Carson looked up when he heard a knock on his office door.
"Anything last minute for the night shift, Doctor Beckett?" Sharon asked as she stood just inside his office.
"Hello, Sharon," Carson greeted as he stood. "I was just going to make one last check of everyone. Other than Thomas and young Michael, our only other patients are Rodney and Teyla. I sent Doctor Jenson back to her room this afternoon."
"So, you're telling me I will need to chase Major Sheppard back to his quarters at some point?" Sharon said with a smile.
Carson frowned. "Unfortunately, no," he replied. "Last I heard, Major Sheppard was still off-world dealing with a situation. Rodney woke up earlier still a bit groggy, asking for him. I had to tell the lad he wasn't back yet."
Sharon glanced out of the office toward two beds against one wall. "How long has Corporal Ortega been here?" she asked.
Carson following her gaze and saw Ortega slumped in a chair with his chin on his chest. "Oh bloody hell," Carson muttered as he left his office carrying a computer pad. "I thought he'd left an hour ago."
He stopped at the end of Stephens' bed, checked the monitors and made a few notes on in the computer before stepping over to the chair.
"Miguel, lad," Beckett called softly and laid a gentle hand on Ortega's shoulder.
Ortega snapped awake and looked up at Carson bleary-eyed. "Sorry, Doc, I must have drifted off there for a moment," he mumbled as he rubbed his eyes.
"It's been more like an hour, son," Carson said with a slight smile. "You should get some rest in your own bed. You've had a long couple of days."
Ortega nodded but didn't move as he looked from one bed to the other. "You're sure they're going to be okay, Doctor Beckett? Sergeant Stephens doesn't look too good."
Carson stepped back to the end of Stephens' bed, hoping Ortega would follow him. "I know it looks a bit intimidating right now," he said looking over the monitors and equipment surrounding the bed, "but he's doing as well as can be expected. Besides the actual trauma, he lost a fair amount of blood so he's going to be a bit peaky for a little while yet."
"But he's going to get better?" Ortega asked, rubbing absently at his bandaged arm.
"Aye, lad, give him time and lots of rest and he'll be right as rain soon enough."
"And Sergeant Stackhouse, sir?"
Beckett smiled. No matter how many times he told the Marines they didn't need to address him as 'sir' they still did it when they were nervous. "Ahh, now Sergeant Stackhouse will be ready to leave in a couple of days, but he will need to keep that arm in a sling for a few weeks yet. No 'gate travel for you lot for at least a month, I'd say."
Ortega nodded and squirmed around trying to get more comfortable on the chair. Carson shook his head but before he could try again to convince Ortega to go back to his room, a new voice entered the conversation.
"You heard the Doc, Corporal," Stackhouse mumbled and opened his eyes. "Go back to quarters. Get some rest. Someone has to ride herd on Corrigan and keep him from spending all of his time in those ruins. You know how he can get. Without one of us there to keep an eye on him, he'll never come out."
Ortega stood from the chair. "Yes, Sergeant," he replied. Even though he did a fair job of hiding his emotions, Carson could still hear the relief in his voice that Stackhouse was awake.
"And Miguel?" Stackhouse added and waited for Ortega to turn around. "I hear you helped Sheppard find McKay and Teyla. Good work."
Carson hid a smile as Ortega's face reddened slightly. Sometimes it was hard for him to remember how young Ortega and some of the other Marines were.
"Thank you, Sergeant. I'll, umm, see you in the morning."
Carson watched Ortega leave the infirmary then turned back to Stackhouse. "How are you feeling, Thomas?"
Stackhouse tried to shrug and winced. "Only hurts when I move, Doc," he replied. "Mike really going to be okay?" he asked with a worried glance at the other bed.
"Aye, lad. It won't be quick, but he'll heal."
Stackhouse nodded and shifted on his bed. "Thanks, Doc."
Carson smiled again and patted Stackhouse on the arm. "You're welcome, lad. Now get some sleep."
Beckett wandered over to the far corner of the infirmary and sighed as he found another late night vigil taking place. Rodney lay curled on his side, his right hand, now with metal splints on his fingers, held against his chest. Teyla sat on the stool between the two beds, holding his left hand, whispering to him from time to time. Unlike Stephens, there was no monitoring equipment around either of the beds and Rodney's IV had been removed a few hours ago.
