"Unscheduled off-world activation!" Dr. Weir's shoulders hunched, and her head dropped. She had one team off-world, and they had been gone less than an hour. "Damn," she muttered as she pushed away from her desk and headed to the control room. Chuck looked up at her, but before he could speak, Teyla's panicked voice burst from Comms.
"Atlantis, this is Teyla. Please have a medical team ready. Colonel Sheppard has been badly injured."
Chuck glanced up at Weir as he reached for the shield control. "Teyla's IDC, ma'am," he confirmed.
She nodded her approval, and he deactivated the shield while simultaneously relaying the information to Teyla. Weir called for the med team and headed toward the gate, the sound of Teyla's panic ringing in her ears. Teyla didn't panic; she just didn't. She exuded calm in the sea of hyperactivity and testosterone that was her team. Whatever had happened to John must be incredibly bad for Teyla to sound like that.
Elizabeth reached the bottom of the stairs just as Dr. Beckett and the med team entered the gateroom. "What's the lad done to himself this time?" Carson asked.
"I have no idea," Elizabeth replied, "but I think it's bad."
The comm link with Teyla had remained open, and Weir could hear Teyla shouting for someone to hurry. And then a scream echoed through the gate room. Elizabeth had heard that scream once before as it was broadcast from a jumper stuck in a stargate. It still haunted her dreams sometimes. She had hoped to never hear it again. But this time it didn't stop.
She could hear Ronon's voice. "Hold him, McKay!"
"What do you think I'm trying to do? He just won't stop…. Oh God. There he goes again."
Teyla shouted, "Get him through the gate!"
Elizabeth and Carson exchanged glances. Definitely bad.
At that moment, Rodney came through the gate backwards with his arms wrapped around John's chest. Ronon emerged holding his legs. As soon as he was through, they lowered Sheppard to the floor. He was convulsing and bleeding profusely from wounds that covered his left side, some of which had large, jagged, metal fragments protruding.
Carson and his team sprang into action. Two nurses replaced Ronon to hold the Colonel's legs while two more reached for his arms.
"Be careful!" warned Ronon. "Don't touch the shrapnel."
"Don't worry lad. We won't hurt the Colonel."
"That's not what I mean, Doc. The shrapnel is coated with a substance that causes intense pain and convulsions. If you scratch yourself on it…."
"Bloody hell!" swore Carson. "I understand. We'll take every precaution."
Sheppard's body suddenly went completely limp.
"Rodney, you can let go now. I'll take it from here." Carson instructed.
McKay didn't move. Elizabeth walked forward and grasped McKay's arms. "Rodney," she murmured, "You have to let go so Carson can help John."
As she tugged on his arms, he looked up at her with a blank stare. "What? Oh!" He jerked his hands away and stepped back. Immediately, Beckett took his place and began to check vitals.
"OK, people. Let's get him on the gurney and to the infirmary stat. On my count – one, two, three!"
The med team lifted John onto the gurney and began running. Elizabeth could hear Carson shouting instructions as they went. Just before they reached the doorway, John began to writhe in pain. And then the screaming started again. She glanced at Sheppard's team. Teyla still looked panicked. Ronon looked angry. And McKay…. Rodney McKay who was constantly in motion and certainly never silent was almost catatonic as he stared after the med team.
Suddenly Teyla took off toward the infirmary, not exactly running but definitely at a brisk power walk pace. Her movement spurred the others into action. Elizabeth glanced back at the gateroom as she exited. Someone had called the janitorial crew. They were already beginning to mop up John's blood.
As Sheppard's team and Weir reached the infirmary, the sounds of organized chaos greeted them. Machines were beeping, alarms were blaring, nurses and techs were running, and Carson was orchestrating it all. Elizabeth could see John's cut-off uniform piled on the floor underneath the privacy screens.
"Hold him still," Carson ordered, "or we'll never get these IVs in."
The screaming abruptly stopped. "He's seizing again!"
After a minute, the room was quiet. "Hurry! Get the IVs in before he starts again. Have the lab analyze the blood samples to determine was kind of substance is in his system. Inject 5 mg of diazepam. Hopefully that will hold his seizures until we can get the shrapnel out."
Sounds of frenetic activity emanated from behind the screens.
