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Things Could be Worse

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Disclaimer: I don't own Supernatural, Stargate Atlantis or Stargate SG-1. I don't own any characters nor I making any profit from it.

Warnings: Language and violence.

Notes: SGA/SPN Crossover. SGA – Early second season, after Trinity; SPN – Pre series, completely AU.

 

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Simply a Ghost Hunt

Lone Peak Hospital, Sandy, Utah

The steady sound of the medical equipment and the heavy footsteps in the corridor were the only sounds in the late night. A young man was lying in the bed with several broken ribs, an abdominal wound and a severe concussion; in a chair near him, his father sat with a broken arm in a sling.

"Dean, we did it. We killed that bastard."

The young man shifted, trying to find a comfortable position. The morphine was doing a great job. He wasn't in any pain, but it was hard to breathe.

"Dad… I know… I was there," he said with a feeble voice and a little cocky grin as he remembered the face of Azazel when he fired the Colt.

Eight months earlier, John Winchester had returned to their motel room so drunk that Dean had to carry him from the door to his bed. His eyes were red and Dean was there when he finally gave up the secret that was eating him alive.

Dean should have left several hours prior for a possible job in the next town, but he had an encounter with a pretty waitress and decided to stay another night. John hadn't counted on meeting his oldest son that night so he had drowned his worries in alcohol.

When John regained a bit of lucidity, after he finished spilling half his fears with incoherent words, he told Dean about all the information he had collected on the yellow-eyed demon and the demon's plans for Sam and the other children like him. When the morning came, they decided to fix the problem together.

No more solo hunts at opposite sides of the country.

They had just two missions: find the Colt built by the famed gunsmith and kill the demon before he could touch Sam. They searched for months for the so called weapon capable of killing anything; it was a long and hard search. When they finally found it, word spread in the supernatural community, like a fire, and Azazel showed up in no time with a bunch of demons ready to kill them.

They were prepared or so they thought.

"No listen to me Dean, you were in coma for four days…you almost died!"

"Dad, it's okay," Dean slurred, tired after just a few words spoken.

"What I'm saying is… you…you can stop now, stop hunting." John had a desperate look in his eyes, but at the same time he watched his son, demanding his complete attention. "We killed the demon who killed your mother, Sam is safe at Stanford, no one will harm him, and you can choose what you want to do with your life."

"Dad… who's gonna hunt with you?"

"I hunted without you son. Both of us worked alone in the past years so don't even try this bullshit with me… Besides I almost lost you, and I realize… I realize what Sam said that night was right."

Dean held a deep breath. They never talked about that fight. It was like a taboo.

"I took your childhood. All I cared about was…was keepin' you boys alive, always running from hunt to hunt, always trying to get revenge. You and Sam never had a place to call home or a normal life. That ended tonight. "

"Daaaad…" he had to stop this chick-flick moment right now.

"Shut up and listen. I found your papers… your MIT online courses."

When Dean paled, John put a hand on his shoulder. "Dean, I'm proud of what you have done, even while we were hunting… but now you can choose for yourself what you want to do. If you want a normal life, so be it. You're not just a hunter. You're so much more."

"But dad, what about saving people?" the young one asked with a sleepy and sad voice.

"Dean."

John closed his eyes for a moment. It seemed like he was trying to reason with a soldier who wanted to go back into a war zone after medical leave. He knew all too well that feeling. They had done a similar speech to him during his second tour. John's thoughts came to a sudden halt. Since when had talking to his son become like talking to a soldier? How long had it been since he talked to his son like a father should?

"If Mary could see us now… she would kick my ass, you know? She would be very angry with me for imposing this life on you and your brother… You have the right, and ability, to do something else. Just think about it, okay?"

Dean nodded, not sure what to say. Just mentioning his mother's name silenced him. The pain of her loss was still too intense for both of them.

John nodded too, as if the discussion was over. Four days in the hospital watching his son fight for his life while he could do nothing took all his patience. He needed to move. He had to stop thinking and just do something. "Caleb called. There's a hunt near Seattle and he needs help. I need to leave now. You take the time to rest and heal. That's an order, Dean, you hear me?"

"Yes, sir."

"I'll call you in a couple of weeks." John picked up his duffle bag and left without waiting for an answer.

"Yeah, sure whatever," Dean said after a while, alone in his crappy hospital bed.

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One month later, Twin Falls, Idaho

"This is John Winchester. I can't be reached. If it's an emergency... leave a message."

"Dad, it's me. Listen, I'm fine. I think I found a simple case in a little town in Idaho. I'm gonna check it out. Call me if you need help."

In the late night, Dean parked his beloved Impala near a huge house. In the past few weeks, three people and the owner of the house, himself, were killed without any reasonable explanation. He did a general search of the house in the local library but there were no strange incidents in Twin Falls up until now. However, he got lucky at Mickey's Diner where he heard all kind of gossip about the latest victim, Victor Pierson, and his love for antiquities.

That night, after bypassing the alarm system, Dean went into the house with his duffel bag to check the place with the EMF meter for signs of ghost activity. After wandering through several rooms on the second floor in what looked like a section of a museum, he found the dead body of a soldier on display in the middle of the room. The delivery papers left on a table nearby matched the time of the first death.

Only crazy rich people could think that the well preserved skeleton of a soldier from the Civil War would be a must have in their private collection.

Without a second thought, Dean cut the alarm near the corpse and poured salt on it. Usually he had to dig in several libraries, or in the sheriff's computer documents, to find a connection about a ghost and where its body was buried. Sometimes he had to spend a week in a town just to put the pieces together and then a couple of hours in a graveyard digging. He smiled. This could be one of the quickest hunts he ever did.

A minute later the temperature of the room dropped. The ghost appeared and threw Dean into the wall with a sickening crash. The wall was covered in old weapons and Dean became breathless due to the pain. He felt an ache on his right side so definitely a cracked rib. He really hoped it wasn't a broken one, because they tended to hurt like hell.

"Sonovabitch!" Dean raised his rock salt loaded shotgun and fired two shots.

With three large, quick steps, Dean was near the soldier's body again when he noticed something protruding from his left upper arm. "Shit! Fucking arrow."
With pain written all over his face, he broke the shaft of the arrow protruding from the back of his arm. Before he could completely patch himself up, he had to finish the job. He covered the skeleton with gasoline and, with just his right hand, tried to strike a match. Suddenly, movement to his left was the only warning he got before he was again thrown away from the corpse. The Union soldier's ghost screamed like a madman as his rage intensified after he'd been shot and he tossed Dean near a shelf, throwing the hunter's shotgun away from him.

Dean blinked as the screaming ghost started to come at him for a third time. He quickly looked to his left, at the shelf he landed near, where there were weird objects which were mostly old, painted jars and ceramic plates, but nothing that looked like it was iron. So when the ghost was within striking distant, which happened in mere seconds from when he looked away, Dean did the only thing he could. He took the arrow from his left arm, pulled it out and swung it through the ghost. With a hiss, the soldier dissipated while Dean grunted with pain. Then, he got up, took out a match and finally burned the body.

"Fucking iron arrowhead…lucky me."

With a sigh, he sat down to rest near the shelf, watching the flame burn the soldier, and checked on his own injuries. The room was a mess.

After a few minutes, he heard the sound of police's sirens approaching the house, causing him to curse. He was bleeding and the pain was starting to hit him. He didn't want to stick around to answer the incoming police questions. Even with his colorful cover stories, this would be hard to explain. So his best choice was to escape the crime scene before they arrived.

Dean stood up and took a glance at a weird object similar to a Greek pot with an azure light that had his blood on it. It was strange, between all the other things it was the only one that emitted a soft light; Dean wondered if it wasn't a lamp modeled as an antique jar. There was also some sort of phrase in a weird language but Dean didn't put any effort into trying to read it.

Tired, hurt, and just wishing to get the hell out of there, Dean tried to clean his blood off the pot; it was best if he didn't leave any DNA evidence behind. However, after the fight he knew it was impossible to clean up all his blood. Anyway the huge spot on the pot was too evident to leave it behind. He was going to have to take the pot with him.

He had just touched it with his hands when a massive white surge of energy enveloped him.

When the cops arrived with blazing guns, there was no one in the house: Just an antique grey jar on the floor, the ash of a body, a bloody, old arrow, a shotgun and a duffle bag with salt and gasoline in it.

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It was a pleasant week in Atlantis; no Wraith attack, no strange disease, no one was kidnapped and neither had Doctor McKay blown up something; just a few simple trading missions. So it was no wonder when an alarm appeared on one of the monitors in the control room, most of the technicians let out a sigh, wondering what catastrophe would hit them…again.

"Come on kids, what do we have?" asked Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard with a little amusement in his tone. He was bored. He had to catch up on all the paperwork during this long, peaceful week, and that alarm sounded like a good diversion.

"Sir, there was a spike of power in one of the rooms in Section Eight. It was previously submerged and I checked the schedule, none of the scientific teams are supposed to be there for… at least two weeks. "

"Thank you, Chuck. Rodney, can you find out what's going on?"

Doctor Rodney McKay impatiently pushed one of the guys away from his station and was already typing and mumbling. "I swear, if Zelenka is messing with something, I'll put him to work with Kavanagh for a month!"

Hearing what Rodney was saying while entering the control room, Zelenka glared at his colleague. "Vole... Rodney, I'm right here. I didn't do anything."

"Oh, okay. Then do something because according to these readings someone beamed in that room."

"Rodney, are you saying we have an intruder?"

Doctor McKay turned around to face Lieutenant Colonel Sheppard with his hands on the hips and Doctor Elizabeth Weir, the head of the Atlantis expedition, behind him.

"Am I speaking Alteran? Yes, yes that's what I'm saying. Someone, probably using a teleportation device, beamed in there. I don't know why, yet, that specific room but that's what the readings are showing. Now is any of that unclear?"

Sheppard gazed at Doctor Weir, who nodded in response.

Sheppard tapped the radio that was in his ear while gesturing to one of his marines on 'Gate duty to get him a vest and said, "Sheppard to Ronon come in. We have a situation in Section Eight. Meet me there. Sheppard out."

Then the colonel took out his gun, accepted the vest from the marine, put it on, and headed toward the elevator. Near it he met Major Lorne, whom heard the commotion on the radio.

"Lorne, take two marines. We're going to meet our guest."

"Yes, sir."

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"What the hell!" Dean said as he took two steps back from a console in a room with strange architecture and a faint azure light from several vertical lamps on the walls. An uneasiness from the "travel" caused Dean to hold onto one of the chairs and take some deep breaths. He never felt carsickness but he was sure it had the same effect: he had nausea and vertigo. Dean took a moment to focus his eyes on a single spot before he examined his surroundings.

One moment he was in a house in Twin Falls, Idaho and the next, he was in what it seemed like some kind of sci-fi control room which included a big panel in the center, three chairs – one for each monitor – and several metallic circles on the floor. This room looked more like something coming from one of the Alien movies than a real place, just less creepy. At least the lights were on and there wasn't any acrid smell in the room.

Another side effect of his travel was the sensation of his skin crawling with needles. As the minutes passed by the overall feelings faded, leaving him only a little dizzy and hungry, very hungry.

Suddenly, in the back of his mind, he heard some kind of gentle humming, like something was welcoming him. Dean tried to ignore it, even if the tiny presence was almost calming to his erratic thoughts.

While searching for a way out, he spotted a door with a strange panel near it. Deciding it was his best option to leave the strange sci-fi lab, he headed that way, taking his gun out from his back. He cautiously tried to open the door by touching the panel. Lucky for him the door opened on his first attempt.

There was a corridor outside the room which went in both directions. Dean waited near a wall trying to hear if any footsteps were coming his way, but the place appeared to be deserted.

Dean took a minute, since all was quiet for the moment, to think about what type of object brought him here. It had to be some kind of magical object, maybe a cursed one too. If it was a spell, a witch could be involved.

Dean started to think about all the information he had on the object. Maybe the antiquities in that house weren't harmless, old items but all kinds of ingredients for witchcraft. Was Victor Pierson a witch? Who knew what kind of spell was imbued on that pot. Maybe a teleportation spell? That could be useful if a witch had to escape fast from a hunter. If Pierson was the witch, what was he doing with a ghost? Was he trying to be a wannabe necromancer? Perhaps Pierson was just the unluckiest man on Earth and by accident he acquired a cursed pot and a vindictive spirit for his collection. He didn't have enough information to uncover the truth.

Best way to deal with this situation, he thought, was to quickly find an exit, get back to the Impala, rest for a week and forget everything. After all the ghost was dealt with and Pierson was dead; he just had to find a way to secure and lock away that cursed thing and the hunt was over.

Without any map he chose to go left and after several closed rooms he found himself near the end of a corridor, by what he guessed was an exit. As was habit he always looked at his surroundings and Dean noticed that the entire building was strange: Every frame was made of metal or some other alloy and the doors had an eccentric design.

When the door itself opened, men with guns and military tactical vests stepped out.

Dean mentally cursed the whole situation. He took cover in a nook, although the rapid movement caused him a lot of pain from his left upper arm and right side. He didn't let any sound escape his lips, but small drops of blood were visible in the corridor leading to his position and Dean wasn't in his best shape.

Great! From a fucking hunted house to a freaking military complex.

If it was a teleportation spell for an easy escape, it sucked.

The military team took position near the elevator. The man visibly in charge of the group, with a black uniform and black spiky hair, was scouting the area. His hazel eyes stopped on the blood near Dean's cover.

He was so screwed.

"Hello there," stated the guy in the black BDU as he raised his gun toward Dean's cover. "Who are you and how did you get in here?"

Dean decided to show a little of himself and point his gun at the man, just enough to have a better aim at him. The soldiers behind their leader were all in position near what could only be an elevator with their guns aimed at him. They had a standoff.

"How the hell would I know? I don't even know where here is. Who the hell are you?"

Sheppard was dumbfounded. The blond guy was wearing a leather jacket, denim jeans and worn out boots, definitely not the kind of things people wore in the Pegasus Galaxy. Plus he had what looked like a Colt M1911 in his hand, his accent was clearly American and from what he saw the young man was bleeding from one arm.

"I asked first… I'm Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard of the United States Air Force and you're not supposed to be here. Again, who are you?"

"I'm Ripley," the guy said with a small smirk on his face, but Sheppard doubted it was his true name.

"Are you American?"

"Do I look like a freaking Canadian?"

After a long glare, he went stiff.

"Look I'm not a spy, I didn't know I stumbled in a military installation. I don't spend too much time in Idaho and I don't care. I didn't do anything. Let me go on my way and you'll never see me again."

"Idaho," repeated Sheppard. The young man didn't know he wasn't on Earth anymore or in the right galaxy for that matter.

"Listen, kid…" John began.

"I'm not a kid," the guy snapped.

"Listen…We can't let you go. For all we know you could be a threat to…this facility or you could carry some kind of disease you're not aware of and I can't risk the safety of my people. I have a duty to protect them. So drop your weapon and face the wall with your hands behind your head. If everything is right, we'll solve this mess without any problems."

Sheppard threw the disease problem in the mix hoping to scare him a little. He had read some reports at the SGC where the military used strange excuses as cover ups, like new diseases and malfunctioned prototypes, to explain to the people of Colorado Springs the weird things that kept happening around NORAD and their city.

Looking at him thoroughly, the young man appeared to weave a little, like he couldn't decide what to do and probably due to the fatigue and blood loss.

The guy needed a medical team, but Sheppard couldn't let his guard down to call it. Every move could set the kid off. As if he was reading his mind, Major Lorne communicated the situation to Doctor Weir and requested a medical team in Section Eight over his com-link.

"I understand…sir…but I don't have any disease neither am I a threat to you or your people. Step aside and let me go." His arms were again steady and his eyes were fixed on John.

He hadn't bought the disease threat. Sheppard considered as he reanalyzed the kid's attitude. The guy wasn't acting like a normal civilian. He was too calm regarding the situation; no one would face four armed people without sweating a bit, only well- trained soldiers had that kind of confidence.

However, he was in a four against one situation and had no way of escaping. If things went south they risked a bloodshed. So Sheppard was stalling, hoping to find a solution without a shoot-out.

A cat-like movement behind the corner and a red shot was the last thing Dean saw before he lost consciousness. His body went still for several seconds before hitting the floor.

Sheppard ran toward the kid, took the gun and went to check his pulse. He stared at the big guy with dreads, gun in hand and a grin on his face, standing at the opposite side of the corridor.

"Ronon…was that thing set to stun?"

 

To be continued…

Chapter Text

You're not in Kansas Anymore 

Doctor Carson Beckett was finishing all the exams when Doctor Weir, Colonel Sheppard, Teyla and Doctor McKay came into the infirmary. Ronon was already there near the door.

"Hello Doctor Beckett. How is your new patient doing? What can you tell about him?"

"Hullo Doctor Weir. The lad is resting for now. He’s in no danger. He is definitely human, hasn't a Goa’uld  in him nor does he have an intergalactic disease and with his antibodies I can say, without doubt, that he came from Earth. Also, he has the ATA gene. I dinnae ken what level of expression, that will be assured only if we try to give him some device to turn on."

"Ah! That's funny, Carson. I almost believed your joke! There's no way we let him near some of Atlantis' equipment,” McKay said with a biting tone.

The doctor looked at Rodney with an annoyed face, then he kept talking, completely ignoring his friend while his Scottish accent thickened at the brisk remark. "I already immunized him from this galaxy’s diseases we ken of, and took care of his arm. The poor fella lost a good amount of blood before we arrived. He had a cracked rib and his body was very exhausted."

"What weapon hit him?" Sheppard asked with a bit of curiosity.

"I dinnae ken for sure but from the shape of the wound I can easily say it was a cold weapon. There are two holes: one in the back and one in the front. Also, I found traces of wood, iron and rust in the wound, so maybe a spear, an arrow or something like that."

"Who is this guy? Robin Hood?" retorted McKay raising his head from his data-pad.

"Rodney, he was shot with it, not the opposite."

"No, in fact Colonel, he pointed a gun at you, is that right?"

"Yes, Elizabeth. He had a Colt, two knives, a backup gun on his left ankle and a set of lock picks in his leather jacket."

"When we can speak to him Carson?" She wasn't amused by the little arsenal the young man had on him.

"Not today that’s for sure. The lad is unconscious, and he need rest. I think... probably tomorrow or the day after."

“Is he restrained?”

"Aye a bittie. Also, Ronon has been here since we came back from surgery."

Sheppard and Weir turned their faces towards Ronon, who only shrugged. "He is a fighter. The second he wakes up, he’ll try something. I stay."

“Okay, Carson, call Sheppard the moment he wakes up.” Then Elizabeth turned around and faced Doctor McKay. “Rodney, could you please go down to Section Eight and find out how he got here? Take a team. I want that lab secured."

"Yes, I'm already working on a program to more promptly warn the main tower of incoming intruders. I'm going there to add the patch right now."

Elizabeth nodded, then with an elegant turn, fixed her gaze on Sheppard. "Colonel, interview him, try to find out what he did before arriving here and where.

"The SGC has to contain whatever he encountered – to see if it was something completely alien in origin or if he found something or someplace connected to Atlantis on Earth. Also, I want to know who he is and if we can trust him so try to do it without revealing too much."

"Yes, ma'am."

Sheppard had a little glee in his voice. Ronon’s assertion had him wondering what the Satedan had seen in the guy.

"I mean it, John. Best case scenario is he is a civilian. I don't know what we can do with him. This is a serious security breach and my report to the SGC is due in seventy-two hours."

"I understand, Elizabeth. I’ll do my best."

Teyla was silent for the entire conversation and was watching the man in the bed.

He had delicate features and blondish-brown bristly hair. He was a young man but she could see the muscles and the bruises beneath the sheets. She agreed with Ronon, he was definitely a warrior. After the leader of the Atlantis Expedition left the room, Teyla turned to the colonel. "Sheppard, does it mean he'll stay here?"

"I don't know, Teyla. It's complicated. On our world, only a select few people know about the Stargate Program and the presence of other species in the galaxy. Even fewer know about Atlantis and the Pegasus Galaxy. First, we have to find out what he knows and how he got here. Then we'll see. We’ve got to be careful."

"I understand. Thank you, Colonel."

Although Teyla understood his words, she had problems trying to imagine a world where a few people decided to keep the Stargate a secret. Her people had traded with others among the stars for generations and they had learned a lot from each of their friends. Such isolation and ignorance could only protect their people to a certain degree.

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Dean woke up slowly in what looked like an infirmary. He felt the leather around his wrists and the softness of the bandages around his left upper arm, his shoulder and torso. The memories of the past twenty-four hours came to him all in a rush. He was restrained in a hospital bed and in an odd military complex. He cursed in his mind. The last thing he remembered was a red shot, and it felt like some kind of taser but much more painful. Despite the situation, he wished to have a look at the gun capable of such a thing. In his line of work that could be handy.

After a brief check-up of himself, he turned his head to observe his surroundings. Near one door, a big guy with dreads was sleeping in a chair and on the other side of the room, there was a doctor who came to him as soon as he noticed his eyelids were open.

"Hullo, lad. I'm Doctor Beckett. You should rest. Don't worry, we can talk in the morning.”

He had a funny accent and non-nonsense manner written all over him. Dean tried to say something, but his mouth was dry. Dean assessed him and saw the name on the med coat: Beckett.

"Aye, do you want a cup of water?" said the doctor and Dean nodded.

Doctor Beckett took a cup with a straw and approached the head of the bed, positioning the straw near the mouth of his patient.

With slow sips, Dean drank the water while with one of his restrained hands attempted to pick the pocket of the good doctor. It was tricky and he took only a pen, but that had to be enough to slacken the leather around his wrists. Drinking and stealing surprisingly tired him; his eyes were sluggishly closing again.

The second time he woke up, he didn't open his eyes. He was feeling better and, luckily for him, no one discovered the pen he had stolen. The humming inside his head was still there, soft, and was spreading through him like a sixth sense. Again, he dismissed it as nothing. After a few minutes of listening to every sound in the room, he began to try to loosen the leather on his right hand.

It was a long and silent work but after a while, he had a free hand; then, without raising the sheets, he succeeded to roll the pen on his stomach to the other side and did the same. He was halfway done, when he heard footsteps approaching his bed.

"Hey Carson. How’s the kid?"

Dean nearly rolled his eyes under his eyelids, but he restrained himself, just barely. 

The lieutenant colonel sounded as thrilled as a child with a new toy or a cat with a mouse in his paw.

"Hullo, Colonel. The lad seems to be better. His pulse is steady and I think if you don't push too much, you can talk to him. He was awake near midnight but just for a few moments. Now excuse me, I must tend to my other patients."

"Thank you, Carson."

That little conversation frustrated him and a soft huff escaped his mouth. He was in no way a kid or a lad or whatever they were calling him. Besides, he didn't need a doctor to check his wounds; it was a small thing compared to his last trip to the hospital.

"So, did he cause any trouble?"

Ronon, who was near the door, grinned at Sheppard. He had seen the little gasp from their new guest. "Why don't you ask him, Sheppard? He is awake."

John took a chair and, moving it near the bed, sat down. He looked at the kid in the bed before he asked, "Oh…are you?"

Dean gave up the charade and opened his eyes while saying, “Like I could sleep with all this chit chat going on.”

"Good morning to you too, kid."

"I'm not a kid,” he barked back.

John chuckled. "And I'm Colonel Sheppard, as I said yesterday, and the big guy there is Ronon. So, do you want to tell me your real name? See, I was a little confused when I found in your wallet the driver license of Dean Winchester, the library card of David Ragsdale and the credit card of a certain Dave Hope. I must say, you don't look like any member of Kansas.”

Dean cursed to himself. He forgot to leave his wallet in the Impala. It was such a rookie mistake that if his father knew, Dean would never hear the end of it for the rest of his life. His two cover identities were found pretty easily as well. He was amused and a little annoyed by that. Usually no one took the time to recognize the names and now two of his fake identities were burned. There was no point in lying for now.

"Winchester, Dean Winchester. Can I go now?"

"Not so fast. We have a few questions, then we'll see. So, where were you before… you happened to be here?"

Dean eyed the colonel with suspicion. He was vague and gestured to indicate the place. That was odd. "You're not a Marine, not with that absurd hair…so what? Air Force? Am I in an Air Force Base? You know I have rights.”

Dean started to think fast. Air Force. Wasn’t the I-84 near an Air Force Base? He had seen the signs on the interstate while he was driving toward Twin Falls. Had he traveled 98 miles with a single touch of a cursed pot? 

If that was the truth, Dean had to quickly find a solution to his predicament.

Despite the fancy stuff in here, if it was an Air Force Base, it might be difficult to get away, but not impossible. Surely, it was better than a base full of Marines. The security wouldn't be that strict. He had just to wait for this bunch of pilots to fly somewhere and he could put into effect his escape plan.

"And you're not stupid so answer my questions."

John was a little offended by his statement but that wasn't what rubbed him. From Dean’s overall attitude and witty remarks, it appeared the guy had a well refined tactic to irritate the law enforcement and now him. He knew by experience as he used the same tactics when faced with an enemy because irritating the bad guy and tearing his patience down was the best way to not give away any information and let the captor make a mistake. However, right now his main problem was figuring out how a civilian from Earth got in Atlantis without using the Stargate.

Several bad case scenarios ran in his mind. Wraith, Genii, Ori or even a single Goa'uld with that kind of technology would be a tremendous threat to Atlantis and its people.

Elizabeth was right; it was a huge hole in their security if an intruder could freely walk in the city by using a teleporting device without some pre-emptive measure to prevent it. They couldn't keep Atlantis' shields up all the time, it would drain their ZPM in no time, and what if the shields didn’t work on this technology?

This guy had to talk and fast. If he had to use his experience in Afghanistan to get his answer, then so be it. "Where were you before yesterday?"

The grim tone, his stern eyes and the commanding voice reminded Dean all too well of his father's way of questioning him after he had left his little brother alone the night the Shtriga attacked Sam. Dean's shoulders tensed and he sat more composed in the bed. Just that simple movement sent spikes of pain down his left arm; his boldness dropped too, showing a more neutral face.

It was an ingrained habit and Sheppard saw years of military drills in that brief action. The guy took a long time before answering, like he was evaluating the value his information was worth. For a moment, Sheppard thought he would only spit out his name, rank and serial number. If nothing else, it would give them something real.

