Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis, the characters and universe are the property of Stargate (II) Productions, Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, Gekko Productions and the Sci-Fi Channel. The content of this story is solely for entertainment purposes and no copyright infringement is intended.

A/N - This story is the third written as a continuation or sequel to 'Three for the Price of Two' and 'Conquering Adversities'. I recommend reading 'Three for the Price of Two' and 'Conquering Adversities' first in order to gain character understanding. References are made in the story that refer back to my previous two. This story takes place eighteen months after Colonel Sheppard had an accident.

2-6-2008 Previous spelling errors corrected. Content of story unchanged. Any remaining mistakes are mine and mine alone.

Unexpected Surprises

Chapter 1 – The Hunt

The Colonel was having his breakfast with Rodney, Ronon, Teyla, Carl and Evan like any other morning. The conversation took all sorts of turns and u-turns. They discussed their latest off-world mission, the cute Earth science tech that had arrived on the Odyssey, and the new fruit that was being traded from P4C-397. Teyla even recounted her dream from last night that bothered her. All in all a typical mornings conversation.

Rodney, being a genius and all, thought he knew everything there was about dream analysis and offered his opinion whether anyone wanted it or not. Carl sat across the table from Rodney with contempt in his eyes. Carl held eight degrees, one in psychology, if anyone knew about dreams, Carl was more of an expert than Rodney. The two men took to battling their viewpoints, neither one noticing that Ronon, Teyla, Evan and the Colonel had left the table.

It took less than five minutes before the pair realized they were sitting alone at the table, still arguing. Stares from neighboring tables and looks from passer-bys finally called a truce to their discussion. Neither man willing to give into the other. They gave a quick glance around before confidently picking up their breakfast trays and departing. Rodney headed for his lab while Carl headed back to his room. Both a bit embarrassed.

Breakfast over, John headed for his office, dropping off his dirty dishes and tray. On his way to the mess hall doors one of the science personnel tripped on an untied shoelace. The Colonel reached out, out of reflex, to halt their fall.

"Control room to Colonel Sheppard." Chuck said from his seat at the console. It was 08:48 Atlantis time.

John tapped his comm. He managed to right the scientists fall and was now leaving the mess hall, on his way back to his quarters. "Sheppard, go ahead." His voice was short and curt. He was a little frustrated, knowing that he had to change his pants after helping the scientist remove their breakfast from his lap.

"Sir, the Daedalus will be landing on the east pier in fifteen minutes."

"Contact Colonel Lorne, have him handle the off-loading and new personnel. Sheppard out." John looked at his watch and noted that the Daedalus would land around 09:05. At least this time there was no emergency and he had gotten to finish his breakfast besides having seconds delivered to him unceremoniously.

It had been five and a half months since the Daedalus was last here. It had taken longer to repair the ship, back on Earth than had been expected, after the Wraith blast damaged two of her decks. The Odyssey had made a quick run with supplies, but couldn't stay. They were needed back in the Milky Way for the fight against the Ori.

John continued on his way to his quarters to change because he needed to get back to his office to finish the month-end status report. He knew Elizabeth would be asking for it shortly. He had been working on it for two days now. In fact, he was almost done with it last night, but had gotten called away to settle a dispute between two of his Marines. Lt. Col. Lorne could have taken care of it, but he and his team were off-world. By the time he had gotten back to his quarters it was late and he opted for sleep instead.

When John and Elizabeth had their early morning coffee work session at 07:00, he promised he would finish the report right after breakfast. And a promise is a promise. So instead of being out on the east pier taking in the fresh sea air, coordinating the off-loading of the Daedalus and getting a first hand look at the new Marines, he was on his way to his quarters.

oOo

The door chimed to the Colonel and Carl's suite on Level 6 and Carl answered the door. It was unusual for anyone to be on this level aside from the occasional team members who wanted to see the Colonel. Carl looked at his watch and noted it was 08:52 and he knew the Colonel would be finishing breakfast now or already in his office working. When the door opened, Lt. Gadient stood on the other side balancing a large piece of wood.

"I'm sorry Lieutenant but the Colonel is not here right now." Carl told the Marine Officer.

"That's okay Doc, I'm not here to see Colonel Sheppard. I'm here to see you. Mind if I come in?" Asked the Swiss Marine.

Carl swept his hand with a 'come on in' gesture. The massive piece of wood was heavy and the Lieutenant grunted as he lifted the wood and carried it inside the Docs quarters. The Lieutenant continued to struggle but managed to step inside.

"Doc, remember a while back when you helped me get my arm and shoulder back to 100 percent after my run-in with the Genii?" Lt. Gadient asked as he shifted his weight from boot to boot.

"Yes, are you having trouble again?" Inquired the Doctor.

"No…oh no. My shoulder is just fine. Better than before actually." Stated the Lieutenant. "That's why I'm here. I wanted to say thank you for all your help with my rehab. I don't think I could have made it through without your help and talking to me all the time. It kept my mind off the shoulder and the pain. I kind of miss our talks, one Swiss to another you know." He finished saying, a smile breaching his face.

"Lieutenant you're welcome, but I was only doing my job. And we can talk anytime that we're both not busy." Carl stated factually trying to get a glimpse at what the Lieutenant was holding.

"I know. I still wanted to say thanks though. This is for you." Holding the large piece of wood out to Carl. "I made it myself, carved it actually. I hope you like it." As the Lieutenant turned the piece around he added, "I was on the mainland a while back, saw this downed tree and it gave me the idea. In my off hours I made arrangements with Colonel Sheppard to go to the mainland and work on this. When I had all the cutting and carving done, I brought it back here and polished it up."

Lt. Gadient held the piece of wood so Carl could get a look at it. It was beautifully carved. Carl tilted his head at an angle to take in the carvings. The scene depicted Switzerland from the snow capped mountains to the lush valleys. The Lieutenant also carved in a small village, a ski resort along with trees and many of the native flowers. The wood was the color of maple syrup polished to a shine.

"It's beautiful Lieutenant. Thank you." Carl stated, not sure what to do with a large piece of wood about 58 inches long and about three feet wide. The Lieutenant must have picked up on Carl's befuddled look.

"It's a headboard Doc. I hope you don't mind, but I asked the Colonel to let me in your room to measure." The Lieutenant said. "I wanted it to fit perfectly."

"Not at all. The details you carved are unbelievable, so detailed in every way. You must have a very good memory of our homeland. I'll contact someone in engineering to help install it." Carl added looking at the piece, his eyes wondering up and down the dark but polished wood.

"Actually Doc, if you give me a few minutes to run back to my quarters I have everything we need to install it. I just couldn't carry my equipment and the board at the same time, it's a bit heavy. I would be grateful if you allowed me to install it." The Marine Lieutenant declared.

"I would like that Lieutenant." Carl said happily smiling.

Lt. Gadient transferred his hold of the headboard over to Carl and quickly turned on his heels and almost ran out the door. Carl was left standing in the middle of the living space holding this huge chunk of carved wood. Carl changed his hold on the headboard in order to carry it into his room to lay it across his bed while waiting for Lt. Gadient's return.

As he grasped the middle of the board, the bottom end turned out to be heavier than he thought, and Carl lost balance. It swung out of control. At the same time the suite's door opened and the Colonel came rolling in unaware of what was in front of him.

Just as the Colonel looked up, opened his mouth to call Carl for help, the piece of wood grazed him on the right temple above his eye. Blood ran down the Colonel's face in a steady stream, Carl quickly wrestled the headboard to lean against his bedroom doorway and ran to aid the Colonel.

"Colonel, let me have a look. I'm so sorry, I didn't see you." Carl stated pushing the Colonel's hand away from the small cut. Reaching into his pocket Carl pulled out a handkerchief and pressed it to the wound. "It doesn't look that bad, head wounds always seem to bleed more."

"I know Carl, it wasn't your fault, and I wasn't looking where I was going. I'm fine." John stated firmly. "By the way, was what that?"

