katstales: (John-S&R infirmary)
[personal profile] katstales
I'm posting a little early tonight, as we are supposed to be getting some severe weather soon.

Title: It's The Little Things
Rating: PG (mostly for violence and possibly a wee bit of 'colorful' language on Ronon's part *grins*)
Pairing/Characters: Gen fic with team and no pairings
Disclaimer: Don't own 'em & not making any money off this--if I did or I were, we'd SO be having a Season 6!!!
Timeline: Set early season 5, shortly after John's recovery from events in "The Seed."
Summary: The team is returned to Atlantis after being regressed to childhood while investigating an offworld Ancient facility. With no memories of their adult selves, the four must work together to not only find a way to cope with their current situation, but to eventually reverse the effects and save themselves from impending death. Chaos, mayhem, and madness occur along the way, of course!


The beginning of the story is here in Part 01.

Part 5



"Hey, see that? He moved. I told you they were wrong and he was gonna wake up."

"Ronon, hush. This is not the time or the place for...for I-told-you-so."

John attempted to demand that they be quiet and allow him to go back to sleep, but the only sound that came out of his mouth was a weak groan. He felt a dip on the side of the bed next to him, and the next thing he knew a small hand had settled on the middle of his chest and was shaking him rather vigorously. He tried to lift his own hand and swat away the offending grip, which he was fairly certain belonged to Ronon.

"Hey, come on, John. You gotta wake up. Time's running out, buddy. Fast." The voice above him indeed belonged to Ronon, confirming his suspicions as to the intruder. Again, he tried to push the other boy way and tell him to knock it off, but again he was unsuccessful. He did manage another groan, this one not quite as weak as the last but still far from normal.

"Ronon, stop. Wishing for him to awaken will not make it so."

He wanted to thank Teyla for saying what he himself was thinking--and correct her about his state of awareness, of course--but the effort was simply too much. Lights, he thought. Lights would help him wake up more fully. Why hadn't they thought to turn them on before they tried to wake him?

"See? He is waking up. He's doing that thing with the lights again."

"Ronon, Doctor Beckett and his staff have explained many times already that the flickering of the lights has nothing to do with John. They feel it is far more likely a problem left over from when we... when I disrupted the lighting in the labs."

John heard the exasperation in Teyla's voice, but it was also full of guilt and regret. It gave him even more incentive to open his eyes...oh, right, he thought. He had to open his eyes to make the darkness go away. Mustering every ounce of energy he could summon, John concentrated on forcing his eyelids apart.

"That's what they say. But they haven't been able to figure it out yet, have they? I think they're just blaming you...us...because it's easier. You didn't mess anything up. John's doing it, I know he is."

"This is pointless. You refuse to listen to reason so I will not discuss it any further with you."

At last, John met with success and his eyes opened fractionally. He immediately regretted the action, however, as the brightness of the room burned into his retinas. He cried out, curling onto his side in a fetal position and moaning.

"Hey, you need to turn the lights back on. We can't see anything." Ronon smacked him on the shoulder, bouncing up and down on the bed.

"Ronon, what are you doing?" Teyla's worried voice drifted up from somewhere next to the bed. "You must leave John alone and come down here at once."

John hated that she was worrying about him and at last found his voice. "T'la?" he croaked, still firmly curled on his side with his eyes pinched shut.

"John? It is so good to see you awake again." He wanted to smile at the excitement in her tone, but his head was pounding too badly for him to concentrate on anything else.

"Told ya." Ronon's smug retort prompted John to reach out and swat at the other boy's knee. "Hey!" protested Ronon. "What was that for?"

Despite clearing his throat, John's reply still came out slurred. "Leave 'er 'lone."

"Turn the lights back on and I'll think about it." Not backing down in the least, Ronon continued to bounce up and down on the bed.

Not understanding what the boy was talking about, John braved forcing his eyes open again. Sure enough, just as Ronon had said, the room was pitch black. Not even the emergency lighting was on and that was definitely a bad thing, he realized. There should at least be some dim lighting, not to mention the glow from all the monitors and stuff that they had Rodney hooked up to.

No sooner had the thought crossed his mind than the monitors surrounding Rodney came to life, followed almost instantly by the overhead lighting. Instead of the bright midday glow that he first awoke to, however, they appeared to be set to the overnight strength--which was far more tolerable to his aching head. John didn't take the time to process it though, instead reaching frantically for Ronon's arm and latching on for all he was worth. "Did we get it? Did you keep 'em out until the download finished? How long has it been anyway? Is Rodney still doing okay? Tell me what's going on!"

Startled by the intensity of the sudden barrage, Ronon yanked his arm free and scrambled backwards to the foot of the bed. "What's wrong with you?"

Teyla hopped up and sat on the other side of the bed, reaching out to pat his shoulder. "It is all right, John. Please, you must calm yourself and then I shall explain. Will you do that for us?"

John sank back into the mattress and nodded, trying to slow his breathing and do as she asked. She must have been satisfied with the effort though, because she began to speak almost immediately. "Rodney is...holding his own, or so they say. They try to be careful about what they say around us, but we are still able to...hear things. Things that they do not wish for us to know. In truth, they do not expect Rodney to survive much beyond the end of the day--about 12 more hours."

Stunned, John looked over at the boy in question. Rodney didn't look much different than he had when they left for the chair room. There seemed to be a few additional pieces of equipment next to his bed and a few additional tubes and wires running from his body to the machines though. Twelve hours. Time was fast running out, so why wasn't anything being done now that they had the answer?

