"... and that's why we have to reroute power to that section of the city so we can access the controls in the lab we found." Rodney's voice was more than excited and his hands were still waving maniacally besides the fact he wasn't talking anymore. For now. But with Rodney McKay this was not a state that would last.
John refrained from rubbing his temples to try to soothe the throbbing pain there. He had listened to – or better letting Rodney talk – for the last fifteen minutes and he still couldn't figure out what the scientist was telling him. He blamed his headache for it; otherwise he would have to admit that Rodney was once more talking over his head. Well, he probably was, and John didn't have the energy to try and make sense of the gibberish Rodney was throwing at him. The headache had been pounding away in his head ever since he had woken up and he knew he was running a slight temperature, but hell would freeze over before he admitted to it. Especially to the man who had lain curled up to him this morning.
Carson would have started to fuss over him immediately, which was admittedly not bad, but he would have ordered bed rest as well and that was simply not an option right now.
Elizabeth had been gone for a week and would not return for another three days. She had been called back by the IOA for a debriefing and would use the chance to put a bit of R&R in as well. That meant John was in charge of Atlantis.
He had only smiled and nodded politely when Elizabeth had told him and had secretly thought by himself just how hard could it be to do her job for two weeks. It was not like she was fighting Wraith all the time or deal with life or death situations. He was very positive he could handle it to sit in her office for ten days and improve on his Tetris skills.
Boy, had he been wrong.
It had started the minute Elizabeth had stepped through the gate and he had returned to her office that he learned how the leader of Atlantis usually spent her days. And that meant drowning in paper work, dealing with countless requests from countless science departments working in the city, having meetings with the heads of said science departments in which they all stressed how important their work was and why it was absolutely necessary to give their project the green light and, yes, they would need complete access to the Ancient database for that time, which meant no one else could access it, or, by the way, we need to shut down critically systems in order to test a new subroutine to improve our power consumption in the western area of the city.
It had taken John half a day to start counting the days, no hours, until Elizabeth would return. If nothing else, he had a much greater respect now for Elizabeth than he had anyway.
Then to make things even better he had felt a light tickle in his throat on his third day on the job and just knew he was in for another bout with the cold. And sure enough his nose started running the next day and he developed a nasty cough. He blamed deskwork for it. If he had been out in the field he wouldn't have gotten sick. He actually made a list of arguments why he would have beaten the cold, if doing his usual job and hike off world. He made the list while pretending to listen to Doctor Branston complaining about how McKay had cut power to their lab while they were running an important simulation.
Which gave John another argument for his list: If he wouldn't have been stuck in Elizabeth's office, they would have been off world, meaning Rodney couldn't have screwed around with the power distribution, meaning Doctor Branston wouldn't chew his ears off now.
That had been three days ago and since then his cold had only gotten worse.
"Are you even listening to me?" Rodney's expression had changed from excited to plain annoyed and John realized he had wandered off in his thoughts and McKay must have resumed his talking.
"Yes, I am," John lied and leant forwards in his chair. "What kind of lab is it?"
"Like I told you just a minute ago, we don't know yet! Why do I even bother explaining all this to you?" Crossing his arms in front off his chest, Rodney scowled at John.
"I don't know, because you like it to listen to your own voice?" John snapped back and immediately regretted it. It was never a good idea to rile up McKay, especially not if you're not on top of your game.
"Ah, ha-ha! I'm only wasting my precious time her, trying to explain unbelievably complex technical issues to you because Elizabeth decided to go on vacation. So why don't you just nod and let me get on with my work!"
They both knew that they had crossed a line, but neither of them was backing down so they just glared at each other. In the end John let common sense win, and quite frankly his headache coupled with his wish to get rid of McKay.
"This is the sixth project this week you're asking me to give a green light. What about the other five? There are other departments in this city and they have as much a right to work on their projects as you do."
"But usually I don't have the time, cause I'm stuck on a planet somewhere trying to save the day!"
"So, you're saying you'd rather be working in the city all the time? Because I can always assign Zelenka to my team..."
"What?! Why would you do that?" Now shifting uncomfortably on his chair, Rodney's demeanour changed from aggressive to almost submissive in a split second.
"You just said..."