"I was in Twin Falls, Idaho…sir." He took a long pause before he added the title.

“Where did you serve?” John was curious about the kid's mixed attitude and was relieved that he didn't have to crack him to have some answers.

"I didn't serve." When John frowned at the statement, he added “My father’s a Marine."

"Ah. Where’re you from?"

"Lawrence, Kansas." The city name was barely audible.

"So, what were you doing in Idaho?"

Dean thought for a long time what to say. Usually, he just avoided being questioned or irritated the law enforcement enough to be put in jail for the night and disappeared the next day before they even knew what to charge him for. But with the military involved, it was different.

Maybe it was because of how his father trained him and his brother, but he couldn't bring himself to be as disrespectful as he was with the usual police officer. This air force colonel had the stance of a veteran, and to be a colonel at his age, he must have fought in some pretty serious battles. Even if Sheppard was a little more relaxed, he was demanding answer, just like his father.

He hoped one of his cover stories used for the police would work, even for the Air Force. It was his best bet at the moment. "…I am a PI. I worked for…for Victor Pierson in Twin Falls. Three people died in his house, all in strange circumstances. I was employed to find out who the culprit was before something happened to Victor himself. I was too late to save Mr. Pierson but I kept going on with the investigation."

He secretly thanked Bobby for suggesting he get a PI license a few years back. If they did check his story, it at least had some truth in it. Also, Pierson wasn't around to tell them he wasn't actually his employer. Dean only had to stick with this version of the story until the end.

"Ok, so how did you get a wound in your upper arm?"

"Yesterday night…I went inside the house to see if I could find evidence that the police overlooked and there was a guy.” He shifted to a more comfortable position. "I fought with him but I didn't see him clearly… tall, all in black, and he threw me into a wall near some old stuff. I got an arrow in the arm while I was on the ground... Mr. Pierson was a collector of antiquities, he had lots of old stuff around.… I don't know what happened next…there was a fire. He got away and I pulled the arrow out of my arm. End of story." 

He tried his best to sound like a normal civilian who only took his job very seriously. A theft problem seemed the right thing to throw in the mix of truths and lies. If they found his duffle bag, the room in a complete chaos and his DNA all over the place, at least he had something he could use to legally defend himself. It was a good thing he had sat in the background of one of Sam's lectures months ago while he was checking on his little brother. Some of the stuff the professor said could be, and had been previously, handy when faced with law enforcement. 

"So, you didn't see or touch anything strange?"

He answered without thinking, so caught up in all the details he wasn't saying to take in account what the colonel was asking.

”The body on fire and a stupid Greek pot with my blood on it. I picked it up from the floor and then I was here, being chased by you and your people. What kind of place is this?"

"Body?" Sheppard questioned with surprise.

"A dead guy from the Civil War. You didn’t answer,” he shot back. Dean looked at Sheppard with narrow eyes. He made a mistake mentioning what he guessed was the cursed object, but something didn’t add up. Was it possible that he had it all wrong? Could it be that this military base was using witchcraft or some weird old artifacts as weapons? Did they know of the supernatural?

Usually telling a story about staying one moment in a place and the next in another was the perfect recipe to be sent in jail to sober up or, worse, in a loony bin right next to the crazy guys who thought they were abducted by aliens. This colonel however was too calm listening to his explanation, like it was something he expected, and that was weird on so many levels he just couldn't place it. The whole situation had him on edge and, right on cue, the medical machineries monitoring him started to increase their pace.

"Take it easy, Dean. We didn't do anything."

"Yeah, right because I always find myself in a weird military base, wearing stupid hospital pajamas and what’s the IV here for?"

"You were injured and my medical team operated on you. We couldn't let you stay with your bloody clothes.”

"Yeah. Sure. Whatever. What are you doing here?"

Sheppard didn't answer. Instead he threw out some more questions about his story, retracing it back to the beginning and adding a few others in the mix. Why he was in Twin Falls, where he stayed during the investigation, what happened during the fight, what hair color did the thief have, what kind of pot he touched and so on. They retraced his story three times and the guy always told Sheppard the same things without slipping once.

The colonel finally stood up, abruptly ending his questioning. It was almost a relief to know that the thing was on Earth in a crime scene and probably, by Dean's description, was some kind of artifact related to the Ancients.

So, no imminent threat. However, he had to be sure; the ATA gene could be the trigger that activated the device but if it wasn’t, anyone would be able to teleport into Atlantis at any moment. Memories of the Genii’s invasion and Kolya's face while he held Elizabeth as hostage flooded his mind. He wouldn't let that happen again.

John approached a guy near some mobile equipment. He requested the device from the Science Department the night before so they could test it on their new guest. He trusted his gut but it was necessary to be able to have a guideline in their interrogation.

"What's….the reading…. Say? ….Is he….telling the truth?"

Dean was only able to grasp brief pieces of words from the two men talking near a big weird machine with two small cables attached to his chest. Oh crap! A truth machine? Hope they believe my story or I'm so screwed.

While he thought that, he felt as if the humming in his head was happy to help him. Something tingled near the two cables attached on him. That was enough. Now he heard voices? Voice, buzz, whatever that was happy to help? He was losing his mind. After all he had been through in his life, he had to wondered how he didn’t become crazy sooner.

The surprise and concern for what he felt was all over his face in a mix of confusion and poor wonder.

"Something wrong?" Ronon who was watching him like a hawk.

"Uhm…no…I think,” Dean had totally forgotten the big guy with dreads.

"What's up, guys?"

Maybe it was this place that was screwing with his mind or some drugs they injected him with, or perhaps the colonel and his flippant tone that set him on edge. All he knew was he had to get out.

"What the hell is this place? When am I free to go?"

"It's classified and I'm sorry, Dean, but you have to stay here for a while. You were trespassing after all.” Sheppard tone was more relaxed, but he was no less professional.

Like hell.

Crazy or not, his hands were free, the pen hidden in his sleeve and he just needed a good old fashion distraction to escape from them. He touched the weird machine near him that was monitoring his vitals. He was carefully searching for an outside wire or something like that. He had to shut it off or maybe overload it to make a distraction big enough for his wacky plan. He couldn't wait for another time to flee, he had to leave now.

Suddenly, a surge of power from the medical device led to some sparks of electricity and a little smoke. Sheppard and Ronon were nearby and the possible fire distracted them for a few moments. They turned their backs to him to assist a technician who came in at a fast pace to shut down the device.

Dean took the opportunity without hesitation. He got up and fled the other way. He avoided a nurse and sprinted down a corridor, towards a door near a large window. Windows were a good thing to use to plan an escape route, he just had to get a brief look outside. If they were on a first floor, he could even consider jumping from there and running. Glass shards would be a problem but he could deal with it later, when he was out and possibly far away.

He paused near the big window and his jaw opened. He couldn't believe what his eyes were seeing. "You gotta be kidding me!"

From the window he saw a huge futuristic city, an ocean stretching for miles and a big pale moon in the midday sky. The sounds were muffled, but he could see a city full of life, with strange towers lit up like Christmas trees and smoke coming from a distant sector. It was like seeing a hi-tech city directly from Star Trek or Star Wars. For a second, he glanced up to see if there were any spaceships like the Enterprise.

Sheppard and Ronon arrived moments later behind him, Ronon with a strange gun in his hand pointed at him. "Well…" began Sheppard scratching his head, “Dean, you're not in Kansas anymore."

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Elizabeth Weir attended a meeting for an update with the senior staff on their newest problem. While she sat on her chair, she noticed the quiet atmosphere. It was so unusual for her people that she examined her staff in the conference room with a bit of wariness.
They were avoiding her eyes, especially Sheppard.

Several scenarios passed through her mind wondering what went wrong to make some of her staff…twitchy. She felt a headache coming. "Gentlemen, what happened?"

"We put the lad in one of the isolation rooms,” Doctor Carson stated in a soft voice.

"Why? Is he dangerous?"

"He has a high level of expression of the ATA gene, similar to Sheppard. The isolation room is a precaution,” cut in Doctor McKay without moving his eyes from his data-pad.

"And how do you know that?" Now she was very suspicious. They were stalling.

"Elizabeth…he overloaded an Ancient device in the med wing. The thing distracted me and Ronon enough for him to attempt an escape. Then he looked out of a window and stopped when he realized he wasn't on Earth anymore."

She closed her eyes for a second. Her week kept getting better and better.

"Sheppard, didn't we agree to try to avoid this kind of result? Ahhh…What did he say?"

"Nothing. He chose to remain silent from that moment on."

"What did you find out about him?"

"Not much. His name is Dean Winchester and he came from Kansas. He is a PI, had some sort of military training and he was in a house in Twin Falls, Idaho when he touched a pot with some markings. After that he was transported here.”

"A PI? Isn't he a little young for that?"

"According to his driver license…he’s twenty-five."

"What is a PI?" interjected Teyla.

"An investigator, a private one. He was following a lead regarding the deaths of four people in the same house where he was. He said he fought with someone who escaped after the fight."

"Do we believe him? For all we know he could be the thief,” barked McKay.

"I think he’s telling the truth or at least part of it. Also, we put to use that Ancient truth machine."

"Aye, the result came after the attempted breakout. His pulse was steady for the entire interrogation. He wasn’t lying." Carson nodded as he looked at the paper in his hand.

“Uhmf,” Rodney wasn't so trusting.

"Gentlemen, please. John, did he give you the address of the house?"

"Yes, when he was in the isolation room he asked for paper and used a stolen pen to write an address and sketch an object. The address is 234 Franklin Street, Twin Falls, Idaho and here’s the outline of what he’s referred to as a Greek pot."

John handed the paper to Elizabeth.

"Well, at least this will be useful to Stargate Command. They’ll retrieve the object and probably study it at Area 51. We need to find out where this device came from.” She sighed looking at the paper.

"Shouldn’t we be the ones studying it? Look at it! It's probably Ancient technology!"

"Rodney, aren't you a bit greedy? You have that control room to examine. When they finish the early report, you can ask for it."

John was teasing McKay.

"Uhmf…I can learn much more about the device and the control panel if they’re together.”

"You just want to test it, admit it."

"Well of course I do, Sheppard! Do you understand how useful it could be to us? Every time we stepped into a bad situation we...ZAP! Just use this device and go back and safe in Atlantis!"

"I don't think this technology was used with much frequency, Rodney. The exhaustion Dean’s body was in was considerable. Probably the only thing that prevented him from suffering greater damage during the travel was the high level of adrenaline in his system."

Carson looked at Elizabeth too.

"The human body can't sustain this kind of stress without consequences. I’ll write it in my report to the SGC. I suspect it is only an emergency travel device. We dinna ken what kind of consequences this thing would have if used more than once or twice – or on our physiology for that matter."

"Oh well, let them test it."

"Rodney!" Carson's indignant shout was eloquent.

"Gentlemen, please! I'll report the situation to Stargate Command. In the meantime, I want all of you to evaluate him and write your report on the incident. Sheppard, go to him and try to get to know our guest better and let him sign our non-disclosure papers. However, tell him…just the minimum. Dismissed."

They all took their leave and Elizabeth went into her office. Her report with General Landry was schedule in a couple of hours, just enough time for her to figure out what options she had in this matter.

She hoped Landry could be helpful to solve this problem.

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John walked down the corridor towards the isolation room with Ronon beside him. He was thinking about their guest and, although the kid was a little smartass, John already liked him; somehow the kid reminded him of Ford. "What do you think, Ronon? About the kid."

"When we'll spar, I'll know."

John grinned. That was to be expected. If Ronon didn't beat the guy, he wasn't eager to judge. Before entering the isolation room, however, they heard an impatient knocking and then a loud voice.

"Is anyone out there? Damn it! If I have to spend any more time in here at least give me some real clothes!”

John grinned again. Well at least the kid stopped the silent treatment and was talking again. He hoped he could get more information about him. Sheppard approached to the guard near the door. "Sergeant, go and get a physical training uniform, please."

"Yes, sir!" and the sergeant took off at a swift walk.

"Hello, Dean," Sheppard said stepping into the room with Ronon following one step behind him.

”Colonel." He was near the bed, eyeing the exit and then him, Ronon and their movements.

"Are you up to a little walk?"

"I have a wound in the arm, not the leg. Of course, I can walk. Where’re we going?"

"Well, how about the mess hall? Hungry?” 

Dean's stomach grumbled in response and the sergeant came in the room with the uniform. After the change of clothes, they could see he was more at ease in the uniform than the hospital's scrub. Again, his stance reminded John more of a soldier than a civilian, and John could only imagine how growing up with a Marine led to resembling one.

Dean walked with the colonel and his silent, big friend, watching his surroundings. "Cut the crappy Dorothy thing. Where are we?"

"Dean, welcome to Atlantis."

"Atlantis? As the lost mythical city? Dude, I said cut it out.”

From what he saw, John decided the kid needed to know something, otherwise he would try to find any piece of information by himself. One escape attempt was enough for the day. 

"For you it's still ‘Colonel’ and I’m telling the truth. This is Atlantis, a sentient city build by a very old race of aliens we called the Ancients. We are on another planet, as you saw yesterday, and we are explorers in this galaxy.” 

Dean was silent for a while, trying to find another explanation for what he saw and what they were telling him. Putting aside the witch and the cursed object theory, if this was a supernatural monster or another dimension, it was too complex to sort it out without any of his weapons or his dad.

It could be the work of a Djinn, but at this point I would already be dead. Besides, the complexity of the things around him and the explanations weren’t in their modus operandi. The Djinn's drug led the victim to death with simple dreams, the kind people find easy to confuse with reality, and the victims were always so weak from the blood loss that they were easy to manipulate. That was what his father told him. He wasn't in tiptop shape, but he could think clearly and he knew this wasn't a dream.

"Aliens…other planets…okay. I buy it for now…you said this galaxy. Where are we?"

Smart kid. John grinned. "We're in the Pegasus Galaxy."

Now the insignia on the arm of the colonel made sense. The strange fact there was a horse with wings on the patch was clearly a reference to the Pegasus.

The humming in Dean's head was still there and seemed more active each time they crossed a door. "What did you do to me? Since I came here, I’ve had a strange buzz in my head."

"…We didn't do anything…the buzz, as you call it, is Atlantis, and as I said she’s a sentient city."

"She?" Dean smirked. The way Sheppard spoke of Atlantis reminded him of how he talked of his Impala.

"Well…she is a very fine presence. Also, you can hear her because you inherited the gene of the Ancients. We call it the ATA gene."

"Wait, are you saying I'm a damn freak?"

Freak? Why would he think that? An alien maybe but a freak? Sheppard shot him a curious look while Ronon just held up an eyebrow at Dean.

"No, I have the ATA gene too. Some people of Earth are, in small part, descendants of the Ancients. A few of us express this inheritance better than others. The people with a high level of the ATA gene are rare, and it's thanks to that that you can hear Atlantis and we can use the devices left here."

"SHIT!" said Dean and then he continued with several curses in a low voice.

John grinned again. "Not the words that I would use..."

"What's so damn funny?" Dean was wary about his wicked smile.

"Nothing just admiring your….extensive vocabulary."

"Do you want me to panic like a girl? No way."

"We're almost in the mess hall. Let's eat something. We’ll talk later."

"Do you have pie?"

His face lit up while they entered the mess hall. Cherry, peach or even better apple! He really hoped they had some delicious pie.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ sga~spn ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

Elizabeth was near the technician, ready to send a transmission to Earth.

"Chevron eight locked. Wormhole established ma'am."

"Thanks, Chuck. Get ready to transmit the compressed data and then secure me a line in my office with General Landry."

"Yes ma'am."

"Hello campers! How’re things there?”

The technicians working in the control room lifted their heads up for a moment: some exchanged brief incredulous gazes, others glared at their monitors with murderous looks and somebody went still, before all of them returned to their respective duties.

Like things in Atlantis weren't always…full of surprise.

"General O'Neill, it's nice to hear your voice…I had a meeting scheduled with General Landry."

"He is in the middle of a diplomatic mission with the Tok'ra, Carter and Daniel. You know how picky they are. I'm here just for a few weeks. Any good news?"

"We're fine. No Wraith attack for the moment, but we have a lot to talk about. We’re sending some high priority data. I have to inform you that we believe there is an Ancient device on Earth to retrieve ASAP.”

"You folks…always having fun, aren’t you? We're receiving the data now. Doctor Weir a private word."

Elizabeth moved swiftly from the Control Room to her office. Both officers on each side of the wormhole had secured communications for their leaders on a secure and private channel. In her screen, General Jack O'Neill looked like a restless kid. Even though she talked several times with General Landry, she missed O'Neill and his humor.

His presence was a small relief for her.

"So…what happened?"

"Two days ago, we found a young man in a section of Atlantis. We tested and interrogated him. It seems he is from Earth, his name is Dean Winchester and he arrived here by touching what we guess is an Ancient device. General…his blood test, clothes and weapons seem to confirm it; also, he tried to escape thinking he was in a military complex and discovered he was instead on another planet."

"A civilian got in Atlantis!? You kids, always touching things…Hang on. Walter! Find me everything on Dean Winchester and send the data to Atlantis ASAP!"

"General I sent the location of the alien device with the data transmission. According to Winchester, he interrupted a robbery but we don't know if the thief was searching for that specific device or something else to sell. About our guest, he also appeared to have the ATA gene, Beckett and McKay think with the same level of expression of Sheppard and yours.” 

"He can use a lot of Ancienty stuff, got it. So, what now? Do you have some of those nasty non-disclosure papers to let him sign? The Daedalus could pick him up but they don’t return to Atlantis for two weeks or you can send him through the Gate…wait…Did you say weapons?"

"Jack, he said he is a PI and has the right to carry weapons with him. He had a Colt, two knives, a second gun and a set of lock picks."

"Not a regular PI then. Are we dealing with a rogue NID agent? Some fanatic militia's guy?"

"No and no. Although Sheppard said he had some kind of military training and that Winchester said his father was a Marine."

"Ah…Marines…tough people, always a bit edgy."

For a couple of minutes, they both stayed silent.

For Elizabeth, it was like playing chess or working on a UN treaty again, every word had to be calculated so she chose them wisely.

"General, I have to ask, what will happen to him?"

"The NID will be on my ass in the next few hours once the news is out. I don’t need to remind you that this is one hell of a security breach. If people start to pop up on the other side of the universe with a click of fingers, things can get ugly very fast."

He ran his fingers through his hair, while she nodded at his words.

"I don't know Doctor Weir…The upper levels of the NID, the President, hell! Even I for the Homeworld Command will want to question him further and he can't be released for security reasons until we’ll deem it safe. In the meantime, the NID will have jurisdiction on this case, they could pin him with some stupid charge and put him away in a secret facility. Or worse."
O'Neill face changed from annoyed to pissed.
"You said he had the ATA gene? It would have been better if he didn’t have it. You know he could be the perfect target for the Trust. If I had a nickel for every time those bastards show up and screw things around…" He let out a sigh. "Besides them, you know how the politicians work. Some fussy guy probably will demand to keep him in Area 51 to try and test every Ancient device we have in store."

He rubbed his head again. This story was one hell of a mess. "In the remote case, he is free to go...if he talks to someone, spreads rumors…first conspiracy theorists then the press will be on us and the Stargate Program, everything, will be at risk. Detaining him could be the better option. I don't have to remind you what are we dealing with in both galaxies. We don't need any more problems."

"General, I understand but he didn't do anything wrong. He accidentally got into this! We can't do something like that!"

"I can try to find a job for him with Landry here at the SGC, but even if I pull all my strings I don't think they’d let me do that. He can't go back to his life anymore."

His eyes were fixed on hers. He was worried, she could tell.

The war with the Ori probably wasn't going very well.

"He knows too much. It could be too dangerous for too many people. He'll be watched for the rest of his life. Hell! Probably some egghead will advise to use the Dargol on him just to be safe!"

Walter came briefly in the camera with some documents for O'Neill.

There was a brief moment of silence between the General and Doctor Weir and an idea popped in her mind. "What…what if I offer him a job here, in Atlantis?"

"What?" O'Neill spat aloud.

"General, this is a civilian expedition. I have the right to choose the civilians members of the expedition so I can offer him a job, can’t I?”

"Yes…but…For cryin' out a loud! Elizabeth…Do you realize you are risking your position? 
The IOA probably can't wait to have a reason to replace you with someone more agreeable with their agenda."

"I understand, Jack, but as you said, he is an ATA gene user and we need more people who could use Ancient devices here than on Earth. Also in the Pegasus Galaxy, he can't reveal anything that would compromise the Stargate Program, and he’s a civilian, he'll be under my jurisdiction. I already sent the SGA-1 to evaluate him. I'll tell him about his future options and I'll inform you of his decision."

Jack considered the idea. It wasn't such a bad and absurd plan. He had made worse choices in the past during his time on SG-1 and her offer could save him a lot of worries and paper work.

"Doctor Weir, I have to inform the President and the Joint Chiefs of this matter. I hope he'll accept your offer."

"What will happen if he comes back to Earth and tries to escape?"

"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Let's hope the kid uses his brain first."

"You don't want him around do you?” Now that she had done all she could, Elizabeth was less tensed and tried to joke with him.

Even with a frown, O'Neill, too, was more relaxed. After reading some of the lines from the files in front of him, a small tight smile escaped his lips. "Ah from what I see right now nope, nada, nyet. He’s trouble."

"Ohh? What kind? Jack O'Neill's kind?"

"Something like that. Time's up. Try to stay safe."

"As always. General O'Neill."

"Doctor Weir."

The communication was over and the wormhole to Earth disappeared.

Elizabeth was astonished about the conversation she just had; before she came up with that question she hadn’t considered the option of a job offer to their guest. On Earth, he would be trapped as a criminal or as a guinea pig just because he discovered the biggest secret on the planet. It was unfair and she intended to try to do everything to avoid that fate. A job offer was her best idea. Thinking about it, she realized it wasn't such a bad plan. Sheppard had offered a place in Atlantis to Ronon, why couldn't she do the same to Winchester?

He could be useful in the Science Department helping them to activate the Ancient devices; he could learn to fly a Puddle Jumper and be a Jumper pilot; in the meantime, the young man could be assigned to the kitchen or any other civilian duty. Atlantis was a big city after all, she could find him a job to do.

The only problem was convincing him that staying in Atlantis was in his best interest.

"Doctor Weir? This is the file on Dean Winchester from the SGC."

"Thank you, Chuck.”

The freshly printed documents in the file folder weren't few: several schools’ documents, different hospital papers, two police juvenile and numerous CPS’ reports from all over the country.

General O'Neill wasn't kidding, the folder screamed trouble.

 

Chapter Text

John was surprised, the kid was like a chameleon: he had the military stance of a Marine and no one in the mess hall was looking at him like a stranger. There were just a few people in Atlantis who knew about their guest, and most of the folks seemed to assume he was one of the new Marines from the Daedalus' last shipment.

Even Dean was acting like he belonged here.

Dean, after taking in his surrounding and noting where the exits were, copied every move from the other Marines in the line before him, smiling from time-to-time at a group of female scientists near the door.

When they finally reached their table and had set their trays down, John and Ronon saw how hungry the kid was. He ate everything with gusto while he left the piece of pie for last, smiling at every bite.

When he saw the other two looking at him, he stopped with the fork in midair. "What? A guy can't love pie? This is awesome. Is it apple pie?"

The pie had small pieces of fruit under the crust and Sheppard pointed at them with his fork. "Um…I don't think that was really an apple pie. We have some fruits from other planets, but those are purple so I don't think there are apples in that pie."

"Dude the best pie I ever ate is an alien pie? That's it, I'm gonna grab another piece."

Neither John nor Ronon stopped him and Dean, after a couple of minutes talking with the cook, came back with two big pieces of pie and a big smile on his face.

"Okay we are in Atlantis, in another galaxy far, far away from Earth. Gee….this sounds almost like the incipit of Star Wars. So who are you, the good guys?"

"We're not Jedi, and no, this isn't the Death Star for that matter. Anyway, as I said before, we're peaceful explorers. We go through a portal to other worlds we call the Stargate. It was built by an alien race known to us as the Ancients. We try to make friends, understand old cultures, study other technologies and research new environments in order to find allies, knowledge and technologies that can benefit human kind."

"Stargate…" A portal to the stars…didn't I read something similar in a Latin book in Bobby's house? It said something came through the portal, something…evil.

His mind was working hard trying to remember the story in that book but it was a very old memory. He didn't see Bobby very often and the guy had more books than anything else in his house.

"…you said allies with aliens? How do they look like?"

"Well…most are human like us, they just have different principles. Others are different but friendly and there are some races not so friendly."

"You got into trouble in another galaxy?"

Again, suspicion arose. The colonel was being pretty vague.

"We had a few misunderstandings."

Ronon gave a snort at that.

"Who are you?" Dean shifted his green eyes to Ronon. "Since we're here I saw several people a bit edgy around you…why?"

"Specialist Ronon Dex." Ronon said that statement like it was an explanation.

"He is part of my team. Ronon is from another planet. He’s a good guy. He saved my life a couple of times."

"Why are you telling me all this? Isn't it like some big secret no one should know?"

Something was off. They were giving him basic, but nevertheless valuable, information and that set Dean on edge. He had to be ready for whatever was to come from these space guys. He heard a little click coming from Sheppard's earbud.

"Yes, but you are here right now, it's pointless not telling you anything. Besides, you signed the non-disclosure papers." John had a sharp grin on his face. "I have something to do, but Ronon can take you to the Science Department. Why don't you two go annoy McKay?"

"Do I have a choice?"

"Nope."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ sga~spn ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Dean and Ronon walked for several minutes in silence with Dean glancing from time to time at his big strange gun. "So, you're from another planet. Why'd you join them?"

"My planet was destroyed. I was a Runner and they helped me. I fight with them."

"Destroyed by who?" Dean could tell Ronon was someone who fought for a very long time: he had the look of a hunter and someone who went through a lot of battlefields.

"The Wraith."

"Wraith." Shit! Are they fighting supernatural monsters or aliens? "What do they look like? How do they feed?"

Ronon gave him a long look before answering. "White hair, superhuman strength and they heal fast. They feed on human's life-force with a hole in their hand. I'll kill all of them."

