Rating: Entire story, NC-17
Summary: Sorry seems to be the hardest word
Rodney was sitting on the bed with laundry piled around him when the door slid open. He looked up to see the Colonel Sheppard and Dr. Weir standing just outside the door, looking tentative. Finally Elizabeth smiled and the two walked in, “Hello Rodney.” He went to stand up but she waved him off, sitting herself down at the other end and pulling her feet up to tuck them under her legs. “What are you doing?” John moved to lean against the wall to one side.
“Carson gets out of the infirmary tomorrow. I thought I’d clean up around here so he didn’t come home to a mess.” It was true, as far as it went. He was tidying up. They didn’t need to know that he was also hiding here to spend some time thinking. Maybe if he played along they would leave him alone.
“That’s nice of you. I’m sure he’ll appreciate it. Can we help?”
“No thank you.”
“Rodney, please?” she laid her hand over his, stopping him from the nervous folding and unfolding he’d been doing.
“I can handle it myself.” His voice reflected the tension she’d felt at her touch. She removed her hand from his.
“I’m sure you can, but we’d like to.” Her calm was infuriating, he wasn’t stupid and could tell he was being handled like some sort of delicate negotiation fraught with obstacles and objections to be overcome. It felt….patronizing. A sudden intense anger rose up but unlike the Rodney of a few weeks ago, he held it in check. John was the one who saw the tightening of his jaw and the way his hands clamped down on the jeans sitting in his lap. Eyes wide, Sheppard signaled silently for Weir to stay quiet but she didn’t see or chose to ignore him. “He’s our friend too.”
One sharp breath and his eyes narrowed. “Well excuse me if I don’t find the idea of your friendship reassuring.” Elizabeth’s eyes widened and a flush crept up her face at the bitterness in his voice, bitterness she’d helped put there. She’d hoped that the last few days had shown him they really did care, that they he could take a chance and let them back in, “Oh…I’m sorry, Rodney. I thought…”
“Thought what, Elizabeth? That all was forgiven? That we would all just go on from here and forget any of this ever happened?” His eyes didn’t waver from hers, “Sorry to disappoint you but I’m not that big a person.”
That was exactly what she had been hoping for. A nice easy solution, Rodney letting bygones be bygones, no need to actually go into what had happened, his arrogance, their spitefulness, everyone’s unrealistic expectations. She’d wanted a diplomatic solution to the problem. Silence stretched as she tried to think of something to say. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have come.” The door opened and she was gone before he could respond.
Rodney stared at the empty space she left behind, then slumped, tired and a little guilty. “Nice McKay, feel better?” He’d forgotten John was still there, standing off to the side, watching.
“Go to hell, Colonel. Better yet, just leave.” He prayed that the other man would just go, but of course the gods and John Sheppard couldn’t just for once make his life easy.
“Damn it Rodney, we came here to apologize.” The casual flyboy had given way to a look that usually only surfaced when things were going to hell in the field. Sheppard was pissed.
“Oh, well excuse me Colonel if I don’t feel obligated to assuage your guilt. How telling that you think a few power bars and some laundry duty are sufficient price to win back my trust.” Sheppard flinched as Rodney continued on, “Don’t you think it would be wise if you found a replacement for me on your team. I doubt either of us is going to be comfortable with the other watching his back.”
John gaped at Rodney, speechless for once. Somehow the gulf between them had just gotten wider. When he did finally find his voice it was to insist, “I don’t want you off my team!”
“It’s for the best.” Why couldn’t Sheppard just let it go?
“C’mon Rodney, don’t do this! You know I trust you. If I didn’t I would have replaced you right away.”
Rodney said the one thing there wasn’t any answer for, “But I don’t trust you, Colonel.” John’s face went blank the way it always did when he was trying to hide his emotions, but Rodney had seen the brief flash of shock and hurt that had slipped out before the mask was in place. The door whooshed open and John was gone before he could say anything else.
