A Friend In Need
Author's Note: Wowie, more great reviews! You people are FANTASTIC:D I was making loud squeeing noises while I read them. :) This story was sort of my magnum opus, so I really, really can't tell you how thrilled I am with the response! I'm very glad now that I posted it!
gothgirl8910 - Thanks, I'm so glad!
Elisa - Thanks so much:D Yeah, Rodney doesn't have the best luck, does he? Poor thing... :) I'm so glad you're enjoying this so much. :) I sure enjoy reading your reviews!
potterfan2006 - Thank you, and indeed I will!
Titan5 - Thank you, I'm glad you like it! Yes the boys are very whumped, aren't they? (Giggles maniacally) ;)
forlornhope1865 - GASP! (Dances) Yay, I'm going on someone's favourites list! Thank you:D And I'm so glad you like my whumping, I worked hard on it. ;)
Baileysmom - Um, I guess that didn't come out right... I have a great deal of respect for nurses, partly because I do have some idea of how hard it is to study, qualify, etc., from one of my friends who is a nurse. Sorry about that, nothing derogatory was meant there. :) Thanks for the review, and I'm glad you liked it on the whole!
parisindy - Thanks, Part 3 ahoy!
angw - Yes, they're very bad boys, aren't they? Tsk. I'm so pleased you liked my character stuff, and enjoy the last chapter:D
fififolle - Thanks, I mean, really REALLY, thank you for that lovely review! I'm particularly glad that you liked the Teyla bit so much, because I have trouble getting her head sometimes. But I really wanted to show Rodney from her POV. :) Thank you!
em - Thank you, I'm so happy that you liked Part 2 even better! I just hope Part 3 isn't a letdown... :)
rogue1503 - I still can't believe someone's actually excited about something I wrote! (Looks vaguely uneasy) Anyway... Have fun with it, and thanks for reviewing:D
Andy - Thank you! I did try hard with this fic to make sure it expanded on the framework of the show, rather than contradicting it... It's great to hear you think it worked! Yay:D
Silverthreads - Wow, thank you! (Blushes and can't think of anything else to say.) :)
Kitty - Yeah, I apologise for that... Even John's concussion isn't really enough to justify his thinking of something that dumb. But I really, really wanted to do that scene:p So, yes, sorry; I know it's completely beyond reality, but it was just so much fun. (Looks embarrassed) As for the chat... coming up! And Carson gets a couple bits as well, which I hope you like. :)
ESCotLoE - You know, you really are good at this! Here's the last bit, before you turn any unnatural colours. ;) And I'm very happy you loved it:D
fanficaddict - Glad you liked it, thanks :) - and here's some more!
cybersyd42 - I'm so very pleased that you like it, especially the John and Rodney friendship! They do have really bad issues, don't they? I mean, seriously. And as for the alcohol... If you whump them enough, you don't even need it, they're already pretty out of it. >:) Heh heh.
L E McMurray - Yeah, I had some trouble with that darn newfangled chapter updating thingy... Ahem. ;) I'm glad it was worth it! Those two need to learn how to communicate, don't they:p
bayas - Wow, I'm so flattered! And your English is very good indeed. :) Here's the next chapter, and I hope you like it!
szhismine - I know, not a good mission for him... But, hey, he's just sooooo cute whumped and guilty! >:) Here's the next bit... :)
If there's anyone I missed replying to... It's nothing personal, just my own stupidity. :) Thank you all so much for the lovely reviews! I'm a little concerned now that I have a lot to live up to with the ending... :) So I hope you all enjoy it. And thank you so much in advance for any more reviews any of you will write: they will be read avidly, and will be very, very much appreciated. :) Thank you all so much:D
On to the final chapter...
Part 3: Atlantis
John stared up at the ceiling from his bed. Back in Atlantis, back on the sick list. Or the convalescing list, anyway.
But at least he wasn't in the infirmary. He was in his own room, staring up at his own ceiling. It was funny that hospital and infirmary ceilings always seemed to be more boring than others. It was even funnier that this held true in another galaxy - especially since the ceilings in Atlantis all looked alike and had no cracks.
Still, John was bored.
He had had to go to the infirmary for a while after all, of course. But it hadn't been so bad, since he'd been unconscious most of the time he was there, either from his concussion or from the drugs that Beckett gave him.
