All The King's Horses by nebbyJen (Updated 10/09/06)
Summary: One line starter challenge from L.E. McMurray off SGAHC list. 'At 4 A.M. this morning, Rodney McKay killed himself.' Angst filled H/C fic, but no deaths.
Season: Early 2 with no spoilers
Rated: Teen for slight language
A/N: The guys are the unwitting recipients of some pent up frustration of my own RL in this fic. Sorry fellas, you know I don't mean it. Well, okay, I kind of like it a little bit. But since they still don't belong to me and I have nothing to do with the actual characters…What the heck! What's a little whumping gonna hurt! Enjoy! I know I feel better! 10/01/2005
All The King's Horses
At 4 A.M. this morning, Rodney McKay killed himself. Sheppard had seen it happen with his very own eyes. One minute the team was heading back towards the gate with less than fifty feet to go, trying to out run the approaching storm that had been building most of the night, and the next thing the colonel knew, he was knocked to the ground by a hard shove to the shoulder. An earsplitting boom filled the dark night followed by a horrendous crack and sizzle. The sky erupted instantly with bright light illuminating their surroundings and the mammoth tree they had just run past. Violently uprooted, ripped apart, it then was slammed back down to earth…on top of one Rodney McKay, mere seconds after the scientist had sacrificed himself to push Sheppard out of the way to safety.
What happened after that was all a blur that ended with him sitting in the hallway of Atlantis, wrapped in a blanket, waiting for Beckett to perform a miracle, because that is what it would take, a freaking miracle. He'd been there through it all. Memories flooded his mind and he shuddered, trying to come to grips with what he'd witnessed. What he'd heard. What he never wanted to go through again.
With feet planted firmly apart on the floor, he leaned forward and wearily rested his elbows on his knees, his shoulders sagging bone-dead tired, his gaze steadfastly fixed on his muddy boots. He was soaked, and shivering, and numb. His jacket sleeve was practically ripped off the shoulder from where he'd snagged it on a tree limb while trying to reach Rodney. His fingers intertwined in a white knuckle grip that was splotched with dark brown mud and rust colored blood.
Voices spoke to and around him. Some tried to hand him cups of steaming coffee. Others tried to urge him to change into dry clothing. When all failed in their attempts, someone eventually draped a blanket over his hunched figure and briefly rested a hand on his shoulder before moving away.
He never moved. He would wait for as long as it would take, for he had promised.
"McKay!" Sheppard yelled in horror, watching the man disappear underneath the entangled twisted remains of the massive fir tree. Another bolt of lightning split the sky revealing the devastation, and the colonel raced back to where he'd last seen the scientist standing. Branches whipped and snapped in the air, stirred up by the storms increasing strength, and bit savagely into his face and hands, but he failed to notice.
Ronon was instantly at his side, as was Teyla, each trying to force their way through the entanglement. When it became clear that the three of them were making little headway, Sheppard grabbed Teyla by the arm and pulled her back. Yelling above the now howling winds and pounding rain, he gestured towards the tree and then pointed to the Stargate. She had to go get help. He and Ronon would stay. When she reluctantly acquiesced, he only nodded and then turned back to where Ronon was lifting an incredibly large branch, giving the team leader room to work his way beneath.
He quickly unhooked his shoulder pack, stuffed his vest pockets with bandages, and grabbed his flashlight. Double checking his radio to make sure it was secure, he climbed onto his hands and knees and ducked underneath the limb.
It was pitch black inside the opening and he flipped on the light in hopes of spotting either another pocket he could progress in to or any sign of McKay. There was no sign of either. Instead, he clambered on his belly and wormed his way between branches, stopping sporadically to unhook himself from broken branches that snagged his jacket and prevented him from proceeding.
The air was stifling and humid. The sounds of the raging storm strangely muffled. And the slick needles and branches slipped and twisted in his grip, making his progress slow.
When he made it to the massive trunk, he reached under it and was surprised to find a slight gap between the branches and the ground. Several of the larger branches had snapped backwards in the fall and were propped at an angle to prevent the toppled tree from resting completely on its side. Slipping down into the hole, Sheppard found himself sitting under the tree trunk on bare muddy earth.
