Author's Notes:- Thanks to Stonedtoad for the lightening beta.
Hope you enjoy.
Laura sipped her coffee staring out the window, watching the lightshow that they got when travelling through hyperspace. It was now only a day until they would be back in Atlantis and she couldn't help but be excited. There was something about the city that she'd fallen in love with almost instantly and since she'd received the ATA gene, courtesy of her little stay inside Rodney, she could actually feel it.
"Is there any more of that?"
Laura looked up and poured a mug for the man who dropped tiredly into the seat across from her, "Here you go, Colonel."
Caldwell took the mug gratefully and took a long drink, "I needed that."
"Long day?" she asked with a grin.
He rolled his eyes, "Just the usual in the life of a spaceship Commander," he replied wryly, "I take it you're enjoying your last day of ease."
Laura smiled, "I didn't think I'd miss the place so much. Being back on Earth was just…bizarre."
"Well your family isn't exactly the most normal group of people," Caldwell grinned, "Speaking of, how is your Dad?"
"Enjoying retirement," Laura told him, "He was surprised when I said we'd been working together."
"Your old man was a nightmare of a commanding officer," Caldwell smiled softly in remembrance, "But he made a lot of good officers," he glanced over at Laura, "He was pretty disappointed you didn't join the Air Force you know."
"Yeah," Laura sighed.
"Why didn't you join the Air Force?" Caldwell asked. It was a question he'd always wanted to know the answer to.
"In all honesty," Laura looked slightly sheepish, "I hate to fly."
Stephen Caldwell stood on the bridge of his ship, smiling slightly to himself as he gazed at the city of Atlantis displayed before him. He had to agree with everyone about how incredible the city was, not that he would say to anyone but he did love the place.
Looking round at his crew, he wasn't surprised to see Laura standing staring at the view before her.
"Communication established," he was told from his comm. officer.
Caldwell nodded at her, "Atlantis, this is the Daedalus."
"Welcome back Colonel," the voice of Elizabeth Weir came over the radio, "I hope you come with lots of coffee, we're running low and I could have a scientist rebellion on my hands."
"We come bearing both coffee and chocolate. We'll keep those scientists in line for another while." Caldwell allowed himself a smile, "We're just about to dock."
"Of course, Colonel," Elizabeth replied, "We're quiet at the moment so the briefing can actually take place on schedule."
"I'll see you soon then," Caldwell said before cutting communications, "Alright, take us down."
Laura wasn't sure how she'd ended up being dragged to the update but Caldwell had for some reason decided he wanted her there, for her opinion as well as the reports he'd made her prepare on the journey back to Atlantis. So, she was now standing with him waiting for everyone else to arrive.
"Colonel, Lieutenant," Elizabeth smiled as she entered the room, "Welcome back. It's good to see you both."
"You too," Laura answered as Caldwell nodded his greeting.
"The others should be here soon," Elizabeth told them, "Rodney has some experiment going he needed both John and Carson for, apparently it's vitally important."
"That's sounds like Rodney," Laura was unable to stop herself from saying.
Elizabeth smiled, "Well nothing changes with our resident genius," she glanced out the door, "And here comes the three stooges."
Laura turned to see her CO while on Atlantis, John Sheppard, her adored ex-boyfriend Carson Beckett and an unknown man walking towards them.
"Sorry we're late, Elizabeth," the stranger said before turning to them, "Colonel, Lieutenant, nice to see you both."
Laura turned to Caldwell who was looking as confused as she was.
"You're being nice to Cadman," John laughed at the stranger, "You feeling okay, Rodney?"
Rodney? Laura stared at Caldwell; her eyes wide with shock while he kept his expression blank.
"Take your seats everyone," Elizabeth told them as the doors started to close.
"Play along," Caldwell muttered to Laura as she sat beside him.
Laura looked at him astonished but his sharp glare was enough to silence her. As Elizabeth started to the meeting Laura watched 'Rodney' wondering how they could even think this was the Canadian scientist. His hair was jet black against extremely pale skin while his eyes were a dull brown; nothing like the expressive blue-grey eyes she remembered from the times Rodney glared at her. He didn't even talk like the Rodney she knew, his hands stayed folded on the table in front of him instead of flailing everywhere. When asked for her report Laura managed to give it, though she was sure she was quite incoherent at points. Finally the meeting was over and Elizabeth dismissed them.
"Tell me I was seeing things?" Laura demanded of Caldwell, the moment she was sure they were in private, "And that was Rodney we were talking to."
"Unless McKay had some plastic surgery and a personality transplant while we were gone," Caldwell frowned, "I don't think so."
"This is insane," Laura snapped, "How can they not know? How has no one in the entire city not noticed?"
"I don't know," Caldwell murmured, "And since we both did, I suggest we be extremely careful. This man has replaced one of our key members of staff without anyone flinching, meaning they've used hypnosis of some kind. We have to assume he knows almost everything the real Rodney McKay knew."
"Do you think he has access to Rodney's memories," Laura mused, remembering an SGC incident she'd read about.
"We've no way to know," he replied, frowning as a small smirk appeared on Laura's lips, "You have an idea."
"Rodney and I had a talk before I left," she explained vaguely, "I want to know if he knows what about."
He stared at her, a grimace appearing on his face, "You're not serious?"
"Stephen, I know Rodney well. In fact I know him better than anybody," she reminded him, "I can also be very vague, as well as distracting if I want."
He stared at her astonished, "I knew your mother dropped you on your head when you were a baby. This could be extraordinarily dangerous, you know that."
"We need to know," Laura reminded him.
Exasperated he gave in," Fine but I'm listening in and the moment I think you're in trouble I'm getting you out."
Laura smiled and headed away, "Nothing unusual about that," she threw over her shoulder.
Laura shivered slightly when the impostor turned in response to her call; she mentally labelled him 'McKay' because it was easier that way.
