Pairing: Rodney and Teyla, gen, but with large amounts of het UST
Rating: 15 (T)
Disclaimer: "Stargate" and all related characters are the property of MGM Television Entertainment.
Summary: Teyla is being targeted and Rodney's just trying to help. But he always ends up being the one on the receiving end. Who's doing it? And, more importantly, why do they keep on hurting Rodney? Hurt/comfort/angst/friendship. Set towards the end of Season 2.
Author's Note: Word count for the whole fic is ~20,000. Have fun reading!
Chapter One – Monday 5.45am, Atlantis
Teyla sat on the balcony with her eyes closed as she drew in a deep breath of salty sea air. She allowed the first rays of brilliant sunshine to kiss her eyelids and caress her face as she meditated on the day ahead.
It was pleasantly warm, even though it was dawn, and she knew it was going to be another beautiful day.
Once the sun was a little higher, she decided that she had collected her thoughts sufficiently to start the day. She opened her eyes and gathered up her tea set and placed it in a small bag. She still enjoyed the taste and rituals of her homeworld, even though she no longer lived with her people. The Athosians had never gone home since the Wraith attack; feeling safer on the Lantean mainland than they ever had done before. But instead of making Teyla sorrowful about the loss, she found it calmed her; that even in her absence, she knew her people were well protected.
She headed back to her quarters, seeing a few early morning joggers on the way. They were all military personnel and she nodded in acknowledgement to each one that passed by.
She decided that she may as well complete her chores before breakfast, as she did every day. After all, the machines the Ancestors had created for cleaning cloth only took a few minutes to complete their cycle.
A few minutes later, Teyla stepped into the room with the haphazard banner on one wall. She pinched her face at the slogan and the name the people of Earth had given this particular space: 'Lantis Laundromat.
Teyla remembered Sheppard attempting to discourage Dr McKay from the name. But it was already in fairly wide use around the city by then, what with certain Majors not doing their laundry frequently enough to notice the name until it was too late and it had stuck.
Teyla shook her head and found herself smiling at the memory of Rodney's expressive face beaming in happiness when one of his own devised names was finally allowed to be used.
She stepped up to one of the machines in the row of five. They were golden brown, like the rest of the walls and devices in the city, and were as tall as Teyla. She opened the round door at waist level and unwrapped her bundle of clothing, placing it inside the large space within the machine.
She closed the door and the machine started on its own. Bright light flooded the interior chamber and glowed through the opaque door. She had once asked Rodney how the machines worked, as she had only ever washed her clothing by hand in river water. He had been rather rude to her, interspersing his fast and extremely technical explanation with comments about 'primitives' and 'cavemen.' Teyla had not spoken against him at the time, but he may have had a few extra bruises at the end of their next sparring session.
But that had happened before she had really got to know and like him as she now did. She would never do such a thing now, as she had learnt that although his words were often hasty and ill thought out, they always revealed exactly what he was thinking. She found his honesty and openness refreshing after spending most of her life trading with men and women who made a living by deception for their own gain.
That also meant that Rodney was unable to lie to Teyla. She could always tell if he tried by the way his eyes would rove and dart and he would nervously wring his hands together.
The machine suddenly started to hiss and whine. It had never made a noise in the past and Teyla frowned. As usual, she was the only one there, none of the people from Earth ever did their washing at this time of day and she was alone. It had also been several minutes and the cycle had not yet finished.
She approached the machine and considered reaching out and attempting to stop it, but then acrid smoke began to pour from the edges of the door.
She stepped back, suddenly unsure whether it was safe or not. She swiftly decided that it would be better not to think on such a thing for too long so she left the room.
She stood out in the corridor by the door and tapped her radio, "Teyla to the Science Labs."
There was a brief pause before a startled voice asked, "Hmm, what? Oh, McKay here."
Teyla was a little taken aback as to why her team mate was working so early when most of the people from Earth liked to sleep later into the morning, unlike the Athosians. She had viewed them as lazy at first, until she noticed that many stayed up very late, none more so than Dr McKay.
"Dr McKay, I am sorry to trouble you, I was hoping to speak with the Maintenance Team."
There was a pause and the whine of the machine in the room increased in both pitch and volume. A heavy sigh blew into Teyla's earpiece and she flinched. "I've drawn the short straw to fix stuff today... lucky me!"
Teyla frowned and replied dangerously, "Are you saying that you are unable to assist?"
"No. No. What's up?"
"One of the laundry machines is malfunctioning."
Rodney huffed again and Teyla's frown deepened. "In what way?"
"I am unsure. It sounds like it may be building up to an overload."
There was a pause, but Teyla did not hear any more sighs due to the level of noise now filling the corridor. She only just caught his next words, "I'll get my gear and be there in a few."
Teyla raised her eyebrows, "A few what?"
But he had already cut the connection.
True to his word, Rodney appeared a short while later. He looked grumpy and dishevelled. His hair was pushed up on one side and there was a red mark on the side of his face. The darkness of stubble shadowed his chin and rings of bruising encircled his bloodshot eyes. His jacket was crumpled and the hem of his shirt was messy and uneven.
Teyla furrowed her brow at his appearance and before she could do anything to prevent it, she felt a jolt of sympathy for him. Unlike a lot of the other humans, Rodney was a man who spent a lot of his time and energy in a seemingly endless quest to find better technology to help everyone; not only on Earth, but in the Pegasus Galaxy too. Although he was often over eager to sacrifice his own health to do so. It was clear to Teyla that he had had very little sleep and any he had managed to catch, had probably been taken at his desk where he had once again worked himself to exhaustion the night before.
