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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 Two

"Oh crap!" Rodney exclaimed without meaning to and Evan Lorne appeared at his side.

"What's up Rodney?"

"Fitzpatrick has Richard Woolsey. He's the fourth heat signature down there!" Rodney stammered, pointing at the second stationary glowing spot on the HUD.

"You've got to be kidding me!" Lorne exclaimed, putting a hand over his mouth and squinting at the colored blobs as if focusing in on them would help them take shape.

"Fitzpatrick just said his name!"

"If you asked John a question, do you think there would be any way he could answer?"

"No way! Not without alerting Fitzpatrick to the fact that were up here and communicating with him. You haven't been listening to this kid talk, Lorne. He's certifiable."

"Look, I've got my guys combing that mountain. Everyone's almost out. John just needs to stall Fitzpatrick for a little while longer."

"I'll tell him Lorne, but you guys gotta hurry. I don't know how much longer he's going to be able to stall this guy."

Lorne leveled a grim gaze in Rodney's direction and was already yelling again over the secure airwaves as he made his way back into the rear compartment once more.

"We're doing everything we can, John! Just keep trying to stall him!"

If Rodney had been half the genius he'd always claimed to be, he'd be sitting behind a desk right now getting fat and working out of some two-bit community college physics department. Not knee deep in yet another disaster. Instead of waiting around to find out if one of his friends was going to live or die today, he could be attacking term papers with red pens that never had enough ink to really get his point across... And he was a fool to think that any of this would end once the Atlantis Expedition got back up and running.

Rodney had been running from one disaster to another for his entire life and he was tired. He was tired of losing friends, of having nothing left of them left to burry when it was all over, of bureaucracy and bullshit... and he had half a mind to curl up into a ball once all of this was over and never move again.

Rodney had been excited at the prospect of Torren John coming here to share all of this with him, that he'd completely forgotten about all the dangers associated with Atlantis. He knew John as going to do everything in his power to make sure at least some of the red and orange blobs on Rodney's screen survived this and didn't slowly fade away, but Rodney also knew what sacrifices John Sheppard was capable of. And if John wasn't going to be around to help Rodney keep Torren John safe in Pegasus, then he wasn't going to come along. It was that simple. Rodney didn't care how much his son deserved to see where he was from, there was no Atlantis expedition without John Sheppard.

Rodney clutched the tablet in his hands tightly, clinging to it like some kind of lifeline; one final purchase on the ordered world he knew was out there waiting for him somewhere. It was a place where madmen didn'tsabotage entire expeditions or murder his friends one by one. It was a place where old men shut up in windowless rooms didn't try and play gods and order the annihilation of billions of people. Where was that world? Because he missed it.

Well, it certainly wasn't down in that cottage where Rodney could sense John was quickly losing control of the situation.

"Just a few more minutes, John," he promised, even though he didn't know if it was true. "We're close!"

Rodney resisted the urge to break his tablet apart across the main console of the puddle jumper in his frustration, and turned to the kid sitting beside him instead.

"You get ready to set her down the moment we hear something okay?" The young solider looked back over at him with eyes as wide as saucers, but he nodded.

There was another reason Rodney had left them hovering in the mist above the cottage rather than landing. It Fitzpatrick, or Liam as he was now apparently called, had the ATA gene, Rodney didn't want to take the chance that he'd sense the approaching Jumper and get spooked. The chance that his gene was that sensitive was remote, but Rodney hadn't wanted to take any chances, and he just prayed that decision didn't turn out to be a mistake.

"Hang in there John, we're doing everything we can. Stall him!" Rodney tried not to yell into the earwig. Something was going on in the rear compartment and the noise was drowning out the conversation going on in the cottage below.

"They did it. Mountains clear. Let Sheppard know and take us down!" Lorne bellowed on a burst of relieved energy and relief flooded Rodney's own system. He nearly sagged under the enormity of it.

His body just wasn't cut out for this anymore.

"John," he nearly choked, "John, the mountain is secure! The canisters have been disabled! We're coming, we're coming for you!"

But the hollow sound of a gunshot reverberating in Rodney's ear drowned out everything that came next.

..

\oO0Oo/

..

Nothing happened at first.

They stood; John with gun still held out in front of him. The man formally known as Fitzpatrick just standing there with mouth agape.

There should have been blood. There should have been a wound. The gun had gone off, but there was nothing.

He kept looking from gun to man still standing unharmed before him, realization dawning on him like the summer sun over the mountains.

Blanks.

Shit.

"You... I mean, I had to plan for it, but I never thought... Not in a million years..." Maguire stammered and John tried again. But the chamber and magazine were empty. There was only the click of the hammer echoing uselessly out into the empty space between them like the betrayal it represented.

