A/N: It's no original story. I just thought, what the heck had been going on inside Sheppard's mind when he shared it with Thalen. So here it is. I've put the "tought oud loud"s in italics to make it easier :)
Oh, and of course it's a little slashy :) Beckett/Sheppard. What else? lol
John sat on the bed and was lacing his shoes when Carson stirred under the covers.
"You're leaving early," came the sleepy voice from somewhere between the pillows.
"Yeah, we have a mission today. Some cruising around with the puddle jumper. Rodney has found something in the ancient database about something, uh... I don't know. It was something that had McKay very excited." John turned around and smiled at Carson.
"What time is it?" Carson blinked a few times to get the sleep out of his eyes and yawned.
"It's 5:30." John bent down and gave Carson a sweet kiss.
"You really have to go already?" Carson asked drowsily and reached for John's hand.
"Yes." John pulled Carson's hand to his face and gave his lover a kiss on the palm, wishing he didn't have to leave. Not just today. Every day. He hated the fact, they had to sneak out of each others quarters before everyone else got up. But they had to be careful. John was still military and the US military wouldn't be too excited to see their CO of Atlantis in a homosexual relationship.
He sighed. But he would never give up this thing he had with Carson. He hadn't felt this safe and cared for in a long time and the strength of the feelings he had for Carson surprised him every day. He was inclined to say, that he was really happy for now.
"Be safe." Still sleepy, Carson smiled at John and wondered not for the first time what was going on in that head with the adorable tousled hair.
"I will be. Go back to sleep." With one final kiss John rose from the bed and went to the door. When he turned around again, he saw Carson snuggling into the covers again. Smiling he hit the control pad for the door and left Carson quarters.
The mission debriefing was short and boring and John couldn't get the picture of the sleepy Carson out of his head. He realized, he must have been smiling the whole time, when McKay snapped at him.
"What is so funny?"
Startled, John lifted his head. "What?"
"All the time, I was explaining why this mission is important and why we need to leave that early, you were sitting over there, obviously not listening to a word I were saying and grinning as if you have had a private joke."
"You've already told me yesterday, why we have to go. And it may be an unknown thing to you, but I actually had a good nights sleep and I'm in a good mood. So, are we done here?"
"Yes, we are." Elizabeth stepped in before McKay could start another rant.
McKay had already lifted his hand and pointed his finger at Sheppard when Elizabeth spoke up and gave an undefined grunt, but remained silent otherwise. Teyla and Ronon grinned and rose from their seats.
John gave Elizabeth a nod and smiled as he passed by her with his team to leave the room.
After fetching their gear, the team headed to the jumper bay. McKay was surprisingly quiet during that time, but when they reached the jumper he spoke up again.
"You know, you can have a good sleep, because I and my team are maintaining the city and make sure everything is working. Oh, and..."
"Yeah, McKay, I get it," John interrupted him and sat down in the pilot chair. "And I'm sure, you're missing your TV to lull you to sleep."
"That is so not true, and..."
"A TV?" Ronon asked and sat down as well.
Rodney was getting seriously annoyed by being interrupted the third time this day, but decided to change the subject. So he started a rant about the technical specs of television on earth instead.
John just smiled and announced their take off to the control room. McKay was still talking when he lowered the jumper in the gateroom and continued talking when they emerged on the other side of the wormhole.
Ronon took his chance as Rodney stopped a second to draw his breath. "So people just sit and watch this box for hours at a time?"
"Yeah, people do." John decided to take part in the conversation.
Teyla, who had listened interested to Rodney's explanations frowned. "Is it that engaging?"
"Depends what's on it. There are lots of programmes on dozens of channels, every day, all day." John shrugged giving it a further thought the first time in his life he realized. 'Really, what was it about TV that everyone spends so much time in front of it?'
"Most of which are fictional representations of ridiculously attractive people in absurd situations." McKay stepped in again and had unintentionally the rest of his team smiling.
'Yeah, speaking of absurd situations...' John thought but said out loud: "There are educational programmes, all sorts of documentaries. Not many people watch 'em but, uh, well, they're on." Then he smiled again, remembering Carson telling him, how he liked the BBC documentaries and the Discovery Channel.
"And that's what everybody on your planet does for entertainment? Watch a box?" Ronon still looked doubtful.
"Not everyone -- although I will confess to the occasional half hour of 'Jeopardy'." Rodney's annoyed tone clearly indicated, this was directed at John.
"Jeopardy?" Ronon asked confused, obviously taken it literally.
"It's the name of the show -- 'Jeopardy'."
"Sounds dangerous." Ronon grinned, still unsure what to make of all this, but satisfied to have Rodney annoyed.
"Double jeopardy -- that's twice as dangerous." Sheppard grinned.
Teyla couldn't hide a smile as well, wheras Rodney looked as if he would gladly hit Sheppard over the head with his laptop.
The suddenly appearing heads-up display distracted everyone from their conversation.
"Proximity alarm. Somethin's out there." Sheppard pushed a few buttons on the console in front of him.
"A ship?" Ronon asked from behind.
Frowning, John pushed another button and the display changed a little. "No. There's two of 'em. There's another one in a lower orbit."
"Yeah, but another what?" Now totally focused on the task at hand, McKay had already forgotten their mocking.
"I don't know, but big enough to hold a person." John was unsure what to make of the readings on the display before him and that made him only more cautious.
"Maybe it's a coffin." Ronon suggested.
"Perhaps jettisoned from a ship?" Teyla added.
"Space burial?" John looked unconvinced.
In the meantime McKay had checked the readouts on his console and turned now around again to look at the H.U.D. "No. It's definitely not a coffin. I'm reading life signs coming from inside of both of them. Whoever's in there, they're still alive."
The others stared at him disbelievingly.
"Are you sure?" John turned in his chair and looked at McKay.
"No, I made that up. Yes, of course I'm sure!"
"What are we doing with them?" Teyla brought the unasked question to the table.
"Well, I guess we should, uhm... rescue them?" Rodney indicated to the readouts at the H.U.D. "They are still alive, so I think it's our duty to help them?"
Sheppard bit back a retort and agreed instead. "Yeah, I think we can fit one inside the jumper. You better get all the loose stuff from the back to the front compartment. I need to open the rear hatch and we don't want to lose anything." He maneuvered the jumper in the right position while Teyla and Ronon prepared the rear compartment.
Some tricky flying later the pod was safely inside the jumper and they headed back to Atlantis. On their way they informed Elizabeth about their "guest" so when they arrived in the jumper bay, Carson and a medical team accompanied by some marines were already waiting for them.
John touched down and opened the rear hatch, already smiling again by the sight of Carson.
After lifting the pod onto a gurney with some combined effort, John sent Teyla and Ronon to brief Elizabeth and went with Carson and Rodney to Lab 3.
The two scientists immediately started to examine the pod, while John sat back and kept an eye on them. Sharing a smile with Carson every once in a while.
Carson finished his scans way before Rodney was done and sat down besides John.
"So, what'd you find out?" John could smell Carson's aftershave and savored every second he could be this close to his lover in public.
"Not much. The pod seems to be shielded somehow. It prevents our scanners from getting much information. I think this is a life pod, it keeps the person inside in a form of stasis. I don't even know how long she was out there."
"Yes, it's a female. That's about everything I know so far."
John leaned a little closer. "So, it seems this is a short working day for me. When are you done for today?" he whispered.
Carson looked shocked and glanced around the room cautiously. But Rodney was absorbed in his work and the security detail at the door didn't pay them any attention. "John, you have to be careful!" he whispered back.
"Why? Can't I just ask a friend to have dinner with me this evening?" John's voice was still low and sounded absolutely innocent, but his eyes told a whole other story.
Carson grinned. "Sure you can. And I can accept the offer:"
Rodney chose this moment to announce, he was ready to open the pod and John and Carson stood up again.
Touching his headset, Carson radioed Elizabeth. "Doctor Weir? The first pod is ready."
He nodded to the others, when he heard her response. "She's coming."
Rodney sat down on the floor and attached some leads to the pod and hooked them to his computer tablet, while John looked at the pod a little closer. How would it feel to be in that thing? It was big enough to hold a full-grown person, but there was not much room for anything else. And no windows for that matter. Whoever the woman in that pod was, she had no way of looking at her surroundings. But then, Carson had told him, the pod keeps the person in stasis. So not much need for a window anyway. John remembered his time in the stasis chamber on the Aurora. It was only for a short time and they had some sort of virtual reality going on, but to be in such a little box for years at a time... John shuddered. He was still in his thoughts when Carson greets Elizabeth, but snapped out of it, when he heard Carson say: "Oh! Colonel Caldwell! Welcome back!"
John eyed the Colonel suspiciously from behind. The whole Goa'uld incident had freaked him out. It was really disconcerting how easy the Goa'uld could infiltrate their operation and no one had noticed until it was almost too late.
When Caldwell turned to him to ask what's going on, he shrugged off the bad feelings and tried to keep his face straight.
"We think it's a life pod of some kind." John offered Carson's explanation to the other Colonel.
"It appears to be designed solely for the purposes of maintaining a single human life in stasis. This one's a female." Carson explained further.
John had to struggle not to smile by hearing Carson's voice and decided to give Caldwell some more intel. Not only to play nice, but to distract himself from Carson. "There's another one in a decaying orbit but, uh, we could only fit one inside the Jumper."
Elizabeth nodded. "I've already sent Lorne in Jumper Six to recover the second pod. Ronon and Teyla went along to help them locate it."
John nods approvingly.
"OK! I'm ready to crack her open," McKay's voice sounded through the room before he stood up and his gaze fell on Caldwell. "Hey." The voice and Rodney's body language told, that the scientist was ready to run and hide if necessary.
John grinned because of Rodney's incapability to hide his uneasiness towards the Colonel.
"Hello, Doctor," Caldwell said diplomatically.
