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: I am NOT in the medical, military or science professions so what you read is just 'winging it'. Hope it sounds plausible. Also in my stories there will always be Dr. Weir and Dr. Beckett.

This is the fourth story I've written dealing with Colonel Sheppard's disability. Preceding order: Three for the Price of Two, Conquering Adversities, Unexpected Surprises.

The story was beta read and any remaining errors are my own. Enjoy.

Life Altering

By Kwillads

Chapter 14

Rodney acted as quickly as did Ronon both kneeling down beside their CO. Rodney reached out a trembling hand to check for a pulse.

Caldwell was summoning a medical team. "Is he alive?" Asked Caldwell stepping closer to the fallen pilot sprawled out on the deck. He wasn't sure if the planet's radiation wave had caused the collapse or if it was the implant being erased by the EM wave that had engulfed the ship prior to jumping into hyper space. He knew he was cutting the beam out close but Hermiod could not get a solid lock on their subdural transmitters. Sheppard had the jumper in one evasive maneuver after another. Then all of a sudden it quit. Caldwell didn't want to think that the Colonel had given up. The younger Colonel was too tenacious and didn't know how to give up. He was a fighter to the bitter end.

"I have a pulse." Rodney replied.

The medical team pushed Rodney and Ronon out of the way as they saw to the Colonel. A med team member was taking his vitals and relaying the information to the Doctor kneeling beside him. When the ships Doctor deemed the Colonel could be moved, Ronon helped them lift the unconscious pilot onto the stretcher and headed for sickbay. Ronon took one end, snarling at the white coated tech. Rodney followed close behind.

Colonel Sheppard was moved onto one of the beds in sickbay. The Doctor checked him over and called out for this test or that sample. Rodney and Ronon were shoved out into the hall through a door which had only a small round portal to see through. The small door was essentially slammed in their faces leaving them to wait in the hall.

Ronon paced the hall outside the sickbay door. Rodney sat limp on the floor, back against the hard metal bulkhead. Colonel Lorne approached quietly. "Any word?"

Evan was beating himself up for letting the Colonel go down to the planet. He should have ordered the Colonel to leave. He should have insisted that Ronon stun him if he didn't comply. The Colonel had made a deal and Evan didn't follow through. It was his fault his CO was now laying in sickbay.

Rodney just sat limp on the floor. Watching Sheppard collapse like that reminded Rodney of the Russian Marionette Ballet he had seen during his exile in Siberia. The wooden dolls danced across the stage and acted out their part in the play. Rodney was really taken by the beauty of it all. Oh Siberia was cold and harsher during the winter months but it still had its beauty. He managed to get backstage after the performance and the Russian director, Shvernik, allowed him to handle one of the marionettes. It was hard. Rodney had a technical gift for art in his piano playing but his stronger gift was in the sciences. Even with his vast knowledge of arc's and angles he could not make that puppet doll dance. Seeing Sheppard lay in a tangled heap at Rodney's feet flooded his memories as what the marionette had looked like when he laid it down.

Rodney's thoughts were a jumbled mess. Jumping him back and forth through time. One minute he was at the bottom of the ocean trapped in a jumper, next he was in Siberia, the one after that he was on Doranda. His mind followed those thoughts by taking him to the SGC where Teal'c was trapped in the gate buffer to his newest jumper experience he just barely managed to live through. He was feeling guilty that he hadn't come up with a better plan to exterminate those damn bugs. Guilt over not being able to shield the implant from such hazards. Guilt was eating him up at the thought of his best friend never walking again after he had worked and pushed himself so hard these past nine months just to have it all taken away from him in a split second. Oh sure, the Colonel would agree that giving up walking was a fair trade for wiping out the superbugs or obtaining three fully charged ZedPM's. But Rodney knew better.

Ronon growled a "no" in response, slamming a fist into the opposite bulkhead as he passed sickbay. He too felt guilty for not keeping his friend safe.

Rodney looked up at the Satedan and wondered if he too had his life events pass through his mind. Maybe some day Rodney would ask him. But not today.

Lorne watched the two men carefully. It was odd seeing their roles reversed. Ronon was usually the quiet one standing off in a corner, while McKay paced and talked, talked and paced. The three men stayed in the corridor, minutes passing slowly one by one.

When the door opened Rodney jumped to his feet. "Is he alright?" Rodney asked quickly.

"He's stable. We have the Colonel comfortable for now. If you'd like to see him…"

"I want to see him." Snarled Ronon.

"Of course, follow me." Doctor Reinhardt turned around leading the three men into the small sickbay to see Colonel Sheppard.

Ronon pushed passed McKay and Lorne and followed the Doctor to Sheppard. Rodney and Evan followed the Runner. John was still unconscious; an IV in his left hand and the heart monitor beeped out in perfect rhythm. Ronon sat down heavily into the chair next to the bed, arms crossed and his long legs rested on the bed frame. His posture dared anyone to ask him to leave.

"Right. I'll just leave you alone for a few minutes while I make my report to the Captain."

