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Part Two: Desolation

Desolation: noun: sorrow; grief; woe; a desolate place.

They landed the two jumpers as near as they could to the complex. Things became a blur for Sheppard; all he could think about was finding Rodney and what state he would be in. Gunfire surrounded him as they made their way through the complex with its bland concrete tunnels, searching.

The Olesians retreated when they found the Lanteans' fire power overwhelming, many fleeing in the direction of the gate.

And still Sheppard frantically searched for his team mate.

When they found him, he was huddled in the back of the cell, shivering and hunched up into a ball of pain and terror, his arms covering his face and his knees pulled up high.

John approached slowly, carefully, the whimpers from Rodney tearing at him and causing him to stop a few feet away. Rodney's uniform was filthy and tattered, the jacket missing. He was caked in blood and dirt and his arms were covered in a myriad cuts, hinting at what might lie beneath the remaining clothes. Sitting down slowly, John spoke softly, gently, as if to a frightened child.

"Hey, Rodney." There was a hitch in Rodney's breathing at his voice, but he continued anyway. "Easy now, it's going to be okay," he said, trying to soothe his friend, but Rodney just whimpered again. He clenched his fists at the sound, wanting to hit the people who had done this, before trying again, keeping his voice light and calm, pushing the anger to one side. "Hey, how about us going home?"

He moved forward an inch, causing Rodney to curl up even more, so he stopped with a sad sigh. When he spoke again he infused a bantering tone into his voice, even though his heart really wasn't in it, hoping that it might reach the broken man before him. "Of course, you could just stay here. I mean, I can see why you might want to, well, actually, no, I can't, but I guess everyone has their own ideas about decorating and architecture and the like, though damp dungeon cell isn't really me..."

"John." The voice that interrupted him was hoarse and tentative, and a deep pain ran through him at the hesitancy and terror it conveyed. The use of his first name worried him; Rodney so very rarely used it, almost as if saving it up for important occasions. That this was one of those times rattled him.

"Yeah, Rodney, it's me," he said, forcing as much reassurance into his words as he could.

Two anxious eyes appeared as Rodney lifted his head from his arms, eyes filled with fear, pain and just the slightest glimmer of hope. John moved closer and this time Rodney didn't pull back.

"Really you?" He could hear Rodney's uncertainty, the fear of believing something that would prove to be untrue mixed with a desperate need for it to be the truth.

"Yeah, really me, Rodney."

A shaky hand reached out slowly to touch him when he closed the distance between them, but Rodney pulled it back before making contact, as if afraid John was an illusion. He quickly reached out, gently taking hold of Rodney's hand before it could be pulled back to the shivering man's chest. There was a sharp intake of breath, followed by two whispered words, filled with wonder and awe, "You came."

"Yeah, we came." He didn't take offence at Rodney's lack of faith that they would come; it had taken days to find him and Rodney was Rodney. Even after all this time, the man had difficulty believing in how far they would go to get him back. How far he would go not to lose another friend. But Rodney was learning, and this was just another step on that road. A step they all could have done without.

The radio clicked and John activated his headset.

"Olesians are returning," Ronon informed him succinctly.

"Okay, tell Lorne to fall back to the jumpers and be ready to cover us."

"We must hurry," Teyla urged from the cell doorway.

"Yeah, I get that." He turned back to his shuddering friend. "Hey, buddy, we've gotta get going."

"Please, please, don't leave me." Rodney grabbed John's tac vest with both hands, desperation in his voice and eyes wild with panic.

"What?" His brow furrowed in confusion, before letting out a sigh. "We're not leaving you, Rodney. You were included in that 'we', you know," he said gently.

"Sorry, sorry." Rodney sounded broken and ashamed.

The 'sorry' worried him; Rodney never, well, hardly ever apologised, and that he should do so now, so easily ... it filled him with fury, a fury he didn't have time to indulge, a fury that frightened him in its intensity. No one hurt his team, his family, and got away with it. No one.

He made an effort to push the rage back down again and to soften his voice.

"S'okay. Can you stand?"

