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Summary: After a traumatic event sends Rodney back to Earth, he finds comfort- and dare he say friendship- with a certain Colonel Carter as they join forces to figure out a mysterious device.

Categories: Ship Pairings > Carter/McKay
Characters: Rodney McKay, Samantha Carter
Genres: Pre-relationship, Romance
Warnings: None
Chapters: 7 [Table of Contents]
Series: None

Word count: 38353; Completed: Yes
Updated: 16 Dec 2007; Published: 08 Oct 2007

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Story Notes:
Takes place after Atlantis's "Grace Under Pressure" and before SG-1's "The Pegasus Project".

The pure suddenness of it surprised him more than the act itself.

It was night and lighting in the streets was virtually nonexistent. His eyes hadn't adjusted to the shapes of buildings and he struggled to find which he was supposed to be entering. But in an instant, even those shapes were no longer visible.

He struggled against the darkness, against the rough thing that had found his mouth. He struggled to let out a cry for help. He struggled to see what was happening. He struggled to understand what was happening to him. But no amount of struggling could answer those questions...


Dr. Rodney McKay turned as he reached the bottom of the ramp. The blue puddle wavered in the still air. A last couple of people stepped through it, their feet clomping heavily against the metal ramp. He didn't pay them any attention; instead he stared off at the Naquada that made up the Stargate.

It was different than the one on Atlantis. He had known this fact but it wasn't until that moment that such a thought sunk in. It was a different shade of colour, different shape- the Milky Way stargates were slightly larger. The constellations were lines, not dots as on Atlantis. It was different. He wasn't sure why he was noticing now.

"Dr. McKay?" He turned back around. He noticed the floor then. The Stargate had shut off at some point without his realizing.

"Yes?" The voice sounded flat to his ears; he didn't realize that it was his.

He noticed that a General stood before him, standing erect in his leather jacket. "I was just informed that you would be coming through."

"Yeah. Short notice thing."

"You're going to have to be inspected by the doctor as soon as one of them gets a spare moment."

Rodney had looked away as the general spoke to him, finding the Stargate again. It disturbed him that he seriously never noticed the differences. "Hmm?" The General had finished talking and seemed to be awaiting a reaction. But Rodney had none. Instead he stepped off the ramp and walked himself to the Infirmary.

The layout was fresh in his mind, as was everything that had happened during his short stays on the base.

The Infirmary was crowded. Beds were reserved for those in need of medical care returning from the Pegasus Galaxy. Sitting in chairs were the few minor casualties of the SGC and the Atlantis members returning home. He stood at the door; it would be a while before the line got to him. He could probably spare a few minutes to get something to eat- some how he doubted anyone would be bothered.

His short excursion to the commissary was uneventful. No one recognized him and no one cared to check on him, even though he still wore his Atlantis uniform. He didn't fit in with them, he didn't flow perfectly in sync with these people. Someone had suggested that he get a job in the mountain for a while, but he wouldn't be able to do it. He worked seamlessly- almost seamlessly- with his team and with Atlantis. These people were alien to him. He couldn't work with them.

He looked down at the food. It seemed almost disgusting. It really wasn't- it had to be better than most of the food on Atlantis- but for the first time that he could remember in ages, he wasn't hungry. He didn't want food. He didn't have an appetite. Rodney thought it should alarm him, but it didn't.

He needed a meal. The chicken looked good- oh, it was lemon. Never mind. Mashed potatoes. He cringed, the wrinkles deepening as he looked at the veggies. His eyes moved slowly to the desserts. Jell-O. He could live with some Jell-O. Setting the tray back with the rest, he raised the plastic screen and picked up one of the bowls. He pulled it out, looking down, then returned it, grabbing a different one. Blue looked better.

Taking a seat off in the corner, he picked at it. It took nearly five minutes for the spoon to make it into mouth. He swallowed, but didn't taste anything.

Rodney sighed, dropping the spoon and sending it clattering onto the table. The balls of his hands dug into his eyes. Darkness plagued his eyes, but his mind still played and rewound and fast-forwarded and then stopped and played again. He opened his eyes and looked around. He saw the tables, the walls, the people. He tasted the food, felt his feet against the floor, but he had trouble believing that he was really there. He couldn't quite believe that he had left that planet.


