Disclaimer: Stargate Atlantis - and all the characters and settings related to the show - do not belong to me, obviously. That credit goes to MGM, Brad Wright and Robert C. Cooper. The plot of this little story, however, does.
A/N – Well, hello there! I've been doing the rounds on this website for a few years now, but this is my first Stargate Atlantis story, so first of all...welcome! I'm a little nervous about this story, and I really hope I do the characters justice - I think they're fantastic, and I've read a lot of wonderful stories about them already (check out my favourites list for all my heartfelt recommendations). This story is just my little addition to an already wonderful fandom.
It's set in season three, sometime after Common Ground but before Sunday. The timeline for this story is not really important, but there are potential spoilers for any episodes up to and including Common Ground, so be warned. Other than that, I don't want to say much more, apart from obviously I hope you like it. Enjoy!
~ Death Stare ~
With a determined look fixed firmly onto his face, John made his way over to his team's regular table just outside the Comissionary, one arm full of reports that he really had to get done this morning or Elizabeth was going to kill him, and the other arm holding something that he happened to think was infinitely more important…
"Is that the last piece of chocolate cake?" Rodney asked as he caught up his friend, staring at John with barely concealed envy. John immediately made to sidestep him in an effort to protect the cake from Rodney, but hesitated when the movement nearly caused him to lose grip of the reports.
Moving a little more slowly, John still kept the cake carefully out of Rodney's reach whilst simultaneously trying to juggle the reports so that he didn't drop any. He didn't think Elizabeth would appreciate it if he handed in a report that he had literally walked all over…
Of course, in true McKay style, Rodney made no move to help him, even though the reports were now teetering dangerously close to falling out of his grip. In fact, John was almost at the point of having to decide which he was going to have to try and 'save' – the last piece of chocolate or the stupid reports he should have finished two days ago – when thankfully the decision was made for him.
With her usual gracefulness, Teyla came to his other side and gently prised the chocolate cake out of his hand, placing it on the table in front of his usual seat, and leaving him finally free to gather up all the reports before he lost control of them completely.
John sighed in relief, and once he was settled at the table - and all the reports had also safely made it onto the table as well - he shot her a grateful look, and then scowled at McKay for good measure.
"Right, sorry," McKay said with a frown as he joined them at the table, almost as if he had only just realised that John probably could have used a little assistance from him. Which, knowing Rodney, he probably had.
"Forget it, Rodney," John said, waving the apology away. He still had his chocolate cake and the reports were all in one piece. No harm done. "It's fine."
"What's the plan for today then?" Ronan asked gruffly as he also joined them at the table.
Sometimes it amazed John how in sync his team were. They hadn't actually made a plan to meet for breakfast at seven in the morning, but yet here they all were.
Of course, John thought to himself with a sigh, as good as it was to hang out with them, it really didn't bode well for all those reports he was supposed to be writing…
"Well, Conan, some of us have very important experiments to do," Rodney told him self-importantly. Even as he spoke, he began to eye up John's chocolate cake again, and John responded by moving it even further away from his friend and shooting him another glare. Rodney seemed to shrink back a little bit, so John decided it was probably safe to turn his attention to the reports, although he did pause to take a large bite of the cake. It tasted as good as it looked. As he chewed, his mood already improving, he picked up the first report and finally set to work…
"I intend to spend some time with some of the newer recruits," Teyla offered. "Dr Weir has asked me to explain some of the finer points of the Athosian culture to them so that they can better understand what it is we are all fighting for."
"I know," John replied absently, his voice a little muffled from another rather large bite of chocolate cake. He swallowed before continuing. "It was my idea."
John kept his focus on the report he was writing, so he missed the look of surprise on the faces of his three team-mates.
"That was an excellent idea, John," Teyla told him. Then she frowned as she took in the mound of paperwork surrounding him. "Is this more evidence of your 'ideas'?"
"Hmm?" John replied, pulling his attention up. "Oh, no, these are the reports I should have finished a couple of days ago. If I don't get them done this morning, Elizabeth is going to – "
"I'm going to what, John?" came a voice from behind him.
Slowly, and with no small amount of trepidation, John turned around, but was relieved to find that even though Elizabeth was right behind him, she was at least smiling.
"Nothing," he replied, turning back to his chocolate cake in an effort to avoid putting his foot any further into his mouth.
"Chocolate cake, John?" Elizabeth replied, mirth in her expression. "For breakfast?"
