Title: Never a Nursemaid
Genre: Gen, Humor, (very light) H/C
Word Count: 6600
Spoilers: Teensy tiny ones for "The Game" and some John background from "Outcast".
Beta: The ever lovely, for the lightning fast beta and for always laughing at my jokes.
Also Thanks: To Tazmy for the title, and Water Soter for, our, um, interesting chats that occasionally generate dialogue that I gleefully steal.
A/N: This started out in an exercise to see if I could write a fic of pure, unrepentant fluff. The answer is no, I cannot (vry vry sad), and was finished as sort of a birthday present for Leesa Perrie, who then insisted I share with the world.
Summary: John Sheppard failed at bedside vigils. Seriously failed.
The room was dark, which for the time of day, was a little unusual. Thick heavy drapes had been pulled tightly shut over a window that overlooked the crashing sea below, blocking out any bit of sunlight that dared to try and creep in. All of the room's built-in, recessed lighting had been firmly shut off, helping plunge the room into a cave-like darkness. The only light came from the open doorway where John stood uncertainly, light leaking from the hallway behind him and casting a long shadow across the expanse of the room.
He worried his lip between his teeth as he watched the form huddled under the blankets slowly rise and fall, indicating that the man underneath was caught in a deep sleep. So deep he hadn't even heard the chime on the door. Deep enough that the hails on the radio had gone unanswered. Or perhaps the latter had been purposeful as the radio had been shoved to the furthest corner of the nightstand.
Of course, John hadn't been worried. Rodney McKay was a grown man, and a very busy one at that. There were times that they went days without seeing each other. It had only been a small, niggling thought at the back of his mind when McKay hadn't shown up for breakfast, and really, only a curiosity when John hadn't been able to find him in his lab around lunch time. There certainly had been no disturbed prickling at the back of his mind when his hails on the radio remained unanswered. In fact, John had no idea why he was here at all.
His mind instructed his feet to back out the door, because clearly McKay was fine, just taking some much needed rest after his latest scientific marathon run. However, it seemed his mind and body were separate entities today, and they quietly shuffled John into the room of their own accord.
Okay, maybe he would discreetly check under the lump of blankets to see if it was Rodney, and not some mysterious alien life that had formed on the scientist's bed in his absence. He would be quiet about it though. After the past few months of off world excursions with the man, firsthand experience had taught John waking McKay from a deep sleep usually started a bitchfest that would last, at the very least, a good five to ten minutes.
"Hey, Rodney," he called quietly, "you in there?"
A barely audible, annoyed murmur escaped the blanket pile as it shifted. John's steps halted as the mass continued to toss and turn before finally settling once more. Cautiously he finished crossing the room, peering at the indistinct lump. Despite his best efforts at cajoling them into behaving, those independent feet of his would not move him back out of the room.
"Er, you weren't answering your radio."
There was another mumble, something that may have resembled "go away", except that it was missing all of the vowels so it came out an indistinct murmur.
"Just, uh..." John wasn't checking up on him, he was just... just... in the neighborhood? Wanting to shoot the breeze? Hell, he didn't know. "Are you okay?"
That elicited another grumble, although apparently the lump of blankets had decided to buy a vowel, because it was a little more coherent. "D' 'h l'hk 'kay?"
John translated that as "Do I look okay to you, Major Oblivious?" He had tacked on the insult at the end. Like a silent letter it wasn't pronounced, but always implied.
"I can't really see you at the moment," he leaned over the talking blankets so he could be heard better, "so I can't answer the question."
The lump shifted again, and braving the shadows and awaiting verbal explosion, John moved closer to the bed and cautiously poked at what he assumed was McKay's shoulder.
"Start using vowels and I might."
After a struggle of epic proportions, the top blanket slipped down low enough so John could see the other occupant of the room. Rodney's face was flushed, sweat dotting his forehead as annoyed, fever-bright raccoon eyes glared at him. The dark circles ringing McKay's eyes were not anything new; he gave a whole new definition to the word workaholic. However, the fevered look was an addition. John shifted uncomfortably, as usually this was the point where the healthy individual was supposed to feel the suspected sick person's forehead to check for a high temperature.