It wasn't so much awe as it was amazement that oozed from every pore of his body. It fascinated him just as much as it bored him to see yet another primitive society. But it was how un-primitive that this particular one was that intrigued him.

Some six decades into their industrial revolution, they were well on their way to becoming the second most advanced culture in the Pegasus galaxy. They only had two problems...


Rodney sat with his feet crossed ankle to ankle, toes on the floor, his body slouched in his chair, his head tossed back, and his eyes staring up at the ceiling. For hours he had sat and rocked his seat slowly back and forth with a few jerky moments. An empty soda can and a few power bar wrappers littered his desk. A notepad was set near his laptop. All he did was stare at it.

He couldn't sleep that night. Eyes opened or closed, it haunted him. So instead he stayed up, pumping his body with power bars, coffee, and pepsi. Work was impossible, and yet no matter how long he sat and stared at the computer screen he couldn't convince himself that it was useless.

The words had long ago started to blend together and the graph had started to loose focus. He had forgotten sometime around then what he was supposed to be working on or why it was important.

Rodney groaned, rubbing his eyes. He forced his tired body out of his chair, crumbling the wrappers in his hand as he headed for the kitchen.

It wasn't his apartment- there was probably no food there. The Air Force owned an apartment complex for people like Rodney, for the aliens that come to stay for a while. It was a nice flat to spend some time in. The food they had stocked in it wasn't bad. The neighbourhood was... well weird with all the aliens but generally nice. Quiet. There weren't any kids around. He might pretend that he hated them, but that was just a show- like most of his life.

The dishes were modest, but the cupboards housed a couple of coffee mugs and there was a good supply of coffee. Rodney had gone through nearly half already. He supposed a shopping trip was in order. He had plenty of money- over a year of Air Force pay deposited into his bank account. He paused as he went to put the pot back down. He hadn't thought about how it felt to not worrying about bills or about money or going out to buy food.

He sighed, sipping at the cool coffee. Life as a scientist taught him not to mind the taste. It was all about the caffeine. Not that he needed more.

He'd been back on Earth for four days. The first had been spent in the mountain, but he found that he was just in the way. He didn't know everything that was going on; he was too tired to work; no one understood his personality, he couldn't work with them. Sam Carter wasn't even around. On some six day mission somewhere. He didn't know if he was going to go back and see her tomorrow. He doubted she wanted to see him.

He settled back into the couch. He had thought about going back to Canada, back to his lonely apartment in some rich neighbourhood. His sister lived a few hours away from there. He thought about going and seeing her, but they hadn't talked in a while. He thought about phoning her, but he couldn't even muster the desire to eat, he couldn't find any to pick up the phone.

He'd never felt the way he did before. Depressed. Anxious. They sent him back to Earth to get him to rest, to relax, to talk to someone. He could have done all that on Atlantis.


It wasn't so much awe as it was amazement that oozed from every pore of his body. It fascinated him just as much as it bored him to see yet another primitive society. But it was how un-primitive that this particular one was that intrigued him.

Some six decades into their industrial revolution, they were well on their way to becoming the second most advanced culture in the Pegasus galaxy. They only had two problems:

Natural resources were already near depletion and it was a race to see who could replace them first with something more advanced.

Three factions existed, each trying to crush the others in an international battle over a new, great power source. It was an energy race and the first to win would hold all the power...


After a week on Earth, Rodney felt no more relaxed than he even had on Atlantis. Sleep was evasive, coffee was dwindling and he had no energy to go out and get himself more.

The SGC had other ideas however. He didn't know what they were working on, but the new General had invited him down to help out. He didn't care, didn't want to go, but he found himself showering early in the morning and then dressing in something other than fleece pants and an old t-shirt. It wasn't the uniform he normally wore, nor was it something professional, but jeans were something other than his pajamas.

He drove somewhat clumsily- it was a car the Air Force had lent him- after not driving for so long. It didn't help that American's couldn't drive- not that Canadians could either, but he was used to them. His semi-conscious mind probably did nothing for him either.

