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Title: Sehnsucht
Author: esteefee
Categories: Gen, AU
Rating: PG
Words: 2,340
Beta: em_kellesvig
Warnings: mild character disability due to injury
Summary: How can you miss a place you've never been?


Sehnsucht

by esteefee



General O'Neill told John he thought anyone who didn't want to go through this Stargate thing was whacked, but John kind of thought they were all more than a little whacked, starting with the general and heading on down to the doctor who'd tried to kill them, putting him unwillingly back into combat. John really didn't need people depending on him not to fuck things up again.

Then there was the zany, talks-a-lot scientist who wouldn't let John out of the ten thousand year-old furniture, and the director lady who was trying to get him to climb aboard an expedition to a city in another galaxy, for Christ's sake, when up 'til now NASA couldn't be assed to get back to the Moon.

Still, John was even thinking about it a little—the idea of a fresh start somewhere flying tech like that chair—right up until they got back to McMurdo and happened to run into a stick-up-the-ass Colonel—a guy named Sumner —on the tarmac.

O'Neill's wince said it all.

"Colonel Sumner is the military commander of the Atlantis Expedition," O'Neill said, and waved a hand at John. "The major, here, is thinking about joining up."

Sumner treated John to a once-over, and his lip curled. Then he gave O'Neill a look John could read plain as day.

"Dismissed, Major," Sumner said, and John got the hell out of there and went back to his quarters.

He made himself scarce over the next couple of days, but eventually comms tracked him down with a call from the director lady, Dr. Weir. John told her very politely he'd be taking no intergalactic trips, thanks anyway.

"Major Sheppard, I do understand if you have some misgivings about having a marine as your commanding officer—"

"Now why would you think that?" John propped a foot up on his locker and hugged the satellite phone with his chin. "I just happen to like my current posting."

"You like Antarctica." She sounded a bit skeptical.

"Yes, ma'am, I sure do."

"Well, then—I suppose there's nothing more I can say to change your mind?"

"No, ma'am."

A day or so later, Dr. Talks-a-lot called John up to yammer hysterically in his ear about what an ass he was. It was kind of entertaining, and their TV was on the fritz again, so John let him go on for a while before thanking him for his input and hanging up mid-stream.

:::

John never knew if they went or not, if the whole thing was a pipe dream or what, but he found himself wondering about it, and wishing them well. As the long days passed, he thought maybe he'd been a little hasty throwing away the opportunity. O'Neill had warned him now that the Air Force knew he had the special magic gene, they might pull him on a TAD to do some stuff, but nothing ever came of it.

So John just settled down to finish his tour as expected.

Then came the morning when they were watching the UCLA vs. USC football game, and it was interrupted by the Emergency Broadcast System. Except it wasn't "a test, only a test."

Every channel was broadcasting the same thing. And on the radio they started picking up the weirdest chatter. Aliens, everyone was saying. Aliens are here, and they're killing everyone.

Half an hour later, comms finally got orders and everyone started mobilizing. John was told to fly to the secret base ASAP.

He did the fastest pre-flight ever and took his chopper up. It was early morning, and a positively balmy twenty degrees or so. It could have shaped up to be a pretty nice day, what with the Rose Bowl and everything, if it weren't for the damned alien invasion.

If it was real; John still wasn't convinced.

But when he got to the base and saw the frenetic activity there, he started to believe.

He was escorted in by two MPs and met at the base of the elevator by a short scientist in a puffy snowsuit who introduced himself as Dr. Lee.

"Major Sheppard—thank God you're here. I need you in the chair right away." He grabbed the sleeve of John's flight suit and started dragging him down the hallway. "We don't know how many drones are left, but we're pretty sure you can target them the way O'Neill did against Anubis."

"Where's the general?"

"He's offworld with SG-1, and the gate has been dialed in. Terrible timing. Just terrible," Lee said, snuffling. "We'll try to grab control of the gate in twenty-two minutes or so. Here—"

He gave John a shove, and suddenly it was just like the last time. The chair caught hold of his spine, of his mind, and he felt his face going blank as countless images started washing in behind his eyes, the hum of a presence in the back of his mind, welcoming him.

"What do I—"

"Think of the airspace above the planet!"

And just like that, he was zooming above the surface of the Earth, and right there—motherfuckers—three ungainly purple ships like arrowheads, and six or so smaller ships, with countless tiny craft zipping out of them. A gigantic, silver ship was taking heavy fire and retreating rapidly from the field of battle, heavy plumes of escaping gas testifying to its damaged state.

