Exploring new areas of Atlantis was of course very exciting and worthwhile but also rather time-consuming and therefore, in Rodney's humble opinion, best left to people who had the time and also guns.
Still, when one's friends went off to face certain doom, one felt a certain obligation to help, which in this case meant traipsing along to explore a very dark room, filled with probably very dangerous items stored in boxes not nearly as good at staying shut as the Ancients might have imagined.
Any moment now, someone (most likely John) would touch something, or trip over something, and then next thing, they'd all be in mortal danger, unless Rodney found a way to save the day with science. Again. To be honest, he was getting kind of used to it, which did not mean that it was all right for people to start taking his genius for granted, it went without saying.
"How are we doing?" John asked. Well. Rodney assumed it was John. The voice sounded like John, but for all Rodney knew, John had already been knocked unconscious and replaced by some alien doppelganger who would flirt with Rodney like a shameless hussy in an attempt to mask his true identity before trying to kill him. "Seen anything interesting yet?"
"Yes, absolutely," Rodney said. "All sorts of interesting things. It's a pity the rest of you can't see in the dark the way most people can, or else you'd be seeing them too."
Ford chuckled. Ford was all right, Rodney decided.
John (probably John) sighed. "Look, let's just - "
"Hang on, I think there might be some sort of light switch here," Ford said. "Let me try it."
Correction: Ford was a menace, and Rodney didn't know why John had brought him. It could have been just him and John, having a nice, mildly exciting outing by themselves but nooo.
"Let's not - " Rodney started, when yup, there they went.
On the plus side, there was indeed light.
On the not so good side -
"Hey, where did Major Sheppard go?" Ford asked, like the idiot he very definitely was.
"Vanished?" Elizabeth looked surprised and somewhat peeved.
Rodney felt surprised and somewhat peeved himself. More than somewhat, to be honest.
"Just ... poof," Ford said. Rodney wanted to be fair and assume Ford might be trying to help, but honestly.
"Rodney?" And yup, there it was. Good old Rodney, always there to solve everyone's problems.
"I would like to note that there was no 'poof'," Rodney said. Ford looked like he found this correction irrelevant which went to prove one could not send a soldier to do a scientist's job.
"And no Major Sheppard, which would seem the more pertinent matter right now," Elizabeth said.
"Yes, yes, and before your next question, no, I have no idea how to fix this," Rodney said. "Or even what happened, exactly. For all I know, Ford here activated some sort of death ray that disintegrated Sheppard where he stood." Horrible thought, but the truth hurt sometimes.
At least Ford looked like the gravity of the situation might finally be getting through to him.
"Let's not jump to any conclusions just yet," Elizabeth said. Before Rodney could object to this scurrilous characterization of his voicing one of many theories and possibilities by way of an educational example, she added, "Dr McKay, I have every faith that you can fix this."
"Of course I can fix this. That's not my point," Rodney said.
Elizabeth nodded. By way of an apology, it was a bit scarce. Quick though, Rodney had to admit. "In that case, I'd best leave you to it. Report to me if there's any news. Thank you, Dr McKay, Lieutenant Ford."
Happily, Rodney hadn't been working on anything more important than solving the great mysteries of the cosmos, so clearing his schedule to deal with this week's emergency was no problem at all.
On the other hand, in John's place, Rodney definitely would have wanted the best and brightest, so really, it wasn't as if Rodney even had a choice. John was a friend, more or less.
"Anything I can do to help?" Ford asked. He'd come along for reasons unknown and was now hovering.
Rodney did not like hoverers. John never hovered. "Oh, I don't know, I think you've done more than enough, don't you?"
Ford looked like Rodney had hurt his feelings. Given that Ford might well have disintegrated John and was even now inconveniencing Rodney, Rodney felt this was fair.
"Just ... don't push any more buttons," Rodney said. There really were a lot of boxes. Who in their right minds would put a bunch of boxes in a room that also had a disintegration ray in it?
"All right," Ford said. Rodney might have felt more charitable towards him, except that Ford followed up this non-alarming statement by moving in between the stacks of boxes. "Lots of stuff here, huh?"
"Yes, thank you for that brilliant observation, Lieutenant. If you hadn't pointed it out, I might have missed that."
"Hey," Ford said. Rodney couldn't see his face, but he might have bet his lunch (or half of it, anyway) that Ford was wearing that hurt expression again. "I realize you and Major Sheppard are ... well, you know. I understand you're worried. But I'm worried too, all right? So maybe dial it down a little?"
"I have no idea what you - " Something moved. Rodney froze, abruptly recalling that of the two of them, only Ford had brought a gun. Rodney had brought his wits, which were a great and mighty weapon, to be sure, but also perhaps of limited practical use when it came to these types of situations. "Ford?"
"Yeah, what is it, you found something?" Ford said and then, softer, "Oh. Hey there."
