A Change

By

Stealth Dragon

Rating – K+

Disclaimer – I do not own Stargate Atlantis. I've been attempting to lure John Sheppard into my clutches with turkey sandwiches, but he is more clever than I thought (glances around suspiciously).

Synopsis – Cross-over with SG-1 (finally as I've been wanting to do that kind of crossover). Sam did not see a change in Rodney, not right away. Another Rodney/John friendship fic as I really like them, plus post torture whump. Very sweet in a sad kind of way. No Slash! Takes place in season two. I know similar stories have been done but I wanted to do my own.

SGA

" What, are you trying to get this thing to overload?" Rodney mumbled. Every motion was announced by the clack of crutches on the smooth concrete floor. Perpetual motion was Rodney McKay, and no bruises and broken bones would change that. He winced as he defied what was trying to slow him down, to still him, and instead increased the motion with each increase of spite. He made adjustments to the generator with small tools that managed to remained clutched in his trembling hands, and barely paused to swipe away the sweat rolling in heavy drops down his pale face.

Sam had tried to stop him, to get him to sit still for just a moment and let the sweat dry. Five times she tried and each time only increased the physicist's ire to the shouting, condescending point.

Sam just couldn't see it no matter how long she watched or how deep she looked. Dr. Weir had said he was a changed man, and maybe he had been – more considerate, less of an ass. Perhaps it was pain making Sam see what she had seen since meeting McKay, or the torture he'd survived at the hands of an enemy in another galaxy. Perhaps there was a reason Sam could not see beyond what she was seeing now, and it both annoyed her and stabbed her with guilt.

Rodney had walked barefoot through hell, giving him every right to snap, rant, and spite the pain. He would flinch at sudden movements, sudden touch, and had every right to. But Sam wanted to see the change, she really did, just to prove that people really could change given the right circumstances.

Only to change back given different circumstances.

Rodney clacked around the small generator, wincing from the pull of healing ribs, and a jarred ankle that had been snapped clean in two. Sam had over heard Dr. Beckett mention that McKay would be limping for a while. Then there were the scabbed cuts, splotched bruises, but at least no more fevers.

Rodney had every right to be the way he was. Sam just wondered if it would be permanent. It was just too hard to imagine a new and improved McKay. Sam could only hope to catch a glimpse during SGA's duration here, while they healed and sloughed through nightmares that would forever linger in the darker recesses of the mind, waiting like wolves observing weakening prey.

Rodney clacked around the table with the generator again, and Sam stepped back to let him by. The need to defend her calculations and adjustments made her chest tighten and fingers curl into fists that turned her knuckles white. She crossed her arms over her chest and looked away, opting for remaining mute and seemingly impassive. She would have to speak eventually, though. Rodney had barely stopped, was wearing out, and soon she was going to have to drag him to the mess hall for real food beyond those bars whose foil littered the once clean floor. She contemplated getting Teal'c's help, or maybe that other big guy – Ronon. Ronon had actually volunteered his services should Rodney start neglecting himself for his work, which Dr. Weir had warned would be the case should he get caught up in anything.

Sam lifted one hand to rub the space between her eyes. " Rodney..."

" Not now," he dead-panned, flatly, as though talking to an imbecile who wouldn't shut up. Sam looked away in the other direction, breathing deep to pool the last vestiges of her calm.

Sam stiffened in alarm to see Lt. Colonel Sheppard standing in the doorway, and she swallowed tightly. It was hard to look at him, dressed in a long-sleeved gray shirt that looked two-sizes too big, and a pair of black sweats that hung precariously from his bony hips. He was too thin, way too thin, as though someone had taken his skin and stretched it as tight as possible around his bones. She could see his ribs whenever his shirt pressed against his body, count them individually from where she stood along with each vertebra of his spine. He stood there, one fisted hand on the door frame and the other fiddling with the edge of the overly long sleeve. He was shaking ever so slightly, most likely out of fatigue, and probably a little out of uncertainty. The hazel eyes sunken into that thin, pale face were a little vacant and a lot confused as they wandered over the room and everything it contained. Sam had read the report and attended the briefing after SGA's arrival. Dr. Beckett had said Sheppard would be a little out of it for a while; his memory tripping over itself, and his shredded reality being gradually, painfully, pieced back together.

