Part Five: Contemplation
Contemplation: noun: the act of contemplating; thoughtful observation.
A week had passed since their adventure with the Leslanum. Sheppard was grumpily stomping around Atlantis on crutches, due to his broken leg, and complaining about being bored, as usual. Rodney just thought he should be happy Doctor Lam hadn't kept him on Earth until his leg had healed completely, like she'd threatened to do on more than one occasion.
As for himself, he was beyond glad to finally make it home. He'd been surprised that he hadn't had to see the base psychiatrist, but guessed that Elizabeth had somehow persuaded the IOA to waive standard procedures, though he had no idea how. Of course, he had no doubt he would be scheduled in for sessions with Heightmeyer against his wishes - though no one had done that as yet. Or at least, not that he knew of. But he knew he'd be forced back to see her soon, which really wasn't going to be fun. For either one of them.
Still, he was home and that was good.
He looked out at the night sky, mapping the stars he knew so well. Star-gazing had always had a calming effect on him and he let it work its magic now, helping him to let the nightmare images that had pushed him out of his room fade away slowly, allowing him to breathe again. He always seemed to end up on this balcony after bad dreams, instead of the one attached to his room. Perhaps he needed the distance from the bed he couldn't sleep in, perhaps it was that the view here was better. The view of the night sky, that was.
He sighed. It didn't really matter.
The door to the balcony opened, causing him to scowl. Who would be out here, at this time of night? Well, other than himself, of course.
"Ach, here you are."
Sighing, he turned to Carson.
"Yes, here I am. But what are you doing here?"
Carson looked a little sheepish, which immediately set off alarm bells in Rodney's head. What had his so-called friend been up to now?
"Well, I saw that you weren't in your room anymore..."
"What do you mean..." Rodney stopped and pointed a finger at Carson accusingly. "You've been monitoring me!"
"I asked Chuck to let me know if you left your room. He's on the night shift, you know, and quite concerned about you. Like a lot of people here are."
"I'm fine and I don't appreciate you snooping on me."
Carson sighed heavily. "I'm sorry, but you've given me more than enough reason to be worried about you."
"Are you?" Carson challenged him. "Then why are you here and not in bed?"
"None of your business."
"A nightmare is my best guess."
Rodney looked away, out to sea. Damn Carson and his meddling – and his correct guessing. He took a deep breath, letting it out slowly, trying to let go of his anger. He knew Carson was just worried about him, but this... this was unacceptable.
He knew he wasn't helping himself here, avoiding talking about what had happened and trying to get on with his life despite the nightmares and, even now, the occasional flashback. But he wasn't ready to deal with it yet; he really wasn't. Though maybe he should cut Carson some slack.
"Yes," he admitted finally.
"Want to talk about it?"
"Not really." Sheppard being taken by the Olesians, because he wasn't there to go in his place. Ronon bleeding out before Teyla made it to him. Beatings and burnings and torture, and sometimes it was Sheppard and sometimes it was him. Or Mitchell bleeding to death and Sheppard, Jackson and Sam asphyxiating in a dark cave. Leslanum trapped for years, or made to kill ascended Ancients. Death and pain and more death, and so many times he could have stopped it, if only he'd been there. Guilt and shame and... and a damned whale eating his team because it couldn't find him. No, he wasn't going to talk about his messed up dreams, full of pain and screams and images meshing, one into another.
"Yes, I know," he snapped. "I'm not stupid, Carson, I know I need to talk about... about the nightmares and the... the... torture. I know that, but I can't... I'm not..." He paused for a moment, keeping his eyes firmly on the horizon. "I'm not ready. Not yet."
"Okay? That's it? No arguing, no trying to get me to open up?" He looked at Carson in shock - he couldn't believe that Carson would leave it at that, and maybe, just maybe, a part of him was a little hurt that he would. Huh. That didn't make sense. He should be relieved, not hurt.
"Aye, that's it. For now," Carson said gently, sincerely. "You've admitted that you need to talk about it and that's all I needed to hear. When you're ready, then we'll be here, I'll be here, for you."
"Huh." He looked back to the horizon. Was that all they had needed? If he'd known that, then he could have saved himself a lot of grief.
