katstales: (Team-nightime on balcony)
[personal profile] katstales
Title: It's The Little Things
Author: [livejournal.com profile] katstale
Rating: PG (mostly for violence and possibly a wee bit of 'colorful' language on Ronon's part *grins*)
Pairing/Characters: Gen fic with team and no pairings
Disclaimer: Don't own 'em & not making any money off this--if I did or I were, we'd SO be having a Season 6!!!
Summary: The team is returned to Atlantis after being regressed to childhood while investigating an offworld Ancient facility. With no memories of their adult selves, the four must work together to not only find a way to cope with their current situation, but to eventually reverse the effects and save themselves from impending death. Chaos, mayhem, and madness occur along the way, of course!

The story begins here in Part 1.


Part Two


The doors opened to a nearly empty hallway. He stepped out, slowly turning around upon hearing a familiar tapping sound behind him. His breath caught in his throat as a white-coated technician looked up from the data pad she was carrying. As their eyes met, she jumped, a startled look blossoming on her face. But to his amazement, she got over her surprise and simply waved before continuing on her way.

He stood there for a time, just staring after her while he wondered what to do next. This was it, he thought. The marines would be descending on him at any moment and he'd be in custody. His father was going to have a total conniption over this one when he heard, of that John had no doubt. He'd be grounded for years this time, lucky to see the outside world again before he was thirty. If then.

Pushing aside his fear of fatherly wrath, he concentrated on the here and now. It had been awhile, he thought. Surely the marines wouldn't have been that far away? Why weren't they here by now? Oh well, he decided. Might as well get on with it. When it came right down to it, it didn't really matter if they caught him here or in the infirmary or somewhere in between.

Buoyed by his reasoning, he turned back around and headed for Beckett's office, determined to see things through to the end. He reached the doors to the medical unit with no further incidents and confidently strode through them. His heart was pounding in his chest as he made his way back to the doctor's office. Several nurses and technicians saw him and paused, startled looks on their faces. None of them made any attempt to stop him, either smiling or nodding or waving before returning to their various tasks.

By the time he'd reached the door he sought, his legs felt like rubber and his heart was trying to beat right out of his chest. The light was on, which either meant that the doctor was there or else a security team was lying in wait, or both. He decided not to knock, opening the door and walking right in.

There was no security team, much to his relief. With more confidence than he felt, he walked right up to the desk. Carson was asleep at the keyboard of his laptop, so he boldly reached out and poked the doctor's arm until he lifted his head. "Rodney's sick," he announced, proud that his voice didn't waiver.

Beckett blinked, rubbing his eyes. His smile was genuine when he realized who was standing there in front of him. "So ye finally decided to trust me, did ye? Where are the others?" he asked, looking around.

John placed his hands on his hips and glared at the doctor. "I already said. Rodney's sick. You need to come help him."

Instantly awake, Carson's demeanor changed completely and he was all business. "Oh! All right, what's wrong with the lad? Where is he?"

"I'll take you. He's running a fever and sleeping a lot." John looked on warily as the Scot gathered a few items and threw them in his bag. "We gave him juice and tylenol, but I don't know if it helped or not."

"All right then, let me get Angela to come with us and we can be on our way then. Has Rodney eaten or drank anything? He may well be prone to exaggerate things, but he definitely has..."

John's annoyance grew with each word out of the doctor's mouth, until finally he cut the man off mid-sentence. "He's deathly allergic to citrus and he gets hypoglycemic if he don't eat often enough--we know all that. And nobody else comes with or the deal's off," he threatened.

Stunned by the anger in John's voice, Carson froze. "Oh, right. Well, of course you'd know. And if ye didn't, I'm sure he'd not hesitate to tell ye. I'm sorry, lad, I wasn't thinking." John could tell he wanted to say more, but to his credit, the man held his tongue.

"It's okay, just forget it. But the nobody else coming part is not open for discussion," he insisted. His anger faded as quickly as it had risen. "It's just a fever and if you need help you can call for it later."

John waited while Beckett considered the situation. At last, the Scot nodded. "Very well then, I accept your terms. Let's be off now, shall we? The sooner I see him, the better." He started for the door, but stopped almost immediately and turned back to the youngster. "I was just wondering if I'm allowed to tell them where I'm going? They're bound to ask questions when they see me leaving with my bag," he explained.

After a moment's consideration, John pointed to his left. "We'll go the back way. And you can't tell where we're going unless anyone asks directly."

Carson raised an eyebrow. "Aye, well that makes sense. Less likely that we'll meet anyone this time of night going that way." He nodded. "All right, I won't tell unless I'm asked--but I won't lie, I'm telling ye that right off."

"Deal." Satisfied with the terms, John slipped ahead of the doctor and led the way to the nearest transporter.

~A~



Carson followed the boy down the nearly deserted hallways of the city. After awhile, he began to wonder whether John was lost as they seemed to be doing an inordinate amount of doubling back, crisscrossing, and aimless wandering. He'd been about to call the lad on it when John suddenly stopped, raised his fist, and dropped to his knee--an eerily familiar sequence that left Beckett tingling all over.

"All right, I don't think we're being followed," said the pint-sized colonel. "Come on, I'll take you to Rodney now." Without waiting for an answer, he did an abrupt about-face and headed back the way they'd come.

