Summary:- A peaceful mission turns into a fight for survival for Sheppard, because of the most unlikely reason.
Warnings:- Violence, and a little mild bad language.
Disclaimer:- SGA still isn't mine - unfortunately.
A/N. The idea for this story came from a reader way back last year - sorry it took so long to reach the light of day. And many thanks to Sterenyk Strey for a fabulous and speedy beta as usual. Also I would like to dedicate this story to flyboyfan23. Have a very happy birthday when it comes!
Ronon was grinning, but this time John couldn't share the joke.
In a way he couldn't blame the big guy's amusement and if the situation was reversed, he'd probably react the same way. But it wasn't funny, at least not to him. Even if it was only a sprain, his foot still hurt, and hobbling down to the infirmary really wasn't the way he'd planned to start his day.
"Morning, Colonel, Ronon. So, what do we have today…another training accident?" Carson got up from his desk, and moved over to take John's other arm when he saw them come into the room.
John knew the Scot was only doing his job, but he felt pissed and couldn't keep the belligerent tone out of his voice. "No."
Carson drew him a look. "Well, it doesn't take a genius like Rodney to see you're limping, Colonel, so would you like to tell me what happened?"
John could have wiped the smirk off the Satedan's face - if he could've stood up straight. His agony didn't end there as Ronon chose that moment to be more talkative than usual.
"Over his own feet." Ronon continued, and his smile grew wider. "Should've seen it, doc, it was funny. We've just finished our workout and I was helping him off his ass, when he tripped and fell flat on his face."
John glared at him. "Thanks for that, buddy, but Carson's got this covered now so you don't need to hang around." When Ronon didn't move, John gave him a sideways glare. "Don't you have something better to do?"
"Nope." Ronon just stood there grinning with his arms folded, rooted to the spot.
He could see the big guy share a look with Carson, and the Scot's lips were twitching – damn it. John considered himself to have a good sense of humour but he'd had more than enough of being the butt of the joke. Sore ankle or not, John edged forward on the bed getting set to leave, when Carson finally cut him a break.
"Thanks for your help, Ronon, but I need to run some scans and that's going to take a while." Carson told the Satedan. "In any case I'm sure Mr Woolsey will want to know why the colonel won't be able to attend the briefing this morning."
John groaned. He'd forgotten about that. For a second he considered asking Ronon to keep quiet about how he'd got hurt, but figured that was pretty much a lost cause. Neither secrets nor subtlety were Ronon's forte, besides it would only be a matter of time before the whole base knew, so John reckoned it was better to get the humiliation over sooner, rather than later.
"Ow!" The yelp slipped out before he could stop it. John felt like a wuss, and could feel himself tense up when suddenly Carson stopped loosening his boot and raised his chin to look at him. It was the kind of look John hated. It was the look that told him he might not been leaving here anytime soon.
"So…what's the verdict, doc? It's just a sprain – right?" John pinned a smile on his face, keeping his tone light, but he could tell Carson wasn't buying it.
"I'll know better once I get you under the scanner. In the meantime I'll give you a little something to take the edge off before I try that boot again."
"I'll be fine without the drugs,"John persisted, "you just caught me unawares that all."
Carson went over to the cabinet, and less than a minute later came back with a loaded syringe which he deftly slid into John's arm. "I'm aware you have a high tolerance for pain, Colonel, but I'm a doctor not a barbarian, so humour me will you?"
He hated the goofy way drugs made him feel, but John bit back the retort, knowing protesting would get him nowhere. In the infirmary Carson was the head honcho, so John had no choice but to suck it up until the doc was finished with him. Within minutes, the all too familiar lethargic feeling started seeping into his body, and his brain started becoming woozy.
"Cr…ap!" Even doped up, John couldn't suppress the expletive. He knew Carson was being as gentle as he could, but it hurt like hell. By the time the doc was finished removing the boot he was shaking, lying in a pool of sweat. John was embarrassed when his hand trembled as he raked it through his hair. When he looked up, he saw Carson watching him.
