danceswithgary: (McShep - Talk to Me)
[personal profile] danceswithgary
Title: Slotting Into Place
Author: danceswithgary

Pairing(s): McKay/Sheppard

Rating: PG (pre-slash)

Warnings: None
Word Count: 3091

Summary: A chance meeting, a chance at another life.
Author's Notes: I've always been fascinated by what-ifs. This is a crossover AU of SG-1's 'Moebius' and SGA's 'Vegas'. Written for 2011 McShep Match - Team McKay - Prompt: No Quarter

If you'd asked him a week ago about lucky pieces, he'd have laughed and said there weren't enough of them in the world to change his luck to good. Tarnished by age, the silver coin barely gleamed under the Nevada sun, its embossed images worn down until they were barely recognizable. Despite its age and the attendant wear and tear, there were enough details left for him to easily determine whether a toss had landed 'heads' or 'tails' against his wrist. Even as he lifted his fingers to peek, he already knew what his decision would be.

He smiled at the confirmation.


"Listen, all I need is a couple of quarters for the meter outside. The per hour rate at the parking garages is bad enough, but the meters in front are sheer extortion when one of your best customers is just trying to eat and run."

At his usual table near the window, John couldn't hear the response from Melanie, the young woman behind the register, but the loud customer in the blue 'Mr. Fantastic' t-shirt made it clear he definitely wasn't satisfied.

"If I wait for you to close and walk back to your office for change, I'll end up with a parking ticket. Here, you've at least got two quarters, right? Great, then just take this and hurry. Come on, come on.... Gee, thanks. I'll just explain to the nice meter maid that I was stuck in an Asian buffet explaining elementary math, shall I? I'm telling you that if your lemon chicken wasn't so good, I'd...."

The grumbling faded away as Mr. Fantastic stomped out the door. John shook his head as he got up, leaving the remainder of his meal behind since doggie bags weren't offered at the buffet. Melanie was taking a quick break, saying she'd bring back change, so John had to deal with some new guy taking her place at the register. A little disgruntled at his lost chance for some friendly flirting, John wasn't pleased when the new guy tried a squeeze play, claiming he didn't have enough change for John's five, hoping John would say 'keep it' like he sometimes did with Melanie. Leaning over the counter to check the till, John pointed to the half dollar that Mr. Fantastic had apparently exchanged for the last two quarters.

"That'll do nicely, thanks."

Heading over the change with a scowl, the cashier slammed the till shut and gritted out, "Have a nice night, sir," before turning to the next customer in line.

John smirked and pocketed his change, but not before noticing it was an old silver piece instead of the cheaper clad, which was likely why the cashier was pissed - he'd probably thought he could grab it and make something on a trade. With a shrug, John headed for the only slot machine he played, the old-fashioned one-armed bandit a few feet inside the door. Unfortunately, it only accepted quarters, and the half dollar was all he had. Touching the side of the machine for luck anyway, John started for the door only to hear the familiar ka-chang of the machine's handle followed by a heart-sinking cascade of sliding clangs as the customer behind him hit the jackpot.

"It figures," John muttered as he kept going, refusing to look back, not wanting to see the total won by the squealing woman. He really didn't want to know what he'd just missed by one quarter because someone else had needed change, especially since his rent was overdue and he was tired of eating at the same place everyday so he could take advantage of the casino employee discount at the Golden Palace Chinese Buffet.

As he emerged from the brightly lit, 24-hour restaurant, the night air made John shiver, even though he'd switched from arctic-like air-conditioning to the low nineties - not the reverse. Nevertheless, John's rumpled blazer stayed on, the better to conceal the Glock he carried for his job, the gun he'd yet to take out of its holster except for cleaning. The GoldDust was less than a ten-minute walk away - five if John picked up his pace - but he was always content taking his time and enjoying the relative quiet before he walked onto the floor to be assailed by the dull roar of slot machines, dealers, and hundreds of people looking to win something for next-to-nothing.


A blood-warm breeze swirled around John, rearranging his cowlicks and tugging at his collar, then scurried on to raise little dust devils on the pavement. Out of habit born from many years spent in foreign lands, John glanced up at the night sky, but there were no stars to navigate by, their light too faint to shine through the neon aurora. When his gaze returned to Earth, he picked out an odd glint on the ground under a streetlight, just a few feet from an expired parking meter, which happened to be standing next to a dark late-model sedan. When John walked close enough to make out a quarter, a tingle - the intuitive frisson that he used to rely on too many months past in matters of life and death - raised the hairs on the back of his neck.

Rubbing at the prickle with one hand while he scouted ahead for brewing trouble, John caught an angry murmur in an alley a few yards ahead. As he approached at a fast trot, one voice rose to a shout.

"Just shut up and hand it over, man!"

"I'm just saying that you should try thinking for a change, you morons, although your career choice seems to indicate there's little chance of that happening. I've already given you all the cash I had. If you walk off with my wallet, you'll never be able to use any the credit cards before I have them cancelled. Ergo, why don't you just take what you have and leave?"

"Oh yeah? Well, we'll just take it anyway after we make sure you ain't around to do any of that canceling! Down him, Joey!"

On hearing the hoarse cry of pain that followed, John's years of training and field experience emerged from hibernation. Popping the snap on his holster, John drew his gun before moving closer to the side of the building a few feet before the alley. He crossed the remaining distance in a slight crouch, peered around the corner to assess the situation, and then stepped into the open, covering the three men visible in the alley with his gun.

"Okay, drop the knife and step back. Both of you!" John gestured at two young men, one who'd been directing the action and another who'd been kicking a third man on the ground. The thugs obeyed his order to a degree. After freezing at the sight of the gun, they did step back, but then they turned and ran down the opposite end of the dim-lit space, both disappearing from John's sight in seconds.

The man they left behind uncurled with a groaned, "God, what the hell took you so long?"

Considering the timing and the abandoned quarter, John wasn't surprised to find he'd rescued the loud, change-stealing guy from the restaurant. Personally, he thought Mr. Fantastic had been pretty damn lucky that John had been walking by at the right time, but John was willing to give him a break since he'd ended up paying for his rudeness in bruises, if not worse. Shrugging, he offered the downed man his hand. "C'mon, buddy. I'll help you up, if you think you're okay to stand...and you're welcome."

"Right, sorry about that." With a nod and another groan, the other man stood but, instead of releasing John's hand after regaining his feet, Mr. Fantastic shook it in a combined apology and introduction. "Thank you, I truly do appreciate your relatively timely arrival. I'm Dr. Rodney McKay. Not medical, which might have proved handy right now. My doctorates are in astrophysics, applied mathematics, and mechanical engineering."

A little dazed by the information overload, John squeezed gently before releasing his grip in order to holster his gun. "John Sheppard." Nodding at the arm McKay had kept wrapped across his abdomen, he asked in concern, "You sure you're okay there?"

McKay shook his head. "Not really. I suspect I have a couple of cracked or broken ribs, if not internal bleeding." Gingerly touching the bloody scrape on the right side of his face, McKay grimaced and then asked, "So where's your partner...and when does the ambulance get here?"

For a moment, John wondered how the other man knew John was gay and why he assumed John was in a relationship, then he realized that McKay thought John was a cop. "Don't have one. I work security at The GoldDust, just up the street."

"So no ambulance then?" When John shook his head, McKay frowned. "Not that I don't appreciate you playing white knight to the rescue before I ended up with extraneous holes or serious damage to one of the finest brains of this generation and quite possibly the next, but wouldn't it have made sense to dial 911 for some backup first?"

"Sorry, but I didn't have a phone handy, and it sounded like you were running out of time."

"Well, thankfully one of us was thinking." Abandoning his critical injuries, McKay raised his left arm and displayed his oversized wristwatch, tapping one of the many buttons adorning the edges. "Panic button. Designed it myself. When depressed twice with a three second period, which I did before I was shoved into this alley, it sends a continuous distress signal with my current GPS coordinates." Lowering his arm with a wince, he then beamed with ill-concealed pride as he boasted, "President Kinsey and several members of the Cabinet, as well as the Canadian Prime Minister wear them. Of course, theirs are missing the prototype functionality I've incorporated into mine."

Although he was curious as to what those extras did, John herded McKay toward the better light of the street before airing his doubts. "That's cool as long as you can get to the button. What happens if someone grabs the watch and leaves right after stabbing or shooting you? Seems like the police and ambulance would end up chasing them instead of saving you."

Before McKay could refute John's point it became moot. A whooping burst of sirens was followed by the screech of tires and cops who bolted from their cars with their guns at the ready.


Despite McKay's increasingly obnoxious protests, John's gun was taken during a thorough pat-down with his hands planted against the nearest wall. John then had to explain why he was carrying the gun, which required his permit for a concealed weapon and his employee ID, both of which were carefully verified via police radio before he was allowed to turn around, return his unfired gun to his holster, and shake his jacket back in place.

Surprisingly, after all his complaints about pain and the potential for serious complications, McKay refused an ambulance ride to the nearest hospital, instead preferring to lean against his car to wait while John's claims were checked out. McKay's reasoning was that he wanted to 'finish all the rigamarole at the police station' before settling down with the pain reliever of his choice, and that he was perfectly capable of driving there himself since his head was the only part of his body without significant damage. Resigning himself to the delay - and the associated loss of pay - John asked to borrow someone's phone so he could call into work. McKay handed his over without a word, waiting until John finished his call to offer a ride to the station.

John accepted, thinking it was the least McKay could do after John saved his ass. McKay then handed over his keys and settled into the passenger seat so that he could talk all the way to the police station without saying anything important. John listened in mild amazement as he drove, waiting for McKay to ask certain questions, not sure whether he'd answer.

