05 October 2007 @ 12:48 am
SGA: Dream Walking (PG-13), McKay/Sheppard.  
John knows that of all the worlds in the universe, this one will always be his favorite.

The world is barren and cold. The ground is cracked like a puzzle, lines drawn through the dried mud, and the sky is grey--grey and blank and it goes on forever in every direction. He used to walk towards the horizon to try and find an end, but there wasn't one.

John sits down on the ground and drops his pack beside him. He understands this world now. There isn't anything to do but wait.


"You look terrible," Rodney tells him.

John looks up at him blearily before dropping his head back down on his arms and closing his eyes.

"What, where's the snappy comeback?" Rodney asks, sounding insulted. "We have banter. It's what we do. Say something."

"You look terrible-er," John says, not bothering to lift his head.

"Now that's just pathetic," Rodney says. "Pathetic and kind of sad."

"Give me an hour of uninterrupted sleep," John says. "And then I'll insult you properly."

Rodney gives him a suspicious narrowed-eyed glare. "What's wrong with you, anyway?"

"It's just getting to me, I guess," he says, forcing his hands up so he can put his weight on the elbows instead.

"What is?" Rodney asks.

"All of this," John says tiredly. "It's like we're going in circles here. We're not making a difference."

"Speak for yourself," Rodney says. "You know they have a shrine for me on PX6487? They call me the Holy One."

"They tried to sacrifice you," John says disbelievingly.

Rodney bristles. "They said it was an honor. They worshiped me and wanted to bless their temple with my divine blood."

"You like it there so much maybe we should send you back," John says wryly.

Rodney grins brightly, which John actually finds completely bizarre considering the direction of their conversation. "Aha," he says. "There's that sparkling wit I love so much."


The people on Alane are hunted and scared. They close their doors whenever he ends up walking the only street their small town has. They say, "don't come back" when they say anything at all, but John doesn't choose to be there.

He thinks maybe there's a reason, maybe there's a purpose, but it's always worse when he tries to help. There's nothing he can do for them, his flesh goes straight through the walls.

Eventually he says, "Don't worry, I'm not coming back," just to please them, and for some reason they believe it every time.


John stands on the balcony for a half hour before watching the waves hundreds of feet below actually starts to result in a slight case of vertigo. He catches himself on the railing and closes his eyes, counts to ten, opens them again.

Someone grabs his arm to steady him a moment later, and when he glances over, Rodney's standing there, frowning. "For a pilot, you have some serious coordination issues," he says. "I'd prefer you didn't fall to your death, if it's not too much trouble."

"Just watching the waves, McKay," he says, looking down again. Sometimes he needs this view, just to remind him of what world he's on, to remind himself that he's awake and should stay that way.

"I can see that," Rodney says irritably. "You know, we have windows in Atlantis, and the cool thing about them is when you lean against them there's no danger of falling through."

He doesn't put up a fight when Rodney leads him back inside Atlantis. He'd pretty much gotten what he'd gone out there for anyway. "I wasn't going to fall," he says. "You worry too much."

"You don't worry enough," Rodney snaps. Then they're in the lift and John isn't quite sure how they've gotten there, but Rodney hasn't let go of his arm, and before he knows it they're in one of the towers, and Rodney has placed him in front of a tilted window, angled towards the floor.

It's something to lean against, and he places his hands on the glass, leaving his fingerprints as the cold seeps through his skin. It's a long way down, but Rodney's still got his arm and he doesn't get vertigo this time.

John knows that of all the worlds in the universe, this one will always be his favorite.


He's pretty sure he knows Athos at least as well as Teyla by now. He's been through all of the caverns a dozen times, traced the paintings on the wall with a flashlight he never does remember packing. He explores the ruins left by the Ancients but finds nothing there.

He does find a graveyard. Small rings of rocks on the ground, dead flowers sprinkled in-between, but no bodies underneath, he's sure.

The Wraith rarely left bodies to bury.


