Well, here we are, the last chapter. I hope you've enjoyed the story! I have more ideas so it certainly won't be my last, although I haven't decided if I'm going to post in progress stories anymore or only completed ones. LOL

Anyway, thank you so much for the very kind reviews! I'm glad you enjoyed my tale :D

Elizabeth paced at the foot of John's bed. Since that one moment, that glimpse of consciousness, hours before, he'd been still, just as deathly quiet as he'd been. She paused and glanced up at the second IV that slowly dripped, feeding the Alenius anti-toxin into John's body. It'd been twelve hours since they'd started treatment. By the insistence of Carson, she'd slept and ate again, but when she'd returned, John had still been the same. How long? She sighed loudly and crossed her arms, hugging herself as she tried to quell her worry.

"We must be patient, Elizabeth."

Elizabeth turned her head and nodded slightly at Teyla. Leave it to the astute Athosian woman to recognize her mood. "I know. But, he woke up earlier."

"Yes," Teyla nodded. "I believe that is a good sign."

"He's strong," Ronon's deep voice added. "He'll pull through."

Elizabeth smiled thinly at Ronon, wishing she could share the unwavering confidence he had. She looked back at John, watching the slow rise and fall of his chest as Carson examined him. At least John was breathing on his own and without a ventilator. When Carson had made the decision to extubate John, shortly before his brief flirt with consciousness, she'd had high hopes he was finally on the mend. She closed her eyes momentarily. He is. He's on the mend. Believe that.

Hearing footsteps approaching, Elizabeth opened her eyes and smiled at Carson. "Any change?"

Carson nodded. "Aye, he's steadily improving. I've been able to take him off the hypotension medication as well as the medications for arrhythmia." He smiled. "I think he's turned the corner. I was just about to try and rouse him. I'd like to see him conscious, even if it's briefly."

Elizabeth slowly smiled as she nodded. "Me too." Her voice was laced with relief; something that apparently wasn't lost on Carson. She looked down as he squeezed her forearm gently.

"I think we're through the woods on this one, Elizabeth."

"Thanks to me, but please, don't feel the need to recognize that! It's not like I was nearly killed or anything."

Elizabeth looked past Carson and flashed a tolerant smile to Rodney who lay in the bed next to John's. "It was a group effort, Rodney, but thank you."

"Huh," Rodney's expression remained annoyed for a minute longer before it softened slightly. "At least he's going to be okay."

Elizabeth's smile turned fond as she noticed the caring tone of Rodney's voice, and how it permeated his expression. She held her smile as he looked up, noticing her gaze as well as the gazes of Ronon and Teyla.

"What?" Rodney's face immediately hardened. "I just got him broken in. Do you realize what I'd have to go through to break in another military hotshot if something happened to him?" Rodney turned his head away and sunk deeper into his bed. He closed his eyes, apparently ending the conversation.

Elizabeth smiled for a moment at Carson before he returned to John's bed.

-------------------------------

Light.

Through a thin veil, the first thing he was aware of was light. The darkness that had shrouded him for longer than he knew was giving way as the warm caress of light pushed its way in.

A voice.

"Come on, son. Open your eyes."

Were they closed? Could he open them? He tried, but he was so tired. Just let me sleep... leave me alone. His groan was slight, pitiful... not doing justice to how he felt. But, the voice wouldn't be deterred.

"That's it. I know ye are there, Colonel. It's time for ye to wake up, lad."

The heavy accent was familiar to him. Carson?

"John?"

Another voice, this one light, quiet... female. Elizabeth...

"Colonel, wake up!"

The first voice... Carson... returned, this time louder, more insistent.

A primal urgency set off an alarm within him and he pulled in a deep breath in response before letting it out with a quiet moan. Slowly, the veil... his eyelids lifted and he focused on Carson's close face as the doctor's frown was broken by a large, dimpled smile.

"Canna have ye sleeping your life away," Carson backed away from him.

"Not that I didn't enjoy the peace and quiet!"

John blinked, trying to process the third voice. The task was easier as lucidity rapidly swept through him. "M'Kay?" He turned his head and looked past Carson spotting Rodney on the bed next to him, a thick bandage swathing his left shoulder and arm. "Wha...?"

