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Title: The Secret Language of Grief, Book One
Characters: J. Sheppard, R. McKay, C. Beckett, E. Lorne, R. Woolsey, and various OCs
Pairings: None
Warnings: Violence, Mentions of Major Character Deaths
Disclaimer: Stargate: Atlantis and her characters are the property of MGM.  All I lay claim to is my passion for the show and the original characters within this work of fiction
Summary: 20 years after the Wraith decimated Earth in The Great Culling, the SGC is once again ready to resume the Atlantis Expedition. Top brass wants only one man for the job, unfortunately for them John Sheppard has been MIA since the end of the War. A slip-up reveals John's current location, but will he be able to forgive the ultimate betrayal and return?


Chapter 20 - Sean Fitzpatrick's Revenge
Part One

There was a war waging inside of John Sheppard.

On either side of battle lines drawn in the sand were cajoling masses of disordered thought and both were equally ferocious; gnashing broken teeth and swords at the same time in his head. The million and a half questions he had for the kid standing before him took up one side of the battle whilst his anger at what Fitzpatrick had done stood resolutely on the other side, ready to defend to the death that inner sanctum of trust that John Sheppard had always guarded so carefully.

Fitzpatrick was the kid the IOA had put into the chair after Carson had refused to be a party to mass murder. He was the unknown soldier who was the only other person on the face of the planet who knew exactly what John Sheppard had gone through that terrible day so many years ago. They were connected on a level that was unimaginable, and yet the kid currently had a gun pointed at his head with murder flashing behind his eyes.

Nothing about it was right. The universe had screwed up again because on that first day, as soon as John had walked into the training rooms and up to that big burly Irishman, something should have happened. The skies should have opened up. The earth should have begun to shake. This was a revelation that should have ended the world… and there was nothing. Fate should have at least given John some kind of sign that he was coming face to face with the only other man who knew what it was like to end two billion lives… but there had been nothing.

John couldn't help but wonder if he was still being punished for what had happened that day 20 years ago because waltzing down the line drawn between the two warring sides of his brain, cool as a cucumber, was a vein of calm and rational thought.

Fitzpatrick, in some bizarre show of loyalty John didn't quite understand - not even realizing the damage he was doing - had gotten John out of the hospital in San Francisco. He'd done it in some twisted attempt at keeping John safe from the IOA but in doing so had also cut John off from everything he truly needed to survive. If only he'd stayed in that Denver hospital a few more days, or however long it took Fitz to reach him from Nevada. Then maybe John could have helped this lost kid standing before him somehow. Maybe then they would have been able to help each other, rather than end up here, in this moment, with guns and bombs and canisters filled with cyanide gas separating them on the battlefield.

They'd been through the same unimaginable horror, and John couldn't help but notice how differently they'd handled that trauma… and how close he had come to sharing in Fitzpatrick's madness. For dark, dark years he hadn't told anyone about yet, John had entertained sinister ideas of what he would do with those responsible for ruining his life if he ever got his hands on them. Revenge had always been an enticing prospect in his head and he would pull it out every so often in his years of exile to examine it closely. Maybe even make desperate plans of how it would all go down when he needed something to distract himself from the life he'd chosen for a while. But they had always been just that: plans, and ones he knew he would never follow through on. And that was where the similarities between John Sheppard and Sean Fitzpatrick ended.

Fitz had let what had been done to them twist his insides into unrecognizable black highways of madness. He was threatening to murder an entire mountain of people over what had been done to them and seemed to be under the strange delusion that John was going to want to help. And as much as that thought revolted him – as much as it shook him to his very core and went against everything he stood for - he couldn't help but wonder, had his life been different, would he be in the same place as Sean Fitzpatrick was now? Would he have chosen this violent path over the one he had taken, had he not had friends like Rodney McKay and Carson Beckett, or his memories of Atlantis and fallen friends, to fall back on? While he couldn't say yes to that question, he couldn't say no to it either, and that fact alone had John Sheppard looking Sean Fitzpatrick over in a whole new light.

Their pasts were inches apart from each other and had even traversed the same vector for a time, yet had veered off course from one another so completely twenty years ago. But while their futures were miles apart now, John could understand the place where Fitzpatrick was coming from and a little of the anger inside of him released.

Lord help him, but he could understand it.