Once he'd recovered enough to stop gaping and close his mouth, the Scot hurried after his guide. He couldn't help but be amazed by John's instinctive ability and knowledge of the steps required to avoid pursuit and evade capture. It was no small wonder that the others had experienced such difficulty while pursuing the youngsters, he thought. He might not have his adult memories, but his survival instinct and abilities were without question those of the adult John Sheppard. Between him and the rest of the city's premiere off world team, it was suddenly clear to him exactly what Major Lorne had been saying in the briefing--and what they'd been going through all during their search.

So preoccupied was he with his musings that Carson hadn't even realized they'd entered the lower levels. John wasted no time now and kept the pace brisk, sticking to a more direct path with virtually no unnecessary deviations or turns. He slowed at last, holding out his hand to signal Beckett to stop. "It's us, guys," he called.

Carson took a step forward, but John grabbed his jacket and held him back. "Wait till they answer," he instructed. "Or you'll be sorry."

"They're expecting us, aren't they?" Beckett started forward again. "And I need to see to my patient."

"Ok," agreed John. "But don't say I didn't warn you."

"Warn me about what?"

"Ronon. He says not, but I can tell."

Carson was rapidly losing patience. "What on earth are ye on about, lad? I've not got all day here--and neither does Rodney, I'd guess."

John shrugged. "He wants to shoot someone again. To stun them," he qualified. "I don't think he really wants to hurt anyone. Not anyone here, anyway. At least not yet."

That stopped the doctor dead in his tracks. "Oh, well then. I suppose we should wait until they answer us."

Glaring at Carson, John again called out to his team. "Guys! We're here now and we're coming in."

Dead silence was the only reply. Giving Beckett a worried look, he nodded toward the far door on the left. "I'm going in. You should probably wait here until I give the all clear." He didn't wait for the doctor to agree, immediately taking off for the room where he'd left the others.

Shaking his head, Carson followed. It just didn't seem right to let a child clear the way for him, even if said child had the instincts of a seasoned soldier. Still, in addition to having a head start, John was faster and disappeared through the doorway before Beckett had taken more than a couple of steps. What he heard immediately after sent his heart rate skyrocketing.

"Guys? What are you doing? Get up! You're supposed to be taking care of Rodney and standing watch," said John.

Carson had nearly reached the door but still there had been no answer from the apparently slacking parties. John's voice again filled the hallway, this time with more than just hint of worry and desperation in it. "Ronon! Teyla! Come on guys, wake up," he demanded.

Bursting through the door, Beckett found John kneeling next to the prone forms of both Ronon and Teyla. Both appeared to be deeply asleep or unconscious. Best to start there, he thought, and went straight to them. Opening his bag, he set straight to work on getting vitals.

"They won't wake up," John informed him, fighting off tears. "I shook them and everything, but they're not waking up."

Sparing a moment to pat his shoulder, Carson tried to comfort him. "I can see that. But not to worry, son, I'm fairly certain that they're very deeply asleep. Likely exhausted from...all the excitement." He'd almost slipped and told the boy what had really happened to them, that when they had woken up that morning they'd all been full grown adults. But until they had a more complete picture of what condition their bodies were in, especially their brains, the less said about that the better. Smiling encouragingly, he finished his exam.

"They aren't waking up." John sat between his two team members, his expression bleak.

"But they will once they've rested," insisted Beckett, climbing to his feet. "So no frettin' about it." He looked around, searching for the fourth and final member of the group. "Now I'd like to see to Rodney. Can you show me where he is?"

Only slightly mollified, the youngster nodded. "He's over there." John led him over to the largest console in the room. Carson was thankful to find it completely dark--at least that was one less thing to worry about. No telling what trouble they could have gotten into or what effect it might have on their current conditions.

Behind the unit, Rodney still lay curled up in a ball. His shivering had almost totally abated, but his cheeks were still flushed from the fever. He was clutching a dark piece of cloth, but the doctor couldn't quite tell what it was. As Carson knelt down to begin his exam, John provided the explanation.

"He was cold and shivering and stuff. Before I left to come find you, I mean. So I gave him my shirt because it was all I could find. I guess the tylenol wasn't working yet. He said it was better after that though."

"That was very good thinking on your part," said the Scot. "Ye've done a right proper job of taking care of all of them." He watched John out of the corner of his eye as he finished examining McKay. From what he could see, Rodney wasn't in any immediate danger, though the unexplained fever was definitely cause for concern.

John, at least, was conscious, though he certainly looked a bit worse for wear. There were dark circles around his eyes and he seemed to be shaking now that the excitement was over. "Are ye cold, lad? I mean, after literally giving away the shirt off your back, who wouldn't be?"

Without a moment's hesitation, the boy shook his head. "I'm good."

Carson had done all he could for Rodney for the moment and turned his full attention to the only member of the team he hadn't yet examined. "I'm glad to hear that. I'd still like to have a look at ye, though." Seeing John was about to protest, he added, "It might help the others. For comparison purposes, ye understand."

Though he wasn't totally buying it, John did grudgingly agree. "Okay, if you really think it will help the others."

"Oh aye, that I do. Mind ye, I'm not entirely certain how yet, but I have no doubt it will help." Beckett pointed to a vacant counter next to the console. "How about ye hop up here and I'll have a quick look?"

Though far from thrilled with the prospect, John nonetheless did as requested and moved over to the counter. Carson could see the exhaustion in the boy's every movement as he hopped up and settled himself. "Okay, what do I do now?"

"Now ye just sit there and let me do a preliminary exam. But first, I need to call for gurneys for the others." He waited for the expected tirade, or at the very least a vehement protest. To his great surprise, neither came.