"Yes, maybe, perhaps." Rodney sighed. "I don't know."

He tried not to think about the confusion in that statement, the not-Rodney-like uncertainty, and instead carefully pulled him to his feet. Rodney wobbled and nearly fell back down, but John held on tight, one arm around the waist, and after a few seconds Rodney steadied.

"Okay, let's leave this hellhole behind."

Slowly, they moved forward, Rodney whimpering in pain, head hung low as he clutched desperately to John's arm. They reached the cell door and Rodney pulled back with a gasp of fear as Teyla moved into sight from the corridor.

"Hey, it's only Teyla."

"Teyla?" Tentative, unsure.

"Yes, Rodney, it is I."

Fortunately, Rodney seemed to accept her answer and they carefully made their way to Ronon, who gained the same reaction before Rodney realised who he was.

Moving as quickly as they could, they left the cell block and headed towards the second jumper, nearly a hundred yards from the entrance. They were spotted about halfway there by two of the Olesians, but Ronon and Teyla soon dispatched them while Lorne and his team provided cover fire to dissuade any further actions against them.

John weaved his way to the jumper, not daring to go in a straight line and make an easy target. Unfortunately, a few yards away from the jumper's ramp, Rodney collapsed into an unconscious heap, pulling John down with him.

Ronon wasted no time in lifting McKay into his arms, despite the pull on his still healing wound, and cradled him gently as they ran the last few yards in seemingly no time at all. Once inside, he carefully placed him onto a bench. Beckett immediately moved forward to check McKay over, muttering several unhappy words at him for carrying his teammate here. He shrugged the comments off. His arm hurt but wasn't bleeding so he didn't see the problem; someone had to carry McKay and he was the one best suited to do it.

Turning, he moved to head back out, determined to kill every person here for what they had done.

"Ronon, stand down," Sheppard commanded him, but he took no notice, striding to the end of the ramp. But Sheppard was faster, blocking his way with a hand thrust into his chest. "I said stand down."

"No," he snarled, glaring at Sheppard and daring him to stay in his way.

"Rodney needs us," Teyla said calmly from behind him. "We need to go."

"Go without me. I'll be fine."

"Ronon, get back here," Beckett snapped at him. "I've enough to worry about without you going out there and undoing the stitches in your arm, or worse."

"Stand down," Sheppard ordered him again, voice low and commanding, and it was clear that they wouldn't go without him. He growled in frustration, but turned back into the jumper and sat down close to where McKay lay, arms folded across his chest to show his displeasure.

Sheppard turned and powered up the jumper, as Lorne and the marines took off in the other ship.

During the journey back to the gate, he couldn't look away from McKay. He was grateful that Beckett had insisted on coming with them, there being no one else he trusted to help his friend more. Watching as Beckett lifted McKay's shirt to listen to his heart, Ronon glimpsed many cuts and burns on McKay's chest and felt his anger boil inside him, wishing he hadn't let them stop him from getting his revenge. He would return and kill every last one of them, just as soon as he was sure McKay was safe.

Shortly after Sheppard landed in the jumper bay, McKay started to convulse.

"Bloody hell, Rodney, don't do this now," Beckett muttered angrily, grabbing a glucose drip from his pack.

"Doc?" Sheppard's voice was full of worry.

"His blood sugar's dropped too low," Beckett answered distractedly as he continued to stabilize McKay. "Where's that gurney? We need to get him to the infirmary, stat."

Moving out of the way of the gathering medical staff, Ronon found himself in the front of the jumper, along with Sheppard and Teyla.

"He'll be fine," Sheppard said, sounding like he was trying to reassure himself of the fact as much as any of them.

"He's tough," Ronon agreed, knowing that McKay would fight to survive this.

An uneasy silence fell as Beckett and his staff were finally able to whisk McKay off to the infirmary.

"I'm going back," Ronon growled, already walking towards the steps leading to the control room.

"No, you're not," Sheppard said firmly. "They'll have scattered by now, and I've already nearly lost a member of my team, I'm not risking losing another."

Ronon glared at him, but Sheppard didn't flinch and met him glare for glare.

