0o0o0

John ran in a steady, even lope.

The slap of his sneakered feet echoed rhythmically along the corridor on his early morning run, a route he'd devised by trial and error and had begun to prefer over the others.

It kept him fit and ready for off-world missions, hopefully made him look good to the men under his command and best of all, cleared his headspace. Problems, compromises, arguments and possible solutions and connections all rolled around in his head. This was his 'me' time, before the morning meetings and other things took over. It was a mechanism that had served him well in his Air Force career so far.

Past deployments in Afghanistan and a few other funky places had instilled the value of persistent scepticism and constant vigilance when going to new places and meeting the locals . Despite this, he liked going off-world; he was a naturally curious kind of a guy.

The newness of Atlantis, the whole idea of being in another universe, living in an Ancient city, was as breathtaking in its beauty as it was a harsh reality, logistics wise.

Almost six months in the Pegasus galaxy and they've settled into Earth-like routines with a 'wild eyed frenzy'- (Dr Weir's comment at one staff meeting). The threat of life- sucking, bad-ass aliens was a big motivator to get stuff done. As was the declining resources issue.

They're living in a 10,000 year old city made by superior Ancient beings, dealing with a mixed community of Earth military and scientists, their new Athosians allies and various refugees along the way. Earth might have sent their brightest and best to the outer reaches of the known universe, but that didn't mean they always got along. Human nature, go figure.

The ATA gene issue could have split the city apart if they let it, the Have's and Have Nots. John wasn't sure himself: it got him here against everybody's wishes but Dr Weir's, and now they're all stuck with each other.

Mistrust issues, general wariness and Sgt. Bates' severely up-tight attitude hadn't made the first couple of months easy on any of them in the wake of the Wraith tracker incident and the Athosian's departing to the newly found mainland. Dr Weir had appointed Bates as Head of Security on the base and John couldn't undermine her authority on that. John couldn't do everything. Indeed, he didn't want to do everything; there weren't enough hours in the day. Delegation. He and Bates had agreed to disagree. Nobody had handled it well, Dr Weir included.

John's not sure if he's doing things right. He wasn't exactly privy to Colonel Sumner's personal orders and conversations with the generals back at the SGC. He'd been on light bulb duty and fast track mission briefings at the time, having come in at the last minute, unwanted and distrusted by his Marine commanding officer.

He had worked with scientists back in McMurdo in an operational support capacity, but this was different. Surviving in a new galaxy was one thing; making sure the scientists (okay, Rodney) had coffee while they searched for a ZPM to replace the Naquadah generators or sorted out the water desalination plant or set up a hydroponics bay to grow food was another matter.

A ZPM or two would solve their problems but it didn't seem like they were that easy to find. And those they had uncovered had been depleted or would make a population vulnerable to the Wraith. McKay and a separate team were combing the Ancient databases for any clues.

He never expected to be in charge of anything big. And now he's in charge of all the military on a far flung alien base. He's The Man. He's responsible for people, operations, discipline, how much ammo they have left, sorting out training rooms, accommodation, mess hall, medical centre, offices, bunk rooms, gym, supply rooms, a kind of PX, training pilots for the jumpers... The list went on.

Shift schedules for goodness sakes! What they needed was admin support.

He hung out with the scientists and still did light switch duty with McKay and Dr. Zelenka and wherever there was an urgent need.

The scientists seemed to think of his men and security teams generally as people who got in the way, didn't have many brain cells and so ignored them where they could. They grumbled about the offworld training he'd set up. While Sheppard would do anything and everything to keep his people safe and out of the line of fire, he needed teams to get out there to help the Expedition find tech and food; he'd insisted and McKay had backed him up.

As the highest surviving ranking officer, John held authority and power invested in his rank, but trust had to be earned amongst the men he now commanded. He was a lone Air Force pilot among many Marines. As far as he could tell, he seemed to be tolerated by the military contingent. Lieutenant Ford was young and could be molded, but he was a Marine and they had a different ethos. He tried to keep everyone busy and training hard so they wouldn't have to think about being stranded in a galaxy far from home.

