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Monday, June 14th, 2010 09:53 pm
More zine fic from last year...

Title: Good To See You
Fandom: SGA
Characters: John, Rodney, team
Rating: PG
Word count: 6284
Summary: John touches an Ancient device, then loses touch with the world around him (set somewhere in season 4)



Good to See You

"Here," Rodney said. "Touch this."

He was holding out one of the numerous small gray bits of Ancient tech that they’d found around the city, this one cube shaped, inlaid with pale blue panels. "Why?" John asked, leaning against the side of the lab bench and watching half a dozen scientists tapping away at laptops and poking at bits of Ancient tech and generally doing what they did every day in Atlantis. He’d only been on Earth for a few days, but he still felt like he was soaking up Atlantis normal, slowly getting absorbed back into the city collective.

Rodney was actually looking at him, like he thought John had lost his mind. "To see if you can turn it on. You remember the ATA gene, I hope, the thing that got you on this mission in the first place?"

"I might have a vague recollection," John agreed dryly, still not taking the cube. "Why can’t you do it?"

"Because, clearly, it’s not working for me." Rodney shook his hand, where the device was lying inert on his open palm. "And everything in this galaxy turns on for you, so take the damn thing and think on at it."

"I’m just saying," John said, holding his hand out. "If it turns out to do something unpleasant, I’m going to make you fix it."

"And that will be different from usual how, exactly?" Rodney muttered. He tipped the cube into John’s hand, and it was lighter than John expected. Must be hollow.

He focused on the cube and thought, on.

"Well?" Rodney demanded.

"Patience is a virtue," John said primly. He could feel the device warming up in his hand, like it was checking him out, making sure he really did have the gene; it was always the same with the devices that only worked for the people with the strongest natural expressions of the gene.

"Yes, I’ll remember that next time you’re hanging over my shoulder counting down the seconds to our –" Rodney said, and then the device shuddered in John’s hand and everything went black.

*

He expected to wake up in the infirmary, on his back with an IV in his hand and his team hovering around him, anxious and trying not to show it.

Failing that, he expected to wake up on the lab floor, to Rodney peering at him and a circle of scientists behind him.

He was half right with his second guess.

He was lying on the lab floor, in an undignified, crumpled heap, but when he opened his eyes, no-one was looking down at him.

"Sheppard," Rodney said, and John breathed a sigh of relief, because that at least was familiar, until Rodney said, "Sheppard, do you copy?" and he realized that Rodney was talking into his headset.

He pushed himself up onto his elbows, irritated. He was the one who’d just collapsed, Rodney had no excuse to be going crazy. "I’m right here," he said.

No-one took any notice, not Rodney, who John could see standing against his lab bench, and not the scientists milling around looking worried.

"I said, I’m right here," he said again, and reached out a hand to poke Rodney in the leg, the only part he could easily reach from the floor.

His finger sank into Rodney’s leg, like every ghost movie John had ever seen.

Okay. There was no need to freak out about this. He’d just hit his head, after all, it was probably a head injury induced delusion. He took his hand back, grabbed the edge of the desk to pull himself up, and that worked. He could feel the wood under his hand, feel the bump of his knee against the edge of the bench when he over-balanced slightly as he stood.

Just an illusion.

He moved closer to Rodney, right up in his personal space, close enough to have Rodney batting him away and telling him not to be a limpet. Rodney didn’t even twitch.

John reached for his arm, and his hand passed straight through.

"Sheppard, where the hell are you?" Rodney demanded over his headset.

*

Teyla was the last to arrive at the impromptu meeting in Rodney’s lab, apologizing for being halfway through a check-up with Keller as Lorne stood to get her a chair.

John didn’t quite move fast enough, and Lorne passed through the right side of his body, making him shiver. Lorne didn’t seem to notice anything, but John made an effort to get out of his way before he moved back. It was a lot harder to avoid touching people when they didn’t even know you were there, John was rapidly discovering.

