Title: Unforgiven

Description: AU of Phantoms. What if Sheppard's aim had been better when he shot McKay? On the run from his own people and totally alone, will he find forgiveness from himself and his friends or fall into darkness? Shepwhump as standard.

Characters: John Sheppard, Teyla, Ronon, Rodney McKay, Elizabeth Weir, Evan Lorne

Rating: M for dark themes, violence and torture in later chapters.

Setting: AU for Phantoms

Warnings: Swearing, violence and dark themes. Character Death/s.

Author's Note: This story originated from an idea I had way back when I first started writing, just after finishing "They would find him". I couldn't make it work back then sadly and deleted it. The other day it crossed my mind and I figured it out. I hope you enjoy it.

Please bear with me with this story, I still have a lot of trouble writing dialogue and keeping control of more than a few characters.

I should warn you though, this is a dark story even by my standards, and, if it goes in the direction I want it to, it will make all my previous stories look like lighthearted fluff.

Thanks to my beta, Werewolf Girl 22 for helping me iron out the kinks.

Anyways, on with the story.

How could he know

This new dawn's light

Would change his life forever?

The Unforgiven III (Metallica)

He was running through the desert, his lungs searing as he breathed in the hot, dry air, his skin scorching as the sun beat down upon him, and his arms burning from the effort of carrying Holland as they fled the Taliban soldiers. They has scattered when the truck blew up, but he knew they wouldn't have gone far. Cresting another sand dune he saw one of the enemy soldiers, dropping Holland he raised his rifle at the enemy.

"John, no!" cried Holland. He didn't have time to wonder why his friend was so intent on sparing the life of an enemy soldier.

The enemy raised his arms, surrendering, and John felt a brief pang of sympathy, but he couldn't allow the man to come up behind him with more soldiers, so he fired a round into his chest, just as he shouted out, his hands weakly going to the bullet wound which was staining his rough shirt red.

Ignoring the soldier, he's not a threat anymore, John knelt next to Holland, noticing his friend looked white as a sheet. They needed to get out of here. Pulling out his radio he started calling for assistance again.

"Arclight, this is Roundhouse Zero-Six. Come in." Holland was crawling towards the afghan soldier, speaking, but John couldn't hear what he was saying.

"Arclight, this is Roundhouse Zero-Six. Do you read? Arclight, this is Roundhouse Zero-Six. Do you read?" The soldier coughed and said a few words to Holland.

"Arclight, respond. We need to get the hell out of here!"

Holland interrupted him, his voice hoarse.

"The interference is coming from in there."

John scanned in the direction but could see nothing. "Nothing there, only sand." he murmured.

"There is a cave, take me in there, now!" Holland shouts, and, confused, John lifts him up, walking towards the cave that seems to appear out of nowhere. He hears the hiss and snap of bullets as he and Holland come under fire again, hurrying into the cave he takes cover while Holland messes around with some sort of machine.

"He was almost finished, why did he stop?" Holland murmured, pointing to a large cable. "Reach in there. The largest cord, follow it with your hand until you reach the end."

John hesitated, unsure of what he was asking him to do. "Do it, John. Then you can radio for help and get us out of here."

He followed the cable with his hands, deep into a tangle of cables, "There, that's it."

Just then another Taliban soldier walked in, pistol aimed at John's head.

"Pull it!" Barked Holland, and John did. The scene around him seemed to flash and he was standing in a dank cave surrounded by what looks like wraith tech, Ronon aiming his blaster at him.



"Hey buddy, you wanna lower your gun?"

He sighed with relief as Ronon lowered the blaster, he's pretty sure it wasn't set on stun.

He turned to see Teyla's face going pale, "Rodney!" she shouted, trying to drag herself out of the cave. Sheppard rushed to help her, remembering the soldier he shot his heart races.

It can't be!

They stumbled out of the cave and Teyla drops by Rodney's side. The scientist is ashen and still, his eyes blank and staring and John started seeing little black dots swim in front of his eyes as he realised neither of them are breathing.

"Carson!" Teyla yelled, her face a mask of fear. She turned to Ronon, he is injured but she knew he can do what needs to be done.

