Disclaimer: I do not own or have any rights to Stargate Atlantis or its characters. I'm just borrowing them for a bit.
Nightwalker - Chapter 1
At the sound of the alarm, Caldwell rushed out of Elizabeth Weir's office to stand next to the gate technician. "Do we know who it is yet?" he asked anxiously.
"Not . . . wait, it's coming through now." The technician broke into a wide grin as he looked over his shoulder toward the colonel. "It's Colonel Sheppard's IDC, sir."
Caldwell breathed an audible sigh of relief. "Thank goodness. I guess that means the rescue was a success. Let them through." He walked over to the balcony overlooking the gate room and stood where Elizabeth normally stood. He was beginning to understand the reason she was always there waiting when a team came home, especially when that team had encountered trouble.
Sheppard and Weir stumbled through the gate first, both dirty, rumpled, and bloody. They each had an arm around the other's waist and seemed to be leaning heavily on one another. Caldwell tried for a moment to decide who was supporting whom, when he finally came to the conclusion they were holding each other up.
A few seconds later, Rodney came through the gate, followed quickly by Teyla and Ronon. Rodney also looked battered, sporting a black eye, a split lip, and a slight limp. Teyla and Ronon seemed battle-weary as well, but not necessarily injured. Lorne and his team, dusty and tired, brought up the rear of the pack. The gate closed down behind them and it almost seemed like the whole group let out a breath at once.
Caldwell made his way down the steps, a smile spreading across his face. "Welcome back Dr. Weir, Colonel." As he got closer, he was suddenly aware that the pair before him was barely on their feet. Weir's upper right arm had a field bandage wrapped tightly around it, with blood managing to seep through and stain the whole thing red. Several scrapes and bruises adorned her face and lower arms. The side of Sheppard's face was smeared with fresh and dried blood from a three inch gash just above his left eyebrow. His face was heavily mottled with bruises and scrapes and he cradled his left arm around his ribcage protectively. They swayed a bit as they stopped walking.
Caldwell reached for his radio. "I'll get a medical team."
"No, we can make it," said Sheppard stubbornly. "I got her this far, I can get her to the infirmary."
Caldwell looked doubtful. "Colonel, with all due respect, you can barely stand. I can have Beckett here with a ride for both of you in just a few minutes."
Elizabeth looked at the determination in John's face. "No," she said. "He's right; we can make it on our own power. It's kind of like needing to finish something you've started, you know?"
Caldwell shrugged his shoulders. "Okay, but I'll follow along in case you collapse in the hallway."
They nodded tiredly and headed down the hall toward the infirmary, Caldwell just behind them.
"That's okay," said Rodney, clearly speaking to the backs of the people walking away. "I'm glad to be back too. No, I don't need a ride to the infirmary, but thanks for asking."
Teyla and Ronon smiled at each other and stepped up to either side of McKay. Teyla placed her hand on his shoulder. "Dr. McKay, may we walk with you to the infirmary?"
McKay smiled at her. "Yes, it's refreshing to know that at least someone cares that I'm injured and traumatized to the point I can barely walk." Rodney continued to ramble as they headed off down the corridor after the others.
Sheppard craned his neck, trying to see Elizabeth as she lay on one of the infirmary beds, Beckett and a nurse blocking his view as they worked on her.
He startled, having been so distracted that he didn't notice Marcy, one of the regular nurses, walk up to stand beside him.
"Sorry, sir, didn't mean to scare you. Dr. Beckett said I should get your face cleaned up so he can stitch that cut over your eye as soon as he's finished with Dr. Weir."
"She's okay, right?" His face was drawn with a combination of worry and pain and his voice sounded strained, even to him.
Marcy placed a reassuring hand on his leg. "She's fine. Bullet just grazed her arm. The doctor's putting a few stitches in it right now and then she'll be ready to go."
Sheppard nodded and let out a deep breath. "Okay, just checking. She said she was okay, but there was so much blood I was afraid she was just trying to make me feel better."
Marcy smiled and nodded. "I know, but she's really okay. It just bled a lot at first and that made it look worse than it was. I need you to lay back for me." She began helping him turn and lay back against the pillow. He grunted and pulled his left arm in closer to his side as the motion pulled on his rib cage. Marcy frowned. "Ribs again?"
"Yeah, but I think they're just bruised this time."
"I'll let Dr. Beckett know when we're done. He may want to get some X-rays." As she moved around to stand beside his head, he sat part way up.
"Major Lorne?" Lorne, who had been headed out of the infirmary, turned to see his CO motioning him over. Lorne waved the men he was with on and walked over to Sheppard.
