ShaViva's Stargate Fan ... Stuff

Inconceivable!

Fortunate Journey Season 4 Part 3


Chapter 17: It was just a dream ... right?

It’s interesting how things can continue as normal even amidst big changes ... kind of like the death of someone you rarely see. If you don’t think about it too hard you can almost believe they’re still there.

Being in contact with the leader of Atlantis had never been a daily occurrence for me and I found in the weeks after Colonel Carter took over that I could almost get to that stage – pretending it was Elizabeth still up in that office instead. The mission to rescue John and the others, discovering Ronon's friends had betrayed him ... my interactions with Colonel Carter during all of that had been like an aberration and I quickly went back to the routine of only reporting direct to the leader when I had to.

John let me get away with it for a couple of weeks before he called me up on it.

“You’ll have to talk to her eventually,” he pointed out one lunch time when I’d declined being included in a progress meeting about Rodney’s work. Since my own work was part of that I had attended those meetings from time to time in the past.

“Who?” I tried for puzzled confusion but knew I hadn’t pulled it off when John looked at me pointedly. “I have ... what about her first few days with Ronon and his buddies?”

“That doesn’t count,” John returned. “That was all heat of the moment, not day to day.”

“I will talk to Colonel Carter,” I insisted, “when I have a need.”

“She’s a good leader Sabina,” John said softly. “The past couple of weeks have been difficult and she’s copped the flack with a lot of the non military staff over Elizabeth.”

“At least I haven’t done that,” I said a bit defensively. “No point in holding her responsible – she wasn’t even here then!”

“But you haven’t really welcomed her either,” John replied gently. “I can understand why ... more than most people here you do feel responsible for what happened to Elizabeth.”

“I did welcome her,” I pointed out, “but now ... I don’t know what to say,” I admitted uncomfortably. “She outranks you, she’s really smart and impressively skilled not to mention beautiful. It’s a little intimidating – I’m surprised Rodney’s handling it so well, given she could give him a run for his money in his own job.”

“I think if you talk to her you’ll see you’ve got more in common than you realised,” John suggested. “I’m not gonna say more ... just ... can you spend some time with her, look for some common ground?”

“Not to make it easier for her,” I said honestly, “but for you, sure I can do that.”

“Thank you,” John stood up, putting a hand on my shoulder. “Want to change your mind about that meeting?”

“Not this time,” I shook my head, adding when John looked a little disappointed. “I promised Radek I’d look at something for him ... I’ll join in – next time.”

Nodding at that, John gave me a smile and a quick wave before heading off.

I thought about it over the following days, particularly that conversation I’d had on the balcony and how Colonel Carter had seemed to empathise more than I would have suspected. John had never worked at the SGC so I decided to talk to Major Lorne, see if he could add any insight.

“You knew Colonel Carter back on Earth?” I asked him. We were walking back to the Stargate after a routine check in with an off world trading partner. Brown and Parker were walking some distance ahead and I hoped Evan would confide in me – if there was something to confide.

“Yeah,” he glanced at me with a frown. “Why?”

“John asked me to look for something in common with the Colonel,” I admitted awkwardly. “You know – to make accepting she’s the new leader a bit easier.”

“Ah,” Evan nodded with an amused smile. “I can see where he was going with that.”

“Are you gonna enlighten me?” I asked irritably.

“I can’t say too much,” Evan began seriously, “and this is all unconfirmed rumour but ... if it’s true then there’s a very good reason Colonel Carter would empathise with your position being on a mission with someone you love.”

“She was in love with someone back at the SGC?” I raised an eyebrow in surprise. “Who?”

“Doesn’t really matter,” Evan pointed out. “If she wants to share that level of detail with you she can make that decision, but it’s not for me to say.”

“It makes sense,” I said thoughtfully. John was right – if Sam had been in a situation of having what could have seemed like conflicting priorities she would understand how I felt when John needed help and I wanted to be there.

“Don’t talk to anyone about this,” Evan cautioned me seriously. “There are rules about this kind of thing ... she could get into a heap of trouble if the wrong people pay too much attention.”

“Oh,” that brought me up short. If the rumours were true then along with what Evan had just said the only conclusion I could make was that Sam’s ‘love’ was military too.

It was hard enough without those rules and it raised my compassion for her situation along with my admiration. John had been right ... it was the common ground I’d needed to see Colonel Carter as a person instead of just as a replacement for Elizabeth and I resolved to begin building some kind of relationship around it.

oOo

"What'd you do to yourself this time?" I greeted John as I walked hurriedly into the infirmary a week or so later. Teyla had radioed me when they’d returned from M3X-387 because John had taken some kind of energy hit during the mission.

"Nothing," John insisted. "Just a mild shock ... hardly worth mentioning!"

"A shock that winded you and knocked you to the ground," Teyla added, turning to me to explain. "Rodney believes the planet has a power source within the crystals that grow on the trees. One of them began to glow at our approach. When John touched it the power was released and the crystal stopped glowing."

"You touched it?" I looked at John incredulously. "After telling me repeatedly not to touch anything without Rodney's approval?!"

"As I already told McKay, I don't know why I did that," John explained, his look of confusion giving real weight to his statement.

"Did something make you want to touch it?" I asked in concern. Before John could answer Doctor Keller walked around the corner with a pleased smile on her face..

"All your scans are clear. Blood tests are normal. As far as I can tell, you're in perfect health," she reported.

"See? I told you," John said smugly to Teyla. Turning to Jennifer he added "Thanks, Doc."

"No more touching strange things," Doctor Keller ordered with a stern look.

"That's good advice," John quipped. Doctor Keller smiled again before heading back towards her office.

"I will leave you to go and get some rest," Teyla said graciously as I offered John a hand to get up off the infirmary bed.

"See you tomorrow Teyla," John replied, grabbing my hand and making me tingle as he pulled me sharply into him.

"Okay, enough of that," I laughed as John put on the puppy dog look that always seemed to serve him so well. Leaning down I kissed him quickly before breaking away. I could see him considering his next move before a huge yawn overtook him. "Time for some sleep Colonel," I announced firmly.

"I am exhausted," John admitted, letting me lead him from the infirmary. "It was a long day."

"Are you sure it's just that?" I looked at him worriedly as we strolled down the corridor hand in hand.

"I'm fine," John insisted.

Even though my day had been much easier than his I must have picked up on some of his tiredness because I found myself more than ready to sleep once we were back in our quarters. Mumbling a weary goodnight once I’d done all the usual pre bed stuff I let myself fall into sleep only moments after my head hit the pillow.

oOo

I opened my eyes what seemed like only seconds later, frowning up at a ceiling that was vaguely familiar and yet not what I had expected. Attempting to sit up the strangeness factor rose sharply when I realised I couldn't move. My arms were strapped down - that's when my heart rate picked up as I glanced from side to side and worked out where I was. Back in Walker's sicko lab ... back on that cold metal examination table.

"Help!" I called out, pulling against the restraints even though I knew from experience that they wouldn't budge.

"Ah, Ms Scott," Walker's slimy voice grated over my nerves like nails on a blackboard. "Awake at last. That was some dream."

"No," I protested weakly. "This isn't real - John came and rescued me!"

"Why would I want to rescue you?" John himself strolled into view, sharing an amused smile with Walker. "You're worth much more to me like this than you ever were as a girlfriend."

"Not girlfriend! Wife!" I shouted. "I don't know what this is but I know what happened - you can't convince me otherwise."

"It appears that my serum has an unexpected side effect," Walker commented to John like they were partners, friends even. John walked closer, looking at me with a sad condescending expression.

"Delusions, hallucinations," John ticked off each term by flicking my face with his index finger ... hard. I flinched at each hit as he continued to speak. "Detachment from reality. Perhaps we need to try the serum again ... see if we can't perfect its performance."

"A man after my own heart," Walker laughed evilly, an enormous syringe suddenly appearing in his hand.

"The others will come for me," I insisted confidently.

"You mean us?" Rodney appeared in front of me, asking his question with a detached, academic curiosity. "Why would we do that?"

"Wouldn't want to risk valuable lives just for you," Ronon took Rodney's place between one blink and the next.

"Our team is already complete," Teyla, predictably was next. "There is no room for you between us."

"This is insane," I started crying in frustration as I tried to wake myself up from what I was sure was a dream, without success.

"Time for that injection," John's expression had everything in me freezing in panic. He looked at me with dark intent, his expression blank and yet at the same time I could see enjoyment sitting at the back of everything else.

"Don't do this," I sobbed. "John, please stop this."

"No reason to," John commented, leaning in close to whisper in my ear. "You're expendable ... once we have what we need from you. A pity ... you really do incite some ... lustful urges." And then he licked the side of my face ... rather than being arousing it was sickening, making the bile rise up into my throat.

"Oh God," I swallowed hard, turning my head away, still straining to get free.

"This won't hurt a bit," John rose, back with the syringe poised. "It'll hurt a lot ... each time more than the last. It's quite remarkable actually. Say goodbye Sabina."

The moment the needle tip touched my skin I felt the fire raging, consuming everything almost instantly. Screaming in pain, I struggled to get away, to break free.

"SABINA!" John was holding me tightly to his chest, yelling to try and wake me up.

"Let me go!" I yelled back, scrambling from the bed as soon as I was free and hurrying into the bathroom - all the while avoiding looking at John. As soon as I'd made it in there I deliberately mentally locked the door so he couldn't follow me, slumping to sit on the floor, shaking slightly. I knew it wasn't him in my dream but still I needed a few moments to clear my mind. Unlike other nightmares that faded as soon as they were done this one felt too real ... real enough that I was checking my arm for needle marks even though I knew there wouldn't be any.

"Sabina?" John called from the other side of the door. "You okay?"

"Um," I got up, still shaky and moved over to the mirror. "Just give me a few minutes okay."

John must have moved away and I slumped down over my arms, holding onto the sink as I continued to shiver in reaction. The quick glance I gave myself wasn’t reassuring – I looked pale and my face was actually dotted with visible beads of sweat. All this, over a dream? Splashing water on my face and brushing my hair took a few minutes and yet I still felt unsettled deep inside. Knowing I couldn't avoid John any longer I concentrated on a few deep calming breaths before opening the door.

"What was all that about?" John asked as soon as I reappeared.

"Nightmare," I said simply, climbing back into the bed and turning away as I curled up on my side.

"About what happened back on Earth?" John persisted, putting a hand on my shoulder and almost certainly not missing my instinctive flinch. Sighing I turned over to face him, not surprised to see the puzzled and edging on hurt look sweep over his face.

"I'm sorry," I said softly. "That was just the most ... bizarre dream I've ever had."

"How so?" John sat next to me, carefully not touching me but close enough that I could have touched him if I wanted to.

"You were in it," I admitted. "Only it wasn't you ... it was like the evil twin version of you."

"Tell me what happened," John practically ordered, and I did, leaving nothing out until finally I ran out of words.

"See - bizarre," I finished, watching John's expression as he thought about it. "I don't think you'll be able to put a logical interpretation on that one."

"Probably not," John reached for me again and this time, thankfully for both of us, I didn't feel that uncontrollable urge to avoid contact. Both of us relaxed at that, John sliding back down to lie on the bed beside me and pulling me into our comforting spooned embrace.

"Sorry I flinched away from you," I said softly, holding onto the arm he had around me.

"Don't worry about it," John replied. "It was just a dream ... right?"

"Just a dream," I agreed, closing my eyes and thinking sleep.

oOo

It was no use. I'd tried to get back to sleep for what felt like hours but I just couldn't relax enough ... I felt almost afraid to sleep just in case I had another 'horrible John' dream. Slipping quietly from the bed I stood gazing down at John's sleeping form for a few moments. As usual he had his face buried in his pillow, hair sticking up messily making him look more little boy than grown man. Smiling at the picture I sneaked around the room, getting dressed and carrying my shoes out into the corridor. Perhaps a run would tire me out enough that I could finally get some sleep.

"Sabina?" I turned a corner and almost ran over Teyla coming in the opposite direction.

"Teyla!" I grabbed at her arm, stopping us both from toppling over. "Sorry! I wasn't paying attention ... didn't expect anyone to be around at this time of night."

