Sheppard stood in the jumper bay trying to hide his anxiety as he said goodbye to his team. Again. Only this time McKay was included in the farewells, and John wasn't headed to Earth to lead an SG team.
"I thought Elizabeth said we could stay."
"You can stay, Rodney, and all of the expedition can return. O'Neill gave permission, and he'll have Woolsey convince the IOA."
Teyla's brow wrinkled in confusion. "Then why must you leave?"
"Because I fall under the authority of the Air Force not the IOA."
"Isn't O'Neill in charge of that too?" Ronon asked.
"General O'Neill is in charge of home-world security not the entire Air Force, but I do technically report to him. That's not the point though. I broke a lot of rules to return here. I assaulted two soldiers, stole government property, and disobeyed a direct order, not once but twice. After last time, well, let's just say I don't they're going to look the other way."
"You knew this would happen when you did it," McKay accused.
"Of course I did, Rodney. You've been on the Air Force payroll long enough to know how this works."
"Then why are you going back? They'll throw you in prison!"
"Prison?" Teyla looked alarmed. "They would do this after you have saved the general's life?" She glanced from one man to the next, dismay apparent as each nodded, even Ronon. Military discipline seemed to be a universal constant.
"Stay here, Sheppard. We'll leave Atlantis, travel from world to world hunting Wraith." The Satedan grinned in anticipation.
"Thanks for the offer, Big Guy, but I can't."
"Why the hell not, Colonel? Playing the martyr again? Do you think life behind bars is the better option?" Rodney shouted, face white with anger.
John sighed. How could he make them understand? "No, McKay, I don't. But I've never backed down from a fight in my life, and I'm not about to start now. And I will fight this. I did what I thought was right, and running would send the opposite message. I have to stand up for what I believe. Can you understand that?"
"No." McKay looked away, jaw clenched. "But I can respect it."
Teyla placed a hand on Sheppard's arm. "Are you sure, John? You know you would have a place with my people."
"I appreciate that, but I'm sure. Now, I'm depending on you guys to cover each other's backs and to protect Atlantis. Try not to abuse the new CO too much and help Elizabeth as much as you can."
His heart squeezed painfully at the three reluctant nods he received as he looked each one in the eye. He was losing not just his home, but all his family and his freedom this time. It was worth it though. Atlantis still stood; the expedition would continue as would the fight against the Wraith. It was his fault they were awake so he needed to do what he could to stop them. It wasn't much of a legacy to leave, but it was all he had.
Ronon clasped John's forearm, pounding him on the back. The colonel turned to Teyla, leaning to touch his forehead to hers one last time and then shook McKay's hand.
"Sheppard, if you need anything, contact Jeannie. She'll let me know, and we'll come no matter what."
"I know you will. Thanks, Rodney."
O'Neill watched as John said goodbye to his team. Jack had entered the jumper bay during one of McKay's tirades, and no one had noticed him. He felt a bit like a voyeur as he heard them beg Sheppard to stay. Memories of similar times came to mind – disobeying orders to save Earth, pushing his team away to run a sting operation on a rogue NID group, breaking protocols to save his friends. Nostalgia washed over him; he missed leading missions. He understood the bond of a team, especially one that had been through as much as this group of people had.
Jack fully intended to talk Hank out of reporting Sheppard's actions, but he wanted the young lieutenant colonel to sweat a little first. The man couldn't continue to disobey orders. He was an excellent officer in every other respect – brave, creative, a strategic thinker and natural leader. The general recognized that life in the Pegasus Galaxy wasn't always as orderly as the military would like and sometimes the rules just didn't apply. He also suspected that part of the discussion with Landry would include telling to the man to stop being so rigid. By-the-book thinking typically got people killed off-world.
O'Neill wanted to hear John's side of the story which is why he was having the pilot fly him home instead of just stepping through the stargate with Woolsey. Besides, Sheppard owed him a jumper. The one they'd taken from the SGC was damaged and had little Niam pieces still in it.
Deciding he'd eavesdropped long enough, the general stepped back and banged his bag against the small craft. Four sets of eyes turned his way.
"You ready, Colonel?"
"Yes, Sir. The hatch is open."
John waved one last time to his team and followed O'Neill inside. Just as he began his pre-flight check, Elizabeth's voice crackled over his earpiece.
"Colonel Sheppard? This is Weir."
"This is Sheppard."
