Episode and type: tag to Vegas (spoilers for Outcast, Enemy at the Gate, Sanctuary, some SG1)
Characters: Sheppard, a little McKay
Warnings: (brief) character death, apocafic
Wordcount: 6, 494
Notes: This is an AU of my Vegas tag AU explored in“Lonely Man of Faith”. Will make most sense if you read that first. An AU sequel or possible AU of “I said in my Haste, all Men are Liars”. I guess in theory that could make this an AU of an AU of an AU. The three stories work as an extended trilogy tag to Vegas. I blame this all on McKay and the rip in space-time.
While the Candle Still Burns
John Sheppard isn’t quite sure how he finds himself standing over his father’s imposing tombstone, but here he is.
It feels like it’s the sort of thing he should be doing.
After all, they are neighbours now.
That kind of surprises him.
He can’t think where to begin.
Sorry dad for being a screw up but I really was right all along, just took too many years to prove it and we’d both died by then?
Doesn’t quite seem to cut it.
His father may be a decaying corpse in a coffin buried under gleaming marble, but John feels his bullish presence, as though he were standing right in front of him.
Still, it isn’t as if Patrick Sheppard can hear him.
At least he doesn’t think so.
Doesn’t really believe so, his mother’s silver crucifix under his shirt not withstanding.
“I forgave him long ago” says the woman’s voice in his head.
He ignores it.
“As long as the candle still burns there is time to make amends”
Ethereal or not, he really doesn’t have the patience for this stuff.
John wonders what his father felt like in his dying moments.
Thinks back to his own death -
It’s dusk but the rocky desert still retains the searing heat of the day, intensified by the flaming debris scattered around.
Despite this he feels an icy cold seeping into his bones as he stumbles away from the bullet riddled wreckage, his legs finally giving out.
Lying there with the desert around him he gets disoriented for a moment, memories of a remote crash site in Afghanistan flooding his mind.
He looks around, expecting for a moment to see familiar faces, familiar long dead faces, but even as his vision starts to grey out around the edges he realises the truth of his situation, that this time he really is finished, this time it really is his time.
He would laugh if he had the strength, surrounded by fires and bullet casings.
His dimming eyes take in the darkening sky, the first pinpricks of stars.
As he turns his head he feels the barely there weight of his mother’s crucifix catch on his collar.
Remembers a glowy thing -
His mother’s voice he thinks.
“You did good Johnny”
Then it’s all a blank.
Waking up again had been altogether stranger.
He’d opened his eyes to see otherworldly gold brown blue light filtering in from cathedral like stained glass, its glittering patterns dancing before him.
For a moment he’d wondered whether this was heaven.
Detective John Sheppard in heaven.
The pretty show is mesmerising.
Blue. Gold. Brown. Orange.
John remembers lying there on the cool floor, his body warmed by the glittering coloured light filtering in through the stained glass.
Sunlight his mind tells him.
Sunlight that warms him.
Sunlight that he can feel against his shivering bare skin.
For a dead man it makes him feel strangely alive.
His mouth and nose are filled with the tang of salty ocean and he can hear the muffled pounding of the waves.
It belatedly occurs to him that maybe he doesn’t have to stay sprawled on the floor.
He’s just testing his strength, lazily raising his head and trying to ease up into a sit when he hears the thud of booted feet.
He looks up and finds himself staring into the muzzles of several P-90 wielding soldiers in unfamiliar black and grey uniforms.
If dying in the Nevada desert while trying to stop aliens from attacking Earth was bizarre, it was nothing compared to coming back to life in an alien city in another galaxy.
An alien city that lights up to John’s touch, seems to sing to him, warm to him, make him part of her.
An alien city populated by an expedition from Earth, but an alien city nevertheless.
It takes a while for him to live down the whole sensation of being a dead man from Earth materialising alive in his birthday suit one morning in the middle of Atlantis, but eventually the crazy pace of events makes people forget.
