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Something like a crossroads song ([personal profile] charlieblue) wrote on June 2nd, 2008 at 03:09 am
SGA Fic: Error, Error: Deviation
Title: Error, Error: Deviation
Chapter: 1/?
Pairing: Sheppard/McKay, OT4
Rating: M 15+
Summary: John, John Sheppard was screaming silently at them from the screen, blood trailing down his face. Only he was very, very wrong. Rodney saw it straight away, something dark around the eyes, desperation, and more than that, an ice-cold rage that seemed to promise painful punishment for those people on the other end.
Word Count:~ 8 000
Warning: AU!team colliding with the canon team, OT4, Wraith Queen sexual manipulation, slight hints of meta-fic.
Disclaimer: Stargate: Atlantis, characters, colon and all, does not belong to me.



The sirens rang out across the gate room, and without even needing to turn to know that Elizabeth was out of her office and running towards him, Chuck called out.

‘Unscheduled off-world activation.’

She frowned, eyes becoming intent and narrowed as they did when she was taking everything in, considering, thinking.

A new display popped up on Chuck’s screen, and he sucked in a breath, blinking in blind incomprehension.
‘We’re receiving an IDC – standard SGC configuration, but not one that we have on records at all – they’re not any current or past SGC team, and they can’t be ours – ‘

‘All our teams are accounted for on Atlantis.’ Elizabeth finished for him, voice twisting ironically, as if offended by the irrationality.

‘Do not lower that shield.’ She folded her arms carefully and watched the gate.

There was a moment, then a crackle of static seared through the systems, just as Elizabeth caught John sprint into the gate room from the corner of her eye. He recoiled slightly at the painful noise, then made his way up to where Elizabeth was standing.

What’s going on? ’ She saw his mouth yell and shape the words over the deafening noise.

She shook her head quickly, adding a quick shrug, and turned back to Chuck’s display.

John grimaced, glancing over his shoulder at the gate and noting with swift approval the unmoving efficiency of his men – already in defensive positions around the gate.

Then he lifted his arm, and lazily checked his watch. He smirked, and turned, relaxed despite the blaring pain through his ears, to watch the transporter.

Three seconds later Rodney came stumbling out, holding a laptop in one hand and gesticulating wildly with the other. He sprinted up to the console and unceremoniously shoved the laptop into John’s hands, ducking down to play with the cables that trailed from the laptop.

Hah! ’ The muffled victory cry came from somewhere below John’s waistline as the static cut out and a video transmission flooded every screen in the room.

‘Quite simple really – even brilliant – standard transmission couched in a defensive mechanism designed to disable any receiving capacity of a system not specifically configured to a particular wavelength and receptor-capacity.’ Rodney crawled out, standing easily – much more easily than he would have even just a year ago.
He tilted his head to the side, looking at the still active gate.

‘Strange though, Atlantis’ operations seem to be specifically what the transmission was designed for, but our coding was just a little too high for it and this is a system I’ve been working on developing myself, only -‘
John shut him up with a quick shove and a yank, pulling him around to look at the main display.
The sound wasn’t coming through, but the picture was crystal clear.

-

John, John Sheppard was screaming silently at them from the screen, blood trailing down his face.

Only he was very, very wrong. Rodney saw it straight away, something dark around the eyes, desperation, and more than that, an ice-cold rage that seemed to promise painful punishment for those people on the other end – people who must be his version of us – because there really was no other explanation – the man must be an alternate version, from another dimension or universe. A scar rippled down across one eye, and blood was splattered all across his front.

Then Rodney saw the others, as the other John must have grabbed the camera, yanking it around to reveal …holy shit, himself, a Rodney, deathly pale, the side of his black uniform torn open to reveal a deep and oozing wound.

Teyla – Teyla! She was leaning over him, pulling an emptied syringe out his arm, running an soft hand over his forehead, lips moving in what he could imagine would be soothing, urgent words. Her hair was a deep, rich, stunning red, augmented by the blood that had plastered sections of it to her face and uniform. She turned to the camera, eyes wild, and yelled something.

Then the camera landed on Ronon – and of all of them, Ronon seemed the least changed, but then it fell onto what he was guarding, and the gate room, up until now frozen in shock, seemed to simultaneously draw in a breath.

Wraith Queen. Chained and shackled, unconscious and magnificent, black hair rippling outwards from her alien face, only slightly paler than the injured Rodney’s.

-

Then Rodney was moving forwards, toward Elizabeth speaking rapidly.

‘They’ve got to be alternate-versions, somehow fallen through, I don’t know, a – a quantum mirror, or something of the like, I don’t know, but Elizabeth look at them, we have to let them through, I mean – I-I’m dying. ’ His eyes were wide and glazed, and anyone else would have described them as uncomprehending, blindly panicked, but not John, and not Elizabeth, they knew this, knew his mind was whirring at a million miles an hour, so fast he’d forgotten normal people generally used facial expressions to convince others.

‘I realize this Rodney, but we can’t just let them through, it could be a trap, this could be anything - what if they’re Replicators?’ Rodney gaped at Elizabeth for a moment – the woman seemed to be simultaneously trying to calm him down and give him a heart attack – then whirled away, returning to his console.
John ignored him in favour of Elizabeth.

‘Elizabeth, what if they are …’ He flapped a hand in Rodney’s direction. ‘You know, versions of us?’
‘I do know, really I do, John, but what do you expect me to do? I can’t risk letting a Wraith Queen into Atlantis on the off chance that this might not be a trap!’ She let out a deep breath and ran a hand over her forehead, unconsciously mirroring the actions of the Teyla on the screen behind her.

