AN: This is a sequel to Sheppard of Sherwood. If you haven't read it, this probably won't make much sense. Spoilers for Siege II. Let the adventure begin -
One For All, And All For – McKay?
By M.N. Talbert
"Pull up a bed," said Sheppard.
As repugnant as the thought was of exposing myself to his cooties, I was intrigued. He'd woken up earlier, and after calling Carson Friar Tuck, and droning on about leeches and being drugged, he'd called me Little John and got all dreamy about Elizabeth in a dress. I wasn't even sure Carson should be letting him have this little tête-à-tête session. In fact, I'd tried to tell him so. I still don't know why he turned slightly purple and started reciting a list of degrees hanging on his wall –
But anyway, I digress, the point, and there's always a point, is that Sheppard looked like crap. Two high spots of color reddened his cheeks, and his eyes were glassy. True, he was no longer wearing sweat-soaked scrubs, and his odor had improved greatly after taking a shower, but he was still sick, and I had a thing about sickness. I didn't like to catch it.
I still am not sure how I even wound up in the infirmary in the first place. After he'd done a lovely recreation of that possessed kid in, oh hell, what was that movie? I snapped my finger irritability - I'd never been into horror films. Cheap thrills. Why watch, when you can make your own? Of course, after the unfortunate trouble I got into for that science fair project, my parents tried to foist television on me to keep me out of trouble. The Exorcist! That's the one, back on topic now, he'd spewed everywhere, and it was a damn good thing those trashcans have such a large capacity. I told myself to stay the hell away, because vomiting was not attractive, and knowing my luck, I'd probably throw up enough to tear the lining of my stomach. And despite what Carson suspects, I did not know the Tabasco would have that reaction.
But, I'd overheard Carson telling Elizabeth that Sheppard was really sick. Something about high fever, and trying to keep it down, and hallucinating – well, I am his best friend, as odd as that sounds. He depends on me, so I shoved aside my fears, and braved the infirmary doors, just in time for him to wake up and utter the best sentence I've ever heard; Carson had used leeches on him. Ha! I secretly suspected our doctor of using less than scientific techniques.
Beckett was claiming it was part of Sheppard's hallucination, but I was searching the shelves. Leeches! Made my skin crawl, and I wouldn't put it past the witch doctor. To be fair, it wasn't Carson's fault that I mistrusted the entire medical community. Childhood traumas and bad experiences, and he was just my present-day representation for all the crap I'd been put through as a kid.
"Are you listening?" grouched Sheppard.
Listening to what? "Of course I am, Major," I answered automatically.
"Colonel," he corrected peevishly.
"Whatever." God that was so fucking annoying. Why'd they have to go and promote the guy after I'd spent all that time getting to know 'Major' Sheppard. You know what, screw it, he was just going to have to deal. He was Major to me, and that's the way it is. I'd tried to get used to it, but every time 'Colonel' passed my lips I had flashbacks to that uptight Colonel O'Neill, oh wait, General O'Neill now – see, they did it again, gone and promoted a guy after I'd gotten used to a certain name. That's the military for you, screwing everything up just when you got settled.
And was it hot in here?
" – and McKay, you should've seen it! I had no idea you could fight like that," stated Sheppard.
"Fight like what?"
His smile slipped, and a slight glare crept over his face. "You aren't listening," he accused. "I knew it. Look, if you don't want to hear about the dashing swordsman that you are -"
Dashing swordsman? "Really?"
"Uh huh, and, you even killed at least five men," he exulted. "You could've gone up against dragons." He grinned rakishly, "McKay, the Mighty Dragonslayer!"
"Dragons?" Now he was putting it on a little thick, still –
"You should've seen Kavanagh's face when you whirled that sword in their faces," he continued. "It was almost worth getting sick for."
That's right, he'd said Kavanagh was Prince John, and how appropriate that was. I'm a scientist, and we try to stick together, but Kavanagh was an outcast even among us social misfits. I didn't often hold grudges, but I shit you not, if that man was the last man alive, I'd rather socialize with a cockroach. He'd said some pretty nasty things about Weir, and Sheppard. That'd pissed me off, but then, he'd gone on and insulted my handling of the hurricane incident. Insult me, insult my friends, but don't insult my goddamn job. I was good at what I did, and I'd saved his sorry ass in the process. I even had a scar from that episode of McKay and Sheppard's Not So Fun Adventure.
