Newton's Third Law
Disclaimer: The following story is a work of fan fiction, and as such is for fan enjoyment only. All recognizable characters/settings are the property of their respective owners. No copyright infringement is intended, and no profit is made. I'm afraid that despite wishing that I did, I don't own these characters. YET… Not until my plans for galactic domination come to fruition…
Summary: After loosing four members of his science team, Rodney's starting to crack.
Central Character(s): Rodney, Radek, Carson, John, Elizabeth and Heightmeyer, plus a smattering of original characters.
Category (ies): Angst, h/c, friendship.
Placement: Early Season Two, after 'The Intruder' but before 'Runner'.
Rating: +15 for bad language plus blood and gore.
Spoilers: Little ones for 'Hotzone', 'The Siege Parts 1 and 3' and 'The Intruder'.
Author's Note: This one's a Rodney POV – my beta, Moony, did a little dance of joy over this when I ran the idea past her, and then she nearly died from happiness when she read it. Ah, you've gotta love the squee factor…
Anyways, I'm trying a different writing technique for this so I've got my fingers crossed that it'll work okay. And last but not least…
WARNING: Here be angst, blood and non-canon character death. So yes, it's another dark (ish) one.
Part 1: For every action…
As I sit on the ridiculously comfortable sofa in Heightmeyer's office, I find myself looking out of the window, at the wall, the floor, the little table next to her chair, the bandages covering my left wrist and arm… anywhere but at her. In fact, I'd go as far as admitting that I'm very carefully and thus deliberately ignoring the woman because I know that the moment I look her in the eye, the entire world will come crashing down around my ears.
"Rodney, I'm not here to pass judgement," she says in that annoyingly neutral psychiatrist's voice of hers. That's what they do, you see, the shrinks. They lull you into a false sense of security, promising confidentiality, honesty and whatever the hell else they want you to believe then pounce like the proverbial tiger. I know how this works. I've been to enough of them in my life to understand how they operate, what their little tricks are.
"I'm not trying to deceive you, Doctor."
Like hell you're not, woman.
Okay, so I admit that I'm not the best judge of character. I'm all too painfully aware that my social skills are poor, verging on the non-existent at times for the simple reason that I just don't get people and relationships. If it can't be analysed, quantified or proven in a lab then I'm pretty much out of my depth. That's the reason behind why I became a scientist in the first place. I mean, how many test tubes or Petri dishes are likely to get pissy with you because you forgot their birthday?
No, science is a safe place for me. No worrying about emotions or niceties, just unequivocal facts. Science is where I've always felt secure – I guess you could even go as far as calling it my comfort blanket.
Or at least, it was before...
"What you're feeling right now is perfectly understandable, Rodney."
No, it's not. How the hell would she know how I'm feeling right now? How would anyone? Radek might, but he's… he's not exactly in a position to talk at the moment. Or breathe without a damn tube in his throat or…
Jesus, what does everyone think about me? No wonder I'm in here.
"Everyone is very concerned about you. They want to help you if you'll let them."
Friendship isn't something that comes easily for me. There are so many unknown variables, so many 'what ifs' that I just don't know how to deal with, that I chose to hide away from it. Like I said, it's a relatively mysterious and dangerous territory for me.
I'm getting better at it though, thanks to people like Carson and Elizabeth. And Sheppard too: he was the one who got me on a team, made me realise that it was okay to spend time in the company of real people rather than a computer. The wall of hostility I so carefully constructed to protect me from disappointment and hurt is slowly but surely crumbling away, brick by brick.
But now I've gone and fucked it all up and I'm not sure if I've got enough mortar left to re-build it.
All I really know is that as soon as I start answering all these questions, Kate will realise the enormity of my actions and ship me back to Earth faster than Sheppard can piss off a Wraith.
"No one is going to send you home."
