Etc: Katie Brown, Katie/Rodney, Spoilers for "Sunday" but only if you've already seen it. (If you're the type whose enjoyment of the show is lessened by hearing allusions to a throwaway line...yeah.)
Etc, Etc: Thanks to pentapus for axing the melodrama and to lilac_way and reccea for previewing. This is one of those things that failed at its original intent so it's been relegated to afternoon popcorn.
"Oh, this is a nice picture," Rodney said, too quickly and too loudly as he walked around Katie's quarters. "Definitely yours. I mean. Not your kids. Unless they are. I just meant -- the red hair -- "
"That's me," Katie said, frowning over her reading glasses at her computer screen. If she re-set the spreadsheet to fit the screen, it would be too small to read. She froze the left side frame and tapped over to the blank input column. "And my sister."
"I didn't know you had a sister," Rodney said amiably. "I have a sister. Well, I guess you know that. I guess everyone knows that, since she was here and all."
"Colonel Sheppard introduced us," Katie said, entering her data. "She's very nice."
"Huh. Yes, yes, she is. Everyone likes her."
Katie glanced over her laptop and watched Rodney look longingly at the old photo. "I like you, too," she said.
Rodney smiled, a big, beaming smile, and she liked the way his eyes lit up. "I like you, too," he said automatically, but sincerely. "Hey, maybe sometime, if we're back on Earth at the same time or something, we can go visit your sister. And my sister. It'll be like, a sister visit."
Katie looked down at her test results and reached out to brush her fingertips across the spiky little leaves of the fern she had sitting on her worktable. "Tricia died years and years ago," she said, her heart beating wildly at the thought of spending her leave, her Earth leave with Rodney, and with her family. And his family! "But I'd really like to see Jeannie again."
Minus 6 Months
"It's like a month of freedom," someone said as they passed the botany lab, and by the time Katie wandered out to see what was going on, it was as close to a kaffeeklatch as she'd ever seen on Atlantis, people just sitting around, drinking coffee, eating little Danishes, and gossiping.
"What's going on?" she asked, peering at the red-jelly Danishes on Doctor Lindsay's plate.
"I can't believe you haven't heard," Lindsay said, holding out the plate. Katie shook her head. "McKay went back to Earth."
"Rodney's going back to Earth?" Katie echoed.
"Walked through the wormhole this morning. He'll be back. Someone said something about his sister but it's just some family business. No one died or anything."
"Huh," Katie said, finally taking a Danish off Dr. Lindsay's plate. "I didn't even know he had a sister.
Sure enough, Rodney showed up a month later with a female version of himself in tow. Not that Katie saw him at all, but when Colonel Sheppard said, "Hey, Doctor Brown! This is Rodney's sister, Jeannie," and then, "Jeannie Miller, this is Doctor Kathryn Brown. She's a botanist here on Atlantis," Jeannie smiled at Katie with huge blue eyes and a high forehead and it was almost like Katie knew her.
"Wow, it's really nice to meet you," Jeannie had said, and then, "So what kind of things are you researching out here?"
Katie told her about analyzing alien flora and evaluating samples the gateteams brought back, looking for toxins and enzymes. "We've found a strain of fern on -- " She glanced at Colonel Sheppard who shrugged and nodded. "-- M4L-279 that we think may give us some clues on how to kill cancerous cells." She wasn't sure why she said that -- she had some preliminary evidence, no practical research, no actual data -- but she knew it was because she liked Jeannie Miller and she wanted Jeannie to like her, too.
"Wow." Jeannie's eyes went wide. "That's incredible. Just think, the cure for cancer all the way out here in another galaxy."
Katie flushed. "Well, right now it's just a hypothesis -- " she started.
"No," Jeannie interrupted, waving her hands in the air. "It's great! There's so much possibility." Then she looked right at Katie and smiled. "It makes me kind of wish I was still in the game."