"Mr. Woolsey just left. When we dialed in, General Landry asked that you postpone your flight. Apparently one of the Milky Way gates is registering a malfunction. They are working on it."
The pilot caught a glance of a barely concealed smirk from McKay as he stood with Ronon and Teyla in the bay's doorway. What had he done now?
"Understood. Sheppard out." He turned to O'Neill. "It seems we'll be here a little while longer, Sir."
"Yes, Colonel, it would appear that way. Too bad Carter's off-world. I'm sure she could fix whatever McKay's done in a jiffy."
Atlantis' military commander had no idea how to answer that. "Um, yes, Sir."
"Relax, Sheppard. I admire the man's loyalty. In fact, I'm pleasantly surprised by it. He's not the same guy that tried to convince us a few years back to give up on saving Teal'c."
John's brows shot up in surprise. "Rodney did that?"
"Yes, he did. I thought you were crazy when I saw him listed as a member of your team in mission reports. He's changed a lot since coming here."
"Don't tell him I said this, but he's a good man. He just needed to get out of a lab and into the real world. He's as smart as he says he is, and he has a courageous streak that he doesn't even know about. He may bitch and moan, but I know he'll do what needs to be done no matter what. He has saved my life, all our lives, more times than I can count."
"Hmmm. I know the type." The general's eyes had been taking in every display and control of the jumper since he sat down.
"Have you flown one of these before, Sir?"
"Once, a couple of years back. They've been studying them at the SGC since then. I keep trying to tell them how much one would improve my commute, but they seem to think it might cause a panic if I parked it on the front steps of the Pentagon." Jack shrugged.
John grinned at him. "You know this bay has a sunroof. Want to take it for a spin?"
O'Neill grinned back at him. "Thought you'd never ask."
Jack slid into the pilot's seat while Sheppard contacted the control room. He'd been dying to get his hands on one of these again since the day he'd flown the one they'd found on Maybourne's planet back to the SGC. That one had been beat up and exposed to the elements for thousands of years. This one seemed to be in good condition.
Placing his hands on the console, he felt it power up immediately, the strange vibration of Ancient interface tickling the back of his mind. He glanced at Sheppard who was watching him with a knowing smile.
"Think about going outside."
As John said it, a brief image of blue sky flashed in O'Neill's mind, and the roof of the bay began to open. Once it was fully retracted, the ship rose from the floor and headed for open air. They cleared the tower and floated over the water. Jack spent a few minutes getting acclimated to the craft and its controls, blinking in surprise as a display popped up when he wondered where they were.
When he felt comfortable, he thought 'warp speed' and the jumper took off like a shot, dipping and weaving through the sky at his whim. They soared into space and plummeted back down, twisting and looping.
"God, I've missed this."
"Hell, yes. And going off-world and exploring. Don't get me wrong. I'm doing what I should be doing, what I need to be doing. But all the same…."
The smile faded from John's face as he sobered. "I understand exactly what you mean, Sir. I hate giving it up."
"What were you thinking, Sheppard?"
The younger man bit his lip and turned to face O'Neill. "I was thinking that my home was being destroyed, and my family ripped apart. It was bad enough we had to leave, but at least the Ancients were willing to let us return one day. The Asurans though…. Sir, Atlantis is the one hope the people of this galaxy have of beating the Wraith who I woke up. People are dying out there because of me. I couldn't just stand by and do nothing. Plus there was you and Mr. Woolsey to consider."
"Yes, let's not forget me and Woolsey. Tell me what happened."
"At the SGC. Tell me what happened."
"General Landry asked us how to destroy Atlantis. I told him we could retake the city, but he wasn't interested. He said you left orders that he had to carry out. I take full responsibility, Sir. My people were following my orders. We took some weapons and a jumper. You also need to know that I zatted two soldiers in the process and disobeyed the general when he ordered me to stand down."
"Um, Wallace and one of the engineers."
"I think so."
"Had to be. So you threw your career away on the off-chance that you might be able to save Atlantis."
"General, this was going to end one of two ways. Either Atlantis would be saved or not. If not, I'd be dead and wouldn't care. It was still the right thing to do."
"Sheppard, you can't just keep disobeying orders. One day-"
The ship jerked and bucked, all systems going dark.
"What the hell was that?" O'Neill demanded.
"No idea, Sir. Can you get it back online?"
