Title: Remedial Leadership – Lesson 4
Pairing: Mckay/Sheppard pre-slash
Sequel/Series: Looks like it; unknown length. I'll be done when you're tired of reading 'em
Summary: Rodney learns to deal with things that go wrong.
Remedial Leadership – Lesson 4
“Where the fuck is..” Rodney swallowed the is he that he had been going to say aloud and finished his question as “…are they?”
Peter Grodin, the gate technician, looked up at Dr. Rodney McKay, head of the Atlantis Expedition. He had gotten used to Dr. McKay’s hovering in the gate room when any of the teams were off world. Two-day-overdue teams resulted in more hovering.
“Sorry, sir,” said Grodin. “They’ve missed the last two check-ins.” He knew Dr. McKay knew this, it was part of the dance they did. Check-in should happen daily, unless other arrangements had been made. Missing two check-ins meant a team was out of contact for two days.
“If they miss their next check-in, we’ll send a MALP,” Rodney told him. Grodin nodded, accepting that Rodney would be back before the next check-in time.
Knowing there was nothing he could do, Rodney went back to his office to fret in private. “Where the fuck are you?” Rodney could ask his rhetorical question in private.
For it was Major John Sheppard’s team that was overdue. John, Teyla Emmagen, Lieutenant Aiden Ford, and Dr. Radek Zalenka were Atlantis’ first and best team. The team Rodney would have been on if Dr. Elizabeth Weir hadn’t died mere weeks after arriving in Atlantis. Being the next highest ranking civilian in the expedition, leadership he didn’t want had fallen squarely into Rodney’s lap.
“Oh, fuck,” Rodney realized. If he had been on John’s team, he would be overdue and not Zalenka. He put his head on his desk and forced himself to breathe deeply to control the panic attack. He had to concentrate hard on breathing to keep the panic at bay.
Knowing any work he tried to do now would only have to be re-done later, Rodney didn’t even pretend to try to do anything. Fuck. When did it get so bad that he couldn’t function when John was overdue like this? Rodney sighed in frustration at the unfairness of it all. And he waited.
“Dr. McKay?” came Grodin’s voice in his earpiece, startling Rodney out of the doze he must have fallen into.
“Yes?” answered Rodney, hopefully. Ow. Ow. Ow. His back hurt as he straightened up from this desk. He should know better.
“Sorry, sir. They’ve missed another check-in,” Grodin said carefully.
Damn. “Okay, get a MALP ready and I’ll be right there,” Rodney replied. He went into the small bathroom adjacent to his office and splashed water on his face to help clear his head. He looked at himself in the mirror and saw how haggard he looked. Not wonder Grodin was handling him like he might break. This might actually do it. A deep breath and he went out into the gate room.
Say thank you occasionally, Rodney, John’s voice floated into his head. “Good job,” Rodney said to the crew that had gotten the MALP ready. Nods from the techs confirmed that it was the right thing to do. Grodin dialed the gate and the MALP trundled through.
Rodney peered at the monitor as the MALP sent images back to Atlantis. As the camera panned the horizon, Rodney tensed. “What’s that?” he demanded, pointing to a section of the screen.
Grodin looked closely and said, “I think it’s smoke. Wasn’t there when we sent the MALP through before they left.” He fiddled with the zoom and they could clearly see a several bands of smoke rising in the distance.
Rodney tapped his communicator. “Stackhouse? I need a rescue team here in fifteen minutes to go out after Major Sheppard.” After getting an acknowledgement, Rodney made another call. “Beckett? I’m sending a rescue team out after Major Sheppard. Can you give me someone to go with them?”
Carson Beckett’s calm, “Aye, Rodney. Be there shortly,” was reassuring.
The fifteen minutes to assemble the team was an eternity. Once he had given the orders, there was actually nothing for Rodney to do but watch and wait. Beckett came with the medic he was sending and asked, “What do we know?”
“Nothing as yet,” Rodney answered, grateful for the distraction. “Sheppard’s team has missed three check-ins and we’re seeing a large area of smoke in the distance. I’m assuming there’s a problem.”