Minus Two Years
Katie had two dogs and three cats to give away, a townhouse full of belongings to pack up, a management company to arrange to rent out the place, and eleven more lessons left with the bellydance class she'd signed up for.
"Where do I sign?" she had asked, when two men and a woman showed up at her office asking if she wanted to take a trip to another galaxy.
Mostly she was relieved that she had an excuse not to go back to that bellydance class.
She went to Atlantis with a hiking backpack stuffed full of clothes, a portable hard drive full of musicals and John Hughes movies, and her favorite picture.
On the first day, after being beamed down (beamed down!) from the Daedalus, a broad-shouldered man with a stubborn chin marched up to her and said, "Hey, do any of you prima donna whiners have the brain capacity to set up a dozen of these -- oh, of all things -- giant sunlamp things for botany? They're cluttering up the debarkation area."
"Yeah, I can do it," Katie said, taking the weight of her pack onto both shoulders and stepping forward.
"Oh, good, it's about time one of you showed a little initiative," the guy said, turning to her with the biggest, bluest eyes Katie had ever seen on a man. She felt her stomach give a little flip-flop. "Oh. Um. Hi. McKay. Doctor. Rodney. McKay."
"Yes, hi, you're the -- the head science, chief science, you're my boss," Katie blurted out and immediately wanted to go hide under something.
"Yes. Well, only in the most nominal…you're a botanist?"
Katie nodded. "I'll take the sunlamps now."
"Okay," Dr. Rodney McKay said. "Good."
Minus Ten Years
"Patricia would be so proud," Katie's mother said, hugging her daughter and dabbing away her own tears with a lace-edged handkerchief.
"Mom," Katie protested, feeling tears stab in her own eyes. "Stop. You're going to make me cry."
"We're all proud, pumpkin," Katie's dad said, kissing the top of her head. "Doctor Brown! How does that sound?"
Katie just smiled and pressed her cheek to his suit jacket. The title was nice, a just reward for nine years of higher education. But what it really meant was that now she could get to work on what really mattered.
Minus Fifteen Years
"What is this?"
Katie blinked at the sheaf of papers thrust in her face. "It's my lab report," she said cautiously.
"It's a piece of crap," Dr. Stern said. "Rewrite it."
"But -- "
"Start with your conclusions section."
Katie stared at his retreating back, then down at her lab report, the first page crossed out in thick blank ink, and red notes marking up and down the rest of the pages.
And then she went to the bathroom and cried.
Red-eyed and blotchy, headachey from sobbing so hard, she gathered up her materials and headed for the tiny basement apartment she called home. She swept everything off the coffee table and under the bed (it wasn't far) and laid out all her notes and papers and data on the flat surface. It took her three days to revise the report. She left it in Dr. Stern's office at midnight and walked home, wind biting at her cheeks, to sleep for six hours before getting up to go back to work.
At four o'clock, she squared her shoulders and knocked on Dr. Stern's door.
"C'mon, c'mon," he said, waving her in impatiently. "Hold on a sec." He spoke into a small recording device for a couple of minutes, added a couple of instructions for his secretary, and then flipped it off. "Yes, Miss Brown?"
"Yes, I just wanted to -- I mean." Katie took a deep breath. "I'm not sure the graduate program is for me. I think, maybe, I should -- "
Dr. Stern frowned at her. "Is this because I yelled at you?"
"No! I mean. You were right, my lab report was, I don't know, it wasn't very good."
"No, it sucked," Dr. Stern said. "Look." He picked up a packet from his desk and paged through it. "Here." He passed it over and Katie realized she was looking at the lab report she'd turned in the night before. He had circled something in red and put exclamation points around it. "In the original report," he said, "you just parroted back the data when you wrote your conclusion. Lazy. Sloppy. But here -- " He leaned over the desk and waved a hand at the page Katie was holding. "Here you made an actual conclusion. You synthesized the data, you came up with a hypothesis, and -- my favorite -- you actually designed a new course of experiments within the scope of the data you presented. Now we have something to work from."