"That's an order," Sheppard finally said, in a voice that would take no more argument.

He was tempted to ignore Sheppard, to go back anyway, but knew they wouldn't let him gate back without Sheppard or Weir's approval. His anger boiled over and with a roar he slammed his fist into the wall beside him. Teyla came over and touched his arm gently, sharing a look of understanding. Throwing Sheppard one last glare, he headed to the infirmary, knowing that they were following.

Arriving at the infirmary, he scowled fiercely at the nurse who approached to give him the post-mission medical, but relented when Sheppard gave him a look, one he knew better than to ignore.

Afterwards, Sheppard joined him and he allowed himself to be pulled out to the waiting area, where Teyla was already seated, her face pale and tense with concern.

This was what he hated about being part of a team. When one got hurt, all of them suffered. When the one that got hurt was McKay, it was far, far worse; he was the one who wasn't a trained warrior; he was the one they were supposed to protect; he was the one who could 'pull their asses out of the fire'.

He reminded him of his brother, who had died during the culling of Sateda. They had the same intelligence, the same proneness to irritation and the same bravery hidden within a cautious heart. Not that he would tell him that. At least, not now, but perhaps one day; perhaps, if McKay survived this.

They sat and waited, all silent, each lost in their own thoughts.

Pain, subdued but still there, was the first thing Rodney became aware of. Had it all been a dream, the rescue? Was he still with them - his tormentors, his torturers? Oh crap, he couldn't do this anymore. He couldn't, the pain...and today they'd said they would start with the mutilation - his fingers, toes... Inwardly Rodney whimpered at the thought. How could he continue without the use of his fingers? What use would anyone have for him then?

As his breath hitched he heard a beeping noise that increased in time with his heartbeat. A monitor. That was good, right? It meant he was home...didn't it? And the pain was less, much less than it had been, so surely that meant drugs, good drugs, pain relief.

There was a sound to his left, footsteps approaching quickly, and then a voice, the familiar brogue of perhaps his best friend, certainly his best friend right now.

"Rodney, you awake then, lad?"

Slowly, he peeled his eyes open, his eyes crusty from sleep, and looked blurrily in the direction of Carson's voice.


"Umm..." He tried to talk but his mouth was dry.

"Easy now, you're safe."

His eyes flicked around as his eyesight cleared. Bed, monitors, Carson, the familiar infirmary ceilings and walls - home, safe.

"Let's raise the bed and get you a drink."

Movement, a straw, cool water.

"Sips, lad," Carson said, and he slowed down, sipping from the straw and clearing the dryness.

"Hurts..." he whispered, even as he noticed Carson injecting something into his IV.

"This will help; you're due another dose about now anyway."

The dulled pain receded even more as things became fuzzy.

"It's okay, Rodney; you're safe. Just rest now." He felt Carson pat him gently on his hand as everything went black and sleep claimed him.

Rodney drifted to awareness, the pain still dulled by drugs. Opening bleary eyes, he saw Teyla sitting next to his bed, concern in her eyes and her hand on his arm. Sighing in relief, he realised he really was back on Atlantis and that it wasn't all a dream.

"Hello, Rodney."

Rodney waved his hand in acknowledgement, his throat still feeling dry. Understanding, Teyla helped him drink, her face tender.

"Rodney," she said gently, "It is good to have you home. It was quiet without you." She smiled to show that she was teasing.

"It's good to be home," Rodney said hoarsely. "I thought that..." But he couldn't finish the sentence, couldn't tell her that he'd thought he would never be found and that he would end up in a shallow grave somewhere, lost and forgotten.

"We searched for you. I am sorry we were not able to find you sooner."

"You came for me," he said, feeling guilty that he had ever doubted they would find him.

"We would never have stopped looking for you. I wish that we had found you sooner, to save you from your ordeal."

"I don't want to talk about it," Rodney muttered, knowing where this was going and hoping to stop her. He didn't want to remember, let alone talk about it.

"Rodney, you need to talk or it will fester within you," she chided him gently.

"Not now," Rodney pleaded with her, but it was too late. The memories assaulted him.

