Title: The Nail
Disclaimers: Not mine, no money made
Warnings: This has been sitting for some time.
Spoilers: Up through Sunday
Summary: Rodney's POV
There is an emptiness in death; a stagnant nothingness that consumes the person who stands before the casket, the flowers, the gravestone or memorial.
Some stand in groups, sharing their misery. Others stand aloof, fighting their misery, and still others hover somewhere in between, uncomfortable with their silent grief but unwilling to share their private agony, their personal loss.
Sorrow and despair clinch themselves to the living like a nail to a door face. Regret and remorse take root, grab hold and seal the living to days of misery and grey.
Pain comes to some right away, crashing over them in a flashflood of despair, loss and helplessness. And with that torrent of emotion, questions swirl: Why? Why must good people die? Why must the good ones be snatched away? If only… What if? Questions swirl and twist, vortexing pain into a swirl of agony that makes the world seem grey and numb. And for days, the grieving move with automated motions, with emotions as volatile as sweating glycerin.
For some, the agony of death is insidious. For these survivors, Death is recognized, and the loss cataloged. However, the rush of suffocating pain doesn't roar over them. It creeps quietly, ebbing closer like a coiling tide, stretching for the sandy beach. The recognition of loss with its lack of emotion, slowly slides forward, only to recede, stealing bits of sand, eroding away one's coping mechanisms little pieces at a time. The emotions rise slightly like the odd wave rolling in too close, scratching away a bit more soil, stealing fragile shimmers of joy.
No matter the griever. Eventually, death makes itself known.
For some, the pain is acute, a grease fire that flares to life, sudden sharp and dangerous and then relaxes back within it confines to slowly burn itself out. The death has left its mark, has seared itself into the griever and yet the survivor carries on, each day a little less dark.
For others, the effect of death is veiled, a faint spiraling column of smoke, a smoldering flameless fire, waiting for a brush of oxygen to ignite the fury. And one day that ember will spark and the tiny tendrils of smoke will flash into a flame that will consume all that sits around it.
McKay stared at the glossy floor in the general direction of Colonel Sheppard and wondered what would be Sheppard's accelerant? When and how would the Colonel grieve when Carson's death finally eroded away his protective barriers and seep in and let itself be known? Would it be a flash of brilliant anger? Would it be flood of deep despair and loss? Would it occur at home on Atlantis or on some off world mission?
Rodney leaned forward, elbows on knees. A small puddle of salty water slowly spread between the polished brown heels of his dress shoes. McKay ignored it and stared across the floor at Sheppard's boots, careful not to meet the colonel's eyes. McKay had no desire to witness the sympathy or lack of expression in Colonel Sheppard's eyes. He had no intentions of baring witness to the covert pain that was sure not to show on the Colonel's face. McKay didn't want to see it and he didn't want sympathy.
He wanted nothing….except maybe a do-over. Give him back the last 72 hours. Even 48 hours would do.
Turn back time.
A flux capacitor would do. He would embrace the faux science with all its inaccuracies, its faulty logic and sheer foolishness---he would embrace it, if it would give him back two days. Twelve hours, even. Hell, just Carson.
The others were no strangers to loss. Nor was Rodney. Atlantis was often a cruel teacher.
Familiarity with death made it no easier.
When death re-visited a survivor, circuitously touching their lives for a third or fourth or fifth time, or when it swooped down as a dart, stealing away whole planet populations, Death did not roll in gently.
The rabid bite of anguish does not fade with each subsequent passing. The loss of one friend did not dull or pad the loss of a second friend or third or fourth.
McKay couldn't believe it did. And it sunk his stomach to his shoes and constricted his heart like a gnarled fist.
He lost Carson. The pain was nauseatingly exquisite once it finally settled. It had settled immediately, solidly and with no hint of lifting. It was suffocating.
Rodney stared at Sheppard's boots, slowly letting his eyes travel to Ronon's.
At this moment in time, McKay was fairly confident he did not wish to ever outlive his teammates. Not at all.
How did Teyla and Ronon and even Sheppard do it? How did they keep moving, keep coming back into people's lives? How did they keep from giving up? From clinching nails in their own coffins?
McKay had felt death as an unfortunate observer before. He had felt the sudden flash and residual backlash of death, whether the loss was accidental like Collins, purposeful like Gall, or even heroic like Griffin.
