katstales: (John-sleepy w/scrubs)
[personal profile] katstales
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.

This would be the part with Ronon's wee bit of 'colorful' language. I tried to get him to let me change it, but he was stubborn and insisted that I leave it as is. So if you're offended by what he says, the blame lies solely with him. *wink-wink*

Part 6



John found himself floating along in a haze of awareness. The sensation was vaguely familiar to him, but he didn't seem to have the energy to ponder it further, content to simply drift along without a care in the world. The tranquility of his haven didn't last though, with a persistent buzzing invading his little oasis of nothingness. 'Damn bugs,' he thought. 'I hate bugs.'

"See! See! I told you he's waking up--one of you better call in the VooDoo twins. And what was that about bugs anyway?"

"You want them, you call them. Oh yeah, that's right. You can't. Beckett threatened to restrain you for the duration if you called again and what was it Keller said? Something about your..."

"Hey! That's enough already--there's a woman present here for God's sake," hissed Rodney.

"So? It's not like she doesn't know what a..."

"Will you stop that! Hasn't anyone ever told you that you don't say *those* words in mixed company? Seriously, I'd have thought Sheppard would have trained his favorite pet Wookie better."


So not insects, he realized. Voices. Very, very familiar voices, one of which was goading the other in what he had to admit was a very amusing discussion. But one was missing...where was Teyla? 'Another minute,' he thought, 'then I'll ask them.'

"...penis is," finished Ronon, his tone smug. "Or that you have one. You do have one, right?"

"Well, of course I...will you stop that? For the love of...Sheppard, wake up and-and *DO* something about your pet ape here!"

"I will go find Carson and Jennifer," said Teyla.
Ah, there she was. He could see the eye roll as clearly as if he had his eyes open and was watching the whole exchange. She had sounded as much weary and troubled as exasperated though, and that concerned him. Chair legs scraped along the floor as it was scooted away, signaling her exit. He listened to her soft footsteps fade away and wondered again if she was all right.

A sudden noise from next to his bed sent John's heart rate into overdrive. He knew that noise. The chittering continued unabated, causing him to wonder why the devil Ronon wasn't doing something about an Iratus bug in the vicinity. If the big guy was all right the whine of the blaster would have been heard immediately, certainly by now. He had to get out of here, to get them all out of here and away from the cursed thing. He tried to move, to open his eyes, raise his hand, his arm--hell, even his finger would be a good start--but not a muscle in his body obeyed his command to move.

The noise stopped as suddenly as it had begun, and almost immediately a hand lightly touched his shoulder. "John? John, you're okay now. You're in the infirmary and you're okay. Well, not okay-okay but eventually-gonna-be-okay-okay. So just, you know, relax and wait for Beckett and Keller. I'm sure Teyla will have them here any minute now. John?"

At last, his eyes obeyed his brain's command to open. He nearly screamed at the sight of Rodney McKay's face slowly coming into focus, hovering barely inches from his own. "Rodney," he said, his voice weak and raspy. "Why 'r y' in m'face?"

McKay did scream, jumping back as quickly as if he'd been stung. "What are you doing, trying to give me a heart attack on top of everything else?" He recovered immediately, shock quickly giving way to excitement. "But hey--you're awake! That's good--awake is...well, it's good. Ha! I told them you...er, well, never mind. It's not important--what's important is that you're finally conscious and back among the living!"

John caught a flash of white out of the corner of his eye and turned, finding a grinning Ronon standing there with cup in hand. "Ice?" John nodded, almost immediately regretting the action as the room tilted and spun for a moment. Surprisingly gentle, the big guy spooned a few chips into John's mouth.

He closed his eyes a moment, savoring the blessedly cool wetness as it spread over his tongue and down his throat. "More?" asked John. Ronon repeated the procedure, carefully allowing the ice to slip off the end of the spoon into his mouth. As with the first mouthful, he savored every drop. "Thanks," he said, signaling that he was finished for the time being.

Ronon replaced the cup on the nearby table and then patted John's shoulder. "Good to have you back, buddy."

"Thanks." John looked from one of them to the other, trying to remember what events let up to him being here--again. Coming up empty, he finally settled on McKay. "What happened?"

Before either of them could answer, Teyla returned with both Carson and Jennifer in tow. The Athosian was beaming as she stepped up next to the bed. "John, it is so good to see you are with us again."

Jennifer followed, a huge smile on her face. "Welcome back, Colonel. You gave us quite the scare there for awhile." Patting his arm, she looked up to the rest of his team. "If you can give us a moment, I'd like to do a quick wound check while the Colonel is awake. It won't take long, I promise."

Rodney immediately went pale and backed away. "Oh, okay. Well, I'll just, um, you know, wait over there. Way...over there." Gesturing to a far corner, he turned and made a beeline away from John's bed.

"I will make certain he does not stray far," said Teyla. She leaned down to gently touch her forehead to John's, still smiling as she pulled away. "We will return as soon as Doctor Keller allows it." She seemed reluctant to go, but at last turned and hurried to catch up with their errant scientist.

It was obvious by the look on her face that the doctor assumed the last remaining member of the team would follow suit. When he made no move to do so, John smirked, knowing what was coming next. "Ronon? If you could wait outside for a moment?" Jennifer smiled at the Satedan expectantly, waiting for him to leave.

Ronon, however, remained firmly planted next to John's bed, his arms crossed. "I'm good," he announced. "I won't get in your way or faint or nothing."