Shit that sounds like a Shtriga not an alien. "Um…so some space-vampire race? How do you slay them? Beheading? Iron rounds?"

"Never tried that. I shoot them with my gun. With your weapons, I say three or four in the heart or in the head."

"Good to know."

Then without any other words, Ronon opened a door where a scientist was barking order to his underlings.

"Oh, there you are! What took you so long?"

"We had lunch."

"Lunch!? Am I the only one working here? Uhmf…well did you bring some blue Jell-O?"

"No. This is Dean." Ronon walked away, placing himself in a chair near the door, cleaning his gun.

"The new guy? Don't touch anything! If I say something, you follow my orders. Do you understand?"

"Like I care." Dean was observing the guy: a genius smartass who liked bulling his underlings and being caustic with people.

The scientist also looked back at Dean, then without a word, he turned around, took an octagon prism from one of the tables and threw it to him.

Dean caught it with his right hand and the octagon lit up like a rainbow.

"What's this?"

"It's like a Rubik's cube, just more advanced. You do know the Rubik's cube, right? Try to solve it and then we'll see if you're worth something."

Dean was staring at the guy and at the strange octagon in his hand. His first instinct was to punch the scientist in the face. He then looked again at the octagon with the intricate design and lost complete interest in anything else. He sat on a chair and tried to solve the riddle and after a while he gave it back to the bitchy guy, who was eating a chocolate barrette. It surprised himself that for the whole time he didn't survey his surroundings. He must be getting sloppy.

"Fifteen minutes? It took you long enough to solve this."

"Rodney come on this was a good result. We can add the data. Sheppard cracked it in ten minutes and we observed the same reaction. Stop teasing the kid." The other scientist was working on a laptop near a table.

"I didn't ask your opinion."

"Can I go now?" Dean was, again, tired of this man and his attitude, and wondered why he didn't punch him already. He shot a look at the strange object now inactive on the table. The feeling that the little puzzle game was the only reason he didn't mind anything else around him in those fifteen minutes sent a spike of fear and anger in him. What. The. Hell!? What kind of objects do they have in this lab?

"No, you stay here for as long as I want. Why did you take only MIT's online courses? Too bored to follow in the classrooms?"

Dean was taken aback. "How the hell do you know that?"

"We work in an international secret program in another galaxy. Do you think we can't pull all your life in a file?"

"Rodney, go easy."

"Shut up, Radek! Only an idiot would toss away a scholarship to MIT and then follow online courses!"

"Ty vole, do what you want. I warned you." The Czech scientist took one last look at them then he went back to work.

“So? Cat got your tongue?”

Dean was boiling with rage and was ready to knock out the man in front of him.

"Don't."

Dean turned back and glared at Ronon, who was watching all his movements. He had forgotten about the big guy with the gun near the door.

"So, it was your gun that stunned me last time?"

"Do you want to try it again?"

"No, thanks." He closed his eyes and tried to calm down.

If they knew about MIT, then they knew all that could be found on him on official records. So they knew about his family, probably the several schools where he and Sammy studied, his juvenile records and hospital files. Hell, he was so screwed. Escaping and erasing everything would be impossible.

The man in front of him was tapping his fingers on his datapad, unaware of how close Dean was to losing control and hitting his face.

"I had a job. I couldn't afford to leave it just to follow MIT's courses. I did it in my free time."

"Your marks are quite good and you say you had a job to do? What kind of job is more important than getting a degree and doing something useful with your life? Are you an idiot?"

He grinned with sadness in his eyes. For a brief moment, it was like hearing little Sammy again, bitching about their life and his dream to be normal and go to college. "I helped others and sometimes I beat the crap out of the bad guy. Engineering is fun, solving cases is my job."

"Uhmf, so we have another Capitan Kirk here. How troublesome. Another guy with a superhero complex."

"And who the hell are you? Spock?"

"I'm Doctor Rodney McKay, Chief of the Science Department of the Atlantis Expedition."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ sga~spn ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

"Elizabeth, you wanted to see me?"

Doctor Weir was sitting in her office with a preoccupied look on her face. She glanced up but her mood didn't change. "Yes, Sheppard. Please come in. We have much to discuss."

Sheppard closed the transparent doors behind him and stood in front of her.

"I sent my report to the SGC and talked to General O'Neill. He sends his greetings."

"O'Neill? Is this about Winchester?"

"Yes…long story. Tell me, John, what is your opinion of him?"

"He seems like a good kid, a little cocky maybe. He loves our pie and, from what I've seen, our female scientists. I think he's hiding something, but I don't believe he's a danger to us."

She gave him the folder on her desk. He sat to read the most remarkable parts in the files.

"Well, I'm sorry he lost his mother when he was so young. He sure changed a lot of schools...and visited a lot of hospitals for a kid. His father?"

"Who knows? The social workers' reports showed that he seemed in charge and was overprotective around his little brother. The father was away most of the time, and sometimes Dean got in trouble with his classmates. In all the inspections, the motel rooms where they lived were clean and both brothers were in good health."

She took a file showing it to Sheppard.

"The social workers always believed it was Dean who was taking care of the family and not his father. One guy in an unofficial report said he watched their motel room for a month and that man showed up for only two days. Two days in a whole month! They were twelve and eight years old, John. They were just kids."

"He had a tough childhood. I get it. No wonder the little brother made his way to Stanford at his first chance…Dean instead seemed to keep going around the USA doing God knows what though suspected of impersonating law enforcement, credit card fraud, probably both, break-in at a cemetery…He really got busy."

"I talked to General O'Neill about the situation. He said on Earth the NID and IOA won't let him go for security measures and that was before we had his file. Probably someone will give him the choice to work in Area 51…with a 24/7 surveillance. His background doesn't help him."

"God I hate those guys…he's just a kid! Sure he has some issue but these are petty crimes. We have bigger fish to worry about! Beside who would believe him if he says anything about us!?"

"That's my point too. If he goes back to Earth now, what do you think he'll do?"

"He'll try to escape and disappear…" He witnessed his attempt to escape custody and on another two occasions he had remarked that, with his talents, their guest wasn't a common civilian. Sheppard wrote it in his report. The folder added more proof of his abilities.

"…And then they could pin him down and take away all his rights."

"They want him to escape, don’t they?” John shot back realizing what Elizabeth was thinking.

"Could be. He has the ATA gene, like you, and he is a civilian. If you think about it, without rights they can do whatever they want to him, so they'll leave him no other choice. Winchester tries to escape and he will fall into their net. Some members of the NID wouldn't mind if they have to use these kind of tricks to get what they want."

"We can't let them do that."

"I agree and that is why I want to offer him a job here in Atlantis."

"Here?" He was speechless. John didn't expect this.

"Do you think there is another option? As leader of this expedition, I have the right to offer to a civilian a job here, don't you agree?"

"Yes, you do." John had a wide grin on his face.

"Do you think he could be a part of Atlantis? I don't want to put in danger any of our people for a stranger or a possible threat."

"I'll evaluate him with my men but he doesn't give me bad vibes. I assure you Elizabeth, Winchester will be under my responsibility too."

"Thank you, John. Now, where is he? We have to solve this matter as quickly as possible. In less than two weeks, the Daedalus will arrive and if he doesn't choose Atlantis, it's possible they have orders to escort him to Earth in handcuffs."

"He is with Ronon and McKay. I’ll call them and ask Ronon to take our guest to the control room. I think that seeing the Stargate before offering him a job can help."

"Very well. I'll wait here."

He got up, turned around and left, calling Ronon through the com-link.
Doctor Weir sighed, wishing for the hundredth time she was doing the right thing.

When Dean got to the 'Gate room with Ronon and McKay, he was astonished. The city was incredible, but the big circle of stones in the room was something else: huge and with strange symbols all around it, one which looked like the Orion Constellation.

Sheppard had already told him that the combination of seven symbols were the coordinates for another planet in the galaxy. As much as he wanted to be skeptical, it was hard with all this alien technology around him.

"This is the Stargate."

As Ronon very briefly explained, Dean saw an incoming off-world activation and a big loud horizontal geyser materialize in the middle of the circle of stones. After a couple of minutes, a team of four Marines stepped out from the light blue pool of liquid formed inside the ring. Dean scarcely breathed the whole time, whatever it was he could only describe it as beautiful.

"You will pay! Do you hear me Winchester!? You almost made me blind!"

"Hello kids! What's up?"

"Sheppard! Tell me we can send him to a desert planet. He tried to kill me!"

Dean snapped out from his stupor state and replied at the whining scientist.

"Oh, come on, Spock, I was only adjusting the lights. I never thought of blowing anything..." But the amusement in his eyes said otherwise.

"I yelled to think 'off', 'shut it down!' and what did you do? You didn't! You stupid chump!"

"I said I was sorry." There was a hint of mockery in his voice.

"You obviously are not! Mark my words, I'll have my payback!"

And with that Rodney took off, yelling and insulting whoever was in his range.

"…"

"You really did a number on him, didn't you?"

"I was bored."

"Come on. Doctor Weir wants to see you."

They walked in the office with glass doors and Dean was surprised to see a woman. She was in her late thirties, wearing like the others a grey uniform jacket, but quite opened: under it he was able to see a red shirt revealing all her curves. She had the appearance of a kind person, but her eyes were strong and confident. Doctor Weir was clearly the woman in charge around here.

"Mr. Winchester, nice to meet you. I'm Doctor Elizabeth Weir, Leader of the Atlantis Expedition in the Pegasus Galaxy. Please have a seat."

"Yes, ma'am." He nodded and took a seat. Even with his overall attitude, he could show some manners, especially with a fine lady.

"We are in a dire situation, Mr. Winchester."

"Please call me Dean, Mr. Winchester is my father." He had a pleasant smile that didn't reach his eyes.

"Very well, Dean. You know where you are right now. Colonel Sheppard told you, didn't he?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"I contacted Stargate Command on Earth and talked about our situation…There aren't many options."

"What do you mean? I can't go home?" His hands were clenching on his knees.

"I didn't say that. You are a civilian who discovered one of the most secret projects on Earth. Even if you signed those non-disclosure papers, the government can't let you go free because they can't afford any kind of leak of information. Let me be clear with you." She took a deep breath and stared in his eyes. "With your precedents, if you return to Earth, you probably will be assigned to work in a secret facility. You can't go back to your life driving around the States anymore. You will be observed. Always."

"Bullshit! Let me go back to Earth and you'll never see me again." He stood up, rage boiling in his veins.

"Dean, calm down and listen to Doctor Weir. We're not the enemies here." Sheppard's hand unconsciously went near his side arm.

Dean looked at the colonel and after a long moment he sat back, his eyes focused on her.

"I know you're confident in your ability to get off the grid, but you'll be hunted down by the United States government and others agency like the NID and IOA; and when - not if - when they find you, they will leave you in jail for the rest of your life - or worse. You have the ATA gene and there are some guys with their own agenda who'll do everything to use you for their own propose."

"So, I'm screwed no matter what."

"You can choose to willingly and permanently work in Area 51 and the SGC can try to help you there...or you could join us here, if you want, and be a part of this expedition."

"Here? You mean in Atlantis?"

His expression was like pure wonder and he was visibly surprised.

They seemed like nice people with some fancy stuff but he understood very well the strategic risk his presence would make for them. He was a stranger and they were especially selected people from all around the world. They watched each other's back in a galaxy full of dangers. From a tactical point of view, he was a liability and yet they were willing to accept him no matter what they thought he did for living.

"Yes, here. If you accept a job as part of this expedition, you don't have to worry about the NID or IOA. I will handle them, but you can't go back to Earth for a while. We have to first make you an official member of this expedition before you can request a vacation to Earth.” 

She placed her hands on the table, her face serious.

"I will not sugar coat this for you Dean. We are facing threats like no other. Here in the Pegasus Galaxy, we fight the Wraith, a race who feed on humans and want the coordinates of Earth to harvest a new rich ground full of people. In the Milky Way, we're fighting with a race called the Ori who are beings of another plane of existence who want to enslave the other races in the galaxy and make all people worship them as gods.

"We are an expedition of explorers, but we also fight for our people. We keep them safe. Please try to understand all the risks involved and why secrecy is so important to us."

He nodded. He had too much on his mind to say something. In a few minutes his problems became so small: he always fought to save one person at time while there were people fighting to save the entire freaking planet…or even better, an entire freaking galaxy!

"The starship Daedalus will come in twelve days. I don't want to rush your decision so feel free to take your time, but before the Daedalus arrives I will need an answer. You're both dismissed."

Dean stood up and walked away without a word. Sheppard nodded to Elizabeth and followed Dean out of her office.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ sga~spn ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Dean was in the isolation room. He moved the bed to where the blind spot of the cameras were and was lying on the bed, thinking. The only way to see his whereabouts was by watching from the windows where Dean could see who was observing him. The Atlantis' staff seemed to understand his need for privacy and no one said anything.

The situation looked absurd: he was in another freaking galaxy and he was in deep shit. Three things stuck out as the most important information in his mind: he wasn't on Earth, his father didn't know where the hell he had his last hunt and the Impala was parked near that hunted house.

His Impala. Shit! How the hell am I gonna get her back?

The humming of Atlantis in his head changed to a little noise. Dean could swear Atlantis seemed jealous of the way he thought of his Impala. Uh…Sorry? I like you too.

The noise dissipated as Atlantis gave him a gleeful humming.

He returned to analyze his situation, but for what it was worth the choices weren't fantastic. No matter what, if he went back to Earth he would be a prisoner of the government, a pawn in a bigger political game and he couldn't risk it by escaping and running, exposing his father and fellow hunters to the American authorities. They already had too much trouble with the supernatural monsters. They didn't have to worry about aliens and the government too. Even trying to talk about aliens to other hunters was absurd. Their existence wasn't as simple to prove as that of a ghost or a Wendigo. It was more likely they would believe he went crazy. He wouldn't be the first hunter who lost his mind due to their job. Hell, probably his own father would be the one to put him in a mental facility if he said something along that line.

So, unless he wanted to spend the rest of his life in a cozy, padded cell of some psychiatric ward, under some false name, talking about aliens to the hunters' community wasn't an option either. Also, every stupid federal agency in the country would try to find him. He could forget the cozy, padded cell. With all the alien technology he saw in McKay's lab, who could guess if they didn't put some tracking device in him already? 

His mind was spinning with these types of thoughts when he heard a knock on the door. He stood up, alert to potential danger. "Come in."

With fluid and soft steps, a woman came in his room. She had an exotic beauty, brown-red hair, a kind expression on her face and strange leather clothes. She wasn't a Marine that was clear.

"Hello, Dean Winchester. My name is Teyla Emmagan. Am I interrupting you?"

"Nope." He offered her a seat at the table in the center of the room. She had a device with her, like a laptop but smaller. "Who are you lady? Some kind of shrink?"

She appeared more like an Amazon to him, but in his situation he had to ask. Maybe he really needed a therapist.

"No, I'm a member of Colonel Sheppard's team. I wanted to meet you and, if possible, help you."

"You're not from around here, are you?" Her accent was strange. Her movements were too silent and calm, like she was walking in a forest and not in a city, and her clothes were too similar to Ronon's to be a coincidence.

"No, I am an Athosian. For years, my people were culled by the Wraith. I and my people were rescued by Colonel Sheppard and his men when they arrived in this galaxy."

"They saved you…and now you're working for them?"

"No, we are friends. I fight with them, for my people and for all the people who are culled by the Wraith."

"So, you're here for a pep talk. Thanks, but no thanks, sweetheart."

"Pep talk? I do not understand. I heard you were given a choice and I am here to show you some of our work stored in this data-pad. If you know the kind of things we are dealing with on an everyday basis you can choose with much more freedom."

"Why are you doing this? I don't know you. Why do you want to help me?"

"Leaving was a very difficult decision. I was their leader and even if I can go see them, there are moments when I feel I betrayed them. But I know for sure I can do more here to help my people and the rest of the humans in this galaxy than I could ever do on my home world."

She paused for a moment, looking in his eyes like she could see through his little bitter façade.

"You are at a crossroads, Dean Winchester. I came here because I thought it was the right thing to do. You are here for a reason, maybe for helping us, maybe for finding your path. Whatever the truth is, I believe that some things happen for a greater purpose."

"I'm not a believer and I don't know what to do."

"Just because something is unknown does not necessarily mean it needs to be feared. Learn about us, about this place and then try to understand what your place is in the universe."

She stood up with a smile on her face. "I have a Bantos fighting lesson with Colonel Sheppard. Good bye, Dean Winchester."

She walked away and Dean was again alone in the room with a data-pad full of mission reports. He brought it with him on the bed and he was still reading when the guard knocked and gave him a dinner plate. He didn't realize he spent hours reading and he was hungry. After he finished his dinner, he kept reading until his eyes were burning.

Dean spent several days reading reports and wondering at night what the right choice was to make.

At first, he was only mad about the entire situation and decided to work out an escape plan for when he got back to Earth. When he came up with nothing really executable, he was ready to punch something or someone.

Then he tried to focus on the problem as if he were in the middle of a hunt. That was much easier for him. He studied the mission reports like paper articles and couldn't grasp how Earth and half of the people in this galaxy were still safe…some of their missions sounded more like sci-fi novels than real events and in half the cases luck had been on their side.

After a while he zoned out and thought about the kind of people who were out there risking their lives every day protecting the Earth without anyone knowing it. It wasn't much different from what the hunters' community was doing for a very long time. He smiled. They were somewhat like space hunters.

He laughed, picturing in his mind Colonel Sheppard, Doctor McKay and the rest of their team with Boba Fett's outfit and an improbable conversation between Sammy and McKay on aliens and ghosts. They would go on debating like two little geeks indefinitely.

He had a choice to make.

The idea of a job on Earth, in a secure location, doing God knows what, probably with someone always watching him was bat-shit. He knew with an occupation like that, he would go nuts in a month. He could stay in Atlantis and help people, just not in the way he thought; from the several reports he read, trouble seemed like an everyday occurrence around here.

On Earth, there was always another monster and another hunter trying to kill it.

Like an endless story.

Here instead…If the Wraith knew the location of their planet, if they didn't fight back and stop them in this galaxy, no one on Earth would be safe: ordinary people, hunters, his dad, Sam. Only chaos and death. Knowing all that, he couldn't go back. He had to help with all he had. He needed to do everything he could to protect Sammy.

After making his decision, he only had to work out a plan for something to say to his father. He knew if his dad assumed he was dead he would do something stupid, like a deal with a crossroads demon. No, Dean needed him to understand he was doing something useful with his life, just not in the country.

He spent the rest of the sixth night thinking of a plan.

The seventh morning after their first talk, Dean was escorted, by his request, to Doctor Weir's office.

When he arrived, the colonel was waiting for him as well.

"Good morning, Dean. Please sit. How are you today?"

"Fine, ma'am." Even if he had long shadows around his eyes, he was always alert of his surroundings. He sat in the chair in front of Elizabeth.

"Have you made your choice?"

"Yes, ma'am. But I have a few requests before accepting anything."

She raised an eyebrow. He had requests. She could easily brush off whatever demands he had since she was the one risking her career for him. However, she knew better. His next words would tell more about his character than most of the papers she had on him. 

"What do you need? I'm afraid the shipment from Earth is already in this galaxy. There is nothing we can bring here for now."

"I decided to accept your offer, Doctor Weir. I'd like nothing better to help you here in Atlantis than worrying about some stupid federal agency hunting my ass on Earth. But first, I have to take care of my baby and my father before anything."

"Your girlfriend? What's her name?" John was grinning at the witty remark about the federal agents.

"Baby and she's an Impala '67." Dean's eyes were fixed on Sheppard, daring him to say anything about that.

"A car?" Elizabeth was stunned, of all the things…was he talking about his car?

"Nice car!" shouted John with delight in his voice.

"Yes, a very fine car and I want her untouched and without a scratch…when I go back. You can put her in a garage, right?"

"Yes, that should be easy. What about your father?" She didn't take long to reply. It was a small concession and it would be helpful to smooth the negotiation.

"I have to make some phone calls."

"What do you want to tell him?"

"I assume I can't say anything to him, but he'll try to find me if he doesn't hear from me from time to time."

"You know your phone calls will be registered and analyzed. Then if Stargate Command thinks it's safe, they will send it. Also, please try to understand, you can't have a phone call weekly or monthly. Every time we open the Stargate to another galaxy we expend a lot of energy. Your phone calls would be sent with other data files when we have a lot of data to send or by Daedalus' shipment. Do you agree with that?"

"It's fine. We don't hear from each other every single month." He waved his hand to dismiss the subject. "Can you arrange a single room at MIT, some stuff in it and a student file following courses there on my behalf? I'll tell him I'm taking some courses, and then, if your people agree, in a few months I could tell him I was chosen for a MIT's job, related with the Marines, so I'll probably be out of reach for the rest of the year."

"Why all this?" interrupted the colonel. He probably could guess but he wanted to hear it from him.

"Sometimes we go and check on my brother at Stanford, even if we don't call each other. If he tried to do the same at MIT and there aren't any signs of me around, he would find out pretty quickly that I lied. It's a half-truth and with that he doesn't have to worry."

Elizabeth and Sheppard had a brief, silent conversation with their eyes. It was a good plan to avoid questions without revealing anything and they hadn't come up with an explanation for his family. Sheppard nodded slightly in agreement with her.

His resourcefulness surprised both of them. They had the feeling this wasn't the first time he bent the truth around him. Elizabeth shivered at the thought that "suspected of impersonating law enforcement" wasn't so much of a mere possibility. Both Elizabeth and Sheppard heard his dull tone when he talked about his brother so neither of them asked any other questions on the matter.

"Very well. I don't think we'll have any problem to arrange that." She took a data-pad and moved some files on the screen. "I have to schedule all this. In the meantime…Dean Winchester welcome to Atlantis." She extended her hand to shake his and welcomed him with a gentler and warmer tone.

"Thank you, ma'am."

"Colonel Sheppard said you have some military training, but you are first of all a civilian. You'll be under mine and Sheppard's authorities. Is that clear?"

"Yes, ma'am."

Despite what she just said, his stance was similar to every other Marine she had encountered.

"For the next few weeks, Colonel Sheppard and his XO, Major Lorne, will supervise your training. They'll evaluate and teach you the basic things to defend yourself and the others here on Atlantis. You have to know what happened here in this city and you'll have access to some of Stargate Command reports in order to understand the differences between several alien races who live in both galaxies."

She took a brief breath and fixed her eyes on his. "As I said, we are an expedition of explorers. We are searching for new technology and new allies in our fight against the Wraith and the Ori. It's not just for fighting back but to be able to reach all new kinds of scientific breakthroughs. A proper understanding of another alien race is as important as a plant that can help to cure cancer. 

"I understand, ma'am."

"Good…also you have to learn the rudimentals of Ancient technology, it's standard for every person who works here. Doctor McKay and Doctor Zelenka will explain the basics and they'll assess you. After that, based on your abilities, you'll be assigned to a specific duty. Is it clear?"

"Yes…ma'am." The military training was a piece of cake but he didn't expect all the other stuff.

"Your room will be near Ronon. Please understand that there are some people who are concerned so you will be scrutinized for few weeks."

"I understand, ma'am."

"If you do something stupid, Ronon has the right to shoot you.” John was serious in his statement and in his eyes Dean could read the real threat of someone who would do anything to protect his people.

He respected the colonel for that. He would do the same in his position. "Got it, sir."

"Then your training starts tomorrow. Please sign this paper."

Dean read the paper the colonel gave him and then he signed it.

"Very well. Now I must attend my duties. Gentlemen, you're both dismissed."

"Let's go. I'll show you your room." With that they headed to the quarters section of Atlantis.

Sheppard showed Dean where his own room, Ronon's room and Dean's new room were located.

"If you need anything, come to me or Ronon. Early in the morning, we always run around some blocks of the city. Since you didn't have much with you, we took the liberty of washing your clothes and added two uniforms in the closet as well as another pair of boots. I'll call you tomorrow morning at half past six. Be ready."

Dean took a moment to think what he had on him that night. Somehow thinking about the fact that he was in Twin Falls just a week, or two, ago appeared so surreal. Dean felt a little pang of sadness when he realized that except for his Impala, he didn't own anything that really mattered. Clothes were almost worn out and easily replaceable. He had his cellphone and his wallet, with the three photos he valued the most, on him that night and most of his weapons were safe in the hidden compartment of the Impala's trunk.

His guns. Shit. "What about my weapons?"

"Not gonna happen, Dean, only authorized personnel have the right to carry weapons around Atlantis. Yours are in the armory. You can't have it back."

Bullshit. His face was impassive, but his eyes were on fire.

"Don't do anything stupid. After the evaluations if you’re assigned to off-world missions, you'll have them back. On Atlantis, you can have weapons only in case of an attack or some other emergency, but you can have back your kit of lock picks." Sheppard took it out of his vest and gave it to him. Most of Atlantis' equipment didn't work with a lock pick so it was a safe thing to return. "Don't make me regret it."

"Understood…sir."

Despite everything, he knew he was the new guy here, in a place where the military staff made most of the security decisions in order to look out for the civilian population.

It was the right thing to do to take his weapons away, but that didn't mean he had to be happy about that.

Those were his guns and his silver knife!

"Good. Try to get some sleep. Tomorrow will start your evaluation week."

 

tbc

Most of Atlantis' equipment didn't work with a lock pick so it was a safe thing to return.

"Don't make me regret it."

"Understood…sir."

Despite everything, he knew he was the new guy here, in a place where the military staff made most of the security decisions in order to look out for the civilian population.

It was the right thing to do to take his weapons away, but that didn't mean he had to be happy about that.

Those were his guns and his silver knife!

"Good. Try to get some sleep. Tomorrow will start your evaluation week."

Chapter Text

His room was much better than the motel rooms he and his family stayed in the past few years. He had his own bathroom and a spacious bedroom with a rhomboid window on one wall. The architecture was in line with the Atlantis' style with walls painted in a shade of light grey and some azure vertical lamps. That was a really nice change compared to most of the insufferable patterns he often saw in the thousands of shabby motels in the USA during his career as a Hunter. Some of them hadn't realized the 70s were over.