Rodney and Evan moved to the other side of the bed not heeding what the Doctor was saying and looked at Sheppard. Evan pulled a chair over for Rodney to sit in. "If you need me or there is any change, I'll be on the bridge." Lorne whispered.

oOo

"Colonel Caldwell, before we head back to Atlantis, we need to check the Re'sal home world. Make sure their shield held. Render assistance if they need. We also need to verify the status of the planets and the stability of the solar system. Colonel Sheppard would insist if he were here, Sir." Lorne requested of his superior. After Lt. Col. Lorne armed the nuke he had time to be briefed on what the Daedalus had found on the remaining five planets and was aware of the repaired shield on the Re'sal home world.

"Yes, he would. We should be coming up to the Re'sal home world in about thirty-five minutes. According to Hermiod the telemetry he obtained indicated that the blast wave would not have reached this far before dissipating. Radiation yield was kept to a minimum." Caldwell explained.

Lorne nodded and turned to lookout the forward view portal and waited.

The Re'sal home world was safe. The shield was active, and as Hermiod projected, the blast wave hadn't reached this far out. The Daedalus surveyed the other four planets on their way back to P6R-114 or what was left of 114. The orange fire ball planet was still there. So was the toxic atmosphere planet. The planet that had the cow like animals was gone. A debris field of asteroids was all that remained. The blue marble planet that looked like Earth was also gone.

P6R-114 was just like the last two. A debris field of asteroids. The Daedalus scanned the area for any ships and life signs. If Michael survived the blast wave from the planet he had a long way to go to find help. The Re'sal home world would be at least a two month journey for a dart.

Caldwell ordered the ship into hyperspace on course for Atlantis. They would reach Atlantis in just over three hours.

oOo

The first thing Colonel Sheppard was aware of was the constant, steady beeping to his right. He could smell disinfectant so he assumed he was in the infirmary. He tried to open his eyes but they refused. His head lolled to the right which sent a shooting pain through his head causing him to moan. The headache was like no other. He tried to open his eyes again and this time he managed a small slit. The overhead lights were bright and added to his headache. He thought the lights to low, but they didn't respond.

When Rodney heard the Colonel moan, he summoned the Doctor. Rodney stood quietly as the Doctor tried to wake the Colonel to get a response. Ronon had moved out of the way and now stood beside McKay on the other side of the bed.

"Colonel Sheppard can you hear me? If you can you need to open your eyes." Stated the Doctor.

"Hrrtss." Mumbled the Colonel.

The Doctor reached over and turned down the lights. "The lights are low now Colonel, you can open your eyes now."

John opened his eyes like the voice had asked, finding the lights had indeed been lowered. He blinked a few times. Shapes were blurry. From what he could tell, this was not the infirmary in Atlantis. A sharp white light pierced his left eye and he clamped down hard and groaned. He did not want that to happen again. His right eye was forced open and the light flickered past sending another bolt of pain into his head to fuel his headache.

"Sttooop…head hrrtss." He slurred.

"Sorry Colonel but it had to be done. I'll get you something for your headache."

"…'kay." John said closing his eyes and willing the pain to subside.

"Colonel?" Asked Rodney somewhat hesitantly.

John heard the familiar voice and tried to respond as best he could. He let his head fall to his right stifling a groan that the movement was sure to cause before opening his eyes only a little. He could make out two blurry figures. "Rod…ney?" He croaked.

"Yeah, it's me. Ronon's here too." McKay said.

"Thought…we were…dead. Why are…weeee…not dead?" The Colonel managed to get out in his weakened state.

"The Daedalus beamed us out just in time." Rodney explained.

John opened his eyes a bit more, taking in his surroundings. "Where am I?"

"You're in the Daedalus's sickbay. We're on our way back to Atlantis. We'll be home in a few hours." Rodney told him.

"Home…" John smiled at the thought. "Bugs…what about the bugs? God I hate bugs." He exclaimed.

"I don't know Colonel. Ronon and I have been here with you ever since you collapsed on the bridge." Rodney stated.

A new voice now on his left joined in. John shifted his head and turned to his left. "Nice to see you awake Sir." Lorne said giving a short pause. "The bugs never made it off the planet. They were destroyed. I'm not sure about Michael. We scanned the debris field but found no ship wreckage. There were no other ships on long range sensors either. The blast wave took out the first two planets that were close. The remaining three are still there. We checked on the Re'sal home world and they're fine. The shield was working perfectly." Lorne reported.

"Good…to know." The Colonel mumbled before falling back into unconsciousness.

While Lorne was giving his report, the Doctor had returned and injected medicine into his IV line to help with his headache.

"Colonel, what about radiation from the explosion?" McKay asked Lorne.

"Caldwell said that the radiation yield was kept to a minimum, whatever that means McKay. I'm no scientist. But if I had to judge by how he said it, I would say it was a good thing." Lorne advised him. "We'll be back in Atlantis soon. Do we know if he can…?"

"No...no we don't. He really wasn't coherent enough to ask." McKay stated.

oOo

"Atlantis base this is the Daedalus. Be advised we are beaming Colonel Sheppard and party directly to the infirmary." Caldwell informed as he was bringing the ship into the atmosphere and heading for the east pier to land.

"Dr. Beckett and his team are waiting for him Colonel." Elizabeth replied. "I'll meet you there."

