I started there... and went where my muse wanted. ;)
No beta reader besides myself. Just a warning. Besides being bit by a plot bunny, I wrote this to try to get back in the writing groove for other, more ambitious projects.
Word Count: ~2400
Characters: John Sheppard, Rodney McKay, Carson Beckett
Summary: It really was just a pulled muscle, John was sure of it....
It’d started as just a dull throb right behind his bellybutton and at the time, John really didn’t give it much thought. He’d hit the weights pretty hard that morning, harder than he’d thought apparently, and he figured his core was making sure he knew that, in no uncertain terms. But that’d been a couple hours ago and the Advil he’d popped, hadn’t even put a dent in the pain. If anything, it’d gotten worse as it’d moved, spreading outward from his navel. John rubbed his right side and winced.
“Getting’ old,” he muttered in frustration, cursing pulls and strains he would’ve never suffered 10 or even 5 years ago and generally feeling ill-used by a galaxy that seemed out to get him. First the stomach flu had knocked him off his feet for a week, and now this. He didn’t really want to think about what was next.
He listened as the doors to his quarters closed behind him and looked around the dimly lit room. He had a couple hours before he was supposed to meet Rodney for dinner and was hoping to catch up on his mission reports, but right now the only thing on his mind was getting off his feet. The pain in his abdomen intensified, moving beyond just a distraction, and the thought of curling up on his bunk was the only thing that sounded even remotely good.
Pulling the headset off his ear he dropped it haphazardly on his desk, before shuffling over to his bed. He gently laid down on his left side, instinctively curling up into a near fetal position and protectively wrapping his arm around his gut as he tried to relax.
He must’ve dozed off at some point, because the pain he’d shed for a brief time, came crashing back in, its intensity stealing his breath. John’s eyes snapped open, his strangled grunt turning into a voiceless cry as stabbing spikes of agony ripped through his midsection. He writhed uncontrollably, sweat streaming down his face as he struggled to even breathe against the onslaught. Somewhere in the back of his mind he knew he was in serious trouble and needed help and his right hand fumbled at his ear, searching for the com mike that wasn’t there. Desperation set in, tinged with panic, but he tried to curb it, tried to beat his pain so he could think clearly, but as another agonizing stab shot through his belly, he felt his small bit of hard won control start to slip away. Desk… radio… he rolled towards the edge of his bed, but his legs refused to cooperate. Tumbling to the floor, he struggled to breathe, clenching his side in helplessness.
Rodney stormed down the hallway, muttering to himself and barely noticing the glares shot his direction by personnel he brushed out of his way. “Simple dinner date…. Well not a date… a dinner… thing, and he can’t even keep that.” Rodney elbowed past a petite brunette, ignoring her protest. “How that half-witted flyboy can manage the military personnel on Atlantis when he can’t even manage his own schedule is beyond me.” For not the first time in the last hour, Rodney tapped his headset. “McKay to Sheppard, respond.” He was unsurprised by the silence. His stomach growled, raising his irritation another notch. He could’ve just forgotten about Sheppard and had dinner anyway, but that would’ve robbed him of the chance to berate Sheppard for forgetting. With a full head of steam, Rodney wasn’t about to deprive himself of that opportunity.
Stopping in front of the door to Sheppard’s quarters, Rodney took a deep breath, composing his thoughts into a focused tirade, poised to launch as soon as the door opened. He reached out, slapping the door chime. Rodney bounced on his toes a little bit, ready and waiting to let Sheppard have it with both barrels, but the door remained closed, and no sounds came from the other side.
“Probably sleeping,” Rodney groused, “Wraith could attack the city, and he’s sleeping. Some military commander.”
Rodney cocked his head and glared at the door. “Sheppard!” he shouted before hitting the door chime once more but to no avail. A whisper of concern tainted Rodney’s anger, if just a little. Sheppard had to be here, the city’s sensors had confirmed it when he’d checked. It’d only been ten minutes but…. Rodney tapped his headset again. “Control Room, this is McKay. I need the location of Colonel Sheppard immediately.”
“The colonel?” a light and decidedly hesitant voice answered him.
The voice was unfamiliar, but there were new personnel all over the city, and it annoyed Rodney to no end. He ground his teeth. “Yes. John Sheppard. You know. The military commander of this base? Him! Pinpoint his sub-q transmitter and give me his location, now!”
“Of… of course, Doctor McKay.” The voice immediately replied, followed by a short stretch of silence. “He’s in his quarters, sir.”
“Wonderful,” Rodney snapped. “McKay out.” Passing on the door chime, Rodney let out some of his pent up frustration and banged on the door with his fist. “Sheppard! Wake up!”