But he'd complained a lot after he'd woken up, so they'd let him go be bored in his own room instead. McKay had the right ideas about how to avoid things like that, and John Sheppard wasn't one to pass up a successful tactic.
John shifted on his bed. He'd already tried reading the book he'd brought for times like this, War And Peace, and he'd got through a good one-and-a-half paragraphs of it. But now he was bored again.
He thought he'd go take a walk. Someone would probably waylay him, scold him for being up, and hustle him back to his room... But, hey, it would kill some time anyway.
John accordingly half-rolled onto his feet, waited a moment to see if this would make him dizzy, and smiled when he found it didn't. Yep, no more infirmary. For now.
Well, not as an inmate anyway.
Because John couldn't really think of anyplace to go, except to visit a certain annoying scientist who happened to be on the mend... in the infirmary. Well, they'd never think to throw him out of there, would they? They spent so much time trying to get him to stay there.
John grabbed a chocolate bar, which he stuffed in his pocket, and, thus armed, he set off on his perilous journey.
Luckily, he made it through the hallways without incident. Ran into a few soldiers and technicians, but the soldiers he just gave a Don't Mess With Me, I'm Your CO look, and the technicians didn't bother him. Which was fortunate - for them. And no Dr. Weir in sight, which was fortunate for him.
John rounded the last corner and found himself back in the torture chamber/prison camp that was the Atlantis infirmary. The waiting area he completely ignored; he wasn't here to wait for anything. As he made his way towards his goal at the far end of the room, a cranky voice could be heard:
"Carson, how many more times do I have to explain this to you? I need my laptop and my radio, or better yet, I need to get out of here. But I definitely need one of the above. Now."
John grinned. Oh yes, Rodney McKay was definitely on the mend.
"Rodney, you're not fit yet, and until you are, I'll not be letting you go back to work, and that's final."
"Pardon me? Who put you in charge, hmm?"
"Dr. Weir, as a matter of fact."
"Well, I'd be perfectly willing to take it up with her, then."
"Good try Rodney, but that won't work either."
"Look, Carson, it's really, really important!"
"And Atlantis is going to sink again if you aren't out there to keep an eye on it?"
"How would I know! I can't tell from in here! And if it did, you probably wouldn't even tell me until we were all dead."
"Rodney, Atlantis has survived ten thousand years without you, I think it can survive a few more days."
"Oh, right, one miracle and you decide to tempt Fate by gambling on another with our lives. Besides, that was before there were a lot of unsupervised people wandering around, messing things up."
"You mean your research teams?"
"Yes, my research teams!"
"Who will have to get along without you for a short while. Sorry, Rodney."
"Hmmph! You don't sound sorry."
"Aye, well after all the noise you've been making, I'll be glad to see the end of you, Rodney. I'd just rather it lasted more than a few minutes, so you'll have to work on getting well for a bit."
"Well, at least give me something to do!"
"You might try sleeping - you haven't been doing enough of that lately."
"That is so not helpful."
"Until you get your strength back that's the best I can offer you, Rodney."
John was chuckling to himself from his perch on a nearby bed as Beckett emerged from Rodney's curtained alcove.
"Well, hello, Major. I wasn't expecting to see you back so soon," Beckett said with a humorous twinkle in his eyes.
John got to his feet and cleared his throat. "Uh, yeah... I won't be needing your professional services this time. Just came to see McKay."
"Glad to hear it," the MD smiled. He stuck his head back into Rodney's "room". "Rodney, visitor for you."
"Good!" snapped Rodney grumpily. "Probably about that energy source; not that it's that much good, but still, it's about time."
John took this to be his cue, and with a wave to Beckett, he sauntered over to Rodney's bed.
Rodney looked up in wide-eyed surprise at John's greeting, then quickly ducked his head to hide his expression.
"Oh, hi," he responded, far too blandly.
John had hardly seen Rodney since their return to Atlantis. And between Rodney's condition and his own, he hadn't gotten a single chance to talk to him yet. The main reason John had come now was really to say a few things that he felt Rodney should hear.
Only trouble was, he didn't have a clue where to start.
Sheppard settled himself in a nearby chair with a sigh, and looked at Rodney. He could see he wasn't going to be getting any help from that direction. The scientist had turned his gaze toward the wall, and was nervously pulling at the blanket on his hospital bed.