John had never really been a touchy-feely kind of guy, and with McKay, the standard distance he took with people was almost doubled because of the scientist's tendency to curl up like a porcupine when threatened—either by real danger or those confounded emotional situations. John settled for studying the tired, annoyed, and obviously feverish face as if he were trying to see the hidden picture in those books of 3D stereograms.
After a few seconds of this, John offered his fine medical opinion. "Yeah, you don't look so hot."
"Hot? I'm on fire!" At least there were vowels now. John was thinking that perhaps the blanket had muffled them before.
"Is that why you were buried under every blanket you could find?"
"No, that's because I was freezing!"
The warning bells John had been steadily ignoring all morning began clanging anew with the contrary statement. "Have you called Beckett?"
The flushed face crinkled in confusion. "What?"
Apparently John's hands had joined his feet in their rebellion against following his will, because suddenly he was lightly touching the back of his hand to McKay's forehead to their mutual discomfort. The awkward, antsy feeling in his stomach the action prompted was overridden by the heat rolling off the other man. "Crap."
"You're touching me."
"And you're burning up."
"I just told you that."
"Well, have you told anyone else? Like say, the multitude of doctors we have on staff?"
"Oh yeah... that'd be a good idea," McKay muttered in agreement, but made no move to grab the radio at the far end of the Atlantean nightstand.
John pursed his lips as he withdrew his hand. Rodney's eyes fluttered, as if he was fighting off sleep, and John took a few paces away from the bed as he tapped his radio. "Hey, Doc, you there?"
"Hold on, Major," Beckett's thick brogue returned. After a few beats of silence, he returned, sounding weary. "Yes I'm here."
"Have you and Rodney had a chance to chat today?"
"No," the Scot's voice sounded a little harried, "I've been a bit busy. Why?"
John pointed an accusatory finger at the miserable lump of a man on the bed, as if to say "Aha!" His silent accusation was met with a miserable groan.
"He's not feeling so great right now. Was hoping you might take a look at him."
"'Not so great' doesn't tell me much."
"He's a little feverish."
"A lot feverish," McKay corrected.
A sigh emanated from the earpiece. "Ach. Anything else?"
"He said he had some chills," John sent a look at the bed, but McKay had already turned over to face the other wall. "Not sure what else as he's not exactly in a talkative mood right now."
"He must really be feeling out of sorts, then."
"My thoughts exactly. Want me to bring him in?"
"No, we've been slammed this morning."
"That doesn't sound good."
"It's not horrible. We're just a bit overbooked at the moment. We think someone picked up a bug from the mainland, nasty little bugger seems to be spreading like wildfire. If Rodney doesn't have it it's best to not expose him."
"Okay, we'll wait for you here then." After finishing up with the conversation, John ambled back towards the bed. "You going to make it long enough for Beckett to get here?"
"Hey, what did I say about dropping vowels?"
McKay rolled over, pinning him with an exhausted stare. "Let me just die in peace."
"No can do."
"It's in the team leader contract. I have to put forth at least a nominal effort of keeping you alive; looks bad on the resume otherwise."
"Your bedside manner sucks."
John toed a wadded up off world jacket, one of many articles of clothing that lined the floor. "Let's say that the actual side of your bed could use some tending to as well."
"Why are you talking about my bed?" McKay sounded slightly perturbed. "That's highly inappropriate."
John rolled his eyes, deciding to attribute the strange shift in subject to the fever. "I'm not talking or thinking about your bed, just the atomic bomb of clothing that went off in here."
"You bett'r n't b'," the consonants were starting to slur together again as McKay's eyes began to drift shut.
"Vowels," John reminded.
"Scr'w y' 'n yr v'wls."
"Vanna would be very disappointed in you right now."
"You know, Vanna White. Wheel of Fortune. 'Can I buy a vowel'?"
"Buy a whole truckful to shut you up," came the (translated) muttered reply.
"You know, you're not very pleasant company when you're sick."
"'m not sick."
"Is that so?"
"'m thirsty," McKay grumbled, opening his eyes into half-slits to glare at John properly in the half-light. "There's a difference."
