Thank you for all the nice comments! You aren't going to believe this, but this chapter finishes it up. Short and sweet . . . well, short anyway.
I Can't Get You Out of My Mind - Chapter 2
As soon as Beckett had checked Sheppard's IV line and the EEG leads, he gathered the EEG readings and headed for his office, nodding for Elizabeth to join him. As he entered his office, he hit his radio. "Rodney, it's Carson. I need you to come to the infirmary with any information you've found."
Elizabeth just sat and watched for the next several minutes as Beckett poured over the EEG readings. Ten minutes after Beckett called, Rodney entered his office, laptop in tow.
"What? What happened?" Rodney asked, his voice fast and high pitched. "Did Sheppard pass out again?"
Beckett almost smiled at McKay's choice of words. Sheppard would have appreciated it. "Yes, he passed out again, but this time he had a seizure. I'm afraid this is quickly getting' more serious. We need to figure somethin' out and we need to do it soon."
"Did the EEG tell you anything?"
"I've been lookin' at them and I think we were right in our assumption that the wraith queen somehow interfered with the way neural impulses are transmitted. His patterns are almost normal for a while. But shortly before he passed out, they began to become irregular. They continued to become more and more erratic until he passed out and had the seizure. They are still somewhat disrupted, but I'll be keeping an eye on them to see if and how they go back to normal."
Elizabeth shifted her gaze to McKay. "Rodney, did you find anything in the Ancient data base?"
McKay looked down and sighed. "Yes, but you aren't going to like it."
Sheppard blinked several times, allowing the ceiling tiles to slowly come into focus.
He turned his head, wincing at the sudden sharp pain that added to the throbbing. "Elizabeth?"
She stood and moved closer to the bed, laying her hand gently on his arm. "I'll get Carson. He needs to talk to you."
Sheppard frowned. He felt sluggish and weak and he couldn't focus his thoughts. "Did I pass out again?" he asked, his speech slightly slurred. He couldn't remember what had happened.
Elizabeth smiled, but it didn't look genuine to Sheppard. "Yes. Let me get Carson and he can explain." She turned and walked across the infirmary, leaving Sheppard confused and worried. Beckett returned with her a few minutes later.
"Colonel, how do you feel? How's the headache?" Beckett came after him with the penlight, causing Sheppard to wince.
"Getting worse now," he complained.
"You're a bit light sensitive."
"Ya think?" Sheppard asked, annoyance in his voice. "How long was I out this time?"
Beckett looked to Elizabeth and then back to Sheppard. "Almost 16 hours. And we need to talk."
Sheppard frowned. "I'm not liking the sound of any of this, Doc."
Beckett sighed. "You had a seizure right after you passed out. I'm afraid your condition is beginnin' to deteriorate."
Sheppard closed his eyes for a few seconds. "I knew I didn't like the way this was going. Please tell me you guys have come up with something."
"Well, actually we have. I don't like it and I doubt you will either, but it seems to be our only option at the moment."
Sheppard looked back up at Beckett. "You might as well tell me."
"Rodney found a brief description of an incident in which an Ancient apparently suffered the same type of symptoms as you have been havin'. From what we can tell, he was also rescued during an interrogation and the queen killed before she could withdraw from his mind. The Ancients developed a treatment that they had hoped would cure him."
Sheppard frowned at the wording. "They hoped would cure him? Does that mean it didn't work?"
"They never actually got to try it. He died before they finished the project."
Oh crap. "Uh, Doc . . . how long do I have left if I go by this guy's schedule and the treatment doesn't work?"
Beckett looked down at the bed and took a deep breath before looking back up at Sheppard. "About 30 hours."
Great. Thirty hours to live and most of that he would probably be unconscious, the way things were going. Sometimes life just sucked and this was shaping up to be one of those moments.
Elizabeth took his hand in hers and squeezed it. "But the good news is that Rodney has found the lab where they set up the treatment and he's trying to bring it online right now. He's confident he'll have it up and running long before the thirty hours is up."
