Also from a challenge, and from the same person, MegTDJ! Originally published on an HC list.
Usual disclaimers apply.
It had blown up.
He lay there on his face, the gritty taste of dust in his mouth, and thought about that for a moment. It had blown up. It had blown them up too. He had been blown up.
He wondered, fleetingly, if Sam had ever been blown up. Sam. What would Sam do? That had become his personal mantra. Since arriving in Atlantis, whenever he'd come across something outside his normal experience - and, for the first few weeks that had been pretty much daily - he had found that stopping, taking a quick breath, and asking himself that question led, more often than not, to the right action with a minimum of panic. Not in the scientific areas, of course. Mostly in the unknown-things-jumping-out-and-trying-to-kill-you areas.
Which brought him, uncomfortably, back to the being blown up part.
''You okay?'' It was Sheppard's voice.
He bet Sheppard had been blown up before. He flopped over on his back, awkwardly.
''Yeah. This is...this is fun for me.'' The pause was to catch his breath, which suddenly seemed in short supply.
Sheppard scrambled to his feet and took off, knowing Teyla was on her own, unarmed. He knew it too, tried to stand, tried to take a couple of steps to follow, but suddenly there just wasn't any more breath to be had.
Plenty of that.
And a coppery taste in his mouth that reminded him of schoolyard fights, losing a tooth. He dropped to his knees, then to hands and knees, bending, retching blood. He made a deliberate attempt to control his inhalations, bring them down from frantic gasps too more controlled gasps.
He had to get up, his mind yelped at him, Sheppard and Teyla were up against a desperate Wraith, they needed his help...his legs wouldn't co-operate, nor his arms, they were lead weights dragging him down. Groaning, he fell on his side, trying to keep his breathing under tenuous control, wondering in a small corner of his mind that, in the midst of what didn't really feel exactly like a full-blown anaphylactic reaction, he was worried more about not being able to help his teammates than about the whole dying like a gaffed fish thing.
He heard the snap of the Wraith stunner again, but his ears were filled with the roar of hypoxia, and lights were dancing in his eyes that had nothing to do with sunlight through leaves. Breathing doggedly, he registered someone yelling his name, felt mild surprise at how alarmed they sounded, and wasn't even aware when he slid into darkness.
She wasn't fighting to win. It was simple survival that kept her blocking, striking, blocking again. She had only to buy time, time for Sheppard to come with the stunner and bring him down.
The explosion threw her opponent off-guard for a split second, then, realizing he was the only one remaining, he threw himself into the battle with renewed vigor. She was beginning to tire, she, who could run all day without tiring. She kept fighting, defending herself, conserving her strength.
And feeling not fear, but defeat, when it knocked her down, pinned her, and prepared to feed.
It wasn't till the blast took her opponent down that she realized Sheppard had joined the fray. She rolled over as the Major nudged the Wraith's wrist aside and stepped on it, keeping it from self-destructing.
Leaning up on one elbow, panting a bit, she smiled her thanks to the Major. He hefted the stunner in response, coughing slightly. She stood, backed away as he fired the stunner again to immobilize the Wraith, and then stepped forward as she heard coughing again.
It wasn't Sheppard, and it wasn't slight, it was deep and wracking and it made her throat hurt just to hear it. Sheppard spun and ran back to where the Wraith remains were, where she now saw McKay on the ground. Without waiting, she ran toward Ford.
''Medical emergency!'' she called. ''Dr. McKay is injured.''
She saw him nod, heading for the DHD, and she turned, sped back to Sheppard.
He was kneeling, and had pulled the injured man up to a semi-sitting position, holding him braced against the coughing - and the pain. She saw the effort it took McKay to breathe, and the effort it took Sheppard to keep the fear that was so plain on his face out of his voice, which was level and calming.
And there was bright red blood on McKay's lips.
She moved closer and dropped to one knee, reaching out tentatively.
