I claim no rights to Stargate Atlantis or its characters - just borrowing them for a bit.
Warning: Very Sheppard/Weir, so if you don't like that relationship, you might want to skip this one. Just a little something that popped in my head.
Christmas in the Infirmary
Elizabeth Weir scanned the room, observing the small clusters of people as they laughed, talked, ate, and danced. The room was in semi-darkness with Christmas music playing in the background. A virtual feast of snacks and finger foods was spread out across a long table on one side of the room. It was the second annual Christmas Eve party in Atlantis, but this time they had a much better food supply. She smiled as she watched most of the people of Atlantis having a good time. Only a few people manned skeleton crews in sensitive areas of the city, and they were being periodically relieved to join in the festivities.
Of course, there was just one problem. It was the reason she was sitting in the corner by herself, trying to have a good time, but feeling somewhat depressed. He wasn't here. Her mind kept going back to him, no matter how many attempts to be social she made. She finally made a decision. Leader of Atlantis or not, she couldn't leave him by himself in the infirmary on Christmas Eve. It just wasn't right. No one should be laid up alone in an infirmary for Christmas. She stood and smoothed her wrinkled clothing and then made her way around the room. She made sure she greeted and talked to the people in each group. Once she was sure she had fulfilled her duties, she sighed in relief and hurried off toward the infirmary.
The infirmary was semi-dark, the lights dimmed due to the late hour. There was only one patient in the infirmary tonight, so she had no trouble locating him. As she approached the bed, she heard the familiar sounds of the heart monitor and the ventilator. She stood at the foot of the bed. He still looked pale, although not as pale as he had been four days ago, when they drug his almost lifeless, blood-covered body through the gate. She shuddered at the memory, still able to see the pool of blood left on the gateroom floor after the medical team had whisked him away on a stretcher.
"Good evening, Dr. Weir. Come to check on the Colonel?" asked Kelly. She hadn't noticed the nurse sitting in the chair beside Sheppard's bed. She had an open magazine in her lap and two or three more on the floor beside her chair.
"Yes, I did. How is he?"
Kelly smiled warmly. "His vital signs are still steadily getting stronger. Dr. Beckett started weaning him from the ventilator today. He's going to try and take him off it tomorrow. Kind of a Christmas present, I guess."
Elizabeth smiled, looking relieved. "Good. I was a little worried when I first saw you sitting there. I was afraid something had happened for him to have someone stay with him."
Kelly shook her head. "Oh, no. Nothing like that. I was just sitting with him so he wouldn't be alone. I know he's unconscious and all, but...it just didn't seem right for him to be in here by himself on Christmas Eve." She smiled sheepishly. "Is that silly?"
Elizabeth chuckled lightly. "Well, if it is, then we're both silly, because that's the reason I came. I just wanted to sit with him a while so he wouldn't be alone on Christmas.
Kelly stood and gathered up her magazines. "Well, why don't you visit with him for a while and I'll make myself scarce." She nodded down at the magazines in her hand. "I have a friend on the Daedalus that brings me a magazine supply when they come and I was just catching up. Would you like me to leave you one?"
"No thanks," said Elizabeth.
Kelly looked from Elizabeth to Sheppard and back to Elizabeth. "Oh...yeah...right...I'll be at the nurse's desk if you need me." Elizabeth blushed as the nurse turned and headed across the infirmary. She wasn't sure what the young woman had meant by her reaction, but she didn't really think she wanted to know.
Elizabeth walked to the side of Sheppard's bed, close to his head. She gently ran her fingers across his forehead and then down his cheek. She stood caressing the side of his face with the back of her hand, watching the gentle rise and fall of his heavily bandaged chest to the rhythm of the ventilator. "How many times are you going to scare me like this?" she whispered softly. She pulled the chair up closer to the bed and sat down. Taking Sheppard's hand in hers, she interlaced her fingers with his and patted the back of his hand with her other hand.
