Beating the Odds
Came to me while listening to Untitled by Simple Plan
Not mine, just taking them out to play.
Respectful feedback welcome.
I seem to be full of vignettes of late. Probably because school takes up so much time, it's all I have time to write. Anyway, hope you like.
I open my eyes. I try to see but the light is too bright.
I try to think but I can't remember why I'm lying here. Can't move. Everything hurts so much I can't stand it.
I hear yelling and screaming. Gunshots. Guttural shouts.
I blink, squinting through the blinding light. I see Rodney. He's stumbling, dazed. Blood is dripping down the side of his face.
His looks afraid.
I see Lt Ford. He braces his weapon against his shoulder, aims carefully, taking out two charging natives in quick succession. Way to go, Ford!
The heaviness of my body begins to fade.
Feels like floating. I'm slipping.
I wish I could start this day over.
"Come on. Twenty-four hours. It'll be a nice vacation."
"I don't like it... You're sure the natives are friendly?"
"Met with the leader of the village myself."
"Alright. Twenty-four hours, no more."
I try to remember what happened...
A peaceful day, camping in the timber, fishing in the pond, relaxing in the warm sun. Then chaos, swarms of natives, not like the villagers, running to us. Clubs and rocks gripped in their hands.
A memory jumps into reality, a time when nothing really mattered.
Leaning on the balustrade, looking over a never-ending ocean. The reflection of the setting sun tips the waves with pink. Salty, humid air fills my lungs as I breath deeply. Peace and calm, relaxed and quiet.
Roaring fills my ears. A band is tightening around my chest. I can't breath.
A familiar scent is near. Earthy, flowery. Teyla. She is above me now. Her beautiful dark eyes are filled with tears. Her bottom lip is trembling. A hand is in hers, my hand. She presses the back against her lips. I can't feel it.
I want to yell, to scream, get her attention, calm her fear.
The band gets tighter. The bright light fades.
"Dr McKay, please," Teyla's voice was panicked, desperate. She didn't care. Major Sheppard barely drew breath. His hand was cold in hers. She tried to warm it. His eyes were glazed, staring at her but into nothing. She placed a heavy hand on the side of his head, trying to bring a response but he doesn't show any sign of awareness. "Help me," she pleaded up at Rodney.
Rodney shook the fog from his brain. He looked from the chaotic villagers versus forest-natives battle raging around them to the figures at his feet. Falling to his knees beside Teyla, his gaze fell on Major Sheppard sprawled in the grass. His stomach lurched at the bone handle of an obviously large knife protruding from the major's chest.
Aiden fired a few more rounds at the wild natives that were quickly being overtaken by the villagers. His dark eyes roamed the grassy field until he spotted the rest of his team. He took weaving, exhausted steps toward them, dropping on Major Sheppard's other side. His stomach roiled at the sight. "Teyla, dial the gate. Dr McKay, grab his gear." The young lieutenant didn't wait to see if everyone else followed his orders, he knew they would. He pulled his commanding officer across his stocky shoulders. Sucking in a deep breath, he pushed to his feet.
The Stargate wasn't far. The portal of escape was open, receiving them with open arms.
Carson's insides knotted as he studied the ten inch, handle to tip, hunting knife. Straight between the ribs, barely nicked a lung and slid right beside the heart. It was the ribs that kept it from dissecting the major's heart or puncturing a lung during the mad dash for home.
He set it down on his desk, rising to his feet. He had to see again, with his own eyes, that the major was really still alive.
The medical bay was dark, save a few dim wall lights. Squashing the tumbling in his gut, he strode to the bedside. He avoided looking at the person in the bed, focusing his attention on the monitors, fiddling with the intravenous drips. He needed to stay professional... but this man was his friend... keep the feelings at a distance... but...
Closing his eyes, Carson took a deep breath to steady himself. Upon opening them, he turned to look at the man.
Tubes and wires, vent and leads, blood and glucose. He was pale. So still. He wasn't supposed to be so still. He was always in motion, walking, fiddling, bouncing.
