It didn't look like much, just a stumble breaking Sheppard's hurried stride. McKay knew though. Knew Sheppard had been hit. The four of them were spread out in the shadow of the cliff, shooting behind them. They took turns to shoot in a complex rota based on whose terrain was the easiest, their vantages among the rocks, how tired each was getting. McKay could predict all of their paths, could see where each of them would shoot from.
Instinctively, the team took Sheppard out of rotation so he could save his energy for outpacing the natives. McKay didn't know how badly Sheppard was hurt, but after three years, he finally trusted Sheppard to let them help him. They were a team.
~*~ Three years ago ~*~
McKay should have realised something was wrong when Sheppard delegated the retrieval of Gaul and Abrahms. Sheppard: delegating. It was weird. But he was as exhausted as he imagined Sheppard was; shaky and upset, and still processing that he was the kind of man who knew what exact shade grey-matter was.
He barely noticed that Sheppard was handing off responsibilities to his minions, leaving Teyla and Ford to retrieve the bodies. They had all only been on Atlantis a few months at that point, and Sheppard's 'leave no man behind' credo was not yet an ingrained truth. It was a theory with too few data points, an ideal without certain proof, so it didn't seem odd to McKay that Sheppard was appropriating Ford’s jumper and a marine to fly it, and they were leaving ahead of the others.
The adrenaline had worn off while he was getting them access to the jumper. Their remote was in as many pieces as the Wraith; scattered, burnt and with no chance of resurrection. McKay's workaround had been quick and simple; the kind of task he had been brought along for; a welcome contrast to the brutal, unsettling tasks of the day. The rear compartment was tidy again; familiar, cool and inviting. Lying down in the back of the jumper and sleeping was a much more appealing prospect than flying it.
He sat down heavily on the narrow bench. His skin felt dirty, and his eyes were gritty from the desert air. He rubbed at his face, then slumped down, elbows to knees, hands to face. He was still hunched up that way after they left the planet's gravity well, when Sheppard sat down opposite him. The autopilot was engaged and the grunt was briefed on which displays to watch, and which beeps signalled normal service and which signalled imminent death. It was more training than McKay had had for his day's work.
McKay was surprised by the release of tension he felt when Sheppard joined him, two men when there should have been four. Sheppard was guarding the ribs he said he had cracked. McKay had seen him take a handful of Tylenol earlier on, and he was pale. He was alive.
They looked at each other, wearily. McKay figured he should probably check that Sheppard was okay, if he needed help re-dressing his arm. McKay guessed Sheppard was thinking similar thoughts about him. They just shared a long look of exhaustion, and then almost in unison, they rearranged themselves to lie on the benches. He heard Sheppard's breath catch on pain, but Sheppard had already said he was fine. He didn’t think there was any reason to worry. And dammit, he was overdue for some down time. He fell asleep.
Sheppard was starting to look strained and sweaty. He went from bounding athletically over small rocks to a one-two, up-down over them. They were all dusty with the chalk they were kicking up, and on Sheppard it added to his pallor.
“How far,” McKay asked between breaths, “to the gate?”
“Twenty minutes,” Ronon replied, firing a few shots out and not sounding winded at all. “If we don't slow down.”
McKay turned and shot. This planet sucked. “Perfect.” He risked another glance at Sheppard, who was still keeping up just fine. “Sheppard?” he prompted.
En route back to Atlantis, McKay woke suddenly. He wasn’t sure what had woken him – the lights were dim and he had not been asleep long enough for them to be home already.
“McKay,” Sheppard rasped for attention. There was something in his voice that made McKay sit up and peer at him anxiously. Sheppard had moved while McKay was asleep and now he lay on the floor between the benches, arms outstretched. He had changed the bandage on his bullet wound. He was an alarming shade of grey and he was breathing in rapid, shallow breaths.
“Jesus,” McKay swore. “What happened?” Barely awake and seeing Sheppard pale and wheezy in the jumper's emergency lighting, he shot a glance at his neck as if the Iratus bug could have spontaneously reappeared.
