As I Lay Me Down To Sleep
Disclaimer: The following story is a work of fan fiction, and as such is for fan enjoyment only. All recognizable characters/settings are the property of their respective owners. No copyright infringement is intended, and no profit is made. I'm afraid that despite wishing that I did, I don't own these characters. Not even my muses' voodoo could make them mine (and believe me, they used a LOT of chicken blood and other such occult doodads), nor could my militant blue badgers. DO NOT MESS WITH THE BADGERS. Still, I suppose that having the boys out on loan for a while is better than nothing…
Summary: At last the city of Atlantis is safe… but is Rodney?
Central Character(s): Rodney and John, with Carson and Elizabeth.
Category (ies): Humour, friendship, episode tag, h/c.
Placement: Season Two.
Spoilers: 'The Siege Part 3'.
Author's Note: The next in my 'Aftermath' series. FINALLY ONTO SEASON TWO!!! Again, this seems to be a favourite among fanfic writers – then again, most episodes are, so what am I complaining about?! And yes, I am being beastly to poor ickle Rodney. It's what I do, people. *grin*
Finally, it was over.
The Wraith were gone, believing Atlantis to be destroyed. They had a fully functioning ZPM, which meant a shield and a way back home – and, thanks to him and Radek, a convincing cloak that wouldn't drain their power as much as said shield.
They. Had. A. ZPM. The things they could do, the systems they could finally access… the possibilities seemed endless. It was like Christmas.
Even better was the fact that Major Sheppard hadn't gone out in a suicidally nuclear yet heroic blaze of glory. Of course, he'd left it until the last possible moment to get his skinny ass saved by Caldwell, but he was alive and in one blessedly non-radioactive piece. For one horrible moment, though…
But poor old Ford was now officially AWOL, whacked out on that Wraith enzyme. He'd stolen a jumper and beat up on Radek of all people – the man was harmless for God's sake – before he'd high-tailed it through the Gate without a second thought. Oh they'd get him back, of that he was convinced. John would find him and Carson would fix him. No argument.
They'd lost other people – too many, far far too many for his liking – but they had been (still were) at war, hadn't (weren't) they? And in any war, there were bound to be casualties, whether it was military men or innocent civilians. However, the important thing was that the majority of his close knit group were still here.
For the time being, at least.
All of these thoughts swirled around Rodney McKay's head in a disjointed muddle as he lay in his bed staring at the ceiling. It was late and he knew he should be asleep, but dammit if he wasn't too wired. He could still feel the buzz of the stimulants Carson had given him (that felt like lifetimes ago now) and it made him restless and jittery. Sighing in frustration, he pushed the covers aside and dressed before leaving his quarters and heading for the lab.
If he couldn't sleep, McKay reasoned, he might as well do something productive.
As he walked, he felt the hum of the city beneath his feet, gentle and reassuring, and he couldn't help the crooked smile that settled on his lips. His city was still here. She needed some repairs from where the Wraith darts had performed their kamikaze runs, but she was more or less in one piece and that thought gave him a quick, fleeting feeling of contentment and pride. Stopping for a moment, he pressed a hand against the wall and felt the energy ripple through him, the now familiar tickling warmth in the back of his mind. He hadn't experienced it before Carson's ATA gene therapy, but now it was like he was part of Atlantis. He briefly wondered if this was what John felt every time he activated an Ancient device or flew one of his beloved puddle jumpers.
Rodney shook his head and snorted – what the hell was he doing? It had to be from the drugs, he decided. He wasn't normally like this. The scientist pulled his hand away, immediately missing the connection to the city. There wasn't time for that. He had things to do.
He resumed his journey walking slightly faster than normal, practically bouncing with every step he took. Jesus, he felt so damn strange: almost like he was about to burst into pieces or fly off in a billion different directions.
It was unnerving.
The lab normally provided him with comfort. It was a place where he was truly in his element, at one with his surroundings, but tonight it felt different somehow… changed in a kind of almost imperceptible way. He stared into the dark room at the workbenches and computers, his heart thumping madly in his chest and his ears ringing. Telling himself that he was being an idiot, he stepped in and booted up his laptop.
