Spoilers: None, really, except that it must be after the first season since Ronon makes an appearance.

Disclaimer: I do not own Stargate Atlantis; no copyright infringement is intended; blah, blah, blah. I just want to play with the guys a little. I promise to give them back... reluctantly.

A/N: Many, many thanks to Ashanome for her excellent beta'ing abilities.

Flu-like Symptoms
by
ga unicorn

When he crawled out of bed that morning Sheppard swore he was never going to get on the sparring mat with Ronon again. He had a headache, his shoulders ached, his legs were sore and he had a bruise the exact size and shape of the front end of the Satedan's boot on his right flank. He had known when he miscalculated that landing that he was going to pay for it later.

He rolled his tense shoulders and twisted from side to side trying to ease the ache, but finally decided a long hot shower was in order. Stripping off his sweats, he shuffled into the bathroom and turned on the shower. He silently thanked all the gods that the Ancients seemed to have enjoyed having hot water poured over their bodies, too. When steam started rolling out of the shower enclosure he stepped in, resting his head against the wall and moaning happily as the water pounded his shoulders.

Twenty minutes later he was back in his room trying to put together all the parts of a clean uniform. He was definitely going to have to do some laundry later.

The bruise on his side made itself felt when he bent over to lace-up his boots, and sent a twinge across his belly when he strapped on his holster. He ended up loosening the belt a notch to relieve the pressure on it.

oOo

His team was already in the mess hall when he reached it. Teyla was sitting with her usual cup of tea and a bowl of yoghurt and granola. McKay and Ronon appeared to be having a contest to see who could eat the largest pile of pancakes.

Sheppard got a spoonful of scrambled crall eggs slapped onto a plate and grabbed a bagel. He added a mug of coffee to his tray and joined the others. He grimaced as he sat; the relief from the large quantity of hot water he'd applied to his muscles was already starting to wear off.

"Good morning, Colonel," Teyla greeted him cordially. Ronon and McKay both grunted, the scientist waving his fork briefly in greeting, and kept shoveling pancakes into their mouths.

"Morning, Teyla, guys," he replied. He started to take a gulp of coffee but stopped before the mug touched his lips. His nose wrinkled as he got a whiff of the brew and he set the mug back on the tray and pushed it away. It smelled as if the KP crew hadn't cleaned out the coffee urns recently.

"Is there something wrong with your coffee?" Teyla asked.

"Smells funny," he said, pushing his eggs around on his plate. He wondered what the brown bits in them were; had the cooks burned them again?

"Mine's okay," McKay said indistinctly around a mouthful of pancake before washing it down with a large gulp of coffee.

"How can you tell?" Sheppard asked, smiling slightly. He rolled his tight shoulders. "Were you able to find that reference about the plinths the M.A.L.P. found on P3X-865?"

He listened with half an ear as McKay rambled on about the long-dead civilization's history that had been carved into the stone pillars. It didn't sound as if there were any warnings about plagues or exploding booby-traps he needed to be concerned about. He shredded his bagel and squirmed in his chair trying to find a comfortable position.

"You okay, Sheppard?" Ronon suddenly asked, interrupting McKay in mid-lecture. "You're not eating."

Three pairs of eyes zeroed in on him. He shrugged and stood up. "I'm just sore from our workout yesterday." He sighed and rubbed a hand over his aching forehead. "Listen, guys, I have some paperwork I need to finish before we 'gate out this afternoon. I'll see you all at the briefing at 1330, okay?"

"Speaking of 'gating out," McKay began, running his finger through the pool of leftover syrup on his plate and bringing it to his mouth. "I'm pretty swamped in the lab and I was wondering – "

Suddenly irritated, Sheppard snapped, "You're either on this team or not. We 'gate out at 1430."

He grabbed his tray and dumped it at the bussing station on his way out of the mess while his team stared after him in varying degrees of shock.

oOo

Sheppard closed the last file with a relieved sigh and pushed the tablet away. Staring at that computer screen had not helped his headache and it felt as if all of his muscles had stiffened back up.

He checked his watch: still twenty minutes before the pre-mission briefing started. He thought about doing some stretching exercises, but a twinge from his bruised hip decided him against that idea. Instead he folded his arms on his desk and put his head down on them, hoping that a quick power nap would help his headache.

