Collision Course by Padawan-aneiki
Carson Beckett’s Surefire Recipe for Disaster:
Take one Lieutenant Colonel.
Separate to light duty only.
Stir in a generous cup of boredom.
Add one skateboard, one innocent bystander.
Dash of mischief to taste.
Serves two patients.
Trouble was brewing in Atlantis, the sort of trouble that would make Carson Beckett wish for a week off, or at the very least a good excuse for putting the man before him in restraints and tranquilizing him for the next several days.
John Sheppard was bored.
Carson knew it the moment he caught sight of the lanky lieutenant colonel wandering oh-so-casually into the Infirmary with that innocent expression that generally greased the wheels with Elizabeth and most people when it came to getting his way, actually, but Beckett steeled himself for it. He was not going to give into Sheppard’s offhanded wheedling to be allowed back to full duty; the colonel was just going to have to be patient until Carson was satisfied with his recovery.
“No,” Beckett said when John got close enough, even before the colonel had a chance to open his mouth. “Ye are no’ goin’ back on the duty roster until I say ye do. Until then, ye bloody well better behave yerself or I’ll keep ye off another week.”
“I feel fine, Doc,” Sheppard protested, a frown appearing on his features. “And I’m bored out of my skull; give me a break.”
“I am givin’ ye a break, lad; ye could use the rest and relaxation an’ I aim ta see ye get it.”
John sighed; he could see that arguing with Beckett was not going to get him anywhere, but he had to at least try. “Doc, do you have any idea what Elizabeth’s concept of light duty is?” he asked plaintively.
“Finishin’ up paperwork?” Carson couldn’t smother the smile that broke across his friendly features, nor the small snort of laughter at the scowl the colonel leveled at him for his effort. “Look, Colonel; ye were pretty sick for a while an’ ye gave us all a bloody bad scare. I’ll be the first ta say I’ve been vera pleased with ye’r recovery, but please do us all a favor an’ just take it easy a few more days?”
Sheppard sighed the sigh of the long-suffering. “I suppose that means no sparring with Teyla,” he groused.
“Nor with anyone else, ye cheeky bugger; ye’r meant ta be goin’ easy. What part o’ that do ye no’ understand?” Carson’s voice was serious, but his blue eyes held a hint of amusement; this was always the most difficult part of any John Sheppard recovery, no matter how serious the injury or the extent of treatment required. Once the boredom set in, there was nothing else to do but wait it out.
And try not to shoot the lad with a tranquilizer dart. Carson swore that John pestered him just to get a rise out of him, and unfortunately it usually worked.
This time, however, the rebuff was taken with a relaxed smile that should have been Carson’s first hint that trouble was coming, very nearly knocking at the door. But he was too relieved that the colonel had stopped arguing to really think about it.
“Relaxation, eh,” Sheppard said thoughtfully, and the Scot nodded.
“Aye, that would be preferable ta havin’ ye in here drivin’ me an’ my staff batty,” Carson replied, and was pleased to hear the lieutenant colonel chuckle. “Now then, off with ye an’ let me get back ta work.”
That was all John needed to hear. Grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat after his back was to the physician, he jammed his hands into his pockets and headed off into the hallways of Atlantis, an evil plan already formulating in his mind.
The first thing he needed was to stop by his quarters.
The second thing he needed was to stop by Rodney’s lab.
“Aren’t you supposed to be on bed rest or something instead of down here bugging me?”
“Good morning to you, too, Dr. McGrumpy,” Sheppard greeted him cheerfully. He settled on the stool across the table from McKay and watched as the scientist’s fingers flew lightning fast over the keyboard. It was not unlike listening to McKay run his mouth, actually. Fast, and furious, and how did he do it? “If this is your before-coffee mood, how about we do something about it?” McKay paused only long enough to stab a finger in the direction of a coffee mug. “Oh, so it’s your after-coffee mood. Totally shattered my image of you, McKay.”
