Spoilers: All of Season 1
A/N: Written for Libra_traveller who requested Rodney started his career as a psychologist to pay for graduate school and, after 6 years as therapist, this was why he isn't sociable. Plus, Elizabeth requests he help Kate Heightmeyer and that all his advice sounds harsh but actually works...
Testing it out on LJ before it gets released to everyone elsewhere... feedback really appreciated on this one. :)
Just to explain, sukiyaki is a communal dish that is prepared as you go along, and for anyone who has no clue, Sake (pronounced Sah-keh) is Japanese alcohol brewed from rice. Thanks for Fanwoman not only for betareading but for helping me out with details like those.
Disclaimer: I am completely unknowledgable about the profession and am aware it's probably completely unlikely any trained professional would act like McKay, but I was writing the challenge as best I could. Characters and their problems may be caricatured, but I'm not seeking to diminish the profession. I apologise if the following fic causes offense, but please bear in mind it's meant to be humourous and all a bit of fun, not serious or representational of reality. It's in many ways AU because of the sheer craziness of the solutions. You were warned, so here goes...
This was why he hadn't told anyone. This was exactly why he despised being sociable. If he actually treated people sympathetically and told them what they needed to hear, then inevitably they'd come back for more. No, thank you! He'd had more than enough in his six years. Six years of being a therapist, not as a calling but as a means to his end – that of being a physicist.
He hadn't left home on good terms with his parents, and where else was he going to get the money for college? You'd have thought he'd be able to get a scholarship, but he’d missed out there and was rather disadvantaged in not being female, some other ethnic group, of a religious persuasion, under 16, left-handed or with bi-colored eyes or whatever angle the benevolent donators had selected for their contribution this time. It seemed like there was a scholarship for everyone except him. He wasn't even orphaned, so he had gotten no benefit for having left his family.
But he had been better off without them. He'd made his own way, working a job with near dirt pay until he could manage to get the psychiatric training. It wasn't something he'd put much thought into, but he was sure, between his family members, he'd seen some of the worst specimens of human nature – surely doling out advice to people who needed some feeble reassurance couldn't be too hard?
And as he recalled now, the advice had never been the hard part. To him, things had seemed obvious; people were never really that good at hiding their emotions. It was like they secretly wanted to you to see; all you had to do was add up all the clues. Observe behaviour and diagnose, then it was mostly simple to treat. The human mind was woefully predictable in this respect. He made more than enough money to set himself up comfortably for college, continuing to work on part time through out the first few years. Eventually, he'd gotten bored and had enough money to satisfy his needs.
It was all on his record, but so far, no one had mentioned it until about a week ago. Either Elizabeth had finally noticed it or she'd finally felt it necessary to use his talents. He'd been put out by this, such a blatant misuse of her powers and the trust he'd placed in her, but then, sometimes, he forgot she was his superior as well as friend. It was just he'd thought she'd know that he couldn’t stand this. If he'd really liked it, he wouldn't have become a physicist instead. It was obviously just a filler job; it wasn't his calling or anything.
But from the first day he'd started 'helping' Kate Heightmeyer, a few days after Elizabeth had first 'suggested' it, it was apparent that he was too talented for his own good.
Kate had given him a funny look when she’d first heard his remarks to Stevens. The astronomer looked like he'd burst into tears, but he didn't. The guy had gathered up his dignity and got right down to the point – 10 minutes later, he'd left with a smile on his face. Even Kate couldn't deny the results. Rodney'd been rather proud to prove her wrong, but it hadn't been such a good idea. He should have given out awful, soppy advice, like doing a chore so badly you didn't ever have to do it again. That had worked pretty well on his mother, but less well when his father found out.
Anyway, it was unfortunate, because he couldn't bring himself to do a job badly. That was why Elizabeth was looking subtly smug, the kind of smug that was difficult to detect but he knew was there, the small quirk of her lips as she looked at him, like she was resisting grinning. It did look rather nice on her, but he was more than frustrated at her using him like this.
He tried to explain why it was a bad idea, but all the evidence – the report by Kate of his work with her – had convinced Elizabeth otherwise, which was how he found himself back there the day after next, and two days after that. He really wanted to stop being so good at it, but it was impossible. Never in his life had he wished for failure.
So he devised a strategy. If he couldn't fail, he'd over achieve. He’d solve everyone's problems, at least momentarily, in record time – maybe then they'd let him get back to the important stuff.