John grinned even more, when the scientist kept staring at commander of the Deadalus a little longer and shared a smile with Carson when Rodney shrugged off his sense of impending doom with the usual "Hmm."
After typing something on his tablet the pod drew the attention of everyone with a loud "Whoosh" and slid open to reveal a woman, well in her ages, wearing a green uniform. Carson stepped forward and held his scanner before him.
"She's alive -- barely. It appears we found her very near the end. All the major organs are shutting down."
John decided to stay in the background. For one, this was not his show and the fact, that the woman looked that old, told him, she had to be in that pod for a very long time. And that freaked him out.
"How long was she out there?" Elizabeth asked and watched the woman closely.
"There's no way to tell for certain," Carson answered.
"So, she could be an Ancient?" The excitement was clearly registerable in Weir's voice.
"Uh, the pod design makes me doubt that."
A grim expression ghosted over John's face and he ignored the urge to punch Rodney for his ignorant tone.
Elizabeth was stepping closer to the pod while she was speaking. "It's a shame she can't speak with us. Just imagine what she could tell us about her people and about what happened to her."
When she looked down at the woman, a white beam suddenly shot out of the pod and hit her. John felt the adrenaline rush through his body immediately and he reacted the moment he saw Elizabeth collapsing. He caught her and realized Caldwell was at his side as well. When they lowered her to the ground he could hear McKay call out her name and Carson ordering a medical team to the lab.
John held her head gently when Carson rushed to his side to feel for a pulse. He felt a wave of relief wash through him, when Carson nodded and announced her pulse was strong and stable.
Just a few minutes after Carson's call for a medical team, they arrived in the lab and lifted Elizabeth onto a gurney. Without another word Carson headed off with them for the infirmary and left the other three men behind.
When John looked up he saw Rodney's terrified face. He didn't feel that peachy himself but he needed to focus now.
"Rodney?" He stepped around the pod, careful not to get too close to it. "Rodney?" When he touched the other man's arm, McKay finally reacted and looked at him.
"What the hell was that?" McKay had become a fine 'soldier' but he was still easy to shock.
"We will find out, but right now, I need to know if the woman is still alive."
Rodney looked at him blankly for a moment, but shifted his gaze at his tablet eventually. "Uh... No, she's dead. No life signs anymore."
"Ok, let's go to the infirmary then." John pushed Rodney a bit to get the other man to walk.
"We should leave a security detail, just in case." Caldwell prompted and motioned the marine standing at the door inside.
John hated the infirmary. It never meant anything good. Ok, if he went there to pick up Carson it was very good, but otherwise it meant trouble all the time. And seeing Elizabeth lying on that infirmary bed, seeing her pale face, didn't help to alter his opinion.
They were all standing around her bed. Carson checked the readouts on the monitor again and felt for a pulse.
McKay was obviously still agitated and had his arms crossed in front of his chest to keep his hands still. Finally he walked over to John and pointed at Elizabeth.
"This is not my fault."
John couldn't believe what he was hearing. "We were all there -- relax." His voice was annoyed but inside he was surprised McKay felt responsible and actually cared. His attention was drawn to Elizabeth again, when Carson spoke up.
"She's coming around."
Rodney stepped back to his place on Elizabeth's bedside, when she opened her eyes. Her face showed an surprised expression and she sat up.
John frowned. "You OK?"
Elizabeth lowered her gaze and seemed to check herself. A smile showed itself on her face. "Doctor Weir is fine."
John frowned even more. "Doctor Weir doesn't talk about herself in the third person," he stated suspiciously.
"She was simply overcome by the effects of the imprinting," Elizabeth answered.
Looking at Caldwell shortly when he saw the Colonel moving his hand John shifted his gaze back to Elizabeth. He was relieved to hear the Colonel order a security team to the Infirmary.
"This is not necessary, Colonel ... Caldwell. She is merely harbouring my consciousness." Elizabeth said. Or... rather the woman who he believed was Elizabeth.
"Oh, here we go again!" Rodney exclaimed. Any other time John would have grinned and mocked Rodney about his experience of having Cadman in his brain, but not now. This was way too serious.
"And you are ...?" John waved his hand vaguely as he looked at Elizabeth.
"I am Phebus. We are a race of explorers. On our journey home our vessel was attacked." Elizabeth - or well, Phebus - looked at each of them. John felt a tickling in the behind of his head. Something was not right, but he couldn't put his finger on it.
"By the Wraith?" Caldwell obviously seemed to buy her story.
Phebus looked at him with a pleased expression. "Yes. We were forced to abandon ship and launch our life pods." She paused. "If this has happened to me, then I've been adrift for some time and the pod has determined my body is beyond resuscitation." She dropped her gaze again and her voice indicated the realisation of her own death.
"You're quite correct." Carson said gently.
"Then for all intents and purposes I am already dead."
John thought it weird to hear someone admitting their own death. To have someone before him, who was actually already dead was really creepy.
"I'm sorry." Carson nodded and knew she was right, having been given the information about the now dead body in the pod from John earlier.
"So am I."
Despite the fact, that he felt sorry for her, John wanted to know something else. "Yeah, yeah, yeah, we're all very sorry. Where's Elizabeth?"
"She is here also." Phebus answered. John had decided to actually call her Phebus, despite having Elizabeth in front of him. This whole ordeal began to annoy him.
"And I suppose you'd like us to take your word for that?" Finally Caldwell seemed to be suspicious as well.
'About damn time,' John thought.
"Would you like to speak with her?" Phebus asked and appeared to be actually surprised.
"Yes, we would." John couldn't stop himself from snapping.
Frowning he watched the woman in front of him lower her head and fall back against the pillow again. Carson was at her side immediately, but Elizabeth lifted a hand to her head and seemed to shake off the other consciousness.
"Doctor Weir?" Caldwell asked with poorly hidden doubt in his voice.
Carson was holding his hand out to support Elizabeth who sat up again, but she refused the help. "Oh! Oh, it's OK, Carson. I'm -- I'm fine."
"Elizabeth? I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but there's another, um ..." John was still not convinced that they were really talking to Elizabeth.
"I know. Her name is Phebus," Weir interrupted him and smiled.
"You seem remarkably sanguine about all this," McKay spoke up and watched her, stunned.
"Well, the imprinting will only last a matter of hours," she explained and suddenly straightened up, remembering something. "The other pod -- Phebus urgently desires to be here when we bring the other pod back to Atlantis."
"Why?" John didn't try to hide his wariness.
Elizabeth smiled at him. "She believes it's her husband."
"Husband?" Caldwell asked confused.
"He escaped the ship -- she's certain of it and, uh ..." Elizabeth explained and giggled. "The rush of emotion is ... it's overwhelming."
"I can imagine." John said, just for the sake of saying something, but immediately regretted it.
"No, no, you can't," McKay pointed out.
John gave him an annoyed look. "No -- I can't."
"John, I'd like you to try," Elizabeth drew his attention again and smiled. "Phebus has a favour she'd like to ask of you." She gave him a questioning and at the same time somewhat garny look.
John didn't know what to make of this. Unsure he looked at the others.
"She likes you to be the temporary host to her husband." Elizabeth explained further.
"Uhm..." he stuttered, well aware of Caldwell's stare.
"It would be their last chance to be together," Elizabeth pointed out.
"Well, we need to make sure everything will be ok. For one, we have no idea, how that imprinting tha' lady spoke of will affect you, Elizabeth. And I can't authorize another... uhm... 'take over' without checking all the facts before." Carson stated and John was eternally grateful for his lover to step in and save him, at least for the moment.
"I tell you, he and I will be fine," Elizabeth pressed.
"No offense, my dear. But I'd like to determine that myself." Carson patted her on the arm. "If you'll excuse us for a moment now." He nodded to the others to indicate they should follow him.
John gave Elizabeth a smile and followed Carson alongside the others.
"Colonel, you are not really considering this?" Caldwell said the second the door to Carson's office had closed.
"I don't know," John admitted, still hadn't made his mind up.
"For all we know this imprinting could be a malfunction of the pod and result in permanent brain damage," the Colonel reinforced his opinion.
"Well, she looked ok," Rodney offered.
"What if all she has said is true? What if it really is her husband? He will be in the same condition as she was." John argued with himself as much as with Caldwell. He had put himself in the shoes of that woman. The whole thing was creepy, no doubt. But what if he had learned he was dead and would get an opportunity like this? Wouldn't he try to do everything he could to see his beloved again? He looked at Carson and knew the answer immediately.
"Are you willing to take the risk just because of romantic reasons?" Caldwell's expression made it very clear, that he was not agreeing.
"After all, this is a scientific expedition and maybe we can learn something from their technology. And I won't do it until Rodney and Carson declare it as safe." John said, now holding his ground.
"Alright, it's your decision." Caldwell shrugged and John knew he disapproved the whole incident, but he knew as well, the Colonel didn't have the authority to do anything against it. A part of John liked the fact he could overrule Caldwell in this one.
"Ok, if we're going to play matchmaker here, I'm better be going to check on the second pod," Rodney announced and left Carson's office, closely followed by Caldwell.
John watched them leave and turned back to Carson, who looked at him questioning.
Carson went to the door and put his hand on the control crystal to shut it close again. Then he turned to face John. "Are you sure, you wanna do this, luv?"
"I... I... no," John admitted finally and lowered his head.
Carson stepped closer and put his arms around him. "Let me check Elizabeth again. If there is any sign of danger I will forbid it anyway." Lowering his head now as well, he tried to look into John's eyes. "But I know why you're even considering this and I'm very proud of you. I would do the same thing."
"I just thought if it were you and me..." John trailed of.
"Aye." Carson pulled his lover closer.
John hugged him back and finally lifted his head. Their eyes met and John smiled. "I could look all day in those eyes of yours."
"That's flattering, but I don't think it would be appreciated by the others," Carson grinned and gave John a quick kiss.
"Yeah, probably. I better be going now. Caldwell will be running in circles already, because I overruled him." Still smiling John pulled out of the embrace and went to the door. "Let me know if it's safe to do this." He hit the panel and left the room before Carson could give him an answer.