"Colonel Sheppard, please respond."

Startled, he jerked upright and looked around, his hand automatically pressing against his throbbing side. It took him a moment to realize that the voice had come from his comm. He reached up and keyed his mike on.

"This is Sheppard."

"Colonel, were you planning to join us sometime?" Weir's voice definitely had a disapproving quality to it.

He glanced at his watch and winced, the briefing had been scheduled to begin over fifteen minutes ago. He must have really been snoozing.

"Yeah, sorry. I, uh, got a little caught up here. I'll be there in two minutes."

"We'll be waiting." Oh, yeah, she was definitely ticked.

He ran a hand over his hair, grimacing at the dampness he found. It felt like his t-shirt was plastered to his back, as well. He needed to remember to ask McKay to have someone check the environmentals in his office.

He stopped in the mess and grabbed a bottle of cold water, holding it against the back of his neck as he headed toward the briefing room. He moved as fast as his aching hip allowed, feeling a jolt with each step he took. A stop at the infirmary for some Tylenol was definitely called for and he promised himself he would do that as soon as the meeting was over.

When he reached the briefing room he apologized the entire way to his chair. "I'm really sorry, Elizabeth, guys. I forgot to check the time. Have I missed anything?"

He flashed a grin which both Weir and Teyla returned, although a raised eyebrow accompanied Weir's. Ronon gave a bored shrug. But McKay was doing his best to ignore Sheppard, a pinched, nose-in-the-air expression on his face. Sheppard suppressed a sigh; he was going to have to apologize for snapping at the man at breakfast. He still wasn't sure why he had suddenly exploded that way.

He did his best to pay attention during McKay's presentation, but still ended up shifting around in his seat trying to find a comfortable position. And the heat in the room had sweat rolling down his neck and dampening his shirt even more. He finished off the bottle of water and sat back in his chair, absently rubbing his side.

"Sheppard."

His head jerked up. Everyone was looking at him expectantly and with some concern.

"What?" Realizing he had probably dozed off, he flushed. "I'm sorry. I think I didn't get enough sleep." He tried another smile. "It's all Ronon's fault. He really beat me up yesterday and I couldn't get comfortable last night."

"You need to practice your falls," the large man offered helpfully.

"Yeah, I know," Sheppard said, rubbing at his hip ruefully.

"Did you have anything you wanted to add to the briefing, Colonel?" Weir asked, watching him closely as he got to his feet. "Are you all right?"

"Yeah, I'm good," he said reassuringly. He grabbed the front of his t-shirt and flapped it back and forth, creating a small breeze against his overheated skin. "It's kind of hot in here."

He reached over to pick up the remote, and then just leaned against the table as he turned green. He looked around frantically as he realized that drinking all that cold water on an empty stomach had probably not been a good idea. Spotting a small wastebasket by the door he stumbled over and fell to his knees just in time.

It felt as if all the muscles in his torso tensed up and froze as his stomach worked to eject everything he had ever eaten. After an interminable amount of time his muscles unlocked and he was able to draw in one sobbing breath before they seized up again. An odd gargling noise was forced from his throat and spasms of pain rippled across his abdomen.

The paroxysm finally ended and he slumped against the wall, panting. He was willing to swear that a hotdog he had eaten at his twelfth birthday party had reappeared as he knelt over that trashcan. He felt movement beside him and looked up as Teyla knelt at his side. McKay, Ronon and Weir were milling about behind her. He could see Elizabeth talking on her comm, probably to the infirmary. Damn.

Teyla held out a glass of water. "Rinse out your mouth," she instructed gently, "do not try to swallow any yet."

He nodded his thanks and took the glass. After swishing the nasty flavor out of his mouth, spitting weakly into the abused trashcan, he pressed the cool glass against his forehead. He looked up at his team. "Sorry, looks like we're not going to P-whatever today. Maybe tomorrow."

He started to get up, making it to his feet much quicker than expected when Ronon grabbed him by the arms and lifted. The former Runner planted a hand in the middle of Sheppard's chest and held him against the wall as he swayed.

"Thanks, big guy," Sheppard murmured, patting the supporting arm.

"'s okay," Ronon said quietly. "You don't look so good."

