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04 December 2007 @ 01:44 am
No Matter Where you Go, There you Are - AU  
Rating: Light PG-13 for swearing. Mentions of torture but no actual torture, and nothing explicit.
Characters: John, Rodney, Teyla, Ronon
Summary: Alternate Universe. Doesn't matter the universe, they were meant to be a team.

A/N: This was a tough fic to write, and kind of a personal indulgence.

No Matter Where you Go, There you Are

John didn't want to accept the fact that maybe, just maybe, he simply wasn't meant to win. He refused to: stubbornly, petulantly, and already starting to sulk about it. Opening his eyes to yet another metal room, lying on a soft bed rather than a bench, and suffering the vindication of aches and pains too long ignored made him want to roll his eyes heaven-ward and whimper “Why? What the hell did I do to deserve this?” Except he was supposed to be resolved in his hard-ass, kill or be killed state of mind, which meant he wasn't supposed to be giving a damn about being caught... again. He was supposed to be getting hyped-up on enough adrenaline to launch himself at whoever walked through the door.

But, damn, how he hurt. The blasts had knocked him around like a pinball, his back and chest taking the brunt though he was pretty certain his arm had been dislocated. Had been because it throbbed rather than making him want to rip it off. Were that the case, it meant that he was wanted alive.

John rolled onto his back with a groan that had only half to do with his pain. He couldn't do this again. Wouldn't do this again. The wraith and... Guld, gold, ghoul, goold? Snake-in-the-gut freaks were blowing each other to kingdom come, and the snake-heads still managed to scrounge time and interest to waste ammo bringing his banged up puddle jumper (he would get snaked long before calling it a gate-ship) and his half-starved ass in.

Seriously, he could not do this again. Beatings and whippings and that damn brain-twisting ribbon device; the bastards had no concept of “play nice with me, I'll play nice with you.” Maybe if they had, he wouldn't have taken off in a ship only he could fly, dropping the rear hatch only he could open to let his “passengers” off in the literal middle of nowhere (and probably still floating there to this day), and gleefully making off with an arsenal only he could fire.

That had been the best day of his otherwise miserable life. He wouldn't mind doing it again, really, but that meant either shooting his way out, or enduring a few brain-twists with a ribbon device before finally breaking out, and he wasn't leaving the 'Jumper behind.

Footsteps echoed toward him, three pairs; one light and quick, one heavy, the other fast and rigid. John slammed his eyes shut to let his other senses do the telling. The footsteps stopped in front of the door. There was a click, loud in the silence making John's heart jump and skin twitch. He tensed the muscles of his legs, back and arms, pressing his hands flat on the bed while digging his heels into the bedding. The door whined open with a metal grind, and the footsteps padded in.

With a sneer, Sheppard burst forward. Only to come to an abrupt halt with his nose two-inches from the barrel of a blaster. He pried his eyes from the weapon to the one holding it – well above six feet, lean muscle, hair twisted into individual ropes and a smile daring him to try something, anything.

“Bet you didn't see that coming,” Dreadlocks said.

“Yes, yes, very bad ass of you. Now step back before you twitch and send him into la-la land.”

Dreadlocks did so, backing into the corner without the gun so much as wavering an inch. Dreadlock's commander (if he could be called a commander) was standing in the doorway, leaning against the frame as he tapped away on a PC tablet.

An Earth-made PC tablet.

John's eyes widened. He took in the room, really took it in from the very earth-like side table, the plain metal walls, and the standard issue blankets like what he had found in the 'Jumpers compartments. A woman - small, slender, with copper hair and honey skin - squeezed past the man in the doorway. Any other time, he would have been smitten by her, but his eyes were fixed on the tray she was carrying loaded with earth-made First Aid items: cotton balls, bandages, rubbing alcohol.

Sheppard gaped, saying to no one in particular, “Where the hell am I?”

“Oz,” the man with the tablet said. He was shorter than the armed man, taller than the woman, with thinning hair and a somewhat soft body-structure. “Although I prefer to call it the Daedalus. Caldwell was kind enough to give it away when he found a better toy to play with. A toy I found and fixed and have the gene to fly, by the way. Not him, me. The least the bastard could have done was to let me download the schematics to use to upgrade this dump.” He finally looked up from the tablet for a narrow-eyed scrutiny of John. “Why do you still have your clothes on?”

Sheppard stiffened, muscles coiling. How many times had he heard it before yet still went with the same dull-witted, “What?”

The man gestured with impatient vagueness. “Your clothes – shirt, jacket. Kind of hard to be healed when Teyla can't get to your injuries.”

John looked over at the woman arranging the items on the tray in order of use. She smiled good-naturedly without looking at him. “I am Teyla Emmagen,” she said. “The one aiming the weapon at you is Ronon Dex, and the man who finds no purpose in proper introductions is Dr. Rodney McKay.”

