Last chapter. It's been another nice ride - at least for me. Thanks for all the warm fuzzies and entertaining and encouraging reviews. You guys absolutely make my day! Once again, special thanks to my beta, rogue1503. And yes, I do have another idea stirring (as always), but the problem may be getting time to type it up. I see a busy time ahead - but I shall return (famous last words).

Chapter 9

Elizabeth Weir walked into the infirmary, her eyes searching for Carson Beckett. She didn't see Carson, but she did notice both Sheppard and Zelenka sleeping in beds, side by side. She smiled, glad to have them safe, properly tended, and resting safely in the main part of the city. She looked into Beckett's office to find him at his desk, updating charts.

"Elizabeth, come in." He stood and waved his hand to the chair on the opposite side of his desk. "Have a seat." They sat down and Beckett moved his folders to the side of his desk. "I guess you're here to check on our adventurers."

She smiled and nodded. "Yes, as a matter of fact, I am. How are they doing."

"They'll both be fine. Dr. Zelenka has a touch of dehydration, lots of superficial abrasions and contusions, and he broke his foot in three places. We set it surgically earlier today. I'll want him off his leg for a few days. He exacerbated the injury by spending so much time hobbling around on it, so it may take a little longer to heal."

"Okay. What about the Colonel?"

"He's a little more complicated." Beckett said, sighing.

Elizabeth grinned. "Isn't he always?"

"Unfortunately. The Colonel had a more advanced case of dehydration, exhaustion, a mild concussion, and a lot of abrasions and contusions, similar to what Zelenka has. Apparently, they had to move large pieces of metal debris with lots of sharp edges. He also has a rather deep gash in his right thigh, which we have repaired and stitched. There are a series of bites around his knee where their...sea monster...grabbed him. They were small, but deep, so we stitched them up as well. He also has what appears to be tooth drag marks down his right lower leg, but they aren't deep enough to require stitching."

"Ouch. Sounds like he messed himself up pretty good."

"Let's not forget the two cracked ribs. I was rather surprised it was only two ribs with the degree of bruising around the base of his ribcage. I haven't had a chance to hear the story behind that one, but I'm sure it's good. He was having some muscle spasms earlier, making it hard to breathe, but that seems to have resolved itself." Beckett rubbed his eyes. "Just catching up his chart is giving me a headache."

Elizabeth fought back a chuckle. A nurse stuck her head in the door. "Doctor, do you have the Colonel's chart?"

Beckett nodded. "Aye, I was catching up. I guess you need it to update his vitals." He handed her the chart as she stepped in the room and reached across his desk. She took her pen, jotted some notes down, and handed it back to him.

"You better take a look. He's up to 103."

Beckett nodded. "I figured as much. Keep an eye on him and let me know if it gets any higher."

"Will do. Good thing you already started him on antibiotics." She turned and left, leaving Elizabeth with all sorts of questions.

"Sheppard?" she asked.

"Who else. I was expecting it though. He cut himself on 10,000 year old scrap metal, wrapped it while sitting in a damp, dark...basement, and then took a dump in the ocean. It would be a miracle if he didn't get an infection. He'll probably run a fever for a while, but I think he'll be okay."

Elizabeth seemed to relax back in her seat. "Good. I'd better get back before they come after me. I'll check back with you later."

Beckett just nodded. "I'll be here."

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Sheppard woke to something pullling on his arm. He blinked several times to clear the haze and saw Beckett taking his pulse in the muted night lighting of the infirmary. It took him a minute to remember why he was here. Beckett went to tuck his arm back under the covers and noticed the Colonel watching him.

"Well...good to have you back, Colonel. How do ya feel?"

Sheppard knew there was no way to describe how he felt, but he came as close as he could. "Like a train ran over me...followed by a really big truck." He would swear that every muscle ached and weighed a ton. He wasn't sure he could do much more than blink. His leg hurt...but not the extreme pain he expected. Everything seemed dull and muted. "Got me on the good stuff?" he asked.

"Yes, Colonel. I thought you might need it."

