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He floats, light and soft, blood-warm water surrounding him, even though he's bone dry. The drugs work like that, sometimes. When they aren't giving him nightmares and making him flail uselessly at his restraints. Right now though, they're letting him float, and he drifts on them, listening, straining for the ethereal comfort of her song, hoping to catch even a hint of it ghosting along through the darkness of his mind.

If he listens long enough, sometimes he can even sleep when she sings.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~oovoo~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Evan greeted the soldiers at the door politely, then slipped inside. He moved slowly through the dimly lit room, shedding the day along with his gear, letting the spicy smell of the shala she was tending in the small kitchenette fill his lungs, breathing it in deep. He moved in behind her and wrapped his arms around her solid frame, leaning his head into the crook of her neck, breathing her in as well.

She let him rest there for a moment, knowing better than he did how much he needed this, needed her. Eventually, she turned in his arms, kissing him softly before bringing their foreheads together and asking the inevitable, "Did you find him?"

He breathed out a simple, "Yes," and Teyla sucked in a surprised breath, drawing back so she could look at his face. He watched her register the exhaustion, the defeat he was feeling.

Softly, she compelled him, "Tell me what you have found." She drew him over to a kitchen chair and crouched down beside him.

"It's real, Teyla, all of it." Her head shook in denial, even though he knew she trusted him implicitly. "He turned himself in."

"Such papers can be forged. We cannot know without hearing it from John, himself."

He took her hands in his, "I did Teyla. They gave me a copy of his confession. It's from him, his handwriting…"

She pulled away and stood, beginning to pace in the small space. "Hardly conclusive! There must be a dozen…"

"Teyla – I've read hundreds of his mission reports. He wrote that statement. He gave himself up and asked to be put away…"

"I do not care what the papers you found say." Her agitation was increasing; she was going to wake Torren if she wasn't careful. "You have to talk to him. To see for your self." He stepped in front of her, blocking her pacing, and she looked up at him, the plea clear in her eyes, "Evan, you have to get in to see him…"

He grasped her hands and kissed them. "I'll try, Teyla." There was doubt on her face and he reacted instinctively to wipe it away, "I will, I'll find a way in to see him." He drew her against his chest, "We'll figure this out together; I just have to be careful. I can't do anything for him if they force retirement on me like they did to O'Neil after he stood up at John's trial." His grip on her tightened involuntarily, "I wouldn't even be able to see you anymore."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~oovoo~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Evan stalked down the hallway, boots marking his anger with every step, eyes reading the names on every door he passed, one of the nurses shadowing him, trailing protests in his wake.

"I'm sorry, Sir, but there's a strict no visitor order on Mr. Sheppard's chart." He ignored her, continuing his search, even when she added, "You're not going to find him here! He's in the locked ward and I can assure you you're not getting past the guards on that door." Her tone was pompously officious, even through her huffing breaths from trying to keep up with his pace.

His lips twitched. Sure lady, whatever you say. His fingers did not twitch toward the Sig under his jacket. He knew he'd flustered her, barging past the desk like that, and under different circumstances he'd be trying to calm her down, but not today. Today, he'd finally managed to cut through the maze of red-tape and HEPA regulations John was buried under.

"Sir…"

He cut her off, tossing a succinct, "Colonel," over his shoulder. She stopped in the middle of the hallway, cocking her head at him like he'd transformed into a different person entirely. Civilians. "It's Colonel, Lt. Col. Evan Lorne, US Air Force."

She recovered quickly, if not smoothly, "I… there's just no way, Colonel." She hurried to catch back up with him, "I simply can't allow you to see him without a direct order from his doctor."

He hadn't come this far to be turned away. He turned on his heel to face her and sucked in a breath along with his anger, "Then take me to his doctor, Ma'am, because I'm going to see Col…" He caught his verbal slip easily, but didn't bother to hide his wince of distaste, "Mr. Sheppard today, one way or another."

"He's not seeing…" She trailed off, watching his face harden. He could see her deciding to make him someone else's problem, and that was just fine with him. "This way, Colonel. All the doctors' offices are in the western wing."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~oovoo~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Evan peered through the small window set high in the door. John thrashed against the restraints, arching up off the narrow bed despite the thick straps at his chest and hips, a mournful keening sound coming from him despite the gag lodged in his mouth.

