Author Note: Written for the atlantis_9to5 Comm-a-thon:
The One at the Luxury Hotel Resort:
Elizabeth Weir: Hotel Manager
John Sheppard: Casino Security Guard
Rodney McKay: Housekeeping Supervisor or Chief Maintenance Engineer
Ronon Dex & Radek Zelenka: Bellhop
Teyla Emmagen: Front Desk Representative
There were only so many times Rodney McKay could explain to Elizabeth Weir that the reason the resort's computer system kept crashing was that it was old. John Glenn old. In desperate need of replacement. Something from the current century, preferably.
She just kept smiling and said, 'Well, whenever you have the time, Rodney.'
He never had the time. If it wasn't the computers, it was the hot water in the entire east wing, or the electronic slot machines in the casino, or some idiot was incapable of getting into their room. Rodney was only one man, a fact that seemed to continually escape Elizabeth.
Of course, he had a team of engineers and low-level technicians he could delegate to, but even though he hand-picked them, he was convinced they were only going to screw up and felt better when he tackled the problem himself.
'Rodney?' It was Teyla at the concierge desk, coming in through his earpiece. 'Room 432 is reporting a "geyser" in the bathroom.'
Not to mention that every problem got routed through him first, and usually he thought it was too much of a hassle to track someone down to deal with it. A glorified maintenance man, that was what he was. For a moment, Rodney tasted that tang of bitterness that always filled his mouth when he thought of his abrupt and unfair dismissal from academia.
The funny thing was, Rodney had crawled into this job just when he thought things couldn't get worse - and it turned out to be the best thing that had ever happened to him.
Even if he occasionally needed reminding.
'Rodney? Are you sulking again?'
Rodney bit down on a smile; she was probably watching him from the security monitor.
'No, Teyla. I'll take care of 432. McKay out.'
The theme of the Atlantis Hotel and Casino was 'underwater' - though that excuse didn't go over very well with the sopping wet Minnesota couple whose sink had erupted. Rodney very nearly told them that to avoid such incidents in the future, the man should keep an eye on his receding hairline and the drain, but a few harsh lessons in customer service kept his mouth shut. He called housekeeping to switch their room, and called Elizabeth to have it comped. She was thrilled.
Though he wasn't himself much of a swimmer (or a sunbather, or a thrillseeker), Rodney's favorite part of the resort was the waterslide, mostly because whoever had designed it was nearly at his level of genius. It almost never required maintenance, and it was aesthetically pleasing to boot. A thirty-foot flume with a waterfall, encased in a green mirrored dome that made everything seem as if it was only a few feet from the ocean floor.
But truly the best thing about it was that the platform moved.
One of the bellhops, Radek, told him that the waterslide cost more to install than the entire casino made in a month, but he was the hotel gossip, and Rodney never took anything he said at face value.
'Whatcha starin' at?'
Rodney turned from the window that showcased the million-dollar water feature, and saw John Sheppard, head of casino security, headed his way with his hands in the pockets of his leather coat. The sidearm he kept 'in case of emergencies' was just barely out of the realm of 'concealed.'
'Just the slide,' Rodney replied, looking down at his own uniform - a blue polyester jumpsuit with the Atlantis trident insignia on the shoulder. Sheppard's leather jacket had a matching patch on its sleeve, but he blended in better with the crowd. Then again, that was Sheppard's natural talent, and Rodney, blue jumpsuit or no, had never got the hang of it.
Plus, his toolbelt clanked, which made stealth pretty difficult.
'New gadget?' Sheppard asked, raising an eyebrow in the direction of Rodney's crotch.
Rodney flushed, and pulled the silver water pressure gauge from its clip. It was one of his own designs, and he was pretty proud of it. 'For plumbing problems. Fat load of good it did me this morning, though. 432 erupted. I'm going to have to have a word with the contractor again.'
Sheppard was smiling in that indulgent way of his, like Rodney was a child, or an overly-enthusiastic dog. Rodney sometimes thought Sheppard wanted to pat him on the head.
'Lunch?' said Sheppard. He sounded eager; tourists were starting to stare. 'I'm not on duty until four.'
'I deserve a break after what I've been through today,' agreed Rodney. He still hadn't really adjusted to the fact that even though every person in Atlantis would cut off an arm, or put up a day's worth of chips just to be in John Sheppard's presence, John Sheppard actually wanted to spend time with him. 'But an actual sit-down restaurant - no hot dogs. Let me just change into street clothes.'
Sheppard grinned. They both pulled in decent money, and somehow always managed to eat lunch from some kind of cart or stand.
'Gotta admit,' he drawled, and started walking, tugging on one of Rodney's belt loops so that the engineer was forced to follow, jangling, 'I kind of like always knowing when you're coming. Better than a bell around your neck.'
Elizabeth had some weird ideas about management. She was big on team bonding, and building a family, and her first act as manager was to restock the aquarium.
