Sequel to my story "Bona Fide Hero". This story works best if you watch the episode 'Hide and Seek', then read "Bona Fide Hero", and then this. Or you can just read this. :)
John Sheppard looked around the cafeteria, seeking out his dinner companion. If he didn't know better, he'd have thought that Rodney was trying to hide from him. They had just finished eating when several of the major's men requested some of his time. Sheppard had left McKay to finish his brownie and his coffee while he stepped aside and spoke to his men. Ten minutes later, Dr. Rodney McKay was nowhere to be found.
The major headed out and towards the living quarters they had set up on Atlantis. Their accommodations were small, and hopefully temporary as they found more time to explore and make use of more of the abundant space that Atlantis possessed. The rooms were definitely 'cozy', but if the last day or so was any indication, they wouldn't make best use of larger private facilities anyway.
John's room was not far beyond Rodney's, so stopping to check on the chief of science made sense before he headed to his own room to work through some paperwork, rough out a schedule for his people for the next few days and hit the hay early. They had all earned some extra rest after the mayhem that the energy cloud had wrought.
What Sheppard found in the hallway a couple of turns before McKay's room was unexpected and upsetting; he thought that the physicist had been doing better than what he now saw before him. Rodney was leaning against the wall, his head tilted back against it, facing up to the ceiling, as though he was trying to stretch the pain away. As he neared his friend, he noted the light dampness on the Canadian's forehead, his hair wavy and wet as it stuck to his face.
"Rodney?" he asked as he stepped up to the hero of the moment. "Enjoying the view?" John knew that he wasn't; Rodney's eyes were shut and he was in obvious distress.
"No. Not really," he panted a little as he tried to breathe through the discomfort.
"Look, maybe you're heading in the wrong direction. Should Beckett take another look at you?" Sheppard was worried, for Rodney's welfare, but also for the safety of the entire expedition. McKay was going to be an important aspect of their success and well-being out here in the Pegasus Galaxy, that was pretty clear. The healthier McKay remained, the better for everyone. But first things first: McKay was hurting and surprisingly, it bothered John Sheppard more to see it than he ever anticipated that it would.
"Maybe," Rodney answered through his pain. "But we're so close to my room." McKay looked up the hallway longingly in the direction of his quarters, and then back behind Sheppard in the direction of the commissary and the infirmary beyond that. And then he squeezed his eyes shut suddenly, riding out what seemed to be a pretty bad spasm. He looked up and said sadly, "I think I need help to make it there, though."
"I've been told I'm a good crutch," John smiled at his cohort. It was hard to imagine, with the way McKay looked right now, that Sheppard had thrown him from a balcony less than twenty-four hours before. He hoped that whole episode hadn't caused McKay more hurt. He had seemed okay…
"Hey! Sheppard," Rodney commanded. "We didn't do this. This was just bad luck. Let's hope it's not the start of a trend."
"Yeah," John said, knowing that Rodney was right, but still feeling a little bit guilty. It made no sense, that guilt, he knew that. And he really hoped Rodney was right and that this instance of bad luck would not become habit.
"Okay. What should I do?" the major asked.
"You should probably call Carson…"
"Dr. Beckett, this is Major Sheppard," John responded before Rodney could finish his sentence.
"Yes, Major," they heard the Scottish brogue answer quickly.
"Can you meet Rodney and me in his quarters?"
"Is there a problem?" Beckett asked, the accent now tinged with worry. McKay kept quiet as the Air Force man made the arrangements with the physician.
"His back. He's having some pretty painful spasms. We're just a few steps from his room. Meet us there?" Sheppard asked.
"Aye. I'll be there in five minutes."
"Thanks," John said into his radio. "Now, how about you?" he asked Rodney.
"I could use a masseuse, blonde and pretty would be nice, though to be honest, I'm in too much pain to really enjoy it. Even better, if I have my way, Carson will bring the really good stuff and I won't feel anything for the next twelve hours."
"Then I guess a masseuse would be a big waste," John agreed. "It's a pretty bad state of affairs when you would choose pain killers over a pretty blonde."
"Hm. Maybe some other time. Right now, it hurts too much to be touched anyway, really."
"Then let's medicate your ass." John smiled as he said it. Rodney grinned back, finding the suggestion funny, but the pain he was in made it appear more like a grimace.
"Okay, I guess I have to move now," McKay noted dryly.
"It usually works best that way."
"I'm aware of that!" Rodney replied testily. He lowered his head, shaking it back and forth, but even that simple rocking motion really strained his back. He looked up to Sheppard and said, "Sorry."
"Don't worry about it. You said it hurts to be touched. What should I do?"
"Um. I'm gonna push off of the wall here. Just steady me if I look like I'm taking a header."
"I can do that," John nodded obediently.
"Come a little closer." Sheppard did and Rodney was off of the wall and holding on for dear life to the major's arm. They made the slow walk back to Rodney's room. By the time they reached the doorway, McKay had worked up quite a sweat.
"Do you want to sit?" John asked as they stood in the middle of McKay's small quarters.
"I don't know. I feel like a shower."
"Not to me," Sheppard said as he touched Rodney's hand first, then his arm and then poked his finger into Rodney's yielding chest. "You could do with some crunches, McKay."
"Yes. That would do me in for good right about now," Rodney protested.
"Not now. Later. We need to whip you into shape."
"Something to look forward to," McKay answered sarcastically.
Dr. Carson Beckett knocked on the door. Verbally.
"Knock, knock," he said as he walked in. Sheppard and McKay had left the door open for the expected visitor.
"Come on in, Carson. Rodney here can't decide if he should sit or go take a shower."
"I'm sure that's partly due to YOUR muscle relaxants, which aren't working," McKay argued, "except to muddle my brilliant mind," he added, pointing up to his head. But that effort strained his back, too. He ended with a pathetic, "Ouch."