"Left-overs from last night," John replied with a shrug, refusing to feel ashamed of his choice. He was a grown man dammit; he could have chocolate cake for breakfast if he wanted to.
"Left-overs that Sally was supposed to be saving for me," scowled Rodney.
"She likes me better," John retorted with a smirk.
"What could you possibly have that I don't?" Rodney challenged.
"Looks, charm, a winning personality…" he listed off.
"And the world's biggest ego," Rodney shot back.
"Not with you still in the running," John retorted.
"Boys, boys," Elizabeth said before Rodney could build up a head of steam. "Save the smack talk for the chess games."
"Smack talk?" asked Ronan.
"I'll explain later, Chewie," John told him before turning his attention back to Elizabeth, a frown growing on his face. John suddenly had a weird sense of foreboding; because as much as he and his team were in sync, Elizabeth rarely joined them at mealtimes. The fact that she was here, now either meant that something had happened, or something was about to…
"Major Lorne is in the Infirmary," Elizabeth told him. Immediately, John's eyes widened in concern, but Elizabeth quickly placated him. "He's okay." Then she hesitated. "Well, he's actually quite sick, but Carson thinks he just picked up a bug of some sort during his last mission. The rest of his team seems to have come down with the same thing, but no one else is affected. Carson isn't worried, but he wants to keep them under observation for a couple of days, just in case."
"Weren't they supposed to be going on that mission to PX752-224 today?" Rodney asked. "That planet with the weird readings, the one that could be the answer to our energy problems." His expression turned hopeful. "Does this mean we get to go instead?"
"Rodney…" John growled, a little unwilling to give up a rare day off so easily.
"Actually, John," Elizabeth interrupted, looking a little bit apologetic. "I was going to suggest that your team takes their place. We could put off the mission I suppose, but Zalenka has detected a storm brewing on PX752-224, and he's afraid that if we put this off any longer, we'll miss our window of opportunity. It could be weeks, even months, before we get another shot."
"But – "
She raised a hand to interrupt him. "Before you say anything, the MALP hasn't detected anything that should pose a threat to you at the moment. There should be plenty of time for your team to investigate the possible power source and return before the storm hits. And if the readings mean what we hope they mean…"
"Yeah, yeah," John replied. "Lots of energy, which, if we can harness it, will probably power the city for months, if not years…"
"Seems worth checking out," Ronon added, although John knew he was just bored and looking for a little action. John, who had seen a little too much action lately, was still quite happy to stay at home and let someone else investigate the strange energy readings that would probably end up causing more harm than good…
"That's settled then," Elizabeth said cheerfully. "You leave at 0900 hours. Get your team ready, Colonel."
John shook his head slightly, trying to shake the feeling that he'd missed something.
"Oh, and Colonel," Elizabeth continued, just as she was leaving. "Those reports had better be done by then, or I'll be sending one of the marines with your team instead."
John sighed as Rodney, Ronan and Teyla all got up from the table. He looked at the reports, then back to them.
"You guys go on ahead," he told them. "This shouldn't take long. I'll meet you in the Gateroom at 0900."
"Rather you than me, Sheppard," Ronan replied, slapping his on the back.
"Yeah," Rodney agreed. "Although maybe you'll be the one late for once…"
"Not with you still in the team, McKay," John shot back without taking his eyes of the paperwork.
Rodney simply grumbled under his breath in reply as he stood up from the table, and John took that as a win at least.
Unable to put it off any longer though, John threw himself into his reports. In fact, he was so focused on what he was doing that it took him thirty minutes to notice that his friends had left him to it a while ago.
Even worse, it was another hour before he noticed that McKay had taken the rest of his cake.
In the end, John actually was the last to arrive in the Gateroom, which annoyed him more than he would ever admit aloud. The good news, however, was that he'd finally finished all the reports with about twenty minutes to spare, which at least meant that Elizabeth was going to let him go on the mission. As much as he had been looking forward to a few quiet days at home, there was no way in hell that he was going to let his team go without him.
Ignoring the smug look on Rodney's face as he walked towards his team, John adjusted his tac vest slightly and nodded towards Elizabeth. She smiled knowingly at him, but didn't comment on his tardiness, and for that much he was grateful.
"The MALP's already gone," Elizabeth informed him, still smiling. "No change from the last time we sent it through, so you're good to go, Colonel. We'll check in two hours from now. Good luck."