Carson started gently manipulating the ankle, and John's knuckles went white as his fists gripped onto the sheet.
"It looks like a fracture I'm afraid, Colonel." Carson told him as he peeled off his latex gloves. The doc wasn't smiling now. "I'll get Marie to help you into scrubs then we'll get those scans done."
"How bad is it, Carson? What kind of downtime are we talking about?" John asked, not hopeful by the guarded expression on his friend's face.
Carson hesitated for a moment. "Best case scenario, six to eight weeks off active duty, but realistically, it depends on the break. If it's not too bad, we may be able to avoid surgery and I'll fit you with a walking cast, – you won't even need to stay overnight." The Scot raised his eyebrow and paused before he continued. "However if we do catch a break – sorry for the pun, Colonel, it doesn't mean I want you on your feet all day – understand?"
"Seriously? That's good news…well better than I expected anyway." John mumbled. He wasn't thrilled at the thought of being restricted to light duty, but it beat the hell out of being confined in the infirmary. All in all things could have been worse, so the tension gradually started to melt away, and as the drugs were making him a little sleepy, John let his head fall back against the pillow.
Carson patted him on the shoulder. "That's the ticket, Colonel, just relax and we'll have you sorted out in a jiffy."
Carson had told him he'd got lucky, but after two and a half weeks of hobbling around Atlantis, John was bored as hell.
He felt like a caged animal, struggling to stifle his frustration as he watched with envy all the crews going through the 'gate, before lumbering to his office to do yet more paperwork. It wasn't his favourite job at the best of times, and with little else he could do, John was heartily sick of it. He was well aware by now he should have been bang up to date, but it was so mind-numbingly tedious that by the time he shuffled the papers around for a while, checked some emails then finally resorted to doing some work, the pile barely went down. John was pretty sure the damn thing was a sentient being…and breeding.
Later, if he wasn't called to a meeting, he'd visit Rodney in his lab – at least he'd used to until Carson caught him stumbling down to the science block two days in a row. John had tried to placate him, convince him it wasn't that far, he'd even used his best puppy dog expression, but the doc wasn't wearing any of it. Carson had rounded on him. He'd told John in no uncertain terms if he abused the walking cast and kept roaming around the base like a man possessed, he would confine his sorry ass to the infirmary for the rest of the duration. At least that was his version of events. The Scot had used words like eejit and scunner. John had understood the gist of the conversation, but he wasn't going to ask what they meant until Carson was in a better mood.
With at least another four weeks of light duty ahead of him, Teyla and Ronon had been assigned to other teams for the duration. The guys would stop by when they could, but as John wasn't an invalid it was just a snatched lunch or dinner, or maybe a movie if they had the time. John missed them, and it sucked being laid up, especially as his ankle didn't hurt much, although the itch was really starting to piss him off.
Fed up, he pushed back from the desk, and swivelled his chair to look out the window. The sun was shining, and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. It was perfect flying weather and he was desperate to snag a jumper and get out into the blue. He was going stir crazy, and was pretty sure if he didn't get a break from the monotony soon, he would hit something …John watched his mug smash into a million tiny pieces; shards of pottery mixed with cold coffee sliding down the wall. He groaned, and put his head in his hands. The burst of anger surprised him, and John couldn't believe what he'd just done. He lumbered to his feet to clear up the mess.
"Are you alright, Colonel?" Lorne was standing at the doorway watching him with a look of concern. He immediately came over and began to pick up the pieces.
John went scarlet. He wasn't proud of losing it, and felt even worse having a witness to the event. "I'm fine – and leave that. It's my mess, I'll clear it up."
Lorne stopped and looked up, but didn't move from his position kneeling on the floor. "With all due respect, Sir, you don't look fine, and I'm sure Doctor Beckett wouldn't want you kneeling on that cast."
John rubbed his forehead, feeling the tension headache that had started that morning work its way down to his neck. He slumped back down on the chair. "Yeah…I suppose. Look, I'm sorry for barking at you, Major, I'm just…"
"Going stir crazy?" Lorne interrupted with a wry smile. "Can't say I blame you, Sir. When I broke my leg in Michael's warehouse, I go so fed up with being stuck in base I thought I was going to hit someone."