When John got into the lab, he registered that the second pod was already brought in. The lid was still closed and Rodney was again crouching under the pod, while Caldwell eyed the thing suspiciously. He walked around the pod, but holding his distance.
'You can never know, better be safe than sorry,' John thought and came to a halt next to Caldwell.
John felt very uneasy being so close to the pod and he already regretted his offer. But the fact, he would play along Caldwell, if he'd back out now kept him from saying anything.
Finally McKay rose from under the pod. "As I understand it, the beam that hit Elizabeth was part of a failsafe feature built into the pod system. As cellular failure progressed, the pod stored her consciousness in a sort of, uh, flash memory," he said and looked very pleased with his explanation.
However, Caldwell was obviously not satisfied with it. "Why? I mean, what good is the technology if the effects are temporary?"
"It's a Black Box!" The thought hit Sheppard from nowhere. But it had to be right. What else would it be? John didn't really believe that whole technology would only exist to give people the chance to be with their loved ones together one last time.
"Well, that makes sense. Even if the body is incapable of being revived, the survivor can still report what happened to their ship. The rescue team could interrogate them even if they were incapable of regaining consciousness." Rodney agreed.
"You're talking about a human flight recorder. That's pretty dark." Caldwell seemed to be uncomfortable with this idea.
"Pretty useful thing in times of war," John said pragmatically.
"Well, it could also be the means for two survivors to say one last goodbye, hmm?" McKay grinned at John who smiled back, but shifted his gaze a bit when he saw Carson wheeling Elizabeth into lab. She was sitting in a wheelchair and stared at the pod.
"Are you sure she's up for this?" Caldwell asked.
John found himself agreeing with Caldwell even more, about this being a bad idea and his uneasy feeling began to grow a little more. If Carson brought Elizabeth to the lab, he hadn't found anything dangerous that would prevent John from doing this. John felt his stomach tighten. He watched Elizabeth, or Phebus for that matter, standing up and stepping closer to the pod. He still couldn't decide, which woman was in control. The way she was looking at the pod somehow indicated it was Phebus, but Carson's voice distracted him from his thoughts.
"Physically, she's perfectly fine. Besides, Elizabeth wouldn't take no for an answer." Carson had put the wheelchair aside and now stood next to Elizabeth, his hands stuffed in his pockets. Carson hid it well, but John could clearly make out that his lover wasn't really happy about the whole incident.
"Ah, love is a powerful thing, Carson." Elizabeth finally turned her gaze from the pod and smiled at Carson.
"You're a hopeless romantic, you know that?" John gave Elizabeth a smirk and tried to lighten up the mood, well mostly his own.
Elizabeth smiled back. "Well, you're just as hopeless, otherwise you wouldn't have agreed."
'Touché,' John thought and shifted uneasy.
"I've gone over the respective E.E.G. patterns and I can say with some degree of confidence that this ... imprinting ... that Doctor Weir's temporary occupant calls it won't last more than a few hours." For the second time today, John was thankful Carson saved him again and drew the attention of everyone off of him.
"You can guarantee that?" Caldwell asked and raised his eyebrow. Every other time John would have glared at the Colonel to doubt Carson's ascertainment, but now he was getting edgier by the minute. What would it be like to have another consciousness in his head? What if that guy was an asshole? John barely registered the conversation going on. He heard Carson confirming that the imprinting would last a day at most. One day. A whole day, that he wouldn't be alone in his head. John was already reconsidering his decision when Rodney spoke up.
"Well! I'm sold! Shall we? And..." McKay pressed on his computer tablet and backed away from the pod when the lid slid open.
John looked at the man inside, who was revealed. He looked very old, like the woman before. He was wearing a uniform as well, but his was a brown colour. John took the other man's face in. All those wrinkles. How long had he been out there? It struck him, that they hadn't asked Phebus how long ago she was attacked by the Wraith.
'But it doesn't really matters, does it,' John thought. The life of this man was over, the years drifted by, stuck in that pod. John began to feel sorry for the man and Phebus. They lost their life because of the Wraith. Because no one discovered their pods in time, they were forgotten. Doomed to age slowly in their pods. Doomed to age alone. John shuddered. He barely followed the conversation. Hearing Carson confirming that the man, was in fact still alive, John couldn't draw his gaze away from the man.
"I'd prefer if this alien consciousness weren't armed."
John was startled when he realized Caldwell had turned to him. John needed a moment to understand what the Colonel wanted him to do.
"Right." Finally he pulled his gun out of its holster and handed it to Rodney who took it with a surprised "oh".
Then his gaze fell back to the old man.
"Colonel Sheppard. You'll have to be in close proximity to the pod for the transfer to happen." Carson's voice was steady and showed not the worry John knew he was feeling. He hated it, that Carson had to address him with his rank to maintain the distance they had to keep in public.
"Yeah, yeah, I know." John knew his voice showed that he was nervous. But it wasn't only because of the fact he wouldn't be alone in his head in a few minutes from now. There was more.
"But you're not moving." Only someone who knew him well, could hear now the increased worry. John knew Carson extremely well, and suddenly it hit him, why he was feeling so uneasy. Well apart from the obvious.
His head snapped up and he looked at Carson. "You know, they were husband and wife. Anything could happen." John was thankful that this could mean anything to the others but Carson would understand exactly what he wanted to say. He just hoped no one of the others would register the almost pleading look on his face. John was relieved when Carson gave him a reassuring smile. He could drown in that smile. John concentrated on Carson's face, took it all in, although he already knew every inch of it. So he was almost startled when Elizabeth spoke up.
"I promise to be discreet, Colonel."
'Ok, not Elizabeth anymore,' John thought and spoke out loud: "Well, um, I guess I'll see you guys later." He didn't care anymore that his nervousness now shone through clearly. This was creepy, so he had every right to be nervous. Slowly he walked closer to the pod.
"Have fun!" McKay's comment felt really awkward in the given situation.
But John didn't really pay attention to what was going on around him anymore. He focused on the old man's face again and shuffled slowly closer and closer.
Without any warning, he suddenly was engulfed in the white beam that shot out of the pod. It was a really unpleasant feeling. John instinctively tried to back out of the light, but his body would not follow his commands. That's when he felt an overwhelming pain in his head, it was like something tried to enter his skull and pushing him aside forcefully. The scream he was letting out was only heard in his own head. At least, now he knew why Elizabeth collapsed during the imprinting. It really felt as if an evil power would bang a stamp on his brain again and again to imprint the other consciousness. John felt himself slipping away further each moment. He had to struggle not to be pushed aside completely. This was not good. This was really not good.
It only took a second, but it felt longer for John. Slowly the pain ebbed away and only a dull pounding remained in the back of his head. That's when he heard the other voice.
'Where am I?'
John realized the voice was only in his head. And when he tried to answer it, he noticed he could still not make his body react to his orders. So he thought the answer 'aloud' instead.
'This is weird. Uhm, excuse me?'
'Who is this?'
'My name is John Sheppard and you are sort of in my head right now.' This was getting crazier by the minute.
'In your head? So...' The other voice showed signs of understanding and sadness for that matter.
Suddenly a rush of memories floated by John's inner eyes. Faces, emotions, fights, explosions, rage, hatred. The more memories resurfaced the more worried Sheppard got. At the same time, he felt the other man searching through his own memories. He tried to stop him, but found it more and more difficult to actually do anything else than sit by and watch. The last memory that popped into his head was the view out of a cockpit. He saw another spaceship heading towards him on a direct collision course. He watched with fascination how the other ship came closer and closer and wondered why the man hadn't pulled an evasion maneuver. But he found the answer in the memory as well. Out of fuel. Well, that's bad. When the other ship was only meters away it finally doomed on Sheppard what mess they had themselves gotten into. He recognized the green uniform immediately. It was the woman. Well the younger version of that woman of course. And the grim expression on her face and the rage he felt through his "guest's" memories were unmistakable. Those two were enemies.
'Oh perfect,' John thought. 'Yeah, this is just what I needed." He tried again to gain some control of his own body but finally had to admit defeat. He was a bystander in his own body. 'Damn it.'
Suddenly he felt how his head moved and he looked at Elizabeth. John couldn't prevent his guest from searching his memories more and more.
'Can this be?'
John noticed the man was talking to him again and thought out loud: 'Uhm, what?'
"Thalen? It's me." Phebus said and answered the unheard question.
'Ah, so you have a name.' John filed that information away.
"Phebus?" Thalen asked. It sounded unsure and somewhat awkward, as if he had to get used to using Sheppard's mouth.
John felt very weird as well. He felt his mouth moving, he heard his voice, but he wasn't the one in control. This was not his doing. He tried to fight for control again, but with no effect. So he figuratively leaned back and watched the scene enfolding before him.
"It's alright -- these people recovered our pods." Phebus explained as Thalen looked around, finally noticing the other people in the room.
John snickered inwardly as he saw Carson waving at him. But he sobered quickly as he felt a rush of hatred again. Thalen was quickly analyzing the situation. And John discovered something. Though he couldn't control anything, he found that he could access Thalen's mind as easily as the other man could access his. And what he found there, didn't make him happy.
"We may well be the very last of our kind." Phebus started to walk around the pod. "These generous people have allowed us to be together one last time." Her voice was suggestive to no end.
'Sadly, only me and Elizabeth know what's going on here,' John thought dryly.
"You consented to this?" Thalen looked at Caldwell.
'Yes, but not to what you are heading now,' John snapped.
'I see. But it is too late now. We will end this here and now.' Thalen answered him.
'There is no need for you to fight again!' Maybe he could convince his guest just how ridiculous this whole incident was.
'Yes, there is...'
Ok, maybe not. John sighed. Well, he thought about sighing.
"One last chance..." Phebus spoke up again and caught Thalen's attention again. "...to say goodbye to my husband."