"You should be in your own bed," Carson whispered to Teyla as he walked around to the other side of Rodney's bed and laid a hand on Rodney's forehead. Carson was pleased to note he no longer felt feverish and his color was almost back to normal. Rodney shifted slightly at his touch but didn't wake up. "You need to rest too, lass."
"He was restless," Teyla replied softly. "I thought I would sit with him for a little while until John returns."
Carson studied her for a moment then glanced back at the bed as Rodney murmured something in his sleep. He nodded at the hand she held gently in her own and smiled to himself. "Accepted that he trusts you, I see."
Teyla glanced down at the hand she held lightly in her own. "I am grateful to have earned his trust. I know such faith does not come easily for him," she replied as Carson came around the bed and leant against the mattress near Rodney's legs.
"J'n?" Rodney mumbled and Teyla leant forward on the stool.
"John has not returned, yet," she told him softly. "Go back to sleep."
"Hmm," he murmured with a frown and rolled onto his back before his breathing evened out again.
"You should take your own advice," Carson said and nodded at the empty bed.
Teyla gently squeezed Rodney's fingers before letting go of his hand.
She stood and Carson helped her back under the covers, then sat on the stool beside the bed and added. "You did a good job with his fingers. I don't think I told you that earlier. You saved him a lot of pain setting them as quickly as you did. He'll only need the splints for a few weeks as a result."
Carson glanced over at the other bed and Rodney's right hand now resting on his chest. "If he'd had to wait until he got back here, it probably would have meant surgery in order to fix the damage."
She nodded at the comment and Carson could see something else was bothering her. "Was there something else the matter? You seem a little out of sorts."
Teyla stared up at the ceiling for a moment before she turned to Carson. "I now understand why John takes Rodney's issue with needing food so seriously," she admitted softly. "I did not really understand before what the possible consequences were if he did not eat regularly."
Carson pursed his lips and glanced over at the other bed. "It is a scary thing to see," he told her, "especially when there is little that can be done to correct it in the moment." He looked back over at Teyla as he stood. "I'm surprised Major Sheppard was able to get him to eat something so soon after finding you both. I imagine Rodney was in quite a state by then."
She sat up slightly in the bed and looked over at Rodney as he muttered something Carson didn't catch.
"John did not give him food," Teyla told him. "He has been hoarding unused drink powder from the MREs for just such an emergency. He realised after what happened on Kalani's planet, it was much easier to get Rodney to drink something rather than try to get him to eat."
"Smart man," Carson replied as he stood from the stool and moved to the end of her bed. "Get some sleep," he said with a tap on her leg. "If you both follow doctor's orders, I'll release you tomorrow morning."
She smiled at him. "Good night, Doctor Beckett."
"Good night, lass," he replied and walked back to his office, shed his lab coat, and headed for the door. "Sharon, be sure to call me if anything happens," he said as he passed Peterson on the way out of the infirmary.
"Good night, Doctor," she replied with a smile.
Beckett woke an hour later to the sound of someone knocking insistently on his door; never something he wanted to hear in the middle of the night. He crawled out of bed, threw on some clothes, and opened the door to find an orderly about to knock again.
"Jason?" Carson asked, squinting in the brighter light from the hallway. "What's going on, son?"
"Sorry to wake you, Doc. Major Sheppard and his team are back," Jason informed him. "Sharon thought you'd want to know."
"Anyone seriously hurt?" Carson asked as he followed Jason back through the quiet hallways to the infirmary.
"Not sure," Jason replied. "Sharon sent me to get you as soon as the call came in from the gateroom they were back."
Carson walked into the infirmary to see Ford perched on one bed getting checked over by Biro. He smiled and gave Beckett a thumbs up.
Markham's team was scattered on more beds. From what Carson could see, they seemed fine as well. He glanced into the far corner and saw Sheppard sitting on the stool between Teyla and Rodney's beds, his head leant back against the wall and his eyes closed. Carson grabbed his lab coat out of his office and headed in that direction. He pulled on the coat as he walked, and stopped at the end of Rodney's bed.
