When Push Comes To Shove

Rated: PG-13 (adult themes)

Category: McShep Friendship, Some Angst

Season: Four

Spoilers: Miller's Crossing

Summary: A Few Months After Miller's Crossing, Rodney Finds Something Sheppard Never Meant For Him To See. Will He Understand?

John Sheppard's voice rang out in his quarters.

"Hey, hand me my blue jacket, will ya?"

Rodney McKay gave an exaggerated sigh and gave his team leader a scathing look.

"I don't understand why you haven't done this already."

John snarled back at Rodney. "I haven't done this yet, Rodney, because you only insisted that I go last night and I had to work the night shift so I couldn't do this before now."

"Oh, please. Sam ordered you to go last week."

"No, Colonel Carter said I could go if I wanted. There's a difference."

"Oh, so you don't want to go?"

"Rodney, I said I would go, so I'll go. Now help me get packed so we can get out of here. Although for the record, no, I don't think a presidential gala in which you get an award sounds like a perfect evening."

"Oh."

"Come on, McKay, you just want me to go because you found out your sister's going to be there and you don't want her to beat you up after that mess you got her in earlier this year. You figure you're safer with me around."

Rodney mulled that over for a second before responding. "True."

A soft guffaw of laughter snorted from John. "See? Was it so hard to admit that? Now, come on. Blue jacket. Now."

McKay threw his hands up in the air in exasperation and waved them around for a moment before speaking again. "Alright, alright, fine. Blue jacket. Fine."

Rodney disappeared then and a blue jacket soon materialized from Sheppard's closet while John threw socks and underwear into an open suitcase on his bed from his dresser.

Suddenly, a loud crash was heard in the vicinity of the closet and McKay let out a surprised yell.

"Ow!"

Sheppard sighed. "Rodney, what did you do?"

"Me? I didn't do anything. This box just fell of the shelf. I didn't do anything. I wasn't anywhere near it. It just fell. Look, I'll pick it up. See? No problems."

Rodney knelt and began to pick up loose papers that had fallen out of a box. The box had been on John's closet shelf and Rodney's digging around had dislodged it from its resting place. Its contents were now all over the floor.

John sighed again. "It's fine. Don't worry about it. Let's just go."

McKay didn't reply.

After a moment, in which he managed to get everything stuffed into his suitcase and shut the lid, Sheppard noticed this fact.

"Rodney? Come on. Don't worry about it. Let's go. We're going to be late as is."

But still McKay didn't reply. In fact, he didn't even move.

He was frozen in a kneeling position and rooted to the floor of John's quarters. He didn't even seem to know John was present.

Sheppard looked at McKay in confusion for a moment, then shrugged and prepared to hit the scientist on the shoulder with a light punch to rouse him from what he figured was some sort of scientific argument that McKay was having in his own head.

Sheppard's blow never landed.

He never needed to get Rodney's attention.

Rodney's attention returned to Sheppard all on its own. McKay jumped up, turned to Sheppard, and looked him dead in the eye.

Sheppard stood a good four inches taller than McKay, and in a fight John would easily win, but if looks could kill, Rodney would have blown John to bits in that moment.

As he stood to face his friend, a rage like Sheppard had never seen in Rodney consumed the blue eyes of the usually pacifist scientist. McKay's body trembled with a barely controlled fury.

It was a few seconds before either man could speak, but finally Rodney's voice broke the silence.

"Where did you get these?"

Sheppard didn't pretend to not know what McKay was talking about.

Two photographs were clutched in a death grip by McKay's left hand.

John couldn't see them clearly through Rodney's fingers, but he didn't have to.

He knew what they were.

He immediately gave the only response he could think of.

"They're from when your sister was kidnapped. The task force gave them to everybody. I guess they never made it back to the Vancouver PD."

McKay didn't buy it. "These are of Madison and Caleb. Madison and Caleb weren't kidnapped. Why would you need pictures of them when only Jeannie was missing?"

Sheppard didn't answer. He suddenly seemed intensely interested in the floor in front of him for a moment, but then his eyes began to dart quickly around the room, looking anywhere but at McKay.

He was looking for an answer, and Rodney knew it.

When none was forthcoming, and the silence in the room seemed to stretch to a breaking point, finally Rodney spoke again. His voice was quiet but filled with emotion.

"John, I want a straight answer here. Where did you get these?"

Sheppard still didn't speak, but after only a second more, his posture straightened and suddenly his eyes snapped up to meet McKay's.

Four eyes met then in a clash of emotion so powerful it nearly overwhelmed both men.

But it didn't. Neither man looked away as a thousand things passed between them.

After what seemed an eternity, Rodney's eyes suddenly widened in realization. A look of horrified shock overwhelmed his features, and John knew that Rodney had put it together.

Rodney knew what John had done with those pictures. He knew that no matter how Sheppard had obtained them, he had done so for only one purpose.

It was another long moment before Rodney gave voice to his thoughts, still without breaking John's gaze.

"You used these against Wallace, didn't you?"

Sheppard responded with only the tiniest shrug. His movements were miniscule, but clear.

McKay finally broke his contact with Sheppard. The intensity of emotion between them shattered like a glass as Rodney digested his friend's seeming nonchalance about his actions.