He pulled into the lot, eyes barely staying open. He walked past the guard, forgetting at first to produce his ID. It wasn't something he needed on Atlantis and so it took a moment of fumbling to find it. He was shocked he had it at all. After annoying the guards, taking them away from their challenging cross word puzzles, he entered the elevator in silence and brushed his hand over the number he wanted. When it didn't light, he pushed it again, punching it several times more than necessary. It was the most energy he had produced in weeks. With a breath, he stepped away, riding down the levels, listening to the mechanically humming. He walked off, checking in again before turning into the next elevator. The monotony didn't bother him, it was no longer an irritation after the previous week.

His eyes drooped dangerously as he leaned against the side wall. His chin dropped to his chest. It shot back up when he heard a female voice call out to hold the elevator. He responded quickly, holding out his hand to stop the door. The woman jumped in. Rodney didn't pay attention to her, but he noticed that she didn't hit any of the buttons. He went back to his wall, staring at his feet. They started to blur and he realized his caffeine fix that morning was wearing off.


"Mmm?" He wasn't sure what kind of sound he had made, but he also wasn't sure how to form a word at that moment. He stared at her, blinking. Suddenly a word came to mind; it took another few minutes to realize it was her name. "Sam."

"When did you return to Earth?"

Rodney sighed. His mind was sluggish- he didn't know what help he would be- and her words were slow to be processed. Another pause, and then he answered, "Uh... Tuesday."

"You okay?"

"Yeah." He nodded, breathing deeply to avoid yawning.

"You sleeping all right?"

"Yeah, it's, um... it's getting better."


"Caffeine wearing off," he smirked, but Sam only vaguely smiled back.

"What are you doing here?"

"Um..." he racked his brain, shaking his head, "No idea. Your new General invited me. Not sure what good I'm going to do."

"You following me?"

"Hmm?" It was the first time he noticed they had been walking, and had now walked through the doors of her office. "No, just- um... um..."

"You sure you're okay?"


"And you're here to work?"

"I'm here for something to do."

Sam just nodded, setting her things on her desk and walking around to start her computer up. She turned around and found him standing there watching her. His look unnerved her. She would have expected him to look cockier about it, with more desire or lust or something more characteristic of McKay. But his face was blank, his eyes were blank. His shoulders were slouched and his hands resting in his jeans' pockets. She had the vague sense that he didn't realize where he was; that he wasn't actually there. Circles had formed under his eyes and she no longer trusted his word that he had had any sleep. She knew that it was not just because of a wired system. Something was wrong with him, the same something that was the reason for his stint on Earth, she could only assume.



"Why don't you just go home?"

"Home?" he paused, as if the word meant nothing to him. "Uh, sleep, you mean."

"Yeah. You look like crap."

"Great way to say hello after all this time."

"Sorry." Rodney continued to stand there, worrying Sam. She looked him over again and the thought struck her that he looked good wearing a simple pair of faded jeans. She looked down, shaking her head. "Are you going to stand there all day or am I going to have to drive you home."


Sam sighed, looking to the screen of her computer. With a keystroke, it shut down again. She grabbed her coat, swinging it around her back, sliding it over her arms, and shrugging it into place. Grabbing her purse, she pulled him with her out into the hall. It took him until she actually touched him to realize what was happening. He immediately jumped, pulling his arm from her grip. "Where are we going?"

"I'm taking you back to your apartment."

"I'm supposed to go see the General or something."

"I'll tell him what happened."

"That'll be embarrassing."

"Come on."


It was cold. That was his first conscious realization. The air was frigid and utterly still. He could feel the condensation forming on his lips; his tongue rolled over them and his next breath only served to make them colder.

He was on the ground, of that he was sure. It felt like stone- something hard. The paving seemed uneven- like stone blocks awkwardly set together. At least something hard was digging into his shoulder and his hand was starting to go numb. He wanted to shift, to find a more comfortable position, to ball up in hopes of warmth, but he didn't dare move.

Slowly he let himself blink his eyes open. They opened briefly, but closed shortly after. There was no light, or at least none shinning too brightly. He opened his eyes again; there was nothing. He blinked once, trying to clear and focus his eyes. Once again he was met with utter darkness. Finally the fear of it startled him and he moved his head suddenly. But this only made him wince and ball up against the stone floor anyway. Something was right by his forehead- an unevenness in the floor. He was sure his forehead was bleeding, but he couldn't be sure. Again he just tried to blink and, as he calmed down and took a few quick, deep breathes, he realized that something was around his head. A blindfold. There was something- the knot perhaps- was digging into the back of his head.

