Hours passed. Ronon woke up a few times but couldn't keep his eyes open for long and wondered if Keller had given him something to keep him in bed. He would never have admitted it, but it felt good to lay in bed. His concern for his team was pushed to the back of his mind, buried under whatever drugs Keller had given him. His limbs were heavy and relaxed and the bed was soft, and he wondered idly if he'd gotten weak after all this time in Atlantis.
When he next woke up clearly, sun was streaming into the infirmary. It felt like mid-morning, and he could hear nurses bustling around. One of the privacy curtains had been moved, allowing him a view out the far window. He stared at the blue sky half-mesmerized and had almost drifted asleep when Doctor Keller came over.
"Oh, good. You're awake. How are you feeling?" She asked, smiling as she raised the bed.
"Okay, I guess." His head felt heavy and he was having a hard time waking up.
"Any pain? Headache?"
"No, not really," Ronon answered, rubbing his face with his hands. He noticed belatedly that the IV had been removed. Keller checked his lungs and heart, then stuck a thermometer in his ear.
"Think you can eat?"
Keller nodded, satisfied at both Ronon's temperature and his responses to her questions.
"Am I okay?"
"Yes, you are. You're lungs sound good and none of your cuts and scrapes are infected. Eat some breakfast and get some rest, and we'll talk about releasing you later this afternoon. Got it?"
Ronon nodded. He liked Keller, respected her as a doctor, but he hated the infirmary. The thought of retreating back to his own room sounded great. The last couple of days had been brutal. Ronon knew that most people viewed him as unshakeable, strong, able to face down anything life threw at him without a blink of the eye, but they were wrong. Ronon was just good at hiding it and pushing it back. He hadn't had the luxury of not doing anything but that for a long time.
He ate and slept and ate again. His headache had returned, but Keller was keeping it at bay. Late that afternoon, Keller officially released him from the infirmary, and Ronon immediately made his way to the ICU.
He noticed immediately that the ventilator was gone, replaced with the less intrusive nasal cannula. Sheppard was still beyond pale, but Keller assured him that his friend was doing better. Ronon sat down in a chair for yet another long wait. Nurses flitted in and out, checking on Sheppard's vitals and bandages and assuring the tubes and wires were still in place, but for the most part, they left the two of them alone.
"McKay went to find Teyla," Ronon suddenly said. He'd been sitting in silence for an hour. The beep of the heart monitor was his only answer.
"They're not back yet. Not sure when that will happen."
Sheppard did not even twitch, and the utter stillness of the man reminded Ronon of when he'd first found Sheppard buried in the debris hole.
"You should be awake for that," he added. He leaned back in his chair and let the silence feel the room. Except that it wasn't silent, not like it had been in the ruins of that building. Nurses walked by, chatting quietly to each other, to Ronon, and to Sheppard when they did one of their checks on him. Machines beeped, and distant calls over the intercom floated into the room from the main part of the infirmary.
No creaking building, no cackling of nearby flames. Ronon heard again the muted whompff of the first booby-trapped explosion, felt the ground shaking below his feet. He pressed his fingers into this eyes as he saw himself pushing Sheppard forward, the ceiling raining down in chunks above him, the floor opening up below him like a great, gaping jaw.
Sheppard had laid in the debris, half buried, for hours, telling Ronon he couldn't do it—he couldn't lose Teyla or McKay or him or Atlantis. So much loss, Ronon thought, and his mind flashed to Beckett in the stasis pod, hovering in limbo between real life and absolute death, and of Weir—dead, then alive, then dead again. Ronon had lost everything when the Wraith had wiped out Sateda, and then Sheppard had given it all back piece by piece, and now, slowly, he wondered if he was losing it all over again.
"Shut up," he muttered to himself, wishing he could stop the flood of thoughts. Too much time. Too much waiting. Too much silence. He'd told McKay once that he tried not to think about the things he couldn't change, and it was true. He tried, but sometimes he couldn't help it.
