It was about eight when the jumper landed.
They had him stabilized by eight-thirty.
Surgery was over around eleven.
"You should get some rest, Carson," Elizabeth said at about two a.m.
Carson had nodded and promised that he would. Soon.
At five, Ronon came in. "I can sit with him so you can get some sleep," the Runner had offered. Carson had nodded and said that he'd go. Soon.
At seven-thirty Rodney came in, promising to yell like the city was on fire if anything on any of the monitors changed so Carson could sack out on one of the other beds. Carson had thanked him but hadn't moved. Rodney sat with him for about an hour before getting restless and making some excuse about checking on Zelenka's team and leaving.
At nine it was Teyla, who initially said she wasn't taking 'no' for an answer, but ultimately did.
It was three minutes to ten when John finally opened his eyes. Carson was, of course, sitting at his bedside... with his head down on the edge of the mattress, asleep when it happened.
The beeping of the monitor as John fought against the ventilator woke him immediately and he jumped up. "Easy, easy, you're on a vent, just calm down and you'll be able to breathe just fine. I want to do a couple checks and then maybe we can get that tube out, alright?"
The flash of panic evaporated almost as fast as it had come on when John saw Carson. When he was told to calm down, he nodded the tiniest bit and focused on doing so. As Carson went on checking monitors and gauges and poking at his tablet, John took an inventory of himself. His head hurt and the room was a bit blurry on the edges. Blinking didn't seem to correct that. There as a large tube down his throat making it hurt and making his jaw sore from being unable to close completely. His chest felt like he'd been shot. But he didn't remember being shot. His dog tags were making him itch and he raised a hand to slide them out of the way.
"Ah-ah," Carson caught his hand and gently lowered it back to his side. "Don't touch that, you won't like it." He sat back in his chair. "I think we can get that tube out now, but you have to promise me that you'll stay still and that you will talk as little as possible for a while. You probably won't believe me until you try it, but speaking is going to hurt like the devil for a few days. We didn't have the luxury of all the right people and all the right tools in that jumper. I tubed you on the fly - quite literally - with Rodney piloting. Those inertial dampeners are good, but they're no match for McKay in a panic." Carson reached behind himself and pulled the curtain around John's bed hoping that they wouldn't rouse the one other person in the ward who was trying to sleep off a migraine. "Though I have to say, he was a far better pilot than I would have been under similar circumstances."
Carson ruffled John's hair when John gave a small smile around the plastic mouth guard. He stood up and undid all the tubes and rubberbands and various other devices attached to the ventilation tube. "When I count to three, blow as hard as you can."
John had seen people extubated before and the look on their faces always made him extremely glad it had never been him. As much as he hated having the damn thing down his throat, he was pretty afraid of what it would feel like coming back up.
"-three!" Carson said, apparently having started counting while John was quietly freaking out about the whole thing.
John blew, but he doubted there would have been enough force behind it to blow out a birthday candle, as Carson yanked. As the tube cleared his throat, John found himself coughing. And if that didn't hurt enough, he was reasonably sure he had at least one cracked rib, possibly several, which caused tears to spring to his eyes as his body tried to drag air in.
He dropped back against his pillow, trying to pant shallowly to still the burning in both his chest and his throat. Much to his consternation, he felt a tear run from the corner of his right eye down into his ear.
Carson wiped it away with his thumb, gently whispering words of encouragement and calm. A nurse approached and handed Carson a needle, which he took with a small smile and quiet 'thank you'. As he pulled the cap off he patted John's hand. "I figured you'd be feeling right miserable when you woke up. Told Elsa to bring me some morphine as soon as you did. Sound good?"
John nodded as vigorously as he could – which was minimal – at the idea of something cutting through the pain. He watched as Carson emptied the needle into his I.V. port and lay back, waiting for the meds to kick in.
Carson sat back next to him, his hip along the edge of John's bed, John's hand in his again. All at once John's body sagged as the morphine took away the worst of the pain. There was still a dull throb in his head and a sensitive, burning sensation where his dogtags must be, but his ribs stopped screaming every time he inhaled and his throat felt like he had six cases of strep throat at once. But that was an improvement. He did notice that the world was even fuzzier now than it had been before. It was like he was trying to look at something in front of him while someone was shining their high-beam headlights right in his eyes. He decided it might just be better to close them.
"You can go back to sleep in a minute, John, I need to ask you a few questions first so we can rule out major neurological damage." Carson gently tapped the back of John's hand, bringing his focus back to him.
"Thank you," Carson said quietly and for some reason that seemed an odd thing for him to say. John cracked his eyes back open and through all the halos around the room's lights he saw the nurse hand Carson a cup with a spoon sticking out of it. He hoped briefly that it was ice cream, but just the thought made his stomach roll.