Sheppard winced at the tone. Or maybe the volume of it. Also, it was probably a little high pitched. “Can’t breathe,” he told McKay.
“I can see that!” he replied. “Why not?!”
Sheppard shook his head, gesturing vaguely to his damaged ribs. McKay had hoped he would have something a little more useful to say.
“Well, did it just happen? Or have you been stoically suffocating while I slept for a while, now?” he asked tightly. This was the second medical emergency McKay had dealt with on this mission and he would admit it, he was a little pissed off about it. He watched Sheppard form words and could see the effort it was for him to get the breath to talk. He forestalled Sheppard's response with a raised finger. “Yes or no answers,” he ordered. “Is this new?”
Sheppard eyed him warily and shook his head, “No,” he wheezed. “Worse, though.”
“Great! Excellent.” McKay knelt and took his pulse. “Do I thank you? My nap was very restful, it was good of you not to wake me to let me know about your impending death!”
Sheppard glared at McKay, and McKay glared back. He wasn’t angry, he was freaked out. And maybe a little angry. Sheppard's pulse was racing. The bulkhead door was closed, so McKay keyed his radio. He paused, realising he had no idea what the marine’s name was.
“Stafford,” Sheppard supplied helpfully; smug despite the effort it obviously took to say.
“Stafford,” McKay repeated into the radio, shooting Sheppard a quelling look. “Radio Atlantis, get Beckett on the line.”
“Is everything alright, Doctor McKay?” the marine asked.
“Yes, everything's fine! Nap time is ambling along marvellously. I want his haggis recipe.” McKay bit out in clipped tones. The marine was silent for a moment, obviously uncertain. “Chop chop!” McKay exclaimed.
With a little concentration, he mentally keyed the lights up. He started rooting around in the overhead storage, tugging out all the medical supplies. He had only the vaguest ideas of what to do with any of it, but he could at least get it all to hand for Beckett’s instructions.
Now that the jumper wasn’t in semi-darkness, he could see colours more clearly. When he knelt back down by Sheppard, he was alarmed by the blue tint to his lips. McKay stubbornly chose to believe Sheppard's lips had been blue when he first woke up as well, because the alternative was that Sheppard's condition was getting worse with frightening speed.
“Rodney? What’s the problem?” Beckett came through on the radio. He sounded concerned, interested, calm.
“Carson,” McKay greeted him, relieved. He took a fortifying breath. “Sheppard’s the problem,” he said, which was accurate on a number of levels. “He can’t breathe. And his lips are blue. And he didn’t wake me up!”
Sheppard, the bastard, rolled his eyes. McKay knew Sheppard was trying to act normal for his benefit, but unless Sheppard could extend the illusion to include his rebelling lungs he wasn’t going to be impressed. One of them had to get some control over the situation. McKay was tired of it being him.
“Gun shot to my side,” Sheppard grated out. His voice was pitched low and didn't carry well. “I'm bleeding.”
“Okay, alright,” McKay said. “We'll find--”
“Over here,” Teyla called, and she wasn't breathing hard either. “We can take shelter for a few minutes.” There was a rocky outcrop at the base of the cliff. McKay couldn't see it yet, but Teyla must have spotted a cave. McKay's sharp gaze took in the land ahead, reassessing the route if their four parallel paths started converging. Ronon could go higher, protect them all with some concentrated gunfire when they slowed.
Another hundred metres, and Teyla gestured. McKay saw the mouth of the cave. Sheppard was close enough to touch now. McKay caught his arm. Their boots pounded in synchrony, crunching over gravel.
Ronon had disappeared, hidden by the rocks a few metres above them. McKay could see the blasts from his gun but not the man himself. Just ahead of them, Teyla darted into the cave, and reappeared seconds later with a nod. She settled herself behind some rocks just outside, and lay down more covering fire. As they passed her, McKay tossed her his last spare cartridge, which she plucked from the air with barely a glance. McKay and Sheppard swung into the cave, almost skidding as they halted.
