Chapter 7.

Well, here's the final chapter, folks! Thanks for all the great reviews. Thanks to Merlin, but especially Kodiak, who's had a really rough time with her computer and rushed this back to me! All mistakes are my own.

Beckett entered his office and sighed as he took in the two solemn people sitting there, before clearing his throat to get their attention.

"He's sleeping now. I thought it kindest to sedate him. He was pretty upset, and not surprisingly so," Beckett informed McKay and Weir.

Rodney shifted his gaze from his lap to Beckett's face. "He's gone, isn't he? The Sheppard we knew is just…not there any more." Rodney's features were tense and pale.

Beckett grimaced, and blew out a tired breath. "I simply don't know. It appears he has no memories left intact. That doesn't necessarily mean they're gone for good, though. It's possible this is just temporary amnesia…" McKay looked up expectantly at the doctor. "But, before you get too hopeful, I have to say I think that's unlikely. Unfortunately, we don't have much basis for comparison." McKay's previously deflated look returned.

"I'm going to get Kate here to talk to the colonel tomorrow. She may be able to reassure and help him more than any of us can. It's going to be very hard on him, though." Beckett smiled grimly. "Let's not forget that he's alive. I know things look pretty bleak at the moment, but we have to stay positive for him. On the plus side, he's talking normally, so there's a good chance he may remember things his body has learned how to do without therapy. We'll just have to wait and see."

Weir hugged her arms around her chest in a pose Beckett knew well, and managed a brief smile in return for the news. "As you said, Carson, he's alive, and even if his present condition is permanent, that's a lot better than the alternative. We'll just have to focus on that, won't we?"

"I'm not giving up on him just yet. There's more data to translate and analyse on the Ancient device, and who knows, maybe I'll find something on restoring memories?" McKay chimed in.

Beckett nodded his head. "Good idea, Rodney. The colonel would never give up if he were in your position, and he'd be proud of you for trying," he said honestly.

"Yes, well… it's the least I can do." McKay faltered as his emotions started to get the better of him. Clearing his throat and sitting up straighter he continued, "Anyway, I'm going to head back to my lab now. I've got a long night ahead, don't I?" He paused again. "I'll be back later to sit with him. If he knows he has friends it may comfort him a little."

"That's a good idea, Rodney. Remember to eat and get some rest," Weir reminded him.

McKay nodded and rose from his chair, heading out of Beckett's office towards his lab.

Weir looked sadly at Beckett. "This is going to be very difficult to keep quiet. Caldwell is due to return in three weeks, and if John shows no sign of recovery before then, I'm going to have to inform the SGC."

"I know, lass. We've got three weeks to figure out what we can do, and I'm hopeful Rodney will pull that rabbit out of his hat once again," Beckett replied sadly, slouching against the door frame, letting his tiredness show outwardly.

Weir sighed, and stood. As she walked away, she turned back to look at Beckett. "If anyone can, Rodney can. Though you've performed quite a few miracles yourself recently, Carson," she complimented the doctor.

Beckett forced out a grateful smile, hoping they could perform a miracle this time – he knew only too well that's what it would take to restore the colonel to the man they all knew and loved.

-oOo-

Sheppard sat propped up in bed, staring into space. Though Dr. Beckett had explained the basics of his life to him- what his position was in Atlantis, and a brief outline of his personal details, he still didn't remember anything. He'd been given a palm pilot so he could write things down – his own, Beckett had told him, and he'd automatically known how to use it. He felt that was peculiar, to say the least. Sheppard knew he was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force from a planet named Earth, and the commander of military operations on Atlantis, the city he was now in, which was in a different galaxy than Earth's. He didn't know whether that was a good thing or not. Instinctively he felt it was, but he also had an uneasy feeling that there was something nobody was telling him.

Sheppard was waiting for a woman named Kate Heightmeyer to come and talk to him. He'd been told she was a doctor who dealt with emotional and personal problems, as well as helping patients to remain mentally well. He was brought out of his thoughts by the arrival of a pretty, blonde haired woman, and John figured this was the lady in question.

