Even as annoying as it was, the steady beeping of a heart monitor was music to Rodney's ears as he slowly regained consciousness. That sound meant that he was somewhere that was able to give him adequate medical care and the only place in the galaxy that he knew that could be the case was Atlantis. He shifted slightly and let out a slight hiss of pain as he felt a bandage pull on his chest over the wound he had received from both the Queen and Todd.
"Ach, sleeping beauty is finally waking up," a Scottish voice spoke above him.
"Carson…" McKay muttered as he pried his eyes open. "Oh god, am I glad to see you."
"I bet ye are, lad," the doctor replied as he pulled out his pen light and flashed it in McKay's eye.
"Hey! Keep that up and I'll take that back." McKay grumped as the light seared into his eye. "Where's Jennifer, anyway?"
"You know the drill, Rodney," Carson told him patronizingly. "You have been through this enough times by now. And Doctor Keller is busy with another patient at the moment."
"Hey," a strained voice from the other side of a privacy curtain called. "Keep it down over there."
"Sheppard?" McKay asked as he realized whose voice that was. But it didn't sound like his normal laid back self.
Beckett sighed and nodded. He walked over and pulled the curtain back. Sheppard was lying in the bed next to McKay's, only he wasn't as comfortable looking at the scientist. More monitors snaked wires up to and across his body. He had an IV with several different fluids hooked up to him which Keller was currently injecting something into it. His skin was pale and clammy with dark circles under his eyes and his left arm was in a cast and secured to his body.
"Sheppard, you look horrible," McKay said with his normal brain to mouth filter malfunction.
"Thanks, buddy," Sheppard croaked as he closed his eyes that had been barely open a slit a moment ago and lulled his head to the side.
"Good to see you're awake, Rodney," Jennifer said with a smile to him as she finished up what she was doing.
"What's wrong with him?" McKay snapped at her as he began to become agitated over his friend's condition.
"He's going through withdrawal from the Wraith treatment he received," Beckett quickly explained. "His reaction is luckily mild compared to what Ronon went through… or you for that matter when you overdosed on the enzyme. But it is still rather unpleasant."
"Understatement is a strong suite of yours, doc," Sheppard rasped.
McKay winced along with Sheppard as his face crumpled in pain.
"It's a failing among us doctors," Jennifer said as she finished with whatever she had injected into the Colonel's IV. She came over then to Rodney as a few of the pain lines on Sheppard's face eased and his breathing leveled out.
"Shouldn't be too much longer before the worst passes," Carson said, though Rodney wasn't sure if the doctor was addressing Sheppard, him, or just making a general comment.
Rodney lay in his bed and stared at Sheppard, not sure what to say or think as he watched his friend sleep fretfully. "He's going to be fine, Rodney," Jennifer assured him as she laid a hand on his cheek and bent down and rewarded him with a light kiss.
Rodney returned it but as soon as she stood straight again he asked, "Are you sure? vI mean, he looks terrible and we really did go through a lot. I mean, even besides the whole Wraith thing. He passed out for a minute on the planet before that one and…"
"Planet before?" Beckett asked.
Rodney stared at his friend a moment not sure what Carson is asking. "What? Sheppard didn't tell you?" Rodney asked, rather stunned that Sheppard would have left something like that out.
"Well we knew that you hadn't been with the Wraith for the whole time you were missing," Jennifer said. "Todd only heard that you were being held by the Wraith yesterday.
Beckett nodded and said, "But the Colonel hasn't been up to filling us in on the whole tale just yet."
"Oh," Rodney replied flatly. "Well, I guess I have a lot to fill you in on."
Rodney rather regretted completely filling the doctors in on what they had gone through since they had gone missing three days ago. Both Beckett and Jennifer poked and prodded him and had him hooked up to an IV of his own to regulate his blood sugar. McKay tried to protest that he was perfectly fine. But now that they had the whole story, they began to take a closer look at Rodney. When he had been brought in, they were only aware that he had been hit with a Wraith stunner and were filled in by Teyla as to why he had what looked like a feeding wound on his chest.
Once he started talking, though, Rodney couldn't stop. He told them the entire story. There was one thing, though, that McKay was careful to avoid speaking about with anyone. It was something that he wasn't even sure he was going to talk to Sheppard about, but it still weighed pretty heavily on his mind. But it didn't matter just yet. Sheppard wasn't going to be completely coherent for about another day.
