Duty

Missing scene for 3x03 Irresistible

Author's Note: Thanks to my beta Kasiliz, who really ought to be working on her own fic instead of reading mine. (hint, hint)

OOOoooOOO

Noises filtered slowly into his awareness, the muted sounds of laughter and loud conversation and the clink of drinking glasses. Accompanying the noise was pain, a pervasive full-body ache that felt like all his muscles were being compressed. His nose and sinuses were still clogged, too, and he was hot. Damn. I hate this lousy cold. Sheppard pried sticky eyelids open. He blinked muzzily as a ceiling came into view, rotating gently. Whoa. Okay, you can turn off the Tilt-A-Whirl now. He blinked several more times and the unfamiliar ceiling slowly stabilized, although a headache throbbed across his temples to make up for it.

Not the infirmary, then.

The grey composite ceiling seemed farther away than normal. Sheppard cautiously rolled his aching head to one side. Flat grey horizontal bars separated him from the rest of the room he was in. He was also on the floor. No wonder the ceiling is far away. Just how much did I have to drink last night, anyway?

Not just not the infirmary; he was in a holding cell. Why do I have the feeling that this is not good?

Memory slowly trickled back into his brain in the form of disjointed images. Lucius, laughing uproariously. Carson, bringing Lucius to Atlantis. The rest of the expedition, all fallen under Lucius's influence. Stunning Carson. The jumper, fleeing to the mainland. Carson sobbing. Being found by Ronon and Teyla, then stunned by Ronon. Crap. No wonder I feel like roadkill. That weapon of Ronon's packs a hell of a punch.

Sheppard lay on the cool floor for long seconds, hoping the headache would subside and his body would stop aching. Finally the congestion in his sinuses forced him to move, since it was getting hard to breathe. He rolled prone, then pushed up into a kneeling position. Lurching to his feet he staggered, the room spinning rapidly. He stumbled painfully into the wall, clutching at the slats for support. A coughing spasm doubled him over and nearly dropped him again. Panting, he pulled himself vertical and leaned against the slats, swaying. Good thing the energy field's not active. That would've hurt.

Through the doors of the holding area he could see a group of Atlantis personnel laughing and socializing with Lucius, who was holding court from a table. Weir was there. So were Carson and Rodney- Dammit, Rodney, why the hell didn't you keep your door locked? Rounding out the party were Lorne, Kusanagi, Garrett, Sanders, Kyung, Heikkinen, Werle, Hu and Wu the Chinese materials scientists, most of the Marines from Charlie squad, Mbungi, Hunter and Rossetti. They all seemed to be having a good time- way too good to be normal. Lucius spotted Sheppard through the patterned-glass doors and eased himself away from his fawning entourage. He sauntered toward Sheppard, satisfaction fairly oozing from every pore.

Sheppard barely registered what the man was saying to him or what he replied in return. He was too concerned with staying vertical and staying outside the man's sphere of influence, cold or no cold. He got the gist of the taunt, though, and the cold fury burned away some of the residual woozy feeling of the stun. But impotent rage was just that. His plan had failed. Carson's hastily concocted antiserum was obviously ineffective, since the doctor was in there toadying up to Lucius just like everyone else. And he was eventually going to get over his cold and fall under the man's influence. I think this is the first time in my life I haven't wanted a cold to get better, and I also think I am well and truly out of options. Double crap. He coughed again, hard enough to leave himself breathless.

Head still throbbing and chest aching, he sat on the floor, leaned back against the wall of the cell and closed his eyes. Plans and ideas chased themselves through his weary brain, each discarded in turn for one flaw or another. Eventually stress and exhaustion caught up with him and he fell asleep. The party in the next room broke up reluctantly as Carson chivvied the Marine squad off for some kind of pre-mission shots and Lucius declared a desire for commissary food. Sheppard was left alone.

OOOoooOOO

"Colonel Sheppard!" Beckett's voice filtered into Sheppard's brain. The doctor fumbled briefly with the lock on the holding cell door before it released and he pulled the door open.

"Colonel!" hissed the doctor sharply. "We've got to go now!"

Sheppard stirred sluggishly, lifting his head off folded arms and blinking blearily. Uncomprehendingly, he looked at the physician.

"Carson?" His muddled mind couldn't figure out why Beckett was in his cell. Has he done something to annoy Lucius too? Exhaustion still gnawed at him, and he resisted when Beckett grasped an arm and tried to pull him up.

"Come on, lad! Lucius is about to try his new ATA gene in the Jumper and this is our chance to get him away from Atlantis!" Carson's increasingly insistent tugging finally succeeded in hauling Sheppard to his feet. Vertigo assailed the colonel as soon as he was up, the cell lurching sickeningly and his vision graying. The headache flared up with vicious intensity. Unable to support himself, his knees buckled and he fell.

Strong arms wrapped themselves around his torso, keeping him upright. His forehead thumped against Carson's collarbone.

"Bloody hell, lad. What's wrong with you?" Beckett managed to maneuver the colonel into the next room and ease him into a chair, holding him in place.

