Dedication: For Karri, who just couldn't leave well enough alone after Epiphany.
John took a deep breath as he sat down. Ever since he returned to Atlantis three days ago, he would come out and just relax on the balcony for a few minutes. The cool breeze and smell of the ocean filled him. This was one thing he missed the most when living with Teer and the others.
It wasn't that he didn't enjoy their company (when they weren't busy meditating or hiding from their ghostly beast), but it was just good to be home around the friends he thought he'd never see again.
Knowing it was time to head back inside, John stood up and thought the door open. The minute he stepped inside he knew something was wrong. The familiar sound assailed his ears and he rushed towards it.
As he turned around the corner, John found two Marines, their uniforms torn to shred and blood seeping from fresh wounds. "Medical team to section 10D," he exclaimed, kneeling next to them.
"Colonel...?" One of the men said weakly.
"Lorne?" John had been so shocked he didn't even notice his second in command had been lying on the floor. "Don't move, Doc's on his way."
"What the hell... hell happened?"
John sighed. "Just my past catching up to me, I guess."
The man next Lorne gasped out and John moved to his side. He glanced at the name on his uniform. Morris. He was newly arrived from Earth according the personnel files he'd been reading.
"Lieutenant, I am ordering you to hold on, is that understood?"
"Yes...Sir!" he replied. "Just...a... a scratch!"
"Colonel, what happened?" Carson asked as he and his team arrived.
"They were attacked by some creature. One that I thought had disappeared, but it looks like it's followed me to Atlantis," John told him. "Don't worry about it right now, help them. I've gotta find this thing!"
John was running off down the hall before Carson could respond. "Let's get them down to the infirmary, stat!" he heard the physician shout.
"We need to quarantine all personnel for the time being."
"What's going on?" she asked, concern evident in her voice.
"I brought a friend back with me through the 'Gate. It attacked Lorne and Lieutenant Morris. I need back up, but I also need them to understand that the creature is only after me and..."
John's silence prompted Elizabeth. "John?"
"I know why it's after me!"
"Because I still haven't ascended. Elizabeth, I have to go. I can hear it."
"John, wait! Jo--"
John turned off his radio and headed towards the screaming ghost creature. He was not relishing the pain that would come from it tearing into him again, but he had to let it happen. He had to attempt ascension or this thing would kill everyone in the city.
"Because I still haven't ascended. Elizabeth, I have to go. I can hear it."
"John, wait! Jo--" Elizabeth paused for a minute in shock. Shaking her head, she called out to Chuck. "Dispatch teams and have them sent to Colonel Sheppard's last known location."
"What's going on?" Rodney asked, running up the stairs, out of breath. "I just heard Marines were attacked."
Elizabeth walked met him at the top of the stairs. "Get Ronon and Teyla and met them near section 10D. John was just there. Apparently that creature followed him back to Atlantis. I'm not sure why, but I think he believes he has to ascend for it to go away."
"Just go, Rodney! We don't have much time!"
Rodney nodded and headed back down the stairs, calling for Ronon and Teyla to meet him in the armory closest to John's last known location. He was freaked out by the fact that there was a clawed invisible creature roaming through Atlantis, but he didn't care. One of the most important people in his life was in danger and he was going to help him.
John reached for his 9 mil, but changed his mind because he knew it would have no effect. He paused when he heard a low feral growl behind him. He turned and suddenly felt a searing pain in his chest as the creature's claws dug deep into his flesh.
John cried out in agony as he slid across the floor. As he lie there trying to breath, he saw Ronon, Teyla, and Rodney turn the corner. When they spotted him, they rushed to his side.
He could barely hear Teyla calling for another medical team as his breathing slowed. He could hear the blood rushing in his ears and he knew the creature was now gone.
"Sheppard!" Rodney cried out as John's eyes slipped shut.