The slight problem with that was that he had to talk to everyone! Even Kavanagh and, scarily, Miko Kusanagi... though that was one person he wasn't sure how to deal with, apart from bursting her bubble of hero-worship by agreeing to a date just so she could see how not so great he was at other things. He didn't like to admit it, but it might be the only way to help her get over him. Ultimately, it wasn't good for anyone for her to be meandering around all moony eyed after him, even if it had its perks, like how she always found a way to bring him his morning and afternoon coffees.
So he got to work, ready for the long weeks ahead of him.
He told the chemist Jones to get lost, so maybe he'd have a chance of finding himself - the man hadn't a clue where he was or what he thought. Jones was so indecisive, Rodney wasn't sure how he made it to appointments on time after the grueling task of breakfast with all of five kinds of egg to choose from. At least what to wear was set out for him, but how troublesome choosing socks must be for the man – blue, black, red? He could just imagine the train of thought that went through the mans’ mind: Blue matched, but he wouldn't want to conform too much; black hid the dirt but might be construed as depressing; on the other hand, red might cause people to actually see red even if it was more inspiring. No wonder he was a chemist, everything was precise and obeyed strict laws. Everything worked as long as you knew about the interactions, which was not true of everyday life, hence the struggle with it for Jones.
Next time Rodney saw him, he at least had developed some backbone, even if there were unfortunate consequences involving silver nitrate and a microscope eye piece. And Cadman hadn't been very happy at the suggestion she should try meddling in her own life for a change, incase she actually achieved something – yet Carson had been much happier since, so he could only conclude she'd stopped dallying around and finally asked the man on a date or whatever she did for fun.
Kate had been rather surprised when he'd closed the door in her face and locked her out of her own office for an hour. She'd stood around banging on the door, and moaning about him to bemused passers by until she'd had enough and subsequently had gone back to her quarters like he'd estimated she would. At which time, part two of the plan had been conducted – the second lock-in – a timer of eight hours before she could possibly leave the room. After all, the whole point of him helping her was that she needed a break; he was just helping her make use of it. Not to mention that one hour spent outside the door was about the most emotional he'd even heard her be - she didn't do enough venting herself.
Katie had been quite mild mannered when he'd seen her, too meek for his liking, reminding him why it hadn't really worked out. She'd liked him, but at the same time, she hadn't cared much when he'd cancelled their third date. She didn’t have enough passion; it was like she accepted almost anything she could get. So he went for the extreme approach. He was quite pleased when he got a slap on the cheek for his completely inappropriate request – no doubt he'd get a reputation for it, but he already had a fairly undesirable temperament, so he seriously doubted it'd make much difference. At least now, she had rejected something and proven that she wasn’t the doormat her behavior so often resembled. Maybe she’d rethink the whole attitude from now on and be a bit more selective and, furthermore, demanding rather than passive.
Sheppard he hadn't relished, but it had to be done – not to mention is had been fun to recite all the references to his Kirk syndrome, despite his dislike for the original series. Kirk was one of the reasons he had never liked it, with his melodramatic delivery of lines and obligatory love interest of the week, as well as the atrocious science. But seeing Sheppard squirm at his lack of defense against the snarkily delivered reasons was good enough, or his face when he stalked into a briefing minus the normally coiffed hair. Rodney had no idea what to do with that amount of spare hairgel; he was considering giving it back after a requisite period of deprivation for Sheppard. At least he'd spared mentioning that a lot of Kirkisms could be interpreted as repressed homosexuality…
Parkins had been difficult; she liked to talk a lot. She liked therapy. She used it as her own personal sounding board, which would have been fine if she had had any problems of her own. So he took away the relish by using a rather devious plan involving the radio controlled clock system. He let her talk for 15 minutes, rushing her along through topics so it seemed like they were covering a lot of ground, and then, right on time – his time – the clock struck the hour and the session was over. To top it off, he congratulated her on the amount of progress they'd managed and told her a few more sessions like this and they might not need one for literally months unless something dire came up. She wasn't smiling when she walked out, and he thought she might just cut back in the future for fear of losing her precious sessions.