"Understood." Caldwell stated.

Elizabeth left the control room walking in a much faster gait than normal. She had just arrived at the infirmary doors when the bright flash of the beaming technology materialized Colonel Sheppard, Rodney, Ronon and Lt. Col. Lorne. Dr. Beckett and his staff rushed over to the Colonel and began accessing his condition. The three men were pushed aside as the gurney with the Colonel was whisked out of their sight.

Teyla had been waiting impatiently along with the Doctors and nurses for the Colonel to beam in. She wanted to see for herself that he was alright. Preliminary reports coming from the Daedalus during transit would only say he was 'stable', but when the bright light faded, the Doctors and medical staff had rushed to his side and she could not catch a glimpse. She moved to her team mates and nodded as Elizabeth approached.

Dr. Weir walked up to the three men who had not yet said a word. Softly she spoke, "why don't we all sit down and you can fill us in on what happened. You know Carson will take good care of John and will tell us how he is as soon as he can." Placing a hand on Rodney and Ronon's shoulder they turned around to look at her. Teyla and the three men blindly followed Elizabeth to the waiting area.

"Oh God…I did this to him." Rodney muttered, sitting with his hands folded in his lap, head hanging down gazing at the swirl pattern in the marble flooring. It was a pattern he had never noticed before even though he had been a regular visitor to the waiting room over the years.

"Funny…I was thinking the same thing." Col. Lorne whispered. "I should have ordered him to stay on the Daedalus. I did order him. He made a damn deal and didn't stick to it. Ronon I should have had you stun him." Evan got up from his chair and paced the small waiting area clinching and un-clinching his fits for what he felt his stupidity had caused. He wanted to hit something but thought better of it. Yes, even he could learn from past experiences.

Teyla placed a comforting hand on Rodney's shoulder where she sat next to him. "Rodney, Evan, don't go blaming yourselves. We don't know anything yet. Give Carson some time to check things out." Elizabeth said acknowledging how the two men felt. She was sure they all felt the same way, but there was no blame to be placed. She was sure of it. She knew John would not blame Rodney or Evan or any of the others. He would accept blame himself instead.

The five sat quietly in the waiting room awaiting news. It had been an hour since the Daedalus had gotten back. Col. Caldwell came as soon as ships business allowed. He and Elizabeth spoke in the hall.

"Dr. Weir, how's Colonel Sheppard?" Asked the rather concerned Daedalus Commander.

"No news yet. Carson's still with him. What about Michael?"

"Well that's what I wanted to talk to you about in private. Hermiod did some scans before we jumped into hyperspace and determined that a second hyperspace window opened up just prior to our jump." Steven advised her cautiously.

"Wraith darts don't have hyperspace capability. Then again they weren't to have cloaking capabilities either. Could there have been a hive ship coming to pick Michael up?"

"We picked up no Wraith ships in the area at all. Not on long or short range sensors. There definitely wasn't one on the planet either. Hermiod is still going over the data. We didn't find any signs of wreckage, but neither did we find signs of the jumper that was caught in the blast wave. Seems the blast vaporized it, which could have happened to the dart as well. We just don't know. I thought you would want to know about the hyperspace window, however. I have ships business to oversee, and a report to get written. I need to get back. Please contact me with the status of Colonel Sheppard."

"Of course, Steven, and thank you." Elizabeth stayed in the hall a few minutes longer. She felt the need to compose herself before going back into the waiting room. The news of Michael possibly escaping the blast and still being out there to start his plan all over again made her shiver.

The Daedalus commander walked briskly down the hall, heading back to his ship. There were supplies to unload and reports to be written. When Colonel Sheppard asked for the Daedalus's help, the big ship had barely arrived. There had not been time to start unloading before the ship took off for Michael's staging planet.

Lost in their own thoughts, none of them saw the approaching Doctors. When the door whooshed open it startled everyone. Rodney jumped to his feet and rushed Carson, "how is he? Can he still walk?" Quickly asking the questions that had been repeatably asked over and over in his mind.

"He's stable." Carson said to begin with.

Rodney had heard enough of 'stable' from the Doctor on board the Daedalus. Rodney had asked about the Colonel's condition at least every hour on their journey towards Atlantis and all that voodoo practitioner would say was 'he's stable'. Rodney had had enough of 'stable'. "We know that Carson! That quack of a Doctor they got on board the Daedalus told us that several times. How. Is. He? And more precisely, can he still walk?" Rodney punctuated his words carefully to get his meaning across.

"I was getting to that Rodney. So far the Colonel is still unconscious. His vitals are strong and normal. I ran an electroencephalogram, or EEG test to detect abnormalities in the electrical activity of the brain. The test came back normal. Dr. Reinhardt reported the Colonel was suffering from a headache when he came to the first time. We'll have to wait until he wakes up. Right now the best thing for him is sleep. I know that's hard to take and I wish I had more answers instead of questions." Carson trailed off.

"We know Carson. You're doing your best. Can we see him?" Elizabeth asked for the whole group.

"I knew you'd be a asking, so we settled him first. Follow me." Carson led the tired group to the curtained off area. Carl followed behind at the end.

