Part of the "A World of Hurt" series – an ongoing, only slightly AU series of whumpy tag fics to the each of the Season 3 episodes. By hook or by crook I will work some Shep whump into every episode.. if TPTB won't do it, then I'll just have to do it myself:) These stories are designed to fit in with the canon of Season 3 – imagine, if you will, that they take place "off-screen" before, during or after the episode, as appropriate.

WARNING : SPOILERS AHEAD! This fic is set during No Man's Land and contained spoilers for the content of that ep throughout. If you don't wish to be spoiled for that ep – please stop reading NOW :)

A slightly AU take on the final scenes of No Man's Land. My whump-addiction couldn't help but think about how whumped Sheppy could've – and should've – gotten from that awesome explosion of his ship so I've kinda combined my ideas with a request from Caty – hi Caty! – to write a fic about the oxygen deprivation on board the Daedalus.

AU in that the day TPTB would actually whump Shep as much as I do will be the day the devil skates to work – and most of the members of the Shep Whump thread die happy from an overload of squee!

Anyway. Here it is – please review and let me know your thoughts.. :)


The air was getting thin.

Real thin. Thinner by the minute. Sheppard sat limply on the floor of the bridge, breathing in the thinning air, and imagined he could actually feel the oxygen molecules around him being sucked in and absorbed; hundreds of people breathing in, using up oxygen, and exhaling deadly CO2.

They were out of time.

He felt sluggish, heavy, his limbs slow to respond. His lungs were labouring, his breath coming in shallow pants as his body struggled to pull in enough oxygen to fuel his muscles. He could feel the sweat beading his forehead.

His body was one big ache. He'd been okay while he'd kept moving, while he'd had an objective, something to focus on. With a weapon in his hand, the danger of discovery imminent, adrenalin had pushed back fatigue and pain and he had moved through the hive ship fuelled by nervous energy, buoyed up by a determination to survive, to rescue his friends. He'd been stunned and shaky when the wraith had pulled him roughly from the wreckage of his F302, too disoriented to be more than vaguely aware of the aches and pains from the impact. He'd come to his senses in the grip of two huge wraith guards, being dragged through twisting, gloomy corridors, his destination most likely a painful death. Fear and desperation had blocked out pain; the fight or flight response at its very best.

But now there was nothing to do but sit – and wait. No adrenalin. No imminent danger for him to focus on, to fight. Only slow, creeping death by suffocation. And every ache and pain that he had ignored for the past hours was coming back to haunt him with a vengeance.

His head was pounding and he couldn't tell if that was from his second dose of oxygen deprivation in less than 24 hours or if he'd hit his head as his F302 was ripped apart by enemy fire. His recollections of the event were confused and disjointed; a chaotic jumble of light and noise, of being thrown about by the impact, of a dizzying, spinning sensation and the knowledge that his ship was dead, and he along with it. He was aware now of the aching of muscles strained and bruised as his ship had shaken in its death throes. There were spots of blood here and there on the fabric of his BDU pants and he realised distantly that he had no idea where they'd come from. The explosion as the wing ripped off his craft? The wraith dragging him bodily from the wreckage? He absently fingered a small hole in the fabric as he listened to Caldwell discussing their options.

They were out of time.

"We don't have much of a choice." He stood up abruptly, getting his aching body moving by sheer force of will alone, a brief hand on the back of the console chair steadying him as swayed slightly. "We gotta go now." He lead his team from the bridge without waiting for confirmation from Caldwell; it was now or never.

The bright light of the transport beam faded away and he sucked in air gratefully, his head spinning slightly at the rush of oxygen. God. It was such a relief just to be able to breathe, to not feel like he was suffocating. He had to force himself to concentrate, to think beyond the immediate joy of fresh, oxygen-rich air, and remember that they were in hostile territory and the area wasn't clear; they had yet to find out what effect the retrovirus had had on the occupants of the hive ship. Adrenalin flooded his system, pushing aside fatigue and pain, sending a burst of strength to tired and aching muscles.

His P90 was already in a position of readiness and, with a brief gesture to his team, they moved out cautiously. It didn't take them long to find the Wraith. What used to be Wraith. As they rounded the first corner they found bodies strewn across the floor. Pale-skinned humans dressed in dark leather clothing, long white hair spilling out beneath their prone bodies. Alive and dead, the former-Wraith littered the floor of the hive. He bent down to peer more closely at one of the stunned survivors, ignoring the twinge of pain as he did so. He – it – was breathing spasmodically, eyes blank and uncomprehending. He moved on to another motionless body and used his foot to nudge it cautiously over onto its back. He crouched down, absently feeling a sharper stab of pain in his right leg, as though he'd pulled or jarred at something. Dead. This one was dead.