"Really?" John coughed, and the two men locked eyes and laughed. "Anyway, Major, apart from sparing me Doctor Beckett's wrath, what else did you come here for?"
Lorne put the last piece of debris in the bin then scrambled to his feet. "Actually, Colonel, it's concerning our latest allies the Mondolans."
John face clouded over. "What's the problem? I thought they were a peaceful people, and were happy with the deal on the table?"
"They are, in fact they're so happy with the help they've already received, their chief elder would like to hold a banquet in your honour." Lorne told him with a twinkle in his eye.
A slow smile grew on John's face. "Would they now?"
"In fact I've already spoken to Mr Woolsey about it." Lorne told him. "He seems to think it's a good idea."
"So…when they be looking for this visit?" John asked, hoping his optimism wasn't misplaced.
Lorne tried to suppress a grin. "At the end of their harvest…in just under two weeks. They want a joint celebration before the rains come, after that the villagers seek shelter for the next couple of months."
"Well…I would really hate to disappoint these folks." John winked. "And it isn't really a mission – is it?"
"I don't think so, Sir." Lorne agreed. "It's more of a social event – promoting Atlantis."
The smile fell from John's face, when he realised one potential stumbling block... "Let's just hope Beckett sees it the same way…"
Carson stared at the small group comprising of Teyla, Ronon, Rodney and Lorne who were surrounding Sheppard. The man himself was sitting back against the examination table looking the picture of innocence, but Carson knew an ambush when he saw it. "How far away is the 'gate?"
Lorne who was standing just off the side from Sheppard's team, answered. "It's no more than five miles, but if the Colonel's coming with us I'll take a jumper. There's a discreet landing area no more than a hundred yards away."
"I could manage that easily, Carson." John interrupted, but Carson ignored him.
"I could carry him if you want." Ronon grunted, and Carson had to quickly suppress a smirk at the look of horror that appeared on John's face.
He'd already had a visit from Mr Woolsey that morning and had been persuaded – albeit reluctantly – to allow John to go on this mission, but Carson didn't like being played, and was determined to make Sheppard sweat for a bit.
"And what exactly is so important that you or Mr Woolsey can't go in the colonel's place?" Carson persisted, putting Lorne on the spot. To his credit the major didn't finch under the interrogation.
Lorne walked forward expressionless, and folded his arms. "Technically it isn't a mission, Doctor Beckett, it's a social event, a banquet to celebrate the new alliance." He explained. "Mr Woolsey could have gone…of course, but he's waiting to be called to a meeting of the IOA. In any case the chief elder, Craemal, wants to meet the military leader who's responsible for the protection of his people."
The man was good, Carson had to admit, but then he didn't expect anything less of Sheppard's XO. Still he wasn't finished just yet. He started to shake his head. "I'm really not happy about this…"Carson paused for effect then turned to stare at Sheppard under hooded eyes. "I'll tell you what, Colonel. If I'm happy with the result of the scans and provided you follow all of the conditions I set down, then you can go…"
"Really? That's great!" John beamed, but his smile froze when Carson interrupted.
"You use crutches at all times, and I want you back immediately the banquet is finished."
"I'm not finished, Colonel. "Carson interrupted John again. He admitted to himself he was enjoying watching John squirm. "As soon as you return to base, you come straight to the infirmary for a full battery of tests to make sure no harm's been done."
"Anything else? John asked, using a sardonic tone.
The two men just stared at each other for a second, before Carson smiled. "I tell you what, Colonel, I could use a break from routine myself …I think I might just come with you."
Ronon was more astute than anyone gave him credit for as he smiled and shook his head before slowly walking away.
"Having my own doctor on standby – I'm honoured." John smirked, then his smile became genuine. "It'll be nice having you with us, Carson."
At the heartfelt reply, Carson felt a little guilty at winding up his friend and he was about to recant when he realised a change of scene was probably just what he needed.
