Spoilers: Up to Season 2 “The Long Goodbye”
Summary: TLG AU - what if Phoebus had picked Rodney. McKay/Weir.
A/N: Betaread by fififolle, Fanwoman and Iona.
His heart's pounding in his chest. Inside his head, he's shouting, but nothing comes out. He's about to die, and he doesn't even get any last words – least of all to Elizabeth. He really didn't need a rehash of the Cadman incident in any way or form, but Elizabeth had been so persuading, appealing to his sense of romance.
She was appealing to him in general; he recalled the way she'd smiled at him and the flirtatious lilt in her voice, making it sound like just a small favor he would be doing for her. Thinking on it, it was probably that last touch, the grasp on his hand, that had pushed him into following through with the misguided notion of helping two soon-to-be-gone lovers. And if truth be known, he hadn't exactly minded the idea of being able to kiss Elizabeth, albeit by proxy.
What a mistake he'd made, because, of course, it had been Phoebus all along. Even worse was that she'd known he cared; she'd known exactly how to manipulate him – and Elizabeth would have been watching him, unable to communicate it was a trap. He should have known better, should have seen the signs, noticed it wasn't truly her. He had had doubts at first, but he'd proceeded to ignore them. He'd been foolish, because he'd wanted to believe it was her flirting with him, her warm touch reaching out to only him, choosing him for this important task. It had felt like an honour, but not only had she tricked him into it, they weren't actually husband and wife, instead two people who wanted to kill each other. To make the nightmare complete, he had absolutely no control over his own body, instilling him with a sense of helplessness more profound than he’d ever experienced, worse even than his brief periods of possession by Cadman.
Her eyes bore into his, but even though he is observing it in first person, it is really Phoebus staring at Thalan's. She is looking right at him but not caring one bit whose life she's destroying for this petty vendetta and the goal to be the last one standing in a long finished war.
He'd always thought war was pointless for the most part – he has made an exception for the Wraith, since you can’t hold peace talks with a race who’d as soon suck your life out of your chest as look at you - and looking at what war has created here, he knows it is more than that; it is downright stupid. Because the people who cause it are stupid, and they fight for absurd reasons until they can barely remember why. They are stupid for starting wars and equally stupid for continuing them past any reason – war gets you here. It isn’t fighting for survival, not when they’ll both be dead in hours; they chose to continue – it's a grudge that they won’t drop, and it's going to cost him his life!
He wishes Elizabeth could see he doesn't blame her, but the eyes aren't windows to the soul, judging by hers. All he can see is Phoebus, with a triumphant glint, grinning into his face as she cocks the gun and starts to aim for his head and then moves off, looking dramatically thoughtful.
And then he feels horror like he's never known before as he realizes what Thalan is about to do. There is a twitch of arm muscles and a curling of fingers around a deftly tucked knife in his back pocket. The movement is slow but sure, the knife slicing the threads of the bonds easily.
“Actually, what would be more amusing? Head or groin, or maybe kneecaps first, for some fun?” Phoebus poses, pointing to each location in turn.
Then her expression turns dark but joyous, an obvious thrill coming to her over this situation. “Just to remind you you've definitely lost this time.” She moves closer, crouching down to meet his face as she iterates her position, “There's no getting out of this one – I've won.”
It's on those last two words – spoken so certainly by her - that the move is made, the small knife discarded – his alien invader deeming it not lethal enough – and a swift lunge to topple her, followed by another towards the discarded gun.
By the time both are standing he's that little bit ahead of her, finger tipping the trigger. A shot is fired, and he screams mentally. Then he feels a wash of real pain – Thalan screaming out literally, dropping to his knees in agony. It all happens so fast, but he sees blue energy crackle over her before she falls, a glimpse out of the corner of his eye revealing Ronon, with a stunner, in a doorway behind her.
From his position on the floor, he can't tell why she's prone. He feels sick as he considers the possibility he might have shot her, but there's no way to tell – Thalan is still in control, but leaving slowly, body writhing as the imprinting is rejected. Ronon stands far back, wary of both of them, calling for medical assistance and backup.
When it's over, Thalan is gone, and his head feels groggy. He doesn't dare stand up, in case Ronon stuns him, but as the medical teams stream, in he strains to hear what they're saying about her - to no avail. His senses are overwhelmed, and he can't make out what they're saying across the room.