"Yeah, I know what I said, cause I said it! But that doesn't mean I meant what I said... well, I mean, it's true I don't have the time to work on projects in the city when we're... but I don't want to... just don't put Zelenka... I ... Okay, fine. Forget the lab. I'm having enough to do with the other five projects anyway." Rodney pushed himself out of the chair and stood a moment in front of the desk, unsure what to do next.
"I'm sure Elizabeth will give you a green light for that lab when she's back," John tried to reassure McKay.
"Yeah..." Still standing uncomfortably in the middle of the room, Rodney looked to the door and back to John. "You know, you really don't look so good."
"Well, gee, thanks Rodney!" The sarcasm in his voice would have worked better if it hadn't been followed by a nasty cough.
"You should go and see Carson."
"It's just a cold, Rodney. I'm fine." Giving the scientist a stern glare, John waved in the general direction of the door. "Don't you have work to do?" Effectively throwing Rodney out, he earned a huff from him and more importantly his peace when the scientist finally left the office.
Leaning back in his chair, John rubbed his hand over his eyes. He had already taken painkillers to get rid of the headache, but they hadn't worked so far. It still felt like a marching band was rehearsing inside his brain and they had just added another drummer. John sighed; a glimpse at his watch told him that it was still over an hour before he could skip out for a lunch break, which he would use to get an hour of shut eye. He just hoped it would be quiet until...
"Unscheduled offworld activation!" Chuck's voice echoed through the control room and the alarms went off.
So much for quiet. John groaned and pushed his chair back so he could drag himself to the control room. The Stargate whooshed into life when he crossed the walkway and he could hear Chuck talking over the radio.
"What is it?" Thankful for the rush of adrenaline that every unscheduled gate activity brought, John stopped in front of the technician, noticing with some satisfaction that he didn't even need to use the console as an inconspicuous crutch to keep him upright.
"It's Lt. Mason, sir, apparently they had a run in with some animals and Sgt. Sax was bitten."
John shuddered, immediately reminded of his own personal one on one time with the Iratus bug. "Is the animal still attached to Sax?"
"Alright, alert Doctor Beckett and let him decide if quarantine is needed. When all is set up they have a green light to come through. That is if they or Sgt. Sax are not in immediate danger now?"
"No, Colonel. Lt. Mason reports everything is quiet around the gate and there are no more animals in sight. Sgt. Sax shows no signs of an infection and the bleeding isn't so bad." Chuck was already busy contacting Beckett over another channel.
"Patch me through to Mason." John waited until Chuck had established the connection before he continued. "Mason, this is Sheppard. We will have you out there in no time."
"Just give us a few minutes to set up for your arrival. How is Sax?"
"I'm fine, sir."
"That's good to hear, Sergeant. Do you have any idea what kind of animal attacked you?" John was more than relieved to hear the voice of his injured man, it meant there was no pressing need to usher them through the gate and they could for once follow protocol for this one.
"No sir, but it looked liked a cross between a lion and a deer."
"Really?" Trying to picture the animal based on the description, John almost feared the Sergeant was in some sort of delirium. Teyla or Ronon could probably confirm if such an animal existed, but they were offworld on a trading mission.
"Yes sir, Sax is right. We all saw it."
"Well, I hope you made some pictures." Looking down into the gate room, John saw that the medics had arrived. Obviously Carson didn't see any reason for quarantine as they weren't wearing hazmats. "Alright Lieutenant, you're clear to come through now. I want your whole team to go down to the infirmary and get checked out." Then he turned back to Chuck. "Lower the shield."
"Yes sir, thank you, sir." Mason said just before he came through the Atlantis Stargate.
John had stepped on to the small balcony that overlooked the gate room and watched the medics taking care of Sax. From the way his uniform was torn at the left arm this must be where the animal had bitten him. He gave Mason a short nod when the man looked up to him and then turned around, only to find Chuck watching him.
"Sir, if you don't mind me saying, you don't look so good, maybe..."
"Yes, I mind you saying," John snapped and effectively cut the technician off, then he sighed and rubbed his hand over his eyes again. "Sorry, Chuck. I just have a bit of a headache, I will be fine." Not waiting for an answer John trudged back to Elizabeth's office and cursed the Ancients for not installing proper doors that could be slammed shut.