Teyla came over and smiled. "Thank you, Carson, for allowing this. I'll see you tomorrow."
"Let me guess." Rodney came over and whispered in his ear. "Woolsey had already been to see you, hadn't he?"
"I'm sure I don't have a clue what you're talking about, Rodney." Carson replied, expressionless.
"Oh, yeah?" Rodney persisted with an edge to his voice. "You can't kid a genius like me…besides there was no way you were going to let him go otherwise." The scientist then lowered his voice further. "For one I'm glad he's getting out of the base for a while. He's been turning up at the lab, bugging the hell out of me every day since he's been grounded."
"Well I'm not saying I had already decided to let him go mind…but if you want to thank me properly, Rodney, you can buy me single malt in the mess this evening."
It had been an awesome day.
The sun had shone from the moment they'd flown into the cloudless, blue skies, and when they'd set down on Mondolan it felt comfortably warm. The town itself was picturesque, it's quaint pastel, painted cottages covered with flowers, set against a backdrop of an impressive mountain range. To the other side, lay a small covered market nestled just off from the shingled harbour, where fishermen were preparing their boats for the coming rains.
Most of all, John was glad to be surrounded by his team again. He loved Atlantis, but back on base everyone was so busy doing their own thing, the time he spent with Rodney, Teyla and Ronon was snatched at best. Out here, it was like old times and he hadn't even minded using crutches on the short walk from the jumper. Even Carson had lightened up at the sight of one of Pegasus's prettiest towns, and had taken the crutches off him, allowing him to meet the chief elder without looking like an invalid.
The people were friendly, and John quickly had to hide his embarrassment at the enthusiastic reception he received. It was almost as if he was a conquering hero, except so far he'd done nothing except turn up and take advantage of their generous hospitality. Now with the sun starting to set, John felt tired and his ankle ached. It had been a long day, but a good one, in fact the best he'd enjoyed in quite a while. Still it was getting a little stuffy, so he excused himself from the table to catch a breath of fresh air.
As he walked out John didn't see the tent peg and tripped - into the arms of a woman.
"Are you alright, Colonel Sheppard?" The woman, who caught him before he fell, gave him a look which made the colour flood into his cheeks. He nodded his thanks but instead of letting go, she moved in closer. So close, he saw the rise and fall of her breasts.
Tall, with long brown curly hair, she was attractive, but not really his type. Besides, the ring on her finger told him she was already taken. He backed away until she had no choice but to let go of his arms. "I'm fine, thank you. I appreciate the assist."
He smiled, and was about to walk away when she got into step beside him. "If there's anything you want, Colonel, anything I can do - my name is Ellanda."
John just wanted to be left alone for a few minutes, but he kept the smile on his face. "That's very kind of you, but I'm waiting for one of my team." His mom had frowned on lying, but John reckoned she would rather her son told a white lie, to avoid the advances of an amorous married woman.
"I thought you might have come out for some air?" Ellanda slowly undone the top button of her already low lace top, and started fanning her exposed cleavage with her other hand.
"Me? No…I like the heat." John lied, again. At this rate his mom would be turning in her grave. He made to move away, when she came up and wiped away a bead of sweat trickling down his face.
Ellanda rubbed it between her fingers and looked up smiling. "You look hot to me…very hot. In fact I think we should go somewhere where we can make ourselves more...comfortable."
"Colonel, Sheppard, can I have a word?" Carson came out the tent, and made his way towards them.
"Sure, Carson, what's up?" John smiled at his friend, relieved at the interruption. Ellanda glared at the doctor, hesitating for only a moment longer before she wandered off. Now they were alone, John saw Carson was wearing a worried expression that told him something was wrong.
"There's been a fire on one of the farms." Carson told him. "Several of the workers have been hurt. "It's quite a bit away – about fifteen miles, so Major Lorne has offered to take me out there to see what I can do to help."
John nodded. "That's fine. I'll grab the others and we'll walk back to the 'gate. We'll see you back at Atlantis later."
