Title: The Secret Language of Grief, Book One
Characters: J. Sheppard, R. McKay, C. Beckett, E. Lorne, R. Woolsey, and various OCs
Warnings: Violence, Mentions of Major Character Deaths
Disclaimer: Stargate: Atlantis and her characters are the property of MGM. All I lay claim to is my passion for the show and the original characters within this work of fiction
Summary: 20 years after the Wraith decimated Earth in The Great Culling, the SGC is once again ready to resume the Atlantis Expedition. Top brass wants only one man for the job, unfortunately for them John Sheppard has been MIA since the end of the War. A slip-up reveals John's current location, but will he be able to forgive the ultimate betrayal and return?
Time passed differently in the medical wing of the SGC. It was as if John's very condition ground it to a halt somehow while all the bad news constantly streaming out of the doctor's mouths, slowly worked to whittle them all away to nothing. Only the change was gradual, and not very noticeable at first. But Rodney was starting to sense it now. It gave him the feeling of being paper thin and liable to break apart at the first sign of a stiff breeze, but he tried to ignore it's effects and attempted to hide his rips as best he could.
Rodney took off his reading glasses for a moment and massaged at the impressions the nose pads had left in his skin. He didn't often even wear the damn things, convinced they made him look too much like the old man he refused to believe he was becoming, and even though he knew he needed them. It was one part of getting old he didn't quite like, though he figured it was better than the alternative. John was taking a nice long look at that alternative right now and Rodney didn't quite know what to do about it.
John was dying.
John was dying and there was nothing he, or Carson or Lorne or Landry or Carrie Sinclair could do about it. In fact, Rodney was about ready to start shaking his fists at the sky and demanding that a God he'd never believed in, pull a miracle out of his ass and save his friend. John didn't deserve it – any of it – and Rodney was starting to get angry.
Since when did it become alright for mere mortals to play gods? Those IOA members had done it 20 years ago with the Wraith Hive ships and then Sean Fitzpatrick, or whoever the hell he was, had done it again a mere two days ago. Yes, Rodney had listened to the recording of John and Liam's conversation. Yes, the kid had lead a sad life that had been full of loss and betrayal, just like John's. But where John Sheppard had chosen life, Liam Maguire had chosen madness and it just wasn't fair that he might still win.
John's doctors had been in a little while ago to tell them all to "prepare" themselves. The words were out there now and no one would ever be able to take them back. They were preparing themselves to lose John forever and Rodney couldn't help but rage at the universe for the injustice of it all. There were plenty of evil men out there in the world who deserved a fate worse than death. So why was it that John Sheppard, a man who would protect to the death even the weakest of creatures, was lying in that hospital bed now, fighting for his life? Why was he the one made to lose everything when all he'd ever done was try and make the world a fair and safe place? Nothing about the current situation made sense and it was driving Rodney mad.
Science was a tool he used to make sense of the universe. It broke things down to their most basic levels and delved into how it all worked together to form his existence. Yet there was nothing in any textbook on the face of the Earth that Rodney McKay could read that would adequately explain to him why all of this was happening.
And that wasn't acceptable.
He could find a plethora of information on why John's organs were shutting down if he wanted to. He could find out exactly what the infection raging through his body was doing to him right this very moment, if he felt like it. But there was nothing, nothing at all, that would explain why John had been targeted not once, but twice, by pure evil.
Rodney tossed the book he really hadn't been reading and his glasses onto the bed beside John's still feet and stood up to stretch for a moment, trying to shake away from his anger. Torren had left a while ago to go and take care of some business in the mountain and Rodney had been left alone with Carrie for the past several hours. And he didn't mind it in the least. That woman knew the value of silence and Rodney had decided he would continue to like her based on the fact that she hadn't insisted they turn the little TV bolted to the wall on for a distraction. She was sleeping now. Her head was cradled against the crook of the elbow she had resting on the bed beside John's head, hand wrapped around his as her soft exhalations timed themselves perfectly with those coming from the ventilator's main body behind her. Rodney couldn't fault her for trying to get some sleep. They'd all been through a rough few days and it didn't look as though the onslaught was going to be over any time soon.