Breathing hard, McKay caught Sheppard's other arm so they were facing, McKay's hands bracketing Sheppard's elbows. Their eyes met briefly, Sheppard letting McKay gauge how hurt he was in the lines of his face. Pained but not agonised, slowed but not halted. A quick triage, and they would be able to move on.
Carson didn’t expend any time or effort telling McKay to calm down, which he appreciated. Then the doctor was all business. “Is he breathing now?” Beckett asked.
“Yes. Fast and shallow. And his pulse is fast, too.”
“Can you quantify that for me, lad?” he asked. McKay could almost have believed Beckett was a real scientist.
He watched Sheppard’s chest for a few seconds. “Aahh, one breath every two seconds or so? Pulse is around 120.”
“Alright, let me know if those speed up any more.” Carson said. “Is he conscious? Did this come on suddenly?”
“He’s conscious, just not too chatty. And he says it’s been going on for a while, but he was fine when I went to sleep.” McKay looked at Sheppard for confirmation. He wasn’t looking at McKay, his attention was directed inward. McKay lay a hand on his heaving shoulder. Sheppard noticed the questioning glance, and he seemed to cast about for the question he had just been asked. He nodded.
“What can you tell me about the mission? Any injuries? Toxins, poisons?”
“He got thrown around a bit. He said he had ‘a few’ cracked ribs. Seriously, ‘a few’, like they’re bruises, or, or split ends. Who breaks ‘A few’ bones?” His voice rose on the last words.
“Rodney,” Beckett interrupted, bringing him back on track.
“Um, and he got shot in the arm, but he didn’t think it was too bad. He was moving around fine.”
“Aye, that’ll be the adrenaline. Ask him if his breathing got suddenly worse or if it was a steady decline.”
Sheppard heard the radio, but McKay restated it so he could answer yes or no, “Suddenly?” he said. Sheppard nodded jerkily. “Suddenly,” McKay confirmed to Beckett.
“Alright. Look at the blood vessels on his neck. Do they look engorged?”
McKay looked, and grimaced. “Okay, that’s unpleasant.”
“Rodney, lad, I’ve an inkling of what’s wrong, and we can fix it. First, I need you to cut his shirt open and tell me what you see.”
McKay went for the zipper but paused, waiting for permission because this was weird, right? Undressing his team leader? “Uh, Sheppard?” Except Sheppard wasn't reacting. “Okay, right.” McKay unzipped his vest and pushed it to the sides, then got some scissors from the supplies and cut a slit up Sheppard's shirt. Beckett's straightforward, quick-fire questions reassured McKay, left him feeling a little more in control. He wished again that they had had a medic around for Gaul.
Exposing Sheppard’s chest, all McKay could see was that it was a mess of bruises and it wasn’t moving right. “It's...” He wiped sweat from his temple with a trembling hand. “God. What am I looking for?”
“Is it moving symmetrically?”
“No, the left side’s hardly moving. My right, his left. And I'm about two seconds from freaking right out.”
“Left,” Beckett clarified. “Is it moving consistently? Are any sections moving inward when the rest moves out?”
“Oh, that's so wrong. The bottom left is… sort of fluttering,” McKay said. He eyed him for another breath, “’A few cracked ribs’? Seriously?” he asked Sheppard incredulously, because the fact that they were more than just cracked was obvious and it really couldn’t have escaped the soldier. McKay don’t care how much adrenaline he had coursing through him. It looked horribly unnatural. And painful. Ow. Sheppard ignored him, not paying any attention anymore.
Sheppard pressed a hand into his side, hard, and his face turned pale and waxy in the dim cave. “I need to sit,” he said. McKay controlled his slide to the ground and knelt in front of him, guiding him to lean against the cave wall.
“Hold on, just give me one minute,” McKay said, listening to the weapons-fire of their teammates outside as he pulled at Sheppard's clothing. He quickly bared Sheppard's abdomen. He moved Sheppard's bloodied hand for long enough to get a good look, then pressed it back into place. He grabbed Sheppard by the hip and shoulder and bodily turned him to get a look at his back. “It didn't go through,” he said, settling Sheppard back against the rock. “I'm downgrading their technology in my mission report. Their guns suck.”
