Rodney had just opened the door for Jennifer when he felt his stomach rattle around. There was no other way to explain it. One minute he was enjoying the view from Atlantis with his best girl and his best friends (and Woolsey, but that was neither here nor there); the next he was feeling as if he'd stepped onto an amusement ride.
When he turned around to see if anyone else had a similar ailment or if he should have Jennifer take him immediately back to the Infirmary with her, he couldn't turn his head. He lifted his eyes to see if he could see them in the glass of the door, possibly performing some sort of complex morse code with his eyelids to bring help. The problem was, there was no door in front of him, open or otherwise. It was impossible for him to feel Jennifer behind him, even though she'd been so close just moments before that he'd been able to feel her body heat.
This was not good. Not good, at all. Rod had mentioned experiencing something similar when he had come through that rift. Rodney thought of that now because it had been the last time he'd talked about amusement rides with anyone. They both had an aversion to them, laughable considering how much of their life was spent doing something very similar to the insane motion.
And then, just like that, he was staring at the door, his hand still wrapped around the handle. Had it just been something he'd eaten coming back to mess with him? Maybe he should have Jennifer check him out here and now.
"Woah. That was freaky." Rodney turned around to stare at Amelia, her own face as pale as he felt, as she tried to put into words what had just happened. "I know you all have done weird stuff on your missions but I just sit in the gate room. Occasionally, I get to put out fires or help disable bombs. Nothing like this. Please tell me that was normal."
"John was steadying Ronon who had probably been out of bed longer than was good after dying. "That wasn't as normal as you'd think. You okay, buddy?"
"Just felt a little weird, that's all. Be alright in a moment." But Ronon looked a different pale than the rest of the group. He looked the way people did when their body was refusing to act the way they wished it would act.
Rodney shook his head. This was all getting just a little too ridiculous because it was clear that something had happened that had affected all of them. That could only mean that it was pretty wide scale. He'd need to get back to his computer if he was going to figure out just what it was that happened to them. "You don't look like you're going to be alright." John hissed at him and while that had come out a little more forthright and bitter than he'd intended, Rodney had suddenly realized something. It was probably because he was the only one looking for it that he'd even found it.
The view was very different from this balcony. No sweeping expanse of San Fransisco. No hazy summer afternoon sun. No cool blue water. This was definitely a different planet than even the one that Atlantis had just left. "Has anyone noticed anything funny? Out of place?"
Right as the words came out of his mouth, an alarm sounded.
"What's going on?" Woolsey demanded to know but no one was paying him any attention and he didn't look like he was expecting an answer.
Familiar black uniformed guards threw open the doors, nearly upsetting Rodney if not for the quick action of Jennifer in pulling him back. They were pointing their guns at them as if they were a threat. One of them had a familiar smile, even if it was a little strained. He advanced toward John, practically ignoring everyone else.
"Sir? How'd you get down here so fast?" Evan Lorne lowered his weapon as he looked around, for the first time, at the rest of the people on the balcony. "Teyla? I thought you were on the mainland? And Rodney? When did you decide to come back?"
"Back? Where did I go?"
"You... left. Been on Earth nearly two years now." Ever the good soldier, Lorne's attention snapped back to his superior as he waited for an answer. "Sir? Is everything okay here?"
John could only shake his head as he let out yet another frustrated sound. It always irritated him to meet his "alternative selves" scattered around the numerous dimensions "You better go get your Sheppard. And take us to the Infirmary for now, until we can get this worked out. I'm sure Jennifer... whoever you have working there will need to check Ronon out again."
"Yeah, well you can explain that to them after you get checked out. No dimension, no diagnosis."
"Is he a prisoner?" Evan asked, bringing his gun back up. "Should we put him somewhere secure?"
"It's just Ronon," Amelia started to protest but John raised his hand for silence.
"He's part of my team. I take it you don't have a Ronon in this time and place?"
Evan shook his head, a little dazed as he took in the large man. "No, sir. No Ronon. If you say he's harmless then I'll believe you."
And because Ronon always seemed to be happy to oblige John these days, he collapsed at the feet of the men who were trying to figure out if they believed this John or not.