And finally, after he stopped, he noticed for the first time a sound. He wasn't sure what it was. A pinging. A loud, echoing something...


"McKay! McKay! Rodney!"

He jumped in the seat, his eyes springing opened and his head smacking against the window. He groaned, half from grogginess, half from pain. Bringing his hand up with the intent of protecting his wound, it changed its course and rubbed his right eye instead. Using his left, he looked over at Sam. She was watching him worriedly and for a short time Rodney couldn't comprehend why. Then it hit him.

He never used to have nightmares. He never really dreamt and if he did, they were distorted, erotic, things he never remembered a few hours later. But lately his nights had been plagued with images. A distorted rush of jumbled moments. He woke up- if he managed to fall asleep- twisted in his bed sheets and sweating.

"Where are we?" was the first thing that came to mind and before he had time to process it, the words slipped past his lips.

"The apartment you're staying at."


"You're not sleeping at all anymore, are you?"

"What makes you say that?"

"Besides the circles under your eyes and what happened in my lab?" Rodney cocked his head to the side, then shrugged, looking to her as if he was awaiting an answer. "How bad are the nightmares?"

His face wasn't shocked, he knew he must have mumbled or yelled or had been tossing about- he didn't think he could muster the emotion even if that wasn't true. But he wasn't hesitant either; wasn't hiding it from her. He just didn't know what to say. She'd been out there longer; he wondered how many nightmares she had suffered from. How many old ones came back to plague her on lonely nights? He wondered how he could compare his to hers.

"Depends. Some are bad."

"You want to talk about it?"

"Not really."

"Are you talking to someone?"

Rodney made some kind of gesture, one she took as a mixture of a nod, a shake of the head, and a shrug. "Don't really need to."

"No? McKay, if you can't sleep, you're having nightmares, and obviously did something back at Atlantis to get you shipped here, then yes, you need help."

"I don't need help. Thanks for the ride. I'm gonna go now."

"Rodney." Hours later, hoping and dreading sleep as he lay awake on his bed, Rodney would contemplate what had made him turn back around after leaving her car. Was it the tone- the softness in her voice she had never bothered to use with him? Was it the fact that she used his first name? Or was it the way his name rolled off her tongue in a way he had only dreamed of? Was it the pleading in her crystal orbs that made him stay? That kept him from slamming the door shut? Or was it just him knowing that she was right and not able to admit it?

"Give me a call if you ever want to talk." He would contemplate her offer as well. Should he look her number up? Should he call her? Would she prefer if it were to her line at the SGC, or her home phone? Would she invite him over? To her house or to her office? Should he call her? Did he want to talk about it? Of course he didn't. But he knew he should. She had offered it; she seemed to want to help.

A quiet, "yeah," was his terse response. Hanging his head, he thanked her, then closed the door. Rodney felt her eyes on his back as he walked around the car. He heard her window being rolled down and wondered if she had more to say. But he didn't look, wanting to escape back into the darkness of his apartment where cold coffee and a stale, half-eaten power bar awaited him.


The pure suddenness of it surprised him more than the act itself.

It was night and lighting in the streets was virtually nonexistent. His eyes hadn't adjusted to the shapes of buildings and he struggled to find which he was supposed to be entering. But in an instant, even those shapes were no longer visible.

He struggled against the darkness, against the rough thing that had found his mouth. He struggled to let out a cry for help. He struggled to see what was happening. He struggled to understand what was happening to him. But no amount of struggling could answer those questions.

It was a prink. Just a simple annoyance on his upper arm. He didn't think much of it at first. His mind was more focused on the darkness and the silence. The silence filled with grunts of effort and feet scrapping against the stone road. But the darkness became even more pronounced and his voice became even more impossible to use against the rough thing covering his mouth and finally the grunts of effort calmed to complete stillness...


Rodney awoke the next morning from a restless sleep. He had spent a total of sixteen hours lying in bed. The first three were spent staring and thinking. He slept for at least five of them out of sheer exhaustion. Another couple left him staring and thinking again, but he didn't want to think. His mind kept wandering to two dangerous subjects: the object of his nightmares and the object of his affections.

