Mar. 12th, 2008 12:11 am
Characters: Rodney McKay (pre-McShep)
Warnings: Language, dark-fic, character deaths
Disclaimer: Not mine!
Beta: ferret_kitty looked this one over for me.
Summary: You can only push a man so far.
Author's Note: Sooner or later Rodney has to snap, right? It's not pretty. It's not nice. And Rodney is probably more than a little on the crazy side. Title blatantly stolen from Deadwood. Also? I'm pretty sure this is wingwyrm's fault, for plying me with CIA!Rodney and making me think about how I could make him go crazy in cannon. I'm on a dark kick lately.
When the rescue party finally arrives they find Rodney in the engine room. Rodney hears them coming minutes before they fight and kill their way to him, the retort of their P-90s and Ronon's blaster drawing closer and closer. He could run. He could go to them and possibly spare some lives in the process.
Instead, Rodney bends over a console and starts working, sweat running down the curve of his nose as the temperature in the room climbs another few degrees. The engine is whining, an unpleasant sound as it spools up far too high, broken beyond repair now. Rodney keeps rearranging wires and control crystals.
John comes through the door first. Of course he does. Sheppard has his P-90 tucked in tight against his chest, mouth set in a hard line. His entire face lightens when he sees Rodney. Sheppard crosses to Rodney in a few quick steps, Ronon and a shit load of Marines flooding into the room behind him.
John says, "We've been looking for you everywhere, buddy," and sounds like he means it. Rodney shrugs, raising his bound wrists in explanation and blinking when John curses and reaches out for him. John drags Rodney along by the chain holding his wrists together and Rodney allows him to because his head is still buzzing with drugs and pain.
Rodney casts one look over his shoulder at the engine, the force of its vibrations shaking the entire room now, before allowing the Marines to surround him. Ronon's hands are big and rough, patting at Rodney quickly, explosions of touch on his chest, gut, back, shoulders. Rodney says, "I'm not hurt," and Ronon grunts acknowledgment but keeps checking anyway.
They pass bodies in the corridors, but not as many as Rodney had expected. Rodney steps over their crumpled forms and the thick bundles of wires in his way. The smell of blood mixes with the electric sharpness in the air and the oil-slick smell that's been stuck in Rodney's nose for a week.
By the time they make it back to the Jumpers, Rodney is dizzy. He lets himself be herded into the front of the Jumper and someone presses a laptop into his hands while Teyla smiles down at him, sweet and gorgeous. Sheppard bellows, painfully loud, "Blow the seals, lets get the fuck out of here!" and then lower, for Rodney's ears alone, "Zelenka says he got the hyper-drive set up enough to let us get away from here, make sure it's right before we go."
Rodney stares down at the calculations, numbers tumbling over and over in his brain, slotting into place and twisting into new formations, equations scrolling behind his eyes. Larrin's face pops up on their view screen and Rodney ignores her, fingers dancing across his keyboard as his chains clank together. Larrin says, "What the hell do you think you're doing, Sheppard?"
John voice is quiet, sharp edged as a knife, "Did you think I was just going to let you take him?"
Rodney thinks about telling them that he's sitting right here, thank you very much. But it wouldn't do any good and his mouth still hurts from last time he pissed Larrin off. Instead he snaps the laptop closed and says, "There were some errors. I fixed them. Let's go." He ignores the ache in his jaw and the way his bottom lip throbs.
Larrin says, "I'll get him back—"
Rodney cuts her off, looking at her pretty face all twisted up in anger, "I don't fool around, remember?"
Larrin isn't a complete idiot and Rodney can see the range of emotions flashing across her face as she processes his words. She jerks suddenly, reaching for something off screen, her voice muffled when she demands, "What did you do? McKay, what the fuck did you—"
Rodney says, watching her panic, "We should go now." John stares at him for a half second, Rodney can feel the pressure of the other man's gaze and then new hyper-drive is starting up, the window tearing space apart in front of them.
They're almost to the hyperspace window when the explosion behind them turns everything bright white and the shock wave shoves them the rest of the way through. Someone screams in the back and Rodney turns to look at Sheppard and asks, "Do you have an extra powerbar?"
