Warm mist was floating through his bloodstream; replacing the red acid of before. He was floating somewhere in a deep, comfortable fog. It was, without a doubt, Heaven.
"–should have known better."
"I mean sure she was hot, but with a temper like that–"
Noise. Words. A voice. Someone was talking. Couldn't they see he was busy?
"–never did wash the stains out. I know, I know, it serves me right. But if you'd seen her McKay–"
McKay. That was his name; before he died anyway. So who was the voice talking to?
"So are you waking up yet? Because Beckett's going to come back soon and I know how you're loving this instalment of 'John Sheppard, the early years'. Hey maybe if you were awake, he'd let me hang out a while longer?"
Like that was an incentive. Wake up? Had the idiot never heard of 'Rest in Peace'?
But other sounds were beginning to penetrate the soft cloud that surrounded him. An irritating, rhythmic beep beep beep. With every repetition, a bit of the protective haze leaked away. Instead of floating, gravity seemed to be taking revenge and pressing in on his skull. Bright flames sprang to life in his head, his ribs, his– everywhere in fact. The beep beep beep seemed to get louder, wake up wake up wake up it insisted.
Rodney McKay opened his eyes.
It was surprisingly lacking in drama. No one yelled "He's awake!" or perhaps more appropriately. "It's alive!". There was no triumphant soundtrack. The beep beep beep continued regardless. The only response to his incredible return-from-the-dead was the raised eyebrows of the man sitting in a wheelchair next to him.
Rodney just stared. John Sheppard had never looked worse (except for a rather unpleasant incident involving blue scales and hissing, but they weren't allowed to mention that anymore.) The colonel's right arm was in one of Carson's 'foolproof' casts, (a description the MD would have cause to revoke next week, after an incident involving runaway mice and an ocean.) Sheppard was sitting in that awkward half-leaning 'broom strapped to back' position which implied taped ribs, and his hair was auditioning as a wig for electrocuted lions.
And if it wasn't for a certain body-snatching incident which had scarred Rodney for life, he would have kissed the man.
Instead he rasped, "You look like hell." This prompted a (slightly relieved) grin from Sheppard.
"You're no prize chicken yourself McKay."
From what Rodney could see of his environment, which was admittedly, mostly the ceiling. He was in one of the isolation rooms just off the infirmary. Of course that could just be because Carson didn't want him yelling at the semi-evolved lizards he hired as staff. "What–" his voice broke into a cough which his ribs definitely didn't like.
There was a brief blur of action, and what looked like a kids 'sippy' cup appeared in front of him. "Water?"
The elaborate pantomime that followed was a memory that Rodney hoped to repress as quickly as possible. Needless to say by the time Sheppard replaced the cup on the nightstand, Rodney had discovered exactly where most of the tubes from the IV stand were attached to. Carson was a dead man. Provided his patient didn't die first.
The process had sparked something in his ribcage, causing a sudden flare across his chest. He winced, but before Sheppard could make some remark that really wouldn't work in their kind of relationship, Rodney croaked, "The others?"
"Oh, they're fine; well, mending at least. Teyla had a fractured ankle and a pretty impressive black eye. She's already up and about. Ronon's officially under house arrest in the infirmary until Beckett's satisfied his brain is in one piece. Cadman was in surgery but she's okay. She wanted to come and see you but Beckett isn't sure it'll be beneficial to his health, let alone hers."
He could have laughed, but it wasn't really his style. "Zelenka?"
"Oh he's fine. Mild concussion, he's already in the labs hassling Kavanaugh."
Well someone had to. He tried to sit up but quickly abandoned the idea. In a bizarre reversal of his usual behaviour, he asked for mental pain to cover the physical. "How many?"
At some point in his life, no one would have understood that question. "Five. Lenson, Finnigan, Adams, Brooks and Charles." His friend reeled off the names with the stony eyes of one determined not to 'dwell'. Another five to add to the growing list in his head. People I have to make up for. "When's the–"
"Yesterday," he must have frowned because Sheppard added, "Carson had to put you on a ventilator, under sedation. It's been five days Rodney."
Oh. That was…disturbing. "Have you heard anything–from Proculus?"
"Nope. But I figure no news is good news in this situation."