Rodney worked for about fifteen minutes before a feeling of complete restlessness overtook him. He couldn't seem to settle on any of his projects, couldn't concentrate for more than a couple of minutes. Parts of him pleaded for sleep and his bed, aching limbs reminding him of his weariness, but he couldn't. Not yet. There was simply too much to do…
Growling in frustration, he shut off the computer and headed for the nearest balcony. Maybe all he needed was some fresh air, some time to just clear his head so that he could re-focus, but as soon as he stepped outside he realised that plan wasn't going to work. He stared at the ocean, hating how calm it was. Why couldn't he feel that way? Oh, that was right; he was still hopped up on those damn pills. Forcing himself to stand still was agony, but he managed it, gripping the railing for support. Taking a couple of deep breaths, the Canadian rotated his head, trying to work out the kinks in his neck as he contemplated his next move. He really didn't want to go back to either the lab or his room, and he certainly didn't want to stay here…
Glancing at his watch, McKay let out a sigh. He was due to be in a briefing in just over four hours. Even if he could have gotten to sleep, he wouldn't for fear of missing the meeting. And he had so much that he wanted to tell everyone…
He looked back at the sea, his head buzzing and his body screaming along in almost perfect harmony.
John Sheppard shuffled into the mess to grab a quick cup of coffee before his meeting with Elizabeth and the others. Overall, he was feeling pretty damn good – he'd managed nearly ten hours sleep, something that he hadn't thought he'd ever get to do again. He'd been so ready to give up his life in defence of Atlantis, so willing to sacrifice himself to buy the others more time that now he looked back on it, he found that the whole thing scared him shitless.
Pushing it to the back of his mind, the Major headed over to the urns already planning the clean-up rota for his men. Well, what was left of them at any rate. The military had lost almost a third of their personnel during the Siege – the largest of any of the departments – and Sheppard felt responsible for every single one of them.
Don't go there, John, he told himself firmly. Move on.
He rubbed at his jaw absently, wincing as he came into contact with the bruise there. Damn, Rodney had a hell of a right hook. He supposed he'd deserved it though, especially after his little stunt with the jumper. He chuckled at the memory – once they'd fooled the Wraith and Ford had made his escape, John had stalked off. He'd been intending to lick his wounds in private, but the all-knowing Dr Rodney McKay had other plans.
The physicist had practically run after him and as soon as he'd turned to see what his friend wanted… WHAM!!! Right in the cake hole. The shock of being punched had sent him to the ground rather than the force behind it, and he'd stared up at Rodney with a mix of anger, bewilderment and pride as the scientist berated him at the top of his voice for half of the city to hear. After he'd finished, he'd helped John up and apologised – not a normal McKay tactic – before taking his leave.
Sheppard sighed. He was worried about the Canadian, especially once Carson had told him about the full story concerning the stimulants, and wondered whether Rodney had managed to get any rest. He seriously doubted it and when he saw his geek huddled over a mug of coffee, his suspicions were confirmed. He grabbed his cup and headed over.
"Morning," he said cheerfully as he took a seat opposite Rodney. "Sleep well?"
McKay, who had been staring at his cup apparently lost in thought, jerked his head up in surprise. "Wh-What? Oh, good morning, Major."
Noting that he'd not answered the question, John regarded his friend with a critical eye. McKay looked like he'd give a zombie a damn good run for its money, with his dark ringed eyes and pale complexion. "I said, sleep well?" John repeated.
"Yes, yes, fine," McKay replied, waving a hand back and forth drunkenly. He stood up abruptly. "Coming?"
"Sure thing." The Air Force man rose from his chair and followed the scientist out of the mess and down the corridor. As they walked, his concerns deepened. Rodney usually walked at a fairly brisk pace, but today it seemed like he was in fast forward and John had to almost jog to keep up. "Hey, what's the rush?" he asked, grabbing a handful of Rodney's jacket in an attempt to slow the man down.
"Things to do, people to see, Zed PMs to monitor," McKay replied, his words coming out in a clipped, fast jumble. "Come on already." He twisted free of the Major's grip and set off again.
Sheppard frowned as hurried after him, his fingers still feeling the small tremors that had been running through McKay's body.
Elizabeth Weir looked at the assembled personnel in the conference room and offered up a smile. She knew that this meeting would be long, but it had been almost two hours since everyone had sat down and there was so much information being passed around that it was making her head spin.
Everyone had sat silently as the final headcount was revealed – so many lost. Although she felt a wave of grief, Elizabeth knew that everyone needed to focus on the positives, no matter how small or trivial – and the fact that they were survivors.