That meant that no-one had roused him until her call this morning – were there not night teams who checked on the labs? Did they not think to wake him and make him return to his quarters for proper, much more restful sleep that he so desperately needed but always deprived himself of?
He shot her a lopsided smile in greeting and she tilted her head towards the room. The noise was now such that speech was impossible.
Rodney stepped past her and walked through the door. Teyla was alarmed that he did not seem to have considered his own safety and the potentially dangerous machine within. It was either bravery of foolhardiness, but she knew that there was probably no other way to prevent the imminent overload, and he was therefore being very valiant not to even hesitate to assist her.
She followed him inside, just in time to watch as he pressed a few controls on an open panel of the machine and the door sprung open. It smacked into his midsection and he staggered backwards and dropped the tool he was holding.
Teyla quickly ran over to him and caught him by the shoulders before he fell. The machine instantly wound down and the light turned out due to what Rodney had done to it.
"Dr McKay... Rodney, are you alright?" Teyla asked as he stopped moving back under her guidance, straightened up and fully bore his own weight once more without assistance. She considered calling for medical help, but she opted to wait for Rodney's response, as he was well enough to still be conscious.
He clutched his middle and winced, Teyla could feel how taut his muscles were against her hands as he hunched his shoulders in an innate reaction to curl around the pain.
He coughed and nodded, "I think I just broke about ten ribs and ruptured my spleen, as well as getting squirted with acid, but at least your washing's done I suppose."
Teyla did not take the comment about the extent of his injuries too seriously, as she knew by now that he was probably alright if he was still able to stand, and had enough breath to complain without any apparent difficulty. She let go of him and walked around to examine his front. There was a darkened stain on his jacket, which had also splotched through to the shirt underneath. In close proximity, she found that his scent was of sleep and coffee, but a new, far more unpleasant tang was beginning to overwhelm the mainly natural male aroma surrounding him.
He dabbed at the patch with his sleeve pulled down to protect his hand and Teyla said, "It would only take a minute for the liquid to be removed using one of the machines. You could wait while the cycle completes."
Rodney's face abruptly altered from an expression of tiredness and pain, to one of wide-eyed nervousness. He brushed his hand over his chest in a vain attempt to clean off the liquid, and cleared his throat with his eyes averted. He stuttered, "No no no, it's fine. I'll just head back to my quarters and get changed."
Teyla narrowed her eyes and frowned. She had never understood the strange modesty and self-consciousness which surrounded many of the people from Earth. Rodney appeared embarrassed at the prospect of removing any clothing in front of Teyla and it puzzled her. She said, "It is only me, Rodney."
He shrugged with a wince and mumbled, "Alright. But no peeking!" He stepped over to one of the other machines and peeled off his jacket.
Teyla went back to her machine and retrieved her clothing. She allowed herself a small indulgent smile when she was sure Rodney could no longer see her face.
It turned out that her clothing was clean, dry and smooth, as though nothing had gone wrong with the machine. She would have to ask Rodney to make sure he repaired the machine or placed a sign to prevent anyone else from using it. Perhaps he could do it while his own clothes were being cleaned?
She heard him hum behind her before he said, "That's odd. This machine would've exploded too, as it has the same component unplugged as the one you were using."
She and frowned as she turned to him and asked, "Do you know why that would be?"
She was greeted by a red-faced and very flustered, shirtless Rodney glaring at her. "I said no peeking!" He shouted as he quickly lifted his arms up to cover the humiliation of his bare chest and abdomen. She had already seen him though. His exposed skin was incredibly pale, except for the light dusting of hair, and the slightly indented and angry-looking red line running down his middle from where the door had struck him a moment ago. He was going to have painful swelling and bruising there very soon, which would no doubt make him more irritable than usual.
Teyla turned away and had the courtesy to blush. "I am sorry. I am also curious as to why the machine went wrong and yet my clothing is fine."
Rodney sighed sadly and replied, "I don't know yet. I couldn't tell from what I saw in the brief moment before it flew open and smashed all my insides up. I had a look at the circuitry, but there's nothing wrong with it apart from the unplugged component. I'll have to have a word with the useless, incompetent maintenance..."
He abruptly stopped talking, but Teyla did not look at him again to find out why, as she had no desire to make him feel uncomfortable again. She asked, "What is it?"
Teyla heard Rodney open the door, but there was no impact noise of it striking flesh this time. "Hmm, that's strange. Maybe there's something wrong with all of them?"
Teyla neatly folded her clothes and Rodney said, "Erm, you can look now."
She did so and nodded to him, where he now stood in a much crisper, freshly washed shirt and jacket. She said, "Thank you for your assistance, Rodney."
He gave her a small smile and indicated the machine he was using and the one next to it which had its panel hanging open too just as Teyla's did. "I'm going to stay here and check them all over."
She gestured towards his middle with her free hand and continued, "You may wish to delegate the repair work to one of your colleagues and perhaps take some time to visit the infirmary and have your injuries tended."
Rodney moved his arm up and held it against himself. The fingers of his other hand he held by his side twitched and he looked away as he shook his head, "I'll fix the machines first and then go."
Teyla doubted whether he was telling her the truth, but bade him farewell, knowing that if he was really hurt he would seek medical attention. She made a mental note to check on him every few hours to be sure that he was not suffering unnecessarily. She then retired back to her quarters to drop off her clothes before heading to the Mess Hall for breakfast.