"I'm sure you won't," said Jennifer, amused. "But all the same..."

"S-stay." John didn't mind his presence, and besides, he wanted some answers--sooner rather than later; he knew that if no one else was forthcoming, Ronon would tell it like it was.

"O-o-o-oka-a-a-y. All right, if that's what you want, he can stay. BUT," she said, tossing a mask to the Satedan, "he'll need to put this on first." While Ronon did as requested, Jennifer donned a pair of gloves and prepared to do the exam.

As she was pulling back the blanket covering him, John suddenly coughed, igniting a firestorm of pain in his midsection. He did his best to ride it out, but it seemed to take ages for the pain to subside even a little. Once he was more or less in control again, he turned watery eyes to Keller. "What was that?" he demanded.

"That, Colonel, was what happens when you cough after having major surgery. I wouldn't have thought you'd have forgotten so soon." As she spoke, she checked his stomach, each poke and prod causing him to hiss with discomfort. "Well it doesn't look like you've torn any stitches. I'll have Amy get you a pillow for next time--I'm sure you remember the drill; it's only been a few weeks." She grabbed the chart from the end of the bed and began to look through it, watching him with concern out of the corner of her eye. "It's a little early, but I think we can give you a little something more for the pain. How bad is it on a scale of one to ten?"

"Five? Maybe six, tops." He waited for her to tell Amy what medication she wanted and as soon as she finished, he demanded answers. "I thought you guys fixed everything last time. What gives?"

Frowning, she studied his face as she answered. "We did fix everything last time. But someone up there somewhere seems to have a vendetta against your insides, Colonel. What's the last thing you remember?"

John reached up with a shaky hand to rub his face as he tried to recall. "I don't know, I guess gearing up for the mission. Lorne and his team finished first and headed for the gate room..." He frowned, thinking hard about the arrival, and looked up at Ronon, confused. "Why did we take Lorne's team anyway? Baker was supposed to go with us."

"Baker's team was late coming back from the trading mission, remember? It was either take Lorne's team or delay the mission." Ronon shot a worried look to the two doctors hovering on the other side of the bed.

"Oh. I don't remember that." John rubbed his forehead again, the pain increasing the more he tried to remember.

"It's okay, you had a pretty bad knock on the head there; some memory loss is to be expected. What else do you remember about the mission?" she prodded.

John tried to recall any other detail, but came up totally empty no matter how hard he tried. Finally, he gave up and shot Keller an apologetic look. "Sorry, Doc, but that's it. I remember gearing up and giving the order to head for the gate room. Don't remember getting there or going through though."

"That's okay," she assured him. "What about before that? Do you remember what you did before gearing up for the mission?"

He thought carefully for a moment, but came up empty again. "Um, the usual? Morning run, paperwork, breakfast with the team, then gearing up...I think."

"No guessing," she ordered. But the smile on her face took the sting out of her words and told him that she wasn't upset with him. "Tell me what you really, actually remember before gearing up."

He sighed, pondering the question further. "Dinner with the team--meatloaf, which McKay inhaled--and I do mean that literally--before running off to some experiment or other that he had going. Then I did some paperwork, read for awhile, and went to bed. Then...gearing up." He frowned, realizing that something was off with that scenario. "That's not right, is it?" he asked, looking up at Ronon with a confused expression.

"Meatloaf night was three days before the mission," said Ronon, shrugging. "Sorry."

"What?" John couldn't believe his ears. He'd had concussions before, so losing bits of time was nothing new. But that was hours, never anything as significant as days before.

Before he could question it further, Keller accepted the medication she'd requested from Amy and injected it into his IV, smiling sympathetically. "It's okay, really. Nothing to worry about, I promise. We expected there to be some gaps in your more recent memory, given the combination of your head injury and the backlash from the overload in the console. Give it a little time; most of it will probably come back to you eventually."

"So will someone please tell me what happened?" he demanded. The medication was quickly taking effect, but he wasn't about to give in to sleep without knowing how he'd ended up having major surgery again so soon after being caught in the rubble from Michael's lab and then being stabbed by the baby hive tentacle. "How did I end up in here again?"

Jennifer got a deer in the headlights look and turned to Carson, who'd been strangely quiet ever since they'd arrived. "Ah, I think Doctor Beckett can probably explain it a lot better than I can, so I'll just leave you all to sort things out now." Already halfway across the room, she had to call over her shoulder in order to be heard. "I'll be in my office if you need me. Oh, and Rodney? You've got ten minutes. If you're not back in your bed after that..."

John was becoming more annoyed by the moment. "So?" he demanded, looking from Ronon to Beckett and back again. "Is someone going to tell me what happened or not?"

"Aye, well...there was an explosion in the lab on the planet, the one ye were gearing up to visit, ye see. Ye were...operating an Ancient console that was interfaced with one of the Earth computers. There was an overload of some sort--Radek can likely tell ye more specifically what happened if ye want to know. Anyhow, ye were thrown across the room from the force of the explosion and suffered a rather nasty concussion, along with internal injuries. We almost lost ye on the planet several times and Jennifer took ye straight to surgery once we got back to Atlantis." Even in his drugged state, John could tell that there was something decidedly off about the doctor. He was about to ask what was up when Ronon decided to chime in.

"You fixed us all though. Everybody's back to normal, good as new. Except for what happened to you in the explosion. You're back to being an adult though. We all are."