"Need some water?"
"No, I was hoping for some of that thirst-quenching vodka we brought along with us!"
"Whiskey it is then."
Carson needed to hurry up, because even in his feverish state McKay was right about one thing: John sucked at the whole bedside manner thing. The sooner Beckett and his magic bag of medicine got here to relieve John of babysitting duty, the better. After a quick rummaging around his teammate's bathroom, he managed to find a clean cup and fill it from the tap. He returned to the main quarters, holding it out at arm's length.
"Here's your rum."
"Put it on the dresser. I'll drink it later."
"Not thirsty anymore?" John frowned.
"I'm parched, but sitting up right now looks like more effort than it's worth."
"Just drink the damn water, McKay."
"Never become a nurse, Major."
"That's not one of my career goals."
"Seriously, you fail at bedside vigils."
"Look, I know that I'm not good at this..."
"Hold on," Rodney grumbled, shifting around and resembling a fish thrashing on dry land before he managed to sit himself up. "Give me the water."
"I thought drinking was 'too much effort'."
"Hearing your awkward attempts at emoting is more draining. Now give, I'm thirsty."
"You really know how to make someone feel welcome," John said, but handed over the water.
Rodney took a tentative sip, face screwing up in disgust. "Oh god..."
"It's lukewarm... Atlantis tap water tastes awful unless you stick a few ice cubes in it."
"I only reserve the royal treatment for our first class customers."
"You make a lousy stewardess as well."
"I believe the proper term is 'flight attendant'," John corrected.
"I'm sick. I don't need to be politically correct."
"So are you saying that you're sick every time we go off world?"
"Har dee har!" McKay snorted angrily, but continued to sip on the tepid water. "Go on, mock the dying man."
"If you insist."
"Now, Major, that's not exactly nice," Carson said from the doorway.
The tension that had been bunching at John's shoulders relaxed at the doctor's entrance. He summoned a grin and tilted his head to the side in greeting. "Sorry, Doc."
"Liar," Rodney mumbled behind another sip of water. "Never sorry."
"It's a little dark in here," Carson commented as he slowly picked his way around the battlefield of laundry strewn about the floor.
"That's because I was sleeping until someone barged in," Rodney sniped.
"Hey, I was just..." John trailed off, mouth snapping shut.
"Just what?" A suspicious look was slid his way. "Why the hell are you here?"
John found the dark, vaulted Atlantean ceiling very interesting all of the sudden. He wasn't about to admit that he had missed the long annoying diatribe droning on at breakfast—because it wasn't true. It had been a very pleasant, enjoyable meal.
It had also been boring as hell.
"I'm going to need some light," Beckett announced.
The room brightened a few notches as someone found the lighting controls, causing John to squint to adjust to the comparative brightness. He glanced over at the open doorway longingly, wondering if he might be able to slip out unnoticed.
"Rodney, be still."
John looked back at the bed to see that Beckett had already started his examination. The digital thermometer had already made its appearance, awkwardly bobbing up and down as the scientist struggled to keep it under his tongue. Rodney squirmed uncomfortably, a grimace painted on his face as Beckett tried to lay hands on his neck.
"Stop fidgeting, I'm almost done."
Any sarcastic response was halted by the normally acerbic tongue having to keep the thermometer in place. The thermometer beeped, and Beckett pulled it out, humming softly at the result.
"It's malaria, isn't it?"
"Definitely fever," Beckett announced, "thirty-eight point nine Celsius."
John did a quick conversion in his head, coming up with a hundred and two degrees Fahrenheit.
"I've got hyperpyrexia..." Rodney moaned.
"Oh, you do not! Technically, it's still a low-grade fever," Beckett corrected, shaking the thermometer. "Your glands aren't swollen like the others... tell me Rodney, have you experienced any vomiting?"
"Ew, and no."
"Other than the bout brought on by the Major's attempts at nursemaiding?"
"Rodney," Carson warned.
"No," he shifted uncomfortably, "but food doesn't exactly sound appealing right now."
"Are you sure he's not dying, Doc?" John asked lightly.
"Hate you," McKay mumbled, bringing the glass of water back to his lips.