Why was it so fucking hot in here?
I heard Carson call me, but his voice sounded tinny, and far off –
"I think he fainted," rumbled Sheppard.
I tried to protest. I thought we'd agreed on the faint-pass out issue. I never fainted. I passed-out. And, this time it was all Sheppard's fault –
"King Louis, that fool, is planning on actually mingling during the celebration," spat a venomous voice.
"Fortunate for us, eh my love -" a deeper male response.
"Unfortunate for the King," responded the woman coldly.
What the –
My head was splitting open. Surely, it'd been cleaved in two, because there was no other explanation for the agony. Where had those voices come from?
I tried to hear more, but they were fading, as if walking away –
I cracked my eyes open carefully, wincing at the light from a torch hanging overhead. I swallowed back bile. My head would be better off if it were actually cleaved in two.
"Porthos!" cried a familiar voice. "There you are. The King wants us in place before the carriage leaves the grounds."
It couldn't be. I looked at Sheppard, and almost burst out laughing. He looked absurd. Dressed fully in Musketeer uniform; he even had that ridiculously large feathered cap, and a rapier attached to his waist. I have to say, the large cross over the tunic particularly added to the total effect.
"Sheppard," I finally managed to say through my mirth, "You look ridiculous."
Sheppard looked over his shoulder, trying to see whomever I was addressing. Finding no one, he leaned in closer and sniffed the air. "Have you been drinking already? Good gods, man, it's not even noon."
"I don't drink!" I protested, how rude. "Besides, none of this is even real, it's all some elaborate hallucination brought on by probably an extremely high fever, if one is to go off of your own earlier experience -"
He grabbed my arm, and yanked me roughly to my feet. My head pounded ten times harder for his effort. "Stop manhandling me," I bitched. Damn, but for a dream, this hurt.
"I have no idea what you are babbling about, but you need to find that worthless Mousqueton, get dressed, and meet us out front, immediately," he snapped.
Mousqueton? Who – oh damn, why of all things did my mind have to create a Three Musketeer hallucination. I had read the novel as a kid, but it'd been ages. Sure, my subconscious remembered these details, but my consciousness was going on clueless here.
"Where is that damnable manservant of yours anyway?" complained Sheppard, looking down the hall. "Probably chasing the skirts of one of the kitchen maids."
Just then an ornately dressed Radek Zelenka came swaggering down the hall, a giggling maid draped seductively over his arm.
Sheppard released my arm, and thank you very much, because ouch – that was going to leave a bruise. He stormed towards Radek, yanking the maid away from the smiling Czech. "Attend Porthos, you worthless sop," he growled. "We are supposed to escort the King's carriage leaving in minutes, and here he sits, in a drunken stupor in the hall."
Radek grinned sloppily. "D'Artagnan, wonderful day," he said, unworried over the wrath of Sheppard.
Surprisingly, Sheppard rolled his eyes, and stormed away.
"Mouse -" What had Sheppard called him?
"Yes, Lord Porthos?" Radek answered.
I frowned at my manservant. The 'Lord' wasn't spoken with deference or respect, mouseboy Radek there thought rather high of himself. Now, you could argue that this was a dream, and that Radek wasn't anybodies servant, but there is a saying, 'when in Rome', so here I was, obviously a Musketeer, and Radek was my manservant, so what the heck, wait on me –
"Fetch my clothes!" I ordered authoritatively.
He hesitated, and I wondered what was wrong with that? Fetch me clothes, pretty straightforward –
"Pardon, m'Lord, but do you intend to dress in the hall?" he asked amused. "I'm sure the ladies wouldn't mind, but -"
Right. I was standing in a hall, and judging from the curious stares as people walked by, a very public hall. "Of course I don't intend to dress in the hall," I retorted scathingly, at least I was going for scathing – I can usually do scathing well – "I was testing you."
"Lead the way, my good – Mouseman,"
His little eyebrows pinched in annoyance. "Mousequeton," he corrected.