"Major?" Carson asked softly and waited for Sheppard to open his eyes and look at him. Carson winced when he got a look at the bruise on Sheppard's face, and glancing down at his hands he found scraped knuckles and more bruises along his arms. "What happened, John?" he asked as he stepped forward and looked for other injuries.
"Couple of them didn't agree with our relocation arrangement," John said tiredly. "Wanted to renegotiate the terms."
"I see," Carson said as he steered Sheppard to the bed on the other side of Rodney and pushed him to sit. He found a penlight in his coat pocket and flashed the light in John's eyes.
"I take it you were successful in persuading them to accept your plan?" he asked as he examined John's hands.
John's smile looked almost feral as he nodded and Carson tsked as he carefully checked each of John's swollen knuckles.
He turned to Jason waiting patiently at the end of the bed. "I need an ice pack, lad," he said and waited for Jason to leave.
"You won't do him any good if you get yourself killed on some fool's quest for revenge," Beckett admonished with a glance at Rodney.
"Don't know what you mean," Sheppard mumbled as his gaze focused on the wall behind Rodney's head.
Carson frowned and stepped into John's line-of-sight, forcing Sheppard to look at him. "How many of them are sporting broken fingers of their own, Major?" he asked bluntly.
John ignored the question as he watched Rodney shift on the next bed.
"That's what I thought," Carson said with a sigh as Jason came back with the ice pack. Carson cracked the pack and shook it slightly to mix the chemicals before he gave it to Sheppard.
"He called me Captain Kirk," John muttered at the floor as Carson started to walk away.
"I'm sorry?" Carson replied.
John looked up at him. "Everything with Chaya. Rodney said I was acting like Captain Kirk. Romancing the alien priestess," he added mockingly, then sighed and rubbed a hand across his face. "I think he was surprised I came looking for him. Maybe I wanted to prove to him, and maybe myself, we could get past everything that happened on Proculus."
Sheppard glanced at Rodney again and added, "I guess he was jealous of how Chaya and I got along. David acted the same way when we were kids. Always picking fights with me if he thought I was ignoring him."
"Rodney is not David, you know," Carson admonished gently.
"Yeah, I know" John replied softly. "But I reacted the same way. I wasn't paying enough attention and he went haring off to another planet and got himself kidnapped as a result."
Carson could hear the guilt in that comment and walked back to John's side. "What happened to him wasn't your fault, Major."
John shook his head and started to interrupt but Carson held up a hand to stop him. "From what I've heard he isn't completely innocent in all of this. His attitude and actions left a bit to be desired as well. It sounds to me like the pair of you need to sit down and actually talk to each other. And maybe listen without jumping to conclusions," Carson added with a pointed look.
John hopped off the bed and headed for the stool between Rodney and Teyla's beds, but Carson took his elbow and tugged him toward the exit instead. "They are both going to sleep the rest of the night. I suggest you do the same, in a bed, mind, and come back in the morning. I'm releasing them then so they will need some clothes."
"Maybe you're right," Sheppard admitted around a yawn as he handed Carson the ice pack.
"'Course I'm right," Carson replied as he took the pack and waved John toward the door. "Go. Get out of my infirmary. I don't want to see either you or Lieutenant Ford back here until morning."
~*~*~*~ SGA ~*~*~*~
"Rodney, I am sure Major Sheppard will be here soon," Teyla said and Rodney thought he heard frustration in her tone.
Rodney gave her a puzzled look as he continued to tap impatiently on the bed table with his left hand.
"The sound of the tapping is … irritating," she told him in response to his look.
"Oh. Sorry," Rodney replied. "I thought they'd be here by now. Carson said we could leave almost thirty minutes ago."
He tried to clasp his hands together to stop himself from tapping again but the splints were in the way and he settled for dropping his hands in his lap. His fingers, his whole hand really, felt heavy and clumsy with the splints and he had no idea how he was going to get anything done with a practically useless hand.
Rodney heard the infirmary door open and looked up to see Sheppard, with Ford in tow, heading in their direction.
"Finally!" Rodney exclaimed when John stopped at the end of his bed and dropped one of the bags near his legs before handing Teyla hers. "What took you so long?" Rodney continued to grouse as he opened the bag. He glanced up at John and did a double-take when he saw Sheppard's face. "What the hell happened to you?"
