Disclaimer: I don't own Stargate, and can't afford to buy it.
Note: This is the sequel to Seen.
Elizabeth pressed her palms into her brow, trying to physically push back the pain that was hovering above her eyes. Less than an hour in her office, and her laptop was already giving her a headache. There was reason, she decided, that the "paperless office" had not come about on Earth. It was miserable to stare at just a computer screen all day, everyday, for weeks on end. She tallied up what she was willing to give up for a real piece of paper to read. She was willing to trade Rodney for a fairly recent copy of the Wall Street Journal.
She looked up when there was a knock on her window. Sergeant Bates was standing in the open door, dressed in green BDUs and utility vest, and carrying his P90.
"Come in, Sergeant."
"My team's about to head out to the south pier, ma'am."
Elizabeth nodded. She had put the recon teams on a schedule of rotating off world and Atlantis exploration assignments. Bates was taking his squad into the far corners of Atlantis today. Stackhouse's team would be going to M2K-55I, while Sheppard's would stay in the city.
"Be careful out there," she said. "Let us know if you find anything."
Elizabeth started to read the report on her computer, but noticed that Bates hadn't left yet. "Is there something else, Sergeant?"
"Um…are you okay, ma'am?"
"You look like you might be sick, Doctor."
Elizabeth was touched by the Marine's concern. "Just an upset stomach," she confessed.
"Are you sure you're okay? Major Sheppard could keep an eye on things if you need to see Doctor Beckett."
"That won't be necessary," she reassured him. "Don't worry about me, Sergeant. You've got some exploring to do."
Bates nodded, accepting the dismissal. "Yes ma'am."
Elizabeth turned to the computer, intent on actually reading the report. A moment later, her eyes were wandering from the screen, toward the control room, where Bates stood at Grodin's console, quietly talking with him and Zelenka. The two scientists shot periodic glances toward her as they talked.
Groaning, she focused on the computer again.
She made it through a half dozen reports from the science staff over the next two hours, and could have continued, until Major Sheppard walked into her office.
"Hey, Elizabeth, have you…whoa! Are you okay?"
She frowned at him. "I'm fine."
Sheppard folded his arms and frowned back, examining her. Her skin was pale, and her eyes were slightly red. She was slouched back in her seat and had one elbow propped on the desk, her cheek resting on her palm. A perfect image of weariness.
"Have you had lunch yet?" John asked, sitting in the chair in front of her desk.
Elizabeth shook her head. "I haven't gotten around to it."
"Did you skip breakfast again?" When she didn't answer, he sighed loudly. "I really think you should talk to Beckett."
"Could you keep your voice down, please?" Elizabeth jerked her head toward the control room. "You're fueling the rumor mill."
Sheppard glanced over at the control center, noting several of the technicians doing a poor job of discretely watching them. He rolled his eyes.
"So? That's all there is to do in isolated outposts." He stretched his arms up over his head, sighing. "I lived in Antarctica for a year. All we did was watch old movies and talk about who might be sleeping with who."
John swung his arms out and down. His right arm stretched toward the control room, and he flashed a one-fingered salute through the window.
"Major, that's very unprofessional," Elizabeth scolded, trying her hardest not to laugh. The shocked, offended expressions in the control room were the funniest things she had seen in weeks. John grinned at her as he dropped his hand, and Elizabeth finally relented, grinning back and shaking her head.
And then her face went completely slack. John watched in horror as her eyes rolled up and she slumped forward. He leapt to his feet, catching her by the shoulders before her head hit the desk.
He pushed her body upright in her chair, cradling her head in one hand as it rolled to the side. "Elizabeth? Elizabeth! Answer me!"
He quickly moved around the desk without letting go of her. "Somebody call Beckett!" he yelled as he scooped her out of her chair. He didn't wait for a response before he was out the door, cradling Elizabeth in his arms.
John stood outside the infirmary door as he waited for word from Beckett. He had delivered Elizabeth to the doctor, who promptly booted all non-medical personnel from the room. Sheppard watched the door intently, trying to follow the shadows as they moved across the stained glass set in it.
He was oblivious to the small crowd that had formed around him. Several others had followed him out of the control center, and more people had arrived as word of Elizabeth's situation spread around the city. They all kept their distance from the major, content in their own small knots of conversation.
John's head snapped around as two words cut through his fog of thought. Zelenka, Grodin, and a few others were holding a heated debate at ten decibels.
"Who the hell is running the control center?" he snapped.
The scientists glanced at each other, suddenly wondering the same thing. "Lance Corporal West?" Grodin offered.
Growling in disgust, he pushed past scientists. "Back to work," he ordered, and the others jumped to follow him.
The next six hours in the control room were spent in tense silence. Ten minutes after Sheppard and the others left the infirmary, Bates' team arrived there, carrying him. The Sergeant had collapsed while walking down a corridor.
Half an hour later, Beckett had two-dozen patients in his infirmary, all having mysteriously passed out. As the numbers swelled to forty, Beckett called Sheppard, insisting on calling a quarantine. Sheppard agreed, and the announcement was made. Until the unknown illness was identified and could be treated, all personnel were to restrict their movement.
Sheppard spent most of that time sitting in Weir's office, glaring at the technicians in the control center. They worked quietly, keeping conversation to a minimum out of fear of the major's wrath. Even if a few of them believed it was really misdirected concern over Doctor Weir's condition.
