Title: Frayed
Author: Winter Ashby (rosweldrmr)
Stargate Atlantis © Brad Wright & Robert C. Cooper
K+ for language
Time Line: Immediately following the retreat of the Genii in 'The Eye'. Missing scene where we see that Rodney was beat up much worse than they knew.
Summary: He thought about his pain and his remorse. His guilt and failures and if only he'd been braver, stronger, faster, smarter. If only... | What if Rodney had been injured worse than we saw in 'The Eye'? [Rodney Whump] some McWeir and ShepWeir, if you squint.
Authors Notes: I love to see Rodney in pain, I really do. I'm not even sorry.

"I was under the impression your wound wasn't severe." Carson's face fell as he examined the previously unseen extent of Rodney's injuries suffered at the hands of the Genii. There were shallow cuts criss-crossing down the length of his back, and small burns dotted along his chest and arms. And from the deep purple and sickly green beginning to bloom across his ribs, the small cut on his arm was the least of his problems. "Rodney..." Carson's voice took on a soft, imploring tone that made Rodney's stomach sink.

Carson's head was bandaged from his own encounter with the Genii, and Rodney had to struggle against the rising panic in his chest at having a wounded friend examine him. Especially when he felt so personally responsible for what happened. He never should have opened his big mouth about the bomb when they were there. He couldn't just leave the energy reading alone. He was always too damn curious, too ready to impress people, to prove the that he was always the smartest person in every room. He hadn't even taken the time to consider the consequences.

That was always his problem. He didn't think about the after: the 'after he was done being brilliant and praised for his intellect'. He didn't consider lives or planets or anything. Even when the young Genii man was torturing him, all he'd thought about was his own pain. The blood, the sliced skin and punches to the ribs that made every breath feel like there was an elephant on his chest.

Even now, as Carson examined him, all Rodney was thinking about was how much he had failed. How he screwed up, about what he almost lost. He felt the guilt, the responsibility for the men that died, Carson's injury, Teyla, Ford, John, Elizabeth - everyone. He thought about his pain and his remorse. His guilt and failures and if only he'd been braver, stronger, faster, smarter.

If only.

If only...

"Rodney." Carson called his name, and he realized he'd spaced out. He ran back through his short term memory as to what Carson had said before he fell into his thoughts.

Something about wounds, and the extent of his injuries. Rodney felt ashamed at his cowardice and weakness. He felt ashamed that Carson was looking after him when he should have been recovering himself.

"Well how was I supposed to know how bad it was? I'm not a medical doctor, you know." Rodney snapped at Carson. It was second nature to be the pompous scientist everyone expected, it was easier to hide behind smug retorts and crippling arrogance. But even he was forced to admit that his strength was waning.

"What did they do to you?" Carson asked as he dressed the first of the burns on his arm.

"At least I'm still alive." Rodney responded, flippantly, still trying to pretend that he wasn't fundamentally different than he'd started out 48 hours ago. Still trying to imagine that death and torture hadn't changed him. Even when the Wraith hadn't, even when being stranded in another galaxy and facing danger and possible death on every off world mission hadn't.

The Genii had come here, to Atlantis. To his city. They'd made his home, his labs, his fortress of impregnability unsafe. Their presence, their cruelty and violence had taken from him the last vestige, semblance, illusion of home that he'd clung to.

"Aye." Carson agreed, and Rodney knew the other man was thinking about the post mortems he had waiting for him when he was done.

A silence settled around them as Carson set about the task of repairing Rodney. In the absence of talking, Rodney was left with his thoughts. His regret and shame, and the fear. The horror at stepping in front of a gun, and really, honestly, believing that it would be the last thing he ever saw. But even that, the fear at abandoning his instinctual self preservation, was nothing compared to the absolute terror that shot threw him when Kolya was pointing the gun at Elizabeth.

Rodney knew John would stop it if he could. But he wasn't there. He was just some pissed-off, disembodied voice that crackled on the radio. Rodney was there, in the same room. He watched the barrell of Kolya's gun take aim and all he could think was 'I can't watch her die'.

And the next thing he knew, he was standing between her and him, and quite to his surprise, he had absolutely no plans of moving.

He shivered as he remembered the cold chill that ran through him at the sound of John's bereft, angry response.

"You should have said something." Carson's voice broke through his reverie and Rodney tried to straighten his face into a tight mask of utter indifference. But he had the sinking impression that Carson had seen something in his face as he'd relived those moments, something that made him sound like that. Like Rodney was a small, frightened child. Or like he was in shock.

Was he in shock?

Rodney called up the symptoms for shock in his head and ran through them.

Feeling weak or nauseous: check. Chest pain: check. Dizziness, light-headedness double check. Sweating and/or clammy skin and hands: super check. Shallow breathing and imminent panic attack...

'Shit.' Rodney thought, as he realized he must be teetering just on the brink of complete catatonia. He was having the hardest time hearing anything, it felt like there were cotton balls shoved in his ears, everything was muffled, even Carson as he leaned forward and said "You should have told me. You must have been-"

"I'm fine. Just fix me up so I can get on with it." Rodney was beginning to feel boxed in, caged in, like he did when he was a million miles underground, buried under a mountain in Cheyenne. And Sam wondered why he didn't like 'hands on' work with the stargate. As if that ever had anything to do with it!