John glanced over at him, then at Teyla. "Don't know what you mean," John replied with an air of innocence.
"You aren't fooling anyone with the act," Rodney told him, setting aside the bag. "I may not have been entirely coherent yesterday, but I think I would remember if you had a black eye and swollen knuckles."
"Don't worry about it," John told him. "Go get changed, I'm hungry."
Rodney scowled at the avoidance of his question. Something was wrong, he knew it. Another of those weird feelings. Like with Chaya.
Don't go there, he told himself as he slid off the bed and went to change. He found a pair of grey trousers and a blue uniform shirt as well as underwear in the bag and quickly changed. He came back out from behind the screen to see Teyla already changed and hunted around until he found his boots shoved under his bed.
He sat on the stool between the two beds and pulled on his boots then started to tie them, no easy task with his first two fingers awkwardly held in place with splints. He grumbled as his fingers fumbled the laces a second time and he was a bit surprised when John knelt down and quickly tied the laces.
"We ever make contact with Earth, I'm finding you boots that have velcro," John teased lightly as he stood.
Rodney had a sarcastic retort on the tip of his tongue when he spotted Carson with a tiny smile on his face standing next to Ford. He quickly stood next to John and hoped his face wasn't as flushed as it felt.
Thankfully, Beckett focused on Teyla. "The bruises and scrapes are going to be painful for a day or two," he told her. "No stick fighting lessons for a few days. Give yourself a chance to heal."
"I will keep that in mind, Doctor Beckett," she replied with a smile.
He turned to Rodney, "The same goes for you, Rodney," Carson told him. "You need to take things easy today. Your body has had a shock so don't go running all over the city tiring yourself out again."
"I know what to do, Carson," Rodney replied impatiently. "I've dealt with a bad reaction before."
"Aye, but not this severe an incident, I hope." Carson gave him a measured look and Rodney looked down at his splinted fingers. Now was not the time to bring up the past, he told himself.
"I'll be careful," Rodney finally replied. He looked up to see Beckett and John watching him and sighed. "Can we go now?" he asked.
"Yes, yes, go," Beckett said and made a shooing motion toward the door. Ford and Teyla headed out and Rodney started to follow when he saw Carson stop John with a hand on his arm.
"Make sure he eats something every few hours, Major," he heard Carson say. "His body is still adjusting, it won't take much for him to crash again."
He watched John nod and felt his temper start to rise. He was an adult. Didn't he just tell Carson he'd dealt with the aftereffects of a hypoglycaemic reaction before? He was about to make a biting comment when Carson gave John a knowing look and spoke again.
"And don't forget what we talked about last night, either," Carson added and Rodney watched as John ducked his head before nodding again.
What was that all about? Rodney wondered and slowly left the infirmary before either of them realised he'd been eavesdropping. Ford and Teyla were already gone, so he loitered in the hallway outside the infirmary until John came out.
John was unusually quiet during the short walk to the transporter. Rodney was still figuring out something to say when the transporter doors opened and John put out a hand to stop him as he started walking toward the mess hall.
"What?" he asked. "I thought you said you were hungry."
"I need to talk to you about something first," John replied and looked up and down the hall before jerking his head behind them and leading the way out onto a balcony.
Rodney felt his stomach clench when John pointed at one of the chairs while he stood with his back against the railing. He suspected he knew what John wanted to talk about. He'd hoped to put off the conversation at least until he'd had something to eat, but apparently, he wasn't that lucky.
He perched on the edge of the chair and watched as Sheppard stuck his hands in his jacket pockets, then took them out and crossed his arms over his chest. He stood like that for a few seconds before he braced his hands on the railing behind him and Rodney suddenly realised John was nervous. John was never nervous, or if he was, he never showed it.
Rodney sat back in the chair with a frown. He knew, or at least had a pretty good idea, what it was John wanted to talk about. He'd expected to be yelled at again for how he'd acted around Chaya and was ready for John to be mad at him. He wasn't prepared for John to act like he was about to dump bad news in his lap.
"So," Rodney started to say and then stopped when John jerked his head up and stared at him. He quickly changed what he was going to say and instead asked, "Did you kiss her?"