The bed was soft, the water in the shower was hot, and the lights were just as he liked. Atlantis was doing her best to make Dean feel welcomed and comfortable. That was the first time, since he arrived, he slept the whole night.

In the early morning, Ronon, John and Dean were running at a good pace around several blocks of the upper levels of Atlantis. Despite the fact he was in a city probably as big as the entire island of Manhattan, it was clean. Every place seemed connected and most of the constructions looked alike. The smell of the ocean was always in the air but never too strong, and on a bridge that connected different piers, he could hear the noise of some alien bird or whale.

The sunrise was so astonishing, even if a bit too green in his eyes, that Dean fell behind for a while. Staring at the beautiful view of the city in the early morning. He was in another galaxy, ready to fight aliens and live in Atlantis. He was thrilled and at the same time, he knew the risks weren't few. Dean could easily die out here and his family would never know.

However, watching the alien sunrise relaxed him…and he felt happy like he hadn't been on Earth in a while. Here he wasn't John Winchester's son or Sam's brother. He was just him. He could choose his own path. A little weight from his chest seemed to disappear.

"Are you daydreaming or do you need a break?" shouted the colonel.

"What? No! I'm coming."

It took him a moment to realize that several feet ahead, Sheppard and Ronon were chuckling and he cursed to himself. He never really liked running for fun as it reminded him of his job, and there were many other enjoyable things you could do for fun, but he always kept himself in shape. "So what's next?"

"We're going to the gym. You'll have a hand-to-hand combat test and then we'll see how good you are with handling guns. We will take a break after and have a little fun."

Dean gave a quizzical look to Sheppard before he shrugged. Whatever they had in mind, he was prepared.

When they arrived at the gym, several Marines and airmen were already there working out doing push-ups, bicycles, dips and weights. They all stopped at once to salute or not at the colonel and Ronon, respectively.

Dean could see in their eyes the fond respect and confidence they held for Sheppard. They trusted their commanding officer with their lives and, if the reports were true, for a good reason. So not just a stupid flyboy.

For him, just his father, Sam and Bobby were trustworthy.

The Marines shot wary looks at him and Ronon, other just dubious one.

"Come on kids, let's round up. Lorne."

"Colonel." Sheppard's XO had a pen in his hand and was checking on some schedule shifts for the marines.

"Is it all ready?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good. Let's see what he can do. Winchester, come over here. I assume you’ve hand-to-hand combat training from your father, don't you?"

"Yes, Colonel," Dean said, shifting his gaze around the gym.

"Good, let's see if what he taught you was any good. Sergeant Barroso will spar with you."

Dean nodded and took his position on the padded floor ready for his opponent.

Barroso was a trained marine. He took his stance in front of Dean and waited for the colonel's order. He was young, probably in his late twenties, and was well fit. The sergeant seemed a good guy, not bold or arrogant enough to underestimate his opponent, but a little carefree due to the fact that Dean was a civilian. Like that was the right word to describe him.

When they started, Dean let the first move go to the sergeant. They circled around for half a minute before Barroso tried to do a fake punch with his right fist and strike with the other in Dean's left side. Dean avoided the punch by dodging away swiftly. Then the Marine tried several punches to get his guard down but Dean was able to evade every punch except one to his left shoulder.

Then he moved.

He grabbed Barroso's hand, placed his foot behind the foot of his foe and pushed him towards the ground. The poor guy tripped on Dean's foot and crashed on the ground with a loud thud. Dean didn't hesitate and took one of his hands behind Barroso's back to immobilize him to the ground.

The match was over in less than six minutes.

"He is good," was the only thing Major Lorne had to say.

"No kidding…Lieutenant Kemp you're next."

Dean helped Barroso up and, after a brief exchange of formalities, they shook hands. Lieutenant Kemp nodded to Colonel Sheppard and took his position on the padded floor. Now they knew he wasn't a simple civilian and Kemp kept his guard up, ready for Dean's moves.

Kemp started with a kick and a series of punches from different angles, always trying to stay on guard when Dean punched back, than with his right foot kicked Dean's left knee. He dropped on his knees with a grunt, got up fast and began to circle Lieutenant Kemp. A few bruises were already forming on his cheekbones but his eyes were gleaming.

Dean was enjoying the fight. It had been ages since he had a good, fair fight with someone else and wasn't under imminent death. He decided to try a trick that always worked with Sammy. Dean held himself like his left upper arm was really hurt and he was protecting it, then, when Kemp got close to strike with another series of punches, Dean used the open in his right side to strike a powerful punch to his ribs. When the lieutenant jerked back from the pain, he aimed another punch at the guy's solar plexus. Unlucky for him, Kemp was able to place a good shot to his face at the same time.

They both stumbled on the ground. Less than a minute later, Dean got up, massaging his face and cleaning off a bit of sweat with a towel while the Lieutenant was still on the floor trying to catch his breath.

"Pretty good," added Lorne while handing a chocolate bar to Ronon.

"Okay I get it…what's that?" John was a bit stunned. In fifteen minutes, their newest addition had been able to beat the hell out of two of his men.

"I lost a bet with Ronon." Lorne wasn't trying to hide the smile on his face.

"And?"

"I bet on Dean, Lorne on the Marines," said Ronon with a grin. "I have two bars, one for each match."

And with that, Ronon advanced on the padded floor.

"Oh, you gotta be kidding!" Dean said with a groan when he saw Ronon.

"You're wasting your time talking, let's spar."

"Okay, Big Guy, I'm all yours." Dean didn't even finished the sentence before he moved fast, trying to land a quick blow.

If the previous matches started with slow and measured approaches, in this one Dean moved with expert precision and as fast as he could, hoping to hit his opponent unprepared. Ronon protected himself and pushed him aside.

After that, Dean defended, blocked several attacks and tried to stall him while searching for a weakness. Then he attempted a roundhouse kick, but Ronon blocked the foot and pushed him off balance, dumping him loudly to the ground. Dean swore. Ronon was one hell of an opponent.

While they were fighting, the other Marines began to take bets over the match.

"Sir, what do you think?"

"Ronon will win that's for sure. Anyway the kid is really good. If I didn't know better, I'd say he fights like a vet. Keep an eye on him."

"Yes, sir."

John was wary. Despite everything he read in Dean's file, nothing explained how he could be a top-tier fighter like the best of the Marines dispatched here without using quite often his "education".

Surprisingly after high school, the electronic trail was sketchy. There wasn't a steady job or place in his life. Maybe he got in some bar fights around the country but that couldn't be where he learned so much about fighting. John noted to himself to check Dean's father background as the guy probably was in Special Ops and trained his son like one.

The fight went on for over twenty minutes, where both sides seemed pretty worn out, until Ronon got Dean with a swift punch to his jaw and finished the match, sending the kid on the floor, breathing heavily.

Ronon extended a hand to help him get up. "You good?"

"Peachy."

"Let's spar again another time."

"You betcha."

"Okay kids, the show is over! Come on guys, go take a shower. We're meeting at the shooting range in thirty."

When they arrived, Sheppard took his time to explain every weapon they had in there: P90, berretta, several automatic and semi-automatic guns, the difference between switch blades, karambits and boot knives, how much distance one needed to be safe from the blast of a grenade or the C4. Except the Wraith's stunner, his whole speech sounded like a boring lecture to Dean.

While he explained how to use a P90, Dean took one in his hands, switched the safety off and shot at his target. He was able to draw a smiley face on the chest of his paper target. "Nice, but I still prefer the Colt and the Desert Eagle I had."

"Right…You know the P90 has more bullets and it's more effective on a Wraith."

Dean took his .45-caliber M1911 and shot five times: two in the head, two in the heart and one in the lower parts of the target.

Sheppard looked amused. "I can see your point. However, for off-world missions the P90 is our standard weapon."

Ronon took out his gun and shot right where Dean's smiley face was. The hole was so big that half the chest of the paper target was gone.

"Where I can get one of those?" Dean had his envy eyes on Ronon's gun.

"Get in line kiddo. Everyone here would have one those.” Sheppard had a big grin on his face, like it was an old joke.

Envy and delusion were all over his face. However he soon became occupied with the Wraith's stunner and one of the Genii's gun. It seemed that whatever weapon he picked, Dean was able to handle it without effort. After that they tried several other weapons. Then the test was over and Dean was walking out of the shooting range. He was almost at the armory's door.

"Didn't you forget something?"

"Uh?"

Sheppard was cleaning a Wraith's stunner and looking at him with a disapproving frown. Maybe the kid needed to know what it was like to be stunned by that gun.

"What did I say yesterday?"

"Welcome to Atlantis?" Dean said with a charming, sheepish smile.

Sheppard let out a sigh. It was like scolding a child. "Come on, Winchester. Leave the knife here. I said no weapons." His hands were tight on the stunner. Ronon was grinning and half curious to see what would happen next.

Dean shrugged his shoulders like it wasn't a big deal and gave back his silver knife. He had taken it while they were doing the shooting test. "Well you can't blame a man for trying."

"Yeah, right. Don't push your luck, kid. You won't have a second chance."

Sheppard's last sentence had a serious tone and Dean nodded, understanding the warning behind it.

John took the knife and closed it in the armory with the Wraith's stunner; Ronon took a moment to look at the knife while he was close to Sheppard. "I like him. He has good tastes for knives."

"I like him too but he can't have a knife despite your policy to always carry one with you. I know you gave one to Doctor Parrish last week." He gave a huge frown to Ronon.

"It was for his off-world mission with Lorne," Ronon said with a serious face.

"Not the point, Ronon…we don't know him…he's a civilian….just…just don't give him any of your knives okay?"

"Okay."

"Good."

While John locked the armory, Dean was near the door waiting for them with a sergeant who was watching him like he was a thief who just attempted to steal the Crown jewels. It was a bit annoying to be glared at in such a way for his effort to get back his own knife but Dean didn't let it bother him.

"So what's the fun part you were saying early?"

"Let's go. I'll show you." Sheppard's eyes were beaming and a big smile spread on his face.

Whatever he had in mind, Dean was a little uneasy with that joyful attitude.

After several corridors and ramp of stairs, Dean was confused. If it were up to him, he probably would be lost in Atlantis in a couple of hours. The buildings had all the same architectures and it was hard to understand the complexity of it when they could move from the inner city to the northern pier just by taking an elevator.

Despite that, the colonel kept showing him things: laboratories, archives, living quarters and the most frequented areas of the city.

"If I know one thing for sure it's that your life changes forever once you have an experience in outer space or after one trip though the Stargate. You and your problems seem so small in the big picture. Some trips can go wrong but once you do it once, you're eager to do it again. Trust me."

As they entered a new bay, Dean whispered to Ronon, "How long will he keep going like a hyperactive kid?"

Ronon looked at Dean with a little frown. "He is always like this."

"Great," he said with an annoyed face.

"Come on guys, let's have a little fun."

As Sheppard said those words, the doors of a huge hangar opened. There were vehicles that looked like a mix of mini space shuttle and a tin can. Some scientists were working on two of them while the other vehicles were parked, each one in an accurate spot.

Dean had his mouth open in awe. Those were really strange pieces of technology and for a while he wondered what kind of engines were in them. He followed the colonel into one of them.

"You know we call it a puddle jumper, jumper for short."

He wasn't really listening to what Sheppard was saying as his eyes were stuck on the things inside. At first, its shape threw Dean, who believed it was an advanced submarine, since Atlantis was a city floating on the sea and he heard that the city was once on the bottom of the ocean. He could just picture the city under water, hiding from the Wraith with protective shield in place and these tiny submarines as the only way to go out and reach the mainland.

Then once he saw Colonel Sheppard taking the controls and remembering the name "jumper" in several reports, he grasped the right answer. "No way."

He was almost half out of it when Sheppard closed the jumper's rear hatch and with simple and quick maneuvers flew the jumper up toward the ceiling of the Jumper Bay. Dean grabbed the first seat he found and closed his eyes. "Shitshitshitshit…"

"Hey Winchester! What are you doing back there? Come and see the planet we're on. You can see everything from here and guess what? You're gonna go into space!"

Dean wasn't panicking.

He was cursing and some of his obscenity were directed to a certain freaking flying colonel; at the same time, however, he was sending prayers to whatever deity was out there, hoping that they wouldn't crash by being accidentally hit by an asteroid.

With his luck, that was a high probability.

He began to mumble again. No, Dean wasn't panicking at all. "Take me down…now!"

"What? Why?"

"Because…Oh God….those are moons?....shitshitshit."

Sheppard and Ronon looked first at each other and then at Dean: he was using his cursing like a mantra. A little smile had grown on both their faces.

"Don't tell me… you're afraid of flying, aren't you?"

"No, Sherlock. I'm not afraid. It's statistics: planes crash, people die."

"You're joking, right?" John's smile grew wider.

"Do I look like I'm joking? I don't fly. Take me down."

"Dean, I'm a seasoned pilot and this isn't a simple plane. We're not gonna crash, at least not from a brief recon without any Wraith ship chasing us."

"Don't jinx it!"

"Fine, fine. Okay come here and see for yourself. The jumpers are Ancient technology, the same as Atlantis."

Dean moved slowly from the seat near the hatchback to the one behind the colonel. He could see the strange symbols, similar to the ones on the so called Stargate, the pilot joysticks and thanks to the wide front window, the entire alien planet below them and the stars above. The sight was beautiful and terrifying at the same time.

He knew that if a small piece of asteroid broke the front window all the oxygen would be sucked out in less than a minute and they would die. Asphyxiation wasn't a good way to die. Yet to be able to see another world in another galaxy with a different set of stars was truly astonishing. His erratic heartbeat started to take a more steady rhythm.

"Thanks to the ATA gene I can control the ship with my mind. I can fly, shoot or cloak the jumper simply by thinking about it. It's much safer than any vehicles on Earth. There is no reason to be afraid."

"I trust my Impala more than this tin can but I catch the drift."

He was fidgeting but it seemed like talking about the technology of the jumper distracted him from the fact he was flying so John kept chatting about drones, cloaking device, inertial dampers and other technical stuff. They just looked like a couple of guys talking about motors and cars. Dean, however, never let the window's view out of his sight.

While they were talking, Sheppard smoothly flew the jumper around the moon and did a scan. "Control Tower to Jumper One. Come in."

"Control Tower, this is Jumper One. Is everything okay down there? Over."

"Everything's fine, Colonel. Just a routine check, sir. You've been up there for over two hours. We were wondering if you encountered some anomaly. Over." Chuck had just a hint of worry in his voice.

"All in order up here. We'll do a quick check near the biggest asteroid and we're coming home. Keep the roof open. Over."

"Roger that. Central Tower Out."

The colonel turned to Dean with a teasing smile. "What do you think? Wanna try or are you too chicken to handle it?"

Dean was a little pale but, just to take that smug smile from Sheppard's face, he took Sheppard's seat and Sheppard's took Ronon's. The Satedan sat behind the colonel without a word. "What do I have to do?"

"Take the commands. Can you feel it in the back of your mind?"

After a brief nod from Dean, he kept going.

"Think of flying the jumper as if you're driving your Impala."

"I drive on a road not in the middle of frigging nowhere."

Before he finished that statement, a semi-transparent screen appeared in front of him: on the upper right side there was something similar to an odometer, on the left side a mini-map showing his surroundings and in the middle a series of lines like the ones on a road. "What the hell!?"

"Well you wanted a road…" Even as he said that, John was a bit surprised. He was a pilot, he didn't need a road to help himself to fly around, and as far as what he knew, none of the other pilots ever mentioned a panel like that. It was similar, yet different in several ways, to the one that showed their trajectory in space. Atlantis, and by extension the jumper, filled the request of their new member to her best. There was always something new with her.

"She is something…"

Dean grinned a bit while he adjust his grip on the controls and flew the jumper at first with a wary drive and nervous eyes. When he got the hang on the whole "flying thing", he flew the jumper with more ease. As they got nearer the biggest asteroid, the jumper was flying like a racecar on a deserted, imaginary highway.

"Okay, now turn around at the asteroid and head back to Atlantis."

"Wha…it's huge."

"Yeah and we're gonna crash on it if you don't stop admiring it."

That was meant to be a little joke but a terrified Dean swiftly turned his head to look at Sheppard and lost his focus on the panels. Before the jumper's controls were lost and the gravitational field of the asteroid kicked in, John took the gearshifts with a strong mental and physical grasp from his spot.

Dean was as white as a sheet and his hands were gripping the handles of his chair. Ronon just stared at them with a curious look.

"Sorry. Bad choice of words."

"Son of…Can we go back now?"

Sheppard smiled. Maybe trying to solve his fear of flying would take more than a simple trip.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ sga~spn ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Rodney was having a bad day: He didn't find any muffins in the mess hall this morning, some labs still weren't working properly and he was assigned to several boring duties, one of them involved their new recruit. It seemed to Rodney that Elizabeth and Sheppard had a complex for strays: First Ronon and now Winchester. He was just beginning to adapt to Ronon and now he had to suffer the presence of another dumbass walking in the hallways of his Atlantis.

So, Rodney was in his lab working, muttering curses, and doing his best to add the strangest questions to the test for their newest, obnoxious guy: quantum physics, Latin, math, American history, cultural nonsense taken from Doctor Daniel Jackson's notes, French, chemistry, basic engineering problems on a 302, biology and so on.

The MIT's papers meant he wasn't just a pretty face. Behind his cocky grin, he probably had some brain cells; however, his attitude rubbed Rodney as very few people had managed to do. Even if Doctor Weir had offered him a job here, now that he was in his domain, Rodney knew how to make his life a living hell. The test was just the beginning.

He watched with smug eyes as Winchester entered and took a seat in the lab. He was bored and his face showed disinterest for him and his minion. After several minutes, on McKay's order, the bald man placed several papers and a pen in front of Dean.

"What the hell is this?"

The scientist let out a sigh. "Mr. Winchester, we hoped…" McKay glared at him with a cold stare and he closed his mouth.

What's his name again? Waldron? Watson? Walton? What an incompetent man. "That's your exam moron. You have two hours to finish it and Doctor Waldron will stay here to keep tabs on you."

"Watson, sir…I'm Doctor Watson."

"Whatever." Rodney shushed him with a hand.

"And if I don't take it? You…What? Write a note and send me to the principal?" Dean was teasing him and Rodney's cheeks became red in an instant.

"You'll take it or I will personally see that you will be escorted to a cell since you're a security risk!"

"Aww I'm wounded and here I thought we were bonding so well."

Rodney snorted with disdain. "You're delusional, Winchester, and your reluctance to do this test is just more proof that you’re a fraud. You probably sent someone else to take the exams in your place. Who? Maybe your little brother?"

"Bite me."

"Enough you two."

Both of them turned their eyes on the person near the door. Doctor Weir was there with her hands folded across her chest and a deep frown on her face.

"Dean Winchester, we already discussed this matter. Doctor McKay is the Chief of the Science Department and he has the right to evaluate your abilities. So if he says you have to take the test, you'll take it. Is that understood?"

"Yes, ma'am."

Rodney had a huge grin on his face while Elizabeth was scolding Dean. However, after the response from the guy, the leader of their expedition was glaring at him with the same intensity she had with Winchester.

"Doctor McKay, didn't I order you to explain things clearly? It's a new, unexpected development for everyone. However, I don't need to remind you where we are and what it is we are doing. Quit poking at each other and get to work. That's an order…for both of you."

"Fine."

"Yes, ma'am."

They glared at each other for another couples of seconds before Dean took the pen and started his test. Rodney took his data-pad and walked out of the lab, while Doctor Weir let out a sigh and followed her scientist. She had many years working on diplomatic missions on Earth and yet, in a situation like this, she felt more and more like an elementary teacher scolding two children rather than the leader of an expedition in another galaxy.

"I don't like him."

"Ronon likes him."

"Well then those two can be Conan the Barbarian and Rambo together with their guns and muscles and stay away from me. Why did you order me to evaluate him? He's another stupid monkey!"

"Rodney! You are the Chief of the Science Department. Act like one! Winchester is here now. We don't know anything about him so I need an evaluation from everyone and that's an order. End of story."

"Fine. Now let me go back to my projects. I already lost enough time for this."

"Did you succeed in solving the problem in Section…Twelve?"

"What? The lab with flickering lights?"

"Yes, I already received a report about that."

"It must be some broken crystals. I'll check when I’ll have time. You do realize there are still several important repairs that need to be done because of the Wraith attack?"

"Yes, Rodney. You don't have to remind me"

"Then let me do my work. God, I need a coffee."

After that, Doctor Weir went to the main tower while Rodney took off towards the mess hall.

When he went back to the lab three hours later, he found his minions working on several repairs and a new paper on his lab desk. He sat there and looked at the test he gave to Winchester. After a while he stormed out of the lab, furiously yelling to everyone to do their job while the paper with a smiley face, some answers and foul words rested on his desk.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ sga~spn ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

After the so called test, Dean wondered around Atlantis with his appointed guide, Sergeant Stackhouse. The two of them got along fine and the marine took him to a large room, similar to the gym but in a more isolated area.

Teyla was there sitting on the floor in a meditating position. "Good afternoon Dean Winchester."

"Hi, sorry to bother you. I didn't know Atlantis had a yoga room."

She looked at him with a little confusion then she smiled. "You are not the first one to talk about this 'yoga'. What is it?"

"Uh.. well it's…some touchy-feely form of exercise girls do to relax."

"I understand, thank you. I do not do yoga here. I am meditating. Would you like to join me?"

"Thank you, sister, but I don't like new age things."

She was trying harder to understand his slang but then she dropped the subject when Sheppard came into the room. After a brief conversation near the door, the colonel dismissed Sergeant Stackhouse and greeted the two of them.

"Then would you like to see Colonel Sheppard's lesson? I am teaching the Bantos fighting style."

Dean nodded. He was always ready to see and learn new techniques. Despite everything his dad had taught him, Dean always sparred with him or Sam and that didn't leave much room to come up with new moves. Monsters and ghosts didn't count as sparring buddies; every time he was lucky his training was enough to keep him alive. Besides, this seemed like a good opportunity to see the colonel's fighting abilities.

Regardless of the fact that she was thin and well fit, her stance was that of a seasoned fighter and Sheppard's face showed the dismay typical of someone about to get their ass kicked by their instructor. No way in hell would he miss the match. He sat near a wall and watched as they began their match.

They circled each other for a while before Sheppard took the initiative and, with a strong slash, tried to hit Teyla on her left hip. She elegantly avoided it with a rod and at the same time used the other one to hit the right shoulder left unguarded by the colonel. He stepped back a little to regain his balance while she waited for him. It was like a dance or, at least, Teyla’s movements were.

She was swift and precise in every action and her rods were always able to hit Sheppard on his hips, shoulders or knees. After a few minutes, Sheppard was panting and aching all over while Teyla was only a little heated and without an ache.

"You have not practiced your Bantos fighting in weeks, Colonel."

"Uhm…I was a little busy…so what's this…payback?"

"No, I was only reminding you to listen more during our lessons."

"Copy that."

After the brief exchange they kept fighting for another five minutes before Sheppard was on the floor. "Yeah…I don't think this is only for that."

"No, you were lazy today. You showed up late."

Dean chuckled, unable to keep it to himself. The fighting and the reprimand were awesome; just what he needed to cheer up.

"What are you laughing about?"

"Nothing."

"Yeah, right. Maybe you should be in my place. It's not a cakewalk to fight with Teyla."

"I didn't say anything." His grin, however, betrayed his words.

"Sheppard is right, perhaps we should have a practical lesson. Do you want to try?"

He shifted on his spot. He didn't like to fight with girls but if the previous match was any kind of warning of how good Teyla was then he could easily forget her gender. Besides, Teyla's words had the distinct tone of someone who didn't accept "no" for an answer. "Sure, why not."

Sheppard got up and gave the rods to Dean. He took them and gave them a few practice swings to get acquainted with their weight. When he was ready, he faced Teyla. As in the previous match the two of them started to circle each other, both prepared with their rods in hand for the other's first move.

Dean wasn't ready to make the first move so Teyla took the first step in their fight. In the beginning, she only bumped her rods a few times with his; tantalizing and letting him defend each blow. Then when he began to gain confidence in his steps, she increased the pace and was able to hit him a few times. He distanced himself from her to gain a little moment to collect himself. Even if she had hit him only two or three times, they were well placed hits and his body was aching already. He wouldn't win in a prolonged fight. Teyla would win simply by tiring him so he threw caution to the wind and began to attack. He tried to mimic her by hitting either her shoulders, knees or hands but each time Teyla was able to defend herself from his attacks.

This time, she was the one that backed off to take a small breath. Dean was in worse shape, panting and sweating. He ran towards her at a fast sprint and unleashed a powerful blow with his right rod. She saw the strength behind the attack and defended herself with both her rods leaving her left side uncovered. He took a chance to hit it with his left rod, although it was slower and weaker than the other and as a result, Dean only grazed her left shoulder.

Teyla was a little surprised but without missing a beat, she turned around and with a precise blow, the power increased by her spin, hit his ankle. He jumped backwards from the pain and was kicked by her foot in the abdomen. Dean was on the floor without even realizing how it had happened and Teyla was right there, with a rod pointed at his solar plexus.

"I surrender?"

"Very well." She let him go and went to retrieve her towel. "Did you have any previous experience with this kind of fighting style?"

"Mmm…not really."

Dean couldn't say that swinging iron bars around to fend off ghost was in any way similar to that but surely it gave him an understanding of how to grip an iron bar, or a wooden rod in this case, and how much strength he had to put in each strike.

"But I saw some movie with Escrima fights," he added trying to dodge any question.

"Escrima?"

"That is a martial art used on Earth by some people. It isn't very common." John filled in while they were taking a little time to themselves.

"It uses sticks or knives and hand-to-hand combat. Yeah in some way it's similar but less…"

"Elegant," Dean provided.

"Bantos are more elegant?"

"That or you took it to a whole new level, sweetheart."

John shot a glare in his direction.

Teyla was unfazed by that but pointed the rod again against Dean, this time near his Adam's apple. "Please call me Teyla. Will you come next week for another lesson?"

"Umh…sure. Sorry…Teyla."

"Very well. I accept your apologies Dean Winchester."

"You can just call me Dean."