"Cadman," he replied, his voice soft; there was a slight accent to it.
"Can I talk to you?" she forced herself to smile at him.
McKay looked at her suspiciously, "About?"
Laura threw him an annoyed glare before giving a huff of exasperation, "About our conversation before I left, stupid. Come on, so no else hears."
She led him to a balcony waiting until he was standing near the rail; Laura leaned against the wall next to the exit in case she needed to make a quick getaway.
"I have been thinking about everything you said before I left," Laura told him with a seductive smile, "And you know I feel the same way about you."
He stared at her confused, "That's…"
"And beside," Laura continued coyly, "It's not like there's anyone else around here does what I do."
Stephen Caldwell rolled his eyes as he listened into the conversation; she really had no shame sometimes. He listened as Laura continued talking about a connection she and Rodney had.
It was when Caldwell heard the fake McKay suggest they go somewhere else, somewhere much more private, he activated his own radio.
"Lieutenant Cadman," he called, making sure he would be heard by the man with her, "Report to the Daedalus immediately."
Laura jumped as she was called, turning to McKay and giving him a wide smile, "I have to go. Talk to you later, Rodney."
With that said she escaped the balcony and practically ran to the ship so she could make her report.
"What on Earth was that all about?" Caldwell demanded the moment she entered his office.
"Before I left I was talking to Rodney and he told me he does actually like me," Laura explained, dropping into the seat across from him.
"And no one else does what you do?" he raised an eyebrow interested.
Laura smirked, "Fight with him."
"Seriously?" Caldwell stared at her.
"Rodney likes me because I fight with him," Laura grinned tossing her hair, "What did you think I meant?"
"What our impostor thought," Caldwell replied with a frown.
"It means that we know he doesn't have Rodney's memories," Laura reminded him, "He just knows everything in reports, which is why he didn't know Rodney and I are friendlier now than we were. This gives us the advantage to find out what the hell is happening."
Caldwell nodded, "Firstly we have to figure out who in both the city and onboard the Daedalus knows that isn't Rodney McKay?"
Laura bit her lip as she thought about that, "Well, there are some people here who never met Rodney and won't know what he looked like anyway. As for those who did…" she sighed slightly, "For our people we simply put the other guys' picture up as a show and tell who's who on Atlantis."
Caldwell frowned, "What?"
"We make it mandatory for everyone to attend a quick briefing on Atlantis," she explained, "Give them maps, rules, and a show of everyone in the command structure. Then we watch to see who doesn't recognise him."
"That's pretty risky if someone starts talking," Caldwell reminded her.
"An order of silence and then tell them any problems talk to us after," Laura shrugged, "Sir, we don't have a lot of choices in this."
Caldwell nodded, "That's our first order of business, the next is why we know it's not Dr McKay and the others don't?"
"We also have to find him," Laura added.
"That goes without saying, Laura," Caldwell reminded her, "As annoying as he is, Rodney McKay is needed on Atlantis."
"He's also my friend and the friend of several people in this city," Laura snapped, "He's not just a piece of computer equipment."
Caldwell looked a little taken aback by her anger, "Of course, Laura. I didn't mean it like that."
"Alright," Laura rubbed her forehead, "Let's get this set up, should I talk to Hermiod?"
Caldwell nodded, "He may have some idea. I have to continue on as normal with Weir and Sheppard so you'll have to work on this yourself for a while."
Laura nodded, "Yes, sir."
Laura wanted to scream, not one other person on the entire Daedalus, not one, had realised that this guy wasn't Rodney. She saw several people looking confused at the whole, 'This Is Atlantis' lecture they were forced to attend but not one of them flinched when the fake McKay's picture was shown.
She had been so sure there would be at least one more person in the whole of this place to notice that Rodney McKay, the man who could turn a normal sane person into a wreck of a human being hiding under a table rocking themselves, wasn't there. It was a talent Laura admired.
"Rodney, where the hell are you?" she sighed.
"He's in the lab," John appeared at her side making her jump, "Why are you looking for him?"
"No reason," Laura gave him a bright smile before leaving, "Bye, sir."
She managed to walk calmly away, despite the extremely strong urge to grab him by his jacket and yell at him. The moment she turned the corner Laura doubled her pace to get back to the Daedalus, she needed to talk to Hermiod about this.
Laura winced inwardly as Teyla stopped her, "Hi, Teyla."
"It is good to see you back," the Athosian leader smiled softly.
"Nice to be back," Laura grinned, knowing it was slightly false.
"Are you coming for dinner with us tonight?" the other woman asked, "I believe Rodney and Carson will both be there."
Laura winced inwardly, her relationship with Carson was well known, as was her unusual connection to Rodney. This could make trying to discover who this guy was even more difficult.
"I have some things to do," Laura excused herself, "Maybe tomorrow."
"Of course, Lieutenant," Teyla nodded slightly, heading on alone.
Laura sighed in relief when she was alone again and hoped she wouldn't run into anyone else before she got there. She wasn't sure she could take this much longer. Only two of them knew and it scared her because she started wondering who else she didn't know that well had been replaced?
"Hermiod," Laura arrived at the Asgard's domain, "I need to talk to you."
The small grey alien looked up at her, "About?"
Laura glanced round waiting until the technician nearby left the room, "Rodney McKay."
Hermiod tilted his head, "What about Dr McKay? Is he ill, the man has not been here to annoy me yet?"
Laura bit her lip and quickly tapped the controls bringing up the picture of fake McKay, "Do you know who this is?"
"Lieutenant Cadman," the Asgard turned to her, "I do not have time for games."
"Answer the question Hermiod," she snapped, "Do you recognise him?"
The Asgard looked shocked at her outburst, "No."
Laura sighed in relief, "Oh thank God."
"Who am I looking at?" Hermiod demanded.