"I was nearly killed by mutant Pegasus lions trying to find a cure for you, thank you very much," Rodney shifted in his bed. "Just once I wish things with you weren't so damn complicated." He stared hard at John. "You're a real pain in the ass." One corner of Rodney's mouth twitched; the only subtle change to his acerbic expression, but one John noticed.

"My leg?" Coherent words came easier to John as his grogginess wore off. He closed his eyes and coughed weakly against his scratchy throat. When he opened his eyes again, Carson held a cup with a straw close to his mouth.

"Water. Take a sip. It'll help the throat."

John nodded and took a small drink of water, the cool wetness soothing his parched throat. He let his head settle back into the pillow and glanced down at his leg. Heavily bandaged and elevated, it was essentially immobile. He didn't feel much pain, but suspected something in Carson's stash of drugs was responsible for that. "Doc... leg?" He insisted.

"You'll need a fair bit of physical therapy," Carson reassured with a smile, "but I expect ye to make a full recovery."

John inhaled deeply before he exhaled in relief. "Thanks Doc." It was at that point he noticed Teyla, Elizabeth and Ronon standing quietly at the end of his bed. He smiled. "Hey."

Teyla and Elizabeth walked up on opposite sides of his bed while Ronon stood at the foot, his eyes boring into John's.

John stared back, searching Ronon's unreadable expression for some hint as to what the Satedan was thinking. His attention was diverted by a warm grasp on his left hand. He turned his head and smiled at Elizabeth. "You look tired."

Elizabeth arched her brows. "I am, no thanks to you." An exasperated sigh escaped her but her face still held a warm smile. "I expect you to get better now, Colonel."

"That's the plan," John replied. He turned his head and met Teyla's fond expression.

Teyla inhaled deeply. "Rest and heal, John."

"Sounds like good advice to me," Carson cut in, "and on that note, time for everyone to leave and let my patients rest."

"Well, I'm not tired," Rodney piped up, "but oh yes, I forgot. That doesn't matter."

Teyla turned towards Rodney. "I could sing you an Athosian lullaby, Dr. McKay. It calms our children and helps them sleep."

Rodney opened his mouth to reply but paused, his gaze narrowing. "Just what are you implying?"

John stifled a chuckle as Teyla's expression turned innocent. "Nothing."

Muttering under his breath, Rodney turned his attention to his data pad, adeptly ignoring all of them.

Carson reached up and pulled a privacy curtain between their beds before walking away with Teyla and Elizabeth. After a few steps, he stopped and looked back at Ronon. "Everyone lad, that includes you. The Colonel needs his rest now."

John stared back as Ronon's gaze never left him.

"In a minute, Doc," Ronon grumbled.

John glanced at Carson as the doctor's eyes flicked between him and Ronon before he pursed his lips and nodded in understanding.

"Aye, just don't be too long." Carson turned back and walked across the infirmary with Elizabeth and Teyla, leaving John and Ronon alone.

John looked back to Ronon and met his intense gaze. Gratitude filled John as memories washed over him. Together, they'd barely escaped alive. By himself... John sighed deeply, knowing that he owed Ronon his life, not only because of the Satedan's formidable physical strength, but also from his strength of character. More than once, John knew Ronon kept him conscious, took care of him, and kept him alive. The gratefulness he felt must've shown in his expression, for abruptly a smile turned up one side of Ronon's mouth and he walked over to stand next to John's bed.

John looked up at him. "I... I can't begin to..."

"You don't have to," Ronon interrupted.

"You saved my life," John stated quietly. Somehow it felt like an understatement, but as he stared at Ronon, he knew it was almost all he needed to say. John lifted his hand towards Ronon and made a fist. "Thanks."

Ronon gently tapped his own fist against John's and nodded. "You're welcome." His smile broadened to a grin; something John rarely saw in the big man. "Get some sleep, Sheppard." He turned and started away from John's bed.

"Thought I was in charge," John called quietly towards Ronon.

Ronon turned his head, his eyes full of mischief. "You are... most of the time." He resumed his path towards the door.

John chucked as he pushed his head deeper in the pillow. It hadn't been long since he'd made the choice to bring Ronon onto his team; a choice Elizabeth had been tentative about. Truthfully, a small lingering doubt had plagued John as well, but that was expected. It was something a commanding officer dealt with every time he introduced a new person to an established team. Will they fit in? Do they have what it takes? Will this work? John sighed in contentment as he laid that doubt to rest. Ronon belonged with them, he was sure of it. Relaxing, John let the healing power of sleep overtake him.

---------------------------

Two months later

Sweat trickled down his cheek as John tuned out the persistent throbbing from his leg and forced it to comply. He was used to the pain, the dull thrumming reminding him he was healing... slowly, but surely. Pain was his ally now. It drove him to get better and gave him something to focus on. Normalcy was his goal and he was going to make damn sure he achieved it.

"One more, Sheppard."

Ronon's voice was subtly encouraging and John's grip on the supporting handles tightened as he pulled in a deep breath. He exhaled slowly through clenched teeth as he pushed the weight upwards. The quad machine was the worst, exercising and demanding performance from the very muscles of his leg that had been decimated by injury.

"That's it." Ronon reached over the large machine and secured the weights into place, before John relaxed his legs. He lay there a moment, taking the time to pull in a few deep breaths.

Ronon walked around the machine and looked down at him. "You okay?"

John nodded back. Once he'd healed enough to start physical therapy, Ronon had been his constant workout companion.

Ever since they'd established regular contact with Earth, Atlantis had gained a few luxuries it was lacking, not the least of which was a full time physical therapist and exercise facilities including a full weight room. John had pushed for the latter, stating plainly that his guys needed to be strong and in top shape. The SGC had agreed.

Every week his PT gave him new exercises, increased the reps of the exercises he had, and made sure John knew in no uncertain terms that he was not to push it beyond those limits. Period. Smiling slightly, John remembered that first workout after he'd been through orientation with his PT.

He looked up and watched Ronon cross the gym towards him. John gritted his teeth and forced his knees to extend and lift the mere twenty pounds he'd set on the machine. PT said five reps, but he didn't see why he couldn't up that to ten...

"How many?"

Ronon's voice broke John's concentration and he let the weights down. "Seven."

"Aren't you supposed to just do five?"

John pursed his lips and looked up, meeting Ronon's half amused look with an annoyed one of his own. "Beckett sent you."

Ronon smiled slightly. "And Harry," he answered, naming John's PT.

John forced his legs to complete another rep. "Eight." He glanced up at Ronon. "I don't need a babysitter."

Ronon walked around the machine and put his foot on the crossbar.

John flexed his legs and pushed against him, but Ronon held steady. A shock of pain shot up John's bad leg and he hissed in pain before glaring at Ronon.

"You have a choice, Sheppard," Ronon started, completely unfazed by John's cold look, "you either let me workout with you, or you'll be watched by Beckett."

Cynicism replaced the cold anger on John's face as he shook his head. "Somehow, I don't think you came up with that arrangement."

"Beckett's idea," Ronon confirmed. "He thought you'd over do it." Ronon let his foot slide off the machine and he walked next to Sheppard before extending a hand at him. "Won't hurt me to workout either."

John smiled and took his hand...

"Sheppard?"

Ronon's voice snapped him back to the present. "Yeah." He pushed himself up and stood, wincing slightly at a twinge of pain from his leg. He knew Ronon was watching him as he limped a few steps before his stride turned normal. He waved absently at his workout partner. "I'm good."

Ronon stopped next to a rack with several different weights stacked on it. He handed two thirty-pound weights to John.

John held the weights tightly and flexed his arms. "Ronon?" He looked up, watching as Ronon grabbed two more weights and mimicked John's motions.

"What?"

"You know, the T'eshii are still out there. We're going to have to stay sharp." John lifted the weights again.

"Yeah, I know. I won't be surprised by them again." Ronon's tone held a confident note of finality.

John smiled and flexed his arms again. "I don't doubt it. But, next time we get stranded off world, it's your turn to get beat up." He chuckled as he looked up and met Ronon's wry expression.

What passed for a quiet chuckle escaped Ronon as he looked down and continued his workout. "No way, Sheppard."

John just laughed.

--The End--