Author's Notes: Quite angsty this one, even for me. Set early in Season Three, but contains no spoilers and no warnings. I don't use a beta, so any mistakes are all mine. Reviews are always appreciated.
Maybe I'm Dead, I Just Haven't Stopped Moving Yet
She counts, measuring time in the length of Ronon's steps as he paces up and down the gateroom.
Eight minutes for Lorne to gather his team, to grab their weapons and uniforms. Eight minutes for Beckett to prepare his nurses and infirmary for casualties. Eight minutes since the first 'unscheduled activation' and the next.
She turns towards the Stargate, resisting the urge to run down the stairs, as Teyla appears by her side, and Lorne's men lift their weapons towards the event horizon as it bursts into the room.
"Dr McKay's IDC!" shouts the technician.
"Drop the shield!"
She expects to hear Sheppard's voice over the radio, a warning. Coming in hot. It never comes. The room is filled with the sharp sound of ricochets, projectiles flying through the open Stargate as men duck and take cover.
McKay falls through the 'gate, Sheppard slung over one shoulder, and they land on the floor in a tangle of limbs.
Elizabeth's breath catches in her throat. Relief and horror clash for control, and she is only able to hold herself back for as long as it takes for the shield to raise before she runs down the stairs.
They are both covered in blood. McKay's uniform is soaked in it, but it is Sheppard who is unconscious, whose body stays limp while McKay drags himself from beneath it.
Rodney screams, his voice close to breaking. "Where the hell is Carson! He's not breathing!"
Beckett appears from the sidelines, breathless but in control. Elizabeth knows he has run from the transporters. A team of four run behind him, with gurneys and medical kits. They descend on Sheppard, shielding him from view, so Elizabeth goes to McKay, looking lost and shattered, sat a few feet away. He is propped up on his arms, and is shaking.
"Are you alright? What happened?"
He swallows, several times, then lifts his head to look at Teyla and Ronon, running towards him.
Teyla gives him a smile, warm and beautiful, as though Carson isn't crouched over Sheppard fighting for their friend's life.
From the corner of her eye, Elizabeth can see needles and an ambu bag and she can hear the pinched, stark orders Carson shouts at his team.
"Yes," Teyla says, "we both returned through the 'gate safely, Rodney." She kneels, and places her hand on his shoulder, in an act of comfort - then frowns.
Ronon is quicker than any of them. "McKay. Your leg."
Rodney dips his gaze, and Elizabeth realises that she was wrong, that not all the blood is Sheppard's, that Rodney's right pant leg is torn and black and puddling red beneath him.
"Oh," McKay says, then his elbows fold, and he collapses onto the floor.
The gateroom is a mess.
A bullet has scored a thin, ragged line across one wall. Another took out a glass window in an office opposite. There is medical debris on the floor, discarded in the panic. And blood.
The room smells of it.
Elizabeth leaves it behind, delegates the clean up task to someone else. She follows Teyla and Ronon as they chase the gurneys, arrives at the infirmary only to be faced by the stern look of Nurse Simmons and an order to wait.
It is one order, the only order, that not even Elizabeth can supersede.
Ronon lurks. He picks a corner to stand in, then doesn't move for two hours, his back against the wall and his shoulders bowed, his chin resting on his chest.
Teyla sits beside Elizabeth, and tries to fill in the blanks, to answer some of the questions Elizabeth has.
"They had more technology than is usual, for Pegasus. Not to the level of the Genii, but close, particularly in weaponry."
"Were they hostile?"
"Not at first." Teyla seems stricken with guilt. Elizabeth wants to assure her that it isn't her fault, that there is no way Teyla could have predicted what was to happen. But she stays quiet. The truth will not help. "The situation was tense, yes, but I believe Caryll was keen for discussions to go well."
Ronon says nothing, makes no contribution.
"However, it became apparent that there were others in the ministry who did not share his feelings. Their attempts to hide from the Wraith during recent cullings have only been partially successful, and they fear that outsiders jeopardize this further."
"When were weapons drawn?"
"The argument between Caryll and his counterparts was becoming heated. Colonel Sheppard suggested we return to Atlantis to allow the ministry to reach a decision. Caryll agreed." Teyla's back is perfectly straight, her posture one of strength and determination.
Her eyes give her away. The way her gaze continually flits away from Elizabeth towards the infirmary doors.
"On our return to the Stargate Ronon became aware that we were being followed. Shots were fired. The Colonel ordered us to split up and take different routes to the 'gate, to divide our attackers. Ronon and I arrived at the Stargate first."