Almost as if she read his mind, Teyla supplied the missing information. "The download was successful. Once you were stabilized, Carson took the computer to Doctor Zelenka. He has examined the program Rodney wrote along with the information you supplied; after running a number of...stimu...simulations, he has reported to Mr. Woolsey that he believes the solution will work. However Mr. Woolsey has so far refused to give his consent for our return to the planet to attempt a reversal."

"What?" John couldn't believe what he was hearing. They had the solution but weren't going to allow them to use it. Unbelievable!

Before he could question her further, Ronon piped in. "It's because of that gene-thing you have. Gotta have that to make it work. And you were out cold for a long time. They kept saying you weren't gonna wake up, but I knew they were wrong. I knew you'd never quit on us like that."

Suddenly it all made sense. "Woolsey won't--can't--risk an adult with the gene to initiate the program. If it doesn't work, that person could be transformated into a kid just like we were. Without being able to test that the reversal process will work for sure, he can't risk anyone else being turned into a kid and dying. That means I have to do it." He took a deep breath. "All right, I gotta talk to Woolsey. Now." After a worried glance over at Rodney, he turned his attention to the IV tube in his own arm. "I need one of you to get someone in here to take this thing out, preferably Beckett. I'll need to talk to him anyway, along with Woolsey."

Ronon made as if to jump down, but John immediately stopped him. "Woah, hold up there, Chewie. I think Teyla should do this. It's a little more her area, if you get my meaning. Besides, I've got something else in mind for you."

Teyla nodded. "I overheard Carson mention going back to talk to Mr. Woolsey in person, to try one last time to convince him to allow the mission. With any luck, I will be able to catch him while he is still in Mr. Woolsey's office and bring them both here."

The moment she was gone, John turned his attention to his other teammate. Ronon was perched at the foot of his bed, scowling as he watched Teyla's retreating form. "I coulda done it," he groused.

John rolled his eyes. "Of course you could. But like I said, I have something else in mind for you." Stretching up as much as possible to look for any other adults within earshot, John waved Ronon closer. A nurse was working on one of the machines next to Rodney's bed, much to John's frustration, so he was forced to make small talk until she left. "So what's been going around here while I was out. Anything interesting?"

"You mean besides you making the lights go nuts every time you tried to open your eyes?" Ronon's eyes gleamed with excitement and it was obvious he was eager to tell the tale.

"What are you talking about? I haven't done anything to any lights," insisted John. "There's probably a short or something somewhere."

Ronon shook his head adamantly. "Nope, it's that gene-thing you have. They say no, but I saw what happened when you were in the chair. It's definitely you. What's it feel like anyway? Is it like being in the chair?"

John glared over at the nurse, who was still hovering over Rodney, before turning back to Ronon. "It's not me. And the chair was pretty awesome, actually. Once I got used to it, it was like...like there was a real person in there. It was weird, but way cool the way she--the city--seemed to know what I wanted before I could even tell her. I had no idea where to find what I needed so she...well, she showed me where it was and how to get to it."

"Wow."

Out of the corner of his eye, John saw the nurse finally leave and pulled Ronon close enough that they could easily whisper without being overheard. Knowing their time was rapidly running out, he got straight down to business. "What happened to your blaster after you let them in the chair room?"

Ronon's scowl deepened. "They took it away. Locked it up in the armory this time. Said I was too reckless with it."

"How many of 'em did you stun before you let them in?" John couldn't stop the grin from appearing on his face as he pictured the action.

The scowl disappeared as Ronon shrugged, trying in vain to appear nonchalant. "Four of Lorne's marines and two of Beckett's medics. Why do you want to know? You want me to go get it back or something?"

"That's my guy," said John proudly. "I knew you wouldn't let 'em in till we got what we needed." His grin faded, his expression turning dead serious as he reached out and grabbed Ronon's forearm. "Yeah, I think we're gonna need it if Woolsey says no. We need to be ready for any and all possibilities here. We can't let Rodney die, not without putting up one hell of a fight first."

Ronon tried to pull away and take off, eager to retrieve the weapon. John's grip was like iron, however, and the boy went nowhere. "Wait a minute. This is important." Ronon stopped resisting, but John kept his hold on the other boy's arm. "I need to you listen to me--I'm not kidding around here, this really is important. We don't have much time--you know that. So I want you to give me your word that you will not try to use it on anyone unless and until I tell you to. I mean it," he said, seeing that Ronon was about to protest. "If you get spotted and try to stun anyone, we're toast. Especially me and Rodney. You have to make sure you aren't seen and you have to get that stunner back here without being noticed. Our lives may depend on it."

John watched him as Ronon took in the seriousness of the situation. He could see it in the other boy's eyes when the enormity of his task hit home, but Ronon didn't fear it. "I won't let you down," he said, jumping off the bed. "I promise." He took off, pausing once at the end of the bed to check that the coast was clear and again at the door to look back and wave.

Alone at last, John sank tiredly back into the bed. Rubbing his temples to ease the pounding in his head, he considered what course of action to take should Woolsey refuse to allow them to leave. Much as he was loathe to admit it, he himself wasn't up to a lot of physical exertion. And with Rodney in a coma, they'd definitely need a way to transport him as well. They could probably get by with a wheelchair, he thought. He could hold Rodney in while one of the others pushed them--probably Teyla with Ronon taking point. They'd have to take a jumper and figure out a way to keep the control room from locking down the gate or raising the shield on them.

