Rating: Eventual NC-17
“It’s a good thing they’re both A positive or Carson would be dead, possibly Sheppard.” Rodney couldn’t place the voice immediately. The smell and sounds told him he was in the Infirmary. His head ached but it wasn’t the kind you got from a concussion, still he kept his eyes closed because being in the infirmary usually mean that opening them was going to hurt worse He tried to remember why he was here. Carson and Sheppard, his brain was fuzzy, but told him that much.
“How is Dr. Zelenka?” Another voice. Elizabeth?
“There’s a hairline fracture. He’s going to have a headache for a while, maybe some memory issues, but he’ll be fine.” Biro, Rodney thought the voice must be Dr. Biro. How the hell did Zelenka end up with a fracture? And Carson almost died? He opened his eyes. Shit, he was right, that didn’t feel good at all.
Biro and Weir both responded to the moan he let out as the pain behind his eyes spiked. He really wished they would be quieter right about now. Sitting up was his next mistake, as he found out, when dizziness and sweating joined the pain. He was upright, but barely.
“That wasn’t a good idea, Dr. McKay.” Biro made sure Elizabeth had Rodney by his arm before she hustled across the Infirmary and returned with a carton of apple juice. “Here, drink this. You’re hypoglycemic. You should have eaten more today.”
He downed the carton of apple juice in a few swallows and handed the empty back to the doctor, “Thank you, I’ll try to remember to order out for Chinese the next time I get called off world.” His memory of the day was coming back, aided by the sight of Radek laying on the bed next to his. Rodney’s last memory the Czech had been his body on the ground, sickly gray, with medics huddled over him. One thought led to another and he found himself sitting on the side of his bed shaking. Carson. John. It came back in vivid detail, blood, panic, anger, isolation. He was well and truly screwed. “How are they?”
Biro started to rattle of a litany of medical mumbo jumbo and for a minute Rodney was so close to killing her that he almost reached out, but then Elizabeth must have read something in his face or body language, “Could you put it in English for us?” The doctor looked nonplussed, then embarrassed.
“I think all three will make it without any permanent damage. Dr. Zelenka has a hairline fracture, but there were no complications. He mostly needs rest. Colonel Sheppard, well he cut his hands pretty badly. All together I put 58 stitches in them, but most of the cuts were shallow. One nicked a tendon and that will require PT.”
Rodney’s face had paled when she mentioned the stitches and the tendon. He’d ordered John to pull out the probe. The idea that he might have cost Sheppard his flying wasn’t something he wanted to contemplate.
“What about Carson?” There was no way to hide the fear in his voice. The ride back in the puddlejumper had been a nightmare. “There was so much blood. Nothing we did stopped it.” Elizabeth was looking at him, not really surprised at his concern. She just wondered how long he’d leave his defenses down, if it would be long enough for his friends to work back inside.
Biro frowned and shook her still only half believing what they’d done. “We had to go back to Victorian medicine, but it worked.”
Both of them looked confused “The metal in the probe is a complex mixture of an alloy and trace minerals. It was apparently used as a means of non-invasively breaking up blood clots. It emits a very weak field that disrupts platelets. The field can be enhanced when power is applied. That’s what we’re guessing the machine was.” She reached up to rub the back of her neck and stretch the muscles a little, “The inside of the probe was never meant to be in direct contact with tissue. Even without power, it managed to inhibit the clotting at the wound sites for several hours.”
“What did you mean by Victorian medicine?” Rodney was looking like he could use some blood himself and Elizabeth held onto his arm, as much for herself as to give him support. Focusing on what Biro was saying let him ignore the part of his brain that was flashing warning signs about caring too much. He was getting sucked back in, and as much as his heart wanted it, his mind was telling him what a stupendously bad idea it was.
“All of our blood products here have anticoagulant in them. He was already bleeding so much and I didn’t want to make it worse by pumping him full of blood with heparin and no clotting factors. We only have limited platelet packs, and I used them all early on without any luck, so we did it the old fashioned way, fresh whole blood.”
