Actions

Work Header

The Sound Of Silence

Chapter Text

Rodney ignored his throbbing arm as he made his way out of the control room and back to his lab. The stab wounds had waited this long, they could just continue to wait, he reasoned. He didn't want to see what Kolya had managed to do to him. He also didn't want to face Beckett, assuming someone had probably told him by now that Rodney had been a few keystrokes away from killing him and Teyla. He had too much to do, he decided, making sure the storm damage was assessed and repairs prioritised, as well as fixing systems blown out by the electrical surge through the city. He didn't want to deal with what happened with Kolya, too.

He entered his lab and let the door close behind him, revelling in the silence. He wasn't hiding, he told himself, he was working. The fact he didn't have to deal with the curious looks or listen to the whispers, quickly silenced whenever he entered a room, was beside the point. The rumors shouldn't have surprised him. He'd talked, given up vital information. Did it really matter how Kolya found out the plan to save Atlantis?

He stood at his desk and looked over a report someone had left for review, then wandered over to the various Ancient items stored on the shelf by his work table. He picked one up, turning it this way and that before setting it down and picking up another. He set the second device back in its place with a tired sigh. He just couldn't be bothered to figure out their mysteries at the moment. His arm gave another painful twinge, and he rubbed at the gauze then sat at the work table staring into space.

He felt a little warm wearing his uniform jacket in the lab and wiped at the line of sweat on his forehead with one sleeve. Removing the coat would also mean removing his makeshift bandage, however, and he wasn't ready to do that yet; he'd just suffer being hot for a little longer. He pulled the combo computer over in front of him with another grimace of pain, let it boot, and opened a fresh document to start writing up his findings about the city's shield.

He stared at the blank document for several minutes then decided he needed more information before he could actually write the report. He set another computer searching the Ancient database for more information on how the shield worked normally. He also had a new idea on powering the shield and tasked another computer to run power consumption models to see if there was a way to power the shield using the stabilizer system for the city and wave power. Maybe they could store the energy in some sort of battery? he wondered, and set another system looking at viable power storage options.

The report on the shield would have to wait until he had all of the new data compiled, he decided and pushed the combo computer away for the time being. Instead, he started going over the systems for the 'gate shield to find a way to prevent another incident where all someone needed to bypass the system was a lot of alcohol and a scared farmer. His mind found refuge in the detailed schematics of the shield and the GDO device and he finally started to relax a little as he traced circuit paths and computed new code algorithms.

He wasn't sure how much time had passed when there was a tap at the door and Zelenka came into the lab carrying a datapad.

"Rodney, I have more reports on the damage from the flooding," Zelenka said, stopping at the end of the work table. Rodney looked up from the schematics and saw Radek frown.

"What?" Rodney snapped, seeing the look Radek was giving him.

"You look awful," Zelenka told him bluntly and pointed to his own eye.

Rodney reached up to touch his face and found the skin around his eye puffy and hot. He'd forgotten about the backhanded punch Kolya had given him. No wonder people had been staring.

"Your arm appears to be bleeding as well," Zelenka added. "Maybe you should go to infirmary?"

Rodney glanced at the bandage wrapped around his arm and saw a few spots of red. He hid his arm under the work table and glared up at Radek.

"You said you had something on the damage? Anything major?" Rodney asked, ignoring the hint about the infirmary.

Zelenka gave him another look. Rodney could almost believe it was concern.

"No, no," Zelenka replied. "The east and north piers are almost completely pumped out. I will send engineering teams into those areas once we restore power. There was some minor damage from the electrical surge. I have teams working on those repairs."

Rodney snapped his fingers for the datapad and Radek handed it over. He read through the latest reports seeing Zelenka had the repairs well in hand.

"The Marines have most of the medical stores back in the infirmary," Radek said carefully. "I was checking the conduits near the medical lab and saw Doctor Beckett directing the orderlies on where the recovered items were to go. Other than a few medicines Doctor Beckett thinks he can remake, and basic first aid supplies, the Genii did not steal much."

"Good for him," Rodney mumbled as he read through pages of data. "Why is Kavanagh working on the desalination plant? There wasn't any damage to those systems."

"True," Zelenka said with a tiny, conspiratorial smile. "But he does not know that."

Rodney almost smiled in return. "What's this note about the air scrubbers in the lower level of the control tower?"

Zelenka crossed his arms over his chest and ducked his head. "It may be nothing," he said hesitantly. "Major Sheppard used a number of smoke grenades in that area. The system should be monitored to make sure scrubbers equalise over time."

