Sheppard woke with a jerk. The explosive sound repeated echoing through the quiet rooms and extending out in to the halls. John struggled to get in to a sitting position, he got as far as one elbows before his leg pulled and pain radiated from his toes to his chest in rapid order. He gasped for breath and blinked rapid trying to chase the black spots away.
"Sorry, Colonel," Beckett smiled weakly. "I seemed to developed a bit of an allergy to something. I didn't mean to startle you with my sneezing."
Sheppard's heart beat in his chest out of fright and pain.
When he didn't reply, the doctor became more concerned, "Colonel?"
John let his eyes roam the room before settling on the doctor. "Carson?"
The other man let out a loud breath and some of the tension slipped from his face. "That's right, lie back now. Do you remember what happened?" Dr. Beckett busied himself checking John's vitals, while keeping a steady eye on his patient.
I'm not sure, I…" His voice broke off into a coughing fit. When he was done Carson was there with a spoon and an ice chip, but he flinched away from it uncontrollably.
"Its all right son, it's for your throat."
He took the ice in his mouth and swallowed. He felt so damn nervous and he couldn't figure out why. He felt jumpy and itchy and his left hand couldn't stop twitching. If Carson noticed it he said nothing.
Beckett must have decided that John was as relaxed as he was going to get, and decided it was time to get down to business. "Do you know where you are?" He asked shinning a penlight first in to left eye then in to his right.
John coughed again but lightly, and winced at the light. "Atlantis, but…but something's wrong. It's not right."
Dr. Beckett ignored the absent reply and continued with his questions. "Can you say your full name for me?"
John looked at him suspicious and felt the sudden need to give only his name rank and serial number. "Um, doc, I'm not nuts. Just confused, what the hell's going on?" It was then he noticed the doctors red rimmed eyes and pale complexion. "What's wrong with you?"
But before Beckett could answer, a sharp and sudden pain lanced through John's head leaving him gasping. He leaned forward moaning and gripping the sheets desperately trying to ward off…. something he couldn't remember… he was bombarded with images of the Earth, Landry yelling at them in the Jumper… Replicators, Ronon slugging then grabbing him, Rodney throwing him over the balcony… water.
He remembered he was cold… he felt sick.
Ronan's arm was wrapped tightly around his chest. Mechanical Replicators fell into the water around them, causing no immediate concern, except for one. Specialist Dex quickly pulled him to the side saving him from a serious bash on the head. Yet another Replicator splashed into the water a few feet away. John watched it distractedly as it sunk below the churning water.
Better them then him, or Ronan or…. That's when something else occurred to him.
"Rodney, where's Rodney?" He gurgled the last bit as water splashed into his mouth from an unexpected wave. He coughed and spat, his nose burning from the salt-water. At least I am going to die with clear sinuses. He had to bite back a giddy laugh.
"Got'em," Ronan grunted with effort, but Sheppard had already forgotten the question.
Then he could here another voice. It sounded like Carson, calling his name but it was just another voice lost to the crowd of images bombarding his brain, leaving him confused. Was Carson in the water too?
The pain hit him again, his leg felt numb from all the cold water but his shoulder wasn't submerged. Every eb and flow of the water was agony.
He took a deep gasping breath. Then as suddenly as it came it faded away.
There was a mask over his face and he gasped at the oxygen that flowed through it. He felt completely wrung out. What the hell had just happened? After a few moments he was able to finally get enough air to rasp out his question. "What's going on?"
Doctor Beckett pursed his lips, taking his time to answer. His hesitation frustrated the Colonel; it was obvious Beckett was holding back on something. John was hurt, exhausted and nauseous, but nothing would help him more than knowing what their situation was. Yet everything seemed jumbled, he needed to get his head straight, he needed to gain some control. "Is everyone okay, I thought…I remember they were just here?" he looked towards the doctor, trying to sound less shaken then he was.
Carson sighed, running a hand over his own tired face. "Aye, but that was a few days ago now, actually closer to a week and a few things have changed."
Sheppard twitched with surprise. "A week!"
"You've had quite the fever, it broke last night thankfully."
John tried to raise his left hand to his aching head but was despondent that he didn't have the strength. He struggled to raise his head so he could take stock, but Carson stepped in. "Bloody fool, lay back; I'll raise the bed."
John coughed slightly glancing around at his sparse surroundings, "I can't move my right arm." He was doing his best to reign in his confusion and gain some control back.
Beckett seemed slightly happier at the change of subject. "Aye, its in a sling. It was just for your own good. You dislocated your shoulder when you hit the water. It's best you don't be moving it much for the next little while. How you three survived that jump I'll never know. Rodney passed out, but I couldn't find a concussion; he developed a nasty rash though, allergic to the dust or something in the water. He took a bit of a hit to his arm, probably from the fall. But, we were finally able to take x-rays and make a cast for him, once we confirmed the hairline fracture and the equipment was returned. He'll be fine, though he will look a bit patchy and grumpy for a while. Ronan is right as rain, as always. Bloody overgrown energizer bunny."