Rodney looked at her wide-eyed. There was a short pause as that sank in, then Biro continued, “We lost him twice during the surgery.” Even Elizabeth hadn’t known that. They sat on the bed, almost breathless at the import of what she’d said. Carson had died. Twice.
It was too much. All at once the conflicting emotions got to be too much and Rodney’s coping skills started to crash. He needed time and a place to think where no one was going to disturb him. Going back to his room would have been the sane thing to do, but his mind wasn’t going to give him any rest until he’d seen Carson and John. Rousing, McKay nodded towards the curtained off area that held Sheppard and Beckett. “I’ll be in there.”
“You really need to be resting.” Biro took his arm, intending to guide him back into bed.
“I’ll be sitting.”
“They can’t be disturbed.”
“I won’t.” Rodney continued before Biro could open her mouth to order him back to bed, “Look, I don’t even know why I’m here.”
“You were in shock, doctor, and hypoglycemic, and in case you forgot, you still aren’t supposed to be on that leg that much. You need rest.”
“So, not sick here, or wounded. I’m sitting with them.” And with that he disappeared before anything else could be said.
For the thousandth time in an hour Rodney wondered what he was doing sitting here. These were the people he’d distanced himself from. Of course being honest, which wasn’t something he was all that inclined to do when it came to feelings, it hadn’t really done any good. The damn pain hadn’t gotten any more bearable, he’d just learned to live with being miserable. So what the hell was he doing here, watching two of the main reasons for that misery sleeping off their injuries?
Rodney almost jumped out of his chair when John’s raspy voice broke the silence. He looked up all wide-eyed and momentarily panicked and for one brief moment, deliriously happy to see Sheppard’s hazel eyes open and aware.
“Umm, Colonel. Good to see you awake.” He was flustered because he’d never intended to be here when John…no Sheppard…woke up. “I’ll get Cars…” and then he remembered the other patient in the room and stuttered to a stop completely derailed. John rescued him with a simple request. “Water?”
He was thirsty, but really, Rodney looked miserable and so at sea that even in a semi-drugged haze, John Sheppard recognized that the man beside his bed was drowning and threw him a lifeline. Grateful for something to do, Rodney fussed getting the drink and then found he had to hold it because Sheppard’s hands were too bandaged to manage it.
“I’m sorry” He was putting the cup down, taking the opportunity to speak without having to look John in the eye.
“What the hell are you apologizing to me for?” The both knew that John’s question wasn’t just about the here and now, but Rodney chose to ignore anything else. “I didn’t think when I told you to pull out the probe.” He gestured towards the gauze paws that rested on top of the blue infirmary blanket.
John looked at Rodney, at the way he wouldn’t make eye contact and the nervous fidgeting of his hands. He wanted to reach out and grab McKay and just yell at him for being such an idiot. As if he had anything to apologize for except maybe not letting them admit how wrong they were, but who could blame him? Sheppard wanted to rant and rave and tell him that he hadn’t done anything wrong, not any worse than what any of the rest of them had done and they all owed him much more than was reasonable for him to forgive. Instead he shrugged, “There wasn’t anything else you could do.”
Rodney heard the words and relaxed minutely. “Your hands, Biro says they’ll be alright.” John nodded. “Right.” In a previous life, before they’d all gotten so stupid, Rodney would have joked about Carson torturing him with physical therapy. Instead he just fussed with the water pitcher, pouring another cupful. The silence was so unRodney-like that it was painful to sit through. Thankfully, Dr. Biro chose that moment to bustle in, having heard their voices.
“Colonel Sheppard. Let’s have a look at those hands.” She set down the bandage tray she was carrying and set to work cutting away the gauze. “I’ll just be going.” Biro didn’t even acknowledge McKay’s statement as he made his escape, one last glance back over his shoulder at Carson still and pale on the bed and John staring at the mincemeat that had once been his hands.
“Rodney! Wake up! Rodney!” It took him a minute to realize that Elizabeth’s voice was coming from the headset on his nightstand and the other noise that had startled him awake was someone pounding on his door.
“Cming…” He answered the door in his boxers and t-shirt, still three-quarters asleep. Leaving the infirmary, he’d gone to his lab, but that had proven pointless when one of the Engineers had found him asleep on the keyboard and called Weir to escort him home.