Rodney froze, handed back the datapad, and shooed Zelenka out of the lab. He closed the door, sank into his desk chair, and stared blankly at the wall. He'd been doing a good job of not thinking about the invasion right up until Radek mentioned what Sheppard had done to fight off the Genii. With that one comment, Rodney's brain went into overdrive, replaying everything about the Genii invasion and what he'd done wrong.

He should have stalled longer, he berated himself, or made repairs slower, basically done more to help John deal with Kolya's men. He leant forward in his chair, arms braced on the desk and his head in his hands, and remembered how frazzled he's been by the time Kolya was sent back through the 'gate. He'd nearly killed Carson and Teyla in his rush to save Atlantis. It had taken Sheppard ordering him to wait that gave them time to get to the control room. However, the biggest blunder by far was giving in to Kolya and telling him there was a plan to save the city. If he'd just kept quiet, regardless of the knife and the threats, the rest would have never even happened.

Did you ever doubt me?

Yes. Several times.

Was it said as a joke or was she serious? he wondered. At the time he'd been too tired to think about it but now he wondered if Elizabeth was being honest, that she thought less of him because he'd panicked.

He was a coward, he'd known that for most of his life. His parents and the school bullies had made sure he was well aware of his shortcomings in terms of bravery. Since coming to Atlantis, he'd done any number of things, not the least of which was going through the 'gate, to try and convince himself and others there was more to Rodney McKay than ego and bluster. But when the chips were down, when all he had to do was keep his mouth shut, he'd caved and blurted everything.

"Trust me, I'm not that brave ... " he'd told Kolya as he was pushed over the balcony railing, and it was only partially a bluff.

He'd known exactly what Sheppard had done to the 'gate, it wasn't hard to figure out. He replayed that scene in his head over and over and wondered if he would have told Kolya how to override the shield if the 'gate hadn't shut down when it did or if Kolya had pushed him just a little further over the railing. He'd like to think he would have held firm the second time Kolya threatened to kill him … but he just wasn't sure.

Part of him really wished John had told him how to put memories away in boxes with intricate locks. He scrubbed a hand through his sweaty hair and stood. Introspection had its place, but he didn't have time for this, he needed to get back to work. He went back to the work table and started taking apart one of the GDOs, the 'gate shield was a problem he could solve.

~*~*~*~ SGA ~*~*~*~

John knew he was punchdrunk due to exhaustion when he started thinking about just how few people were needed to defend something the size of Atlantis. It seemed all you needed was an Air Force Major, a Marine Lieutenant, one Athosian, and three people with various Ph.D.s to deal with an invasion force. He quickly sobered when he remembered the bodies of the two Marines Kolya had killed in cold blood, and it hadn't escaped his notice it was the civilians sporting the injuries, not the military.

He followed Elizabeth into her office, ostensibly to see if there was anything else in need of his immediate attention, but in reality, he wanted to check and make sure she was all right. He still wasn't sure what Elizabeth thought of his actions. She was grateful, he was sure, but he suspected he'd scared her more than a little. Reading redacted after-action reports and seeing the commendation letters doesn't give the same clear picture as witnessing what a special operations-trained officer can do firsthand. Never mind having a bullet whiz past your ear from close range. He knew from experience, even if you did trust the man with the gun, it was still a little unnerving.

"John?" Elizabeth said as she moved behind her desk. "Was there something else you needed?"

John leant against the doorframe and crossed his arms. "Just wanted to make sure you were all right."

She smiled faintly and looked around the office. "It's been a long couple of days," she said wearily.

"Yeah," John agreed and resisted rubbing at a headache he felt building.

She looked down at her desk and sighed. "I could really go for a hot shower and a cup of strong coffee."

"And about twelve hours of sleep," John added.

"That too," she agreed. "I'll be fine, John, really. I just need some time to let it all sink in." She looked out at the gate room.

John pushed off the wall, ready to leave Elizabeth to her thoughts, when she looked back at him. "He stepped in front of a gun for me," she said quietly, and John felt his jaw clench knowing exacting who the 'he' was. "And after the 'gate shield was raised …" She looked away again. "Kolya had Rodney backed over the railing near the grounding station. If Rodney hadn't done some fast talking …" She looked John in the eye. "Kolya was ready to throw him off."

"I've dealt with bullies most of my life. Usually, I'd just out talk them," John remembered Rodney telling him once.