"Well, lad, it's good to see you back with us. Ye had us all very worried there for awhile. How are ye feeling?"

John was startled by the sound of Carson's voice. Between the headache and his contingency plan, he hadn't heard them approach. Realizing he was still rubbing his temples, John dropped his hands and looked up at them, his head tilted and his gaze appraising. "I'm okay."

Beckett frowned, getting immediately down to business checking his vital signs. "Oh aye, I can see that. I suppose you're going to try to deny that ye have a headache, too. Because of course everyone grimaces like that while massaging their temples for no reason."

Allowing Carson's ministrations without protest, John answered the allegation with nothing more than a one-shouldered shrug. Beckett shook his head and continued to check him over. Pleased with himself for getting the best of the doctor, John shot a mischievous smirk over to Teyla and was surprised to find Mr. Woolsey standing there next to her--along with Ronon. There was no sign of the blaster and judging by the look on his face, Ronon hadn't made it to the armory before running into Teyla and the two adults. John hid it well, but underneath it all he couldn't help but wonder how they had all gotten so close without him realizing they were there.

"I brought Mr. Woolsey, as you asked," she said, an encouraging smile lighting her face.

"John. I'm pleased to see you're better. I think we'll be waiting to talk until after Doctor Beckett gives you the all clear, I'm afraid. Standard procedure, you know. I'm certain you understand." The man seemed sincere, but John was still more than just a little irritated at Woolsey's words.

Before he could reply, the doctor in question stepped away from the bed. "Well, things seem to be in order. I'm going to see about getting ye something for that headache ye don't seem to have while you're speaking with Mr. Woolsey here."

Carson turned to go, but Richard stopped him. "Doctor, if I may have a moment first. Please?"

"Oh, yes, of course."

The two men stepped to the other side of the room and spoke in whispers. That irritated John even more and he watched the two like a hawk, catching bits and pieces as he read their lips. "He's asking Beckett if I'm going to be fit for the mission. He doesn't like the idea of letting us go back into the lab alone. Carson says he can't make any guarantees, but that for now, my vitals are stable enough."

His anger got the best of him as he turned to Teyla. "It's not his decision to make! It's our lives on the line here, not his!"

Ever the peacemaker, Teyla tried to calm him. "I am certain that he is only doing what he feels is best for all of us. He wants the best possible outcome with the least possible risk. That is how it works, does it not?"

Her calm demeanor angered him even more. "No! You don't know that at all. We're dying here, Teyla! They're talking about taking all these precautions and keeping us safe when we're all dying a little bit more with every second they delay. What the heck does any of it matter if we die while they're deciding whether it's "safe" or not?"

"I'm sorry to hear that you feel that way, John. I can assure you that I am committed to doing what is most beneficial to everyone involved. And yes, I am factoring in how safe it is for all concerned--including the four of you. I would be totally remiss in my duties if I did otherwise, and I think down deep, you know that." Woolsey was suddenly back, standing next to Teyla with a grave look on his face.

"I can do it. I can connect the laptop with Rodney's program to the control panel in the lab on the planet and initiate the reversal process. So cut to the chase. Are you going to let us go back or not?" John crossed his arms, his eyes flashing with anger and defiance.

Woolsey sighed. "I'm sorry, Colonel, but it's not that simple. We are still running simulations and evaluating the results in order to determine the viability of the program and the odds of success."

"There's no more time! Don't you get it? Rodney doesn't have anymore time! If we don't do this within the next few hours, he'll be dead. And I won't be far behind. If I don't do this--and soon--then Ronon and Teyla are doomed, too, because there isn't anyone else with the gene who can safely enter that lab and initiate the process. So you tell me...what are we waiting for, really?"

"He's right, Mr. Woolsey. As I've said before, we no longer have the luxury of time to run simulations and test out the theories. We need to get them back to that planet and into the lab as soon as possible, before it's too late." Carson returned as promised with the medication and handed it to John.

Looking from the pills in his hand to Carson and back again, John hesitated. The last thing he needed was something that was going to make him sleepy. Sleepier, he mentally corrected. Because though he was not about to admit to anyone else, he had to admit to himself that he was totally exhausted from simply talking. He could feel himself slipping ever closer to that coma, just like Rodney. They had to leave now damn it, before it was too late. But how was he going to force Woolsey to see reason?

A cup of water suddenly appeared in front of him, but John balked at it. "I don't need this stuff," he grumbled.

"Son, it's only Paracetamol. It's not going make ye drowsy or put ye sleep; it's only going to take the edge off, hopefully."

John eyed him suspiciously. "It's what?"

"Tylenol," supplied Carson. "Plain, ordinary, tylenol. Nothing more."

He hesitated a moment longer, then dutifully downed the two pills. Handing Carson the water, John turned his attention to Mr. Woolsey. It was definitely time for the gloves to come off. "You heard what Carson said. It's time to cut the crap and lay it all out. Bottom line: we can't wait any longer for your tests and simulations. Either you let us go now or you're killing all four of us, just as sure as if you put a gun to our heads and pull the trigger. So what's it gonna be? You gonna let us take the only shot we have, or are you gonna sit back and let the axe fall on us, one by one?"