And as if to punctuate that point, Rodney heard a commotion out in the hall and raised voices out a few moments later.
"If ye dinnea get your bloody hands off my chair this instant, I'm gonnea knock you into next Tuesday, laddie!"
Rodney glanced over quickly at Carrie, worried for a moment that the commotion out in the hall might have disturbed her, but she slumbered on.
He knew who it was immediately. Rodney would have been able to recognize those dulcet tones anywhere, and he decided the least he could do was go and see if he could help Carson get around whoever it was that was trying to bar him from seeing John this time around.
They were headed into day three of nothing good. Nerves were frayed all around. He wondered why they even bothered anymore with trying to keep Carson away for health reasons when it was clearly only doing more harm than good now. Rodney had attempted to track Lorne down to try and talk him into easing off his stringent NO VISITOR's policy, but the man had been mysteriously MIA for the past several days. Rodney knew he visited. He'd stirred from sleep more than once to see Evan Lorne hovering in the doorway, watching over John carefully with something unreadable behind his eyes. But Rodney figured, like them all, he was just dealing with what had happened in his own way. They were all on edge. Especially now that "prepare yourselves" had been officially spoken by one of John's doctors.
Rodney let his hand rest lightly on top of one of John's and he tried not to be alarmed by how hot and papery thin the skin there felt. He knew it was a result of the fever burning its way through John's body, but feeling it somehow made it all the more real. Infection was setting in and pretty soon there would be talk of sepsis and maybe then… talk of taking John off life support to let him go peacefully, instead of spending the remainder of his life lost in an inferno of fever and pain. Those thoughts had Rodney practically bolting for the door, the need to get Carson in here pronto preparing him to pull out his patented Rodney McKay Charm to get what he wanted if need be.
Carson was in a wheelchair with all manner of machines attached to it: oxygen tanks, heart monitors, IV stands, and he was glaring up at a guard Rodney didn't recognize. The younger solider was trying to block the older physician's way, only Carson wasn't having any of it.
"You better bloody well move, young man. Or I'll have you cleaning bedpans in my infirmary for the rest o' your career!"
"I'm sorry Dr. Beckett, but I was given strict orders..."
"I dinnea give a rat's arse about your bloody orders, man! Now get the hell out of me way and let me in to see my friend!" Carson rolled his chair forward menacingly and the Marine standing in front of him had the good sense to back up a few steps before his toes got run over. Carson was out for blood.
"Rodney!" The physician exclaimed when he finally spotted him coming down the hallway. "Would you kindly tell this mammoth here that it's okay for me to come down there? Tha I'm not gonnea try and blow the place up or sumthin'!"
"Dr. Beckett, I..." the man stammered.
"I bloody well know what you're gonnea say, and you can shove it. My friend is down there dyin' and some baby faced Lieutenant isnea gonna keep me from him!" Carson exclaimed, and readjusted the nasal cannula that was starting to come loose from one ear in his agitation. Rodney couldn't help but wonder how Carson had managed to get out of the infirmary at all. He got his answer a moment later when Lorne came barreling down the corridor towards them.
"Stand down, Marine. It's okay. I said he could come" Lorne exclaimed, a little out of breath when he reached the pressurizing standoff the same time Rodney did and the Marine gave up with a shrug. Carson's angry eyes followed him for a while as he made his way back down the hall.
"The least you could have done was call off yer damn guard dogs, Evan," the physician said crossly and Rodney watched as the Colonel's face went a little red and he held back a retort.
"If you would have waited for me, I would have brought you down myself." Lorne said through gritted teeth.
Carson folded his arms across his chest. "And what, push m'chair the whole way? I dinnea think so, laddie. Everyone's been tryin' ta baby me ever since..."
"...Ever since you woke up from a coma, Carson? Is that what you were about to say?" Lorne's eyes flashed with barely checked anger and Beckett had the good sense to clamp his mouth shut and back off a little.
"Well, it's nice to see you're feeling better Carson," Rodney finally spoke up and two pairs of irritated eyes snapped his way at the exact same time. They also lost all their heat at the exact same moment as well, and Rodney nearly laughed.
"How's he doing?" It was Lorne who asked and Rodney shrugged. He'd been doing that a lot lately.
