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Week 12: Revolutions

Title: Revolutions
Author: stella_pegasi
Genre(s): H/C, angst, friendship
Rating: PG
Characters: Rodney McKay, John Sheppard, Teyla Emmagan, Ronon Dex
Spoilers: Set after Season 5, mention of events in The Shrine.
Warnings: None
Het/Slash/Gen: Gen
Word count: 2,821
Disclaimer: I do not own them, I would have treated them better.
Summary: There are times when friendship is all the comfort they need.

Notes: When I first saw the prompt for this week, for some reason an image of McKay and a washing machine popped into my head. I commented to my dear friend sherry57, about my silly thought and she replied with the idea for this story. Thank you to my wonderful friend and muse, who always inspires me. I hope I did her storyline justice.


By stella_pegasi

Rodney McKay was mesmerized. He couldn't stop staring at the simple machine sitting in front of him. Revolution after revolution, the machine continued tirelessly to do its job, cycling through the process, wash, spin, rinse, spin. When the cycle was complete, the machine stood ready to begin again.

He was a bit unclear as to why he was there, what had driven him to bring John Sheppard's things to the laundry? He remembered hurrying to Sheppard's room for something; something important that Beckett said might help. McKay had volunteered to retrieve the item. As he sat on the bench, he tried to remember what he was supposed to retrieve.

A buzzing noise startled him. The dryer behind him had finished, and he turned around, by rote at this point. He had lost count as to how many loads of laundry he had done, at least five he thought, and he was now reacting automatically. He pulled the clothes from the dryer and placed them on a nearby table where he began to fold them. It wasn't until he pulled a black t-shirt with a panda on it from the pile that he remembered.

Sheppard was badly injured, and it was his fault; it was always his fault. But this time…this time John Sheppard might not walk again, he might not live. A wave of anguish passed through his body as he remembered his last image of his friend as he left the infirmary on his quest. Sheppard's pale skin was translucent in the infirmary's bright light; machinery surrounded his bed. He was in a coma, on a ventilator; his brain bruised. His spine compressed by the swelling from the injury to his back. Tests had shown little, if any nerve impulses were reaching Sheppard's lower extremities.

McKay clutched the black t-shirt tightly, as he thought back to the events that led them where they were now.

The inhabitants of PX4-827 had requested assistance from Atlantis. A recent spate of seismic activity had opened up fissures in the terrain and cut off the supply routes to out-lying settlements. Sheppard first ordered a team of combat engineers to clear the trees around the planet's stargate. Once the area was clear, jumpers had taken supplies to the stranded settlers, and evacuated the sick and injured.

Now that jumpers were making regular supply runs, the focus had turned to building bridges over the fissures to re-establish access to the settlements. Tiron Mechile, a Pegasus Coalition council member and head of the Planetary Infrastructure Development Committee, had gated to Atlantis to consult. He met with Sheppard, Richard Woolsey, Dr. Radek Zelenka, head of the design team, and the combat engineers. Mechile had asked Sheppard and his team to accompany him to the planet to inspect the progress on the bridges.

Rodney dropped his head, remembering the fuss that he had made when Sheppard told him about the mission. He had better things to do than to wander around a planet that looked like the wild west of the 1800s, following another bureaucrat. Sheppard's glare had been enough to convince him that refusing to go was futile. If only Sheppard had listened to him, his best friend wouldn't be lying in the infirmary.

The tour lasted five hours. They had taken a jumper to inspect the construction sites, but had decided to walk the short distance back to the gate from the main settlement's meeting hall. Councilman Mechile was to remain until the next day, leaving the four teammates to return to Atlantis alone.

The once wide path that led to the gate was piled with debris from the tremors that had occurred over the last thirty-four days. Zelenka had discovered mention of the planet in the Ancient database. It appeared that the Ancients had been interested in the cyclical nature of the seismic events on the planet. Zelenka informed them that the Ancients determined an errant moon on a wide elliptical orbit around the planet, passed very close to the planet every 87 years. The gravitational pull from the moon on its closest approach was the cause of the tremors, which would last approximately thirty-nine days. The possibility of another tremor was decreasing with each passing minute.

