Title: Sunlight on Broken Things
Genre: PG, Gen, H/C
Summary: Tag to Storm/Eye. I know everyone's already written one, but I thought I'd join in. Features Rodney whumping.
Notes: Written as a present for ed263, for all the writing encouragement :)
Word count: ~2000
He was still cold. And that seemed wrong, because he had already checked the heating controls several times for storm damage, and had found nothing. But that had reminded him of all the other systems which also needed to be checked, so he had retreated with his computer into the tiny room which he had claimed as his office shortly after arriving in the city, but had hardly ever used. The main lab was at the moment full of scientists moving their equipment back in. Far too noisy to get any work done.
He was also finding it harder than usual to type. Flexing the fingers of his right hand caused stabs of pain to run up and down his arm as he hit the keys, and forced him to break quite frequently.
Maybe he should go to the infirmary. They could clean his arm and bandage it properly, and give him a couple of painkillers while they were at it. The prospect clamoured hopefully in his mind each time he stopped working.
But each time, it was forced down again. He didn’t want to have to look at the wound which was beneath the covering cloth. He had barely looked at it when he had hastily bandaged it – just worked as quickly as possible so that he wouldn’t have to see it any more. The idea of being examined made him feel sick.
There was a knock on the door. A firm rapping, suggesting that the perpetrator knew he was in there, and was prepared to come in anyway. “What?” he snapped.
The door slid open and Radek appeared, looking tired, with his hair sticking up even more wildly than normal. “I thought you would still be here.”
Rodney had intended to tell whoever was bothering him to just leave him alone, but he found that he quite simply didn’t have the energy for that. “How’s the equipment?” he asked instead.
“The equipment is fine, and has all been moved back into lab. Your scientists are also fine.”
“That’s good.” Rodney rubbed his eyes. “What time is it?”
“Late. Major Sheppard says if you’re still up, go to bed.”
“If you see Major Sheppard, tell him I have.”
Radek raised his eyebrows. “That would be a lie.”
“Yes, I know.” Rodney frowned at him. “I’m busy. I’ll sleep when I’m done.”
“I see.” Radek’s expression was unconvinced. “Saving the city is not enough for one day?” He came further into the room, without an invitation. “At least have supper.”
“I ate earlier.”
“Actual food, or power bars?” At Rodney’s glare he held up his hands. “I am just making comments. Next you will tell me that you are not hiding.”
“I’m not!” Rodney snapped, spurred into defensiveness.
Radek sighed. “Yes, Rodney, if you say so. Does your arm hurt?”
Rodney flinched involuntarily, before remembering that Radek wouldn’t know anything about the circumstances surrounding his injury, and was just commenting on its visibility. “It’s fine, it’s just a scratch. Look, haven’t you got anything you need to be doing?”
“Alright, I will go.” Zelenka held up his hands in surrender. “But you must sleep sometime. And you must turn down the heating in here, or you will boil like egg.”
“Great parting shot,” Rodney muttered sarcastically, after the door had already closed. “Mock the fact that the heating isn’t working.” He was still freezing. He would have gone to his room to fetch an extra jacket, if he hadn’t been too busy. And if the corridors weren’t full of people. He really didn’t feel as if he could handle people, right then.
Instead, he turned back to the computer screen, but found that he had completely lost his train of thought.
Sheppard had mentioned him to Radek. Sheppard was talking about him behind his back.
He wasn’t typing at all now, just staring at the lines of code without seeing any of them. Who else might be talking about him? And what would they be saying?
Strangely, he couldn’t ever remember having worried about what people were saying or thinking about him before the Atlantis expedition, but now he did. He didn’t want Sheppard to know that he was a coward, or Carson to know that he had nearly killed him because he didn’t want to wait for two minutes. He didn’t want the amused looks he had received from both Sheppard and Elizabeth on the balcony, right before he had grabbed his computer from the lab, shouted at the two scientists who had tried to ask him questions, and locked himself in his office.
Now he didn’t really want to go out and face any of the others ever again.
He shouldn’t just sit and do nothing. He willed the code back into focus, and began to type again. But his arm had stiffened up and flared with fresh pain as he moved it. A gasp of pain became a torrent of swear words, which made him feel slightly better. Not much. His head began to pound and he leaned forward, pillowing on his good arm, and hunching his shoulders in to try and stay warm.
At the banging on the door he opened his eyes blearily, and lifted his head. He felt sick, and swallowed. “What?” he croaked, doubting that he would be heard.
The door opened anyway, and Sheppard strolled in. While the knocking had sounded angry, his attitude was almost painfully casual. Rodney blinked a few times, feeling ridiculously foggy. “Hi,” he said, deciding the onus was on him to start conversation.
Sheppard’s hands were in his pockets. “I couldn’t find you in your room. Zelenka said you might be still here.”
Traitor. “I was about to go to bed…”
“Do you even know what time it is, McKay?” Sheppard interrupted.
“Um.” He tried to sneak a glance at the clock on the computer screen, but it had put itself into standby.
Sheppard saved him from hazarding a guess. “It’s late morning.”
“I know,” Rodney protested weakly. “I meant, when you spoke to Zelenka last night I was about to go to bed, and did, and then I got up early…” His voice trailed away at the glare he was receiving.
“Why are you here?” Rodney snapped. “I’m busy!”
“I was going to ask you to come to breakfast. They’ve got pancakes and chocolate muffins today.”
It was tempting. But it also sounded as if Sheppard had so far managed to avoid hearing what he’d done, and the mess would have people in it who might know… “I’ll pass,” he said. “But, you know, thanks.”