"What?" John asked and dropped the hand he was scraping across his face.
"Chaya," Rodney replied. "Just how far did your Captain Kirk routine go with her?"
John scowled. "Look, I get that you were jealous, but --"
"I was never jealous," Rodney retorted, his anger flaring.
"No? You certainly were acting like it." John crossed his arms over his chest again. "You were acting just like David any time I had a girlfriend and he thought I was ignoring him."
Rodney shook his head and stood. He paced back and forth along the small balcony for a few moments, trying to keep his temper in check, before he leant against the railing and stared at the water. "You're an idiot," he mumbled.
He felt the railing shake as John pushed off and paced a few steps of his own. "If that wasn't jealousy, exactly what was it, McKay?" John growled. "You disliked her from almost the moment we met her! You were arrogant, condescending, and suspicious. You did everything you could to try and make her leave. "
"Because I could tell she was playing you, Major!" Rodney exclaimed and glared over at John. "She was using you, and you were oblivious. I was worried about you!" He turned to face Sheppard and gave free rein to the pent-up fear and anger he'd been carrying for the last few days. "She only wanted something from you. Hell, she even admitted it! She wanted to see Atlantis again. You were her ticket home and that's all that mattered to her."
He saw the stunned expression on John's face as he shouted, but he was on a roll and couldn't stop himself from continuing.
"I've been on the receiving end of people wanting something from me too many times not to recognise the signs. She wanted something from you and she didn't care what happened to you once she got it. I was trying to help! Trying to save you some of the pain I've felt more times than I care to count after supposed friends and colleagues got what they wanted and left me to deal with the fallout alone. So, yes, I was the worst possible version of myself hoping she would just leave before she had a chance to really hurt you."
He turned back around and gripped the railing so tight his knuckles turned white and his broken fingers throbbed.
He wasn't sure what John would do next and he felt his back muscles tensing as he heard John take a deep breath behind him. The last thing he expected was the hand that gripped his shoulder gently as John leant against the railing next to him. "Okay, maybe I was a bit of an idiot," John said, his tone conciliatory. "But you weren't exactly rational in all of this, either. Why didn't you just tell me all of that instead of spying on us, glowering at Chaya at every opportunity, and snapping at me?"
"Would you have listened?" Rodney asked and glanced over at John.
John opened his mouth, then closed it and shook his head. "No. Probably not," he admitted with a wry smile.
Rodney felt John squeeze his shoulder before he let go and braced his arms on the railing. "You were wrong about one thing, though. It wasn't just an act to get back to Atlantis. She did care about me, too."
"Oh god, did you …" Rodney ducked his head. "No, no, I don't want to know."
He heard John chuckle and glanced over at him. "Good, because I'm not the type to kiss and tell."
"So there was kissing," Rodney said with a smirk.
"Shut up, McKay."
They stood in companionable silence for a few moments, then Rodney asked, "So what really happened to you?" He pointed at his own eye. "I know you didn't have a black eye when we came home yesterday."
John glanced down at his bruised knuckles. "I had a conversation with a couple of the prisoners we transported to the planet Grodin and Zelenka found. I explained how I didn't appreciate how they'd treated some friends of mine."
"You took on Kirin and Desh by yourself?" he asked incredulously. He wasn't sure if he felt anger at John's reckless actions or gratitude that someone was willing to stand up in his defence.
John flexed his fingers and stepped back from the railing. "Nope. Ford and Thompson were there, too. They made sure no one interrupted us during our … talk."
Rodney shook his head as he followed John back to the door. He could only imagine what Elizabeth would do when she found out about Sheppard's method of getting his point across.
"One last thing," John said before they went back inside. "Next time you're mad at me, don't go running off to another planet in order to avoid me. We might not be as lucky a second time."
"It was supposed to be safe," Rodney replied. "It's not my fault we were attacked by pirates."
John turned back, his expression and tone serious. "No running off."
Rodney studied his expression for a moment, saw the worry laced with fear in John's eyes, and nodded. "As long as you stop and listen the next time I get a weird feeling about someone. They don't happen that often, you know."
John chuckled. "Deal," he agreed and led the way inside. "Come on. Ford and Teyla are probably wondering where we are, and I'm hungry."