Takes place between 3.07 Common Ground and 3.12 Irresponsible, but no real spoilers for season 3. References to 'The Storm/The Eye' and 'The Brotherhood'.
This story is gen, but can legitimately be read as possible pre-slash/pre-het.
Kolya pauses in front of the door to school the expression on his face to the bland, cold look that seems to work so well at intimidating people. When he opens the door and walks through into the small room beyond it, the woman inside jerks her head up with a gratifyingly frightened twitch, wide blue eyes focusing intently on him.
What comes out of her mouth is something entirely different.
"You! Oh my god, I knew it. Kolya. As soon as I spotted those natty little uniforms, I knew it had to be you."
He raises an eyebrow. "So you've heard of me, then? I'm pleased to have made such an impression on the inhabitants of Atlantis."
She looks puzzled for a moment, then her face clears. "Heard of you! Yes, yes, everybody's heard of you. We're, ah, all warned, everybody who goes offworld is warned about you. Look out for Kolya, they tell us. Nasty piece of work. Very, ah, ah, very ruthless! Yes. Um..."
"Well, since you seem to know so much about me, perhaps you'd return the courtesy and tell me about yourself."
"Myself? I, ah, there's not much to tell. I'm just, I'm nobody. Really. Just another hapless scientist."
"You might like to rethink your answer. 'Nobody' isn't much use to me as a hostage." He keeps his voice pleasant, letting the words make the impact. Her eyes still follow his every movement, and she flinches when he steps forward.
"I – I – I'm –" she stutters, seemingly lost.
He hadn't thought he'd frightened her quite so much that she'd forget her own name. This isn't half as gratifying as Sheppard's angry defiance or McKay's nervous sniping, although she'd started out promisingly.
"Your name," he prompts gently.
"M-meredith. Doctor Meredith." Her chin comes up as she narrows her eyes at him, finding courage once again.
"Doctor Meredith. The pleasure, I think, is all mine." He studies her closely, looking for the small movements and nervous twitches that will allow him to read her thoughts and emotions. He's good at this – the best, in fact – and a new subject is always welcome.
Her hair is cropped close to her head, leaving her face unframed. She isn't exactly pretty – the nose is too sharp, the twist in the unhappy mouth only accentuating thin lips. Tall and solidly built, unusually broad-shouldered for a woman, with generous hips and breasts – all in all, a woman built for bearing children, he thinks idly. If he can't use her to get what he wants out of the Lanteans, or if she refuses to cooperate, he might be able to sell her as a brood-slave. Many people, including his own, are always eager for sturdy women who can help to expand their threatened populations.
But there's something familiar about her, although he's certain he's never seen her before.
Perhaps it's merely the uniform she wears: black trousers, black jacket, a blue shirt underneath that's almost the same color as her eyes. The heavy vest she wore has already been taken away from her, the contents of its many pockets examined by him prior to this meeting. The Lanteans had finally learned not to make their scientists quite so easily identifiable when away from Atlantis, and now they all wear the same uniforms on their 'missions'. Nevertheless, it's still easy to tell the scientists from the soldiers, and Doctor Meredith is no exception. She's a little too plump, a little too soft; she moves awkwardly, uncomfortable in her own body. Her vest is full of the tools of a scientist.
She's not quite as inept as most of the Lantean civilians, though. When he and his men took her from the village – right out from under Sheppard's nose, which had been tremendously gratifying – she'd gone right for the handgun strapped to her thigh. There had been no hesitation, no fumbling. As he watched from the shadows, she had been overpowered swiftly and silently, without a shot fired, but she had been prepared to use the gun.
She glowers at him, one side of her mouth arching down farther than the other. The sense of familiarity returns, even stronger this time.
"You know Dr Weir won't negotiate with you." Her voice is nearly shrill enough to hurt his ears. He can see the fear in her eyes, hear it in her voice, poorly disguised with anger. "Didn't you learn that from taking Colonel Sheppard? What could you possibly hope to accomplish by this? Apart from using my brilliant mind, not that I'd help you, of course." Most of the time, she keeps very still, like a small animal trying not to draw the attention of a predator; but as she speaks, she forgets, and her hands twitch and jerk.
