Finally - the concluding chapter to this fic! Sorry for the long delay - hurrah, hurrah, this one is finally complete! ;)
It's just a bit of fluff really but I hope you like it...
The ride to the infirmary was horrendous.
The ceiling blurred and swayed dizzily overhead, leaving John feeling disoriented and queasy. The motion of the gurney aggravated his nausea, making his stomach churn, and he found himself breathing heavily, his mouth open, focusing all his concentration on just not throwing up. Voices washed and swirled around him; Carson's gentle brogue, McKay's strident tones, mutters and murmurs from the medical team as they guided the gurney through the corridors of the city.
His head pounded, the pain surging and ebbing in a constant throb that made his teeth clench and his eyes sting. He groaned and was vaguely aware of Carson's concerned face leaning over him, his words of reassurance sounding tinny and distant in John's ears. "Not long now, son. We're nearly there."
The infirmary lights were bright overhead and John squinted painfully, turning his head to try and escape the glaring brightness. Faces loomed over him, people crowding around the gurney as the straps were loosened. He was vaguely aware of being lifted, the motion making his stomach swim horribly, and swung sideways to land on an infirmary bed. His vision blurred and he screwed his eyes shut, groaning at the dizzy sensation of falling that washed through him.
"Colonel Sheppard? Open your eyes, Colonel!"
The voice was loud, making him flinch, and he reluctantly cracked open an eye, surprised to find Carson leaning over him, a blurry Rodney hovering in the background. They hadn't been there a moment ago, had they?
The Rodney blur's mouth moved. "Oh, thank god!"
He struggled to make sense of his surroundings as Carson gave a relieved smile. "Welcome back, Colonel."
Back? Where had he been? He felt.. odd. Woozy and dizzy and… oh man, his head was pounding. He frowned. "Head hurts.." Was that his voice? It didn't sound like him.. the words came out all wrong, sounding slurred and distorted.
"I know, son." Carson's voice was gentle, reassuring. "I'm sorry about that. We need to check a few things before I can give you anything for the headache…"
John flinched, trying to pull away as Carson firmly pried open an eyelid and shone a bright light into John's eye. He was left with a glaring after-image as Carson repeated the procedure on his other eye. He blinked owlishly, feeling slow and sluggish, and his gaze refocused to find a concerned expression on Carson's face.
"Is he okay?" McKay's voice sounded tinny, distorted.
"Colonel Sheppard?" Carson was leaning over him, speaking slowly and loudly, demanding John's attention. "Do you know where you are, Colonel?"
He struggled to concentrate; he felt strangely woozy, his thoughts jumbled and disconnected. He let his gaze drift past Carson's face to pale green walls that seemed familiar.
"Nfrmry," he mumbled thickly.
"D'you know what day it is, Colonel?"
He frowned. The question took a lot more thought that it should have and he realised slowly, with a vague sense of disquiet, that he didn't know the answer.
"Nnno." He winced; talking made the pounding in his head worse.
"What does that mean?" The high-pitched note of panic in McKay's voice drew his woozy attention and he let his head roll the side, struggling to focus on the hovering scientist. He watched bemusedly as two separate Rodneys crossed their arms indignantly as Carson impatiently shushed them. Him. Whatever.
"John?" Carson's voice, firm and relentless, drew John's wandering attention back to him. "Do you remember what happened? Do you know how you got to the infirmary?"
Thinking was such an effort. It made the pain in his head worse. He was so tired, Just wanted to sleep… "Mmm sleepy.."
"Ah-ah. Stay with me, Colonel. Can't let you sleep just yet. What's the last thing you remember, John?"
He frowned in concentration, trying his best to do what Carson asked.
"Coffee." The word was floating around in his head and it just kinda popped out, falling from his lips without his conscious thought.
"Coffee? What the hell does that mean?" There was panic and – fear? - mixed with the impatience in McKay's voice. Nothing made sense. What was McKay afraid of? His head was throbbing painfully and he let out a muted groan, closing his eyes against the glaring lights of the infirmary. He wished the darkness would just take him, swallow him up and let him rest. He was so tired…
"Colonel!" He jerked at the sharp reprimand, wincing as the motion jarred his aching head.