Carson pressed his fingertips into his burning eyes. A heavy breath escaped his lips.
Elizabeth slammed her laptop closed. Leaning back in the chair, she rubbed vigorously at the grit in her eyes. Every time she closed them, visions of Major Sheppard's bedraggled team tumbling from the gate filled her mind.
They were grimy and exhausted. The side of Rodney's face was covered in blood. Aiden had barely stumbled through the Stargate before his smaller body gave under the burden of the major slung over his shoulder. Major Sheppard... out of John's chest protruded the handle of a knife. He was so still and so pale. She thought her heart would stop at the site of him. He looked dead.
She pushed to her feet, heading swiftly toward the medical bay.
The door opened as she neared, giving her full view of the darkened interior. Bolstering her courage, she walked straight to his bedside. So much equipment, the tubes, the wires, the bags of fluids. She pulled a chair close, sitting to study his still form. Waiting, watching for any flicker of movement.
Rodney stalked into the room in which he knew Major Sheppard lay. His step faltered when he saw Elizabeth but he continued until he stood just behind her.
"What are we doing here, Rodney?" she whispered without turning.
Rodney watched the back of her bowed head. He knew what she was asking. He honestly didn't know. Atlantis was so far beyond anything the human race could imagine. Living every day in the Pegasus Galaxy was a game of Russian roulette. The price of the game was too high, too many of the original Atlantis expedition team had already paid with their lives.
Not knowing what to say, he tentatively rested a hand on her shoulder. She glanced at it then gripped it tightly with her own.
Carson drew up some coffee, bringing it to Rodney and Elizabeth. Both now slouched in chairs, they quietly accepted the cups, sipping at the hot beverage. He pulled up a chair to sit with them.
Over the course of the night, Teyla and Aiden joined the vigil, pulling chairs close to the group. No one spoke. The only sound was the slow beeps of the monitors and whoosh of the ventilator.
They remained in that contemplative silence as Atlantis began to stir around them.
The light of the morning sun began to seep through the narrow windows, reflecting throughout the corridors. People filtered out of their sleeping quarters, greeting each other. Some headed for breakfast, others to their posts, forgoing breakfast in favor of a brunch later.
Carson roused from his chair, to look closer at the monitors. A relieved smile tugged at his lips. He turned to Elizabeth and Rodney, their anxious eyes on him. "He's breathing above the work of the vent," he whispered.
Elizabeth's lips tightened, the corners of her eyes crinkled in a reserved smile.
Rodney's eyes twinkled, glancing expectantly from Carson to Major Sheppard and back.
I come back into reality to a sound. Frshht-whoof... Frshht-whoof... Frshht-whoof..
The sound coincides with involuntary movement in my body. Frshht... my chest expands. Whoof... then releases.
My fingers twitch, awakening the sensitivity of the tips. Slick, crisp fabric... cool against my overheated skin.
I just lay for a while, waiting for my mind to connect with the rest of my body. My butt and legs feel numb to the point of pain, my toes are tingling. Uncomfortable but unable to find the energy to shift, I still just lay.
I drift to the rhythmic frshht-whoof.--
"Wait, wait, wait a second. Are these things even close to a transporter?"
"Uh, yes, Elizabeth's is."
"Uh, it's a brisk walk away."
"And by 'brisk', you mean ... 'far'."
"By 'walk', I mean 'run'."
"You need to radio in once..."
I come back again to a smell. Antiseptic and alcohol... something else... coffee.
Someone clears their throat to my left. I try to turn my head but it takes more effort than it should.
I try to swallow, making ready to try moving again, but I can't. My body panics when it realizes something is blocking my throat. I gag trying to expel it. My thoughts turn off, survival the only process running.
"Major." A voice calls through the chaos. I grab it, concentrate on it.
"It's alright, major."
A name comes to my mind... Beckett.
A heavy hand is on my forehead. Focusing on his voice, his touch, I forget about fighting the thing in my throat.
"There's a tube in yer throat, Major, helpin you breath. Once you fully wake, we can pull it out."