Carson raised an eyebrow and he slowly shook his head. "Err…no, I don't think so, Colonel – not with that ankle."
"It's not that far. What is it - three miles, five tops?" John asked, but the firm set of Carson's jaw was giving him an answer he didn't like. "C'mon…I'll even use the damn crutches if you want."
"No…The ground is too uneven, and I don't want to risk you falling and making an even bigger mess of your ankle." Carson stood with his arms folded, with the no-nonsense expression John knew only too well.
John tried, but failed to keep the irritation out of his voice. "Okay then…what do you suggest?"
"I'm sure Elder Craemal would find his new saviour somewhere to spend the night. Hopefully, we won't take too long, and Lorne and I will pick you up in the morning."
"Didn't realise you were a comedian, Carson, but fine – go and do your thing." John snarked back. "I'm sure we'll manage just fine until you get back."
Carson's mouth twisted, and John could see him wrestling with his decision. He was still pissed at being treated like a cripple, but realised Carson was only concerned about his welfare.
Before the Scot had a chance to speak John put up his hand. "I'm only kidding, Carson." He said forcing a smile on his face. "I'll go and have a word with the Elder right now. So go, leave and see what you can do for those people, we'll be right here when you get back – promise."
"If you're sure…" Carson started to say.
"I am," John interrupted, and put a hand on the Scot's shoulder.
Carson smiled and nodded to Lorne who was waiting. "Take care, Colonel, and please…try to stop Rodney from drinking any more of that bloody mojay juice." He said with a long sigh. "The silly bugger doesn't realise how potent it is."
John nodded, and stayed watching until Carson and Lorne were out of sight. Suddenly he found himself alone, and despite not being thrilled at the enforced stay, at least the persistent woman was now nowhere to be seen.
The scarlet hue of the setting sun was casting a reflection on the still, dark water, but although the view was pretty the cool mist made him shiver, so John reluctantly made his way inside. First on the agenda, to ask for some extended hospitality. He only hoped Elder Craemal wouldn't mind entertaining his guests overnight.
"Tell me again – why does Sheppard get the bed?" Rodney stood, his pillow and blanket in hand staring at John who was perched on the side of the rough wooden bunk.
John chewed his lip, and the flush grew on his face as he started to get up. In response Teyla stared at the pilot, making him sit back down again before she turned to face Rodney. "John has a broken ankle, Rodney, surely that is reason enough." Teyla pointed out, her cultured voice more clipped than usual.
Ronon was already settled lying down on his makeshift bed with his hands clasped behind his head, grinning, as Rodney continued his rant.
"What about my back?" Rodney pushed one hand into the small of his back and stretched, groaning, emphasising his point. "Anyway, it's only his ankle that's broken, and he's wearing a cast – so he can hardly do any more damage, can he?"
"He's right, Teyla…" John said as he started to haul himself up again.
"Stay where you are, John." Teyla put out a hand, and John slumped back down again.
"Rodney…I know you are not normally this selfish." Teyla persisted; ignoring Ronon as he smirked and threw a look at Sheppard. "You are under the influence of too much mojay juice."
"So…what are you? My mother now?" Rodney slurred, and staggered slightly. He stared at the Athosian with glazed eyes. "I don't know what you're talking about anyhow. That chieffy guy…Cram…Cramer…Cramlley – whatever, told me it was a local tonic."
Now Ronon laughed, but he was on his feet in a flash when Rodney started to stumble.
"I've got you, McKay." Ronon told his team mate as he put Rodney's arm around his shoulders. "Think you've had too much tonic."
John hauled himself to his feet. He was tired sure, and his ankle ached, but a night on the floor wouldn't hurt – besides McKay's need was much greater than his.
"Decision made – Rodney gets the bed." John smiled wistfully at Teyla. "Thanks, Teyla, but honestly…I'm good." He gave his drunken friend a sideways glance. "With his back, not to mention the headache he's going to have in the morning…and the fact we'll never hear the end of it - I think Rodney's need is greater than mine."
