Chapter Eighteen

Send Me the Bill

As the Jumper, and everyone in it, rematerialized on the other end of the event horizon, it was indeed flung through, and followed by a concussive wave of fire. Ford hit the retros, and tried to drop it right there, however the explosive force lifted it back up and flung it forward like a child's plaything. At the last moment, he tried to steer towards the side, hoping to avoid going straight into the command deck. This sent the ship careening to the right, and the momentum carried it up the stairs before it tilted on its nose, then dropped, hanging at an angle where it finally came to rest.

Elizabeth had been standing at the top of the balcony, overlooking the gateroom, and had ordered the shields up the second the Jumper had emerged, having received a curt warning from Lieutenant Ford that they were coming in hot, but as she looked at the path of destruction below she was stunned. The ship had impacted with a screech of metal on metal that had made everyone cringe, as it tore its path upwards. She could only be thankful that whomever was flying the ship had managed some level of control, or they'd all be dead.

"Get a medical team to the gateroom, now!" she ordered, her body already in motion towards the now still Jumper. Peter Grodin put the call in, and then stared in shock at the disaster. Looked like they'd get some practice in doing serious repairs to Atlantian work.

Inside the ship, the occupants were gathering their senses, trying to comprehend that they'd made it. They were alive! Sheppard tried to raise his head, but found he was trapped under a bench that had torn loose in the impact. He tried to figure out where the others were, and if he had been injured, but the feedback coming in was jumbled. He touched a finger against his forehead and felt the wetness that explained the mixed up thoughts.


John knew that name. It was his, and he knew who had called, but he thought Rodney was dead. "McKay?"

"Remind me never to complain about your landings," the man who was his friend answered, the man whom he remembered lying dead in the jungle.

"We made it," said Beckett. He was half under the bench that trapped Sheppard, and he shoved debris off his legs, trying to sit up. "Is everyone okay?" he asked. Though he was shaken, his medical training overrode other priorities, and he sought out possible wounded, even as he failed to notice his own injuries.

Sheppard was entering into a semi-panicked state as his memories betrayed his current senses. "Doc? But…you were killed!"

The rear hatch hadn't fully shut when they had entered the wormhole, and as they had crashed, after rematerialization, the systems had cutoff, leaving the back partially open. Elizabeth poked her head in as far as she could, and took in the debris, and wreckage of the Jumper, and the people within. "Is everyone okay?" she asked with thinly veiled fear.

She could see Sheppard under the warped bench, and Beckett was slightly up from his position, with McKay to their left. The hatch to the cockpit was crooked, and listing partially closed. It was dark, the power was off in the Jumper, and in the shadows it was hard to see what injuries her people might have.

Beckett finally managed to free himself, and crawled to the Major on his knees, failing to feel the massive gash on his shin. "Major, look at me son, what's the last thing you remember?" Carson noticed the head injury, his eyes had adjusted to the low lighting.

John was struggling with flashes of images that he didn't understand, because everything was in the wrong place inside. He had a flash of McKay leaping away from a cougar, and McKay, dead eyes staring. Beckett, being dragged away by another animal, and lying with his insides spilling everywhere, the blue eyes staring sightlessly. Then things jumbled more and he saw McKay dripping wet, inching across a rope, rolling away from a wolf, and sleeping inside a tree. Beckett again, knocking him out with a sedative, standing over him in the complex, and McKay bringing him a cup of coffee.


Rodney struggled to an elbow, but he found it hard to move. He couldn't feel his legs. "He must've hit his head in the crash."

Elizabeth was really worried. She had yet to see any signs of life from the front, and McKay's half-attempt at moving hadn't been lost on her. "Help's here, just sit tight, don't try to move," she said the last part for Rodney more than anyone, but she could see there was something wrong with John and Carson.

A team of medical workers and technicians began prying the hatch open the rest of the way, and soon the compartment was flooded with all the help the team could ask for. McKay was eased onto a backboard, with a C-collar. Beckett was sobered by the information regarding his lack of sensation below the waist. Rodney was trying to keep a stiff upper lip, but Carson could see the fear in his eyes, though he tried to keep others thinking of Sheppard, who still couldn't seem to focus, and was disoriented and confused.