Little uppity –
"Whatever," I said, following him to hopefully my room.
It didn't take long to get outfitted in my uniform, and I cut a rather dashing figure, I must say. I huffed at the mirror, sucking in my gut, and smoothing the hilt of the rapier. Pretty damn spiffy.
I jerked so suddenly I almost lost a finger on the sword. "Son of a bitch!" I shouted. That big monstrosity of a man that was Ronan Dex was standing in the door, dressed in full outfit as well. Swell. He would wind up in my hallucination. The man was a moose. "Don't do that again," I threatened.
"And what will you do?" he asked amused. "Little man," he added.
That was uncalled for, I thought. I scowled, and answered with confidence. "Sic d'Artagnan on you," and I sidled past him, heading for the courtyard – uh, where was the courtyard?
I turned back, and saw that moose was still looking amused, so I guess my comment hadn't been taken too seriously. "You, which one are you?"
"D'Artagnan was right," he said. "You have been drinking."
I rolled my eyes, and fixed him with a dirty look. "Just tell me your name, I know it's complicated, but still, I think you have it in you."
"My name is the same as when we parted last night, you fool," he barked. "Aramis."
"Right, Aramis," I said, ignoring his rudeness. "Which way to the courtyard?"
He looked at me, bemused, before saying, "You are a very odd little man." He stepped past me, and started walking away.
"Hey!" I shouted, running after. "I'm not little!"
I arrived at the courtyard out of breath. Who knew you could be out of breath in a hallucination? I wondered if my body was breathing hard in the infirmary –
"Porthos, get over here!" shouted d'Artagnan.
Would these people quit harping at me? Jesus, this wasn't even real. I huffed, and puffed, and snarled over. "I hope you're happy. I don't think I've ever run that hard – well, maybe that time the wraith -"
"Maybe we should get the physician to look at him?"
I groaned, and closed my eyes. I knew that voice - this isn't happening. Not him. Anyone, but him – well, maybe not anyone –
I opened my eyes, and sure enough, Peter Grodin, alive and in the flesh, dressed in full musketeer dress, was atching me uneasily. I dropped my head. Shit. The last time I'd seen him was right before the wraith blew him to microscopic molecules. "Peter," I said tiredly. "You would be here."
"Aramis, go get the doctor," ordered Grodin firmly.
Oh no! I didn't like doctors in real life, and I had no intention of meeting a medieval version of a true voodoo hoodoo, whateverdo. "I'm fine, sorry, it was – uh, something I ate."
A soft snort. "Or something he drank," snarked d'Artagnan - Sheppard.
I rounded on Sheppard, "Would you shut up already, I haven't been drinking." God, was the man destined to be my tormentor even in my own warped imaginations?
The smile dropped from his face, and he stood up straighter. "Don't tell me to shut up," he growled.
Oh, right. "Fine, take thy mouth, and shove it up thine ass," I said reasonably instead.
If it would've been a cartoon of Sheppard, there would've been smoke steaming out of his ears. I could feel the outrage radiating from his body. Before I had time to react, he'd pulled a pair of gloves from his waistband, strode up to me, and slapped me in the face with them!
"What the hell is your problem?" I yelped. That'd stung.
"Your manners are appalling, Porthos, and I mean to teach you how to behave like a gentleman," his eyes gleamed with mischief, "at least before I kill you."
Aramis-Dex was looking at Grodin, and hello, lightbulb moment, that must be the only one left, so it had to be Athos – anyway, Aramis-Dex seemed to think Athos was going to put a stop to this foolishness. But Athos only nodded at d'Artagnan. "If you think you can, boy."
Huh? What happened to 'all for one, and one for all'? I don't remember anything about them trying to kill each other in the book?
"You wouldn't kill me," I said.
"Duel, three o'clock, before the honorary banquet begins," said Sheppard.
A duel, eh? Fine. "Make sure you're there," I said hotly.
"Now that's settled, Gentlemen," said Grodin. "We do have a job to do."
Dex pounded Grodin on the back. "Quite right, Athos. We wouldn't want the Cardinal to be disappointed when the king fails to show, would we?"