"That, my friend, is a matter of opinion," said Rodney. He and Teyla had seen Jennifer leave and took it as a cue to rejoin the two men already standing by John's bed. "You're back to your usual caveman size physically, but the mental progression seems to have stopped at age twelve...oh, wait, never mind. That is normal for you. So yes, I suppose everyone is back to their normal adult selves."

John's head was swimming and he decided that he definitely wasn't hearing things right. Confused, he looked at each of them, finally settling on Carson for answers. "What?"

Beckett looked down to the floor. "The lab was constructed to explore methods to help achieve ascension."

John groaned, leaning further back into his pillow. "I'm not going to like this, am I?"

Finally, the ghost of a smile appeared on the doctor's face. "Probably not. Shall I continue?"

"Yeah, might as well have all the gory details." John made a face, but signaled for Carson to go on with the story.

It was Rodney who again butted in to take up the explanation though. "As Carson was saying, the complex was intended to experiment with and explore the means to ascension. This particular experiment was intended to take the prospective candidate to a, well, a simpler time in their life, as it were. They had hoped that by returning to a more...childlike state that it would be easier for the candidate to 'release their burden' and ascend."

John buried his head in his hands, ignoring the pain caused by the movement. "Please tell me this isn't going where I think it's going," he pleaded.

"Well, if where you think this is going is a pint-sized you running amok and generally causing havoc and mayhem all over the city, then sorry, no can do." Rodney rocked on his heels, a smug look on his face. "Though there is one positive aspect. Anyone who previously believed that that hair of yours is an artificial look achieved solely through the use of massive amounts of hair gel? Well, they've now seen the light and have been converted."

Teyla took mercy on him and continued the story, deliberately snubbing her scientist teammate. "We departed on schedule, leaving Major Lorne and his team to guard the gate. Mr. Woolsey had insisted we be accompanied by a backup team because of the recent cullings in that section of the galaxy. The major attempted to report back that there had been a problem and that we would be returning directly, but the machine that caused the regression process produced an electromagnetic field which interfered with the transmission. He also requested a medical team to be standing by, though unfortunately not all of the information made it through."

Carson again took up the tale. "We had no way of knowing precisely what had happened, ye see, so Mr. Woolsey... Well, I'm afraid he may have overreacted a wee bit. He ordered full hazmat gear, so when the major's team showed up with three wee lads and a wee lass in tow, well, things got...complicated."

"We freaked," said John, knowing with dead certainty that he was right--and what was coming next. "I take it our memories were affected then?"

Carson nodded. "Aye. Ye each retained your instinctive knowledge and abilities, but most of your adult memories were lost to ye."

"So we went back to reverse the process. That's when the explosion occurred?"

"Aye, well, eventually. It took a bit to figure out how to reverse the process."

John's eyes narrowed. "How long?"

Beckett's eyes went wide as he realized what he'd said. "Oh, well, not that long, really. I can promise ye that everyone worked as quickly as humanly possible to resolve the situation."

"How. Long?" His patience was wearing thin, a combination of his injuries and the effort of fighting the drowsiness from the medication.

"A couple of days," answered Carson reluctantly.

Rodney snorted. "Oh please, last time I checked, a couple meant two. I was in the coma for longer than that, for Pete's sake."

"Rodney," complained Carson. "You're not helping here."

Glaring at the two, John turned his attention to Ronon, raising an eyebrow in silent question. The Satedan didn't let him down. "Five days from the start of the mission until we went back to get fixed, another four since then.

John was floored by the answer. "So you're telling me I've lost almost two weeks?"

"Pretty much," agreed the Satedan.

"Perhaps it would be best if we leave John to rest for awhile now. We have given him a lot to take in already; we do not wish to over-tire him, after all." Teyla tried to smile reassuringly, but John could tell she was worried. So while on one hand John was irritated at having the explanation cut short, he was also touched by her concern and couldn't bring himself to hold it against her.

"Teyla's right," agreed Carson. "Ye need your rest. We'll be here when ye wake up to answer any further questions ye might have. So stop fighting and let yourself sleep for awhile."

He wanted to argue, but knew he'd reached his limit of endurance. Still, that didn't mean he had to concede gracefully. "Fine. But I want answers as soon as I wake up." The sternness of the warning was ruined by a jaw-popping yawn, but to his relief, all four of his visitors nodded and said their goodbyes.

As he was about to drift off, Teyla's distant voice stopped him cold. "Carson, are you certain that he is going to be all right? It is most unlike John to not notice that Rodney was wearing scrubs and inquire as to the nature of his injuries. He did not even react to Rodney's mention of being in a coma."

Rodney had also been injured? And what was that about a coma? How the heck had he missed all that? John tried to pull himself out of the drug-haze that was tugging him toward sleep, but all he could manage was a faint groan. Were Ronon and Teyla both all right? He hadn't noticed anything amiss with them, but then he hadn't noticed Rodney's scrubs either. Teyla had only mentioned Rodney being injured though, so that was a good sign, he told himself. Still, he had to know before he could allow himself to rest, so John fought even harder against the darkness that was trying so very hard to overtake him.

"Easy there, John. Ye need to stop fighting it and allow yourself to rest. Your body's been through a significant trauma and needs time to heal--and a lot of sleep."

John stubbornly managed to pry his eyes open, squinting up at Carson, who had suddenly reappeared at his bedside. "R'ney?" he asked, badly slurring the name.