"McKay!" he yelled again, slowly panning his light through the jumbled branches and inky darkness. It was next to impossible to see anything and looking for a body dressed in dark grey, well, he wasn't giving up hope.
He pushed back another branch and slid further along underneath the trunk. Pieces of splintered wood pressed sharply against him and he knew he'd reached the spot where lightning had slammed into the tree.
A low threatening creak began to emanate from above him as one of the supporting broken branches began to shift and tear away from the massive trunk. Several others began to snap at the new weight disbursement and Sheppard quickly scrambled out from his position beneath the trunk to the opposite side from where he and Ronon and started.
The massive tree rolled slightly to its side as it came to rest firmly against the ground, no longer held up by thick branches. Fresh limbs snapped and pinned the colonel by the shoulder to the muddy earth.
He lay panting heavily, trying to catch his breath and disburse the weight pressing tightly against his back. Shifting sideways, he heard the tear of fabric and felt wetness run down his arm. Struggling a little harder, he pushed himself free of the entangling branch and cast his light about once more.
"McKay! Answer me!" he yelled in frustration into the muted silence. When he thought he saw movement off to his right, he wrestled back a stubborn limb and discovered a dark boot, connected to a leg, ensconced in dark grey fabric. He'd found him!
Gripping another piece of limb, Sheppard tugged himself closer to McKay's still figure until eventually he made it to the man's side.
"Rodney?" he whispered, tapping the scientist lightly on the cheek in hopes of getting a response.
A low moan escaped the unmoving body.
"That's it, Rodney, time for you to come back," Sheppard encouraged as he attempted to lift and move a few more branches off the scientist.
The injured man moaned again, before suddenly his face grimaced tightly in pain and he coughed a wet gurgling sound.
Sheppard watched helplessly, not knowing what was wrong or how to assist his friend. When he realized the scientist was having trouble breathing, he carefully reached over and lightly touched his chest. Rodney instantly shuddered and moaned louder.
"Easy, McKay. Help's almost here. It'll be just a little longer," he soothed, placing his hand down on the muddy forehead to hold him still.
Rodney's eyelids fluttered before slowly cracking open. "Wha?" he puffed, using as little air as possible.
"Shhh. Stay still." When unfocused pale blue eyes shifted lazily in his direction, Sheppard attempted to smile but failed. "You let a damn tree fall on you while trying to be some sort of hero."
The scientist blinked slowly as he tried to remember, his mouth hanging open as he gasped painfully for each breath. "Cold," he finally mumbled, his eyes sliding shut.
"Rodney! Come on, Answer Man, you have to stay awake. Remember, Beckett's on his way. Soon you'll be home in a nice warm infirmary bed, being waited on hand and foot."
"Home?" Rodney slurred, his eyes peeling back open with great effort to reveal a far off look. He coughed the wet rattling sound once more and spittle slid down his cheek.
"Atlantis, McKay. You know, the place with enough Ancient technology to keep you busy for a lifetime. Actually, I think a couple of lifetimes. So you got to hang on a little longer, okay?"
Rodney slowly licked his lips and swallowed, his gaze still fixed on some point far away. "Ont'rio," he mumbled and slight smile touched his face.
Sheppard lightly tapped McKay's cheek, trying to get the man to look in his direction. "No, Rodney, not Ontario. Not Toronto. Atlantis. Think about Atlantis."
"Tir'd," the scientist wheezed, his eyes drooping again.
"Rodney! Wake up! I can't let you sleep." Shifting on his hands and knees, the colonel used his back to push more limbs up off his trapped team mate.
"Sheppard," Ronon's rumbling voice burst over the radio, momentarily startling the colonel.
"I found him! He's alive but we really need to get out him out of here."
"Understood. A team's here hooking cables to the tree so they can lift it with a jumper. Beckett wants to speak with you."
