rushingwind: Elizabeth Overlooking Atlantis (Default)
rushingwind ([personal profile] rushingwind) wrote2008-01-22 02:57 am

Fic: All the Echoes Mourn (for the [livejournal.com profile] swficathon)

Title: All the Echoes Mourn
Author: [livejournal.com profile] rushingwind
Characters/Pairings: Sparky (Sheppard/Weir)
Rating: PG
Word Count: 3304
Archive: No. You may link here, but don't archive elsewhere.
Disclaimer: Not mine, don't sue.
Spoilers: General early Season 3, pre-"The Return"
Recipent: [livejournal.com profile] lanna_kitty, who requested: "Aliens/Alien rituals made them do it/get married." This fic is probably not the type of thing you had in mind, as it came out a little strange. But either way, I hope you like it. :)

Comments: For the [livejournal.com profile] swficathon. Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] aiaka for beta duty. :)

By PB









All the Echoes Mourn



When he drinks the water, he remembers a lazy summer day from his childhood, and the taste of sugary lemonade. He drank the lemonade greedily, his mouth parched from hours of exploring the nearby woods and conquering the tallest trees he could find.

The water is not unlike the lemonade--first one sip, then he’s gulping the rest as fast as he can.

A few minutes later, he realizes it’s something he normally wouldn’t do. He brushes the thought away the very next moment.

He studies the faces of his fellow teammates, and they seem pleasant enough, alien off-world rituals notwithstanding. Even Rodney’s nervous chattering has stilled in favor of listening to the Elder’s tales.

They’re served dinner while the old man passionately regales them with the story of the Dreamers and their seven-day lives. John thinks it’s a nice story, but he’s only half-paying attention as he leans back, his mind becoming fuzzy. Instead, he finds his attention wandering to a certain woman not present, one who’s still in Atlantis. He thinks of her eyes, as green and vibrant as a forest in summertime, and brown curls that he longs to reach out and touch.

When it’s over, the Elder pleasantly shakes John’s hand. “Return with your leader,” he tells him. “Come back in time. We should like to entertain you again.” And he sends them on their way.

As they walk back to the Stargate, John notices for the first time that he feels pointedly different. He can’t quite grasp appropriate words to describe it--perhaps an exhilarating rush, or a burst of energy. He just feels better.

Everything looks better too. The countryside is not just beautiful, it’s breathtaking. Lush, green fields as far as the eye could see, poised against a dark sky speckled with stars and moons. Somehow, it reminds him again of childhood summer days, long passed by.

Later on, as he sits in the infirmary for his post-mission checkup, he still feels unusually pleasant. Teyla, Ronon, and Rodney seem equally content, and he doesn’t really think anything of it. After all, they’d just returned from an easy mission on a friendly, beautiful world. Nothing strange about that.

The mission briefing goes quickly and smoothly, though he notices Elizabeth clenching and unclenching a pen in her hand absentmindedly. Normally, this signals that she’s pensive about something, and he’s certain it’s related to the mission, or perhaps even the Elder’s invitation. She doesn’t commit herself either way to meeting him, and dismisses the briefing. Any other time he’d approach her on the balcony afterwards to talk, to joke, anything, just so long as he is around her, but suddenly he’s dead tired.

When the briefing ends, he goes straight to his quarters and falls into a dead sleep.




The next day the buzzing in his head is constant, and strangely, he’s not worried at all. He likes the feeling better.

“Rodney’s been very quiet since returning from the mission yesterday,” Elizabeth tells him, interrogating him with an iron gaze.

He casts a glance through the glass at Rodney, who’s standing with his arms crossed and staring out a window in deep thought. He frowns slightly, wondering if it’s unusual for the scientist. “Oh? I haven’t noticed.”

Elizabeth’s frown deepens, and that bothers him more than anything else. “You’ve been quiet too. Did anything happen yesterday?”

He closes his eyes a moment in thought. “No.”

“Nothing at all?”

Her voice is so critical that he opens his eyes, meeting her gaze. “Nothing at all.” He can’t understand why she’s making a big deal out of this. Obviously, nothing’s wrong.

She sighs, and sits down behind her desk, biting her lower lip for a moment. “Don’t you think this is odd?”

“No.” Of course he doesn’t think it’s odd. He has more energy, feels stronger, calmer, better… Maybe Rodney does too.

At that moment, an alarm rings deep in his mind, the faintest whisper telling him no, something isn’t quite right. Normally, he wouldn’t act this way, wouldn’t be so nonchalant….

Another voice answers quickly, comforting him, reminding him that everything will be fine in seven days.

