Again-thank you to NT and Tipper for the betaing, the opinions and the encouragement.
What Kind of Man?
Sheppard watched in silence as Rodney ate his meal. They were the only ones in the mess hall and had helped themselves to what previously prepared food they could find. The lights were dimmed and the shadows seemed to emphasize the bruising on McKay's face.
It hadn't taken long after McKay's outburst to persuade him to put on a shirt and look for something to eat. John knew they only had a limited amount of time before Beckett would come looking for them and he also knew they still needed to talk.
Rodney's earlier words had surprised John. He hadn't guessed how deeply McKay was struggling with his encounter with Kolya, and he should have. He should have been more alert. What kind of man was he not to remember that McKay had been a hostage just the same as Elizabeth?
Rodney finally put his fork down and pushed the clean plate away.
"Feel better?" Sheppard asked.
McKay smiled weakly. "A bit," he answered. "Thank you."
"Yes, speaking of which," Rodney started to slide away from the table.
It hit John then, like a punch to the stomach. All this time and Rodney still wouldn't look him in the eye. He'd never known McKay to be anything but direct, rudely so sometimes and it frightened him a little to have things change now.
"Waited this long, he can wait a minute or two more."
McKay looked reluctant, but stayed in his seat.
"Can I ask you a question?" John watched McKay carefully. At least the shaking seemed to have stopped, and his pallor had improved.
"If I say no,will that stop you from asking?" Rodney challenged.
"Then ask." The doctor waved nonchalantly but his posture stiffened noticeably.
Sheppard took a deep breath. "Tell me what happened with Kolya."
McKay's head snapped up. He looked at John briefly and then looked away, focusing instead on the dark corners of the mess hall. "That is not a question."
"It'san order. You don't start a question with 'tell me.' That was a definite order."
"Alright, it's an order."
"Not a question."
"Rodney." John leaned forward, resting his arms on the table top between them. "Would you please tell me what happened between you and Kolya?"
McKay's face twitched as he grimaced, obviously struggling. He looked around the mess hall as if checking to make sure they were alone. Sheppard waited and finally, finally Rodney really looked at him.
Pain, shame, fear, anger, frustration…it was all there for the Major to see clearly in the scientist's eyes.
"You've read the briefing. You know most of it already. What else, exactly, do you want to know?" McKay evaded.
"What happened to your arm?"
Rodney swallowed slowly and then started to talk in a monotone. "Kolya ordered Sora to take Dr. Weir to find the Med supplies and Wraith device, leaving me in the control room with him and a few other of his soldiers." He fidgeted with the cuff of his shirtsleeve as he talked. "Kolya, he just walked up to me and asked me why I was still here on Atlantis." He shook his head. "I'm a horrible liar and he saw that. He asked me what my plan was to save the city." Rodney closed his eyes. "I said something about never mentioning there was a plan and he just looked at me. Just looked at me and said 'Not yet'."
"And then?" Sheppard unconsciously fisted his hands.
McKay huffed. "And then I proceeded to rattle off the entire plan."
John tilted his head to the side, his stance unwavering, and Rodney knew he had to tell it all. Sheppard wasn't going to let it go now. McKay slumped in his chair and then straightened again. "I talked. Okay?" He stood up and turned toward the shadows. "Some kid playing soldier sliced my arm a few times and I squealed."
God, John couldn't help hoping that kid was dead. "Hurts like a bitch being sliced like that doesn't it?" John leaned back in his chair, not reacting when McKay spun around, gaping at him.
Rodney's eyes searched his, for understanding and found it. "Bet you didn't talk," he challenged.
John's eyes clouded. "No, no I didn't, and you know what the bastard did next?"
"He went on to the next guy in my unit and went to work on him instead."
"I watched him die."
Suddenly Rodney couldn't stand anymore. He sank heavily into his chair.
Sheppard looked at him. "What would have happened if you hadn't talked for Kolya?"
"I-I don't know." Rodney shook his head not even wanting to consider where Sheppard was going. "He wouldn't have," hedenied.
"Kolya was going to kill her until you stepped between them. You talked him out of that."
Rodney scoffed. "I begged, pleaded and lied my ass off."
"You did whatever it took to protect her."
"I was just scared," McKay admitted quietly.
Sheppard smiled and sat forward again. "You think I wasn't scared when Kolya told me Elizabeth was dead or when he threatened to kill you both if I didn't get the generators back online?"
Rodney gestured toward him. "You're…you," hefinished lamely.
"So, you told Kolya how we were planning to save the city…you did a lot of good things,too, McKay. More important than that one so called mistake."
McKay nodded but still didn't look up. Something else was gnawing at him and John waited for him to speak.
"I almost killed Beckett and Teyla," he confessed. "What kind of man does that make me?" He looked up guiltily. "I might have done a bunch of good things as you say, but what does that really make me?"
"Like me, I guess."
"How'd you get the bruise on your back?"
Confusion filled McKay's expression. "Kolya did that."
John nodded. "When?"
"When he found out I'd just taken out almost 60 of his men."
"That wasn't your fault. He just wanted me to raise the shield but I couldn't."
"Because of me," John interrupted quietly. "He pushed you against the railing and almost threw you out into the sea."
"You can't think…" Rodney rubbed his head again. "It'snot the same. You weren't making a conscious decision to sacrifice my life."
"Neither were you. You were working frantically to save all our asses and so what, you needed a reminder to wait a few extra seconds. That's what I was there for. That's what makes us a team, McKay. We back each other up in every situation, whether that means stepping in front of a gun or smacking your hand away from the controls because we need to wait two more minutes."
They stared at each other a moment, processing what had just been said.
"Where does that leave us?" McKay asked.
"It leaves us human, Rodney." Sheppard grinned. "We do our best. We screw up. Sometimes we save the day and sometimes we don't. Yesterday…we saved the day regardless of our screw-ups. That's what matters most."
McKay sat up a little straighter, suddenly feeling a little less weighed down.
"Major Sheppard?" Both men jumped to their feet, startled as Beckett's voice sounded from the doorway, neither had heard him enter.
"Scare a man why don't you,Carson." John looked at him. "We were just coming to see you."
"Sure you were. Let'sgo then. Those cuts need tending," Beckett reminded, turning and letting them follow him like reprimanded children.
"I told you we needed to get to the Med Lab," Rodney taunted quietly.
Sheppard rolled his eyes, falling into easy step beside the scientist. "Better hope he's not too mad at you for stalling. It'syour arm he's sewing up."
McKay stopped walking. "Wait…hey, you're the one who wanted to ask me a question. Said it wouldn't hurt for him to wait a few more minutes."
John turned, walking backwards. "And you believed me?"
McKay's eyes grew wide with fear. "Damn." He jogged a few steps to catch up. "Least I somehowmanaged not to catch a cold in this whole fiasco."
On cue, Sheppard let out a horrendous sneeze. Both men froze, surprised and staring at each other.
"You. Sneezed. On. Me." Rodney wiped at his face. "I can't believe you just sneezed on me."
"Sorry," John apologized sheepishly.
"Do you know how easily I catch cold? Do you?"
John looked at him without answering and then hurried to catch up to Beckett.
"I'm serious, Major. I am quite susceptible to all kinds of viruses…" McKay's voice filled the corridor as the trio continued. "And who knows what kinds of viruses lurk in this galaxy. What if you caught this cold from the Genii? I mean has anyone researched what the symptoms of a Genii cold might be? Has anyone?"
-hope you enjoyed it!