“Oh, like he cares who we are,” Rodney flippantly replied. “I think he's more concerned as to whether or not we plan to interrogate him or something.”

“Or something,” John muttered, involuntarily closing his jacket one-handed.

Teyla, apparently, hadn't missed the action. Her expression softened immediately. “It is all right. We will not hurt you.”

“Rather pointless to heal a guy if all we're going to do is rough him up some more,” McKay said.

John glared at him. “If you want to rough him up again and again, then it's not pointless at all.”

To which McKay responded with a sardonic simper. “Paranoid much? Seriously, though, Teyla's right. We have no interest in hurting you. Far from it. You were piloting a Gateship, which makes you as valuable as a ZPM factory. Well, not quite that valuable, but still pretty valuable.”

John jerked away when Teyla's hand made for his jacket. His warning glare got her to back off though not go away, which felt almost like an attempt at common courtesy, and it surprised him. “You know, I'd probably buy it if the snake-heads hadn't thought the same thing and still smacked me around. Never matters the condition of the merchandise, just as long as its heart's still beating.”

Tayla and Ronon exchanged looks: Teyla's troubled and Ronon's indecipherable. McKay shifted, hands fidgeting with the edge of his PC as his expression tried to blank-out. He cleared his throat with a high-toned edge.

“Yes, well, unlike the Goa'uld, we prefer everything in pristine condition.”

“Rodney!” Teyla snapped.

McKay reared his head back. “What? Look, Mr....”

Major Sheppard,” John said.

“Yes, Major.” McKay furrowed his brow. “Major?”

“Yes, Major. It was my rank before I was captured by the snake freaks. Major John Sheppard.”

Rodney blinked, looking at John like something he had never seen before. “So... then you are from Earth.”

“Just like you, I assume.” Sheppard was doing a good job fighting against the desire to stare at McKay the way McKay was staring at him. He'd had every reason to believe every last Earthling to be dead; not one human aboard any of the mother ships had been from Earth, and not one local on any of the worlds of this galaxy had ever heard of a race called Earthlings. And the more John had searched, the more that reasoning took hold.

He'd had every reason not to keep hoping.

Rodney straightened, proud and just a smidgen haughty, as though he were just as rare a find as Sheppard supposedly was. “You'd assume correct.”

Swallowing back the surge of shock, joy, confusion and fury threatening to choke him, John managed to squeak out a poorly nonchalant if slightly bitter “So, where the hell have my fellow Earthlings been all this time?”

“Let Teyla check you over and I'll tell you.”

John looked at Teyla, her gentle smile and warm eyes the most open he had seen of anyone in a long, long time. There was no apparent reason to be wary of her, and John was desperate enough for compassion to be conflicted by both wanting to give in and not wanting to. He couldn't remember the last time anyone had looked at him with that much kindness.

“Please, Major,” she said with a sincerity that made him sick with indecision. “If it will help, you may tell me to stop if you become too uncomfortable and I will stop.” A glance and a nod at Ronon had him holstering his weapon. When she looked back at John, her eyes were near-pleading.

“Or,” said McKay, “You can limp around the ship in pointless pain and possibly risk further damage to your arm.”

John shot him a glare that got the little man to step back and the larger reaching for his weapon.

“Why didn't you heal me while I was under?” John asked, low and flat. He was far from being a self-conscious SOB. Nudity was nudity, however, and that included half-nudity. It said that you were harmless, helpless, even with enough hand-to-hand skills to fight off the base needs of others. When the enemy had you strip, they thought they had you owned.

It was Teyla who explained. “We were under heavy fire after we rescued you. Ronon managed to reinsert your arm but it was all we had time for.”

“And if you want to learn about the fate of the rest of us Earthlings,” said Rodney, “then stop being a hard-ass and let us help you. Seriously, Sheppard, I'm not asking you to give up your first born, here. I'm asking you to let Teyla get a look at your injuries so you don't die on us.”

“We'll even let you leave if you want,” said Ronon.

“What?” John said dumbly.

“What?” Rodney echoed, paling.

Dex inclined his head. “We rescued you, not captured you.” He gave McKay a level look that had the smaller man quailing. “So you're free to go if you want.”

“Just as long as you hear us out, first,” added McKay quickly.

Bull. Like hell. You honestly expect me to believe that? No, John didn't believe it and wouldn't until it happened. Desperation was his downfall, though. Always had been. The need for help when injuries or illness became too much, for example. Except that was all it had ever been – injury and illness – ending in his downfall. But Rodney's form of ultimatum... not even the snake-heads had known how to get to the heart like that. They'd had no reason to, and neither had anyone else.

It sucked beyond words that John hadn't stopped caring about the fate of his own kind after all this time. He tried to tell himself that he had no other choice, really, since he was the prisoner, and that he was too tired to care about whether or not he was half-naked in front of potentially hostile strangers. He struggled with the jacket and shirt, needing Teyla's help with the shirt, while completely ignoring the sing-song voice in his head telling him that he was being a weak idiot.