"I wonder if Doctor Weir might not change her mind. After all, you're a scientist, not a soldier...and you're a woman."
She rolls her eyes. "You just had to bring that into it, didn't you? Believe me, my – my gender – won't make a bit of difference to Elizabeth. The loss of my brilliant intellect, my knowledge and expertise, that's another story. But she still won't negotiate with – with terrorists. Especially not you."
"It's of no matter." He dismisses her objections even as he puzzles over them, wondering again why they sound like something he should recognize.
There's nothing he really needs from her, though – nothing that would affect his plans. For the moment, he can only wait, and that's always the hardest part. Interrogating her is a diversion, a little entertainment to pass the time, to hone his skills. One could never tell what tiny, seemingly insignificant snippet of information might be useful, and precious little was known about the Lanteans.
"Then what the hell do you want, Kolya?" she bursts out, frustration overriding her fear.
He smiles slightly, and is pleased when she tries not to cringe. A single word suffices to answer her: "Sheppard."
"I want Colonel Sheppard. He has ruined my plans too many times. You see, Doctor Meredith, you are entirely incidental to my purpose. You are merely a lure to bring Sheppard here. He will, of course, attempt to rescue you, and I've made sure he'll have minimal trouble finding this place. If things go particularly well, he'll bring Doctor McKay with him. I'll kill Sheppard, and take McKay back to the Genii homeworld with me, where he will be put to work furthering Genii technological advancements. If you behave yourself, Doctor Meredith, I'll take you, as well – rather than leaving your body here, along with Sheppard's, for your people to find."
She stares at him in obvious disbelief. "That's the dumbest plan I've ever heard! The whole point of this pointless exercise is to kill Sheppard? What are you, a Bond villain?"
Understanding her words isn't necessary – her tone makes it clear that she's insulting him. And that, too, is strangely familiar, even as fury drowns out the niggling sensation. She isn't afraid enough of him. There's defiance in her voice, in her gaze, a contempt that he cannot allow to continue.
He steps toward her and strikes her across the face, a backhand carefully administered for pain and shock, but minimal damage. Her head snaps around and she stumbles back, pressing a hand to her reddened cheek.
Her eyes are fixed on him, dark with fear now, but the anger is still there, bright as ever. It takes her a minute to find her voice again.
"What – what makes you think D-doctor McKay or – or I will help you at all?"
"I know from previous experience how well McKay responds to knives. I have no doubt that I'll discover an adequate inducement for you to cooperate, as well. It's in your own best interests, you know. The only alternative is death."
"And what about Ladon? I don't think he'll let you just waltz back in, even if you have m-McKay."
"Ladon Radim's authority is not as strong as he thinks. Without Sheppard, the alliance he has with Atlantis may very well fall apart. With, of course, a little help from my own allies among the Genii."
"That really is a stupid plan," she tells him sourly, "and I've heard some incredibly stupid plans, believe me. You aren't even really concerned about what's best for the Genii, are you? As long as you get to kill Sheppard. That's all that really matters."
Sudden fury rips through him, all the sharper because he fears there's some truth to her assertion, but he clamps down hard on it. She may pose no threat, but there's no point in showing her that she's found a sensitive subject. "The only thing you need worry about is your own continued survival," he tells her coldly. "I have no doubt that I can persuade you to cooperate, Doctor Meredith. For example, I could give you to my men for the night. You're a very pretty woman, and they've been without...company...for some time."
"You think I'm pretty?"
It's the first time he's seen her truly off-guard, staring at him with soft eyes and wonder in her voice.