It was hard to stay stoic while watching John barely hold in his irritation but Teyla was determined to hold in all her fear and rage at this time. Her team needed her to be calm. None of them liked to meet their alter egos, even in the best of circumstances, but being kept under the watchful eye of three Marines, none of whom she recognized, was a little strange.
Doctor Klineman, a round, jolly man that Rodney had laughingly called Santa Clause when he was out of the room, proclaimed Ronon to be "as fit as a fiddle" for someone who had just died. He was the only one who laughed. Jennifer had bared her teeth at him, taking great offense even though Ronon had just laughed it off. The doctor had prescribed a night's rest before doing anything strenuous, winking at Amelia as if she might be the one to be doing the strenuous activity with him. Both Teyla and John had struggled to hide smiles as Ronon and Amelia traded confused looks.
When the door finally slid open and a new batch of Marines stepped through the opening, they all began to breath a little easier. That was, until Rodney started to laugh. "A beard? Never thought I'd see you with one of those, John."
Both men turned to stare at him with narrowed eyes. Jennifer moved slightly in front of him, as if she thought one or the other of the Sheppards might decide to do more than just glare. "It looks nice," she replied, offering a tight smile.
This dimension's Sheppard (and Teyla decided she would think of her John as John and this one as Sheppard just so she did not get a headache from this situation) turned his head, offering the room the side of his head they hadn't seen yet. A mean looking scar puckered the skin of his neck and, when Teyla looked carefully, continued on up to his eye. "I grew it so people would forget."
"Have they?" John asked. His doppelganger shook his head after a moment of silence. "Probably for the best. Look, I know we're just in the way but I need to ask a favor of you. If you don't already have one too many McKay's in the science lab, I was wondering if our Rodney could use a computer. Or two. Seems we came through some sort of rift when we flew Atlantis to Earth."
"Your Atlantis is on Earth?"
"Not a flight I recommend taking, by the way. It's kind of a long story." John winced at the understatement, offering a one shoulder shrug. "But McKay thinks he can make it right. We just need to borrow your Atlantis for awhile."
There was a moment of silent exchange between Sheppard and Lorne that finally ended with a slight shrug from Lorne. "Fine. If McKay thinks he can fix this, I'll allow him access to the science lab."
"Should I say thank you?" Rodney asked, his chest puffing up as he prepared for some sort of fight from an unlikely opponent. It was all Jennifer could do to keep him from stepping forward, forcing a confrontation. "Because it sounds like you have a problem with me."
For a moment, no one breathed. Teyla was just about to say some calm words, ease the situation back out of the place that it was headed and on to a more even existence when suddenly Sheppard smiled. The dark hair on his face gave the expression an evil glint, as if he was a bear with dinner at hand. "I guess I don't have a problem with you, do I? Sorry about that. It's easy to forget that different things happen on different planes of existence. For instance, I just realized why you look familiar." He walked toward Amelia, stopping only because Ronon looked as if he might launch himself out of bed if the other man got any closer. "Amelia Banks, right?"
"It's been awhile. I trust you're well?"
Amelia's posture was as ram-rod stiff as she could get it, her face straight ahead but her eyes finding her own John Sheppard for reassurance that she wasn't doing anything that she should not being doing. "Well enough, sir."
"You see, the reason it took me so long to place you is that you only lasted two weeks here. An explosion, I believe." That news made Amelia turn so pale that Teyla moved to stand beside her, ready to catch her if she decided to faint. As if he understood the damage he'd just done to the poor girl, Sheppard turned to Mr. Woolsey. "Ah, my old nemesis at the IOA. You finally got to come to Atlantis to see what all the hype was about. Good for you."
The man just stood there, his mouth open in a very undignified look of surprise. Teyla wondered if her expression looked very much like his. This John Sheppard was so much unlike her John Sheppard that she was having trouble keeping the two of them separate in her mind. When he finally turned away from their group, Teyla couldn't help but let out a thankful breath.
"Lieutenant, see that they get everything they need."