Her thoughts drifted back to the moment when Rodney had engaged the cloak.
"I don't think they've detected us," the Canadian whispered nervously.
Forcing down a border-line hysterical laugh, Elizabeth whispered back, "Why are you whispering?"
"I dunno," Rodney replied, his voice no louder than before. "It just seems like the right thing to do."
That one moment could very well have been the end of them, but Rodney had pulled yet another miracle out of the ether. She made a mental note to try and wrangle him some time off and maybe give him a pay rise before snapping back into the present, re-focusing on the meeting. Trying to be discreet, she stretched her shoulders as Carson finished up his report.
"The last of the critical patients have been shipped out on the Daedalus," the Scotsman said, his gentle brogue washing over them. "We're still quite full, but mostly with minor to moderate cases and the majority of those should be back on light duty within the week."
"That's good to know, Carson," Elizabeth replied. She looked at Rodney, who had yet to deliver the Science department's status, and frowned worriedly. He'd been unusually quiet but restless, his hand tapping a soft, uneven rhythm on the table. "Rodney?"
He looked up, seemingly confused. "Yes?"
"Did you have anything you wanted to add to the discussion?"
"Oh, right. Of course." He blinked a couple of times before turning his attention to the laptop set up in front of him.
John caught her eye and frowned.
"Uh… The, uh, the Zed PM is fine and as long as we're careful to use it modestly, it should power us for quite a while," the scientist informed them. "As you know, we've suffered some losses, all of us have, but… but we'll do the best we can to… to…" he trailed off, looking confused.
"McKay?" Sheppard called. "You okay?"
Blue eyes flickered briefly in his direction. "Yeah, sorry. Like I was saying, we should be able to sort out the… the repair work and, uh, get things back to normal."
"If you require any assistance, my people would be more than happy to help," Teyla said with a gentle smile.
"I… um… That, that would be appreciated," McKay mumbled, closing his eyes for a moment. His chest felt as sore as hell for some reason, and he was finding it increasingly difficult to concentrate. "You should talk to Zelenka and… and his team."
Everyone was staring at the Canadian now, equally concerned for the man's well-being. Rodney was usually excellent at giving updates and reports, and the stumbling over his words was new. He also hadn't looked up once from the laptop apart from the quick glance to John. As Elizabeth studied him more closely, she saw a thin sheen of sweat covering his brow and soft tremors rolling through his hunched frame. His complexion was downright awful and now that she listened more closely, the leader of Atlantis heard uneven breaths.
"Rodney, lad, are you feeling ill?" Beckett asked, wondering whether to go over to his friend.
McKay looked up at the physician, his alert eyes seeming dull. "I'm fine, Carson," he answered, his words slurred and almost unintelligible.
"Like hell you are," Sheppard replied, anger covering his concern. "Seriously, did you get any sleep last night?"
McKay stood up abruptly, anger distorting his face. "Would you back off?" he snapped. "Christ, you're like a broken record!"
"Humour us, Rodney," Elizabeth said, alarmed at the tone her Chief Science Officer was taking.
"Why don't you come down to the infirmary and let me have a look at you?" Carson suggested. "Just to make sure?"
"I don't need to go to the infirmary!" the physicist snarled.
"I can make it an order if I have to," Weir told him.
Rodney looked around the room. "There's far too much to do," he pleaded. "I can go later, when I have more time…"
"You've got teams for a reason," John said. "I'm sure Radek can organise the clean-up while you get checked over."
"Well, yes, but-but I…" McKay didn't have a chance to finish his sentence. He let out a strange sigh as his knees buckled. Sheppard flew out of his chair and caught his team-mate before he could whack his head on the table and eased him to the floor. "Shit," he muttered. "McKay? Rodney, can you hear me?" He felt for a pulse and swore again when he found it – weak, erratic and far too fast. "Doc."
Carson was on the floor next to them instantly, radioing for a gurney.
Beckett sighed as he regarded his friend, now asleep in a cot. The man was more infuriating than a wee toddler at times, and this had been no exception. He glanced at his watch and stretched, cursing that he had chosen his infernal stool over one of the more comfortable chairs. Still, he needed to stay awake and alert in case Rodney took a turn for the worse.
Carson turned, not surprised to see John approaching the bed. "I thought I told you to go to bed, Major," he replied.