Afterwards, when Keller is done bandaging Rodney's wrists and stitching up his bottom lip and they've got him hooked up to an IV that's supposed to flush the last of Larrin's drugs from his system, Sheppard shows up. Rodney stares at him until John sits down and then keeps staring.
Talking still hurts; his allergies hadn't handled the poor ventilation and millennia old mold on the Ancient ship very well. He'd spent days coughing, hacking until his throat was raw and his chest ached. The corners of his mouth are still raw from the gag that Larrin had shoved into his mouth, his tongue bitten and red all along both sides.
John says, "We sent Lorne's team back to check out the damage. The whole fleet was destroyed."
Rodney shrugs, because it hadn't exactly been the whole fleet so much as Larrin's entire people. Sheppard is silent for a long time. Rodney wonders if he's mourning for Larrin or if he's just jealous that he wasn't the one who blew up an entire civilization. Again. When John finally speaks his voice is carefully blank, "One of the hyper-drives overcharged, as far as Zelenka can tell. Probably an accident from all the stress put on the old engines."
Rodney narrows his eyes at John. John, who is curiously expressionless, hands clenched together in his lap. It's not the response Rodney had been expecting, really. He'd been figuring that he'd be spending some quality time in the brig and then either have an accident off-world or be sent back to Earth to rot in a cell somewhere for the rest of his life. There had been thousands of people on those ships, at least a few of them conceivably innocent.
Then again, everyone is guilty of something. Rodney clears his throat, it burns, "We should check Atlantis, might be a flaw in the engines as they get older."
Something in John's expression changes, there's a flash of emotion behind his eyes that Rodney can't read. When John smiles it's just his lips moving and he reaches out to pat at Rodney's hand, soft over the needles sticking out of Rodney's skin. John says, "I'll let you take care of that when you're feeling better."
John stands, then hesitates, "Dietrich is gong to be talking to you about what happened. Standard POW stuff." Rodney nods again, not sure what he's supposed to be saying here. John seems to be trying to figure something out and finally sighs, "You might want to let him know about the drugging. And how your hands were incapacitated. We all saw it."
John turns, finally, heading for the door. Rodney makes himself speak, even though his voice doesn't really rise above a rasp, "I'm not sorry. You shouldn't think I am."
John pauses, hands on his hips, face still in thought and then says, "I know." John smiles again. This one actually reaches his eyes. Rodney tries to smile back, watches John's eyes drop to his busted lip and raises a hand self-consciously to the stitches. John says, "Get some rest, McKay. It's good to have you back."
Rodney ends up with lots of sessions with Dietrich. Visiting Heightmeyer hadn't been Rodney's favorite experience in the world, but he can safely say that he actively dislikes the new psychiatrist. The man reminds him of someone's idea of the perfect jolly fat uncle.
Dietrich wears sweaters and a full beard, possibly to make up for the fact that he's either shaved his head or gone bald. He's even more soft spoken than Heightmeyer was and he tiptoes around Rodney like perhaps Rodney has been replaced with a glass figurine while no one was paying attention.
Rodney gets diagnosed with all kinds of wonderful traumas that he doesn't bother to remember, but overall Dietrich seems to believe that he's handling his experience very well. Rodney figures that this is only because Rodney has neglected to mention the empty, numb place in the middle of his chest where he used to hurt and ache and rage.
Carter is very understanding about the whole thing, even offers to let Rodney go back to Earth to spend some time with his sister if he wants. Rodney begs off, citing the destruction of the intergalactic bridge and the trip he can't afford to make on the Daedalus. He wonders if Jeannie would be able to see the hollow place inside him at a glance or if it would take her two.
Rodney has only been back on active duty for a few weeks when they end up beamed onto the Apollo to fight the Replicators again. Rodney isn't sure why it is that Ellis seems to be in charge of all their anti-Replicator efforts. He waits for the flare of heat and anger in his chest at the other man's condescension and stupidity. There's nothing.
Ellis summarily dismisses Rodney's suggestions and Rodney sighs and goes to suit up for the idiotic plan they're carrying out instead. John catches him in the locker room, his eyes shadowed when he says, "You're awful quiet, McKay."