What it came down to was that Colonel Sheppard was disoriented with the possibility of being a little delusional from time to time. An unidentifiable drug, joining forces with beatings and starvation, was the culprit, reducing him from a man to a frightened child. Beckett said it wouldn't last, and Sam hoped he was right for Sheppard's sake. She didn't know the pilot, but she did know the unquestioning loyalty the others showed him; the caring, the concern, the protection, like a family. That alone had told her everything she needed to know about John Sheppard.

Beckett must have been right. When Sheppard's eyes landed on Sam, rather than shrinking away to go hide in some corner, he gave her a pale smile and small wave.

Trepidation fluttered in Sam's chest. She pulled her gaze from the sickly Sheppard to the waning McKay. McKay's attention was fixated on whatever minor mistake he thought Sam had made. Sam took advantage of the physicist's preoccupation and sidled over to John.

" Colonel Sheppard, did you need something?" She was shocked that he was still standing having come all the way from his quarters. He was supposed to be resting off the remains of the exhaustion illness and withdrawal had left him with.

John rubbed the back of his neck nervously as he looked from Sam to Rodney. He let his hand slide from his neck and swung it up gesturing at the Physicist. " I – I... I just wanted to check on Rodney..."

In other words, he'd had another nightmare that had him waking in a scream and compelled to find his friend. It hadn't been the first time, just the first time he'd actually escaped his room to do the searching on his own.

Sam took John gently by the arm and he flinched. " Rodney's fine, so let's get you back to your room now. Okay? You're really not supposed to be out." The way Rodney lost patience for her, she was afraid of how his petulance would affect the delirious Colonel.

" Colonel, what the hell are you doing here!"

John flinched again, looking away, and Sam pressed her lips together to keep from saying anything, though she doubted it would last long. She heard McKay clacking over to them, and looked up ready to diffuse whatever tirade Rodney was going to launch into that would reduce Sheppard to the state of a berated child. McKay stopped before Sheppard to look him up and down.

" You're supposed to be resting," Rodney said. His tone was sharp, but his eyes... Sam was taken back by the concern she saw in them, the fear.

Sheppard nodded while keeping his gaze to the floor. " Yeah, I know... I just... I... I had a dream..." his hand returned his neck with his thin fingers shaking as they curled above the top of his backbone. " I needed to get out..." he rolled up apologetic eyes.

Rodney nodded and leaned on one crutch to free up his other hand enough to clasp John on the side of his arm. " Yeah, okay, it's okay. You all right?"

Sheppard's mouth twitched in a small smile. " I'm good."

" Bull," but Rodney allowed a small smile of his own.

" You good?" Sheppard asked.

Rodney shrugged. " No, but I'll live. Are you hungry, have you eaten yet? Probably not, right? That's the problem with you being cooped up in that room. People bring you food but no one sticks around to make sure you eat it and not puke it back up. And you really need to get some meat on you before your pants finally fall off because nobody wants to see that..."

John just nodded in agreement with his hand going from his neck to the back of his head, rubbing through his chaotic hair. Rodney led the way out of the room, continuing his spiel concerning the importance of getting weight back onto Sheppard before they no longer needed X-rays to see his bones. Sheppard just smiled contentedly. It was as though McKay's sarcasm actually had a calming effect, at least for Colonel Sheppard.

Sam folded her arms and leaned her shoulder against the door frame, just watching the two friends shuffle and clack down the SGC hall. She smiled and shook her head.

She liked this new McKay.

The end

A/N: Wow. That's the shortest story I've ever done.