She nodded and left the room.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ sga~spn ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Before the Daedalus entered their solar system, Elizabeth summoned her senior staff in the conference room. She wanted an update on their newest addition and something in her gut told her that the next encounter with Colonel Caldwell wouldn't be pleasant.

"Gentlemen, Teyla have a seat. What's your opinion on Winchester? "

"He's good in hand-to-hand combat, he took out two of my Marines without a sweat, and he is well versed in firearms too. We talked about military tactics and he was good in that field as well. He can handle himself better than some of my Marines although he has fear of flying. He's a hothead and sometimes a bit cocky though I think overall he's a good guy."

"From a medical point of view, he has several old injuries and scars, some compatible with the medical reports you gave me, Elizabeth. Other injuries appear to have been handled by someone with a bittie of field medical experience. As I said before, no previous alien encounter is visible in his tests. I've cleared him. His arm is fine and he doesn't need any meds. The lad has a healthy appetite but he should lower his consumption of high calorie foods."

"Uhmf…I don't like him," Rodney said without preamble and pushed a paper test to Zelenka.

All eyes were on McKay while Radek raised his eyebrow then looked at the test with a little amusement.

"Rodney, what is it that is upsetting you? The fact that he almost solved a problem on a 302 he doesn't know anything about or the fact that he didn't answer half the questions?"

"There something fishy about him. He dropped school to be a wannabe detective, there is no way he could solve that problem! Besides who knows something about Cajun folklore? About what the hell a Rugaru is?"

They looked each other trying to understand if anyone knew what he was talking about.

"Doctor Jackson?" asked Carson shyly.

"Exactly! Only a freak like Jackson can answer such a question, but at least he's an archeologist! He has to know this kind of nonsense! Winchester doesn't even know who the Vice President of his own country is! I'm telling you there's something wrong with that guy!"

"Come on Rodney! The kid traveled a lot and took online courses, maybe he's just good with engineer stuff."

"Pftt…you can't be serious Sheppard! We aren't talking about a quick, easy car to repair, we are talking about a 302's engine!"

"So he is smart,” Ronon said dryly.

"Smart! Ah! It's more likely he took a lucky guess or coaxed Walton to help him!"

"Who?"

Zelenka's eyebrow rose higher trying to figure which of their minions he was talking about.

"Gentlemen, please, back to the topic. Bottom line is: He has the potential to be a good addition to Atlantis. Am I right?" Elizabeth saw some of them nod to her words. "But…do you think he’s a danger to this expedition? Do any of you think he has secondary goals here?"

"Do you think he’s a NID agent?"

"No, Rodney. It seems unlikely and he doesn't fit their standard, but I can't let my judgment be clouded by sympathy. So I ask to all of you…what do you think of him?"

"He is capable of killing." When all the members looked at Ronon, he shrugged. "I can see it in his eyes. He is a warrior, not a killer."

"I agree. He is a bit lost though he is not a danger. He can handle himself well."

"Ronon and Teyla are right. The kid is a smartass and probably hiding something but he is trying to do his best in this situation."

"Uhfm…you want to keep him? Fine! Your pet project Sheppard, I don't want him near Atlantis' main systems and especially not the Chair!"

Elizabeth looked to all of them and let out a sigh.

"So…What job do we have for him?"

Chapter Text

It took him three months to get bored with his duties at Atlantis. At first he was all business, like he was on a hunt. But all the wonders about the city and the other worlds were difficult to match with his former life.

Every race the teams encountered had their own culture and mostly were human or at least humanoid, there were alien plants and technologies that could change life on Earth forever: everything was a new discovery, and what lay within was the potential to do good or bad things.

The supernatural world on the other hand was only populated by creatures who wanted to feed on humans or hurt them; in his experience nothing good came from the unknown. He had learned to shoot, behead, stab and burn first and ask questions later.

Thanks to the mission reports he had to study, he learned about other cultures: some appeared to have come from the medieval era, others directly from a steampunk movie and others still were advanced enough but due to some incidents were pretty hostile.

 

None of that, however, was his priority.

His main concern as a hunter was the enemy the people were facing on daily basis: the Wraith.

 

Several aspects of this alien race were so similar to some of the supernatural creatures Dean and his father encountered or heard of, and it wasn't difficult to see a connection.

Maybe Shtriga, vampire and probably Dijin too, were somehow related to this race. Perhaps some Wraith from Pegasus Galaxy did find Earth and through the centuries they evolved in what Dean knew and hunted.

It wouldn't be the first time the hunters missed a piece of the puzzle: supernatural lore had so many different sources, for them the origin of the creatures wasn't important as was how to kill them.

Nevertheless the hunter's song was the same: they feed on humans, they have to be killed, end of the story.

 

Atlantis was now in hiding and all the off-world trips were carefully planned. He was an unknown variable in their expedition, and from their point of view a civilian, so they chose to let him stay and help but he wasn't allowed to go off-world.

However he was a hunter and a damned good one at that, he couldn't just sit around and wait. Dean had set his mind to change his position in the expedition.

The first step was knowledge.

 

An ignorant hunter was a dead hunter.

 

He started to study about the city and his people, learned about all the reports on the Wraith and observed the teams who went or returned from off-world missions.

It was a relief to found out that the Alteran, the language of the Ancients, was very similar to Latin.

Thanks to John Winchester, he had learned to read and speak Latin well enough to be cleared for the Alteran's speed course in less than two weeks.

Thanks to that he was able to access the Ancient database. Based on the Ancient records of Wraith attacks on several planets and the information recorded from different populations, Dean saw a pattern in their feeding, or at least a previous pattern, before the expedition woke the entire Wraith population.

His discovery led him to understand a bit more about those creatures, their queens and what he guessed was a kind of division in different bloodlines. The information he had on their “cousins” helped him to a great length.

He compiled a series of notes, like he and Sam always did when they were researching a supernatural creature, but he didn't know to whom he should show it.

He talked about it to Ronon, since he had a huge experience with the Wraith. After a glance, Ronon gave the notes to Sheppard.

Dean was surprised when the colonel praised him, because in all his life as hunter his research weren't anything his father deemed worth of any praise, just part of the job.

 

For years Dean had left Sam doing all the research, allowing his geeky little brother to read for hours and collecting old dusty books in the public library.

Nevertheless, he was the guy who taught the sasquatch in the first place how to do a proper research. For years he had done it for his father, when Sam was too young to even know what they were doing.

Sheppard, however, was more than happy about his findings: that kind of information was able to save more lives than anything they were doing at the moment.

Just by warning people of a possible attack or planning a surprise attack with few hidden jumpers was more than Sheppard could ask for.

 

Aside learning everything he could, it was also important to keep training and fit in.

 

Dean kept going to the gym with other marines, and attained several fighting matches.

Those kind of fights were good ways to learn something to exchange and to let the people know that he wasn't a simple civilian.

In Atlantis, money wasn't the real coin, sure it still had its value but everyone had something more interesting to exchange for the right item.

One night he was even able to find the woman who had and traded the best alcohol supplies. With little words here and there he was able to acquire some booze for himself and helped the scientist on improving the taste of her experimental beer. The European scientist was really good at making the beer, but her sense of business was a bit lacking and Dean was able to help her seal some good trades around Atlantis.

 

Dean would never admit it, but those people were growing on him.

 

He had also begun to poke McKay when no one could see him.

The guy had the attitude of a prima donna and needed someone to quarrel with to boost his ego. Beside half of the time it was fun to blow his mind with comic paradox or pop-culture reference.

Staying on colonel Sheppard and major Lorne's good sides wasn't always an easy task: he didn't mess around too much and tried to propose himself for jobs other than patrols.

Other duties assigned to him were: helping in the repair of some Ancient device by thinking "on, diagnostic, off" and plain simple manual jobs with the repairing teams.

Even if months had passed from the siege where the Wraith had attacked the city, some piers and labs still showed traces of damages.

It was important to show them he could do more than that, but occasionally his mischief got him into trouble and he was back to square one.

Sheppard didn't mind too much, if it wasn't anything serious, but Lorne wasn't on the same advice.

On the other hand he became friends with Ronon pretty fast. Both of them didn't need much words to explain themselves and they understood each other perfectly. It was like they had a silent agreement to never have chick-flick moments, beside most of their free time they spent sparring.

Zelenka, instead, took him under his wing and they worked together on different engineer projects.

Even if, sometimes, it was difficult to understand the Czech with his extensive speech in his mother tongue, mainly when things went out of control, it was awesome to be able to work on some Atlantis equipment with him.

His understanding of engineering took a whole new level.

It was nothing like the MIT's courses, they worked in Atlantis with technologies advanced beyond anything he saw on Earth.

Teyla and her Bantos' fighting style was another thing he was slowly learning to appreciate but, no matter what, at the end of every lesson, he was always on the mat beaten by her.

 

He was slowly fitting in at Atlantis.

 

However day after day he grew a little more restless.

They gave him a dark charcoal uniform with green stripes on it because he was mainly part of the Engineer Department. He didn't wear it very often, choosing instead to wear half of it and a plain military green t-shirt or just a mismatched BDU they gave to him because it was much more similar to his every day clothes than anything they had.

Although he was a civilian, since he appeared to be a jack of all trades, he was often assigned to guard duty: watching some scientists doing some crazy stuff in their laboratories or patrolling the city with the soldiers.

At first it was a good way to see the wonders the science teams had learned in the Pegasus Galaxy, he familiarized himself with the city and all her peers, docks and hidden laboratories.

He was able to know most of the scientists with his "switch" job and their little obsessions. While he built an EFM meter with spare parts of a walkman in his teens, the scientists around him were all geniuses who instead knew how to make an atomic bomb or other dangerous things without effort.

Nonetheless deep inside they were just a group of nerds who sparkled every time they discovered something new. It was funny and sometimes cool to see how a pretty simple experiment changed rapidly into an emergency situation where the only action was to secure the area and eliminate the threat.

 

In general, small stuff compared to the off-world activities and Dean felt like an eternal recruit.

Worse, sometimes he felt like a convict with a handler: always with someone nearby, never to be left alone in the labs or in the main area. His only sanctuaries was his room and a docking peer near it when he felt the need to be left alone.

 

Often at night, looking at the alien ocean, he thought about his dad and Sammy. He kept reminding himself that Sam was safe at Stanford, out of the hunting life and without any knowledge of the truth.

Dean had read some of the SG-1 reports: in the past years there were few close calls, but in the end the people in the Stargate Command had always saved the situation.

Earth was in danger, but brave people were doing their job to defend it, he shouldn't worry for his family.

Despite that knowledge the thought of his dad and his little brother, billions of light years away, not knowing what could harm them terrified him.

As predicted John Winchester's voice mails were very few and short, somewhat distracted and without any hint of worry. Dean often replayed the phone calls on the laptop they gave to him.

He really believed or maybe wanted to believe that his older son was safe and away of the hunter's life. Or Dean had disappointed him and his dad didn't want to have anything to do with him because he chose a normal life over the hunter life at the first opportunity.

Whatever feelings he had, it seemed to Dean that even without a demon to follow, John Winchester was always too busy with another hunt to care for anything else.

 

Regardless of the initial fear, his flying lessons were another good escape from his routine and his hollow thoughts.

Dean enjoyed being able to fly the jumper from Atlantis to the mainland for supplies and commercial trading with the Athosian, because during those trips, flying at low altitude on the ocean, he could pretend to ride his Impala.

He missed his baby and the feeling of an all-night drive on a desert highway.

The Athosian were nice people and during his trips he was allowed to stay for a couple of days on mainland just to learn about them, their former planet and their culture or help the party hunters in their expeditions in the deep woods near their village.

The hunts in the forest were so similar to what he did on Earth so it wasn't a surprise he was really good at it and all the Athosian hunters were always glad to see him.

They didn't have wary eyes around him or saw him as civilian or a military guy, they just respected him for how he worked. Just like Ronon and Teyla did, and for a while it was fun and refreshing.

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ sga~spn ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

Major Lorne knew that, except for some people like doctor Weir, colonel Sheppard, Ronon, Teyla and most of the times him, whom had earned his respect, Dean was deaf to anyone else's order.

His bickering with McKay wasn't really an issue, since he had already tuned out whatever complaint Rodney had with everyone, beside the Major thought it was a good way for both guys to vent at each other and be less troublesome.

Lorne's problem was Dean's attitude with the other egomaniacs around Atlantis.

Unluckily for him both scientists and soldiers had their fair share of men like that and Dean was able to rub off every single one.

In order to help him to make new friends, listen to others' orders and solidify his training in teamwork, the Major placed him in a group of fresh marines for simple recon missions on the mainland.

 

He should have expected the outcome.

 

A day and half later the lieutenant assigned as the leader of the mission had compiled a report about his behavior and they had an Athosian in medical bay.

The complaining of the superior officer was about insubordination and defiance of direct orders.

Regardless of the fact that he was a civilian, most people in Atlantis treated him like any other soldier, so a report on the major's desk on Dean's behavior wasn't strange.

Lorne couldn't help but sigh for the countless time.

Wex, a friend of Jinto, was lost in the forest and his father asked Dean and the team for help. Despite the efforts the marines and the group of Athosian hunters weren't able to locate him. The group leader told them to retreat and set camp for the night due to low visibility, Dean complained about the orders but eventually followed it.

The lieutenant stated in his report that Dean left the camp unnoticed, after his night shift to watch the perimeter, and went to find the boy by himself.

Along with the boy's father, Wolan, they kept searching and the two of them had killed a wild beast while it was heading for the boy.

As an aftermath Wolan was injured, Dean had mended the wound and the boy was safe. When the team arrived they decided to transport the Athosian back with them for medical assistance.

 

After that stunt, Dean was confined to Atlantis on guard duty for another two months.

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ sga~spn ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

In Section Twelve several technicians were working on Atlantis' consoles: removing the burned chips, calibrating crystals, switching a medium cable with a little one and so on.

It was a complex, slow process; McKay was in the center of the room on a chair around several consoles, barking orders like a captain on a sinking ship, trying to save enough data and solve the other problems all at the same time.

Regardless of the hectic situation, a lazy Dean was near a wall looking intently at a brunette scientist working alongside him.

Sheppard, Ronon and Teyla were at the door when John stopped to talk with Lieutenant Negley.

"Good morning Lieutenant, report."

"Good morning, sir! All in order here, Colonel. Doctor McKay is in the lab with his staff repairing some flickering lights and Winchester is on switch duty."

John smiled at the words. "Switch duty" was the so called job for the people with the ATA gene who were called by scientists to turn on/off, run diagnostic or activate an Ancient device.

However some of the machines didn't respond well to the people who had the gene therapy but worked perfectly fine with those whom already had the ATA gene.

For Carson and McKay that was a mystery.

Ronon and Teyla watched behind him at the chaos unfolding in the lab.

"How's the kid doing? Speak freely."

"He followed most of the orders this month, sir."

Negley almost grinned at his own statement.

"He took several night shifts and did his switch duty without messing around with the scientists nor complaining."

The lieutenant shifted to a more relaxed pose.

"Sometimes he is annoying, and damn if he isn't a hustler, he cleaned four marines last month at poker. Bet he can hustle even Zelenka and the Norwegian scientist over there."

As they watched the turmoil of people going in and out of the room, Negley kept talking.

"Winchester and Doctor McKay don't seem to work well together, they have a habit to quarrel on everything like cat and dog. But for now nothing really important has happened, sir."

He glanced at the lieutenant in front of him, sometimes John had to remind himself that the words "speak freely" tended to be taken literally by his men.

"Good work lieutenant, carry on."

Sheppard heard Dean talking to a pretty scientist, a little laugh escaped from her mouth and just before McKay turned to them with angry eyes, yelling them to go back to work, John decided to step in the room.

"McKay what's up?"

"Sheppard! It's about time! Where were you!? I called three hours ago!"

"Oh! Come on Rodney that was only a hour ago, I had to see Elizabeth first."

"Whatever, hold this."

Rodney took out wires from the console and putted it in his hand, then head back under the console. The center of the lab was much more like a battlefield than an Ancient workstation.

"Uhm… what are you doing? Gutting Atlantis' circuit?"

"What!? Don't be stupid. I'm fixing this, can't you see?"

"See what Rodney?" Teyla looked around trying to understand what their friend was doing.

"The lights! Everything! I removed all the crystals, took apart the panels near the doors and nothing! Even with some of them burned, which I repaired a week ago, there is nothing that explain what's wrong with this lab!"

"What do you mean?" Ronon went to greet Dean and together approached the group.

"This lab is driving me crazy for days! First the damned lights, then this week the heat system broke, and now the damn data is corrupted and incomplete."

"Did something happen in this lab?" an icy thought came in Dean's mind.

"I have yet to figure it out! I can't even access the logs! What didn't you understand when I said corrupted data, dumbass?"

Dean took two step forward and was about to say something to shut his mouth, but was blocked by Sheppard.

"Come on kids, play nice." looking at both of them. Then John let his eyes stay on Rodney "You don't even know what it does?"

"What did I just say Sheppard!? Corrupted data!"

McKay moved around without even bother to see the incredulous looks on their faces while he switched some wires and turned around.

"Winchester come here! Be useful for once, I need both of you."

And without any warning McKay took Dean's arm and placed his hand on a semi-transparent panel.

 

"Fuc…"

 

"What…"

 

"Rod..!"

 

"Sheppard!"

Dean, Rodney and John didn't had the time to finish their words, Teyla and Ronon shouted in unison at the colonel, as a surge of power flashed from the panel touched by Dean to the wires held by John.

A sightlessness light engulfed the three of them and blinded the whole room in a heartbeat. After a minute Ronon, Teyla and the others in the room regained their sight, only to discover that they were gone.

 

Sheppard, McKay and Winchester vanished into thin air.

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ sga~spn ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

The three men were unconscious in the lab, Sheppard near a wall, while McKay was on Winchester's left side on the floor several feet away from the console station.

The air was sour and the lab was covered in the darkness.

The first to regain consciousness was Sheppard with a terrible headache and little pain on his left hand. A quick check-up told him he was almost fine, besides the obvious headache, on the ground and with a burn wound. It took him a while to focus on why he had three slightly toasted fingers, so probably he had a mild concussion too.

"Son of a bitch… McKay, I swear touch me again and you'll die."

Dean regained awareness with an itchy pain in the back and what felt like a huge hangover, but he was so outraged with the man near him that he didn't register anything else.

"Winchester… what are you talking about…? And stop screaming, my head hurts."

"Rodney."

Sheppard weak voice and his awkward position snapped them from their quarrel.

"Sheppard what…?"

"The blast."

It was the only thing he could say before recalling the events of what happened to them. A quick glance told John that the other two where remembering the same thing. Sluggishly all of them stood up, glancing around the lab.

"What happened?"

"There was an explosion of light." Dean said recalling the rush of power from his hand on the console.

"Yeah, good thing we have Mr. State-the-obvious here."

"Rodney." John's tone was quite grim and demanded answers.

"What? How should I know?"

They took a long look around trying to understand what happened. The lab was undamaged, no explosion occurred there, it was dark and a thin layer of dust covered some of the equipment.

"We are in the lab, all the lights are off and no one is here..." stated Dean.

"Why didn't they call the medical team!?" shouted Rodney, while he massaged his head.

John placed a hand on his earbud and tapped in.

"Sheppard to Medical Bay, please respond."

When the medical bay didn't respond, he tried to reach Teyla and Ronon then Carson and Elizabeth. All he heard was static noise. After a moment of silence from the three of them another problem popped in his mind.

"Why it's so dark? Wasn't just midday?"

"Oh this can't be good..." murmured McKay.

Sheppard went to the nearest window to check outside, but there was nothing: no clouds, no sky, not even the rest of the East Peer, he saw a piece of their tower and a dark blue shade of mist covering everything.

"There's something wrong McKay, I don't think we're in Atlantis anymore."

"What! Of course we are in Atlantis! Don't you see this console? I worked here for the past three days!"

As Rodney said that he took a look around to see his equipment and the gutting he was doing earlier splitting the console in the middle. He gaped in concentration to see the workstation in pristine condition, apart for a big layer of dust and the crust of something dark red on it.

"Oh God, this is very bad."

"If we are in Atlantis, where is everyone?" Dean was looking at the two of them. Their expressions were grave and his gut told him that the bad news were yet to come.

"Maybe you should ask when..." Rodney said it with a stiff voice.

"What?"

"We traveled in time? Back or forward?"

Dean took a swift look at Sheppard, he couldn't believe what he heard. John was pissed but his expression was that of a man who wasn't fooling around and already has experienced something like this.

"You're kidding, right?"

"It's possible, or it could be any of the other six or seven theories I have in mind."

"We need to know McKay. Now."

Sheppard took his side gun, checked the rounds and patted himself to know how many rounds he had on him. Two guns, three rounds, a switchblade and a Kit-Kat bar. He hadn't had his gear on because he hadn't plan to go anywhere; so no C4 nor other munitions. He glanced at the other two, Winchester hadn't a side gun on him because of their policy of not letting him near any weapons, and Rodney hadn't one because he was working in a lab and he took the gun only for the off-world missions. He sighed and asked Winchester what he had on himself: he had a flashlight, a match, two energy bars and a small pack of M&Ms. However neither of them had water and they both knew it would be a problem in the near future.

While Sheppard and Winchester were evaluating their gun and food supplies, Rodney went near the central workstation in order to pull out some information from that. Lucky for him when they were hit by the blast McKay had his datapad in his hand and he found it on the floor. After some attempt to initiate the panel and run a diagnostic he sighed in frustration.

"Hey you two, quit doing whatever G.I. Joe thing you're doing and come over here. I need an ATA gene user."

"You know McKay you could ask it more politely."

While Dean glared at McKay, he ignored him and kept searching the lab, Sheppard went and lightly touched the panel. A thin glow illuminated the station and a screen appeared in the air above one of the computers.

"Okay so we're still in an Ancient lab, well that crosses off one or two of my theories."

"What theory?" asked Sheppard in a dry tone.

"If we were incapacitated by the blast and our minds were transferred into Atlantis' mainframe by this device, we both would be able to access it."

"Well, good thing that's not it."

"Is that even possible?" Dean asked with a bit of incredulity. He had read some of the reports and saw extraordinary things in these last few months but even if most of them sound like sci-fi works that "theory" went beyond his wild imagination.

McKay didn't even try to dignify that answer as he worked around the console, and studied the screen. Sheppard shrugged his shoulders and his expression was something like "wouldn't be the first time".

"Okay what about the other theories?"

"As I said we probably traveled somewhere: in time or in a parallel reality, shifted in another dimension or to an identical lab on another planet hundreds of light years away. Or we could be still unconscious and hooked into some Ancient device Carson uses in his medical voodoo, kept in a dream state by another Ancient pet project escaped from its cell or maybe infected by an alien virus. Pick one."

As Rodney said the last one out aloud his expression changed from pissed to terrified.

"Oh god... it can be a virus, how can I survive a virus?"

"Let's not panic now, Rodney." John said with a weary expression.

Dean looked at the duo, and stopped to think how all those theories were better as movie plots than concrete possibilities for their situation.

"What's on this device?" John questioned, trying not to think at the worst case scenario.

McKay stilled for a minute before he got back to work. Tapping several times and reading the screen helped to cool down his anxiety. Than the light began to flick and the screen blurred with corrupted data.

"Damn it!"

Sheppard was near Rodney who was muttering curses to the computer so he didn't notice as Dean's hand gesture to take the gun out from his back.

Then Dean remembered, he didn't have one.

It was a habit but he kept forgetting the house rules. Even if a gun wouldn't have salt shots he would feel better with its weight in his hands.

Flickering lights and cold spots in his experience meant just one thing: ghost. However they were in another galaxy and their problem could just be a malfunction, or something related to Atlantis and alien stuff not necessary a supernatural thing.

 

Yet his gut was telling him otherwise.

 

"Rodney, talk to me." John was near him, trying to calm his friend.

"This is stupid! One minute the device works, the next the files are illegible. This Ancient device is broken, I need time to figure it out. And you talking over my shoulder doesn't help."

"Okay, I get it."

Dean approached the two of them and focused his eyes on a blood print near the panels. It was rusty and old but definitely human. He pointed it out to Sheppard.

"So... is someone here to match that?"

"Maybe. The handprint is old, but not years old." Dean said in a wary tone.

"How can you say that? Have you watched a CSI season and now you have a degree?" McKay snapped from his position.

Dean's face morphed in a disgusted expression at the mere thought before he turned his face and looked again at the handprint.

"No Sherlock, you can tell by several things: his position and the different layers of dust. The blood print is recent. There is just one, not several like a lot of people would leave if they were attacked, it's on one side of the panel like he or she was trying to grip onto something to have more stability while with the other hand covered some part of his body, the mouth maybe or some injured side. And if it was years older the blood would be much darker and dusted."

 

The explanation side-tracked Rodney who up until now didn't acknowledge Dean at all. For him he was just a hitchhiker who had somehow won a ticket for another galaxy without any effort and worse without any qualifications to justify being with them.

And he was a pain in the ass. With his witty remarks, stupid movie references and horrible taste in music, most of the time he drove him crazy.

However the guy didn't seem so afraid or useless as he thought; right now they were in a hostile environment and he had helped with his knowledge to assess their food supplies and what could be around beside them. At least he reacted better than Kavanagh in a crisis.

So all things considered he could be useful.

That said it was probably his fault they were in this mess, that idiot must have thought something wrong and most likely started a chain reaction in the computer terminal.
Nonetheless, before McKay could start another quarrel with him, John took the lead.

"Okay we need to check the building, Rodney stay here and work on that machine. Find something, anything. And report to me in an hour."

With a sigh Sheppard gave him one of his guns, he didn't like it but he couldn't leave McKay alone and unarmed. Rodney looked at the gun with mixed feelings before taking it.

"Dean, we are going to search this building and find some clues."

Dean nodded, he wasn't the expert and didn't know what clue they had to find but he was willing to follow Sheppard's lead.

John took position upfront and the two of them moved outside the lab. After they left, McKay closed the door and removed a crystal in the panel as a precaution. If he had to work on their problem at least he shouldn't have to worry about someone sneaking up on him.

Dean and John walked in formation, Dean covering Sheppard's back and making some light with his flashlight. As they passed a long corridor they searched through the unused rooms: some filled with empty stasis chambers, other with construction materials, but in all of them they didn't find anything that seemed remotely alive.