She took another step and seized his head to kiss him deeply.
'Whoa!' This was very unexpected. And John noticed that Thalen was surprised as well. Maybe there was still hope. Then it hit John, that he was kissing a woman in front of Carson. Guilt weaseled into the back of his head, although he knew that it wasn't him kissing Elizabeth. Or Elizabeth initiating that kiss for that matter. But still, he was feeling guilty towards Carson.
When Phebus broke the kiss, John felt somewhat light-headed. Or rather Thalen was feeling light-headed and John was experiencing that feeling as well.
'This needs some getting used to.'
"It's not what I expected." Thalen didn't know what to think of this, John discovered with a certain degree of satisfaction. But one moment later he felt Thalen sobering and the old rage flared up again.
"I know this body is different but I assure you, Thalen, it's me." Phebus seemed sad.
'She's playing her role really good.' John thought.
'Yes, she does.'
Phebus smiled a little, as if she knew about the silent conversation inside the man in front of her. Without breaking her gaze, she addressed the others: "Is it possible for us to be alone, just for a few minutes?"
"No, absolutely not." Caldwell immediately denied.
'Yes! Good man.' John found himself agreeing with the Colonel quite often today. 'Get some guards in here and lock those two away until the imprinting wears off!'
"Oh, don't be so heartless!" Carson's statement reminded John, that the others still didn't know what was really going on. He had to regain control of his body. Carefully he felt inside his mind for a weakness. A place where he could pull at. He was so occupied by this, that he didn't pay attention to the conversation anymore. The sudden movement of his own body dragged his attention back.
Thalen was running to the door and attacked the guard, who was standing there. He smashed his elbow in the other man's face and pulled his stunner in one smooth movement. John could only watch helplessly how one of his men hit the ground and he felt the rage again. But this time it was his own. What was that guy thinking? If it wasn't for them, he would still float around in his crammy little pod. John tried to push the other consciousness out of his head. He imagined the other consciousness as a wall he needed to take down.
While he was fighting his fight in his own body, he saw Thalen heading back into the lab and firing towards the other door, where John could catch a glimpse of Phebus.
"Security to Lab Three!" Caldwell's voice cut through the chaos, with the effect, that Thalen shot the Colonel.
'Stop it, you bastard!' John got angrier by the minute and struggled for control. Additional to his rage he was getting worried. Carson was still in the room. And the last thing he wanted, was for Carson to get shot. He was relieved that Thalen only had a stunner.
That was the moment when three loud gun shots bellowed through the room and he felt a stinging pain in his arm.
"Rodney, don't shoot! That's Colonel Sheppard!" Carson gave away the shooter. John was both thankful and angry. Although McKay clearly reacted in panic, he did something besides hiding, but by shooting the gun blindly as he had as John noticed, he could have easily hit Carson. He wanted to shout at Carson to take cover, to stay down, but he couldn't. Thalen simply decided to run out of the room and John could do nothing to stop him. Maybe this was better after all. At least Carson would be save.
'So long she doesn't shoot him.'
'What? Why should she do that?' John felt the fear for his lover pierce his mind.
'Why do you care for him so much?'
'I don't think that's any of your business!'
'Correct, I need to find Phebus and kill her."
'Why do you hate her so much? Because she rammed your fighter?'
'I guess that's none of your business.'
'I can always search your memories for the answers,' John snapped back, but instantly regretted it, because if he could do that, Thalen could easily find out, what Carson meant to him.
'If you insist, I will not stop you. It's not important for me. I will kill her and in a few hours from now, you will get your body back.'
So, at least that's true... John decided to change the subject. 'How long were you out there in that pod?'
'I don't know. But it had to be very long. Aging is slowed down considerably in the pod. So I think it must have been at least a few hundred years, if not a few thousand.' Thalen actually sounded sad and tired.
John tried again to imagine, how it must be to be cooped up in a life pod one's whole life.
'Did you sleep all the time? Or were you aware of being in stasis?' John was curious.
'You're asking a lot of questions.'
'Hey the least you can do is answer them. You are controlling my body and trying to kill my boss."
'But you volunteered to do this.'
'Yes, because I thought we were helping an old couple to say goodbye. The last chance for husband and wife to be together.'
'Yes, she is very good at deluding.' Thalen paused at a corridor junction to peer around the corner, when he saw no one, he continued his walk. 'And I know why you have volunteered. You were thinking about yourself and that man... Carson is his name...'
Suddenly Elizabeth's voice came over the radio. "This is Doctor Weir. Attention all personnel. Colonel Sheppard is not -- I repeat, not -- who he pretends to be. If you find him, secure the area and contact me immediately. I'll deal with him myself."
Thalen froze immediately and checked his surroundings.
'Relax. She was talking over the radio.' If the situation hadn't be that serious, John would have laughed.
'Radio?' Thalen traled off and John felt him poking his mind for information. 'I see.'
Shortly after that they heard another voice over the radio. "Control Room: patch my radio through to security teams only."
'Who was that? And what did it mean?'
John decided to stay quiet. The other man would find out eventually when he would search his mind, but John wanted to make this as hard as possible. He began to look for a weak spot again. Some leak in the imprinting where he could reach through to claim his body back. Also fighting against the imprinting seemed to distract Thalen somehow. John could feel, the effort rising the other man had to make to stay in control.
In addition to that, he felt the blood running down his arm. One bullet hadn't missed its target. He had blocked out the pain, but he should do something against the bleeding.
'Hey, if you haven't noticed, I'm bleeding.'
'So, are you gonna do anything about it?'
'Because the blood is ruining my uniform.' John was getting seriously annoyed and he felt the anger raise again. 'Dumb question. It's a wound and it needs at least a dressing. So, do something about it. Look there is a dressing in the right pocket of the vest. I'd consider it a personal favour.'
'If you insist.'
'Yes, I insist.'
Thalen was turning around a corner and stepped on the walkway John loved to jog along. That man was already using his knowledge of the city to avoid any search parties.
Suddenly Elizabeth's voice came again over the radio. "Weir to Sheppard. I'm assuming you can hear me?"
John cursed her for delaying Thalen in looking for the wound, but was cheerful at the same time. When she kept using the radio, it would help the search teams to locate their positions.
"Yeah, I can hear you, but if we keep using these radios, it'll only help them find us." Thalen revealed the just learned information.
'Damn it, I need to be more careful with what I think.' John slapped himself figuratively on the head.
"We don't have much time, Thalen. The imprinting is temporary and these people are gonna try to stop us."
'She is not much for small talk.'
'Be quiet.' Thalen was obviously getting annoyed. "We've got all the time in the world and there's only one of them I'm worried about." He said out loud.
'Me?' The least thing he could do was making this living hell for his guest, John thought.
'I said, be quiet!'
'Why am I bothering you?' John tried to keep Thalen's attention, but didn't get a response anymore
"We both want a shot at the same thing." John noticed that Elizabeth's voice sounded slightly different. There was a very sharp edge to it. He wondered how Elizabeth was feeling. As the diplomat she was, she was probably talking Phebus to hell and back again right now. And she would be scared. She wouldn't let it show, but he knew she was. Hell, he was a little scared himself.
"You mean each other." Thalen continued the conversation and they heard a short laughter over the radio. Followed by a voice cold as ice, that betrayed the joviality.
"And neither one of us will get that chance if you keep running."
Thalen stopped dead in his tracks. John could feel the rage rising again, though the other man managed to keep his voice calm.
"You're the one that likes to run. My ship ran out of fuel before I could even get a clean shot." He started walking again and left the walkway turning into another abandoned corridor. John noticed that the other man finally fumbled the dressing from the vest-pocket and started to apply it to the wound.
"That was my plan." Phebus stated.
"You didn't have a plan. You just wanted me dead." Thalen stopped at some stacked boxes and put his weapon on top of them to have both his hands free.
"Still do. As a matter of fact, I can't wait to see that look of defeat on your face, just one last time."
'She really hates you.'
'As I hate her.'
Aloud, Thalen said: "You mean the look on my face when you rammed my fighter, making sure neither one of us would win? That was hatred, not defeat, Phebus." He finally adjusted the dressing and secured it.
"Is that any way to talk to your wife?!"
Thalen grabbed the gun and continued his way through the city.
'Aren't you gonna answer her?' John prodded.
"Thalen?" Phebus asked.
'There is nothing more to say.' Thalen looked carefully into a crossing corridor and directed his pace towards a transporter.
"Run all you like. The moment I find you, you die."
John was desperately thinking for a way out of this. This could not end well. Either he would die or getting injured or Elizabeth. The only hope was for his people to find them in time. They had the technical advantages of Atlantis on their side. So it should be only a matter of time until they would be found. Though Thalen didn't seem to be concerned about that. Why? As he saw his hand hitting the location for the power room on the transporter panel, he knew why. The man had already plundered his mind for any information that would help him to stay out of sight for the search teams. John poked at the other man's mind and found all his information about Atlantis mirrored there. The layout, what defense systems they've got and what means of locating people in the city. It worried him how easily he could be milked for vital information.
'It's not your fault. You can't do anything when an imprinting is established on your mind.' Thalen had obviously followed his thoughts.
'Don't you feel at least a little remorse for taking advantage of our willingness to help you?' Maybe appealing to Thalen's conscience could do the trick.
'I'm sorry, it has to be this way. But I can't do anything about that.' Thalen crossed another corridor and slowly approached the power room, when they heard footsteps.
'Yes, you can do something about it! Just stop running around and surrender to one of the search teams.'
'Even if I'd do that, she would never stop. No, this fight has to end. And I will end it.' Thalen jogged to the end of the corridor and jumped down the stairs that led to the power room. Then he turned and scrambled underneath the stairs, just in time as the footsteps reached the upper end of the stairs.
'You do know, how stupid that sounds, right?' John didn't know what else to say. How to convince Thalen to stop this. And that's when he realized what the other man was about to do.
The footsteps were on the stairs now and descending. Thalen watched through a gap between the steps.
