Author: Rusty Armour
Character: McKay, O'Neill, Sheppard
Summary: While visiting Atlantis, O'Neill learns that respect is something that definitely has to be earned.
Word Count: 1,972
Spoilers: Rising, Critical Mass, McKay and Mrs. Miller, The Return, Tao of Rodney, Adrift, Lifeline, Reunion
Disclaimer: Thou Shalt Not Steal. Even in the interest of fic. Most of these characters aren't mine. I, uh, borrowed them. Yeah.
Author's Note: After re-watching "The Return," I was struck once again by the fact that O'Neill seemed disrespectful of both McKay and his abilities. While I realize O'Neill was probably joking when he told Weir that she should bring Carter next time instead, it still sounded a bit mean. Anyway, after the episode, I had this overwhelming urge to read a story in which this issue was addressed. However, after a long fruitless search, I had come up with precious little in the way of fic. That was when I decided to take a stab at writing something myself.
This story is set shortly after "Reunion".
When O'Neill and McKay reached the jumper bay, they found Sheppard sitting against one of the puddle-jumpers, throwing a tennis ball against the wall. He stood up as soon as he heard footsteps, staring at O'Neill and McKay in surprise.
"I need to borrow a puddle-jumper," O'Neill said. "I'm taking McKay on a little trip to Earth."
Sheppard almost blanched. "But I thought he was just quitting the team! He didn't say anything about leaving Atlantis!"
O'Neill lifted his hands placatingly. "Whoa. Calm down, Sheppard. He's coming back." He glanced at McKay for affirmation, but McKay was staring fixedly at the ground. O'Neill sighed. "His niece is sick, so he wants to call to check up on her."
"Madison's sick?" Sheppard grasped McKay by the shoulders, and McKay was forced to look at him. "Why didn't you tell me?"
McKay shrugged. "There was that thing with the snake, and-and you were a jerk, and I was pissed off at you, and then I was off the team."
"Rodney, I don't care if Atlantis is crashing down around our ears: if something is wrong with Madison, Jeanie or Kaleb, you tell me." Sheppard smiled and gently smacked McKay on the forehead. "Well, if you're going to Earth by puddle-jumper, you're going to need a pilot."
"He's got a pilot," O'Neill said. "Me."
Sheppard's hands dropped from McKay's shoulders. "With all due respect, sir, I think I should fly the puddle-jumper."
O'Neill raised an eyebrow. "Oh, and why is that, Colonel?"
Sheppard didn't back down. "I have more experience flying puddle-jumpers than you do, sir."
"Then maybe it's time I got in some more practice," O'Neill said.
Sheppard sighed. "Sir, you could practise your piloting skills just as easily in the Pegasus Galaxy, but flying to the Midway Space Station…"
O'Neill cupped a hand to his ear. "I'm sorry, but could you repeat that? For one crazy second, I thought you said you didn't think I could fly a puddle-jumper to the Midway Space Station."
Sheppard opened his mouth to answer then whirled around when he heard the familiar sound of a puddle-jumper engine.
"Are you guys coming or not, eh?" McKay called from the cockpit.
O'Neill and Sheppard exchanged a quick glance then ran through the jumper hatch.
In the end, O'Neill got to fly the jumper because he outranked Sheppard and the phone was in his office. However, as he was in a fairly generous mood, he said he would consider letting Sheppard fly the jumper back to Atlantis.
"Well, I'm sure you'd like some privacy," O'Neill said to McKay once they were all standing in his office.
McKay looked positively panic-stricken. "You're-you're leaving me? But what if-if…"
Sheppard patted McKay's back. "Of course we're not leaving. We'll stay as long as you like." He gazed at O'Neill pleadingly, and O'Neill nodded.
"Sure. What the hell." O'Neill took McKay by the elbow and guided him to the chair behind his desk. "You might as well be comfortable," he explained when McKay stared at him questioningly.
"Uh, thanks," McKay said. Then he started dialling his sister's number. O'Neill was surprised when McKay activated the speakerphone, and a woman's voice filtered into the room.
McKay's lips twitched into a smile. "Hi, Jeanie."