"Is that why you killed all the ATA gene carriers, Fitz? Because of what happened to us that day?" John asked almost quietly, letting the sharp edge to his voice fall away.

Evening had settled outside of the cottage. The windows across the way were dark now and John wondered if it was truly as late as the light suggested, or if it was just a trick of the mist that had once again taken over the mountain. The heat inside the house was stifling now and as Fitzpatrick looked over at him, John noticed the kid was sweating. They all were really. It was a wonder the fireplace was working at all and the heat it's blazing fire produced was mixing with the tension in the room. The two forces roiled together making everything in the main living space feel heavy and thick. Even the look Fitzpatrick through him next seemed to have too much weight behind it.

Fitzpatrick had picked up on the sudden change in John's demeanor and was eyeing him doubtfully.

"The expedition can't be allowed to continue, Sheppard," he said with dead eyes and that voice devoid of emotion. "I won't allow it, John."

"But why kill them, Fitz? Why not…?"

"Are you kidding me?" Fitzpatrick interrupted with eyes widening. The gun still pointed at John shook in the young man's hand. "As long as there are people around able to power the ancient technology, the SGC is never going to stop trying to get Atlantis back to the Pegasus Galaxy, John. You of all people should get that now. Look at what they did to you! They tracked you down in the Wisconsin wilderness for Christ's sake and dragged you back here just so they could get their precious program back up and running. After everything that had happened to us, they still came and that right there should have clued you in to the type of people they have running this operation, Sheppard.

I mean, come on, John! They were so eager to get their star quarterback up off the bench and back into the game that they let me, a high school drop out with nothing more than a GED and a fake college diploma, play shrink to their most valuable player.

And I faked everything, John. My service record, my schooling, my psychology degree, all of it. And it was pretty fucking easy too. They were sooo desperate to get you right in the head again that they practically just let me waltz on base. If they can't even be bothered to protect what they consider to be their most valuable assets, what does that say about how they feel about the rest of the human race, John?"

"But you were helping me kid!" He exclaimed with disbelief coloring his voice high. "Why do all of that if you were just trying to stop the entire expedition all along?"

Fitzpatrick practically laughed. "Do you have any idea how closely they were watching you John? The only time I was able to get anywhere near you was in the training rooms and even then Dr. Beckett was always on his monitors. Always watching and listening to everything I said to you."

"We were alone on Atlantis," John pointed out but Fitzpatrick just shook his head.

"But not truly. I couldn't risk someone overhearing, not with all the new security measures they were adding to Atlantis. And I had to keep up appearances, John. Otherwise they were all going to figure out that I wasn't who I said I was.

But I had a plan John. I was going to take you paintballing like we discussed to help you get your mind off Dr. Beckett and explain everything then. And then you and me were going to come back here and finally end all of this, once and for all. But your guard dog in Blue River had to go and fuck it all up for me with one goddamn phone call and now here we are... You don't trust me anymore and none of this is going how I had planned!"

"And I never am going to trust you, Fitz," John started out carefully, watching Fitzpatrick for any sign that his control was about to crack. The kid seemed to respond best when John remained calm, so he chose his next words cautiously. "I can't trust you. Not when you've got my girlfriend wired to a dead man's switch. Maybe I'd have a little easier time with all of this if you'd just let her go. Let her walk out of here alive and unharmed and I'll listen to anything you have to say, buddy."

"Oh relax, John," Fitzpatrick actually rolled his eyes with a dramatic sigh. "I had to make sure you knew I was serious, had to make sure you were going to listen to me, so I might have over exaggerated that part a little." Fitz ducked his head sheepishly. "I don't really have her explosives wired to this," he raised the hand holding the switch, "only the gas cans hidden in the mountain."

"So you'll let her go?" John asked almost hopefully, gesturing towards the front door and the marines he could only hope were waiting there, hidden in the mist.

Fitzpatrick shook his head and in the firelight, looked almost devilish. "Not so fast, Romeo. She's still sitting on enough C4 to level this place and pressure switches that won't deactivate until I release the gas. Once you help me do that though, John, she's home free. I promise."

Fitzpatrick's lip curled upwards into something that must have been an attempt at a smile, but all John could see lingering there behind it, was the madness that seemed to be fueling the kid's rage. He was talking again about John helping him to kill everyone in the mountain and John's brain was back to trying to figure out what plan he could have in place that would make him think John would even entertain such an idea. He hoped it was just the result of a warped mind thinking it knew what made John tick, but there was still the unknown other person tied and hooded, sitting before the fire, unmoving.