Maybe the jadedness had been a little premature. The moment the shirt was off, cool air enclosed around his skin, making him shiver. He was exposed, vulnerable, and the inevitable fury swelled in his stomach to rise into his chest and sit like a lump. When Teyla touched his arm, his jerk was involuntary, getting Ronon to reach for his gun a second time.

“Easy, Major,” Teyla said, hands up and palms out. “It is all right. I just want to place your arm in a sling while I tend to your other injuries.”

It took more energy than John had to let Teyla handle his arm into said sling – also earth-made. She was incredibly gentle about it, her touches light, her fingers warm. Once the bum arm was secured, she moved on to the bruises on his flank by feeling out each rib without pressing. Sheppard had to keep telling himself that it was the cool air increasing his shivers. Her touch was worse than her expression, careful and without pain or the reptilian sensuality that always made his skin want to crawl off his bones. She treated him like thin glass.

It was freaking John out. He couldn't decide if he should be grateful, pissed that she was shoving his vulnerability in his face, or frightened over how easy it could all shift at any moment into agony or petting. He wanted to pull away, while at the same time hope it lasted long enough for it to burn into his memory.

McKay clearing his throat provided a blessed distraction. His expression had morphed, his brittle indifference now trying to hide shock. “So, um...” his betraying eyes flicked up and down John's malnourished and scarred body. “Uh...”

John hardened his gaze. No, he'd never been a self-conscious man, and wasn't about to start now no matter how hard his heart pounded or what his pride demanded. “You were going to tell me about the other Earthlings.”

“Oh, yeah, right,” McKay said, slightly abashed.

Rodney was quite detailed in the telling, hovering just above being unnecessarily technical. The gist was that the very ship they were sitting in now plus two more had managed to slip past the Goa'uld (that's what they were called) blockade of ships and mines, probably not the only ones as far as Rodney knew. They'd managed to meet up with the Apollo and Prometheus, and thus far that was it. Teyla was the leader of the only people willing to give the Earthlings any kind of aid and, in exchange, the Apollo had lain cover fire during an attempted cull, allowing everyone to relocate safely to a new world.

After the discovery of an Ancient warship, the majority of the Daedalus crew had been transferred, leaving a skeleton crew and the Daedalus for McKay's use in reading planetary energy signatures. No safer than going through the gate, but a hell of a lot faster.

“Sounds like you guys have been busy,” John said. The sting of alcohol against cuts made him wince but not pull away. “So what's so spectacular about me? And you'd better not say my 'Jumper because I'm taking it with me when I walk out of here.”

Rodney snorted. “Please, we have a ton of... did you call it a 'Jumper? They're called gate ships!” At John's 'like-hell they are' look, he shook his head and continued. “Never mind. We were able to locate a small stash of them in the remains of an Ancient city – ten in all (one's parked right next to your own boat). No, this isn't about your little ship, it's about that fact that you can fly your little ship. And do you know why you can fly it?”

John nodded. “Something about my genetic make-up.”

Rodney gave his fingers a snap and pointed. “Exactly. We call it the ATA gene. You have it, and we're always in need of it. Then there's also this standing order thing that says all ships are required to retrieve possible stranded earthlings or whatever. I'm supposed to ask you if you know what Coca-cola is.”

“I prefer Pepsi,” John replied.

“Good, otherwise I would have had to kick you off the ship – because you didn't know what Coke was, not because you like Pepsi. Although I find little real difference between Pepsi and Coke. I prefer something with a higher caffeine concentration -”

Ronon growled, “McKay.”

“Oh, right, right. Anyways, besides being required to save your ass and keep you around – if you want, of course – it would be very, very beneficial to us, as well as yourself, if you did. Lots of Ancient goodies needing to be activated. And, I mean, honestly, when was the last time you ate? And wouldn't it be nice to sleep in a real bed? Maybe even take a bath in a real shower rather than a pond somewhere? You're earth-born and have the ATA gene, so it makes sense you should stick with us. You'll be a lot better off for it, believe you in me.”

John straightened as much as he could when Teyla proceeded to tape his ribs. “And just, what, exactly, do you have in mind for me if I choose to go with you?”

Rodney shrugged like it was the most trivial aspect of the entire conversation. “Light a few Ancient-made toys up, pilot a gate ship now and then, activate and drive any war-ships we may find.”

And didn't sound painfully familiar. Activate this and we'll stop hitting you, Sheppard. Activate that and you can finally eat, Sheppard. John hadn't been thrust out of the presence of his fellow humans long enough to jump to the conclusion that all earthlings had sunk to the level of the snake-freaks. On the other hand, he didn't stop himself from considering it. Desperate times, hell and good intentions and all that. And views on the “greater good” varied from person to person, shucking morals out the window when it was discovered that that sick pilot in the little ship you rescued could work Ancestor tech, and that beating him the way a jaffa taskmaster would rather than asking nicely felt like a means to quicker ends.