"Colonel Sheppard? I'm Dr. Kate Heightmeyer. I know Carson, Dr. Beckett, has explained who I am and why I'm here. Before we start, is there anything you'd like to ask me?"

Sheppard scrutinised Heightmeyer's face, before finally asking, "Did I know you?"

Heightmeyer nodded, smiling. "Yes. We recently talked a fair amount. You can call me Kate, though you used to call me Doc," she laughed quietly, and Sheppard smiled politely at her, not understanding why she found that amusing.

"Now, Colonel, let's begin with how you're feeling at the moment," Heightmeyer began pleasantly.

"Would it be okay if you called me John?" Sheppard awkwardly asked. "It's just - I can't get my head around this Colonel stuff, and even though John doesn't seem familiar to me, I'm sort of used to that name now," he explained.

Heightmeyer nodded. "Of course. John is fine." She regarded Sheppard patiently for a few minutes, and when the colonel didn't answer, she realised he didn't know how these sessions worked.

"Col…John. You're supposed to answer my questions," the psychologist clarified.

Sheppard looked momentarily taken aback, but quickly hid his concern. "Uh, I feel okay. My shoulder's giving me hell, and I feel pretty tired. Dr. Beckett says I was seriously injured not long ago, but that I'm healing well."

Heightmeyer smiled encouragingly. "That's good. Are you in a lot of pain now? I can get Carson to give you something if you're uncomfortable."

"No, it's okay. He gave me something earlier and I didn't like the way it made me feel. It's only really bad if I try and move," Sheppard answered.

"Okay. I understand you've been told about yourself and your responsibilities here. Is there anything you want to talk about concerning those things?" Heightmeyer questioned the colonel.

Sheppard considered the psychologist's words. "Was I good at what I did? I mean, was I a good military man? Did my men like me…respect me? Have I been happy here?"

Heightmeyer put her hand on Sheppard's arm gently to interrupt him. "John. Slow down a minute." He looked across at her with a worried expression on his face, concerned he had somehow done or said something inappropriate.

Seeing the expression on his face, she quickly went to reassure the colonel. "It's okay, John. Everything's fine. If you want me to answer your questions you have to give me enough time to do that." She smiled warmly, but Sheppard still looked concerned.

"I'm sorry. I just feel – empty. I'm desperate to know who I am…to remember. I keep hoping something will suddenly make sense, something will just click and everything will fall into place." Sheppard knew he sounded desperate. "I've been asking the nurses questions all morning, but they either tell me to ask Dr. Beckett or not to worry. I have so many questions, and I need to know the answers."

Heightmeyer sighed. "This is a very difficult situation to be in, John. You must feel lonely, frustrated and scared," she began. "Those feelings are perfectly normal. But I think it's important you know that you have a very special place in everybody's heart here, and some very good friends. People who care very much about you, and who are going to help you through this. I want you to remember that. Will you do that for me?"

Sheppard mulled over Heightmeyer's words. "Sure. I can try. Tell me about myself. I mean tell me everything. I want to know about my life here – please," he begged.

"Of course. Where do I start?" Heightmeyer wondered out loud.

They two talked for over two hours, Heightmeyer answering Sheppard's questions as honestly as she felt appropriate, while gently reassuring him throughout their conversation. When she noticed the colonel's eyelids start to droop, she said goodbye and left him to sleep.

-oOo-

"Our session went well. Colonel Sheppard is understandably feeling isolated and apprehensive at the moment. He is, however, dealing with the situation incredibly well," Heightmeyer explained to the room of people in Weir's office.

"I've answered many of his questions, and he made some notes on his palm pilot of any salient points. When I spoke to him he was in a fair amount of pain, but very much like the old Colonel Sheppard, he refused painkillers. I believe this to be one of a few things of significance that I noticed," she explained.

Weir looked up from her own palm pilot. "How so?" she asked.

"Even though he has no memories, he is behaving as I would expect John Sheppard to, though he is much more open and unguarded in what he tells me. He obviously doesn't realise he loathes phychologists yet!" Hieghtmeyer laughed. "What I'm trying to say is - he isn't an empty shell. He's still the same person, with the same personality traits, and that's very encouraging."