Vaguely Sheppard felt Beckett's hands on his wrist, his neck, his forehead. He blinked and jerked back as the ever-present penlight flared in his vision. The sudden movement grayed him out again and triggered a coughing spell that doubled him over and left him wheezing. The doctor's hand rubbed a soothing circle on his back as he struggled to catch his breath, elbows on his knees and head hanging. When his vision cleared and he had regained some air, he looked up and saw the physician eyeing him with concern.

"That cold's quite a bit worse than earlier. I'd say that stun didn't help matters any, either. Are you going to be able to walk?"

Sheppard pulled himself together with an effort. He nodded slowly, shrugging off Beckett's hand and straightening in the chair. The world stayed in place this time. "What do I need to do, Doc?" he asked hoarsely.

Beckett fumbled in his lab coat pocket for a moment and handed the colonel a pair of tablets in a paper packet.

"First, take these. They're just Tylenol. I haven't any decongestants with me, but they might help." The doctor pulled a half-full bottle of water from another pocket and pressed it into Sheppard's hand. "And drink. All of it."

The tepid water felt wonderful in his throat, which was dry and irritated from coughing. He downed the tablets and finished the bottle. Feeling slightly better, Sheppard met Beckett's eyes.

"Carson? What else? What's going on?" He coughed again into cupped hands, and tried vainly to clear his nose. "Are you you, or are you going to start bawling on me again?"

Beckett took a deep breath, embarrassment pinking his skin. "I'm me. The antiserum worked. I felt Lucius's influence fade during the flight back to Atlantis after Ronon stunned you. They thought I was still with them and didn't search me. I took the antiserum to the infirmary and inoculated my nurses with it as well as Lorne and his squad. I told them it was a vaccination against a disease found on Lucius's world, and that Lucius's herbs had provided the materials to make the vaccine. It was no problem getting them to take it after that. I kept them all in the infirmary for an hour to watch for 'adverse effects'." He smiled thinly. "Then I told them what had happened. They're all still pretending to be under his influence. I also inoculated Lucius with the antiserum. I told him it was the ATA injection. I'm to meet him in the Jumper bay in," he glanced at his watch "fifteen minutes to see if it worked by taking a Jumper up. Everyone else is already waiting on the balcony or in the control room to watch Lucius's first flight. I need you to help me get Lucius away from Atlantis in the Jumper until everyone can be inoculated."

Sheppard, taken aback, eyed the doctor with exhausted disbelief. "Carson? You did that?" He smiled wearily. "That was good. I'm impressed."

Carson grinned proudly. "You can stop ragging me about the bawling, then, right?" Then his expression softened. "We've still got to get Lucius in the Jumper and away from Atlantis. Once I get him inside, can you restrain him and fly him to the Athosians? I'd ask Lorne, but Lucius specifically invited him to watch and the others will notice if he's not on the balcony with them. You've seen how defensive they can be of him."

Sheppard took a cautious breath, relieved when it didn't trigger a cough. Maybe the Tylenol was kicking in. He levered himself to his feet with minimum assistance from Carson. The room only spun slightly, which he considered a promising sign.

"I can do it. Let's go." Anything to get my people back to normal and get that weasel out of my city.

The trip to the Jumper bay was uneventful, the halls deserted. All of Atlantis's personnel were apparently either orbiting Lucius in the infirmary or waiting on the balcony. Sheppard hid himself behind a support strut near Jumper One, since there was no concealment within the Jumper itself.

"I'll make sure we're alone when we come down here. I'll ask him to send everyone else to the balcony so they don't miss any of his flight." said Carson.

"Sounds good." Sheppard agreed, leaning discreetly against the support strut. "When you get him into the Jumper, have him sit in the left seat. I'll sneak in once you're going through the preflight. I'm sure I can find something to knock him out with."

Carson winced. "I asked Lorne to put a stunner in the forward storage bin."

"Even better. Go. Get Lucius. And let's get that bastard out of our city."

Carson left. Sheppard made himself comfortable behind his support beam, telling himself firmly that the lingering headache, muscle aches and dizziness were figments of his imagination. We have a plan. What could go wrong?

OOOoooOOO

The abduction nearly went off without a hitch. When he figured Lucius was fully absorbed in the preflight procedures Sheppard had eased quietly into the Jumper. Lucius, as fascinated as a kid in a candy store, hadn't heard a thing. Unfortunately Lorne's stunner had slipped out of reach behind a stack of survival equipment when Sheppard touched it. He'd been forced to half-throttle the man with his own clothing instead. Fortunately Lucius, used to getting his way, was so shocked by the resistance that he'd surrendered easily. Good thing, too: Sheppard hadn't realized until that moment how weak he was. If the big man had resisted, Sheppard would have been in trouble.

But Lucius was safely zip-tied in the back of the Jumper before Carson left to inoculate the rest of Atlantis. Sheppard flew to the mainland to deposit their interloper with the Athosians, leaving Lucius's clueless but adoring public behind on the balcony. Since Lucius had received the antiserum he was no longer … attractive, Beckett had said. The mainland inhabitants would be safe from his influence. Once Lucius was safely in Halling's custody Sheppard climbed wearily back into the Jumper for the flight home.