...Hands tied above his head, back bared...


... whip landing viciously, again and again...

"Edan, Hyda."

...each strike accompanied by the name...

"Parell, Reina, Joa."

...of an Olesian who had been culled...

"Levon, Obi, Orjan, Tillah."

...a seemingly endless list; he begged them to stop...

"Whin, Zabel, Zoa, Kaden, Bela."

... but his pleas only made them jeer at him, calling him less than a man as his screams rang out...

The hand on his arm tightened and he heard a concerned, "Rodney?" as the memories receded. Teyla, he thought. Home. Atlantis.

He fought to slow down his ragged breathing as he looked at her, not knowing how clearly his pain was reflected in his eyes. Silently he begged her to let it go, and to his relief she did, turning her conversation to lighter matters. His eyelids drooped as sleep gently reclaimed him.

But it was a sleep plagued by nightmares.

Several days later

John entered the infirmary with Ronon, pleased to see Rodney sitting up in bed and looking a little more aware of his surroundings. The last few days he had been drifting in and out, partly from exhaustion and partly from the medication he was on. Of course, he still looked like crap and suffered from both nightmares and flashbacks, but overall, this was a definite improvement.

"Hey," he greeted Rodney. "I have a treat for you here."

"What is it this time?" Rodney sounded tired and resigned.

"I found a TV series you haven't seen yet. Zelenka was hiding it."

"What is it?" Rodney asked dubiously.


"What's Radek doing with that?"

"Won it in a chess match," Ronon stated.

John grinned, remembering Zelenka's reluctance to let them borrow the DVD. Something about them destroying his City Slickers DVD when they borrowed it. Was it their fault the Ancient/Earth DVD machine had gone nuts and somehow managed to melt it? Still, once he'd promised to use only the laptop and asked whether Zelenka was really going to hold back entertainment from Rodney, the Czech had caved.

"So, ready to watch it?" he asked brightly.

"Sure. Anything is better than being bored," Rodney said grumpily. "Even a moronic cowboy show."

John took a seat on one side of the bed and Ronon took one on the other side so that they could both see the laptop's screen as a randomly chosen episode played. Everything seemed fine until a scene where a bunch of cowboys started branding some cattle.

"No, please, no," Rodney whimpered, eyes no longer seeing the movie but something else, something worse.

Crap, he was an idiot! He knew they'd burned Rodney. He should have known better than to risk a cowboy show. Rodney had paled and a sheen of sweat appeared on his forehead as his eyes focused on the memories flickering inside his head.

"...make sure it's hot..."

...tied down tightly...

"...hold him..."

...white hot metal, cool pale skin...

"...this is for Olesia..."

... angry, vengeful faces watching...

"...you killed our world..."

...trying to break free, squirming and pulling to no avail...

"...you killed our people..."

...white hot metal touching his skin, his screams echoing as they did it again and again and...

Ronon and John held Rodney down as he struggled and screamed at some inner nightmare. Beckett rushed over to them, injecting a sedative into Rodney's IV, and slowly he fell into a fitful sleep.

"Damn it." John didn't want to admit it, but that had shaken him. He knew that Rodney was suffering flashbacks, but he hadn't realised how bad they were or how easily they were triggered.

"That was the worst one so far," Beckett said, looking worried and shaken, too. "What set it off?"

John winced as Ronon gave a succinct explanation.

"Ach, you couldn't have known he would respond like that. But we're going to have to be more careful from now on," Beckett told them, his voice concerned.

A week later

Kate sighed at the bull-headed man before her. She had tried several times to get him to talk about his experiences over the last few weeks, but to no avail. Rodney was refusing to talk to anyone about the torture he had endured. Physically, he was healing as well as could be expected, but psychologically was a different matter. He was still suffering from flashbacks, though he tried to hide it, and he was exhausted from the nightmares he refused to acknowledge.

