.
Ronon finally had managed to shock McKay into silence by picking him up and holding him there. As Rodney fought to calm his breathing he looked questioningly at the oaf holding him.
“Willow said you were starting to loose control of her magic and that would be a very bad thing.”
Rodney stared uncomprehendingly for a moment. As understanding dawned he twisted slowly to look at himself.
“You mean *I* can do magic.”
“Technically yes but without control it has the power to be hugely destructive Rodney. You could hurt a lot of people.” Willow’s tone was understandably nervous.
“Yes, right fine but I can do some of your hocus pocus?” Rodney had a gleam in his eye that made John really nervous.
“McKay. This is serious no experimenting just to see what happens alright. You could kill us all.”
“It’ll be fine I mean how bad could it be, she’s still a human.” He began muttering under his breath and flexing his fingers. Willow grasped John’s arm in alarm.
“Please Rodney this is serious. Magic’s not something to mess around with. Amateurs dabbling in the arcane arts can do more damage that those with the will to do harm. I’m a poster child for that mistake. Rodney, please stop.” Unfortunately things were already sliding out of control if the colour of Willow’s hair was anything to go by.
Sheppard saw Ronon unholster his weapon but the distaste at the possibility of having to shoot Willow clear on his face. He waved him down trying to give McKay one last chance.
“McKay!” His shout caused him to turn and gaze at John with jet black eyes. “We’re talking end of the world, remember. You don’t need another one on your conscience.” Rodney looked like Sheppard had punched him, and on Willow face it was heartbreaking. Wincing at the potential damage he’d done to their friendship he moved closer. “You can do this Rodney, you’re stronger than the magic. We’re not leaving because we all know we can trust you not to hurt us.” They were standing face to face now and Sheppard felt McKay’s bulk come up behind him.
“I know it’s hard but you can do this Rodney. Think of putting it in a containment field. Picture yourself building it in your head and use it to trap the power out of reach in your mind. My body should remember, you just have to remind it what needs to be done.”
Rodney closed his eyes and they all watched with baited breath at the struggle going in front of them. Willow’s body suddenly sagged and Sheppard grabbed his arm to support him.
“You OK McKay?” Slowly he looked up to stare at his own face. Willow gave him an encouraging look.
“You have to live with that all the time? It’s intoxicating, I felt like I could do anything.” Willow smiled sadly.
“Oh yeah I know. But that’s a slippery slope. It took me years to gain proper control. You did wonderfully Rodney.” Impulsively gave herself a hug which was weird in it’s self but then McKay started struggling.
“Easy there, you don’t know my strength.” The whole thing was so absurd that Sheppard started laughing. Rodney looked insulted but before long had joined in with the others laughter.
“Oh man. I feel better for that but, no offence Rodney, I’d really like to switch back now please.”
“No argument’s here but I’ve no idea how we’re going to do that.”
Suddenly Willow and Rodney in their respective forms became all business.
“Let’s do another scan make sure nothings changed on the physical side then we’ll try the metaphysical alright.”
“Fine.” Willow and Rodney worked swiftly talking quietly between themselves. Eventually they both straightened.
“So?” Sheppard was eager for answers. Sitting and waiting with Teyla and Ronon by your side was twice as fraught seeing as the pair of them always gave the impression of being so laid back in non life threatening situations.
“It’s definitely not ancient technology. We not getting any reading that we can use to diagnose the problem.”
“So that leaves the mystical then.” Rodney grimaced at the description causing Willow to chuckle.
“I’ve been running through some meditation techniques with Rodney.” She pointedly ignored their snorts of disbelief. “He’s going to need absolutely no interruptions.”
“What are you looking at me for?” Sheppard held his hands up in mock surrender.
“Because it’s your speciality; rubbing people up the wrong way. I still haven’t worked out if you do it deliberately or it’s some bizarre mutant ability.” They stared in surprise unused to Willow being quite so tetchy.
Silently Ronon handed her a power bar. “Eat it.” Comprehension dawned on everyone else’s face but Willow just pouted.
“I’m not that bad, not like Rodney right?”
“Calm remember, deep breaths. You go meditate and Ronon take Willow for a walk or something.”
“You’re very lucky I don’t have witchy powers right now buster.” Willow shook her finger at him before turning and stalking off.
“See I told you you could be graceful if you just tried McKay.” The patented McKay glare was still potent even coming from a diminutive redhead.
“Perhaps you should join them too John. I will watch over Rodney.” Teyla insinuated her self between them and just stared him down as he went to protest.
“Fine!” Sheppard turned and left them to it.
Fifteen minute later they all met back up at the monument waiting impatiently
Willow gave them a sheepish grin which was quickly waved off. “Did you have any luck Rodney?”
McKay reached up to run a hand through his hair looking surprised when he found the unexpected length. “I couldn’t get any further than feeling something odd either. But I’ve got no baseline to compare it to so it makes the point fairly moot.”
