Author: Littera Abactor
Fandom: SGA (fusionish)
A/N: This is for svmadelyn's 13 Challenge. I guess you could call this Chapter 1/?, but it's complete as it stands. Unbeta-read; I mean, it's a 48-hour challenge, so we have to make these sacrifices in the name of speed, right?
Teyla screamed from somewhere behind him - "Down, Colonel, down!" - and John threw himself down even though he knew it was too late. You don't hear the one that has your name on it, they always said, but that was a lie: he could hear it whistling, almost screaming, and he saw a bright flash of light just before the whole world went dark.
He woke up to pain and weakness and the same screaming and a different kind of light, and then it all made sense. He forced his gummy eyes open. They focused, reluctantly, on someone he didn't know. She was washing his arm.
John grabbed her. "Your baby's going to die in a fire," he said. "Get back to your quarters, your baby's going to die in a fire."
She screamed and dropped the cloth she'd been using. "John - Colonel Sheppard, I mean. Um. I, um, let me get Dr. Beckett."
He could feel her shaking, but he wouldn't, couldn't let go of her arm. "Her name is Elaine and she's fourteen months old and the babysitter is sick and your quarters are going to catch on fire. Go, go home, go now."
She stared at him, eyes wide, and then tapped on her radio. "Emergency, emergency, emergency. Go to corridor 2-R and check the status of the baby and teenager in 2-R214." She toggled the radio back off - and it looked different, John noticed, a little bigger but somehow sleeker - and then shook herself and reached for the radio again. "Also, Dr. Beckett to Infirmary 2. Stat."
Beckett burst in a few minutes later, already calling, "Carla, did something happen to -" and then his eyes focused on John. "John. My god, my god, I - welcome back, John, welcome back. Let me, let me check you over."
Beckett's hair had some gray in it that John didn't remember, and oh fuck. "How long?" he asked.
Beckett looked up at him for a second, and then his eyes slid to the side. "Don't even try it," John said, and damn, his throat hurt.
"A bit," Beckett said.
"How long, Carson?"
Beckett said, quietly, and the medical authority was back in his voice, "John. You've been unconscious for quite a while. Lie there and let me check your vitals and then I'll tell you." He ruined it by turning his eyes back on John's face like he'd seen a miracle.
And then he raised his hand to open John's - John looked down - his hospital gown, and his hand brushed John's chest, and --
The woman is walking down some street carrying a string bag of vegetables - vegetables, hell, it's all cabbage, four cabbages. She stops at a corner - a corner with a funny-looking traffic light - and an old man calls out from a park bench, "How are you then, Mrs. Beckett?"
"Good morning to you, Mr. Soames," she says, smiling; her face is crinkled and kind, but John suspects the smile is forced. "I'm quite all right."
"Still no word, then?"
"No word, but he said it'd be a while. Carson is fine," she said firmly. "Carson is fine."
"Your mother," John told Beckett, kind of laughing because it was funny, kind of not because every part of him was starting to hurt, "what the hell does she do with all that cabbage?" And Beckett dropped the stethoscope and said something in a language John didn't speak.
Beckett ordered any number of scans - they'd really upped the Ancient tech in the infirmary since John's last visit here. The last visit he remembered, anyway. And he'd touched a few more people, and every time it was like getting kicked in the head by someone else's life.
In between the visions, John slept, constantly exhausted, but it wasn't very restful; people kept poking him to make sure he could still wake up. He tried to focus, tried to find out what the hell was going on, but he had a feeling he'd know if it really mattered, and he was so damn tired.
And then Beckett came to see John in the little room where he'd woken up - and what the hell? The infirmary didn't have rooms - and said, very gently, "John, we need to talk."
"How's Elaine?" John had been worrying about that. It was still so vivid; the girl on the couch, moaning and crying, holding her stomach, almost unconscious, and the smoke and the heat and the baby screaming from the back room.
"She's fine," Beckett said. "Security got there just as the fire started. The sitter had appendicitis, but she's going to be fine, too." He looked uncomfortable. "Now, I'm sure you're wondering what happened."
"Actually, I've got a pretty good idea. I got hit during that last mission, I was hurt, I've been out for a while - years, right? - and now I'm having freaky visions."
"Uh, right." Beckett smiled at him a little shakily, so not everything had changed; he still appreciated having someone else break the bad news.
"How many years?" John asked, trying to sound like it didn't matter.
"Seven, John. You've been unconscious seven years. We tried - we tried so many things to bring you back, and we thought they were working, but -" He broke off. "Well, obviously they were working, just not quite, not quite as I'd expected." So that wasn't the whole story; John could see in his eyes that there was still bad news to break.
"Seriously, Carson, just tell me."