McKay snorted. "How is that encouraging?"

Heightmeyer frowned before continuing. "It means that something has been left behind of him. He's not a blank canvas. It's just basic amnesia. That means even if his memory never fully returns, he'll be able to function here, even resume his role as military commander – eventually." Heightmeyer continued. "The colonel also understood all about being in the military, though he has no memory of himself being in the Air Force. He is familiar with the armed services, and when I talked about some of the missions he'd been on he was familiar with military terms, though again, he has no memory of the missions or the part he played in them."

"And that's good because?" McKay impatiently interrupted.

Heightmeyer smiled encouragingly. "That's good, because if he remembers military terms, he should remember how to fly, shoot a gun and things he usually does every day here – learned things, instinctual things. He knew how to use his palm pilot, for example. What I'm saying is that I'm hopeful we can re-educate him in who he is. The same old John Sheppard's still there."

Weir exhaled in relief. "That's very encouraging news, Kate. What's next for John?"

"We carry on talking to him, reassuring him. That's all we can do. I'd like to limit visitors to his team and you, of course. I don't want to overwhelm him." Heightmeyer explained.

Weir nodded, and turned to Beckett. "Carson, how's his physical health?"

"He's healing well. The skin graft I did a couple of days ago is doing well, though the damage to his shoulder is severe. He's going to need a lot of physical therapy, and possibly more surgery before he gets the full use back. Other than that he's extremely tired, which isn't surprising." Beckett answered.

Weir nodded. "Okay. I feel heartened by what I've just heard. Anything else?" she asked those in the room.

Ronon, who up till that point had been sitting quietly brooding in the background, stepped forward.

"Yeah. Has anybody explained to Sheppard how he got injured, why he can't remember anything, and about Ford?" he asked.

Weir looked uncomfortable for a minute. "I discussed this with Kate and Carson and after much thought, we've decided to keep Ford out of it for the moment. We haven't explained about the Wraith yet, or what happened on the Hive," she answered honestly.

"You're going to tell him though, aren't you?" Ronon asked.

"Of course we'll explain about the Wraith and the queen's interrogation. The situation with Ford… we're going to just keep to the basics. I'm going to ask you not to tell him about Ford shooting him, or Ford's anger towards him. He's got enough to deal with at the moment," Weir explained.

McKay looked at Weir incredulously. "You're going to tell him eventually, though?"

Weir grimaced. "If he doesn't remember – no. It'll be hard enough explaining about Ford's addiction to the enzyme without telling him his former second in command wanted to kill him. You didn't see him when he was brought through the 'gate. He was devastated. If I can protect him from that, I will."

"You can't be serious?" McKay asked, the pitch of his voice rising, as he became irritated.

"I assure you, I'm extremely serious," Weir answered calmly.

"He'd want to know. I know he would. You can't keep secrets from him, it's not fair," McKay simply said.

"Rodney, I understand what you're saying, but don't fight me on this," Weir sternly warned the scientist.

McKay didn't answer, and just walked out the conference room in annoyance.

"Right. I think we're done here," Weir announced.

Everyone left the room, with Weir staying behind tapping quietly on her palm pilot.

-oOo-

The next week passed slowly for Sheppard. The injury to his shoulder meant he'd been confined to the infirmary, in more pain than he'd wanted to admit. He'd started physical therapy on his shoulder the day before, and it had been hell, leaving him sweaty and spent, even though Beckett had insisted he receive pain relief.

He still hadn't remembered anything, though he was gradually becoming re-acquainted with his team and Weir. His sessions with Kate were going well and despite still feeling isolated and unnerved at times, he was slowly getting used to life in Atlantis. He was desperate to leave the infirmary and look around the city, and Beckett had said he would allow that very soon. McKay had told Sheppard that he had completed his analysis and translation on the healing device and found nothing more of use. Nor had he found anything on restoring lost memories, though McKay insisted he would continue searching as his responsibilities allowed.

McKay walking into the infirmary interrupted Sheppard's thoughts.