There was the steady beep of the heart monitor and an IV dripping silently. Sleeping soundly, John lay still in the bed. His breathing was even; his color was a bit flushed in comparison to the stark white sheets that surrounded him.

Elizabeth and Teyla moved up to the head of the bed on either side while the guys hung back at the end of the bed. Rodney eyed the chair on the right and moved to claim it. He had made his mind up. He wasn't going anywhere until the Colonel woke up. Ronon had a similar sense, only his was of protection. He pulled the chair away from the adjacent bed and sat down. Teyla, for now, claimed the stool, continuing to hold the Colonel's hand in comfort.

Elizabeth wanted to stay, but she was called back to duty. Col. Lorne left a few minutes later. He had duties to perform as well. Lorne relieved Major Jacobs and assumed command until his CO could take over. He released the extra guards in the gate room, recalled all spotters from the piers, and balconies, as well as the extra patrols in the hallways. He ordered a detail to deal with the supplies being off-loaded from the Daedalus and found himself sitting behind his desk. It had been a rough thirty-six hours and he had a mission report to write and get filed.

John's awareness brought him comfort and warmth. Someone was holding his hand and it felt nice. The headache that had plagued him was now a dull ache in the back of his head. He heard the subtle beep of the monitor and the smell of disinfectant. All that was missing was the clicking noise of a laptop. He gently opened his eyes just a little, mostly looking through his lashes at his surroundings. The overhead lighting was bright so he thought them lower and the lights responded to his mental request. He knew he was back on Atlantis. The last time he tried that he had been unsuccessful.

The hand that held his and offered warmth stilled from the gentle stroking when the lights lowered. "John?" Teyla asked. She couldn't see his eyes, but he was the only one who could do such things here on Atlantis.

Ronon and Rodney heard their team mate talk. It brought them out of their chairs and to the side of the bed. The three had sat in silence with only the beep of the monitor to keep them company. Even Rodney sat quiet, no clicking, and no tapping on his computer keys.

"Sheppard?" Rodney croaked, not realizing his throat was so dry.

"I do believe John is awake. He dimmed the lights." Teyla looked down at him. "Is that not so John?"

John's eyes opened halfway. "Yeah." He whispered. "To bright."

"How are you feeling? Do you still have a headache?" Teyla inquired, her concern was always looking out for her team mates and friends.

"Fine. No headache." John quietly said as he worked to open his eyes more. John was trying to make himself more comfortable by sitting up. Teyla realized his struggle and raised the head of the bed up for him. "Thanks."

"Rodney, are you disturbing my patient again?" Asked Carson as he pushed back the curtain and came through with Carl.

"Hey Docs!" Colonel Sheppard greeted them as he became more alert. He still felt weak and tired. His limbs heavy.

"Why do you always suspect that it's me? It could be Teyla or Ronon for all you know."

"Enough with your nonsense Rodney it's always you. How are ya feeling Colonel?" Carson turned his attention to his patient and asked.

"Just fine now. Although I could really eat something."

"I'll get ya some food right after I check you over. Alright you three out, visiting hours are over. I need to examine the Colonel and I don't need you three standing over my shoulder. I'm sure the Colonel would like a little privacy." Carson barked.

"It's okay Doc they can stay. I just need some food." John said once more. John was getting strange looks from his team mates as well as the two doctors. He wasn't exactly sure what the looks meant. Worry, hesitation, sorrowful, pity maybe. It was really beginning to weird him out looking at his friends. Then it finally hit him why. "Oh no…really guys I'm okay. I just…well it's kind of…embarrassing. Look here's the thing…I haven't…oh crap…I passed out that's all." John washed a hand across his face and finally managed to work the dreaded words out of his mouth. "I'm just hungry."

"You passed out?" Rodney asked. "You…passed…out?" Rodney stated again as his voice raised an octave higher.

John just nodded. He was embarrassed by the whole situation. The fact not any easier to deal with without McKay repeating it every five seconds.

"Do you have any idea what you put me…us…through? You've been unconscious for over twelve hours. We've sat with you the whole time. Have you any idea what kind of thoughts we were thinking? What kind of thoughts I was thinking? How inconsiderate of you to 'pass out'! I can't believe this…" Rodney's rant was just getting into full force when Carson cut him off.

"Enough with ya! Leave the poor man alone. He's barely awake and doesn't need your babbling right now." Carson stated.

"But…he…"

"No buts Rodney."

"Guys I'm sorry. I hadn't eaten in almost twenty-four hours…you of all people should know McKay what happens when you don't eat. I guess the adrenalin rush kept me going. When we were beamed out of the jumper and I opened my eyes to see that we were still alive and back on board the Daedalus I was relieved. So much so I guess everything just caught up with me then and…and…I passed out. Honest I didn't mean to scare you guys. I've been on a regular schedule for over two and a half years…you know what happens when I don't eat. Look I can still walk." John tried to toss the covers back to get out of bed but Carson and Carl put a stop to that right away. Not that John was doing such a good job, he was weak and hungry. So to prove his point he moved his toes, then his feet. He bent his legs at the knees to show them all that everything was working. "See."