"We're still here John.Just keep him talking.We'll have the mountain secure soon!"Rodney's voice came over the earwig and John hid his relief at finally getting an update with a quick look over his shoulder at Carrie.

Backlit by the roaring fire, John couldn't see much of her face but her eyes shone out even in the strange light and he caught them for a moment. It lasted for little more than a fraction of a second, but he pulled what he needed from the look she gave him and the "I love you" she managed to mouth around the impossibly tight gag to turn around and face Fitzpatrick once more.

Rodney wanted John to keep the kid talking, then that's what he'd do.

"How can I believe anything you tell me, Fitz? You tried to kill Carson Beckett yesterday..."

"No, John!" Fitzpatrick interrupted. "You have to understand something about that!"

The kid took a step towards him with his hands outstretched and brow creased in placation, but John stiffened, instantly on high alert. When the kid realized what his sudden movements had done, he stepped back with a heavy sigh and let his chin rest against his chest as he continued on sadly.

"I know he was your friend, Sheppard, but he forced my hand." Fitz went on with head still bowed. "Dr. Beckett was going to restart his ATA gene research and once he did, I knew it was only a matter of time before he realized who I was. And I couldn't allow him to do this to someone else, John. That gene therapy... it changed me." Fitzpatrick looked back up and flickering firelight caught the moisture gathering in his eyes, making them shine for a moment. But it was black, not silver, that caught the light.

"Carson Beckett turned me into a fucking monster with that poison of his and I had to stop him any way I could before he ruined someone else's life."

Then just as suddenly as the black had been there, it disappeared.

"But I was always going to make it up to you John!" he promised with pleading eyes desperately seeking approval. "If you don't believe anything else I tell you, believe that one thing. I knew his death was going to destroy you at first so I was going to bring you here and reunite you with your girl and then give you something back in exchange for what I took.

And this thing I have for you is big John.

It's huge! And something you've wanted ever since that day they forced us to kill all those billions of innocent people."

Fitzpatrick moved forward again, but instead of approaching John, he stopped just beside the other chair near the fire. The figure in it hadn't moved or uttered a sound the entire time but as soon as Fitzpatrick approached, the body in the chair began to tremble so violently, John worried for a moment that the movement might set off whatever pressure switches Fitzpatrick had set up. The other chair must not have been wired though, because Fitzpatrick grabbed it from the back and yanked it ruthlessly away, dragging it loudly over the floorboards and back over to where he had been standing. The bound figure was jerked brutally in his seat and John thought he caught the barest hint of a strangled whimper as tied wrists slit open in bloody cuts as the rope bit into skin mercilessly.

Fitzpatrick's eyes were dangerous again and John watched everything carefully. He had to buy Rodney and Lorne more time to search the mountain and get everyone to safety. Either that or else try and wrestle that switch away from Fitzpatrick somehow. But the kid had a good 100 pounds and enough crazy on him to easily win that fight and there was still the fact that Fitz was the only one with a gun. Not to mention there was now a hooded and bound unknown figure between them and the way Fitzpatrick was looking over at John, he figured, whoever it was, the kid considered it his biggest bargaining chip yet.

John felt as though they were coming to some kind of defining moment. All the pieces seemed to be finding one another and were waiting, swirling around in the space above their heads, for that one big piece that would bring them all together and make the picture whole and clear. Only John couldn't decide if he really wanted to know who Fitzpatrick had brought.

Something about the figure in the chair in front of John was familiar, but he couldn't get his addled brain focused enough to venture a guess as to who it might be. All he was certain of was the fact that Fitzpatrick seemed to think him important. Important enough to excuse the kid of everything he had done up until that point and important enough to get John on board with whatever dastardly plan Fitzpatrick had cooking up in that seriously mixed-up noggin of his.

Fitzpatrick rested the hand still wrapped around his gun on the quaking figure's shoulder then pressed the barrel into the fabric of the hood, pulling another strangled noise from the figure beneath. He smiled then, all teeth and madness and John shifted a little to make sure his body was completely covering Carrie who still sat behind him quietly.

