Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard came awake with the realization that there was every likelihood , should ever he open his eyes or attempt to move, that his head would explode, small bits of gray matter, and lots of hair would shower the area around him. He groaned. What could have happened to cause pain that rivaled being fed on by a Wraith, something with which he was intimately familiar and against which he was most well qualified to compare.
"He's coming to," the colonel heard someone say. He tried to concentrate on the voice, tried to identify the familiar rumble, but that hurt. A lot. So he just continued to lay there unmoving save for the breathing. The breathing was important. He didn't know a lot right then, but he knew that.
"John, can you open your eyes?"
A different voice. Softer, lighter. Pretty. Not loud or at all scary like the other one. He wished that he knew what had happened, what was happening. And why did even the thought of opening his eyes make him want to throw up?
"He's not coming to?" he heard. Worry. The most familiar voice so far, and by far the most annoying. He'd be happy with no more of that, thank you very much.
"Please lean back, Rodney."
Rodney. Right. McKay. Sheppard was so grateful to remember something other than his own name that he snorted out a nervous laugh.
But that hurt, too. He groaned again and put his hand up to rub his head, hoping to ease some of the pressure that continued to throb and threaten to blast his brain to tiny particles.
"Sheppard?" he heard, but his head pounding seemed far more fascinating. He wondered about brain damage. That had to be good, right? The fact that he was thinking at all? Sure it was.
"Ronon?" he heard the pretty voice ask urgently.
"McKay, sit back. You'll mess up Teyla's bindings."
Ronon and Teyla. That's right. His team. Ronon Dex, from Sateda, the newest member of his team. And Teyla Emmagen, the pretty-sounding and pretty Athosian…a member of his team from the beginning. And who could forget Rodney McKay?
Well. Never mind.
Atlantis. The Pegasus Galaxy. It was all coming back to him now. It hurt, but it felt good also. Comforting. It was a relief to know that he was still capable of logical thought, that his cognitive abilities had not abandoned him. Well, he guessed that was yet to be determined until he actually opened his eyes and spoke to his team.
"Ow, ow, ow. Okay, okay. Sitting back down now," he heard McKay say. What? Shit. That sounded like Rodney was injured, too.
What the hell happened?
"We were in an explosion."
Had he asked that out loud?
"Why?" John asked, keeping his eyes closed. "God, my head is killing me."
"At least he's talking. Has he opened his eyes? See…see if you can…get…him to o…open his eyes."
"Rodney, I am well aware of what to look for. Please rest," Teyla pleaded. "John, can you open your eyes?"
"Do I have to?" he asked lightly, quietly.
"Sheppard, we need…ah!" the colonel heard Rodney start but then stop. He now heard heavy breathing from the physicist.
"McKay, what's wrong?" John asked. Teyla looked at Rodney and raised her eyebrow, a clear warning to the scientist to keep it short, and vague. For now.
"Oh, um. Nothing. It's…a scratch." Teyla's eyes opened wider. Rodney shrugged. She shook her head and turned back to her other patient.
"John, I need to see your eyes. Please open them for me."
"Probably not a good idea," Sheppard warned.
"She's pretty fast. If you have to heave, then do it."
"That's lovely, Ronon. Nice imagery," Rodney complained.
"Do you ever shut up?" the Satedan asked.
"Not if I can help it."
"My head!" John said as loudly as his conscious mind would allow, self preservation still important even in his current lethargic state.
"John, please open your eyes," Teyla tried once more. He did, but immediately closed them, the light bringing more pain to his head and tears to his eyes.
"Hurts." He turned away from Teyla and promptly threw up.
"Uughhh," Rodney said from his side of the room.
"I am certain that it does hurt," she said, rubbing Sheppard's back and then helping him sit back once he was done. "Your head impacted with the wall at a severe rate. I just need to see your eyes long enough to inform Dr. Beckett of how they look."
"Yes, he is on the radio."
John tapped his headset. "Hey, Carson."
"Hello, Colonel. It's good to hear your voice, lad. Now could you please listen to Teyla and let her check your pupils? Did I hear you vomit?"