To call it an aquarium was an insult, really. It was so much more than a fish tank, it was like something out of Sea World - which was where Radek said she hired the designer and the ichthyologist. The aquarium took the place of one entire wall, almost half the length of a football field, and probably could have housed a whale if Greenpeace would have allowed it.
After Elizabeth chose the seascape, she made every employee in the resort pick out a fish to put in it. Rodney had tried to point out that employees were going to constantly come and go, and she wouldn't expect the fish guy to dive around in there and find the specific swimmer assigned to the unfortunate ex-employee, would she?
Elizabeth pointed out that there was plenty of room, and that fish weren't exactly known for their long lifespans. Then she made him pick one.
Rodney, who was only interested in fish if it was on a plate, let Sheppard pick his, and ended up with a pufferfish as a namesake.
'It just reminded me of you,' Sheppard said by way of explanation. 'It was that or a crab, and they're not suited to a tropical tank.' He chose a marine comet fish for himself, and, after looking it up on the internet, Rodney couldn't help being even more drawn to enigmatic chief of security.
Teyla chose a beautiful angelfish, Ronon - head bellhop and Rodney's go-to man for heavy lifting - selected a lionfish, while Radek went for the clownfish, and Elizabeth surprised them all by picking a seahorse.
'I always wanted a pony,' she managed to say with a straight face when Radek asked.
Rodney needed something heavy from a high shelf, so he went looking for Ronon. He was over by the aquarium, talking with Sheppard, though whatever he had to say, Sheppard didn't seem happy to hear it. The words, '...just go for it,' were heard under the muffle of hotel guests and gamblers wandering about, scuffing up his recently buffed floors.
When they saw him approach, Ronon slapped Sheppard on the back and stepped away.
'What do you need, McKay?' Ronon asked. He gave Sheppard a significant look. Unfortunately the significance went straight past Rodney.
'Box full of spare parts for the boiler, in storage,' said Rodney without really looking up from the to-do list on his PDA. 'Thanks.'
Ronon rolled his eyes, but walked off in the direction of the storage locker anyway. Sheppard was staring into the tank.
'Any sign of John Jr.?' Rodney asked.
'Nah, he's hiding,' said Sheppard. He turned towards Rodney. 'Can you do me a favor? I think I've got a cheat at table 5, and you're usually good at spotting them.'
'Well, I only have everything else to do in the world,' Rodney sighed, glancing at his list, 'but I suppose I could offer my assistance. What do I get out of this?'
'The satisfaction of having helped a friend in need?'
Rodney snorted, and John shook his head. 'Yeah, I didn't think so. How about I buy you dinner?'
'Okay, Sheppard, you're on.'
'Ante up,' said Teyla, holding her cards in a perfect fan. She had on a silly plastic green visor; Rodney had no idea where she'd come up with that. That was Teyla though; she had a tendency to adopt all aspects of American culture that she saw on TV. Rodney had made John promise never to take her to a Green Bay Packers game or she'd come back with a Cheese hat.
They were having their weekly poker game in the boiler room, a location chosen, Sheppard claimed, for its ambiance, but really, Rodney thought, because there weren't any security cameras.
'Are we playing for cash or for clothes this week?' asked Sheppard.
'I have better idea,' said Radek, who had been banned from the game for a month after sweeping both the cash and the clothes. No one liked being naked and broke in the same room as a grinning Czech. 'Let us play for secrets.'
'What?' said Rodney, who was wearing about four layers of clothing, and sweating to death in his seat next to the boiler.
'Whoever wins each hand picks another person,' Radek explained, 'and gets to ask that person a question, which must be answered truthfully.'
'We're not junior high school girls, Zelenka,' Rodney retorted, but the others thought it sounded like fun, even Ronon, so Rodney was outnumbered.
Sheppard won the first round, and asked Teyla if she'd ever stolen anything. Teyla smiled and said, 'Only a few hearts.'
Rodney rolled his eyes, and Ronon dealt the cards. Teyla took the next hand and returned the favor. Sheppard admitted to having stolen a record from a shop owner who didn't like his hair-cut. They all had a good laugh over that one.
When Radek won with a straight flush, he looked across the table to Rodney, still sweltering in his sweater, and asked, 'Why did you really leave your teaching job?'
All eyes were on Rodney. He felt like he was under a spotlight. Only Sheppard looked away.
'I - I was accused of plagiarism.' His head fell. 'By one of my students.'
He didn't like having to admit it, but he did like that he didn't have to deny it. The people in this room knew it wasn't true.
'Their loss,' said Sheppard, somewhat roughly. 'Our gain.'
And he smiled.
When Laura Cadman, the head of housekeeping and a former Marine, asked what he was wearing on his date, Rodney realized the entire resort thought he and Sheppard were going out.
'It's not a date,' he protested. 'It's not a date. It's payback. He owed me. It's not a date. Is it?'