"That's who everyone thinks is Rodney," Laura explained, "You, me and Colonel Caldwell are the only three who know this isn't the real McKay. I need your help. Rodney needs our help."
Hermiod touched a few buttons, "He may be irritating but Dr McKay is needed here. I shall inform you of my progress."
Laura smiled feeling a little better, now she needed to find Rodney.
If one good thing had come out of being in Rodney's mind, Laura mused, it was that when they had been sharing his body she'd learned a whole load about the computer systems. This included several top-level passwords, especially Rodney's.
She needed to find out how long Rodney had been missing for, which would in turn give her the mission and hopefully the planet where he would be now. Laura leaned back in her chair as she thought; there was a very small window that this could have occurred.
It felt strange to know that there was someone in Rodney's room, using his things.
"Damn you," she muttered to the missing Canadian scientist, "You actually got under my skin."
"Are you not gone yet?"
Laura turned to where Rodney stood at the doorway to the balcony, "Wanting rid of me, Rodney?"
"Oh come on, Rodney," Laura laughed, leaning against the rail, "You're not going to miss me? Even the teeniest tiniest bit?"
He let out a snort and crossed to stand at her side, looking out across the ocean.
"Maybe a little," he admitted, keeping his eyes focussed on the distant clouds.
"A-ha," Laura crowed, "You like me."
Rodney frowned at her, "I didn't say that."
"You like me," Laura stated again with a huge grin.
Rodney shrugged, "You're one of the few people around here who'll actually fight with me. Everyone else just backs off or curls up in a corner and cries."
"You do have that effect on people," Laura laughed, turning so she was facing the same way as Rodney.
He frowned at her making her grin even more.
"D'you want anything from Earth?" Laura asked, changing the subject quickly, "Lottery ticket? Coffee? A shirt that doesn't look like a kid just tossed paint on it?"
Rodney rolled his eyes at her, "Peanut butter M&M's."
"What?" Laura looked surprised at his request.
"I like them," he shrugged, "And for some reason I can never get anyone to bring any here."
"Alright, Rodney," Laura grinned at him, "I promise you Peanut Butter M&M's." With an impish sparkle in her eyes, she leaned over and gently kissed his cheek, "Look after yourself, Rodney," she told him as she left the balcony to join the Daedalus, "I expect you to be here for me to fight with when I get back."
Carson's voice made her jump and scramble to shut off her computer before she jumped over to the door.
"Hey," she greeted him with smile, "What's up?"
Carson frowned at her and folded his arms, "I believe we had a date?"
"Huh?" Laura stared at him confused.
The doctor laughed at her, "We agreed we'd have dinner when you got back, remember?"
Laura winced, "Oh I'm sorry, Carson," she told him, "I just have a lot of work. Colonel Caldwell's decided I need to learn more about his job. So I'm doing reports."
Carson rested his arm across her shoulders moving her out of the room, "Well, its dinner time. So I'm sure he'll forgive ye for taking a wee break so you can eat."
"Alright," she gave in, "Dinner it is."
"The rest of the usual suspects are waiting," Carson told her as they started walking along the corridors.
Laura felt a shiver flow along her spine, "As in?"
"John, Ronon, Teyla," Carson noted before grinning, "And Rodney."
"Oh joy," Laura muttered, she was not looking forward to this.
Rodney cried out in pain as he felt one of the bastards holding him captive stab something sharp into his back. After a second the pain lessened, before intensifying. Rodney felt like his spine was on fire and he dropped to the floor as his legs gave way beneath him.
His captors laughed at him.
"Try and escape again," the leader laughed before they left him.
Rodney closed his eyes in pain; he had no way out of this nightmare. His team had abandoned him; the three people he had come to trust with his life had all walked away.
Anger flowed through him, how stupid could he have been thinking that he meant anything to them. He had been a tool that they would find a way to replace. It'd take several people to replace him, Rodney knew but they'd do it.
Unbidden, the wish that there was someone there who would miss him entered his mind but he knew that was impossibility.
"Is something wrong, Lieutenant?"
Laura jumped as McKay spoke directly to her, "Nothing. I'm trying to eat you know."
"Ah, the sweet sound of arguing," John laughed, "Can't believe I actually missed that."
"Missed?" McKay looked confused.
Carson laughed, "Come on Rodney, you two cannae be in the same room for more than a minute without arguing. You know that."
Laura felt a shiver slip down her spine as he looked at her intently.
"Well, maybe we'll get along better this time," McKay leered at her slightly.
Laura felt the urge to punch him but reined it in, "Keep hoping McKay," she finished her meal and threw back her drink, "I gotta go."
With that she dived away ignoring Carson call her back, she walked as swiftly as she could along the corridors heading back to her room. She needed to find Rodney as fast as possible.
"Lieutenant," she felt a shiver slide along her spine as McKay called her.
Laura spun on her heel, "What?"
"You left quickly," he said as he walked towards her.
"I have things to do, Rodney," she snapped, "And don't feel like sitting listening to you boast about how wonderful you are."
He looked confused, "You said…"
"I may like arguing with you, Rodney," Laura told the impostor, hoping to keep him away from her, "But even that can only last for so long." She started away again tossing over her shoulder, "See you later."
Hermiod frowned at the files he was bringing up on the screen. Since Lieutenant Cadman had talked to him, Hermiod has been working to find if any information had been sent from the city.
So far there had been no trace of any signal; however he still wasn't sure how every person on both Atlantis and the Daedalus had been fooled by this man. A thought struck the Asgard and he tapped into the security camera backup feed.
"Colonel Caldwell," Hermiod radioed the commander of the ship, "I need to speak to you and Lieutenant Cadman as soon as possible."
"Did he say what he's got?" Laura asked, as they walked towards the engine room, Hermiod's domain.
Caldwell shook his head, "Just that he had something for us."