“Damn.” Willow’s face fell and her whole body seemed to slump as she leaned into Ronon who had to brace himself against the extra weight.
“Right, we’d better head back to Atlantis. Maybe Beckett or Zelenka can come up with something.” Sheppard was surprised to find it was Teyla who objected.
“When I was growing up I was taught that to solve a problem you must understand everything that lead up to it. That will be difficult to do from Atlantis.”
“We’ve exhausted every test, reading and mystical mojo we have.” Rodney snapped.
“I understand that Rodney but before we go perhaps we should run through exactly what happened.”
“Like a reconstruction of a crime. Great idea Teyla. Everyone take positions.” They spread back out to their original positions. Willow decided to start the ball rolling.
“I’d managed isolate whatever it was that I could sense but still couldn’t identify it. It didn’t feel threatening. I don’t remember sensing any kind of spell or magic just an overwhelming feeling of danger from somewhere external and when I tried to work out where it was coming from I just knew Rodney was in trouble.”
“I didn’t do anything!”
“We’re not saying that Rodney.” Teyla added calmly. “We are just trying to establish the events that led up to your exchange.”
“Anyway I just remember diving at Rodney thinking I could push him away or something then I woke up like this.” Willow concluded.
“Alright. Ronon, Teyla you have anything to add? I just heard a rumble and when I looked over you two were about to collide.”
“I saw nothing further.”
“Okay Rodney. What do you remember?”
“Willow sent me away so she could do her ESP thing and I wandered over to here and I saw this.” He reached out to the engravings he’d discovered earlier.
“Don’t touch it!” The shouts came at him from all directions.
“I wasn’t going to touch it again.” He ignored their sceptical looks. “Oh come off it what harm can come from touching a rock.”
“Apparently quite a lot.” They all joined Rodney. “So can anyone read that?” Willow frowned.
“It looks a bit like one of the demon languages several of Giles’ books were written in.”
“Can you read it?”
“Give me a moment, I’m trying. I wish Dawnie was here she was always much better at translating than me.” She took out a pad and pen from her pack and settled to try and decode the inscription.
“It doesn’t translate perfectly but basically it says something along the lines of ‘How the other half live.’”
“Well I mean I’m summing it up here but yeah that’s pretty much it.”
“Nothing about getting back to your original half?”
“Yes Doctor McKay that’s exactly what it says, I just decided that wasn’t important.”
“Do you need another power bar?” Willow whirled to face Sheppard.
“I may not be able to retaliate right now as I’m sure Rodney wouldn’t appreciate any bruises when he gets his body back but when I do get back I am going to zap you into next Thursday.” John stepped back a little before apologising.
“Fine.” She turned her back on him and concentrated on the problem once more. “Rodney, I think we should try touching it again.”
“I’m not sure that’s a good idea.” Sheppard spoke up.
“Well I can’t see how experiencing how the other half lives permanently is going to teach anyone anything. It can’t get any worse for us, worst case we don’t swap back.”
“Or it kills you.”
“Thank you for that optimistic note Colonel. Again can’t really see that serves a purpose. You up for it Rodney?” They looked nervously at each other before both agreeing.
“Ok let’s do this.” Willow and Rodney stood shoulder to shoulder at the wall once more. “Oh and Ro in case I don’t remember remind me that I owe the Colonel a bit of righteous retaliation will you.”
“Of course.” John frowned at the pair of them.
“If you’ve all finished messing around I’d really like to get my own body back thank you.”
“Sure thing Rodney. On three.”
All in all it was pretty unimpressive in the end. Rodney fainted while Willow spent the first 20 minutes curled up next to Ronon re-establishing her shields.
Once everyone was feeling sufficiently revived they began the trek back to the gate.
Rodney dialled the Atlantis and they all stood wearily waiting for the go ahead for the shield to be lowered.
“Nice to have you back on time Colonel. An uneventful trip I take it.” Elizabeth smiled down as SGA1 returned home safely. Her face fell as she caught the looks they all shared.
Oh well, hearing the trials and tribulations of her premier team always made and interesting break from the day to day reports of the city. She reached up to activate her radio.
“Carson I think you’d better come up to the briefing room. No it’s not an emergency but this way they’ll only have to go through it all once.”
They all filed in and took their customary seats. John shot Elizabeth a look as Beckett joined them giving them all an appraising once over. Willow gave him a little wave and he seemed to relax a bit.
“So what happened this time then?” Carson’s eyes sparkled with mischief as Sheppard settled himself back in a more relaxed pose in his seat which always promised a tale worth hearing.
“Well it all started when Rodney touched something he shouldn’t.”
A/N Yes, yes I know - a complete McGuffin but I wanted to wrap this one up quick as it wouldn’t leave me alone and need to get back to the working on Cookie monster!
Also I hadn’t really thought through how complicated referring to someone in another’s body could be, hope it wasn’t too confusing for y’all! :0)