Anzetti, the night nurse was standing there when Rodney’s door opened. “Get your clothes on, Dr. McKay. They need you in the Infirmary.” He brushed into the physicist’s room and started tossing clothing at him, while calling Elizabeth on his earpiece, “I got him, Dr. Weir. We’ll be there in a minute.”
“You mind telling me what this is about?” The words were muffled by the shirt pulled half over his head.
“Dr. Beckett is asking for you.”
Rodney stopped dead in his tracks. Carson, asking for me. “No, I…..you need to get Dr. Biro.”
Anzetti looked up, grabbing the other man by his upper arms. “She’s already there. He’s asking for you and you’re going, if I have to drag you.” It was an order, firm but not unkind and the male nurse was burly enough to carry through on his threat. Rodney finished dressing.
By the time they marched into the infirmary, Rodney was silent and desperate to be anywhere but there. The only thing that stopped him from starting a rant right away was Biro exiting from Carson’s room. She was worried and sharp, “You’ve got one minute, maybe two, while I get ready to tube him.” Tube, a breathing tube. Inhaling sharply he made a beeline for the cubicle and stepped behind the curtains. Carson was laying there, like before, but this time there were more machines, more tubes and wires. His breathing was rapid and shallow, his lips blue tinged. The small moan that escaped Rodney made the physician open his eyes.
“Of course I did.” Rodney leaned against the edge of the bed, bending close to hear the faint words that Carson struggled to push out. “I dinna want …without tellin’… love ye.”
“What…no …don't be stupid…” The voice in his head kept shouting NoNoNoNoNo! Fingers curled around his hand where it had come to rest against Carson’s.
“S’ jus’ in case.” His eyes closed and the oxygen monitor went off in a high pitched wail. Biro and her crew were swarming around the bed, pushing him out of the way in their haste. He stood in the corner of the cubicle, shaking, hands still for once, watching the breathing tube as it went down Carson’s throat, listening to the ticking of the vent as it took over breathing, hearing Anzetti call out oxygen sat numbers until they started rising.
When the chaos subsided, he found himself sitting with Weir and Sheppard, who had been released earlier in the day, waiting for news. The longer they sat, the more awkward it became. Rodney was never good at hiding his emotions and his face told them more than they wanted to know when he stumbled out from Carson’s room Elizabeth finally asked, “Rodney, is there anything we can do?”
He tried to muster up the energy to answer her but it just wouldn’t come. As angry and hurt as he’d been feeling for the last few weeks, it was nothing compared to the fear that was sitting in his chest making it hard to breathe. He was going to lose Carson and there wasn’t a damn thing he could do about it. Worse, he’d wasted whatever time they might have had together.
He shook his head and the three settled in to wait some more. Eventually John left and returned with one of the night guards carrying three coffees. “Here, you look like you could use it.” The warmth in his hand was comforting; it seemed like the infirmary was always cold, or maybe it was the endless sitting that did it. When Biro finally came to talk with them she scowled at the infirmary blanket Elizabeth had draped over his shoulders. One of those oddly misplaced thoughts that happen under stress, popped into Rodney’s head. After just a day of the pathologist filling in for Carson he could understand why she did all the autopsies.
“What the hell happened!” Rodney was on his feet, demanding answers as soon as the doctor made her appearance. John jumped up to grab him, forgetting about his own injuries. “Damn!” Everyone stopped, watched him curl around one hand in pain. Biro was on him in an instant, cursing under her breath, “Idiots! Carson owes me for this!” She filled them in as she checked the stitches.
“Respiratory Distress Syndrome…” She cutaway the gauze wrapped around Sheppard’s palms. “It’s common in severe trauma patients, especially with massive blood loss. I was hoping we’d get lucky.”
“And?” Rodney glared, Weir waited patiently, Sheppard gritted his teeth as she probed at one small area of bleeding. The woman drove them all crazy making them ask for answers to questions that were obvious. “Is he going to be okay?”
“The fatality rate is 30 to 40%, but we caught it early. He has a chance.”