Late the next morning Carson eased himself into one of the chairs in front of Elizabeth's desk, set the cane on the floor next to him, and rested his leg on the other chair.
"Carson?" Elizabeth asked with a worried frown. "Are you sure you should be walking around?"
"Oh, aye," he assured her as he set the file folders in his hand on her desk. "The swelling in my knee is gone, Teyla's ointment did the trick. The laceration will take a week or so to heal, but it's nothing to worry about."
"And your wrist?" Elizabeth asked with a glance at the brace on Carson's right hand.
Carson flexed his fingers. "The lunate bone was cracked, but thankfully not displaced. A brace will see it right in a month or so." He looked up with a reassuring smile. "I'm fine, Elizabeth."
Elizabeth gave him a long look, then shook her head. "All right, if you say so." She picked up the medical files. "How is the rest of Colonel Sheppard's team?"
"Considering what happened, they are all doing well. Colonel Sheppard, Teyla, and Ronon all came back with a collection of bruises and abrasions from fights with various Wraith soldiers, but there were no serious injuries."
"And Rodney?" Elizabeth asked as she opened the last file.
"He was lucky, as well." Carson shifted in his chair. "He has three bruised ribs, but no fractures. A scan of his skull showed no damage. If he was concussed as a result of the fall, it had resolved by the time we got back."
Elizabeth looked up from the file she was reading. "And Rodney's other problem?"
Carson smiled. "I think that's sorted as well. There was a situation our first night, but Colonel Sheppard seemed to handle it well enough. Rodney didn't seem to have any problems after that."
Elizabeth closed the folder and clasped her hands on top of it. "Colonel Sheppard told me about the Wraith attack and Rodney using the control chair." She glanced over at Carson. "I know neither of you were expecting to have to do something like that."
Carson ducked his head. "Rodney insisted he be the one to use the chair," he admitted a moment later. "Said he was better suited for …" Carson let the sentence peter out.
Elizabeth pursed her lips. "Is there anything we need to worry about?"
Carson shook his head. "Somehow I suspect Colonel Sheppard will take measures to make sure Rodney can come to terms with what he had to do."
Elizabeth nodded. "You're probably right." She gathered up the files and pushed them across her desk. "As for my Chief Surgeon," she looked up at Carson with a serious expression on her face, "I can't order you to rest, but I can suggest it."
"Already sorted," he told her with another smile as he slowly pushed himself to his feet. "I plan to have a relaxing afternoon, on a balcony, with my feet up, watching the water."
Elizabeth leant back in her chair with a smile of her own. "With a little help from Lieutenant Cadman?"
"Elizabeth," Carson admonished with a mock frown. "A gentleman would never tell." He picked up the files, gave her one last nod and a smile, and left the office.
~*~*~*~ SGA ~*~*~*~
Ronon checked the bruises along his chest in the mirror. He had ignored the shocked looks and the tsking noises from the female doctor in the infirmary when he'd returned to Atlantis the day before. He was stiff, and the bruises hurt, but the injuries were minor in his mind. Another Wraith ship had been destroyed, and as far as Ronon was concerned, a few bruises was a fair price to pay to be able to exact retribution on his enemies. It wasn't enough, especially since he hadn't been the one to blow up the hive ship, but it was a start. He prodded a few of the dark blotches along his ribs and stomach, decided the ache was bearable, and put a shirt on before he left his room in search of something to eat.
As he walked down the hall on his way to the mess hall, Ronon realised he felt relaxed for the first time in months. He acknowledged the greetings from the Marines and a few scientists with a pleasant nod, as opposed to a scowl or ignoring them altogether as he was wont to do in the past. For the first time in months, he felt something other than brooding anger.
He suspected that part of the reason for his good mood had to do with the battle on Drellim. He'd finally been able to exact some of his promised revenge on the Wraith and as a result, he felt alive, almost happy. It had been too long since he'd been in a fight, and he could admit to himself, it had felt good. He wasn't sure what that said about him, but didn't really care.
Ronon was almost to the mess hall when he realised the other reason he felt lighter was because he had finally accepted he had made the right choice staying in the Ancestor's city. He glanced out one of the windows then stopped and simply admired the view. Atlantis wasn't Sateda. Nothing, not even the storied city of the Ancestors, could replace his homeworld, but Beckett had been right all those months ago. He had found a new home. He took a deep breath, let it out, and nodded to his reflection in the window.