Elizabeth crossed her arms over her chest. "I'm worried about him, John," she admitted. "He's only allowing himself to see a small part of the picture." She sighed and glanced down at her desk. "He needs to get that arm checked."

John nodded as he opened the door to her office. "Don't forget to take care of yourself," he said and left.

Once in the hallway outside the control room, John rubbed his head. The itch at the back of his skull had been building for several hours and he could no longer ignore it. He only had a vague idea of what Kolya had done to him, but Rodney had steered clear of the infirmary for hours and John's head couldn't take much more avoidance.

John didn't blame Rodney for wanting to try and forget what had happened with Kolya, but he knew from painful experience how well that worked. Rodney needed to start talking to him. To start getting past it certainly, but, like Elizabeth, John had the sneaking suspicion Rodney was only focused on one part of what had happened.

Since Rodney obviously wasn't going to come to him, he'd have to beard the lion in his den and go to Rodney. John stopped in the mess hall for two cups of coffee and headed for the lab.

John exited the transporter, the two cups balanced in one hand, thinking about the best way to approach the subject with Rodney, when he rounded a corner and nearly ran down Zelenka. Radek's quick dodge saved them both getting splashed with hot coffee and John gave him a crooked smile in apology.

"Major Sheppard," Zelenka said as he took a step backward and held a datapad behind his back.

"Sorry about that," John said.

"No apology necessary, Major. We scientists learn quickly to get out of the way of someone lost in thought carrying hot liquids."

John chuckled and asked, "How're things going with the cleanup?"

"Very well, actually," Zelenka replied and brought the computer out from behind his back and tapped the screen. He showed a schematic to John and said, "The flooded sections are nearly all dry. We will need to survey all of those sections, make sure they are still structurally sound, but so far everything is going well."

John could see there was something else Zelenka wanted to say, he just wasn't sure how to say it. John suspected he knew exactly what, or really who, it was Zelenka wanted to talk about. He decided to give the engineer an opening. "I was just on my way to see McKay, figured he'd need a break by now."

"You will make him see Carson, yes?" Zelenka asked, worry clear in his expression.

"Where does everyone get the idea I can make McKay do something?" John groused as he maneuvered around the engineer.

Radek smiled and pushed up his glasses. "You are the only person he will listen to, I think."

"Lucky me," John replied with a wry smile as he started walking again.

He entered Rodney's lab and found the work table littered with computers running various programs and McKay sitting on a stool, poring over what looked like a disassembled GDO.

He set one of the cups of coffee on the table where Rodney would see it, but where it wouldn't spill on any of the components, pulled over another stool, and sat on the other side of the table.

He had no idea what to do next, he could see Rodney needed sleep as well as a trip to the infirmary; he didn't need any special mental connection to tell him that. He supposed he could simply order McKay to see Beckett, maybe drag him there if need be. He didn't want to have to do that except as an absolute last resort, however, so he sat, sipping his coffee, and waited.

It didn't take long for Rodney to look up at him and John's fingers clenched around the cup a little tighter when he saw the black eye again.

"Something you needed?" Rodney asked, ignoring the coffee cup in favor of the various pieces of the GDO.

"Just came down here to see how you were doing," John replied with forced nonchalance. He could see why Zelenka was worried. The black eye and exhaustion aside, John could see a thin line of sweat on Rodney's forehead and the screwdriver in his hand shook slightly in his grip.

"I'm busy." Rodney waved a hand at the work table.

"Not what I'd call it," John said, and bent forward to catch Rodney's eye. "You can talk to me, you know," he added gently.

Rodney dropped the screwdriver and glared at John. "You know I'm an adult, right?" Rodney asked, his tone suddenly harsh as he slammed a hand down on the work table. Unfortunately, it was his injured arm and he gasped as he curled the arm to his chest. "I am fully capable of taking care of myself," he continued, his voice slightly breathy from the pain. "I've been doing it for a good long time now."

"Rodney, calm down," John said, glad the door to the lab was closed. No reason the entire science department needed to hear them.

"No, I will not calm down," Rodney snapped back. "I've just had one of the worst days of my life. I think I'm allowed a moment to try and deal with it."

"Hey," John said, and held up his hands. "I get it. I do. Probably more than you realise. That's why I really need you to talk to me. You can't just keep this bottled up and hope it will go away. Trust me, that doesn't work."