They'd promised Sheppard that they meant him no harm, up until that point when they'd made their discovery about his genetic make-up. But then promises were just words. John could only hope that bitch Larrin was still stranded in her busted cargo ship, because she'd struck him as the incredibly vengeful type.

“In return,” McKay continued, “it's food, bed, and baths galore. Hell, should we ever manage to take back earth, you could even get paid for it. We have accountants keeping tallies of pay, hazard and overtime included, just in case.”

John couldn't help smirking at that. “Eternal optimists?”

“More like stubborn to a fault. And I also believe it's habitual. I think even you remember how pissy people get when not compensated for their services? In the meantime, until gold and paper money have value again, you wouldn't believe what passes for currency.”

“Cigarettes and condoms?” John had to ask. Most of his memories of earth customs had fallen prey to movie cliches.

“Coffee, chocolate, movies... Sounds all adorable and fun but it really isn't. I've been robbed, twice – Godiva chocolate assortments and my special Columbian blend bought straight out of Columbia two days before the world went to hell. Cost me half my last paycheck to get that stuff.”

Less than violent muggings aside, it all sounded too good to be true, which was yet another reason to hesitate.

Once again came the sick sensation of indecision. John had already figured out that this wasn't some Goa'uld trick – snake-heads didn't like to waste time playing extreme head games. Wraith just ate you. The Genii had been all about subterfuge for safety's sake. There had been no double motive in taking him in and healing him. Kolya had said as much, twice: the first time when he'd locked Sheppard up without food or water to force the location of the 'Jumper out of him, then again when he'd handed both ship and pilot to the Goa'uld in exchange for protection.

And what Rodney was offering was exactly what John had wanted so long ago, before he'd had to force indifference on himself just to keep going. So, in all self-demeaning honesty, what he still wanted. It had started the first time he'd escaped, hopping from world to world, asking after people who dressed and talked as weird as him. Back then, he'd been all about hope: lived, breathed and dined on hope. It wasn't until after his third capture that hope became just a word rather than a goal, replaced by surviving for the sake of surviving and pissing off the snake-heads by denying them what they wanted.

Fun as that was, everything that came with it – solitude, constant vigil, living from world to world, meal to meal, with an empty gut in between – would hurt like a bitch if he so much as thought about it for two seconds. What McKay was offering was... well, it was redemption from all that, plain and simple.

No, it was possible redemption if the man was lying. So it could also be a whole new kind of hell.

“Well?” Rodney pressed.

Teyla removed the sling long enough to help John get back into his shirt and jacket, then strapped it back on, touches airy but as startling as a mild shock. Sheppard gnawed on his lower lip, aware of how it must be adding layers onto the vulnerability that could so easily be taken advantage off.

Increasing with it was the pain of hope and uncertainty. He hated this, hated it more than the beatings, the starvation and brain-scrambling with the ribbon device, and hated McKay for doing this to him. He wanted to leave, right then and there: get up, walk out, push the 'Jumper to max speeds and pretend he'd never been on this damn ship with these damn people offering him something close to paradise. It was a fury that made his eyes water and burn and his heart pound, curling his empty stomach until it cramped.

Neither did it go unnoticed.

“Major?” Teyla said, hand reaching out to him only to slowly draw back when he pulled away.

“You said it yourself, McKay,” he said, voice strained making the words tight enough to snap. “Paranoid. This wouldn't be the first offer I've had to play human battery. It has yet to ever end well for me.”

Neither had it started well. His gene had saved his life, bumping him ahead on the list of those going through the gate to another world to await pick-up. Then, his gene had gotten him captured when he was forced to fly earth's only puddle jumper from the ship when it was attacked. The commander had been playing it safe in case they couldn't get through the blockade (John, sometimes, still wondered if they had). Instead, the man had compromised the 'jumper, making it an easy grab for another mother ship waiting nearby.

Again, John's gene had saved his life. Somedays, he wished it hadn't.

McKay sighed with a defeated slump of his shoulders and a look of long-suffering annoyance on his face. “Then what's it going to take, huh? Look, all I'm asking is that you... you give us a chance. Like Ronon said, we didn't capture you, you're not some kind of slave. And if our intentions were hostile you would have known it by now. Stick around for a day or two, heal, eat before you get sucked up into the air filters. A chance. That's all. And we won't stop you if you up and leave. Although warning us might be nice as we can stock you up with a few supplies.”

Rodney folded his hands in front of him over the rim of the tablet. “So, here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to leave you to think it over, because at the moment it probably isn't a good idea for you to go anywhere, anyways, what with the damage your ship took. Give me some time to repair it. In the meantime, you can move about the the Daedalus to your little heart's content – it's not like there's anything here that makes you a security risk. Just remember: food, bed, showers, possible pay, and fellow earthlings all in exchange for helping us out a little. It's a good situation, Sheppard. You'd be a fool not to dive into it.”