He started walking toward the mess hall again when he saw Beckett coming toward him, limping as he supported his weight on the cane in his hand.
"Doc," Ronon greeted.
"Ronon," Beckett replied and stopped in front of him. "How are you doing today?"
"Fine. Nothing I haven't dealt with before."
Beckett pursed his lips but only asked, "Where are you off too, then?"
"Mess hall," Ronon replied, as a young blonde woman carrying a hamper walked past him and stopped next to Beckett.
"Carson? Are you ready to go?" the woman asked, and glanced at Ronon.
Beckett's attention shifted to the woman, and Ronon saw his expression soften. "I was on my way to find you, my dear," he said to her and glanced back at Ronon. "Ronon, have you met Lieutenant Laura Cadman?" Beckett asked, and made introductions.
"Ronon," Cadman said with a smile as she set down the basket and held out her hand. "Nice to finally meet you. I've heard a lot about you."
Ronon took the offered hand, surprised at Cadman's firm confident grip as she shook his hand.
"Yes, well, we should be going," Beckett said and bent to pick up the hamper.
"I've got it," Cadman said quickly. She picked up the basket and took Beckett's free hand in a light grip, mindful of the brace.
"Ronon," Beckett said with a nod and a smile as they walked back up the hall, Cadman slowing to match Beckett's shuffling gait.
Ronon waited until they were out of sight then continued on his way to find food.
He passed the door to one of the balconies and looked out at the sun glinting off the water. Defeating the Wraith once and for all was by far his main reason for staying in Atlantis and joining Sheppard's team, but the views from the city were amazing. Nothing but water as far as the eye could see; it was daunting, and at the same time, Ronon found it oddly peaceful.
He had walked a few more steps before the other thing he'd seen through the window hit him. He stopped walking and debated whether he should deal with the situation himself or call Sheppard. It wasn't an emergency as far as Ronon could tell. He could call Sheppard, alert him to the problem, and let him deal with it.
Ronon nodded to himself, reached up to tap the radio, and stopped as another thought hit him. He was no longer alone. He was part of a team and had to start thinking of more than just his own comfort. After the conversation he'd had with Sheppard the night before, chances were, Sheppard would tell him to deal with it anyway, so …
Ronon growled under his breath as he made his decision. He would probably regret what he was about to do, he knew, even as he backtracked and opened the door.
"Sheppard know you're out here?" Ronon asked as he walked past McKay hunched in one of the long, low balcony chairs. Ronon leant on the railing and looked out over the water.
"No," McKay replied.
Ronon glanced behind him when McKay didn't say anything else.
"When Rodney stops talking, that is when it is time to worry," he remembered Teyla telling him when he'd first arrived in Atlantis.
Ronon turned with his back against the railing and really looked at McKay sitting in the chair, never making eye contact. The cut on McKay's forehead was covered, but Ronon could still see the purplish bruise around the edges of the bandage. He also noted how McKay sat curled in the chair, with his knees drawn almost up to his chest. Ronon had assumed at first it was the result of the bruised ribs from the fall into the Ancestor's ship. Now that he looked closer, however, McKay's posture was more defensive than protective.
Should have just called Sheppard, Ronon berated himself. He was much better at dealing with McKay's moods.
Ronon ducked his head and gripped the railing behind him. "What's the problem?" he finally asked.
McKay gave him a startled look and shifted in the chair.
"What makes you think there's a problem?"
Ronon eyed him. "You aren't talking."
McKay glanced over at him then back at the water. "How many Wraith do you think … were in that hive ship?" he asked a few seconds later, his voice barely above a whisper.
Ronon stared at him for a moment, unsure why the number should matter. They were Wraith. They were dead. Good riddance to the lot of them as far as Ronon was concerned.
Then it hit him.
For all of his bluster and abrasive attitude, McKay was basically an innocent when it came to violence and killing. Ronon had been fifteen years old when he'd killed his first Wraith. Ten years, a lost war, and time spent running for his life, later, the last thing Ronon was, was innocent.
Definitely should have called Sheppard, Ronon told himself grimly as he studied McKay curled in the chair staring out at the water.
He thought back to his military training and tried to remember what one of the veterans had told that bunch of raw recruits.
"The Wraith don't show mercy," Ronon told him. "You can't either. Not if you want to survive."
Ronon frowned when McKay shrank further into the chair.
"How many people?" McKay whispered.
Ronon shrugged. "Any people would have been past saving."
