rating - pg-13
word count - 7, 644
summary - In a flash John had Carson against the wall (like Ford) and was gripping his throat, angrier than even the Irratus bug had made him. “Help him!”
notes- finally finished it! i know it's long, but i hope it's good enough : ) written for the 2dozenowies neurological disorder challenge. happy ending :)
“Rodney, focus. Come on buddy.”
Something was dragging Rodney back to the surface, but pain was that way. Hurt.
“We must hurry.”
“I know. Ronon! How far is the damn gate?”
He recognised the voices (comfort) and knew they were trying to help him. (save his life).
“I’m fine. Get Rodney!”
Someone was holding him, and he groaned, trying to let them know that he was okay (lies). It was getting harder to move, even harder to focus. He was vaguely aware of a hand against his head, smearing something wet against the side of his neck.
“Go! Tell Elizabeth we need Beckett! Now!”
Rodney welcomed the dark.
“How you doing Rodney?” The scientist in question barely managed to keep the irritation out of his voice as he spoke.
“Better if this poor excuse for a nurse would actually do some good and get me my laptop, before Zelenka does something stupid. Like send the whole of Atlantis sinking back into the ocean.”
Sheppard was sure Rodney was back to normal to still have his usual bite, and gave the nurse attending Rodney an apologetic smile. She just shrugged, as used to Rodney’s abrasive personality as he was, and left with a smile. Rodney saw it and harrumphed loudly.
“I don’t see why you apologise for me all the time. Anyone would think I was doing something that was – Atlantis forbid - hurtful.”
“Don’t be sarcastic McKay; it’s not a good look for you.” He softened the jibe with a smile and was privately relived when Rodney gave him a reluctant grin in return.
“He’s fit to return to active duty.” Sheppard still looked dubious about that decision but inclined his head towards Elizabeth, watching her face. She spared Rodney one more glance, and John remembered how Rodney had looked back on the planet (so much blood) and wondered how many more times his team could dance out of danger without getting hurt.
Elizabeth was willing to put Rodney back on the team roster (of course she was) and John left the infirmary, dread in the pit of his stomach that he couldn’t explain.
Teyla politely hid her smile as Rodney ranted at Kavanagh and Zelenka on his way past their table (they hadn’t even sat down) and decided to spare the scientists, guiding Rodney by the elbow to the table they usually managed to secure. “Come, Rodney. I am sure you can berate them later.”
He gave her a glare but took his seat anyway. Placing her own tray on the table, she glanced back at the line to see Sheppard and Ronon about to follow the path they had cut through the tables. She took her seat. “So what has gone wrong?” She didn’t really want to know, but keeping Rodney’s mouth occupied was preferred to listening to him rant.
John and Ronon joined them a few minutes later, and Ronon rolled his eyes discreetly, whilst Sheppard regarded Rodney’s tirade with mock-intensity. “-and I get that I’m being mocked, so all of you can just stop it right now.”
The three gave relieved smiles, and even Rodney was willing to overlook the slight against him, and barked out a small laugh as he started on his lunch.
Teyla was just starting on the dessert when it happened. She bent to steal Rodney’s spoon (he always picked up two) and he gave her the familiar slap, and then his hand stilled, before the tremors started. “Rodney?”
Sheppard and Ronon stopped mid-chew as Rodney started to shake, uncontrollable tremors that rocked his body and threatened to throw him to the floor. John was already moving, one hand at the back of Rodney’s neck as he guided him to the floor. Teyla had learnt to recognise the signs of a seizure, and was already requesting Beckett, before she and Ronon both rounded the table to Rodney’s side. John’s face had lost all colour, drawn down into what she had come to recognise as panic and she laid a hand on his arm, as Rodney’s tremors ceased and he lapsed into unconsciousness.
The conference room was silent, and then John shook his head. “You have to be missing something.”
“Colonel, I have done every scan I can think of and then some. There is nothing physically wrong with Rodney.” Carson looked almost as exasperated as John felt. But the anger welling up in John’s chest was threatening to burst.
“People don’t have seizures for no reason!”
“Don’t you think I know that?!” Matching him tone for tone, Carson’s eyes blazed angrily and John backed down, reduced to pacing. Elizabeth had remained silent during their exchange, and sighed gently.
”What do you suggest, Carson?”
“Honestly? I don’t know, lass. I can’t understand it. I would put the seizure down to his head injury, but there’s no evidence of that in any of the scans.” After a slight shrug of his shoulders, Carson looked almost hopeless. “I’d recommend only light duty; nowhere near the amount of off-world travel he would be doing, but I can’t see that it would do him any harm.”
