Summary: The events of The Siege and Runner catch up to Sheppard. Will his friends be able to help him?

AN: Another WIP but this is almost complete so we won't leave you hanging for long on this one either!


By Merlin7 and Kodiak Bear Country

The blankets were annoying him. His pillow was annoying him. The mattress was annoying him. Oh, fuck it, the entire bed was annoying him. John kicked the blankets back, and tried to stretch out on his back, stuffing an arm under the pillow, trying to raise his head in a more comfortable position.

He closed his eyes, and vowed no matter what, he wasn't going to open them again till morning. His mind careened instead. Why hadn't he killed Ford? Coward, his mind screamed. He could've tried harder, but instead he'd let Ford escape – no, savagely, he thrust that thought away, because he hadn't meant to allow Ford an escape. He was going to end it, and maybe that's why Ford jumped into the culling beam. A loose cannon, unpredictable. Rodney had said that Ford was going to kill him, and if Ronon Dex hadn't jumped Ford when he had, McKay would be dead.

He opened his eyes. Damn damn damn! Caldwell was a bastard. Telling him to kill Ford. And being to chicken shit to outright say it. 'You know what you have to do', coward!

What was with this bed, anyway? Every lump was poking him in the back, and his neck was beginning to ache along with his head. If he could just get his mind to stop. Shut down, ctrl alt del, straight out of John Sheppard's manual for computer repair. If only it was that fucking easy.

He didn't sleep at all - well, maybe dozed a few moments, before another vision of the wraith leaning over him and yanking his jacket open in order to feed on him would snap him back awake. That one often paralyzed his body, playing tricks on him, and making his heartbeat speed rapidly. He thought he was dead, and he hadn't even been able to fight back, and then Ford and Teyla saved his life – Ford.

Oh, for god's sake! John tossed the blankets to the floor in a pissed huff, and stood up. It was 0430, and close enough to say the hell with it, and get some work done.

At 1600 hours he was in the briefing room, waiting to get the okay for the next mission. They were going to Dex's homeworld in search of weapons, and anything they could use weapon wise. The stunner pistols would be a nice addition, instead of the long awkward wraith stunners they'd managed to acquire over the previous year.

Sheppard wouldn't say he'd fallen asleep during the briefing, but maybe zoned out was a good word for it. His mind drifted, and his thoughts sneaked back to his suicide run, and last-minute rescue, then flashed forward to waiting for Atlantis to respond. Aside from the interlude on the Daedelus, events had unfurled with startling rapidity, and most of it had been a lot to handle.


John's head snapped to, and he focused on the room. "Where'd everybody go?" he asked, realizing he was the only one left in a chair.

Elizabeth frowned in concern. "The briefing finished five minutes ago, where were you?"

He exhaled loudly, pushing away from the table. "Didn't sleep good last night," he offered for an explanation of his daydreaming.

"Is this something I should be concerned about?"

He stiffened at her question. "I just had a bad night, Elizabeth. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one."

It wasn't as if over half the original expedition members weren't struggling to come to terms with the events of the past month, hell, past year would be more like it.

He started to leave, hoping she was done with him, but she called quietly after him, "John, if you need to – talk, I'm here."

He appreciated the offer, really, but he wasn't sure he was ready to take that one step closer move towards forming a deeper friendship with her. She was his boss, civilian or not, and he was expected to follow her orders. Then there was the whole aspect of keeping things bottled up inside. Sheppard was a private person, and he hadn't done a whole lot of letting people in, not even under the circumstances he'd been living since coming to Atlantis.

"Thanks," he responded regretfully. Because he knew he wouldn't take her up on it.


The mission was a bust. They'd wrangled a handful of stun pistols, and nothing else. Foodstuffs were either salvaged by other people, or ruined. Most of the weapons were gone. The entire city was a scraped out husk.

John rubbed the bridge of his nose, trying to ease the headache that he'd never really shaken from last night. "Dial it up, McKay," he ordered.

"Sure you don't want to spend another hour enjoying the view?" muttered Rodney.

"No comments from the peanut gallery," retorted Sheppard.

Dex, for his part, was one hundred percent miserable, and standing stoically quiet. Teyla stood mutely by Ronon's side, as much under the depressing effect as Dex, because her own people had gone through the total destruction of their village, and how damn pleasant that was another product of John's actions.

They dragged feet through the gate, and the dejected air followed them all the way to the infirmary for the post-mission exam. Sheppard let Dex and Teyla go first, knowing their need for solitude. That left him sitting next to McKay, waiting for Beckett.

John stretched in the chair, crossing his feet at the ankles, and folding his arms across his chest. Maybe he could just close his eyes for a few minutes –

"That was a proverbial waste of time," grouched McKay. "Why we bothered going, when the MALP showed the wasteland in Technicolor, oh wait, bleeding heart Sheppard strikes again."

Sheppard cracked his eyes, and rolled his head to fix a dirty look on Rodney. "Stunner pistols, Rodney," he reminded. "Same effect as dead, not so permanent."

"Five, Colonel."

"Five's still five more than zero, isn't it?"

Rodney sat up straighter. "And five of those is going to make how much of a difference against the thousands of wraith?"

"That's the point, McKay – they aren't for the wraith."

Sheppard was rewarded by an alarmed look. "You're not going to use it on us?"

