Phantom Pain

Summary: Phantoms Tag – In my personal opinion there can never be too much Rodney h/c. This is a pressie to all that agree with me.

I hope you like it.

Contains major spoilers for the episode Phantoms, also small spoilers for The Real World and Sateda.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0

As promised here is the second and final part.

Part 2

John had doubled timed it back to the gate. He wanted to be there when Atlantis dialed through so that he could guide the medical team Carson was going to request. He didn't want them to lose any time getting the equipment back to Rodney.

Now he sat waiting, and trying not to think. He was painfully aware of the bodies of the dead Atlantis expedition members that had been placed at the edge of the clearing before they had left the area to go back to the cave. All men under his command. The body count had been way too high on this mission, and he wasn't sure if it had finished yet.

Where the hell was Atlantis? Why hadn't they dialed through yet?

"Sheppard." Ronon's voice could be heard through the radio.

"Go ahead," John responded, clicking his radio.

"Beckett wanted to know if you have any word?"

"Not as yet. How's everything there?"

John held his breath.

"Not good."

John sighed.

"I'm sorry to hear that." John could hear a commotion in the background. "What's going on there?"

"McKay's not breathing. Got to go."

The radio went quiet.

"Ronon!" John shouted. Knowing that there was nothing he could do he looked up at the sky and yelled in frustration "Arrrr!"

John knew that Carson was going to lose this battle. It had been written all over his face when John had left him. The infection had taken over too fast. There was nothing he could have done. This mission had been a disaster. How were they going to get over the loss of McKay?

Oh God, how were they going to get over the loss of Rodney?

John Sheppard closed his eyes and prayed for a miracle.

Just then a dazzling white light surrounded him.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0

John found himself in the infirmary aboard the Daedalus.

The place was like a war zone. There were people everywhere. John scanned the area trying to orientate himself. Teyla was on a gurney while two nurses took her vitals. She was still asleep. Another nurse was trying, unsuccessfully at the moment, to get Ronon to lie down. Ronon obviously had other ideas. There were two other beds that were surrounded with medical personnel. John looked between them trying to figure out who was where. Thankfully he was being ignored at the moment. He spotted Carson at the foot of one of the beds and walked over to him.

As soon as he got close he caught a glimpse of the person on the examination table. Rodney. John's heart sank when he saw that Rodney had a machine breathing for him. Hands appeared to be all over the sick man, cutting off clothes, attaching monitors and taking vitals.

"What's going on, Carson?" John said quietly so as not to disturb the medical speak being flung around in urgent tones. Carson seemed to have been delegated to the back seat as the Daedalus doctors worked on Rodney.

"A miracle I hope," said Carson grimly. "He coded on the planet, but thanks to the medical people here on the Daedalus we managed to get him back. At least for now. His temperature is dangerously high and his blood pressure is dangerously low. His body is beginning to shut down. His heart is struggling. It looks like they are going to have to put him on dialysis and give him circulatory assistance and try out some different antibiotics. We are still waiting for the blood cultures to come back. We are dealing with an alien bacterium here, Colonel, that organic matter you collected is being analyzed. Hopefully we will have a better idea of how to treat him soon."

All this came in the 'too much information' category as far as John was concerned. But Carson was nothing if not thorough. Maybe it was the 'I wish this wasn't happening category.'

John allowed himself a sigh before standing up straighter. He was responsible for more than McKay on this mission.

"How are Kagen and Teyla?"

"They are both being prepped for surgery. They are both stable, thank goodness."

"Is there anything I can do?" John asked.

"There is nothing much that either of us can do at he moment, Colonel. I think it's best if we let these good people do their job. We need to get checked over and rest. This is going to be a long haul." Carson looked at Rodney. "At least I hope it is. We are going to need our energy. Obviously, as Rodney's physician, I will be involved in his care, but at the moment there is nothing much I can do."

He could see how much it hurt Carson to say that. John nodded and allowed a nurse who had been hovering while he had been speaking to Carson, to guide him towards an empty bed.