"Enough lad. Let's get ya some food."

oOo

"So I only took out half of a solar system, as compared to you tak…"

"Stop…don't finish that thought. You're never going to let me forget that, are you?" McKay shouted. Taking out five-sixths of a solar system had been the worst day of his entire life and he had tried to put that in the past.

"Ah come on McKay, at least you're not alone in the 'Solar System Exterminators R Us' club any more. You have me as a member now." John smugly told him. John sat upright in his infirmary bed with a tray of food that he had almost completely consumed. Rodney had taken his jell-o while the two of them talked.

Ronon and Teyla sat off to one side listening to the conversation as to what had happened over the last few days allowing Teyla to be filled in on what had taken place on 114 and on the Daedalus. Rodney finally got his answer to his 'cows' question which launched John into trying to explain to the Pegasus natives what an Earth cow was.

"And for your information Colonel, I liked being in that club alone. Ha!"

John turned the conversation a bit to the somber side. All joking aside it had been one hell of a mission. "Didn't we get hit by that blast wave when we were in the jumper? I remember you yelled 'ten seconds to impact', and I felt the wave push against the jumper just before we beamed out. Not that I'm not grateful or anything, but how is it that I can still feel and move my legs?"

His team mates took notice of this change in attitude. Teyla was first to offer a plausible explanation. "Perhaps you were beamed out prior to the energy wave reaching you. The wave had not reached the Daedalus from what I understand. It would be a good thing, it is not?"

"Yeah of course, but I was so sure…" John began saying.

"We were." Rodney deadpanned.

John looked at him with a quizzical expression the facts staring him in the face. The jumper had been hit with the wave. The shield was inoperable. The shield was the only thing protecting him inside the puddle jumper. Why was he still able to walk?

"Rodney." John spoke sternly. That one word spoke volumes and McKay knew he had better start filling in the pages.

Rodney fidgeted in his chair. "The shield was down. There was no way I could fix it in time before the concussive force of the shock wave hit us so instead I worked to get the shield for the Replicator Block implant working. Just before the shock hit the jumper I executed the program." He didn't know if he managed to get his program initiated in time or not before the blast wave struck the jumper.

Now John looked even more confused if that were possible. In those last few moments before they were all about to die or possibly that he would end up not walking again, Rodney had managed to initiate a force field to protect his implant. The same force field that he had been working on for nine…no…almost ten months.

In as calm a voice as he could muster up he asked, "How?"

Rodney was hoping that the Colonel wouldn't ask 'how' just take it for granted that he had finally managed to get the program to work and move on with gratitude for his genius mind and his tenacity to not give up. Rodney spared a quick glance at the Colonel before looking back at his hands hovering over the laptop that rested on his lap. "While I was on the Daedalus I went to engineering and learned about their new cloak. It gave me a different perspective and with Novak and Hermiod's assistance I was well on my way to solving the problem. See I was trying to use basic shield technology to shield your nanite implant. That's why I kept coming up short and it never worked. After talking to Novak and Hermiod about their cloak design, which I discovered was based on wraith technology I might add. You know…from the downed dart a few years back. You sent the cloaking mechanism back to Earth. Well it took them, at Area 51, over two years to make it functional. As seen with our own eyes with the Daedalus not showing up on the jumpers sensors. Once I changed my approach from using Earth based shield technology to Wraith based cloaking technology I was able to write the program. And it works! You don't actually have a shield per se protecting the implant. It's a cloak. I cloaked your implant. I really wasn't getting anywhere with the shield idea but after seeing the cloak used on the Daedalus it really did give me a whole new perspective of looking at the situation. I mean our jumper sweeps didn't pick up the Daedalus in orbit. It was like it wasn't there. I did the same thing to your implant. It's like the implant is not even inside you. And since it's cloaked it technically is not there so any EM wave or ARG discharge has no effect on it. All I needed was time. And as always you never give me enough time. Solutions don't always happen in under five seconds like you think they do. You are the most inconsiderate human being I have ever met. Would it kill you if you just gave me a few minutes of peace and quiet with no threat of bodily harm…?"

John cut off McKay's rant. "Rodney…how?"

'Weren't you listening? Why do I even try to explain things to you if you don't listen to me when I talk?' Rodney thought. Rodney quietly and as fast as he could mumbled his explanation. "Ihackedyourpasswordagain."

"You did what!" John shouted.

"Ihackedyourpassword."

Now it was John who was in full rant mode. "McKay…I changed my password and you promised that you wouldn't do that again!" John started to count to ten again. How it was that Rodney made him do this so often?

"Hey! You're doing that thing again. I know…I'm sorry…but under the circumstances I didn't think you'd mind."

Ronon and Teyla sat in silence watching the exchange between their two team mates. Neither one could help but smile as the two went at each other over such trivial nonsense. Colonel Sheppard should have been thankful that Dr. McKay managed to finally protect the implant which saved his new walking life. Teyla turned to Ronon and he gave her a shrug of his shoulders. Each one knew that Earth people argued over just about everything. The two Pegasus natives turned their attention back to their team mates with even bigger smiles.