John nodded, still fighting back his emotions and weariness. "Like Butch and Sundance… one last time."
"Aye but there was three of you and it's not the last time. We'll figure something out lad, don't you worry."
John nodded agreeably but neither of them believed it for a moment. Things would never be the same again.
When John woke next, it was in slow increments. it took him a minute to recognize the person in the bright red HAZMAT suit watching him. For a moment he though it might be Teyla, the shape was similar but as he became more aware he quickly realized it was Kate Heightmeyer. "Go away," he mumbled attempting to wave his hand in dismissal, only to have it stopped short as pain flashed up his neck and down his arm.
Kate smiled softly, "You're friends are concerned about you and asked me to speak with you. How are you feeling?"
His friends? His friends were all in a crap load of trouble and he had led the way. "Tired," was the response he offered her.
She smiled sympathetically "Has anyone talked to you about what's going to happen?"
John shook his head. "I think everyone's in denial."
He frowned his face flushing with angry. "Unfortunately no, I'm knew exactly what I was doing. I've gone against orders before, you know." He turned away not wanting to look at the disappointment in her eyes.
"John, this is serious."
"You think I don't know that!" he nearly spat in anger. "I remember all the threats from the first go around and they won't be just threats this time." He sat up in his bed his leg and arm throbbing in time with the vein in his forehead, he ignored it all. "Look, what do you want me to say? I'm sorry I did it? Because, I'm not, I'm glad I did what I did. I don't regret it, not for one minute. Atlantis is safe… or at least she will be soon enough. My friends are alive. What do you people want from me?" He was getting more then riled now, but she really pissed him off! Okay maybe he was deemed a loose canon by the USAF, but dammit sometimes the end does justify the means. "Didn't I tell you to go away!?"
Kate looked at him unflinchingly. "Carson, says you have been having nightmares, that's why you were in restraints for awhile. Shelby, the nurse on the night shift is sporting a black eye."
John flinched at that, damn.
"Carson and his staff had difficulty waking you, you had an infection, but it was mild and Carson doesn't believe it was the cause of your night terrors."
John, twitched angrily but he was loosing steam, Night terrors; what was he eleven?
Kate continued on laying her covered hand on his wrist, "Now you are continuously waking up confused and combative. You are under a lot of stress at the moment; it's my job to help you through with it. We are going to do our best to try and help you. We know what you did to try and save the city, we're all a team, we need you John and we aren't ready to let them haul you off yet. You saved us, now let us help you."
John lay back then, running his good hand across his face. Whether she knew it, in her sneaky shrink kind of way, or not, she has said the magic word. His 'Team' was all he had. "What do you need me to do?"
Kate smiled, "We have a plan."
John's eyebrows arched up in surprise, as Kate, started to tell him the whole story. Apparently he missed more than a few things this past week.
Carson, Kate and Elizabeth sat stiffly at the large boardroom table over looking the SGC's gate room. Carson fidgeted nervously with the file folder in front of him.
"Carson relax," whispered Elizabeth. "We need you."
"Aye, I know." His eyes flickered up to meet his friend's. "One for the Team."
"For Atlantis," returned Kate sitting even straighter.
"For Atlantis," both Carson and Liz agreed quietly but in unison. It was funny how it had become their war cry of sorts.
The all stood up quickly as the door into the room opened abruptly.
Mr. Woolsey, General Jack O'Neill, General Landry, Colonel Caldwell and a Colonel whose name patch read 'Ellis'.
"Good Afternoon", Landry greeted and they all shook hands before setting down around the table. As this was Landry's jurisdiction, he started the show. "As you all know, we are here to make some decisions on the Atlantis situation and some of the recent events in the Pegasus Galaxy." Landry cleared his throat before starting, "Dr Beckett, as I can see the quarantine has been lifted and the HAZMAT suits are gone, can you please fill us in on the grey substance that was found."
Carson nodded, and attempted to poor himself a glass of water before he started. His had shook slightly with nerves and the water from the pitcher slopped over the side of the glass. His face reddened with embarrassment as he swiped at the dribbled water with his sleeve.
"Carson?" Elizabeth elbowed him subtly with her arm.
"Ah yes, the grey dust. Rather nasty actually, it's what was left of the Ancients."
All the non-Lanteans looked at him in with confusion.
"Excuse me?" questioned a startled Woolsey.
"Well it seems that before we even arrived the Replicators were able to tap in to Atlantis's mainframe; excuse me this really isn't my area of expertise…"
"You're doing fine Doctor Beckett, keep going." Jack O'Neill offered the reassurances.
"Well according to Rodney, I mean Dr McKay, the Replicators were able to change the wave length of the city's shield and then they simply reversed its polarity. It pretty much incinerated all living organisms in the city. Besides the horrible deaths of those good people, we also have some very annoyed botanists."
Elizabeth took ever then, and Carson smiled at her with relief. "We have had teams, dealing with the…erm, remains, nearly non-stop since it was identified. A memorial will be held on the mainland later this week. And thanks to Colonel Caldwell, his crew, a brain wave from Dr. McKay, and Mr Ronan Dex, we were able to drive them in to a retreat."
