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Chapter 7: Tears You Cannot Hide

As soon as the rescue team arrived at the location of the collapsed room, Dr. Johnson's group immediately began shoring up weakened beams and started excavating through the rubble. As they dug, they handed off wall panel shards and ceiling tile fragments to the line of team members standing behind them. Luckily the debris covering the doorway was not as deep as they first feared, and they made excellent progress tunneling their way into the room. The engineers had just broken through the wreckage that blocked the entrance to the collapsed room when Dr. Beckett's radio headset suddenly came to life. Keying his mike, the doctor heard Elizabeth's frantic call.

"Carson, John just stopped breathing, and he has no pulse. Oh God! Where are you? Please hurry!" Her voice took on a pounding rhythm in time to each chest compression as she continued CPR.

"Hold on, lass. We're at the doorway now. We are coming through right away!" The Scotsman exchanged a quick, horrified look with McKay. "Rodney, Major Sheppard is in cardiac arrest. I've got to get in there now!"

Beckett pushed the engineers out of the way and poked through the opening before turning to collect the portable defibrillator from the medical technician behind him.

"Hurry, laddie. Grab the drug box and come with me. We've haven't time to be wasting."

The doctor squeezed the rest of the way through with the medic in quick pursuit. Stepping over the rubble strewn across the floor, he spotted Elizabeth in the far corner performing CPR on the major's still form. Rushing as fast as he could over the scattered debris field, he knelt over Sheppard and quickly hooked him up to the heart monitor. The med tech simultaneously charged the defibrillator before handing the paddles to the doctor. Elizabeth moved out of the way as the medical team took over, watching the proceedings with apprehension.


Beckett applied the paddles to Sheppard's chest and hit the button. The major's body arched up as the jolt of electricity coursed through it. The doctor glanced at the flat line still lighting its way across the heart monitor's display.

"Recharge to 400!" The Scotsman mentally counted the seconds as the machine came back up to full power with an insistent whine. Again, he positioned the paddles on the soldier's still chest.


For a second time, the major's body stiffened momentarily as the paddles activated with a dull thud before it relaxed limply back against the floor. This time, however, the doctor's efforts were rewarded with a slow, but steady blip on the monitor to indicate the return of a sinus rhythm.

Exhaling noticeably in relief, the doctor announced. "Okay, I've got a pulse. It's weak and thready, but there."

Turning his attention to the major's labored gasps for breath, Beckett inserted an esophageal airway to ease the stress on Sheppard's injured lungs and bagged him to assist the major's breathing. Handing off the task of manning the ambubag to a member of his staff, the doctor started an IV along with a transfusion line to begin replacing the blood Sheppard had lost.

While the medical team had been working to resuscitate the major, the rest of the rescue team busied themselves with enlarging the hole they had dug in order to fit the rest of the equipment through the shattered doorway. McKay and Ford had worked their way into the room and joined Elizabeth in quietly watching the doctor work over their friend. Crouching on either side of the kneeling woman, they exchanged troubled glances over the worrisome turn of events. Elizabeth did not even acknowledge their presence as she kept her eyes locked on Sheppard's recumbent and pale form, her face a stoic mask that did little to hide her true emotions from those who knew her best. As the medics worked feverishly trying to stabilize the major for the long trip back, the three teammates stayed together and offered each other silent support as they prayed the medical team would pull off a miracle and save Major Sheppard's life.

Once Beckett succeeded in restarting the major's heart and getting his patient breathing once again, he set about treating his other injuries as best he could under the less than ideal conditions. After re-bandaging his wounds, the doctor turned his attention to the leg stilled pinned under the fallen beam. The offending piece of metal would have to be lifted in order to extricate the injured man before they could get him back to the infirmary. Carson looked up from his inspection of the major's leg and called for help.

"Okay, get me the portable hydraulic jack. We need to get this beam off Major Sheppard's leg so we can get him out of here."

Taking the requested tool from one of the engineers, McKay came over with Ford in tow, both eager to finally lend some assistance in the rescue attempt. The two men positioned the jack under the beam and slowly began to raise the heavy metal support until they had enough clearance to slide the leg out from under it. As the scientist and the lieutenant pried the beam up, Becket and his staff carefully pulled the major out. Once the leg was free, the medical team was able to assess clean breaks of both the tibia and fibula. They quickly splinted the leg to immobilize it, secured him to a portable backboard to stabilize any possible spinal injuries, and lifted the unconscious man onto the waiting gurney.