"I missed dinner and awoke too hungry to ignore it until morning," Teyla admitted with a rueful laugh. "Why are you up so late? Is everything all right?"

"Yeah," I grimaced before admitting why I was up. "I had a ... disturbing nightmare ... couldn't get back to sleep."

"Perhaps John being injured on the mission troubled you more than you would admit," Teyla suggested.

"Maybe," I agreed uncertainly. "It was pretty minor in the whole scheme of things though."

"Yes, but this is the first mission he’s been injured on since the two of you were married," Teyla pointed out with a smile.

"True," I raised an eyebrow because that hadn't occurred to me. "I guess that might make a difference." Realising that I actually did feel better after talking to her I smiled gratefully. "Thanks Teyla."

"You are most welcome Sabina," Teyla replied. We'd been walking side by side until we came to a junction ... Teyla headed off to her room and I walked slowly back to mine.

John was still sleeping when I slipped quietly back into the bed. Turning over to face him I lay for a time just watching him. Somewhere in the midst of that I fell asleep.

oOo

When I arrived at the commissary early the next morning I spotted Teyla sitting at a table with Rodney and Ronon on the outdoor balcony overlooking the ocean.

"Hey guys," I carried a tray over and sat down in the remaining empty seat. Silence greeted me. Looking up I frowned when I realised their conversation had stopped abruptly at my presence. "Ah ... it is okay to join you right?"

"Of course Sabina," Teyla said. "I was just telling Rodney and Ronon about a dream I had last night.

"You too huh?" I said in surprise.

"You had a nightmare as well?" Rodney asked curiously.

"Yeah, early in the night," I admitted. "I bumped into Teyla trying to run myself back into tiredness. What was your dream about?"

"Many things," Teyla said evasively. "I cannot even begin to tell you how bizarre it was."

"Please, you want bizarre? Let me tell you -," Rodney began.

"You know what? Don't," Ronon interrupted with a long suffering expression.

John chose that moment to arrive, bringing his tray over and pulling up another chair so he could sit beside me.

"Morning," he said, putting a hand on my leg and looking at me closely, probably trying to work out if I was all right after the previous nights little adventure.

"Morning," I returned, once again noticing the unusual behaviour of the others. Teyla was shifting uncomfortably in her chair and Rodney and Ronon were watching her much too closely. John noticed it too, a puzzled look briefly flitting over his face.

"What?" he demanded.

"Teyla had a dream about you last night," Rodney announced.

"Rodney," Teyla glared at him in annoyance.

"You never said John was in it," I frowned in confusion, feeling that sinking stomach sensation at the coincidence.

"Really?!" John looked across at me before turning back to Teyla. "What was it about?"

"Actually, it was more of a nightmare and I would rather not talk about it," Teyla said dismissively.

"Did I try to save you from a big bad monster?" John tried to joke.

"Actually, you were the big bad monster," Ronon said with a slightly amused look.

"Really?" John said again, his expression telling me he hadn’t missed the coincidence either.

"Like I said," Teyla stood up abruptly, "I'd rather not talk about it."

"Teyla, are you okay?" I asked in concern.

"I'm sorry," Teyla apologised. "I have a headache. I did not sleep well last night." Not waiting for any of us to make further comments she turned and walked away.

"That was odd," John commented to me. "I feel kind of responsible ... not that I can control what people dream."

"Really? You think you can't control a person's dreams?” Rodney demanded. "My father read me Moby Dick when I was seven years old. I mean, seriously, what was the man thinking? Do you have any idea how long I had nightmares about being eaten by a whale?"

Ronon glanced at the two of us before looking back to Rodney pointedly. "They haven't stopped, have they?" he asked.

"No," Rodney admitted sadly.

 


Chapter 18: He’s not gonna shoot me, are you Major?

 

I let the breakfast dream banter continue on around me as I thought about what Teyla hadn't said. When Rodney and Ronon got up to leave I held John back, wanting to talk without the others overhearing.

"Does this seem a little too coincidental to you?" I asked worriedly.

"The dreams?" John clarified.

"Not just dreams John," I insisted. "First I have a very detailed nightmare involving you as the villain. I didn't get a chance to tell you that I couldn't sleep afterwards so I went for a run ... and bumped into Teyla. She must have gone from there to bed and had her own scary dream, again involving you as the villain."

"That does sound a bit out there," John admitted. "But like I said, I'm not in control of what people dream."

"I know," I put a hand over his reassuringly, "and so does Teyla. Still, surely there's something to explain it."

"Maybe you should talk to Doctor Heightmeyer," John suggested reluctantly.

"Let's hold off for now," I decided, not wanting to make more of it than the situation warranted. "Maybe I set Teyla off telling her about my dream."

"Maybe," John agreed, less than confidently.

oOo

"Now Keller's acting strange," John complained to me, returning late to our quarters from sparring with Ronon.

"You saw Doctor Keller?" I asked curiously, pushing aside the laptop I'd been tapping away at and straightening up in the bed..

"Yeah, I got in a lucky shot," John admitted. "Cut Ronon's forehead bad enough to need stitches. Keller looked distracted ... practically glared at me when we told her what happened."

"Maybe she was just mad she had to fix Ronon up after yet another sparring incident?" I suggested.

"Maybe," John agreed, moving over to sit beside me. "But you know those instincts I get sometimes? Well, they're starting to kick in big time."

"You think she had one of these dreams too?" I asked worriedly.

"I don't want to think that," John admitted with a frown, "but ... there was just something in the way she looked at me. She was ... she looked scared of me Sabina."

"John," I put a hand on his arm in comfort, "Jennifer knows you ... she might have been scared by the experience, but she'd never be scared of you personally!"

"Yeah, well you didn't see her expression when she looked at me," John refused to be reassured.

"What should we do about it then?" I demanded impatiently ... not that I was impatient with John, just with the mystery that continued to unfold negatively around him.

"Nothing," John replied grimly. "I am not going in to Carter complaining that people are dreaming about me and acting strange!"

"Yeah I can see why you wouldn't want to do that," I agreed reluctantly.

"Just ... let me know if you hear anything else that’s outside of normal," John asked. "We'll work out something ... if we have to."

"Okay," I replied reluctantly, unhappy with the whole situation and the fact that John was clearly uncomfortable and maybe even a little hurt over how Teyla and Jennifer were behaving towards him.

oOo

Like any situation on Atlantis, things were bound to get a lot worse before they got better. I was walking with John to the Commissary the next morning when we were literally accosted by Major Lorne – barefoot and out of uniform and behaving very strangely.

“Step away from him Sabina,” Lorne said urgently, motioning with his hand for me to come to him. “He’s not Colonel Sheppard.”

“What are you talking about Major?” I took a step forward, stopping abruptly when he pointed his gun at John. It was a wide section of the corridor and we already had quite a few people frozen in place watching the drama unfold.

"Security detail to section 5," John tapped his earpiece and requested in a low voice, keeping his eyes watchfully on Evan the whole time and his hands fully visible.

“He’s a Replicator!” Lorne yelled. “I don’t know when they made the switch, I just know that’s not Sheppard.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” I almost laughed. “You know I can detect Ancient genes right?” Lorne nodded, watching me carefully, gun still waving menacingly in front of John. “Well then I can tell you one hundred percent that this is Colonel Sheppard.” Proving my point I put a hand on John’s arm, smiling as I registered the familiar jolt. “Yep – definitely Ancient genes present.”

“Then they’ve found a way to replicate that too,” Lorne insisted. “Now step aside! Someone get me an ARG – then I can prove it to you.”

John's call to security was answered quickly, a team of Marines arriving at that moment and surrounding us, guns pointed at Major Lorne. Obviously if he made too threatening a move towards John they were going to shoot him to stop anything from happening. This was really, really bad!

“Evan -,” I began, stepping forward again and trying to make a personal connection. I was taking it seriously now, quaking inside because clearly something was very wrong with my team leader.

“Sabina,” John put a hand on my shoulder, cautioning me not to get too close.

“John, it’s Evan,” I pointed out incredulously. “He’s not gonna shoot me, are you Major?”

“Ah,” Major Lorne frowned in confusion momentarily before his face got that same resolute expression he’d been wearing the whole time. “Just let me prove it to you and no one will have to get shot.”

“Just put down the gun, Major,” John held his hands up in an open way, taking a step closer to Lorne himself. “Let's talk this out.”

“Someone get an ARG now!” Lorne turned to the Marines pleadingly. “Shoot him with it!”

Teyla and Kate Heightmeyer arrived next, Kate looking at Evan carefully as if she could diagnose what was making him like that just with a glance.

“Major, talk to me,” she invited in that soft soothing voice no one would ever consider threatening. “Tell me what's going on.”

“Just do it!” Lorne insisted, starting to get aggitated. “OK, wh-wh-what's the harm? I-I-If he's human, it won't hurt him, right?”

“John, what is he talking about?” Teyla asked, keeping her eyes on Major Lorne the whole time.

“Don't talk to him!” Lorne commanded her. “Colonel Sheppard is a Replicator.”

Teyla and Kate looked at John as though they were actually considering whether that could be true or not. Major Lorne was still aiming his pistol at John with a look that said he was actually scared of him.

“John’s not a Replicator!” I told the others insistently. “Replicators can’t manufacture the presence of Ancient genes. I just checked and John definitely still has his. I tried to tell the Major that but he doesn't seem to be listening.”

“Look, Lorne, I don't know what's gotten into you ...” John tried again to talk Major Lorne down.

“Me?!” Lorne asked in disbelief. “No-no-no-no-no, it's not me.”

Before any of us could respond to that Colonel Carter and Doctor Keller arrived to join the sideshow we had going, Carter taking command of the situation immediately.

“Major. How ‘bout you lower your weapon?” she asked in a pleasant friendly tone.

“He's a Replicator!” Lorne insisted again. When Carter looked at him in confusion Evan started to get frustrated. “What, you don't believe me?” And then he cocked his pistol. “OK, I'll shoot him, you'll see.”

“No!” I stepped between John and Evan determinedly. “You won’t be shooting anyone because I already told you John isn't a Replicator.”

“Sabina!” John put a hand on my shoulder, trying to move me aside but I dug my heels in, stubbornly deciding I’d maintain my position no matter what. "Move aside!" he ordered grimly, still trying to shift me.

"No," I returned stubbornly. "Evan doesn't have a problem with me ... but clearly he does with you. I'm not gonna stand aside so he can shoot you!"

John was forced to concede for the moment or subject the two of us to a public shoving match ... practically growling in my ear in frustration he kept his hands on my shoulders, squeezing firmly as he speared Evan with a fierce look.

"You shoot me, maybe I forgive you," John told Major Lorne in a low tone. "You shoot Sabina and there'll be nowhere in this galaxy or back on Earth remote enough for you to hide."

"John!' I admonished, turning to glare at him before I looked back to Major Lorne. "Evan," I tried again. "You have to trust me .... John's not a replicator ... I can prove it to you ... without having to shoot anyone ... just let me help you."

Evan looked torn, frowning in confusion as what I was saying didn't jell with his own perceptions. Maybe I was getting through to him, maybe not ... the fact that he kept his gun pointed firmly in John's direction suggested the later.

“Call for an A.R.G,” Colonel Carter told one of the marines. When I registered what her words were implying it brought me up short ... how could she think there was any truth to what the Major was saying?

“You’re not seriously buying into this are you?” I asked incredulously.

“Of course not,” Colonel Carter said quietly, “but it won't hurt John and it might help Lorne to lower his gun.”

“You're one of them too,” Lorne accused, obviously not liking what her comment implied. Pointing his gun at Carter too he turned towards the marines again. “Well, don't just stand there! Shoot them! Shoot both of them!”

Lorne was getting desperate now, edgy and frustrated because he couldn't get us to do what seemed to make perfect sense to him. When he turned his pistol back to John this time I was convinced he really would fire, even if he had to go through me first. Thankfully I didn’t have to find out if I was right – the red glow of Ronon’s stunner arced from the balcony above us, hitting Lorne squarely in the chest and dropping him to the floor.

The Marines converged on the unconscious Major Lorne, quickly taking his gun and then checking to make sure he was really out for the count. Doctor Keller had obviously already called for a med team because they arrived soon after Lorne had been stunned and were already loading him up on a gurney.

