Studies in New Paris
: Intergalactic scientific collaboration between McKays is never without its troubles.Setting
: Post-series for Gilmore Girls; around "current" times for SGA, and spoilers
for some parts of Season 4 of SGA, namely the Teyla thing. Post SG-1 series finale. The timeline doesn't really match up but you can pretend.Notes
: A million thanks to Houses for her help with details about the military and certain of its programs for recruiting smart people (and also for a delightful line that I just *had* to borrow, the one about hatboxes was all her) (And in case I do get the facts wrong, then that's all me.)~~~~~~~~~
Atlantis hummed merrily in John's head as he strolled the halls of the city. The latest databurst from the SGC had arrived an hour ago, and everyone in the expedition was bent over their personal workstations, reading or replying to the news from home.
It had been Elizabeth's idea, set in place back when the Daedalus brought news from home. Every expedition member had two hours to pour over their personal mail, to laugh or cry, to celebrate the good time or mourn the bad of the family and friends left behind. Then it was back to work in the Pegasus Galaxy.
After Elizabeth... well, after Sam Carter was put in charge of the expedition, John had given the Colonel a bit of a nudge (more of a sharp push
, the walls of Atlantis reminded him) to keep up the tradition, but she had come to see the value in the break from work time.
So here John was, an hour after the databurst came in and its contents distributed, everyone in the city had their minds in the Milky Way galaxy. It would have been the perfect time for an enemy to attack the city. With a small frown, John made a mental note to point that out to Carter the next time he happened in her direction.
John hit his earpiece. "What's up, Ronon?"
"Want to spar?" the man asked, sounding incredibly bored. "Everyone else is busy."
John's ribs still hurt from his last sparing session with Ronon. "Sorry, I've got this thing to do," he said. "Why not go bother Teyla for a little while?"
"Because all she wants to do is throw me into things and it's no fun when I can't fight back."
"That's what you get when you spar with a pregnant woman."
"I think she's actually getting stronger," Ronon said. "Look, I'm going to go for a run. Come find me if you get done your 'thing'."
"Right." John signed off and continued down the hall.
Ronon was bored, Teyla was probably climbing the walls from inactivity, and John... well, John never had anything come from home in the databursts, and that was just the way things were.
The last quarter of John's team was holed up in his laboratory. McKay didn't even glance up from his computer screen as John breezed in and helped himself to some of the scientists' carefully hoarded coffee.
Sipping at the dark liquid, John meandered across the lab to stand beside McKay's chair and look over the man's shoulder. Far from the family letter John expected to see, mathematical equations and multi-syllabic words danced across the screen. Still, it might have been from Rodney's sister. John bent closer to read the lines.
"This is completely
insane," McKay said incredulously as he paged down. "She's certifiable!"
"Who's certifiable?" John asked. He was gratified to see McKay jump in his seat.
"God!" McKay gasped. "Don't do that!"
"But it's fun," John said after another swallow. "Letter from Jeannie? Is Madison the newest family math genius?"
McKay slapped his tablet onto the desk. "The SGC has gone insane! I get an email two weeks ago from Bill Lee, saying they've brought in someone new, some kid genius, and what do I get today?" He gesticulated at tablet.
"Our very own Doogie Howser?" John guessed.
"Hardly! At least Doogie Howser had some kind of formal training!" McKay pulled a granola bar out of his pocket and unwrapped it as he ranted. "This kid doesn't have a degree in anything remotely relevant! You know what she has?"
Deciding that McKay didn't actually need another person in the conversation, John slumped against a table and watched the show.
"A bachelor's degree in Journalism
! I'm surprised they didn't just let her send in a math proof in finger-paints!"
"Sort of like your sister did," John interjected.
McKay glared at him. "Jeannie at least has a master's degree in theoretical physics! This kid has nothing to back her up!"
"Except the numbers."
"The math is impossible! It throws out of the conventional rules--"
"Which you break on a regular basis anyway."
