Chapter 5

Elizabeth Weir decided to stop by the infirmary on the way to her quarters. John and Rodney had returned to Atlantis several hours ago. Rodney should be settled and John should be out of surgery by now. Dr. Beckett had assured her that they would both be fine, but she would rest easier if she saw them herself. She walked into the room and looked around.

McKay was sitting up in bed, tapping away on his laptop (suprise, suprise). His right ankle was propped up on a pillow and he had a fresh bandage on his forehead. He was a lot cleaner that the last time she had seen him and wearing a fresh pair of scrubs. He stopped typing and looked over at Sheppard. It was more than a passing glance, she realized. He was checking his condition as best he could from his position.

Sheppard was asleep, no doubt heavily medicated. Even from across the room, she could see the heavy bandages on his right shoulder. It had taken a couple of hours of surgery to stop the bleeding and repair the damage caused by the arrow. He was hooked up to an IV, as well as a blood transfusion. Beckett said he'd never seen anyone lose that much blood and still get up and walk. He was also hooked up to a heart monitor, just as a precaution according to the doctor...because he'd lost so much blood.

She heard Beckett walk up behind her. "How are our boys?"

"They'll be okay. We'll have to torture Rodney waking him every couple of hours tonight. He had a pretty bad concussion and it took quite a few stitches to close that head wound. He'll have a nice scar to show the ladies. His ankle is sprained, but not broken. He'll be off his feet a while with that."

"And John?"

"Aye, I think he'll be okay as well. May take a little longer to mend. I was really worried at first. His vitals dropped off dramatically right after they got here. I think he was holding it together just long enough to get them back to Atlantis. It was touch and go the first couple of hours. He's holding his own now, though. We've got the bleeding stopped and several units of blood in him. His vitals are coming back up nicely."

They watched as McKay leaned over toward Sheppard's bed. Sheppard had stirred slightly and he was responding to it. "John, can you hear me? Are you awake? I'm right here and I'm not going anywhere. We're safe in Atlantis...Rest and get better."

Sheppard moaned slightly. They had no idea if the movement was coincidence or if he heard McKay talking to him. Beckett looked thoughtful. "Somethin's different."

"What do you mean?" asked Weir.

"I don't know. I can't put my finger on it. Somethin's just...different. Never mind, lass. It's probably just me. Run along and get some rest, yourself. You can stop by tomorrow when the Colonel is awake."

Weir nodded and headed for her quarters, glad her "boys" were back home. She often thought she couldn't get by without them...and then some days she wondered how she got by with them. This had been one of those days. At least they didn't blow anything up this time.

Sheppardhad begunslowly making his way towards consciousness, until the intense throbbing in his shoulder dragged him moaning into the present. He struggled to open his eyes, but the lids just seemed too heavy. He realized he could hear faint repetitious sounds in the background, somewhat comforting in their pattern. He slowly came to realize that one was a heart monitor and the other was... He peeled his eyes open a slit and worked on focusing. It took almost a minute for the fog to lift and his vision to clear. Rodney sat in the bed next to him, typing on his laptop. He tried to say his name, but his tongue seemed to be stuck to the roof of his mouth. He only managed a low moan, but it did the trick. McKay looked over at him.

McKay watched him for a few seconds, trying to decide if anyone was home or not. Sheppard's face flickered briefly into what looked like a passing smile and he made a sort of croaking sound. "Beckett...get in here!"

Carson Beckett was there almost before McKay finished calling him. He followed Rodney's gaze to Sheppard. He bent over Sheppard and tried to see if the partially open eyes looked focused.John tried to speak again, having a little more luck this time. "Thirsty." Beckett smiled and reached for a glass of water. He held the straw to Sheppard's lips. It seemed to take a monumental effort just to get a sip. "Thanks." Beckett could barely hear him.

"Glad to see your awake, Colonel. I was beginning to wonder. How's the shoulder?"

"Hurts." Sheppard was getting frustrated that all he seemed to be able to manage was one word at a time.

