Title: With Friends Like These...
Disclaimers: All Stargate Atlantis characters are property of the Sci-Fi Channel, MGM, and others who aren't me.
I watched as Rodney rolled his eyes. I don't blame him. For once, I can see what he means by medical science being like voodoo magic. Okay, so I know Carson's isn't, but what this guy is proposing has to be.
We're on a small planet with only one country the size of China (and then some). Their technology is equal to Earth in the 60s, but their clothing looks more like our current fashions. They took to us immediately and for the first time, I felt no doubt about their intentions or the need to be on my guard.
"Whalen, do not burden our guests with your silly flights of fancy."
That was Deaton, the council leader of the Madrians. Whalen is the capitiol city's physician. Apparently he has some kind of potion, as McKay called it, which allows a person to really let loose on friends and enemies.
Why anyone would want to even contemplate something like that is beyond me. Deaton sighed as he led us away. "I apologize for Whalen's insistence that you try his new concoction. He really is a brilliant man, but the last scientist who tested it, nearly lost his wife and daughter. It causes ones inhibitions to lower and say the first thing that comes to mind, without thinking."
I glanced over at my team. "Sounds like alcohol."
Deaton smiled. "Yes. The only difference is, you can control your alcohol consumption to avoid that. With this, one drop of it and said person is like that for days. The only thing is, they pick on the first person in their minds."
"Sounds... unpleasant," Teyla replied.
"That it is," Deaton agreed. "Now come! Let's think no more of it! My family has prepared a meal to officially end our negotiations. I hope you are all hungry."
Rodney grinned. "Perfect timing!"
After dinner, we headed back to the Gate. I noticed that Teyla, Rodney and Ronon seemed very quiet. That wasn't anything new for our alien friends, but Rodney... I dropped back next to him. "You feeling okay?"
"I'm fine!" he replied tersely.
"Oookay... Why don't you dial it up?" I suggested as we arrived at the Gate.
Rodney just stood there, arms crossed. He looked absolutely put off that I would even ask him such a thing. "What?"
"Why do you treat Rodney in such a way?" Teyla asked.
"What way?" Okay, I am really confused now. "Ronon?"
"You act like you're so above him. So above all of us."
To say I was speechless would be an understatement. I muttered a quick apology, then turned to dial Atlantis myself. I let them go ahead of me and shook my head as I followed them. What the hell just happened?
I didn't see them anywhere when I stepped through to Atlantis. Elizabeth headed over to me, though, confusion set on her features. I know exactly how she's feeling!
"John, did something happen?" She asked. "When you called earlier, you were all very giddy. Now everyone looks like they just returned from a funeral."
"To tell you the truth, I have no idea. We had dinner to close the negotiations and everything was fine. By the time we arrived at the Gate, they were all turning against me. Ronon and Teyla accused me of thinking I'm above them and pretty much told me to leave Rodney alone." I shrug. "All I did was ask Rodney to dial the Gate.'
"You're probably all just tired," Elizabeth said.
"Probably. I should go before Carson sends a team out for me."
Elizabeth nodded. "Debriefing at 1400."
By the time I arrived at the infirmary, the rest of the team was leaving. Ronon actually growled at me! I was about to follow them, but Carson spotted me. "Ready, Colonel?" I nodded. I could check on them later.
I decided a little exercise would do me good. When I arrived, Teyla and Ronon were sparring and Rodney was in the corner typing away at his laptop. That was odd. Rodney never came in here unless I dragged him.
Rodney cleared his throat when he saw me. "Hey," I said, hoping to break the ice. Nope, if it was possible, it froze even more!
"Rodney," Teyla said (I really didn't like the way she was talking), "Show him what you have learned."
I glanced at the laptop and my heart leapt into my throat. I never thought Rodney would stoop so low. I took a deep breath and said, "If you were so curious about my past, why didn't you just ask me?"
"Because we know you would have left things out. This way we get all the juicy details."
I couldn't believe this? What the hell?
Ronon shook his head, he looked utterly pissed off... at me. Teyla just seemed disappointed. "We are very upset by this," she said. "How could you have been so careless?"