The real Teyla and Ronon strode into the gate room, Teyla still carrying her bantos rods, both sweating and obviously come straight from the middle of a sparring session.

Teyla narrowed in on Elizabeth immediately.

‘What is happening, are we-?’ She paused, dark eyes bemused as Ronon caught at her arm, and followed his gaze to the main display screen, upon which the other version of her was now standing, dark against the softly waving, pure white long-grass of the field they were in, looking defiantly up at John and having what looked to be a highly incensed discussion.

A second ‘Hah!’ rang out across the gate room, causing even the guards at the gate to twitch, and suddenly, sound was once again blasting through the systems. Rodney yelped and quickly jabbed a button on the hooked-up laptop several times, and the volume decreased to manageable levels.
The on-screen conversation suddenly became audible.

-

The other Teyla was finishing off an argument:

‘There is no other explanation for such unresponsiveness. If Atlantis truly has been invaded there is nothing we can do from here, especially with Rodney injured, John! ’ She exclaimed the last as he growled, turning away from her in frustration to glare at the open gate, fists clenched.

‘We must return to the puddlejumper.’ She said softly.

‘And what?’ John demanded voice incensed, spreading his arms out wide. ‘Without Rodney to help, it’ll take me at least two hours to repair the damn thing and we don’t have that kind of time.’ His voice caught, almost undetectably, as his eyes ran over Rodney’s still form.

I can keep him alive John, long enough at least for us to return to the stargate and get to Hoff - we have sufficiently advanced their medicine far enough to save Rodney.’

‘I know.’ John snarled, but it was not an acquiescence, but frustration.

‘We can’t show that kind of weakness.’ That was Ronon, speaking for the first time, his voice low and rumbling. ‘They’ll want to know why we cannot return to Atlantis. Why we need their help.’

John threw an angry hand in Ronon’s direction.

‘Exactly! Hoff has always been our problem planet. We give them any, any indication of weakness and we’ll lose them.’ His voice was just begging Teyla to understand.

Teyla was utterly silent for a moment, her eyes narrowed and full of barely disguised contempt, then she stepped closer, into John’s personal space, chin tilted upwards, and practically hissed into his face.
‘You would risk Rodney’s life for that?’

The other John’s dark rage, that had been boiling around his every movement and word suddenly dissipated, and his eyes widened, staring over Teyla’s shoulder to Rodney.

‘No.’ He whispered. ‘No. Never’

Ronon, in the background, spun his gun easily and seemed highly satisfied with himself, but never relaxed his attention to the Wraith Queen.

Teyla bowed her head and backed down, her job – bringing John’s rage at the possible loss of Atlantis down to levels of sanity – done.

Something seemed to snap within John, and he sent one, last longing glance at the open wormhole, toward Atlantis, and moved toward the DHD, upon which the communication device had been placed.

-

The Rodney in the gate room looked at Elizabeth.

‘If this was a trick, would they really terminate the connection, go somewhere else?’

Elizabeth pressed her lips together, glancing at the screen, and jerked her head in acquiescence.
‘Can they receive communications?’

Rodney’s eyes lit up, and he turned to the laptop, gesturing her over.

‘Yes, yes, I think so – just … okay, you can speak now. We can’t transmit visual though.’ He stepped back lightly, hands fidgeting. Understandably nervous – Elizabeth thought – he was dying right before his own eyes.

John, standing off to the side, hadn’t taken his eyes off the screen except to nod lightly when Elizabeth had looked to him, telling her he agreed, to let them through.

Teyla, meanwhile, had been watching him, and she saw, even if nobody else had, how deeply disturbed John had been by the actions and words, and all the things left unsaid by the other team.

-

John was just reaching forward to terminate the wormhole when the Gate Comm. flickered to the blue that indicated it was engaged.

This is Elizabeth Weir of the Atlantis Expedition.’

John stared at the unit for a moment eyes wide, then glanced over his shoulder at Teyla and Ronon. They frowned and shrugged respectively.

He turned back to the comm.

‘Explain yourself.’

-

Elizabeth, over at the other end, frowned. His voice had hardened, become the cold and exact tone of a man used to having his own way and being in absolute command. Nothing like the way he had been speaking to his team. Nothing like the way her John would ever speak to her.

Rodney leaned forward, across of Elizabeth, unable to restrain himself.
‘We think you’ve somehow jumped universes or dimensions Colonel.’ He paused, frowning, tripped up. ‘Huh, if it even is colonel where you’re from – I think that you’ve somehow ended up in ours. It’s incredible really – the kind of power and technology needed for something like that is phenomenal. ’

The John on screen remained utterly impassive for a moment, then stood and walked away, over to Ronon, gesturing Teyla to join them. They kept their backs to the camera, talking below the audible levels.

-

‘Trap.’ Ronon stated immediately – both a question and a statement.

‘I don’t think so.’ John rubbed at his mouth thoughtfully. ‘I recognized Elizabeth’s voice, and that second one – I’m pretty sure it was Rodney.’

Teyla nodded.

‘I thought so as well.’ She frowned and dipped her head – all her instincts were screaming to just get Rodney to safety – and it was interfering with her judgement.

-

The instant the other SGA-1 team was through the gate they were disabled, separated, and taken into custody. It took five men each to bring down the other Ronon and Teyla long enough to inject them with sedatives.

