John blinked his eyes. He wasn't dead – again. "What the hell?" The body that had been holding him abruptly disappeared and John remembered McKay's fragile state. "Medic!" John yelled, twisting around to check the scientist who was out cold. Looking up, John got the shock of his life.

To his left was nothing but black and stars – more stars than he had ever seen in his life. To his right – He must be dreaming. After all, there may be white haired life-sucking vampire aliens but there weren't really skinny, little, big headed, gray aliens with black eyes . . . . were there?

Suddenly someone was rushing towards him, reaching for McKay and John acted instinctually, cocking back his arm ready to swing. However, he never got the punch off as someone behind him caught his arm.

"Stand down, Sheppard!" a commanding voice ordered. John looked up - the first thing catching his attention was the insignia on the uniform.

"Yes sir," John replied automatically slouching down beside McKay, exhausted. The medic came forward again, checking both his and Rodney's vitals and John's leg. John heard the medic say, "They're good for transport Colonel." And once again was enveloped in a white light.


John became slowly aware of the sounds around him. The beep of medical monitors, the shuffle and low murmur of people. "Wow! Massive deja-vue." John thought as he pried his eyes open.


John waited for his vision to clear before muttering, "McKay?"

"He's fine," the soft Scottish voice said. "A wee banged up but I've seen worse."

John's eyes popped open as something occurred to him. "The other one? The little Russian guy?"

A gentle hand rested on his shoulder. "Oooch – don't let him hear you say he's Russian. Radik is fine as well. The colonel sent a troop of marines in to get him. You just relax, lad. Everything is taken care of."

John smiled slightly. "Sounds just like Scotty on Star Trek . . ." he thought as he allowed himself to drop off to sleep again.

The next time John woke, he felt better than he had in days. Carefully he stretched as his jaw cracked in an achingly wide yawn. Looking around, he noticed that McKay was asleep in the next bed and John felt relief flood his body. He had done it – he had gotten McKay out. For the first time in years, the dead weight he carried in his stomach, the knot that had been there since Afghanistan, loosened just a bit.


John whipped his head around and took in the slight man in front of him. Salt and pepper hair, sharp eyes, narrow face and – shit – General's rank.

"Yes, sir." John answered before he could stop himself.

The man looked up from the file in his hands. "You're not in the military anymore Detective. Just call me Jack."

"Yes, sir." John replied and then grimaced. 10 years in the military and the habit was quite possibly ingrained for life.

The general smiled. "Think you feel up to some questions? A debriefing?"

A gruff voice answered from the next bed over. "Not before breakfast."

"Ahh, Dr. McKay, you're awake and pleasant as ever," Jack replied, the slight smile taking any harshness from the words. He moved to stand between John and Rodney's bed.

"Yes, well, you have your brains scrambled by Mother Russia's red-headed step children and see if you feel like pulling out Erma Bombeck Rules of Polite Conversation."

The general looked back down at the file. " I lost my copy. Can I borrow yours?"

John snorted and Rodney rolled his eyes. Looking at John, he said, "Don't encourage him."

"I was just getting ready to ask the Detective some questions." O'Neil said, ignoring the dig.

"Yes, well, he's not a detective anymore." Rodney replied with a slightly defensive tone.

"Be that as it may, I'm sure Mr. Sheppard can shed some light on exactly what happened and how someone managed to snatch two leading scientists from the most secret project in the U.S. Military."

"You're not suggesting he had something to do with this are you?" Rodney said, his eyes narrowing.

"Don't get your panties in a twist McKay," Jack assured. "We aren't accusing anybody of anything. We're just interested in finding out how Sheppard was able to locate you and Zalenka within 24 hours of you disappearing when the entire military had been looking for three weeks."

"You guys know I can hear you, right?" John asked

Completely ignoring John, Rodney continued. "Well, you can't expect us to answer questions on an empty stomach."

"Well, never say I was suicidal enough to stand between you and the mess, McKay. Besides, I didn't invite you."

Rodney swung his legs out of the bed, saying, "That is entirely beside the point. Where the hell is my uniform?" he bellowed and was pleased to see a nurse scurry to the other room.