“Oh, very funny, Colonel,” Rodney scoffed. “I’m right in the middle of a very delicate—”
“Want a day off?” Sheppard suggested lightly, leaning forward on the desk and flicking a wadded up piece of paper in McKay’s direction. The scientist looked up, annoyed, until the colonel’s words registered with him and an expression best described as annoyed curiosity crossed his features.
“What are you talking about? Some of us have work to do here.”
“Exactly; I just don’t happen to be one of them and Carson sent me down here to bug you.”
McKay rolled his eyes. “One of these days I’m going to make sure his quarters have no water, hot or otherwise.”
“Great.” Sheppard exhaled and flicked another paper wad at Rodney; there seemed to be an abundance of them littering the workstation around the scientist’s laptop. “So, you coming or what?”
McKay glared. “Coming where, exactly?” he asked, and straightened up, closing the laptop. He had to admit, in spite of himself, that he was curious as to what the colonel had in mind. Another piece of crumpled paper smacked him in the chest, eliciting a folding of arms and another glare. “I know why Beckett sent you down here. You’re bored. And you think I’m going to entertain you? Go bother someone less busy. Go bother Zelenka.”
“Okay, well, if you don’t want to check out a really cool lab that probably has all kinds of weird geeky Ancient stuff...”
That had McKay’s attention, and John grinned broadly, all pretense of innocence gone.
“What lab? Are you sure it’s one we haven’t looked through already?” McKay asked, and Sheppard chuckled.
“Like a kid at Christmas,” he muttered. “Yeah, I’m sure. It’s down on the South Pier, actually. I get a chance to soak up some sun, and you get to play with gadgets. How much better can it get?”
“I should finish these simulations…” Rodney hedged slightly, but John could tell he was intrigued, which was half the battle.
“I brought some sandwiches,” he said casually. “I even talked the cooks into giving me some chocolate chip cookies.” Food was, of course, the other half of the battle. McKay perked up instantly, and John stood up and leisurely stretched. “I’m sure Zelenka would like some cookies…”
“He doesn’t have any time for cookies,” Rodney waved John’s suggestion off. “He’s got too much work to do, especially if I’m going to be down poking around in the South Pier.” He stood up as well, gathering up his datapad as he did so. John’s eyebrows shot up, and Rodney huffed. “Look, if there’s Ancient technology to be explored, I’m going to need it.”
Sheppard shrugged slightly. “Fair enough,” he conceded, and preceded Rodney from the lab.
Propped up in the hallway were a sack and a skateboard. John thrust the sack at Rodney with the warning that if any of the cookies were missing by the time they reached the pier, he’d be going swimming. Before McKay could protest, John nudged the skateboard over onto its wheels with his toe, and stepped onto it.
“Wait just a minute,” McKay piped up, shifting sack and laptop to hold out a hand warningly. “Beckett say you could do that?” he demanded.
Sheppard seemed to consider it a moment before he shrugged.
“Didn’t say I couldn’t,” he reasoned, which was true enough, but he hadn’t asked either.
With that, John pushed off and rolled down the hallway, which at this time of day wasn’t heavily traveled. Rodney was forced to go along or be left in the proverbial dust, so he started off at a brisk trot to catch up. John simply glided along, without gaining much in the way of speed, but forcing Rodney to keep up. John avoided the few people they did encounter with an ease of motion that Rodney grudgingly envied.
At the end of the hallway, Sheppard hopped off and kicked up the end of the board, catching the other end with his fingertips. Thanks to the Ancient gene the transporter doors slid open and he gave McKay a grin that just made the other man grumble lightly beneath his breath.
Arriving at their destination, John again hopped on the board and led the way once again, but this time Rodney wasn’t that keen on keeping up. The rustle of paper brought the colonel around in an effortless turn with a raised eyebrow but it was only to see that Rodney was again juggling the items in his grasp from one arm to the other. Coming around Rodney’s other side, he skated on to the outer portion of the pier and the sunshine that waited there.