There was a brief silence and then Sheppard could hear what sounded like the buzz of chainsaws before the concerned accent cut over the radio. "Colonel Sheppard?"
"How badly is he injured?"
"He's really having trouble breathing and is disoriented. When I touched his chest to check him, he just about passed out."
"Is he conscious?"
Sheppard looked down to see Rodney's eyes had closed again. "No, he's having a hard time staying awake. He's not talking, Doc."
Carson pondered this information and knew it wasn't good. "Can you see any other type of injuries? Is he bleeding anywhere?"
The colonel shifted slightly and splayed the light over the scientist as much as possible. It was difficult to hold the wet branches up, examine his friend in the limited light, and use the radio all at the same time. "You know Rodney, this would be a lot easier if you were awake," he grunted as a sharp limb pressed painfully into his back.
He shined the light up towards Rodney's face and grinned at seeing the scientist's eyes cracked open. "Hey, you back with me?"
McKay's head lolled painfully to the side. "Not goin' anywhere."
"Hey, Beckett wants to know where you're hurt."
"Cars'n's here?" His voice sounded like a child's in search of hope as his eyes tracked loosely about in the darkness.
"No, he's out with Ronon. There's a crew getting ready to lift the tree off of us using a jumper any minute now."
"Oh," he mumbled in disappointment, looking confused. He coughed painfully, this time bringing up a small amount of blood that colored his lips red.
Sheppard knew that was a bad sign. Hesitantly reaching out, he wiped the moisture away with his jacket cuff. "Stay with me, Rodney. Where else are you hurt?"
"Hurts to breathe," he panted painfully with his eye drifting shut and his tongue running over his dirty dry lips. "Can't feel my hand."
Sheppard looked down and gripped McKay's left hand. "Can you feel that?"
Rodney swallowed and nodded. "Other...other hand."
Shoving aside a large bough that was hiding part of the scientist, Sheppard reached through the miscellaneous smaller branches and found the hidden arm. The scientist instantly hissed and began to struggle harder for more air.
"McKay?" The colonel instantly jerked his hand back and discovered blood on his fingertips.
"Please," Rodney begged through clenched teeth, a small line of blood trickling down his cheek, "don't…don't do that again."
"I won't, I promise." With another shove, he moved the bothersome branch back so that he could try to get a better view of Rodney's injury. What he discovered looked bad and he let out a low whistle before paging Beckett. "Doc?"
Carson didn't miss the unease in the other man's voice, "Yes, colonel?"
"He's having a really hard time breathing, kinda noisy and there's blood. And his arm's busted, and it's, uh, bleeding pretty heavily."
"Can you clear off his chest to help ease his breathing? Be careful of his arm though, and see if you can put some pressure on the bleeding to slow it down. Do you have any pressure bandages?"
"He's pinned flat, doc. I can't move very much." He reached down and patted his vest pockets, feeling for the first aid packages he'd stashed earlier. "I do have bandages." Glancing back to Rodney, he noticed the wounded man was watching him through slitted eyes. "How ya' doing?"
"You prom'sed," McKay slurred tiredly, his tenuous hold on consciousness slipping fast.
"I know," Sheppard mumbled, trying to open one of the packs single handedly while holding back some of the tree with the other. Shaking the gauze wrap free, he pulled a second out and repeated the shaking. With two pads loose, he pressed harder against the limbs to get them out of his way. "Rodney, I have to stop the bleeding. Now would be a good time to faint again."
Sheppard leaned closer to get a better view of the protruding piece of bone. "Right, pass out." Trying to decide what would be the best way to do this, he was startled to feel Rodney's free hand grasp his pant leg. "McKay?"
Rodney swallowed again, his eyes barely open as he panted harder for each breath. "You…you gonna be there?"
"Every step of the way. You saved my ass, now I'm gonna save yours."
"Cross my heart, hope to…" He didn't finish the rhyme when Rodney suddenly bit back a groan and became still. "McKay? Rodney?" Reaching down he placed his cold hands on McKay's warm neck, searching for a pulse and finding one, albeit very weak.