"Get Carson, now!" as Ronon ran off she turned to John. "Help me!" Her voice jolted him out of his daze and he took a breath, kneeling beside McKay he knows what he has to do, and started CPR, losing himself in the rhythm.

Two breaths, thirty compressions, check for breathing. Two breaths, thirty compressions, check for breathing. Two breaths, thirty compressions, check for...

Confident arms moved him away as Carson took over, and he stood up and walked away, his eyes unseeing, and slumped against a tree, sick with fear and self loathing.

What had he done? Rodney...

"Still no pulse! Dammit Rodney! Breath!" The normally composed doctor had tears streaming down his face. Ronon walked into the clearing carrying Kagan. The man was alive, which is more than could be said for Rodney. Carson continued CPR, not ready to give up on his friend, his movements still sure and steady even as his voice breaks as there is no response, the clearing silent except for the sounds of Carson's desperate attempts to save Rodney.

Ronon placed a hand on Carson's shoulder. "Carson, he's gone." The big mans voice was rough yet gentle as he reached down and closed McKay's eyes. John turned his head away, unable to face the stares of his friends or look at the sight of his best friend lying dead. He took a hold of all his emotions and buried them deep inside where they could not hurt him, focusing on the task at hand. He could not afford to break down now.

"Carson, stay here and look after Teyla and Kagan. You to Ronon, get that arm seen to."

"Where are you going?" Ronon growled, "Everyone else is dead."

John flinched at the verbal slap, "I don't want to assume there is no one else out there only to be surprised later." he ground out. "So I am establishing a perimeter."

Without another word he walked away from the clearing. He sat atop a fallen log that gave him a good view of the clearing and it's surrounds, watching for any signs of danger. A few minutes later his radio burst into life.

"Sheppard this is Atlantis. Do you read?" It was good to here Elizabeth's voice over the radio, but he wished he didn't have to be the one to tell her of what had happened.

"Atlantis, this is Sheppard, good to hear from you."

"The feeling is mutual," He heard a wry voice say, "You had us worried. What's the situation there?"

"Teyla and Ronon are wounded, but its not to serious. Leonard, Largent and Barossa are dead." He swallowed, his throat sore, "So is McKay." He added quietly.

"Rodney?" She asked, her voice stunned. "How?"

"Friendly fire." He said curtly. "Listen, I can give a full report later in person, right now we need to get off this planet."

"Daedalus should be there by nightfall, do you need us to send more men in?" She asked, her voice subdued.

"No, Beckett should be able to handle the wounded until then."

"Any residual effects from the device?"

"Not that I can tell."

"Very well, get our men home. We'll check back in a few hours. Atlantis out."

John cradled his head in his hands for a moment, pulling himself back together to stand watch for the next couple of hours.

It was close to nightfall as John walked into the clearing, unable to look at the shrouded bodies or face the eyes of his friends. He stared at the forest floor instead. Daedalus had radioed a few moments ago to tell him that they were in orbit.

"Daedalus is ready to beam when you are doc."

Carson took a last look around the clearing, checking to make sure everything is ready to be beamed. He nodded, satisfied.

"Righto lad, give the order." His voice was subdued, and John knew today's losses have hit him very hard. He picks up the radio.

"Daedalus this is Sheppard, we are ready to be beamed out."

"Copy that Sheppard." he heard, and a familiar white flash heralding his arrival on the Daedalus. Daedalus's medical staff moved forwards to take care of the wounded and dead, Carson following to give them the rundown of the injuries sustained, leaving John alone and facing Caldwell, who's face was as unreadable as ever. After a few moments he passed a hand over his eyes.

"What on earth happened down there Sheppard?"

He swallowed past his painful throat and stood at ease in front of Daedalus's commander, keeping his voice as neutral as possible.

"We went through the gate after Leonard's team failed to return or report. Things were pretty chaotic on the planet, a wraith device was causing mass hallucinations. Most people reacted violently towards them believing everyone around them to be various enemies, wraith, gou'uld and such. Of everyone only Teyla was unaffected. McKay managed to get the device mostly shut down before he was overcome by hallucinations himself, but he told Teyla how to finish his work. I managed to unplug the device, but by that point only Carson, Teyla, Ronon, Kagan and myself were left alive. Teyla was hit in the leg by Leonard, Ronon took a bullet to the arm and Rodney was shot in the chest, he bled out pretty fast, but managed to tell Teyla how to turn off the device."