Things start to connect, ...frshht-whoof... Ventilator.
"Good job, son. Relax."
Carson is near. Carson will take care of everything.
I drift again.
"How do you feel about house calls, Doc?"
"Would if I could Major Sheppard but you'll have to settle for long distance ..."
I come around to a light. It's bright, radiating through my closed eyelids.
"... above the vent. It's just givin' his body a chance to recover without havin' to concern itself with breathin'."
"I think I understand. You are very skilled for your years."
"Ah, well, what I have is lots of book knowledge. The experience of generations of doctors before me. I mean I have medical experience but... would you care for some coffee?"
I can hear the blush on Carson's face. Poor guy. Doesn't deal well with the 'pretty girl' compliments.
Their voices are starting to fade as they walk away.
I'm aware enough to recognize that I'm tired of not being able to move. I have to get his attention.
I open my eyes.
Carson brought the cup full of coffee to Teyla, sitting not five feet from Major Sheppard. She was the only one of the night long vigil that wasn't called away during the morning hours. She insisted on staying until there was change.
A flicker of movement caught his eye, making him nearly dump the steaming liquid as he fumbled to pass it off in a rush.
Teyla was quick to set the cup on the floor following Dr Beckett to the major's bedside.
They stood, shoulder to shoulder, watching Major Sheppard come back to the land of the living.
"Welcome back, major," Carson encouraged, keeping his voice low. He turned away to fiddle with some dials, depress a few buttons.
Teyla gripped the major's hand, a smile lighting her face. She drank in the hazel eyes, open, alert, watching her. Never had she seen anyone survive such a hideous injury. The miracles that followed these explorers from Earth would never cease to amaze her.
Carson pivoted back. He set a hand on the major's shoulder to keep his attention. "Let's get this out of yer throat now."
Teyla stepped back out of the doctor's way. After brief instructions, the life-sustaining apparatus was removed. She gaped at the ugliness of it but quickly dismissed it at the gagging and coughing erupting from Major Sheppard.
Carson held a firm hand over the stitched area of the major's chest, bracing it against the abuse of the wracking coughs. "Deep breaths, major," he insisted.
When the fit finally subsided, Major Sheppard collapsed back on the bed, eyes squeezed against the pain. His exhale whined in protest of the torment.
My mind kind of blanked out when those coughs tore through me. All I knew was pain, a fire in my chest. Carson's hand held me, grounded me. I concentrated on that and breathing.
Now that it's over, I can't move or think or hear. I just lay there for a while.
After a bit, the aching in my chest pulls me over to my side. I just curl around it. I want to sleep again so I won't feel.
I'm jerked aware by something cold being stuck up my nose. I try to pull back.
"Major, stop fightin' me now."
Carson's admonishing voice stops me.
"You still need oxygen."
I pry my eyes open to see him leaning over me, feel him tuck the thin tubing behind my ears. He studies the monitors, smiles at me then walks away.
Teyla takes his place, her hand on my shoulder. She is smiling, too.
I can't smile back. My focus is on 'breath in, breath out.' I can't even stop the damn whimper coming from my own throat.
The bustle of the day diminished. The lights dimmed. Atlantis nodded off to sleep.
Carson pushed away from his desk. It had been a rough couple of days but he was beyond exhaustion. Whose idea was it to send only one medical doctor on this trip? Yes, yes, wasn't sure of the survival statistics but, honestly, they were dealing with another galaxy. A back-up would have been nice.
He strolled through the medical bay, glancing at the evening nurse on duty. She smiled at him then turned back to her... crossword puzzle. His face crinkled with a frown but he let it go. What else was there to do in the middle of the night anyway?
Reaching the major's bedside, he did a quick once over of the equipment. Everything read good. Still not great, but improving.
He turned to see Major Sheppard's dark eyes open and fully aware, watching him. "Hello, again," he whispered, leaning close.
Major Sheppard only blinked.
"You did it again, major." Carson said softly. "You beat the odds."
John's face lit in a weary smile before he closed his eyes to sleep again.