"Rodney, you were saying," Carter said when Teyla was settled. She was looking very pregnant, enough that John had thought he noticed a difference when he came back from his dad’s funeral.

"Right." Rodney poked at the device with a pen. "Sheppard was touching this when he disappeared, so we have to assume that’s what caused it."

"Okay. Any idea what it actually did to him?"

Rodney shook his head, looking at John – no, looking through John, at Zelenka, who’d come to stand behind him. John took a step to the side, out of Rodney’s line of sight. "One minute he was there, the next he was gone. He’s not showing up on any scans of the immediate area, or responding to the radio."

"Maybe it dematerialized him," Ronon suggested, looking at the device like he wanted to shoot it. John really hoped no-one would let him, since that device was probably his only chance at not being invisible and untouchable for the rest of his life.

Rodney sagged slightly at Ronon’s words, but Teyla just gave Ronon a disapproving look.

"I am sure that is not that case," she said firmly. "Why would the Ancestors have created such a thing?"

John could think of a dozen different reasons, but he wasn’t going to say them. Not that it would make any difference if he did; no-one could hear anything he said.

It was slightly possible he might be freaking out about this, a little.

"Right," Carter said, nodding at Teyla. "Let’s widen the scans to the rest of Atlantis – if it is some kind of transporter, it might have sent him to the far edges of the city, maybe even out of radio range."

"Mm, or straight into the ocean," Rodney added under his breath.

Carter ignored him. "In the meantime, Rodney, see if you can work out what that device is supposed to do."

"That’s what I was doing with Sheppard. We were hoping he and his super-gene could get it working."

"Looks like it did," Lorne said.

"Yes, thank you, Major Obvious."

"All right," Carter said. "See if you can work out what it does, and how it does it, now that Colonel Sheppard’s initialized it, and then we can start thinking about reversing it. Whatever it was. I’ll get someone from linguistics to start searching the database as well."

Lorne, Teyla and Ronon looked at each other, and John knew just how they felt. This wasn’t something that could be fixed by shooting someone, talking to someone, or running down leads to find someone.

This wasn’t something they could fix.

Teyla and Ronon lingered in the lab anyway, even after Carter and Lorne headed back to the gate-room to run the citywide scan.

"Perhaps they will find John that way," Teyla suggested, not sounding very hopeful.

"Sure, along with a secret cache of ZPMs that we just never noticed over the last four years," Rodney added.

"It is better than supposing that he has been transported into the ocean," Teyla said sharply.

"I guess," Rodney conceded, then touched his earpiece. "Sam? Get someone in a jumper to go scan the mainland as well, just in case."

"Good idea," John said.

"Good idea," Ronon said, and Rodney smiled grimly, pleased at the praise but probably already certain it wouldn’t make any difference.

*

It was obvious by mid-afternoon that they had no idea what the device had done to him, other than not transporting him anywhere on the planet.

"Well, unless the transportation killed him, of course," Rodney added when Lorne got back in the jumper.

"Way to keep a positive thought," Lorne snapped over the radio, and Rodney actually flushed, ducking his head even though Lorne couldn’t see him.

"Sorry."

It wasn’t such a ridiculous idea. The problem was, just the city was huge; they didn’t have the manpower to search for a body, not without a starting point.

The thought scared John a bit, because if they did decide that was what had happened to him, they wouldn’t be able to search for a body, so they wouldn’t disprove the theory. They’d give up trying instead, and John would be stuck like this.

If only he had some way of telling them what had happened.

As soon as he thought that, he was ready to kick himself; he couldn’t believe it was only just occurring to him. Just because he couldn’t touch someone, that didn’t mean he couldn’t touch something.

He stepped carefully round Rodney’s chair and over to the whiteboard, which was only half-covered in equations. There was a green marker on a nearby desk, appropriately; John was sure he remembered reading that writing in green was a sign of insanity.