Ronon looked up as the door behind McKay whispered open, and Sheppard stepped outside. Ronon gave him a relieved look and darted his eyes at McKay.
Sheppard shook his head and leant into the corner of the wall behind McKay.
Ronon scowled in response, but Sheppard ignored him as he crossed his arms over his chest and concentrated on what McKay was saying.
McKay looked up at Ronon, oblivious to the silent discussion going on around him. "I could see the culling beams … through that hole in the ship … I heard the darts … Carson was injured … I didn't know where any of you were."
McKay took a deep breath, winced, and continued. "I knew I had to do something … That's when I thought of … the control chair … Sheppard wouldn't have hesitated … to use it ... so I thought … I can't either."
Ronon glanced over at Sheppard in time to see him duck his head and rub the back of his neck. When he looked up, Ronon saw the pained expression on Sheppard's face and remembered another conversation he'd had soon after coming to Atlantis.
"That's what Rodney does. He figures out how all this Ancient stuff works and uses that knowledge to help the rest of us. Part of my job is to protect him while he does that."
At the time, Ronon had only heard the part about finding and using the Ancestor's technology. Now he understood the rest of what Sheppard had been telling him. McKay protected the team with his intelligence. The team protected him from the uglier side of war as much as possible. After what happened on Drellim, Ronon wasn't sure how successful Sheppard would be with that plan moving forward, but Ronon silently vowed to hold up his end of it.
Ronon looked back at Sheppard and found Sheppard watching him. Ronon met Sheppard's gaze, then glanced at McKay and solemnly nodded. He hoped the message was clear.
Sheppard met Ronon's steady gaze with one of his own and nodded back with a grim smile. He straightened from the corner where he stood and went back to the door, signalling to Ronon to stay there and disappeared inside.
McKay took a deep breath. "I never got the chance to ask," he said, and Ronon heard the hesitance in his tone, "How, umm, how many … of the villagers were culled?"
How many people did I kill? Ronon knew that's what McKay was really asking.
Ronon shrugged. "None."
McKay gave him a skeptical look, clearly not believing him.
"Sheppard asked Jor-tan the same thing. There were some deaths from the Wraith on the ground, but no one was culled. The villagers had good escape routes." He looked over at McKay and added, "You stopped them before they could do much."
The door opened again, and this time Sheppard made enough noise for McKay to jump and turn around.
"Here you two are," Sheppard announced with feigned surprise as he stepped outside. "I've been looking for you." Sheppard stopped next to McKay's chair, glanced down at him, then over at Ronon.
Ronon shrugged in reply to the silent question.
Sheppard pursed his lips and tapped McKay on the shoulder. "Come on, Teyla's meeting us in the mess hall."
Ronon felt his stomach rumble at the mention of food.
Sheppard waited until McKay stood from the chair, then held the door open for him. Ronon brought up the rear.
"I saw Doctor Brown earlier," Sheppard said to McKay as they walked toward the mess hall. "She was looking for you down at your lab." Sheppard glanced back at Ronon and added, "McKay's date the other night."
McKay hunched his shoulders. "Not much of a date, really … Not after Cadman … decided to butt in."
"Cadman?" Ronon asked. "Saw Beckett with a woman named Cadman. They were heading off somewhere together." He didn't understand the strange look of distaste on McKay's face or Sheppard's grin.
"Good for them," McKay ground out a moment later.
"You should ask Katie out on another date," Sheppard suggested. "She seemed worried about you."
McKay shook his head. "Not very likely."
"You can't avoid her forever, you know," Sheppard said as they entered the mess hall.
"I can try," McKay replied as he picked up a tray and started through the mess line, followed by Sheppard and Ronon.
Once they had their food, Sheppard led the way over to their regular table and sat down across from Teyla.
They ate in silence for a few minutes, then Sheppard said, "Daedalus is due in a few days. Once Caldwell gets here, Elizabeth says we can head back to Drellim and see about fixing their DHD." He glanced at McKay, sitting next to him. "Might also take a better look around that ship you found. See if there's anything worth bringing back with us."
Ronon saw McKay shudder when Sheppard mentioned the ship.
Sheppard must have seen the reaction as well. "Rodney?"
McKay gave Sheppard a sideways glance, then looked back down at his food. "I'll send Zelenka to look at the DHD," he said. "Someone besides me should know how to fix a DHD in the field. Corrigan can investigate the ship."
Teyla set her cup down and looked from Sheppard to Ronon. "Rodney, is everything all right?"