Okay, now we have thirty hours, an untried treatment, and a lab that isn't functional yet. He wasn't starting to feel better about the whole situation just yet. He looked back up at Beckett. "What is this treatment and what do you think about it?"
"Well, as near as we can tell, you would be hooked up to an instrument that would deliver a mild electric current to the brain for an allotted amount of time. This should reset the electrical system, so to speak, and allow the natural rhythms to be re-established. In theory, it sounds reasonable, if a bit barbaric."
"We're not talking, like, shock therapy, are we? Like in the movies?" Sheppard's eyes were wide and he had started curling his hand around the blanket.
"No, nothing that dramatic. It seems to be a low level current, nothing like what you've seen in the movies. Don't worry, Colonel. I won't let him do anythin' that might make the problem worse. I do wish there was a way to test this before we used it, but that doesn't seem to be possible."
Sheppard relaxed back against the pillows, relief evident on his face. "Well, I'm kind of getting used to being a guinea pig around here. I guess I can do it one more time. It sure beats the alternative."
"Aye, that it does."
Beckett pushed Sheppard's wheelchair into the small lab. Sheppard immediately noticed what appeared to be an exam table in the center of the room with an elaborate control panel at the head. A shiver ran down his spine, causing him to shudder reflexively. It occurred to him that this was it. If the treatment didn't work, there was a good chance he'd never wake up. What a way to go. He had a sudden urge to grab a gun and go search out some wraith . . . or maybe Genii.
Beckett stopped next to the table and locked the wheels. McKay stood by the table, shifting his weight back and forth. As Sheppard pushed himself forward to stand, Beckett and McKay automatically grabbed his arms and helped him to the table. Sheppard pulled himself up on the table with their help and lay down. He was thankful Beckett had removed the IV and monitors before they left the infirmary, making it easier to move around. As he shifted on the table, trying to find a comfortable position, the throbbing in his head began to intensify, pressing against the backs of his eyes.
Beckett noticed the increase in the tension lines around Sheppard's eyes. "Colonel? What's wrong?"
Sheppard closed his eyes in a slow, squinting blink. "Headache's getting worse."
Beckett looked quickly at McKay. "We don't have much time. We need to do this before he has another seizure."
McKay glanced at the control panel. "Okay, just let me connect the electrodes and we'll be ready." McKay slid a panel open and began connecting several electrodes to Sheppard's head.
"McKay . . . you know what you're doing . . . right?" Sheppard hoped his voice wasn't shaking as bad as he felt he was inside. Fear was beginning to clench his stomach, dry his mouth, and tighten his chest. He wasn't sure if he was afraid of the treatment or of the possibility that he would never wake up. Funny how he could drive a jumper armed with a nuclear bomb down the mouth of a wraith ship without flinching, but now he was lying on a table while his insides turned to jello because he might not wake up. Some hero.
McKay swallowed hard. He could hear the slight waver in Sheppard's voice and he knew the man was nervous. Not that he blamed him. He'd be scared to death. He tried to pull all the bravado he could to the forefront of his response. "Of course, Colonel. What do you think I've been doing down here for the last several hours, playing tic tac toe with myself. I've studied the Ancient text in detail and I know exactly what I'm doing. I just had to make a few adjustments and –"
"Adjustments?" asked Carson. "What adjustments?"
McKay continued to work as he responded. "I had to adjust the power output. They had it set too high."
"How do you know it was too high? If it's too low, it won't work and . . . we won't have time for a second try."
Sheppard closed his eyes as the two argued and his headache built toward the crescendo he knew was coming. "Guys . . . time's running out."
They fell silent as they looked at Sheppard, struggling to hold it together as he lay on the table feeling exposed and weak and scared.
McKay looked back up at Beckett. "I've been careful. I know what I'm doing."
Beckett just nodded. He pulled a syringe out of the bag he had brought with him. "Colonel, I'm going to give you something to relax you and help ease the discomfort the procedure will cause."
