Less Than A Minute (Part 10) Updated 09-05-05 from original post.
Sheppard stood grinning like an idiot, listening to the blind scientist irritably prattle off numbers back and forth with Zelenka. McKay's voice snapped with impatience as his hands waved and pointed in the direction of the gate, clearly wanting desperately to get out of the damned chair and work on it himself. When the pressure to take over became too much, he reached up and stripped the bandages from his head, and then his hands, tossing them to the floor, before slipping his injured leg from the foot rest.
"McKay, what do you think you're doing?"
"I need to get to the gate."
The colonel shot a look up to the upper deck and noticed Carson hovering around Zelenka because the smaller man appeared ready to drop. "Okay, but we got to do this fast. Give me your hands." With the scientist firmly gripping his forearms, he pulled Rodney to his feet. "Steady," he encouraged, slipping his arm around the injured man's waist.
Rodney's hand scrabbled up Sheppard's arm and then felt his head. Connecting with the earpiece, he ripped it out of soldier's ear before sticking it in his own. "This is McKay!" he called over the system, "I need Kavanaugh to the gateroom immediately."
"I need to know what his team did here today."
"Okay, well, all you had to do was ask."
"I don't have time for formalities, Colonel." Gritting his teeth, he hopped on his good leg in the direction he sensed he needed to go, "Now get me over to the panel on the lower left side."
"The one at the bottom?"
"Yes." Moved into position by Sheppard, Rodney carefully sank to the floor. His hands traced over the cover before snapping it off and setting it to the side, only to have it bang back on the floor when there was nothing behind it for support. "What do you see?"
"I know that! Are they all lit?"
The scruffy haired colonel leaned forward, over Rodney's shoulder, for a closer examination. "No. It looks like four are dead."
"Colonel Sheppard, would you care to explain to me what in the world is going on in here?" Elizabeth demanded as she entered the gateroom from the adjoining hallway, and only stopped when Beckett appeared at the upper railing.
"Rodney," he called from above, "Radek said to tell you that the gate interface with the power core is offline."
"Damn it," the scientist hissed, running his hand over the tiles and then tugging one loose. Holding up to Sheppard, he demanded, "What do you see?"
"It's sort of cloudy and it was one of the ones not lit. How did you know that?"
McKay just 'harrumphed' impatiently and ignored his question.
"Colonel?" Elizabeth tried again for an answer.
"Rodney and Radek discovered a problem with the gate. They're fixing it." Taking the second tile thrust at him, he held it up to the light, "Cloudy."
About that time, Kavanaugh came running in from the corridor, only to come to a complete stop when he saw the blind scientist removing tiles from the panel. Noticing the absence of bandages, he scowled, "You can see."
"No, I can't."
"Then what the hell do you think you are doing?"
"Fixing your latest fubar!" Handing a third tile back towards the colonel, Rodney shifted his aching leg out off to the side, hoping for a miniscule ounce of relief. Biting back a groan when the sore muscles cramped instead, he clenched his eyes tight while riding out the pain.
"Rodney, you okay?" Sheppard asked worriedly.
McKay shook his head 'no'. "Tile?" he grunted, trying to take his mind off his leg.
Holding it up, Sheppard squinted and turned it over in the light. "It looks clear."
"Was it lit?"
Kavanagh snagged the first two tiles from Sheppard and held them up to the light before frowning. "These were replaced after the new Zed PM was installed. My team went over them again today."
"Well, apparently someone replaced the damaged ones back in the network."
The pony-tailed scientist licked his lips before thrusting the tiles back at Sheppard. "I'll get the correct ones." He quickly disappeared back down the hallway without saying another word.
"Are there any more unlit units?" Rodney asked to whomever might answer.
Sheppard hunkered down closer to study the inside of the panel. "Give me your hand," he commanded and then placed it on another dim tile.
Rodney frowned while holding it with one hand and running his other slowly over the remaining pieces. His brow tight in concentration, he systematically traced towards the bottom of the panel before removing a lit tile and slipping it in the spot of one of the dark pieces removed earlier. The dark tile still held in place by his other hand suddenly lit back up.
"How?" Elizabeth asked in amazement, glancing from Rodney to Sheppard.
The scientist continued to ignore her and the soldier merely shrugged before pulling the last dark tile and checking to see if it was clear or not. "Looks fine," he said, placing it in Rodney's hand and then guiding it back to the panel. He didn't miss the fine sheen of sweat that had broken out across the blind man's face or the way that his hands began to tremble. "Almost done," Sheppard encouraged quietly.
Rodney only nodded, blowing out a small breath before running his hand over his unseeing eyes. Licking his dry lips, he swallowed and then reached back to the panel, shifting two more tiles on the bottom and slipping the one he'd just been handed into an empty spot. It began to glow.
"Alright, Answer Man!" Sheppard clapped Rodney on the back but instantly regretted it when the man flinched. "I'm gonna remember this next time we're offworld and you start to complain about working in the dark."