Going through the gate is always slightly disorienting, but when he walks through this time with Rodney and Teyla and Ronon calming coming out behind him, he feels a little like he's in some kind of waking dream.

The small clapboard houses are stacked the way he remembers, one following another down that single road, and all of the doors slam shut the moment they approach.

"He's come back," someone yells. "He returns!"

"I've been here before," John whispers.

Rodney looks at him strangely. "Our computers just now found this address in the Ancient's database, and it hasn't been dialed from Atlantis for hundreds of years."

John shakes his head to clear the fog, but the landscape is the same when it comes into focus again. "We're not going to find anything here," he says.

Teyla ignores him in that way she does when she thinks he's stuck on Earth nostalgia and not making any sense. "We should at least talk with them."

"They don't seem like the chatty type," Ronon says, as he watches the curtains flick open and closed in the windows.

"Alane," John says. "That's what they call it."

"Are you having some kind of delusional episode?" Rodney asks him.

John just points up, at the abandoned swinging sign hanging from an old post. Alane, it says. Strangers Not Welcome. But it's written in Ancient.

Rodney crosses his arm in a huff. "Since when do you know Ancient?" he asks. "You're getting language lessons from that pretty new linguist, aren't you? That's so like you. I offered to give you a crash course and you completely ignored me--"

John reaches out and touches the sign, a little surprised when his hand doesn't go straight through. "We need to leave," he says. "Now."

This time, no one argues.


After Atlantis, he thinks he likes it here the best. The water is almost eerily blue, crystal clear and warm, lapping at the edge of the white sand. He went swimming once, until he found the shark-like fish that circled in the distance.

There are no people that he can find, and he thinks it's kind of waste, all of this beauty and no one there to see it.

But that means there's no one around to ruin it, either, and John wonders if maybe that's some kind of cosmic catch 22.


"Weir's taken us off rotation," Rodney tells him.

John's not surprised Rodney was the one they sent to tell him. Rodney was pretty much the only one as immune to his charm as he was to his temper. "I don't see why," he says.

"Maybe because you're having psychic visions," Rodney says.

"I am not having psychic visions," John says patiently. "Has anyone ever told you that you're prone to dramatics?"

"Don't change the subject," Rodney says. "You haven't been taking Ancient lessons from that language hussy, I asked, so how did you know what the sign said?"

"Maybe I've just picked some Ancient up," John says reasonably. "We do live in an Ancient city. It's kind of everywhere and I'm a pretty quick study."

Rodney doesn't look like he buys that. Weir hadn't either. If it was only the sign they probably would have, but John had known that world, had said he'd been there before and had looked like he'd seen a ghost. His team couldn't seem to dismiss that.

He wishes he'd hid his reactions better, but only because he doesn't know how to explain them.

"Seriously," Rodney says. "What's going on with you?"

"It was just a weird case of déjà vu," John tells him, and smiles for good measure. "You're all overreacting."

Rodney doesn't look away. "They said, 'he's come back.' I heard them."

John does look away. He's always known Rodney was too smart for his own good, so he doesn't know why he's surprised.


He thinks he's on Atlantis until he looks out a window and sees a forest instead of an ocean. He goes down a few more halls, to where his quarters would be, and it's blasted away.

The city is scorched black in far too many places, and there is a Wraith hive ship like a bruise on the world, dizzyingly large and so purple it's black.

They're walking the halls, pulling apart the consoles, communicating on some level he can't even hear. He hides in the shadows and watches, helpless, because the one time he needs it he realizes he forgot to bring his gun.


He wakes up feeling like he's just gone through the gate, gasping for air on the other side, eyes opened just a little too wide. Rodney is at the foot of his bed, serious and looking troubled, arms crossed defiantly like he's daring John to ask him why he's there.

"Rodney?" he says, out of breath and more confused than he should be. He's always been a morning person. It's never been hard for him to wake up.

"Where were you?" Rodney asks. "Just now, where were you?"

"I was here," John says. "And if you were there, you should know that. Which brings us to why are you here, watching me sleep?"

