Rating: PG-15/R but no graphic sex or violence. Gen.
Summary: A series of medical issues threatens Sheppard's place on the team.
Word Count: ~28,000 in total, cut into parts for length not flow.
Author's note: Set over season 4, pretends Teyla's pregnancy and the Michael situation never happened, but not otherwise AU.
Warnings: Very long and ultimately wrong. That's all the warnings I'll give. If you make it all the way through, I'd love to know it.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
M3X-371 was a beautiful planet. It was remarkable for soaring cliffs, deep gorges, and snowy mountain peaks. The cliffs were more than pretty; they contained deep, winding passages that had once provided sanctuary to a community hiding from the Wraith. Once being the operative word – one side of the largest mountain had been turned into a giant pile of rocky debris, and the only people who lived on this planet now were a conglomeration of four tiny tribes – each a refugee from cullings on other planets – who farmed goats are the side of the mountains.
It might have been testament to the fact that John Sheppard had been in the Pegasus galaxy a bit too long because his primary reaction to this was wondering if the tribes would be so kind as to move their grazing flock so he could go skiing.
“You think the goats are still here in the winter?” he asked Ronon, walking at his six.
“Yeah,” Ronon said, immediately.
“How come?” Sheppard asked, trying not to sound disappointed. “Won’t they freeze or starve?”
“No,” Ronon said.
“How do you know?” Sheppard asked, a bit testily.
“I’ve been here before,” Ronon said. “In the snow. I stole a goat and ate it.”
“Oh.” Sheppard paused. “So, was that mountain face intact last time you were here?”
He looked backwards, totally expecting the annoyed glance Ronon was flicking his direction.
“No,” Ronon said. “I was only here an hour; it doesn’t take long to catch a goat.” A few seconds later: “The goat was really tasty.”
“Our new friends are already letting us climb all over their sacred mountain looking for a ZPM, buddy,” Sheppard said. “Let’s not push it.”
“They have lots,” Ronon said.
“I said no,” Sheppard said.
“Sheppard, you find anything yet?” McKay’s voice crackled in his earpiece.
“Just goat turds,” Sheppard replied.
“We haven’t reached the caverns yet,” he added.
McKay and Teyla were canvassing the other side of the mountain – the shattered face. He had pointed out that if there was a ZPM here, it was probably what the Wraith had been aiming at. This was perfectly logical, but McKay had also muttered something about the energy signal being weak enough to be coming from either side, and then he and Teyla claimed the half that was distinctly lacking in animal feces.
The caverns didn’t have as much shit, and it seemed to be from a different species, but that was about it. It was dark and wet, and smelled terrible. Every time Sheppard touched a stone wall, his hand came away covered in slime. It was also cramped, forcing both men to hunch over. Ronon eventually dropped into a full crawl, apparently not minding touching the utterly disgusting floor. Sheppard refused to do the same, settling for occasionally smacking the top of his head against the low ceiling and getting a painful twinge in his lower back.
“I don’t see a ZPM,” Ronon announced. Sheppard could hear him squelching in the muck on the floor, and very much agreed with the unspoken sentiment that they should get the hell out of here.
Unfortunately, the tablet Sheppard was clutching to his chest was glowing a consistent green. There was something here more interesting than Pegasus galaxy batshit.
“Sorry, buddy,” Sheppard said over his shoulder.
Ronon harrumphed and somehow managed to send a splatter of slime up Sheppard’s pantleg as he moved forward.
“Hey!” He gave some thought to promising Ronon a goat if he stuck it out. Maybe the villagers would have a goat-roasting celebration if they found something cool.
Sheppard never got the chance to try bribery. He turned to look backwards at Ronon, at the same time that his front foot slipped in place. The instinct to protect his face stronger than the desire to avoid getting screamed at by Rodney for breaking a tablet, Sheppard let go of the device. He heard it crash and the screen shatter, his hands out to catch himself on the ground. But the ground wasn’t there, and Sheppard kept falling.
Sheppard’s first awareness was of a vague, persistent throbbing in the top of his head. This realization was followed by the one that he was awake, which meant he was alive. His last memory was of an endless fall through total darkness. It seemed like he should be in a lot more pain. He didn’t really hurt, but he also didn’t really, well, feel. He was covered by a dense, bodily fog. Other than the slight headache, Sheppard was barely aware of his body.
