AN: This was a short episode tag to The Gift, another request by my good friend Shelly. Hope you enjoy itas usual, I don't owe them, I wish I did!

Bruised Souls

By M.N.Talbert

"Major, I am not going to shatter," said Teyla, twirling one of her fighting sticks in a broad arc. "Please do not hold back."

Sheppard raised an eyebrow. "I'm not." He wasn't about to admit why he was moving slower than usual. Teyla had enough guilt from her recent Wraith possession.

Teyla's eyes narrowed at his confession. "I see," she replied evenly, circling John on the mat, and spinning the right stick, while raising the left, preparing for an attack.

Sheppard saw her movement, and brought his right up to meet her left, while taking his left over, with the intent of knocking her right stick out of her hand as it was spinning. But, she had already begun her move, and anticipated his reaction. Since he was slower than usual, she had no problem at all with knocking aside his left, and her right stick was blocked low, allowing her to reach in, pull him around, and bring up the other stick under his neck.

"Well, this is familiar," joked Sheppard, his back was pulled towards Teyla's body at an uncomfortable angle. He began to have second thoughts about the practice session, but Teyla had asked him after her release from the infirmary. He'd seen the raw need in her eyes, the need to exercise demons, and find peace of mind in the physical.

Teyla loosened the stick against Sheppard's neck, and with her other hand, shoved him on his back, away from her. She didn't see the Major's face pale under the impact of her hand on the exact spot where she had nailed him with the IV pole a day before.

He threw his hands out, catching himself before falling on his face, but it was a close call. He tried to breathe through the crushing pain and realized he shouldn't have thought he was up to this. He'd seen the bruise on his back this morning, and it had even shocked him. Sheppard wasn't new to bruises, but this one traveled from his left kidney, up to just under his right shoulder, with a heavy dark red line that would match the IV pole, with an outlying spread of brown from the blood diffusing to the neighboring tissues. And it hurt, like a bitch. More than most bruises, and he knew it was one of those really deep ones that took forever to heal.

His hesitation at gaining his feet hadn't gone unnoticed. As he gingerly worked himself upright, he saw Teyla watching him with a veiled frown. "Are you alright, Major?" she asked.

"Fine, just…a little tired," lied John. Well, not exactly a lie. He was tired. Who wasn't right now?

"I see," said Teyla, but then she moved quickly, too quickly for Sheppard, and she lifted his shirt, gasping at the damage she observed. "I…I am sorry. I did not know…"

Damn, Sheppard cursed inwardly. So much for protecting her. "It looks worse than it is," he assured her.

Teyla eyed him skeptically. "I doubt that. Have you seen Doctor Beckett?"

"About this?" laughed Sheppard dismissively. "It's just a bruise, Teyla. It'll heal."

Teyla eased his shirt back into place, and regarded him gravely. "Did this happen in the infirmary? When I was taken over by the Wraith?"

John knew that Teyla's memories of those moments were foggy at best. She had learned of the general gist of her actions, no, the Wraith's actions. Beckett's face betrayed some of what went down. He thought about denying it, but as he stared at her, he knew she would see through him. She always did. For whatever reason, he was stripped to a level of honesty with Teyla than anyone he had ever known. "Yes, but it wasn't you, Teyla," he said, taking her sticks as her grip slackened, and he saw the curtain of anger descend, and regret.

"It may have not been my will, Major, but it was me," she replied stonily.

Sheppard walked to the bench, setting the sticks in the bag Teyla kept them in. He picked up a towel, and moved stiffly to her side. "It wasn't you," he lifted her chin. "You wouldn't intentionally hurt any of us, do you understand?"

Teyla pulled her head back, and forced distance between herself and Sheppard, as though she didn't trust herself. "But unintentionally…"

"You said it yourself, you think you have to create that initial connection," John offered, frustrated in his inability to ease her guilt and fear.

"Yes, I think, Major. What if I'm wrong?"

"Hell, Teyla, what if anyone is wrong? You can't live off of 'what-ifs', no one can. You've got to put this behind you. We need you, now more than ever."

She sat on the bench, beside her bag, and it was the first time John could honestly say he'd ever seen her looking so beaten, but she surprised him, for when she raised her eyes to meet his, there was a new look of determination in them. "You are right. We all need to be strong, and we will, Major. We will fight the Wraith, and we will save Atlantis," she vowed.

"That's better," said Sheppard, grinning. "Now, ready for round two? Some day, I am going to kick your ass."

Teyla returned his easy smile. "You did, remember, not very long ago?"

"Yeah, but that didn't count. Unfair advantage because of your dreams. When you're full strength, I want a rematch."

She nodded her head, "Fair enough, but for now, in light of your…injury…I think we should postpone any matches."

"Excuses, excuses," joked Sheppard, but he got ready to leave, and paused at the door. Teyla had smiled but it faded as he was walking out the door. He thought about saying something else, but he didn't. He knew that some demons a person had to fight on their own. He'd done his best. The rest was up to Teyla. He stepped into the corridor, and winced at the wave of pain. As for him, a short visit to Beckett for some painkiller, and he'd be good to go. The Wraith were coming, and he'd be ready.


Bruised Bodies

Sequel to Bruised Souls

Sheppard walked carefully into the infirmary, searching out the familiar form of Doctor Beckett. He noticed the infirmary beds were empty, a good sign. They'd need every man and woman for the fight to come.

"Major? What can I do for you?" The good doctor's brogue interrupted his searching, and he turned towards the voice, "It isn't Teyla, is it?" Beckett had left his office when he heard the infirmary doors open. At the sight of Sheppard, his first thought was Teyla. She had only recently been released.

