Rating: PG this chapter, NC-17 eventually.
Summary: Carson has his say....
Sheppard watched from the doorway knowing he was unwelcome. Carson was standing out on the balcony of his quarters, looking over the ocean, “Where are ye, Luv? What have ye bloody done now?”
“Doc…” The doctor startled at the voice and turned to find John standing in the doorway, apologetic. “I knocked but you didn’t answer.”
“And what can I do for you, Colonel Sheppard?” He didn’t bother to disguise his hostility. He’d watched them politely freeze Rodney out and now he didn’t give a bloody damn if they knew what he thought of their behavior. John stepped outside warily, not sure he trusted his safety. Carson’s return to Atlantis had revealed a side of him that none of them had seen up to that point. It wasn’t one Sheppard relished seeing again.
***Beckett landed the jumper in the bay and headed for Elizabeth’s office but detoured to the conference room, following the voices. Weir was just being informed of his arrival when he stormed in. “Two days, it took ye two bloody days to notice he was missing.” The only time anyone had seen him even remotely this angry was when they left Hoff. “Yer a bunch of right bastards. Ye don’t deserve him, not a one of ye, nor yer sorry lives that he’s saved more than once.” Then he was gone and no one could think of anything else to say.***
“Kate Heightmeyer wanted to know about Rodney’s mood the last few days before he…left. I…well…”
“Ye couldn’t tell ‘Kate’ because I’m the only one in the entire city who’s given him the time of day this past fortnight.” The bitter words cut deep, they were meant to. Carson wasn’t ordinarily a spiteful man but he’d watched as Rodney fell apart and there was only so much he could do. Before Sheppard could respond, Beckett continued, “Did you know he considered you his best friend Colonel. He told me he’d never had one before.”
“Right, that’s why he almost got me killed.” John’s defenses were up.
Carson found himself wanting to smack away the cynical sneer and he didn’t like feeling that way. Instead he gripped the railing and spoke quietly. “You disappoint me, Colonel.”
That finally did it for John. His anger at the whole mess surfaced. He wanted to say that none of this was his fault. Rodney had been the one who set it all in motion. “He used our friendship.” It came out cold and emotionless because he couldn’t get the words out any other way. It was true, John had felt used. Not because Rodney had asked for his backing or even because the experiment has failed. It was that blind refusal to stop and take a step back, to listen to what anyone else was saying that had left him feeling betrayed. It was supposed to be a partnership between all of them. It had to be or they wouldn’t survive. But when it really counted, when Radek had come to him with the data that said it would be a disaster, when he’d promised Elizabeth he could do it, when he’d argued right down to the last second that he could make it work and had put both their lives… hell, put all of Atlantis and the Daedalus in danger, Rodney McKay had ripped that partnership apart. He couldn’t even shut up in the jumper and trust John to do his job. With disaster seconds away he had treated John as if he was too stupid to know the danger they were in.
Carson looked at John, about to bite back, but as quickly as Sheppard’s anger had flared, the doctor’s died. “Aye, I suppose it looks that way. But you have to know that it cost him a lot to ask for your support.”
“What? So I should just let it go?”
“No. Yes. Look, Colonel…” Carson turned to lean his back against the railing, “Maybe I’m biased because he and I are…well, close. But it seems to me that there’s a big difference between someone who sets out to manipulate you to get what they want, and someone who asks you to have faith in them. I guess it comes down to which you think Rodney did.”
“I think he blew off the people who were supposed to have his six.” Sheppard was good at using anger to cover other feelings. They taught you that in the military, how to draw on your basest emotions for strength. Too bad this wasn’t war.
So that’s it, what this is really about for him. “Aye, he did and maybe he needed this failure to make him see that he’s only human, that he can be wrong, that he needs to lean on others.” Carson had turned back to the railing and was looking out over the ocean again. “But you know, Colonel, it might be a good thing if people recognized that all the time, not just when he fails.” Carson kept talking to the night sky, missing the look of confusion on Sheppard’s face. “Do ye know how many nights he lies awake, worrying that the next time he won’t have a miracle to pull out of his bag when we’re all standing there looking at him?”
“Rodney, insecure?” He wasn’t used to thinking of Rodney that way and it was making his head pound. The moon was up so it was late, they would be up searching early. He really needed to head for bed.
“Aye, but don’t ever let him hear you put it that way.” Carson’s shoulders tensed. “He wasna trying to prove he’s smarter than the Ancients, you know. It was about wanting a weapon against the Wraith pure and simple, not about being a hero. He’s scared, John. Sometimes, when people are scared they make mistakes. Just like you, just like me.”
The weight of thousands of lives hung in the air between them, making it impossible to speak. Finally, Carson broke the silence, “Do ye think he’s still alive?” It was a thought none of them had been willing to voice even though they knew that the longer Rodney McKay was missing, the less likely it was that the astrophysicist was coming back.
“It’s only been three days, Carson. We’ll find him.” He risked a hand on the other man’s shoulder. “How…close…are the two of you?” It wasn’t his business, not really, but it seemed like someone should know.
Setting up the lifesigns sensors so they sent back a false signal had been easy for Rodney. The section of the city he was in would look deserted. If he was going to be alone, he’d rather it be by himself, not in a crowd. Being an outsider wasn’t anything new to Rodney; his genius had isolated him very young. He worked his way through the rooms on the corridor, cataloging what he found and any damage that needed to be repaired. It looked like this section had been mixed use, some residential and some light sciences. There also appeared to be an art studio. He hadn’t thought of the Ancients as being into art. You didn’t see a lot of it in the city.
By noon he was hungry and stopped outside on one of the balconies to eat another MRE. It had never bothered him that people wondered how he could like them. It was all perspective. When you grew up in the slums with parents who didn’t have money for food most days, you learned to eat what was put in front of you. In his case, he learned to eat peanut butter a lot. It was safe and meant no trips to the hospital, no dying because his parents couldn’t afford to keep an epi-pen on hand.
He patted his pocket unconsciously, checking.
Ford used to kid him about the MREs. Aiden’s grandmother had raised him on a diet of homecooked meals like meatloaf, chicken with dumplings, grits and gravy. The food was the one thing the Lieutenant had hated about the military. Rodney’s mother had raised him on whatever was cheapest or out of date, or being thrown out in the dumpster behind the grocers. Ford had finally shut up after Rodney once told him that they were safe and a damn site better than ketchup on white bread.
The meal in front of him was only half gone and he was full. That happened a lot lately. The last time he’d lost his appetite was the day the social worker came to pick him up. He could still remember his mother crying. “It will be better for you, you’ll see, sweetheart.” Now he understood, but back then all he knew was that his parents didn’t want him. He barely ate for weeks, almost ending up in the hospital. Then Child Services had placed him with foster parents who were on faculty at a university, and wasn’t that heaven? At ten he was hopelessly out of place but at least there was enough food, heat, and classes that challenged him. So he grew up surrounded by adults who were, by turns overwhelmed, awed, jealous, amused or put off by his genius. The only thing missing was friends.
He headed inside and back to the last corridor he’d been scouting, the half eaten meal forgotten. Yet another gray metal door slid open on a thought. “Finish this corridor today and maybe tomorrow come back to take a closer look at the labs.” He’d started talking to himself a lot without realizing it. After a few more days of cataloging corridor after corridor, taking readings and entering data on his laptop, he started talking to Carson and Zelenka as well.