Title: Alone In a Crowded Room
Rating: PG13 (swearing) Genre: H/C, angst
Disclaimer: MGM owns the show and not me and blah blah blah :)
Spoilers: Season 5 characters
Written for: Kodiak Bear Country for the sgahc 2008 Fall Fic Exchange. The prompt: Team off-world and Shep gets whumped. Done and done. Hope you like it!
AN: Huge thanks to ladyniko and everybetty, who saw my midnight plea and provided lightning fast beta
When Sheppard falls through the floor, his first thought is I hate it when Rodney's right.
His second thought is Ow! Followed closely by Fuckfuckfuck.
Then the world goes dark.
He wakes to tugging that is. . . unpleasant.
"No, no, no, Sheppard. We're trying to help you here. Quick, grab his —"
Something heavy pins his arms and he writhes and twists because he needs his arms. He needs to get up, get out —
"Sheppard!" Ronon's voice is next to his ear, forceful, and he freezes. "Stop struggling. We've got you. We're lifting you out."
Out. Out — great. His team is on it. Of course they are. Stop struggling. He can do that.
Then the world again goes dark.
"There's always a storm."
"When one of us gets hurt offworld, we're always a two-day walk away from the gate and there's always a sudden storm so the jumper can't fly."
"I'm just saying, our luck sucks."
"I believe we should be thankful for the Volarians' assistance and for the offer of accommodations for the night, Rodney."
"McKay, lift up your end of the stretcher."
Sheppard wakes next to a flickering fire, the heat of it dancing across his right side even as his left tingles with chill. He is flat on his back, cushioned by something soft and furry that tickles the back of his neck. His body feels heavy, saturated, but the pain is dull and in the background and he can deal. He pulls his eyes open slowly and finds himself looking at the tightly woven almost-straw of a thatched roof.
And an agitated Rodney.
"Did I not mention the floor was unstable?" Rodney demands, peering down with a tight frown. "What part of 'unstable' did you not understand, Colonel Coulda-Been-Mensa?"
Sheppard blinks languidly. He considers offering his own choice greeting — something that makes liberal use of the word asshole — but Teyla beats him to it.
"Rodney," she admonishes, her voice floating from somewhere behind him and to the left. "Leave the colonel alone. He will wake when he's ready."
Rodney looks in her direction. "His eyes are open again." He swirls a finger next to his temple. "The lights are on but nobody's home."
That's it. He's going to tell Rodney exactly what he thinks of unstable floors and unstable scientists and regaining consciousness with Chief Unstable Scientist ranting like a —
Except his jaws refuse to open. His vocal cords won't even form the sounds.
"Doc said he'd be out for hours." Ronon's voice comes from the same area as Teyla's. Sheppard tries to turn his head, but it won't move.
Rodney snorts. "Yes, well, that 'doc' was a half step above leeches and sacrificing chickens and at least fifteen steps below Carson and Jennifer."
Arm. Sheppard closes his eyes and forces all his energy into moving his right arm, then his left. A jerk. A twitch. Something.
"He did a good job setting Sheppard's leg."
Sheppard focuses on his legs.
He opens his eyes. He has command of his eyes. Now if he could blink Hey, I'm awake here! in Morse Code, everything would be fantastic….
"I have heard of the anesthetic the Volarians' used." Teyla's voice. "It often takes a very long time for the person to wake."
Not wake. Move.
"And in the meantime we sit here and go out of our minds waiting."
Sheppard closes his eyes and wishes he could at least choke out a laugh because, for once, Rodney McKay doesn't even know the half of it.
He dozes off or passes out or sinks back under the anesthetic left in his system. When he opens his eyes again the room is dim and he's been turned so his left side is closest to the fire. Outside, the wind howls deep and angry.
On the opposite wall Sheppard can see the shadow of someone crouched and poking at the flames with a stick, but the shadow is too distorted, wavering and melding into the surrounding dark, for him to tell who it is. He tries to turn his head.
"Stupid fire. I swear, if I come down with pneumonia because — "
Ah. Rodney then.
Sheppard lets Rodney's low-toned rant about first watch and green wood and arctic temperatures fade into the background while he takes better stock of his situation. He can feel the heat of the fire. He can feel a kind of muted, full-body ache. So he has sensation, which is good. But he tries to talk again and can't. Can't move, either. Can't even hold his breath. He's frozen, locked inside himself. Trapped.
And suddenly Sheppard doesn't just want to move, he has to move. Something in his chest coils tight with the need to grit his teeth, to clench his fists, to shout, to alert his team that he's awake and aware and here —
"Dammit!" Rodney shouts, his shadow pitching backward, and then he's there, falling onto his butt and into Sheppard's side with a grunt. The branch he'd been holding clatters to the floor.
From somewhere behind them Ronon growls.
"Well, excuse me for trying to maximize the thermal output of our very meager fuel source," Rodney hisses back at him.
