Spoilers: For all of Season One
Summary: Post Season One, how Rodney is coping, or not as it may be.
Thanks to Fanwoman and Ellex for betareading.
This was not happening; transporters couldn't get stuck. Well they could theoretically, but no, they shouldn't. He couldn't be, and he had to get on with work. Now that they had a ZPM, there was so much to test, barely enough time for rest. Carson had ordered him to take it easy, but that had been two weeks ago and now nothing could stop him. Nothing that is, but this.
It was just him, and he found himself getting twitchy as the minutes passed, the solution eluding the plethora of geeks on this god forsaken city. They'd survived a siege, but the war was far from over. That was why his jubilation was short-lived and why, when everyone else was taking it easy to varying degrees, he found it important to push himself as hard as before, if not harder. It mattered more; now they had to keep it up They couldn't afford to get lazy after one success. Every bit of progress meant something, and here he was idle, stuck in an absurdly small space, waiting for rescue. Mentally he was still in the same place he had been a fortnight ago; every second could mean a life, one more person saved or one more person dead if he didn't manage to do what was needed.
The air felt hot to his lungs, and the lack of anywhere to go started to grate upon his nerves. He couldn't even pace, just rather moronically hop, shifting his weight from one foot to the other impatiently. Radek was talking to himself over the radio, having forgotten to turn off the comm, but only Rodney was right here. Alone. Cut off. All he could hear was Radek's incessant Czech mutterings as he attempted to find out what was wrong. Words Rodney didn't understand, they distracted him, and he found himself incapable of formulating a plan or thinking of anything remotely useful.
He really didn't need this. There were things he had to be doing. Trapped in here, in anywhere, wasn't something he wanted to be doing today. There was the lab in section D8 to check out, testing the chair again and supervising Kavanagh's misguided project as well. Who knew what might happen if he wasn't there to oversee it? If anything went wrong they'd blame him. And right now he couldn't stand to lose anyone else. Radek had finally found the off button and Rodney was left with silence apart from the sound of his blood pounding in his ears.
Soon enough, it became clear he wasn't going anywhere for awhile. Radek apologised, but he didn't really know what it was like here inside this glorified closet. It was way too hot now, and Rodney felt like he could barely breathe. He wrung his hands futilely. How much longer before the idiots worked it out? If Grodin was here, hell, if Peterson was here he'd probably have been out by now, but...
He didn't finish the thought but it haunted him. Every other half-formed idea he had reminded him of things he didn't want to think of, things that were hard to ignore because they were really links to those people who weren't with them anymore. Good people, people who'd make sure these things didn't happen or fix them if they did. He tore at his hair in frustration before he gave in and slid down to the floor, feeling comforted by the illusion from this position that the space was bigger than it really was.
To everyone else this was just a mysterious inconvenience. The military goons where probably having a good laugh at how the supposedly genius head scientist had gotten stuck in an elevator. He almost didn't care about that, but they all thought this was trivial, It wasn’t – not to him
Two weeks of calm had gone by, and he’d been surviving by surrounding himself with work, doing things that were necessary to Atlantis' survival. He'd been pissing off everyone in his vicinity, which made him no new friends, but at least he wasn't technically alone. More importantly, he was busy. He had goals to focus on, to constantly channel his thoughts upon, instead of what had happened. He swallowed reflexively, surprised to find his mouth was dry.
Now he found all the buried memories surfacing in the absence of work, his breathing coming ragged, flashes of thoughts coming up with each breath. Briefly burning structures, diamonds flashing through the darkness of space – images he wanted to forget along with those words that kept on coming back.
“I'm sorry.” Everyone said them because they were common enough. He never did, but then nobody expected him to, and after the satellite he never wanted to be reminded because the phrase brought everything back in an instant.
He tried to think of something else, but the elevator was plain, nothing to concentrate on. It was a mystery why it wasn't moving, why he hadn't just got in at one place and stepped out in another, as usual. His plan for the day had fallen apart because the usual hadn’t taken place as it should have. It shouldn't be happening, but it was. He was left alone, with no escape from himself and the “what ifs” he'd been avoiding.
He'd created this reality where he was constantly on call, where everything was an annoyance but so important he'd damn well do it himself anyway. He didn't trust anyone to do things if he could get away with doing it himself, and the resulting workload kept him up all hours. It kept him sane, just not healthy. Work was life, more so than it had ever been. Why? Because maybe if he'd done his job properly people would be alive who weren't. He didn't trust anyone else but neither did he truly trust himself so the work was a penance. A chance to make up for it by fixing the city, to keep them safe this time round and to prove to himself he could do better. A second chance that would not be wasted, so what the hell was he doing sitting here? He cursed the bumbling fools who probably thought it'd be funny to keep him waiting. He couldn't just let it go and forget about Dumais or Brendan or Peter or any of the names on the list they had, names that more often than not he was ashamed to only vaguely recognise. Didn't they realise time mattered?
He couldn't think properly, couldn't help himself, the world was nearly spinning. There was nothing left but random theories that bubbled to the surface, idiotic ideas that were useless now, unable to save anyone. He should have seen it would divert power, he should have rerouted the other circuits to compensate. If he'd done that, if he'd only thought of it before... he had his eyes screwed up tight, wet at the corners. Everything felt like it was falling apart.
And then came the soft noise of the doors opening, like a blessing. Suddenly his world was bright and the elevator was open wide. He staggered upright, bracing his arms against his thighs and his back against the wall. His panicked body was gulping down lungfuls of fresh cool air as the calls came over the radio. It took a second call, asking if everything as fine, before he could speak properly without sounding too strained. There was a gruff “Yes, I'm fine.” to Radek's concern, to which he went off complaining about a lack of thanks as usual.
He set off to get to his original destination, the newly discovered lab nearby. Everything was back to normal. Everything was fine. Once again it didn't matter if he lied about it, because if they went by appearances they would accept it as truth. And he'd accept is as truth too because it was preferable to examining the little breakdown he would flatly deny he’d just experienced. Every one could get claustrophobic now and then, but if someone had asked, he wouldn't have admitted to that either. He certainly wasn't going to reflect on the truth – he was going to get back to work. Yes, everything was fine, because it had to be.