As fucked up as the situation was, John drew some comfort from the knowledge that Carrie was not in any immediate danger should Fitzpatrick decide to release the dead man's switch he had clutched in his other hand. For some reason fate seemed to have granted John a reprieve in that one thing, only he couldn't imagine what was going through Carrie's mind at the moment. She'd put on a brave face earlier, but if he got them all out of this alive, if he went through with a plan to ask her along to Pegasus that had only just begun to start to form in his mind before all this had happened, would she even want to go? John had put her through hell, and that was even before he'd agreed to come back to the SGC. Now she was strapped to a chair and sitting on enough C4 to vaporize them all, and John had put her there. Maybe not intentionally, but it was a consequence of his actions, and he wondered if that was a forgivable thing.

"I'm not the bad guy here, John," Fitzpatrick was saying, pulling him out of his internal struggle. "Do you remember what we talked about in the training room the other day? I told you that there are people out there who really are to blame for everything that happened to us twenty years ago. I've dedicated my life to making sure that each and every one of them paid for what they did. And they paid John. I got to them all except for one.

One I saved just for you.

God, you have no idea how long I searched for you after you disappeared from that hospital in Denver, John. How long I scoured the globe looking for you. We were supposed to do this together! But you left me and then I had to find out that you were in Wisconsin the whole time shacking up with that one!" Fitz said angrily, waiving the gun in Carrie's general direction and John shifted, uncomfortable with the shift in conversation.

"Think of everything we could have done together, John!" Fitzpatrick cried. "If only you would have waited for me! Why didn't you wait for me, John? Why?"

"Fitz," he started incredulously, shaking his head slightly at the question, "I woke up in a hospital registered under a fake name, completely alone and thinking the IOA was going to try and kill me again! What did you expect me to do, buddy?"

"I don't know! Try and get some answers first, before you just disappeared off the face of the earth? I needed you, John! And now those bastards have brainwashed you again and I have to try and undo what they've done!

"I'm not the bad guy here," the kid repeated, eyes going darker. "It was the decision makers and those who let it happen, who are the true villains of our story. Remember?"

The figure beneath Fitzpatrick's hands flinched visibly, pulling at his bonds with raw wrists as he tried to get away.

"Believe me, John, once you do this, once you put a bullet in his brain, you're going to be free! And then you and I can release the gas together, and finally end this all of this once and for all.

No more Wraith. No more SGC! It will be over, finally." Fitzpatrick reached forward, brutally tearing the hood away from the head of the figure sitting bound in the chair.

Anger and bile rose up into the back of John's throat in an instant. Promises made years ago echoed around in his head and John clenched his fists into tight balls of fury. Something dark overtook him then and it was mixing dangerously with that part of himself that would always value human life... But the funny thing about white was, as soon as you let it mix with even the slightest bit the black, you got gray. And no matter how much white you tried to dump back into it, you still only ever got gray.

..

\oO0Oo/

..

Being back in a puddle jumper again was a surreal experience. It wasn't often that the SGC even allowed Lorne to fly them, let alone use them on missions, so Rodney McKay really hadn't been in one for years. The offer had been made. Every so often Lorne would find him in his lab and ask if he'd like to take a ride up in whatever one he was testing at the moment, but Rodney had always found himself declining. It wasn't that he didn't want to fly in one; it had never been a question of want. There were just things the jumpers had always reminded him of, so he'd always said no.

It wasn't logical. It wasn't even a very interesting reason. He just missed this and being back in the jumper had him remembering just how very much.

Rodney McKay's ATA gene had been bread in a petri dish. It wasn't natural like John's or Carson's. Yet despite that one indelible fact, he still felt a connection with Atlantis. Even after all these years.

Because of that city - for the first time in his life - he'd truly learned to live. It was also where he had come to the swift, yet humbling realization that, though the people he'd been forced to work with at first with were beneath him intellectually, there was some (well, one, in particular) who were willing to lay down their lives to protect him. And not just because it was their jobs... but because they actually cared. That fact had changed him fundamentally somehow. Rodney hadn't often known what it was like to be cared for in that way in those early years of his life. Arrogance had been a strange bedfellow, and one that hadn't often allowed for intruders... and yet some people had still managed to push in.

Every once in a great while, when Torren had been young, he would look up at Rodney in this way that reminded him so much of Teyla it would nearly bend him at the middle. The puddle jumpers did that to him, too. They bent him at the middle because he missed them all so terribly and now, just as he'd finally managed to put some of his family back together again, fate was trying to rip one of them away from him again.