The administrator's jaw was clenched tight, a vein throbbing near his temple another sign of his rising anger. His arms were crossed defensively over his chest as he ran his thumbnail across his bottom lip. "Well," he said at last. "Major Lorne was certainly not exaggerating when he insisted that even though your appearance had changed, your skills and instincts are as sharp as ever--as is your tongue. However, I must admit, you do present a very compelling argument, Colonel." Woolsey paused to nod brusquely at Carson. "Very well, Doctor. Ready your team and your patients. I'll have a jumper prepared and ready for departure at your convenience."

He turned then and started to leave, but paused, turning back to look John directly in the eyes. "I'd like to apologize, Colonel. I realize you may find this difficult to believe, but I really do want the best possible outcome for everyone involved here. Good luck to all of you. I really do hope that this works." With his piece said, he whirled and hurried out of the room.

Carson broke the stunned silence that had fallen over the room. "All right then, we'd best get preparations underway. I'll be accompanying ye, along with a full medical team. While we getting our equipment and gear ready, I want ye to rest, John--and no arguments. Just a wee bitty nap before we go, that's all. You're going to need every last bit of your strength to pull this off and I think ye know that."

Eyes wide with fear, John shook his head. "No! I can't, not now. I'll sleep all you want after we're fixed."

"No. That's not going to help ye find the strength ye'll need to initiate the reversal. Look, son, I understand your reluctance to sleep; anyone would be terrified in your place. But the more rested ye are, the better the odds of ye succeeding. I'm not certain that you understand exactly how hard on your system that little stunt with the chair was, but trust me, you're very very lucky that you woke up at all after that one. I promise ye, I will wake ye the moment we're ready to leave." He paused then, looking more uncertain that John could ever remember. "If it comes down to it, I can and will resort to administering ye a stimulant to keep ye going as long as possible. But I will not lie to ye, that is a very very very dangerous thing and it would be far better for all of ye if we don't have to go that route. We do this my way or not at all--then ye won't be able to save anyone, least of all yourself. So what's it going to be?"

John swallowed hard, giving a barely perceptible nod of his still-aching head. "Okay. I'll do it your way, as long as you're sure you can wake me up--however you have to do it."

Carson dipped his head in agreement. "Good. All right then, I'll see to things on our end and I want ye--all three of ye--to try to rest until we're ready to go."

"Wait," called John as the doctor moved away. "What about the stuff I'll need? The computer and the cables and...stuff. Someone has to get all that together."

"And I'll need my blaster," added Ronon defiantly.

Beckett rolled his eyes at the last request, but addressed their concerns. "I'll have Radek get the things ye'll need together, John. And I'm sorry, Ronon, but I have no authority when it comes to weaponry around here. I will pass along your request to Major Lorne, though I cannot guarantee his agreement. Will that be acceptable?"

After a chorus of "okay" from both boys, Carson hurried off to begin his preparations. John watched him go, resisting the heavy feeling that was threatening to pull him under. When the doctor was completely out of sight, he turned to his two teammates. "Okay, looks like we have an hour to rest. He was definitely right about one thing--we've got a big night ahead," he said ominously. Almost as an afterthought, he turned to Ronon. "And no running off to raid the armory, Chief. Let Beckett do it his way. You won't need it anyway since they're letting us go back."

"Maybe," he argued. "Better safe than sorry though."

"Promise me," demanded John, also refusing to back down.

"Stop this--both of you!" Teyla's eyes were flashing angrily and John knew that meant trouble. "Ronon, did you not hear Carson say that John needed to sleep? Let the adults do their jobs and do as you were told for once. Or do you wish to be the one responsible for the failure of the mission?"

After putting Ronon in his place, she next turned her attention to John, who instinctively shrank even further back into the bed. "And you! Yes, you are our leader, but you are also our only hope of being returned to an adult form. And yet here you are, arguing with Ronon instead of doing as instructed. Whether it was your intention or not, the result is the same--you are decreasing the odds of success, and therefore, risking our lives. All of our lives, not just yours and Rodney's."

Before John could answer her, a sheepish Ronon beat him to the punch. "Okay, I probably deserved that, but man, that was harsh," he said, nodding sharply at John.

"No, she's right. I was being selfish and not thinking clear. We should all do what she said and get some rest now." Snuggling down into the covers, he was half asleep by the time he felt Ronon crawl up and settle at the bottom of the bed. "Night, guys," said John, smiling.

"Good night, John. Sleep well."

"What she said."

John was already asleep by the time they answered.

~A~


It seemed as if only a few moments had passed when John found himself being vigorously shaken. "Hey, come on, wake up already. It's time to go. Beckett's almost got the kid unhooked from all that medical stuff."

John pried his eyes open, certain he was dreaming. No way had he been asleep for an hour already. But there was Ronon looming above him despite his small size, having climbed onto the bed to awaken him. The next bed over, Carson was indeed removing last of the monitors and leads from Rodney. John rubbed his eyes, trying to get them to focus properly and only marginally succeeding. Ronon reached out as if to give him another shake, but John batted his hands away. "'M awake. Knock it off."

"Don't look it." Despite his words, he jumped down from his perch on John's bed and went straight for a wheelchair at the end of the bed. John frowned as he and Teyla pushed it straight to his bedside instead of Rodney's.

"What are you doing? Rodney's the one who needs that, not me." Confused, he looked from one to the other, waiting for an explanation. Neither of them said anything, but turned to the doctor instead.

"You're going in the chair and that's final. Rodney's going on a stretcher; if need be, we'll transfer him to the chair when we get to the entrance of the lab. The three of you will have to take it from there." Beckett's tone left no room for argument, but John wasn't giving in easily.