"Aye, that's it then. Let's get the major to the infirmary on the double!" Beckett urged as they maneuvered the injured man and assortment of monitors over the rubble and through the entranceway to the hall beyond. With McKay and Ford hanging by Elizabeth to offer support should she need it, the group began their long journey back.

The engineering team and military team headed by Sergeant Bates stayed behind to make some temporary repairs to the area and further survey the damage while the trauma team rushed to get the major back to proper medical facilities. Followed by McKay, Ford, and Weir, the medical staff continued to monitor Sheppard's vital signs as they pushed the gurney and wheeled carts holding the medical equipment along as fast as their legs could carry them. They stopped only when necessary to inject various medications into the IV line and to replace the ambubag with a portable respirator. The major remained comatose during transport and therefore was unaware of the frenzied, determined activity around him. But somehow, he managed to cling weakly to life as his teammates worked to save him.

As they finally reached the medical bay, Beckett's team moved like a well-oiled machine as they worked over their critically injured patient. Presiding over his staff, the doctor ordered MRI and CAT scans along with X-rays of the major's leg, ribs, and spine. They continued to pump drugs, fluids and replacement blood into his system to fight the effects of shock and bolster his vital signs prior to surgery. Sheppard's blood pressure continued to drop and his heart rate grew erratic despite their efforts to stabilize him. They could not risk waiting any longer to get him into surgery. They needed to stop the internal hemorrhaging, and they needed to stop it now.

As Beckett left to follow the major as he was rushed into surgery, the shell-shocked trio of Ford, McKay, and Weir stood together for several long minutes in numbed silence.

It was Lieutenant Ford who spoke first. "Someone should go get Teyla. She would want to be here. She would want to know what happened."

"Hmmm?...Yes, yes of course. Sergeant Markham should be available to fly a jumper over to the mainland." McKay answered when it appeared the still-dazed Weir was too lost in thought to respond.

"I should be the one to tell her. She should hear it from a member of our team. I will go find Markham. I shouldn't be gone long. Let me know if...if anything happens." Ford met McKay's glance as he prepared to head out the door.

"Yes, Lieutenant. The quicker you can get her, the better in case...well...in case." Rodney cleared his throat. "I will keep you informed of any updates on the major's condition so go on and get Teyla."

After Ford had departed at a quick jog, the astrophysicist turned back to Weir and accessed her emotional and physical state with a critical and probing look. She seemed to have aged a dozen years within only a few short hours.

"Elizabeth, are you all right?" McKay asked his friend and colleague, concerned by her frozen, blank expression, pale skin, and red-rimmed eyes.

"No, I am NOT all right. I am far from being all right. I just watched John die in my arms not too long ago. How do you think I am doing after that?" Elizabeth cut short her sudden outburst to rub her eyes with shaking hands.

McKay watched her with a mixture of concern for her emotional state and fear for the major's physical state mirrored in his blue eyes. He may have had the tendency to ignore most subtle social cues, but he was not totally blind. He had seen the relationship between the expedition head and her second-in-command spark practically from the day they met and slowly, but surely, grow over time. It also did not surprise him that the two people in question chose to hide their true feelings from each other. McKay knew each of them well enough to understand that they both put duty before personal desires, preferring to deny the steadfast bond developing between them.

"I'm sorry, Rodney. You did not deserve that. It's just been a very difficult day. He was in such pain, and there was nothing I could do for him. I had to sit there and watch his condition steadily decline for two hours. I felt so helpless." Weir stood rubbing her arms as if suddenly chilled.

Elizabeth took a deep breath to try to calm her nerves and regain control of her emotions. She was their leader. She had to remain strong. She could not break down. Not yet. Not in front of her staff. There would be time for that later when she could be alone.

The normally loquacious scientist for once was at a loss for words. He did not know what to say to ease her distress. He was as worried as she was about the major. The only thing that would make them feel better would be for Carson to come back through the doors to the surgical suite and tell them John was going to be fine. They just would not accept any other news than good news. They wouldn't. They couldn't.

For now, McKay simply held Elizabeth's hand, silently offering a measure of comfort as they sat down and waited. Weir turned to the astrophysicist sitting just as grief-stricken next to her and nodded in appreciation as she gripped his hand tighter.

As the pair began their long vigil, McKay spoke softly while looking intently at the operating room doors.

"I should have never let him go retrieve that laptop. It is not worth a man's life. It is especially not worth John's life."

"Rodney, you had no way of knowing this was going to happen. No one did." Weir said tiredly.

"I could have found Kavanaugh to get his survey data when the major called and told me he noticed storm damage. I could have told him to stay away from the area until I confirmed it was safe. But I was too busy to bother. I was careless, and my negligence endangered Sheppard's life. I may as well have pointed a gun at him and fired." McKay muttered miserably.

