Disclaimer: Stargate Atlantis is not mine; the following work of fanfiction is for fan enjoyment only. No profit is being made (sigh).Epidemic
By Kerr Avon
8. Sleep? Who Needs It?
Weir could not express her relief; there for a minute it looked like the entire Atlantis crew would die and the mission fail at the hands of a lousy microbe. She took a deep breath. "Good job, Carson." It was inadequate, but it would do for now. The exhausted man gave her a tremulous smile in return.
She examined him critically. The haggard doctor positively drooped where he stood, radiating fatigue in every nuance of movement. The stubble on his chin was the same color as the circles beneath his eyes, the blue of which had glazed to gray. A fine sheen of sweat covered his face, reminiscent of Dr. Grodin earlier in the day. She knew that doctors often worked long hours, but hers appeared to be on the brink of collapse. 'He looks as bad as Sheppard did when he got back,' was her startled conclusion. 'I wonder if he's got the virus?'
She opened her mouth to ask about the physician's condition, when he forestalled comment by quietly sinking to the floor. He looked about himself bemusedly, as if unsure why his legs had suddenly betrayed him and turned to rubber. "Carson!" she exclaimed.
"Dr. Beckett!" The head nurse was at his side in an instant.
The commander knelt beside him as well, grasping his shoulder gently. He seemed to be staring into the distance at something no one else could see. She shook him gently, "Are you all right?" Carson blinked up at her in irritation, tried to focus, then toppled into an unconscious heap.
"You two! Get a gurney." Galas sent two orderlies scurrying as she unshipped her stethoscope and listened first to Carson's heart and then his lungs. Nodding, she helped the two young men hoist the unconscious physician to the stretcher and transport him to one of the diagnostic beds. Weir followed discretely, taking care not to get in their way.
Galas' eyes narrowed as she stared at the readout. "BP 100/50, pulse 130, temperature 99...he's almost as bad off as Dr. Grodin. Let's get some fluid hanging."
As Weir watched the head nurse treat the Pegasus Galaxy's only board-certified physician, she felt a nudge on her shoulder. Turning, she saw a grim Dr. McKay standing beside her, holding Beckett's laptop. "Yes, Rodney, what is it?" Weir could be patient when she had to be.
"Just this." He swung the screen around so she could read it. Her eyes widened as she took in the implications of the note that Beckett had written before climbing onto the machine that had proven to be their salvation.
"His first test subject was himself? Without even telling anyone that he was sick?"
McKay nodded. "Seems so. Explains why he tested both his blood and Teyla's after he treated her."
"Doctor Beckett stated that we were both free of the infection." Teyla added. Until that moment Weir hadn't even noticed the Athosian's presence.
The commander looked at the insensible physician with a mixture of anger and gratitude. "Carson, when you wake up, we're going to have a little talk."
Actually, their 'talk' was delayed by Beckett's condition; while the other victims gradually recovered, he continued to lay senseless and unresponsive. Both Sergeants Markham and Stackhouse were released to '72-hour-Quarters' later that afternoon; Dr. Kavanagh, Dr. Grodin, and Lt. Ford were discharged the next morning with strict instructions to 'take it easy'. Even Sheppard improved with amazing rapidity; he was extubated less than 24 hours after his virus was eradicated, and began taking oral liquids that evening. Although he was still weak as a kitten and had to have help eating, he was grateful to be alive. The infirmary resumed its normal operations as things quieted down, leaving them with just the two special patients and the occasional visitor.
Sheppard had only been awake a few hours before he noticed the occupant of the bed next to his. His brows creased in concern as he gestured for the nearby nurse's aide. "What happened to Carson?" he asked, pointing at the motionless patient.
"He tried to work himself to death." The young woman summarized her boss' condition to the best of her understanding.
"Really?" John's eyebrows crawled towards his hairline.
"That's a gross oversimplification." Rodney had come in unnoticed and caught the exchange. The girl looked embarrassed, blushed, and hurried off to be about other duties.
"And 'hello' to you, too, McKay." Sheppard was mildly irked.
Rodney seemed insufferably pleased with himself. "You're looking better," he commented smugly.
Sheppard shrugged. "I'm feeling better. That virus-killing machine really did the trick." He tilted his head. "So, what did happen to the doc?"
"It's a long story."
Sheppard's eyes narrowed. "I have the time."
Weir entered the infirmary for what felt like the hundredth time since the epidemic began, to check on the two remaining patients. Sheppard was sitting up in bed reading his book, while Beckett just...lay there.
"Is there something I can help you with?" Galas hurried over when she saw Dr. Weir come in.
Weir pointed her chin towards the still-unconscious man. "Any idea what's wrong with him?"