A commotion in the main part of the infirmary had him looking up. Something clattered to the ground and someone apologized. Ronon forced himself to look at Sheppard again. He looked dead, and only the rhythmic beating of the heart monitor convinced him otherwise. The dark shadows under Sheppard's eyes made the man's face look drawn and exhausted.
I can't feel my legs.
Sheppard's voice drifted in and out of his mind, and he cringed. I can't move, Ronon. I can't feel my legs. Ronon had pushed him forward then picked him up when he knew Sheppard had seriously injured his back. I can't move, Ronon.
"Sorry," he said, his voice gruff. He stared at his hands, remembering the blood that had covered them after Sheppard had been taken away, back to Atlantis.
The voice was soft, barely intelligible, but Ronon looked up with a startled gasp. Sheppard stared back at him, his eyes half open and looking like they wanted to slide closed again.
"Sheppard? You're awake?"
Sheppard swallowed, his throat moving painfully. Ronon grabbed the ice cup a nurse had set out a while earlier and fished around for a piece that hadn't melted yet with the spoon. He found one and held it carefully to Sheppard dry lips. Sheppard closed his eyes as he sucked on the ice, the lines in his face relaxing a bit in relief.
"Home?" Sheppard asked after a few moments. His voice was gruff and hoarse but a little stronger.
"Yeah, home. We made it."
"Some of the marines were killed, but McKay and Lorne made. They're off looking for Teyla right now. They think they know where she is."
"I'm okay. Just a concussion. Keller wouldn't let me leave."
Sheppard nodded. He closed his eyes for a moment, trying to stifle a cough. Ronon fished for another piece of ice and smiled when Sheppard looked at him gratefully.
"How about you? You okay?" Ronon asked.
"…umm…not sure…feel floaty…weird…"
"Keller said you broke a bunch of bones."
Sheppard stared up at the ceiling, squirming slightly in bed as he seemed to take stock of himself. Ronon glanced at Sheppard's legs and felt a sharp stabbing pain in his chest when he realized they had not moved.
Sheppard seemed to realize this at the same time. He gasped, reaching out with a casted right wrist for Ronon.
"I can't…I can't feel my legs. I remember now…"
Ronon's stomach clenched and he felt sick. He swallowed, grabbing for the finger's poking out of the cast.
"Sheppard, it's okay," he said.
"I can't move…I can't move my legs…"
The heart monitor began beeping frantically and Sheppard was panting. His face was covered in sweat.
"Sheppard, calm down."
Sheppard didn't calm down. An alarm from one of the monitors started to go off and Sheppard was gasping for air. He twisted on the bed but his left arm—with the compound fracture—was casted and immobilized, strapped to the rest of his body. He flailed his right arm, banging the cast around his wrist against the metal bed rails.
"John." Ronon commanded, almost yelled. He had grabbed Sheppard's right arm to keep it still, and now he rested his other hand on his friend's forehead, like he'd done in the debris hole.
Sheppard stilled, blinking up in surprise at Ronon. The alarm on the monitor was still going off, but the heartbeat underneath that slowed down a little. Ronon wasn't sure what had caught Sheppard's attention—either the yelling or Ronon's sudden closeness—but whatever it was, it had shocked Sheppard out of his panic.
"McKay said not to panic."
Sheppard nodded, his breathing ragged. Two nurses and Keller ran in at the commotion, and Ronon was politely shoved back as they looked Sheppard over, turned off alarms, and got the injured man settled again. By the time they were done, Sheppard was barely holding onto consciousness. Ronon stepped forward before anyone could kick him out.
"Sleep, Sheppard. I'll be here."
Sheppard responded by closing his eyes. His breathing and heart rate evened out immediately as he drifted off to sleep, and Ronon dropped heavily into the chair.