Carson stayed overseeing Rodney's care, a solemn look on his face.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0

It had been three hours. The machines surrounding Rodney had squealed twice in that time bringing the medical staff running. It had induced feelings of panic John had only just managed to control while he listened to the doctors and nurses calling out to each other in urgent voices. Rodney was now completely dependent on machines that carried out the life sustaining functions that his body was no longer capable of. John was feeling exhausted. The stress of Rodney's life hanging in the balance so close to him was taking its toll.

Caldwell had been to see him. Well, check on how they were all doing. Despite the reservations Elizabeth seemed to have about him, John found him to be a fairly decent and fair man. No, he wasn't as emotionally invested in the Atlantis personnel as rest of them, but that was to be expected. Caldwell was clearly out of his comfort zone in the infirmary and had left fairly promptly, citing ship business.

Teyla had come out of surgery and now lay on one of the adjacent beds. She was going to be fine after some time and rehab. Ronon was sitting in a chair by her bed. His head had dropped forward. It looked as though he had nodded off. He too had been given the all clear. Thankfully there was no sign of infection in any of the other three injured members of the S & R mission.

Kagen had just been wheeled in and was being settled in a bed in the corner. His surgery had been a success and everything looked promising.

Two less things he needed to worry about.

John had been cleared and was free to go after a check up, but the medical staff took pity on him and allowed him to stay on one of the beds. He knew that their charity would only last if he wasn't a nuisance, so he was trying very hard to be patient and just observe what was going on around him.

Carson was another story. All talk of letting the medical personnel look after Rodney while Carson oversaw their efforts had been forgotten. Carson had allowed himself to be checked over, but once he received the all clear, ideas of rest were quickly forgotten. At first he came over and let the Colonel know what was happening often, but now, John hadn't seen him for an hour, and he was feeling frustrated and impatient.

John got up and quietly slipped behind the privacy screen erected around Rodney's bed. There was so much equipment tubes and wires surrounding Rodney it was hard to get close. Nothing had changed, Rodney looked the same as the last time John had checked on him. If it weren't for the sheen of perspiration on his face, and the sound of the ventilator pumping air into his lungs, John would have thought he was dead.

John closed his eyes tiredly, but then opened them again when he heard a noise behind him. He turned to see Carson and another doctor approach Rodney.

Carson looked pleased.

"I think we might have something, Colonel." Carson held up a syringe before injecting the contents into Rodney's IV port. "The analysis showed that the bacteria infecting Rodney did originate from the biological matter in the Wraith device. He must have had some on his hands and it entered his wound when he tried to stop the bleeding. We think we've now come up with the right drug cocktail to kill the nasty buggers."

"So Rodney will be all right?" John asked hopefully.

Carson moved closer, looking more serious. "I'm afraid it's too early to say that. Assuming we are correct in the antibiotic cocktail we have come up with, it is still going to be a race between the speed of the recovery and extent of the damage currently being waged through his body. We have given him an almighty dose. I'm hoping that it is strong and fast enough to win. At least we are in the race now, lad. We have hope."

Carson patted John's arm. "Hang in there, Colonel. Rodney is the most stubborn man I know. He won't be giving up without a fight. Why don't you get yourself something to eat and try to relax? I'm going to go check on Kagen and Teyla."

John nodded, although he had no intention of leaving the infirmary anytime soon. He waited for Carson and the other doctor to leave, then he placed his hand on Rodney's arm and leaned in closer to the unconscious man's face.

"Fight, McKay. We're here with you, but you've got to fight this thing. The Rodney McKay I know isn't going to let an alien adversary you can't even see beat him. I know you can do it. Fight it, McKay."

It had worked for Elizabeth - maybe it would work for Rodney. John straightened up and looked around. No one had seen him. Good. He'd really rather not be seen talking to someone who was unconscious.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0

During the next few hours Rodney's condition began to slowly improve. The monitors had been quiet apart from their usual reassuring beeping.