The rescue team went through the gate. From the other end, Stackhouse reported, “Not seeing anything here. We’ll move in the direction of the smoke. I’ll send the MALP back after you shut down the gate.” All the gate teams knew that there were a very limited number of MALPs and the devices were protected as much as possible. People came first, but valuable resources were hoarded.
The gate shut down and a minute later it was reactivated. “Stackhouse’s IDC,” Grodin confirmed.
“Lower the shield,” Rodney commanded, unnecessarily. A minute later the MALP trundled back into the gate room. The techs worked to move it out of the way of the gate.
Beckett knew Rodney wouldn’t relax until there was any news, he asked, “I need a cup of tea. Come with me?”
Rodney looked up and had to stop to process the question. “Uh, I don’t…” he stuttered.
“Just a quick cup, Rodney,” Beckett said softly. “You need to let them work and there’s nothing you can do here.” Beckett placed a hand on Rodney’s shoulder to make sure he had Rodney’s attention.
Don’t hover unless you can do something. Let people do their jobs. John’s voice echoed into Rodney’s head again, reinforcing Beckett’s sentiment. Rodney caved in and said to Beckett, “Okay, you’re right.” Rodney turned to Grodin and said, “Call me if you need anything.”
After a few minutes, Rodney was grateful to Beckett for dragging him out of the gate room. He had to focus to eat the food Beckett had placed in front of him. “You need to eat, Rodney,” Beckett said firmly. They didn’t talk but Beckett didn’t move until Rodney had eaten everything he had brought from the kitchen.
Rodney looked at the empty dishes in front of him. “Guess I needed that,” Rodney admitted. He massaged his forehead with his fingers, “I don’t know the last time I had anything to eat.”
“Aye, I suspected as much,”” Beckett said. “Can’t have you falling apart on us, Rodney.”
Who am I that these people take such good care of me, he asked himself humbly. “Thank you, Carson,” Rodney said softly. Beckett nodded and waited with Rodney.
The communicator crackled. “Dr. McKay!” It was Grodin’s voice.
Rodney answered, “On my way.” He nodded at
“It was broken off before we got a full message. But someone is hurt and they’re having trouble getting everyone back to the gate,” Grodin reported. He replayed the message and the static interfered as the message replayed.
Damn you, John Sheppard. Before you go off planet again, you’re leaving me some contingency plans, Rodney thought. “Okay, get a Jumper ready as soon as you can to back them up,” Rodney decided. They should have had a team standing by, he realized.
It was in a gratifyingly short time that another team was ready and the Jumper poised to go through the gate. “Go. Go. Go,” Rodney chanted. After the gate shut down, Rodney moved to the back of the room to fret.
Almost an hour later, the gate came to life. “Major Sheppard’s IDC,” reported Grodin.
Thank god, Rodney thought, sagging against the wall in relief.
Rodney keyed his communicator. “Beckett, you’re wanted in the gate room. Wounded coming through.”
“On my way,” came a calm reply.
“Jumper coming through first,” came John’s voice. Rodney wanted to whimper in relief, but held on by main strength. “Worst of the wounded on the Jumper.”
“Gate room clear when you’re ready,” Grodin answered Sheppard.
“Beckett, get your people up to the Jumper bay,” Rodney directed. “Wounded coming through in there first.”
“Aye,” came the reply. The Jumper bay was slightly closer to the infirmary than the gate room, but not by much.
“We’re about twenty minutes behind on foot,” Sheppard said.
“Okay, I’m going to send a group through to help you once the Jumper is through,” Rodney told him.
“Thanks,” John said briefly. “Have them hold the gate for us.”
“Got it,” Rodney answered. Fuck. Who was left to send through? He didn’t know. “Bates?” he called the only other name he could recall at the moment. “I need to send a team to hold the gate for Major Sheppard and they have like three minutes to get ready? Who’s available?” Rodney asked frantically.
“I’ll take care of it,” came a swift reply.
Rodney fidgeted in place and was flabbergasted to see Bates, Dr. Kusanagi and – were those cooks? – pounding into the gate room. Deciding to sort it out later, Rodney briefed them, “Sheppard needs you to hold the gate area. He’s coming in on foot and there are probably wounded in his group. We don’t know how many are with him.” As Rodney was talking, someone was handing the team weapons and communicators.