McKay squinted as he came out into the afternoon sun, already poised to start complaining about anything and everything, but he was surprised by the rare sight of a completely relaxed Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard. A slight lean left or right and a lazy curve was the result. The breeze ruffled the already chaotic dark hair and teased at the black tee-shirt in a way that reminded Rodney just how thin his friend had become, how sick John had been just a few weeks ago. How close they’d come to losing him.
Rodney decided that complaining about how bright it was really wasn’t worth it.
There was a small raised area along one side of this part of the pier that seemed to work as a natural ramp; Sheppard swung around, picked up a bit of speed and took the jump before McKay could really protest. Sneaker-feet kicked over the skateboard with just enough force to spin it beneath him before landing on it and curving gracefully away from both the “ramp” and McKay.
“Hungry yet?” Rodney called out, partially because he was now acutely aware of Sheppard’s stick-thinness and partially because his own stomach was grumbling. He’d set aside the laptop and was already rummaging around in the sack by the time Sheppard glided back over. “Hey,” Rodney’s face lit up as he pulled out one of the sandwiches. “How did you score a ham and cheese?” He started unwrapping the sandwich as John picked up the sack. Even with supplies coming on a regular basis now, a ham and cheese sandwich could be a rare thing as it was one of the most popular.
“Captain Hansen owed me a favor,” John canted his head slightly as he pulled out his own turkey sandwich. “And he’s seeing one of the girls on the mess hall staff.”
“Hmm,” Rodney observed as he already had a mouthful of sandwich. He chewed for a few more moments before asking, “So, Colonel Fun-in-the-Sun, where’s the lab?”
“Huh?” John responded from around a bite of turkey, which prevented him from saying anything more right away. Rodney hurriedly finished chewing and swallowed before he waved his free hand around expansively.
“Lab. Ancient stuff. South pier. Any of this sounding familiar, now?” McKay glanced around. “Where is it?”
“Oh,” John finished off the bite of sandwich, took another one and took his time before saying anything more. “I needed a good way to get you down here.” He gave McKay his most patented innocent expression. Worked on Elizabeth every time. Well. Almost every time. “The chocolate chip cookies might not’ve been enough.”
“Oh for crying out loud,” McKay groused but it didn’t keep him from eating more of the sandwich. Ham and cheese was a treasure. “It-it might have,” he said after a moment. He squinted up at Sheppard, who was still standing, from where he’d settled down on the nearest bench-like construct. “You owe me,” he declared. They ate in relative silence for a few minutes before Rodney piped up. “How long have you been doing that?”
“What?” John picked at the roll his sandwich had been made on, ate the onion piece he’d pulled off it, and frowned at Rodney.
“That,” McKay pointed at the skateboard, which John scooted back and forth beneath his foot.
“Oh. Well I got my first one for Christmas when I was nine, if you really want to know.”
“Mm…I wasn’t allowed to have one, actually,” McKay explained nonchalantly. “I was never really considered to be all that… coordinated…. when I was younger.” He rummaged in the sack for a chocolate chip cookie. “And of course there was the matter of my pending scholarship for a basic college-level calculus class…”
“How old were you?” John frowned slightly. Rodney found the cookies and drew one out.
“What? Oh, I think I was twelve and a half? Thirteen? Someplace in there. My parents weren’t thrilled with the idea of anything that could potentially interrupt my attendance. You know, broken bones, concussion…”
“You were taking calc classes at the age of twelve?” John reached into the bag next, pulling out two cartons of milk and handing one to McKay. He had to admit, Mensa-testing aside, he was impressed.
“Just a basic overview, really,” McKay answered before biting into the cookie.
“It’s not that hard,” John said; nudging the skateboard from beneath his foot to roll it over the short distance to Rodney’s feet. He grinned at the deer-in-the-headlights look that blossomed on Rodney’s features.
“Oh no. No, no, no, no, no. You are not getting me up on that thing…” he sputtered. “I’ll kill myself!”