King? I looked at the carriage, I mean, really looked at it. Wow. That was pretty fancy – I gave myself a mental pat on the back for creating such a rich historical recreation in my head. Not bad, McKay, not bad.
Now what was this thing with the king? Damn, I wish I remembered more – the king was King Louis XIII, I knew that much, and if I remembered right, he had his following and then the Cardinal, Richelieu, had his own. That was right, I snapped a finger, the Cardinalists and the Royalists. And the Musketeers had been loyal to the King – oh, not the simpering idiot Louis XIII, by all accounts he was a puppet, but the monarchy itself. They believed in the Kingdom, so to speak, and they protected it (and the king) with their lives.
That reminded me – when I'd first woken up in this screwball dream, there'd been people talking. I wracked my mind, what had they said? Something about 'unfortunate for the king'. Damn, I couldn't remember, but the voice – a male voice, I could hear it, even though I couldn't remember the words.
An assassination attempt, maybe?
"Sheppard," I said, only to be met by an irritated look. "Oh, whatever, d'Artboy – this banquet, is it going to be fairly open?"
"It's a good thing we're already set to duel," replied Sheppard. "And of course it is," he snapped. "We tried to talk him out of this, but if you recall, he is being stubborn, as usual."
Grodin added, "How can he be anything but, thanks to that scum Richelieu, whispering in his ear every time we turn our backs, about how 'safe' it is, and how with his personal guards, there is no danger."
Just then, a stable boy arrived with four horses, and they were big. Big as in, no fucking way am I getting on that, make-believe or not. Anything that has the ability to crush and kill, along with a brain the size of a nut, is not getting my ass on top of them.
I saw Peter, Dex and Sheppard expertly mount, and stare at me, waiting not so patiently. I took a step back. "No way. I'm not riding that thing."
"It's a horse, and yes, you are," said Sheppard. "Athos, call the doctor -"
Even psuedo-Sheppard knew my weaknesses, how fair is that? "Okay, okay!" I replied rapidly. "No doctor." Goddamnit, I could wake up anytime now – I waited, closed my eyes, and even counted to ten, but when I reopened them I was still in the courtyard, still standing next to the equine death machine, and still get increasingly hard glares from my friends.
Ohgodohgodohgod – I reached for the reins and thrust a foot in the stirrup – ohgodohgodohgod. The beast turned and stared at me as I clumsily climbed on. "What are you staring at?" I snapped. It turned its head casually away. Was it a boy or a girl? Did it matter, I thought savagely, whatever sex it was, I was going to die.
"Nice horsie," I whispered. "Don't bite Rodney, don't kick Rodney, and please don't knock Rodney off."
And that about sums up my morning. I kept saying 'nice horsie', and we kept riding all over the town, wherever here was. We finally rolled to a stop outside a seedy looking tavern, and the other three dismounted, and started heading for the door.
"Hey, wait, what are you doing?" I shouted. They were going to leave the king sitting in the carriage?
Right about then, they turned, and the carriage door opened, and the hooded figure hopped out, and tossed back the cloak, revealing a gorgeous – "Kate?" I gasped.
Sheppard watched my reaction, and was that jealously brimming in his eyes, as he stepped forward, and inserted an arm into hers, saying "Mi'lady, drinks await."
Now that's just wrong. I'd had the hots for Kate, well, she would always be second to Carter, but hey, you make do when you're billions of miles away from your girlfriend – okay, technically Carter and I never did go out, but –
Sighing, I slid off the horse, my legs buckling under me. "Ow, ow, ow," I whined, pulling on the horse's neck, trying to stand.
The horse did a lazy head turn my way.
"Oh, right, sorry," I said quickly, giving the animal a quick pat.
Limping, I followed them in the bar.
I've never been a drinker, but I'd had a few with Radek, Sheppard and Carson. Drinking was one of the stupidest pastimes ever invented, but, it was like any bad experience – you let enough time pass in between drinking, and you forgot why you vowed never to touch a glass of the stuff the next time.
Dex hauled these massive pints to the table, and with all the chaos and carrying on, how was a man supposed to think straight, and wasn't it still morning? Anyway, I took a sip. And then another, and wow, this was kind of good.