Rodney recognized the losses were different, the circumstances varied, but in the end it was as if saying devastating floodwaters were a tad warmer today than the time before…or a tad cooler.
Death was absolute.
It shouldn't matter. One still drowned, still suffocated, still swirled and struggled with a pain that showed no true physical wound.
Yet Carson's unacceptable, unfathomable demise left Rodney winded and wounded like a victim of blunt force trauma.
Death didn't get easier. The pain didn't dull with its familiarity.
Good God, no. It hurt worse. One didn't become desensitized to the loss. They didn't become callous to the destruction of a comrade, a friend or even a best friend.
One actually became sensitized, acutely aware of the crushing loss that stole one's breath. A person became horrifically familiar with the terrible, gnawing pain that slowly ate away at the fabric of their daily lives.
Maybe it was a type of hypersensitivity. Perhaps there was an Epi-pen out there just waiting to be found to dull the agonizing loss which was slow to recede.
Familiarity with death allowed one to better disguise their hurt, their anger, their loss. Or perhaps death, with its repeat appearances eventually bred futility. But futility did not ease the hollow, empty void that sucked color and joy from the survivor.
Death couldn't be stopped. Perhaps delayed, but not stopped.
Carson had been one of the best at delaying the untimely demise of others. He had been almost magical in reversing that vortex of death that circled the drain. He had at times managed to infuse life where it was all but lost.
In Beckett's hands, medicine really was akin to Voodoo, magic. There were times when he should have failed and yet he hadn't. He had pulled the rabbit from the magic hat. He mixed his solutions, conjured his medication, and dabbled in electric shock and in the end, he persevered more than he lost.
Beckett worked seeming miracles with grievous injuries, salvaged lives to full recovery when most would have simply hoped for patient survival without worrying about full function.
Beckett wielded the voodoo with confidence and compassion. Science sometimes couldn't explain it, and McKay had come to appreciate it.
His touch wasn't golden, not at all. Carson mingled his failures with partial successes. He did it in the most grandiose if not bizarre ways. He managed to turn a Wraith into a bug, Wraith into humans and back again, and a human into a bug and luckily back to human. His gene therapy worked, just not in a manner that was comfortably predictable. Should he have done it? McKay had no answers, but Beckett's research worked…kind of. But in wielding it, they nailed multiple coffins closed.
McKay would never, ever apologize for his voodoo comment. Never. And at first, it had been disparaging, just as he had meant it to be, but in the end, as time wore on, it had proven true.
Now it was gone. The witch doctor had gone up in smoke. Literally.
McKay cracked a smile and huffed a choked laugh that teetered on being a gasp of pain.
Rodney stared at the floor between his feet. It glistened with little droplets of moisture.
He heard Teyla move her blankets aside, as if to leave her bed. Her natural elegance lost, temporarily ripped from her when shrapnel had torn through her flank.
Rodney sighed, thankful.
McKay had known her tears had been shed. She had cried silently, clutching her side, tears spilling unashamedly down bronze, perfectly formed cheeks. They dripped undisturbed from her chin to soak her white scrub top.
She had sat up and cried without making a sound. Her pain had been silent.
McKay had stepped forward, out of the shadows, to console her, but froze, unsure what to do. As much as he wanted human contact, as much as he perhaps wanted to wrap his arms around her in a gesture of comfort, he realized the comfort would be false and most likely more for himself than for her. He shied from it, from her. Not because it wasn't manly, not because he didn't need it, or Teyla would repel him but simply because it wouldn't diminish either of their pain.
Not at all. He feared it would magnify it, like the synergy of two ocean swells.
It would have reached heights that would have swamped them.
Both of them.
He wondered when the flood of loss would dissipate.
He wished it was today, but then he wished it would never come. He didn't ever want to not miss Carson.
If only he had a time traveling phone booth. Let the excellent adventure begin. Bill and Ted; Ronon and Sheppard; they were all the same. If only they had the means.
His vision blurred. Tiny droplets splashed to the floor.
Part of him wanted to ask Ronon, how long? How long do you walk on eggshells? How long do you have to fight to keep everything together inside and out? When would it be okay again?
Ronon would know. Ronon had lost family, a fiancée, a whole planet. Dex wouldn't pull any punches either. Finesse and panache were tactics that the Satedan did not embrace. Rodney appreciated it.
However, McKay didn't want an answer from the ex-runner.
