Disclaimer: I don't own SGA or the characters and I'm not making any money off of this.

Sheppard clutched at his abdomen with his left hand, panting, shock and adrenaline as yet keeping his brain from recognizing the excruciating pain. He could feel the hard, tentacle-like limb go slack beneath his blood-slick fingers, though it remained embedded in him. Deeply embedded, if the encroaching wave of agony that was quickly overtaking his adrenal barrier was any indication. The colonel let his right arm drop, the immediate crisis over, and felt the gun slide from his hand.

"Colonel Sheppard, what's your status?" Woolsey. "Colonel Sheppard."

The man sounded annoyed, and almost as impatient as Rodney. Didn't he realize that it took a couple of seconds to answer when a piece of baby Wraith hive ship was making a shish-kebab of your stomach? Sheppard started to speak, but an unintelligible grunt came out instead. Dragging in another breath, he tried again, "I've been better."

"What happened?"

"You better come get us," Sheppard said, his voice quiet and rough with pain. Whatever natural analgesia his body had initially provided was long gone and he wasn't sure how much longer he'd be able to maintain his side of the conversation, so best to get the important stuff out of the way. He hoped that Ronon had gotten free when that thing lost its connection with Keller, but he wasn't counting on the big guy for help this time around. In fact, worried as he was for his friend and teammate, all he could think was here we go again. That incredibly helpful life lesson they were always trying to teach had come back to bite him in a big way: those who couldn't learn from history were doomed to repeat it. John moaned in pain and let himself slump the rest of the way to the floor and onto his side since the tentacle was flexible enough to allow it.

How true that statement about history was. He apparently hadn't learned that Carson's untested remedies involving the Wraith were bad news—no offense to the good doc since this one had actually worked, but he'd gone into cardiac arrest while being the guinea pig, which had in turn left him feeling like he'd crashed a jumper, even before he actually crashed one. All that being as it was, neither had he learned his lesson about attempting daring rescues of the women of the Atlantis expedition. The missions generally succeeded—a different kind of pain burned in his gut when he recalled the one that hadn't—but those missions also tended to leave him impaled.

Without Ronon here to yank out his current skewer and lie to him that it was just a scratch, John knew he wasn't going anywhere. If Keller said he'd lost a lot of blood the last time, he didn't want to know how much this qualified as. The puddle beside him seemed too large, and it wasn't getting any smaller. But Woolsey had acknowledged his message, so all he had to do was hold out for a few minutes more until the cavalry arrived. "Just a scratch. No big…deal." John gasped out as he tried to find a less agonizing position, but only received a lancing pain through his side for his efforts. Ribs? He had hit that jumper console pretty hard. Letting his head drop back to the floor, John cursed. He stared across at the mass of would-be hive ship tendrils and as his vision blurred in and out he recalled his earlier conversation with his team. It was bad enough that history was repeating itself, but he'd been to the future and that looked to be repeating itself as well. They'd had their fair share of disasters when both Elizabeth and Carter were in charge, but Woolsey's arrival, and now Keller almost dying, albeit differently from how it had happened in the future—hell, for all he knew she was dead—it didn't bode well. A slow grey haze was infiltrating his vision, growing more opaque each time he blinked, and Sheppard found himself progressively lacking the strength to fight it. Finally he gave in and let himself slip away.

"You better come get us."

Woolsey frowned, frustrated at not getting an answer about what was going on, even though the implication of Sheppard's words and the pained quality of his voice were not lost on him. "Acknowledged, Colonel." Woolsey turned toward Beckett who nodded at him, already on the radio calling for a medical team. Woolsey shook his head no in response.

This prompted the doctor's eyes to widen in surprise, before a deep scowl planted itself on his face. Carson quickly concluded his instructions and tapped off the radio, barely taking a breath before laying into the new leader of Atlantis with a dangerously calm tone, "You're surely not suggestin' that we leave them down there, Mr. Woolsey. Colonel Sheppard is injured, and I'd stake money that it's bad from hearin' his voice alone."

"Yes, and Ronon is probably injured as well, but that's the point. We have no idea what their status is or if the colonel managed to do anything to help sever Dr. Keller's connection with that…that thing. I'm not going to send more people into harm's way until we know what's going on."

"Colonel Sheppard would not have requested assistance unless he was certain it was safe," Teyla earnestly pointed out. "Once you get to know him better you will realize this to be true, but for now I fear that Dr. Beckett is right. We must hurry if we are to help Ronon and the colonel."