Without thinking, he repeats it: “Seven days, everything will be fine.”

His doubts forgotten, he almost laughs when Elizabeth’s face contorts in alarm, and she suddenly stands. Rising to his feet and quickly grasping her hand, he smiles. “Elizabeth, everything’s fine. You worry too much. I feel better, that’s all.”

There’s a subtle change in her eyes at the moment their hands connect. She gasps softly as a chill goes down his arm, and he sees gooseflesh rise on her hand. “Still,” she murmurs, “you should, ah…go to the infirmary. All of your team.”

She doesn’t sound quite so convinced anymore, but he still smiles and nods anyway. “Of course. We’ll go right away.”




The scans find nothing, and he smiles at Elizabeth. “See? Nothing’s wrong.”

“I… yes.” She’s wringing her hands every so often. He smiles, wonders if she feels better yet as he notices her distant eyes.

“You seem troubled,” he tells her, though he’s not worried, knows its all part of the plan.

“Yes… No… I…” Her head droops a few moments before glancing up at the monitor. “I remember… being worried about you.”

“I’m fine.”

“Yes, I see, but I feel strange now.” She crosses her arms and bites her lower lip, her expression perplexed. “I thought you were acting strange, but now it doesn’t seem strange at all.”

His mind searches for a comforting response. “I feel better.”

She affixes him with a peculiar stare before a soft smile warms her face. “You know what? So do I.”




When he wakes up the next morning, everything is different. He can’t quite place his finger on it, but he feels good. Not just good, but… good.

He meets Ronon in the hallway, and he remembers they were supposed to go sparring this morning—and that he’d completely forgotten.

“Ronon.”

”Sheppard.”

“Sorry about this morning.”

Ronon’s face is calm and even. “Don’t worry about it.”

They both continue on their respective ways. He’s happy they’re not going to spar, because it usually ends up with him getting his ass kicked. And that usually hurts…

It isn’t until he reaches the transporter that a striking thought occurs—What does pain feel like?

He stops dead in his tracks, staring at the open transporter in front of him.

He should know, shouldn’t he? He’s felt pain a hundred times, he knows, but now he cannot remember pain. Not at all.

He takes a step, and wonders what this means. Should he be concerned? (What is concern?)

He continues on his way, pondering these questions. When he finally makes it to the control room, Elizabeth greets him with a wide, genuine smile, and suddenly he thinks that he should kiss her. Right there, in front of everyone.

She’s beautiful, after all, and the way her brown curls spill over her face makes her even more radiant. And that smile, that beautiful smile that he’s never seen before, makes him think everything is probably all right after all.

He reaches out to cup her face (What am I doing? I shouldn’t do this. -- Why shouldn’t you?) and kisses her lightly.

“Hello John,” she whispers, and walks away as if nothing’s happened at all. No one else seems to care either.

In the back of his mind, there’s a shred of sanity whispering that he would not have normally done that, and that Elizabeth would not normally react so pleasantly. People would stare (Why would they?), she would be angry (What’s anger?), and he would never normally kiss her, too afraid of her reaction (What’s fear?).

“Colonel? Everything all right?”

He looks up to see Major Lorne, unarmed and standing beside him. He can’t quite place why it bothers him. (Where is his weapon? -- Why does he need it? -- For protection. -- From what?)

It has taken three days, but he is finally convinced. “Something’s wrong.”




“Don’t you think something is weird about all this?” he asks.

The rest of his team, plus Elizabeth, all exchange confused stares.

“No,” Ronon grunts, but it doesn’t sound as harsh as usual.

“I thought something was wrong yesterday,” Elizabeth hums pleasantly, “but today everything seems better.”

Teyla is silent for a long while. “Something is out of place.” She frowns, the first unpleasant expression John has seen all day. “At no point in my life have I ever felt so content.”

“Can you remember what pain feels like?” John asks, frowning as well, because he really can’t remember ever being so content either. “Ronon, do you?”

The Satedan begins to look perplexed himself. “Now that you mention it, no.”

“Can any of you remember the last time you were afraid?” John asks the others.

They are all silent.




As time progresses, he finds that he’s not afraid of anything, his inhibitions scattered to the wind. So the next day, when he thinks that he’d like to go see Elizabeth, he gets to his feet and walks to her room, despite the fact that it is late at night. A small voice whispers that he wouldn’t normally do this, but when she opens the door and invites him in, the voice dies, and does not return.

“Hello, John,” she greets him. She’s wearing green pajamas (green like the Maine sea – Maine?) and a blue housecoat (soft as the sky – I don’t understand, the sky is not soft.), and she’s smiling that radiant smile again.