Lorne jumped to do his commander's bidding while the rest of the group gaped at the title. It was only then that Teyla noticed the insignias. Sure enough, Evan Lorne was a Lieutenant Colonel. That could only mean... Teyla suddenly couldn't breath. She looked over at John to see if he'd seen the same thing she had. His look of horror was locked on the shoulder of his counterpart, all the color drained from his face.
Before anyone else could answer, Ronon's whisper broke the silence. "Shit, John. You run this place."
The city was irritated and it was keeping John from sleeping. He'd been by to check on Rodney and Jennifer several times, wishing he could keep his group together somehow. There was no way he was dragging Ronon out of bed to sit and watch Rodney mumble to himself as he stared at a computer screen. It was bad enough that Jennifer had to but he'd decided it was best for everyone if she stayed away from the Infirmary. Things in this Atlantis sick bay weren't run exactly like they were in hers and the strain was starting to show.
It probably didn't help that no one recognized her, meaning she'd never come to Atlantis. Of course, she was doing better than Amelia who hadn't said a single word since hearing her own whereabouts in this place. John couldn't fault her, though. This was her first time finding out that she could still live while another Amelia was dead somewhere. Hell, he'd done it often enough.
Even with all the weirdness, John could have probably gotten to sleep without any trouble. It was Atlantis, poking and prodding at his subconscious, that was keeping him up. He would have thought she would have been happy to have two of him around but apparently that was making her more than a little testy. Doors were opening and closing as he passed, even some that should have been locked. Lights flickered, leaving him in darkened corridors or turning on too bright for this time of night.
"Alright, already. I'm sorry. Okay? Is that what you wanted to hear? This wasn't my fault and you, for one, should know that," he muttered, heading toward his favorite spot on the city, irregardless of where it was at in time and space. This time of night, he didn't figure anyone would be on the pier. Because of the way his day was going, he was wrong, of course. A familiar face turned to stare at him. Well, it would have been a tad more familiar without the beard and scar. He wondered if that was a story he was allowed to ask about because he sure would like to know how that happened.
The other John held up a can of beer to him as welcome, the moonlight glinting off the familiar insignia. Some things never changed. "Thought you might find your way out here. She's just a little pissed off tonight, isn't she?"
It felt weird to talk to someone about Atlantis like this. He'd tried to explain it to Rodney one time and the man had only laughed at him. After that, he quit trying to put it into word. The city was linked to him. He left it at that and tried not to think about it. Now was an opportunity to talk about it and not get stared at like he'd gone off the deep end.
"Yeah. She's been mad at me before but never like this." John made himself comfortable, popping the top off the can and taking a long drink. "Guess two of us is more than she wants to handle."
"She locked me out of my room. Figured this was the only place I was safe. Is your Atlantis this temperamental?"
John couldn't help but smile at that. "She's never been this bad but she'd got something to complain about, I suppose."
"So, who's the big guy you brought with you?" the other John asked after a long pause that was by far more comfortable than long pauses usually were for John. "We haven't seen him or the girl with Rodney here before. Considering the rumors I've been hearing about how she's attempted to rearrange Klineman's space, I'm assuming she's your doc."
"Right. The doc. She's a good sort. Keeps Rodney in line." He went on, pretending that he hadn't just heard the snort from beside him. "Ronon was a runner. He's from Sateda. I don't know if you've come across that part of the galaxy but they tried to take on the Wraith and lost. The entire civilization has been pretty much wiped out. He and a few others were implanted with a chip and then sent out, a game for some of the hunters."
"It was pretty sick. Every place he tried stopping, they ended up coming behind him and culling the whole place as punishment for helping him. He's spent years carrying around guilt because of it. There was nothing he could have done but he doesn't see it that way. Guy's heart is too big for his own good."
He hadn't intended to give himself away but he was talking to a man that was still very much of the same mind set. In Rod's universe, he'd hooked up with the scientist (but he was a wet blanket in that universe so he was kind of surprised that Rod was the one who'd picked him. In another universe they'd encountered, he and Elizabeth had been an item. In another, he and Teyla had shacked up. It was a pattern of the different plains of existence where he made it to Atlantis. These people had become his family and some, in turn, became more than that. One thing he'd noticed was that he was never known as a philanderer. No matter what his history was, he didn't play the field because that wasn't who he was and never would be.