Now, he sat in her office, temporarily released from the infirmary to do so, uttering no words and with a determinedly stubborn look on his face. Her question remained unanswered, as had her other ones before this, and she was exasperated by his lack of cooperation. She knew she should remain calm at all times during sessions with patients, but if anyone was going to rattle her, it was Rodney. Even in sessions that he did talk in, he tended to talk about everything but the matter at hand if she let him.

Finally, she broke the silence.

"If you want to return to work, you have to talk to me."

"There's really nothing to say. A mission went bad. I got hurt. End of story."

"It's not the end of the story, and you know that," she said, trying not to sound as vexed as she felt.

"I don't need to talk about anything; it's done, gone, past tense, of no consequence anymore. I'm fine," he stressed the last bit, looking at her in annoyance. "Why won't people believe me? How often do I need to say it? I. Am. Fine."

Another sigh escaped her.

"You are not fine, no matter how much you think you are, or would like to think you are." Seeing that she was getting nowhere, she gathered her notes together. "I'll see you this time again tomorrow. Perhaps you'll be more willing to talk then."

"I don't need to see you tomorrow," he stated mulishly.

"It's mandatory," she responded, looking him in the eyes seriously until he looked away. "Until you talk to me, I won't be able to clear you to return to work."

Rodney paused. Kate could see him processing her words and knew he was already planning a way around them.

"Fine," he finally muttered sullenly, as he left, walking stiffly. She hoped he would come round, but she knew that look on his face all too well. Sighing, she looked down at her notes, making some additions.

Only time would tell.

Why couldn't they just leave him alone? Rodney thought as he walked angrily back to the infirmary. He was tired of them trying to get him to talk about how he felt. Tired of the pitying looks, the sympathy, the oh-so-careful handling. And yes, he was tired of the flashbacks and nightmares that plagued him and made his life hell. If he could just get back to work, then everything would be okay. He could forget about everything and concentrate on other, more important, things. Like working on that jumper hyperdrive idea he'd had when he'd almost ascended; that would occupy his mind enough to forget the rest. He'd be too busy to suffer flashbacks, too tired to dream at night. If they would just let him deal with things in his own way then everything would be back to normal, and soon.

Arriving at the infirmary's entrance, he stopped, watching the hectic scene inside. It looked like a gate team had returned with injuries...

Turning sharply, he walked away. He couldn't handle the noise, the bustle... the pain-filled moans.

"...this will increase your sensitivity to pain..."

... straps holding him down, a needle piercing skin...

"...increase it fivefold, or more..."

...bucking against the straps, moaning as the pain increased...

"...you will pay for what you have done..."

...thrashing, screaming, hurting; pain, pain, pain...

When he came back to himself, he was standing in a hallway with his back pressed to a wall, shaking. Looking around, he was relieved to find that there was no one nearby. No one to witness his embarrassing behaviour. Pulling himself back together, he walked until he came to the nearest balcony and stepped out onto it, gripping the railing tightly as he looked towards the night stars, glittering high above him. He hated this, these flashbacks. They were humiliating and he really, really wished they would stop. This whole thing was made of humiliation. He cringed inwardly when he thought of how he'd been when his team had found him. Cringed to think of what they thought of him - did they think him weak and pathetic?

Swallowing past the lump in his throat, he closed his eyes against the tears that threatened him. Crap, he really was pathetic, wasn't he? Why should he cry just because he thought they might think less of him? Really, that was just so, so... so not like him. Maybe this thing that had happened had screwed him up even more than normal. Well, yes, it was bound to have, really. But if he could just work...

If he could just work, then everything would be fine. Until his team went offworld and he...

He gulped, fear striking into his very core.

He couldn't. He couldn't go offworld again. He just couldn't. Sure, there was danger here on Atlantis, but it wasn't the same, wasn't as dangerous as going offworld.

Which meant leaving the team, and that sucked, but if he couldn't go with them what choice did he have? And if he wasn't with them, then he wouldn't be a liability. He wouldn't be in a position to get himself, or even worse, any of them hurt. They wouldn't need to babysit him and so could deal with danger more easily. Run faster, fight better, never having to watch for him, who only ever slowed them down or got himself kidnapped because he was too pathetic to fight back.