How could I make them understand why I didn't want anyone to know? How can I make them understand that I never wanted to lose my wife or my baby girl, but I did and I couldn't control it. After all those years in therapy telling myself it wasn't my fault, they're going to drudge this up again?
"How can you live with yourself?" Ronon asked.
I knew his fist was coming at me, but I was powerless to stop it as I suddenly realized that Teyla was holding my arms. Before I knew it, my nose erupted in pain and I was on my back, staring at the ceiling.
When I finally glanced around, I noticed they had left. I took that time to assess the injury. I have to admit it didn't hurt as much as the emotional pain at the moment. I could feel my heart thumping wildly in my chest. 'Your fault!' It seemed to shout at me.
"NO!" I cried, standing up. I was a little unsteady on my feet as I headed to the door. I was not going to let these feelings take over me again! Pushing them away, I decided that I needed to see Carson. If anything so I could get some aspirin for this killer headache that was forming.
"John! What happened?"
I turned to see Elizabeth and Dr. Zelenka. I shrugged. "Ronon's fist had an argument with my nose." I watched as they shared a glance. I don't think they bought it. "What?"
"Are you certain you didn't do anything to upset your team?" she asked as we headed to the infirmary.
"Not that I can think of. Dr. Zelenka, has Rodney said anything to you?"
The color drained from his face. "Radek," Elizabeth said as she handed me a handkerchief for my nose (people still carry these things?).
He took a deep breath. "I was working in the lab when Rodney came in. He had a scowl on his face. I just thought someone screwed up, according to his definition anyway. Instead, he began making not so nice comments about you. I told him he was out of line, but he would not listen."
I sighed. This seemed to be getting out of hand. I can take a few insults, sure, but what they had said to me back there...
I blinked. They were staring at me again. Elizabeth pointed to the right and I grinned at her, turning around. Carson walked up to us when we entered. "Colonel, you're a mess" he said, guiding me to a bed. "I'm glad you're all here, though. I just got the results back from Teyla, Rodney, and Ronon's blood work. They're very disturbing to say the least. They have some sort of toxin in their system that I cannot seem to pin down."
"What?" Carson asked.
"Whalen is their chief physician. He kept droning on about a potion that would lower ones inhibitions towards the first person who came to mind."
Dr. Zelenka nodded. "That would explain why they've all been saying things about you, Colonel. Although..."
"It doesn't explain why they're being so vindictive towards you," Elizabeth added.
"Maybe this stuff affects their bodies differently than the Madrians," I told them. Carson wasn't saying anything, but I could tell he was processing all the information. "Um, I haven't said anything rude to anyone... have I?"
Elizabeth gave a reassuring smile. "No, John."
"This is why Ronon hit you," Dr. Zelenka said.
"He hit you!" Carson exclaimed. "I mean, I know he's affected by this, but why would he hit you?"
I ignored the question (which obviously didn't go unnoticed) and said, "Why don't I go back to the planet and talk to Whalen? I promise I won't eat or drink anything while I'm there."
"Even so," Elizabeth said, "I don't want you to go alone."
"I'll join him," Carson replied.
"Very well. You may leave when you're ready, John."
Carson and I almost made it to the Gate room without incident, but Rodney appeared. I trudged past him, not saying a word. I know it's not his fault, but I wasn't in the mood to hear anything.
"How can you even be in his presence?"
I glanced back at Carson and nodded to let him know I was all right. He looked a little embarrassed. "Rodney, you've been given that potion from Whalen. It's making you say things that you'll only regret. I suggest you return to your quarters until I get back."
I heard Rodney sigh. I don't think he believed Carson for a minute. "Emma must have been pissed off at him before she died! I mean, who wouldn't be! It's his fault their daughter was kidnapped and never found!"
I stopped in my tracks; I could feel the tears threatening to spill over. Three months we searched for Mary, and in all that time, Emma had grown heart sick over losing her. She wouldn't eat, she wouldn't get out of the house. I lost them both in the same year. I tried so hard to get through that. So hard...
