Note: Last chapter. Thanks for sticking with me and thanks for the reviews. I hope you enjoyed it!
The Wrong Place at the Wrong Time – Chapter 9
At the sound of movement, Nick opened his eyes to see Kelly sitting down beside his bed. It had been a few days since they had returned to Atlantis and his pain meds had been reduced to the point he could stay awake more than five minutes at a time.
"Hey, you working tonight?" asked Nick, noticing her scrubs.
"Yeah, I thought I'd better get back to it. You're doing much better and don't really need me to sit by you every minute. Plus, this way I can still keep a close eye on you. I've got a few minutes before my shift starts, though, and I wanted to talk to you about something."
Nick frowned at her serious expression and the way she seemed to be avoiding eye contact. "What's up?"
Kelly hesitated a few seconds, staring at her twisting hands. She finally looked up at him and took a deep breath. "You really scared me," she said quietly.
"That's okay, I was pretty scared myself," he responded.
She looked at him, taking in the hospital gown and IV and the way his face was still a bit drawn in pain. "I . . . I don't want you to go back through the gate." There. She'd said it. She had rehearsed it off and on in her head almost all day and now it was out. She only hoped he didn't hate her for it.
Nick lay quietly looking at her pained expression, conflicting emotions battling inside him. He didn't know what to say because he'd been fighting his own battle with the question of going through the gate again. She finally rolled her eyes, almost making him laugh.
"Well, say something already. If you're going to dump me, just do it now."
And then he did laugh, but it quickly turned into a grimace and a groan at the pull on the stitches in his stomach. "Oh-h-h, no fair," he moaned.
Kelly looked at him quizzically. "Are you laughing at me?"
"No . . . not laughing at you . . . just . . . just amused that you thought I'd actually dump you over something like that." He stopped laughing and looked at her for a few seconds, a smile creeping back across his face. "I love you. We can work out whatever we need to, but I'm not losing you."
Kelly sighed and grinned, breathing out a deep puff of air. "I love you too. I'm sorry I'm such a wimp."
"That doesn't make you a wimp. Truth be told, I've been trying to figure out how I felt about going back through the gate again. At first, I thought I never, ever wanted to again. But the last day or two . . . I don't know. Now that I'm settling down, I'm not so sure any more. I think . . . I think part of me still wants to. I just need a chance to put this behind me."
"But you were hurt off world before, when the Wraith attacked, and that didn't bother you. Why does this?"
Nick shook his head. "This was different. It was scary when the Wraith attacked, but I understood the battle lines. It was Wraith against human and I was human. It wasn't personal. Plus, I had a gun and an opportunity to defend myself. This was a whole different kind of fear. It was a personal attack against me and John and we had no way to protect ourselves. We were chained up and unable to get away from the attacks. And at some point I realized that no matter what we did or said, that guy was just going to keep on hurting us until we were dead."
Kelly had moved in closer and was now holding Nick's hand, her eyes watering in spite of her willing them not to. "Nick . . . maybe you should talk to Dr. Heightmeyer."
He brought his free hand up and rubbed his face. "I don't know . . . maybe. How does he do this over and over?"
"John. I know he's been captured and tortured before. He was so calm. He said he was afraid, but he didn't act like it. He kept taunting the Enforcer, making him madder and madder, almost goading him to hurt him. I know what part of it was. He was trying to draw the man's attention away from me so he could take the brunt of the hits, and in some ways he did. He just . . . scares me. Not for me, but for him."
"Sounds like you better save him a spot on Dr. Heightmeyer's couch." She paused a second before adding, "You don't think he was trying to get that guy to hurt him, do you?"
"Oh, no, nothing like that. I think he just . . . I have no idea. It's like he just can't leave it alone and not say anything. He told the guy to, and I quote, 'Go to hell. Go directly to hell. Do not pass go and do not collect $200'. Who says that to someone who is torturing them? I mean I know the guy didn't understand the reference, but he knew the implication."
Kelly shook her head in disbelief. "Maybe you should tell someone . . . Dr. Beckett or Dr. Weir or something."
"No, I'm sure his team is well aware of him doing this kind of thing. I suspect this is what Dr. McKay is always talking about when he's calling him a self sacrificing idiot. Let me talk to him and at least try to figure out what's going on in his head."
Kelly nodded. "I've got to go check in. Are you okay? Do you need anything?"
