Lorne had had a headache for three days. Three lousy, miserable days of feeling crappy and snapping at everyone on Atlantis – at least, everyone he outranked. The pressure in his face and forehead had recently been joined by a pain that felt like a hot poker thrust down through the top of his skull. His small stash of aspirin wasn't working. It was time to admit defeat. Lorne shut down his laptop and headed for the infirmary.

Three steps in and he almost turned and left. Luck, predictably, was not on his side. The new doctor was on duty.

Lieutenant Colonel Richard Barkley, M.D., Ph.D., was on temporary assignment to Atlantis, conducting research on the Wraith enzyme. Like all other qualified people, he took regular shifts in the infirmary. Barkley was certainly qualified, but while his credentials said "doctor," his bearing screamed "drill sergeant."

Lorne had actually decided to leave when a voice like ground glass called his name. "Lorne. Don't skulk around like a girl, get in here."

He winced and turned, just in time to catch one of the nurses shoot Barkley a poisonous glare. Another fan for Mister Sensitivity.

"What's the problem?" the doctor growled.

"Headache, sir."

"Headache?" Barkley was clearly disgusted. "Good lord, you are a girl, Lorne. Wait here, I'll get you an aspirin."

"Sir, I've tried aspirin. It's not working."

"How many'd you take?"

"Two every four hours, sir, just like the bottle says."

"Take three," Barkley said as he walked away. "And for God's sake, toughen up. You're supposed to be a soldier."

Lorne sighed and slid off the table, his hand pressed against his forehead. He'd expected nothing less.

"Hold on a moment, Major." Lorne looked up to see Beckett standing in the doorway of his office with a face like a thundercloud.

"Doctor Barkley, would you step into my office, please? As soon as I'm finished with Major Lorne, I'd like to have a word with you."

"Ah, he's fine, Beckett. Probably trying to get out of an unpleasant duty assignment."

Carson's frown deepened, but his voice stayed steady. "Thank you for you opinion, Doctor. My office, please." As Barkley snorted and brushed past the Scot, Carson came over, crossed his arms and leaned one hip against the bed. "Tell me about this headache, son. How long have you had it?"

"Three days, doc."

Carson winced. "Ach, that'll wear on a man. Where's the pain?" He watched as Lorne indicated his upper cheekbones, eyes and forehead. "Any nasal discharge?"

"Yeah, I've been blowing my nose like crazy."

"What color is the discharge?" Carson grinned at the face Lorne pulled. "I know, it sounds disgusting, but it does matter. Is it clear or whitish, yellow, green?"

"Yellow, I guess."

Beckett nodded and reached for a lighted scope. "Well, let's have a look." He examined Lorne's throat and peered up his nostrils. "Major," he concluded, "you have a sinus infection. I'm going to give you an antibiotic and a nasal spray, and take you off duty for a few days. I want you to rest and get plenty of fluids, as this type of thing can be terribly dehydrating."

"Thanks, Doc," Lorne said as he accepted the medicine. "Sorry to be a problem."

"No problem at all. That's what I'm here for. Well, off you go, Major," he said, rubbing his hands together absently. "I've a bit of housekeeping to do."

I really shouldn't, Lorne thought as Beckett disappeared into his office. But when the door failed to close all the way, he decided to take it as a sign. Stuffing his meds in his pocket, he crept toward the office.

"—bedside manner," Beckett was saying with a distinctive edge to his voice, "but that was nothing short of malpractice."

"Malpractice! Where do you get off, Beckett? I've been practicing medicine since you were in diapers!"

"Well, practice makes perfect, so they say," Beckett shot back. "If you want to be a bastard to your own patients, I don't have any say in it. But you will treat MY patients to the highest standard of care, or you will pack your bloody bags and spend the next two weeks on the east pier watching the skies for the Daedalus and reviewing your bloody oath."

"Don't you threaten me, you little pissant." Barkley's tone was aggressive enough to make Lorne's muscles tense. "I'm a colonel in the United States Air Force. I'm doing crucial research, and I have connections that go all the way to the top. What's more, if I wanted this crummy post I'd have them appoint me CMO and put you out on your ass. Get over yourself. I don't report to you."

Lorne was concerned enough to peek through crack in the door, worried for Beckett's safety. Barkley had moved into Carson's personal space, using his superior height to try and intimidate the Scot. To Lorne's surprised approval, Beckett took a step closer to Barkley, rising up on his toes to better meet his rival's eyes.

"You're treating my patients. You'd better believe you answer to me for every damn one of them. Feel free to call on all your contacts, but know I've got a few of my own. As for your research, it's promising. That's why you're here. But you are here at my invitation, and you stay at my sufferance. If I decide your presence is detrimental to the health of my patients, I will ship you off this city in a heartbeat. What I saw out there was inexcusable!" Beckett gave him a searching stare before moving to his desk and picking up a file. The gesture was dismissive and remarkably insulting. "You are on probation, Doctor. If you don't perform to my standards, I will revoke your Atlantis credentials. Is that clear?"

Barkley's face was purple, his hands curled into fists at his sides.

"Is that clear, Doctor?" Carson snapped, eyeing him over his shoulder.

"Clear," Barkley ground out, shoving past the CMO. Lorne ducked behind a curtain and watched him storm out.

Shaking his head with a grin, Lorne took one last peek into Beckett's office, just in time to see him tap his radio.

"Rodney, it's Carson. I've a bossy boots who needs taking down a peg or two. Do you suppose you could arrange a few cold showers for him, maybe some random fluctuations in the lights while he's sleeping?"

Lorne bit down on a laugh as he left the infirmary. He felt better already.