Rodney could feel the tingle starting in his fingers, just enough to make him clumsy. Was there a little tightness around his chest? Maybe some lightheadedness?
Yep. The beginnings of a hypoglycemic reaction, right on cue. Just perfect.
He'd figured it would happen soon enough. The Daedelus was almost back from its first run to Atlantis, which meant he'd been working for at least twelve hours straight now. Probably longer, they'd been on Taranus for a good while before the Daedelus was ever contacted.
But could he stop? Oh no. Thanks to Joh...Sheppard's last little pep-talk, he just had to 'fix those damn engines', not to mention getting life support up and running for god-only-knows how many people, and tracking down those strange readings coming from the inertial dampeners, and then there was still the matter of these shields...
Rodney pressed a hand to his forehead for a moment and looked over towards Norina, still intently reviewing the specs from the Aurora he had downloaded for her. He opened his mouth to say something, and then thought better of it. Because, really, what could she do? Besides, he had the feeling unless it was about Ancient power systems, she wasn't particularly interested in what he had to say.
Oh well, that's what the powerbars are for, right? Fumbling at his vest pocket, Rodney dug out a bar. He'd just pinched the end of the wrapper to pull the foil apart, when another harmonic tremor hit. It was mercifully brief, but the damage was already done.
Damn. Rodney stared blankly down at the edge of the console, looking at the spot where he'd just watched his last powerbar mischievously scoot underneath. He knelt down to fish it out, but it was no use, it had slid too far back for him to feel.
Whatever. He didn't have time to play hide-and-go-seek with it, he really didn't. With a grunt, he levered himself up, abandoning the bar and making a half-hearted attempt to brush off his knees.
Norina, who'd been quietly reviewing the shield schematics, glanced up, but he waved her off with a wan smile. "Nothing to worry about right now. I'll deal with it later. First, let's see about getting these shields operational, shall we?"
John couldn't quite stop grinning as he heard Caldwell's voice. They had made it! He glanced over at Rodney and grinned even harder when he saw the scientist was still hanging onto the console with a white-knuckled death grip. He swiveled in his chair and turned to face him. "We made it, Rodney!"
A pale face turned back. "Ronon. Teyla." Rodney's voice was soft.
John's eyes darkened as he met Rodney's haunted stare, and all the humor dropped from his face.
But before he could say anything, "We're here." Ronon's gruff voice came rumbling over the comm.
"Ronon! You and Teyla are both okay?" John was quick to respond.
"Yeah, Daedelus picked us up earlier. We tried contacting you, couldn't get through."
John gave Rodney a triumphant smile. "See? They're okay. We're *all* okay."
Rodney finally let go of the console and stepped back. Now that he was no longer holding on, John could see the fine tremors that shook him. He looked mildly up at John and answered, "Oh. Well, good. Yes. That's good."
Turning away with a distracted air, he'd barely taken two steps before his eyes rolled up and he struck the floor with a thud.
"Shit! Carson!" John jumped out of his chair to reach the crumpled shape, but Carson was already on the move. He'd been keeping a surreptitious eye on Rodney ever since that dizzy spell when he'd "stood up too quickly" earlier.
Carefully rolling Rodney over to check for any injuries from the fall, he kept up a running commentary as he checked Rodney's vitals. "Thready pulse, shallow respirations, clammy skin...Augh, Rodney-me-lad, what are we going to do with you?"
"Orion? Sheppard, Come back in." Caldwell's voice carried just the barest hint of concern.
John looked up. "We're all still here, just a minor bit of excitement. Rodney's faint...passed out on us."
"Fainted? Is he alright?"
Carson was quick to answer. "Oh, aye, he'll be fine. But it's a bit more than just a faint, it's definitely a hypoglycemic reaction. I'd like to tend to him over in the Daedelus' infirmary. Do you think you can have us beamed over?"
Norina had been watching everything unfold with a mix of horror and concern. "Will he alright?"
Carson looked over at her and gave a tight smile. "Aye, he should be right as rain once I get him into the infirmary. Rodney is hypoglycemic, if he goes without eating for too long, well, you can see."
He looked down at Rodney's lax face with a mix of affection and exasperation. "I've told him to keep a few powerbars on him at all times to prevent just this sort of situation, and he's pretty diligent about taking care of his health. He gave a rueful grin at that, which morphed quickly into a puzzled frown. "I don't know how he managed to get himself get into such bad shape."
Norina looked embarrassed. "I'm afraid that's my fault."
John and Carson exchanged a look. It was easy enough to believe that the attractive blonde had Rodney rattled, but..."How? I know for a fact he had at least three bars on him when we arrived." John asked curiously.
Still looking at Rodney, Norina answered. "Earlier in the base, I was feeling a little hungry. I said something to Dr. McKay and he offered..." she trailed off, raising distressed eyes to John's face, distracting *him* so that it was Carson who spoke next.
"Alright, lass, but that's only the one."
Norina turned her anguished gaze back to Carson. "Yes. But then a little later, one of the children from the village, a little girl, wandered in, lost. I knew her family would come for her, but she was so scared. I thought a bit of sweet might distract her, so I asked Rodney for another. I didn't quite know what to make of the look he gave me, but he handed over one without hesitation," she smiled fondly, remembering, but her smile faded as she continued. "Now I know why he looked as...odd...as he did."