His dreams were too grotesque for him to think about. Too real even so many days later. And the woman he wanted wasn't interested in him. To think about her on Atlantis was one thing for the possibility of seeing her again was slim. But back on Earth, she became real again and his desires became more pronounced. He couldn't think of her anymore than he could think of it.

He drifted between sleep and restless thought, between thought and pointless wandering through the apartment, between wandering and sitting, between sitting and laying down, between laying down and sleeping, between sleeping and staring. The process itself was more tedious than Atlantis ever seemed to be.

He stepped out of the shower at some point the next morning, feeling somewhat back to normal. With a towel around his waist, he stood combing his hair. He looked at his face. It was still haggard, still marred by exhaustion, but he imagined that it didn't look so much like the zombie it must have two days before.

Reentering his room, he threw on his boxers and then tossed the same shirt back on. It was an old, MIT shirt he had bought way back when. It was still comfortable, a little baggy but it fit. He stood with one leg in his pajama pants before he decided against it. He grabbed the same jeans he had worn to the base and stepped into them, zippering them up as he searched out socks amongst the chaos. Locating some, he put them on while hopping around, looking for his shoes. One day he swore he would become more organized, but he had more pressing problems that needed to be addressed for the next couple of years.

Dressed, he grabbed his keys from the counter, his wallet, and lastly his leather jacket before he realized he had no car. Muttering under his breath, he called himself a cab.

Some time later he arrived back at his apartment with an armload of groceries and a plastic bag holding four kinds of ice cream. It wasn't something he spread around, but he had a thing for ice cream. It was something of a comfort food for him. Woman had chocolate, he had cookie dough ice cream. And sherbet of course, chocolate for the bad days, and Napoleon on occasion. That week called for everything.

He changed quickly, donning on his favourite pair of fleece pajama bottoms, cuddled up with a quilt, popped the lid off the chocolate ice cream and turned on the first movie he could find. He spent the entire day like that, slowly working his way through half of each container before working his way back around. He weaved in and out of consciousness throughout his marathon, sometimes waking at a shriek or banging of some western or war movie. He changed those, then continued eating his melting ice cream. He wasn't sure how long his marathon lasted, but it was well into the next morning when he got off the couch to make himself a sandwich. It was the first time in weeks he felt like eating. Topping it off with a soda, he retired back to his couch and watched the end of some sappy romance.

At ten in the morning, after four hours of straight sleep, a car backfired, sending him bolt up on the couch. He swallowed, but his heart continued to pound in his throat and in his temples. He took a deep breath, but that didn't quench his need for the excess oxygen. He tossed the blanket off, heading for the bathroom sink. The water was ice on his burning skin. He splashed it on his face over and over again, but the sinking in his stomach wouldn't dissipate.

Finally he just collapsed onto the bathroom floor, putting his face in his hands like a five year old as he waited. It felt like hours, felt like days, felt like time slowed and no time had yet to pass. After a while, when his breathing had slowed and his heart was no longer racing and he felt safe to stand without hurling, he picked himself up. He stripped down, running the water as hot as it would go and stepped under it. It hurt, burned, as the droplets streaming down his flesh, but he did nothing. He didn't flinched, didn't adjust the temperature. He waited until his nerves didn't feel it any more and the water became cold before he stepped out and dried himself.

Normally, he would grab an old shirt, a pair of jeans that hadn't been washed in weeks, and call it a perfectly fine outfit. But that day he walked into the closet, pulled out a good pair of jeans and buttoned down shirt. He rolled it up comfortably, buttoned it only part way. Looking around his room, he frowned at the scattered clothing, dirty socks, and hidden shoes. Slowly he began to pick some of it up. He folded some, placing the shirts and some pants back into their proper places. Other things he tossed onto his bed until he could locate his laundry basket. He found it a while later under a pair of jeans. Then he made his bed for the first time since he arrived and moved the laundry basket into the hall, then moved on to the living room. He folded the blanket, tossed the empty ice cream cartons, and turned off the TV. In the kitchen, he restocked the cupboards with some of the food he bought and took a few minutes to put the dishes in the dishwasher.

It was only once there was some order returned to the apartment that he reentered the bedroom and grabbed a pair of the shoes he had managed to uncover. He didn't know where he planned to go, he really had no plans, he just grabbed his wallet and keys and walked out the door.