See PART ONE for disclaimers, copyright and other notes.
Sheppard didn't realize just how much gate travel messed with a human body until he came through the gate with a concussion. Although Teyla and McKay had dragged him across the event horizon like some piece of old camping gear, he'd instantly pulled away from their grasp upon arriving on the other side. He just wanted to be flat on his back and not moving. Anything but moving, so his head would just stop spinning like some out-of-control circus ride.
"We need a medic!" yelled McKay.
Argh. That much was obvious, Sheppard thought through the haze of pain that had his head in a vise. Did McKay have to be so damned loud about it?
There were more voices, all of them colliding into each other like a New York City traffic jam, all of them way too loud, and McKay was once again protesting that he hadn't shot Sheppard. At this rate, Sheppard might just shoot the scientist himself to shut the man up. Even the pounding of the feet of people running up to help him seemed to reverberate through the flooring into his skull. He knew Teyla was kneeling beside him; he could feel her hand on his shoulder. Ford's command to shut down the gate echoed in his head, and he was never so grateful to hear the gate shut down. Didn't anybody ever notice it had a weird hum to it?
Beckett's voice shushed the rest of the talking, including Weir. The physician began asking questions about how Sheppard felt, which could be summed up in just one word: he felt like crap. His head felt like Jason from Halloween had wedged an axe right into the top of it, his jaw felt like a boxer had slammed him across the mat, and worse, he had a ton of sand down his shorts from being dragged across the dunes. He winced sharply, batting away the doctor's hand when a light was shone into his eyes.
"It's not my eyes, it's my head," complained Sheppard.
"I'll be the judge of that," Beckett shot back, giving his personnel the go-ahead to lift the battered pilot onto the gurney. As they took him away, Sheppard could feel every tiny bump the gurney hit on the smooth surface of the gate room. "Needs inertial dampeners," he muttered to himself.
"Definite concussion," Beckett told the others with a shake of his head.
6. THE BRIEFING
Elizabeth Weir kept her hands folded in front of herself, on top of the smooth surface of the large triangular conference table. It was a natural act, but one that had also taken years of perfection - to show not a single iota of discomfort or irritation while conducting diplomatic sessions. In some way, this mission briefing was very similar to any of the truces that she had helped negotiate during her career on Earth. Only instead of dealing with heads of states, she was faced with the incongruent emotions of the three people seated around the table.
While Dr. Beckett had dealt with Major Sheppard's injuries in the infirmary, she'd been able to debrief his team. Their emotions had run high, but their descriptions basically all come to the same conclusion: that a simple trip to an unpopulated world had turned into an unmitigated disaster that fortunately hadn't yielded any fatalities, but they'd come close.
Ford was still a bit wired but controlled after the situation. She'd been very pleased at how he'd handled the incident. He'd brought the whole team back, basically in one piece if not a little bit battered. Teyla had delivered the calmest version of the events that had occurred. Rodney, on the other hand, was a bundle of conflicting emotions and nerves: dismay that he'd come close to shooting Sheppard on their first trip off-world, and she knew, worry that it could be his last mission if that's what Sheppard ultimately decided.
Beckett had allowed everybody see Sheppard briefly after the physician had run a battery of tests to make sure there wasn't any hidden damage, but it had all come down to a concussion, and luckily, not a serious one with any long-term repercussions. However, Sheppard had a whopper of a headache and it showed in his irritable attitude toward any and all visitors. He'd deferred practically the entire debriefing to Ford, and then cut off any further questions with "headache, want quiet, dark. Go away." Since Beckett was in charge, he'd simply shooed everybody away for the benefit of his patient. And that had been it for the rest of the day.
Everyone now looked up from the table as Sheppard quietly entered the conference room. He was in his long-sleeved black shirt and blue jeans since he was temporarily off duty until Beckett decided he was well enough to go off-world again. Judging from the miserable expression that burned in his normally bright eyes, it would be several days at least before he went back on duty. Sheppard sat down slowly, readjusting the ice pack he held to one side of his face.
McKay winced as he got a glance of the nearly day-old vivid purplish-green discoloration that ran up from one side of Sheppard's jaw to where it ended at a slightly puffy and blackened eye. To everybody, except perhaps Teyla, the Major looked like he'd been in a barroom brawl and lost.
Teyla studied the Major with a worried glance. "How are you feeling, Major?"
Sheppard, who had shut his eyes upon sitting down, cracked one bleary eye open to a slit. "There wasn't any liquor involved in this headache, was there?" he asked hopefully.
Weir let the tiniest of smiles play across her lips. "No, I'm afraid not, Major."
"Damned shame." He dumped the ice pack on the table. "Should have at least had some fun to go with this misery. This is going to last for days."
"It is?" Ford said uneasily.
"Got concussed in a chopper crash a few years back. Been there, done that, you know?" Sheppard massaged his temples very carefully. "So after we're done here, I'm going back to my quarters to suffer in peace. If anybody bothers me, I'll shoot 'em."