Well, crap. Looks like I said that last bit out loud. In fact, I've got a sneaking suspicion that most of what I thought were internal thoughts have been verbalised. I'd managed to not say a single word in nearly twenty minutes – a new personal record for me, by the way – and now she's got yet more ammunition when it comes to giving Elizabeth her evaluation. Right, no more thinking out loud. Bad Rodney! I'm going to sit here quietly for the rest of the session (which, incidentally, was compulsory) and make damn sure that I don't give her anything else.
What's that old saying? Give a fool enough rope and he'll hang himself?
"I'm not out to get you, Rodney. I'm trying to help. You've experienced a major trauma, one that would ground even the toughest marine."
God dammit! I glower at the wall, still refusing to look at Kate. "I'm not a marine." Yes, it's a lame, bratty remark, one that has very little of my usually brilliant and scathing wit, but the mildly irritated sigh it provokes is a good enough pay off for me.
"Why don't you tell me what happened?" she asks with practiced patience, uncapping her pen. We're in the lost city of Atlantis, surrounded by advanced technology and hundreds of PDAs, computers and data pads, yet here she is with her legal notepad and a pen. Oh, and not just any old biro will do for her – oh no, she's got a fountain pen. A FOUNTAIN PEN. Who the hell uses a fountain pen these days?!
"What do you want me to say?" I shoot back. Hah. Two can play this game, sister, and I'm willing to bet that I'll win.
"How about you start at the beginning and work up from there?"
Ah yes, good old logic rears its ugly head. Letting out a heavy sigh, I decide to go with the flow and just play along for two very good reasons. One, it'll get me out of here quicker and two, so that she can deem me unfit for duty and tell the others. That way, I'll have more time to pack.
Taking a deep breath, I look down at the floor and start.
"What's up, buddy? Don'tcha love us anymore?"
Of all the people in Atlantis that I could have chosen to be my best friend, I had to pick a man who had the mental age of a ten year old. I span around as I picked up my tool box and fixed Major John Sheppard with a glare that would have burnt down a giant redwood.
Oh wait; he wasn't a Major anymore, was he?
"What do you want, Maj… Colonel?"
The recently promoted Lt Col gave me a grin as he leant against the entrance to my lab and I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. "Just heard you were heading off-world without us."
"I'm not going for long, Sheppard," I replied, frowning. "I'll be an hour or two tops."
"Where are you going?"
What was this, Twenty Questions?
"What's it to you?" I challenged.
"I'm curious, McKay." And there was that idiotically cocky grin, dialled up as high as it could go. The man drove me absolutely crazy at times.
"Then you should be thankful that you're not a cat," I shot back smugly, my own mouth twisting into a crooked grin as he wrinkled his nose in annoyance.
"That may be true, but it doesn't answer my question," he said, stretching out so that he was effectively blocking my exit. Damn military training.
Realising that the only way that I was going to get out of my lab was to tell him, I let out a sigh. "If you must know, I'm going to P9X-315 to repair one of the Naquadah generators."
P9X-315 was an uninhabited planet that had an ore very similar to Naquadah. Elizabeth was always pushing for us to be as self-sufficient as possible. Back in the early days, it was more because of our lack of regular supplies – we only packed so much, after all, and there were a lot of mouths to feed when Sheppard rescued the Athosians from the Wraith.
Now though, it was mainly so that she didn't have to deal with Caldwell. That meant that the chance to mine our own fuel was both incredibly tempting and a very likely possibility.
To be perfectly honest, Caldwell got up my nose too; we'd all heard the rumours that the man wanted Sheppard's job while we were stuck under Cheyenne Mountain back on Earth.
Okay, kids, who can spell the word 'defensive'?
Anyway, Radek and I had run some tests on the samples brought back by Captain Ryan's team. The mineral was incredibly volatile in its pure, unrefined state, and thus much too dangerous to be put into use. For a while it seemed that the whole idea was going to be put on the back burner, but then Zelenka had had a 'Eureka!' moment. The wily little Czech had managed to come up with a way of filtering and cultivating the ore and the initial test run had been successful.
