Spoilers: A little one for S9 SG1 in general (Character)
Summary: Set in a future season. Carson tries to be Elizabeth's friend in the absence of Rodney, and back at the SGC things aren't running quite as smoothly as usual, and Carter knows why. Thanks to Fanwoman, Iona & Littleknux for betareading.
Lost In A Crowd
I place the warm mug in her hands, hoping the sweet tea will calm her nerves. She's shaking a little, which surprises me. It really shouldn't. It's not the first time she's woken from a nightmare, thrashing about, calling out for help.
I take care of her. Normally, you wouldn’t think she’d need anyone to do that, the woman who's remained our fearless leader throughout troubled times, but she does. I promised I'd take care of her; he made me swear I would. Who am I to refuse the earnest request of a man who is like a brother to me? I just never knew it would be the last thing he'd be able to ask of me, that I’d never see him again. I also didn’t think it would get this far, my substitution for his companionship, that I would come to fill his role in her life.
I rub Elizabeth's back soothingly, the way I remember me ma used to do when I was upset, bless her soul. I'll never see her again, either. Elizabeth and I are stuck in an odd place, more than friends, but not lovers. She asked me to hold her once, long ago, and I’ve done as she asks ever since – anything I can do to console her, even though I know nothing is enough.
She stares blankly off into space, holding the cup in both hands as its contents grow cold. I know she's trying not to think of him, she appears to have repressed the memories, apart from these flashes in her nightmares. After those first few months, she stopped mentioning him. No word of Rodney has since passed her lips. She neither sadly nor fondly recalls him, choosing instead not to recall him at all. But his name often comes back in the night, the words ripped from her throat and the reality of the past wrenched back into existence – slamming into her, leaving her body breathless and her psyche rattled by the ghost that visits.
I try to ignore it the best I can, to quell my growing resentment over her silence. By day, she denies him having existed. By night, he forces his way back into her memories, haunting her, but she still says very little – denying him further. I wait, and I wish that she’d say something, that one morning, after an episode, she’ll rethink it all and finally grieve, because right now it feels like she's losing him over and over again, with no space to breathe in between. She leaves all of us unable to accept the fact that's he gone, like so many others. Because we cannot speak of him, we cannot let him go.
I wonder how long this will go on for. Seven years was traditional, but I don't think we can last that long before someone mentions something that will set off. The problem is I'm not sure if she has got it wrong. She's acting just like I imagine he might, if the situation was reversed, but we'll likely never know. All over Atlantis, people are getting on with life, attempting to forget that we're stranded once more. Perhaps secretly, in her own mind, she doesn't want to believe that she'll forever be here with us, when Rodney is back 'home' – the place we all wanted to be, the place that's so far out of reach, with our best hopes all shot to pieces and the one man we depended on to fix everything not here to help. Still, he's on the other side, and maybe I should have that hope that she does, that out there he's trying to get back to us. Meanwhile, she goes on pretending everything is normal and he's not really lost to us, just denied. As if in denying his memory, she can stave off that fear that he won't be back, like denial gives her some control. Whatever the truth is, I know as I look at her, taking the now empty cup away as she falls back into a restless sleep, that she's lost to me and always will be because she won't believe he's lost to her.
She calls in at six o clock, finding him still busy in his office – knowing he's blissfuly unaware right now of what's happened. He stills refers to the office as temporary even though he's been there for nearly six months. She'd guessed he might be a workaholic, it sort of came with the job, but this goes over the normal bounds. He's not working because he's on a roll or there's a deadline, no saving the world today, thankfully. Yet he'll still sit at that desk well into the night, almost every night of the week. Sometimes he’ll come on days he’s not scheduled to work. She'd heard he didn't care if they paid him for the overtime and that he'd tried to wangle his way onto base on a Sunday once – the one day off he'd been ordered to stick to once Dr. Lam had learnt about his compulsive need to stay on base, to keep at his projects.
What no one else knew was those extra hours didn't usually go on the assigned projects but on his own personal one. Instead, he'd be pouring over the latest readings he'd requested from all ZPM experiments, calculating variables and spinning theories out of thin air, but to no avail. He really tried. He put more effort and passion into it than even she could muster, anything to find a way to reestablish contact with Atlantis. Of course she wanted to help, and she tried to solve the problem, sometimes sitting in casually on his brainstorming sessions, “bothering” him, or so he said. She even sometimes pondered the question of recharging the ZPM at odd moments in the day, before she went to sleep, on her way to work. She never came up with anything that could be feasible, but then she didn't have anything to lose by failing. McKay, however, kept on trying, every minute of the day. Even on Mondays, she'd see him bring in a new wedge of notes that he’d worked on the previous evening, research he'd obviously done in his free time, though free time was rather illusive in his case. There was almost no free time that didn't seem to get put back into work of some kind, and inevitably all work was interrelated somehow. Anyone of their projects might lead to a revelation. If that hadn't been so, she'd wonder how he'd react, and now she has a chance to find out. She was there to break the news; the General thinking it would come better from her as his “friend”, if you could consider him having any here, and as his colleague, someone he considers equal to a certain degree, she qualifies for the job.
He's being reassigned, with forced leave of at least one month in between the new assignment and the end of this one. She knows he won’t like it. She just doesn't know how strongly he'll react, but she thinks it'll be quite spectacular, considering the scene he'll probably make – luckily barely anyone is around to witness it.
He glances up, distracted from his earnest interest in some new data, and she sees then how vulnerable he is. His face - the one she's so used to being twisted into a smirk or a disgruntled frown, something that makes him look vibrant – seems pale under the dim lab lights, and the dark circles under his blue eyes stand out like the shadows. He waits. It’s taking longer than she expected before his patented impatience shows through and he baits her for a response.
She says it simply, hating the orders that she speaks and not being entirely sure if they're going to do as much good as the General and the doctor hope they will. She feels his fury build as he listens to all she has to say. She expects him to burst out, but he doesn't shoot the messenger. He storms out, with a fire in his eyes, and she knows he's going to confront the General. She smiles wistfully at the thought as she follows after him; McKay's nearly the only one left around here who would have the balls to do something like that at the risk of his job. Yet she knows why, and it's not the same passion she used to associate with him. All the hours he spends here, all the anger he feels at this moment, it is all for one reason, and it's not about science. He is trying to save the world; it’s just not ours but his.