Something has come back with them on the Aurora... and it is affecting John.
A day and a half after the teams had left to retrieve the Aurora, Elizabeth came down to the infirmary to find Cassie dressed and reading quietly in a chair beside her bed. “Cassie! Good to see you up, Carson letting you have a little freedom now?”
Cassie smiled up at her and stretched her legs out. “Getting a little stir crazy Elizabeth, and he's promised I can go for a small walk, want to come with me?”
“Actually Cassie, I know the perfect route... fancy a walk down to the south pier?” Smiling, Elizabeth held out her arm and Cassie rose from the chair, slipped her shoes on and hooking her arm in Elizabeth's.
“Anything special down there?” Cassie paused briefly to let Carson know she was leaving.
“Oh, just a certain air force officer arriving in a rather large battleship...”
“They're back? Oh, I can't wait to see him... hurry, let's go!” Cassie started pulling Elizabeth along a little faster, then dropped back a little when she realised her stomach was not going to allow a too strenuous walk.”
“Easy Cassie, no rush. They radio'd in and will be dropping out of hyperspace above Atlantis in a few minutes. Thought it would be fun to watch a battleship land on the south pier. Not a sight we see everyday, even in this galaxy!”
The cooling breeze on the pier was welcome after the cloying heat of the infirmary and Cassie paused briefly to lift her face and feel it shift the strands of her hair. She had on stretch tights and a shirt of John's that was big enough to button over her stomach, enjoying wearing it because it carried his scent. Elizabeth marvelled at how young and carefree she looked, given what she carried inside her in terms of knowledge and genetic memory. John had told her most of what had occurred on the Aurora as soon as they could establish radio contact with Atlantis, and he had told Elizabeth that he didn't want Cassie to learn of this yet. He would find the right time to tell her.
“Look Elizabeth, here it comes. Oh, isn't she spectacular? I'm going to ask John if I can fly her..”
“Why do people always call machines 'she'?” Elizabeth asked no one in particular. “And I can't imagine John allowing you to fly a ship that size!”
“Want to place a small wager on that Elizabeth?” Cassie giggled, knowing she could easily get around that one.
“That's a bet I wouldn't take up Elizabeth!” Ronan's deep voice sounded behind them.
“Nor I...” came Teyla. They both looked out at the Aurora as she gracefully docked on the south pier. “I believe Colonel Sheppard is rather 'marshmellow' of nature where Cassie is concerned.”
The four of them were laughing as John and the rest of the crew exited the battleship and came down the ramps from the hangar bay. John's heart did a little jump of excitement as he saw Cassie laughing and relaxed, dressed casually in his shirt, and instead of rushing over to her, he simply stood and took her in as if memorising every detail. She lifted her arms slightly and it broke his spell slightly and he was moving towards her, eyes locked until she was there in front of him, smiling, so beautiful, then in his arms and kissing his neck. Yes, it was a good day.
They enjoyed lunch together in the mess with Teyla and Ronan, but Cassie noted that John was a little distracted. He joined in the conversation, smiled at everything, and his hand was constantly touching her, on her knee, or rubbing her arm, holding her hand, but she still felt that minute distraction, so in tune with his moods. It was as if he was holding a small part of himself back and she watched him carefully.
After lunch Carson had come looking for her and sent her back to the infirmary for monitoring and a nap and John had given her a brief kiss and told her he had work to do on the Aurora and would see her later. A frown marred her face as he left the infirmary, something was not right.
It was nearing dinner time and he still had not returned from the ship. Making a decision, she went to see Chef and asked if she could prepare a picnic basket made up of a special dinner for two, and as enamoured of her as every other male on the base, he said yes immediately, even going so far as to select the items and pack the basket himself. After gathering a blanket, she took the basket, which admittedly was a little heavy and made her way down the pier to the Aurora.
She entered the transport bay and made her way to the control room and stood looking around, suddenly feeling as though this is where she belonged. She immediately sensed another presence in the room and it was male, not female and it did not take tangible form and she dropped her basket in surprise. John started at the sudden noise. He had been sitting in the control chair, just staring into space, looking at what appeared to be nothing, and Cassie felt the stirrings of concern.
“John? What are you doing just sitting there. It's almost dinner time, I was getting worried.” She bent to pick up the basket that she had just dropped and moved further into the room. “I can sense something here John, there's another presence here...”
As if just registering who she was, he appeared to snap out of some sort of trance and really look at her. “Cass? What are you doing here? And put that basket down, it looks far too heavy.” He got up out of the control chair and came towards her, reaching out to take the basket.
She looked up into his eyes, searching. “John? What's going on? You're acting very strangely.” Something still lurked in his eyes, but he seemed more coherent than he was before and lifted the basket, quirking his eyebrow in question.
“I wanted to surprise you with a picnic dinner.. we haven't been alone for a while and I miss you.” He put the basket down, the last remnants of whatever was troubling him gone, and he reached for her. “Come here love, I'm sorry to have neglected you, I've just felt a little 'off' since I got back.”
