Thanks to everyone for the reviews and support on this story! You all have been great! This was my first venture back into the world of whumping in over three years. Originally, I cut my teeth writing whump (and medicine) but it's been a long time since I've revisited either. This story was sort of a way for me to get my feet wet in whump again, before attempting a more ambitious (and darker) story. Juggling other fic projects at the moment, but I'll get to it and I hope you like it. Now, where was I? …
Elizabeth lost count of how many times her pacing had led her across the infirmary, but that realization did nothing to stop her from crossing it again. Carson had long since pulled the privacy screen around John's bed but Elizabeth found comfort in the constant and now slower beeping of the cardiac monitor that still found her ears. But, still, Carson hadn't emerged from behind the curtain… hadn't come out and said John was fine.
Elizabeth sighed. Right now, she needed that more than anything. If there was one thing she'd come to realize in the two years she'd led the expedition, was that she honestly doubted if she'd been able to do it without his support. A small smile pulled at one corner of her mouth. Not that John wouldn't be the first one to say she was wrong, but deep down, Elizabeth knew how much John's quiet strength bolstered her. They didn't always agree, but somehow, Elizabeth believed, if they always agreed, things wouldn't necessarily be better. Sometimes, John forced her to defend her beliefs, and thus find strength and conviction in them, and Elizabeth liked to think she did the same for him.
Her pacing led her close to where Ronon, Rodney and Teyla sat quietly. She flashed a grim smile at Rodney, who made eye contact first. Her gaze traveled to Teyla, then Ronon as unspoken words passed between them. John meant a lot to all of them each in their own way. From being one of the rare, few people that understood and tolerated Rodney, to being a kindred spirit Teyla and Ronon, John touched each of their lives, much in the same way he touched Elizabeth's.
She found her confidence and pushed it out through her expression, before turning and once again starting a slow path across the infirmary. She only made it half way, as the privacy curtain rolled back and Carson emerged. "Carson?" As Elizabeth walked towards him she heard the shuffle of feet as the other three joined her. She felt hope well within her as Carson smiled and nodded.
"He's going to be okay. It was touch and go for a while there, but I think he's going to pull through. We'll keep close watch on him, and keep him on heparin therapy for a while yet, but I think the worst is over."
"Thank God," Rodney muttered. He looked around as the others gave him understanding but mildly surprised looks. "What? I've barely got him trained enough to keep up with me. Do you realize what I'd have to go through to break in another Colonel?"
Elizabeth's smile was half in response to Rodney and half in response to the relief that washed over her. She laid a gentle hand on Carson's forearm. "That's good news." Her grip tightened slightly. "Thank you, Carson."
Carson's smile deepened slightly. "Aye, you're welcome. I've grown rather fond of the Colonel myself. A little too fond to have him up and check out so soon." Carson glanced back at the drawn curtain. "He's awake, albeit a little groggy. You all can visit him if you want, but it'll have to be brief. I doubt he'll stay awake long anyway, he's pretty drugged."
Elizabeth nodded silently and stepped around Carson. Gently, she pushed back the curtain and walked up to John's bed. She glanced up briefly as Ronon, Teyla and Rodney approached the other side of the bed, before she looked down and smiled softly. "John?"
Under the oxygen mask, John's face was pale and drawn, but the gaze that finally emerged from under his fluttering eyelids was strong. "Elizabeth." His head turned slightly as he looked at the other three. "Guys," he said quietly.
"Colonel," Teyla spoke softly. "You are going to be fine."
"Yeah," Rodney agreed, "Carson's too stubborn to let you go just yet."
"McKay." Ronon rumbled.
"What?" Rodney glared at Ronon. "Oh, fine."
Elizabeth smiled as Rodney crossed his arms and flashed each of them a sour look before giving John the briefest of smiles. She refocused her attention on John. "I thought you said it would be a while before you insisted on making things interesting around here again," she quipped lightly.
"Gotta keep you… on your toes," John's voice was slightly slurred from the drugs, but he managed a small smile.
"You don't have to, you know," Elizabeth muttered.
"We do have better things to be doing then making you the center of our collective lives," Rodney added.
John's smile deepened as his head slowly turned towards Rodney. "I don't see you… tied to my bunk… McKay," he muttered.
"Yes, well," Rodney fidgeted and looked away for a moment before looking back at John his expression bland. "It's not like I could leave with you deciding to go all melodramatic on us and throw a PE. You're a real pain in the ass sometimes, you know that?" He added.