"Nancy, is the OR prepped and ready?"
"Yes, Dr. Beckett. Drs. Cole and Keller are waiting for you there."
"Thank you, love. Move those screens so we go."
The screens were shoved away as the med team pushed machines, IV poles and the gurney toward the operating room. As Rodney moved to follow, one of the nurses stopped him. "You can't come this way," she said. "You'll need to go to the OR observation room."
Rodney stopped and turned back to the others as Elizabeth surveyed the room. It looked like it had been hit by a tornado: bloody swabs littered the floor, the machines were in disarray, a tray of instruments had been knocked over in the rush. Rodney was covered in blood, and Ronon kept flexing the fingers of one hand. What the hell happened?
Earlier that day….
Elizabeth balanced her muffin on her data pad and tried not to let the coffee she was also carrying slosh on her hand. She'd already been working for two hours and was still woefully behind. She thought of the cartoon she had been given years ago: I've been put on this Earth to accomplish a certain number of things. At this point, I'm so far behind I'll never die.
Well, she wasn't on Earth any more, but that had seemingly become the motto of her life. Reports, reports, and more reports. Efficiency reports, personnel evaluations, application reviews, supply orders…. Who knew life in another galaxy could be so mundane? In all fairness, there was the occasional brilliant scientific discovery or Atlantis would reveal another one of her wonders. And sometimes mission reports provided for very interesting reading.
But she didn't get to make the discoveries or go on the missions. She got to push paper. A sigh escaped her. She missed the excitement of negotiating, of directing people with polar opposite views toward a compromise. But, she still wouldn't go back. She loved Atlantis and the Pegasus Galaxy, even if it did come complete with Wraith, Asurans and Genii. But the damn paperwork…. She sighed again.
"That bad?" a familiar voice drawled.
Elizabeth jumped and looked up at Colonel Sheppard standing next to her. Gracious, he could move quietly when he wanted to. She smiled at him as he eased into his chair with his own cup of coffee and data pad. "Good morning, John," she said. "No, it isn't that bad. I was just thinking about all that paperwork you haven't finished yet."
Sheppard looked guilty for a moment and then put on his best cocky, flyboy smile. "I'm pacing myself," he replied. "Don't want to run out of stuff to do. Besides, I've seen your inbox. Where would I put it?"
She shook her head at him as the rest of his team drifted in. Rodney came complete with laptop, data pad, coffee and two doughnuts. Teyla sat next to Rodney with Ronon on her other side. While McKay focused on his computer, Ronon pinched one of the doughnuts off his plate. Teyla slapped at his hand, but Ronon just grinned and proceeded to stuff the entire thing in his mouth. Elizabeth expected an immediate eruption of Mount McKay, but she was surprised, and mildly disappointed if she were honest with herself, when he simply crossed his arms and glared at Ronon.
"Was that second breakfast for you, Conan because it's too early for Elevensies. And I don't recall offering you a part of MY breakfast."
Ronon smirked at McKay and wiped the back of his hand across his mouth. McKay tossed him a napkin. "Ewwww… I realize now that you must have been raised by wolves, but still…"
Elizabeth looked at John who chuckled quietly and shrugged.
"Gentlemen, please. Now, today's mission is to M3X-606," she began, "a planet noted in the Ancient database as a long abandoned outpost. Rodney?"
"Yes, well, according to the database, this outpost was used for some kind of manufacturing. We aren't sure what yet, but we have ruled a few things out."
"Like what?" Sheppard asked.
Ronon glance up. "What about-"
"No weapons either."
"Ships?" Sheppard hoped.
"That's a possibility. And, oh, look at his eyes light up. Mention ships, and Colonel Zoom is positively aquiver."
"Dr. McKay, ships could be very beneficial for us," Teyla responded.
Sheppard laughed. "He knows that, Teyla. He'll be the first one in if there is one. OK, maybe the second…."
"People, let's focus." Elizabeth got the group on track. "What else can you tell us Rodney?"
"Only that MALP telemetry shows it can easily sustain human life: breathable atmosphere, moderate climate, etc."