Teyla took an ARG from the returning Marine, motioning towards John and Colonel Carter but not actually pointing it at them. “I take it I don't have to shoot either of you with this?” She asked with a raised brow.

“I know it’s not supposed to hurt but I’d rather not find out one way or the other,” John said with just a hint of pleading in his voice.

“Of course,” Teyla smiled, letting us know she really hadn’t intended to use the weapon.

“This is too much of a coincidence,” Doctor Keller said worriedly.

“What is?” Ronon made it down from the upper level, completing the impromptu meeting in the corridor.

“The similarity between these incidents,” Keller replied. “Admittedly they were all nightmares prior to Major Lorne but the general pattern is the same. All of them featured Colonel Sheppard as a significant negative presence. And then there’s the sequence this has been taking. Ronon, did you come into physical contact with Major Lorne after I stitched you up last night?”

“Ah, I guess,” Ronon said uncertainly. “I bumped into him in the hallway on my way back to quarters.”

“So it was Teyla first, then me, then Ronon, and now Major Lorne,” Doctor Keller continued. "We've all had disturbing dreams featuring Colonel Sheppard." It was the first John or I knew about Ronon having had a nightmare too ... we hadn't spent that much time with him that day - not enough to notice if he'd treated John any differently.

“Ah, actually it was me first,” I spoke up reluctantly when John raised an eyebrow, letting me know he expected me to own up to that. “I had a nightmare the night John’s team came back from M3X-387. I ran into Teyla in the corridor a couple of hours later. I didn’t think anything of it because it was just a nightmare ... and ah ... maybe not exactly unexpected.”

“But John was not himself inside your dream?” Teyla sought to clarify what had happened.

“No,” I agreed. “And the feel of the dream was very strange ... like it wasn’t really a dream at all. Usually I get the sense that my subconscious is in control and I can take the dream wherever I want – this time it felt like nothing was in my control, like the whole thing was being forced on me.”

Exactly,” Teyla agreed. “That is the feeling I had as well. I believe that is what made the dream so disturbing.”

Kate Heightmeyer had been silent during the entire exchange, something I’d noticed previously that she did a lot. Maybe it was an occupational hazard – the need to observe people without influencing them.

“For now I suggest we talk with Major Lorne because his experience was different from the others,” she suggested. “Ronon, how long does it take to recover from a stun blast like that?”

“I had it on the lowest setting,” Ronon replied. “He could be waking up right now.”

“Observation room?” Colonel Carter suggested to everyone, getting nods and sounds of ascent in reply.

John held me back as the others moved away, his hands still on my shoulders as he leaned down to speak close to my ear. "The next time I order you to step aside in a situation like that you do it, no argument."

Turning so I could look into John's eyes I smiled, watching the puzzled frown appear because my reaction wasn't what he'd expected. "There will never be a time when I step aside and just watch you get shot," I said firmly. "Now ... since you're officially stuck with me you'll just have to find a way to deal with that." Leaning up, I placed a quick kiss on his cheek and then turned to follow the others to the Observation Room.

I hadn't actually been specifically invited but this thing was affecting me too, not just because I’d had the first dream, but because I could see how much this was bothering John, regardless of the bland face he was putting on. No one wanted to be the evil presence in someone’s dreams, made much worse by the fact that people’s feelings from inside the dreams were being carried over into waking life.

In the Isolation Room, Major Lorne was sitting at a small table looking lost and then relieved as John filled him in on what had happened. Turns out he had been sleepwalking, making this another nightmare just like all the others.

“And you don't remember anything?” Kate asked.

“No,” Lorne said with some embarrassment. “Honestly, I haven't had a sleepwalking incident since I was, like, ten.”

“It's quite common for someone suffering from somnambulism to perform complex activities in their sleep and remember nothing upon waking,” Kate told us.

“And you think this has something to do with the crystal I touched?” John asked Doctor Keller uncertainly.

“That's when it seemed to start,” Jennifer pointed out. “And it’s you, your image that’s appearing in all these dreams.”

“Well, I can't control that!” John let some of his frustration show.

“No, but maybe something is,” Colonel Carter mused.

“What, you think someone's impersonating me in everyone's dreams?!,” John shook his head in disbelief at that idea.

“Look, I've seen more than my share of alien entities that are capable of this,” Colonel Carter explained. “Colonel O'Neill was once knocked unconscious by an energy being that lived in crystal form. It took on his appearance for a while.”

"Yeah well I'm one hundred percent me," John quipped, "Jennifer can run a whole bunch of tests if you have any doubts."

"That won't be necessary Colonel," Carter replied. "We would have known as soon as you returned from M3X-387 if you weren't yourself."

“But what would be the point?” John cut to the bottom line impatiently. “What could this thing hope to gain from running around being me in everyone’s dreams?”

“Maybe it's feeding on our fear,” Jennifer suggested thoughtfully.

“That’s actually not that big a leap,” Colonel Carter replied. “It's just we don't have any proof.”

“And how come I haven’t had any dreams?” John asked suddenly. “I'm the one who touched the crystal.”

“Because it's impersonating you - it can't appear in your dreams because you'd know it wasn't really you,” I said weakly, realising all at once that an actual entity really was responsible. That was a scary thought because how did you combat something that you could only interact with in dreams?

“Whatever's doing this imprinted your image onto itself,” Kate agreed.

“And then it transfers itself to the next person by touch,” Jennifer concluded.

“OK, anyone who's had contact with Major Lorne since the incident needs to be isolated,” Colonel Carter said briskly. “If this is some sort of alien influence, we have to find a way to detect it.”

Her words sparked a flurry of activity - Teyla, Ronon and John going to track down people Major Lorne might have spoken to since the previous evening, Colonel Carter, Jennifer and Kate following up the tracking option. I remained standing at the glass for a moment, looking down at Major Lorne still stilling at the table looking troubled. Lifting a hand when he glanced up, I smiled and waved.

"You okay?" I asked through the intercom.

"I just held a gun on my commanding officer," Evan pointed out grimly "so I'd have to say no!"

"Wasn't your fault," I told him firmly. "John knows that. When they release you, talk to him - see for yourself."

"How's he doing?" Evan asked in concern.

"Being the villan might sound like fun in a comic book, but in real life it's pretty disturbing," I went for the implied response, knowing Evan would be able to work out the implications.

"Yeah, well tell him I've got his back," Lorne returned. "Just as soon as they let me out of here."

"Thanks Evan," I smiled gratefully because with those words alone he'd made it clear he at least wouldn't be treating John any differently. "I better go ... see what the plan is ... if there is one." Lifting a hand to wave at Major Lorne again I turned and headed off to find John.

 


Chapter 19: I appreciate that Colonel

 

A short time later everyone gathered in the main Conference Room for another meeting to discuss what to do next. Gate travel had been restricted to necessity only and anyone already off world had been told to hang tight until we’d resolved the current problem. The biggest issue was clearly how to detect the entity. Colonel Carter decided the only way to work that out was to collect more information about the crystal ... by going back to the planet. I initially thought I’d like to go along to help but found myself roped in to talking with Doctor Heightmeyer instead. She was hoping that I’d be able to give her more insight into the entity because I was closest to John and presumably more able to talk about all those aspects of the nightmare John that were out of character. So John and the others went to M3X-387 and I found myself sitting nervously in Kate’s cosy little office.

“You know I hate all this right?” I started out honestly.

“The number of times you’ve been in my office over the past three years was a bit of a clue,” Kate said without offence.

“Oh – sorry,” I said meekly. “It’s not that I discount what you do ... just that it’s not for me.”

“I admire the level of honestly in your relationship with Colonel Sheppard,” Kate replied. “It’s very clear in how well you cope with situations that could end up causing many problems.”

“Um ... thanks,” I smiled a bit self consciously. “So how do you want to do this?”

“Just start by describing your dream,” Kate suggested, “perhaps highlighting those aspects you feel were most out of character.”

“It was all out of character,” I said. “The John in my dreams was completely different. He took delight in causing pain – both physical and emotional. His motives were completely opposite too - he said he was in it for the money, didn’t see anything wrong in sacrificing one person for that reason alone. And of course he was friendly and patient and almost admiring of Doctor Walker – that’s the guy who was holding me back on Earth. My John could barely stand to be in the same room with that guy.”

Although I hadn't done any specific sessions with Kate regarding the kidnapping back on Earth she had been informed and briefed about my case via Dr. Lam and had previously reassured me that if I needed to talk she was aware of the practical aspects of my experience.

“Which suggests the entity is seeking a particular response, using specific hooks to draw the victim in,” Kate suggested.

“I got the sense I was definitely being manipulated within my dream,” I agreed. “Like I said before, I knew during the whole thing it was a dream and I actively tried to end it which I usually can for a normal dream. Whatever that thing was, it was able to hold on to me until John shook me out of it. How do we fight something like that?”

“I don’t know,” Kate admitted. “If we can find a way to communicate with it perhaps we can try reason.”

“That seems unlikely to me,” I grimaced at having to recall so vividly a dream I’d hoped to just forget. “There was enjoyment there too – this thing likes provoking these negative reactions from us. It’s not all about need.”

“Then we’ll have to work out what else drives it,” Kate said firmly. “Thank you for sharing your experience Sabina. I understand how difficult this is for you, more so that the others because it’s not just your friend being manifest in such a negative way, it’s your husband.”

I actually smiled happily at her referring to John as my husband ... even in the midst of all this I wasn’t over the newness and just plain giddy delight of being entitled to claim that title.

“I never congratulated you on your marriage,” Kate smiled, obviously working out where the silly grin had come from.

“We had more than enough of that the first couple of days back,” I said with a laugh. “But thanks for the thought.”

“Let me know if you think of anything else relevant to the situation,” Kate got up to see me out.

“Will do,” I replied. “Thanks Doctor Heightmeyer.”

oOo

The teams returned to Atlantis a short while later with both active and inert specimens of the crystals in hand. John had been closed mouthed about his feelings while on M3X-387, commenting only on the planet's 'decor' being just as wierd the second time. Since he wasn't being forthcoming with information I decided to head straight to the source.

“Is this them?” I moved a bit closer to the containments chambers in Rodney’s lab, curious to see what had already caused us so much trouble. Inside was what looked like simple quartz like crystal formations, one glowing softly with yellow white light. “They don’t look like much.”

“Yeah well we know they pack a punch when touched so keep well clear,” Rodney grumbled, fully engaged in analysis mode.

“Doctor Keller was just in here,” Radek offered. “Something about the crystal’s output had her almost touching it without conscious thought. We think it uses this method of mesmerising to lure it’s victims in.”

“Just like with John,” I smiled, knowing John would be happy to be off the hook about touching things he shouldn’t have. “Have you worked out how to track it yet?”

“No,” Rodney said irritably. “Perhaps without all the tourist traffic we could actually make some progress?”

“Sorry,” I shared an amused glance with Radek before heading off to find John.

oOo

“This isn’t your fault you know,” I sat down next to John, leaning into his side as I turned to face the ocean he was gazing at. It was a nice evening on our balcony and it was usually very relaxing to just sit and take a few minutes of calm.

“I know,” John said quietly. “Still don’t like the idea of being a sociopath in everyone’s heads though.”

“Who would?” I quipped, happy to see John smile. “I spoke to Kate.”

“Did it help?” John asked.

“I don’t know,” I admitted. “She seemed to think it did, that she understands the motives a bit better. Funnily enough it helped me too – talking about how different the John in my dreams was from you got rid of those last lingering edge of my head nerves. Not about there being any link to you personally ... just the echo of seeing something disturbing revisiting when you least expect it.”

“I wish everyone else felt the same,” John admitted.

"Did Evan catch up with you?" I asked curiously.

"He did," John nodded, glancing at me with a knowing smile, "and yes, he made a point of telling me he's very capable of distinguishing the real me from a dream. Followed it up by honestly treating me the same as always."

"There you go then," I said easily, happy that Evan had come through and backed John up just like he'd promised.

“The worse bit for me is that you’ve all got a whole sequence of events ‘I’ was in and yet I know practically nothing about most of them," John pointed out. "I'm being looked at differently because of things 'I' did, but I don't even know what they are."