McKay's side of things were no less easy with labs to set up, equipment to move and test, new tech to back engineer or work out how to turn on without killing anyone. There were projects to approve, protocols to write, hazards to discover with under/over caffeinated, argumentative, excited and scared scientists.

All this before they could set off through the Gate to find ZPM's, trade for food, help people, find allies and gather intel.

A month or more ago they'd discovered exactly how far people were prepared to go to defend themselves from the Wraith- by testing a newly formulated drug on their population. The Hoffans were unwilling to heed advice from Dr. Beckett about further lengthy trials; they ignored John's warning that using the drug as a weapon against the Wraith would make them a big, fat, juicy target.

Dr Weir was a diplomat; John wasn't as they'd found out when they met the Genii several weeks back. Luckily, Teyla was adept at approaching people. Their encounter with the Genii had ended badly on potential ally terms. They were bound to cross paths again at some point. Atlantis had gained scary intel on the Wraith hive strength in the region and more experience with boarding the Hives themselves. Twice was quite enough, he reasoned with himself.

He arrived back at his door and stopped his watch. He drank from his water bottle as he checked his time. He did a few cooling down exercises in his room and then stepped gratefully into the shower.

In a few hours they were going to a planet Teyla didn't know. The last two missions had turned out very different from those first friendly impressions, even after spending several days getting to know their hosts.

He sighed as he pulled on his charcoal grey uniform, fixed his holster and checked his weapon. Patting his pockets briefly before thinking his door open, he left his room intent on breakfast and the mission ahead.

Show time.

0o0

"Offworld activation!"

"Who is it?"

"Dr. McKay's IDC coming through."

"Stand by."

They lowered the shield, a security force deployed nearby in case.

"Finally!" Dr Weir said. The team were many hours overdue, Bates' S&R team primed and waiting.

There was a long pause and suddenly Dr McKay and Teyla stumbled through with Major Sheppard's arms slung over their shoulders his head bowed as they supported his half-dressed, semi conscious body.

Lt. Ford appeared a second later, stepping backwards onto the platform, his gun raised into the puddle, defending the team from some threat.

"Shield up!" he yelled. The gate closed behind him with its familiar 'splut'.

AR-1 all looked dishevelled, sweaty and slightly sunburned. Major Sheppard's head rose up for a second and Elizabeth couldn't tell if it was wet with water or sweat; the red trickling down the side of his face was obviously blood though. He limped forward a step or two as Rodney and Teyla lowered Sheppard to the floor.

"We need some water now! Medic!" yelled Ford as Dr Weir turned to an aide. "Call Beckett and his team—emergency!"

"What happened?" Elizabeth asked as she rushed down Ops steps with a bottle of water from her office.

"Let's just say the people we met weren't friendly!" snapped Rodney as he grabbed the proffered bottle and poured its contents over Sheppard's head and torso.

Sheppard was shirtless, his torso a paler colour than his newly reddened and scraped arms and neck. His face scrunched up in discomfort as he panted. His eyes flickered open, reddened and sore looking. He trembled. Ford had emptied a tech crew's water bottle over Sheppard, as Teyla flapped John's outer jacket over his body in a fanning motion.

John twitched and tried to move away from his team kneeling on the floor beside him.

"Where… Who…?"

"It's okay, Sheppard. We're back in Atlantis," Rodney soothed.

Elizabeth realised they were desperately trying to cool the Major down.

"Too much sun?"

The others nodded, eyes focused on their team leader.

Sheppard mumbled something. Teyla leant over listening intently.

, a gurney and supporting medical team clattered into the Gate room. "Here, what's up with you now, Major?" he said as they approached.

John jerked and pushed himself upwards in a surprising show of strength grabbing Teyla's gun as he shoved her out of the way shouting, "No!"

He lurched to his feet, hand scrubbing at his swollen eyes. His body trembled and swayed as he took a heavy limp to one side. The hand holding his weapon wavered as he peered at them and the Gate room surroundings.

Everyone froze. The security team on high alert raised their weapons.

"Dammit not again!" Rodney cursed hotly, before Teyla glared at him.

