It was gone.

John stared, in disbelief, at the place where the ship had been. The entrance was buried beneath tons of rubble. Which was bad enough, seeing as how it meant he couldn't return to the ship. But to make matters worse, the Cerulins were gone as well. Completely gone. Gone as if they had never been. John realized his Gypsy analogy of them was truer than he had known. They were nomadic people and they had packed up and disappeared.

"This isn't possible," Rodney muttered, as he moved to stand beside Sheppard. He waved at the rubble. "The Cerulin's didn't have the means to create this rubble, and I know it wasn't a natural occurrence."

John said nothing. He didn't dare open his mouth to reply. He felt sick and if he tried to talk he knew he'd puke on Rodney's feet. So he turned away, stumbled really, and meant to head for the gate when a wave of vertigo hit him. His knees buckled and he nearly went down but strong hands caught him, easing him to sit. John knew it was Beckett and he allowed the man to shove his head down between his knees.

"Easy breaths, major," Carson advised as he rubbed the back of Sheppard's neck, soothingly.

After a few moments, the dizziness and nausea eased. John raised his head and looked back over at the rubble. "Guess I'm screwed," he whispered.

Carson narrowed his gaze at him. "You're not going to give up that easily, are you?"

"It's not like I have a choice!" John spat, as he made to rise to his feet, only to find Carson's hand on his shoulder, keeping him seated. John shrugged it off and glared at the doctor. "Whatever it is that's wrong with happened to me in that ship!" John waved his hand at the rubble. "A ship that is now buried beneath tons of rubble that we're never going to be able to get through!"

"We'll figure something else out," Carson countered, evenly. "We're not giving up."

John had no intention of giving up either, but he realized he was being far more emotional than usual. He also realized he was feeling jittery again and he pushed himself to his feet and started pacing. "It's happening again," he whispered. "Shit...shit...shit!"

Carson was by his side in an instant. "We'll go back to Atlantis and I'll give you something to calm you." He turned away for a moment. "RODNEY! We need to go back. NOW!"

"I'm busy!" Rodney shouted back.

"We're going back now!" Carson bellowed, and he could be impressive when he wanted to be.

Rodney glared then his eyes shifted to Sheppard's agitated form and he jogged over to them. "Okay...we can go back now." He radioed the others then looked at the major. "You okay?"

John didn't answer. He couldn't answer. He was too busy fighting the anger that was burning inside him. Anger that was desperate to be released. He hands were clenched into fists at his side and he wanted to swing them, lashing out at anyone foolish enough to get too close. So he back away from Beckett and McKay, shaking his head.

Carson seemed to catch on. "Just try and relax, major," he beseeched him. "We're going back right now. Rodney...dial the gate."

Rodney didn't argue. Ford and Teyla returned, eyes full of questions, but they said nothing and just watched Sheppard.

John closed his eyes and started doing long division in his head, anything to distract himself from the anger. It seemed to be working. The anger eased a bit, just a little, but it was enough for sadness to stake it's claim on him. More than sadness. Desperate despair gripped him and John swallowed a whimper, feeling himself shaking, feeling the overwhelming urge to end this. He couldn't handle the loneliness, the emptiness...the pain. He found himself yanking at the bandages on his wrists, trying to scratch through them, to open up the wounds that were still healing.

He heard voices, familiar voices, as other emotions bombarded him. Calm peace was trying to wrap around him but the rage pushed it away, entangling with it, leaving the despair to enfold him and John finally clawed his finger nails into skin and he felt a sense of relief at the warm slickness of blood against his skin. Only in the next moment hands were on him, pressing him down to the ground. Then a pinprick in his shoulder, a spike of cold in his veins, then he was falling into darkness.

He dreamed again and this time he remembered what had happened in minute detail. But they weren't his memories. They were the memories of the souls who had died on the ship. The souls that had been contained within the chair, waiting for someone to let them out.

One of them was female. She was the one who tried to give him peace and serenity. The one who tried to keep the others from taking control of him. One was anger, another joy, another loneliness and despair. So many emotions tangled together.

Serenity managed to explain to him that they had been unable to ascend and so had shut themselves into the chambers. She could not explain through emotion how the ship had been damaged, how they had come into being as they were. But by the time John opened his eyes again, the dream lingered with him. He showered and got dressed and went to see Elizabeth. He asked her to call the others into a meeting, then John tried his best to explain what he had learned.

"They're incomplete," he said, after first explaining that the rage and peace and despair he had been feeling so intensely were not his own emotions, but those of the others.

"What do you mean by that?" Carson prompted.

John wondered if he could really explain it. He barely understood it himself. "They're entangled into one spirit, so to speak. Bits of each of them have melded together to become one Being, as it were. But they're still individuals." He looked at the others and realized they weren't following him. John scrubbed his face with one hand then tried again. "It's like they're one song but with different voices singing different parts to convey different emotions. But the song isn't finished, really. It never will be. It can't be, not until they're free."

McKay was scowling. "So they're inside you and they talk to you?"

"Yes and sort of." John knew this was going to be even harder to explain. "They're inside me but they don't talk with voices."

"They speak with emotion," Elizabeth interjected.

John turned to her and nodded, grateful that someone understood. "They want out, at least one of them does. She knows I can't control them and that they're causing me harm."

Rodney looked skeptical. "She?"

"It feels female," John confessed, feeling a bit embarrassed when Rodney smirked at him. But then he ignored McKay and turned back to Elizabeth. "I think I know how to get them out, but you're not going to like it."