Caldwell took a while to process that, before asking "Who shot Dex and McKay?"

Sheppard looked to the ground, fighting against the emotions that threatened to overwhelm him. He bit the inside of his cheek, the pain helping him regain his normally ironclad self control, and he looked Caldwell in the eye.

"I did sir."

"You did?" Caldwell's eyes flashed, something like disgust crossing his normally impassive features. Sheppard gritted his teeth and bears the other mans scrutiny.

"I was affected by the device as much as anyone. The hallucinations were vivid and realistic enough for me to believe that Ronon and McKay were the enemy. That being said, nothing can excuse me of my actions, or absolve me of my guilt. I take full responsibility for everything that has occurred today."

His mouth was dry, his head spinning, and he was fully aware that he will probably lose his career over this, but he didn't care, all he wanted to do is lock himself in his quarters so he can break down in private. But what he wanted more is to get off the deck of this ship, he can barely keep control even without the accusing glare he is receiving from Caldwell.

"We will discuss this later, at length," Caldwell said frostily, "In the meantime go to the infirmary, get yourself checked over for any unnoticed injuries. Someone will then show you to your quarters."

John snapped a salute and walked to the infirmary as ordered, although he really didn't feel like being questioned. He felt fine, physically at least. Sure he had a headache and he's exhausted, but nothing worth going to the infirmary for.

When he gets there Ronon was having the dressings on his arm changed, Teyla's leg was being seen to and Carson was pottering around looking for something to do. Spotting John he walked over, concern on his face.

"Is something the matter Colonel? Any injuries you failed to mention?" Carson knew all to well that John would hide an injury if he didn't think it were life threatening.

"No, nothing like that," John said wearily, "Caldwell just ordered me to get checked out in the infirmary before going to my quarters to rest."

"Well lad I can take care of that for you. Sit down over here." Carson replied, motioning to an empty bed. John complied, sitting on the side of the bed.

Carson walked over, and John suppressed a groan at the object in his hand, it's a penlight.

"Not the penlight doc." He complained.

"Just being thorough." The doc replied, shining it into his eyes and watching as he flinched away from the light.

"Pupil response is good,a little light sensitivity though. Headache?" John shook his head, a bad move, as it made it throb just to prove he is a liar, and he couldn't hide the wince.

"I'll take that as a yes. Here, take these," he said, pulling out a bottle of Tylenol, "And get some rest, you're done in, I can tell."

"Thanks doc." John said, standing to leave.

"John?" Carson asks before he can go, "If you need to talk..." he left it hanging.

"I'm right doc." He lied, walking away.

Someone escorted him to his room, he locked the door, releasing the shaky breath he has been keeping locked inside, and sat on his bunk, his hands shaking as he let the walls he keeps around his heart drop. Normally he would just lock the pain away, another regret, another man lost because of his failure, another name on the long list of people that owed there deaths either directly or indirectly to him, but he couldn't.

Rodney had been a friend. If he was honest with himself, he had been more than a friend, a best friend, a brother, the person he trusted and valued above all others, and he had put a bullet in his chest.

Unbidden the image of Rodney lying on the forest floor, blood covering his clothes and his once lively eyes so very very blank appeared and ripped any semblance of control away from him, the dam breaks loose and he bit his lip so hard it bled to smother the scream that is torn from his throat, hot tears fell down his face as the depth of his failure overwhelmed him.

He fell backwards, slumping on his bunk as his shoulders shook with suppressed sobs, and it hurt so much because he knwhe has no one to blame but himself. They would never argue again over which superhero was cooler, or play chess, or race remote control cars through the hallways, he will never be used as a guinea pig to turn on some piece of ancient tech, he would never just sit there arguing for the hell of it, just to get a rise from Rodney. He cried until his throat is raw and his face is wet, but he never made a sound, the last thing he wants is someone coming in to see him like this. Finally he had no more tears left to shed, and let exhaustion take him.

A/N: So, let me know what you think, reviews make me write faster!