Elizabeth's eyebrows raised in surprise. Again? What on earth had been going on?

"Got to…not safe…." Sheppard rambled.

"Stand down, sir!" Ford pleaded.

"It is safe. Would I lie to you? Come on, how did you test my personal shield before we came to the Gate room? Remember?" Rodney called out urgently.

Sheppard swung towards him, head cocked to one side. "Rodney…? I… you…we…" he choked out as he took another step. It was too much for his injured leg and he collapsed sideways with a surprised grunt. Rodney and Teyla leapt to cushion his fall. Ford darted in to secure the weapon.

"Weapon secured," Ford announced to the security team, who retreated to the sidelines just in case.

Beckett pushed his way in. "Give us some room!"

Elizabeth looked at Ford. "Safety's on ma'am," he confirmed.

Beckett's team briskly checked Sheppard's pupils, pulse and heart rate. With deft hands, they fitted a neck brace, attached an O2 mask, IV drip and heart monitor, and smoothly slid a back board underneath the limp body.

"Oh Bugger!" Beckett cursed "He's stopped sweating. How long was he out in the heat and what was he doing? Has he had any drugs or alcohol?"

Several hours, running about, fighting, falling into and walking out of a gully, and yes to drugs were the answers he got.

Beckett radioed ahead for more wet cloths, a fan, a tepid bath to be set up on stand-by and an ophthalmology kit as well as the usual set up for blood draws and the scanner.

One of Beckett's nurses tried to triage the team but was rebuffed firmly.

"I will be fine. John's the one in serious danger,"

"I need a lot of water to drink and to stand in a cold shower for about an hour!"

"Sort the Major out. We'll be right behind you."

The Major was soon lifted onto a gurney with rolled up jackets under his elevated feet and pushed as fast as the medics could go to the transporter reserved for medical emergencies.

Elizabeth and the rest of AR-1 arrived just as the transporter doors closed, whisking away the most critical.

Inside the Infirmary, Elizabeth waited while Rodney, Teyla and Ford were checked over by the medical staff. Although they were tired, battered, overheated and very sweaty and dehydrated, they weren't injured.

Their eyes drifted to the curtained off cubicle where their team leader lay connected to beeping machines and where Dr. Beckett and his team worked their magic.

Elizabeth cleared her throat. Their eyes swivelled to meet her questioning face.

"What happened out there?" she repeated.

0o0

The team exited the gate and walked into a wall of intense sticky heat. Sweat instantly prickled at their necks and brows. They moved away from the gate and the splash zone.

Sheppard reached into a vest flap and donned his aviators. Rodney hunted for some sunscreen and a folded hat in the many vest pockets. Ford tugged the brim of his cap lower over his eyes. Teyla looked about assessing the terrain.

Sun -dried grassland stretched in front of them. Hills rose and fell, a few sparse clumps of trees dotted in the distance. Land banked up and fell steeply with a hint of a cliff.

Rodney peered at the LSD. Four dots. He poked at it, analysing data.

"And?" Sheppard asked looking at Rodney expectantly. Then, suddenly, as if coming to an internal decision, he unzipped and removed his vest and took off his outer jacket and threaded it through the Velcro straps at the back, leaving him in his black t- shirt. Not the best color in this heat, he grimaced.

Ford did the same.

Rodney internally debated sunburn over heatstroke. "Nothing. Just us and"—he waved at the sun baked vista in front of them—"all of that. No ZedPM signatures or other signals so far."

"Okay. But we can still take a look around. Take a few samples and pictures back for the science folks. If there's no one around it may be useful as a passing through place until we find a suitable Alpha site," Sheppard suggested.

"Really? Is this what we're reduced to? Foraging for berries and dead squirrels like some primitiv—"

"Rodney!" barked Sheppard, glaring at him. Ford looked annoyed.

"Like my people?" Teyla answered with a steely note in her voice.

"Umm. Okay. That didn't come out right...I didn't mean..." he huffed as he tried to placate her.