Carson stroked his jaw softly. "Open your mouth, love; an ice chip will help your throat."
John obeyed, amazed at how much it did help. He opened his mouth again, hoping that Carson would give him another.
"Slow down. You can have another in a wee bit." John could hear him set the cup on the bedside table. "Now then, do you remember what happened?"
John thought about that for a minute, ran over his symptoms again, trying to reconstruct what had happened by how he felt. He was back to thinking that he felt like he'd been shot. "Sum-un shoo – e?" He worked his jaw. Carson had warned him that it would hurt to talk, but he wasn't ready for the instant fire crawling up his windpipe. Carson fed him another ice chip.
"No, love, you weren't shot," Carson said taking his hand again. "You were struck by lightning." He stopped a minute to let that sink in. "It's not too surprising you don't remember it. We were on our way back to the jumper, Rodney and I were a bit back because Teyla couldn't walk on that busted up ankle. You were running ahead to get the jumper so she wouldn't have to walk so far." He ruffled John's hair again. "So much for chivalry, eh?"
Turning more serious he said, "Your heart stopped twice and your breathing didn't recover until you'd been on the vent for about three hours."
John reached up again to move his dog tags and Carson caught his hand once again. "You don't want to be messing about with that bandage. You have some second and third degree burns on your chest. Apparently as it passed through your body, the lightning heated your dog tags and they... they melted... to your chest. We had to surgically remove them. The burns aren't large enough to warrant a graft, but there's going to be some pain first and then some itching as you heal."
John's mouth fell open as he thought about that. His dog tags had melted into his chest? Ew! The way Carson started gently massaging the hand he was holding told John that his reaction must have been written across his face.
"I was teaching Ronon CPR on the fly, I'm afraid he broke one rib and cracked two others. Though, that's actually quite common in cases where CPR is being done correctly. Those pesky ribs and breastbone get right in the way of us mashing your heart properly."
John nodded, not happy about it, but knowing that it was true. He'd done enough CPR as part of the medevac group in Afghanistan to have felt a few bones go 'crunch' under his hand. And every time the flight surgeon had told him that he was doing everything right and to keep going, but to be mindful of the broken pieces that they didn't puncture a lung or the pericardium if he could help it.
"All in all, for someone who was struck by lightning, John, you're doing quite well. Not that you didn't scare the bloody hell out of me a few times, but you should be quite yourself again in a few weeks."
Out of habit, John winced when Carson mentioned him being laid up for several weeks, but upon further consideration, sleeping for a month was sounding more and more like an excellent idea.
"Would you like another ice chip?" Carson asked, still rubbing soft circles on John's palm.
He nodded, not risking speaking again.
He let Carson feed him the ice and took a couple of breaths working up the nerve to speak again. "oo – o'ay?" His voice was whisper soft and any hard sound like 'k' or 'g' was right out.
Carson frowned at him for a minute, figuring out what John had said. "Oh, aye. I'm fine. Rodney's fine. Teyla's in a cast that she's alternately fascinated with and threatening to rip off with her fingernails." He put John's hand under the covers and pulled the blankets up a little higher, tucking John in. "Speaking of the others, I best call and tell them you've decided to defy the odds once again." And within the privacy of the pulled curtain he leaned over and pressed a gentle kiss onto John's forehead. "And thank god for that," he whispered before leaving.
John had no idea how much time had passed before he woke again, but when he did the curtain had been pushed over so that he couldn't see the beds on his left, but he could see the one across from him. Rodney was currently sprawled across it poking at his laptop and swearing as it beeped at him impatiently. Elizabeth was sitting in the chair Carson had evacuated and Teyla was in another chair that had apparently been brought in for her. Ronon was leaning on the wall.
"Hey," he whispered when no one seemed to notice that he was looking at them.
"Hey!" they all shouted at once, rushing his bed like a stampede.
"You had us worried," Elizabeth said in that peculiar way that she had that said that while she was genuinely worried, she wasn't going to make this a big, somber occasion.
Rodney was shaking his head and looking amused. "Now we'll never get your hair to lay down properly, will we?"
John reached up to feel his hair with the hand not attached to the I.V. and pulse ox. monitor. It was pretty bad. Worse than normal. Of course he'd also been in bed for... who knew how long without a comb. He smiled at Rodney, "Jeal'us?" His throat still hurt and he unconsciously reached up to rub it as if that would do something about the torn up tissue on the inside.
Teyla hobbled forward with the cup of ice chips. "Doctor Beckett said that you could have some of these if your throat was causing you discomfort."