"They would work if you followed my instructions, Rodney. I told you to limit your time walking and sitting up. When did I tell you that?"
McKay stared Beckett down, but he knew he'd messed up as soon as he saw John glaring at him. And of course, Sheppard did what any friend would do who was concerned about the health and well being of another friend: he ratted McKay out.
"I found him sitting on a balcony about two hours ago. Based on what's he's told me, I'm thinking he's been hovering around, walking or sitting, for at least three hours." Rodney glared at him. "Am I right?" John asked.
"Thanks for all of the support. You really think you're smart, don't you?"
"Am I?" Sheppard asked again, far more concern than accusation in his tone.
"What? Smart? I need more time to solidify my decision on that."
"Am I right, McKay?" Sheppard asked, irritation now warring, and winning, over his earlier concern.
"Shut up," Rodney said as he looked longingly to his shower.
"Rodney?" Carson asked to gain the man's attention. "Sit."
"No shower?" he asked as he sat on his bed. "Oh-oh-oh-oh," he moaned as he used both hands to ease his landing.
"I'm afraid not. You have an inflammation of your vertebrae. Good god, man, you can see the bruising and swelling through your shirt. All of this activity has certainly aggravated it. I would think you of all people would know better," Carson chastised.
"Me of all people? What's that supposed to mean?" Rodney was indignant, but only mildly so. He was smart enough to know when he was wrong and the voodoo wizard was right.
"It means that your hypochondria should have kept you from doing more damage," Carson answered. He regretted it as soon as he said it.
"You think I'm a hypochondriac?" He turned more squarely to face Beckett head-on to challenge the assessment. "Ah! Ow, ow, ow. Oh god." McKay hissed and breathed through the dagger-like pain.
"McKay. Careful," John said, looking to Beckett angrily, his silent instruction of 'Take it easy on him' clear in the steely stare.
"Lie back, Rodney. On your side. I need to see if your back is worse."
"Feels worse," McKay mumbled through the fist now curled up under his chin.
"I'm sure it does." Carson continued with his examination with Sheppard looking on. He palpated Rodney's back gently as small grunts made their way unabated from his patient. Once Beckett finished, he pulled the scientist's shirt back down and said, "All right, Rodney, you can lie back." Carson helped McKay maneuver from his side to his back, his head barely raised on a flat pillow.
"So? How's it look?" John asked.
"It looks a little more inflamed," Carson said coldly, shaking his head. "You should have called me when you found him earlier."
"Carson, it's not Sheppard's fault. I didn't want to walk back and forth for dinner."
"Rodney McKay, you saved Atlantis today. I would have brought you something to eat," Carson told his friend, his frustration filtering through.
"That's what I told him," Sheppard said a little defensively.
"And besides, if you'd just gone to your room and taken your pill, you would have been asleep these last three hours, and probably out for another five more."
"Really? Rodney said sadly. "I took the pill," he said in his own defense.
"Yes, Rodney, really. But you've been fighting the effects of the pill, forcing yourself to stay awake, eating, walking around. You needed the pill and the rest far more than you needed food."
"See, I told you. You ate when the shield came off," John said, refreshing Rodney's memory helpfully. "It really wasn't all that long ago."
"And I had you on an IV to replenish your electrolytes, too."
"Are you two going to keep yelling at me, or am I going to get something for pain? In a lot of pain here," he reminded them.
"I'm giving you a shot to help with the pain, and you can take another pill for the spasms. Take this one, too. It will help for the inflammation. The combination should put you down for some time," Beckett noted as he prepared the syringe.
"Carson, you sound like you're talking about one of your flock," Rodney complained.
"If only," Beckett returned sharply. John gave Carson the evil eye. "Sorry, Rodney."
"Can we please get this over with? If I saved the day, I should at least be 'down', as you so eloquently put it, and be able to sleep through all this." He waved lamely at his back.
"He gets really pissy when he's hurt," John commented. Carson gave him a long-suffering look of agreement.
Beckett administered the injection, and Sheppard brought his friend a glass of water for the pills. Carson started packing his bags. He whispered to John, "He'll be out soon enough."
"Good. Should he have been released from the infirmary, Doc?" John asked with the same level of quiet.
Carson crossed his arms. "I would'n'a let him out if he wasn't okay. The man has a horrible disdain for the medical profession. Something bad must have happened in the past to him or someone in his family. There is enough malpractice in medicine for that to be true, I don't deny that. But he needs to learn to trust me. I think he will, but it may take a few setbacks to get through that thick skull," Beckett added with a wry grin.
"Not nice to talk 'bout someone when they're sleeping," Rodney mumbled, no more than half awake.
"Shit," John said, cringing at the fact that McKay had overheard them. Without losing a beat, to McKay he said, "You're not sleeping if you're talking."
"Point taken," McKay slurred.
"He won't remember this. Not to worry," Beckett noted as he made his way to the door. "Are you staying?"
"Yeah. For a while. I wanna make sure," he started, his thumb pointing to McKay.
"He'll be out in just seconds, I assure you, Major."
"Tryin' to sleep here," they heard from the patient.
"Stubborn," they both said, together. They laughed together their shared comment.
"Don't stay long. You need to rest, too," Carson said over the lingering smile from his and Sheppard's joint assessment of their friend.
"I won't. Good night."
"Good night, Major," Beckett said as he left.
"'Night, Maj…" Sheppard heard from the bed. John walked over to see how close to out Rodney really was.
John put his hand over Rodney's forearm. He squeezed affectionately and said, "Thanks, McKay. Go to sleep." McKay obliged. Little did John Sheppard know that getting Rodney McKay to follow orders would never again be so easy.