Alone again, Rodney headed for the balcony to lean against the rail and let the night breeze cool his anger and confusion. It was late enough in the Atlantean day that sunset was just about over, hints of purple and rose still marking the line between sea and sky. It was quiet and the sound of the ocean was soothing to his frayed nerves. Sheppard and Weir were just the icing on a long miserable day. Not wanting to think about the look on John’s face, he forced himself to focus on Carson. He should be happy that Beckett was being released in the morning but instead he was dreading it. The infirmary had meant boundaries on what they could do and say, it had been idyllic in a way, preventing them from dealing with the issues between them. Once Carson was here, Rodney knew he was going to have to face the consequences of everything he’d done the last few weeks.
Of all of them, Carson had been the one who stood by him, the one who least deserved what he’d been handed. Even Rodney had to admit that his behavior that day warranted some of the reaction he’d gotten from Sheppard and Radek. At least those two had a right to be mad at him, he’d been arrogant, insulting, and so damn sure he was right. It wasn’t even like he had impending doom as an excuse. The Wraith weren’t bearing down on them, it wouldn’t have hurt to wait and analyze the data from the first test before trying again. All in all he could have handled their righteous anger if he’d still felt like they were his friends. It was discovering how flimsy the friendship was that had shaken him so much. He didn’t need friends who ducked and ran whenever he made a mistake.
The temperature was dropping and he shivered. It was going to be a cool night. Thinking the lights up inside, he stretched stiff muscles and headed indoors. The thoughts buzzed in his head, Arcturus, John, Radek, Elizabeth, he’d been down this path so many times and it always ended at the same place. He just didn’t know if he could trust any of them anymore. But that wasn’t the issue with Carson. If anyone had a right to doubt him at this point, it was Carson and damned if he knew whether their relationship was going to survive that. How could he explain that letting Carson stay close would have left him always feeling vulnerable to the others. Rodney wasn’t the kind of man who could do things by halves, he’d needed to cut himself off completely or he’d just get pulled back in again. And wasn’t that just exactly what was happening?
He lay down on the bed and tried to make some sense of the confusion in his head. He’d meant what he said that day in the infirmary, when he’d told Carson he was scared of losing him, all of them. And he’d lied earlier; there was a big part of him that really did just want to forgive and forget. So why was he so angry? Why couldn’t he just get past it?
The two days since Beckett had been released from the infirmary were a blur of long naps punctuated with more naps. By rights Drs. Biro and Ikejaku should have kept their patient for a few days longer but they’d finally surrendered after tiring of complaints and extracting promises of good behavior. Rodney had volunteered to be the enforcer and true to his word, he’d doled out medicine and changed bandages, brought food and made his charge eat it. Rodney worked while Carson slept on. For the most part, everyone left them in peace. Teyla and Ronan stopped by daily for a few minutes, and Radek had made his shakey way by.
“I am glad to see you healing, Carson. You …” he gestured as if he could pluck the words he was looking for out of the air, “took ten years off my life.” Beckett didn’t really remember how Radek had been hurt, that the casing had swung down, hitting his head with a sickening thud before it had pinned Carson to the wall. “You too, my friend. It’s good to see you up and about.” They chatted for a bit more before the Czech rose to leave.
“Rodney, a word if you do not mind?” It took a minute but then McKay hit a few keys on the laptop in front of him and saved his work, reluctant to face what he was sure would be yet another unpleasant scene like the one with Weir and Sheppard. Heart beating fast, face carefully neutral, he waited for Radek to speak.
“I want to apologize for my behavior. I did not realize what we were doing to you. It was not my intent to cause you pain but I was angry and not thinking straight. Is not an excuse and I am ashamed to have been such an ass. We used to be friends, I would like to be again.”
Rodney heard the words but he wasn’t processing them, not really. They were so totally unexpected. Carson held his breath, waiting as quietly as Zelenka was to hear Rodney’s response. When all that came was a curt nod of the head, both men were left to wonder what it meant.