"Are you kidding me?"
John stood, holding onto the console as the ship tossed them around. "Sir? If you'll allow me?"
"By all means, Colonel."
Sheppard slipped into the chair Jack vacated, gripping the controls, his face a mask of concentration. O'Neill moved to the co-pilot's seat, sitting down hard as the craft bounced again. He could see land as they continued to drop, grateful they weren't going to crash in the ocean.
"I got nothing, Sir. Hang on. This isn't going to end well."
John's neck corded as he strained to raise the nose of the jumper. It skimmed the canopy of the dense forest, slamming both men into the control console repeatedly. The last thing O'Neill saw was the ground rushing up to meet them.
John awoke in a haze of pain. He grimaced at the metallic taste of blood in his mouth as he mentally assessed the damage done to his body. The console's controls caused a stabbing sensation where the left side of his face was pressing against them, and he thought it entirely possible that he had a concussion. His left wrist was pinned between his body and the dash and was probably broken. His torso was his biggest concern. He had definitely broken several ribs, and he was fairly certain based on the heaviness in his chest that he was bleeding internally.
He opened one eye to see O'Neill similarly splayed on the console, blooding pooling beneath his head and dripping to the floor.
"General?" he gasped, trying to draw enough air in his lungs. "General O'Neill? Can… you hear… me, Sir?" John couldn't tell if the man was breathing.
He tried to sit up, but the agony took the last of his breath away and his vision grayed as he slumped back down. He wondered what had caused the jumper to lose all power, but he couldn't form a coherent thought. He knew he needed to stay awake, but he just didn't have the energy. He thought he saw the general move just before the darkness claimed him again.
Jack jerked awake and immediately regretted the motion as every nerve screamed its displeasure. He wasn't sure if he'd ever hurt this much before, except for that time with Ba'al, and that time in the mines, and he couldn't forget that time in Antarctica. So, par for the course, then.
He pushed up gently, groaning as his broken collarbone made itself known along with a dislocated right shoulder. The throbbing in his upper left thigh turned out to be the result of a large piece of metal sticking out of it, but judging by the fact he was still alive, it hadn't hit an artery.
He blinked a few times, finally noticing the blood running down his face. A gentle touch to his forehead revealed a nasty head wound. He wiped his eyes and shifted a bit to get a view of the colonel. The man looked like hell. He had several deep gashes on his head, and his face was scrunched in pain as he panted for breath.
The pilot flinched a bit but otherwise didn't respond.
Hazel eyes flew open and focused briefly on him before sliding shut again.
"Am I going to have to fire you again, Colonel?"
"I… think you'll… have… to stand in… line for that… Sir." He moaned a bit and gradually blinked awake.
"We'll see about that. What's your story there?"
"Concussion, broken ribs, some… internal damage. You?"
"Busted collarbone, dislocated shoulder, and part of your ship seems to be buried in my leg."
"My ship? Thought… this one was yours… now."
"Any idea what brought us down?" The pilot's eyes started drifting shut again. "Colonel! Stay with me now. No sleeping on the job."
John started and opened his eyes. "Sorry, Sir."
"Can you sit up?"
"I would… prefer not…to."
"You need to stay awake, Colonel, and we need to get help. Now, where is your first aid kit?"
"Behind my seat."
Jack eased out of his chair, cursing at the pain dancing up and down his leg. He hobbled carefully over to Sheppard, grabbing the kit and rummaging through it.
"Tell me why we lost power."
"Don't know… Sir."
"Problem with the jumper?"
"That's more… Rodney's area, but… I don't think so. We… shouldn't have lost… every system at… the same time… with no warning."
O'Neill found the medical supplies and slid into the chair behind John. He took a quick inventory, pleased to see the kit filled with everything he needed and more.
"You always carry this much stuff in here?"
He could hear the smile in Sheppard's voice. "With my… team? Absolutely."
The general tore a packet of antibiotic wipes open with his teeth and began wiping the blood from his face. He bandaged his head as best he could with one hand and then wrapped his thigh as securely as possible, shuddering against the waves of anguish each time he brushed against the shrapnel. He even found an arm sling and shrugged gingerly into it.
Movement caught his attention, and he looked up to see the pilot trying to sit up. "Careful, Sheppard. You don't know the extent of your injuries."
"Yes… Sir," the man gasped as he sat upright, "but I… need to take a… look at the ship."