Sheppard utilized every ounce of strength he had to pull his arms out from under the blanket. "Hot in here," he said, realizing that his face felt slicked with sweat.

"You're sporting a bit of a fever. Got some infection in your leg." He patted Sheppard's arm. "Not to worry. We have you on antibiotics and your temperature seems to have stabilized. May be a bit uncomfortable for a while, though."

" Kay. Still sleepy...how long?" Sheppard's eyelids were beginning to drift closed.

Beckett looked at his watch. "You were found about 18 hours ago, Colonel. But you still have a lot of catching up to do. Get some sleep." He didn't have to tell Sheppard twice. His eyes were already closed.

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When Sheppard woke again, he could hear the sounds of the infirmary, the light penetrating his closed lids enough to let him know it was now daylight. He lay there for several minutes with his eyes closed, just listening as he took his time coming to full awareness. Eventually, he opened his eyes and took in his surroundings. He could see a nurse tending to something across the room and Dr. Zelenka in the bed next to his. He quickly turned his attention to the Czech scientist.

"Hey, Dr. Z...how are you feeling?"

Zelenka was propped up in bed with his left foot elevated on some pillows, dressed in the all too familiar scrubs. It was at that moment he realized that he was in a hospital gown. So very unfair.

Dr. Zelenka grinned. "Colonel Sheppard. You are awake. I thought maybe you would sleep all day. I feel good except for foot. They operate to fix it. Dr. Beckett say it will be good as new. How are you?"

"Not sure just yet, doc. Kind of tired and sore...I still feel kind of fuzzy." He began trying to inventory his body. He could feel that his right leg was heavily bandaged and pretty much immobilized. He winced as he tried to move it, a rather stupid way, he concluded, of testing the extent of his injuries. His ribs were sore and he remembered his struggle to breathe of the day before. At least that seemed to have passed. His hip was bruised and sore, but he wasn't planning on moving that leg for a while anyway...been there, done that. The rest of him just felt sore and tired and battered.

He looked up to see Beckett and McKay walking towards them. "Hey, Dr. Z...I think we have visitors."

"Colonel, I see you're awake. How are you feelin'?" Beckett immediately began taking his pulse. What was it with that man and taking a person's pulse? Sheppard was obviously alive and therefore, had a pulse.

"Uh, doc, last time I checked, I was alive. How come I'm in a gown and Zelenka gets scrubs?" His expression conveyed his opinion about how unfair the situation was.

Beckett leaned back and crossed his arms. "Well, lad, for one thing, he doesn't try to escape the infirmary, which you have been known to do when you get your hands on scrubs or clothes. But a second reason is your leg. In case you haven't noticed, it's taken a lot of damage this round and it's easier to change the dressings this way. And then, finally, reason number three is because ya don't listen to me. When I tell you to get some rest, I expect you to do just that."

Sheppard sighed heavily. "I knew I'd be in trouble this time." He leaned his head back against the pillow and turned to look at Zelenka. "See Dr. Z, I told you he'd be too mad at me to get angry with you."

"Dr. Z?" said McKay, surprised. "Did you just call him Dr. Z? Do you know what happened to the last person who tried that?"

Dr. Zelenka looked indignant. "Colonel Sheppard may call me whatever he likes. He saved my life."

Sheppard grinned. "Think that goes both ways, Dr. Z. You saved my hide on a couple of occasions. I think we can truly call that one a team effort. By the way...thanks."

Zelenka nodded. "No problem. And thank you, Colonel." Sheppard just grinned and nodded back to him.

McKay rolled his eyes and muttered, "Love the mutual admiration society you two have going."

"You're just jealous," Zelenka and Sheppard said simultaneously. Then it was Beckett's turn to roll his eyes.

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Sheppard pouted as he watched Zelenka getting released. They had been found three days ago and had both improved tremendously. Zelenka was getting instructions from Beckett about staying off his leg and using crutches when he had to be up and when to come in for a check up. The scientist nodded at all the appropriate places and looked very attentive, occasionally pushing his glasses farther up the bridge of his nose. When Beckett was finished, Zelenka made his way to Sheppard's bed, struggling somewhat with his balance on the crutches. Sheppard thought for a minute that Beckett was going to revoke his release papers as he watched Zelenka's first unsteady steps. By the time he reached the side of the Colonel's bed, however, he seemed to have the situation under control, so Beckett nodded to them and went back to his office.