They almost start to treat him like the regular guy he used to be.
He finds it ironic that the two people who accept him most easily are Teyla and Ronon, the two Pegasus galaxy aliens who’ve thrown in their lot with the folks from Earth.
Maybe they know how he feels.
The way some people look at John, the way everyone knows his whole ascension, descension story, he might as well be bright purple and have two heads.
People tend to be wary of getting too close to Ronon as well.
Maybe he also gives off that purple two-headed vibe.
Dr Jackson seems a bit put out that (disgraced, dishonoured, ex-Major, ex-detective, ex-dead) John Sheppard has been resurrected in the city of the Ancients, complete with his memory intact.
Well, his pre-ascension memory at least.
Not that John is necessarily thrilled to have all those memories.
He can’t help wondering whether a truly clean slate would have been better.
He isn’t sure what to make of this unexpected life with all it’s second chances which aren’t really second chances because he’s a whole galaxy away from everything he knew and did and screwed up during his first chance.
He wonders if somewhere there is a galaxy where four US soldiers, eight Afghan civilians and a field medic are getting second chances too.
Jackson is intrigued by what he describes as John’s unique status as a “Descended almost Ancient” (or ATA Descended as he’s listed in the reports – it’s all gibberish to him) and spends hours trying to question him about his experience.
After Jackson tells John his own crazy death and resurrection stories John thinks that at least Jackson should believe him when he said he couldn’t remember ever being glowy.
Or meeting Ancients, ascended or otherwise.
They’re testing him, checking him, watching and observing until he’s almost ready to toss it all in and walk out.
Or run out.
But that really isn’t an option when you are stranded in the middle of another galaxy.
For all that everyone keeps telling him how lucky he is to have his life back; he isn’t so sure about actually having his life back.
It often feels more like it belongs to McKay and Jackson and Colonel Carter and Dr Keller and all the other scientific and military types who suddenly seem to own his time, own him.
Sometimes he wonders if he is dead and this semi-indentured service to the Atlantis mission is purgatory.
After tests, more tests, and even more tests, McKay convinces Carter to allow him to join a ‘gate team.
He thinks that the fact that they’ve been cut off from Earth probably helps.
A lot easier to reinstate a disgraced officer when you can argue that you’re cut off and short staffed.
Before he knows it John is flying something called a Gateship
(because it goes through the’gate, how original)
He thinks Gateship is a rather grandiose name for a stubby little tube of a spaceship.
McKay gives him a really strange look when John tells him he’s renamed them Puddle Jumpers.
The name just feels right to him, he’s not sure why.
He is flying again.
Flying through space.
To other planets.
Controlling his craft with his mind
And no matter how many times he pinches himself it really is true, and he isn’t stuck in a movie or a comic book, it’s really him.
At least he’s pretty sure it is.
He isn’t sure why this freaks him out any more than the rest of the general weirdness that is his born again life.
It’s kind of cool.
He feels kind of guilty for thinking that.
McKay told him (at great length) about the many mutli-reality John Sheppards who came through the space-time rift while John was ascended.
Personally John thinks he’d rather not know.
He finds himself creeped out by Mckay’s fixation, fascination with the idea of (the ideal?) John Sheppard across the multiverse.
John really doesn’t enjoy the feeling that he’s McKay’s pet science fair project.
He knows that he owes everything he now has to McKay’s sponsorship.
It makes him feel a little queasy.
He can’t decide yet if McKay’s persuaded Carter to give him a second chance because McKay still sees the potential in him to become the alternate-John-Sheppard-heroic-knight-in-s
John has the distinct impression that for a lot of the higher ups his heroic death in the desert had been a very convenient way to tie up loose ends.
Well, there he goes again, screwing up other people’s plans.
Whatever the truth, he doesn’t think he has much choice.
Or anywhere else to go.
Going native in Pegasus has its charms, but Atlantis has become home to him.
At least more like a home than anything he’s known in far too many years.
No matter how annoying some of her denizens.