Laura rubbed her eyes, she was getting tired of this and just wanted to scream at the people who had lost their friend yet didn't even notice.
"You're worried about McKay," Caldwell noted, seeing her gesture.
Laura nodded, "A lot," she admitted, "Stephen, I know he doesn't show it but the people here on Atlantis are his family. The fact no one has noticed he's gone, when he finds this out will hurt him, deeply. He's a good man who tries to keep himself from getting hurt by acting the way he does."
Caldwell smiled, "He really got to you."
Laura frowned at him, "Shut up," she retorted weakly, before wincing at his sharp look, "Sir."
He shook his head at her leading her into the engine room; they both stopped staring in horror as they found the Asgard lying at his console, blood flowing freely from a wound on his head.
"Oh my God," Laura fell onto her knees beside the wounded Asgard; she grabbed Novak's box of tissues and pressed a pad to the wound trying to stem the bleeding.
Caldwell reached under Hermiod's console and pulled out an Asgard communicator.
"I hope to hell this works," he muttered as he activated the distress signal.
They only had to wait for a few seconds before Hermiod disappeared leaving only a bloodstain on the floor.
Laura turned to Caldwell, "Looks like we're back to square one."
Laura paced Caldwell's office, "We have to assume 'McKay' knows we're on to him."
Caldwell nodded, "If I say anything to Weir and Sheppard however…"
"They don't trust you," Laura noted, "And if I start saying anything against 'McKay' they won't trust me either. We're on our own for this."
Caldwell let out a long sigh; glancing down at his computer he saw he had a message, "Wait a second."
Laura looked at him confused as he started to grin, "Stephen, what's going on?"
"Hermiod is one smart little alien," Caldwell laughed, "I'll give him that."
"What?" she snapped, annoyed that he wasn't telling her anything.
"Look," Caldwell turned the laptop so she could read the message the Asgard had sent before he was attacked.
"Yes," she cried in relief, "We can reverse the hypnosis."
"Our next problem is that we need the real Dr McKay to do so," Caldwell reminded her, "And we need to find out where he is."
Laura frowned, chewing her lip as she mused, "I have an idea. To make sure that 'McKay' doesn't suspect us so we have time to do just that."
Caldwell looked at her expectantly.
"Meet with Weir, Sheppard and 'McKay'," Laura told him, "You tell them about Hermiod's attack and say he had told you he had something to tell you concerning Dr McKay. You then ask 'McKay' if he has any idea what it is and when he says no, which he will, you ask him to look into it."
Caldwell smiled, "Good Lieutenant. Now you have to find out where the real Dr McKay is. Once we know that, you and I are going on a rescue mission."
Laura sat at the computer working furiously to try and find Rodney's location. The attack on Hermiod meant this was now even more urgent than before, the thought that if the impostor knew someone was onto him could mean he'd contact whoever had Rodney and they'd…
She closed her eyes, willing away that thought. Rodney wasn't dead, they were going to find him and bring him home.
"Okay," Laura said to the empty room, "Hermiod's narrowed down the time-frame. Give me the location."
Scanning though mission reports she stopped. That was it, a mission to a Genii occupied planet where the team were out of contact with the accompanying team for several hours. They arrived back in a Jumper, meaning those on the planet would have already been drugged. Once in the Hangar Bay it would be easy enough for 'McKay' to drug Weir when she greeted them and put the drug through the air vents. And the delay in getting to the meeting when they first arrived was obviously when he drugged the Daedalus crew.
She had him.
"Colonel," Laura called, jogging through the corridors, "I have it. I'm just making a quick stop at Rodney's lab and I'll meet you on the ship."
"Good, Lieutenant," Caldwell replied, "The entire ship has been cleared. We're going to have to steal the ship after you steal the devices."
Laura laughed slightly, "Back to my old tricks then. Weren't you the one to stop me from stealing?"
"Get here as fast as you can," he ignored her.
Laura smiled slightly, she reached Rodney's lab frowning to find Dr Zelenka was working on some artefact.
"Lieutenant?" he greeted her, "Are you looking for Rodney?"
"Not exactly," she replied, "I need the weapon he was working on before I left."
Zelenka frowned at her, "Why?"
"Can't tell you," she replied, "But I need it and the locator Rodney created."
"Lieutenant," Zelenka stared at her confused, "Both of those are not to be touched without express permission from Dr Weir and Rodney."
Laura sighed and pulled her gun, "I'm really sorry, Zelenka but I need them now."
He stared at her before retrieving both devices, "Here."
Laura sighed knowing he'd call Sheppard before she could get to the ship, grabbing some rope she motioned him to sit down.
"I'm really sorry about this," she apologised as she tied him up, "But you'll understand when I get back."
Laura ran through the corridors to the Daedalus, relieved that she made it on board.
"Ready?" Caldwell asked, the moment she reached the bridge.
Laura nodded, setting the devices down carefully, "Dr Zelenka may never talk to me again."
Caldwell glance up at her, "Do I want to know why?"
Laura gave a shrug, a half-smile on her face, "No."
He rolled his eyes, before he took the controls of the ship. With a deep breath, Caldwell brought the ship into the air.
"Colonel Caldwell," Elizabeth Weir's sharp voice came over the radio, "What are you doing?"
"I'll explain later, Doctor," Caldwell replied coldly.
"Colonel, I am ordering you to return the ship to Atlantis," she snapped, "You and Lieutenant Cadman are to surrender yourselves to Colonel Sheppard and his men."
"That isn't going to happen," Caldwell told her, preparing to take the vessel into hyperspace.
"I will report this to Earth," she reminded him.
Caldwell shared a wry look with Laura, "That's your prerogative, Doctor Weir."
With that he cut communications.
Laura leaned against the command chair, watching as Caldwell piloted the ship towards the planet where Rodney was being held hostage. A noise at the console beside her drew her back to the present.