Once our leader had seen the results, she was all too happy to allow us to establish the expedition's very first off-world science base. The teams I'd assigned were mining for the ore and processing it as well to cut down on the manpower required. And besides, it would have taken up far too much space in the labs. Zelenka and his team were in charge of the refining process and it was from him that I'd received the call for help. The generator in question had been behaving somewhat erratically from what I could gather, cutting out suddenly before switching itself back on.
And as usual, it appeared that I was the only person capable of fixing the damn thing.
Secretly, I wasn't too bothered: I was actually looking forward to seeing for myself how they were getting on. And while I was on that particular subject…
"Ah, Dr Rodney McKay, Physicist, Pain in the Ass and Intergalactic Repair Man," John smirked.
"I'm glad you find it so amusing, Sheppard," I growled. "Can I go now?"
"Yeah, yeah." He stepped aside to let me past and followed me down the corridor. "Want a hand?"
"No, dad, I'm a big boy now. I can handle a little fix-it job by myself," I replied.
He grinned, putting on a mock affronted look. "Hey, I was only being friendly. Two heads are better than one."
"I've already told you that's a myth. Don't make me repeat myself."
"Look, Rodney…" John stopped abruptly and pulled me around to face him, staring at me intently.
I couldn't help the eye roll this time – I was a busy man, with places to go, second in commands to berate and generators to fix. "What now?" I asked, trying not to visibly flinch when the question came out as a whine.
His features grew serious and I had to fight away the sudden wave of panic. "Be careful, okay?"
I knew he was still hurting from the whole Ford going AWOL incident – and as a result had been more… protective of everyone. The term 'mother hen' wasn't one that I'd previously associated with John – it was more the Highland voodoo man's thing – but the fact remained that he'd latched onto everyone left and was holding on tight. At times it was like he was surgically attached to me and Teyla (and by extension, Carson and Elizabeth), almost as if he was afraid that we'd vanish if he took his eyes off of us. We put a lot of it down to the fact that he'd lost a lot of men during the Siege, but any idiot with half a working brain cell could see that Aiden's psycho act and subsequent disappearance was the real cause.
Sheppard had remained tight lipped about his visit to the Lieutenant's family, but I had the distinct feeling that it was a rough experience for him. I dreaded the day when I'd have to do the same thing.
But protectiveness aside, this was beyond a joke. There were ten of his best men on the site as a precaution and the world was uninhabited for Christ's sake. "Colonel, I will be fine," I said quietly. "I'll be back before you know it."
If I'd have known then just how true those words would be, I never would have stepped through the Gate on my own.
Sheppard held onto my arm for a moment longer before grinning and letting go. "Good. Just wanted to be clear on that." We carried on walking.
"And how do you feel about Lt Ford?"
"What?" I ask, confused by her interruption. "What's that got to do with anything?"
She taps her pen against her pad unevenly and I have to force myself to sit still and not snatch the damn thing out of her hands. "How are you coping with his disappearance? It's obvious that it has affected you all in different ways."
Really? Wow. I'm now completely convinced that she got her degree out of a crackerjack box. No shit, Sherlock! my head screams at her. Of all the stupid things to say…
"Well of course it has," I snap, feeling a surge of guilty pleasure at the way she jumps slightly. "He was a member of our team." And you look out for your team-mates, no matter what. That's what Sheppard's taught me.
But honestly? I miss Ford, more than I thought possible. I know it's hard to believe that the great Dr Rodney McKay can care about someone other than himself, but it's true. Aiden was a pretty okay guy for a soldier and most of us thought of him as a younger cousin.
He was… is… just a kid after all.
We've not had a mission since he went AWOL and I know for a fact that it's got a lot to do with being unable to find a suitable replacement. Elizabeth tried to persuade Sheppard to give that new guy, Major Lorne, a go but the Colonel had already put him in charge of SGA-3.