He'd have to tell Sheppard his decision. Best to tell him first, before anyone else, he supposed - not that he was looking forward to that conversation. But it had to be done. No matter how much it hurt, deep down inside.

He had been alone before and he could do it again.

"Ach, here you are. And just what are you doing out here?" Carson asked, having finally tracked down his wayward patient to a deserted balcony. Which was no surprise, seeing as almost everyone seemed to head for a balcony when they needed to think, not least his quarry.

"Looking at the stars, if you can believe that."

"Well, isn't that what astrophysicists do?" he said with a forced grin, but knowing that wasn't the real reason. He wished that Rodney wasn't so pig-headed and downright obstinate, wished that he would let him in. Rodney looked so forlorn, so very lost and in need of a friend, but pushing him might only drive him further away.

"Actually, no. Studying stars is different than just looking at them."

"Ah, I see."

Carson eased himself down to sit next to Rodney, who was leaning back against the wall, gazing up into the night sky. There was silence for a few minutes, before Rodney sighed, and turned his gaze to Carson.

"Not going to give me a lecture about not returning to the infirmary after seeing Heightmeyer?" he asked.

"Not much point, is there?" Carson said resignedly.

"Probably not," Rodney agreed. "I suppose I should return."

"Aye, that you should."

"It's just so...noisy in there. Busy." He returned his gaze to the stars above them.

"Well, I suppose a few more minutes won't harm."


"You know you need to talk to someone."

"No, I don't. I just need to get on with my life."

"And you will, if I know you. But not yet. I can't clear you for work until your injuries are fully healed. Even then, well, there's the psychological impact..."

"Don't. I'm fine. I've had all this from our esteemed shrink, who I'm sure got her doctorate from watching Jerry Springer!"

Carson sighed at the slight, but didn't respond to it. It was just Rodney being overly obnoxious as a way to distance himself from them, to keep the world at bay.

Still, he wasn't going to let Rodney off the hook completely.

"You should give Kate another chance, let her in. She's good, and you know it," he stated categorically. "And you're not fine. You were tortured, Rodney. That's not a small thing. You don't just bounce back from something like that!" And so much for not pushing, he thought with a another sigh. But it was hard not to when his friend was so clearly in pain.

"Just leave it," Rodney said forcefully as he tried to get up quickly, wincing in pain as his injuries forced him to take it more slowly. Carson stood as well, making himself refrain from helping, knowing that Rodney would not appreciate it.

"Rodney, you need to talk about this..."

"Look, I'm fine. Well, okay, not physically, not yet, but otherwise, I'm okay. Why won't people believe me?" he snapped

"Three days, Rodney. Those bastards had you for three days..."

"Stop it, Carson. Just stop it. I'm fine," Rodney insisted, turning to look at Carson angrily. His eyes, though, told a different story.

"Aye, of course you are. Anyone would be just fine and dandy after what you've been through," Carson said dryly.

Rodney just glared at him and Carson gave a deep sigh.

"Let's be getting you back to the infirmary, now. If you behave," he stressed that word, getting a roll of the eyes in response, "then you can be released to your room tomorrow, on the understanding that you take it easy. Hopefully, it will only be a few more days before you can go back to work."

"Heightmeyer says she won't release me for work until I talk to her, the tyrant," Rodney muttered sourly.

"Well, that's something we'll have to discuss with Elizabeth, but I think you'll be fine to return - on very light duties."

"Right," Rodney said, with a snort.

"I mean it, Rodney. You overdo it and I'll have you back in the infirmary before you can blink."

"Okay, fine, I'll behave."

Carson was far from convinced of Rodney's sincerity, but let it go for now.

Rodney turned to the balcony doors, stopping for a moment. He appeared to be fighting an inner battle, his eyes firmly focused on the closed doors.

"I'm leaving the team," he finally said.

"Oh." Carson hadn't been expecting that. "How did the colonel react when you told him?"

"He doesn't know yet," Rodney said quietly as he exited the balcony. Carson sighed, deciding to let John fight this battle, knowing that the colonel would do so with tooth and nail. He followed Rodney to make sure he made it back to the infirmary with no further diversions, and fervently hoped he wasn't around when Rodney told John the news. He really didn't fancy watching those particular fireworks go off.