"No, I'm good." He smiled at her smirk. "Really, I don't need anything. Can we talk more about this later?"
"Yeah, I guess we'll have to. I'm going. I should probably warn you, we're getting you out of bed in the morning and up on your feet."
Nick groaned. "I knew it was coming. Maybe you could slip me some extra drugs in the morning."
Kelly grinned. "I don't think so. I don't want to create a druggy boyfriend. You'll just have to get tough."
Nick sighed and frowned. "Now I'm really afraid."
John blinked and rubbed his eyes, bringing the infirmary into focus. He was lying on his side, facing Nick's bed and he realized the privacy curtains were gone. He could see Nick sitting on the side of the bed with a nurse standing on each side and Beckett standing in front of him. When the nurses took hold of his arms and pulled him to his feet, he noticed it was Marcy and Kelly helping Nick stand up. He watched as Nick swayed, his knees threatening to buckle. He well remembered that feeling of getting out of bed the first time after surgery. Not a pleasant experience and he found himself feeling sorry for Nick.
"Penny for your thoughts," said Amy, suddenly appearing beside him.
John grinned as he turned over on his back. "Just feeling sorry for Nick while simultaneously being thankful that I'm not in the same shape."
Amy smiled. "So, are you feeling any better today?" she asked as she began taking his blood pressure.
"Yeah, actually I am. Tremors aren't so bad this morning and my legs and back don't hurt too much. Still hot though."
He lay quietly as she took his pulse and then his temperature and recorded everything. "Well, everything looks good but your temperature, it's up a bit. I'm thinking you had too many visitors and a little too much activity yesterday."
"Shouldn't this whole fever thing be getting better by now?" He was starting to get aggravated. The fever not only made him hot, but almost made him feel generally bad and lethargic.
"It should start improving soon. You just have to give it a little time."
"When can I get rid of this?" he asked, holding up the hand with the IV.
"Probably about the same time you get rid of the nasal cannula," she answered smiling. They both turned at the sound of a grunt. Nick's legs were getting wobbly and the nurses were taking on more of his weight. "At least you have scrubs," she said brightly.
Kelly had been holding Nick's gown closed as they walked. When he began to sink to the floor, she had to let go of the gown to put her arm around his waist and take more of his weight. Her arm still held the gown mostly closed, except when they shifted too much to the right in their step, which allowed the back to fly open a second.
John grinned at Amy before looking back toward where they were trying to get Nick back to his bed. "Nick, thanks for the entertainment, but that's really not my thing."
Three heads turned to look over their shoulders at John. Kelly was the first to realize what he was talking about. She adjusted her hold on Nick to more firmly hold the flaps of the gown down and whispered to Nick.
"Pervert," Nick called from across the room. He was wishing he had the energy to say more to the snickering pilot behind him, but the room was spinning so wildly he just wanted to be back in bed. By the time they finally set him on the edge of the bed, his teeth were tightly clenched against the pain and nausea.
"Ah oh," said Amy, rushing away from John.
John winced, knowing full well what she was talking about.
Kelly and Marcy had both seen Nick go completely white and knew what was coming as well. By the time he started retching, they already had a basin ready. Kelly held onto him so he didn't throw himself off the bed and Marcy held the basin in place. By the time he stopped, Amy was there with a damp cloth and wiped his face off. He was barely aware as they eased him back and got him settled in the bed, tucking in the covers and checking his IV.
Noises and movement around Nick were a blur for a few minutes until the dizziness finally began to subside. As the nausea began to fade, so did the screaming pain in his stomach from the violent pull on his stitches. He opened his eyes to see Kelly and Carson looking down at him in concern.
"Nick, are you okay?" Kelly asked.
"Yeah . . . I think I am now. That was . . . fun."
Beckett chuckled. "I doubt that. Get some rest now and we'll try again this afternoon. Second time should be a lot easier."
"Man, I hope so," he whispered.
"I'll be off in a bit and come sit with you," said Kelly.
Nick nodded as they turned and left. He lay there for several seconds and had almost dozed off when he heard another voice.
"Sorry about that." He looked up to see John standing beside his bed, IV pole in hand.
Nick arched one eyebrow. "Are you supposed to be out of bed?"
"I've been getting out of bed since we got back. And I didn't know you could do that."
"You've only been getting up to go to the bathroom . . . and you didn't know I could do what?"