Sheppard's eyebrows raised in surprise, realizing what his appearance so soon after Teyla's discharge would imply. "No," admitted John uncomfortably, "it's me."

Beckett frowned with his revelation. "You? What is it this time? Did McKay stick you in some new device?"

"No, Doc," John cut him off before he fired more questions. "I just need some Tylenol." Not for the first time he cursed the procedure that didn't allow them their own supplies.

"Son, you know I can't give out anything without an exam, hop up," Beckett patted a nearby bed, and reached for his stethoscope.

John did know, but it hadn't stopped him from hoping. He debated about leaving, but Beckett gave him a look that said if he didn't do this willingly, he'd call in the big guns. Once you were in Beckett's territory, you were under his command. He headed for the table, and as carefully as he could, got on the bed. It wasn't easy, and he could see Beckett watching his every move.

"You're back?" asked Carson, noticing the tentative way Sheppard walked, the way he held himself stiff, and how he struggled to bend as little as possible.

"Teyla got me with the IV pole. Just a bruise, but, you know…kind of a bad spot for one."

Beckett nodded sympathetically. He could imagine. An individual's back was under constant strain, and pressure, and when a person walked, the back bent in small ways most people were never aware of, until they injured it, that is. He lifted the Major's shirt, and whistled low at the damage. "A pretty picture, Major. I would think you'd need a bit more than Tylenol for this."

"I only have time for Tylenol, Doc," admitted Sheppard. Sure, he'd take something heavier if he could, but they were under constant stress, meetings, and plans. He had to be coherent, and clear headed.

"Major, if you can give me a couple hours, I can at least help the healing," Carson said. He began with the cursory exam, though he knew Sheppard's vitals should be fairly normal. The stethoscope revealed normal heart function, and lungs. He had a slightly elevated temperature, a normal reaction of the body to significant injury. Breaking bones, and deep tissue damage could cause such a small rise.

"Only two?" asked Sheppard. Truthfully, if he could treat his back and give him better mobility, it'd be two hours well spent.

"Aye, give or take."

John considered it. His back was killing him, and the temptation to get some of the pain relieved was a dangling carrot he couldn't resist. "Okay, but no more, promise?"

Beckett nodded soberly. "Promise," he said. "Wait here, I'll be right back."

John shifted on the bed, the weight of sitting causing his bruised back to ache more. He stared at a cabinet that was in his line of sight, and let his thoughts drift. He thought about the culling he'd witnessed days ago. It was brutal, painful, and he'd felt so utterly helpless. If he'd tried to help, he would've signed his and Teyla's death warrant, and still everyone would've been lost.


Sheppard shook off the morbid thoughts, and realized Beckett was back, with a tray of supplies and a nurse. "Doc?" he said warily. This looked like more than he bargained for.

"Relax. This is only a light sedative. We're going to alternately ice your back over the next two hours. It'll be uncomfortable, which is why I want you take the sedative."

"You said two hours," reminded Sheppard.

"Aye, it's a short-acting drug. It'll help for the time we agreed for, and it wears off with minimal side effects. Trust me, I'm only trying to help," pleaded Beckett sincerely.

Sheppard let out a lungful of air, figuring sometimes you had to just do it. "Okay," he said. "But, two hours, and only this," John indicated the supplies Beckett had. "Don't do anything sneaky."

Beckett grinned easily. "I wouldn't," he said, cringing as the smile caused his eyes to crinkle just so that it creased his own split skin where Teyla had punched him.

Sheppard let Beckett help him onto his stomach, and adjusted the pillow under his face. He felt the slight sting as the needle went in, and then he drifted into dreams, and surprisingly, for once, they were pleasant. He dreamed of flying, and the blue, open skies back home, before the Wraith.

Beckett gave the nurse some final orders, making sure she'd rotate the ice every 10 minutes, ten on, ten off, for the next two hours. That would help considerably with the swelling, which would ease the pain and discomfort, and it would heal faster.

After that, he headed back to his office, and back to the eternal stack of paperwork that never seemed to shrink. He'd been working for thirty minutes, and the infirmary was peaceful. He could hear the nurse going about her business with typical efficiency. A knock at his door drew him out of his musings, and he was surprised he hadn't heard the person entering the infirmary.

"Carson, I was looking for John." Elizabeth Weir was standing in his doorway, and it was clear she had seen the body lying asleep on the bed.

Beckett stood, putting his pen down, and he took Elizabeth's arm, guiding her to Sheppard's side. He lifted the ice pack, exposing the colored damage.

"Was that from Teyla?" she asked softly. She had forgotten that he'd been struck, hard, in the aftermath of Teyla's possession.

"Aye, he'll be okay. I gave him a light sedative, more for the pain and discomfort of the treatment, than anything. Icing can be painful on a deep bruise of this sort, at least until the numbness kicks in."

"I see."

They were whispering, but nonetheless, Sheppard stirred on his bed. Beckett raised a finger to his lip, and steered Elizabeth back towards the door. "He'll be awake soon. I'll send him to you."

"Thank you, Carson," Elizabeth said, her eyes beaming kindly at Beckett. He was a blustering man who may be timid, but was a hell of a physician, and friend, to the members of the expedition. "Take care of him," she said quietly, and slipped out the doors, easing them shut so they didn't bang.

"I will, lass," promised Beckett. "I always do." And he headed back to his office. Business as usual, for at least a little while longer. He could only hope that the coming days would offer a solution, and the place he was learning to call home, would be saved. He knew the man sleeping on the bed would be instrumental in that hope. God save them all, he prayed, before picking up his pen, and continuing to write where he'd left off.