A/N: For those of you who read my original Tag 4 this will sound familiar. In fact it is the only part of the original that I liked.
"What the hell is taking so long?" Colonel John Sheppard growled to himself as he slowly leaned down to pull on his boots. He thought the decision had been made to go after the other Sheppard but he couldn't get a straight answer from anyone on how or when. Finally, he couldn't stand the waiting any more and decided to make a break from the infirmary to get some answers.
As he pulled up, his head swam dizzily and he leaned back on the hospital bed to catch his breath. Wouldn't you know that was the moment his wife walked in the room?
"John! What are you doing out of bed? Surely Dr. Beckett has not yet release you?" Teyla asked, anxiously coming to her husband's side.
"Not exactly," John growled again, frustrated at his continued weakness, at being trapped in the infirmary and well basically everything. Everything that is, except his wife. Moderating his tone, he continued. "He did say I was on the mend though so I thought I would take a short walk – you know, see what's going on?"
"Yes, I know exactly what you are doing," Teyla replied knowingly. She was actually surprised it had taken her husband this long to decide to act on his own. It was a testament to how sick he had been. "However, I don't think they are just going to let you wander about the base without escort."
Colonel Sheppard rumbled. "Damn it Teyla, we need to move now. Every minute we wait will make it harder to find Sheppard." John didn't try to examine his feelings about his doppelganger too closely. He had had conflicting reports of the man – this John Sheppard actually made the Colonel's record look stellar. But the fact remained that he had stepped into the line of fire to protect Teyla and Tagan and the Colonel wasn't going to forget that.
At Teyla's sigh, John continued. "We need to find Ronon and I don't know, maybe the other Lorne, get a contingent of marines and go back in there. I can't believe they would just leave him – he's a civilian for God's sake!"
"John," Teyla began carefully, "although this reality may seem very similar to ours, it is not in many ways. The people here – they are . . . different, cooler, more suspicious." John made a disgruntled noise and Teyla continued. "As far as I can tell, there is no Ronon Dex in this reality. I do not know if he has not yet been found or if he . . . . A scientist by the name of Dr. Lee told me that this reality's Lorne is a Lt. Colonel and is in charge of security at another facility. I can only guess it is Atlantis but he could not say. He had no knowledge of my counterpart at all."
"Well, Rodney and Beckett are still here, and our Lorne," John argued, trying not to care about the fate of so many friends being unknown – even if they weren't technically HIS friends. "And the other me was here . . . "
"Yes that is so," Teyla conceded, "but even Dr. McKay is . . . different from our own Rodney. He is distant and very . . . controlled. It seems he thinks about everything he is going to say before he says it - as if he is weighing every word. I also get the feeling he is . . . not well-liked by his peers . . . and that in turn he trusts no one – confides in no one. His defense of this reality's Sheppard seems to be an anomaly according to the people who have been willing to speak to me. They apparently only met a couple of weeks ago and I understand that it wasn't under the best of circumstances."
John leaned back on the bed and tried to imagine for a moment what his life would have been like if he had never met Rodney McKay and . . . couldn't. The two of them had been friends for so long they could finish each other's sentences. While McKay may have been somewhat – unapproachable – okay a pain in the ass – when John first met him, it didn't take long before the two found that their minds had the same 'bent' – for some reason – they just fit.
John supposed that if he hadn't met McKay – both he and Rodney might have been very different men. Taking into account that John didn't know the history of the Sheppard and McKay in this reality, he tried to sum it up. "In other words, the people here are creeping you out."
Teyla smiled. "I suppose one could put it that way. However, the point is that while we would not hesitate to attempt the rescue of a comrade who had been captured, that does not mean the people here feel the same."
"So this SGC is ruled by the typical bureaucratic military mind set, is it? Well, I don't care – you don't leave a man behind."
At that Teyla's eyes cut away from John uncomfortably. John's eyes narrowed in response. "What? Teyla? What aren't you telling me?"