“It hurts like a bitch,” Sheppard complained.
“Their guns still suck. It went deep but you don't have that disgusting gut-wound-smell, so I think it's a flesh wound.”
Sheppard nodded. They both had first aid kits, McKay shrugged off his pack.
“Alright,” Beckett said. “That's a flail chest. He must have punctured a lung, and the lung has collapsed.”
“That sounds…” …completely terrifying. “I'm going to throw up.”
“Never mind that, son,” Beckett said briskly. “Air is building up in his chest cavity so we need to relieve the pressure. Listen carefully. You need to open up the red first aid kit, the one that’s the size of a shoebox.” Wherever he was heading with this, McKay was sure it was going to be awful. It was obviously a rolling two seconds, because McKay still felt a breath away from hysteria, every breath.
He seemed not to have a choice though, so he gave himself over to Beckett’s instructions and tried not to think about it. Carson monologued for a while, guiding him to find the correct needle, the gloves, a betadine wipe. He had McKay disinfect a patch high up between his collar bone and nipple, and line up the needle between two ribs.
McKay's brain momentarily re-engaged. “Wait, we haven’t given him any anaesthetic,” he said, nauseated.
“Don’t worry about that now. He’ll hardly notice.” Beckett said, and it was probably supposed to be relaxing but it really, really wasn't.
“Oh, God,” McKay groaned. He looked, wide eyed at Sheppard. Slitted eyes were pointed towards McKay but he couldn’t tell what Sheppard was thinking, or even if he still knew what was going on.
Beckett ignored him. “Look at how long the needle is. You want to go in about three centimetres, and that’s when you stop. When you’re ready, push the needle in straight. Perpendicular to his skin.”
McKay wasn’t ready, but he suspected that the more he thought about it the less ready he would become. He pushed.
The needle was easily 3mm in diameter, but it ended diagonally and was sharp. It slid past his skin easily and Sheppard, thankfully, barely flinched. “I want hazard pay,” he told Sheppard's lax face, his own heart pounding as he carefully advanced the needle. “And your bootlegged DVDs,” he added. “Seriously, all of them. Do you have porn? I think you owe me porn for this. Moron.”
Right where Carson said to stop, McKay felt air whistle through the needle. He froze. The rush of air continued, like letting the air out of an air mattress. Sheppard visibly relaxed, sagging. His breathing sounded less laboured and he had a better range of movement in his ribs. In seconds, the pressure inside his chest had eased to the point that air only rushed out at the apex of his breaths.
“Okay! Alright. It worked, his colour’s better already.”
“Good!” McKay heard Carson let out a breath. “That’s good to hear. Can you give me his vitals?”
McKay took Sheppard’s pulse and counted his breaths, and reported back to Beckett.
“Excellent! Well done, lad!” McKay didn’t know if he was referring to him or to Sheppard. “It sounds like the crisis is over.”
“Oh, thank God,” McKay breathed, sagging a little himself.
“We’re not finished quite yet, there are a few more things you need to do.”
“You might want to bite down on something, Colonel,” McKay said grimly, cutting some gauze to pack the wound. “Try not to pass out, okay?”
“You know, your bedside manner bites,” Sheppard bitched. He set his P90 down so that his clenching hand wouldn't cause an accident.
“But my rockside manner is oddly appropriate, don't you think?” McKay replied. He pulled Sheppard's hand away from the wound. It was bleeding sluggishly, an intractable ooze rather than a pumping torrent; not a rate of blood loss that would kill him any time soon. Still, it might start to bleed more when they got back on the move. It needed stemming now so they wouldn't have to stop again. McKay pulled a glove on so he wouldn't contaminate the injury more than they already had. “Ready?”
Without waiting for an answer, he started to push the gauze into the hole in Sheppard's side. Sheppard's body went tight, muscles contracting in pain. His fingers caught in the material of his pants and he gasped and grunted through gritted teeth. It only took a few seconds, but by the time McKay was done, Sheppard's head was lolling dazedly, and his eyes were glassy.