“I came to see you,” he says, smiling himself.

“Why?”

He hesitates for only a moment. “To tell you that I love you.”

She tilts her head curiously, and her smile becomes more playful. “Oh.”

“I can’t remember why I didn’t tell you before,” he says, frowning a bit. “Maybe I was afraid, but now I can’t remember what fear is.”

“Seven days,” she whispers, and rises on her toes to kiss him. “We only have seven days.”

Her lips are soft and warm, and he can’t remember ever feeling so happy in his life. As her hands slip beneath his shirt to run the length of his back, he thinks that he wouldn’t want it any other way.




Two more days pass, and he doesn’t feel better anymore.

Everyone else is still better, everyone but his team. Teyla looks mildly displeased, staring off into space as if pondering an intense question. Ronon refuses to speak, while Rodney sleeps off and on.

Elizabeth is still radiant, and when he’s around her, he feels better again. This morning, she kissed him before leaving his room, and he felt better as long as she was around. He thinks he should go looking for her.

“Something’s wrong,” he tells her.

“I know,” she answers, smiling.

“Aren’t you worried at all?” he asks her, but he has trouble being worried himself. Her smile is too content, too beautiful.

“What’s worry feel like?” she asks, her voice so distant and flighty that he pauses.

(Doesn’t she know?) he asks himself. (Not yet. She will, though.) He feels like he knows, though, and could explain if only he could remember. When he looks at her again and takes in her radiant smile, he suddenly feels a pang of fear.

“Aren’t you afraid?” he asks her. “Afraid that something is wrong?”

Her smile fades ever so slightly. “What is fear?”

“I’m afraid you don’t love me,” he blurts out without thinking. “That’s fear.”

She frowns slightly. “But I do. Don’t you see?”

All thought instantly stops, his heart surpassing all possible speed limits.

She smiles brightly at his reaction. “Yes, I love you.” Her gaze turns thoughtful. “Are you afraid anymore?”

He realizes that he’s not. “No.”

Her gaze goes suddenly distant, and it seems that she is in deep thought. “I think...I think I understand fear now,” she murmurs, her eyes focusing on him.

He finds himself distant from his own body, and hears his own voice. “And joy.”

Far away, within the farthest reaches of his mind, he hears an echo: Thank you, John Sheppard. I understand now.




When he wakes up, he realizes all at once that he’s himself again.

The next thing he realizes is that Elizabeth’s naked body is curled against his.

He has to resist the urge to bolt, and manages to slow his heartbeat down long enough to think. After all, she’s fast asleep, and it’s not even dawn yet. Any major movement is sure to wake her up.

As if on cue, she wakes up herself, and stretches. “Mmmm. Morning.” She opens her eyes, and he can see right away she’s not feeling well.

“I don’t feel better anymore,” she murmurs, and curls back into his side.

He knows he needs to get up, to find Rodney and try to figure out exactly what’s happened (or convince Rodney that something has happened, at the very least), but somehow, he knows that he may never again get the chance to stay with Elizabeth like this.

By the time he does get out and about, he finds that he’s not the only one restored to proper self. His entire team, plus the doctors that conducted their post-mission checkups, are all back to normal. The rest of the expedition is in varying states of ‘better’ and ‘not better’.

“Rodney…”

”Way ahead of you,” he smugly proclaims. “After a talk with Teyla and Ronon, I've already figured everything out. We've been possessed."

At first, he conjures up an image of the little girl in The Exorcist, and then immediately replaces it with memories of Thalen. However, he can't draw a connection between either experience (The Exorcist scared him to death the first time he watched it, but he wouldn't dare tell anyone now) and the past seven days.

He shakes his head at Rodney. "That didn't feel anything like possession. Drugs? Eh, maybe. Possession? No."

He shakes his head. “Think harder. Do you remember an annoying little voice, always asking weird questions? Asking you about things you already knew?"

As soon as he remembers the voice, he realizes that it wasn’t quite right. Too intrusive, too innocent, too…alien. (What’s fear? What’s concern?)

“Whoever we picked up, we must have spread it through physical contact,” Rodney continues. “That’s why the doctors are back to themselves too—they’re the first ones we...well, infected, for want of a better word.”

“But the scans showed we were clean,” John responds, frowning, because Rodney's explanation does make sense...

Teyla leans forward. “Do you recall the Elder’s story about the Dreamers and their seven day dreams?”

“The ones that ‘know no fear?’” Ronon adds.