Rodney shrugs. Arguing has lost something over these last few months, its sweetness and usefulness. No one listens and sometimes when Rodney opens his mouth to tear someone a new one his throat burns and stings. It's a stupid place to have phantom pain, but that doesn't stop it from happening.
John reaches out, checking Rodney's P-90 and synching Rodney's vest a little tighter. John says, tone forced towards something like lightness, "You know, I never realized how many of our conversations were actually you monolog-ing until you stopped."
There are words that are supposed to go here, Rodney just doesn't remember how to make his mouth form them. Instead they just stand in silence, John's long fingers clenched in his vest, John's warm body close enough that Rodney can see the bruises under John's eyes. Rodney says, finally, "Dietrich gave me a bunch of shit to help me sleep that I'm not using. If you want some. I mean."
John hums, pats Rodney's arm and says, "We're going to be late."
Things go all to shit. Of course they do. They're even sneaky about it. The Replicator base is deserted when they arrive in orbit, though everything is still running, chugging along happily cranking out dozens of new warships.
John wants to blow the entire thing to pieces from orbit and for once Rodney agrees with him. There are no Replicators down there to question—not that they'd get anything out of them in any case—and Rodney is acutely aware of how dangerous the nanotechnology is.
The IOA has decided that they want to study this base, though, and Ellis has decided that he wants to get a first hand look at his enemy. The Colonel growls something about Rodney not understanding when Rodney protests the stupidity of sending people down to the planet.
For a half-second Rodney is tempted to point out that he's never seen Ellis stare down a Wraith, that he's never seen Ellis facing a jailor that is armed with an electric prod that's asking him in a sickly sweet voice to set up the drones so that non-ATA carriers can use them. The flare of remembered pain from his back, a burn up his spine, stops the words.
John flashes him a tight, worried look and Rodney waves him off. The constant intimations that he's a coward would have driven him crazy, once. It's hard to care now. They go down to the planet, Ellis tagging along to get a look at the Replicators that aren't even there and Rodney isn't surprised when the screaming starts over his radio.
Rodney finds everyone gathered in one of the main labs, crowded around Ellis. The man's screams have tapered off to whimpers and Rodney approaches slowly, curious in spite of himself. Ellis' entire face brightens when he spots Rodney, he says, "McKay, finally, thank god, get me out of this thing."
Rodney stares. Ellis' feet are trapped in some kind of clamp, and his legs are... Rodney cocks his head to the side, studying the smooth, gray substance climbing over Ellis' knees as he watches. The man winces, panting hard, a scream caught somewhere in his throat. Rodney says, "What happened here?"
Ellis makes a sound that might have been intended as laughter. It's more of a sob. And then the man's saying, "Does it matter?"
Ellis looks like he's about to collapse and the Marines standing on either side of him and supporting him look like they're ready to jump away, eying the gray now creeping up the Colonel's thighs warily. Rodney huffs out a sigh, pushes his way over to one of the Replicator consoles and starts pulling up information without really seeing any of it.
John steps over after a moment, his back to Ellis, voice dropped whisper low, "Can you get him out of there?"
Rodney blinks up at him, closing the files and leaning away from the console, "I can only think of one solution. We're going to need to get the doctors and nurses down here." He doesn't try to keep his voice down and Sheppard's eyebrows shoot up. Rodney shrugs, "It's progressing very quickly, if we don't do something soon it'll either cement too much of his blood or hit his organs and at that point there's nothing we're going to be able to do to save him."
John frowns, but then nods, turning aside to order down the medics, with saws and lots of pain blockers. Ellis jerks his head towards them, because John's not being quiet anymore either. Ellis is panting, his face almost gray from pain, "What the hell is going on?"
Rodney sighs, "We're getting you out."
Ellis licks his lips, Rodney can see him shaking, "Find another way."
Rodney waits for irritation, or pity, or anything to lance through him. When it doesn't, he continues without emotion, "I'm sorry, we're working on a time-table here. This is the solution we have and we don't have time for me to come up with something else."
