by Domenika Marzione

The pretty nurse had gone off shift three hours ago and John was bored off his ass. He had nothing to read -- Ford, overwhelmed by his temporary duties, kept forgetting to go to his room to fetch his book -- and Weir wasn't letting him do any of the shitload of paperwork he had to start writing up now that he was ranking officer of the expedition. (The screenplay of his time in Pegasus was turning into one of those tragicomedies that you watched and never believed for a moment that anyone could lead such a hexed life. Chapter One: I killed the mission commander. Chapter Two: I apparently jumpstarted the Apocalypse by waking up the life-sucking alien vampires that beat the Ancients. Chapter Three: I was useless to stop a sentient black cloud from nearly destroying the city. Chapter Four: I got fed on by a parasitic cousin of the Wraith, got dead, got better, and I am really sorry, but the Monty Python references are necessary and not meant to be funny.)

John couldn't even sleep -- Chapter Four was fucking him up worse than than the first three had because, like any good author, the humorist who was writing his story had successfully built later chapters on the foundations of the earlier ones. (And yet having a very good idea of what kind of pain Sumner had been in when he'd been tortured didn't make John feel better about what he'd done.) But, bereft of all forms of entertainment, he was trying anyway because while nightmares sucked, staring at the same wall sucked even harder and the alternative was listening to the noise of the city chattering in his brain and that wasn't going to happen, not while he was already trying to minimize the damage for the expedition's shrink. So he closed his eyes and tried to pretend that he wasn't in a makeshift hospital in an alien city in another galaxy and that he'd just gotten tackled too hard during the Australian rules football games they'd put together back at McMurdo because they couldn't get enough people for either American or Rest of the World football.

"-- and I think someone swiped it."

"Are you sure that you just don't remember where you put it?"

"I spent all bloody morning organizing my lab!" Beckett's aggrieved voice carried through the infirmary and John gave up trying to pretend to doze. "I haven't had time to lose anything."

John debated calling over and getting the doctors to agree to release him. It had been a day since his Peter Parker moment and he'd had almost thirty hours of perfectly normal readings on all of the machines they'd hooked him up to. But that hadn't been enough time since they'd returned without Sumner that the doctors were going to risk him keeling over in a hallway. It would deprive the expedition of their most important research tool, after all.

"You should have let me label your things. Nobody would have taken anything they couldn't identify."

"Aye, and that would include me."

"Learn Hebrew," the other man said and John knew who it was. At least by sight. He didn't know names yet -- he was still working on identifying the marines without nametags -- but he knew faces and flag patches. "Ancient language of wisdom."

"That would be Gàidhlig," Beckett replied and John could almost see the prim expression even if the two men were on the other side of the curtain. "And I really don't think that incomprehensible labels are what is keeping your materials from walking off."

"So learn hand-to-hand combat."

A snorted laugh from Beckett.

"It's not as funny as it used to be, Carson," the Israeli doctor said. "We're in one hell of a fix here. Learning how to defend yourself isn't merely a way to exercise anymore."

John shifted quietly so he could hear better. He'd had little to no interaction with the civilian part of the expedition since they'd assigned quarters; he didn't know how much they knew or how they were dealing with what they did know. Part of him didn't care, but the rest of him did because it would make his job easier. The job he hadn't quite figured out yet.

"Don't start in with the gun business again, Yoni," Beckett sighed. "I'd be more of a hindrance than a help were I to be armed."

"Not if you practiced."

The sound of one of the plastic crates that filled the infirmary being opened and closed.

"You haven't seen Rodney at the range, then, I take it," Carson asked with a chuckle.

McKay was... like every other novice with a firearm. Except that he didn't want to learn and made it very clear that that wasn't going to change and that he'd never stop resenting John for making him do it anyway. So John had left Bates in charge of teaching him, comfortable in the knowledge that for all of Bates's shortcomings, intractability was one of the ones that could be harnessed for good and not just pissing off his CO. There was no out-stubborning a marine and if Rodney McKay wanted to try anyway, let him.

"No," the Israeli replied, sounding farther away than before. "I haven't gotten permission to use the range yet. The marines won't agree until Sheppard says it is okay and he's been busy trying to die."

John perked up because this was the first he'd heard of such a request and chose to ignore the comment on his week. From the outside, that's probably what it looked like.

"He's also been right here for the last day -- two days, it's already after midnight," Carson said. "I don't think I'm ever going to get used to not having twenty-four hours in a day."

Another crate opening, the muffled noise of its contents being rifled, and then the snap of it closing. John wondered what they were looking for.

"It hasn't been that long since you were on forty-hour shifts on the wards," the Israeli said, sounding like he was in motion. "I don't think it's here, Carson. We'll do a lab-to-lab search tomorrow."

