A subtle scent similar to lilacs had filled Elizabeth's office in the two days since they had unexpectedly appeared on her desk. Two days since the shocking note that told her the one thing she had come to least expect, that Rodney had recognized and accepted her offer of friendship. He appreciated that she listened. After everything she'd recently learned about him, that meant a lot.
Elizabeth had almost begun to believe that she had utterly failed as a friend and misjudged the man entirely. But playing the gentle listener had been the right thing to do. Now she truly hoped he would understand and appreciate what she was going through to protect his privacy.
The Daedalus, delayed by some minor repairs following the destruction of Doranda, had finally left. Taking with it both Caldwell and Mr. Woolsey. Caldwell, to say the least, had not been pleased about leaving without completing his mission. But Caldwell's displeasure didn't hold a candle to her own displeasure when Woolsey had shared with her his suspicions that Caldwell had been harassing Rodney behind her back. A review of Atlantis' security camera's damningly confirmed this.
In a sense she could understand Caldwell's frustration. Not only did McKay not agree to be interviewed by him, but Elizabeth had forbidden him to question the rest of Atlantis' personnel in any depth, including the military personnel. It simply wouldn't have done to have suspicious questions being asked about the cities Chief Scientist. Caldwell was a military man with a mission. Still, regardless of how important Caldwell felt it was that he got that information before he left, she would not tolerate her people being bullied. There would be a complaint to that effect addressed to General Landry in Atlantis' next out-going transmission.
Mr. Woolsey, at least, had recognized the need to exercise a certain amount of restraint and respect. Impressively, he'd even managed to gain some cooperation from Rodney. Something that those he should have trusted, his friends, had failed to accomplish up until that point. As well meaning as Woolsey was, in this instance Elizabeth was glad to see the back of both he and Caldwell. That at least solved one problem.
It seemed the rule of Pegasus that as soon as one problem was solved, one more serious would rear its ugly head.
The scientist in question had now been in an isolation ward adjacent to the Med-lab for two days. Tension was mounting throughout the city. Scientists had been trailing in and out of Dr. Weir's office with feeble excuses to cover the fact that they were trying to get information about McKay. Apparently someone had seen the gurney carrying Rodney. The rumours had flown from that point onward. And, true to form, Dr. Kavanagh had taken this opportunity to create a rather sizeable headache for her to deal with.
Provided with insufficient explanation for Dr. McKay's stay in the infirmary, the people of Atlantis had turned to gossip to fill in the blanks. One of the early rumours had been that Kavanagh had struck again with yet another prank gone wrong. Needless to say he denied it vehemently, and of course sought to redirect the negative attention from himself. Thus he proclaimed that McKay had no doubt been working on his own ancient technology research which the American's wanted kept secret from the rest of the international community. Kavanagh had even neatly tied his theory with the recent visit from Caldwell and Woolsey. It was an accusation which would threaten the entire Atlantis project if enough people believed it. This could spiral into a diplomatic nightmare. And the longer the scientists of Atlantis were left without sufficient answers, the more they would become inclined to agree with Kavanagh. It didn't help that the clean-up crew had spotted and spread word about the large black scorch mark on the floor of the east tower. Kavanagh had planted a seed of contention, and Elizabeth knew that her silence was the water.
Fortunately, for the time being, most of the scientists and nearly all the military seemed to consider agreeing with Kavanagh to be a last resort. Doubts that their respective nations were not being treated fairly were not their foremost concern, yet. Of course, that only made their true concerns more difficult to satisfactorily deal with. They were worried about their colleague. No, more than colleague. Every family had that one member that was louder, more flamboyant, more difficult to manage, and more full of idiosyncrasies than any other. McKay was their's. Like him or not, they couldn't help but love him.