"I'm fine," he told her, never looking up from his plate as he picked at his food.
"I thought you'd be eager to get another look at an Ancient ship," Sheppard said.
McKay grimaced. "Oh, yes," he said sarcastically and glared over at Sheppard, "Just what … I want to do … spend more time … in a place I'd … much rather forget."
Teyla frowned at the tone, but Sheppard seemed to take it in stride. "What haven't you told us?" Sheppard asked.
The fight went out of McKay, and he sagged back in his chair. "After," he waved a hand over his head, "I didn't know if you'd all … already been swept up in a dart, or …" He swallowed and wrapped his arms around his chest. "Once it was all over … I spent the rest of the night … wondering if I'd just … killed all of you," he admitted in a whisper. "All I could think about was … so much for one for all."
"One for all?" Teyla asked.
McKay gave her a crooked smile. "'One for all and all for one'," he said. "It's from a book about," he stopped and shook his head, "that part doesn't matter … 'One for all', it means … everyone works for the betterment … of the whole."
"You won't be going alone, you know," Sheppard told him.
McKay looked over at him.
"You always seem to forget the other part of that motto, McKay," Sheppard said with a smile. "'One for all." He paused and gave McKay a significant look. "And all for one. Where you go, we go."
McKay relaxed and nodded. "Does this mean we get to carry swords … off-world now?"
"I already have one," Ronon said nonchalantly and finished his food.
McKay stared at him for a moment, then turned to Sheppard.
"Don't even think about it," Sheppard replied before McKay could say anything. "The last thing you need to be doing is running around with a sword."
Rodney glared back at Sheppard as Teyla laughed and finished her tea.
~*~*~*~ SGA ~*~*~*~
John shook his head when he saw the light spilling out of the doorway for McKay's lab later that night. He peeked around the corner and found Rodney sitting at the work table, the Ancient mystery box in front of him, and several crystals scattered across the table.
"I thought you were supposed to be resting," John said as he came into the lab and sat on the stool across from Rodney.
"I am resting … All I'm doing is sitting here."
"Right," John drawled. "Something tells me Beckett won't see it that way."
Rodney shrugged and pulled another crystal out of the box.
John watched him for a few minutes, then said, "I heard what you said to Ronon earlier. About using the control chair."
"I'm sorry I wasn't there," John admitted. "What you did … I never wanted to put you in a situation like that. You're a scientist, not a soldier. It's my job to protect you."
Rodney set down the crystal and stared over at John. "I thought we were supposed to … protect each other," he said pointedly. "Isn't that what a team does?"
John sighed and crossed his arms over his chest. "Yeah, but--"
"It wasn't even the first time," Rodney spoke over him. "If you count … the weapons platform … and the nuclear bombs."
John heard the false bravado in McKay's tone and shook his head. "That's not the same thing, and I think you know that."
Rodney ducked his head and fiddled with one of the crystals on the table.
"I just want to make sure you're going to be okay," John told him.
Rodney dropped the crystal. "If I hadn't used the chair … you'd be dead right now … So would Carson and I, for that matter … The only reason someone found us … was because you convinced ... Jor-tan and the villagers … to search for us."
"That's not true," John argued. "I'm sure --"
Rodney shook his head. "Assuming anyone from the village … survived the attack if I hadn't used the chair … they never would have looked for us … They would have just assumed … we'd been culled." He waited for John to look at him. "And I think you know that."
John grimaced but couldn't really deny what McKay was saying.
"If you think about it that way … I was just saving myself," Rodney finished and refused to look at John as he picked up the crystal again.
John watched McKay work for a few minutes, then stood from the stool, and tapped Rodney on the arm. "Thank you," he said softly.
Rodney looked up at him, confusion evident in his expression.
"For being so selfish," John finished, and tugged McKay's arm. "Now, I'm going to selfishly make you go back to your quarters."
"How is that selfish?" Rodney asked as he stood and followed John out of the lab.
"Who do you think Beckett is going to yell at if he finds out you were down here all night?" John asked with a straight face.
"Yeah. Oh," John replied with a smile, and led the way back to the section of the city with their rooms.
He'd get Rodney to rest tonight and worry about any lingering issues tomorrow. Maybe another flying lesson, John thought with a smile as he tapped the control for the transporter. He'd get Ronon and Teyla to come with them, show McKay he wasn't as selfish as he wanted to think.
Afterall one for all and all for one.