Woolsey was crying.

Liam's face morphed into something John had never seen on another man's face before. It was evil. The kid was snarling and John tensed as he watched him reach around behind to draw something out from his waistband. It was another gun and before John could even lunge forward, Liam pressed the barrel to the side of Woolsey's head and pulled the trigger.

Blood and brains splattered out against the wall. Some of the mess made it into the fire and globs of it sat sizzling on top of the logs and the cottage filled with the unmistakable smell of burning flesh that had John fighting against his gag reflex. It was what his own bullet was supposed to have done, but to Maguire, not Woolsey, when John had trained the gun he'd been given directly in the center of that man's head after Rodney's voice had filled his ear.

John sprang forward without even thinking, and dove headfirst into Maguire's middle just as his hand began to point in Carrie's direction.

It was like rushing a brick wall and the impact knocked the wind out of John, but it had the desired effect. Liam lost his footing and went down hard under the unexpected attack, but John had underestimated how easy it would be to throw the kid off his balance and followed him down onto the floor in a heap, the gun skittering away to places unknown.

They were a tangle of angry limbs for a moment, the larger man trying to grab John's more lithe frame anyway he could while still trying to hold on to the now defunct dead man's switch clutched in his hand. With the kid occupied in trying to keep the switch away from John, he was able to twist himself out of holds he normally wouldn't have been able to get out of. But Liam eventually got frustrated with the useless scrabbling and struck out at John with his fists just as he was able to get up to his knees.

Those fists were made of lead - he swore it was true - because knuckles impacted his cheekbone right below his left eye and John could hear the bone there crack.

The eye swelled shut almost instantly and he could feel the warm trickle of blood cascading over his face from some cut Maguire's knuckles had opened. In the brief moments of incapacitated shock and blindness that followed as his head was snapped viciously back, Liam took another swing with the switch strengthened hand, and imbedded that fist into the center of John's gut.

The force of the blow knocked the oxygen right out of his lungs and sent him skidding a few inches across the floor as he was thrown backwards.

John rolled quickly and coughed, tasting blood, and feeling the familiar twinge of either bruised or cracked ribs, he couldn't tell which. Based on how much power Liam had managed to get behind that fist, John's money was on broken, though he was too pissed at the moment to care.

The crazed kid was scrambling up to his feet, but John was smart enough to know that he was never going to survive this if Maguire was allowed to find sure footing. He lunged forward yet again, catching Liam with his palms square in the back. John pushed hard too, throwing all the weight he could into his forward motion and the kid fell forward, face first, into the floorboards. The satisfying crunch of bone reached John's ears and he nearly smiled. He sprang up from the floor on the rattle of a damaged lung and moved forward to try and keep Liam down any way he could, but he'd missed something. Maguire had gotten a beefy paw around the gun that John had lost sight of in the fight and when the former Seal flipped over onto his back quick as lighting, the bullet impacted John's shoulder before he could even register the report of the pistol.

At first there was no pain, though his body crumpled like there was.

From somewhere over to his left, Carrie gave a strangled scream.

Stunned for a moment and unable to pull himself up from off of the floor, John watched helplessly as Liam Maguire got his feet underneath his bulky frame and stood up, swaying slightly but recovering quickly.

The former Seal's face was a mess when he turned. Just as John had suspected, his nose was broken again and the kid was missing several of his front teeth. As Maguire came to loom over him, blood dripped down from his mutilated mouth in stringy red bands.

John dragged himself sideways a few feet, leaving a trail of blood in his wake, and used his good arm to pull himself up using the wall. He managed to get upright by the time Liam reached him. He even started to try and get back up to his own feet, but the kid lifted a leg and brought a heavy boot down directly over John's knee.

The knee that had never fully healed.

The knee that had been bothering him for days but that had, finally, decided to give him some peace today.

And this time, John really did feel the pain.

He screamed out against it, banging his head back against the unforgiving wood of the wall behind him in his agony as blackness invaded the corners of his vision.

"Stay down!" Liam ordered and swiped the back of a hand across his blood covered chin.

"God damn it John! I fucking saved you! I pulled you out of that damn hospital before the IOA could try and kill you again and this is the thanks I get? You try and murder me?"

"You ruined my life you psychopath!" John raged back at Liam, just as frenzied but half hoping his words would keep the kid from turning on Carrie next, his last bit of leverage. "If you would have just left me there and come talk to me like a normal human being, none of this would have ever happened!"