McKay felt his pulse. Fast from the run, but strong. McKay relegated internal bleeding by a few notches in his mental tally of concerns. He found a couple of pressure bandages, and packed up the rest of the gear while he let Sheppard take a moment.
The jumper was cluttered now, medical supplies strewn all around them. It was chaotic and disordered, much like the pseudoscience McKay was attempting to practice. He listened attentively to Beckett's patient instruction, translating it into reality with fumbling fingers.
Beckett directed him to tape the needle carefully in place, then told him to look around for something to use as a valve. McKay picked up a glove and plucked at a finger in consideration. He taped the glove’s wrist tight around the exposed end of the needle. It inflated and deflated with Sheppard's lungs, and in the few breaths it took McKay to find the scissors and nick a finger of the glove, Sheppard’s breaths got noticeably more shallow. Air flowed out through the small hole when Sheppard exhaled; and when he inhaled, the glove closed in on itself, sealing the finger. It was barbaric and bizarre, but the sight of it calmed McKay. It was an engineering solution; something he could see and predict.
Beckett had McKay select some IV fluids and described how to hook them up to Sheppard. “It's bad luck,” Beckett commented to McKay as he worked. “With some proper triage early on, he'd probably have held with analgesics until you got home.”
McKay was using another of the betadine wipes to clean off the layer of desert grime from the inside of his elbow when Sheppard started paying attention again.
“Hold on, Carson,” McKay said, “The Major's back.”
Sheppard blinked at him for a second, face scrunched up as he got his bearings. “Hey,” he said in a rough, low voice.
McKay watched him carefully, “Major. You okay?”
He looked down at his new chest tube and the five disembodied fingers that pulsed with his breaths. His eyebrows rose and met. “A little weirded out,” he said hoarsely.
McKay had bypassed weirded out some time ago, and now that Sheppard was not scaring him with his blue skin and ineffectual breathing McKay was sliding rapidly back towards annoyance. “Yeah, me too,” he replied flatly.
“Is that a glove?” Sheppard asked, frowning.
“You mean this?” McKay asked, pointing. “Right here? On the end of the needle sticking out of your massively misshapen, purple chest? Yes, that's a glove. Excellent observation skills.”
Sheppard drew in a breath to reply, deeper than he had been breathing – he froze. His hands clenched into fists and he grimaced, riding out a wave of pain. After a moment, he risked another careful breath. “McKay,” he rasped, “listen--”
“No, zip it!” McKay pinched fingers to thumb like closing a sock-puppet mouth. “Zip. You can just be quiet. I'm busy.” He lined up the IV shunt like Beckett had told him, and pressed it in.
Sheppard squinted at him, pursing his lips with displeasure. McKay's first attempt missed the vein, but Sheppard seemed not to care. The second went in smoothly, and McKay hooked up a bag of fluids.
“You want a pain killer?” McKay asked, readying himself for a diatribe on why drugs were an excellent idea, and that the avoidance of medical help was one of Sheppard's more annoying character traits.
“Already dosed up,” Sheppard murmured. “Morphine, an hour ago.”
McKay seethed at him, giving him a fierce look. Alright, so he had failed to notice that Sheppard's injuries were this serious, but he had also slept through Sheppard being in sufficient pain to resort to the narcotics? “Did it not occur to you to, I don't know, mention your grievous injury to someone? Before your lips turned blue?”
Sheppard frowned at him, as if he was trying to figure out why McKay was mad.
Beckett spared him from responding with a tut. “Morphine's an opiate,” he told them. “It depresses the respiratory system. He should be on ketamine. Best start him on a low dose and see how it goes. Fifteen micrograms an hour.”
McKay found the drug, sparing a thought to be grateful the two of them were on Ford's rescue jumper with its stock and supplies, rather than their own. He drew up a dose at Beckett's instruction and injected it into the IV port.
