Actions

Work Header

Secrets

Chapter Text

 

 


PROLOGUE

When I was kid, I’d always have these dreams. The kind that, when you woke up, you were only left with a vague impression of what you’d experienced. Sometimes it was the usual kid dreams: I was flying (a pretty common one actually) or a superhero, the odd nightmare here and there. Those are the ones I remembered.

There were other dreams that didn’t linger long. Sometimes I was someone else, though exactly who always escaped me. I would live events in their lives; watching through their eyes. I get the feeling it was always something important.

Sometimes I’d be flying, but these weren’t like the other flying dreams. I wasn’t flying over land or houses or streets. In these dreams, I was flying over ocean. Glittering clear ocean water; waves crashing against a blurry, gray structure. Sometimes I was flying amid sparkling towers, the kind you saw in science fiction; what buildings of the distant future might look like.

But these dreams would be forgotten as soon as I opened my eyes, and sometimes (on the rare occasion I remembered) I’d tell my mom about them. She would smile and say: It was just a dream, John. Dad had only heard of the dreams once or twice before I figured out he wasn’t interested in hearing them.

Eventually though, the dreams stopped, and I stopped mentioning them altogether. I grew up. Dreams of science fiction towers on an ocean was kids stuff. Ten, fifteen, by the time I was eighteen, I’d forgotten the dreams. College, the Air Force, Iraq, Afghanistan, Antarctica, Pegasus - there were more important things than the forgotten dreams of a child.

It wasn’t until I’d been living in another galaxy for two years that I figured it out.
I’d started to remember the dreams: the ocean, the towers, the flying.

And I found out… they weren’t just dreams.

Chapter Text

ACT 1
"In all secrets there is a kind of guilt, however beautiful or joyful they may be, or for what good end they may be set to serve. Secrecy means evasion and evasion means a problem to the moral kind."

– Gilbert Parker


CHAPTER I

John Sheppard put a fist to his face as he stifled a yawn. Even though years of military service had forced him to be an early riser, he did not favor early mornings. Oh, sure, he could fake cheerfulness (usually after several strong cups of coffee) but that was normally only to annoy anyone who, like him, was not a morning person.

For example: Rodney McKay.

John suspected that McKay was not a ‘morning person’ only because he kept odd hours, and was always working when he should probably be sleeping.

He held back another yawn, or tried to. This morning was different. Actually, the last few days had been off. He’d been having headaches, and though they were more annoying than anything, he was exhausted. And no matter how much sleep he seemed to get, it was never enough. He let his P90 hang by its sling as he rubbed his face with both hands, trying in vain to will the persistent dull ache away.

Doctor Beckett had only cleared him for this milk run with the promise of taking the rest of the day off. John agreed, took the meds for his headache, and left to get geared up. The meds either didn’t do much, or hadn’t kicked in yet, but he could push through this. He’d been through worse; a little headache was nothing compared to a bullet or stab wound.

He liked this job, and thoroughly enjoyed this posting. Even with the funky life-sucking aliens bent on devouring the human population; he liked it here. He felt like he belonged, much more than he’d ever felt on Earth.

A small part of him wished that travel to and from Earth was easy - quick. But travel on the Daedalus took three weeks. Three weeks there, maybe two weeks of leave, and three weeks back…. It was too much time to be away. Besides, he didn’t have anyone on Earth who would want to see him .

No matter how much a part of him wanted to see them .

He squashed that line of thought quickly, and pushed it to the very back of his mind. Along with the bitterness (regret) and the dozen other emotions that came with it. They had no place here, and no place in the upcoming mission.

Besides… he’d burned his bridges and wasn’t confident they could be rebuilt anyway.

As he neared the Gateroom, he could already hear Rodney trying to convince Ronon why he should be excited for this mission. John didn’t get the impression that Ronon was a morning person by choice either. Teyla was most level headed of the team, and there had only been a few times in the last two years he’d caught her being anything but amicable.

He saw his team and Dr. Weir waiting in the shadow of the Stargate as he entered the Gateroom. Rodney was uncharacteristically cheerful this morning and he gave John a megawatt smile when he saw him, “Well, look who showed up.”
John only just managed not to glare at him, and instead chose to look at Elizabeth Weir, “Been waiting long?”
She smiled, “No.”

“Good.” John gave a boyish grin, hoping it hid how tired/bad he actually felt. He looked at the Gate tech waiting at the DHD and waved a hand to signal her to start dialing PM7-556. Teyla had recommended the planet for its trade goods last night. When the MALP had been sent this morning, McKay had all but swooned when he detected energy readings around the Gate.

He felt Teyla’s eyes on him and he looked at her. After longer than two years working and living with the same people, you get to know those people pretty well. That’s how a team worked: they became family. So when Teyla directed a questioning look his way: are you okay? John gave a small smile and a nod that he hoped was convincing enough given the throbbing at the center of his skull. John wasn’t sure if she bought it, but she didn’t call him on it and he was grateful for that.

Elizabeth looked at Rodney, “Energy readings aside, I want you to establish contact with the locals first.”
“But--”
John hurried to cut him off, “Food and friends first. Got it.”

Rodney mumbled something about tava beans, and John felt the astrophysicist glare at him but he ignored it in favor of watching the unstable vortex (affectionately known as the ‘Kawoosh’) flash toward them, then recede into the event horizon.

“Good luck,” Elizabeth said, and he smiled at her. Rodney was still pouting and unhappy that his little science project would be delayed, and John gave him a grin as he walked past him toward the glowing event horizon, “Don’t worry, Rodney. I’m sure we’ll find time to check it out.”


John stepped out of the Stargate into a clearing. The dirt had been worn down over time by many feet, and carts laden with goods. Beyond the clearing around the gate, a thick forest sprouted up and reached into the sky. Long reaching branches cast shadows at the edges of the clearing and the canopy of the trees cast deep shadows from a midday sun.

The one part about this job that John loved, possibly more than flying, was gate travel. He’d started to adopt General O’Neill’s outlook: anyone who didn’t want to go through the Stargate was whacked. It hadn’t taken him long, just one trip actually, to understand why the General felt that way. As John leveled his P90, scanning the area around the gate while Ronon and Teyla followed, he knew that stepping out on alien worlds would never get old.

Ronon had his particle magnum at the ready, ever cautious. It took only seconds to realize there was no danger here. John nodded to Ronon before entering a low ready stance, letting the sling take the P90’s weight.

Rodney was the last through before the Gate deactivated. “How ‘bout this?” he said, and John half turned to face him silently. McKay gestured to his teammates with a broad sweep of his arm, “You guys can go trade or whatever.” John raised an eyebrow and saw Ronon and Teyla share a knowing look. Rodney pointed to himself, “And I’ll go do science.”

“Or,” John said firmly, “We stick together, meet the locals, then we can all check it out.”
“But--”
John gave him a pointed look, “Later, McKay.” The scientist grumbled and pouted; John motioned for Teyla to take the lead. She started down the well worn path leading deeper into the thick forest. With Teyla on point, John just behind and McKay and Ronon bringing up the rear, John allowed himself a moment to examine his surroundings more than just a quick sweep for danger. He trusted his team to keep an eye out.

It really was magnificent… and eerie. Massive tree trunks sprouted from the ground, and John was certain they rivaled the most ancient of Earth's redwoods. Some of the roots that the worn path wound around, reached his knees. The treetops themselves seemed to disappear into the darkness. This deep in the forest, the canopy above had all but choked out the midday sun, casting a maleficent air. The thick ground foliage, moss and dense layer of fog rolling in didn't help the image.

John felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end, and he looked at Teyla just ahead of him. She didn't seem to be fazed by the spooky forest – though, she had been here many times before. He glanced back at Rodney who seemed fidgety- glancing around like some bog monster was going to leap out at him. Though… in Pegasus, that was always a possibility. He swept a glance over Teyla, who still seemed perfectly at ease.

John posed a question, "Anyone else getting a bad feeling from this place?"
“Ahhhh,” he heard McKay say, “Y-yes?”

He stepped up his pace to walk at Teyla’s right side. He gave her a questioning look, but she returned it with a reassuring smile and didn’t slow her pace, “The forest here has always felt this way.” John looked down as he stepped over a large root. “It will fade,” she said.

“Good to know.” John raised his eyes and felt relief when he could make out daylight less than half a klick away. He forced himself to keep pace with Teyla and not run ahead and out into the unoppressive sunlight. He felt like something in this forest was pressing in on him…

He didn’t like it.

The team walked on silently, avoiding the typical forest obstacles and following the path. John thought he’d heard an LSD turn on behind him, and he figured McKay was looking for ways to not worry about the creepy forest. Just another day in Pegasus.

They were close now, and John could make out an open plain beyond the trees. He thought he could also make out the defined outlines of buildings. Rooftops with smoke sta-- “Woah!”

The already painful ache in his head flared, and John stopped, turning on his heel, “McKay--!”
“Yesyesyes, hold on,” The scientist was looking down at the handheld scanner. He watched McKay turn on the spot, before facing John and Teyla again. He reached up to rub at his temple, hoping to ease the pain away. A quick glance toward Ronon told him that the Satedan was losing his patience as well.

"Okay,” McKay said finally, “There it is again."
John shifted his weight, "What, Rodney?"

"The energy signature the MALP picked up. It just spiked." Rodney was looking at him with hope in his eyes. Like a child who wanted candy. John weighed his options: go against orders or listen to Rodney whine about it. Whining would not help his increasing headache. He sighed heavily, and Rodney grinned a bit knowing that he was about to get his way. John walked closer to the scientist, "What have you got?"

He heard a quiet 'Yes!' from Rodney before he turned his attention back to his scanner. John grabbed McKay’s attention again, “I just want to know what you have. Doesn’t mean we’re gonna check it out right now.”

Rodney deflated, but gave his findings anyway. "There's an energy field surrounding a large portion of the forest, most of the forest surrounding the Gate, in fact. It seems to stop at the treeline."

"Okay," John asked, peeking at the display of the scanner in McKay's hand, "Is it dangerous?"

Rodney let his hands drop in a show of exasperation, "How should I know? Look, I can't even pinpoint the source of the power. There's too much interference from the other energy sources."

All eyes looked at him sharply.
"There's more than one?" John asked.

"Yes. Didn't I say that?" Rodney look from one face to another. Teyla and Ronon's blank faces spoke for themselves and John's expression was expectant. McKay sighed and looked at the LSD again, "Okay, hold on. There's a source close…" Once again he turned on the spot and only stopped when the scanner let out a small bleep. "That way," he said pointing toward the edge of the treeline. John looked out toward the buildings he had seen before and longed to be out of the forest. After a moment of consideration he spoke, "Let's check it out on our way back."

"But-" Rodney started and John faced him, "Food and friends first, then you can play." He started walking again, and called over his shoulder, "It's not going anywhere, McKay." Rodney groaned and dragged his feet as they made their way to the edge of the treeline.

John stopped several feet from the edge of the forest, wary of the strange field McKay had said was there. He didn’t see anything, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t there. “It’s safe… right?”
He heard Rodney sigh somewhere behind him, “Again, how should I know?”

“I have been here many times,” John cast a quick glance at Teyla as she spoke, “We have suffered no ill effects from this… energy field.”
John nodded to himself, “So safe, huh?”

Ronon pushed past all of them, apparently fed up with all the waiting. He passed through the field with no light, or sound, or shimmer of energy. It was as if there was no field. The big man turned and faced his team with a grin, “See? No problem.”

John often prided himself on his instincts. The ability to sense danger, to feel something about to happen that would usually end up with him in pain. He’d felt something wrong about this whole place since he got here. He’d ignored it, chalked it up to the overall creepiness of the forest around them. But now… now it was screaming at him. He didn’t want to walk through.

But at the same time… he did. He really really wanted to be out in the sunlight, to be able to see the clear blue sky again instead of endless darkness. Teyla said the feeling would leave once they exited the forest. That information had been driving him forward, toward the sunlight.

He squinted out at the mountains beyond the village, noticing a faint buzzing in his head, and then it was gone a second later. Maybe it had been there before now, but he wasn’t sure. Rodney and Teyla moved forward to follow Ronon, and John moved too. Taking a breath, he forced his feet forward to the open grassy field beyond.

It took him one, two, three steps to reach the energy field. One more step through the invisible barrier and his legs buckled under him, his knees hitting the soft dirt. He felt hands on his shoulders. His vision swam and tilted and he grabbed at whoever had a hold of him, seeking stability. He gripped their arms as the pain behind his eyes reached new heights, and he felt himself falling further to ground.

Was someone calling his name? (JohnJohnJohn!)

His mind was buzzing, buzzing so, so loud. It was drowning everything else out. The ache he thought was painful before, was annoying by comparison. It was now a knife twisting into the depths of his skull.

He opened his eyes.
The shape of a face with copper hair.
Teyla…

Then the world cut to black.

-TBC

Chapter Text

CHAPTER II

John blinked away the spots as Doctor Carson Beckett finished checking his eyes. John had come to on the gurney halfway to the infirmary, and endured the full range of tests: blood, scans, vitals, the works. Honestly, he felt fine. No headaches or buzzing or… anything. It was odd that he had passed out, and he didn’t really remember anything from just before he walked through the barrier.

Beckett stood back, “Well, far as I can see there’s nothin’ wrong with ye. You’re perfectly healthy.”
“Well, obviously something’s wrong.” Rodney clearly didn’t like the good doctor’s prognosis, and John was suddenly aware of the effect the episode had on his team. He looked at the faces of his team, friends, family as Carson once again proclaimed him healthy as far as preliminary tests goes. They were worried for him, that much was clear on their faces. He could see it through Elizabeth and Teyla’s diplomatic masks, through Ronon’s usual stoicness, and it was glaringly obvious in Rodney’s current agitation.

He’d known they all cared about him for some time, but to have that fact once again thrown at him…

He’s still not sure how to process it. He’s not used to it.

Beckett’s words were directed at him now, and John had realized he’d tuned out the voices around him. “I want you to take it easy the next few days, Colonel.” Translation: Off active duty. John nodded and Carson promised to let him know if anything came up in his test results.

John’s primary thoughts right now were of food. Between the headaches and the exhaustion, his appetite had been almost nonexistent the last few days. The most he had been able to stomach had been a couple cups of coffee (to try and combat the tiredness) and a piece of toast in the mornings. Afternoons and evenings were usually the same, though he forced himself to actually attempt a meal. This morning had been no different, and John found himself famished. His appetite had returned in full force, and he wasn’t going to complain about it.

John grabbed his jacket, hopped off the exam bed and swiftly exited the infirmary. McKay was close at his heels.


Carson and the others watched McKay trail after the Colonel for a moment. Elizabeth broke the silence, “Rodney has a point. Losing consciousness like he did….” the thought was left unfinished, they all knew where it was going.
“Aye.” Carson agreed, “Hopefully his test results will show more, but for now, rest is the best thing I can prescribe.” He looked at Elizabeth, “You know about the headaches he’s been havin’.”
“Yes, but you said they weren’t affecting his duties.”
“They weren’t, but they were affectin’ his sleep and appetite. Until we can pin this down, he’s suspended from active duty.”

Weir nodded, and Teyla and Ronon looked at each other in silent agreement. They would watch Sheppard’s back and keep an eye on him.

For Teyla, he and his people represented hope. Hope that the Wraith could be vanquished, that the humans of this galaxy could live in peace. The relationship between their two peoples were due largely in part to John’s actions. He didn’t treat anyone as an outsider.

For Ronon, Sheppard was a brother in arms. The man who’d helped free him from a life as a Runner. It was Sheppard who’d offered him a home here in the city, a place on the team.

A purpose.

They both owed him a great debt, even if he’d always insist otherwise. They would spend their lives repaying him.


“Sheppard, wait up!”

John slowed his steps enough for Rodney to catch up to him, his footsteps echoing in the alien corridor. McKay matched his pace, “Where you headed?”
“Food,” he looked at his watch, the numbers 13:38 cheerfully bright, “Chow line ends in 20.” Main meals stopped being served at 1400, though there was always prepackaged stuff out at all hours. Pre-made sandwiches, finger foods and various local fruits and veggies waited on a couple fold out tables for passing personnel wanting a bite to eat at odd times. If they were lucky, a few Earth treats would be on the table, but those never lasted long, and were normally only set out on special occasions.

“You know what they’re serving?”
“Nope,” John answered honestly. He was never too picky about what he ate. Sure he had things he prefered over others, who didn’t? But Rodney, for his great love of food, was a picky eater. Some of that had to do with his allergies, but a lot of it was just who he was.

John had been a picky eater in his childhood, but college actually broke him of that long before the Air Force did. Ramen noodles were the only thing he refused to eat anymore.

He heard Rodney griping about something they were serving last week, and John well remembered that day. He felt… something he couldn’t put his finger on, and tried to focus on it. To draw it forward. Someone was coming around the corner up ahead, and while John had fairly good situational awareness, it wasn’t that good. Not good enough to know when someone was going to round a blind corner. He couldn’t shake the feeling though.

He listened for a moment, letting his feet carry him toward the mess hall, but all he heard was the sound of his and McKay’s footfalls, and Rodney still carrying on about last week. John frowned when nothing came around the corner, but the feeling was still there, and it felt… closer?

Just as the pair reached the intersection, Evan Lorne rounded the corner. The Major stopped short and offered a loose, but respectful, salute. John returned it with his usual casualness. “Good to see you up and about, sir.”
“Yeah,” John said slowly, still trying to decipher the feeling he had earlier… still had. John quickly snapped himself to the present and offered a small (reassuring) smile, “Ah, thanks.”

He remembered that Lorne’s team was due for a mission soon. There was a chance it would be cancelled, since John had been taken off the roster. Though, since Elizabeth was here, and Lorne was only taking on John’s responsibilities while he was off duty, he would probably still go on the mission. It just might be pushed back a day or two.

The three exchanged small talk for a few short minutes. John inquired about the planet Lorne’s team was scheduled to check out. It was labeled as a research area in the city’s database (A5Z-AA7 by their computer systems). It should be fairly straightforward, and if anything of value was found, the eggheads would be called in.

Easy. That’s what John thought the last mission would be like.

Lorne went on his way, another quick, loose salute, and John and Rodney continued on. The mess was just down the hall. The sensation John had felt when Lorne was around faded away, but he noticed that it was still there. Just… different. Like a new level of awareness, and he wasn’t sure what to make of it.

Rodney’s fingers snapped in front of his face, and John stopped, looking at him sharply, “What?” Did Rodney ask him a question? He couldn’t remember.
There was open annoyance on the other man’s face, “I asked--” McKay’s face changed again, “You okay?” And given what had just happened on 556, he was probably right to be concerned.

“I’m fine, McKay. Just tired.” John shrugged it off, all of it. The odd sensation he was still feeling, the concern, all of it. “And hungry,” he tacked on for good measure, and it seemed to do the trick since Rodney hummed in agreement.

He didn’t think about what he’d just experienced, and he wasn’t going to even try to process it till tomorrow morning.

After a good night’s sleep.


“Hey, Doc.”

It was fairly late in the night when Carson looked up at John’s voice and saw a cut over the Colonel’s left eyebrow. A small amount of blood had started to dribble downward toward. He’d been minutes from calling it a night after finding nothing out of the ordinary in the Colonel’s tests.

John smiled boyishly, feigning innocence when faced with the disappointed Scotsman. Ronon was hovering just behind Sheppard looking slightly apologetic, like a Rottweiler who been caught being naughty. Carson simply sighed and motioned to a bed, “Should I ask?”

“Sparring,” Ronon said helpfully.
Of course. Beckett gathered supplies to clean the cut, hoping it looked worse than it was and that stitches would not be necessary. John hopped up onto the bed and lay down. Ronon hovered almost protectively. “Might need stitches,” the big man said.

“Right,” Beckett said, “Well, let’s see then, shall we?” He directed light on the cut and set to cleaning the area. Ronon watched silently, possibly curiously. He knew Ronon was far more intelligent than his reserved and rough personality suggested. As the cut was revealed, he heard Ronon grunt. Confused.

“What?” John asked.
“Nothin’.” Ronon said, “Guess it looked worse than it was.”
The doctor finished cleaning the cut, “Aye, head wounds usually do.”

Carson noticed that it didn’t seem to appease the Satedan, but the big man said nothing more. He frowned slightly. Ronon was right that the cut had looked worse… but head wounds were often like that, bleeding profusely even when not deep.

He slipped the disposable gloves off and tossed them in the trash, “All done.” John sat up and gingerly prodded the area around the cut. “And this time,” Carson started, “Takin’ it easy, doesn’t include sparrin’.”