Haven’t been transported, he wrote. Device made me invisible.

Except the whiteboard, he realized when he turned round, was behind his three team-mates, and he couldn’t exactly nudge them to get their attention. He turned back to the board, planning to at least draw a box round the words so they’d be noticeable when someone did turn round.

They were gone.

Everything else on the board was exactly the way it had been, but his words had vanished.

He scrawled them out again, telling himself firmly that he was just having an absent-minded moment – he’d meant to write the words, but turned round first. He just hadn’t done it yet.

This time, he got to watch the words fade out for himself, barely seconds after he finished writing them. When he looked over to where the pen had been, it was back there again, and he was holding empty air.

"Okay. This might be a problem."

*

"Hey!" Ronon’s sharp exclamation jolted John up, just in time to watch Ronon get his arm round Teyla as she slid from the lab stool. She started awake with an unTeyla-like squeak, but got her feet under her quickly, smiling at Ronon, and Rodney, who was half up from his own stool, reaching across the desk for her.

"You should go to bed," he said, frowning.

"I am fine," Teyla said. John forced himself to stop before he got close enough to start merging with her, which was by far the creepiest part of this whole thing. "I merely dozed off for a moment. I am awake now."

"It’s late," Ronon said firmly, one arm still round Teyla. "McKay can keep working without us, right, McKay?"

"Of course." Rodney frowned down at the device. "Seriously, Teyla, I don’t have time to start visiting you in the infirmary."

John ducked his head to hide his smile, watching Teyla and Ronon exchange their own fond smiles.

"I would not wish to give you additional troubles," Teyla said, and just like that, all the levity went out of the room, Rodney glaring down at the device, Ronon looking away. It made John’s heart hurt, to know that they were worrying over him, fearing the worst while he was stood right there, mostly fine.

Not that this wasn’t completely typical of the Ancients. An invisibility machine was a great idea, but he couldn’t figure out the point of one that didn’t allow for communication between the invisible person and everyone else. Unless, like some of the other Ancient technology, it worked differently for the real Ancients; maybe they’d used some of their additional brain-processing power to communicate on another level. Whatever it was, John really felt they should have used some of it to realize that an expedition from ten thousand years in the future might benefit from an instruction manual or two.

"John will be fine," Teyla said firmly. "We will find him."

Rodney’s smile was forced when he nodded. John figured he wasn’t the only one who’d noticed that she sounded the way she did when she talked about getting her people back. "Of course we will. We always do. He’s probably off somewhere having a nap."

Right. Because, on being suddenly transported to a mysterious part of Atlantis where he couldn’t use the radio, obviously the first thing John would do was take a nap. He rolled his eyes, wishing Rodney could see it.

Teyla yawned behind her hand. "And I believe that I must do the same. Rodney, you should rest also."

Rodney looked between her and the device, his expression torn. "I can’t, not until I figure out what this did to Sheppard and how to reverse it."

"You will think better after some sleep," Teyla said. "Major Lorne and his men are searching the city now for signs of John’s whereabouts, and you said yourself that he is unlikely to have been taken beyond the reach of the city."

"Assuming it transported him somewhere," Rodney said. He sighed. "I just – what if it did something else? We could be out searching for him when he’s not even there. I have to figure it out."

"No point trying to change his mind," Ronon said firmly. John felt weirdly like he was watching himself, split into two; he was usually the one trying to convince Rodney to take a break, while thinking that it was probably a waste of time. "I’m going out with the marines. McKay or I will radio you if anything happens."

"Yes. Absolutely. And, you know, er, Sheppard won’t be happy if he comes back to find you’re in the infirmary."

John thought that probably wasn’t the best argument to be using on Teyla, but her jaw only tightened slightly, and she did go off to bed. He was kind of proud of his team, the way they were looking out for each other, and for him, even while they didn’t know he was there.