Marcy pushed Sheppard back down on the bed and began wiping the blood and dirt from his face. Sheppard just grimaced. "I just wanted to say thank you and tell you what a good job you did out there today. I'm afraid we'd be in the hands of the Genii if you hadn't shown up when you did."
Lorne grinned, a bit of pride in his expression and his voice. "I have a good team, sir and we had some pretty good motivation to be successful. It's not often I get to help rescue the two leaders of Atlantis."
"Sounds like a lot of pressure to me, but you handled it well. Tell your men they did a good job and we appreciate it."
"I'll pass that on, sir. How are you doing?"
"I'm okay. Just need a few – OW!" Sheppard pulled away from Marcy as she cleaned the large gash on his forehead. "What is that, battery acid?" Sheppard eased himself back down, but cautiously watched Marcy in his peripheral vision.
"Don't be such a baby, I have to clean this out so you don't get an infection," she scolded as she went back to work.
Lorne tried not to snicker, pretending to rub his chin in an effort to hide his smile.
"Anyway," Sheppard continued. "I've gotta get a few stitches, but I should be along to the briefing shortly, if you'll just pass that along to Colonel Caldwell."
"I'm headed that way now, sir. We'll see you in a few minutes. I'm glad you and Dr. Weir and Dr. McKay are all okay."
"Yeah, me too. You're dismissed. And Lorne . . . I saw you grinning. You're lucky you just finished saving my butt."
Lorne smiled as he nodded. "Yes, sir!"
Sheppard and Weir were the last two to show up to the briefing. Elizabeth had been finished first, but she waited while Sheppard was stitched up and his ribs prodded and poked by Beckett, who finally concluded that they were just bruised. Sheppard wasn't too happy when Beckett limited him to light duty for a few weeks until his ribs had a chance to heal.
As the last two people took their seat, Caldwell started the meeting. "Dr. Weir, Colonel Sheppard, we're glad to see that you are both all right." Caldwell's eyes fell on McKay's hurt expression, so he sighed and added, "as well as Dr. McKay, of course."
McKay smiled and Teyla nodded at him, relieved that Caldwell had added him to the list.
Caldwell looked around the room. "All right, Colonel Sheppard, why don't you tell us exactly what happened."
Sheppard nodded, thinking back to when they had arrived on the planet that morning. Had it just been that morning? It seemed almost like it had been days ago that this whole thing had started. As Caldwell's throat clearing, he snapped his attention back to the present.
"Well, as you know we had previously contacted the Tellurians about trading with them, and they insisted on dealing with Elizabeth. When we arrived in the village, they took us to a meeting hall and we all sat around this big table. It was the five of us and then five of their head council or city council or whatever they called themselves."
"Premiere Council," said McKay.
"Yeah, Premiere Council." Sheppard nodded his thanks to McKay. "We talked for a couple of hours and we seemed to have reached an agreement when suddenly some of their soldiers march into the room and surround us. Then the head guy . . . "
"Rameck," filled in Elizabeth.
Sheppard nodded again. "Yeah, him, anyway, we asked him what was going on and he said we were being sold to the Genii. Apparently Rodney and Elizabeth and I have a price on our head. They took our weapons and said they were taking us to some holding cells until the Genii got there to pay them and claim us."
Teyla leaned forward and took over the story. "As we were being led outside, the Colonel managed to tell Ronon and I that he would draw their attention so we could slip into the trees beside the building and go for help. When we got outside, I walked near the tree line and pretended to hurt my ankle. Ronon knelt beside me as if to help. The Colonel then attacked the guards, as if he were trying to escape. Their attention was drawn to him and we were able to slip away."
Elizabeth looked at John as she remembered the events being described. John had launched into one of the most violent and focused attacks she had ever seen. He had battled several guards at once and held his own for several minutes. In that instant, she had understood how ruthless he could be and why he had been able to defeat so many Genii during the storm. She knew it had been necessary so that all the guards were focused on stopping him, allowing Teyla and Ronon to get away, but she had still been shocked. Because he had been so successful for so long, the resulting barrage against him had been brutal. They had beat him until he could no longer get up and then the commanding officer, wiping the blood away from his busted nose and split lip, had stood with the heel of his boot pressed into Sheppard's back to prevent him from moving. Elizabeth realized that John had once again picked up the story.
"By the time they realized that I was the decoy, not Teyla, it was too late. She and Ronon were long gone. They took us to a cell and locked us up to wait on the Genii. They weren't too upset since they still had the ones they could sell. They had no idea that Ronon and Teyla would be back with reinforcements so soon."
Caldwell frowned across the table. "I'm assuming they roughed you up some for causing so much trouble."
Sheppard grinned. "Just a little, why, does it show?"