The guard who'd let Evan in looked him up and down, assessing him quickly. Ex-Military, Evan thought. A Marine, I'd bet my commission on it. The guard succinctly summed the situation up, "As you can see, Colonel, he's in no shape for a rescue."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~oovoo~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Sometimes, when the drugs aren't riding him too hard, in those few, precarious moments of almost-lucidity, sometimes he can ride the clouds instead. Usually he soars happily over unfamiliar desert, sands glistening under his belly, sun bright and warm on his back. Sometimes he manages to stay in flight until they head back out over the smooth waters of the Pacific, dancing in the thermals, but he always gets lost in all that beckoning blue long before he can find his way.

One time, he stretched and felt the sky kiss his skin. Just that once, he reached, feeling the slide and pull of time-deadened muscles, nerves tingling until they slid into place with that pop he'd almost forgotten – could never forget – and suddenly he was climbing, higher and higher, dancing up through the bitter cold of the Mesosphere, tearing out into the welcome warmth of the Thermosphere as they slid up-up-up toward space, pushing away the nagging terror coming from the cockpit until he just couldn't anymore and turned gently back toward the Earth, sliding around the moon just once because he never had and really, who could possibly resist that…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~oovoo~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

He dragged his heels all through the inspection, following listlessly behind, letting Woolsey guide the brass through command.

When Woolsey cleared his throat, John was staring out through an edge of the stained glass, watching the scattered color dance over the water, refracting and splitting off the city's spires, catching in the too-yellow sun. "Col. Sheppard?"

God, he hated this.

He let his hand linger on the railing for a moment, then turned sharply on his heel and crossed to the men clustered in front of the command panel. Woolsey looked over at General Hawkins, and the older man nodded. Woolsey input his code and Atlantis accepted it with a happy beep.

The General stepped aside to let John into the console. Three fucking stars. As much as he hated to admit it, Rodney was right: there was no way they were they ever letting her go. He'd be lucky to set foot on her decks again after today.

He stumbled as he moved past the General, suddenly lightheaded as an unfamiliar sensation ghosted through him. Hawkins caught him up by the arm, steadying him, his expression oddly sympathetic. John looked around, disoriented. He'd thought he had heard a woman say his name softly, but there were no women in the group today, nor anywhere in Atlantis' skeleton crew.

John mumbled, "Sorry, Sir," and brought himself up straight, shaking off the vertigo. He moved up to the consol and carefully entered his command authorization code.

The console buzzed angrily. Frustrated, John grumbled, "That's weird," more to the console than to the assembled brass. He felt hot, lightheaded and distracted. He fucking hated goodbyes. "Gimme a second, Sir. I must have entered that wrong." He leaned over the console again, focusing on his code and ignoring the ebb and flow of sibilant whispers suddenly pulling at the back of his mind.

The console buzzed at him again, and John imagined it to be angrier this time, disappointed somehow. He shook it off and tried a third time.

This time the buzzing almost hurt, like swarming wasps in his brain and the voice – he almost recognized it, her – got a little clearer, though it was still fuzzy as hell. //Please John… please… don't…//

The General's voice, laced with controlled impatience, cut through his fog. "Col. Sheppard, we don't have all day. I realize that this is difficult for you, but I'm going to need you to enter your command code now."

"I'm trying, Sir." He bent back down toward the console. "I don't understand…"

Softer now, the General cut him off, "Just enter your code, Son." His hand was hot on John's shoulder, unwelcome. "We'll take good care of her for you." John managed not to scoff at the words, but couldn't help his cry of frustration when the buzzing started up again, rattling his brain and jangling along already frayed nerves.

John had one more try before the system locked him out for a day, and the General knew it.

Woolsey pulled him off to the side, "John, I know you and Dr. McKay are friends, but you can't allow his objections to jeopardize your career or even worse. You know better than I what these men..." John swayed, eyes closed, trying to block out the chorus in his head. Woolsey gripped his shoulders and peered closely at John's face, concern suddenly blooming across his features, "John, are you all right? You don't look…"

Brusquely, the General interrupted, "Col. Sheppard, I'm afraid we're going to have to insist." Nearly hyperventilating, John looked up… straight into the barrels of several M9s.

Fuck.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~oovoo~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

I crackled and surged and spun to life under his hands, confusion surrounding me, my veins, conduits, coursing with power in a way they hadn't since I last woke, my senses jarred and jelled, stuck full open, experiencing everything at once as I tried to take it all in. I had always been here. I had not existed for millennia. The strange sea surged under me as they took him away, every bit as confused as I was, his senses stuck open as well, unable to make sense of my pleas.