McKay left him at that, Teyla following with the promise of bringing him some food. Only Ronon stayed behind.

Sheppard stared at the big man as he stared back, and it might have been a contest of wills except for Dreadlock's thoughtful expression. He wasn't offering a challenge, though John wished he was. The last time anyone had given him that kind of scrutiny, it had ended in him having to fight off amorous attentions both tooth and nail.

After an indeterminate amount of silence, Ronon leaned back against the wall with arms crossed before his broad chest. “You really think you have anything left to lose at this point?”

John smiled, acidic and weary. “I've got plenty left to lose.”

Dex snorted. “What, your life?”

“I would think maintaining my existence a priority, yeah,” Sheppard snapped. “Although I'm also partial to my freedom.”

The big man moved from the wall into a crouch, his distance from the bed putting him at eye level. “It's not freedom when you're letting an empty gut call all the shots. Basic needs enslave you just as bad as any overlord.”

“But at least they're predictable,” Sheppard countered, “and don't leave you feeling like compromised pond scum.”

Ronon didn't respond to that. Neither did he look remotely contrite.

After another moment of silent deliberation on Ronon's part, the big man asked, “Like McKay said – What'll it take?”

“What does it matter?” John challenged. “McKay wants me to light up tech, big deal. The way he talks, I'm not the only one who can do that. Far from being the only one. So why all the insistence? What's so damn special about me?” Special enough to be badgered into sticking around, but not so special as to be forced into sticking around. He'd gotten used to his lack of options. Being offered one this big, so easily, just like that, by people who he didn't know and who didn't know a thing about him other than that he was from earth... it freaked him out worse than all the consideration for his well-being.

Ronon shook his head. “Not a thing. Like McKay said, it's orders to bring in any of your people that may be out there, and it makes sense. He's of your people, one of many who managed to survive. I would have thought that alone would have decided it for you. You were hurt, probably betrayed, I get that. Trust isn't free, and it gets a lot more expensive when damaged. Still...” he shrugged. “It's your people.”

Yes, it was his people, after who knew how many years of stumbling around in the literal and figurative dark trying to find them.

However, like Ronon had said, still...

John looked down at the split skin of his parchment-dry hands and thread-thin scars cross-hatching his knuckles. He felt inexplicably ashamed, like a demanding child throwing a tantrum over the toy he'd always wanted not being the right brand.

It was all too damn good to be true. Everything he'd wanted, wished for, prayed for. Too good to be true, too easy for it to be a lie.

“I could have been compromised,” he tried.

“We checked,” Ronon said. “Looked for tracking devices, made sure your ship wasn't uploading any kind of data or sending a signal.”

Frustration threatened to make Sheppard's tone harsher than it needed to be. “There's more than one way to be compromised.”

The big man's head bobbed, hair twitching like mummified tentacles. “We know.” He spoke it with the weighted but solemn understanding of one who really did know; devoid of the high-tone, sweet disposition and slow delivery of someone trying to pacify. And if they really did know, then they knew what they were doing, the risks they were taking, and were either idiotic or desperate enough to take those risks, or knew how to sniff them out before they became risks.

In other words, they probably knew what they were doing.

John cleared his throat. “I... it's kind of a lot to take in all at once, here. I need...” Time, surety, more than just words. It didn't matter how sensible or logical it all was. It had been too long since anything had made sense. This galaxy was chaos, populated by predators and panicking animals.

Teyla returned carrying a tray, and John's reality narrowed to the sandwich, bottled-water, and bowl of canned fruit swimming in syrup. He didn't hear what Teyla said as she held the tray within reach. All noise was static when he snatched the tray from her to wolf down the food in massive bites. After the third bite of ham and cheese, his world finally expanded.

“Come, Ronon,” Teyla said. “He will most likely wish to rest after he has eaten.”

Ronon, however, hesitated after Teyla left. Reaching into his sleeve, he pulled out a thin-bladed knife and tossed it onto the bed. John stopped chewing, looked at the knife, then at Dex.

“Trust's gotta start somewhere,” he said. He turned his back to Sheppard as he exited.


John didn't nap after he ate. He may have collapsed in the presence of food that could have been laced, but he still had a ways to go before exhaustion defeated him. He showered instead, letting the high pressure of hot water cook his skin and pound the aches out of his muscles. He wasted minutes inhaling the scent of soap and shampoo until he was sure he had the smells memorized. He wondered if it was factory made, part of the last batch taken from earth, or concocted more recently out of more local ingredients. It was merely idle curiosity; he honestly didn't really care.

When finished and dressed (the knife tucked up his sleeve), he tested McKay's promise that he was free to roam the ship by roaming it, wandering aimless until running into Teyla who offered him a tour. She showed him the bridge with it's skeleton crew manning the consoles and a view-screen filled with the blue-white tunnel of hyperspace. She took him to the hanger where his 'Jumper sat large and squat and scorched like a sick old man among four young, vigorous F-302s, and one healthy 'jumper. As happy as John was to see his ship, it also depressed him. That tin can was his home, refuge, the reason why he was still alive and part of the reason for all his scars, and he felt like the time was coming when he would have to trade it in for a newer model. Rather hypocritical considering the state of his own body.