Sheppard's team had been on a routine mission exploring a new planet for possible trading partners or materials they could use. Unfortunately, it was inhabited by some relatively advanced people with guns similar to their own who were not very trusting or friendly. They had chased the team all the way to the gate, firing at them the whole way. From the report given by the rest of the team, Sheppard was backing up to the gate and laying down cover fire for the rest of his team when he was hit square in the chest. Ronon had been about to step through the gate when he saw the Colonel go down, just a few feet from the stargate. He'd snagged Sheppard and quickly drug him through the gate, shouting "Shut it down," as he went.
Elizabeth had been stunned by the amount of blood. In the few minutes it took for Ronon to step through the gate and the medical team to arrive at the gateroom, Sheppard had almost bled out. It had been touch and go for the first couple of days. The bullet had barely missed his heart, gone through a lung, and ricocheted off a rib, tearing things up nicely as it went. She would never be able to rid her mind of the sight of Beckett, bloody up to his elbows, trying to keep Sheppard from bleeding to death on the way to the infirmary.
Beckett refused to give them much hope the first two days. He would just say, "We're doing what we can," or "He's holding his own," or something equally noncommital. At one point, Elizabeth had been convinced that Sheppard was going to die this time, right before Christmas, and she hadn't known whether to grieve or be angry, so she'd done both. And then, little by little, he stabilized and his vital signs begin to strengthen and Beckett had finally been willing to say he thought Sheppard would make it. And now...he might lose the ventilator just in time for Christmas.
"Looks like you made it through another one. You know, you promised to quit doing this, and yet here you are...knocking on death's door once again. I keep trying to tell myself that you are nothing special...that when you finally get yourself into a mess you can't get out of , that I won'd be totally destroyed." She sighed heavily. "I'm just kidding myself. No matter how much I try to not care about you...I just can't do it. I don't know what you've done to me John Sheppard...but I really don't appreciate it. I don't like not being in full control of myself and it's hard to maintain control when you come through the gate wearing most of your blood on your uniform." She grinned and looked into his face. "You'd think you could be a little more considerate...especially at Christmas."
She looked down at his hand as she caressed it. "I wish I didn't love you...but I do," she said softly. She looked back up at his face. "Hey...just in case you were wondering what I want for Christmas, I have a last minute gift idea for you. I want you to wake up and talk to me...so I'll know you really are okay." She reached up and gently pushed the hair off his forehead. "Just a thought," she whispered. She stood up and leaned over, kissing him gently on the forehead. "Please wake up."
Nick walked into the infirmary holding a tray loaded with food in one hand and juggling two cups in the other. He carefully made his way over the desk where Kelly sat. Kelly reached up and grabbed the tray with both hands, careully lowering it to the desk.
"What's all this?" she asked.
Kelly rolled her eyes. "I can see that. Why are you carrying around a tray of food in the middle of the night?"
"I told you I'd bring back some food from the party. I got us a couple of glasses of punch, as well. How's our patient?"
"Dr. Weir wanted to sit with him." She winked at Nick, who smiled knowingly.
"I'll just take a peek and make sure they're okay...and then we can eat." Nick walked over to Sheppard's bed and peeked around the privacy curtain. Weir had the chair pulled up the side of the bed and her head lay on Sheppard's thigh while the fingers of her right hand were interlaced through the fingers of his left. She was sound asleep. He quietly checked Sheppard's vital signs, monitors, and the ventilator, before placing a blanket around Weir's shoulders. "Merry Christmas," he whispered.
Weir sat up, yawned, and stretched. She rubbed her eyes, trying to figure out why she was so stiff. She could tell it was early, barely daylight from the looks of the window she could see in the hall. She took in her surroundings, remembering where she was and why. Letting go of Sheppard's hand and rubbing her own hand to restore circulation, she stood and stretched her legs. Looking down at Sheppard's still form, she said, "Merry Christmas, John."