He had a moment of gratitude towards Keller and her wonderful drugs. He had to be in the infirmary, and she’d put him back together again. Once he opened his eyes, though, she’d be all over him with the blinding penlight and probably scolding him for finding a hole to fall down. All the same, Sheppard slowly lifted his lids. It was actually kind of hard, required a lot more concentration than it should.
Immediately, he knew he wasn’t in the infirmary. He opened his eyes not to the pale blue ceiling of Atlantis, but to the brown stitching of Ronon’s leather coat. It was bunched up around his face, almost folded over his eyes.
“Hrmph?” Sheppard said. He tried to say actual words, but that was what came out.
It made the coat move. The leather blurred in front Sheppard’s face and he had to close his eyes because all of sudden he was very dizzy. He had the vague sensation that more than the coat was moving. With his eyes clenched shut, he guessed he’d been wrapped in Ronon’s coat, probably being carried by the man himself, and was now being put back on the goopy ground.
“Sheppard?” came Ronon’s voice, close to his ear.
Slowly, Sheppard opened his eyes. Ronon’s face was right there, directly in front of his face. It was hard to see much else. They were still in darkness, meaning they were still in the caverns. Ronon looked dirty, face and hair smeared with the stuff that coated every surface of this place.
Ronon’s head moved closer, peering at Sheppard. The motion made his vision spin and he decided it’d be good to close his eyes.
“Sheppard?” Ronon said again. “You okay?”
Sheppard tried to answer, was disappointed that it mostly came out as a groan.
“You fell,” Ronon said, reliably direct.
“Mmph.” Sheppard risked opening one eye and squinting. Ronon looked worried, underneath all the grime that was covering him. “I’m okay,” Sheppard murmured. “I think. ‘Lil dizzy. My head hurts.”
He decided it might be good to check on the rest of him, the parts he couldn’t really feel. Trying not to move at all, staving off the vertigo, Sheppard peered down at himself with one eye. He was indeed wrapped in Ronon’s coat. It, too, was filthy. More interestingly, he didn’t seem to be wearing anything else. It took a lot of effort, but Sheppard managed to grab at the shoulder of Ronon’s coat and pull it out. He was utterly naked beneath it. Even his boots were gone. Trying not to sound ungrateful, Sheppard pushed the leather back in place.
“Okay,” he said, trying to find Ronon’s face again. But the man wasn’t holding still, and it was better to just shut his eyes. “And you took my clothes off why?”
There was silence for a moment. Then Ronon rumbled softly in what sounded like relief that Sheppard was coherent enough to want his pants back.
“I didn’t,” he said. “Found you like this when I woke up.”
“Woke up?” Sheppard echoed.
That was all bad news, but the fog that held the rest of him was moving to encompass his skull, now. It was absolutely crushing and Sheppard didn’t even try to resist.
“Gotta get out of here,” he ordered Ronon, but he wasn’t sure if that was out loud or not.
Sheppard slept through being carried out of the caverns. He woke up periodically, usually when Ronon put him down and the coat twisted such that the cold, sticky gunk on the floor managed to get all up his legs. It should have been really disgusting, but beyond a vague awareness that he was wet and clammy, he didn’t process much. Later, he would wonder how in the hell Ronon was managing to move a totally unresponsive adult male while unable to stand fully. Ronon also navigated a way out of the mountain despite the fact that they evidently weren’t anywhere near where they’d started, they didn’t have a map, and it was pitch black.
Even though he was occasionally conscious, Sheppard couldn’t express just how awesome Ronon was in getting them out of the batshit-covered caves. He thought he might have gotten in a supportive, manly squeeze on Ronon’s arm, but he wasn’t sure. Sheppard didn’t hurt, but he was so, so sleepy. It was impossible to stay awake for long, and even harder to communicate anything when he was.
This sucked and probably should have been scary.
It wasn’t, even though Sheppard knew it was weird. He didn’t feel bad, at all. The top of his head stung lightly, but other than that he was completely calm and pain-free. Part of it was the inability to stay awake. It was a deep and unnatural sleep, but it was gentle and soothing. The only thing that bothered Sheppard was how worried Ronon looked every time he peered down at him. He would have liked to reassure him, but couldn’t keep his thoughts organized or his eyes open long enough to even try.
Ronon must have earned a merit badge in orienteering from the Satedan boy scouts, because the next time Sheppard opened his eyes, there was bright blue sky overhead. He blinked slowly, found that the clouds traveling swiftly across his vision didn’t make him dizzy. That was a step in the right direction.
