Carson closed Rodney's medical folder with a sigh and stood. The last few days had been different, to say the least, he thought with a grim smile.
He had known when he accepted Elizabeth's offer to join the expedition, the Pegasus galaxy would present any number of new medical challenges. Trying to solve how to separate the consciousness of a woman he had started to rather like from the body of one of his closest friends had never even made the list of possible medical scenarios he'd be faced with. In the end, it hadn't been medical science that had saved Rodney and Laura Cadman, it had been Rodney himself. There were few things more frustrating or upsetting for him as a doctor than the realisation he was unable to help someone in need.
He tucked the files under his arm, left the office, and paused at the lone occupied bed in the infirmary where Sergeant Garcia lay, his arms and face covered in red welts.
"Sergeant, how are you feeling?" Carson asked. He smiled at Garcia and nodded at Sharon, standing on the other side of the bed with a bottle in her hand.
"Not too bad, Doc," Garcia replied. "D, I mean, Sergeant Thompson, said he'd be around in a bit with a deck of cards. Anything to keep my mind off the itching."
"No scratching, Sergeant," Carson admonished. "You don't want any of those sores becoming infected." He watched as Sharon dabbed more lotion on the hive-like rash and added, "Sharon, love, I've the weekly meeting with Doctor Weir, I'll be back in a tick."
"We'll be fine, Doctor Beckett," Sharon replied as she capped the bottle.
Carson tapped Garcia on the shoulder. "I'll come check on you in a bit, Sergeant. If this lotion works, you'll be out of here soon."
Garcia smiled. "Thanks, Doc."
"You're welcome, lad." Carson looked over at Sharon, gave her a nod and a smile, and left the infirmary.
Twenty minutes later, Carson sat back in his chair in Elizabeth's office. "Lastly, Sergeant Garcia is recovering nicely from his encounter with the plant life on P2R-483. It took a bit of trial and error, but I think we've found the right antihistamine combination to deal with the allergic reaction."
"And the rest of Sergeant Thompson's team?" Elizabeth asked, looking up from the report in front of her.
"No worse for wear. The pollen didn't affect the rest of them as nearly as badly, though I did suggest to Doctor Heller that the botanists should use caution when testing the plants Sergeant Thompson brought back."
"Good idea," Elizabeth replied.
"Sergeant Garcia's rash should, hopefully, clear up in another day or two."
Elizabeth nodded. "The planet looks promising, I'd hate to take it off the list as a potential alpha site," she said with a tight smile as she closed the file. She set aside the folder and looked at Carson. "What about Doctor McKay and Lieutenant Cadman? You didn't tell me anything about either of them."
Carson ducked his head before handing over the last two files in his hand.
"All of their scans were clear," Carson replied. "I sent the Lieutenant back to her quarters the other evening, with orders to take things slow for the next few days. She met with Doctor Heightmeyer yesterday, and Kate believes she is adjusting well to everything that happened. She wants to meet with Lau - I mean, Lieutenant Cadman in another few days and then will sign off on her return to full duty."
Elizabeth nodded as she opened the other file. "And Rodney?" she asked and glanced up at Carson.
Carson hesitated. "After everything his body had been through, I kept Rodney a little longer just to be sure he was recovering from the effects of sharing his body with Lieutenant Cadman." Carson glanced down at his hands. "Physically, Rodney is fine. His brain function is back to normal, and none of his organs show any signs of damage. He's still a bit stiff and sore from the seizure, but that's to be expected."
Beckett squeezed his hands together and glanced at the bowl on the end of Weir's desk.
"Carson?" Elizabeth asked, and Beckett heard the worry in her tone. "If Rodney is fine, why are you still concerned?"
Carson looked up at her. "He's not acting like himself."
Elizabeth smiled slightly. "Some people might say that's an improvement."
"He's too quiet," Carson told her, his tone serious. "The only thing Doctor Heightmeyer could get from him when she met with him this morning was that he wasn't sleeping much." He held up a hand when Weir started to say something. "I know," he replied. "Rodney doesn't always get the sleep he needs, but this is different. Kate thinks he's afraid to sleep."
Elizabeth frowned. "Why would he be afraid to sleep?"
"How much do you know about what actually happened between them while the Lieutenant was … inhabiting Rodney?"
