Just before Christmas a tragedy strikes threatening to tear Sheppard's team apart, and rob Atlantis of their Military CO. Has John's luck finally run out this time? Set after season 5 with Shep whump, team angst and of course Carson, my favourite doc.

Warnings:- Some violence to start with and a little bad language.

Thanks to the wonderful shepsgirl72 who despite writing her own fic, made time to Beta mine – you're a star! (Of course, all mistakes are mine.)



Hell was an indoor shopping mall as far as John was concerned…especially around Christmas. He never could stand shopping at any time, but stuck in an enclosed space, during the festive season, was really the pits. Peace and goodwill having truly left the building, as normally sane, polite mild mannered people went over to the dark side, uncaring of who they barged into in order to get the last IPod, DVD or whatever the heck else it was left on Santa's list.

Leaving a tinny version of "Jingle Bells" behind, he emerged from the bright neon lights of the elevator and stepped into the gloom of the parking garage, tired, but relieved he had finally finished the shitty Christmas shopping. It had taken four of the longest hours of his life, and left him considerably lighter in the pocket, but the heavy bags were testament that he'd bought something for everyone…including some of the finest brandy for Woolsey, as it never hurt to keep in with the boss. Besides, he'd kinda grown to like the guy, as it turned out Richard wasn't the dufus he'd initially taken him for.

Juggling the packages, and struggling to reach the keys for the sweet little corvette he'd hired from his back pocket, John noticed two teens, both boys shrouded by shadows, hanging around the entrance to the stairwell. At first he wondered if they were up to no good, but once he saw their skateboards, immediately dismissed them as a threat, figuring the only crime they were committing was trespass. The underground complex with its steep, smooth curves a perfect place to practice their moves. Yup, it was official, he was definitely becoming paranoid. As while, okay, it was pretty dark down here, this was a parking garage on Earth for Pete's sake, not a freaking Wraith Hive ship, so what the hell was he thinking?

John glanced at his watch. Nineteen-twenty hundred hours. Great. Traffic permitting, if he got lucky, there might even be enough time to meet Dave for a quick drink before their reservation at Alioto's in the Wharf. It was a funny thing, but despite living on a city surrounded by ocean all this time, it had been years since he'd enjoyed any seafood. While the oceans surrounding Atlantis contained all sorts of fish, some edible…some not, unfortunately most of the crustaceans they'd come across were of the large and scary variety. That discovery, having been made by Radek shortly after their arrival.

Who knew that the Czech was a man of many talents? Not only a gifted scientist and pigeon breeder, but Zelenka was also a third generation lobster catcher in his local village. Only discovered after a few beers one night, then reluctantly persuaded to lay down a few pots. While everyone, especially him, looked forward to a nice change from standard rations, things, as they often did on base, didn't quite turn out as planned.

As it turned out, the Pegasus version of lobster was a huge ugly creature with jagged spikes covering its green shell and pincers over a foot long. If it hadn't been for the Czech's swift reactions followed by Carson's nifty needle work, Atlantis second premier scientist would most certainly have lost his hand. Fortunately, Radek didn't suffer any lasting damage, but shortly afterwards a general order was posted limiting fishing to poles only, although for a very long time afterwards the sport somehow lost its appeal…

If he was honest, Alioto's although good, wasn't his usual type of place…too commercial. But his mom used to take them there whenever they visited the city, and when he found out Dave was in town, well there really wasn't anywhere else either of them wanted to go. While relations between them were still a bit strained, things had improved since their terse exchange at dad's funeral.

After he'd returned a few days later to talk things through, and Dave finally realised he wasn't interested in either the business or the Sheppard fortune, a kind of truce was reached. While it was obvious his brother still harboured some resentment about his choices, not to mention the secretive nature of his job, John chose to ignore it, and since then they'd started exchanging the occasional email.

It wasn't much in the grand scheme of human relations, but at least the ice had been broken. So now, after more than a year although their relationship would never be the easy relaxed one they enjoyed as kids, at least their scant communications were friendly. Gradually becoming more frequent, learning bit by bit a little more about each other lives, gaining a new insight into each other and the men they had become. Tonight was, however, the first time they would meet since that day, and John was surprised to find himself really looking forward to it. Distracted, he was suddenly aware of the sound of wheels skidding before a sharp thud on back of his leg's sent him sprawling. Immediate alert to the danger, his fight or flight response got him quickly to his feet, but not quite fast enough as when he looked up to see who his assailant was, he was staring straight into the barrel of a 9mm pointing at his head.

"Just take it easy…" John slowly rose to his full height and properly faced his enemy for the first time. It was the same two kids from before he was sure of it, and the eldest, the one holding the gun, couldn't have been more than fifteen. Not skateboarders after all, but thieves. A good plan he had to admit…make folks think they were harmless then…

"Give me your wallet, Mister, and no funny business or I'll shoot." A lock of bright red hair escaped from the dark hoodie the kid was wearing and despite his air of bravado, John could hear the slight tremor in his voice, and an almost feral, spaced out expression, visible within the boy's bright blue eyes. Damn…just his luck to get mugged, and by a couple of inexperienced thieves, high on drugs at that. For a second he contemplated retaliating, but while facing a gun was always dangerous, in the shaking hands of an unpredictable attacker it could be deadly. Anyway, it was only money after all, besides he just wanted it over so he could get on his way. So, slowly so as not to spook him, John reached into the inside pocket of his leather jacket before making a deliberate show of gently placing it onto the ground.