"What? No, no way. I can walk. Besides, with a full medical team and all the junk you guys will bring, the jumper will be too crowded for a wheelchair." He nearly winced, his argument sounding lame even to his own ears.

Carson stopped, placing his hands on his hips. "This is not open to debate, son. We don't have time to argue the state of your health right now, so either ye get in the chair and ride or the whole thing is off. Your call."

Deep down, John knew the doctor was right. Heck, he'd even thought as much himself when he was considering contingency plans in the event of Woolsey's refusal to approve the mission. Still, he couldn't quite bring himself to give in gracefully and glowered at the Scot as he threw back the covers and climbed into the chair. He was still pouting even after Rodney had been wheeled out ahead of him.

"We got him, Doc," announced Ronon, already in position behind John. Teyla reached over and unlocked the wheel closest to her while Ronon did the same on his side.

Beckett ignored the angry look John directed his way and went on like nothing had happened. "Very well then, I'll go on ahead and make certain everything is ready. The three of ye shouldn't have any trouble making it to the jumper bay, provided ye don't take any detours along the way--especially to the armory. Besides, I have it on very good authority that Major Lorne already has that blaster of yours on the second jumper, so you'd be wasting valuable time on a fool's errand." With a solemn nod to all of them, Carson hurried off to complete his task.

Once the doctor had disappeared from sight, John was determined to put his own plan into action. "All right, it's time to move. Let's start by getting..."

"We're already on it," said Ronon, moving toward the curtain. "I'm taking point and Teyla's gonna push, bringing up the rear. Ready?"

"Just hold up there a minute, chief. First things first. And first is you guys getting me out of this stupid chair. Teyla can go after you and I'll bring up the rear." John was already shifting in the seat, preparing to slide out and take off under his own steam--until Ronon and Teyla stopped him.

"Nope, sorry, Doc says you ride; that means you ride. So be quiet, because we're moving out now." Ronon raised his hand and gestured toward the door as he set off.

John felt the chair begin to move and twisted around enough to shoot off a glare at the female member of the group. She smile ruefully, but didn't stop. "I am sorry," she whispered. "But Ronon is correct. Doctor Beckett was very firm in his insistence that you ride to the jumper bay. You will have your opportunity to shine once we reach the lab. Please John, we are all depending you."

Fuming, he rode in silence. She was right, they were depending on him. But instead of that making him feel better, it only served to make things worse, and he hadn't thought that was possible. They were all right and he knew it, a fact which only caused his mood to darken further. John was so deep in his thoughts that he was surprised to find the chair abruptly screeching to a halt and doing a 180 before being backing up the ramp and into the small craft.

"Well, I see ye made it all right." Carson's unmistakable brogue drifted back from the front of the ship, growing stronger and louder as he spoke. Before John knew what was happening, the Scot was standing in front of him locking the wheelchair in place. "There now, that should do to keep ye safe until we arrive."

"I'm not..."

"...a baby. Yes, Colonel, I got that the first time. But ye are awfully weak, as much as ye don't want to admit it, and I want ye to use the chair right up to the point where ye enter the lab--longer if possible." Beckett patted him on the shoulder, but John was having none of it and shrugged him off.

"I can get back in once we get there," he insisted.

"Son, we don't have time to argue about this! Rodney's heart has stopped once already--don't worry we got him back in normal sinus rhythm quick enough...this time. The longer we delay, the weaker he gets--the weaker all of you get. And the weaker you all are, the worse the odds of this being successful. Now stay in the bloody chair and let's be off, shall we?"

Stunned by the news, John simply nodded. Hunkering down into the chair, he watched the rear hatch close and waited for the ship to move. Movement along one of the benches near the front of the craft drew his eye to the stretcher bearing Rodney's still form. Medical personnel hovered over the small figure, checking the various tubes and portable monitors connected to the boy. John shuddered, thinking about what Carson had said, how close his friend had come to dying already. Fear bubbled up within him, warring with determination and concern, all of it complicated by the ever-present headache and overwhelming exhaustion he was still feeling. He leaned his head back and tried to block it all out, at least for the duration of the short ride.

The next thing he knew, Carson was hovering in front of his chair with a worried look on his face. "Oh thank God," said the Scot. "I was afraid we weren't going to be able to get ye back for bit there."

John shook his head in a vain effort to fend off the fatigue that still threatened to pull him back under. His heart, already racing, sped up even more when he saw the empty bench where Rodney's stretcher had been. His eyes went wide as he fought to keep his emotions in check. "What happened? Where's Rodney?" he demanded.

"Easy there, lad," coaxed the doctor. "He's fine. He's outside with Teyla and Ronon; some of my best staff are seeing to him. It's you that gave us quite the scare this time. Ye drifted off during the trip through the gate and we weren't able to wake ye once we arrived. I had to resort to giving ye that shot of stimulant we discussed earlier, which is why you might be feeling a wee bit jittery about now."

"Oh." John sat back in the chair, not knowing quite what else to say. Lifting a shaky hand to rub his forehead, the reality of the situation hit him. "I don't have much time left, do I?" he asked, dropping his hand and looking up Carson.

He watched the conflicting emotions flash across Beckett's face. "Nothing is certain, mind ye, but...no, I'm fairly certain your time is very, very limited. After comparing your scans to Rodney's, it appears that the strain on your system from using the chair has greatly accelerated the effects of the de-aging process in ye."

