A/N: First in this series of McKay/Weir friendship (and eventually some UST) fics.
Summary: Pre-rising friendship piece, where Elizabeth recruits Rodney McKay for the expedition.
Spoilers: Season 1 "Rising" and previous McKay SG-1 episodes.
Thanks to Fanwoman & Littleknux for beta.
She yawned and then took a sip of her coffee. Staying up late going over records was taking its toll on her, yet it was necessary. She wanted to deal with this personally. This was her responsibility, and she took it seriously. Each and every candidate was going to be interviewed in person, starting today with the position of Chief of Science.
Flipping open her schedule, she saw first on the list was Dr Rodney McKay for 9am sharp.
She'd been forewarned about this man. Rumour had it he'd slighted Colonel Carter before hitting on her when he'd been temporarily assigned to the SGC, a tradition he'd continued upon his return with something that was bordering on sexual harassment. From everything she'd heard, he was a grade A jerk and arrogant to boot. But those were just rumours, simple gossip that spread like wildfire. She preferred not to judge someone without meeting them herself. Everyone deserved a chance.
And today was the day of reckoning.
He was late. The clock read 9:15. Not that it bothered her too much; it gave her time to relax and finish her coffee. Maybe by the time he arrived she'd actually be able to concentrate.
At 9:30 she felt marginally more awake and had time enough to request another coffee. Her gracious personal assistant hopped off to get one in a hurry, but even when she'd come back, then 9:45, fresh steaming cup of java in hand, there was still no sign of the renowned doctor. Yet Elizabeth gave him the benefit of doubt, thinking of all possibilities, like his plane being late for example.
10:40 and the second candidate was out of the way already. In fact, she'd just finished shaking their hand and sending them off with promise of a quick decision on the matter when he finally appeared: a scruffy looking man standing in the doorway, rapping on the frame hastily before barging in without invitation.
She stood up and tried her best to look annoyed, yet somehow none of this surprised her. Rodney McKay, genius extraordinaire, stood casually waiting there, hands in the pockets of his slacks and head moving round rapidly whilst he scanned his surroundings, glancing over her new office with an appraising eye. His hair seemed recently cut short, but he still had a fluffy beard that looked like it might have taken months to grow; a striking contrast to his photo on file, all fresh faced and bearing some resemblance to an overgrown teenager.
He finally turned to pay attention to her.
“Late am I?” he asked innocently, a smirk teasing at the corners of his mouth.
“Just a little, but I think I can squeeze you in. Take a seat doctor.”
“Don't mind if I do.” he said, slumping into the second chair placed in front of her desk. He wriggled around for a few seconds until apparently comfortable, or as good as he could get, grimacing slightly as he settled down.
She shuffled her papers, composing herself for the interview. This wasn't going to be easy; this would probably be every bit as much a war of wills as the last one had been. She took a deep breath and opened her mouth to start her spiel, but he spoke before she had a chance to.
“So...um, got any coffee? I could kill for some coffee...” he said as he studied the tabletops, already searching for signs of it. Finding none he looked pointedly to her, face quite serious as he added, “Literally.”
She smiled, humouring him, and called Margaret over the intercom to get some more coffee. She noted he gave a small, grateful smile that lasted a second or two before he started talking again, without prompting and completely ignoring that this was meant to be an interview. However, she let him do so because she sensed it was better to work with him rather than resist where he was going with this.
“See, that's the bad thing about flying. Airplane food, great, just fantastic but...” he held up a finger, and she raised an eyebrow at his action, watching him carefully. He shook his head, mouth forming a tight regretful grimace briefly before he continued talking, “...their coffee - no, no, no! Worst in the world.” He waggled his finger, and his face scrunched up in disgust at the idea.
She'd remained silent all through his diatribe, and as Marge scuttled in, she directed the woman to place the coffee on the coaster she'd moved in front of her guest. No sooner had it been put down than he'd already picked it up with a desperate fervor. She watched him gulp it down, rather amused by his alternating behaviour of blowing on the coffee to cool it and taking a mouthful and swishing the hot liquid around before swallowing. When he was finished, he casually put down the cup and looked expectantly at her.
“Down to business then.” she said, taking care to organise her notes and begin where she'd planned.
“You want me,” he said abruptly.
She looked up, eyes narrowing as she tried to work out the meaning of his words.
“Let's not dally around, you want me for some top secret project research position. Am I right?”
“You are correct, though there are other candidates -”
He cut in with, “But no one quite like me.” Then he sat there grinning, gloating at how he had it all worked out.
“After meeting you, I can definitely agree on that,” she replied tensely.
