Authors note -
This story is my very first attempt at an episode tag, and so is a bit of an experiment. After watching the episode, The Eye, I felt left hanging a bit. I don't think that torture is something that would be shrugged off. It certainly had a lasting effect, and the experience is even touched on in at least one of the Stargate Atlantis novels.
Warning; The following story has content which may be disturbing to some. ('may' meaning will, and 'some' being those of you that are safe to meet in a darkened alley).
Fear and Shame
Peter nudged Radek and nodded down the darkened corridor they were working in. Rodney had re-emerged with yet another bandage wrapped thickly around the arm the military issue coat he had donned over his science uniform jacket some time ago. He had been complaining of being cold, having spent 'more time in the cold rain and wind than anyone of his value and genius should have to' and proclaimed he was certain he'd lost valuable brain cells to brain freeze. The expeditions Chief Scientist was obviously tired.
They'd been surprised when he insisted on personally overseeing the storm damage assessment and then had launched into repairs. The both of them, and the entirety of the rest of the science team, had had plenty of time to rest while waiting off-world for the storm to pass. Rodney had been working the entire time. Even when those who had stayed behind in the city were trapped in the control tower, waiting out the storm, Rodney had spent the time taking readings, measuring the force of the storm, cataloguing damage, and monitoring power levels.
By the time everyone was back in the city, with their equipment settled into place under Rodney's supervision, the work day was over. But while everyone else headed off for a late supper and a nights rest, Rodney had picked up a tool kit and headed out to begin the storm repairs himself.
His reasoning had sounded plausible at the time. He had wanted to confirm his initial assessments so that repair teams could be sent out early tomorrow. Radek and Peter had offered to do it for him, but he'd reasonably argued that he was best qualified as he had monitored everything from the Control Tower during the storm.
Still they had accompanied him out of a sense of duty, thinking that the work would go faster if they assisted. That had been over six hours ago.
About three hours into their labour Rodney had begun to persistently shiver. Peter had suggested he get a hot shower and some rest.
"You're the one who's always saying how easily you catch colds." Peter had reminded wisely. "You really should rest."
At which Rodney had snapped and asked that they stop trying to coddle him, then disappeared and reappeared with the coat.
The second bandage, again over the coat, was a new addition though. Peter and Radek looked at each other with concern. The science jacket he wore under the coat also had a goofy looking bandage on the arm. They had already offered to take a look at his arm and wrap it properly. They were also pretty certain that if Rodney had actually gone to the infirmary someone there would have found the time for it. The last they heard Carson was bustling around, doing his own inventory, having slept most of the day and pretty much recovered from most of the effects of the concussion.
The two men were at a loss as to why Rodney hadn't gone to see him. But they had a growing feeling it was somehow related to why Rodney snapped at them every time they started to ask what had happened to injure his arm in the first place. At first they'd been certain that their hypochondriac leader would have had himself looked at if it were serious, and that the ridiculous bandage must cover little more than a scratch.
Now they feared the opposite. Rodney was far too driven. The crisis was over, but he was working as though for him the crisis was ongoing.
The clearly tired, and bandaged, scientist moved straight to the overhead panel he'd been working on. It was Radek who went over to him this time, as Peter had been having no luck.
The shadows in the darkened corridor moved across Rodney's pale face as he worked, making his expression look more haunted than focussed. But his hands were steady and his gaze into the panel was intent. One of the two marines who had been assigned to guard them was shining a flashlight into the panel.
Radek nodded to the marine and took charge of the flashlight so that Rodney could not shoo him away without sacrificing his light, "Rodney. We are tired. You are tired. The damage is too great. We cannot possibly get all of this repaired in one day even if we make entire science team pull sleepless shifts, which would be unwise. We should eat real food, not power bars, and rest now. Otherwise we will make mistakes. You know this."
Rodney sighed, and when he replied his voice was as deceptively confident and reasonable sounding as it had been all night. "I'm not trying to repair everything. I'm trying to repair this panel. I'm almost finished and then we'll be done with this corridor. Now why don't you give the nice soldier back his flash light as your brain is better used elsewhere and his isn't?"
Radek stayed stubbornly in place, "You say that in last corridor, and one before that, and one before that, and at generator rooms, and at grounding stations!"
"So you can see why I might be annoyed at having to repeat myself. If you two want to take a break, then go ahead!" Rodney snarked in his usual arrogant tone, with just a hint of humour. At this point it was too normal to be normal, and it only increased Radek and Peter's worry.
Radek huffed in frustration, and let the flashlight wobble as he did so.
"Do you mind!?" Rodney snapped. "If you can't hold it steady I'm going to have to insist you give it back to the marine!"
