And one final time, thanks to my most wonderful betas in the world, Koschka and kodiak_bear This fic wouldn't have been possible without them!
DAY 6: Epilogue
It was past noon when Elizabeth finally tracked Rodney down in Colonel Sheppard’s infirmary, and Carson was rather surprised it had taken her that long to arrive.
“Carson,” she greeted shortly.
“Elizabeth,” he returned, doing his best to appear interested in the colonel’s medical chart he was updating, when in reality he was watching the expedition leader’s reaction to the form he had watched Rodney complete earlier that morning.
“Dr. McKay, would you like to explain exactly why I’m requisitioning back issues of Cosmopolitan from the past five years?”
Rodney didn’t even glance up from his Battleship board that was resting in his lap where he sat in the chair beside the hospital bed. “Because the Chieftain of the Zarwabi tribe is a horny teenager with a thing for big breasted, scantly clad women. G-7.”
“Miss,” Sheppard gloated.
“Dammit! I knew I should have gone horizontal instead of vertical.”
The requisition form waggled irritably under Rodney’s nose. “There is no way the SGC is going to approve this requisition.”
“Elizabeth, I was bargaining for my life, for all our lives… well, except for Ronon’s, but three-fourths of the lead Atlantean first-contact team should be worth a few dozen magazines I would think.”
Ronon propped his feet on the foot of Sheppard’s bed. “What would you have offered him if I’d been included, too?”
“Another year of Cosmo and probably a few Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issues for good measure.”
Ronon considered and nodded his head approvingly before going back to the book he was reading. And Carson couldn’t help but wonder just where had he managed to get his hands on a collection of Sylvia Plath poetry?
Sheppard’s guess had him cursing again. “Son of a bitch! That’s the third ship you’ve hit in a row and they’re all different…” Looking quickly behind him, he caught Teyla suddenly scratching her cheek with four fingers. “You’re cheating!”
Teyla did her best to look abashed at being caught, but not Sheppard. “She’s only doing me a favor, McKay. F-A-V-O-R. Fav-or.”
“You are such a sore loser, it’s pathetic,” Rodney tsked with a disappointed shake of his head.
“Rodney,” Elizabeth cut in, her temper rapidly shortening. “How am I supposed to explain this to General Landry?”
“Elizabeth, you’re the world renowned negotiator, go… negotiate.” He waved a petulant hand. “Just get me those Cosmos or we’re never going to get our downed Jumpers back from Rendi.”
All the other requested materials that had been on hand had been provided to the tribe with the exception of the magazines. But Rendi was willing to take the other supplies as a good faith down payment with an agreement that the Atlantis team could return to retrieve the disabled Jumpers once the periodicals had been delivered. Besides, while it was true Colonel Sheppard had been improving following the worm cure (a treatment method that had Carson threatening to truly treat the man for heartworms upon their return to Atlantis without Rodney even having to make the veterinary reference on his own), the injured man hadn’t been out of the woods yet. Rodney had made it very clear to the young Chief, in a quickly sobering tone, the implications of what would happen if John died. The lack of HalleBerry with a dress cut down to her navel would be the least of his concerns.
Once Carson had the missing team back on Atlantis, he had started the colonel on some of the best antibiotics and pain medications the Milky Way had to offer. The rest of the team was really in need of nothing more than some fluids, a good, square meal, and showers. Ronon was slightly dehydrated following his trek to the gate. And Rodney and Teyla were suffering from the lingering effects of being drugged and intoxicated… both involuntarily and voluntarily. He would have been more than happy to send them on their merry way back to their quarters, except by the time he finished with Sheppard, Teyla and Rodney had both collapsed into drooling, snoring, not to mention stinking, heaps on their respective examination tables. And Ronon, having traveled over forty miles on foot the previous day and now faced with not just one but three incapacitated teammates in the infirmary, had sunk sprawling into a chair and was soon sound asleep himself.
All four of them had slept through the night without waking. That morning the three uninjured team members had drifted from the infirmary one by one as they woke, each asking after Colonel Sheppard, who continued to sleep, before making their way back to their rooms after receiving Carson’s assurance that the colonel was doing well and should make a complete recovery. But within a few hours they had all returned, freshly showered, dressed in clean clothes, and all anxious to see if John was awake.
He was, still weak but improving by the hour, and almost as relieved to see his team alive and well and back in Atlantis as they were to see him. The man had been incredibly lucky. The treatment with the worms, although barbaric upon first viewing, not to mention disgusting beyond measure, was an effective means of treating the infection. It was unlikely that Sheppard would have been doing as well as he was, playing games with Rodney and chatting and laughing with the others, if he hadn’t received the home remedy. In fact, it would have been a close call as to whether or not he would have gone septic before they had brought him home to Atlantis.
“Rodney,” Elizabeth threatened, “we are not done discussing this.”
“Fine, we can discuss it all you want, just sign and turn it in.” Rodney glanced at his watch. “You can transmit it with the daily briefing to the SGC that you’re late for.”
Her frown deepened as she bit off a curse over the time. “You owe me for this, McKay.”
“Look, tell you what. Throw on a subscription for yourself and we’ll call it even.” Rodney’s chipper smile was met with a final glower and bounce of brown curls as Dr. Weir turned on her heels and stomped from the room.
“Do you think that was wise, Rodney?” Carson asked as he closed the file on his electronic tablet.
“As far as I’m concerned, it was the best drunken decision I’ve ever made in my life. Eventually Elizabeth will come to see that as well.” Starting to pull the tiny pegs from his game board, the scientist proclaimed, “I’m not going to play with cheaters. Ronon, you up for a game?”
The large man shrugged before setting aside his book and taking the second board from Sheppard. “Sure, why not?”
“I call dibs on the winner,” Teyla announced.