“No, you won’t,” Sheppard reassured. “You’ve got pretty good balance, right? And it’s not like I’m gonna make you jump the ramp or something. Come on, let me show you.” John set aside his lunch, and pulled back the board with his foot. “Just center yourself on the board. When you want to turn, just lean in the direction you want to go. It doesn’t take much; you don’t want to lean too far or you’ll lose your balance.”
Sheppard pushed off now and demonstrated, taking a slow, lazy trip around the area in front of them, before ending up right in front of McKay.
“Just like that,” Rodney said doubtfully.
John grinned. “Just like that,” he echoed. “Come on, you can do this. Might even like it.”
Against his better judgment, Rodney put aside his own sandwich and hesitantly placed his right foot on the skateboard, and immediately reached out to grab John’s shoulder. The colonel lifted an eyebrow, and Rodney simply glared, which was enough for John to shrug a little.
“Here?” Rodney asked as he shifted his foot slightly, left one still firmly on the ground.
“Back just a little. You want your center of gravity over the center of the board. Good. Lean toward me a little; feel the give on the board? It doesn’t take a lot of leaning to change direction left or right.” John had to grin inwardly; leave it to Rodney McKay to make a skateboarding lesson more talking than doing. “Put your left foot behind now, and feel the board. See? Just keep yourself centered.” John stepped away, now out of Rodney’s reach.
“Relax, Rodney, you’re not even moving anywhere yet. Now just push off with your left foot, nice and easy.” John instructed, coming around and reaching for his sandwich again. “You don’t have to go far, just get a feel for it.” Rodney took a deep breath, and did as John instructed. He made it perhaps a couple of feet before the left foot hit the ground to stop himself.
“There, that’s enough,” he made to roll the board back to Sheppard, but the colonel shook his head.
“You’re doing just fine, Rodney. The first time I tried I was dragging my foot most of the time. Give it another shot,” John encouraged, and there was amusement in the hazel eyes. Rodney was again struck with how relaxed John seemed; and he would have been right.
For the first time in a long time, John wasn’t worrying about the Wraith, Atlantis, any offworld teams or even the mounds of paperwork he was intentionally ignoring. He was simply focused on having some fun… and teaching Rodney how to skateboard.
How could he say no to that?
Sighing reluctantly, McKay steadied himself and pushed off again, and after a few more of the rough starts and stops, was beginning to get the “feel” for it, as John had described it. More than once he ended up hopping off the thing when he tried to turn and leaned too far. Once he accidentally kicked the board out from underneath himself and they’d both had to scramble to keep it from rolling completely off the pier and into the ocean below.
To Rodney’s surprise, as John made a rolling dive and snatched the board from certain doom, John was laughing. Laughing insanely and at first Rodney was indignant, until he realized that John wasn’t laughing at him. “Do you think I should try to get Ronon out here?” he said as he climbed to his feet.
“You’re bleeding!” Rodney exclaimed suddenly, his expression transforming from one of annoyance to one of concern instantly, and John frowned a little as he looked down, surveying a scraped forearm.
“It’s just a little road rash, Rodney; I’ll live,” John protested and swiped the blood from his skin with the bottom of his tee shirt. He put the skateboard down. “Don’t lean so far over next time.”
“There any more cookies over there?”
They pair ended up spending the entire afternoon out on the pier; taking turns on the skateboard, eating cookies, and occasionally just talking. Rodney gained a modest ability to stay upright on four wheels and John gained a little more color to his previously pale complexion. By the time the sun had begun to sink, and the shadows to lengthen over the pier, the cookies were gone, the breeze had cooled and they had both gained a collection of bumps, bruises and scrapes—mostly Rodney’s—but amazingly he had yet to truly complain about them.
“Probably ought to start back,” John finally said wistfully. “God only knows what Zelenka’s done to the place in your absence.” He grinned at McKay, who was tooling around a little on the skateboard.
Rodney’s expression soured almost instantly. “I’m amazed I haven’t been summoned to avert some critical disaster,” he agreed, and pushed off a bit, gaining a little more speed. “You tell anybody I’ve been out here, playing all day and your quarters don’t get any water, whether or not you have the gene.”