John looked down, picking the fuzz balls off the blanket covering his legs as the enormity of it all hit home. He took a deep breath, turning to Carson with an open and vulnerable expression. "That's what I thought. I...I can tell. So I guess we should get to the lab and get started. B-before...before it's too late." He paused a moment, considering how to proceed, and extended his hand. "I just want to...to...um, thank you," he said. "For all of it. Especially for not lying to me--us. To us."

Carson reached out and took the boy's hand, a stunned look on his face. Tears formed in the doctor's eyes, but didn't fall. "It's been my pleasure, lad. My very, very great pleasure." Carson's voice was thick with emotion as he reached up and gently patted John on the shoulder. "Well, I suppose it's time then," said Beckett, ending the moment before it turned awkward. He stood and unlocked the wheels to John's chair, pushing him down the ramp.

Carson and the medics helped them into the complex and to the top of the stairwell leading down to the entrance of the lab, but they didn't dare go any further. Ronon and Teyla descended first, each with one of Rodney's arms over their shoulder and an arm around his waist to carry him. John watched them for a moment before pulling away from the medics supporting him and starting down himself. He used the wall for support, leaning heavily against it as he slowly descended the stairs.

By the time he reached the bottom, his legs were feeling more and more like they were made of rubber. His entire body felt weak and shaky, but at the same time, it felt like there was an electric current dancing along every one of his nerve endings. Pausing to rest in the doorway, he braced himself against the jamb and looked up to find the group of adults still standing there, watching him. With a grim smile, he raised his hand in a weak attempt to wave, locking eyes with Carson in particular. John thought for a moment that Beckett might ignore Woolsey's orders and go inside with them anyway, but a burly marine whose name escaped him grabbed the doctor's sleeve and held on tight. One final nod later, John pushed away from the support of the doorway and staggered inside after his team.

Ronon and Teyla wasted no time in depositing Rodney against a dormant console and getting to work. Ronon had a backpack with the cables and other equipment while Teyla's pack carried the computer bearing the programming needed. The little guy made quick work of emptying his, tossing the cables at Teyla and making a beeline for John.

The two boys locked eyes, each staring at the other. John expected to see pity in his friend's eyes, but what he found was sheer determination and concern. Stunned by the depth of the emotions, he had to look away. Ronon responded by stepping over and sliding under John's arm, guiding it over his shoulder and slipping his own arm around John's waist. He waited patiently for a cue from John, allowing him to dictate the next move. Not a word was exchanged between them; John simply nodded and took a shaky step forward, allowing the younger boy to assist him to the main control console without further hesitation.

Once they reached their destination, John showed his gratitude by slapping Ronon's shoulder. Ronon nodded, hesitating for a moment before turning and throwing his arms around John's midsection for a hug. John swallowed hard, awkwardly patting Ronon on the back. To his relief, Ronon let go and headed straight for Teyla. "Need help?"

She smiled up at him, shaking her head. "No, I believe I have everything connected now. All that is left to do is to take the computer over to John and allow him to begin the process. John?"

He nodded. "I'm ready. Bring it over here, please," he instructed.

Teyla did as he asked, helping him to get it situated the way he wanted. She had already powered the unit up, so all John had to do was call up the program and set it to run once the interface was engaged. Once that was done, he checked the screen of the computer one final time and stepped up to the Ancient console, which immediately lit up at his touch. He nodded at her, gesturing to Rodney and Ronon. "Okay, that should do it. You'd better stay over there with the others. Just in case."

He waited for her to reach them and took a deep breath. "Okay. Everyone ready? Here goes nothing." He took another deep breath and deliberately placed his hand on the alien device, closing his eyes as he concentrated on initiating the reversal process. He cracked a smile as a low hum began to build, accompanied by a faint vibration beneath his hands.

Suddenly, the hum died and the console went dark. "No! This has to work. It has to!" He fought down his rising panic and fear of failure, dropping to the floor and crawling over to the spot on the base where the cables were connected.

"Perhaps I did not attach them correctly," offered Teyla. "Or maybe they came loose when I moved the computer."

"Yeah, yeah, that's probably it," said John. His heart was pounding harder with each passing moment as he checked over the connections. Sure enough, one had come loose and he quickly tightened it. "Found it. You're right, one came loose." After double and triple checking the others, then doing the same to the troublesome cable, he smiled over at the others. "Okay, that should do it. Let's try it again."

It took more effort than he would ever admit to pull himself upright again, but sheer stubborn determination won out and soon he was standing in front of the control unit again. After what he hoped was a reassuring nod to his team, he again placed his hand in the designated spot and initialized the unit. As before, the low hum began and he again felt the vibration as the power increased. This time there were no snafus and the hum grew louder, the vibration more pronounced.

Moments later, the pitch changed and the hum became a whine. Light filled the room, growing louder as the noise increased in both pitch and volume. John held onto the console for dear life, guiding it as best he could through the reversal. Sparks began to pop from nearby units, but he ignored them, focusing only on fixing himself and his team. Wisps of white smoke wafted around him, the pops and sparks now flying from the main console as well.

The light grew brighter, almost blinding. He heard Teyla and Ronon shouting his name, but he couldn't spare the time or energy to reassure them. It was working, he told himself; he could tell. Nerve endings all throughout his body began to tingle, progressing to a feeling akin to that of fire ants crawling over every inch of him. He concentrated harder, even as he felt his strength leeching out of him and into the unit. Just a moment longer, he told himself. They were almost there.