John smiled at Rodney. "It's okay," he said. "You're all safe…"
Rodney watched in horror as his best friend closed his eyes for the last time. He stared at John in stunned silence and before he could say anything to the others, John's body dissipated into a bright glowing light.
Rodney glared at it, tears stinging his eyes. "Now that's just cheating!"
"They'll both be fine, Elizabeth," Carson said. "Their wounds looked more serious than it was, Thank God."
Elizabeth took a deep breath and closed her eyes. She only hoped John would be able to defeat this invisible creature. She was about to speak up when Rodney's shaking voice sounded in her ear.
"The... creature's... gone..." he said.
"Rodney, are you all right?"
"Sure. Fantastic. We'll be there in a minute."
Carson eyed her closely. "Elizabeth?"
"Something happened, Carson."
The questions were answered when the three arrived in the infirmary looking defeated and without their team leader. Rodney excused himself and went straight for the restroom.
When the Athosian looked up at Elizabeth, tears were streaming down her face. "Colonel Sheppard is gone," she said. "He has ascended."
"Excuse me?" Carson replied.
"Exactly what she said, Carson," Rodney said as he wiped his mouth with his sleeve. "Sheppard found it necessary to ascend in order for the creature to disappear and it worked!"
Carson moved closer to his friend. Rodney appeared to be showing signs of shock. "Come and have a seat, your blood pressure is probably sky high," Carson suggested, taking his friend by the arm.
"No!" Rodney exclaimed as he pulled from Carson's grasp. Tears were falling freely from his face. "No! Just leave me alone."
"Rodney--" Before Carson could say more, Rodney fell bonelessly to the floor.
When Rodney came to he found himself alone in the infirmary. Carson was most likely in his office doing doctorly voodoo things so he decided to take the opportunity to get out while he could.
He was thankful to notice he was still in his clothing. Hopping off the bed, Rodney made his escape. He didn't really know where he was going and at this point he didn't care as long as he wasn't in the infirmary.
Rodney heard voices as he was about to turn the corner. The same corner he, Teyla, and Ronon came around just as they found John bleeding to death. He still couldn't believe this happened.
Well, he knew his friend would protect everyone like always, but Rodney was still trying to wrap his brain around the whole other plane of existence thing.
Did he really believe something like that could happen? Rodney wasn't sure. Maybe they all just imagined it. "No," he muttered. "If we imagined it, his body would still be..."
Rodney felt nauseated so he rushed to his quarters, arriving just in time to expel what little he had in his stomach. When he was finished, he sat back to lean against the wall.
"Bloody hell, where has he gone off to now? Elizabeth."
"Yes, Carson," she replied. He could tell that her voice thick with emotion. He could relate!
"Have you seen Rodney?"
He heard her take a deep breath. "Not since I left the infirmary. I'm near his quarters, I'll check in there."
"Let me know if you need me," Carson replied.
Elizabeth found Rodney ten minutes later, head down and knees drawn up to his chest. She slowly entered the bathroom and sat directly across from him. She could see him tense as she sat down, but he did not move.
Placing a hand on his arm, she cautiously said, "Rodney?"
"This sucks," he muttered, not lifting his head.
"I know," Elizabeth replied, "but we have to respect what John did. What he had to do. If he hadn't, that creature might have killed us all."
Rodney finally lifted his head and Elizabeth was almost surprised at his red-rimmed eyes. Almost. Rodney McKay had definitely proved worthy of the friends he had made the last few years.
"I guess this will take some getting used to. I mean, he was a constant around Atlantis. Once people began hearing about what he's accomplished and how he's handled situations out here, they put in a transfer."
Elizabeth nodded. "And who knows, he just may come back to us. If Daniel could do it, why couldn't John?"
"Don't give me too much hope, Elizabeth," Rodney replied. "Because if he doesn't come back within the next two weeks, I'm going back to Earth."
John suddenly found himself in a small room filled with plane models, books, and movies. "What the hell," he muttered. He could have sworn he died. A giggle caused him to turn around. "Who's there?"