Then something golden flashed in the corner of his eye. Sheppard managed to follow it, discovered Teyla was leaning over him and talking. He missed whatever it was she said, couldn’t find the energy to process the words.
“Hey,” he managed.
Teyla’s eyes went wider and she smiled in relief. Her mouth was moving faster. She sounded excited, but he still couldn’t really focus much. He heard his own name over and over again, just kind of phased out on the rest of it.
“I’m okay,” he told her. Sheppard remembered he was wearing only Ronon’s coat and looked down to make sure it was securely in place. It kind of wasn’t, so he tried to pull it down. It was bunched under his back and legs and didn’t move. Teyla noticed what he was doing and decided to try to help.
It had to be something alien that prevented him from melting in embarrassment, instead sending another tidal wave of exhaustion and knocking him out again.
Unfortunately, Sheppard also slept through his return to Atlantis. If he’d been conscious, he would have insisted on walking through on his own. It was bad for morale when the military leader couldn’t make it home under his own power. So, Ronon carried him, of course. Wrapped in nothing but a leather coat, crossing the threshold in the arms of a giant who was also wearing mostly leather, his arrival might have looked like the cover of a gay romance novel. Sheppard didn’t know if those existed, but was fairly sure there’d be a photoshopped version of one as soon as everyone was confident he wasn’t going to die.
These were among his thoughts when he woke in the infirmary, along with a generous side helping of being kind of pissed off about it. It was almost immediately reassuring, since if he was angry he was probably no longer under the influence of the unnatural calming fatigue that had hit him so hard before.
He still wasn’t really in pain, which was nice.
One thing unconsciousness had spared him was experiencing the inevitable sponge bath. Depending on which nurse you got, those were either awkward and embarrassing or more painful than a gutshot. Sheppard felt fresh and clean, and ridiculously pleased to be clad in patient scrubs. He also had an IV lead in his arm, and the bag looked to be nothing more than standard fluids.
“Colonel?” Dr. Keller had come up on the other side of the bed, peering over him.
“Hey,” Sheppard said, finding his voice thick and croaky. He cleared his throat. “What’s up?”
“How are you feeling?” Keller asked. But she put a hand on his forehead rather than check any of the monitors, so it was probably mostly rhetorical.
“Okay,” he said, honestly. “What happened?”
“We’d like to know that, too,” Keller said. She withdrew her hand, crossed her arms under her bust.
“Am I okay?” Sheppard asked. It was always good to check. “Where’s my team?”
“The only thing I could find wrong with you,” Keller said, “is some cuts on your scalp. Not deep but wide enough to bother you while they healed. You have some surgical glue in there.”
Sheppard stuck a hand up and patted around. The skin was tender and poking it wasn’t the brightest idea.
He must have made a face, because Keller shrugged. “I know it hurts, but anything else would have required me to shave more hair. Rodney said you’d lose your will to live.”
“You shaved some?” Sheppard asked, alarmed. Then, “Hey, at least mine will always grow back.”
Keller rolled her eyes. “I shaved a tiny, tiny patch, I promise.”
Sheppard poked around a little more. He could feel bare skin, but it was hard to tell how much. He didn’t think Keller would give him a mirror.
“Where’s my team?” he asked again.
“Probably getting clean,” Keller said. “They were pretty disgusting.”
“That planet had more shit than you would believe,” Sheppard said.
Keller nodded. “Ronon might lose some hair, too. I’m not sure he’ll be able to wash it out. It looked like he rolled in it.”
“I think he did,” Sheppard said. “He okay?”
“Everyone else was fine,” Keller assured him. “Very worried about you.”
“But I’m fine?”
“You were missing for twenty-four hours,” Keller said, frowning. “And wouldn’t wake up when Ronon found you.”
“Twenty-four hours?” Sheppard asked, shocked.
He didn’t get the chance to say anything further, because Rodney strolled into the examination room.
“Oh, hey, sleeping beauty’s awake,” he said. He paused, did a double take. “You look like you’re wearing a little bald yarmulke.”
Sheppard’s hand shot to the top of his head, and Rodney grinned.
The little patch of hair Keller had shaved was so tiny it was barely noticeable from the front. Rodney, who had no business making jokes about anyone’s hairline, was still doing his best. Sheppard figured most of it was relief he was alive to be made fun of, but it was still annoying. The rest of the team had followed right behind Rodney, but neither had said a thing about his hair.
