Rating: G (Gen)
Word Count: 1,218
Notes: Written for the sga_flashfic Missing Person challenge, but finished too late for posting then! I’m taking advantage of the Amnesty challenge. It is posted at the site here.
Summary: While trapped in the dark, a new recruit to the Atlantis has an encounter with an old friend…
There’s a depressing tinge of metal in the air, and Robbie fears that it might be blood.
It’s hard to say. His pants are soaked through with various dark liquids already, and he hurts everywhere, so if some parts are leaking, while others are bruised, or, god forbid, broken… Well. Let’s just say he’s had better mornings.
Atlantis is supposed to be safe, by now. It’s supposed to be fixed. Didn’t the Ancients come back and sort out the repairs, or something? Or was it the Replicaters? Hasn’t he read that on a mission report somewhere?
He’s so new he’s wet behind the ears, and it’s all been so exciting. He’s read up on what he can, even if he’s the lowliest of the low in the lab, and his specialisms don’t exactly lend themselves to field work. Even if there are rarely occasions for a civil engineer to go off-world, it’s still been a pleasure and a privilege to read what he can in the few personal hours he’s allowed himself.
He just wasn’t expecting anything quite so exciting to happen to him.
No-one ever mentions how painful, and terrifying, and fucking dangerous excitement can be.
Something’s still dripping on his head. It might be water from the ruptured desalinisation tank – the first wave of which threw him against the bulkhead, and then through the subsequently opened, no-one-knew-that-was-there door. Or, at least, if they had known it was there, Robbie wants to know why he wasn’t told about it before he was sent to look at the apparently catastrophically failing desalinisation tank.
If this is new guy hazing, it’s gone much too far.
He smiles a little and then winces, as something twinges. He wonders if he should think about moving.
And that’s when he hears it – a scraping noise, the shift of something in the darkness – he can’t help but tense up. And that makes him gasp with the unexpectedly sharp pain.
But this is Atlantis, and it’s probably something ordinary, something innocuous – someone here to rescue him, or to check on him, because it’s not like he has to worry about being stalked in the corridors by Genii – they’re friends now, right, have been for ages? It’s just the darkness and the pain getting to him, and…
“Hello? Is there anybody there?” says Robbie, and regrets how his voice wavers.
“Oh, at last,” says someone else, somebody ordinary, and Robbie could collapse again in relief, “I thought I was going to put my back out climbing about in this gloom – and ever since I was shot in the ass by an arrow – don’t ask – I’ve been a martyr to sciatica, but does anyone listen?”
It’s a pissy voice, the voice of a man who’s used to talking, who doesn’t expect an answer – and it’s sort of familiar, although Robbie can’t work out who… The sudden relief is making him dizzy, that’s all it is, and he’ll remember in a minute… He’s been here so little time, and there are so many new people.
“Typical, leaving it to me to save the day again, and do I get any thanks, no, I’ll be lucky if I get a head slap for my trouble – does Batman have to go through this? Well, obviously, yes he does, but he’s… trained. And… and driven! And has the cool gadgetry, and… well yes, so do we, but that’s not the point! Let’s get you out of here, Marine.”
Robbie feels soothed by the flow of words. It reminds him of his old college professor, for some reason, something in the tone. He feels bound to speak up for the misunderstanding though, just like he might if he’d spotted a mistake on the white board. “I’m not a marine, I’m a scientist. Part of the Hydrology Department.”
“And they let out on your own? I thought the protocols were stricter than that. Or were you bucking authority and working on your own maverick research?” There’s a disapproving sniff, that’s still somehow not all that reproachful, after all.
“Umm,” says Robbie. He’s not sure what his rescuer wants to hear. What will get him in the least amount of trouble? “I was just repairing the tank…sir.”
The man has got an arm under his now and has levered him up and out into the corridor. There’s the smell of salt under the metal now, and earth, from the reconstituted solute membrane. They only need fire to complete the elements, and Robbie’s really, really hoping the universe hasn’t just heard that thought… The man is solid under his weight though, for which Robbie’s grateful, and the pain hasn’t increased, so he’s hoping for the bruised kind of diagnosis, and not the broken kind. Things could be worse.
They limp through the darkness, and Robbie lets the man chatter on. He seems to like that, and generates an almost constant flow of minor complaints. Robbie doesn’t mind. It’s oddly soothing, not having to think, just needing to put one foot in front of the other, and let his rescuer go on and on… Robbie’s realising he hasn’t even asked the guy’s name.
It’s starting to get lighter. Robbie suddenly notices he can see his hand in front of his face at last. There’s the murmur of people, far away – like the sound of hope and ordinary things, and suddenly Robbie wants the stupid plastic curtains in the infirmary, and the rubbery meals on a tray, and the clucking of the doctors, more than he’s wanted anything in his life before. He’s getting dizzy again.
“Time for me to go,” says the man, and pats him awkwardly on the shoulder.
“Are you sure?” says Robbie, looking longingly towards the nearest transporter, a million miles away. “Can’t you take me to…”
“They’ll find you soon enough,” the man interrupts, and lets him go. The brusqueness seems so out of place, for all of his complaints, that Robbie looks towards him, surprised.
He can see him at last. There’s light enough finally, and Robbie gasps. “Rodney McKay!”
“You were expecting someone else? Colonel Sheppard, I suppose.” There’s that little almost sniff again. “Sorry to disappoint, but it turns out you’re one of mine. So here I am to save the day.”
McKay looks at him with oddly light eyes.
“Nothing ever changes, you know. Not really. I’m still expected to provide miracles on a daily basis.” He smiles crookedly, and Robbie finds his heart pounding.
“It’s an honour to meet you.”
“Huh. Well. Yes, that’s very nice, I’m sure.” But he still looks kind of pleased.
Robbie wants to say something else, something insightful, he wants to ask what it’s like – but he can’t order his thoughts, and McKay is turning to go.
“I’m Robbie,” he says in a rush, “Robbie Miller. I just wanted to say… Thank you. Mom still talks about you. All the time.”
He waits but for once McKay isn’t saying anything, he isn’t helping Robbie out.
“Just… She’ll ask, you know she will. Did you die? Or ascend? Or did the city take you? Are you… are you happy?”
There’s another sideways grin, one that’s tinged with smugness, with the hint of a know-it-all charm. Robbie can’t help but smile back.
“Yes,” says McKay, and steps back into the dark.