Long Strange Trip

Chapter 13

Regular SGA-1 team on Regular Atlantis – Yay!

John Sheppard slowly opened his eyes, blinking and trying to focus. His head was pounding, and his body ached. He could feel the hard floor under him, and he grimaced. The last thing he remembered was offering to help Rodney fix the damaged Ancient device.

"McKay?" Silence. Cautiously, John propped himself on one hand, and looked around. The still forms of his teammates – Rodney, Ronon and Teyla – lay sprawled on the floor around him, and he closed his eyes in relief. They were in the room on Atlantis – their Atlantis. Stifling a yell of success, he jumped to his feet, nearly toppling over as dizziness overwhelmed him.

"Colonel Sheppard! Please respond!" The frantic voice of Radek Zelenka echoed through his ears, and John quickly keyed his headset.

"Yeah, yeah, Zelenka. We're here. Give me a minute," he said. John reached down and gave McKay a gentle shake on the arm. The scientist responded with a groan, then opened one eye.

"What happened?" Rodney asked, slowly coming to his feet. Behind him, Ronon Dex had grabbed Teyla's arm and they stood, relief on their faces.

John walked over to his three friends, placing a hand on Ronon's shoulder, and looking into Teyla's warm eyes. Next to him, Rodney swayed slightly back and forth as he glanced around the room. Suddenly, huge smile crossed the scientist's face.

"He did it!" He whirled around, then stopped, exchanging a triumphant look with Colonel Sheppard.

"We're home!"

oOo

"John, you really don't have to do this, you know," Elizabeth said as she watched the Colonel quickly slice an onion. Sheppard only shook his head, glancing at her wine glass, pausing long enough to fill it with the dark red liquid.

"Elizabeth, when was the last time anyone made you dinner?" he asked. She paused as she took a sip of the wine, her eyes growing distant.

"It's been….quite awhile," she admitted and he flashed her a smile.

"Well, it just so happens that I make a mean lasagna. Best you ever had," he promised, humming as he slid the onion into a frying pan. The delightful smell of cooking filled the room, and Elizabeth closed her eyes as she relaxed on John's small couch.

It was late in the evening, and Elizabeth could see the now-familiar stars of the Pegasus galaxy flickering in the night sky through one of the windows. As she listened to John open and close cabinet doors, her mind wandered over the wild story SGA-1 had related during the debriefing. They had returned from their second trip to the mysterious room in Atlantis jubilant, barely able to keep the wide smiles off their faces. Rodney had stayed only a few minutes, long enough for Carson Beckett to check him over, then, after a short word with Major Lorne, had hurried back to the room, Radek Zelenka on his heels.

Elizabeth felt a shiver run down her spine. She had known that something was wrong with John this morning, but couldn't put her finger on the differences. Then John – her John - had revealed that it had been the Sheppard from another reality, and the pieces fell into place. The look in that Sheppard's eyes had been…..lost, defeated, broken. Nothing like the man who was swearing softly as the sauce burbled onto the stovetop.

"Hungry?" John asked, his smile loose and friendly. Elizabeth had been shocked to hear that she had been killed in the other reality, almost as shocked as when she met her 'older' self months ago. Other details were nearly as surprising: John was a drunk, and only a Major; Ronon was still a stranger, running from the Wraith; Ford was never attacked by a Wraith, still a member of the team; Teyla was no longer the leader of the Athosians; and, most incredible of all, Rodney was a husband and father. For a few minutes, Elizabeth wished she could have gone with the team, and experienced the alternate realities first-hand.

Now, though, she was just happy to have the team – the real team – back. Sure, Rodney could be annoying, but he was the Rodney she knew, and trusted. The same went for the others. Elizabeth couldn't imagine not having any of the four SGA-1 members by her side.

That went double for the man in the kitchen. Elizabeth had a suspicion that the news of her death had shaken John, more than he was willing to admit. She wondered how she would have reacted if the tables had been turned, and she had been told John had been killed. She shivered again; hopefully, she would never have that experience.

