I GrieveAuthor's notes: The title is borrowed from a song of the same name by Peter Gabriel. As for the story itself, it takes place sometime between the season three episodes "McKay and Mrs. Miller" and "Sunday".
Doctor Elizabeth Weir looked with mild interest to the active gate, watching silently as several boxes of supplies tumbled slid through, only to be picked up and loaded up by the waiting personnel. Beside her, the members of Col. Sheppard's team waited, observing the activity along with her.
"Any mail for me?" piped up John, peering over Rodney's shoulder as the data stream was uploaded onto their computers.
Elizabeth couldn't see Rodney's face, but she was certain that the scientist was rolling his eyes at his friend. "No, there aren't any football games being sent through, and I'm thankful for that, waste of disk space it would be..." he said, muttering the last part to himself. "There is, on the other hand, a message for me. Obviously, someone on Earth has recognized my brilliance and..." his voice trailed off abruptly.
Several moments passed without him speaking again. "Rodney?" prompted Elizabeth.
"Uh, yes, um..." mumbled the scientist, closing the message and encoding it with his password, "It was... it was a private message. I'm just-" he stuttered, rising from his chair, "I'm just going to go."
And with that McKay was gone, quickly striding out of the room and disappearing from sight.
His teammates' eyes followed him outside the room, and then they turned to each other, equally confused. "What was that all about?" asked Sheppard, pointing back at the door the Canadian had just left through.
"I don't know," began Elizabeth, concern growing more apparent on her features, "but we'll have to keep an eye on him, just in case."
He could barely keep himself from yelling at her, the irritation rising so quickly that he had to fight to keep it down. "Jeannie look, you're making a mistake! Can't you see that, even through your emotionally clouded judgment?"
"My clouded judgment? How can you even say that? Mer, I'm just trying to tell you the truth, and you can't even bring yourself to listen to me for a split second!" She had practically screamed the last part of her words, brimming with just as much anger as her infuriated older brother.
"You're going to sacrifice everything, and for what? A cheap suburban home with that English major boyfriend of yours and a herd of small English major children? How could you do that?"
Her eyes grew dark at his comments, and her voice dropped deadly low. "You and I, Meredith, have very different definitions of everything." With that, Jean McKay left the room, lost in a web of anger and drowning in silent tears.
Behind her, as he watched her leave, Meredith Rodney McKay knew for certain that he had made the wrong choice.
Rodney was, quite simply, in shock.
He felt numb all over, creeping up his spine and dimming his senses. He'd been sitting here for hours, unable to move or speak or even, god forbid, eat. He could barely even think, and every thought that did come to him was a memory, becoming a flood of horrible and guilt-ridden recollections that washed over him, leaving him soaked in anguish.
How did this happen?
For all his intelligence and cunning, he would have never seen this coming, not for another hundred years. He'd fully expected her to outlive him, especially with his line of work and the annoying tendency of his so called friends to carry citrus with them. However, none of his guilt nor his anger or even his intelligence could bring her back, and that was what hurt him the most.
Balanced on the edge of a vast and endless ocean, Rodney McKay felt a tear slide down his cheek as he closed his eyes against the endless pain.
"Has anyone seen him in the last six hours? Did you check the mess?" The worry in her voice was apparent to anyone in the immediate vicinity of Elizabeth Weir, as they all met together in her office.
"I have checked the mess and asked all of the cooks on duty, but no one has seen Dr. McKay," stated Teyla softly, hands clasped behind her back nervously.
Behind her, John grunted his concern. "Okay, if he hasn't been there in the past six hours, we may have a problem."
"Does anyone know what the message was about? Any clues at all?" asked Elizabeth, scanning the room and meeting the worried looks of her primary team. They all shook their heads, their faces clearly demonstrating their lack of success.
Elizabeth sighed softly, before speaking once more. "Okay, I think we should split up and try to find him. If he's been gone this long without berating someone or eating, I think we can assume it's serious. Everyone agree?" They all nodded their assent, and without another word, Elizabeth and her team exited her office, determined to find out what exactly would keep Rodney McKay from food for such a long period of time.
He could see that she was angry and very upset, mostly in the way that she held her arms up against her chest and in the way that her chest heaved with each repressed sob. But it was her eyes, her eyes that were usually such a clear and brilliant blue that clutched at his heart, bloodshot red and brimming with unshed tears.
"I won't do it; I can't," she whispered softly, silently pleading for him to understand.
He was young, though; too young to see the mistake he was making, the wrong path he was about to take. He forced himself to look impassive, even though his heart was bursting with emotions he could not contain. "If you won't do it, then I can't stay."
The shock on her face almost destroyed him. "What?" she breathed, disbelieving.
But he had made up his mind. "I'm not going to give up everything. I- I can't."
Something in those brilliant cerulean eyes broke then, and she turned away. A long moment passed between them, filled by an irreparable chasm that now spanned between them. "Fine," she managed to murmur, before the sobs overtook her and she fled from the room.
"Rodney?" called out a voice behind him, and he almost fell forward into the vast ocean before him at the mention of his name.