Ellis' eyes are wide and terrified. Rodney stares at him and tries to remember what it felt like to be furious at this man. He doesn't seem like anything to be afraid of anymore. Ellis turns away, looking over Rodney's shoulder at John, voice hitching with pain and desperation, "I order you not to do this."
John's response is interrupted by the arrival of the doctors, already in their scrubs, face shields in place. Rodney watches, the slow crawl of the gray matter up Ellis' legs, towards the critical junction of thigh and hip. He watches the medics cuts away his pants and steady his torso as much as possible.
Ellis is cursing and Rodney catches his eyes, ignores the curses Ellis lobs at him. Ellis pants, eyes going unfocused as the drugs finally start to kick in, as the doctors prep his legs, "Don't do this to me, McKay."
"Relax, prosthetics won't make you less of a man," Rodney hadn't meant to speak, but the words are there, Ellis' eyes going just a little wider at them. Rodney watches him, fascinated by the play of pain and fear across his features. He only looks away when John rests a hand on his shoulder.
John turns Rodney half away from the impromptu surgery and says, "You did all you could, Rodney. Come on, you don't need to hear this." Rodney lets John lead him out to the hallway, down to one of the other labs.
When Ellis starts screaming Rodney can hear him anyway.
In the mission debriefing Carter looks sick, her lips pressed together so hard they've gone white, her hands flat and still on the table in front of her. Rodney says, "The genetic mutation was moving distressingly quickly, by the time I arrived it had already reached his knees. If we'd waited much longer he would have died."
Rodney hadn't seen Ellis since the removal of his legs, but rumor was he'd come through surgery fine. Sam sighs, rubs a hand up over her face, "I understand that it must have been a hard decision."
John clears his throat. He's twirling a pen between his fingers, looking completely unconcerned that his good buddy Ellis is suddenly missing some pieces, "I gave the order. McKay just made the suggestion. It was my call." Carter nods, she still looks too pale.
When Carter finally dismisses them Rodney follows John out into the hall. John doesn't look nearly as upset as Rodney had been expecting. Rodney catches his arm and asks, "Why are you letting me do this?" Rodney is surprised to find that he'd expected John to stop him, to see the emptiness inside him and do something about it.
John stares down at him for a long moment and then nods his head towards the mess, "Wanna grab something to eat?"
Rodney's not sure how exactly Kavanagh managed to get them trapped in these tiny compartments off Atlantis' sub-light engines. It's kind of pointless to wonder about, in any case. They're stuck. The hows and whys don't really matter. Rodney keeps his mouth shut as Zelenka rails against the other man.
They'd both yelled at Rodney when he'd asked if they were stuck in similar cramped, dark, spaces and after that Rodney had kept his mouth closed and tuned them out. The other two are arguing back and forth about what the compartments are for and why they were closed off into them. Rodney is busier trying to figure out how to get out.
There's no light in the tight space and its cramped enough that it takes long seconds of painful squirming until Rodney manages to get one hand up high enough to press his palm against the smooth wall. He drags his fingers along the wall, looking for imperfections and picking with his fingernails when he finds a seam. The panel pops loose with a snap and Rodney bites his tongue when it falls and hits his foot.
Zelenka's voice is rising, higher and slipping into Czech. Kavanagh is yelling at the other man to shut up and Rodney starts humming to himself, fingers fumbling over wires he can't see. He wonders if the other men haven't noticed the smell of gas in the air, or if it's only in his cell. He's already feeling lightheaded.
Rodney figures the fumes are some kind of waste product from the engines and works faster. Zelenka's words start stumbling, his voice bouncing off the metal walls. Kavanagh coughs, loud and wracking, says, "I don't feel so good."
Zelenka rattles something off in Czech and starts banging something into the wall. Rodney breathes slow and steady as he can, twisting his fingers and pulling at the wires, gritting his teeth and concentrating on the schematics in his head. Zelenka shouts through the wall, "You have figured this out, Rodney, yes?"