Chapter Two – Tuesday Afternoon, Atlantis
Teyla found that she was unable to contact Rodney via his radio when he was late to his training session. So she left her gear in the gym, so that no-one else took the room in her absence, while she sought out the wayward scientist. She was only mildly surprised to find him in the science lab, on the floor, on his back, halfway under a fairly large Ancestral machine.
He was grouchy and annoyed, but she soon had him up and they went via his quarters where he got changed. Teyla usually liked to stay behind afterwards to practice on her own, but still insisted that Rodney stayed for the full length of time they had booked, even with his forgetful lateness, which she had a suspicion may have been intentional. Thirty minutes of intensive training, sparring and exercises.
Now they were facing each other in the gym. Teyla spun her bantos easily and struck Rodney lightly in the side where he had left himself exposed and vulnerable. He released an, 'Oomph' sound as he staggered away from the blow. No matter how many times they repeated the sequence, he still could not get the moves correct. He was either unable to remember or was distracted by something else. Instead of watching her, he often ended up watching the sticks, and was caught off guard many times.
He winced and grumbled, "If I wanted to be knocked about, I'd go back to that last planet we visited and wave a pink flag in the marketplace. You know I bruise easily? I've probably got internal bleeding by now!"
"I am not striking you that hard, Rodney," she replied serenely, executing the Strike of the Skyfallen Swords in the air, but not against him as that would have been too cruel and would probably break several of his bones. "If you do not wish to be hurt, improve your blocks and stance. Your left arm is weak and drops, exposing your flank." He did it again as she spoke and she smacked his side with her stick. He grunted in pain and flinched away from the impact.
He growled in anger as she glared at him and turned her bantos for another attack. "Weak..." he said gutturally.
As a sparring partner, both verbally and physically, Teyla often found Rodney to be a vexing opponent, but she found him equally interesting, as he was so unlike anyone else she had ever spoken or fought with.
She used one of the sticks to deliver a light blow to the side of Rodney's chest, which made a hollow thud as the stick connected with his ribs. He had tried to carry out the Parry of the Wraith-Killer as her attack came in, but he did not yet have sufficient skill to complete the second block.
He cried, "Ouch! What was that for?" as the impact made him unbalance and fall down.
He grabbed hold of her as he went and they landed in a sprawled heap, with her on top of him. Her knee unintentionally landed in an intimate place and Rodney sucked a breath through his teeth and pushed her off quite roughly with a sad little 'ouch.' He rolled onto his side and curled himself into a tight ball on the ground, with his legs bent up protecting his groin and his hand holding the side of his chest.
Teyla did not think she had hit him very hard, and she had been working to fight past his fairly sturdy defence when he abruptly and very unexpectedly dropped his guard away from his body and allowed the stick to strike him.
She crouched down and gently felt along Rodney's ribs on the side she had hit. The only movement she felt as she gently traced her hand over the ridge and groove of each bone as she tested them was the entirely natural expansion and contractions of his ribcage through breath. She thought him unharmed and announced, "There do not seem to be any breaks."
"What are you, Doctor Teyla, now?"
She pursed her lips and helped him upright when he waved his hand at her to indicate that she may do so.
He straightened up and Teyla retrieved his sticks where they had flown from his hands and passed them back to him.
He limped a safe distance away from her. She thought she heard him muttering about children, or lack thereof, with his face bright red in embarrassment and pain.
He complained, even as he brought the sticks up to guard himself once more, "I swear I can feel my broken ribs grating inside me and stabbing my lungs." He opened his mouth and asked, "Is there any blood?" He coughed onto the back of his hand as he held it in front of his mouth and showed her as he asked, "Am I coughing up blood?"
Teyla shook her head, "No, Rodney. You are fine."
He set his face set in taut, yet slightly bitter determination, his features becoming astoundingly handsome in concentration. His jaw line was smooth and strong for talking quickly and eating, and his blue eyes were intense and mysteriously beautiful in their exotic brightness as he watched her carefully.
Their sticks clashed together, but despite Rodney's best efforts, Teyla was still able to deliver a jab into his solar plexus where he left himself wide open to attack. He cried out in pain and bent double, wheezing and coughing. She lowered her sticks in concern, but kept on guard in case he was pretending.
She asked, "Are you alright to continue, Rodney?"
He drew in a shuddering breath and straightened up. He clenched his eyes closed and then opened them with his brow deeply furrowed as he muttered, "Despite the horrible, horrible pain you are inflicting on me, I somehow don't think you'd let me rest even if I asked to."
Teyla narrowed her eyes in confusion. That was not entirely true. They were not on a battlefield after all and if Rodney was hurt unnecessarily during a sparring session, she knew that John would be very unhappy with her. She watched and examined his body language and expression for indicators that he was seriously hurt. Unable to see any signs that he could not continue, she weighed her words and replied, "You are correct. The enemy would not allow you to rest until you were overpowered and either eliminated or captured."
Rodney grimaced and mumbled heavily, "Now I know who to turn to when I want some friendly uplifting advice. Or if I want someone to prod my bruises to see whether they still hurt and by exactly how much."
Teyla stood aghast. She had forgotten about the injury that he had sustained while helping her only the day before. Why he had kept their sparring appointment, she did not know. Perhaps he felt like he needed to prove something, or that he would let her down by cancelling. Or maybe he thought that he would be showing weakness in not attending. That he felt that way about Teyla made her slightly angry. She was also saddened that he felt he could not turn to her when in need of leniency, which was of no inconvenience, nor would diminish her opinion of him as a person.
Rodney McKay was a very complex man indeed, she decided.
It was now beyond the time when their session had been scheduled to finish anyway, and she would have been sparring alone by now. She lowered her sticks right down and said, "I should never have allowed you to train today. We are finished."