But Radek had caught sight of a flash of crimson red around Rodney's wrist, beaded at the edge of his cuff line like a bracelet. The Czech swiftly reached up and felt the sleeve of the innermost jacket before Rodney could pull away with a shout of protest. It was soaking, and red smudged his fingers when he pulled away. Radek' heart leapt in horror at the sight of it and he let loose a string of curses in his native tongue.
Peter left the panel he'd been working on and jogged over to Radek, thinking maybe he'd been zapped. He stilled when he saw the blood.
"He is bleeding," Radek quickly explained so that it would not be mistaken as his own, and aimed his flash light to where Rodney had backed into the shadows and was now standing unnaturally quietly. He clutched his arm to his chest. Arrogance and confidence were replaced by shame, fear, and resignation.
The two marines that had been guarding them moved quickly, one going to the two stunned scientist's, and one to McKay.
The marine with Radek and Peter shone his light on the floor, revealing small spatters of red, and from there followed it a short way down the dark corridors, finding more signs. It had been dark and they hadn't been looking at the floor. They hadn't been expecting one of their charges to hide something like this, least of all McKay. He called the control tower and let them know they were coming in with one wounded. Then turned and jogged back towards the group.
The walk to the infirmary had been silent once the others had accepted that Rodney wasn't going to answer any questions, and certainly wasn't going to submit to any first aid. He knew there was no point in protesting now. But he also couldn't bring himself to help them to help him. He didn't deserve it. He didn't deserve their care or their concern. He'd just let them get this over with. He could already imagine the looks of disgust and disappointment. He deserved that too.
The nurse that greeted them tutted when she saw the bandages wrapped outside the coat, and the pale man bundled within, "I don't think I've ever heard you make such a quiet entrance, Dr. McKay."
She frowned when he didn't respond. She wasn't sure she'd believed it when the marines bringing him in reported that he wasn't talking. "Dr. Beckett should be along shortly. I'm just going to begin a preliminary examination. That coat is going to have to come off." She led them over to a bed and patted it. "Come sit here before you fall over."
Radek and Peter stood at the end of the bed, out of the way but unwilling to leave Rodney until they had at least some understanding about what was going on. Besides, with Rodney not talking they were answering what questions they could about how long they thought he might have been bleeding, when he started becoming more pale, how much he'd been favouring the arm…
The nurse took gentle hold of Rodney's bandaged arm and carefully turned it upwards. A small amount of blood could already be seen through the outer bandage. Rodney looked away from it, not wanting to be reminded... Why wouldn't it just stop? He hissed when she gently tugged the wrapping, to check its tightness.
"Sorry," The nurse apologized, "Though it's good to know that you can still make a sound. Now, I need you to hold still while I remove all this so we can get a proper look at your arm." As she continued she took a firmer hold of his arm and produced a pair of long sharp scissors.
He panicked and jerked his arm away roughly, causing pain to flare through it again. He gritted his teeth against the pain.
The nurse swore softly. She could clearly see that the flow of blood through the bandage had increased.
A cheery Scottish voice broke through the tension, "What's all this I hear about a bleeding Rodney not talking our ears clear off? Did he bite his tongue?"
He looked quite surprised, and then concerned, at the absence of a sarcastic come back from his normally quite talkative friend. Not only was Rodney quiet. His shoulders slumped and he stared at the floor in shame. The ridiculously bandaged arm was clutched protectively against his chest. Carson looked questioningly at Grodin and Zelenka, who were hovering as closely as they could without getting in the way. The two shrugged helplessly.
The nurse scurried over to the doctor and quickly updated him in a quiet tone.
He nodded to her and sent her off to fetch more supplies.
"Right then," Carson carefully lifted the scissors so that Rodney would see it coming clearly. "I'm going to take a look at yer arm now. And I'd rather not have to sedate ye to do it. I'll give ye something for the pain once I know what we're dealing with."
Rodney tensed and looked away, but managed to keep himself from pulling back this time. 'Mind over body,' He told himself. There was a bitter humour in that.
The bandage came off more quickly than he would have expected, releasing the dampening sleeve of the coat. He moved to unzip it, but Carson was faster. Grodin was there to help tug the sleeves off his arms.
Beckett was happy for the professional assistance. Not many knew it, but Peter had raised the money for his on going education by working as a paramedic. The Brit was more than a little embarrassed and upset that he'd spent an entire day with Rodney without considering that the man's injury could be serious. Rodney had hidden the signs well.
"Good grief, Rodney!" Carson exclaimed when he saw how much blood had soaked through the bandage wrapped over his science uniform jacket.
Carson unwrapped it, and the sleeve of that jacket was cut away to reveal a third bandage over a long sleeved blue shirt. The entire forearm was sodden with blood. Carson huffed, "You're wrapped like a Russian doll, ye daft man!"
The increasing worry in his voice spoiled the scold. He carefully cut away that bandage, along with the once blue sleeve, to reveal what had to be the final bandage. The weave of the cloth was unfamiliar. It definitely wasn't a bandage from earth.