"It could be the very early stages of what everyone else has got. Or maybe it's just brought on by exhaustion."
"He has been up late every night since we got back from our trip to the mist planet."
The only reason John knew that was the daily announcements at breakfast about lack of sleep and excited scientific chatter. It's not like he kept a daily log of McKay's sleep patterns.
"You don't understand the readings I got," Rodney cut in excitedly, "if we could just—"
Apparently John hadn't been the only one to hear this particular line of logic ad nauseum for the past week, because Beckett cut him off before he could hit his stride. "For now, Rodney, I'll just prescribe bed rest and for you to keep hydrated. At the moment your immune system is compromised. If you don't have what everyone else has got I don't want you catching it by hanging around the infirmary."
"What is going around?" John asked.
"Still trying to figure that out, but it's a nasty little bugger." For a moment, the Scot looked almost as tired as the figure huddled in blankets on the bed. "It's best he stay here and avoid contact with anyone until we know what we're dealing with—on both ends."
"You're going to leave me?" Rodney squeaked into the glass of water.
"I've got to get back to the infirmary." Carson looked contrite and the expectant stare he pinned John with made the antsy fluttering in his stomach start anew. He knew that look all too well, as it was usually followed with an uncomfortable request.
"Um, no," he tried weakly, not even bothering to wait for the question.
"I know it's a lot to ask, Major, but would you mind staying for a bit? I'd do it myself but I need to get back and start figuring this thing out."
There was a certain feeling of panic that descended in moments like this, once coined by his ex-wife as the "Sheppard-Deer-in-the-Headlights" look. A similar expression of horror settled on McKay's face, and as one they gaped at Beckett as if he had just suggested that John drop down on one knee and propose.
The twin looks of terror Beckett received seemed to amuse him more than anything. If there ever was a moment to flee in a most undignified manner, this was it.
"He'll be fine," John insisted quickly. "Besides, Ford and I are supposed to go over the mission log for next week."
"Not anymore," Carson began to pack his bag. "The Lieutenant checked in about fifteen minutes ago with the same symptoms as everyone else."
John pursed his lips. "How's he doing?"
"Holding up. As I said, this is a nasty bugger and it can progress quickly. I'd like someone to keep an eye on Rodney—"
"I'm still here you know," the scientist said sourly.
"—I'll send someone to spell you as soon as I can."
In all honesty, John preferred to be anywhere but in the tiny room. His bedside vigils generally lasted until his men regained consciousness and were out of the woods. He didn't wipe anyone's brow—certainly not McKay's. It was just... they didn't do this sort of thing. If Teyla hadn't been on the mainland at the moment, he would have pawned scientist-sitting duty on her, and something told him Elizabeth wasn't going to stop running the city to play nursemaid either. Zelenka would likely have his hands full with the lab in Rodney's absence, and Grodin was unlikely to leave his post while Stackhouse's team was still off world.
...the list stopped there.
John was having trouble thinking of someone else who might immediately drop what they were doing to stay in the same room with an even testier-than-normal McKay. Maybe John was wrong and wasn't giving them enough credit, but the fact that he couldn't think of anyone else had him swallowing suddenly. It was horribly wrong, because they were a community, they had to be united—it just so happened to be that Rodney also had a tendency to push people away on his best days.
And when John thought about it... his list probably wasn't that long either, just his team and a few select others. And even if there were moments where it seemed like it gave him nothing but trouble and headaches, John had chosen Rodney for his team. Nothing said team spirit less than fleeing at the first sign of discomfort.
"Yeah, sure," he finally sighed, realizing that he hadn't answered yet.
McKay's horrified look melted into something akin to astonishment, and suddenly John was eyeing the ceiling again. The shadows looming about the arches in the ceiling had been chased away by the room's ambient lighting. They weren't gone, just hiding in the far nooks of the archways. It was an odd thought, but not quite as odd or awkward as the silence that had followed his agreement to Carson's request.
John cleared his throat, turning back to the doctor. "So, uh, what sort of symptoms am I looking for?"