"And I ignored his warning and foolishly put myself in harm's way. My stubbornness caused him to be under that bulkhead when it gave way. John was injured saving me. So who is more at fault? Answer me that, Rodney. Tell me why it had to be John." Elizabeth shot back.

"Because he puts all of us above himself, that's why. Because he looks out for his friends. He looks out for us all. I should have gone instead. I am supposed to watch his back as much as he watches mine. But where was I? Where? I was in my lab eating a Power Bar. That's where." McKay said in anger.

"Rodney, trying to assign blame is not going to help matters. Carson is right. No one is to blame." Weir shook her head. "Arguing about it is not going to help John."

Their conversation was interrupted when a nurse came up to Elizabeth and handed her a set of scrubs. "Dr. Weir, why don't you go take a shower and change out of those dirty clothes? You'll feel better if you do. Once you're done, we'll check you over and clean up those abrasions. A couple of the lacerations look like they may need stitches."

"I'm fine. I really think I should stay here in case Carson comes back with news about the major." Elizabeth informed her. "Dr. Weir, the major will be in surgery for quite a while. If Dr. Beckett has any updates, I will come find you. Please go so I can do my job and get you taken care of. You don't want to defy Dr. Beckett's orders, now do you? He can be quite prickly when his patients don't listen to him." The nurse held her arm, urged her to stand and prodded her in the direction of the medical bay showers.

Elizabeth turned back to McKay before she numbly let herself be led off. "Rodney? Will you wait here until I get back in case Carson returns?" She asked.

"Go on, Elizabeth. I will stay here and hold down the fort until you get back. I am not going to move from this spot. I promise. Go on. Go. Go. Go."

McKay waved his hands at her as he nodded. As soon as she walked away with the nurse, he sighed deeply, bent forward in his chair, rested his elbows on his knees, and buried his face in his hands.

The nurse showed Elizabeth the way to the showers, gave her some toiletries and towels to carry along with the scrubs. She told Weir to meet her back in the triage area when she was through. Thanking her, Elizabeth went into one of changing rooms before entering an empty shower stall. Turning the spigot on full blast, she angled the shower head so it pelted her neck and shoulders with a steady spray of hot water that eased some of the tension from her stiff, aching muscles. She slowly sank to the shower floor, sitting with her back against the smooth tile. As the shower rained down forcefully upon her, she finally let her defenses down and dropped the tight control on her emotions. Now that she was alone, she gave in to the heartache and despair as her anguished sobs filled the confined space. As she sat there crying, the steaming jet of water mingled with the hot flood of tears flowing down her face and washed the salty tang of them away.

The twenty or so minutes that Elizabeth was gone felt like an eternity to Rodney McKay. Never a patient man, the repeated stretches of waiting following intervals of anxiety and fear were beginning to take their toll on his already tense nerves. Not able to sit any longer, he got up and began pacing back and forth in restless agitation.

"If you do that long enough, you'll wear a path in the floor."

Rodney was momentarily startled out of his reverie by the quiet voice behind him. Spinning around, he saw Elizabeth had returned. Freshly showered and dressed in a pair of scrubs, she looked even more pale, the bruises more noticeable now that the dirt had been cleaned away.

"Sorry, nervous habit." He gestured towards the chairs. "I find it hard to just sit and wait. Patience isn't a virtue I have in great abundance."

She allowed herself a small smile. "No? I would have never guessed." Glancing at the operating room doors, she asked. "Any word yet?"

"No. But I am more than willing to go with the assumption that no news is good news in this case."

Just then, the nurse who previously suggested that Weir take a shower returned to follow up on her promise to treat her minor wounds.

"Oh, Dr. Weir! Good, I see you're done with your shower. Why don't you come with me, and I'll get those lacerations looked at and give you a complete check up. From the looks of you, you could also probably use a bite to eat."

As Weir stood up to go be treated, McKay offered to run down to the mess hall to get her a tray of food.

"Elizabeth, while you are in with the nurse, why don't I go get you something to eat from the mess hall and bring it back here. I am willing to bet you haven't eaten all day. Take it from someone who knows, you don't want to fool with low blood sugar. We wouldn't want you passing out on us, now, would we?" The scientist was actually relieved to have an excuse to stretch his legs and have something useful to do to distract his mind from worrying.

"Thank you, Rodney. I would appreciate that." The truth be told, Elizabeth had absolutely no appetite, but was too tired to argue that fact with either the nurse or Dr. McKay.