Rodney studiously kept his eyes away from his arm and what he knew must be looks of judgement and disgust. If they didn't feel that way yet, they would soon. They should.
When Carson peeled away the final bandage his hands stilled. He was a smart man. Rodney imagined that Carson must be putting two and two together and realizing the real reason Kolya had learned of the plan.
"Kurva drát!" Radek whispered in horror and backed to the door. Rodney could here his footsteps retreating down the hall.
Rodney closed his eyes tightly in pain as Carson placed a wad of gauze over the wound and instructed Peter to hold it. He felt a brief prick and his arm numbed. It was probably a localized anaesthetic.
Carson was rattling off commands to another nurse, "Wake Dr. Biro and have an operating room prepared immediately."
It was too soon after his concussion for Carson to allow himself to do anything but observe from this point on.
The physician turned his attention back to his patient, "Rodney. How long ago did this happen? I need ye to tell me as much as ye can."
Silence. Rodney felt a shifting of hands over his wound, and was then aware of Peter leaving.
Carson leaned in closely, so that they could speak privately. "How and when did this happen? Ye must tell me so I can help ye."
The physician huffed in frustration when his patient remained silent, "Say SOMETHING!"
Rodney looked at Carson and said the only thing he could think of that mattered, "I tried to keep my mouth shut. I tried. Really I tried. I just couldn't." Once he started, the words kept spilling with increasing speed and he hated that he was shaking, but he couldn't stop. "I'm sorry. Everything I said told him something. I lied and he just knew. I'm a terrible liar. I'm sorry. He just knew what was true like I'd told him by what I didn't say and-and-and then he knew the plan to save the city. I told him the plan to save the city. I didn't tell him but it told him. At least I think I didn't. I didn't mean to tell him. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
He was surprised when at some point in his ramblings Carson had wrapped a bear-like arm around him and pulled him into a tight hug. Didn't Carson realize that he didn't deserve their sympathy or their care? He'd betrayed them. His weakness had nearly killed them all. They could have lost the city!
Kolya's words still burned in his mind. Every time Rodney had tried to misdirect them Kolya had just smiled, "I see Doctor. So what you've just told me is…."
"N-no!" Rodney had squeaked, "That's not what I said!"
"Oh but it is. Tell me more." Kolya looked at the one handling the knife. The dull edge traced along exposed nerves.
Rodney had cried out and tried to think of something that Kolya would believe. Thinking back, he wasn't even sure what he'd said.
But he remembered what Kolya had said, "Thank you, Doctor, you've been most helpful."
He made a half hearted attempt to pull away from Carson. But his friend held tight. Why didn't he understand? He didn't deserve this. "You don't understand. I'm not even sure what I said in the end. I'm not sure… I might have…"
"It's not yer fault," Carson said the impossible with complete certainty. "I don't blame you. Nobody will blame you, because it is not yer fault, lad."
The words meant to comfort stung more than blame, because if it wasn't his fault then he had to admit that Kolya had taken away his control and left him powerless. His mind was his strongest asset. He was a genius. He should have been able to outsmart Kolya and his goons. He shouldn't have been readable. The mind of a genius was supposed to be all powerful, impenetrable, unbreakable! To his own horror Rodney's shoulders shook with now freely flowing tears of humiliation.
Carson just repeated over and over, in a thickening accent, "It's nae yer fault," determined to make Rodney believe it whether he wanted to or not.
Kolya's eyes had laughed at him when Elizabeth insisted to be told what had happened in her absence. "Dr. McKay was foolish enough to attempt an escape. I trust he won't make that mistake again."
Kolya looked straight into Rodney's eyes and known he'd be too ashamed to tell the truth. "You should know, Dr. Weir, that we were not planning to leave your city until we had completed a thorough search for any supplies you might be with-holding. It would have taken until morning, and by then your city would have been destroyed anyway."
Kolya had lied. And the gratitude Rodney had felt at the time made him as ill now as it had then. He now knew with certainty that he was a coward.
"Ye did nothing wrong," Carson repeated.
A nurse slipped quietly over to the bed and, after a short nod of approval from Beckett, injected a sedative.
When Rodney finally quieted and lost consciousness Carson managed to lay his friend back onto the bed, with the nurses help, while still holding the gauze tightly against the wounded arm. Whatever the Geni had used to loosely stitch up the incisions was dissolving. Carson had a sick feeling that once the surgical cuts were reopened they'd find more stitching dissolving. The hasty patchwork hadn't been meant to last. It had been intended to break apart. Worse, he suspected that the dissolving thread had become an anti-coagulant. Such perversion of medical knowledge disgusted the physician.
He moved out of the way when Dr. Biro arrived with a team of attending nurses, and called for Dr Weir and Major Sheppard to be woken and informed that their Head of Science was going into surgery.