She once again brushed the hair from his forehead and leaned over to kiss him. She straightened and stood for several minutes, watching him. She ran her fingers along the beard stubble now covering his chin. He would hate that. Maybe she could shave him after while.
"Merry Christmas," she heard softly from behind her. She turned to see Carson Beckett watching her, a bemused look on his face.
She narrowed her eyes at him. "Merry Christmas...how long have you been standing there?"
"Not long," he answered, a twinkle in his eyes. "How's our patient?" He walked over to stand on the other side of the bed, checking the heart monitor, IV line, and ventilator.
"You tell me," she replied. She absently took Sheppard's hand back in hers.
Beckett began checking Sheppard's vital signs. As she was watching the doctor work, she thought she felt Sheppard's hand tighten against hers for a moment. She looked up at his face. "Carson?"
Beckett turned to look at her. "Aye?" He noticed her looking at Sheppard and followed her gaze. Sheppard's eyes appeared to be open a tiny slit. It was so narrow as to almost be imperceptible. Never taking his eyes off Sheppard's face, he spoke to Elizabeth. "Talk to him, lass."
"John? John, it's Elizabeth. Hey, Merry Christmas! You gave us quite a scare, yet again, but Carson says you're going to be okay. John, can you hear me?'
Sheppard seemed to be fighting to get his eyes to open further. About the time he got them open half way, they both saw the look of fear begin to register on his face and he seemed to be getting agitated.
"Take it easy, son. You're on the ventilator. Just relax, ...you know the drill. You've done this before and you know what to do. Just relax...we'll get you off of it soon enough."
They could see him trying to relax as his eyelids began to flutter. He was losing the fight to stay conscious. "It's okay, John. I'm here and I'm not going anywhere. I promise I'll be right here with you," Elizabeth said reassuringly. Her heart leaped to her throat as she felt him squeeze her hand firmly. As his grip relaxed, his eyes closed and he drifted back off to sleep.
Several hours later, Sheppard regained consciousness again. He was visibly relieved to discover that the ventilator had been removed and replaced with an oxygen mask. The head of the bed was slightly elevated to help with his breathing. He struggled for several minutes before getting his eyes fully open. His anchor to consciousness was a voice - someone humming. Humming what? A Christmas song...what was it? He remembered. I'll Be Home for Christmas. He smiled as he got his eyes to focus and saw Elizabeth sitting in the chair by his bed, fiddling with something in her lap.
"Hey," he said weakly, his voice raspy and muffled by the mask.
Elizabeth's head snapped up and a smile spread across her face when she saw that he was awake. She took whatever she was fiddling with out of her lap and placed it on the floor beside her chair. "Hey, you. Merry Christmas."
He looked confused a second. "Christmas?"
"Yes, it's Christmas day. You've been...out of it the last few days. Do you remember what happened?"
Sheppard closed his eyes and she could hear the sound of his breathing. About the time she thought he had gone back to sleep, he opened his eyes again, apparently unaware of the lengthy pause. "Re..member...running...for...gate. Almost...there...then..." He shook his head very slightly, indicating that was as far as he could remember.
"You were shot...just before you got to the gate. Ronon pulled you through."
Elizabeth frowned and he didn't miss the fear that passed across her face. "It was...pretty bad. You lost a lot of blood and...it was a little ...uncertain...the first day or two. But Carson says you'll be fine, now. It just may take a while to heal. You're pretty banged up inside." She crossed her arms and looked dismayed. "I thought you were going to quit scaring me like that?"
"Sorry...trying..." he said, giving a small smile under the mask.
"Well, try harder," she replied. Her expression sobered after a minute. "You really scared me...I thought we'd lost you this time."
"Not...that...easy," he said, still trying to smile.
"Look who's awake!" said Beckett, approaching the bed. "Merry Christmas, Colonel. Nice of you to stick around and celebrate with us."