"I know what you meant. Your life is or was very different to mine. Indeed, my people do forage for berries and hunt small game. It is the way we have always lived. We grew crops as well." She sighed, no doubt thinking of her displaced people on the Atlantis mainland, starting over again.

"Did I know that?" Rodney asked out loud.

"Let's move out before you say anything else witty," ordered Sheppard, shaking his head at McKay's social faux pas.

"Yes, sir!" said Ford gratefully.

0o0

Several hours later they were hot, sweaty, tired and running low on water and the will to look at more grassland and the odd clumps of tree. They peered over the lip of a crumbling edge of a stone gully on their way back to the gate.

"Anything down there?" Rodney asked, unwilling to go right up to the edge. He noted it didn't seem to bother Sheppard or Lt. Ford. It looked to be about a 20 feet or more drop to the bottom of a dried up river bed. "Maybe it has a rainy season? Obviously not right now, but…"

"Nope, no water. No lost village. No ZPM's on a pedestal," quipped Sheppard.

They heard the familiar sound of the gate engaging and opening ahead.

Rodney dug into his vest for the LSD. His heart hammered; he couldn't see anything on the screen!

Sheppard stiffened and growled "McKay?" but getting no response, he turned towards Teyla instead with a questioning look.

She closed her eyes concentrating for a moment. "I do not sense Wraith."

"Thank God for that. Sorry. I got nothing! The batteries have all dried up in this insane heat, like we have! Hang on!" Rodney babbled, pressing side buttons.

"They don't have batteries!" Sheppard hissed annoyed as he peered at the gizmo's shiny surface.

"I know that!" Suddenly the screen darkened against the bright sun and illuminated dots showed up, four in a cluster. Themselves and six others. "Uh -oh."

Sheppard grabbed the LSD.

"Party of six heading our way, guys. Look sharp."

"Aren't we supposed to be meeting the locals, sir?" Ford queried.

"Yes, but that hasn't exactly gone over well the last few times!" Sheppard commented wryly.

"If we do not try, we will find no other allies but my people! I do not know every planet. Things have changed since the last culling, and news of the Wraith awakening may have upset finely balanced treaties and trading patterns," Teyla warned.

A party of six men of various height and sizes walked towards them, breaking out into a light jog when they spotted the Atlantean team. A big, burly man in front.

"Wait for them to come to us. I see some knives. Is that a bow? Weapons?" Sheppard assessed the group.

"Maybe they're looking for allies and food as well," Teyla suggested as Sheppard waggled his head from side to side in a maybe yes, maybe not inference. Rodney took the LSD back and stuffed it into a vest pocket.

Both parties warily greeted each other. Sheppard noted that the leaders eyes lingered over the P90 resting beneath John's hands before trailing upwards to scrutinize his sunglasses.

"Where are you from? I am Digut and these are my Chosen Men."

"We're peaceful explorers, looking to trade."

"Trade in what? I have not seen you before. If you're peaceful, why carry such exotic weapons? We mean you no harm."

Sheppard highly doubted that.

"No, we aren't looking to trade weapons."

"We have heard rumours that the old enemy has woken early in great numbers. What do you know of this?"

"The Wraith? We heard the same thing," Teyla acknowledged.

One of his men stepped next to him and whispered something into Digut's ear.

"We will trade you for the woman," Digut said bluntly.

"What?!" exclaimed Rodney.

"Sir!"

"I am nobody's chattel."

"Digut, I'm sorry, but we are not that kind of trader. We are willing to trade food or goods but not people." Sheppard kept an eye on the other men who were beginning to edge round and encircle them.

"The shiny machine thing you had, perhaps?"

"It's a toy, nothing more. I'm sorry."

Rodney drew breath and squeaked slightly as Ford pressed his boot over his to stop him from speaking.

"I see. Well, perhaps I can offer you some fresh water in return for your eyeshades?" Digut snapped his fingers and one of his men passed a leather wrapped pouch to him. "Maybe we can move on from there?"

"Major?" Ford called out in warning.

Sheppard pondered his options. The men were close. He couldn't just shoot them. Best to play along and hope they'd go on their way. Although they were his favourite aviators and he'd had them all through Afghanistan, they were only sunglasses. He had brought a few spares….