Carson sat with John and Ronon, passing the time with intermittent chat. Since Carson had nothing else to do except keep apprised of Rodney, Teyla and Kegan's condition, John and Ronon were kept up to date. First Carson had given them the no news is good news talk as it meant that at least Rodney wasn't getting any worse. Then finally, he started reporting improvements in Rodney's vitals. John had felt an enormous wave of relief wash over him. Rodney was winning.

Teyla had woken, but was very groggy and had fallen back to sleep. She hadn't been told of Rodney's serious condition. Luckily she was too sleepy to think to ask about a teammate who had seemed fine last time she was awake.

Kagen still hadn't woken. Carson told them that while there was every reason to think he would be fine, it was going to be a slow and long recovery. He would probably stay on board the Daedalus and return to Earth.

Carson told them that it the same could be said of Rodney. John steeled himself for the argument to keep Rodney at Atlantis. However it was unnecessary. Carson agreed that they had the facilities to treat him at Atlantis, and when they made contact with Elizabeth, she agreed that they couldn't lose their CSO. The best way to ensure that and not risk Stargate Command or the IOA sending a possible permanent replacement for Rodney was to keep him at Atlantis. Her possession is nine tenths of the law line brought a smile to both John's and Carson's faces. It made it seem even more real that Rodney was going to be all right.

Of course Rodney would never make anything easy, they both knew that.

OoOoOoOoOoOoO

They had finally reached Atlantis. Ronon had accompanied Teyla's gurney during the transfer to the infirmary on Atlantis and John was walking beside Rodney's gurney some way behind them, when suddenly Rodney woke up. John looked down, having seen movement out of the corner of his eye. A few seconds later, and they had an astrophysicist thrashing around having a full-blown panic attack.

John and a couple of nurses immediately flung themselves over Rodney's body to physically restrain him to and try to prevent him hurting himself. A shot of sedative was hurriedly called for.

"It's okay, McKay, calm down!"

Rodney's eyes were wide and panicked, not showing any signs of recognition when he looked at John.

"McKay! Rodney! Calm the hell down!" John continued to fight the moving man. "You're okay, there's a tube in your throat. You're fine."

It had become easier to restrain the man, but John thought it was because Rodney was running out of strength. He still had a frantic and desperate look in his eyes.

"Hey, Rodney, it's okay." John lifted his head as Carson appeared with the shot of sedative.

Rodney weakly resisted as he was given the medication. A few moments later, Rodney's eyes drifted closed.

John and the two nurses slowly released their hold on the now unconscious man. John wiped at his face, feeling shaken.

Carson and the nurses checked to see if anything vital had been dislodged during Rodney's brief episode of consciousness then accompanied John and Rodney the rest of the way to the Atlantis infirmary.

Once back at Atlantis, Carson had another shock waiting for John.

"Colonel, I apologize having to do this but I am banning you from the infirmary for eight hours. You look exhausted, and quite frankly I need another patient as much as Atlantis needs new enemies."

John opened his mouth to comment on the dark circles currently residing under Carson's eyes but snapped his mouth shut again as the doctor continued.

"I'm sure you have to brief Elizabeth. You also need to eat, wash and sleep. Not necessarily in that order. I will look after Teyla and Rodney. I'm about to remove the Rodney's ventilator and some of the more invasive equipment. Hopefully he will be doing a lot better by the time you return. Now away with ya."

John didn't know how Rodney felt, but speaking for himself he would feel much better when he could see that the scientist could breathe for himself.

"Will Rodney be okay?" John asked for what must have been the umpteenth time.

Carson sighed. "He is still not completely out of the woods. But he is improving all the time. Go get some rest. You will need all your stamina for a whining astrophysicist confined to bed. If anything untoward happens I will let you know. Now leave before I have one of your own men escort you."

John nodded. As much as he wanted to be with his sick friend the thought of sleep did sound good.

"Okay, Doc. But I expect you to tell me if there is a problem."

"You have a deal. Nighty night, Colonel."

