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: The gang are having a hard time adjusting to reality.
Central Character(s): Team Sheppard plus Elizabeth and Carson.
Category (ies): Humour, friendship, episode tag.
Placement: Season One.
Author's Note: The next in my 'Aftermath' series. I kinda liked this one (WE LOVE YOU, HAMMOND! YOU THE MAN!!!) and got to thinking that maybe it wouldn't be so easy for the guys to get back to normal. The badgers threatened to disembowel my teddy bear if I didn't write it, so technically, this is a product of coercion – hence why it's not as long as I would've liked.
As Rodney McKay stepped through the Gate and found himself back on Atlantis, he felt oddly numb. As it turned out, their little adventure with the mist people had only lasted for about five hours, but for the Canadian, it felt like he hadn't seen the city for months. He blinked away the sudden and unexpected tears from his eyes, and stared at the floor.
"Hey, buddy, you okay?"
The physicist whipped his head up to see Major Sheppard staring at him in concern. "I, uh, I… Yeah. Yeah, I'm good. It's just that it… feels a bit strange."
The pilot nodded sympathetically. "I know," he replied. "It's like we've been away for a lifetime. You don't think this is another fake, do you?"
Rodney shrugged, looking across to the others. Ford had sunk down against the Gate and was leaning back against the giant circular device, his fingers tracing patterns on the floor. Teyla and Elizabeth seemed to be holding each other up as they stared in disbelief at the Gateroom. And John…
John was clinging to Rodney's tac vest as if he was afraid that the man would fade from existence the moment he let go.
"Shift yourselves!" a familiar voice called out. "Med team coming through!"
McKay stifled a small sob when he saw Carson running toward them with a group of medics trailing behind him.
"Any injuries?" the Scot asked, shifting his worried gaze across the bedraggled looking group in front of him.
"No, doc, we're good, I think," Sheppard croaked. "Just… just shaken, is all."
Beckett narrowed his eyes. "Aye, I can see that for myself, son," he murmured. "Come on, infirmary. The lot of you."
"Actually," Rodney said in a small voice, "I think I'd like to…" He trailed off as his eyes rolled back and his knees buckled. He would have hit the floor face first if it hadn't been for the iron tight grip that John had on his vest.
"That settles it," Beckett growled as he got the Canadian loaded onto a gurney and did a quick check on the prostrate man's vitals. "Jessie, you help Dr Weir and Teyla. Fred, if you could assist the Major, thank you, I'll take care of young Aiden."
As the rest of the group were led away after Rodney, the doctor knelt down in front of the young Lt. "Aiden? Can you hear me, lad?"
Ford swivelled his head over and gave Carson a wide-eyed look. "Hey, doc," he whispered. "Is this real?"
If the Scot was confused by the statement, he didn't show it. "Aye, son, as real as you are. Come along now. We need to get you to the infirmary so as I can have a good look at you."
Aiden looked down at his hand, still drawing the intricate motifs on the floor. "But everything they showed us felt the same too… How do I know?"
Carson sighed softly. Talking wasn't working, so instead, he resorted to Plan B. He worked his arms underneath the young man's armpits and bodily lifted him to his feet. Once Ford was upright, Beckett shifted his grip to the soldier's waist and helped him to gain his balance before half walking, half dragging him to the infirmary.
John sat on the cot opposite Rodney, his head creased with worry. He'd been given a set of scrubs to wear – meaning that Carson intended to keep him overnight – but hadn't put them on. Instead, they lay folded up on his lap as he watched his friend sleeping. The Major let out a soft sigh and shifted his gaze to the other beds.
Ford and Teyla were asleep, having been given some pretty strong sedatives, but he found that Elizabeth was awake and watching him groggily.
"Hey," he called softly.
"Hey," she replied. "How're you?"
Sheppard thought for a moment. "Tell you the truth, I'm a bit freaked out. I keep thinking that this is just another trick."
Weir nodded. "Makes two of us."
"How about you tell me something that only you could know?" John suggested, looking hopeful. "I'll do the same for you, and if we both get them right it'll mean we're really here."