Keller let him out of the infirmary to report to Sam. She didn’t, however, let him get dressed.
“You’re coming right back,” she said, voice steely. “For observation.”
“Hey,” Sheppard said.
“Spending the night,” Keller continued.
“Hey,” Sheppard said again.
Keller ignored him. “You too, Ronon.”
Ronon’s eyebrows slunk low. “Why?”
“Valid medical reasons,” Keller retorted. “And because I said so.”
Sheppard didn’t entirely disagree once he heard those reasons, presented to Carter at the debriefing. His own memories of the planet’s caverns consisted solely of sleepy, goopy, darkness and falling down a hole. Ronon’s report, unfortunately, consisted solely of jumping down a dark, goopy hole after Sheppard.
Somewhere in there, though, was a missing day. The thick stone had blocked all radio transmission, so it had been a few hours until Teyla and McKay even suspected something was up. It had taken another few hours for Sheppard and Ronon to miss the rendezvous time and for Carter to send backup. In the time it had taken for Lorne’s team to deliberate the best strategy in entering dark, disgusting, and unknown parts to find the missing pair without vanishing themselves, Ronon had carried Sheppard out of the mountain.
It was both simple and sinister.
Ronon remembered nothing. It’d been too dark to see after losing their light source - Sheppard had dropped his flashlight. He did admit that he must have lost consciousness as well, since he had woken up at some point after following Sheppard down. But he didn’t remember how. Keller found no signs of head trauma. Even Sheppard’s scalp lacerations were mild and shallow, likely the result of scraping his head along the ceiling than of any concussion-inducing blow.
In as much as it was nice that no one was hurt, it was also disturbing. Sheppard had taken a header that probably should have cost him a lot of teeth. Ronon had jumped feet first, at least, but still.
Keller’s bloodwork explained a little. Both men had an alien substance flowing in their veins. Keller – and her database – had never seen it before. It shared chemical similarities with certain forms of anesthesia, and her working theory was that it was what had knocked them out.
“Did the air smell funny?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Sheppard said.
“Like shit,” Ronon said, which was true.
Carter coughed a little, but didn’t bother to reprimand him.
“I was thinking chemicals,” Keller said. “Artificial?”
“No,” Ronon said. “Like shit.”
“Yeah,” Sheppard said. “But I buy being drugged. I actually felt kinda...good. Out of it, but not upset about it. Kinda stoned.”
“Your levels were higher,” Keller said. “Substantially. It explains why Ronon was able to get moving, if nothing else.”
“Nothing else,” Sheppard said, since Ronon could probably keep moving unless his legs were amputated. And he was righteously a little jealous of that.
“I didn’t feel anything different,” Ronon said, shrugging.
“I’m gonna need blood samples from McKay and Teyla,” Keller said. “For comparison.”
Teyla inclined her head. “Of course.”
“I felt fine,” Rodney said, scowling at the thought of a needle. “The whole time.”
“Our caverns were not intact,” Teyla said. “If there was an airborne substance, perhaps it was not concentrated enough to affect us.”
“That’s a possibility,” Keller agreed. “Frankly, I’m less worried about what it was and more worried about the why. Colonel Sheppard and Ronon weren’t hurt, thank God, but I’d like an explanation as to what happened to them.”
“Like how Sheppard lost his clothes,” Carter said. She sounded concerned, not amused.
“Maybe he took them off,” McKay suggested.
“What?” asked Sheppard, glaring.
“I had a roommate in grad school,” McKay said. “Huge pothead. Also naked, a lot.”
Carter shut McKay up with a single, pointed look. It was a beautiful skill.
“Did you find anything related to the energy readings?” Carter asked.
“No,” McKay, sounding a little glum. “But we did stop looking when we realized those two were gone.”
“Shit,” Ronon said, again. “Nothing else.”
“I think it’s reasonable to assume that those energy readings might be related to whatever it was you two experienced,” Carter said. “I’m putting a halt on that search ‘til we have a better idea of what we’re dealing with.”
“I’m going to keep the colonel and Ronon overnight for observation,” Keller said. “I want to monitor them and make sure their bloodwork gets back to normal.”
Sheppard harrumphed. She wasn’t wrong, but goddamn. Ronon scowled, too.
“Good,” Carter said, which meant it was an order. “We might just have gotten really lucky,” she continued.
She could say that because she hadn’t ended up naked and covered in shit, and carried into the gateroom in that condition.