John left the infirmary feeling much better. Rodney was recovering. Teyla and the rest of the team were safe. And he desperately needed a shower.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0

The shower was heaven. The Ancients sure knew how to build a shower. The multiple jets directed warm soothing water all over his body. He washed himself with soap, getting rid of the dirt and grime that came compliments of that horror of a planet, moon, whatever, M1B129. Once the soap was rinsed off, he closed his eyes and let the water cascade over his face and hair. It felt good. He could feel tension draining from his muscles and releasing its hold on his body.

He hadn't really had a chance to reflect in depth about what had happened on that cursed planet. He hadn't had the privacy to allow himself to dwell on the events that had occurred beyond the generalized guilt he had been feeling for trying to kill his teammates. Now his feelings threatened to overwhelm him. For a moment, he was back in the heat of the desert, and he turned off the water, leaning against the wall of the shower cubicle, panting. Now that was a place he had been in no hurry to go back to. As if living through it one time wasn't enough, no, he had to sit in on the re run. He had thought he'd buried his feelings about the place, the horror of losing his team, his friends, in that godforsaken desert. Now he had re lived some of it in Technicolor. Phantom pain. Except instead of feeling the pain of a limb long gone, that planet had forced him to experience the pain of a past that was long gone. He hadn't been able to save Holland. But at least he had been trying to save his people in Afghanistan, not trying to kill them with his own gun. John smacked the wall hard with his hand. Goddamn it! Why did this shit keep happening to him!

Teyla was right. He should focus on his teammates here, who were all alive and accounted for. He should be grateful for that. He remembered how shocked he had felt in the cave, when he realized he wasn't in Afghanistan, and saw Ronon pointing a gun at him. He remembered Teyla's pain, both as she tried to keep standing despite the bullet in her leg, as well as the pain in her eyes as she told them they had to hurry outside as Rodney had been shot. He knew by the way she was looking at him that he had been the one who had done the shooting. That Rodney was the Taliban he had felled in passing without any feeling of remorse. He remembered leaving the cave and seeing Rodney on the ground, shaking, and in pain, the side of his uniform dark and wet with blood. John rested his head against the wall, his eyes closed. He felt remorse now. He felt the pain now.

Teyla and Ronon had tended to Rodney while he searched for Carson. It all seemed a bit unreal. Finding Carson with his hand permanently stationed on Kagen's neck, concerned that the man would die. The walk back to the cave with the doctor, who insisted on carrying Kagen all the way. Carson had since explained what he had been through, and John now understood why Carson felt so compelled to treat Kagen in such an overprotective and paranoid manner.

He remembered the extreme anxiety he felt as Carson examined Rodney. Waiting to see if he had indeed killed one of his own team.

He had been relieved then. But that was before the infection that snuck up on them just when things seemed to be okay. Rodney had nearly died. John would have to come to terms with nearly killing his teammate and friend.

John straightened out and turned the shower back on. Enough with the emotion. On with the show. As the jets immersed his body in warm water again, he reminded himself that he was a Lt. Colonel in the military, and the military leader of Atlantis. As a military man, he was supposed to be able to accept loss, to accept casualties and move on. That was one reason you weren't supposed to fraternize with those under your command. So you didn't get too close.

It seemed like a sensible rule, but an impractical one, especially in a small, closed community like Atlantis. He was close to his team. He had told Teyla not too long ago that he would do anything for any one of them, and he'd meant it. Even Rodney. Maybe he should have said especially Rodney. Despite every personality characteristic that would suggest the opposite, Rodney was his friend. John felt that he could be himself when he was with Rodney, more so than he could be with Teyla, Ronon, Carson or Elizabeth. Their friendships came with expectations of what John should do and be. He had no such restrictions with Rodney. John allowed Rodney to be who he was, and Rodney returned the favor. It was an easy friendship that they naturally slipped into. John was sure that Rodney was as surprised by it as he was.

It was a good friendship, and one that John was not prepared to lose. He would be there for Rodney and help him through his recovery. He would weather the complaints, the insults and the general shittyness that was bound to come with a recuperating Rodney. He would try to be patient, and he would make sure things between them were resolved.

John turned off the water and stepped out of the shower with a renewed sense of purpose.