John came around the couch and plopped down, giving her a teasing grin. "Everything's cooking – just gotta wait," he said. Elizabeth returned his broad grin, and took another sip of wine. Nope, things were just fine the way they were.

oOo

Ronon watched as Teyla grasped Halling's arms, their foreheads meeting. He had accompanied the Athosian leader to the mainland, succumbing to his need to be near his teammate. After the debriefing, Teyla had requested a jumper, stating she wanted to see her people, and Elizabeth had granted Teyla's wish. Now, as Ronon watched the intimate exchange between the two Athosians, he felt like an intruder. Perhaps he should have stayed on Atlantis.

His thoughts were interrupted by Teyla's warm hand on his arm. "Is something wrong?" she asked, and Ronon shook his head. Then, seeing the doubt in her eyes, he sighed.

"I only wish I knew where Owen was," he admitted. It bothered him that in another reality, the small man had saved his life – twice – and yet, here, he had no clue where this man was, or even if he was still alive somewhere. Teyla nodded in agreement.

"I, too, would want to find him, were I in your position. Perhaps, one day in the future, we will locate Owen." Teyla tugged on Ronon's arm and they exited the small hut, out into the night.

"I am just happy to be here," Teyla said softly. "To see my people living like animals, it was……" she stopped, crossing her arms, and rubbing at the goose bumps. "I never want to go through that again," she said.

Ronon only nodded, moving closer, trying to offer the woman comfort. Never had he felt more abandoned, or alone, then when he had been stuck in the other reality. The experience had opened his eyes to the positive aspects of his own life – meeting the humans, joining SGA-1 and befriending Sheppard, learning to trust again, to live again. He held Teyla's gaze as she smiled up at him, her eyes warm and compassionate. Yes, things may be hard in this reality, but it was the only one he knew, and the only one he wanted to know.

oOo

Dr. Rodney McKay staggered into his quarters, and sagged on to his bed. He was exhausted. He and the other SGA-1 members had left the room, under orders from Dr. Weir to report to the infirmary. He had allowed Carson Beckett to give him a quick check-up, then, after a brief word with Sheppard, he had returned to the room, accompanied by Zelenka and a team of technicians.

He had ordered the power crystal removed, then, as Radek watched in horror, Rodney had dropped the glass onto the floor, allowing it to smash into hundreds of pieces. Rodney hadn't said a word, just stared at the shards laying at his feet, relief on his face.

Finally, he had looked around, ordering Radek and the techs to disassemble the device, and disconnect it from all power sources, thereby preventing another energy surge. At this, Zelenka had exploded, swearing at Rodney in a mixture of English and Czechoslovakian, but Rodney was immovable. Never again would anyone travel through this device.

McKay knew that he would have to answer to Elizabeth for his actions, but that could wait until tomorrow. Right now, all he wanted was to curl up in his bedcovers, and sleep for the next three days.

Meow. Meow. Rodney's eyes popped open, and he hurried over to his laptop. On the screen was the image of Snickers, his cat, scurrying back and forth, an envelope in his mouth. McKay gave a wry smile; the meowing sound meant he had mail. Eagerly, he clicked on the cat, and the screen opened, revealing a memo from Major Lorne.

Rodney had approached the Major after seeing Carson Beckett, requesting that the Major search the files for a Doctor Jessica Hardy. It was obvious that Jessica wasn't a member of Carson's current staff, which led Rodney to believe that she hadn't yet arrived on Atlantis. He had blushed profusely when Lorne had questioned him, but had not offered an explanation. The Major had shaken his head, telling McKay that he couldn't remember any Dr. Hardy, male or female, on the list of potential expedition personnel, but assured the scientist that he would investigate.

Rodney read the memo, his face turning pale. Finally, he stood up and staggered to his window, staring out at the night sky. He leaned up against the glass, closing his eyes, trying to keep his emotions under control. Lorne's typewritten words echoed through his brain:

To:Dr. McKay

From:Major Lorne

Re:Dr. Jessica Hardy

I searched the personnel files for Atlantis, and found a death certificate for a Dr. Jessica Hardy, Thoracic Surgeon. I'm sorry to tell you that she was killed during the Wraith attack of last year.

If you like, I can give you the address of her next of kin. Please advise.

Rodney McKay felt his heart ache, and clenching his fists, tried to convince himself that there was no guarantee that had Jessica lived, they would have had some kind of future together. Perhaps even a future with a blue-eye daughter, and laughter, even happiness. No, Rodney, thought, there had been no guarantee. But that didn't stop the tears from falling down his cheeks.

The End