I decided to revise this story, as it almost fit into canon but not quite... now it does though. Which makes me happy. I'd also completely forgotten to put in a particular plot point the first time I wrote it (because I'm rather stupid) and now that's in too.
I've left the same author's notes at the beginnings of the chapters.
Disclaimer – I own none of the Stargate franchise.
Dedicated to MrsB who helped me come up with the title for the story.
SPOILERS up to the end of series 3, and for series 4.
John strode down the hallway, tightening the straps on his flack vest as he walked. He was due to go through the gate right now, but he had got caught up in an impromptu basketball game in the gym with Lorne and a bunch of marines, and had completely lost track of time.
John sped up and almost barrelled straight into Teyla as she rounded a corner onto the hallway.
John rocked forward as he stopped suddenly, and Teyla stepped back quickly, her hand going protectively to her stomach. Her pregnancy was now blatantly obvious just by looking at her, and John had noticed her resting her hands on her stomach quite often in the past few weeks.
"Hey," said John.
Teyla looked him up and down before looking him in the eye. "You are leaving now?" She asked.
John nodded. "Yeah, just heading out," he said. "What are you up to?"
The tone of her voice and the look on her face made it abundantly clear that Teyla was not happy about being left behind. But she was pregnant and that was that, and though he knew she hated it, John also knew that she understood.
He gave her a sympathetic look, though, and Teyla's face quickly rearranged itself into its usual serene expression. John was suddenly looking at the Teyla he knew well, who could not be ruffled by anything.
"That is alright," she said. She gave him a small smile. "Take care."
John nodded and started to walk again. "We will," he said. "See you in a few." He waved goodbye and hurried on to the gate room.
The gate activated just as he entered, and the shimmering blue light of the event horizon fell on Rodney, Ronon and Sam Carter. They all looked round at him as he bounded up the steps towards them.
"Finally," said Rodney when he saw him. "What took you so long?"
John rolled his eyes. "I'm two minutes late, Rodney," he said. "Keep your hair on."
Sam smiled. "All ready Colonel?" She asked.
John nodded. "Yeah, ready to go," he replied.
"Okay then," Sam said. "Have fun."
John started to walk towards the gate. "Yes ma'am," he called over his shoulder. "See you later."
John walked through the gate, Rodney and Ronon right behind him. They emerged a few seconds later on PG7-398.
The stargate on this planet stood at the bottom of a hill which rose to their right. To their left the land was relatively flat, and the edge of a forest loomed in the distance. The land was wild and rocky, and plants like brambles grew everywhere. However, John noticed what looked like the remains of a very narrow path winding its way up the hill, though it was overgrown and looked like it hadn't been used in quite a while.
The MALP they had sent through the day before stood at the very bottom of the path.
"Okay, basic recon, let's head up," John said, nodding towards the hill.
"Up?" Rodney repeated. "Oh of course, we have to choose the hill."
John pulled out his sunglasses and put them on, completely ignoring Rodney. "Come on, let's get going." He started to walk towards the path.
"The MALP indicated no lifesigns or energy readings," Rodney said as they walked past it and stepped onto the path. "I don't think we'll find anything."
John kicked some brambles out of the way and started up the path. "Probably not, but keep your eyes open," he said.
The three men followed the path as best they could – it was very overgrown in places and Ronon soon got annoyed with the path and started to just climb the hill. John chose to stick to the path, Rodney just behind him. The hill was quite steep but the path twisted a lot and kept their trek quite gentle.
Ronon got to the top of the hill before John and Rodney and looked back over his shoulder at the two of them.
"Sheppard, McKay –" He called to them.
John sped up for the last leg of the climb. "What you got?" He called.
Ronon turned sombre eyes on John as he got closer. "I don't think anyone lives here anymore," he said.
John stepped up next to Ronon and looked out. His eyes widened. Rodney joined them a second later and summed up what John was thinking with one word.
The brambles grew here too, but over what had obviously once been some kind of settlement. Broken wood and stone lay scattered over the area, and the remains of dilapidated buildings were clustered nearby. Closest to them, on what seemed to have once been some kind of town square, wood and cloth and bits of metal lay jumbled and broken together in separate piles.
"It looks like it was a market or something," said Rodney. John saw what he meant – the piles of wood and cloth may have once been stalls.
"Years ago," Rodney added needlessly. It was obvious that the place had been destroyed some time before.
"I'd say no one's been here in at least ten years," growled Ronon.
"What makes you say that?" Asked Rodney.
Ronon didn't say anything – he just pointed. John looked to where he was indicating and saw an overturned cart. Pinned underneath its side was a body, the torso and head exposed to the air. It was completely decomposed.
Even so, John could see the jaw frozen in a silent scream.
John wrenched his gaze away and turned to Rodney. "Are there any lifesigns?" He asked him.
Rodney was staring at the dead body, but blinked and looked back at John when he spoke. "The MALP said –"
"Check again, McKay," John ordered firmly. He knew it was stupid – that it was obvious no one had been here in years – but he couldn't shake a nagging feeling that they were being watched.
Ronon walked forward towards the square, and John followed him at a distance, scanning the area. The buildings stretched back for a distance and stopped at the edge of a forest. John studied the tree-line – there was no one there.
John looked back round at Rodney – he was still trying to undo the strap on his flack vest to get at the lifesigns detector. Rolling his eyes, John started to walk after Ronon.
John stopped. The sun was shining brightly and glinting off something on the floor to his left. Whatever it was, it was made of a shiny material and was half-hidden under some brambles.
John walked over to the brambles and kicked them aside. It was some kind of device, and looked like it was made of the same kind of metal found in many places in Atlantis.
It was small, about the size of his hand, and oval-shaped. There were two round dials on the front and a row of five small lights. One of them was shining blue.
John bent down and picked up whatever it was. It was surprisingly light, and felt cool despite having been out in the sun. John held it in both hands and stared at it. He had no idea what it was.
He could feel that the metal on either end of the device weren't attached to the rest – they were buttons. They probably opened it up. John pressed on the buttons on either end.
The one light that had been lit suddenly shone about five times brighter.
John blinked. "Woah," he said. He looked over his shoulder. "Hey, McKay, come look…"
John's voice trailed off. Rodney seemed to be growing fainter, and was looking at John with panic written all over his face. John looked round at Ronon – he was also growing fainter, and John could only just make out him taking out his gun and pointing it at him with a yell.
Then everything went black.