Beckett sighed. "So ye overheard Teyla, did ye? Well, ye can relax; Rodney's well on the mend now and should be out of here in a few days time--provided he behaves himself. And before ye ask, Ronon and Teyla are both fine as well. They were both affected significantly less by the entire ordeal. There then, now we've got all that out of the way, I highly recommend ye give in and allow yourself the rest ye need if ye ever want to be well enough to join them."

Though he really wanted to question the doctor further, John found he was unable to keep his eyes open any longer and reluctantly allowed himself to succumb to the lure of drug-induced sleep.

~A~



When John next awoke, the crowd around his bed was much sparser. Teyla was absent, as was Rodney. Ronon, however, was sitting in a chair next to his bed, his legs crossed and his feet propped up on the mattress. The Satedan appeared to be dozing, his chin resting comfortably on his chest and his arms also crossed. John was about to call out to him when a sudden tickle in his throat caused him to cough.

Ronon was instantly on his feet and hovering over him. "Easy."

He concentrated on controlling his breathing and riding out the pain. "'M okay," he said at last, relaxing back into the pillows. "'M okay."

"You want me to get Keller or Beckett?"

Glaring, he quickly put an end to that idea. "No, I do not want you to get anyone. Just...sit back down while I try to remember what we did that landed me in here this time." John rubbed his forehead, trying his best to ignore the pain while he concentrated on remembering. Vague flashes of disjointed images and conversations drifted through his mind, but he couldn't make sense of any of them. "I...got nothing. Well, nothing aside from one of the craziest dreams I can ever remember having."

"Yeah?"

John nodded, careful to avoid moving too quickly and setting the room to spinning out of control. "Oh yeah. I dreamed that you guys told me the we activated some wacky Ancient device and all got turned into kids on our last mission--and that I ended up in here because I nearly got fried by another one of the Ancients' toys changing us back."

One look at the mischievous grin on Ronon's face and John got a sinking feeling in the pit of stomach. "Crap. It wasn't a dream, was it?"

Ronon shook his head. "Sorry, buddy. It's all true. You still don't remember any of it?"

"No, I don't. Not sure if that's a bad thing or not yet. Did we really...how was it Rodney put it? 'Cause chaos and mayhem all over the city' while we were...affected?"

The Satedan's grin grew even larger, which John didn't find reassuring in the least. "We escaped from the gate room right away when we saw the hazmat gear. McKay rigged the internal sensors and they couldn't find us until you went to get Beckett. McKay got sick. Otherwise they'd never have caught us. You and me set up booby traps and stuff all over the place."

John couldn't help but groan. "I am so dead when I get out of here. I'll be lucky if I see the outside of my office at all for the next ten years--at least." Feeling slightly sick over the prospect, he nonetheless encouraged Ronon to continue. "Give it to me straight. All of it. What else did we do that I should be regretting?"

Still grinning, Ronon resumed his former position in the chair, tilting it back on the rear legs and propping his feet back on the mattress. He was obviously enjoying reliving the memories, judging by the gleam in his eyes. "Well, there was the canon ball things off the pier. You made us tie rope around our waist so if anything happened to one of us the other two could pull them up. Oh, and we also used the nets from the jumper for a ladder to climb back up."

Against his better judgment, a smile crept across John's features. "Cool. Sounds harmless enough, especially since we took precautions. I'm surprised Beckett okayed it though."

Ronon's grin turned sheepish. "He, ah, didn't, not exactly. In fact he was pretty pissed when he found out."

The smile disappeared. "So Beckett and Woolsey. Anyone else I'm gonna have to kiss up to big time over this?"

"No. Well, maybe. Zelenka was pretty ticked off when we lined up a couple of jumpers and used 'em to slide down. Marched us all to Woolsey's office and everything. He was mad enough he was leaving words out when he talked and rambling on in Czech the whole way."

"Great. Anyone else?" he asked, his frustration growing.

"Not really. We stunned a few people while we were on the run. And Lorne. We gave him and his guys the slip a couple of times when he was supposed to be watching us. Woolsey was pretty pissed about that and ripped him a new one. And then there were the guys on the security team I stunned while you were doing your thing in the chair. That's about it."

"Okay, add Lorne to the list then, but you can make your own stun-related apologies, big guy. Hey, wait a minute, what was that about the chair?"

"We snuck in one night because you said we needed some interface thing to make McKay's program work. Said you couldn't explain how you knew but you were sure it was there."

"What program?" John's frustration at being unable to remember even the most basic of details about things he'd apparently said and done was rapidly mounting. "Why didn't Rodney do it himself?"

"He was unconscious. In a coma, they said. He finished the program, but it needed that interface thing to work. The scientists said it wouldn't work and wouldn't help, so you had to do it without them."

"So Rodney told us where to find it and we did the grunt work. Figures."

Ronon shook his head. "Nah, he finished the program, but that was as far as he got. Without the interface it was useless--you agreed with the scientists on that."

John's head was spinning now, not from the medication or his injury but the sheer magnitude of what was being said. "Well, that doesn't make any sense. I barely understand a tenth of what they're talking about--no way would I have a clue if one his programs needed anything more, let alone where to look for it. You sure you got that right?"

"I'm not the one in the one in the bed who almost got his brain fried. You asked, I told you." Ronon was definitely not looking happy about John questioning the accuracy of his facts.

"Sorry, I wasn't...I didn't mean to...I'm just trying to make some sense of everything, that's all." He scrunched his eyes tight, trying to alleviate the growing headache. "Sorry."

