Disclaimer: Stargate does not belong to me. This story is for entertainment purposes only. All errors are mine. (Somehow this doesn't seem like a equitable division to me. Smile.)

Summary: Sheppard investigates a series of seemingly unrelated accidents in Atlantis.

Rating: PG-13 for language

Spoilers: Second season

Guarding the Shepard

by Kidwrangler

"Fall back! Fall back!" I could barely hear my own voice over the ringing in my ears, but my team inched a little closer to the Stargate. A quick look confirmed Teyla and Ronon had McKay between them, and I backpedaled to the next piece of cover.

A lull in the explosions let McKay's voice rise above the background noises of the battle. "Oh, God! They have catapults! Or maybe ballistas! It isn't enough we get shot at with a truly amazing array of projectile weapons but now they have to throw explosives at us!"

He was clutching his laptop to his chest, crouched over, wide eyes staring at the approaching armies. I'd told him to put the damned thing in his backpack when we'd run into the first scouting party, but he wanted to make one more scan...and now we were retreating before the front lines converged on us.

"I doubt they are aiming for you..." but the rest of Teyla's comment was lost in another explosion. They were getting closer, and accuracy wasn't a problem with the amount of local gunpowder packed into each shell.

And now we were out of cover. No more pretty stone benches to hide behind, no more arches to crouch under until bits of local geography stopped raining on us. I turned and motioned to Ronon. A quick nod was all he gave in return, but McKay was suddenly moving backwards a lot faster than he tended to move forward.

I didn't hear the Stargate DHD dial up, but the whoosh of the wormhole was unmistakable. I cringed when the end of the brick walkway disappeared into powder. Less than a quarter mile, I'd guess. We were out of time. "We're clear," was Ronon's terse comment in my ear, and I reached up to tap my own earpiece.

"Teyla...take McKay. Ronon, cover them. I'm coming in low, Ronon, so try not to part my hair."

"Colonel." That was Teyla. She could pack a lot of information into one word. I understand. I'll take care of McKay. Be careful.

"But..but...we can't leave you here!" McKay's voice had gained another third. He was going to hurt himself soon if he didn't calm down. Or set a new record for male soprano.

"Ronon'll cover me. Now get your ass through that gate!" I heard a noise, cut off, and risked a backwards glance to see Teyla take Rodney by the back of his vest and double-time him up the steps to the wormhole. They disappeared and I turned around and ran up the last of that pretty walkway. More of it disappeared behind me, and I was treated to grit and dirt clods trying to fall directly down the back of my shirt. Ronon was crouched on the dais and grabbed me when I stumbled near the top.

"Go! Go!" He disappeared through the shimmering blue and I got my feet back under me. I took a couple running steps and the closest explosion yet picked me up off the ground and blew me into the wormhole.

Now Rodney'll tell you, if you can stay awake long enough to listen to the whole explanation, that speed is constant in the wormhole. However fast you're going in is how fast you exit. I don't believe it. I came out of the gate in Atlantis like I'd been flung by one of those catapults, or ballistas, or whatevers, and hit the ramp about half way down. Momentum kept me somersaulting until I ran out of ramp and finally bellyflopped to a stop on the floor. It was a nice floor. Clean. Well, except for the bushel or so of planet that followed me through and sprayed all over. I lay there for a moment, trying to get my lungs working again.

Before I could inventory my body parts, hands were patting my shoulders and face. I opened my eyes to a forest of legs, a variety of footwear, and at least one set of wheels. I rolled over and gazed up, blinking hard to get dirt out of my eyes. Mouths were opening and closing, but all I could hear was the clanging and buzzing of my overtaxed ears.

"You know what we need? Mattresses. And can't we put padding on that ramp? Just once it would be nice to come through the gate scrambling for our lives, and land on nice soft mattresses." The faces around me winced, and Beckett appeared in my line of vision. He held my chin and that torture device he calls a penlight appeared to flash in my pupils.

"I'm fine. Let me up." Someone added support at my shoulders and I was sitting. I let the world settle down some, and then reached up a hand. Beckett was still looking worried and going on about something, but he couldn't make it past the noise in my head. "I can't hear you. Too close to the last explosion. Just give me a hand up."

If I thought Beckett looked worried, he had nothing over Rodney and Elizabeth. McKay grabbed my hand and helped haul me to my feet. Bless him, he kept hanging on while my eyeballs tried to rotate around to the back of my head. A deep breath or three and my eyeballs returned to the front of my skull. Beckett touched my face and when he was certain he had my attention, patted the gurney. Ah. Wheels explained.

"I can walk." Everyone around me winced again. Must be too loud. I tried a softer voice. "I can walk."

But Dr. Carson don't-argue-with-me Beckett was tugging on my elbow, and Elizabeth was pushing gently on my back. Guess who wound up riding.

"Damn it Carson, that hurts!" Beckett looked sorry, but didn't stop poking around in my right ear. The ride to the infirmary was thankfully brief. I felt like a Mardi Gras float going through the halls. All we were missing was the marching band. Ronon, Teyla and Elizabeth had been shooed out to wait in the chairs, but Rodney had refused to leave. He put that stubborn look on his face and dragged a chair over to sit where I could see him. I couldn't understand what he was saying, but those hands were going and his face reflected his emotions. I could practically hear him demanding, Well! What's wrong with him?

Apparently deciding he'd mined my right ear enough, Carson moved over to the left. More looking. More prodding. Then back to the right ear. He hit a tender spot and I practically smacked the 'scope out of his hand. He glared at me and I glared back. I saw him sigh, and he slipped the instrument back into his pocket. "Well?"

He patted his pockets for a moment, and then said something to Rodney. McKay pulled out his PDA and handed it over. Carson wrote on it, and then turned it around to me. "Punctured right ear drum," it read. "The left one doesn't look broken. Your earpiece probably provided some protection."

Damn. Punctured ear drum was an automatic grounding for a pilot. "How long for it to heal?"

He took back the PDA and wrote some more. "Its not a big break. 4-6 weeks if you're good."

"And the left ear?"

"Shouldn't be as long. I'd be surprised if you didn't regain some of the hearing by tomorrow. In the meantime, you're here for observation."

I groaned. I wanted a shower. I wanted the dirt out of my hair. I wanted something hot to eat and a chance to sit in my own quarters and breathe. Something plopped on my lap and I opened my eyes. "I'm not wearing scrubs!"