The shorting of electrical circuits grew more frequent as well as more pronounced, the pops growing louder as showers of sparks erupted all around them. The pitch of the whining noise increased to ear-splitting levels and the intensity of the light grew to beyond brilliant white, but still John refused to give up. It was happening, they were changing--or at least he was. Every cell in his body felt like it was on fire as skin and muscle stretched and morphed into new shapes as they raced to keep up with enlarging bones. He wanted to curl into a ball from the agony, but he forced himself to remain upright and concentrate on finishing the job.

A loud bang near the floor signaled the demise of the Earth computer, followed almost immediately by an even larger boom from within the main control unit. John suddenly found himself flying across the room in a hail storm of broken circuits and crystal shards. He hit the wall hard, sliding bonelessly to the floor amid a heap of debris. "Please, please, let it have been enough," he whispered. It was his last thought before the darkness claimed him.

~A~


Radek Zelenka paused at the door of Richard Woolsey's office, watching as the head of Atlantis shuffled through a stack of papers. He plucked one from the pile and began to read, only to moments later set it aside. Resting his elbows on the desk, he buried his head in his hands, rubbing his face tiredly. He took a deep breath and picked up the paper, again attempting to read.

Knocking tentatively, Radek waited for an invitation to enter. Richard appeared startled by the intrusion, but quickly waved him inside. "Doctor Zelenka. What can I do for you?"

"I thought you would wish to know that we have managed to bring the internal sensors back online again," he answered, walking up to the large desk.

"That's good news. Thank you for the report." Woolsey hesitated a moment before continuing. "Please don't take this the wrong way--I do appreciate the update, but you look exhausted. I am aware of all the hours you've been putting in while Doctor McKay has been...incapacitated. Surely this could have waited until after you've rested?"

Radek shrugged. "There is still much to do. I will rest...later." He threw a quick glance over his shoulder at the dormant stargate. "Has there been any word yet?"

Richard smiled ruefully, but Radek hid his irritation over the gesture and awaited an answer. "No, I'm afraid nothing yet. It's hard, isn't it? The waiting," he clarified.

"Yes," agreed the Czech. "Especially when you..." He shook his head, already regretting his choice of words and chose a different reply. "Well, for some more than others, I think."

"You have no reason to feel guilty, Doctor. You did everything you could to help. Why don't you get some rest now? I'll call you the moment we have any word."

Radek wanted to slap the patronizing smile from the administrator's face, but settled for clenching his fists at his sides. "I will rest later, thank you. I have several diagnostics running that will require my attention shortly."

Woolsey's eyes narrowed. "I can make it an order if I have to, you know. This expedition will need you in top form if...if Doctor McKay remains incapacitated for any length of time. Please, do us both a favor and get some sleep--for all of our sakes."

Smiling ruefully, Zelenka shook his head. "Emotions cannot be ordered, Mr. Woolsey, no matter how hard you try. You can order me to my quarters to lie down, yes, but you cannot make me sleep--or forget."

Richard looked totally perplexed. "Radek, what in heaven's name are you feeling guilty about? You did everything humanly possible to make certain that the program would work in conjunction with the interface that the colonel located. We all did our best."

"Did I? Did any of us?" Radek again shook his head. "No. No, I think not. There is only one of us who was able to look beyond their appearances and see the adults that they have always been. You yourself said that they had all of the instincts and abilities of their adult selves, and yet, not once did any one of us attempt to actively involve them in the process of finding the solution. Instead, we treated them as they appeared--as children who were not to be trusted with important task."

Richard opened his mouth as if to refute him, but Radek held up a hand to signal he was not yet finished. "No, Mr. Woolsey, I did not do all I could have. Nor did you or Major Lorne or anyone other than Carson Beckett. If I had worked with Rodney instead of shutting him out of the process, he may well not have fallen into the coma so rapidly. Perhaps together we would have discovered the interface ourselves and Colonel Sheppard would not have jeopardized himself using the chair as he did--as we forced him to. So if...if the worst happens, to any or all of them, I will have to live with the consequences of my actions for the rest of my life. As will each and every person that aided in the deception regarding their condition."

"Are you accusing me of incompetence in handling this matter?" Richard's hackles were definitely up, his tone growing colder with each word.

Radek shook his head. "No! Of course not, not at all. I am sorry, I did not intend for it to sound like accusation. I was merely stating my feelings, nothing more. As I said, each of us will have to reconcile our own conscience if and when the time comes. Please, my apologies for any offense."

Richard sat back in his chair, sighing heavily. "No, Radek, don't apologize. I'm the one who should be expressing my remorse here. Sometimes it's easier to avoid the mirror when you know deep down that the reflection will be anything but flattering to you. What I'm trying to say is that you're right. Aside from Doctor Beckett, we did all fail them. He tried many times to make us...to make me see them for what they are--or rather for what they were, before the accident. I suppose all we can do now is pray that everything works and that they are able to cheat the Grim Reaper at least one more time."

"Well if anyone can," said Radek, shrugging. "But now I must go and see to those diagnostics I spoke of earlier. It does help somewhat to keep busy. You will let me know when there is word?"

"Of course," agreed Richard.

Radek was halfway to the door when the stargate activated. A worried glance back to the administrator found the man already out of his chair and all but running for the control room. He waited for Woolsey to precede him, but quickly followed to the console manned by Chuck. "It's Major Lorne," the technician informed them.