In a nice change of pace, nothing really awful happened in the immediate aftermath of the failed mission to M3X-371. Neither Rodney nor Teyla had anything nasty in their own tests, which was both good and also kind of unfair. Keller kept Sheppard and Ronon in the infirmary for a few days, until she was satisfied that the alien chemical was on its own way out. It was boring and Sheppard thought Ronon was going to make a break for it, but other than that it was kind of an unexpected relief that nothing horrible was going to happen to them.
Planetside, a team of anthropologists came back from interviewing the natives with the message that it was surprising that Sheppard’s team had come back at all, having gone into the sacred mountain without undergoing the proper religious rituals. They didn’t have anything else to add.
Carter cancelled any further investigation into the mysterious energy readings, calling it a wash. McKay pouted for a few days. Sheppard invited him to be the one to go back to batshit covered caves and mysterious naked unconsciousness, and he didn’t protest too much after that. In less than a week, they were chasing after another possible ZPM, and to be honest Sheppard pretty much purposefully forgot all about his little naked adventure.
About a month or so later, Sheppard was back in the infirmary because he weaved when he should have dodged, and Ronon popped him right in the nose while they were sparring. Usually, they both only went in for training injuries if stitches were needed. Sheppard stalled as long as possible, but the damn thing would not stop bleeding. His gym shirt was turning crimson and he’d spat enough blood on to the floor that it was beginning to look like a murder scene. Somebody would probably be mad about that, but Sheppard knew from experience that swallowing too much blood only led to really disgusting puking.
“Let’s go,” Ronon said, finally, making eyes at the door. He of all people understood Sheppard’s aversion to the infirmary, and Sheppard appreciated that he wasn’t really freaking out about it. Well, he appreciated it, but a smaller part of him wondered if Ronon couldn’t be just a little more worried that his commanding officer was losing pints and it was his fault.
They got a lot of looks in the corridors on their way there. Ronon took them in stride and Sheppard avoided eye contact. Not because he was embarrassed – anyone who made fun of him was going to get an extra special training session with Ronon and see if they could get out of it with their nose intact – but because he’d managed to smear blood upwards and it was getting into his eyes and kind of burning.
Ronon walked Sheppard to the infirmary entrance, but as the doors opened he turned his body away like he was leaving.
“No you don’t,” Sheppard said, taking one hand off his face and wrapping it around Ronon’s bicep. “Get in here.”
Possibly Ronon couldn’t understand him, since it came out all nasally garbled and muffled or he was annoyed that there was now a giant bloody handprint on his arm, because he scowled. But he probably understood that there was going to be yelling by the medical staff, and it was totally unfair to make Sheppard be the only target. He followed Sheppard inside, maybe mostly because Sheppard hadn’t let go of his arm and was pulling.
It didn’t take much time to attract attention.
“Oh, what the hell happened to you?” Keller said.
“Ronon punched me,” Sheppard said, aware it was probably incomprehensible since he had both hands cupped over his face again.
He didn’t know why she sounded so confused. He and Ronon were both dressed to workout and this wasn’t a wholly unusual outcome. Most of the time there was less blood, true.
Fortunately, it wasn’t a hard injury to fix. Keller flattened him on a gurney and poured saline solution or something over his face until she could see what she was dealing with. Then she made him sit up so she could shove a round plastic bottle up each nostril and depressing a button on the bottom. It produced a nasal spray that stung for a moment, making Sheppard try to jerk out of her hold.
“Gee, Ronon, what’d he do to make you mad?” She asked, looking at the palms of her red-coated gloves.
“He didn’t duck,” Ronon said, sounding like this was entirely Sheppard’s fault.
“You could pull your punches,” Sheppard grumbled from around the gauze Keller had given him to hold against his nose. It was wet but not soaked, so whatever she’d done was already working.
“You could move faster,” Ronon retorted.
“Is it broken?” Sheppard asked Keller.
“Probably,” said Keller.
For a second, Ronon looked a little bit sorry.
She peered closer and poked it lightly with a finger, sending an intense bolt of pain through Sheppard’s face. “Doesn’t look displaced, though.”
What that meant, evidently, was that Keller wasn’t going to do anything about it except give him some ibuprofen and instructions to take care of it at home. This was probably better than surgery or her trying to touch it anymore, but it also meant that she lost any real interest in scolding Ronon.
Sheppard’s nose was swollen for a few days and sore for a lot longer than that. Worse, no one was sympathetic about it. Not even Teyla. Dicks.
