Chap. 23:


McKay is pacing in Lexi's office, in the middle of a rant, "I don't know if putting him in the pod was the right thing to do."

Watching him pace and getting dizzy, "Rodney, sit down, please." and following him with her eyes, as he takes the seat opposite her, "look, you and Jen said that if you didn't put him in there he would have died, right?"

Rubbing his hands through his hair and resting them nervously in his lap, "yeah. The cell degradation was too advanced and if we didn't, Jennifer wouldn't have any time to figure something out."

"Well there you go. Now stop second guessing yourself." and putting up a hand to stall his response, "and I'm gonna help her in whatever way I can. We'll figure this out."

Sighing, "I know, it's just."

"You're worried about Teyla."

Looking at her with a mixed look of confusion and worry, "how did you know?"

Chuckling sadly, "Rodney, I only know because it's my job to know and also because I'm worried as well, everyone is."

Realizing what an interesting position she is in, "oh, right. You're probably getting it from both sides."

"Yeah I am. But not from sides you think."

"What does that mean?"

"Well, you know John and Sam. It's like pulling teeth to get them to admit to how they're feeling. So, the only people I'm really getting anything from are the civilian population. The military side, is following the lead of our two steadfast leaders." she says with a sad smirk.

Standing up and heading for the door, "yep that would be Sam and Sheppard for you. Thanks Lexi, I guess I just needed to hear that I was right."

Getting up and walking with him to the door, "Rodney, you're one of the smartest people I know and Jen is one of the best doctors I've worked with. Carson couldn't have a better team working on the situation." she says, and as the two of them come to a stop in front of the doors, which are now standing open, "in regards to Teyla, I've got a feeling that John and Evan are going to work themselves into the ground, until they find her. At least we've got the Athosians back."

Sighing, "yeah, there is that and you're probably right about Sheppard and Lorne. I don't know if they could blame themselves any more for this whole fiasco then they already do."

Placing a comforting hand on his shoulder, "and you shouldn't blame yourself either."

"Lexi, I don't blame myself."

Smirking, "oh, right, okay. Whatever you say." she says, knowing that, like John and Lorne, he does in fact blame himself, but she isn't about to fight him, "I'm gonna go with that one."

Fixing her with a confused look, "uh, what?"

"Never mind Rodney. I'll see you later."

Still confused, but heading out the door, "yeah, I'll see you later and thanks again."

"No problem," she says, as she watches his disappearing form and then walks back into her office.

xxxx

As she sits down at her desk, she opens her email client and starts sifting through them. Her eyes start to glaze over as she reads through what feels like the hundredth one. Shaking her head to clear it, she leans back and rubs her hands over her face. Crossing her arms over her chest, she starts reflecting on the events that led up to Carson being placed in stasis and the almost rescue that has John, Ronon, McKay, Lorne and the rest of the military contingent on the base searching every corner of the galaxy for Teyla.

She smiles to herself, remembering the previous night when she walked into John's office to find him fast asleep at his desk, reports littering his desk and floor. After gently shaking him awake, she dragged him back to her quarters and put him to bed, against his protests.

As it is, he and Lorne with Lorne's team are off world at this very moment, waiting to meet with a Genii contact. She frowns at this, not because she isn't happy that there might be a lead on Teyla, but because with everything that is going on, she has had to prescribe sleeping aids to half the expedition and never in all her time as a psychiatrist, has she had so many sessions.

She is brought out of her reverie by, "Lexi, come in please."

Tapping her radio, "go ahead, Sam."

"Can you meet me in my office?"

Hearing something in her voice, "Sam is something wrong?"

"Lexi, just come to my office."

Standing up, as the radio link shuts off she heads out to the transporter and makes her way up to Carter's office. As she walks into Control room she doesn't miss McKay and Zelenka bickering about something that she doesn't understand and seeing this the knot in her stomach, that has been slowly growing over the past couple of days, tightens.

xxxx

Carter sees Lexi in the Control room and comes out to meet her, "thanks for coming."

Taking one more worried look at McKay and Zelenka, "yeah, no problem." and falling into step next to Carter, they sit down in the chairs to the right of the door.

Sitting down, "Lexi, Major Lorne came back an hour ago with his team."

Taking a deep breath to steady the nerves that are starting to fray a little and interrupting her, "wasn't John with him?"

"Yes. He was."

Looking down at the ring on her finger and twisting it around with her thumb and looking back up at Carter, "what happened?"

Leaning closer, "we don't know yet. According to Major Lorne, John dialed out to come back a few hours before he did. As soon as he told me this we had Rodney and Radek come up to see if they could find out what happened."