Rodney holds up one of his gadgets. John hasn't a clue what point he thinks he's making holding it out like that, because he doesn't have the faintest idea what it does.

"There was a power surge in your room last night," he says. "Every night, actually, for weeks now."

"That's odd," John says, "but it doesn't really explain why--"

"You're doing something," Rodney interrupts. "I just can't figure out if you know what it is or if you're as confused about it as I am."

"I'm not doing anything, McKay, I was sleeping," he snaps.

"Okay," Rodney says. "Fine. Good. Go back to sleep, then."

"What?" John says.

"I want to see what happens when you do," Rodney says. "Because whatever was draining power stopped the minute you woke up."

"You want me to be a guinea pig for one of your experiments, you mean," John says.

Rodney frowns at him. "Actually, I want to find out what the hell's been messing with you and make it stop."

That's almost sweet, coming from Rodney, and John grins. "You're worried about me," he says.

"You're the guy who's supposed to keep me alive off world," Rodney says haughtily. "You need to be at 100 percent to do that effectively, and you haven't been."

"You can try and deny it but I know," John says, laughing. "You're worried about me."

"Just go to sleep, Sheppard," Rodney says, kind of fondly, before looking back at the device in his hands. "I've got this set up to detect where the power surge is centered the moment it starts up again."

"I can't sleep with you here watching me," John tells him. "It's just not going to happen."

Rodney walks over and sits awkwardly on the bed. "Pretend I'm not here, then." He pushes himself up against the headboard, eyes on the readings. "I can sing to you if you want," he adds.

John winces. "Please don't," he says.

Rodney gently pushes him back down, and then runs a hand through his hair, pushing it back and telling him to go to sleep again, and the strangest part about it all is that it doesn't seem strange at all.


Alane again.

John thought it was random at first but now he isn't as sure, because he seems to end up here more than anywhere else. They're ready for him this time. They're still in their houses but the muzzles of shotguns are peaking out of the doors.

"We told you not to come back here," they say.

"I won't," John says, but apparently they've finally figured out it's not a promise he can keep.

"This is your last warning," someone shouts, but before he even has a chance to move they start firing. John looks down at his vest and watches the bullets disappear straight through.

"He's a spirit!" someone says.

John sighs as the doors all slam shut again and waits to wake up.


The first thing John realizes when he wakes up is that Rodney is shouting his name. Rodney's fingers are digging into his shoulders hard enough to leave imprints and he's shaking him slightly. His eyes look more desperate than John thinks he's ever seen them.

"Thank god," he says when he realizes that John is awake. "I thought you were dead."

"What happened?" John asks.

"You fell asleep," Rodney says. "You wouldn't wake up again."

"Did you find out what was wrong?" John asks, and Rodney shakes him roughly the moment he feels his eyes start to close again.

"Stay awake," Rodney says. "I've already called Carson, he's on his way. Weir isn't happy either. Apparently I should have gotten permission to do this."

"You had my permission," John tells him helpfully.

"According to Weir your permission doesn't count either," Rodney says wryly. "She says we're both idiots and can't be trusted when plotting things together."

"We only blew up that one lab," John says. "She shouldn't keep holding that against us."

Rodney nods but doesn't move away. He leans closer. "Where were you, just now?" he asks, again.

"On Alane," John tells him, because until now he wasn't certain it was true, but he's kind of got no choice but to show his cards now.

"Alane," Rodney says, and shakes his head again, this time leaning back. "I tracked the power surge to some kind of program. It runs through the whole city, has remote consoles in all of the living quarters. Yours is the only one active."

"I didn't touch anything I swear," John says sleepily.

Rodney's brow furrowed. "You have the strongest known Ancient gene, it's possible it latched onto your unconscious without your knowledge. The question is, what the hell is it doing with it?"

"Taking me places," John tells him as his eyes slip shut again.

Rodney shakes him with a little more force than before, and says, "Oh my god of course," but John can't stay with him even though he wants to.