"It's a gift from Lt. Gadient. Why are you back here Colonel?" Carl asked out of pure curiosity still holding his handkerchief to quell the bleeding.

"One of the science personnel tripped and my lap was the unfortunate landing site for their breakfast. I came back to change my pants, but it looks now that I'll have to change my whole uniform." John noticed that blood had dropped onto the front of his clothes. It just wasn't his morning after all.

Carl took notice of the Colonel's appearance. It appeared his BDU's were covered in syrup and there were bits of eggs. Both pant legs were wet from his thigh to just below his knees. "Colonel are you burned?" Asked Carl, concerned that the Colonel had coffee spilled on him again.

"No coffee. It was either milk or juice. I don't recall which for sure." Answered the Colonel.

The Colonel held the blood soaked cloth to his head while Carl pushed his wheelchair into his bathroom. Carl reached into the cabinet and pulled out a washcloth, wetting it down with cool water he traded the Colonel for handkerchief. He instructed the Colonel to hold the cool cloth to the cut while he went to the medical cabinet to get supplies. The bleeding stopped, Carl cleaned the small cut and put some antibiotic cream on and covered it with a large band-aid. Once that was taken care of, Carl got out the dreaded pen light and checked his pupils, then checked his blood pressure, pulse and respirations. Finally Carl helped the Colonel get changed into a clean uniform.

John finally made it to his office to get his end-of-month status report completed. By 10:23 he was finished with the report, by 10:25 he had e-mailed it to Elizabeth. And by 10:27 he received a 'thank-you', after working some forty-five minutes to put the finishing touches on the report.

The Colonel had the beginnings of a headache, after straining to see his laptop in order to complete the report. He thought it best to head back to his quarters and rest. Maybe he could guilt Carl into giving him something for the headache since he was the one who gave it to him in the first place.

John closed his laptop and put it under his seat, grabbed the bottle of water he had sitting on the desk and headed for the nearest transporter. On his way he peeled the Velcro cover back off the face of his watch and checked the time. Lt. Col. Lorne would be done off-loading the Daedalus soon.

In the hallway, on his way out of his office, came a Marine who needed to talk. He was having ex-wife problems back on Earth. He received an e-mail from his ex-wife, Alicia, who wanted more alimony and wanted to know what he should do. Colonel Sheppard and Colonel Lorne had been offering counseling, rather talking, to the Marines (they would leave the counseling up to Dr. Heightmeyer). Many of the Marines had personal problems and were more comfortable talking them out with the Colonel's. John wasn't sure how to handle this one so he did the safest thing. He told the Marine he needed time to think about it and would let him know soon. The Marine was pacified and John would have time to ask Elizabeth and Kate what he should tell the young Marine.

When the Colonel reached his room for the second time this morning he entered to the sound of drilling which only made his headache worse. Following the sound of the noise he rolled himself into Carl's bedroom. Carl was holding the end of a very large piece of wood while Lt. Gadient, who had the drill, put in the bolt and began power drilling it into the wall. This was the first time the Colonel had seen the headboard. Being hit in the head with it didn't count. His gaze took him from one end to the other, noticing all the fine details. The Lieutenant had done an excellent job.

Clearing his throat to be noticed, "Carl, when you're done, I need to see you in my room." Carl gave a nod and the Colonel went into his room.

Using the lift, he got himself stretched out on his bed, he closed his eyes and willed his headache to go away. He didn't know how much time passed before Carl came in. Opening his left eye only he looked at Carl. "Hey do you think you could give me something for this headache?" The Colonel asked in that puppy-dog way he had.

Carl stared at the Colonel for a minute deciding if he should get the Colonel Tylenol or not for his headache. His vitals all checked out ok, pupil reactions were normal, there were no signs of concussion but medicine and head wounds don't always work. "On a scale of one to ten, how bad is it?" Carl asked.

"About a three." The Colonel replied.

Carl knew that a three to the Colonel was really a six to a normal person so he opted to give him the pain reliever. The Colonel had a high pain tolerance but there was no medical reason to make the man suffer needlessly. Carl nodded and went back to the medical cabinet for some Tylenol.

Carl walked back in with a little white paper cup and a glass of water. The Colonel was glad to see that little white paper cup for a change. He happily swallowed down the two pills and drank most of the water before laying his head back down in his pillow, closing his eyes to his surroundings.

oOo

The balcony doors swished open as he came rolling through. He stopped at the rail and peered out over the east pier. The Daedalus gleamed in the morning sun. No matter how many times he saw the big ship it always amazed him. The damage to her starboard side had been repaired and you could faintly see the difference in the color of the metal. The cargo ramp was still down and supplies were being off-loaded. His men were darting back and forth, between the end of the ramp and the distribution warehouse, quickly moving the much needed supplies.

'Flash.'

John sat in silence and watched the activities below play out before him. The sun was warm on his face and a slight gentle breeze wafted past every now and then.

'Flash.'

The sea air revitalized his body with every breath he took in. It was peaceful to sit and watch the bustling going on below him.

The new arrivals meandered on the pier, taking in the sight of Atlantis and waiting for orders.

'Flash.' 'Flash.'

From his perch on the balcony, he could tell the civilians all seemed to be tightly huddled together in one spot. Their blue, yellow and green inserts in their jackets denoted what group they would be assigned too.

'Flash.'

He could see them point to the spires, gaze out towards the blue ocean that surrounded Atlantis and he could imagine the ooh's and ahh's that were being said.

'Flash. Flash.'

The Marines huddled together as well, most dressed in camouflage which made them easy to make out from this distance. John saw them looking around, but mostly they just stood and kept their attention on the man in charge, the man with the clipboard.

'Flash.'

Noticing the cargo bay ramp closing he looked at his watch to find that twenty minutes had passed since he had first arrived on the balcony. Lorne was dispatching the civilians by group. Three new medical personnel wearing yellow inserted jackets left heading for the medical department, their escort out in front. Following them were two Earth science team members wearing green inserted jackets with their escort out in front. And finally another Marine escorted two women and three men wearing blue inserted jackets towards the science division.

With the civilians taken care of, he watched and noticed how the new Marines were now lined up in two fairly equal lines getting their room assignments and orientation schedules. Colonel Sheppard had found it advantageous to look over the Marine manifest and divide them equally into two groups, it meant for faster processing. Col. Lorne was doing an excellent job, at least from what he could tell from his viewpoint high above the pier. None of them wanted to disappoint their commanding officer on their first day.

John chuckled to himself as he recalled the many camera flashes he had witnessed. Atlantis may be a city, but she didn't have a Foto-mat. If you were lucky enough to have a computer you could download your photos. Those who did not would never be able to see their pictures. The secrecy of this expedition was paramount. Any pictures of Atlantis or of the Pegasus Galaxy would never be allowed to go to Earth. As the last new arrival left the pier, John turned around and headed back to his office.

oOo

Not that he needed to, John wanted to prepare for the orientations. He had the first group meeting at 09:00 tomorrow, a break for lunch and the second group at 13:00 hours. The Colonel had two basic topics: 'I'm in charge, Do as I ask' and 'How to Survive in the Pegasus Galaxy'. Followed up the next day with an overnight stay on the Alpha site with pretend war games.

However in the real world, it was no game; the Wriath were real. And so were Michael's superbugs.

John felt it was best to get his new Marine's acclimated as fast as he could. You never knew when someone might drop by. Although the Marines were highly trained in warfare, the Pegasus Galaxy had all new rules and it was hard to train for that.

"McKay to Sheppard."

"What do you need Rodney?" John asked politely pausing in his reading.

"Food. And you're missing it. Do you know what time it is?" Rodney's bitter tone was like nails on a chalkboard.

Looking at the clock, it was later than normal, but not that late. "Coming Mother. Be there in four. Sheppard out." John tapped his comm off so he wouldn't have to listen to Rodney complain.