They're restraining him, just to be sure, treating him with suspicion, and no one seems to want to tell him what's happened to her. As his trolley is rattled past hers, out of the room, all he can see is her face, eyes closed as if sleeping, as a band of medics close around her, calling commands.
When he wakes, it's to Carson's cheery face, and he knows the Scot must believe he's back to normal. He wants to ask about Elizabeth, but can't quite bring himself to, in case it's bad news. Besides, he can't believe Carson would be so cheerful if that’s what has really happened. His friend interprets his confused silence correctly, answering what he doesn't dare ask.
“Elizabeth is doing well. Not to worry. She's back to her old self and should be right as rain soon enough.”
“What do you mean, doing well – was she not doing well to start with?” He asks incredulously, at first, but his tone cascades quickly into uncertainty as he feels panic. “Tell me I didn't really shoot her, because I... I...”
“Hold your horses, Rodney. From what Ronon tells me, you did shoot at her, but he shot the stunner first, and Thalan's aim wasn't too good, given it was a quick shot. Combine that with her toppling over from the stun, and you just managed to miss her, a little nick in her jacket but nothing else. In fact, technically, you shot Ronon...”
“Well, he was behind Elizabeth at the time. It nicked her and carried on its trajectory. He took a nasty graze to his lower arm, but he's a stout fella, and I'm sure he doesn't blame you.”
It was all said with a certain amount of humor, but there was an undercurrent of worry lacing the Scot’s voice and a look on his face that resurfaced after his quick smile had faded. Things weren't bad, by accounts, but Carson was certainly holding out on some of the details. Rodney went for the blunt approach, as usual, as Carson wasn't that much better than him at concealing the truth. If confronted, he tended to give it up.
“So, why is Elizabeth not doing as well as me?”
He paused at the question, grimacing at being caught out but conceded to answering it, just as Rodney had hoped. He didn't like being left out in the dark, not about the members on his team and especially not where Elizabeth was concerned – and when it might be his fault.
“She hit her head when she fell, a pretty bad concussion on top of the side effects of the imprinting. She's been in and out of it all night; we couldn't sedate her, unfortunately. I'm surprised she didn't wake you with her mutterings. Phoebus was a bit vocal, too, right before she left, but Elizabeth should be back to her normal self in a day or two.”
“Um, could I, you know...see her?”
“To make sure she's real or something?” he asked, obviously a little insulted at not being completely believed.
“Well, no. But... I just want to be sure.”
“Aye, well, let’s see how she's doing.”
Carson moved to the next bed, drawing open the curtain around it and revealing an apparently sleeping Elizabeth - until she started to stir, that was.
“How are you this morning, lass? Feeling better I hope. I just need you to answer some questions.”
There was a mumbled 'mmhm' from her bed, and then some murmurs in reply to several questions Carson asked - showing that, while she was generally okay, she still wasn't quite up to shape or in much of a mood to talk. Carson drew the curtain back around her bed for privacy.
“Sorry, Rodney. I don't think she's up for normal conversation yet. Maybe later?” he said, patting him on the shoulder encouragingly as he walked past.
“Maybe,” Rodney replied as Carson disappeared.
He sank back in the bed, feeling relieved that he hadn't seriously harmed anyone. Ronon had had much worse; the man had pulled an arrow out of his leg without much thought after all...
Glancing back to the bed next to him, he felt a welling anxiety – he hated to think about the awkwardness this would bring up. Neither had been themselves, but still, they'd seen everything, felt every thing – including the kiss that he'd chosen to put himself up to, had let himself be talked into. But they'd deal with that later, hopefully much later, after he'd had a good night’s sleep and on a full stomach, as well.
'So, not goodbye after all,' he thought. Time for those last words, too, times for quite a lot more than that. He was back in control, at the wheel, so to speak; all he needed to do was make use of that. The feeling of lacking it had been disconcerting, but he needed to keep that in mind, needed the drive to take control of his situation. There was a lot he could handle just fine, but there was one thing he never had any control over – feelings that he'd prefer to try to quell than deal with. No longer. He'd almost died, for the n-th time, and nearly by her hands. Next time his number came up, he wanted to feel a little more at peace, to know he'd done everything he could – not just in that situation but in the whole of his life. He didn't want to be staring down a barrel of a gun wishing he'd said something he'd been too cowardly to even consider admitting. Now that Thalan was gone he was inspired to face his emotions and inadequacies, he was back in control, truly in control.