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.

This fic, second in the series, is the tag fic for Misbegotten and is Carson POV. Should be about two chapters in total.

Please read and review.


Beckett was waiting for them in the jumper bay when they arrived. The Daedalus had docked with just a skeleton crew onboard – from what he'd been told there was just about enough oxygen left in the atmosphere for a handful of people to stay on the bridge long enough to fly the damaged ship from the orbiting hive ship down to the city, though even then they'd been cutting it close. All the remaining Daedalus crew and the members of the Atlantis team had had to be transported from the hive ship by puddle-jumper.

Naturally, Sheppard was on the last jumper to return, having overseen the evacuation of all the other personal before being persuaded to board a jumper himself. Beckett wasn't sure he'd ever been so pleased to see the Colonel, McKay and Ronon walk exhaustedly down the jumper ramp. They'd genuinely thought they'd lost them all this time.

They'd mourned them.

And then he saw who walked down the ramp behind them and he knew why a security detail had also been waiting in the jumper bay. Michael. The living, walking, talking reminder of the compound of errors that had been the retrovirus project. A project for which he alone bore the ultimate responsibility.

It had started out as a desire to establish peace in the Pegasus galaxy, to neutralise the Wraith threat by freeing them from what he saw as an unnatural evolution. They didn't need to be killers. They could be cured, made whole.. made human again. They had been human once, after all…

But it had all gone so horribly wrong… almost from the start. Elia taking the drug before it was ready and devolving into some vicious proto-Wraith, attacking Sheppard so mercilessly that he and Ronon had had no choice but to kill her. Sheppard's infection with the mutated strain, the havoc it had wreaked on his DNA, on his body and mind. Dear god, they'd come this close to losing him for good.

And then Michael. Michael who they'd experimented on, lied to, deceived and ultimately lost control over, leaving them once again at risk from the Wraith, vulnerable to attack because Beckett's retrovirus had failed. It was as a direct result of that failure that they had been forced to ally with the Wraith, been given no other choice but to trust them even when their every instinct screamed not to. It had felt like long-awaited, even well-deserved, retribution when their allies had turned on them and they'd thought they'd lost it all. Ronon, McKay, Sheppard – Earth itself.

And now here they were, safe and sound and bringing Michael with them. Fully returned to his Wraith physiology and yet still.. he had helped them, saved everyone. Mere survival instinct, Beckett wondered, or did the Wraith truly retain some connection to the human state he had so briefly shared. Deep in his heart, Beckett still harboured a hope that Michael, that all of them, could be saved.

Michael came to a halt, hissing, as he spied the security personnel and Sheppard sensed his hesitation, stopping also and turning to the Wraith, his face unreadable. The security detail had drawn handheld stunners and Sheppard gave no orders to put them away, simply regarding Michael with a steady, uncompromising gaze. His voice was tired, raw but nonetheless firm. "Can't just let you wander the city, Michael."

The Wraith snarled at that, his eyes narrowing in disdain. "I betray my kind to save you and this is how you repay me?" His voice was deep, multi-layered, rumbling in his chest.

Sheppard gestured to the security team and they stepped forward, their stunners trained on the Wraith. "We'll talk about this later." His tone brooked no refusal and, with a last snarl, Michael seemed to concede the point, his defiant attitude deserting him as he was forced to acknowledge that, right now, he had no other options. He let the security team lead him away.

The missing members of Atlantis' primary gate team stepped off the jumper ramp and into the city and he could see in their faces the relief at being home again – a home he was sure they had all thought they would never see again.

"Hey, Doc." Sheppard's grin was tired but genuine.

"Colonel Sheppard. Am I pleased to see you.." He was studying them as he spoke, noting the exhaustion in the slump of their shoulders, the shakiness of their steps.

"Yeah. Sorry 'bout scaring you like that with the hive ship and all.."

"We're just pleased to have you back, Colonel. All of you."

"Nice to be back," Ronon rumbled, positively eloquently for the usually taciturn Runner.

McKay nodded. "Can't quite believe we made it," he sighed, a note of wonder in his voice.

Ronon and Rodney looked equally as tired and drawn as the Colonel, the three of them suffering the after-effects of a situation that Sheppard had somewhat glibly summed up as "Out of food and water and haven't slept in days." Carson's eyes narrowed thoughtfully; there was more to it than that though, he could tell. The Colonel in particular seemed more than just exhausted, there was a stiffness to his posture and a tightness around his eyes that spoke of pain and discomfort and Carson was not surprised to find Rodney giving him a significant look from behind the Colonel's back.

Ah, well. Business as usual then.

"Let's get you all down to the infirmary and get you checked over then," he stated firmly, falling into step with them as they turned their weary feet in the direction of the infirmary.