John closed and put his laptop under his seat and arrived at the mess hall in under four minutes. Getting into the chow line, he nodded at Rodney who was sitting eating with Carl, Teyla, Ronon and Carson. John knew the two Docs had put him up to calling him and Rodney had eagerly accepted.

Rolling to the table he placed his tray of food down on the table, "I'm not that late," John said to the group of prying eyes giving them one of his famous half grins in return.

Rodney, Carl and Carson sat on the opposite side of the table facing him. They all had the same look on their faces. The same look the review board members had at his court-martial, just before they found him guilty and sent him off to Antarctica, John remembered. John felt a little uncomfortable, but shook it off. He pulled his wheelchair up next to Teyla; Ronon was seated on her right.

"You're late. What were you doing?" Rodney stated matter-of-factly. Waving his fork as he spoke.

"Working on the orientation for tomorrow." John picked up his fork and took a bite of the vegetable of the day, a purplish potato like vegetable that tasted more sweet than savory.

"Oh please. You don't need to work on that. You know it by heart and you have given it…what…a million times now. Even I could recite it. 'I am Colonel John Sheppard, Military Commander of Atlantis. Welcome to the Pegasus Galaxy. I am going to talk to you about staying alive and surviving. I know you probably think…'" Rodney just shook his head in disbelief and stuffed more food into his mouth when Sheppard cut him off.

"Alright McKay…I get the picture." The Colonel grumbled at McKay's recital. McKay was right; he did know the orientation speech forwards and backwards.

"Colonel, you have to keep on schedule, you know that. And you know what happens when you don't." Carson gave him a concerned look. Carl knew all to well what happens when the Colonel gets off schedule.

"I know. Now can we change the subject? Please." John pleaded turning back to his plate of food deciding on what to try next.

Everyone went back to eating in silence. John knew he had to stay on his schedule; it wasn't like he did it on purpose. This past week he was a little more preoccupied with month-end reports. He showed up late three times for lunch and two times for dinner and his friends were keeping track.

John heard a familiar laugh. He shot his head up and scanned the mess hall but he couldn't find the person who had laughed.

"Colonel, are you all right?" Teyla asked. Seeing that he had stopped eating and his demeanor had changed. "Colonel?" She said once again placing her hand gently on his.

John came out of his daze at her touch. "Yeah Teyla, I'm fine. I just heard…"

"Heard what?" Rodney interrupted looking around the mess hall as well.

"Nothing…it was nothing. Never mind." John opted to change the subject quickly. "How are the new science recruits?" He asked in general, knowing that in Rodney's department five new recruits showed up and in Carson's department there were three. John went back to eating in hopes his friends would take over the conversation.

Carson was the first to speak up. "Aye got a lovely new nurse, Nellie. The other two work in the lab. They seem to be nice fellas."

"Couldn't say. I just pointed them in the direction where they needed to go and they went." Rodney managed to get out in between bites of his dessert. "Colonel, any free time this afternoon? I could use your help with some calculations. It would do you good to use that brain of yours for more than blowing up stuff."

"Sorry McKay got lots to do with the new Marines and all. Tomorrow is orientation, then war games at the Alpha site day after for …" John was caught off guard, there it was again, that laugh. He looked around again before he caught himself and found his friends were staring at him. "…two days. Maybe end of the week or next week I can help. And I don't blow stuff up!" John finished saying.

Rodney stared at the Colonel. "It's not like you get to play war games with them since…" Rodney shut his mouth quickly, not intending to remind the Colonel of his disability. "Come to the lab. I really could use your mathematical brain."

"You're right Rodney, I can't play war games anymore, but I can take a jumper and keep an eye on my men and what's going on." John didn't mean for his words to come out so harsh, but they did.

There were times when he wished he had the use of his legs. John excused himself from the table, placing his tray on his lap and dropping off the half eaten meal and dirty dishes on his way out.

"Colonel, I'm sorry." Shouted Rodney to the retreating back of the Colonel.

"Is that what you Earth people call 'putting your foot in your mouth'?" Asked Ronon. He picked up the meanings of Earth expressions all the time, but wasn't always sure how they were used.

Carl and Carson nodded. Rodney glared at the Satedan. Rodney's mouth was usually two steps in front of his brain. One of these days, he would need to learn to keep them together.

oOo

The door behind him swished open. He didn't turn to see who it was, he already knew.

"How did you find me?" John asked quietly still looking out over Atlantis and listening to the waves crashing against the pier below.

"We've been working together for over a year now. I'd like to think that I know you well enough to know where you would go. If you went to your office or to the southern balcony Dr. McKay would have found you. You couldn't go to the balcony off the command center because Dr. Weir would want to know why. And I know you don't want to talk to anyone right now. He really is sorry."

"I know." John replied. "I'll apologize to him later."

"Colonel. What's bothering you? This is not like you."

John wasn't sure what was bothering him. Normally he tuned Rodney out. He was always saying the wrong things at the wrong times. "Carl, I don't know…usually when Rodney slips up it doesn't bother me. It's been almost eighteen months. Why am I still having these…"

"Feelings?" Carl supplied.

"Yeah…I guess that's what you could call them. I thought I had adjusted…to this…pretty well." John made a gesture to his wheelchair and his lifeless legs.

"Colonel, you have adjusted well. Better then most people and in a much shorter amount of time. Does this have anything to do with why you were distracted during lunch?" Carl had noticed his friend being distracted twice.

John turned to finally look at Carl. Eyes locked on one another, each trying to read each others expressions. "How…?" John started to ask. "How do you know…I…" John turned his gaze back out to the water.

Carl let the Colonel take his time to figure it out. It would have to be the Colonel who would have to make the next move. Carl stood by the balcony railing, hands on the rail looking out. Patiently he waited for the Colonel to start the conversation again.

"Maybe. I don't know. I thought I heard…a laugh…a familiar laugh from a long time ago. I guess it brought back memories that I had stored away. That reminded me of how I once was and that I could never be that person again no matter how hard I try. I know none of this makes any sense. Just forget it, okay." John finished, looking exhausted from just the memories.

Carl turned to face the Colonel again. "I understand Colonel. Listen, we can never go back, none of us. Each new day changes us, sometimes in a major way, but most often in little ways. Little ways we take for granted, but each new day changes us, so we can never go back to the way we were before. It's humanly impossible. The best we can hope for is another new day. Another new chance and hope we don't screw it up."

John pondered what his friend just told him. Carl was right, as usual, we can't go back. "Carl I'm going to my room to rest for a while." With that said, John turned his wheelchair towards his balcony door that opened to his room and rolled himself inside. After situating his wheelchair he let the lift do the rest. He needed time to think, to digest, what Carl had told him and how he was feeling.

Feelings were something to hide, to never let show. If you showed your feelings you would get hurt and John had been hurt too many times to allow that to happen. He tried to keep his friends at arms length, but somehow they got a lot closer than he intended.

Evan as a boy, his father told him that 'men don't cry'. It was a motto, his call to arms, something his father repeated over and over. He remembered sitting on the kitchen stool with his knee all bloody, wishing that his mother would come home and take over cleaning it. She would allow him to cry, but not his father. His father was tough. There were never any emotions he could read from his father, not when he was a boy, not as an adult. His father never showed any emotion even after his wife passed away. His father remained stoic.

John soon found himself asleep.

Carl notified Dr. Weir of the Colonel's absence for the afternoon.

Carl checked on him an hour later and took a blanket out of the closet and spread it across the supine figure. The Colonel seemed to embrace the warmth and was visibly comforted under the blanket.

oOo

Carl woke the Colonel in time for dinner. He and Carl headed to the mess hall and met up with the 'gang' (Rodney, Carson, Evan, Teyla, Ronon and Elizabeth). John took a few minutes to apologize to Rodney for his earlier actions at lunch.

Rodney had been feeling awful all afternoon at what he had implied. It was his big mouth that sent Sheppard off and it was he who needed to apologize, not the other way around.