"You should rest some more. McKay's asleep now, but he'll probably wake up and start pestering you for answers any time now."

"I don't have any answers," complained John. "Believe me, I wish I did."

"He's going nuts trying to figure out how you knew where to find that interface thing. Said it was in some kinda abandoned graveyard, whatever that means."

John sighed wearily. "What it means is that he's not going to give me a moment's peace until he gets an answer, which I don't have and therefore can't give him. So basically, it means I'm pretty much totally screwed."

"You could always get Beckett to drug him again. Or you." Ronon was far too amused for John's liking, but he didn't really have the energy to put him in his place at the moment.

"Don't tempt me," he answered, his eyes already closing.

It felt like only moments had passed when he next opened them, but to his surprise Ronon was nowhere in sight and Rodney had taken his place in the chair next to John's bed. He thought about feigning sleep to avoid the conversation he really didn't feel like having but knew was inevitable. He frowned, realizing that the scientist wasn't pecking away on his computer as usual. Doing a quick visual scan of the immediate area, he was even more surprised to find that there wasn't a laptop or data pad in sight. And what was McKay doing in scrubs and a bathrobe instead of a uniform anyway? "Hi, Rodney. You all right?"

"So. Decided to grace us all with your consciousness again at long last have you?" His tone was clipped and his arms were folded petulantly across his chest--neither a good sign if past experience was any indication.

"I...guess I'll have to take your word for that. How long have I been out anyway?" John shifted in the bed, immediately wishing he hadn't as nerve endings awoke to remind him of each and every one of his injuries.

"Are you...I mean, do you want me to get Carson or Jennifer in here?" The scientist's huff thawed, at least a little, and there was genuine concern in his voice.

"Nah, just...gimme a minute," said John through clenched teeth. It took a few moments, but he managed to ride out the pain, sagging back into the mattress once it had mostly subsided.

Rodney seemed to relax as John's pain eased. "At least it wasn't a nuke this time. I suppose that's progress, in a rather warped and twisted sort of way. Though honestly, you really have to work on this need of yours to blow yourself up every other week--it's almost as scary as that thing with ascended women you have going."

John bristled at the implications. "I was not trying to blow myself up, Rodney. I was trying to save your--our--lives, in case you've forgotten."

"So you remember now?" Rodney leaned forward in the chair, an eager gleam in his eyes. "That's great! Well? Go ahead--spill it. Tell me how in the name of all that is Ancient you knew where to find that interface." He sat back in the chair, practically beaming as he awaited John's answer.

Sighing, John pinched the bridge of his nose. "I can't. Sorry, but I still don't remember a thing."

"But you just said..."

"I know what I just said, Rodney--I'm not an idiot."

Rodney raised both eyebrows so high they nearly reached his hairline. "No? Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but blowing one's self up is not exactly a sign of keen intelligence."

"I did not intentionally blow myself up and you know it!"

"Oh, do I? And how would you know what your intentions were if you can't remember anything? Hmm?"

"McKay," said John, grounding out the name through clenched teeth. "I am not having this conversation with you."

"Fine. Then let's have this one instead. I have a theory about your amazing feat of finding the proverbial needle in a haystack--in other words, finding the one teeny, tiny little section of code we needed by navigating your way through an utterly massive database." Rodney settled back in the chair, a smug look returning to his features.

"I already told you, I can't remember how I found it or how I knew where to look."

"Yes, well, before we left to go back and initiate the reversal, you apparently told The Caveman that it felt like there was an actual physical presence in there with you. Furthermore, you told him that said presence knew what you were thinking before you could even ask it. It also showed you not only where to find the code, but how to download it to the computer--or so you said. Sound familiar at all, Lieutenant Colonel Kirk?"

Between the drugs in his system and the ever-present headache, John wasn't in the mood for Star Trek jokes, especially ones at his expense. "Rodney, what the hell are you talking about?"

Rolling his eyes, Rodney couldn't resist baiting him just that little bit more. "I'm beginning to believe you really can't help it. Maybe. Though what ascended women seem to find so utterly fascinating and attractive about a messy-haired flyboy, I have no idea. But then one can't argue with fact, and the fact is, my friend, that it has happened far too often to be mere coincidence. First Chaya, then that woman from the cloister...what was her name again?" He waved, dismissing the name as trivial and plowed on. "No matter really, the important part is that she fell for you just like Chaya. So that begs the question--who exactly was it in there helping you?"

John stared at him, not quite believing what he was hearing. When he didn't answer, Rodney tried prodding him. "So. Any thoughts? Chaya's probably not a viable candidate, but maybe that other woman, Teer was it? Or who knows, maybe someone you haven't actually even met yet. I mean, who knows how many of them have been floating around here, watching and lusting after you--another trophy for the case, eh?"

At first he had no idea how to respond to such wild allegations, but then he found an explanation which finally made sense to him. "We're not actually having this conversation, are we? I'm dreaming the whole thing. Or is it just the drugs? Or both, maybe. Yeah, both works. Definitely both."

"Oh, ha ha, very funny. Come on, it makes perfect sense and you know it. The city is not a sentient being! There is no way it could sense what you're thinking or know where to guide you to find that code without very specific parameters, none of which you would have been able to provide. Not that you don't have a fairly impressive grasp on certain areas of science, I suppose--for a flyboy. No, you definitely had to have had outside help, and if it wasn't Zelenka, then it had to be someone a whole lot smarter than, well, anyone who's not me. And who else besides an ascended being could get inside the city's mainframe like that?"