"Sir, there's another ship;" she called, "Coming right at us."
"Is it Wraith?" he demanded.
"No," she read the data, "It's…" she gasped in relief, "It's Asgard."
Caldwell smiled, "Hail them."
A bright light filling the bridge made that a moot point. The member of the Asgard stood there as the ship disappeared.
"Hermiod?" Laura cried relieved.
The small alien nodded in greeting.
"Are you okay?" Caldwell asked, relief in his voice to see the alien.
The Asgard moved to his side, "My injuries were grievous, but the others were able to place me within a new body. I insisted they return me to you instantly, I believe you will require my help for this rescue mission."
Laura laughed, "You're not kidding."
The Asgard nodded, "I shall return to my station. Call me when you require my assistance."
The Daedalus was in orbit around the moon of the planet they were sure Rodney was being held on. The three of them stood around the Asgard's console in engineering.
"I have several life signs within this area," Hermiod told them, showing them on the screen, "I believe this to be Dr McKay, within the cell."
"I'll go in and get him," Laura volunteered instantly, "Beam me to a quiet spot and I'll use the locator. Before I left it was set for Rodney anyway, I hope it still is. Once I have him, beam us up and we get the hell out of Dodge."
"Once we get back to the city," Caldwell added, "We beam the stunner outside the infirmary just before we go down. If our impostor manages to escape the room once we reveal his deception, we don't have to worry about him doing anything more to the city."
Laura picked up the locator, Asgard communicator and took the gun Caldwell offered.
"Be careful, Laura," he ordered, I don't want to have to explain losing you to your father."
"Don't worry," she smiled. Taking a deep breath, she turned to Hermiod, "Alright. Beam me down, Scotty."
The white light surrounded her and the Daedalus faded before blue sky filled her vision. Instantly Laura pulled herself into a corner, making sure no one would see her and pulled out the locator.
"Okay, I hope this is still connected to you, genius," she breathed, waiting for a signal to give her a direction. Finally, she was given a direction, with a quick prayer to whoever was listening Laura started forward. It didn't take her long to find the building he was being held in; to her surprise there was only one guard. They obviously hadn't been expecting anyone to notice the deception.
Laura moved silently up behind the man standing watch over Rodney's cell. Once she was behind him, she tapped him on the shoulder.
"Hi," she smirked, when he turned to look at her.
Before he could react, she slammed his head against the wall watching with extreme satisfaction as he slid to the ground unconscious.
Laura was horrified when she found Rodney lying on the floor of the tiny cell. His shirt was gone; his body was a mess of cuts and bruises. Just looking at his injuries made her want to hit someone, and there was someone outside she could take his anger out on. Forcing thoughts of revenge out of her mind for now, she dropped down beside Rodney, resting her hand on his shoulder and shaking him slightly, wincing as he jumped.
"It's okay, Rodney," she assured him; "It's me."
Rodney groaned, "It's official, I am in hell."
"Not yet," Laura smiled at him, "Can you stand?"
"No," he replied woodenly, "They've put something in my back. I'm paralysed, Cadman."
Laura felt her gut clench at the matter-of-fact tone of his voice; she slid her arm around his waist, moving him to sit, overbalancing slightly at the weight against her and pulled out the communicator Hermiod had given her.
"I have him," she relayed, "Hermiod, beam us directly to the infirmary and tell the Colonel to meet us there. I'm going to need help."
The bright white light surrounded them and she heard Rodney sigh in relief as the grey walls of the Daedalus appeared, instead of the dank brown of the cell they'd just been looking at.
"Dr McKay," Caldwell called as he ran in, he leaned down and helped move Rodney onto the bed, "It's good to see you."
Rodney nodded, leaning back against the cool clean pillows.
"Hermiod," Laura called over the radio, "Can you come down here? We need your help with something."
"Of course," their Asgard associate replied.
"What's wrong?" Caldwell asked, watching as Laura fetched some supplies to clean Rodney's wounds.
"Rodney said they put something in his back to paralyse him," Laura explained, glancing at Rodney for confirmation only to find he'd slipped into a doze, "I'm hoping Hermiod can do something about it."
Laura gently started to clean the cuts on Rodney's arms, wincing as he hissed in pain. His eyes remained closed through her ministrations. After a few minutes Hermiod appeared.
"What can I do, Lieutenant?" the Asgard asked.
Laura turned to him relieved, "They implanted something in Rodney's back and he's paralysed from the waist down. Can you remove or deactivate it in some way?"
"Hmm," the small grey alien moved to the computer, "I need to see the device."
"Rodney," Laura shook him awake, smiling as he stared at her tiredly, "You need to sit forward so Hermiod can look at the thing in your back."
"Fine," he winced at the movement, relieved that Laura helped him.
"Hmm," Hermiod said again, studying what he could see of the device, "You can sit back again, Dr McKay."
Rodney groaned as he fell back against the pillows, his eyes searching Laura's for something, she wasn't sure what.
"They left me," Rodney whispered, pain filling his voice.
Laura gently stroked his hair, knowing if he was healthy he wouldn't be so welcoming of any sort of care, especially from her, "They didn't know, Rodney," she soothed, alarmed by how warm he felt, "Hermiod's going to try shut that thing off in your back and I'll make sure your wounds are clean," she squeezed his hand, "Then we'll take you home."
"That'll be good," he murmured tiredly, "I miss my cat."
Laura smiled, stroking his hair again as he drifted off to sleep, "I know. Just get some rest, Rodney."
Laura looked down at Hermiod, waiting to find out what the Asgard had to say.
"I am unable to remove the device," Hermiod told her, "Dr Beckett will be the one to do this. However, I can jam the signal it is emitting, rendering it inert."
"Will this hurt him?" Laura didn't want the scientist to be in any more pain than he already was.