This time, the countryside is terribly bland as they make their way back to the village. Before it had been radiant, glowing…

John stops himself before looking at Elizabeth’s face for too long. If anything, she’s more beautiful now than anything he’s ever seen before. He longs to reach out and touch her shoulder, to gather her in his arms…

And he no longer has a reasonable excuse to do so.

The Elder is waiting for them, old hands clasped perfectly in front of him. It is clear he is expecting them.

“I knew you would return,” he says calmly. “But I did not think you would return so quickly.”

“Do you know what happened?” John demanded of him, trying to contain the anger that threatened to boil over.

“Of course. The Dreamers returned to your home with you.”

“What’d you do to us?” Ronon grunts angrily, taking a threatening step forward.

Elizabeth places a small hand on his arm, her eyes shooting daggers at the Satedan. It works, and he stops.

“Please,” she says to the Elder, her voice calm and even. “Can you tell us what has happened? Are we in any danger?”

The old man smiles. “No danger. The Dreamers are all gone now.”

John frowns at the cryptic statement, noting that the man is apparently not going to explain unless pushed. He opens his mouth to speak, but Elizabeth beats him to it.

“What do you mean? We don’t understand.”

He chuckles, and nods slowly. “We are not sure where they came from, but… They are, for want of a better word, echoes. They live only through others, and even then only by observing.”

“But why? How did this happen?”

“They look for those, like them, who mourn. Then they live their short lives through them, in hopes of understanding their own plight.”

“What do they mourn?” she asks.

He smile saddens. “Joy.”

“Why would an entity mourn joy?” Teyla asks.

“If you do not understand fear, you cannot feel true joy. Because the Dreamers do not experience fear, pain, or any of the other unpleasant things that make up our existence, they cannot comprehend the most basic of our emotions.”

Elizabeth is silent a few moments. “Where have they gone?”

The old man shakes his head. “I do not know. They have been with us since the time of the Ancestors, and in all that time they have never left until now.” He sits, crossing his legs delicately. “Perhaps, through you, they’ve discovered what they were looking for.”

“Will they come back?”

The Elder’s expression saddens. “Return here? Perhaps, one day in the future. The ones you knew, however, are gone forever. They fade quickly as echoes, living only seven days.”

“Why didn’t you warn us?” Elizabeth pushes, though her voice has become somber.

“The Dreamers do not always inhabit the bodies of visitors,” he explains. “We had no way to know they would choose you.”

None of these questions seem important anymore. He doesn’t care about the Dreamers, or their grand plans. Thanks to them, John doesn’t know whether to be worried or dismissive, cautious or accepting, fearful or…whatever.

Elizabeth continues to talk with the Elder, but once again, he finds himself not paying attention to the words they utter, but instead to the woman asking all the questions.

He knows one thing for certain: he loves her more now than he ever did before or while the Dreamers lived within them.




Weeks pass, and things are back to normal, for the most part. There’s an outbreak of depression that scares everyone, but the doctors conclude that it is due to altered levels of dopamine in the brain. Unsurprisingly, the entire expedition is affected as a result of their brief alien possession.

John has been told more specific details, but lately, he doesn’t care. All he thinks about is Elizabeth.

She’s avoided him like the plague since it happened, and he finds it increasingly difficult to be professional when they must work together. Especially knowing that she... or, at least, after hearing her say that she….

He can’t bring himself to conclude the train of thought, reminding himself there are rules and regulations against this kind of thing. It works for a short while, and he’s able to push himself forward as long as he remembers that.

One night, however, it becomes too much, and regulations be damned, he’s going to go see her.

It’s late at night, again, but he’s not as certain as the first time he made this trip. She opens her door, but doesn’t invite him in immediately.

“John,” she gasps, her face turning a fair shade of pink. “Is everything all right?”

“Yes,” he answers quickly, and then shakes his head. “No. I need to know something.”

She looks at him uncertainly, as if she knows what he’s about to say. Perhaps she does, he thinks to himself, but it makes no difference as she nods her consent.

“Do you love me?”

After a long moment, she bites her lower lip, and nods. “I… yes.”

“Can I come in?” Relief courses through him, his nerves unwinding as he relaxes a bit.

Her face is a mask of uncertainty. “I should say no,” she murmurs, “but I want to say yes.”

He smiles the barest of smiles. “Then just say yes”.

Elizabeth pauses, a smile beginning to warm her face. “All right. Yes.”

John knows that the Dreamers are still affecting them in many ways, but as he holds Elizabeth in his arms, and buries his face in her hair, he finds that he doesn’t care anymore. Maybe he does understand what they were after, if only a little.

In the end, it doesn’t matter, because the joy he feels with Elizabeth is worth everything…and more.

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