A grocery list of ailments and warning signs was read off to him. Whatever it was, it sounded a lot like the flu, but with an even quicker onset. Hopefully it wasn't very contagious, because with how much John had been around both McKay and Ford lately he probably had already been exposed. Heck, if it was something from the mainland any of them could have gotten it from Teyla—speaking of, he had no idea if she was sick as well.
"What about the Athosians?" he asked suddenly.
"We haven't gotten any reports yet, so we're hoping they're immune." Carson managed to follow his logic, even if to John's own ears it was jumping all over the place. He finished packing and hefted up his traveling first aid kit. "I guess I'll leave him in your capable hands, Major."
"Oh god, I'm going to die," Rodney moaned.
Beckett shot him a stern look. "Stop being so melodramatic."
"You're leaving me with the military equivalent of Nurse Ratched, minus any actual talent in the act of nursing."
"Hey," John protested. He was not a nursemaid.
"I'll be dead before sundown," Rodney announced grimly.
"I'll check in as soon as I can," Carson assured John before slipping out of the room, leaving the two teammates in a very extended and extremely uncomfortable silence.
"So, uh," John shifted and indicated the now empty water glass, "need a refill?"
"Not on your life."
The closest place to get ice was the mess, and there was no way John was going to start that sort of fetch and carry duty this early on into his stay as McKay's... caretaker? No, too much connotation. He decided to go with temporary-physician's-assistant. It was too early into John's hopefully very short and temporary career as temporary-physician's-assistant to start catering to McKay's picky requests.
"Then I'm good," Rodney harrumphed and sat back against his pillows in a pout.
"Beckett told you to stay hydrated."
"And I told you this water tastes like ass."
"Uh huh, we'll see how picky you are when your brain melts out of your ears from high fever."
"Oh god, do you think it will?"
"No!" John ran a hand through his hair in exasperation. "Just... go to sleep or something."
"I'm not tired."
"Well, I'm actually exhausted, but I'm too tired to sleep anymore."
John knew that was supposed to make sense, but he couldn't quite untangle the logic. "Short of knocking you out, I can't do anything about that."
"Did I ask you to?"
"Well, you mentioned it," John shot back. "I thought maybe you were bringing it to my attention for some reason."
Why had John volunteered for this again? Oh, that's right, he had felt guilty. After he got to the end of this day, the first thing he intended to do was rid himself of the tiny cricket that had taken up residence on his shoulder. Apparently his conscience had never met a sick Rodney McKay.
"If you left, it's not like he'd know any better."
John slid a glance back to the bed, where McKay had fixed his gaze on one particular corner of his room.
"Beckett," McKay clarified. "I won't tattle on you or anything, so you can go. I'll be fine."
"You couldn't get up to get your own water."
"That's because you were so kind as to fetch it for me, so I just didn't feel the need to." The fever-bright eyes briefly flicked in his direction before finding something else to look at. "Just go. This isn't fun for either of us."
John should have taken his opportunity for freedom and ran with it, but little Jiminy was still whispering in his ear. Ignoring the surprised squawk, he grabbed the empty glass from McKay, turned on his heel and headed back to the bathroom to refill it.
He returned and sat the glass on the nightstand before he proudly took the chair next to McKay's desk, as if he had just done something monumental and praiseworthy.
"And what exactly was that supposed to prove?"
"In case you decide you want to avoid dehydration."
"That wasn't an answer to the question—just a topic shift."
John simply shrugged and spun around in the chair once. "Your room is boring."
"Stop changing the subject!"
"I'm not leaving."
"Why the hell not? You looked ready to bolt the moment Carson brought it up."
"It'd be kind of crappy of me to do that."
"I gave you an out... and you're still not answering the question!"
John spun the chair to face the desk and opened up McKay's laptop without another thought. "You got any games on this thing?"
"That's not yours, and who has time for games—"
"Solitaire? Minesweeper? If you've got Hearts we can trade off."
"You'll look at my cards, cheater!"
"Me a cheater? Need I remind you, during Ancient Sims, which person introduced running water to his country way before their society was ready for indoor plumbing?"
"It was never specified in the rules what I could and couldn't do as far as technology, and that's beside the point."
"That you're still avoiding my question!"