“That would be frustrating,” I agreed, "but I don't know - do you really want to know the details? If the other dreams were anything like mine you might be better off not knowing."

"If it's affecting the way people behave ... if it changes how they react to things then I need to know," John replied.

"But not tonight," I said firmly, loathe to have him setting out to grill Teyla, Ronon and the others on the specifics of the 'evil' John. “Why don’t we take a walk, clear our heads?”

“Can we just stay here instead?” John asked. “I’ve had enough of being the centre of attention for one day.”

“Of course,” I agreed, leaning my head on his shoulder and returning my gaze to the ocean.

oOo

The sound of the door alarm chiming interrupted one of our rare late morning starts the next day. John jumped out of bed, pulling a t-shirt on to go with his track pants as he headed for the door.

“Colonel Carter?” John motioned for her to enter.

“Sorry to disturb you Colonel, Sabina,” Carter replied. Her tone was serious and her face sad and I knew immediately we were about to get bad news. “I wanted to let you know immediately that Doctor Heightmeyer was found dead in her quarters a short while ago. It appears that she died in her sleep.”

“She had one of the nightmares?” John’s face was beyond blank, his tone grim as he sank down to sit on the edge of the bed. I shifted position to kneel behind him, putting a hand on his shoulder in unspoken support.

“We don’t know for sure but it seems likely,” Carter admitted. “This is not your fault John ... at this point we have no way of even tracking the entity, let alone mounting any defence against it.”

“I brought it back here and it’s using my face to torment, and now to kill,” John pointed out angrily.

“Yeah, after it lured you towards it!” I jumped in to point out. “Radek said it almost did the same to Doctor Keller yesterday.”

“Who found Doctor Heightmeyer?” John asked reluctantly.

“Teyla,” Carter said sadly. “She had an early appointment with Kate and became worried when she didn’t show up.” John looked away without commenting. “We’ll have to continue with the full lockdown,” Colonel Carter concluded. “I’ll be making a citywide announcement soon but I thought you should know as soon as possible.”

“I appreciate that Colonel,” John replied, moving to see Carter out. Returning to me he threw himself on top of the covers, putting a hand over his eyes.

“John?” I felt bad for a moment that I was more concerned about him than the fact that Kate Heightmeyer was dead. His pain was immediate – my need to help him also immediate. There’d be time later to contemplate the loss of Kate and what that meant for all of us.

“This whole situation is totally screwed,” John ground out angrily. “The one place you might be forgiven for assuming you were safe is in your sleep. How can this thing kill like that?”

“I don’t know,” I replied. “Rodney will work out how to track it and then we can do something.”

“Teyla will be even more uncomfortable around me now,” John rolled over and buried his head in the pillow, his voice muffled as he continued. “Maybe I’ll just take the day off.”

“You will not,” I said insistently. “This is not your -,”

“This is Colonel Carter. If I could have your attention please,” the beginning of the citywide announcement interrupted me before I could finish. “I'm very sorry to have to tell you that we have lost a valuable member of the expedition today. Doctor Kate Heightmeyer meant a great deal to all of us. Her death is nothing short of tragic. I'm also sorry to have to report that the threat we face is still in our midst and until further notice, the full lockdown protocol will remain in effect. Try to remain calm. We are doing everything we can to ensure everyone's safety and to resolve this situation quickly. Thank you.”

“You’re right,” John got up abruptly and moved towards the door. “I should probably go talk to Teyla, see if she’s all right ... that is if she even wants to see me.” He swiped a hand over the door panel, freezing when he discovered Teyla standing on the other side.

“I was just about to come and see you ... but I wasn't sure if you wanted to see me,” John said uncomfortably.

Without a word Teyla moved forward and put her arms around him and her head on his shoulder. Looking back at me uncertainly John hesitantly put his arms around her and just stood there letting her cry.

I felt a sense of relief that Teyla had come to him, knowing that such an obvious show of friendship would reassure John that the entity hadn’t damaged his relationships with his friends by taking on his form.

“I’m sorry about Kate,” I said softly once Teyla had calmed and stepped back to look at both of us.

“I do not understand how something that isn’t real can kill us,” Teyla said thickly.

“Colonel Sheppard, please report to the Control Room,” Colonel Carter used the intercom to patch into our room.

“Has something happened?” John asked.

“Radek managed to track the entity within the city,” Carter replied.

“And?” John asked grimly.

“It’s in Rodney,” Carter admitted.

“Crap!” John grabbed up his uniform and disappeared into the bathroom. Two minutes later he was rushing out again. “Teyla – join us when you’ve had a chance to clean up. Sabina, you too if you want to – if not I’ll see you later.”

Teyla exchanged a worried glance with me before slowly making her way after John.

Looking at the closed door for a few seconds I finally roused myself and jumped out of bed. If I hurried I could get there before John committed himself to something stupid.

 


Chapter 20: I could really use an advantage here

 

I got to Colonel Carter's office just in time to hear the tail end of another ‘wacky’ John Sheppard plan. Carter had already disappeared and Ronon and Teyla followed as soon as they saw my expression.

“You want to use a piece of Alien technology to talk to Rodney in his sleep?” I asked incredulously.

“Look what that thing did to Doctor Heightmeyer!” John said harshly. “Do you really want to give it time to do something similar to McKay? You know he can only stay awake for so long!”

“Of course not,” I retorted. “But I don’t want you going into this thinking you have to atone for something.”

“I’m not,” John insisted. “We’ll ask Rodney before we proceed but I’m pretty sure he won’t be keen to reveal his nightmares to anyone ... I'm guessing that in the end he’d rather it was me than someone else.”

“Okay, fair enough,” I agreed reluctantly. “Just ... be careful. This thing has proven it can kill from inside a dream ... and we have no idea how it accomplished that, or whether you can be affected too even if it's not your dream.”

“I’m just gonna make sure Rodney knows it’s not real,” John insisted. “You know - stop him from doing anything stupid, give him some moral support.”

“Don’t underestimate how disturbing these dreams are John,” I said seriously. “Nor how real ... if you really do find yourself inside Rodney’s dreams, you may not have as much control over events as you’re hoping.”

“It has to be done,” John was all seriousness too now.

Which is how I found myself standing in front of the observation window a couple of hours later. Below in the isolation room John and Rodney were already stretched out on two adjoining beds while Doctor Keller and Radek made sure the equipment was working.

“Are you sure this is safe?” I asked Colonel Carter, keeping my eyes on the scene below.

“We first encountered the technology ten years ago on a planet where the survivors of a holocaust were living entirely in a virtual world created in their minds” she explained. “Since then, we've managed to modify it for use in the V.R. training of S.G. team members. It only took some minor calibrations to tune it in to subconscious activity.”

“So Sheppard is actually gonna see McKay's dreams?” Ronon asked curiously.

“Well, to be honest, the technology is untested for use in this manner,” Carter admitted. “Dreams are much more random than conscious thought. It may be difficult for the system to translate what's going on in McKay's brain so that Colonel Sheppard can understand it. I'm just hoping that the two of them will be able to interact somehow.”

“Yeah, they usually manage to do that ... somehow,” I quipped a bit nervously.

“John will be fine,” Teyla told me reassuringly.

“I hope so,” I muttered, watching Rodney and John getting themselves set to start.

“We're ready if you are,” Doctor Keller announced, getting the nod from both men. “Administering sedative.”

Jennifer activated the drip going into Rodney’s arm and he seemed to fall asleep almost immediately. Radek then turned on the device that was supposed to link John’s mind to Rodney’s.

“Nothing's happening here,” John said with a frown.

“He's not dreaming yet,” Jennifer told him. “Wait for it ...,”

A moment later John closed his eyes, giving every appearance that he was asleep too.

And that’s when the frustration started. Because we had no idea what was going on. Rodney was clearly having a nightmare, his body writhing and his expression tormented as he fought whatever was after him. John didn’t look scared like Rodney, but he too was obviously experiencing a fair level of stress within Rodney’s dream.

“This is insane,” I turned away from the window for a moment. But of course I had to turn back ... as if by my watching alone I could stop anything bad from happening to John. It went on for several minutes ... time during which we were in the dark about John’s progress in helping Rodney. I'd taken to pacing impatiently in front of the viewing window before any progress was made.

“Beeeeeeeeeeeeeep.”

The insistent monotonous tone of Rodney’s heart monitor announced that things had gotten beyond grim.

"Oh my God," I muttered sickly, watching the drama unfold around Rodney in stunned disbelief.

Switching my glance quickly to John, I didn't know whether to be relieved or not that he showed no visible reaction to Rodney’s plight. He was still asleep even though Rodney was no longer dreaming – surely that couldn’t be a good thing.

Doctor Keller moved into action immediately, bringing in the defibrillator and applying the paddles to Rodney’s chest. Radek meanwhile was using an airbag to breathe for Rodney, his eyes on the monitors the whole time.

“Stand clear,” Jennifer told Radek.

Radek lifted the airbag clear and waited as Jennifer shocked Rodney. They both looked at the heart rate monitor as it started to emit the sound of a heartbeat. Faster than I would have believed possible Rodney opened his eyes and looked around.

“Oh, it's OK, it's OK. Just try to relax,” Jennifer put a hand on his arm and reassured him.

“What's going on?” Rodney asked in confusion.

“You were in cardiac arrest,” Jennifer told him.

“The entity?” Rodney looked at Radek for the answer to that question.

Radek had been checking the readings on his laptop and now he looked at Rodney with a worried expression. “It's in Colonel Sheppard.”

“I’m going down there,” the words were out before I had time to think. I don’t know who I was directing them at, but Teyla was the one who stepped in front of me to stop my reckless flight down to the isolation room.

“It will not help John for you to put yourself in danger,” Teyla said firmly.

I turned back to the observation window uncertainly, looking down with a tormented kind of frustration eating at me. There must be something I could do. John was clearly struggling within his own dreams now, his expression grim and determined.

“His heart rate is dangerously high,” Doctor Keller told us.

“Can you wake him up?” Colonel Carter asked.

“I could try,” Keller said uncertainly, “but in his physical state, that could make things worse.”

“Yes, and the entity would still be in him,” Radek added that obvious point.

While they were talking around the issue I stood silently, arms folded into myself as I willed John to come out of it on his own. Instead his heart rate jumped again before settling into a faster beat. This time I didn’t announce my intention, rushing out the door and down to the isolation room before anyone could stop me.

I burst into the room just as Rodney sat up with his ‘I’ve worked it out’ expression firmly in place.

“Rodney?” I asked, ignoring the way Jennifer tried to stop me getting closer to John.

“You need to hook me up again,” Rodney announced. “I know how to convince it to leave John.”

No,” I said firmly. “Not two minutes ago you were flat lining! Tell me what to do and I’ll go in instead. ”

“Colonel Carter?” Jennifer looked up to the observation room for some kind of guidance on what to do next.

“You need to send someone who can convince John,” I said firmly, looking up at Sam insistently. “He’ll know it’s me.”

“Do it,” Colonel Carter ordered after a short pause for thought.

“I was thinking about why the entity left me,” Rodney explained as he was shifted out of the way so I could take his place with the device. “The only thing that makes sense is that Jennifer shocked me. The entity must be susceptible to electricity.”

“You’re suggesting we shock Colonel Sheppard?” Doctor Keller asked worriedly, hooking me up to so she could monitor me too. “That’s not exactly without risk Rodney.”

“I know,” Rodney said weakly. “I’m not suggesting you hit him with a full charge, just enough to convince the entity we mean business – so it’ll leave John and go back to its crystal.”

“Okay,” Jennifer looked at me expectantly. “You ready?”

“Yes,” I said firmly. “Send me in.”

oOo

It seemed that I closed my eyes for a second before opening them again. I appeared up the stairs looking down on the Gateroom. In front of me stood John ... and John. One was standing menacingly over the other, who was stretched out on the floor, leaning over an arm in exhaustion. I knew immediately which was which.

“Get up. Come on, John. FIGHT!” Alien John jeered.

“No,” my John taunted weakly. “That's what you want.”

“It's your fault Heightmeyer's dead,” Alien John taunted. “Your fault McKay is dead.”