John didn't answer him, content to lay there and stare up at the ceiling. "Well?" demanded Rodney. "What do you have to say to that?"

"Nothing," said John matter-of-factly, his gaze never wavering. "I'm just going to lay here and wait for this dream or hallucination or whatever it is to finally be over." Convinced that the whole thing was a figment of his apparently very-overactive imagination, he was content to simply float along in the haze of the apparently really good drugs they were giving him.

Rodney snorted. "Oh, please. Are you really going to tell me that out of all of the infinite possibilities available to the human mind, you would pick me to appear in your dreams or hallucinations over a totally hot woman? Not that I'm not flattered, mind you, but seriously...I'm beginning to worry about you. There is apparently a very distinct lack of hot women in your dreams, my friend. I mean, really, you can't possibly believe you'd be dreaming about me. Because, come on, just how often do you do that? No, wait, never mind, I do not want to know the answer to that."

John ignored his last statement and answered anyway. "No, I do not make a habit of dreaming about you--but apparently I'm making an exception this time. Probably because for some reason, I feel the need to torture myself, though I have no idea why that is."

"Oh, for the love of...you are not dreaming. I'm real. As real as you are, although apparently nowhere near as high." He snapped his fingers, pointing toward Keller's office. "I should have Jennifer run another scan on you. Apparently there is some serious brain damage that they missed on the last one."

"No. You're not. Not real, that is," insisted John, still refusing to look at the scientist.

"I am so! Now knock it off already, will you?"

John was not at all convinced. "Nope, not real. If you were real, you'd be in normal clothes instead of scrubs and a ratty bathrobe. But the dead giveaway is the complete lack of a computer anywhere in sight. Because you would never be without one if you were conscious and stuck in the infirmary."

Rodney didn't answer him, prompting John to finally sneak a glance over. To his surprise, the scientist was pouting. "Rodney?" John drew out the name, goading him to answer.

"They took it away from me, all right? There, are you happy now?" snapped McKay. "So can we just stop all this dream/hallucination nonsense already?"

"Aye, that we did. And apparently ye aren't very interested in getting it back or ye would have stayed in bed like ye were told."

Rodney jumped at the sudden appearance of Carson behind him, prompting John to make a noise that sounded even to his own ears suspiciously like an honest-to-God giggle. McKay frowned, immediately turning to the doctor. "What have you got him on anyway? Because he's acting even stranger than normal--even for him. Seriously, I think you ought to scan his brain again. Apparently you missed some pretty significant damage the last time."

Carson did not look amused. "I'll give ye to the count of three to head back to your own bed, Rodney. Then I'm calling Jennifer--and don't think she wasn't serious about those restraints," he warned. "Besides, the colonel should be resting, not arguing with likes of you."

"Fine," huffed the scientist. "I'm going." He stood, looking down at John with concern. "I'll be over there if you feel up to talking later. So, um, hurry up and get better, okay?" Before Sheppard could answer, he whirled and stomped off to the other side of the curtain.

John frowned, suddenly not all certain if he was dreaming or if it had all been real. "Did Keller really...?"

"Oh, aye," answered Carson. "The bloody fool refuses to stay put and rest. He could have been out of here a lot sooner if he'd just stay in bed and do as he's told. Truth be told, I'm not altogether certain he really wants to get out just yet. Ye gave him quite the scare this time, ye know."

So. Maybe not a dream then. He should probably find out for certain, he decided. "You mean I'm really not dreaming all this?"

Chuckling, Beckett shook his head. "No, I'm afraid not."

"Huh. That's...really kind of disturbing," said John. "Wow, that must have been one heck of a concussion. Never had one this bad before. At least, not that I remember." His frown deepened.

Carson's expression became more serious. "It was a fairly significant blow, yes, but we believe that the primary cause of the memory loss is the overload of the Ancient device. Ye took quite a bit of backlash before it blew, from what we've been able to determine. It's a bit like being struck by lightning, I'm afraid. There's really no way to tell what or how much--if any--of your short-term memory will return."

"Oh." John wasn't going to dwell on the prognosis, especially when it finally sank in that Rodney had apparently suffered some sort of significant injury himself. He thought he should probably already know the how and why, but for the life of him he couldn't find the answer. "What's Rodney in here for anyway? Did he get caught in the explosion, too?"

Carson appeared startled for a moment by the question, but answered him without hesitation. "I'll not lie to ye, John. It was a very close thing for Rodney, getting the process reversed in time. He was well into the early stages of multiple organ failure by the time we arrived at the lab. He's coming along quite nicely now, mind ye. But as close to the end as he was, compounded by the stress on his body of the reversal itself, well, it takes the body awhile to recover, no matter how fit one might have been to start with--and Rodney's not exactly the poster boy for physical fitness, ye know."

"I heard that," came the snippy reply from the next bed. "I am right here, you know."

Carson opened his mouth to reply, but John beat him to the punch. "Yes, Rodney, we know. And I'm sure you'll keep reminding us, so it's not likely we're going to ever forget it."

McKay snorted. "Oh really? Because last time I checked, you were the one with the hole in your memory big enough to fly a hive ship through. I'd ask if I was wrong, but this is me we're talking about so, you know, never wrong," he said smugly.

John's eyebrow rose while Beckett appeared barely able to contain his laughter. "Rodney?"

"What?"

"I think you may have a few memory issues of your own. I'm only missing the past two weeks."