Luckily the next hour really was quiet and John managed to finish some of his paperwork between rubbing his temples, clenching his eyes shut and generally using most of his efforts to keep sitting upright. Usually not someone to look at the time, he shoved the keyboard away the second it was officially time for his lunch break and left the office as quickly as possible to avoid running into another minor crisis.
The way to his quarters took him longer as usual and he was completely exhausted when he finally waved his hand in front of the door crystals. Already pulling his jacket and shirt off when he stepped inside, he pulled the curtains down and toed his shoes off. Everything was spinning a little bit when he sat down on his bed and fumbled for the package of painkillers laying on the night stand. He figured two more couldn't hurt and washed the pills down with some water before he crawled under his blanket.
Giving a relieved sigh when he was finally able to close his eyes, he relaxed his muscles and welcomed the warmth slowly developing under the blanket. It took only a minute before he fell into a deep sleep.
When John woke up again, it was to most unexpected sounds. After clawing his way to consciousness, he realized that it was the sound of voices. What happened? Did he get captured? But a quick digging through his memories revealed that he hadn't been offworld for a week. Did he fall asleep at Elizabeth's desk? John found it continuously harder to stay focused, his body was aching all over and his head felt like drummer central. Instead of trying to figure out for himself what was going on he concentrated on the voices, which was hard enough, because they somehow sounded as if they were talking through cotton.
When he finally was able to make out what was being said, he groaned and wished he had never woken up.
"I told him to go and see you!"
"Yes, Rodney, you have said that already," an exasperated Scottish brogue answered.
"Did he just groan?" Rodney's voice had a stressed tone to it. "Maybe he's waking up?" And he was hopeful as well? What the hell was going on?
"It's hard not to considering all the noise." John decided to let the others know that he was actually awake, but was very unsettled to learn that he was barely able to speak those few words. It took almost all of his energy and when the words came out, he barely recognized his voice.
"Oh, thank God, he's awake!"
The obvious relief coming from Rodney was enough to set off all the alarm bells in John's head and he forced his eyes open. Rodney only ever used this voice when something was wrong. What the hell was going on?
"What's going on?" John tried to sit up, but found that his body wouldn't cooperate.
"What's going on? You went missing, that's what's going on!"
"I'm right here, Rodney." The short adrenaline burst was quickly wearing off again and John wanted nothing more than to close his eyes and go back to sleep. But he couldn't do that, he had to get up, the city was waiting for him.
"You didn't return from your lunch break and the control room was unable to reach you over the radio. Of course when they finally thought of contacting me it was only a matter of using the life signs detectors to ascertain that you were still in your quarters."
John looked at him dumbfounded for a moment, trying to sort through the fog in his brain, before he attempted again to clamber out of his bed, but found himself pressed down by a strong hand.
"Where do ye think you're going?"
John had totally forgotten about Carson and now directed his still confused expression at the doctor, thinking it was quite obvious where he was going. "To the control room."
"You will do no such thing, lad." Now it was on Carson to level a stern gaze at the Colonel. "You will stay right where you are."
"I don't have time for this," John grumbled and tried to climb out of bed, again without much success. It worried him a bit how easily Carson could hold him down.
"Well, you'll have to make time then. You are in no condition to go anywhere. The city can run itself for the time being and Major Lorne will see to it that no major crisis will happen while you're out of commission. And Rodney will make sure that all the science departments will play along nicely and work on their current projects instead of starting new ones."
"I will?" Rodney asked unsure, but a glare from Carson quickly disabused him of any notion to weasel his way out of it. "Yes, I will. Of course!"
"Thank you Rodney. If you will leave us alone now, I have a patient to attend to." Carson's tone made it clear even for Rodney that there was no room for discussion and sure enough the scientist scrambled out of the room without so much as a "see you later".
As soon as the door closed behind Rodney Carson levelled his glare at John who had put on his best sheepish puppy dog expression coupled with a boyish smile.
"Oh, don't you try to charm your way out of this, my friend."
"Carson..." John tried to start an argument, although he thought it unfair that he was at a disadvantage feeling as weak as he was.
"No, John." Carson shut him down immediately and sat down on the bed next to his lover. "You're running a fever and I suspect you were feeling like crap already when you left this morning. I thought you felt way too warm to the touch, but you were out of here before I could say anything."