“Rodney’s not dead,” I announced firmly as I walked down the stairs, understanding how the entity was weakening John, the dreams he must have already experienced. He was getting at my John through guilt ... trying to make him believe that somehow this really was all his fault.

It was kind of satisfying the way the alien John glared at me when he realised he no longer had the only ticket to influencing the real John. He stalked forwards, reaching out to grab me. I stepped back, and he advanced. John was trying to pull himself off the floor to help.

John, fighting sticks,” I called out urgently, spinning and ducking around the alien so I was now backing back towards my John again.

“What?” John asked in confusion.

“This is your dream,” I reminded him, keeping my eyes on the alien version. “You must have some level of control over the environment ... and I could really use an advantage here.”

Instantly I feel the comforting weight of the fighting sticks in my hands. Swinging them expertly I smiled at the alien John.

“That’s more like it,” I announced confidently.

“You can't win,” alien John said with certainty as he advanced again.

“Now that’s where you’re wrong,” I replied, stepping away from his intended hit and slamming my sticks across his back. The thought that I was hitting someone who looked almost exactly like John didn’t bother to me ... it didn’t even really occur to me because the real John was right there too. “Rodney worked it out,” I told my John. “He flat lined and Jennifer had to shock him. It’s vulnerable to electric shock – that’s why Rodney’s still alive.”

John was weakly standing on his feet now ... both of us looking on as electricity surged through the alien. That’s when the whole thing got a bit disturbing – watching a version of John writhing in agony while blue fire travelled over his body.

“What the hell was that?” John demanded when the electricity died away.

“Sorry,” I said weakly. “Jennifer had to use the defibrillator on you too ... not a full shock, just enough to get the message across.”

Alien John had fallen to his knees, weakened by the electricity. My John strode towards him angrily, grabbing his shirt and lifting him up to standing again. Then he spun the alien in a wide circle, doing a couple of revolutions before he had enough momentum to hurl the alien through the wormhole that had been shimmering in the Stargate the whole time.

“Nice work,” I complimented.

“Thanks,” John said weakly.

“I’ll see you back in the real world,” I added just before my eyes closed involuntarily. When I opened them again I was back on the bed in the isolation room, John in the bed beside me.

“Hey,” I greeted him with a smile.

“Hey yourself,” John returned. “Thanks for the assist.”

“You’re welcome,” I replied. “Thanks for not getting mad I took Rodney’s place.”

“Even I’m not unreasonable enough to give you grief over something you did in a dream,” John retorted.

“Good point,” I dropped my head back on the pillow, relieved to finally have gotten rid of John’s impersonator.

The side effects from John’s dream world were surprisingly few. Within a few minutes we were both up and back to normal, enough that John led the mission back to M3X-387 to return both crystal entities to their own planet. The day ended in the usual way and then it was time for bed.

oOo

“You asleep?” I asked in a low voice, just in case John actually had managed to fall asleep during the hour since we’d turned off the lights.

“No,” John admitted, turning to face me as he thought the lights on to low. “Not tired enough.”

“Me neither,” I agreed. “That alien is gone and it’s still ruining our sleep!”

“You did good against it,” John pulled me into the circle of his arms.

“It helped that it wasn’t my nightmare,” I pointed out. “The setting surprised me a bit ... I was expecting somewhere back on Earth I guess.”

“Things were happening here because of someone who looked like me,” John explained. “The entity was trying to use those feelings of responsibility against me. He had me convinced for just a few moments that Rodney really was dead. Before he couldn’t resist showing himself and I knew it was no longer Rodney's dream, that it was me stuck in a dream of my own.”

“What were you thinking when you realised I was there?” I asked curiously.

“It was pretty obvious up front that it wasn’t part of the dream,” John pointed out. “To be honest he’d kicked me around enough I was just glad to have some help. He did get to me ... otherwise he wouldn’t have been able to knock me down so easily.”

“I’m not so sure about that,” I countered. “I tried to get free in my dream but the alien seemed to have some control over what emotions I was feeling. You managed to change something minor to help me because it was focussed on your emotions, not mine.”

“I’m just glad I don’t have to worry about having a starring role in another nightmare,” John sighed sadly, “especially given what happened to Kate.”

“She knew it wasn’t you,” I offered that comfort, believing it to be true. “What happened to her makes it obvious it wasn’t just a need to feed off our feelings - those aliens are malevolent in a way I haven’t seen before.”

“Which is why we aren’t going anywhere near them again,” John promised.

“So was Rodney’s nightmare as bad as he made out?” I asked curiously. “Without telling me the specifics.”

“Not really,” John laughed. “He did have clowns though.”

“Definitely nightmare material,” I teased with a feigned shiver.

“And whales,” John added.

“Still?” I asked in surprise. “I thought he’d be over that after his experience with his buddy Sam back on Lantea.”

“Apparently not,” John replied. “Probably because Sam wasn’t really a whale.”

We lapsed into silence for a while, both of us still unable to settle.

“I’m not gonna be sleeping anytime soon,” John finally announced with a resigned sigh. He sat up, looking down at me with a raised brow. “Snack?”

“Why not,” I agreed, letting him pull me out of bed.

A few minutes later we were sitting at a balcony table in the Mess with a nice selection of nibbles in front of us. I was laughing at something John had said when a new voice joined us.

“Couldn't sleep,” Teyla explained by way of greeting.

“Us too,” John gestured for her to join us.

As she was pulling out a chair to sit down Rodney appeared with his own plate of food – considerably larger than ours of course.

“Thought I'd have a little snack before I ...,” he commented like it was an every night event for us to be in the Mess after midnight.

“Yeah, we couldn't sleep either,” John said just as casually.

It didn’t surprise me when Ronon arrived moments later, followed by Doctor Keller. We had an impromptu ‘we’re not sleeping’ party ... a rather fitting end to what had been a disturbing few days.

 


Chapter 21: That actually sounds like fun

 

“There’s a resupply mission heading to M58-099 tomorrow,” John told me at breakfast a couple of days later. The Mess Hall was busy as usual, the low hum of conversation lending as much privacy as anyone could expect in the open environment.

“Which one is that again?” I asked curiously.

“Doctor Mackenzie’s research station,” John clarified. “He’s studying the native tribe there. Apparently it’s a tropical paradise.”

“And you’re telling me this because?” I raised an eyebrow expectantly.

“Because someone has to take the mission,” John pointed out, smiling at me hopefully. “We never did the whole honeymoon thing – and no I’m not counting a few days in Vegas with the rest of my team present! I just thought it might be nice ... we could do the resupply, stay overnight, maybe find a nice spot to kick back for a few hours.”

“And Colonel Carter is happy for you to disappear for a couple of days when we only just got back from our last vacation?” I frowned, sure she'd have something to say about that.

“It’s a mission,” John insisted innocently, “just one with ... benefits.”

“And what’s my role on this mission then?” I knew there’d have to be one for John to get the okay for both of us to go.

“Jumper training,” John replied. “You really don’t have enough experience with space gates ... this planet’s got one so it's the perfect opportunity for you to complete the advanced Jumper flight training module run by your friendly instructor - me! ”

“That actually sounds like fun,” I smiled, starting to feel excited about the idea. “When do we leave?”

“Leave?” Rodney turned up at that point, sitting down and looking at John curiously. “Are you going somewhere?”

“Re-supply mission to M58-099,” John said casually. “Sabina’s gonna do some advanced Jumper training as well.”

“M58-099?” Rodney raised an eyebrow in surprise. “Isn’t that the planet where the natives are very ... friendly?”

“They need supplies and I shouldn’t ask the men to do something I wouldn’t do myself,” John said piously, trying to deny he had personal reasons for wanting to take the mission. “Things aren’t as busy now I’ve handed over everything to Colonel Carter so I’ve got time right now.”

“He hasn’t had time to get behind since he took back some duties from Major Lorne,” I joked, laughing when John sent a reproachful glare my way. “If I’m going off world tomorrow I better get organised.”

I left the two of them talking, knowing Rodney would be giving John hell for using a resupply mission for his own personal gain. I didn’t have a problem with that – there had to be some perks from being the wife of the military leader after all!

oOo

“Okay Sabina, take us through,” John ordered.

It was the end of a busy day where John had lived up to his description on what the mission would be. We’d delivered the supplies and helped Doctor Mackenzie organise them, and then headed back out in the Puddle Jumper. John had then taken me through a series of space manoeuvres, simulating things like approaching the Gate under attack and coping with various systems failures. Finally we were done and heading for the planet to join Mackenzie for dinner.

“That was cool,” I commented as I put us on approach back to the settlement. Glancing at John with a smile I couldn't resist asking "so, friendly instructor ... did I pass?"

“You did ... and I knew you’d have fun,” John smiled happily. “The good news is that all the official stuff is done.”

Once back on the planet Doctor Mackenzie welcomed us eagerly. He’d been on M58-099 for months now, most of that time alone with only the natives for company. Even for someone whose job it was to study that sort of thing, surely the chance to talk with your own people would be almost irresistible.

Dinner was a nice mix of foreign and Atlantis based cuisine served by natives who were as friendly and frankly uninhibited as Rodney had suggested. After the tenth native girl had paraded her ... assets past John I decided enough was enough.

“Thank you for dinner Doctor,” I stood up abruptly, grabbing John’s hand and urging him to get up too. “It’s been a long day though so we’ll be retiring now.” Not waiting for either of them to protest I turned and walked through the village towards the hut Mackenzie had allocated to us earlier. And no I didn’t drag John through the village – he tagged along all by himself. Maybe something in my tone warned him I’d had enough for one night!

“I didn’t realise you were so tired,” John said apologetically once we were finally alone.

“I’m not,” I admitted. “I just got sick of all the nubile young things flaunting themselves at you.”

“They weren’t flaunting themselves at me,” John protested. “They were just being really ... friendly.”

“They so were flaunting,” I countered. “Doctor Mackenzie even commented on it earlier – that I shouldn’t take offence if the natives openly disrespected that we’re married. They don’t understand the concept because apparently they don’t even have a word you could translate to mean marriage – it’s all everyone for everyone here.”

“Maybe I should have chosen somewhere else for this,” John admitted reluctantly.

“The opportunity was here,” I reminded him. “Who knows when something even remotely similar would have come up again? Besides this place really is a tropical paradise. I even like this nice little hut – it’s primitive and there’s no running water or power or bathroom facilities but it’s got its own kind of charm.”

“We’ll go exploring tomorrow,” John promised. “Check out the beaches, do some swimming. There should be plenty of time ... I think we can justify heading back late in the day.”

“Yeah, well don’t count on doing anything too early in the morning,” I advised, walking towards him slowly with clear intent. Putting my hands on his chest I pushed him back until the back of his legs hit the sleeping mattress. “I’ve got plans for you tonight.”

“Do tell,” John let himself fall to the bed at my push, raising an eyebrow when I arranged myself on top of him.

“Well, I thought I’d start with this,” I leaned down and kissed him with enough passion to get his complete attention. Breaking away I smiled at his expression – the one that said he was impatient for more but also wanted to see where I was going with this. “Then I was just gonna wing it.”

“Always works for me,” John quipped, flipping us over quickly so he could finish the kiss I’d started.

“Me too,” I muttered, happy to lose myself ... and yes my momentary fit of jealously ... in the seductive power of John Sheppard.

oOo

“Man I feel relaxed,” I commented from the co-pilot chair, watching lazily as John dialled the Gate so we could report that we were on our way home. “Who knew just one day on the beach would be so therapeutic?”

“Atlantis, this is Sheppard. We are on approach to the Gate,” John announced, grinning over at me.

“Acknowledged,” Rodney replied. “How was your little holiday?”

“It was great Rodney,” I answered for both of us. “Especially once the native girls finally got the message that John was already taken.”

“Tell me you didn’t have women throwing themselves at you on your own honeymoon,’ Rodney pleaded weakly. “That would be so like you Sheppard!”

“It wasn't a honeymoon McKay - it was a mission. And Sabina’s joking about that last part,” John insisted, turning to give me a ‘what did you do that for?’ look. “The natives were just very friendly and open with each other.”

“When’s the next supply run due?” Rodney quipped. “I can feel a block of free time coming on right now.”

“These missions aren’t for us to satisfy our own personal urges Rodney,” John said piously.

