Spoilers for "Grace Under Pressure"
Stargate: Atlantis belongs to someone else.
Getting Back On the Horse
by Brat Farrar
Rodney didn’t want to be there, wanted very much to be in his labs instead, but he hadn’t had a whole lot of choice in the matter.
Well, technically he had—it was only an offer, not an order, a casually said “Hey, McKay—Radek asked me to take jumper eight out for a spin. Thinks there’s something wrong with the nav system. Want to keep me company?” If Rodney had said no, had come up with some excuse, that would have been the end of it.
Until the next time they had a mission requiring use of a jumper, and Rodney had a meltdown in the middle of it. The mission, not the jumper. And that was why he’d said yes, and was now currently in the copilot’s seat, painfully aware of both their altitude and the jumper’s utter lack of anything even approaching aerodynamics.
“Huh. Everything looks fine,” Sheppard frowned at the HUD, which obligingly scrolled through a different set of data before flickering off. “You want to take over for a bit? Maybe it’s just being finicky for non-naturals.”
And Rodney wanted even less to do that, because his flying was iffy even on his best days, and right now his palms were sweaty and he was focusing mainly on not panicking. But if he said no, he might not ever be able to get himself to say yes afterwards. So he nodded, mouth dry, scrubbed his hands once against his knees, and placed them on the control panels. Talking would lead to babbling would lead to freaking out, so he stayed silent, and listened instead to the steady hum of the jumper.
Everything felt not-quite-right, as was usual when he tried to fly the jumpers, but no worse than usual, and as Sheppard had said, the navigational system appeared to be functioning properly. The jumper was drifting off course a little, but that always happened when Rodney was flying and so could be ignored.
He attempted a sharper curve, and the jumper responded smoothly, easily, just as he wanted. The afternoon sun glinted against the window, and for a moment everything slid into place, and Rodney forgot that he was basically flying a brick. Far above him was the endless sky, far below him the fathomless ocean, and he trod his careful way between the two. The jumper continued ticking along in the fashion of well-maintained machinery, no loose wires or exploding engines. In the other seat, Sheppard sat with the stillness he seemed to possess only when in the air, all unshaken confidence—a comforting presence.
In a moment everything would slide apart again, and Rodney’s brain would helpfully supply him with things like rate of descent and the way it had felt to know he would die entombed on the ocean floor, the sound of the door shutting him in all alone. But for just a moment he could forget all that, and he did.