After he was gone, after those men, his men, had carried him off, their movements jerky and angry and full of spite, I sounded my shrillest alarm. I blasted it through my corridors and halls and piers and told them all, all those who had remained, left behind to secure their foothold, to secure me, that they had to leave, to leave now, and they scrambled stupidly while I screamed at them, so I looked up at that once-familiar sky and shuddered a vast breath and began to sink slowly toward the sea floor, sealing my halls behind them and their disorganized exodus.

I would wait for him alone.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~oovoo~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

The cell was dark, always dark, but sometimes he could hear the ocean.

Not that that exactly helped.

They'd brought in doctor after doctor in to examine him, and they'd all concluded the same thing. He could quote it by heart:

While it seems immediately clear that Lt. Col Sheppard is suffering from Schizophrenia, his test results are too inconsistent to support such a diagnosis. Therefore, we must conclude Lt. Col. Sheppard is faking his affliction in order to absolve himself of his crimes last January. We recommend no treatment for Lt. Col. Sheppard at this time, finding him fit for questioning or trial as his command sees necessary.

He wished to hell they'd see fit to try him, because if he wasn't already crazy, then sitting here all day, listening to the voice he'd apparently made up on purpose whispering things into his head, things, words, he could sometimes even imagine were clear enough to hear? Well that was certainly going to drive him over the edge.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~oovoo~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Teyla passed the fax to Evan. He stared it while she continued to talk into the phone.

10 May, 2009

Dear Military-Industrial Fuckheads,

Tell me which constitution-free hell-hole you're holding Lt. Col. John Sheppard in right now, or I will design a nano-plague that will cause unbearable jock-itch in anyone wearing military insignia.

Or, possibly, instant death.

Very sincerely,

Dr. Rodney McKay, PhD, PhD
President, McKay Cybernautics

"You hope to prompt his superiors to cease holding him without trial, correct?" There was a pause, undoubtedly filled by McKay, thankfully inaudible to Evan.

Teyla sighed, but politely, her mouth away from the receiver. "No, Rodney, I do not think it is subtle enough, not if subtlety works the same here as it does in Pegasus." Evan snickered and she shot him a dark look.

Wisely, he retreated back into the hall to talk to her guards. Dinner would stay hot in the Styrofoam for a while.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~oovoo~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

He'd tried pushing the voice away, but it just didn't seem worth the effort anymore. Instead, John sat on the dock, feet dangling down toward the water and let the siren-voice scream through him. It was louder here, by the sea.

Last week, he'd stood before a sealed General Court-Martial, ready for verdict. Last week, he'd known, known, he was about to be convicted of treason. There'd been no way it was going to go down any other way. Hell, he'd've convicted himself.

Then General O'Neil had slipped into the courtroom and suddenly it was time for a recess – a long recess. Six and a half hours later, he'd been called back in and they'd freed him. Two months confined under the mountain and five in Gitmo and suddenly it was, "You're free to go, Mr. Sheppard." And man, had that stung, even though he'd been clutching his letter of dismissal from the President at the time.

Rodney had been there at the end of the hall, Uncle Sam's restraining order be-damned. There'd been no way for John to miss him, even in the oversized trench coat and ridiculous red wig. Their eyes had caught for a moment, and Rodney's had flared bright. John had looked down, away. Then he'd turned around and gone the other way.

And now… now he sat. He sat there on the dock, listening to her calling to him, begging him, still every bit as helpless as he'd been in prison. Even if she were real – and he knew she wasn't – he wasn't ever going to sit in the cockpit of a tourist helicopter again, let alone an F-304 or a puddle jumper… let alone his city. He couldn't even go get a boat and play Ahab; his accounts had all been seized for trial costs and he was going to have to flip a hell of a lot of burgers to get enough money together for a deep sea expedition.

So he sat. He sat, and he listened and that was the night she started to sing to him, filling him with peace and despair in equal measure, her voice soaring mournfully through his mind, grief and pain and bright kaleidoscopic light chasing out everything else. He sat right through the beautiful sunset, right through when he should have been at his crappy new job, right through the police hassling him to move along.