By the time he got to Atlantis he wasn't feeling so hot. Beckett's Tylenol had evidently worn off and Sheppard's headache and muscle aches were back with a vengeance. He gingerly wiped sweat from his face with the sleeve of his jacket; even his skin hurt. The atmosphere in the little ship was stifling and he could barely breathe. He was coughing almost continuously but couldn't seem to clear his lungs. He barely missed the Jumper bay wall on the way in, vertigo short-circuiting his equilibrium and forcing him to yank the controls abruptly to avoid a collision. The Jumper lurched and abruptly dropped several feet. Oh shit. That was too close.

He swallowed convulsively, forcing his trembling hands to obey his traitorous brain. His pulse was pounding in his temples, sending jackhammers of pain through his skull and generating grey spots at the edges of his vision. He eased the Jumper to the floor in minute increments, gulping in relief once the craft was safely parked. Hands shaking, he powered down the Jumper and lowered the ramp. The inrush of cool air was greeted with a sigh of relief, but there didn't seem to be any oxygen in the air. Sheppard pushed himself dizzily to his feet, wobbling slightly as his vision tunneled and dimmed. He managed two steps toward the ramp before his knees buckled. He felt himself falling, then there was nothing.

OOOoooOOO

He surfaced slowly through layers of gradually lightening fog. Soft murmurs glanced through his hearing, and feathery touches brushed his skin. Occasionally a firmer touch would linger, then disappear. As his senses grew clearer he registered other sounds: the metallic clatter of small instruments, quiet footsteps, and muted metronomic beeps. The smells of plastic and isopropanol urged him toward wakefulness. He forced weary eyes open a slit. A dim ceiling filled his view, but this one was familiar: the infirmary. He tried to draw in a deep breath, and his chest seized. He was wrenched into a paroxysm of coughing that left him breathless, eyes watering. Throat spasming, he worked to swallow the nasty stuff he'd coughed up.

"Easy, colonel, easy. Deep breaths." An arm was slipped behind his back, helping him to a sitting position. A large hand pressed a mask against his face, and cool air hissed against his lips and nose. "Slowly now. As deep a breath as you can manage."

Shakily, Sheppard got his breathing under control and found that he was trembling. The arm eased him back against the bed, now inclined slightly. He wiped watery eyes to see Beckett watching him carefully.

"How are you feeling?"

Unable to trust his voice, Sheppard settled for a horizontal palm wobbled back and forth. Been better.

"Aye, I imagine you're still feeling a bit rocky." The physician felt Sheppard's pulse, then began the series of other assessments that had become entirely too familiar over the last two years. Sheppard allowed the manipulations, too exhausted to object.

Beckett finished ausculting Sheppard's chest and tucked his stethoscope into the pocket of his lab coat. He met Sheppard's questioning gaze.

The colonel pulled the oxygen mask aside, dislodging the pulse oximeter attached to one finger. "What happened? And how long?" he rasped.

Beckett firmly moved the colonel's fingers from the mask and placed it back over his mouth and nose. "Keep that on for a bit. You need it." He reclipped the pulse ox sensor onto Sheppard's hand. "This too."

Beckett seated himself carefully in the chair next to Sheppard's bed. "You collapsed in the Jumper. Major Lorne found you face down on the floor and barely breathing. I suspect we're damn lucky you even managed to land the bloody thing." He fiddled with his penlight, clicking it on and off rapidly. "You've been here nearly a day and a half with a nasty case of bronchitis. When we got you up here you were in respiratory distress, febrile, dehydrated and hypoxic. Your electrolytes were all over the place, your muscle enzymes were sky-high and your sats were downright frightening. Apparently that stunner of Ronon's is pretty rough on the immune system when a viral infection and exhaustion are already present." He put away the penlight and shoved his hands in the pockets of his lab coat, shifting uncomfortably in the chair. "You weren't looking well when I got you out of the holding cell, and you looked nearly done over when Lorne found you in the Jumper." He looked guilty. "I never ought to have asked you to fly the Jumper. I should have brought you straight here."

Sheppard made a small, dismissive gesture. You did what you had to do, Doc, and I did what I had to do. Now how about my people?

Somehow Beckett got the message. "Everyone else is fine, unless you count terminal embarrassment. We'd no problems administering the antiserum; I used the same story as before and they were lining up for the inoculations. I've not inoculated you, though. I don't want to risk any adverse effects until you've recovered from the bronchitis. We've mostly got that under control, but you're still quite ill. Don't even be thinking you'll be out of here any time soon."

Sheppard's eyelids were beginning to descend of their own volition, and Beckett's monologue was starting to fade. Beckett noticed his patient's exhaustion. "Enough. It's the middle of the night. Go to sleep and we'll talk more in the morning."

Sheppard grunted an acknowledgement as Beckett carefully lowered the head of his bed slightly and drew up the blanket. He felt a small tug on his wrist as the physician untangled the IV lines, then a gentle hand on his shoulder followed him into sleep.

end

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