"Elizabeth?" he breathed, infinitely surprised at her arrival. "What- what are you doing here? How did you find me, I haven't been gone that long and I-"
"Rodney," she started, cutting him off, "you're babbling."
He gaped at her incredulously, before realizing that she was right. He snapped his jaw shut, and turned hastily away from his friend.
"Rodney?" she began a third time, reaching out a cautious hand and laying it upon his shoulder. "What is it?"
She felt a tremor run through him, and when she realized that he was crying, she almost drew her hand back in complete shock. Rodney McKay, pompous and arrogant know-it-all of the Pegasus galaxy, was weeping before her.
Her heart skipped a beat at this realization, and she drew closer to her friend, almost afraid that he would slip into the ocean before them in his grief. Placing her arms around him, she drew him close. He stiffened at the human contact, the arrogance and distant McKay within him surfacing, but only for a moment before he relaxed and leaned into her warmth, silently grateful.
She held him for several minutes, acutely aware of both the strangeness of the situation and the gnawing feeling that whatever could reduce Rodney McKay to this state was a terrible thing indeed.
He pulled away from her eventually, enough composure returning that the tears stopped and he could face her once more.
"I-" he began softly, before clearing his throat and starting again. "Thank you," he managed to say, and it was moments like these that really drove home for Elizabeth how much he had changed since their first meeting almost three years ago.
"What is it, Rodney? What was in that message?"
He sighed to himself, and looked back out to the ocean once more. "It wasn't my nomination for a Nobel Prize, I can tell you that," he said, smiling wryly, but there was a heavy pain behind his eyes.
His eyes swung back to meet hers. "She died," he stated simply, though something like death could never be simple.
"Oh, Rodney," she started, but she made no move to touch him, aware of the invisible defense he had rebuilt around him, the emotional shield he always kept between him and the outside world. "Your sister?" she asked softly.
"No," he whispered, "my daughter."
This time, she could swear the shock hit her like a Wraith stunner, striking the air from her chest and leaving her gasping. "What?" she managed to croak out, the surprise evident in every inch of her face.
At this, he grinned, but the sentiment never reached his eyes. "Didn't know, did you? It's not in my personal file, I can tell you that. Quite an ingenious piece of hacking that one was; they never saw any of it and it was quite-" He stopped himself this time, realizing immediately what he was doing. "I'm babbling again, aren't I?"
"Rodney," she began, but she found herself unable to finish, overcome by a sudden wave of emotion for the friend that sat beside her.
"It's not what you think," he began, and she knew better to interrupt him now. "She was my daughter, but I didn't even know her. I think I met her once, when she was four and I ran into her mother at the supermarket. That was awkward, let me tell you. I remember, the kid was eating an orange and all I could think about was my allergy. I didn't even take the time to look at her, to even introduce myself to her, I just ran away. Always thinking about myself," and the last comment was laced with such bitterness it surprised even Rodney himself.
He cleared his throat once more, and continued his cathartic outpouring of long bottled-up words. "I was too young for a kid, you know?" he said, looking back to Elizabeth only for a moment before turning away and continuing. "I mean, I was in university and she was in university and how could we have a kid? So I said no and I walked away. I walked away, Elizabeth."
"You were young, Rodney…" she began, unsure how to continue, still reeling from this sudden and intense confession.
"No," he stated adamantly, turning to her once more. "That's no excuse. Jeannie faced the same thing, and she didn't walk away. And you know what, she made the right choice. That's why I got so angry that day, so upset. It was because I realized somehow that she was right, and that I had been wrong. And I hate being wrong."
"I know," Elizabeth whispered.
But he wasn't really listening to her anymore; she wasn't even sure if he still realized that she was there. "It was that that really got me when I went to visit her a few months ago; it was the suburban house and the toys and even the stupid tofu dinner that got me. I could have had that," and he was murmuring to himself now.
"I could have had that."
Night had crept in quietly around them, and Elizabeth Weir looked up to the stars now visible in the evening sky. Stars that had once been so alien and unfamiliar; stars that had now become identifiable beacons of home. As she looked back down to her emotionally distraught teammate beside her, she realized with a startlingly strong feeling of clarity that there was no where else in the universe that she would rather be.
"It's hard, to think about what could have been," she began, and she could see his eyes turn to her in the rapidly fading light. "But just know how much we love you, Rodney, and how much you mean to those around you."
He nodded slowly, eyes still evidently red until the light of the dying sun but holding a silent strength inside. "Thank you, Elizabeth."
She smiled at him, and rose to her feet. "No problem, my brilliant chief of science, my incredibly intelligent Canadian friend."
He rolled his eyes at her, and she was infinitely thankful to see him do that once more. "Oh ha ha, patronize the ego of a grieving man."
"Is it working?" she asked, while helping him to his feet.
He raised an eyebrow at her as they walked back inside. "Maybe. It might work even better if there was some sort of pastry involved."
She grinned at him. "I think that can be arranged."
And as the sun set on Atlantis, bringing the end to another day, Rodney McKay felt some of the grief weighing on his heart lessen, silently grateful for the strength he could find in his friends.
Let it out and move on
Missing what's gone
Said life carries on...
I said life carries on and on...
- "I Grieve" by Peter Gabriel