Rating: PG this chapter, NC-17 eventually
Summary: Teyla and Ronan tell it like it is...
“Elizabeth, Rodney’s missing.”
***John had gone straight from the bowels of the city to McKay’s lab, storming in dripping wet and filthy, his mood even worse than his appearance. He was brought up short by what had been the CSO’s lab space, now occupied by one of the new scientists brought on the Daedalus “Where is he?” The scattering of scientists and techs in the lab just stood there shocked and silent watching him drip.
Zelenka ran in barely stopping in time to leave the Colonel standing. He swore under his breath in Czech then answered the question, “He is not here.” The Czech had been trying to catch up since the Colonel had stormed out of the ruined control room bent on confronting Rodney. Now he slumped against the lab bench trying to catch his breath.
The new arrival, a blond man with Elvis Costello glasses looked at Sheppard in annoyance, “Dr. McKay works in a separate lab down the hall, now.” John stared at the man as if he’d been speaking a foreign language.
Turning his gaze on Radek he asked, “Why didn’t I know this?” Radek blinked, he’d assumed Sheppard did know. “How long?”
“Since ....” The scientist’s hand waved absently in the air between them, an uncomfortable look settling briefly on his face. Since Arcturus.
John used the ATA gene to let himself into Rodney’s lab. It looked like his normal work station minus his laptop. Bits of Ancient Technology were scattered across table tops in a system that only McKay could understand. Judging by the dried coffee in the bottom of the mugs scattered about, Rodney hadn’t been here in a while. When they found the same thing in his living quarters a bad feeling settled in the pit of the Colonel’s stomach.
It didn’t take long to check out all of the Rodney’s favorite haunts and when they came up empty handed, John sent out three details of men to search the sections of the city where they were living and working. In the meantime he and Radek both needed to get cleaned up. Regrouping in the Gateroom, they met up with Teyla and Ronan. Radek was working with Peter Grodin’s replacement to isolate and identify all of the lifesigns in the occupied parts of the city when John pulled him away.
“When was the last time any of you saw Rodney?”
“I believe I saw him at lunch two days ago, Colonel.” The Athosian woman gave him an odd look.
“Nothing, Colonel.” Before he could challenge her, Ronan spoke. “That’s the last time I saw him too, Colonel.” Ronan and Teyla had been lunching together when they saw the doctor enter, retrieve a tray and leave without saying a word to anyone except to answer one or two questions from the science staff.
Radek was trying to remember. “I am certain I spoke to him around that time. Not since.” The way it was said, it was obvious that he was surprised by the amount of time that had gone by.
“Damn.” Sheppard wasn’t happy. “That’s around the last time I remember seeing him too.”
By the time Radek had reported that every life sign was accounted for and none of them were Rodney, it was time to meet with Elizabeth. ***
John’s attention snapped back to the conference room. Weir had been addressing him and he’d missed whatever she said. “Sorry, Elizabeth.”
“I asked what you intended to do.”
A few minutes later, Teyla finally gave in to her curiousity. “Excuse me Dr. Weir, may I ask a question?” They’d recapped John and Radek’s efforts to find McKay and were discussing where Rodney might be, trying to determine the best strategy for locating him. The Athosian leader was confused.
“Go ahead, Teyla.”
“I do not understand the purpose of looking for Dr. McKay. Surely this is part of his punishment?”
“Punishment?” Weir’s fingers stopped, poised to continue their frustrated tapping. Cocking her head slightly and frowning she asked, “Whatever made you think Dr. McKay was being punished?’
That caught the Athosian by surprise, her confusion showing clearly in her face. “He is now a…” she cast around for the right English word and came up with the best equivalent she could, “a shadow is he not?” The words brought every movement in the room to a standstill, every face trained on her.
“Maybe you’d better explain what you mean, Teyla.” John’s voice had taken on that calm quiet quality that meant it was an order, not a request. The rest of the faces in the room focused on her as she began to speak.
“Among the Athosians and many of the cultures we visit there is a custom. For those who believe every life is precious, one who commits a serious offense against the community is still considered of use. It would not benefit the community to lose a member so the person becomes a shadow. We do not deny that person shelter, sustenance, even a livelihood, but no one may have anything more than necessary to do with him. No contact is allowed, no one speaks if it isn’t necessary and even then only in the most impersonal terms. Even the person’s family must treat him this way.”
“Shunning.” Elizabeth looked at the other woman, “On Earth it’s called shunning. The Amish practice it as a means of correcting those who stray from their beliefs.” Drawing on her years of experience, she explained, “It’s not done lightly. The hope is that the person, once cast out, will choose to change and live by the rules of the community again.”
Teyla nodded, “It is also true among my people. I have only seen one man shunned in my life.”
Radek had been listening but his mind began to drift back over the events of the last two weeks, the frown on his face deepening until he asked quietly, addressing the Athosian, “What happened to this man?”
Teyla Emmagen, daughter of a long line of leaders, took a deep breath and schooled her face to show no emotion, “After two of our years he took his own life.”
“NO!” John stood and glared at them. There was no way that the Atlantis expedition would treat one of their own that way. “What made you think we were shunning McKay?”
This time it was Ronan who spoke up in his matter of fact voice. “No one talks to him unless it’s about work, goes to see him. No one eats with him, everyone calls him Dr. McKay or nothing at all. He is always last, served the worst food, left on his own.” He shrugged, “He is too valuable to you, he fixes things, understands what most don’t.”
In the silence that followed Ronan’s speech each of them ran through what they had seen and done since Arcturus. As the realization of what had gone on sank in, Teyla commented, “Only Dr. Beckett treats him like a friend.”
“Beckett!” John looked at Elizabeth and Radek. “When did he go to the mainland?”
“Later that afternoon.” Teyla had seen him off, adding a package meant for Halling and Jinto to the medical supplies the doctor would use during his stay. The Athosians were in the midst of a small outbreak of something like Earth’s measles. It was a common disease among them but hard on the children. Beckett was at the village, treating them and hoping to isolate the disease organism to eventually develop a vaccine.
Elizabeth touched her ear piece. “Dr. Beckett.”
It took a while for him to answer from the Mainland. “Aye, Dr. Weir, Beckett here. What can I do for ye.”
“Is Doctor….is Rodney with you?”
“And why would ye be askin’ me that? I havena seen Rodney since before I made this trip.” Carson’s tone had become noticeably frosty in the lengthy pause before his answer.
“We don’t seem to be able to find Rodney. We were hoping he flew to the mainland with you.”
“I see.” There was another long pause, “I’ve been here two days.”
“I'm aware of that, Doctor.”
“I’ll be back as soon as I can get my gear packed. The Athosians can handle the reset of the outbreak themselves.” He signed off before Elizabeth could protest.
Rodney sat outside and watched the clouds drifting across the sky. It was a beautiful day, one that most people would appreciate. Before Arcturus he wouldn’t have thought twice about being indoors and missing it. Now, a half eaten MRE by his knee, he simply sat and watched. Nothing seemed as urgent anymore, nothing really interested him that much. He’d come here two days ago because he was running away, not running to anything. Carson’s trip to the mainland had provided the perfect cover for getting away. Carson. He sighed to himself.