Rodney was released from the infirmary before Sheppard. He retreated to his quarters for a shower immediately. He stood under the flowing water for a long time. He had to will his racing heart to slow when the water first hit his skin. He had nearly drowned several times before. Heck, in a different timeline, he did actually drown. But for some reason, the very feeling of water on his skin was enough to bring back the panic that he had fought desperately against the entire time that he was trapped in that tidal hole.
Even still, after standing in the almost scalding water for several long minutes, it wasn't until he started to recall Sheppard's calm words that had kept him going back then that he was finally able to calm now.
As soon as his unsubstantiated panic began to ease, he quickly washed and then fled from the shower, shutting the water off immediately. He was going to be fine, but for right now, he'd like to keep his contact with water to a bare minimum.
He dressed in a clean uniform, intending on going back to the infirmary to see Sheppard. But as he crossed back through the room, the bed seemed to call to him. He had slept on and off in the infirmary for the last twenty four hours. But none of it had been in comfort and one of the few things that he had been craving the whole time that he was out there was to sleep in his own bed.
"A few minutes won't make a difference," McKay muttered to himself.
He crawled onto his bed, still in his uniform, on top of the sheets and blanket. Within moments, he was snoring softly, pulled off into oblivion.
When he awoke again, he realized that the light had changed significantly since he fell asleep only a moment ago. At least, that is was he thought. But as he shifted from his stiff position and glanced at his watch, he realized that his few minutes had turned into the rest of the day. The sun that had been peeking through his window as he took his shower was now nowhere to be seen.
With a groan of stiffness he rolled over and contemplated his options. He had things he needed to check on in his lab but he needed to make sure that Sheppard was all right. He was going to go to the infirmary hours ago. If everything went well, John would have been released a while ago. But if everything didn't go well…
With that thought he started to get up to go and check on his friend. "Have a nice nap, Rip Van Winkle?" a voice asked from the darkened room.
McKay jumped up from his bed and turned to face this new threat. But even as he was turning he realized that he recognized the voice, "Sheppard!" he gasped as he put his hand over his heart. "You nearly gave me a heart attack."
"If you weren't such a heavy sleeper then you would have woken up when I first knocked."
"So you decided to break in?" McKay exclaimed.
Sheppard shrugged and used his gene to bring the lights up with a thought. "I was worried when you weren't there to annoy me as soon as I was released."
McKay made a scoffing sound as he sat back down. They both sat in silence for a while before McKay said, "So, you're not sick of me yet? We just spent three days together; I would have thought you would want to hide for a week."
Sheppard didn't rise to the bait. He knew McKay was trying to get him to snark back but that wasn't what he had come there for. He frowned and leaned forward, careful of his still sore ribs, before he began to talk. "No," he said simply. "I guess I got so used to making sure that you were all right I felt a little anxious not knowing where you are."
It was McKay's turn to frown as he looked away, not wanting to meet Sheppard's eye.
"You didn't tell anyone what I did," Sheppard said softly.
McKay winced and shook his head, "No, I… I didn't want people to know that I had annoyed you enough to shoot me."
Sheppard sighed, "That's not why I did it, McKay."
"It's the only reason I can think of," McKay replied indignantly. "You nearly got us both killed so it certainly wasn't some great military strategy that you were working with. It had to be that you just didn't want to listen to me anymore."
"Ok," Sheppard admitted. "Yes, I didn't want to listen to you. But not for the reasons you think. I didn't want to listen to you telling me that the only way out of there was such a suicidal plan. You said it yourself; the odds were not in our favor to try that jump thing."
"No," McKay frowned and then quickly launched into defense mode. "But it worked, didn't it! And besides, when do you ever listen to the odds?"
"When I think that there is a better way. But I was wrong this time. I thought I could just keep getting us through whatever was thrown at us. I wasn't paying attention to what you we telling me about your own condition and I certainly wasn't listening to what my body was telling me. I should have just listened to you."
"Oh, well…" McKay said, not used to Sheppard not only admitting he was wrong, but plainly telling him that he was right. "Yes, you should have."
There was another pause of silence before Sheppard got up and walked over to McKay. He held out his free hand to him and said, "I'm sorry. Can you still trust me?"
McKay looked at the offered hand and gave a half smile. "That might take a while," he said as he took the hand and used it to help him stand up. "But I'm sure you can do it, if you really, really try."
Sheppard had started to frown and then he remembered where he had heard those words before and smiled himself. "Come on; let's go get something to eat."
"Mr. Woolsey?" Chuck said as he poked his head into his boss's office. The Atlantis leader looked up from his paper work. "We're receiving a transmission from the Daedelus."