Instead, John looked down at Rodney and then over to the two sleeping on the other side of the room. At last he turned red-rimmed eyes to the doctor. "Can you make them all better? For real?"

Carson sucked in a sharp breath. "I won't lie to ye, lad. Unfortunately, that's about the only thing I can promise ye right now. I don't know precisely what's wrong with them yet, though from what I can tell from the limited exam I've been able to do, each of them should awaken once they've rested. But I can't predict how long that will take, much as I wish I could, and I don't yet know what's causing Rodney's fever. So until I can get him under the scanner and draw some blood for tests, I can't promise anything one way or the other; I can and do promise ye I'll do my level best to make them all right as rain again just as fast as humanly possible. The one thing I know for certain is that I cannot do anymore for them here than I already have. And that's the truth."

John didn't answer immediately, scrubbing a hand wearily over his face as he considered his options. At last, he nodded. "Okay. If you think it's best."

Beckett called for the med teams to come and retrieve the sleeping members of Team Sheppard, but ran into a slight problem with the directions. He'd gotten so thoroughly distracted and turned around on the journey there that he had to have John explain the fastest route to them, much to his chagrin. Once that was done and they were on the way, he finally got down to business and began examining his only conscious patient. He quickly and efficiently completed his task, one by one noting the results of temperature, pulse, and blood pressure. He was finishing up with a listen to John's lungs and heart. "Breathe deep, lad," he instructed.

John complied, stifling a yawn. Satisfied with what he'd heard after listening to both front and back, Carson moved on to listen to the boy's heart. Finding nothing unusual, he was about to pull away when suddenly John pitched forward. "Whoa there, laddie, where do ye think ye're going?"

Beckett barely had time to react, but managed to catch the boy. When John didn't answer him, Carson did a quick re-check of his vitals. John's breathing was deep and even, just like Teyla and Ronon. He responded to the usual stimuli for reflexes and his pupils were fine, leading the physician to the conclusion that he too had simply at last given in to exhaustion and was completely and totally asleep. Lifting him from the counter with the intention of laying him next to his team, he started across the room. Once there, he paused, cradling the boy close to him. "Sleep well, lad. We'll do our best to get things put right again for all of ye, that I promise ye." With nothing else to do but worry, he sank to the floor and settled in to wait for his medics, still holding the slumbering boy-Sheppard.

~A~



John woke suddenly, unable to see anything but darkness. There were no shadows, no faint outlines, nothing but the inky blackness all around him. There was noise though. He couldn't tell where it was coming from, but the almost-familiar chittering and clacking set his teeth on edge. He felt around for a weapon of some sort, but found only fabric as far as he could reach. Bed, he thought. I'm in bed. That meant there must be a light of some sort nearby so, carefully, he stood and felt his way along the edge of the bed to where a nightstand or lamp should be.

The noise continued, inching ever closer to his back as he fumbled along. His heart pounded in his chest as he clumsily felt his way to the head of the bed. It seemed like an eternity had passed by the time he finally located the fixture and, with an immense sense of relief, turned it on. Temporarily blinded by the sudden light, he turned around to face the area from which the sound seemed to be originating. The noise changed abruptly, escalating to a near-frenzied intensity; apparently, the creature making it hadn't appreciated the sudden brightness. John's eyes slowly adjusted and at last he could make out a dark mass crouching a few feet in front of him. It swayed back and forth, as if it wanted to advance but couldn't. Blind, he realized. The light had affected it, too.

Moments later, his vision fully returned and he could clearly see the source of the sound. A huge black bug stood barely a foot in front of him, still chittering and clacking as it swayed. Frozen with terror, he opened his mouth and tried to scream, but nothing came out. Run, he thought. I need to run. He knew instinctively that it was a bad thing and that he'd be in serious trouble if it ever reached him, but he remained firmly rooted to the spot. "Dad," he whispered, his vocal chords at last obeying his brain's instructions.

The word had no sooner left his lips than the hideous-looking thing launched itself into the air, coming directly for him. He did scream this time, as loud and as long as he could. He felt it scamper up his torso, prompting him to scream all the louder. He tried to grab it and fling it away, but it was too quick and he was unable to get a hold of it. The next thing he knew there was a stinging sensation on the side of his neck, followed quickly by something tightening around his throat. He pulled at it, trying to get it off, and all the while screaming for his father, or anyone, to come and help him, to get it off.

"John! Come on, John, you gotta wake up now," called an unknown female voice. "That's it, open your eyes for us."

As the nightmare faded, he did as requested and looked up into a completely unfamiliar face. His chest was heaving as he tried to suck in enough air, looking frantically around for someone he recognized. Finding no one, he fought to keep the tears at bay. "Where's my dad? I want my dad. Dad!" Searching for the door, he sat up and prepared to flee.

"Oh, no-no-no-no," said the strange woman. "You can't get up yet, you'll tear your IV out." Her expression softened, but her hold on his shoulders remained firm. "I'm really sorry, but your dad's not here. But he...he asked us to take care of you. Until he can...until he can come back. So you have to stay here and cooperate with us. Just until he gets back, of course."

"No! I want my dad!" He struggled against her, trying to get up and find his father, but the woman was too strong for him. "Dad! Dad, help me!"

The woman spoke to someone that John couldn't see, but he didn't hear what was said, too caught up in the struggle for his freedom. "Let me go!" he screamed. "I want my dad!" He blocked out everything else around him and focused all of his efforts on getting free. He kicked at them, even going so far as to try to bite the woman to force her to let go.

"Get it in his IV," she ordered. "Hurry!"