John took the reprimand with his usual grace: ‘Sure, Doc’ and a grin. Carson shooed the pair out with a threat to confine John to his quarters if he came back with another injury.


In hindsight, it probably hadn’t been a good idea to get into a match with Ronon of all people, but the Satedan had understood his need to get his pent up energy out. John wasn’t sure what was happening to him, and if he was totally honest with himself: it freaked him out.

He’s been down the road of DNA-altering crap; felt his body changing beyond his control. He could feel it now, not to the extreme the retrovirus had caused… but something was… different . What was more frustrating was that Beckett had no idea what was happening. John had no idea what was happening either, and he was tired of not knowing.

John peeled off his jacket, muscles slightly sore from the physical activity. His body was pleasantly tired though, the kind of relaxed tired you only got after a good, long workout. John rubbed the back of his neck as he sat down heavily on his bed. He prodded the cut, still sore and itchy. He pushed the urge to scratch it away. He instead pulled the earpiece from his ear and set it, along with his watch, on the side table. He unlaced his boots, and toed them off.

Suddenly, he was way past pleasantly tired, and into full on I’m-gonna-pass-out . The lights turned off with a thought, and he slipped under the covers, not even thinking about changing out of his shirt and pants.

A dull ache in his head throbbed with each beat of his heart.

He closed his eyes and sleep claimed him viciously.

-TBC

Chapter Text

CHAPTER III

DAY 1
0820 AST

Ronon Dex wouldn’t call himself a worrier.

Worriers did not make Warriors, and he was nothing if not an honorbound warrior, a soldier of the Satedan Planetary Forces. He made decisions and then he acted.

These people were big on planning ahead. That wasn’t a bad thing, but he’d always been the type to get orders, then act on them. Not much planning involved. Nor was there a whole lot of worrying involved. Most things had already been worried about and solved long before he and his strike force ever moved in.

So no.
He was not a worrier.

That wasn’t to say he didn’t, sometimes, worry.
Like right now.

Last night, after he’d accidently clubbed Sheppard in the head, they both thought it wise to take the Doc’s threats seriously. It wouldn’t do Sheppard any good to pace his quarters or whatever. Ronon had suggested a morning run, and he’d agreed. They did that sometimes. Ran laps around the city, learning each nook and cranny, each corridor and walkway. Sheppard knew most of the city, had ran and explored it every day for the last two years. And Ronon wanted to learn too; wanted to know the City of the Ancestors as well as Sheppard did.

They’d agreed to meet at 0730 AST on the north pier, but after 30 minutes of no John Sheppard turned into 40, Ronan started to pace and wonder if he should go looking for him. At the 45 minute mark, he abandoned the pier in search of the Colonel.

The Colonel who was never late.
Who never forgot a single thing.
Who never let his friends down.

He couldn’t help the feeling that something was wrong.

He’d tried to radio him after the 20 minute mark passed. Then again at 25, but all he got back was silence. As he made his way back into the main city, using transporters to move around quickly, he tried asking Teyla and McKay if they’d seen Sheppard - they hadn’t either.

McKay figured he was just sleeping in - Beckett had said he hadn’t been sleeping well. Ronon knew Sheppard could sleep in when he wanted to, he could be lazy like that, but not when he had something planned.

Teyla tried to ease his mind as well, until he told her they’d planned a morning run. As Ronon came into view of Sheppard’s quarters, he saw Teyla waiting by the door. Ronon jogged up to her, “Anything?”

“No. I have been trying to raise him, and no one has seen him.”
“So he’s in there.” Ronon raised a hand to swipe the door controls, but all he got was negative sounding beep.
Teyla shook her head, “The door is locked.”

Ronon placed his fingers in the crack of the door, and tried to pry it open, but the Ancient door didn’t even groan in protest. The big man stepped back and looked at the Athosian woman, “You call McKay? Beckett?”

She nodded, “I have, and told them what you told me. They should be here soon.”

As soon as the words left her mouth, Rodney declared his presence, holding his datapad above his head, “Okay. This better be an actual emergency. If he’s just sleeping or showering or whatever, not my fault.” Carson Beckett was close behind him, carrying a small medical bag.
“I have never known John to sleep through someone pounding on his door,” Teyla said firmly. She gestured to Ronon quickly, “Or to miss an engagement.”

Ronon crossed his arms and Beckett jumped in, “Aye, Rodney. We still don’t understand what happened to him.”
McKay looked at him, and Beckett stared back, “Medical orders, Doctor McKay. Open the door.”

The scientist groaned, and Ronon could see it was all for show. McKay cared in his own way. He and Sheppard were friends. McKay popped the door control cover off and removed a crystal. He placed another crystal wired into the datapad in its place and started entering commands. The door swished open and they peered inside.

The lights within were off and sunlight was the only thing that illuminated the room in bright streaks from the windows. Ronon frowned - usually the city detected if someone was sleeping, and lowered the opacity of the windows. This was as if the city itself had tried to rouse him.

“See?” McKay whispered, gesturing to the man shaped lump curled on his side on the bed, “He’s sleeping.” Ronon looked carefully and saw that he was breathing. Deep breaths of unconsciousness. His eyes were closed, face relaxed.

He was very still.

The Doc pushed his way into the room and touched Sheppard’s shoulder. Ronon stepped past the threshold. He knew that Beckett’s actions would wake him, even from deep sleep, but Sheppard didn’t twitch. Them opening the door, or the sunlight should have awakened him.

“Colonel Sheppard, can ye hear me?” Beckett shook John’s shoulder gently, trying to get a reaction from the man, but his eyes remained closed. No twitch of an eyebrow, fingers or lips. Beckett put two fingers to Sheppard’s throat, feeling for the pulse of his heart. Probably timing his breaths too. He shone a penlight into John’s eyes, then pressed the side of the penlight onto a nail, before sighing softly.

“What’s wrong?” McKay’s mask slipped, and there was the worry. It was eating into them all now, the need to know what was wrong with their teammate, their friend.

The Doc didn’t answer McKay directly, instead he called for a gurney on his radio. Declared Sheppard comatose. Ronon didn’t understand, and Beckett was still talking to someone on his radio, so he asked McKay.

“Ahh, non-responsive to outside stimuli. Sound, light, pain...” his voice trailed off. Ronon guessed he didn’t want to think about it too hard.

The gurney and accompanying wave of medical personnel arrived quickly, and they swarmed around Sheppard’s quarters. The comatose man was transferred to the rolling bed, and Beckett walked with them ordering a new set of tests to compare to the old. Then the three were left alone in Sheppard’s empty quarters, and as one unit they left to follow their teammate.

Teyla, along with Ronon and McKay, had settled into what passed as the waiting area for the infirmary. They had been joined by Elizabeth fairly early on, and even though they’d only been waiting an hour, it felt like so much longer.

Teyla herself was unsure what to think. She could see the tension present in each of them, even Carson, who as of right now, was unsure of what was happening to John. She hoped this round of tests would shed some light, but she couldn’t stop the pit forming in her belly.

The four, lost in silent thought and various levels of worry, all rose to their feet when Doctor Beckett came up to them.

Rodney was the first to break the silence, “Well?”
Carson motioned for them to follow, and they did so to John’s bedside. Monitors were set up, some showing his vitals visually, while others showed images of his brain from different angles. The electronic beep produced by the heart monitor was steady, showing a strong heartbeat.

“I’ve run every test I can. There’s nothing physically wrong with him.”
“Then why is he like this?” Ronon asked.
“I don’t know. But,” Carson moved to the side and pointed at John’s left eyebrow, “You’ll probably notice somethin’ here.”

Teyla didn’t understand and she, like the others, looked to Ronon. The Satedan moved forward, and frowned. “No cut,” he said simply.
“Aye, no cut.”
“I do not understand…” Teyla said slowly.
“Colonel Sheppard and Ronon were sparrin’ last night,” Carson started to to explain, “John had a small cut over his left eyebrow. I cleaned it myself.” Teyla looked sharply at Ronon, but understood why he’d agreed to spar with John. Ronon understood John’s need to move, to not be trapped in one place. Exercise was how he coped.

“It looked deep. Thought it would need stitches,” Ronon rumbled.
Rodney looked closer, peering at John’s face, “Seriously? There’s nothing there!”
“No, that’s what I’m saying Rodney. It’s healed,” Carson explained.
“How--” Rodney took a small step back, a peculiar mix of panic and worry in his eyes, “He doesn’t have nanites, does he?”
“No, Rodney,” Beckett said patiently, “He’s clean. There’s also no sign of the retrovirus.”

Elizabeth had been watching John quietly, taking in the information, “Then why the coma?”
Carson took a breath, “There’s no damage to his brain tissues, or brain stem. Actually, there’s no damage at all. Anywhere. He’s perfectly healthy. The only thing out of the ordinary is an elevated level of brain activity.” He motioned to the screens with the images of a brain. He circled several areas of one image with his finger. The areas he pointed out were bright red surrounded by yellow and green, “These areas of the brain, here, largely process memories and language. In the Colonel, they are highly active. Time will tell if the activity spreads to rest of his brain. My worry there is if it continues. There’s a risk the increased activity might start to affect lower brain functions.”

“But he’s comatose,” Rodney stated obviously.
“Aye. And tha’s as far as my results go. I’ll keep workin’, but besides his headaches, I have nothin’ ta go on. I still don’t know what was causin’ the headaches, but I’d say they are connected ta this. For now, his brain activity, while high, is holdin' steady. And he’s still breathin’ on his own.”

“Rodney,” Elizabeth said, “Do you think that energy field on 556 had something to do with this?”
McKay shook his head vehemently. “I doubt it caused it. If he’d been having headaches before, I don’t see how an energy field he’s never been in contact with before changed anything.”
“Aye, but it could have done something,” Carson said.
Teyla put a hand on Rodney’s shoulder, “It is the only lead we have.”
Elizabeth gave her a thankful nod, “Go find out.”

Teyla nodded swiftly, then led Ronon and Rodney out to, hopefully, find answers.


1248 AST

"Off-world activation!"

Weir jumped to her feet, and walked swiftly to Stargate Ops from her office. Elizabeth looked down at the technician who had announced the activation, "Do we have an IDC, Chuck?"

The Canadian looked down at a laptop to his left as an identification code came in and nodded, "Yes, ma'am. It's Doctor McKay's IDC."
"Let them in," she said.

The technician nodded again, and lowered the force field covering the event horizon. Weir headed around the various Ancient consoles and down the stairs as Teyla, Ronon, McKay and his research team, and the small accompanying military team walked through the gate. McKay set down his equipment and the two teams behind him dispersed, taking equipment and weapons back to their proper places. Weir walked right up to Rodney, Teyla and Ronon. "Did you find anything?"

Rodney looked down at his fingers and rubbed three of his fingers together, "Aside from the," he held his hands out to show Weir the light dusting of green on them, "four inches of alien moss on most every tree? No." He lightly rubbed his hands together in an attempt to get the moss of them, "We didn't find anything even remotely useful or helpful. There's way too much interference from the multiple power sources, and last time the energy readings had spiked. Now it's just... sitting idle." Rodney paused, not sure what else he could say. He didn’t feel uplifted like he’d hoped. He looked at Elizabeth, "How is he?"

Elizabeth pursed her lips together and folded her hands in front of her, "No change."
"Um… does Carson know what's wrong with him yet?"
Weir shook her head softly, "No, not yet," before she heard a Scottish brogue over her radio.
"Dr. Weir?"
She lifted a hand up to activate her radio, "Yes, Carson?"
"Colonel Sheppard is regaining consciousness."
The four pairs of eyes met in understanding and Elizabeth responded swiftly, "On our way."

-TBC

Chapter Text

CHAPTER IV

1255 AST

John Sheppard woke slowly. His mind was fuzzy, his limbs felt heavy and disconnected. He felt like he was floating apart from his body. He felt a hand on his shoulder, and he forced his eyes to open. He saw… Carson? His face blurry and his mouth was moving, but the words weren’t clear. He felt like he was underwater.

John closed his eyes again, not quite willing to join the land of the living just yet.

Beckett’s voice was like a fly buzzing in his ear: wholly annoying. The Scotsman didn't give up though. “...olonel Sheppa…” The voice was fading in and out. Despite his desire to stay in blissful unawareness, the doctor’s voice forced him back into his body. Slowly, his senses became sharper: the sound of Beckett’s voice, the steady beep of a heart monitor, the feel of the blanket under his fingertips. His fingers curled into the fabric, the feel grounding him further.

“...eed ye to wake up, lad.” Carson was being persistent, and John took a deep breath, his body and mind making the final push toward consciousness. He opened hazel eyes, and peered at Carson long enough to give the doctor a dirty look for waking him up. Beckett squeezed his shoulder gently, a comforting gesture. John forced his eyes open again, squinting against the light and finding Carson again. He blinked a few times and the image cleared.

He recognized now that he was in the infirmary. A sharp pain in the crook of his left elbow announced the presence of an IV. “Wha’ happened?” He asked. He noticed his voice was raspy, rough from sleep and disuse.

He turned his ear slightly at the sound of footfalls coming closer. He saw Elizabeth, and his team. Ronon was first to reach John and he smiled seeing his friend awake, “Hey, buddy.”

John returned the greeting as the rest gathered around the left side of his bed. He saw McKay and Teyla were wearing tac vests, and John frowned. “Where’ve you guys been?”

“556,” Rodney said, “Trying figure out what happened to you.”
“How’d that go?”
“Not so well.”
“Oh.” For some reason, John wasn't so surprised. He didn't feel the disappointment he thought he should be feeling.

Carson shifted, still standing at John's shoulder, shifting himself into John's range of vision, “What's the last thing you remember?”

John frowned, chewing his bottom lip as he thought. He remembered 556. Still didn't remember just before he passed out. Coming to on the gurney. Lunch, sparring, getting the cut checked out, planning on a run in the morning, then… nothing.

“I don't really remember getting to my quarters last night…” he paused, suddenly not so sure of how much time had passed. He looked around at the faces, “It was last night, wasn't it?”

“Aye,” Carson said. “It's been almost 5 hours since we found ye at around 0830.”

John did the math quickly, and figured it was around 1300 hours. He rubbed his face with his right hand, and gave Carson a questioning look. “Ye’ve been non-responsive. Comatose. I'm not sure how long, but definitely longer than 5 hours.”

John processed the words slowly, then asked, “Why?”
“I don’t know.”
John gave the doctor a sharp look, “You don't know?”

“There's no physical reason for the coma, Colonel. Your brain activity was abnormally high for a comatose person, but that was it.”

“So if it's not physical, it's psychological.” If one was ruled out, the other was the reasonable explanation. Though neither one was really an explanation he wanted. Carson shook his head slowly, “I can run more tests, but there's really no way to be certain.”

John nodded his head, accepting that for now, there was nothing more he could do but wait. He didn't like waiting... Carson turned briefly and when he faced John again, there was a small mirror in his hand. He held it out toward John, who looked between it and Carson with furrowed brows. “I... don't understand,” he said slowly

“The cut over your eye,” the doctor said softly.

He looked at Elizabeth and his team, and he was sure he looked very confused. John took the mirror in his left hand and angled it so he could see his face. He looked like crap, which was roughly how he felt. Bags of tiredness under his eyes, hair more of a mess than usual, short stubble gathering on his upper lip and jaw. He focused away from his overall appearance, and looked over his left eye. Then blinked, and looked again. But no, it wasn't a trick of the light, or his eyes or whatever. He looked up at Carson, “What the hell?”

He was awake now. Adrenaline had this funny effect on the human body. A survival mechanism, and John had long ago learned to use adrenaline to his advantage in the field. Right now, though, his mind was not working right. Couldn't be. His mind raced, and he tried to think of a cause that didn't involve the damned retrovirus or tiny alien robots.

“We don't know.” He heard Beckett say, “It's not the retrovirus or nanites.”

“You're sure?”

Carson nodded, “Positive.” John handed Carson the mirror back, and the doctor looked at Weir and the others, “10 minutes, then I want ta start those tests.” Elizabeth nodded and stepped closer. Teyla and Rodney did too, forming ranks around their teammate, but it wasn't a stifling closeness. It was welcome, it told him that no matter what, these four people would have his back. It was a thought that allowed him to relax, even in the face of all the uncertainty.

“How are you feeling?” Elizabeth asked and John shrugged.

“I'm alright.” The look he got from her reminded him of his mother, and he took a breath. Yeah, that response wouldn't fly anymore. They knew him too well. “Head still aches, but not bad.” He shifted, wanting to move the subject away from himself, “What have I missed?”

“Not much,” Rodney said, “Halling and a team went to trade on 556. They were still there when we left.”

John nodded. They needed the things they got through trade, good relations with their neighbors being chief among them. And Halling was second only to Teyla in negotiation.

They talked aimlessly, carefully avoiding the elephant in the room, and John was thankful for it. He supposed that if he wanted to say anything, he would have several listening ears. But first he had to process what was happening to him. For him to process it, he had to know what was happening.

And he didn't.

So really, there was nothing to talk about.

The minutes passed quickly with the idle conversation and Carson came back to shoo everyone away from John’s bedside. The team said their see-you-laters, and Carson started a new battery of tests.


1427 AST

John stared up at the ceiling, mind wandering listlessly. Beckett had finished his tests, and while he knew any results would take some time, he needed to know what was going on. As far as he could make out, it wasn’t an obvious cause. Heightened brain activity wasn’t an outright cause, and Carson was looking for a cause for that too. His headaches, sleeplessness and loss of appetite were being taken into account as well.

Most of the tests were good old-fashioned methods from Earth. Others employed the various advanced technologies available to them here in the city, such as the Ancient scanner. According to the scientists and the Doc, the scanner was actually pretty smart. Unlike an x-ray or CAT scan, the scanner would pin-point any trauma or abnormality. It could detect species as well, not that they’d had a need for that function. Yet. As soon as they started using it, it had defaulted to ‘human’. They hadn’t actually put a Wraith under there yet to see if the species function worked, so thus far no one knew if it would actually tell you anything.

All that said, the scanner was finding nothing wrong with him, and Carson had taken to examining the scans himself. Advanced technology or not, it was over 10,000 years old. The programming or hardware could have deteriorated in that time. Looking it over would take hours though; hours that left John waiting in limbo and wondering.

He thought back to yesterday.

That odd sensation just before Lorne had showed up… he’d noticed it again. And if he thought back, it hadn’t really gone away. John didn’t know how to describe it. It was like…

...like a hum that never went away. It was something he’d noticed when he first came to the city. A hum of... of energy that got stronger whenever he was close to, or touching something that needed the ATA gene. The longer he’d been here, the more defined it got. It was always there now. He ignored it most of the time, but it was always present; it had become comforting in a way. It had started to feel like home .

This was different though.

Unlike what he felt from the city or the various bits of tech, this ebbed and flowed, and he couldn’t make sense of it. Sometimes it was stronger, other times it was barely there. He stopped his thought process and started to focus on patterns.

He was good with patterns.

Okay. The first time was with Lorne. But after Lorne left, the feeling stayed, but it was muted. It didn’t go away till he’d parted ways from McKay. So… McKay, too? John frowned. He’d felt it several times after that, too. Who was around? Markham… Millar… he’d also passed Doctor Kusanagi last night in the hall at some point.

He looked around at the people moving past his bed. Nurses mostly, but only one or two triggered this… this feeling. Beckett had wandered by a while ago, to keep John updated, and John recalled feeling it again.

They had to have something in common with each other. He went back to the top of his mental list: Lorne, McKay, Markham, Beckett… they all had the Ancient gene. John’s mind narrowed to that single thought.

They all had the ATA gene.
All of them. Either naturally, or artificially activated, they all had it.

What the hell.

John was so lost in his own thoughts that he didn’t notice the footsteps approaching his bedside. When he did, Elizabeth was already pulling a chair up to his side and sitting down. She smiled at him, “How are you?”

John sat up a bit and shrugged, “Same as before. Doc still can’t find anything... so far.”
“So I hear.” She paused, expression thoughtful. “You looked pretty deep in thought when I came up.”

John nibbled on his bottom lip, unsure if he should share his revelation. Actually, he should. He should tell Carson too, but he still felt like he was missing something important. There were pieces missing in this puzzle, and the image wasn’t clear enough.

“I don’t know how to say it without sounding like I’m going crazy.”
She smiled, “We deal with crazy everyday.” He shrugged, assenting, because she was right. He looked at her, and she was giving him her full attention. “I’m listening,” she said.