As the door closed behind Ronon and Teyla, Rodney slumped down over the device, looking utterly dejected. John wanted to turn away. It didn’t seem right for him to be watching Rodney having what he obviously thought was a private moment, and, if he was being really honest, he didn’t want to see it. It was hard to believe that everything would be fine when Rodney looked like he’d already given John up for dead.

"You will not defeat me," Rodney muttered suddenly. When John looked up, he was back to glaring at the little gray box like it had personally insulted his intelligence. "You think you can just grab Sheppard and sweep him away, but you can’t. Trust me – women far more attractive than you have tried and failed. It cannot be done. I will figure out what you did with him, then I will find him, and then I will destroy you. So the least you can do is switch on for me so we can get started on this course of events."

He actually closed his eyes for a moment, tightening his hand round the device, then peeked at it from one almost-closed eye. John couldn’t help laughing, even if Rodney’s declaration had been strangely heart-warming.

"Fine," Rodney said, dragging over his tablet and poking it into life. "Fine. We’ll do it the hard way. That’s fine. I had a PhD before most people finish their BAs. I spent two years in Siberia. I work on a daily basis with Sheppard, most irritating man in two galaxies. I eat the hard way for breakfast."

There was more, but it was too low for John to hear without getting much closer than he was comfortable with. It was probably mostly muttering about the device, anyway, rather than to it; Rodney had gotten his focused look on, and not much interfered with that.

John looked over at the door, wondering if he should maybe leave. He wasn’t feeling tired, despite the late hour and the long day. Oh yeah, and the sudden invisibility. He hadn’t felt hungry either, when the dinner hour had come and gone. It had to be part of whatever the device had done to him, which made sense, since he couldn’t eat like this. The sleep thing made less sense – maybe the Ancients just hadn’t slept. That was actually kind of logical, if they’d done this when they went on their version of missions.

John was clinging on to that idea, because it meant the device had done what it was supposed to, which meant there was a way to reverse it. If the device had been meant to do something else – if this had been a mistake – well, it wasn’t like he didn’t have faith in Rodney to fix it, but it would take longer, be more complicated. Everyone already half-thought he was dead; it was creepy being able to hear what they didn’t say.

"- keep the rambly thinking down to a dull roar, Colonel, some of us are trying to –" Rodney cut himself off just as John’s eyes snapped up.

Rodney was turning a slow circle where he stood, obviously looking for John. "Colonel?"

"Yes!" John said, moving towards him. Maybe it was fading, maybe… "I’m right here, Rodney."

Rodney stopped, looking right at him. Right through him, frowning. "John? This would really be a good moment for you to do something, because I’m starting to feel like an idiot, or possibly like a crazy person. And really, Atlantis is too valuable to lose my brain to insanity so young."

John took a deep breath, stealing himself, and put his hand on Rodney’s shoulder. The freezing sensation started immediately, spreading up from his hand to his arm and then creeping down his body until he wanted to shiver with it. He left his hand where it was, thinking, I’m here, I’m here, I’m right here, as hard as he could, in case the device had done something to let him send thoughts out.

Rodney was still looking right at him; suddenly he raised a hand, brushing at John’s. They both shivered. Rodney’s laugh was abrupt and startling, almost enough to make John pull away. "God, it is you, I knew it. Um, it is you, right? The freezing hand." He frowned, then nodded. "As ridiculous as saying this makes me feel – remove your hand if it’s you."

John lifted his hand away immediately, reveling in the warmth flowing into his body again. Or maybe it was the connection he’d finally established. This was good; once Rodney figured out what had happened to him, it’d be no time at all before it got fixed.

"Okay, good, this is good. This isn’t good at all, this is crazy. And what would be the point of developing something that didn’t allow people to communicate with –" Rodney cut himself off, tapping his radio. "McKay to Thompson, come in."

"Thompson?" John asked. They didn’t have a Thompson on Atlantis.