With his friend out cold it was now or never and he pressed the pads against the bloody arm, then grabbed the radio. "What's taking so damn long? He's running out of time under here!"
"Happening now," Ronon replied, his own voice conveying his impatience. "Jumper's up and ready."
"He doesn't have a second!" The pulse under Sheppard's fingertips faltered. "Rodney, stay with me!"
As if on cue, there was a loud groan and snapping of branches. Large limbs that had been pinned suddenly swung free and rammed painfully into the colonel as he attempted to protect McKay from further injury. Broken limbs, needles, mud, and rain covered the huddled figures as the tree was carefully hoisted away.
"Colonel, you can let go now son, I've got him." Carson encouraged gently while moving Sheppard's hand off of Rodney's arm. When the officer still didn't move, the physician shot a glance over his shoulder to Teyla and Ronon, beckoning them over. "Can you two help the colonel to the gate?"
Ronon plowed over the remaining debris and hooked Sheppard under the arm, pulling him to his feet. "Come on, let Beckett get McKay back to Atlantis."
The previous adrenaline rush evaporated the moment he was upright and he would have sagged back to the ground if it hadn't been for Teyla and Ronon's support. Another petite figure dressed in a dark rain slicker stepped forward and placed warm hands on his face, forcing him to turn in her direction. He blinked several times, not sure who it was who was talking to him.
Weir waited until his eyes shifted to meet hers. His brief look of surprise made her smile. "John, we need to get back out of their way. Don't worry, Rodney's in good hands with Carson's team." She nodded towards the huddled mass surrounding his friend. "It looks as though they are ready to leave anyways."
The group followed silently behind the medical team rushing McKay through the Stargate. They had come so close to making it home safely. And now, with the morning sun breaking behind them, no one looked back for this might not be a day worth remembering.
The blanket draped across Sheppard's shoulders offered little comfort and even less warmth. He was cold to the very core of his being and it wasn't from being caught in the rain. McKay had coded once they entered the Atlantis side of the gate and he had found himself forced to sit outside in the hallway of the infirmary and wait. And wait. And wait.
Ronon paced in circles around him, Teyla continually brought him items she thought might ease his discomfort, and Weir sat quietly at his side. He knew they were worried about him, but he didn't allow himself the consolation; he was focused entirely on the activities on the other side of the ornate door.
And when that ornate door finally slid open hours later, he quickly stood up to confront Beckett but never made it entirely to his feet before the room spun wildly out of control. Reaching behind himself for the support of the chair he'd been sitting in, he missed and tipped sideways, tumbling into the seat and then crashing to the floor in a tangled heap.
"Colonel!" several voices called out simultaneously.
Carson was instantly at his side, his exhaustion of dealing with Rodney forgotten as he carefully turned the collapsed soldier on to his back. "Colonel Sheppard, John, can you hear me?" he prompted, his hands tracing over Sheppard's head and neck before slipping to a wrist and finding the pulse. A frown of realization washed over the physician's face. "We need to get him inside," he snapped, helping Ronon lift the limp figure over to a bed.
"Carson?" Elizabeth asked.
"He's in shock," he answered as he swiftly undid the buckles and zipper of Sheppard's vest. Pulling off the equipment and letting it drop to the floor before running a pair of scissors up the sleeves of the damp jacket and cutting the material away. "Oh dear Lord," he murmured under his breath as he peeled back the bloody fabric from the colonel's shoulder to expose a deep red puncture wound in the muscle.
The physician glanced at those gathered worriedly around the bed, "I'm sorry, but I'm gonna have to insist that you go back out to the hallway and let us work. I promise I'll send someone out to you as soon as I know anything. Better yet, why don't the lot of you go to bed and come back here after you've had some rest and a bite to eat?"
The trio stepped back and made way for the nurses and doctors rapidly carrying equipment over to Sheppard's bedside. Moments later the curtain was pulled shut blocking their view of the proceedings. With little left that they could do, the silently filed back out of the room, but not before glancing over to the other curtained off bed.
For now, McKay and Sheppard were both still alive, and that was all that really mattered.