"Not so good."
The words hung in the center of the crude little circle they'd made like something heavy and unwanted, but altogether unavoidable.
Carson shifted in his wheelchair. "Would ye push me in then? I'd like ta sit with him for a wee bit."
He said it more as if he were seeking appeasement from Lorne. But the Colonel just looked over at Rodney who sighed and rounded the physician's chair to start pushing. It was like there was something fundamentally broken between them now... a connection missing, and while Rodney knew right where to find the missing piece, he didn't know how to fix it. He didn't know how to put John Sheppard back together again. Lord save him, it was the one thing he never would be able to do for the man either, though everything within him was screaming to.
Rodney wheeled Carson's chair in carefully around the doorway, mindful of all the machinery he'd brought along with him, and tried to ignore the small sputtering intake of breath Carson drew in upon finally seeing John. Lorne had bent over to start moving the detritus of their around the clock bedside vigils out of the way so Carson's chair could be maneuvered in closer, but even he had to stop when the physician made that sound. It was like the culmination of all the emotions that had battered against every single one of them ever since John had been shot, coming together in one mournful utterance.
They'd been without Carson Beckett for so long that Rodney had nearly forgotten just how much of his heart the medical doctor really wore on his sleeve.
As soon as Rodney brought Carson's wheelchair to a stop beside the bed, the physician threaded a hand through the bars of the side rail, and took John's IV'd hand in his. It was such a surreal inversion of what had taken place mere days ago when John had sat beside Carson's own bed, that Rodney nearly lost it. He kept forgetting that he wasn't the only one being pulled apart from the inside over what had been done to his friend. Carson was ill to boot, and he couldn't help but wonder if this all was a mistake. The man was barely out of his coma, and now here he was: hooked up to oxygen, unable to get around except for when he used a wheelchair, and being faced with the very real prospect of losing John forever this time.
Rodney could only imagine what it must have been like for Carson that day on Atlantis, when he had been kicked off that helicopter and held back bodily by those marines working for the IOA. That scene out in the hallway a moment ago… Rodney saw the parallels now, and realized the mistake he'd just nearly made. If anything, he owed Carson Beckett an apology for keeping him away from John for this long. The man knew firsthand what it was like to be ripped away from his friend already, and Rodney had almost made him live through the exact same thing a second time.
Feeling ashamed and utterly drained, Rodney collapsed back into the chair he'd been occupying for the past several days and massaged at his aching temples. Carrie, he could see, had somehow managed to sleep through all of Carson's dramatic entrance, though they had been doing their best to stay as quiet as possible so as not to wake her. She was still sawing logs, as Dine had used to say, and Rodney envied her the ability to get some actual rest. He hadn't been able to turn his brain off for days, though he knew his body was starting to rebel against him for it. But there was help for it. Rodney wasn't going anywhere. At least, not until he was certain John Sheppard was out of the woods and on the road to recovery.
Rodney let his exhausted gaze settle back on Carson who was trying very hard to hide the fact that his entire body was trembling slightly. Whether out of fatigue or emotion, Rodney couldn't say, but his eyes fixated on the bent figure in the chair as he constantly checked it for cracks. Rodney wanted Carson to have as much time as possible with John, but not when it threatened his life as well.
"Lads, I had one of John's doctors bring me his chart this morning," Carson said, loud enough to startle Carrie from sleep and get Rodney sitting forward in his chair. "He isnnea doing as well as we would hope, and I think there's something we might try for him. Tha' is, if you're all agreeable to it."
Carrie was blinking up at all of them blearily, but she didn't say anything. Just looked back and forth between them before rubbing the sleep out of her eyes.
"I dinnea know for sure, but maybe what I'm proposin' weel help us both to heal a right bit faster."
"You're not thinking..." Rodney started but Carson turned his head so that Rodney could see the tears tracking down his face.
"Aye, laddie, I do. I want to take him to Atlantis. You may think I'm crazy ta think so, but I'm bettin' tha' city might be able to help. And he needs all the help in the world right now."
Carson was right, it was a crazy idea, but looking over at John, watching machines do for him what his own body could no longer do for itself anymore, Rodney was hard pressed to find any reason why they shouldn't at least try.
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