Tipping his head sideways, Rodney looked towards Sheppard, his sightless eyes revealing nothing. "I think," he started to say, and then stopped.
Sheppard studied his friend closely, noting the color suddenly fade from McKay's face. "Rodney, you okay?" Next thing he knew, he was catching the scientist as he slumped sideways towards the floor. "Beckett!" he yelled over his shoulder.
The physician's head instantly appeared over the railing to see why he was being called, and spying the scientist in the soldier's arms, he charged down the steps. Dropping to his knees beside the men, he glanced back to Elizabeth, "Would you mind keeping an eye on Radek for me, lass? I believe he's heading in the same direction as Rodney."
She nodded and took the stairs two at a time to the top to assist the other scientist. She found him resting with his elbows on the control panel, leaning forward over the laptop in an attempt to relieve the discomfort in his chest. "How can I help?"
Radek swallowed and looked up to meet her gaze. "We need remaining tiles to get gate back online."
"Dr. Kavanaugh went to get them."
"Shouldn't you be sitting down?"
"Little longer. Once he gets here and I get gate back up and running, then I rest."
Worried that he wouldn't hold out a little longer, Elizabeth cleared her throat to get the attention of the night tech and then pointed towards her office. "Would you please bring a chair from my office?"
Radek sank gratefully onto the seat once it was brought out and leaned forward with his elbows on his knees. "How is Rodney?"
Resting her hand lightly on his shoulder and feeling the fine tremors shaking beneath her grip, she gave a comforting squeeze, "Carson and John are with him. How are you doing?"
"I would like to go back to infirmary," he answered quietly.
Elizabeth closed her eyes for a second as she continued to stand behind him. "Let me find Dr. Kavanaugh." Tapping her earpiece, she began to page the missing scientist only to see him and several of his team member's running back into the gateroom.
While two went to work installing new tiles, Kavanaugh and another tech raced up the stairs and carefully stepped around Zelenka's hunched form. "I've got it from here, Doctor," Kavanaugh assured them both without his usual arrogance.
"Elizabeth." Radek motioned with one hand for her without looking up.
She dropped to her knees beside him and looked up into his haggard face. "Radek, it's all under control. Just rest until a med team gets here to take you back to the infirmary.
He shook his head slightly, his gaze still fixed on the floor in front of his feet. "Check on Rodney."
"I told you, he's fine."
His weary blue eyes looked up, shooting her a worried glance, "Please. It was me who got him to leave infirmary."
She smiled warmly at him, "I never would have guessed." Another comforting squeeze to his shoulder and she made her way to the stairwell, "I don't want you moving from that spot, Dr. Zelenka. Do I make myself clear?"
He allowed a small smile of his own to show before he nodded, watching her disappear from view as she went to check on Rodney.
Carson had the colonel carefully lower Rodney back onto the floor before doing a quick exam. He wasn't surprised when the scientist collapsed, it was too soon for him to be up, let alone working on a project. "Bloody fool," he mumbled while holding Rodney's wrist.
"How is he?" Sheppard finally dared to ask once Carson set McKay's arm back down.
"Exhausted, in a fair amount of pain, and his body hasn't recuperated from initial accident. I'm surprised he actually made it this far." Shooting a glance towards the upper deck, he shook his head in disgust, "I'm surprised either of them is up." Tapping his earpiece, he paged the infirmary, requesting two gurneys be rushed to the gateroom.
"But they're gonna be okay, right?"
"Aye, but they need to rest. No matter what might be wrong with Atlantis, I can't have them running around trying to fix it in their current conditions."
The sound of quickly approaching individuals emanated from the hallway and soon Kavanaugh and his team appeared, taking over the gate operations. With nothing more to do but get in the way, Sheppard and Beckett slid Rodney out of the way towards the side of the platfrom and watched. Moments later, Elizabeth joined them.
"How is he?" she asked.
"He'll be fine," Carson repeated, "He just needs to rest. How was Radek?"
She looked up from Rodney to meet the physician's concerned gaze. "I've got him sitting in a chair before he fell over. I don't think he's going to last much longer. "
Carson nodded and looked worriedly up to where his other patient was situated.
More people scurried into the room; some pushing gurneys, others ready to assist those on the opposite side of the gate. Events began to move quickly and the room filled with more noise as individuals issued orders and teams went to work.
While Carson and several medical staff members readied Rodney and Radek for transport, a shout of excitement went up from the science team when the gate lit up and then the telltale 'whoosh' exploded out into the room before receding back into the ring.
It had been five days since the explosion in the jumper bay, two since the little escapade to the gateroom, and neither Rodney nor Radek showed any signs of complete awareness since their return to the infirmary. There had been groggy moments when one or the other attempted to answer questions or eat, but exhaustion had a firm grip on their weary bodies and all they did successfully was sleep. After Rodney had ripped off the eye bandages for a fourth time, disoriented and complaining of feeling trapped and confined, Beckett had given him a pair of tinted glasses to cover his eyes.