"We destroyed a large group of them before they left the city as well," added Elizabeth helpfully.
Landry nodded, "Unfortunately we won't know for how long, we've driven them off for."
"Dr McKay has estimated that it will take them at least a month to repair the damage to their ships."
"How can he know that for certain?" Woolsey questioned, looking as nervous as Carson felt.
"They don't," returned Jack snarkily. "That's why it's called an estimate."
Woolsey flashed him a dirty look but Jack wasn't phased. "The Committee has concerns about the continued presence of the current military leadership in Atlantis. The way things are now, are we able to prepare for their return?"
Carson's heartbeat increase and he tried to hide the fact that his palms were sweaty as he rubbed them against his trousers. Here we go then.
Colonel Landry nodded opening a rather thick file folder that sat on the table in front of him. "That brings us to… Colonel Sheppard."
"Indeed it does," agreed Elizabeth.
Carson looked around the table at all the grim faces. The battle lines were drawn. This was going to be a long meeting.
Rodney sat hunched over in the hard plastic chair, feet resting on yet another plastic and equally uncomfortable chair, as he pecked at his keyboard with one good hand.
Colonel Sheppard grunted and shifted in the bed next to him.
"Quit it," he snapped not even bothering to look up from the screen he was working on.
"Quit what?" John grouched back equally as annoyed.
"I'm Colonel sitting, Carson left me in charge." Rodney couldn't help the slightly evil grin the crept on to his face as he looked up at his friend. "So that means for once I out rank you. And Carson said under no circumstances were you to exert yourself, get up, or move around too much in any way…so quit it."
Sheppard, screwed up in a very undignified pout. Rodney could have sworn he looked like he was about to stick out his tongue. "You can't out rank me, McKay, you're not military or medical personnel."
Rodney tapped an obviously homemade badge that hung on his shirt. Sheppard laughed despite himself. The badge read 'Deputy Nurse.' "A nurse, hey? So Florence, what do you have in the way of entertainment?"
Rodney waved a hand dismissing the colonel's question and snotty remark. "You're suppose to be drugged unconscious, you don't need entertaining."
John snorted in response. "I'm not drugged," then he let his voice drop quieter. "Anymore."
"You're still on pain meds and should be sleeping. Now go to sleep; Daddy needs to work."
Sheppard try to lean out of his bed to see Rodney's screen. "What are you working on?"
Rodney pulled the laptop away with a scowl, and dropped his feet to the ground, just has John's arm slipped from the bed rail. His good arm being his only leverage he near fell head first to the floor. The physicist made a quick grab for the back of his friends medical gown and unceremoniously shoved him back towards the bed, nearly dropping his computer in the process.
"Hey! Ow!" John complained loudly, wincing in pain. "Florence you're not! How many lessons have you been taking from Ronan?"
"Serves you right! I told you to quit it."
"What if there was a real medical emergency; what would you do, bully them into submission?"
"I'd call Dr. Keller, she is around here some where. Carson is the only real doctor around this place though, so don't get any ideas about bleeding or anything, she probably couldn't save you. What is she 12? I bet she'd give Doggie Hawser a run for his money."
"Rodney…" John started to admonish.
"Never mind." John sighed dramatically. "So, I take it the others aren't back yet then?"
Rodney frowned turning back to the comfort of his laptop screen. "No, they've been gone a while now."
"You think no news is good news?"
Rodney shrugged noncommittal.
"Yeah, that what I thought." John fidgeted some more. "I really am bored. Why don't you tell me how we beat the Replicators again?"
Rodney couldn't help but feel a little inkling of pride over that and he straightened in his chair. "It really was spectacular."
John smiled, "How long has Stargate Command been trying to beat these things again?"
"Years!" Rodney practically crowed.
John chuckled as Rodney started off on an excited tangent. "Well they didn't have you...and Ronan's gun."
"It was so simple really, Ronan's gun crossed with an ARG fired up with Naquadah and a modulator...and pow!" Rodney waved his hands animatedly.
"But that's just the bugs," John interrupted with a smile.
"Oh sure the human Replicators were trickier, but not too much; we just amped up the modulator and practically shook them apart… really big Pow."
"But didn't they just reform?"
"Sure but it took them a minute or so to gather their wits. So we swept up the bits and ran them over to the old Lab. And dumped them in the containment field that houses the original strain of the nano-virus & re-engineered that to target nanite cells instead of human. We gave them a taste of their own medicine!"
"Genius!" John smiled.
"Ain't it just?" Rodney rocked back in his chair happily.
John laughed lightly, before growing serious again. He reached out to touch the scientist's shoulder. "No matter what happens Rodney, it was worth it."
He flinched a little and stared at the floor, not able to meet the injured man's eyes. "Are you sure?"
John's smile returned. "Yeah, I am."
Before he could reply Rodney sat up stiffly as the radio in his ear beeped.
Colonel Sheppard looked over with concern. "What is it?"
Thanks to Nureek for the short notice help and ElJay for the Beta
thanks for the awesome reviews!