"Thanks, Doc...guess I...owe you...another one."
"No, you don't owe me a thing, Colonel...except to continue to improve. Just glad to have you back. The bad news is you're going to be here a while. Messed yourself up pretty good this time." Beckett set about checking Sheppard's vital signs, monitors, and support lines.
Beckett tried to convince Elizabeth to leave the infirmary for a while to rest and get some food. She refused, stating that she would not leave John alone on Christmas and especially not in the infirmary. He couldn't bring himself to make her go. So she stayed with Sheppard the whole day. Sheppard drifted in and out of consciousness all day, but she was so happy to have him back, she didn't seem to mind.
McKay, Ronon, and Teyla showed up later that morning. They were delighted to find Sheppard not only off the ventilator, but awake and able to talk. At least he was awake long enough for them to wish him a Merry Christmas and tell him they were glad to have him back. They stayed and visited, mostly with Elizabeth, for about half an hour before heading to the mess hall for lunch. A big Christmas dinner with all the trimmings was planned and McKay was practically drooling as they talked about it. They promised to bring Elizabeth back a tray when they couldn't convince her to join them. They pointed out that Sheppard had gone back to sleep and probably wouldn't miss her, but she was not willing to break her promise to him. She knew he had been waking every few minutes and would always look for her immediately, making sure she was still there with him. She thought she saw him visibly relax when he saw her and she was unwilling to risk hurting him by not being there when he woke.
Carson Beckett spent the afternoon trying not to have a nervous breakdown. Sheppard's team apparently spread the good news of the Colonel's improving condition during the Christmas feast in the mess hall. After lunch, there was a steady stream of people stopping by to wish the Colonel a merry Christmas and a speedy recovery. Sheppard was still in serious condition and Beckett had his hands full trying to limit the number of visitors. He finally relaxed a little when he figured out that Sheppard was sleeping through most of it and they were offering support to Elizabeth as much as Sheppard. He would briefly awaken long enough to become aware of his visitors and then doze back off as they talked to Elizabeth. Beckett eventually stopped trying to intercept people and just worked on making sure they didn't stay too long.
Beckett figured Elizabeth needed support almost as much as Sheppard. The last few days had been hard on her and he knew it. Having the person you love almost die is hard enough without trying to act like you don't love them. He had seen too much because of his position in the infirmary. He'd watched her hold vigil too many times. He'd seen the life drain from her face when she thought she'd lost him. He'd seen her desperately clutch his hand and beg him to fight to come back to her. He'd also seen Sheppard awaken from near death and search for her, sometimes calling her name in his pain or in sleep. The glances. The small touches. Love...and the pain of hiding it - from themselves as much as anyone else. They kept trying to deny how they felt, making times like the last few days even harder. Beckett sighed. Sometimes he wished they'd just say to heck with what people thought and admit how they felt. He had this morbid fear that one day he wouldn't be able to pull off a miracle and save Sheppard...and Elizabeth would be crushed.
By late afternoon, Sheppard was pretty exhausted, in spite of his limited periods of lucidity. Beckett blocked off his bed with privacy curtains and cut off visiting hours for the day. Elizabeth was the only one that remained as he slept. His breathing had improved to the point the oxygen mask was replaced with nasal cannula and it didn't seem so labored. She watched him sleep for a while before she leaned her head back against the chair and dozed off herself. She awoke around ten to find someone had thrown a blanket over her. She looked up to find Sheppard awake and watching her.
"So...what are you looking at?" she asked impishly.
"You. Thank you for staying with me today."
"My pleasure. I couldn't very well leave you alone on Christmas, now could I?"
He grinned at her as he reached under the covers on the opposite side of the bed and pulled out a small square package. He handed it to her. "Merry Christmas."
Elizabeth looked amazed. "How did you get that?" she asked, taking the box from his hand.