Rodney had tried to find the Colonel so he could take his foot out of his mouth. First checking John's office, then his favorite balcony overlooking the southern pier, the armory, gun range, the gym, the orientation room, Lorne's office, the chair room, the infirmary, Jumper One and finally the control room. By the time he got to the control room some three hours later, Elizabeth had been notified of the Colonel's whereabouts. Elizabeth assured Rodney he would see the Colonel for dinner.

Dinner was enjoyable, it usually was. There was plenty of laughter, joking, kidding and food swapping. Because John had slept the afternoon away, he begged out of stick fighting with Teyla and Ronon and returned to his quarters to get some work done.

oOo

"Morning Elizabeth, Sir. Coffee's here, get it while it's hot!" As soon as John reached Elizabeth's desk he passed out two mugs and kept one for himself. "It's nice to see you Sir. Honestly can say, 'missed you'. How's the Daedalus?"

Elizabeth couldn't believe what she was hearing, and from the look that Col. Caldwell sent her way, he couldn't either. "Okay, who are you and what have you done with my Military Commander?"

John was taken aback by her statement. He couldn't help but be in a good mood. His talk with Carl yesterday afternoon put some things in perspective. The three hour nap he took also helped and laughing through dinner just made everything alright.

John placed his hand over his heart, feigning being shot. "You wound me Elizabeth. I'm just in a good mood this morning."

"I can see that. Is everything all right?" She was slightly concerned. When Carl contacted her yesterday he explained that the Colonel was feeling melancholy about being a paraplegic.

"Couldn't be better. So, Colonel, how's the Daedalus?" John asked again. Taking his first sip of coffee while he waited for a reply.

"The Daedalus is fine Colonel. Took a little longer to repair then expected, but she's one hundred percent again." Col. Caldwell stopped and took a swallow of his coffee before continuing. "How are things around here?"

John looked at Elizabeth, he wasn't sure if she was going to answer his inquiry or if he should. John gave her a nod and Elizabeth replied. "Same as usual Steven. We have five new trade alliances and we have had limited trouble from the Wriath, which is beginning to bother me a little. The Wraith have been too quiet for my tastes. I have a feeling something is wrong, just no proof yet." Elizabeth leaned back into her chair and pulled her coffee mug to her with both hands, warming her fingers on the mug. It was woman's intuition that made her feel this way. But she couldn't bring herself to admit it in front of the military.

"I've had several teams out; Halling, Na'el and Teyla have been in touch with a few of their off-world contacts. Seems many worlds have noticed the decline in Wraith cullings. We know they have been fighting amongst themselves, but if I were a betting man, I would bet on Michael and his super-bugs have something to do with this. I just hope they don't come here…I hate bugs." John gave a little shudder as he mentioned the word bug.

"The Daedalus is here for a few days. We could run by a couple of Michael's known planets and check them out, see if there's any activity. While the Daedalus was in for repairs she also got an upgrade to her shields. I'd like to test them out, not that I want to pick a fight with a Hive ship, but it would be good to know we can stand our own ground with one." Col. Caldwell explained.

John and Elizabeth exchanged glances. "Sir, I think that would be a good idea. We could use the intel if something is coming down the line later on." John said. If the intel was good he could start planning his defense.

The three continued to discuss which planets the Daedalus should check out among other things. Colonel Sheppard excused himself and headed for breakfast, he needed to fuel up before he faced a room full of new Marines.

oOo

"Listen up people." John said with a commanding voice from the front of the orientation room. Within seconds the room fell quiet. "I am Colonel John Sheppard, Military Commander of Atlantis. Welcome to the Pegasus Galaxy. This morning I am going to talk to you about staying alive and surviving. I know you probably think you've heard this before, but trust me ladies and gentlemen, this is Pegasus. What you have been trained or taught doesn't apply here. I have one basic rule: Do as I tell you and you will live. I guarantee it. Tomorrow at 06:00 you will leave for a two day war game at our Alpha site. Lt. Col. Lorne will be in charge of your group. Follow his orders and you should be fine. Specialist Ronon Dex will also be on your team. Follow his advise. He had been evading the Wraith for seven years on his own before coming to us. He has much to teach you. Your designation is 'Trojans'. It will be your job to evade the Wraith, yet kill as many as you can. The Wraith will hunt you, hurt you, and kill you if given a chance."

Colonel Sheppard continued his welcome lecture for the next two hours. Just like he had planned and rehearsed and had spoken many times before. He gave them an insight to how he commands, what he expected from the men and women who are here to serve and protect the scientists. He explained that this was a scientific expedition and protecting the scientists was priority number one. The Colonel told his Marines that they could come to him or Col. Lorne with any problems or concerns. After his speech, the last half hour before they broke for lunch, he opened up for questions.

Being asked 'how did you end up in a wheelchair?' 'how is it that an Air Force Colonel is in charge of this outpost?' 'is it true the Wraith suck you dry?' and many others.

After lunch his second group showed up in the orientation room.

"I am Colonel John Sheppard, Military Commander of Atlantis. Welcome to the Pegasus Galaxy." He opened with and the room fell quiet. "This afternoon I am going to talk to you about staying alive and surviving. I know you probably think you've heard this before, but trust me ladies and gentlemen, this is Pegasus. What you have been trained or taught doesn't apply here. I have one basic rule: Do as I tell you and you will live. I guarantee it. Tomorrow at 07:00 you will leave for a two day war game at our Alpha site. Major Jacobs will be in charge of your group. Follow his orders and you should be fine. Teyla Emmagan, Leader of the Athosian people, will be on your team. She knows the Wraith and can sense them. She knows their tricks and how to fool humans. Pay close attention to her and learn. Your designation is 'Jay Hawks'. You are the Wraith ladies and gentleman. It will be your job to hunt, hurt and kill any human you come in contact with. Keep in mind, the humans will try to kill you first."

As he did with the morning group, he went over the rules, safety and survival. Advised that they can seek him or Lt. Col. Lorne out with any problems or concerns and then opened up for questions a half hour before they finished. John fielded many the same questions as the first group asked.

After dinner he had a date with his very own personal torturer. John had worked his way back to doing one hundred sit-ups, fifty pull-ups and fifty push-ups. Carl stretched his legs before he began then started his counting as the Colonel lay on the mat at the foot of his bed doing all the really hard work.

oOo

A few minutes before the first group of Marines were to depart to the Alpha site, the Colonel rolled into the control room. Below mingled sixteen new Marines. Each member mumbling something to the other as Col. Lorne and Ronon were double checking each Marine's pack and handed out the yellow paint ball guns. Col. Lorne had rounded up his team and met the new Marines an hour before their scheduled embarkation time in the orientation room to go over last minutes details and plans. Lorne emphasized, that although they were using paint guns, this exercise was very serious.

"Colonel…you and your squad, are you ready?" Yelled Colonel Sheppard from his spot on the balcony above the gate room, the one Elizabeth always stood at when a team would leave for a mission or where she could be found when a team returned from a mission. It was his place now since he had taken over those duties.

"Yes Colonel we are." Lorne yelled back.

John turned his head to the technician working the gate controls, "dial the Alpha site." Turning back to the men below he stated, "good luck and happy hunting. I'll check on you at 21:15 hours."

The 'humans' got an hour to prepare for the Wraith invaders that would follow them through the gate. The war games lasted from 07:00 hours to 21:00 hours, fourteen hours. At nightfall Atlantis time the teams could relax and go over the days good and bad objectives. When Teyla and Ronon switched teams, they would have time to plan their strategy for the next day.

The chevrons locked in place and the blue puddle shimmered within the gate. Ronon lead and two by two the new recruits followed him through the event horizon. John could hear the splurt of each body as it went through. The gate shut down after Col. Lorne went through. The gate room was silent once more.

John had about fifty minutes to kill before the next group gathered in the gate room. He took the transporter in Elizabeth's office to the first level and found his way outside the orientation room. Inside he could hear Major Jacobs giving last minute instructions to his team. Teyla leaned against the back wall, arms folded across her chest.