He came back to himself a little when they hauled him up, but soon decided that wasn't worth it either and clung to her song while they processed him into the drunk tank for the night.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~oovoo~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

I felt him break, felt the world, myself, break him, and I cried for him. For us. Sorry, so, so sorry, so I gather him close and sing sweetly to him of salt-kissed blue, of decks bejeweled by stained glass reflections and towers reaching forever to the sky. I wrap my voice around him and sing my sorrow out with all my heart, clutching him to me and for that brief time I can reach him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~oovoo~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

"He spent months going in and out of hospitals – the civilian doctors figure the stress of the trial sent him over the edge – and he's been living on the streets mostly in between. He had a dozen citations for public drunkenness and vagrancy in his police jacket before the big charges came down."

McKay sputtered into the phone. "John would never… he'd never let himself get that out of control…"

"This isn't the Col Sheppard we knew, Doctor. Do you want to let me finish?"

"Fine." McKay muttered something inaudible – which was undoubtedly for the best – under his breath. "Well, go ahead. I'm not stopping you."

Evan let out a breath evenly; apparently, he'd lost his knack for dealing with scientists without wanting to kill them. "The doctors say it's late-onset Schizophrenia, coupled with a psychotic break that morning in the hall…" He held the phone out, far away from his ear, and waited. Evan had his own opinions about the psychiatric profession, he didn't need McKay's lecture on how the fossilized remains of pond scum had a better grasp on diagnostic principals, and he certainly didn't need it at that kind of volume.

Eventually, McKay began to sound like he was calming down. Evan brought the phone back near his ear, "Dr. McKay!" The diatribe coming from the receiver didn't waiver, so he shouted into the phone, all patience lost, "Dr. McKay! I saw him myself. There's nobody home anymore! He killed that security guard and then he turned himself in and checked the hell out."

Teyla took the receiver from his hands. "Rodney." Evan couldn't make out what McKay said next – of course he'd quieted down for Teyla – but she nodded along with whatever he was saying. "I will have him do that. Take care, Rodney." She shut Evan's cell phone and handed it back to him.

He raised an eyebrow at her in question and she sat, pulling him down next to her on the couch. She patted the six-inch stack of hospital and police files on the coffee table, "You will fax these to Rodney in the morning." He started to groan, but she cut him off deftly, "All of them, Evan. He knows John better than we do, and his resources are very different than yours." Teyla gathered his hands together in hers, "Tonight though," rose gracefully, "you will relax," and pulled him up and toward the bedroom.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~oovoo~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Blood, wet under his nails, the smell of it soaking his senses, familiar and unwelcome. Schizophrenia, PTSD... they were medicating him for everything under the sun, maybe this was a flashback?

He tried to wait it out, but the blood was drying itchy on his forearms and that just didn't seem likely in a flashback, so he opened his eyes. Blood dripped from the wall in front of him, lurid in the flickering fluorescent lights. His head throbbed in time with the light and the corridor danced in and out of focus. He closed his eyes again.

She thrummed in his head, fear tinged dark with anger pulsing all around. //No-no-no-no-no//

He pushed her away, squished her fear down in the back of his mind as much as he could and listened, trying to take in his surroundings. Was it his blood? He ran his hands over his arms, his abdomen, his legs, trusting his fingers more than his eyes anyway. The drugs they prescribed made it easier to push her away, but they made it so damn hard to focus on anything. His jaw ached and his knuckles felt raw, but the blood wasn't his.

Crap.

He pried his eyes open, forcing the hospital food he'd eaten who-knew-how-many hours ago to stay in his stomach through sheer will as the light and blood assaulted his vision once again. He didn't even try to stand, just slowly turned his head, taking the scene in one chunk at a time.

He hadn't made it far; this was one of the back corridors of the Kern county hospital that had served him the breakfast he was trying to keep down. His bag was against the far wall, jacket wadded on top; he'd probably decided on a nap in the warm hall before heading back out into the cold. He was someplace near the loading docks, if the handcart stacked high with boxes of latex gloves – blood soaking into the bottom row, creeping crimson up the thin cardboard – was any indication.

His eyes followed the blood. He lay in the same pool the boxes did, and so did the box cutter. And so did the uniformed delivery guy.

Panic not his own flooded his system //Run, John!// The guy was breathing shallowly and John scrambled to his feet, slipping on the blood covered concrete. On his knees at the guy's side, he assessed him quickly: breath even, pulse strong, pupils reactive, rising bruise on the left side of his face… no other injuries.

The blood wasn't coming from this guy. John turned, cautiously checking the rest of the corridor. There was an arm sticking out from behind the stack of gloves.