There's another growl. Sheppard catches the sound of Teyla's soft snore, the muffled rustle of Ronon's coat. Then silence. Rodney picks up the branch and leans forward, poking at the fire a few times before sighing and tossing it to the flames. Sheppard just starts to wonder when Rodney's going to notice he's practically sitting on him when the scientist glances down. He scrambles up with "Sorry, sorry. Shit. Sorry."
Rodney leans over and runs his hands along Sheppard's side, his left arm, his left leg, pressing lightly here and firmly there — checking, Sheppard figures, to see if he's re-injured him. Sheppard blinks once, twice, willing Rodney to look at his eyes, to notice he's awake, but Rodney looks only where his hands are and then turns back to the fire.
His eyes are open again, Rodney had said. How many times had his eyes opened on their own before he was awake? How often had his team looked at his face, anxious, waiting for the "Hey, guys" that never came?
Often enough that even Rodney doesn't look anymore. The thought makes Sheppard's chest tighten that much more.
Sheppard feels pressure against his thigh. Rodney is sitting gingerly against him, facing the fire, talking low.
"You know, Sheppard, if you'd like to stop almost dying all the time, that'd be a nice change of pace."
Sheppard would have turned if he could, would have answered, Didn't almost die.
Rodney snorts and shakes his head. "Okay, so you didn't almost die."
For an elated moment Sheppard thinks he's spoken out loud. But Rodney doesn't turn, doesn't give any other indication that Sheppard's said anything. Instead, he continues, "Hell, a few cuts and a broken leg. That's a light day for you."
Sheppard's heart sinks. So much for the sudden recovery.
"But really, falling through the floor? Who does that?"
"You, apparently," Rodney grouses quietly. "One minute you're there, the next you're gone. Nearly gave me a heart attack."
Not much fun for me either.
"Not that falling ten meters was on the top of your to-do list today." Rodney glances at his watch. "Yesterday. God. Wake up soon, will you?"
Funny thing about that —
"Come on, John." Rodney's voice changes, turning suddenly soft and serious in a way that Rodney rarely ever is. "We got you out. You aren't trapped down there anymore. We got you out. We're here."
"Just, you know, in case you didn't know. In case that addled brain of yours has you thinking you're still down there. You aren't," Rodney says, still facing the fire. "You aren't alone."
The coiled tightness in Sheppard's chest eases. I know, buddy.
There's a long silence and then Rodney shifts, bumping lightly against Sheppard's leg. "By the way, I don't know what these people were thinking, giving us a crappy cabin outside the village. I mean, hello? Injured man here. And I'm pretty sure I'm getting pneumonia. Or at least a nasty cold. I really can't imagine why — "
Sheppard closes his eyes to the comforting weight against his leg and the rise and fall of Rodney's voice.
"I'm telling you, Teyla, something's wrong."
"He will awaken when he's ready."
"Not even a twitch, not in the four hours I've been keeping watch."
"His pulse is strong, Rodney. His breathing is steady."
"And if he were awake, both of those things would be reassuring."
Sheppard wakes to soft humming and the faintly spicy scent of Teyla's shampoo. He opens his eyes and finds her leaning over him, checking a bandage on his arm.
The room is still dim, though a thin shaft of pale moonlight slants in from somewhere to his left. The wind continues to howl, and it's now joined by the heavy patter of freezing rain.
Teyla finishes with the bandage on his arm and moves to one on his side, lifting and checking and dabbing something that smells sharp and medicinal, which means it's probably the antibiotic gel from their first aid kit because Pegasus Galaxy ointments tend to smell earthy and pungent and, oddly, a little bit like ketchup and wet bread, which he'd kind of always wondered about, and —
Oh, Christ. Restrained like this, he's starting to ramble to himself.
Teyla, I'm turning into McKay.
Teyla smoothes the bandage back and turns to the fire. She hums, the melody carrying softly under the crackle of the flames. It's tuneless, or at least it isn't a tune Sheppard knows, and he suddenly, fervently, wishes Teyla would talk to him like Rodney had. He is desperate for conversation, for acknowledgement that he is… here.
But she hums and places another log on the fire and does not speak.
Sheppard closes his eyes and reminds himself this is temporary. The Volarians' anesthetic will wear off soon. This self-imprisonment will end and he —
Something touches his head.
Sheppard opens his eyes. Teyla's shadow falls against the opposite wall. She is behind him, carding her hands through his hair.
Inside, he tenses.
He doesn't do touch. Not this kind of touch. Intimate. Touch is the kind of thing you come to rely on, and he learned long ago, long before Atlantis, that it's easier to live without than to have it and lose it. As military commander, he can't have it anyway. Can't let his guard down. Can't be anything but alert and controlled. People get hurt otherwise.
I'm fine, Teyla.
But Teyla doesn't stop. And he can't move away.
Teyla strokes his head, comforting, fingers massaging his temples and caressing away the hidden tension at the back of his neck. Minute by long minute, he relaxes. He stops thinking about why he can't and shouldn't, and just lets go.
