Chapter 16: All's well that ends well

Sheppard drifted. He wasn't exactly sleeping, but he wasn't all there, either. He was just enjoying the feeling of clean sheets, a warm blanket, and really good pain meds. That, and the fact that all his people would be ok. Even Lorne's people would be ok. Although from what Elizabeth had said, that would take a while. Lieutenant Reed had a crushed leg from the falling ceiling, Sergeant Smith had a broken arm, and Lorne had nearly bled out from a nasty leg wound that apparently had hit an artery. His was the blood they had seen.

It had almost been a successful rescue. They would have managed if the door hadn't come down, causing Lorne to back up into the spike trap, which was one of the ones sprung with a floor trigger. In fact, Atlantis had been in the process of assembling another team to go through when Sheppard had finally gotten his people home.

Elizabeth had told him what they'd done. Apparently with the activation of the firs trap, Lorne had seen the glowing trigger and realized it was keyed off his gene. He had known this because Smith, who lacked the gene, had been in front and hadn't triggered it. It was true that Rodney had pretty much figured it out the same way, but that was normal cognitive function for McKay. Sheppard decided he would have to revise his opinion of Lorne to include him in the Mental Elite.

So after that, they had beat a hasty retreat to discuss strategy. It had been Zelenka and Beckett who had come up with a way to actually trigger the traps: transgenic DNA. They had basically made up a tube of Beckett's ATA gene, put it on a long stick, and used it to trigger the traps. That had worked fine until the door and the spikes. After that they had to get Lorne back through the gate, and figure out a way to disarm the floor triggers. But still, it was a damned fine idea, and he couldn't wait to tell Rodney about it.

Speaking of Rodney…Sheppard forced himself to come up out of his drifting enough to open his eyes a crack. Beckett had left the lights on, much to everyone's relief, especially Rodney. The scientist had nearly freaked out earlier when Beckett had tried to draw his privacy curtain. Sheppard had had to explain, in an abbreviated fashion, what had happed to make the claustrophobia worse. Carson had seemed to understand, and had enclosed all four of them in a large curtained area. That way, there was some privacy, and the space was bigger.

Now, though, looking at Rodney, Sheppard wondered if it was big enough. Rodney was lying down, eyes open, staring at the ceiling. "You're awake," Sheppard commented, keeping his voice soft enough not to wake Ronon or Teyla.

Rodney rolled his head to face Sheppard. "So are you," he pointed out.

"Wasn't until a minute ago."

"Ah. I'm…I'm just thinking."

"You should be sleeping." Sheppard struggled to stand.

"What are you doing? You're getting up! You shouldn't be getting up! I'll call Carson!"

"Shhh!" Sheppard warned, managing to get to his feet. "You'll wake the others. I'm fine on my feet." To prove his point, he tried to take a step and nearly toppled over. "There, see?" he added weakly.

Rodney smiled at this. "Idiot." If Sheppard didn't know better, he would say the word was said with fondness.

Sheppard finally managed, leaning heavily on his IV pole, to make it over to Rodney's bed. He sat down heavily near Rodney's feet. Carson really would kill him if he found him out of bed, but right now he didn't care. He had things to take care of—things to care for—before he could rest.

"So how are you, really?" he asked at last.

Rodney sighed. "I'm lousy, how're you?"

"Well, it's been a helluva few days, hasn't it?" Sheppard commented. "We've been bruised, electrocuted, crushed, impaled…but that's just physical stuff. We'll heal. We always do."

Rodney narrowed his eyes. "Oh. Oh. I get it now. You're thinking about how I freaked out repeatedly on you, aren't you? Well, I assure you, Colonel, it won't—"

Sheppard slapped Rodney's knee, shutting him up with a startled 'ow!' "No, idiot. I'm not asking because there was a major failing on your part, although you obviously feel there was. That can't have been pleasant for you."

Rodney looked at him, startled, then his sneer was back to hide any real emotions he might be having. "'Not pleasant?' Oh, you might say it was a just a little bit…oh, not fun!"

"Rodney. You know what I mean. I just can't think of a word strong enough to describe what you must have thought when the walls started closing in." He knew it was probably cruel to bring it up, but he didn't want Rodney to bottle this one away. It could ruin him for small spaces like, say, Puddlejumpers. And that was unacceptable.

He felt a violent shudder run through his friend. "Can we please not discuss this?" Rodney asked in a choked voice.

"I just…" Sheppard wasn't sure how to proceed, what to say. "I just wanted to let you know that I know what you're dealing with. I don't know how it feels, exactly, but I…" He trailed off. This wasn't working. Women made this stuff look so easy!

Rodney seemed to get it anyway, though. He relaxed. "Yeah. And I think you do have a phobia, Colonel, even if you don't see it."

Sheppard turned to him, taken off-guard. He had no idea what Rodney was talking about. "Huh?" he asked, stumped for anything else to say.

Rodney smiled. "Yes. You have no idea, do you? You have a paralyzing fear of losing people."

Sheppard swallowed convulsively, cut to the core. He closed his eyes, remembering Rodney with a temperature of 106. Remembering Teyla and Ronon crushed behind a rock. Remembering. He lost people, it was true. And he didn't want to lose his friends, or anyone else. He could feel himself start to sweat. God, was Rodney right? He had never thought of it as a phobia before, but it kind of fit. Huh.

"See?" Rodney said gently. "So you do know how I'm feeling."

Sheppard opened his eyes and managed a shaky smile. "So now what do we do?"

Rodney shrugged and yawned. "We take it one day at a time, I suppose."

"That's pretty philosophical," Sheppard commented.

"Also, pithy. I read it in a fortune cookie." Rodney's eyelids drooped. "Just…a stupid fortune cookie."

"But it fits," Sheppard said, struggling again to his feet. "You get some sleep."

"You too," Rodney mumbled, already drifting off.

Sheppard smiled and gave Rodney a pat on the shoulder, then left him to sleep. He had one more stop before he could sleep himself. He sighed and crossed the room. This was awkward. He hadn't known Major Lorne all that long. He liked the man, he just didn't know him well. He also never was sure how the man viewed him: a Major not too long ago, and suddenly promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. Was there any resentment?

Sheppard bit the bullet and pushed aside the curtain to reveal a very tired-looking, but awake, Major Lorne. "Sir," Lorne said, seeing who it was.

"Lorne. How you doin'?"

"I'll be ok, sir. Just a leg wound."

" Lot of blood in that tunnel, Lorne."

"Bled like a stuck pig, sir." Lorne agreed, deadpan.

Sheppard tried not to turn green. "Hit an artery?"

"Yes sir."

"Lucky to be alive."

"Extremely lucky, sir."

"Ah…" Sheppard shifted uncomfortably. He wasn't good at this stuff. "I just wanted to say thanks. For…you know…for trying to get to us."

"Any time sir." Lorne frowned. "Only, not for a few weeks, ok, sir?"

Sheppard grinned and clapped him on the shoulder. "It's a deal. Get some rest." He went back to his own bed, feeling unaccountably better. He was asleep within minutes.


A/N: There, that's it! Thanks for reading, and for all the nice reviews. I had a lot of fun writing this. Poor Lorne and Rodney. I can't seem to stop picking on those two :)