A/N: I have no beta, so all mistakes are mine.
Up until thirty minutes ago the infirmary had been quiet. That was until Colonel Sheppard limped in with Rodney hot on his tail. Sheppard had slammed his P90 down onto the nearest instrument tray and then had hopped up onto a bed with Mckay following him and apologising unremittingly. Sheppard was doing his best to ignore him. Beckett couldn't blame the man. He was a mess. His hair was matted with dirt and bits of tree, his chin was bleeding and snaking a trail down his neck, his arms and elbows were besieged with scratches and he was cradling his side with a pained expression on his face. Mckay didn't have a mark on him.
It was only when Beckett had managed to carefully extricate the Colonel from his tactical vest and lift his t-shirt did he see the collection of mottled bruising and swelling that was causing his discomfort.
As Beckett held Sheppard's x-ray up to the light, he could hear Mckay's attempt to get the Colonel to speak.
"You can't stay mad forever Sheppard."
The tension was palpable but Mckay ploughed on regardless.
"So I saw something and reacted."
"I saved your life!"
The sound that came from Sheppard's mouth resembled a cross between a laugh and a groan.
"How was I to know that there was a hill behind that tree line?!"
"I don't care what you say Rodney."
The tone of Sheppard's voice was bristling with carefully controlled anger. "You pushed me!"
Beckett started towards the two men, but thought better of it when their voices rose and he pretended to examine the x-ray in closer detail while they continued to bicker. He had learned a long time ago not to get involved in their infamous rows.
"You didn't even fall that far."
"It felt far enough," the retort came back quick and easy.
"Have you looked at me lately?" Sheppard announced weakly and didn't hide a wince of pain.
Sheppard always underplayed his injuries. Beckett would usually have to play detective and watch for subtle nuances to assess his injuries. On occasion, he had even had to get reports from his team mates. Sheppard wasn't stupid. He just cared about everybody else's welfare to the detriment of his own health. This, however, was the first time that Beckett had ever witnessed him actually playing them up in a bid to guilt Mckay further.
Mckay sighed and then turned to Beckett. Too late. He was now involved.
Beckett joined them and settled the x-ray onto the end of the bed. "Aye Rodney, he is."
"You see?" Mckay smiled and crossed his arms.
Sheppard rubbed his face wearily, careful to avoid the butterfly stitches under his chin.
Sheppard groaned and straightened tiredly, "I knew there would be an although."
Beckett patted him on the shoulder, "You've cracked one of your ribs and fractured another."
Sheppard bought his hand around and jabbed Mckay in the arm, "Dammit Rodney!"
"What?" Mckay rubbed his abused flesh and took a step backwards to avoid any following blows. Beckett couldn't remember a time when Sheppard had looked more pissed off than he did at that very moment.
"So that means-" Beckett began.
Sheppard had heard the spiel before and rolled his eyes before finishing the sentence, "-plenty of bed rest and painkillers, which means I can't go off-world, thank you Rodney."
"It wasn't my fault!"
Despite the pain Sheppard was no doubt in, he twisted around before Beckett could stop him, "It was a Squirrel!"
Beckett was taken aback, "I'm sorry?"
Mckay had the grace to at least look flustered. "It looked bigger and….."
"It was a squirrel," Sheppard repeated as he turned away and held one hand to his side.
Beckett tried to stifle the laughter that threatened to erupt, "Well Colonel. You know the drill."
"Yeah," Sheppard slowly pushed himself off the infirmary bed and used it for support as he tested his abused side.
"There's no point me keeping you in the infirmary but I mean it. I want you to rest up and that means no helping Rodney and no sparring with Ronon. If you break your ribs doing something stupid, you could seriously injure yourself."
"I know Carson."
"You're going to be in a bit of pain for a while. I'll prescribe you some painkillers."
Sheppard shot Mckay a dirty look, "Great."
Beckett knew from experience that Sheppard hated taking pain medication. He had once told him that he didn't like the way it made him feel fuzzy. Protecting the people of Atlantis took precedence over everything else and if he wasn't clear headed then he was doing the city a disservice.
"If you have any difficulty breathing, double vision or dizziness then you need to tell me about it."
Sheppard reached for his P90 and nestled it under his arm. Mckay gave the weapon a panicked look as if he thought Sheppard might consider using it on him. Beckett didn't know how he hadn't already.
"It wasn't my fault!" Mckay said, as if by merely repeating it, he was at no fault.
"Rodney, just……" Sheppard raised his hand to silence the scientist, "don't do it again."