John cleared his throat again, then decided to just set off and hope for the best. "Look, McKay..." But that was as far as he got before being interrupted by the man in question.
"I know, I know, I was stupid, and I shouldn't have done it, and I know it's my fault. I'm sorry, okay? I didn't mean for that to happen or anything, but it won't ever happen again, because I -" A pause for breath and a nervous gulp here. "Because I'm not going to be on the team any more. I'll talk to Elizabeth about finding someone better... A replacement..." He looked very unhappy.
John finally found words. "McKay, what the hell are you talking about?"
Rodney rolled his eyes and glanced up angrily before tilting his head downwards again defensively. "About how I almost killed you on two consecutive missions, that's what! What do you mean, 'What am I talking about?' What else would I be talking about!"
John was surprised. After all he'd put McKay through... The scientist was still blaming himself?
"No, actually, I should be the one to take the blame," John ventured, deciding to try straight-forwardness.
"Oh please," Rodney sighed, again without making eye contact. "I'm the last to criticise anyone for a sense of humour, but I can only take so much, you know? Just go away. Say what you really came for and just leave me alone." Rodney turned toward the wall completely so John could only see his hunched shoulders.
John assumed a more casual position in his chair. He couldn't have asked for a better opening.
"Okay," John drawled, "I will." He paused a moment to consider the best way to word it, and then decided he didn't care, and just dove in. "I came to thank you for saving my life. And to apologise for almost losing yours."
The shoulders tightened. "Really, Major, I meant it." Rodney's voice went a little higher up the scale. "I'm too tired for this right now, and it just - it isn't funny!"
"I'm not joking, Rodney." John's voice was serious enough to make even Rodney think a little. He turned over, looking surprised again. Sheppard's gaze held steady under the grey-eyed scrutiny.
"You really think that?" Rodney finally asked in disbelief. He received a deliberate nod in reply. Anger at himself once again filled the scientist's eyes. "What are you, delusional? Because I hadn't thought you were that far gone at the time. I'm a menace. I almost killed you!"
"No, McKay," John contradicted him calmly, "you saved my life. And I wanted you to know that I appreciate that. If you hadn't been there on that rock planet-"
"Nothing would have gone wrong! And if it hadn't been for the brilliant Dr. Rodney McKay on P6A-260, you wouldn't have gotten a concussion, a dislocated arm, and who knows what else!" Rodney's control snapped then, and there was a suspicious wetness in his eyes as he growled the next sentences. "And I'm sorry, okay? I'm sorry! I don't mean to hurt people all the time, I'm just..." He swiped impatiently at his face with one hand. "I'm always screwing things up... I can't take it any more." He buried his head in his hands.
John considered the scientist in front of him with a worried frown. Rodney McKay was a member of his team, an important one. And John meant to keep it that way. All he had to do was convince McKay of this.
And he was also his friend. On impulse, John reached forward and grasped Rodney's arm. Rodney half-heartedly tried to jerk away, but John didn't let go.
"Rodney, you're part of my team-"
"Yes, something I intend to rectify very soon!"
"Just shut up a minute, I'm trying to talk," Sheppard said amiably. Rodney was quiet. "You did save my life on that planet, and everyone seems to know that except you. So thank you. And I almost caused your death by letting you try to climb out of that damn hole, so I'm sorry."
Rodney's hands fell away from his face, and as he looked up at John, he seemed very, very tired. "You're welcome," he said, "for what that's worth. And it's all right."
"Good," said Sheppard, feeling a little of the strain slip off his conscience.
"But that doesn't change the fact that you could have died... and... and there would have been nothing I could do... It would have been my fault."
"Look, McKay... In these sort of situations, things happen." He heaved a sigh, recalling all the things that he'd witness go wrong over his years of soldiering. Things that should have gone right. "It isn't always someone's fault. All you can do sometimes is respond to a bad situation as best you can." The grey eyes were frowning into his own, trying to understand. "And you did. You did good, Rodney."
Rodney's face dropped into his hands again. "But I should... I should have been able to do better."
John gave the unresponsive arm a pat. "No one could have done better."
Rodney's tone changed to one of irritation. "How would you know? You were unconscious."