Sheppard woke slowly to the repetitive soft beep that his foggy mind recognized as a heart monitor. And if there was a heart monitor he told himself, then he must be in the infirmary, although he certainly didn't remember getting hurt. Maybe he had gotten sick?
With his eyes remaining stubbornly shut, he decided to lay still and take stock of his situation. Flexing his left foot and then his right, he was pretty certain he felt them both move underneath the warmth of the blanket tucked around him. And although neither appendage hurt, his muscles felt stiff and unused.
Next he shifted his attention to his hands and wiggled his fingers. His right hand moved, ensconced in the warmth of more soft blankets with the all to familiar pinch of an IV in the back of the hand. So, he was in the infirmary under lots of blankets, his body felt like a forgotten wasteland, and there was a heart monitor, and an IV. Maybe he was sick.
Time to check out his left hand. He felt his fingertips touch his bare chest and he frowned. Flexing his arm he discovered it confined in a sling that tugged against the back of his neck when he tried to move. Upon further investigation and movement, a throbbing dull ache lit up across his shoulder and down his back, and before he could stop himself, a moan of discomfort slipped past him.
A soft hand pressed gently against the side of his face to stop any further movement. "Colonel Sheppard," Teyla's voice said quietly, "you need to lay still and rest. You are safe now."
'Safe?' his mind quirked. What had happened? With more determination and the fog in his head clearing, he forced his heavily weighted eyes to open. It was like trying to push his way through four feet of snow and he knew it had to be from some of Carson's much appreciated, although sometimes unwanted, painkillers. It always felt like this.
"Teyla?" he rasped, the words sticking in his dry throat.
"I am here, colonel," she said, smiling down at him when his eyes finally focused on her face. She reached off to the side and picked up the ever present cup of water. "Sip slowly," she directed as she held the drink to his lips.
He allowed the liquid to settle on his tongue and held it there a moment before swallowing. Several more sips quenched the initial thirst and he nodded his thanks as she pulled the cup away.
Gathering more strength and his mind deciding it was time to shake off the fog completely; he turned to look around him and discovered the infirmary lights to be dim. It must be late. "What happened?"
Teyla frowned. "You were injured while rescuing Dr. McKay."
"I was not," he promptly argued.
Her brown eyes shifted in surprise and a smile touched her face. "Yes, you were. A large splinter of wood became imbedded in your shoulder and required Dr. Beckett to remove it surgically."
Sheppard closed his eyes in an attempt to remember. Nope, nothing. Shifting on the bed to sit up straighter, he felt the painful pull again in his back and shoulder muscles and he frowned. "I don't…" his words suddenly tapered off as he jerked upright. "McKay!" Pain shoved aside, he scanned the room for signs of the injured scientist.
Teyla quickly grabbed him by the shoulders and tried to get him to stay in bed. "Ronon," she called out when the colonel actually succeeded in getting his legs over the side of the bed and dropping them to the floor while ripping off the leads to the monitors.
The tall Setedean stepped from behind another curtained off area. "Sheppard," he growled as he came to stand toe to toe with the injured colonel. "Don't make me put you back on that bed."
"Are you threatening me?"
Ronon's arms folded over his chest and he didn't move. "Take it any way you want."
Sheppard could feel his energy quickly waning. He really didn't want to have to beg but he would if he had to. "I need to see McKay. Make sure he's alright."
Understanding flashed over Dex's face and without another word he reached over Sheppard and plucked the bag of IV fluids from the hook. "You tell Beckett and you'll regret it," he grumbled as he steered Sheppard over to Rodney's bedside.
Teyla and Sheppard weren't sure who the warning was meant for so they both remained silent.
When Ronon pulled back the curtain and hooked the bag of fluids to one of Rodney's poles, effectively tethering Sheppard to a small area of movement, he then slid the chair over he'd been using earlier and pressed the colonel by the good shoulder down to sit.
