DISCLAIMER: Sadly, I do not own Stargate Atlantis or any of its characters. If I did, I would have given the show at least two more years to play out.
AUTHORS NOTE: Sorry for the wait, but RL and all. I'm not sure if this is my most favorite chapter, but it does continue the story into the next and possibly final chapter that I do like. I could have spent more time on writing this-to make it smoother, but I have been working more on my own original work and my new page. (annpendragon./ . It's pretty fun if you have never done something like that) I hope I at least entertained.
So once again, this is not Beta'd by anyone. See something that is not correct, drop me a line. My hide is thick (as is my head). Also, I have not watched all of the episodes, but I hope to some day. I'm going with what I know of the story and that is not everything. And again, thanks so much for the wonderful reviews. Not only are they appreciated, but useful as well.
WARNING: Curse words and a big honken' load of angst. Un-beta'd, so we got a universe of mistakes kids. Don't zat me. At least not twice.
Teyla's Choice (cont.)
by Anne Pendragon
John sat silently upon the exam room table alone with his thoughts, the sounds of the machines in the infirmary his only company. It had been less than an hour since returning safely to Atlantis. Once Major Loren had the Jumpers down in the bay, John had been herded by his friends and colleagues past a slightly bemused Commander Woolsey and into the infirmary under Dr. Keller's orders.
'Like they didn't trust me to go. Am I really that bad?' John thought to himself and began to smirk. 'Guess I am…'
"Concussion and lack of oxygen means mandatory exam and a head scan. I just want to be certain that our fearless leader didn't loose too many brain cells." Jennifer had kidded, while Ronon blocked John's way to the Jumper Bay exit making the point clear.
A smirking Rodney was a hairs breath away from adding his own two cents about John's brain matter till John raised his finger threateningly in the scientist's direction, silencing him.
"I'm fine, doc. Look at me, I feel great." The Colonel looked between Jennifer and a slightly amused Teyla at his side. "Had a little nap, had a little O2…" John continued.
"Had a little concussion." Major Loren said in passing while exiting the Jumper hatch with a grin.
"Not helping, Major." John warned. The Major saluted, shouldering his gear.
So here he was once again, atop his usual exam table at the back of the infirmary, now alone and waiting for the doctors go ahead to go ahead and leave.
Teyla had already left to collect Torren John from his temporary care moments earlier, with the promise to return and John had sent Major Loren to update Woolsey. Rodney had shuffled off with Dr. Zelenka, babbling on about Ancient counter measures and power jamming. Their first stop being the mess hall, for Rodney of course, and then the Jumper Bay to tinker with the shorted out Jumper. And Ronon had left for the gym shortly after John was pushed into the infirmary. It appeared that after 48 hours confinement in a Jumper on a flight through deep space with his closest comrades, was all the togetherness Ronon could manage. Frankly, John couldn't blame the guy for having the need to work off the strain of physical and mental atrophy from such a situation and—well, Rodney.
Hell, John envied Ronon his work out, although other sorts of physical activity seemed more appealing to the Colonels physical and mental needs as of late. Ever since waking up on the Jumper floor not dead with his head in Teyla's lap, a whole new strain had been working him from the inside out. 'I just wished I'd held you…' John gripped the edge of the exam table a little tighter, remembering his own words. 'I really need out of this infirmary…'
John's head snapped up from his not so pure thoughts about his teammate when the sound of gurgled babbling entered the quiet room. Said teammate now stood in the doorway smiling brightly, her son gathered in her arms.
"Boy he's grown since I last saw him—I mean since before a couple days ago." Johns smile warm, while carefully watching mother and son approach. "Missed you guys."
"I'm sorry…" Teyla began.
"Don't be. And don't apologize. You needed the time." John's words soft and sincere. "And now you're back."
Teyla looked back to her son and then to John, nodding her head silently in return. The emotion that shown in her eyes making them shine like diamonds in the dim light of the room. "We are."
John cleared his throat and looked away, not trusting himself to continue the subject right then. He was just happy that she was happy back at his side.
"Looks like the little guy had a better couple days then the rest of us?" His smile more playful now, relaxed.
"As it turns out, Torren had Halling and his son as company while we were gone." Teyla gave the child a playful bounce and was met by a string of giggles. "When the others went back to New Athos, they stayed behind to care for Torren and to wait for word on you." Teyla leaned against the exam table, placing her son in Johns waiting arms.
John looked up from the squiggling child, his brows knit in confusion. "Why?" John laid Torren's back flat on his lap, allowing the child to use his stomach as a target for kicking legs.