“Maybe you shouldn’t spar with someone who thinks pain is fun,” McKay said, over dinner. “What if it ends up looking like that guy from that stupid plane movie you made us watch?”
“Because there are multiple stupid plane movies,” McKay agreed. “Blonde. His nose looks like a crooked penis.”
Teyla did that stifled grin thing Sheppard was damn sure meant she wanted to crack up.
“I am sure that is unlikely,” she said, not really sounding reassuring so much as covertly obnoxious.
Ronon had the nerve to smirk. “That movie was cool,” was all he said.
“Would you like to suspend our own sparring schedule until that is healed?” Teyla asked, solicitously, waving fingers at his nose.
“No,” snapped Sheppard. “I’ll be fine. Just don’t hit me in the face.”
“Perhaps you should duck,” Teyla said.
More annoying was the goddamn thing kept bleeding. It didn’t hurt, it was just disgusting and irritating. It was kind of dangerous when it happened on missions. The natives that didn’t think it was just plain gross thought it was a symptom of some horrible illness or a supernatural warning that Sheppard’s team wasn’t to be trusted. The third time it almost got them put in prison, Rodney stopped making fun of him. Or at least, switched over from mocking him to complaining it was getting pointy spears shoved into his back.
Keller said there wasn’t much to be done about it. None of the Ancient medical tools were for nosebleeds, evidently. She gave him a homemade pharmaceutical mixture in a small tube to carry on missions, said to apply it frequently to the inside of his nostrils to keep it from drying out. Unfortunately, she gave it to him in front of his team, and he made the mistake of asking what it was.
“Nasal lubricant,” Keller said, totally innocent.
“Lube?” said McKay, and then he started chortling so hard it turned into snorting. Keller stared at him, forcing him to get the reaction under control before he looked like an even bigger baby. Her presence meant he didn’t manage to say anything else for which Sheppard might have had to punch him in the nose.
“Why is that funny?” Teyla asked, confused, and McKay tried to stifle a howl.
Ronon cocked an eyebrow. Rodney got it together enough to make one universally known lewd hand gesture, and Ronon’s lips quirked.
“Thanks, Doc.” Sheppard said, shoving the tube into his pocket.
The corners of Keller’s mouth tugged down. “Sorry,” she said.
Other than McKay constantly asking Sheppard to make sure he brought his ‘nose lube,’ the cream actually helped a bit. Applying it was kind of painful, and on the downside it smelled funny.
He used it so often it was starting to affect the way things tasted. The MREs managed to be worse, if that was possible. But other things – food he actually liked – tasted weird too. He couldn’t even enjoy a single contraband beer because the first sip was suddenly horribly bitter. Sheppard found simple things like plain rice and pasta hadn’t changed, and those were generally the safest thing in the cafeteria, anyway. On the upside, it also changed the flavor of stuff he hadn’t liked. Atlantis’ version of potato chips, which had always tasted like fried slices of a saltlick, were suddenly addictively palatable.
Unfortunately, a lot of missions required Sheppard to eat things that were incredibly gross to begin with, never mind the new twist his anti-crimson tide medication added. He usually relied on Teyla and Ronon to warn him if he was about to tuck into the Pegasus version of Puffer fish. While, mostly Teyla. Ronon was not a good judge of food safety. Or food, in general. Maybe it was seven years of eating earth worms and crickets, but Ronon pretty much liked anything he could chew.
He even liked the deep fried 10-foot-wide tarantula they had to eat at the ceremonial feast on M4X-812. Rodney bagged off because they couldn’t tell him what sauce it was cooked it – some kind of holy secret. And of course, the natives weren’t mortally offended because it was Sheppard that represented their ‘sacred friendship’ with Atlantis. Teyla never seemed to be horrified at these things. So, she usually made Sheppard look bad. Ronon, of course, ate two legs and was reaching for his third by the time Sheppard even picked up his fork.
“It good?” he asked Ronon.
“Yeah,” Ronon said, his mouth full.
Sheppard didn’t believe him, and two seconds later he confirmed that the damn thing tasted just as hairy as it looked.
“Mmm,” Sheppard said to their hosts. “Interesting.” He tried not to gag.
“I find it very flavorful,” Teyla said, and smiled. Sheppard squinted at her, since she was either not lying or a much better liar than he’d thought.
Despite the fact that Sheppard only ate a quarter of a leg and covertly shoveled the rest of it onto Ronon’s plate, and Ronon ate possibly every leg the creature had and part of its…whatever the fuck the body of a spider was called…Sheppard was the only one that got sick.