He jerked awake, his neck stiffening in pain. He'd fallen asleep in the chair, he realized. The infirmary was dark, and quieter than usual, and Ronon figured it must late in the evening. He blinked a few times as his eyes adjusted to the dim light. Sheppard was sleeping quietly, his casted arms both folded across his chest and stomach.
Ronon rubbed his neck, wondering what had jarred him so suddenly out of sleep when he heard McKay's strident voice in the main part of the infirmary. He stepped quietly out of Sheppard's room, following the sound of the physicist, and couldn't help the grin that split his face at the scene he found.
McKay stood in the middle of the room, waving his arms and babbling a hundred miles an hour. Lorne stood nearby, looking dirty and tired, but also smiling. Keller leaned over a gurney, and when she straightened up, she held a small bundle curled up in her arms. Teyla lay on the gurney, looking exhausted and grungy, but her eyes followed Keller and the small wad of blankets in the doctor's arms.
"Ronon!" McKay yelled as the runner stepped into the room. "You're okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. You found Teyla?"
"Yeah, we did, obviously. She's fine. Right, Teyla? You're fine? She had her baby. I had her baby. I mean, she had the baby, but I was there. I delivered a baby! Teyla's baby. She had her baby."
Ronon laughed, his spirits lifting for the first time in days—weeks even. He looked at Teyla, who smiled and beckoned him over. McKay followed, close on his heels.
"Congratulations," Ronon said.
"Not you, McKay."
"Thank you," Teyla said, and even her voice sounded strained with fatigue. "Ronon, I'd like you to meet my son."
Keller opened the blankets a little, revealing a tiny, scrunched up, sleeping face.
"You did it, McKay," Ronon said in awe.
"I know," McKay answered, equally shocked. "We were stuck and Lorne couldn't reach us and Michael was running around with his zombies and then Teyla said she was having the baby and it was just us and she was having the baby and there was all this blood and you know how I am with blood—"
"You did it, McKay." Ronon clapped the man on the shoulder, smiling again at Teyla. His team was finally home, safe.
"Teyla, I need to check both you and the baby out," Keller said. "And Major Lorne and Doctor McKay, you two need your post-mission checks."
"What about Michael?" Ronon asked before anyone could move.
"Escaped," Lorne answered, and some of the relief and joy in the room faltered a bit. "We believe we managed to destroy most of his research, though. At least the recent stuff he'd done on Teyla and the baby."
Ronon nodded. He'd wanted to hear Michael was dead, but hopefully they'd stopped him enough for the moment. One day, he would find Michael and he would make him pay.
"Where is John?" Teyla asked suddenly, and Lorne and McKay paused, looking around for the colonel.
Ronon took a deep breath. He looked at Keller, who nodded back at him, unable to keep the worry from her face.
"Oh, no," McKay said, catching the look that passed between them.
"Ronon?" Teyla pressed.
"He's…um…he's alive. He was hurt badly in the explosion, though," Ronon started. He looked up wildly at Keller, not sure what to say next.
"We've got him in the ICU right now," Keller filled in. "He's recovering, but he's in bad shape."
"He couldn't feel his legs," McKay said. "I remember you said that. He couldn't feel his legs."
Teyla looked between all of them with wide eyes, and the room seemed to deflate around them.
"He bruised his back but there's no immediate indication of spinal cord damage. He also had some internal bleeding, a bruised lung, and a number of broken bones. You need to understand that he's going to be okay but it will be a slow recovery." Keller stared at them, meeting each of their eyes until they all nodded back. "Now, you three need to get checked out, get some food, and then rest. You, Ronon, need food and rest too."
They murmured their acquiescence. McKay and Lorne followed a nurse to the back of the infirmary to get checked out, and Keller left to check over the baby. Ronon grabbed Teyla's hand, squeezing it in his larger, rougher one.
"I'm glad you're back," he said.
A small smile pulled at her lips. Her eyes were bright as she looked up at Ronon, and Ronon could feel his heart thudding in his chest. They were safe and home, but they weren't all okay yet, and relief warred with anxious fear as he scooped Teyla up in a hug.