Awareness came slowly to the scientist as he lay resting in the drug induced haze that Carson had provided. With little strength available, and in all honestly, no desire to move, he found it easier to listen to the events and movements going on around him. The squeak of a chair, footsteps across the floor, and the swish of garments became comforts, filling his dark void. He sighed quietly to himself. He'd done that a lot recently.
Chewing on his lower lip, he tried to remember what had happened at the gateroom. Something had gone wrong. Sheppard was there, wasn't he? The tiles…it had something to do with the power relay. His eyes raced behind his closed lids, searching for an answer that his blinded eyes so desperately wanted to see. Without thinking, he blinked, and he saw something he thought for sure he'd never see again…light.
It was blurry and dark, shapes held little definition, and surrounding movements were more like watching shadows dance in the candlelight. But it was light! He could see!
Not wanting to be wrong, he laid still, his head pressed back into his pillow as the shapes shifted about him. He could hear voices; identify them without even thinking, and relished in the comforting murmur of his friends. But more than the sound, it was actually seeing the blurry images ghost around the foot of his bed that allowed him to relax. To let sleep claim him this time in peace, for when he awoke, there would be hope.
Seated around one of the small bedside tables, soft laughter and chatter filled the room as Elizabeth and Sheppard attempted to teach Teyla and Ronon the fine art of playing Gin Rummy. Carson stood behind Teyla helping her to arrange her cards and suggesting what to play next.
When Elizabeth smacked her hand of cards down on the table and triumphantly declared 'Gin' for the third time in a row, Ronon tossed his cards and scowled at Sheppard.
"I like your game Poker, better."
Sheppard shrugged. "Sometimes that's more fun to play with just the guys."
"Not always, Colonel," Weir said with a hint of mischief in her eyes. "There are times when playing with the opposite sex can be rather entertaining."
All eyes turned to stare at her.
"What?" She said it with a teasing smile. "I went to college."
Sheppard and Beckett's jaws dropped as they stared at her in disbelief. Ronon and Teyla weren't quite sure what they were apparently missing.
"Are you telling me you played Strip Poker in college?" Sheppard dared to ask.
She shrugged and gathered the scattered deck of cards, expertly shuffling them using several different methods, before placing them back on the tray.
"What is Strip Poker?" Teyla and Ronon asked simultaneously.
Before anyone got the chance to answer, a clumsily tossed pillow hit the edge or the small table, scattering the deck of cards to the floor.
"Can't you people take your frat chat somewhere else? I'm trying to sleep here."
"I agree. Worse than old lady tea party."
Instantly the others surrounded Rodney and Radek's bedsides.
"Hey, how you feelin'?" Sheppard asked, giving Rodney's arm a tight squeeze.
"Better, until you bruised my arm," the scientist snarked quietly, rubbing the spot with false indignation.
"You want me to kiss it and make it better?"
"Oh, get away from me!" Rodney reached out and smacked Sheppard on the arm.
"Hey, good shot." Sheppard snapped back and the others grew quiet, all eyes now on McKay.
"What?" Rodney asked.
"You just hit me."
"Not the first time, and most likely not the last," he huffed.
"Where's your pillow?"
The scientists head lolled to the side as he squinted towards the floor. "By your foot. Give it to me."
Beckett stepped in between the two before they had the chance to get out of control. Presenting three fingers, he waved them in front of Rodney's face. "How many fingers am I holding up?"
Rodney squinted again, watching the hand pass in front of his face. "Well if you'd hold those fuzzy sausages still long enough, I might be able to tell you." When the Scot complied, he stared at the hand and then back to Beckett, disbelief and then joy spreading across his face. It hadn't been a dream. "Three?"
Large smiles broke out all around as the physician removed Rodney's protective glasses. Flashing his penlight into the cranky man's eyes; he was relieved to see both pupils react to the light. "How well can you see? Is there any blurriness?"
"Other than the fact that you and that damned light of yours are trying to blind me again, everything looks…fuzzy, but it's getting better."
Radek carefully leaned sideways from his bed and held out his spare pair of glasses to his colleague. "Here, try these."
Not missing a beat, McKay squinted and glared at the offer, "Oh, thank you, but I think I'll pass." A thought washed over his face and he suddenly grew quiet. "You okay?"
Radek smiled and nodded. "You?"
"I'm good," he answered with a nod. He glanced down at his bandaged leg, closed his eyes for a moment and listened with satisfaction to the hum of Atlantis, and then looked back to see his friends watching him and he smiled. "I'm good."
A/N: Mega thanks to Gaffer/Mary for all of your wonderful beta/grammar help. (When the boss tells you she likes it, you know it must not be too bad!)
Mega thanks to Emergencyfan/Erika for keeping me sane and entertained, as well as tossing in some great beta ideas. (world…ME….world) LOL!
And thank you to all who have sent notes and reviews. I admit it, I like reading them… a lot! Okay, a whole lot! This was a blast, really!
Take care, Jen :)