Once the other John saw them taking Rodney away, strapped down to a gurney – taking him away – he went into what Ronon recognized as beserker-madness. He slammed his elbow back into the face of a marine that tried to grasp his arm, spun, slammed an arm into the larynx of another, and sprinted after Rodney.

The other John brought down four men in close combat, faster and smoother than anything Ronon could have expected, and then was bringing up his gun, intent to kill anyone who stopped him clear in his eyes, when Ronon whipped up his gun, flicking it over to stun and let fly.

John let out a soft, furious moan, and crumpled.

-

They decided to call each of the alternate versions by their last names.

Emmagan, McKay, Dex, Sheppard.

They kept each in a separate holding cell.

Sheppard got Bob’s old cell.

When he woke up the first time, flat on his back in the centre of the cell, he stretched his arms out to each side and laughed, and laughed and laughed. Harsh laughter, dangerous and unnerving.

Lorne interviewed him – their John had refused to.

How did you get here? Are you really a John Sheppard? Do you know how to get back? What are your plans? Why are you here? Do you mean us harm, do you want something? Are there any more of you?

These were questions, so generic, so useless.

Sheppard lay there, staring upwards at the ceiling, a grin breaking through every now and again as Lorne circled the cell.

Freak accident. As far as I know. Who the hell do you think I am, Rodney? I have lots of plans, never saw this coming. No reason, just thought I’d drop by, see how the neighbours are doing. Only if you hurt us, and yeah, I want a hell of a lot of things. Many more, if I was guessing, none here, that I know of.

And Lorne shivered, feeling a sense of coldness, his hackles rising with every flippant word. Beneath that voice there was something else, a true arrogance and coldness that the Colonel never had. There was something very, very wrong with this John Sheppard.

Fed up with uncaring answers the important questions garnered, Lorne settled himself down in front of the cell, sitting cross-legged. The marines slid him sidelong looks but he didn’t care. He asked a question he had been pondering from the start.

‘Where’d you get that scar?’

For the first time, Sheppard reacted physically. He sat up and fluidly slid toward Lorne till he was sitting directly opposite to him, mirroring his position.

He leaned forward, a hair’s breadth from the force-field. His eyes, hazel and glittering, were hypnotizing.
‘This scar?’ He murmured, voice gravelly as he ran a finger gently down his eye, tracing the scar.
Lorne swallowed, and nodded roughly.

‘Wraith Queen.’ He whispered the words, never taking his eyes off Lorne, his voice deepening with every word.
‘She kept me for days, for weeks. I was tortured, fed upon my life taken … and then restored …countless times. Kept in the slime and gore of their living hive, paralysed and played upon … they just loved me. Until I slaughtered them all.’

The cadence of his harsh whisper rose and fell, pulling Lorne in, even as the words prickled at his spine, the horror of such an experience poisoning his mind, flooding it with images he would have nightmares about for a long time.

Sheppard laughed.

‘With a little help from my friends, of course.’

Lorne stood, clambering to his feet, taking a step back from the magnetic, disturbing presence of the man in the cell.

Sheppard leaned back easily on his hands, staring up at Lorne, a smirk playing about his lips.

‘Of course, that was impulsive, and unmitigated – only because they made me angry, and more so, because they made my … team angry. Under normal circumstances we would have simply enslaved them; it’s becoming so hard to find a healthy hive these days you see, and we can always do with more workers.’

Lorne took another step back, eyes wide, mouth working, feeling his heart-rate go up.

‘Wh-what?’

Sheppard tilted his head in mocking curiosity.

‘I refuse to believe that your Carson is so useless that he did not discover the Wraith’s human DNA.’

Lorne nodded slowly, warily.

‘And he didn’t try to create a retrovirus to fully complete that human DNA, convert the wraith to the cattle?’ A sardonic tilt to his head and curve to his voice, Sheppard smiled malevolently.

‘The irony could just kill you.’

-

‘But your Sheppard stated that the Wraith were severely diminished, to the point that there were barely any hives left.’ Elizabeth folded her arms, examining Emmagan, standing in the centre of her cell, completely still, and seemingly calm.

With her hair pulled high off her face, the dark red tumbling down her back, head held proudly, she appeared to be almost royal.

She smiled softly at Elizabeth, her voice rich with amusement.

‘John, as you may know, likes to exaggerate his accomplishments. We have gained sovereignty, not annihilation. There are still many Wraith, many hives. The galaxy is vast, Elizabeth, and we are not.’

Elizabeth made a small sound of amusement, ducking her head and nodding. Then something else about the words hit her.

Sovereignty?’

Emmagan cocked her head to the side, eyes shimmering in the blue, Atlantean light, making them appear alien, and the woman herself intimidatingly aloof.

‘We control three-fifths of all the major systems, and have crafted a biological weapon with absolute effectiveness which the Wraiths fear so mightily precisely because it decimates their superior numbers, essentially invalidates their one advantage.’

Emmagan’s smile became a glinting, wolfish grin, and she stalked forward, toward Elizabeth, predatory and supremely self-satisfied.

‘They have no truly effective defence against us, not anymore.’

Elizabeth stepped closer, eyes penetrating.

‘You feel no guilt at what is essentially genocide?’

Emmagan’s feline grace snapped, and her eyes went dark and cold.

‘I would feel no such thing even if our weapons did not merely transform but destroyed every last Wraith that has ever plagued my people.’ She spat at Elizabeth, turning away to pace the cell, her movement revealing hints of barely contained violence.

Your people?’ Elizabeth frowned. ‘Only your people?’