Guiltily lowering his gaze at being caught out, John started to pick on the fabric of his blanket. "It wasn't that bad."
"I think we have a slightly different approach as to what is bad and what is not. Ye daft bugger. Why didn't you say anything?" Gently brushing a stray strand of hair from John's forehead, Carson sighed. "What am I going to do with you?"
"Hopefully prescribing me some drugs so I can go back to work?" John tried, but already knew it wouldn't work. There was no way in hell Carson would let him get out of bed except maybe for a short trip to the bathroom.
"Nice try, but you stay where you are. This time you have it bad, you need bed rest and lots of sleep. It's not just a cold, it's more like the flu and that means you will stay in bed for at least the next two days. And I won't argue with you about that." Putting his finger on John's lips, Carson effectively stopped any protest he knew was bound to come from his lover. "Your body has already started to take what it needs and that is sleep."
"How long have I been out?" John slowly relaxed and felt how the fatigue was tugging at him. Carson was right he couldn't get up, even if he wanted to.
"Almost three hours, but that was only good for you," Carson was quick to reassure John when he saw the other man's eyes widening. "Nothing bad happened while you were asleep, the city is still standing and it will continue to do so. So just relax and let the flu take its course."
"Are those doctor's orders?"
"Aye, I want you to sleep as much as possible and I want you to drink..."
"...lots of fluids. Yeah, I know. It's not my first time having a nasty cold."
"No, but it's probably the first time, you have your own private doctor looking after your every need." Smiling down at his patient, Carson put his hand on John's cheek, smiling even more when John nuzzled his face into it.
"My every need, huh?"
"Within reason," Carson was quick to add before he bent down and pressed a kiss to John's warm forehead. "Your fever is getting higher."
"You used the kiss to take my temperature? That is just not right," John grimaced and rolled his eyes. However, he immediately regretted it when the world in front of him began to swim.
"Well, I call that to kill two birds with one stone." This time giving John a kiss on the lips, Carson gently stroked his thumb over his lover's cheek. "I would give you something to bring the fever down, but right now it's not that disconcerting and the fever is a good sign that your body is fighting the virus in your system." Grabbing a glass of water from the nightstand, Carson brought it to John's lips and helped him take a few sips. "Drink that and then go back to sleep, I will stay with you to make sure the fever isn't going up any more."
"Don't you have to be in the infirmary?" John asked between sips, but felt very relieved that he wouldn't be alone.
"My shift ended half an hour ago, so I can concentrate all my attention on my favourite patient." Carson put the glass back on the nightstand and smiled at John.
"Well, as I have you all to myself... Do you mind sharing a bit of body heat?"
"Rodney is right; you are the Kirk of Atlantis. Only you can pull of a seductive look with a running nose and bloodshot eyes," Carson chuckled fondly.
"It's part of my charm."
"It sure is. Alright roll over."
"That doesn't sound very romantic."
"Oh, shut it, you daft sod." Quickly shedding his jacket, shoes and pants, Carson climbed into the bed behind John and pulled his lover flush against his chest.
"You have always such an eloquent way with words," John couldn't help but tease while already relaxing into the warmth of the embrace.
"Don't push it, or I might get the idea to put you under observation in the infirmary," Carson shot back, but there was no heat behind his words. To belie his threat even more, he pressed a kiss to the back of John's head, smiling when he felt his partner relax even more, and whispered, "You are such a stubborn twit."
"I heard that." John's mumbled reply was barely audible.
"As you should. And now go to sleep, that's an order."
"Aye, mon Capitan."
It was silent for the following minutes and Carson thought, John had finally fallen asleep again, when he heard another mumble.
"But you will explain to Elizabeth why the paperwork is still not done when she gets back."
Instead of an answer Carson only chuckled and wrapped his arm even tighter around John's waist, knowing that his lover had finally given up the fight to stay awake and worry about all the things he was supposed to do.
And right on cue, John sighed "Maybe two days of sick leave aren't that bad" before he succumbed to well deserved sleep.
Summary: This was really not the way John had envisioned his time filling in for Elizabeth. But Carson makes it better in the end. Sick!John.