"Well, Colonel. Looks like I am leaving. I am sorry you cannot go with me. Maybe Dr. Beckett will release you soon."

Sheppard tried to plaster a fake grin on his face, but it didn't really work. "Yeah, right," he said sarcastically. "I'll be lucky if I get out of this stupid gown by Christmas. He's really pissed this time." Sheppard tried to shift to a more upright position, but only succeeded in pulling his bruised ribs. He grimaced and closed his eyes for a second, waiting on the pain to subside.

"Colonel..."

"Yeah, I'm okay. Just sore. Don't worry about it Dr. Z. He's got to release me sometime. Hey, when he does, maybe we could check out those watership-submarine things. Just watch out for sea monsters." The both chuckled at this.

"Dr. Weir says they have already sent people down to start evaluating the area. Right now, they are trying to make it safe for exploration. Maybe it will be ready when you are released and we can return. But we will watch out for monsters."

Sheppard nodded. "Hey, Dr. Z..." Sheppard rubbed the back of his neck as if trying to figure out how to say something. "You're okay Dr. Z. You take of yourself pretty well...The circumstances weren't ideal...but I enjoyed getting to know you a little better. And...thanks for giving me a kick in the butt when I needed one to keep me going down there."

The little Czech just grinned. "Thank you Colonel Sheppard. That is very nice...especially coming from you. Thank you also, for helping me. Aren't we both glad we weren't stuck with someone like Kavanagh?"

"Oh, that would have been murder. Can you imagine the whining?"

"Dr. Zelenka?" They looked up to see Beckett returning. "I thought I released you. You need to get off that foot. I do not care if you do it here or in yer quarters, but you will get off that foot."

"I'm going, I'm going." He nodded at Sheppard and began moving toward the infirmary door.

Sheppard waited on Beckett to turn his attention back to him. "So...when do I get out of here?"

Beckett smiled at him. "You're still sportin' a bit of a fever, Colonel."

"It was only 100 this morning...I asked. Oh, come on Beckett...this is so unfair. What did you expect me to do, just leave Zelenka missing while I took a nap? If I hadn't gone down there, where do you think he would be right now and what condition do you think he would be in?" Sheppard said defensively.

"That is not the point, Colonel. You disobeyed my orders."

"Actually, that is the point. Everyone here is my responsibility. I'm responsible for the safety of the city and the people in it. If you were really tired and they brought someone in who had been shot or stabbed or seriously injured, would you have them wait while you took a nap?"

"That is not the same, Colonel."

"Explain to me how it is different in light of our responsibilities." Beckett stood there speechless and Sheppard knew he had him. But he didn't smile at his victory, because he also understood Beckett's point and that he had just been fulfilling his responsibility to Sheppard. "Look. doc, I'm not trying to be a trouble-maker and I understand what you are saying...but I want you to understand that from my perspective...going to look for Zelenka was not really a matter of choice. It was a matter of responsibility. I know I can be a pain sometimes...okay, most of the time. But I was not just trying to defy your orders. It's...just my job."

Beckett's face softened somewhat. "Okay, Colonel. I get your point. Just don't make it a habit to do the opposite of what I tell you to do. And...if you're temperature is back to normal, I can probably release you after breakfast tomorrow."

Sheppard resisted the urge to cheer, afraid Beckett would change his mind.

"Hey you two. What's up?" Elizabeth walked to the foot of Sheppard's bed. "So, Carson, is he behaving himself?"

Beckett smiled. "More or less. I'll let you two visit. I've got some things to tend to."

Elizabeth sat down in the chair beside Sheppard's bed. "So...are you ready to tell me about your little adventure?"

Sheppard smiled, enjoying the thought of being out of the infirmary soon. "Yes, but you better stay sitting down, because you won't believe half of it." And he proceeded to fill her in.

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Sheppard cleared the infirmary doors, took two more steps with his crutches, and breathed a heavy sigh of relief. "Yes!" he whispered to himself.

Elizabeth, walking beside him, laughed. "What's the matter? Afraid he'd change his mind?"

"Oh yeah. You're not safe until you're out the door. I swear, if he'd given me one more set of instructions on what to do or what not to do, I'd have screamed. Don't worry!" He held up his hand as if expecting her to say something. "I was listening and I plan to obey. Now that I'm out of the doghouse, I'd like to stay that way."

"Good idea. Look, I'll come by and check on you later. Remember, Carson said you still need to get some rest. Don't stay out too long."

Sheppard grinned impishly. "Yes, mom."

Elizabeth just squinted and tilted her head forward in her best sternful look while pointing her index finger at him. Then she smiled and turned down the next hallway, heading for her office. He hadn't told her he planned to check out the "basement" they had escaped from. He wanted to see how the work there was coming. Mostly he wanted to know about the water ships. He headed for the transporter.

He arrived almost thirty minutes later. The area they had emerged from was several minutes walk from the nearest transporter and Sheppard, still tired and sore and sporting bruised ribs, wasn't setting any speed records with his crutches. He thought he made excellent time, considering. The problem would be having enough energy to get back to his quarters. He'd just have to worry about that later. He was too close to turn back now.

He reached the door they had emerged from to find it propped open and a flurry of activity around it. People were coming and going with all sorts of equipment. He managed to get in without getting knocked over and took the slanted floor down to the lower level. They had all kinds of lights set up to illuminate the area, but still didn't seem to have any power to it. He hobbled around a minute until he came to Zelenka and McKay. McKay saw him coming.

"Hey, Colonel? Are you supposed to be down here?"

"I've been officially released, if that's what you're asking."

"No...I mean does Beckett know the first thing you did was to hike halfway across the city?"

"So...does this mean you're going to tell him?" Sheppard tried to keep his expression neutral, but he wasn't sure he succeeded. The last thing he wanted was to get thrown back into the infirmary right after getting out.

McKay seemed to be thinking. "Tell you what. I'll make you a deal you can't refuse. I won't tell Beckett if you shave the beard off."

Sheppard grinned. That was too easy. He'd already decided to do that just as soon as he got to his quarters. He might as well let McKay think he was really getting something though. "Hmmmmm. Well...Okay, McKay...you win. I'll shave it off when I get back."

McKay nodded. "Good."

McKay and Zelenka proceeded to fill the Colonel in on the work. They hadn't done much yet. They were still trying to make it safe and haul out debris. The water damage was extensive. They hadn't made it to the area with the water ships yet, so those would have to be investigated later. A short time later, Sheppard began to realize his energy was fading fast.

"Guys...I'm going to head back. Keep me updated."

McKay nodded. "Will do. Hey...you over there! What do you think you're doing?" He raced over to see what a group of workmen were doing.

Zelenka looked at Sheppard. "Can you make it back, Colonel? You don't look so good."

"I'm good. I just need to get off my feet for a while. Still haven't got my strength back yet. What about you? I thought you were supposed to stay off your foot."

"I am staying off my foot. I am using crutches. And Rodney makes me sit down every few minutes. I will be fine."

"Okay, just don't over do it or Beckett will have you back in his clutches and wearing a gown. I'll see you later. Remember, watch out for the sea monsters." They both laughed.

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By the time Sheppard arrived at his quarters, he could barely stand. He sat on the bed, standing the crutches against the wall. He removed his shoes and managed to maneuver into bed, not an easy task since Beckett had his leg so bandaged up that he couldn't bend it. Once he was settled, he felt the exhaustion wash over him and the bed felt so comforting. He vowed never to let himself get that exhausted or sleep deprived again. He had almost drifted off when he heard the knock on the door, followed by a muffled voice.

"Colonel Sheppard, are you in there? We need to talk to you."

Sheppard just pulled the blanket up over his head and sank farther down into the mattress.

The End.