Sheppard stared at McKay's battered figure in disbelief. There was a tube protruding from his mouth that was attached to a machine pumping air in and out of his lungs. He had IVs inserted into one arm and the other was propped on a pillow, encased in an uncomfortable looking plaster cast. Tape and gauze were visible poking out from beneath the edge of the blanket pulled up over his bare chest. And there was a shaved spot on the right side of his head that displayed a fresh row of neat stitches.
Ronon watched Sheppard closely and saw the look of disbelief wash over the colonel's face. "Beckett said he looks bad but actually will be okay. Once his lungs heal, the air thing will be removed."
"And they are keeping him asleep so he will heal faster," Teyla added from his other side.
"I didn't know he was hurt this bad. I mean I knew he was hurt, but," he paused and then slid further into the chair, suddenly very tired. "Where's Beckett?"
"Dr. Weir ordered him to return to his quarters and rest. He had not slept since we returned with Dr. McKay."
Sheppard frowned and glanced to Teyla. "How long ago did we return?"
Draping a blanket over his bare shoulders, she sighed, "Three days ago."
"Doc drugged you so you'd leave him alone and stay in bed," Ronon added casually.
"Well wasn't that nice of him." He pulled the blanket tighter around himself and let his eyes drift shut for a moment. Listening to the soft 'whoosh-hiss' of the respirator, the repetitive noise lulled him back to sleep.
The next time he woke up, he found himself once more reclined in bed. This time though, there was the marked absence of the feeling of being drugged and the heavy weight of lethargy was gone. Replacing it was the dull ache of his shoulder wound; he focused on the pain to help clear his mind.
The sounds coming from beyond the curtain were active as individuals talked and worked throughout different areas of the infirmary. Rolling his head to the side, he opened his eyes to see the lights set at normal and the chair beside his bed empty. His eyes traveled further to the next bed over and he watched the small pump rise and fall as it pressed air into Rodney's healing lungs.
"Colonel, you're awake," Beckett said quietly from the foot of his bed. Stepping around to the side, he looked down at the hazel eyes staring back at him and nodded. "He's doing better today. His temperature is down, pulse is good, and his breath sounds are growing stronger."
"He saved my life."
"Aye, so Ronon and Teyla told me. And then you saved his."
"I didn't do anything."
Carson took up the empty chair. "That's not what I heard and saw, son."
Sheppard remained silent, staring over at Rodney.
"You found him and kept him alive until help got there. He was in a bad way, colonel, and by all rights should be dead. He has one collapsed lung and the other was not too far behind, a complete fracture to the ulna, four broken ribs, one of which punctured the collapsed lung, beginning stages of hypothermia, and was bleeding out from several deep lacerations. If you hadn't gotten to him when you did, he wouldn't have made it this far."
"But you said he's going to be okay, right?"
Carson smiled his first real smile in days. "Aye, it's not going to be easy and he'll be slow going for a bit, but if he listens to me and follows directions, has plenty of rest, he'll be right as rain in several weeks."
"Aye. He won't be heading back through the gate or tinkering on any projects for awhile I'm afraid."
"He'll be delighted to hear that when he wakes up," Sheppard quipped.
"Oh, don't worry lad, he'll have company." Carson stood up and patted the colonel on the arm, "He'll have you to keep him busy on this side of the gate for a couple of weeks at least."
"Couple of weeks?"
The physician scowled a moment, "I checked you for a head injury but I didn't find anything. Is there a reason you're repeating everything I say like a bloody parrot?"
"Good. Now you need to rest. Not telling anyone about that shoulder of yours was a stupid thing to do. And I'm still not happy about your little adventure out of bed last night."
"I honestly didn't know I was hurt."
Carson's expression softened, "Shock has a way of camouflaging injuries. I imagine you didn't know that you were injured with your attention focused on Rodney and the amount of adrenaline flooding your system. Sort of like the stories you hear of mother's lifting the family car off a child." Patting the blanketed knee beside him, he sighed, "Rest now colonel, the hard part is over. When you wake up I'll have some lunch brought in for you."
Sheppard spent a good part of the afternoon propped up in bed talking with visitors who stopped by to check on him and McKay. When the flow eventually slowed to a trickle, he was relieved.