Elizabeth crossed her arms over her chest. "I heard a few things, mostly from Doctor Heightmeyer concerning their couples sessions."
Carson scrubbed a hand over his face. "There was at least one instance where Cadman took over Rodney's body while he was asleep. He woke up in her quarters instead of his own bed. I suspect that has something to do with his fear of sleeping."
"But he knows Cadman is no longer in his head," Elizabeth replied, her expression puzzled.
"I never said it was a rational fear," Carson said with a tiny smile.
"I see. So what do we do about it?"
"I'm not sure," Carson replied. "It may be that he just needs time. Time to get comfortable in his own skin again."
"I see. Any suggestions?"
"I do have one idea," Carson told her.
"I'm all ears."
Carson leant forward in his chair. "Maybe a change of scene. Get Rodney away from the city for a few days. Give him a chance to find his footing again, so to speak."
Elizabeth nodded. "Colonel Sheppard had proposed taking his team on another team-building exercise right before everything that happened with the dart on Thenora."
Carson started to say something about their previous team vacations but changed his mind.
Elizabeth nodded as if reading his mind. "I suspect Rodney thought the same thing," she said with a smile. "I take it you have a better idea?"
"I might. We do still have a trade agreement with the people on Drellim. We promised them regular medical checks, and it has been several months since our last visit."
Elizabeth pursed her lips. "We still need the Wraith to believe Atlantis was destroyed. I'm not sure we can risk exposing the fact we're still here by visiting. It may be safer for them as well as us if we don't try to reestablish contact."
Carson stood and paced the room. On the one hand, he knew Elizabeth had a point. They were not ready to face the Wraith again so soon. On the other hand, his concern for Rodney aside, he had a responsibility to his patients on Drellim.
He faced the desk and grasped the back of the chair he'd been sitting in. "We've been sending teams through the stargate for several weeks now," he argued.
"Yes, and so far we've been fortunate. Most of the planets have been uninhabited, or the Athosians were completing trade deals for us." She gave Carson a wry smile. "As for the rest, I doubt the people on Mendar will tell the Wraith we were there."
Carson waved the reminder aside. "We could tell the Drellimian people that a few of us managed to escape Atlantis, or were off-world when the Wraith attacked the city. That we're still willing to honor our end of the agreement. If we're now refugees, we will still need food. It's not that far-fetched an idea."
He watched as Elizabeth toyed with the computer stylus in her hand, twisting it in her fingers or flipping it over in her hand. She set the stylus down, studied him for a moment longer, then nodded.
"All right, Carson. I'll talk to Colonel Sheppard about a mission to Drellim."
Carson stood up straight and blew out the breath he'd been holding.
"This could also be a good way to ease Ronon onto Colonel Sheppard's team," Elizabeth added and clasped her hands together on the desk. "Teyla is on the mainland checking on one of the Athosians, I'll send a jumper to bring her back, and we can meet tomorrow morning to discuss any final questions. Hopefully, by then, Rodney will have had a good night's rest."
Carson smiled. "Thank you, Elizabeth."
"I worry about him too, you know," she replied, her tone serious.
"I know you do," Carson assured her as he gathered up the files scattered across the desk. "Give him a few days to adjust to things being back to normal, and Rodney should be right as rain."
Elizabeth smiled. "One last thing, do you have any update on the Wraith DNA project you've been working on?"
Carson stopped near the door to the office. "Aye. I have an idea of using a retrovirus to try and suppress the Wraith elements of their genetic code. Rather similar to the one I created to give members of the expedition the ATA gene."
"And you think that could work?"
"Hard to say, really. For us, it was a matter of inserting one specific gene, and even then, the procedure didn't work on everyone. This is a much grander scale and will need more testing before I can say for certain if it will work on a live Wraith."
Elizabeth picked up the computer stylus and nodded. "Keep me informed."
"Certainly," Carson replied and left.
He was in his office an hour later when he heard a tapping on his door and turned to see Lieutenant Cadman standing in the doorway.
"Lieutenant," he said with a smile. "What can I do for you?"
"Doctor Beckett," she replied, and stepped hesitantly into the office.
"How are you feeling?" he asked as he offered her the chair at the end of his desk.
"Good. Better now that I'm back in my own body. Went for a run last night, felt great." She perched on the edge of the chair and gave Carson a nervous smile.