John swallowed down any words he might have said, and just nodded, waiting for Elizabeth’s decision in silence. He was still uneasy; how could someone have a seizure and have nothing wrong with them?
Startled, John managed to cover it well. “I’m not happy about this, but if Carson thinks it’s okay-“
He let the decision rest on her head. That way, he could pretend the guilt settling in his stomach had nothing to do with him.
“Sheppard.” Ronon and Teyla were standing over him, casting shadows across the table. John had chosen this time to take a seat in the mess, sure that it would be almost empty. And aside from two botanists and a lieutenant John vaguely recognised, it was. “What’s happening with McKay?”
They took their seats whilst he was trying to find the words to explain. He stared down at his hands, wondering how useful they were going to be in saving Rodney from – whatever it was that was happening. He found his voice, but the words weren’t the ones that he would have chosen. (But they were true; so true.) “I don’t know.”
He was lagging behind. Knee’s weak, legs heavy and he stumbled, pain exploding through his skull like fire. He was aware of all of them (Teyla, Ronon, Sheppard) touching and calling.
“Doctor Beckett was certain they would-“
“Get to the gate and get Beckett!”
He tried to swallow, to do something other than flop around like he was –
In a flash John had Carson against the wall (like Ford) and was gripping his throat, angrier than even the Irratus bug had made him. “Help him!”
But he could see the hopelessness in Carson’s eyes and he allowed the marines to pull him off of the Doctor, to manhandle him back to his quarters; Elizabeth’s disapproving glare and almost pity the last thing he saw before the doors shut.
“Christ!” Sheppard thumped the wall hard, deliberately not looking at Elizabeth as he did so. Her gaze was calculating (searching) and he found himself bristling under the scrutiny. “I’m not going to attack you, if that’s what you’re thinking.”
A flicker of something, and she sighed slowly. “John-“
“No, don’t placate me, Elizabeth. He’s just had a third seizure and nobody can tell me – can tell him what’s wrong with him!”
“John.” Something about her voice stopped him, and the emptiness in her eyes (the pain) made his blood run cold.
“What’s happened to him?”
“You got angry at Doctor Beckett.” Teyla’s calm reply brought John’s head up, and he swallowed all of his self-pity quickly. She was asking him to explain.
“I just – he should have seen this.”
“I am sure Doctor Beckett is doing all he can for Rodney.”
John snorted and ran a hand across his face, tired to the bone. “It’s a bit late now.”
The bed dipped beside him, and Teyla laid a hand on his knee. He felt the automatic tense, and then released it, grateful that someone was taking the time to talk to him. “You know that Doctor Beckett would never willingly let anything happen to Rodney. They are friends, like you and I. I believe you are being – unfair - in your blame.”
He loved that Teyla would always be direct with her feelings – even if right now he wished she wouldn’t. He’d been forcing himself to re-evaluate his actions all this time alone, and he realised he had been over the top and downright irrational in his treatment of Carson. “It was easier blaming him, than admitting that this is no ones fault – that Rodney is this way.”
“And you can’t save him.”
Teyla could read him so well, but the words still hurt. He swallowed, finding it hard to say anything that represented feelings around his team (even if it was easier with them than anybody else). “Rodney and I – we save each other. It’s what – it’s what we do.” And the words are raw, hurt. “This time – I don’t know what to do.”
It was the hardest thing he’d had to admit in a long time, and even with Teyla’s hand on his knee (a reassuring weight), it did nothing to ease the tightness in his chest, or the deep seated terror in his heart that his Rodney was gone.
“You could have caught this.” It was hard, keeping the accusation out of his voice, but Carson seemed unfazed by the venom in John’s eyes and mouth. He didn’t bother to speak, which only gave John the chance to rant, to throw out the accusations he’d been hiding inside since the confinement to his room. “He had three seizures before you figured it out! Now it’s too late to do anything about it!”
As if it was the last thing in the world John could ever contemplate, and in some reality it was. But he’d seen too much and been through too much to let it completely overwhelm him.
“You know I did everything I could.” The lamest plea, but it hit John like a ton of bricks. Carson sounded so lost and so tired that it hurt. He couldn’t apologise, not even sure if the words would come out, but he wasn’t sure he even wanted to. Carson could have - should have caught this.
“Yeah. Maybe.” He left it at that, the hurt that Rodney was never going to be Rodney still too raw.
“John-” Elizabeth turned towards him, aware of his anger but unable to do anything about it right now. Caldwell shifted slightly and even Teyla looked uncomfortable, but John’s face was drawn down into a glare.
“No. Don’t John me! You know this isn’t what he would want and it won’t make him better, Elizabeth! They’ll shove him in some home somewhere, and he’ll be forgotten.” Something about John’s tone was pleading, but Elizabeth couldn’t do this now, not in front of Teyla and Caldwell.