Beckett was loaded onto a gurney as well, something he protested angrily against, but the cut on his leg looked like it might be deep enough to require surgery. A large jagged piece of metal from the bench was the culprit, and it had come close to cutting a lot more if he'd slid any farther forward during the crash. Ford and Teyla were found unconscious in the cockpit, but aside from some contusions, they'd recover. When one of the medical technicians tried to get Sheppard to his feet, two things happened. He lurched to the side, heaving, before he crumpled. Beckett heard the commotion, and cursed being in a position where he couldn't help, but he didn't hold back his opinion. "You damn bloody fool, he's got a head injury, get him in a bed!" Which they did, and in short order, the five were receiving treatment, though for three, the emotional trauma wouldn't be dealt with so easily.

"Rodney, if I have to chain you down…"

McKay eased his back against the mattress. "I'm not getting up. I was only looking," he defended.

Carson was sitting nearby, in his own bed, using a meal tray as a desk, and a small black desk lamp providing a soft glow to see by. It was night in Atlantis, and the infirmary staff was down to a minimum, with the lights dimmed to the bare levels.

"You shouldn't be moving at all," remonstrated Beckett. He sighed, easing his own body against a position held too long. "We'll know when he begins to wake."

Rodney knew Carson was right, but it didn't make it any easier to sit and wait. They'd been back for over a day. Ford and Teyla had been released a short while ago, and after checking in a final time, headed to their quarters for more rest and recuperation.

McKay had been through a battery of tests, the tentative diagnosis was a bruised spinal cord, and the outcome was hopeful. Beckett had prepared a litany of recoveries from these injuries that he'd seen in all his years of practicing medicine. Normally, Rodney would've been chronically worried over his condition, but for Sheppard.

John was the only one of the five that had not regained consciousness. Beckett had received surgery on his leg, and fifteen staples later, he was recovering. But John, John had suffered a worse head injury than the small amount of blood had indicated. He had bleeding on the brain, and above all else, what was bothering McKay was that the last memories Sheppard had revealed in the Jumper had been that of the faked deaths of himself and Beckett during Gigno's test.

His condition was critical, and Rodney couldn't help but feel as if his world was coming out from under him, because this was way too close to how the Sheppard in his test had died. He'd watched John slip away once; he wasn't going to do it again. "There's got to be something you can do," his frustration, anxiety and his own pain boiling over.

Beckett dropped the papers in his hand, harder than he meant to. "We can wait, Rodney. That is all anyone can do." Carson was equally upset by the situation. They had been through a lot lately, and he refused to believe that it was going to end here because of some crazed Ancients' actions on a far away planet, in a remote corner of the Pegasus galaxy. Through sheer will, he was going to force that man to recover, no matter what…if it were possible. But he'd wait, and watch, and keep praying; because that was all he could do.

Carson switched the lamp off, and pushed the tray to the side, shifting down in the bed. "Go to sleep, Rodney. Let tomorrow bring hope," his tired reply was punctuated by his own sigh.

McKay heard Beckett's breathing slow, and pick up a regular rhythm. He continued to lie awake in the darker infirmary, eyes open, staring at the ceiling, and he listened to Carson breathe, and the machines beep out the reassurance that Major Sheppard was still alive, despite everything. Where there's life, there's hope.

Over the course of the next few days, Sheppard began to make a recovery that everyone kept promising Rodney he would. John responded to outside stimulation, reflexes and then slowly, small signs of awareness began to surface. An eye open here and there, a grasp of his hand over McKay's fingers.

On the fourth day, Sheppard opened both eyes, and seemed to actually look at McKay, who had remained a steady presence beside him, even though he was usually propped in a bed that had been pushed close. That was how McKay spent his recovery. Coaxing Sheppard into opening his eyes. He read from John's book. He talked to him about the rose that the blond nurse had brought him, though it was fake, so McKay figured that a fake rose was only worth half the brownie points.

He extolled the virtues of Newton, and talked about the latest fight Zelenka had with Kavanagh. When finally, Sheppard responded. "McKay," he croaked, his voice a small whisper in a big room.