Woolsey stood up and followed Chuck out to the control room. "Thank you," he said to the technician and went over to the communications terminal. "This is Woolsey," he said.
"Mr. Woolsey," Caldwell's voice replied. "We just finished our search of the planet."
"What can you tell us, Colonel?"
There was a brief pause before Caldwell replied. "It looks like this last one was where they may have encountered their captor. There was a lab set up and it looks like it was left in a hurry. They probably detected us on our approach."
"Any indications as to whose lab it was?"
"Yes. One of my techs started looking through the computers. There is a lot of information to go through, but a rather disconcerting name was pulled from it so far…"
"…Now that's just not fair," McKay said indignantly even though he still had a smile on his face. His teammates all broke into laughter around him. He was forced to chuckle along with them. He had to admit that he did prefer to sit with his friends while eating rather than alone. He had insisted that that was when he could get some of his best thinking done. But sitting around, joking with his friends and teammates seemed to clear his head enough to be able to think again once he returned to work.
"Excuse me," a serious voice said from behind McKay. The scientist turned and looked at Woolsey as the rest of his team quickly sobered and also directed their attention to him. "I just received word from the Daedelus."
"They found the planet?" Ronon asked.
"Of course they did," McKay replied. "It's wasn't difficult to track down the nearest planet with a Stargate to where we wound up."
Ronon shrugged. "Yeah, I still don't understand that whole gate jump thing," he said. "But it doesn't really matter."
Rodney had opened his mouth to explain again, but was interrupted. "Did they find anything?" Sheppard asked as he lowered the fork that had been halfway to his mouth a moment ago.
Woolsey nodded, "There's still a lot of information to go through, but yes, they have a name for us."
All of the table perked up then. It even seemed that a few nearby tables were listening intently even if they were pretending not to.
With a frown Woolsey said, "Michael."
There was a stunned silence for a moment but then Teyla said, "But Michael is dead. I threw him off the tower myself."
Woolsey nodded and said, "Yes, but it seems that Michael has found a way around that."
They were all returning him with confused looks before McKay sighed and said, "A clone. We should have known."
"Clone?" Sheppard asked. "You mean to say the bastard cloned himself!"
Woolsey nodded as McKay spoke. "It makes sense, doesn't it? We know that he can do it, just ask Carson!"
"I'm afraid so," Woolsey said. "As far as they can tell, it's just the one. It must have been created by what was left of his followers after they didn't come back from Atlantis. It doesn't look like we'll be looking at the same problems that the SGC had with Ba'al."
"But if there is one clone, then, even if we kill him another one could be made," McKay told them.
Woolsey nodded, "Yes, it seems that we may have a rather persistent problem on our hands..." With a frown, he turned and left the team to their thoughts.
"I do not understand," Teyla said after a moment. "Why would Michael want the two of you?" he asked Sheppard and McKay.
Sheppard shook his head, "He didn't seem to want us for anything. It was more like he wanted to make our lives a living hell."
"He did an awfully good job at it too, if you ask me," McKay muttered as he turned back to the table and stared at his half eaten plate.
"Revenge?" Ronon asked.
"But why just us?" McKay asked. "We all have had a hand in making him what he is."
"Not me," Ronon said easily as he leaned back in his chair.
"Perhaps he had wanted all of us," Teyla suggested. "After all, we were all on that planet when we were attacked. Including Doctor Beckett. It may have been his plan to capture all of us, but Ronon and I were able to slip by his followers with the doctor."
"Just my luck…" McKay muttered.
"Well," Sheppard said after a moment. "Not much we can do about it now. We'll just have to be a little more careful from now on."
"Yeah, more careful," McKay scoffed. "Between you and me," he said indicating Sheppard. "We're doomed."
Sheppard smiled slightly. Yeah, we do tend to attract trouble, he thought to himself. But we also are really good at getting out of it.
He turned the subject back to making fun of McKay and the tension broke as they slipped back into their easy team dynamic. The threats out there were never forgotten, but they were very good at pretending that nothing was wrong, at least for the moment. Right now all that mattered was they were all together and healthy. They could let tomorrow worry about itself because they all knew what it was like beyond the fire; and beyond that, friends and family were always waiting to make it all better.
A/N: Thank you all for reading and a special thank you to all that reviewed! This was a blast to write and I'm so glad that many of you have enjoyed reading it.
Yup, a sequel is in progress that will further explain what's up with Michael, but it may take a little while for me to iron it out. Please be patient with me.
Thanks again, and I hope to see you all back for the next one