A noise behind him had him reacting on instinct, spinning around, sighting along the barrel of his gun even as he rose fluidly to his feet. The former Wraith looked lost, ghost-like; a pale, thin figure, his voice weak and confused. Sheppard lowered his gun in relief, sweat beading on his forehead, the momentary spike of adrenalin leaving his heart pounding. He could feel his headache starting to kick up a notch. Time was wasting. They needed to secure the hive ship and start bringing the crew over from the Daedalus. He issued orders to his team, his hands still gripping too tight to his gun, nervous tension making his body tremble.

They found the queen's chamber empty of ex-Wraith, a solitary figure crumpled face-down at the foot of the ornate throne chair. He eyed the motionless body carefully as they cautiously entered the room, his P90 held ready. Cream leather clothing, long dark hair; that looked like their queen alright.

"Hello?"

She stirred slightly as he called out self-consciously. Something about this whole set up spooked him. It was damn weird, walking around a hive ship like this with hundreds of not-Wraith milling around, looking lost and scared. Creatures that would have happily sucked the life from him just a few short hours ago now looked human, looked confused and afraid, and turned to he and his men for reassurance. The queen moved sluggishly as they approached, pushing herself unsteadily to her hands and knees. She looked weak, injured, defenceless. Afterwards Sheppard would kick himself for not paying attention, for not being more wary; for not remembering that the damn Wraith had a nasty habit of turning around and surprising you.

But like an idiot he let himself relax, let some of that tension creep from his muscles, and just stood and watched as Lorne approached the queen. Dammit, he didn't even have his P90 ready and aimed, letting his arms sag a little to point his weapon safely at the floor. It was the work of a moment to bring the weapon to bear, his reflexes kicking in even before his conscious mind had processed the fact that the Wraith queen was still… well, still Wraith, still dangerous, but that necessary moment was enough for her to try to crush Lorne's throat, to bring back her arm ready to slam into the marine's chest, before a hail of bullets threw her back against the throne, Lorne dropping, choking, to the floor.

It took him a moment to take stock of what had just happened. He had fired on instinct, vaguely registering McKay doing likewise, their combined spray of bullets physically throwing the Wraith backwards. This time, she stayed crumpled on the floor, unmoving, and Sheppard found himself breathing heavily as he lowered his gun, hours of tension and exhaustion beginning to take their toll. His aches and pains were beginning to come back with a vengeance as his team reported in their findings that the hive was secure, all the occupants "de-Wraithified". He called in his sit rep to Caldwell, feeling oddly shaky as he as he told the Colonel, "I think we're out of the woods."

The sense of relief was almost overwhelming – he couldn't quite believe that they'd pulled it off; their plan had worked. He really hadn't been too keen on the idea of suffocating to death out here in the black space between galaxies and he reckoned two near misses in the space of one day was more than enough. But there was no time to rest yet; there was still a lot to be done. He needed to check on his men, make sure the human Wraith were all securely quarantined, they had to get the rest of the crew from the Daedalus transported over and allocated somewhere to be while they got this ship moving. Shit. And then what? What was the plan from there? Where were they gonna go? What were they gonna do with several hundred amnesiac ex-Wraith? There was a lot still to work out.

He turned around a little unsteadily and found McKay looking at him oddly. "What?"

McKay had to be as exhausted, as crashing from the release of tension after their near-death experience, as he and yet the concern in the physicist's eyes was – for once – not for himself.

"Are you okay?"

Sheppard frowned. Of course he wasn't okay. But he was as okay as he was gonna get after all they'd been through and moaning about his aches and pains wasn't gonna achieve anything. They were the least of his worries right now.

"I'm fine," he brushed off McKay's question with the ease of long practice.

He couldn't help the smallest of winces as he moved to leave the queen's chamber, intending to catch up with the rest of his strike force and check on the prisoners. His right leg was starting to really complain, stabbing pains making his leg shake as he put his weight on it.

"Colonel?" He ignored McKay's suspicious enquiry, bending forward slightly to rub at the aching muscles, hoping to work out the sudden pain. He wobbled just a little as he straightened and was mildly surprised to find his hand come away red.

"Colonel Sheppard?" McKay's voice sounded oddly distant, muffled by the pounding in his head, the roaring in his ears. His body felt heavy and slow and his breathing once again laboured. He felt a moment of panic. No air, not enough oxygen. Oh god, had they done all this for nothing? Had the life support failed on the hive too, condemning them all to a slow death?

McKay's voice was high with panic as his knees folded under him but he couldn't find the breath to reply. He lay bemusedly on the floor of the queen's chamber, feeling the darkness close around him, and wondered if this was it, if this is what it felt like to die.

The darkness swallowed him and he knew no more.


TBC…