"Why take care of Torren…?" Now it was Teyla who looked confused.
"Why wait to hear about me? I was fine…" John's brow arched in surprise. Injury came with the job. It was just something he'd grown use to over the years, not comfortable with, but use to. Injury to himself that is, not others around him. Injury to others around him was unacceptable, happened but unacceptable. "I didn't even need surgery…"
Teyla's eyes narrowed. "You were not fine, John." Teyla looked away from him, dusting her fingers over Torrens bare stomach while he kicked away on John's lap. "You once again saved my people from a fate worse than death and then nearly died doing so. Even if that was not the case, Halling and his son consider you family and care what happens to you, as do we all." Teyla's eyes rose to meet John's silent and now sober stare. She could see how her words had touched him. It was all there in his eyes.
"You view those closest to you as your family. You told me that, John. And you've proven it by deed, time and again." Teyla continued while John remained a silent audience. She only hoped that her words were getting through to him this time. "Over the years I have watched your worry—your feelings of responsibility take their toll on you through the decisions you've made to keep us all safe. And it has always been at the sacrifice of your own wellbeing." Teyla continued to play with her son's stomach, her eyes caught up in Johns. "Please John, accept that we feel just as deeply for you in return and worry about you just as much. You may show your care by protecting us, but what we need is for you care a little more for yourself…" Teyla looked away a moment and sniffed and then turned back into Johns still silent stare. "We-I need you to value your life more…"
John reached for the hand Teyla held over her son's stomach, effectively silencing her while gently holding it there. Swallowing hard, he felt his heart held captive by the intuitive woman before him. She was not angry with him. It was sadness that pulled at her features and it was now pulling at John's insides. "I'm trying…" He wasn't sure if he'd succeed, but for Teyla he had to try. "But I'll try harder."
Teyla could only nod and move closer into John's side as response, her emotions too close to the surface in such a public place. How did loving this stoic man seem to make her want to be less so, herself?
"Col. Sheppard. Ms. Emmagon. Torren." Commander Woolsey smiled kindly, nodding to the child in the Colonels lap before returning to the model of professionalism. "I am glad to see you in one piece and back on Atlantis."
John curtly nodded to the Commander. He and Teyla had separated like two caught teenagers once aware of their visitor's presence. Teyla was already gathering Torren John into her arms, getting some very vocal complaints from the active child.
"Da-da…" Torren whined while his little hands tried to hold onto Johns scrubs, catching the attention of everyone in the room.
John felt his chest pleasantly squeeze in realization. 'Is this the kid's first word?' His widened eyes darted up to meet Teyla's over the child's bobbing head and knew that it was. Even without Woolsey in the room, John believed he would have had difficulty finding his own words right then.
Teyla had been just as surprised, but just as pleased with her son's first words and to whom he gave them. Eyes full of meaning; she nodded to John in understanding. "I believe my son is in need of a feeding and nap." She bounced the child onto her hip, looking between the Commander and John. "Commander" she nodded to Woolsey. "Colonel" Teyla tilted her head a little deeper towards John.
Both men watched Teyla and Torrens' swift exit in silence. John gently smirked and cleared his throat. 'Da-da...'
"I can see I am not the only one happy to see your return." Woolsey carefully eyed the Lt. Colonel, always impressed by the other mans ability to steel his emotions and hide behind a nonchalant mask in mere seconds.
John turned back to the Commander, raised brows and a goofy smirk in place. "Actually Dr. Zelenka and Private Dooley looked a little teary eyed when I came down the hall earlier. It was touching." Maybe it was too late to keep he and Teyla's relationship away from Woolsey's notice. There was just too much damming evidence to the contrary and John wasn't about to lie. But he wasn't about to enter into the conversation easily either.
"Yes, well…" Woolsey shook his head, returning to task. "I have already met with Major Loren and Dr. Keller, regarding the last couple of days. And I've decided to meet with your team at 0700 hours tomorrow morning for your report. I figured that your people were in need of an evening off after the long trip."
"Okay." John neutrally replied, watching the Commander tightly smile then adjust his collar.
"I was hoping to discuss something else with you…" Woolsey began.
"Okay, Colonel. I have one more test." Dr. Keller entered the room interrupting the Commander, a bundle of clothes and two empty test tubes in tow.
"Come on, doc." John spied the empty blood vials and felt half thankful for the interruption. "You already took enough to feed Dracula. I mean don't I need to keep some of that in me?"