Rodney tried to lean closer without moving. "You're awake!"

Sheppard was barely cognizant, but he still offered a weak smile at McKay's statement of the obvious. "Newton's third law…get over it."

Rodney was grinning so wide his face threatened to split, because he had overheard the quiet discussions between Beckett, who was up with crutches, and the other nurses and medical staff. There was a real concern that the Major had suffered brain damage during his injury, and the initial bleed on his brain. The fact that the first words out of his mouth were about Newton's third law, the one he'd finished discussing in some detail, was promising.

McKay pushed the nurse's call button repeatedly, and in the meantime tried to keep John awake, because he could see the Major's eyes were lidded and heavy, and the man was falling back under. "Don't go to sleep!" he shouted, cringing at his own loudness.

A nurse came running in, and as soon as she saw McKay frantically pounding the button, she frowned with a stern expression. "Doctor McKay, how many times have I told you "

"Not me, you idiot, the Major," McKay pointed at Sheppard, who to his credit, was fighting to stay awake, but clearly losing the battle.

The nurse was so delighted with this revelation that she didn't respond to McKay's rudeness. "Doctor Beckett! Major Sheppard's awake!" the nurse took off, towards Beckett's office, who appeared, leaning heavily on his crutches, but working his way to the Major's bedside with amazing speed.

"John, can you look at me son?" asked Beckett gently.

Sheppard struggled to open his eyes further, and probably made it about halfway. "Doc?" he rasped.

"Do you know where you are?"

Sheppard's lips twitched in a smile. "If I plead the fifth, would that be incriminating?"

McKay looked at Beckett, confused, and getting worried. Maybe that brain damage was still a possibility. Carson frowned. "Major?"

The chuckle was dry, and hoarse. "Sorry, Doc. Just…should've seen the dream I was having…and then Newton's third law had to come and ruin everything."

Beckett continued to look worried, but McKay was smiling, pleased with himself. "He's fine," assured Rodney.

Carson didn't looked entirely convinced, but Sheppard's eyes were already drifting closed. Beckett touched John's shoulder, comforted by the warmth, and said, "Rest lad, it's okay now."

And it was.


Sheppard and McKay exited the hallway onto the command deck. Sheppard was talking animatedly about the nurse who had given him the fake rose, trying to explain why. All McKay could figure out was that it was something left over from his stay after the tic-wraith, and some kind of private joke. Both men drew to a halt as they witnessed for the first time, the damage done by their recent wreck after exiting the wormhole.

There were techs working diligently with welders, and sheet metal, and some scientists were directing others in trying to use raw materials salvaged from the city itself. There was a stock of previously damaged components left from when the shields had begun to fail before the fail safe had risen the city to the surface, and they were being put to good use. What had already been repaired looked almost perfect.

"Wow," said McKay.

Peter Grodin walked by. "Enjoying your handiwork?" he asked, grinning at the stunned expressions on the Major's and McKay's faces.

Sheppard said, "Nice to see you to, Peter, and it was Ford's handiwork, not ours."

"Exactly," Rodney snapped his fingers. "Lucky he got the gene before this mission, wouldn't you say?" he said looking at John.

John nodded sagely. "Oh yes, very."

Peter rolled his eyes, and headed for his console, finding something to do other than deal with those two.

"Still," drawled John, as they sauntered behind Peter's chair, heading for the briefing room, "I do feel responsible," he leaned towards McKay and said in sotto voice, "Seeing that I was in charge and all. I suppose I can tell Doctor Weir to send me the bill."

McKay seemed to consider Sheppard's magnanimous offer. "Quite generous of you, I'm sure she'll appreciate that."

They entered the room, on the verge of laughter, after harassing poor Grodin. They had gotten a lot of 'glad to see you alive' looks on their way here, and they knew Peter was just as guilty as anyone. It was nice to be able to escape to the privacy of the secluded room while waiting for the others to begin the mission briefing.

They found chairs, side by side, something they were prone to do without thought, another subconscious testament to their friendship, and an action neither realized. "So," Sheppard asked, swiveling in the chair. "Where's everybody?"

McKay twisted his neck around, looking out the open panels, "Good question, what time was the briefing for?"