The pinnacle of the tour was a small, naked gray alien with an unpleasant disposition.

“I, too, was most disconcerted when first meeting him,” Teyla said with a smile.

It was hard being subjected to Teyla's compassion, calm, the warmth of her gaze, and her manner of speak that made him feel like an equal. Like Sora before Kolya had come demanding the puddle jumper. Except Sora had always avoided being alone in the same room as John, would never position herself too close beside him during their walks to strengthen his muscles, or in front of him to show him the way to go. Teyla's proximity seemed almost unconscious, and John couldn't decide whether or not it was for show or a test.

When their self-designated dinner time rolled around, Teyla badgered him not unkindly to join her for a meal. Ronon was already there, with McKay, and John learned of Dex's past as a runner having lost his entire world to the wraith.

After dinner was when exhaustion finally caught up to John, giving him no choice but to sleep, making him speculate with mild panic over finally being drugged, but with no means left to fight it. The next day, after waking in the same room with the same amount of freedom, Teyla invited him to breakfast, then McKay had him help in making repairs to the 'jumper. The man was insufferable, demanding, somewhat demeaning, but handled the 'jumper's insides as though the ship had been as much his only home as John's. After lunch, Ronon cajoled him into playing poker since no one else would.

“They taught me but refuse to play,” he said. “Something about me having too good of a poker face.” Which was true. John lost three times without giving a damn considering how long it had been since he'd played poker (time had stopped meaning anything after his second capture, he just knew it had been a long time). He was happy to lose another three times the next day, plus four more times until dinner. After dinner, half the meager crew gathered in one of the larger rooms for a movie.

The first Die Hard, John's favorite. Again his world narrowed, closing in until it was just him and the fake danger on the screen, Rodney's negative remarks and elbow jabbing to the flanks distant and muffled.

The next day, Teyla invited him to meditate with her; which was long, boring and resulted in him falling asleep. Teyla came off as more amused by it than annoyed. She switched meditating with showing him fighting moves using two sticks, motions slow and flowing with a watery grace John could never even hope to achieve.

“I would like for you to practice these moves when your arm is healed,” she said. “They will help increase the range of motion in your shoulder.”

McKay showed him the more intricate workings of the bridge consoles in case another pilot was needed.

“I can fix it but I sure as hell can't fly it if it ever came down to that,” he explained.

Ronon showed him the intricate workings of his blaster with its two settings and a power-supply that had yet to show signs of depleting.

It was the completion of the 'Jumper's repairs, with the bonus of restocked supplies, that shook John more than all the camaraderie and pushes for him to stick around his brain still wanted to perceive as an act. The cloak had been restored, the twitchy left drive-pod, and even the obnoxious haze around the HUD fixed. The 'Jumper was more than just good as new, its ambiance felt like it had been dipped into the fountain of youth. It sang around him with an almost twitchy eagerness to head back out into open space and test its new stamina, though that could have just been John projecting. He was feeling a little like new himself.

“You're free to go whenever you want,” McKay said from where he stood in the rear compartment. “Just give us the word and we'll open up the bay doors, right now if you want.”

John ran his fingers over the softly humming console warm under his touch, like gripping the strong hand of a friend he thought for sure wouldn't survive.

Rodney continued, “We won't stop you or anything. Although I hope, you know, you might take a little more time to consider, maybe, sticking around. I'm not saying we've grown attached to your or anything... and though it would be stupid not to take the offer, it's not like your trust issues are illegitimate or anything. It's not like we haven't been shafted ourselves once or twice, and Goa'uld are Goa'uld.”

Sheppard lowered into the seat that no longer squeaked. At Rodney's stuttering sigh, he swiveled around to face the suddenly uncomfortable man staring at a suddenly interesting spot on the floor.

“You're better off with us,” he said, scuffing his heel into the floor. “And we could always use another crew member and... you're just better off with us. Then there's the fact that we risked our asses saving you, and we nursed you back to health and all that. You don't put that much time and effort into something without forming the kind of interest that has you all wondering and worrying when that something leaves. Teyla'll probably have us follow you just to make sure you make it to the nearest planet okay.”

McKay's head darted up abruptly, chin high and eyes locked with John's. “And you're welcome to come back. We'll give you the means to find us again. Just keep in mind that we're not a gas station or diner. We'll heal you all you want, but food'll cost you.”

John grinned. “Chocolate or coffee?”

“The activation of any Ancient devices we find, actually. Oh, and bring any mother ships or hives along with you, and chances are good you may end up blasted into molecules... barring said ship shooting at you, of course. Although we'd prefer that not being the case as well.”