Rodney sighed; he should have known that with their luck, another quake would strike while they were on the planet. He brought his clenched fists to his temples, still clutching Sheppard's t-shirt. He just kept asking himself why he couldn't have been quicker, then that stubborn, crazy-haired flyboy wouldn't be near death. They were about halfway to the gate when the strong tremor hit.

The ground began to shake, nearly knocking Teyla off her feet. Ronon grabbed her as Sheppard yelled for Ronon to get her to the gate. They couldn't have been in a worse location, just past the outskirts of the settlement. Much of the debris from the fallen stone structures, and most of the timber removed to clear out the area around the stargate was staged near the path, convenient for use in rebuilding the settlement.

The tremor shook loose a large pile of tree trunks, sending them rolling into a pile of large stones. One thick tree trunk hit a large boulder sized stone with geometric precision, sending the trunk into the air. Rodney heard Sheppard shouting at him to run, but he had not reacted quickly enough. He looked behind him to see the trunk sailing toward him, then felt Sheppard's body slam into him, throwing him about five feet down the path. Enough distance for him to escape the tree trunk, but not enough for Sheppard. The large trunk struck the colonel in the back, then bounced off the back of his head before dropping to the ground and rolling toward him. Rodney didn't remember how he managed to move out of the way of the speeding tree trunk; his only concern was to get to Sheppard.

Teyla and Ronon, having heard Sheppard's shout, returned to help, and he was thankful they did. Teyla sent Ronon to the gate to get medical help and made certain that no one moved the colonel. Rodney remembered the fear in her eyes, knowing that it only reflected his fear; they knew Sheppard was gravely injured.

Forty-eight hours had passed, and both Carson and Jennifer were reluctant to offer a prognosis. The swelling in his brain had begun to diminish, and that was a hopeful sign. However, the scanner was showing an almost complete lack of neural impulses past the injury point on his back. The only hopeful sign there was the word, 'almost.'

Rodney had been leaning on the folding table. He stood up, and began to fold the clothes he had removed from the dryer. When he was done, he took the now finished towels from the large washer, put them in the dryer, then loaded the sheets into the washer. He was in the Atlantis laundry because of a conversation he had had with Carson. The Scottish doctor had realized that Rodney was feeling hopeless, as well as feeling responsible, and had suggested that perhaps something familiar to Sheppard would be good to have in the infirmary. Familiar objects, as well as voices, might reach through the colonel's coma.

Rodney had left the infirmary on a mission, hurrying to Sheppard's quarters. He used his emergency bypass code to open the door and walked inside. For a moment, he stood quietly looking around the room. For all his relaxed swagger, questionable posture, and messy hair, Sheppard was a neat freak. His bunk was made, not a beer can or water bottle in sight; magazines neatly stacked on the bedside table. As he gazed around the tidy room, Rodney wondered what he should take back to the infirmary.

His eyes fell on the picture of Sheppard as a boy with his childhood idol, Evel Knievel. Rodney smiled faintly; he had always wondered why Sheppard only had that picture displayed in his quarters. As bits and pieces of Sheppard's background had been revealed, they all knew why Sheppard would rather have Knievel to remember than his own father. As he walked around, Rodney became obsessed with what he should take to the infirmary. He took the picture and placed it on the dresser near the door, but decided against the skateboard, the boogie board, or the guitar. There was already too much equipment around Sheppard's bed.

As he turned toward the wall where the refrigerator was located, Rodney felt chills run down his body. Flashes of the time he was infected by the childhood disease parasite flooded his consciousness. He remembered the fear of waking up and finding no one with him. He had run down the corridor, frantically looking for Sheppard. As he relived as much of that night as he could remember, he did recall one thing vividly, the t-shirt Sheppard was wearing, the black t-shirt with the panda on it. That was what he had to take to Sheppard, it represented comfort to Rodney, and perhaps it would be comforting to Sheppard as well.

He began searching for the t-shirt, first checking the dresser drawers and didn't find it. Then he checked the closet, nothing; he even looked under the bed, the shirt was nowhere to be found. It was at that moment that he snapped. He was frantic; he had decided that Sheppard needed that shirt, just as he had needed Sheppard to help him through that horrid time.