Rodney glared at her, "I'm not completely pathetic if that's what you think of me! I can carry on, just give me a moment."
Teyla said calmly, "I have never thought of you that way. And I never will." He looked away from her, his face softening slightly as she continued, "You have great strength..." not so much of the body but "...of the mind. That is a powerful weapon which will destroy many foes where neither stick nor physical prowess would ever succeed."
Rodney frowned in confusion, "Erm, thanks... I think..."
Teyla smiled. "I have an Athosian balm which will help with your bruising. I brought some in my bag if you would like to take it. I have used it in the past and it has worked quite well."
Whether he realised that Teyla herself had just admitted weakness in that she got hurt too, she was unsure. He was a very intelligent man though, so was probably just deciding not to comment.
He asked, "It doesn't have citrus in it, does it?"
"I do not believe so, but if you would feel better, I am sure Dr Beckett would not mind checking it for you."
Rodney did not reply, but merely smiled in gratitude.
She inclined her head towards him, "You have permission to retrieve it from my bag, if you do not mind, I am going to stay a while and practice alone."
Rodney wandered over to the bag quite stiffly. He was only a couple of metres away when there was a sudden loud bang and a gust of air forced Teyla to the floor. Her ears rang and she was disorientated for several seconds before she remembered where she was and deduced that the air that had pushed her down had in fact been a blast wave likely to have emanated from a bomb. Aside from her slightly ringing ears and pounding heart at the shock, she was unharmed. But Rodney had been much closer and she had not yet heard from him.
She coughed as smoke and the smell of burning filled the room at a rate that the environmental systems could not compensate for. She called out into the haze, "Rodney?!"
There was a low moan and Teyla headed towards the sound. She saw a figure lying on the floor and crouched down next to Rodney's still form where he had landed on his back. She took in his blood streaked face, tight with pain, and tapped her radio, "Medical team to the gym!"
She called Sheppard as well, informing him of the explosion and that she was unsure whether they were safe. But he already knew about it and had mobilised a team to get there on the double to check the area. He told Teyla to move out of the room if she was able.
"Rodney is hurt," she replied.
John's voice dropped in concern, "How seriously?"
Teyla did not want to risk retrieving a towel from her bag in case there was another device in there, so she tore some material from the long drapes forming a skirt around her legs and gently dabbed at Rodney's face, trying her best to staunch the flow of blood as well as clean it away so that he could breathe. He was completely unresponsive now and his face had slackened in unconsciousness, while the gentle rise and fall of his chest assured her that he was still alive.
"I am unsure," she replied to John while she worked. "He was thrown backwards by the blast. He is bleeding from the nose, ears and mouth. I have called a medical team to assist."
At that moment the security team arrived, along with Sheppard himself. The medical team followed shortly afterwards. The room was quickly scanned and searched and deemed safe, but Sheppard still ordered a full investigation.
Teyla stayed with Rodney while Carson checked him over. She hid her concern as best she could, but she was deeply unsettled by the sheer amount of blood covering him and now seeping into the collar of his shirt and into his hair where it was running over his skin.
They lifted him up onto the gurney and Teyla baulked in shock at the pool of blood on the mats where Rodney had just been lying. Carson did a better job than she had at wiping away the blood from Rodney's face to apply an oxygen mask. He announced, "Breathing is normal, heart rate is elevated and blood pressure is a little low."
He glanced around at his team and espied Teyla watching them work, and Sheppard was also looking on in worry. Carson turned back to his patient and said, "It could just be a few burst blood vessels from the concussive blast, or it might be something more serious. Let's get him down to the infirmary to run some scans." He turned back to Teyla, "I think you'd better come too, Lass."
Teyla felt an unpleasant heavy knot of apprehension in her chest as she followed them down to the infirmary to be checked over. Rodney was still breathing on his own, but his unconsciousness did nothing to ease her anxiety, nor the steady pulse of the headache forming at her temples.
As it turned out, Carson's initial diagnosis had been correct. He told Teyla along with Sheppard, Ronon and Dr Weir, that Rodney had suffered no internal damage and his lungs were sound. He had a mild concussion which had caused his unconsciousness. He had bitten his tongue to cause the bleeding from his mouth, but the fluids they were providing would soon have his blood pressure back to normal after the fair amount of blood he had lost. He was on oxygen and Carson had decided to keep him in for the rest of the day and overnight under observation to make sure he did not have a secondary reaction or in case they had missed something.
Teyla's examination was normal, except for the slight headache she had had since the explosion, which was increasing in intensity with every passing minute. She was informed by Carson that it may only be a headache now, but it could be hiding something more serious, so they decided to keep Teyla in too.
While Carson and his team tended to Rodney, Elizabeth called the others into the lab next to the infirmary for a meeting. Teyla was able to get up unaided and accompanied them.
Elizabeth turned to John first and asked, "Do you know what happened yet?"
"The investigating team said it was a grenade that went off, likely to have been triggered by a timer. It was in Teyla's kit bag."
Teyla furrowed her brow. How had it come to be with her gear?
Elizabeth turned towards Teyla and asked, "Do you have any ideas who would've done such a thing and why my Chief of Science is now unconscious in the infirmary?"
Teyla shook her head, "I am afraid that I do not know."
Elizabeth deflated and Sheppard looked pensive.
Ronon turned to Teyla and asked, "Were they trying to kill you or McKay?"
Teyla suddenly widened her eyes as her memories came back to her. "This is not the first incident which has happened."