Rodney ignores the question, the burn of unfamiliar gas in his lungs. His fingers are getting slower, his brain foggier, he squeezes his eyes shut against the headache that's growing in the back of his skull. Kavanagh sounds completely panicked, "McKay? Shouldn't you be screaming? Small places aren't your, uh, thing, right?"
Rodney hisses, wrist aching as he twists hard, bones grinding against the pressure. The door in front of him lurches, cracks open a few inches and Rodney slumps forward, mouth and nose pressed against the cool, sweet air. He sucks in a deep breath and twists his hand further, ignoring the burn of pain up his arm.
The door gives with a tortured grinding sound and Rodney collapses out onto the ground. His arm is aching and he curls it up against his chest, staring back at the tiny space where he'd been confined. The cells on either side of his are still shut tight. Rodney can hear Radek and Kavanagh, banging and panicking.
For a long moment Rodney lays there, catching his breath, waiting for the screams to mean something—anything. He's known Radek for years. Rodney is pretty sure they're friends. Radek is saying, voice weaker already, "McKay, get me out of here, you must—"
Rodney pushes himself up, walks over on his knees and presses his ear up against the outside of the door. He imagines he can hear Radek's shuddering breathing through the metal and says, "I'm calling for help," before raising his hand to his radio and doing just that.
Radek does not sound comforted, curses loud and long before trailing off into coughs and then wheezing, "You must get the door open, we do not have time to wait. We both know that you can figure this out, Rodney."
Rodney thinks about it, carefully popping the access panel off the front of the door. He pulls out handfuls of wires and fiber-optic cables. They're warm in his hands, pulsing with power. Rodney reads the pathways, tracing his fingertips over the tangled cords. Rodney leans back onto his heels, "They'll be here soon with Sheppard. He's never had a dry spell."
Radek chokes on a sob, pounding on the door and Rodney tangles his fingers in the wires without any intention beyond keeping his hands looking busy. John shows up long minutes later, looks down at Rodney in front of the door and braces a hand on Rodney's shoulder.
They get the doors open after that, Zelenka and Kavanagh limp and unconscious in the bottom of their cells. Keller loads them onto gurneys and Rodney watches them wheel the other two scientists away. John kneels beside him, bumps their shoulders together and says, "How much did you inhale?"
Rodney shrugs, tucking the wires back into the wall and closing the panel. "A little." John snorts, nudges him again and Rodney continues, "I think the cages were meant to be opened from the inside. I tried to tell them but they wouldn't listen."
John bobs his head, "Let's get you down to the infirmary."
One of the other doctors deal with Rodney, hooking him up to oxygen and fretting about Rodney's response time. John leans beside his bed, eyes on Zelenka and Kavanagh, peaceful on their own beds, hooked up to breathing machines and with tubes down their throats.
Rodney waits until he can lift the oxygen mask away from his mouth to ask, "How are they?"
The doctor looks sad, reaches out and tugs the curtain further around the two beds, "It's too early to tell." Rodney nods and thinks that they wouldn't tell him anyway. It's none of his business. John reaches out, pushing the mask back over Rodney's mouth.
John says, "You did everything you could."
Rodney stares at him, wondering again why John is just...letting this happen. There are no explanations in John's dark eyes, his gentle, worried, expression. Rodney finally says, giving up on figuring this out, "Of course."
Rodney isn't there when Teyla tells John that her husband has forbidden her from rejoining the team after the birth of her child. He doesn't hear about it until John shows up at his door, expression flat and dark. John says, "I need to talk to you about something," and Rodney shrugs and lets him into the room.
Rodney can remember yelling at John for showing up at his room this late at night before. The words are right there. But he doesn't use them. Instead he sits back on his bed, cocks his head and waits for John. He doesn't have to wait long.
John steps forward, kneeling in front of Rodney, one hand warm and heavy on Rodney's knee, eyes on Rodney's face when he explains Teyla's situation. Rodney wonders what John's looking for in his face. He wonders what the right answer here is.
There was a time when Rodney would have cared enough to try to figure it out. Now he reaches out, tracing a fingertip across the few shockingly silver strands of hair at John's temple. He says, "I think Teyla wanted to go back to Duthmore for quilts. Maybe we should take them."