John stepped back and watched as the other kid came out of the shadows to pick it up. "Are we good… can I go now?" he asked while all the while keeping his hands up to show he wasn't a threat.

Angry eyes peered from the black hoodie as John watched the smaller dark haired accomplice count out the cash. "There's only twenty two bucks here, where's the rest of it?"

"Well, boy's," John replied, motioning his head towards the strewn parcels littering the ground "I have been shopping…"

"Take those parcels" The older boy instructed his companion. "And his car keys."

"Now wait just a minute, there's no need to do that, surely we can work this out…" As John instinctively moved forward he heard a loud bang, then watched bewildered as a dark red stain appeared on his white linen shirt. Immediately, as the fiery pain exploded through his chest, a second shot resounded round the cavernous space, and the last thing he saw was the horrified expression on the other boy's face as he felt himself falling and the world turned black.


"Are you sure all of this is his blood?" Rodney tore his eyes off the deep red pool staining the concrete floor of the parking garage into the concerned face of his friend Carson Beckett.

Beckett was down on his knees beside Sheppard's hired car in the process of taking samples, but sounded hesitant as he answered. "I'll not be sure of anything, Rodney, until I get these analysed back at base."

"It's Sheppard's alright." Ronon had suddenly appeared at his shoulder holding John's discarded wallet, the pilot's sardonic smile still clearly visible, despite the fact most of his ID was covered in blood.

Without thinking, Rodney practically snatched it from Ronon's hand, ignoring the Satedan's low growl, his overwhelming need for verification making him temporarily forget he wasn't the only one worried about his friend.

"I found it over there," Ronon grunted, while motioning over his shoulder, "lying under that silver Buick. The cash is all gone, but those plastic things you use for money…what do you call them? They're still there"

"Then where the hell is he?" The once soft leather felt wet and sticky against his hand but as he confronted both men, searching for an answer neither could give, Rodney suppressed his revulsion of all things bloody and held on tight. Almost as if relinquishing John's wallet would somehow be giving up on the man himself.

"This wouldn't have happened if I'd come along like he asked" Ronon grunted as he kicked John's car tyre so hard it shook.

"John asked you too?" Just as Rodney gave the Satedan a questioning look, Carson also spoke "He asked me as well, but I've been seeing a lovely lady from hydroponics and we'd already arranged to go to Pier 39 to see the seals." Carson shuddered. "Ugly smelly things they were too, but Jeanette liked them."

Slowly, Rodney shook his head. "You know what this means don't you?" Ignoring the puzzled looks from both men, he continued "Well think about it. Since we got back to Earth we've all been so busy with our own lives, we forgot all about him. Okay, not forgot exactly…but you know what I mean. You," he nodded to Ronon, "have Amelia, I've got Jennifer and Teyla has Torren and Kanaan. Even you, Carson, have got someone else in your life. But Sheppard…apart from his work he's got nothing, nothing but us, and some friends we turned out to be."

Quickly pocketing the wallet, he caught sight of the blood on his hands and grimaced, disgusted at himself, not the blood, before wiping it carelessly off on his pants. "Seriously, when is the last time any of us actually talked to John…and I don't mean about work. Now he's missing, lying hurt who the hell knows where, and the only way we found this out," he started at the pool of congealing blood on the ground, "was because his brother phoned, pissed, because Sheppard didn't turn up for their dinner date. Let's face it, none of us knew he'd even left the base and if it wasn't for the GPS in the car we still wouldn't even have had this clue."

"This sucks. We would have got to him by now if Woolsey would have let us use a jumper to track his transponder," Ronon huffed, before kicking the car again.

"I know, I know…" Rodney replied, "To be fair to the guy he tried, I heard him. But since we arrived the damn IOA, have sealed the jumper bay off tight, and aren't allowing any to leave just in case they get spotted by Joe public."

"Didn't they know the Colonel's life could be in danger?" Carson asked

"According to Woolsey, they didn't consider that to be a real possibility. After all this was Earth, not Pegasus, and the new guy in charge…what's his name?... thought John was probably chilling out somewhere and forgot the time." Rodney tried hard not to keep staring at the bloody floor as he forced himself to look back at his two friends. "The guys a real moron…they all are. No one knows him like we do, or how hard he's worked to become friends with his brother again."

There was silence for a few moments before Carson started to clamber to his feet "Anyway, lads. I've got all the samples I need so let's head back." Rodney went to extend a hand to help him the rest of the way, just as he saw Lorne approach.

"You might want to delay that, Doc. We've just found out Colonel Sheppard was taken to Mercy General a couple of hours ago. He's been shot...and they're waiting for you in surgery.



Hoped you enjoyed the first chapter, and as always I really like to know what you guy's think. So please review!