Elizabeth agreed but had a few more questions. Once she was completely satisfied, she gave the final OK. The team had 30 minutes to gather their gear and get back to the gateroom. Since there were too many trees too close to the gate for a jumper, they dialed and walked through. Another routine mission to another routine planet, she hoped. Of course, with Sheppard's team nothing was ever routine. She watched the gate shut down and headed back to her office. And that damn paperwork.
Two hours later….
"What the hell happened?" Elizabeth asked. Three sets of weary and troubled eyes gazed back at her. "Wait," she said before anyone could answer. "Ronon, what is wrong with your hand?"
Ronon glanced down at his hand and frowned. "Just a scratch. I'll be fine."
Rodney whirled around to face him. "A scratch? Did you scratch it on a piece of that metal? Are you crazy? Why didn't you say something? That…poison could have caused you to convulse too. What if you'd dropped Sheppard on the way back? What if I couldn't get both of you back here? What if-"
"It's a scratch, McKay. I'm fine. I didn't get enough of it in my system to do more than just twinge. Sheppard was never in any danger of me dropping him."
"Rodney," Weir interrupted. "Why don't you three get cleaned up and changed. I'll meet you in the observation room in 20 minutes."
Teyla and Ronon started toward the doors, but Rodney didn't move. "It's my fault," he whispered. "This is all my fault."
Elizabeth stepped forward and touched his arm. "Rodney, I know you would never hurt Col. Sheppard. Let's hold off placing blame for now. Carson's taking good care of him. Go wash up. I'll see you up there." When Rodney still didn't move, she called to Ronon. "Would you please help Rodney?"
Elizabeth thought she caught a look of pity flash across Ronon's face as he came back for Rodney. "Come on, McKay. You need to wash that blood off." He gave Rodney a gentle push between his shoulder blades and herded him out of the room.
Elizabeth knew something had changed between them since McKay's recent near-ascension, but it was just so odd to watch them interact. She couldn't imagine two more different men than Ronon Dex and Rodney McKay.
Half an hour later, Ronon and McKay joined Weir and Teyla in the observation room. Teyla had entered about 10 minutes earlier with a tray of sandwiches. Elizabeth smiled as she watched the team. Teyla had known Ronon and Rodney wouldn't think to eat in their haste to get back to Sheppard, even with appetites like theirs.
As the four gazed down into the room, only machines and medical personnel could be seen. John was completely obscured. They pulled the few chairs in the room together and sat down to wait. The murmurings of the medical team and the beeping and hissing of machines wafted over the intercom. Satisfied that they would hear if anything went wrong, Teyla and Ronon picked up sandwiches and began eating. McKay, however, didn't move. Elizabeth glanced at him. "Rodney?"
"I'm not hungry."
His eyes met hers, and she was taken aback at the guilt in them. Rodney usually only showed two emotions: excitement and outrage. Everything else was typically covered up in sarcasm or arrogance. To see that guilt so readily apparent was a surprise to say the least. "OK, not now," she conceded, "but you need to eat soon. We can't have your blood sugar falling too low."
At her words, McKay pushed out of his chair to stare back into the operating room. "Don't worry about me. I'm fine. Hero down there managed to get between me and the bomb. That idiot! Didn't he know it was my turn?"
Weir turned a questioning glance to Teyla. "Col. Sheppard was injured when an access panel Dr. McKay had been working on exploded."
Elizabeth nodded and glanced over at Rodney. His shoulders were hunched almost up to his ears, and he was pacing. "Teyla, why don't you start at the beginning."
"As soon as we stepped through the gate…"
One hour earlier….
As soon as they stepped through the gate, Teyla's "Spidey-sense" began tingling. Well, that is what John called it. She still did not fully understand the reference even after watching the movie. Regardless, her gift clearly indicated a Wraith presence. She paused, cocking her head to the side and concentrated. Strange…. "Colonel Sheppard, I believe there to be a Wraith on this world."
At her words, her teammates went on alert. Ronon pulled his blaster and began eyeing the tree line while Sheppard gripped his P90 tighter and slowly turned scanning the immediate area. McKay pulled the life signs detector from a pocket on his vest and checked the readings. "I have one life sign, um, that way." He pointed off to his right.
Sheppard looked at him in surprise. "Only one, Rodney?"
"Just one. Of course, there could be others hibernating."
"I do not think so, Dr. McKay. I sense the presence of only a single Wraith."
McKay turned to Sheppard. "So, what now?"
Ronon twirled his blaster and smiled ferally. "Now, we go kill a Wraith."
"Let's not get too hasty there, Big Guy," Sheppard cautioned. "Just because there's only one now doesn't mean his friends won't be showing up sometime soon."
"What the…" McKay squinted at the LSD and took a stop in the direction he had indicated earlier.
"Rodney?" drawled Sheppard. "What do you think you're doing?"
"Hmmm? Oh! Uh, a massive power surge just showed up over there." McKay waved vaguely.
"Over where, McKay? Where the Wraith is?"
"Yes, Colonel. Over there." He adjusted a couple of settings. "It's gone now."
"No," answered McKay and Teyla simultaneously.
Ronon paced in agitation. "We should check it out, Sheppard. I can handle one Wraith."
John rubbed the back of his neck. "Any ideas on what could cause that power surge, Rodney?"
"It could be anything, Sheppard. I have no idea. It hasn't reappeared, but the initial readings indicate it is very close."
"OK, let's make this quick. Ronon, take point. McKay –"
"What? Have you lost what's left of your mind, Colonel? I admit to losing part of mine when I saw that energy blip on the LSD, but I have since recovered. We should be going away from the Wraith and the mysterious power readings, not toward it. For all we know, that surge could be something signaling a hive ship to come pick him up."
"I know that, Rodney. But, like you said, it could be anything. It's worth the risk. You keep your eyes glued to that scanner. And Teyla, if you sense anything….'
"I understand, Colonel. I will notify you immediately."
"OK, let's move out. I'll cover our six."
Teyla followed Ronon and Rodney into the trees. A few minutes later they emerged into a clearing. A lone building stood there, boxy and unimpressive.
Rodney manipulated the LSD again. "Well, Colonel, there's your power source."
Ronon looked at McKay in surprise. "In there?"
"Yes, in there. Where the Wraith also happens to be."
There were no discernable doors or windows on the side of the building facing them. Sheppard paused, hefting his P90, and scanned the area around the building. "OK, let's see if we can find the front door."
"What are you going to do, knock and ask if we can come in for tea?"
"Knock it off, McKay."
"Just think for a minute. Does this building look remotely like anything we've seen from the Wraith or the Ancients? Why is there just one Wraith here? If it's not Wraith or Ancient, then who built it and what do the Wraith want with it?"
"Fine. Just…be careful."
Sheppard headed to the left and cautiously approached the corner. He peeked around the side and then stepped out, waving the team to follow. They creeped along the edge of the building until they came to a door with an access panel.
"McKay, do you think you can get this open?"
"Hello. Genius here. Of course I can. Are you sure you want me to?"
At John's look, McKay stepped forward and studied the panel. He pushed a couple of buttons and frowned at the read-out. Rodney handed the LSD to Sheppard and pulled his laptop off his back, kneeling down to connect cables to it. Suddenly the access panel beeped.
Ronon's dreadlocks flew as his head whipped around to stare at the panel. "We need to get out of here now."
"I haven't even hooked this up yet. I thought you and Captain Marvel wanted in-"
"What is it, Ronon?"
"You can't hear that, Sheppard? It's a Wraith proximity alarm."
"So, he knows we're here. Pack it up, McKay."
Rodney jerked the cables out and stood up as the panel began beeping insistently. Ronon and Sheppard lunged toward McKay at the same time. Ronon grabbed Rodney's tac vest and heaved backward just as John reached him. Sheppard caught the full brunt of the explosion as the access panel detonated. It was a small yield device, but shrapnel peppered his left side from his shoulder to his knees. He was thrown a couple of feet and hit the ground hard. His tac vest had protected most of his torso, but several large fragments protruded from his arm and ribs.
Ronon dropped to his knees and began checking Colonel Sheppard who was unconscious and bleeding heavily. Ronon jerked his hand away and looked down at it in surprise. A look that Teyla could not quite identify but thought strangely resembled fear crossed his face, and he began cursing in every language Teyla knew and a few she had not heard before.