Jennifer rolled her eyes at her difficult and all too frequent patient, setting the cloths and the tubes on the exam table beside him. "Don't be a big baby. I'll be done with you soon enough. Just gotta make sure Atlantis's Military leader cum superhero is in tip top condition. Commander." The doctor nodded to Woolsey and began to draw more blood from the unflinching Colonel. "Teyla left the cloths with me, by the way. She figured you would have bolted if you had them earlier."
"Smart girl." John grunted. "I'm fine by the way."
"Duly noted, Colonel." The doctor smiled, pulling away the last vial then patted Johns arm. "After I run this last test you can go."
John stood up from the exam table as soon as the doctor walked away and stripped off his scrubs top in favor of a black tee.
"Did you receive those all during your time here on Atlantis?"
John paused, his eyes steadily trained on the Commander. He quickly realized Woolsey had meant the varied menagerie of scars on his torso and arms he'd earned over the years. The visible one's, anyway. Quickly, John lifted the shirt over his head and pulled it down. "Most." His voice casual with only a hint of tension.
Woolsey turned from the Colonel allowing the man to put on his pants. "All in the line of duty, Colonel?"
John grimly smirked, fastening his pants and then reached for his boots and socks. "Yeah, in the line of duty." 'To protect them…'
Kneeling down, John could feel the other man once again studying him while he tied his boots. He could also feel the subject the Commander had been itching to broach come further to the surface and knew it was making the other man uncomfortable. 'Good.'
John stood up strait and grabbed his belt and sidearm, his eyes now leveled on the Commander—waiting.
Richard Woolsey cleared his throat under the other mans steady stare. It was not the first time that Woolsey had his resolve unsettled by the military man's sometimes hard and direct demeanor. "There are some elemental things I have come to understand working amongst the military population, both here on Atlantis and at the SGC." The Commander began. "One is the strong bonds and care shared within the ranks, the sacrifice of self. And how attachments can affect working relationships…"
"I 'cared' for her long before now, and she for me." John wasn't in the mood for the essay he felt coming. No matter how much he didn't want to discuss his personal life with—well, anyone he was going to let the Commander off the hook and cut to the chase.
His eyes hard and steady upon the other man, John continued. "For five years, we 'cared' beyond a simple 'attachment' to a member of our team. That has never compromised our team's ability to do its job." A brief silence, punctuated by the hum and beep of equipment somewhere in the infirmary, filtered in between the men. "She is an integral part of my team. I need…"
"And as an administrator, I would have to agree Colonel." Temporarily silenced, John's brow rose quickly when he didn't get the argument he'd expected. "Your team has a high achievement rate and has proven invaluable to this expedition." Woolsey continued with a little more confidence, knowing he had briefly thrown the unflappable Colonel.
"It appears that combining a brilliant, yet physically and socially inept scientist, an ex-Wraith Runner along with an Athosian who shares DNA with this galaxies darkest enemy, and then placing them under the leadership of a maverick Air Force Major abruptly turned Lt. Colonel with an aversion towards authority has proven successful." John darkly glared at Woolsey's blunt assessment, but kept his silence.
"As an administrator, I have also come to understand the term 'do not fix what is not broken'. And since Ms. Emmagon is not under the jurisdiction of the United States Military or Government; that she volunteers to assist this expedition with her unique and much appreciated talents…"
"You're not taking her from my team?" John's voice cautious.
"I am not." John felt the stifling pressure in his chest lessen. "But I ask that you, as our highest ranking military professional on this expedition, consider the personal repercussions of you and Ms. Emmagon's 'situation' in the field."
And then just like that, John felt something in his chest constrict once more. 'Damn…'
John stiffly nodded; the conversation was at a close. Mr. Woolsey, saying what he needed to say, squared his shoulders and turned for the door a bit more relieved to have the conversation done.
"Woolsey." Sheppard barked at the Commanders retreating form. "Michael?" John had not forgotten his promise to shoot the hybrid if he was not gone by his return.
Richard Woolsey had not forgotten either. Stopping in the door, he lowered his head. "Tomorrow he will be placed in cryogenic freeze."
John began to angrily shake his head. "That's too good for him. I should have killed the bastard back on PX302."
The Commander turned back to Sheppard and nodded. "With the previous experiences I have had with this sort of situation at the SGC, I would have to agree with you. But keeping Michael alive was not my call." Woolsey watched the Colonel grudgingly nod his head in understanding. "Atlantis is glad to have you back, