Disclaimer *still don't own them, see earlier chapters for details*
A.N. Ack! I'm so sorry this took so long, files got misplaced, life got weird, and I couldn't get a chapter returned from beta to save my life (that means this is totally unbeta'd chapter). Next chapter should be much quicker and it is the end of this little saga. Which means I'll be restarting Chasing Hope. Comments are very much appreciated!
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The minute Ronan confirmed the last Vodeen soldier was down, he ran to Sheppard, scooped him up, and transported the Colonel to the infirmary as quickly as possible. John mercifully passed out as soon as Ronan picked him up, his seemingly endless reserves having finally been depleted beyond what his body could handle.
Upon arriving in the infirmary, Ronan found the first empty cot, laid Sheppard out, and stood surveying the scene. The earth term Sheppard often used to describe McKay's office "organized chaos" seemed to be the only adequate descriptor. Everywhere nurses were scrambling: treating the wounded, performing triage, and Ronan saw a few moving yet another covered body in the direction of the make-shift morgue (the current morgue was never meant to hold the number of dead the siege had produced). The doctors on site were also scattered. Ronan was fairly sure extra personnel had come down from the Daedalus to assist with the dozens of wounded he saw filling the infirmary and its temporary wards to capacity. Some staff, Ronan briefly noticed, were wearinf SG patches. Had Earth sent backup through the gate while he and Sheppard were off com to stem the tide and allow Atlantis' perm staff some peace of mind? Finally, out of nowhere, Ronan heard the voice he was seeking.
"What do ye think you're doing lass? No, I sent you for a wee lie down an hour ago. You're naught good to anybody pretending to be the living dead, m'dear. Rachel, would you please see to this patient while Allison takes her rest period. There's some good lasses. Now what do we have he . . . Somebody get me a bed" Carson had spotted Ronan covered in lacerations, wavering on his feet, and leaning unattended in the doorway.
"Come on lad why don't we get you lying down. What we're you thinking just standing in the" Carson looked down and spotted Sheppard "Oh m'poor boy, what have ye done to yourself this time? Well that certainly explains things." Carson leaned over and began assessing the wounded Colonel. " Rachel I'm afraid I need you here. We have a priority patient needing immediate surgery.
Ronan, it's alright lad, the Colonel's safe we'll take good care of him. You did well. Now, Dr. Fisher, here, is on loan from the Daedalus, she'll fix you up right as rain and we'll have you bedded down in a corner with your team in no time"
"Team?" Ronon blinked wearily as Carson's image began to waver in front of him.
"Aye, Teyla came through her surgery like a trooper and is recovering nicely from her tally of injuries, which, something tells me, is about the same length as your own and Colonel Sheppard's here. Dr. McKay, on the other hand, joined our party about 20 minutes ago. Seems you've all rubbed off on him and the lad thought he could go without proper food or sleep. He's in the bed next to Teyla at the moment being treating for his hyperglycaemia and exhaustion. We're hoping to release him tomorrow if he responds well, to be perfectly frank we need the space." Carson frowned as he gestured towards the crammed recovery ward but quickly perked up as he spotted Dr. Fisher making her way through the crowded aisles
"Aye Dr. Fisher, now there you are. This is Ronan, be good for the lovely Doctor, Ronan. I'll be back when we have John settled to give you an update."
With that Carson quickly turned to the OR where John lie prepped and waiting for his surgery.
A few hours later, Carson heaved a sigh of relief. Colonel Sheppard would be on crutches and very sore (though odds were he'd deny it) but he would make a full recovery. The bullet had chipped the bone in his lower leg and while painful and temporarily disabling, the injury wasn't life threatening. In fact, SGA-1, even with their penchant for the suicidal risks in the face of extreme danger, had made it through the siege in reasonably decent health.
Col. Sheppard had his leg wound, 3 bruised ribs, 2 cracked ribs, the usual lacerations/bruises/ strained muscles/sprained muscles, along with four dislocated fingers with a dislocated ankle which thankfully , for the perpetually fidgety man, was on the same leg as the bullet wound. Teyla had also suffered the usual strains/cuts/bruises, in addition to the after effects of the wraith stunner, and her bullet wound, the impact of which had dislocated her shoulder. Ronan, rounding out the party had suffered a concussion (aggravated by delayed treatment and inappropriate activities), 3 bullet grazes that were easily stitched by Dr. Fisher, a dislocated knee, and again the usual assortment of minor injuries.