"They would have killed you." Carson mumbled, and Rodney had to struggle to even really comprehend what he was saying, past the rising panic and fear and 'Oh god, oh god, I need to get out of here.' Rodney thought frantically as Carson's hand closed around his arm, trying to get him to focus.

"You weren't trained to withstand that kind of torture. You did the best you could." And that was the cold splash he'd needed. He had to remember where he was, and what they'd lost.

His best. His best didn't mean shit if two men were dead, and their medical supplies were stolen, their amory ransacked and their trust betrayed, by people they had turned to in desperation. When they'd needed it most, when they had nowhere else to turn, the people they'd relied on for help and assistance had betrayed them. God knew if the expedition was even still alive. They could have been murdered or sold into slavery, or fed to the Wraith as some kind of fucked up sacrifice. Radek and Peter and all those other scientists he hadn't bothered to learn the names of.

"And look where it got us." He said gravely and glanced toward the infirmary's doors. He thought of the bodies of the men in the morgue, he thought about John and Carson and Ford and Elizabeth. How much worse it could have been. If he hadn't been able to start the shield, if he wouldn't have told them about the plan, if he never agreed to help them in the first place - just traded for the damn wheat like they were supposed to, if they'd killed him, if they'd killed Elizabeth.

Carson, having finished with the rest of his wounds, reached for cut on Rodney's arm.

"Leave it." he said as he extended his hand and covered it.

"But Rodney."

"I said leave it. I have work to do." he snatched his shirt and jacket from the exam table and dressed as he headed toward the exit.

"At least let me clean-"

"No." he turned too quickly, and the way Carson's face fell, he knew he hadn't hidden the haunted look he was sure he wore with his standard smirk and glare in time. For a second, Carson saw him, his fear and guilt and he needed to get out of there, before he did something he'd really regret, like vomit or cry or pass out... "I'll be fine. Thanks." he cleared his throat and shrugged on his jacket without so much as a wince. "And I'd appreciate it if you didn't mention... this, to anyone. Especially Elizabeth." and he fled, before Carson could even agree.

Once out of eyeshot of the infirmary, Rodney's resolve wavered and he was forced to lean a hand against the wall while his world spun for a moment. It'd been nearly 32 hours since he'd slept and he was beginning to feel frayed. He took a few deep breaths, trying to clear his head before he set off again. He could hear the familiar gurgle of the event horizon rippling as people made their way though, and he wanted to be there. He unwrapped a wad of white gauze he'd palmed on the way out of the infirmary and hastily wrapped it over his jacket, around arm.

"Everyone getting back okay?" Rodney asked as he came up next to Elizabeth as she and John overlooked the gate as the expedition and Athosians slowly made their way through two at a time, carrying supplies.

"It looks like it." John answered, and Rodney almost toppled over with relief. They were safe, unharmed at least. He was sure Weir wouldn't look nearly as serene as she did if anyone offworld had been seriously injured or killed.

"How fares our city?" Elizabeth asked and Rodney busied himself with his tablet.

"Well, we've begun pumping out the lower levels of the east pier which was flooded. There is structural damage – nothing too serious." he answered and caught her wary glance at his arm. "Beckett suffered from a minor concussion, hasn't been able to look at this." He said as he held up his arm for her scrutiny. "I had to do this myself." John turned away, a smile caught on his lips. "Still, on the bright side, I've had my first decent meal in twenty-four hours, so all things considered I would say we are just fine."

The lie was heavy in his gut, and Rodney had to look back to his tablet to occupy himself with something, anything, to keep his mind off the pain, off the exhaustion, off all the ways he'd failed in the last 24 hours. Still, it was easier to lie to them then it should have been. But when it came to his wounded pride, Rodney was surprisingly adept at deceit.

"You say these things happen every twenty years, right?" John was saying to Elizabeth.

"That's what they tell us." she confirmed, and the hint of laughter in her voice made Rodney want to turn away.

"How far in advance can we book days off?" John asked, and they all chuckled. But as soon as the moment had passed, Elizabeth turned and was swallowed up by the throngs of people in the control room, fixing consoles, taking readings, setting up laptops and getting things back to normal.

Rodney knew this wasn't over. Kolya was still out there, and the Wraith and any number of other catastrophes he couldn't name or imagine. But next time he faced imminent death, at least he would have a guage, something to compare it to, courage to draw from. All he needed to do was picture Elizabeth's face when Kolya drew his gun, or remember the sound of John's crackling voice as he screamed for retribution when he thought they'd killed her.

Next time, he would anticipate the knife cutting into his arms, and the blows that pounded his ribs, the boot to the side, the fist to the face, the heated butt of a gun to his back. He would know what it was like next time. And as long as he knew what it was like, what to expect, he might stand a better chance of holding out. Now that he felt the weight of what was at stake. Now that he knew what giving in would mean losing.