I know for a fact that he won't assign another civilian, or even one of the Athosians, so we're officially grounded until our Ford-shaped hole is filled. Off-world teams are made up of four people for a reason, you see, and it's not just to look symmetrical.
Not that I object to the break, mind you. As exhilarating as missions can be, it's nice to have a breather in between all the life and death struggles. A chance to catch up with the projects in my lab, berate my staff for being dumber than a single celled amoeba…
Oh, who the hell am I trying to fool? The real truth of the matter is that none of us want a replacement. John gets moody and aggressive whenever the issue's raised, even in an unofficial capacity. Teyla confessed to us the other day that she still keeps expecting Aiden to walk through the door with a grin and a wave.
I'm resolutely ignoring how I feel about the situation. If I don't examine it too closely, I don't have to deal with all the gut-clenchingly painful emotions that surface.
Oh look, Heightmeyer's talking again.
"I didn't mean to upset you, Rodney. Please continue?"
She makes it sound more like a demand than a question.
When I arrived at the science base, I was met by a very frazzled-looking Radek. His hair was even more manic than usual and I couldn't help but wonder if he'd been running his hands through it in frustration.
"Rodney," he said by way of greeting. "Thank God you are here."
"Yes, yes," I replied, waving my free hand in a 'get to the point' type of way. The tool box seemed to get heavier with every minute and I struggled to balance it. "Can we get on with it? I have a million other things that I need to be doing."
Zelenka off-loaded the box onto one of the marines that had escorted him and span around. Then he grabbed my arm and practically dragged me into the main tent. "Generator is behaving very oddly," he told me as we all but ran. "Has been…" he trailed off into Czech, letting loose a few of his more interesting curses.
"You know, bad language shows a lack of intelligence," I replied, a smirk playing across my face.
Judging from the glower of death I received, it appeared that my comment wasn't particularly welcome. Some people have no taste.
"I will scrub mouth out later," he muttered, "but generator is more important."
I suddenly felt a twinge of panic knot my stomach up. "Did you think about turning it off?" I asked as we entered the tent. Yes, it was a dumb question, but you need to remember an important thing – even genius geeks can have blonde moments.
Radek's features twisted into a grimace. "Will not."
"What?" I demanded. "What do you mean?"
He whirled around to face me and I saw just how scared he really looked. "Will not turn off, Rodney. We have tried everything."
"What's it doing?"
"See for yourself. Generator… it is continuing to power up. Will not respond to normal shut down procedure." He dragged me across the space and I made a mental note to have a serious talk with him about all the man-handling.
However, that thought was rapidly shoved aside as I stared at the small machine. Without even examining the generator closely, I knew that something was terribly wrong with the machine. The low humming that normally accompanied the device was so shrill that it made my ears throb and I was convinced that the damn thing was literally shaking in its casing.
Then I noticed the little red overload light flashing…
"Get out of here!" I bellowed, pulling at Radek's sleeve. "Get out and tell everyone to evacuate!"
"Wh-what?" he asked, obviously confused.
"Shut up and move!" I hissed. There wasn't time to explain that if the generator blew (which was looking more and more likely by the second) it would cause the ore samples to explode. And we were talking about a very, very big boom…
"You lot!" I yelled at the four other scientists in the tent. "Get your no-good, lazy asses out of here! NOW!"
They stared at me as if I'd started to speak in tongues or had just performed a 360 degree head spin. Making a mental note to hire people with half an ounce of common sense in the future, I shoved Radek in the direction of the exit and ran back to them. I didn't realise that the damn fool Czech had followed me.
I was halfway to the others when there was a massive explosion. After that, everything went black.
"What happened after that?" Kate asks.
To be honest, I don't know. I have no idea how long I was unconscious for and tell her as much. I catch a glimpse of a frown creasing her forehead and feel a jolt of anger. I was unconscious! What does she think I am? A black box flight recorder or something?