"There shall be some discomfort as sensation returns to him," Hermiod explained, "But other than that he should not feel anything."
"Good," Laura returned to cleaning the wounds on Rodney's chest, shivering as she tried to imagine why he was so beat up. Her eyes caught sight of several jagged scars on his right arm, reaching out she gently stroked the white lines, jumping as he jerked awake.
"No," he snapped, yanking his arm away.
"Rodney," Laura tried to soothe him, "You're safe. Rodney, calm down."
"What are you doing, Cadman?" he demanded sharply.
Laura folded her arms and smiled at him amused, "Cleaning you up, so you don't look like a reject from a horror movie anymore."
Rodney glanced down at his chest, wincing at the pattern of cuts there, "They never asked anything, just cut. I tried to escape and they shoved that thing into my back," Laura gripped his hand as pain filled his eyes, "I tried…I…"
"It's okay, Rodney," Laura soothed, her hand moved to his head drawing him into her arms, she felt his arms fasten around her waist as he held onto the person who, at this moment, represented his family back on Atlantis.
Caldwell stepped back into the infirmary to find Hermiod working, while Laura was hugging Rodney McKay tightly, looking like she was never going to release him. He moved to the Asgard, making sure not to disturb Laura, who he knew would be embarrassed at being discovered like this.
"How long?" he murmured, crouching down beside the alien.
"I am working on deactivating the device," Hermiod replied, "It will only be a few minutes until I can neutralize the effects. However, Dr McKay shall not be able to walk unassisted until it has been removed completely. Even then, I believe it shall take some time until he recovers enough to walk any length of time."
"As long as he's able to move so we can get him down to the infirmary for when we remove the hypnosis from the others," Caldwell reminded him, "That'll be enough," he tilted his head questioningly, "Are they still hugging?"
"Lieutenant Cadman has returned to cleaning his wounds," Hermiod replied with what Caldwell was sure was a smirk.
Caldwell stood up and turned to where Laura had moved to fixing the wounds on Rodney's back. They were talking quietly, as she sat half on the bed behind him, being as gentle as possible.
"Hermiod's almost ready," Caldwell made them turn to him.
"Good," Rodney noted, giving a yelp of pain, "Come on, Cadman. A little tenderness in your work would be nice."
"Want me to start kissing them better?" sarcasm flowed from every word.
Rodney twisted to look at her and smirked, "I have a witness you offered," he winced again as she gently smacked his arm.
Caldwell smiled relieved that Rodney was acting like himself. Hermiod joined him.
"I am ready," the grey alien told them, "Dr McKay, you may feel some discomfort but you shall have the ability to move your legs again."
"Do it," Rodney ordered.
The pain shot through Rodney making him cry out, he felt two arms encircle him from behind and Rodney was glad to have Laura with him. Despite their differences, especially during the body-sharing incident, he enjoyed her company. Actually he enjoyed fighting with her because very few people on Atlantis would argue back.
"It's okay," her voice whispered soothingly in his ear, "It's over Rodney, you're okay."
"Cadman," he murmured.
He turned to look at her, "I really miss my cat."
They both started to laugh.
"I can believe it," Laura giggled, her forehead resting on his shoulder as they both shook with laughter.
"Dr Weir," Radek called to her from the console behind the DHD, "The Daedalus has returned."
Elizabeth frowned, "Good. General Landry is very interested in why Colonel Caldwell and Lieutenant Cadman took the ship themselves, after stealing several things from Rodney's lab."
"Colonel Caldwell is contacting us," Radek told her.
"Colonel," Elizabeth snapped over the radio, "What the hell is going on?"
"I have something for you Dr," Caldwell's reply was just as sharp, "If you, Colonel Sheppard, Dr Beckett and Dr McKay can meet us in the infirmary. We'll transport there in a few minutes. I would also suggest Teyla and Ronon also; they will be very interested in what we have."
Elizabeth looked at Radek for some help; he merely shrugged at her as confused as she was.
"We'll be there Colonel," Elizabeth said cutting off communications, "Radek, call Rodney, Sheppard and the others. I also want several Marines there."
Radek nodded, "What do you think he is going to do?"
"I don't know," Elizabeth replied sharply, "But I don't trust Colonel Caldwell as far as I could throw him."
"Elizabeth?" John jogged over to her so they entered the infirmary together, "What's going on?"
"Colonel Caldwell is back and apparently has some sort of surprise for us," she told him, "I have a bad feeling about this."
"I'm guessing that's why the honour guard is with us," John noted, nodding to Carson, Ronon, Teyla and Rodney who were already standing waiting for Caldwell.
"Exactly," Elizabeth folded her arms as they all stood facing the area Caldwell would be transporting into.
After a few moments a bright light filled the room fading to reveal three people. Elizabeth frowned confused as Caldwell and Laura stood an unknown man supported between them.
"Who is this?" she demanded, surprised as pain filtered over the stranger's face.
He turned to Laura who squeezed his hand, "Its okay," she said to the man, Laura glanced at the guards, "I suggest you keep your weapons aimed at the man you call Dr Rodney McKay."
"What?" John demanded, "Cadman, what the hell is going on?"
"Do you recognise this man?" Caldwell asked, motioning to the man held between him and Laura.
"Should we?" Ronon demanded as the rest shook their heads.
"Oh, you guys are so going to regret this," Laura murmured.
"Hermiod," Caldwell called, "Do it now."
An ear-splitting squeal filled the air and everyone, except the three who'd come from the Daedalus clutched at their ears dropping to the ground.
John was the first to recover and he pulled himself to his feet, staring at the man being held between Caldwell and Cadman.
"Rodney?" he gasped, turning to the impostor at his side, "Who the hell are you?"
The impostor ran, grabbing the gun from one of the guards, shoving the guard into the man beside him, sending them sprawling. He turned the gun onto the Atlantis command team, firing as he ran.