"Of course, if you start throwing yourself into your work again and end up collapsing with exhaustion, I might have to change my mind," Carson warned.
Okay, so maybe they needed a little more from him.
"I won't promise anything," he said, "but I'll at least try not to do that. After all, I don't want to end up in your clutches again." He mock-shuddered. "I've had more than enough of the infirmary, thank you very much."
"Aye, and I've had more than enough of you being stuck in there too," Carson added with a grin.
"So..." He wasn't sure what to say now, falling silent instead. Carson moved to stand next to him.
"So... Have you named any of the constellations?" Carson asked, looking up at the stars. "I heard that Radek had named a few of them..."
"Like any of his names stuck! He started calling them after mythological characters. I had to put a stop to that..."
"Of course you did," Carson interrupted dryly, and Rodney glared at him briefly.
"Yes, I did. We've been naming them after famous scientists instead." Which was a far better idea, in his opinion, glad that he had thought of it. At least they were real.
"You sure? You've never been interested before."
"Aye, I'm sure."
Rodney was fairly certain that Carson was just humouring him. Or maybe distracting him from his nightmare? Whatever, he spent the next forty minutes explaining what each constellation they could see was called, defending some of the more unusual ones - ones that Sheppard had named, managing to sneak the information into the database so that by the time Rodney had discovered them, every other scientist were already using them. It had been too much trouble to try to alter them. Really, that was the only reason he had left them.
Still, it was a little embarrassing to be pointing out the Ferris Wheel, the Surfboard and the Big Mac constellations to a very amused Carson.
"There are others," he said in conclusion, "but you can't see them from here. If you're really interested, we could go to my lab..."
"No, I think that's all I can take tonight," Carson said, not so subtly looking at his watch. "I should be heading back to bed. You as well."
Rodney winced, not looking forward to sleep and the inevitable nightmares, but he knew Carson was right.
"You know, it was bad..." he suddenly said, surprising even himself. "What they did to me. They... they read out names of people they'd lost as they... whipped me... or burned me..." He trailed off. "I... Sorry... I'm not... I'm just not ready for this..."
Carson put a hand on his arm gently. "It's okay."
"It's not, not really," he said quietly. "I just... I don't know. I know I need to talk about it, but I..."
"It takes time, Rodney."
"And patience is such a virtue of mine," he said sarcastically.
"Aye, well, maybe it's time to learn some patience."
"It was bad." He looked Carson in the eyes. "Really bad. And the nightmares..." He looked away, not able to handle the concern he saw there. "They're really bad."
"Do you have any of the Ambien left that I gave you?"
"Yeah. I only used it while I was at Jeannie's."
Carson sighed. "Ach, I gave it to you for a reason."
"I know, but I don't want to rely on it..."
"And I'm here to make sure you don't end up relying on it," Carson said sternly. "Come on, let's get you back to your quarters, where you will take an Ambien and get some sleep. You'll feel better in the long run."
"Fine. But if I become dependant..."
It wasn't the answer, not long term, but maybe some uninterrupted sleep would help him. Maybe if he wasn't so tired he would be able to deal with things.
They said that time healed all wounds. Perhaps time, and his friends, would heal his. Hope wasn't a feeling he was used to; too many times his hopes had been dashed. But here, now, a glimmer of hope flared to life.
"I've decided not to leave the team," he suddenly blurted out, not quite sure when he'd made that decision, though he suspected it was after the mission with SG-1 and Sheppard. They'd needed him, hadn't they? They'd need him to bring rescue and save their lives, and he'd done it. He'd saved them, despite his fears and uncertainties. Leaving the team, leaving his team, it just felt wrong. What if they needed him and he wasn't there to save them? Like an epiphany, he realised that was what his most recent nightmares had all been about – him not being there.
"That's good," Carson said. "Have you told the colonel yet?"
"No. Not yet. But I will do. Tomorrow."
"Aye, well, I'm sure he'll be glad to hear it. Teyla and Ronon too."
Yes, he was sure they would be. They were his team, his family, and he knew his recent behaviour had hurt them.
But they would forgive him. He was home now and everything would work out in time. Somehow, deep down, he was sure of it.