"Or that we're both in the same illusion," Elizabeth said darkly.
John frowned. "Oh, don't say things like that!" he said. "Come on, just… just humour me, okay?"
She sighed but nodded. "Okay." She wriggled in her cot as she thought for a suitable fact then smiled. "How about this? You named the Wraith prisoner 'Steve'."
The Major grinned. "Score one for you," he replied. "My turn. Uh… When McKay had that personal shield, you weren't too happy when you found out I shot him, but you nearly cracked up when I told you it was in the leg."
"That's good enough for me."
"I thought I told you to get some rest?"
They jerked their heads around to see Carson standing in the doorway, his arms folded across his chest.
"Yeah, about that…" John began, but was quickly silenced by a low growl from the doctor.
"Save it, lad. Go and get those scrubs on. Now."
Knowing that Beckett was not one to be argued with when it came to things medical – and that he had the power to ground expedition members – Sheppard hopped off his bed and disappeared into the bathroom.
Nodding in satisfaction, Beckett turned his attention to Elizabeth. "The same goes for you, pet. You all need to rest. You were dehydrated when you got back."
"I know, Carson, but we're a bit wired," she replied. "It was so strange being trapped in an illusion that felt real. I guess it's just going to take some time to get back to normal." She smiled ruefully. "Well, as normal as it can be in a floating city."
The Scot grinned back. "Aye, you've a hell of a good point there," he agreed. "So, would you like to explain what happened?"
"It's kind of complicated," Elizabeth began, blinking owlishly.
"I'd gathered that. Look, you get some rest and I'll ask Major Sheppard for the details."
She nodded, sinking down into her cot. "What about Rodney?"
"He'll be fine. You all will," Carson told her. "Now sleep." He watched as the expedition leader finally lost her battle and succumbed, only moving away when her breathing evened out.
"Doc?" John called as he returned.
"Bed," Beckett said firmly.
The pilot slipped into his cot, his eyes never leaving Rodney. "He gonna be okay?"
"He'll be fine," Carson repeated. "It's nothing to worry about. His blood sugar crashed, but we've got him on a glucose drip. We'll soon have him straightened out and back to normal." Seeing the concern ebbing away from John's boyish features, he sat down on the chair next to his bed. "What happened?" he asked.
Sheppard let out a long breath and proceeded to fill the doctor in, explaining as best he could about being trapped in an illusory version of Earth. When he had finished, Carson blinked a couple of times.
"That would explain the shock then," he said. "No wonder you're all wigged out."
"That a medical term?" John asked, with a small grin.
"Aye, lad, it's Scottish for 'fruit loops'."
Sheppard laughed softly. "We really thought we'd done it," he said. "Found a way home."
"We'll get there soon enough," Carson replied. "I'm sure that Rodney will come up with something."
"I know, Major. For all his bragging and ego, most of the time he's right about his abilities."
"And the other times?"
"He's not far off."
"'S rude to talk about sleeping people," came a muffled voice.
They looked over to see Rodney just about awake and glowering weakly at them.
"You love it," Carson told him.
"He's right, you know," John added. "Fuelling your ego should be made into a national sport."
"That's nice, kick a man when he's not even properly awake." The physicist yawned loudly as if to illustrate his point.
"What's… what's going on?" asked Ford, who had woken up as the bickering increased in volume. "What time's it?"
"Hey, Ford," Sheppard called. "We were playing 'Mock McKay'. Wanna have a go?"
The young man smiled. "No thanks. The doc'll only get me back later."
"More like sensible," McKay said, smiling at Aiden.
"Why are you all talking so loudly?" moaned Teyla.
"Och, now you've done it," Beckett growled, moving over to her side. "Just ignore them, lass, and go back to sleep."
"Mmm," the Athosian agreed, but not before giving John a look that he knew said that their next sparring session would be painful.
"Still think this is an illusion?" asked Rodney as he buried himself in his blankets.
John grinned. "No way. My imagination's not that good."
Carson rolled his eyes and headed for his office, convinced that the debriefing in the morning would be interesting to say the least.