"Don't go pushing yourself too much," Carson cautioned. "While your body didn't suffer from the effects of having two people inside of it, it was trapped in that dart for a long time. I'm not sure what the long-term consequences of being held in stasis for that long might be."
Cadman nodded as her fingers toyed with the papers on the edge of his desk.
"So," she said a few moments later, "I just wanted to say thank you for everything you did, while I was …" She waved a hand near her head.
"You're very welcome, my dear," Beckett replied. "Though, I didn't really do that much. You should probably be thanking Rodney. It was his idea to use the components from the stargate to separate the pair of you."
Laura snorted a laugh. "I don't think McKay's ego needs any more help."
Carson frowned slightly but let the comment pass. Instead, he said, "Besides, maybe it's me who should be thanking you. You did push me out of the way of that Wraith culling beam."
"Good point," she replied with a smile. "If I hadn't done that, it might have been you trapped inside McKay's body."
"Or," Carson said, his tone suddenly serious, "that beam could have swept all three of us up, and one or all of us would be dead now."
Laura stopped fiddling with the papers and dropped her hands into her lap. "Yeah. Maybe." She glanced over at him, then back at the corner of his desk.
"Was there something else?" he prodded after several seconds of silence.
Laura looked up at him, her expression changing from subdued to mischievous as she smiled again. "That wasn't exactly what I'd pictured for our first kiss, you know."
Carson chuckled. "No, I would expect not. Though as first kisses go, it was … memorable."
Laura laughed. "I'll bet." She leant forward in her chair. "We could, I don't know, try an actual date sometime. Maybe see if we can get the second kiss right."
Carson smiled. "I think I'd like that. I'm getting ready to leave for a few days. I need to check on some patients off-world. Dinner? When I get back?"
Laura stood. "Sounds like a plan. I'll see you then," she replied and squeezed his hand.
She left the office and Carson couldn't help the happy smile on his face as he thought about seeing her again once he got back from Drellim.
Twenty minutes later, he was checking the latest results from his Wraith DNA tests when he heard another tap at his door, turned, and waved Colonel Sheppard into the office. "Colonel, is everything all right?" he asked when he saw the serious expression on Sheppard's face and glanced out the door into the main infirmary.
Sheppard sat in the chair at the end of the desk and said, "Maybe I should be asking you that. I heard from Elizabeth about your idea of a trip to Drellim. She told me part of the reason you wanted to go now was because you were worried about McKay."
Carson sat back in his chair and studied Sheppard for a moment. "And you aren't?"
Sheppard shrugged and gave Carson a sideways look.
"That's what I thought," Beckett said with a tiny smile.
"He had a second consciousness stuck inside his head," Sheppard said, and Carson heard the frustration in Sheppard's tone. "How am I supposed to help him deal with something like that?"
Carson remembered the look on Sheppard's face when they'd run into the lab with the dart and saw Rodney standing in front of the emitter array preparing to be transferred back into the Wraith containment field. He hadn't believed Rodney's bravado with the mice or men comment, and Carson could tell from the look on Sheppard's face at the time, the Colonel hadn't believed it either. But Carson also knew they were out of options. Either Rodney's idea would work, or he and Cadman would both end up dead anyway.
Carson watched Sheppard riffing the edges of the files on the corner of the desk and realised he wasn't the only person frustrated by the feeling of helplessness where Rodney and Cadman's situation had been concerned. He leant forward in his chair and tapped Sheppard on the arm.
"The best thing we can do for him is to help him understand that we're here for him and he is in control of himself again."
Sheppard watched him for a moment, then sat back in his own chair. "And you're sure he's all right otherwise?"
"Aye, as long as he doesn't push himself too hard the next day or so, he should be fine."
Sheppard stood from the chair and took a step toward the door.
Carson looked up at Sheppard and frowned. "Is there something I should know?" He glanced at the open office door and dropped his voice down to a whisper. "Is the link telling you something different?"
Sheppard shook his head. "No. No headache, no itch, it's just … He had a seizure." He crossed his arms over his chest and stared out the office door.
Carson sat back in his chair as the light dawned. This wasn't Colonel Sheppard asking after a member of his team. It was John Sheppard asking about a family member.
"John, he's fine," Carson said kindly. "It was one seizure, we know why it happened, and it won't happen again. Like I told Elizabeth, physically, he's fine. He just needs to regain a sense of control after the last few days. That's all."