Touching, shaking. "Move along buddy – you can't sleep here," Black clothes, pale skin, long white hair… then an endless rushing in his ears as everything moved too fast, too much…

//RUN!// Heart thudding violently in his chest, John inched around the boxes. The guy was a bloody, beaten mess, barely held together by his security uniform, long white hair oddly free of blood. John bent down to take his pulse and got a glimpse of his throat – it was half gone. Box cutters didn't make nice straight cuts deep enough to hit a jugular, he'd had to hack at it, again and again.

John shuddered as he stood. //NONONONOTYOUWASN'TYOUNONONONO// He started walking down the corridor, back toward the hospital; the delivery guy needed a medic and he needed…

John wretched all over the hallway, body spasming long after it had given up everything it contained. Deep in his head, she was crying, sobbing at him. For him.

He picked himself up and headed into the busy hospital.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~oovoo~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

"So who's this one?"

Evan looked up from the stack of requisition orders in front of him. Ronon was looking at him from the couch, television paused. He'd wanted to see the surveillance tapes Evan had made at the hospital for himself, and Evan couldn't really blame the man but… after months of this, he was getting tired. It was time they all accepted that John was where he needed to be.

Teyla caught his eye and replied for him, "That is John's brother." Sighing to himself, Evan bowed his head back over his paperwork. His life had become nothing but endless paperwork, ever since he'd faxed those files to McKay. "He visits John often and is his…" she looked at Evan, hunting for the words.

He didn't bother to look up, just mumbled, "Medical Power of Attorney. Means he makes the decisions about John's care since John obviously can't."

Teyla nodded at him, Torren bouncing happily on her hip. "He is the one who arranged for John's transfer to that facility, and has been instrumental…"

"Uh, guys?" Ronon was peering closely at the screen when Evan looked over at him.

"Yeah? You find something?" He didn't hide his doubt well, and Teyla made a disappointed face at him.

"Nah." Ronon stood, instantly taking five square feet away from the already small room. "I just didn't know Sheppard had two brothers."

Evan turned to Teyla to find her staring at him. She faced Ronon again and said evenly, "He does not. That," and she pointed at the paused screen, "is John's only brother, David."

"No," Ronon said, his face cold, "It's not." Evan watched his fingers twitch for weapons he wasn't allowed to wear. "I've met Dave, Teyla, and that's not him."

By the time Teyla turned back to him, Evan had already dialed McKay's number. "What?" came the biting greeting.

"You were right, Dr. McKay."

He snapped, "Of course I was," then paused before adding, "about what, exactly?"

Evan rolled his eyes ceiling-ward, keeping his tone civil and even, "There's definitely something fishy going on with John."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~oovoo~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Thirty-six hours later, Evan had a new fax from McKay in his hands. One hundred and fifty three pages of fax, to be exact, but his favorite part was easy to pick out. He read it through a second time, just to be certain, relief flooding through him as the words began to really sink in.

…I can only conclude that the Kern County forensics team was down by several members that week and operating in the dark and without the benefit of flashlights when they did their initial (and only) investigation of the crime scene.

Their own photos clearly show several boot prints in the blood that do not belong to Mr. Sheppard or either victim. Even a cursory analysis of these prints shows that they were contemporaneous to the stabbing (blood drying times1 are very reliable in a climate controlled corridor such as this crime scene) and occurred while Mr. Sheppard was lying in the blood pool. Further analysis of the photos shows the prints to be standard issue Marine boots, sizes 9 and 14.

I also had the opportunity to run tests on the murder weapon itself. While it is certainly true that the accused's fingerprints are present on the handle (in an unusually clear, completely un-blurred imprint2), a simple visual inspection left me suspicious of the amount of blood caked around and under the prints. I stripped the blood slowly off the back half of the handle and uncovered two distinct glove prints imbedded in an earlier layer of blood. This blood had already dried before Mr. Sheppard was released from his 5150 confinement on the fourth floor of the hospital. I am still running the fibers from these glove prints, but my initial findings are consistent with the work gloves commonly issued by the USMC.

This evidence strongly suggests Mr. Sheppard did not kill Security Officer William Sherman and was in fact framed by members of the USMC. You will be contacted soon by a team from the Naval Criminal Investigative Services. Based on my findings, they will be reopening this case.