Once he was dressed, he dropped in to see Elizabeth. It was an informal meeting. The full debriefing had been organized for the next day to allow John, Carson and Ronon to rest after their ordeal. He was relieved to find that she was on the same page as him when it came to their astrophysicist and resident genius.

"Radek will be assuming the role of Chief Scientific Officer while Rodney is recuperating. Carson says it will be some time before Rodney will be able to assume the burden of all his responsibilities. But Atlantis will wait for him; it's the least we can do considering the number of times he has saved us all." Elizabeth raised her eyebrows. "Of course the real battle will be surviving his recuperation. I'm sure Carson will need to take a long leave of absence to recover after having Rodney as a patient for a significant period of time. Then there will be the whole issue of keeping Rodney away from the science department. Yes, I can see a very rocky road ahead for us all."

They both laughed, sharing a feeling of relief that the complicated man that was Rodney McKay was out of danger and in safe hands.

John felt good after leaving Elizabeth's office. He still had just over seven hours before he could visit Rodney and Teyla. He went to the mess hall to have a meal and then went to his quarters to sleep the dreamless sleep of the exhausted.

0o0o0o0o0o0o0

John entered the infirmary feeling good, eight hours to the minute after Carson had banished him. What he saw stopped him in his tracks.

There were three nurses and Carson gathered around Rodney's bed. They were placing cooling pads all over his body as he moved around, looking agitated. Carson was talking to him, trying to calm him down. Teyla and Ronon looked on anxiously.

John walked over to Teyla and Ronon.

"What's going on?"

Ronon shrugged.

Teyla answered. "I am not sure. I was sleeping when I heard one of the nurses call Doctor Beckett. It appears that Rodney has taken a turn for the worse."

John walked cautiously towards McKay's bed, just as Carson turned around. Carson herded John back towards Teyla and Ronon.

"Rodney's fever is spiking. We are trying to get it down."

"I thought we were over the worst?" John asked with a hint of accusation in his voice.

"Well, Colonel, I did say that it would be a long road for Rodney. I'm afraid this is a rather large bump along that road. The worst bump I hope, but probably not the only one." Carson patted John's shoulder consolingly. "We're dealing with an alien bacterium here, Colonel. We're positive we have the right antibiotic to treat it, but the correct dosage is experimental at best."

"Will he be all right, Doctor Beckett?" asked Teyla.

John was relieved he didn't have to ask that this time.

"I've given him a mild sedative to calm him and we have placed cooling pads around his body to try and bring his temperature down. Now we wait for the medication to do its job. We have refined his medication even more and that should kick in soon. Unfortunately he's getting weaker and I'm not certain that has the strength to fight it. Blood results show that organ function is deteriorating again, and his heart is struggling. If he doesn't improve soon we may have to put him back on dialysis if he is to have any hope."

Carson looked at them all in turn, no doubt taking in the stunned expressions on their faces.

He sighed and ran his hands through his hair. "Look, if it were someone else I would be even more concerned, but this is Rodney. He may not look like it, but he is a fighter. The infection has weakened his body considerably, but I think he still has some reserves left. God knows he is going to have to use all that strength to beat this thing."

Teyla nodded, looking very solemn.

Ronon looked at Teyla. "Always knew there was a warrior in there."

Teyla smiled.

"There is more to McKay than meets the eye," John said looking at both Teyla and Ronon. "He'll make it." John turned to Carson. "Won't he, Doc.?"

"I certainly hope so, Colonel. I hope so."

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0

The next few days passed in a haze. John and the rest of his team were forced to look on as once again Rodney was hooked up to machines to support his bodily functions. In private John was finding the roller coaster of Rodney's health devastating. He had shot Rodney; was he going to die? No, he was fine. Then he had the infection and was going to die – had died really - then he was better, then he had a relapse and now was at death's door again. At times it felt too much to have to bear. Maybe this was John's penance for having shot his teammate in the first place. John had to force himself to remain positive. He needed to remain strong both for Rodney and for the rest of the team.

He needed to be at least as strong as Rodney. As Carson had predicted, Rodney fought the infection raging through his body with everything he had.