It was when I was on my second that I remembered something. "Shep-D'Artagnan," I corrected. "Isn't Louis going to get pissed at us for drinking on the job? I mean, it's probably boring in that carriage."
Kate started laughing, and the others were grinning. What was so funny? "What?" I snapped. I hated being the only one who didn't know the joke.
"The carriage only carried myself, Porthos," replied Kate, and was that a sultry look or what? "You knew that."
I did? No, I didn't! Christ, I was starting to even believe this dream. "We spent an entire morning, sitting on that disgusting, filthy animal, escorting a -" I struggled to calm down, " – glorified decoy?"
"You know, friend, one would begin to think that you're suffering some kind of mental collapse," said Sheppard. "Or maybe the problem isn't that you did drink earlier, but that you didn't drink -" he snorted.
Ha ha ha. "Cute," I replied.
He gave me another sideways glance, but stood up, "I've got to drain the Cardinal, be right back."
Drain the Cardinal? I shifted my eyes from him to the Lady Kate, and caught the angry look, before she quickly forced an amused grin. Hmmmm, and something is afoot, my dear Sherlock Sheppard.
Wasn't – "Lady de Winter," I said, testing a sudden theory.
She looked at me, "Yes, Porthos?"
"Could I," I thumbed the area behind my head, "talk to you for a moment."
Despite the curious looks, we walked over to a dark hall. Not one for small talk, I laid the cards out. "I know you're a spy for the Cardinal," I said flatly. "Stay away from Shep-," fuck, "D'Artagnan."
Her face grew as cold as a Canadian winter. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Oh, I think you do." I tried hard to recall events, but all I knew was she'd betrayed d'Artagnan's love for her, and even in a fake world, I didn't want to see Sheppard hurt. I was having flashbacks of Chaya all over again, and speaking of which, why had my subconscious made the Lady de Winter Kate, who was my girl, and not Chaya, after that debacle with the glowy Ancient that had the hots for Sheppard?
I pointed an angry finger at her. "Just leave him the hell alone."
"What's going on?"
Crap. I turned and sure enough, there was a suspicious looking Sheppard, staring at me, practically draped on Kate. Well, at least I looked mad. I mean, I was mad, so I had to look like I was, right? I didn't look like I wanted to kiss her, or anything –
"Nothing," said Kate smoothly, moving to the side, and slipping her hand in d'Artagnan's arm. She pulled him back towards the table. He relaxed and allowed himself to be pulled, but she looked over her shoulder at me, and it promised I'd pay for that little conversation.
Huh, we'll see about that. Like Sheppard said, I was a pretty fair swordsman. Bring it on, Heightmeyer, bring it on –
"Porthos, get in here and drink, man!" Dex called loudly.
I groaned. Judging from the cotton-mouth, and swirly head, I'd already had enough. When I woke up from this, Carson was going to pay. This was all his fault. No, scratch that, it was all Sheppard's fault. No – both of them! Sheppard's fault for getting sick, and Carson's fault for making me worry about Sheppard, and thereby going to the infirmary, and – well, crap, let's face it. I was probably infected way before he tossed chunks at breakfast. Shit.
Resigned, I joined my idiot musketeer friends, and drank. And drank. And I remember vaguely getting on the table and dancing with Radek, and when did he show up anyway?
He was trying to say something –
I was dreaming. It was just a dream. Sheppard in that ridiculous outfit, and Radek as my manservant, oh – this was a good one. Someone was pulling on my arm. I had my head pillowed on them, and holy crap, did my head hurt.
"G'way," I mumbled, pushing the person.
"You damn bastard, we had an appointment!"
I popped my head up so fast it spun, holding both hands to my skull. "Do you have to shout?" I snapped. Oh my god, my ears were ringing –
A pair of gloves were slapped on the table beside me. "Our duel, Porthos. We were supposed to be killing each other hours ago."
"Oh, excuse me for not participating in this particular childish attempt at honor," I drawled, still praying my head would stop thudding in time to my heartbeat.
"Honor is not childish," growled Sheppard-d'Artagnan. He snorted waspishly and said, "I didn't want to kill you anyway."