Against his better judgement he agreed to the water, taking the pouch as he took off his shades. Immediately he squinted against the bright sunlight as Digut put the glasses on in obvious delight.

He opened the pouch and poured a dribble onto his hand. He sniffed it. It was clear. Odorless. Water. He leaned back and took a swallow. It was cool and refreshing.

He handed it back. Digut and his men smiled back at him, like sharks circling a drowning man.

His Oh Shit radar kicked into high gear. He felt a slight burning in his gut, his limbs started to soften like taffy, his awareness dulling.

"What the…" he said. His team, sensing that something was wrong but not knowing what, tightened their stances. His fingers tugged at the gun in his holster.

Digut's men rushed at them lashing out, brandishing knives and clubs in what was apparently a well practiced routine.

Both teams erupted into close-quarter fighting, trading elbows, punches and blows. Ford and Teyla keeping an eye on Rodney. AR-1 was winning despite the extra men.

"Enough!" Sheppard yelled, finding a gap in the battle and fired a single P90 round into the air, desperate to end this while he could still think coherently. His throat was drying out.

Digut charged at him, Sheppard fired at his leg in reaction, but still he came on enraged like a Viking Berserker. There was a tussle and they traded blows, Sheppard grabbed his aviators off Digut's face and Digut head butted him even as his wounded leg made him slump down Sheppard's body pushing him backwards.

Sheppard lost his footing as the edge crumbled underneath his feet; his arms pin wheeled frantically before he disappeared over the edge with a yell. There was a scraping sound. The sound cut off with a thud. Then silence.

"Major!"

"Sheppard!"

"You've killed him! " Rodney shouted. "You attacked us with no provocation!"

Teyla and Ford had knocked out three of Digut's men, Digut and the remaining men now found all three weapons pointed at them.

"Stop or we'll shoot! We didn't ask for this. We've tried not to harm you but you gave us no other option. Take your men and leave. Now! If we meet again, I assure you we won't show any mercy," Ford ordered.

While they gathered themselves, Rodney had gone to the edge of the gully. Glancing back at the ruffians, he pulled out the LSD and held it over the edge. He couldn't see anything below. The screen showed two dots near each other and a clump of seven dots moving slowly to the gate. No dot for Sheppard. No lifesign. There should have been ten dots.

"Oh God." He looked back; the mercenaries were still heading towards the gate with Ford accompanying them to make sure they went. Teyla joined him.

"Teyla…" he started. " He…" He showed her the LSD, numb.

"Are you sure Rodney? Could you see…anything? Can we climb down and check?" She lay down at the edge and peered over. Rodney held onto her boots.

After several minutes of her peering over and edging further out, she sighed. "No I cannot see him. There is an overhang. It's too steep."

Teyla leaned over the edge and yelled "Major Sheppard?"

"Sheppard, can you hear us? Respond please!" added Rodney.

There was no reply.

"Look at the sides— it's smooth, but we have no rope."

"Then we go back to Atlantis and get a jumper and get help," Teyla said solemnly. Reluctantly he agreed, and they joined Lt .Ford at the Gate some fifteen minutes later.

"Did you find...? Is he..?" asked a subdued Ford.

"Nothing. We looked over but..." Teyla replied as Rodney glanced at the LSD again. His eyes widened.

"We moved. There's another dot! It's Sheppard! We must have been right above him! Thank God!"

They all ran back towards the dot blinking on Rodney's screen.

0o0

He woke up on his stomach on a hard surface. It was insanely hot and he didn't know where he was. His head hurt and he felt battered, an ankle throbbed.

He lay for a moment assessing his body, moving various parts. He ached but didn't seem to have broken anything. He could move everything more or less okay. He was thirsty. Time was passing, as the little patch of shade sheltering him vanished with the sun's rotation.

He rolled over and immediately bumped into something at his back. He peered up at what seemed to be a rock wall above him. He didn't hear anything. The stone was worn smooth, with no footholds. He didn't remember walking in here or climbing down, although his hands seemed a bit scraped and shredded. Did he fall? How come he wasn't dead? Was this an Afterlife?

