Grace After Pressure
By Leesa Perrie
Epilogue to 'Grace Under Pressure' (and isn't that a big surprise!)
Rodney became aware of a beeping sound first, followed by a smell of antiseptic and other medical smells. Oh, yeah, he was in the infirmary. Concussion. Hypothermia. Low blood sugar. Who knew what else? He could have caught something nasty from the water he swallowed, maybe he was dying and nobody had told him…
The beeping sound beat faster, drawing attention.
Scottish brogue. Must be Carson.
"Come on, Rodney, I know you're awake."
Sigh. No fooling him then. He opened his eyes. Yep, blurry vision, too bright light making him squint, pounding headache, nausea…oh crap.
Someone helped him sit up and a bowl was held whilst he tried to empty an already empty stomach. Nice. Not. He closed his eyes, as he leaned back, realising his bed had been raised.
"Not feeling too good, then?"
Carson again. Sounding sympathetic. Damn, he must be ill if Carson sounded like that.
"Hmm, not talking, either."
There. Maybe that would satisfy him.
"No, I don't think so."
Or not. Damn, he felt like death warmed over. Actually, he felt like death not particularly warmed over. Cold.
A sigh from beside him. Maybe Carson would get the hint and leave. Not likely, but one could hope. He just wanted to be left alone for a bit. Wanted to drift. And try not to think about what had happened. Trapped in a puddle jumper at the bottom of the ocean, alone, scared, hurt, hallucinating…damn, was he hyperventilating?
"Easy, Rodney. Calm down now, you're safe and you're going to be just fine."
He opened his eyes again, his breaths slowing. The light wasn't so painful this time, his vision less blurry, but his head still hurt like crazy. Carson's worried eyes came into focus.
Carson smiled at that.
"Yes, still here. I need to do some checks."
He groaned. And then that damn penlight was in his eyes.
"Okay, do you know who you are?"
Standard questions after a concussion, he knew that. But, still.
"Yes, of course I know who I am! You've just called me Rodney three times already."
"Do you know where you are?"
"The infirmary, on Atlantis, being asked stupid questions. Satisfied?"
"Aye, I guess you'll do."
Good. Maybe he'd go away and let him sleep. Maybe the damn headache would be gone when he woke up.
"No, don't fall back to sleep. Not yet."
"I need to check that your motor functions are working properly."
"I'm fine. Go away."
Yet another sigh. He almost felt sorry for Carson, he was probably sending him crazy with frustration.
Okay, now where had that come from? Well, okay, he didn't really want to wind Carson up, but really, the guy was asking for it. Probably be poking and prodding him before too long.
"You're bound to be feeling cranky, well, more cranky than normal, anyway."
There was a definite hint of humour in that tone. He narrowed his eyes.
"Boy, thanks. You need to work on your bedside manner there."
Oh yeah, there we go. Prodding. Okay, just checking his motor functions, but still, prodding. And poking. And annoying.
"Just let me sleep."
"In a bit. Just a few more checks first."
Well, at least his sarcasm muscle was still working fine. He smiled grimly at that thought.
"There we go, all done. Looks like your motor functions are fine."
A thought crossed his mind. Just how bad had the concussion been? It had to have been fairly bad, a person didn't start hallucinating with a minor injury.
"How bad?" he asked.
"Well, you had us a little bit worried for a while there, Rodney, but you'll be fine. There was a slight oedema, but it's responding well to medication."
"Oedema? Isn't that bad?"
It certainly sounded bad to him. But then most medical jargon did.
"It's when the brain swells, but as I said, it's responding well to treatment. The swelling's virtually gone now."
Okay, a swelling brain didn't sound great, but if Carson wasn't worried, he wasn't going to be. At least, not yet. He could always worry later. After he'd slept. If he was ever allowed to sleep again of course.
"So I'm fine?"
"Well, I wouldn't say fine just yet, but getting there. Nothing a week or two of rest won't cure."
"A week or two? I can't rest for that long, there's too much to do!"
"It can wait, or you can delegate for a change. But you're not leaving the infirmary for a week at least, so I can keep an eye on you, and even then it will be light duties until I say otherwise. And I mean light duties. You try to do too much, and I'll have you back in the infirmary before you can blink!"
It sounded like Carson was serious about this.
"Great. So whilst I'm stuck in here, my staff will probably manage to blow the place up!"
"Now, Rodney, I'm sure they're quite capable of looking after things for a couple of weeks."
"There is something I want to talk about, though."
"Oh, banning me from work isn't enough?"
There was yet another sigh. He must really be trying Carson's patience, he knew that, but a week of enforced rest, followed by who knew how long of light work was not something he was looking forward to.
"You were talking about Sam. I'm assuming from some of what you said you meant Colonel Carter?"
Oh great, he hoped he hadn't said much about that.
"You seemed to think she was in the jumper with you."
Damn. He really didn't want this conversation.
"Yes, so I was hallucinating, so what? Head injury, you know? Weird stuff can happen, can't it?"
That was it, go on the defensive, then try and find a way to steer the conversation elsewhere.
"You were hallucinating? That doesn't sound good."
"Yes, well, I was perfectly aware that it was a hallucination. In fact, she even admitted to it herself. I mean, I did."
He sighed in frustration. There was no way Carson was going to let this go easily.
"So, you knew it wasn't real?"
"That's what I've just said, isn't it? Yes, I knew it wasn't real. She, I mean I, figured it was due to being alone and concussed."
"Hmm, sounds possible. The situation was traumatic, and that combined with the head injury…" Carson paused, thinking it through, "and you don't see her now?"
"No! Not since we headed back to Atlantis."
"And you've not had any other hallucinations since?"
"Good. Sounds like it was a concussion induced hallucination. Even so, I want you to talk it over with Dr Heightmeyer. You'll be seeing her anyway, on my orders if necessary," a definite threat there, "I'm sure she'll agree that it was just a reaction to the situation and the injury, but better safe than sorry. You will, of course, let me know if you start seeing any other hallucinations?"
He knew that was not a suggestion, so he nodded. Maybe Carson would let him get back to sleep now.
"Okay, I'll let you rest."
He heard Carson walk away, and closed his eyes. He hadn't wanted to admit to seeing Sam, but in a way he was glad he'd had to. It sounded like he wasn't about to go crazy or anything. Which was good.
He drifted back to sleep. And dreamt of Sam.
When he awoke next, he was aware of a presence next to his bed. Opening his eyes, he saw Sheppard reading reports in a chair next to his bed.
"Reading reports, Colonel? You must be bored."
John looked up in surprise, and then smiled cockily.
"Yeah, well, needed something to do whilst waiting for your sorry self to wake up."
"Boy, thanks. You didn't have to hang around."
He always felt uncomfortable when Sheppard looked at him like that, like he cared. He looked away.
"Yes, well, did I thank you for coming after me?"
"You just did. And it was nothing."
He snorted at that. Of course Sheppard would say it was nothing.
"So how did you find me. And what was with the shield?"
"Zelenka and his team were able to determine an area to search within, I got Edgar and his guys to help rig a cable and magnetic grapple to my jumper so that we could pull your jumper up with it, not that it would have worked in the end it seems, and Zelenka modified the cloak into a shield so that we could dive down enough to reach you, and it was his idea to use it to cover your jumper as well as ours. That, and the sea monster circling around the jumper, was all we needed to find you and get you out."
"Oh. Did someone explain this before, it seems familiar?"
"Yeah, Zelenka did. But you were pretty much out of it on the journey back to Atlantis."
"You're looking a lot better now."
"Good. Still got a lousy headache hanging around. And Carson says I'm stuck in the infirmary for at least a week, the tyrant. Won't even let me near a laptop for three or four days, maybe more."
"Maybe I can sneak one in later," John smiled conspiratorially.
"That would be good. Of course, have to do it when Carson and his staff are distracted."
There was a companionable silence between them for a few minutes. He was thinking of Griffin, not that he really wanted to. He was glad that it hadn't been John in the jumper with him, though that thought made him feel guilty too. As if he didn't feel guilty enough already.
"You know what Griffin did?"
"No. I mean, I know he was in the forward compartment when it flooded, you told me that."
He was quiet. Part of him didn't want to go into this, but he wanted people to know that Griffin was a hero. Wanted people to know about his sacrifice. He felt he owed him that at least.
"He…well, the doors wouldn't shut…I was trying to find another way to close them from the rear compartment when he…when Griffin…he told me he had an idea… went into the forward compartment… said 'good luck, Rodney'…and closed the doors from in there…I realised what he was doing too late…couldn't stop him…then the windshield must have given way…"
He paused, looking at his hands. They were shaking. In fact, all of him was shaking. Damn, this was hard. Harder than he thought it would be.
"Hey," John said, "it wasn't your fault. Sounds like he did the only thing he could do to save at least one of your lives."
"But why? Why did he do that? What made him think his life was worth less than mine? Why would he do that?"
He needed to know. He thought he knew why, but he needed to hear it from someone else.
"He was military, it's what we do. It was his job to look after civilians, to look after you. It wasn't about whose life was more worthy, it was about protecting the civilian."
That's what he had thought the answer would be.
"It still doesn't help."
"I know. But he did what he thought was right. It wasn't your fault, Rodney. It was nobody's fault."
He laughed, a short, bitter laugh.
"I should have thought of it first. Maybe I did, I don't know. Maybe I was too much a coward to do it."
Short and sharp, John's voice caught his attention.
"You can't second guess yourself like this. You were trying to find a way to close the doors and save both your lives. He obviously felt there wasn't time for that. But you were trying to save both of you. That's the important thing. Nothing else matters."
"No buts, McKay."
He knew there was no arguing with Sheppard when he got like this. And maybe, just maybe, John was right. It didn't feel like it though.
"You'll get past this," John said.
"Just another one to add to the list of people who've died because of me."
"No! That's not what I meant."
"I know. Sorry."
Just then, Carson appeared and chased Sheppard out of the infirmary, stating that visiting hours were over and he, the patient, needed his rest. He smiled to himself. Hopefully when Sheppard next came he would have a laptop for him. He would just have to be careful to use it when none of the medical staff were about. Especially Carson.
He was awake, had been for a while now. The headache was still there, not quite as intense as before, but still unpleasant. At least the nausea and blurriness were gone. Carson had been by to check on him again, and had asked a nurse to get him something to eat. He'd managed to eat half of the soup, and all of the jello. And now he was bored, and wishing he could get back to sleep. After all, it was something to do, wasn't it?
He heard footsteps approaching quietly, and turned to see Zelenka slipping into the room, checking to make sure no one had seen him.
"I thought Carson had banned visitors until tomorrow?"
He was pleased to see Radek jump slightly at his voice.
"Oh, Rodney, you are awake, yes?"
"Clearly. What are you doing here?"
"I…was just passing and thought I would check on you."
He couldn't help but snort at that. He had no doubt Radek had not been 'just passing', and by his stealthy movements he knew Radek knew he shouldn't be there.
"You are feeling better?"
"Much better, though I can't seem to get rid of this damn headache."
He paused for a moment.
"I suppose, ah, I should thank you."
"Oh, it is okay. If you thank me I may have heart attack." Radek smiled.
He rolled his eyes, and then winced slightly. Okay, bad move.
"So why are you here, really?"
Radek didn't look surprised to be caught out by him.
"I…wanted to apologise."
"What for? For saving me?"
"No, no, for…for not being on jumper to start with. For asking you to go in my place."
"For being afraid?"
He probed, seeing Radek's guilt, and sighed. He really wasn't in the mood for this, but he didn't want Radek to think that he blamed him. He winced at the memory of his rant on the jumper. Better Radek never knew about that, it hadn't really been fair, he knew.
"I chose to go."
"But you would not have needed to if I had not been afraid."
He sighed again. Okay, this was not going to be so easy. He was about to say something, when Radek continued.
"And when Colonel Sheppard had idea about turning cloak into shield, and needing me to go with him to make alterations on route, I…I was afraid. I said no. That I could not go."
"But you did. What changed your mind? Did he order you to go, because if he did I need to have a long word to him about coercing my fellow workers…"
"No, no, he did not order me. Elizabeth, she asked me, if you could not turn to me, who could you turn to. She was right."
"So you came to help me, even though you were afraid?"
"Yes. But that not excuse my fear. You would not have been there if not for me. And to hesitate to help you, it was not right. I am sorry."
"But you came. Don't you see?"
He looked at Radek. Okay, it was clear Radek didn't get it.
"How many times have I let someone else do something because of my fear?"
"But you always do what is needed in the end. It is not the same."
"Of course it is the same."
He rolled his eyes again, forgetting that it hurt to do so, and being reminded of it forcefully.
"I could have told you to 'suck it up' and go on the test flight, but I chose not to. That was my decision, not yours. And, even though you hesitated, and damn if I haven't done so myself in the past, you pushed the fear aside and did what needed to be done. So it is the same, you idiot!"
He watched Radek carefully. And then he saw it; Radek got it. At last!
"Am not idiot."
He snorted, turning on his best sarcastic tone.
"Of course not."
"Am not," Radek insisted, but with a smile on his face.
There was the sound of someone clearing his throat, and both Radek and himself jumped at the sound.
"And just when are visiting hours?" Carson asked Zelenka, raising an eyebrow in question.
He smiled and had to give Radek points for trying. Not that Carson was buying it for a second.
"I believe I said no visitors until tomorrow, as you are perfectly aware. There is a reason that I said that, and it was not a suggestion."
"Um…I go now, yes?"
"Yes. I think that would be wise, don't you?"
He watched as Carson watched Radek quickly leave. Then Carson turned to look at him.
"What? Can I help it if someone breaks the rules and bothers me?"
"You have a call button."
"Um, I have?"
He tried for innocence, but somehow didn't think it would work. He was right.
"You know full well you have." Carson sighed in exasperation.
"Okay. Well, he's gone now, so I guess I'll get some rest."
He watched warily as Carson took a needle out of his pocket.
"Oh, you don't need that! I'll rest, honest!"
Carson smiled, causing him to shudder.
"Okay. But if you're not asleep in ten minutes, I will be back."
He wasn't allowed out of the infirmary for ten days, not the week Carson had originally stated. It was his own fault, Carson had said. He'd been caught working on the laptop that Sheppard had smuggled in to him on his second visit. Carson had decided that if he couldn't behave himself whilst in the infirmary, there was little chance of him doing so when released, and had decided to extend his stay so that Carson could 'keep an eye on you before you work yourself into a relapse'.
Really, the man just loved being in control. A true tyrant if ever he'd seen one!
Still, at least he'd been allowed visitors, otherwise the boredom would have driven him insane, and he'd probably have taken Carson with him. He smiled a little at that thought.
But he was back in his own room now, with orders for light duty only. Orders he was going to try and follow, as he had a feeling if he didn't he'd find himself back in the infirmary again, 'for your own good'.
Of course, the various Ancient items he had secreted away in his room could be considered as 'light duties' surely? And what Carson didn't know, wouldn't hurt him…