'Don't do this!' John began to hate the helpless feeling. The knowledge about what was going to happen, but not being able to do anything against it. It was frustrating to say the least. 'Leave them alone!'
But Thalen didn't listen. As soon as two sets of feet came into vision he grabbed one of the ankles. John watched in horror as two of his men tumbled down the stairs after giving a surprised yelp. Thalen didn't loose a second and climbed out of his hiding towards the groaning marines. One of them managed it to raise his weapon but was still unfocused so it was easy for Thalen to grab the gun and send the man with a hard punch to unconsciousness.
'Son of a bitch!' Sheppard screamed and hammered mentally against the invisible wall in his head. 'You have no right to do this! If I could just get my hands around your neck, I would you!'
'I'm already dead,' was the quiet answer and Thalen took off with his new found P90 in the direction of the power room.
'Yes, you are dead. So act like that!' John was still fuming and got more and more frustrated by the second, but Thalen didn't pay him any attention. He jogged through the corridor and stopped at the next corner to peer around it. Two more marines were standing in front of the power room. John realized with horror that Thalen was pondering which weapon he was going to use.
'Take the stunner! Damn it, those men didn't do anything to piss you off, so use the god damn stunner and let them live!' John found himself almost pleading for his men's lives and was relieved when Thalen actually took the stunner. At least those two would live.
Thalen took a deep breath and then jumped into the other corridor, instantly shooting the stunner. The guards were too surprised to react and both went down quickly. Thalen didn't bother to check on them when he entered the power room, already lifting the P90.
'DON'T!' Sheppard screamed. 'DON'T SHOOT THE ZPM!'
His outburst startled Thalen cause he lowered the gun again.
'Why not. I need to cut the power.'
'If you do this, you will not only kill your lovely wife, but each and everyone in this city! Do you want that? Kill innocent bystanders? Because of your fucked up game?'
'No.' The answer was simple and somehow interrupted John's raging tirade.
If he had been able to, John would now breathe heavily. He felt the strain of this ordeal. It became harder to hold on, but he forced himself. There was no way he would slip now.
'I know, I can't stop you, but please just disconnect the ZPM. Don't destroy it.' John knew, he was begging, but if this was the only way to get through, he would do it. Atlantis depended on that ZPM. Without it, they would be a feast for the Wraith and John didn't want to go there in his thoughts.
Thalen walked to one of the consoles and pressed a few buttons and the ZPM slid upwards. The system automatically switched to auxiliary power and the naquadah generator began to glow. John watched Thalen taking off one of the covers at the side of the console. He cursed all and everything that came to mind, especially the imprinting and its nasty side effect that allowed Thalen to use all of John's knowledge. A few seconds later Thalen stepped back and lifted the P90 again.
'Hold the gun steady and make sure, you don't hit the ZPM,' John sighed in defeat and watched the ancient technology going to hell by the weapon's fire. A moment later all went dark. Thalen threw one last glance at the console and headed the way back, he came. 'Are you satisfied now?'
'Yes.' Thalen went straight back to the transporter. 'You should be as well. As I can see in your mind, you are sure Dr. McKay can fix the damage. I could have destroyed the ZPM, but I didn't.'
'And now I'm supposed to be all happy and thankful? You are still using me and you are still a threat to everyone,' John spat out and kept fighting against his intruder.
'Stop fighting me. You can't control what is happening. The imprinting will be gone in a few hours so take a rest.' Thalen stepped into the transporter and pressed the panel, but nothing happened.
'You've cut the power, remember?' John stated annoyed.
'Right.' Thalen stepped out of the transporter again and made his way back to the stairs.
'What are you going to do?'
'You can search my mind and find the answer to that.'
'Well, I prefer talking.'
'I'm not.' Thalen made his way up and ran through the adjoining corridor.
John sighed figuratively and noticed the direction they were going. Back to the main tower. He used the time to gather his strength, he had the odd feeling, he would need it. And he tried not to think. Thalen had proven a few times now, that he would use everything he learned against them. So he thought of Ferris wheels and the feeling flying gives him. He avoided every thought about Carson. Oh god, he hoped Carson was alright. The memory of kissing Elizabeth in front of him returned and so did the guilt. John was sure, Carson would see it as it was, a kiss shared by two aliens, but still. He was eager to talk to him, tell him, how much he loved him. That nothing will ever come between them. He just hoped Carson was save.
'He will be.'
Damn! What happened to not thinking? 'How can you be so sure?'
'Because I know Phebus. She is determined. But her goal is to kill me, not your friends. Or your lover.'
'Shut it!' John was furious. Why couldn't he keep his thoughts in check? He only made things from bad to worse with putting Carson as a potential target in the game.
'I will not hurt him.'
'Will you stop that! Why is it you know everything I think, but I only know your thoughts when I'm really concentrating and looking for them?'
'I had training.'
'How?' But John had already images and memories flashing in his mind and he didn't like them at all. 'Ok, never mind.' The few images had been enough for John to feel glad that they didn't possess that kind of technology. Humans tended to use everything as a cruel weapon for whatever original intention the technology had been invented. 'Where are we going?' John already knew, but he felt talking to this guy helped to think.
'Ronon.' John couldn't stop the thought in time before coming out. Damn it.
Thalen stopped dead in his tracks. 'What about him?'
'Nothing.' John felt his mind being poked and prodded again for every information he possessed about the Satedan. He could kick himself. The only thought he had managed to keep to himself until now. The only hope he had. Now it lay on the table and Thalen would use the information against him. Again.
'You think, he will wait in the armory. Why?' A bit more poking followed. 'I see.'
'You'll leave him alone! If you hurt him, I will find a way to kill you again. Believe me. And next time, there will be no pod, no other body you can jump into. Just death.'
'You feel very strong about him. I thought you loved Carson.' Thalen was clearly confused about this outbreak.
'He is a member of my team. And if you really had searched my mind, you should know me enough by now to know how I feel about my team. And my friends for that matter. And leave Carson out of this!' John was fuming again. His constant attack at the other consciousness in his head hadn't shown any effect by now and the helplessness was driving him mad.
Thalen resumed his walking and he came closer to the armory with every pace.
'You don't have to go to the armory. You have enough ammunition in the holster.'
'I need a life signs detector.'
John was ready to curse everything to hell and back again, when they reached the armory. Thalen lifted his weapon and peered into the dark.
'I hope he will shoot you,' John muttered.
'Then he would shoot you.'
'I don't care. I want this to be over.'
Thalen stepped closer to the door and called out softly: "Ronon? Are you in there?" Another step forward. "Ronon? Are you there?"
'Ronon, if you're there, just SHOOT the damn asshole!' John shouted, although he knew Ronon couldn't hear him. But if he didn't do anything he would explode.
"Look, I came here looking for you, buddy, so, uh, don't shoot or you'll ruin my entire plan. What'd Caldwell tell you?" Thalen held his voice low. Though he clearly expected an answer he seemed to be startled when he got one.
"That you're not who you say you are." Ronon's familiar growl came out of the dark room.
"Yeah, well, consider the source. There are two alien entities running around, and it's him and Weir. I'm the good guy here." Thalen obviously knew what he was doing. Sheppard felt him roaming through his mind to find the right words to say and how to say them.
'No, he's not the good guy. You are. SHOOT him.'
'He can't hear you.'
'I know, but you can.' John had a new mantra. Distract him, distract him, distract him.
"So who cut the power?"
'Ha! Good question.'
"OK, I admit -- that was me." Thalen had decided to go with half of the truth.
'Distraction, distraction, distraction.' John could feel the anger that came from Thalen, but it wasn't enough to stop him. Thalen used his mind to twist Ronon around his finger.
"I'm just tryin' to stay alive here. Caldwell's giving the orders and you're the only one I can trust not to shoot me on sight."
'What are you doing now? Charming your way in? Maybe you are attracted to Ronon.'
'Make me. You like him, do you? Like him, like him, like him.' John fired every thought at Thalen and kept fighting against the intruder at the same time and he felt the exhaustion again. Not the time for rest now.
"And what about Weir?" Ronon asked unaware of the fight going on inside Sheppard's head.
"Her you can shoot," Thalen shot out, not catching himself in time.
'Ha! Now, you've blown it,' Sheppard cheered.
"... and ... by shoot, I mean stun, and only because she's not herself." Thalen added quickly and to John's dismay Ronon seemed to buy it.
"Can you prove you're you?" The Satedan asked.
"No, I can't." Thalen used the annoyed undertone Sheppard would have used. When Ronon suddenly appeared in the door, his weapon trained point blank at Sheppard, he took a half step backwards and lowered his gun. As if demonstrating his honesty.
"What would Sheppard watch on TV?"
John couldn't believe what was happening here. The Satedan wouldn't buy into this crap, would he?
"No, that won't work." Thalen had discovered, truth was the best way to work with the big guy.
Ronon came a little closer. "Why not?"
'Good man. Keep doubting him! He's not who he says he is.' John felt a little hope and tried to conceal the information Ronon requested. But it was too late.
"Because if there was an alien consciousness in my head, he'd know the answer was football." Well, at least Sheppard had to admit that Thalen actually did a good job in imitating him, even he himself would have almost bought it. But Ronon was always the suspicious one, he would...
"But only Sheppard would admit that, so..."
"Right!" John heard his own voice mocking him. Thalen had achieved another victory. Watching in dismay how Ronon lowered his weapon, John allowed himself to rest for a while. There was nothing he could do now.
"Look, just help me find her before they do -- that's all I'm asking." Thalen was very convincing, John couldn't really blame the Satedan.
"Give me the gun." Ronon held his hand out and stared sternly at Sheppard.
'Ha, he didn't buy into it completely.' John celebrated a little victory himself. And he felt Thalen's uneasiness. And he felt him poke his mind again.
'Sorry buddy, can't help you there.' John crossed his figurative arms in front of him.
"Can I keep my stunner?" The voice showed clearly how self-conscious Thalen felt right now, but Ronon didn't notice it.
"Yeah." Grabbing the P90 from Thalen, he put it on a nearby box and picked up a life signs detector and two night goggles. He put one of the goggles on and threw the two other gadgets at Thalen, who barely managed it to catch them. "You lead the way."
John hoped the ancient technology would go haywire with two minds trying to control it, but it only showed the common display with the blinking dots and beeped steadily. Thalen had apparently already gained the needed knowledge to operate the detector and walked towards the south end of Atlantis. John saw a lonely dot moving in the cargo hold area. It wasn't far from their position. It had to be Elizabeth, the search teams would travel in groups and John was sure Caldwell would have confined everyone else to their quarters. They closed in to the position of the lonely dot very quickly and Thalen gestured to Ronon the direction they needed to go. The goggles gave everything a green touch and it felt surreal to John. He knew the fatigue was crawling nearer every minute and it was harder to hold on. The feeling of his body moving but him not controlling the movement made him dizzy. Thalen used his weakness to push him back even further while they were sneaking through the corridors. To John's dismay the search teams were way off and looking in the wrong parts of the city. After Thalen had cut the power they concentrated the search around the power room. John was furious, Caldwell should know better. Hell, Ronon was able to predict Thalen's next step. John wondered why Ronon had been alone in the armory. He had anticipated for Teyla to be with him. Probably Ronon had pulled his own stunt - again.
When they rounded a corner the steady beep of the detector became louder and drew John's attention. When Thalen lifted the night goggles the surreal feeling subsided a little, but when John saw how close they came to the lonely dot, his blood run cold.
"She's not here. Keep movin'."
'Yes, she is here! Don't you see that?' John felt the rush of adrenaline and wondered if it was his doing or Thalen's.
That's when John realized what Thalen was planning. He wanted to use Ronon as bait. Damn! John watched helplessly how the Satedan raised his goggles and moved on. Thalen stopped and looked at the display. Then he redirected his step and crouched behind some boxes, aiming his stunner in the direction the scanner showed him. The next thirty seconds went by in a blurr. Phebus was firing her P90, Ronon ran and jumped behind a few boxes and firing his weapon all at once. Thalen fired the stunner at Phebus, but missed. When she aimed the P90 at him, he sought cover behind some boxes as well. Then they heard running footsteps and she was gone.
John was wide awake again, the adrenaline rushing through his veins.
'What the hell were you thinking? You promised me not to hurt Ronon. You stupid son of bitch!' In addition to his rage and the helplessness a claustrophobic feeling made its way into John's mind. It was like his skull was shrinking around him and crushing him in the process. He wished he could breathe cause it felt like he was suffocating.
In the meantime Thalen was making his way to Ronon who was lying on the floor, grunting in pain.
John thought he was going mad at the sight of this. 'You bastard! I will kill you with my bare hands and get Carson to revive you, so I can kill you again!'
Thalen was aiming his stunner at the Satedan, finally revealing his identity. "Sorry, buddy. The plan didn't work. She got away because all I had was this stupid little thing." Waving his stunner a few times first, he threw it away and treaded on Ronon's wrist as the man tried to reach his blaster, leaving the man groan in pain.
'Leave him alone! You are so fucked up, I should have shot your pods to bits when we found them.' John screamed and howled but it was no use. Thalen reached down and took Ronon's weapon only to aim it at him a second later.
"At least you're out of the way." An evil smile played over Thalen's face.
Finally understanding doomed on Ronon's face. "You're not ..." His voice change to a groan when Thalen stepped harder on his wrist.
'Hell, he is out. Leave him alone! Stop torturing the man. What are you, a freaking psycho? Son of a bitch, call a medical team and leave him the hell alone!'
"Not Sheppard, no. But I tell you what: he's screaming in my head right now like you wouldn't believe." With a grim expression Thalen activated his radio. "Medical team to the south fork Cargo Hold. You have a man down."
'You are a piece full of shit!' John had a hard time to calm down. Actually he didn't want to calm down. His anger gave him strength and he started his battle against the invisible enemy in his head again.
'You're welcome.' Thalen shot a last glance at Ronon and turned to walk away..
'Do you have a conscience at all?'
'I can't afford, having a conscience. I only have a few hours left and there is only one thing to do.' Thalen looked on the life signs detector again. Surprisingly there were two dots ahead of him, moving very slowly as if they were looking for something. 'There are two life signs. One has to be Phebus. Who is the other?'
'How the hell should I know? And why would I help you?'
'I will get the information either way.'
'Yes, you can access all my memories, even what I'm thinking right now. But the last time I checked, I was not able to look into the future and certainly don't have any psychic powers.'
Thalen didn't respond but walked through the dark hallways, looking at the little display that showed the two dots. They were almost in front of him. A smile played over his face as he saw one of the dots stopping for a short time and now moving in his direction. He looked around and saw a small box in the corner opposite the door. He put his night goggles back on and crouched behind the box aiming Ronon's blaster at the doorway. From his position he could look into the adjoined corridor. A quick glance on the scanner showed him that one of the dots would move into his line of fire every moment now. When he saw movement at the end of the corridor he held his breath and took aim.
'Son of a bitch! Stop shooting around and killing or injuring innocent people!' Sheppard's sudden outburst startled Thalen and he had to take aim again.
'Be quiet.' By the time he had his target in line again, another person stepped in the way. Thalen had already pulled the trigger and the blaster shot its energy blast. John recognized Teyla immediately as she went down with a moan.
The rage flashed up immediately and John screamed in his anger. 'Bastard! I'm going to kill you!' Using his mental image, John hit furiously against the wall in his mind.
Thalen ignored him. He knew he had hit the wrong target. He switched the setting from stun to kill and headed towards Teyla just in time to see Phebus backing in the corridor.
"Will you people stop getting in the way?!" Thalen's anger shone clearly through his voice. He passed Teyla and fired the blaster at Phebus. The energy blast hit the column Phebus was hiding behind. When he saw her aiming her P90 at him, he took cover behind a column himself with a smooth move. The bullets sent fragments from the column all over the place.
'Come on, don't hide. Let's get this over with! Let her shoot you.'
"Go ahead and expend all your ammunition, just like you did last time! You people don't know how to fight, Phebus. That's why we're gonna win the war!" Thalen had to shout to be heard over the gunfire. When it stopped, he stepped around the column and fired his blaster in her direction again. He started walking towards her, but went into hiding again when he saw her coming out of cover and firing her weapon, blasting everything around him to bits.
"This war's not over yet!" Her voice was barely audible over the gunfire.
'Yes, it is.' Thalen grumbled in John's head and came out of cover again, but she was already gone.
'So, this is, how it's supposed to end? You two keep shooting at each other, don't even give a shit killing us along with you? This is not our war, in fact the war you are fighting here is long over. No one cares about your two petty souls.'
'And that's enough? That's entitlement for killing us with you? For keeping this ridiculous war alive? You are pathetic. If your entire race was like this, it's even a relief for this galaxy that you've wiped each other from existence.' John was tired.
'You don't understand.'
'Oh, I think I understand pretty well. You are an arrogant, selfish bastard who is exploiting our kindness to help you. You try to bring a war to an end, which has long ended already. And why? Only to satisfy your ego. I think, I understand perfectly what an asshole you are.'
Thalen didn't respond but waved his hand past the door crystal with no effect. The door didn't move.
In the same moment John was flooded by memories of Thalen's family, his love, his compassion to fight in the war as a young man. He showed John all the cruelty with which Phebus' race had fought this war. But John saw something else as well.
'You don't even know, who started the war. You don't know WHY you were fighting! It became just a habit to be at war. Haven't your two people never thought of negotiating a truce?'
Again, no response. Thalen turned away from the door and shouted into his radio with fury. "Is this what you wanted, Phebus? Another stalemate? I thought you wanted to finish this."
The taunting voice over the radio didn't help to ease his anger. "What's wrong, Thalen? You can't get out?"
John felt the rage burning in his body when Thalen lifted the blaster and fired at a control panel of a nearby bulkhead. The blast obviously short-circuited the door controls, because it opened a tiny bit. Putting the blaster in his vest, Thalen approached the door and crammed his fingers into the gap to pull the door open a little further. With a great deal of effort, he managed to open it enough to be able to squeeze himself through. Half way through he turned his head and saw Teyla standing before him. John cheered in joy and thanked whoever was responsible for Teyla being on the other side of the door.
'Crap.' Thalen knew what was going to happen, when he saw the Wraith stunner in Teyla's hands.
'You betcha!' John welcomed the feeling of being hit by the stunner. It felt like bolts of electricity were running through his veins, not a very pleasant feeling. Every nerve tingled and shortly before he passed out, he heard Teyla report her catch to Caldwell.
When John started to come to his senses again, he felt the after effects of being hit by a Wraith stunner. His nerves were tingling, overstimulated. Pins and needles, as he had dubbed it himself. What was going on? He couldn't remember being on an off-world mission. When he tried to move, he felt the cuffs which held his hands and feet. Crap. This couldn't be good. After trying to open his eyes, he slammed them shut again, the light was piercing in his brain like a needle. Ok, that wasn't a good idea. John took a few deep breaths. Suddenly he remembered. Elizabeth, the imprinting, Thalen, gun shots, Ronon bleeding.
"He is regaining consciousness."
Teyla! She had shot Thalen. John snapped his eyes open again, ignoring the pain. Then it hit him all of a sudden, he was in control. He carefully searched his mind for the other consciousness, he couldn't believe that it would be that easy. Teyla had to shoot him again, everyone was better off until they knew for sure he was alone in his head again. He propped himself up on one elbow and looked at her.
"Teyla -- it's me." His voice sounded very weak and although it had only been a few hours it already felt weird to use it again himself and not just hear it saying something another one controlled.
Teyla squatted down to him, still aiming her stunner at him.
'Good girl.' When John wanted to open his mouth to tell her to shoot him again, he felt someone pull roughly at his consciousness, he tried to fight it, but the other force was too powerful and he slipped back further and further. Desperately trying to keep control, he knew he was loosing the battle. 'Damn.'
"Do not waste your breath trying to convince me you are John Sheppard. I do not believe you." Teyla apparently wasn't in the mood to fall for any tricks.
'Nice try.' Thalen's voice echoed in John's head and he was pushed back even further.
"Don't you see what they're doing? They're pitting us against each other. You know me!" Thalen recovered quickly from the effects of the stunner.
"Oh, please! You call that acting?!" Phebus voice distracted Thalen and scotched every attempt of tricking Teyla.
Thalen obviously recovered without any after effect, he was even stronger now in pushing John back. He looked up, when he heard the voice over the city wide system. A camera in the corner caught his attention. "Phebus!" The hatred and annoyance clearly registerable in the voice.
"There's that look of defeat I love."
'The teasing never stops, huh?' John finally felt himself capable enough to join in the fight for his body again.
"Wrong again. Still hatred." Thalen was fuming, John could feel it. But he could feel a great relief as well, this would be over soon.
"I guess I'm satisfied with this. Teyla?" Phebus voice beamed in victory.
'You've lost!' John couldn't hide is satisfaction as well.
'So will you.'
'Why? I'm perfectly comfortable now. All I have to do now is wait for the imprinting to fade.' John was not really comfortable, tied up and all, but at least Thalen couldn't do any harm anymore. Teyla wouldn't let him out of her sight. He almost settled back when he heard Phebus' voice over the com.
'Like I said, we both loose.'
Aloud Thalen said: "Don't listen to her."
"Kill him now, or I vent halon fire suppressant into all the living spaces in Atlantis." There was truly an insane note to Phebus voice, John realized. He saw Teyla staring at him in shock. After a moment she spoke in her headset.
"Colonel -- can she do this?" The answer seemed not to lighten up her mood, her expression got even more worried. "How many people are at risk?"
John felt his blood running cold. She wouldn't bargain the lives of all the people of Atlantis to save his butt, would she? His mind was racing.
"Why are you doing this?" Teyla had turned to the camera and was obviously talking to Phebus. She was stalling. Why is she stalling? Well, apparently she wasn't that eager to shoot him. That was a good thing, but to what effect? John pondered the possibilities in his head.
"I have spent my entire life at war with his world. Thousands have died with no hope for victory, both sides reduced to a mere handful of fighters. If he really is the last, then in the end my people will have won."
'Hey, at least you told the truth on that one.' John thought bitterly in Thalen's direction, but then he couldn't have lied anyway. John found it getting more difficult to think straight, the strain of holding on was catching up with him now quickly. He just hoped Carson was right, about this being only a matter of hours. John didn't know how long he was unconscious, hopefully that had cut into Thalen's time.
Teyla looked back to Thalen.
"Don't believe her." Thalen sounded desperate, he saw his chances going down the drain.
'Yes, believe her, Teyla.' John had felt something else. When they regained consciousness after the stunner blast and Thalen had pushed him back again, the strength of the barrier had weakened. John could access Thalen's thoughts and feeling much easier now. And he saw disappointment besides the anger. Thalen was slipping, the imprinting was losing its effects.
"Believe me when I say I have absolutely nothing to lose. In a very short time, I will feel excruciating pain, this body will convulse, and I will cease to exist. That's what is ahead for me. All I can hope for now is to achieve victory for my people."
'Wait a sec, excruciating pain? That was not in the description!' John's gut clenched. He had a high threshold for pain, but he tried to avoid it whenever possible. 'What is she talking about?' But he got no response.
Teyla looked back to the camera. "Phebus, your people are long dead. Who lost or won a war so many years ago does not matter."
'See? What I told you!' John was relieved to hear this from another person.
"It matters to me." Phebus said in a low voice.
'And as I told you.' Thalen's voice in his head was as low as Phebus.
Teyla turned around once more and John's heart fell, when he saw an expression of dread and fear ghost over her face. She was as helpless as he was.
"If you kill me, you're killing him. He cares for you more than you know." Thalen brought the topic back to the table.
'What are you talking about?' John was confused, but understood immediately that Thalen was still trying to trick her. It was time for him to fight again. The imprinting was getting weaker by the second. And he had come to the conclusion that the city had to be under a lockdown. The closing bulkheads and the fact, Phebus was talking over the radio and getting Teyla to kill him instead of doing it herself. Phebus must have used Elizabeth's codes. If Caldwell had orchestrated the lockdown, there would be a team of marines now with Teyla. No, it had to be Phebus who was in control. John had no doubt, McKay was trying to override everything while they were talking, but he knew the system. It wasn't easy, even for McKay. John couldn't wait for the others to solve this, he had to fight himself. So he gathered his strength once again and pushed against the wall in his mind. He focused all his energy on this task. The ongoing conversation made him double his efforts.
"Please do not make me do this." Teyla was begging for him. John couldn't stand it.
"You don't have to." Thalen was desperate. He didn't want to loose.
'You're out. She will shoot, if there is no other choice. She won't risk the whole population of Atlantis in order to save me."
"Shoot him, or I release the gas and just hope it reaches the both of you." Even by paying only half of his attention, John could make out the desperation in Phebus voice. If the two hadn't pulled such a stunt, John would actually feel pity for them.
'Ok, that's it.' Hearing Phebus ordering his death again, he lost every sense of pity he might have had left a second ago.
Teyla looked torn between the choices. She knew what she had to do, but it would kill her, to actually pull the trigger. John could tell. He felt sorry for putting her in such a situation.
'Come on Teyla, do it! Shoot the bastard.'
"Sheppard doesn't believe you'll do it." Thalen started one last attempt to stop her.
'Thanks, you just said the one thing, that'll convince her to kill us.' Being finally at the brink of death, John felt relieved. This would be over now.
'Carson will never forgive himself for giving this a green light. He will not only loose you, he will never be happy again.'
'Keep Carson out of this! He knows this is not his fault. It's yours.' The mentioning of Carson pierced through his heart. The thought of never see his lover again, never feel his touch, never be able to tell him again how much he loved him... 'I damn you!' Frantically pushing against the imprint, John finally felt it slip a bit.
"Forgive me, John." Teyla cocked the P90 and aimed. John wished Thalen would close his eyes, but he stared at the gun and waited. The emotions were all mixed up, anger, sadness, fear, disappointment, relief, hope. John didn't know anymore which emotions were his, and which belonged to Thalen. The moment seemed to stretch endlessly. He watched Teyla's finger move in slow motion, saw her pull the trigger. And he saw Carson before his inner eye. The moment, when they first met, their first kiss, caresses, smiles, touches, smells everything crashed on to him and he felt a strange peace. His love for Carson would still be there, he knew it.
"Teyla, this is Caldwell. Do not fire! I repeat, do not fire!"
Caldwell's voice over the com cut through the silence and pulled John from his thoughts. Everything slid into focus again. He wasn't dead. A wave of relief washed through him and he felt the same happen to Thalen. A look at Teyla's face told him, she was relieved as well. She had lowered her P90. What happened? John knew the only explanation was McKay, the arrogant genius did it again. Saved everyone in the last second. John reminded himself to thank him. Again. It would only feed his egomaniac personality, but John didn't care. Not this time. The only question was, what would happen now?
'She will come for me.' Thalen stated, obviously eavesdropping on John's thoughts again.
'You won't be here for much longer.' John felt the imprinting fail more and more. He had almost the control of his body back.
'But she doesn't know that.'
'True. But Teyla won't allow her to harm me.' Just spoken or rather thought, John saw Teyla running off. No! He used all his strength but it wasn't enough.
"Teyla! Come on -- you can't leave me like this." Thalen called her back.
'Why did you do this?' John was surprised.
'Cause I don't want Phebus to win.'
Teyla had stopped at the door and turned back to him. "I will not let her harm you."
Inside John's body the final fight had broken loose. John felt the imprinting fading. He could already move his hands and feet. Thalen's memories vanished one after the other. He regained control, but Thalen was fighting to the last. Then he felt the pain. It started in the back of his skull.
"You don't know how determined she is." Still trying to win Teyla over for his cause, Thalen grunted in pain. "You can't let her win."
A loud groan escaped his lips and he toppled over. John had never felt such pain, it had widened to his whole body. Every nerve was tingling, it felt as if his skin was pulled from his body. Thalen tried to hold on, but slipped away further. He seemed to claw in John's brain, ripping it apart. John had a hard time to stay conscious, but he feared to loose this battle in the end, when he would pass out now. So he screamed. Still no control of his voice, his screams echoed in his head. The bound hands and feet prevented him from kicking out.
"He is going into convulsions."
He barely heard Teyla's voice, but it gave him something to focus on. He concentrated on her, convulsions shaking his body, searing pain shooting through his extremities, but he felt Thalen slipping. Every attempt by the other man to stay in control failed and after a few seconds he was gone. And with Thalen gone, the pain went as well. The writhing and convulsions stopped and John laid still. His eyes still closed he searched for the other consciousness, but it was gone. He was alone again. And he was alive. The pain was only a memory, a painful one, but it was gone now. However, he felt drained. But it wasn't over. Phebus was still on the run. When he opened his eyes, he saw Teyla squatting besides him. His vision was blurry at first, but it cleared after a moment.
"Teyla." It was weird to use his voice, and it sounded awkward.
"Is that really you?" The sceptical tone told him everything. And he couldn't blame her.
"You're never gonna believe me, so ..." Trailing off, he turned his head away from her. "... I'm not even gonna try." How long would it take until they believed he was back?
"Stand away from him and up against the wall."
Damn! That was fast. Phebus had to be in lab nearby to get to them that fast. John tried to think of something, a great plan to get them out of this, but his mind was still a jumbled mess. Fortunately Teyla seemed to have an idea.
"He is unconscious."