He looked at his hands in his lap and let himself smile softly. That was just so… her. When he’d been slowly losing himself to the retrovirus, she’d never once given up on him. None of them did. Even when he’d turned on them. He could grow another head, and he would still have allies. And maybe she could help him sort this out so it made sense.

“I noticed it yesterday. After 556. I didn’t think too hard on it then, but it was weird.”
“What?” There was concern in her eyes, and curiosity.
“McKay and I were walking to the mess. And before we rounded the corner…” he trailed off, losing the words. She was patient, letting him find his thoughts again. He wasn’t good at this sort of thing. Talking about himself.

“I got this, I dunno, this feeling . Like someone was gonna come around the corner. And about the time we get there, Lorne shows up.”
“That area is pretty busy because of the mess hall. People pass through all the time.” She didn’t try to rebuke his claim outright, but she was being logical, trying to find a reasonable solution.
“That’s what I thought at first. But it keeps happening .” The words were coming easier now, “It’s only around certain people, and the only connection any of them have with each other is that they all have the ATA gene.”

He could see her processing what he’d just told her, she leaned forward, elbows resting on her knees, “You’re sure?”
“It the only thing I can figure.”
“You think you’re sensing the ATA gene.” It wasn’t a question. She knew that’s what he was saying. “Is that even possible? Did you tell Carson?”
John shrugged, “I don’t know. And I just figured this out myself.”

John rested his head against the pillows. He felt drained and tired, and his headache had never really gone away. He closed his eyes, took a breath, and then opened them again. He looked over at Elizabeth who looked like she was still processing the ‘I can sense the ATA gene’ thing. He couldn’t blame her, he was still processing it.

He looked back at the ceiling and rested his eyes. He could hear his blood pumping, loud in his ears, and a dull ache accompanied each beat of his heart.
“Hey.” He opened his eyes at the voice, and Elizabeth put a hand on his arm. “We’ll figure this out.” She nodded at him, a look of determination on her face. John nodded in return. He trusted her. Trusted her, and Beckett, and his team. He just wished he could do more than sit here and think.

Him sitting in one place and thinking had never led to anything good.
He needed to go for a jog, needed to run, but Carson was keeping him prisoner. His head ached, and his mind cried out for rest.

He closed his eyes again only meaning to relax. He didn’t hear Elizabeth say his name, or feel her hand tighten on his bicep.

There was just darkness.

-TBC

Chapter Text

CHAPTER V

DAY 2
0712 AST

The mess hall was abuzz with people milling about, sitting, talking, and laughing as they enjoyed their morning meal. The sound of metal utensils against plastic trays filled the room under the noise of voices and chairs scraping across the alien floor – a samba of noise that became music, the voices of the humans the chorus. This is usually what Elizabeth thought of when she was here, not thinking of the mound of paperwork at her desk, or the mission reports that needed reading and filing. But right now, her mind was on a single subject, and it worried her most.

There was no change in John's condition; if anything, he had only gotten worse. He’d slipped into another coma yesterday afternoon. She’d been talking with him only moments before. Carson speculated that, if it continued as it was, John would begin to suffer seizures. And if it went on for very long, he could come out of the coma with brain damage.

Or he might not wake up at all.

Elizabeth tried not to dwell on that fact. It was the worst case scenario, which, admittedly, she had asked for. It didn’t matter whether she liked the prognosis or not. She took a sip of her coffee, and grimaced down at the now cold liquid, the heat long gone. Setting the mug down, she stared into the dark substance, and if she looked hard enough, she could see her reflection. It was a tired face – not at all surprising given all that had happened.

The Atlantis Expedition Commander rolled her tense shoulders, silently wishing she could get some sleep but knowing she wouldn't be able to. She vaguely registered footfalls on the ground behind her, and it wasn't long before Teyla's friendly face appeared in her vision, a tray with a minimal amount of food in the other woman's hands. Weir smiled up at her, a tired and worried smile, but a smile nonetheless.

"May I join you?"

Elizabeth nodded, "Of course," and the Athosian gratefully sat down opposite of her and slowly began to dig into her food. It was clear that she wasn't too interested in eating, but did so anyway. Elizabeth felt the same. She’d barely slept, and food held little appeal this morning. Toast and coffee for her.

"No change?" Teyla asked.
Elizabeth looked up from her cold coffee to Teyla, "No. Nothing yet." She paused, "Have you been in to see him?"
Teyla nodded once, "Yes. Last night… though I find it hard to see him like this. And we are powerless to help him."

"For now," she looked the Athosian in the eyes, "We'll think of something." She had the utmost confidence in Beckett, but she still worried for John. She had mentioned what John had said, about sensing the ATA gene, to Carson.

He had speculated that it might be possible, but he wasn’t sure how. More tests, always more tests. She continued to hope that one of them would turn something up, but Carson had run out of tests to run. He’d taken to searching the city’s database for information, and that was taking too long. Far too long.

Elizabeth stared into her coffee. She would need to go to the control room soon, but her mind would be stuck far from anything work related….


“Rodney. I need yer help.”

Rodney McKay half-turned in his chair, confused, “Um… okay?” Carson was behind him, the poor man looked like he’d hardly slept, and since Sheppard had relapsed, it wasn’t surprising. Rodney had similarly gotten almost no sleep, choosing instead to work late into the night and early morning. McKay turned back to his laptop, “What’s the matter? Your voodoo not enough for you?”

“Och, Rodney.” Carson was clearly in no mood for his usual attitude.
“Okay, okay, fine,” the scientist faced Beckett fully, “What do you need?”
“How easy would it be to create a program to search the database for a specific set of parameters?”

What. “What?”
Carson slowed his speech, “How easy would it be--”
Dear god. “Yes yes , I heard you the first time. I’m not an idiot.”

Beckett gave him a deadpan look, “Obviously, otherwise I’d be speaking with Doctor Zelenka. I’m sure he’d be able ta help.”
“No, I didn’t say I wasn’t able.” Crap. Okay, back up. ”So... you need a program to search the database.”

“Yes. For medically related entries if possible.”
“Of course it’s possible. The Ancients didn’t really have a filing system that I can find, and some files are easier to find than others. But still… the database is huge. I don’t mean to shoot you down completely, but it could take a while to find what you are looking for.”

Carson sighed. It was a tired sigh, “I don’t have any options left, Rodney.” Oh… oh, this was about John. Crap. Rodney rubbed his face, “Okay, um… I’ll see what I can get started. I’ll have something for you in a few hours.”

Carson smiled, gratefully, “Thank ye, Rodney.”
“How-- how is he?” Rodney asked slowly.
The smile faded, “No change from last night. I’m sure with yer program, we can start finding some answers.”

Carson gave what was probably supposed to be a reassuring smile, placed a small sheet of paper with some handwriting on it on the lab table and turned to leave. McKay turned back to his laptop and began the process of creating what he was sure was going to end up being the best and most advanced search program ever.

It had to be.


Upon returning to his desk, Carson dove right back into his work. A fresh cup of coffee, a sandwich and a wee bowl of fruit would keep him going until Rodney had his program running. Carson would sleep while it searched, but for now he would keep using his own eyes, tired as they were.

So far, he’d had nothing but dead ends and too few leads. He lifted the lid of his laptop and opened the folder which contained all the scans taken of the Colonel with the Ancient scanner. He’d broken it down into sections, starting from the top down, and he’d go all the way down to John’s toes if he had to. He’d reached as far as the top of the sternum before he’d decided take a food break, and it was walking that freed his mind enough to ask Rodney to make a search program.

Carson stabbed a slice of native Pegasus fruit (it reminded him of a cross between a mango and a cantaloupe) with his fork and popped it into his mouth. He chewed thoughtfully as he removed layers of the image: skin, muscle and bone. Carson was sure the main problem was his head, and John himself might be right. It could very well be a psychological issue. In that case, treating him would not be easy if he remained comatose. He couldn’t figure out what kind of psychological issue it would be though.

He was not a healer of the mind, but perhaps Kate would have-- Carson frowned, his thought process coming to a swift halt.
What... is that?

There, just to the right of John’s heart, in the dead center of his sternum was… something. Carson instructed the computer to focus on that one section. A growth of some type…? The doctor took a quick glance at John’s still form, his heart still beating steadily, strong. Whatever this was didn’t seem to be affecting his heart. He looked back at the image. It also didn’t seem to be affecting the surrounding tissue.

It was directly below the thymus gland, near-circular in shape and roughly an inch and a half in diameter. It seemed to be anchored to the bone of the sternum, thin strands of connective tissue holding it in place. It wasn’t totally flat; there was still space between it and the organs behind it. Carson enhanced the image again. There were what appeared to be thin tubes, vessel-like tissues, leading from this… whatever it was, to the main vein returning deoxygenated blood into the heart.

From there, it would be able to spread… something to every part of his body via his bloodstream. It didn’t seem to be a very effective system of delivery. There were blood vessels already leading to and away from this… organ? Were the blood vessels simply there to nourish it?

His first thought was about where it came from. His second thought was why the Ancient scanner hadn’t detected it, or rather, why hadn’t it highlighted it?
Thirdly, what was it doing?

Too many questions, again. But at least now he had something , a place to start. He just wished he’d found this sooner. Carson sat back to think through his discovery logically.

It was putting something into John’s bloodstream, he just needed to find what it was. He got up from his desk and got what he needed for a blood draw. He wanted to do this himself, quickly. He would have no idea what he was looking for until he saw it.

The Colonel never sat quietly during a blood draw, and Carson suspected an aversion to needles that was forced out of him by exposure. He had a high pain tolerance and Carson couldn’t imagine what would cause such an aversion.

It was odd: him lying silent at all. It just wasn’t right.


Less than an hour later, Carson was able to review the Colonel’s blood work. He’d sat down and was beginning to examine the cells when McKay walked in.

“Carson. I’m done,” he proclaimed, a laptop in hand and a victorious smile on his face.
Beckett sat up and looked at him, “That was fast, Rodney.”
Rodney’s smile didn’t fade, “Well, I already had a base to start from, I just needed to finish it.”

“Well, that’s good. Just let me finish this, and we can get started.”
The scientist came up beside Carson, “What are you doing?”
Carson didn’t look up from the magnifying viewer, “This is a blood sample I just took from Colonel Sheppard.”
“I thought you said there weren’t any other tests you could run?”
“There weren’t,” Carson moved away from the viewer, rolling his chair over to where his laptop was resting, the scan of John’s chest on screen. “I went through the results of the full body scan manually.” Rodney had followed him, watching the screen with a curious eye as Carson focused in on what he’d found, “I found this.”

Rodney stared at the image for a second, “So, I know I’m not really into this whole voodoo-science thing,” Carson blinked in order to not roll his eyes at Rodney’s ‘ anything-that-isn’t- real -science-must-be-fake ,’ attitude, “but that’s not supposed to be there, is it?”

At least the man had a basic understanding of human anatomy, “No. It’s not.” And that wasn’t really fair, was it? Rodney held science in high regard, just as he did… but just in a different way.

“So, what is it? Cancer?”
Carson shook his head, “I don’t think so. Cancer cells don’t form complex, functioning structures. From what I can tell without examining it first-hand, it appears to be a gland of some type.” He pointed out the vein-like structure he’d noticed earlier. “This appears to be putting something into his bloodstream, but I have no idea what. I’m hoping that if I find that something, I can search the database for it, and maybe start making headway.”

Rodney’s face was worried when he looked at Carson, “The database is huge. Even just all the medical stuff. It could take days to find anything, even with the search program.”
“Versus years , Rodney.”
“Good point.”

Carson wasn’t sure how long John had, but that didn’t mean he would stop working. Not till he found an answer. He looked at McKay, “You know what? Set up and search for what we do know in the meantime. When I find the mystery buggers, we’ll add it to the search. Hopefully it’ll narrow it down.”
Rodney nodded, “Right.” Carson watched him set the laptop up nearby, ensuring a stable connection to the city’s database before booting the program.

Between himself and Rodney, Carson was sure they’d find something .

-TBC

Chapter Text

CHAPTER VI

DAY 2
0955 AST

Dead ends.

Nothing but dead end after dead end after dead end .

Rodney was used to difficult problems. He solved impossible problems at the last possible second on a near-daily basis. Despite his own warnings to Carson that it may take a while for any results to come of the search program, he’d hoped for more… progress.

Carson had identified the ‘buggers’ in John’s blood a little while ago (some type of enzyme), and all Rodney got out of it was that it was not supposed to be in the human body, and Carson (instead of finding a way to get rid of it) wanted to find out what they were doing.

More tests.

And while Carson ran more tests, Rodney was left to man the computer searching the database. He’d entered new search parameters, hoping to narrow the results down, but it just seemed to be taking longer.

And longer.

He got that the database was huge, that the Ancients had compiled a lot of information, and there was a ton of it they had yet to even lay eyes on. Rodney set up a side program to flag files with certain keywords.

ZedPMs, for example, or potentia as they were called in Ancient. He added some other things people like Elizabeth and Doctor Jackson would be happier looking through.

He’d found some interesting files directed more toward his kind of science, but he’d filter through them all later. John came first.

Rodney lifted the last half of a sandwich up, and took a large bite. He chewed slowly while scanning the quickly passing files as they scrolled up the screen. The secondary search algorithm flagged two more, and then another.

He was chewing on his second bite when another file was flagged, but by the main search. He set his sandwich down and opened the file. He skimmed the words, then ran a translation program.

What the hell?

Rodney called out, not looking away from the screen, “Carson?”
Carson looked up from his datapad just as Rodney looked over his shoulder at him. “You should probably see this.” The scientist rolled his chair to the side, allowing Beckett to read the screen. He watched Carson’s face carefully, but he was never good at reading people.

The entry seemed to almost match what Carson was saying about this thing in John’s chest. But… it didn’t make sense. Beckett looked at McKay, “This is all it’s found?”
A nod, “So far, yeah.”
Carson looked confused, troubled, “Accordin’ to this, it is a gland. An exocrine gland, but some of it doesn’t match.”
“What does that mean?”
The doctor was quiet for a moment. No doubt trying to figure it out, “I don’t know, Rodney.”

“The enzyme,” Carson said, “That’s how his cut healed. It was the enzyme.” Rodney looked at the translation. There was a word that didn’t translate: sanos , and they’d need to ask someone who knew more latin than they did.

Elizabeth would know.

“So it’s a healing thing.” God, that was just so typical. Of course Sheppard would get super healing. “Where did it come from?”
Carson shook his head, “That’s where I’m havin’ a wee bit more trouble.” He paused, running his finger along a few lines of texts, but shook his head. Rodney had been reading, too, following Carson’s finger. The doctor shook his head again, “I just don’t know.”

This entry said nothing about the gland’s origins, but at least they’d found something. Beckett was sure it wasn’t going to be a danger to him, and decided to leave it be. Rodney wasn’t sure how he felt about that.

Envy, he realized. (John could, apparently, heal himself, after all.)
Envy and worry… mostly worry.

Rodney swallowed and turned back to the laptop, the search still running in the background. A few more entries had been tagged by the side program, and Rodney added the Ancient word sanos to the search parameters.

That should help.
Hopefully.


1235 AST

Elizabeth Weir found herself in the infirmary instead of the mess hall during her lunch time. She smiled kindly at the passing nurses, and spotted Carson near John’s bedside. Rodney was sitting at a table, laptop open in front of him, chin resting on his hand. He sat up straight when he noticed her, and she walked over to him.

“How’s he doing?”
“No change,” he said. He looked down at the laptop, “We found something in the database though.”
“Oh?”
Rodney hmmm’d and tapped away on his computer. Elizabeth walked around to see for herself. She quickly read through the entry. She heard footsteps and saw Carson was coming to join them, “Elizabeth,” he said in greeting.
“Carson,” a smile, but she was confused. “As interesting as this is… what does it have to do with John?”

The doctor looked troubled, and Elizabeth suddenly felt worry creeping up. She pushed it aside, focusing on the here and now. “I think it may be how he healed so fast.”
“How?” She watched as Carson turned to his own laptop and brought up a still image from the Ancient scanner. Beckett said it was from John’s scan, and he circled a certain area with his finger, then pointed to Rodney’s screen, “Seem familiar?”

The description from the entry matched what she saw on the scan… almost. There was something missing… like it wasn’t complete. This didn’t make sense. If that was John’s scan, but this… “Wait a minute. John has this…” she took a quick glance at McKay’s computer, “ Sanos glanulae ?” Glanulae translated as gland, very similar to the Latin translation for the same word. This other word, sanos . Like the Latin word sano . It meant ‘heal’ or ‘repair’.

Carson nodded, and Elizabeth felt more and more confused. None of this was making sense. The utter familiarity of the entry itself… it read like any anatomy book, but they’d never seen such detail in other research entries. Not in the entries they’d found on humans, nor any other life form.

There was a puzzle piece missing. She looked over at John’s form lying still as death on the bed. She repressed a shudder at that dark thought and pushed it away. That thinking would do no good, not when his life was still at stake.

She looked back at Carson and Rodney, “Have you found a reason for the coma yet?” They both shook their heads, and Rodney gave an answer, “The search is still running, and we have all the information we’ve got in the search parameters. We just need the program to find it.”

She nodded, “Okay. Keep me updated.” They nodded and she left (fled) the room.

Being there… seeing him so…

...still.

It was hard.

And it was wrong.


1527 AST

Rodney’s program searched the database unerringly. John’s prognosis was unchanged, and Carson feared the worst was yet to come. The last two days had been spent looking for a solution to John’s coma. Their own medical science had only given vague answers, and John was slowly getting worse.

Too little progress….

They needed help, but the truth was- they were very much on their own out here. Contact with Earth was limited to weekly data bursts, and neither the city or Earth had the power to spare. They had all the knowledge of Earth and one of the most advanced races known to them, and still they had found nothing. Their allies here in Pegasus were not in much of a position to assist them either, thanks to the Wraith.

Elizabeth frowned down at her computer.

Rodney had been kind enough to send the files flagged by his secondary program to her for review. While she was grateful for the distraction these new files provided, she was finding it difficult to concentrate. She’d elected not to use the translation software, normally enjoying the hard work of manual translation, but now it was simply a source of frustration.

She leaned back and let her gaze wander. From this spot in the conference room she could see the calm activity in the control room. Nothing with the city was amiss - no attacks, no threats from the Wraith. If it wasn’t for John being laid up in a coma, this would have been a good day.

He would have come into her office, touched base on the city’s status. John was good at that - making sure the city, not just the military or the scientists, were safe and well. The city itself . There were times that John would know, instinctively, if something was wrong with the city. Carson speculated that it was the strength of his gene which allowed it.

She remembered back to when they first arrived. She’d walked with Sumner and the first group of Marines through the Stargate and into the dark gate room of Atlantis. She’d felt the full range of emotions when she’d set foot in the city, but mostly she remembers feeling… fear.

There were no lights. Nothing to illuminate the space except the Stargate itself, and as Sumner’s men began to explore, and still no lights… she wondered…

And then the room lit, slowly coming to life. She’d turned to the Stargate and there he was, looking around in awe and wonder, and the city had come to life around him. The stairs lit for him, and the workstations powered up and the city hummed with life .

Like it had been waiting for him.

She heard hurried footsteps, Rodney, if she had to guess. Seconds later the scientist in question walked into the conference room, followed closely by Carson.

She looked at her watch: 15:28. Teyla and Ronon would be here soon. They needed to discuss their options for John, limited as they were.

Carson and Rodney were setting their computers up, pulling up the data they’d managed to collect so far. The three talked as they waited, carefully avoiding the subject of the black haired pilot laying in the infirmary. Teyla and Ronon arrived soon after, and at 15:30 the doors slid closed.

Elizabeth leaned forward, resting her elbows on the table, and looked at the doctor. “Carson, why don’t you get us started.”
“Aye,” he said, and started outlining everything he’d found which, so far, was only the new gland of mystery origin.
Teyla looked… disturbed, and Ronon posed a question, “What’s it doin?”
“So far,” Beckett started, “It looks like it’s creatin’ an enzyme that repairs damaged tissues, and distributes’ it into his bloodstream, where it seems to be dispersed throughout his body.”

Elizabeth wasn’t sure if Ronon totally understood what Carson was saying, but he seemed to get the point. Teyla had recovered from her well concealed shock, “Is it a danger to him?”
“Not at the moment, no. And accordin’ to what Rodney and I found in the database, it won’t be.”
“Do we know its origin yet?” Elizabeth asked, and Carson and Rodney looked at each other.