Sheppard uncrossed his arms, took a deep breath, and glanced at Carson. "Control. Okay, I might be able to help with that."
Sheppard smiled and turned toward the door. "I think I have just the thing."
~*~*~*~ SGA ~*~*~*~
John left the infirmary, thinking about what Carson had told him. Beckett had been right, he had been concerned about McKay, but with no enemy to fight, John wasn't sure what he could do to help him. He knew how to battle the Wraith. He had no idea how to help a friend battle the mental demons of, for all intents and purposes, being possessed.
Beckett said Rodney needed to regain a sense of control. John knew of one sure-fire way to feel in control of a situation. Elizabeth had mentioned to him she needed someone to fly out to the mainland and pick up Teyla. It was the perfect chance for John to disguise a flying lesson as a way to give Rodney back some peace of mind.
John had found over the years, the best way to feel like he had some control was to take to the air. Just him, a plane, and the wide-open sky. Or in the case of the jumpers, wide-open space. Hopefully, McKay would feel the same way.
"Let's face it, you haven't been able to do much else to help him," John muttered to himself as he strolled back down the hallway to the transporter.
Once they had rematerialised Rodney, alone, on Thenora, there hadn't been much John could do to help with separating Cadman from McKay's body. He'd trusted Zelenka and Beckett to do what needed to be done and had concentrated on his other problem, namely convincing Elizabeth that Dex was the best choice to fill the vacant slot on his team.
Ronon assisting Lorne on Mendar to rescue his team hadn't been enough to sway Weir's opinion. Elizabeth, or more likely the SGC, still needed the tedious proof of marksmanship numbers and combat training fitness before she would sign off on the idea. As distractions went, spending a couple of days with Ronon, watching as he trained with the Marines and Teyla, and obliterated targets at the shooting range, had worked well.
John had agreed with Weir when she broached the idea of a trip to Drellim as a good way to introduce Ronon to how the team worked, and if it helped McKay, too, all the better. For now, though, he wanted to get Rodney out of the city for a little while. The problem was he needed to find McKay first.
Rodney had missed their usual team breakfast that morning, claiming he needed to meet with Doctor Heightmeyer. John didn't begrudge him the time to talk to someone about what happened, but he also remembered the comments he'd overheard at dinner the night before and suspected there was another reason McKay was avoiding the mess hall.
John entered the mess hall, where the dinner rush was already in full swing, with Rodney shuffling along a step behind him. He was doing a decent job of hiding it, but John suspected McKay was more than a little tired and probably still ached even though the link wasn't reacting.
He found Ronon sitting at a table near the windows, already eating, and John steered Rodney toward the table instead of the mess line. McKay glanced over at him as they made their way across the room, and John's suspicions were confirmed when Rodney didn't argue but followed along in John's wake.
"Who do you think had it worse, McKay or Cadman?" John heard someone ask from one of the nearby tables. He looked over and saw two Marines, recent additions from the Daedalus, with their heads together.
"Cadman," the two Marines replied at the same time with a laugh, and John saw Rodney flinch beside him.
John overheard another whispered comment as they walked past another table of Marines and Rodney muttered beside him, "Maybe I'm not so hungry after all."
"We're already here, and we both need to eat something," John replied. "Just ignore them."
Rodney snorted. "Says the man who thought being inside my head would be a nightmare," he grumbled.
John grimaced. He had meant the off-the-cuff comment for Cadman, in sympathy for what she had been through. It wasn't until he'd glanced at Rodney and had seen the hurt expression on his face, that he understood how the sarcastic comment might sound to McKay.
He waited until they were past the Marines, then draped a casual arm over Rodney's shoulders and pulled him a little closer. "I've been inside your head, remember?" he said in a low voice. "Trust me, for anyone who's not you, it's more than a bit overwhelming." He looked over at Rodney. "But since you and I are the only ones who know about that part of the gauntlet, I couldn't really come out and say anything else, now could I?"
Rodney glanced over at John. "No, I guess not," he replied with a thin smile as they arrived at Ronon's table.
John saw the look Ronon gave him and could have kicked himself. He'd forgotten about Ronon's keen sense of hearing. Of course, Dex would have heard what he'd said. He shook his head at Dex, even as he pushed Rodney into one of the chairs.