Looking out into the Control room as McKay loudly shouts at Zelenka, "ah. That would be what they're arguing about."

Sighing, "yeah. I have no doubt that they will figure this out, but." and squeezing Lexi's hand, "I just want you to be ready to deal with the fact that he might not be coming back."

Squeezing her hand back and smiling, "I know Sam. But he'll come back, he's still got stuff to do."

Just as Carter is about to reply, she sees McKay and Zelenka walk in the door and nodding to acknowledge them, "Rodney. Radek, what have you got?"

After continuing to bicker for a couple more seconds, "Sam, as of right now, we have no idea."

"That's not true, we have some idea." Radek interrupts.

Huffing angrily, "yes. Yes. We have some idea."

"But Rodney, it's still an idea."

"Yes. It is."

"Well what is it?" Lexi asks, impatiently and seeing the looks of surprise on their faces, "sorry."

"It's okay Lexi, you're right. What's the idea?"

"Sam, we think that in order for this to have happened, something must have happened to the worm hole. But, from what we can tell, so far, there is nothing indicating what that something is." McKay answers.

"Okay, thank you. Keep at it." and as Carter watches the two men leave the office, she turns to face Lexi, "let's go get some coffee."

Getting up and walking next to her out of the office, "I think I'm just gonna go get some sleep."

Reaching the top of the stairs in the Control room, "okay. Sleep well. I'll keep you in the loop."

"Thanks, Sam. You too."

With that, they part ways. Lexi heading to her quarters and Carter for the mess. Lexi swipes her way into her quarters and as she feels the doors shut behind her, the emotions that she has managed to keep from over flowing finally spill over. Shaking with sobs, she climbs up onto the bed and taking Mr. Puddles, she cries herself to sleep.

Waking up the following morning, she doesn't open her eyes right away. Hoping against hope that it is just a bad dream. But, as she rolls over and feels the cold emptiness of the sheets on the left side of the bed, the realness of the situation finally sinks in.

Slowly, she sits up and pulling her knees up to her chest and resting her chin on top of them, her eyes fall on the ring on her left hand, "John, you better come back to me." she says out loud to the room and taking a deep breath, she gets out of bed and gets ready for what she is certain is going to be a very hard day.

As it turns out, the next twelve days pass in a blur as the base is on constant high alert. Not only are they still trying to find Teyla and Michael, but the search for John is going no where and Lexi has to deal with listening to everyone's continued frustration, along with her own fears.

xxxx

John hears holo-McKay calling his name and as he fights his way back to consciousness, glimpses from the past twenty-four hours begin playing through his head. Walking through the Gate to find a deserted and very hot Atlantis. Then meeting holo-McKay and the memory of being told that he has been sent 48,000 years into the future, comes front and center. Only to be replaced with the memory of holo-McKay telling him that the only way he can go back in time and change the time line, will be to walk through a monster sand storm to make it to the stasis room where he will have to spend at least seven hundred years in stasis, so that holo-McKay will have time to find the right sun flare.

Not wanting to open his eyes, hoping that it is all a bad dream, he ignores holo-McKay's voice a little longer and does a mental check of how he's feeling, exhaustion? Check. Pounding headache? Check. Hungry? Check. Throat dry?

The last thought makes him want to laugh out loud, but finally his brain latches onto holo-McKay's voice and he opens his eyes, disappointment flooding through him as the fact that it is not a bad dream, hits him like a truck.

But as he hears holo-McKay squat beside him and say, "there you go. You can do it." he groans and rolls over onto his back, pulling down the scarf that is still covering his face, "hello, Rodney."

Holo-McKay stares at him concern on his face, "yeah, I'm still here. Look, I'd help you but I'm, I'm, um."

Realizing what he is getting at, he painfully pulls himself into a sitting position against the wall and asks, "how long was I out?"

"All night! You don't look so good. Maybe we should get you to the stasis chamber as soon as possible."

Wearily looking at him, "agreed." he says, and he closes his eyes for a moment. Before long he hears holo-McKay's voice reaching levels that would have made the real McKay proud.

Forcing his eyes open, "what, Rodney?"

Concern etched on his face, "I've been calling your name for half an hour. You passed out again. We need to hurry."

Pushing himself up on the wall and slowly standing up, "I'm...coming."

As they walk to the stasis room, John realizes that holo-McKay has told him about Carter, Ronon, Teyla and the rest of the exhibition, but not about what Lexi had done as well as what had happened to the real McKay.