"Teyla, get to the gate as fast as you can. Tell Atlantis we will need medical help. McKay, I may need you to help me carry-"
Sheppard began thrashing wildly and moaning, pain evident on his face. His eyes flew open and then squeezed shut again as the veins in his neck and temples stood at attention. As Teyla turned and ran to the gate, she could hear him begin to scream in agony. She dialed frantically and requested the medical help. She tried to calm her breathing and center herself, but the look on Ronon's face and the sound of John's screams kept flashing through her mind.
She heard a noise and saw Ronon and Rodney coming through the tree line carrying a writhing Colonel Sheppard. Suddenly John's body tensed and arched.
"Put him down, Ronon! He's convulsing."
Rodney and Ronon quickly lay John on the ground and held him down as best they could until his body went limp. Spotting the gate, Ronon picked him up and tossed him over his shoulder, running as fast as he could.
"Hurry!" Teyla shouted.
However, Ronon was only halfway to the gate when the colonel began screaming and bucking wildly again. Ronon slid John off his shoulder and onto the ground. He held up Sheppard's upper body as Rodney reached under his arms and around his chest trying to avoid the metal fragments as John twisted and jerked violently. McKay tightened his grip and nodded. Ronon let go and moved to grab his legs. They picked him up and moved to the gate as quickly as they could as John thrashed and screamed in agony.
"Hold him,McKay!" Ronon shouted.
"What do you think I'm trying to do? He just won't stop…. Oh God. There he goes again."
Teyla shouted, "Get him through the gate!"
Rodney glanced over his shoulder at the gate and began climbing the steps to the platform….
"…and you know the rest, Elizabeth. We got Colonel Sheppard here as quickly as we could."
"I know you did, Teyla. Carson is the best doctor in two galaxies. He'll take good care of him. Now, we just have to wait."
Elizabeth hated waiting, almost as much as Ronon did. But she knew from her negotiating days that some things couldn't be hurried. The others settled in their chairs, and she left them to their thoughts as they left her to hers. How was it that this team attracted so much trouble? She smiled as she remembered her oh-so-brief stint as the head of the SGC. Sheppard's team attracted trouble like SG-1 did. You send your best people to do the toughest jobs. She glanced at Teyla, Ronon and Rodney. Sheppard's team. Yep. The best people.
After what seemed like an eternity, but in actuality was only another hour or two, Elizabeth realized the sounds coming over the intercom had changed. She yawned, also realizing that she had fallen asleep. As she stood and stretched she noticed Rodney sleeping in the chair across from her with crumbs on the front of his shirt. She joined Teyla and Ronon at the window. "Are they finished?"
"Yes, Dr. Weir," Teyla replied. "I believe Carson is headed this way."
"How long have I been asleep?"
"Approximately an hour. I know you work such long hours, and there was nothing to report…."
"It's fine, Teyla. And Rodney?"
"I convinced him to eat a sandwich. He fell asleep about 10 minutes ago."
Weir walked back to Rodney and touched his shoulder. "Rodney? They've finished. Carson is on his way."
McKay jerked awake and blinked at her. "What?"
The door to the observation room opened, and Carson Beckett entered. He was still in his scrubs but had removed the operating apron as well as his surgical mask and gloves.
"We have removed all the shrapnel and stitched up the wounds. He lost a lot of blood, but I believe he will recover."
"You believe?" sputtered McKay. "What do you mean 'you believe'? Do you need to go sacrifice a chicken to find out?"
"What I mean, Rodney, is that the substance on the device is still in his system. He is still in a great deal of pain and suffers from occasional convulsions. We are trying to manage it as best we can, but we don't know what we're dealing with. He could have an adverse reaction if we aren't careful."
Teyla turned to Ronon. "You have seen this before, have you not? Is there anything that can be done?"
"The Wraith use proximity explosives to protect areas they don't want disturb, typically laboratories. The access panel requires a code to be entered within a very short time window. The explosion is not meant to kill. It incapacitates so the intruder can be questioned. I don't know of any cure."
"We are testing the substance and the Colonel's blood in hopes of finding something that will either help him metabolize it quicker or neutralize it. Right now, all we can do is wait and try to make him as comfortable as possible."
"Can we see him, Carson?"