"I'll be right back," John said and headed for the mess line.
He returned a few minutes later to find Rodney slouched over the table with his head resting on his arms and his eyes closed while Ronon glared at another group of Marines seated a few tables away.
"Problem?" John asked as he nudged McKay and set a tray in front of him once he sat up.
Ronon shook his head and stood. "I'll be right back."
John watched as Dex stopped at the nearby table of Marines who had been pointing in their direction and snickering. Ronon bent down and said something John couldn't hear. The Marines quickly sobered, picked up their trays, their food only half-eaten, and left. Ronon waited until they were gone, glared at the rest of the room, then returned to their table.
"Making new friends?" John asked, his curious tone laced with a hint of censure.
Ronon sat down across from Rodney and went back to his dinner. "Didn't think anyone else could hear them," he explained with a glance at Rodney picking at the food on his tray.
"Do I want to know?" John asked.
"Not really," Ronon replied.
John studied Ronon for a moment, and when it was clear Dex wasn't going to say anything else, he let the matter drop.
Sheppard shook himself out of the memory and considered the best way to find McKay.
Beckett had said Rodney was supposed to be taking things easy. John knew that meant McKay was either in his room or his lab, two places where he could rest as well as ignore the so-called humorous remarks some people were making about what had happened with Cadman.
Since crew quarters were closer to the infirmary, John decided to start with Rodney's room. The transporter dropped him off in the right section, and John was a bit surprised when he met Ronon in the hall as he turned the corner leading to McKay's room.
"Sheppard," Ronon said in greeting as he fell into step next to John.
"Ronon," Sheppard replied and continued down the hall to Rodney's quarters.
He stopped outside McKay's room and knocked on the door. After a few seconds, he knocked again but still didn't get an answer. John pursed his lips. After McKay had been blinded by the transformer explosion, Zelenka had figured out a way to key the sensor so the door would open for Sheppard as well as Rodney even if the door was locked. After he'd regained his sight, McKay had never reset the sensor. "Could be handy in an emergency," he'd explained at the time and changed the subject.
He could be hurt, John thought with a glance at the sensor when Rodney still didn't answer. Or he could be asleep like Beckett wants, he mentally argued. John debated a few seconds longer before he touched the sensor for Rodney's door.
The door opened easily, and John stepped into the room and looked around. The bed was neatly made and obviously empty. John idly wondered if McKay had slept in it since Beckett had released him from the infirmary.
Ronon stood just inside the door with his arms crossed over his chest, looking around as John glanced in the small bathroom. He came back out and found Dex staring at the diplomas hanging on the wall over the desk. When he reached out for the hand-carved toy pickup truck on the shelf under the diplomas, John walked over and stood next to him.
"It's a model of an Earth vehicle," John explained as Ronon studied the truck and spun one of the wooden wheels.
Ronon set the toy back on its shelf. "Hard to picture McKay having the patience to make something like that."
John chuckled. "He didn't make it. I did."
Ronon gave him a questioning look, and John shook his head. "Remind me to explain Secret Santa to you sometime," John said with a smile and a glance at the truck. They still needed to make that trip to Niagara Falls, he thought as he ushered Ronon back out of the room
"Doctor Weir talked to me," Ronon said on the way back to the transporter.
John nodded. "She told me. She also told me she's signed off on you officially joining my team."
Ronon grunted as he fell into step next to John. "So, what happens next?"
John led the way back to the transporter. "First, we find McKay."
He suddenly remembered the large lab with the dart and had the sneaking suspicion that instead of resting, Rodney was elbow deep in the ship's innards.
So much for taking things slow, he thought wryly as he walked back up the hall.
"After we find him," John continued, "we need to head out to the mainland and pick up Teyla."
He waited for Ronon to step inside the transporter then tapped the area of the map with the science labs. "There's a mission briefing tomorrow morning. Doctor Weir wants us to tag along with Beckett on a visit to a planet called Drellim to check on some folks."
"Heard of it," Ronon said as the transporter hummed to life. "Never been there."
"Sergeant Markham and his team visited the planet last year. Beckett offered his medical services as part of a trade deal."
They exited the transporter and were still several steps away from the door to the large lab when John heard Zelenka's voice issuing orders.