"No! I want my dad! Let me go!" He tried to keep fighting, but suddenly his limbs began to feel heavy. "Wha'd...wha'd..y'...do?" he demanded, his words beginning to slur.

"You let him go!" John recognized the voice of his new friend, Ronon, and tried to call for help, but now even his voice was refusing to work. The room felt like it was spinning, but he continued to try to fight her. His entire body felt weighted down, refusing to respond to his brain's demands, and his struggles grew less and less effective. His eyes grew heavier and heavier, until finally they closed and the darkness took him away.

Ronon saw his friend's body go limp, his anger surging. Swinging the IV pole he'd liberated from his bed in a wide arc over his head, he ran to John's side. "Back off! I told you to get away," he warned.

Medical personnel dived out of his way to avoid being hit and before they knew it, he had leapt up onto John's bed, holding the pole in front of him and ready to use on anyone who appeared to be contemplating rushing him. He spared a brief glance down at the motionless body before his eyes sought out Keller and demanded answers. "What have you done to him?"

"Nothing, I swear! He had a very bad dream and refused to calm down. We just gave him a little something to help him sleep again, that's all. I--we--would never do anything to hurt him and I think deep down you know that," said Keller.

"I don't believe you," said Ronon, his eyes still glittering with rage. "Wake him up again. Now!"

Before she could answer, there was a clattering noise from behind him. "I would not do that if I were you," said a familiar voice. Though tempted to risk a glance to see what was happening, Ronon kept his eyes on the woman in front of him, watching the surrounding crowd in his peripheral vision. Another loud clank rang through the room, followed almost immediately by the distinct thud of a body hitting the floor. "Do not say I did not attempt to warn you," said Teyla. A curtain rustled and moments later, he felt the dip of the bed and knew she had joined him.

"What in bloody Hell is going on here?" demanded Carson, pushing his way through the gathering crowd of onlookers. His mouth fell open as he took in the scene before him. Despite their small stature, Ronon and Teyla looked quite intimidating, standing back-to-back on the end of John's bed, each wielding an IV pole in a very threatening manner. "Jennifer?" Though addressing someone else, Beckett's eyes never left them.

"John had a nightmare and Ronon and Teyla here are just a little confused about what we had to do to treat him for it, that's all. Everything is fine and no one is going to be hurt here, right, guys?" she asked, looking directly at the children.

"Liar!" Without hesitation, the two youngsters answered in unison, but Ronon was the one to provide the rest of the explanation. "I saw her. She was hurting him. Then she made him go to sleep and now she won't wake him up like I said."

Shaking his head in exasperation, Carson walked straight up to the bed. "May I examine him, please?" he asked the duo, waiting patiently for them to decide. Ronon and Teyla looked at each other, a silent conversation passing between them. At last, Ronon nodded and they stepped aside just enough to allow Carson access to John.

Beckett quickly and efficiently completed his exam. "What did ye give him, if I may ask?" he asked, turning to Keller.

"What difference does that make?" demanded Ronon, annoyed with the delay. "Just get on with it and wake him up."

Carson sighed, turning his attention back to the two protectors. "You're right, son. I suppose it doesn't make any difference at all. Jennifer gave John something called a sedative. That's a type of drug that makes a person sleep. We can't wake him up without giving him a strong stimulant, and that can be very dangerous to him. It could even kill him. So I'm very sorry, but I'm going to have to refuse your request, lad. I won't take that risk, no matter what you say you're going to do. He's going to have to wake up on his own."

"How long will it take for him to awaken on his own?" asked Teyla. Ronon knew that like himself, she was keeping a very close eye on the crowd, staying alert and ready to strike out at anyone who might dare to approach without permission.

"Well now, there's a question. I cannot say for certain, mind ye, but I'd guess it's going to be around 6 hours, give or take. Which is quite a long time to be standing up there waving those poles around, don't you think?" Carson didn't back down, looking each of them directly in the eyes as he boldly proposed a solution. "Look, I know ye both just want to help him, but a body has its limits--even yours. So let's talk about what it will take to get ye down from there. I'll go first. I suggest we start with sending all these people on about their business," he said, waving in the general direction of the crowd. "Then I'd like to ask ye both to come down from there. We can get a couple of chairs in here for ye so ye can be right next to him. Or better yet, ye can hop on over to one of these beds," he said, pointing to the two on either side of John's. "That way ye can both be right here when he wakes up. How does that sound?"

The two youngsters exchanged a look, after which Ronon again took the lead. "If all the other people will go, we'll move to the other bed--but no more needles. For any of us. And no more sleeping-drugs for Sheppard. Teyla got him to calm down before; she can do it again if he has another dream."

Beckett thought for a moment. "I'll agree to the no needles for you and Teyla; but for now, John needs the IV. We'll see about removing it once he's awake. And I'm going to have to amend the no-drugs part about Col...John. If he has another nightmare, I will agree to allow Teyla to try to calm him first. But if she's not able to settle him within a reasonable amount of time, then I'll have to insist that you not interfere when we do what we feel is best for him, be that a sedative or something else. And I'll make certain that you're kept informed of what we're doing, so that there won't be any surprises. That's the best I can do, lad. So what do you think? Do we have a deal?"

"Carson, you can't..." Jennifer started to protest, but was interrupted when a short man with big dark-rimmed glasses stepped through the parting crowd.

"I'm sorry, Doctor Keller, but I'm afraid I must disagree. In fact, I insist that you allow Doctor Beckett to handle this from now on. He seems to be having far more success with...with obtaining the children's cooperation than anyone else so far. I think it might be best for everyone if he were to take over their care until the current...situation is resolved."

Though clearly unhappy, Keller nodded. "All right, I suppose I can't argue with that. I'll be in the lab working if anyone needs me."

The new arrival next turned his attention to the gathering of onlookers. "Move along now, people. I'm sure you all have far more important things to be doing. And if not, report to your respective heads of department; I've no doubt they can find something more productive for you to do than gawk at Ronon and Teyla."

He waited until the crowd dispersed, then strode purposefully up to the bed where Ronon and Teyla still stood watch over Sheppard. "Now then. First, I would like to apologize for the interruption, but I think we'll make far more progress this way. Second, I believe Doctor Beckett has proposed a solution. Do you need a moment to consider or might we have an answer?"

Ronon looked at Teyla, unsure quite what to make of this newcomer. Obviously he was someone with considerable clout, judging from the way the crowd left without argument. Plus he had the authority to kick that lady doctor out and put Beckett in charge of them. And that was another thing; while Ronon wasn't exactly sure he trusted Carson, he was definitely preferable to the others. Teyla nodded at him, as if she could hear and follow his thoughts. It was kinda weird, but it also felt right somehow. He gestured toward the next bed and she silently acknowledged.

"I'll take this bed and Teyla wants that one," he said, pointing to the beds on both sides of John. "And we want that Rodney kid moved in here with us, too."

"Anything else?" asked the stranger. There was more than just a little bite in his tone, a fact that did not go unnoticed by either of the youngsters.

Ronon shrugged, enjoying the feeling of having the little man on the defensive. "Probably. But this is a good enough start for now."

"Very well then. I'll leave you in Doctor Beckett's apparently quite capable hands." He gave Carson a pointed look, one that even Ronon clearly understood to mean 'This is on you now and you'll be answering for whatever happens next.'

As the strange little man turned on his heel and made his exit, Beckett wasted no time in addressing their demands. "All right then, since Mr. Woolsey has already seen to your first demand, we'll start with the next one on the list. We won't restart the IV's but I will need to clean and bandage those," he said, indicating the puncture site on each of their arms, which were currently sporting twin trickles of blood.

"What about Rodney?" asked Teyla. "When will he be moved in here to join us?"

Carson thought for a moment. "I'll have him brought over while I'm tending to the two of you. He should be here and settled in no time."

"Very well," she answered warily. "But make no mistake, should you attempt any trickery there will be consequences. Severe consequences."

"Yeah, what she said," added Ronon.

"Of course. Now if you'll excuse me for a moment, I'll see to the arrangements and get the supplies I'll need to see to the two of you." Pausing to see if there were any objections, he strode off to the far side of the ward.

Once he was out of earshot, Ronon turned to Teyla. "You think he'll really do it?"

She thought for a moment, then nodded. "I believe so. He has been very forthcoming so far. And John did trust him enough to reveal our location to him."

"They might have forced him though," countered Ronon. "Until John wakes up, we can't be sure what happened."

"Perhaps not. But I overheard two of them talking right before I joined you. They were discussing how the doctor had called upon John to give them directions to our hideout because Carson had become lost. They seemed to find it quite amusing, for some reason. I think we must trust him for now, at least until he gives us a reason not to."

"In the meantime?"

Teyla shrugged. "We remain vigilant and watch over our friends."

Ronon nodded. "Okay. Might as well get comfortable then." He dropped onto the mattress, taking a seat near the foot of John's bed and keeping his IV pole ready. Teyla quickly joined him and together, they settled in to wait.

~A~



Carson strode into the ward, heading straight for the beds of the four transformed members of Sheppard's team. Once Rodney had been settled in--not waking at all through the entire process--the two native members of the group had taken up watch, then promptly passed out to sleep again themselves. Their collective exhaustion was a bit worrying to him, but after going over the scans and blood tests he fully expected that to change within the next few hours.

What the tests hadn't revealed, however, was the cause of the mysterious fever which was currently plaguing Rodney. His white cell count was within normal parameters, contraindicating infection as the culprit. More specific testing would be required and, not wanting a repeat of the previous evening's episode, he was hoping to find Sheppard awake; if he could get John on board, he was fairly certain that the other two would follow. It amazed him to see the depth of their trust and belief in each other, especially regarding John Sheppard. Even with no memory of each other, they'd instinctively looked to John for leadership. In turn, he had stepped up to the plate, taking on the role of leader and protector with a fierceness that most adults would find impossible to match.

Rounding the pulled curtain, he stopped short, shaking his head as he took in the scene before him. Ronon's and Teyla's beds were empty; the Satedan was sacked out at the foot of John's bed and the Athosian at the foot of Rodney's. McKay was still asleep, though not as peacefully as the last time Beckett had seen him. Sheppard was sitting up in the bed, glaring up at the half-empty IV bag that was connected to his arm.

"Don't even think about it, lad. As soon as it's finished, I'll be glad to remove it, but ye need to leave it until then," he warned.

"How come Ronon and Teyla don't have to have one?"

"They did have one, but they've not been affected nearly as much as you or Rodney there. Ye just need a little more top-off than they did, that's all." He smiled then, losing the stern-parent persona for the moment. "I was hoping we could talk for a moment, if ye don't mind?"

"I guess, if you want." John shrugged, trying for an air of nonchalance that Beckett instantly saw through.

"Good. Let me just get our friend there back to his own bed and then we can chat for a bit."