Which they all knew was an idle threat, although Weir did see McKay gulp a little nervously. Teyla had explained to Weir that when McKay had accidentally pointed a loaded P-90 directly at Sheppard, the Major had been rather upset about it. However, that part of the incident had apparently been wiped from the Major's mind by the blow. When he'd looked at the reports Elizabeth had brought by the infirmary earlier that morning, Sheppard had appeared mostly blank when questioned about it. Carson had explained about concussions and retrograde amnesia. Usually when a person lost consciousness, they lost some time as well, and for the Major, it had been about half an hour. "But," Carson had said matter-of-factly, "who would want to remember being beaten up by a board named Bob?"
That remark had been perversely amusing, but Weir couldn't help but recall how apprehensive she'd felt when Teyla and Rodney had first dragged Sheppard through the event horizon. All the blood had been alarming, but in the end, it had turned out to be basically superficial: a bloody nose, a small cut on his chin, and a larger cut where his teeth had sliced alongside the inside of his cheek, which also explained the slightly puffy look to that side of his face. Add to that some nasty bruising where Sheppard, who had put his hands on top the board, had basically punched himself in the face when the board had ejected from the ground.
Weir flashed a warm smile at the Major, but its intent was unable to pierce the shell of suffering that cocooned Sheppard. "Well, Major, you read the reports and I know you wanted to add something to the mission debriefing," she began. "We'll make this quick."
Sheppard started to nod, but obviously thought better of that action. "Yeah. Um, McKay…"
"What?" McKay said abruptly, his eyes narrowing. "Oh, wait, I'm off the team, right? It was an accident, you know," he said. "It wasn't like I was going to shoot you."
"Rodney," began Weir.
"Well, I wasn't," he said quietly.
Both Ford and Teyla watched the repartee between the two men with unease.
"If anything will get you booted from the team," warned Sheppard. "It was your lamebrain idea to drag me."
Weir knew precisely why Sheppard had hated that having been done to him. It had nothing to do with the action but that all the sand his uniform had scooped up had also gone down it, scratching his backside.
"You couldn't even walk," continued McKay.
"Gentlemen," interrupted Weir. Sheppard maintained his miserable countenance while McKay just sat back in his seat, a dejected look marring his features.
"You're not off the team, Rodney," said Sheppard after a pause. "It's just going to be a little while before we give you a P-90."
McKay brightened instantly, obviously not at all bothered by being denied the use of the powerful weapon. "Really?"
"Ford will give you further instruction," continued Sheppard.
"I will?" Ford said dismally.
"One of the perks of command," said Sheppard with the smallest hint of a smile. "I can delegate."
Ford didn't look very pleased, but McKay didn't seem to notice. Teyla just seemed to be happy not to be included in the conversation or future training session.
"In the meantime," Sheppard produced an item from behind him. Weir surmised he'd had it tucked in the back of his jeans when he'd entered the room. He quietly slid the small rectangular item down the table where it stopped within a foot of the scientist, who stared covetously at it like a child just being handed the proverbial key to the candy store.
"You're giving him the life signs detector?" Ford asked, a tinge of envy in his voice.
"Every jumper has one," clarified Sheppard. "Just don't break it, McKay. They don't grow on trees."
McKay snatched it quickly, lest Sheppard change his mind. Weir nodded imperceptibly at Sheppard. He just shrugged as if the gesture was nothing, but Weir knew how much it meant to Rodney, who'd been thrilled to have been picked for Sheppard's team in the first place. She could see that both Ford and Teyla were also relieved that the team, pulled together only so recently, would remain intact and had survived this hurdle.
Sheppard stood up. He carefully reapplied the ice pack to his bruised face. "Um, don't bother me till…" He squinted at his watch. "The weekend."
Weir nodded in acknowledgement as he left the room. McKay, suddenly realizing that his benefactor had gone, called out, "Thank you, Major!"
"Not so loud," filtered back Sheppard's irate voice from beyond the door.
McKay nearly yelled back his apology, but seemed to think better about aggravating the situation and Sheppard's headache. "This device is just incredible," he remarked, aiming it at Weir and the others. "I've got to find out how this works. If we can backwards engineer it—"
"Hey," interrupted Ford. "The Major said not to break it."
"I'd put it back together." McKay frowned.
"Rodney," warned Weir.
"Fine, fine," he muttered, although not altogether convincingly.
"I believe this briefing is now concluded." Weir stood up, noticing that everybody seemed very relieved to hear those words. "Agreed?" All heads nodded, although McKay seemed to do it just as a mindless action. He was back to being utterly fascinated with a new bit of Ancient technology that until now, Sheppard had kept away from the scientist.
As they all dispersed from the briefing – Teyla to check on the displaced Athosians who now compromised half of the Atlantis' population, Ford to most likely determine a safe place for target practice, and Rodney to play with his new toy – Weir came out into the control area and smiled. The hustle of the civilians and soldiers performing their daily tasks was a welcome sound to her ears. She honestly hadn't known what to expect when she'd taken on the Herculean task of leading the expedition – certainly not the rising of Atlantis from the ocean's depth, or the omnipresent danger of the newly encountered Wraith – yet it was all a challenge she would undertake again in a minute. She knew that their fortune could change as rapidly as the weather, but for the time being, they would persevere, despite the few bumps along the way.
And that's it! Hope you enjoyed the fic, and I think most Canadian fans will recognize where the names Bob and Doug came from ;)