"You didn't wait for them?"
Elizabeth is aware of Teyla's shoulders stiffening, and she starts to shake her head, to apologise. "I'm sorry. I just want to know what happened."
Teyla's expression softens in understanding, and she takes a breath, and continues. "We were not able to lose the four men following us. We managed to incapacitate them, but Colonel Sheppard contacted us over the radio and said that the men had called for reinforcements. He ordered us to return to Atlantis for back-up."
She nods, slowly, and glances at Ronon. The runner has a deep scratch running along the left side of his head, where he was clipped by a bullet, but when prompted by Beckett's staff he refused treatment, just growled at them from his corner.
Elizabeth didn't argue it. It wasn't serious, and if Ronon wanted to wait she wasn't going to force the issue. The medical staff were needed elsewhere.
"I am sorry, Dr Weir." Teyla dips her head, her shoulders curving in towards her chest. "If we had stayed…"
She reaches out and takes Teyla's hand, hesitantly, giving the long, elegant fingers a gentle squeeze. "It sounds to me like you did everything right. I'm sure Colonel Sheppard will say the same."
She says the words with conviction, denying to admit the scene in the gateroom, the cloying scent of blood she imagines she can still smell.
Teyla pulls her hand away, slowly, and wraps her arms around her chest. The Athosian looks exhausted, though it has been less than six hours since the four team members stepped through the gate, healthy and whole.
McKay had been late, caught up in an experiment, and had dashed into the gateroom with only one boot tied and his shirt un-tucked. Sheppard had scolded him, with a raised eyebrow and tone seeping with sarcasm, and Rodney had responded back that a man who spent more time on his hair than most women he knew was in no place to criticise. To which Sheppard had asked how many women McKay knew.
Ronon had smirked, managing to seem both exasperated and amused, and Elizabeth had rolled her eyes and made it clear that if the two children did not play nicely, they would be even more late than they already were. Which wasn't how she had phrased it - I believe if you leave now, gentlemen, you will still be on time for your mission schedule - but her tone had been clear.
Then Teyla had stepped through the Stargate, deliberately, and the three men had followed, Sheppard and McKay still bickering.
Elizabeth blinks, feeling her eyes fill with tears and struggling to restrain them. She wipes a hand across her face and then looks away.
Shell shocked. This is how she feels; nervous and jittery and completely unable to grasp what has happened.
She takes a deep breath, then another, forcing her heart to calm.
The door to the infirmary opens.
Elizabeth gets to her feet, and is dimly aware of Teyla doing the same, of Ronon pushing himself away from the wall to join them.
It isn't Beckett stood in the doorway. Nurse Simmons stands in her white uniform, but it is creased, and smeared with something ugly and brown. Her face has lost its stern, no nonsense firmness of earlier, and now her eyes are soft and her voice quiet.
"They're both still with us."
The rest of her explanation is muffled, excerpts through white noise. Elizabeth tries to concentrate, but picks up only words like 'artery' and 'bled out,' 'surgery' and the all important, 'critical but stable.'
Finally, "I'll let you know as soon as they're out." The nurse glances over the three of them, ending with Ronon. "You should come and have that looked at."
He nods, slowly, and follows the nurse through the infirmary doors. For an insane moment Elizabeth feels jealous - envious of the fact that Ronon's injury allows him just a little closer to his wounded team mates.
Teyla seems to feel the same, because she sinks back into the chair and won't look up.
She taps her radio and answers without thinking. "Yes, Lieutenant?"
"Dr Zelenka is in your office, ma'am. You were due to meet him to discuss power consumption and the ZPM." The Canadian sounds apologetic and nervous. "Should I ask him to postpone the meeting?"
She considers the option, tempted. She wants to stay here, with Teyla, and wait with her until there is news, until she can see Sheppard and McKay for herself, and not rely on the words of a stranger. But life in the city goes on, and as its leader she has no choice but to continue with it.
"No. Give him my apologies and assure him I'll be there in the next five minutes."
She drops her hand, and glances at Teyla, making a mental note to have someone bring the Athosian a blanket and something to eat.
She could suggest going to her quarters to sleep, but knows there would be no point.
"Teyla…" She stops, not sure what to say.
The Athosian fills in the blanks for her, lifting her head and smiling, warmly. "They will be fine, Dr Weir. I am certain."
She nods, finding comfort in Teyla's faith. Then she turns and heads towards the outer door and the corridor beyond.
It is only when she reaches the transporter that she realises, Radek doesn't know, that few people know, and she will be the one to have to tell him.