Kavanagh he saved until the end run because he needed to build up ammunition for this one. The man was easy to read but hard to crack. Almost nothing had an impact. He didn't take offense; he just launched a defense in response. You couldn't annoy him enough to get to him; it just fueled him further. In fact, Rodney had nothing good enough to use against him. It wasn't like he could bribe the man, either. His methods in dealing with his patients were growing more and more unorthodox, but he was not unethical. Regardless, he couldn't wait until he was released from this, because then he wouldn't be bound by duty to listen to Kavanagh bitch about everyone, including Elizabeth and John, often about the rumours that circulated about the pair. But he'd found rumours circulated about almost everyone, and if you wanted to believe them, Kate was having a torrid affair with Kavanagh, himself.
In the end, he'd found agreeing with the material scientist worked best - not because he wanted conflict but because he knew that Rodney's words didn't match his beliefs. Kavanagh couldn't stand knowing something was the opposite of what appeared and just exploded, reaching an entirely new level of ranting as he fumed over everything instead of just the one frustration that had led to it. This was what guy needed, he complained so much, but he never got it out of his system – there was a core tightly wound inside that built up, so that the stress was never really relieved however much he let loose with his tongue. Rodney just sat back in his chair, nodding at intervals while Kavanagh towered over him frantically trying to list everything that was wrong with the given subjects that he hadn't gotten over. Rodney'd had no any idea he'd come from a distinctly dysfunctional military family, but it certainly explained the man’s ambivalent feelings towards authority.
He saved dealing with Miko Kusanagi until last. He knew exactly what to do, but the prospect was daunting. Plus, he really wasn't sure how to go about it at first. He laid out the groundwork, carefully inquiring about her feelings on fraternization between colleagues, and predictably, found she left that kind of judgment up to the superiors in question. He wasn't too surprised when she took him up on the offer of dinner but hadn't quite expected what he'd walked into that evening. She'd set the table with the ingredients for sukiyaki and decorated her quarters especially, hoping to please his stomach and sense of aesthetics, if nothing else.
It had been nice, sort of warming to think she'd put so much effort in for him, but he'd still gone ahead with the plan because it needed to be done. She couldn't go on deluding herself that he was the greatest man she knew, or would ever know, at least not when he had no interest in her past a possible friendship. So he fumbled with his chopsticks, ate more than his share of the meat, drank sake straight from the serving bottle, talked incessantly about work and himself so as to hardly give her a chance to get a word in edgeways. The strange thing was, she lapped it all up and smiled at his mistakes; she appreciated him more despite everything he thought to do to make it a terrible date. When he'd made it through the meal, he gulped down the last mouthful with a calm dread. Resigned to the fact there was apparently nothing he could to put her off without making it obvious, he switched strategy. Plan B, i.e. the plan that he made up on the fly after the first one had suffered cataclysmic failure.
He turned around suddenly at her footsteps, facing her as she walked back into the living area she'd set out with Athosian mats and a small, exquisitely carved coffee table. She carried a tray on which rested coffee making paraphernalia. Now really wasn't quite the right time for the conversation, but he resisted the temptation that the freshly ground coffee smell incited, and steered her towards the table – forcing her to set the tray down before he broke the 'news'.
“Miko, you've been very... good to me, and as much as I'd like to, I can't pretend that this will work. I can't date you, because...”
Her wide eyes looked up to him from under the even wider, round-framed glasses, and he felt a twist of guilt in his gut. Never the less, he continued, albeit struggling for the best words, the best angle to convince her with. He took a deep breath and came out with it.
“... I can't date you because I'm seeing someone. It's a secret, because... no one would understand, and to be honest, I ... I only agreed to this in order to throw off the scent.”
He waited for her reaction to his oddly stumbled admittance, expecting to be thrown out or slapped once more, like Katie had done. He was more than baffled to have it met with arms thrown around his torso and small body hugging him almost uncomfortably for a minute, but he didn't say a word, worrying he might provoke a more extreme reaction somehow. Finally she looked up at him and spoke.
“Rodney, Dr. McKay I would mean, I am very happy you have found love. It would be an honour to help you keep it a secret. I am so grateful you have entrusted this knowledge to me. I will do my very best to make sure no one guesses the truth.”
He wasn't quite sure who she thought he had meant, but an hour later, after some devilishly good coffee, he had walked out of Miko's quarters feeling pleased that he'd accomplished his mission at last.
All he needed to do was point out his good work to Elizabeth, then politely decline any more involvement in this kind of thing. But that was a job for the morning, after he'd taken advantage of the coffee and gotten some long overdue work done.
“You want me to let you off the hook, don't you?” Elizabeth asked with exasperation.
“Yes,” was all he said, eager to reap the fruits of his work all week and perhaps even get some praise for it, too.