"--and totally sidesteps everything necessary to make logical sense!"
"But does it work?"
"That's not the point!"
John pushed himself off the table and went back to the coffee pot. "If the SGC brought this kid on, they had to have some kind of confidence in her knowledge. What's her name, anyway?"
McKay shoved the last of his granola bar into his mouth, speaking around the crumbs. "Don't talk to me about the SGC. You know what else they've done? This kid doesn't even have proper security clearance! She has temporary secret clearance! Not permanent, temporary! As in not real!"
"I know what the word 'temporary' means, McKay."
"Not even a temporary top secret! A flying hatbox could get a temporary secret! She's writing about stuff that she's not allowed to see! Hell, she doesn't have the clearance to be within a twenty-five kilometre radius of this sort of research!"
"But do the numbers work?"
"That's not the--"
John raised his cup threateningly. "If you say it's not the point, one more time, I'm going to take away your power bars."
In the face of such a dire ultimatum, McKay reigned himself in. "No one can just pull these ideas of zero-point energy out of nowhere," he said. "It's-- It's farcical, that's what it is, to imagine that a twenty-four-year-old journalism major from Connecticut can just show up at the SGC one day and say 'Oh, hi there, I'd like to work on zero-point energy, do you have any of that here?'!"
"I know, I know!" McKay threw up his hands, nearly knocking some equipment off a desk. "The numbers! I'll look, and then
I'm going to show those air-headed, needle-nosed pinheads on Earth who they're dealing with!"
McKay was already pushing John out of the lab. "Go away, I have work to do. Out!"
John barely had time to swallow the last of his coffee before he was deposited wholesale in the hallway, the lab door closing behind him. "I've still got your cup," he said to the closed door. Nothing. He set the cup by the wall, in hopes its owner would retrieve it at some point.
At least McKay had something to keep him busy for the next little while, although John felt a stab of pity for the poor unnamed journalism major at the SGC. Whenever McKay was in this sort of mood, he was more vicious than usual in his rhetoric.
Although... Something that McKay had said stuck in John's mind. What was it? Some snippet of the conversation, unnoticed at the time, had to have meant something. But what was it?
Oh well. One day, he'd figure it out. If it was important, McKay would mention it again.
Half an hour until work would resume in the city. John probably had enough time to head down to the commissary and grab some more stale coffee before the demands of the city pulled him back.
All around him, Atlantis buzzed with contented efficiency.~~~
Rory was vaguely glad that she managed to make to the deserted bathroom before throwing up.
Was it a panic attack or a heart attack that made her heart race irregularly in her chest? She couldn't remember, but the practicality of the issue didn't matter as she retched into the toilet.
Rodney McKay's words in the email, slashing and belittling, danced in front of her closed eyelids.
How could she ever have imagined that coming to this place was a good idea?
Her stomach emptied, Rory wiped her mouth and flushed the toilet before sinking against the concrete wall. She felt horrible, empty. It wasn't supposed to have gone like this. Rodney McKay wasn't supposed to have been so... so mean.
How could she tell him that he was her father now?
The bathroom door opened. Rory heard someone walk across the floor, stopping on the other side of the stall door. Any hope that it was just someone needing to freshen up vanished when Vala asked, "Are you okay?"
"I'm really not." Rory pulled her legs up to her chest and wished she could just disappear, could undo her decision to stay at the SGC. What was she doing here, anyway?
"Are you going to stay in there all day?"
"Thinking about it."
"If you want." Vala fell silent, and that was even worse, because now all Rory could hear was the swirling chaos in her head.
It wasn't supposed to be
Once Rory had her stomach under control, she climbed awkwardly to her feet and opened the stall door. Vala perched by the sinks, uncharacteristically still.
"You don't have to stay," Rory said. She turned on the tap, letting the familiar sound of flowing water push back the echoes of Mitchem Huntzberger's voice saying you don't have what it takes
"I went past the lab," Vala said, somber. "Dr. Lee was copied on the email that your father sent you."