John entered the infirmary and made his way over to Rodney's bed. As he approached, he noted that Rodney seemed more subdued. Well, even more subdued than he had been lately.

"Hi, I see Zelenka has relinquished some more of his cowboy DVDs." He knew this was part of the plan to keep Rodney occupied and away from work, and that Zelenka had weeded out any movies he thought might trigger flashbacks.

Rodney grunted a reply, pretending to watch Clint Eastwood riding a horse. But John could tell from Rodney's expression that he was thinking about something unpleasant. He hoped it wasn't a memory or the start of another flashback.

"I'm leaving the team," Rodney told him flatly, keeping his eyes averted from John's face.

"What?" John asked, stunned. He hoped that he'd misheard.

"Have you gone deaf? I said, I'm leaving the team."

Of all the things he could have expected, this wasn't really one of them. How could Rodney say, let alone think, such a thing? Damn it, was he afraid to go offworld? Another thought hit him, causing him to swallow. Was Rodney thinking of leaving Atlantis as well?

"Can we talk about it?"

"No," Rodney snapped.

"At least tell me why," he demanded.

"No. That would be talking about it, which I've already said I won't do. I've made my decision and I'm not changing my mind. Now, I have a movie to watch."

Okay, so that was the way Rodney intended to play it. Well, he wasn't going to let him.

"Look, Rodney..."

"Quiet, I'm trying to watch this."

John was shocked by the flatness of Rodney's voice. Sitting back, he watched Rodney watching the movie, or at least, pretending to watch the movie. Fine. The stubborn son of a bitch had made his decision, but that didn't mean it was final. He wasn't going to let Rodney walk away without a fight, and just because he no longer wanted to be on the team didn't mean that he wasn't still their friend. He wasn't going to let Rodney push them away, not when he needed their support the most.

But for now, he would let it go. He was angry and hurt and anything he might say would probably only make things worse, especially as Rodney was in one of his obstinate ass modes. He would work out a plan of attack instead, getting Teyla and Ronon involved. Together they would fight Rodney on this decision.

Oh no, this wasn't over yet. Not as far as he was concerned.

A few weeks later

Carson had no choice but to release Rodney from the infirmary once he was healing well, at least physically, but it didn't stop him from keeping an eye on the man, either in person or through reports from others, like Radek.

So he watched as Rodney's eyes darkened in his fight to stave off sleep and nightmares. He watched as Rodney became more and more withdrawn as he tried to avoid having flashbacks in the presence of others. He watched as those who cared about Rodney were rebuffed again and again when they, each in their own way, tried to get him to talk. He watched as Rodney overworked, refused to rest and slowly made things worse, finding ways around all their curfews and attempts to make him rest.

He watched, ready and waiting, wanting to help but himself also being rebuffed. He watched, and he was there when Rodney collapsed in the mess hall and was rushed to the infirmary.

Now, two days later, he found himself in the conference room with Elizabeth, John, Teyla, Ronon and Kate to discuss what was rapidly becoming 'the Rodney situation' in his mind.

Elizabeth watched John and Carson enter the conference room, defeat on their faces. They had tried to do what they could for Rodney, but Rodney had refused all help. She waited for them to be seated and then looked at Carson to give his report on Rodney.

"He's a bloody idiot. He's suffering from severe exhaustion brought about by lack of sleep and pushing his still healing body too far."

"I cautioned against him being allowed to return even to light duties," Kate pointed out. "Rodney has shown before that he will use his work to hide from emotional pain."

"Aye, but I felt leaving him to climb the walls in his room woulda been worse in the long run," Carson defended himself. "And I thought we'd be able to control his access to work. I shoulda known better. He's right sneaky bastard when he wants something badly enough."

"No one's blaming you, Carson," Elizabeth soothed. "And I agreed with your assessment at the time."

"Och, I know, I'm just bloody mad at myself for not keeping him in the infirmary where I coulda kept a better eye on him."