This time the silence tripped all kinds of alarms in Rodney’s head. He took a step back, his anger evaporating. There were a lot of things he could say about the casual demeanor of John Sheppard, but this whole situation was weird, even for him. Sheppard was never off radio and Rodney knew without a doubt that after years of military and combat experience, there was no way, under normal circumstances, that Sheppard would sleep so heavily that someone banging on his door wouldn’t wake him.
Rodney’s eyes scanned over the closed door one more time before his gaze fixed on the door’s control panel. Without hesitation, he pulled off the cover and quickly set to work overriding the lock. “You better not shoot me when this door opens,” he muttered. His gaze snapped back to the door as it slid open. He took a hesitant step forward, stopping just across the threshold and looked around. “Sheppard? His eyes widened, fixing on the partially visible combat boot sticking out from the other side of Sheppard’s bed, as a weak groan reached his ears.
“Oh god,” Rodney dashed into the room, rounded the bed and froze, staring down at the form crumpled up on the floor in a tight, fetal position. “Sheppard!” Rodney dropped to his knees next to his friend and touched his neck, feeling for a pulse. The skin under his fingers was hot and sweaty and Sheppard’s heart was racing.
Rodney slapped his headset. “Medical emergency in Colonel Sheppard’s quarters! Carson, I need you here, now!”
“Rodney?” Carson immediately answered. “What’s wrong?”
“It’s Sheppard. I found him semi-conscious on the floor, rapid pulse and he’s got some sort of fever.” Rodney waved his hand in the air, “I don’t know! That’s why you need to get down here!”
“Aye, on my way,” Carson answered. “Beckett out.”
Rodney tapped Sheppard’s shoulder. “Sheppard? Can you hear me? John?”
“R-ny,” Sheppard’s voice was strangled and gravely, “hurts….”
“I know,” Rodney answered, trying to push down his own panic, “it’s… it’s going to be okay. Carson’s on his way. Just… just hang in there. Try to… you know… relax.”
“M’Ky…” Sheppard answered, “n…not a… a dog….”
Rodney’s brows furrowed. “What?” His gaze fell to his hand, still rapidly patting Sheppard’s shoulder. “Oh,” he pulled his hand away, “right. Sorry.” He tapped his fingers nervously on his thigh, wincing as Sheppard tensed and groaned, before pain choked off his voice.
“What do I do?” Rodney swallowed against his panic and wondered out loud, not really asking a question of his friend.
“B…e th-ere…” John answered.
“Right.” Unthinking, Rodney reached out but this time instead of patting his friend’s shoulder, he squeezed, trying to give Sheppard as much strength as he could. “Hold on,” he said quietly.
John wasn’t a romantic by nature, but somewhere in the foggy recesses of his mind, he swore Rodney’s support gave him some measure of strength. He tried to suppress another cry as pain stabbed through his abdomen. Abruptly, Rodney’s hand left his shoulder, its strength replaced by a soft voice, carrying its own measure of reassurance.
“Colonel? Can ye hear me, lad?”
“C..rsn…” John managed, “pain….” He tried to tell Carson what was wrong, but couldn’t form any words.
“Aye, I can see that,” Carson answered. “I need you to roll onto your back. Nice and easy now.”
John rolled over slowly, doubling up as the pain struck with renewed intensity. He felt Carson’s hands firmly pull his away from his abdomen.
“Easy, John,” Carson’s voice was soft, but carried a note of command to it, “just breathe through it.”
John took one stuttering breath, and then another.
“That’s it,” Carson encouraged him.
“What’s wrong with him?” Rodney’s demanding voice sounded worried, even to John, though he knew Rodney would never admit it.
“I’m trying to figure that out, Rodney,” Carson patiently answered, “please update Doctor Weir on the situation and tell her I’ll have more information for her shortly.”
John peeled open his eyelids, and met Carson’s intensely blue eyes. “Crsn…” he managed.
“Don’t try to talk, John,” Carson replied. “I need to ask you some questions to figure out what’s wrong, just nod or shake your head yes, or no, okay?”
“Okay,” Carson’s small smile was still comforting. “Is the pain in your lower right abdomen?”
John nodded, but added more. “Ddnt…hurt bad…at frst… thought… pulld… muscle….”
“Are you nauseous?”
John nodded again.
“Okay,” Carson answered, “nod if this hurts.”
John was about to ask what, when he felt Carson push down on his right abdomen. Pain spiked through his body, redoubling as Carson removed the pressure. John’s back arched off the floor, his shout of pain ringing in his ears.
“No need to answer that one,” Carson put a firm hand on his shoulder, pushing him back down flat on the floor, “I heard ye loud and clear.”