Rushing into the bathroom, Rodney checked the large shower stall, then his eye fell on the military-issue laundry sack sitting in the corner. He grabbed the canvas bag and dumped the contents on the floor, sighing with relief as, among the socks, underwear, uniforms, and towels, the t-shirt fell out. He grabbed the shirt, ready to scurry back to the infirmary, when he realized he couldn't take a dirty t-shirt to the infirmary. He would have to wash it. He was about to leave the bathroom when his practical nature took over. If he was going to wash the t-shirt, he should wash the rest of Sheppard's dirty clothes. As he was stuffing everything into the laundry bag, his thoughts became euphoric. This will work; everything will be nice and clean when Sheppard was discharged from the infirmary. Everything will be renewed, dirty to clean, injured to healthy, the natural cycle of things.

His euphoria lasted only a few steps from the bathroom; Sheppard might not make it, and it was his fault for not moving quickly enough. His mind raced as he whispered, "I have to do everything I can to help Sheppard survive. Everything has to be new and clean again, everything."

Rodney ripped the blanket, sheets and pillowcases from the bed. Spreading the sheet out on the floor, he dumped all the clothes from Sheppard's dresser onto it and tied up the corners. From the closet, he grabbed casual clothes, deciding he'd send Sheppard's uniforms to the laundry detail tomorrow; he'd wash everything else. Before he left Sheppard's quarters, he grabbed all the clean linen and towels, stuffed them into the pillowcases. Carrying and dragging his burden, Rodney headed for the transporter and the laundry room.

When he had first arrived, he selected a washer and began to wash one load at a time. There were several large commercial washers in the laundry but he chose one, and waited through each cycle of the washer and the one dryer he was using. Rodney had only one thought, dirty to clean, injured to healthy. As he settled down on the bench in front of the washer, he once again fixated on the revolutions of the washer, spinning the soapy water and pale fabric around and around. He didn't notice the young Marine who stood in the doorway for a moment, then backed away whispering into his COM.

A few minutes passed before a soft voice spoke, "Rodney, are you alright?"

He turned with a start, "Teyla, I…I'm washing all of Sheppard's stuff…it has to be clean for him when he gets out of the infirmary."

Teyla sat down next to him, "We were very worried, Rodney. We've been searching for you for nearly three hours. It is good to see you are well."

"Sheppard, how's Sheppard, why are you here and not with him?"

"Ronon is staying with John; I came to find to you. What are you doing here?"

"I told you, I need to make certain all of Sheppard's stuff is clean. I didn't do his uniforms 'cause he complains enough about how they press his shirts."

Teyla laughed softly, "John complains that they iron his shirts, I believe, because he would prefer that they did not."

"Is he okay?"

"There has been little change; however, Jennifer said that the swelling in his brain is much less and there is less swelling pressing on his spine. She did not say so, but I believe she is hopeful."

Rodney seemed to become aware that he was in the laundry for the first time since he arrived. "Carson suggested I find something that might be of comfort to Sheppard, something that might reach him through the coma. He doesn't have comforting things. So I thought about his black t-shirt the one with the panda, I remember it from the night we sat on the pier when I was so sick. Silly, I guess; he can't put it on, and he can't see it, but I thought it represents comfort to me…maybe…" Rodney's voice broke and Teyla slipped her arm around him.

"I am certain that the shirt would bring comfort to John, but his friends around him are the comfort he needs as well."

Rodney glanced at her, a slight look of embarrassment on his face, "I guess I got carried away. I just thought if making one thing clean and fresh was good, then washing everything would wash away his injury." He paused, taking a deep breath, "You know Teyla; if something's dirty, you clean it, then it gets dirty again. You have a problem, you solve it, but another problem arises. It's the natural cycle, the way things work; it's the way Sheppard works. He saves us, he gets hurt, he recovers, only to save us again, and the cycle continues. But it can only continue if he recovers. I'm scared he isn't going to this time."

"Rodney, John survives because he believes he will survive; that is also a cycle of life, that regardless, we do not lose hope. John does not, and neither will we."

Rodney didn't answer; he rested his head on Teyla's and was silent. After a moment, Teyla spoke, "Come with me, Rodney; we need to return to the infirmary." She picked up the black t-shirt. "Here, do not forget this; I will have someone take the rest of John's things to his quarters and put them away." She took Rodney's hand and led him from the laundry.

Two more days passed before Sheppard began to awaken and show improvement. The swelling in his brain had subsided, and the swelling along his spine had diminished considerably. It was another day before he could communicate with them.