Then the moment was gone. "Wait a minute, are you threatening me with – oh, wonderful!" She throws up her hands and turns away to stomp towards the back of the cell. "I can't believe you – this is because I'm a woman now, isn't it? When I – if I was a man, this wouldn't even come up. Would it?" She paces back and forth, muttering angrily to herself. "I knew I should have stayed in Atlantis. I should never have even left my quarters! But no, Sheppard just had to drag me along on a stupid mission. It'll be fine, he says. Nothing's different, he says. It'll get your mind off things, he says. Well, this is not my idea of a distraction from my problems!"
The sensation that he's met her before nags at him, but he just can't place her. What makes it even worse is that it's something he's always been good at: remembering people. He remembers their faces, the way they move, the way they speak, the thousand little telltale signs that let him know when they're lying or speaking the truth, if they're afraid, how close they are to breaking. And every instinct tells him that he knows her. Not her face or her voice, those are unfamiliar. But everything else: the tone of her voice, sarcastic, angry, afraid; the way the words spill out of her mouth as though there are a thousand more behind them, pushing to come out; the way her hands clench into fists at her sides or fly up to illustrate what she says with sharp gestures that paint abstract pictures in the air; even the cadence of her speech, the way she pronounces certain words, the way her chin comes up when she's afraid or angry, a thousand and one little things that say to him, I know you.
Even stranger, it goes both ways. He'd swear on every god the Genii ever believed in that he's met her before – and that she has also met him.
The first thing she said when he opened the door of that little room and stepped inside was, "You!" Surprise and fear and even fury raced across her face, absolutely open and hiding nothing. Surprise, yes, but also instant recognition, with an edge of fear that could only come from a personal encounter.
Somewhere along the way, he suddenly realizes, he's lost control of this situation. She doesn't fear him as she should – she's frightened, certainly, but there's a lingering contempt along with the fear. She knows him. It's disturbing, and irritating...and oddly tantalizing. Her attitude is a direct challenge to him, in a way that shouldn't be possible for a woman, and certainly not for one who isn't a warrior. The urge to advance on her, to physically dominate her, is strong, and he clamps down hard on it. It's weakness if he gives in, even to his own desires.
But what would it matter? She's expendable, unimportant – he could kill her now and she'll still serve her purpose. But his life has had little enough of pleasure lately, and it would be much more satisfying to see her cringe before him, to see her bow to his will.
She's still muttering to herself, glaring sullenly at him. The tilt of her chin, the way her mouth slants, the tone of her voice: all of these tell him that, although she fears what he can do to her, she doesn't fear him. He's somehow beneath her notice – if he wasn't there, she would turn her thoughts to other things.
He's not important to her.
He isn't used to that, and he doesn't like it.
"I don't know how they do it," she's saying abstractedly while he watches her, "I just don't know how they can stand it. I've been like this for several weeks now, and I can hardly stand myself."
She's hardly even aware that he's in the room with her now, caught up in some thought that has nothing to do with him, and it's more than he can bear. He can trace everything that has gone wrong in his life for the last two years to the Lanteans. He had Atlantis itself, and lost it. Ladon has taken his rightful place among the Genii. Sora, once his brightest pupil, supports Ladon. Young Idos, who was almost a son to him, was killed by Sheppard when the Lantean raised the shield on their Stargate. Athor, his oldest friend and Idos' father, refuses to speak to him. Even Pranos is dead – the one man who supported him without question after his failed attempt to secure Atlantis for the Genii, a victim of Kolya's own impatience.
He has had enough, and somehow, someone is going to pay. Someone – why not her? Why not take what he wants? Make her fear him, respect him, make her beg him not to hurt her, beg to please him in whatever way he desires. He can pour all his frustration and anger and disappointment into her until the defiance is gone from her eyes, and maybe then he'll figure out why she's so very familiar.
In two strides he's on her, pressing himself against her, letting her feel his arousal through their clothes, holding onto her easily as she struggles to get away. Her breath comes in harsh gasps, pushing her soft breasts into his chest. Her arms are trapped against her sides, hands plucking ineffectually at his clothes.