So, when this John replied, "You and he, huh?", he wasn't too surprised.
"He wears on you. First I thought it was just that I was used to him being around and then... I almost lost him. Even still, he was the one who finally made the first step. If it wasn't for that, we'd still just be watching each other out of the corner of our eyes. Dave likes him. That's important to me." That was clearly the wrong thing to say. The man beside him stiffened so that John thought he might have to apologize for bringing family into this conversation. "I take it you didn't got back for Dad's funeral?"
John turned his head to see the expression in the other John's eyes. "About a year ago. Have you been back to Earth at all?"
"There hasn't been time. I've only been able to hold onto my command here on Atlantis because I don't leave much. They'll have to carry my body from this city when I'm cold and stiff. I'm not giving up without a fight. One of the ways they're trying to make me cave in has been to cut off all communication between Pegasus and Earth. They think I'm going to snivel about not being able to talk to my family. Funny, I would have thought my file would have told them that was a stupid idea."
"You really like the position? I mean, I like being in charge as much as the next guy but I don't like the headaches of being in charge of this whole place."
The other John shrugged, a gesture that John almost copied just from the shock of seeing such a familiar movement. "I just don't want to lose it. You know? It's the first thing that has made sense. These people... they're important to me. I don't know what I'd do if I lost them. Woolsey... my Woolsey is trying to get me run out of the Air Force. Right now, the only thing truly keeping him from succeeding is that I can't be brought in to stand trial. I just can't help but think that if O'Neil was still around, things would be different."
Well, wasn't that just a kick in the heart. John tried to think of a response but he was mourning a friend and nothing else seemed important.
Amelia had been clapping for so long that her hands hurt. Her team (for she'd come to see them as one big away team) was taking on this other John and Lorne in what could only be a show of strength. It was the place to be right now and the room was packed with people. Several had done a double-take when they'd walked in and seen her sitting here, pretty as you please. It was still odd to be a dead girl here. Still, it was better than the glares that poor Mr. Woolsey was getting. No one liked him here. Not one bit.
It was a little uncomfortable to have Chuck staring at her like he was, though. Someone must have told him about her because he hadn't looked at bit surprised when he'd walked in the room. Now he was sitting across from her, his arms folded over his chest and a frown on his face as he looked over in her direction. It was strange to have someone she considered a friend looking at her like she'd done something wrong. What had this Amelia been like in those few weeks that she'd been stationed here?
When Ronon crowed in triumph at defeating yet another Marine even when he swore to everyone that he was taking it easy, to which John only smirked and shrugged, Amelia decided she needed to find out what was going on with Chuck. It took her several minutes to get through the crowd and when she did, he wasn't there. The whole situation was starting to irritate her. Just when she'd decided to go back to her seat and forget all about this mission, she caught some motion out of the corner of her eye. It seemed that Chuck was trying to get away from her, as if he knew exactly what she had in mind.
"Chuck! Wait up!" When he didn't slow down, she gritted her teeth in determination and gave chase. He wasn't going to get away from her that easily. Once she set her mind to something, she saw it through. "I'm going to-"
When she rounded a corner, she nearly ran into him. He was breathing hard and looking at her with wide eyes. Eyes that were scared and excited and still a bit more angry than she would have liked. Amelia took the time to gather her courage as she also caught her breath. It was obvious to her that she was going to have one chance to get this right. The prospect of losing a friend, even one that wasn't really hers made her feel cold.
"I don't know if I was here long enough to-" she started to say only to be scared back into silence when Chuck put his hands in front of his face. That normally meant... "Are you crying?"
"Am I crying?" He lifted his hands away and, sure enough, he was crying. "Of course I'm crying. You died. I know in this place people have a way of escaping death but I never figured I'd see you again. It's just... it's just a little much to handle. I figure I have every right to cry."
"But why? I'm sorry that I hurt you by dying and then being here but-"
"We were engaged." His hands went back over his face but his shoulders were shaking as he valiantly held back the sobs that Amelia no longer wanted to stop. In fact, she suddenly felt like crying herself.
