Sheppard can't even have a birthday without getting into trouble. Set just after the 'Daedalus Variations.' Shep whump, with team and of course, Carson.

For my friend Sherry57 – happy birthday!

Warnings:- Violence and a little bad language.

Disclaimer:- Not mine. If it was I'd be living in Malibu.

Thanks to the wonderful Sterenyk Strey for being my beta on this fic. Of course, all mistakes are mine.


Chapter 1

They got lucky.

Just one more minute and they would have gone, vanished, jumped into another dimension to eventually die in that blasted ship, never to be seen or heard of again. Except they'd gotten out in one piece…more or less.

His body still aching, back and blue after their encounter with the terminator, and of course Rodney still in the infirmary, though thankfully not seriously hurt.

Just another Pegasus fuck up, and his too, John realised. It was his bright idea to investigate the abandoned ship, and the one time he let McKay take point…the guy got hurt. Rodney hadn't mentioned it, but Teyla, who always seemed to know what he was thinking, had told him it wasn't his fault. McKay was the only one who knew how to open the door after all, so it had just been bad luck, pure and simple. But he should have expected that, because bad luck had been his best bud for some time now, especially since coming to the Pegasus Galaxy.

To crown it all, it was his birthday…forty, and by the looks of things no one had remembered. Not one gift or card, not even an email wishing him happy returns. Still, John supposed he had only himself to blame, as he didnt tell anyone, wanting the day to pass without a fuss, reluctant to share the fact he was now middle aged and past his prime.

Where the hell had the time gone? It seemed only yesterday, he'd been a cocky young cadet who thought he knew everything and was going to set the world to rights. The next, a faded version of the man he once was. Wrinkles where laughter lines used to be, sideburns streaked with grey and a body lined with scars. Two major surgeries in the last few months alone, not to mention a whole set of new bruises from his latest adventure…was he was getting too old for this kind of life?

Anyway, if no one else was going to bother, John decided he'd give himself a gift, take the day off. He'd snag a jumper, fly to the mainland and catch a few waves on the north shore. It wasn't Hawaii or even Malibu, but on a good day the surf produced a sweet ride. Then later, when the sun went down he would lie on the beach watching the stars, while chilling out with a few beers. First through he wanted to visit Rodney, just to make sure his buddy really was okay.


"Teyla, is everything organised with cook?"

"Of course, Rodney," Teyla replied in an exasperated tone, raising an eyebrow for good measure. "I spoke to Martha this morning and she has prepared a vast quantity of pizza, pepperoni…John's favourite. Along with sandwiches, chips and dip and of course a cake in the shape of a jumper."

"Cool." Rodney smiled, rubbing his hands in abject glee, knowing John would get a kick out of that. He then turned to his other team mate. "What about the decorations, Ronon? Did you get someone to give you a hand?

"Stop worrying, McKay…everything's good," Ronon replied in a sardonic fashion, sharing a conspiratorial smile with Teyla.

Rodney noticed the big guy hadn't given him any specifics. So, too preoccupied about what he'd done, or not, didn't hear Ronon speaking to him. "I said, McKay, we're all set, what about your end?"

Rodney roused himself from his fugue, and seeing Keller walk past, made a point of raising his voice so the pretty doctor could hear, and hopefully get the hint. "Once I get out of here, that's not going to be a problem…"

"What problem, McKay? I thought Keller said you were going to be okay?" Much to his surprise, Sheppard appeared out of nowhere looking worried…Damn. Rodney figured John really didn't have a stealth mode, but sometimes wondered. He just hoped his friend hadn't heard anything else.

"You mean apart from nearly losing an arm?" Rodney flinched. "But don't worry, Sheppard, I'll recover…eventually. Of course, I won't be able to help Sherry today, and you know how I really hate to break a promise…"Rodney gave a deep sigh and slumped his shoulders to give his dejected demeanour an extra effect.

Sheppard rolled his eyes. "Fine, what is it this Sherry needs help with, and I'll do it."

Rodney smiled, happy John had taken the bait. "You will? Great! She's my new assistant and I promised to find her find a suitable lab."

"Can't she take the empty one next to yours?" John asked, looking puzzled.

He was prepared for the question, so answered easily, "No, 'fraid not. Sherry works with some really toxic substances, and they need special protocols put in place, so the further away the lab is from the occupied areas of the base, the better."

John shrugged, "Okay, fair enough, I'll just get myself some coffee then head out."

"No!" Rodney shouted at the retreating figure without thinking, then realised that he'd nearly given the game away, as John stopped to give him a suspicious look. "Sorry, Sheppard, what I meant to say is it's really pretty urgent, as I don't want those materials in my lab any longer than I have to, so if you don't mind?"

"Right…no coffee it is, but I'll see you guys later?" Although Rodney was relieved Sheppard hadn't seen through his deception, he still felt guilty when John's face fell as everyone nodded absently, because the poor guy looked really hurt.

After watching him leave the ward, satisfied his friend was finally out of earshot, he smiled at his teammates. "Okay… that's phase three complete, now its time to finalise project 'Surprise Sheppard."


His feet hurt and his back hurt, but it was his ego that was hurting most of all. It was his birthday and instead of enjoying the company of friends, hell even his own company while he chilled out, here he was walking for freaking miles searching the furthermost corners of Atlantis for one specific lab.

Sherry turned out to be a very nice lady, pretty actually, with long brown hair and sparkling eyes. Someone he would like to know better once he had time. However she had been very specific about where the lab was supposed to be, which was a real pain in the ass, as John had been searching for over two hours now and wasn't even close to finding where the damn room was supposed to be.

