Sheppard goes wandering about Atlantis and finds something interesting. Of course John can't go anywhere without getting into trouble…Shep whump! Set in Season 5 with all the usual players, but as usual Carson is my main doc.

Disclaimer: SGA isn't mine. If it was it would never have been cancelled.

Warnings: None really. Just a few cuss words.

This is dedicated to the Queen of Whump – shepsgirl 72. I hope you have a fantastic birthday hon, and I want to say a huge thanks for all the help and support you've given me over the years, especially when I first started out. If I become half the writer you are, I'll consider myself lucky!

And many thanks to my good pal and fellow whumper Sterenyk Strey for doing the beta. She also gave me the title when my brain froze - you're a star pet! Any mistakes are mine.

In The Nick Of Time.

The niggling headache started before he went to bed. John shrugged it off. Put it down to too much coffee and too little time to finish the staff evaluations. A restless night followed. When he awoke with the covers tangled around his legs, the gritty throat and stuffy nose told him what he didn't want to hear. He was sick.

For a few moments he just lay there, but no amount of positive thinking could hide the fact he felt lousy. His head was pounding, his chest felt tight, and his blocked sinuses were so sore it felt like Ronon had punched him in the face.

Sluggish, he kicked away his loose restraints and hauled himself out of bed. The room started spinning before his feet even hit the floor. John dragged a hand through his hair and winced. Great. Even his scalp hurt. It was only six in the morning and already he was exhausted. This was going to be a very long day…

Once the dizziness passed, John dragged off his tee and boxers then shuffled into the shower. Normally the hot stinging spray was enough to shake off the last of the cobwebs. Today he just shivered under the warm water, only staying long enough to wash the sweat covering his body.

It was only a cold, probably the same virus that had floored most of the base. The infirmary was already full to bursting so he decided to give Carson a break. He wasn't that hungry, but figured he should make an appearance in the mess hall for breakfast. Afterwards, he would use the unfinished paperwork as an excuse to stay out of circulation. Woolsey was at the SGC, so thankfully there were no meetings scheduled. A call to Lorne would get the rest of the mundane chores off his back and allow him to hole up in his room. The plan hatched, John felt himself start to relax. He'd smuggled in a stash of Tylenol the last time he'd gone stateside. Emergencies aside, he would lay low and suffer in private until the worst had passed, hopefully in a couple of days.

To keep up appearances he donned his BDU as usual. Besides, it was black. Good camouflage for the sweat already trickling down his chest making him hot and sticky. It had been quite a while since he'd felt this shitty, and he was tempted to call Teyla and ask for some of her herbal tea. He immediately dismissed the thought. John didn't want anyone fussing. He hated that. Almost as much as he hated getting ill.

A thump on the door made him cringe. Damn, he'd forgotten to cancel his morning run with Ronon. John fastened the last button of his shirt and put on his game face. "Come in, Ronon."

Ronon stepped into the room, and after raking his eyes up and down, he raised an eyebrow. "You look like crap."

"Gee…thanks, buddy. It's nice to see you too."

John's deflection didn't work as the Satedan was still staring at him. He was trying to think of another witty comment but a sudden coughing jag gave him away. When he finally got back enough breath to speak, his cracked, raspy voice blew any possible attempt at deception. It was time for a little damage control. "It's just the cold. I've already got pills." He shook the packet. "A couple of days taking it easy in my quarters, and I'll be fine."

Ronon folded his arms. "You're coming with me to see Beckett."

"Honestly…I'm good. I really don't need -" When the Satedan started coming towards him John rolled his eyes and put up his hands in defeat. "Fine…but I'm just going to be wasting Carson's time."


Carson waited for the thermometer to beep. "It's 100.9." He then rubbed the stethoscope on his white coat before placing it on the colonel's chest. Despite his efforts it was still cold and Sheppard shivered. After a few moments he removed it and started sounding his back. "Aye…you're a wee bit congested too. I'll need to carry out some tests, but it looks like you've caught this bloody flu that's doing the rounds."

The doctor made a note on his chart and looked at his latest, but most frequent patient. Despite the belligerent expression looking back at him, he sympathised with the man. Sheppard looked like something the cat had dragged in. His normally full head of hair was clamped to his head, and his overly bright hazel eyes looked huge in his wan, pasty face. Carson wondered how badly he would have allowed his condition to deteriorate if Ronon hadn't forced him to get help. Sheppard looked mutinous, but Carson was used to his behaviour by now. His position in the base didn't faze him either. Down here he was the one in charge, and the colonel knew it.