"No – no, get off me," she cries, her voice spiraling up in panic. He catches a glimpse of her terrified blue eyes and snakes his head down to capture her mouth in a bruising kiss. She freezes, then struggles even harder as he seeks to open her mouth with his. He risks letting one hand go so he can cup the back of her head and pull her closer.
His erection grinds against her thigh, hot and aching. She gasps and he's in, stroking her mouth with his tongue, avoiding her teeth. He feels her moan deep in her throat, the vibration making his lips tingle as he chases the taste of something sweet and earthy and just a little bitter in her mouth. He's tasted it before, gleaned from people too afraid to try the strange gifts of the Lanteans: smooth brown bricks that break apart into little squares, softening on the tongue until only the taste is left.
His decision is made, in that moment – he's keeping her for himself.
Her free hand loosens its tight grip on his shoulder and slides down his arm, and she becomes suddenly pliant and yielding, no longer fighting him.
No longer, in fact, doing anything. Her head falls back and she sags in his grasp, held up only by his arm around her waist.
For a long moment, he can only stare at her pale, still face in astonishment. He's used to engendering terror in both men and women. In fact, he cultivates the ability and enjoys its application. But no one has ever fainted because he kissed them.
On the other hand, he doesn't usually kiss his prisoners, either. She was simply so very familiar...he'd wanted to know what she tasted like, hoping to jog his memory; and at the same time, had wanted to stop up that constantly moving mouth, spilling over with words, words, and more words.
He lays her down on the floor, gently, bemused that the one thing to overwhelm her, so far, is a kiss. Of all the things he's been planning to do to her, this is the most innocuous.
A few light slaps to her cheek wake her, groggy and limp, her voice soft and breathless. There's no fear in her now, oddly, just a mild, bewildered crankiness – as if she can't quite comprehend her situation.
"What's going on?" She lets him prop her up against the wall, blinking slowly at him. "What...Kolya?"
He can see the moment she comes back to full wakefulness, the moment she remembers everything. She flinches away from him, one hand coming up to touch her bruised lips. Finally, she reacts the way she should – he can see the fear in her now, the realization that he is bigger than her, that he can overpower her easily. The acknowledgement of what he can do to her is clear in her eyes and on her face, and she fears him.
And then the anger rushes back in, drowning out the fear, and he's seen this before. On someone, on one of the Lanteans, he's certain he's seen exactly this reaction, where paralyzing fear is completely overtaken by rage.
"What the hell is the matter with you?!" she snarls, pushing away. "Get off me!" Furious tears fill her eyes and spill down her face, which only makes her more angry. "Oh my god, am I – I am! I'm crying! This – you – I can't – "
Her mouth twists up into a shape so profoundly disgusted and horrified, it actually stops her from speaking.
A loud noise interrupts him before he can speak, before he even knows what he's going to say, a cacophony of gunfire and shouting. The walls shake, and one of his soldiers flings the door open to tell him that the Lanteans have come – a good deal earlier than expected. He's not ready, the trap isn't set – he's wasted time with Doctor Meredith, more than he should have. It's all falling apart yet again.
The noise moves closer, and he stands and moves away from Meredith. He can get away if he goes now. Without her, because she won't come willingly, although it's actually difficult to make himself leave her.
And maybe, if he's careful and times things just right – maybe he can still get what he really wants.
A short time later, he crouches in the shadow of the trees. From here he has a perfect aspect of the Stargate, a direct line of sight while remaining hidden from view. Clamping down on the fury he feels at being thwarted by Sheppard yet again, resisting the urge to stride out and attack the man with his bare fists, he channels his anger into the cold ruthlessness that has served him so well for years.
He can bide his time, wait until the moment is right. He'll put a bullet through Sheppard's head just before the man goes through the Stargate. It's easy to picture the scene that will play out on the other side: Sheppard's body falling lifeless onto the patterned floor of Atlantis, blood seeping out to stain it. Weir will run towards him and falter as she realizes that there is nothing she can do. McKay will wail and rant, equally helpless. And Kolya will have the satisfaction of never again having to see that smirking face, either waking or dreaming.