Had her Chuck ever looked at her the way a man looked at a woman? The way a man looked at a woman he might want to have a relationship with? She was everyone's pal. The girl everyone went to when they needed some advice or a cheerful word. When was the last time she'd had a date that didn't somehow end up involving at least three other people? It was uncomfortable to contemplate that she'd been this important to anyone here when she'd never found anyone to be that important to in her world.
As least she was worthy of that kind of love, she decided as she turned away from the sobbing man. With a wan smile, she left him to his grieving and went back to the crowds of people. She didn't care much about the fight but she wanted to be able to hide herself in them for awhile. No more running after people who glared at her. They could frown all they wanted and she wouldn't question them on it.
"You think this can do the trick?"
Jennifer was feeling as obstinate as Rodney by this point. For two days, she'd stayed holed up here in the science lab, keeping all the distractions down to a minimum so that he could find a way home. That was all she really wanted, after all. Just to be home. She wasn't trying to remake this universe into her own but it was strange to not have a place on Atlantis at all. There was no trace of her anywhere. No one knew who she was. For all they knew, she and Ronon were both aliens. Except, the crux was that this John wanted to go find Ronon. If he was still out there, he was obviously meant to be found. Jennifer couldn't help but notice the desperation on the leader's face, as if he felt responsible for not having found Ronon at the same time that her timeline had found him, as if he was missing a part of his team... no, himself.
As far as she could tell from her little corner where she was planted and refusing to move except to get Rodney more coffee and to shoo away gawkers, this John had even less personal contact with people than their John did. Their Teyla was still on the mainland but she and John appeared to be good friends and partners. Lorne was John's right-hand man, obviously having thrown his hat into the ring years ago when it became clear that the IOA was not happy with the Atlantis expeditions decision to rule themselves in the way they saw fit. The more she saw, the more she wanted to take the first gate back to Earth and find herself in this dimension and demand an explanation as to why she wasn't part of this. These people were fighting for something important and her heart knew they were on the side of right here.
Which was why she'd done her part to push Rodney toward helping them with the Wraith-signs detector instead of on the problem of getting home safe and sound. So it took them a couple days longer to find their way back to their Atlantis. Somewhere, out in a galaxy still peppered with Wraith intent on harm, there was a Ronon who needed help. She wanted to help him.
When Rodney bristled with irritation at the impertinence of the question, she put her hand on his shoulder to calm him and, more importantly, to keep him from answering. "It will work," she asserted as if she was giving an iffy diagnosis, one that had just as much bad news in it as good news. "And he's pinpointed a couple planets to start with. The coordinates have been sent to the jumper."
"Thanks," both Johns said at the same time, using the same inflection and manner. It was still a shock to see the mirror images interact with each other, even more so to see them react the same way to other people. In fact, Jennifer didn't think she was ever going to get used to it.
"I modified it to cause interference with the device implanted in his back as soon as you hit that red button there. No, don't hit it yet. I don't know that it'll start working again once you push it. That way you don't have to perform surgery right there. Who knows where you'll find him and in what condition." Rodney slid a guilty look at their Ronon. "Sorry. That sounded wrong. Just realized it when it came out of my mouth."
The other John narrowed his eyes, trying to reconcile what he'd just heard. Jennifer had heard enough stories to know that their Rodney had still been full of ego and hot air when he'd finally left, having been unsuccessful in curing Elizabeth in this time line and angry at John and Lorne for holding him responsible for her death. If they'd only had me, she'd thought rather smugly to herself. The city really was one huge team, struggling to eek out an existence with the help of ever team member, and when one was missing, they all felt the void. There had always been a part of her that had thought that maybe she wasn't needed but this was a very good indication that she was.
It was John's turn to get to hold the new device. "Sweet. Are my only instructions not to touch the button? Anything else I need to know?"
"Don't get it wet. Or muddy. Or covered in any mutant slime. It should be able to withstand everything else."
"Good job, Rodney." Teyla spoke up, smiling at him warmly. This, in turn, made Rodney blush. Everyone liked it when Teyla paid them a compliment, something she did just often enough to make the words worth something.