“Says the man who just took his wife on a two day jaunt for a mission that should have taken three hours,” Rodney muttered snidely.

Before John could come back with another taunt the Jumper suddenly shook as though we’d impacted something.

“What the hell?” John frowned in confusion.

“What is it?” Rodney demanded.

John called up the HUD, looking for more information. “I think somebody just took a shot at us. I've got a contact. They're closin' fast.”

“What is it, Wraith?” Rodney asked anxiously.

“It doesn’t look like it Rodney,” I answered, leaning in closer to the HUD to try and make sense of the readings. "From what I can tell, this isn't something we've come across before."

The Jumper was hit again, this time causing enough damage to affect the HUD display. It flickered off and on but we still had information about our attackers.

“Whatever they're shooting us with just shorted my systems,” John announced grimly. “I can't get weapons online.”

“More shots firing,” I announced, watching the radar as seconds later the Jumper was hit again. This time the effect was immediate. The HUD disappeared and then all the lights inside the Jumper went out, followed closely by the engines powering down. We would have been in complete darkness, save for the light being cast over us by the still open wormhole.

"You know John, I really didn't need a live demonstration to go with the training," I quipped, smiling weakly over my nerves.

“And I wasn't planning on giving you one," John retorted grimly. "Rodney?” John tried to see if the Gate connection was still working. “McKay?" The wormhole still shimmered but there was no response. "Atlantis, this is Sheppard. Do you read?”

“This isn’t good is it?” I asked as we both watched the front view screen in disbelief. Space outside the window was being replaced slowly by what looked like some kind of cargo hold ... a really huge cargo hold on what was obviously a space ship. I'd been right too - from our 'in your face' inspection the vessel was of a type we'd never come across before.

Moments later we’d been completely engulfed, neither of us missing that recognisable jolt of a ship going into hyperspace.

“No,” John confirmed grimly. “This is not good at all.”

 


Chapter 22: Just think at me and I'll try to pick you up.

 

“What should we do?” I looked to John for some kind of guidance ... some plan to get us out of this.

“We find a place for you to hide,” John announced, jumping up and moving into the back of the Jumper. “These seats are hollow – if we rip out all the supplies you should be able to fit.”

“I saw that movie too,” I protested. “But this isn’t the Millennium Falcon and we’re not smugglers!”

“They don’t know there are two of us on board,” John retorted insistently, rapidly shifting the Jumper’s food supplies from the in seat storage container and stacking them on top of the other seat. “We let them capture me, leaving you still free to hopefully fix communications in here and get a message back to Atlantis.”

“I’m not going to fit inside that,” I looked at the small space, now empty, distastefully. “Plus I don’t want to leave you to the mercies of these people when we don’t even know what they want with us! What if they hurt you before I get a chance to do anything?”

“They won’t hurt me,” John insisted. “If they wanted to kill us they wouldn’t have bothered to bring the Jumper into their hangar bay.”

“There’s a lot of distance between not killing you and not harming you at all,” I replied grimly. “I really don’t – “

“No time to argue,” John grabbed my arm and pulled me urgently towards my hiding spot. “Get in.”

“And what if I don’t want to?” I asked somewhat petulantly, digging my heels in stubbornly.

“This is one of those times when we’re not husband and wife,” John looked at me sternly, his eyes dark and his expression commanding. “This is one of those ‘I’m in charge and you will follow my orders’ times. Now get in the storage box Sabina – and make it quick because they’ll be here any minute and I still need to rearrange some of this gear.”

“Fine,” I grumbled, turning towards the now empty seat reluctantly. John put a hand on my upper arm, urging me along. “I’m going,” I protested.

“Go faster!” John ordered, helping me step over the edge and watching impatiently as I folded myself into the tight space.

“This isn’t as easy as it looks!” I snipped, struggling to get my legs completely inside the available space.

John knelt next to me, helping me position myself so he could close the seat lid over me. “I don't know how good the seal on this is, but there should be more than enough air for what we need. As soon as things quiet down, get out and see what you can do with the systems. Don’t leave the Jumper until you hear from me.”

“I’m not sure I can live up to that last part,” I admitted. “What if it’s been hours or worse days and you haven’t made contact? How long do you think I can hang around in here not knowing what’s happening to you?”

A loud clank from outside the ship announced that we were about to have company.

“Use your judgement,” John relented. “But no stupid risks.” Leaning down he pressed a hard almost frantic kiss on my lips.

"John - be careful!" I said urgently, as he closed the lid of the seat down over me.

It was pitch black inside the storage container. I really did feel like I imagine you would if you were locked inside a casket - except there’d be a lot more leg room than I currently had. I’d already previously discovered I didn’t like being in enclosed spaces ... or restrained ... so this rather unpleasant reminder of that was less than welcome.

The seal on the seat lid was just bad enough that I could still hear everything going on inside the Jumper. The sounds of John throwing things around was muffled but obvious. There was silence for a few moments before a loud intercom system kicked in.

“Lower the rear hatch and prepare to be boarded,” a stern voice commanded.

“And what if I don’t want to?” John’s voice sounded casual and unconcerned as he echoed my own words.

“Then we will blow the door instead, damaging your ship and perhaps yourself in the process,” came the responding threat.

“Well when you put it that way,” the sounds of John lowering the rear hatch were followed by the sounds of footsteps marching inside. “Hey – there’s no need for the three of you to be so rough!” John’s voice was protesting, but not in a way that suggested they were actually hurting him. He’d wanted me to start getting a count on the number of enemies on board.

There was scuffling, things dropping to the floor and then John’s voice again, this time sounding like he was being taken from the Jumper.

“What’s that guy doing with my ship – I need that for when you guys release me!”

Damn! One of the guys had been left behind. Now what was I going to do?

Footsteps retreated from the Jumper ... luckily John had found a way to tell me about the guard otherwise I would have exited my hiding spot none the wiser.

oOo

I had more luck coming my way – the guard left behind turned out not to be a guard at all, just someone to search the ship. He did a crappy job of it, shifting stuff around and making a huge racket but thankfully leaving the seats alone. His footsteps retreated audibly and after a few moments of worrying about my air running out I decided to take the risk and get out from my hiding spot. Pushing the seat up I almost fell out, scrambling quickly to my feet and taking the chance on using the manual release as John had, this time to close the rear hatch.

And then I slumped into the pilots seat, looking out the front view screen into a very large hangar bay. From what I could tell our Puddle Jumper was the only thing inside it. Sighing dejectedly, I settled in for a long wait.

The Jumper had ended up close to the internal doors ... when I realised an hour or so later that they were opening I quickly ducked below the control console. I couldn’t take the risk of peeking either because the slope of the front window meant anyone looking my way would catch sight of me.

"Hey!," John's protest was just audible from inside the jumper. I so wanted to see him, make sure he was okay, but I couldn't risk it, assuming he wasn't alone.

"Sheppard, can you hear me?" A woman's voice, louder over the communications system called out.

"D'you mind telling me what you're doing?" John replied.

"Offering you a deal," the woman said in a faintly amused voice.

I felt the ship shake slightly followed quickly by more protests from John.

"This is just not right!" he shouted, his voice tinged with real dismay.

I couldn't help myself ... before I'd even thought about it I was poking my head up over the front console and looking out into the hangar bay. The sight that greeted me had me stunned ... however had captured us had John literally standing on the hanger bay force shield, the doors fully retracted from under both him and the Puddle Jumper I was sitting in. The black of space glared up at me, stars twinkling weirdly behind the shield's fluctuations.

John caught a glimpse of me watching and made a discrete motion with his hand - a clear signal for me to get back out of sight. Reluctantly I did, forced to fill in the visual with the conversation I could still hear.

"Don't worry," the woman told John lightly. "You're safe as long as the force shield doesn't malfunction, and that almost never happens."

"Why are you doing this?" John demanded.

"You wanted to know what this is all about," Larrin returned. "Look beneath you. I'm assuming you recognise the technology? It's a Lantean battleship. It's been dormant for thousands of years, and you're gonna help me get it operational again."

A Lantean ship? These people had an Ancient ship ... the reason for John's capture all to clear now. They needed a gene holder to operate it and us being at that space gate with our Ancient Puddle Jumper fully functional had been an advert that said 'ancient gene holder here!'

"I am?" John quipped in response to the womans statement. "Forgive me for saying this but your abandoned ship isn't looking it's best. Just having the Ancient gene isn't gonna be enough to make her fly."

"You better hope it is Sheppard," the woman said grimly, the threat implied. If John didn't help she was fully prepared to punish him ... or worse. "First up, you're going to fly us over there."

The ship shook again, this time with the closing of the hangar bay doors. Realising I only had moments to get back into my hiding spot, I scrambled quickly into the back of the Jumper, throwing myself into the storage unit and carefully lowering the seat back down just before the rear hatch opened.

“Even if I can power up the ship what makes you think I’m gonna fly you over there willingly?” John was asking as he and our captors walked into the back section.

“Because I’ll have this gun to your head the whole time,” a woman’s voice answered.

“Yeah but if you shoot me this ship will be dead in the water,” John pointed out smugly. “Plus you won’t have my help with your little Ancient warship project.”

“I never said I’d shoot you ... nowhere that counts anyway,” the woman laughed mockingly. “Plus you’ve already had a taste of how persuasive Nevik and Silas can be. I assure you they’ll be able to gain your cooperation while still leaving those valuable genes of yours in full working order.”

“Then I guess I’ll have to cooperate ... for now,” John replied.

“Nevik, help Colonel Sheppard return power,” the woman ordered. “Silas and I will be right here ... just to make sure he doesn’t try anything stupid.” I felt the weight settle on the seat above me ... crap! Suddenly being stuck in there rather than hiding voluntarily raised a whole host of additional fears and phobias.

Trying to distract myself I thought about our current situation. If I had the numbers right there were three people on board along with John and I. We didn't know the situation on the Ancient ship but for right now the odds weren't looking that bad.

It took a while – enough that the atmosphere inside my hiding space got hot and thick – not literally but that’s how it felt as I tried to take in deep breaths and found only shallow ones were possible. I was starting to drift a little when the unmistakable motion of the Jumper lifting off finally registered. Minutes later we’d reached our destination. John slammed the Jumper down on the Jumper Bay floor much harder than usual, probably making sure I was aware we’d arrived.

“Sorry,” he quipped unapologetically, the sounds of scuffling making me smile when I realised he’d jostled his passengers too.

“Open the door,” the woman commanded angrily. The rear hatch opened and footsteps stomped from the ship. “Silas, Nevik – bring him!”

“Is it just gonna be us or do you have buddies here?” John asked. He didn’t get a response of course but this time I knew I was alone and it would be safe to come out straight away.

I waited a few more moments before pushing up on the seat lid, crawling out of the space and falling weakly onto the floor. Breathing deeply for some time I felt my muscles shaking and my extremities tingling as full feeling returned. Dragging myself up onto all fours I crawled into the front section and looked cautiously up over the console into the hangar bay. John had parked the Jumper near the edge of the Bay, close to a set of stairs leading up one level to a door. There was no one around to observe my movements so I pulled myself into the pilots chair and slouched back in relief.

John still needed help though so once I was feeling semi normal again I tried to initialise the Jumper communication systems. They didn’t work – no surprises there since the last hit we’d taken had shorted something before the power cut out. I wasn’t Rodney or Radek to start accessing the systems directly but I might be able to pinpoint the problem with a bit of help from my laptop which luckily had more than just the standard stuff loaded.

Hooking it up I called Rodney’s diagnostic program and set it to work. Five minutes later I had my answer and it wasn’t a good one. One of the main control crystals had been fried beyond repair and because it was a main control I couldn’t just rip something from somewhere else and swap it in. I needed a new one.

Sitting in the pilots chair I gazed sightlessly out the front window thinking about my options. And that’s when it hit me. The answer was literally staring me in the face. I was on an Ancient ship ... one brimming with probably dozens of exactly the crystals I needed. All I had to do was sneak out, find one, sneak back and install it. Then I could contact Atlantis and get a rescue crew on its way.