"I talked Carson into sending someone to my quarters for it. He slipped it to me earlier...but I wanted to wait until we were alone. Open it."
Elizabeth's eyes lit up like those of a child. She tore the paper off and pulled the lid off the small white box. Reaching in, she pulled out a silver chain with a small, delicate charm.
"It's Pegasus, the winged horse. It seemed appropriate. I had one of the crew of the Daedalus get it made and deliver it to me."
"It's...beautiful." She marveled at the detail of the design as she gently rubbed her finger across it. "I love it!" She quickly put it around her neck and fastened it, "Thank you, John." She leaned over and retrieved a long box from the floor beside her chair.
"Okay...I have you something too." She stood next to him and placed the box on his lap, careful not to touch his bandages or injury. He feebly tried to open it, but barely succeeded in tearing the paper slightly. He seemed to pant from the exertion. "I'm sorry, let me help," she offered. He nodded, so she tore the paper from the box and then removed the lid.
Sheppard looked into the box. It contained two fighting sticks like he used when Teyla was instructing him, but they were different. He managed to get one out and hold it up so he could see it better. It was obviously much better quality than the ones they had been using in practice. They were intricately painted with a delicate design and some type of finish had been applied to protect the artwork.
"Teyla helped me find someone to make them. They are supposed to be specifically weighted and balanced for you. Teyla says if you will practice regularly with those, then you'll be almost unbeatable."
"Almost. I think she was leaving herself out of that one."
Sheppard smiled. "Yeah...she would. These are great...much better than the ones I've been using. Thank you, Elizabeth. I can't wait to start practicing with them...although I guess it'll be a while."
Elizabeth took the box and placed it on the table beside the bed. "I'll take these to your quarters for you."
Elizabeth stood looking at him for several minutes before working up her nerve and leaning over close. "I love the necklace and what it represents...but I already got my number one wish for Christmas."
"What was that?" he asked, looking somewhat confused.
"I wanted you to wake up and talk to me...so I'd know you were really okay." Her face flushed slightly as she made her confession.
Sheppard grinned broadly. "That's okay...I got my Christmas wish too...I got to spend the day with you."
They gazed at each other for several seconds, listening to the other one breathe and feeling the warm air brush across their faces. Elizabeth slowly began to lean in.
"I thought I heard voices." Beckett strolled in with a bit of a smirk on his face as Elizabeth pulled back away from Sheppard. "I'll just be a minute," he said cheerfully. Elizabeth and Sheppard kept looking at each other as Beckett checked Sheppard over. A few minutes later, he had finally finished. He stood looking at the two of them and smiling. "So...how do you two feel about holiday traditions?"
They glanced at one another and then back to Beckett, obviously confused. "Traditions?" asked Elizabeth. "Well,...I guess I like a lot of traditions."
Beckett just smiled. "Good. I'll expect you to be keepin' this one. Merry Christmas to the two of you from me." He walked over and fiddled with Sheppard's IV stand for a minute and then pulled it closer to the bed. "That's the best I can do." He backed away and admired his handywork. They looked up to see a sprig of plastic mistletoe hanging from the hook on the IV stand. It was really cheap, not looking a lot like real mistletoe.
"Oh, my," said Elizabeth.
"Aye...I know. It was all I had, though. Remember...I expect you to honor tradition. Merry Christmas." Beckett turned and left.
Sheppard looked at a rather shocked Elizabeth and grinned. "Well...you heard the doctor...we must honor tradition."
"I suppose." Elizabeth leaned over slowly and eventually brushed his lips with hers, ever so gently. She paused and kissed him again, their lips meeting a little more fervently as she slid her hand in behind his head. She pulled back away and noticed that he was breathing as heavily as she was.
"Well?" she said.
"I...I think we need to honor this tradition...a little more...you know...just to be safe."
Elizabeth smiled and leaned her face back down to his.
Beckett smiled as he turned and walked back across the infirmary. "About bloody time," he whispered.