John leaned back again. "Teyla and Ford told me."
"They were really impressed."
Rodney's face snapped back into view again, looking seriously confused. "Wait... They were?"
"Yeah," John went on. "Ford said he thought you'd gotten the record for dragging me back to the Gate single-handed."
"He - he did?"
"And Teyla said she was proud to know someone like you."
A delighted smile spread over Rodney's face. "Teyla said that?"
"Yep. And then Ford said he was, too."
"He did?" The smile, if anything, got wider. "You're sure they weren't, you know," he waved one hand around, "saying something else?"
John squinted at him. "Pretty sure, yeah."
"Hunh!" was Rodney's concise and very pleased comment.
John refrained from saying that he, too, agreed with this sentiment. He also deliberately left out everything that had been said, by various persons, about McKay while he'd been unconscious and at death's door. The man didn't need that much of an ego boost.
"See, McKay? We all want you on the team." He paused, feigning a certain amount of shock. "Goodness only knows why. I guess we like being annoyed constantly."
"Ha ha, very funny," said McKay, but John was happy to note that the sparkle had returned to his eyes.
"So get better quick, McKay," John instructed, getting up to leave. "If we get much more peace and quiet, we might end up changing our minds by the time Beckett clears you to go off-world again."
"Yes, well, Carson will have to let me out of here soon, anyway, or I might die of boredom," Rodney snorted.
"Yeah, I know what you mean."
"How'd you get him to let you leave early?"
John shrugged. "He said one whining patient was all he could handle."
Rodney looked affronted. "I don't whine."
John spread his arms in a helpless gesture. "Neither do I."
There was a pause while both men considered this. Rodney yawned.
"Actually," he said, "I'd probably better be getting some rest."
"You do that. And hey," John said, getting an idea, "maybe when you're up for it, we could get Beckett to let Ford and Teyla come in here for that poker game."
Rodney brightened yet again. "Yes, that's not a bad idea."
"Good." John turned to go, then turned back again. "Oh, and they both told me to tell you to get well soon."
"Uh... Tell them that I said, ah... Thanks."
John nodded, and with a final wave, walked out of the infirmary, leaving one much happier scientist with his own thoughts.
He was still part of the team; they still wanted him. After all these years, someone had actually passed up an opportunity to get rid of him. And not just one person either, which would have been shocking enough: three people!
Rodney snuggled down in bed, pulling at the covers to re-arrange them, and feeling an odd warmth inside that he hadn't felt in a very, very long time. They'd said they were proud of him. Of him, Rodney McKay. No one had ever told him that before. He wondered if the Major was proud of him too - he hadn't said.
But he had said he'd saved his life. And thanked him for it. Rodney frowned, thinking that people didn't often thank him for things. Not that he really minded: after all, he just did his job, and he was used to not being thanked for that. And he tried not to interact on a personal level with anyone, if he could help it. He'd always found that that kind of naiveté just led to misery, and studiously avoided it. But now...
Now that he had friends.
Rodney realised that Teyla and Ford and Major Sheppard were his friends. He didn't know why, but they seemed to be doing it deliberately. Maybe, a small nasty voice inside him said, Maybe they're just stringing you on, making a fool of you. But Rodney shut the voice up. He might have believed that before, but not now. For some reason... He was sure that they meant it.
A friend in need is a friend indeed, he thought with a smile.
Carson had told him some of what had gone on on P6A-260, and shortly after. Not much, just enough to scare Rodney by letting him know how close it had been. How he'd almost died of blood loss, and if it hadn't been for an Ancient medical device they'd figured out how to work recently, he wouldn't have made it. Actually, Rodney had gathered that last more from eavesdropping than from actual conversations, but that wasn't the point.
He couldn't remember most of what had happened after trying to climb out of the pit. Just a feeling that the Major was there for him, that he had to pull through for the Major. And then a long, long darkness, during which he'd wished he could die. It would have been a lot easier than living.
But there was the Major. The Major hadn't wanted him to die. So he'd held on.
And then he'd woken up back in Atlantis, and remembered what he'd done. Not just one mistake, but so many, more than he could count, more than anyone could ever forgive him for. He'd tried to ride out the flood of guilt, but he couldn't convince himself that there was any reason he shouldn't have died. He'd decided that he'd invented the idea that anyone wanted him, least of all Major Sheppard. Somehow, deep inside, he hadn't been able to believe, especially after all he'd done wrong, that anyone wouldn't be glad to get rid of him for good.