"Thompson, Tompkins, Tempkin – Tempkin! McKay to Tempkin." Rodney grinned in John’s general direction, completely oblivious to John’s eye roll. "Ah, Lieutenant, good. I need you in Lab Three immediately. No, no intruders. No, there’s no need to disturb Major Lorne. Yes, Lieutenant, immediately. Chop chop."

Rodney cut the connection, looking immensely pleased with himself. John wasn’t so sure; he was pretty certain that Tempkin was on first shift this week, and probably wouldn’t appreciate being woken up by Rodney. Especially when John at least had no idea what Rodney could need with their newest lieutenant.

"Well, while we’re waiting for her, you can answer some questions for me." Rodney had his data-pad in one hand, and was looking just slightly to the left of John’s ear. "One touch for yes, two for no. I’ll tell you when I feel it. So: the device made you invisible somehow?"

"Yes," John said, feeling like an idiot as he put his hand back on Rodney’s shoulder. At least the talking made him feel more like he was having a real conversation; Rodney usually ignored half of the words anyway.

"Got it. And no-one can hear you?"

"No." Two touches.

"You’ve tried writing a message? Creating some sort of disturbance? Can you walk through things?"

John tapped his shoulder four times, realizing part way through that it was meaningless. Rodney’s frown said he agreed.

"Was that yes, yes, no; no, yes, yes; yes, no, yes? Don’t answer that. We’ll assume you’ve tried to get our attention in a variety of creative and probably stupid ways, since this is you we’re talking about."

"Hey!" John said, offended, even though it was true. There should have been a broken lab chair to show for it.

"You’re invisible, or at least not visible to us in our current dimension. Can you pass through things?"

John tapped once for yes, then hesitated and tapped out no as well. Communicating without words wasn’t as easy as it looked.

"Yes and no; that’s very helpful, Colonel."

"You try saying ‘some things’ with just ‘yes’ and ‘no’," John retorted. It wasn’t as satisfying when Rodney didn’t glare back with his usual mix of offence and dismissal. "Actually…" He thought about it for a second, then tapped out a short, two long and another short touch to Rodney’s shoulder.

"Four again, what’s that supposed to mean?"

One short touch.

"Yes? Yes is not an answer to that question."

Three long, then the short, long, long, short again. Rodney didn’t say anything, apparently concentrating. Short, long, short, short; short.

"People?" Rodney guessed, and John thumped his shoulder in jubilant agreement. "Ow."

"Suck it up," John said, then touched his shoulder again.

"People, yes? People you can pass through?" He waited for John to touch his shoulder, saying yes. "And things?"

John tapped his shoulder twice.

"You can’t pass through things. All right, that’s –" Behind John, the door wooshed open, and he turned to see Lieutenant Tempkin coming through, thigh holster on, boot laces still untied, black hair pulled back into a sloppy pony-tail. She didn’t look happy, though she was covering it reasonably well. "Ah, Lieutenant, about time."

Tempkin gave Rodney a very forced looking smile. "Sorry, sir, I had to get dressed."

Rodney waved his hand dismissively, then turned it into a ‘come closer’ gesture. John took a couple of steps back, just in case. All the touching was bad enough, he didn’t need anyone else walking through him.

"I need you to do something for me," Rodney was saying. "I think Colonel Sheppard’s been transported into an alternate dimension by this device, which is preventing him from communicating with us verbally. However, I think it’s possible that he might be able to communicate with you."

It took John a second to realize why that idea was familiar; a couple of weeks ago, Carter had mentioned the time she and Mitchell were pushed into another dimension by one of Merlin’s devices. Both John and Rodney had pulled the reports on that not long after.

"With me, sir?"

"Do you see anyone else in the room, Lieutenant?"

Tempkin actually looked round, her eyes settling on John for a second before drifting away. John couldn’t tell if it was coincidence or not. "No, sir, I’m just – why me?"