McKay was closer now, standing beside the bed as Carson fussed around in the background. The two of them were talking, words passing back and forth between them but they washed over John in a confusing flow, a muted buzz of conversation that he was happy to let slide by him. His stomach was churning again and he could feel sweat breaking out on his brow as he swallowed desperately against the rising nausea.
A word caught his attention, Carson muttering something about a scan, and then his view of the ceiling was obscured as the Ancient scanner was moved into position over his head.
"Try and stay still for me, Colonel."
There was a muted hum as the machine powered up and he watched through drooping eyelids as lights flickered and blinked on the scanner surface. The glow from the machine was hurting his eyes and he scrunched them shut, regretting the action immediately as the lack of sensory input from his eyes threw other sensations into sharper focus; the pounding in his head was sharp and horrible and his stomach announced its discontent vociferously.
He twisted suddenly on the bed, his hand flailing drunkenly for the rail as he tried to pull himself upward.
"Colonel!" Hands were on his shoulders, trying to hold him down; the scanner was still humming overhead.
His words were slurred, mangled, his lips pressed tightly together as he fought to control his rebellious stomach, but thankfully Carson seemed to understand; hands helped him to sit up and a basin was shoved under his chin just as his guts spasmed and he heaved up the meagre contents of his stomach. His helpless retching only made his head pound all the harder, sitting up made him feel dizzy and the dizziness only made him feel more sick. He groaned miserably as he retched and spat, Carson's hands rubbing soothingly on his back.
There was little in his stomach to bring up – all he'd ingested for the past several hours was water and coffee – and his throat burned from the combination of stomach acid and the acrid aftertaste of coffee.
As his stomach finally emptied itself and he found himself dry heaving and hiccupping, the basin was removed and firm hands guided him carefully back to the mattress. He lay still, his eyes closed, and concentrated on ignoring the lingering traces of nausea as someone wiped his face with a cool cloth.
His mouth tasted foul; he was never drinking coffee again, ever.
"Colonel Sheppard?" He cracked open an eye to find Carson hovering once again; the scanner was gone. The cup Carson was holding out blurred and divided into two before merging again. He swallowed queasily.
"Just a little now, Colonel." Firm hands supported his neck, lifted his head up enough for him to take a hesitant sip or two from the cup of cool, refreshing water. He swilled it around his mouth a little before swallowing.
"Better?" He didn't trust himself to nod but talking made his head hurt so he made do with a half-hearted thumbs up.
The throbbing of his head was distracting, pounding in his ears, making him feel oddly detached from his surroundings. He let himself drift as voices washed and swirled around him, McKay's high-pitched and demanding, Carson's firm and calming. He was vaguely aware that they were discussing him, talking about scan results and brain swelling and concussion and headache and nausea and vomiting and drowsiness and slurred speech and confusion and amnesia. He snapped out of his woozy half-doze at that one. Amnesia? What had he forgotten? The thought of there being a gap in his memory, a period of time lost to him, was unsettling.
He struggled to put thoughts into words. "WhaddavIforgottn?"
Carson moved into his line of sight, his face serious.
"What is the last thing you remember, Colonel?"
He frowned. "Headache."
Carson's face wore a matching frown. "You have a headache or you remember a headache?"
McKay hovered in the background, looking equally confused.
Carson nodded. "Okay, you remember having a headache. Is this before or after you hit your head?"
That didn't make any sense. He raised a shaky hand to his head, feeling vaguely for lumps and bumps. "I hit my head?" His voice came out sounding bewildered, oddly plaintive.
"Oh god, he doesn't remember! How can he not remember something like that?"
"It's quite common with a concussion, Rodney, especially where there is loss of consciousness." John's questing fingers found a lump at the back of his head and he hissed in pain, the pounding in his head spiking sharply. Wait? He lost consciousness? He didn't remember that…
Carson's firm grip pulled his hand away from the painful bump and pushed it back down to the mattress. "Am I understanding you right, son? You had a headache before you hit your head?"
John was thoroughly confused. He didn't remember hitting his head, he didn't remember passing out, he didn't remember getting to the infirmary. None of this made any sense and it was freaking him out. And his head really hurt. He thought hard about what he could remember.