Elizabeth looked at her dangerously, but Teyla did not allow the poorly veiled emotion to deter her or make her alter her voice at all. "I was targeted yesterday too. I am the only one who uses the laundry room before breakfast, and all the machines were damaged in the same way to cause an overload. Rodney came when I called for assistance. He was hit by one of the doors and bruised, but not seriously enough to seek immediate medical attention."
John did an even worse job at concealing his annoyance than Elizabeth as he asked, "And you didn't report this because...?"
Teyla looked at him, "Rodney assured me that it was probably due to one of his, how did he put it, inept, staff."
John smirked and mumbled, "I doubt that's exactly what he said, but fair enough." He turned to Elizabeth, "With your permission I'm going to post a guard on Teyla and McKay until we find out who's responsible for this."
Elizabeth nodded, with her mask firmly back in place. "I agree."
Dr Weir and Ronon left then, leaving Teyla alone with Sheppard.
Teyla looked behind her, out into the infirmary where she could now see that Rodney was settled in, but still with numerous medical staff hovering and making sure he was comfortable while others took readings.
She turned back to John and said, "I do not need a guard, but Rodney does."
"I know. I've already put one on him."
Teyla smiled at how he had done so even before Dr Weir's approval. "That is good to hear. But I am worried for him. He has been hurt twice now while he has been around me. Had he been any closer to the detonation the second time, he would have been killed. I fear it may happen again if I am not careful and we shall not be so lucky next time."
"It wasn't your fault. And anyway, I think it's you who needs to be worried. Someone's obviously targeting you."
"I am well aware of that, John."
They stepped out into the infirmary and Teyla saw that there was already a guard in place watching over Rodney while he slept.
John looked at Rodney for a while before he excused himself, citing that the investigation required his expertise to make sure it had a swift result. Teyla wanted to assist, but decided to allow him to carry on while she recovered, as he was better versed in protocols and the information which would be required to track down the perpetrator. She also had a terrible headache brewing, and doubted that she would be able to concentrate for long enough to be anything other than a hindrance. She therefore decided that she might as well heed Carson's advice and stay in the infirmary overnight with Rodney, partly so that he was not alone, but also so that he did not feel abandoned when he awoke.
Teyla settled herself onto her own bed and waited while Rodney drifted in and out of consciousness for the next few hours. Carson kept on coming over and asking him many questions, to make sure that he was well. Although Teyla heard his voice rise in irritation more than once and smiled to herself as that indicated that Rodney was going to be fine.
It was very late when Teyla saw Rodney beginning to stir on his own. She sat down in the chair beside his bed and looked at him. He had been dressed in white scrubs as the clothes he had arrived in were now ruined with blood; although nothing that a good cycle in the Lantean washing machine would not be able to remove. His eye sockets were bruised and his face was very pale. There was a tube under his nose and one snaking round from the bag of clear liquid on a stand by the bed and taped to his hand. Leads went under his shirt at the collar and she knew they attached to his chest to monitor his heart.
She furrowed her brow at his stillness and leant forwards. She ran her hand over his forehead and down the side of his face in a soothing gesture and his eyes fluttered and then opened when she removed the touch.
He appeared unfocused and dazed for a few seconds, until she said, "Rodney?"
"Hmm?" He lazily tilted his head over towards her and then the glaze over his eyes vanished as she saw the flash of recognition. "Teyla." He lifted his head up and peered down at himself. He suddenly winced and shut his eyes as he allowed his head to fall back onto the pillow.
"Are you alright? Would you like me to call Carson?"
"Headache..." He opened his eyes again after a while and asked, "Uh, what happened? Why does my head hurt and how did I get here?"
"There was an explosion in the gym. You were knocked out and have a concussion. Carson advised that, due to your injuries, it would be best for you to stay here until tomorrow."
Rodney turned to her and frowned, "But there's so much work to be done on the new device we found!"
"I am sure that it can wait one more day," Teyla said in exasperation with a small knowing smile.
Rodney winced and sighed. "Hmm, I remember there was a loud noise and then something like a train hitting me. But that's all."
He glanced around the room and spotted the soldier on guard. "What's he for? I don't think soldier boy's going to prevent bombs or tech malfunctions from killing me..."
Teyla raised her eyebrows.
She said, "Perhaps not, but if the assailant grows weary of their current tactics, then he will be able to protect you against a more direct attack. However, I believe that I am the intended target in this case." Teyla closed her eyes as a sudden throb of pain flared in her forehead.
"Are you alright?" Rodney asked in concern.
She opened her eyes to look at him. "I will be fine."
He frowned at her and sniffed. There was still a rusty tinge surrounding his nostrils and in his ears that the infirmary staff had yet to clean away. "You don't look it. Maybe you should stay here overnight too?"
"You are correct. I am feeling a little unwell, which is why I am also staying."
Rodney perked up a little at that and even managed to give her a small smile of his own. He suddenly became nervous and gabbled, "Alright, that's good. Well, not good in that you're hurt too, but nice that you're staying." He closed his eyes and blew out a long breath, before he looked at her once more and said, "Get Carson to give you some of his drugs."
Teyla smiled at him, "I am sure the pills he provided me with will be sufficient."
Rodney looked back at her incredulously. She had yet again admitted weakness in front of him, the second time that day, and something he was probably not expecting or looking for. But to her surprise, she found that she did not feel guilty or ashamed about it. Rodney was a man who was honest and open about everything himself, so she felt that she was able to indulge him a little with some of her own truths, with the confidence that it would not lessen his opinion of her.
He opened his mouth, but no words came out.
She smiled at him as she leant forwards and took his hand in her own. His hand was pleasantly warm and she could feel the strength and dexterity there. She squeezed gently and he did likewise before they parted. "Good night, Rodney. Sleep well."