''Breath easy, McKay. In and out. With me. In...and out.'' The Major kept talking, and bit by bit the doctor's breathing rate slowed. Teyla held one shivering shoulder, frowned when Sheppard coughed again. She looked at him enquiringly.
"Dust." he said dismissively, in response, and turned his attention back to the physicist. "That's it. That's it, McKay."
McKay's breathing had steadied, but there was an ominous wet rattle to it. Sheppard caught her eye, nodded to an outer pocket on his vest - she opened it and retrieved a handkerchief, wiping the blood from McKay's mouth with it.
"What colour are his lips?" he asked, settling himself. It was evident he was prepared to support the man as long as needed.
"They are becoming blue."
"He's not getting enough oxygen."
"Lieutenant Ford has called for a medical team, Major. They will be here soon." She glanced up as Ford came over the rise.
"They're four minutes out!" he yelled.
"Get down here and watch the Wraith!" Sheppard called back, jerking his head toward their prize – and then he coughed again. Harder than before. Teyla reached out to him, as well. Ford stood behind them, protectively, and for a long time, there was only the painful sound of McKay's breathing, punctuated by Sheppard's occasional cough.
"Sing out!" a male voice roared finally, and Teyla jumped to her feet.
Bates led a small team of soldiers and Beckett, with two other doctors – she supposed they were, anyway – over the ridge at double time. She handed the handkerchief to the Scot and stood back with Ford, out of the way.
"What happened?" Carson and the other doctor, a dark skinned gentleman, came to their knees by Sheppard.
"Explosion." he replied. "He was moving around afterward and he said he was ok, but then I turned around after taking care of the Wraith and he was on the ground." He coughed a bit again, and Beckett gave him the eye.
"Were you caught out in the shockwave?" he asked urgently.
"We made for the rocks, but I don't think we got there. I honestly don't know – it happened fast."
Beckett gestured "go on" as he put the stethoscope tips in his ears.
"He was coughing really hard and I sat him up against me – it's easier for him to breath sitting up. He's mostly unconscious."
Beckett pressed his fingers gently against McKay's ribs. There was very little reaction on his face, but then, Teyla thought, there seldom was – a neutral expression was a healer's best defense and this one had mastered it. She had to amend that thought as McKay and Sheppard coughed, at the same time, and Beckett's face became, abruptly, very easy to read – he knew what was wrong, and she realized it wasn't affecting only McKay, but Sheppard too.
"Pulmonary barotrauma?" the other doctor asked.
"Exactly." He eyed Sheppard, who was holding McKay with care. "I need you to stay there for a few more minutes. I'm starting you both on oxygen."
Sheppard shook his head. "It's the dust," he repeated. "And the bits of dead Wraith."
Beckett took one mask from the bag, stretched the hose. It was not the regular sort of mask, Teyla noted – rather than simple elastic it had thicker plastic straps.
"It's blast lung," the doctor countered, fitting it over McKay's face. "And you both have it." He pulled out another, normal looking mask. "Now put it on."
Glowering, Sheppard complied. Beckett nodded to his assistant. "Get vitals on them, I have to talk to Bates about transport."
She stood quietly near as Doctor Thomson finished taking Sheppard's blood.
"Carson will be out shortly," he said in response to Sheppard's questioning look. "He's had experience with blast related injuries, McKay's in good hands."
"Thanks." Sheppard replied.
She had watched the Major carefully, as Beckett had directed - the oxygen mask had stopped the coughing, mostly. On the planet he had given some orders pertaining to the disposition of the Wraith, and Ford was off with Bates carrying them out now. He had reluctantly relinquished McKay to be carried on a litter to the gate, and with ill grace had permitted himself to be carried as well, flashing a bright and false grin at Weir as she came down the stairs. He had stopped removing the mask, just to shut Carson up, he'd told Teyla, but she could tell it helped him.