Rodney looked up from the tablet in his lap to check the status of the heat signatures throbbing away on the screen of the HUD. There were several areas of liquid reds and oranges, but none burned as brightly as the pulsating one in the center. John was down there in that cottage trying desperately to buy them more time to secure the mountain and all Rodney could do up in the cloaked Jumper hovering above it all, was imagine what John's heat signature would do should this all end badly.

It wouldn't fade; not at first. It would take his body some time to cool...

Rodney gripped the tablet he held in his hands tighter and tried not to let his pessimistic brain make him even more of a mess than he already was. He'd managed to hold it together this long, and falling apart now was not going to do him, or anyone else involved in this whole debacle, any favors.

As if picking up on his agitation, the kid piloting the jumper next to him let its nose dip towards the earth for a moment, but quickly corrected the mistake.

"Sorry, Dr. McKay," he mumbled quickly with a cracking voice and Rodney couldn't bring himself to criticize.

He could still remember the stress and the erratic path of his own first flight. Could still picture that insufferable lift to the side of John's mouth as he ran his finger along the zigzagging lines Rodney had made his first time out, barely able to stifle a laugh.

No, the young man in the pilot's chair was doing a pretty bang up job, considering. He'd been thrust into the middle of all this because he was the only ATA gene carrier capable of flying the jumper without an instructor. Rodney would have done it, only he had wanted to focus all his attention on trying to find any information he could on Sean Fitzpatrick. Lorne could also have flown, but his expertise had been needed elsewhere as well.

And speaking of Lorne, Rodney turned in his seat slightly to glance back at the Colonel who was pacing the rear compartment, screaming into his earpiece, and trying to coordinate a mountain wide evacuation all from the back of a puddle jumper. There were several heavily armed marines back there with him and they were all watching the agitated man walk up and down the space like the spectators at a tennis match. They should have all been down on the ground surrounding that cottage ready to storm it, only Rodney had held them back when Fitzpatrick had let slip his plans to gas the mountain.

What had started as a fight for two lives was now suddenly a race to save thousands and Rodney had ordered them off until John could figure out what exactly Fitzpatrick had planned, or at least until they could evacuate and secure the mountain. It was too much of a risk. If they tipped Fitzpatrick off somehow and he let go of that switch too soon... Plus, Rodney was convinced it was what John would have wanted him to do.

...The needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few, and all that moral bullshit.

Rodney was fine with morals. He even had a few of them himself, but things tended to get murky when one of your last surviving friends was down in a cottage with a gun pointed at his head.

Forcing himself back around in his chair, Rodney nearly sat on his hands. All he wanted to do was touch at his earwig and babble out to John about how they all got through this alive and unharmed. Convince his friend somehow that they had everything under control and that in a matter of mere minutes, the threat would be eliminated and John could tear that psychopath's throat out if he wanted to.

Rodney had seen John Sheppard angry before. He knew what could ignite at the center of that man when provoked, and Rodney couldn't even imagine what he was going to turn into now that the woman he loved was involved. That was a side of John Rodney had never seen before and he wondered if Fitzpatrick truly understood what it was he was getting himself into taking John on like this.

Focusing in on something he could actually control, Rodney went back to staring at the tablet he held in his hands and listening in on the conversation going on below him. John had managed to get Fitzpatrick talking again and as the deranged man continued to spout off new information about who he might be, Rodney went searching for answers. Anything that could help John take that kid down once the mountain was secure could help.

"...I faked everything, John.My service record, my schooling, my psychology degree, all of it.And it was pretty fucking easy too..."

How Sean Fitzpatrick had managed to make it past their extensive background checks and security protocols (some of which Rodney had put in place himself) was anyone's guess. He could only assume that the kid was smart and Rodney was scouring every database and internet resource available to him trying to get more information. Only Fitzpatrick was a ghost. There was nothing, as if the IOA itself had scrubbed away his very existence from all public record... and maybe they had done just that.

Shit! That meant Rodney's only reliable source of information on who Sean Fitzpatrick really was, was lying comatose in the infirmary clinging to life.

"They were so desperate to get you right in the head again that they practically let me waltz on base."