Emmagan turned her head, looking at Elizabeth over a curving shoulder, eyelashes sweeping a cheek before her eyes slid open, and there was something there, an deep, instinctual possessiveness.

‘The people of your so-called Pegasus Galaxy are mine. I lead them, from the citadel of Atlantis with the others, I give them guidance and solace. In me, in us, they find salvation. We have saved them, and we protect them. They are ours. Mine.’

Her voice growled.

-

Ronon and the other Dex stared at each other.

‘You a runner too?’ Brusque, and to the point.

‘Used to be.’ Head tilted back, challenging and considering.

Dex nodded.

Ronon grinned.

‘They good people?’ Ronon crossed his arms, looking at Dex head on, not in the least unsettled, indeed, if anything, fascinated by the other man.

Dex’s face hardened, his eyes never leaving Ronon’s.

‘Yes.’ He paused, and looked around the room, at the marines. ‘Yours?’

Ronon nodded, and, after a beat, answered.

‘I belong here.’

They understood each other on that, at least.

‘So, where you’re from, you enslave the Wraith.’

Dex snorted, and nodded, running a hand over his head.

‘They’re not exactly Wraith after what we do to them.’

Ronon hunkered down, tracing the cold metal floor.

‘Yeah. So you what? Make them human and then what?’

Dex walked away, head tilted back, and breathed out heavily.

‘Set them to work. Labour. Use ‘em for mining, farming, building…’

Ronon frowned, ducking his head as he thought.

‘And they don’t remember, nothing at all.’

Dex made a noise of assent.

‘So how do you control them? Make them do what you want?’

Dex, back turned to Ronon, shrugged, head coming down.

‘Religion. There are no females. They see Teyla as their spiritual leader. Absolute faith.’ He snorted.

Ronon rose slowly to his feet, but before he could ask ‘how? ’ Dex kept talking.

‘Teyla hates it. We all do. Prefer to kill them, but once they’re human it’s harder, you know? Once they saw Teyla, heard her speaking to them, her mercy and wisdom, the worship just … started, as if it was natural. She thinks it might be a hangover from them following their Queens.’

Dex stopped, and turned to face Ronon, and grinned, an ugly grin, one he took no pleasure in.

‘It - It’s wrong, how devoted they are to her… She has nightmares. Every night.’

Ronon lifted his head, and stood, gruffly changing the subject.

‘The planets where you set them to work, they’re uninhabited?’

Dex let out a deep breath, and nodded.

‘Yes, we use the ones without a gate. We don’t like putting our populated planets at risk.’

‘Your planets?’

Dex looked at him like he was insane.

‘Yeah. Our planets. The ones we protect, who look to us, the ones who follow Atlantis.’

When he said the word ‘Atlantis’, it was like he was speaking of a concept, of something so huge, so all-encompassing, it was like when a priest spoke of his God.

Ronon couldn’t decide if that sounded beautiful or horrifying.

‘How did you get the Wraith to the planets?’

‘We use the Daedalus, once we’d gotten rid of Caldwell, and a few problem crew, it was easy.’
Dex shrugged easily and grinned, eyes glittering.

‘How?’ Ronon asked, suspicion and wariness tensing his body.

‘Sent them back to Earth through the Stargate. We got a ZPM from Dagan. Bastards tried to double-cross us. After Elizabeth died John took us back.’

Dex leaned forward, vindictive pleasure thrumming through his voice.

‘We got that ZPM back.’

-

Elizabeth had watched all the video footage of the interrogations, and come away feeling distinctly unsettled.
Now the young doctor who had taken over after Carson, and, oh Carson … She steeled her thoughts, Dr. Keller, that was her name, had told her that the other Rodney – McKay - she called him in her head – was awake.

She was just about to enter the medical isolation bay, when Teyla caught up to her.

‘Dr Weir. Are you about to question the other – the McKay?’

‘Yes.’ Elizabeth put her hands on her hips. ‘I can’t help but feel distinctly …’

Teyla smiled.

‘Yes, it is very strange to look upon those both alike and so different from ourselves. I was … hoping I could join you?’

Elizabeth raised her eyebrows. Why now, why with the Rodney?

Teyla caught the look and sighed.

‘I feel … I feel of all of them, McKay may be able to provide the most concise information. The others appear to be … unstable.’

Elizabeth nodded, then smiled in return, gesturing at the door.

‘After you.’

-

McKay was still pale, especially so under the harsh lights of the room. He was hooked up to several IVs and Dr. Keller was just finishing the replacement of one.

The minute he saw Elizabeth, McKay’s eyes widened as if he’d seen a ghost, then, just as quickly he hid it, and his face was back to its familiar irritability, and he was calling out across the infirmary.

‘Dr. Weir! Not that I don’t appreciate the armed personal guard and blonde, teenaged doctor, but I could really do with the courtesy of actually being told what the hell is going on with my team? Why is nobody telling me anything? And please don’t tell me it’s for some ridiculous form of …’

He waved his un-hooked hand imaginatively.

Security. What could I possibly do with an enormous hole, yes, a hole in my side, despite all the assurances of how ‘lucky’ some ‘doctors’ keep telling me I am.’ He finished sarcastically and broke off to glare at Dr. Keller’s retreating back for a moment, before looking back up at Elizabeth and Teyla, who had reached his bedside.

He blinked at Teyla, and his tone changed completely.

‘Huh. You have different hair. Very pretty.’