"That's two." Carson prompted. "And the last?"
"I'm not sure, but...wait just a moment." Norina headed over to the shield control console where she had seen Rodney kneeling. Looking about, she spotted a long, thin strip of metal, debris from one of the quakes, and swept it deeply under the console. A shiny powerbar skittered across the floor to end up spinning slowly in front of Sheppard's foot.
"I saw him here earlier, and I thought he looked worried, but he waved me off. He said it wasn't important and he'd deal with it after the crisis was past. He must have waited too long."
Carson looked down at Rodney with fond irritation. "Aye, that sounds like our Rodney."
When Carson finally let him into the infirmary, John just stood for a moment, staring down at his friend. "Dammit McKay, what were you thinking?"
A groggy Rodney glared back up. "I was trying not to think of myself and to 'fix the damn engines', as you oh-so-politely requested."
"I didn't mean it that way," John began, but Rodney cut him off.
"Yes, you did. You were *angry* and you were right. I, as usual, had my priorities all skewed."
With something of a shock John realized he had been. He'd been angry, yes, but mostly because he'd been jealous of the adoring looks Norina had been sending, and he'd been doing his best to wind McKay up. Still, it was a shame that his anger was all Rodney had sensed. "I had faith in you, you know."
"Right, which is why you told Elizabeth I was, and I quote, 'pathetic'."
John winced. Damn, he hadn't realized the comm was open during that exchange. How the hell had that happened? And more importantly, how many other careless things had Rodney overheard? He opened his mouth to try to explain, but didn't get the chance.
At that moment, Carson stepped back into the infirmary. In a swift glance he took in Rodney's tense and exhausted expression and John's look of stubborn determination, and decided it might be time to politely chase John out, rather than have to two of them get started on the conversation that was building.
For all his earlier complaints about 'being fine' and how 'his brilliance was needed on the Orion', Rodney really did need some time to recuperate.
"Colonel, please. He needs his rest, and there are two more visitors waiting." He looked suddenly concerned. "And anyway, shouldn't you be aboard the Orion, *Captain*?"
"Nah," John replied. "The captain doesn't actually fly a ship that size, and Miller's a perfectly competent pilot. On the other hand, it is my turn to pla....practice, so I probably should go." He paused, glancing over his shoulder towards Rodney. "You'll take good care of him?" John demanded softly.
"Of course," Carson replied, giving John an appraising look. "I'm right fond of the man myself. Away with you, now."
John nodded once and headed for the door. As he walked out, the 'two waiting visitors', Teyla and Ronon, came in together. Rodney turned bleary eyes in their direction. "You're not dead? I mean, you're both okay?"
Ronon stared down at the pale, rumpled figure in the bed. He still felt awkward in these situations. A wounded comrade to 'cheer up'? Not something he'd had much chance to deal with in the past. In his experience, you either lived though the engagement, you died, or you were culled and good as dead.
He gave a shrug. Sheppard usually handled these things by making some sort of joke. Still feeling uncomfortable, he gave it a try.
"Yeah, we're fine. No thanks to you." Ronon's attempt at humor fell flat, earning him a glare from Teyla.
Rodney missed the byplay, and paled slightly, muttering, "Sorry, I should have been able to do more. I failed both of you. If it had been up to me, you'd be dead now."
"No, Rodney, it is alright, we are fine." Teyla assured him, shooting another dark glare at Ronon.
He gave them both a vaguely suspicious sideways look. "So, you're not angry?"
Teyla firmly answered, "Angry? No, of course not. We know you did absolutely everything you could, Rodney. It is thanks to you that nearly the entire population of Taranus was saved. There is nothing for us to be angry about."
Ronon nodded. "Yeah, you did good."
Rodney blinked at that, quickly covering his momentary pleased surprise with an arch look. "Good? 'I did good'? I did quite a bit better than 'good', genius here, remember?" His harangue was suddenly cut short by a wide yawn.
As if he'd only been waiting for that as his cue, Carson stepped forward. "Alright now, I know everyone would love to stay and listen to you regale us all with tales of your genius, but you're still recovering and you need rest. Everyone, time to go."
As Ronon and Teyla made their goodbyes, Rodney could feel his eyes sliding shut. He was just drifting off to sleep when he became aware of voices in the corridor outside the infirmary.
"Colonel Sheppard, you are still here?" Teyla's voice floated in.
Sheppard's drawl agreed. "Figured I could wait for you two before heading back."
"I feel I must warn you that Colonel Caldwell was not pleased with your actions on Taranus. He felt that you had... taken a gamble." Teyla began.
"Wasn't a gamble," Ronon cut her off. "He knew McKay would come through."
"Rodney always does," John declared affectionately. "Sometimes he just needs a little prodding."
They fell silent then, but Rodney could sense them out there in the hall. A tension that had lived in his gut since Duranda finally began to give way under the warmth and trust he had heard in those voices.
His team. Rodney was surprised by the wave of almost fierce loyalty that swept through him at that thought. He slid easily into sleep, feeling more content than he had for a long while.