John had said use my judgement – we needed help and we couldn’t get it without contacting Atlantis. And to do that we needed an operational communications system. My judgement said leave the Jumper and go find spare parts. So I did, armed with a 9mm plus ammo, a flashlight, and my laptop.

oOo

Getting out of the Jumper Bay had been easy, as had sneaking my way closer to Engineering. The ships layout was familiar from my time on the Aurora and the Orion as well as my subsequent study of their systems. The crystal I needed was most likely to be available in one of the engineering systems ... only trouble was if John was helping them then that’d be one of the places he might be doing it from.

Stopping at the edge of Engineering I peeked quickly around the corner to see if the coast was clear before rushing inside. The ship felt deserted ... from all appearances it was although I knew John and his captors were somewhere on board. Had that woman brought John over here with just two guards for company? The odds were starting to swing more our way, especially since she didn't know John had back up.

Kneeling in front of the main console I pulled off the access panel and checked the inside. Lots of crystal components but none the one I wanted. Moving on to the next console I repeated the process. I was on to panel five when the ship lurched suddenly forward throwing me into the hard metal console ... painfully.

"Ow!" I put a hand to my head, pulling it back and finding a smear of blood. The ship felt like it was in motion. Pulling myself back to standing I called up the HUD and confirmed that yes we'd entered hyperspace. That put a crimp in my plan because I wouldn't be able to use the Jumper communication systems while we were in hyperspace. I really needed to talk to John but at the same time I didn't want to alert the others to my presence. And that's when I had a flash of inspiration.

I was on an Ancient ship ... one with systems much like those on Atlantis, just on a smaller scale. Caritas had shown me how to use the internal communications on Atlantis for direct person to person mental communication and I'd even done a successful test with General O'Neill. Surely I'd be able to do at least as well trying to communicate with John?

Making the mental connection to the systems was easy - they were exactly the same as Atlantis. Finding John was easy too - his familiar 'feel' jumping out at me as if to say 'here I am!'.

"John?" I thought, focussing tight on getting through to him. "Can you hear me?"

There was mental silence – apart from all my own thoughts whizzing through my head of course! Then I realised even if he could hear me he might not be able to get me to hear him in return.

"Ah ... you need to make a mental connection to the ships systems like you would on the Jumper," I explained. "Just think at me and I'll try to pick you up."

"Sabina?" the mental response was faint but I did receive it, my face breaking into a huge smile when I recognised John's voice - even his mental one.

"Hey! I am so glad to hear you," I thought back happily. "I can just barely make out what you’re thinking though so you might want to yell next time. Ah ... what's your status?"

"I'm in control of the ship," John announced, his mental voice brimming with satisfaction. "For the moment anyway. The person in charge - Larrin - is bad tempered and not above using any means to get what she wants."

"Are you hurt?" I asked quickly.

"A few bruises," John replied, admitting to only a small set of what I suspected were his full injuries. "Where are you?"

"I'm in engineering looking for replacement parts for the Jumper," I thought back. "But now that we're in hyperspace I didn't know whether to continue with fixing the communication systems or focus on something else."

"You need to minimise your movements just to the key areas,” John said urgently. “It’s no accident this ship has been drifting for 10,000 years – we’ve got a serious radiation problem and they’ve only set up shield emitters to protect certain parts of ship.”

Engineering should be one of them,” I assured him.

Larrin is gonna do something to take this ship back," John told me. "I've tried to anticipate what but ... grab the parts you need and head back to the Jumper as soon as you can."

"Can't I come help you instead?" I pleaded.

"You're still the ace up my sleeve," John announced. "Larrin doesn't even suspect I wasn't alone. Can this communication thing work even if I'm not sitting in the captain’s chair?"

"It'll be harder for you to make a deliberate connection," I explained. "But now that you know how to do it, and you know what my signal feels like inside the system you might be able to make it work. At the very least if you think something hard enough and I'm listening I should be able to pick you up."

"Okay," John was silent for a minute, clearly thinking about our options. "Fix Jumper communications first because we might need that to create an escape route," he decided. "Then listen for my orders ... I'm not sure what's gonna happen next and I might need you to act quickly."

"All right," I turned back to the consoles, continuing with my search for the right parts. "Who are these people anyway?"

"Travellers," John replied. "They live on spaceships - only go to planets when they need supplies. I’m guessing they need this ship to expand their population."

"And they need you to operate it and initiate the systems because they don't have the gene," I concluded.

"Yeah which is why ... hang on a minute," John cut off his thoughts abruptly. I looked inside the next panel, breathing out a sigh of relief when I finally found what I was looking for. Quickly rerouting the connections around the parts I wanted I pulled and pocketed them, standing as I waited to hear back from John.

"I've gotta hand back control," John's voice was angry and frustrated. "She's flooding the Bridge with that lethal radiation - I have no idea whether that includes any other sections of the ship."

"I've got the parts and I'm on my way back to the Jumper," I reported, finally moving again. "Are you okay?"

"Larrin just turned up," John's voice held a wince of pain. "She's revived her goons. Ah crap - can't talk now."

And then there was silence and I knew they were punishing John for his attempts to take over the ship. Enough that he couldn't maintain his concentration sufficiently to talk to me.

I was still cautious but I practically ran all the way back to the Jumper, tense and driven to get it fixed so I could help John. It didn't take long because it was a simple matter of replacing the burnt out crystals – hardly the most complex task on Ancient tech I’d ever done. I brought the systems on line just long enough to confirm the Jumper communications were working again before powering it all down.

"John?" I thought. "I hope to God you're okay. Listen the Jumper's fixed so we can call for help or even just fly out of here ... as soon as you come up with a plan."

There was no response so I just kept thinking at him, hoping he was conscious and getting some of it.

"I don't want to put the pressure all on you but since you've met our hosts and I haven't you're in the hot seat."

Still no response and I was starting to get anxious and worried ... please don't let him be hurt because then it really would be all up to me to get us out of this. I'd never been in that position before and I really, really didn't want to go there ... ever.

"John?” Still nothing. “Okay I don't want to worry you here but I'm really starting to panic now. Enough that I'm thinking up plans of my own and you know how that usually works out ... get that impressive brain of yours into gear and think me something ... anything ... or I swear it's Sabina Plan time!"

"You think my brain's impressive?" John's thought was faint and messy but I was concentrating really hard on picking him up so I did get it.

"Oh thank God!" I thought back happily. "Are you ... you know, okay?"

"They weren't very happy with my flying skills," John quipped, seeming to gain strength as he adapted to using the systems to talk to me. "I'm in the Brig right now expecting another visit from our scary host lady."

"Have you got a plan?" I asked hesitantly.

"Already in place," John thought confidently. "I shut down navigation and propulsion and ah ... tweaked the subspace communications systems. They thought those were broken but there was just enough there for a Morse code signal. We're currently broadcasting SOS through subspace."

"And Atlantis will pick that up?" I frowned. "Even if they're not actively listening to this part of space?"

"They should," John agreed. "The long range sensors actively look for artificial patterns - this should qualify."

"Smart," I complimented. "And there I was just joking with that impressive brain comment."

"Nice," John's mental voice held amusement before he got serious again. "Someone's coming - stand by."

 


Chapter 23: Again with the waiting!

 

Have I ever mentioned that I hate waiting? Three years on Atlantis hadn't cured me of that, in fact I think I'd gotten worse because now I was expected to wait in circumstances when John was in danger or worse. So I really, really hated waiting to hear back on how John's latest meeting with Larrin was going.

Okay, she’s gone,” John’s thoughts came back to me, much stronger than before. He was really getting the hang of this tapping into communications thing.

Did she ...,” I began.

Nah – didn’t lay a finger on me ... yet,” John reassured me. “They’re checking the subspace communications so it’s only a matter of time before they work out what I did. Hopefully Atlantis will send a Jumper here before they work out how to turn it off.

So I’m still just sitting here, doing nothing?” I was frustrated that I’d spent the whole time hiding while John had been directly in the firing line.

Not nothing!” John retorted. “The Jumper’s fixed so that gives us an extra option if Atlantis doesn’t get the signal.

And how will we even know that?” I demanded.

I don’t know,” John protested. “I’m making this up as I go along!

Well ... Han,” I thought somewhat sarcastically. “Could you make up a role for me that involves some actual action?

Oops, Larrin’s back,” John thought back quickly. “And she looks pissed.”

This time I felt John’s pain before he disconnected from communications. That bitch had hit him ... and being John I didn’t think he’d be returning the favour even though he probably could. The whole 'never hit a woman' thing really shouldn't have applied right then.

Moments later John sent me one quick blasted word of thought. “Wraith!

I didn’t need more because I knew what that meant. The Wraith had picked up the subspace SOS as well ... and decided to come check it out. The ship shook with weapons fire seconds later ... they were here and John was still trapped in a cell with an angry Larrin. And I was pacing around the Puddle Jumper feeling useless and impatient.

Okay, I’ve got Larrin’s agreement to work together,” John thought moments later. “I’m headed for the Weapons Control Platform. Stay where you are for now.

You’re trusting her?” I asked in amazement.

Hell no!” John retorted. “Once I’ve destroyed the Wraith cruiser I’m gonna take back control of the ship.

“Of course you are,” I muttered under my breath. “How many hits did you let her get in? And don’t pretend you tried to fight back because we both know you’d never hit a woman, even one as twisted as Larrin.

Three,” John admitted reluctantly.

So on top of the ones you’ve already taken I’m guessing you’re more than a little sore right now,” I said grimly. “I am so gonna kick her arse when I get the chance.

The ship shook again before John could respond.

Damn it!” John cursed angrily. “That last shot took out the chair.”

Reroute the power,” I told him urgently.

Do I know how to do that?” John grumbled.

Yes,” I thought at him impatiently. “Just tell me what you’re gonna do and I’ll help make sure you’ve got it right.

John pulled off the cover on the back of the chair and thought a description of the crystals to me ... together we worked out which ones were needed for rerouting and John got down to the business of moving as quickly as possible.

Okay, I’ve got power,” John announced.

The shields had been holding for the first few hits but eventually they must have fallen because the next shot rattled things big time and even from inside the Jumper I could feel that we were listing in space. And then the shots stopped abruptly, which I hoped was good news for us.

“Sabina?” John’s voice rang out into the Jumper Bay.

“John?” I spoke aloud in puzzlement.

“I’ve activated the ships intercom,” John explained. “The Wraith ship is destroyed but we took heavy damage. The Bridge is toast which means it’s now two to one odds in our favour.”

“Do you want me to come to you?” I asked hopefully.

“Can you just stay put for a bit longer?” John asked. “I need to see if Larrin is still onside but I’m not hanging around here to find out.”

Fine,” I replied impatiently.

I’d been pacing around outside the Jumper but now I threw myself down on one of the seats in the back, closing my eyes and hoping this latest ‘adventure’ was close to being finished.

The familiar, slimy feeling washed over my mind suddenly.

“John,” I said urgently, grabbing one of the P90’s and making sure it was fully loaded. “There are Wraith on board.”

“Crap!” John retorted. “They must have flown a Dart out before I destroyed their ship.”

“No one came through here,” I said with a puzzled frown.

“That’s because there’s a second flight Bay,” John said grimly. “I’m in the auxiliary control room - I’ve got Larrin locked in at the Weapons Control Platform but she’s trying to blast her way out. Let me just scan the ship for life signs.” There was a pause and then John continued. “Okay I’m reading four life signs in addition to ours, one close to Larrin’s position.”

John left the channel open so I could hear what was happening.

“Larrin, where are you going?” John quizzed her with casual curiosity.

“To check on Silas and Nevik,” Larrin replied grimly.

“They’re gone,” John said apologetically. “I scanned the ship and picked up four life signs – none of them on the Bridge. There are Wraith on board.”

“When I catch up with you ...” Larrin threatened angrily.

“Larrin - Stop!” John ordered. “I’m picking up a life sign directly in front of you.”

“Silas!” Larrin said hopefully.

“There’s no way he could have gotten from the Bridge down to you,” John countered. There was no reply from Larrin and I could hear the angry frustration in John’s voice when he spoke to me again. “I’m gonna have to go after her, see she doesn’t get herself killed.”

“Be careful,” I said softly, knowing there was nothing I could do to change his mind. He’d want to save anyone from the Wraith, even the vicious woman who’d kidnapped us!

oOo

Again with the waiting! I was getting royally sick of the whole thing and was just about to tell John so when he contacted me.