If Rodney had been in control of his own faculties, I would have hit him by now. Instead, I've decided to reserve that punch for Whalen.
"Rodney, if you won't go to your quarters, go to your lab or I just might claim you unfit for duty."
I still hadn't turned around and I didn't know Rodney was really gone until I felt Carson's hand on my shoulder. "Are you all right, Son?"
"I've been better," I replied. "Let's just head out because truthfully, Carson, I don't know how much of this I can take."
I let Carson do most of the talking because I just wasn't in the mood. He explained what the others had been doing. I could tell Bryce was embarrassed by Whalen's action. "He will be punished for this, John, I can assure you. I humbly apologize on behalf of my people."
"Bryce, you don't have to apologize for Whalen. I expect him to do so himself. And when my team has fully recovered from it's effects, I expect him to apologize them as well. Especially if they're going to remember what was said!"
Bryce nodded. "I agree. Poor Josiah is still paying for it. His wife forgave him, but it's hard not to forget."
"Tell me about it!"
Carson stood up. I think he could see that I was exhausted and I was grateful as I didn't want to have to be the one to suggest we leave. I love this place, with the exception of their current physician, of course.
"I'm afraid we must go, Bryce," Carson said. "I should really check on my patients back home."
"Of course. We will stop by Whalen's office on the way there."
Bryce led us to a small office just a few doors down from his home. Whalen answered after two knocks. He glanced from Bryce to me. I think he knew what we were here for. "Whalen, how could you taint the food of our guests with your concoctions? They were not interested in them, you should not have deceived them."
Whalen nervously looked me in the eyes. I could tell he wasn't sure about my intentions. Maybe he thought I'd be extraordinarily pissed at him. I was, but beating him to a pulp wasn't going to solve anything. No, right now the only person he should be worried about is Ronon when he snapped out of it.
"Please accept my apology, Colonel Sheppard. I don't know what came over me. It was so very wrong of me and I wanted you to know that I've disposed of the potion as well as any information regarding it."
"What's that in your hand?" Bryce asked.
"A vial for their physician to study," Whalen replied, handing it to Carson. "Perhaps it will help you with an antidote. It will most likely be another week if you do not find one."
I sighed. "If you can't find an antidote, Carson, I'm taking the week off!"
I was careful to avoid the others at all cost. Carson and Elizabeth were also making sure of it. Carson said that two days after we had first visited Madria, Rodney started to feel guilty about what he said to me.
The week was almost up and I was a little nervous to try Carson's experiment to see how they'd react to me. It was decided that he, myself, my team, as well as Major Lorne were present, just in case Ronon wanted to attack me again.
As I headed to my quarters, I found Elizabeth waiting for me. "You know if you wanted to see me, you could have called," I told her, pointing to my earpiece.
"I wasn't sure if you wanted company. I know that you've had a lot on your mind lately."
I opened my door and gestured for her to enter. "Trust me, if I wanted to be alone you wouldn't have found me unless you used the sensors."
I could tell she was eyeing me curiously as I took off my jacket and threw it onto the bed. I was about to ask her what she was thinking when she spoke up. "John, I'm sorry those memories were brought to the surface. I can't even imagine what you went through."
"I can forgive Rodney for bringing it up, it's just that..." I trailed off. I was debating on telling her everything. Elizabeth had quickly become one of the greatest friends I ever had. The problem is, I have difficulty with such strong emotions that I avoid talking to any friend about this. At least when I talked to that psychiatrist, it was confidential and she didn't let the world know I was blubbering like a baby.
Before I could continue, I felt the bed move and a hand on my shoulder. I looked over at Elizabeth, her eyes filled with concern. "John, undoubtedly you've talked to someone about this before, but it's going to consume you if you don't talk about it again. If not with me, then Carson or Dr. Heightmeyer."
"No, I think I'd rather share this with you."
"All right," she replied. "Now take your time."
"Emma and I married right after high school. We had Mary about six months later. I loved her to pieces! Talk about women wrapping themselves around your little finger! On Mary's third birthday, we took her to an amusement park. She was a little daredevil and wanted to ride on anything that moved."