"Uhm, you too."
She could feel his questioning gaze upon her back all the way to her own bed. She allowed her veneer of calm and unreadable expression to shift where she knew no-one would see and smiled openly. She may have just admitted that she was human to Rodney and that she also felt weakness and pain. But he said nothing against her and did not look as though he thought any less of her as Ronon and Sheppard would if she said such things to them. He had not judged her or sneered at her and she found her heart uplifted as she settled into her bed for some much needed rest.
She just hoped that the guard upon them was not the one who was trying to kill her, or perhaps him, but knew that if he was, then she was ready. She would not trust anyone other than the members of her team until she found out who it was.
Chapter Three – Wednesday Morning, Atlantis
The next day, Teyla was cleared to leave the infirmary very early so that she could carry out her morning meditation. The ceremony went by without incident. She decided to wait for a busier time before carrying out her washing that day though, so that she did not give her attacker a chance to use the same trick again.
At breakfast, she heard that Carson had now released Rodney, and Teyla made a note to visit him after her sparring session with Sheppard.
Later that morning, she went to Rodney's quarters, hoping that he would be resting within as Carson had advised. But there was no reply.
She clicked her radio, "Teyla to Sheppard."
"This is Sheppard. Go ahead."
"Are you aware of Rodney's current location?"
"He's working in the labs."
Teyla frowned and glared at the sealed door of the stubborn scientist's room before her. She asked, "And you let him, even though he is injured?"
"Hey, you know McKay. He'd have to be half dead and chained to a bed in the infirmary to stop working."
There was no-one around, so Teyla allowed her expression to relax. "Very well. I will attempt to coax him away to get some rest."
"That'll be a good idea if we're still planning to go offworld in a couple of days. Carson needs to clear him and he won't get better if he works when he's exhausted and cranky."
Teyla cut the connection and sighed quietly. Rodney McKay was a very challenging man to get along with and even more difficult to understand. She knew that Sheppard had a strange connection with the man and was able to decipher the puzzle of McKay. But Teyla was still learning, even after two long and trying years.
Teyla did indeed find Rodney in the main science lab. He was not shouting at any of his colleagues as she expected, but hunched over a laptop looking pale and drawn. The dark circles of bruising were still visible around his eyes and he was holding his midsection while he typed using his other hand. There were creases at the corners of his eyes where his skin was gathered together in lines of pain.
Teyla furrowed her brow and acknowledged the scientists she passed as she made her way over to Rodney. They were walking quickly and working in silence, as though they feared what Rodney would do or say to them if they made too much noise. Most of them looked relieved to see Teyla and the tension in the room visibly lessened as she walked towards McKay.
Rodney ignored Teyla as she approached and did not acknowledge her even when she stood closely enough to see what he was working on. She could not understand it and the characters scrolling across the screen made her feel nauseous even though her headache was much better today.
He flinched and stopped still with his eyes closed and his breath held. He clutched himself more tightly and then opened his eyes to look at her as he exhaled shakily. "Teyla! Give me a heart attack!"
Teyla frowned at him and lowered her voice, "I believe Dr Beckett advised that you should rest today." She glanced at the computer, "This does not look very restful."
Rodney grunted and turned back to the computer. "There's work to do to make sure none of these excuses for educated people make any mistakes. We don't want a repeat of the washing machine incident now, do we?"
"That would be... unfortunate. But surely Dr Zelenka is more than capable of leading the department for a single day if you are feeling unwell. I still have a further supply of the balm if Dr Beckett's painkillers are not able to lessen your suffering."
Rodney glanced around the lab nervously, as though he was afraid that Teyla was essentially calling him weak in front of them because he couldn't control or manage the pain he was in. He cleared his throat and turned to Teyla. He spoke pointedly so that his voice would carry to everyone in the room, "It doesn't hurt." He laughed bitterly and winced.
Teyla wasn't fooled for a second, but smiled kindly at him as she said, "Well in that case, would it be possible for you to come with me? I have something to show you that is of great interest."
"Can't you get one of the others to look at it? I'm really busy."
Teyla smiled warmly at him, "I would prefer you to personally have a look." She lowered her voice as she said, "Unless, of course, you do not wish to assist me yourself?"
Rodney narrowed his eyes at her, but Teyla was a skilled diplomat and negotiator, so well versed in concealing her emotions. Detecting no trace of a lie or trick, Rodney's sceptical expression faded back into weariness and he sighed as he glanced at his computer. "Alright. Just let me grab my gear."
Dr Zelenka came over and asked, "Would you like me to accompany you?"
Teyla shook her head, "That will not be necessary."
Zelenka's eyes widened as Teyla briefly revealed some of her true emotions. He nodded and backed away. "Very well. I will keep Rodney's seat warm while he is assisting you."
Teyla quickly set her face in neutrality again when Rodney returned carrying a small toolkit. She attempted to take it away from him, but he held on tightly as he grumbled angrily, "I can carry it! You're not my mother or my babysitter.
"No, but the man over there is." She indicated the guard standing watch over McKay from the other side of the room.
"Oh, him. Well, he's already getting on my nerves. I certainly don't need two of you following me around like I'm completely oblivious and need to be prevented from bouncing off walls!"
But no matter what he said or believed, he was terribly exposed and vulnerable, especially if his headache was still as bad as Teyla's. He was unarmed and very often got so distracted that he ignored important clues and hints.