"You have the strongest natural expression of the ATA gene after Colonel Sheppard. It stands to reason that if the Ancients designed this, they would have programmed in a way to communicate with each other. Since the two of you are the closest thing we have to Ancients, I need you to give it a try."

"I wasn’t aware that Colonel Sheppard had been located," Tempkin said, not sounding too sure. John couldn’t blame her, although coming from two years with the SGC, John would have expected her to get with the program a little faster than she was.

"Colonel Sheppard is standing right there," Rodney said, pointing. It would have been, from John’s point of view at least, a lot more dramatic if he hadn’t been pointing about a foot and a half away from John’s left boot. Tempkin startled anyway.

"Relax, Lieutenant, I won’t let you won’t step on me."

Tempkin blinked, and adjusted her gaze much closer to John. "Colonel Sheppard, sir?"

Now John was the one rolling his eyes. "Yes."

"Well?" Rodney demanded.

"I don’t know, sir." Tempkin frowned. "It’s like – like someone speaking under water, only not as clear. I’m not even sure if it’s real."

"Great," John grumbled, slumping back against the desk behind him.

Rodney looked thoughtful for a moment, then snapped his fingers. "Try asking a question. One with a direct answer that he’d know and you wouldn’t."

"Like what?"

"Like – oh, ask him what sport they play on M3X 482. Or, never mind – Sheppard, tell the Lieutenant what sport they play there."

"Duck throwing," John said. "And that’s not a sport."

Tempkin’s forehead scrunched up like she was deep in thought. "Um, duck throwing?" she said, highly dubious.

John laughed, overcome with relief, and Tempkin grinned shyly back.

"It worked," Rodney said. "Not that there was ever any doubt. Okay, Lieutenant, take a seat. You’ve just become Atlantis’ Colonel Sheppard to everyone else translator."

"Great," Tempkin and John said in unison.

*

It took John suggesting it for Rodney to radio Sam and tell her what was happening, so that she could radio Lorne and call off the search parties. That, of course, brought Ronon back to the lab, and it wasn’t long after that that Teyla turned up as well.

"I heard that John has been found," she said, taking the stool that Tempkin scrambled up from. She still looked tired, but she was obviously alert under it.

"From who?" John asked.

"From who?" Tempkin repeated to Teyla; she’d quickly gotten into simply repeating John’s words, rather than paraphrasing or saying ‘he says’.

Teyla did a quick double-take, and Tempkin looked down. "Sorry, ma’am. Um, Colonel Sheppard wants to know who told you he’d been found."

"Major Lorne was kind enough to stop by and explain," Teyla said slowly, looking between Tempkin, Rodney and Ronon. Rodney, hunched over the device and his tablet, didn’t notice; Ronon gave her a patently false look of innocence. "Though I am beginning to suspect that he did not pass on the full story."

"The device transported Sheppard into another dimension, only people with strong natural ATA genes can hear him, he’s neither dead nor technically invisible."

"I see," Teyla said. "Thank you, Rodney. It is good to have you with us again, John, we were very worried."

"Good to be back," John said. "Just repeat it, Lieutenant, like with Rodney."

"Yes, sir," Tempkin said. She turned to Teyla. "He says it’s good to be back, ma’am."

"Not that he ever actually went anywhere." Rodney looked up from his tablet, frowning. "Or, rather, technically of course, he did go somewhere, he just hasn’t come back yet." He looked round the three visible people, apparently taking in their frowns. "But, well, yes, better back than possibly dematerialized, I suppose."

"If John has been transported to another dimension, how is it that Lieutenant Tempkin can speak with him?" Teyla asked.

"Because they both have strong ATA genes," Rodney said slowly.

"I meant, rather, how is it that this enables them to speak," Teyla clarified.

"Ah, well, that’s a different question."

Ronon raised one eyebrow in John’s direction; John wasn’t sure if he was following Tempkin’s eye or was just good at picking out where John was, some kind of Runner skill. John raised an eyebrow back, then remembered that no-one could see him. There wasn’t really a way to express that verbally, even if he’d wanted to with Rodney right there.