And he did have her there. He knew he was the best, and he wasn't about to let anyone forget that.
“When do I start?” he asked.
This man was so sure of himself, but she didn't find herself hating him for it because, well, he was right. He was the best candidate, and she did want him on the project. She'd be kicking herself if she let him slip through her fingers, yet she didn't think that would happen. She noticed he'd never even asked about money, and he had, at best, only a very vague idea of what he'd be doing, though he did know it would be cutting edge. However much he tried to act like he was doing her a favour, she knew he'd do anything to be there.
“You start as soon as possible. Margaret, my personal assistant, will give you all the necessary details. You'll be Chief of Science at the outpost, and I'll require your help putting together the science team.”
“Wouldn't have it any other way, but... outpost?” he asked, eyes scrunched up slightly as his mouth quirked into a nervous lopsided grin of sudden confusion at the use of the last word.
She looked up from her desk, holding a sheaf of papers. She'd wondered if he'd catch that all too intentional slip of the tongue.
“Yes, like I said, Margaret will go over all the pertinent details, though I do hope you don't mind snow.”
“Snow?” There was some fear in his eyes as they began to dart about, and he looked to be racking his brains for all the possibilities.
“Yes. If we'd dallied around, I'd have given you an overview of the project, but since you were so eager...”
“A little snow doesn't put me off.” He said emphatically, standing up and reaching out for the freshly assembled file she'd just finished putting together for him. He was, of course, presuming it was for him. She felt it wouldn't hurt to give him something more to think upon before handing it over and letting him leave.
She placed the file down, and seeing his concerned gaze at her change of action - possibly double guessing himself – she clasped her hands together and leaned over the desk slightly, pivoting on her elbows. In the solemnest of voices, she said, “How about drinking coffee in Atlantis?”
He seemed a little alarmed at her question. While his explosive response of “What?!” didn't answer her question, it did give her an insight into the man. He obviously hadn't been expecting something quite that surprising for a top secret project.
“That's what we're looking for, Doctor, in Antarctica. Searching for the secrets of the Ancients, for the city of Atlantis.”
She paused, waiting for his answer, hoping he wasn't the kind of man that would be put off by this type of revelation. She needed people with a sense of adventure after all, and if he didn't have it then...
“Right, yes, I'll do my best...”
She smiled, pleased he'd passed the small impromptu test. Maybe his response didn't show someone seeking to expand the boundaries of the known world in quite the way she'd imagined, but he'd step up to the challenge at least.
“I'm sure you will.”
“And of course, my best is better than anyone else’s,” he added as an afterthought.
Her smile grew at that, and she finally handed over the papers he'd been angling for just a few moments ago.
“I have no doubt about that, Dr. McKay, really I don't.”
He bustled at the subtle flattery and took the file from her with the greed of an excited child, ready to learn about their new toy. She hoped Margaret would be able to deal with all his questions and concerns with patience and to his satisfaction. It wasn’t as though she doubted he’d back out of an opportunity like this, no matter what issues came up. She just wanted to keep her personal assistant, if possible, and she wondered if Margaret would come out of the encounter as positively as she had managed with the interview.
“Call me Rodney. We will be working together after all.”
It was an unexpected addition from him, a sudden personal link, one she was rather happy to have this early on. She'd thought him cuttingly professional in conduct, with the exception of harassment of others, which she had read about, but perhaps it all depended on how you treated him. If his response was any measure, she must be doing as well as she assumed.
“Okay then, Rodney. I'll look forward to seeing you, hopefully as soon as possible. I already have a selection of scientists‘ files for you to look through. I'd value your opinion on them, but until then...”
“ See you soon... Elizabeth,” he said as he strode out of the door.
It was a few seconds before she realised what was wrong with his departing line. She had intentionally left her personal name out of all her correspondence; it was a good way of testing the reactions of the men she interviewed, to see how they felt about being under a woman’s authority.
That he knew her name suggested he’d done some research of his own, something that impressed her further and elicited a small thrill that he had actually bothered to relate to her as a person, unlike the formal address she was used to.
He was the second interviewee of the day, but she already knew. Out of everyone she'd see, there’d be no one like him. The man she'd interviewed previously had been just as brash, but he'd adhered to the rules and lacked that subtle charm Dr. McKay had, as well as what lay underneath all the attitude of his. Dr. Kavanagh would be disappointed, no doubt, that he'd been beaten, but she'd made her decision. She hoped she wouldn’t regret it later. But for now, she thought she might enjoy getting to know Rodney McKay. A man of mystery, a walking contradiction, but at least it would be interesting, very interesting indeed.