"He's not responding to any of the treatments we've given him," Keller tells Rodney. Her voice is soft and concerned and there's an almost haunted look in her eyes. Every time she has a patient it's hard for her, but even more so when it's a friend on the operating table and that shows. She can't bare the idea of losing John or anyone else for that matter when there was a chance she could help fix them.
Rodney frowns beside her and takes her hand in his, squeezing it gently. "Zalenka said he's working on something that might help break into the virtual reality," he comforts her (and himself if he's completely honest). "You're doing the best you can."
His words are forced. Lies. Though Zalenka had been working on something, it was unlikely to succeed in bringing John back in his opinion and the usual measures had already been taken with no results whatsoever.
At the current point in time, it was up to John to fight and save himself.
He feels completely at peace with everything though he knows he should be worried. Sunlight, pure and golden, glimmers down on him and reflects tiny triangles off the surface of a nearby pond. A wide expanse of grass stretches on forever in front of him
A single figure off in the distance beckons him.
He knows that it's not normal and that he should be there, but something in him can't help but wonder who is calling for him. Against any conscious thought and any good judgement, he begins to walk through the tall grasses spotted with yellow flowers, towards whomever it may be.
He is soon standing metres in front of Elizabeth, his eyes shining with unshed tears and questions in his mind. The questions fade, forgotten, when Elizabeth makes the first move and takes the few short steps to close the space between them. She looks her arms around his neck and buries her head in his shoulder.
"Heart rate's dropping," Keller notes.
Rodney glances up at her. "Is that bad?"
She offers him a grim look.
Bewildered, he presses his hands to her back and begins to trace circles there with his palms. He feels the wetness on his face before he realises the tears he'd been holding in had broken free.
"Elizabeth," he says. "You're here… how?"
She doesn't speak but rather places a finger over his lips.
Later, he's certain she's telling him.
He nods dumbly and watches in fascination as she replaces her finger with her lips, kissing him ever so softly and tangling her now free hand in his hair.
"We're losing him!"
"He's going fast."
"Come back to us, Sheppard. Come on!"
He pulls her closer, kissing her back and tentatively running his tongue across her upper lip. Rather than opening her mouth to allow him entrance, she breaks the kiss and takes a few steps back. She holds him away from her at arm's distance, her hands flat on his chest.
"Why?" he asks.
She speaks for the first time. "You don't belong here. You have to go back to the others."
He frowns and feels more tears spring to his eyes. "I don't want to," he tells her. "Not without you."
Smiling sadly, she shakes her head. "No, John. You can't. You can't save me." She pauses as if recalling something out of a nightmare. "Remember me," she says finally. "Please."
"I will. I will remember you," he confirms. "Always."
"And know this. I'm still out here. I'm okay."
"But – "
"John! No. Don't come looking for me."
"Just…don't. It's best for both of us. Promise me."
He studies her intently and finally hangs his head. "I can't promise you that. I have to see you again. I have to…"
"Please, John. For me."
He opens his mouth to answer, blinks and then she's gone. His gaze darts around him, searching the field. She's well and truly gone.
"John? How're you feeling?"
His eyes flutter open and the faces of Rodney and Keller drift into focus.
He groans and swats the air.
Rodney takes a step back.
"You okay, Sheppard?"
He shakes his head. "She's alive," he says.
"Elizabeth," he tells them. "Elizabeth's alive."
Their disbelieving looks are the last thing he sees before he passes out.