Her tucked her into his arms and moulded her body to his and he was just John again. “Why don't you go and see Carson, get checked out... hmmm.. for me?”
“Sure babe, tomorrow, if I still feel it... now where shall we take this delicious picnic.. somewhere very very private... how about the rather lavish guest quarters of this lovely ship. I believe there is a nice comfortable bed, did I mention that there was a bed?”
Cassie giggled. “I believe you did Colonel, several times...”
Cassie awakened in their personal quarters the next morning alone. It was early. They did not draw any curtains during the night to allow the moonlight that danced across the dark water to seep in through the windows and she could see just by turning her head, that the sun was still to rise. The covers on John's side of the bed had been neatly pulled up and she did not feel his presence in the room. He had been fine last night, mostly. Attentive and affectionate as was his nature, she had still however, sensed a foreign element, a slight darkness that had concerned her and it was this same concern that had her hauling herself out of bed and into the shower, far earlier than she would have preferred.
Once dressed, she swung by the infirmary to see whether John had in fact taken her up on her suggestion that she see Carson and get checked over. Elizabeth was there with Carson, and they were talking quietly in one corner, Carson with a slightly concerned look on his face. She waited quietly until they noticed her, not wanting to interupt what may have been a private moment.
“Cassie love!” Carson smiled when he saw her. “It's early for you to be up and about, feeling ok? I must say, you're looking rested, must be something to do with have your Colonel home, eh lass?”
“That's what I wanted to talk about...” Elizabeth smiled at them and prepared to leave the room, assuming that Cassie would want to talk privately to Carson. “Stay Elizabeth please, I think you should hear this also.”
“Well, sit then Cassie, keep off your feet whenever you can.” Cassie dropped lightly into one of the chairs he indicated, while Carson lounged comfortably against the nearest bed.
“Did you notice anything 'odd' about John when he came in yesterday?” she addressed this question to Elizabeth who had been one of the first people to see John. Elizabeth shrugged. “Not really Cassie, he certainly seemed happy enough to see you and the fact that we did not enjoy either of your company yesterday evening, I assume that is an indication that you put that time to good use?”
Cassie smiled then looked serious again. “There's something 'off' about him. I can't put my finger on it, but there is a darkness that keeps sliding into his eyes, almost another presence, and I can detect it just, like it's keeping itself hidden from me. When I asked him about it, he did say that he had felt a little 'off' and if it continued he would come here and get checked out. When I found him on the ship yesterday evening, he was just sitting in the control chair, staring into space. And I sensed that presence, in the ship yesterday. This morning when I woke up, he was gone and I would take up the bet that I would find him back on that ship...”
“Hmmm...” Elizabeth was non committal. “Are you sure you are not just picking up genetic imprints from the ship.”
“That is exactly what I am picking up Elizabeth, but they are different than the ones I have picked up previously. There is usually a calm, 'good' feeling associated with anything I pick up regarding the ancients, this one is dark and I can't help feeling that it is something bad, something that John is somehow susceptible to.”
“Not wraith Cassie? Is it similar to the feelings you get with the wraith?”
“No, that is always clear,especially now that I can recognise what it is. This is different, and I think that this presence, whatever it may be, is trying to stay hidden from me. I think it knows that I will be able to detect it and recognise it. Will you come with me to the ship, I think John is there, and I think the longer he is exposed to it, the stronger the effect it will have on him.”
“You keep saying 'he' Cassie.” Elizabeth was thoughtful.
“I pick up that whatever this is, it is definitely male and is probably a part of John's genetic memory.” Cassie pushed herself up out of the chair and left he room with Elizabeth following behind, casting a worried look at Carson as she left.
Cassie and Elizabeth entered the Aurora quietly and went to the control room. John was standing facing the large window that looked out over the sea of Atlantis. Tension was evident in his posture and as he acknowledged their presence in the room, anger crept over his features.
“John? What are you doing?” Cassie put out a hand as though to calm him.
“Go now Cassie, Elizabeth. You should not be here.” The voice was John's but also someone elses and Cassie felt a ripple of fear.
“You are not John are you? Who are you, and what do you want. Leave him now and return to where you came from. You are not welcome here.” Cassie moved closer and watched as something dark, but familiar crossed his face and settled behind his eyes. “I know you...”
Elizabeth had not moved from the doorway, but she keyed her ear comm and said quietly. “Ronan, Teyla, I think you need to come to the Aurora now. Something has happened to John and we are going to need some assistance. Bring Lorne as well.”
“Callandra!” Cassie froze in shock. She knew that name and she knew the voice that came from John's lips and she was instantly transported back 10,000 years, genetic memory flooding through her as she looked at the man who stood in front of her.
“Janus? Is that you? I searched for you? Everywhere... When I arrived on earth, you were not there. I spent so long looking for you!” Cassie felt the warmth that was another being, flood her consciousness and knew it to be her ancestor of long ago and recognised immediately who shared John's consciousness. She moved closer to John, to touch his arm in recognition but he pulled back in anger.