"Aye. I brought your pain meds down a notch so I could get you to wake up a few minutes. I wanted to check on you and be sure you were okay, after losing that much blood. Son, you should know that you never remove something like that until you get to a doctor. That arrow could very well have been putting pressure on an injured blood vessel and keeping you from bleeding to death. Don't ever remove a penetrating object like that again."

"Needed...to...get...pressure...couldn't...run..." Sheppard was exhausted from trying to explain his reasoning and he wasn't sure he even made sense. He was so tired and his shoulder was really starting to kick up some pain. He just wanted to go back to sleep.

"I understand what you're saying. And I may have made the same call had I been there. I just want you to know for future reference - that's usually not a good idea. Hang tight and I'll get you something for that pain." Beckett turned and went to the other side of the room.

McKay leaned toward Sheppard. "You going to be okay?" He looked worried.

"I'm...good. You?"

McKay smiled. "I'm good too. Get some rest."

Beckett was back, sliding something into his IV line. Sure enough, he felt himself slipping away and he welcomed it.

It was almost two weeks before Beckett released Sheppard from the infirmary. Sheppard sat on the edge of the bed, listening half-heartedly to the stern lecture about taking care of himself and not overdoing it. His right arm was in a sling (which he was quite sure he didn't need any more). He guessed he must have tuned Beckett out, because he suddenly realized that the good doctor was no longer talking.

"Did you hear anything I said, lad?"

"I heard it. I know what to do. Keep my arm in the sling, check in daily, don't overdo it. be sure to breathe. I got it."

Beckett was not amused. "Seriously doc, I got it. I'll be good, I promise. Just let me out of here before I lose my mind."

"I'm the one gonna lose his bloody mind," muttered Beckett. "You can go. If you're not here by noon tomorrow for your check, I'll hunt you down and you will live to regret it."

Sheppard gave a left-handed salute, slid off the bed, and headed out the door. He paused before he left, though, and turned back to Beckett. "Doc...thanks for saving my hide again." He smiled and then he was gone.

Beckett just shook his head.

Sheppard hadn't gone far when he met McKay headed his way. McKay was still limping, but he'd managed to ditch the crutches. "Hey, I was afraid I'd missed you. You want to get some lunch?"

"Yeah, sounds good. Let's stop by my quarters on the way. I've got something to show you."

They arrived a few minutes later and entered Sheppard's room. It seemed really empty, almost as though you could tell no one had been there in a while. Sheppard walked over to the desk and opened the top drawer. He pulled out a five by seven picture and handed it to Rodney. McKay looked at the picture a minute before it dawned on him what it was. There were two air force pilots with their arms around each others shoulders, standing in front of a helicopter. One was obviously Sheppard, several years younger that he was now. He still had "the hair", but his face was younger and the lines softer. The man next to him looked like a slightly younger carbon copy. He was an inch or so shorter, his nose a little rounder, his face a little younger. But he definitely had "the hair" and he looked almost like Sheppard's twin. They were both wearing that cheeky grin Sheppard flashed when he was up to no good.

"My God, he looks just like you." After McKay spoke, he worried that he shouldn't have. He looked up at Sheppard, gauging his reaction. His expression seemed neutral. "Why do you keep it in the drawer?"

Sheppard stood there looking at the picture in McKay's hand. "Because sometimes it hurts too much to see it. If I keep it in the drawer...I can choose when to look at it. It doesn't catch me off guard."

"I don't know what to say. I didn't know.. I'm sorry John."

"I know. Thanks. I'm getting there." He took the picture and carefully placed it back in the drawer. He looked at the floor a minute before bringing his eyes up to meet McKay's. "I have not idea why I told you all that stuff. I guess you know I've never told anyone else...Anyway...thanks for being there...and for listening."

McKay smiled brightly. "No problem. That's what brothers are for. Huh! I always wanted to say that."

"You're strange, McKay. I guess it's too late to change my mind about this whole blood brother thing."

"Too late! We mixed our blood and you can't undo that. We'll be blood brothers forever. Can't take it back."

"Hmmmm. Well, in that case, come on and I'll buy you lunch." The two friends headed for the mess hall, both realizing that things had changed and they had, through it all, grown closer...sort of like...brothers.

The end

Sappy, I know. I'm having a moment.