Fighting the urge to rip the receiver from the man's ear and demand information, Zelenka stood back and listened. Chuck's attention was focused wholly on the incoming transmission. He said nothing for what seemed like ages to Radek, at last nodding as he replied. "I'll tell them, sir. We'll expect you directly."

The gate disengaged and Chuck turned to Richard to report. "Doctor Beckett is requesting that Doctor Keller have a surgical team prepped and waiting for them; she's already been notified. He said to tell you that the reversal procedure seems to have worked and they are all alive, but unconscious. He says it's too early to tell with any of them."

"Did he give a reason for requesting the surgical team?" demanded Woolsey, taking the words right out of Radek's mouth.

Chuck's expression was grim. "There was an explosion. Colonel Sheppard took the worst of it and is in pretty bad shape. He didn't provide any further details, only that they'll need to get him straight into surgery upon their return. They're still working on stabilizing him now, but expect to be on their way momentarily."

"Very well. I want to be informed immediately of any delays." Richard turned and headed back to his office, leaving Radek with the technician.

He stood there, unsure of what to do next; then he turned and began to jog in the direction of the jumper bay. "If anyone needs me I will be in jumper bay," he called over his shoulder. When Chuck acknowledged him, Radek waved over his shoulder, never once looking back.


~A~


Part 06

(no subject)

Date: 2009-03-11 12:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] d_odyssey.livejournal.com
Ack! Part 6, Part 6 - I need it now!!! Another excellent chapter. Great job of showing the unspoken love and bond of the team. I love how much Ronon loves his blaster and that John knows how far he will go and just how to handle him. Likewise, Ronon can get John up, give him strength, support, trust and a brotherly bond. Teyla is wonderful here as the psychologist, the voice of reason, care, strength and discipline. She knows how to handle the boys. Great intensity as the team is determined to be in charge of their own fate. Really enjoyed the introspective of Radek and then Woolsey as they looked back over the past few days and realized their mistakes. Very exciting chapter - lots of angst and action. Can't wait for the final chapter.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-03-11 04:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] katstale.livejournal.com
Thanks so much! It is so gratifying to know that you're enjoying reading and that everything seems to be coming across as I intended. :D

(no subject)

Date: 2009-03-11 12:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] titan5.livejournal.com
Loved Ronon realizing it was John controlling the lights and John's very serious discussion with Ronon over the blaster. I also loved John's determination and stubbornness. But what I really loved was Radek's very astute assessment of the situation and how they had treated the team. Go Radek! As to that horrid cliffhanger - is it tomorrow yet?

(no subject)

Date: 2009-03-11 04:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] katstale.livejournal.com
Thank you! It was kind of fun to sit back and watch them being them even though most of the time they didn't know *why* they knew what they knew. :)

The Radek and Woolsey scene was a bit of a late addition, but I can't imagine the story without it now that it's finished. I'm very pleased to hear it worked for you. :)

Um...not quite tomorrow yet, no. Soon though. Very soon!

(no subject)

Date: 2009-03-11 01:40 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] linziday.livejournal.com
More! *looks around frantically for part 6* Ack!

:)

I loved Radek's words to Woolsey-- There is only one of us who was able to look beyond their appearances and see the adults that they have always been. You yourself said that they had all of the instincts and abilities of their adult selves, and yet, not once did any one of us attempt to actively involve them in the process of finding the solution. Instead, we treated them as they appeared--as children who were not to be trusted with important task."


And this part made me want to cry: Carson reached out and took the boy's hand, a stunned look on his face. Tears formed in the doctor's eyes, but didn't fall. "It's been my pleasure, lad. My very, very great pleasure." Carson's voice was thick with emotion as he reached up and gently patted John on the shoulder. "Well, I suppose it's time then," said Beckett, ending the moment before it turned awkward. He stood and unlocked the wheels to John's chair, pushing him down the ramp.


*sniff*

(no subject)

Date: 2009-03-11 05:00 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] katstale.livejournal.com
I'll try to get part 6 up a little early tomorrow, as well. :)

I have to confess, I teared up pretty much while writing that particular exchange between John & Carson also. I don't do that often, but boy did I ever do it there!

I'm so happy to know that you're enjoying this so much! :D

(no subject)

Date: 2009-03-11 02:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] padawan-aneiki.livejournal.com
OH MAN! I have to wait til TOMORROW????? Again...fabulous job of keeping them in character despite being pint-sized. and I LOVED Ronon gettin' an arm around John and helping him walk to the console. and the part Linzi mentions with Carson...*SNIFF!*

(no subject)

Date: 2009-03-11 05:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] katstale.livejournal.com
But it's just a few more hours...*uses whiny-kid voice*

Thank you SO much! I am so thrilled y'all are enjoying reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. :D

(no subject)

Date: 2009-03-11 05:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] reen212000.livejournal.com
As you may know, I'm not a fan of the kid!fic. But OMG! This is outstanding! Part 6 now! Please?

(no subject)

Date: 2009-03-11 09:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] katstale.livejournal.com
*blushes* Wow, thank you so much! This means a lot to me, as I had hoped that this would appeal even to those who are not normally fans of the genre. Your comments have let me know I have succeeded, at least in some small measure, and I can't thank you enough for that. :D

Part 6 is now up, and so I am off in search of that margarita to celebrate the occasion! (Or at least I will be as soon as I'm done at the chiro's office, lol. :D) Enjoy!!

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