I moaned. This was hell. "That's good, because the feeling isn't mutual," I said. I wanted to kill everyone right now.
He tsked' at me, and pushed his chair back, pulling me to my feet. "We're late, you miserable excuse for a musketeer, the banquet is starting momentarily. Athos sent me to find you, and he's not happy."
Bully for him. Peter was dead anyway, so what'd it matter?
"Where'd that two-bit hussy go?" I said, realizing that at some point, everyone had left.
Sheppard dropped his supporting hand, and I wavered back and forth a bit. "You've got a death wish, don't you?" he said startled.
"Don't we have places to be, things to do?"
He glared so hard I thought a hole was bored through my chest, but finally he turned, and stomped out the tavern. I hurried after him, "Hey, it's nothing personal, you know!" I called.
My horse was still tied to a post, and I approached it with care. He, or she, whatever, looked grumpy. Did horses get tired of waiting? What, did they only stand, or did they ever sleep? He – she, fuck it, let's go with she, women get bitchy like that, and she looks mad at me. "I'm sorry, alright? I didn't know how strong that stuff was." And where the hell was Radek? I'd thought he'd shown up at some point, but maybe that was a delusion inside my delusion.
"Who're talking to?"
I peered around the withers, and saw Sheppard eyeing me with that 'he's cracked' look. "My horse," I replied, mounting sloppily. "She likes it when I talk to her." Well, it was partly true. She didn't seem to be looking as grumpy now. I gave her two fast pats on her neck, and murmured another 'nice girl'.
He stared again, and I was beginning to squirm because I wasn't sure whether he was going to try and get me committed, or skewer me with that sword of his. I guess he decided neither, because he thrust his heels into the side of his horse, and clucked, taking off at a fast gallop.
Hey! I don't know my way back! Shit! I clucked and kneed, and leaned forward, and thank god one of the above worked, because she took off so fast after Sheppard that I almost rolled right off the back of the saddle.
Fortunately, we weren't far from the castle, and when we drew up to the courtyard, a stable boy took the reins, and I followed behind the rapid pace Sheppard was setting into the building.
Jesus, what'd the man have, jet engines for feet? By the time we reached the gathering of people, I was breathing so hard the stitch in my side had its own stitch. I was walking on Sheppard's heels, and we waltzed around for a few minutes, before he stopped abruptly, causing me to plow into his back.
"What'd you do that for?" I asked sharply, rubbing my nose. Granted, I wouldn't have bumped my nose on his shoulder, if I hadn't been looking at my feet, but were these boots for real? I hadn't even noticed how thick the leather was.
"You've got to mingle, Porthos, spread out," he said wearily. "We're looking for anyone acting suspicious."
"Or murderous," I muttered.
He'd heard. "That too, now go."
I started walking around, trying to look inconspicuous, but how inconspicuous can you look in this get-up? Everywhere I walked, people were staring. Sighing, I kept moving. There was something getting ready to happen, because the eyes were drifting from me, and I could see Dex, Grodin and Sheppard looking warily about the room. Ah, the King and Queen were arriving. Brilliant. I still had no clue what I was doing here, and if anything bad was going to happen, I suppose it'd be after they arrived.
The Cardinal stepped to the front, and I paled at who it was. Koyla. You know that saying, shitting bricks? Oh, yeah. The scar on my arm twinged unhappily. It would figure - the brute was perfect for the role.
He spouted pleasantries, and tada, there the royalnesses were, and I spouted the drink I had taken, earning a few surprised glares. Kavanagh was king, and if I didn't think it'd end with 'off with his head', I would've laughed so hard someone would've had to slap me. And on his arm – Elizabeth. I snorted again, but this time had the presence of mind to do it into my hand, covering the noise. I had to remember this! Elizabeth, married to Kavanagh, oh this was rich.
And then it happened. Behind me, someone was whispering, low and quiet, but that voice! I turned, shock written all over my face, and the man – Colonel Caldwell, French Revolutionist extraordinaire, noticed my movement, locked eyes, and it dawned on him that he knew that I knew, and the proverbial shit hit the fan –
"Traitor!" he shouted, pointing at me.