"Hey, Rodney," Sheppard called in greeting to the scientist.

"Colonel. You look…good. How are you today?"

Sheppard looked at McKay, puzzled. "I'm good. Why don't you call me John? Everybody else does. Except Ronon, he just calls me Sheppard, which somehow sounds right coming from him."

"I never have. I've always respected your rank, and that's what I usually call you, though sometimes I'll call you Sheppard, particularly when you annoy me," he answered.

"Do I annoy you a lot?" Sheppard wanted to know.

McKay snorted. "All the time."

Sheppard took in the scientist's words. "So, do we argue then? I thought we were friends?"

"We are friends. We merely enjoy the occasional argument, and you can be such an asshole at times," McKay replied, annoyance in his voice.

It was Sheppard's turn to show irritation. "And of course you'd never be an asshole, being a genius and all."

McKay stared at Sheppard, and the colonel looked at McKay in concern.

"Okay. I don't know where that came from. I…uh. Look, I didn't mean to be offensive, or anything," Sheppard said nervously.

"Yes, you did. You did mean to be offensive. Thank God!" McKay exclaimed.

Sheppard shook his head, perplexed at the scientist's words.

"Okay, you've lost me now. I've insulted you and that's somehow good?" he asked.

McKay grinned. "Yes, yes. It's good. You're still there! Don't you see?"

"Actually, no," Sheppard replied honestly.

"Over the last week you've been so polite, so formal. So…bland. This has proved to me you're in there somewhere, fighting to get out! By the way, how did you know I'm a genius?" McKay suddenly picked up on Sheppard's mention of his intelligence.

Sheppard considered McKay's question. "You've told me often enough, Rodney."

"No – I haven't. Every time I've visited you we've talked about you, your life here and that I'm a scientist, but I've never mentioned anything about my superior brain," McKay explained.

"That was very restrained of you. Can't ever seem to recall you being modest and unassuming before. You feeling okay?" Sheppard quipped, without thinking.

McKay glared at Sheppard before standing. "I'm going to get Carson. This is incredible!"

McKay ran off and returned a few seconds later with Beckett.

Sheppard searched the men's faces. "What's going on? What did I say?" he asked worriedly.

"You said, and I quote, 'I can't ever seem to recall you being modest and unassuming before.' You're remembering things!" McKay exclaimed jubilantly.

Beckett smiled broadly. "This is a very good sign. It could be possible that your memory is returning, slowly and in bits and pieces."

Sheppard shrugged, regretting it immediately when his shoulder reminded him of his injury.

"Damn. That hurt!" he yelped.

"Then I suggest you don't move it too much. Some things never change," Beckett chuckled as he walked off, leaving the men to talk.

-oOo-

That afternoon, McKay returned to the infirmary and approached Sheppard's bed and held out a pile of clothes.

"Here. Get dressed. Beckett said I can play mommy and take you out for a walk." McKay turned to leave, pulling the privacy screen as he went.

Five minutes later, when Sheppard hadn't emerged, McKay started to pace.

"For goodness sake, how long does it take to get changed! Sheppard, I would like to go sometime today!" he yelled.

A disembodied, muffled voice replied, "Relax, I'm having a little trouble getting my shirt on. Ow!"

McKay huffed. "Fine. Are you decent? What does it matter. Hang on, I'll help you."

After five more minutes of 'ouches', 'ow's' and 'damns', the two men had finally completed their task. One man was annoyed beyond belief, the other a little pale and sweaty from pain, cradling his left arm protectively in a sling.

"You okay? You look a little pale?" McKay asked.

Sheppard grimaced. "Yeah. Sorry about that. I'm still having trouble moving my arm. Come on, let's get out of here before Atilla changes his mind."

McKay chuckled and Sheppard gave him a searching look.

"You called Beckett Atilla. You used to do that when Beckett was being over-protective and playing mother hen. Your memory is definitely returning," McKay explained. "Come on. We're going to your quarters first, then to my lab."

-oOo-

Sheppard had been looking forward to seeing his quarters, and McKay waited in the doorway while Sheppard looked around, picking up various objects, including a picture of a man and a small dark-haired boy.