The infirmary was mobbed. Carson was tired, dead on his feet, but he stood up straight and locked eyes with the sick man. "Here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to keep you here until the results come back. If…and I mean if, there is nothing of special concern I will allow you to return to your quarters. I'm guessing you would prefer that, and we can just as easily treat you there."

The sour expression vanished and John brightened. "I'd appreciate that – thanks, Carson."

"Don't thank me yet." Carson caught the attention of a passing nurse, and Marcie smiled at both men as she came over. "Marcie could you bring me an IV kit please?"

"Sure thing, Doctor."

"Is that really necessary, Carson? It's only a cold." John complained.

Carson was tempted to ask where he'd got his medical degree, but kept silent. He was tired. Sheppard was sick. Both of them were feeling crabbit. He counted to ten before he finally answered. "You're dehydrated. The fluids will make you feel a little better and hopefully help with the headache. I'm also going to prescribe some decongestant to break up the mucus in your chest. It will also make you sleepy. Don't fight it. I'll be back later once the results come through."

John flinched as the needle was slipped into the back of his hand. Carson attached the bag of saline to a stand, then checked to make sure the line was working before peeling off his gloves.

He watched his patient nestle back against the pillows and close his eyes. Carson smiled. The colonel was an awkward bugger at times, but he considered him a good friend. He was glad to be able to help.

Just as he was about to turn away the hazel eyes opened a slit. "Thanks again, Carson. And sorry for being, yah know…a pain."

Carson lips twitched, but he kept a straight face. "You were? I didn't notice, Colonel."

John chuckled. "You should get some rest yourself, Doc. You look beat."

It wasn't bad advice. Carson looked down the length of the ward. Every bed was full, but his staff had it covered. There was nothing urgent demanding his attention, so he sauntered into his office and closed the door. Someone had thoughtfully left a sandwich and a bowl of fruit on his desk. He quickly devoured both, surprised at how hungry he was. By the time he lounged back on the leather couch, he was already half asleep. Within minutes his loud rhythmic snoring could be heard in the ward.


Carson was as good as his word. The IV had helped and although John didn't feel great, it was good to be back in his quarters.

Teyla had changed his soggy sheets and fussed as he eased his aching body inside the folds of the crisp, cool bedding. A small smile crossed his face as the strong Athosian tea soothed his throat. He drifted off to the sweet strains of her beautiful voice humming.

He'd caught the flu during his first year at the academy, but John couldn't remember feeling this miserable. During the night his fever climbed and his old friend the IV came back, but thankfully Carson left him where he was. For the next few days he did nothing but sleep, and shuffle to the head when nature called. Apart from that he was only wakened by one of his team to cajole him to take some fluids, or by Carson's house calls.

On the fourth day John awoke to find the aches gone, and a growling in his stomach. He scrubbed a hand over his face, when it withdrew he saw Carson setting up a syringe and a row of phials. He saw something else too – breakfast.

Carson glanced over. "You look better today. How are you feeling?"

John didn't have to lie. "Actually...I feel pretty good." He peered over at the tray containing scrambled eggs and toast. "Is that for me?"

He pushed up into a sitting position, and Carson arranged his pillows before perching the tray on his lap. "It's only a small portion. That's how I want you to eat during the next couple of days. Little and often, just until your stomach gets back to normal."

Carson chatted while he ate. The Scot told him that the flu outbreak had all but passed. A few of the more serious cases were still in the infirmary, but even those patients would be released to their quarters in a couple of days. When he was done Carson checked his vitals, and took yet more blood. John didn't complain. He was just glad not to have been confined to the infirmary.

"Okay, Colonel, I know you're feeling better, but your body has taken a hammering from the virus. You're still weak so I need you to take it easy for a few days. By all means take short walks, but nothing strenuous. Don't even think about working out, and before you ask I'm keeping you off duty until at least the end of the week. I want to see you in the infirmary for a check-up every morning.

John nodded. He knew better than to argue. Besides, although he wouldn't admit it to anyone, he still felt under par.

Carson packed up his kit and started for the door.

John called after him, and the medic turned round. "Thanks again…I owe you big time for this, Carson."

The Scot smiled. "You don't owe me a thing, John. Just give yourself time to get better."

His legs felt a little wobbly by the time he reached the mess hall, but it was good to be back in circulation. John was still full after breakfast but smiled at Teyla when she waved over. He was glad he hadn't missed them. He grabbed a cup of coffee and went to join his team.

The Athosian examined his face. "You are looking better, John, but you are still a little pale."

"Anything would be better than the way you were a couple of days ago," Rodney's expression was incredulous, as he stared at him over the mound of bacon he'd just pierced with his fork. "I can't believe you even attempted to hide you were ill. Do you know how dangerous that could have been? The flu can kill, Sheppard."