He spent most of the night puking behind a bush. Sheppard tried to be quiet about it. Who knew what the natives would think about their sacred spidey dinner poisoning the guest of honor. For the sake of his team, he crawled a few meters away from their tents. He must not have been very stealthy about it, because Ronon immediately poked his head out of the tent flap, gun in hand.
“You okay?” he asked.
Sheppard really couldn’t answer for the next few minutes, but he guessed if Ronon was listening, he’d figure it out.
“Hrmf,” Sheppard said, when he could talk. “Fucking spider.” And then he threw up some more.
He could hear Ronon shuffling in place, probably debating whether or not he had to brave the prospect of vomit to check on Sheppard.
“What the hell is that?” came McKay’s voice, thick with sleep. “Someone have a hairball? Ronon?”
And that was kind of funny, but even thinking about laughing made Sheppard’s gut spasm and then he was heaving again.
“It’s Sheppard,” Ronon said.
“Oh.” And McKay didn’t sound very sympathetic. “At least he crawled downwind.”
“John?” That was Teyla, and she actually sounded concerned. At least one of his teammates liked him more than they disliked puke. She picked her way over to him in the darkness, carefully finding a clean spot to crouch beside him. “Are you alright?”
Sheppard figured he wasn’t dying, so he just nodded his head. Bless her, Teyla had brought her canteen. She unscrewed the top for him and held it down to his lips. His mouth tasted horrible and he gratefully opened up.
“Slowly,” Teyla suggested.
She was probably right, because he took a big gulp and his stomach revolted immediately.
Teyla leaned back, out of range, yanking the canteen out of the line of fire, too. Sheppard hoped he didn’t hit her, but he couldn’t really tell.
It turned out this was going to be one of those sessions where drinking water was going to make him puke more. Every time Teyla tried to even let him rinse his mouth out, it just started up again. It sucked. He could vaguely hear Ronon and McKay’s voices nearby, almost like they were watching with a running commentary. Neither one came to relieve Teyla, though. He kind of wished they would. He’d be far less embarrassed to puke on either one of them, might even enjoy the reaction.
As his stomach settled, Sheppard let his face drop into the flat, cool grass. It felt good, the rest of him miserably overheated.
He could hear McKay’s voice in the distance.
“… like Peter Parker does,” he said, and Ronon rumbled in response.
So, apparently the other half of his team was discussing whether or not he was transforming into a mutant superhero. That was fabulous.
Teyla was being annoyingly nice. She was rubbing his back in light circles, probably trying to make him feel better. It didn’t work. The pressure and the motion only made him want to retch some more. He was also hot and soaked with sweat, and he really wanted to take off his shirt, but he didn’t want to be a half-naked puking guy around Teyla.
“G’way,” he said. And fortunately, she didn’t get that, because it was really rude. He propped himself up on his hands again. “Get Ronon,” he managed, and that time she understood him.
She rose and shortly Ronon was at his side. Teyla stayed at a distance while Ronon stooped down.
“Want me to carry you?” Ronon asked. He was keeping his face a little pulled back, which probably meant Sheppard smelled pretty bad.
“No,” Sheppard said. He was too exhausted to do anything but flap his arms a little and pull on his sleeves. “Hot,” he said.
Ronon understood, even if he didn’t look too thrilled about trying to get Sheppard’s gross shirt off. But he did it, anyway, gingerly but effectively. And he wasn’t too nice about it like Teyla would have been, or squeamish and loud about it like Rodney would have been. The air was wonderfully cool against Sheppard’s damp skin and he hadn’t thrown up in a few minutes. He was too tired to stay propped up anymore, found a clear spot in the grass, and flopped himself down.
A few minutes later he was vaguely aware that Ronon was grabbing him by the shoulders and trying to get his arms under Sheppard’s body. This was probably the set up to getting carried through the ‘Gate, half-naked and covered in puke. Only slightly better than totally naked and covered in shit.
Ronon hefted him up, the motion jarring enough that Sheppard’s gut surged again and he tensed up.
“I can walk,” he said, somewhere near Ronon’s ear. The man could literally carry him like a baby with total ease. It was so unfair.
“No, you can’t,” Ronon said, and they were already moving. Sheppard started wiggling. Not really struggling, since he couldn’t really manage that. But wiggling was enough and Ronon got annoyed. “Stop it,” he said, grip tightening. If he kept that up, Sheppard was going to throw up on him.