"Long day?" Ronon asked dropping into the empty chair between the beds.
"You could say that. Where were you all day?"
Dex smiled a spooky devious smile, "Trained some of the Daedalus's finest in a little hand to hand."
"No wonder it was so busy in here today," Sheppard said with a smirk. Shifting to push himself up higher, he nodded to the curtain. "Pull that shut."
"I haven't been here that long, but I have figured out that when the doc says stay put, he usually means it."
"He's not around, now pull it shut."
"It's your hide." Stretching out a long arm, the former runner snagged the end of the fabric and pulled the screen closed. "Need a hand?" he asked as stood and watched his new friend slip off the edge of the bed.
"No, I got it." Sheppard tugged his wraparound smock shirt down and adjusted the sling. "I'm glad Beckett decided to get rid of all that other stuff." Shuffling stiffly over to McKay's bed, he stood at the side and watched the man breathe. "Kind of strange not hearing him complain all day."
Ronon snorted. "That's what that other scientist said earlier."
"What other scientist?"
"Little guy with glasses. Talks funny. Cooks up the strong stuff in the back of his lab."
"Oh, you mean Zelenka."
The big guy shrugged.
"He and McKay pretty much run this show. I imagine having to keep track of the entire science department single handedly while Rodney's laid up has its drawbacks."
"You think?" Ronon drawled dryly and propped himself up on the edge of Sheppard's bed, his eyes never leaving the wounded colonel.
Sheppard shook his head and grinned. "They say people who are in a coma can still hear those around them, so I'd watch what you say. I know those two can pack quite a punch when they set their minds to it." He settled into the empty chair at Rodney's side. "Feel free to wake up and prove me right, McKay."
The quiet 'whoosh-hiss' continued on.
The following day Beckett released Sheppard from the infirmary. "I figure I know where you'll be so I don't need to tell you to be taking it easy, now do I?"
The American stepped out from the shower cubicle with a towel draped around his waist. Sitting on the edge of a bench, he waited patiently while the physician retaped his shoulder. "How's it looking?"
"It's healing nicely. I"m sorry to say that because of my fine work, there won't be much of a scar to impress the ladies with." That earned the Scot a grin and waggled brow from the colonel as he tugged up a pair of pants. "Where's your larger than life shadow today?"
Carefully slipping a black t-shirt over his head with Carson's help, he stopped a moment, "Who, Dex? He said he'd be by later."
"I've had a lot of time to observe him over the last few days and I have to say my opinion has changed. He fits on your team. I know he can't replace Ford, but I feel better knowing he's out there watching your backs." Adjusting Sheppard's sling, he stepped over to the doorway leading into the infirmary, "Don't tell him I said that though. He appears to have enough self confidence already."
"I hadn't noticed." Both men stared at each other and then laughed.
"What's so funny?" Dex asked from behind them.
Carson stepped over to Rodney's side, leaving Sheppard to explain. When the pair took up their positions from the prior day, he smiled. "He might start waking up today. I cut back his medicine last night and if we don't see any improvement today, I'd definitely think there should be some sign tomorrow."
Later that evening Carson's words came true when the monitors attached to to the sleeping scientist showed an increase in activity. The fingertips on his left hand fluttered lightly and Sheppard reached out and gave the hand a firm grip.
"That's it, Answer Man, come on back to the land of the living."
An hour later his eyes moved beneath their lids before briefly cracking open, shifting slowly around his surroundings before settling on Sheppard.
"Hey," he encouraged softly.
Rodney blinked once and then slipped back to sleep.
"Colonel, he's not gonna wake back up tonight. Why don't you go sleep in a bed and come back in the morning?"
"I told him I'd be here for him."
"And you have been, son. But you're still recovering your self and need to rest. He isn't going to wake back up any time soon."
Sheppard remained stubbornly in the chair at Rodney's bedside and Carson knew there'd be no compromise. "Then let me bring in a cot or you can sleep in the same bed you used last night. But one way or another, you are not going to sit in that bloody chair all night and wear yourself out again."