John squirmed in his chair. "I did not…I went to the infirmary."

Ronon grunted. "Only because I made you."

"They were busy…I didn't want to be a nuisance." John watched Rodney open his mouth, so continued quickly to avoid another rant. "Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks. I really appreciated you guys looking after me. It couldn't have been much fun watching me sleep."

Ronon shrugged and Teyla smiled. Rodney muttered. "By the way, Sheppard, you should speak to Carson about that drooling thing you have going's gross – Ow!" Rodney rubbed his side and glared at Teyla. "What did you do that for?"

Her eyes flashed, but her voice remained controlled. "If I have to explain it, Rodney…you are not the brilliant man I believe you to be."

John suppressed a smile as the exchange continued. It was good to feel normal and able to enjoy the company of his friends again. He sipped his coffee. "So…what do you guys have planned for today?"

"Ronon is accompanying me to Sommaccet." Teyla told him. "They have had a bumper harvest of calantos. The best way I can describe them is they taste something similar to your grapes. The only difference is the color. They are bright yellow, instead of the purple and green varieties I have seen in the mess."

"Sound's good. What about you, Rodney?" John kept his tone level so as not to appear desperate. Downtime sucked when you had nothing to do. Now he was feeling better, he hoped his buddy was free to play a game of chess. War and Peace was languishing in his drawer. The classic had lost its appeal within the first year. John reckoned it was because he'd been staging his own battle of survival ever since the expedition had first walked through the 'gate. There was nothing like a dose of some unpleasant reality to take the shine off a work of fiction.

"I've need to check something in the lab, then I have just enough time to beat you at chess before the departmental meeting." Rodney mumbled, as he munched the last of his eggs.

"You go on thinking that, McKay. Just remember when I beat you, I'm still not firing on all cylinders." John forced a cough, and for extra effect rubbed his chest. He enjoyed the flash of uncertainty that flew over the scientist's face.

In one fluid movement Teyla rose to her feet. "Enjoy your game, but do not overexert yourself, John. You were quite ill, and you need to regain your strength."

"See you later, Sheppard." Ronon grabbed Rodney's muffin and took a bite out of it. He smirked at his team mate as he strolled away.

Rodney's face twisted. "! If you want it that much you can have it...I didn't want it anyway."

Ronon was still grinning as he left the mess hall. John tried not to laugh as he patted Rodney on the back. "C'mon, buddy, I'll grab you another one on the way out."

It was always a hive of activity in McKay's lab, but as soon as they walked in John noticed the heightened tension. Even Radek's hair looked wilder than usual as he hurried over to join them. He was one of the most courteous men John had ever met, but this morning the Czech didn't even bother to say hi.

"I was just going to call you, Rodney. We have a problem. The internal sensors have gone down."

"You've got to be kidding me…" Rodney groaned and raked a hand through his hair. "Sorry, Sheppard -"

"It's okay, Rodney, you're going to be busy." John reassured him. "I'll take a rain check...I can beat you later."

He could still hear Rodney barking orders by the time he reached the elevator. John looked at the controls and wondered where to go. He was tired. His body was telling him to take a nap, but he'd already slept away most of the last few days and was fed up of feeling like an invalid. Before common sense could change his mind, he pressed the button. When the door opened, he could already smell the scent of the salty air coming from the pier. John smiled. This had been a good idea. His love affair with the sea had begun when he was only a kid. Long sunny days spent in Clearwater still brought back happy memoires. His mom had been alive then, and in those days Dave had been more like a friend than a brother. Not long after that she'd died. After that, his idyllic life had been ripped apart at the seams.

When the door opened, he was almost blown back by the strong breeze. It whipped his hair into his face, and his green tee tight against his body. It was cold but man, it felt good. John had hoped to dangle his feet over the edge and plunge them under the waves, but it wasn't to be. From the sea level he could tell the tide was on the way out. Undaunted he eased himself onto the ground, took off his sneakers and let the spray splash over his toes.

He hadn't intended coming here so his aviators were still in his quarters. John squinted as the glare of the sun blinded his vision. His eyes stung, but they didn't hurt enough to take away the simple pleasure of being out in the open.

Not prepared to leave just yet, he looked downwards at the churning waves breaking into white horses as they hit the side of Atlantis. That's when he saw it. There was a small round window he'd never noticed before. By its position John reckoned it must be on the level below. Up till now they'd been too busy dealing with the Wraith, the Genii, and all the other assorted bad guys out there, the scientists had been so busy fire fighting, they hadn't much time to search beyond the inner sanctum of the city. He was here with time on his hands. It wouldn't do any harm to take a look…



Hope you enjoyed the start, and please review!