His hands moved to his canteen and discovered that it was leaking. It must have gotten damaged in his supposed fall. Most of the water was gone. He undid a bit of duct tape wrapped round a credit card from his vest pocket and patched it. Something dark lay a few yards away.

He sat up in stages and gingerly stood up using the the wall for support. He walked forward and poked at the dark object with a boot. Aviators, slightly twisted and one lens popped out. He gingerly bent to pick them up, his back twinged painfully and absently tucked them into a pocket. He continued following the slope of the ground to what seemed to be a dried up river bed. He'd have to walk out and find another way up and out onto the main ridge. Maybe he'd find water along the way.

He set off.

One foot moved in front of the other. He stared mesmerised. There was something he should be aware of but he couldn't drag a coherent thought from the sludge that currently his brain was.

He looked up. Big mistake. Bright white, searing, scorching light and heat. He stumbled dizzy, tripped and fell hard. He landed heavily on his left side, his cheek scraping on the baked grit and dirt. Pain flared distantly. Dumbly he stared at the view. His left knee throbbed hotly in time with his sore ankle. He blinked furiously as grit lodged in his eyes.

Saliva and nausea rippled through him suddenly and he spat wetly into the dirt. He rolled away from the mess onto his back and took stock.

He blinked hard against the white sunlight. Grit remained, his eyes teared. He tried to wipe the corner of one eye, but that didn't help. He had a terrible headache now.

He breathed in sharply as the pain flared along one side as he cautiously stretched out limbs. Slowly he rolled the other way and worked one knee and hand on the ground and pushed himself up, wobbling slightly as he tested his wonky knee and ankle. He flexed his left hand.

'Road rash' his brain supplied out of nowhere. Road rash? Cars, bikes….did he have a bike somewhere? Was he going to or from it? If he could just find it , then he could go home.

Home was…where exactly? Hadn't dad disowned him the last time they spoke?

Where the hell was he?

He vaguely remembered a fight. Falling. Sliding.

Heat scorched every breath, baked him outside and inside. Mouth and nose seared dry. His tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth. Sweat coated his face, dripped and stung in his already gritty eyes, trickled down his back and pooled at his armpits and joints.

He kept walking. He had to. He was in a sun trap. He needed to get up and out of it and back to base.

He wasn't supposed to say anything to anyone and he'd got away hadn't he?

Yes. So. That meant what exactly? Home.

Away from whom?

Something caught the corner of his eye.

"Come on, Shep. You're slowing, buddy. Letting the side down."

He snorted. "Shut it, Mitch."

He'd done this before. The searing heat reminded him.

Was someone else with him then or now? Panic gripped him for several debilitating seconds. He stopped and turned around, lurching with dizziness as he did so. He was alone.

Heat haze shimmered, mesmerising. Something glinted in the far off distance. Water?

The haze turned into three blobs, dark colors heading straight for him.

Indecision gripped him. Were they good or bad guys? He tried to lick his lips, but they were cracked. He coughed. He should hide. But there was nowhere to go.

"Sheppard! Thank God! We thought you were dead!"

"We were so worried."

"Sir?"

"Whoa. Stop!" the noisy one said.

They stopped. He looked down and saw that he'd pulled his weapon. He heavily limped a pace closer.

"Who're you?" he asked. It was a reasonable question in the circumstances, he thought. He did think it weird for bad guys not to be shooting at him. If they were good guys — should he know them? Hadn't he already run into bad guys?

"Sheppard, it's too hot to be mucking about! I'm burning to a frazzle here!"

"Rodney!" The woman reprimanded sharply.

"Sir, you need to come with us. It's very dangerous out in this sun. You've had a fall and need help."

He nodded, feeling a bit like one of those bobbleheads on car dashboards .

"'S'bit hot, yeah," he agreed slowly "Why should I go with you in particular?"

"We know you. You know us. You like ferris wheels, John."

"Yeah?"

"Sir, you trusted me to go to Hoff with the wraith. You remember?"