A noise from Beckett. "I don't want to start accusing people of theft a week into what could be a very long time together with no relief."

"But someone did steal something."

Another thing to think about, John told himself. All of their energy had been focused on security from external threats, but they'd have to start looking in to a way to address internal ones, too. The Athosians were still under suspicion from almost everyone and knew it, but not everything that happened in Atlantis could or should be blamed on their guests.

"It's not that important," Carson sighed.

"I'll do the search, then," the Israeli said. "I am not worried about ruffled feathers."

"Would that you were," Carson said feelingly. "Don't give me that look. I'm not asking you to be best friends with everyone, but this isn't home. We have nowhere to run from each other here. Just... sheath your claws sometimes. As a favor to me."

"Jews are immune to guilt from everyone but their mothers."

"Thank you, Yoni," Carson said dryly. "I'm going to turn in now. Roberta will be in to relieve you at eight, but if something goes wrong--"

"Then I am going to go curl in the corner and suck my thumb. Goodnight, Carson."

A chuckle. "Goodnight."

The swishing of the doors and footsteps fading and John yawned because, thirty hours in a bed aside, he hadn't gotten much sleep.

He didn't get much now, either, waking himself up out of a nightmare that was, as best as he could tell, something about the Wraith in Kandahar, which was both surreal and oddly appropriate. He reached over for his water glass, willing to drink the room temperature stuff rather try to track down the overnight nurse, since he'd then have to explain why he was up in the middle of the night. And that wasn't conducive to getting sprung in the morning.

But then he dropped the empty cup as he went to put it back on the little table and, wincing, he awaited the arrival of the nurse.

Instead, he got the doctor, who looked that hyper-aware kind of bleary that comes from going from sleep to full readiness in seconds. He gave John a baleful look, then crouched down to pick up the cup.

"While I'm here," he sighed, picking up the clipboard with John's charts. Everything was going to be computerized Carson had proudly told everyone. Except that Medical hadn't had the time to set up the computers because they had to keep tending to military officers.

"Can I go?" John asked, figuring it couldn't hurt.

"Personally, I have no problem with four AM discharges," the doctor said, rubbing at his eyes with his free hand. "But you were dead for a little while, in some sort of dematerialized state for a longer while, and I have no faith in you actually staying in your room to convalesce."

John made a face. "I sleep better when I'm not on display," he said. Which was true. He even had a habit of sleeping with his back to his bed partners, something that had really never gone over well and yet he'd been unable to do anything about it.

"So do we all," the doctor replied, sitting down so that he could balance the clipboard on his knees to write.

John sighed and leaned back.

"Listen," the doctor began, looking up from his notes. "You are recovering very well from your puddlejumper adventure. But your blood is still showing traces of whatever paralytic that bug injected you with and, in light of everything else that happened to you, erring on the side of caution is not an unreasonable course of action. We brought plenty of equipment with us, but we didn't bring everything and there is no medevac to the nearest major medical facility because we are the nearest major medical facility."

John nodded, if only to formally give up the argument.

"When was the last time you fired a gun?" He asked instead, taking a little bit of pleasure in the surprised look on the doctor's face.

"Before I left Colorado for Antarctica," he replied.

So a shooting range, probably at Cheyenne Mountain, and not as an IDF reservist. John really didn't know where all of the scientists came from, whether they'd all been part of the SGC or if they were like the marines, drawn from the real world and dropped off in another galaxy with little preparation.

"What did you do when you served?"

All attention on him and not on the clipboard. "Infantry. Golani Brigade." A frown. "And this is not the place for this conversation."

John shrugged. "Why not?" Atlantis was nothing if not fluid about the proper place for anything. His quarters were an old office and nothing else was where it was supposed to be, either.

"Because you are here as a patient, not as the military commander of Atlantis," the doctor replied. "I don't like it when people take advantage of my medical knowledge when I am trying to be a regular person. I will not do that to someone else."

John thought about telling him that he didn't care, that he was tired and tired of his idleness and if conducting an interview about range privileges at four in the morning kept the nightmares at bay, then he was more than happy to do it. But then the doctor stood up.

"Get some sleep," he said. "You can pester Carson for your freedom in the morning."

And then he left, putting the clipboard back in its place. A minute later, the overnight nurse appeared with a fresh pitcher of ice water. John thanked her, then tried to go back to sleep.

He was woken at 0730 for a blood test, released at noon by Beckett, who still put him on restricted duty for another two days, and spent the afternoon reading the files of his marines and then the one of Jonathan Safir, which included his service record. Over dinner in the still-being-organized commissary, he told Ford to tell Bates that Safir was free to shoot at whatever he wanted.

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30 July, 2006