"Rodney, what happened to Lexi?" he asks, hoping that she hadn't waited for him, but a small part of him hoping that she had.

Holo-McKay stops short and a look of sadness comes over his face, "she, ah."

"What?"

"John, after your funeral she was the only one who didn't believe that you were really gone. Even after she was assigned back to the SGC, she still held out hope. But I think after burying Sam's empty coffin, she realized that you were really gone and she ended up leaving the SGC. The last time I saw her she had her own private practice in New York."

Taking a deep breath and fixing him with a look, he hopes doesn't show the hurt that he is feeling, "did she ah...did she ever get married?"

"No. I asked her why once and she told me that after losing you and everyone else that we lost, she was happier being alone."

Falling into step with holo-McKay again, "she should've forgotten about me. I'd never want her to be alone."

Sighing, "John, she loved you." and leading him into the stasis room, "I've already prepped the solar panels. You're good to go." and as they reach the stasis pod, he holds out a hand and a panel beside the pod opens, "here. Take the first crystal. I've loaded all the intel we got on Michael after your disappearance, including the address where we found Teyla."

Taking the crystal and turning to face him, "you know, you never told me what happened to you. I mean in the past."

"Oh, you don't wanna hear about that."

"Well, why not? Obviously you survived."

"Only cause I quit."

"Quit what?"

"Atlantis, Stargate Command, the whole thing."

"That doesn't sound like you."

"Yeah, well, we were under new management."

He explains that Richard Woolsey took over as the Atlantis commander and once the IOA stopped the support that Atlantis was giving to the Pegasus galaxy, McKay and Keller went back to Earth. Both taking private jobs and falling in love with each other. After Keller passed away from Michael's plague, McKay decided to put the plan in motion, with Lorne's help, that allowed him to be the hologram that he is now and be there when John came through the Gate. After the explanation, John steps into the stasis pod and after being frozen in it, holo-McKay disappears.

xxxx

Lexi is in the middle of a session with Keller. The two women are talking about nothing in particular, when Keller brings up the subject of John missing, "I was talking with Rodney yesterday and he thinks that he and Zelenka figured out what happened to Colonel Sheppard."

Raising an eyebrow in surprise, "really, what happened?"

Grimacing, "I'm not really sure. He said it had something to do with some sort of astrological phenomena."

"But, if that is the case." Lexi says, before the page coming over their earpieces cuts off the rest of her comment.

"Doctors Keller and Carter report to the Observation room, stat."

They share a look and as Lexi responds back, "Chuck, we're on our way. Carter out." they head out for the Observation room.

Walking onto the Observation deck that looks down into the Isolation room, Keller and Lexi stop short, as on the screens in the room is John and not meaning to, Lexi's breath catches. Carter, who is looking down into the room, watching Marie draw blood from his arm, turns to face them as she hears the intake of breath.

"Jennifer, I need you to run his blood work and check the scans that Marie just took of him."

Coming to stand right next to her, watching John, looking up at the two of them with an annoyed look on his face, "I'll get right on it." she says, as she, turns and hurries out of the room, stopping to squeeze Lexi's arm.

Becoming aware of her surroundings again, as Keller squeezes her arm, she walks over to stand next to Carter at the window and looking down into the room, "can I go down there?"

Drawing her gaze away from John and looking at her, "yeah. I think that would be a good idea. Oh and bring this down to him." she says, handing her a turkey sandwich and a bottle of water.

Taking the sandwich and water and turning to head down to the room, "thanks, Sam."

"Lexi, we're not sure it's him."

"It's him." she says, needing to believe it and walking down the stairs, she takes a deep breath before she approaches the door leading into the Isolation room. Plastering a smile on her face and nodding to the guard that is standing at the door, she waits for the door to open and walking in and putting the sandwich and the water bottle down on the table that is right next to the door, "John..."

He is kissing her before she can get the rest of her words out and as she feels his hands on her back and his lips on hers, she can only smile inwardly, knowing without a doubt that this is her John.

Pulling away from him and smiling wide, a couple of tears escaping her eyes, "I knew you'd come back."

Placing a hand on either side of her face, swiping the tears away with his thumbs and smiling, "I had to keep my promise." and noticing the sandwich and the water on the table behind her, "is that turkey?"

Smiling and picking up the water and sandwich, "it certainly is. Hungry?"

Grabbing the sandwich and tearing open the wrapping, "starving."

They sit down on the two chairs in the room. Leaning forward, one hand resting on his leg, she watches him scarf down the sandwich and water and shooting Carter a look, "John what happened?"