“I agree, you most definitely won't be let anywhere near anyone in a psychiatric capacity.”
No more therapy! Apart from receiving it from Kate... He was about to thank Elizabeth when he realised what she'd actually just said and tried to defend his honor.
“What? What are you saying? I did everyone a favour.”
“Really?” She raised an eyebrow and leant back in her chair, “That's not public opinion.”
“Kate can verify I got results, just read her reports.” he huffed, raising his chin slightly in indignation at the claims against him.
This only made things worse, as Elizabeth swung forward from her previous position, a move that seemed predatory to him. There was no placating her now.
“I did read her reports, and they tend to verify what I've been hearing about your 'methods'. I thought they were exaggerations, but apparently not. I trusted you Rodney, and you let me down.”
“Hang on a minute! I only did this because you forced me to. Not to mention there is nothing wrong with my methods; they're just – unorthodox.” That defense sounded feeble even to his own ears, but he held by it, because it was true.
“You locked Kate out of her office and then in her quarters; you made Lt. Gregors request leave. I’ve also had complaints from Harris, Matterly and Liu. I'm not sure how making people hate you qualifies as professional psychiatric practice.”
“They used to equally hate and fear Kavanagh. Now they hate me and have something to bond over with him. They don't cower in his presence anymore, Elizabeth, which is both good for the science department and for them, personally. It's much better for them to have a problem with me, because, like it or not, they take orders from me and that never changes. They don't have to like me to be able to work, but they do need some semblance of a truce with Kavanagh.”
Elizabeth didn't argue against that. Still, the silence was unnerving when accompanied with her penetrating gaze. It was like she was waiting for him to confess to some horrible sin he couldn't imagine. Mind you, he'd done a lot of stuff to help his patients and, given her general view of it, any one of those things might be the culprit.
“What about professional boundaries? Do they mean anything to you? Because a number of people have been talking this morning, about a certain date last night.”
“With Doctor Kusanagi...” She corrected him and simultaneously trailed off leaving space for him to fill in the details. The look she gave him practically demanded details.
“That was nothing. Really, it was just -”
“Nothing? Is that what you call it?” Her eyes narrowed as she bit back accusingly.
Oh dear. He'd gone a step too far without realising it, and now it was too hard to backtrack without revealing all – so he did, more or less...
“It was part of her therapy,” he stated simply, trying to leave no room for doubt.
She sighed, but she accepted it. “I see – but the rest of the expedition don't know that. You should have been more careful with the way you conducted yourself.”
A thought occurred to him as he processed Elizabeth's behaviour. She had been angry but was now resigned to disappointment in him. She'd swung wildly across the scale on the issue, emotions everywhere – was she jealous? He watched her sigh again as she looked at him and decided there was only one thing for it.
“You know, there was one person I didn't treat – you. And it'd be much better if you could make an informed decision before dismissing my 'methods', don't you think?”
He didn't really think she'd change her mind, nor did he want her to, but in this one instance, if she chose to accept, he thought he could probably put up with playing therapist for a small while longer. And hopefully, he could unravel the mystery of her possible jealousy.
Elizabeth's lips twitched, resisting a smile as she answered.
“I'll have to take your offer into consideration, but for now... I think you should get back to your day job. And a piece of advice - try dating women you're interested in, rather than to prove a point. Just count yourself lucky no one got hurt, this time, and make sure there isn't a next time.”
Considering he'd just been chewed out by Elizabeth he walked out of her office feeling inordinately happy, because he had the distinct feeling this wasn't the end of it, not for them at least. Even if there was the side effect that people throughout the city would go on believing he and Miko were an item for quite some time, that just meant there was a convenient cover to detract from any time he spent with Elizabeth, which he determined to do.
There was always the irony that, when he didn't particularly care about a person, he could tell if they liked him--as was the case with Miko. It was when he did care about a person that his perception got fuzzy, that he couldn't be sure of their feelings or motivations. Not usually at least.
It didn't pay to get it wrong, not with patients and not with relationships, the latter being something he wasn't nearly as good at, given that he was required to be involved rather than maintain the comfortable spectator's view being a therapist offered.
But it was no good worrying about 'what if's – he'd treated enough people to be able to apply that to himself, even if he had trouble actually acting on the advice he gave out. He'd find out one way or another. Besides, practice makes perfect. He had to get the hang of women one of these days. Surely, they couldn't be that difficult to figure out...
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