"McKay…Rodney…don't get me wrong buddy, I do appreciate what you did. Really I do. You have to understand that having this Replicator Block inside me…no matter how much reassurance you give me…freaks me out. Now you tell me the cloak is of Wraith design. That too freaks me out. It was you that offered me a password for protection and peace of mind. How can I feel safe if everytime something happens you hack my password and upload new information...usually without my knowledge." John rested his head back on his pillows and started counting again, this time backwards from ten.

Rodney didn't have an answer for him, not that John was really expecting one. He did what he had to do to save his friend. And he would do it again if the circumstances called for it without hesitation or concern for himself. He would make sure his friend stayed walking.

"You're doing that again." Rodney stated.

"Doing what?"

"That thing you do in the back of your throat when you get mad. What are you doing? It sounds like a foreign language to me. How many languages do you speak? I think I heard at least three maybe four."

"I don't know what you're talking about McKay."

"Sure you do. Now how many?" Rodney asked again not giving up on this subject. "You do know that I can hack any computer. Hack any file. It would be easier if you just answered the question."

"Who won the betting pool?" Sheppard responded instead. No way was he going to admit to Rodney he spoke and understood several languages. 'Good luck in trying to find out too.' His language skills he made sure never made it to his file. 'Hack away all you want'. As if the light just turned on overhead John got the brilliant idea for what to use for his new security code.

oOo

Colonel Sheppard was released from the infirmary two days later. Carson wanted to make sure that everything was back to normal as it should be. John tried to escape but was caught by Carl coming out of the transporter that John intended to enter. On his second day of mandatory rest in his quarters the big screen TV and player found its way to his suite. John called on his team to come help him uncrate it and set it up. John allowed Teyla the opportunity to rearrange the furniture for the best possible viewing. John just stayed back out of the way and watched. This time Teyla had Carl and Evan moving the furniture pieces this way and that until she was satisfied. Rodney and Ronon had somehow managed to escape this time. She even had Evan and Carl go to one of the adjacent suites to bring in a second couch. Once Teyla was satisfied that everyone would have an unobstructed view of the large screen and the second couch was manipulated into its proper place they settled down to watch a video.

The Colonel worked on his AAR while being cooped up in his room for two days. Having finally completed his mission report he delivered it at 07:00 hours the following morning when he walked into Dr. Weir's office with three cups of coffee. The Daedalus had off loaded their supplies and Atlantis was once again in coffee nirvana. Caldwell had given his crew the past two days as down time. While sipping coffee they talked about Michael's possible escape. Hermiod had gone over the data he had collected on the second hyperspace window and the three concluded that most likely Michael was still out there. They talked about the cloaking device that had been installed on the Daedalus and how it remained off the jumper's sensors. John explained how he had Rodney download all the gate addresses from the DHD on 114. The Colonel wanted to investigate each planet for any evidence of Michael's research and Michael. If Michael was still out there he most likely would go back to one of his labs to start again. John wanted to be sure he knew where all his labs were and take all action against them being used again. John also wanted that research destroyed once and for all. If Michael did escape he could and would start to rebuild another army. Col. Caldwell and Elizabeth agreed that was a sound idea. Col. Caldwell offered to take a few of the planets from the list and he and his crew on board the Daedalus would investigate before heading back to Earth. Elizabeth informed them that she had contacted all their allies and advised them of the outcome as well as what they thought Michael's plan had been: destroying planet after planet by using up all the natural resources. Some were upset that three planets were lost, but most were grateful that they didn't need to worry about the superbugs coming to their world. At least for the foreseeable future.

A week later the Daedalus headed back to Earth. The Daedalus had investigated six planets from McKay's list and had found nothing more than empty egg sacks or devastated earth. Their search of labs or ruins were met with destruction. Leaving rubble in their wake. The search teams from Atlantis had checked over a dozen planets with the same results. They still had over ninety planets left on the list to investigate. As the big ship departed with good news; not only about their cloaking capabilities but of the destruction of thousands of superbugs Col. Caldwell advised Sheppard not to worry about any fallout for taking out half a solar system. Caldwell was sure he could get their point across. It may have been Sheppard's idea but Col. Caldwell was the one who authorized such deadly force to be taken.

John almost forgot about the Re'sal's and the promise to come back and talk a trade agreement for fixing their shield. Finally getting the mission planned, John took Lorne's team back to the planet for negotiations. Rodney was in a state of sugar high given permission to study their device in hopes that Atlantis could duplicate it and share it with their other allies. John and Magistrate Yerri talked trade while Ronon, Lorne and Teyla visited with the Re'sal people.

Magistrate Yerri wanted to give the Lantean's everything he could think of. He and his people were most grateful for the repair to their shield which held off an attack from the Wraith just days before their arrival to talk trade negotiations.

While sitting in the Magistrate's chamber negotiating a young page brought them drinks. Noibn was a hot liquid made from the noibn nuts that grew on Re'sal. Their planet was the perfect climate to grow these yellowish-brown nuts in abundance. The Magistrate was telling them that at times they had to burn fields. Their people brewed what they could use but had no trading partners who would take the excess off their hands. Teyla and Ronon passed as they had just arrived along with Evan from talking to the Re'sal people. John picked up a cup and gave it a cursory sniff. Liking what he smelled so far he took a tentative sip.

