Salvation for Dummies by Patricia
First he became aware of a persistent buzzing in his ear which, now that he was aware of it, abruptly resolved into his commander's nearly frantic voice calling his name...
"Lorne! Major Lorne, what's your status?"
"Uh... 'S dark, sir."
"Your P90 has a light, Major." Sheppard's voice was patient. Strained but patient.
"Right... Yes sir..."
"Yeah, got it." He swung the light about, sweeping the beam along the ground.
"Dr McKay - "
"He's here, sir." The P90's narrow light revealed the dust covered, grey tinged face of Atlantis' chief scientist. "Unconscious. He's kind of buried under rocks, sir."
"All right, Major, what are your injuries?" Patience again. Like he was talking to a young child.
"Not dense, sir," Lorne muttered. Sheppard's short bark of a laugh sounded honestly amused. "Anyway..." Lorne knew he'd been unconscious, his roiling nausea and pounding headache told him that, as well as the missing time between walking and waking up flat on his back in the dark. "Nothing broken."
"Just your head probably."
Lorne nodded and the darkness spun.
"You have a concussion." Sheppard's voice was tightly controlled frustration.
"Yeah, probably. Yes sir."
"I'm trying to reach you but I'm trapped too."
"So we gotta hope the guys outside can dig us all out." He knew he sounded apathetic but - surprise - he didn't care.
"Yep." Sheppard, on the other hand, well, his voice reeked of false, forced cheer. "You need to stay awake, Major. Check on McKay for me. And find your packs."
Lorne looked about him, the dim light of the P90 waltzing all over the place with nauseating instability until it crashed into the motionless scientist. "He's kinda... buried. Partly. I'll, I'll try to dig him out sir."
A muffled curse was all that answered him so he seated himself beside the unconscious man and played the tiny light along the form, wondering where to begin without causing an avalanche of rock. McKay's head and right arm were clear of debris though a dark glimmer of liquid pooled about his head, only some of which could have come from the gash at his temple.
Lorne shifted to his knees, laying the P90 so its illuminating sight glanced along McKay's upper body. He reached out and began relocating the tumble of rocks hiding the rest of the scientist's body. He heard Colonel Sheppard urging him on as a quiet buzz in his ear.
Molasses, Lorne thought to himself. He was shoving through molasses. On the bright side (or less dim side) there was more of Dr McKay uncovered now. It was Sheppard's constant encouragement, though, that, he was sure of it, kept him from losing direction, even ceasing the work. Even so, the insistent drawl had long since devolved into mere sound, the words meaningless as only the tone kept him going. His arms ached, his head pounded, his eyes threatened to stay shut when he blinked. Force of will - and his commanding officer's demands - got them to open each time.
He groaned - more of a whimper really - and let himself lean sort of sideways against the rock pile he was supposed to be dismantling. "Rest, " he heard himself murmur.
"...! Lorne! Dammit!" the voice in his ear shouted.
It was enough to jar his awareness. "Sir?" he slurred back in confusion.
"...I know you're hurt but you can't sleep. Don't go to sleep. D'you hear me?! No sleeping!" There was a pause. "That's an order!"
"I mean it! Look, I'm getting closer."
Eh? Lorne wondered.
"The guy you are digging out, Major."
"Still here, sir." I guess. He just didn't feel like opening his eyes to find out; oh, but Sheppard's voice in his ear was insisting. He gave a long sigh and forced open his eyes.
Was it brighter? Had the darkness actually gained some stray photons? Goddamn rocks. He sat up (and when had he lay down anyway?) and peered downwards. McKay hadn't moved. At all. He shifted closer to the scientist's head and slid his fingers along jaw and neck once again seeking a pulse, sighing when he found it. He wasn't a medic but he knew it wasn't right.
"Pulse not so good," he reported succinctly.
"McKay's?" Sheppard asked, his voice all tight and sharp.
"Check his breathing."
Lorne obediently leaned close to the unconscious man's face. A faint trickle of air brushed his cheek. "He's breathing, sir." He sighed and rested his head on McKay's chest.
"Lorne! Wake up, dammit, you're not done!"
Lorne groaned and lifted the heavy weight that was his head.
"Major, I wish I could let you sleep, I really do, but I can't. You can't. You've got to stay awake."
"Gotta help McKay."
"He's a jerk sometimes. A lot."
Sheppard's answering laugh was strained. "He can be."
"Uh... I shouldn't 've said that..."
