CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR: TALKING FOR THE SAKE OF TALKING
When McKay woke again, he was lying on his side, hands tucked under his face and curled in a ball. He wondered what had woken him and, to his annoyance, he realized it was the same thing that had woken him before.
What the hell was wrong with Carson? The infirmary was supposed to be quiet, but with all the people visiting Teyla, it was worse than Grand Central Station.
Not that he would begrudge her visitors, but, come on! Halling was the worst. Even he could see what an ass Halling was being, and he usually never noticed that sort of thing. He'd gotten so angry listening to Halling's dismissal of Teyla's judgment regarding them, basically saying he didn't trust her because of it—McKay had almost spouted off with Halling still there, but the tiny part of him that had some semblance of tact had held him back, knowing it would only make things worse. Still. What a moron. And now there were more. They better not be Athosians.
He grunted, and turned, wanting to give the people interrupting his well deserved rest the glare of death, but relented when he saw it was Sheppard and Ronon. For some reason, that was less annoying than…well…everyone else.
Ronon was sitting in a chair in the far side of Teyla's bed, mumbling something unintelligible, and Teyla was smiling. It was good to see her smile. It was good to see her. Sheppard was sitting at the end of Rodney's bed, his expression uncharacteristically morose, looking unhappily down at something he was fiddling with. One arm was still in a sling, the other was laying something down on the mattress. The soft "thup" of cardboard gave away the focus of the colonel's interest.
A wicked smile creased Rodney's face…and he jabbed out with a foot.
Cards flew everywhere, and Sheppard swore, jumping up off the bed to grab at them.
"What?" Rodney replied innocently, trying to pretend he'd just woken up. "What's the matter? Did I do something?"
"Oh you annoying pain in the….Damn it!" Sheppard disappeared from Rodney's view as he knelt down to pick up the playing cards off the floor, grumbling about "nearly winning that one, too." Rodney grinned wickedly again, and glanced over at Teyla and Ronon. The Athosian was watching him with amusement; Dex just looked like Dex.
"How are you feeling?" Teyla asked, smiling at him.
"Better," McKay admitted, rolling over and reaching up to touch his head; he was amazed to discover it was the truth. The pain had receded, finally—no more heavy metal bands, no more symphonies, not even a string quartet. The conductor had finally put down the baton. "You?"
"Also better," Teyla replied. "Doctor Beckett believes we will both be allowed to return to our quarters today."
"Good, good," Rodney said, leaning back on the pillow. "About time," he added perfunctorily, though he really didn't recall much of the last couple of days spent in the infirmary. He glanced down at the end of his bed at Sheppard, who was standing again, attempting to put his cards back into a manageable pack, but was hindered by his lack of mobility. The colonel glanced up, glare on full.
"You did that on purpose," Sheppard growled.
McKay just grinned, "Yup."
"I was winning."
"No, you weren't."
"How could you possibly...?" Sheppard frowned suddenly, not finishing the statement, his eyes narrowing in the face of Rodney's arrogant smirk. Finally, he asked, "You're not going to apologize, are you?"
The colonel snarled, "Why not?"
"Because you've already forgiven me," Rodney grinned shamelessly. "I'm cutting out the awkward middle bit." Sheppard opened his mouth to argue back in kind, probably with some clever, cutting remark, but Rodney was quicker. "Besides," the scientist inserted, waggling his eyebrows, "isn't the real question whether or not I've forgiven you?"
Sheppard froze. He'd been fiddling with his cards again, but now his eyes lifted. McKay's eyebrows rose, smug and challenging, knowing he, for once, really did have the upper hand.
The smugness faded when the colonel didn't immediately reply. Sheppard's eyes fell to the cards in his hand, and he looked...oh crap, McKay realized, he looked ashamed. No, no, no, that's no good. Shoot, he'd gone too far. He didn't want or need an apology, he'd just been trying to rile his friend, to break him out of his funk and have some fun in the process. Damn it.
Sheppard swallowed, shifting uncomfortably, "Look, McKay, I…"
"That is, because, see, I've already done so, too," Rodney spout out quickly. "Forgiven you, I mean." Sheppard looked up again, frowning a little. McKay arched an eyebrow, "Though I hope it's taught you a valuable lesson, to always listen to your betters and smarters."
Sheppard's lips quirked, "Smarters?"
Blue eyes offered a semi-glare, "You know what I mean."