“Why doesn’t anyone ever call dibs on me?”
The colonel’s whine was answered instantly by Rodney. “Because you cheat, you’re skinny, and your elbows are incredibly pointy. Although the flesh eating worms didn’t seem to have a problem with that.”
“Rodney, shut the hell up about the worm,” Sheppard threatened with a barely visible shudder.
“Actually,” Carson interrupted before McKay could continue to taunt his friend and Sheppard could collapse into an all out fit of the willies, “it’s time for the Colonel’s pain medication. I doubt he’ll be awake for long after that, which is fine as he could definitely use some more rest… uninterrupted rest.”
His pointed comment to the other three had the team looking from one to the other. Teyla was the first to speak. “We should probably let you sleep. You are still recovering.”
Ronon stood and stretched. “Yeah, I think I’m going to go for a run, get some fresh air.”
“I should probably, you know, get back to the lab. See what blew up or imploded while we were gone. Make sure Radek hasn’t replaced the nameplate on my desk with his own.”
The disappointment on Sheppard’s face outdid that on all of his teammates. “Yeah, okay. So, I’ll see you guys sometime later then.”
Carson gave a disbelieving snort and shook his head, which had Rodney demanding, “What?”
“It’s just that the four of you have spent the majority of the past week trapped together in a small space. I would think that you would have been ready to rip out your hair not to mention each other’s throats and would want to take advantage of the fact that you don’t have to see one another now that that is an option.”
The four frowned in confusion, as if the thought had never crossed their minds. “Well, you know, it wasn’t that bad,” John defended.
“So you never had a disagreement?” Carson asked in amazement. “Everyone just got along swimmingly the entire time you were in the Jumper?” When everyone nodded wordlessly he inquired, “And just what exactly did you do to pass the time?”
“Well, I was busy trying to figure out a way to get us out.”
Rolling his eyes at Rodney’s poor excuse for an answer, Carson then looked to Ronon. “I was keeping an eye out for the natives in case they came back after shooting us down.”
Teyla tilted her head toward Sheppard. “I was caring for John.”
When the physician finally looked to the colonel he shrugged. “I was injured. In and out. I don’t remember too much.”
“It really wasn’t any different than our typical mission.” McKay’s chin rose in defiance and Carson knew it was a lie. “Just… longer… and in a smaller area… and colder.”
“And exactly how did you manage to stay warm?”
That question had the four of them talking simultaneously.
“Oh, look at the time. I really need to get back to the lab and...”
“I should contact my people and let them know…”
“I told Lorne I’d help him…”
“I should really take those pain meds now...”
Carson blinked as the room emptied and decided he’d have to remember that question the next time they were lingering too long in the infirmary after visiting hours.
He had been correct in his assessment of Colonel Sheppard’s reaction to the painkillers. The man was out like a light within a matter of minutes and slept for several hours. Carson took advantage of the peace and quiet to catch up on some paperwork before one of the marines came in with a sprained ankle and then one of his own nurses came down with a stomach virus. By the time he was able to check in with John again, he was awake, but still alone, with a laptop open on the bed table. He was using his left hand to hunt and peck out keys, cursing quietly when he made a mistake and had to backspace and fix it.
“Having problems, Colonel?”
“It’s amazing how I can type with both hands and not even have to think about where the keys are located, but when it comes to using one hand I can’t remember where any of them are on the keyboard.”
“What’s amazing is how the human body can adapt to just about anything to the point that something as foreign as a piece of plastic can become a natural extension of the body itself.”
“Sheppard, they don’t have meatloaf tonight,” Rodney’s voice informed him through the radio. “Only tuna casserole and some sort of cube steak in gravy.”
Without thought, John reached up and keyed his earpiece. “The menu said there was meatloaf.”
“Well, then let me take it up with the maitre d’.” Sheppard gave a disgruntled frown at the news and McKay wasn’t happy with the silence. “Look, you can complain to the kitchen staff yourself when you get out. Right now I need to know what you want to eat– fish and noodles or meat chunks and gravy? Chop, chop, I’m a busy man.”
John sighed despondently. “I’ll take the beef.”
“Fine, but I make no guarantee that it is technically beef. Beef-like protein substance is the best assurance I can give you.”
“Whatever. Just bring me my food.” He pecked out a few more letters before adding quickly. “And don’t eat my cake on the walk over here.”
There was a slight pause before Rodney asked guiltily. “Who said there was cake?”
“McKay, I swear to God, if I smell chocolate on you…”
“All right. Jesus. You’ll get your damn cake. McKay out.”
Turning his attention back to the physician that had stood by during the conversation with Rodney, Sheppard asked, “What were you saying, Doc?”
Carson smiled faintly. “Oh, nothing. Just how a person can adapt so completely to something so different from themselves that they wouldn’t know how to function if it wasn’t there, and yet, they don’t even notice how dependent they’ve become on it.”
“Oh, right, the keyboard.”
“That too,” Carson agreed, wondering absently when the other requisite accoutrement that had weaseled his way into Sheppard’s life would be walking through the door with the Colonel’s meal. “So, what are you working on anyway, lad?”
“The mission report,” he lamented. “Elizabeth wants it to send with Rodney’s requisition request to explain a few things on the list. Normally, I’d do the main write up, but seeing as I’m working as a lefty for a while, I just decided to put an addendum on the ones the rest of the team wrote.”
Carson’s eyebrows rose. “Addendum?”
“You know, clarifying a few things… for accuracy… and job security.”
“Ah. I see.” Carson nodded sympathetically before making a final note in his tablet. “Well, I’d best leave you to it, then. Enjoy your meal.”
Sheppard didn’t look up, simply hunted for the next letter. “Thanks, Doc.”
And from the bickering he heard coming from the room a few minutes later, he figured the colonel had a pleasant supper indeed.
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