Spoilers: “Before I Sleep” and “The Gift” only, I think, such brief mentions.
Summary: She can never find time alone, and now she realises it's a blessing in disguise, and maybe she won't die after all. Weir whumping and McKay/Weir friendship.
A/N: This has been mulling around for weeks almost done. I'm glad to have finally finished it, with the help of Fanwoman, Ellex and LittleKnux who kindly betaread it. Also my first attempt at (Weir) whumping, so I'm interested in how it's come off.
If you had asked her how she imagined she'd die, the second time, then this wouldn't quite fit. Being flat on her back isn't too odd, but she had thought she'd be able to say goodbye. She could have done so a few minutes earlier, but she didn't realize she was dying then.
She's always had the feeling that they really ought to pay more attention to the alien aspects of Atlantis, and now she knows why.
It was just a stroll, a little getaway from all the work. The area had been explored, and cleared for access earlier in the year. They'd never managed to figure out what it had been used for, but none of the strange machinery was functioning. All that was really left was the small bay, like an indoor marina – once icy and devoid of life, but now, in the summer, it shines with reflected light, and the aquatic life thrives on the seaweeds clinging around the sides of the dock. What a difference a season makes. No one had considered that – that what was harmless before could now be so deadly to them.
The water glimmers on the ceiling. She used to stare at it because it was hypnotic and calming, and now it's the only thing she can see.
She's glad he's here with her, that Rodney had tagged along. She always found it hard to escape him; somehow he always knew where to look, not just because he knew the city so well, but because he knew her, too. He'd bounded along after her, no doubt having sought her instead of Sheppard because John was the type of guy who would have asked Rodney why he was bothering someone who couldn't help him. Elizabeth had no clue either as to how to help Rodney with what he'd been babbling about, and his habit of lumping this on her had begun to be annoying.
He took it for granted she'd be polite, humour his hypochondria, not interrupt but still comfort him at the end and send him off all better. He'd latched onto her and she'd realised he wouldn't let go; every little thing he needed to talk about seemed to come out in these sessions he sought with her. She had half a mind to trick him into going to Heightmeyer instead, since this was really Kate's job and Elizabeth had her own work to do. Maybe if she went to Kate with that in mind, then next time he'd follow her into the trap and she'd get some actual time alone.
But if not for him, she'd be long dead, and she would never have known what was wrong. She hadn't felt a thing at first, but then the sting had kicked in, before it too disappeared and turned to numbness. The insect had flown away just as quickly as it had appeared – a fleeting visit from a creature she'd seen flitting about many times, its multiple wings translucent blue and green. It had reminded her of a dragonfly, and that familiarity had blinded her to the possible danger of what was, in reality, an unknown entity.
It was just a small bite on the back of her hand, near her wrist. She didn't think anything of it until she began to find breathing difficult. It felt unusual; she had never had any problems like it before. Breaths had been harder to take in, and she'd had to steady herself against the nearest pillar.
She'd only intended to rest a moment, but she hadn't been able to stand up again. Rodney had stopped talking, realising something was wrong. Then she had fallen, flopped down onto the floor, unable to move – left staring out at the ocean view until he moved her around.
He'd panicked at first, trying to get answers out of her, but her mouth wouldn't cooperate, and she could barely form each syllable to speak coherently. He just about got enough to catch on to where he should look – her hand, the bite.
She remembers he quickly called a medical emergency after that, only five or so minutes ago. Rodney keeps on telling her how long it is, probably thinking it's helpful to keep count, and maybe it is for him, counting how long she's surviving. She knows they're on their way but it takes half an hour to get here, out on the west pier. Maybe twenty minutes, if they run and use transporters intelligently, but they need the equipment, too, and it's not exactly lightweight. They might make it in time, but even if they don't, she figures if anyone can save her, Carson can. He brought John back from the dead, heart stopped and then started up again. It's not impossible, but right now, as the world closes in on her, she feels like it can only get worse.
Rodney has already used both epi-pens on her, but it's an alien insect, and they don't know exactly what it's injected into her that's caused this reaction. She can't move anything apart from her lungs to breathe and her eyes, and even as she lays there, her head resting in Rodney's lap, she can feel her airways constricting once more. Control over her eye muscles is waning, too, which is why she finds she's forced to watch the patterns of the waters reflected onto the marina ceiling.
Full blown anaphylactic shock along with immobilisation by an unknown poison – they don't know what else it could be doing to her, and they won't find out until they get her back to the infirmary. But Rodney keeps on whispering to her that it's going to be okay. He should know. He says it reassuringly, but she knows this isn't quite the same scenario as he's had to deal with. She can't even feel him stroking her hair now. It might be because he's stopped or it might be because almost every part of her is numb. It spread from her hand, and it came on so fast that it seemed unreal – only a minute or so between the strange feeling following the bite and her sudden collapse.