John’s grin grew larger, until he realized that Rodney wasn’t watching where he was going as carefully as before. “McKay, watch out!” he shouted but it was too late. Obscured by growing shadows and Rodney’s brief inattention, the skateboard was headed—at some speed—for the makeshift little ramp.
Sheppard sprinted, McKay tried to course correct. Too late.
The skateboard hit the ramp. Rodney flew off.
Both collided with John and all went down in a graceless heap.
The first few moments were all shock. Then the groaning began, and the complaining, and then came the revelation that Rodney had landed badly on his left foot and twisted his ankle. This was followed in short order by cursing, awkward pushing and pulling, and eventually ended up with John helping Rodney hop over to the bench-like area he’d been sitting on earlier.
“You okay?” John finally asked, and Rodney looked up at him with a mixture of annoyance and pain, poised to retort but the worried look John wore stopped him short. As he had noted the rare carefree expression earlier, Rodney now noticed the return of the tense bearing that more often marked Atlantis’ ranking military officer and he swallowed. “Rodney?” John prompted, frowning.
“No, I’m not,” McKay replied plaintively, but without the usual sarcasm. “It hurts.”
Sheppard knelt down to inspect the damage to Rodney’s ankle. “Can you move it?” he asked, trying to ascertain if McKay had suffered a break or a sprain. The amount of pain involved made him suspect a break.
“N...no,” Rodney breathed out and what little color remained in his face drained away.
“Okay, it’s probably broken,” John said matter-of-factly. He straightened up and helped Rodney shift on the pseudo-bench to lie back, and carefully brought his feet up as well. Grabbing Rodney’s jacket, which had been placed aside with his laptop and the remnants of lunch, John rolled it up and very gently placed it beneath the injured foot to elevate and cushion it. “Take it easy a minute; I’ll get Carson down here,” he promised. Rodney nodded tightly, prompting John to dig into the cargo pocket of his pants for his earpiece; he was glad that he’d insisted on keeping it with him, “light duty,” or no. “Sheppard to Beckett. Doc, are you picking me up?”
Static met his inquiry, and he tapped it again. “Sheppard to infirmary. Beckett, are you reading me? Rodney, I think it’s broken; I must’ve landed on it. Try yours.” Rodney reached for his earpiece, only to find it wasn’t there, which was enough to provide him with a minor panic attack.
“It must have fallen out while I was riding around on that thing!” Rodney exclaimed, pushing up on one elbow and looking around the immediate vicinity for the little earpiece.
“Take it easy, McKay,” John admonished with a slight frown. The sun was sinking into the horizon now, and the shadows prohibited any real searching for the small device. He trotted over to the “ramp,” however, and conducted a brief search there just in case. “No dice,” he said as he came back. “We’re going to have to get you to the infirmary.”
“Just how do you propose to do that?” Rodney gritted out; John winced at the note of pain in his voice. He glanced over Rodney to the entrance back into the city, and mentally traced the route back to the transporter. That would take some work with Hopalong McKay in tow.
“Give me a minute,” Sheppard replied tightly. “As you’re so fond of pointing out, you’re the genius.”
“And you passed the Mensa test. So think of something already,” Rodney complained. John lifted a hand and ran it through his hair, leaving it messier than it had been prior, but despite his own discomfort, Rodney didn’t miss the wince that crossed his features. “What? What’s wrong with you?” he demanded, squinting at John.
“Just a bump. I think I whacked my head on the way down; nothing too important,” Sheppard replied with just the right amount of snark, and McKay rolled his eyes.
“Great. I have one working foot and you’re about to pass out from a head injury. See, I told you I was gonna kill us with that thing.”
“You said you were going to kill you, not me,” John shot back, gingerly feeling the lump at the back of his head. When he pulled back, there was a smear of sticky red on his fingertips and he winced. That might require a stitch or two. “And last I looked; neither of us is dead… yet.” John’s voice trailed off as his hazel eyes narrowed slightly. “I think I have an idea.” Sheppard crossed over and nudged the skateboard with his toe, rolling it over to the bench. “Grab your laptop; we’re heading out.”