"Great! I will be back in no time at all. You just go get fixed up, and I will have a hearty meal served up when you are done." McKay replied as she nodded in thanks as she followed the nurse to the treatment area.

McKay was halfway to the mess hall when he ran into Dr. Zelenka returning from the northeast pier where the Czech scientist had stayed to assist the engineering team in their assessment of the structural damage in that area. Lost in thought, the astrophysicist did not notice the item Zelenka carried.

"Oh Rodney, I was just heading down to the infirmary to find you! How is Major Sheppard doing?" Zelenka asked. The Czech not only liked the major, but admired his optimistic and humorous attitude under adverse circumstances. The ranking military officer reminded Radek of many of his fellow Czechs who grew up under harsh political conditions, yet remained cheerful regardless of their lot in life.

"He's still in surgery. There's been no word yet from Carson, but we expect he'll be in there for awhile yet. I was just going to get Dr. Weir something to eat." McKay explained.

"Do not worry, Rodney. The major is young and healthy. A strong-willed fighter, yes? And Dr. Beckett is very skilled. We must believe the major will pull through this." Zelenka stated emphatically.

"Yes, he'll be fine. Nothing can keep Sheppard down for long, right?" McKay was still trying to convince himself that was the case.

"I also wanted to give you this. We recovered it from the wreckage after you left with the major. I thought you would still need it." Zelenka held up the object he was carrying. Handing the battered and scarred laptop to the astrophysicist, the Czech quietly commented. "Such a small thing to have caused such a big problem, yes?"

McKay wordlessly took the computer from Zelenka and watched in silence as the Czech walked down the hall on his way back to the science department. As soon as Zelenka disappeared from sight, McKay looked for several seconds at the scuffed laptop case, then rubbed his eyes quickly before he reversed direction and detoured back to his lab.

It only took him a few minutes to reach his lab. Entering his domain, McKay crossed the room and placed the laptop on one of the workstation countertops. Pausing before he turned to leave, he opened the battered computer's cover. Amazingly, the laptop lit up and activated. Staring at the laptop for a few seconds, McKay stood contemplating the glowing view screen as he tried to ignore the lump forming in his throat. Reacting to the repressed emotion, he abruptly slammed the lid down, then scooped up the computer and forcefully threw it against the wall. As it smashed to the floor, he spun on his heel and headed back out the door.

He strode down the corridor in frustration, having vented only part of his anger and guilt. By the time he reached the mess hall, he appeared outwardly in control, but inside he was a churning maelstrom of rage, fear, and remorse. Trying to calm himself, he picked up a cafeteria tray and headed to the food service counter. He was selecting some silverware when another person bumped into his arm. Looking up, he came face to face with Dr. Kavanaugh. The other scientist simply acknowledged his colleague with a brief nod and a single word.


Fuming, Rodney tugged on Kavanaugh's arm until the other man turned back around with an impatient sneer.

"What can I do for you, Rodney?" Kavanaugh feigned interest.

In his anger, McKay waved a fork at the pony-tailed chemist. "Kavanaugh, do you realize the trouble your little oversight caused? Do you? DO YOU?" The astrophysicist demanded.

"Oh, are you still ranting about my leaving your stupid laptop behind? I told you I will get it for you tomorrow." Kavanaugh rolled his eyes with a look of disgust.

"You arrogant, self-centered, sniveling little twit! Don't tell me you have no idea what has been going on around here today. Don't tell me you are that stupid. Have you been hiding in a vacuum or did you gate off the city for the last several hours? Just where the hell have you been, Kavanaugh, while the rest of us were trying to save our friends?" McKay was ready to throttle the bastard.

"McKay, what are you talking about?"

"I am talking about what happened when Major Sheppard and Dr. Weir went to the northeast pier to recover the laptop you left behind. I am talking about the storm damage you so conveniently neglected to report. I am talking about the room collapsing on top of them because of said damage. I am talking about the major barely being resuscitated after going into cardiac arrest due to his injuries. I am talking about my FRIEND who even now is fighting for his life in the operating room while you blithely go about your business. THAT is what I am talking about." McKay practically spit as he raged at his colleague.

Kavanaugh looked stunned at the news before he stammered a reply. "I am sorry. But since I did not cause the damage to the room nor did I cause the walls to fall down around them, I cannot see how you can hold me responsible. I admit I forgot the laptop, but any survey data is in the report I just filed. I saw no indication the damage was severe enough to cause a collapse. I saw only a broken window and some evidence of previous flooding. Nothing more. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have work to do."

"Do you ever think about anyone other than yourself, Kavanaugh? Do you even feel a smidgeon of concern for the major's health in that miniscule, hard heart of yours?" McKay asked.