"Is this me?" Sheppard asked McKay.

McKay shrugged. "I have no idea, I've never been in your quarters before, only stood at the door." Sheppard beckoned for the scientist to enter, and handed him the framed photograph to look at.

"Looks like you, so I'm guessing it is. Sorry I can't help more. We may be friends, but you sort of keep your private life…well private," McKay explained.

Sheppard frowned. "Okay. Well nothing seems familiar here. But it does feel…nice. I feel comfortable – safe, here." He momentarily felt a rush of emotion, but quickly composed himself. "Right. Where to next?"

McKay walked towards the door. "My lab. You used to spend a lot of time there – usually annoying me. It may just jog your memory a bit."

"Lead the way," Sheppard said, smiling in anticipation.

-oOo-

On entering McKay 's lab, Sheppard had a feeling of déjà vu.

"I know this place," he simply said.

McKay grinned. "I thought it might seem familiar."

As Sheppard wandered around, he stared at a white board, where various mathematical equations were scrawled in black marker. He scrutinised a section of the board.

Pointing, he observed, "That's wrong."

McKay gazed at the numbers, before answering in an annoyed voice. "No, it's not. When did you suddenly become a math expert, anyway?"

Sheppard picked up a marker from the penholder underneath the board, and quickly wrote down a series of complicated calculations.

"See?" he asked the scientist. "That bit there. Whoever did this missed a zero, and then forgot to balance the equation."

McKay's mouth dropped open, and Sheppard stifled a laugh. "Leave that open and you'll catch flies with it." He abruptly stopped smiling, and he muttered quietly to himself, "My mom used to say that to me when I was a kid."

"How did you know that?" McKay demanded.

Sheppard went to shrug, then thinking better of it, simply answered, "In my file it said I was pretty good at math. It's not even difficult, Rodney. A kid could've worked that out."

"No. A kid couldn't have. That's advanced quantum mechanics. I was working on that before…before Ford… well, several weeks ago." McKay spluttered. "How can you do that?"

"In my personnel file it said I studied math at college. Can't think why I wouldn't have told you that." Sheppard frowned, not understanding why he would keep something like that from his friends.

McKay snorted. "Hah! I can. Never mind, the cat's out of the bag now, so to speak. Always suspected you were a geek in jock's clothing." McKay glared at Sheppard. "Which college did you go to?" he suddenly asked.

Sheppard paused, remembering what he'd read in his file. "Some place called M.I.T."

"What?" McKay guffawed.

"The Air Force gave me a scholarship apparently. Is that a good college?" Sheppard asked innocently.

McKay simply stared at the colonel. "Ah, it's not too bad," he lied, before wandering off muttering to himself.

As the two men wandered around the lab, Zelenka strolled in, and did a double take when spying Sheppard.

"I know you, don't I?" Sheppard asked the Czech. "You speak with an accent, I know your name. It's…it's…" Sheppard frowned in thought and then continued. "Z…Ze…Zelenka! I remembered!" Sheppard cried out.

Zelenka beamed. "Yes, Colonel. It is good to see you."

"Yeah, you too. I hope I'm not regularly offensive to you, too?" he asked the diminutive man.

"No. That is reserved for McKay only. He has special place in everyone's heart," Zelenka snickered.

Sheppard laughed for the first time since he'd woken up suffering from amnesia, and thought to himself how good that felt.

McKay touched Sheppard's arm to attract his attention. "We should head back to the infirmary now. It's getting late and you must be tired."

"Yeah, okay. Nice seeing you…Radek? Is that right?" Sheppard asked.

Zelenka pushed his glasses up his nose. "Yes, Colonel. Is good to see you well."

Sheppard grinned and followed McKay out of the lab, heading back towards the infirmary, feeling he was where he belonged - Atlantis.

-oOo-

Over the course of the next ten days, Sheppard's memories returned to him in fragments. Sometimes a familiar face would suddenly trigger a memory, sometimes a sentence uttered, other times just a sudden flash would appear in Sheppard's mind, and something else would fall in to place.