And wasn't that a fact. They had, every single one of them, been taken in by that burly Irishman's quiet manners and eagerness to help John Sheppard to heal, but Rodney had always felt like there was something off about the young kid. He was too... invasive and he had insinuated himself in John's life so entirely, and so very quickly. But Rodney had struggled with those thoughts. He'd wondered the entire time if they actually came from a place of genuine unease, or just plain jealousy. Jealousy that Fitzpatrick had been doing for John what Rodney never could.

Ever since he'd dragged Sheppard back to the SGC Rodney had felt responsible for him somehow. It was crooked and cockeyed and a complete 180 from the relationship they'd shared 20 years ago, but Rodney didn't care. He'd been the one to take the trip out to Blue River, Wisconsin to bring him back and he'd done that willingly too, even though he didn't have the slightest clue as to what he was going to find when he finally reached that little cabin in the woods. What the IOA had done to John, it was inexcusable, and there had been several moments in the car cruising down the highway from the airport and through the Wisconsin countryside, where Rodney had very nearly turned himself around and started back in the other direction. If he had pulled up onto that cabin to find John Sheppard irrevocably altered and a shadow of the man Rodney had known from before, it would have destroyed him completely.

But Rodney's fears had been unfounded. Sure, John had been different, but behind that Paul Bunion beard he had sprouted, there were still hints of the man he had once been. God, seeing John Sheppard again after nearly 20 years of thinking him dead had been surreal, to say the least. And the fact that Rodney had found him whole and functioning was just icing on the cake.

Yet, on the other hand, it had also been Rodney who had convinced John to return to the SGC in the first place. If it hadn't been for him, none of this would be happening now. But there wasn't time to worry about all that right now. The conversation on the other end of the secure line had abruptly stopped and Rodney McKay focused back into his work, praying he hadn't just missed something important.

..

\oO0Oo/

..

Indescribable.

It was the only word he could come up with to explain the clashing mass of sensations that assaulted his body all at once.

John was going to be sick.

The man in the chair before him was bound, gagged and shaking like a leaf. All the while starting up at John with wide and frightened eyes that begged for rescue.

John knew Fitzpatrick was watching him closely, gauging his reaction, but nothing John tried would make his gaze break away from the cowering man before him.

Richard Woolsey looked old. Time had not been kind to the man. His face was a network of creases. One, John imagined, for every life that he had taken. One for every sleepless night he'd lived through. Woolsey's hair was nearly gone now but the white half ring that remained was long and stringy with sweat and sticking out at ridiculous angles that had the man looking a bit like some kind of deranged mad scientist.

They were details John hadn't noticed in the heat of their last meeting but in which he reveled now.

"Fitz, you brought him here for me?" He knew he was supposed to be pissed. That he needed to be thinking of a way to get out of this before someone really got hurt, but Fitzpatrick had just hand delivered revenge on a silver platter. It was sitting right there just waiting for him to take it, and it had managed to stir something dark and hungry deep down his most darkest of recesses. A something he had long thought dormant and in no danger of escaping...

"I did, John," Fitzpatrick said carefully, like he was picking up on the delicateness of what was transpiring in that moment. "I did all of this for you. For us. I've been planning it for 20 fucking years, too.

After the Great Culling, everything was in crazy. You have no idea how easy it was to establish a fake identity and lay the ground work for all this. I just wish you could have been there to do it with me. Shit, I practically had Woolsey's office eating out of the palm of my hands by the time I was finished with them."

Fitzpatrick pushed the gun barrel into the flesh of Woolsey's cheek and chuckled.

"Hear that Richard? You know, if John here didn't need to kill you himself, I'd almost be tempted to let you live. Just for all the help you and Major Bradshaw gave me." Fitz drew the gun back away then patted at the red place on Woolsey's cheek as if in apology.

"I knew this one would never stop trying to find you, John," he went on, still looking down at Woolsey almost reverently. "None of them were ever going to stop trying to get their precious Atlantis Expedition back of the ground, no matter how many lives they destroyed in the process." Fitzpatrick dug his gun back into the side of Woolsey's face again and the man tried to tip sideways to get away from it. "I couldn't let it happen again, John. I couldn't let Carson Beckett infect one more person with that poison."

"So, what? You decided to poison them first?" The kid's flawed logic finally had John pulling his gaze away from Woolsey.