"Mer?" the voice asked, sounding groggy. "What time is it?"
"I have no idea," McKay said. "Uh, did I wake you?"
"Kind of. I guess I dozed off. Could you hold on for a second?"
McKay nodded, even though Jeanie couldn't see him. "Yes, of course."
About a minute later, Jeanie returned to the phone. "Sorry about that. I just wanted to check on Madison."
"Ah, yes," McKay said. "That's why I called. I was wondering if, uh, Madison's okay." McKay was clutching the desk in a white-knuckled grip, and O'Neill could see that Sheppard was holding his breath.
"Oh my God! Mer, I'm so sorry! I meant to email you! Yes, Maddy should be fine. She's got scarlet fever, but the doctor put her on antibiotics and says she should be better in a couple of days."
Sheppard heaved a sigh of relief, but McKay was still gripping the desk.
"Scarlet fever?" McKay said. "But haven't kids died from that?"
Jeanie laughed. "Yeah, like, a hundred years ago."
McKay glared at the phone. "But you were freaking out. I know you were. It may have just been through email, but I could still tell."
"Well, yes, of course I was freaking out," Jeanie said. "She's my daughter."
McKay shook his head. "No, you were really freaking out. Mom never used to act like that when one of us got sick."
There was a pause on the other end of the phone. "Mer, that was because Mom was a bitch."
McKay looked at O'Neill and Sheppard and blushed. "Oh. Right."
"Where are you calling from?" Jeanie asked. "Are you back on Earth?"
O'Neill shot a stunned look at the phone, but then Sheppard leaned towards him and said, "It's okay. Jeanie's got clearance."
"Mer, is someone there with you?" Jeanie asked. "I thought I heard a voice in the background."
McKay smiled at the phone nervously. "I'm here with General O'Neill and Sheppard."
There was an even longer pause on the other end this time before Jeanie said, "Please tell me you're not on speakerphone."
McKay put his head in his hands and groaned.
O'Neill turned to Sheppard quickly. "Did she just call him Meredith?"
Sheppard grinned. "Yep. That's his name."
O'Neill whistled. "Wow. His mom really was a bitch."
"Mer, are you still there?" Jeanie asked.
McKay lifted his head from his hands. "Yeah, I'm still here. So's General O'Neill and Sheppard."
"Good," Jeanie said. "Put them on. I want to talk to them."
Sheppard stepped forward. "Hi, Jeanie. It's great to hear your voice. I'm glad Madison's going to be okay. I was really worried about her."
"That's really sweet," Jeanie said. "Thanks, John."
McKay rolled his eyes, and O'Neill thought he heard him mutter "Kirk".
"Where are you guys calling from?" Jeanie asked. "Mer never told me."
O'Neill leaned towards the phone. "My office, ma'am."
"Oh, you must be General O'Neill," Jeanie said.
O'Neill smiled. "Yes, ma'am. It's a pleasure to meet you, uh, phone-to-phone."
Jeanie laughed. "It's a pleasure to meet you too, General," she said. "I'm not exactly sure what's going on, but I appreciate you letting my brother use your phone."
O'Neill looked at McKay, who appeared to find the stapler on the desk absolutely fascinating. "It was no trouble, ma'am. I knew your brother was worried about his niece, and, hey, the trip to Earth gave me a good excuse to fly a puddle-jumper." He smirked at Sheppard then froze when he realized what he'd just said. "Uh, you know about puddle-jumpers, right?"
"Uh, yes," Jeanie said. "It's one of the first things I saw on-I'm sorry, but did you just say that you flew to Earth so my brother could call me?"
"Well, yes. I knew it was important, and coming to Earth to make a phone call seemed like the best solution."
There was silence on Jeanie's end until McKay spoke hesitantly into the phone's speaker. "Jeanie? Are you still there?"
"I can't believe you travelled all the way to Earth just so you could check on Madison," Jeanie said, sounding choked up.
McKay tilted his head, looking puzzled. "It didn't take long to get here. We used that intergalactic gate bridge I was telling you about."