“John.” Teyla cut in, and Elizabeth knew she was thinking of Steven, who looked one step away from speaking himself. “I am sure Doctor Weir is going to do everything she can for Doctor McKay.” Teyla looked at her for confirmation, something about her eyes that made Elizabeth think there was something of a threat in her words.
Steven‘s face fell in disapproval and then he shook his head, slowly. “With all due respect, Doctor McKay is of no use to Atlantis in his current position and having him here would take up valuable resources needed elsewhere. The SGC-“
“-Has been looking for an excuse to get rid of Rodney! I’m not sending him back there.”
John looked directly at her and she frowned. “You’re not going to send him back there. Are you?”
It wasn’t directly a question, but Elizabeth found herself answering anyway. “I-“
And from that one word, he seemed to know what she was about to say. He didn’t bother to speak, and she didn’t really expect him too. He hung his head, and it was like all of the fight had gone out of him. For the first time he looked old. With a sigh, and running his hand over his face, he stepped away. “Okay. Okay.” He didn’t say anything else, just left the office.
Teyla, taking her leave as well, gave a discreet nod to Steven and a tight glare at Elizabeth, before leaving the office.
Elizabeth was starting to get the feeling that she was going to be unpopular by the time this decision got out.
“I don’t understand what it means.”
Teyla, Ronon and John had taken up their usual (now) vigil of Rodney, sleeping in the infirmary. Carson had given up trying to get them to leave, and he was tired of fighting the triple glares, so he had cornered off the infirmary to give the rest of his patients (if he had any) peace. Teyla inclined her head towards Rodney’s bed, the occupant as still (looked almost dead) and something tightened in John’s chest at the sight.
“Doctor Beckett told us what it was, but what does it mean for Rodney?”
Rubbing a hand over his face, feeling the harsh stubble under his fingertips, John sighed slowly. “It would depend on Rodney. It affects different people in different ways. He could be fine; but I doubt it.” It wasn’t pessimism; it was truth. “He could be paralysed.” He shrugged, but it was anything but light. “I have no idea, until Rodney wakes up.”
Ronon and Teyla accepted this with the grace they had everything else, and John wondered where he would be without them; what he would be without them. Without Rodney.
“He’ll be okay, Sheppard.” Ronon’s words did little to ease the heaviness in John’s heart, but they gave him the courage to look on Rodney again – and vow to help him, not matter what it took. (Cost).
“You want the same thing?” John searched Carson’s face for any hint of deceit, and when he found none sat back in the chair at Rodney’s side. The Scientist was sleeping – he’d been doing that a lot recently – and John looked down at the tight lines on the sad face.
Something in his heart clenched and he inclined his head. “You’ve done all you can.”
Effectively answering the question for the Doctor, but Carson gave him a reply anyway, and laid a tentative hand on his shoulder. John tensed. “Aye, lad. You know if I could do more for Rodney-“
But you can! John wanted to shout the words at him, but he couldn’t get his mouth to work. Instead, Ronon bent his head towards McKay, his attention all on Carson. “McKay needs his friends. Why take him away from them?”
John hadn’t expected Ronon and Teyla to understand the decisions Elizabeth and Carson were making, but not for the first time he wished he could have their innocence in the concept of Earth customs and decisions. “They can’t help him. They don’t want to.”
Carson looked like he might disagree – the words were on the tip of his tongue - but the flash of guilt in his eyes (John saw) would have voided anything his mouth could say.
Teyla and Ronon just looked angry and John could understand. He was just tired. “You want Rodney to stay?” Teyla’s tone was guarded (in front of Carson).
“Of course I do. I know that Rodney wouldn’t trust anyone else to help him.” Teyla read between the lines and Ronon’s face was drawn down into confusion, and then a small smile. (He’d been doing more of that). I don’t trust anyone else to help him.
He might as well have worn a sign around his neck for all the looks Teyla and Ronon were giving him.
Carson was oblivious but he was inclined to agree on that point. “I wish I could have your faith, Colonel. But I have to do what’s best for Rodney.”
John was past the point of being courteous of everyone else’s feelings, and he stood, hand lingering on Rodney’s arm for five seconds past the acceptable, before moving past Carson. Teyla and Ronon were (predictably) on his tail. “If that were true, you’d have asked him what he wanted.”
“I’m – we’re - going to help you Rodney.”
The brief hope and need in Rodney’s eyes made Sheppard feel sick. He barely made it to the head in time.