"He'd still have found a way," Ronon growled. "Too stubborn not to."

"Well I can't release him from the infirmary now. Not knowing that he'll find a way to keep working if I did. His body isn't strong enough."

"So what do we do?"

"Send him back to Earth," Carson said bluntly.

"That seems a little harsh, don't you think?" Elizabeth said, shocked by his suggestion.

"Just hear me out first. The main problem, as far as I'm concerned right now, is that he's overworking when his body needs to rest. Part of that is down to, as Kate has said, trying to use work to avoid thinking about what happened to him. What I'm suggesting is that we contact his sister and ask if she would be willing to let him stay with her and her family for a few days, maybe a week."

"I don't know if that's a good idea," John countered. "They've only just recently started communicating with each other; things might be a bit strained."

"True, but we're not asking her to get him to talk about things. Clearly, she needs to know what has happened, but we need to stress that he's there to relax. If he talks to her, then fine and good, but she's not to push the issue. Then, after that, one of use will go and keep him occupied in restful pursuits for another week."

"I'll do that," John volunteered.

"And me," Ronon added.

"I think only one person would be best," Kate put in. "If we decide to do this, I think it would be best not to crowd him too much."

"Okay. And then what?" Elizabeth asked, still not entirely convinced this was the right way to go.

"Doctor Lam will reassess his physical condition. If she thinks he is fit to return to work, then he can come back. I'm hoping that giving his body time to regain its strength will help. Obviously, we'll still have to deal with the psychological impact, but at least he won't be collapsing due to exhaustion," Carson said, before adding a quiet, "I hope."

"Will the IOA let him come back if he still has emotional issues?" Teyla asked.

"I'll make it clear that we can handle those here," Elizabeth said, already working out her game plan to deal with the IOA. "After all, he's not likely to talk to any of the psychologists at the SGC. What do you think, Kate?"

"I think we've done all we can, but he isn't ready to accept any help - at least, not yet. I agree that he needs to rest and heal physically. It's harder to deal with psychological issues when the body is exhausted. I'm hoping that once he is fully well, he'll be more able to deal with his issues."

"Does it have to be Earth?" Teyla asked. "It is so far away. Could he not stay with my people?"

"I can't see him being willing to go to New Athos. No offence intended, but Rodney doesn't like roughing it," John said. "Besides, with his luck, he'd find an Ancient outpost riddled with poisonous lemons."

"I do not think that there is such a thing on New Athos," Teyla said with a raised eyebrow, before continuing. "On Earth, there are ways for him to continue working. On New Athos, he would have little to tempt him."

"I don't think he would go offworld, other than to Earth. He hasn't said why he's quit the team, but I suspect he doesn't want to take the risks involved with leaving Atlantis," Kate stated calmly. "Not that Atlantis is totally safe, but it is safer than offworld, even New Athos."

"It feels like we're palming him off on the SGC," John stated unhappily. "And you know he's not going to be happy about it, either."

"We've tried all that we can here, and frankly we've run out of avenues," Kate told him.

Elizabeth thought for a moment. They really had tried everything they could to help Rodney, only to be rebuffed and pushed away. She didn't want to send him away, it seemed too harsh somehow, but Carson was right. There was no sure way to ensure that Rodney rested here on Atlantis. Rodney was as resourceful as he was stubborn. Even sending him to Earth might not work, but maybe Jeannie could help him where they had failed. There was still a chance he would find things to do, but without access to Atlantis' mainframe or technology, it would hopefully restrict him somewhat.

"I'll make our recommendations to General Landry," she finally said, and hoped they were doing to right thing. She had a terrible feeling that they were not. "I'll just have to work out how to tell Rodney about this."

"Well, if anyone can do it, I'm sure you can," John said, though she could tell he wasn't entirely convinced. Not that she blamed him. Rodney could be hard to handle at the best of times, not to mention easily hurt by those close to him, so she would have to tread carefully. She wasn't looking forward to the conversation.

The meeting broke up, each deep within their own thoughts.

A few days later, a disgruntled Rodney left for Earth.

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