"Steve? They all died."

"Maybe not, sir." Ford stepped closer to the Major when he screwed his eyes shut for a moment.

"John, you should come with us out of this heat." The woman again.

"Tea." he said suddenly, lowering his gun hand.

"What? No, we don't have any. We haven't much water either, before your brain boils dry!"

"We had tea inna tent. Sumner was pissy 'bout it. I flipped a coin and Mitch said I was slowing everybody down…" Sheppard squinted at them, blinking.

Ford was closer now.

"Sir, I really think I should look after that. Teyla's got some water. I'm sure you'd like some?" Ford said patiently and took Sheppard's gun from his lax hand.

"Yeah. Okay." Sheppard didn't seem to notice. Teyla opened her canteen and passed it to him. He started to drink, and then said "NO!" flinging it away. Teyla rushed to pick it up and replace the cap.

"It's water, I promise. We don't have much left and we need to get you home," she urged.

"I'm..I'm just gonna sit...forra second. I need..." He didn't notice when they gently helped him to sit and pulled off his shredded TAC vest and t- shirt and poured some water over his head and torso.

0o0o

Door chimes woke him. "Door's open!" he called out, coughing slightly with a dry throat. He leaned over and drank from one of the many bottles of water on the bedside table.

McKay came in with a loaded lunch tray "Nice to see you awake, Sheppard."

"Oh, hey. Thanks."

"Beckett doesn't want you gimping around just yet. So this was easier."

He shifted awkwardly to sit up, without knocking the crutches beside the bed.

Rodney grabbed the pillow wedge from the floor and John leaned forwards so he could stuff it behind his back. His left knee was in a brace and his ankle wrapped up. More bandages covered his left arm and hand. His back was bruised and he was a bit sunburnt and sore. The grit in his eyes hadn't scratched his cornea and had washed out okay. It could have been much worse — it nearly was according to Dr Beckett.

Beckett had fussed a lot in the first 24 hours of his stay in the infirmary. Not that he remembered much of that. He didn't remember being put in a tepid bath or having fans and cold packs cooling him down. It had apparently been a tricky few hours.

After two days, he'd been told that there were no more traces of the foreign drug in his system. He was still thirsty all the time, but at least he didn't need to be under Beckett's watch anymore. Everything had settled down. His body was finally regulating itself.

"So are you going to eat or just stare at it?" Rodney asked, half way through his meat pie and vegetables already, watching sideways from his seat at John's desk

"I'm getting there. Don't drip gravy all over my floor!"

"You know," Rodney mused, chewing furiously "it would be nice if we met more people like the Athosians. People that don't try and trick us from the get go."

"I hear you buddy."

The door chimed. "Come in Teyla!" Rodney shouted.

"It's my room, Rodney!" John said in exasperation as Teyla entered with her own tray.

"I told her this is where I'd be. She's joining us. You don't mind?"

"Of course not. Afternoon Teyla."

"Good afternoon, John." She peered at him. " You look much better."

"Thanks. I'm getting there."

"Lieutenant Ford said he'd drop by later. Dr. Beckett also asked me to remind you of your check up this evening."

John nodded in acknowledgement as he ate. "I refuse to believe all our meet and greet's are going to end up like the last few."

Teyla inclined her head in unspoken agreement.

"Anyway," John continued, "I'm going to be out of action for a few weeks with this lot. What's next for you guys?"

"I have a couple of things in the works of course. Some readings on M5S-224 could be promising. And now I have more time to work on that." Rodney said excitedly.

"Glad I could help!" John deadpanned. He and Teyla exchanged a glance when it was clear Rodney missed the sarcasm completely.

And to think he'd tossed a coin for this. It wasn't what he expected or thought he wanted but Atlantis and its people was what he needed. That extra drive to explore and do new things like flying alien spacecraft of course!

END

Prompts: Gen/Team/some h/c. Shep injured can't get home. Memory loss (confused, zapped,whatever etc) and Shep needs coaxing by Team. Heat stroke/overheating

No excessive vomiting or infirmary please!