"Where're you?" Sheppard asked.
"Answer Carson's questions."
"Shut up, Rodney," John, Teyla, Ronon and Carson all shot back.
"Ow!" John said, rubbing his forehead again.
"Dr. Beckett, should I just try opening his eyelids on my own?"
"No, Teyla. I'll do it." And he finally did.
"Dr. Beckett, they appear to be equal in size and he is reacting to light…"
"Negatively," John added helpfully.
"And movement, though somewhat sluggishly. And yes, he did vomit."
"Isn't that all expected?" John asked.
"Yes, Colonel. We'll put you through the whole gamut of tests once we get you out of there. Try to stay awake. Beckett out."
"And where exactly is here?" Atlantis' top military officer asked in confusion. "Help me up."
"No," Teyla and Ronon said in unison, and definitively.
"Not up, up. Just…you know, up. Prop me up so I can see something other than the ceiling. We're on Atlantis, aren't we?" The two mobile teammates helped Sheppard into a leaning position, where he was now able to get a good look at McKay.
"Just a scratch, huh?" John asked, a little angry at his team for trying to keep the truth from him.
"It's, just, uh," Rodney started, but didn't finish.
"The blast knocked both of you into the wall. You cushioned McKay's impact…"
"Thanks for that," the scientist interjected.
Ronon glared at his teammate. "But McKay caught some shrapnel."
Sheppard looked closely at his friend. "Rodney, is that the same place…"
"Where you shot me? Yes it is. The Pegasus Galaxy hates me," Rodney added morosely.
"Atlantis likes you," John assured the pouting man.
"What exactly happened?"
McKay started to answer, but Teyla cut him off. "Rest, Rodney. I will explain to Colonel Sheppard what has transpired."
"You won't get the details right," Rodney complained. Teyla looked offended. "You know what I mean, the science…"
"A high-level summary will do. My head?" John said pointedly.
"It's okay. You should do as Teyla says and rest," John suggested.
"McKay! Ow," Sheppard moaned, grabbing his head again.
"Sorry. Fine. I'll shut up."
"We were working in a far away section of Atlantis, checking out systems, as we do on occasion when time permits."
"Aw, I love those missions," John complained, upset that he wasn't remembering much about it.
"I'm liking them less and less," Rodney interrupted. Sheppard squinted at him. "Shutting up."
"Dr. McKay found what appeared to be a lab."
"It IS a lab." He looked at his three companions. "Never mind."
"The room lit up for us as we entered. Dr. McKay was able to decipher some of the most recent activity…"
"If you call ten thousand years recent," Ronon commented smartly.
"Could you two please let Teyla tell her story?" John asked Rodney and Ronon. "My head?"
"We had not been in here more than fifteen minutes when Dr. Zelenka contacted Rodney. He said that he was detecting a power surge in this part of the city. We could not find any evidence of that from here, but Dr. McKay suggested that we leave for now and try to analyze the lab remotely first. He connected one of his computers to the Atlantis systems here and we began to leave."
"How's she doing so far, McKay?" John asked, noticing that Rodney seemed to be nodding off.
"Oh, ha-ha. Teyla, please continue," McKay said, closing his eyes.
"Stay awake, Rodney," John instructed.
"Why? I'm not the one with the concussion."
"Because if I have to stay awake, we all have to stay awake. It's a new rule."
"It's a stupid rule," McKay whined.
"Do you want me to sit next to him and nudge him each time he dozes?" Ronon offered.
"No," Rodney replied.
"Yeah," said Sheppard.
"Sheppard wins," Dex said as he lowered himself next to McKay's good side.
"That's not fair," Rodney complained to John. To Ronon he said, "Be gentle, I'm injured."
"Really? How could I tell?"
Rodney turned back to John. "He's spending way too much time with you."
"Okay. Back to the story. Are we locked in?"
"Yes. Actually, we are blocked in. They should be here shortly to begin clearing the entry," Teyla answered.
"How long was I out?" Sheppard asked.