"Don't need it," John replied with a smirk, even though everyone present knew that if any team needed good luck, it was SGA 1. In fact, John had long ago learned that if something could go wrong with them, it almost certainly would…
"Come on," Rodney said impatiently, standing back on his heels. "Let's go."
John nodded towards Rodney and his team and with a final nod and sloppy salute towards Elizabeth, he turned and made his way towards the event horizon. Then he took one more step and he was gone.
"Medical team to the Gateroom!" came the report over the radio. Rodney sounded out of breath and panicked. Elizabeth felt her heart clench a little in fear, as it always did when one her teams came back late. SGA 1 had missed the two hour check-in, and Elizabeth had already given the order for teams five and six to prepare to go through and retrieve them.
They'd been ten minutes away from leaving when the call had come in.
"What's the situation, Rodney?" she asked, trying to keep calm.
"Sheppard's down," Rodney replied. "Don't know what's hurt him, but it's bad."
"Please tell Dr Beckett to be ready," added Teyla. "We are coming through now."
The shield had already been lowered, so Elizabeth made her way quickly down the stairs so that she could meet the team herself.
Teyla was the first of the team to make it through, and although she looked a little worse for wear, she didn't appear to be seriously hurt. The Athosian immediately turned back to the wormhole however, and that set Elizabeth's nerves on edge, particularly with Rodney's words still ringing in her ears.
"Where is he?" came Beckett's concerned voice. He seemed out of breath, and Elizabeth knew he'd probably run all the way from the Infirmary as soon as the call had come in.
"They are coming," Teyla told them both as they came closer. "John was unable to stand by himself, so Rodney and Ronan are carrying him. They asked that I run ahead so that I could get the gate open."
She looked a little upset with herself for leaving them behind, but Elizabeth held nothing against her. Sheppard's team were all able to handle stressful situations with an extraordinary amount ease, but they were all still human. Teyla was no exception…
"Teyla, you did – "
But the rest of Elizabeth's words were shaken from her mouth when a shout came through the Gateroom, and Rodney and Ronan finally appeared, dirty, exhausted, and holding between them her second-in-command. And John wasn't moving.
"He's unconscious," Rodney told her, gasping a little as he struggled with John's weight. The Colonel was lax, and as she moved closer, she noticed that he was also covered in blood. A lot of blood…
"What the bloody hell happened?" demanded Carson, immediately moving towards the three of them and gesturing to his staff to get the gurney ready.
"We don't know," replied Ronan, who looked furious with himself. "We got separated."
"From what I could tell, the blood appears to be from a very bad nose-bleed," Teyla reported. "I could not find any other wounds that would explain all the…" She gestured to the blood covering John's chest.
"Aye, lass," Carson replied. "I'm sure you're right, but let's get him to the Infirmary all the same. He seems to be breathing okay on his own, but his heart's beating a little too fast for my liking."
"Go," Elizabeth said with a nod, even though she knew that none of them really needed her permission.
Carson returned her nod regardless, and gestured for Rodney and Ronan to help his staff get the Colonel onto the waiting gurney. In no time at all, John was lying down and being wheeled away, Carson already shouting orders out. Elizabeth only hesitated for the briefest of seconds before she followed.
John woke slowly, but instead of the usual sleepiness that accompanied those first few seconds of waking up, this time with the growing sense of awareness came pain. A lot of pain. In fact, it felt like there was someone hammering around in his skull, splintering his pain into agonising pieces.
It was excruciating, overwhelming, and it wasn't long before he found himself wishing for unconsciousness again and the black, pain-free oblivion it promised.
John groaned, and tried to move. His body felt achy and weak though, and he knew that for the moment at least, he was going nowhere.
"Colonel? If you can hear me, it's time for you to wake up."
John groaned again, but he could feel that something was preventing him from falling unconscious again. Probably drugs, he realised. He wondered who had given them to him, then – as the pain in his spiked once more – he wondered if he cared…
"Colonel, come on lad," came a voice, firm and familiar. "Open your eyes now. Look at me."
"Carson?" John replied hoarsely. With a monumental effort, John dragged his eyes open. It was bright, but he fought against his instincts and kept them open.
"Yes, Colonel," Carson replied. "You're in the infirmary. Do you remember what happened?"
"Erm…" John thought hard, but gave up when his headache spiked again. He could see that he was lying down, but his mind wasn't really up to establishing much else about his situation. Instead, he concentrated on trying to answer the question. "Was on a mission. Not sure what happened." Then a thought hit him and his heartrate increased. "Team?"