Elizabeth and Teyla looked at each other. Elizabeth doubted their Rodney would have noticed any minimal change in Teyla’s appearance, much less comment on it out loud unless it involved a sudden lack of clothing.

‘Dr. McKay.’ She started.

‘Oh please, call me Rodney.’ He hand-waved easily, picking up a glass and taking a quick, nervous sip. ‘If I’ve gotten the chance to talk to you again I don’t want …’ His voice caught, and for the first time he showed something like real emotion. ‘I don’t want you to treat me like …’

Teyla caught his hand on one of its flailing arcs, and smiled.

‘Okay.’

Elizabeth swallowed, and nodded.

‘Rodney.’ McKay, she said in her head, determined to keep her distance.

‘What happened?’

He frowned, eyes wide in that uncomprehending, puppy-dog look he got sometimes, and it was so familiar, so normal, Elizabeth nearly gasped.

‘What, the others haven’t told you?’ He paused, thought a moment, and rolled his eyes, answering his own question. ‘Oh no, of course they haven’t, they’re all so paranoid these days and enjoy the mindfucks way too much.’

And Elizabeth blinked, because since when did Rodney swear in front of her? The bitterness in his voice caught her by surprise too – for a moment he seemed so lonely, so isolated, his eyes seeing something else, something outside and far away from this room.

‘You died, Elizabeth. Replicators took the City, pretending to be Ancients and threw us out. When we found out the truth, we – me, John, Carson and you – we went rogue, hi-jacked the gate and took a puddlejumper – just one little puddlejumper - to take back Atlantis.’

‘It worked, in the end, we managed to wire in the anti-replicator technology to the shield, but not before … they killed you, trying to make John talk. They knew we were up to something.’
McKay bit his lip and ducked his head.

‘After that … well, we sent O’Neill and Woolsey back, got our own personnel back. They were going to make us take another leader – Woolsey, it was going to be Woolsey, but we … Me, John, Teyla and Ronon, we decided to refuse. John - we told them we wanted to be more aggressive, pursue an active war and research division against the Wraith. We wanted to free Pegasus, no matter the means.’

McKay grimaced, and let his head fall back onto his pillow.

‘As you can imagine, this deeply appealed to the imperialistic impulses of both the American military and the highest echelons of their so-called government. They put us into the black-ops division and told the IOA we had self-destructed Atlantis to prevent the replicators from getting to Earth.’

‘Of all our personnel, of all of them, only thirty wanted nothing more to do with us.’

He grabbed the glass again, took a sip, and Elizabeth, shell-shocked by the rapid-fire narrative, almost didn’t notice his hand trembling.

McKay caught her looking.

‘Painkillers are wearing off.’ He scowled, and then yelled out in the direction of the door.

‘Hey! Barbie! Could you bother with – oh, I don’t know, a Tylenol or two for the mortally injured patient?’

Dr. Keller stuck her head through and rolled her eyes, walking over to check his vitals.

‘Sure thing Dr. McKay – only, if I give you any more painkillers in the next hour you’ll either fall asleep or start talking crazy.’ She paused and tilted her head. ‘Crazier than usual, anyway.’

McKay scowled and muttered, finally coming out with an intelligible: ‘Fine, fine, shoo then, so the adults can get back to serious stuff.’

‘Hey.’ She raised an eyebrow. ‘Talking to the person who saved your life here, Doc.’
She smiled sweetly, and disappeared again.

McKay mouthed something undoubtedly rude at the door.

‘Bah. Where’s Carson, anyhow?’ He asked.

Elizabeth took a deep breath, eyes closing for a moment.

‘McK – Rodney, I’m sorry, but, he … he died, saving a man’s life.’

‘Wha-? Oh.’ Something in McKay’s expression broke, before he determinedly covered it up, and quickly asked another question. ‘Did the others tell you about the retrovirus, the Wraith-to-Human one?’

‘Yes. We tried that too, but it was unsuccessful.’

McKay shrugged, a small glimmer of smugness shining through.

‘It took us about twenty test subjects to get it right, and even then, it wasn’t until we’d gotten to a Wraith Queen that Carson figured out the final sequencing.’

There was a long, rigid silence, then McKay finally said, voice grim.

‘Right. I’ve showed you mine, now it’s your turn. Where’s my team?’

-

Sheppard was growling, pacing the cell. He flung himself against the force-field for the fifth time in the last hour.

Elizabeth!

So much rage boiled within him, it came and went in waves, building up and cresting over the hours.
Rodney. Rodney had been dying dammit! And now they do this to him, throwing him in a cell and asking him questions like he was a fucking curiosity.

From the monitor, Elizabeth watched, Kate Heightmeyer with her, who was very nearly terrified by the pure violence of this Sheppard.

If he dies, Elizabeth, if he is dead, I will kill you. ’ The voice crackling through was ice-cold, with something else, a dark undercurrent of desolation.

He slumped down, hanging his head between his knees.

‘You care so much?’ Kate murmured.

‘Not me. He is not me.’ John moved forward, watching the screen, eyes narrowed.

Kate looked across at him, face-half lit by the glow of the display, and felt … sympathy was not a strong enough word. She felt pity welling up inside her.

That Sheppard … he and his team seemed so much closer, almost obsessively co-dependent – Elizabeth had shown her the video footage, both from before they came through the gate and of the questionings.

The body language had been fascinating; when together, they all reacted to each other’s bodily presences in a complex dance that seemed to consist of fluid power-plays, confrontations, all almost animalistic in the dominant/subordinate back-and-forth, the magnetic compulsion between all of them indicated, Kate would surmised from any normal observation, mutual lust and violence.