"Rodney!" Elizabeth's protest followed on the heels of Teyla poking Rodney in the arm.
"What?" Rodney protested, "he'd think there was something really wrong if I didn't treat him like that!"
"It takes a pain in the ass… to know one," John muttered, still holding a slight smile.
"Right," Rodney immediately agreed. His brow furrowed. "Wait…"
"Rodney," Elizabeth cut him off as she watched John's eyelids flutter. "Drop it." She reached own and gently squeezed John's hand. "Get some sleep, Colonel." She watched as his breathing turned slow and even and his eyes stayed shut. She slowly let go of his hand and backed away from his bed.
John curbed the irritation in him as he once more leaned on his cane and slowly made his way down the hallway leading to the back stairs to the control room. For some reason the thought of using a cane just grated on him. Given a choice he'd left the damn thing in his quarters, but his pride was tempered by the thought of running into Carson without having the blasted thing with him. John winced slightly. Carson would have him tied to the bed for the next two weeks, or sic a babysitting security detail on him if he was caught without the twice-damned thing, so John reluctantly carried it with him, and since he had it, he decided to make use of it. Somewhere, under his pride and stubbornness, John realized the cane really did help him get around better, but he was damned if he was going to admit that to anyone, least of all, Carson.
John stopped and turned, waiting as Rodney sped up his walk and joined him. "McKay."
Rodney's eyes settled on the cane. "Huh, never thought Carson would get you using one of those," he observed.
John frowned as he resumed his trek towards the control deck. "I wouldn't, if I didn't think Carson would find some sort of suitable punishment if he caught me without it."
Rodney snorted. "Big, bad Colonel Sheppard cowed by the gentle, Scottish doctor."
"Gentle, hell," John retorted. "He's got a legitimate mean streak if you cross him." John glanced sideways at Rodney. "You outta know, he confined you to the infirmary for three days the last time you tried to leave early."
"Don't remind me." Rodney winced. He inhaled deeply. "Well, hobble on, Colonel. I have things to do." Rodney turned off at the next intersection and left John walking alone.
John's climb up the stairs to the control deck was more painful than he would've ever admitted, but he stubbornly pushed on, knowing the pain in his muscles was the trade off for getting better. He knew his limits, and was careful to stay within them… most of the time, but he also knew his limits wouldn't expand unless he pushed on them a little. Just won't tell Carson… he smiled to himself. He crossed the narrow walkway to Elizabeth's office, stopped just outside the door and watched her for a moment. Immersed in her work, she hadn't noticed him, and probably wouldn't for at least a few minutes. He chuckled quietly before clearing his throat. John held his smile as she looked up, and found a smile of her own.
"John," she pushed back from her desk. "It's good to see you up and about."
John slowly walked into her office. "Feels good." He slowly sat down in the chair opposite her and hung his cane on her desk. He leaned back in the chair and absently rested his hands on his thighs as she folded hers on her desk.
"How are you doing?"
"Bored," he replied, blandly. "Carson still has a limit on what I can do physically. Can't even spar with Teyla yet." He arched a brow slightly as her expression turned bemused.
"You didn't expect to recover overnight, did you?"
"No," John pouted slightly before brightening. "How about letting me fly that group of scientists to the mainland tomorrow?" His voice was slightly pleading, and he gauged his expression to match it. He held her gaze even when her eyes narrowed in what John had nicknamed her "Den Mother" expression.
"Only if Carson gives his okay."
John sighed. "Okay. I'll talk to him."
Elizabeth smiled apologetically. "As much as I'd like to chat with you all afternoon…" she waved her hand at the paperwork that cluttered her desk around her laptop.
John grabbed his cane and stood. "Right." He headed for the door, only to be stopped by her voice.
He turned back and smiled in response to her smile.
"It really is good to have you around again."
He nodded once and turned away. As John left her office and started back across the narrow walkway to the control deck, the dimly lit Stargate grabbed his attention. He stopped and rested his hands on the railing as he started at the Ancient device. Romantically, he recognized the beauty of its design. He knew he was biased, but he really thought it was much prettier than it's counterpart at the SGC. John shifted his weight, nodding at the dull ache in his leg, reminding him of the unknown and unexpected they risked encountering every time they stepped through the gate. It'd be a while yet, before he'd be allowed to go through the Stargate again. John smiled. But, he couldn't wait for that day. Grabbing his cane, he slowly made his way across the control deck towards the back stairs. He had a physical therapy appointment in fifteen minutes, and he'd be damned if he was going to be late.