As they walked out of the room toward their new mission, Jennifer bent down and added her own compliment. "Very good, honey. See, I told you they'd appreciate the modifications."
"Yes, yes," was all he said but his ears were still burning red at her use of the endearment that was still odd in her mouth. All the more reason to use it, she decided.
"Time to get back to work on the rift problem. Do you want more coffee or food?"
"Are there any of those little croissant things left? Those were good."
When they got back to their reality, Jennifer was going to have to break him of this habit of thinking she would be at his beck and call. She was okay with it here and now because the situation warranted it but she didn't want him getting used to it so that he thought she would do it all the time. There would be time to recondition when they got back where they belonged. Now, for the time being, she would be more than happy to go find food.
Ronon didn't think he'd ever been to this planet before. It was covered with trees (a plus) and had the smell of freshness about it that meant there was running water somewhere near (another plus) but the trees grew close together so it was hard to get through them (a negative) and very little other vegetation (a negative unless you wanted to eat leaves and bark) and there was no discernible path. This meant it was doubtful there was a village nearby. This wasn't a place a person could use to replenish food stuffs.
"This is a good place to die," Ronon muttered under his breath. He'd thought about it often enough, in those days when he couldn't imagine what would happen if there ever came a time when he couldn't keep moving forward. If he ever had to end it all, he'd thought he would drag himself to a nice shady spot well hidden from civilization and just lay down, never to stand up again. As much trouble as he'd had with the other doppelgangers he'd come across, it was strange to have something in common with this one. They'd both had the same idea about death.
He'd forgotten Teyla's superb hearing so that when she pressed close to him, he wasn't ready for the frown she wore. "Do you think this Ronon has come here to die?"
"Probably. I would have. Means he's probably hurt."
Teyla looked at John who looked at the other John. "We better get moving."
Everyone picked up their speed, following closely after Lorne who had the devise, seeing as he was the only one who fully understood what the little dots and dashes meant on the screen. In no time at all, he was slowing his progress and pointing. "Should be right over this ridge."
"John, I think you and Ronon should stay here. If we need your help, we will call you." Without letting either man give an alternate reason why he should be allowed forward, Teyla followed after the other two men.
"God, she's pushy," John groused, kicking at a root with the toe of his boot. "Guess it would be kind of bad for the poor guy to see two of one guy when he's dealing with seeing himself. I know you hate that."
Ronon shrugged, glad that the pull from his injury was getting less and less noticeable. "Don't mind it so much when they aren't doing the same thing as me."
"You know. Protecting you and Teyla and Rodney. Hurts when it feels like he's doing a better job than me."
This made John chuckle. "Tell me about it. This guy is the leader of Atlantis. Doesn't that just make me feel like a failure."
"Bet he doesn't have time to get off world like you do. He let you fly the puddlejumper. When was the last time you let anyone drive instead of you?"
That earned him both a nod and a cheeky grin, the kind that made his insides get all wobbly. There wasn't time to do anything about it because the rest of the group was coming back at a run, none of them trying to keep quiet. The body flung over Sheppard's shoulder was most definitely of Ronon's same height, if not thinner. He'd put on weight while on Atlantis, adding to the bulky muscle that was needed for something other than survival.
He wasn't able to make much more than that simple comparison as Teyla shoved at him. "He wasn't alone. The creatures around here are big and they like the smell of blood."
There was a trail of blood that stretched out into the trees where they'd broken through, drawing whatever it was that was following them in this direction. Now was not the time to assess the damage and fight. Without knowing what it was that had Teyla looking frightened, or if there was something he should do to try to slow it down, Ronon swung around and ran back to their means of escape with the rest of the team.
Prompt: your choice
There is a time to strive for perfection and there is a time to hold back and let someone else lead. It is better to be perfect than to be liked so strive for the first before you settle for the second. Richard Woolsey couldn't remember which of his professors had first said that to him, or if it had even been one of the men and women he revered, but it had stuck in his head and been something he had used as his motto for many of those years. There must have been a moment in his own life when he had learned to let go of that perfection and settle for friendship.