“Send him to Earth?” Lorne said the words with barely contained disbelief. “But I thought you said-”
“I know what I said, Major.” There was no real conviction in the tone to make it a snap, but Lorne kept a respectful silence anyway. “Doctor Weir feels it’s the best course of action. Carson’s done all he can.”
Nick inclined his head, tone still respectful, even as his face showed what he thought about that decision. “I’m sure. But what about you, Sir?”
His CO looked up, surprised, as if no one had bothered to ask his opinion, even if Lorne was sure he’d have made it heard anyway. Lowering his head, Sheppard ran his hand over tired eyes. “I know that having Rodney here takes up valuable resources.” Sheppard swallowed hard and Nick suspected this was hard for him to say. As if he was quoting rather than saying them from the heart. “When he’s of no use to the mission right now.” He paused and his eyes held so much pain that Lorne found it hard to look into them.
He could only imagine what Sheppard was feeling. He was the one to whom Sheppard had confided the truth about how much Doctor McKay meant to him. Not with so many words, but after years in the Pegasus Galaxy, Lorne was adept at reading the people around him. “Here, he’s surrounded by friends and people who love him. I have no doubt Jeannie would try and help him but-” He left the rest unsaid.
She isn’t used to dealing with things like this. Lorne didn’t mention that neither were they. Bullet wounds and severed limbs? Sure. He couldn’t remember a time when they’d had to deal with something like this. People didn’t live long enough.
“So it’s bad?”
“Aye lad; worse for Rodney. He’s lost the ability to speak; a blessing to some, but I doubt there will be much rejoicing under the circumstances.”
John’s throat tightened. “And?”
“I wouldn’t put much hope in him walking either. I think maybe Elizabeth had the –“
“Don’t Carson. What else?”
Accepting the order easily (for maybe the first time), Carson finished. “Short term memory.”
“What about it?”
“He doesn’t have it.”
Teyla slid into the seat opposite Elizabeth at the table and put her hands on the cool metal, letting it ground her. “Doctor Weir?”
The head rose, and there was a startling amount of self-hate in those eyes until the mask of a leader (Teyla knew it well) fit into place. “Teyla.” She looked tired and weary and Teyla was ashamed that she had let herself get so overwhelmed with helping Rodney (fighting for him) that she forgot others were hurting because of this too.
“I understand how important it is that you adhere to the changes of your world – the decisions of your world – but-” She sighed, looked down at her hands and then back up. “-Have you asked Doctor McKay what it is he wants?”
Elizabeth just looked irritated. “That would be a bit difficult wouldn’t it?” Teyla was taken aback by the venom in her voice, but the anger was already fading from Elizabeth’s face. “I’m sorry Teyla, that was uncalled for.” She looked anywhere but at the Athosian and Teyla could well understand. She waited patiently, torn between the desire to comfort the woman, and between her loyalty for Rodney (a member of her team). “I wish we had the resources to help Rodney. But-“
She was clutching at straws. Teyla smiled gently, placing a hand over Elizabeth’s. “I understand well the burdens of command, and how this decision must be weighing on you, Doctor Weir.” Elizabeth just looked grateful. Taking her chance, Teyla pushed gently. “I would also ask that you grant my team-“ (the first time she’d referred to it as such in the presence of Elizabeth) “- the chance to help our scientist. Our friend.”
There was a drawn out moment of silence between them, and then Elizabeth slumped, her face a mess of emotions. “The Daedalus left this morning – we have a month before they’re due back again with new personnel.”
They were being given a month. Teyla thanked Doctor Weir, and then left the woman in peace, her heart light but also heavy. How could they possibly do anything in a month?
“You may have helped with the short term memory, I told you it might only be temporary, but you can’t give him false hope when there might not be any way to help him at all. It wouldn’t be fair.”
Teyla had never wanted to hit him so badly, but she just settled for glaring, aware that Ronon and Sheppard were both dealing with their anger too. But for now, they had Elizabeth on side; despite her unspoken promise, and something that tasted almost like betrayal (maybe defeat) burned in Teyla’s mouth.
Lorne stared down at the tags in his hand, and steeling himself, entered the infirmary. Rodney was in the same room, head lowered as he let the nurse finish up the usual amount of tests and readings, and then Lorne stepped forward. “Hey, McKay.”
Rodney’s head rose, and the brief flash of surprise made something leap in Lorne’s chest. They weren’t close, probably never would be, but he had spent enough time in the scientists company (through the Colonel) that Lorne could consider McKay a friend, at least. “I have something that I think belongs to you.”
He already knew that Rodney wouldn’t answer, not only because he couldn’t talk, but mostly because he wouldn’t. He held out the tags, and Rodney’s eyes were drawn down to them. A shaking hand reached for them (his better one) and Lorne handed the tags (Sheppard, John) and watched something flicker in Rodney’s eyes that he wasn’t sure he was supposed to see.