She wished the solution to her peoples concerns could be as simple as picking one of the rumours and confirming it, such as the one that McKay and Sheppard had accidentally set off some device. It would be like the two of them… and probably be true within the month. But there was already too much conflicting information circulating. The Science personnel especially would be too smart not to see that it didn't add up. Those who saw the gurney would know there had been no obvious sign of injury. The science staff would insist that if McKay were exposed to any sort of ancient device or radiation their expertise should be sought, as it usually was, to help him or at the very least to gather more information about whatever the device was and how it had malfunctioned.
Elizabeth turned her head to look out of her glass walled office. It was much busier than normal, and the gate room below was positively bustling. Scientists hovered around consoles and performed needless diagnostics while all too obviously glancing over their shoulders towards her office. They had appeared shortly after Dr. Zelenka had stopped the steady stream of scientists into her office asking where their head of department was and if he was alright.
The military officers were at least a bit more covert about it. But Weir had noticed certain soldiers passing through more frequently, speaking briefly with guards on duty, and the subtle droop of disappointment as they again left the gate-room with no news. Lt. Cadman had certainly taken more than her fair share of shifts standing at attention in the hall near Weir's office.
Two days without any news but that their Head of Science was stable and resting comfortably, recovering from a mysterious ailment, seemed to be more than Atlantis personnel could take.
Still, Elizabeth had understood and supported Carson's decision to keep Rodney sedated until his body chemistry had returned to as completely normal as could be. Which meant taking time to repair the damage to his sugar levels that his erratic diet over the past few weeks had caused, as well as erasing any traces of a hang-over. Considering what had happened, she had to agree that it was better to be over-cautious than under-cautious.
Carson had tried more than a few brain scans while Rodney was sleeping, but they hadn't been any help. All they told was the obvious, that Rodney was sleeping. He planned to let Rodney wake up today. After that, John had apparently convinced Rodney to agree to some tests. How cooperative a sober Rodney would be remained to be seen.
The first thing Rodney noticed when he began to wake wasn't the beeping of the heart monitor, or the scent of antiseptic. It wasn't even the dull pinch of an IV in his arm. Those things alone would have sent him into a panic. But they were never the first things he noticed.
The first thing he noticed was the gentle hum of Atlantis. It reminded him that he was far from Earth. This was his city. Frankly, if it came down to it he could take control of the whole place faster than it took Data to take control of the Enterprise. Not that he would, but the certainty that he could was comforting.
His eyes drifted open and towards the IV bag. Even upside-down he easily interpreted the medical jargon on the label. It was a list of nutrients, vitamins, glucose, fluids. There were no drugs, just re-hydration and energy. Why? Oh ya. He'd been drinking with Sheppard. Another bag that hung next to the fluids, but was no-longer hooked up to a tube, held the label of a mild sedative. Oh CRAP!
His eyes widened and he sat straight up as memories of everything he'd said and done came flooding back. What had he been thinking? The reality that there was no-way and no-where for him to hide now swiftly overwhelmed and replaced the comfort that had come from knowing he was in Atlantis. Oh he was so screwed.
The heart monitor picked up pace and Carson and John were on either side of him before he could think of getting up and leaving.
"McKay? Are you alright?" Leave it to John to ask a doomed man a stupid question.
The IV tore from Rodney's arm as he tried futilely to back-pedal away from both of them. In his panic he didn't even notice the pinch of pain or the blood trickling down his arm. "Alright? ALRIGHT! NO! I'm not alright! You emotionally black-mailed me and then got me drunk," Rodney sneered defensively.
With a man on either side and the wall behind there was nowhere for Rodney to go. John managed to grab hold of him before he hit his head on the wall, "Rodney! Calm down before you hurt yourself! You agreed to some tests. Remember?"
The scientist stopped trying to back into the wall but glared daggers, "I can't believe I let you get me DRUNK!"
"I can't believe you got drunk so EASILLY!" John countered, sliding into their easy way of bantering while Carson slipped in and held a gauze to McKay's arm. "I thought Canadians could hold their liquor. Especially the ones that descended from Scotland, MCKAY! Besides, you weren't going to loosen up any other way. We had to get you in here! You've got to let Carson take a look at you."