It was something he wished he shared with the Woolsey of this universe because, as he surveyed this group of people that he called friends, he truly understood how bleak his life might have ended up. His year on Atlantis had been such a small amount of time yet it had changed his life. There were very few days when he ate alone in his office, pretending he liked his own company enough that he didn't mind it all the time. As he walked through the hallways of the city, there were many people who stopped to chat or passed him with a friendly hello.
After the few days he'd had here, he wanted very much to go back to his time and place. He knew Jennifer was also looking forward to being back in a place more familiar but he was worried about Amelia. The abrupt end of this Amelia's history had given her pause. When he'd tried to talk to her about it earlier, she had only shaken her head and turned away. He knew it was the height of discourtesy to push at her but he couldn't help but feel a bit of her pain as she tried to come to terms with everything that learned. The only difference between them at the moment was that she was liked in this city.
"Amelia, I think-"
She didn't give him time to tell her all the reasons why she should talk to him and how much good it would do her. Instead, she turned toward him and began talking as if she was afraid he would interrupt her and tell her to be quiet.
"This place. This place is full of people who genuinely miss me. Now that they've gotten used to me, they come up to me in droves and tell me about all the things they miss the most and I don't remember half of them. Hell, half these people don't even exist on our Atlantis or maybe they did at one point and they were killed but here it was me and I don't know I feel about that. That Amelia was a different person, I realize that. Did you know that she and Chuck were engaged? Can you believe that? Me? Engaged? My mom would be so happy to know that she was finally going to be able to plan that wedding she'd always hoped I have. But I can't really tell her, can I? Because then I would have to tell her that it really is possible to travel around in time and space and, oh yeah, I'm stationed in a different galaxy and wouldn't that just be a riot to try to explain."
When she'd run out of words, she crumpled back into the seat she'd vacated when he'd stepped forward. With her hair out of it's rigid working hair style, curling around her face, she looked more like a young woman who needed comforting than a young Marine under his command. That didn't mean he could forget who he was or who she was. When he might have followed her example and set back down, he put a hand on her shoulder to show her that he understood her dilemma and turned back to the assembled group.
"Dr. McKay, have you figured out a solution to our problem?" Everyone quieted and looked at the scientist who was looking quite smug. Woolsey was very glad that he had that smile of delight on his face and not the strained frown that either meant he'd hit a wall he had to scale before he could move forward or that he didn't see any way of completing his task.
"I have. I think I can get us back without any strain on the resources here. I've already talked it over with Grodin and I'm convinced he can do his part."
"Fine. And is this other Ronon doing well?"
"Well enough," Ronon answered in a gruff voice but with a smile that was out of place considering that Ronon normally disliked all other duplicates of himself.
"Looks like we've done what we can to help here. Can we be gone within the hour? If anyone of you have any goodbyes you'd like to make-"
Amelia's sob stopped him cold. He turned back to her, concerned that there was actually something wrong with her. Teyla moved to sit beside her when he couldn't make himself move forward.
"What is it? Are you well? Do we need to take you to the infirmary?"
"My life would have been really good here," Amelia wailed for the whole room to hear. She realized how loud she'd been and tried to calm herself down but that only made her sobs all the louder as she tried to explain herself. It was perhaps a more jumbled retelling of everything that had happened to her but everyone was able to get enough of the story that they looked sympathetic for her plight. "I just think," she concluded, "that maybe I should stay here."
Everyone was silent for a moment before everyone started talking at once. John was loathe to lose anyone from the city, even if it was because there might be a better life somewhere else. He was feeling a bit militant about it at the moment, after having lived through a rescue mission to bring this group closer to his normal. Rodney was concerned that leaving a person behind wouldn't mend the rift once they went through. Teyla was trying to remind the girl that happiness was subjective and she could be very happy with her life if she would only remember all that was good in her life. Ronon, for all that the man never talked when people wanted to talk, was bellowing something about not leaving anyone behind and of course her life was good and they didn't need an Amelia here because they'd already lost their first one.
Compelled to bring some sense of order to the proceedings, Woolsey did something he never did. He shouted, "Stop it, all of you." Everyone was as surprised as he was that such a loud sound could come from him that the room fell silent. When he could finally hear himself think again, he knelt down in front of Amelia.