It's different when he returns. The doors are all open but the people are gone. He walks through the houses only to find most of the possessions have been packed. He wanders back outside and sees the caravan in the distance.

They think they're being haunted and they're trying to get away.

John sighs and falls to sit in the middle of the road. If he had his way he'd be on the beach every time and would have left these people alone.

He saw a pair of boots enter his line of vision and followed them up. It's Rodney there, in short sleeves and sweatpants and combat boots.

"So this is where you are," Rodney says.


He's in the infirmary now, and having no idea where he's going to wake up is getting old pretty fast. "I disconnected you," Rodney tells him.

He looks to his right and sees Rodney in one of the plastic chairs they'd brought from Earth, slumped down with his feet crossed over the foot of John's bed.

"You what?" he asks.

"Turns out you were tapping into the Ancient's travel catalogue," Rodney says, and he sounds tired. John wonders how long Rodney has spent awake while he was stuck asleep. "They liked to visit other worlds in their sleep to decide what was worth their time."

"How is that even possible?" John asks.

Rodney gives him a strange look. "We live on a floating city in the middle of an ocean on a world that's a galaxy away from where we're born, and you want to discuss the plausibility of this?"

"Okay, point," John says, and closes his eyes.

Rodney shoves him with one of his feet. "Stay awake," Rodney says. "I'm pretty sure I shut that thing down, but I'm not quite ready to test the theory."

"Sorry," John says.

Rodney frowns. "Why didn't you say anything?"

"About what?" John asks.

"About how you were visiting worlds in your sleep, maybe?" Rodney asks irritably.

"I thought they were just dreams," John says. "I've always had very vivid dreams."

"Well next time say something," he says. He looks down at his hands then. "Where else did you go?"

John sighs. "Everywhere," he says.

Rodney pushes himself to his feet and then steps closer, staring at John's hands now instead of his own, even though he doesn't reach out to touch. "Anywhere that we should know about?" he asks.

John grins a little. "There's a paradise out there somewhere where the Wraith have never been."

Rodney sits down on his bed again, and smiles. "That gives us something to look forward to, anyway," he says, and after a moment, he adds, "We do make a difference."

"I know," John tells him.

"It's just not always for the better," he continues. "But there's no helping that."

"I know," John says again, and thinks about the people on Alane, walking into the horizon just to get away from him.

"Do you think we'll ever find it?" Rodney asks.


"Your paradise," he says wryly.

John thinks that with his luck they'll probably find that planet with the Wraith first, but he still reaches out for Rodney's hand and says, "We'll find it," anyway, because that's what dreams are for.
( Post a new comment )
adafrogadafrog on October 5th, 2007 - 12:41 pm
Wonderful story. I love the uncertainty of it.
(Reply) (Thread) (Link)
Layton Colt: atlantislaytoncolt on October 6th, 2007 - 09:38 pm
Thank you, hun! :-)
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Link)
(Anonymous) on October 5th, 2007 - 01:11 pm
Beautifully done. Thanks for sharing.
(Reply) (Thread) (Link)
Melmellyna on October 5th, 2007 - 01:13 pm
Oops, this was me. *bashful*
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Link)
Layton Colt: johnny stormlaytoncolt on October 6th, 2007 - 09:40 pm
Hee, thanks, hun! :-)
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Link)
(no subject) - (Anonymous) on October 5th, 2007 - 06:15 pm
Layton Colt: john crichtonlaytoncolt on October 6th, 2007 - 09:43 pm
Thanks, hun! :-)
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Link)
dossierdossier on October 11th, 2007 - 03:39 am
i LOVE THAT LAST LINE. I love the whole story, the way that Rodney's worred, and how completely out of it John seems. wonderful!
(Reply) (Thread) (Link)
Raiiningraiining on October 26th, 2007 - 03:22 am
Oh excellent job - very freaky, and I love the way those people reacted, leaving town. Very well done.
(Reply) (Thread) (Link)