They were safe then. But it didn't seem like enough. "I got them home."
"We figured that," Sheppard leaned a little further back in his chair. "Of course the fact you nearly killed yourself doing it hasn't put you in Beckett's good books."
"I hear he's asking for a pay rise."
"Huh. You'd think he'd be–" he took a breath and tried again, "–be glad to have something . . . something to do." The mist was creeping back again; talking really didn't seem worth the effort.
"Yeah, we're underappreciated," a shuffle of wheels, "speaking of the Doc, I'd better go fetch him. If I was you, I'd try to sleep again. I think he likes you better unconscious"
So very entertaining. "Jealous. Am genius."
"Sure. Night McKay." A pause, "and thanks, you did great out there."
Before he had time to analyse that comment and figure out just how inappropriate it was for Sheppard to say anything remotely meaningful, the shuffling moved off; leaving him with the beep beep beep again. But this time, it just wasn't irritating enough; he drifted off.
Next time he woke up, the warm haze of drugs was somewhat lessened. He was uncomfortably aware of just how much he hurt. Trying not to take stock of exactly how much damage was done, he glanced around. Someone was at the other end of the room; talking to a nurse in that incomprehensible blur of Scottish accent and medical mumbo jumbo that only Carson Beckett used.
He shut his eyes and tried to relax. If Carson didn't know he was awake, maybe he'd be spared, just one more time. Unfortunately, stiff muscles protested to even the slightest movement, and a spasm in his shoulder prompted an involuntary "Ow!"
"Rodney?" the discussion stopped instantly, he heard Beckett dismissing the nurse and approaching his bed, "How're you feeling?"
There seemed to be little point in faking it any longer. He opened his eyes, at least this way he'd see it coming. Carson's face was carefully neutral, Rodney wasn't fooled.
"Umm, fine." He was trying to avoid thinking about that particular issue. "And umm, the others?"
"Oh aye, they're improving," the doctor picked up a chart from the bedside table and began jotting something down. Avoiding eye contact, how childish. "I've released everyone save Colonel Sheppard, Lieutenant Cadman and yourself."
"Oh, that's… good." He tried, unsuccessfully to catch Carson's eye, but the doctor was resolutely staring at the clipboard. "When do I get out of here?"
"You can move back to the main infirmary today. Ye picked up a nasty bug that I didn't want passing on, especially when the Colonel and Lieutenant have–"
"Carson would you call your girlfriend by her first name! Honestly I don't understand why–"
"Rodney," the tone was a warning, but he'd long since become immune to those.
"And why don't you just get it over with, hmm? I know you're longing to lecture me for not running down here first thing this–that morning. But not all of us have time to–"
"You bloody well died you foolish little bugger!"
Time seemed to freeze temporarily. Died? He hadn't–he couldn't have…
"Three times your heart stopped. Three times I had tae bring you back from the bloody brink! Did ye not think that a couple of hours after being poisoned, drowned and electrocuted isnae a good time for an away mission?"
"I–I had to– "
"It was bloody foolish lad!"
Carson's dagger eyes were matched only by Rodney's own. But the expression as hard to maintain. A weird dizzy feeling crawled from the back of his skull to wind tight around his forehead. His heartbeat pounded bang bang bang into his chest wall, and he couldn't– couldn't breathe . . .
"Rodney?" he had no air to reply, "Rodney? Oh dinnae ye even think about–"
Blood was rushing like a torrent through his brain. He couldn't hear over the rush and pound of his heartbeat. His ribs seemed to contract and crush his lungs, even as strong arms pulled up and leaned him forward.
"Easy, easy now. Marie? If you can get–"
Somewhere deep in the back of his mind he was aware of a moving shadow in the corner of his vision. But all too soon it was lost as he struggled against the fire in his chest.
"Just breathe, take it easy, it'll be over in a minute."
A mask was pressed to his face, and he pleaded with the words to be true. The razor edge of flame seemed to dull a little, but whether it was easing or just killing him he couldn't say. Black smoke filled his eyes, and he let go.
Regaining consciousness, he noted a distinct feeling of being drugged. Not the blissful delirium of morphine, but the heavy dryness of sedation; great. Opening his eyes seemed like a long and unpleasant procedure, but when he finally accomplished it, he was rewarded with the sight of Carson slumped in a chair next to him.