Before he could turn to leave, Rodney had gripped his wrist with his free hand (Lorne could leave if he wanted, that hand was weak, but he stayed). He opened his mouth (thank you) but Lorne didn’t need to hear it. “It’s okay, don’t-“
And Rodney understood, gave a tight smile and stared back at the tags. Lorne left the infirmary, throat tighter than it had been when he’d entered.
Rodney blinked in the darkness, wondering what had woken him, and then he saw the outline of three shapes against the harsh blackness of his vision. He remembered the day before; how he had struggled to get across to Carson that; once the memory problem had lifted, his mind was a buzz of activity; activity he couldn’t stop, nor control. It was the worst thing he could ever have imagined; to have a brain such as his but unable to put it into anything that somebody else could understand.
He struggled to accept his own fate; even as his team refused to do so.
“Hey, Rodney.” Sheppard’s familiar voice, and then Ronon and Teyla appeared in his line of sight. Despite himself, Rodney felt a tug at his mouth, but was sti;ll; aware the night shift posed. As if aware of his concerns, Teyla laid a hand on his arm.
“Relax, Rodney. We will not be here for long.”
It was Ronon who told him why they’d come and fear bubbled up from his stomach. A vigorous shake of his head, and then he saw the flicker of disappointment in Sheppard’s eyes. His team- friends - had come to help him; when Carson was stopping them during the day, they were doing everything they could from around him.
He swallowed, and when Sheppard opened his mouth to speak, he lifted his arm – the one he had already figured out worked, okay, and put it on Sheppard’s wrist, gripping it as tight as he dared (as hard as he could). Reading in his eyes what he wanted, John gave a small, almost sad smile, and looked up at the other two.
They shared a smile that Rodney would have once been privy too, and he swallowed, a bitter taste in his mouth. He had lost so much he hadn’t even realised he had had.
Slowly, Ronon and John helped him sit up, and turned him around slowly, as Teyla lowered the bar. With encouraging smiles, they helped him stand.
“He can stay?” John tried not to look too hopeful, but despite his initial anger at being deceived and his misgivings, Carson was happy with the progress Rodney had made (was making).
Elizabeth didn’t look happy, but he suspected she wasn’t looking forward to the conversation with Caldwell. John really didn’t care. “He can stay. It’s what Rodney wants.”
John was surprised she was allowing this. He tilted his head. “You still don’t think he should stay here?”
“I always wanted him here. I was afraid.”
John had been too. But he hadn’t let it rule him. “I understand.” But he didn’t (couldn’t).
When she opened her mouth to speak again, John nodded her goodbye and left. He wasn’t quite ready to forgive her yet.
He was alone in the gym, staring at the knife in concentrated fascination. Having had to wait for Teyla and Ronon to finish sparring before he came in, he wanted to be certain both were long gone. Sometimes, he was afraid of being left behind. He still didn’t understand why Sheppard fought so hard to keep him on the team. When he spoke it was with words nobody had a hope of understanding, and that was when he could get his mouth to work at all.
He couldn’t stand to look at himself in the mirror anymore. He’d always been aware of the slight downturn to his mouth, but he was afraid it would be more pronounced (visible). He walked forward, an imperceptible wince on his face, not that anybody would see, at the slight limp. They’d practiced – Sheppard, Ronon and Teyla – at getting him more stable on his feet, and the look on Beckett’s face had been worth the fights and curses (broken friendships).
He still wasn’t mission ready, not for lack of trying on Sheppard’s part, but everyone insisted he would be; have faith.
Rodney snorted and his eyes closed briefly before he reached for the knife. He clutched it in shaky, unused fingers and had to release it after forty-three seconds. With a curse unfamiliar to his own ears, he slid to the floor, ignoring how difficult it was going to be to get back up again.
It was hopeless. Rodney didn’t know defeat very well; had suffered it so little (Doronda) but he knew it tasted something like this; hot and hard to the tongue. All too soon, he was aware of a hand in his line of vision; reaching out (lifeline) and his eyes were both accusatory and grateful. Ronon just looked at him, waiting silently. Rodney didn’t bother talking either – it would only be embarrassing and Ronon didn’t need them anyway.
Letting Ronon help him to his feet - no complaint from the Satedan (friend) – Rodney stood, catching his breath and fighting to control his feelings, whilst the other bent for the knife. He was apprehensive at first, but then Ronon stood beside him, taking Rodney’s weak hand and helping him grip the hilt.
“Hold it like this. It requires less grip; gives more control.”