“We don’t know that it applies to them.”
“Who else could it be talkin’ about, Rodney?”
“I don’t know, but there’s no evidence--”
“It’s in the Ancient database, how much more evidence do ya need, man.”
“Just because it’s in the database doesn’t mean--”

“Gentlemen.” Elizabeth’s voice cut into their debate. They stopped to look at her and she looked back. “Care to share?”
Carson looked at Rodney again, and the scientist spoke, “It’s impossible .”
Carson fixed him with a look, “Any more impossible than what we deal with daily?” McKay opened his mouth, then shut it again. Carson had a point.

The doctor started to speak again, “We found another group of files in the database, related to the first one we found.”
Weir leaned in a bit more, looking at Carson. “And?”
“We found evidence,” Rodney rolled his eyes at the back of Carson’s head, “that the Sanos Glanulae appears to be a part of the physiology of the Ancients. That, along with what he told you, Elizabeth, about sensing the ATA gene... It lends credence to the idea.”
Rodney was getting frustrated, “Which is impossible !” he looked around the room, “Look. We know that the Ancients were just really advanced humans. They didn’t have the ability to heal themselves. We don't even know if they could sense each other.”

Carson’s thickening accent was the only clue that he was getting flustered, at the very edge of calm, “We dinnae know tha’ for sure, Rodney.”
“What about, ahh whatsername,” McKay clicked his fingers, “the, the Ancient woman SG-1 found frozen in Antarctica.”
Elizabeth leaned back in her chair, and said softly, “Ayiana.”
“Yes!” Rodney held up a finger, “She had the plague, right? The one that nearly wiped the Ancients on Earth out. Shortly before they left for Pegasus.”

Elizabeth thought to when she had read all those mission reports, back when she was head of the SGC. Ayiana had been sick, Rodney was right about that much. But… “If I remember the mission report correctly: Ayiana could heal quickly, but she couldn’t say, or possibly remember, how.”

Rodney’s face froze, “What, really?” Rodney wasn’t wrong often enough, and so the shock of him being wrong about something seemed to have thrown him off kilter. “But that could mean…”
“Aye, that he doesn’t just have the gene.”
“But that doesn’t make sense !” Rodney’s tone took on a desperate edge. “How could he be an Ancient? Even half-Ancient? They died out thousands of years ago, how is that possible?”

“I don’t know, Rodney!” Carson said, just this side of yelling. “I think we’re as confused as ye are!”

Teyla leaned forward, “ If there is even the slightest chance that John is one of the Ancestors,” she looked around the table, and when she looked at Ronon, an understanding seemed to pass between them, “It will change a great many things.”
“How? I mean, if we are really operating under the assumption that he’s an… Ancient,” Rodney paused, as if letting that thought sink in. “How does that change anything? He’s still… well, he’s still John... right?”

“Of course,” Teyla said reassuringly. “But my people have been awaiting the return of the Ancestors for many generations. If word of this reaches them, even whispers, John’s status among the Athosians will change drastically.”
“Would that be a bad thing?” Rodney asked. “I mean, they’d just love him more than they already do.”

Elizabeth understood Teyla’s point even though Rodney didn't seem to. Teyla looked toward her and Ronon for help. Elizabeth assumed Ronon would, as a Pegasus native, understand the full implications, and she was right, judging by what he said next. “Ever known Sheppard to want that kind of attention?”

Rodney paused as the point sunk in, “Well… no.”

“I agree, Teyla.” Elizabeth knew John would hate the added attention that revelation would bring. He wouldn’t want to be treated any differently. “The other issue is the IOA. They aren't fans of unknowns.”
“Aye,” Carson said, “and if this is true, it’s a hell of an unknown.” He paused for a moment. “Something else to consider: does John know?” The question was valid, and everyone looked at each other.
“How could he not?” Rodney asked.
Teyla supplied, “He seemed very confused at how quickly his cut had healed.” And that seemed to settle the matter. John didn’t know, and until he told them otherwise, they would operate under that assumption.

The room was quiet for a time. All of them absorbing the limited information they had. Rodney eventually spoke, breaking the silence. Gone was the arrogance of before. “So we’re really doing this,” he stated. “Keeping this a secret?”
“As much as we can,” Elizabeth said, and she knew they were all walking a very fine line. “The data burst is tomorrow morning. For now, Carson, I want you to compile a report. Only say that John’s in a coma for reasons that are, as of yet , unknown.” She looked at Rodney, Teyla and Ronon next, “I want the rest of you to put down only what happened on 556.” Everyone nodded. “There’s pieces of this puzzle missing. When John wakes up, we can tackle this head on, but for now we keep it under our hats. John deserves to be part of this discussion.” And no one was going to argue against that.

There were still many more questions. Burning questions, that for now, had no answers. As the room’s occupants filed out, Elizabeth remained. She didn’t want to return to her office just yet. She had things to occupy her time here.

There were still files from the database to translate.

-TBC

Chapter Text

CHAPTER VII

DAY 3 - A5Z-AA7
0953 AST

It was always disorienting, going through the Stargate in daylight, and coming out in near darkness. Evan Lorne adjusted quickly though, first scanning the area around the gate for signs of danger or anything amiss. He heard his team form up just behind him, doing the same. Lorne’s XO, Lieutenant Matt Reed, came up next to him, “Looks clear, sir.” Evan nodded and instructed Reed to take point with Captain Malcolm Coughlin. Lorne and Doctor Ben Thomas brought up the rear. “There’s an Outpost here somewhere, let’s find it,” Lorne declared, and AR-2 set out away from the Stargate.

Three moons made seeing in the darkness fairly easy, and the team elected to not ruin their night vision by switching on the torches on their P90’s. It was brighter than a full moon on Earth, and easy to see by. Evan glanced up and was greeted by a night sky full of diamonds and the gaseous arm of the galaxy stretching out across the sky. The swirling colors reminded him of Van Gogh’s The Starry Night, and the image was suddenly transposed over this alien sky. Evan blinked and it returned to its natural form and colors.

He’d love to paint it. Even the night view on Lantea would be a fantastic piece, along with any part of the city herself… If only he had the time.

Ben Thomas pried his LSD from his vest and thought it on. Evan cast it a glance as he walked, “Anything, Doc?”
“Ummmm… maybe.”
Lorne echoed his ‘maybe’ and watched as the scientist fiddled with the device. “There’s a faint reading straight ahead,” he finally declared. “About…” Ben looked at the scanner closely, “13 kilometers. Maybe a little more.”

“Alright,” Evan said. “Ahead it is.”

Nights on this planet seemed to be short and the moons moved quickly as they walked through green knee-high grass. Each move they made produced a swishing sound from the blades of grass. Nighttime insects flew about. Some of them gave song to the night, others seemed to be like Fireflies: small spots of floating light.

Overall, it was probably the most peaceful atmosphere he’d encountered off-world in a long time.

By the time they’d walked the projected thirteen klicks, tendrils of golden light were reaching over the horizon in a showy display of pre-dawn.

Lorne’s artist side jumped up again, and that was the only downside of doing what he did. He rarely had time for his hobbies, even if he did see all kinds of things that would make amazing art pieces.

Thomas’ LSD bleeped and the scientist moved up to the front of the group. Reed and Coughlin, who’d been in idle conversation, stopped talking as the doc walked faster ahead. “Slow down, there, Doc,” Coughlin said.

Ben stopped abruptly and looked down at the scanner. “It’s here,” he said, “right here.” The team looked around, but there was nothing but grass, grass and more grass.

“Nothin’ here, Doc,” Reed said, “You sure?”
“We’re right on top of it.” Ben started to wander in a tight circle, looking at the ground. He pulled his torch out and flicked it on. The light caught Coughlin and Reed in the face.

“Dammit, Doc!” Reed growled. “Way to go!”
Ben pointed the light down quickly. “Sorry!”

Coughlin rubbed the dots out of his eyes, and Lorne sighed before flicking the light on his P90 on. Coughlin and Reed followed suit.
“So what do we have?” Lorne asked.
Ben Thomas made an exasperated sound, “I'd know if I could see it.”
“Maybe it’s underground.” Reed said, “Or overgrown. It has been 10,000 years.”
“Overgrown by what?” Ben asked, “There’s just flat ground and grass.”

Doc Thomas wandered away from the team a bit, shining his light downward, looking for anything that might give away the location of the outpost. Lorne looked away and scanned the area. It was harder to see out any farther now that their lights were on, but the sun would be up very soon.

A muffled ‘Ow’ and Evan’s head snapped back to Ben. The man was holding his nose, like he'd run into something in the open field. Lorne ran up to him. “What is it?” Reed and Coughlin followed closely, weapons at the ready in their hands.

Lorne reached the scientist, but before he could touch the other man’s shoulder something shimmered in the corner of his eye. It swirled with colors like a soap bubble for a moment, before a shape solidified in the grass. Evan raised his weapon to match Reed and Coughlin.

Thomas lowered his hand from his nose, and looked down at the scanner. “That’s it,” he said. “That’s the source.”

Before them stood a…
...a rock.

Its face was flat and unnaturally smooth with a shine to it. The rest was as rough as rock should be. It was vaguely triangular in shape and just slightly taller than Lorne himself. Something crystalline was inlaid to the right of the smooth surface. Another, larger crystal was inlaid near the top.

Some parts of it looked Ancient in design, and the shimmering had reminded him of the jumper’s cloaks.

Ben Thomas walked closer to it, reaching a hand out. Lorne took a step forward, his voice urging caution, “Careful, Doc.”

Ben muttered a response, but was heedless, as usual, and instead remarked on what Lorne himself had already concluded. “The cloak seems to be Ancient, and the design of the crystals are similar to the ZPMs…” He reached closer to touch the smooth surface, and it rippled. Ben jumped away and the rest of the team took a cautious step back.

An image began to appear in place of the smooth rock, and Lorne was reminded of the Quantum Mirror. He’d done a lot of reading of old mission reports when he’d first joined the SGC. He’d wanted to know what he was up against back when their biggest bad guys were the Goa'uld.

The image cleared, an expansive field with mountains and tall yellow grass. A single moon hung in a blue midday sky. The sun was out of view, and Lorne got the impression this was a totally different world.

He heard Thomas whisper, “Fascinating….”

Two figures, human men from the look of them, appeared from each side within the image. The pair spoke to each other, though no sound could heard. They seemed confused by something, and then one reached forward. AR-2 gripped their weapons a little tighter, even Doc Thomas had his 9 mil out and held up with slightly shaking hands.

There was a quick flash of white light and the two men were standing before them with their own weapons raised cautiously. Evan examined their weapons and attire quickly. Tan and earth toned clothing with similar design. Leather or leather substitute made up bracers on their forearms, and belts with holsters for their very alien looking weapons. Energy weapons from the look of them, too similar to the reports of Asuran weapons. Evan’s grip on his P90 tightened subconsciously.

“Hi there,” Evan said, a tight smile on his lips.

These were not the typical local humans, that much was clear. Judging from their weapons alone, they weren’t too impacted by the Wraith, and Lorne prayed that they hadn’t just stumbled onto another Replicator world.

They sized each other up carefully, neither clear on the other’s intentions. The man on the left, with dark brown hair and slate blue eyes barked a question, his tone demanding an answer, “Who are you and from where do you come?”

Lorne took in a breath, “We’re peaceful explorers.”
‘Peaceful’ ,” the other one repeated, his green eyes narrowing, “Then why do you carry weapons?”
“For protection, in case we run into the Wraith.” Evan said, and he seemed to accept that, but the first man did not look too appeased, “You still have not said where you are from.”
‘Okay,’ Evan thought, ‘time to sell the story.’ He took a breath, “Until recently…” pause for effect. He thought about the first time he moved away from his first house, the one that held so many memories. It had been home, like the city was now home. Use those old emotions to help sell the lie, “Atlantis.”

Lorne saw recognition spark in their eyes for only a moment before it was gone, and he felt his own suspicions rise. The green-eyed one repeated him again, “ ‘Until recently’ ,” and Lorne settled on calling him Echo. The brown-haired one was dubbed Chief. He seemed to be in charge of the other guy. Evan looked at Echo and nodded slowly, hoping there was a convincing enough look of pain in his eyes, “Destroyed. To keep the Wraith from capturing it.”

Echo looked at Chief and something seemed to pass between them. They holstered their weapons slowly. AR-2 lowered their weapons as well, and he heard Ben sigh with relief as he holstered his handgun. Chief took a deliberate step forward, “ If what you say is true… the Council will want to speak with you.”

They still had a few hours till check-in, might as well see who these guys were. Find out for sure if they were Asuran. “Alright,” he said, “lead the way.” Echo took a step to join his comrade, “Your weapons, please.”

Coughlin's grip on his P-90 stiffened, and he looked sideways at the Major with uncertainty, "Sir..."
"Captain..." Lorne silently considered his options, which were few. After a few agonizing seconds that felt like minutes he finally made his mind up. "Do as the man says."

A low chorus of 'yes Sir' sounded as the team removed their vests and weapons and handed them over. Chief and Echo took two vests each and set them down to one side of the rock slab, "You may retrieve these when you return."
"Return from where?" Lorne questioned.
"Arcadia."
"And where is that?"

A knowing smile rose on Echo’s face as he reached toward the smaller crystal. The crystal at the top glowed white, and Lorne forced himself not to step back. A wide beam shot out from the top crystal and all those gathered in front of it vanished, leaving the rock the only thing standing. But soon, it (along with the team’s gear) shimmered from sight, leaving only tall grass waving in the breeze.


ATLANTIS
1305 AST

The Infirmary was quiet; only the hum of the city and the beep of a single heart monitor was audible. Carson had seen a few patients over the course of the morning. Miller had suffered a twisted ankle. Several marines had showed up with various injuries. All of them had been sparring, and Carson had to guess it was either with Teyla or Ronon. Judging by the damage done, it had been the big man.

Teyla was careful to not cause visible or lasting damage other than bruises.

There had been a few other visitors. Some for injuries, and some… Carson looked over at Colonel Sheppard, who was still unresponsive to anything they tried. His brain activity was steadily rising, and Carson felt cold fear take hold of his heart. He worried for the Colonel. As did many others in the city, but none so worried as his team.

Rodney and Teyla were his current visitors, sitting by his bedside. Teyla would often speak to him, and Carson assured her that he could hear her. Perhaps he would not remember what was said, but her voice might bring him some measure of comfort. Rodney did too, though only when he thought no one was listening. Elizabeth would visit as well, tell him how the city was doing, keep him updated as she knew he would want to be if he were awake. Ronon came often too, but never stayed long, and never spoke. At least, not that Carson had ever heard.

The big man wasn’t one to wait around for something to happen.

Teyla was currently telling John of some of the Athosian children’s exploits. The games they played, the people they pretended to be. When they first arrived, the children had liked pretending to be John, fighting bravely against the Wraith. Carson smiled to himself. John had brought hope to these people.

The doctor checked his watch and decided that now was as good a time as any to check on the Colonel, and log any changes in his condition.

Rodney was tapping away on a laptop, the search program still running faithfully. So far, it had produced no further results, at least as far as John’s condition was concerned. Carson walked up to the opposite side of the bed as John’s visitors. “Rodney. Teyla.”
“How is he?” Teyla asked, meeting his eyes. Carson looked carefully at the readings and checked them against the records from an hour ago. He sighed deeply, “Activity is still risin’.”

Rodney had stopped typing long enough to listen, but then he started again. Carson could tell he wanted to be supportive, but sitting idle was not something he was good at. There wasn’t much to do but sit and talk when with a coma patient.

And Rodney was too… shy... to speak to John while anyone was near. It was hard for all of them to sit by. To be able to do nothing for the man they all cared greatly about. None felt as powerless as Carson… at least in his mind. He was a doctor for God’s Sake! He should be able to solve this with all the technology and knowledge at his disposal.

Rodney had stopped typing again, his fingers frozen on the keyboard. Carson frowned, then followed Rodney’s line of sight. Teyla did as well, and they saw what Rodney saw.

“Is he… waking up?” Rodney asked carefully, unsure… afraid.

John’s hands were shaking, jerking. There was rhythm, and the movements on both sides of his body were repetitive. It had started with his hands, but within seconds his entire frame was shaking and moving beyond control. The various monitors that were hooked up to him had begun shrieking, and his EEG rose drastically.

Carson put a hand on John’s shoulder, not to hold him down, but if he was aware of his surroundings, perhaps the touch would help him somehow. Carson spoke calmly to him, reassuringly. Nonsense, mostly, just trying to be calming because for the moment, he was shaking too much to be placed in a recovery position on his side.

Rodney stood up as soon as he realized what was happening. Teyla stood as well, but was unsure. Fear and worry mixed in her eyes, “What is happening?”
“What I was afraid would happen,” Carson said. “He’s havin’ a seizure.” Carson had started timing the duration soon as he’d realized what it was. At 50 seconds, John’s body stilled, and his EEG dropped back to where it was before the seizure. Carson rubbed John’s shoulder and picked up his datapad to mark the event.

“What is a ‘seizure’?” Teyla asked. The worry and confusion were clear in her voice.
Rodney answered the question, “Ahh, it’s when there’s abnormal brain activity, and neurons in the brain fire too fast and it causes,” he gestured vaguely at John, “...that.”

A nurse appeared after hearing the wailing alarms, and Carson issued orders to get John onto his left side, into the recovery position. Becket carefully checked his breathing and other vitals, and was relieved that he was still breathing on his own.

Carson didn’t want this to go on any longer.
He didn’t want to find out how many seizures John would have, or at what point his brain would cease basic functions.

They needed a solution.

Fast.

-TBC

Chapter Text

CHAPTER VIII

DAY 3 - ARCADIA
1308 AST

Lorne had to admit: this place was impressive, though it was less about the looks and more about the people themselves. The Major and his team stopped in their tracks when they saw the spire rising from the ground. It looked much like the central spire in Atlantis surrounded by a rather large village (town?) spread out around it like a snowflake, as if the spire was the centerpoint of construction. Quite a few of the buildings looked they'd been there for years and weren't, under any circumstances, going to move. Others looked less permanent, as if they could be taken down and moved someplace else. Not quite tents, but not quite houses either.

The base of the spire was thicker than Atlantis', possibly housing a great many rooms and halls. The whole thing amounted to about the size of Atlantis’ inner city, which was again: impressive. Impressive that these people, simple in appearance, could build all this. Judging from the architecture, though, the Ancients had definitely given them a leg up.

He glanced down at Chief’s holstered weapon. A definite leg up on weapons, too.

"Locultus," Chief gestured toward the town from the rise they stood on. Echo had remained back at the portal-teleport-thing, with only Chief to escort them. Chief waved them on, "Come. The Council has been made aware of your presence and they are waiting." The group made their way down the hill, heading through the center of the town and earning them looks from a few who stopped their work to gaze upon the visitors. Some curious children stopped their games, and ran to the legs of nearby adults to peer cautiously at the strangely dressed people. One small girl waved shyly at Lorne, and he waved back with a kind smile.

Evan gazed around a moment longer, taking in the sights, trying to get as much intel as he could. Children, teenagers, adults… pets? A large (very large) canine-like animal lounged lazily near the entrance of a building. Lorne could see the power in the animal’s structure, and the sliver of green eyes watching them, him . There was intelligence there, and Lorne forced himself to look away just in case staring at it provoked some sort of attack.

"Um," Evan cleared his throat, and looked at Chief. "So, where are we? We were obviously teleported somewhere."
"You are correct," Chief confirmed. "You are no longer on the same planet as you were before."
Lorne wasn't totally surprised by this fact. There was only one moon visible in the sky above them. AA7 had three moons, and they had definitely been clustered together. He looked at Chief, "So, what planet are we on?"

They stopped at the base of the spire. Large doors stood at the top of a short set of stairs. Chief turned to look at AR-2, "You are on the planet Arcadia, in the province of Locultus."

Evan gazed upward, spying out the top of the tower – he guessed that was where the Council met. He could be wrong, though. The thought came again that these people, who were mostly dressed similarly, could be human form Replicators and he sincerely hoped they weren't. At the very least, so far, they were nicer than the Asurans.

Coughlin came up to Lorne when their escort moved toward the entrance to the spire, "Sir..." he whispered. Lorne was quick to answer, sensing what the Captain was about to say, "I know. Let's hope they aren't who we think." He followed their escort into the spire to meet the Council.

Take us to your leader.

The inside of the spire was a lot like the outside: a busy hive of bodies. Everyone seemed to be wearing uniforms denoting their role: medical, scientific (It was hard to tell those apart at first glance), and military (who seemed well armed in comparison to the rest). Lorne noticed a few teenagers milling about, possibly learning their trade. Unlike most people they ran into that had taken up residence in places the Ancients had built, these people seemed to know exactly what they were doing. This brought the Major, once again, back to the possibility that these people were Replicators; yet again Lorne hoped they weren't. (And why would Replicators look like children and teenagers?) But if they weren't Replicators then what were they? So much of this didn't add up.

