Title: A Captive Conversation
Author's Note: As stated in the previous chapter header, this started as a platform for one of the Atlantis team to finally defend themselves against the "You brought the Wraith down on us" accusation and just evolved into something else entirely. The machine Rodney mentions is something I invented as a plot device for another story, Growing Pains.
Featured Characters: Rodney McKay
Other Characters Include: Teyla Emmagen, John Sheppard, Ronon Dex, & Dr. Keller.
Disclaimer: I don't own the Stargate Franchise. I have no rights whatsoever and am just writing this for the fun of it. This is for grins and giggles not for gold. So, please don't smack me with the backhand of the US Civil court system.
John had just finished up the post mission debriefing and med check in the infirmary of yet another off world mission without Rodney and was heading down to the area of the city that housed the science labs. It had been over two months since Rodney had been released from the infirmary and he still hadn't spoken a word.
John was worried. Jennifer, Dr. Keller that is, had said she was confident Rodney would make a complete recovery. But she hadn't seen how still, how lost, the man had looked when they had pulled him out of that Wraith cell. John had never seen Rodney look at him that way. He had never seen the excitable physicist look at anything that way, with complete and utter apathy.
Keller had found the feeding scars on Rodney's chest when she examined him; large ugly blotches that overlapped each other. Sheppard mentally recalled the doctor's contribution to the post rescue mission debriefing.
"I can't be sure how many times he was fed upon and restored during his three week imprisonment but I would guess that it was in excess of 14 times."
Ronon's eyes had turned to icy fury, Teyla had bowed her head sorrowfully, and even Woolsey had stared in shocked silence.
Sheppard, however, had jumped in, "How can you say that for sure? Maybe it wasn't that bad."
Keller's voice had been strained with controlled emotion, "Colonel, I counted at least fourteen unique occurrences of scarring. However, considering that the restoration process causes the tear from a feeding to scar over immediately, and that the Wraith tend to feed pretty consistently from the same location there is a lot of overlapping; which means that though I've been able to identify fourteen different scars, there very well may be others that are impossible to detect."
John had swallowed heavily. The memory of his ordeal of being fed upon was still extremely vivid. He still woke up some nights sweating, almost screaming and trying to pull away the phantom hand stealing his life; and he had only been fed on four times.
"Aw, Rodney." He had whispered to himself.
Keller had ducked her head and irritably brushed an insuppressible tear from her eye. She then cleared her throat seeming grateful that everyone had tactfully ignored the tear as she continued with her assessment of Rodney's condition.
"Physically, Rodney seems to be fine. Unfortunately, I think the feedings must have taken a severe emotional toll. Since regaining consciousness he hasn't spoken. He refuses to eat and I'm sure you are all aware of the fact that he refuses to even acknowledge our presence. I've had Dr. Krajnak stop by, but he couldn't manage to engage Rodney either." Jennifer took a deep breath before continuing and John had thought maybe she was thinking what he was, that maybe if Kate Heightmeyer were still around she might have been able to reach Rodney where the replacement psychologist had failed.
"Dr. Krajnak has diagnosed Rodney with acute post traumatic syndrome or PTS. In severe cases, PTS can cause muteness. Some who have suffered from this condition describe it as initially choosing not to speak. However, over time, the mind grows so accustomed to being silent that the act of speaking becomes strangely foreign and they find they can't speak, even when the desire to do so returns."
As Dr. Keller explained the details of the condition her voice had grown stronger and more professional. It was obvious to John that she found it much easier to deal with Rodney as a diagnosis than as the person for whom she had developed feelings of affection and friendship.
"It's more common in children but can occur in adults although only in cases of extremely severe strain. The prognosis is good, however. The emphasis now should be on helping Rodney regain his footing. We need to do everything we can to make him feel comfortable and safe. We need to emphasize the fact that he is home."
Then Woolsey had spoken up. "Doctor, from what you're telling me, I fear I must assume that Dr. McKay will be in no fit state for off world missions in the foreseeable future. Is that correct?"
Keller had glanced guiltily at Sheppard before saying, "Yes. Off world missions are most definitely out of the question for now."
Woolsey had been looking at Sheppard, too. They probably both had expected him to protest the decision, put up a fight. John really wasn't as stupid as they seemed to think he was.
He had seen the haunting emptiness in Rodney's eyes and knew that though the physicist was physically whole, he was far from healed. John had no problem in giving him the time he needed. He just hoped that Jennifer was right and that Rodney would eventually heal.
John found Rodney in his lab. Of course. Since being released from the infirmary Rodney had spent every moment he could manage in the lab. So much so that, at one point, Keller had had to re-admit him to the infirmary for a hypoglycemic reaction.
McKay seemed possessed, silently going about his research with a focus that astounded his colleagues. The scientific staff on the Atlantis base would never admit to it, but they found they secretly missed the old McKay sometimes. They found it disturbing to have their projects reviewed and green lit or denied in silent succinct e-mails.
Keller had impressed upon John that the fact Rodney was writing the work related emails was a significant step forward and it wasn't at all surprising that he had retreated to the comfort of his lab to recover, but John suspected it was more than that.
John stood at the door watching his friend stare with determined focus at a tablet screen. John cleared his throat loudly before entering the room. Since his return Rodney was understandably jumpy.
"Hiya, Rodney." He said with as much cheer as possible. "We're back."