Finishing up their prognosis were the inescapable diagnosis' of exhaustion and imbalances from improper nutrition right across the board. Carson was going to be keeping all of them as special guests for most, if not all of the week, to ensure proper healing from the mule-headed bunch.
To everyone's surprise, SGA-1 actually obeyed Carson's orders for the first 26 hours of their stay. Of course, they were all sleeping but the medical team took their wins where they could with the infamous team. Even after waking, the group had been content to write reports and monitor the wrap up/clean-up efforts, now headed under Major Lorne, from their beds in the infirmary, unwilling to admit just how much the last week's events had taken out of them or how grateful they were for the presence of Carson's good drugs.
However, by hour 26 of their week-long stay, boredom had started to set in and reports of low morale among the personnel, which had been building since before the attack, had started to surface, causing John's concern for his people to hit new levels. In true SGA fashion, SGA-1 had responded accordingly and began their plans for escape. After all, they reasoned, McKay had been released, Lorne confirmed 67% of the remaining hostiles had been already captured with the final 33%'s capture estimated done by this time tomorrow, plus they all felt great (at least compared to when they first arrived). Ronan and John were sure Carson was just being overprotective again.
As far as Ronan was concerned, Operation: Escape Alcatraz was a go.
Okay that tears it; John was hereby banning everyone from naming anything without permission ever again. Although John had to admit Alcatraz sounded cooler than the majority of potential code names they had considered and Ronan certainly looked pleased that his name was chosen (it was always a plus when Chewie was happy). John, for one, didn't want to be around when Carson found out his infirmary was, once again, being compared with a prison.
Over the next week, few repair crews were not surprised to see a banged up Teyla (complete with uncomfortable white sling) stopping by to lend an ear or a cup of coffee, a slower Ronan, in enough bandages to do a serious mummy impersonation helping out wherever he was needed and allowed to pitch in (not that the crews didn't want his help, they just didn't know how they would get him back to the infirmary if he passed out for some reason), a complaining Rodney running around, muttering and trying to fix the disasters caused by repair crews, and a limping John hobbling around on crutches, pitching in, making jokes, wooing Atlantis into aiding the crews, and helping the expedition start to heal.
At first, to say Carson was not amused by SGA-1's miraculous and constant disappearing tricks would be an understatement. Worrying about the mischief his most frequent patients could cause, not to mention the damage they could do to themselves, was enough to stir the Scotsman into a frenzy his team rarely witnessed. In response, he began assigning spare security teams to locate his slippery wards and guards to watch them upon recapture, all the while displaying his displeasure through the muttered, untranslatable Gaelic phrases which had become all too common during the Atlantis mission.
Rather than being discouraged by Carson's efforts the team took his attempts to recapture as a challenge and created the Atlantis medical wards version of hide and seek. After two days, loath as they were to admit it. Elizabeth, Carson, and Kate were noticing a difference in the city's behaviour. People were smiling, there was less anxiety, and night time was for sleeping again.
As SGA-1 weren't at any risk to themselves (in all honesty, they were in the infirmary for pain management and to keep them from getting their wounds infected or reinjured during cleanup. The team really was a trouble magnet and wouldn't be much physical help during the repair period anyway), there was such obviously positive results, and it appeared his guards were secretly double agents recruited by SGA-1, Carson silently eased up his efforts to re-incarcerate the team and ramped up the theatrics of trying to catch them to everyone's amusement, surprisingly even Carson's (who found the yelling therapeutic).
Ronan was the first to notice the change in Carson Crusaders as McKay had deemed them (maybe Sheppard was right about people naming things, Ronan thought). Little things in their behaviour like pulling back, ignoring obvious clues, only half-heartedly searching and in obviously vacant areas had made Ronan question the sincerity of their efforts, not that he minded. John confirmed his suspicions when they met up for dinner. John had witnessed some of the guards placing bets in the recently formed Hide and seek betting pool. Somehow, that clinched the deal for him.
Realising that their antics were having the intended effect, and that they had received Carson's and their guards unofficial blessing, SGA-1 began to have more fun with their hiding adventures, even the usual obedient Teyla was witnessed planning out escapes with unbridled glee.