"Rodney! You are disturbing my other patients!" Carson Beckett strode into the enclosure with a frown on his face. Noticing the visitor, Carson nodded his head. "General O'Neil."

"Carson, where are my pants?" Rodney demanded.

"And just where do you think you are going?" Carson replied checking John's vitals.

Rodney looked pointedly at O'Neil. "John and I are going to breakfast in the mess. It's a wonder we were able to even recover to this point on the gruel you provide the prisoners in the dungeon of Castle Malpractice."

Both Carson and O'Neil rolled their eyes. "Are they healthy enough to get a bite in the mess?" O'Neil asked.

"Aye, if they go slow and come back right after. I don't want Mr. Sheppard pulling the stitches in his leg."

John closed his eyes again and leaned back on the pillow. "Maybe they can't hear me and this is all a bad dream and I'll wake up any minute," he muttered.

"I feel that way every time I have to deal with McKay," Jack replied.

The nurse who scurried out before came through the curtain timidly with a uniform and a set of black BDU's with no name or insignia. She handed them to Carson and hurried back out, never looking up.

"Now, look. You've gone and traumatized poor Renee'." Carson scolded Rodney as he handed the clothes over.

"Yes, yes, I'm sure she'll have to seek therapy for years to come," Rodney replied caustically. Turning back to O'Neil, he said, "Do you mind? I need to change clothes."

"Talk about bad dreams . . . ." O'Neal replied as he and Carson slipped out of the curtain so the two men could dress.

John swung out his bed and turned his back on McKay. Looking down at the BDUs he hesitated. He hadn't worn military issue clothing in 10 years.

"You okay?" Rodney asked from behind him.

John cleared his voice before answering, "I'm fine."

"Of course you are," Rodney replied grumbling

"Just a little fuzzy on how we got here." John replied trying to cover his anxiety. Slowly he pulled off his scrubs and gently began pulling the BDUs over the stitches in his leg and mass of bruises on his back.

"Well, that was just a small stroke of genius from me. I was able rewire the scanner to be a communication devise. I then sent a code out that is standard for immediate transport to the Datelaus, which was in orbit. They transported us to the bridge and then back down to SGC.

"SGC?" John asked slipping on the boots that had been provided.

"Star Gate Command."

John thought about it for a minute. "So, you built a communicator?"

"Yep," Rodney replied, his voice smug if somewhat muffled by the tee shirt he was pulling over his head.

John glanced behind him. "Couldn't you have just used a cell phone?"

Rodney stopped with his over shirt half one and half off, face red and hair sticking up in all directions. "You had a cell phone?" he asked incredulously. "You didn't think that would be important to mention?" He sputtered.

John actually hadn't thought about it. He didn't typically have anyone to call for help and in all the mayhem had actually forgotten he had it.

"I didn't think about it," John said. Slowly he stood and again was surprised by how good he felt, considering what he had been through in the last couple of weeks. Turning to Rodney, he noticed that the scientist didn't look quite as well.

"You didn't think about it?!?" Rodney stammered out disbelievingly. John couldn't help it – he grinned.

"I . . . you . . . oh forget about it!" Rodney spat out "Idiot."

"What? We're fine! We . .. Hey! You okay?" he asked as Rodney listed to the side, almost losing his balance.

"Headache," Rodney replied, rubbing his eyes and straightening up. "Happens when someone shoots god knows how much asionic energy into your brain, looking for God knows what."

"Uh-huh," John answered again unsure what to say. "You sure you feel up to breakfast?"

"I'm on the verge of a hypoglycemic episode. Food is a better cure than anything we could find in this torture chamber."

"Okay," John replied, not really believing him but following Rodney through the curtain anyway. General O'Neal was waiting for them by the door.

"Gentlemen?" Jack said, ushering them into the hallway. "Hummph," Rodney replied.

Jack followed the two men and watched as they went down the hall. Sheppard kept glancing to his left, body tense, seemingly to make sure McKay wasn't going to stumble – especially since McKay kept rubbing his head like he had the hangover from hell. In turn, Jack had seen McKay walk faster with a concussion and broken limb but he seemed to be conscious of Sheppard's hurt leg and slowed his pace to accommodate the limp. Jack wondered if he had ever seen McKay that consciences of someone else's limitations. Nope.