"Doctor Hooker, you can take samples from the cockpit after Doctor Marcus has finished the diagnostics on the DHD."
"I'm done," someone else, presumably Doctor Marcus, said. "I can analyse the rest of the data back in the lab."
John stepped into the room with Ronon close behind him and watched as McKay's scientists crawled over, under, and around the dart in an effort to learn as much as they could from the ship.
Zelenka looked up from the computer tablet in his hand as they walked into the room and nodded. "Colonel Sheppard," he said in greeting as John joined him near the table where the emitter array sat. "Ronon."
"Doc," Ronon replied as he watched the scientists work.
"How's it going down here?" John asked, giving the emitter a wary look.
"With everything that happened with Rodney and Lieutenant Cadman, we have only just started on the analysis of the rest of the dart," Zelenka said, holding the computer against his chest. He nodded at the ship next to him. "It is a fascinating piece of technology."
John heard Ronon growl low in his throat as he glared at the ship. While he could agree with Dex's sentiment, John also knew they had a better chance of fighting the Wraith ships the next time they attacked the city if they found out everything they could now.
John walked around the dart with Zelenka in tow. He didn't see McKay in the lab, and was a little surprised, not to mention concerned, Rodney wasn't the one standing there telling him all about everything they'd learnt so far. "Find out anything interesting yet?" he asked, pushing his worry to the back of his mind.
Zelenka nodded. "Thanks to what happened to Rodney and Lieutenant Cadman, we now have a good working knowledge of how the culling beam works. I have started an analysis of the beam energy itself to see if there is a way to shield against it." He touched the side of the ship with one finger. "We also know the ship is made up of several organic components."
"I could have told you that," Ronon stated. "There's a smell inside a Wraith ship, like something decaying."
John thought back to the two times he'd been inside a Wraith ship. He hadn't noticed anything different or unusual about the ships at the time. Of course, neither of the ships had been functional, either.
"How would something like that even work?" Sheppard asked.
Radek set the tablet computer on the table next to the emitter and held his hands out in front of him. "We are still trying to understand how the Wraith were able to integrate the two systems. Doctor Hooker is taking samples of the organic structures. If we can figure out how the organic and inorganic components interact," Zelenka twisted his hands together, "we may be able to devise a weapon that would sever that connection." He pulled his hands apart and looked over at John.
John glanced the length of the dart. "Making any Wraith ship, what? Disintegrate?"
Zelenka shook his head. "Not exactly. More like creating a feedback loop that would make them inoperable."
"Sounds good to me," Ronon said as John took another surreptitious look around the lab.
"He is not here," Zelenka told him softly.
John glanced over at him.
"You came looking for Rodney, yes? I have not seen him since Doctor Beckett released him yesterday afternoon."
John stuffed his hands in his trouser pockets.
Radek picked up the computer tablet. "I hope he is in his quarters, getting some rest. He did not look well when he was here yesterday."
John remembered the shuffling gait and the pain lines around McKay's eyes at dinner and had to agree. "Unfortunately, he's not in his room, either. I guess we'll try his lab."
Zelenka studied Sheppard for a moment, then walked over to another table, picked up a hard drive, and handed it to John. "It is the data dump from the dart's computer," Radek explained as John turned the drive over in his hand. "He will want to examine the contents himself, I'm sure." Zelenka glanced at the drive and hesitated.
"What's the problem?" Ronon asked.
"It would not surprise me if Rodney has the door to his lab locked." Radek glanced at John and lowered his voice. "People have been talking." He waited for John to look at him, "The drive will give you a reason to ask him to unlock the door."
John grimaced then nodded. "Thanks."
Zelenka stepped back. "Even with him here, constantly yelling at me, I cannot imagine what the last few days have been like for him. You will help him, yes?"
John turned around. "I'll do my best."
Radek nodded once and turned back to the dart.
John left the lab and said, "Come on," he said to Ronon. "Third time's the charm." He handed Ronon the drive and turned down the corridor that led to Rodney's lab.
John stopped in front of the closed door to the lab a few minutes later and knocked. When he didn't get an answer, he waved his hand over the sensor. He wasn't surprised when the door didn't open. Unlike his quarters, where Rodney could have been asleep, John assumed this time McKay was actively ignoring anyone trying to talk to him, and tapped his earpiece.