Sheppard watched him with heavy lidded eyes. “McKay--”
“No, Major!” McKay cut him off. “If it's not about the state of your health, you can shut up until we get back to Atlantis. I have had a truly crappy day.” He fussed with the IV bag, settling it higher above Sheppard. Then he pinned Sheppard with a glare. “Until today, all the first aid I'd ever done was sticking band aids on my little sister's skinned knees. Band aids, Major! I've got two PhDs and over a decade of higher education at some of the finest institutions on Earth, and my training has been useful for exactly five minutes all day. Seriously! I think my drivers' ed might have been more relevant.” He paused to jab a finger at Sheppard. “And you! What the hell is wrong with you? Your rib cage looks like it got caved in by a wrecking ball, and you just acted like it was a hang nail. And you sucked me into your stupid delusion! What's wrong with Teyla! Or Ford? I bet Ford's got a couple of first aid classes behind him.”
“Shut up, Carson.” He barely paused. “This was not what I signed on for. I wanted to sit in my lab furthering human understanding of physics, with minions to bring me coffee and do my paperwork. I didn't want to learn how to fire a nine mil, or get interrogated by knife-wielding lunatics, or walk into life-sucking energy clouds.”
The near-hysteria was fading, leaving him drained and at the end of his reserves. He moved to sit beside Sheppard, leaning back against the bench. “Two of my men got eaten by space vampires today, Sheppard. Space vampires.”
“Yeah.” Sheppard's hand clumsily patted him on the leg. “I'm sorry, Rodney.”
And McKay knew that Sheppard was sorry, but that it wouldn't help a damned bit. He let his head roll back against the bench as his eyes started to sting. “I'm going to quit the team.”
Sheppard drew in a breath, but his reply got held up by a bout of pained cursing. After a moment, he rasped, “Hold on, McKay, we can--”
“Sheppard,” McKay interrupted harshly. He blinked furiously. “Can we just... not? Right now? Just, go to sleep or something.”
And Sheppard shut up, but it was a long time before McKay saw him drift to sleep.
McKay patted Sheppard's cheek. “Colonel? Talk to me.”
“Gnnngh,” Sheppard replied inarticulately. “Jesus.”
“Save the name calling for my performance review,” McKay replied. “Here, lean forward.” He pulled Sheppard forward so he could reach behind him, and let him drop his head onto McKay's shoulder for support. He rucked Sheppard's shirt up a little more, then manoeuvred a pressure bandage between their bodies, pressing it over Sheppard's wound. He wrapped Sheppard's middle tightly, passing the bandage behind his back. “Just another minute or so, Sheppard. Then we need to move.”
“Hnnn. Okay.” Sheppard took a fortifying breath. “I'm good.”
They listened to the weapons fire, reorientating themselves to the fire fight outside while McKay wrapped a second bandage over the first one. McKay could feel Sheppard gathering himself, and by the time he was done and let Sheppard's shirt fall back down, they were both ready to stand. McKay tugged his backpack over his shoulders again, climbing to his feet. He held out a hand, and Sheppard wiped blood against the seam of his pants before accepting McKay's help to pull him up. Then, Sheppard was collecting his gun from the ground, gingerly testing out his range of movement, and then keying his radio.
“Guys? We're done. Okay to blow this joint?”
Teyla replied, “The entrance is clear. We will follow your lead.”
Sheppard checked his ammo. “Let's move out.”
McKay spent the rest of the journey home to Atlantis fiddling with his laptop and ignoring Sheppard, who dozed on and off. He changed an IV bag and dosed the Major with more ketamine, and prompted Sheppard on several occasions to sleep, not talk. As soon as Stafford guided the jumper through the gate and opened the rear hatch, McKay stepped out into the gateroom, grateful for the open space, for the medics swarming into the jumper, and for the end of his responsibility for Sheppard.
Sheppard was whisked away to the Infirmary, and after McKay's own post-mission check up, McKay used the last of his energy to avoid Beckett and Weir and go back to his quarters to sleep for, he devoutly hoped, twelve hours.
In the morning, he was almost as exhausted as he had been when he went to bed, and just as miserable. He wasn't even sure how long the previous day had been, but the few hours he had managed to sleep were barely enough to get him mobile.