"Paperwork. I was doing paperwork." He frowned. "Drank too much coffee. Made my head hurt."
"Paperwork?" McKay's voice had become accusing now and Sheppard winced at the sharpness of his tone. "You said you were going to blitz your paperwork last night! Did you…?" His words trailed off, a look of stunned realisation on his face as he and Carson shared a significant look.
"Colonel," Carson's expression was a mixture of sympathy and stern exasperation. "Did you stay up all night drinking coffee and doing paperwork?"
The two of them were looming over him now, one on either side of the bed, glaring down at him disapprovingly. His vision blurred again and for a moment there were multiple Carsons and Rodneys, all staring at him; he was surrounded. He swallowed, blinked furiously, and the duplicates merged back into the originals. What were they asking again? Oh, right. Paperwork. Coffee.
"I think so…"
"Hah! I knew it!" Sheppard cringed as McKay's voice hit a particularly shrill pitch, the scientist launching into an extended rant; the torrent of words flowed over him, making his head spin, and the dizzy, woozy feeling swallowed him up again as he struggled to make sense of Rodney's tirade. He caught references to sheer stupidity, disparaging comments about the military mind, a litany of complaints about bruises and possible broken bones and a recommendation that Carson break out the nice white jacket with all the pretty straps because anyone who went for a run with a caffeine headache was certifiably insane. He closed his eyes in despair, feeling nausea rising again, and opened them again at a soft, cold touch on his arm. He found Carson swabbing the skin at the crook of his elbow, a syringe in hand. The doctor's eyes were calm and reassuring, his expression both concerned and sympathetic, and he was utterly ignoring McKay's ongoing declamations.
There was a sharp sting as the needle pierced his skin and he looked away as Carson slowly, methodically depressed the plunger.
"Are you still feeling nauseous?"
He looked back at Carson and managed a quiet "uh-huh". By the time Carson was swabbing his arm again for the anti-emetic, the injection of painkillers was beginning to take effect and the painful, heavy pounding in his head was finally dulling to a manageable level. Blessed relief.
McKay's lecture on Sheppard's stupidity was also dying down as he slowly became aware that no one other than himself was paying the slightest bit of attention to it. "Well. Has he done himself any permanent damage?" he finally harrumphed, just a little petulantly.
Carson flashed John a somewhat exasperated smile as he disposed of the spent syringe. "Well, he's got a nasty concussion, that's for sure. The headache and nausea are probably going to last for a good while, though I've given him something to take the edge off the worst of it, and we're going to have to keep a close eye on him to make sure nothing else nasty develops."
"But he'll be alright?"
"Aye, I should think so. We'll keep him under observation for the next day or so at least."
That statement took a moment to sink into Sheppard's woozy, sleepy brain and he grimaced. Dammit. Stuck in the infirmary again… and meanwhile, the endless paperwork would once again be piling up…
"Don't think you'll be getting much in the way of sleep either, Colonel," Carson chastised mildly. "We'll be waking you every two hours to begin with to check on your neurological functions."
Despite his vision being slightly blurred, Sheppard could clearly make out the somewhat superior smirk on McKay's face.
"Rodney, can you sit with the Colonel for a moment while I go and organise for one of the nurses to keep an eye on him?"
Now that the pain in his head was under control and the anti-emetic was calming his rebellious stomach, drowsiness was creeping up on Sheppard and he could feel himself starting to drift. He felt like he could just drop off to sleep. He really, really wanted to sleep…. But the thought of being woken again in just a couple of hours bothered him, keeping him hovering on the edge of consciousness.
A chair creaked as McKay lowered himself into it.
It occurred to John that nobody had adequately answered his question.
"HowdIhtmyhed?" he mumbled sleepily.
"By running over perfectly innocent pedestrians who were peacefully going about their business, that's how! Honestly, nobody cares about what injuries I might have sustained from being used as a crash mat by a sleep-deprived caffeine-junkie! Look, see this bruise? I could have been seriously injured – unlike some people…."
Sheppard drifted off to sleep to the comforting sound of Rodney McKay complaining.
".. oh, and I am never letting you drink coffee, ever again!"