In the end, Carson had Ronon assist him in moving one sleeping colonel from the chair back to the same bed as the night before.
"So, McKay, I've sat here for two days watching you twitch and blink. Any chance you might just put a little effort into this and wake the hell up today? I mean come on, Humpty Dumpty, Carson put you back together, now it's time to get the show back on the road." Not getting any response, Sheppard stood up and stretched his sore back.
Walking around to the other side of the bed he stopped and watched the respirator. "Carson said this is coming out today. Good news, huh? Then again it might be better to sleep through that." A soft tap against the back of his pantleg got his attention and he spun around to find Rodney watching him.
"Hey! You back for good or is this another brief visit?"
Rodney's good hand fluttered towards his mouth and the tube as he started to make choking noises.
"Whoa, settle down, it's okay. Beckett's actually on his way right now to take that out." Sheppard quickly poked his head around the curtain and spied the physician. "He's awake."
"Well, it's about bloody time." Carson pulled back the curtain and saw Rodney struggling. "Now, take it easy. You're going to pop a stitch if you keep this up." Adjusting his equipment, he shot the scientist a serious look, "When I tell you, I want you to cough as hard as you can. One, two, three."
Rodney attempted to give a small grunt as the tube was slipped out.
"Take it easy," Carson directed, picking up the cup of water at the bedside. "Slowly, your throat is gonna be quite sore for a couple of days."
The scientist sipped the water and then coughed a few more times, his face scrunched in discomfort. "Wha..?" he croaked, his confused gaze shifting between Sheppard and Beckett.
"Remember having a run in with a tree on our way back to the gate the other night?"
Rodney scowled and then shook his head slowly. "Storm?" he rasped.
"Yeah, a big one. Lightning hit a tree and you pushed me out of the way before it fell."
The tired blue eyes blinked several times. "Oh," he finally mumbled.
His gaze slid lower and the officer knew the scientist was soon going to be out like a light.
"Thanks…for saving my life. But, I want you to know that if you ever pull a stunt like that again, I might just have to kick your ass."
Carson rolled his eyes in mock disapproval "Good to see things finally returning to normal. If you two will excuse me, I need to finish examining Major Lorne. Apparently the lad tried to teach Ronon the finer points of arm wrestling." Stepping around the curtain, the pair could hear him muttering about fool's missions.
Easing back down into the empty chair, Sheppard shifted his sling in an attempt to get comfortable. When he looked back at Rodney, he discovered the man sleepily watching him.
"Got caught on a tree limb."
McKay only blinked.
"Watching you is making me tired."
"You…stay'd," Rodney finally whispered, his eyes closing in peaceful sleep.
Sheppard grinned and snagged a spare blanket from off the bed behind him. Pulling it up across his chest, he stretched his legs out and propped them on the edge of the bed before tipping his head back to rest on the chair. His own eyes drooping, he mumbled around a deep yawn, "I told you I would. "
"For crying out loud, McKay, what'd you do, pack extra batteries for your laptop in here? We're only going to be gone half the day."
Rodney scowled, "If you don't want to help me, I can carry my own pack."
"Oh right. Beckett's finally cleared you for light gate travel and there is no way we're going to jeopardize that," Sheppard snarked back as he used his foot to push the bag out of the scientist's reach. "We've been on hold, waiting for you, for eight weeks."
"Well, I'm sorry I held up your exciting plans." Rodney made an unsuccessful grab for his gear."Give me my pack!"
Before the colonel had a chance to pick it up, Ronon reached down and tossed it over his own shoulder. Then giving both men an irritated look he stalked through the event horizon, leaving them standing speechless behind.
"What's with him?" Rodney asked, stepping up to the gate.
"No idea," Sheppard replied, following him into the puddle.
Teyla was the last one of the group to depart. Turning around to look up at Dr. Weir, she smiled and shrugged.
Elizabeth only shook her head and waved. "Keep an eye on them for me, Teyla."
The Athosian nodded, took a deep breath, and then she too disappeared through the puddle.