"What? Save your life?"
Sheppard palmed the pain meds that Beckett handed him and a smile tugged at his lips, "Push me down a hill again."
"Rodney. Can you make sure that Colonel Sheppard makes it back to his quarters in one piece and Colonel-"
Sheppard nodded, "Bed rest…I got it."
Sheppard unhurriedly walked away with Mckay holding his hands out behind him as if he were escorting a toddler taking his first steps.
A few minutes later and silence was restored to the infirmary.
As Sheppard walked towards his room, Mckay was still tracing his every step, and it was irritating him. Despite the pain in his side, he felt fine and the idea of being holed up in his room for the next few weeks was not looking attractive. He hated being on the side lines. Injury had never stopped him before and he would be damned if a few cracked ribs were going to keep him from his job. No, he'd go back to his room, have a nice hot shower and then continue to work. Other than sleeping in his room, he was hardly ever in there. He always found something else to keep him preoccupied. The thought of being stuck there, with nothing other than his thoughts or attempts to read War and Peace filled him with a pervasive feeling of dread. What if something happened?
He used the wall for support as he walked and zoned in and out of Mckay's diatribe.
"You'll be fine in a few days. I've got some things in the lab that you can help me with if you get really bored and we'll all visit. Well, Teyla and Ronon will visit. I'll try and come by when I can with food and stuff, but you know, I leave that lab for more than three minutes and it's at risk of getting blown up or-"
Sheppard wasn't unfamiliar with the feeling of annoyance that came with being Rodney's friend. In fact, he had gotten quite used to it. It was just part of the great tapestry that was Mckay. On this occasion his annoyance stemmed from Mckay actually trying to protect him. He had envisaged a threat and pushed him out of the way and that just wasn't right. Sheppard should have been the one doing the protecting. He realised that for all of the time they spent together, Mckay had become braver, and maybe, just maybe, he didn't need him quite so much out in the field. It made him feel useless, in the same way that being laid up made him feel.
Sucking in a breath, he felt his heart begin to hammer and a spasm of pain made him momentarily light-headed.
"Are you okay?"
Dammit! He realised he must have looked a little peaky because Mckay was rushing to stand in front of his face and was gripping him by the arm to steady him.
Sheppard batted him away, shook his head resolutely and then strode on as if nothing had happened. He was after all, fine.
"You don't have to walk me back to my room Rodney."
Mckay snorted and fell into step beside him.
"Carson told me to get you back to your room. So that's what I'm doing."
Sheppard sighed and readjusted his grip on his P90, "It's not much further."
"And if you pass out in the hall it will seem a lot further." Mckay reached out for his arm, "Now come on."
Sheppard wrenched his arm away and let out a hiss of pain, "I don't need you to baby-sit me."
A flicker of emotion passed over Mckay's face. Hurt. Regret. It made Sheppard feel like shit.
"Sorry, I'm just…." Words failed him.
Mckay looked him up and down, his eyes stalling on any scratches or bruising that were evident and then said, "Come on."
The doors to his quarters slid open and the lights came on automatically as he entered. He tossed his P90 onto his bed, his tactical vest followed shortly and he sank down next to them.
Mckay scanned the room thoughtfully, rocking on his heels as he took in Sheppard's appearance.
"You can leave now."
Mckay nodded, "Are you going to be okay?"
Sheppard rolled his eyes, stood back up without wincing and then strode towards his bathroom, "I'm going to have a shower and then I'm going to –" His words were cut off when he heard something squelch underfoot. He lifted a boot and then palmed on the light to his washroom. The floor was soaking wet and had bled through to his bedroom.
Mckay joined him at the door and pulled a disgusted face, "What is that?"
Sheppard examined the water closely, "I don't want to know."
"I'll call someone."
Sheppard suddenly realised how tired he was feeling. The thought of having someone else in his room, attempting to fix whatever had caused the mess, filled him with more irritation. He waved a hand.
"Ah forget it."
"It's okay, I can-"
"I said forget it," Sheppard pushed with a little more vigour than he intended, "You've done quite enough for today.
"Well, I'll be down in my lab if you need me." Mckay turned on his heel and walked towards the door.
Sheppard licked his lips, thought twice about saying what was on his mind and then said it anyway, "You disappointed me today Rodney."
Mckay stopped in his tracks.
"What you did was incredibly stupid."
Mckay threw a look over his shoulder.
"Just….go," Sheppard muttered.
Mckay opened his mouth, went to say something and then obviously thought better of it because he silently headed for the door and left without another word.