The smirk on the boy's face was eerily familiar. "I wouldn't do that if I were you." About to lift the sleeping youngster, Carson paused, raising an eyebrow in question. "The nurses already tried. Five times now, I think. Or maybe it was six. Anyway, he just moves right back as soon as they leave. Teyla too," he added. "That last time he mumbled something about shooting someone. I think he meant the next person to move him, but I'm not sure. He was pretty groggy, so I might have misunderstood. But you can go ahead and move him, if you want. I'm sure he was only kidding anyway. Probably."

Carson straightened, warily backing away and pulling a nearby stool over to the bedside. "Well, I suppose he's not really hurting anything being where he is and as long as you don't mind him being there, that's the most important thing."

Rodney picked that moment to moan in his sleep, turning restlessly and crowding Teyla. Beckett looked over in concern, unsure of what the best course of action might be. "Perhaps I'd best move the lass before she gets hurt," he suggested.

"Nah, just leave her there. She won't get hurt. Just watch." John was confident, so the doctor went along with him. For several moments, nothing happened. Then McKay groaned, again forcing her even closer to the edge of the bed.

Carson made as if to stand, but Sheppard stopped him cold. "Wait for it," demanded John. "Won't be long now."

He'd no sooner finished speaking than Rodney again shifted. Teyla's arm dropped over the edge of the bed, but she didn't appear to fully awaken. Her eyes still closed, she thumped Rodney on the lower part of his leg. Carson winced in sympathy, expecting the pint-sized scientist to open his eyes and complain--loudly. To his amazement, the boy instead mumbled "sorry" and moved back over, again allowing her space at the foot of the bed. She gently patted the same spot where she'd just smacked him, a silent acceptance of his apology, and the two of them immediately settled back into their original positions.

"Told ya," gloated John. "The first time he woke up and complained, but she told him he had two choices. One, he could apologize like a gentleman and go back to sleep. Or two, she'd make sure that the entire city knew that he got beat up by a girl. He went with option number one." There was no mistaking the glee in the youngster's face as he related the tale. "Ronon said he was a wuss, so Rodney called him a Neanderthal back. Only Ronon didn't know what that was, so I told him it was someone with no brains and all brawn. Then he said he'd show Rodney how good brains were when someone was beating the crap out of you, but Teyla told him to shut up so she could sleep." Seeing Beckett's skeptical look, John shrugged. "She might have said it a little nicer though. Anyway, that was the end of it and everyone went back to sleep."

"Everyone but you, I gather?" Carson was fairly certain he knew what the boy's answer would be even before he'd asked the question.

John shrugged. "My turn on watch. And that's about it until you showed up. To talk." Clearly, the lad wasn't pleased with the prospect.

Knowing he would need to approach the subject carefully, he nodded. "Aye, I need to ask your help with something. It's about Rodney," he explained.

John's guard immediately went back up. "What about him?"

Carson took a deep breath before launching into his explanation. "Ye know he's running a fever?" At the boy's nod, he continued. "Well, we've been trying to find out why he's doing that so that we can more effectively treat it. Right now, regular doses of tylenol are preventing it from rising any higher, but it's not going away. We need to find out what's causing it so that we can cure it. The tests we've run on him so far haven't given us any clue as to the source."

"So you need to do more tests," guessed John. At Beckett's nod, he frowned. "Okay. So what's the big deal? Do the tests and find out how to fix him. Seems pretty simple to me."

Shooting a quick glance at the youngster at the foot of the bed, Carson clamped down his own rising irritation and patiently explained. "Aye, ye'd think so. But after last night--I'm assuming ye heard about the...incident last night?" John shifted uncomfortably, but nodded. "Well, I don't want to risk upsetting your two friends there. So I was hoping you might help me convince them that this is for the best."

Sheppard looked first to one, then the other before finally turning his attention back to the doctor. "They won't have a problem with it."

"It's not that I doubt ye or anything, but perhaps we should tell them about it first?"

John rolled his eyes. "They already know." Seeing the doubt in Beckett's eyes, he shrugged. "They heard every word you said."

Now it was Carson's turn to frown. "Oh. But I thought they were sleeping," he protested.

Again, the youngster rolled his eyes--exaggerating the gesture this time. "They were. But they've been awake pretty much ever since you came in."

"Oh. Well then. I suppose if no one has any objections, I should go see about scheduling those tests." He stood, frowning as he looked from one bed to the other. They still appeared to be sleeping to him, but he wasn't about to contradict John when the lad was cooperating. Shaking his head, he turned to leave.

"Wait a minute," called Sheppard. "What about this?"

Beckett found him glaring petulantly up at the IV bag again and was barely able to suppress his laughter. "It's not quite finished yet; however, I think it will probably be close enough by the time I get the arrangements made for Rodney's tests. I'll come back and personally take it out when I've got everything set. If that's all right with you?" he added.

Resigned to his fate, John sighed. "Fine. But...can you try to hurry?"

"Oh, I will. I promise." Still smiling, Beckett hurried off, leaving the pouting Sheppard to once more watch over his little flock.

~A~




Three small figures plastered themselves as close to the wall as they could get--no easy task as laden with needed supplies as they were. One inched forward, covertly peeking around the corner as the two others hung back.

"We clear or not?"

"John?"

Sheppard waved his hand to shush his two over-eager teammates. Craning his neck to see better without totally revealing himself, he watched intently for several moments before finally turning his attention back to his companions. "Are you guys trying to get us caught? What if there had been someone coming? We'd have been toast for sure."