It was freezing this far from the main complex, something he'd forgotten, and not for the first time that morning, wished he'd worn his jacket or even his vest, as he sat shivering on the cold floor scarfing down the last of his power bar. Thoughts of temporarily abandoning the search, in favour of a hot meal, nearly tipping the balance over his guilt about McKay as he contemplated where to go next.

Just as he scrambled to his feet, John saw a shaft of light glinting off the discarded silver wrapper, and squinted, trying to get a better look to see where it had come from. The bright light out of place in this part of the city, as the corridors were gloomy in the unoccupied areas, with only emergency lighting available, especially dark with his flashlight switched off to preserve power.

Quietly, John slid his sidearm out its holster, wishing it was his P90 instead. He knew it was probably nothing, as he began slowly edging along the wall, but this was Pegasus after all where the unexpected was the norm, so it never hurt to be too careful.

Straight ahead he saw the flickering light grow brighter, streaming from an adjacent door, breaking his cover as the corridor was illuminated with light. Beads of sweat replacing the chill of only moments before, his fight or flight response immediately alert to the danger, as blood roared through his ears, and his heart thudded against his chest.

John held his breath knowing whatever, whoever was just around the corner, and would soon be revealed as he swung into a crouched position just inside the room. Then he saw it, the unidentified intruder…a shaft of sunlight striking a discarded flashlight lying on the floor. He smiled with relief as he bent down to retrieve it, relaxing, as the tension left his body, just before a sharp pain exploded at the back of his skull and the world went black.


"Radek. What the hell?" Rodney ranted, upon coming into the control centre and finding one of the consoles dismantled, bits and pieces of Ancient tech scattered everywhere. "Seriously, what is with you? I leave you in charge for two days…scratch that… ONE day and a night, and this happens!"

After a tirade in Czech, most likely full of expletives, Radek turned round to stare at him, looking pissed. "Don't blame me, Rodney, some moron left a coffee cup on top on the console…then this."

Rodney felt his face going scarlet, as he remembered being called away from this very spot while enjoying some fine Colombian roast. "Err… never mind, accidents happen. Anyway, what's the damage?"

"Well…the long range sensors went down shortly after we located your position, but after a few anxious hours we managed to get them back on line, however the internal sensors still aren't working," Radek answered distractedly, as he lifted a piece of dripping circuitry to show him, "It could be a couple of days, maybe more, before we have them fully functioning again."

"Crap. I don't suppose you know where colonel Sheppard was before this happened?"

Radek looked puzzled. "No. Is there any reason why I should? Has there been a security breach or something?" He asked.


"Of course!" Radek interrupted with a smirk. "Sherry told me all about it. The wild goose chase, to get him out of the way. Very ingenious, Rodney, very good indeed, but as to your question, I have no clue where he is. I haven't seen the colonel since this morning."

After checking his watch, Rodney winced, as he'd jostled his bad arm in the process. "Never mind, knowing Sheppard he's probably on his way back right now. I just though he would have been on the radio by now, complaining in that squeaky voice he gets when he's either excited or really, really pissed."

"What did you get him for his birthday anyway?" Radek asked, curious.

Rodney thought of the gift and a slow smile grew as he wagged his finger. "It's a surprise, Radek. You'll just have to wait and see like everyone else."


Nausea washed through him as he gradually regained consciousness. He was frozen from lying against the hard cold floor, his head pounding in time with the beat of his heart, as slowly his blurred vision revealed the attacker standing above him. "You!"

Without warning, large hands as big as shovels grabbed him, threw him against the wall, then held him in place as two angry red eyes bored into his. "You will pay for destroying my ship, human!"

As John tried to focus on the mystery alien from the Daedalus, he recognised the familiar feel of warm, sticky blood trickle down his neck, and realised that alone and injured, in a remote part of the city, he was well and truly screwed.

Still, he had to do something to stop this man, robot or whatever the hell it was, or at least give the others some warning. So here went nothing. "Hi, buddy…I think we may have got off on the wrong foot yesterday. My names, John. John Sheppard, what's yours?"

"My designation is irrelevant. You destroyed my ship and my brothers, so now I will kill you…then seek and destroy the rest of your people."

John flinched as Arnie slammed his already abused head against the wall, and seeing stars, took a slow, ragged breath to stop from passing out.

"Well, to be accurate," he panted, "it wasn't actually me who did that…Gah!" his body buckled in pain, throbbing as an iron fist tore into his gut, and would have fallen into a quivering heap if not for the vice like grip continuing to hold his neck still in place.

"Wha…wait." He pleaded, desperately playing for time as in agony, choking, he gasped for air. John didn't care about his own life, but knew he needed to string the alien along for as long as possible, so he could come up with a plan. "Look fella, I'm alone down here. Everyone else evacuated the city over a month ago when the Wraith attacked."

John coughed, as he struggled to breathe, and winced at the familiar sharp pain spiking through his chest. Damn, at least one cracked rib for sure. Still, he'd started his sorry tale, and although the story was pretty lame, at least the guy hadn't hit him again. So, hoping for the best, he continued. "Anyway, I'm guessing you escaped in a pod like I did, so you must have seen my ship disappear…weird, huh? Anyway, I was the only one, apart from you that is, to get out alive."

He still didn't know if Arnie had bought it, but the grip had loosened slightly, so without any real choice in the matter, decided to keep talking. "Hey, I get that you're pissed, but why don't you let me help you get out of here…get back to your people. What do you say?"

There was silence for a moment as the red eyes seemed to be mulling it over, then John got his answer as he was hauled up by the neck, then sent flying across the room…



Hope you enjoyed the chapter, and as always please review, because I really like to know what you guys think.