Sheppard looked at his watch, fifteen hundred hours. "I thought Weir said fifteen hundred, but we're here, and no one else is."

"You want to call?"

Sheppard would, except he didn't feel like bothering. Elizabeth was probably dealing with something that was keeping her occupied. Probably roped Ford and Teyla into helping, which explained their absence as well. "We'll wait, I'm sure they'll be along," he said to McKay, kicking his feet up on the table.

Rodney moved his legs up with a little more care, still sore, but relieved to have his mobility returned. "I could've taken a nap," admitted McKay.


"So, I'm still tired." Rodney stared at John. "Don't tell me you aren't, come on, you spent almost a week in a coma."

Sheppard had his arms folded across his chest. "Exactly. I slept a whole week away. I don't need anymore sleep."

McKay was shaking his head. "Not the same thing. A coma is not sleeping."

"Fine, but I'm still not tired."

"Yes, you are, but you're just too manly man to admit it."

Sheppard sat up straighter, pretending annoyance. "Manly man?"

"You heard me. Like on the planet, when your head was crushed in, and I told you to stay down, and you wouldn't and you kept walking, and next thing I know you "

McKay stopped, realizing he had gone down a road he didn't want to. In his version of the test, Sheppard had been on the receiving end of a head bashing, by some kind of animal crashing down on top of him. McKay and Beckett had scared it off, but Sheppard had been hurt. They hadn't been able to get him to stay down. He said he refused to be a liability to them, and they'd keep going. Hours later he had collapsed, and died soon after. Beckett had said it was hemorrhaging in his brain.

"McKay "

Rodney was trying to shake it off. "Never mind, bad memory, where are they?" he asked, straining to look at any place except Sheppard.

Sheppard wasn't going to let it go. Mainly, because he wasn't going to give McKay an excuse to drag him off to some other hellhole in order for psychological therapy, and for another reason, because he'd seen McKay die as well As screwed up as he felt, he imagined McKay was in the same boat, if not worse. Sheppard had seen men die. Men he worked with, and cared for…but McKay wasn't prepared for that, and so far, the Pegasus galaxy was giving him a crash course.

"Bad memories don't go away on their own," cautioned Sheppard.

"Really," McKay replied, sarcasm notwithstanding, "I hadn't noticed."

John pulled his feet off the table, and leaned forward, unfolding his arms, and leaning on the surface. "It wasn't real, none of it happened. I didn't die, you didn't die, and Beckett didn't die."

Rodney finally met John's gaze, and Sheppard was taken aback by the emotion roiling below the surface. "This time," he said starkly.

What can you say to that? "This time," he agreed, keeping his voice even.

Elizabeth, Ford and Teyla chose that moment to arrive. "Sorry we're late," she said, breezing by and taking a seat. Ford and Teyla took a chair on either side of McKay and Sheppard.

"Sorry about that, Major. Doctor Beckett wanted a final run down of our exams," explained Ford.

"Carson said you two were fine, by the way, apparently you had your exams earlier today," Elizabeth said, opening a folder she had carried in with her.

Sheppard looked at McKay, and he offered a small smile, a wry offering regarding their conversation. "Yeah, we're good," he said. And McKay gave a small smile back. They were good.


AN: Okay, first of, again, thank you for reading and reviewing! I've explained why Ford can fly (in the epilogue), but as this hasn't been said for certain after Hot Zone, it's possibly AU. I made an assumption that he'd get the gene after the events in Hot Zone. redick4, I can understand and appreciate your comment. It's complicated staying 'in voice' for characters, and more so on characters that we've had limited exposure with. For Beckett, I truly feel that when push comes to shove, he's got a backbone, and he'd react in a similar manner (based more off of the Beckett we saw in Poisoning the Well). Anyway, especially in a fic of this size, and this level of character involvement, it'd probably be a miracle to get it right all the way through. I strive to find the right character voice, but here I'm taking them into deeper levels, and it's hard to know how they'd react after having just the few episodes. I look forward to season two, and getting to learn more about our loveable trio! And last, but not least, thank you Gaffer, for being a brilliant beta, and Shelly, for being my personal cheerleader!