Sheppard nodded and watched the doctor inject the contents of the syringe. "Before we do this, I need to say something."
McKay rolled his eyes. "No more deathbed confessions, Colonel. They make me nervous. You'll wake up in a few hours and you can tell us yourself."
Sheppard smiled. "Yeah, well, just in case I don't, it's been an honor to work with you both and I've enjoyed getting to know you. Pass that thought along to the others if the need arises. And thank you for standing by me. You've been there every time I needed you and that means more than you'll ever know."
"I told you to quit getting mushy on us," whined McKay.
Sheppard smiled again. "You're a good friend, Rodney."
McKay opened and closed his mouth a couple of times, but couldn't manage to say anything. By the time he closed his mouth for good, Beckett put Sheppard's wrist down on the table and looked up at McKay. "It's time." Sheppard's eyes were closed, his breathing even.
McKay nodded and looked back at the console, taking a deep breath. "Good luck, John," he whispered as he activated the controls.
Sheppard's body immediately stiffened and he grunted softly. His head pushed back into the thin mattress on the table as his neck and shoulders arched up off the table slightly. Several seconds passed and Beckett looked nervously to McKay.
McKay shook his head. "Not yet." They watched another few seconds until a thin line of blood ran from Sheppard's nose down to his upper lip.
McKay glanced down at his watch and seemed to be silently counting off the seconds. Finally he shut the device off and Sheppard's body relaxed back onto the exam table. Beckett immediately began checking his vital signs. McKay watched, fidgeting with the edge of the table until the doctor completed his exam.
"Well, is he okay? Please tell me I didn't kill him."
Beckett smiled and shook his head. "You definitely did not. His vital signs seem to be okay. I'll call for the gurney and we can get him back to the infirmary. I had them wait down the hall a bit. The Colonel didn't want an audience."
"Carson, did it work?"
Beckett sighed. "No way to know yet. We'll just have to watch him and see."
McKay stood by his friend while Beckett went to meet the medical team with the gurney. He planted his hand firmly on Sheppard's shoulder. "You had better be all right. Who else am I going to make fun of on a daily basis if you're not here? No one else has the hair or that swagger or plays Kirk to the women like you do. I hate to admit it, but the place would be boring without you. And if you ever tell a soul I said that, I'll deny it."
Sheppard was aware of soft whispers around him, although his mind was too fuzzy at first to recognize who they belonged to. He lay there listening, slowly beginning to realize they were the voices of his team, sitting with him in the infirmary. He smiled as he pushed his lids open and blinked, focusing on the ceiling above.
"Hey, look, he's awake. Go get Carson." McKay's face came into view above him. "Colonel, how do you feel?"
"Okay," he said as he tried to clear his throat. He was awake, but his mind felt clouded and muddled. He tried to focus on what was going on around him. McKay lifted the head of the bed to more of a sitting position and Teyla poured a glass of water. Holding the glass, she placed the straw up to his lips and he drank, grateful for the relief to his dry mouth and throat. "Thanks."
Ronon appeared with Beckett a few seconds later. "Colonel, it's good to see you awake."
Sheppard was a little surprised at how genuinely glad the doctor seemed to be. "Hey, Doc. How long have I been out?"
"Almost twenty-two hours," replied McKay. "We were getting worried."
Twenty-two hours? No wonder his thoughts seemed sluggish and fuzzy.
"How's your headache?" asked Beckett as he began taking Sheppard's pulse.
Sheppard paused a few seconds. "Okay. Better than it has been. Did I pass out again?"
Beckett looked up at Sheppard and frowned, making the Colonel more than a little nervous.
"Colonel, what is the last thing you remember?"
Sheppard licked his licks nervously as he concentrated on trying to remember what had happened. "I remember talking to Elizabeth, I think about being bored." Sheppard frowned. His memory seemed to cut off in the middle of her visit. "I don't know, it just kind of stops there."
Elizabeth moved a step closer to the bed. "You don't remember talking to Carson about the treatment developed by the Ancients?"