McKay snorted. "You could say that. They didn't rough him up, they beat the snot out of him and I haven't figured out why he's here and not the infirmary. I'm telling you, Carson doesn't know broken ribs from a hangnail."
Sheppard shook his head. "I'm fine, McKay, the ribs are just bruised. Believe me, I've had worse. They made it look a lot worse than it really was. We'd have suffered a lot more at the hands of the Genii. I'm just glad Lorne showed up with his team when he did."
Lorne took over the account. "We didn't have any trouble figuring out where they were keeping them. The village isn't that large and everyone was talking about it and hanging around staring. Fortunately they didn't seem very organized or intelligent, so it was pretty easy to take out the guards and get in. It was the getting out that proved tricky."
Sheppard leaned his head against his right hand and closed his eyes, replaying their escape in his mind. They heard gunfire and a lot of shouting, followed by Lorne and a couple of his men making an appearance outside their cell. They had blown the door open with C4 and made their way out of the small building, only to be attacked outside. Sheppard had felt helpless since he didn't have a weapon, until he turned to see Elizabeth fall just a few feet from him. Unaware she'd just been shot in the arm, from his perspective it looked as though she'd been hit in the chest and he thought for a moment his heart would literally stop beating. He had exploded, lunging at the soldier who'd fired the shot. Catching the unskilled man off guard, he'd overwhelmed him and snapped his neck in less than a minute. Taking the dead man's weapon, he'd taken down as many as he could, running out of ammunition about the time he reached Elizabeth. He'd knelt beside her, expecting to find her dead. But she hadn't been dead. She hadn't even been wounded very seriously and he'd suddenly felt almost weak with relief, discovering he could actually breathe again.
" . . . at that point it erupted into a fist fight with the few remaining Tellurians, which didn't take long to clear up. We just got to the gate as quickly as possible after that, before they had a chance to gather reinforcements or the Genii made an appearance." Lorne leaned back in his chair as he finished his account of the rescue.
"Colonel, do you have anything to add to that?"
Sheppard looked up to find Caldwell watching him. "No sir, I don't, other than to thank Major Lorne and his men for a job well done. Oh, and Ronon, thanks for pulling that guy off McKay before he pummeled him too badly." Sheppard slid a grin toward Rodney, who looked miffed.
"I'll have you know I had everything under control. I just needed a few more minutes to get that guy just where I wanted him."
Ronon snorted. "A few more minutes and I would have been carrying you back to the gate."
McKay mumbled something under his breath, but remained silent after that.
Caldwell sighed and made a few notes on his data pad. "If no one else has anything to add, then we're done here. You may want to discuss this Genii price on your heads and how to handle it before you go off world again, but since Dr. Weir is back now, I'll leave that for you to discuss. Good job, everyone. We're dismissed and I'm sure some of you are anxious to get some rest."
Sheppard waited until everyone had filed out of the room before he began to stand. Grimacing, he held his arm against his ribcage and braced himself against the motion. He took a couple of deep breaths to steady himself before he started forward. He was almost to the door when he saw Elizabeth standing there watching him.
"You okay?" She looked worried, which surprised him since she had been the one who was shot.
"I'm good, just sore. How about you?" he asked, motioning toward her arm in a sling.
She smiled back at him. "I'm fine. You seem . . . quiet, distracted sort of. I just wanted to make sure you were okay."
Sheppard took a deep breath as he stopped just in front of her. His eyes drank her in and he just watched her breathe for a minute. He could smell her, not perfume exactly, but a subtle, pleasant scent that was just Elizabeth. She was alive and well and standing in front of him and that made everything okay.
"Sorry. Guess I'm just tired and . . . you scared me back there, when you went down. I thought . . . I thought for a minute that you . . . that you were dead." He was a little afraid that she would laugh at him, but she didn't. She frowned and looked concerned as she put her hand against his cheek.
"But I'm not, I'm okay, John. I'm sorry I scared you because I happen to know how that feels." She narrowed her eyes at him as she thought of the many times she had been certain he was dead.
Sheppard smiled sheepishly. "Uh, about that, you know I don't do that on purpose. It just kind of happens."
Elizabeth grinned. "I know, just try not to do it so often. Hey, I'm going to get something to eat and then turn in early with some of Carson's magic pills. Would you care to join me in the mess hall?"
"I'd love to. It sounds like a pretty good plan to me." He hooked his right arm around her left one and they headed for the mess hall, trying to steer clear of each other's injuries as they walked.
He dreamed of Elizabeth. She was in trouble. He was running through a forest, trailing the ones that had taken her. He had to get her back before they hurt her. Her scream pierced the darkness and urged him forward, going faster and faster, his heart beating wildly in his chest. Fear clenched at his insides, making him shiver in its icy wake. He would track them however long it took. He was driven to find her, to protect her no matter what.