"Yeah, so?"

"Does the word 'Geldar' ring any bells?"

A long silence filled the air, followed by a somewhat softer and subdued reply. "Oh. Right. That was not totally my fault though, you know. If you hadn't..."

"All right, that's enough now--both of you." Carson's stern look told John that the doctor definitely meant business and he wisely let it drop.

Rodney, however, didn't have the benefit of the visual and plowed right on ahead. "Oh come on, he started it. I was simply attempting to point out..."

Beckett peeked around the curtain and there was no doubt in John's mind that he was turning his patented death-glare on the scientist. "And I'm finishing it, Rodney. Now shut it--or would you prefer I call Jennifer in and tell her how you're harassing her barely-off-the-critical-list surgical patient?"

"I...am going to take a nap now." Rodney had started to argue, but apparently thought better of it. The silence didn't last though, and Carson had barely returned to John's beside when Rodney piped up again. "John?"

"Yeah?"

"I just wanted to say...good night. And thanks. For, you know, what you did and all."

"You're welcome, Rodney. Even though I really can't remember what exactly I did to save you this time."

"What are you talking about?"

"I thought you were thanking me for saving your life. Again, I might add. Not that I'm counting or anything," said John.

"What? No! Why would I be thanking you for something you don't even remember? I was referring to the not dying on us thing."

"Oh. Well, you're welcome for that, too."

Rodney mumbled a non-answer and finally settled back into silence, allowing John to direct his full attention to Carson once more. "So, I know you probably already told me this before, but...Ronon and Teyla? They are okay, right? They made it through everything okay?"

Beckett patted his shoulder reassuringly. "In addition to your injuries, you're on some pretty strong medication there, John; no one expects ye to retain everything you're told right now. And aye, Ronon and Teyla were kept a day or so for observation, but they both came through it all with flying colors. It helped that neither of them were as bad off as you or Rodney when the reversal process was initiated. They each had a few minor injuries from the explosion, mostly scratches and abrasions, but the force of the blast was focused almost entirely in your direction; the other three were on the opposite side of the console and escaped relatively unscathed."

John relaxed at the news, suddenly feeling tremendously weary and worn out. "Not that I'm complaining at all, but why? How come it affected me and Rodney so much more than them?"

"Well, we're not entirely certain, but we think it was in part due to the ATA gene. Add in the fact that Rodney pushed himself well past the point of exhaustion to finish writing the program ye needed. Using the chair is what did you in--ye know how much operating that takes out of a normal, healthy adult; I'm certain ye can imagine how much worse it would be for a child who wasn't one hundred percent to start with," explained the doctor. "While neither Ronon or Teyla were pushed beyond their limits, make no mistake about it--they were beginning to experience the effects of the de-aging process. They wouldn't have lasted more than another few days, perhaps a week at best."

John nodded, but was interrupted before he could even begin to form a reply. "John?"

"What now, Rodney?"

"I, um, just wanted to point out that you owe me one."

John rolled his eyes, even though the scientist couldn't see him. "Yes, Rodney. Thank you for your part in saving us all. I wouldn't have been able to do it without you. There--we okay now?"

"Yes, well, that was quite nice and you're quite welcome and all, but...that's not what I meant."

"Rodney," warned John.

"I was actually referring to the fact that you blew up my computer. Well, one of them anyway. Thank God Zelenka had the sense not to send my best one with us."

"Rodney!" This time it was Carson who called the scientist's name and this time it had the desired affect.

"All right, all right. Sleeping now," he grumbled.

John looked at Carson, his eyes pleading for the right answer. "How much longer is he going to be in here?"

Beckett's answering look was far more apologetic than John wanted to see. "Another two or three days at least, I'm afraid."

John was almost able to suppress a whimper, but not quite. "Drugs," he whispered. "I need drugs. A lot of drugs."

Carson chuckled. "Oh, I'm sure there's going to be plenty of those in your near future. Try to get some rest now, will ye? I'll send Amy in with your next dose--it is time for it." With a sympathetic pat to John's arm, he turned and headed off.

John settled back, trying to do as asked and unable to keep himself from thinking what a long three days it was going to be. Unbidden, Beckett's words came back to him. "I'll not lie to ye, John. It was a very close thing for Rodney, getting the process reversed in time. He was well into the early stages of multiple organ failure by the time we arrived at the lab." He tried to picture a world without the arrogant and demanding scientist in it and found he didn't like at all what he saw. Suddenly, the next three days didn't seem nearly as daunting. Rodney was here and well on the way to being as good as new. Ronon and Teyla were already back to normal health. No, life really wasn't so bad, he thought. Besides, winding McKay up was always good for a few laughs.

Nurse Amy suddenly appeared through the curtain to administer the shot he was due. Smiling up at her while she worked, he watched silently as she injected the drug into his IV port, disposed of the used syringe, and promptly headed back off to parts unknown. Drifting off into the haze of drug-induced sleep, John had one last piece of business before succumbing. "Rodney?"

"Trying to sleep here," grumbled a drowsy-sounding McKay. "Stop trying to get me in trouble."

"Okay. I just wanted to say that I'm glad you're all right."

"Oh. Well, um, thanks. Same here. I mean, I'm glad you're okay, too. Well, obviously not okay-okay, but getting-there-okay."

"Thanks, Rodney. Night."

John was well on his way to drifting off when Rodney's voice sounded again. "John? You asleep yet?"

He purposely didn't answer, prompting McKay to try again. "John? John, are you there? Oh, this is just great! You wake me up and now I can't get back to sleep," he grumbled. "I am so going to get you for this."

'Yeah,' he thought. 'This wasn't going to be so bad at all.' With a smile on his face, John allowed sleep to overtake him.

~A~



Detailed Prompts: Rodney and/or Shep (throw in other team members if you want) as a kid on Atlantis, Rodney getting at least moderately sick or injured (panic attack, anaphylactic shock, broken leg, etc.), Shep figuring out how to save the day instead of Rodney.



Notes: First and foremost, I have to say a HUGE 'Thank you!!!' to [livejournal.com profile] linziday. Not only have you been beyond patient and understanding about all the delays, you gave me the most awesome plot bunny a writer could ever wish for to play with--you totally ROCK, my dear! This is the most fun I have ever had writing a story, EVER. (Anything this much fun should really not be legal...er, oh, wait, that's right. It's fanfic, which means it's not, is it? *grins*) Seriously though, Linzi, I can only hope and pray that you enjoy reading this even a fraction as much as I enjoyed writing it, and that you find my efforts to be worth the VERY long wait. Kid!fic isn't something I would have ever dreamt of attempting without a prompt and I feel very lucky to have been entrusted with yours. I'm just sorry that I wasn't able to manage it in a more timely manner for you. :(

Secondly: Another huge 'Thank you!!!' to [livejournal.com profile] karri_kln1671, [livejournal.com profile] padawan_aneiki, and [livejournal.com profile] theyllek for all of the encouragement and for keeping me going during the very long writing process (and especially for the latter's Google prowess when I was flailing like mad for a translation!); to [livejournal.com profile] seramercury for putting the ficathon together in the first place and for beta reading The Epic for me; and last, but very certainly not least, to [livejournal.com profile] cadencecascade and [livejournal.com profile] susnn for answering my plea and stepping in on very short notice to beta read. You called me on the weak spots and made me look for believable solutions instead of allowing me to be lazy and gloss over them--and the story is much better and much tighter for your efforts. Somehow, a simple "thank you" seems sorely inadequate. You are all truly awesome and I feel very blessed and honored to have been able to work with each and every one of you.

Thirdly: If you've managed to read all the way through to the end of the story, congratulations and know that it's much appreciated. Whether you choose to comment or not, I humbly thank you and hope you leave here with a smile on your face and the feeling that the time it took to read my not-so-little romp was time well spent. :) As for me, I'm now going to head off in search of the biggest and best margarita I can find to celebrate finally being able to write these last two little words:

The End

(no subject)

Date: 2009-03-11 10:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] padawan-aneiki.livejournal.com
AWESOME!! From start to finish. :) and I loved the way John went from three days of torture to...the three days not being so bad. ;) LOL Nicely done, m'dear. *standing ovation*

(no subject)

Date: 2009-03-12 05:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] katstale.livejournal.com
*blushes* Thank you SO much! I can't begin to tell you how much your support and encouragement helped, not to mention the graceful way you put up with all my whining and worrying over everything. *hugs* I'm just thrilled to bits that you enjoyed it. :)

(no subject)

Date: 2009-03-12 12:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] linziday.livejournal.com
*applaudes*

Yay!!!! :) Loved it. Awesome.

My favorite line this section was Rodney's: "Trying to sleep here," grumbled a drowsy-sounding McKay. "Stop trying to get me in trouble."

LOL... still sounding like a 10-year-old.

Thank you for writing the fic, for keeping me up to date on its progress, and for sticking with it so long! It turned out fabulous. Thank you. *hugs*

(no subject)

Date: 2009-03-12 05:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] katstale.livejournal.com
At the risk of repeating myself (again, lol!), I really should be the one thanking you. This is truly without a doubt the most fun I have ever had writing a story--most days I couldn't wait to see what they were going to do next, lol. *grins*

I'm so beyond thrilled that you liked it after I kept you waiting for so long. *hugs*

Oh, and yes, I do believe there will always be a bit of the 10-yr-old in each of the boys, lol.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-03-12 03:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] titan5.livejournal.com
So are you SURE they are adults now? Just kidding. That was so Rodney and John!! This was totally awesome and I loved every word!! I'm picky about kid fics, but this was really good.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-03-12 05:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] katstale.livejournal.com
LOL, well, I have no doubt there will always be a bit of the 10-yr-old in each of them (especially the boys, lol), but yes, they are back to normal. *grins*

*blushes* Thank you so much for all of your wonderful comments! I know what you mean about being picky--I've come across a number of kid!fic stories that left me really shaking my head. I am beyond pleased that you feel this is one of the good ones. :)

(no subject)

Date: 2009-03-13 08:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wildcat88.livejournal.com
I really enjoyed this. Your labors were not in vain. Good job.

"Drugs," he whispered. "I need drugs. A lot of drugs."

*snorfle* I know exactly how he feels.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-03-14 11:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] katstale.livejournal.com
Thank you so much! I had a total blast writing it, even though I also wanted to strangle the little darlings most much of the time, lol.

:D Yes, I also know exactly how he feels--especially these last few days, lol.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-03-15 04:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] karri-kln1671.livejournal.com
*claps wildly* Really fantastic story, dear kat! :D

(no subject)

Date: 2009-03-16 09:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] katstale.livejournal.com
*beams* Thank you, m'dear! So happy to hear that you enjoyed it. :D

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