Under isolated, uncontrolled circumstances wherein the subjects were given an unprecedented sense of self-power and societal supremacy – such as a technologically-superior Ancient city in another galaxy free from civilian oversight or close military supervision – there tended to develop a highly subversive behaviour and deviation in the subjects as a coping mechanism for the unfamiliar, challenging situation.

Kate had done a study on black-ops and highly classified military units and bases, which were highly interesting as, very often, such operations had a very real capacity for autonomy.

In most cases, regulations took on a life of their own, mutating, taking on a gang-like culture, with a definite isolationist, polarising, us vs. them mentality. Almost always, such situations resulted in a feeling of heightened superiority, of being above not only non-essential military regulations, but also any societal taboos.
The closeness of the other team could simply be that mentality. Or it could be something darker, something more obsessive. She could even have ventured to guess at a sexual co-dependency, just from the visual footage and gut instinct. But that was mere speculation.

‘I think you should let them see their McKay.’ She spoke to Elizabeth, not letting her eyes off the now-still Sheppard.

‘You know as well as I do the closeness that develops between Stargate teams.’ She continued. ‘I think, especially in a case like this, where one of their number is injured, keeping them separate, and information compartmentalized serves no cause. They have each co-operated, to a certain extent, and I, for one, am certain they are indeed an alternate version of our own team.’

‘I agree.’ Elizabeth said, but her voice was less than certain.

-

It had been twenty-four hours since they had been placed in their cells, given no information, with no idea as to whether the others had been tortured or harmed, as to whether Rodney was even still alive.

Under normal circumstances, this would not have affected any of them as visibly as it had, hardened as they had been, but they were in Atlantis, a place they closely identified with themselves, with home, with safety, and now it was keeping them imprisoned and isolated from each other.

It was a betrayal.

They marched Sheppard down the halls and he felt Atlantis thrumming beneath his feet, familiar, but not yet near the sentience he remembered from his own home, wherein he could speak to his City in images and washes of feeling from anywhere within. Perhaps because this Atlantis was severely lacking in power – he could feel the drain, the stress, the city on the verge of collapse, though the inhabitants would never know, never sense it till it was too late.

Even his own counterpart, the John Sheppard of this Atlantis, who had never encountered the true sentience as he had, would not be able to sense the undercurrent of desperation from deep below. And this city was alien to him; confused by the presence of two of him, caught off guard, allowing him to gain what little information he could from the wary but vulnerable city.

His hands were still shackled, and he had a wry feeling that this, and the five marines guarding him with their guns out, was because of the furious death threats he had been screaming out not so long ago.

He smiled, and it became even wider when he saw one of the younger marines misstep at his expression. They were taking him to see his team; they really had no need to be so worried unless one of them had been hurt, or was dead. The insidious voice whispered within him, pushing him further and further towards the uncontrollable fury he had momentarily succumbed to inside his cell.

They took him to the corridor outside a medical isolation bay, and he let out a breath. Rodney.
They unshackled him, and opened the door.

-

Elizabeth, along with her own SGA-1, Drs Heightmeyer and Keller, were in the viewing room, high above, and watched as the other team entered one by one.

The first was Dex, and he stumbled into the room, blinking rapidly as the harsh lights assaulted his eyes.
He caught sight of McKay, and leapt forward, moving to the side of his bed so fast McKay let out a yelp of shock.
‘Watch it you barbarian. I have a hole in me!’ He warned, as with uncharacteristic gentleness, Dex carefully wrapped him up in the softest bear-hug possible.

‘Ow, ow ow, owow, OW!’ McKay hollered, but his face was grinning fit to split, and he wrapped his free hand up around Dex’s back.

When he finally pulled back, McKay’s hand traced his reachable body urgently.

‘Did they hurt you?’ His eyes were wide, examining Dex’s body.

‘Me?’ Dex yanked over a stool with his foot and sat down. ‘I’m fine. You?’

McKay grin hovered momentarily, and then disappeared into a glum pout.

‘I have a hole in me.’ He informed Dex pointedly, for the second time.

Dex nodded gravely.

‘So I’ve heard.’

Rodney!’ Emmagan strode into the room, hair whipping as she turned at the clang of the door, before moving gracefully to Dex’s side. She pressed up against him, momentarily leaning her head and closing her eyes, before gently manipulating him away on the rolling stool, in order to move forward and stare down at McKay, eyes full of concern.

McKay smiled up at her winningly.

‘Hey Teyla. You see your doppelganger’s hair? Have a catfight yet? Now that, that I would pay good money for.’ Emmagan’s face softened and she grinned in relief, even as she raised an eyebrow mockingly.

‘And I suppose you have not yet met yours. I have heard that he appears to be much more intelligent than yourself.’

McKay spluttered in outrage for a moment before cannily reverting to a sullen, pained expression, and pointing at his side.

‘I have a hole in me.’ He stated, irrationally, if this fact alone trumped any possible retort.

Emmagan’s laughter was rich, and she patted his chest comfortingly, resting her hand over his heartbeat.
‘I am sure that you will manage to fill it somehow.’

Kate Heightmeyer was watching the interaction with fascination – and then Sheppard entered and the entire dynamic changed.

He hurtled in, eyes blazing, looked around swiftly, taking the scope of the room, danger points, exits, structure, even as he was moving unstoppably towards the bed.

He walked to the opposite side of Emmagan and Dex, eyes piercing Rodney.

‘You okay?’ His voice was harsh, rough and demanding.