"Maybe I'm ignoring it."
"Well, that's just rude."
"Guess I'll just play a few rounds of Solitaire in that case." John impatiently waited for the tiny laptop to finish rolling through its boot sequence.
"That's not fair—"
"You're supposed to be sleeping anyway." He glanced over his shoulder. "Or have you changed your mind about Hearts?"
"Competitive Minesweeper—first to die loses."
John plucked the laptop from its resting place on the desk and set it on his lap. "That's generally how the game works in single-player mode."
"And it's my computer, so give."
John gave him a long glance. "You're not going to start micromanaging via e-mail are you?"
"No," Rodney insisted, holding out an insistent hand for his laptop.
"I think I'll just start the first round." He quickly launched the game. After a few moments of consideration he tapped out his selection, clearing out a nice section of the field.
"Did you die already?"
"Nope." John hefted the computer off his lap as he rolled the distance between the desk and the bed, quirking an eyebrow at the annoyed glower it earned him. "What?"
"Too much effort to get up and walk the whole five steps?"
"Yep," he shot back and set the laptop on the bed. "Your turn."
Rodney wrinkled his nose in disgust, started to hover the mouse over a section when John hummed disappointedly.
"I wouldn't do that."
"You're just trying to psych me out." Rodney shot him a glare and proceeded with his selection. The tiny window lit up in red as the smiley face at the top of the screen died an ignoble death. "Crap."
"One more round." McKay called up a new game. "And no more backseat gaming from you!"
John held his hands up in surrender and leaned back into his seat to watch the entertainment. Another curse from McKay signaled that his first move had not been a fortuitous one and the start of yet another new game. After several long moments of hesitation the frown on his face smoothed into a smug look and he passed the laptop over. John shrugged, made his selection, and handed it back. This continued on for several rounds, until Rodney was taking far too long to decide on his next move.
"What are you doing?"
John noted the twitching brow and familiar face that read "I'm surrounded by idiots". Without warning he snatched the laptop back, ignoring the annoyed protest. The tiny game screen had been covered up by a long list of e-mails from various personnel. With an aggrieved sigh John shut the lid to the laptop.
"Sorry, no work."
"That was never one of Beckett's instructions!"
"No, his instructions were to rest and to drink water, neither of which you have done."
"That's what happens when you let the inmates run the asylum."
"Has anyone ever told you that you're a little melodramatic?"
"All the time." Rodney wiped at his forehead, frowning as it came away dry. "Aren't you burning up in here?"
The room temperature was perfectly comfortable, maybe even a little on the cool side. John pursed his lips together and shook his head. "I'm fine."
"Good for you!"
"Drink some water," he ordered, pushing himself to his feet.
"Drink it," he repeated firmly as he deposited the laptop on the desk. "You're getting dehydrated."
"You're not my mother!"
"It would be very awkward if I were." He didn't bother waiting to see if McKay decided whether or not to listen and headed into the bathroom again.
"What are you doing?"
"This isn't your job."
"It is until Beckett sends someone to relieve me," John called out as he rummaged through the linens until he managed to find a clean rag. Before John could think too long about the domesticity of the action, he doused it thoroughly under running water. Wet rag in hand, he walked back into the room.
"Oh, you have got to be kidding." Rodney eyed the rag distastefully. "Look, I was kidding about the mother crack, but seriously, you are not wiping my fevered brow—"
The statement ended in an indignant squawk as the rag smacked him in the face with a wet slap. John Sheppard wiped no man's brow but his own.
McKay pulled the rag off, glaring at his "caretaker" with the heat of a thousand suns. "Seriously, you suck at this!"
John just smirked in return and picked up the laptop. When he turned back to grab the chair, he saw that McKay had rolled up the rag and placed it on his forehead. The fierce look pointed in his direction dared him to say anything. Rather than risk a mutiny, John decided to remain silent and plopped back into the seat before opening the laptop back up. It was Solitaire time.
"One more round?" Rodney asked, his irritation giving way to an almost cautious hope.
"Nope, you ruined it."
"I needed to see what those idiots were doing!"
"I think the city can operate one day without you micromanaging the entire science staff."