"I see them," John said slowly.

"Fire the drones," Lee said. "O'Neill wasn't very clear in his report how he knew how to do it, exactly. But you should be able to aim them once you release them."

Well, that was helpful. John reached with his mind, thinking of a video game console and how to pull up his weapons cache, and the presence responded—he could feel something like a trigger under his hand. He squinted and flexed his fingers and a volley of lights burst behind his eyes.

He tracked the lights, following them with his gut until they split into trios targeting the three larger ships, the battleaxes. The drones hit, one-two-three, tearing through the skin and exploding brilliantly, first one ship then the other two. Not enough to destroy them, but crippling them badly.

"Hell, yeah!" he shouted, and Lee said, "Good? It's working? I don't have eyes on them; they've destroyed our satellites."

"It's working." John sent another group of drones. This time, though, the little needle-like ships tried to intercept, and he had to dodge and weave his little packs. He lost two drones to their needlers, and cursed softly, but the bulk of his drones got through, hammering the larger ships, and with his spares, he started in on the six smaller ships, which fired ineffectually on the drones.

"Uh-oh," Lee said, clutching John's arm where it rested on the chair.

"What?" John was already launching again, this time a stream. He could take care of all six of the smaller ships this time. He had enough drones to do the job, and if he sent the drones in a haphazard pattern, the needlers wouldn't be able to track them.

"The base's sensors are picking up incoming missile trajectories. I think the enemy has determined the source of the drones and are targeting this facility."

"So? We'll just have to get this done before they reach us."

Lee's hand convulsed on John's arm.

"I can't do both, Lee. Can't protect us and attack at the same time."

"I know."

And then John's drones started leaving atmosphere, and there was no time for talking. He was all of them, one after another, bobbing and weaving and dancing around the needlers, sending each drone on its final trajectory before picking up the next one just in time. He only lost a couple, and the final fireworks conflagration was spectacular—all ten ships were nothing but smoky debris, the fires extinguished by the vacuum of space.

"Cool," John said breathlessly, "We did it." And then Lee shouted something. "Right," John said, and tried to fire more drones. Only two launched, though; he must have run out.

He zoomed back to installation, and—Jesus, they were right on him; the needlers were going to kamikaze or something. Even if John destroyed them, the debris would land right on top them all. Christ, he could actually hear the needlers right now, whining their descent.

"Brace yourself," John said to Lee. "Tell everyone to get under something."

He heard Lee yelling to all the other scientists, and then there was no time. John turned his drones in a loop and came at the three needlers sideways, hoping to blow them off course. It was like leading a shot with a bazooka at this range, with the needlers going so damned fast he wasn't sure he'd be able to hit them. So when the drones reached the targets, he just thought hard and triggered the explosion, catching all three.

He heard it right overhead. Two seconds later, he felt it in his body as the earth shook.

And then—

:::

There was a cold time, and a painful time where it felt like his guts were being torn out, and then a real confusing time for a while after that. Anesthesia and John weren't best friends. He woke up, sort of, at the McChord Air Force Base Hospital in Christchurch, and learned he'd been airlifted out with a bunch of other personnel after the base attack.

It was a while, though, before he'd recovered from surgery and was lucid enough to learn that Lee had made it. John also learned, thanks to how the bonk on the head had screwed up his vision, his flight status was in question. They might grant a waiver if his "convergence insufficiency" improved over time and with therapy.

Well, that just sucked.

He had a lot of time to think while he was lying there waiting for his innards to start working again. He wondered whether it would have been better for him, personally, if he'd gone galaxy hopping instead of sticking around to wait for an alien invasion. On the other hand, at least he'd had one last hurrah doing something useful before they kicked him from the service.

Helping to save the Earth from aliens: that was pretty useful, right?

:::

It took the combined efforts of all the armies of the world to get rid of the aliens that had survived the attack and flown to Earth on their needle ships. One side effect of the attack, though, was better inter-border cooperation between long-hated enemies. No one wanted to be stuck with even one of these "Wraith" things, which was what the SGC said they called themselves.

The SGC and the IOA coordinated the cleanup effort. John was sitting in the physical therapy wing's Jacuzzi reading about it when there was a flash of light and O'Neill appeared.

"So," O'Neill said casually after a moment, "thanks for minding the store."

John found himself grinning. "No trouble, sir. There were these hoodlums, but I chased 'em out."