"They're all fine," Carson replied immediately. "I told them to get some rest, but they're as bad as you sometimes. I have no doubt they'll be back here within the hour."
"Good," John replied quietly, most of the doctor's words just washing over him. His team was safe; that was all that mattered…
"They said you were separated for a time, and that when they found you your nose was bleeding and you were unconscious," Carson told him, concern prevalent in his eyes. "Do you remember what happened to you whilst you were missing?"
"No," muttered John, trying to ignore the pounding in his head. God, he didn't even remember the nose bleed, let alone what had caused it.
Carson frowned. "I couldn't find any injuries on your body or face, so I'm not sure what caused the bleeding, or what knocked you unconscious. I'm waiting on your blood results, but now that you're awake, I have a few more tests I need to run, if you don't mind."
John knew from experience that it wasn't a request, so with a bit more effort, he shook of the remnants of sleep and pulled himself up in the bed so that he was sitting up rather than lying down.
"Good," Beckett replied with a nod. Then he got to work.
The second time John woke up, it didn't take very long for him to remember where he was. He was a little concerned that he didn't remember falling asleep, but then he recalled that Carson had put something in his IV, and he realised that the Doc had probably drugged him, most likely to make sure he got some rest. Carson could be sneaky like that…
"Finally, you're awake," came a voice form his side. John groaned, his headache still splitting, but managed to open his eyes and turn his head.
"Rodney?" John replied, squinting slightly. The light felt too bright, and it wasn't helping his headache. He really wished someone would dim the lights...
He must've spoken that thought aloud, because the next thing he knew, the lights were dimmed and the pain eased off a little bit. Thanks, Rodney, he thought…
"You're welcome," Rodney replied, and when John met his gaze, he saw a frown on his face.
"What happened?" John croaked, trying to pull himself up a bit.
"Don't you remember?" Rodney replied, alarmed. "Carson said he told you…"
"I remember what Carson told me," John interrupted. "I just don't remember much about what happened."
"Oh," Rodney replied, although he didn't seem very reassured. "Well, we were attacked, obviously. Almost as soon as we arrived. They took us to a nearby village, and then once we were there, they scanned all four of us with a very Ancient-y looking device. Nothing happened with me, Teyla and Ronan, but where the scanner passed over you, it flashed. The barbarians who took us got all excited, then dragged you away."
"Where did they take me?" John asked. "What did they do?"
"No idea," Rodney replied. "They left us under guard, so it took a bit of time for us to escape. Of course, as always it was my genius idea that once again saved the day – "
"Rodney…" John warned. His headache was growing more painful by the minute as he fought to remember, and Rodney wasn't helping…
"Sorry," Rodney mumbled, then he picked up his story. "Anyway, once we escaped, we took a hostage, and Ronan made him take us to where they were keeping you. We found you in a cell, unconscious."
"What did they do to me?" John asked again, half-afraid of the answer.
"We're not sure," Rodney replied. "We didn't have much time to look around, especially when your nose started bleeding. I didn't know noses could bleed so much, and let me tell you, I've had one of two in my time…"
"Right, sorry," Rodney said. "Anyway, Ronan picked you up, and we hightailed it out of there. That's it."
"Well, that explains everything," John replied sarcastically, his headache growing to migraine levels.
He screwed his eyes shut in an effort to ride out the pain, and held his head in his hands. It made no difference though, and John suspected nothing would. God, it was agony...
"Sheppard," Rodney said, and John could tell he was panicking. "Come on, you idiot, speak to me…"
John couldn't speak though. He could barely even breathe through the pain. Something was wrong…
"Get Carson," John ground out finally.
Before Rodney could move, however, John felt a burst of agonising pain in his head that shook all other thoughts from his mind. He couldn't think, he couldn't breathe. He was vaguely aware that he was screaming, but he couldn't control even that. He couldn't do anything…
And then, miraculously, it began to recede. After a few tense seconds, he started to breathe again, panting slightly, as if he had just run a marathon. He could feel the sweat on his face and body, the ache in his bones, but his head was starting to feel numb.
Numbness was preferable to pain, but John knew deep down that it still wasn't good…
"Speak to me, Sheppard," Rodney said, his voice finally filtering through John's aching mind. "Are you okay? Beckett's on the way, but he's been held up by one of your idiot marines…"
"I'm fine," John replied immediately, even though he really didn't feel fine. In fact, he felt really, really odd…
There was a ringing in his ears, and when he focused, he got the impression that someone was watching him. Someone apart from Rodney. Someone who shouldn't be there…
There was a clatter to his right, and John flinched, immediately turning in that direction. Rodney jumped as well, but John got the impression that it was more because of his sudden movement than the mysterious noise.