Ancients?

The idea that they were Ancients almost made Evan laugh out loud, but he restrained himself. Not only would he earn himself strange looks from both his team and these people but he would also have to explain himself. He thought it best to remain professional in this case - which was good, because in no time, they had arrived at the doors that lead to the Council chamber, and he was reminded again of Atlantis. The doors swung open and the team, preceded by Chief, entered the chamber. Five men sat in chairs on one side of a long, curved table. The man in the center of the table looked to be oldest, and also the leader if the way he was dressed was any indication as to his status.

"Come forward, off-worlders. I am Adamus, Grand Councilor." The man in the center gestured for them to come closer and the doors swung closed behind them. Adamus looked at Chief, “You may remain, Dionysus.” Chief (Dionysus) inclined his head and stepped to one side of the room where he was out of the way, but still able to intervene if needed.

It was nice to know the guy’s name at least.

Lorne stepped forward and the rest of his team stayed a step behind. The Major introduced AR-2 to the Council, and they likewise did the same. From left to right, there was Clemens (a man with blonde hair just starting to gray) and Egidius (who had a very unusual set of blue eyes). On the other side of Adamus, there was Leolinus (possibly the youngest of the group with solid brown hair, and an overall youthful appearance). The last was Nicholas, a tall fellow with salt and pepper gray hair.

Adamus gazed at them, "The Portal Watchmen tell us that you once came from Atlantis."
Lorne nodded, "That's right, Sir. It um… was destroyed to keep it out of Wraith hands."

The leader leaned back in his chair. "I see." He seemed thoughtful for a moment. "Where is your homeworld? Certainly you don't hail from Atlantis originally." Lorne glanced at his team, one of which shrugged subtly, "No, Sir. We don't. We discovered the city a little over two years ago."

Adamus, noticing that the Major had failed to answer his question, leaned his arms on the table before him. "But where is your homeworld?" he reiterated. The Grand Councilor seemed to notice Lorne’s reluctance, and added, "I understand your reluctance, Major. But understand: that you are on my homeworld, and I wish to know from where our visitors come."

Finally, the Major gave in, realizing that keeping quiet or lying would serve no purpose. "Earth."
"Interesting," Nicholas started. "I was not aware the humans of Terra were capable of spaceflight – much less capable of reaching the galaxy you came from."

Evan filed away their use of ‘Terra’, the Ancient name for Earth, and instead peered at the Councilor, "The galaxy we came from… as in Earth's galaxy?"

"No. I refer to the galaxy that Atlantis was left in ten thousand years ago."
Lorne was confused, "Okay, so what galaxy are we in now?"
Adamus smiled slightly, "Terra's, as you say. Our people call this galaxy 'Avalon.' "

Avalon.
Avalon.

Lorne looked between the Councilors. Holy crap, we’re in the Milky Way!? He had a funny feeling in his gut. "The portal, did your people make that?"
Adamus nodded, "Yes, many years ago, when we first came to this planet. There is no Stargate on this world, so we completed an abandoned project. Another means of transport between the two galaxies."

He didn’t elaborate further, and too many questions rolled around Lorne’s head. He grasped at the one that seemed to pop up most often: "Who are you people?"

There was a pause, a moment in which the Council deliberated silently. Sheppard and Weir did that sometimes, communicate through looks and subtle body language. This… this was the same, yet different.

They gave almost nothing away, no emotion crossed their faces. Though, there was a raised eyebrow from Nicholas. A slight inclined head from Clemens. So what was this? Telepathy? Nanite communication? Lorne, for once, hoped it was the former.

An agreement seemed to be reached, and the Council faced them as one.

“We are the Alterans.”

What. Just… what?

“If you came from Atlantis, there is, perhaps another name you might know us by.” And Lorne’s mind came to a full, and sudden stop before rebooting. Alterans… and didn’t Doctor Jackson say something about the Alterans being the Ancients? Something they got in a data packet of intel from Earth not long ago.

They liked to stay informed, keep up to date with things in Milky Way. And that had been something he’d read. He'd paid it no heed before, but now….

Lorne ventured a guess, a wild one, and hoped he was right. Because if these were replicators, he was about to piss them off, “The Ancients….” And there was no anger, or outburst or anything but acceptance. Adamus tilted his head in a nod, the ghost of a smile on his face.

Lorne stood stunned, missing the various, but equally surprised reactions of his team behind him.

What.


ATLANTIS
1557 AST

“I hate to be the pessimist here...”

Elizabeth resisted the urge to roll her eyes, valiantly, if she did say so herself. She settled, instead, for a blink of the eyes and a long suffering expression. Rodney and Lorne had been debating the validity of the civilization Lorne’s team had discovered for several minutes. Lorne and Captain Coughlin had detailed everything the ‘ Ancients’ had been willing to tell them. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to raise some serious questions.

“...But we’ve run into people claiming to be Ancients before. And they turned out to be robots with a vendetta. Or glowy squids who won’t help.” Rodney was understandably sceptical, but in Weir’s mind the possibilities (if it was true) were boundless. Not just for the knowledge of the expedition, of Earth in general, but for John.

“They called themselves ‘ Alteran ’, McKay.” The Major was arguing for these new people.

“Okay, so?”

“So?” Lorne repeated. “So, that’s what the Ancients called themselves before they were called The Ancients .” Evan gave Elizabeth a quick questioning look, and she nodded. It seemed that Major Lorne had kept up with the intel from Earth, same as her.

Rodney probably didn’t; he considered fields such as anthropology and archeology ‘soft’ sciences.

Lorne looked back at Rodney, who had opened his mouth as if to same something, but Lorne beat him to it, “And, we saw kids; teenagers. If they were Replicators, why would there be children and teenagers? And if they were Ascended, why would we have found them at all?”

“Ahh…” Rodney seemed stumped, “I don’t know.” And now he seemed to be considering the possibility. “So they could-- they could really be…”

“Ancients,” Elizabeth said at long last, after listening to both McKay and Lorne argue. She leaned her forearms on the table. “Either way, we need to find out for sure. And if they are Ancients, and they are willing to share their knowledge,” she looked between the three men, “It’s not an opportunity we can afford to pass up.”

There was a spark in Rodney’s eyes now: glee and hope, and she knew he was thinking the same as her. They needed their help, not just to fully understand this city and its magical technology, but to save John.

Elizabeth pushed back from the table, rolling her chair away to stand. She looked squarely at the Major. “I want to leave in 20 minutes.” Lorne gave her a sharp nod, understanding that there was no way she was going to pass this up. This was, after all, why they - why she - had come here.

To meet the Ancients.

But first, she needed to meet with Carson.

-TBC

Chapter Text

CHAPTER IX

DAY 3 - A5Z-AA7
1621 AST

In the interest of expediency they brought a jumper to AA7 and parked it, cloaked, near the portal. It was more than a two hour hike on foot from the Gate that they simply didn’t have time for, and Carson had made it clear he didn’t know how much time John had left.

The portal had uncloaked once they got near it, possibly due to Major Lorne’s ATA gene. She found the design fascinating but had no desire true to examine it, or the small bits of Ancient text she could make out near the base of the ‘stone’, nearly hidden by the grass.

She could do that when she had unoccupied brains cells to properly devote to the task.

They waited by the portal, as per the instructions Lorne had received, and Elizabeth finally had time to think on everything. Not just what she was going to say to the Council - that part was relatively easy - but instead everything that had happened in the last three days.

The task her brains cells were currently occupied with.

John’s coma, the evidence that he might possibly be an Ancient himself, the very timely discovery of other Ancients . Then there were the other worrisome things. John’s last seizure had happened just before they’d left; that made two already. There would be more, Carson said. They would occur with increasing frequency until it finally stopped. All of it. His brain would simply shut down, collapse, under the strain.

It was a terrifying prognosis, and Carson had no idea just how aware John even was. He wasn’t responding to stimuli, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t aware of anything happening around him.

She hoped, on one hand, that he was aware. Then he would know they were doing everything to help him; that they weren’t giving up. But if he was aware, if he could hear and feel and smell but not move or talk or see… she could not imagine how helpless he must feel, knowing what is happening around him but unable to react or reply.

Knowing his time was growing shorter and shorter….

If he wasn’t… if he was truly as unaware as he appeared, then perhaps it was a good thing. If they couldn’t solve this…

If they couldn’t solve this, then he would simply pass on in his sleep.

Without pain, or fear.

Elizabeth folded her arms around her waist, the only outward display of her inner turmoil. She hated thinking this way, preferring to remain as positive as she could. But, like Carson, she needed to be aware of the worst case scenario.

Not matter how much she didn’t want to know.

Elizabeth dropped her arms to her sides as a flash of light came from the stone. A man with brown hair and slate blue eyes appeared before them. There was something in his eyes… an age and wisdom that seemed to defy his outward youthful appearance.

“Dionysus,” Major Lorne said and he gestured to her, “This is Doctor Elizabeth Weir. She’s the leader of our expedition.”

Elizabeth folder her hands in front of her respectfully, and inclined her head in greeting, “It’s an honor to meet you.”

Dionysus inclined his head in return, “Likewise, Doctor Weir.” He put a hand to his chest, indicating himself, “Dionysus Almus.” He took a step away from the portal and toward Elizabeth. “It seems Major Lorne’s assessment that you would wish to speak with the Council yourself was not mistaken.”

“No, it wasn’t,” she said with a smile, but a more serious look took its place. Dionysus, for his part, seemed to sense the change. His posture changed minutely, a wary but curious look well hidden in his eyes.

“I have an urgent matter to discuss with your Council. I only hope you can help us.” She made sure to give nothing of her emotions away but sincerity of the request. John was first. He needed the Ancients more desperately than they needed them as allies.

“What is the nature of the issue?” he was curious why they would ask for help, she could see that. She could see he didn't know what to think of them, but he didn't seem like he would turn them away.

She took a breath, a shallow intake of air to steel herself, “Medical aid. One of own is very ill, asking your aid is our only option left for him.”

All truth, of course. For the moment she would not say that John was, or was suspected to be, an Ancient. Major Lorne, and by extension his team, had not been informed, and for now - at least until John woke up - it would stay that way.

She didn't like keeping this from her people; from people she trusted, like Major Lorne. The less people who knew, the better. She respected John as an individual and an officer far too much to go over his head about this.

Dionysus finally nodded, “Very well. I will alert the Council to your request.”

“Thank you, Dionysus,” Elizabeth said sincerely. He nodded again, a kindly look on his face. Then he took a step back and beckoned them forward, closer to the portal.

He activated it, and they were gone in a white flash.


ARCADIA
1655 AST

Once they had reached Arcadia, she overheard Dionysus contacting the Council via some sort of communication device on his jacket collar. He spoke in fluent Ancient, the sound of the words building and falling in all the right places. It was different though, very slightly. The words were all the same but the tone was different than she'd heard before.

Were these really, truly, Ancients? If so, it was not unheard of for languages to change over time. If these were machines, would the language change at all? Would the people? The culture?

When they reached the town, Dionysus informed them that the Council would need a few moments to gather. Major Lorne took the time to contact the other two members of his team with instructions to meet at their location.

The town itself was something Elizabeth could not help but stare at in open wonder. People were everywhere. Outdoor markets and shops, people going to and fro, working, building. Children played games while older teens watched, keeping careful eye on the young. A young boy, no older than 7 or 8 walked along side a medium sized dog-like animal of some sort. It seemed young as well, not quite steady on, or grown into, its own feet. It (he?) walked with attempted grace, not unlike a young cat. The child, a smile on his face, wrapped his arms around the animal’s neck in a hug, and instead of attempting to wiggle out of the child’s grasp like most young dogs would, he actually seemed to return it.

She wasn't sure if that was her own child-like fantasies of having a pet that would return your affections like that, or if it actually did return the child’s embrace.

“Tanobi.”

She blinked at Dionysus, “I’m sorry?”

He smiled and gestured toward the child and creature, “They are called Tanobi. They’ve been our companions on this world for many generations.” Elizabeth nodded and turned her eyes to the spire, so much like Atlantis’. He followed her gaze, “The Council will be ready soon.”

She nodded, then gazed around again. Not all the people wore the same type of clothes as Dionysus did. She guessed they were uniforms, but she wondered, “Is everyone here Alteran?” She was glad she remembered what Lorne said about them not calling themselves Ancients.

“Some,” he said, “Not all. Over half this world’s population are the humans native to this world.”

Interesting. So not only were there both humans and Ancients (which, really were just very biologically advanced humans themselves), but they were outnumbered by the human population. Looking around though, there seemed to be an easy calm. The possibilities of a place where there was no fear, no worry. Where human and Alteran children played, learned and grew together….

It brought her hope that they, the Taur’i/Terran people and the people of Arcadia could be allies.

She was brought out of her thoughts by a child’s shout, not of distress, but of joy.

“Pare!” (Father!) He shouted in Ancient, the boy with the Tanobi. The Tanobi was now close at the boy’s heels, its tongue hanging from its mouth. Elizabeth then made the connection as Dionysus knelt down and the boy all but jumped into his father’s embrace. The boy must have just realized his father was nearby.

She smiled softly at the display, but she felt like an intruder in a private event. The boy spoke happily, a mash of words that Elizabeth had trouble following, but Dionysus had no such trouble. He smiled, laughed and rubbed the Tanobi behind the ears.

Dionysus spoke a soft, firm command, “Ito alludios, Iacobus.” (Go play, Jacobus.) He ruffled the dark hair on the boy’s head before he scampered off, the creature following right behind.

“Major!”

The moment broken, Elizabeth turned to find Lieutenant Reed and Doctor Thomas jogging up to them. She saw Dionysus stand at the edge of her vision. The two men stopped and Ben Thomas bent over, hands on his knees, trying to catch his breath. Reed looked at his team lead with a quick salute, “Major.” He gave Elizabeth a sharp, respectful nod, “Doctor Weir.”

Thomas, still catching his breath, gave Elizabeth a wave, “Doctor Weir.” She gave both men a nod, “Lieutenant Reed, Doctor Thomas.”

Ben stood upright, breathing deep now that he could fill his lungs again, he opened his mouth to speak but Dionysus’ communication device chirped once, a short string of Ancient words flowed from it. He answered to it swiftly, “Etium, domin.” (Yes, sir.)

He turned to them, “The Council is ready for you, Doctor Weir.” She gave a steely nod and took a breath as Dionysus turned toward the spire.

Lorne held out the datapad provided by Doctor Beckett. She took it and followed Dionysus into the spire.

John was counting on her.


Elizabeth found there to be… something about Adamus that didn’t sit right. It wasn’t that he was unkind, or cold toward her. He seemed… distracted? The Council members showed varied degrees of mistrust and curiosity, but Adamus… Elizabeth was sure he was hiding something.

After years of being exposed to various political parties, she prided herself on her ability to read people. She didn’t know what it was that had Adamus off-kilter; she doubted it was about her or her people directly, but there was definitely something else going on behind the scenes.

She didn’t spare a glance to where Dionysus stood watch but she wondered if he was aware of any deception. She wondered if she and hers were the ones being deceived. Elizabeth only hoped that trusting them didn’t end the same way that trusting the Asurans had. They were so hopeful that these would be real, living Ancients, they hadn’t considered until it was almost too late that the situation could possibly be something else entirely.

“It is an honor to meet you, Doctor Weir,” The Alteran called Nicholas said, a kindly grin on his face. Elizabeth bowed her head, “Likewise, Councilors. Thank you for agreeing to meet with me.”

Clemens leaned forward in his chair, “Your request seemed urgent. Medical aid, Dionysus reported?”
“That is correct.” She held the datapad to her side in one hand. She recalled the information Carson had told her, and she explained in as much detail as she dared to the Council before her. She kept the fact that John might possibly be an Ancient under wraps for now, not quite sure if these people could be fully trusted. She was willing to take a leap of faith though should it become necessary, if only to save John’s life.

To their credit, they did not question her on the state of the city. They kept to the current issue, and for that Elizabeth was grateful. She knew she could lie to them to protect the city if needed.

Dionysus, Nicholas looked at the Watchman. See that your brother is brought to us. It was helpful, she decided, that they were not aware that she could understand them. Dionysus bowed his head and left the room swiftly. His brother?

“A healer has been sent for,” Nicholas stated. “I assume the device you carry holds the pertinent information?”

Elizabeth nodded, “It does.”

When Dionysus returned, he had another man in tow. This Ancient was tall; John’s height. His hair was dark brown, like Dionysus’ but the edges were rimmed in streaks of silver. He looked to be, perhaps in his fifties, but his gray eyes seemed older. Dionysus resumed his post and the other man took up position beside Elizabeth, greeting the Council respectfully.

His name, according to the introduction she got from the Council, was Terrance Almus. A healer of the mind and body alike, and she felt the barest amount of hope swell in her chest. She contained it before it reached her face, though, and introductions concluded, she held the datapad out to Terrance. He smiled kindly as he took it, murmured the Ancient words for ‘ Thank you’ , and began to go over the data that had been carefully translated into Ancient.

As she watched him, she noticed that he seemed a gentle individual; kind and caring. She could read it on his face with ease. Just then his brows furrowed and she immediately grew concerned.

Adamus, who had been silent for the most part during this meeting leaned forward, “What is your verdict, Healer Almus?” Terrance was quiet as his finished with the data, but she noticed that he lingered on one image: the full body scan. Confusion flickered across his face for the barest of moments, then it was gone again.

Finally, Terrance spoke, “His situation is dire.” He paused as he studied an image of John’s brain. He nodded to himself then handed the device back to Elizabeth, then looked at the Council. “I can help him though.”

The Council looked to each other silently, and Elizabeth watched them carefully. Finally, after several silent seconds, Adamus stood, and the rest of the Councilors with him. “We will discuss your need, and have an answer for you shortly.”

With that very abrupt dismissal and no opportunity to dispute it, the doors opened of their own accord. Dionysus was silently instructed to escort both Terrance and Elizabeth from the room. The Council left through another exit and Terrance turned to direct a sour look at the now empty chambers.

“That was odd,” she heard Dionysus say and Terrance hummed in agreement.
“Unfortunately,” he directed his look at at Elizabeth, “Your man doesn’t have time for such delays.”

-TBC

Chapter Text

CHAPTER X

ARCADIA, THE SPIRE
1702 AST

The town around the spire was winding down; people closing shops and heading home to be with their families. It was a far cry from the busy area Major Lorne and his team had encountered just hours before. The sun wasn’t setting just yet, and some places of business would remain open long after dusk. Children still played and would continue to do so until summoned for supper.

High within the spire, Adamus watched with keen, but aged eyes. So much time had passed since their retreat from Atlantis; 10,000 years gone by. Obviously the Wraith were still a threat, but none of that mattered to his people.

Not anymore.
Their eyes have not been skybound since they came here and realized a great many things about themselves. Truths that were hard-learned and only after suffering defeat. Now… now, their focus was firmly earthbound.

The Grand Councilor thought back to the session he had just left. The woman, Elizabeth Weir, was a curiosity to him. The Last City had been lost to them, and yet, she didn’t ask for technology, or knowledge - things things they no doubt needed in order to survive and protect themselves.

He conceded that it was possible that they already had technology to use. They had, after all, been in the last city; they had lived, worked, and fought for it. He felt only a distant ache at the loss, but he was too distant from those bloodlines to feel any connection to the city of their ancestors.

He contemplated her dilemma. The details of the illness seemed… familiar in way that Adamus could not place. He was a healer and thus had little to no knowledge of such things.

Four of the council had made their decision, but Adamus had not. Nicholas and Clemens were the strongest supporters, Leolinus supported their plight as well. Egidius was a cautious soul, and as such he wanted to know more, but he was not opposed. Adamus himself, however, had larger problems.

One life - one life unconnected to his people - was unimportant. He knew such thinking was wrong; lives were something sacred. But when faced between the annihilation of his people, and one human life… he would chose his people.

Every time.
He was doing this for his people.

A steady beeping behind him cut through his thoughts and he turned away from the window. He pressed a button on the communications panel built into his desk, "Yes?"

"Grand Councilor, there is a message for you. It is encrypted."
"Very well, send it to my office."
"Etium, Domin." (Yes, Sir.)

Adamus walked around his desk and, while his computer set to decrypting the message, settled himself down in his chair. The message was ready quickly, and Adamus played the message and watched with interest. The voice was deep, a typical trait of his species.