"What do you take me for, McKay? Of course I am concerned. I hope the major recovers like everyone else presumably does. With the threat of a Wraith invasion over our heads, we cannot afford to lose any more of our military grunts. After all, they are only here to ensure the safety of the scientific members of this expedition. They came to Atlantis knowing they are expendable." Kavanaugh haughtily replied.

For McKay, that was the final straw. Slamming the fork down on the counter, he let loose with all his pent-up anger. He wasn't even aware of punching Kavanaugh until he felt his fist make contact with the other scientist's jaw. The long-haired scientist was knocked backward onto the floor as a result of the rage-fueled force behind the blow coupled with the added element of surprise. As he sat in shock rubbing his throbbing jaw, McKay hissed at him in distaste.

"You conceited, heartless son-of-a-bitch. I find it repugnant to have to consider you a part of this expedition. Major Sheppard, that so-called 'expendable military grunt', is worth 100--no, make that 10,000 of you. And the really sad thing is, Kavanaugh, the truly incomprehensible thing is that John wouldn't see it that way. Nope, he would agree with you that it is his job to protect you. In a dangerous situation, he would put his life on the line to save your sorry, cold, worthless little ass. And he wouldn't even expect any thanks for it. Because he is a far, far better man and human being than you could ever hope to be. You just ponder that fact in that supposedly superior brain of yours and pray to whatever deity you may believe in that the major survives." Shaking his head in total disgust, McKay picked his tray back up and headed off to finish getting Elizabeth's meal, leaving Kavanaugh still sitting stunned and embarrassed on the cafeteria floor.

By the time McKay returned to the infirmary, Ford had already arrived with a worried Teyla accompanying him. The Athosian woman had been shocked by the news of what had transpired in her absence and was sick at heart that she had not been with her teammates to help in the rescue of their CO. Rodney walked in to find her sitting next to Elizabeth speaking in soft tones while holding the leader's hand. As McKay placed the tray of food down on a bedside table, Teyla stood up and came over to him.

"Dr. McKay! I am glad you are back. It is best if we all wait together for news of the major."

"I take it he is not out of surgery yet?" McKay asked the group.

"No, and I am getting concerned that it is taking so long. What could be happening in there?" Elizabeth answered, voicing the thought shared by all four of them.

"Dr. Weir, you should stay optimistic. The major had a lot of injuries Dr. Beckett has to repair. It is going to take time. As long as he is in there, at least we know he is still alive." Ford offered.

"I know, Lieutenant. But, it doesn't make the wait any easier to bear. I just want to know that John will be fine. I just want to see him open his eyes and talk to us again." Elizabeth softly sighed.

"Aiden is right, Dr. Weir. Major Sheppard is going to be fine. He would not give up that easily. He is too stubborn a warrior." Teyla said in encouragement as she sat back down next to Elizabeth.

"Elizabeth, I brought you some food. Why don't you try to eat something?" Rodney pointed to the tray on the table.

"I will in a little while, Rodney. I just am not too hungry right now. But thank you for getting it." She looked up at the astrophysicist and noticed his bruised and bleeding knuckles. "What happened to your hand?"

Too enraged earlier to acknowledge the sting of the scraped skin, McKay was a bit surprised to find the injury on the hand that had connected with Kavanaugh's jaw. Shaking the still smarting appendage, he replied.

"Oh, that? It's nothing really. I just found out the hard way that certain chemists don't have much give to their pointy chinny chin chins." McKay shrugged off the minor wound.

"What?" Weir asked confused?

"Maybe you should have a medic look at it?" Teyla suggested.

"It's a long story. Believe me, it can wait. It's fine. I will put a band-aid on it later." McKay answered.

He sat down next to his three friends and together, they continued to wait, and hope, and pray. The next few hours passed with excruciating slowness as the group held vigil. Both Ford and McKay were beginning to dose off while Teyla focused on the far wall. Weir pulled her legs up on the chair, wrapped her arms around them and rested her head against her knees. As she sat with her eyes closed, her mind replayed John's last words to her over and over again.

The sudden sound of the operating room doors opening caught the awaiting team members by surprise. They looked up to see a somber and weary Dr. Carson Beckett come out of the surgical suite. Removing his surgical cap, he paused at the doorway as he sighed tiredly and ran his fingers through his mussed hair. Still wearing the soiled and bloody surgical scrubs, he slowly made his way towards them.

As they all stood up to hear what Beckett had to report, Elizabeth felt her heart leap into her throat. Her eyes searched the doctor's for some sign that all was well before asking him quietly.

"Carson? How is John?"


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