Sheppard, you're an asshole.
Sheppard walked back over to his bed, removed whatever was littering it and then slowly bent to pull off his boots. The mere effort left him gasping and cursing and when the last boot was finally off his foot and his trousers had joined them, he slid backwards and into his bed.
He turned towards the window and could see the last light of day beginning to slip away. Seven o'clock and he was in bed. Great. He felt like a petulant child that had been told he couldn't stay up.
Lieutenant Abernaffy hesitated before he pushed the bell to Colonel Sheppard's quarters. He was feeling disquietly nervous having only arrived in Atlantis five days ago, and he didn't know if what he was about to do was appropriate. Major Lorne was off-world; Doctor Weir was having a late conference and the ongoing fight in the commissary needed to be broken up, or someone needed to be disciplined or something.
His finger neared the bell and he considered walking away. No. This was the right thing to do.
He depressed the button and waited to be called in. Nothing. He knew the Colonel was in his quarters. Had been told be several personnel that he had been told to get bed rest after an injury off-world, but he had also been assured that it wasn't serious. Perhaps that was the reason for his nervousness. The Colonel was probably sleeping.
Abernaffy activated his earpiece, "Major Adams?"
"Have you got the Colonel yet? These two are not backing down. Someone's going to get hurt."
Abernaffy cleared his throat, "Yeah. I'm coming."
Without a further thought, he opened the door and entered the darkened room.
He could see Colonel Sheppard lying on top of his covers, one arm over the edge of the bed, and his chest rising and falling slowly in the moonlight.
"Sir?" he whispered as he got closer and felt even guiltier as the prospect of waking the man beckoned.
The Colonel shifted but didn't wake.
Abernaffy half wondered if it was proper to be standing over the Colonel as he lay there exposed in his boxer shorts.
"Sir!" he said a little louder and shook him by the arm.
There was a split second in which nothing happened. Then the Colonel whipped his hand away and shot upwards instantly muttering an "Oh fuck!" as he reached for the side lamp. Abernaffy noted that his hand was hovering over his side and that he was covered in a thin layer of sweat. He was already beginning to doubt whether he had in fact, done the right thing.
"What are doing in here Lt?" Sheppard asked in a gruff voice as he blatantly tried to even out his breathing.
Abernaffy managed an apologetic smile and whispered, "I'm sorry to wake you Sir, but…."
The Colonel continued to sit upright, his face slightly flushed, "Why are you whispering?"
The Colonel hooked his legs over the edge of the bed and pulled a face. He was definitely in pain and he had just awoken him to it.
Abernaffy cleared his throat, "Sorry, I uh didn't want to-"
"Wake me?" Sheppard asked with a bemused look, "Well, I'm awake now."
"There is a…..I mean……two men are fighting in the commissary and Major Lorne is off-world and-"
Sheppard stilled him with a raised finger, "And you couldn't call someone else?"
"I…uh…" He realised that the Colonel was trying to reach for his trousers and picked them up for him, "I didn't know what the right procedure was. I got here a few days ago and some of the others said I should get you."
The Colonel sighed and nodded.
"I'm sorry that I woke you."
Trousers on and bare feet slipped into his untied boots; the Colonel nodded and followed him towards the door, "You did the right thing Lt."
The fight was still going on when Sheppard entered the commissary and a crowd of people had encircled the quarrelling men as if by creating a barrier they could keep it contained.
Abernaffy cleared the way for Sheppard and as people began to realise he was there, they broke away from the fight, leaving Lieutenant McGillan and Science Officer Martins exposed.
Martins had a split lip and made another attempt to deck the soldier.
Sheppard stepped between them, outstretched his arms and Martins jarred into him, realised who he was and then quickly stepped backwards.
Sheppard felt an explosion of pain in his side that refused to subside and tried for all his worth to keep a yell bidden.
"What the hell is going on here?" he shouted and watched as the group surrounding them dispersed.
McGillian took a step back and stood bolt upright, where as Martins simply wiped his lips with the back of his hand and locked eyes with the soldier.
"Why were you fighting?" Sheppard asked in a voice he generally reserved for Mckay.
McGillian looked suitably abashed and regarded his superior with a grim smile, "I'm sorry Sir. We were just having a disagreement. It got out of hand."
Sheppard couldn't believe what he was hearing, "Too right it did! You-"
"What is going on?"
Mckay stalked into the room and came to stand beside Sheppard, hands on hips and with an equally annoyed expression turned to Martins, "I asked you to get me coffee twenty minutes ago!"