"Rodney? It's John. I'm outside the lab, unlock the door."
John waited several seconds then said, "Rodney? Come on, buddy, open up. I brought a hard drive from Zelenka. He says it's the data from the Wraith dart you wanted."
When the door still didn't open, John tapped off the radio and paced a few steps away from the door.
"Maybe he wants to be alone," Ronon said.
John shook his head. "No, even if he wanted to be left alone, he'd at least tell me to go away. No, something's wrong."
He turned back to the door. Unlike his quarters, Rodney had the lab door keyed to only his DNA pattern. John hesitated for only a moment before he pried off the access panel.
"What are you doing?"
"A little trick McKay showed me," John said as he pulled out the middle crystal, moved the top crystal down into the middle slot, and used the middle crystal to bridge the other two.
"Nice trick," Ronon said with an approving nod as the door slid open.
John smiled slightly and led the way inside the lab. The smile quickly disappeared when he found Rodney slumped over his work table, asleep.
"Rodney?" John called and lightly shook McKay's shoulder.
Rodney sat up with a jerk and stared around the room, wide-eyed. "What? Where am I?"
John frowned. "You're in your lab."
Rodney glanced first at John then at Ronon, standing near the door. "Lab. Right. That's right," he said absently. He rubbed his eyes, looked around the room again, and swallowed. "I was working on the new cloak emitter," he said, more to himself than John. "Must have fallen asleep."
"You sure you're all right?" John asked as he rested a hand on Rodney's arm.
McKay flinched at the touch, and John's frown deepened.
"Yes, yes, I'm fine," Rodney snapped, though his tone was missing some of its usual bite. "Why are you here? How are you here? I thought I locked the door." He glanced over at the door as Ronon stepped forward with the drive.
"Sheppard picked the lock," Ronon said and set the drive on the end of the work table.
"I never should have shown you how to do that," Rodney groused as he picked up the hard drive. "Where did you get this?" he asked Ronon.
"Zelenka asked us to bring that over when he found out we were heading this way," John explained. "He said it was the computer dump for the dart."
"Finally," Rodney said and reached for the laptop computer on the other side of the table.
"That can wait," John told him with another tap on Rodney's arm. This time John was relieved to note McKay didn't flinch.
"What do you mean? Of course, it can't wait. Who knows what information we can get from this. It might have data on the location of who knows how many hive ships or communication codes we could hack into."
"It can wait for right now," John told him. "Elizabeth wants us to go to the mainland and pick up Teyla."
Come on, Rodney, work with me here, John silently pleaded.
He knew if McKay really didn't want to come, John couldn't force him. The whole point of this exercise was to give Rodney back a sense of control.
Rodney glanced from John to the drive. "You can do that without me."
John took a step back from the work table and pulled his last card. "Sure I can," he said smoothly. "Just thought you might like to be the one doing the flying."
Rodney looked up at him, and John could see equal parts excitement and suspicion in his expression.
"You'd let me fly?" Rodney asked. "Why?"
John shrugged as he gave McKay a penetrating look. "It's been a while since you've had any flight time. Now's as good a time as any to let you have control." He put a slight emphasis on the last word.
Rodney glanced at him again, and John knew he'd received the unspoken message.
"If McKay is doing the flying, I'll stay here," Ronon said from where he stood next to Rodney's desk.
"It'll be fine," John assured him. "He's actually not that bad of a pilot," he gave Rodney a cocky smile, "even if he still can't fly in a straight line."
"Motion is relative in space," Rodney replied in response to the long-standing argument.
"And you, relatively, still can't go in one direction. Come on," John added, and gently tugged Rodney to his feet. "We'll take the jumper, maybe do a few orbits of the planet, then go get Teyla."
"Fine, whatever," Rodney said, but John saw the spark of excitement in his eyes.
~*~*~*~ SGA ~*~*~*~
Though he would likely never admit it to Sheppard, the impromptu flying lesson had helped Rodney feel less out of sorts. Once they were out of the jumper bay, John had handed over control of the ship to Rodney, telling him they could go anywhere he wanted.
Rodney had chosen to fly them out to the larger of the planet's two moons. He'd orbited the chunk of space rock, then with John's encouragement, had flown the ship low enough to skim the surface.