Rory winced. "Don't call him that."
"Ah," Vala breathed. "I take this means you didn't include a little note in the last databurst about the DNA test. You know. 'Hi, I'm your daughter, here's some science'."
The water flowed over Rory's fingers, liquid catching on the imperfections in her skin.
"Dr. Lee said that the email wasn't very nice," Vala soldiered on. "That McKay went a little overboard."
Rory cupped her hands under the water. Once she had rinsed out her mouth, she took a long drink, then another, of the water. The faint metallic taste from the pipes clung to her tongue. "He cut down everything I wrote," Rory heard herself say. "Everything. Even the grammar."
The white ceramic of the sink gathered the sound and echoed it back. Everything.
How could she have imagined this could work?
Vala waited until Rory turned off the taps before saying, "And was he right?"
Rory jerked back, swirling thoughts ripped away. "What?"
"Was McKay right in what he wrote?" Vala asked again.
"I-- I don't..." Rory wrapped her arms around her stomach, wanting to curl up and disappear.
"Because if he's right, then you can pack your bags and go home," Vala said. Her words sliced at Rory. "I mean, that's pretty much what McKay suggested, right?"
Rory couldn't find the air to speak.
Vala slipped off the counter and walked the few steps across the bathroom to put her arm around Rory's shoulders. "But on the other hand, if you're right, if the science that you and all the other smart people have been working on non-stop for the last three weeks is right, then you can do something that most of us around here only dream about." She angled Rory in front of the mirror. "You get to tell Dr. Rodney McKay that he is wrong."
Rory stared at her reflection in the mirror. She could only see the similarities to Rodney McKay in her reflection. She wondered where Lorelai was in her, where she
was. Who was she, anymore?
"Isn't that why everyone's breaking the rules for you?" Vala asked.
"They're not breaking rules," Rory told Vala. She eased out from under the woman's arm and went back to the sink.
"They're fast-tracking you on everything," Vala pointed out. "Daniel told Mitchell who told Teal'c who told me that it's a good thing you're so smart on paper, so O'Neill can bend the rules for you."
"It's not like that," Rory objected. "I mean, I know that he's pushing for my security clearance to be upgraded to permanent secret while he gets things in order for the TS-SCI--"
"Most people don't have a general pushing for that. And Teal'c told Mitchell who told Caroline who told Daniel that you wouldn't have qualified to be hired on as a DAFC without a solicitation if you weren't so lethally smart."
"And what about that thing where they're going to make you a doctor?" Vala wrestled a pack of chewing gum out of her pocket. "Again, smart."
"But that's..." Rory accepted a stick of gum absently. "What he wrote..."
"Rory. Was he right?"
"I'd have to go over the numbers again--"
"You've spent weeks of sixteen-hour days on those numbers. You don't need to see them again. Was McKay right?"
Rory wanted to look at the numbers, wanted to cling to proof and reason, to hide behind something tangible.
She didn't want to have to stand on her own in this.
But she knew the numbers. She knew she was right.
"No, he wasn't," Rory finally said.
Vala smiled. "See, that wasn't hard, was it?"
Rory's knees were still shaking from that admission, but contradicting Vala was always more trouble that it was worth in the end. "I guess not."
Vala stuck two piece of gum in her mouth. "Now, you need to get back to that lab and tell Dr. Lee that you're perfectly all right. He worries, you know."
Remembered humiliation brought heat to Rory's cheeks, but her spine remained straight. "God, I'm behaving like a child," she muttered.
"I've heard stories of Rodney McKay reducing whole teams of grown men to tears," Vala said. "So don't feel bad."
"But--" But he's my father,
Rory wanted to say. But he didn't know that, and now she didn't know how she was going to tell him.
Vala blew a large pink bubble and waited.