Now McKay was behind the portable screens on the other side of the infirmary, and Sheppard was here, and it wasn't sitting well with him.
She had only begun to understand what it was that bonded the two. They were from different countries, she knew, and were of different specialties, and had distinctly different personalities. She had asked Weir about it once, and she recalled the puzzlement on her face as she tried to decide what to say. Finally she settled with "Opposites attract", and demonstrated the theory with a couple of small magnets.
Teyla had thanked her politely, and wandered away, less enlightened than before. Whatever it was, though, it was being tempered through injury and trial, it had embraced all four of them, and though she was concerned about the doctor she found some comfort in knowing that friendship was a constant everywhere in the universe.
The comment meshed with her thoughts and she glanced at Sheppard.
"Thanks for sticking around. I appreciate it."
He wasn't putting on the stoic face for Ford, or the determinedly cheerful one for Weir – it was just himself, not feeling that great, terribly worried about a friend and thankful for another to stay with him. She smiled at him, touched her head to his in the Athosian way.
"It is easier for two to wait than one. Would you like a drink?"
He nodded, making a face. "And what I wouldn't give to brush my teeth – dust, blood, bits of Wraith…" he took the glass she handed him and drained it. She replaced it on the table and followed his gaze – as she had known, he was staring at the screens. No matter who he was speaking with, where his attention was directed, it always ended up there.
There had been a flurry of activity behind them maybe ten minutes earlier, and she and Thompson had been hard pressed to keep him in the bed. Since then, no one had come with news, but no urgent voices had been heard, either. The portable x-ray had re-appeared, and John had submitted with hardly a mutter.
She stretched, wincing – the Wraith had landed some blows. She took off her jacket to inspect a bruise, and Sheppard whistled at it. She raised an eyebrow at him, and he subsided.
"You didn't do badly against that thing." he said, and she shook her head. "I lost. If you hadn't been there I would have been fed upon."
Sheppard couldn't argue with that, she knew, but he smiled. "I like that style of fighting. Would you teach me?"
She pulled her jacket on again, perched on the edge of the bed. "If you like. It takes much concentration and discipline."
"Well, why don't you see want you can do with me anyway." Sheppard replied, and she grinned back, and then swung around at a step behind them. It wasn't Carson, it was Weir.
"How are you doing?" she asked. "Any news about Rodney?"
That was something else she noted. Whenever Dr. Weir was concerned about someone she invariably used their first name. At least with men. Teyla was always Teyla to her. Was she always concerned about her? Or was it a female to female thing? Something else to think about, she decided, and turned her attention back to the conversation.
"…and it's something Carson knows a lot about, apparently." Sheppard was finishing. He'd quite mastered the art of speaking through an oxygen mask, she noted.
Weir nodded, and sat in the chair Teyla had left unoccupied.
"Things are under control," she said in response to Sheppard's look. "I thought I'd come keep you company."
There was some scarcely audible conversation behind the screen, and Teyla nodded at Weir. "It appears you have very good timing."
Carson re-appeared, stripping off a gown and gloves that had an uncomfortable amount of red on them. She reached down and grasped Sheppard's hand firmly, felt the grip returned. Weir watched as the Scot approached and leaned on the foot of Sheppard's bed.
"Looked worse than it was." he summed up, with a tired smile. "We're watching him, if he does well overnight we'll remove the chest tube. If he does well without that, and I don't see any reason he won't, then he should be on his feet in a week and on duty in three." Sheppard closed his eyes and slumped back on the pillows in relief, and Weir's concern eased. Teyla turned to face Beckett, crooking one leg up on the bed.
"What happened, Doctor?"
"The explosion. The shockwave must have been extraordinarily powerful. People think of lungs like hundreds of little balloons – flexible, stretchy" he clarified off Teyla's quizzical look. "In explosions, though, they can be more like paper bags. Brittle and easily popped, especially if you've just taken a breath. The blood collects, and the air leaking from the alveoli mixes with it, and it means they can't expand the way they should." He tapped Sheppard's foot. "Good first aid there, Major. Sitting him up kept him from drowning."