“Carry me to the ‘Gate,” Sheppard said. “Lemme walk through.”
“Yeah, okay,” Ronon said, but it didn’t sound like he really believed that was going to happen.
Teyla and McKay stayed behind to conclude their trading pact. Sheppard presumed they wouldn’t mention to their hosts why the team leader had absconded in the night.
Ronon did let him walk through the ‘Gate on his own. It might have involved mostly staggering and leaning heavily on him, but it still counted. He face-planted on to a gurney as soon as it showed up, didn’t even bother cooperating much as Keller tried to get him to roll over so she could get an IV in.
It turned out it maybe wasn’t the arachnid entrée, but the plain old Earth flu, courtesy of contagious interlopers from the Daedalus. It happened every goddamn time the ship visited, and Sheppard was only the first one to go down.
McKay didn’t get it. Not for real, though he showed up in the infirmary to complain about imaginary symptoms once or twice. McKay never got the various illnesses the Daedalus always brought. It was like his hypochondria actually bolstered his immune system. It was so fucking unfair.
Teyla and Ronon both got it. Maybe worse than everyone else, though by this point they’d each had it before. The doctors on the Daedalus sucked at isolating contagious patients or the crew were compulsive liars. One of these days they were going to bring goddamn smallpox or the bubonic plague to Pegasus. Sheppard had complained about it before. Maybe this time he’d go vomit on
Getting it first had some benefits. By the time everyone else was upchucking all over the place, Sheppard was strolling around the infirmary without an IV stand. He still had vague nausea and mild body aches, but he was keeping light meals down.
Keller got it, too. She turned a really interesting shade of green and still refused to go off duty. Apparently, she was allowed to do that. It meant she also didn’t really have the energy to fight him when he declared himself ready to go home. Sheppard figured he could lie around and feel miserable just as well in his own quarters. The only reason they’d kept him so long was because he gotten sick offworld, and because there was some kind of underground betting pool on how many days per month he spent hospitalized and the nurses were in on it.
Unfortunately, he didn’t get to lie around his quarters. Ronon heard he was up and around and wanted to spar. Somewhere, maybe in the near decade of totally lacking access to medical care, Ronon had decided that violence made him feel better. Sheppard had tried to explain that for normal humans it didn’t work that way, that illness made them fragile and slow, not faster and meaner.
Ronon didn’t really care, though, and Sheppard had been pretty bored in the infirmary, anyway. He extracted a general promise to avoid his still tender nose, and warned him that if Ronon flattened him, there was no guarantee Sheppard could get back up.
Afterwards, at lunch in the cafeteria, Sheppard mused that Ronon’s philosophy had some merit. It was hard to be unhappy about having the flu and resentful about still having to eat broth when he was also wondering if his spine was permanently twisted into a Satedan pretzel. Enough people were sick that the cafeteria was actually offering broth as the primary meal, but Ronon was eating a hamburger. The only thing that made Sheppard feel better about that was that it was a crappy non-cow Pegasus hamburger.
McKay showed up later, when Sheppard was pathetically scraping the last of his broth up with a spoon. He was wearing a surgical mask over his face.
“Stylin’, Rodney,” Sheppard said.
“I’m not covered in my own puke,” McKay said, setting his tray opposite Sheppard’s. “And I get to eat solid food.”
“Where’s Teyla?” asked Ronon, since she was the only one missing.
“In her quarters,” McKay said. “She gets really cranky when she’s sick, you know.”
Sheppard didn’t think that was true. Healthy Teyla was just unusually pleasant and tolerant, so it was kind of strange to be around her when she was too tired and unhappy to be polite.
Before he left, McKay went back up to the serving line and came back holding a tray with a bowl of broth. Usually, he used his second time through for extra pudding.
“I thought you got to eat solid food,” Sheppard said.
“This is for Carter,” McKay said, sticking his chin out. “She crashed this morning.”
“Oh,” said Sheppard.
“Aren’t you afraid you’ll get her puke germs?” asked Ronon.
“There is nothing in this galaxy or any other that Rodney wants more than her puke germs,” said Sheppard.
“I’m being nice,” snapped Rodney. “She doesn’t want to move, she needs to stay hydrated. I don’t have an ulterior motive.”
“Right,” said Sheppard. “Next time bring me broth!” he yelled at McKay’s stiff, retreating back.
~please feed the author~