Rory stared at her reflection in the mirror. Ice-blue eyes stared back at her. Her mother's eyes, her father's eyes. Her eyes, pale as water frozen in glacial ice.Water flowing over fingers, liquid catching on the imperfections in skin.
She was not her mother and she was not her father, and Rodney McKay was not Mitchem Hunzberger and he was not Christopher Hayden and he was not Luke Danes, he was himself and he did not know her, and she did not know him.Water frozen in blue glacial ice
Crystals of understanding began to form at the edges of Rory's consciousness, but she concentrated on the reflection in the mirror.
Rodney McKay thought that she was wrong, that she wasn't good enough to work at the SGC on this project. She had dealt with that sort of opinion before, in high school, in college. On her first day of Chilton in grade ten, Paris Gellar had thrown down the gauntlet in competition, and that was just the beginning.
"Rodney McKay is the new Paris," Rory said suddenly.
"He's turning into a city?" Vala asked, eyebrow up.
"No, he's the new Paris Gellar," Rory said. "She was my yardstick in high school. We ended up doing everything together and it helped, having someone to compete against."
"Who usually ended up on top?"
"I did," Rory said without much relish. "Everything she did, I worked to do better. So this thing with Rodney, it's the same. I'll see what he does and I-- I'll do it better."
Vala snapped her gum. "You do know that this level of competition is unhealthy and not all that femininely attractive."
Rory waved Vala's words away. "I'm not going out for Homecoming Queen, this isn't up for the popular vote. I just need to put on my big girl panties and deal with this." Rory heard Lorelai's voice in her words. That's where she is, where she always is.
"Good!" Vala slid off the counter. "So you're not going to slink off home?"
Ice was forming in Rory's mind, blue crystals formed from flowing liquid, particles rushing in the same direction all at once. "Why would I go home?" Rory turned on the tap to rinse her face. "I have to talk to Dr. Lee, we might be able to improve the numbers on the particle flow."
"That's my girl," Vala beamed. "Are we still on for going out for dinner?"
"I don't know if I'll have time," Rory said, halfway out the door. "This may open up a whole different area of research--"
"You're taking me out to dinner with that shiny signing bonus of yours, just like you promised," Vala interrupted. "Be ready at twenty-hundred hours. And wear something slinky!"
Rory vaguely registered several heads turning in the hallway at Vala's shout, but she ignored them. She had to get to the lab.
Ice smoothed over her mind by the time she made it back into the lab. She jerked her CAC card off her jacket and jammed it into her terminal, pulling up her email.
"Gilmore?" Dr. Lee asked. "Are you... I mean..."
"I'm fine," Rory said, not even looking up from her computer.
"Do you want to go over the equations in the paper, compare them against McKay's email?"
Rory shook her head. "He's wrong, I can prove that, we'll deal with it later. I have an idea about the particle flow problem we've been having."
"I do." Rory paused in her frantic typing long enough to snake an arm to retrieve her coffee cup. "We need Dr. Freyd for this, where is he?"
"Signing the paperwork to be your outside committee member on the long-term training program." Dr. Lee pulled a chair next to Rory's work station. "Are you sure
you're going to be okay? McKay's email..."
Rory took a deep breath. "He had points to make and he made them. Everyone's been telling me that he has the social skills of a wombat."
"That's certainly true," Dr. Lee muttered.
"And I think that I have an idea that will help us simplify the clutter in the equations we sent." Rory paused in her typing. "I mean, if that's okay with you."
"It's fine," he said, just as the phone on the wall rang. "Hold that thought."
While the man went to answer the line, Rory tapped on the keyboard without really paying attention to what she was doing.
Vala was right. Rory was at the SGC for a reason. She could do
And maybe once she had proven that to Rodney McKay beyond a shadow of a doubt, then maybe she could tell him about what had really happened in Hartford, all those many years before.
She could tell him that she and he were as much the same as they were different.
Although she still didn't know how she was going to tell her mother.end part