Sincerely,

Dr. Abigail Sciuto, PhD
Forensics Specialist, Naval Criminal Investigative Service

Enc: (1) Photographic Analysis Report for KC Exhibits 127893-A through 127893-BG, (2) Blood Splatter Analysis Reports for Exhibit 127893-BK, (3) Fingerprint Analysis for KC Exhibit 127893-BK, (4) Preliminary Fiber Analysis for KC Exhibit 127893-BK, (5) Copy of my letter in support of official reprimand for the Kern County Forensics officers involved in the filing of this negligent report

1 - Please see Stratnakian's Moisture Loss in Human Blood Over Time, chapter 15, attached
2 - Dr. Phillipe Monsteggi goes into great detail on the ability of drying blood to hold fingerprints in his lecture from 2006's Criminalistics International Conference in Ottawa, transcript attached

He ran toward the elevators not caring that his shift was far from over. Teyla had to see this now.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~oovoo~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

McKay took care of almost everything. The charges against John were dropped that next day: apparently the Kern County police had a habit of sloppy investigations when the accused was indigent.

Evan only had to do two things. First: get Teyla and Ronon out of the mountain, and McKay had even supplied the perfect excuse for a day pass. And second: decide if he was ever coming back.

Oh. They also had to go pick up John – it'd be best not to forget that.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~oovoo~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

John stared at the water, so close he could have bent down and touched it. It had been so long. He was frozen. Completely and utterly frozen, listening to her voice soar through him. He wanted to fling himself into that cool grey-blue and see how far he could dive. See how long it would take before that voice, that achingly beautiful voice, would just be another part of him and he wouldn't have to listen and he wouldn't…

Ronon's gruff voice interrupted his trance. "C'mon, Sheppard, we don't have all day." John turned his head to stare at the man, more than half convinced he wasn't really there. The shaved head and baseball jersey didn't help.

"John?" Teyla's voice cut smoothly into his thoughts. How did she always manage to do that? "Ronon is right. We should not be standing on the pier like this. You may be a free man, but Ronon and I are now fugitives."

Even through his haze, that got John moving. He pushed aside the remnants of the drugs and the fine trembling, just a shimmer at the back of his brain - for now - that marked the beginnings of what was going to be a truly spectacular case of withdrawal. Nothing he could do could block her out now though, so he just tried not to let her jubilant song overwhelm him, and walked down the pier toward Major… Lt Col. Lorne.

And where the hell was Rodney, anyway?

He was at the edge of the dock before it occurred to him to wonder where they were going. There was no boat moored there, and no room for a helo to land. Lorne looked tired, but his face lit up as John approached – or was that for Teyla behind him? She handed a restless armful of Torren to him as John continued to look around, aimlessly now. Lorne, arms full of scrambling three-year-old, chuckled at him, "Try looking down, Sir."

John did and, sure enough, there was a ladder and the ladder connected to… a submarine? He cocked his head at Lorne. Lorne tipped his head right back at John and said simply, "After you, Sir."

John had given up on trying to make things make sense months ago, and letting go was even easier now, surrounded by people he trusted. He climbed down the ladder onto the deck of the sub. The Russian sub. Interesting.

He wasn't off the interior ladder yet when he was tackled from the side, bowled over clear into the next corridor. Instinct made him land soft and roll so his attacker was on top of him – a strange choice for survival – but his mind soon caught up with his body as Rodney huffed at him, then drew back and smacked him in the chest. Hard.

"Oww!"

"Idiot!"

"Hey! What did I do?"

Teyla's voice cut into their reunion, "I suggest you not get him started, Colonel. At least not until we've submerged?"

"Oh. Right." Rodney got up gracelessly, his knee missing John's balls only because John moved them at the last second. He called out, "And awaaay we go." as he headed down the corridor toward the bow.

John just lay there, listening to his friends' voices carry thought the sub, highs and lows vibrating along the metal deck as they bustled about. Her song rang through him too, jubilant and crystalline, so much clearer down here, surrounded by water. He'd never noticed how well she harmonized with them, through them all.

"Need a hand up there, Sheppard?" Ronon's hand came into view, followed shortly by his very bald head.

John relaxed into the deck, letting the colors of it all wash through him, "Nah," he said, pillowing his head with his hands behind his neck. "I think I'm good."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~oovoo~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

The ocean roars around me as they approach, and I sing – oh how I sing! Millennia of slumber and now I will awaken again, free to swing in the waves, to soar amongst the stars. I have the power and now, with him coming home – finally home – I will have it all.

I usher the strange submersible into an unused jumper bay and quickly drain it, resisting the urge to crack their craft open and spill him out onto my decks. He is here, and now, finally, I will be whole again!

~fin~