"Hey! Your laid-back, devil-may-care managerial attitude may work for your grunts—"
Tuning out the rant, John leaned back and kicked his boots up on the nearest convenient footrest—which also happened to be McKay's bed. They were promptly shoved back to the floor.
"—and what do you think you're doing? Making yourself at home?"
"If I'm stuck here for an indeterminate amount of time, I might as well be comfortable."
"Be comfortable elsewhere... and keep your dirty boots off my bed."
In response, he propped his feet back up on the bed only to have them shoved off again.
John quirked an eyebrow in challenge.
"Don't even think about it," McKay warned, pointing a stern finger.
"Think about what?" John asked innocently, lifting one foot up and letting it hover over the bed.
"Do it and die."
John dropped the foot a few inches before raising it up again.
"What are you going to do? Breathe your germs of exhaustion on me?"
"Yuk it up—but I'll eventually get the energy to move again," Rodney snorted an angry breath, cheeks starting to flush a brighter red, "and when I do, oh, when I do... you'll rue the day you put your feet on my bed!"
John's foot continued to hover in place, but the unhealthy flush to his teammate's skin gave him pause. Damn it, picking on sick people was bad karma. Reluctantly, he set his foot down on the ground and focused back on his yet-to-be-played hand of Solitaire.
Beyond the computer, barely in John's line of sight, he saw McKay blink in confusion. "That's all it takes to dissuade you? Seriously?"
Leave it to McKay to push the subject even when he got his way. "I think part of your prescription was rest. Why don't you try that?"
"I told you, I'm too tired—"
"Try? Try what?"
"Resting. It's good for the soul." Dang. John should not have selected Vegas scoring in the game options for Solitaire. It never ended well.
"You're just tired of hearing me talk," Rodney whined.
"There's that too."
McKay's face settled into an annoyed glower, and he was forced to readjust the damp rag when it started to slip down his forehead. "I'm fine."
"I'd believe that if you could make up your mind between being fit-as-a-fiddle and lying on your death bed."
"Who the hell says 'fit-as-a-fiddle'?"
"I do. Now seriously, drink some more water."
"Why won't you just leave?"
"Damn it, McKay." John tipped down the screen so that it was easier to glare at the scientist. "Drink the water and shut up."
"I didn't ask for your company!"
"No, but Beckett told me to stay because he's afraid you might get worse—and I'm starting to think he's right because you've stopped sweating."
"Isn't that a good thing?"
"Unless your fever's broken, no."
"I don't think it has," Rodney muttered, reaching a hand behind his neck to check for perspiration there. "How bad is that?"
"Not bad enough to call it in yet," John sighed. "But I'm starting to feel like a broken record—"
"Fine, fine, I'll drink the ass water."
John wrinkled his nose in disgust at the images conjured by the colorful term, but McKay reached for the glass at the bedside and John watched the series of disgusted looks flit across the scientist's face as he drank. Thirst finally quenched, Rodney set the glass down and flopped back onto his pillows as if the action had been the equivalent of running a triathlon.
"This really sucks," Rodney muttered.
During the "exhausting" trial the rag had dropped to the floor, and John was forced to shuffle the laptop to the side so he could retrieve it. "Maybe next time you'll sleep in between scientific discoveries."
"Never—and what if I've got this bug?"
"Then you will not throw up on me... and we'll make the call to transfer you to the sick ward to join the rest of the pandemic."
"Thanks for the pep talk, Major."
"My pleasure." John offered the rag.
"Get me a clean one."
"You have got to be kidding me."
"It touched the floor!"
"Which considering you've got dirty laundry from like last month strewn about it, I can see how that would be worrying."
"That's not an excuse," John grumbled, but took the rag in a two-fingered grip. He disposed of it in the yet-to-be-discovered laundry hamper before wetting a clean rag. John honestly didn't know if the rag was doing anything for the fever, but Rodney had requested another so maybe it was some sort of help.
John fully expected to emerge from the bathroom to see McKay desperately reaching for the laptop but was surprised to find him in the same position he had been left in, staring blankly at the ceiling. This whole afternoon was awkward enough as it was, so instead of commenting John just handed over the new rag without preamble.