“Radek?” The voice cut through the silence in the labs, and Radek looked up as John entered, for all the world looking as if this was the place on Atlantis he wanted to be. Putting the Ancient device he had been working on back on the table, he gave the Colonel his full attention; without looking him in the eye.
John took a seat at Rodney’s table and remained silent for a while longer. Radek took the time to look at the state of the colonel, and wished for the millionth time that this could have happened to anybody else; even if that made him feel guilty for something he couldn’t figure out. This conversation (when it came) was going to have everything to do with Rodney, and Radek had struggled or a long time to talk about the situation without a waver to his voice. “I do not wish to do this job alone.”
It seemed to be all the prompting John needed, and some of the tension in his face eased, even managing a smile. “I need your help.” His eyes were impossibly wide and open and something clenched in Radek’s heart, even as the Colonel continued to speak. “It’s about Rodney. I need-”
Spreading his hands on the table, fingers splayed, Sheppard lowered his eyes to the floor. As he outlined what he wanted, Radek’s eyes widened and despite himself, felt a smile tug at the corner of his mouth. Everyone knew about the deep friendship underlying the Colonel and Rodney’s snark and that they were trying to hide it (to survive) now, made Radek feel that they owed something to the two.
He wanted to help. Ronon, Teyla and Sheppard had surrounded Rodney, protecting him from everything, and Radek had found himself (irrationally) jealous and wanted to be a part of it; if only for a while. And Sheppard was looking at him (as if he knew) and was holding a branch for Radek, to be a part. He half wished he could have seen Sheppard and Teyla when they faced down Elizabeth; forcing her to reconsider her decision. “I will help Colonel.”
The relief in John’s face made the tension in Radek’s shoulders eased, and he welcomed the new project; welcomed the chance to help Rodney.
Teyla’s hand was on Rodney’s elbow as they entered the mess and he knew he should be grateful but all he could do was notice how many people were staring at him. The attention made him feel sick, not like it used to, and he bowed his head, grip on Teyla bordering on painful.
She made no complaint and walked them towards the lunch line. He could already hear the whispers and murmurs, no stranger to them, but the dead quiet in his brain meant that he heard every one.
Ronon glared at all those he caught, and Rodney struggled to find words (that made sense) to express his gratitude, and coming up short. He stared down at the tray and his heart clenched. He couldn’t do this, but with Teyla on his elbow and Ronon practically his shadow, he had no way of escaping. Taking another step forward, he tried to tell Teyla with his hand and head that he wanted to leave; wasn’t hungry, but she read it in his eyes (they’re all so good at that now) and sighed lightly. She was trying not to be exasperated with him and Rodney wondered how many more nerves he could dance on before everything snapped; tumbled down faster than a house of cards.
As she lead him to the table, pulling out a chair for herself (knew Rodney would never allow her to help him with his), Nicholas Lorne brushed past and picked up a tray. He had never stood out to Rodney before, but rumour was he was holing up a lot of the time with Sheppard and what little information about his friend Rodney could scrape and gather together was all that mattered right now.
Lorne’s words were louder than they needed to be, but he grinned and seemed oblivious, either that or he just didn’t care. From what Rodney knew of the Major, nothing he did was by accident and his attention refused to waver. “Give me everything I can eat without utensils.”
There was never a short supply, and Rodney’s brow furrowed as he took his seat, ignoring the concern and intrigued looks on Teyla and Ronon’s faces. Lorne was grinning in the face of the jokes and laughter, even as Lieutenant Morris loaded his tray regardless.
Finally, Rodney turned back to his own table, staring at his fingers to keep from looking at Teyla and Ronon (harder to look them in the eye).
He jumped when Lorne’s tray hit the table beside him, and Rodney was once more aware of everyone’s attention on him. Nick was smiling softly as he sat down, wary eyes meeting McKay’s, and Rodney swallowed.
“Here, McKay. I owe you one for calling you Meredith.”
Rodney’s hands were shaking harder, but not from pain or from shame. He had never had so many people willing to help (save) and it was hard to understand why they wanted to. Lorne seemed to understand anyway, and smiled wider. It was infectious, as Teyla smiled in return and even Ronon looked less dour. Rodney managed a small smile; the first in days.
Accepting their gratitude by stealing one of his chips, Lorne sat back in his chair, gaze deliberately straying from the table, but Rodney couldn’t tear his eyes away from his plate. Sheppard would have done that for him.
Why wasn’t he here?
Choosing a time when the mess was full wasn’t something that John had picked on purpose. He just wanted to get this over with as soon as possible; have the McKay back he remembered and had been craving for longer than he realised. Zelenka was practically stepping on his heels as they threaded their way through the tables, finding Rodney easily.