"Alright, what's the next thing you remember?"
Let's see, shall we? Screaming mostly. My teams screaming in fear and pain, the marines barking out orders for medical assistance and…
And the death rattles from Dr Steinberg. He'd been standing the closest to the generator when it exploded. Poor, poor bastard.
But I tell her none of this. Those sounds are for my memories only and I have no intention of sharing them with anyone, not even Sheppard. Especially not Sheppard. Suppressing a shudder, I settle on, "Waking up with my arm pinned under something."
Kate seems to have lost her voice and has resorted to using that psychologist's silence trick. You know, when they say nothing in an attempt to bully you into answering? Sighing, I worry at the bandages on my arm, avoiding eye contact with her. If I look at her now, I just know that I'll shatter into a million pieces.
"And seeing Radek and Garcia trapped…"
After the initial shock had worn off, I realised that we had to get out of the tent. Something had caught on fire nearby and if we didn't move, we'd be burnt to a crisp. As I tried to stand, I felt a chunk of metal pulling on my left arm, but ignored the strange sensation. I made it to my feet and staggered across to the two people that I prayed were still alive.
Steinberg, Kevins and Gerhardt were gone. Even if I wanted to, there was nothing I could have done for them.
"Radek?" I called, wincing at how hoarse my throat felt. "Garcia?"
A weak moan from one of them answered me and my adrenaline rocketed. I tugged and heaved at the wrecked refinery equipment, pulling it away with a strength I never knew I possessed until at last, the worst of it was out of the way.
Radek and Evelyn were so still that for a moment, I feared the worst. Then I caught sight of chests moving slightly and something inside me eased a little. I did what I could for their many injuries, slapping on pressure bandages and making sure that their airways were clear, but I wasn't a field medic.
Knowing that my two colleagues were in a bad way and that there was no way I could get them both out of the tent on my own, I turned my head towards the opening. Then I swallowed my pride and literally screamed for help.
Within seconds, two soldiers seemed to appear from nowhere and were helping me drag my two colleagues out of the tent and away from the flames. I tried not to cringe at the wetness under my fingertips, even though I knew it was blood. And oh God, there was so much of it. Red everywhere, precious fluids leaking out from both of them, leaving a trail behind us and covering my hands and clothes, the smell clinging to me like a twisted version of cologne…
Once outside, I dragged in huge lungfuls of clean air, coughing as my lungs had a shock – I hadn't realised how smoky it had been in the tent. As I continued to hack my lungs up, I took a moment to look around – the entire site was like a war zone. The boom had indeed been big, levelling almost three quarters of the site. I heard people crying, saw others wandering around in shock and felt my vision start to tunnel.
A hand on my arm brought me back and I shook my head to clear it. Major Lorne was standing in front of me, a concerned look on his face.
When had he gotten there?
"Sir? Are you alright? Do you need medical assistance?"
"No," I mumbled, blinking. "No, we need to get everyone back to Atlantis. We need Carson."
I was about to start getting my people back through the Gate when I caught a glimpse of a marine performing CPR on Zelenka…
"Do you remember getting back?"
I shake my head. That particular part is hazy to say the least – common sense tells me that we got back here, managed to evacuate everyone including the ones who didn't make it, but I'll be damned if I can remember how. I suspect that Lorne and his men had a lot to do with it.
"Do you remember what happened in the Gateroom?"
Medical teams were almost literally falling over one another trying to deal with the sheer volume of casualties. Elizabeth, Teyla and Sheppard were helping to triage those who had been fortunate enough to escape with minor to moderate injuries. Carson was barking out orders to the teams dealing with the critical patients, his accent thickening with every syllable.
I looked back down at Garcia's far too still body. We had been the last people to stumble through the Gate – by which point, everyone was far too busy to register our arrival. Amid the noise and mayhem, my senses seemed to heighten, picking out the smallest details.