John stares at him hard for another few moments, seconds stretching between them. "Maybe we should."
They do. Ronon and John, Teyla and her husband, the baby cradled to her chest. She looks the same as she always has, if a little more tense, if slightly less prone to smile. No one questions it when Rodney gets distracted by one of the food stalls and no one protests when he sends the rest of them ahead and promises to catch up.
Rodney thinks about Zelenka and Kavanagh, still lingering in their comas back on Atlantis, effectively brain dead. He thinks about Ellis, the rumor from SGC that had made it to them that he'd ate his own pistol. He thinks about Larrin and her people, the bright, pure light that had taken them.
When Rodney catches up to the others he takes Teyla's husband to the side and tells him that about a beautiful necklace he found. The man's eyes brighten, his face stretching into a smile and Rodney pulls him through the stalls, a timer running down in the back of his head.
The bomb goes off with a flash of red and screams. It isn't as clean as the explosion that had taken Larrin, but he couldn't very well explode a hyper-drive engine here. Shrapnel catches Rodney all along his right side and Teyla's husband goes down screaming, grabbing at Rodney's arms. The man's face is a mess of blood and he gibbers up into Rodney's face. It's easy to knick the veins pulsing in his neck.
By the time John, Ronon, and Teyla run up the man is dead, bled out while cradled in Rodney's arms. John throws himself down, pulling the dead man out of Rodney's arms, hands coming up to hover ineffectually over Rodney's own wounds. John is hissing, "Jesus Christ, Rodney! What the fuck happened?"
Rodney shakes his head, ignoring the ringing in his ears and the uncomfortable press of the knife down the side of his boot. There's blood running into his eyes and his right arm is aching, his blood smeared all over John's hands now as Sheppard pokes at his wounds.
Beside them Teyla throws her head back and screams.
John shows up in the infirmary sometime after midnight. Rodney is awake, staring at the ceiling. He doesn't sleep very much anymore, not even with all the pain killers Keller is pumping into his system. She'd spent more time than Rodney likes to think about pulling bits of metal out of him, stitching him up. Rodney thinks that next time he kills someone he'll not be using a bomb.
John sits on the edge of the bed, not saying anything for a long moment. Rodney waits, watching the shadows chase the light around on the ceiling, imagining he can feel the drip-drip of medication into his veins. John finally says, "Kusanagi thinks she's identified the bomb fragments we found. Most likely Genii."
Rodney nods, beyond trying to figure out why John is doing this. He says, "Did you tell Teyla I was sorry?" He isn't, not really. Rodney has forgotten exactly what it felt like to feel anything. He still remembers enough of what it was like to know that he should be sorry, though, to know that she's probably expecting that.
John grunts, "She's worried about you. We all are. Jesus, Rodney." John fidgets and then reaches out, slides his hand over Rodney's and threads their fingers together. That should be weird. It should be bizarre. Maybe it is and Rodney is just numb to that as well. John continues, voice low and rough, "Don't do that to me again."
Rodney slides his thumb over John's knuckles, "Was it a test?"
John laughs, sharp and short, "No, no, Rodney. It's not like that." And Rodney almost asks what it's like, but he isn't sure he could take knowing. John sits there, silently, just holding his hand, until morning, until Keller comes over to check on Rodney, all smiles and sweet concern.
After that it's easier. Less personal, maybe. When they get a visit from their brand new IOA representative Rodney convinces the transporter the man takes to not put him back together quite right. The man screams as they wheel him off, his skeleton twisted, half of his intestines on the wrong side of his skin.
When one of the nurses makes John yell and pass out while resetting his broken leg, she has an unfortunate accident with an exploding Ancient console. When they run into another batch of no-longer-sane Satedans off-world the aliens end up locked in their hotel room when a drunk trips down in the common room and sets the building on fire.
No one ever says anything about any of the deaths. People die in the Pegasus galaxy. That's just the way it is and Rodney is a genius. He covers his tracks well enough that no one besides Sheppard catches on and John covers for him on the days that Rodney wakes up and wants someone to stop him. Those happen less and less as time goes by.
Eventually, they stop happening at all.
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