The nurse sounded as frustrated as the commander, and busied her hands with the IV tubing while she talked. "No, I don't. After we got him rehydrated, his vitals have been stable. I've checked his blood three times for any viral remnant, and run every other test short of 'serum porcelain' levels. There just isn't anything to explain this." Helplessly she pulled the blanket up on the still-recumbent form.
"I see." Weir kept her composure at all times.
"I think he's just tired." Major Sheppard, almost forgotten by the two women, threw in his two cents worth.
Galas and Weir turned towards him, astonished. "I beg your pardon?"
Sheppard gestured at the physician. "Come on; he was exhausted before this stuff even started. I don't think he'd slept more than two or three hours on any given night for over a week. He was like a kid in a candy shop. Then, after people started getting sick he didn't sleep at all. Couple that with having the more virulent form of the disease due to his native 'ATA' gene, then going through the therapy without anesthesia...I think he deserves a little rest, don't you?"
Weir's worried frown didn't abate as she replied, "I hope you're right, John. I sincerely hope you're right."
The light seemed terribly bright when he opened his eyes. He squinted them shut again, then raised a hand as shade from the worst of the glare. He found himself lying on one of the Ancient diagnostic beds in a relatively quiet infirmary. 'I never did get a chance to try one of these myself,' he thought bemusedly, then shrugged. 'I guess I have now.'
"Doctor Beckett, you're awake!" Nurse Galas hurried over from where she'd been helping John eat in the next bed. Carson did a double-take; helping John eat? The last Carson knew, Sheppard was going to be on the vent for at least a day, maybe more. 'How long have I been unconscious, anyway?'
"Hey Doc." The Major waved weakly from where he sat, propped up in bed by pillows. "We've been worried about you."
Galas was suddenly at Carson's side, checking the readings on the monitors. "We most certainly have." Her mouth set in a thin line that her eyebrows tried to match.
'Uh-oh. I know that look.' Beckett always felt like a truant little boy when his nurse glared like that. It reminded him of his Internship days. He sighed, closing his eyes. "And what have I done now?" he asked tiredly.
'Almost killed yourself trying to save everyone else! You worried the whole base half to death...' She adjusted the IV rate, then glanced at his face. Her scowl softened; she could never stay mad at Dr. Beckett for very long. She reached down to manually confirm his pulse, its steady rhythm palpably reassuring, and took a deep breath. "Nothing at all, Dr. Beckett," she replied. "Why do you ask?"
He cracked open an eye and stared at her suspiciously. She merely flashed a beatific smile and went off to do some charting.
Next he turned his head to stare at Sheppard, who was grinning ear-to-ear. "I thought she was mad a' me?"
Sheppard shrugged one shoulder and spread his hands. "Hey, don't ask me, I'm just recovering here."
Weir chose that moment to enter the room. "Gentlemen. Glad to see you both awake."
Beckett struggled unsuccessfully to assume a sitting position, and finally settled for leaning on his elbows. "Thank ye, Doctor Weir. How long have I been out?"
"Nearly three days." Beckett stared wide-eyed. She moved to stand between the two men, and grasped his right hand. "We've missed you."
Beckett blushed slightly; he was never comfortable when people worried about him. "Thank you, ma'am."
Elizabeth sighed. She had wanted to berate him for his audacity; how dare he risk his own life like that? For reasons she did not examine too closely, she couldn't bring herself to do it. Instead, she squeezed his hand tightly. "Don't put us through this again, all right?"
Beckett smiled back reassuringly. "I'll try not to." He attempted to swing his legs off the bed and sit up, but found the world swaying alarmingly.
A gentle hand pushed him back onto his pillows, and he looked up to see Elizabeth's concerned face. "I'm afraid that it's going to be a while until you are back on your feet, Doctor. Just rest." As she made her way to the door, she paused to add, "Nurse Galas is in charge of sickbay for the time being. You are to follow her instructions to the letter if you ever want to be released. Understand?"
Carson gulped. He knew how to choose his battles wisely, and this was one he couldn't win. "Yes, ma'am," he replied meekly. Besides he'd earned a little rest - but he'd already slept THREE DAYS!
"Good." She smiled fondly at that point. "Be well," floated back as she walked away.
"I will," he murmured. "We will."
AN: Well, how was that for all you Beckett-ites? Believable enough? Thanks to my husband, one of the best beta-readers in the world!
Who do you think I should hurt next? (No, Bastet, I've not got Rodney 'down' well enough to do him convincing damage, so it won't be McKay). Beckett some more? Sheppard again? Ford? How about...hmm....Zelenka? I always was a sucker for a guy with glasses, and Prague is one of my favorite cities....Let me know what you think!
And if you liked this story, don't forget that I have several other 'Atlantis' fics posted as well. Might be worth a look, if you haven't read them yet.