"It's all right."
"I hope he doesn't die; wouldn' wan' that..."
"I know. Are you digging him out?"
"Sorta..." He paused to think. "Could use a front loader, sir."
"Hard work, I know, you can do it."
"Gotta do it... But I'm so tired." This was slurred even to his own ears.
"Yeah, well, when we get back to Atlantis you can sleep."
"Hope so, sir." He focused on moving rocks, wrapping his hands around them and tossing them aside. Sheppard's voice began to drift again.
"Major? Evan, Are you with me?"
"Not really, sir."
"You got McKay free yet?"
"No. Sorry." He tossed another rock away. "I'm trying..."
"Doin' good, Major."
"Could use some help, sir."
"I know. A front loader."
"Or more hands. He's just lying here, won't wake up."
"He's unconscious and injured, remember?"
"Yeah. Planet fell on us."
"How'd that happen anyway?" He was annoyed now.
"Huh. Sir, you okay?"
"Yeah. Just trying to be careful here."
"There's a rock pile between us. All we need is a hole and I can get to you..."
"With some first aid."
"And also, you are closer to the egress."
"Ah." He stopped digging and looked around. Rock, rock, rock. Some of it was smooth wall. Much of it was tumbled down rock fall. "Nope. Don' see anything, sir."
Sheppard sigh was a bit insulting really. "I know, Major. We'll have to be dug out."
"Well, we're gonna need that first aid. McKay's hurt. He's bleeding."
"Right. Head wound. That's why you need to get him free."
"Got him free enough to lift his head."
"No! Don't move him!" Was that panic in that exclamation? He heard Sheppard swear softly before adding, "I'm going to get to you but if it takes too long... You're going to have to bandage his head."
"Carefully! If he's injured his spine, we don't want to make it worse, maybe kill him."
Lorne nodded. That could be a problem.
"Good. That's good."
"But I really need to sleep."
"No, don't do that. Please don't. You know you need to keep an eye on McKay for me. Stay awake. Come on, Major. You have to stay awake. You've a civilian to take care of!"
"Okay." He picked up and discarded another rock.
"Hmmm?" He'd close his eyes for just a moment...
"I better not find you sleeping!"
Lorne's eyes snapped open. "Sir." Was it brighter? Really. It seemed more grey than black around him.
"Okay, this is progress... Lorne, I think I'm through - almost through." There was thumping and bumping and the crashing bang of a smallish rock tumbling into the still too dark cavern trapping Lorne and McKay. And then more light, not a lot. Not even enough, but very palpably more light rocketed in and a tiny dot flashed just above Lorne's head. It looked like a drunken lightening bug and he almost giggled at it but caught himself just in time.
"I see your light, sir!" Lorne stared over to where the beam of light and his commander's voice issued from. Still a tumble of rocks blocking their path but the tiny ragged space just barely enough for a trained beam of light to traverse was enough to spark some enthusiasm and energy. Lorne scrambled (more of a drunken waver, but he was trying) to his feet, swaying but eager.
"Yeah, I got a hole." And that voice was no longer just in his ear. "But it's not large enough to get through yet."
"I can help you -"
"No, stay with McKay. Keep working on freeing him."
"Okay," he said softly, more to direct himself than in acknowledgement of the command. He sank back down and resumed his work, hefting and tossing yet another of the rocky shards burying McKay. Behind him, the relentless cackle of manually shifted rocks continued, washing out Sheppard's voice except for what came through his earpiece.
"So, your packs get buried too, Major?" Being personally addressed got Lorne's attention. He hadn't thought to look, but now he did, and yeah, there was no sign of them.
"Guess so, don't see 'em. Hope you have yours, sir."
"Yeah. I'll need a larger crawlspace though." He sighed. "Or I could just shove the contents though piece by piece."
"Gettin' tired of digging?"
"You could say that, Major," Sheppard returned cryptically.
So probably the Colonel was injured too. Not that he'd admit it if he could work around it and if others were injured more severely. "Yes sir."
A sudden crash jerked Lorne from his task and he spun around in surprise. There was no burst of light and hardly any signal of motion besides the tumbling of loosened rocks as they tumbled to the ground and rolled until friction stopped them. Dust flittered in the air and bounced photons this way and that and there was definitely a hole with faint, scattered light coming from it. The light source wobbled.