Presumably to John, Carson activated his radio because his next words were normal volume, not directed at him, and carried a very commanding tone.
“Infirmary this is Beckett. I need a medical team and a gurney in Colonel Sheppard’s quarters immediately. Prep the OR for surgery and I want the Ancient scanner and an ultrasound ready as soon as we arrive. Patient is presenting with acute abdominal pain in the lower right quadrant with definite rebound pain upon palpation, along with fever and nausea. At this point, I suspect appendicitis, but I want a scan to be sure.”
John felt Carson’s hand return to his shoulder. “John, I’m going to give you something for the pain. I’m pretty sure it’s your appendix, but we’ll confirm that when we get to the infirmary. Don’t worry. An appendectomy is easy peasy. I’ll have you in and out of surgery in a jiffy. You’ll be fine.”
“Appendicitis?” Rodney’s voice was disbelieving. “Of all the…” His sigh was loud enough that John could hear it even over the roaring in his ears. “Sheppard,” Rodney’s voice turned exasperated, “if it would happen to anyone, it would happen to you!”
John felt a pinprick in his arm and abruptly, warmth flushed over him, sweeping the intense pain away, and replacing it with a dull throb. “not… on… purpse….”
“It’s never on purpose,” Rodney shot back, his tone decidedly annoyed. “That’s not the point.”
“Rodney,” Carson’s voice held a note of warning, “kindly refrain from berating my patient please.”
Buzzed and feeling next to no pain, John managed a crooked, half smile before unconsciousness took him, but not before he heard Rodney get the last word, as he always did.
“Fine,” Rodney snapped.
John pushed through the darkness, gradually returning to full consciousness, Carson’s voice guiding him.
“That’s it, Colonel. Time to wake up.”
John slowly opened his eyes and looked around, his lazy gaze settling on Carson who smiled.
John swallowed against a dry throat. “How… long?” he croaked.
“Only a half day.” Carson looked away for a moment, reaching for something out of John’s vision, before a cup and straw appeared before him. “Here, it’ll help.”
John took a sip of cold water, feeling the wetness soothing his dry throat. “Thanks,” he managed. “Am I okay?” He relaxed a little when Carson nodded.
“Aye. It was your appendix for sure. Got it out just in time. Too much longer and it would’ve burst.” Carson smiled. “You’re going to be fine. Out, about and saving the galaxy in two to four weeks, tops.”
John looked past Carson, noticing Elizabeth for the first time. He smiled, somewhat sheepishly. “Sorry.”
Her returning smile was genuine. “No worries. Just glad you’re okay.”
“Appendicitis is not common in individuals over 30,” Carson interjected, “but my guess is the stomach flu you had a week or so ago, settled in your appendix. Not overly common, but not unheard of.”
“Leave it to you to find a stupidly remote complication from the stomach flu,” Rodney added.
John turned his head, fixing his gaze, for the first time, on Rodney who stood opposite of Carson on the other side of his bed. “I don’t do these things on purpose, McKay.”
“You said that before,” Rodney answered, his tone irritated, “and as I told you, that doesn’t matter. You scared the crap out of me, you know that?”
John arched his brows. “I did?”
Rodney’s eyes widened at his uncensored comment. He took a step back. “Well, what I mean is, you probably scared everyone with your antics, you know, you could’ve laid there for a long time, even died….” His voice trailed off and he looked away.
John shook his head a little in mild amusement at his friend’s discomfort. “I get it,” he answered quietly.
After a long moment, Rodney looked up, meeting his gaze and nodded once, not saying anything more.
“Well,” Elizabeth sighed and broke the silence, “glad you’re okay, Colonel. Rest and get better.” She tapped his blanket covered leg once, before turning and leaving the infirmary.
John watched her go for a moment before returning his attention to Carson. “Teyla and Ronon?”
“Still offword,” Carson answered. “With no complications, we didn’t recall them. The trade agreement Teyla is brokering for the Athosians is pretty important.”
John nodded in agreement. After a minute, he looked up at Rodney. “You don’t have to babysit me, you know.”
Rodney huffed, his chest puffing out in indignation. “Babysit? Please. I have better things to do.” Giving John one more haughty glare, he abruptly walked away, leaving John alone with Carson.
“He really does care you know,” Carson looked down at John.
John nodded. “I know.”
Carson patted him on the forearm. “Get some rest, Colonel. We’ll have you up and about before you know it.”
John smiled, nestling his head back in the pillow. “Promise?”
Carson chuckled. “Aye. Not that I think I could keep you abed for long anyway.”
John’s smile widened, before fading as he closed his eyes. “Can’t argue with that.” He took a deep breath and relaxed, letting sleep overtake him.