Teyla's humming slows, softens, changes to a tune Sheppard recognizes. It's the Athosian lullaby she sings to Torren. Sheppard closes his eyes again and drifts.
"Ronon — "
"I am afraid Rodney may be correct. He may be more injured than we thought."
"We'll get him home."
Ronon's growl wakes him up.
The first strains of morning light filter into the room, but Sheppard isn't up to even the weakest light. He opens his eyes and is rewarded with a sharp spike of pain and a wave of nausea so strong that he immediately slams his eyes shut again. Throwing up — when he's on his back and can't move — is a very, very bad idea.
It takes him several moments of intense concentration to get his stomach under control. As he does, he hears someone moving around, catches a few muttered Satedan curses. He wants to open his eyes to see what's going on, but he successfully fought the nausea once and, as loathe as he is to admit it, he's not sure he can win the same battle again. So he listens as Ronon moves around. There's soft thunking and a muted clatter. Outside, the wind howls stronger than before. But it's the sound he doesn't hear that tells him the most.
No crackling fire.
And that's when Sheppard realizes he's cold. Seriously cold. His hands and feet and nose are numb from it. His body is shivering, wracked with automatic tremors he can't control.
Ronon continues to curse under his breath, low enough not to wake the others but loud enough for Sheppard to hear. They are out of wood or there's a problem with the fireplace or they can't keep the fire lit. Sheppard can't tell what the problem is, but there definitely is one. And if Ronon hasn't woken Teyla and Rodney, it means it's a problem they can't fix.
Sheppard doesn't want to meet the problem Rodney can't fix.
He risks opening his eyes a little, just a slit to see if he can handle it. Because if he can catch Ronon's eye he knows the big guy will understand what he desperately needs him to understand: He can't move. His team can. If this turns any more FUBAR, the three of them need to get out of here.
But pain spikes and his stomach lurches. He slams his eyes shut again. He can't move and can't open his eyes now and there's no way he'll be able to tell Ronon anything. He curses himself. If his team suffers because he —
Something heavy drapes over him from feet to chest. It smells of leather. Ronon's coat.
Ronon just gave him his coat.
Dammit. Ronon, you can't —
"You need this more than I do, Sheppard."
I don't. Crap! I don't.
But Ronon, of course, doesn't hear him and probably wouldn't listen to him even if he did. So the coat stays over him and, after a moment, Ronon takes the situation a step further, tucking the edges under his legs and sides and arms, sealing Sheppard from the cold air.
He feels better almost instantly. His body stops shaking and his feet and hands go from numb to tingling. He's not warm, but he's not freezing either, and so he counts it as a win.
But Ronon doesn't have his coat anymore and Rodney and Teyla have got to be cold. They came dressed for a day trip with the jumper — moderate gear but no parkas, gloves or winter-weight clothing. He has a vivid memory of Rodney shoving his orange fleece into his pack at the last minute, but Sheppard can't remember whether that was this mission or the last one. Teyla, he's certain, brought only her uniform jacket.
"Hey, get up."
It takes Sheppard a moment to realize Ronon isn't talking to him.
"What?" It's Rodney's voice, groggy. "Why? What — Is it Sheppard?" Alert now. "What's wrong? God, and why is it freezing in here?"
"I can see there's no fire. What happened?"
"Storm took most of it. Left a hole that lets the wind in."
"So every time we light a fire the wind blows it out. Great. I'll just go and . . . " There's a pause and Sheppard can practically hear the situation click in Rodney's head. His voice is high, close to panic, when he says, "I can't build us a new chimney."
"Didn't think you could."
"I could. I mean, I could, but not in time for us to not freeze to death. I'd need materials and time and dramatically less wind and time and I — "
"Go lie down next to Sheppard."
It takes Sheppard several seconds to figure out what Ronon's doing. It takes Rodney even longer.
"What? Why?" Pause. "Oh."
"Yeah, I got that. Thanks."
Then Rodney's next to him, jostling, grumbling, and jostling more as he drapes something light across his neck and shoulders to fill the gap Ronon's coat couldn't meet. Sheppard hears Ronon and Teyla talking quietly just as Rodney settles down, a solid mass of warmth at his left side. Moments later there's a second, smaller heat source stretched along his right side. He has just enough time to wonder what Ronon's doing when a large hand lands softly on his forehead and stays there.
The warmth from all sides sinks bone deep, and Sheppard sinks with it.
Sheppard wakes warm, which is good. The others feel like they're warm, which is even better. The room is filled with sunlight, but while his eyes ache from it, they adjust.
Outside, the wind and freezing rain have stopped.
Sheppard lifts his head to find himself the center of… everyone. Teyla's arm is on his chest. Rodney's hand is on his leg. Ronon is lying down, his head pressed against Sheppard's shoulder.
Rodney's orange fleece slides off his neck when he sits up.
"H— " he starts, but his voice is rusty from lack of use. He coughs a little to clear his throat and tries again, louder, a grin twitching at his lips as he looks at his team.