"What the hell took you so long?" Meredith almost has to trot to keep up with Sheppard, who glances down at her and slows his pace. They trail after the Lantean soldiers, just behind Teyla Emmagan and the tall man rumored to be a former Runner. "It was horrible! You wouldn't believe what he threatened to do to me!"
Sheppard stops so suddenly that Meredith is several steps in front before she realizes he isn't with her. She turns back uncertainly, and flinches at the sight of Sheppard's face. Kolya's seen that look before on the other soldier: fury that someone has threatened one of his people, the bitter knowledge of helplessness, a resolute will to take any action necessary to make sure it doesn't happen again. Sheppard let him go once before. It had been a mistake. Both men know it, and both know it will not be repeated.
"Did he touch you?" His voice is harsh, and Meredith falters back a step under the force of it. "Did he hurt you?"
"What – no! No, not like that! He didn't – he threatened me, that's all. Pushed me around a little. It takes more than that to – to –" She rallies, and glowers back at Sheppard. "I'm not a wilting flower, Colonel, all appearances to the contrary. Don't treat me like I'm some hapless, weakling little girl. You don't treat the female Marines like that. I'm still the smartest – person – in two galaxies. Just because I have to pee sitting down now doesn't change that."
This time Sheppard flinches, and the anger drains out of him. "Did you have to mention that? It goes on the very long list of things I never want to know about your – " he waves a hand at Meredith, "your condition."
"Believe me, I could write a book about all the things I'd never wanted to know. No matter what Elizabeth may say, I'm not finding this the least bit enlightening. Well – enlightening in that I've now experienced 'the female condition', so to speak," she raises her hands and makes an odd gesture, "but I still don't get women."
"Please, never use the phrase 'the female condition' in my presence again," Sheppard smirks at her and steps around her, heading for the Stargate again. "At any rate, you'll be glad to know that Zelenka thinks he's figured out the machine that did this to you. He'll have you back to your old self in no time."
"Really?" Meredith starts pushing buttons on the dialing device. "I wouldn't have thought he could manage it without me." The white wave of the opening Stargate fills the clearing, then settles into the familiar blue ripple of not-water.
Sheppard hesitates, then tentatively drapes his arm around her shoulders, pulling her into a surprisingly awkward sort of half-embrace. Meredith leans into it for a fraction of a second, then jerks away. "How many times to I have to tell you not to treat me like a girl, Colonel?" she snaps. "I'm fine, I don't need a hug."
The hated smirk spreads across his face, all trace of awkwardness gone. "But you're just so cute and cuddly as a girl, McKay, how can I resist?" When she scowls, he continues, "Hey, you should hear what Zelenka's been calling you."
"I can imagine. And I am not cute and cuddly, so keep your hands to yourself." She sighs. "I can't tell you what a huge relief it'll be to have my normal body back. Being a woman sucks, Sheppard."
"Believe me, it'll be a relief to the rest of us, too, Rodney."
They walk through the portal and disappear from view, unharmed and unaware.
Kolya stares sightlessly through the empty ring of the Stargate, gun hanging forgotten from numb fingers.
//it'll be a relief to the rest of us, too, Rodney//
McKay. He'd had McKay the entire time. A mysteriously changed Rodney McKay, unquestionably a woman.
He'd felt that soft, feminine body pressed against his, had that sweet mouth open to him, full of the taste of the choklit the Lanteans passed out wherever they went. He'd contemplated taking that body, keeping the pretty, sharp-tongued scientist for his own amusement.
Remnants of their conversations swim through his mind. Odd, seemingly inexplicable statements make sense now.
He kissed Rodney McKay.
And he almost wants to do it again.
Author's Notes: I tried putting in something to explain McKay's faint, and nothing felt right. It was a stress reaction, pure and simple. And he has no intention of telling Sheppard about any of it.
Summary: "Your name," Kolya prompts gently. "M-meredith. Doctor Meredith," she replies.