"My dear, this is your choice. None of us can make it for you." He turned to glare at Rodney who was starting in on again about the stability of the rift minus a person. "If you want to stay, you can stay. I will tell you that you will be as missed back in our original time as if you had died there. Your parents will have to be told that you died as if you really had stopped existing. Your friends, many of them in this room right now, will be forced to mourn you. I know you think it's better but... but is it really?"
"He wanted to marry me. Her. Me." She was having trouble figuring out the correct word to use, her mind already giving in to the idea of being this Amelia Banks. "How can I go back knowing that?"
"Well, you'll just have to find someone there to marry you. Then there won't be any difference," he stated as if it was as simple as that. Teyla narrowed her eyes, taking exception to his nonchalant idea that marriage was that easy to come by, he was sure. Still, it was a viable option to make this situation better even if she thought it such a large leap. "But it's your choice, my dear. No one else can make it but you."
"I thought I'd come by and see if you had any questions." John was uncomfortable being here beside the man who hadn't said a single word since arriving on Atlantis. He'd watched everything and everyone with narrowed eyes, assessing the threat level as the city ebbed and flowed around him. Klineman had said his vitals were stable now that he'd been able to stick up the self-inflicted wound that had ripped apart his chest from the bottom of his throat to the top of his abdomen. He had most certainly wanted to die and had figured that being eaten by a wild animal on a beautiful planet was the way to go. While John could understand why he might think that, having heard some of the other Ronon's stories, he still had trouble understanding a mentality that would just give up.
At first, he thought he might just sit here, silent, for the fifteen minutes he had set aside for this conversation and then leave. He could tell himself that he'd tried and be done with it. All he could do was offer the man sanctuary. He couldn't force him to accept it.
"Why?" This Ronon's voice was as deep as the other but sounded as if he hadn't use it much. Neither of them seemed like they would talk much, a thankful respite after all the talking that John was forced to listen to on any given day.
"Why did we come find you? Because it was the right thing to do after we learned of your existence. Why did we bring you back here instead of leaving you to be feasted on by that monster you were staring down? Because this is our home and we would like it if you'd make it your home, too. Why do I think you might have questions? Because most people do after seeing their double. It's a normal sort of question."
"He said he was from an alternate reality. Didn't know those existed."
John shrugged, his hand coming up to massage his cheek where the sword had ripped through it. The motion was common enough when he was uncomfortable but it wasn't the man who was making him uncomfortable but the subject manner. "I haven't had too much to do with them. That group seems like they were comfortable enough with it. I'm not much of a time traveler."
They set in silence for awhile longer, each of them trying to come up with something to say. So much had been said lately, even if they hadn't been the ones doing the talking. John had remembered why he'd been glad to see McKay leave the first time. That man could talk a dead man out of his grave.
"So, you and I are friends in that place?"
"Yeah. That Sheppard was telling me we're friends in a lot of different realities. Seems you were meant to be here. If you believe in that sort of thing, that is."
"And you're okay with it?"
Once again, that question was wide open to interpretation. "With us being friends? Sure. We seem to get along alright. Guess time will tell for sure. With you being here? It's as nice a place as any to call home. We do have the occasional scuffle with the Wraith but I don't think you'd be one of those that would be against us killing our share of them. You don't have to fight though. You can do any sort of work here you might like to do. There's plenty of it to be had." Suddenly, the room felt small and devoid of oxygen. Here he was all but telling the guy he should stick around and work and, oh yeah, who to be friends with even though he'd been without friends for at least the last eleven years. It felt a bit like martial law, something he was firmly against. Besides, the guy was still laid up and who knew what he would want to do once he saw the whole city. Everything was moving a bit fast and he was the one pushing them all ahead, expecting this to work out because it had worked out somewhere else. He wasn't that John Sheppard, damn it all.
John coughed, surprise making him choke against his will. "What?"
"A word I heard that other guy use. It sounds... interesting."
John smiled. Any guy who could use the word groovy correctly on his first try had to be on the road to recovery. "Groovy. We'll just leave it that for now."