Woolsey's mouth drew into a thin line, but after a moment he gave a sharp nod. "Go." Beckett didn't need to be told twice. He was back on the radio checking on the whereabouts of the med team and had reached the door of the control room before Teyla caught up with him.

It took only a couple of minutes for power to be restored to the transporters, where Beckett and Teyla met up with two medical teams and a squad of marines. Splitting into groups, they piled into the transporter and were soon on the level of the isolation room. From there it was a matter of following the gnarled and dangling tendrils to their destination. A short distance in, they came across Ronon. Apparently just recently conscious, he was half-sitting against the wall, gagging and coughing as he gulped down air. Beckett crouched beside him and examined his severely bruised and swollen throat before starting him on oxygen and ordering him to the infirmary for a scan, then ordering him not to speak when the Satedan rasped an objection, punctuated by a quieter-than-normal growl that seemed to indicate his intent to go with them to look for Sheppard. It also seemed that growling hurt Ronon's throat because with a grunt he acquiesced to going with the medic. The rest of the group continued on and Teyla joined the marines in slashing through the evidently-dead fibrous mass that was all around them.

Ten more minutes passed by before they reached the isolation room, but they encountered a bit of luck in that the rope-like conglomeration had grown in such a way that the door to the room was jammed open slightly. A little more elbow grease on the part of the marines saw them inside. "Over there," Teyla called, quickly spotting Sheppard on the far side of the room. She began hurriedly picking her way through the mess toward him. Carson followed with one of the med teams after making sure the other was seeing to Dr. Keller.

"He is alive, but his pulse is weak," Teyla reported, removing her fingers from John's neck and stepping to the side as the med team moved in around him. Vitals were assessed, but the results only quickened the team's pace. An IV was inserted and then Carson was cutting away John's shirt to get a better look at the wound. Teyla gasped as the blood-soaked material was moved aside, revealing not only the obvious puncture, but bruises forming across most of his ribcage and chest.

While the med team began packing gauze around the wound in an attempt to stem the bleeding, Beckett took a moment to probe carefully along the colonel's flanks. He cursed when he felt a rib give beneath his touch. John let out a low moan and stirred slightly before going still once more. Grabbing his stethoscope, Carson placed it to John's sides and listened to his lungs. Thankfully both were clear and his breathing sounded normal, fast and shallow though it was. Beckett was finishing up his exam, ready to focus on the more serious wound when he noticed a thin line about four inches long on the right side of Sheppard's abdomen, almost hidden beneath a dark purple bruise. "This is a recent incision," his eyes widened slightly in surprise and his tone demanded details.

Teyla spoke up before the med team had a chance to comment. "Colonel Sheppard was leading a mission to search for me and was injured when a building collapsed. A piece of what I believe you would refer to as rebar penetrated his side. Dr. Keller had to perform surgery to repair the damage after I was rescued from Michael. John was only returned to duty a short time ago."

"Bloody hell." Carson reached out to prod the tentacle. It felt slimy and rubbery beneath his gloved fingers, but seemed to be growing stiffer. "All right, we need ta cut him loose, now. I won't risk takin' this out until we've got him in the OR. His pressure's doin' all right for the moment, but it's not going ta keep, especially not if he's got any other internal bleeding we don't know about." One of the medics handed him a scalpel while another was already moving to stabilize the tentacle. Beckett nodded, "Steady now." He began slicing at the slime-covered limb, but it was tougher than it looked and he had to employ a sawing motion to make any headway. Despite the medic's solid grip, the cutting sent minute vibrations through the limb. Sheppard groaned and tried to twist away, only semi-conscious and not aware of what was going on. "Keep him still, I'm nearly there," Beckett directed, continuing to cut as smoothly as he could. After another minute, the last of the fibers were severed and Carson announced, "All right, that's it. Let's get him on the gurney."

Teyla waited until the med team had the colonel settled and they were all past the tangles of the fledgling alien ship before she quietly inquired of Beckett, "How is John?"

"He's holding his own for the moment, but I am a bit concerned about the amount of blood he's lost and his previous injury. I'll be able ta tell ya more once we get him ta surgery and get this thing out of him." Carson gave her a reassuring smile, which she responded to with a nod. Since she knew it would be hours before there was further news about John, she parted ways with the med team at the entrance to the infirmary and went in search of Ronon.

Waking up was difficult. There was a heavy fog wrapped around his mind weighing him down, and for a time John was content to remain in the darkness. Quiet voices and familiar sounds drifted around him, but none of them demanded his attention. Gradually, though, a pain in the left side of his stomach made itself known each time the fog receded, growing well past the point of discomfort and into a hot, fiery ache that became not the result of the receding fog but rather the cause. He didn't realize the low, rough sound he was hearing was himself groaning until the ache ratcheted up another notch and a gasp cut off the groan. What was going on? He blinked open sticky eyelids, and his mind supplied the word 'infirmary' for his current surroundings.

