AN: The comment Koyla made, "Too late" referred to wishing he'd never been born. I say that because Koyla's racked up quite a run of screw-ups, and a lot of his own people's blood is on his hands. As commander, he bears the responsibility for all those that died during the mission to take over Atlantis, including those sixty that splatted on the shield, and then the one left that believed in him died on that puzzle...so I think he's got a lot of issues with what's happened.

Epilogue

Sheppard stared at the computer screen, trying to figure out what to put next. The warm glow from his bedside lamp made him drowsy, and he fought the urge to put this off for tomorrow. They'd been back long enough for him to get cleared, after which, he'd retreated to his quarters. He wasn't sure how long it'd be before McKay found him, but…

…the pounding on his door told him not long enough. "Come in!" he called, knowing exactly who it was. He wasn't surprised.

McKay walked in, and peered over his shoulder at the computer screen. "Mission report?" he asked. "Already?" He eyed Sheppard. "That's a new record."

Sheppard closed the lid, looking over his shoulder at McKay irritably. "It's not a new record. I did the one on the mission with all those kids with a faster turn-around," he said.

McKay snapped a finger in his palm. "Oh, right," he commented. "So seeing kids killing themselves bothers you more than being set-up by your teammate."

Sheppard realized this was going to be a while. He sighed, and swung his legs around so he was facing McKay instead of speaking to his computer, although the computer would probably be less aggravating. "Are you insinuating that I only finish reports in a timely manner when I'm upset?"

McKay bobbed his head, searching for a diplomatic answer, and couldn't find one. "Basically, yes," he said, stepping farther into the room. "Genius, remember?"

"At physics, yes…" Sheppard stated, kicking his feet up on to the bed. "People…not so much."

"And you are so much better," McKay cracked. "Sumner, Weir, Everett, Bates, Kavanagh…" he looked at Sheppard, "…just to name a few of the people that you've had issues with."

Sheppard narrowed his eyes at McKay.

McKay tapped a finger on his chin. "And that Athosian…what was his name?" he asked, looking towards Sheppard.

"I don't remember."

"My point…"

"…is taken. Anything else, or did you come here just to gloat?"

"Actually, I came here to make sure I wasn't going to find something scary in my room," admitted McKay.

An eyebrow went up. "Why would you find something in your room?" Sheppard asked, confused. "And, for the record, Sumner had a chip on his shoulder from before we met; Weir knows little about the military, but she's learning, Everett was the same as Sumner, and the same end result…Bates is security on steroids, and Kavanagh hates you more than he hates me."

"I thought there might be some latent resentment because we set you up," said McKay. He stooped down, and took a seat on Sheppard's bed. "Kavanagh hates me?" he asked, bewildered.

Sheppard thought it was a good thing he'd taken those Tylenol earlier. Practicing preventative medicine. He'd been fairly certain McKay would show up with a typical load of emotional baggage. For such a sarcastic, arrogant, self-pretentious little man, he sure needed a lot of reassurance that all was right with his little slice of the world. Sheppard had been on to him from the get go. McKay wasn't any of those things, but he was a good actor.

"Maybe hate is a little harsh, let's just say he suffers from bouts of inadequacy. Inferior species," Sheppard confided. "And latent resentment? How many sessions have you had with Heightmeyer?"

McKay opened his mouth to reply, then stopped. He seemed to think for a moment, before looking at Sheppard. "Huh," he said, and got up, heading for the door.

"Huh?" repeated Sheppard.

"Nothing, Colonel," McKay said, looking back over his shoulder. He had one foot out the door. "See you…" he smiled openly, relishing in the simplicity of what was. "…in the morning," he finished. And the door swished shut after McKay, darkening the room as the light from the hallway was blocked.

Sheppard continued to stare for a few minutes, and then he turned back around and lifted the lid on his computer. The Genii interrogator began to ask if I had completed the programmed mission… he typed out the words. He sighed, better to do today, what you'd rather not do tomorrow…


"Do you think he's a risk?" asked Caldwell.