"How're ye feeling?" the Doctor asked quietly. He didn't seem mad which was… good. Hadn't he been angry? Carson had been yelling and then–Rodney frowned, "What happened?"
"You were hyperventilating. You've three cracked ribs and just came through a bad case of pneumonia. Your lungs got a wee bit stressed, that's all."
Now he remembered, "You said . . . did I really–"; it was hard enough to think, he couldn't bring himself to say it.
"Aye. The human body can only take so much strain, and you put yourself through more than most. Your pulse was irregular, lungs were packing up. If it hadn't been for a ventilator you'd not have survived the last few days."
"Oh." That was unsettling. "But I'll be okay now, right?"
"I should think so." Carson never tried to worry him in a serious situation. Only when it was something he found oh-so-comic. Rodney shifted, trying to sit up again, only to be held back by the MD; with ridiculous ease he might add. Carson must have been working out.
"I wouldn't try that just yet. Aside from the ribs you're got severe bruising to the lower torso," being beaten up by fish-people, "third degree burns on your left hand," that lovely experiment with the puddlejumper, "minor muscular damage," that wonderful device he intended to destroy as soon as possible, only minor damage? "concussion," being thrown against the wall by said fish-people, "soft tissue damage to your throat," that'd be Ronon and the fish-people, "and between chlorine gas, a nasty case of secondary drowning, and the Pegasus version of pneumonia you've done more than a wee bit of damage to your lungs."
Rodney McKay was actually surprised. "I avoided hypoglycaemia?"
And finally Carson Beckett smiled.
A few hours later Rodney got a ride into the main infirmary. For once, Carson had judged him worthy of a stretcher, though the MD warned he'd have to start walking a bit tomorrow, "or I'll find some way of encouragin' ya." He was more than a little embarrassed that the whole senior staff seemed to be assembled to watch. Cadman and Sheppard were still patients, but Elizabeth, Teyla and Ronon were apparently just there for the hell of it. Zelenka, he knew, only turned up because he was hiding from Kavanaugh. (Something to do with stealing the frames from the idiot's glasses; according to Carson. Rodney refused to have anything to do with it, he was sick after all.)
"Well look who's here," Elizabeth smiled as he was wheeled in. "How are you feeling?"
"Um, fine." He replied, trying to ignore Carson's fussing with the IV stand. "Yourself? Yourselves–I mean."
"Great once the Doc lets us out of here," Sheppard answered, casting puppy-dog eyes at Carson who steadfastly ignored him.
"We are quite well," Teyla assured him, a bright smile lighting her bruised features. "And Doctor Weir has kindly postponed our mission to PX4 873 until you are well again."
"Colonel Sheppard said you had found something of importance there." Elizabeth clarified. "And Doctor Zelenka tells me that your expertise will be irreplaceable on the mission."
"He did?" Rodney looked over to Radek who seemed determined to avoid eye contact. "Of course he did. So when are we going?"
"Not for a few weeks yet." Carson assured him even as the MD moved to the head of Rodney's gurney. "Ronon?"
"What? No way! I can move forty inches by myself." He protested immediately, but pointlessly as it turned out. Ronon, loyal team member that he was, completely ignored him and moved to the foot of the gurney.
"On three," Carson began, "one, two, three."
The entire process was horribly painful, and Sheppard of course, had to make it worse.
"Seriously Doc, you have to stop letting McKay wear hospital gowns," the Colonel remarked most unhelpfully. "Or at least get whoever's at the foot of the thing a blindfold.
Amongst a chorus of "Sheppard!" and "Colonel!" Rodney managed to throw a pillow at his erstwhile friend. Carson retrieved it, clucking like the mother hen he was, and Rodney wondered who he'd be able to get to sneak in his laptop.
Life was good.
And we're done! I hope you all enjoyed it. I know I...well, I enjoyed some of it :P This story has left me with many scars, and I think Ronon just left with a big mental one. Thank you to all of you lovely, lovely people wholeft reviews. Huge virtual hugs to you all! For more McKay whump, leave me a review and any plot bunnies you have, and I'll see what I can do ;)