"Oh god," Rodney croaks, waking up, "the infirmary again?" Sheppard abruptly lets go of his hand and Rodney says, "Wait, you're touching me? Am I dying? I probably -- for you to be showing affection of a physical nature, or, really, any kind of affection at all it's got to be bad. Is it cancer -- bird flu? I bet it's bird flu. I told you I didn't want to touch that ceremonial chicken! It had a limp!"
"You hit your head," Sheppard says, terse. "In your lab."
"Oh," says Rodney, poking at the IV taped to the back of his hand. "Did I miss dinner?"
Sheppard's face does something strange. "A couple of them."
"Did I miss meatloaf night? What day is it?"
"Extra Tuesday," Sheppard says, avoiding eye contact.
"But Extra Tuesday only comes once a -- I missed an entire month? Carson! Carson, what have you done to my brain?" Rodney jabs at the call button repeatedly and Sheppard takes Rodney's hand away but then seems to realize what he's doing and drops it again just as quickly.
"What is up with you?" Rodney asks, staring at him. "Did you hit your head too? Is it brain damage? Oh god, do I have brain damage? Carson!"
"Well," says Carson, drawing aside the curtain, "it certainly sounds as though you're suffering no ill effects from the Ancient device. Let me just look you over."
"Ancient device? Did you zap me with some experimental technology without my consent? For all you know you could have been treating me with a can opener."
Carson checks Rodney's vital signs patiently. "No, Rodney. I'm referring to the Ancient device you were holding when you fell into a coma."
"You said I hit my head," Rodney says, glaring at Sheppard, who's slouched in his chair looking extremely uncomfortable.
Sheppard says, "You did. You touched an Ancient gizmo, you fell, you hit your head, and then you made like Sleeping Beauty for a month while the rest of us sat around and wondered if you were ever going to wake up!"
Rodney gapes at him. "Colonel?"
Sheppard stands up so fast his chair falls over. He leaves.
Carson gives Rodney a sad smile. "Go easy on him, Rodney. It's been a long month for us, longer, I think, for him."
Rodney mumbles something about how time doesn't work like that no matter what Einstein said about sitting on the stove, the man had been wrong on occasion, but he's tired from all the sleeping and trails off mid-sentence. Carson pokes a hole in his arm in order to steal some blood, pats him on the leg and then leaves, pulling the curtain shut behind him.
After that, there's a steady parade of visitors trailing in and out of his cubicle, clasping his hands and kissing his cheeks and crying onto his bedsheets. Ronon brings him a month's worth of pudding cups and Teyla apparently knitted him a hat while he was asleep. It's orange and has flat metal discs, like sequins, stitched around the crown. It's hideous and puzzling and he tells her thank you and falls asleep with it in his lap. He has brief memories of Zelenka coming in and speaking to him in Czech, something he only does when angry or sentimental; Miko standing at the foot of his bed, whispering a prayer; Marines he doesn't recognize; Elizabeth, grave and beautiful; Heightmeyer, Katie Brown, Cadman.
He sleeps fitfully, half-afraid he's still dying, half-afraid he's already dead.
Someone is saying his name, and he wakes up. In one hand he has Teyla's hat; the other is at his side with Sheppard's resting next to it, close enough to touch. The lights are down and Sheppard's slumped in his chair, looking haggard.
"You were having a nightmare," he says stiffly.
"Well," Rodney says, desperate to change the subject. "Did you see the hat Teyla made me?" He holds it up.
Sheppard looks away. "It's meant to scare off certain kinds of flying predators. From the air you'll look like a poisonous flower."
"Oh," Rodney says, still surprised, surprised every time, that these people care for him and want to keep him safe -- not because he's smarter than them, but because they actually like him, like him enough to make him ugly hats, and then make fun of him for wearing ugly hats. But Sheppard doesn't seem the least bit interested in Rodney's sequined beanie; Rodney waits for the joke, for Sheppard to smile with half his mouth and say, "'Course, we always knew you were a poisonous flower, even without the hat," but he doesn't.
"A month, McKay, I sat here for a month."
"You can hardly hold that against me," Rodney says. "It's not like I meant to activate the stupid Ancient coma machine and fall on my head. I need my head. It's often the only thing standing between you and complete annihilation. Though I see you somehow managed to survive without me. What did I miss?"
Sheppard's face gets even more pinched.
"That bad?" Rodney asks, hoping, whatever it was, that Zelenka could fix it, or Ronon could shoot it, or Sheppard could smile his way out of it.
"I sat here, for a month," Sheppard says again.
"Oh," Rodney says again, beginning to understand. "I -- I didn't know. You didn't --" He's not talking, just babbling and he stops with some difficulty and reaches out instead, his fingers just brushing against Sheppard's. They touch like that for a second, two, and then their fingers curl, their palms press together, and Sheppard takes Rodney's hand.