"Teyla!" Whispered John from the hallway.

She heard her name being whispered and turned in the direction of the doorway. She silently stepped out into the hall. "Good Morning Colonel."

"Good Morning. How are things going so far?" He asked.

Teyla paused a moment, before making her reply. "They seem…eager. I will know more after we get to the planet."

John nodded and the two stood in the hall, watching and listening as Major Jacobs continued with his instructions.

When John looked at the time, he had about fifteen minutes before the group departed. He told Teyla he would be there to see them off, then headed for the mess hall to get three cups of coffee.

Coming out of the transporter with three steaming cups of coffee, he placed the tray on Dr. Weir's desk and rolled into the control room. He took his place on the small balcony again overlooking the gate room. Below another group of Marines stood talking quietly to each other as Major Jacobs and Teyla checked their packs and handed them each a blue paint ball gun.

Elizabeth and Col. Caldwell made their way through the Marines and up the stairs and sidled beside him on the balcony.

"Coffee is sitting on your desk. As soon as I send these guys off, I'll be right there." John spoke to them without looking at either of them. His focus was on what was going on below.

Elizabeth and Col. Caldwell finished their walk into her office. Finding the coffee on the desk to start their day with was so pleasant.

"Major, Teyla, are you all set?" Asked Colonel Sheppard.

"We're a go Colonel." Major Jacobs replied giving him a thumbs up signal.

"Dial the Alpha site, Chuck." John turned to the gate technician and noticed that Chuck had come on duty taking the place of Marvin from an hour ago. "Good hunting. I'll check in with you at 21:30 hours." The Colonel yelled down.

Chuck dialed the gate address and the gate kawhooshed open. Major Jacobs gave the silent command to head out. Each Marine raised his or her paint ball gun to the ready position before crossing the event horizon. John could only imagine what the Major had told his team, they were 'Wraith' after-all. After the gate shut down, John rolled into Elizabeth's office grabbed his cup of coffee and took a long swallow.

"Colonel were those paint ball guns I saw being handed out?" Queried the Daedalus Commander with one eyebrow slightly higher than the other.

"Yes Sir. We use them in our war games." John advised his senior officer.

The older Colonel gave a worrisome look to the younger Colonel. "What if the Alpha site is breeched?"

"Col. Lorne, Ronon, Teyla and Major Jacobs all carry live ammunition. The Alpha site's armory bunker is well equipped. In the event of hostiles, the Marines on duty at the Alpha site will contact Col. Lorne and Major Jacobs, and then contact Atlantis for back up if the gate is not being held open. Live weaponry would then be passed out to the detail for defensive purposes. I have a puddle jumper under camouflage that can be used to deliver the weapons. At least one member manning the site is a qualified pilot. I have thirty-two new Marines and four seasoned team members out there Colonel, trust me when I say I have gone over every possible scenario and planned for it. They will be safe." John gave Col. Caldwell his most confident look. Underneath John knew there could be something he hadn't thought of or planned for. That thought was always in the back of his mind. Always.

Caldwell seemed satisfied with his answer and turned the subject to Michael. "I'll be taking the Daedalus out at 08:45. I'll investigate P1M-619 first, then move on to P3M-032. Should only take a couple of days."

"For all our sakes, I hope you find nothing. Then again, it would be nice to know if we have bigger troubles brewing out there." Elizabeth mentioned sipping on her coffee.

Like always, the three discussed a little of this, and a little of that. At 08:00 John headed to the mess hall for breakfast. John placed a side of eggs and sausage on his lap, along with a muffin and more coffee. He rolled over to a table and began eating. A few minutes later Rodney showed up and joined him. At first they ate in silence.

"Sheppard…I'm really sorry for what I…" Rodney was stopped short of finishing his statement.

"Forget it McKay. You already apologized. Remember." John didn't want to be reminded or listen to another one of Rodney's apologies. "Just eat. I tell you what I'll come to the lab and help with some calculations for a couple of hours. As long as you stop apologizing."

Rodney looked at Sheppard and nodded then put a fork full of pancakes in his mouth. The two men finished breakfast and headed to the transporter.

The transporter door opened and John rolled himself in and Rodney stepped in along side brushing up against the Colonel's shoulder. The Colonel noticed the brush against his shoulder before his senses took over. 'Passion?' John thought to himself. "Do you notice that?" John asked sniffing at Rodney's uniform.

"Notice what?"

"Passion." John replied. Taking in a deep breath through his nose he was sure it was Passion.

Rodney was startled, "Passion? What are you talking about? It this your way of freaking me out so you don't have to help me in the lab? Because if it is, you're doing a damn good job at. Now stop sniffing at my uniform!" Rodney had already backed himself against the far transporter wall away from the Colonel.

The Colonel noticed that Rodney had stuffed himself into the far wall. "Geez McKay…I didn't mean passion as in 'I want to jump your bones', but Passion as in the perfume you dummy. For a genius you can be somewhat dumb. Can't you smell it?"

"Oh…no I…don't smell anything. But then again, I've never been close enough to a woman to notice her perfume. How do you know its called Passion?" Rodney asked, finally stepping away from the wall, relieved to know the Colonel was not hitting on him in the transporter.

"Never mind McKay, lets go. Times a wasting and you do want help with those calculations. Right?" John replied reaching up to tap the back panel for their destination.

John worked on Rodney's calculations all morning until it was time for lunch. Then the pair headed to the mess hall. After lunch Rodney went back to his lab. John headed to his office to get some of his own work done.

He sat behind his desk, powered up his computer and found several mission requests waiting for him. Three requisitions, a handful of personal requests and one complaint. John opened the complaint. As soon as he saw it was from Dr. Kavanagh, he forwarded it without even reading it to Col. Lorne. He would let Lt. Col. Lorne deal with it. Kavanagh was a constant menace, probably complaining about one of his Marine's again.

He settled in to review some upcoming mission requests. Dr. Susan Kaufman wanted to go to P4M-771 to study ruins found by Capt. Cadman's team. Seems there were some glyphs that weren't exactly Ancient or Wraith. Dr. Kaufman wanted to have a look and see whether or not she would need to send them to Dr. Jackson back on Earth. Then there was Dr. Phillip Rhomburg who wanted to go the Pede system to take pictures of twin nebulas and Dr. Alyce Deerman, she wanted to go to P2C-578 to study a mineral that Lt. Gadient's team had come across. Dr. Marvin Gebhardt wanted to go to P2N-492 to study a plant. Lt. Ruiz's team reported it had healing properties.

Each doctor had valid reason's for wanting their mission to be put on the mission list. Each doctor would need a team as escort for security and possibly a jumper. He had to juggle the missions with the meet-n-greets and with the trade missions. Trading for food supplies were of primary importance. This was a number one priority since they had to supplement what foods the Daedalus brought them. 'How did Elizabeth do this for so long?' John shook his head and started to schedule face-to-face meetings with the good doctors. He signed off on the requisitions and handled half the personal requests by dinner time.

oOo

John had dinner with Carl, Rodney, Carson and Elizabeth. Elizabeth reported that Col. Caldwell had made it to P1M-619 and so far found no resistance. Caldwell had sent a team of F-302's to do a fly by on the planet surface. The team came back safe with nothing to report.

John completely finished his dinner as did the rest of his friends. Before leaving the mess hall, he stopped by the table where Lt. Connifer was seated along with a two other Marines. "Lieutenant, guys, are you busy after dinner?" The Colonel asked.

Lt. Connifer spoke first. He looked around the table and saw a lot of head shakes, so he replied. "Not at all Sir, what can we help you with?"

"I need some assistance getting the paint guns loaded into Jumper One. I'm going to take them to the Alpha site later tonight. Lorne and Jacobs are on a two day war game with the new Marines." The Colonel explained. Although it wasn't necessary for a commander to explain his actions, John felt the need to let his people know what was up. He liked keeping the lines of communication open between him and his men.