She led him to Level 15 and into an empty lab, intending to throw off anyone who would try to follow them. The room led to a sun facing balcony, and where the brightness streamed in, it cast its glowing light upon everything. Rodney followed her inside, whipped out his hand scanner and paced around while he intently stared at the screen.
Teyla observed him as he did so, waiting for him to realise. She did not like the deception necessary to get him away from the labs and resting as he should be doing. But she felt that he was her responsibility as it should have been her in his place where he had unwittingly protected her from serious injury by getting hurt himself.
His face was animated at first, and she watched as it gradually fell; his eyebrows went first, then his mouth downturned, and finally he stopped moving altogether and looked up at her. He frowned and narrowed his eyes. "There's nothing here."
"I apologise. I believe that in my haste I may have led us to the incorrect room. Please, follow me."
Rodney raised his eyebrows and his eyes sparkled, but he pressed his lips in a thin line and nodded. "Alright. But I don't have all day for you to make up your mind as to where this fantastic new discovery actually is!"
He talked all the way there, mainly interrogating her about the room and what was inside. Most questions were ZPM related, but Teyla skilfully evaded giving any answers, no matter how hard he pressed and pushed her. She found him to be most irritating, and he sometimes even prompted a desire to do physical violence towards him. Teyla often wished to smack him for being so annoying, but as usual her collected calmness prevented her hand from doing the deed no matter how strong the urge. She had little trouble in staying her hand today though, as she knew that Rodney had already suffered and was still in pain from his injuries.
They were soon in the second room. The door slid shut behind Rodney as he wandered inside, staring avidly at his scanner.
He was still looking at the scanner when Teyla placed a hand on his chest to still him. He stopped and looked down at where she was touching him and then glanced up into her eyes curiously.
"Uhm..." His eyes darted around the room and his mouth dropped open as he looked at Teyla, "Oh." He suddenly looked painfully shy and nervous as he stuttered, "Why are we in your quarters?"
She smiled at him and lowered her hand. Deception was the only way to help him unfortunately. He was too proud and stubborn to ask for help and would certainly never accept if it was offered.
She went over to her desk and lit a few candles before she retrieved the balm. "Please sit down," she gestured towards the bed. "I brought you here to show you how the balm can help with the injuries you have sustained and also to teach you a basic meditation to aid in pain management."
She laid a hand on his arm placatingly and said, "Carson has checked the balm and said it would be beneficial for your recovery, he is even considering adding it to the medicines in the infirmary once he has all the ingredients. It is the least I can do. It would be an honour for me to help you as you have now saved me twice from being more seriously injured at the expense of your own wellbeing."
He looked taken aback but managed to stand still. He asked abruptly "Are you hiding something?" He looked her over as though expecting something to jump out and grab him where she was concealing it behind herself.
"Why do you think that, Rodney?"
He put his scanner down on her desk, folded his arms and huffed. "Compliments. Sheppard always insults me, and Ronon... well, he doesn't say anything much to anyone and lets what I say roll over his head. I don't think he's stupid, but it's hard to tell sometimes..."
Teyla felt her nostrils flare in anger, but kept her emotions sealed as she said sweetly, "I would be careful of the way you speak about Ronon. He is able to kill a man using only a single finger."
Rodney swallowed, his Adam's apple visibly bobbing up and down in his throat as he did so. Teyla watched his expression rapidly change from haughty indignation to instinctual fear. His eyes darted around the room again, wary that a tall Satedan warrior was about to jump out of one of the air vents and throttle him, but nothing happened.
Teyla patted his back gently and he flinched. "However, as long as I am here to guide you, I am sure you will be safe."
He shrugged and tentatively shuffled forwards. Teyla rolled her eyes and prayed to the Ancestors to give her the strength she needed for the lesson ahead.
Rodney sat down on the bed as directed and looked up at her meekly as she approached. She gestured towards his middle and said, "Please remove you shirt so that I may work."
He shot up from the bed like he had been electrocuted and held up his hands to fend her off. His deep red blush reached the tips of his ears and he muttered, "No no no! This isn't right! Y-you're my friend, and you're so beautiful, way beyond my league, so why are you trying to seduce me?!"
Teyla pushed down on his shoulder and he landed on the bed again with a thump. "I am not attempting to seduce you, Rodney. If you prefer, I will give you the balm and leave. You may rub it in yourself and call me when you are finished."
He looked a little deflated by that. Teyla placed the container into his hand and continued, "But it is necessary before we start on the meditation as I do not wish for you to be distracted by the pain."
Rodney turned the container over in his hand and then passed it back to Teyla. "On second thoughts..." He looked down at his hands and then took off his jacket. He kept his eyes averted as he curled his fingers under the hem of his shirt and stiffly lifted it up and pulled it over his head.
He looked down at the floor as Teyla examined him and frowned at the purple and blue bruises mottled on his abdomen and the few smaller ones on his chest. She looked over the rest of him and found more bruising on his back. She started there; gently massaging the balm into his broad back. He flinched at first and then murmured.
She frowned and asked, "How did your back become bruised?"
"I don't know. Carson said some of the bruises are older. Probably from sparring or from that room we found last week with the moving walls." He tensed his shoulders and Teyla rested a hand on the warm skin and pressed down to force him to loosen up.
"You should take better care of yourself, Rodney."
"Easy for you to say."
"Take deep breaths and try to relax."
Teyla smiled and came around to face him. He held his arms against himself and she could see the redness of the flushed skin spreading down his chest. She gave him a warning look and he sighed before gingerly lowering his arms so that she could gain access.
She rubbed the balm into the bruising on his chest, in the place where she remembered hitting him the day before. His skin, although it looked sore, was unbroken and felt smooth and soft under her palms as she worked more of the balm into his abdomen where the worst bruising was. He tensed again and hissed, before holding his breath.