Along with the memories, came the nightmares. Sheppard had suffered his first one the second night he'd spent in his quarters. The dream was terrifying, and he'd run to the infirmary instinctively, finding Beckett there working. Beckett had calmed him down, and Sheppard had explained the frightening images he'd seen. When Sheppard talked of being tortured and witnessing other horrors, Beckett had patiently explained to Sheppard about his time in Afghanistan, having surmised that was what the dreams were about

Sheppard had carried on seeing Heightmeyer, who'd helped him come to terms again with some of the traumatic events he'd experienced. Nobody had mentioned about Ford having caused Sheppard's shoulder injury, and though Sheppard had no memories of the Wraith queen's interrogation, he had remembered about the disastrous mission with Ford to the Hive.

With his shoulder improving every day, and physical therapy going well, Sheppard had finally gained some useful movement in his arm, though Beckett insisted he not even think about sparring with Teyla or exercising.

He was on his way to see Weir about taking a trip to the Mainland, but decided to see Beckett first about the possibility of losing the sling, at least for part of the day. As he approached Beckett's office, he overheard raised voices and immediately recognised one as belonging to McKay. Deciding he wouldn't eavesdrop and would return later, he went to leave, but on hearing his name mentioned, lingered. As he strained to listen to the words being spoken, McKay's voice suddenly rose in pitch.

"You can't be serious, Elizabeth! This is so wrong. His memories have nearly all returned now. We have to tell him," McKay shouted out.

"No!" It was Weir's voice Sheppard heard next. "Listen to me, Rodney. He's been through too much. He remembers about Ford, and Kate told me he feels horrendous guilt and responsibility already. Telling him what Ford did would cause him unnecessary pain, and I want to protect him from that. If I can unburden him of that – I will."

"You're wrong, Elizabeth!" It was McKay again. "He deserves to know Ford tried to kill him and then left him for dead."

McKay's words struck as swiftly as a blade. Memories assaulted Sheppard's brain as he remembered his final encounter with Ford. Sheppard turned away from the office and ran. He ignored the pain in his shoulder, the fatigue in his body, and ran, flat out, only stopping when his body could go no further. He found himself on the outskirts of the city, on a balcony over-looking the beautiful ocean. It was raining, but Sheppard didn't care. He staggered over to the railing and collapsed against it, relishing the cold rain driving into his face. As emotion finally got the better of him he sank to his knees, sobbing. He pressed his face into the metal bars at the edge of the balcony, as tears ran down his face, mixing with the rivulets of water from the rain, washing away all the hurt and anger.

It was there that McKay found Sheppard some three hours later. When he hadn't arrived for his nightly check with Beckett, McKay had offered to find the absent colonel, after Beckett was preparing to call in Lorne to find his missing patient. McKay had stepped in, taking an LSD to hunt Sheppard down, figuring the man needed some time alone and that he could give him that.

Sheppard was lying on the floor of the balcony, curled in a ball, soaking wet and shivering, McKay immediately noticed. The scientist ran over to the prone form.

"Colonel? What the hell are you doing out here? It's freezing and you're soaking wet!" Seeing the colonel's drawn features and pale face, McKay knew something had happened.

"You heard, didn't you? And now you remember everything about Ford, don't you?" McKay asked.

Sheppard's voice quivered as he answered, "Yeah. I…I remember everything."

McKay sighed. "She should've told you. I told her to. God, I'm sorry you had to hear like that."

"S'okay. Really. Don't…don't worry about it. I had to find out sooner or later." Sheppard replied numbly.

"No. No, it's not okay. Elizabeth was wrong. But that doesn't matter anymore. You know now, that's the important thing." McKay reached down to turn Sheppard on his back, and shuffled behind him. "Come on, let's get you to the infirmary. Carson'll throw a fit when he sees the state you're in," he observed.

As McKay lifted Sheppard, the colonel groaned as his shoulder protested at the sudden movement, and started to waver.

"It's okay. I'll call Beckett and get him to send a gurney. Let's just get you inside and warm you up, all right?" McKay soothed.