He had an email from Weir telling him Teyla and Ford were back and debriefed, and would he like to be debriefed with Sheppard in the infirmary at ten? He didn't, not at all. But he went.
Sheppard was groggy from surgery and drugs, but conscious. “Hey,” he greeted, blinking himself to attention.
McKay nodded at him. There was only one chair at Sheppard's bedside, and McKay didn't take it.
“So, I was thinking,” Sheppard said. He shifted uncomfortably in bed, then hissed at the motion.
McKay looked to the door, hoping Weir would arrive and he could get the debrief and the resignation over with, and go to the labs.
“Don't you want to know what I was thinking?” Sheppard asked.
“I'm fairly sure I don't,” he replied stonily. But he couldn't help a desperate pang of hope; that Sheppard had worked out how to fix this stupid, screwed up expedition, where scientists were killed and marines flew spaceships.
“Huh.” Sheppard scrubbed a hand over his face. “Well, I kept quiet yesterday when you asked me to so nicely. So, shut up and listen.”
McKay glared and crossed his arms, but listened.
“So, I was thinking. We should regroup. Take some time. A month, maybe. I think everyone needs some refresher classes.” He was watching McKay carefully, and was perfectly, earnestly serious. “First aid, weapons training, PT. Maybe have my guys take some basic science. Beckett thinks he can rotate the whole base through advanced first aid in two weeks, and get one quarter of us up to field medic in six months.” Sheppard paused, catching his breath. “I want to get everyone with the gene to learn to fly a jumper. I want you to teach me and some of the other soldiers how a DHD works. Stuff like that. Roll it out long term.”
McKay stared at him. “Didn't you just get out of surgery?”
Sheppard waved a heavy hand to dismiss McKay's question as if it was an irritating detail. “Got a radio. Called a couple of people. What do you think?”
McKay thought about it; mentally replaying the previous day through a filter of competence and cohesion. He might have been able to-- The scientists could have been-- Sheppard might have trusted-- “I'm not teaching anyone with an IQ lower than 150,” he found himself saying.
“I don't want to learn how to use those rail guns I saw in the armory. I like my hearing.”
“I'm not doing any team building exercises.”
“And I'm not going jogging.”
“You are if you want to go in the field on my team.”
McKay stared at Sheppard, and Sheppard looked back. There wasn't a question in his eyes, just an answer, openly encouraging: 'yes, yes, yes', like he could project it onto McKay's lips.
They all ran through the gate together, Rodney lending support to Sheppard, flanked by Ronon and Teyla. Carter was there waiting, and Keller arrived as the gate closed down, followed by a team of medics and a gurney.
Keller hurried up to them, eyeing Sheppard as she gentled him onto the gurney and got him to lie down. “What happened?” she asked.
“Low calibre gun shot wound,” McKay told her, pointing. “Packed and wrapped, and he hasn't even bled through the pressure bandages.”
“Apparently their guns suck,” Sheppard snarked, but he jerked when Keller went to pull the pressure bandage away.
Keller peered at the injury. “Okay, let's move this to the Infirmary,” she told her medics. She nodded at Sheppard's team. “Good work,” she told them.
McKay, Ronon and Teyla waited in the Infirmary while Keller operated to clean up and close Sheppard's wound. When he came around, they were surrounding his bed in various states of repose.
“Hey,” he slurred. “How long've I...”
Teyla lay a hand on his arm and said, “It is night time. Sleep.”
His eyes drooped closed, then blinked open again with an effort. “You don't have to stick around,” he told them.
Ronon grinned at him, and swung his booted feet up to rest at Sheppard's side. “The nurses bring us snacks,” and he was partially right – the nurses would undoubtedly bring Ronon snacks.
Sheppard shifted his legs to give Ronon's feet more space. “Guess you're staying,” he commented, drawling from amusement as well as lethargy.
McKay felt he should rant about uncomfortable chairs and off-putting infirmary smells and how, if he stayed, he might be crippled by morning and have to be admitted alongside Sheppard.
But, he wouldn't be anywhere else, and his team knew it. He plumped up the pillow at his back, swung up his own legs beside Ronon's, and stayed.