"Had a good teacher." Sheppard replied, and Teyla could see the confident Major was back.
Carson smiled at him. "Now, you…" he wandered over to the oxygen feed and adjusted it "will be here for the night, so get comfortable. We'll need to take chest films at least a few more times, but we'll try not to disturb you more than necessary." He glanced at the other two, and Teyla nodded.
"I should be getting back to the mainland." she said.
Weir stood. "And I have some work that I should get to, as well." She nodded at Carson, at Sheppard. "Thank you, Doctor, please contact me if anything changes. Major."
"Boy, she seemed pleased…" Sheppard said dryly, after she was out of earshot.
"She cannot afford to show emotion too clearly, Major." Teyla said firmly. "She is the leader of this city. However, I would be certain she does not leave her post for simply anyone."
Sheppard looked a bit sheepish. "Yeah, I guess that's it, huh? Teyla, you'll be back tomorrow?"
"That is the plan." She hopped off the bed, again gave him the Athosian farewell, and bestowed one on Beckett as well. "Thank you for your efforts, Doctor. It is very agreeable to me that Dr. McKay will recover."
"As it is to me, lass." he replied. He looked over at Sheppard, who seemed ready to speak. "And I know what you're going to ask…"
She turned from the conversation, feeling lighter of spirit than she had in days. Now, if she could just find Weir before she left for the mainland, her day would be absolutely satisfactory.
…where was he? Oh, yes. Blown up.
Or had they moved past that part? He concentrated, thinking hard. Blood, dust. Gasping. Right. Then arms around him, and it was a bit easier to breathe, and the voice that helped him. Sheppard. It had been Sheppard's voice that brought some measure of calm to the panic he'd felt.
He remembered hands, holding him, being moved and being cold, then the heavy warmth of blankets…it was that had woken him, he realized, and not the too-tight mask on his face.
Now, as he lay comfortably, he could tell he was in the infirmary, and – perhaps not surprisingly – he could hear Sheppard's voice again. The words didn't make sense, though, so he opened his eyes.
It was dim, but he could see a person in the bed next to him. Sheppard. Was in the bed next to him.
"What the hell?" he said hoarsely.
Sheppard turned his head towards him, ignoring the x-ray tech who was trying his best to do his job.
"Hey." he replied, grinning.
"You okay?" And again it was a small wonder to him that he asked that, when he still had no knowledge of exactly what was wrong with him…
"You will be, if I can get this chest film," the tech said, exasperatedly.
"Sheppard." he rasped.
"If you say so."
There was silence again; rustling, and he closed his eyes, trying to remember why Sheppard would be in the bed next to him. He must have dozed for a few moments, because the next time he opened his eyes Sheppard wasn't in the bed next to him anymore, he was sitting next to him on his own bed.
"First, you're going to be fine." Sheppard said.
He peered up a bit blearily, gestured at the mask, which was hanging around the Major's neck.
"Carson wouldn't like that." he whispered. For some reason his throat was very sore. "Why do you need it?"
"We weren't fast enough, is all," Sheppard said. "I'll be out of here in the morning. You won't be far behind – maybe another day." He pulled the mask up and slid off McKay's bed, climbing into his own.
"What about the wraith?"
"Downstairs. We'll deal with him tomorrow. Go to sleep, McKay. The x-ray fairy will be by again in no time."
There was more going on, more questions to ask, but he honestly couldn't keep his eyes open. So he didn't.
He bet Sam had been blown up, but had she walked into an energy sucking cloud? Or joined the small club of humans nailed by a Wraith stun gun who lived to tell about it? Or been stuck in a jumper in a gate?
Maybe it wasn't important anymore, what would Sam do. She had her team. He had his. He felt himself drifting off. Maybe it was important, now, what Rodney McKay would do.