Sabina,” his thoughts came through like he was whispering them even inside his own head.

You okay?” I thought back.

Apart from being stuck in a storage cupboard with our lead kidnapper, yeah,” John replied impatiently. “We’re pinned down here so I need you to go to Auxiliary Control and shut down the consoles. I’ve got all three remaining Wraith fixed near our position so if you’re quick you should be able to get there without risking running into one of them.

On my way,” I replied, jumping up and sprinting from the Jumper Bay. Auxiliary control wasn’t that far from Engineering so I already knew the way. I’d taken a scanner from the Jumper as well and used it to make sure John was right that no Wraith were anywhere near where I needed to be. In short order I’d shut down the consoles ... it didn’t defeat the Wraith already on board but it did ensure they couldn’t run off with the ship ... and us.

Done,” I thought back to John. “Now what?

Larrin’s got a plan,” John quickly filled me in on the plan to lure the remaining three Wraith towards an exterior part of the ship so John could fire a drone there.

That sounds a bit risky,” I frowned, thinking about how to improve our odds. “I could take over the chair operation leaving you clear to cover Larrin – make sure all the Wraith are following her.

I don’t want to give away the fact that you’re here,” John protested.

You won’t have to,” I insisted. “As far as she’s concerned it’ll be you in the chair.”

Okay – do it,” John decided. “I’ll tell you when.”

I’m in position,” I reported to John once I’d made it to the Weapons Control Platform. “Nice hole in the door!

Larrin didn’t make a very patient prisoner,” John thought. “Now sit tight and wait until I tell you to fire.”

Yes Sir,” I thought back with a grin.

oOo

Now Sabina!” John ordered mentally.

I’d been tracking the life signs and knew exactly where to fire my drones. It was satisfying to hit the target dead on and watch those life signs blink out.

Except one of them didn’t. I had two life signs on that position instead of the one I’d been hoping for.

John - there’s still one Wraith on board,” I reported grimly.

Watching the blips on the screen I saw the two signs converge and then one weaken before a third life sign – John – arrived. All three life signs were centred in the one place, too close for me to even guess what was going on. And then one of the blips moved off down the corridor. I watched as it moved to the second flight Bay ... registering the presence of the Wraith Dart moments before it left the ship.

That just left the two life signs belonging to John and Larrin. John didn’t contact me to tell me the coast was clear ... so something was still wrong. I didn’t stop to consider whether I should go down there or not – my feet were moving before I’d even consciously thought about it.

I ran from the Chair room and through the ship towards them, only slowing down when I got close enough for them to potentially hear me. John and the woman were standing in the middle of the corridor talking as I crept slowly nearer. What I saw had my blood boiling within seconds ... of course Larrin was pretty - they always were! And she was decked out in leather, complete with a skin tight bustier that left little to the imagination. But what really irked was the fact that she was standing way too close to John ... clearly trying to use her attributes for no good purpose. John saw my approach but gave nothing away in his expression.

When Larrin reached behind John, presumably going for the weapon he had stashed there I decided enough was enough.

“Step away from him,” I ordered grimly, quickly traversing the remaining few steps distance and putting the point of my P90 to the back of Larrin’s head. She tensed up immediately, turning slowly to see the threat.

“Hi honey - what took you so long?” John quipped with a relieved smile.

“Had to make sure that Wraith really did leave,” I replied like I held a P90 to someone's head every day.

Honey?” Larrin demanded angrily.

“Oh – didn’t I tell you my wife was on board?” John was taking too much delight in having pulled one over on Larrin.

No - you didn’t,” Larrin retorted grimly.

“You might want to think about doing a more thorough search when you kidnap a strange ship,” I told her casually. “That was pretty sloppy for a space pirate.”

“I’m not a pirate!” Larrin seemed to take offence to that one.

“And yet you took us against our will and from the looks of John’s face inflicted a fair amount of physical force to get what you wanted,” my tone was grim and angry now too as I pressed the muzzle into her head ... forcefully.

I wasn’t all that surprised when Larrin suddenly slammed a hand up into mine, sending the P90 clattering before trying to ram her elbow into my gut. John moved as if to intercept but I was having none of that.

No!” I practically snarled at him while avoiding the attempted gut punch. “This is between me and her.” Turning to face Larrin in a fight ready stance I added “and let me promise you this won’t be as easy with someone who actually will hit back!”

What followed was I hoped a lesson for her in why it wasn’t a good idea to get between a husband and his wife. Not that she’d known John had a wife who was actually on board but I didn’t think she’d have done anything different if she had known – apart from trying to use me as well.

Larrin was very aggressive, hitting out with fast jabs and kicks. But she was also unfocused and undisciplined which made it easy for me to counter every advance. When I sensed her frustration was at its peak I quickly disabused her of the notion that I was weak in any way, taking probably too much delight in slamming my fist into her face ... more than once. When she was down and not getting up again I knelt down beside her.

“If you ever hit my husband again I won’t stop there,” I promised in a quiet almost pleasant voice. Standing up I looked down at her as she pulled herself slowly to her feet, visible bruises already appearing across one cheek. I shouldn't have taken delight in that ... it was petty, and yet ... I did. “You might want to reconsider using force as your first choice for contact too," I suggested helpfully.

“I told her that wasn’t a good way to open relations between our people,” John moved over to my side, now in possession of my discarded P90. Pointing it at Larrin he motioned for her to get moving. “Our people should be here soon so for now we’re all just gonna chill out and wait for them.”

“You were happy to help me because you thought your ships would get here first,” Larrin commented, touching a hand to her mouth and frowning when it came away bloody. I should have known something was about to happen - Larrin was too smug for someone who’d been beaten and lost the game. “You thought wrong," she quipped.

The stun blasts hit us from behind, dropping us to the floor instantly.

oOo

We woke up in the Brig, stretched out on a bunk each.

“Her ships got here first?” I asked, rubbing my face and grimacing at the stunner headache I’d acquired.

“They must have boarded just after the Wraith left,” John suggested. “Bastards snuck up behind us!”

“Not exactly polite,” I agreed. “I don’t suppose you have another plan by any chance?”

Larrin chose that moment to arrive, deactivating the force field and walking into our cell.

“I thought you'd be glad to know the hyperdrive repairs are almost complete,” she said with a please smile.

“Well, congratulations. You got what you wanted,” John replied with a bland expression.

“Yes, it's true I can fly the ship and navigate, but there are still dozens of systems I don't have access to – and if any of the controls went down, it would be a problem.” Larrin explained.

“So finish the adaptor,” John said impatiently. “You said you can reverse-engineer the systems I've already initialised.”

“Well, yes, we can eventually, but it would go a lot faster if I keep you both on board,” Larrin said with a distinct lack of guilt.

“You are a piece of work, you know that?” John said angrily.

“Look, I know you don't agree with my tactics, but I wasn't lying about why I need this ship. I'm doing this for my people,” Larrin explained.

“You don’t need both of us,” John insisted. “Let Sabina take our ship back home.”

“Nice try,” Larrin smiled in amusement. “While you were unconscious we took the liberty of testing her blood as well. What a surprise to find she had the gene too. The work will go much faster with both of you helping us.” She turned and left the cell. John tried to follow but the force field came back on behind her.

“Look, I know you think you're helping your people but you're wrong,” John called after her.

“Excuse me?” Larrin raised an eyebrow in disbelief that he’d even comment on her people.

“You've been running and hiding for thousands of years,” John said insistently. “You've survived – good for you – but now you're starting to see diminishing returns. One more ship – well, it'll buy you a little more time, but ultimately it's not gonna change anything. Your people are headed for a slow death.”

“What other choice do we have?” Larrin demanded impatiently.

“In case you haven't heard – you will soon enough – but the Wraith are under attack,” John shared that intel after a moment’s pause.

“From who?” Larrin asked.

“It's a long story,” John prevaricated, “but the point is, they're taking heavy damage and if they don't get wiped out, they're gonna be vulnerable. Now, your people have hyperdrives and advanced weapons and God knows what else. When the time is right, that kind of technology can tip the balance.”

“Are you suggesting an alliance?” Larrin asked in amazement. “After all I've put you through?”

“Well, like you said, you did it for your people,” John excused.

“And there are some things bigger than just us,” I added simply.

“I may have misjudged you after all,” Larrin said with a thoughtful frown. Without another word she turned and left us.

“Do you think that had an impact?” I asked hopefully.

“We’ll find out soon enough,” John replied. “Sorry this trip ended so badly.”

“Not your fault,” I sat down on the bunk, pulling John down beside me. “And just think of the story we can tell our grandkids now!”

oOo

A couple of hours later Larrin returned, lowering the force field and motioning us to follow her. The intervening time had been slow ... the only upside the fact that I'd taken the time to assure myself that none of the damage Larrin had inflicted on John was serious. He'd be sore for a couple of days but knowing him, that wouldn't even slow him down.

“I spoke to our governing council and they agree you’re more valuable as possible allies,” Larrin explained. “You’re free to go.”

“You don’t want to formalise an alliance?” John asked curiously.

“It’s not our way,” Larrin replied. “We’ll contact you if we need to draw on that in the future.”

“Fine,” John agreed. We arrived at the Jumper Bay and Larrin escorted us to our Jumper. “I won’t say it’s been a pleasure but ... perhaps we’ll be able to help each other out again in the future.”

“Perhaps,” Larrin agreed.

John didn’t waste any time once we were ready to head out, flying quickly from the ship and getting us a good distance away. A hyperspace window opened and the Travellers Ancient ship disappeared inside.

“What now?” I finally felt able to relax for the first time in a couple of days.

“Now we fly to the nearest space gate and back to Atlantis,” John said confidently.

“Colonel Sheppard, this is Major Lorne. Is that you?”

“That's affirmative, Major. It's good to hear from you,” John looked over at me with a grin.

“Likewise, sir! Seemed like we came pretty close to losing you there,” Lorne replied. “I assume Sabina’s with you?”

“We’re both here Major,” John shook his head ruefully, “and you don't know the half of it.”

“We’ll look forward to hearing the story once we make it back to Atlantis Sir,” Lorne’s voice held a genuine smile.

“Let’s head home then,” John ordered, pointing us towards the space gate ... five hours away.

“I’m just gonna stretch out back here,” I said tiredly.

“I’ll wake you when we get there,” John promised.

oOo

“Do you think these Travellers will become true allies?” Teyla asked after John had finished recounting the entire story to his team and Major Lorne once we were cleared back on Atlantis and sitting around a large table in the Mess.

“To be honest no,” John admitted. “They needed help with that ship and yet their first instinct was to take it rather than ask for it.”

“Larrin was pretty damn ruthless about it too,” I added, still feeling a twinge of resentment over her treatment of John. “When she wasn’t trying to use her charms to get what she wanted of course.”

“Oh don’t tell me,” Rodney said sickly. “She was hot wasn’t she?”

“I didn’t notice,” John said insistently.

“She was,” Rodney concluded. “Why is it that when I get captured it’s always the Wraith? Why couldn’t I just once get the sexy alien? You didn't even need it – you’ve already got a wife!”

“And you’ve got a girlfriend,” I reminded Rodney sternly. “Evan should be the one wanting to get kidnapped by a good looking alien.”

“That’s not what ... I wasn’t ...,” Rodney stuttered.

“Give it up McKay,” John advised, “before you dig yourself a bigger hole.”

“You never said anything about your honeymoon,” Evan ignored my comment about his single status, changing the subject and earning our grateful looks.

“It wasn’t a honeymoon – it was a mission,” John’s lips twitched as he tried to hide a smile.

“We had a great time,” I answered, not bothering to pretend I wasn’t aware everyone had been calling it our honeymoon the whole time we’d been gone. “I could have done without the protracted ending of course but I did get in a few hits before Larrin’s ships arrived and I called her a space pirate so it wasn’t all bad.”

“You’re just charming your way across the galaxy aren’t you?” Evan laughed when I looked faintly insulted by that.

“She started it,” I said without remorse.

“And she’s still out there,” John reminded us.

“Well if there is a next time maybe she’ll have learnt from this one,” I concluded hopefully.

"I doubt it," John returned, "but we can hope."

On to Part Four