"Arch one eyebrow like that."
"Yeah, my aunt taught me to do that when I was a kid. We'd sit in front of the mirror and practice. And I still think you should be in bed."
John put one hand on the rail to steady himself. "I'll go back in a second, I just wanted to tell you I'm sorry."
Nick furrowed his brow. "Sorry about what?"
John sighed and looked down at the hand on the IV pole, focusing in on the where the needle pierced the back of his hand. "About everything. About getting you into this mess and causing you to hurt now. I'm sorry about everything that freak did to you and about you having to live through something like that. I never thought . . . when I asked you to come through the gate with us, I didn't think about the possible consequences. I should have been more careful. I should have gotten us out sooner. I . . . I should have protected you."
His voice was so quiet by the time he finished that Nick could barely hear him. "John, it wasn't your fault. I wish I could have saved the Chancellor, but I couldn't. That doesn't make this my fault either. Can't you just accept that there were events beyond our control and we got caught up in them?"
John's gaze drifted back over to Nick as he adjusted his grip on the pole. "Didn't you get the memo? I have control issues."
Nick grinned. "Well, after that little adventure, I think I agree." Nick snapped his fingers and widened his eyes. "That's it. That's your way of maintaining a little power over a situation you've lost control of. By making wise-cracks to that guy, you were saying that, even though he had you shackled up and was torturing you, he couldn't control what you said or the way you acted. That's your coping mechanism."
John stared blankly at Nick for several seconds. "Huh. I thought I was just being a smart-ass."
Nick started to laugh and groaned, remembering his earlier attempt at the action. "You people have to stop making me laugh. It hurts." He groaned again as he put his hand next to the incision site, trying to relieve some of the pressure.
"You want me to get Carson?" asked John, worry in his voice.
"No, I'm okay. You better get back in bed before – "
"Colonel! What are you doing out of bed?"
John snapped his head up to see Beckett heading across the infirmary, jaw set and a frown creasing his brow."
"Oh, crap," John breathed softly. He started to turn back towards his bed, but bumped the table beside Nick's bed and almost went down, IV pole in hand. He regained his footing about the same time Beckett clamped a firm hand on his upper arm and steered him in the proper direction.
"Hey, Carson, I was just checking on Nick after his little walk, you know, to make sure he was okay," John explained as the doctor pushed him back into his bed and pulled the covers up. John immediately pushed the covers back down and kicked his feet out. "Hey, I'm hot."
Beckett's face had gotten a shade redder, so John sunk down into the bed a little farther.
"You know, Colonel, you wouldn't be so hot and you probably wouldn't keep running your fever up if you'd stay in bed." Carson suddenly looked around the bed. "And what in the name of the saints have you done with your nasal cannula? How am I ever going to get rid of you if you won't behave yourself?"
John sighed and rolled his eyes. "I only had them off for a minute and besides, they make my nose itch."
Carson stood looking at John before sighed audibly and mumbling something John didn't understand. "Well, let me give a listen and we'll see if we can dispense with them. You're breathing has been better, even if your temperature keeps going up and down like a bloody yo-yo."
John was a perfect patient while Beckett listened to first his chest and then his back with the stethoscope. He finally told John he could lay back and stood up, crossing his arms. "All right, Colonel, you can lose the cannula. But you stay in bed unless your taking a quick trip to the restroom, understood? If I have any more trouble out of you, I'll have a gown with your name on it."
"I'm sorry, Carson. I really did want to check on Nick. I haven't seen him since . . . since we got back. I just kind of wanted to talk to him a minute, make sure he was okay."
Beckett's expression softened. "Well, all right. But the next time, you call for me or one of the nurses. You're still having those pains in your back and legs and you could have fallen. And I really would like to see your temperature stay down more towards normal for a while."
John grinned and relaxed a little. "I'll be good. Hey, what about getting rid of this?" he asked, nodding toward the IV.
This time Beckett was the one who grinned. "Stay in bed and still long enough to get your temperature down for twenty-four hours and it's a deal."
John let his head fall back against the pillow. "I'll never get out of here."
John heard the door to the balcony open, but he continued to look into the night sky, enjoying the sense of freedom the open space gave him. The light breeze and the soft smell of the ocean in the air almost left him breathless.
"When did we get a bench out here?"
John smiled as he looked up to see Nick staring down at the long wooden bench he was sitting on. "A few days before our ill-fated mission. I built it."