Ronan took up hiding in the various Science labs around the designated safe zones, helping them reorganize their battered labs and learning more about the strange people he often avoided. Ronan was pleased to learn that not all scientists on Atlantis had Rodney's personality and was surprised to find out that many of them had common interests to his own. The biggest shock was the revelation of a martial arts group in Atlantis, membership of which came solely from Atlantis' science community. Ronan had set up a time to join them for a (gentle) practice once he was released from his bandages.
Prior to Carson's unofficial approval, John had originally decided to hide in his office due to his slight issue with mobility. However, he soon realised it was too good when boredom struck and forced John to move to greener pastures (or more specifically a botany lab he had never explored). Over the next few days, John proved his ingenuity, making the most of his hide and seek vacation. In between "dodging" the guard John was able to keep up on city business, help make repairs in the chair, chat with expedition members in every division, and once the city got the all secure on day three John had even found time to execute some good natured pranks that were mostly well received (Kavanaugh apparently had no sense of humour, how had the poor guy had ended up serving a tour as a Daedalus scientist John couldn't fathom but pitied Caldwell and Hermiod just the same). Most importantly, however, John was just present, a living symbol that things would be okay.
Teyla, recognizing her injured state and the potential dangers, stuck mainly to the kitchens and mess hall (receiving some much needed cooking lessons during her stay). During the day she could often be seen talking with hungry expedition members or delivering a well-appreciated coffee to tired workers in the control room and surrounding areas.
As spirits began to rise, betting pools quickly grew to include the team's escape methods, hiding spaces, recapture time, and Carson's method of retaliation. Meals now involved dramatic recaptures as SGA-1 stopped to get "real food" (somehow the food in the infirmary always seemed to taste worse even if it was from the same place). Stories of who had hosted an SGA-1 team member and where during the day were eagerly and animatedly swapped by fellow expedition members. The city had remembered how to laugh; now they just had to remember how to live.
On day four of the game, John decided to hide out with Elizabeth, helping her reorganize her office and providing some reassurance to the unusually pensive city leader. While the whole city was still on edge, and understandably so, Elizabeth hadn't shown any signs of starting to move on and John was beginning to worry. Elizabeth was a good friend, like the older sister he had asked Santa for when he was 6, and seeing her like this troubled him.
John hobbled into Elizabeth's office and took a seat on the only clean spot in the room, the corner of the desk. Elizabeth, having trailed slightly behind making sure that John was steady on his crutches, started to pick up her belongings and file them away where they belonged.
"You missed a spot" John said with a smirk, 2 minutes after she had begun.
"Thank you John, I would never have guessed" Elizabeth responded with a slightly sarcastic edge "You know, you could help instead of just commenting."
John put on his best wounded puppy dog look "Me? But I'm injured, no good to anyone" then lighting up in another grin "besides I'm too lazy. Everyone knows that"
"Somehow I don't believe you" and Elizabeth went back to working in silence.
"So am I going to have to sit here throwing wise cracks at you all afternoon or are you going to tell me what's wrong so we can sit and joke together?"
"Nothing is wrong. John. I have a city to run and we are in a vulnerable position right now. Forgive me if I can't take the time to sit down and make jokes!"
John looked into Elizabeth's face and saw the fear in her eyes "We scared you this time didn't we?" he asked softly
"Do you realise how many letters home I have to write? To families who will never know why their sons and daughters actually died? How many are lying downstairs wounded? How many did we almost lose, should have lost? Do you realise how close we came this time? We shouldn't be here John. The city's in disrepair, everything's a disaster and we've got what days, hours before we run into the next fanatical society that wants us dead?"
"I know Elizabeth."
"How can you know, how can you have any idea what it's like?" Elizabeth was beyond reason. All of the fear and frustration, the disappointment and discouragement that had been building throughout the siege came raging out at the only target in range, John.