"I don't… think this was an… accident. With no… power, we can't call… for help. The Daedalus… left orbit… a couple of hours… ago to head back… to Earth to retrieve… our people. My team… and Carson will come… looking for us when… they realize there's a… problem, but we don't… know how long that… will take."
"And if this wasn't an accident, someone or something is out there and probably coming for us."
"Yes, Sir. Do you remember… the day we met… and that drone almost… shooting us down?"
"I told you that… was different for me… and you said… not so much for you. I… understand that now."
"This kind of thing happen often, does it?"
"All the time. Now, I need… to take a look… at the jumper."
"Let's see if we can get you put back together first."
O'Neill moved next to the pilot, leaning heavily against the console. He tore open more antibiotic cloths, cleaning Sheppard's face and then bandaging it. He used some gauze to tape John's wrist and strap it to his waist.
The colonel opened bleary eyes. "Thank you, Sir."
"You can thank me when we get out of here. Do you have water?"
John nodded slightly. "In the back."
Jack found a couple of bottles, noting the location of the rest of the water and some MREs in case he needed them later. He made his way back to the cockpit and handed a bottle to John.
"Drink in small sips, Colonel."
Sheppard drank just enough to get the taste of blood out of his mouth before his stomach rolled in protest. He slowly pulled himself out of his chair, the world twisting and swirling around him, and he gripped the console trying to stabilize himself. He felt a steadying hand on his shoulder and looked up to see the general watching him, concern etched on his still-bleeding face. O'Neill was one tough son of a bitch, and John wished he'd known the man back when he led SG-1.
"You OK there, Colonel?"
"Yes, Sir. Let's go… see what happened… to your ship."
O'Neill snorted in derision. "Dream on. You get to keep this one too. The one that goes back to the SGC will be in the same good shape as the one that left."
The corner of John's mouth lifted. "Worth a shot."
"How do you open this tin can?"
Sheppard pulled the manual release, and the rear hatch dropped down. The two men stared out the back at the furrow they'd dug in the ground after they'd carved a path in the trees.
"It's like a big arrow pointing right at us, isn't it?"
"Yes, Sir. I need… to walk around… the jumper to… check for damage." John glanced at the general's leg wound that was still seeping. "Do you… want to wait… here?"
"Why don't I wait here?" Jack echoed as he lowered himself onto one of the back benches.
John carefully made his way down the ramp, concentrating on keeping his balance. He circled the jumper twice but couldn't find any indications of weapons fire or anything else that would explain why the craft had lost power.
When Sheppard reentered the jumper, O'Neill was stretched out on the bench. The general opened one eye. "Well?"
"I can't see any… damage. It could be on… the underside… of the ship."
"Sit down before you fall down, Colonel."
"Sir, if I sit… down again, I don't think… I'll be able to… get up, and we… need to get out of here."
"I agree. I've already put some supplies in a couple of packs I found. We've got water, MREs, a flare and some first aid items. Let's clear out before whatever knocked us out of the sky finds us."
O'Neill handed the pilot a pack and grabbed the other one, slinging his good arm around Sheppard's shoulders. John wrapped his arm around the general's waist, and together they hobbled down the ramp.
They headed to the northwest, the direction Sheppard hoped was toward Atlantis. Both men focused on staying upright so talking was at a minimum. John replayed the moments leading up to the loss of power in his head. It reminded him of the time they crashed on the kid planet, only that time the loss hadn't been immediate and they had detected an energy field. Sheppard had flown over the mainland hundreds of times. He knew there was nothing like that here.
He glanced at O'Neill, noting the grimace of pain and the sweat on the older man's face. One look at his leg confirmed Sheppard's fears. The bleeding hadn't stopped yet. The pressure in his own chest hadn't diminished, and John couldn't draw in enough air. He spotted a fallen log and headed for it.
"Do you… mind if… we rest… here a bit… Sir?"
Jack simply nodded, clenching his jaw as the younger man helped him to sit. His leg was killing him, and the pilot looked as bad O'Neill felt. He took a bottle of water out of his pack and took a long drink and then splashed a bit of the cool liquid on his face, shifting a little to ease the pressure on his thigh.
Sheppard had slid to the ground with his back propped against the log and his head resting on it. The man was panting and was sickly pale. Jack was amazed the man had made it this far between the concussion and the internal damage. If someone from Atlantis didn't find them soon, the lieutenant colonel was going to bleed to death.