"It's ok Rodney. No citrus." John advised with a smile. He couldn't wait to see McKay's reaction after taking his first sip. Sitting across from him, Evan took a cup. He also smelled it before taking a sample of the hot liquid into his mouth. It was their training in the military that made them cautious. As the flavor awakened his taste buds Evan's eyes popped wide open at the surprise. Doing his best to school his facial expression like his commanding officer he too looked towards McKay.

Rodney picked up a cup after the Colonel said that it didn't contain any citrus and took a swallow. Immediately his eyes closed and Rodney found himself in nirvana. Opening his eyes again he took in the color of the hot liquid, it was a pale yellow which was cause for alarm with Rodney. Anything that was yellow had to be citrus. "Colors all wrong. But if you close your eyes the taste is right. Better in fact. Magistrate Yurpie did you say that you burned fields of these…nuts because you had too many?"

"Yes Doctor McKay I did. And my name is Yerri, Magistrate Yerri."

"Yes…yes. Sorry. Would you excuse me and the Colonel for a few minutes we need to discuss something in private?"

"Of Course. By all means."

Rodney jumped up from his seat and literally hauled the Colonel out of his chair and out into the adjacent hallway. The Colonel didn't even have time to excuse himself. "Do you know what that is?" Asked Rodney.

"I have a pretty good idea." Sheppard said casually leaning up against the wall.

"We have to have these nuts. Whatever they are called. As much as they will give us. Pay whatever price they want. We can't let this discovery go. We can't let it pass; we have to do something to get these nuts back to Atlantis. Do you think they would take another naquadah generator in trade?"

"Slow down Rodney. I'm sure we can negotiate for the Noibn nuts. Magistrate Yerri seems amiable about trading with us. I don't think we need to be trading our generators though."

"Yes…yes of course. But do you know how long we've waited to find a planet that grows coffee beans? Of course you do. What a silly question. I mean sure the color is wrong but the taste is oh so good. Better than that Bridgehead Coffee I love so much. Did you taste it? Did you actually taste it? My God you can't screw this up Sheppard. You have got to get Magistrate Yuppie in there to give us all he can spare. I won't take no for an answer. I'll volunteer to fix anything they got. I have to have those nuts. I…"

"Rodney I get it. Now you stay here. I'll send Ronon and Teyla out to stay with you."

"But my coffee is in there. Why can't I go back in there with you? You might need my help with Mr. Yippi with the negotiations."

"First off…the reason you're staying out here is that you cannot remember the Magistrates name. Secondly, you'd be willing to give up the location of Atlantis just for a bag of those nuts. Right now buddy you're a security risk. Evan and I will handle the trade negotiations. You stay out here. I'll have Teyla bring you your cup. Okay?"

"Fine…fine. But don't screw this up Sheppard. I can make your life miserable…just remember that."

"I will Rodney. I will. Now stay put."

Colonel Sheppard went back into the Magistrates chamber. Gave Teyla and Ronon the job to keep McKay under control in the outer hallway. While he and Evan continued negotiations. In the end, the Lantean's got fresh meat, fruits, nuts and vegetables. The Colonel offered medical knowledge in return as well as technical assistance. John didn't want to take advantage of their kindness. The shield had to be fixed in order to protect them from what he had planned so offering more in trade was the least he could do.

After a brief report from McKay who had been studying the Re'sal's shield device it was determined that more talks were required. If the Lantean's could negotiate for the Re'sal people to manufacture more shield devices they could be spread across the galaxy. Earth would have to provide the naquadah generators for each unit. It would be a start in the right direction until something better came along that would keep the Wraith from culling worlds. And it seemed the Re'sal people were open to discussion.

But best of all, the Lantean team came away with a lifetime trade agreement for Noibn nuts.

oOo

Activities around Atlantis fell back into the norm, or at least as normal as it got living in a ten thousand year old floating city. Two weeks had passed since the mission to P6R-114 and the Colonel kept up with his duties on Atlantis. Scheduling missions and sending teams off to find new allies and training new personnel when time allowed. He finally told Elizabeth that he was not going to change the team assignments. He explained that he reserved the right to go out with Lorne's team on occasion, when the mood struck. But over all, he would stay on Atlantis and deal with the day to day demands of his position as Head of Military. He had told the expedition several months back that he would not get a third chance if anything happened to his implant. His close call with death on 114 helped him make the right decision.

John was sure his decision was the right one this time. There was nothing like a close call with death to give you your wake-up call. John had plenty of time to soul search while he rested in his quarters for two days per Beckett's mandatory request. Carl had seen to it that he didn't work too hard. John watched the setting sun from the balcony off his suite and realized that most military men his age, at least the one's he knew of, never participated in missions. It was left up to the younger guys. Colonel's and General's ran the missions: they planned, they strategize, they used available resources, made contingencies, tracked success and failure, determined the right course of action. In the beginning he never wanted that type of career. He was an adrenaline junkie; higher, faster, get in and get out. He had always thought the people planning the missions had no idea what the 'real' world was like out there for the men and women fighting being tucked safely away from harm with their notepads and pencils. John had to be in the action. At least he thought he had. Now he was not so sure. Long after the Atlantean sun set and the purple sky darkened to midnight blue he had made his decision.