"John," Weir sidled up with a concerned look in her eye, "they're expecting you in the infirmary. I know you don't think it's necessary, but indulge Carson and me, okay? Can I count on you three to make sure he gets there?" She looked at the other team members, and then continued when they nodded, "All right, then. I'll put P3X-865 on hold. Feel better, John."

On the walk to the infirmary Sheppard was surprised by how much better he felt. He was still hot, but the nausea was gone. Even the pain from his bruised flank had let up. When they made the turn into the infirmary and he saw the large crowd milling around, he tried to turn around.

"It looks like Beckett has his hands full," he said, digging in his heels. "I'll just go to my room for now. If I still feel bad later, I can come back."

"I think we'd all appreciate it if you checked in with Carson now," McKay said, holding a sleeve-covered arm over his lower face. He pulled his jacket sleeve down over his other hand and used it to push the recalcitrant lt. colonel into the infirmary. "If you have the latest version of the Pegasus Plague, we'll all be happier to know it now rather than later. That way we can -. Oh, good god, what's happened now?"

They stared at the two dozen or so civilian and military personnel crowding the infirmary, all of whom appeared to be covered in swollen red welts. Members of Beckett's medical team scurried amongst the exam beds, administering shots and handing out tubes of salve.

"There is a plague," McKay whispered, pressing the protective forearm harder against his nose and mouth.

There was an odd popping noise. Exclamations of disgust echoed around the room as a sickly sweet odor filled the air.

Sheppard gagged. A passing physician's assistant thrust an emesis basin at him as she hurried by. He clutched it thankfully, hoping that having it 'just in case' would keep the nausea at bay.

"It's not a plague, Rodney," Beckett said as he trotted up to their group. "It's an allergic reaction to that new fruit from Mechich. It was on the mess menu for the first time this morning, and I think it will be the last, too. You didn't eat any, did you?"

"I don't remember." McKay started to scratch at his arm.

Beckett rolled his eyes in exasperation. "Stop that. You'd know by now if you had." He turned to Sheppard. "So, Colonel, I understand you're not feeling well."

Before Sheppard could reply, the doctor had shoved a thermometer into his ear and Teyla and McKay were taking turns giving a blow-by-blow description of his performance in the briefing room.

"– so you can see why I'm concerned, Carson," McKay finished up, looking for reassurance.

"It's probably just the flu, Rodney." Beckett checked the reading on the thermometer and clicked his tongue. "38.7 – well, you have a temperature, Colonel. Let's get you checked out. Gretchen," he called out to a passing PA, "is there an exam bed free?"

"We cleared the Colonel's usual bed when we heard he was coming down," she said with a cheeky grin as she led a miserable-looking marine corporal in the other direction.

"All right then, Colonel, come with me." Beckett took Sheppard by the elbow and started to lead him through the itching throng. He stopped when he realized McKay, Teyla and Ronon were following. "It's too crowded in here for you lot to hang about. One of you can stay here to take him to his quarters once I'm through with him, but the rest of you can go about your business."

Sheppard climbed up on the bed, wincing a little when his side protested. "Honest, Doc, I'm feeling much better since I threw up. It's probably something I ate at breakfast."

"Plague Boy didn't eat any breakfast," McKay the Tattler announced. "He just pushed it around his plate, and he said his coffee smelled funny."

"I thought I told you to wait by the door," Beckett said, wrapping a blood pressure cuff around the lt. colonel's arm.

"You know he lies about how he feels. I just want to make sure you know everything." McKay exchanged glares with Sheppard, but didn't back down.

"Hmmm. Any symptoms besides the nausea, Colonel? Headache? Muscle ache?" Beckett briefly warmed the bell of his stethoscope in the palm of his hand before pulling up Sheppard's t-shirt and applying it to the man's back. "Deep breath. Again."

"A bit of both," Sheppard admitted. He breathed obediently as the doctor switched the stethoscope to his chest. "But I think the muscle ache is more from sparring with Ronon than the flu."

"He's been favoring his right side," McKay volunteered.

"I fell wrong while we were sparring and bruised my side," Sheppard confessed, glaring at the stool pigeon who was currently unwrapping a power bar. The peanut butter aroma wafted in his direction and he clutched the emesis basin and concentrated on his breathing.

"Still nauseous, I see," Beckett murmured, making notes on a tablet. "All right, off with your trousers. Let's see the bruise."