Carson narrowed his eyes slightly at John for the Scottish generalization, never-mind that he fitted it, before tying a bandage tightly around the gauze he'd been applying. He ignored the plaintive 'ow' as Rodney snatched his arm back. "Aye lad, he's right. I know ye don't like it but you've got t'see reason."
Despondent acceptance took hold of Rodney as he looked at the determination in the eyes of the two men he'd almost dared to think of as friends. Caldwell was right. Whether here or on earth there was no way the military would ever let this lie. Experimentation, progress, evolution; they were the ways of science. Who was he to hold it back? Scientific progress was almost always turned towards military purposes first. This was simply the way the world worked.
It was cold logic. Balancing the facts, the need, weighed against the costs it only made sense. Using him would be the fastest, easiest way to ensure success given modern technological and medical progress and that it had already worked on him.
Rodney had always found it curiously poetic – the way living in a world that was so cold had taught the Inuit to wrap themselves in that very cold to create their own warmth. Well fine. Carson wanted him to see reason? He'd see reason. "I suppose I should be grateful you didn't just dissect me in my sleep," he bit out sarcastically.
Beckett probably would have huffed and rolled his eyes at McKay's typically melodramatic attitude towards anything to do with medicine. At least, he would have if McKay hadn't been acting for the past few weeks like he really did think Beckett would gleefully dissect him and sell the parts in the name of science.
Searching the physician's eyes, Rodney could see the genuine pain caused by his words. "Look Carson. I understand. It's unavoidable now. I don't blame you. I know things are desperate, between the Wraith here and the Priors back in the Milky Way. I know you probably think it's selfish of me to hold back research that could fix everything. If it had to be anyone I'm glad at least it's you…"
"Stop right there. Ye worse than blame me!" The Scott's tone was sharp with anger, "What the bloody hell has gotten into that head of yours?"
Rodney stared at Carson in a mixture of disbelief and surprise, "You don't intend to recreate the project?"
"NO!" Carson waved his clipboard in exasperation, "How could ye think that?"
"It's realism." Rodney stated it as an indisputable fact that was easily backed up, "You heard what Colonel Caldwell said to Elizabeth about Arcturus. No way in hell the military would let it go un-pursued. This is no different. If it's not you it will be someone else Carson. And honestly, I'd much rather it be you. You're the best there is. You do experimental research all the time."
Carson balked. Could Rodney really be that jaded? "Not like that Rodney! Human experimentation of that kind is illegal, and with good reason!"
Rodney rolled his eyes. Could Carson really be that naïve? "Even if the law made a difference when issues of such magnitude are at stake, it's all fine out here in Pegasus! Isn't it!"
The candid certainty with which Rodney gave his bleak prognosis of reality sent a sick shiver down Carson's spine. "Alright then, never-mind that experimentation of that kind is illegal, I'd never be involved in it even if it was allowed! Even the military and the pentagon have decided that it isn't viable because it isn't humane! Honestly, Rodney! If ye'd just told us all about it from the beginning, ye must have known somewhere in yer muddled mind we'd never support experimentation of that kind, even voluntary. Even if ye have such a low opinion of me, once it was understood what had been done of course the Pentagon didn't consider repeating it! It would never be allowed. It could never happen!"
"How can you say that when it HAS happened?" Rodney insisted all the more vehemently. Expressive blue eyes burned with long suppressed anger and resentment, stunning his two well-meaning friends long enough for Rodney to escape the bed and begin to pace agitatedly.
It was then John recalled that the CIA had thought a branch of the military had carried out the experiments with high level authority. All completely legitimately if a bit secretively. Not unlike the StarGate program. So of course Rodney thought the same thing. John took his pacing genius by the shoulders and looked him in the eyes, "No, Rodney. It didn't. What was done to you wasn't authorized and it wasn't legal. It was done by an earlier version of the Trust, illegally, and in secret from all of the rest of the Government."