John yanked Elizabeth to the ground as Carson, Teyla and Ronon dived out of the way.
"Rodney!" Laura yelled suddenly, John spun horrified to see his friend lying on the ground, Caldwell pressing his hands against Rodney's shoulder, blood streaming through his fingers.
"Carson, get your ass over here," John scrambled over to Rodney, looking up to Ronon and the guards, "Get him."
He exchanged glances with Laura, who was trying to get Rodney to stay awake.
"How could we not know?" John breathed astonished.
No one answered him as the medical team arrived and they were pushed out of the way.
Ronon ran after the man they'd all thought was Rodney McKay, shocked when the man rammed into some invisible wall and came careening backwards into Ronon's waiting grip.
Anger surged through the Satedan, McKay was his teammate and this man had managed to trick them all.
"Ronon," Teyla's voice snapped through the air, "Do not harm him."
The impostor relaxed visibly before stiffening as Teyla moved closer to them, her face set in anger, her brown eyes blazing.
"Colonel Sheppard will want to interrogate this man himself," she reminded him. She turned to the men standing there, "Take him to a cell."
The three marines followed her orders without question, dragging their prisoner away. Teyla gently touched Ronon's arm.
"Colonel Sheppard will need us," she reminded the man.
Ronon nodded and together they headed back to the infirmary.
Rodney could hear people moving around him and felt soft pillows below his head, meaning he was in the infirmary. Gradually, he opened his eyes to find his team with Elizabeth and Carson at his bedside.
"Rodney," Elizabeth spoke softly when she saw him looking over at them, "How are you feeling?"
Rodney's eyes drifted around the people all watching him intently. Slowly, trying to minimise the pain from his various cuts and bruises, he turned away from them and closed his eyes again. He could hear them murmur as they moved away from his bed but ignored it. Rodney sighed to himself, he should have known better than to get comfortable with these people.
Laura stood in the doorway of the lab watching Zelenka work, she'd spent most of the morning explaining everything they'd done and why to Weir then Landry on Earth.
This was after spending the rest of the afternoon the previous day waiting on word about Rodney. It still sent a shudder through her, remembering how one moment Rodney was upright, even if it was with their help, and then he was lying on the ground, blood pouring from him.
Carson assured them, several hours later that the device had been removed without any complications and the wound to his shoulder would heal fine. Dr Weir had then decided that the de-briefing could wait until the next morning; Laura could have hugged the woman at that point. She was exhausted and the moment she'd reached her room had collapsed on the bed, falling asleep instantly.
Now, she had to apologise to the Czech scientist and it was something she wasn't looking forward to.
Laura jumped when he spoke to her, "Hi Doc, can I come in?"
"Of course," he turned to her, his face completely unreadable.
Laura took a deep breath, "I just wanted to say sorry about threatening you at gunpoint and tying you up and leaving you there."
Zelenka laughed slightly, making Laura frown worriedly.
"I completely understand," Zelenka told her, "Although, not at the time."
Laura smiled softly.
"If you had not did what you did," Zelenka reminded her, "Rodney, would not be here, safe with us once more."
"Thank you Dr Zelenka," she smiled at him, leaving the lab feeling much better than she had.
You wanted to see me, Carson?" Laura entered his office a few days later, finding him hunched over his desk.
"Laura," he smiled tiredly, "Thank you for coming."
"How is Rodney?" she asked, every time she'd visited the scientist, he'd been sleeping so she hadn't had a chance to talk to him yet.
"Physically, he's recovering," Carson explained, "However, he refuses to speak to any of us. Myself, Colonel Sheppard, Teyla, Ronon, Radek and Elizabeth, the moment we arrive he turns away. He's being very uncooperative when I'm trying to do anything. I've got another doctor doing everything for me."
"I can understand why," Laura replied sadly, "He saw them leave him, Carson and no one in the entire city realised he wasn't here. The people he's closest to didn't know they weren't talking to him. You know Rodney values the friendships he has here more than anything."
"I'm hoping your relationship with him has reached a point you can try and coax him to talk to us," Carson explained.
Confusion covered her face, "My what?"
"You two are friends whether you like it or not," Carson reminded her, a smile covering his face, "And Colonel Caldwell told me about when you were cleaning his wounds. You may not want to admit you two are friends, Laura but he needs you right now. You rescued him. For now you and Caldwell are the only two people he trusts."
Laura grimaced at him, she knew Rodney well enough to know how to get him to talk to her. She squeezed Carson's hand before jumping up and leaving. She had to set up a few things before going to see her friend.
Laura found Rodney sitting in a wheelchair and staring out at the ocean, fully dressed with one arm in a sling.
"I didn't think you'd be allowed to be up so soon," she interrupted, making him jump slightly.
"Dr Franks seems to be afraid of me for some reason," he told her half-heartedly.
"Come on," she took control of the wheelchair, "Let's go."
"Cadman?" he twisted to look at her confused.
"I have something for you," Laura patted his good shoulder, "Be a good boy and shut up."
He let out a huff of annoyance but stayed silent as she wheeled him through the corridors. They reached the rec room and Laura stopped the chair in front of the TV she had set up.
"Okay," she took the elbow of his good arm, "Move onto the couch. I'll help you."
Without any argument, which Laura found unusual in itself, he let her help him move to sit on the couch. Once he was there she moved the wheelchair to the corner of the room.
"What are you doing?" Rodney demanded tiredly.
Laura smiled as she put the DVD she'd set up earlier into the machine, "I remember you mentioning once you liked horror movies, so here," she handed him the case, "Evil Dead."
Rodney smiled slightly, "Great."
"And," Laura took the seat beside him, leaning over the arm of the chair to grab the bag she'd left there, "I brought you these from Earth. They were going to be for your birthday but I thought you'd want them now."
He looked at her surprised, "You got me something for my birthday?"