"Almost twenty minutes."
"Oh. So they need another twenty or thirty to get here. And they're gonna be slowed down because they need to bring equipment."
"Might be closer to forty-five minutes before they get here," Ronon suggested.
"Are you two okay?"
"I just have a few scratches. Ronon and I are fine."
"That's good." Sheppard's head was really hurting from all the conversation. "Look, I'm gonna close my eyes for a while."
"I cannot allow you to sleep," Teyla warned.
"I know. Check on me regularly," he said to his Athosian teammate, offering her a reassuring smile. He turned to McKay. "You okay, Rodney?"
"Yes. I'm sort of getting used to this, having holes in inappropriate parts of my body."
"McKay?" John asked, his tone with the scientist one of warning once again.
"It feels numb and I feel sick. I, too, will be resting."
"Okay. See you on the flip side."
"Don't say things like that," Rodney pleaded. "Now I'll never sleep." McKay shivered a little as he complained.
"I wasn't going to let you sleep anyway," Ronon reminded helpfully, pressing his shoulder gently into the injured man's.
"Oh. Right. I forgot I had a chaperone." McKay looked from Teyla, and then to Ronon, and finally to John. "Can I trade with you?" he asked Sheppard even as he leaned into the warmth and comfort of his large teammate.
"Just rest, Rodney," Sheppard said as he 'rested' his own eyes.
"Are you sure he should be sleeping this long?"
"Yes, Rodney. People who have experienced a severe grade three concussion tend to sleep a lot," Dr. Carson Beckett answered patiently. "And why are you standing? Why are you still here? I released you to your quarters an hour ago. To rest. Standing is not resting."
"I just wanted to make sure he, um, Sheppard was okay."
"Rodney, you're listing. Sit down."
"It hurts to sit," McKay complained irritably. Carson made him sit anyway.
"I know that it does. That's why I sent you to your room with those pills."
A snort of laughter came from the bed.
"What's so funny?" Rodney asked, pleased to hear the noise, though sure that the joke would be on him. Wasn't it always?
John Sheppard didn't disappoint.
"Carson sent you to your room," the colonel said, now laughing out loud, though not very heartily in light of his still sore head.
"Well, I didn't really…" Carson started to clarify.
Some more laughing and a loud snort, followed by, "Ow, that hurt. But, he, he, hee-hee, he's punishing you by sending you to your room."
Rodney looked over to Carson. "Are you positive he didn't suffer any brain damage?" McKay asked, concern mixed with his continued sour disposition.
"I was," Beckett admitted. "Now, I'm not so sure." John Sheppard laughed even louder.
"Okay. Well, you know what, I'm glad you're feeling so much better, Colonel, that you feel so compelled to have fun at my expense." McKay used the railing on Sheppard's bed to pull himself to a standing position. "And unlike you, I have not been sleeping all that well here, so I'm heading to my quarters. I'll see you later." Rodney turned carefully and headed slowly to the door.
"Hey, McKay," John called. Rodney stopped and turned around, holding tightly to the back of a chair.
"No television tonight, son. Straight to bed," he said, which sent him into torrents of laughter. McKay turned and left the room.
Sheppard finally stopped laughing when he saw Beckett staring at him. And he didn't look happy.
"He was very worried about you, you know," Carson said as he stepped closer to the bed.
"You slept for near twenty hours the first day and eighteen each the second and third."
"I did? How long has it been?"
"I wanted to categorize this as a grade four, but my colleagues convinced me that my emotions were gettin' the better of me. But you have been out of it more than you've been in."
"I don't remember ONE day going by, let alone more than one," John admitted.
"You can understand then why Rodney has been worried. The daft man wouldn't sleep. He even fought the sedatives. He's at least a day behind in his recovery."
"Shit. I didn't know."
"I know. And he'll be fine, now that he knows you're finally awake. But you know Rodney, he'll need a wee bit more assurance that you're okay."
"Am I allowed to get up? Go see him?"
"Normally, I would say no, but to be honest, I am a little worried about him." Carson looked at Sheppard with an appraising eye. "How do you feel?"