John sat and waited. He wasn't sure what would happen when the lid came off, Rodney's moods were mercurial at the best of times. He finished his coffee and watched Rodney toy with the screwdriver.

"I just want to stop feeling like this," Rodney said softly after a few minutes silence. He set the screwdriver aside and started absently fiddling with one of the GDO pieces.

"Like what?" John prodded, and inched forward on his stool.

"Like he's going to come back."

"Like who's going to come back," John pushed, and Rodney glared daggers at him. "Can you even say his name?" John asked, concern clear in his tone.

"Kolya," Rodney spat out. "His name was Kolya. He stuck a knife in my arm and I told him everything he wanted to know."

"Exactly," John said, determined to keep his own anger under control. He didn't need Rodney misreading his reactions and thinking John was mad at him. "He hurt you. And he kept hurting you until he got what he wanted."

Rodney shook his head, turned away from him, and started tapping keys on one of the computers.

"You're not a coward if that's what you're thinking," John said softly, and Rodney's hands froze on the keyboard.

Rodney turned his head just enough for John to see his face. "Could have fooled me," he muttered. "Haven't you heard what everyone is saying?"

"Elizabeth told me what you did. That's the only story I'm interested in hearing," John said and leant forward until his arms rested on the work table. "She told me you stepped between her and Kolya's gun, that you saved her life at least twice by risking your own." He closed his own eyes for a moment thinking about what had almost happened.

"You also managed to get key information about Kolya's plans to me without him knowing. You came up with a way to stall Kolya long enough that he chose to leave the city. And then you saved the city. That doesn't sound like someone who's a coward to me."

John reached across the table and rested a hand on Rodney's unbandaged arm. "I'm proud of you, buddy," he said sincerely. "You did good."

He could tell Rodney wasn't ready to believe that quite yet, but at least he'd stopped typing and turned back around on the stool.

"I was so scared," Rodney admitted softly as he rubbed his arm, and John saw spots of blood on the makeshift bandage. "I didn't know what to do. He kept threatening Elizabeth and you and the city." He looked over at John. "I really thought he was going to kill me," he whispered. "He had me pushed over that railing and I just knew he was going to let go."

John stood from the stool suddenly and paced around the work table. From talking to Elizabeth, John knew exactly when and why Kolya had nearly pushed Rodney off that balcony. If McKay hadn't done a lot of fast talking … John clenched his hands into fists and hid them behind his back. Chances were they would never have found a body, Rodney would have just been gone.

John swallowed his fear and anger again and said, "I'm sorry you had to go through all of that. Part of my job is to make sure stuff like that never happens to you."

"It's not like you were just sitting in the mess hall drinking coffee," Rodney replied. "If I'd've thought of a better plan, maybe you wouldn't've needed to …" Rodney waved a hand and John got the message.

John stood at the end of the work table. Now or never, he thought to himself. "You should let Beckett take a look at your arm," he said calmly.

Rodney shook his head and sighed. "He probably knows by now," he replied.

John frowned. "Knows what?"

Rodney looked up at him. "That I nearly killed him. And Teyla. And Kolya's little friend. I'm pretty sure he's more than a little mad at me."

"I'll go with you if you want me to," John said, and stepped away from the work table, hoping Rodney would follow.

Rodney stared at the GDO pieces on the work table for several seconds before he finally stood.

"Fine," he said tiredly. "If it will get you out of my hair and make you happy, I'll go see Carson." He followed John out of the lab. "Maybe you'll be able to keep him from using every needle in the infirmary on me as revenge," he finished.

"Major Sheppard," Beckett greeted when they entered the infirmary a few minutes later. "What brings you by?"

As Rodney trailed John into the room, Beckett's look of pleasant enquiry changed to a frown.

"Carson," Rodney mumbled, refusing to look at Beckett.

"Rodney," Beckett replied with a sigh and held out a hand. "Come on, lad, let me take a look at you."

John followed them to one of the beds in the corner and stood at the end, arms resting on the rolling bed table, as Carson told Rodney to lie down. He grasped Rodney's arm gently and tsked at the haphazard bandaging as he carefully unwrapped the gauze around Rodney's jacket sleeve.

Rodney refused to look at his arm. He turned his head the other way and John thought he looked about ready to fall asleep.

John could see Rodney's jacket sleeve was slashed and covered in dried blood from his elbow nearly to his wrist once the bandage was removed; the gauze had done a good job disguising the damage. He straightened up and grabbed hold of the table.