"That mean you don’t know?" Ronon asked.

"Forgive me if I’m more concerned about getting John back into this dimension than I am about – You know what? This would go a lot faster if I didn’t have all of you in here asking questions."

"Yeah, but how would you get me back here to undo it?" John asked reasonably.

"How would you get me back to undo it?" Tempkin repeated.

"Call you on the radio?" Rodney suggested, scrolling through something on his tablet. John hoped it was the database with an answer; hoped it was a translated portion of the database.

"How’d you know he was here again?" Ronon asked.

"I am sure John would know well enough to stay with Lieutenant Tempkin, were he not in the lab," Teyla said.

Ronon huffed in something like amusement, and Rodney snorted. "This is Sheppard we’re talking about. The only reason he hasn’t skipped away yet is that he can’t open the door."

"Hey!" John said. It was true though. He’d dreamed of being invisible as a child, imagining all the things he could do without anyone seeing him, and it was the same now. He had the chance to listen in on the marines, to find out what they really thought about him as a commander. Or to the conversations in the mess and the corridors, the ones that no-one thought would be overheard amongst all the other conversations; a couple of hours of that would be enough to keep him in chocolate for weeks, gossip being a hot commodity in the city. It was what came of not having television, John was pretty sure.

He was starting to see the point of the device, now they had Tempkin down to keep the communication lines open. It must have been easier for the Ancients to talk to the invisible person, but there’d be no danger of the person being overheard. It would be great for missions, or for gathering intel. Not being able to fire his weapon wouldn’t matter, because no-one would know he was there. It would be a foolproof, zero-risk alternative to trying to blend in.

Or at least, it would have been for the Ancients. For them, when they could only talk to other people with strong expressions of the ATA gene, it was next to useless, though he would have liked to have it at his dad’s funeral. It hadn’t taken much to figure out what people were thinking when they saw him, and he’d felt their eyes on him, tiny pinpricks of discomfort. He’d wondered if Ronon had felt it too, had wondered what Dave’s knowing look when John and Ronon had arrived together had meant. He was sure Ronon had; John was fairly sure nothing much got past Ronon.

John had wanted to be there, in a weird way; it had been a relief when Carter offered him the time before he had to ask. He hadn’t seen his father in years, not since the divorce, and they hadn’t had a good relationship before that, but still. It had mattered that he attend. He’d just forgotten how incredibly uncomfortable his father’s social functions always made him; Ronon’s presence, Dave’s attempts to prove himself, even John’s own inability to explain what he’d been doing, had just intensified it to the point that he’d been glad to get kicked around by the Replicator. The device would have been the perfect solution, the chance to be there without anyone knowing, to blend in completely in a way he’d never been able to do.

Maybe the device wasn’t really a military thing; maybe it had been a way to help people over uncomfortable situations. John had a hard time imagining the Ancients needing psychological care, or even being at odds with one another. Okay, so Janis had disagreed with the other Ancients about continuing his time-travel work, but even then, it had been a courteous and professional disagreement, the kind John had had with Elizabeth. Well, mostly had with Elizabeth; the ones that hadn’t ended in disapproving looks and arguments with Bates or Lorne over whose orders to follow.

"Hello, Sheppard, anyone home? This is hardly the time to go all silent and mysterious on us, when we literally couldn’t find you if our lives depended on it."

"Relax, McKay, I’m right here." John forced himself to stop thinking about the Ancients and his father, and focus on the four people looking about the room expectantly.

"He’s still here," Tempkin said.

"About time," Rodney grumbled. "Okay, I think I’ve figured out how to reverse this, though, honestly, the database could have been clearer about it."

"As usual," John muttered. "Don’t repeat that, Lieutenant." It was, he’d started to realize, a little unnerving to hear your every muttered thought broadcast loud and clear to the room.