And this was where it was interesting. No more jokes, no sympathy fishing, no matter how much it had been jest.

McKay nodded seriously, smiled reassuringly.

‘Yeah, John, I’m fine, they patched me up perfectly.’

Sheppard’s gaze remained on McKay a moment longer before flashing up to Emmagan and Dex, question unspoken.

Dex merely nodded, while Emmagan smiled and said.

‘They have treated us fairly.’

And just like that, the rage poured out of Sheppard – the wariness, the ever-present sense of coiled danger, that remained – but the barely-controlled rage dissipated.

Even the members of his own team had been tense, had been so very, very careful not to give him reason to escalate that rage or allow it to be released onto the people holding them.

As if they had all seen what it was that could happen when he lost control of that rage, and all of them were quietly terrified by it.

Sheppard let out a shaking breath, and reached out a hand to place over Emmagan’s, right over McKay’s heart.
Then he leant over, sliding his other hand over and across McKay’s chest, burying his head against the crook of McKay’s neck, breathing him in.

Up in the viewing room, Rodney drew in a shocked breath, involuntarily glancing over at John. John was staring down at himself, and McKay with a strange expression on his face, and for one instant, Rodney thought it was – no, no, no, impossibility ratio phenomenally huge – longing.

Then he walked out, carefully and absolutely not looking at anyone.

-

Emmagan smiled softly and ran her hand through Sheppard’s hair as he drew in a deep breath, breathing in the scent of McKay.

After a moment, he twisted, snake-quick, and completely unexpected, grabbing her hand, and gracefully managing to shove Rodney over enough to lie on the bed bedside him on his back. Emmagan caught the mischievous glimmer in Sheppard’s eyes a moment before he yanked her hand, pulling her off balance so she had to fling her other hand over to the far side of the bed to avoid falling on top of McKay.

Her face inches from Sheppard’s, she grinned, and he surged upwards, meeting her lips in possessive, demanding touch. She let him, here, in the bay when she knew they were being observed, because she also knew that he needed this.

Needed the reassurance, the human touch of the only people in the universe he trusted with his life. She had seen the dark rage inside him when he had first entered the room, understood that the deepest instinct within him had been flamed – that his people had been taken from him, kept in isolation, not knowing if McKay was alive or dead for hours.

Sheppard, so used to his own supremacy and control, of being able to know whether his team was safe, had been flung headlong into a situation of complete blindness and panic, especially immediately after the ordeal they had suffered prior to this.

It had made him furious. Deep terror, and she knew it, because she had felt it herself and recognized it in each of them, a deep terror that had twisted his gut, and had nearly fuelled that fury into the uncontrollable rage she had witnessed on those few, but horrific occasions.

So she laughed, laughed into his kiss, and let the euphoria of the moment buoy him, even as McKay complained loudly, safe now to proclaim that he had a hole in his side and that if anyone should be getting kissed it should be him.

Dex glanced up at the mirror of the observation window coolly, then deliberately leaned over, sliding a hand beneath McKay’s head possessively, and lifting him up, dreadlocks falling around their faces, and left a light, feather-touch-teasing kiss at the corner of his mouth.

McKay whimpered ever so slightly, eyes closed, feeling the sense of light and heat of Emmagen over the top of him, the overwhelming presence of Sheppard, lying shoulder to shoulder, hip to hip, leg to leg beside him, and reached up blindly, pulling Dex down.

-

Kate’s eyebrows had shot through the roof.

Not so speculative now. She thought, and had to actively work to prevent herself from laughing hysterically.

She chanced a glance at the others.

Ronon was impassive as a stone wall, then raised his eyebrows at Kate in return, and turned, obviously deciding it was more than past time to leave.

Rodney was already gone, having left only moments after Sheppard, looking distinctly discomfited.

Elizabeth had a faint look of horror about her eyes, and cleared her throat.

‘Well, uh. I think it may be time to let them … uh. Well.’

Kate smiled.

‘I completely agree, Dr. Weir.’

Dr. Keller bit her lip.

‘I really should stay, I mean … he, uh, he really shouldn’t be putting stress on the wound.’

Teyla had her legs curled up against her body, chin resting on her knees eyes wide and fascinated.

‘I do believe, Dr. Keller,’ she murmured, not looking away, ‘that they know this, and are highly aware of it.’
Elizabeth, from the door, letting Heightmeyer and Keller walk past and out, said, ‘Teyla, I think it would be better if –’

‘Yes, of course. I will … be a moment.’

Elizabeth frowned, slightly concerned and upset that Teyla, of all people, would be the kind to want to watch such a private moment, then nodded sharply, leaving.

Teyla unfurled, and stood watching a moment longer, face thoughtful.

‘Such love.’ She whispered, and left.

-

It took twenty-seven hours for the Wraith Queen to regain consciousness. She had been placed in one of the holding cells and kept under strongly guarded surveillance.

When she woke, it was John who went to question her.

The moment she saw him, her face – one of the most stunning, and most disturbing of any Wraith Queen he had ever seen - twisted with recognition.

‘You.’ She spat.

He smirked, resting his hands over the butt of his P-90.

‘Well, just look who’s up and about. How you doing? Not too groggy?’

She snarled, and flung herself against the cage in a manner eerily reminiscent of the other Sheppard.

She lay still for a moment where she had fallen, crumpled in a graceful heap of the shimmering purple and blue that made up her outfit, gathering her calm.

When she lifted her head, her eyes, golden and slitted, were shimmering pools, enthralling and irresistible.