"Are you still with me, Colonel?"
The pilot cracked open one eye. "Yes, Sir."
"You know, Landry's going to be pissed that he doesn't get to take his pound of flesh out of your backside."
John's head lifted and turned as he regarded O'Neill. "What?"
"He may get the chance one day of giving you the ass-chewing you so richly deserve, but I'm not going to let him throw the book at you."
"Really, Sheppard. Besides, I don't want to get on Weir's bad side. She kinda scares me."
"Me, too, Sir."
"Now, quit lazing around and get me out of here."
John rolled drunkenly to his feet. He wasn't sure if the pounding of heart was from his injuries or the hope that he might be able to stay on Atlantis. He wavered a bit as his vision blurred and doubled and then staggered to O'Neill's side. His abdomen protested as he bent to help the general to stand. Just as the older man got to his feet, his knees buckled, and he fell, pulling Sheppard with him. Agony raged through John's side and chest as he landed on top of O'Neill. He clutched his ribs and rolled off, howling in pain.
He suddenly realized he wasn't the only one screaming and turned to find Jack panting as he gripped his leg. Looking down, John was horrified to see blood gushing from the wound. He had jarred it when he fell, and the metal had been pushed in further, slicing the femoral artery. The two men stared at each other for a split second before O'Neill's eyes rolled back in his head, and he slumped to the ground.
Sheppard grabbed both packs and dug in panic for the one thing that might help. The jumpers had been stocked with the new hemorrhage control bandages, and John prayed fervently that the general had stuffed a couple in the packs. He sighed in relief as he found one and ripped open the packaging. He tore O'Neill's pant leg open and eyed the wound. The shrapnel had to be removed before the bandage could cover and seal the area. He tried pulling, but his blood-slicked hands couldn't grip it. He dug through the packs again and smiled as he found a pair of scissors. He positioned the blades around the piece of metal and closed them tightly, gently easing the shrapnel from the wound.
"I hope… you aren't… allergic to… shellfish, Sir," he murmured as he slapped the HemCon bandage on the general's leg, holding it steady until it sealed and stabilized the wound.
John stared at the site for a few minutes until he was sure the bleeding was under control. As the adrenaline wore off, his own body reminded him of the beating it had taken as the pressure in his chest became unbearable. The tickle in the back of his throat grew until he couldn't suppress the cough any more. Waves of excruciating pain racked his body, and he could taste blood in his mouth. He rolled on his uninjured side, ignoring his wrist, and tried to spit out as much as he could.
As bad as his breathing had been earlier, it was ten times worse now. The coughing continued, and tears of pain rolled down his face. He just refused to drown in his own blood, and he struggled to hold his head up enough to let it drain out. Spots danced before his eyes, and the edges of his vision darkened.
"Please… if… you're… coming… now… would… be… good…" he pleaded, resting his forehead on the ground. He gasped for every breath, knowing his punctured lung had completely collapsed, and the other one was following. Time seemed to crawl, and what was probably only ten minutes felt like an eternity. His strength failed, and he rolled onto his back just in time to see the blazing yellow fire of a drone, followed by a massive explosion in the distance.
He smiled at the thought of Carson shooting that drone and knew his team was on the way. Focusing on that, he turned his head to the side, allowing the blood to drain and breathing shallowly. He fumbled for the bag next to him and found the flare, igniting it. He knew Rodney would locate his subcutaneous transmitter, but they wouldn't be able to land here.
His fingers dug in the ground at another bout of coughing hit, and he concentrated on riding it out. His whole world shrunk down to one thought: live long enough for them to come. The whine of the jumper's engines was the sweetest sound he'd ever heard. He could hear boots pounding, and he slipped into unconsciousness as flying dreadlocks came into view.
"It's time to wake up, Colonel."
The Scottish brogue was unmistakable. John's lids slowly slid upward as a hand continued to tap his cheek. "Carson?"
"Aye. How are you, son?"
"Kinda floaty. Must be the good drugs. It's nice to breathe again."
Beckett ran a few vitals and smiled down at Sheppard. "It's good to have you back with us."
John was too groggy to carry on any more conversation so he just nodded and went back to sleep.
Jack awoke to his least favorite smell in the universe, antiseptic, which could only mean one thing – he was in the infirmary. He opened his eyes to find half of his limps in casts. Great. A noise off to the right turned out to be Dr. Beckett checking on a sleeping Colonel Sheppard. Good to know the man had made it. Now that he thought about it, he was a bit shocked to be alive himself.
The physician finished with the pilot and glanced at O'Neill, smiling. "It's good to see you awake, General."
"Doc. How is he?"
"Colonel Sheppard? He'll be fine. I've repaired the internal damage, and his lung is healing nicely. His wrist has been set. He'll spend some quality time here, but he'll be back on his feet soon. You, on the other hand, will have to stay off that leg for quite some time. The reduction of your shoulder has been done, and your collarbone has been set. You also needed a few stitches for that head wound. You will be perfectly fine after a bit of physical therapy."
"You know, Doc, when Weir told me you came on this crazy rescue, I thought she was nuts. I think I owe you an apology."
A blush crept up the Scot's neck. "Thank you, General. I appreciate that."
Voices penetrated the haze surrounding John, and he groaned as he shifted toward the sounds. He opened his eyes and rapidly closed them at the bright light.
"Is he awake?" McKay queried.
"I am now, Rodney."
"Well, it's about time. You've slept for three days."
That got his attention. He glanced at Carson as the doctor pulled out his stethoscope. "Three days?"
"Yes, Colonel," O'Neill answered. "You marooned me here with McKay for three days."
Beckett grinned, and Rodney looked insulted. "Marooned? Marooned would have been leaving you here at the mercy of the replicators. I risked my life-"
"McKay," John growled. "You are not helping my head."
"Why don't you quietly tell me what exactly happened to the jumper."
Rodney launched into full lecture mode. "It seems our little Asuran friends decided they needed some secondary defenses. I guess they thought any resistance would come from space since they had the gate shield. They set up an energy weapon on the mainland, were in the process of setting up several as a matter of fact. I don't think this one was at full power since it didn't shoot until you flew close to it, and it didn't fire at us when we arrived or at the Daedalus. The blast was like an EM pulse; it completely disabled all systems without destroying the vessel. I'm sure the idea was to capture the occupants and extract information as only replicators can. One of the technicians Caldwell temporarily left was monitoring your flight." McKay visibly deflated and dropped his eyes. "I'm sorry it took us so long to determine what happened. The weapon was shielded, preventing us from detecting its location. Once we figured it out, we fired a drone and came."
John smiled as Teyla and Ronon entered. "Hey guys."
"How are you feeling, Sheppard?"
"Much better. Thanks for finding us, all of you." The colonel stared at McKay until the man met his eyes. "You got there just in time." He turned to the doctor. "Carson, did you fire that drone?"
The Scot sighed dramatically. "Aye. I tried to convince Rodney to do it, but he insisted he needed to monitor the readings."
"You did good."
Jack watched silently as Sheppard reassured his team. O'Neill had already heard about the Asuran weapon so he ignored the technobabble and observed the people. Their affection and concern for the colonel was obvious, and it was definitely reciprocated.
After a few minutes of chatter, Beckett shooed them out and turned down the lights with an admonishment to both men to get some rest. When the doctor was out of earshot, John rose up gingerly on an elbow and looked at O'Neill.
"You doing OK, General?"
"There's a reason I have a desk job, Colonel. Sometimes I need a reminder of that."
"This qualifies as one I take it."
"Oh, yeah. I may telecommute from now on."
"Sir, can I ask you a question?"
"You can ask."
"Back on the mainland, you mentioned that you weren't going to let Landry throw the book at me. What did you mean by that?"
"Sheppard, you can be arrogant, insubordinate, and a complete pain in the ass. Now, don't get me wrong; I typically like those qualities. You have the potential to be a damn fine officer, but you have to start obeying the chain of command. In this one instance, you did the right thing, and I'm not going to let Landry hang you for it. Besides, I can't imagine anyone doing a better job than you've done here."
"I get to stay?"
"Yes, Colonel, you get to stay. You even get to keep running the military contingent here. But if you disobey one more order…."
"Understood, Sir. Thank you." John released the breath he'd been holding, trying to absorb the good news. He could stay. He closed his eyes, relaxing into the infirmary bed. He could continue to protect Atlantis and keep his family safe. He was finally home.
Written for katstale on LJ who asked for an O'Neill-Sheppard ficlet with bonus points for whump. And I would have whumped them for free...