“You’re not serious!” McKay exclaimed, having a precise idea what Sheppard was up to.
“Yeah, I am. You can’t walk. And I’m working on a headache that really means I don’t want to argue with you about it.” Rodney thought about it for a moment and realized there wasn’t much of an option aside from hopping one-legged down the hallway, which would be exhausting on top of the throbbing pain in his ankle and foot.
“Fine,” he finally agreed, perhaps a little too sharply, and pushed himself into a sitting position. Taking his jacket from beneath his foot very carefully, he drew it on and gathered up his datapad. “Let’s get on with it.”
John shifted to help Rodney, and cautiously helped McKay to balance with his good foot on the board, and his free arm wrapped firmly around the colonel’s shoulder. The difference in height, thanks to the skateboard, was a little awkward, but no way was he letting go of John. The damaged foot he allowed to rest on the board but was very careful not to place any weight whatsoever on it. John, arm around Rodney’s back, began to walk slowly toward the entrance back into the city, guiding the skateboard with care to jostle the injured foot as little as possible.
So it was that when the door to the infirmary opened and Carson looked up to see who had entered, he was treated to the sight of the two bedraggled team-mates, Sheppard steering and Rodney complaining.
“...Hello, doorframe! I said we were drifting left, not turn left!”
“What in the name o’ Mary an’ all the saints are ye two doin’?” Carson demanded sharply, which was enough to make John wince, something the Scot did not miss at all. “An’ what are ye doin’ like...that?” he waved at the skateboard curiously.
“You said to take it easy. So we took it easy,” Sheppard said defensively. “I told Rodney I wanted some sun—”
“You tricked me by telling me there was a lab to explore!” McKay exclaimed.
“We went down on the South Pier and I did a little skating. It was nice,” John said wistfully; despite everything he had enjoyed the afternoon outside as much as anything else. It was the look on his face that sealed it for Rodney; despite the pain-driven grumpiness, he had to admit it had been fun.
“It was, it really was,” he backed Sheppard up, which only made Carson raise his eyebrows. But predictably, that didn’t last long. “And then I took the stupid ramp and ran into Sheppard and now I have a broken foot and I think he has a concussion!”
“Och, lad!” Carson rounded on Sheppard first, shaking his head. “Ye were meant ta be takin’ it easy today. D’ ye no’ know the meanin’ o’ the word?”
“I was!” John said sharply, and then winced as his headache bounded along with it. “I did,” he said, softer. “There was no work, no radio, nobody asking for anything, just me, the board, and the sun. Rodney, some chocolate chip cookies…”
“All right, ye can explain it ta me later, after I’ve looked ye both over. Okay, Rodney, over here.” Sheppard steered the skateboard over to the exam table indicated, and together with Carson got the scientist up on it. “We’ll have ta scan that ankle. An’ ye likely need a cast. You,” he pointed at the next exam table and glared at John. “Sit over there an’ I’ll examine that hard head.”
John reluctantly left Rodney’s side, rolling the skateboard underneath the exam bed with his toe before climbing up on it. It wasn’t until he lay back, that he realized how tired he was. All right, maybe Beckett had a point with the whole rest and relaxation thing. Although, he had to admit, aside from the headache it had been worth it.
It turned out Rodney’s ankle had simply taken a rather bad sprain; the foot was wrapped in a supportive ace bandage and elevated. He wasn’t going to like dealing with crutches for a while, but it would be some time before it would bear weight.
John didn’t have a concussion; he simply had a nice knot where his head had connected with something. The broken skin required only a little cleaning and two stitches exactly. And a little Tylenol.
By the time Carson was finished with the pair, he wasn’t surprised to see them both sleeping. Shaking his head slightly, he covered John with a blanket, and left them to it. It was the peaceful look on both their faces, ultimately, that made the physician think that perhaps John’s idea of ‘light duty’ wasn’t so bad after all.