"Grand Councilor Admaus of the Alteran world Arcadia. I am sending you my terms for our alliance. I trust you will find them… acceptable." A pause, "I await your reply. You have three days to decide, or our truce will be forfeit."

Adamus rested his elbows on the desk; hands folded and chin resting on his hands. The demands he was making were great, and most – if not all – his people would protest.

But he had to protect his people and, in the end, this alliance would do just that.
Once he had what he wanted, they would be left alone.

He had no choice but to accept the terms presented.
No choice.

There was also no choice but to inform the Council about the alliance. Adamus stood and strode out of his office, knowing full well they would not be pleased that he made an arrangement without their consult.

Doctor Weir’s plight would have to wait.


THE SPIRE, MEDICOS REGIOS
1704 AST

Without actually asking anyone, it was hard to tell exactly who, or rather what, these people were. She couldn’t very well walk up to someone, say ‘Are you Replicators?’ and expect to not be looked upon as a stupid and simple human. That said, she’d be forced to settle with observation, something she knew Major Lorne and the rest of AR2 were employing as well.

With their swift dismissal from the Council chambers, Elizabeth and Terrance, along with Dionysus, retreated to the Healer Ward of the Spire. It was there that Terrance once again asked for the datapad and began to cross reference the data from it with data in the Spire’s systems.

“What are you looking for,” Dionysus asked his brother.
Regressium, ” he replied shortly.

Regressium...
Was that the word for regression?

Elizabeth noticed that Dionysus seemed puzzled, “ Regressium …” he repeated quietly, “That hasn’t been an issue in 9,000 years.”
“Longer,” Terrance said, “But I think that is the core of Colonel Sheppard’s issues.” She wondered for a moment how he knew John’s name, then she recalled it had been mentioned in the report. He had paused, and turned to face Elizabeth, “It’s curious, however, that he has a condition that’s wholly unique to my people.”

He knew, of course, he knew.
If that gland really was part of Ancient physiology, it would be obvious to him after seeing the full body scan. She met his eyes and didn’t deny the implication.

“It’s interesting you didn’t mention it to the Council,” he stated. Not accusingly but genuinely curious.
“We didn’t know,” she said, “Not for sure. We knew that even if he wasn’t, we had no other options.”

“I don’t understand.” Poor Dionysus looked very confused. It made him look younger than he probably was, and Terrance gave his brother a patient look. Dionysus gestured at the datapad in the healer’s hands. There was a challenging look in his eyes, “If he is from Terra, how is he one of us?”

“A very good question,” Terrance looked at Elizabeth again, and she looked back. She contemplated for a moment if she should tell him anything more than he’s already figured out for himself, which wasn’t much. They didn’t know anything, not really. And without John to ask, they were still in the dark.

“He hasn’t been awake at all since we made the connection.” She tilted her head curiously, “ ‘Regressium’ , it means ‘regression,’ right?”

Terrance nodded, “Yes. You know, I take it, of the gene-key.” Elizabeth nodded as she leaned back against a support pillar, her arms held low across her midsection. The healer took a breath. “We noticed it shortly after arriving here. At the time, the only technology we had was the ship we arrived in, and smaller handheld things. And so, as we spread out, not every group or family had access to the technology that required the use of the gene.”

“We didn’t realize how intertwined it had become with our natural abilities. If the gene was not used, a certain part of the mind that controls the development of our abilities would fail to activate and would remain dormant. Until the gene was used. Usually over a period of time.” He paused and met her eyes, “How long ago did he start using the gene?”

“Over two years ago,” Elizabeth said. “And he’s used it everyday since then.” It was fascinating that the ATA gene had become that much a part of them. Carson would have a field day with the  implications. Not only that, but he would enjoy the medical topics of conversation. She imagined that this Ancient-- Alteran healer and their own doctor would get along quite well.

Regressium is what we call the condition,” The healer stated. “Those who had grown without access to certain types of technology would be, for lack of a better term, human.”

Which explained why no one noticed. It also supported the theory that John himself might not know. The fallout with the Air Force and the IOA would not be as severe as if he had known. They would have trouble with it, perhaps not believe that he hadn’t known, but in the end, they would have to face the facts.

Perhaps he was as in-the-dark about it as they were.

Elizabeth looked at Terrance, “You said it was the core of his issues. What do you mean?”
“It’s the starting point. But it’s not the reason for his unresponsive state. I can’t positively tell you that until I am able to run tests of my own.”
She narrowed her eyes, “But you have a theory.”
“Yes. But that’s all it is.”

She opened her mouth to try and get more information, but Terrance’s expression changed as did Dionysus’. The expressions lasted only a moment, and they were of confusion and worry. The brothers looked at each other, and then Dionysus left the room at a jog. Elizabeth stood up from leaning on the pillar, “What’s going on?”

“I don’t know.” The healer took a deep, almost steadying breath, as if to calm himself, “But I sensed a... deep anger from one of the Council members. Dionysus left to find out. It is not often that one of the council loses control over their emotions.”

That… didn’t sound good, and she ignored that fact that he basically just said they were telepathic. She went with telepathic over nanite-connection for the simple reason that she was almost positive these people were flesh and blood, not machines.

He gave her a look that had a certain amount of pity and sorrow and… worry, “I have a feeling Colonel Sheppard is not the topic of discussion among the Council.”


THE SPIRE, COUNCIL CHAMBERS
1706 AST

"Hic ani manis!" (This is outrageous!)

Councilor Clemens had slammed his fist down on the table, and Nicholas had to calm himself under the onslaught of his fellow's temper. He was furious, and they could all feel it. "Verimas vos ani satiam ecfor modi qui finitas an--" ([The] fact you are even suggesting such an alliance i--)

"Clemens.” Nicholas raised a hand in an attempt to calm his irate friend. He heard the other man take a breath, no doubt forcing himself to regain control of his emotions. Nicholas’ eyes were set on Adamus, “Ego sum certas Gradis Consilium Adamus abet logicus raimus cur ille prestitus facium dex hic finitas dex nos." (I am sure Grand Councilor Adamus has [a] logical reason why he kept [the] nature of this alliance from us.)

Four pairs of eyes settled on Adamus, waiting. A cold calm settled within the room. Nicholas realized it was anticipation; fear.

"Hic finitas rit serpito nos ut qui gens.” (This alliance will save us as a people.) Nicholas leaned back in his chair as he listened. “ Decum mille antus dex nou redisio ani Avalon, et quod habo nou exequor? Hic finitas rexo plas empla gens." (Ten thousand years since we returned to Avalon, and what have we accomplished? This alliance opens more opportunity as a race.)

"Lucudos voltas dex orsem, Adamus.” (Interesting choice of words) Leolinus said sharply, his voice like a blade. “Ego temour contras rit ani verimas." (I fear the opposite will be true.)

"Sumtus ani nimus ani iactus qua sor ani per qui Persitus." (The cost is too great to throw our lot in with a Persitus.) Egidius said as he leaned back in his seat. "Ego setio advorses hic finitas." (I vote against this alliance.) He stated with an air of finality.

"Sus vis ani gradis, hic ani imus colonas dex qua gens." (His power is great, this is the last colony of our people.) Adamus said earnestly, pleading. Nicholas raised an eyebrow at Adamus' words and Clemens scoffed, "Egre qui colonas, Adamus. Nou habo increso ani imus decum mille antus." (Hardly a colony, Adamus. We have grown in the last ten thousand years.)

Nicholas cast a glance at each of his fellow lower councilmen; touching each of their minds, and they his.

They agreed; the majority ruled.

Egidius lifted his chin and set his eyes firmly on the Grand Councilor, "Nou hani, es euge menim, assentor qui finitas per hic Persitus ." (We cannot, in good conscience, approve an alliance with this Persitus.)

Nicholas nodded, "Nou adversor os milles dex antus abhin, nou hani finit per as nun." (We opposed them thousands of years ago, we cannot ally with them now.)

"Nou hani habo qui voltas. Sus exegos hani absurus-" (We do not have a choice. His demands are not unreasonable-)

"Ille volas nou ani fabreco sus navo Astria Porta." (He wants us to build him new Stargates.) Nicholas interrupted, looking around the table, "Hani pavos labes." (No small feat.) He felt general agreement from the other three, but there was something building within Adamus…

Fear? It was gone before Nicholas could tell for sure; locked away behind the older Alteran’s mental shields.

Clemens spoke, open disgust in his voice, "Sus altur exegos hani minu apsurdes." (His other demands are no less preposterous.)

"Num nou accentor sus exegos, nou rit ani sus survis," Egidius said, his voice tense. (If we accept his demands, we will be his slaves.)

Adamus pleaded, "Sed nou rit vigo ." (But we will live .)

Nicholas leaned forward, his heart filled with worry and concern for his people; their way of life. "Quod ani vos signis?" (What are you implying?) He asked warily.

-TBC

Chapter Text

CHAPTER XI

ATLANTIS, INFIRMARY
1723 AST

The Infirmary was quiet save for the steady beeping of a single heart monitor. Teyla Emmagan sat silently by her teammate's side, hoping he would wake again. Carson was worried he might not wake at all if help was not found very soon. He was worried about a great many things, most of which she did not fully understand.

The seizures, for example.
All she knew what that damage was being done to his mind with each one and John had already had three since the first.

She looked at the EEG above the heart monitor, but didn't understand what was displayed on the screen. The numbers were high, and it had been indicated to her that high was not good.

She heard footsteps coming up behind her, and she turned to see Rodney entering the room. She greeted the scientist with a small, sad smile and then turned back to John. Rodney stopped next to her, "How, ah, how is he?"

"There has been no outward change. Doctor Beckett says he is getting worse." She looked at Rodney beseechingly, "Have you found anything else in the Ancestor's database?"

"No," the Canadian man sighed, "Nothing relevant anyway. Nothing else that fits his symptoms."

The pair sat quietly. McKay fidgeted uncomfortably, not sure what to do or say in situations like this. She knew her friend preferred to be busy and working toward a solution. She knew he felt helpless just sitting there. "Well, I, uh," he started and Teyla looked at him, "I'm going to go look through the database again. I just wanted to see how he was doing."

Teyla nodded her understanding, "Go. Perhaps you will find something that was overlooked."

"Right." McKay hesitated as he looked at John's still form in the bed again before he turned and strode out of the infirmary. Perhaps they did miss something; it was time to go over all the data, even if it wasn't totally relevant. Teyla knew it would take longer to go through it all, but maybe they would get lucky.

Extremely lucky.
Failing that, she had to hope Elizabeth would be successful.


ARCADIA
THE SPIRE, MEDICOS REGIOS

“Has Colonel Sheppard been near my people’s repositories?”

Elizabeth blinked at the question. Terrance was focused deeply on a display screen, going back and forth between it and the smaller Earth-made datapad. The answer to the question was an easy ‘no’. John hadn’t ever been through the Stargate until they left for Pegasus. Unless there was one hidden away one Earth no one had told her about, or unless John had one hidden in his closet, it was a solid ‘no’.
“Um, no, he hasn’t,” she said, confused. “Why do you ask?”

He looked at her briefly as she ambled closer to his workstation, “Simply ruling out possibilities.”
She looked over his shoulder at the display, skimming the words looking for anything relevant. The topic seemed to be on something called Genemoria .

That word itself wasn’t familiar, but the words it was made up of were. Geneticae and memoriam .

Genetic memory.

Genemoria, ” she said, and the healer looked at her slowly. There was surprise on his face, and she smiled. “An old language on Earth was derived from your people’s language.”
“And you speak that language, as well as mine it seems.” Amusement and intrigue danced in his eyes, and she nodded.

“It means genetic memory,” Elizabeth said. “What does it have to do with Colonel Sheppard?”

He turned back toward the screen, “I think... that may be the cause.”
Her thoughts came to a screeching halt, “How could he have genetic memory?”
“I don’t know,” Terrance said honestly. “It’s a trait that died out within a thousand years of our coming here. The vast majority of the Genemoria carriers ascended. The rest were either killed in the Wraith Wars, or remained on Terra.” He switched to another screen on the datapad, “I can’t know if he has it for sure until I can look for the specific gene within his genetic code. A symptom of it appeared to be headaches and elevated brain activity.”

Her mind reeled with the information. One thing after another was piling up, and Elizabeth found herself feeling very sorry for John once he woke and this revelation was explained to him.

John is an Ancient. With an ability to heal himself, a skill that seemed to stand the test of time.
Additionally he may have a rare Ancient trait: genetic memory?

She didn’t know what to make of it, and she knew John wouldn’t either.

“Okay, that answers one question.” Elizabeth could feel a headache of her own coming on. “What about the coma and the seizures?”

He rubbed his chin, thinking, “With the early cases of Regressium , their abilities, when they did manifest, all developed at once. Or tried to. The older they were, the more traumatic the process.”
“And?”
He turned away from the screen to face her, “All of our abilities are connected, controlled by our minds. Certain parts of the mind control certain abilities.

“His healing ability was most likely activated first, and probably started intermittently functioning weeks ago.” He opened another file, a blood test from the look of it. “Judging from level of seros enzyme in this test, I would say it reached full functionality just a few days ago.”

He leaned back in this chair, “His telepathy and genemoria might have been enough to overwhelm him, but again, I cannot say for sure.” He folded his arms and studied the screen again, the Ancient text scrolling by. He shook his head slowly, “Something is missing…”

The echo of heavy footfalls made her look toward the door just as Dionysus came through, slowing to a brisk walk. From the sound, he had jogged here.

“Dionysus.” Terrance stood upon seeing his brother, “What did you find?”

The Alteran seemed out of breath. “Only that the Council had been called for an emergency session by Adamus.” He shook his head, “I could not find out why.”

Terrance turned back to his desk, resting his palms on the smooth surface. He let his head hang low for a moment before, again, looking at the datapad. He seemed… conflicted; troubled. She glanced at Dionysus and he appeared to guess the same. Though, on second thought, they could probably sense the other’s emotions, if not each other's thoughts. Granted she had no idea how their particular brand of telepathy worked.

Dionysus stepped toward Terrance. "Num vos quescio asordo illu, frate, ito." (If you can help him, [my] brother, [then] go.)

“I would, but I need my research,” the healer looked at his brother, “It’s in the lower archives, and unless you have clearance to access that level…”

The Watchman shook his head and Terrance sighed. “Can you ask Nicholas?” Dionysus asked.

“I intend to,” Terrance's expression grew dark, “As soon as the Council is done with their session.” Elizabeth knew, better than most, how long political sessions could last.


ARCADIA
1946 AST

The Emporium was situated in front of the Spire; a hub of activity for both the Alterans and the native humans of this world during the day. traffic was beginning to slow down. Most places of commerce were closed, and those that were still open would soon be closing. Older children roamed about, finishing chores and other tasks set to them. The younger ones would no doubt be home, bellies full and tucked into bed with the setting sun.

Terrance cast a glance at Doctor Weir sitting next to him. She had insisted on waiting for Nicholas with him. She was an interesting human. Intelligent, inquisitive, a leader. He had only met Major Lorne and his team briefly, but they seemed to hold Doctor Weir in high regard.

He observed his brother at the other end of the Emporium, closest to the Spire. He was standing with Major Lorne and one other from Terra. He spotted the other two Terrans a short distance away, their dark apparel making them easy to spot amongst his own people.

As he and Doctor Weir waited, she asked questions.

Terrance told her about when their ancestors first settled on this planet. The humans of this world had been brought here by ship by a very minor Goa'uld. The Alterans guessed they had been brought from Terra. That first Goa’uld had perished in a very unlucky set of circumstances.

Another had replaced him not long after.

Shortly after he had taken power on this world, away from the established network of Stargates, he set his newly acquired human slaves to work mining the rich Naquadah deposits. The second minor Goa'uld had not had time to build himself up enough to even challenge the lowest of the System Lords before the Alterans chose this world.

Needless to say, a pair of Ha’taks and a single Al’kesh posed no threat to the powerful Alteran ship that brought the few survivors who had chosen to leave Earth.

After being freed from slavery, the humans thought their rescuers were indeed true gods. But they wanted none of the worship that the Goa'uld craved. Their only request of the humans who now called this planet home was that they coexist side by side. After nearly ten thousand years on this world after the demise of the Goa’uld, few only vaguely remember what letter his name started with.

She noted how everyone seemed to get along well, and Terrance agreed, pleased and proud. Both sides treated each other equally and there was no animosity between them. Even though the Council was made up of Alterans, it was Nicholas who spoke for the native humans.

After they named this world ‘Arcadia,’ the humans took to calling themselves Arcadian, which suited the Alterans just fine. The humans, though no longer as primitive as they were thousands of years ago, understood that the people they shared their planet with were a much older race than they were, and thus, much smarter and wiser.

Regardless, the Arcadians contributed where they could in the society they had both created, helped where they were able. The Alterans, in return, taught them what they could about science, medicine and the universe in general.

Terrance watched the Spire doors with rapt attention, waiting. They had been waiting for quite some time. Not as long as he had feared, but longer than he liked. A life was at risk.

“There,” he said to Doctor Weir, lifting his chin toward the tall Alteran exiting the Spire. He sent mental nudge toward Nicholas and the other man stopped walking and looked right at Terrance. He could tell from the set of his shoulders and the hardness of his expression that the Council meeting had not gone well. As Nicholas came closer, there was something else in his expression, something he couldn't place – and he was almost afraid to try.

"Terrance, Doctor Weir," Nicholas said, nodding to each.
"Nicholas. Meeting over already?" Terrance asked good naturally, and Nicholas only scoffed.
"Gods, no," then he sobered, "But let us not talk of politics." He looked the other Alteran in the eye, "I assume you didn't call me over to speak of such things anyway."

Terrance shook his head and decided to get to the point, “Colonel Sheppard.”
Nicholas rubbed his eyes tiredly, “I apologize Doctor Weir. We should have informed you sooner.” He looked at her, “The Council will grant you your request should Healer Almus be willing to administer treatment himself.”

Terrance stood from the bench, "I will need access to my research."
“Your prototype was never tested, Terrance. Do you know it will work?”
“I do.” And he did. That, and he had tested it… on himself. But the Council didn’t need to know that. “I would not be willing to risk a life if I was not.”

Nicholas frowned, “I was under the impression that the device was not viable for humans.”
“It isn’t.” That was true. An Alteran mind could recover quickly from the device’s intrusion, a human was less likely to recover.
“I’m afraid I wasn’t entirely truthful before,” Elizabeth had stepped forward. “I didn’t say anything because we weren’t sure ourselves.” She gave Terrance a look, “Now we are certain. Colonel Sheppard is one of your people.”

Nicholas was quiet for a moment. “From Terra,” he asked dubiously.
“We don’t know the details, but we’ve been reluctant to speculate. I respect him far too much to discuss him without him able to speak for himself.”

The Councilman watched Weir for a moment, then looked at Terrance. “You are sure he’s Alteran?”
“As sure as I can be.”

He seemed to think it over for a moment, then he nodded, “Very well. Come with me quickly, before the Council reconvenes.”

They had agreed early on: Weir would wait with her people while he got the device. As Terrance and Nicholas moved toward the Spire, she acknowledged him with a brief nod before stepping away to join Major Lorne. He would be quick, and they would soon be away.

He only hoped it wasn’t too late.

-TBC

Chapter Text

CHAPTER XII

ATLANTIS, INFIRMARY
1954 AST

It had been hours since Teyla had ended her bedside vigil of their friend and comrade. Now it was Ronon Dex’s turn. He had his feet propped up on the edge of Sheppard’s bed, giving off an air of relaxed danger. It reminded Carson of the big cats back on Earth. He’d first seen a male lion in a zoo when he was a lad. Even behind thick glass, the lion had terrified and awed him, just lying there lazing in the sun. He knew, though, that that lion could have ripped him to shreds.

Ronon could do the same if given half a mind to.

Carson rubbed his eyes. It wasn’t terribly late, but he’d had little more than a short nap in the wee hours of the morning, and he was starting to feel exhaustion creeping in.

They were keeping close watch on Colonel Sheppard’s condition. Four seizures in rapid succession was not a good thing. Carson didn’t know how bad the damage would be to his brain, or if it would be able to heal. He wasn’t fully sure how John’s ability to heal himself worked - not enough to say positively that he would recover. Hopefully whatever help Elizabeth brought back could answer that question.

He didn’t dare let himself think of what if she couldn’t get help; what if they refused to help at all.

He needed to stay positive.
Even if she didn’t get help, he would keep trying to solve this until the Colonel’s last breath.