John put his hand out and took the cup, handling the spoon awkwardly with so many wires attached to him, but managing to get one in his mouth (with only one on his blanket) on his own. It was one thing to have Carson feed him, but he wasn't having his team feeding him ice chips like an invalid.
Ronon leaned forward on the footboard of the bed. "Beckett says your metal labels melted into your skin."
"Ronon!" Teyla scolded, wondering if or when the Satedan would ever catch on the finer points of subtlety.
John was grateful when Rodney answered, sparing him from having to try and talk again. "Carson took them out. If he didn't Colonel Sheppard would set off every metal detector in every air port he ever went to."
Ronon frowned, "What?"
"Nevermind," Elizabeth cut in. "Rodney will explain it to you later," she told Ronon. "We just wanted to come down and see that you're okay now."
"Than's" John told them, scooping out another ice chip as the word cut through his throat.
Four days later John's burns were itching, his ribs were still sore and the forced inactivity was causing his back and legs to get stiff. He was awake for several hours at a stretch and starting to get bored. He tried to be a good soldier, not to complain too much, but he was really getting restless.
Carson was standing over his bed recording things into John's chart before setting it on his chair. He crossed his arms over his chest and tapped his finger against his lips.
John could see the wheels turning in his mind. "What?" His voice was clearer, but softer, and only hurt like two cases of strep throat.
Carson pulled the curtain closed and sat on the edge of the bed. "I know you want to get out of here."
John sighed. "Getting bored." He found that he was still being economical with language rather than risk the wrath of his throat again.
"You still need to be monitored," Carson told him, but John could see the look on his face that said he was still contemplating something.
"I'm breathing. My heart is beating. I'm holding down food and water, I can make it to the bathroom on my own... what's to monitor?"
"Your meds, your pain level, making sure you're still holding everything down, that your burns don't get infected..." Carson didn't like the way John was already making nothing of something.
John smiled softly – not cocky, more charming – "You could do it."
Carson dropped his hand onto John's leg. "You know that if we do that, what we have between us... it won't be a secret any more."
John thought about it for a minute. So that's what Carson had been contemplating. He was ready to take John home and keep an eye on him himself, but he wasn't ready to so publicly out them if it wasn't what John wanted.
"Do you really think it's still that much of a secret?" John asked.
"What, you think me refusing to leave your side for a day and a half wasn't a dead give away?" Carson asked with a sheepish grin.
John reached out and took Carson's hand in his, running his thumbs over Carson's knuckles. "Actually, as much as I wish that made me special... that's the kind of doctor you are. I've seen you do it for other people. You're dedicated."
Carson looked him in the eyes and said softly but clearly, "You are special to me, you know that right?"
John squeezed his hand tight. "Yeah, I know. But not because of that."
Carson wasn't sure, but he thought he might have been blushing. "No, not because of that." He sighed. "If I let you go back to your quarters, will you follow directions? All of them?"
"I mean it, John. When I'm on duty there will be a nurse coming to check on you every few hours and I'll probably insist on hourly radio checks for the first few days."
John lifted Carson's hand to his mouth and kissed it. "I'll be good. I promise. I want to go home and sleep in my own bed. With you."
Now Carson was sure he was blushing. "Aye, me too." There was a long silence before Carson finally asked, "You're sure about this? Someone's bound to say something to Colonel Cald-"
"It's fine, Carson." John interrupted. "You're a civilian, you're not on my team; there are no conflicts of interest or chain of command issues here. Caldwell can't even ask."
Carson nodded. "Let me get your meds and things together. I'll have Maria come in and change the dressing on your burn and get you out of that gown and into some scrubs. We'll grab a wheelchair and go at the end of my shift."
"A wheelchair?" John whined.
"Ah! You said you would follow all of my orders. And as it stands, yes, you can make it to the bathroom from here, but don't think I haven't noticed that more often than not you've needed help to get back."
John sighed. He knew Carson was right, but it still rankled. Not enough that he'd pass on the chance to get out of the infirmary. He just refused to be happy about it.
"If you were to get light headed from your meds, or if you were to actually fall, there'd be no way I could justify taking you out of here. You know that."
John nodded, "I do. And I really do want to get out of here. You know, as much as I've seen of you while I've been in here, I've missed you."
"Aye," Carson said smiling, "I'm actually starting to think that I'd rather go to work with you than have you here at work with me."
Summary: It was about eight when the jumper landed. They had him stabilized by eight-thirty. Surgery was over around eleven. "You should get some rest, Carson," Elizabeth said at about two a.m. Carson had nodded and promised that he would. Soon.