"What was that?" John asked anyway, his voice still a little hoarse.
"What was what?" Rodney shot back, glancing anxiously around the otherwise empty room. He looked a little scared now…
The rest of his sentence was lost when he heard the clatter again, this time from his other side. He was about to get up and investigate when he heard a chilling voice whisper in his ear…
John felt ice fill his veins, and he froze. He knew that voice. But no…that was impossible.
John snapped his eyes shut, but the voices kept coming. His heart was beating loudly in his chest, but the noise of his heartbeat couldn't drown them out. He knew them all…
"Look at me, John, my boy." One voice told him, sweet and kind and exactly how he remembered it. "Trust me…"
He couldn't help it. He opened his eyes, his gaze searching the room hungrily. He knew it didn't make sense, and that he had probably gone crazy or some weird alien drug was messing with his system, but it was as if he had no choice, no control. He had to know. He had to see her…
And then, there she was.
She was standing behind Rodney, looking exactly like he remembered her, even though he hadn't seen her in thirty years. God, he'd missed her so much…
"Mom?" he whispered.
She looked sad and relieved all at once. "Yes, John, it's me…"
"Sheppard, what are you talking about…?"
John ignored Rodney. "I missed you, mom."
"I missed you too, John…"
"I'm not your mother, you idiot!" Rodney retorted loudly. The scientist tapped his comm. "Carson! Get in here! He needs your voodoo – quick! I think he's hallucinating…"
John knew he was, but he couldn't bring himself to care. It had been so long since he'd seen her.
He swallowed, drinking in the sight of her. Her hair was still blond, with no trace of any grey. She was young, vibrant, and with no trace of the cancer that had eventually taken her life…
Ice filled John's veins at that thought, and he swallowed hard. He couldn't take his eyes off her, but his wasn't right. She was dead. She'd died a long time ago…
His mother must've picked up on his hesitation, his fear, because she frowned, and then closed her eyes. Then there was a flash, and she was gone, immediately replaced by another face he would never forget. John felt his heartrate increase all over again…
John swallowed. "Holland?"
"That's right, Sir," the dead soldier replied with a grin. "Alive and well and reporting for duty."
"Carson!" Rodney yelled. "Get in here!"
"No," John replied, shaking his head. He didn't want to confront that part of his past. He couldn't. He shook his head, and with a final sloppy salute, and another burst of bright light, Holland flashed away.
Only be replaced by Colonel Sumner.
"You killed me, Sheppard," the Colonel said.
"I'm not," replied Sumner with a wry shake of his head. "You did the right thing."
John knew he should have felt relief that his hallucination was willing to forgive him, but he only felt fear and pain. He wanted to throw up, or curl up in a ball with the covers over his head, but somehow he knew that even if he closed his eyes, they would still be there. It was like one of his nightmares had swallowed him whole. He couldn't escape…
He shook his head forcefully, and the light flashed. Colonel Sumner disappeared, and this time, the faces came thick and fast; people he'd known, liked, hated.
All of them dead…
"Rodney," John begged, desperate to cling to reality. He sought his friend's face, and eventually found it. Rodney was scared, he could tell, but John didn't know how to make him feel better…
"Something's wrong," John muttered hoarsely, paling as he pulled himself up on the bed. He shook his head, but all it did was make his growing headache worse. He couldn't tear his eyes aware from the dead faces flashing in front of him, the parade of ghosts. This wasn't right. This couldn't be real…
"What?" Rodney replied anxiously, clearly picking up on John's fear. "What's wrong?"
John laughed, but his reaction was bordering on outright hysteria rather than humour. But it was either laugh or cry, and John didn't want to cry…
John ran a hand through his hair. "Rodney, I…" He laughed again, and he knew he probably looked like a madman. He felt like a madman. "I see dead people."
Then his eyes rolled up into his head, and he knew no more.
A/N – So, Sheppard's gone crazy…or has he? Yeah, I'm not telling (not yet anyway) athough I will say that you'll get a few explanations in the next chapter. And since the next chapter has already been mostly written, I hope you'll forgive the slight cliff-hanger at the end of this one. On that note, please let me know if you're liking the story so far – I'd love to read your comments, and most of all, I'd really like to know if you want to read more! Until next time though, thanks for reading!