Teyla, Ronon, and Rodney stood quietly to the side, as Carson and Jennifer examined him. Carson turned to them, his face beaming, "Come here; John has something to show you."

As they gathered around the bed, Carson told Sheppard, "Laddie, wiggle those toes for me again." His friends held their breath as they waited, then jumped for joy, as they saw Sheppard's toes move.

Carson grinned, "Looks like he's going to be fine, the swelling was causing the temporary paralysis. The neural pathways look good, brain function is good; all he needs now is rest and physical therapy."

As Carson and Jennifer left, Sheppard's team surrounded the bed, Teyla was smiling broadly, "John, welcome back; you had us quite worried."

"Yeah…I…gotta learn not to…try to tangle…with a t-tree."

Rodney spoke, "Look, Sheppard; this is my fault; I should have reacted quicker."

"N-no, not your fault; just happened…I'm okay." Sheppard moved his hand and touched the t-shirt, which was lying next to him on the bed.

Rodney quickly moved the shirt, "Sorry; I’ll get this out of the way. Carson thought something familiar might be of comfort to you. I couldn't find anything but this t-shirt. I remembered it from the…"

Sheppard interrupted, "The night we had…beer on the pier w-when you…were sick."

Rodney replied, his voice shaky, "Yeah."

"I remember…leave it here."

Rodney laid the shirt down next to Sheppard's hand, then watched as Sheppard's long, slender, and very pale fingers clutched the t-shirt. He looked over at Teyla, who was smiling at him. Standing behind her, Ronon was gazing softly at him. Rodney returned the smiles, knowing that Teyla was right, all Sheppard needed for comfort was his team. That was the most natural cycle of all.

The end…


( 26 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 16th, 2011 03:10 pm (UTC)
:wibble: Oh boys!
Aug. 16th, 2011 05:34 pm (UTC)
Always something with these boys!! Glad you enjoyed, thanks so much for commenting!
Aug. 16th, 2011 04:33 pm (UTC)
From the very few words I gave you hon, you have written a wonderful story. All credit to you for your extraordinary creativeness.
The panda t-shirt and the mention of that extremely touching scene in The Shrine is pure genius. You showed the close relationship between the whole team but in particular this wonderful, unusual and very special friendship between Rodney and Sheppard. They really are family. Rodney would be really lost if anything happened to Sheppard.
Thanks for sharing this delightful tale.....a few tears escaped my eyes by the time I'd finished reading. It was also a great use of the prompt. I loved it.
Aug. 16th, 2011 05:09 pm (UTC)
You are too sweet and too kind...I was still struggling with the concept and you really helped me hone in on an idea. Thanks, thanks, thanks!

I'm so pleased that you liked the end result, and as alwasy appreciate your comments.


Edited at 2011-08-16 05:29 pm (UTC)
Aug. 16th, 2011 05:25 pm (UTC)
lovely story! The laundry thing was so Rodney!
Aug. 16th, 2011 05:31 pm (UTC)
So happy you enjoyed! As I mentioned, when I saw the prompt I immediately thought of Rodney and a washing machine. Seriously warped...

Thanks so much for your comment and again,I'm glad you enjoyed.
Aug. 18th, 2011 12:23 am (UTC)
You say warped like it's a bad thing.
Aug. 18th, 2011 03:10 pm (UTC)
No, not a bad thing at all...I like warped...
Aug. 16th, 2011 05:40 pm (UTC)
Great story! I love how the theme/prompt of "cycles" returns in so many different shapes: the washing machine, the moon causing the earthquakes, the cycles of hurt and healing, dirty and clean. I find it very in-character and believeable how Rodney deals with his worry and hope that his friend will survive. Rodney is a bit awkward and weird in social situations and relationships, but you always see his strong feelings shining through, how wonderful and caring he really is. The night on the pier when John wore that t-shirt meant so much to him, and he wants to recapture that feeling and the strength it gave him for his friend, but then he gets caught up in something like a routine/ritual, the magical thinking we fall into when we don't know what else to do but feel we have to do something, believe in something. Teyla, with her compassion and wisdom and a lifelong experience of dealing with hurt/dying friends, helps him get his perspective back and gets him back to the infirmary where he's needed the most. Great touch, too, that John would have a picture with him and his childhood hero, and none with his family. I actually googled this person, and while I myself can't understand what would possess a person to do things like that, I can see how he'd influenced young John Sheppard to grow up into the man he became. Well-crafted and touching story!
Aug. 16th, 2011 06:19 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much. I really appreciate your very kind comments and your observations. I agree with your assessment of Rodney and I believe that the way you described him is what makes him such a pleasure to write. My favorite character is Sheppard and as complex as he is, Rodney provides even more for a writer to work with.