"Too bad there aren't any geologic instruments on board," Rodney said as he pulled them back up into space. "I know Volkov and some of the geologists have wanted to get samples from the moons to see if they could determine if they were meteors captured by the planet's gravity or if they were formed the same way Earth's Moon was created when something hit the planet."
"Maybe next trip," John said as he glanced at his watch. "Elizabeth said she would give us an hour and then radio Teyla to expect us. We need to head back."
Rodney glanced over at Sheppard. "Are you …" He nodded at the control sticks.
"Nope, you're doing fine. Let's see how you manage a landing."
"You've never landed a ship before?" Ronon asked from his seat behind Sheppard.
"Umm, no," Rodney admitted as he broke orbit and turned the jumper back toward the planet. "I've only ever flown in open space."
Rodney heard Ronon mutter something else but chose not to hear it. He found he was enjoying himself too much to worry about what Dex thought.
"Nice and easy," John said from the co-pilot seat several minutes later as Rodney brought the jumper in to land in the clearing behind the Athosian village.
"I've seen you do this a hundred times," Rodney retorted as he concentrated on steering the ship. "I know what to do."
"Your angle is a bit steep," John said, his tone patient. "Check your attitude."
Rodney heard Ronon snort behind them as he checked the information on the HUD. He adjusted their descent angle slightly and saw Sheppard nod.
"Good. Now bring her down nice and slow."
Rodney gripped the controls tighter and reduced their speed.
"Lighten up on the controls," John admonished. "Otherwise, you'll skip the jumper across the field like a stone."
"You're only making this more difficult," Rodney told him through gritted teeth even as he loosened his strangle-hold on the control sticks.
"That's better," John said a moment later as the jumper floated to the ground.
Rodney grimaced as the ship skipped slightly when it landed and gave Sheppard a furtive glance.
"Not bad," John told him with a smile as he stood. "Not bad at all."
Rodney grinned back as he let go of the controls.
Ronon grunted as he stood and followed John into the rear compartment.
Rodney lowered the ramp and mentally shut down the jumper. He followed Sheppard and Ronon out of the ship and stood to one side as Teyla walked across the field.
"Colonel Sheppard," Teyla said with a wave and a smile.
"Teyla," John replied. "You got Weir's message?"
Teyla nodded and stopped in front of Sheppard.
"I did. You are sure it will be safe to make contact with the people of Drellim? Such a visit will not compromise Atlantis?"
"Shouldn't be a problem."
She turned to Rodney and squeezed his hand. "How are you feeling?"
Rodney looked down at the hand holding his. "Umm, fine. I'm fine," he replied.
Teyla let go of his hand and studied his face for a moment. "I am sorry I was not there when you needed help."
Rodney crossed his arms over his chest. The afternoon of flying had let him forget for a little while what had happened with Cadman. Teyla's sincere apology brought it all crashing down on him again.
"There's nothing you could have done," he told her. He smiled slightly and glanced at John.
John caught the look and thankfully changed the subject. "So, how is Charin?"
Teyla turned to Sheppard. "She no longer had a fever, and she was breathing easier this morning." She took a deep breath, and Rodney thought she looked more sad than relieved that her friend was recovering. "Iranda believes she is over the worst of the sickness, but she is still very tired."
"Sounds like she's going to be fine," Sheppard replied. "That's good."
"Yes," Teyla agreed with a smile. "However, I am worried about her."
"That's understandable," John said and led the way aboard the jumper. "You've known her for a long time."
"It is more than that. Charin is very dear to me. As with you and Rodney, she is my chosen family." She sat in one of the rear seats in the cockpit and looked down at her hands. "She is the only family I have left," she admitted in a low voice. "I am not sure what I will do once she is gone."
"If you asked, Carson would make the trip out here to see her," Rodney offered after a few seconds of silence. "Maybe there's something he can do to help."
"That's not a bad idea," John agreed. "This mission shouldn't take more than a few days. Once we're back, I'm sure Elizabeth would give us the time to come out here with Beckett."
Rodney started to sit in the pilot's seat when John tapped his arm.
"Maybe I should take us back," Sheppard said and pointed at the co-pilot's chair. "It's not that far back to Atlantis, and I don't think either of us is ready for you to try landing in the jumper bay."
"Oh, umm, fine, I guess," Rodney replied and ignored the sigh of relief he heard from Ronon in the seat behind him.