Even so, she felt the first constrictions as her body went into shock, and she felt the epi-pen dig into her thigh shortly after Rodney had finished harassing Carson for advice. From what she had gathered, it was all he could do. One epi-pen in each trouser pocket ever since he had a reaction offworld and realised how important it was to have them on missions. She's glad he was so paranoid to keep them with him on Atlantis, too, or she would be dead already instead of simply wheezing painfully and being mostly paralysed. She never felt the second epi-pen go in, her legs completely divorced from the rest of her by then.
She starts to lose focus, and feels the effects of the poison working on the last of the muscles in her face. She wonders how long it will be before asphyxiation from the swelling will stop being an issue because the muscles that draw breath into her lungs will cease to function. Eventually, she imagines her heart itself will stop beating.
Suddenly, she realises it's too quiet, she can't hear anything anymore. That shouldn't be happening, should it? Ears don't have anything to do with muscles do they? She can't recall a reason why it should happen, but she can't change the fact that it is. She can only panic inside her mind, because she can no longer affect any change in her body. The only thing she can latch onto is that she can still feel her heart beating.
Suddenly there is a vision above her, and she realises the blurry sight must be Rodney. She can just about make out that it's him by the eyes that stare into hers. They're wide with fear, and dilated so much only the thinnest amount of that bright blue visible. He must know how afraid she is. He'd remember what it feels like; it's probably why he's so afraid for her.
If her eyes can barely focus, they probably can't even go wide with fear, even though she's as afraid as she has ever been in her whole life. Never before has she been so close to death, and never before has she felt like Atlantis is alien to her. As foreign as her body feels right now, because she can barely feel it at all. She takes a shaky breath that might be her last, but she doesn't know if it is, because she falls into unconsciousness.
She wakes up to a gray ceiling. It takes a few seconds to realise what seems wrong about that. She woke up. She wasn't expecting to. She feels awful, still horribly numb, but not enough to be any kind of relief from pain. Her body seems raw, aching all over and uncooperative. She gives up her attempts to move, but she's caused enough fuss to find someone's attention drawn to her, a stifled yawn coming from beside her bed. Soon after that she finds Rodney's eyes looking into hers. This time she can see most of the blue of his iris, his eyes not full of fear like before, and she knows everything must be okay. But she is curious as to why she's still alive. She croaks, finding it far too painful to try to speak more than that first odd sound. Rodney seems to get the point and answers the unasked question.
“Puddlejumper. Cuts the time by half. I think it's the only time Carson's flown one voluntarily.” He jokes but there's a nervous termor to it, and she can tell he's grateful as he spits out the last part of the explanation. “Sheppard's idea.”
He smiles, happy, but she can tell he's disappointed, too, and she gets the feeling he thinks he's the only one that wasn't able to help her. She can't correct him right now, but she will. It wasn't how she'd imagined she might die, but she wasn't alone, and that made all the difference – she didn't die because he was there.
He thinks he fails them, with his hypoglycemia and allergies. Sometime she might ask why they're such a stigma for him, but first she'll tell him she's glad he's not perfect, and that he interrupts the time she spends alone. She could have been there alone, and she wouldn't have stood a chance, but she wasn't. He came looking for her, like he always did, because he seems to need her, even if he'd hate to admit that, and she never has the heart to tell him to go away, because they're friends, not just colleagues.
For once - rather than it simply being about her listening to him and making him feel better - she needed him there, too , imperfect and annoying. Along with his epi-pens, saving her from dying alone, ultimately rescuing her.
She gets the feeling some of that wouldn't go down too well, that he doesn't care to have friends officially, and she'll have to work on him about that. She might settle for telling him she'll never complain about him interrupting her again. It's subtle, but it's possibly the kind of comment that will get through to him without misinterpretation.
He shifts uncomfortably in the seat, obviously not sure what to say or why he's still there. She knows she can't really find her voice to say anything to him, but she smiles encouragingly and makes a little hand motion indicating he should talk.
After his initial confusion he gets her point and engages in what qualifies as small talk for him. At first he tells her how everything is going without her and what arrangements have been made while she recovers, but eventually she finds he's talking like he always does about this and that. About experiments and his staff, bemoaning the lack of popcorn, and now that she's actually listening she notices small fragments of personal detail come through between the arrogant exclamations and the criticism and the worry he hides behind. She knows she could play the sick card and send him packing, but she lets him talk on until he doesn't need to anymore – only giving in to sleep as she watches him bound, carefree ,out the door.