A soft rhythmic sound finally worked its way through Rodney’s sleep and setting up a very discordant thumping in his head.
Geez, wouldn’t someone turn that metronome off? If you’re going to practice, practice. Don’t just let it run.
He could hear soft voices talking around him and he kept his eyes closed, listening. People would say the most interesting things if they thought you were asleep.
He had to concentrate to make out what the voices were saying.
“...is the device? I have never heard of a metronome,” a female voice said.
“It’s this thing for keeping time when you practice a musical instrument,” a young male voice explained. “It sounds like this,” he said and then did a fairly good imitation of one.
Rodney frowned a little realizing the sound he heard before wasn’t the ticking of a metronome, but a soft beeping sound. The speakers didn’t seem to notice him and kept talking.
“I didn’t take you for a musical kind of guy, Ford,” another male voice said. This one sounded older, more of a baritone to the other’s tenor.
“Trumpet. My grandma made me practice everyday after school for half hour.”
Their conversation lapsed into silence.
“I never thought of McKay as being a music person either. I wonder what kind of instrument he plays,” the baritone questioned.
“You sure he does?” the other male asked.
“Well, the whole metronome thing.”
“Piano,” an accented voice said softly.
“Hmm, so McKay plays the piano,” the baritone said.
“He did,” the other voice said. “When he was a boy. He says he doesn’t play any more.”
“Why not?” the female voice added.
There was a sigh. “He says he doesn’t like to talk about it and wouldn’t tell me much more than that. It’s something that really bothers him. He’d strangle me if he knew I was telling you this.”
“Doctor McKay doesn’t not speak much of his family,” the female voice commented sadly. “Does he not have one?”
“Don’t know,” the baritone said. “He’s pretty tight fisted about personal information.”
“I don’t think it was a very happy family,” the tenor commented. “I mean, he’s not real good with kids. Reminded me of a guy I knew at my first post. He grew up in foster care and didn’t know how to interact with kids. It was sad. I mean, my parents died when I was little, but my grandparents took me and raised me, so I stayed with family.”
Rodney sighed. He didn’t know his grandparents. They were dead before he had been born, but he would have liked to have stayed with them. His parents got stuck with him and visa versa. Maybe—
A cool hand brushed against his face and he blinked his eyes open. A face he couldn’t quite put a name with smiled down at him.
“There ya be,” the person said. “How are you feeling there, Rodney?”
He stared at the face a long time, not sure. He didn’t feel good. His whole body ached and he was so hot he felt like he might melt, but other than that, he felt dandy. He looked around and others were seated around the bed in chairs. They must have been the ones talking before.
“Rodney?” the man over him said again, to get his attention and he looked back up at him. “We’re going to put a cooling blanket under you for a bit. We need to try to get your temperature down.”
He just stared back and then closed his eyes. As long as it didn’t involve him getting up and doing anything, sure. Not a problem.
He must have dozed off again because the next thing he knew he felt like he was lying on an iceberg.
”Wha—“ he groaned, struggling awake, trying to force his lethargic body to move.
“Easy, there Rodney.”
He looked up at Carson and scowled. “What are…you trying...to do?” Talking took a great deal more effort than it should. He was having a hard time getting the words to form in a coherent manner.
“You’ve got a very high fever and we’re trying to get it down,” Carson told him, holding him down with far too much ease.
“Too cold,” he grunted. “Freeze…butt off,” he said grumpily, struggling to get the words to come out.
Carson chuckled. “I doubt we’ll do that, but you’re getting a little too hot for your own good right now.”
“Yeah, McKay, we like you brilliant, not incandescent,” another voice added. It took him a moment to realize that the voice belonged to the other set of hands holding him down and those hands belonged to John Sheppard.
He stared up at the major and started to shiver. It stared out as just as small tremors and then built until his whole body was shuddering.
“Doc?” Sheppard said in alarm.
“Give him a minute,” Carson said quickly, his hand warm and reassuring on his shoulder. “Just hold on, Rodney,” he kept saying.
After what seemed hours, the worse of the shaking seemed to let up and settle into waves of goose bumps that passed over him in intervals.
Gradually, he started to feel warm again and he sighed in relief.
“Much better,” he heard Carson softly and he struggled to open his eyes again.
Sheppard, Ford, Teyla, Zelenda and Elizabeth were ranged around his bed in chairs or sitting on beds nearby. He frowned. “I missed the meeting?” he asked, his voice hoarse and strange sounding in his own ears.
Smiles broke around the group and that only made him frown deeper in confusion.
“Just waiting for you to wake up, Doctor McKay,” Ford said, beaming at him.
Elizabeth came close to the bed and took his hand in hers. “You scared us there, Rodney,” she said, giving him a mildly reproving look.
"I don't understand," he said softly. He stared at the faces around him, realizing they were actually worried about him and tears pricked his eyes. "I don't—"
Elizabeth squeezed his hand. "Just rest."
He looked around not sure what to say or how to say it. Finally, he just decided on, "Thank you."
Carson cleared his throat. "I think it's time we gave this man some peace and quiet," he said. "He'll be fine, but he needs rest."
"Doc," Sheppard started to say.
The Scottish man nodded. "One of you can say, but the rest of you need to go. I need my infirmary back and Rodney needs to sleep."
Sheppard settled himself in beside Rodney's bed, giving the others a smug look.
"Rest, Rodney," Zelenka said, tapping his leg and turning to go.
"Yeah, rest, Doctor McKay," Ford added. "We'll check back on you later."
Teyla smiled and patted his foot and left with the others.
Elizabeth lingered a moment longer to talk with Carson.
Rodney settled back, feeling absolutely drained. He looked at the man sitting beside his bed and just stared at him.
Sheppard raised his eyebrows in question. "What?"
"Why?" Rodney asked softly.
"Why do you care? I mean, I nearly got you killed," he said softly.
Sheppard leaned forward, his elbows resting on his knees. "Rodney, you're part of my team. I mean, there are days I'd like to duct tape your mouth shut and hang you off the back of the Jumper, but I trust you. I respect you. Heck, you're probably the smartest guy here and odds-on why we're all still alive, but more than that I'd like to think of you as a friend."
Rodney smiled a little and said softly. "Thank you." There was a lot more he wanted to say, but it was becoming a struggle just to keep his eyes open, let alone talk.
"Go to sleep, Rodney," Sheppard told him. "You and I are going to have a long talk when you're up to it about a lot of things, but for now, just concentrate on getting better."
Rodney nodded, letting himself finally relax.