"Yes, sure, but it's sort of hard to take someone seriously when they use a non-existent word that sounds like a Halloween candy."
"That's Smartees," McKay tsked. "And, personally, I don't see how you can challenge my word choice when you can't even win a game of solitaire. How many have you lost in a row now? Didn't you say at last count that it was some insane, improbable number, like 240?"
"Well, I might have won that last one if someone didn't kick all my cards away! I nearly had it."
"Oh just face it. You just suck at solitaire, Colonel. Everyone has their crosses to bear, that's just one of yours."
"Just one of mine?" Sheppard's eyebrows shot up. "I take it you don't have any?"
"Oh no, I have a few. Mine are just less obvious than yours." McKay grinned. "Because I'm pretty much perfect, as you all know."
Ronon burst out laughing at that, which was a startling sound, and both men looked over. Teyla grinned at them before turning to look at Dex. They all realized that it was the first time they'd heard him really laugh. McKay crossed his arms, a little disgruntled.
"Laughing at an injured man, and the hero of the hour no less," he muttered, "not kind at all."
Sheppard nodded at him, his fingers once more trying to get his deck in order, "He just knows you too well."
McKay snorted, tightening his arms and settling into a nice sulk.
Ronon's laughter calmed, but it had done the trick, relaxing them all.
"Well all know each other well," Teyla noted softly. She looked at Rodney, "For which I, for one, am very glad."
That caused some wry looks from Ronon and Sheppard, but Rodney's sulk had disappeared. He was watching Teyla, looking a little surprised at the admission.
"Which reminds me, Rodney," Teyla's gaze grew more focused, and her smile deepened as she regarded him. "About being the hero of the hour. I wanted to," she ducked her head a little, "I wanted to thank you for what you did back on the Mainland, helping me escape the eledgias."
Rodney beamed, smug expression back on full. "My pleasure. All part of the service."
"Yes," she said, smiling back. "You and Doctor Beckett both have my deepest gratitude."
Rodney's expression changed to surprise at the addition. "Beckett? Now wait a minute, what did he do? Other than nearly get himself killed as a hostage, of course. Nearly mucked it all up." He sat up a little straighter, head turning around as if looking for the physician. "Trying to steal my glory, is he? That annoying, little Scottish moocher…."
"He's gone to get some rest. He'll be back soon," Teyla said.
"And when he does I'll…." Rodney trailed off, and his eyes turned back to the Athosian. "Wait, what did you just say?"
Her brow furrowed, confused, "That Doctor Beckett has—"
"No, no," Rodney sat up a little straighter, "You just used contractions. Two of them!" He glanced at Sheppard who suddenly became fascinated with the ceiling architecture. McKay grimaced at him, then turned back to Teyla.
She blinked at him, even more confused now. "Contractions?"
"You said 'he's' gone, instead of 'he is gone.' That's a contraction."
"Oh," she sighed, "Yes. I have noticed that as well. In fact, Thalia, my father's sister, chastised me for the same the other day. She says I am picking up some of your bad habits, because I spend so much time with you, including some of your speech patterns." She sighed, shrugging. "When I mentioned it to Doctor Weir, she laughed, and told me that if I was truly worried, not to spend too much time with anyone from, I believe she said, the southern half of the United States? Something about the addictiveness of saying 'y'all?'" She looked at Rodney and Sheppard curiously, eyebrows way up.
Sheppard's brow furrowed, and reached down with his good hand to swipe at Rodney's leg, resulting in a distinct "ow!" from the scientist.
And Teyla laughed.
It was like music to their ears.
A/N: Thank you all so, so, so much! The reviews mean everything to me, and you really influenced me in parts when I was revising this sucker for posting (the second earthquake was a lot smaller in the first version, for example, and the explanations chapter was much shorter! You really forced me to think it all through even more carefully than I did, and...wait, why am I thanking you for that? You made it harder! Darn you all! LOL!) Anyway, seriously, thank you very much for that. I hope you enjoyed it! I know many of you probably wanted more of an apology from Sheppard to Rodney, but I don't think Rodney would want that. He knows Sheppard is sorry—what he really wants is his friend back. And he gets that. So...that's my happy ending—the sweet, dulcet tones of Sheppard and McKay bickering.
(Oh, and I know, I really need to stop with the themes. Classical music this time. Old movies last time. You should see the M7 story I wrote where everyone was named after birds. It's scary.)