"I did not want to tell you until you were stronger."
"I'm stronger now. What?"
"When we were leaving Atlantis . . ." Teyla paused to take a deep breath and push her own emotions aside. "John, I believe that Rodney and Radek were in the control room when the replicator beam hit."
"What did you say?" John's voice was deep and quiet – dangerous.
Teyla took another deep breath and continued. "Rodney and Radek did not make it to the alpha site before the Replicator beam hit the control tower. They stayed behind to make sure we were able to use the Stargate."
John's face had gone completely still with his jaw clenched, obviously trying to rein in his anger. He ground out, "But Lorne said . . . ."
"It was decided that until we knew if you would . . . survive that there was no reason for you to know. You would only torture yourself. After you began to recover, we wanted to wait because . . . "
"That's it!" John exploded. "Just stop! You lied! You all lied to me! That's what you are trying to say." John reared up out of the bed and stalked angrily to the other side of the room. "I can't believe this . . ." John muttered to himself.
"John please. We were only trying . . ."
"No! There is no excuse. No excuse for the lies and no excuse for him staying behind! Damn him! Damn him for thinking his life is expendable. That I would allow him to exchange his life for mine. And we just left him there. Him and Radek. God knows what . . . he could be . . ." John's voice almost broke and he stopped, body rigged, jaw working trying to rein his emotions back in.
Teyla also stayed silent knowing there was nothing she could say that would make it better.
Abruptly John turned and headed back to the bed. "Where the hell is my shirt?" John started digging through the locker at the foot, his motions jerking with anger.
"What are you doing?" Teyla asked with concern.
"What does it look like? I'm going after them."
"No. These assholes may not care what happens to the other Sheppard," John whirled, his body rigid as he pointed at Teyla to emphasize his point, "which pisses me off on his behalf," John turned again to look for his shirt. "But I will be damned if I just leave Rodney and Radek to die alone. Rodney is the best friend I . . . he's the Godfather of our child for god's sake!" John's voice came dangerously close to cracking again and he cleared his throat, pausing for a moment. His next words were quiet and full of self recrimination. "I can't just leave him there alone. He would come for me."
Teyla gently reached out and turned her husband's face towards her. Looking into his anguished filled eyes, she sighed and gave him a small smile. "Then we will go and save Rodney and Radek . . . and this other John Sheppard."
"Not if Stargate Command has anything to say about it.
John turned to take in the sight of Dr. Rodney McKay, strange looking to John in his tailored suit. "How long have you been standing there?"
McKay pressed his lips into a thin line, his displeasure evident on his face. "Long enough. The IOA has reached a decision. Given the danger posed by the Replicators and the fact that they were able to either destroy or overrun your Atlantis, the mission to retrieve John Sheppard has been deemed as too much of a risk. You and your party will be sent to a secure location until you can be 'repatriated'. The IOA will not authorize any passage into an alternate reality."
John looked down, breathing slowly and counting to ten before trusting himself to speak. Taking two steps to stand toe to toe with this reality's McKay, John snarled "I respectfully disagree."
McKay didn't step back like John expected him to but his mouth moved into a small smirk. "Then we will just need to find a way around them." McKay replied.
The minutes turned into hours and the best thing – and the worst thing - was when Rodney came around. He had only been coherent once and even then had mistaken John for his Colonel Sheppard. John didn't know how to respond to the genuine affection and relief in McKay's voice. He had even cupped John's face and no one had done that since, well, since his brother had after their mother's funeral. The fact that Colonel Sheppard had left this McKay behind filled John with a black fury at the man and a protective streak a mile wide.
The rest of the time, Rodney had been incoherent, calling out for John, for Elizabeth and Jennifer, whoever they were, mumbling about ZPM levels and energy bridges, fighting off Wraith and something called a Koyla and other things John didn't understand. He tried to quiet the scientist as best he could but it was obvious that Rodney was running a high fever that was getting worse.