Beckett tsked again and patted Rodney's shoulder. "I'll be right back, lad," he said softly. He came back a moment later with a prepared syringe. "This should help take the edge off," he said as he found a vein in Rodney's other arm and injected the medication.

It didn't take long for the morphine to kick in and John watched as Rodney's eyes, drooping even before Beckett gave him the injection, closed completely.

"Daft bugger," Carson mumbled at Rodney as he sat and started to cut away the jacket and then the shirt sleeve underneath. "Why didn't you come to me right away instead of waiting hours?"

"He said you were concussed," John answered. He chose not to mention the other reason Rodney had been avoiding the infirmary.

"I had worse nights at the pub when I was at university," Beckett replied, then hissed when the last of the fabric came away from Rodney's arm. "Bloody hell," he murmured, and carefully touched the edges of the three angry cuts running up Rodney's forearm. From what John could see, it looked like Kolya had made each incision deeper, probably as Rodney refused to answer.

John gripped the bed table so hard his knuckles turned white. All he wanted to do at that moment was dial up the Genii homeworld, find Kolya, and take him apart. Slowly. John promised himself if he ever saw the Commander again, Kolya wouldn't survive a second encounter. He certainly wouldn't be allowed within a mile of Rodney.

"Did you know it was this bad? "Beckett asked, and John shook his head.

"Elizabeth told me Rodney was left alone with Koyla and a few of his men when she was sent to get the Wraith data device." John stared at the bloody arm. "When she came back, Rodney was bleeding, but she never got a good look at his arm and Rodney didn't tell her what had happened."

"Sharon," Beckett called, still gently probing the cuts.

Sharon Peterson came over to the bed and winced when she saw Rodney's arm. She glanced up at John, sympathy clear in her expression.

"Can you clean and prep Rodney's arm with a local while I get the suture kit? Get the rest of that jacket and shirt off of him as well," Beckett said and stood from his stool. "He's had a dose of morphine already so he should be out for a few hours."

"Major?" Carson said, and gently led John away from the bed. "Since I know you won't leave, you can wait over here. When we have those lacerations sutured, he'll need to sleep off the morphine. Once he's awake, you can take him back to his quarters."

"He's going to be all right?" John asked. "No permanent damage or anything?"

Beckett's expression turned dark. "That Kolya knew what he was doing, I'll give him that," Carson growled. "He knew where to do the most damage and inflict pain without hitting any major arteries." Beckett rubbed a hand over his face. "There is muscle damage, but Rodney should be fine."

Carson stopped at the supply cabinet and started taking out the items he'd need for Rodney's arm. "It would have been better if he'd come down sooner, there's the start of an infection, but we should be able to nip that in the bud. He'll be fine in a few days." He gave John a measured look. "Are you all right, lad?"

"Yeah, just tired, I guess," John mumbled. He'd never told Beckett or Rodney about the weird feeling he got whenever McKay was seriously hurt. No wonder he'd had such a headache, he thought to himself. Rodney had been hurting for hours and had done nothing about it. "Elizabeth said Kolya must have … I didn't realise he'd cut him more than once."

Carson gave him a steady look. "He's going to need to talk about what happened, you know."

"Way ahead of you," John said, his expression serious.

"And what about the rumor mill?" Beckett asked bitterly as he gathered the supplies from the cabinet on a tray. "Don't you think for one second I don't know the real reason Rodney didn't come to me sooner. I've already heard several different versions of what people around here think happened."

John rubbed the back of his neck. He hadn't heard the specifics of any of the rumors, but John had a good idea what people were saying about both of them. He'd received more than a few strange looks from the military contingent as people trickled back from Manara. He'd used tactics against the Genii he hadn't needed since Afghanistan and Iraq, tactics he'd hoped were safely left behind in the Milky Way galaxy. While the scientists were content simply to know the city had survived, the Marines certainly had some ideas about what happened during his guerrilla war with Kolya's men.

Unfortunately, it sounded like they had the wrong idea about everything else.

"Doctor Beckett?" Sharon called as she moved a portable curtain around Rodney's bed. "He's ready."

"Thank you, Sharon. I'll be right there." Carson turned back to John. "You can sit with him once we're done."

John nodded and sat on the nearest bed to wait. Thirty minutes later, Sharon removed the screen and John went back over to the bed. Rodney was dressed in a scrub top, his arm neatly bandaged. He sat by the bed watching Rodney sleep, plotting the various ways he would make Kolya pay for what he'd done if they ever met again.