He wouldn’t give up.

A shrill alarm and Ronon’s shout of DOC! had him running to the Colonel’s bedside. His brain activity had spiked, and he was seizing again. He counted the seconds in his head.

5… 10…

All he could do was make sure all the various lines and the IV were in no danger of being ripped out by the convulsions.

15… 20… 30…

He could nearly feel Ronon prowling back and forth, unable to help, being forced to watch and do nothing.

1 minute…

Ronon had gotten angry with him at first, for not doing more, but the big man was just worried, like they all were. And there was nothing more he could do. Not without understand the cause.

2 minutes…

The big man was still pacing, growing more agitated as the seconds passed. Carson didn’t blame him; he’d very much like to be pacing too but he had a job to do, a patient to attend, and so pacing was Ronon’s problem.

He couldn’t do anything to help.

Finally, at 2 minutes and 25 seconds, the fit ended and John’s body relaxed into the bedding.

Bloody hell. This makes five.

Ronon’s presence was dangerous and threatening. He stalked forward, stopping at the other side of the bed from Carson. The big man glared at the doctor over John’s prone form, “How much more of this can he take, Doc?”

Carson didn’t have to say, a single worried look was all the answer Ronon needed, and the big man turned away. His fingers gripped his thick dreadlocks as he moved away from John’s bedside. The doctor set himself to checking John over, and marking the seizure on his chart; ignoring the growls of frustration from the other side of the room.

He knew how the big man felt.


ARCADIA, LOWER ARCHIVES

The Archives were a lesser traveled part of the Spire. Situated within the lower levels of the tower, few people had reason to be down here unless they were guards. Terrance made sure to keep his eyes off the guards as he and Nicholas passed each posting. He was here with a Council member, with Council approval, yet he still felt as though he was an imposter. It was ironic considering the anger and betrayal he'd felt when the Council had first confiscated his prototype and all the related project information and had stored it down here, amidst ten thousand years of abandoned projects. He let that sour emotion sink in a bit, and then had redirected his focus to the reason he was doing this.

This wasn't just for a chance to test his device. Terrance was like most healers: passionate about helping others. No matter who they were, as long as they weren’t a sworn enemy… and perhaps even then. He hated watching, or even just knowing that someone was suffering. He knew that while John Sheppard was not suffering per se, he would soon be if his condition was allowed to continue.

Terrance was determined that it didn't.

The pair stopped in front of a set of doors and Nicholas nodded to the guard who opened the doors to reveal a darkened room. Like most, if not all the rooms within any Alteran structure, the lights flickered on upon sensing their presence as they entered the room. Terrance gazed around the vault for a moment as Nicholas approached the console in the center of the room. Storage drawers were built into every available section of wall. After a moment, Terrance joined Nicholas at his side and the door closed behind him.

Nicholas brought up a holographic image of a small circular semi flat object. "Is this it?" he asked.

"Yes," the healer answered, and Nicholas entered a command code. A storage drawer on the far end of the room slid open. They walked up to the drawer and Terrance examined each of the contents.

"Is it all there?" Nicholas asked, but he went unanswered for a few seconds.

He took his time examining both the small device and the medical scanner. "Yes. It's all here," he said finally as he secured the small, flat device, not much bigger than his thumbnail, into a slot in the medical scanner. He put the scanner into the chest pocket of his uniform jacket.

Terrance gave Nicholas a sharp nod, and the pair swiftly exited the room.

Evan nodded to Doctor Weir as she she joined him, Coughlin and Dionysus, “Ma’am.”
“Major.” Weir seemed to be preoccupied, which wasn’t all that surprising. Weir and Sheppard were friends, strongly loyal to each other. Evan had only been in Pegasus for a little over a year, and even he was loyal to Sheppard. What kind of XO would he be if he wasn’t loyal to his CO? Still, Sheppard was different that any CO he’d had before, and that was even after being under General O’Neill for a year. O’Neill was odd, but Sheppard was.. unique. Lorne didn’t know what would happen if they couldn’t save Sheppard. They’d get a new CO, and Lorne doubted very much it would be him. He knew that the IOA hadn’t asked for Sheppard; Weir had insisted on him.

The IOA had wanted Caldwell. Lorne had nothing personally against Caldwell - he had turned out to be a decent ally for the city - but Evan wasn’t sure how the city would fare under any CO that wasn’t John Sheppard.

He supposed the people would adjust… except maybe for Ronon. Ronon really was a lot like Chewbacca. He’d follow Sheppard to hell and back.

Thomas and Reed wandered over, both keeping their hands clear of their weapons as per Evan’s orders when it had become apparent that they’d be allowed to keep them this time.

“Major,” Reed greeted, “What’s the word?”

Lorne looked over at Weir and she answered the Lieutenant's question, all positive it seemed. Evan still felt there was something they weren’t being told. Something was missing, something that would explain why Weir was willing to risk these guys being Replicators just to ask for medical aid. But that question fell far above his paygrade.

He wasn’t going to ask. If someone wanted to tell him, good. If not, it wouldn’t keep him from doing his job.

Dionysus looked toward the Spire, “He’s coming out.”
Lorne frowned, “How do you know?” The Alteran only smiled for a moment and watched the doors. It was Weir who told him they were telepathic, and that made sense to Evan when he thought about it.

She seemed confident they were flesh and bone, and if Lorne was honest with himself, he was too. Replicators didn’t have children. Or keep pets.

Evan turned as the healer exited the Spire. Nicholas was no longer with him; he had likely returned to the Council session. There was a bit of distance between them and the Spire entrance but Terrance’s long stride made quick work of it. He joined them and gave a quick nod, “Are we ready?”

“We are,” Weir said, and the group turned as one and walked toward the portal. They were all eager to get back to the city that became home. Eager to return with help.

Finally.


ATLANTIS
2034 AST

Teyla stood calmly watching the silent ring below her. Her hands were braced on the railing, the control room a soft murmur of activity behind her. Elizabeth had placed her in charge while they were gone and Teyla’s inner fear grew with each passing moment. John’s most recent seizure left her wondering and worrying for the life of her friend. Carson had said it was the longest lasting so far.

She closed her eyes and drew in a breath, forcing her thoughts elsewhere.

She thought about the fallout they would see if John truly was one of the Ancestors. The reaction from her own people would likely be less severe, given their close ties and personal contact with the Colonel over the past few years. Teyla could not speak for the rest of the galaxy, though, nor could she speak for those on Earth.

She thought of these people who claimed to be Ancients, the Ancestors, who call themselves ‘Alterans.’ She didn’t know if they were real, or if they were machines who looked like men. She hoped they were real people. With families and lives and blood running in their veins.

If they were, they could help.
If not… they did not need more enemies to fight.

The Stargate lit up below her, a cry of Incoming wormhole! reaching her just seconds before the ring came to life. She nodded when Chuck told her it was Elizabeth’s IDC. The shield was lowered and a few short seconds later the Jumper slid through the puddle. It rose toward the bay, and Teyla rushed up the staircase as calmly as she could to meet them.

Please let them have brought help .

Please.

-TBC

Chapter Text

CHAPTER XIII

ATLANTIS
2034 AST

Terrance had to admit one thing: These people were very good at keeping secrets.

Before he had met Doctor Weir, Dionysus had told him who they were, and where they came from; that they had once lived in the last city, Atlantis, but it had been destroyed before the Wraith could take it.

That had been a lie.

It hadn’t been the only secret, either. After they had used the portal to transport back to the Pegasus Galaxy he had been ready for a fair bit of walking. They would have to reach the Stargate on that world, travel to wherever Dr Weir’s people were now staying... he had not been expecting transportation. He had most certainly not been expecting an Alteran Gateship to appear out of thin air before him. His people no longer used them but he had recognised it immediately.

It had rippled into existence before him and he had stopped short. As the rear hatch began to lower he had cast around and saw, to his surprise, Major Lorne wielding the small control unit for the Gateship. He supposed that it would make sense for them to have the little vessels - after all, they had previously lived in Atlantis. Operating the vessel required the gene-key, though, so who…? Just as he was about to ask, Major Lorne stepped past him into the Gateship and Terrance could feel the hum as the small ship sprang to life in response.

The Major had easily settled himself into the pilot seat at the front of the ship, and Terrance had followed Weir into the forward compartment. He was offered the second seat at the front, and he took it without hesitation. He watched and felt as Lorne manipulated the controls of the craft, lifting them smoothly up into the air. It seemed Sheppard wasn’t the only with Alteran genetics, then. How many more of Weir’s people were Alteran?

Terrance spared a moment to glance at her where she sat behind the Major, but her expression conveyed little more than faint amusement. She could clearly tell exactly what he was thinking about; she could see the questions tumbling about in his mind. It told him that he would have all the answers he wanted as soon as they reached their destination; as soon as John Sheppard had been saved. Within moments they were approaching the Stargate and Major Lorne had tapped out an address on the central console of the Gateship.

An airy double-level room with an inscribed central staircase and Alteran patterned windows greeted him on the other side. Clear blue skies lay beyond the glass, visible for just a few moments before the Gateship had risen up. It was clearly and undeniably Alteran architecture. Specifically, it was a Gate Control Room, as was shown in the archival imagery of the old cities. They were in an Alteran City.

He didn’t know why they chose to keep the city’s survival a secret, but he was awed by Atlantis herself. This was the culmination of his people’s work; their crowning achievement. He didn’t know yet how much of the city had survived. Perhaps this building was all that was left? He would find out soon, when the ship landed and they could step outside.

Soon enough (and yet too long for his taste), Major Lorne had expertly set the vessel down, and the ramp lowered. Weir was first out and he saw a woman waiting for them.

Doctor Weir smiled, “Teyla.”

Teyla smiled happily. As Lorne’s team quickly dispersed, leaving only the Major and Terrance still standing on the ramp, Teyla’s eyes found him. Her smile didn’t falter, but there was an emotion in her eyes he couldn’t place. Weir introduced him, and he inclined his head. Her face changed when she was told he was here to help. Hope and relief seemed to flow from her very being.

Weir passed her tactical vest to the Major, and she started off with Teyla. Terrance followed, asking questions about the Colonel ( How is he? When was the last seizure?) while Doctor Weir used her communications device, “Carson. We brought help.”

The answers were not good.
Five total seizures in the span of two days. The longest lasting under three Terran minutes. (He needed to get acquainted with their form of timekeeping.)

He ran the possibilities through his head once more. Why was Sheppard’s mind reacting as it was? If it was a true coma, Terrance would know as soon as he laid eyes on him. His consciousness, his selfness , everything that made him- him , would still be close to surface of his mind.

In which case, the reason for the coma was not clear.

But, if his selfness was withdrawn, if he had withdrawn into the depths of his own mind…

As they entered the Infirmary, as the humans called it, he sensed the Colonel before he saw him, and he knew the answer to his question.

He saw a large man stand up as he had entered. Another man with a white overcoat approached, relief on his face.

The big man with the thick hair was called Ronon Dex. He seemed to be the fiercely loyal type, with emphasis on fiercely . The other was a healer: Carson Beckett. It didn’t take long for Doctor Beckett to lead Terrance to the man he already knew was John Sheppard. Beckett asked intelligent questions, and Terrance gave him what answers he could.

The Alteran healer took out the scanner he’d brought with him, and scanned Colonel Sheppard’s head and part of his chest carefully. He asked the device to perform a bio-scan as well. He also, very carefully, reached his mind toward the younger man’s. His mental shields were nonexistent, and Terrance dared not go beyond where those shields might exist. He could feel his lifeforce, but his mind, his essence, was out of Terrance’s tentative reach. He withdrew completely, swallowed, and looked over the results of the scan.

To fully enter another’s mind without permission - to have access to their deepest thoughts and feelings - was one of the highest crimes among their people. Unless you were bonded to the person in some form it was strictly forbidden. Even those who were bonded were careful not to enter another’s mind unbidden. Sometimes, surface thoughts and emotions bled through as that could not always be helped.

The results of both the scan and Terrance’s mind-touch were clear: John Sheppard had completely withdrawn himself into his mind. His life was being sustained only by the automatic needs of his body.

“So.” Terrance had no idea such emotion could be driven from a single syllable word, until Ronon said it.

“I can help him,” he said looking at each of their faces. “But I can’t cure him. Strictly speaking, there’s nothing to cure.”
Ronon took a step forward, “He’s sick.” Had Terrance been far younger and less experienced than he was, he might have been intimidated by the sheer mass of the human. He was not a man to be taken lightly, or underestimated, that was for sure.

“His body is healthy,” the healer insisted, “Nor is it his mind; it’s how his mind is coping .”
“What does that mean?” He wondered if Ronon Dex was always this brusk, if he was doing this out of underlying fear, or if he was doing it to get more information out of him.

Probably all of the above.

Terrance looked to Doctor Weir, “It means my theory was correct. I scanned for the specific gene; he has genemoria .”
Weir answered the expected question before anyone could ask it, “Genetic memory.”

“His mind is being flooded with new information, and he has no method of controlling it,” he said. “Those who had genemoria in the past were trained from childhood in order to be prepared.”
Doctor Beckett summarized, “The Colonel was caught unawares.”

The Alteran removed the small device from the scanner’s body, and held it between his thumb and forefinger, “This is designed to target and isolate specific brain functions and regulate the activity. Until he learns to control his genemoria on his own, he’ll be using this.”

The only reason why his invention had been locked away was that the Council had deemed it useless. 10,000 years ago it would have been useful, when there were still those who carried genemoria , but not anymore. Their logic had angered him at the time because helping patients with genemoria was not it’s sole function.

Weir and Beckett looked at each other, and Weir nodded.
“Aye,” Beckett said solemnly, then looked to Terrance, “Do what ye have to do.” Before he has another seizure went unspoken and the healer only nodded as he turned toward the prone man. Terrance took a second to look at him physically before pressing the device to his left temple and activating it. It would automatically run through basic functions, identify the issue, and begin to regulate it as per its programming.

Cut off from his basic sense of self, there was no reaction from Sheppard to the delivery needle piercing his flesh, nor to the hair-like tendrils spreading throughout his brain. Terrance stepped back to let Doctor Beckett read his vitals.

The various wires and tubing sustaining and monitoring Sheppard made him look older, while the lack of gray in his dark hair, and his relaxed face made him look younger.

Nevertheless, Sheppard was young.
Perhaps not by human terms, but his people were fairly long lived and slow to mature. In the eyes of his people, John Sheppard was just barely an adult, mature enough to have limited responsibility, but not enough to be taken seriously. He briefly wondered what Sheppard’s role in this city was.

The loyalty of the people around him spoke volumes about this man.

Beckett took a step back, looking relieved and years younger, “His brain activity is lowering, and his vitals are more stable.” Terrance looked at the scanner still in his hand, and linked it with the small device. It showed the progress of the device as well as more detailed information: overall brain activity, health, enzyme levels and a variety of other useful but presently irrelevant information.

Terrance handed the scanner to Doctor Beckett to look over, and he took it gratefully, looking over the images and information provided. He wasn’t sure how much of his language Beckett could read, but he seemed to understand the gist of it. The doctor handed the scanner back, a smile and expression of gratitude on his face. He turned to the others, “He’s going to be okay.”

It was at that moment that another man rushed into the room, noticed the mass of people, and stopped abruptly. “Oh,” he said, “What’d I miss? He okay?”

Terrance immediately noticed the new arrival, but not because of his blustering entry. He could feel the man’s presence, but it was… faint, like smelling food cooking on the wind instead of standing in front of it. Abruptly he became aware that he could sense Doctor Beckett as well, but it was the same as the awareness he had felt with Major Lorne in the Gateship. The doctor clearly had Alteran genetics as well, but he and Lorne both felt far muted in comparison to Sheppard’s presence.

Sheppard’s presence felt the same way Terrance’s people felt. It answered one of Terrance’s many questions - Beckett and Lorne were probably distantly descended from the Alterans. They had the gene-key but it felt diluted, just strong enough to allow them to interact with Alteran technologies. The new arrival’s gene-key was even fainter and felt so dull it was barely there.

Beckett answered, “He will be, Rodney.” Amused looks were passed around and Terrance found himself feeling out of place. This city was the city of his ancestors; he should feel at home here but instead he felt like an intruder among these people. He was glad he was able to help them, but he still felt… isolated.

He suddenly longed for the feel of home, the sense of his people around him. He’d never been away from his people, and the sense of loss was pushing in around him. The only beacon in the emptiness was Sheppard’s presence, but it was missing the feeling of life, of consciousness.

Rodney’s voice shook him from his thoughts, bringing him back to the present, “I have questions. I have lots and lots of questions.” Terrance guessed they all did, so he did the logical thing: “I can help with that.”

A few moments later, Elizabeth, Terrance, Carson, Teyla, Ronon and Rodney all convened in a small room off the main infirmary. He assumed they all felt the need to remain close to Sheppard even though it could be hours before he woke.

Weir officially introduced Rodney to Terrance, "He's an Ancient from the planet Lorne found."

"What, really?" Terrance could see the smile tugging on his lips, and he nodded, a polite smile on his own lips. The other man started talking swiftly, excitement causing him to stumble over some of his words and lose sight of why he was here in the first place. Weir stopped him, "Rodney. Sit. I know you're excited, but John first."

McKay sat in his chair between Teyla and Weir, mumbling agreement.

"Questions," Terrance asked.

McKay sat up straight, "Oo, yes. Um-"
"About Sheppard," Ronon interrupted.

Rodney quickly defended himself indignantly, "It was."

Weir gave both Rodney and Ronon a warning look. "Rodney, continue."

The scientist looked at Terrance, "So, I've looked through the city's database several times, and I couldn't find any reference to Sheppard's symptoms."

Terrance nodded, and gave the reason that he’d already explained to Doctor Weir. He got more questions, answered them, and learned they called the gene-key the ‘ATA gene’. They were silent for a moment, processing the information.

Beckett was the first to speak, "You're sayin' that Colonel Sheppard's growth has bin ‘stunted’?"
"For lack of a better word, yes." He looked between them, "How much have you discovered about my people… medically?"

"Not a lot, to be honest," Weir stated.

Carson nodded, "Aye, most of what we know is just theory. Aside from th' ATA gene, we know 'at yer people had an ability to heal others 'at we think came just before ascension."

Terrance nodded, "Our healing ability isn't limited to pre-ascension. The method of healing is different though."
Elizabeth leaned forward, "Really?"

Terrance gave a mixture of a shrug and nod in reply, "Add his developing telepathy,” he took a breath, “as well as genemoria , and you have his exact symptoms." He ignored the well-hidden surprise that he knew would come after that announcement (from everyone but Weir) and continued, "His mind is trying to do too much at one time. The reason he fell into the coma was a way of coping. His mind, everything that makes him who he is, has retreated to a safe corner of his mind. If it had continued, his mind would have eventually stopped. My device will regulate the flow of information, and his mind will take care of the rest."

The group was silent for a moment, all of them understanding what would have happened if they hadn't found help, and how lucky they had been.
“Ok, back up,” Rodney was confused, “What is genemoria ?”
“Genetic memory,” Beckett said.
What!? ” Rodney McKay’s tone was colored with jealousy, “Oh, that is just so typical .” The man then proceeded to pout, arms crossed and glaring at no one in particular.

Rodney spoke again, "You're telepathic?"
Terrance chuckled halfheartedly, "Yes. Though only with other Alterans, however, I should mention that I have realised that I am able to sense the presence of anyone with the, ah ATA gene. Presence only, no thoughts or emotions." Elizabeth thanked him for clearing that up quickly.

"You're welcome." Terrance took a breath turning the focus back on Sheppard, "As I’m sure you’ve noticed, Colonel Sheppard also has the ability to heal his own injuries, but that is much less taxing and quicker to develop than his ability to heal others or telepathy. It would have been the first."

“I assume,” Carson leaned forward, “since you said you have the ability to heal others, Colonel Sheppard will have that as well.”
“Yes,” Almus nodded, “Though that will take much longer, and is mostly a biological process.”

Carson said something to Elizabeth, but Terrance wasn't focused on that anymore. He let his mind wander toward John, prompted by a feeling in the back of his mind. He had been waiting, feeling , for John to start rising toward consciousness. He stopped the conversation around him with three words, "He's waking up."


It was nice, he decided, floating around in the darkness. His body was numb and his mind was only a little fuzzy. He knew who he was, but beyond that nothing else really mattered. He enjoyed it, like flying, free from physical restrictions. He felt like if he thought about it hard enough, he could turn himself into a bird and just… fly .

He frowned to himself when he heard a garbled voice, like the other person was under water… or maybe he was under water. He kinda felt like it.