Sheppard rolled his eyes and gave Mckay a 'you have got to be kidding me' look.
"If you haven't noticed Rodney they were-"
"And what are you doing out of bed?" Mckay added.
Sheppard embarrassedly found his eyebrows shooting up in surprise and found that all eyes seemed to have diverted to him. Under scrutiny, Sheppard stood up straighter and raised his chin.
"Why do think I'm out of bed?" Sheppard shot back.
"I'd like to know the answer to that as well Colonel."
Sheppard groaned and turned towards the voice.
Doctor Beckett walked straight over to him and looked him up and down with a critical eye, "You should be in bed. What are you doing here?"
"That's what I asked," Mckay said as he regarded Martin's, "Have you been in a fight?"
"That's what I was trying to tell you!" Sheppard said and crossed his arms. He hissed on feeling another ache from his ribs.
"Who called you up here?" Beckett probed as he looked over Martin's face.
"I did," Lt Abernaffy stated, holding up a finger.
"Well you should have known better. The Colonel is under strict orders to remain in bed while he heals. He should not have been disturbed."
Sheppard gave Beckett a horrified look and quickly countered with, "You did the right thing Lt."
"Aye, you would say that," Beckett admonished, "You didn't need to be here."
"Well obviously I did," Sheppard answered, "My Lieutenant needs disciplining."
"It wasn't my fault Sir, Martin's-"
Sheppard tried to resist the urge to wipe the bead of sweat that was pricking his hairline, "Don't finish that sentence. I'll deal with you later."
"Your lip is fine, just put some ice on it to reduce the swelling. McGillan are you injured?"
The Soldier shook his head.
"Lt, the Colonel will deal with you in the morning."
The soldier looked over to Sheppard and he nodded, "Tomorrow."
"Now Colonel, I will walk you back to your room."
There was nothing more humiliating than being frog marched back to his room by Beckett. Okay, so his ribs were beginning to hurt like a bitch as his adrenaline levels wore down and he was starting to get a headache but it still shouldn't prevent him from doing his job.
"That was uncalled for Doc," Sheppard grouched as he walked.
"Colonel, you're going to stay in your room. You're lucky I'm not making you stay in the infirmary."
Sheppard side stepped a few straggling personnel and sighed, "Remind me why I'm not there already?"
Beckett fell into step beside him, "I would like nothing more, but a few staff have come down with a flu-like virus and the last thing you need with those busted ribs is to get a chest infection right now."
Sheppard kept his arm close to his side to stop it from jarring as he walked, "I still need to do my job Doc."
"Aye I know, and it will be waiting for you when you get up in the morning. But for tonight, I want you to rest up."
"I feel fine," Sheppard muttered through gritted teeth.
He didn't know why he always lied. In truth, he was in pain. He just didn't like surrendering to injury. He needed to be mobile.
"I know you think I'm being –"
"Over cautious," Beckett affirmed, "But those ribs needs time to heal. I don't dish out medical advice for the hell of it Colonel."
Sheppard was too tired to argue. He'd had a hell of a day, starting right from the moment that Mckay had barged into his room and told him that he just had to go back to MX345 to investigate a strange anomaly. The two of them had gone alone and the only anomalous things that they had found were those weird squirrel type creatures.
They arrived at his door and headed into his darkened room. The lights came up and Beckett waited for Sheppard to go over to his bed with crossed arms.
"Okay Carson, you can go now. I'm pretty sure I can tuck myself into bed."
Sheppard lowered himself down onto his bed carefully.
"I'm just going to wait until you're settled and then I'll leave you to it."
Beckett walked over to his bathroom in search of a glass, "What's happened here?"
"We can get that sorted tomorrow."
"Yea-" Sheppard's earpiece activated and a voice started to filter through.
He held a finger up and went to answer, but before he could Beckett ripped it out of his ear and passed him a glass of water.
"Carson, I need to take that."
"Who was it?"
"Lorne. He's just back from his mission and I need to take this briefing."
Beckett considered the request and then passed the earpiece back to Sheppard.
Sheppard smiled and replaced the earpiece, "Thank you." But before he could answer, Beckett was activating his own.
"Elizabeth…. you inform Major Lorne that the Colonel will take the briefing tomorrow, from his room….yes and-"
Sheppard rubbed his face wearily and sighed.
"Colonel Sheppard is not to be disturbed this evening. He's recuperating. Yes," Beckett kept his eyes locked on Sheppard's, "Aye, his room is off limits."
When Beckett had finished running his affairs, Sheppard groaned, "Doc!"