But Maguire just kept going like he hadn't even heard John speak. "I bring you the woman you love, practically fucking gift wrap the man you've wanted to kill for the past 20 years for you, and this is how it ends for us!" The kid paced up and down the space in front of John's outstretched legs. When he looked over in Carrie's direction again, John just started talking.

"Jesus christ kid, you really are fucking insane!" John ground out around the pain. Any moment Rodney and Lorne were going to burst through that door and end this once and for all. They would get to him before the alarmingly large blood pool soaking his left flank and arm got any bigger.

"I was never going to get on board with this, Liam. Not in a million years! And the fact that you even thought that I would be capable of shooting someone in the head just goes to show how you have no idea who the fuck I really am." John spat a mouthful of blood out onto the floor beside his throbbing knee and pulled as much air as he could into his rapidly weakening lungs.

"I'm sorry that you had to live through what you did, kid. I really am. But killing a mountain full of innocent people isn't going to change what happened to us!"

Liam stopped mid pace and came to crouch down in front of John.

"Maybe not, but it sure as hell will keep it from happening again, wont it?" He sneered and John tried not to flinch when the barrel of the gun was pressed against his sternum. He should have made a move for it - he knew the maneuver by rote - but his arms were nothing more than heavy dead weights at his sides now.

"No, buddy," John sighed, resting his head against the wall behind him when it threatened collapse. "It won't change a thing. There are always going to be men like those IOA members in the world. Even the Wraith culling half our population can't stop that.

What's going to save our planet is men like us protecting her. So come on kid. Put the gun away. Help me get out of here, and then that's what we can do together, Liam. What we should have been able to do together all those years ago." John pulled in more air on a wheeze.

"No more people die. Not on our watch. Help me save them this time, kid."

Maguire paused, like he might actually be listening, and the gun he had pointed at John retreated.

"Help me save them," he said again and for one brief moment, John saw something lucid pass across Liam's blood smeared face. It took root right behind his irises... and just as a perfectly formed red sniper dot skittered across the side of his shirt before settling on to a sweat dampened temple.

"LORNE WAIT!" John bellowed on the last full breath he had left, but Liam Maguire had seen the red, even through all the blood.

He looked back over at John then and his eyes lost whatever light had been there before. And in that moment, John Sheppard knew he had lost him forever.

Another casualty of the Pegasus Galaxy.

Another name written on the stars in blood.

"Rodney..." John whispered...

Liam threw himself back bodily like something out of a bad action movie, arms and legs extended out in front of his body as he hurtled back a few feet. A bullet whizzed past his head, missing the kid's skull by mere inches, just as he brought his own gun back up to fire it point blank at the center of John's chest. There was a sort of amused half smile playing at one corner of his mouth and it stayed there, even when the next bullet found its target perfectly. He collapsed to the floor, gaze never breaking away from John's, even as life fled his eyes.

John was pushed back bodily against the wall again on some kind of concussive force he didn't quite understand. The cottage around him erupted into a turbulent wind tunnel of frenetic noise and worried footfalls and, of course, pain. It assaulted him from every angle, pressing salt into his wounds until he couldn't catch his breath around it. But even through all that, John's one good eye could only seem to focus on one thing: Liam Maguire, who was lying on his side, mouth still upturned in that amused half smile.

He was dead, John realized suddenly, as if it had taken his brain a moment or two to come to that rather obvious conclusion. Sean Fitzpatrick... or Liam Maguire... or whoever history decided to remember him as, was dead and John hadn't been the one to do it...

"John? John can you hear me?" A worried voice called out to him from the din and John tried to focus in on the face that broke his sightline with Liam.

"R'dney?"

"Oh thank god!" Rodney fell to his knees beside John and pressed mist dampened fingertips to the side of his neck. "I'm here, John. The medics are on their way." The scientist promised, worrying over things John couldn't talk his eyes into looking down at.

"Just… hold on, okay?"

"Ev'ry one alright?"

"Yeah, John, everyone's fine. You bought us more than enough time to clear the mountain. You're a hero, Sheppard. Again!" Rodney was trying to be upbeat and John found out why a moment later. Something heavy was pressed against the holes in his chest and it didn't go away even when he tried to move out from under it.

John tried not to make any sound, he really did, but he just didn't have the energy to hold it back any longer. And this time when he screamed, there was blood.

Fading fast and mustering what little strength he had left, John made a leaden arm rise and he grabbed for one of Rodney's hands. The scientist looked up from his work with anger and an unwillingness to accept the moment they had come to, filling his eyes.

"No, John…"

"R'member... what I said." Blood made everything slippery. His hand slid away and nothing he tried would make it lift again.

"R'dney…" He murmured one last time, but not even what Rodney said next was enough to make John stay.


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