"Not if you'd have let me bring that blaster," Ronon pointed out helpfully.

John glared at him. "I told you, we aren't going to run around stunning people. Not unless they cross us, and so far, they're keeping their end of the deal. They let us out of the infirmary, just like Carson said."

"Yeah, but they also tried to stick us with a babysitter," argued the Satedan. "That wasn't supposed to be part of the deal."

"That was not Doctor Beckett's decision and you know it." Teyla looked like she was beginning to regret her decision to accompany the two boys. She had said it sounded like a much more pleasant alternative to sitting in the small enclosure with little to do beyond watching Rodney sleep, but now that the sniping between him and Ronon was escalating she didn't look quite so certain.

John snorted. "So? It took us what, five whole minutes to ditch the guy? Piece of cake, my friend--and not worth making enemies over."

"A lot more fun though," said Ronon, grinning.

Teyla and John shared an eye-roll at their teammate's comment. "Come on, let's get out of here before someone comes along and we end up being toast anyway." Hefting the coil of rope he'd draped over his shoulder, he darted forward, taking it as a given that his cohorts would follow.

~A~



"What do you mean your man lost them? Doctor Beckett only released them a few moments ago!" Richard Woolsey leaned forward in his chair, a serious death-grip on the arm rests. The man was definitely not pleased. At all.

"Yes, sir, I'm aware of that," answered Major Lorne. He'd known he was going to be standing here, in this exact predicament the moment he'd received the order for an escort for the colonel and his group. The only thing he hadn't known was exactly how long it would take, but even he hadn't dreamed it would be within the first five minutes. "Painfully so, in fact. And I can assure you that Walker will be dealt with appropriately. In the meantime, we have begun a search for the missing parties. I'll let you know as soon as we have anything concrete to report."

Woolsey's eyes narrowed. "I do not want a repeat of the fiasco that occurred on their arrival, Major," he warned.

"No, sir," agreed Lorne. "My men have instructions to report any sightings, but are under strict orders not to attempt to apprehend them. We're doing our best not to undermine the progress Doctor Beckett has made regarding their cooperation."

"Hmph. Of course, if they were their normal selves I'd consider their actions a clear revocation of terms. But I suppose that under the present circumstances, certain allowances might have to be made. Though I do believe that certain...consequences must be invoked in order to teach them a lesson. Children must be disciplined, after all."

"But sir, with all due respect, they're not really children. They might be smaller in size and have some memory issues, but deep down underneath all that, they are fully grown adults," protested the major.

Woolsey bristled. "Have you ever heard the old expression, "If it walks like a duck," Major?"

"Yes, sir," he answered dutifully. Lorne had a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. His mind's eye was gleefully playing out all sorts of scenarios for when the three culprits were made aware of the expedition head's intentions; none of them bode well for him or his men. "If that's all, I should probably get back to the search now."

"You do that, Major. Dismissed." Woolsey's tone was curt, clearly telling him that all wasn't necessarily forgiven just yet. Still, Lorne wasn't at all sorry that he'd spoken up. He knew to the core of his being that treating the de-aged team as ordinary children was a clear recipe for disaster. He also knew that the fall out would no doubt land completely on his shoulders, but there was no time to worry about that now. He had a trio of small persons to find, after all, and the sooner the better.

Nodding respectfully, he headed for the door. He was surprised to hear Woolsey's voice call after him. "Major? Mistakes won't be looked upon kindly. You'd do well to remember that."

~A~



Down on one of the lesser-used piers, punishment was the last thing on John's, Teyla's, or Ronon's mind.

"Bomb's away!" With a long running start, John flung himself off the end of the pier, curling up into a ball as much as possible to prepare for the impact with the water below. When it came, he knew the splash factor had to have been one of his best ever and wasted no time in heading for the surface to accept his teammates' congratulations.

"Ronon, stop! There is no bomb!" shouted Teyla. "It was only a manner of speaking."

Treading water, John chimed in. "Give it a rest, Short Stuff. Like she said, there's no bomb. It's just something you say when you jump. Sheesh, what's with you anyway?" Swimming over to the makeshift ladder, he nimbly climbed up and easily pulled himself up over the edge. "Who's next?"

"I believe it is my turn next," answered Teyla, shooting a glare at Ronon that dared him to contradict.

"Okay," agreed John. "Ronon, you're up after Teyla, then me again."

Teyla mimicked him, taking a running start. Just before she reached the edge, John called out a reminder. "Remember to stay curled into a ball all the way till you hit the water."

She didn't answer him, but did follow instructions and stayed tucked until after she hit. Even John was impressed with the splash factor, wondering if his own had been that impressive. Ronon quickly dashed that notion, however. "Hey, that was even better than yours."

John glared at him. "Yeah, well, mine would have been real impressive if I wasn't trying to show you guys the right way how to do it."

Smirking, Ronon kept at him. "Maybe if you hadn't used all that air screaming about fake bombs it would have been almost as good as her."

"Yeah, right, whatever. Go on, it's your turn now. Unless you're chicken or something?"

Even as John issued the challenge, Teyla was hauling herself back onto the pier. "Ronon, you must try it," she enthused.

Now scowling, Dex crossed his arms. "I'll go when I'm ready."

"Yeah?" goaded Sheppard. "That gonna be before or after you've grown enough to use that blaster-thing on your own?"

His eyes flashing with anger, Ronon stomped away to give himself plenty of running room. He took a deep breath and, with a determined look, took off running. A primal scream filled the air as he catapulted himself into air and out over the water.