Surgery. That was where the awful ache had come from. He'd been trapped in the rubble, and the scratch hadn't been just a scratch but he'd gone after Teyla anyway. He'd gotten her back, she and the baby were safe, and so he'd finally let Keller 'play with his insides'. Damn, what a stupid thing to do. He wasn't letting anyone touch his insides ever again.

John tried to relax, secure in the fact that his team was safe, but the pain wouldn't let him. Another soft groan escaped, which triggered new throbbing along his right ribcage. He wanted to curl up tight around the pain and squash it out of existence, but he couldn't seem to manage any movement except weak squirming that only made the aching and throbbing worse.

"Easy, son, you're going ta be fine. The anesthesia's wearin' off now and leavin' ya a bit sore, but we'll have ya more comfortable shortly."

The voice was as familiar and reassuring as the gentle hand on his shoulder, but it wasn't right. John had long since stopped expecting to hear that voice, had slowly begun to adjust to Keller's friendly-but-somewhat-awkward bedside manner. Did something happen to Keller? His thoughts were jumbled, but he thought he remembered trying to save her from some kind of ship. Or had he been trying to save Atlantis from her? No, that didn't make any sense. Of course, neither did his memory of getting stabbed by a giant octopus. Needing to know he wasn't losing it, he gasped out, "Car…son?"

"Shhh. Just lie still now and give the pain meds a chance ta work."

"You…real? Keller...she okay? Ronon?" Sheppard mumbled the questions as bits and pieces came to him. He blinked heavily. The pain was already relenting, giving way to a thickening haze that was accompanied by a slightly giddy feeling and something cool running through his veins.

Carson chuckled softly and squeezed John's hand, his other hand remaining on the colonel's shoulder. "Aye, son, I'm real. Ronon will be fine if he listens ta me and Dr. Keller is in isolation, but she's recovering. Right now ya need ta focus on doing the same. Rest. We'll talk more when ya wake up."


John wasn't sure how much time had passed, but the feeling of something prodding at the left side of his stomach and more pain, though of a lower intensity, coaxed his eyelids open. He saw that it was Beckett doing the prodding, apparently checking the incision, and his memory supplied the recent events, all in the correct order this time. "You and Keller are evil," he rasped, a small smile twitching at the corner of his mouth.

"Now that's not a very nice thing ta say ta the person who just spent six hours in surgery patchin' ya up," Beckett responded with feigned annoyance. He reached for a nearby cup and slipped Sheppard a couple of ice chips.

"Sorry, it's mainly just Keller," John qualified, after letting the ice melt on his tongue. "I think she did this on purpose, as her final act in control of that hive ship…to get back at me for last time."

Carson smiled, but decided to play devil's advocate, "Not possible, lad. She took an oath ta do no harm."

"Yes, but under the circumstances she knew she couldn't really be held accountable. She also knew it wouldn't cost her any extra work because she'd be recovering herself."

"Well, ya have ta admit that she did have a rather good motive." Carson raised an eyebrow. He'd read Dr. Keller's notes on the matter and still couldn't quite believe the risk John had taken.

"It was Teyla. I didn't have a choice," John retorted, wincing when Carson came into contact with a particularly tender spot.

Beckett nodded, not sparing John a stern look. "I know, lad, but you'll not be doin' any such thing this time around. There was extensive internal damage, and ya broke a rib, cracked another, and aggravated the old surgical site with your adventure in the jumper. Luckily it's just bruising and I didn't have ta re-open. Even so, you're stuck right here for a few days, and don't count on any revisions of my diagnosis either."

John narrowed his eyes at Carson, wondering how he'd heard about that particular exchange, but decided it might be dangerous to ask. It wasn't likely he'd feel well enough to move anytime soon anyway. Their brief conversation alone had Sheppard wanting to sleep for the rest of the day, but forced his eyes to stay open. He looked down at the fresh incision on the left side of his abdomen as Beckett started to cover it with a dressing, then at the mostly-healed one on the right side. They were almost mirror-images. Sheppard grinned. "Hey, Doc, now that's proof if I've ever seen it." He lifted a shaky hand and gestured to the incisions.

"Proof of what, exactly, Colonel?" Beckett frowned, not sure he was following.

"That Keller planned this. Women love things that match."

Carson rolled his eyes and made a mental note to check the dosage of John's pain medication as he taped the dressing into place.