Rodney knew the answer. He saw it almost every day at some point in Ronon's face. The loss, the pain, loneliness, they lingered. Death had stained every aspect of Dex's life.
Loss seeped in on Dex and coated his very being.
McKay had thought the runner would be a grease fire, an explosion of misery, pain and loss. He had feared Dex would have been a tornado of wrath and destruction.
And he had been correct.
Beckett's death had hit hard, unexpected, sharp and pure.
There was no warning, no chilling music, nothing.
There was no wraith attack that elicited a battle. There was no running firefight. No natural catastrophe.
Beckett was there one moment, confident in his ability, sure that they had dodged another bullet.
Well, not poof…more like Bang. A big bang.
It was a big thundering bang, with a horrible, deadly, crackling silence that cloaked its wake. It had been a deafening, vacuum of silence that spoke volumes and sucked color from life.
Beckett was gone. Up in smoke. Char-broiled. Crispy fried.
McKay coughed another tortured chuckle. His shoulders shook once and more salty water splashed to the ground between his shoes.
There was nothing left, not even enough to bring home to his mom, to his brothers and sisters. There was nothing to give them of their little brother.
In fact, Atlantean crews would be scrubbing soot out of the walls for days. There was nothing to bring to Beckett's mom except maybe dirty rags and wash water.
Rodney didn't think Mrs. Beckett would appreciate it. Maybe she would.
He was unwilling to find out.
God, Carson was gone. Goodbyes seemed so superfluous, useless, a waste of time.
He never got a chance to say goodbye.
A magic bottle with a genie. McKay would take that. He only had one wish, only one wish that mattered at the moment. He'd even believe in miracles.
Give him a police box and he'd return his friend.
Screw the space time continuum and the parallel universes. He was willing to sacrifice the fabric of time, the chain of events that were interwoven with their past, present and future.
Anything to bring Carson back.
Salty drops splashed repeatedly between his heels enlarging the small puddle which was confined by its own cohesive properties.
Carson was gone. Out with a bang…gone in a flash…smoking.
God, he was insensitive. He couldn't help it. But Beckett had always known it and accepted it…in a manner of speaking.
Carson would have understood, but Carson wasn't here. He was gone. Toasted. Flame broiled. Poof.
Clinched to a door like a nail.
McKay choked on another gnarled chuckle. It rolled forth followed by another and another, each closer to a strangled sob than a laugh. His shoulders shook. Sweat clung his shirt to his back and shoulders. His vision blurred and salty drops rained to the floor one after another.
The choking laughed gave way to a broken sob. He kept his head down, kneaded his eyes with the heels of his hands suddenly uncaring if his team bore witness.
He wasn't a tough man. Not like Colonel Sheppard, certainly not like Ronon.
A solid, firm, hand rested on his shoulder. It sat for just a moment, wicking tacky sweat through his shirt. The hand lifted, patted his shoulder a few, hesitant, uncomfortable times and then rested, giving him a reassuring squeeze, trying to relay strength.
Rodney didn't want strength. He wanted the hurt to disappear. To do that, Beckett needed to be returned or time sped up.
Neither was going to happen. Not today, not tomorrow and not next week. No one could help him. Not even Sheppard, with his hesitant show of comfort.
Rodney knew death would be re-visited upon him, sooner rather than later. He realized this agonizing pain would be thrust upon him again. Maybe next time it would be Elizabeth or Zelenka, or one of his scientists or unfathomably, Sheppard, Ronon, or Teyla.
But there would be a next time.
On Atlantis, death was a too frequent visitor in his life, considerably more so than back on Earth. He wondered what the P value would be if he were to trick the colonel into calculating it.
It would be significant, either way.
And yet he was loathed to leave Atlantis.
Suddenly bagpipes began screeching somewhere down the hall. Private Miller was practicing. There was no amount of time that could be granted to improve the Private's lack of skill.
The sound was piercing, breeching on inhumane.
Maybe Carson was the lucky one after all.
McKay bit his bottom lip tasting the salt of his own tears as he smiled. He really was insensitive.
But Carson understood. Beckett always seemed to understand, even if it took him a bit to figure it out. Carson understood Rodney.
But not any more. And never again.
Nothing was ever going to change it.
Tears landed on the floor between his heels with miniscule splashes, in rapid fire sequence.
The hand on his shoulder tightened slightly.
Carson was dead.
Like a doornail.