"Not quite yet, Elizabeth. Give us some time to get him settled in the infirmary. I know how concerned all of you are. I'll let all of you know if anything changes. Otherwise, I need you to wait until tomorrow morning."
"No, Rodney. The lad needs a little time before he's ready for visitors. And I don't want to see your face before 8:00 am. Now, the Colonel needs me. Remember, not before tomorrow."
Carson left, closing the door behind him. McKay slumped back down in his chair and put his head in his hands. "I knew going to that building was a mistake, but would he listen? Oh no. Of course not. And then he has to throw himself in front of me. If only I hadn't touched that stupid access panel!"
Ronon squatted down in front of Rodney. "Don't do this to yourself, McKay. What's done is done. Second guessing won't help. Sheppard did what he had to do."
Rodney looked up at Ronon. "But it was my turn. We're supposed to take turns getting injured and saving each other's lives. Today was my turn to be the injured one." Rodney ran his hands through his hair and then scrubbed his face. "Shit." He pushed out of his chair and headed for the door. "I've got work to do."
Teyla moved to go after him. "Let him go, Teyla," Weir said. "He needs to work it out himself."
"If Dr. Beckett will not allow us to see the colonel until tomorrow I, too, have matters to attend to." Teyla nodded to Elizabeth and Ronon. "I will see you both in the morning."
Ronon grunted and pushed off from the wall he'd been leaning against. "Me too," he said simply and followed Teyla out the door.
Elizabeth looked back down into the empty operating room as the nurses and orderlies continued to put it back to rights. She sighed and headed for her office. She had several meetings she had already missed. Might as well try to begin rescheduling.
The next morning, Weir arrived at the infirmary at 7:45 to find Rodney standing outside the doors with data pad in hand and carrying a laptop.
"Rodney? Why are you just standing here?"
"I already tried going in an hour ago. Carson threw me out and told me to stay away until 8:00 or he'd sedate me."
Elizabeth tried to hide a smile. Carson was certainly protective of his patients. "Have you had breakfast?"
"Hmmm? Oh, yes, I went to the mess hall when he wouldn't let me in. I got back here about 10 minutes ago."
At that moment, the doors slid open to reveal one irritated Scottish doctor. "Do you mind, Rodney? I can hear you in my office. I have sick people in here that need their rest."
Rodney pushed past him and headed in. Weir caught Beckett before he went after McKay. "Sorry Carson. I didn't realize we were being so loud. How is John, really?"
"Ah, well, the lad's holding his own. We haven't found any drugs to neutralize that compound, but he seems to be improving. The seizures have stopped. We are managing his pain, but he is still in a great deal of discomfort. He's sleeping at the moment."
As they approached Sheppard's bed, Rodney had already pulled up a chair and was typing away on his laptop. Elizabeth walked around to the other side and looked down at her second in command. Lines of pain creased his face, and he shifted uncomfortably in bed. His entire left side was covered in bandages that disappeared under the sheet that was pulled up to his waist. He was attached to several monitors and had IVs inserted in each arm. His face was pale and sweat beaded on his face. She could see movement underneath his eyelids, and he moaned in pain.
At the sound, Rodney looked up. "Can't you do anything for him, Carson?"
"I've given him as much pain medicine as I feel comfortable with, Rodney. He had a couple of bad reactions overnight."
The infirmary doors slid open again as Ronon and Teyla joined them. "Is Colonel Sheppard any better today?"
"He has shown some improvement, Teyla, but he-"
"…is right here."
Elizabeth glanced down in surprise. Hazel eyes clouded with pain and confusion gazed back at her. Carson moved around Rodney and leaned over Sheppard. "How are you feeling, Colonel?"
"Like I crashed my Blackhawk. What happened?"
Rodney slammed his laptop closed and leaped up, face turning purple. "What happened? What happened? You almost got yourself killed again. That's what happened!"
"Rodney!" Carson snapped. "Pipe down, or I will throw you out of here again."
Elizabeth had watched the emotions flick across John's face at McKay's rant: confusion, anger and then comprehension. Sheppard was one of the few people that tolerated Rodney, but John did more than just tolerate. He understood McKay and actually seemed to enjoy being around him most of the time. Weir had worked with Rodney for months before John Sheppard came along. She had found McKay difficult at best and insufferable most of the time. However, he was brilliant, and she knew this expedition couldn't have happened without him. But then Sheppard had walked into their lives, and nothing had been quite the same, least of all Rodney McKay.
