Dr. Rodney McKay leaned against the railing of the balcony, wincing as his abdomen protested. Below him the waves of the Atlantean sea broke gently against the exposed structure of the city. It was late afternoon, and the sun was just getting ready to set.
Behind him, he heard the door to Dr. Weir's office slide open, and he groaned.
"Rodney, are you supposed to be out here?" Elizabeth's voice was slightly reprimanding, and the scientist stifled a sigh.
"No, probably not." He remained where he was, hoping that Weir would think he was admiring the view. It was quite beautiful, he had to admit. But that wasn't the reason he needed a moment of solitude.
I need to make a decision.
McKay had returned to Atlantis, barely alive. Carson had rushed him into surgery, and repaired the damage done by the alien dart. But infection had already set in, rampaging throughout the physicist's body, and each day Rodney had grown weaker, finally reduced to breathing via a respirator. He was unaware of the circumstances, blessedly unconscious the whole time. So he was oblivious that his friends had remained at his side, day and night, hoping and praying that McKay would survive.
It wasn't until almost a week later when he finally opened his eyes, frowned, swore softly, and then fell back asleep, that Carson assured the rest of the team that Rodney would live.
He was recovering, but it was painfully slow. Beckett hovered over the scientist like a mother hen, restricting him to his bed and preventing him from even turning on a laptop. Now, almost four weeks later, McKay had finally escaped the eagle eye of the Scottish doctor, and found himself leaning over the balcony in Elizabeth's office.
"Rodney?" Elizabeth laid a gently hand on his shoulder, and he stiffened. Immediately, she removed her hand, her eyes clouding over. Since the scientist had returned from PX7-312, he had…..changed. Quieter, less apt to argue. Almost a regular person. Almost……yet, he recoiled at anyone's touch, especially her's or Teyla's. He spoke only in monosyllables. Most frightening of all, he had given full control of the lab over to Radek Zelenka. Elizabeth thought Radek was going to topple over in a faint, he was so surprised.
McKay took in a long deep breath. He slowly turned and faced the expedition leader, and she was shocked by the sadness in Rodney's eyes.
"Rodney, talk to me. What's going on?" She stepped back, crossing her arms over her chest, unconsciously giving him space.
What's going on? I was left alone on an alien world, surrounded by hostile natives, wounded and unarmed. I almost died. Again. I'm not sure if I can go back through the stargate. I'm afraid I might get lost again, or, even worse, cause someone else to get hurt…or die. And I think I want to go home. Permanently.
Rodney stared at Elizabeth, all his thoughts running through his head, reflected in his blue eyes. Without a word, she stepped forward and enveloped Rodney in a hug, drawing him close. He resisted at first, becoming as rigid as a statue, but, as her warmth enfolded him, he finally relaxed, and found himself wrapping his arms around her. Trembling, and acutely aware of it, he buried his head in her shoulder, trying hard not to lose control.
They stood there for a long moment, Elizabeth trying to absorb her chief science officer's pain and confusion. Carson had warned them all that Rodney was suffering from a form of post-traumatic stress, and that he needed to work things through. Now, as she felt him shaking, she knew that he had finally taken the first step towards a full recovery.
"Shhhhh…it's okay, Rodney. You've been through a lot. You just need some time." Elizabeth's soft voice was reassuring, and McKay found himself starting to believe her. Maybe it would be okay.
Finally, they broke from each other, Rodney sagging against the railing. Alarmed, Elizabeth reached out and guided him towards a small chair.
"You need to rest, Rodney. I'm going to go and get Carson…" She was interrupted by his waving hand.
"No…no…give me a minute. I'll be fine." He closed his eyes, and leaned back into the comfort of the chair. Elizabeth sighed, but remained where she was.
Thank you Elizabeth.
"Dr. Weir, I wanted to talk to you about…..Captain Lewis." Rodney began, and opened his eyes as John Sheppard spoke.
"What about him, Rodney?" The Colonel walked over, stopping next to Elizabeth. They exchanged a glance, then Elizabeth nodded. She gave Rodney a quick smile, then excused herself, exiting into her office, and quietly closing the door behind her.