"It's me, silly."
John blinked. "Hedda?"
The little rushed to give him a hug. "Don't take this the wrong way," she said. "I love that I get to see you, but how are you here? You shouldn't be."
"What do you mean, I shouldn't be here?" John asked. "That invisible beast followed me to Atlantis! It nearly killed two of my men, Hedda! What was I supposed to do?"
Hedda merely shrugged. "I am not allowed to know such information, John."
"If it's possible, I want to go back to Atlantis! Now!"
"John," Hedda said, taking his hand in hers. "Just relax and take a deep breath. Close your eyes."
John loved the little girl to pieces, but he was just so angry and frustrated with the whole ascended thing. "I am not in the mood for meditation, Hedda."
"You always were stubborn, John."
"Teer!" She smiled at him and John quickly wrapped his arms around her. "Please let me go back. I can't live like this. I've heard about Ancients. I can't live like this, Teer! If I can't help my friends, then I'd rather be dead."
Teer nodded. "Relax John, the others know that it was not your time to join us. They are ready to send you back. Just close your eyes."
Rodney sighed as he sat up in bed. Sleep had not been easy for him the last three days. All he thought about was John and how he risked his life, yet again, to save them all.
It was different when you were doing it yourself, but watching your friends risk their lives was 1,000 times harder than risking your own life. Again, Rodney sighed, this time standing.
Now he never believed in ghosts, but when he heard that familiar voice behind him, he wanted to scream like a little girl. He wasn't sure if he preferred that to what he did when he turned around and saw John Sheppard.
A small tap to the face brought Rodney back to consciousness. He blinked and looked up, as the person's face came into focus. "Oh God! I've gone crazy!"
"No you haven't, Rodney," John replied.
"I have to be. You ascended."
He nodded. "Yeah, I did."
"Then what are you doing here?"
"That's a little rude, Rodney."
"Well you're the one who decided to ascend! What? Were we too unevolved for your liking!"
John tried to hide how much that hurt, but he wasn't sure he succeeded. "Call Carson, Elizabeth, Teyla, and Ronon. Tell them something happened and you need to talk to them. I'll stay out of sight until you've told them."
"Fine," Rodney replied, trying to ignore the sad look that had briefly crossed John's face.
Everyone arrived ten minutes later. "What's this about, Rodney?" Carson asked. "You seem a bit distraught."
Elizabeth nodded in agreement. "And you look like you've seen a ghost."
"That's because I have," he replied as Carson checked his pulse.
"What do you mean?" Teyla asked.
John took that as his cue to enter the room. Rodney didn't even turn around as there was a collective gasp all around him. "Um... hey guys."
Ronon grinned and shook his head. Teyla and Elizabeth were smiling as well. Rodney understood their happiness, but right now he was still a bit angry at the way this occurred.
How could John put them through this and think nothing of it as he materialized back into human form? Why couldn't John have told them what he was up to and that he'd be back instead of putting him... them through this?
"Could everyone please leave?"
"Rodney, have some respect," Teyla said. "John has again risked his life for us all."
"Oh, I'm sorry if I'm not very sympathetic at the moment!" he replied in anger.
John took a deep breath as he watched his friend come to terms with what just happened. "Would you all excuse us?" he asked. Carson was about to protest, obviously wanting to examine John. "I'll meet you there in twenty minutes."
When they were gone, John walked over to Rodney. "Look, I know this was a somewhat... odd situation, but I didn't have time to tell you what was going on. I mean, that thing nearly killed Lorne and Morris! I couldn't chance it getting at anyone else."
"I know," Rodney replied. "I know. That doesn't mean I have to like it."
"No it doesn't, but try not to dwell on it. I'm alive and right here. Besides, I can't torture you with my quirks if I'm ascended."
Rodney rolled his eyes. "How sweet," he said, voice dripping with sarcasm.
John laughed. "Of course. Wanna join me in the infirmary, make sure I'm really me?"