He reached up and drew the privacy curtain, much to the disappointment of several nearby female personnel and McKay, who was pushed out of the enclosure.

Sheppard removed his holster, then loosened his belt and lowered his pants and boxers far enough to expose the purpling flesh. He lay back on the bed as Beckett probed the contusion, grimacing as spasms rippled across his belly.

"Hurt?"

"Yeah. Some."

"I'm not surprised. Well, there's no rigidity. I think it's just deep bruising. I wish you would learn that you should come to me with injuries like this. We have treatments that will help lessen the severity of bruises such as this. I would – " he broke off the lecture as he took in the glazed look of his patient's eyes. "Never mind. I'll save it for later. I need to get some blood for tests. I'll be back in just a minute."

He hurried out of the little enclosure, waving off McKay's questions. He was back in a few moments. With the ease of long practice, he had a vial of blood drawn and a shot of Compazine administered almost before Sheppard woke from a brief doze.

"All right, Colonel, I've given you a shot for the nausea. Here is some Tylenol and Motrin for the fever – you alternate taking those every two hours. Take them with plenty of water. You have enough for twenty-four hours, but I want you to call me if you don't feel better by morning. I'll stop by your quarters this evening to check on you."

"Okay, Doc." Sheppard slid off the bed, piling the bottles of meds in the emesis basin – which he intended to keep with him as a good luck piece – and grabbing his holster. "I'm off to bed. See you later."

Beckett pulled back the privacy curtain to reveal an irritated McKay.

"Finished, are we?" he snapped.

"Yes, we are. You can take him to his quarters now. Make sure he takes the first round of his medicine and gets into bed. The Compazine is going to make him sleepy."

"I don't suppose you cast the chicken bones to see how long this flu was going to last?" McKay asked, watching Sheppard blink sleepily and sway in place.

"Go away, Rodney. Get the Colonel settled. And be sure he has plenty of water at his bedside."

"Teyla's already taking care of that. And she's fluffing his pillows, too." McKay took Sheppard's arm and steered him through the crush of people in the infirmary. Collecting Ronon at the infirmary entrance, they escorted their team leader to his quarters.

They found Teyla already there. She had gotten a supply of bottled water and soda crackers and placed them on his bedside table. She politely wandered into the hallway as McKay and Ronon got Sheppard out of his uniform and into a pair of sweatpants and a dry t-shirt, despite his protestations that he could do it himself. When she came back they were trying to get him to lie down. He managed to grab his alarm clock and programmed it to go off every two hours.

"See, I'll remember to take my meds. Now please go," he begged tiredly. He took the pills Teyla handed him, washing them down with the minimum amount of water.

"Well, there's gratitude for you." McKay was torn between wanting to stay to watch over Sheppard and a panicked need to run from the plague germs he was sure were waiting to infest his body. "I was looking forward to an afternoon of watching you drool and snore."

"Are you sure you should be alone, Colonel? One of us would be happy to sit with you," Teyla offered.

She urged him to lie down and pulled the covers up to his chest. He promptly kicked them to the foot of his bed.

"I'm too hot," he said grumpily. He made an effort and smiled up at his friends. "I just want to sleep, guys. And I can't do that if someone is staring at me. I'll be okay on my own. Promise."

The three exchanged glances, then finally nodded reluctantly.

"Very well," Teyla said. "One of us will bring you something to eat later."

"Much later," he murmured, turning onto his left side and mangling his pillow into the proper shape. "And nothing smelly."

"Rest well, Colonel."

And he slept.

oOo

He tossed restlessly in his sleep. Occasionally a moan would escape from his dry lips.

He roused whenever his alarm went off and took the prescribed pills. Then he collapsed back on his pillows, praying that this was the twenty-four hour variety of flu.

Ronon apparently drew the short straw and brought him his dinner – a mug full of clear broth, a piece of plain toast and a bowl of blue jello. He sat on the edge of his bed, taking small sips of the warm liquid and listening to Ronon quietly talking about the afternoon's training sessions.

He had swallowed half of the mug's contents when he had to put it aside. He took several deep breaths, then pushed himself carefully off of the bed. Waving off Ronon, he staggered to the bathroom, feeling like an old man. When he emerged five minutes later, he stopped and stared in amazement. Ronon had changed the sweat-dampened sheets, and was now holding out a dry t-shirt for him.