She placed her hand on his chest and said, "Keep breathing. Deep and calming breaths."
She ran her hands in expert circles over his warm belly, covering the soft and lightly quivering flesh in the balm. Rodney was breathing unevenly and tensed up and held his breath when Teyla's hands massaged the balm into the slight bulge just below his belly button above the waistband of his trousers. She found that touching him was strangely enjoyable and that his reactions made it even more so. His skin was delightfully smooth and reactive to her touch and the fine hairs trailing down his midsection added a certain roughness to the proceedings and set Teyla's mind at ease over his manliness, despite his whimpers and almost effeminate capacity to discuss and show his emotions. She had decided quite some time ago that she enjoyed that aspect of him too, and found it a refreshing change from the stoic soldiers and warriors she had spent a lot of her time with all her life.
Rodney's breath made his chest rise and fall jerkily, while he trembled under her ministrations. When she detected an increase in his nervous behaviour, she said, "It is alright, Rodney. You may relax, I am nearly finished."
He exhaled a long sigh which Teyla felt, as well as heard, through her hands. She retrieved his shirt and passed it back to him. "If you would feel more comfortable, you may dress again."
He hastily pulled the garment over his head and smoothed it down over his chest with a relieved expression.
Teyla came over and sat next to him. She motioned for him to sit cross legged and to face her on the bed as she sat in the same way.
Rodney grimaced and shrugged his shoulders a couple of times in quick succession. He scratched at his chest and then his abdomen and frowned. Teyla was about to query his oddly twitchy behaviour, when she began to feel an itchy burning sensation spreading out over her hands. She glanced down at her hands and baulked. They were red and blotchy and the burn was rapidly turning to pain.
She glanced at Rodney in horror and his watery eyes met hers in shock. He asked, "What's in that balm?"
She widened her eyes, "Nothing that has ever caused a reaction like this!"
Rodney started to tremble and water leaked from the corners of his eyes. Teyla tapped her radio, "Teyla to the infirmary."
"This is Beckett. What's up?"
Rodney was quaking by now as his tears tracked down his face. He suddenly keeled over onto the bed with a sob and hugged his forearms against his middle. Teyla kept her hands free as she placed an arm on the small of his back, where she had not rubbed any of the balm. "I am unsure. I have just tried using an Athosian balm on Rodney's bruises, but we are both having a reaction to it. There was nothing wrong with it yesterday."
"Are you able to come down?"
Teyla glanced at Rodney who had his eyes tightly closed and was panting with his teeth gritted. "I will try."
"Good, bring a sample of the balm with you too."
"We will be there soon."
Teyla pocketed the container and grabbed Rodney's hand with a flare of agonising pain up her arm which made her gasp. But Rodney had so much more of his skin covered that she could not imagine what he was feeling like. She pulled him upright and said, "I am so sorry, Rodney. Do you think you will be able to walk?"
He nodded and groaned. "I thought it was supposed to help with the pain, not increase it!"
Teyla furrowed her brow as guilt made her insides squirm ferociously. "There is something wrong with it. It was fine this morning when I used some."
Rodney was barely conscious by the time they staggered into the infirmary. Many gloved hands relieved Teyla of her burden and lifted Rodney up onto a gurney. Carson grabbed the balm and took it to his lab to begin analysis. Teyla sat on the edge of another bed and gritted her teeth as she held her smarting and red hands up away from herself.
Rodney had his shirt cut away to reveal red and angry skin nearly hiding the dark bruises. Teyla gasped, "His back. There is more balm on his back too."
They rolled Rodney over onto his side and held him there. They also placed an oxygen mask over his face. His breaths were short and fast. But it was nothing like the anaphylactic reaction Teyla had been taught about. He was in pain though and through Teyla's own eye-watering agony, she felt a knot of worry and a deep sadness in her heart. She had been trying to help Rodney, but she had only caused him yet more pain and distress.
Someone must have switched the balm for something more dangerous while she had been searching for Rodney.
Another member of the medical staff placed an oxygen mask over Teyla's face, which made her feel a lot better, and she lay back. They took her arms in their thickly gloved hands and held them up so that she did not touch anything with her own hands.
Carson came back a few seconds later announced that the balm had a low acid content and they would need to have rapid treatment to prevent the burns from getting worse.
As it turned out, the acidic balm had not been as dangerous as it could have been as the medical team caught it early. It was more like bad sunburn once the acid had stopped melting through their skin and they had both endured a few hours of treatment. Carson said it should be healed in a day or two at most with the appropriate care.
Rodney and Teyla were advised to spend the rest of the day off this time, and not to touch or use the affected parts too much.
Rodney was too exhausted to do otherwise. His eyelids drooped as Teyla escorted him back to his quarters. She did not mind the two guards following them, where Sheppard had assigned one to each of them while he investigated the sensor logs to see if he could track whoever it was who had been in Teyla's quarters to switch the balm.
She helped Rodney onto his bed and he fell asleep even before she had removed his shoes and pulled the covers over him. She looked down at him as his mouth lolled open and he shifted and moaned in distress. She laid the unhurt back of her hand on the side of his face and leant down. She placed an apologetic, gentle kiss on his forehead and he stilled and became quiet as he slipped into a deeper and more restful slumber.
She watched him for a few more minutes and then left to meditate on the day's events. She no longer begrudged the marine following her, but felt the reassuring pressure of the knife concealed in the small of her back while she walked.
( It Was Never Meant To Be This Way - Part Two )