John glanced to her and the closed his eyes. Teyla was blocking the view, he couldn't see Phebus, which meant, Phebus couldn't see him as well. He wondered what Teyla was planning, when he felt something touch his hands. A familiar form was pressed into his hand.
"I don't know how many bullets I have left in this thing, or I would have already shot you!"
John tightened his grip around the stunner and shifted his hands carefully to conceal it. Taking deep breaths, he calmed himself down. He just hoped he would have enough strength to aim properly.
"I said back off!" Phebus voice was threatening to no end. John concentrated on his hearing, he heard the rustling sound when Teyla stood up and her shuffling feet, when she moved aside.
"Unconscious or not, I wanna see his face." Phebus voice gave him a target, she had moved a bit, he could make out the faint noise of her footsteps. When he was sure, he could hold the stunner steady enough, he snapped his eyes open, sat up and raised the stunner. Phebus looked at him in surprised shook when the blast of the stunner hit her. John was relieved, seeing the woman finally collapsing to the floor.
A second later, Teyla kicked the gun from his hands.
'Ok, so much for trusting me, to be me again,' John thought dryly. All he wanted to do now was lay down and sleep for a good ten hours. But running feet discarded that idea for the moment. Lorne and a team of marines ran into the room. 'About damn time.' John made an effort to sit up properly. He had to obtain a certain image in front of his men, even though he had all the rights to pass out now.
Lorne took in the scene quickly and approached Teyla. "You alright?"
"Yes. It is over."
"Sorry we took so long. We got stuck in that damned corridor for two hours."
"Call a medical team and have them both taken to the Infirmary."
It always astounded John how easily Teyla managed to be accepted as a leader. Lorne had no reason to follow her orders, but he did.
"You got it." The major activated his headset. "This is Lorne. I need a medical team to my location."
Oh yes, a medical team. Sweet relief. And it meant Carson would be here in no time. But John needed to know something before.
He looked at Teyla. "How'd you know it was me?"
"I still do not." Turning to one of the marines she told him: "Keep his hands bound until Doctor Beckett tells you otherwise."
John frowned. "Well, if you didn't know, why'd you give me the stunner?"
"Because you would have shot her either way." Giving him a wicked smile she turned and left the room. John didn't know if he should be thankful or offended by this. But he had no time to ponder this any longer because Carson and his medical team chose this moment to rush in. Glad to see his lover well and unharmed, John finally allowed himself to relax a little.
Carson went to Elizabeth first, checked for a pulse and gave a few orders to his team, before they lifted her onto a gurney and rolled her outside. John felt for her, for all he knew, she had the fading of the imprinting still ahead of her.
He smiled at Carson when he saw the other man approaching him, but his smile fell, when he saw the wary look on his lover's face. 'Damn, he is afraid of me.' John cursed Thalen and the imprinting for the millionth time this day, and decided for a direct approach.
"Hey Carson. I know you won't believe me, that I'm really back. So won't hold it against you, if you keep me in restraints till you're sure." He gave him the most reassuring look he could manage and was relieved when he saw Carson's face lightened up a bit.
"That's alright, lad. We will know in no time, who is in tha' head of yours." Carson squatted down besides him and patted him reassuringly on the shoulder. The blue eyes sparkled with joy and gave John a fuzzy feeling. "Are you in any pain?"
"No, doc. I'm fine." If his hands weren't bound, John would have slapped himself. He knew how Carson hated his standard military tough boy 'I'm fine' answer. But it was true. At least for now. And for once, it seemed to be exactly what Carson wanted to hear, cause his face lit up some more and he bent to release John's feet from the bindings.
"That's good to hear Colonel. However, we will keep the handcuffs till I have you hooked up to my scanners. Can you get up and hop on to the gurney?"
"Sure." John scrambled to get to his feet without loosing his balance due to the still cuffed wrists and was thankful for Carson's help. Especially when he managed to stand up and everything around him began to spin.
"Whoa, lad!" Carson pulled John close in an embrace. "Are ye alright?"
"Dizzy," John managed to squeak before everything went black.
He woke up to a beeping sound. Feeling like he had been run over by a truck, this could only mean infirmary. What happened now? John tried to clear the fog in his mind. Slowly a few images filtered their way through. Crap. Suddenly wide awake he remembered the helpless feeling of not being in control of his body. In an desperate attempt he shot commands to every cell in his body, jerking his arms up and kicking out with his legs.
"Easy lad." The familiar voice was instantly with him and so were hands which pressed him down on the mattress.
"Carson?" John snapped his eyes open.
"Aye, John." The soft Scottish brogue did its own to calm him down. So did the hand that tousled his hair.
Finally remembering everything, John began to relax again. "So, you believe me?"
"Of course, luv. I knew from the moment you stated you were fine." Carson smiled at him.
Another warning bell rang in John's head. They were in the infirmary, they had to be careful. He glanced nervously around.
"Don't worry, John. It's in the middle of the night. We are alone. Well, except for my two other patients, but they are asleep." Carson bent down and gave John a sweet kiss. "You had me worried a bit."
"How are ye feeling now? Still dizzy?"
John did a mental check. It felt good to be back in control. Everything seemed to be working and he was quite comfortable.
"A bit tired, but I think everything is back to normal."
"Good to hear."
"How is Elizabeth?"
"We gave her a mild sedative so she wouldn't wake up after the effects of the stunner blast had worn off."
"Is she back to normal as well?"
"No, the EEG still shows two separate brain waves. I'm surprised you have made it back so quickly." Carson looked at John, still tousling his fingers through his hair. "Maybe it was due to Thalen's already weaker state when we opened the pod."
"Yeah, maybe." Although he definitely hadn't felt weak when he was in charge of my mind, John added for himself. Then he remembered something. "Carson, if the imprinting is still active, you should sedate her further. When it fades the pain is almost unbearable. I don't want Elizabeth to go through that."
Carson frowned at him, obviously annoyed that John hadn't mentioned the pain before, but he turned to Elizabeth. "Alright, I will give her another dose of the sedative."
When Carson got up, John had to suppress an unsatisfied growl, cause Carson stopped tousling his hair. He was, however distracted immediately when Elizabeth started to groan and spasms shook her body. Carson was at her side instantly holding her down. John scrambled out of bed and stood on unsteady legs, but shook off the dizziness and made his way to Elizabeth's bed as well.
"John, what are ye doing? To bed with ye!" Carson panted heavily, obviously having a hard time to keep Elizabeth down.
"You can't do this on your own!" John objected and took hold on Elizabeth as well. "Get the sedative, I will hold her."
"Are ye sure?"
"Just go!" John leaned on Elizabeth with all his weight, but he was still surprised what strength she was able to mount. He could barely hold her down and was glad when Carson came back a few seconds later with a syringe in his hand and two nurses in tow. Together they managed to hold her steady enough for Carson to inject the sedative.
When the needle entered her arm, Elizabeth's eyes snapped open. Seeing John holding her down, she began to struggle even harder. "I will kill you! Let me go, I will win this war!"
"Carson!" John didn't know what to do.
"Give it a moment, the sedative will take effect. Wait for it." And true to his words Elizabeth efforts became weaker and the frustrated screams ebbed away. Finally she went limp. Letting out a sigh, Carson watched the EEG monitor. "I think that's it. The EEG is back to normal, considering the sedative." He glanced over at John. "Let's get you back in bed."
"Ok." John didn't object, feeling all dizzy again. He stepped away from the bed and felt his knees buckle under him. If one of the nurses wouldn't have grabbed him by the arm, he would have made a sudden contact with the floor. Carson was on his other side a second later and they steered him back to bed. John settled back in the covers with a thankful sigh. He would have preferred to be in his own bed, engulfed by Carson's arms, but this would have to do for now. He felt the sleep catching up to him, but there was another thing he needed to know. He opened his eyes again with much effort.
"How is Ronon?"
"He will be fine."
"Good." Finally allowing himself to drift off to sleep, John barely noticed the fingers which returned to tousle his hair again.
It felt good to be back in his own quarters again. It felt even better to be alone in his head.
After he had slept through half of the day, Carson had released him this afternoon. Now, he stood in the middle of his room and didn't know what to do next. Carson had taken him off duty and after all what had happened John didn't feel really eager to walk through the city. He felt still guilty about attacking his own men and putting the whole city in danger. Although he knew it wasn't technically his fault.
He walked to his window and looked outside. The view of the city and the ocean always calmed him. He was so deeply lost in his thoughts, he didn't even hear his door. When two arms embraced him from behind, he gave a startled gasp.
"Sorry, I didn't want to startle you."
Identifying the voice immediately and glad for not reacting in military style and attacking, John leaned back in Carson's embrace. "It's ok, I was dreaming, I guess."
"About the kiss?"
Instantly remembering the kiss between Thalen and Phebus, the guilt shot through John. "No! I mean, you know that wasn't... I mean, I didn't... she just..." John stopped, when he felt Carson tremble. "Oh, you bastard!" John turned in the embrace and looked into Carson's face, who finally laughed out loud.
"Sorry, luv." But the ongoing laughter didn't help for a convincing apology.
"Will you stop it?" John couldn't help himself but to start chuckling himself. "It was embarrassing enough when Caldwell mentioned the kiss earlier this day."
"Well, finally you can't tease me anymore about that kiss Cadman gave me through Rodney." Over Carson's face played an disgusted expression by the mere thought of it.
John laughed out loud. "No, I guess, that's off the table now. But I'm glad, you're not mad at me. To be perfectly honest, I felt a bit guilty for the kiss."
"Aw, you daft bugger. I knew it wasn't you." Carson ruffled through John's hair and pulled him in for a kiss. They clung to each other, the kiss expressing everything words couldn't.
After a while they parted again, panting. "No, I would never give up my Scottish, blue eyed, hot lover." John smiled wickedly.
"Same here, except I would never give up my American, green eyed, hot lover." Carson smiled back and pulled John in for another kiss. And John knew that everything would be ok. For now.