Rodney looked up from his tablet and smiled but it didn't reach his eyes. It seemed impossible and a contradiction of terms but there was no other way to describe them than filled with emptiness. At least Rodney was acknowledging him. And John had to remind himself that that was progress.
"Look, Zelenka and Weingarten both say they haven't seen you leave for food today. It's dinner time. I'm hungry. Ronon and Teyla will be getting mess, too. Whaddaya say you come join us?"
Rodney ignored him.
"Or, I can tell Jenifer that you're skipping meals again and she can admit you to the infirmary." John said this nonchalantly but the threat was obvious.
Rodney lowered the tablet and stared at the far wall for a moment, apparently considering this. Then he sighed, put the tablet down and turned to march briskly past John in the direction of the mess hall.
Okay, John thought, more progress.
Ronon and Teyla had just sat down with their treys when the Satedan saw McKay enter the mess hall, Sheppard following closely behind. McKay didn't glance around at the other diners. He went straight to the stack of trays and mechanically filled his plate without any regard for what he picked.
Ronon watched as Sheppard picked up a small plate McKay had placed on his tray and returned it to the buffet. The food had looked somewhat yellow and Ronon suspected that McKay had grabbed a dish containing citrus, in his absent state of mind.
Sheppard guided McKay over to the table at which Ronon and Teyla were sitting and the scientist sat down and began to silently chew and swallow his food. The process was so deliberate and mechanical it didn't even seem like eating.
Ronon couldn't stand seeing McKay like this. It was like McKay had died on that Wraith ship and all they had brought back was a bag of bones and ability. Ronon knew that the work McKay had been doing in that windowless room they called his lab had been going well. He knew it was important, but Ronon didn't care about test results and experiments. He missed his friend. He had no idea how much he could miss the rambling tangents and sarcastic asides until he met the new McKay.
It surprised him that McKay had broken so completely. Ronon had experienced something similar to what McKay had gone through and knew it was an almost unimaginable ordeal but, he thought he knew McKay. He thought McKay was stronger than that. Ronon supposed every man had his breaking point. Ronon just hadn't thought a feeding could break McKay like this. He tried to find something else on which to focus.
"Sheppard," Ronon said addressing the Colonel. "Woolsey said he got a message from the Ardeens today."
"Oh, really? What's going on with them?" Sheppard said around a mouthful of meatloaf.
"They're settling back in pretty well. Wanted to know if we had heard anything else about that girl that went missing, what's her name? Arnette? Adette?" Ronon searched through his mind for the name. He was terrible with names.
Ronon stared at McKay and could see that Sheppard and Teyla had also not missed the whispered name.
"Rodney?" Sheppard said, excitement and worry in his voice.
"Alarette." McKay said the name louder and then he was crying. "Oh God!" And then McKay was sobbing. Ronon jumped across the table and grabbed his friend as he threatened to collapse to the floor his body wracked with shuddering sobs. McKay was talking for the first time in almost two months. It was hard to understand the words because of the way he gasped them breathlessly between sobs but Ronon suddenly understood.
It made sense now. A feeding had broken McKay after all but not his own. Ronon held McKay tightly as he sobbed out his apologies and guilt. The mess hall was a mausoleum, entombed in the silence of the observers and McKay's funereal cries for forgiveness.
Rodney stood in front of the inactive Stargate and felt he was doing much better now. It had been two weeks since his emotional outburst in the mess hall and he still colored slightly in embarrassment when he thought about it but, yes, he was doing much better now.
Talking was still difficult for a bit. It was amusing. Who would have ever thought that he, Rodney McKay, would ever have trouble talking? However, sitting in the mess hall, hearing Ronon struggle to remember Alarette's name had been the tipping point. She had to be remembered.
He thought back to his last "session" with Jennifer. Though she wasn't the official psychologist, Rodney felt much more comfortable talking to her than Krajnak. He had been sitting in Jennifer's office answering questions; but mainly just talking.
"I guess I'm still surprised is all." He had said.
"By what? Your reaction?" Jennifer asked.
"Well, yeah. I still know hardly anything about her. I don't even know how old she was. I had just barely met her. Why did it mess me up so much?"
Jennifer had considered the question a moment before answering.
"My first inclination is to think that a lot of your feelings are related to your guilt. She died because you refused to give the Wraith the information they wanted, which you correctly recognize as the right thing to have done but" and she paused for a moment, "but you also can't discount or ignore the fact that, well, she died in your arms, Rodney. She was, from what you've told me, a sweet innocent girl who deserved to live a full, long life and instead she died a horrible death which you were forced to witness and for which you felt responsible."
Jennifer had touched his hand then. "I've been a doctor a long time. I've had patients die on my watch and it's terrible. It's one of the most terrible feelings a person can feel to stand impotently by while someone dies. When you add the physical and emotional side effects of multiple feedings, I think its surprising that you coped as well as you did."
The sudden whooshing sound of the wormhole engaging brought Rodney back into the moment. John was giving him a worried glance.
"I'm fine. I'm doing much better. Promise." Rodney said and he really did believe it.
He walked through the event horizon thinking of a petite blond and of a promise he had made.
He would never stop fighting. He would never, never stop trying until he had killed all the monsters.
Don't worry, Alarette, Rodney thought, I'm gonna kill 'em all.
A/N: Well, this ended up being very different from what I thought it would be. I went with Rodney beign silent as a sort of keeping to the title and initial theme of the story, which was a conversation between two captives. I hope you liked it. Thanks for reading.