Those questions never materialized, not even during the three long hours John spent clicking through mug shots while listening to McKay rattle on about the waste of time, the bad coffee, inefficient government practices, and a range of other topics, concluding with a complaint about the military escort that arrived to bustle McKay back to his top secret lab.

Fortunately for John's paycheck - and continued employment - he struck gold fast after McKay left, picking out the two muggers in time to take a cab back to The GoldDust and finish up the last six hours of his ten-hour shift. Oddly enough, all of the activity left John feeling more alert than he had in months, as though he'd finally roused from a drugged haze. It was late afternoon when he finally drifted to sleep without his usual nightmares, his dreams softened by the memory of a rescue that hadn't failed, a non-stop mouth with the brains to back it up, and the honest gratitude in a pair of very blue eyes.


Two days after the mugging, when John arrived at work, he was called into the office, reminded that they weren't an answering service, and handed a message asking him to call the LVPD. Puzzled as to why they hadn't called his apartment, John borrowed the office phone and returned the call, earning another frown from the secretary. The detective who answered was quite pleasant and asked when John would be available for an interview, instead of expecting him to drop everything and come down to the station immediately. It wasn't until John asked the detective whether he could answer any questions over the phone that he found out it was a job interview.

At first, John wasn't sure that he'd show up at the interview, having already endured more than his share of last-minute refusals when the subject of his dishonorable discharge was brought up. Unable to defend himself without revealing classified information, he'd drifted aimlessly across the country until he hit Las Vegas. In a town where nearly everyone gambled, the owner of The GoldDust took one, claiming his only concern was whether or not John had any convictions that would prevent him from obtaining a permit for a concealed weapon.

An hour before the interview, still unable to reach a decision, John gave up and flipped the half-dollar, letting the coin choose for him.


Relaxing after another long night spent walking the casino floor, John dozed in the early morning sun and heat, enjoying the postage stamp-sized balcony that was his for at least another month, the rent finally covered by a lucrative night at the poker table. When the phone interrupted his pleasant nap he almost ignored it but, by the third annoying ring, he was back on his tired feet and heading inside. Picking up the cordless with a grimace, John hoped he wasn't going to be called in to cover another second shift, his third since he'd given two weeks notice. "Yeah?"

"Is this John Sheppard?"


"Oh. Uh, good. This is Doctor...I mean this is Rodney McKay. I'm hoping you remember the name. You saved me from a mugging last week?"

"Yeah, I remember you all right." John fell into flirting mode without thinking, but when he realized it, he wasn't willing to backpedal...too much. "You're kind of unforgettable, Mr. Fantastic."

"Mr. Fan...oh, right. The t-shirt, which is unfortunately no longer wearable due to bloodstains."

John spared a brief moment to mourn the vividly colored shirt that had enhanced McKay's blue eyes - even under the unflattering fluorescent lights of the police station - before a niggling suspicion intruded. "Hey, how'd you get this number anyway? It's unlisted, at least I thought it was."

"The police. So, I was wondering...."

"They just handed out my phone number. To you."

"Well, from their records. Anyway, as I was saying...."

John rolled his eyes - despite the lack of an audience - but he had to admit he was having fun with the interruption game. "Let me guess. You hacked the police department's database."

"Hello, genius. It was either that or the telephone company's, and police records generally contain additional useful information."

Recalling the deference paid McKay the night of the mugging, John had convinced himself that the scientist had somehow influenced the LVPD into hiring him. After listening to McKay's casual confession of illegal actions, John was no longer quite so certain. "So, it's something you've done more than once."

"Let's just say my job has required certain skills over the years. But that's not why I called, Sheppard. I'm in town most weekends because Groom Lake lacks quite a few, shall we say, amenities, and I'd like to take you to dinner sometime to say 'thanks for keeping my genius brain intact' and I was thinking someplace nicer than the Golden Palace, although I still say it has the best lemon chicken in town. I was thinking more along the lines of steak and lobster in a real restaurant, like a date. Oh, uh, maybe not exactly a date...I...unless you want then it could be a date. I'm good either way. So what do you think, Sheppard? You can choose time, of course."

The long drawn-out sentences with barely a breath between made John smile and, before McKay was half-done with his babbled invitation, John pulled out the half-dollar, the one that he'd decided was lucky. He was already aware that McKay could be loud and rude, but John had also detected more than a trace of vulnerability and humor in a damn smart, fairly good-looking package, not that John could claim to be much of a prize himself. Walking back outside with the cordless phone, John studied the coin again, wondering if it was too soon to take another chance.

If you'd asked him a week ago about lucky pieces, he'd have laughed and said there weren't enough of them in the world to change his luck to good. Tarnished by age, the silver coin barely gleamed under the Nevada sun, its embossed images worn down until they were barely recognizable. Despite its age and the attendant wear and tear, there were enough details left for him to easily determine whether a toss landed 'heads' or 'tails' against his wrist. Even as he lifted his fingers to peek, he already knew what his decision would be.

He smiled at the confirmation.

$$The End$$

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