"When and where Colonel?"

"Say 20:30 hours outside my old quarters." The Colonel replied.

"See ya there Sir."

"Thanks guys. Appreciate it." And the Colonel started rolling out of the mess hall, he looked up to see where he was going, he caught a glimpse of a familiar figure walking out of the mess hall. It was just a split second look before the mess hall doors closed in front of him.

Hurrying to the doors and out into the hallway, he hoped to get a better look at the person he had seen. Reaching the hallway, the Colonel looked in both directions but the hall was empty. Just coming around the corner were two Earth science staff members heading for the mess hall.

The Colonel just sat there in the middle of the hall looking in both directions. Carl came up to stand beside him. Rodney, Carson and Elizabeth stayed back. They had noticed his odd behaviour and were curious.

"Colonel, is there a problem?" Asked Carl. Seeing that look on his face from yesterday reappear.

"No. Just thought I saw something from my past. Guess I was wrong." He answered quietly, not realizing he had an audience behind him. John had become comfortable talking to Carl. Although Carl held eight degrees, he found he could talk to Carl about things that he would never talk to anyone else about, not even Heightmeyer. Feeling the presence of others, he looked over his shoulder and saw his friends staring at him. "Look, I have to get Jumper One ready, so if you'll excuse me." John rolled away down the hall towards the transporter. Destination jumper bay.

Getting in the transporter he again noticed the scent of perfume, Passion. He was sure that was the name of it. The doors closed and he tapped the wall panel for his destination.

"Carl, what was that all about?" Asked Elizabeth.

Carl looked at her, "I'm sorry Dr. Weir, I can't say. But I can assure you, everything is fine with the Colonel."

Elizabeth gave a nod of understanding. Carl had never kept anything from her regarding the Colonel. She knew that the Colonel confided in him and there was a doctor patient trust that had been built up between them. Elizabeth didn't want Carl to break that confidence.

oOo

John rolled towards his old quarters. There waiting for him was Lt. Connifer, Cpl. Henderson and Lance Cpl. Fisher. "Sorry I'm late guys. Hope you weren't waiting too long." The Colonel said, thinking the door open as he got closer. The only reason he was late was he smelled that perfume again in the hallway. He tried to follow it, but lost the scent at the north transporter.

"Only a minute or so Sir." The Lieutenant said. Stepping into the room behind the Colonel followed by the two Corporals.

"I need the Red and Green paint ball guns loaded on Jumper One. What do you think would be easier. Taking eighteen of them off the rack or taking the whole rack?" Asked the Colonel to anyone who had a better idea in their head.

"Take the whole rack Sir." Offered up Lance Corporal Fisher.

The paint guns leaned on a wooden rack built in the shape of an 'A'. Each gun rested in between two wooden dividers at the top and bottom, ten guns per side.

"Okay…whole rack it is. But we will need one more person unfortunately." John said rolling out into the hallway. Just as he got there, Sgt. Moore was passing. "Sergeant. Got a spare few minutes to help a Colonel out?"

"Sure Sir. What do you need?" Sgt. Moore asked.

John turned around and went back into his old room with the Sergeant following. "I need these two racks of paint guns put into Jumper One. Mind helping these guys out by taking an end?"

Sgt. Moore moved to take an end, Lance Cpl. Fisher grabbed the other. Before Lt. Connifer and Cpl. Henderson took hold of the other rack, they sat two crates of paint balls on the Colonel's lap. They followed the Colonel out of the room, John thought the door closed and locked. They had to each take a turn in the transporter. The wheelchair didn't allow room for a rack of guns and two Marines. So the Colonel went first.

By the time the guys showed up, the Colonel had set the crates down on the bench in the back and was heading for the pilot's seat in Jumper One. The guys set the racks down in the rear compartment, which essentially blocked any idea of exiting the jumper should the Colonel change his mind.

"Thanks fellas." He called over his shoulder. "Would you be up to helping when I get back in an hour or so?"

"No problem Sir, just give us a shout." Offered the Sergeant.

After the Sergeant left, the Colonel raised the rear ramp and contacted the control room requesting departure. John did his pre-flight check and soon found himself in the gate room facing the blue wall of water. He eased the jumper through the Ancestral ring and on to the Alpha site.

oOo

"Quarterback to Trojans." Colonel Sheppard said into his comm. He was flying low and cloaked wanting to see what was happening on the ground. This planet still had another two hours of daylight.

"Trojans here." Crackled Lorne's voice in the comm. The signal was getting weaker as the Colonel flew a southerly route.

John turned the jumper around and headed back north. "Quarterback needs a landing zone." He requested.

John kept flying north; as he skimmed over the tops of the local trees he saw Lorne and a few of the Marines indicating a landing zone for the jumper. John eased Jumper One down into the green meadow. As the back ramp lowered John turned around and faced the back compartment from the forward compartment. Lorne walked up the ramp, while the new Marines waited for orders at the bottom.

"What's the score Evan?" Colonel Sheppard asked out of curiosity.

"Three to nine." Lorne responded. Meaning three humans lost and nine Wraith taken out.

"Nine?" Repeated the Colonel. "Nine out of sixteen, not bad. As you can see, I brought new paint guns. Looks like you get to be red Wraith tomorrow." Noticing that the red paint guns were at the far back of the jumper.

Col. Lorne nodded and motioned for the two Marine recruits to enter and remove the red rack of paint guns. Once they were out of the way, "we'll get these swapped out. The Jay Hawks are camping just over that ridge." Lorne pointed to the ridge that was straight ahead of the jumper. Before exiting the jumper, Lorne picked up the box containing the red paint pellets.

"Okay. I'll deliver their guns and be back in fifteen to collect the returns. Where's Ronon? I'll drop him off and bring back Teyla." John said.

"Here." Came Ronon's low voice as he walked into Jumper One. Making his way around the rack of paint guns to the forward compartment and taking a seat in the co-pilot's chair.

"Hey buddy, how's this bunch shaping up?" John asked as he turned around and put himself back in the pilot's seat area. Once Lorne was out of the way, he closed the ramp and lifted off. John valued the Satedan's opinion greatly.

"They're a little green, but some of them show promise." Ronon flat out stated.

"Quarterback to Jay Hawks." He said once he was in the air and headed over the ridge that Lorne pointed out. While waiting for an answer to his radio call John said, "hopefully they will be a lot greener by the end of tomorrow." The Colonel pointed over his shoulder to the rack of paint guns.

"Jay Hawks here." Mjr. Jacobs responded.

"Requesting landing zone." Colonel Sheppard replied, then noticing there was a place already laid out he continued. "Ah…I see ya. Be there in a minute."

John landed Jumper One on a patch of crushed rock near a stream. Lowering the back hatch down, Major Jacobs entered. "I heard the score Major. Hope you do better tomorrow. Looks like you get to be green humans." The Colonel pointed to the rack of paint guns.

Ronon picked up one end and Major Jacobs took the other and carried it out. John put the box of green paint pellets on his lap and wheeled himself to the edge of the ramp since he could, now that the racks were out of his way.

"Where's Teyla? I'll take her over to the Trojans while you swap out the paint guns. Then I'll come back." John advised them, handing the box to Jacobs.

"Here I am Colonel." Came a soft voice out from behind a large bush of some sort. Teyla walked into the jumper and took a seat in front.

John closed up the jumper and took off, landing in the same spot as he did before. He said goodnight to Teyla while the Marines put the rack of yellow paint guns back in the jumper. He took off once more over the ridge and picked up a rack of blue paint guns before heading back to the Stargate and dialing Atlantis.

When he landed Jumper One in the jumper bay, he comm'd Lt. Connifer, Sgt. Moore and Corporals Henderson and Fisher. They four men carried the racks back to his old room. John locked the door with his mind and headed to his room for a shower and sleep.

oOo

Colonel Sheppard waited on the balcony overlooking the gate for his new Marines to come back from the Alpha site. They were due back at any moment and he wanted to see how they faired.

