Rating: PG-13 this chapter, NC-17 eventually
Radek scanned sensors all over the city, looking for life signs but there were none. Sheppard sent out patrols daily into the unoccupied sections where they knew the systems had been damaged during the Wraith attack. There was no way to stow away on a jumper without being noticed so he had to be somewhere in Atlantis, at least it seemed that way, but each day that they had nothing to report Elizabeth would stand outside and stare at the ocean, wondering.
“It’s been two weeks. There are other things that need attention too.” John and Carson were back out on the balcony of the doctor’s quarters; once again Carson was looking out over the water but it was daytime and Sheppard could see the white knuckles as he voiced the conclusion that everyone was coming too. They’d searched the city and surveyed the mainland by puddlejumper. There had been no signs. Elizabeth had reluctantly told John it was time to shift resources back to their mission.
“You’re giving up on him!” John stopped her on the stairs, furious. Lowering his voice to a hiss, “He would never give up on any of us!” From the looks on their faces Teyla, Ronon and Zelenka agreed.
“We can’t put things on hold forever, John. The Wraith aren’t going to hold off attacking or stop their culling because we’re missing a scientist.”
John slammed his hand on the wall. “Elizabeth, this is Rodney we’re talking about!”
“And you think I don’t know that?!” She stormed up the steps, dragging them in her wake. When the conference room doors were closed, she rounded on him, “You think I don’t regret every time I passed him in the hallways and called him ‘Dr. McKay’? That I don’t know how petty that was? That I stopped having meals with him or dropping by the lab once in a while?” For a moment she was dangerously close to tears and they stared at one another in the echoing silence of everyone’s guilt. Then she pulled herself back, took a deep breath and looked Sheppard in the eye. “I’m not saying we stop looking, but that isn’t all we do. We have to get on with our job.”
“I’ll tell Carson.” He wasn’t going to let this come from Weir.
The relationship had come as a big surprise to many, though they hadn’t tried to hide anything. It was still new and tentative when Arcturus had happened. Sheppard was put out that Rodney hadn’t said anything to him, but then there really hadn’t been much chance. He’d figured they would deal with that when the physicist was back. In the meantime he took it upon himself to keep an eye on Carson, making a point of being with Beckett as much as possible. When he couldn’t there were no end of volunteers to fill in, especially the oldtimers. Even if many Atlanteans didn’t warm up to Rodney McKay, they were overly fond of his lover. Helping him cope was small thanks for the lives saved over the last year. And of course, there was the guilt.
John told Carson then came back later, after the yelling and being thrown out, the angry bitter accusations, the tears barely held in check. He stood in the doorway of Beckett’s balcony, watching as the moonlight fell across the sleeping doctor, curled on his side, a pillow hugged to him to fill in the emptiness where McKay should have been. Eventually he pulled up a chair next to the bed and sat, sleepless, keeping watch.
Rodney scanned what he could see of the room and decided it looked more like some sort of mechanic’s bay than anything else. There were racks lined up that looked as though they were meant to cradle some sort of large device. The room was set up to hold five of something that looked like it might be roughly the size of a puddlejumper. Maybe that’s what it was, the Atlantis equivalent of Bill and Earl’s Garage.
Atlantis had become monotonous, lab after lab, all the same. This at least was interesting, but walking the length of the room and back had tired him out. Staring up into the high shadows, Rodney could see what looked like tools and extensible arms mounted to the ceiling. His eyes lit up at the thought of equipment designed to work on the compact spacecraft. “What do you think of this, Radek? No more squeezing underneath.” And then damn, the realization that he’d slipped again shook him and he cursed. Instead of helping, the longer he stayed away, the more he longed for their company. He’d only meant to leave for a few days, a week at the most, thinking it would be easier to build back up his defenses if there weren’t other people around. His mind had other ideas and his thoughts kept dragging him back to the people who he’d gotten close to. The more it happened the more desperate he was becoming, knowing that if he didn’t find a way to shut them out it meant going back to Earth and that just wasn’t something he could face
I was such a cliché, but Atlantis was a dream come true. Cheyenne Mountain, Antarctica, even Siberia had seemed like heaven because of the stargates and the Ancient technology. But Atlantis…my God, walking into Atlantis had been so breathtaking it was beyond his capacity for words. To stand in the city of the Ancients, surrounded by their technology was beyond anything he’d ever hoped to experience. No one understood. As much as he swore and complained about the Ancients and their obscure technology, about how they’d just packed up and left without really explaining anything, living in Atlantis was the first time in his life he’d really felt mentally alive and the thought of leaving that behind was unbearable. He sank to the floor and rubbed shaky hands across wet eyes. Dammit! I will find a way!
The catwalk to the top still didn’t take Rodney high enough to examine the tools mounted on the ceiling. He tried thinking them down, but that didn’t work. The only solution was to climb the framework. Groaning and cursing, panting, he pulled himself up the last struts and wedged his body in between two supports. The room swung around him in crazy arcs and he laid his forehead on the cool metal long enough to let it settle back in place. The scanner showed that everything was powered down and it was probably going to take contact to initialize anything.
Leaning out he managed to snag one of the reticulated arms and wrestle it closer. The tool on the end looked like a probe of some sort. Laying the scanner on a nearby beam so he could watch the readout, Rodney placed his hands on what looked like grips on either side of the device. It came to life with a jerk, and he found himself pulled out of his perch with a force that sent a wave of pain through both shoulders. The arm moved down toward the center of the cradle searching back and forth, Rodney dangling off the end. Each abrupt change of direction jerked his shoulders and threatened his tenuous grip. Each approach to the side of the cradle slammed his body into the heavy metal beams meant to support the bottom of a jumper. Rodney hung on, knowing he would never survive the 40 foot fall to the floor. With one last jerk the arm retracted, pulling him back up towards the ceiling. His shoulders screamed in agony as he tried to hold out until he would be taken back up to where he started. He was only feet away when his hands finally gave out and he let go, falling into the cradle, landing on the struts that supported the center. Ribs gave way as his weight drove him hard against the metalwork. Gravity held him in place for a few seconds but eventually he began to slide off backwards bouncing off of one beam then another until he landed in a senseless heap on the floor.