But then he'd heard John asking Carson about him concernedly one day. He'd heard Ford and Teyla talking in lowered voices as they sat in the infirmary just... being there. For him. He'd heard Elizabeth asking after him in a worried tone, and Peter Grodin and that Czech scientist... Um, starts with a Z and ends with an A... Oh well. He'd heard them hanging around, inquiring sometimes a few times a day.
And he'd started to hope that maybe there was a reason to live.
And now Sheppard himself had come. And Rodney knew he had a friend. If everyone else decided they wished he had died after all, he knew the Major was glad he'd made it.
And so was Rodney, now.
He rolled over, trying to get into the most comfortable position to go to sleep. It was while he was tugging his blankets around that he found the chocolate bar lying on the bed. Rodney picked it up, puzzled for a minute... And then broke into an almost shy smile. The Major had left it for him. No one had ever given him something like that, not asking anything in return, not even recognition.
Rodney stared at the candy bar, and thought of his family, his face creasing slightly in a pain that was more than physical. They'd given only grudgingly of everything they had, from their time, to their kindness, to their money. And goodness only knew what they'd wanted back; he'd never really known - just that it wasn't anything he'd ever done. All that had been wrong.
Rodney knew it was his loveless childhood that had made him the lonely, self-centred, disagreeable loser he was now. He had started to despair of ever finding anyone who would be his friend, who would help him to get over his past and show him how to be, maybe, a little... normal. To show him, convince him, that there were good people in the world after all.
And Major Sheppard, Aiden Ford, and Teyla - Rodney's team - had shown him that. They'd taken the first steps towards undoing the scars of his earlier life. It would take time, though; the years of neglect Rodney's parents had put him through couldn't be fixed or forgotten overnight.
Every little slip, everything he did wrong, real or imagined, every failing: he had never been allowed to forget any of it. No forgiveness. Nothing had ever been all right.
They hadn't been his friends, let alone a proper family. That concept had been an impossible ideal to Rodney. Maybe, if they'd ever showed that they cared... But they hadn't seemed to consider that to be part of being parents. Jeannie certainly hadn't been bothered to spend the time or the effort to care. After a while, he'd stopped expecting anything, tried to hide behind a mask of indifference and cynicism. And maybe that was why this came as such a surprise. Why now he almost couldn't believe it was really true.
But, he told himself, squeezing the candy slightly, feeling the solid proof - it was real.
And that small amount of love and friendship was all that it took to make Rodney believe that, somehow, all those things that had gone wrong really were all right now. That someday, he'd really be worth something to someone.
Rodney stuffed the chocolate under his pillow, and fell asleep smiling, thinking of missions, and arguments, and poker games.
It was the next day that Elizabeth Weir was walking down towards the infirmary to check on the status of her chief scientific officer. This particular section of the City was usually silent, since quiet was required in the infirmary, so she was surprised to hear several raised voices.
She lifted her eyebrows at the burst of noisy laughter that broke out as she stepped into the infirmary. Carson Beckett caught sight of her as she located the source of the gaiety: a bed at the back of the room. Rodney's. She should have known.
Beckett walked over to her. "Carson?" she inquired with narrowed eyes and a small smile.
The medical doctor raised his hands in surrender. "I know, they're a bit noisy, aren't they?" Elizabeth nodded. They certainly were. "Major Sheppard, Lieutenant Ford and Teyla all showed up today with a pack of cards, and said they had a prior engagement with Rodney. I was going to turn them away but..." He trailed off thoughtfully.
"What?" asked Elizabeth, not understanding.
"Rodney asked me not to," Carson finished. "To tell you the truth, it wasn't so much a request as an order. But he's been so much better since the Major came to visit that I thought I'd make an exception."
Another loud burst of merriment from the other end of the room provoked a smile from both Carson and Elizabeth.
"It's a good thing the infirmary's empty at the moment," Elizabeth commented wryly.
"Aye," Beckett agreed in dismay. "They had promised to be quiet."
Dr. Weir shook her head. If this was their idea of quiet, she hoped they never decided to be noisy. "What exactly are they doing?"