John let silence settle around him as he returned Rodney's stare. One thing he had come to learn about the man beyond him being a stuck-up ass was that he did a piss-poor job of hiding the emotions he didn't want anyone to see. Right now, he was trying to hide his hope and anxiety.

Not his concern, though. That was out there for all the world to see.

Sheppard glanced around the cramped compartments of his ship, thinking more than he ever had or wanted to about planet hopping, mother-ship and dart dodging, beatings, ribbon devices and bowing to basic needs.

Damn it. Ronon was right, he really did have nothing left to lose.

But maybe, just maybe, it was possible he had something to gain.

John chuckled, softly at first, then escalating to make Rodney fidget with unease.

“Please say I won't regret this.” He didn't care if he sounded like he was begging, because he was.

“You won't,” McKay said with a sincerity that made John's chest ache.

Then, a moment of hesitation later, he left anyways, and Rodney let him. He increased the distance between him and the Daedalus until it was nothing more that a lost toy floating in space. He swung around and returned five minutes later. Ronon, Teyla and Rodney met him in the bay. No smugness, no masked relief; they were genuinely happy to see him, like an old comrade returned home.

“Back in time for dinner, Sheppard,” Ronon said. They fell in step beside him as he headed toward the doors. “Hamburgers tonight.”

“I like hamburgers,” John said, then smiled. “And you can call me John.”

The End

A/N: The idea of Goa'ulds in the Pegasus Galaxy is something I've been toying with for a while, intended for use in a larger work. I'm really considering doing the much larger fic, to take place after this one-shot. I like it better than my original idea, which was for it to begin with Earth under siege then lead into the SGA and SG-1 gang heading to Pegasus. In that one, John is rescued directly from a mother ship, and for some reason that didn't sit well with me. It feels right that he would have escaped.

If I write that story, I'll post it in my journal as I'm rather uncomfrtable about writing AUs. I can read them fine, I just can never write one I'm really happy with.
Current Mood: tiredtired
Sholio: Team Lovesholio on December 4th, 2007 09:14 am (UTC)
I really enjoyed this! I do hope you decide to do something longer in this 'verse; right now they have the nascent beginnings of a friendship, but I'd love to see it grow and deepen. It's fascinating to think of John as an outlaw, thinking he's the last earth-human left in existence -- sort of an interesting mirror to Ronon's life.

Minor niggle: there's one point when John and Ronon are talking in the cell, where you refer to Ronon as "the Satedan", but John hasn't learned that he's from Sateda yet.
kriadydragon: Shep iconkriadydragon on December 4th, 2007 08:37 pm (UTC)
Thank you. Thus far this idea has been the only AU I really, really want to expand (in other words, the only one beside Dream Eater that I feel comfortable with.) So it may be a definite that there will be more.

And, dang it! I knew something would slip past. I think I was more focused on making sure none of the team called him John.
(no subject) - (Anonymous) on December 17th, 2007 07:33 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Erika: JS2x_erikah_x on December 4th, 2007 10:52 am (UTC)
Very nice. I really liked it and I'm not a big fan of AUs, but the story of this one is very compeling. I truply hope you write more stories in this verse.
kriadydragon: Shep icon 3kriadydragon on December 4th, 2007 08:38 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I'm a little iffy about AUs myself, so always have a hard time writing them.
Brat Farrarbratfarrar on December 4th, 2007 12:54 pm (UTC)
Cool AU, though a bit sad (Poor Earth! Poor John!). Do they ever find Atlantis, do you think? Or is it overrun with Wraith/Asurans/Goa'uld?

One little typo: “Cigarettes and condemns?” I think you mean "condoms".
kriadydragon: Shep 2kriadydragon on December 4th, 2007 08:41 pm (UTC)

I actually have this entire AU planned out, so can't really confirm or deny anything. I think I may write the larger version in parts, little bit at a time, until complete whenever I feel like writing SGA but have no story in mind.

One little typo: “Cigarettes and condemns?” I think you mean "condoms".