 

If this was Atlantis then he was in a horror version of it, Sheppard thought grimly.

Nothing functioned properly. Even when he or Dean opened a door or lighted up a room.

 

Everything was half dead, covered in dust and with a thick scent of rancid air. In some rooms the lights didn't activate at all. The whole building was cold and stale.

The floor ended with a set of stairs leading upstairs and downstairs. However those leading below were obstructed by debris and impossible for them to move.

"There is another room and then the stairs, the elevator doesn't work."

"Do you think we can find a Stargate here?"

That was a good question. Shepard gazed first to Dean then to the nearest small window.

"No, it's unlikely. If this is Atlantis then the Stargate would be in the Main Tower, we are…were in the East Peer. I doubt there is anything else besides this building out there."

Dean tried to recollect in his mind a map of the East Peer.

"Uhm.. there wasn't any floor above, there were several below and that elevator connected to the Main Tower."

"Yeah I know. I need to inform McKay."

While Sheppard was at the com-link, Dean took a moment to inspect the last room. Again some lights flickered, Dean looked around ready but he didn't see anything out of the ordinary just more junk materials all over the ground. He felt a little puff of cold air and turned the flashlight in that direction, only to find a window and another bloody handprint on a pillar. Like the other one in the lab it was old, but nothing else.

"Found anything?"

"Yeah, another handprint, but that's just it. Whoever left it probably was hidden behind this pillar."

"Then let's go upstairs, McKay said we can narrow down a few more theories if we discover something else."

They left for the stairs, always Sheppard in the front and Dean in the rear, watching his back. The lights in the room they had just left flickered again, the air went cold and on the floor written in the dust appeared two words.

"HELP ME".

Chapter Text

After what seemed to be less than five minutes, all hell broke loose in the lab. The people began to rush away from their positions: some tried to reach the door, others crawled under their tables; it was like everyone were trying to take cover from another blast and put enough distance between them and the Ancient device in the middle of the room.

Teyla and Ronon were the first to regain a little composure and prevent the crew of scientists from hurting themselves. The Lieutenant near the door tapped in his earbud to request assistance from Medical Bay and report the situation to his CO.

Teyla instructed everyone to calm down. She then contacted doctor Weir and reported the situation while a blond and tall scientist called for Zelenka. The panic that overtook the other scientists working in the lab gradually subsided when Carson and his team walked through the door ready to help any wounded person.

As doctor Beckett mended some shocked people with some bruises, doctor Weir and Major Lorne arrived in the lab followed by Zelenka. The Major took charge and let the scientists out of the lab, while the Czech scientist, with caution, asserted the status of the Ancient device.

"Do prdele… Rodney what did you do now?"

Zelenka murmured other curses while he looked around. The lab was half dismantled and all the pieces of the main computer were scattered around the central station. The only thing he confirmed without doubt was that the Ancient machine didn't blow up anything.

Except what all the present had experienced as a bright blue light, there wasn't any damage to the lab, not even on the site where the three missing people had been.

Lorne had interrogated his lieutenant in order to find out the exact chain of events. Plus, he had to be sure that someone else wasn't responsible for the accidental ignition of the machine. Teyla and Ronon stood near Elizabeth with a mixture of a concerned and puzzled expression. Both had seen their friends disappear and they weren't able to do anything to help them.

"Doctor Zelenka what can you tell us?"

"Doctor Weir… for what is worth… I know they didn't blown up, aside that I need time to figure out what McKay was trying to do, opening up all the wires of ten-thousand-year-old gear."

"Are they dead?"

Radek took five whole seconds to look at Teyla with a pained expression.

"We can't know for sure. I need to read the signature in the lab, see what I can find."

"Do you know what kind of device Rodney was working on?" Elizabeth gazed through the room.

"I haven't the slightest idea. We have ten repairing projects working right now all over Atlantis."

He had long shadows under his eyes, and was fidgeting during the entire conversation.

If Rodney was there he would hear him yelling to get back to work and save the day before sitting around to drink a cup of tea and have a nice chat.

"Do you need something?" Ronon understood the importance of letting the man get back to his work.

"Yes. Coffee, please."

And with that Zelenka turned around and called some scientists who had worked in the lab and were just outside, ready for his instructions. He measured the situation for another minute before he ordered them to go back in and work on the equipment in the lab.

The first thing to do was repair the auxiliary system and the main console. Finding out what was the real function of the machine. That was the first step, then he could grasp what went wrong.

Only after the conclusion of this analysis he could came up with a solution to help their friends.

Time was ticking and they had three people to find.

 

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Rodney was working restlessly, trying to find a solution.

First he ran a diagnostic with his datapad to see what was wrong with Atlantis' technology. Second, he tried to overcome his worst fears and was trying to find something to solve the today's mystery, without success. After a while he tried to remember every single detail about his work in the lab, and what the Ancients developed millennia ago to lead to this nightmare.

His mind set on the right track, narrowing down a few theories, suddenly he thought in what section he was and what kind of laboratories were nearby.

Surely the Ancients had a proper method to classify their own project, and this one, which was in the sector designated to defense and other drastic solutions against the Wraith, had to be the same.

Sheppard had labeled it as the Disaster Section.

Rodney shivered, thinking about the Nanite lab located on the floors below.

The last conversation with the colonel left him with a bitter aftertaste in his mouth.

The lower levels were obstructed, the elevator wasn't working and there was a set of stairs for an upper level.

Was this even their Atlantis? How long they were missing?

Were they in another Ancient lab on a distant planet?

For every new piece of information, new questions arose.

With the few bits of data Rodney had, he could discard the theory of Carson and his evil medical devices.

Unlucky for them that was also the best of his worst case scenario.

If this was a dream made up by their minds, they wouldn't make such a mistake in the design of the East Peer. Even Winchester was able to remember that this tower didn't have any upper levels.

The running machines distracted him enough to stop thinking about the alternatives.

"They left it in a suspension mode, why did they do that?"

He was alone but he blabbed aloud to quiet his own thoughts.

Yes, Sheppard had to activate it, but in reality the touch was just to unlock the machine, meaning in this case that the Ancients had left it running even when they were gone from the city.

It had to be a mistake because even in the suspension mode the device was draining power from somewhere.

Or maybe not.

If there was power, perhaps there was a ZPM. For a moment Rodney couldn't stop dreaming about the possibility that this was a stashed depository full of ZPMs, perhaps they really were on another planet.

"Sheppard, do you hear me?"

"Rodney what's wrong? Is everything fine? … Over."

"Yes, yes of course, I'm fine. I just need you to look if there is some kind of power source on the upper level… ah… over."

"What!? Rodney, do you realize we are trying to first identify where are we, and if the place is safe?"

"Well I'm not saying you shouldn't do that, just if you happen to find a power source, like I don't know a ZPM, it could be useful… to us."

"You don't say, well let's keep our priorities in check shall we? If we find something we'll call you. Sheppard out."

Rodney was speechless when the communication closed abruptly. He heard Sheppard's tone, he was a bit edgy and his request didn't help, but for Rodney that was a priority, as it was for them to secure the perimeter.

They just didn't seem to get it.

It was always thanks to his brilliant ideas that he was able to save the day, to be a little more grateful and compliant to his requests wasn't such a ridiculous request in and of itself.

They left him all alone working to solve the problem while they were scouting around like good little soldiers.

And they had all the food with them.

Damn.

Rodney was alone and hungry. He was almost tempted to call them back just to have one of their snacks, but he was too proud to ask Winchester to give him some food.

Looking around, he found an energy bar left near his chair. He ate it in three bites.

Half an hour later, a ping from his datapad took him out of his thoughts, and after reading some lines he couldn't help to sink on the chair in despair.

"Oh God. This is bad."

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Sheppard and Dean were on the upper floor, the stairs were solid enough, but the rest of the building appeared to be in a decadent shape.

Several areas were left in the darkness and an oppressive felling settled in their guts.

Something was wrong, both of them could feel it, but neither spoke of it.

For a moment Sheppard thought about splitting up and cover more ground, but then decided against it. If there was some danger they couldn't risk being caught by surprise or outnumbered.

They searched the first room, again, nothing of note.

It seemed like the equipment was deposited there and then dust took over. No sign of battle or gunfight, just destruction and decay.

Much to Sheppard's frustration the broken crystals and the overall creepy sight appeared to be the aftermath of an earthquake. Or some other catastrophic event.

Maybe they were underwater, under tons of water protected by a thin force-field.

If that was the case, the Atlantis' expedition probably had to evacuate, and they would likely be the only one here.

But if that was the truth then… what had happen? Did the Wraith find their subterfuge?

Or maybe the device was another of Janus' time travel experiments and they were accidentally sent in the future.

The stasis pods he saw reminded him of the frail old Elizabeth they had found in one of them.

He needed answers, John didn't like this situation and it had started to wear his patience down.

Then in the next room he found something.

"What the hell…"

His words set Dean off who directed the light ahead of them.

A pair of legs showed up behind a table. The rest of room was filled with garbage, broken stasis pods and construction materials. It was the perfect place to hide, plenty of nooks and shadows where anything could lay in wait for a surprise attack.

Winchester had the knife John gave him in one hand and the flashlight in the other.

From what they could see, the body was motionless, one of the shoes was still on, a pair of grey pants were visible on the legs but no sound was coming from there.

Sheppard approached with the gun pointed and the safety off. He had just a brief glance at the body before all of a sudden he felt cold, something blurred out of nowhere and he went flying toward a wall.

John was unconscious before hitting the ground.

 

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Dean hadn't the chance to warn Sheppard when he saw the ghost. It was all so sudden that the words died in his throat. He ran to check on him.

The colonel flew through the room like a rag doll but lucky for him there was no signs of blood from his ears or from his nose; he was knocked out and probably had a concussion, but he was alive.

So for now Dean could stand relieved, he just has his hands full with a ghost in another freaking galaxy and an unconscious colonel.

Great.

He spun around to have a better view of the room in case the ghost decided to approach them again.

Dean had only the knife Sheppard gave him and a secret one stored in his right boot; he took the gun from the colonel knowing perfectly well it was useless against a ghost.

Aside that Dean had a match but no accelerant to burn a body with him...today.

He was supposed to be on switch duty for God' sake.

Not that he didn't salt his room the second they gave him a personal space or pack a little bag of salt every time he went on patrol or on the mainland.

With the knowledge of where the saline tanks were and the fact that they were in the middle of the ocean, the lack of salt wasn't an issue.

He had all the salt he needed in his room without anyone knowing it.

But for months he hadn't found any trace of supernatural activity and in time he had lowered his guard.

As a hunter he had searched the city with his EMF meter but soon gave up because half of Atlantis' equipment produced a magnetic field or made too much background noise to detect anything.

Truth be told, this was also his first time in a laboratory in Section Twelve; it was a restricted area and usually they wouldn't dare to let him near it.

For some twisted joke, McKay had requested his presence as switch-guy, the blast wave and the scientist on him broke his small and only bag of salt on the lab's floor and now he was working on his kind of job without the proper gear.

A sound at the other side of the room brought him back to his situation.

It was a sob.

The ghost was curling on herself in a nook, sobbing and mumbling. It was a semitransparent slender figure with a grey uniform half opened, a t-shirt and long blond hair; from that distance Dean couldn't see any other feature.

"ImsorryImsorryImsorry"

He had some problem to understand what she was saying. Even in her ghost form she was trembling, fading in and out of existence. The lights in the room flickered in resonance to her mood.

Dean was right in front of the unconscious Sheppard, protecting him from another attack but the ghost didn't appear to want to toss them around again.

She was…panicking.

Dean didn't know what to do.

From her clothes she seemed like one of the scientists of Atlantis, but until he could see her face it was difficult to say if he knew her or not.

Right now she was a ghost, maybe she wasn't yet in the state of a vindictive spirit but the fact that she threw Sheppard into a wall wasn't a good sign.

The light show irritated him.

"Hey! Casper! Quit it!"

From the other side of the room the sob stopped altogether. From her trembling hands he could finally see two piercing eyes watching him in a mix of surprise and fear.

Next thing he knew the ghost disappeared and reappeared two meters from them.

A small cruse escaped his lips.

"letmeoutpleasedontleavemewiththem"

"Whoa, what? Slow down Casper! I don't understand."

She moved again, this time a little further away.

"Please…I'm…sorry…I… didn't want to hurt… the Major."

"Okay… take it easy now, you just knocked him out."

"Don't …here…PLEASE" Her form was again trembling like a leaf.

"Calm down, what's your name?"

"A…Alice…please…let me out…I want to go home..." small tears escaped her eyes.

"What happened?"

She started to disappear and reappear in different places of the room every time she talked.

"I was running…the attack…the light… they're here…help me."

Now with renewed fear in her eyes she kept going.

"They're HERE!… Please… don't leave me... alone."

"I get it sweetheart, who's they?"

"He knows… please… help me… I'm sorry."

Dean grasped a little of her situation. She wasn't yet so crazy to kill them but she wasn't much lucid either.

She kept pleading, repeating the same phrases and moving around the room like a restless child with the power to appear and disappear.

God knows how much time she was in this state and how much longer she could hold onto the little piece of sanity she had before going totally mad.

One thing was sure.

She was afraid, something killed her.

Just that set off all his hunter instincts.

If he had the right tools he would carry out her will right now, releasing her from this world forever.

Despite everything, she was once a human being and a member of the Atlantis' expedition.

She was one of the good guys and deserved to be helped.

"Alice…Alice look at me…What happened to you?"

He had to know if she knew or not that she was dead. She looked at him for a while, her pale skin and clear blue eyes somehow regained a little bit of lucidity. When she was alive she had to be a cute woman. The ghost disappeared again only this time to reappear seated in a chair. Her face was looking at her remains.

"They… killed me…please…take…take my body home…I want to go home."

Dean nodded, she just wanted her body to be properly buried; she went to another galaxy to help save the world and she couldn't tell it to her family or friends.

Her last thought before dying had to be about home because she kept repeating it often in her fragmented litany.

"I'll do what I can."

Again she watched him with her sorrowful eyes and nodded, disappearing for the last time.

 

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The crashing sound of broken glass and metal on the walls echoed through the entire floor.

The sound was loud enough to wake him from his sleep.

First, a slow movement in one of the broken stasis pods, than the door opened completely; although damaged and it was Ancient technology, it was the best place to hibernate and for him to keep watching.

As per order he started the procedure to rouse the other two from their hibernation.

He began to search his surroundings while they completed the awakening process.

Something was different, he could smell it.

Humans.

They were in this prison and he was so hungry that he kept following the scent, without waiting for the other two to be fully awake.

He waited for so long, he needed to feed.

 

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"ppard…Sheppard! Do you hear me!?" The noise came from somewhere near his ear but he couldn't place the what, who or when. "Come on Sheppard this isn't the time to be childish, what are you doing up there taking a nap!?"

"McKay" he sluggishly tapped his ear as an automated reflex.

"Sheppard!"

"Stop screaming in my head." John opened his eyes, he was near a wall, again, and this time his head really hurt like hell. He felt nauseous and dizzy and it was hard to focus on something.

McKay was still blathering in the com-link, but he couldn't concentrate on that.

So he simply decided to silence it for a while.

The room was covered in darkness, half the lights came from the corridor, it was better this way as his eyes couldn't suffer a brighter light.

Sheppard shifted a little, trying to evaluate his status and he felt two ribs aching; the pain was so intense that a little moan escaped his mouth. In his peripheral view he saw a shadow and he reached to his hostler for his gun but it was missing.

A chilly thought crossed his mind.

He didn't remember how he got near the wall, nor where his gun was.

"Colonel, are you okay?"

The shadow squatting near him was no other than Winchester. He had the gun pointed toward the ground, some kind of bandages on the other hand and a worried expression.

Relief rushed through him. He was with the kid, they were searching the upper floor.

Little piece of memories were gradually falling together.

"Hey kiddo…what happened?"

The young man's face morphed a little into an unamused expression for the nickname, he didn't respond and kept checking on him.

Only then John realized he had a bandage covering his head, easing the throbbing.

He was wearing his t-shirt on and his jacket was placed behind his head to make him more comfortable.

He had to be out of commission for a while.

When Dean's cautious hands touched the wounded ribs, John hissed in pain.

"Stay still." He ordered in a serious tone like it was ordinary administration for him.

He took the other bandages and moved the black t-shirt a little and covered half his torso with rapid movements. In a couple of minutes Dean had mended him; it was a little hard to breath, but John knew the bandages had to be tight to be of any help.

His eyes wandered around the room, biting his lips for the pain, until he focused them on the body near him covered by a large veil.

"The body."

"Booby-trapped." John watched him, his short answer was almost as disconcerting as Ronon's monosyllabic ones.

"Winchester, what the hell happened?" The guy looked at him in the eyes, shifted his gaze toward the body and handed back the gun to Sheppard.

"She died here, it's one of Atlantis' scientists."

That was not what he was expecting to hear. He took the gun, dropped the argument for the moment and shifted his concern to the more pressing matter on their hands.

Slowly he unveiled to see her face, and what he saw froze the blood in his veins.

"Wraith."

The body was that of a very old lady with short blond hair, now almost all white. Her eyes were closed, but she didn't have a peaceful expression. She had a blue t-shirt and a grey uniform covering most of her skin, but the distinctive punctures in the middle of her chest and her old frail body was the only details that entered his brain.

She was attacked by a Wraith.

"Thought so. We need to move, we don't know if they're still here."

John took a moment for the words to sink in. He moved a little her jacket to see her name. She was a scientist, that was certified by the color of her t-shirt, but he needed to know if he knew her. The inside of her coat was signed with her surname.

"Simpson… Doctor Alice Simpson."

"Did you know her?" Dean looked at him, than at the body.

John nodded, still trying to warp all the information he had, a young face popped in his mind.

"She helped one or two times when we were in a tough situation."

John remembered her as a tough scientist, bickering with Kavanagh on several occasions.

"She was MIA after the fight with the Wraith on Atlantis. But I read some mission reports… we can't know for sure it's really her."

John had compiled a list after the siege of all the people missing, so he knew her name. It was one of them, they never found her body and she was signed as KIA. They assumed she had been culled by the Wraith.

But Rodney's theories told him he could be wrong, she could be someone else.

"What you mean?"

He watched the young man again, he was so new to this kind of thing, he reminded himself of his first missions in the Pegasus Galaxy.

"McKay mentioned a parallel universe, it could be the case."

A small spark of understanding flared in Dean's mind. Sheppard's words would explain why she said "Major" and not Colonel Sheppard.

Seeing Dean's face and misunderstanding his expression, John tried to explain the theory even with his headache.

"You know like…different you and me…like… Sliders?"

"You gotta be kidding me."

"Could be."

"Your way to explain parallel universe is Sliders?"

"What's wrong with that? Did you prefer The One with Jet Li?"

"…And here I thought the nerdy one was McKay."

Dean said it with a light mocking tone, Sheppard looked offended than smirked back.

Even at the worst time they both were able to lighten up the mood with some witty comebacks.

"You know kid… it takes one to know one."

The mention of McKay however reminded John to reopen the channel with the scientist. His concussion had to be pretty serious if he kept losing focus.

"…pard I swear if you don't answer me in the next five minutes and we survive this I'll exile you for a month on a cold and boring planet."

"We don't know boring planets."

"SHEPPARD!"

"I can hear you Rodney, stop screaming."

"Where the hell have you been? I even tried to reach that stupid monkey you carry with you, is there something wrong with your com-links?"

Sheppard looked quizzically at Dean. He had the earbud loose near his neck, the speaker was so loud he heard that last sentence even at that distance.

His only response was a scroll of his shoulders and an unrepentant face.

Soon after, he adjusted his earbud and joined the conversation through the com-link.

"I'm here, we had a situation. It wasn't the time for a pleasant chit chat."

"Me neither moron, I thought you two would want to know I figured it out."

"Figured out what Rodney?" Sheppard was still on the floor, but his tone demanded answer.

"Oh! Now they want to know" McKay had a pouting tone.

"Rodney."

"Fine. As I was telling you earlier, we are in trouble. And I mean really bad trouble."

"Rodney, go back to the beginning."

"What you didn't hear any of it? Oh come on Sheppard, how long have I talked alone?"

"McKay stop whining and talk."

"Winchester, I don't take orders from you!"

"You two enough! Rodney sit-rep now!" Sheppard started to losing his patience, the two of them could drive even the Dalai Lama crazy.

"Fine, fine. We are in another dimension."

"Come again?"

"Well, to be exact, we probably shifted phase in a dimension still connected to Atlantis, but much further away from the original one since we don't see or hear anything on their plane of existence. "

"Shifted phase?" John was taken back, of all the theories that felt like an unpleasant one.

"Yes, yes we never went anywhere really, we just shifted to another dimension; same place, same time just wrong phase."

"Crystal skull?" Dean said aloud, thinking about a story he read a month before.

"What?" Rodney's stressed tone had reached a higher level.

"The nerdy guy who touched the crystal skull and was invisible to his team?"

"Ah… Doctor Jackson, yes, the theory is the same."

Sheppard shot an incredulous look at Dean. He had several reprimands during his first year in another galaxy for not reading enough of the SG-1 mission reports, and for not being well versed in the Stargate Program; he didn't think Dean's case on the subject would be any different.

Apparently someone was doing his homework.

"So what now, Rodney? Do we touch something, click our heels three times and happily go back to our own dimension?"

"We can't just hit buttons and voilà we're back home Sheppard…wait… did you say you had a situation? What situation?"

"Rodney, we found a body" and John closed his eyes, realization hitting him.

"What? Who?" Rodney voice raised of an octave.

When Sheppard didn't answered Dean replied for him.

"Doctor Alice Simpson… I'm sorry McKay."

A minute passed before any of them spoke again.

"Doctor Simpson… she was a nasty woman, but she wasn't a bad scientist."

They could hear the pain and the acceptance in his voice, and coming from Rodney that last sentence was one hell of a compliment.

Sheppard again closed his eyes reminding himself for the thousandth time the names of all the people he had lost in those days. Dean wasn't there during the first year nor in the middle of the battle, he couldn't understand the comradeship that he, and Rodney in his own way, had formed with their men and women.

"How… how did she die?"

"Wraith."

That was the only word that could explain in just mere seconds how she died; and it was the only thing that was able the refocus all three of them on their situation.

"We need to go, we are too exposed here."

"Agreed, Rodney we're coming back. In the meantime get to work and find a way to get us out of here."

"Sheppard I already told you, it isn't that simple."

"It never is."

While they were chatting Sheppard saw a shadow, then white hair and a mask, his movements were rapid and he ran toward Dean who was covering the body and had his back to the assailant.

"Get DOWN!" he aimed and shoot two times in the chest.

Dean was swift to obey the order and rolled on the ground.

When he got up he had two knives, one in each hand.

"Son of a bitch!"

The Wraith didn't stay on the ground for more than a minute and rushed again toward Dean, his feeding hand opened to have a quick meal.

Sheppard was slowly trying to regain a stand up position, but on every movement the vertigo kept coming and the pain from his ribs was agonizing. He tried to take aim again, but now they were fighting at close range and he couldn't risk shooting Winchester.

Dean blocked the second assault with one of his knives planted with great effort in the center of the feeding hand.

The Wraith screamed but was unable to remove the knife because Winchester took swiftly the offence.

He punched him and kept slicing him in the most bleeding points to wear him down before trying to hit a fatal spot, evading at the same time one of his punches.

His plan wasn't bad but he didn't account the superhuman strength of the Wraith who at one point hit him with enough force to send him breathless on the ground.

When he was finally able to remove the knife from his hand, the Wraith was bleeding profusely from several places. It was obvious he hadn't feed in a long time, his movements and the healing process were slow; Sheppard had all the time to take proper aim at him.

"Hey! Asshole!"

The Wraith heard the sound and faced him, only to have other two shoots in his head. The alien crashed on the ground. Winchester got up fast and planted his knife in the Wraith' heart. The body moved on reflex for another couple of seconds before going still. It was finally over.

Unhurriedly Dean took away both knives and searched the dead Wraith.

He took some kind of bombs from his belt and the Wraith stunner still closed in its holster.

It was just dumb luck that the Wraith had rushed in the room without using his stunner or they both would have been dead. It was probably a mistake dictated from the hunger, but they needed to be more alert.

Dean's face was grim and a cut on his forhead started to bleed profusely.

"Thanks." He rasped to the colonel.

"You're welcome."

Dean cleaned the blades from the Wraith's blood and hid the longest one on him in his boot. He gave the knife back to the colonel with one of the two grenades and took the stunner as his main weapon. It was strange but he knew how to shoot with it and that was enough.

A couple of minutes passed and Sheppard watched his activities without saying anything. The kid had just survived his first Wraith. He hadn't freaked out as one would expect.

Weird and if he had time he would talk about it, but they had to hurry up.

With the proof of the Wraith's presence with them, the danger of being in this dimension was ten times worse, and time was of the essence.

"Do you see the mask? It was a foot soldier. We need to go now, we don't know how many are still around."

Dean nodded, he took the body of Doctor Alice Simpson, and looked back at him.

A noise was coming from the earbud and Sheppard cursed himself when he realized he had completely forgotten about Rodney.

"Sheppard are you alive? Come on, answer me!"

"Rodney we're still here, we're both fine."

"What was that?"

"That Rodney, was a Wraith… you know same old, same old."

"The same Wraith from the attack on Atlantis?"

"Who knows? Withe didn't have the time to ask. Let's not dwell on it. We're coming back, open the door only when I say it. Sheppard Out."

John was in no condition to move around quickly, but they couldn't leave behind her body neither.

They didn't leave men or women behind, and her body had to be brought back home.

He signaled Winchester to approach so he could help him to have a more steady posture. This time Dean was looking up front and John was watching the rear. They were slow but that way they could both watch each other's back.

Dean was silent, and kept inspecting in every direction, ready to drop the body and fight at any sound.

They were on edge after the Wraith attack, but all things considered they killed one of them without too much effort. They had been lucky, the outcome could have been so much worse.

To lighten a bit the mood John pointed out something that was bugging him from early.

"So, you had another knife?"