They were halfway to the infirmary when Sheppard abruptly stumbled, Ronon reaching out instinctively to grab his CO as he staggered against the wall.

"Colonel?" Before Carson could do more than express his concern, Sheppard was pushing himself off the wall, Ronon's grip steadying him as he swayed momentarily.

"I'm fine Doc, just tired." He set off again determinedly and Carson hurried along behind, figuring that the best thing to do was get him to the infirmary as soon as possible before he keeled over for good.

For once not a one of Sheppard's gate team protested as they were assigned beds in the infirmary, McKay hopping up onto the bed with a sigh of relief and Ronon immediately stretching his lean form out along the mattress, releasing the tension of tired muscles, his booted feet dangling over the edge of the bed. Sheppard was slower to climb onto the bed, his movements stiff and painful-looking.

"Right then, let's get you looked at." Carson put aside his concerns, his relief at seeing his friends alive and well, and slipped easily into his usual calm, professional manner. "Jenny, can you look after Ronon for me? Adam, see to Dr McKay please. Make sure you check his blood sugar.." With Ronon and Rodney in good hands, Carson finally turned his attention to Colonel Sheppard.

The Colonel looked exhausted, almost haggard, his shoulders slumped as he sat on the edge of the exam bed, his legs swinging. Carson frowned as he noticed the large, dark stain on the right leg of Sheppard's BDU pants. What had the man done to himself now? He fixed the Colonel with a penetrating look and asked, "Are you going to tell me what happened or shall I just take a guess based on your injuries?"

Sheppard had a half-hearted try at prevarication, "Long story, doc..", before McKay piped up from the neighbouring bed.

"He got his ship blown in half and his leg filled full of shrapnel and he passed out on the hive ship!"

The Colonel winced, took one look at the stern expression on Beckett's face and gave a rueful smile. "It's really not as bad as it sounds…"

Carson sighed. "I would certainly hope not, Colonel. Well, let's have a looksee then, shall we?"

He started off with the basics, checking blood pressure and temperature, pulse and pupil reactions. He frowned as he flicked the flashlight in and out of Shepard's eyes. "Did you hit your head at all, Colonel?"

Sheppard did at least have the grace to look sheepish as he admitted, "I'm not sure. I don't actually remember much about the ship getting hit."

"What?" McKay interrupted, impatiently pushing aside the nurse trying to check his blood pressure as he struggled to jump down from his bed. "You never mentioned that before! Why didn't you tell me that?" His voice rose in indignation. "Why didn't you tell the medical team that? They'd have never let you back on active duty if you'd…"

"Thank you, Rodney," Carson interrupted calmly, stopping the irate scientist in his stride, "I'll do the lecturing from here on in, if you don't mind." He checked the pupil reactions one last time and laid the flashlight down with a sigh, his hands on his hips as he regarded the exhausted officer.

"What do you remember, Colonel?"

Sheppard frowned, his eyes distant as he tried to remember. Carson was keenly aware of Rodney perching on the edge of his bed to eavesdrop but the scientist seemed to know better than to interrupt as Sheppard began to speak, slowly.

"I was in the F302. I targeted the hyperdrive on the one hive ship - and then all hell broke loose. Darts everywhere; too many of em. I tried to avoid them but they swarmed out of the hives like roaches, all of them firing at me. I took some fire…"

Sheppard's eyes met Carson's. "After that it gets pretty confusing. Lots of noise, bright lights. I remember the ship shaking, being thrown to the side. I'm pretty sure the wing was gone – I think I remember looking out the canopy and seeing that…"

He grimaced. "Err.. I think I might have blacked out for a bit? 'Cause I don't really remember much after that at all – just being dragged along a corridor by a coupla really big, ugly Wraith."

For a moment Carson was stunned and from the look on McKay's face he guessed none of them had had any idea just how close Sheppard had come to dying out there in the cold vacuum of space. Even Ronon had sat up on his bed, a frown on his face.

"Good god, son. Are you serious?"

"Well, I was probably venting atmosphere too.. the damage was pretty extensive. I guess all the conduits along the right hand side blew when the wing got sheared and that's how I got this.." He gestured matter-of-factly at his blood-stained pants.

Beckett shook off the shock; it never ceased to amaze him how calm and accepting the Colonel could be of life-threatening experiences that would leave a lesser man a gibbering wreck. A part of him couldn't help but wonder if that was simply a necessary survival tactic on the Colonel's part; if you spent too much time thinking about just how close you'd come to dying, time and again, you wouldn't be able to function. And yet.. it didn't seem healthy to simply block off that fear, that thrill of terror at such a close escape, and Carson had his concerns that, one day, something would have to give.

"Aye. Well. Let's have a look at this leg then, shall we?"