The words were beyond his understanding. He could only hear the tones of the voices… it was annoying.
“John. Come on, lad. Open yer eyes.”

He heard the voice again, and somewhere, in the back of his mind he recognized it, knew he should probably listen to it, but he didn't want to.

“Come on, Colonel.”
“He’s too deep in his own mind; he might not be able to understand your voice. Let me try.”

He just wanted to restfloat fly . The voicesound stopped for a moment, and John relaxed in the nothingspace of his mind.

He got annoyed again when a new voice came to him, one he decidedly did not recognize. He grit his teeth, opting to ignore it. Was it too much for a guy to ask for some rest?

[John.]

That was… new. Clear as day like a bell tolling, he heard his name – not just from the outside, but the inside as well, like it was in his head.

[It's time to wake up.]

'No, it's not.' He heard a chuckle inward and out.
[Yes it is. You've been asleep for too long.]

John groaned tiredly, protesting. He really didn't want to wake up, it was the last thing he wanted to do, but he could feel the pull toward wakefulness, and it was getting too hard to ignore.

[Open your eyes.]

John squinted against the sharp light, then closed them again, unwilling to face the brightness of the room just yet. He tried again, lifting his head slowly, squinting; hazel eyes searching. He found Carson first.

A hand coming off his shoulder and movement just out of his field of view had him looking to the left at an unfamiliar face. He let his head drop back down into the soft pillow, "Doc?"

"Aye." John opened his eyes to find Carson closer than before, the other unfamiliar man now standing near the foot of his bed. He saw Elizabeth, and his team too. He looked at Carson, "What 'appened?"

"What's tha last thing ye remember?"

He was silent for a moment, thinking. "566. Passed out. Came back. Sparred with Ronon. Went to bed." He thought harder for a moment, like there was something else he was forgetting, but it kept slipping out from his fingers. He finally closed his eyes, not willing to expend the energy to remember just yet, "That's it."

"We can let him rest for a while longer." He knew that voice, the voice from his head, but he was too tired, too drained, to open his eyes again and find the speaker. "He's not in danger of falling into a coma again. He'll remember more when he wakes again."

"Aye." Carson patted his shoulder, and John felt himself slipping into rest again.

[‘What I wanted to do anyway,’] John thought, and he could have sworn he’d felt… amusement. But it wasn’t his own. Confusion drifted by, but didn’t settle long enough to be examined by his exhausted mind, and the world around him faded away.

-TBC

END ACT 1

NEXT TIME:
The Deadalus would be leaving in less than twenty minutes, not that John would need that much time to finish packing. He was anxious, but hopeful about this trip. He actually, deep down, thought about not going and trying to find the answers he needed on his own. That would be near impossible though, he knew that. Much as he loathed to admit it, there was only one source he could get answers from, and that was back on Earth.”

Chapter Text

ACT 2
"It has always seemed that a fear of judgment is the mark of guilt and the burden of insecurity."
– Chriss Jami


 

CHAPTER XIV

DAY 4
0932 AST

Awareness drifted in and out for an indeterminable amount of time for John Sheppard. Sometimes he heard voices around him. Other times he only heard the repetitive bleep of a heart monitor, but he still got the sense he wasn't alone.

That he was safe.

He didn't know why he was sleeping, only that the pull toward unconsciousness was always strong. His mind was fuzzy and he couldn't focus on any single thought longer than a few seconds.

When he finally opened his eyes, he saw Carson replacing the IV bag. The man hadn't noticed him yet, so he closed his eyes again. He must have made a sound, (he couldn't remember doing so) because there was a hand on his shoulder and the sound of a low scottish brogue. He couldn't understand the words, and he opened his eyes, squinting. Carson smiled, and his mouth moved again. John frowned, and Carson’s mouth formed more words; his face worried. His brain must have finally started processing the sounds as words because he caught the last of Carson's sentence.

“..ear me, lad?”

John closed his eyes again and forced his head to move in a motion that could vaguely be called a nod. He felt a squeeze on his shoulder. “Don't fall asleep again just yet, Colonel.”

John peeled his eyelids apart, forcing himself to stay awake. Carson quickly ran him through the standard tests for someone who was recovering from a coma, or head injury. (Full name and rank, date of birth, etc.) But that confused John, he hadn't been in a coma, and his head felt fine… right? When the Doc asked what his last memory was, John faltered. Images and sounds and feelings were jumbled up and out of order. His brows lowered as he tried to pull the last clear memory from his head. He remembered being in the gate room, they were going somewhere… where? John couldn't remember the planet’s designation, just images of a dark, creepy forest.

He finally settled for: “in the gate room,” but then realized that was too vague, so he he added, “going on a mission.” Carson nodded, but John could tell he’d missed something important. “What ‘appened?” he asked, reaching desperately for answers. The Doc must have noticed said desperation, because he gave him a brief rundown.

They went to 556, John passed out, came back, woke up, then was found in his quarters the next morning in a coma. John still felt like something was missing, but Carson only shook his head and placed his hand on John's shoulder again, “Later, son. Rest for now; you’ll remember more later.” John didn't want to remember later, he wanted to know now , but the blissfulness of sleep was calling, and it was too strong for his muddled mind to resist.

When he woke again, Carson was nowhere in sight, and Teyla was sitting in the chair beside his bed. He watched her for a moment before he wet his lips and spoke. “Hi, Teyla.” His voice was rough and scratchy, and sounded horrible to his own ears. Teyla smiled as she stood up, “It's good to see you awake, John.” He could hear the sincerity and relief in her voice. She put a hand on his shoulder, “You have been greatly missed.”

John gave a tired half-smile. He remembered waking up before, with Carson standing over his bed. Even though he still felt unreasonably exhausted, he felt more aware this time. His brain was less murky and he found himself remembering the mission to 556. Other memories clicked into place: sparring and getting clubbed in the head. Waking up after missing his run with Ronon. Being told that he was non-responsive and that the cut on his head had healed overnight.

He lifted his right hand to touch his fingers to where the cut had been. He rubbed the spot, feeling suddenly very confused and unsure. He looked up at Teyla, “What happened?”

“Doctor Beckett did not tell you?” she asked slowly.
“He told me some,” he said, “but not a lot.”
“What did he tell you?”
John took a breath, “Some of it I remember. Like 556 up to… when I woke up after being found in my quarters.” He frowned and looked away from her, thinking. “Elizabeth was with me when I…” he broke off, not really sure how to force the words ‘ fell into a coma ’ out. He instead said, “I was talking with her.” He looked up at her, “How long was I… you know.”

“Three days.” she said.
“Three days..?” It hadn’t seemed like that long. He rubbed a hand over his face, and felt the rough start of a beard, and he started to believe that it had been three days.
“We were very worried for you.” She squeezed his shoulder, “I will get Carson. He can tell you more.”

She was gone before he could formulate an answer, so he just laid his head back against the pillows and closed his eyes. He frowned when he felt it: a low throbbing hum that demanded his attention. He heard footsteps and opened his eyes to see Carson walking up to him with Teyla.

Had he been right about what he told Elizabeth? Was he really sensing the ATA gene?

Carson gave him an odd look as he reached his bedside, “Are ye alright?” He must have noticed the look on his face, and god this was so weird . John just gave a grin and said, “Ya, Doc. Fine.” Naturally, Carson didn’t believe him. John had tried to sell that lie far too often, it seemed. But Carson didn’t press, insteading asking John how he did feel.

“Okay,” he said. “Head’s a little fuzzy still.”
Carson pulled a rolling stool over and sat himself down. “Teyla tells me ye remember up to the point ye went into a coma again.”
John nodded, “Most of it.” His brows furrowed as more images came to his mind. Ones that… didn’t fit into any known events; people he’s never seen. They were hard to focus on, and harder to retain even a few seconds later.

One image stuck though: a tall man, wearing tan and off-white clothes. He had dark brown hair that stuck up in odd places.

That only confused him more because he could swear on his life he’d never seen that man before. John looked at Carson, “What happened to me?” And he felt like he was repeating himself. This was the third time he’d asked a variation of the same question. He swore if he didn’t get a good answer this time…

“That’s a… complicated question.” Carson seemed hesitant, and John didn’t like it. It made him nervous and edgy when his medical care professional was hesitant about anything.
“So un complicate it, Carson.”

The doctor took a deep breath, and John allowed the other man to organize his thoughts. “When I was going over yer scans, I found something just behind yer sternum.” John lowered his eyes, thinking, but he didn’t interrupt. “It’s an exocrine gland. It produces an enzyme that promotes rapid healing. It’s... not native to human physiology.”

John looked up at Carson sharply. For a moment he was speechless; his brain refusing to comprehend the words. “What the hell does that mean?!” There was a look on Carson’s face, Teyla’s too, that he couldn’t figure out. John felt panic well up in his chest, and he tried to force it down.

“I checked your DNA against the sample I got from your last physical. Your DNA hasn’t changed--”
“Well obviously it has!” John wasn’t up to full out yelling just yet, but he was getting close. He had a freaking new organ. That was some DNA-altering crap right there.
“John.” Teyla silenced him with a hand on his knee, and he put out an effort to control his breathing. He wouldn’t get anywhere in a yelling match.

In. Out. In. Out. In. Hold it. Out slowly.

He didn’t feel calm. In fact, he felt the exact opposite. He glanced over at Carson, who had been waiting patiently for him to calm down enough to continue. The doctor gave him a questioning look and John nodded.

Carson spoke again, and this time John tried his best to remain calm and listen, “The gland in your chest, and your ability to sense the ATA gene only have one thing in common.”
“Which is?” He had a terrible, churning feeling in his belly.
“They are both, as far as the database and one other source we have says, part of Ancient physiology.”

John’s face scrunched up in confusion, “What are you saying, Doc? That I’m an Ancient ?” The look on Carson’s face was not helping the initial thought that this was all a big joke. But John laughed anyway. It was hollow and without much humor, and lasted much longer than was necessary. “That’s a good one,” he said when he could breath again. “Real funny, Doc.”

“John.” Carson said gently. The smile on John’s face melted away as he looked up at the man’s face. “It’s not a joke, son.” John looked at Teyla, and she had the same level of seriousness on her face as Carson, and his mind was suddenly very, very blank.

“But--” He faltered. He tried again to form a sentence, “I don’t--” The words floated away, out of reach. He swallowed thickly. Carson’s words were finally starting to sink in, and it made him sick.

John closed his eyes and he felt Carson’s hand on his shoulder. “I ran a sample of your DNA against another Ancient as well. I ran it several times to make sure.”
“And?” John asked quietly, his eyes still closed.
“It matched.” The doctor said. “Human and Ancient DNA is actually quite similar. There’s very little that makes it different, and unless you know what to look for, you won’t find it. It’s why no one noticed sooner.”

John let out a long breath (if they noticed how shaky that breath was, they didn’t say anything) and he opened his eyes. “Where’d you get a sample of Ancient DNA?” To his knowledge, that kind of data just wasn’t available in the city’s database.

“Major Lorne found them.” John gave Carson a confused look, and the doctor explained more. How Lorne had found a portal to a planet where the Ancients lived and thrived. How one of them had agreed to return with Lorne and Elizabeth to help. Of course Lorne would be the one to find the Ancients , of all things. He couldn’t just find a ZPM, or a war ship, or a big honking space gun ; he just had to go above and beyond the call of duty and find the freaking Ancients themselves.

Of course, the next logical question (while avoiding the rhinoceros in the room) was: “How do we know they are actually Ancients?”
“Terrance, the Ancient that came… well, they call themselves Alteran now.” Carson got himself back on track. “He allowed me to run the standard tests, including a scan. It’s his DNA sample I compared against yours.”

There was that rhinoceros that threatened to stamp out John’s life as he knew it. He very purposefully ignored it and nodded slowly. “Replicators don’t have DNA.” He thought for a second, then gave the doc a sideways look. “Not ascended?”
“No.” Carson shook his head. “There were quite a few variations between Terrance’s scans and Chaya’s. Chaya was too healthy, and appeared to be fully human. Possibly to avoid raising any questions. Terrance is healthy, but not unnaturally so. And shows some of the same deviations of internal anatomy as you do now.”

That damned rhino was making an awful racket.

“He is truly one of the Ancestors.” Teyla said and John heard what she’d left unsaid: ‘And so are you.’ He didn’t need to hear it, he could see the resolve she had. This was fact for her. She believed 100 percent, that this guy and his people were the Ancients. She was happy for this discovery, and John could only imagine how the anthropologists must be swooning right now. Actually… everyone would be swooning about now.

Real, live, not-robot , Ancients.

The rhino, clearly his new best imaginary friend, came stampeding towards him. It was refusing to be ignored any longer.

‘Oh, god. Oh, godohgodohgod.’

He was one of them.

‘Ah, crap.’

-TBC

Chapter Text

CHAPTER XV

Shell shocked.

That was the word that perfectly described his current state of mind.

John Sheppard was 100 percent, absolutely, without a doubt, shell shocked. And, honestly? Who could blame him? He had just been told that he wasn’t human. That he’s really a member of a million-year-old species that originally came from another galaxy, who built the Stargates, and did a whole crap-ton of other really clever and inventive stuff. Some of which sorta, kind of, a teeny tiny bit, more or less... doomed an entire galaxy.

A mess the Expedition was currently dealing with. Twice over. (Namely, the Wraith and the Replicators.)

Yeah. John was really keeping a positive outlook on the situation. Right.

In the hour after he woke up, Elizabeth came. Followed shortly by Ronon and McKay. They were happy to see him awake, and Rodney only tried to broach the ‘so you’re an Ancient’ subject once. Ronon slapped him on the back of the head, and fixed him with a dirty look. It made John crack a smile at the very least. Even though he really didn’t feel like smiling.

Thankfully, none of them brought it up again, and followed on like they normally would when he was in recovery. They talked and joked and ganged up on McKay for one thing or another, but John felt like they were watching him carefully. He felt oddly uncomfortable under their scrutiny, and he wasn’t used to feeling uncomfortable around them. They were his team . His family.

He managed to push through it though, and tried to make the most of them treating him like regular ol’ human John Sheppard.

He knew it wouldn’t last though.

The headache started a couple hours after he woke. He was alone when a sharp stabbing pain started behind his eyes and reached deeper into his skull. Carson had been tending another patient nearby, and noticed his discomfort first; John tried to play it off. The good doctor wasn’t having it, and John was starting to think he was right.

He closed his eyes against the deep ache. The last thing he felt was a sharp prick at his temple, and the bizarre feeling of ants crawling around his brain. Or worms. Or centipedes. Really tiny centipedes. Before he could seriously analyze that train of thought, the darkness of sleep took him.

When he woke again (with no concept of how much time had passed), the first thing he noticed was an odd sensation in his skull, and the slight pull of flesh at his temple. When he slowly opened his eyes, Carson and another man were standing over his bed. A scanner was in the unknown man’s hand, and John somehow knew this guy was the Ancient, Terrance. He knew this instinctively . It was like sensing the ATA gene, but more… pronounced.

Once again his Ancient-ness was staring him in the face, and he really just wanted to punch it in the nose. He wanted to tackle it down into the pavement, beat it into submission, and bury it six feet under the soil. Never to see the light of day again.
No . He was not an Ancient.
He was human .

End of story.

John ignored Carson’s gentle questions, and only closed his eyes, relaxing into the pillows. He wasn’t willing to deal with it. Any of it.

He wasn’t sure how . When he woke again, there was a familiar, but not totally welcome individual sitting in the chair by his bed. She was reading something on her datapad, and John snapped his eyes closed. In a further effort for her to not know he was awake, he controlled his breathing as well.

He’d faked sleep before. In far more physically dangerous situations. This, though, this was (for him) the most dangerous situation.

Doctor Kate Heightmeyer had found him.

So what did he do? He played dead. Like a possum. Like an overgrown, fugly rodent.

...Like a coward, he realized. He was hiding from a shrink for God’s sake. But still, he didn’t move and didn’t dare change his breathing pattern from what it would be during sleep.

He tried to listen beyond the blood pumping loud in his ears. But his own anxieties were getting the better of him, making the sound louder than it normally would be.

‘Goddamnit. Buck up, John!’

He heard the shift of fabric on fabric. The plastic and metal chair creaking as Heightmeyer moved. He listened further, hoping he would hear the sound of fading footsteps next. He didn’t.

‘Crap.’
‘She caught onto me.’
‘Crapcrapcrap.’

“I know you’re awake, Colonel.”

‘Craaaaaaap.’

He didn’t want to do this. He really didn’t. In fact, in the 0.54 seconds since he realized he was caught, he had made quite a big list of things he wanted to do instead. Most of which involved outdoor things and water. Salt water, to be specific. The odd ferris wheel here and there. It was a shame they didn’t have ferris wheels anywhere in Pegasus. Maybe he could bui-- “John.” Her voice was patient, but brokered absolutely no room for argument. Like a disappointed parent.

John exhaled sharply and opened his eyes, his gaze set firmly on the ceiling.

“John. I know that no one can force you to talk about what’s happening, and I can’t imagine what you must be going through.” She paused, and he inhaled deeply. The only outward sign that he was indeed listening. “...But you should know: you’ve quite a support group here. You only need to ask.”

His jaw clenched as he forced his face to remain blank.

He really was being coward.

What Heightmeyer did then surprised him: she got up and started to walk out. Then he surprised himself. “How many know?”

She turned to face him, but he didn’t look to see her face. He could only make her out in the corner of his eye. She was quiet for a second before she answered. “Your team. Carson and myself. And Doctor Weir. They opted to keep it out of the official reports that were sent to the SGC. Elizabeth wanted to wait until we knew more.”

“If I knew.” Of course that would be a big question: Did he know, and he hid it? Or did he not know, and they got the pleasure of dropping bombshell on his head.

“Did you?” She asked.
“No.” He said quietly, then closed his eyes.

He was done talking for now.


He dozed for the remainder of the day, until supper rolled around. Carson asked if he wanted to try some broth. The sooner he got used to food in his belly again, the sooner he could get off the IV. In truth, John wasn’t all that hungry, but he nodded. Maybe he could manage a little bit. Carson seemed pleased enough, and went off to issue orders for John’s meal.

The soup was good. An Athosian dish, one he’d had before, just without the meat and veggie chunks that were normally in it. It wasn’t as spicy as it had been last time he’d eaten it, and that was probably a good thing. He could only stomach about half of it before he lost all pretense of having an appetite to begin with.

Once his dishes were cleared away, he settled back into the pillows and resumed his dozing. It wasn’t long before he’d fallen asleep to the rhythmic beep of the heart monitor, and the gentle soothing hum of the city.


He was running.

Sprinting down familiar corridors. Twisting and turning, his heart was racing. They had returned. Again. In greater numbers each time, and each siege lasted longer and longer. They could hold out each time, of course they could.

But it could not go on forever.

Sooner or later, they would no longer be able to fight.

He had to hurry. He could hear the city; she had raised her mighty shield at his command. They could only do so much to defend while separated. They needed to be one.

The command chair came into view--
John’s eyes snapped open, and he inhaled sharply.

‘What the hell was that??’


 John sat up a bit and looked around the darkened infirmary. It had to be well past 0100, just barely into a new day. The lights over his bed brightened slightly in response to his wakefulness. He could see a marine, the only other patient for now, a few beds down to his right still sleeping peacefully. He saw one of the late night staff doing inventory also. No sign of Carson. The man had probably long since gone to bed.

“Are you alright?”

John looked to his left and saw Terrance standing a few feet away, a Terran datapad was in his hands and a concerned look on his face. John collected his poker face. Though he had no idea how effective it was going to be. “M’fine,” he declared, a little dazed. He was still reeling from the dream.

Had it been a dream? It felt so… real. But if not a dream, then what?

He realized Terrance was still watching him carefully. He looked the Ancient in the eyes, “I’m fine... Really.” He wasn’t sure who he was trying to convince more at this point: Terrance or himself.

He wasn’t okay. Not really. He hadn’t been since Carson dropped the bomb on him.

Terrance tilted his head slightly to one side in a show of concern. “Truly,” he asked, and John looked away. He heard Terrance moving away without another word, and John was thankful for it. He was too confused and frustrated with all the weirdness to deal with the weirdness that a living, breathing Ancient brought.

John refused to let the thought of ‘ I’m a living, breathing Ancient ’ to surface and just closed his eyes again. Without any more troubles, he would be released to his quarters tomorrow morning and he was content to just laze through the rest of the day.

And if that meant avoiding everyone and pretending to be asleep, then so be it.

-TBC