Author: Sealie

Fandom: Stargate Atlantis

Rating: G/gen

Beta: LKY had a quick shuftie

Spoilers: ECHOES




by Sealie


McKay dropped the cd into the player, extended his index finger and depressed the play button with great deliberation. He stepped back, hands raised as if wielding a pair of batons and waited. The low surge of music rose, slowly building. The brass section reverberated and the strings slid smoothly into the plait of sound. A sole snare drum offered a spine tingling beat, which he felt through his skin to his inner core. McKay raised his hand slowly, following the rising crescendo.


He cocked open an eye and glowered at the player. One eye still tightly closed, he slowly scanned to the left stereo speaker and then to the right. He turned presenting his body to the left speaker.


“Hmmm.” Disgruntled, he stopped the playback. Something was interfering with his enjoyment. Sheppard had borrowed his Denon DVT-1000SD player and had obviously mucked around with his carefully crafted settings.


Muttering, he disconnected the speakers, scooped up his player and stalked out of his quarters, to his lab and his tools.





“Rodney?” Radek pushed his wire rim glasses up on his nose. “What are you doing?”


“Sheppard broke my CD player.” Rodney gestured, jabbing with his index finger, at the dismantled speaker components set in neat little piles across his worktable. Focussed on his toy, he tuned out Radek and manipulated the tweeter over in his hand, carefully scrutinising the resonating membrane for flaws.


“I will return to the work which I am being paid for,” Radek said archly.




Rodney set the cleaned cd into the perfectly serviced player and pressed play. He cocked his head to the side as the opening sequence of a rising polymorphous chromatic failed to impress. He ejected the disc.


“Hmmm.” He rifled through his stack of cds and selected Flute Concerto #2 in C major, K. 314. And with something close to trepidation, pressed play.






Carson jerked away from his microscope. “What!”


“I can’t hear at 20000Hz and I’m not detecting drop out when my Denon shelves at 0.2 decibels in the lower range.”


Carson blinked. “Eh? Adults can’t hear at 20000Hz. Children, maybe.”


Rodney poked a finger in his ear. “I’m going deaf. Check me out now. Stick me in a scanner. I’m going deaf.”


“Okay.” Carson raised his hands placating. “You don’t sound like you’re going deaf.”


“You don’t understand, I have sensitive hearing!”


“The way that you yell?” Carson flicked the lamp off on his microscope. “Did you keep your keep your ears dry after your eardrums were perforated by the high pitched whale song? Did you use balls of cotton wool with a dab of Vaseline like I told you when you were showering?”

“I was meticulous. Your lecture on associated purulent discharge, cholesteatoma and chronic otitis because of secondary infections was disgustingly vivid.”

Carson stood up. “Come on, let’s have a look in your ears.”


A dimished Rodney perched on the edge of the gurney, shoulders rounded, looking at the floor.

“McKay?” Sheppard gained no answer, not even an acknowledgement. “What are you doing? Zelenka said that you’d come to the infirmary…”

That was hardly unusual, but a depressed, quiet Rodney McKay was a strikingly horrible thing.




“I’m deaf,” he said tonelessly.


“You’re kidding.”




“He’s no’ deaf.” Carson wandered over in complete doctor mode: white coat, stethoscope and nose in his sheaf of notes attached to a clipboard. “The deterioration of perception of high frequencies with age is called ‘presbycusis’ and it’s natural.”


Sheppard jerked a thumb at Rodney. “What’s this then, a midlife crisis?”


“No.” Rodney pushed off the gurney, slamming the head back into the wall. “Lassie destroyed my hearing!”


“Lassie?” Carson asked, raising his head.


“The whale – Sam,” Sheppard supplied.


“I’m sorry, Rodney,” Carson said and folded the notes against his chest. “But this type of deterioration is perfect natural. You lose the upper ranges as you get older. By the time you’re seventy you’ll likely only hear at 8000Hz.”


“But I can’t hear properly,” Rodney insisted through gritted teeth.


Carson nodded his head slowly. “The scans show that your tympanic membrane is healing and the tiny inner ear bones are intact. There’s a little inflammation, but after the trauma that’s as expected. As your eardrums fully heal you’ll be more comfortable. But the scan of your cochlea is within normal parameters for man in his late thirties.”


“You’re wrong. You’re so wrong. I had it a week ago. A week ago I could hear that oscillation on the top notes,” Rodney’s voice rose stridently. “That little tweak in the treble.”


Carson’s eyes were infinitely sad. “Overexposure to noise causes the destruction of the outer hair cells in the inner ear which are sensitive to sound. And the ones which go first are the high frequency-sensitive hair cells. I can’t regenerate hair cells. But your hearing test was acceptable.”


“It’s not acceptable to me!” A duck of his shoulders and McKay lurched for the door.


Sheppard twisted to the side just avoiding being brushed as McKay blew past him and out of the infirmary.


“Oh dear,” Carson said slowly.


Sheppard rocked from foot to foot, considering his options. Escape, chase or find lunch.


“Go.” Carson pointed bossily. “He doesn’t want the doctor who told him what’s wrong. He needs a friend.”


John went.


He caught up with Rodney on his favourite balcony over looking the north eastern expanse of ocean. He was leaning over the balcony, arms folded on the rail.


“Hey,” Sheppard said softly.


Rodney cocked his head at the whisper, but did not turn from the panorama. There’s nothing wrong with those ears, John noted.


Sheppard crossed his arms and leaned against the rail. He failed to contain a huff of a sigh. “So what’s the problem?”


Rodney pushed off the rail and stood tall, chin raised. “When I was little. I wanted to be a pianist.” 


Sheppard sniggered, he couldn’t help himself.


“Oh, yes. American, juvenile sense of humour. I wanted,” Rodney said with belaboured slowness, “to be the person who played the piano at concerts.”


Sheppard shrugged, he hadn’t a clue what to say. There was brightness in Rodney’s that was cutting to the quick. He slid a glance at the balcony door, but stayed.


“I always wanted to be a pilot,” he volunteered. But Rodney didn’t need any prodding – he never did.


“I gave up music because it hurt,” McKay said with his painful honesty. “But recently, I’ve been thinking that I could try again. I even tried my hand on a piano, when we were back on Earth.”


Unconsciously, his fingers drew a scale in midair and then curled inwards into arthritic-like claws.


“It didn’t work, did it?” Sheppard questioned lowly.


“I remember how it was -- I was good, technically perfect -- and then when I tried the scales, the muscle memory wasn’t there. It was awful. But--” McKay gazed blindly past Sheppard, “--I was going to requisition a keyboard for the next Daedalus run. Start practicing. To try and get the magic back. It’s not possible now. I’ll never be able to hear it. It’s too late.”




Rodney shook his head. His chin came up and his lips pursed. The brightness in his eyes glistened. There was a big blank space between them, and John tried to figure out what Rodney wanted. There might be some sort of Ancient device that could regenerate--


Before he could offer even a word, Rodney stalked away, the weight of loss bowing his broad shoulders.