"Oh," Katie said, feeling halfway numb and a little surprised. "I still -- I don't know."
Dr. Stern heaved a sigh. He sounded put out. "Miss Brown, why are you here? I mean in botany. In this graduate program. If it's just because you like plants, you can go be a florist anywhere. If you're smart and bored, you'd be in law school or medical school, or someplace you can get rich. Why here?"
Katie licked her lips. "My sister died of leukemia when I was eleven," she heard herself say. "And…she deserved another chance."
Dr. Stern stared at her. "Okay, then," he finally said. "So stop whining and let's see if we can't give someone a chance."
Minus Twenty-Five Years
Katie sat on Tricia's bed, swinging her legs, as the doctor sat on the other side, his fingertips gentle on Tricia's neck as he checked her lymph nodes. Tricia's skin was papery and it hurt when other people touched her.
Five months ago, Katie had said, "Why can't they just give you medicine?" Her father had looked pained, her mother had started to cry and left the dinner table, and Tricia had rolled her eyes and said, "Because they don't make any, stupidhead."
"Don't call me stupidhead!" Katie protested, and kicked Tricia under the table.
It gave her a giant bruise and Katie was horrified when she saw it the next day.
"It's okay," Tricia said tiredly, because she was always tired. "Besides, they should make a medicine. They just don't know how yet."
"I'll figure out how," Katie promised. "I'll make you the best medicine in the world."
And she tried. She read books and asked her teachers, and quizzed the doctors, but no one could give her enough answers.
Finally, she mixed up chocolate ice cream and chocolate syrup and marshmallow cream in a bowl until it was mushy and nearly liquid, and carried it carefully upstairs to Tricia's room, where her parents slept tilted next to each other on a tiny little couch, and a nurse came in every ten minutes to check on Tricia.
Tricia didn't have pretty red hair like Katie's anymore. She had a blue bandanna wrapped around her head. Katie had a pixie cut because she'd tried to cut her own hair when Tricia started to lose hers and it didn't work out so well.
"I brought you medicine," Katie whispered, so she wouldn't wake anyone up. "I let it warm up."
"Thanks," Tricia whispered back. She didn't like anything cold anymore. Or anything hot. Or anything solid. She let Katie feed her a couple spoonfuls of ice cream and then had Katie put the bowl on the bedstand.
"Are you scared?" Katie asked, still making sure her voice was low.
"No," Tricia said. "It's medicine. It'll make me better, right?"
"Right," Katie said, and nodded. But then she felt like she was going to cry, so she curled up next to Tricia and hugged her sister over all the blankets piled on her, and tried to be very brave.
Plus Five Very Awkward and Totally Silent Seconds
"Oh," Rodney said, his face going scarlet. "I'm sorry. I guess I knew that, I did read your file at some point, although that was before I had a face to put with a name, and certainly before you were an actual person in the uh, relative sense of the word."
"Rodney, it's okay," Katie said. She saved the latest version of her spreadsheet and got up from the table. "She had leukemia." She walked over to Rodney and looked over his arm at the picture. "My dad took that picture when I was ten and she was twelve. She made the best leaf piles and we took turns jumping in them. That's before she lost all her hair."
"Wow," Rodney said. "So, the ferns -- "
Katie bumped her shoulder against his and took the picture from his hands. "See, now, don't you feel better about having to fern-sit tonight?"
Rodney gave her a careful look and wrapped his hand around hers. "I am proud to fern-sit with you," he said, so earnestly, Katie had to grin.
"Good," she said. "You can do it next week, then, too."
"Er, next week?" Rodney asked. "I -- hey, let's steal some of Sheppard's popcorn to take with us. We can…sit around and watch ferns grow. Hey, do you think they're good to eat?"
"I mean, to prevent cancer! Eat a fern, save a life?"
"When I find out," Katie assured him, "you will be the first to know."