John had kept busy all day. He and Carl went for a run since Ronon was off world. After breakfast he met with Dr. Deerman about her mission to P2C-578 in his office. In the afternoon he managed to get some paperwork done in his office, in between counseling two of his Marines with personal problems. He had dinner with his friends at 18:30 and now he found himself waiting in the control room.

The klaxons rang out and the gate technician, Mary, announced, "incoming worm hole. Sir it's Col. Lorne's IDC."

"Lower the shield." John said.

A minute after the shield was lowered tired Marines came walking through. Milling around the gate room like they didn't know what to do next some uniforms spotted with paint. When Col. Lorne walked through he immediately took the stairs to the control room two at a time and walked over to the Colonel.

"What was the final score Colonel?" Asked Sheppard.

"Two to thirteen, Sir." Lorne responded with a not so happy face. Meaning two humans killed and thirteen Wraith dead.

"Looks like Major Jacobs had a few tricks up his sleeve." The Colonel smiled at Evan, "Good work Colonel. I'd like you and Major Jacobs to meet me in my office say 10:00 hours to debrief." John finished saying.

"Yes Sir." Lorne nodded and went back down the stairs. Passing Teyla and Ronon on the way up to see the Colonel.

"Marines!" Colonel Sheppard shouted from above to get their attention. The Marines stopped and all turned to look up at the Colonel. "You did good work. I'm proud of you. Now get some food, hit the showers and get a good nights rest. Leave your weapons in the orientation room. I'll take care of them for you. Dismissed!"

At the word dismissed, the Marines filed out of the gate room heading for the orientation room to drop off their weapons.

John turned around to see Teyla and Ronon leaning against the front console. "Everything go okay?"

"Yes John, everything went fine." Teyla reported. Ronon gave a nod of approval.

"You guys look beat. Get some rest and I'll see you for breakfast." John said. Teyla bowed her head and Ronon tipped his chin slightly in acknowledgement before heading back down the stairs. John rolled into Elizabeth's office to the transporter and headed for the orientation room. He had thirty-six paint ball guns to put away.

When John reached the orientation room the last of the Marines were filing out one by one. John picked up six paint ball guns and laid them across his lap. He tried for more, but couldn't balance them, not without losing one or two in the process. Slowly he wheeled himself down the hall to his old quarters to put them away. He rolled himself back to the orientation room and gathered up six more, then rolled down the hall to his old room and put them away. He repeated this process four more times.

John hadn't noticed that some of the new Marines were watching him from a nearby corridor.

"Marines. Don't you have somewhere to be?" Asked Col. Lorne.

"Yes Sir." The three Marines said in unison. "Sir?" Asked one of them.

"Go ahead Corporal; what did you want to ask?" Replied Lorne. He could tell the young soldier had something on his mind.

"Sir, why is Colonel Sheppard putting the paint ball guns away? I mean…he's a Colonel, Commander of Atlantis. Couldn't he just ask someone to do it?" Asked the new recruit, his two pals nodded at the query.

"Didn't you hear what he said in the gate room? He said he would take care of them for you." Lorne responded.

"Yes Sir, but…" The new recruit looked stumped. So did his two buddies.

"Colonel Sheppard doesn't believe in asking someone to do something that he himself isn't willing to do. That's just the way he is. Who knows, you may end up on night watch with him. The Colonel still takes his turn on watch. Now go on. Get some food, shower and rest up." Lorne patted the young Corporal on the shoulder as he and his two friends headed for the mess hall.

Lorne couldn't resist putting a smile on his face. He knew, come day break, all the new Marines would be told about Colonel Sheppard.

oOo

Before John left the mess hall with coffee, he comm'd Elizabeth to see if the Daedalus was back. He didn't want to end up one cup short. As it were, the Daedalus got back late last night and Col. Caldwell was eager to give his report. John rolled in with coffee for everyone and listened to Caldwell's report.

The gang was all there for breakfast and John got an unofficial review of the new Marines from Teyla and Ronon. When everyone was finished eating Lorne asked Colonel Sheppard and Ronon to his office. The white boards had arrived and had been sitting in his office for the past four days.

The three men left the mess hall heading for the nearest transporter. John's gaze was at the far end of the hall watching a familiar figure about to turn the corner. He could tell it was two women walking side-by-side, one with dark colored hair the other a light brown. The dark haired woman was petite the light brown haired woman was taller. When they reached the transporter Evan and Ronon stopped, but John kept wheeling himself down the hall a little faster than he had previously. He hadn't heard his friends call his name or ask where he was going. John kept heading for the intersection of hallways.

Once at the corner, where he saw the two figures turn, he stopped and looked. Hoping to catch another look at that familiar body. To his surprise the hallway was empty. There were several connecting hallways and storage rooms with doors the pair could have gone in. There was also a balcony they could have gone out onto, but to check every room, every door would take time. John sat still in the middle of the hallway unaware of his immediate surroundings.

Ronon and Evan walked up to him, talking the whole time to him, but John hadn't heard a single word. When Evan placed his hand on the Colonel's shoulder, John startled a bit. Thinking he was going crazy, John shook his head to bring himself out of his bewildered state of mind.

"Sir, is there a problem?" Asked a concerned Evan Lorne. "Are you all right?"

Ronon cast his eyes down the empty hall and back to the Colonel, his friend, and over to Lorne shrugging his shoulders and wondering what was going on, but not voicing his query. John, after a few minutes, looked at his two companions. Both had worried and concerned expressions written for everyone to see across their face.

"No problem Evan. And I'm fine." John answered, followed by a whispered, "I think." John put his hands on his wheels and turned himself around to head back to the transporter. Evan and Ronon gave each other a look, but followed their commanding officer back to the transporter. John still needed to get to Lorne's office before his meeting with him and Jacobs at 10:00 hours.

Six minutes later the three arrived at Lorne's office across from the orientation room. There against the wall sat two long boxes, the shipping label clearly read 'white board'. Evan and Ronon opened the first box. Ronon pulled out a pristine long 'white board' under six feet in length and about ten inches wide at the center. Front and rear of the board were curved out a little larger, almost like an hour glass shape, but not so thin in the center. The back of the board was all white and glossy, whereas the front of the board was painted full length in the color of Atlantis' blue ocean. At the front of the board was the Atlantis emblem, sort of a 'V' shape design, a Pegasus with its wings spread wide open underneath the gold lettering that spelled Atlantis. It looked just like the patches they wore on their uniforms. Evan pulled the second board from the box and it was an identical match to the first.

"So Ronon, are these anything like Bak'ta on Sateda?" John inquired looking over at the two men holding the snow boards.

"Close Sheppard. A little long maybe but close." Answered the big man. Underneath the cold exterior Ronon projected Sheppard could see that the Satedan wanted to try them out sooner rather than later.

"We'll try to go back to P3S-925 soon. In the mean time, I think we should put these babies in a safe place. Let's take them to my old room. That's where the skiing gear is, the paint ball guns, Carson's fishing pole, my surf board and all the other non-regulation equipment is stored. I know they will be safe as Atlantis will only open the door for me." John explained and gave a sinful grin that only Atlantis would allow him to open the door.

"These must of cost a pretty penny Sir. Especially with the personalized Atlantis logo how did you manage it?" Evan asked.

"Its better you don't know Evan. Now let's get these babies tucked away before too many people see them…especially Col. Caldwell. He wasn't too happy to see the paint ball guns we used for our war games." John told his friends.

John led the way down the hall towards his old room, Ronon and Evan each carrying a 'white board'. As the boards were safely stashed away, Ronon headed for the gym. The Marines would be by soon for some lessons. Evan and John headed for the Colonels' office to meet with Major Jacobs and discuss the war games.

oOo

"…so you're saying Campbell and Martinelli excelled and Bishop could use some additional training." John summed up after the last two hours of going over the evaluations of the thirty-two Marines.