"Or going to the lab to have the treatment?" asked McKay, looking skeptical.
Sheppard's frown deepened. "No, I don't remember any of that."
"Is this normal Dr. Beckett?" asked Teyla worriedly.
Beckett sighed. "Actually, short term memory loss is not unexpected under the circumstances. I wouldn't worry about it."
"Exactly what am I not remembering?" asked Sheppard. "What happened?"
"I found a reference to something similar to what happened to you in the Ancient data base," explained McKay. "The scientists devised a treatment in one of the labs."
"Did it work?" asked Sheppard, his eyes wide.
"Well, not exactly. They never got the chance to test it because the guy died before they finished. You were the first person it's been used on apparently."
"You . . . you used this treatment on me?" McKay nodded. "And it's never been tested on anyone before?" McKay shook his head. "And I agreed to this?" Another nod. "Man, I really am screwed up. Did it work?"
Beckett placed his hand on Sheppard's shoulder. "We don't actually know yet, son. That's what everyone is waiting to find out."
Sheppard shifted nervously in the bed and began picking at the IV line in the back of his hand. "So, what happens next if it didn't work?"
Beckett moved his hand to still Sheppard's and pull it away from the IV. "According to the Ancient text, convulsions, coma, and then death a short time later. But we have every reason to think the treatment worked."
"How long before we know?"
"If you continue to progress at the same rate as the patient in the text, we have about two hours."
Sheppard nodded. Two hours. Two long hours . . . or maybe it would be two short hours. Kind of depended on what happened. Sheppard leaned back against the pillows and tried to relax. "Okay, well, how about if I just hang out here while we wait?" He took a deep breath and offered up his best smile. No use being all depressed and dragging everyone down during what might be his last two hours. No, he had to think positive.
Beckett smiled back. "I think we can accommodate you, Colonel."
"Good. Guys, I know you probably have other things to do besides sit around here for two hours, so feel free to go. I'll be okay."
Teyla moved to his side and took his hand in hers. "Colonel . . . John, there is no where else we should be but here with you. We will stay."
Sheppard looked around as McKay, Ronon, and Elizabeth all nodded. Part of him hated for them to stay, watching him and waiting for him to possibly go into convulsions and die. It made him sick to think of them remembering him that way. Another part of him was so relieved they didn't leave. If he was going to die, he didn't want to be alone while he waited. He looked around the room to his team – his friends – his family. "Thanks."
After a brief, awkward silence, they began to talk. They talked about missions they had been on and all the things that had gone wrong. They talked about funny times and tragic times and times that they were afraid. They shared funny as well as touching tidbits about their teammates as they tried not to watch the clock.
Beckett finally reappeared after a particularly funny story about Sheppard and McKay that had left everyone in tears as they laughed hysterically.
"Looks like I missed a good one," the doctor quipped. "Colonel, how do you feel?" He eyed Sheppard carefully as he began taking his pulse.
Sheppard wiped the tears from his face with his other hand. He took a couple of deep breaths, trying not to think about what he and McKay must have looked like after being almost literally tarred and feathered by some villagers. "I'm good. Headache's gone, too."
Beckett grinned as he let the Colonel's arm drop back to the bed. "Well, good news. It's been two and a half hours. You're past our estimated deadline and since you don't even have a headache any more, I think it's a good bet that the treatment worked."
Silence filled the room for several seconds as everyone let the good news sink in. Teyla finally hopped down from the bed where she and Ronon had been sitting. She walked over to stand beside Sheppard and then leaned down and touched her forehead to his. They lingered a moment, and then she straightened.
"I am glad you are healed, John."
Sheppard grinned up at Teyla, noticing her use of his first name. "Thanks, Teyla."
"Well, you've got to admit, that's a heck of a lot better than being tarred and feathered," said McKay.
"Oh yes, you'll get no argument from me there. Much better." Sheppard leaned his head back against the pillow, feeling almost giddy with relief.