"Teyla said I should do this before I left," the large man said, clearly embarrassed.

"Oh," Sheppard said, not sure what to say. "Thanks?"

He pulled off his damp t-shirt, his breath catching as a spasm tore across his abdomen, and pulled on the dry one. He lay down on the clean sheets with a relieved sigh.

"Not a problem. You want anything else before I go?"

He sighed tiredly. "No, I'm just going to sleep some more. Thanks for coming, Ronon. 'Night."

"'Night, Sheppard."

oOo

When the alarm went off he swept his arm across the nightstand, knocking the clock, his comm, the meds and the remains of his dinner to the floor. His breath came in panting moans. He curled up on his side, drawing up his knees and pressing a hand against his side.

He felt so hot. Maybe a cool shower would help.

He stood up, hunching over when pain stabbed through his side. He stumbled into the bathroom, the lights coming on automatically. Leaning dizzily against the jamb he looked around in confusion. Why had he come in here? Did he need to pee? He was still trying to figure that out when the nausea hit again.

His knees hit the floor next to the toilet and his abdomen clamped down as his stomach tried to expel something that wasn't there. Bile burned the back of his throat and sinuses as he was held captive over the bowl, unable to draw a breath. He retched again and again, producing nothing but tears of pain.

Agony, fiery hot, burned low in his belly.

The paroxysm finally released him and he slumped on the floor, pressing his hot forehead to the cold tiles, moaning with each breath.

He needed Beckett. Beckett could fix this.

He tried to stand, but settled for crawling.

He didn't make it past the doorway before his strength gave out. He lay curled around the pain in his belly, promising himself he would get up after he had rested a moment.

oOo

"Colonel Sheppard, can you hear me?"

He moaned, turning his head away. God, he was so tired. Who was calling him now?

"No, Colonel. I need for you to stay conscious. Open your eyes and look at me, now."

Cold hands slapped lightly at his cheeks. Irritated, he batted at the hands. It was a mistake.

Pain flared, a hot burning well in his belly. With a choked cry he tried to roll into a ball, to smother the pain and give it nowhere to spread.

The hands held him down. He opened his eyes, prepared to beg. Beckett stared down at him, radiating sympathy.

"I know you're in pain, Colonel. Try to breathe through it. Someone will be here soon and I'll give you something for the pain."

Sheppard's breath hitched in his chest as he panted. The slightest movement of his body caused a spike of agony in his abdomen. He clenched his jaw but still managed to whisper, "Please."

Regret joined the sympathy. "I'm sorry, lad. I wish I had caught this earlier. I'm so, so sorry."

It took him few moments to absorb that. "Not the flu?" he finally asked.

Beckett shook his head. He started to speak, but suddenly sat up and looked over his shoulder. "Oh, thank god," he muttered, then louder, "Hurry up, then. It took you long enough to get here. I want an IV started and give me 5mg of morphine."

He watched as the nurse got the IV going and then injected the morphine into the port. He leaned over Sheppard again. "Sorry, lad, this isn't going to get rid of all the pain, but you'll be comfortable enough to move you to the surgery."

Sheppard felt a cool wave flowing up his arm as the painkiller was injected. Almost immediately he felt the pain begin to recede; it was still there but becoming more of a background annoyance than an all encompassing shroud. He frowned. "Surgery?"

"Aye," Beckett sighed. "I'm afraid you may have internal injuries, that's what's causing all the pain. I'm sorry I didn't catch the signs earlier when you were in the infirmary. I know the morphine is relaxing you, but try to stay awake for me."

Sheppard lay on the floor watching people move in and out of his sight. He realized – in a far-off corner of his brain – that he was pretty sick, but he couldn't seem to work up any concern about it. He watched as Beckett took his blood pressure again and listened to his lungs. When hands reached under him, lifting and placing him on a gurney, there was pain. Except for a quiet groan he gave no other reaction.

The gurney was moving. He watched the light fixtures in the hallway, dimmed for the night, flashing past overhead. He knew when they reached the infirmary: the lights brightened again and the faint background smell of disinfectant was unmistakable.

Beckett was talking to someone as the gurney continued to move within the infirmary's hallways. Weir? And maybe McKay? He wasn't curious enough to look around and see.