"I think - I think you may be having these, er, episodes, the episodes that occur when, er, upon contact with other people - I think some of the Ancient tech we tried, er." Beckett took a deep breath. "Your brain scans are strange, John. You've got intense activity in parts of the brain that usually see only minimal use, including one area that is generally - well, almost a dead zone. I suspect that the Ancient tech may have repaired your brain by re-routing around damaged neural sectors, and in the process, it may have activated this dead zone. And so you're having episodes."
John raised a shaky hand to his face. "The stuff I've seen. Is it - am I crazy? Or am I just, just seeing the future?"
"It's all been true. What you've told us, that's been true." Beckett looked hideously uncomfortable already, and John could tell he wasn't going to say anything using the words "psychic" or "clairvoyant" or "seeing the future."
"Great." John took a deep breath and tried to focus. "So. What now?"
Beckett brightened. "Now there are some people who are quite eager to see you." He rose and opened the door and before John could stop him, he was ushering in -
Teyla. She was still beautiful, Christ. But older, now; soft lines on her face, her hair cut short and close to her head. She was wearing looser clothes, too - a sweater over some kind of leather dress.
Ronon. His hair was shorter and tamer, and he was wearing jeans and a turtleneck shirt. It was hallucinatory; he looked like a grad student from some campus back east. But he still moved with the same intense grace, and his eyes still snapped to John and stayed there.
Elizabeth. Older, definitely older; seven years had changed her quite a bit more than the others. There was a lot of gray in her hair, now, and a lot more lines on her face. Tears in her eyes, too, and John didn't think he could stand to see anyone cry, so he jerked his eyes to the last person walking into the room.
Rodney. And Rodney - Rodney hadn't changed, not that much. Less hair. A little more weight, especially around his waist. But he was still wearing science team blue and still carrying a cup of coffee, and John wanted to hug him.
Of course, he couldn't; getting out of bed was quite the production these days.
"John," Elizabeth said, and her voice broke. "John, god, we've been - we thought - and she was crying, and Rodney was pushing her out of the way, pushing her behind him. Which meant Rodney had changed, changed quite a lot, to pick up on John's discomfort and try to fix it.
"John," Teyla said, just the single word.
Ronon stepped forward. "Colonel," he said. "Welcome back."
"Jesus, John" Rodney said. "You look like shit."
The visits over the next few days were agonizing. Rodney came first and oftenest and stayed longest, talking about his work, and about how he hadn't been off-world in forever, and about how they were still rounding up all the idiots of earth specially to send them to Atlantis ("And I tell them - 'you know, we have the Wraith, we don't need a plague of idiots,' but they think I'm kidding. Kidding!"). He mentioned a few of the changes - Lorne was military commander, now, Ronon in charge of Atlantis internal security ("They call him the Sheriff, now. Well, the military guys call him sir, but we call him the Sheriff.") - but he wouldn't talk about them much at all. When John asked, Rodney said only, "They'll be by."
And then Elizabeth came with forms for him to sign. "We want to keep you here, John, but the military wants to take you back to earth. You can probably get more specialized medical care there, I feel I should tell you." And John pictured it - all the crowds of earth, the streets where it was impossible to walk without touching people, all the stories he'd see and hear, the freak he'd be if anyone found out - and signed the papers without hesitation. Suddenly, he was John Sheppard, Lt. Col. (ret), with a pension and quarters somewhere on Atlantis that he might see someday, and not a hell of a lot to do.
And then Teyla and Ronon came, together, and John recognized their walks and stance only too well: they were entering a potentially dangerous situation, guarding each other's sixes. They sat tensely in chairs next to John's bed, spoke intensely, short and to the point. "You have a son," Teyla said. "I bore him nine months to the day after the mission to P33-717." John remembered that, and it felt like a lifetime ago and last night at the same time: the mission had been abortive - two hours on a newly Wraith-killed, empty planet - and John had returned wanting to kill something. Anything. He and Teyla had sparred with the sticks, then fought hand to hand, and then fucked on the floor of the gym.
"We're married," Ronon said.
John stared at him. Ronon held up his right hand, which had a carved wooden ring around the third finger. "We were told there was no chance you would return." He shrugged, winced, and visibly shook himself into a slightly more relaxed position.
John remembered Ronon, too - kissing him in corridors and jerking each other off in hidden corners of Atlantis, the desperation and intensity of each time making the next one inevitable.
"Congratulations," John said, helplessly, and his voice broke, and he hated himself. But, Jesus, why had they bothered to keep him alive, why had he come back? His life was finished and over and done - his child belonged to someone else, Teyla and Ronon married, Lorne the military commander of Atlantis now and doing a great job, and anyway, John was a civilian now. Nothing to do, nothing to fly, no one who needed him - what the fuck was he doing here?
He squeezed his eyes shut and thought hard about nothing at all, and pretended he didn't notice when Teyla and Ronon left.
Note: Don't recognize the fusion? Lost, confused, out of sorts, depressed? I suggest you read the intro to this. (And, hey, while you're there, read the story, too.)