"McKay, what are you so riled up about?" John's voice was hoarse, and Carson helped him to get a drink of water.
"Riled up? You haven't seen riled up yet! Why did you jump in front of me? You know, I can only save your life so many times. You are going to get yourself killed one day. Next time an access panel blows up, try to not get blown up with it."
Memory flashed across Sheppard's face, and he grinned at Rodney. "Well, next time I'll let you catch that explosion full in the face, McKay. Shrapnel in the eye won't be a problem, will it?"
Rodney spluttered at the thought. "My eye? Do you really think it would have struck me in the eye?"
Ronon nodded as John replied, "Absolutely, McKay. Look, I did what I had to do. You're my responsibility to protect. Can't have the Chief Scientist go around Atlantis looking like a pirate."
"Well, when you put it that way…."
Suddenly, Sheppard's breath hitched, and he clutched the sheets tightly as he squirmed from the abuse the substance in his system was inflicting.
"Breathe through it, lad. I'm sorry I can't give you more to help with the pain. I know it's agonizing, but I can't risk it."
"'S okay, Doc. I…understand."
Beckett turned to the others. "He needs to rest now. I'd like to limit the number of people around him for now so that he can recover. Please only one of you at a time."
Rodney sat back down in his chair and picked up his laptop. Teyla smiled at his back and turned to go. "We will return later, Colonel Sheppard."
"OK, Teyla. Ronon."
"Sheppard." Ronon followed Teyla out of the infirmary.
Elizabeth squeezed his hand gently. "Get some rest, John."
He squeezed back as his eyelids began to droop. "Bye, 'Lizbeth."
Elizabeth stopped by to see Sheppard regularly over the next several days. She informed John that she had sent Lorne and 3 teams of Marines back to M3X-606. However, they hadn't found anything. There was no sign of Wraith activity, and the building had been burned to the ground, destroyed completely. Sheppard hadn't been happy about that. To make matters worse, there was no sign of an Ancient outpost anywhere on the planet. Either the database had been wrong (and she didn't even want to think about that), or the outpost had been decimated sometime in the past 10,000 years.
John did look better every time she went, and there was always at least one member of his team with him. Dr. Beckett had told her that the pain-inducing compound had finally been metabolized and that he would recover fully. John would need some physical therapy to recover full motion in his arm and leg, but he would be good as new in a couple of months.
As Weir entered the infirmary this day, all three of his teammates sat with him. She paused and watched for a minute. They were such an odd group: a pilot with occasional authority issues, a scientist with a tendency for melodrama and hypochondria, a homeless runner with lightening reflexes and a quick temper, and a serene female who just happened to lead an entire race of people. And yet, it worked. She laughed to herself as she finally noticed what they were doing: playing poker. She wondered briefly who was winning but decided it didn't matter. Sheppard's team was closer than most families. And it suddenly clicked – why they got along so well. None of them had anybody else. They were each other's family. Deciding to come back later, she turned to leave, but John had already seen her.
"Elizabeth, come join us."
"I didn't mean to interrupt."
McKay sighed and tossed his cards on the bed tray. "You aren't interrupting. We weren't doing anything important."
Teyla laughed. "You are just annoyed that you are losing. Badly."
"So, Colonel, Carson tells me he's springing you tomorrow," said Elizabeth.
"Yep." John beamed. "I can't wait. I tried to convince him to let me go tonight-"
"And I told you I wanted to observe you for one more day, Colonel Sheppard. And I'll make it two if you continue to whine about it."
"You drive a hard bargain, Doc."
Carson smiled and looked at Rodney. "How bad did you lose this time, Son?"
Rodney started to rant as Ronon and Teyla snickered. John just laughed out loud. Rodney pretended to look insulted as he reached for the cards to shuffle them and deal the next hand. Carson pulled up a chair.
Rodney looked up at Elizabeth. "Do you want in too? I bet you can give Ronon a run for his money."
Elizabeth gazed at the group for a moment, realizing she considered them her family now too. She smiled. "Deal me in."