O'Neill nodded. "Yeah, heard about that. Hope they didn't give you too much trouble."

"Nah." John shrugged. "Piece of cake."

"Uh-huh." O'Neill's face went serious. "Heard about your flight status."

John tossed his paper and let his hands drop into the water tank. He kind of wished he could sink all the way under and avoid this conversation entirely. "Yeah, well. They still say I can get a waiver if...I'm doing these exercises, see."

"There's more to service than flying, Sheppard," O'Neill said, his voice almost gentle. "Might have a slot for you if you're interested."

"Oh, yeah?" John tried to sound like the offer sounded appealing but...on the other hand, this was the second time O'Neill was making him an offer, and John had been mighty quick to reject the first one. "Sounds like something I'd want to hear about," John said.

"All right," O'Neill said, clapping his hands together. "What say you get out of that tub, get your stuff together, and we'll talk about it somewhere a little warmer? Say in Colorado?"

"Yes, sir."

:::

So, for a little while, John went into space, which was a trip. Turned out he'd made the right decision after all. Then he got beamed again—like on Star Trek for Pete's sake—down into Stargate Command in Colorado, where he joined a Wraith-fighting team. They were designated SG-22, and they got beamed around from location to location to kill Wraith—those mothers went down hard—and at first, his little band had a steep learning curve and almost bought it too many times to count.

But slowly they got tight, learned each other's strengths and weaknesses, and got better. Captain Alicia Vega was wicked with a P-90 and in close quarters with a KA-BAR. Sergeant Johannes Reigart was soundless on point. And Private Unmesh Kanaani might be a greenie, but he had the ears of a bat and was perfect for their six. All of them learned not to get fazed by the Wraith's weird mind tricks, and that down didn't mean dead, no-how. When O'Neill approached John and gifted him with a palm-sized device that let him detect every life sign of human-size within a two hundred foot radius, they pretty much became unstoppable.

But sometimes, when John was lying on his bunk staring at the walls of his windowless room, he held the little Wraith detector in his hands and remembered the presence in the chair welcoming him, and how it felt to be connected to the sky, to fly with the drones into outer space, to feel all that power at his fingertips. His throat would get tight, and he'd have to put down the detector and pick up a comic book to get his mind off of things.

Because he remembered how maybe somewhere, out there, just a galaxy away, there might be a whole city where stuff like that happened every day.

John tried not to think about it.


End.


Comments

( 33 comments — Leave a comment )
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altyronsmaker
Aug. 17th, 2013 11:10 pm (UTC)
Ugh. H8choo. *cries* An Atlantis without John? UNTHINKABLE. Then, and THEN, you go and take away his FLIGHT STATUS.. *sobs* NOT ON, chicka, NOT ON at all.

But then, that's what regret is, isn't it? That bitter pill and all its consequences of choosing the WRONG thing...

Yeah.

It's official.

H8choo.
esteefee
Aug. 17th, 2013 11:37 pm (UTC)
it's all mischief's idea to make it so depressing. :DDD (I LIE I LIE).

yes, a bitter pill, especially since he only has the vaguest idea of the real consequences of his bad decision. that was what was so *delicious*. :))

I'M SORRY! <3
siriaeve
Aug. 17th, 2013 11:11 pm (UTC)
Oh John. :((
esteefee
Aug. 17th, 2013 11:37 pm (UTC)
<3 <3 <3 *squishes you*
outsideth3box
Aug. 17th, 2013 11:36 pm (UTC)
Oh girl, you broke my heart. But I love you for it. This was so good. Thanks for sharing.
esteefee
Aug. 17th, 2013 11:38 pm (UTC)
thanks, outside. ::offers glue::
em_kellesvig
Aug. 17th, 2013 11:39 pm (UTC)
And I beta'd this puppy. *sobs*

(Such a great John voice!)
esteefee
Aug. 18th, 2013 12:16 am (UTC)
my laugh is an evil one. weeep! weeeeeeep! :D
panisdead
Aug. 17th, 2013 11:39 pm (UTC)
Well, he made the best of it, at least. :(

This is very nice, with the pervasive sense of regret and missed chances.
esteefee
Aug. 18th, 2013 12:16 am (UTC)
thanks, pan. <3
goddess47
Aug. 17th, 2013 11:44 pm (UTC)
::pets John gently::

Nicely done... interesting take on that coin flip going the other way!