If he wasn't so irritable, this could've been enjoyable, but as it were – "Look, one for each team to take on missions. That way, if we run into Ford -"

"Colonel, ready for your exam," stated Beckett, patting the infirmary bed.

John stood up, his muscles aching with fatigue. "Sorry, Rodney, duty calls," he drawled unapologetically.

"This isn't finished, Sheppard!" said McKay. "Teyla told me those stun pistols are worse than the stunner rifles. No way am I going to be hit with one of those -"

"Then don't get in the way of one," said John reasonably, hopping on the bed.

Beckett grinned cheekily at McKay, before twisting the curtain around the bed, sealing them off from Rodney.

"Now, Colonel, anything to report?" asked Beckett, pulling on gloves.

"I've got a case of an extremely nagging physicist," Sheppard joked. "He's causing headaches, nervousness, irritability -" Carson had his stethoscope poised when he paused, and looked searchingly at John, causing Sheppard to squirm. "Just a joke," he said uneasily.

"Son, you look practically beaten, how much truth is there to those symptoms?"

On second thought, maybe he should've kept his mouth shut, thought John. "Headache," he said after debating whether to fib it off. He had two choices. He could push it to the side, and pretend it was nothing, and suffer another sleepless night with his mind running at 60 rpm, or he could cave in and admit the truth.

This hadn't been his first sleepless night. Third in a row, and he knew that it was starting to show. His reaction times were slower, he'd dozed during a briefing – he probably shouldn't have gone on the mission today.

"Look," he said, coming to a decision. "I've been having trouble," he hesitated. It wasn't in his nature to confess problems, even if it were to his doctor. "Sleeping, just - you know, falling off to sleep, because my mind doesn't want to settle down." He winced, could you jumble that explanation any worse? Christ.

But Beckett was nodding sympathetically, "Aye, and don't you think you're the only one, Colonel. My most prescribed medication right now is Ambien." At Sheppard's blank look he added, "Sleeping pill, Colonel."

"Oh," said John, not sure how he felt about that. "Will it work?"

Beckett pulled his shirt back in place, finished with Sheppard's exam. "You'll be sleeping like a wee baby in no time," he assured.

"Get your things back on, and I'll be right back with the pills."

Sheppard hopped off the bed, and slid his jacket on and started to buckle his thigh holster on his leg. He was finishing up, when Beckett returned, holding a small brown bottle. "Take two of these about thirty minutes before you want to sleep," he instructed. "It should give you around five hours or so."

John took the bottle gingerly, looking at it with some amount of trepidation. "And you're sure it'll work? Will I be able to wake up if something happens? You know, like a wraith invasion, or something equally disturbing?"

Beckett's lips twitched in amusement. "Most likely," he said. "But Colonel, no alcohol."

"Why Doc, you know as well as I do that there wasn't any alcohol allowed on the supply list."

"Aye, I do, but we've shared a few too many with Radek for me to believe that drink is anything but alcoholic, now, let me know if that doesn't work for you," he remonstrated. "And I mean it. We don't need our military head sleep deprived."

With a lopsided grin, John took the bottle and left, failing to notice the thoughtful stare of Rodney McKay, who'd overheard everything, as he walked out the infirmary doors.


After checking in with Weir, John headed to his room. He couldn't possibly imagine that he wouldn't sleep tonight. Between the pills and the fact that he'd had nothing but catnaps for over three days; if it didn't work, he'd beg someone to just shoot him, and put him out of his misery.

He took the pills, and decided to take a quick shower. After that, he settled in the bed, and lifted the book he'd been trying to finish since arriving in Atlantis. He started reading, and lost track of the time.

"Ford, come back, and we can help you!"

"I don't think so, Sir."

Sheppard bolted up in bed, and realized he was breathing hard. Holy shit, that was some nightmare. He'd been dreaming of the last confrontation with Ford, but then it'd morphed into Ford as a wraith, and he was trying to suck the life out of McKay, and it'd been all his fault because he hadn't killed Ford when he'd had the chance.

Jesus. So much for peaceful sleep, groaned John, realizing that he'd only been asleep for an hour or so, depending on when the book had slid from his fingers. He pushed the blanket off, and stood, staggering over to the sink to splash some water on his face. His head was pounding harder.

Screw the pills, he should've gone to Radek instead of Beckett. Somehow he doubted he'd be awake if he'd drank himself into oblivion. Granted, that'd be pretty stupid, because that'd essentially be drinking on duty, and it was a court martial offense. There wasn't any 'off' duty in Atlantis. The wraith wouldn't call ahead to set up a convenient time to attack.

Still – he was cruising for basket case if he didn't get some sleep, and soon. He eyed the bed warily. Should he even try again? He didn't think he wanted to be subjected to another nightmare like that. He'd had dreams before, nightmares, especially lately, but that'd been so vivid, he hadn't been entirely sure it hadn't happened when he'd woken up so abruptly moments ago.

Come to think about, what if McKay was in danger? What if that was some kind of subconscious shout for help? Aw, goddamnit – let's face it, he wouldn't get any sleep before he checked on Rodney.

Cursing his inability to relax, Sheppard sat on the bed and pulled on his boots. He always slept in pants, and his t-shirt, so he could go, and go fast. Giving a final disgusted look at the wrinkled sheets, John strode out of the room, off to find McKay. So much for night four –