John instructed Col. Lorne to take down all signs and chains blocking the halls as well as reassigning the Station Guards to regular, more fulfilling duties. With his implant cloaked there would be no need to guard generator stations.

Carson thought it was a fantastic idea setting up a rehab facility and as CMO his first directive was to put Dr. Carl Epson in complete and total charge. So Carl and Lorne had scoped out possible rooms for the new rehabilitation center. The perfect room was found just down the hall from the training gym. The parallel bars were disassembled and moved; so was the safety harness that mounted to his wall. The weight machine remained in the training gym although there was plenty of space in the new rehab center. No one wanted to take it apart after all the trouble they went through putting it together in the first place. So the training gym became an exercise facility. Colonel Sheppard even talked Lt. Cadman into relocating her stationary bike for others to use. In the following days several jump ropes appeared, free weights, a thigh master, a large red rubber ball and several other health and fitness gear showed up. Since the new rehab facility had extra room Carl made a list of equipment he would eventually obtain from Earth: sanctioned or not. And what they couldn't get from Earth they would try to make on their own using local resources. Between Lt. Col. Lorne and Colonel Sheppard they procured another room that would be used as their new training facility for sparring and training of military staff.

The Atlantis PX was even a bigger hit. What one person received in a care package from home and didn't much care for ended up on a shelf at the PX for someone else who took interest. It was skeptical at first if it would work but the whole base seemed happy. Two weeks after opening officially they needed more space. Dr. Weir and Colonel Sheppard authorized the engineers to remove a section of wall and open up the space to the room next door. That room was turned into a library. Five shelves contained hard back and paperback book. Three other shelves held magazines. There was no Dewey Decimal System here. The books and magazines where checked out using a PC tablet. Someone even brought in furniture to sit on if they just wanted to read for a while and not actually check out a book. The PX had over fifty volunteers to help operate it and everyday the list grew longer. So they set up two hour shifts and planned a month at a time. Each time the Daedalus would drop in the PX ended up with more items for its shelves. Quartermasters on Earth continued to ship unwanted back-stock to them. The latest foul up was thirty cases of pantyhose. Colonel Sheppard vowed that next time he was on Earth he would have a nice little chat with Quartermaster Supply.

John kept up his PT with Carl and eating right. He didn't want to take any more chances of passing out unexpectedly. Sparring with Ronon and Teyla during his free time and running with Ronon most every morning was a pure joy. The two lifts in his quarters were removed and put into storage in his old room. There were just a few more minor details to get his quarters back to normal. The mirror above the vanity needed to be raised and the exam bed was moved to the new rehab center. John kept the gym mat and the pull-up bar for his own personal PT. Carl found another bar and it was installed in the rehab center in the following days.

John and Carl continued to share the suite as companionable room mates. John still allowed Carl to take his vitals whenever Carl deemed necessary. Team movie nights were the best. His friends…no that was not right, his family gathered in his quarters sharing popcorn and other snacks while watching the latest movie on the big screen TV.

Rose Highland collected on her two I.O.U.'s. No matter how much his team tried to worm out of him what it was he had to do, he remained silent. He was an officer of the United States Military, trained to resist interrogation. McKay had hacked his personnel records trying to discover what languages he spoke but came away empty handed.

The sleek black wheelchair John had used for over two years sat in a place of honor. He had positioned it to the left of his bedroom door so that everyday when he left his quarters he was reminded not to take the day for granted. Live each day to the fullest but do it safely. The special leather gloves lay tossed on the seat. Not a day went by that John didn't take the time to thank those who helped him.

Yes, everything was as it should be on Atlantis in the Pegasus Galaxy today.

The End.

A/N: I just want to say a huge THANK-YOU to all who read and who commented not just on this story but on my other three as well. Using FanFiction's 'Reader Traffic' option I was amazed at the world wide readership. In no particular order my heartfelt appreciation goes to my readers in the: UK, Germany, Canada, France, Australia, Ireland, Philippines, South Korea, Hungary, Malaysia, China, Austria, Brunei, Sweden, Netherlands, Monaco, Norway, Indonesia, Europe, Finland, South Africa, Belgium, New Zealand, Singapore, Poland, Taiwan, Italy, Denmark, Spain, Bulgaria, Brazil, Guam, Kuwait, Mexico, Romania, Russia, Slovakia and of course the USA. Reading your comments, your assumptions, your suggestions over the last 13 chapters have been amazing and fun and exciting all at the same time. This was the first time I posted a story in chapters and have to tell you that it was difficult. I wanted to give you more of my story with each and every review I received. It was very difficult to refrain.

I am working on a John/Elizabeth story to finally wrap up this arc. It will be more of a Romance story I think, but there will still be some minor Shep-whump. What would a story be without John getting hurt…just a little anyway. Don't know when that story will be ready as I won't even think of publishing it until it is completed. There are too many wonderful stories out there that were WIP's; started and never finished. I just can't see doing that to my readers. It's in the draft and research stage right now. 'New Beginnings' is the title I've chosen for it. I think that says a lot.

Again, Thanks to all. Until next time.

Karen