“You kept my child from me all those years. All those years I lived, not knowing what had happened to you, what had happened to our child. I grew to hate, Callandra and spent a long time planning my revenge. Do you think you can do what you did and get away with it.” His hand whipped out lightning fast and slapped Cassie hard across the face, causing her to stagger, but not fall and she put out her hands to ward him off.
“John, listen to me, you're got to fight this. You are stronger than he is, send him away.” but she saw that John's consciousness had been totally submerged by the darker one of Janus and knew that she could only communicate with him on that level.
Ronan, Teyla and Lorne ran into the control room just as John raised his hand again, grabbing Cassie's long hair and pulled her head back painfully.
“Colonel Sheppard, stand down now!” Lorne trained his weapon on John, immediately sensing the threat and seeing the darkness on John's face indicating that he was not in control of his actions.
“Sheppard, you don't want to do this. Fight it man!” Ronan crept closer and tried to move around John, his weapon drawn and set to stun, but he had Cassie close to him now and was using her as a shield.
“She took our child and left me to die a long death without her. When I arrived on earth after the city was submerged, I searched everywhere but did not find her, did not find our child, but searching through the generations, I found him and followed him knowing that he would eventually lead me to her, one day, in the future. I wanted my revenge so much. Now you stand in front of me Callandra, you are still a strong and powerful woman, even more beautiful than you were, 10,000 years ago and I feel such hate for you and what you did.”
Ronan had crept closer, but did not have a clear shot.
“Janus, I went back to get the crystal. I could not leave the crystal on Atlantis, it held the key for future generations to fight the wraith, you know this. I was the last one to leave Atlantis, and there was a malfunction in the gate, I did not arrive in the same timeline as you. That is why you never found me..”
John swung Cassie around painfully, locking his arm around her neck now and causing her breathing to shorten. “You lie! That could not have happened. That is a lie!”
Cassie was having difficulty breathing now. “You know it is not a lie Janus. Why would I lie to you. I loved you, and would have given my life to you and my son. When I realised what had happened, I wanted to die myself rather than face the prospect of a life in another time line, without you. I did the only thing I could. I gave birth to our son so that he could fulfill the destiny he was meant to have. That is why we are here and now. That is why John and Cassandra are here and now.”
Teyla had stepped closer, recognising that Cassie was about to pass out from lack of oxygen and indicated to Ronan with a look that he should be ready to take the shot. “John...John!” Teyla saw something flicker in John's eyes and knew that he was trying everything in his power to assert this own consciousness. “Tell Janus, if he hurts Callandra now, he may kill his son... he will not want that...”
Teyla held out her hand non threateningly to John. “Let Cassie go John. Let Callandra go Janus, you do not wish to hurt your son.” Battle between two consciousness warred on John's face and he sunk to the ground, taking Cassie with him.
Cassie whispered, he breath short. “Janus, I love you, I always have, please know that. I spent an eternity loving you... now I love you again, in another time, another body... please, let me go, you are hurting our son...”
Light triumphed over dark and John collapsed, sending Cassie sprawling sideways. He rose onto his knees, his head in his hands. “What have I done, oh god Callandra, I have loved you too, for an eternity, Cassie, love what have I done...” the two consciousness finally merged as they should have done a millenia ago and the man was whole again, balance restored.
Ronan moved closer, weapon still at the ready and Teyla indicated with a movement of her head, that it would be safe to put aside the weapon. Elizabeth had rushed to Cassie's side after requesting Carson's assistance on the Aurora, where she lay, welted hand print across her cheek and bruising evident along her throat, physical evidence that a 10,000 year old consciousness had indeed managed to do some very real damage. Cassie on her side, breathing shallowly, cradling her stomach in her hand, and she pushed herself up, wanting to get to John. “Lie still Cassie, just lie still until Carson gets here, please...” Elizabeth placed a comforting hand on Cassie's shoulder, stilling her.
Ronan had taken John by the arm and was pulling him to his feet. “You ok man? You gave us a hell of a fright.” He wanted tosteer him away from Cassie for a while, knowing that once he fully remembered what he had done, the self loathing would be immediate.
“God Ronan, I couldn't fight him, I knew he was there, I knew who he was. He was in such pain, had fostered such hate through the years, but in the end, it was love that won out, I felt it move through him like a tidal wave... he truly did love her Ronan.”
The full consciousness returned and he let out an animal like cry. “Oh god, Cassie... what have I done... baby, what have I done?” Wrenching from Ronan's grasp he dropped to the floor beside her, horror etched across his features as he took in the bruising on both her cheek and her neck. “Oh god Cassie, how can you ever forgive me sweetheart? How can I ever forgive myself?” The bleakness in his eyes brought tears to hers and she reached out a hand, but he was up and running, wanting to put as much distance between himself and the pain he had caused. He pushed past Carson who had just entered the control room of the Aurora and Carson paused briefly, stung by the bleak pain in his eyes, but focused on Cassie who sat looking lost, frightened and bruised and just a little confused, as though one century had indeed superimposed itself on another and she was caught between the two, unsure where exactly she belonged.