"What?" I yelped. "Not me! It's him!" I shouted back. "He's trying to kill the king!"
Caldwell pulled his sword, and lunged. I stumbled back, tripped, and reached for my own rapier, pulling it free even as I rolled, and got back on my feet. I blocked, while searching for Sheppard. "Major – shit – Colonel, oh fuck, D'Artagnan!" I shouted. Heck of a time to remember his rank.
Another slice came perilously close to my face. Fighting had broken out everywhere. The king's own guard had turned on him, and the musketeers were fighting the guards. The guests were stepping out of the way with alacrity, and watching wide-eyed with secret enjoyment. Got to love the royal court. I ducked under a table, and scrambled for the last place I'd seen Dex. Forget Sheppard. Dex was twice the man - literally. I needed Caldwell to focus on a bigger target.
The table over my head broke apart under the slice of a razor sharp rapier. "You know, for a hallucination, this is pretty damn realistic!" I shouted to no one in particular.
"Comte de Rochefort," drawled Sheppard.
I swallowed, unfolding myself. Caldwell had stopped slicing and dicing, and was smirking at Sheppard. "D'Artagnan," he said evenly. "It comes to this at last."
"Would you like a rose at your burial?" asked Sheppard nonchalantly.
The fluer de lis, son of a bitch, he'd known all along! I stared at him with dawning realization. "You knew," I accused.
He smiled sadly, and raised his sword. "To the death," he vowed to Caldwell.
The rest of the room faded to nothingness as I watched them dance with steel and sweat. Caldwell was slashed on the shoulder, and I crowed, "That'll show you!" Right bastard, betraying d'Artagnan, uh, Sheppard.
But then Sheppard tripped, and I saw Caldwell moving forward, and his sword was going to find its mark. Without thinking, I jumped. I felt it pierce my stomach, and then didn't feel anything at all.
"Porthos!" a far off shout.
I saw Caldwell's satisfied grin before he plucked his weapon from my body, and turned to ward off the approaching fury that was Sheppard. If I'd thought their fighting was amazing before, it was nothing to the angry, malevolent pace being set now by Sheppard. He hit, and hit, and hit again, not giving in inch, driving Caldwell back, and back, and then it was over. Sheppard's rapier was sticking out Caldwell's body, and stunned, the man fell to the ground, disbelief that he was dead still in his eyes.
I bubbled, "Sheppard."
He crawled over, blood oozing from all the wounds he'd taken during the fight. He lifted my head in his lap, and brushed something from my face. "Good fighting," I said weakly. He'd told me how good I was with a sword, but I'd have to be sure to remember to tell him he wielded a pretty mean one himself.
"Porthos -" he said, strangling to get the words out.
I lifted my hand to his. "Not real," I assured him. "Just a dream -"
"I thought you said he was getting better?"
"Aye, he is. Look, Colonel, he's waking up -"
My graying vision went to white, and gray, and then blurry shapes began to coalesce again. I licked my lips, thirsty – I was thirsty. "Carson," I called hoarsely.
One of the blurry shapes moved forward. "Rodney?"
"Do your job," I grunted. "Ice, water." I felt my eyes drifting shut again. "I need water," I said again.
I felt a supporting hand slide behind me, and a cup pressed against my lips. I swallowed, and smiled. "Thanks."
"No problem," replied Sheppard. "Porthos."
My eyes flew open, and the blurry shapes snapped into focus. Carson and Sheppard were standing near, and I could make out the ruffled covers from where Sheppard had been resting. "You made a lousy d'Artagnan," I grouched. Actually, he didn't. He was a fabulous d'Artagnan. But it'd be a cold day in hell before I admitted that.
"And yet you were probably a perfect Porthos," he smirked.
"Oh, shut up," I said, tired to the bone.
If Carson smiled any harder, his face would crack, but he took pity on me, and after fussing with the blankets, and fluffing my pillow, said, "Rest, Rodney. You've had a grand adventure, and now you need to sleep."
Sleep – no dreams. Just blissful sleep. I sighed, and let go – but when I woke up, I was definitely going to have a talk with a few select individuals. Little man, indeed.