"Aw, I'm a big boy now. I can make my own bedtimes," Sheppard said lightly as he perched on the side of the Canadian's cot. His features darkened as he took in the sight in next to him. "How's he holding up?"
"He's seen better days, lad," the Scotsman replied, looking grim. "I've sedated him for the time being."
"What happened?" John asked, staring at his friend's too-still hands. Every time McKay was in the infirmary, a cold dread washed over the Air Force man. He'd sworn to himself that he wasn't going to let himself get involved with anyone, wouldn't let himself form any close friendships, not after Afghanistan – but he hadn't reckoned on meeting a man like Rodney McKay. The physicist was a law unto himself, a real life force of nature, and John had managed to get caught up in his wake regardless of his plans.
So much for professional detachment.
Carson shifted uneasily on the stool, looking guilty. "It's the stimulants," he replied, his voice low. "They've messed up his system good and proper. Basically, Rodney's suffering from a mild but dangerous arrhythmia because his heart's been over-taxed by the drugs. That in turn is making other things more difficult than they should be." He motioned at the equipment surrounding Rodney to illustrate his point.
"Jesus," Sheppard muttered, shaking his head at the whoosh-hiss of the ventilator. "Will he be okay?"
"Aye," Beckett replied. "I've given him a wee cocktail to slow things down, hopefully get everything back to its normal pace." He looked down at the Canadian and sighed again as he fiddled with the IV line. "I should never have given him the bloody pills."
"Not your fault, doc," John said, pulling over a couple of chairs. "He wouldn't have asked for them if he hadn't needed them. And he was building a nuclear bomb at the time."
"I suppose," the physician said, a little comforted but not entirely convinced. "At least Radek hasn't had a reaction like this."
The Major glanced over at another bed, just about able to make out the Czech's wild mop of hair partly buried under a blanket. "How is Dr Z?"
"He'll have a bugger of a headache for a while and an impressive shiner, but he'll be fine."
John nodded. "That's good to hear." As he sat down, he motioned to the empty chair next to him. "Sit down, doc, before you fall off that damn thing."
A small smile appeared on Beckett's face as he complied with the young officer's request. "Thanks, son. That bloody thing's got a grudge against my spine for sure."
Sheppard snorted. "Hey, you were the one sat on it."
"So how are you doing, Major?" Carson asked after a short but companionable silence.
"Oh, you know me, doc. Right as rain."
"Say that again and mean it this time."
John sighed, knowing he should never have tried to pull one over on the Scotsman. "I've been better, but I'll get there," he answered after a while.
"I know the feeling."
The Air Force man looked at his friend carefully. He'd not asked about the number of Carson's staff lost in the fighting, but suspected it was a sizeable amount. "How many…?"
"Too many, John," Beckett replied quietly. "Far too bloody many." He closed his eyes. "We've all lost people: colleagues. Friends."
"Yeah," John said, still looking at Carson. The man was exhausted, no doubt about it – which was why he'd tugged over the second chair. "D'you want a coffee or something?" he offered.
An eyelid cracked open, revealing a bloodshot eye. "That would be marvellous."
"Okey-doke. You stay put and I'll be right back."
When John returned from the mess ten minutes later, carrying two cups of steaming hot coffee, he found Carson fast asleep in the chair, snoring lightly. Smiling to himself, he retrieved a spare blanket and draped it over the sleeping man before settling himself back in his own chair. Mission accomplished, he propped his feet up on the edge of Rodney's bed and watched over his friends.
He'd never really cared for guard duty before, but this time he was protecting something infinitely more valuable. Maybe allowing himself to care about people wasn't so bad after all, he decided as he sipped at his drink.
The next morning, Elizabeth and Teyla came by to check on Rodney's progress and had to hold back their laughter at the sight before them. McKay had had the ventilator removed at some point during the night – something that both women were relieved to see. He, Carson and John were all asleep, snoring loudly. The Major's head rested on Beckett's shoulder, who was in turn holding onto Rodney's hand like a child would a stuffed toy.
"I think we should come back later," Elizabeth said.
"That would probably be for the best," Teyla replied.
They crept out again – but not before Elizabeth had taken a photo. After all, chances like this were rare and she was running short of chocolate. As soon as Radek was back on duty, she'd have to have a little conversation with him. Months of blackmail were to be had from this, and the leader of Atlantis felt like cashing in.