"Better dead than forced into that chair." Fitzpatrick answered darkly. "I only wish someone would have done that for me before..." Fitzpatrick actually choked on his words, pulling his hand away from Woolsey's face to cover his mouth with the back of it for a moment.

"...Before they made me kill all those people. Maybe then my Ma would still be alive, if someone had only put a stop to all this before it had even begun."

"Jesus, Sean, I'm sorry." John blurted suddenly – surprising himself - realizing just as he said it that he genuinely meant it. There were so many things about the past he wished he could change. So many people he'd let down; this poor, lost kid, included. John should have been there to protect him.

"I'm so sorry kid."

"It's Liam."

"What?"

"My real name," Fitzpatrick said softly. "It's Liam Maguire."

John was struck again then by the thought of how very close he had come to being exactly like the young man standing in front of him now.

Lost.

Utterly alone.

Completely misunderstood. Standing in a fire lit room and talking in circles that only made sense to him. Wishing that someone would have just taken the damn time to stop and find out what the hell was going on with him.

"Liam... what do you want from me?" John asked and finally looked up to stare at the kid full on. "How does all this end?"

The kid's face hardened slightly and he stiffened behind Woolsey.

"What I want, Sheppard," Liam said on an irritated sigh, bringing the gun up to rest against his temple, "is to know that you to understand why I have to do this and then I want you to help me do it."

"We're doing everything we can, John.Just keep trying to stall him!" John resisted the urge to raise his hand to his ear and tell the panicked scientist to hurry the fuck up. He was losing control, scared shitless of what Fitz... Maguire was going to offer next and terrified that he wouldn't be able to say no.

"...You want me to help you murder a mountain full of people, Liam?"

"No, John!" the kid yelled, pointing the gun in his direction again. "You can't look at it like that! What I want you to do is help me ensure that the Atlantis project never recovers ever again. I want you to end all of this with me, once and for all. Together. Just like that day in the skies 18 years ago with the Wraith."

"I don't think I can do that for you kid,..." He answered truthfully and was surprised when Liam actually smiled softly at him.

"That's okay John. I figured you were going to say that at first. That's why Richard is here with us today.

You're going to put a bullet through his skull, and once you do, you're going to understand everything. And then you and me are going to walk out of here and put this place and everything she represents, in our review mirrors, forever."

Liam Maguire rounded the panicked figure of Richard Woolsey and set the pistol he'd been using the whole time down onto the floorboards near his feet. With a quick kick of his boot he sent the gun tumbling across the wood in John's direction and it came to rest against the side of his show. He looked down at it, mesmerized for a moment by the firelight glistening off the metal, giving the piece the illusion of luminescence just for a second.

"Just a few more minutes, John.We're close!"

"There's only one round in there, John," Liam warned as he bent over to pick up the gun from the floor. "And don't forget who has the switch. You try and use that thing on me, I will let go of this." Maguire held the dead man's switch out for him to see as if to reiterate his point.

It was a nice gun. One John would have enjoyed using himself. It felt good in his hand, too; snug somehow. He wrapped trembling fingers around it, grip still warm from Maguire's own hand, and pointed it out in front of him to test its weight, wondering what the kick back would feel like reverberating up his arm.

"Once you do this John, you'll see," the kid spoke barely louder than a whisper. "The world reveals itself. Everything is going to make perfect sense then, I promise."

"Hang in there John, we're doing everything we can. Stall him!"

From behind, John could hear Carrie struggle against her bonds, cry out even, but John only had eyes for the man in front of him now and cut everything else out.

"It's what you've always wanted, John," Liam went on as he raised his arm to point the gun. "Admit it. You can't tell me this face hasn't haunted your dreams every night for the past 20 years. Think of how good you'll sleep now when he's gone."

The rest of the world fell away then and John found himself standing in a stark white room with nothing standing between him and the revenge he'd been searching for for the past 20 years. And revenge was tempting. It sat weak and vulnerable, tied to a chair and trembling with panic boiling behind its eyes.

It would be so easy to just squeeze.

One bullet and it would all be over. Just one and it would be enough to end this forever.

"John..." It was Rodney's voice that reached him then and in an instant, the heat and the fire of the moment came crashing back down on him... but he had his answer

"John, the mountain is secure!"

He chambered the round.

"The canisters have all been disabled!"

John let out a shuddering sigh...

"We're coming!We're coming for you, John!"

and pulled the trigger.


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