Cadman laughed. 'McKay, he offered to buy you dinner. What do you need, flowers and a limo?'
'Oh, crap,' said Rodney. Until that point, he'd hardly given dinner a second thought. Now he was going into full panic mode. 'How did I not know this was a date?'
'Because you're you,' she replied, patting him on the shoulder. 'Don't worry about it. And wear something slutty.'
'If anyone is the girl in this scenario, it's Sheppard,' Rodney snapped. 'So you should be telling him that!'
Then he realized what he was saying, and buried his face in his hands. A date. Sheppard had asked him out and he accepted. Now things were bound to get awkward.
It wasn't that he didn't like Sheppard; he'd have to be a blind Southern Republican not to. It was just that after this 'date', Sheppard was bound to realize Rodney wasn't worth his time, and then their comfortable friendship would be ruined.
Sheppard had suggested Friday night (date night, Rodney realized later), and said they'd meet after their shifts. That gave Rodney only twenty-four hours to find a way out.
Unfortunately, for the first time, his giant brain failed him. He couldn't come up with a single solution that would salvage the situation. He was actually tempted to ask Cadman for advice, but came to his senses.
Over the years various hotels on the strip had tried to win Rodney away from Atlantis. He ignored the money thrown at him because he hadn't started as an engineer for the cash. He was at Atlantis because he found a family there, simple as that. It wasn't his dream job, and he was extremely resentful at first, but over time he couldn't imagine working anywhere else.
And now it was all over. All because he wasn't careful enough. He'd actually allowed himself to get close to people, to get close to Sheppard. He'd let his guard down, and now he'd have to pay the price. Maybe someone else on the strip was hiring.
He was heading towards Elizabeth's office when he heard the shots. His heart stopped, and before he could wrap his brain around it, his feet were pounding toward the casino.
'Excuse me,' he said, pushing his way forward through grandmothers, junkies, college dropouts, and men in shiny business suits. 'Move it. Get out of the way. Move!'
A crowd had gathered; Vegas was extremely good at crowds, and people always gathered when a gun had been fired. Rodney finally squirmed his way into the middle of it, and found John on the floor, bleeding.
'Christ, Sheppard,' he said, falling to his knees. 'This is a pretty extreme measure just to get out of our date, don't you think?'
'I'm fine, Rodney,' Sheppard replied. He peeled off one sleeve of his leather jacket, looked at the hole in his shoulder, and winced. 'Wish I could say the same for my jacket. It's just a flesh wound. Did you say date?'
Ronon had the gunman disarmed on the floor, surrounded by piles of chips he'd evidently tried to steal, and Rodney was willing to bet the bellhop was looking at a promotion.
'Our date,' Rodney babbled, still gripping Sheppard's good arm. 'You know, tonight. Dinner. You and me.'
Rodney watched Sheppard mouth the words 'you and me' and thought he was going into shock from blood loss.
'Where the hell is Carson or Keller?' he demanded, putting pressure on the wound until Sheppard grunted.
'Tell you what, Rodney,' drawled Sheppard, still looking a bit dazed, 'why don't you escort me to the infirmary and then we'll send out for room service.'
Rodney helped him to his feet. The crowd had dispersed, thanks in part to Ronon, who stood over the prone body of the shooter. Rodney gave the nutcase a little kick as he and John passed by.
'You might have to go to the hospital,' Rodney pointed out.
'Nah,' said John. 'Missed all the good bits. A band-aid and some painkillers and I'll be just fine for our "date."'
Rodney completely missed the airquotes, but didn't miss the slightly lecherous look in John's eye - he hoped he wasn't mistaking 'I've just been shot' for 'I want to have sex'. Suddenly all his earlier worries seemed pretty ridiculous. John slipped his hand into Rodney's and when they entered the service elevator, he even rested his head on Rodney's shoulder.
Rodney had the best job in the universe. Now he just had to beef up the security system to make sure nothing like this ever happened again.
He was staring into the aquarium, watching John Jr. swim out from behind a big rock, when he had the epiphany.
'You didn't know it was a date!' Rodney shouted, bursting into the security office. John's lackeys stopped in their tracks; some of them, the one's who'd felt Rodney's wrath before, cowered, but Ronon, in his new leather jacket, just grinned.
'Nope,' said John, leaning back in his chair.
'Then - then why did you -'
John guided Rodney out into the fluorescent lighting of the hallway. 'I'd just been shot, Rodney. I was a little out of it. You called it a date - who was I to argue?'
'Oh.' Rodney licked his lips. 'Any regrets?'
'None,' said John. 'Well, except that I got shot.'
'Right, about that,' said Rodney, finding his equilibrium. 'I wanted to talk to you about the system and ways that we could improve it. Something major had to have malfunctioned to have let someone in with a weapon. I mean, this isn't Texas -'
'Rodney,' said John, who then kissed him to shut him up. 'Wanna play strip poker?'