Teyla was across from him, face full of laughter (John ached for that expression) and Ronon inclined his head towards McKay but was shovelling food in his mouth in the same manner as always (attention all on Rodney). Even Lorne was sitting at the same table, telling some joke (that should have been John’s). For a moment, John had to stop, almost making Radek slam into him. Lorne had been doing what he couldn’t, and after the first flash of jealousy, he realised he would never be able to repay the major for this.
Starting up again, he approached the table. When Rodney looked up (made eye contact) the sheer - happiness - at seeing John again (with them) made something deep inside of John unclench and tension he hadn’t realised he’d been feeling released.
He drew the name out in the familiar drawl, and after the first expression of irritation, Rodney grinned (really grinned) and the slight downturn to his mouth was dragged up and John thought it was the best thing he had ever seen (even if Rodney didn’t).
“I know it’s not your birthday.” He spoke as he and Radek slid onto the end of the table, and John caught Elizabeth’s eye with the first smile towards her since this had begun. She looked relived, but then his attention was back on Rodney. The scientist was looking at John in confusion, but also in the intense curiosity that John had missed so much. “But me and Zelenka decided to get you a present anyway.”
Rodney winced at the incorrect English, but had a package thrust into his hands so hard, it was gone. Everyone at the table had stopped eating long enough to look, and realising all attention was on him once again (this time not bad) Rodney really looked at the gift.
No smaller than a palm pilot, it was attached to straps similar to the thigh straps the military used (John had converted his). Rodney looked up, questions on his face but John just smiled easily. He could tell Rodney was confused by the Ancient tech and his smile softened. “Think at it.”
What the hell is this thing?.
There was dead silence in the mess and Rodney’s eyes widened.
John, what? Whilst everyone else was stunned by the fact that the computer was talking Rodney’s thoughts (in his voice), John was surprised that Rodney had called him John.
John shrugged easily, and the grin on Radek’s face could have powered the city for a year. Elizabeth’s smile was brighter than he could ever remember seeing, and the easy laughter on Teyla’s face hadn’t shifted. “Radek and I-” Rodney almost grinned. “-converted some Ancient tech lying around. Think at it, and it’ll help you talk. Even if we have been thankful you couldn’t.” Everything in his voice – and in the faces of everyone around him – screamed LIES! Even Rodney seemed to sense that. He was struggling to find words that the computer could translate easily for him. There were suspicious looking tears in Elizabeth’s eyes and even Lorne had to turn away.
I don’t know what to say.
Thankfully, it was Radek who spoke for them both. “Hearing your voice is payment enough, Rodney.” And the easy delivery of the words released the silence in the room and suddenly everyone was cheering and clapping and John felt smothered. He stood, leaning across the table as everyone crowded round the small table (Atlantis was a small, close-knit community) and smiled.
He enjoyed the smile on Rodney’s face, but ignored the flash of anger (sadness) when John left the mess – unable to express his own feelings into words in front of everyone else.
“Thank you.” The easy words seemed natural on her tongue, but the brief surprise on the scientists face made Teyla think that they were seldom heard by him. She gave him the best smile she could (not hard because of - Rodney).
He colored, red spreading across his cheeks. “None is necessary. I did what Colonel asked.”
“But you didn’t have to.” Ronon’s candid reply made Zelenka paused and he seemed to search for the words.
“No. But Rodney is great friend. And I wished to help.” He smiled, almost as easy as Teyla’s and she felt her heart warm towards him further.
“Yes. He is a great friend.” She reached for his shoulders, saw the surprise flicker again, but then he relaxed, watching her forehead touch his. “Thank you, Radek.”
Ronon gave his approximation of the grin as they pulled apart. “Thanks.”
Radek just shrugged as they turned to leave the lab, but Teyla could see the grin blossoming on his face as they left.
John looked up from the latest mission report (courtesy of SGA-3) and stared at Rodney in confusion. “Sorry?”
“Děkuji Vám.” Rodney paused, caught his breath (courage) and his lip twitched at the corner. John barely noticed the scientists hands clenched into fists. “Miluji tě.”
He understood that it was Czech (heard Zelenka mutter it to somebody about something) and opened his mouth to ask what, but Rodney was gone.
I think I screwed up.
Teyla smiled sadly, and let Rodney talk. She had to wait out his words, before she could give him any of her own, this she had learnt long ago.
I thought he would understand. I know some Czech, mostly from Zelenka but- I don’t think he understood what I wanted to say, and I know that I shouldn’t have said it, but I want him-“
He cut off before Teyla could understand what it was Rodney wanted from John.
I wish I had the courage to say it in English.
Sometimes, Teyla knew her words couldn’t be any help at all.