They finally stopped moving and the hands came back and transferred Sheppard to another surface. He felt his clothes being removed, more needles piercing his flesh. He stared up at the various lights overhead and waited for something to happen.

And then Beckett was leaning over him. The doctor was almost completely hidden behind the surgical garb, but the kind blue eyes were unmistakable.

"Hi, Doc," Sheppard murmured, a small smile quirking the corner of his mouth. "Can I go back to sleep now?"

The blue eyes smiled back. "You did good staying with us so long. Go on back to sleep now. You'll feel better when you wake up."

And he slept.

oOo

Waking up was not pleasant.

His throat was sore and his mouth tasted foul. He ached all over, but everything seemed to radiate from a throbbing pain centered low in his abdomen.

He opened his eyes, hoping to see someone he could complain to. Looking around, the only person he saw was McKay, slumped in a chair asleep. He tried to reach over and shake the man awake but had to settle for letting his hand drop limply onto the slumped shoulder. The effect was the same.

McKay jerked awake with a start, then had to grab the laptop perched on his knees. He looked around to see what had awakened him and saw Sheppard watching him.

"Hey, you're awake finally," he exclaimed happily. He threw the laptop onto the next bed over and scooted his chair closer. "How're you feeling?"

Sheppard frowned. "Sore," he said hoarsely, "thirsty, hot."

"I can do something about the thirsty, but the rest you'll have to take up with Carson. Here," McKay picked up a glass of water with the ubiquitous bendy-straw from the bedside table and held it still while Sheppard took several sips.

"Not too much water all at once, Colonel. You don't want to make yourself nauseous again," Beckett said as he bustled up to the bed. He aimed a stern look at McKay. "Rodney, you were supposed to come get me if he decided to wake up."

"I was going to get you after he had a drink."

"Of course you were," the doctor murmured, pulling up the patient chart on a pc tablet, checking the most recent vitals. Placing it on the table, he aimed a smile down at Sheppard as he wrapped a blood pressure cuff around a limp arm. "Do you remember what happened?"

Sheppard nodded slowly. "Not the flu. Surgery? Because of the sparring?" His hand, sporting an intravenous needle, fluttered vaguely in the air and then came to land on his right side.

"Aye, that's partially right," Beckett said with another smile. "Because of the food allergy emergency the other day, I didn't get your blood work back until late in the evening. It showed that you had a bacterial infection, not viral. I trotted off to your quarters meaning to have you come back to the infirmary so I could check you more thoroughly, run some more tests. When I got there, you didn't answer the door and I had to use my medical override to get in. I found you unconscious on the floor. Your temperature was right at 40, your blood pressure was low, and when I palpated around that bruise on your side you… reacted even though unconscious. I thought you were bleeding internally. Rodney, help me sit him up."

Having finished checking temperature and pulse, Beckett fixed the earbuds of his stethoscope in place. He slid a hand under one of Sheppard's shoulders and looked at McKay expectantly. McKay looked back with an appalled expression.

"Wh-what?" McKay stuttered, taking a step back. "You want me to move him? But he looks comfortable where he is. Besides, he has… stuff attached to him." He gestured toward the IV lines, nasal cannula, ekg wires; there was tubing snaking out from under the covers further down the bed, but he didn't want to think about what it was connected to.

"Don't be such a baby," Beckett said in exasperation. "Just help me lift him and give him a shoulder to lean on while I listen to his lungs. No, don't try to help, Colonel. Let us do all the work."

Despite the warnings, Sheppard involuntarily tensed his abdominal muscles in preparation to sitting up. A pained wheeze escaped him and he found himself leaning limply against McKay.

"Try not to pant, Colonel. Deep breaths, please."

As Becket moved the bell of the stethoscope from spot to spot on his back Sheppard tried to cooperate and regulate his breathing. He managed to pull in several lungsful of air before there was a sudden hitch in his breathing and he started coughing.

The deep, rasping coughs seemed to rip through the muscles of his belly, which contracted into one shrieking ball of pain. He tried to curl up, to protect the abused muscles, but hands held him still, supported him until it was over. Above his head he could hear McKay's panicked questions and Beckett's soft encouraging tones, while a hand gently patted his back.

When it was over he leaned against McKay and wished that he was unconscious again. He was back to panting, involuntary moans escaping with each exhalation.