Rodney didn't move, though, and as his eyes fell downward, they were attracted to the photos in his hand. He opened his palm and stared at them. Little Madison and her father looked up at Rodney with innocent smiles on their faces.

Sheppard watched this out of the corner of his eye. His head was bowed and he seemed to have renewed his interest in the floor, but his eyes kept darting to McKay and wondering what he was thinking.

Would he condemn him?

Would he hate him?

Would he find John's actions so reprehensible as to leave his team?

Or would he somehow accept Sheppard's decisions, even if he didn't agree with them?

John's questions were answered before he had time to even try to apologize to Rodney. His mouth started to move, and a sort of garbled vocal sound started to form in his throat when McKay's hand suddenly clenched shut again.

The photographs folded and crunched in Rodney's grasp, and a slight quiver seemed to run through his body for a second.

Then his eyes snapped upward. He didn't speak, but he found John's eyes again.

And as Sheppard's hazel orbs met Rodney's blue ones, something John Sheppard never expected to see in a million years happened.

Rodney's eyes were like ice.

John couldn't tell what emotion they held.

They were just cold. There was absolutely no movement in them and John would've been hard pressed to say they looked alive. He might have thought they were a painting or a picture if not for the intense emotion running just under the surface of their gaze.

And then it happened.

The ice solidified into something even harder and even more frigid.

John thought it was like seeing steel formed instantaneously.

And then, miraculously, a small smile quirked McKay's lips.

It was the tiniest movement one could imagine, but it was a smile. The right side of McKay's mouth twitched upward marginally, and the steel in his eyes seemed to take on a humorless mirth for a fraction of a second.

And then it was gone.

But it told Sheppard everything he needed to know about Rodney McKay and his thoughts on this matter.

John knew that Rodney accepted what he had done.

And not only did McKay accept Sheppard's deeds, he understood them.

There is, after all, a difference.

Sheppard was still marveling at McKay when the scientist broke the silence between them again.

Rodney nodded ever so slightly and uttered the simplest form of acceptance known to man.

"Ok."

John blinked, not quite understanding.

"Ok?"

Rodney nodded. "Yeah, ok. Let's go."

John blinked again, still disbelieving of the Rodney McKay in front of him.

The one that just picked up his bag and waltzed out of John's quarters as if he didn't have a care in the world.

This one was no scientist.

This one was no geeky little lab rat.

This McKay was a man whose family had been threatened.

A man who could justify any means to keep that family safe.

Sheppard had been somewhat baffled at the fact that Rodney had been willing to sacrifice himself to save his sister based on McKay's past history, but he realized now that he shouldn't have been.

Rodney was a scientist, and he was a geek, and he was a self-absorbed bastard, but when push came to shove, he was also a soldier.

That last bit had come to him the hard way, but it had come. Rodney had been hardened quite a bit by his last few years.

And when pushed to his limits, when the things he loved most in the world were taken from him, he was capable of anything.

Sheppard had suspected it when Rodney made it back to Atlantis hopped up on Wraith juice two years ago, but he hadn't realized things had gone this far. He hadn't known how little he really knew of his friend.

John grinned a little at the thought of Rodney high on enzyme, but it didn't last long.

McKay turned from the hall and looked at him in exasperated irritation.

"You coming or not?"

John shook himself from his internal reverie and nodded. He grabbed his suitcase off the bed and hurried to catch up with Rodney.

The men walked in silence until they reached the gateroom. Nothing was said about their little experience in John's quarters, and neither man commented when Rodney casually dropped the now crumpled photographs into a waste receptacle. As the gate began to dial, however, Rodney spoke quietly under his breath to John without looking at him.

"I didn't know how far you went to get him to agree to it."

John swallowed audibly before he responded. "Yeah, well… I did what I had to do, Rodney."

Three chevrons lit before Rodney answered. "Yeah. You did."

Sheppard squirmed a little. "Look, Rodney, I didn't mean for you to know. I tried to keep you out of it. I didn't want you involved in case things went to hell afterwards."

"I knew that."

John snorted a small laugh. "I guess you'd have to be an idiot to have not seen it."

McKay snorted back. "And since we know that's not the case…"

John laughed out loud. "Man, I walked into that one."

The wormhole whooshed open and John took a step forward. He and Rodney had a presidential luncheon to attend, after all.

McKay stepped forward next to him and spoke just loud enough for Sheppard to hear.

"Yeah, you did. Goes to show you that higher intellect always wins out. But seriously, Sheppard… thanks."

The men were nearly to the gate. John stopped and sent a quick wave to the control room over his shoulder as Rodney stepped through the event horizon, then followed him through the gate.

When both men re-materialized at midway station, one word found its way to McKay's ears.

Before any of the crew of the station could bombard them with questions or set up the next leg of their trip, Sheppard's voice murmured an answer to Rodney's gratitude.

"Anytime."

McKay smiled a half smile to his commanding officer and nodded.

A piece of the steel Sheppard had seen in McKay's eyes earlier returned as he answered.

"Likewise."

And with two words that said volumes, both men stepped into a new wormhole to take them to Earth and whatever awaited them there.

Their friendship was secure, but more importantly their sixes were covered.

By any means necessary.