Choices

Takes place directly after Letters From Pegasus

--------------------------------------

"There isn't a night that goes by, when that image doesn't play back in my head. And every time it does…"


John awoke with a start, his heart pounding and breath coming in gasps. Pulling in a deep breath, he let his head fall back on his pillow, willing his body to relax. Tangled in his feet, his blanket was pulled half off his body, allowing the cool night air to blow across the light sheen of sweat covering him. Slightly chilled, John sighed. He sat up, straightened the blankets and pulled them back over his legs. John rubbed his face, before running his hand through his hair and sighing again. A couple hours sleep. That was all he wanted…and apparently all he was getting. Pulling his knees up, John massaged the back of his neck, kneading the tense muscles. Fading in his memory, the tortured screams of Colonel Sumner still followed him…they always followed him. From that day on the Wraith ship, John had carried the weight of Sumner's death on his shoulders.

John rolled his head, feeling the tension begin to leave his neck. He'd never really gotten used to this. It's not like he had nightmares every night…occasionally was bad enough. But how could he get used to waking at night, the image of Colonel Sumner dying at the hands of the Wraith, burned in his head? He could still hear the Colonel's screams and still see his life being sucked away by the Wraith. Sumner had wanted Sheppard to kill him, John was sure of that, but not a day went by that he didn't think about that choice…and not a day went by that he didn't regret having to make it. John clenched his teeth in anger, his gaze fixed on the plain wall, barely visible in the dim moonlight.

John laid back down, his hands folded behind his head. Since the moment he pulled the trigger, firing the bullet that killed Sumner, he'd never second guessed himself…but that never quelled his regret. He hated the situation that drove him to do what he did, but more than that…he hated the Wraith for forcing him.

His entire career, John had prided himself in finding ways to turn the no win into a win situation, but against the Wraith all that changed. He'd led a team to that planet, confident with some luck and a little guts, Colonel Sumner, his men and the Athosians could all be rescued. His training had guided him, but quicker than he could react, John had found himself in a situation no training had prepared him for. Sure he never doubted his decision, but how, exactly, did he know he was right?

Because it's what he would've wanted.

John's anger dissolved, realization dawning on him. In Sumner's place, John would've wanted the same thing.

Death had been all that was facing the Colonel…and he'd known it. The measure of his death…the way he'd go…the way he'd choose to go, was the last defining act of his life. Having that choice, and making that choice between a lingering death and a quick one, gave Sumner back some control of his own fate.

And who was John to take that from him?

He sat up, threw off the covers and stood. That was thin…really thin. But he couldn't push the thought away. Deep in his gut, he knew what he'd done was right. His thoughts lingered on the mission briefings they'd managed to send back to the SGC. It was all detailed there…but the impersonal black and white words held no meaning. Whoever read it would only see that he'd executed his commanding officer.

John grabbed his pants off the nearby chair and stepped into them. Leaving them unzipped, he crossed the room and stared out his window at the moonlit silhouette of the city against the vast ocean beyond. If he ever returned to the SGC, he'd have to deal with the fallout of his actions. Even if he were cleared of any charges…right or wrong, John would still take heat for what he'd done.

He scratched his chest absently. It's bad enough to disobey orders, but to kill your commanding officer? That was something else entirely. His father had been very clear in his feelings about how John had destroyed his military career…and now John was starting to think he was right.

Abruptly, John chuckled, the irony of his thoughts striking a chord in him. The Wraith armada was less than a week away, and the likelihood of him surviving, much less ever seeing Earth again, was slim to none, and here he was, worrying about his military career? Ironic humor spread through him, and in spite of his gloom, he chuckled again.

Stepping away from his window, Sheppard looked at his clock. With less than an hour until he was going to get up anyway, John felt it pointless to go back to bed. He quickly dressed and grabbed his side arm.

John paused, his gaze settling on his messy bed. His mind returning to his nightmare, Sheppard drew in a deep breath. He may have made the right choice, but he still carried the regret with him…the ghost of Colonel Sumner…and that was something he'd square with the Wraith before this was all over. Determination fortified him, as he strapped his sidearm around his waist and exited his quarters.

…I realize what I did was right…and I hate the Wraith that much more for it.

---------------------------------------------

Author's notes: The first set of bolded lines is quoted directly from Siege II, the second set is my words…or rather what I believe Sheppard was going to say to Everett, but never had the chance.