Sheppard stood his ground. “You aren’t getting off so easily.”
“What is this really?” Rodney asked, sharply. “Some new form of punishment?”
“What?” Sheppard actually looked confused, but Rodney wasn’t buying it.
“I know what you’re doing, trying to drag me out into a public place so that everyone can glare at me and insult me, and tell all their friends to come and see the man who sold out Atlantis!”
“McKay, calm down! I’m not – ”
“Of course you are! I know I almost got everyone killed trying to save my own skin, but believe me, you don’t need to rub it any further in my face!”
“McKay, just listen!”
“No! I know exactly what you’re going to say, so why should I?”
“Because that’s not what I want to say!” John grabbed Rodney’s good arm, pulling him to his feet. “Dammit, McKay – ”
The moment Rodney was standing, he knew that it was a bad idea. There was a buzzing in his ears which drowned John’s voice, and he the floor tilted dizzily as the joints in his legs gave out on him. He clutched for the table as he dropped, but instead was caught at the last second and lowered gently to the ground, his eyes screwed shut against the sudden stabbing pain in his head. He registered the cold floor against his cheek, and tried to concentrate on not compounding his humiliation by throwing up.
What seemed like an instant later, his eyelids were peeled open and a beam of light pierced right through his eyes. He tried to bat it away, but instead his hand was caught and guided firmly back to the floor. “Are you with me, Rodney?” a familiar voice asked.
He managed to open his eyes, and found that Beckett was kneeling in front of him, and smiling reassuringly. “There you are. How do you feel?”
In his molasses-slow brain, the question needed some consideration before he came up with an answer. “Sick. Cold.” He shut his eyes again, tired out by the effort.
“Cold?! It’s like a sauna in here!” The back of a hand was placed against his forehead. “Oh, bloody hell.”
“What is it?” Sheppard sounded anxious.
“He’s running a fever. Please tell me he had his arm checked out.”
“Are you suggesting anyone on your staff would bandage him that incompetently, Doc?”
“Point taken. Rodney, are you still with us?”
“Mmm,” Rodney mumbled. Under the circumstances, he thought it was quite eloquent.
“When did you last eat something?”
That question was unfairly hard. “Dunno.”
“Doc, is he going to be ok?”
“I’m betting his blood sugar’s extremely low, and I think he’s picked up an infection. He should have come to see me before, the idiot. I’m not surprised he collapsed.
Voices were beginning to sound like each other in the fog which pervaded Rodney’s brain, and he was pretty sure that no one was making much sense.
“Lift him on three.”
“What’s going on?”
“Elizabeth, I’ll explain later. Let us through…”
“The Genii wrecked the stores. It’ll take days to get them properly sorted.”
“Get him on IV glucose and antibiotics.”
“We’ll keep him under for a bit. Give him time to mend.”
“McKay, what the hell were you thinking?”
“He cannot hear you.”
“Zelenka says the grounding stations have all been repaired.”
“I can’t have all of you hanging around my infirmary. You’re in everyone’s way.”
“Blood glucose levels are looking up.”
“I know I said that, Elizabeth, but I didn’t mean it!”
“This wee bugger’s hard to kill.”
“Did he just move? I thought I saw – ”
“It’s late. If you aren’t quiet, I’ll take the cards away from you.”
“McKay, stop lazing around in bed and wake up!”
Rodney opened his eyes, blinking John’s blurry face into focus against the sunlight pouring in through a window. He felt warm, and blissfully pain-free.
“Huh.” John’s face looked surprised. “I didn’t expect you to actually listen.” He passed over a cup of water. “Small sips, Beckett said.”
The cool water felt wonderful on his dry throat. Rodney sat up a bit more, and looked around. Apart from him and John, the infirmary was empty.
“You feeling ok?” John asked.
Rodney thought about the question. Physically, he felt almost fine, and wondered how much of that was due to the IV connected to the back of his hand.
“McKay?” John leaned forward. “C’mon, say something. You’re freaking me out.”
He didn’t know if he really wanted to say anything. But John was actually looking worried, so he thought that he probably should. “I’m sorry,” he said, finally.
“Oh, you know. For betraying the city.”
John sighed, and ran his hand through his hair, so that it stuck up even more. He looked beyond Rodney, and made a sudden gesture. Turning, Rodney saw Beckett stop in response, to remain hovering at a distance. “What are you doing?”
“Saying some things to you, which I tried to say earlier before you very rudely interrupted me by fainting. So listen, ok?”
“Don’t say faint.”
“And don’t interrupt.” John raised his eyebrows in expectancy of an answer.
“Alright,” Rodney agreed, reluctantly.
“I’ll say this later in more detail, but the gist’s fine for now. McKay, you saved the city. You stepped in front of a gun for Elizabeth. You were tortured.”
Rodney bristled. “I should have – ”
“Done exactly what you did. No one blames you. In fact, you’re the hero of the hour, so get better and enjoy it, ok?”
“I can’t – ”
“Sure you can. I know it’s not easy to accept, but you did the right thing.”
“That’s enough time for your chat.” Beckett approached the bed. “Major, you can come back later, but I want to check on my patient now.”
“Sure thing, Doc.” John clapped Rodney on the shoulder, and walked out. He began whistling as soon as he passed the door, and the strains of ‘Don’t worry, be happy’ gradually faded away down the corridor.
Beckett grinned, and shook his head. And Rodney leaned back against the pillows, and let himself think that, maybe, everything had turned out ok.