It will be fixed! I posted this at two in the morning so a lot got away from me.
(Anonymous) on December 4th, 2007 12:57 pm (UTC)
I normally don't care much for AUs but this one is fantastic. I hope you write more. I really enjoyed that it was John who was the outsider. I love all your stories. Please keep writing.
kriadydragon: Dolphinkriadydragon on December 4th, 2007 08:42 pm (UTC)
Thank you.
karri_kln1671: Woobiekarri_kln1671 on December 4th, 2007 02:40 pm (UTC)
*claps* That was fantastic! I love how you kept them all fantastically in character despite the AU. :) I hope you'll consider posted it on my AU community. Not much happening there yet, but someday, perhaps...
kriadydragon: Monty Pythonkriadydragon on December 4th, 2007 08:44 pm (UTC)
Thanks. And, actually, I do plan on posting a link there. After finishing this, the first community I thought of was your AU one, but it was late, I was tired, my internet was being slow so didn't get around to putting up the link.
.: Cute Teampadawan_aneiki on December 4th, 2007 02:53 pm (UTC)
Whoa, way cool. :) I like it!! Could be a very interesting AU if you go bigger with it...I'd read! :D
kriadydragon: Beastkriadydragon on December 4th, 2007 08:46 pm (UTC)
Thank you. And I do want to expand on it. The concept has grabbed hold and will not let go, and I've been wanting to do a larger AU story for some time.
wildcat88wildcat88 on December 4th, 2007 03:09 pm (UTC)
I really enjoyed this, and I hope you continue the story. McKay in charge of the Daedalus is a scream, and yet he doesn't command Teyla and Ronon. Great job in showing how the other three relate to John. I love watching the beginning on the relationships.
kriadydragon: Cheshire catkriadydragon on December 4th, 2007 08:47 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I was actually a little worried, at first, that people would become upset by what they might see as Ronon and Teyla being subservients (which, of course, they're not). I'm glad I was able to keep that from happening.
p_oenix on December 4th, 2007 03:51 pm (UTC)
Normally I don't read AUs, unless it's Ridley's Brotherhood Series (Supernatural AU), but I like your writing style so I thought I'd give this a shot. And I'm glad I did. It was very good. I really liked the idea you started playing with here and I would love to read more from this universe. I can understand John's hesitation to believe the team, and I loved how you slowly let him figure out that for once he had stumbled across people who weren’t planning to hurt him. Although, I understand his hesitation considering the way Rodney talked in the beginning, no wonder Sheppard was sure he would end up in the same situation as before.

Hopefully you'll consider giving us another story from this universe :)
kriadydragon: cartoon perilkriadydragon on December 4th, 2007 08:49 pm (UTC)
Thanks. Yeah, this AU is turning into a definite as I've been wanting to write an AU for a while, I could just never come up with something I liked. This one I like.
reen212000: smile mckayreen212000 on December 4th, 2007 06:42 pm (UTC)
There is no reason for you not to continue this, missy. I'd keep short and sweet and create a series, Adventures of the Daedalus, or something. Could be fun in a Firefly kind of way. But with your unique approach, of course.

I like AUs that keep in character, and actually have a plot. So many AUs end up a little weird. But I have my favorites, and now I have one more.
kriadydragon: Reaper thinkingkriadydragon on December 4th, 2007 08:52 pm (UTC)
Hee! I actually got it all planned out after finishing this one. Well, I'd always had it planned, so more like tweaked it to my liking.

Hmmm, a series. Definitely something to ponder (especially with poor Shep having so many enemies now.) I could do it like Wayfarers - each chapter with a resolving end, but all coming together to form a single story.
(no subject) - reen212000 on December 4th, 2007 08:56 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - kriadydragon on December 4th, 2007 09:14 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - reen212000 on December 4th, 2007 09:21 pm (UTC) (Expand)
mangstmangst on December 4th, 2007 09:10 pm (UTC)
This was heart breaking and wonderful and hopeful. I liked how Ronon, Teyla and Rodney all tried to convince John to stay in their own distinctive way.
kriadydragon: Beastkriadydragon on December 4th, 2007 09:15 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
(Anonymous) on December 4th, 2007 11:20 pm (UTC)
I really enjoyed reading this. I'm not a huge fan of AU but the idea of having the Goa'ulds in the Pegasus Galaxy was really cool and you did a awesome job keeping the team in "character". Thanks for the great read!

~Stargate Groupie~
kriadydragon: Shep iconkriadydragon on December 5th, 2007 02:20 am (UTC)
Thanks for giving this a chance.
skipperrooskipperroo on December 5th, 2007 12:46 am (UTC)
awesome! just awesome! i hope you continue this, i would love to see how the team develops and how different john is!
kriadydragon: Shep 2kriadydragon on December 5th, 2007 02:21 am (UTC)
Thanks. I may very well continue this, but can't make any promises just yet.
eccentricwefteccentricweft on December 5th, 2007 12:54 am (UTC)
Oh! I love apocalypse!fic and this has so much potential. I hope you have time to do more of this!
kriadydragonkriadydragon on December 5th, 2007 02:22 am (UTC)
Thanks. I'm going to try and continue it. Hopefully it'll work out. AUs always make me nervous.
Rat Creature: sheppardratcreature on December 5th, 2007 01:29 am (UTC)
I enjoyed this, and would like to see a longer story expanding this universe.
kriadydragon: Shep icon 3kriadydragon on December 5th, 2007 02:23 am (UTC)
bramble_rosebramble_rose on December 5th, 2007 02:58 am (UTC)
You had me hooked with the title *g* And a wonderful story to go with it! Hope you write more in this AU, but even if this is all, I'm happy :-)
kriadydragon: cartoon perilkriadydragon on December 5th, 2007 03:02 am (UTC)
Thank you. Hopefully I'll be able to write more. No promises, though.