"Thanks," Rodney muttered, opting to drape the it over his face this time around. "You could be merciful and just kill me now."
"Or you could stop talking and get some sleep."
"You woke me up—you know once my mind gets going it can't stop."
"I was only—" John started to defend his actions, but stopped himself.
"Was only what?" Rodney pushed the rag above his eyes so he could scrutinize the other member of the conversation.
"Only wondering if you had wanted lunch?" John tried.
Rodney apparently didn't believe the lame excuse either, just snorted and readjusted the rag. "See if you can keep your wild Solitaire parties from getting out of control."
"Going to try some of that newfangled thing called sleep?"
"If you'll stop talking," Rodney muttered, eyes drifting shut. "Wake me if I die or something equally inconvenient."
John grabbed the laptop and attempted to lose himself in the bland shifting of red and black suits of cards. The battery on the laptop started blinking a warning light about the same time a light snore filled the room. John set the computer aside, at first just intending to plug it in and continue his wild pixelated card adventures. However, he noticed that in Rodney's restless shifting, the rag had been knocked aside and was now lying limply on the mattress.
He eyed it for a while, a relatively new and strange feeling worming its way up from his gut. It was the same thing that hit him when Ford tried to pretend that flying around in a spaceship wasn't the coolest thing ever; when Teyla earnestly tried to convince John that valuable Athosian artifacts were indeed a worthy trade for his last bag of instant popcorn; when Carson rolled his eyes at the latest antics from Atlantis's dynamic duo but was unable to completely disguise his mirth; or even those times when Elizabeth pinned John with an amused yet equally exasperated look before okaying his latest crackpot idea to improve morale around the city.
Carefully, so as to not wake his "patient", John grabbed the rag and gingerly put it back in place. Satisfied, he plugged the laptop in and resumed his adventures in Solitaire Land. By nature, he started to lean back in the chair and lift his feet up to rest them on the bed, but the soft snores made him stop himself in the middle of the action. Shaking his head, John removed his boots before gently placing his feet on the bed.
Rodney didn't stir, so John figured he was probably safe in leaving his feet there. After all, if he was going to be here a while, he might as well get comfortable.
It had taken all day, but they had finally managed to get a handle on the nasty little bug spreading through the city's populace. It had never been close to reaching pandemic proportions, was barely an outbreak in fact, but Carson was exhausted nonetheless.
He had completely lost track of time as he and the rest of the staff tried to simultaneously care for their many patients and track down the pathogen responsible for the sickness. Carson felt a little guilty, but at some point he had forgotten to check up on how Rodney was holding up or if Major Sheppard had managed to resist strangling him.
Carson was actually surprised he hadn't heard anything yet. He had fully expected a call on the radio to report the emergence of any new symptoms or at least pleas for someone to take over babysitting duties. Then again, John Sheppard was a man who took care of his own; even if that "own" happened to include a loud, sometimes obnoxious scientist with a penchant for melodramatics.
He palmed the sensor to the door to McKay's quarters. It swooshed open, and Carson had to pause in the entryway in order to fully capture the scene that greeted him.
They were both asleep.
John sat in a desk chair pulled up next to the bed with his feet—sans boots—propped on top of the tangled sheets. Rodney was sprawled across the small bed, limbs flung out in every direction as if his personal mission in slumber was to take up every spare inch of the mattress.
One foot was tangled in the crumpled bed sheets, while the other had managed to free itself and started to slip over the side of the mattress. Rodney had one hand resting against his chin in a bizarre take on Auguste Rodin's Thinker statue. His other palm was lightly pressed against John's crossed ankles, as if he had stopped in the middle of shoving the intruding feet off the bed, and was undecided on whether or not he should follow through with the action.
John's chin had dipped forward to the point it was resting against his chest that was slowly rising and falling in a light slumber. His crossed arms casually rested on his stomach, but his shoulders were held tense in a way that indicated the pilot was ready to leap into action if the need arose.
Carson shook his head as a soft smile played at his lips. There was no reason for him to have been concerned.
Rodney had been left in good hands.