Finishing off the sandwich and water, "well, there was a solar flare that did something with the wormhole at the exact moment that I dialed out. It sent me 48,000 years into the future, where I met McKay."

"Wait. If you went that far into the future."

"Yeah, everyone was dead and buried." and looking her in the eyes, he sees more tears threatening to fall.

"Then how was Rodney there to meet you?"

"It turns out that it was a different time line. Because when I disappeared, the time line changed. At some point in that time line, McKay created a holographic version of himself and figured out that if he found another flare similar to the one that sent me to the future, then he could send me back. I had to stay in stasis for about 700 years extra, give or take, until he found the right one."

Walking into the room, "John, in this future what happened to everyone?" Carter asks.

Sighing and rubbing his hand across the back of his head, "it's a lot to retell."

"That's okay, tell us as much as you can."

Looking from her to Lexi and back again, "when they couldn't find me, I was declared KIA. McKay told me that once I went missing, everything went down hill. They found Teyla, but it was too late. She had had her baby and Michael took the child for himself and killed her."

Standing up and starting to pace, "Sam, you were given the Phoenix, which wasn't completely ready. So you and Rodney completed it. Michael let slip some intel and you left Lorne in control of Atlantis."

"Wait. So Sam went up against Michael on her own?"

"Yeah, Lexi. Unfortunately, the intel led you" inclining his head to Carter and coming back and sitting on the chair, "into a trap. You were able to get the crew off but the transporters went down. You rammed the Phoenix into a Wraith cruiser taking three cruisers with you."

"And Ronon?" Carter asks.

John is watching Lexi and seeing the tears rolling down her cheeks, he takes her hand and squeezing it in comfort, "well he left the base and after training his own group of men, they went on a raid of a Wraith facility. He ran into Todd and they sacrificed themselves to take out the facility."

Watching John, as he finishes speaking and seeing the exhaustion setting in, "John, we can continue this later. You should get some sleep."

Looking up at her angrily, "no Sam! I have to go get Teyla. I already told you."

Realizing that she isn't going to win this argument she decides to ask him to finish telling them about the other reality, so that Keller can have time to run the tests and McKay can check up on the sensors for the flare, "okay, fine. What happened to everyone else?"

He feels Lexi squeeze his hand and taking a deep breath and closing his eyes, "well, the IOA put Woolsey in charge of Atlantis and they cut back the aid that we were giving to the Pegasus galaxy. Rodney and Keller couldn't handle it, so they went back to Earth and left the SGC for good."

Carter takes in a deep calming breath and looking from her second in command to her niece, "all right, that's good enough for now. I'm gonna go see if Jennifer has anything yet. Um, Lexi can I have a word with you outside?"

Standing, she follows Carter out of the room and as the doors close behind her, "Sam, what is it?"

"Stay with him and see if you can get him to get some sleep. He looks like he's running on fumes."

Smiling, "I know. I'll see what I can do. But I doubt that he will."

"Just try your best. I'll be back as soon as Jennifer and Rodney have something."

Carter turns and heads for the infirmary. Lexi watches her retreating back and then goes back into the room.

John smiles as he sees her walk back into the room, but it quickly falters as he sees the look on her face, "Lexi, what wrong?"

Moving the chair next to his and sitting down with her feet curled up under her, "you told us about everyone else, but..."

Pulling her close to him, so that her head is now on his shoulder and his arms are around her, "you want to know what you did?"

Looking up into his eyes, she sees the pain in them and her breath catches, "yeah."

Kissing her forehead and sighing, "you never gave up on me. But you left the SGC and moved to New York to start your own practice."

Wrapping her arms around him, resting her head on his shoulder again, "thank you for coming back to me." she says, and as she feels him rest his head on hers and his body relax a little, "I know you said no, but you should really try to get some sleep. It might be a while until Jen and Rodney come up with something."

"I can't." and sighing, "I know that they're only following protocol, but I really wish they'd hurry up."

Lifting her head up again, "okay, if you won't sleep. Will you at least tell me how you're feeling?" she asks, not having missed the tightness around his eyes.

"I'm good." he says, not meeting her eyes.

Frowning, "did they give you anything for the headache?"

Matching the frown, "how'd you know?"

"You're eyes and that doesn't answer my question. Did they give you anything?"

Meeting her stare, "no. They didn't."

Smiling, "all right. How about I go and get you some Tylenol and see what's going on?"

Returning her smile, "that'd be great."

Getting up, "okay, I'll be back as soon as I can."