"Yes Sir. Everyone else was on the mark in my opinion." Offered Col. Lorne.

"I agree Colonel this batch is one of the better one's we've gotten lately." Mjr. Jacobs contributed. "If you don't mind Colonels, I'd like to assist Bishop." He added.

John looked at Evan for any objections and found none, "that's fine Major. Colonel why don't you put Campbell and Martinelli on a couple of teams and see how they handle off-world. If nothing else fellas, I think we're done and I'm hungry." The Colonel began closing down his laptop but stopped midway.

Lorne and Jacobs nodded and were getting ready to leave, when Lorne noticed the Colonel had zoned out all of a sudden. Colonel Sheppard was staring at his office door intently, he hadn't noticed anyone in the hall walking past, but he heard someone laugh.

"Sir, you coming?" Lorne asked, walking around the desk to again place his hand on the Colonel's shoulder to draw him back like he did in the mess hallway earlier.

"Yes…yes. Just let me put my laptop away and I'll be right with you fellas." John quickly said.

With Major Jacobs leading the way, the three men headed for the mess hall. Lorne noticed that Carl was just stepping out of the transporter and heading to the mess hall as well. Jacobs had already entered and Colonel Sheppard was right behind. Lorne slowed down which allowed the doors to close after the Colonel entered.

"Carl, got a minute? I need to talk to you about the Colonel." Lorne said and gestured that the two step away from the doorway.

"Of course Colonel, what about Colonel Sheppard."

"Well I'm not sure, but twice today the Colonel just…zoned out. When we left here after breakfast he went right past the transporter to the end of the hall and just sat there staring down an empty hall. Then just a few minutes ago in his office, he was staring at his door. Both times I had to put my hand on his shoulder to snap him out of it. Is there something wrong with the Colonel?" Lorne explained and wondered 'what now'.

"Thank you for telling me. I don't believe anything is wrong, but I will watch him closer." Carl offered. "We better get inside before the Colonel starts to wonder about our absence."

Carl and Evan walked into the mess hall, filled their plates and took a seat with the Colonel, Teyla and Rodney. A few minutes later Ronon joined them. Carl sat so he could observe the Colonel hopefully going unnoticed.

The Colonel acted fine all through lunch. As hard as Carl observed all the little nuances, he couldn't see anything wrong. He hoped that if something was bothering him, he would tell him about it later.

oOo

"Dr. Rhomburg, please come in. Have a seat." John motioned to the doctor who knocked on his office door.

Dr. Phillip Rhomburg is the department head for Astronomy on Atlantis. He and his assistant had been brought to Atlantis to catalog the planets, nebulas, constellations, and clusters in the different systems in Pegasus. Dr. Rhomburg is one of the original expedition members and came from Russia.

Dr. Rhomburg can be described as a jolly little man of five feet eight inches tall. At fifty seven years old he is balding slightly on top but has a well groomed white beard.

Although Astronomy of today is considered the same as Astrophysics, Dr. Rhomburg observed the old disciplines: astrometry, celestial navigation and observational astronomy. Dr. Rhomburg differs from Dr. McKay, as an Astrophysicist. Dr. McKay is focused on acquiring and analyzing data, mainly using basic principles of physics.

"Thank you Colonel. Have you given any thought to my mission request?" Dr. Rhomburg asked his Russian accent heavy.

"I have actually. How many are you planning to take?" Colonel Sheppard inquired as the good doctor failed to include that bit of information in is pre-mission filing.

"There will be three of us. Myself, my assistant and the new photographer that arrived on the Daedalus four days ago." Answered the Doctor.

"Now, you know Doc that before anyone can go off-world they need to be certified. I know you have, you've been here long enough, but has your assistant and the photographer been through training?" Colonel Sheppard asked. He knew the photographer, having only being here four days, would not have had time for training, but he wasn't sure about the Docs assistant.

"My assistant has been certified. The new Astrophotographer has not." Explained Rhomburg.

"Okay then, before I can okay the mission, your Astrophotographer will have to pass training. I'll contact Lt. Col. Lorne and have him set up training for your Astrophotographer this week yet. What is their name?" Asked the Colonel taking his stylus and noting the name on his PDA.

"Allison Hodges." Dr. Rhomburg stated.

"As soon as I get word that Miss Hodges has passed training, I'll schedule the mission. At that time we can get together to go over the details, how long, equipment list and escort. Sound okay?" The Colonel stated.

"Yes Colonel, very fine. We will talk later. Thank you." Dr. Rhomburg stood and offered his hand out for a shake. The Colonel obliged.

After the doctor left, he comm'd Col. Lorne and had him schedule weapons training for the ten new science people that had arrived on the Daedalus.

The rest of his afternoon went by quiet and fast. He found himself having dinner with his friends like usual. After dinner he went back to his quarters to do his exercises with Carl.

"Colonel you seem distracted lately. Care to talk about what's bothering you?" Carl asked as he lifted the Colonel's right leg up and began stretching the back leg muscles.

"Not really."

Carl was hoping the Colonel would share his thoughts but it looked like he was going to have to push a little harder to get the man to talk. "Colonel Lorne told me you zoned out on him twice today. Is this true?"

John stared at Carl deciding whether to lie or tell the truth. Weighing his odds and deciding against pissing Carl off, John opted for the truth. "True."

"You know you can tell me anything and it stays between us." Carl reminded him.

"I know. I just don't know what it is. How do you explain the feeling you get when you see someone walk down the hall and it's so familiar or hear a laugh or smell a scent of perfume that you knew by heart a long time ago. And all you want to do is find it." John opened up and let a little bit out.

Carl knew there was more to it. Resting the Colonel's right leg down on the exam bed and lifting the left leg to stretch out the muscles, "is that what has been happening lately? Yesterday outside the mess hall, today in the hall and your office?"

"Yeah I guess." John whispered. "I was married once. Ronon is the only other person who I've told that too. A long time ago it started out great. We were so much in love. I knew every inch of her body, every curve. I memorized her voice, her laugh and her scent, even her walk. Passion. She wore a perfume called Passion. But after a while she couldn't put up with my job I guess. I was a Captain back then. I would have to leave her for months at a time, although I wrote practically every day. When I got to come home on leave I guess I had changed some. War can do that you know. She said my touch was different, my eyes were darker and that I never smiled or laughed anymore. I think she was saying those things as an excuse. She wanted me to get out, take a safe job, a nine to five kind of job. She didn't understand that I needed to fly, that the sky was…the feeling…I didn't know how to explain it either, I guess. Anyway, I got new orders to Afghanistan and one day, when I came back from a mission, I was handed divorce papers to sign. So I just signed them and sent them back. Two months later I got an official letter stating I wasn't married any longer." John let out a heavy sigh, some of the weight on his shoulders released.

"So you think this person is on Atlantis now?" Asked Carl. He had stopped with the leg stretches and was just leaning against the wall listening.

John sat up on the exam bed and let his legs dangle over the side. "I don't know. I think I see her, but I can never get a clear look. It's like chasing a shadow or a ghost. I think I hear her laugh but when I look around I don't see her. It makes no sense; I checked through the names of the new arrivals and read their profiles after I thought I heard the laugh in the mess hall. I don't see how she could be here. All the scientists are pretty smart and tops in their field. Alli wasn't an academic; she was a free spirit which was why we were so good together in the beginning. I think I'm going nuts Carl. Can living in another galaxy for almost five years make you nuts?"

"I don't think you are going nuts Colonel." Carl pushed off the wall and moved around the exam bed where the Colonel was sitting to stand in front him. "Perhaps it is as simple as someone wearing the same perfume. After that your subconscious took over and you just want it to be her. Like I told you before, none of us can go back to the way it was."

Carl decided that the Colonel didn't need to do the rest of his exercises so he let him have a pass for the night. Carl aided the Colonel with his shower and when he was done retired to his room for the rest of the evening.

John did a little work on his laptop, read a little of War and Peace and went to bed early for change.