John was relieved to see him scrunch up, worry over whether their disagreement would cause him to be careless evaporating. He hit the water perfectly, sending up an impressive splash in the process. He'd even managed to beat Teyla's effort, which meant the little hairball was going to be lording it over him for all he was worth. "Wow, that was some splash," he grudgingly admitted. "Wouldn't think such a little guy could pull that off."

Teyla shrugged. "Yes, it was bigger than one would have thought possible. Not as impressive as yours, of course," she said. "But quite good, nonetheless."

Frowning, John questioned her. "You wouldn't happen to be trying to butter me up or something, would you?"

She seemed genuinely confused by his question. "Butter you up?"

He mentally kicked himself for again forgetting that his two new friends were totally unfamiliar with most of the idioms and slang he and Rodney were prone to using. "Yeah, you know. Suck up? Use false flattery? That kind of thing?"

Her eyes narrowed. "I would never do such a thing."

John realized his error the moment he finished speaking and quickly tried to back-pedal. "Um, yeah, I didn't mean...I meant...look, it's just that Ronon said that your splash was bigger than mine, but his was bigger than yours and you said mine was more impressive than his, so...um, yeah. I should probably just apologize and shut up now, so, um, sorry."

Ronon picked that moment to pop over the side of the pier and John prepared to lay into him over the deception. The moment he saw the kid's face though, he froze. Ronon was looking past him with an alarmed expression and John suddenly had the overwhelming sense that they were no longer alone. Slowly, he turned around to see who was there.

His stomach lurched at the sight of Carson Beckett, leaning against a stack of crates with his arms folded and an extremely annoyed look on his face. "I think ye already have a pretty good idea of how much trouble you're in," he began. "But it's always best to be certain, don't you agree?"

Without waiting for John's reply, he continued. "Of all the bloody stupid...do ye have even the slightest clue as to how dangerous this little game of yours is? Ye don't even have life preservers, for heaven's sake! If something had happened to one of you, the others wouldn't have been able to do a thing about it."

"That's what the ropes are for," said Ronon, an equally annoyed look on his face. "Sheppard said if anything happened, we could just pull the one in the water up with them."

Carson started to snap at him, but stopped, his eyes traveling the length of the rope tied around the Satedan's waist and pooling on the deck at his feet. From there it snaked over to a lamp post where the other end was tethered. "Oh," he said. "Well, all right, I give ye that one. T'was very clever of ye, lad. But it doesn't change the fact that ye ditched the escort that Mr. Woolsey ordered or the fact that, tether or no, this was a bloody crazy and dangerous thing. I'm fairly certain that I probably don't want to know how you've been getting back up after your little...swim. You've a great deal of explaining to do, my wee young friend."

Defiant, the youngster defended his actions. "We were careful; we used the ropes for tethers and hooked some of those net-things together for a ladder to get back up. You said we should get some fresh air and exercise," he accused. "This is both."

Carson pinched the bridge of his nose, taking a moment to pick his words. "Aye, I suppose I do have to admit that it is indeed. But it's still far too dangerous and I want ye to give me your solemn word that ye won't be trying this again. Or anything else involving the water, for that matter."

Shooting a conspiratorial look at each of his two cohorts, he considered the doctor's words. "What about the outside-fresh-air part?" he asked, eyeing the doctor warily.

Beckett didn't answer right away, and John somehow knew that his first instinct was to say no to that also. Judging by the look on his face and the stiffness of his posture, John suspected that, after seeing the look that had passed between him and Teyla and Ronon, the doctor was nervous. Still, Carson of all people should know that fresh air and a place to run and jump and shout in was a rather essential part of their existence. It took a few moments--John figured that he was considering his options--but Beckett finally came up with a proposal for them. "All right then, how about this? Ye can still be outside, but only on the balconies or close to the inner city. The piers are strictly off limits. And that last is non-negotiable," he added.

Turning to his cohorts, the three youngsters held a silent conversation, speaking only with their eyes in a language that was undecipherable to outsiders. John watched out of the corner of his eye as Beckett shifted from foot to foot. It was obvious that the man's nerves were on edge, prompting a smirk from Ronon who must have been covertly observing also. John suspected the doctor knew they were more than capable of doing pretty much anything they wanted--including disappearing again if they didn't like the restrictions that the grown-ups were attempting to force on them.

Deciding it was finally time to put the man out of his misery, John finally spoke. "Okay, we'll accept your terms," he said. "But we don't want a babysitter. We can look after ourselves--we're not babies and we refuse to be treated like we are."

Carson hesitated, as if carefully choosing his words. "I'm sorry, but I can't promise you anything on that score, lad. Mr. Woolsey has the final say on that one, I'm afraid. What I can do is promise to put in a good word on your behalf, if ye'd like."

John could see Ronon out of the corner of his eye and knew he was about to go off on the doctor when he took a step forward. He extended his arm to keep the little guy in check, but didn't look away from Beckett. "All right, I'll talk to him then. But you'd better tell him that this is also non-negota...non-negotialble."

"Very well, if that's what ye want. But first let's get ye all back inside and dried off before ye catch your death." It was clear that 'no' was not an option, which didn't sit all that well with John. Still, the alternative was to go back into hiding immediately and he wasn't quite ready to do that just yet.

Turning to his friends, he nodded toward the main tower. "Come on, last one inside has to give up dessert tonight." Without giving them a chance to argue, he quickly untied his tether and raced for the door.

~A~


Part 3

Part 1

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