Teyla still looked anxious. "Carson said…"
John interrupted. "Carson doesn't need to know – does he?" He whispered so as not to wake the already snoring scientist. "Anyway, like I said before, it's only for one night."
Teyla's expression was torn, but she nodded and took John's pillow and blanket and put it on the floor. "At least let me make up your bed. I'll go and ask for an extra pillow for your ankle."
John was going to object, but from her determined expression he reckoned it was a lost cause. "Thanks. While you're at it, seeing as we're spending the night, could you ask if he has any more of that juice?"
A few hours later John heard, rather than saw that the rains had arrived. Sleep had come quickly, but the dull ache from his ankle had awoken him early on. Now, with the fierce wind and heavy downpour battering on the tiled roof, there was little chance he would catch more Z's tonight.
For a big guy, Ronon made little noise as he slept. John reckoned it was down to self preservation, an instinctive reaction gained during all those years he'd spent running. Ronon was probably unaware of it, but John knew that some responses, even the subconscious ones, were automatic, especially when the Wraith were on your tail.
A roar of thunder seemed to rip open the heaven's as a flash of lightning illuminated the room, and John got up on his elbows to see if the noise had roused any of his team mates.
Rodney was lying just a few feet away curled on his side. The scientist had his back to him, but the low snore and following whistle told him his friend was still asleep. Teyla, on the other side of the room was also motionless, her beautiful features composed in sleep. Uncomfortable, and with no-one to distract him with some conversation, John slowly scrambled awkwardly to his feet.
As quietly as he could John made his way to the window, and gazed out into the wild night. A discarded metal bucket was caught by the wind and rattled down the cobbled street making a clattering sound as it went and the fishing boats docked in the harbour bobbed about as if they were no more than corks at the end of a line. John hoped that wherever Carson and Lorne were they were safe, but he couldn't help feel exhilarated at the power of nature. Ever since he was a kid, he'd always loved watching the thunder and lighting. Instead of being frightened, the extremes of nature fascinated him.
Despite the storm, or maybe because of it, the small room felt oppressively warm, and John longed for some fresh air. He checked to make sure everyone was asleep, before he slowly made his way down the narrow passageway of the Elder's cottage.
There was no-one about, the occupants having retired hours before, and John flinched as the hinges creaked as he opened the stout wooden door. He waited for a moment to see if anyone had stirred, but when no-one appeared he pulled it open wide and just stood, enjoying the stiff breeze as it ruffled his hair. The relief was immediate as he immediately felt cooler, but as he was already getting damp from the spray whipped up by the wind, John opted to stand back, just a little, to prevent from getting too wet.
It was still dark outside, and at first John thought he was the only person about when he saw a vague outline in the bushes. These were a peaceful people and there was no reason to suspect a threat, but experience had taught him appearances could be deceptive, so his hand instinctively went for his gun - only to find his holster empty. John cursed under his breath, angry for being so careless remembering, too late, that he'd put it under his pillow in order not to jar his leg while he slept.
His pulse raced as he peered into the night, all too aware that unarmed and with a bum ankle he wasn't in the best position to take on an assailant – then he saw the culprit. A black puppy with a white patch over one eye was shivering, as it sat drenched cowering under the bush. John sighed with relief and smiled. For a brief moment he wondered how the Chief Elder felt about pets, but when the pathetic looking creature started crying, John didn't give it another thought, and walked out into the driving rain to make the rescue.
He was swaying, struggling to stand his ground as the wind buffeted his body, but on the second attempt he grabbed the squirming creature by the scruff of the neck.
"You're a cute little guy." John spoke in a low soothing tone to the quivering animal as he scrunched the top of its matted fur. He grinned, when he realised his own hair wouldn't look too great, as he was already soaked despite only being out in the rain for a matter of minutes. "What's say we get inside – huh?"
Another flash of lighting made his head snap skywards, but this time the only crack John heard was the one against his skull, as pain exploded through his head, and he fell boneless to the ground.
I hope you enjoyed the chapter, and please review.