Like the fact that I could feel Evelyn's fluttering heartbeat under my fingers as I tried to stem the river of blood that flowed from her abdomen. That I could smell the iron tang of the red liquid as it mingled with the salty taste of my own sweat and tears.
Or that I could hear the shallow, faltering breaths as she tried so hard to hang on to life.
And I could see the marine next to me breathing for Radek, forcing air into the body that already looked dead.
For a moment, I was grateful that no one was paying any attention to me until I realised that it meant none of the teams were looking at Zelenka or Garcia. "HEY!" I screamed over the cacophony. "I NEED HELP HERE!"
Carson's head shot up and he bee-lined his way over to me. "Rodney! Good God, man, you're covered in blood! Where are you hurt?"
"Not mine," I croaked. "Theirs…" I nodded my head at my two charges. "Carson, help them… please."
Hands pulled me away gently, allowing the medics access. My hands had become so used to pressing down on bandages that when deprived of the task, they clenched into fists. I stood mesmerised as Carson and his people worked, my eyes never leaving the two motionless bodies on the floor in front of me. I only just registered it when they were loaded onto gurneys and whisked away.
I must have lost track of time because the next thing I knew, Elizabeth was standing in front of me looking worried.
"Rodney?" I heard her call. "Rodney, are you injured?"
I shook my head, my eyes drifting down to the bloody stains on the floor and felt myself start to shake. So much blood…
"Hey, buddy," John said, his hand coming to rest on my shoulder, the warmth of it highlighting how cold I felt. "What say we get you down to the infirmary and cleaned up?" Although his tone was light, I could hear the brief flicker of fear in his voice and the unspoken 'because you're in shock'.
I tore my gaze away from the gore and looked up at him, feeling lost. "'Kay," I whispered, wanting nothing more at that moment than to curl up into a ball and sob like a child.
I found myself being walked out of the Gateroom and down the corridor that led to Carson's lair. I felt strange, almost disconnected from my body and I could tell that John was concerned and angry. I didn't even need to look at him – I could literally feel the tension emanating from him. The hand on my shoulder grounded me, the gesture telling me everything that I knew Sheppard couldn't bring himself to say out loud, but it wasn't enough.
I came to an abrupt halt. The corridor seemed to spin and stretch in front of me, making me feel dizzy and nauseous, and a roaring sound filled my ears. John turned to me, asking if I was okay.
I swallowed heavily and shook my head. "I'm not… feeling very well," I replied as my knees buckled.
I assume that Sheppard caught me because I was suddenly lying on the floor staring up at him through black spots.
"Stay with me, Rodney," I heard him call. His voice seemed so far away…
"John?" I heard myself call. "'S cold, John…" I shivered, my teeth chattering as the chill spread through my body. I could feel him gingerly prodding me, trying to see if I was hurt. "Why… why's m-my arm wet?" I asked softly.
That comment got a muffled curse and he yanked the left sleeve of my jacket away to reveal a long gash on the inside of my arm that was dripping with blood.
"Jesus fucking Christ!" he cursed, pulling out cloths to stop the blood. He grabbed my wrist tightly. "Why the hell didn't you say anything, you stupid bastard?" He sounded upset, but I couldn't work out why.
"Didn't know…" I stared in morbid fascination at my arm, mesmerised by the red patterns on the cloths until a gentle hand on my face pulled my head away.
"Nothing to see there, buddy," John told me. "Help's coming. Just hold on a little longer, okay?"
I tried to answer him, but it was so hard. I was so tired and cold, and the warmth of the approaching darkness was much too strong an attraction. I'd done everything I could. I'd gotten my people back to Atlantis, to Carson, and I didn't have the strength left to fight.
I heard him yell frantically as my eyes slipped closed and then everything just went away.
Oh noes! An evil cliffy! How I love making Rodney suffer! Never fear, though, conclusion's coming up… *sends furtive glances at the shiny review button and smiles bashfully*