“Hey Radek.” Zelenka didn’t look surprised to see him, but he figured it had something to do with the amount of time they had spent together recently. “Can I ask you something?”
“I am sure you would ask anyway, so go ahead.”
John smiled and sat down across from Radek. “What does Děkuji Vám and Miluji tě mean?”
Something flickered across Zelenka’s face. “The first is Thank you. The second- who asked you, Colonel?”
He just shrugged. “I just – wondered what it meant.”
Zelenka told him.
I don’t want to go in there.
Rodney wasn’t trying to be stubborn. He was afraid; both of what John might say, and what he might do. But from the stubborn looks on both Teyla and Ronon’s faces (and they way they had manhandled him in getting here) he knew that it was go in, or be pushed in.
He’d settle for the former.
Steeling himself for the reaction, he reached up and requested permission to enter.
“You told me you loved me.” John wouldn’t look at him, and Rodney sighed as he stood in the doorway, wondering if Ronon and Teyla would still let him out. He didn’t want to do this. He was afraid – afraid of losing everything he had left.
“Rodney.” Suddenly, John was in front of him and Rodney looked for the anger, and found none. John understood, and a hand was on his arm. Unusual because Sheppard didn’t like to touch. “This is you.”
He wondered if Sheppard could mind read, but then John was smiling and Rodney couldn’t help but do the same, even through his confusion. “John?”
“Tell me again. In English.”
Rodney wanted to say I can’t, but he couldn’t deny John this; not after everything he had done (everything he had sacrificed) for Rodney. “I love you.”.
He wished he could have said that. John deserved to hear it from him. John’s breath was hot on his face and then lips were touching his. He had reservations – he didn’t like his mouth (not now) – but John didn’t seem to care, kissing him hard. Rodney couldn’t help but do the same, wanting this so bad (had been wanting it or so long).
When they finally pulled apart, they were both smiling so wide it could have hurt, but Rodney rested his head on John’s shoulder, face against his neck and feeling the steady beat of John’s pulse against his cheek.
“I love you too, Rodney.”
Rodney straightened his tac vest – adjusted to cater for the McKay Com (Sheppard named it, and Rodney refused to call it that, still) strapped to his arm. It still amazed him to think that Zelenka and John had stayed up every night for almost two weeks to adjust the ancient tech just for him, and that they achieved more in those two weeks than Rodney had ever though them capable, both humbled him and made him irrationally proud. If the Scientists in the lab were getting tired of the constant Sheppard and Zelenka made this out of Ancient Tech, so don’t give me that! then they weren’t showing it. Yet.
Maybe they were just happy to be hearing Rodney full stop, but Sheppard had told him not to let it go to his head, and he was trying. Really hard not too. “You ready?”
Rodney smiled. You bet. He wished more than anything that the Com could translate his irritation and feelings, but he had a voice and that was worth more than everything. Except maybe his team - John. Those he wouldn’t trade for the world. As the wormhole opened, Rodney caught sight o an anxious Elizabeth on the balcony, and tried to give her what he hoped was a re-assuring smile. It was hard for him to figure out just what his expressions looked like these days, but some of the tension ins her shoulders eased and he even got a smile in return.
With a stable connection, his team started for the gate, and Rodney was slightly surprised to see them hang back, making sure that he was with them at all times, and he stopped for a second, struggling to say something that they would all understand. He remembered John and his words from before - Teyla, Ronon and I got it out of Zelenka. - and he swallowed, making sure all of them were paying attention. Teyla was politely curious, Ronon eager to leave, but also willing to listen (for now), and Sheppard who’s face was (as always) unreadable.
He could see when each one realised what he was saying. There was no fanfare, no hugs and team-bonding. At least, not on the outside. He could tell they all accepted his gratitude by the little things they did.
The fact that Teyla smiled more easily at him this time around, a small touch to the base of his spine as they stepped through the gate, and never an arm’s length away. To lay a reassuring hand on him, when he was overwhelmed with all of this after so long away from it.
Ronon striding in front of him when the natives mistook his abrasive words (spoken deadpan, but the delivery of the words wasn’t what they had taken exception too) and turned nasty.
And John. Every look thrown his way when he thought he wasn’t being watched. Every touch he gave when Teyla was otherwise preoccupied (not that she was much, but Rodney could hope). In the way he managed to talk down the natives, make them see Rodney meant nothing by his words (even if he had).
In the way, back home on Atlantis (at last, and after Carson’s strong words and disapproving glare) he whispered ”I love you”, in English and with a kiss so soft and gentle Rodney threatened to break in his hands.
He was finally able to think that; maybe, everything would be okay after all. Things were back – not the same, but not different for the worst either.