Beckett patted him on the leg. "Well, Colonel, it looks like you'll be with us for a while longer, I'm glad to say."
"Looks that way, Doc. I guess I owe you and Rodney a big thanks."
McKay crossed his arms and smiled. "I guess we did save your life . . . yet again. So, when can we expect payment on that, Colonel?"
Sheppard broke out in a lop-sided grin. "How about during the next wraith attack? Or maybe when Kolya takes you hostage next? Or maybe when – "
"Okay, I get the point. Maybe we'll just keep taking turns," said Rodney.
"Works for me," said Sheppard. "But McKay? Thanks."
Sheppard sat on the edge of the bed, swinging his legs back and forth and then making circles in the air with his feet. One leg swung a little wider than he had anticipated, resulting in him kicking Dr. Beckett.
"Oops, sorry Doc."
Beckett clicked his pen back and forth against the clipboard with Sheppard's chart and pursed his lips. "Colonel, if you actually want to get out of here today, you're going to have to sit still a minute. It's almost like trying to entertain a child."
"Hey, that was uncalled for."
Beckett started to reply, but was cut off by McKay loudly entering the infirmary. "Hey, Colonel. Are you ready to blow this joint yet? I've been waiting on you to eat lunch, but my stomach is growling and I can't wait forever. Is Carson holding you hostage in here?"
Sheppard just grinned and nodded toward Beckett.
Beckett sighed loudly. "All right, Colonel, you can go. But remember, let me know if the headaches come back or if you have any blackouts or dizziness."
Sheppard jumped off the edge of the bed. "Thanks, Doc."
Beckett held his hand up to Sheppard's chest, stopping him. "Whoa, Colonel, not so fast. You are not cleared for duty and you are to get some rest over the next few days. We may have cured what ailed you, but you're still weak from it. Do I make myself clear?"
"Perfectly. I'll be good and, yes, I know you'll be watching."
Beckett smiled. "Good. I'm glad you understand. Now you can go."
Sheppard joined McKay and they walked out the door and down the hall. At the end of the hall, McKay started to turn toward the mess hall, but Sheppard grabbed his arm.
"Hey, Rodney. Could I ask a favor?"
McKay turned back toward Sheppard. "Yeah, but make it snappy, because I wasn't kidding back there. My stomach really is growling and I really am hungry."
Sheppard hesitated and looked down, obviously uneasy. McKay frowned. "Just spit it out. What do you want?"
"I want you to show me the lab where you and Beckett took me." Sheppard was still looking at the floor.
McKay drew up one corner of his mouth a little. "You still can't remember, can you?"
Sheppard shook his head. "Not a thing. Beckett said at this point, it's doubtful I will. I don't know why, but it's driving me crazy. I thought if I just saw the room, maybe it would spark something."
"Why is this bugging you so much? We told you what happened. And you wouldn't remember the actual process anyway, since Beckett knocked you out. Believe me, it looked like something you would want to be unconscious for."
Sheppard looked up at McKay. "Just one quick look at the room and then we'll go eat. I'll even give you my dessert. I hear it's chocolate fudge cake today."
McKay's eyes widened. "Chocolate fudge cake? I guess a quick look can't hurt. Come on, it's this way." McKay headed quickly down the hall. Sheppard grinned as he hurried to catch up, thinking how backwards the situation seemed.
"Hold up McKay, recovering man trying to run here." Sheppard struggled to catch up, driving home how right Beckett had been about how weak he still was.
McKay slowed to wait on him. "Ha! Mr. I'm-in-shape-and-you're-not! Look who can't keep up with whom!"
"Give me a break, McKay, I just had my brain fried."
"I know how you feel."
Sheppard sighed as the two men stood looking at one another. "Sorry. I guess you do. But could we walk a little slower anyway?"
McKay smiled again as they turned and started walking. "Yeah. I guess I was just excited. They don't have the fudge cake very often and it's the best thing they make. You aren't going to back out on me at the last minute, are you?"