Doctor Weir was sitting across from Colonel Caldwell. It was quiet, late into the night for the city inhabitants. They'd taken to meeting at the end of the day, reviewing civilian and military affairs, and getting everything straight with each other. They were doing a dance, and Caldwell wasn't always sure he was the lead. Effectively, command had been given to him, but realistically, he was the commander of the Daedulus, and as such, he might be called away, and he needed to know she could step in. She'd done it for a year, under more difficult circumstances.

Elizabeth shook her head. "No. Kate seemed certain that they didn't do anything else to him…" she trailed off. No, that was wrong. They'd done more to him, that much had been obvious by his beaten face.

"No more programming," Caldwell supplied, knowing Weir's thoughts.

She nodded. "Yes, he wasn't missing any time from the second interrogation." She didn't have much experience with this area. She wished she hadn't gained any at all.

Caldwell looked down at the pile of reports they'd already gone over. They'd discussed the problem with food shortages in the mess hall; civilians were hoarding certain food items in fear of being stranded from Earth again. They'd gone over an issue with military members requisitioning more field packs than required, and Elizabeth suspected it had something to do with the rubber gloves, and duck tape.

Caldwell had been inscrutable during that portion of the conversation, and he knew Elizabeth had a hunch that he'd known what was behind the increase in requisitions. And then…then they'd moved onto the big topic. Sheppard.

"Thank you, Doctor Weir," he said. He picked up a pen, and opened a separate folder he'd been working on before she'd interrupted him. Not really interrupted. He'd known she'd be showing up soon.

She took the hint, and stood up. "Good night, Colonel," she paused, and waited for him to look up. "Thanks," she said.

He nodded curtly, and she left, a little disappointed because he didn't say more. She'd offered a crack in the wall, and he'd given her plaster. He didn't want to get too close.

He pulled his eyes away from the empty doorway, and looked at the form in front of him.

DEPARTMENT OF THE AIR FORCE

THIS IS TO CERTIFY THAT

THE AIR FORCE COMMEDATION MEDAL

HAS BEEN AWARDED TO

LIEUTENANT COLONEL JOHN SHEPPARD

FOR MERITORIOUS SERVICE

16 JULY 2004 TO 22 JULY 2005

He signed the certificate. He could only hope that the next ceremony he had scheduled wouldn't be postponed because his officer had been kidnapped, programmed, and beaten.


McKay sighed with relief as he turned the corner and saw the door to his quarters. After talking with Sheppard, he'd gone to his lab; his only intention had been to make sure the experiment he'd set up was running like it should. More than anything, he wanted to sleep. He'd gone for days with nothing but a short nap before the Wraith invasion, and he still hadn't been able to shake the fatigue. He'd read that sleep debt couldn't be taken care of like money in a bank. You couldn't make a deposit and a debit, and balance in the long run. Chronic sleep deprivation took its toll, no matter what you did.

His door whisked open, and he all but jumped in. It was his fault. He should've gone straight here. Once in his lab, he'd tweaked one thing, and then it'd led to another, and before he knew it; four hours had passed. It was a bad habit.

He looked longingly at the shower, but turned away. Morning. He was too damn tired tonight. He shucked his clothes, stripped down to his boxers and t-shirt. He flipped off the bedside lamp and made a mental note to quit leaving it turned on. He was grinning like a cat that'd eaten the canary, already imagining how soft and inviting that bed was, and how good it'd feel lying down and just sleeping. No worries, no fears…at least for tonight.

He pulled the cover back, fumbling in the dark. He slid into bed, and just as his body began to touch the sheets, he felt it. It was cold, clammy, and all over his bed. He jumped up, reaching for the light, and a sweat broke out. What the hell was in his bed? Was there some new bug problem he hadn't been briefed on?

His hand finally found the light switch, and he stared at the bed, dumbfounded. Strewn all over his sheets were pieces of crumbled cheese…

"Colonel!" The shout reverberated through the halls.

Two doors down, a figure in the dark smiled. Rat in a maze, indeed…

THE END