"You built it?"
John chuckled. "I can do more than just shoot and fly. I like the balcony and I wanted a place to sit. Sometimes I don't feel like sitting on the floor, especially when I have healing ribs or legs or other assorted body parts. I just disassembled a couple of large shipping crates and rearranged the parts."
Nick cautiously sat down beside John, obviously trying it out in case the thing collapsed under their combined weight. When it held, he relaxed and eased himself back against the wall.
"Still pretty sore?" asked John.
"A little, but it's getting better. How are you doing?"
Nick smiled. "How about the pain in your legs?"
John sighed. "Still get it ever so often, but they get fewer and farther between. They aren't very strong any more, either. Carson thinks they'll be completely gone in another day or two and then he's supposed to clear me for duty." John turned to face Nick, his face barely visible in the dark. "How are you really? Torture . . . is not an easy thing to get over."
Nick could see the worry in John's face. "I'm not going to lie to you. I've had some nightmares and sometimes, when I'm lying in bed in the dark, I just get scared. I start thinking about it and . . . I don't know, I just start shaking. I'm not sure I can go with you guys through the gate again. Part of me wants to and part of me is still scared."
"Take your time, Nick. If you never go again, no one could blame you. You shouldn't have had to go through that."
"No one should have to go through that, and that includes you. The thing is, someone has to go or we're just spinning our wheels here. I'm no better than anyone else, so I should take my turn to go when I'm needed."
"Nick, it was never intended for you guys to go. Ronon and Teyla and I are trained and experienced. Rodney . . . " John grinned. "Rodney sometimes has to go to do his job, and he's catching on. There is no reason for you to have to go unless there is a specific medical need. I've been thinking and that's what we need to go back to. Doctors and scientists just go when they are specifically needed."
"How do you do it? I know you've been through torture more than once, I've treated you for just that. How can you keep going through the gate?"
"It's my job. It's . . . what I do. We have some good missions, too. We've picked up some allies and some trade partners. I just always think about the value we stand to gain by continuing to get out there. That, and I'm an excitement junkie." He grinned at Nick, but it was lost in the darkness.
They sat in silence for a few seconds before John spoke again. "How's Kelly? I know she was really upset."
"She doesn't want me going on any more adventures. She says we get into too much trouble together."
John smiled as he looked out across the water, the moonlight reflecting off the gently rolling waves. "Maybe she's right," he said softly.
"I don't know about that, but she mentioned something about needing a leash."
John's head snapped up. "Rodney kept babbling on about a leash the other day. We might should watch out for those two."
"Not just them," said Nick. "I was waiting on Carson to check my incision site this morning and I thought I heard him mutter something about bloody fools. I think he was talking about us again."
John frowned and crossed his arms. "I went to Elizabeth's office today and came in at the end of a conversation with someone on the radio, I suspect Carson, and she was talking about someone always seeming to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I have a feeling she was talking about me, because she almost choked when she saw me."
They sat in silence for several moments, each lost in his thoughts. "Look at it this way, Nick. People like us keep this place interesting."
Nick sighed. "Yeah, I guess that's one way of looking at it. John . . . thanks."
John looked at him quizzically. "For what?"
"For showing me how to keep life interesting . . . for getting me out of there before we got executed . . . and for teaching me a lesson about courage."
John snorted. "I don't know about that, but – "
"No, don't sell yourself short. I learned a lot about hope and about not giving up . . . and about controlling your fear." He chuckled for a second. "I still think you're a bit scary, but I'll watch your back any time you need me to. Just ask."
John grinned, even though he was trying to look serious. "What about Kelly?"
Nick shrugged his shoulders. "I'll bring her around. She just needs a little reassuring."
They listened to the waves a few more seconds before John stood and stretched. He looked down at Nick. "You know, I learned a lot from you too. I think we make a pretty good team. Now, before we start hugging or something equally girly, how about something to eat?"
Nick laughed as he carefully pushed himself up. "Food sounds good. Actually, a cup of coffee sounds heavenly. I haven't had any in forever. Carson and his rules against giving patients caffeine."
"Food and coffee it is," said John as they headed through the balcony door.
"Did you really build that bench?
John laughed as they walked down the hall and was amazed at how good it felt. He couldn't help but think that his being in Atlantis with these people meant he was finally in the right place at the right time.