Beckett raised his eyebrows. "They're playing poker. I gather Rodney's losing."
He held up a hand for her to listen. A voice emanated from the end of the room: "I told you you should have folded McKay."
"How would you know? They're my cards! What, have you been peeking or something?"
"No, McKay, it's just you have to learn the meaning of the word 'bluff'."
"I know what 'bluff' means, Major."
"Yeah? Your eye twitches."
"No it doesn't!" Pause. "Does it?"
Ford's voice: "Yep."
"Oh. Um... oh."
"I believe you owe me your entire stock of chocolate, Dr. McKay."
"Yes, I am acutely and painfully aware of that, Teyla. I told you I was no good at this game."
"Yeah, you were right about that."
"Kindly shut up, Major, your comments are far from helpful."
Rodney's face must have been priceless, because this provoked another round of laughter. Then Teyla's voice came through again.
"I suggest we reset the stakes. It is hardly challenging any more."
"Yeah, I think I lost my shirt in the last round."
"Yes, sir. And I lost my next movie night choice."
Teasingly, "Yes, I must thank you, Major, for teaching me this game. It is most rewarding."
"Um... You're welcome, Teyla."
"Well, apparently I'm not the only one who doesn't know what 'bluffing' means, huh?"
"No need to rub salt in the wound, McKay, you're getting your chocolate back."
"Were you not listening a moment ago, Doctor?"
"Well, I was, but..."
"C'mon, lighten up, McKay! You're way too jumpy. Not like there's anything life-threatening about this, even if Teyla is playing."
"Yes... Yes, I suppose you're right about that, Major."
"Good. On with the game?"
Elizabeth turned back to Carson. "Well, he sounds... happy."
"Aye, he does." Carson gave Elizabeth another smile, and shook his head again. "I had reason to be concerned. After he woke up, he seemed to be going into some sort of depression. I suspect he may have been heading towards a relapse. But now..." He listened another moment to the voices behind the curtain. "Now he's recovering very quickly. There's no medical substitute for a few friends to show you that life is worthwhile."
Elizabeth nodded seriously. Once again, Rodney's voice was raised in half-put-on protest.
"Seriously, Major, what have you been teaching her? The best Vegas tricks?"
"If I had, I'd be using them myself, wouldn't I?"
"Maybe she's just better than you at the sleight of hand."
"I assure you, I am playing with perfect fairness, Dr. McKay."
"Yeah, Doc. We should just face it that Teyla's better than all of us put together."
"Thank you Lieutenant!"
"Yeah, well maybe you admit defeat, Ford, but I'm not through just yet..."
"Ah - are those your cards, Major? I'm afraid you are through."
"Damn. You been learning tricks off Teyla now, McKay?"
"No, um, I just got lucky, I suppose." The smug tone belied his words.
"Well, maybe you and Teyla could save a little for the rest of us."
"Or again, perhaps not."
"Hey! C'mon, Teyla... Lieutenant, back me up here."
"Sorry, sir, I'm out."
Elizabeth nodded to Carson. "I'll postpone my visit for later." And, with another smile, she left the infirmary, leaving Beckett to listen to the happy chatter.
"Ah, I seem to have won again, Major."
"McKay, you were losing a minute ago. When did you get this lucky?"
"Oh, I don't know... Does it matter?"
"Yeah, cause whatever caused it, I want some, too."
"You think my luck will stretch to getting out of the infirmary soon?"
"As do I."
"Um... Yes, ah, thank you. So do I."
"No problem, McKay. But in the future, you ought to work on spending less time in here."
"Oh, you're one to talk, Major Accident-Prone Sheppard."
"Hey, I'm not the one who fell down the hole twice."
"Oh, and who's fault was that, huh?"
"I think we decided it was... What was that again, Lieutenant?"
"The planet's fault, sir."
"Yep, it was the planet's fault. What do you say, Teyla?"
"I believe you are right about that, Major."
"See, McKay? It's unanimous."
"Hm, yes. The planet's fault, I can go for that."
Author's Note: And that's it! Hoped you enjoyed the ending. :) And I tried to bring it, at the end,up to where the team relationship was at the start of Poisoning the Well, so I hope that worked out... I'm so pleased with the positive response -you're all the best!