It was a great relief to everybody when Beckett radioed them and said that most of the patients were awake and doing better, and that he had determined the source of the problem. Sheppard was on his way to the infirmary immediately, pausing on his way out to glare at the control center one last time. This time no one dared to follow him.
The infirmary was crowded with patients. Though as he entered, John noticed that only a few were sleeping in beds. Most of the rest were seated on chairs that had been moved in, looking tired and bored.
He found Elizabeth at the back of the infirmary, with Beckett in he lab area. She had her legs tucked under her on the chair, and a blanket wrapped around her shoulders.
"Are you feeling better, Doctor?" John asked.
Elizabeth smiled up at him. "Much."
"So, what exactly happened here?"
Beckett picked up a red berry form his desk. "This was our culprit."
"The wild berries the Athosians found on the mainland? I thought those ran out."
Beckett nodded. "There is some sort of bacteria growing within them that most people responded poorly to."
"I'm suddenly glad I didn't get any," John quipped.
"I did, but didn't have a reaction to it," Carson replied. "But antibiotics have proven very effective against it. I think we see now that we need to have some rules about serving alien foods before they've been screened," he added, looking to Elizabeth.
She nodded. "What ever you think is appropriate, Carson."
"We'll figure something out. I'm going to head over to the mainland soon. I suspect that there are some sick people in the Athosian camp, too."
They turned to see Ford and McKay enter the infirmary, carrying Teyla between them.
"I wondered if she was going to end up here," Beckett muttered. He rose as one of the nurses intercepted the two men and guided them toward a bed. "I think you can finish your recovery in your own quarters, Elizabeth," he said. "Make sure you drink plenty of fluids, and I want you to rest."
Elizabeth smiled. "I will, Carson."
"Major, will you escort Doctor Weir to her quarters?"
"Sure." John held out a hand to help Elizabeth up from the chair. She still looked pale and tired, though her eyes were clear and alert. She took a few unsteady steps and reached out, grabbing a hold of John's arm.
"Make sure she rests," Carson called as they left the infirmary.
John sighed, looking down to where he had instinctively bent his arm, letting Elizabeth hold on to his elbow. "Not him, too."
"I don't think Carson is part of the gossip," Elizabeth assured him, patting his arm.
"Well that makes…one," Sheppard remarked. He glared at a passing Marine, who wore an oddly speculative look when he saw them.
"Why us, though?"
"Why are you and I the subject of the most pervasive rumor in Atlantis?"
John shrugged. "It's more fun to gossip about the boss, I guess. We work together pretty well, usually, and became friends pretty easily."
"We are friends, right?" he added a moment later.
Elizabeth smiled at the sudden insecurity in his eyes. "Yeah, we are. And that's something that really surprises me."
"You don't want to be friends with me?" John asked with mock indignation, eliciting a small laugh from Elizabeth.
"When I went into political science, I really thought I could change the world. End the need for weapons, put the military out of business, and such."
"And how did that go?"
She rolled her eyes. "I quickly realized that there are some truly bad people in positions of power in some parts of the world, and that force is the language they understand best. Even so, I thought I was making a bit of a difference, until the President sent me to Stargate Command."
Elizabeth sighed. "Goddamn aliens."
John laughed in surprise at the sudden statement.
"I'm serious," Elizabeth continued. "Even Third World dictators are more reasonable than the Goa'uld or the Wraith."
"Dictators generally don't feed on their populations."
"No, generally not," she agreed.
Elizabeth fell silent after that, focusing her energy on the remainder of their walk. John noticed that her steps were growing more unsteady, and she was leaning more heavily on his arm. They reached her quarters and John stopped, supporting Elizabeth as she hit the panel to open the door. Before she could enter, he reached up, gently pressing his hand to her brow.
"You've got a fever, Elizabeth."
"Carson said that would happen. I'm supposed to sleep it off."
"Will you be okay?"
"Of course," she said, letting go of his arm and walking unsteadily into her quarters. She crossed the room to her bed and sat on the edge, smiling at how intently John was watching her. He had fully expected her to fall onto the bed, or fall before she reached it.
"You can check in on me later, if you want," she said.
He nodded and turned to leave.
"John," she quickly called. He glanced back, watching her as she briefly searched for words. "Thank you. Thank you for…" she trailed off, looking confused about what she was trying to say.
He smiled at her. "Any time. Sleep tight, Elizabeth."
Carson bent over his computer, frowning at the screen. Teyla had been the one to bring the infected cherries to Atlantis, and he had fully expected her to show the strongest symptoms of the bacterial infection. But there was no sign of it. The reason for her collapse must have been totally different, but he couldn't make sense of what he read. In fact, she appeared to be almost entirely healthy.
And then his mind reached back, to knowledge he hadn't exercised since he left medical school. "Oh my god," he breathed.
Author's notes: Oh, an evil cliffhanger! I've got the next segment planned, and should be writing it in a few days. Before then, I have to take an anatomy & physiology lab practicum. If it doesn't break me, I'll be posting in the next week.
I take full responsibility for all typos, grammatical errors, poor plots, and gross mischaracterizations that may occur. Writing when I should be sleeping does not always make for the best work.