"Don't let it go to your head, Rodney," she replied amused, pulling out a large red bag.
"Peanut butter M&Ms," Rodney grinned, "I love them."
"I know. You told me remember?" Laura smiled, "Open them and I'll start the movie."
They sat together watching the movie and eating the M&M's, Laura rested her head against his shoulder, a little surprised that he didn't pull away from her.
"Thank you," he murmured suddenly.
Laura turned in him, "For what?"
"You know for what," Rodney replied sharply.
A small smile touched her lips, "Why don't you actually say it, Rodney? It isn't a hard thing."
He scowled at her, making her smile even more as she settled back again.
"Alright," he snapped, "You saved my life."
"That wasn't so hard now was it, Rodney," Laura teased.
Rodney tried to move away from her but Laura twisted on the couch and knelt at his side frowning at him.
Laura placed a finger across his lips shutting him up, "Listen to me. I know you're hurt and I know you're trying to protect yourself but Rodney, you have to talk them."
"Yes you do," she cut him off; "They didn't know, Rodney. It's like the stuff the Gould used to make people do what they want. It was mass hypnosis and the moment they realised what the hell had happened…" she sighed trailing off, "They feel like crap, Rodney and they want to make it up to you but you've got to let them."
He dropped his gaze, "You don't understand, Cadman." She punched him on his good arm, making him cry out slightly, "What the hell was that for?"
"You know my name," she snapped annoyed, "You've used my name. So use it. I'm your friend."
Rodney stared up at her in amazement, "My friend?"
"Yeah," she smiled gently at him, "We're friends, Rodney. Who else would bring you Peanut Butter M&M's from another galaxy?"
Rodney stared at her in astonishment, "I don't think I've ever had any woman call me a friend."
"I wonder why," she rolled her eyes, "Look, let me put it this way. Dr Weir has banned Sheppard, Teyla and Ronon from even going near the prisoner. She asked Colonel Caldwell to be in charge of interrogating him."
Rodney frowned, completely confused, "Why?"
"Because Sheppard is out for blood," Laura told him, "The three of them are raging that they were tricked. They all want you to talk to them, Rodney. They all feel like crap for being tricked. You have to talk to them."
"You don't understand," he sighed sadly.
Laura took his hand, making him look at her again, "Don't I?"
"They're your family," she said for him, "They are the first group of people you've trusted in a long time. And you're hurt they didn't know you weren't here."
He dropped his eyes, "I don't know if I can do it, Laura."
"I'll be there with you," she promised, "If you want. I'll be there while you talk to them."
Rodney nodded softly, relief filling his eyes.
"Why did it not affect you and Caldwell?" Rodney asked, it was something he'd wanted to know, "Was it because Caldwell had the Gould in his head and you were in mine?"
Laura smiled, "Actually, I told you it was similar to the Goa'uld drug. Both the Colonel and I were exposed to it when we were in the SGC during an accident so we weren't affected by the drug. That meant we knew he wasn't you, and since the stuff didn't have any effect on Hermiod, we found you."
"Thanks," he sighed again.
"Let's watch the end of the movie," Laura told him, "I have to get you back to the infirmary soon.
"Carson," Laura snapped, "Just go and do it."
The doctor frowned, "And you're sure?"
"Of course I am," she rolled her eyes at him, "Now, go."
Carson took a deep breath and walked over to the bed, "I need to take some blood, Rodney," he said to the patient sitting on the bed staring at the wall.
"Again?" Rodney snapped, holding out his arm, "I swear you're not doing tests. Vampire."
Carson quickly took the blood; he turned back to Laura smiling in relief who simply smirked back at him.
"Told you," Laura laughed, as they moved over to his office.
Carson smiled slightly, "Yes, Rodney insulting me as usual. Now all we need is for him to talk to the rest of them."
"I don't want to do this," Rodney snapped.
Laura rolled her eyes as she continued to push him through the corridors, "It's a movie night, Rodney. Not a major crisis."
"And everyone else is there," he grimaced, "I don't…I can't…"
As he trailed off Laura stopped the wheelchair, walking round in front of him, she folded her arms across her chest, "These people are your friends. You have to talk them at some point and this is the best way to go about it. I promised I'd be there and I will. Okay?"
Rodney frowned at her.
"Okay?" she asked again, a little more forcefully.
"Fine," he snapped half-heartedly.
Laura squeezed his good shoulder and started forward again, "Carson mentioned you're getting stronger and should be back to running for your life in a few weeks."
"Wonderful," he muttered, with a smile he was glad she couldn't see.
Finally they reached the rec room; Rodney could clearly make out Sheppard's voice as well as Radek's. They were arguing over what film was being watched and Rodney turned to look up at Laura who was waiting for him to give her the signal to go in. He knew that she would make him go in whether he wanted to or not.
"I'll be here," Laura whispered in his ear, "Okay?"
He nodded and they entered the room. Everyone stopped talking suddenly and Rodney wished he could jump out of the chair and run away but he couldn't.
"Somebody choose a film," Ronon broke the silence; "I don't care which one."
Laura gave him a smile as Radek and John started their argument again, Laura took Rodney's arm and helped him to the seat on the couch. Teyla moved the wheelchair to one corner as Laura took a seat at Rodney's side.
"What are the choices?" Laura interrupted the 'discussion' between John and Radek.
"The Producers and Terminator 2," John replied.
Rodney rolled his eyes, "The Producers," at Laura's look of astonishment, Rodney rolled his eyes, "I like the music."
"Sure Rodney," John said, he grabbed the DVD from Radek.
"And hurry up," Rodney snapped, "Some of us have a curfew from the Vampire doctor."
At Rodney's familiar sarcasm everyone in the room relaxed, Laura glanced up at John and smiled at him as the film started. As long as Rodney was snapping at them, things were going to be alright.