Possibly, a murderous alien creature with lots of teeth would not elicit this specific reaction. On the other hand, it had already been established that Ford was not a genius. "Ford?"
"It's an uh," Ford said, not sounding like he'd been murdered just yet.
"An uh?" Rodney repeated, deciding that there was nothing for it but to go and see for himself. If he ended up dead, he hoped Ford would spend the rest of his life feeling an entirely justified sense of crushing guilt. "Can you maybe use something a little more - oh."
"A cat," Elizabeth said, sounding far less thrilled than warranted.
Of course, it could be argued (and had in fact had been argued) that a scientific expedition to another galaxy was no place for a cat, but Rodney strongly felt an exception might be made for cats already present in the galaxy in question.
"Real cute fellow," Ford put in, clearly picking up on the anti-feline sentiments in the room. "Very affectionate."
"More towards me than towards Lieutenant Ford, but yes," Rodney said, willing to be generous in the face of a common enemy.
Elizabeth said, "Rodney ... "
Rodney sighed. "It's not an alien. Beckett checked. It's a cat. And I'm keeping him." It would be great, to have someone to greet him as he got back from work, who understood the value of silent support and unconditional love and -
"All right," Elizabeth said, her tone suggesting it wasn't. "Leaving that aside for now, where are you on the Sheppard situation?"
"Who?" Rodney asked, before he remembered. He wondered whether John was a cat person. It would be rather a pity if he weren't - though Rodney imagined they might stick to just having no strings sex. "Oh, right. Uh. Still working on it."
Ford started to droop after another couple of hours, so Rodney called it a day. He felt like a nap himself, to be honest, and of course he now had someone waiting for him. It would be irresponsible to show up late; John would surely understand. Assuming he was still alive.
If he wasn't, Rodney felt that John would want him to move on, find happiness with someone new, so, really, whatever John's status, Rodney was good here.
The moment he got - well, he supposed it was 'home' now, he knew he'd made the right call.
"Well, hello." Rodney crouched down. "Who's a good fellow, then?" Seeing the cat take a liking to Ford had been a bit of a disappointment, but Rodney was willing to forgive and forget.
Anyway, it clearly liked Rodney best, or else it wouldn't be here now, purring and butting its head against Rodney's legs. Rodney hoped John wasn't the jealous type.
"Meow," said the cat, as if reading his mind and not quite approving.
"Hey now, no need for that," Rodney said, scratching behind its ears. The volume of the purring rose. "You know you'll always come first, no matter what. I mean, Major Sheppard's - well, he's special to me, of course, but let's be fair here, sometimes he can also be a little bit - just a little, mind - well."
The cat gave him a look full of understanding.
"And we're not even together yet," Rodney said. "I mean, we're together in the sense that we're both here, and I've saved his life a bunch of times - though now that I think about it, the same goes for a lot of people here, so I guess, well. The burdens of greatness are no joke, let me tell you that."
The cat kept purring.
Rodney sighed. "Well, I suppose it's all academic for the moment anyway. I really do hope he's all right."
"So have you named it yet?" Ford asked, moving some boxes from one place in the room to another, mostly because Rodney had wanted him to stop hovering.
"Him," Rodney said. "And no, I have not. For now, my every waking moment is dedicated to bringing back Major Sheppard safe and sound. I have no time for such frivolities as naming my cat."
"Your cat, is it?" Ford asked. Rodney would have asked what Ford was insinuating here, except that Ford followed up his rather offensive question with, "Right. Where did you want me to put these again?" thereby proving that if he might not be the smartest guy around, at least he was willing and trying to help.
"Just put them down wherever." Rodney frowned, studying Ford's 'light switch' again. Logic dictated it had to be related to John's disappearance, and yet it seemed to be nothing more than what it looked like. A light switch. A means to illuminate the room, if not Rodney's mind.
"You said this was important. Vitally important, you said."
"I can't think with you talking to me," Rodney said. "Can you be more quiet, please? Just ... keep moving boxes. I'm sure that's within your physical capabilities." John wouldn't have asked so many questions, Rodney thought. John would have understood Rodney's need for silence and concentration.
Ford, alas, was not John. "So where do you think it - sorry, he came from, anyway?"
"He? Who he? Which he?" Rodney corrected himself.
"Your cat?" Ford's tone suggested this should have been obvious.
"He's a cat," Rodney said. He really didn't have time for this. "Cats move in mysterious ways. It is not for us mere humans to understand. Now, any other useless questions? No? Great."
Ford muttered something, but he did pick up another box to move, so Rodney decided to ignore him.
"You know, Ford might have had a point earlier today," Rodney told the cat.
He'd half-decided to call it 'John', except that, well, if John would show up again, which Rodney had to believe he would, that might get confusing. And if it turned out John was lost for good, it might be a painful, bittersweet reminder of what might have been.