"I know that was unpleasant" – Sheppard would have laughed if he had had the strength; he did smile when he heard McKay's 'For us all!' – "but it's best not to let things settle in your lungs. I'll make sure you have a cough pillow to hold onto. Here, rinse out your mouth."

Sheppard took the glass of water. After spitting weakly into the basin held under his chin, he was allowed to lay back. Beckett finished the exam quickly and efficiently, listening to his intestines and checking the small surgical incisions.

"We were able to clear up the problem laparoscopically, so you won't be off duty for too long. Once the infection is resolved you should start feeling better much more quickly. And, according to your latest blood work, the antibiotics seem to be taking care of that quite nicely. Your temperature is almost back to normal."

Beckett finished making notes on the tablet, and tucked the stylus back in it's holder. "I'm going to keep you on the oxygen for the time being. Lily will be around in a few minutes to set up the regulator; it will allow you to control your pain meds. Just be sure to use it, or we go back to shots. Being in pain slows down your recovery. Do you think you could eat something?" When Sheppard grimaced, he smiled in sympathy. "I understand, but I want you to try. I'll have some broth and jello sent up from the mess. Now try to get some rest. We're going to get you on your feet in the morning. Rodney, you're not to spend all night in that chair again."

Sheppard watched in frustration when Beckett turned to leave. "Doc!"

He put as much force behind it as he could, frustrated by the lack of power. Beckett heard him though and came back to his bed.

"Yes, Colonel? I'm sorry, I didn't give you a chance to ask any questions," the doctor said apologetically.

Sheppard rolled his eyes in amused exasperation. "Carson, you never said what caused this."

"I didn't say before?" Becket asked, looking at McKay who shook his head. "Oh. Well. You weren't injured sparring with Ronon, Colonel, except for the obvious bruising. You had an appendicitis attack. I didn't catch it that first morning. By the time I got to your room that night it had ruptured."

"My appendix did this?" Sheppard asked in amazement, gesturing to all the tubes and wires attached to him.

"Appendices can be nasty little buggers, if ignored. Did you have anymore questions?" All right, then. I'll see you in the morning. Rodney, don't forget to go to your own bed."

Sheppard watched as Beckett disappeared into the corridor and then looked over at McKay.

"He's feeling guilty," McKay offered, settling back in his chair and propping his feet on the bed rails. "Elizabeth and I have both talked to him, but he thinks he should have spotted that it was your appendix early on and he's beating himself up over it. But I've looked it up and the early onset of an attack can look like a lot of different things. You had flu-like symptoms and what appeared to be some minor training injuries. " He leaned forward, an irritated expression appearing on his face. "And of course – you being you – you didn't think to tell anyone when the pain kept getting worse. Trust you to turn a simple appendectomy into a life-and-death situation."

"You're exaggerating," Sheppard said hopefully, shifting uneasily under the burning glare.

"I'm not!" McKay snapped. "And I'd appreciate it – we'd all appreciate it – if you'd stop treating yourself so poorly. I almost wish you had had the Pegasus Plague. At least then you would have been forced to stay in the infirmary where grown-ups could keep an eye on you."

There was nothing to say to that. They fell silent, both of them contemplating their own section of wall.

A nurse came with the promised broth and jello, and set up another piece of equipment by the bed. She explained how a dose of the pain medication would be released every fifteen minutes, but no sooner, if Colonel Sheppard pressed the button. Raising the head of the bed, she handed him the button and the mug of broth and left.

Sheppard stared at them for a moment, then reluctantly squeezed the button – ignoring McKay's "Good boy" – and put the mug back on the table. He picked up the bowl of blue jello with a hand that trembled and offered it to McKay.

The scientist took the peace offering with a muttered, "Thanks."

"I don't suppose Carson kept my appendix," Sheppard asked after a few minutes. He picked at the tape holding the IV needle in place on the back of his hand.

"Stop playing with that. Carson'll have a fit if you pull out another one. He had to replace two while you were delirious. And I tried to get him to put your appendix in a jar with some formaldehyde, but he said it wasn't very pretty once it exploded."

"That's too bad," Sheppard murmured, lying back on his pillow and letting his eyes close.

"Yeah, too bad," McKay said, reaching over and pushing the neglected button. "It would have looked really cool on a shelf under your Cash poster."

And Sheppard smiled as he drifted off to sleep.

the end