Nurses and doctors led by Carson tended to him round the clock, applying cooling pads, and washing down his body as they tried to keep his fever in check. They seemed to be taking his vitals every few minutes, giving him medication, changing bags of fluid, checking and adjusting the equipment surrounding the man.

John and the rest of the team sat with Rodney as often as they could, as he fought the infection still raging through his body.

Rodney was pretty much out of it the whole time. When he wasn't sleeping he was tossing and turning, mumbling things that didn't make any sense.

They sat by him in silence, looking at a Rodney weakened by his illness. A shadow of the abrasive, animated scientist they were used to.

John had to hand it to Carson. He remained cautiously optimistic throughout. God only knew how much rest he got. He appeared to be there most of the time, checking on Rodney, adjusting medications, and providing moral support.

Gradually, Rodney improved. He spent more time sleeping. Carson smiled more and appeared more relaxed. And slowly the medical paraphernalia surrounding Rodney began to disappear. Rodney's bedside stopped being a somber place of quiet reflection as hope grew.

John and Carson happened to be the ones standing next to Rodney's bed when he woke up properly. They looked down to see Rodney looking at up them.

Carson flew into action, pulling a penlight out of his pocket, shining it into Rodney's eyes.

Rodney squirmed and put a hand out to stop Carson, feebly trying to push the doctor's penlight away.

"Ca..son."

"Take it easy now, lad. How are you feeling?"

"Tired. Be better… if you stopped shining lights… into my eyes."

Carson and John grinned in relief. McKay was back.

Carson patted Rodney's arm. "You can sleep, lad. You need to get your strength back." Rodney's eyes were closed before Carson had even finished speaking.

John and Carson exchanged a smile.

John had something he needed to say.

"Carson, I wanted to thank you for all you have done for Rodney."

"Just doing my job, Colonel."

John looked at Carson intently. "You and I both know you did more than 'just your job.' Without you, Rodney would be dead and you know it."

"Rubbish, Colonel. I've done what any doctor would do in the same circumstances."

John shook his head. "Then you give your profession way too much credit. You think I haven't noticed how little sleep you've had? How you've pushed yourself? Your skill in isolating the problem, and your determination in finding the right medication. I've been here, Carson. You saved his life. You, not anyone else. You gave Atlantis its CSO back, you've given me my teammate back, and you've given us back the obnoxious bastard we all care about."

"You mean your friend?"

"Our friend, Carson."

"Aye." Carson nodded.

"You know there is one thing I've learnt being in the military."

"What's that?"

"Dwell on your victories, not your defeats. Let your victories fuel your way forward. We all suffer defeats, but the courageous move past them. You've moved past them, you saved Rodney."

"Maybe. But you don't have to thank me, lad."

"Yes, I do. I have to do it as Rodney's friend. He sure as hell won't."

Carson looked down at Rodney. "He doesn't have to, the ungrateful bugger, it was my pleasure."

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0

Rodney's voice was loud and accusing. "You didn't have to shoot me you know."

John sighed. It had been a week and Rodney was bored and taking it out on those around him. It was at times like these that John had to remember the promise he had made himself in the shower, that he would be patient and help Rodney through his recovery, whatever it took.

"Yes, I know I didn't. How many apologies do you need? I wouldn't have shot you if I hadn't been hallucinating! Although, right now, I'm wondering why not!"

So much for the patience part. Oh well, he had tried.

Just then, Ronon strolled in and sprawled across one of the chairs next to Rodney's bed.

John had an idea. "Hey, Ronon. McKay and I were talking about the stuff that went down on the planet. I wanted to talk to you about something. Ronon, I'm concerned that things might be a bit strained between us. After all, I did shoot you."

Ronon shrugged. "You didn't mean to."

John grinned, sensing victory. He looked hard at Rodney. "Well, yes, I guess that's the thing that matters."

Rodney stared back at John. There was a momentary hint of a crooked smile, then Rodney crossed his arms and said in his most indignant voice, "but you shot me!"

Finis

And that's all folks! Hope you liked my indulgence in a little Rodney whumping.