Sheppard coughed, then groaned, then let out a soft, whimpering cry.
"What is it?" Ronon asked. He'd jumped up out of his chair the second he saw that Sheppard was waking up.
Ronon punched the call button for the nurse, who ran in almost immediately.
"He's awake. Get Keller," Ronon barked. "Hold on, Sheppard."
Sheppard groaned again, twisting in his bed. He reached down with his right arm toward the leg with the hairline fracture, propped up under the blankets.
"Yeah, I'm here," he answered, grabbing for Sheppard's hand. Sheppard looked up, his face creased in pain, but there was something else in his eyes.
"My leg hurts," he said, and Ronon froze. He looked from Sheppard's face, to his leg, then back to his face, and couldn't stop the grin on his own face, even when Sheppard groaned again and shuddered.
"What is it? What happened?" Keller yelled out of breath as she ran up to the other side of the bed.
"His leg hurts," Ronon announced.
Keller froze, like Ronon had, then smiled. "That's the best news I've heard all day."
"Glad I…could…help…" Sheppard grunted.
"Let me run a few checks, then I'll get you something for the pain." She moved to the end of the bed. "Can you feel this?"
Ronon stood next to Sheppard, glancing down occasionally when his friend yelped in pain at Keller's poking and prodding, but neither one of them could keep the relief off their faces. A few minutes later, Keller reported that Sheppard's reflexes looked good. She gave Sheppard some pain medication and hovered just long enough to see the pain lines in his face lessen, then left with the promise of returning soon with more tests.
Sheppard groaned, but he smiled when he looked at Ronon.
"That's a bit of a relief," he muttered and Ronon laughed, sinking into the ever-present chair next to the bed. The nightmarish images of the last few days were beginning to fade, shuffled to the back of his mind, but he wondered for a moment if he should apologize. He'd apologized before, but Sheppard had been pretty out of it.
"Thanks," Sheppard whispered, and Ronon looked up, startled. "You saved my life. I know you would have blamed yourself for any…permanent damage, but you made a hard decision, and I'm alive."
Ronon nodded, unable to respond. He suddenly remembered McKay's and Teyla's return the night before. Sheppard had closed his eyes, and Ronon wondered if he'd drifted off to sleep already.
"Sheppard, you asleep?"
"Hmm?" Sheppard turned his head back toward Ronon but his eyes remained stubbornly closed.
"You're awake!" McKay yelled, and all grogginess left Sheppard's face in an instant. Ronon rolled his eyes, and caught the same look on Teyla's face as the two of them walked into the room.
"McKay, Teyla, you're back," Sheppard rasped. "When did you get back?"
"Last night. We just saw Keller. She said—uh, so…you're okay?"
"Yeah, McKay, I'm going to be fine. And you, are you guys okay? Teyla?" Sheppard was struggling to sit up as they approached. Ronon reached down to raise the bed up.
"We are fine, John. Especially now that we know you will recover as well." Teyla stepped closer, holding out the small bundle in her arms. "John, I would like you to meet my son."
Sheppard smiled, staring at the baby in awe as he struggled to reign in his emotions. Teyla brushed Sheppard's hair away from his face, then gently eased the baby into the crook of his arm, positioning the casted right wrist so that the baby wouldn't slip. The baby yawned, stretching one of its arms before settling against Sheppard's chest and falling back to sleep. Sheppard looked half thrilled and half panicked, making everyone laugh.
"So, have you decided on a name?" Ronon asked, and grinned at the sudden twinkle in Teyla's eye.
Thanks for reading! I wanted to keep this story with Ronon and his experience. McKay's and Teyla's adventures could have been a whole different story, or at least tripled the size of this one, and I didn't want to get too deeply into that. Perhaps another story for another day…I really am wondering what Teyla would name her baby, too. This story will be AU in a few short months, so maybe the new season will come quickly and answer some of our burning questions!