Dean eyes were wary at first, he knew he wasn't supposed to have any weapon but that knife had just saved his life and he couldn't think of any reason why Sheppard would bitch about that given the circumstance.

Thinking about their "house rules" distracted him a bit of the fact that he had been careless with that Wraith. His months on Atlantis might have made him rusty.

If that was the colonel's plan, it worked.

He smirked.

"It was a present."

"From Ronon?" John had the feeling it was one of his gifts.

Dean looked at Sheppard with a quizzical face, before answering with a light tone.

"Naa, it was from Wolan, Wex's father. He made it himself." As he was remembering something funny, his mood cheered up.

"Wolan told me they have a say on Athos: a good hunter never leaves his home without a good knife."

No matter in which galaxy he was, one thing never changed: he was and would always be a hunter.

 

Chapter Text

Elizabeth was restless.

The scientists were working frenetically for hours in the lab under Zelenka's orders, but no one was really explaining anything to her. Major Lorne approached with a hollow but sympathetic expression.

"I talked to the Lieutenant and everyone who is not working on fixing the problem."

"Is there any chance we know what happened, Major?"

"Several witnesses said the bright light originated by the main console. It enveloped the three of them because they were at the exact center of the workstation and in close proximity. Winchester and Sheppard were both activating the device."

"So is it something only two ATA gene users can activate?"

"Don't think so ma'am. Lieutenant Negley said the Colonel had in his hand some wires."

"It's true, McKay took some wires from under there and placed them in John's hands." Teyla added with a grave tone.

"So…What? The device went into overload?"

Zelenka approached in the middle of the conversation.

"Yes and no. The computer measured a high output of energy coming from it, but usually there are security protocols that prevents this kind of incident."

"But?" Elizabeth had seen the words forming at the end of the speech.

Zelenka took a deep breath.

"McKay bypassed them. From what I can tell, the machine, even in an overload state did exactly what its main purpose was."

"And what is it, Doc?" Lorne was itching to know where his superior officer was.

The Czech scientist, again, watched everyone in the eyes.

"It's too early to say for sure, but I found some corrupted data and with one of Rodney's programs I was able to reconstruct some strings of code. I think it could be an interdimensional or a quantum reality portal. "

"Can you explain it better?"

"If it opens an interdimensional gateway then the three of them are most likely in the same room with us but in another phase. They can't touch, or speak with us and we can't see them because they are in a different spectrum."

The whole group looked around the room, half of them with skeptical eyes.

"Doctor Zelenka… you mean…they are here and see us but we can't see them?"

"Maybe. It's happened before and the Ancients had several theories and working projects on the subject."

"What about the quan…quantim thing?" Teyla was trying to understand, but his scientific speech was too elaborate for her.

Ronon was silently listening the conversation, unable to grasp half of the technical stuff, he only knew their friends were in trouble.

"Ah… the quantum reality portal, yes… That means they could be in another reality, and the machine is likely a tool to come and go from an alternate universe to this one. It possible the Ancients built it to find a way to defeat the Wraith in a parallel version of this reality."

"Which one is it Doctor? How can we help them to come back?"

"I'm afraid I don't know yet, Doctor Weir. In the meantime I think it's necessary to repair the machine as fast as we can."

"Why?" Ronon wanted to join the conversation.

"If it's some kind of a portal, as we suspect, it probably has its counterpart on the other side. Other reality or dimension, it doesn't matter, it's the same anyway. If one of the two devices is broken it's possible that they can't get back."

They all look at the current status of the lab. Half of the equipment was dismembered.

"How much longer until it's completely repaired?"

"Doctor Weir I'll work as fast as I can… but at least two hours."

"You have one, take all the men you need to help with the repairs, if they are in danger than every minute counts."

Elizabeth was worried, and a deep sense on uneasiness set in her. She couldn't do anything to help the three of them, they were stuck somewhere for several hours now without any backup and what worried her most was the feeling of running out of time.

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They were finally awake, but the foot soldier who woke them wasn't there. Something was different in the air, they felt it right away.

The thin but distinctive smell of blood arrived at their nostrils.

With all the calm in the world they left the stasis chamber and looked out for the soldier left on guard, there wasn't a way out of this prison, whoever awakened them was trapped here as well.

They searched every room and finally found the foot soldier in one of them on the floor.

It was dead, human gun shots and several knife wounds were all over his body. The leader shouted in rage.

The soldier at his feet had tried to feed upon the prey without waiting for his master, he had attacked driven by his hunger and short of his order.

"Insubordination will not be tolerated."

As he said that to the other foot soldier, the Wraith fed on the dead, sucking the last remnants of energy from every cell. It wasn't much but he wanted every bit of life energy he could get his hand on.

He watched the chamber again, two different blood spots were in the room with the body.

There had to be at least two prey.

"Let's find those humans."

They headed for the stairs and the floor below when the second foot soldier stepped on a wire.

The stairs were booby trapped.

Before the two Wraiths took cover, the grenade exploded with a loud noise, shaking the building.

Although the leader was able to distance himself a bit, the blast took both of them out of commission for a while.

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They heard the explosion when they were half away down the corridor of the main floor.

"They're here."

"Good idea to tripwire the stairs Colonel."

"What can I say? I have my moments."

They had a body to carry, they were wounded and slow, very slow.

There wasn't any chance to reach the lab before they were discovered by the Wraiths, and in the hallway they were sitting ducks.

Looking around Sheppard saw a room nearby.

"We can't stay here Dean, we should move there and set a defensive perimeter."

"Okay, but we don't know how many are upstairs and we have only one grenade left."

"They can't be too many, if they arrived the same way we did, they had to be pretty close to each other. "

They moved in the half illuminated room and took position near the door. Dean gently set Doctor Simpson's body on the ground and watched for any incoming Wraith. John took a minute to rest near the wall.

He was feeling a little better, but the vertigo kept coming from time to time. The explosion probably caused a structural damage because small pieces of the roof started to crash on the ground, and in a couple of minutes the entire room was filled with a thin mist of dust.

Then his com-link blurted to live.

"Sheppard what was that noise? The roof on the lab is falling apart!"

"Calm down Rodney, we just blow up the access to the second floor."

"What? Are you insane? We are in another dimension, in a building that is possibly collapsing in on itself and you're telling me you blew up something?"

"McKay, there were Wraith on the stairs." Dean replied in an harsh tone.

"Oh! Why didn't you say something sooner Sheppard? Well don't do that again, the damage is already extensive, I don't think this building can take much more."

"Can't promise that, how about you fill us in your plan to get back to our dimension?"

"I'm working on it, but as I said…"

"It's not that simple, we get it McKay. What's the problem?" Dean said, shifting his grip on the stunner.

"This is the exact same lab we had on Atlantis, the two labs have to be connected."

"So?"

Sometimes John really wished McKay would cut the gibberish scientific talk and just get to the point.

"They need to be both functioning to be able to send us home."

A hollow feeling sank in Dean's gut.

"As in neat and working and not gutted all around the damn floor as we left it on Atlantis?"

John face paled at the memory.

"Rodney?"

"Yes, yes, but I assume Zelenka is working on it."

The lights in the rooms flickered again, Dean watched around the room while Sheppard was still arguing with the scientist.

"Y…you assume? Rodney how much time do you think we have here? You know there are Wraiths on our tail."

"Thanks Colonel, for the reminder, but I assure you it's not something I can speed up. Until the devices are both operational there is nothing I can do. Once they are both active I can try to bring us home."

"How about contacting them?"

"Oh here he goes again Mr. state-the-obvious. Don't you think I already tried?"

"McKay." John had a warning tone, now was not the time for their bickering.

"Sheppard I told you, we are in a different dimension, there is no way to contact them."

"What about the lights?"

"The lights? What does the lights have to do with our problem moron?"

Dean was on the verge of losing what was left of his patience for the man.

"The flickering light… can they affect our dimension?"

John looked around the room too, noticing the constant trembling of the lights.

"Rodney you said the light problems weren't connected to what were you doing in the lab. Maybe the problem was here?"

"No…yes…no it can't be. Do any of you know how much power it needs to pass through several dimensions? "

"A lot?"

"Yes Sheppard. It's not just a lot… it can't be."

"But you said the labs may still be connected." retorted Dean for a second time.

"Yes, but that doesn't mean… oh wait… maybe."

While the Colonel kept talking with McKay and looking around the room for anything useful against the Wraiths, the temperature around dropped drastically and the ghost whispered so close to his ear that Dean almost felt her lips moving.

"They're coming… two of them."

For the first time in his life he didn't turn around to face a ghost.

Instead he signaled the Colonel and took a better aim near the door, ready to fire with the stunner.

The ghost was gone right after delivering her brief message and Sheppard took position, unaware of her.

Dean saw a movement at the end of the hallway and the shooting started.

"Colonel! They are using some tricks but… I saw two of them."

Sheppard advanced near his position to check the situation out of the room and he was almost hit by an enemy shot. He was able to see a Wraith foot solider and a nasty one covered in a long black coat and with an intricate tattoo on the neck. They were both half burned but their wounds were slowly healing.

"Keep them busy, if they come any closer, shoot them."

"Shoot the incoming Wraiths, that's really good advice Shep." Sarcasm filling every word.

John shot an incredulous frown at the nickname Dean gave him.

The youngster was really ballsy, he smirked in response.

"Hey! Watch it kiddo, you just sounded like McKay."

The guy made such an affronted face that John laughed, despite their awful predicament.

He checked the weapons but the situation wasn't good neither; they had one wraith bomb, two knives, three bullets and only 1 magazine left.

McKay was the only one able to work on that machine and they were the last line of defense before the Wraiths could reach him. The only good news was they couldn't access the device because it needed the ATA gene to operate it and they couldn't reach Atlantis if they die here.

Their best option was to take the two Wraiths out right there and then head back to the lab to solve their interdimensional problem.

By the last piece of conversation with the scientist, John understood one thing: Rodney needed time.

"Rodney we're under enemy fire. Do what you can but we need to get the hell out of here!"

The scientist heard the commotion over the com-link, he knew it was up to him to save them all but he didn't have much to work with from the beginning.

He went near the control panel of the lights but he couldn't think of anything to buster the power and expand its range. There were several theories about reaching other dimensions, and he was sure Colonel Carter would be of great help in this awful situation but unlucky for him she wasn't here.

The ceiling was falling apart, the Wraiths were nearby, the panic was rising and he had nothing he could use in that damn lab.

If only he had a naquadah generator maybe he could came up with something.

The vivid memory of a Wraith coming for him with his feeding hand opened when he had the ZPM, was all his mind could think of as the minutes passed.

If he moved some crystals he could overload the illuminations system without burning other primary systems required for the main device to work but he didn't have enough time to make a simulation before testing it.

"Sheppard even if I use the light what do you expect me to do? Blind them?"

"Why not a Morse code message?" Dean shouted between two shots.

That was a good idea and Rodney knew he needed to calm down and think.

If Winchester, that never encountered the Wraiths, was fighting them with all they had and was capable to think straight, he surely could do the same.

Rodney had just to calibrate the crystals without making any mistake in the calculations of power necessary to turn on and off the illuminations through several dimensions.

"What kind of message should I send?"

"Oh I don't know Rodney how about… FIX THE DAMN THING NOW! " John yelled, left his position and put one bullets in each Wraiths, one in the neck the other in the chest.

It only slowed them down, but it was enough to give him the time to reload the gun with his last mag.

They retreated to a room, away from the shooting, and for a couple of minutes the situation was quiet.

"Sheppard we can't go on like this much longer."

"I know that, how about we invite them for dinner?"

"What do you have in mind?"

John had seen a door to an adjacent room and he signaled it to Dean.

"We let them in the room and we fight them, than we set off the grenade while we get away."

Dean grinned "Sounds like a plan."

McKay was still listening in the com-link and bolted from his chair.

"It's a terrible plan! Are you two crazy!? "

"Relax McKay, we're not blowing anything up… yet."

"How I can relax moron!? You two want to set another charge while we're still here!"

"Rodney, we'll keep them busy for a while before blowing up the room. How is that message coming?"

The two Wraiths advanced again, closing in their position, avoiding half of Dean shots and moving onward even with all the bullets John was able to put in them.

"I don't think it's gonna go through, there isn't enough power."

Dean watched around him, the cold was still there and he could feel her presence in the room even if she wasn't visible.

"You know that message could send all of us home. We need your help!" it was half shouted half whispered while he was shooting.

"Winchester what you think I'm doing!? Twiddling my thumbs?"

Frustrated, Rodney closed the communication.

But Dean wasn't talking to McKay.

The lights in the room flickered for another moment until the cold disappeared altogether and the illuminations turned once again pale but steady.

Sheppard looked around, puzzled by the strange phenomenon, than took two metal pipes from the ground and gave one to Dean. A small smile appeared on his face.

"Guess we'll see if we were listening to Teyla's lessons."

"I don't know, I'm pretty sure she beat them into us."

John moved his rod, measuring it's weight. It was heavier than the wooden stick they always used, but not so different in the height. Dean did the same.

"Stay sharp and don't die, kiddo."

"Ahhh… Are you worried for me Shep? I'm touched."

"Don't be a smartass, it would be annoying to explain it to Elizabeth."

"Yeah, sure. So… which do you want? The leather pansy one or Jason?"

John looked again at his face. Yeah, the kid was really something. This time he was smiling too.

"Jason? At least you don't suck at naming things. All right you take Jason, I have the other one."

"Oh by the way, if we survive can I expect to be removed from the no-weapon list? It sucks."

"We'll see kiddo."

"What about some off-world missions? I can handle it."

"I'll tell you what, if we survive this I'll talk to Elizabeth."

They left their position near the door and receded back in the room, taking cover near some broken workstations. Dean took the body and placed it near their escape route, covered with a veil.

He just hoped they would have the time to escape without problems, he had seen the Colonel's wavering aim, his concussion must be pretty bad.

John's gun was out of ammo and Dean's stunner was depleted. They both took out their knives and raised the rods.

The Wraiths soon entered the chamber covered in bullets, burned wounds and blood. They discarded their depleted weapons as well and attacked.

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Rodney was working on the message, he recorded it on the datapad linked to the panel and set it on a loop.

One of the problems however was the inability to know for sure if the power was enough and if the team working in the other lab had received it. He bypassed some of the safety protocols to direct more power on the lights, but the chances that they recognize it was very slim.

Even if the communication was really displaying in Atlantis' lab, Rodney was afraid that no one would notice it, at least not before the power on this side would be completely depleted.

It was the damn flickering problem that got them in that lab in the first place. Why should anyone notice the pattern?

While he thought how to booster more power in the system, the room got suddenly very cold.

"Damn …what's wrong now?"

He didn't touch the heating system so why the lab was like a damned freezer? Rodney tried to reroute some circuits, but the lab seemed possessed as the light flickered with more intensity, and the computers log emitted new corrupted data.

"Damn it!"

He watched in horror as things around the rooms started to fly toward the walls without any scientific reason. He ducked under the central workstation as the things went on like that for a couple of minutes.

Strange as it was he almost felt like there was a presence in the room with him, he didn't believe it but for a moment he nearly heard a voice whispering in the middle of the unfolding chaos.

"I'm sorry…Take care McKay…"

Then as it appeared the singularity disappeared altogether, leaving McKay with mixed feelings.

Did an Ancient help them? Or another alien form inhabited this dimension and decided to wreak havoc in the lab and boost his efforts?

Whatever it was, Rodney was sure by the energy readings he registered, it had enough power to send their message to Atlantis.

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Zelenka and the team of scientists were working on the lab, doing their best to speed the repairs, but several circuits were all around the floor, and some of them had to be fixed or reroute with others.

It was a long and an exhausting effort and they were working under the penetrating stare of Doctor Weir and the rest of the main staff.

Ronon was in a chair cleaning his weapon and surveying the lab, Teyla and Doctor Weir walked over some computer debris trying to be of some help, asking every so often if they needed anything and Carson stayed at the ready with his medical bag.

The Czech scientist was able to run a diagnostic on several secondary workstation, but he hadn't yet initialized the main one in the middle of the room.

Abruptly the lab started to get colder, some of the scientist cursed and worked again to fix the heat system. Soon after the lights started to flicker again. Some scared scientists walked away from their equipment fearing some sparks of electricity from the gears.

"What's happening?"

"I don't know Carson, please stay back I'll go find out." Elizabeth advanced once again into the room.

"Radek what's wrong?"

"We have no idea Doctor Weir, there is some kind of electromagnetic field that is causing interference!"

"Could be them?" Teyla was near and watched the room in alarm.

"I don't think so! This is not something the device emits, and Rodney wouldn't mess with the only equipment that could take him home."

While everyone was panicking and trying to shield their equipment from the strange electromagnetic field; Ronon saw something in the way the illuminations flickered, three brief moments of lights, three longer another three brief flickers. The flicker arrays changed again but Ronon saw a pattern in the ongoing light show. He signaled it to the Major standing ready near the door.

"Look."

Lorne took a moment to understand what he was indicating. He was surprised that he didn't notice it before. With his eyes searched over the room for the leader of their expedition.

"Doctor Weir!"

"Major?"

"That's them! It's Morse code!"

They all looked at the lights, Major Lorne was able to write down and decipher the message.

With a hollow expression he showed the note to the other and swiftly requested a marine team on the lab over the com-link while Zelenka rushed back to work at the main station.

The note was brief but it was enough to set all of them back to work. The three missing men were in deep trouble and Zelenka and his team of scientists were their only hope.

Elizabeth took the note to read it again.

"SOS. Fix. It. Now. Wraith."

Chapter Text

On a normal, usual day fighting one single Wraith wouldn't be such a messy problem, especially given the fact that Sheppard would likely kill it with a full clip of his P90, or Ronon would blast him with one shot from his wonderful energy pistol. Sadly he was in another dimension, low on ammo and guns, with a mild concussion threatening, every so often, to spill the last meal he had several hours prior, and only a knife and a rod to defend himself with.

Definitely not his lucky day.

The Wraiths came in the room and attacked without any hesitation. As they agreed before the battle, Sheppard and Dean split up and faced the two enemy in a one on one fight.
At first John was only defending himself, trying to stay away from the feeding hand and observing it. The Wraith was bleeding profusely but he still had enough strength to be a tough opponent.
Sheppard kept the rod up in his left hand ready to counter his attack and, when the alien was too slow, he sliced with his knife in the opening, left on his upper arms or in the abdomen.
Despite that the Wraith kept healing and the fighting soon was taking his toll on John. The adrenaline wasn't able to overcome his tiredness nor the vertigo that kept coming back, and several times he was punched back and beat on the ground.

The Wraith licked his hands, dirty from John's blood. "Puny human… I can taste the old enemy in you. Did you activate this prison? Answer me or I'll feed on you."

Sheppard was up but he had lost his stick, and they were circling each other. "How about we start with a first name? No? Ok, I'll go with Freddy."

He heard a growl coming from his enemy and smiled, irritating them was always his specialty.

"You pathetic human…"

"So Freddy, what bring you in this lovely place? Hiding here during the attack on Atlantis? You know your side lost. Big time."

"Lies, we were closing in! And other hive ships were coming! I feasted on your people and I'll feast on you!"

So they were here from the siege. Doctor Simpson had probably accidentally activated the machine when she was running away in the middle of the chaos. And the feeding part explained why they were so tough to kill, they must have fed before going into hibernation for all those months.

Sheppard winced inwardly, now more than ever they needed to eliminate the threat before coming back to their own dimension. They were awake, even if the device worked only with an ATA user, it didn't mean they couldn't came up with something and pass over to their dimension and alert other Wraiths.

Freddy lunched himself toward Sheppard once more, but this time John was ready.

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On the other side of the room, Dean was having a hard time with the foot soldier.

He kept slashing with his knife at Jason's feeding hand, while with the rod he kept hitting his limbs. Knees, shoulders, wrists and when the thing lowered his guard he was able to hit his head too. Dean could smell the acrid scent of burned skin and half of the soldiers chest was burned beyond repair.

He guessed the guy had to be the nearest to the grenade when it exploded.

However, despite his endless attempts the Wraith kept coming, silent and ominous with his superhuman strength. He ducked, punched and kicked whenever the thing was too close for his taste. He had already fought one earlier, and both of them had hit him enough times to leave some huge sores on him and at least some cracked ribs.

"You really are…fugly…What's wrong dude the cat got your tongue?"

From time to time he heard a growl behind the mask but nothing more.

He wasn't talkative like the other guy who apparently was giving a villain speech to Sheppard, but Dean didn't mind, he had more pressing matters. They were fighting for over fifteen minutes and he had seen in the corner of his eye that the colonel couldn't last any longer.

He swore, they would have to use their last grenade sooner than they expected.

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McKay was frantically trying to rearrange all the equipment in the lab. Due to the freak show that boosted the light signal, the chamber was a complete mess.

He was swearing aloud and rerouting some circuits when he saw a warning sign on one of the monitors. Apparently, the thing was so powerful that the system needed a complete reboot to purge some corrupted data. He clicked the semi-transparent console and rebooted the system.  

Shock painted his face when the computer told him the amount of time it needed to be operational again. "Damn it!"

Twenty minutes of rebooting and nothing he could do to accelerate the process.

His wannabe Capitan Kirk and their sidekick there were fighting the Wraiths while he could do nothing but wait and listen.

Just wait and listen.

It was so frustrating, that Rodney put serious thought into leaving the lab. He had a gun and they needed it, every bullet counted with those nasty aliens; he had to go and save their asses or all of them were as good as dead.

However, Sheppard's last order was to stay and fix the device.

If they were following their crazy plan, another explosion would occur soon and Rodney had to be prepared to activate the main station the moment they knocked at that door. The scientist stared again at all the information his datapad had extracted from the computer. He studied the energy readings and all the data about the dimension they were in.

Rodney stared hard at the monitor and set in the chair listening to the fight unfolding.

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Doctor Zelenka was almost ready to initialize the main station, all the circuits seemed in order and the other systems around the room were all repaired and in half bad, half good shape. In order to speed things up they did some gutting of their own. He ran some simulations and half of them showed very apocalyptic scenarios. The scientist gulped due to the tension.

They had to be careful in the initial power up or they would blow up half of the entire Section.

"Carson, came here I need you to activate it."

"Good Lord… how many times do I have to say this…” The Scot started to fidget on his spot “I'm bad with this kind of thing, you remember the incident with the Chair, you know it. "

"Maybe I can do it, Doc" Major Lorne suggested, curtly.

"No, Major, he has to do it. The device doesn't seem to work smoothly when operated by people with gene therapy. I think it was another Ancient safety measure."

Doctor Weir was holding her hand tightly, unable to release the pressure she felt in her stomach, Ronon was pacing in the room like a tiger in a cell while Teyla sat composed, her hand on a P90 and ready for any sign of trouble. The other scientists kept their distance from the main station.

Despite his reluctance, Beckett approached and followed Zelenka instructions.

"Close your eyes, and think of powering it up. Just a bit."

"…Aye… just a wee bit… I think I got it." He was caressing a panel, trying to ease his tension and visualizing the device in his mind as one of the medical electric knives from his surgeon kit.

"Now let it run a simple diagnostic program, we need to know if there is something wrong in the power fluctuation or in any other systems."

The data appeared on a monitor on the left, the program was running at half its capacity and was fixing several errors. Soon a warning sign appeared in the lower side of the screen.

"Focus a little on the problem for now." Carson frowned a bit, concentrating on the task.

The glitch was displayed on the screen, and Zelenka swore softly. One of the main wires was still disconnected with a high risk of overloading the machine.

"Shut it down slowly, we need to reopen the main panel."

They were close now, but there was this last malfunction left to resolve. Zelenka hoped the three guys on the other side could hold on just bit longer.

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Like Teyla taught him, he lowered his barycenter and used the rod like an extension of his arm. Thanks to that, Dean was able to hit Jason few times. Enough to beat him to the ground. Without any hesitation, with his knife he ripped his neck before being pushed back by a tremendous kick. He was breathless, and had at least three broken ribs, but the Wraith was in worse shape. He was on the ground with his hand on his neck, trying to stop the bleeding. Before he could finish him, he heard a commotion nearby and saw Sheppard in deep shit.

Cursing and retrieving his knife, he launched himself onto the other Wraith before the Colonel was fed on. It was mere luck the alien was so caught up in his pray that he didn't hear him coming and was pushed away.

The two of them rolled on the ground, and then were up again, facing each other.

Somehow they ended up near the other Wraith, still on the ground from his previous injuries. The Wraith hissed and started to attack him.

"Sheppard, now!"

Dean saw the metallic grenade rolling near Jason's foot and ran in the other direction.

The explosion was so intense he felt the powerful heat filling the entire room, the loud noise ringing in his ear, the force of the shock wave and then nothing.

Something painfully hit his back and unconsciousness hit him like a blessing.

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John had almost seen his life pass over him when he was once again on the ground, every part of his body screaming in pain while Freddy smiled, with his freaking feeding hand opened on him.

For few seconds he thought that he had failed Rodney and the new guy, and most likely he would die there in another dimension without the opportunity to see his friends again, or Atlantis. After near two years he considered the city as his home and his team as sort of a family to him. He didn't want to lose it now, he had so many things to do, he could not die there and leave them behind. The knife was in his hand, he had one last trick and damn him if he would not try it.

He gaped as he saw Dean's shadow as he threw himself on Freddy, catching him by surprise.

John tried with the last of all his energy to stand up again and saw the scene unfolding. As they rolled near the other Wraith, he saw the enemy on the floor with a huge gash on his neck. What horrified him was the fact that the wound was slowly healing, and Dean would soon be their dinner. As he searched on himself he found the last grenade they had left for their escape.

Now was the right time to use it. As Winchester got up he started to prime the grenade.

They had to be thinking the same thing because Dean soon yelled to him. He rolled the grenade and ran as fast as he could toward their exit. Nevertheless, he wasn't very fast and just reached the threshold of the door. As the grenade exploded, he was thrown to the ground and was hit by debris falling from the ceiling.

The pain was so intense that he couldn't breathe, his vision doubled and he felt a little light headed. Probably due to the blood loss from all the cuts he had, but still, he was able to stay conscious.

Carson would likely have his head on a plate at the end of the day, if by any chance they made it through this. However, right now, a week of rest in the infirmary wasn't such a bad idea.