Once inside, McKay didn't even attempt to remove the wet sling and jacket clinging to the shivering man. He helped Sheppard sink to the floor, and tapped his radio, contacting Beckett and filling him in on Sheppard's physical condition.

"M'Kay," Sheppard slurred. "Don't tell 'Liz'beth I know. Let me …protect her."

McKay sighed. "You haven't changed, have you? Always sacrificing yourself to protect others."

"She needs… protecting more than me… please, Rodney," Sheppard begged.

McKay looked at the pale face below him and seeing the plea on Sheppard's face, capitulated. "Okay, it's our secret - for now. You know you can always talk to me about this, right?"

"Yeah. Thanks." Sheppard whispered.

The arrival of a harassed and angry Beckett halted the conversation. Beckett's annoyance quickly changed to concern and compassion as he took in Sheppard's condition. McKay followed behind the gurney as Sheppard was wheeled quickly to the infirmary.

After an hour of anxious waiting, Beckett came out from behind the privacy screens shielding Sheppard, and smiled grimly. "He was a little hypothermic and has done his shoulder no good at all, but he'll be fine. He was a little confused, but either can't remember or isn't willing to discuss what triggered his little escapade. Did he say anything to you, Rodney?" Beckett asked.

McKay blankly stared at Beckett. "Rodney? Did the colonel say what had happened that made him sit in the rain?" the doctor asked again.

McKay jolted back to reality. "Ah, no. He said he'd remembered something painful, and needed to get away. Er, I think he said it was something to do with Afghanistan," he lied.

Beckett nodded grimly. "Okay. He's talked about that to me before. He had a pretty rough time, so it's understandable that it'd take time to come to terms with, if he ever had before." Beckett shook his head. "Poor lad, he's had a horrendous time."

Weir pursed her lips, before asking the question she was desperate to know the answer to. "Has this set him back, Carson?"

"I don't think so, Elizabeth. He's made such a dramatic improvement in the past few weeks, and he's bound to have some setbacks. I'll send Kate to speak to him tomorrow morning, and we'll see what she thinks," Beckett replied.

"Good. Let me know if anything changes. Good night gentlemen." Weir left the infirmary, turning back once to peer at the curtained off area of the infirmary.

"Can I speak to him?" McKay almost begged Beckett.

Beckett thought carefully, before answering, "Aye. Just for a few moments. I've got him hooked up to an IV, as he was dehydrated, and under a couple of warming blankets, but I think he'd welcome a friendly face."

McKay approached Sheppard's bed and closed the screen behind him. Sheppard drowsily opened his eyes.

"M'Kay," he whispered.

"Hey, how're you feeling?" the scientist asked.

Sheppard licked his lips. "Okay – tired, really tired. Listen – you won't tell Elizabeth will you?"

"No, I already promised. I won't let you down." McKay paused, and sighed before continuing, "Will you be okay? I mean it's pretty awful what happened, and I don't want you to suffer in silence, or anything. I'm here, anytime, if you need to talk."

"I know. Thanks." Sheppard answered quietly, and McKay noticed the glassy appearance of the colonel's eyes.

"I'd better go now. Carson said you need to sleep, so…I'll see you tomorrow?"

Sheppard bit his lower lip, and McKay felt uncomfortable witnessing his friend's battle to control his emotions.

Sheppard turned his head away from McKay and whispered softly, his voice wavering, "'Kay."

McKay started to walk away, but instinctively turned around as he pulled back the screen, he immediately noticed the repetitive quiver in Sheppard's right shoulder and heard the hitching of Sheppard's breathing and turned around and left, understanding his friend needed time alone.

Sheppard realised McKay had probably witnessed his emotional state, but knew the scientist wouldn't think lesser of him. As he drifted off into a restless slumber, for the second time in the last few weeks, a solitary tear slid down Sheppard's cheek, as the pain of Ford's betrayal haunted him. He decided there and then that he would find Ford, and return him to Atlantis, whatever the personal cost. He had never left a man behind, and he had no intention of starting now. He would find Ford and return him to the place they both belonged – Atlantis.

The end.