"I mean, you might be a stowaway from Earth," Rodney said, "but that would suggest someone smuggled you in here, and if that were the case, well, where are they now?" A number of people had died, true, so there was a chance it had been one of them.
Rodney didn't know how he felt about an inherited cat, especially one that looked and purred and headbutted like it had been put into existence especially for Rodney.
"And if you've always lived here, well, that's its own mystery, isn't it?"
The cat's purring suggested the question-slash-mystery was entirely irrelevant.
Rodney had to admit the cat might be on to something. It was here now, and it had found Rodney, and the two of them would never be apart again, and that was that. Why risk ruining a good thing by picking it apart?
Besides, Rodney had far more important things to worry about.
"What is this, Bring Your Pet to Work Day?" was, apparently, Ford's idea of wishing someone 'good morning'. Sometimes, Rodney did wish some people would learn some proper manners.
"It's an experiment," he said. It was also a way not to spend quite so much time away from his new four-footed lifelong companion (or, well, maybe-ten-to-twelve-years companion, because nature was cruel and imperfect) but that really did not concern Ford in any way.
"All right." Ford's expression was dubious. Rodney tried not to feel offended. "Want me to start moving boxes again?"
Rodney wanted nothing in specific from Ford, other than perhaps to be John; he might have quite enjoyed seeing John move some boxes, he thought. Maybe John would have taken his shirt off at some point. Or not. It wasn't as if Rodney was only attracted to John because of his looks, after all.
The cat gave Rodney a peculiar look.
"Uh," Rodney said. "Sure. Why not?"
Ford picked up a box like an obedient soldier and started walking. Rodney would have stopped paying attention to him, except that the cat made a run for it, straight into Ford's direction.
Rodney felt incredibly betrayed and, yes, hurt for all of five seconds, by which time the cat had managed to get right in front of Ford's feet, meaning Ford tripped, meaning the box Ford had been carrying got not so much dropped as thrown, heading right for the -
"Oh, come on!" Rodney said as the lights went out.
"Couldn't have said it better myself," someone sounding a lot like John said.
"Needless to say, I suspected from the very beginning," Rodney said. Lunch was edible, Atlantis was safe, John was back among the living, and all was well with the world.
"Needless to say," John repeated. Coming from Ford, or Elizabeth, or anyone else, really, it would have sounded dubious and a little insulting. John added this little smile to it, though, and that somehow made it feel nice, friendly, almost intimate, like he and Rodney were sharing a secret.
Rodney resisted the temptation to smile back. "Of course. I mean, it's obvious, isn't it? Ockham's Razor."
Teyla looked confused.
"It's a theory that says the simplest explanation's probably right," Ford said. Rodney wondered if the rest of them were supposed to be impressed. Rodney knew he wasn't.
"And in this case, the simplest explanation was that Major Sheppard had been turned into a cat?"
"Well," John said, "when you put it like that, I suppose it does sound a little bit far-fetched. Good thing Rodney figured it out anyway because he's just that smart, huh?"
Teyla inclined her head. "Indeed."
"Anyway, I'm all back to normal now, no harm done," John said.
Rodney felt a bit wounded by the ease with which people treated his return to a state of catlessness. True, he'd resigned himself to loneliness quite a while ago, and so there was no reason to assume he couldn't get used to it again, but even so, a shred of sympathy from someone might have been nice.
Without getting all dramatic and tragic, Rodney decided that his room really did feel emptier. Colder, too. Lonelier. Genius was often lonely, of course, and Rodney had bravely borne the curse of being more intelligent than 99.99% of all other people for many years.
"I'm good," he told - well, no one, given that his perfect new conversational partner had turned out to be John, except that John had been a cat at the time and therefore not as easy to recognize as one might wish and also much more prone to purring, snuggling and moments of quiet support. "I'm fine. This is fine. I'm glad he's all right."
"He's also standing right in front of your door, so maybe you want to open up?" John's voice came in from outside and, when Rodney did as suggested, "Hi," because unlike some people Rodney could mention, John knew what manners were. "Figured we should talk."
"Really?" Rodney said. He rather figured they shouldn't. Things might have been said, and feelings might have been referred to, but everyone knew such things didn't count when the object of one's affections was cleverly disguised as a cat at the time. "About what?"
John shrugged. "Oh, I don't know. About how sometimes I can be a little bit - what?"
"Sexy," Rodney said, before his brains could catch up with the rest of him. "Attractive," he corrected himself. "In an objective kind of way. You know, speaking as a scientist."
"Huh," John said, which told Rodney nothing at all about what he was thinking. Then he grinned. "Only a little bit?"
"I wouldn't want to stroke your vanity," Rodney said.
"Good call," John said. "But, you know, in an objective sort of way. Speaking as a scientist."
Rodney's mouth felt a little dry. He wondered if he was having some sort of allergic reaction. "Well. If you put it like that."