"Good. Well, better. Just give me a chance to talk to him before he falls asleep." The raised eyebrows and little boy look and Carson knew he had lost this battle.
"Fine." John started to raise himself from the bed. "Ack! Stay put. I'll have someone come and help you into a wheelchair."
Sheppard eased himself back down. He didn't want to admit how the sudden movement had felt, and he sure didn't want to let on to Carson.
"Okay, whatever it takes."
Slow, easy baby-steps put him in the wheelchair without further incident. Beckett pushed the chair as they made their way slowly out of the infirmary to McKay's quarters.
"Could we GO any slower?" John asked, not hiding the sarcasm.
"We are going at precisely the right speed for your current condition, Colonel," Carson replied with equal attitude.
"You see, I think if we keep up this pace that we might get eaten up by a black hole, or incinerated by a supernova and never see McKay again," Sheppard responded.
"You're very unpleasant when you're cranky," the Scottish physician noted sardonically.
"I wouldn't be so cranky…oh, forget it," John said, giving up the fight.
"You see that, Colonel? You're wiser than you look." They continued on in silence. "Oh, look. We're here."
"Thank god," they both said at the same time. John waved his hand and signaled for the door to open. The two men entered to find Rodney lying uncomfortably on his back, the pillow having fallen to the floor, the blanket bunched up under the scientist's back.
"McKay, that doesn't look very comfortable," John observed.
"So good at stating the obvious," Rodney said softly, no sting in the normally biting delivery.
"Rodney, did you take your pills?" Carson asked.
"Well, I was gonna. I might have, I don't know. The bed looked good. Doesn't feel great, though."
"Why don't you get up for a sec?" John asked. "Let Carson pull the covers down."
Rodney stood up, with Carson's help. He looked at Sheppard and said, "You look a lot better." Though John was fading fast, he had already picked out the next thing that he would say.
"I'm feeling pretty good. I think I'm going to set a record for the number of hours that I've been awake in four days." He smiled through the throbbing in his head. He needed this to look good for McKay.
"Yeah, it is."
"Rodney, where are your pills?" the physician asked. Carson had already looked in all of the normal places: bathroom, desk, nightstand.
"Check my jacket."
"Didn't I ask you if you'd taken them?"
"What, because they're in my jacket that means I didn't take them? I'm not following your logic," McKay said. The man was clearly ready for a nap.
"Did you?" Beckett challenged.
A heavy sigh preceded the answer. "I guess not."
Carson looked at John and rolled his eyes. Sheppard tried the same, but that turned out to be a really bad idea.
"He's your friend," the colonel said, hoping to hide the dizziness he'd brought on. He needed to watch that kind of movement for a while.
"Yes, but he's yours, too, and he does, as hard as it is for you to believe, listen to you better than he listens to me."
"I'm right here in the room," a frustrated Rodney McKay exclaimed.
"Did you do your thing?" John asked, making the wise choice not to point his head or eyes in the direction of the bathroom for fear of tipping over in his wheels.
"My thing?" Rodney asked as Carson retrieved the pills and a glass of water.
"Sit down, Rodney," Beckett instructed.
"You're awful pushy," McKay complained.
"You know. Brush your teeth, pee, yadda, yadda, yadda," Sheppard clarified helpfully.
"You can leave now. Both of you. I'm very tired, and sore. Carson, are you sure I should have been…"
"Rodney, you're fine. You'll be sore for a while. Get some sleep and you'll be surprised how much better you feel tomorrow."
McKay pulled the blanket up. "I'm not going to sleep that long."
"Fine. Then we'll see you when you get up," Carson said. John could tell he said it simply to appease the scientist.
"'Kay," Rodney slurred, nearly asleep already.
The other two men left the room and headed back to the infirmary.
"Will he really sleep 'til tomorrow?"
"Oh, yes. He's exhausted, he's recovering and he just took the most potent drugs I could give him." They went a little farther down the hallway and then Carson added, "Thanks for the help."
"Well, he's my friend, too."