"Because I have those letters to write too, I found some of those bodies and watched others die, helpless to save them. I spend every night surrounded by the wounded in the infirmary. I feel Atlantis hurting in ways most can't understand. Hell, I don't really understand it myself. I know that even with everyone working one hundred and ten percent it'll take more time than I care to admit before she's back to herself." John's voice never rose as he spoke and his eyes never broke contact with Elizabeth's
"As for the next fanatical society, Knowing my team's luck we'll probably be the ones to piss 'em off and land ourselves right back in Carson's care. I have reports coming back from my men, every half hour telling me just how screwed we are Elizabeth. I understand"
"But this I do know. We're still breathing. It's not much, it's only a start and you can't stay content on the starting line. These people need to laugh, they need to hope. This galaxy isn't safe but the good things in life often require us to take risks along the way. Elizabeth, our lives are uncertain and nothing's guaranteed out here but you don't have to do this alone. You've got a senior staff to support you, and friends who care, let us help you." Having said his piece, John looked at Elizabeth's newly cleaned chair plopped down and grinned gently.
With that familiar smirk staring up at her, Elizabeth felt like she was waking up for the first time in days. Yes, she was in charge of the city but so was John, she wasn't alone. They had survived and she had been living for survival for too long. It was time to start living again. John seemed confidant, unshakeable, in his belief that all would be okay, and somehow at that moment, even if she had wanted to she wouldn't have been able to disagree.
Sure enough, here she stood three days later, and three weeks since the whole fiasco started and they were okay. Atlantis and her crew were healing (albeit slowly) and life was returning to Pegasus SOP. Elizabeth was sure she would continue to smile as she remembered the week's hijinks for some time. Suddenly, she spotted and waved to Ronan, Teyla, and Rodney who were all heading off to the mess for a late breakfast before abruptly realising that John wasn't with them.
"Good Morning, and how are you all of you today?" Elizabeth called out to the trio.
"Good morning Dr. Weir, we are well. Ronan was released from the infirmary last night while John and I were released this morning, although still confined to light duties" Teyla replied with a smile on her face
"I suppose this means the end of hide and seek saga? That will relieve Carson I'm sure. I would hate to have to break in a new CMO. Where is John though? Shouldn't he be enjoying his official release into 'freedom'?" queried Elizabeth
"Mainland" Ronan grunted
"Excuse me" Elizabeth replied worriedly, looking altogether like she wanted to jump off her balcony and join the trio below in her panic "did you say he went to the mainland? Look sneaking out of the infirmary is one thing but going out of the city, so soon after his injuries . . . flying a jumper . . . I need to go stop him."
"It's too late for that Elizabeth" Rodney stated matter of fact "Besides he does this after every failed mission or major attack, always has. Chuck and/or Atlantis wave him through without anyone officially knowing. The way that city protects him I swear it's like she's his mother or something"
"Are you becoming jealous of the Colonel's connection with the city again Rodney?" Teyla asked with a twinkle in her eye, secretly relieved at the level of normalcy which had returned to her adopted family.
"No" Rodney was almost whining, almost.
"Wait a minute you mean to tell me that our military commander was not only able to get a jumper off this base, officially unnoticed by anyone besides you three and possibly Chuck, but has been doing so for over two years!"
"I am sorry Dr. Weir, but the Colonel said it was something he needed to do. He promised he would only rest and eat some lunch; he just needed the time away. John does not ask for much and only when absolutely necessary. Through evaluating his mental state both before and after past excursions, it was my conclusion that these trips were vital to his health and well-being. I could not say no" Teyla calmly explained with a thoughtful look in her eye.
Elizabeth was visibly startled by SGA-1's revelations. John had been sneaking out for years? What did this mean? Shaken, Dr. Weir retreated with her now stone cold tea into the sanctuary of her office to puzzle over the mystery of Atlantis' military commander.
Rodney and Ronan looked at each other and shrugged. Both knew John would return when he felt like it and they would all be better off for it. Besides they had more important concerns than their CO's mini vacations. Today was blue jello day in the mess. With matching grins, Ronan and Rodney set out to embark on a carefully thought out mission meant to ensure that SGA-1's jello aficionados' got their fair share (which essentially consisted of Ronan looking scary and threatening anyone who tried to cut in line).
Teyla on the other hand, simply looked up towards the sky and silently pondered her friend's behaviour. She knew John was not the type to share openly of himself, at least of things he did not want presented to the public. However, she also knew that despite a stubborn and self-sacrificing streak John would never shirk his duties to Atlantis nor would he cause his friends unnecessary worry. "Come back to us safely John. May your travels once again grant you the solace you seek."