As they were making sure everyone was ready, Grodin called, “Jumper coming through.” The Puddle Jumper came through the gate and in the background, Rodney could hear Grodin directing the pilot to go up to the bay where the medical team was waiting.
“Shut down the gate and re-dial,” Rodney directed to Grodin. While the gate was dialing, he turned to Bates, “Don’t know what you’ll be up against. We didn’t see anything near the gate on the MALP but that was over an hour ago. Be careful.”
Bates nodded and turned to his team. “Ready?” They nodded. One of the cooks went through first, the other cook and Kusanagi next and Bates brought up the rear. Upon receiving the “Clear” message from the team, Grodin shut down the gate again.
In the silence that followed, Rodney realized he was holding his breath. Breathe, he told himself. When the gate activated from the other side and Grodin announced, “Major Sheppard’s IDC.” Rodney moved to the gate area.
Major John Sheppard came through the gate first and warned, “We have some refugees coming through.” Teyla came through leading a group of people who walked through the event horizon and stopped, gaping at the city. Teyla tugged on one woman’s arm and said softly, “Come, we must let the others come through.”
Rodney stepped up and said, “Over here,” pointing to a clear area of the gate room. He didn’t want to let these people loose in Atlantis until he knew more about what was going on. He had to trust John’s judgment in bringing them with him until he had time to learn more.
There was minor chaos for a bit while about forty or fifty people came through the gate. Most of them sank down to the floor in the area Rodney had pointed to. Teyla moved among them, murmuring reassurances. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Bates and Kusanagi come through and signal to Grodin that he could shut down the gate.
In trying to help organize things, Rodney finally found himself facing John. Not knowing what else to say, he demanded, “And where have you been?”
“Went for a stroll, made some new friends, did some shopping, ended up in the middle of a civil war,” John replied lightly. Rodney could see the exhaustion in his eyes and the way he moved carefully.
“You okay?” Rodney asked, concerned. He noted that John was probably hurt more than he would admit.
“It’ll keep. Ford’s in bad shape and I’m afraid Zalenka broke a leg. And some of the refugees need attention,” John told him.
“Middle of a civil war?” Rodney asked. “How’d that happen?”
John shrugged. “Guess the town near the gate is prime property. We gated in during what must have been a lull in the fighting and we didn’t know we were in a war zone until we were in the middle of it. Ford caught some shrapnel and Radek had part of a building fall on him.” He looked about the room. “The locals were jamming our radios so we couldn’t call for help and we couldn’t move Ford without help. Didn’t want to leave these people there, so we brought them with us. Figured they could move in with the Athosians on the mainland at some point. Or offer to take them back, once they’re in better shape.”
“Let Teyla sort it out?” Rodney asked.
“Probably for the best,” John admitted. He looked at Rodney and asked with a tinge of wonder in his voice, “You sent cooks to hold the gate for us?”
Rodney rolled his eyes. “You are so not going anywhere until we have better backup plans. After I sent the Jumper team after you, I had no idea who was left. Bates was the only name I could remember and I wasn’t going to ask any questions when he showed up with them,” Rodney explained, exasperated.
“They did fine,” John admitted. He’d have to have a talk with Bates at some point, but right now he needed a shower and some sleep. He looked at Rodney and said, “You look like shit.”
“You don’t look any better,” Rodney said with a grin. “And, no, you can’t skip the infirmary. So don’t go wandering off,” Rodney said firmly. As John rolled his eyes, Rodney pointed out, “You’re going to annoy Beckett until he tells you something about Ford so you might as well get yourself checked out. Don’t tell me you’re not hurt, even your hair is flat.”
John looked at his feet for a moment and ran his hand over his head. Rodney noticed his hair? “You’re right,” he admitted softly.
“Get out of here,” Rodney said brusquely. “I’ll check on you and Zalenka when we’re done here.”
As John walked off toward the infirmary, he turned and said, “You did good, McKay. Thanks.”
The last of the worry that Rodney didn’t even realize was still there released its hold on him. Rodney shooed John on, “Go,” he said, pointing.