"No, I wouldn't do that to you. I know this whole thing sounds crazy and I appreciate you taking me down to the lab. I hate this feeling that I've lost time again and if I can just at least figure out what happened, I think I can deal with it better."
"Again? Did you just say again?"
They walked in silence for several minutes until McKay could stand it no longer. "Colonel, I asked you a question. You said 'again', like this has happened before."
Sheppard sighed, regretting his slip of the tongue. "I took a blow to the head in an explosion a few years ago. I still can't remember anything about the explosion or the week leading up to it. It's one of the most frustrating things I've ever experienced. People kept referring to things they'd said or I had done and I had no idea what they were talking about." Sheppard snickered. "And then your "real" friends start making stuff up when they realize you have no way of knowing the difference. Mitch tried to tell me I gave him my favorite CD."
McKay smacked himself in the side of the head. "All this time we could have been having such a good time. Why didn't I think of that? Oh the missed opportunities. Hey, maybe it's not too late. I could get Teyla and Ronon together, and maybe Carson and Elizabeth, and we could – "
McKay sighed. "Oh, all right. Don't get your panties in a wad. It's really too late for it to work effectively anyway. And here we are." McKay stopped and pointed to the door way they were standing next to.
Sheppard slowly walked in and looked around the room. He made his way over to the exam table, feeling nervous and not knowing why. "What did you do?"
McKay went to the control panel and slid open the panel, pulling out a few of the electrodes. "I attached these electrodes to your head, Carson gave you some sweet drugs to put you in la la land, and then I turned it on. It sent a low level electrical pulse through your brain."
Sheppard winced and brought his hand up to the side of his head.
McKay was watching. "Do you remember?"
"More of a feeling really. I don't know if it's remembered or just imagined, but I don't think I like it either way." Sheppard sat on the edge of the exam table. "This room makes me afraid, McKay. Maybe you're right. Maybe it's better if I don't remember." He looked over to McKay. "Do you remember what happened after you took the enzyme?"
McKay went pale for a second and Sheppard was sorry he'd asked. Then McKay walked over and sat on the table next to Sheppard.
"Bits and pieces. It's almost like a dream, really. I know I said some pretty nasty things to Carson and I can't for the life of me imagine what would possess me to ever say those things. And yet I can remember doing it. I've apologized of course, but that doesn't take it away. I think about it when I talk to him and I wonder if he's thinking about it too."
Sheppard silently stared at his feet for a few seconds. "Yeah, I know how that feels," he said quietly, remembering all the things he'd done while he was turning into a bug and how long it had taken to feel like anyone trusted him again.
McKay looked at Sheppard and, for the first time, realized how he must have felt after the "bug incident". "I guess you do. I never realized . . . it must have been hard."
Sheppard just shrugged. "You deal, and it gets better. After a while, you don't feel so much like everyone is second guessing you. At least you only insulted Carson and didn't take out half the security force. Try living that down." Try pinning Elizabeth to the wall and choking her, while her eyes plead with you to stop. See how long it takes you to get past that one.
"Just insulted Carson? Are you serious? He's the man with all the sharp pointy things and the power to use them. I'm afraid to go anywhere near the infirmary."
Sheppard laughed. "In that case, I'm flattered that you came in there long enough to see me."
"Well, what are friends for. At least I don't have to worry about you fainting all over the place any more."
"I told you McKay. I didn't faint, I passed out."
"Whatever. Just don't do it any more. Let's go eat, I'm starved."
"Me too!" They hopped off the table and began moving toward the door. "Hey, do I really have to give you my dessert?"
McKay moaned. "Here we go, I knew you were going to back out on me. Why do I listen to you?"
"Calm down, McKay. I'm not backing out, I was just asking. How about half a dessert?"
"You said I could have your dessert if I drug your sorry butt down here, and that's what I want."
"Fine, you can have my dessert."
"Thank you." McKay finally relaxed as they walked down the hall.
"Can I at least have a bite?"