"Don't worry Colonel. If anything happens you'll be the first to know."
"Since when did you become even more of a mother hen?" Sheppard groused as Beckett passed him his pain meds.
"Since you don't know how to look after your own well being. Now, take two of those."
Sheppard eyed the pills with a disgusted look, "I don't need these."
"Yes you do," Beckett instructed in an even voice, "They'll take the edge off the pain."
"And make me feel………."
Beckett raised a quizzical eyebrow.
"-weird." Sheppard finished.
Sheppard realised that he wasn't going to get a moment's peace until Beckett had seen him take the pills, so he popped them into his mouth and washed them down with his water. Then, just to top it off, he poked out his tongue, "See, gone. Happy?"
Beckett placed the glass on his side table and smiled, "Very. I'll see to it that no-one disturbs you tonight. Get some sleep."
Sheppard nodded, sidled back into bed and angrily hauled the covers over his legs.
"Is he okay?"
Beckett nearly jumped out of his skin to find Mckay standing outside Sheppard's door and clutching his laptop to his chest.
"Aye, he's fine Rodney. He's just gone to bed."
Mckay peered over his shoulder and at the door, "Oh good."
He took a step forwards and found a hand planted on top of the laptop.
"Where are you going?"
Mckay looked at Beckett as if he had asked the most ridiculous question ever to be asked, "I'm going to talk to him."
"Oh no, you're not."
"Carson, I'm just going to go over today's mission findings with him and then I'll be out of his hair."
"Okay, I don't want to go over the mission findings," an uncomfortable look passed over his face, "I want him to apologise for what he said to me earlier."
Beckett was tired and beginning to lose patience, "And what was that?"
"He told me that I was stupid for pushing him out of the way."
"He's there to protect you. That's why he carries the big gun," Beckett patted Mckay on the shoulder.
"I don't care. I shouldn't have to apologise for-"
"Pushing him down a hill and busting his ribs?"
"For saving him….even if, it was a little misguided."
"Rodney, leave the man alone. It's bad enough that Atlantis can't seem to function without him for five minutes without-"
Mckay opened his mouth and gasped, "Uh, I think you've got Sheppard confused with me. Atlantis can't run without me for five minutes."
"Rodney. Let him sleep. It can wait till morning."
He could tell what Mckay was thinking.
"If I find you have woken him up I will make sure you're next physical is very physical."
Mckay knew better to mess with Beckett. His threats were never misplaced.
"So, you'll let him sleep."
"I mean it."
"Yes. It can wait till tomorrow."
"Thank you Rodney."
Sheppard didn't know how long he had slept when he awoke in the dead of the night. All he knew was that he felt like crap. He was too hot, his brain felt muddled and he was incredibly thirsty.
His side had gone stiff and as he reached for, what was now an empty glass, he sighed melodramatically. He lay in bed, eyes open, for another few minutes while he debated whether or not he really was thirsty or if he could just drop off to sleep again. The only problem was that the more he thought about it, the thirstier he got. It was like a scratch. It started off as an ignorable sensation and then spiralled into a full blown irritation.
Sheppard kicked the bed covers away with his feet and slowly started to sit up. He felt like an invalid. The pain meds had set in so his pain levels were manageable, but it didn't help with the other symptoms of the medication. His arms felt rubbery and his head reeled when he got into an upright position. It was if he wasn't quite there. His own body felt weird and foreign to him. His mind didn't feel as sharp as it usually did and his thoughts meandered drunkenly. In fact, he just felt plain drunk. It was another reason that he never let himself drink too much when he was in the presence of others. The lack of control that followed made him feel vulnerable. It broke down barriers that he had put in place for himself and he worried what he might say or think or feel without them.
Sheppard managed to get himself into an upright position and waited until the room had stopped spinning before he took a wobbly step forwards.
He sighed and reached back over to his side table to retrieve the empty glass. The simple act of forgetting that receptacle just reaffirmed why he hated having his senses dulled by pain medication.
He stepped forwards and it was on his third stride that he suddenly felt himself falling. It was in that one instant that his mind decided to crystallise. The floor was wet! Time slowed as he fell. On impact he heard the glass smash and his elbow crunched into the shards as he followed. His back connected with the hard floor and he heard a sickening crack sound.
In the silent stillness that followed, he wondered if he had cracked his skull open. A few seconds later and his diagnosis was shattered by an explosion of pain in his chest that had him gasping for air and a metallic taste surging into his mouth.
He lay prone, in pain, his mind numbed and confused and realised that nobody was coming.