"Mer, you called to check on Maddy. That's just about the nicest thing you've ever done." Jeanie sniffed loudly and blew her nose.
McKay grimaced, but his eyes were suspiciously shiny. "No, the nicest thing I've ever done was not to tell you that you were adopted."
Jeanie either ignored him, or his words didn't register, because the next thing she said was, "I'm going to get Madison."
"What?" McKay gasped. "No! She's sick. Shouldn't she be sleeping?"
Jeanie suddenly sounded tired again. "God, I wish. Last time I looked in on her, she was whacking her teddy bear against the wall."
"But--" McKay squeaked.
"I'll go get her," Jeanie said. She set the phone down, and the three men were treated to another long pause, made tenser by McKay's anxious fidgeting. Then a raspy little voice came through the phone's speaker.
"Hello?" it said. "Uncle Mer? I'm sick."
McKay was frowning at the phone in concern. "Yes, you certainly sound like it. Is your throat really sore?"
"Yes, but Mommy gave me antbotics." Madison coughed, and O'Neill was glad she couldn't see McKay wince at the sound. "Uncle Mer, are you going to give me a present? You have to give me a present because I'm sick. It's the rule."
McKay snorted. "Oh, it is, is it? Well, what do you want?"
Madison answered without hesitation. "I want a horse that changes colour, just like the one in The Wizard of Oz."
McKay stared at the phone in disbelief then shook his head. "How about a Barbie?"
"Okay," Madison said. "Could you get me a Let's Dance Princess Genevieve Barbie?"
McKay almost shuddered. "If I have to."
"It's the Barbie I want most in the whole world." Madison sounded so serious, that O'Neill had to bite his cheek to keep from laughing.
McKay sighed. "I'll have one sent to you, all right?"
"Yay!" Madison said. Then she started coughing again.
"Uh, maybe you should go back to bed," McKay suggested, once the coughing had subsided.
"Okay," Madison said. "Love you."
McKay gaped at the phone for a moment before he could get his jaws to work. "Oh, I…I love you too."
Madison giggled. "Bye, Uncle Mer."
"Bye, Madison." McKay continued to stare at the phone even after his niece had hung up. Then, remembering where he was, he blushed and cleared his throat. "Well, we should probably be getting back to Atlantis."
Sheppard was grinning. "But, Uncle Mer, what about the Let's Dance Princess Genevieve Barbie?"
McKay glared at him. "I'll ask someone to pick one up for me." He thought about it for an instant then snapped his fingers. "Bill. I'll get Bill to do it. He has kids, so he'll know where to look, and-and I can give him the latest World of Warcraft cheat codes in exchange."
"He probably already has them," O'Neill said, "though I'm sure he'd love an excuse to visit Toys 'R' Us, even without the cheat codes."
Sheppard pouted. "But I wanted to go to Toys 'R' Us."
McKay stared at Sheppard incredulously. "Why? To pick up a G.I. Joe?"
Sheppard crossed his arms. "No. As a matter of fact, I was going to get something for Madison."
"Oh. Well, that's very, uh…" McKay trailed off, looking sheepish.
Sheppard took pity on him. "Unfortunately, there's one significant drawback to my plan," he said. "I forgot to bring my wallet. I'm guessing you forgot yours too, Uncle Mer."
O'Neill smiled and shook his head. "I can't take you two anywhere." He reached into his back pocket and pulled out his own wallet. "You guys can pay me back, but we're grabbing something to eat first. I'm starving."
"Oh, me too," McKay said.
Sheppard rolled his eyes. "You're always hungry."
McKay shrugged. "Yeah? So?"
Sheppard shook his head. "I'm going to hit the restroom. I'll meet you at the elevators."
McKay rose from O'Neill's desk. "He probably just wants to check his hair."
O'Neill ran a hand through his own hair. "Well, some flyboys have to work harder at it than others."
That earned a startled laugh from McKay. "Yeah, I guess so." He stood in front of O'Neill, clasping his hands nervously. "Uh, I just wanted to thank you for, well, everything."
O'Neill grinned and slapped McKay on the back. "You're welcome, Rodney."