Ah...Evel Knievel...I think Sheppard would like him for his adventurous nature and the fact that he was the complete opposite of his father. If you haven't noticed the picture in Sheppard's quarters in the episodes, look for it. It's the only picture other than Johnny Cash, he has in his room.

Thanks again for taking time to offer a comment on Revolutions, I really appreciate it and very glad that you enjoyed the story.

Aug. 16th, 2011 08:27 pm (UTC)
Oh, yay! This story, I love it so much! So glad to see a return of the panda shirt! The way you had Rodney becoming obsessed w/ the cleaning of the clothes and equating it to the cycle of Sheppard's heroism (tho some would say martyrdom) is beautiful. Thanks for this!
Aug. 16th, 2011 09:09 pm (UTC)
Ah...the panda shirt...lovely memories of the panda shirt. So glad you enjoyed the story. I really appreciate your kind comment.

Thanks so much!!!

PS...Team Arthur....to die for!!! Love it!
Aug. 17th, 2011 01:05 am (UTC)
Aw, lovely!
Aug. 17th, 2011 01:34 am (UTC)
Thank you! Glad you enjoyed!
Aug. 17th, 2011 03:36 am (UTC)
I really love this story, and the idea that the panda T-shirt holds important memories both for Rodney and John. Nicely done!
Aug. 17th, 2011 03:50 am (UTC)
Homage had to be paid to the panda t-shirt! It was simply too adorable to be ignored. So glad that you enjoyed, I really appreciate your comment.
Aug. 17th, 2011 04:40 am (UTC)
You put a few tears in my eyes, too.

I loved the use of the single washing machine and dryer. I can see Rodney's singlemindedness about using only one, as if that alone will guarantee a direct path to healing John.

I'm also amused that you found laundry to be therapeutic for Rodney. I believe the usual distraction is house-cleaning, but this was so much more Rodney.

Though it was so heart-wrenching to see Rodney feeling awkward when he thought he should remove the t-shirt from John's reach. Oh, Rodney. But, in the end, it was such a relief to know that Rodney had done exactly the right thing. Yay Rodney and yay Team!
Aug. 17th, 2011 12:34 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much, I'm so glad that you enjoyed this. Like I commented before, when I saw this prompt the image of Rodney sitting in front of washer just popped in my head, but I didn't know what to do with it. sherry57 tossed out an idea and I ran with it.

I really appreciated your comment and echo your sentiment..."Yay Team!"
Aug. 18th, 2011 07:22 pm (UTC)
You certainly know how to whump John but good! Thankfully you fixed it by the end, and I really liked John & Rodney's exchange about the T-shirt, too.
Aug. 18th, 2011 08:06 pm (UTC)
If you whump John, you have to make him better...that's my motto. Thanks so much, appreciate the comment and glad you enjoyed.

Edited at 2011-08-18 09:02 pm (UTC)
Aug. 19th, 2011 04:05 am (UTC)
awww. best shirt, best friend. best team. :)
Aug. 19th, 2011 01:26 pm (UTC)
Thanks! They are the best!
Aug. 19th, 2011 10:14 pm (UTC)
I interested to see how you were going to work the washer into this and it was EXCELLENT.

Well told story. Loved the relationships and the references to the Shrine ep.

Well done!
Aug. 20th, 2011 12:35 am (UTC)
Thanks...there for a while, I wondered where I was going with the silly washer thought...so glad you enjoyed!

Thanks so much for your comment, I really appreciate it!

Aug. 20th, 2011 10:58 pm (UTC)
This was very touching, and very heartfelt, thank you.
Aug. 21st, 2011 02:57 am (UTC)
Thank you, that was a sweet comment, and I appreciate it. Glad you enjoyed!!
( 26 comments — Leave a comment )

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