Sheppard slowly got up and surveyed what was left of the room. As an aftermath of the explosion, several pillars were half broken and pieces of debris were falling from the roof. A thick mist of dust made it very difficult to distinguish anything at all. He coughed harshly and with unsteady steps, began to search the immediate area around the blast. He had to find Winchester and got the hell out of this potential death trap before everything fell apart.

From his radio, he could hear only static, perhaps due to the explosion, so he had no way to talk to McKay. After few steps in the middle of the room he found half of what was probably Jason's body under several heavy pieces of debris and near the other door, the form of Dean Winchester slumped on the floor.

He sat near him and searched for his pulse, he was too near the explosion.

Dean was on one side, the darkness made it impossible to see what injuries he had, but Sheppard finally found a steady pulse near his neck. He was alive, that counted as a win.

Unluckily for them, they didn't have time to spare and Sheppard wasn't in condition to carry him anywhere, so John started to wake up the poor guy with weak slaps on his face.

"Wakey, wakey kiddo… come on, we don't have much time."

A faint growl was the first reaction. "Your bedside manners suck, Shep."

The Colonel smiled, if the kid was able to complain, it meant he was fine.

"Next time we don't have a building falling on us, I'll be more gentle… princess."

The response caused Dean to frown a little… then he smiled too before getting up.

"Next time? Sure. And by the way I totally save your ass earlier, so you're the princess."

"I had a plan."

"Oh, yeah?" he shot him an incredulous look.

"Half a plan… I was working on it."

They were moving with an unsteady pace, but Dean was regaining more lucidity with each step. He stopped near the door to retrieve the corpse of doctor Simpson who wasn't affected by the detonation. Her frail body was lighter than it seemed so he didn't need Sheppard help to carry it.

"What now?"

"We go back to McKay and we get the hell out of here. Rodney was right, this building is falling apart."

After what felt like an eternity, they finally arrived at the lab. Several portions of the roof collapsed, and they had wasted more time that they had anticipated.

Sheppard tapped on his earbud while Dean simply knocked on the door.

"Rodney, this is Sheppard please come in. "

"Sheppard!"

"Rodney we're near the door, now would be a good time to open it for us."

Before he even finished talking, the door opened, but not completely. They managed to enter the lab but were unable to close it again.

"Where are the Wraith?"

"Dead" Dean said in a sour tone.

"Hopefully, let's not stick around to find out otherwise."

"Sheppard, was it really necessary to blow the other grenade? The lab is collapsing on us! Death by asphyxiation isn't pleasant!"

"Rodney, not now. Have you figured out how to get us home? "

"The reboot just finished a couple of minutes ago, I need to adjust a few coordinates, and if Radek did his job, we can go back."

"The building won't last much longer," argued Dean.

"I know that, dumbass. That's why I didn't want you to blow things up." McKay shot back.

"Rodney." John wasn’t in the mood.

"Yes, yes , I'm going. Here I am again, the scientist fixing the problem and saving everyone."

Dean set the dead body on the ground, he was weak and bleeding from somewhere on his back. For the first time he wished McKay was really good as they kept saying he was, because he felt the thread of dizziness overwhelming him and with his blood loss he didn't think it was such a good idea to close his eyes.

Sheppard wasn't doing much better, he didn't say anything but he was pretty sure there weren't two of Rodney in the room. On closer look at his wounds, he found a big gash on his lower abdomen and his black t-shirt was covered in blood, he kept pressure on it, but he didn't have any bandages left. He hoped they had a medical team ready nearby, because the situation didn't look too good.

McKay felt there was something wrong with the two of them since the lab was silent except for the noise of the workstations and the falling debris. They were usually a bunch of chatty and restless guys wherever they were around him, like children, and now they were doing their best just to keep their breath even. He sped up his checkups and watched them one more time. They were very pale and pretty worn out.

"Uhm… I need both of you to come near, one of you had to touch the panel and restart the program from the beginning… slowly."

"I'll do it." Sheppard walked near him and focused on the task.

Dean took the corpse and closed the distance, if Sheppard was right they had to be all pretty close the workstation to be transferred back to their dimension.

McKay saw a movement in the back of the room, from the half opened door, and his instinct kicked in.

"Look out!"

Rodney took his weapon and shot all the bullets with half closed half opened eyes. He had seen the pallid greenish skin and that was enough to start shooting. Dean and Sheppard were in the line of fire but as soon as they saw the gun, ducked.

A few seconds passed and the sound of something crashing to the ground was heard by the three men.

Rodney was the first to completely open his eyes. A Wraith with a long black coat was on the ground: two bullets in his head and the rest of his body burned.

"Well done, Rodney."

"What…I…I did it. I killed a Wraith."

"Son of bitch…" Dean looked back at the dead body, their resistance was unbelievable. What a nasty bunch of creatures. He turned around with an amused face toward McKay who was pale from the shooting.

"…nice job Spock… maybe next time you can just say duck" and moved to stand up from the floor.

"ptff… there is always something with you….ungrateful jerk."

"He means thank you, Rodney."

McKay shot a look at Sheppard than to the other guy who was a little distant from them. He cursed them in his mind. He had just shot a Wraith and he had to figure out how to leave this place, he didn't have time to socialize. Especially with Winchester.

However, he was glad they recognized his efforts and, despite all, for some strange reason he wanted to be acknowledged by Dean. Maybe that was a first step to common ground for both of them.

The machine lit up and the systems were ready to initialize. Rodney threw another look around before getting back to work. According to the reading, the other device was powering up too, they just needed a few more minutes.

A huge trembling shocked the building and the three of them crashed to the ground.

"McKay we need to go now!" John sounded weak.

"Yes, Sheppard I know!"

Rodney typed several sequences into the console, the power was at seventy percent and rising. A few more second and they would be away from this nightmare. The device arrived at ninety nine percent before shutting down again.

"No no no…"

Rodney furiously typed but the console wasn't active. He looked around and saw that Sheppard's hand had slipped from the panel. He was almost unconscious, his eyes were half opened but glassy. Dean on the other side wasn't in a better condition. It was then that he saw the dark spots on John's t-shirt and something like shrapnel protruding from the other guy's back. He cursed loudly.

"Come on you two! Just another bit!"

He placed both the Colonel's and Dean's hands on the console at each side, and took the corpse of her former colleague near them.

"Sheppard! Winchester! Come on! Just think on!"

It was only by sheer force of will that both of them felt the distant plea coming from the scientist. They both activated the device and Rodney was finally able to set the right set of commands.

"Hang on!"

Just as at the beginning of this nightmare, an intense blue light enveloped them, but this time they felt nothing as they travelled from the collapsing building to Atlantis.

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After finishing all the repairs to the main wires, Radek and Carson activated the device once more. The power was flowing slowly, but without problems and the computers didn't find any anomaly. When the power reached sixty eight of its maximum capacity, a signal warned them of the activation of the machine on the other side as well.

"We need to clear this area. Beckett, you too."

"Don't you need me to keep it activated?"

"No, your touch was only to activate it on our end. Unless you want to be shifted into another dimension, you have to step aside."

A space of five meters from the main station was clear of all the personnel. Doctor Weir, Teyla and Ronon were on the side with Zelenka and Beckett while Major Lorne was on the other with three marines ready to open fire.

"When will we know if it works?"

"We can't Doctor Weir, I'm sorry. Now it's up to them to activate their device." Zelenka however, had a datapad in his hands and a probe attached to it. Some wave patterns were fluctuating on the screen.

"Will this help you in some way?" Teyla asked with curiosity.

"Yes and no…this will show me only if there is an increase of unknown particles in the room."

"Unknown particles? Good Lord, Radek!…You mean radiation?" Carson yelped from his side.

"Probably, but I'm reading mostly alpha and other harmless radiations so far. We are in no danger… for now."

The wave pattern started to change.

"That must be them, be ready."

The marines held their guns high while most of the scientists who had experienced the first activation of the machine ducked around the room. The others just covered their eyes with theirs arms.

Soon a white blue energy enveloped the center of the room.

McKay, Winchester and Sheppard were there, they were all dusty and full of cuts; it seemed like they were coming from a battlefield and not a lab from another phase. Two were knocked out with a dead body at their side while Rodney was in the middle ducking and covering his eyes. He was the first to move.

"It worked? Of course it worked. I need a medical team here!"

The people in the room moved from their stupor, and swiftly secured the two men on the ground. Carson signalled his medical team to move into the room while he checked his patients.

"Bloody hell… Rodney what happened?"

"They fought some Wraith, that's what happened! And they blew up the entire building with their macho doings!"

They were both unconscious and their pulses were weak. Carson checked the shrapnel on Dean's back, and the cut in Sheppard's abdomen and cursed again.

"Hush now, I need to stabilize them. They need to be operated on, STAT. Let's move people!" Carson ordered the men around to lift them on two gurneys, and ran with them to the medical bay.

The other scientists gradually left and Rodney was alone in the room with Elizabeth, Zelenka, Teyla and Ronon. The event of the past hours were taking his toll on him too.

"Rodney calm down, tell us what happened."

McKay focused on Elizabeth's request and sat down on a chair. He looked at the device in the middle of the room, but the power had turned off the moment they had stepped through. He took a long breath before his eyes went once again on the corpse of Doctor Alice Simpson.

"We were transferred to another dimension. It was the same lab but everything else was different."

He started his fragmented recall of the events. As he kept talking, Zelenka noted all the scientific discoveries Rodney had made. He took back his datapad filled with records from the machine on the other side.

Doctor Weir instead was more concerned about the dead body of their long missing scientist and the Wraith menace.

"…I killed one too, anyway it doesn't matter the building was collapsing on itself. I don't think there will be anything left. " And with a huge sigh Rodney wandered with his eyes again around the room.

Another Ancient device almost killed them, but they made it, they were finally back home.

 

Chapter Text

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Carry on my Wayward Son for there'll be peace when you are done ~

THEN

* Flashes of all the best moments of this story *

Lay your weary head to rest, don't you cry no more… ~

NOW

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The beeping sound kept penetrating his dreamless sleep. It was familiar, like he heard it dozens of times, yet it was really noisy altogether. He felt weak and a little lightheaded, a fog blinded his mind and it was hard to think straight. Finally he decided to open his eyelids, there was no point in staying that way, better knowing where he was and how he got there. The whiteness and the bright light coming from a distant window were painful at first, but soon he adjusted and his eyes focused on the objects in the room.

He was in a bed, with a white scrub and an IV in his arm and a empty bed nearby. Nothing new then, he got injured and was in the hospital.

But where and how he got there was still a mystery.

"Good morning, kiddo." A scratchy voice came from the other side, Dean turned to see Lieutenant Colonel Sheppard in the bed next to his with a green jello in his hands.

He briefly closed his eyes.

He was in Atlantis' medical bay, not on Earth. The fog started to dissipated little by little and the memories of the events before the injuries and their fight against those Wraiths came back to him.

He grunted something in between a scowl and a good morning.

"I take you're not a morning person, kiddo. Are you feeling better?" Sheppard kept eating his jello with gusto while he observed the guy attempting to sit on his bed. The young man looked at his bandages under the scrub, then at Sheppard.

His hungry eyes set on the jello.

"Do you have another one to share, Shep?"

John looked around as if he didn't want to get caught by the nurses and from his bedside table took out a blue jello and threw it to him. Dean caught it in mid-flight, but the action stirred up some of the stitches from his back causing him a fit of pain. He emitted another grunt.

He looked at the jello with interest as it was an alien food. Ironically, it wasn't.

Still it trembled in his semitransparent container with his blueish color like some alien slime.

"Do you have some pie in there too?"

"You wish."

He shrugged, opened the little dessert and ate it. He was famished after all.

"So... we made it."

"Yeah according to McKay, it was only thanks to his genius that we made back in one piece."

"Right... a cakewalk!"

The sarcasm didn't escape Sheppard. "Well…he said we did a fine job taking out a potential threat, you know, three Wraith roaming in an alternate phase so near to Atlantis."

Dean arched an eyebrow, he didn't buy for a second that McKay actually said those words.

"How long have we been here?"

"I think a week. I woke up yesterday night and had dinner with Teyla, Ronon and Rodney." John finished his jello, while conversing. "You were…talking around midnight."

His unsettled face was reflected in the increasing pace of the monitor's beeps.

"What did I say?"

"Nothing really, you had a high fever… "

"Tell me."

"You just called a name in your sleep."

"Who?" he didn't remember anything, but he knew he had nightmares plaguing his sleep.

"Sammy."

Dean closed his eyes, relief washing through him. He didn't say anything strange or related to demons, ghosts or other nasty creature. He just called his brother's name, that wasn't something new, even in another galaxy his worries were always for his little brother.

Sammy was away from that life but that didn't mean he wasn't in potential danger. Hell! In a matter of months the list of things that could harm him had significantly rose up and some of them weren't even from their planet.

"He is your brother, right?"

Dean threw him a wary look, but then dropped it, choosing to look over the window instead.

"Yeah… he is a good kid, Stanford, top of his class."

John nodded, from the way he was talking he sounded like a proud father not a big brother, and something in his voice told him he didn't want to say anything at all.

Carson entered the room and saw his two patients eating and chatting; even if he was glad to find them awake and lucid, a little frown appeared on his face.

"What's going on? Colonel didn't I say to call me the moment you were awake?"

"Relax Carson, we just woke up, we're fine."

"Aye… let me judge it."

He shined his penlight in the colonel's eyes and then did the same to Dean. They both stayed still, and Carson wished Rodney would learn to do the same someday.

"You two made us worried. The shrapnel in your back, Dean, and your gash in the abdomen, Colonel, bled enough that we had to operate both of you at the same time. God knows how many blood bags we had to use. "

"Sorry, Doc."

Beckett frowned a bit, the light tone Dean used was so casual that for some reason troubled him, it seemed like he was saying "yeah, no big deal" and was patronizing him. Again this patient was so different from any other civilian he had visited in their expedition that he wondered what had happened to Dean on Earth to make him like that. For Carson it was like having to deal with Ronon all over again.

"That dimension surely had a strong presence of unknown bacteria. You two developed a foul infection soon after the operation. This is the first day you sound lucid. "

"Ohh really? Did he tell you about his nerdy little secret, Doc? I must say…"Dean was cut off by a flying plastic spoon that hit his head.

His cheshire cat smile disappeared but he didn't say anything else. Payback time would come, he just needed the perfect opportunity to hit Sheppard without repercussion.

Carson instead looked skeptical at the colonel's action. Before he could be caught in their games, Carson ordered them to rest and left. After a while Rodney, Ronon, and Teyla came to visit them; then Doctor Weir, Zelenka and Major Lorne. They were all glad both Sheppard and Dean were on the way to recover. 

With their injuries they couldn't do much, but that didn't stop Lorne or Zelenka for make good use of their time in the infirmary. The major had arranged for his CO to oversee several piles of paperwork that had been piling up since the incident in the lab, while Zelenka had arranged for Dean to familiarize with tons of information on pocket dimensions. 

A week later Carson found them bickering again. This time the two of them were having some kind of discussion about paper airplanes. He cleared his throat to interrupt their discussion on which type was the best. He did his routine checkup and sighed in relief, their wounds were healing and there was no trace of infection.

"Carson, we're fine. But we're going crazy here..." Sheppard reassured from his bed."Can we go to our room, take the day off and be gone?"  

Carson took a moment to think, but finally capitulated. If the two men were starting to acting like children that meant they were fine, and they were healthy enough to rest in their own room. Besides he needed quietness in the medical bay. Discharging the two of them could earn him only more peace and less trouble along the way.

"Fine you can go, but take it easy and let's do a checkup in six hours. Oh and I warn you… "His eyes gazed them sternly. "No heavy duty, no sparring sessions or anything resembling it for the next weeks are we clear?"

"Yes, Carson."

"Yes, Doc."

"Well… Carry on then."

As they were leaving, after changing in a more comfortable uniform, Carson turned from his desktop.

"Ah Colonel…I almost forgot, Doctor Weir wanted to see you."

"Thanks Carson, I'll be on my way."

John turned around and saw the young man deliberately fleeing the bay. He smiled, he was good at going unnoticed he had to give him credit.

"Dean, you're coming with me."

"Shit…" he stopped and casually leaned on the door "Why? She called you not me."

"Come on, kiddo. I'm sure Doctor Weir want to see you too."

They started to walk toward the central tower. Dean was awfully quiet while John kept stopping to chat with everyone on their way until they arrived in front of Elizabeth's office. Sheppard knocked on the transparent doors while she was reading something on her datapad.

The sound took her away from her readings.

"Colonel, Dean, you're finally off the bed. Has Doctor Beckett cleared the two of you?"

"Yes ma'am." Dean said promptly.

"We're fine, Carson put us on light duty for a couple of weeks."

She smiled. She estimated five day tops, before the colonel would disobey the good doctor's order.

"Well then, Doctor McKay told us what happened out there. I'm glad to see you are both fine, but I want your reports on the incident too."

"We'll do it." John smile faded a bit, he was just out of infirmary and he had already another mission report to write.

"Rodney mentioned some kind of alien presence that helped him, boosting the signal… Did you notice anything?"

Sheppard threw a quizzical look at Elizabeth, while Dean tensed a bit before showing a puzzled face too.

"What alien? We were shooting Wraiths four rooms away from the lab. We didn't see anyone."

"Well, according to Doctor McKay a powerful entity was able to send the signal for him. Without its help I'm afraid we wouldn't have seen your message in time."

"That's good, right?"

"Yes Dean, but whoever was, lived in that phase of our plane of existence. I hope we didn't make an enemy of it by destroying its place." Elizabeth took a deep breath, they really didn't need other enemies in the galaxy.

"Well he helped us, let's call it a win." Sheppard was in good mood and didn't want hollow thoughts to waste it.

Doctor Weir nodded and moved some files on his datapad."It is also thanks to you two that we can finally bring Doctor Alice Simpson's body back to Earth."

The cheerful air turned cold, the memories of her corpse were perfectly clear in their minds.

"What will happen?" Dean said out of the blue.

"Excuse me?"

"What will happen to her?"

"She will have a ceremony on Earth, it will be up to her parents where to bury her, they were notified that she was missing and probably died in line of duty."

"We have a strict policy, we don't leave men and women behind Dean. And whenever is possible we always take our dead home."

The colonel and the doctor misunderstood his question, thinking he was asking in a roundabout way what would happen to his body if he ended up dead in the Pegasus Galaxy. Dean nodded to their words but he frowned a bit thinking at the implications of what he just heard.

"When she is heading back?"

Elizabeth shot a surprised look at him. The young man sounded more interested than it appeared, she didn't knew this side of Winchester. Or maybe he just wanted to know if he could go back to Earth for a while, but was afraid to ask directly.

"Doctor Alice Simpson body will be send through the Stargate next Monday. But if you're asking for a leave I can't do it, at least for now, the IOA is breathing down my neck. I'm sorry."

"No, need to worry doctor Weir."

"Very well, I think that's all for now. Go, get some rest."

Dean promptly took his way out of the office while Sheppard stayed. Elizabeth was waiting for him to say what was in his mind. He took a sit in front of her leaning nonchalantly in the chair.

"The kid did great under pressure. He even saved my life."

She frowned. She was there when they came back, she saw the wounds and the few weapons left on each of them. They fought for their life with all they had and it was a miracle they come back alive.

"Am I to assume the Athosian knife we found was his?"

John scratched his head. "Yes, that's what I was trying to say. He had a knife and he used it only when we were attacked. If he was a danger to us he would have already used it. I think we can get him some slack."

She thought for a moment before she nodded. "Fine, from what I heard around he didn't do anything in this months to not trust him."

"…And if you agree I would like to put him in the off-world roster."

"Do you really think is such a good idea?"

"He asked me." He shot a small smile to Elizabeth. "The guy can handle himself, and he has proven useful. We will only put him on trade missions and easy tasks for now. Nothing dangerous. Maybe he could spend some time at the Alpha site."

"Give me some time to think about it, John."

He nodded, he did what he had to do.

"Then I'll leave you to your work, Elizabeth."

He got up and left the office.

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In a room near the medical bay rested the dead body of Doctor Alice Simpson. Dean had only three days to burn the body before it was sent on Earth. Despite that he was just released from the infirmary and when he got in his room he just crushed on the bed and slept for the whole day.

In the following day he prepared himself to burn it in the night, without any witness. It was risky since if he got caught it would be hard to explain what was he doing, but he could not leave a job half done.

When finally all the personal left the medical bay, and were just few nurses around, he silently slipped in the appointed morgue.

She was covered and a white veil was all over her. Her personal belongings were already shipped months ago back to her parents. He knew what he had to do so he approached the corpse.

"Please…don't."

The air turned cold very fast and Dean's eyes raised to see the ghost of the former scientist at the other end of the table.

"You know I have to do this."

"Please…I know…I just want to see my parents…one last time…"

She seemed more lucid and in control of herself than when she was in the other phase, even her hollow face was less frightened.

"You have to let it go, sweetheart."

She nodded and a small tear escaped her eyes. "I just want to go home, then I'll go…I promise."

"If you don't go on, you'll turn into a crazy bitch. You could hurt your own parents."

She shot a frightened look at the young hunter.

"I understand… thank you… for bringing me back…I promise…I'll go away."

Dean was torn, if he acted now the ghost probably would turn against him or the expedition, but if she didn't do what she said, she could harm someone else on Earth. His mind worked fast thinking how to contact somebody to finish the job there. Emails, phone calls they were all registered and analyzed by Stargate Command; if he said something wrong, things could get ugly very fast for him.

"Winchester! What are you doing here?"

McKay's voice caught both him and the ghost by surprise. Dean had his back to McKay and hid his match and accelerant in his coat. The ghost disappeared quickly, but not fast enough. Rodney's face was a mix of incredulity and pure shock.

"What was that?"

"What?"

Dean tried to seem oblivious of what was he talking about but, by the bitch face Rodney showed to him, that didn't seem to work well.

"Don't try to fool me Winchester I saw…you were talking to… to something."

Yep, not working at all.

"Was that Doctor Simpson?"

"Do you believe in ghosts, McKay?"

"Who are you the child of the Sixth Sense?"

"Never mind." Dean grunted.

"What were you two talking about? You don't even know her." McKay had his arms crossed on his chest and was waiting for an answer.

Despite the circumstances, he was acting a bit less aggressive than usual, and Dean too wasn't eager to poke the bear. After the lab incident they had somehow find a sort of balance between quarrels and small talks.

"She was thanking us for bringing her home…" And an idea popped in his mind, if he could convince him he didn't have to worry to call some other hunter to finish the job.

He looked around the room, she was still in her mind or at least part of it, she must knew he had to take precaution. "…and she said she wanted to be cremated."

"What!? There is nothing like that on her file."

"McKay." This time his tone was a mix of a warn and a plea.

Rodney looked at the dead body then at the other guy. Something in his eyes told him to listen for once.

If it was him he wanted to be cremated too. The idea of leaving behind a body fed on by a Wraith in a funeral wasn't pretty at all. Her body was probably crawling with unknown bacteria from the other dimension, who knew what kind of disease those could spread on Earth...

Beside Stargate Command would have a hard time to explain her family why she looked older than them in the first place. Putting a request on the subject could be easily done, maybe he would even suggest to take the whole dying in another galaxy issue more seriously and activate strict protocols. His attention drifted away from the main problem. Now he was curious to know how many in the expedition had signed for cremation in their personal files.

"Right, I'll see what I can do."

A cold breeze passed near him. "Thank you."

McKay shrugged, he had just not heard those words. There was no such a thing as a ghost. He shrugged off that unsettling sensation. Dean turned to leave the room, and Rodney followed on his heels.

"You know it's more likely she's in a half state of Ascension than an actual ghost… that must be something related to the dimension she died in…"

McKay kept talking the whole way back, and Dean rolled his eyes a few times. The geek scientist could go on the whole night, but if anyone heard that kind of talk, the voice could spread quickly.

"Maybe it's best if we keep this just between us."

"Why?"

Dean turned with a little frown. "I dunno usually people start to think you're crazy if you blab about ghosts."

"I told you it wasn't a ghost…"

"Whatever. Just don't mention it, ok?"

"Fine, I'm not that interested in Ascension anyway. I never had much faith in it and they have too many rules…"

Dean rolled his eyes again, trust a guy like McKay to tattle indefinitely on a subject he didn't even liked in the first place. However if he could push things around to get the body cremated than he didn't have to do anything else. He just wished for the sake of her family he was doing the right thing.

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A week passed without any other incidents. Sheppard, Teyla and McKay were in the mess hall when Ronon and Dean come with their food trails.

There was a happy atmosphere during the lunch, and for once no one was talking of crazy missions or the threat from the Wraith.

McKay had told Dean the day before that Stargate Command and Simpson's family had approved the cremation. Her parents were allowed to say their farewells to the body before it was cremated from a certain distance as a bio-hazard security measure.

"I heard Doctor Weir cleared you for off-world missions." McKay said while eating some jello.

"Yep." Dean nodded as he took a bite at his alien blueberry pie.

"Well, that is a very good news, Dean."

"Thanks, Teyla."

"You are with us?" Ronon asked while eating a piece of cake as well.

"Let's not rush things Ronon, the kid has to do some trading missions first, then we'll see." The other three members of Sheppard's team looked at their leader with interested stares.

"Where is your first mission, Dean?" Teyla asked with a bit of curiosity.

"Uhm…M7G-6..something I dunno. Why?"

"Ah! Isn't that–"

"Yes, Rodney. Don't spoil the fun." Sheppard's eyes were gleaming mischievously.

Dean watched the team as a small smile spread from all of them, except from Ronon who was unaware of what they were talking about, but the Satedan didn't seem to care.

Dean felt uneasy, something was up and their joyful faces weren't to be trusted. Nevertheless, thanks to their little adventure, he was now by all account a full member of the expedition.

That in his own way was a great achievement for him. If he played his cards well, he could help in fighting the Wraith in a more active way. He had travelled all his life from town to town around the States, saving people and hunting things, but he never felt like he belonged somewhere.

Things could be worse. He lightly thought as he was chit-chatting with the others.

He was still a hunter. He just had more people to protect than before, and a bigger job to do. However he wasn't alone anymore.

He had friends, and even a place to call home: Atlantis.

 

The End