"Well... That's got it," Sheppard said with the sort of matter-of-fact tone that told you he was as surprised as anyone. More rocks shifted and clattered as he first shoved his pack through followed by his own noisy clambering.
"Nice to see you, sir." Lorne decided this was the best thing to say but he ended in a cough which the Colonel echoed.
"Sorry about the dust." He moved toward Lorne who remained crouched on the ground. "You don't look so hot, Major, but no sleep yet. I need to do some tests and you need to drink some water and then you can sleep if you want.
Lorne was more than happy to comply, almost falling back on his butt as he relaxed out of the crouch. He thought he should say something but couldn't think what, so he just watched as the Colonel did a quick scan of McKay's vitals. Well, those he could reach anyway. He ended up bandaging the scientist's head before turning back to his second.
"Your turn." He settled in front of the Major and repeated the obtaining of medical vitals including that famously annoying - and Lorne barely refrained from popping his CO in the mouth - pupil dilation test. "Yeah, definitely a concussion. You don't feel like puking, do you?"
"No. Just dizzy and sore."
"Yeah, you are going to be a walking bruise tomorrow." He paused and added, "Well, maybe not walking exactly."
"I can sleep it off."
Sheppard's barking laugh answered him again. "You are persistent, Major. But yeah, you can sleep - after you drink some water."
"Okay." Lorne looked down to where Dr McKay was stretched out prone on the ground, all the rubble gone, revealing not that much because of the gloom. "How is he, sir?"
"Not good, Major, not good at all, but it's not your worry any more."
"Tried to unbury him."
"I know and you did good. We just have to wait to get dug out and then you and McKay will both be in medical hands."
Lorne relaxed back against a wall and waited for sleep to bring relief. Only now that he had permission, he couldn't do it. He couldn't fall asleep.
He kept his eyes closed and listened to Sheppard fussing over McKay and then, before he realized it, over him as well. He snapped open his eyes. "Sir."
"You've got some lacerations I thought I'd take care of while we have the time."
"Here, have some more water."
"Sir, I'm not really very thirsty."
"You need to stay hydrated, Major," Sheppard insisted while pushing the canteen at him.
Lorne sighed but obediently took a few sips then leaned back and let his eyes close.
The next time his eyes opened, the lighting was much improved and there was a lot of noise, talking, and before he could register enough information to figure out where he was, he heard Colonel Sheppard's voice telling him to go back to sleep. This was an order he could really get behind. So he obeyed without a thought.
The third time he woke up he thought it might have been because his head was pounding and he actually felt a little nauseous. Almost immediately he realized that he was in the infirmary - you couldn't mistake those high beds for anything else. The air was clear of the gritty dust, though the scent of antiseptic was kind of pervasive, and he felt comfortably warm between earth made sheets and thin hospital weave blanket. He opened his eyes to see his CO dozing in a chair at his bedside, a book on his lap about to fall to the floor. He said nothing, just watched and mused about the man. They were only three years apart in age but the difference in rank made him that much more careful about their interactions. He cleared his throat with purposeful delicacy.
Sheppard jerked awake and the book thudded to the floor.
"Evan. Didn't mean to fall asleep. How're you feeling? You're looking a lot better."
"Pretty awful actually. You?"
"Well, I don't have a concussion. Just some scratches and bruises and strained muscles."
"I'm sorry, sir."
"No reason to be, Major. You did your job as best anyone could."
"I don't remember what happened."
"Concussions can cause amnesia. Don't worry about it." Sheppard sighed - he was doing that a lot lately. "I'm just glad we didn't lose you, Major. You're a good man. I'm glad to have you as my second in command."
Lorne noticed he hadn't said "lose you too" which meant he hadn't accepted McKay's possible demise. Well dammit, why should he? They'd both worked their butts off to keep the man alive. He was sure of it even if he couldn't actually remember anything but moving rocks around in the dark. "Thank you, sir."
"You know, you can sleep as long as you'd like now. You're going to be off duty for a while."
Lorne shook his head. "I would like to be kept informed on McKay's progress, if that's all right with you, sir."
Sheppard patted his arm gently. "It's definitely all right. You've a vested interest." He gave a weak smile. "But it's gonna be a while."
"I'd be honored to wait with you, sir."
"As I'm honored to wait with you, Major."
Silence descended - or at least as much silence as was possible in an active infirmary. Even if it was the middle of the night. The two men drifted with their own thoughts, mutual respect the only necessary, albeit voiceless, understanding they needed to pass the long wait together.