Suddenly, Jack's radio squawked as a brief siren sounded.

"Report," Jack barked.

"Unscheduled gate activation, Colonel," came back the reply.

"On my way." He turned swiftly, heading to the gate room, vaguely aware that McKay was following him.

John hesitated for a moment. He wasn't sure whether he should go or not. But McKay was the only person he knew here and he wasn't about to let him out of his sight so he tried to hurry behind the two men. However, the stairs were a bitch.

Once he hit the door, he could see he was in a control room of some sort. He spotted McKay and started forward but was stopped by an MP with a gun already pulled and pointed.

"McKay!" John shouted over the noise of the other people and the siren.

Rodney looked up confused and realizing John had been stopped at the door, waved the MP back. "He's with me, Sergeant." The MP looked doubtfully at the scientist and slowly holstered his weapon mumbling, "Yes, Sir."

John limped over to Rodney and stared down into the cavern below.

The Stargate. John remembered everything that Rodney had told him about the Stargate and the SG program. Hell, he had even sat in the chair but he never really believed it.

"What have we got, Walter?" O'Neal asked the technician tensely.

"We have Sergeant Bates' IDC code." Walter looked at Jack meaningfully.

"Really?" Rodney asked.

"Open a channel," Jack ordered.

"What's the deal?" John asked Rodney quietly.

"Bates was captured by the wraith over six months ago. He's been MIA ever since . . ." Rodney replied grimly.

"This is SCG. Identify yourself," Jack was commanding.

The voice that came out of the speakers was breathless and a distinct roar could be heard under the wail of sirens in the background. "This is Bates. Request the Iris be dropped."

Jack looked at another technician behind him.

"Voice identification is a match, Colonel. It's him."

"Right," Jack said. Hitting the com, Jack replied. "Permission Granted." Looking at Walter again, "Open the Iris," he commanded softly.

Suddenly the gate came to life with an energy that was both unearthly and yet somehow familiar to John. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest and his eyes widened. There were few things in John's life that he found truely beautiful but this had just made the list.

"We're coming in hot," Bates yelled as a blast sent the security team on the floor scrambling behind barricades.

"That wasn't any kind of hand held weapon," Rodney said with surprise in his voice. "That looked more like a . . ."

Anything McKay might have said was cut off when a ragged group of a dozen men and women, one carrying a child, staggered through the gate. Four of them were carrying a litter that held a fallen comrade and many of them were not in uniform – or at least uniforms that John recognized.

The final soldier - a woman - to come through actually seemd to be flying. Bates yelled again, "Shut it Down!"

Walter hit the center of the console and the iris slid shut just as an energy wave hit the shield with a tremendous reverberating sound, shaking the walls of the cavern

The group stumbled, desperate to keep the litter from dropping. "We need a doctor!" the final soldier, a woman with reddish brown hair yelled anxiously, smoothly coming to her feet and looking up at the control room.

"Is that Teyla Emmagan?" Rodney asked bewildered.

"Who?" both John and Jack asked simultaneously as medics and MPs swarmed over the group.

"The leader of the Athosian people – from the Pegasus Galaxy. What is she doing here?"

Before anyone could answer, Jack's radio chirped again. "General? I think you need to come down here and see this."

"You two stay here," Jack ordered tersely as he exited the control room only to reappear on the floor a few minutes later.

"General O'Neal! Please you must help us!" The woman McKay had identified as the leader of the Athosians grasped his sleeve, taking Jack back a bit. Atlantis had only a basic working relationship with the Athosians – in fact, they tolerated each other but that was about it. He certainly had never met any Athosians and was surprised their leader knew his name.

Gently he pulled his arm from her grasp, saying, "I'm sure we will do everything we can." He looked over MP who had called him and said, "Well?"

"The wounded, General," the MP said looking.

O'Neal looked down but couldn't see around the three working medics. Looking back at the MP, he asked "What about him, Sergeant?"

"It's him, sir."

"Him who?" O'Neal replied impatiently

"The civilian from the control room sir."

Jack looked back down confused just a one of the medics pulled away from the patient. He could only manage a surprised, "Huh!" as he looked down into the pale unconscious face of John Sheppard.