"" Elizabeth prompted.

John bit his lip, his eyes dropping to his bandaged wrists. This was going to be the hard part. "I have to die."

There was a collective gasp from the occupants of the room then Carson was on his feet and snapping, "Not Bloody likely!"

"It's the only way," John insisted. He locked eyes with Elizabeth. "That's why that one...voice...pushed so hard for me to kill myself. It knew that it would be free if I died. But Serenity stopped it from going too far."

"Barely," Rodney muttered under his breath.

John looked at his friend. "It'll be like when we had to get the Wraith bug off. Just stop my heart, start it back up, boom. They'll be gone."

Carson was shaking his head. "A healthy body isn't meant to suffer that kind of shock repeatedly."

"I'm going to die if I don't get them out. And I just might take a few people with me before that happens." John's tone was sharp because he wanted them to understand. "I can't control them, or myself. We have to do this." He looked at Elizabeth beseechingly.

"Carson?" Elizabeth looked at the doctor for the answer.

Carson sighed. "I don't like it, but I'll do it if I have too."

Rodney felt the need to speak up. "How long do you have to be dead for?"

"I think they'll be gone pretty much immediately," John replied, crossing his fingers under cover of the table top.

"Let's do it then," Elizabeth replied.

John nodded at her, feeling both agitated and relieved as he rose from the chair. He wanted to be free as well.

The pads Carson placed on his chest itched and John winced, knowing it was gonna smart when they were peeled off. One of the few downfalls of having a hairy chest. Women liked it but sticky substances were a bad thing.

"Ready?" Carson loomed over Sheppard, the paddles in hand.

"Ready," John replied, his voice hoarse because his mouth had suddenly gone dry. There was no one else around by his request. He didn't want an audience for this. "Do it," John ordered, then he closed his eyes. A moment later he felt a jolt of pain throughout his body, then his world went black.


He heard someone calling his name but he had no idea who it was or why they were calling him. He didn't want to wake up, he wanted to remain drifting in the warm darkness.

"Major Sheppard!"

A different voice this time. Sharper and crackling with irritation. John knew that voice. Regretfully he peeled one eye open and Rodney's fuzzy image came into view. "..whahappen..." John mumbled. His tongue felt thick in his mouth and his throat felt swollen.

"Have an ice chip, major," interject Carson, as he held a cup to Sheppard's lips.

John accepted the help and sucked in an ice chip. It felt like heaven. Once it was melted he tried again. "What happened?"

Rodney heaved a put upon sigh. "Why don't you tell us?" he demanded. "Are the voices gone or have do we need to zap you again?"

"Rodney?" This time it was Elizabeth's shocked tone.

"What?" Rodney wasn't the least bit chastised.

John felt himself smiling. For two reasons. One because this was familiar and welcome and, two because the voices were gone. But as that reality hit him, his smile faded. Suddenly he felt rather empty inside. Achingly empty. John was starting to wallow in that emptiness when something touched his arm and he flinched.

Elizabeth pulled back. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to startle you. Are you okay?"

"Yeah...I'm good." It was a reflex answer. John wasn't sure if it was the truth this time or not.

"How are you feeling, physically?" Carson interjected, as he reached out to take Sheppard's pulse. "Any pain? Dizziness?"

John closed his eyes and considered the questions. "Bit of a headache and a sore chest," he replied. "Nothing I can't live with."

Carson looked pleased. "Good. I'm going to keep you here under observation for twenty-four hours and we'll go from there."

"Sure." John didn't have the energy to argue the point. He felt drained in a way that wasn't purely physical. " long was I out?"

"Six hours," Rodney piped up. "You came back from the dead pretty quick but then you kept fading in and out on us."

John frowned at McKay. "You hung around all that time?"

Rodney looked disgruntled. "Not all that time," he shot back, defensively. "I mostly radioed Beckett to see if you were awake and when I had to pass by I'd pop in."

"Pass by for what?" John prompted. "You're lab isn't anywhere near here and neither is your room or the messhall."

"How observant of you," Rodney shot back.

Elizabeth cut them both off. "Question time, Major. Are they gone?"

He knew what she meant and nodded. "Yeah...they're gone." John realized his tone was rather sharp but he really didn't want to talk about it.

"Where did they go?" Rodney queried.

"Don't know." John winced at the blatant lie, but he didn't want to share the truth with anyone. Not yet anyway. Because the truth was that Serenity and the others were gone permanently and in an odd way it felt like a mass suicide and John felt the emotional backlash of it. Maybe because of his own brush with taking his own life, even though his actions had been controlled.

Carson seemed to sense that it was time to clear the room. "The major needs to rest," he said loudly. "You can stop by and visit him in a few hours."

With that Elizabeth and Rodney turned away. John watched them go, feeling relieved.

Then Rodney stopped and turned back to ask, "Shall I bring my chess set later? We could play after dinner."

"I..." John was about to refuse the offer but realized what Rodney was doing. Offering a distraction. So he smiled and nodded. "I wouldn't mind a chance to kick your ass," he replied.

"In your dreams," Rodney shot back, smirking. Then he waved and ran to catch up with Elizabeth.

John sighed and settled back against the pillows, realizing he felt a bit less empty.

Carson fussed with the blankets for a moment. "Do you need something to help you sleep?" he asked.

"Nah...I'm good," John replied. And this time he meant it.