"That's impossible," Rodney insisted as he jerked away.
"No, it's not. It's the truth." John repeated patiently.
"No, it's not. It can't be." The pacing picked up where it had left off, "It's completely impossible. There were points when I could see what they were thinking, and everything they knew. They were working with complete PRESIDENTIAL authorization and knowledge."
"And they all heard that directly from the President? Did they?" John watched as the pacing stuttered and stopped, "Use your head, McKay. Think about it. They knew you would be able to pick information out of people's heads. Do you think they would have had anyone around you who knew things they didn't want you to know about? They would have fed information they wanted you to believe into the heads of anyone they were going to let near you."
Rodney placed a steadying hand on the wall as the truth of Sheppard's words sunk in. The lies that had sheltered him melted away and the icy blast of reality hit. He'd been hiding from the wrong people. In the Pentagon he'd been working along-side Maybourne and God knows how many other members of the Trust without even knowing it! And all along they had been responsible. They'd probably known. They'd been watching him and…
"Rodney?" Sheppard's voice was edged with concern. He'd been sounding that way a lot lately.
"It was the Trust?" Rodney needlessly asked for the confirmation.
"Pretty much. It was a subversive group within the government that later became the driving force behind the Trust, combining with rogue elements in the NID," Sheppard explained.
Carson wondered if they'd gone a bit too far, too quickly, when Rodney closed his eyes, his head rested against the wall, and remained silent for some moments. "Are ye alright lad?"
"I really have been an idiot," Rodney whispered without lifting his head.
Sheppard shrugged uncomfortably. He really wasn't good at this sort of thing, "I'm sure anyone would have thought and done the same things if they were in the same situation. Admittedly that would be very unlikely. Really unlikely. Actually, it's kinda hard to guess what anyone else would have done. But I understand why you did what you did. Well, as much as anyone can understand given how unusual the circumstances are. It's sort of hard to relate to but…"
"Thank you," McKay mercifully if impatiently interrupted, "I think I get it."
"I think I understand now why ye thought what ye did." Carson added. "But will ye let me help ye now? No holding anything back?"
Rodney finally lifted his head to regard the two men, his head still reeling from assimilating all the new information. After everything he'd done to push them away, still these two men regarded him with open concern. It wasn't a pitying concern. McKay's pride never would have accepted that. He recalled distantly that it was the sort of concern he'd once felt for Jeannie, and she'd once felt for him. God he missed her. How would she have reacted if he'd actually sent the recording of his jumbled last words before the Wraith attack last year? Would she have thought that he was fabricating it, as his parents had thought he'd fabricated his abductors?
Carson stepped forward cautiously, his hands outstretched as though he were trying not to spook a cornered animal, "It doesn't matter what ye can and can't do. We're here to help. That's all."
"No strings attached," Sheppard added.
He'd heard it before, 'We're here to help.' But for the first time in many years Rodney felt able to believe it. He'd said in the video he'd never sent that he thought he'd found a family. Now he knew he had. A weight he'd been carrying so long he'd stopped noticing lifted. A slight smile tugged at his lips as he now looked openly at his two friends. "Oh, very well then. Mix your tea leaves. Prepare your goat entrails, and let's get on with it. I can only imagine what's happened to the labs in my absence. We're lucky the city hasn't sunk."
Carson and Sheppard stared at Rodney for a moment as the gentle snark sunk in, then grinned at each-other. They'd gotten through.
"No trying to run away! You agreed to it sober this time. AND there's a witness." John teased as Carson immediately took Rodney by the arm and guided him back towards the bed.
"Aye, that's right. So get back on the damn bed! Colonel Sheppard tells me ye've been exhibiting symptoms of probable relapse since arriving in the Pegasus Galaxy." Carson frowned seriously but refrained from giving the lecture he so obviously wanted to give.