Disclaimer: We own nothing...except a cool pen used for improving handwriting :D
A/N: This is the culmination of two weeks work, followed by a years break for sleep. But now we're both in the same place there's no excuse for not finishing it. So hurrah!
Starts after "The Eye" and goes slightly AU from there.
o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
It was dark outside. The only light in the small quarters came from quietly glowing panels running along the edges where the walls and ceiling met.
Rodney McKay sat on the edge of his bed, staring blankly at the wall opposite him. Motionless, the only signs that he was still alive were the sounds of quiet, ragged breathing and that of the fingers of his right hand playing with the bandages wrapped loosely around his left arm. The faint, almost inaudible sound of skin against fabric, eclipsed even by the air creeping in and out of his lungs.
It should have felt like victory – at least, that was how some of the Marines were treating it, once they'd heard about Sheppard's exploits with the grounding stations. Should have felt like victory – the city was still theirs, was still in one piece, and the Genii were gone.
Victory? Rodney couldn't understand that sentiment. Victory implied success, the defeat of an opponent. They... this hadn't been a victory. They'd survived by the skin of their teeth, the odds piled up against them in ways the scientists had been wary of sharing with Weir and Sheppard. Just because they'd beaten those odds...
A piece of something white fell through Rodney's vision, landing noiselessly on the floor. A few seconds later he reached down and picked it up. He turned it over in both hands now. Unable to instantly figure out what it was, it was another slow minute before he understood.
Second-hand blood from his jacket marred the clean white pad in the centre of the bandage.
Rodney turned the bandage over in his hands.
It was his blood.
He fingered the bloodstain again. The smell of stale copper assaulted his nose, and with the smell, the memories came back as well.
Kolya wielded the serrated knife in front of his face, swinging the blade from side to side, until it filled Rodney's entire vision. And when he spoke, his voice was filled with mocking. "You come here to the City of the Ancestors, yet you are no better than the lowest of my people..."
Rodney said nothing, but stood his ground, making sure he kept himself between Elizabeth and the brute.
"My people tell me that Doctor McKay knows 'almost everything about almost everything'," Kolya continued, quoting Rodney's own words back to him, the ones he'd thrown around at the Genii's underground bunker before. The commander smiled, his lips twisting ferally, and he sliced the knife through the air until it was resting millimetres from Rodney's neck. "Why don't we see just how much you really know?"
And then, just like that, Rodney was back in his quarters again. The cold sensation lingered against the base of his neck, and hesitantly he raised a hand to trace the line Kolya had hinted at with the knife's blade. Rubbing the imaginary line, he looked back down at the bandage. The bloodstain on it seemed darker now than before, and as Rodney watched, it seemed to echo across his hand and all the way up his left arm, stopping at a point above his elbow.
Slowly, Rodney dragged his jacket off, letting it fall to the bed behind him. Still holding onto the bandage, he awkwardly pulled up the sleeve of his blue shirt to reveal nothing but a seemingly tiny, scabbed wound on his arm, surrounded by patches of dark red where bloody had spilled over and then dried onto the skin.
Red filled his vision, pain shooting up and down his arm in careless abandon. It was everywhere and nowhere at once. When Rodney could see again, it was to see Kolya pulling the knife away from him; passing it from hand to hand.
"You have one more chance to answer my question, Doctor McKay," he said, almost calmly, ignoring Elizabeth's cries of protest from the restraint of another Genii soldier. "What plan do you have to save Atlantis from the storm?"
As he spoke, Kolya pointed the knife back up towards Rodney's throat. This time there was no mistaking the look in the man's eyes.
Rodney closed his eyes, willing the pain to go away. At the same time, he opened his mouth to speak...
Rodney opened his eyes, adjusting again to the dim lighting in the room. He was still holding the bloodstained bandage in his left hand, still toying with the dirtied material. Following the trail of imaginary blood back up his arm, he realised his other hand was playing with the scab above his elbow. The fingernail of his index finger running back and forth over the mound of dried skin and blood. On each return journey it made, the nail caught on something between the wound and the skin around it.
The scab was starting to lift; without realising it Rodney had already picked one corner off.
It was all starting to come apart, and the quiet scratching noise of fingernail against dried blood added to the silent orchestra taking place in Rodney McKay's darkened quarters.
Rodney pushed at the lifted corner, moving backwards and forwards, this way and that, feeling it slowly but surely pulling away from the skin underneath. Tiny spots of fresh blood marked his progress on the raw-again skin. It should have hurt, Rodney noted; he should have felt something, but he didn't.
He should have felt something, but he didn't. Rodney stood there, numb, watching Kolya raise the alien technology to his mouth, pressing the marked button at the same time. "This is Commander Kolya," he said, looking from Rodney to Elizabeth – who had been released by her guard now – and back to Rodney again.
Rodney lowered his gaze and closed his eyes briefly. A moment later Sheppard's voice floated out across the control room. "Kolya – that's a hard name to pronounce. Is that a first name? My name's Major John Sheppard, and I have hidden the C4 where you will never – I repeat, never – find it. When I get confirmation that the prisoners have been released and allowed to 'gate off Atlantis, I will help you find it."
Kolya paused for a moment and turned to Elizabeth and Rodney. "He's good," the commander said, sounding more... appeased than surprised.
"He is," Elizabeth replied, raising her chin. "I'd do what he says."
Kolya smirked before turning his attention back to the radio. "Your offer is very generous, Major," he told Sheppard.
"Yes, it is," Sheppard's disembodied voice replied.
Kolya shot a triumphant look at Rodney, who closed his eyes again, trying to fight the panic building up inside him. "However," Kolya continued, silkily, into the radio, "Doctor McKay recently shared with me there's a plan in action to save the city."
Rodney closed his eyes even tighter, while the nausea inside him continued to build.
"He did?!" Sheppard sounded incredulous, disbelieving.
And the pit inside Rodney grew.
The sound of tearing brought Rodney back to the dimly lit present. He stared at his right hand. Right there, caught in his fingernail and trailing down the finger as well, was the scab from his arm. Torn clean off the wound on his arm.
In a sudden crescendo of furious emotion Rodney dragged the bandage over his hand, trying to pull the scab away from the fingernail. He let out a hiss as one of his fingers was pushed backwards, hating himself as it echoed briefly in the quarters. But a second later it stopped, and Rodney's attention was drawn back to the freshly opened mark on his arm.
He felt a strange sense of detachment as a small trail of blood slipped down out of the wound, sliding down his arm towards the elbow again. When it reached the joint it dripped off, splattering onto the floor.
Small drips, from the elbow to the floor, elbow to the floor.
And Rodney could only watch it fall.
Victory implied success, the defeat of an opponent. With Atlantis safe and the Genii gone, it should have felt like victory, but Rodney McKay could only sit alone in the darkness of his quarters and watch the blood of a coward's betrayal fall to the floor.
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