Tempkin grinned.

Rodney frowned at her, then continued. "As I was saying, the database doesn’t give many details, but apparently it’s an entirely mentally controlled device. Don’t think ‘off’, though, because that will probably power it down, and we don’t currently know how to power it up again."

"So what should I think?"

"So what should I think?"

"Do I have to do everything for you?" Rodney asked, apparently rhetorically. It made John grin anyway; Rodney generally only broke out that line when everything was nearly fixed. "A general sense of wanting to rejoin your normal dimension ought to do it."

"Great," John said, stepping round Tempkin to get close to the table. He wondered for a horrible moment if his hand would just pass straight through the device, or if he’d think he’d picked it up, only to find it still lying on the table.

He closed his hand slowly over it, waiting for the sensation of passing through something. When it didn’t come, he opened his eyes, not remembering having closed them in the first place. "Here goes."

"Here goes."

"Um," Rodney said quickly. "Maybe you should sit down. Just in case."

"In case what?" John asked, already remembering waking up on the lab floor. Rodney didn’t know that had happened, though.

"In case what?"

"I don’t know. You’re moving between dimensions, you might get shaky knees and lose your balance."

John rolled his eyes, but sat down on the floor. "Here goes," he said again, and thought, Back to reality, any time now is good. Totally ready to return to normal.

The device hummed in his hand for a moment, and everything went dark.

*

"I’m just saying, you were invisible, and you spent all your time hanging around my lab." Rodney took a gulp of coffee, leaning back slightly to smile smugly at John.

"I couldn’t open the door," John reminded him, not for the first time. He’d been waiting for Rodney to drop it since he woke up in the infirmary, but he’d been out for most of the day already, and Rodney wasn’t showing any signs of getting bored. "What would you have done, if you’d been invisible?"

"Oh, I don’t know. Listened in on the science labs, to find out how much time people really spend charting who’s the hottest marine in the city."

"They really do that?" John asked, at the same time as Ronon said, "Captain Vega."

"Ronon," Teyla said, somewhere between horrified and amused.

"Which one’s she?" Rodney asked, interested.

"Came on the Daedalus last week," Ronon said. "Brown hair, kind of short –"

"What about you, Teyla?" John asked loudly. It was just wrong to listen to Ronon and Rodney verbally ogling one of his people. Wrong, and kind of disturbing. "What would you have done if you’d been invisible?"

Teyla tilted her head thoughtfully. "I believe I would have remained in my own quarters," she said. "It would be unfair to listen to people when they were not aware of it, and that would be the best way to avoid doing so."

That was a hell of a lot more noble than John had been. Okay, he’d stayed in the lab, but he really had been constrained by the closed door. Apparently ability to operate the controls was another thing that he wasn’t Ancient enough for once he was in another dimension.

"I’d have gone looking for the Wraith," Ronon said. "Before they knew I was there."

That was more John’s kind of thing. "Actually, would I have been able to go through the gate?"

"Of course," Rodney said, looking at him like he was an idiot; it was a very familiar look. "I thought you read the reports from when it happened to Mitchell and Sam – he went through the gate when it was activated, and nearly got himself killed in the process."

"Right," John said, remembering. Across the mess, Lieutenant Tempkin paused as she came in. When she saw him watching her, she smiled slightly, and raised one hand in something between a wave and a salute. John echoed the gesture back, returned the smile. She seemed like a nice kid, and he firmly believed in throwing people right into it when it came to the weirdness that was Atlantis. She’d survived pretty well.

"Given the circumstances, perhaps it was best for you to remain with Rodney in the labs," Teyla said, drawing John’s attention back.

"Sure. For the best," Rodney agreed mockingly, though John was sure it was him and not Teyla who was being mocked. "Face it Sheppard, you just couldn’t stand to be away from me."

John fought down a groan and wished, just for a minute, that he was invisible again.

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