You belong to me, John Sheppard.’ Her voice was deep and rich, with ghostly flutterings that hinted at a million whispers backing her words.

Her hair fell around her face, soft and shining, not at all like the dead, straw-like hair of any of her sisters.

And John felt something pull at his gut, whirl in his thoughts, draw him forwards, toward the door of the cell, hand raised as if to open it, to let her out because of course she should be free, of course he belonged to her, all he wanted, all he could ever want was to please her, to be hers and hers alone.

‘Sir!’ A hand clamped down over his wrist - one of the marines guarding the cell was standing beside him, and how had he not been aware of that movement?

The marine looked at his commanding officer’s face, and saw something in his eyes, a realization, and disgust, written all over his face, before it was smoothly wiped clean, and he nodded to the marine, glanced at the Wraith Queen, eyes cold, and left.

-

John went to their Teyla, to Emmagan.

He didn’t think Sheppard would tell him anything, because he knew that he sure as hell wouldn’t.

They had each been returned to their separate cells, because, as Rodney had muttered under his breath;
‘God knows what they’d get up to if we put them all in the one, confined area.’ He had then immediately clamped his mouth shut, eyes boggling with the embarrassment of what he’d just said.

Emmagan ever-so-slightly-scared John even more than his own Teyla did, not that he’d ever tell her. The woman had already expressed a strong desire to spar with her alter-ego, informing them that it would be ‘enjoyable’ to fight herself in order to better understand her own flaws and weaknesses.

She had said it deadpan, and merely raised her eyebrows when John had begun to laugh, causing him to abruptly break off into a faux-coughing fit.

Emmagan was sitting in the centre of her cell, cross-legged and meditating. She had let her hair out, and it tumbled across her shoulders and down her back, glinting dark-red and black in the blue lighting.
As he entered, her eyes slid open, and she smiled easily.

‘Do you have as much trouble meditating as my John does?’ Her voice was teasing, and soft, and for a moment, he could have believed it was his own Teyla, locked behind those bars.

Shaking off the disturbing image, he nonetheless gestured at the cell.

‘Sorry for keeping you locked up like this but …’

Her eyes flashed, revealing the carefully hidden frustration, then she shrugged.

‘It is understandable. Had the same occurred to us, it is doubtful we would have allowed you out at all. I thank you for that.’

John smiled, looking away, and took a breath.

‘I … I wanted to ask you about, your Sheppard, did he ever, when he was around the Wraith, did he …’

Disconcerted by the cool politeness she displayed, and the ridiculousness of what he wanted to ask, he grimaced and turned. ‘Never mind.’

Emmagan flowed to her feet.

‘Has the Wraith Queen awoken yet?’ She called out.

John froze in the doorway.

‘What did she tell you?’ Emmagan’s voice was soft, barely audible, but it carried an undercurrent of menace, and reluctance, as if she already knew, and hated the answer.

John walked back towards her, meeting her at the force-field so that they were mere inches apart.

‘She knew my name. She said I belonged to her.’ His voice was twisted, confused and sick.

Emmagan’s eyes darkened as she observed something on his face.

‘Something else happened too, did it not?’

John stared into Emmagan’s eyes, so cold and alien.

‘Yes.’ He whispered.

‘She took control of you. Chained your mind to her will.’

‘Yes.’

‘You felt sexual attraction to the Wraith Queen.’ Emmagan’s words were harsh and unyielding, just soft enough to not be overheard by the monitors or guards.

‘What? No!’ John jerked backwards, disgust welling in his throat, awful realization.

‘John!’ Emmagan commanded, gesturing him irresistibly back.

‘That Queen took my John Sheppard captive for weeks. She tortured him, fed upon him, then returned his life many, many times. Anyone less could not have survived, and would not wish to. She gave him that scar over his eye, and countless other, less visible ones. When we finally found him, he was damaged, a changed man. He was more violent, both freer with his impulses and more paranoid, revealing his thoughts and plans to no-one, not even to us, at first.’

John stared at Emmagan, seeing her remembered pain reflected in her eyes.

‘Why are you telling me this?’

She snapped back to the future.

‘Because if the Wraith Queen was able to affect you like that it means you too have experienced the … conversion. You too began to transform into the Iratus, and if you are anything at all like my John Sheppard you will have told nobody about the after-effects you still experience, after-effects that, in combination with the powerful manifestation of the gene of the ancestors makes you more attractive, and so much more vulnerable, to the most powerful of the Wraith Queens, and this is something you must know.’

Her voice was fierce and unrelenting, even as he was shaking his head, no, no, he didn’t want to hear this, had never wanted to have to confront this particular, unspoken truth.

‘The Wraith Queen – is she the one? The one who did that to your Sheppard.’

Emmagan smiled, vengeance burning in her face.

Yes. We slaughtered her hive, set our explosives, destroyed the control systems, but she, she escaped. But we have found her, and now she shall suffer, just as John did.’ She drew out her words, relishing them.

John went still, watching the pure, predatory satisfaction emanating from her, an amoral pleasure that his own Teyla could never have shown, and his eyes narrowed.

‘So how are you here?’

Emmagan’s eyes sharpened, and her face became unreadable.

‘I do not know. It is something you must ask Rodney.’

John nodded, thanked her, and left. Halfway down the corridor he slowed, and stopped, leaning back against the cool wall, feeling Atlantis alive against his back. He breathed out slowly, eyes hard and cold.

She is hiding something.

-

End Part 1/?
 
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