Elizabeth laughed. "I wonder where she got that from!"
"Emma, I think," I said with a chuckle. I sobered after a few minutes. "She loved this particular ride and after going on it about five times, I told her that was enough and we had to go. She wasn't having it, though. She ran back towards the ride and I lost her in the crowd.
"We looked everywhere for her. Emma was freaking out and they had to take her to the first aid stand to sedate her. Three months later there was still no sign of her until one day when we received a phone call. No one was actually on the phone, but we could hear people talking in the background. They were yelling at someone. I knew it was Mary the minute I heard her little voice cry out. Before I could say anything, they had hung up.
"I immediately called the police and they traced the call to a small house a few blocks away. By the time we got there, it was too late."
I took a deep breath and tried to hold in my tears, but I couldn't. "We found... the stuffed animal I won for her. When I got back home, Emma was in a near catatonic state. I called for an ambulance, but by the time they got there, she was gone."
It was all I could do to hold it together and I felt Elizabeth's arms wrap tightly around me as I cried. I felt so lost and alone even though I knew I was neither. She didn't say anything, just hugged me tight and rubbed my back.
I felt a little foolish when I finally pulled away. "Sorry," I muttered.
"John Sheppard, do not EVER apologize for letting go like that. You deserve to have some peace over this! And I hope you don't think that any of this was your fault. You had no idea reason to believe someone was planning to take Mary. I know Emma didn't blame you. She loved you both dearly."
"Thanks," I replied quietly. "I just hope when I talk to the others, everything will be back to normal."
She nodded. "Would you like me to join you as well when you go see them tomorrow?"
"Yeah, that'd be great."
"Now why don't you try to get some rest," Elizabeth suggested, standing up. I glanced warily at my bed and I think she noticed my hesitation. "I could see if Carson could give you something to help you sleep."
"No. I want to be completely lucid in the morning. I don't suppose... I mean... would you mind at least staying with me until I fall asleep?"
"Not all, John." I stretched out on the bed and Elizabeth moved to the computer chair. She clasped her hands tightly around mine. "Just rest. You're not alone anymore."
I closed my eyes and smiled, drifting off into a dreamless sleep.
When Elizabeth and I arrived at the infirmary, Carson was talking with Rodney, Teyla, and Ronon. I felt her squeeze my hand. "You'll be fine. Carson said he's been talking to them all day and they haven't said one negative thing about you. In fact, I think they're quiet embarrassed by all this."
I nodded. "Let's get this over with."
The three glanced at one another when I walked up to them. Teyla was the first to come up to me. She took my arms and bowed her forehead, I did the same. "John, I am truly sorry for the pain we caused you. Please know that I consider you one of my dearest friends and that I never meant for this to happen."
"I know, Teyla, and I forgive you. I forgive all of you."
Ronon just nodded. I let it go because I know he's not the touchy feely type. That nod conveyed understanding between the two of us.
Rodney seemed the quietest of all. He was still sitting on one of the infirmary beds, but avoiding me completely. "Rodney," I said. "Look at me."
The look he gave me almost had me running out the door. His eyes had never shown so much emotion before. It kind of scared me. I also didn't notice that everyone else had left us alone. I repeated his name again and he finally spoke up.
"I am so sorry!" he cried, jumping off the bed. Before I knew it, I was being crushed in a bear hug.
I could barely breathe. "Rodney! Air!"
"What?" he asked. "Oh, sorry! I'm sorry about all of this! I know I technically wasn't in control, but I'm still sorry."
I know he was apologizing, but I just loved hearing the word 'sorry' in that Canadian way. "Could you say that one more time?"
"So--. Shut up!"
Carson, Elizabeth, Teyla and Ronon reappeared from behind the curtains, smiling. "Guys, I'm sorry I never told you about my past."
"John," Teyla said, "it is all right. That was a very difficult time for you and we understand why you did not bring it up with us in conversation."
Ronon nodded in agreement. "You just have to focus on the good memories. That's what I do."
"And of course, John," Elizabeth said with a smile, "remember that you're not alone."