The voice seemed far away, so he ignored it at first.
Okay, now the voice was closer and more insistent and besides, his neck hurt.
Sheppard snapped his head up and opened his eyes, blinking the sleep from them. "What?" He rubbed his face and looked around. Elizabeth sat on the edge of the bed, her blanket pulled up around her, clutched in her fist. "What are you doing here?" To say he was confused was an understatement. He shifted positions and inhaled sharply at the pull on his sore ribs.
Elizabeth frowned and tilted her head a little to one side. "John, this is my room. Why are you here?"
Sheppard looked around the room and knew instantly it wasn't his. He was sitting in a chair beside Elizabeth's bed and . . . "Oh, crap!" He was sitting in his boss's room in a T-shirt and boxers. He closed his eyes. "I'm going to wake up now and I'll be in my own room by myself." He opened his eyes to a very bemused Elizabeth.
"Sorry, Dorothy, but you're not in Kansas anymore and you certainly aren't in your quarters."
Sheppard just bowed his head. Okay, plan B. He willed the floor to open up and swallow him, but that didn't work either.
"John, what are you doing here?"
"I . . . I don't know. The last thing I remember is going to bed in my own quarters. I don't know how I got here."
Elizabeth frowned and he looked down at the floor, but he could feel her watching him.
"Do you sleepwalk?"
Sheppard shrugged his shoulders. "No . . . well, not since I was a kid."
"You were a sleepwalker when you were a kid?" Her tone sounded more amused than angry, but Sheppard wasn't sure if that was a good thing or not.
"Just for a few weeks, then it stopped and never happened again. I can't figure out why I would start doing that now." He dared to look back up at her and found she still didn't seem angry with him. "I'm sorry, Elizabeth, I don't know how to explain this. I'll leave now." He struggled to his feet, cradling his side, and headed for the door, wanting out of the room as soon as possible.
"John, I know it's still early, but there will be people out and about at this hour. Are you sure you want to go out in the hall like that?"
He looked down, suddenly remembering he was in his boxers. Dang. Now what did he do? "Uh, not really, but I seem to have left my pants in another room. Got any suggestions?"
Elizabeth sat grinning at him for several seconds before she responded. She wasn't sure what she was enjoying more, the view or his obvious embarrassment. His expression reminded her of that of a teenage boy caught making out on the couch by his parents. Not that she would know anything about that kind of thing. When he began to twist and squirm, she took pity and came to his rescue.
"I think I may have something." She stood and began rummaging through one of her drawers. Sheppard had a moment of panic as he pictured her pulling out a pair of tiny pink sweats or something equally feminine.
"Okay, how about these?" she asked as she turned around and unfolded a pair of black sweats. Sheppard almost did a double take as she handed them to him.
"These are men's," he said blankly.
"Yes, silly. What'd you think, I was going to try to get you to wear some of mine?"
Sheppard frowned as he pulled them on, remembering his musings on pink sweats from earlier. "Should I be concerned about the fact that you have men's sweats in your room?"
Elizabeth crossed her arms smugly. "I don't know. Is it any of your business?"
Sheppard felt his face flush as he tied the pants around his waist. They were a little big and he certainly didn't want to lose them in the hallway. He'd embarrassed himself quite enough for one day and it was just getting started. "No, I guess not," he mumbled.
Elizabeth snickered. "It's all right. They were Simon's and I guess I got them mixed up in my stuff when I packed. I meant to return them to him when we went back to Earth, but I forgot. I don't guess he'll ever get them back now, so keep them if you want."
Sheppard looked down at his bare feet. He hoped like heck he didn't see anyone on the way back to his room. He might be decent now, but it was still going to look odd. "I'll wash them and return them in case you get any more wayward, underdressed sleepwalkers."
Elizabeth walked over to him and put her hand on his arm. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I think so. Maybe yesterday freaked me out a little more than I thought. I don't know, maybe it was something I ate. I'm okay though."
Elizabeth nodded, although she didn't look convinced. "You'd better get out of here before we feed the rumor mill."
"Yeah, okay. Hey, put your sling back on."
Elizabeth smacked him with her good arm. "I will, Mom, but I sure wasn't going to sleep in that thing. Now get out of here."
Sheppard grinned and nodded. "Okay, see you later." He listened at the door for a moment before opening it and peering down the hall. When he decided it was clear, he waved goodbye and slipped into the hall, his bare feet moving quickly and quietly across the cold floor.
Elizabeth sighed heavily and leaned her back against the door. What a weird way to start the day. She smiled to herself. Sleepwalking issues aside, it was strangely comforting to think of John guarding her while she slept.