esteefee
Aug. 18th, 2013 12:18 am (UTC)
thanks goddess. the poor pet. <3
loriel_eris
Aug. 17th, 2013 11:45 pm (UTC)
Oh god, oh my god. With a prompt like that, I should have know better than to read this! Please excuse me a moment while my heart breaks into a million pieces. *sniff*

Oh John. *hugs him so hard* A universe where John is not on Atlantis is just a million kinds of wrong, and is perhaps the bit that breaks me the most. And on one hand, John has his new team, and he's making a difference and kicking ass, and he has some Ancient Tech, and Jack is being awesome. But on the other hand, what he's lost! And perhaps even worse, what he doesn't know he's lost! (Tho, he does have an inkling.) Oh my wee heart! *sniff*
esteefee
Aug. 18th, 2013 12:21 am (UTC)
aww, babe. ::pets you:: we don't know what happens next, you know. he could get an urgent intergalactic phone call. :D

melagan
Aug. 18th, 2013 12:35 am (UTC)
Ouch! I'd like my heart back now please.

Other than that, it was a wonderful glimpse at what might've happened.
esteefee
Aug. 18th, 2013 01:05 am (UTC)
sorry! I had a bad week!

I mean, thanks. :DD HAPPY HAPPY next, I promise. <3 Rodney just dumped bagonut cream pie in John's lap.
juniperphoenix
Aug. 18th, 2013 01:49 am (UTC)
Oh, I like this a lot. I love how John still ends up in the SGC instead of just going on with his life as though he'd never heard of it.

I have such a bad feeling about Atlantis. It's very ominous that we never learn whether or not the expedition survived.

The line about the hoodlums is my favorite. :)
esteefee
Aug. 18th, 2013 02:02 am (UTC)
heh. hoodlums. <3

well, I don't think it's ominous so much as John is low man on the pole here. He's just cleanup crew #22 and has no idea what the higher ups are doing about contacting the Expedition, which as far as we know is surviving okay and just lost someone who got mindsucked by the wraith. The wraith would be far more interested in Earth than Atlantis.

It's kind of a scary timeline. I always wondered why the wraith never just left Pegasus and went exploring. If they can survive 10,000 years without feeding, what's a couple of months in hyperspace?
(no subject) - patk - Aug. 18th, 2013 06:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - esteefee - Aug. 18th, 2013 10:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - patk - Aug. 18th, 2013 10:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - esteefee - Aug. 18th, 2013 10:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
mab_browne
Aug. 18th, 2013 07:30 am (UTC)
So if the aliens are the Wraith, I have a bad feeling about the Atlantis expedition. But I liked this a lot anyway. :-) (I used to be all about McKay but now I'm about John, so go figure...)
esteefee
Aug. 18th, 2013 10:05 pm (UTC)
I generally like to get the whole team in, but I had a depressing 'what if' scenario going this week. :)

Don't give up on Atlantis, tho: per canon, the wraith were far more interested in this new feeding ground than they were in Atlantis.
fanficfan123
Aug. 18th, 2013 09:05 am (UTC)
Satisfyingly sad while still redemptive. The "happy-enough" ending that sometimes we are lucky enough to achieve.
esteefee
Aug. 18th, 2013 10:06 pm (UTC)
thanks, fff. sometimes we're too blind to see the impact of our own choices...
saphirablue
Aug. 18th, 2013 05:57 pm (UTC)
On one hand - John isn't on Atlantis. :( On the other - a very cool AU!

Thank you! :)
esteefee
Aug. 18th, 2013 10:07 pm (UTC)
thanks, saphira! <3
tridget
Aug. 18th, 2013 07:37 pm (UTC)
Beautiful and sad at the same time. It was a well-crafted AU that totally captured the "regret" prompt. The feeling came through so clearly.
esteefee
Aug. 18th, 2013 10:07 pm (UTC)
thanks, tridge! mischief really helped me emphasize that part.
lilyfarfalla
Aug. 19th, 2013 01:44 am (UTC)
Inevitable given that prompt, but oh man, this is crushing.
cimmerdeux
Aug. 19th, 2013 08:36 pm (UTC)
Oh heartbreaking but yet so life-like; decisions work out but maybe not as well as they could but they work out and life goes on but it's still heartbreaking since we know how much happier John could be than he is now. So, is Atlantis still around? I'm guessing no since the Wraith showed up at Earth, took what they needed from Sumner and headed out which is even sadder but maybe Rodney is still around somewhere? Great AU.
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