"I believe I was addressing Dr. Weir, Colonel," Rodney sniped, and John refrained from smiling in relief. Now, this was the Rodney McKay everyone knew.
"Captain Lewis was under my command, McKay. Any questions you have regarding him are to be dealt with by myself. So….what do you want to know?"
John leaned a hip against the railing, turning his body away from the ocean view and focusing on the pale scientist.
A few moments of silence passed, then Rodney finally asked, "I understand you had him return to Earth. Why?"
John stared Rodney, feeling the rage seep into his body. He had ordered the Captain to return to Earth, where he would be assigned to the Antarctica station indefinitely. The man would never raise above the rank of Captain, and if John had his way, he would have had the man dishonorably discharged from the military.
But John didn't say any of this. Instead, he leaned down and stared the scientist full in the face. In a voice that was icy cold, he replied, "Captain Lewis not only left one of his team behind, he happened to leave one of my best friends behind. And Rodney, I will not stand for that….ever. Understand?"
Numbly, Rodney nodded. He cleared his throat, then said, "John, I know that you haven't been able to go on missions lately, and I was thinking that maybe you could replace me…"
He was abruptly cut off
by the Colonel's harsh voice. "McKay, I know what you're
thinking and the answer is no. Teyla, Ronon and I are perfectly
happy to wait until you're ready to go off-world again. As for
replacing you, not a chance.
The only scientist remotely qualified is Zelenka, and he's too timid to go through the gate."
The Colonel stood abruptly and began pacing. "Look, Rodney, I know you had a huge scare. Being left behind, believing that no one was coming for you…that would rattle anyone. But, you survived! Sure, you're a bit beat up, but you'll be up and running in no time. Besides, we need you here, on Atlantis." He paused for a long moment, then gave a shrug. "I need you, as part of my team. So don't be thinking that you're going anywhere, got it?"
Rodney merely stared at the Colonel, then finally gave a small grin. "Yeah, I got it. You don't have to yell, you know."
"Yes, I do. Apparently, that's the only way anything gets into that thick head of yours," John replied.
"I do not have a thick head," Rodney retorted, than glanced up guiltily as Carson came storming onto the balcony.
"What the bloody hell do you think you're doing, McKay?" Beckett didn't wait for an answer, planting his hands on his hips and glaring at the physicist. Behind him Teyla came in, pushing a wheelchair. On her heels was Ronon and Dr. Weir.
"If you must know, getting some fresh air, Doctor. But I suppose that's not allowed, is it?" Rodney struggled to his feet, swaying a bit. John reached out a hand to steady him, and received an annoyed look in return.
Carson stood his ground, although now he sported a smile. "Of course it is, lad. Next time, just tell me where you're off to, right?" Rodney grunted a reply, then plopped in the chair. He waved a hand at John as Teyla wheeled him from the balcony, returning him to the infirmary.
"Well, it's about time," Carson muttered. Both John and Elizabeth nodded, relief on their faces. McKay was on his way back to them. That was all that mattered.
Rodney leaned into his pillows, the lights in the infirmary dimming as the only patient closed his eyes to get some sleep. His talks with John and Elizabeth, although brief, had reminded Rodney who he was, and what he meant to the people on Atlantis. He had come on this expedition because of his knowledge, because of what he could offer as a physicist and scientist. Yes, he had been wounded, and being stranded on that planet had been a frightening experience. Still, though, Rodney knew he would regret leaving Atlantis, fleeing to the relative safety of Earth. He wanted to stay, he needed to stay – and not just because he was the scientist everyone seemed to count on. No, he was staying because of the friendships he had made, the relationships he counted on, the bonds forged between people who would have never met otherwise.
Atlantis is home.
Yes, Atlantis was his home now. And John and Elizabeth – he couldn't imagine not seeing them, working with them everyday. If being terrified and encountering certain doom was the price to pay, then so be it. With a sigh, Rodney relaxed, his doubts and worries fading away, the comfort of sleep beckoning.
But I still miss my cat.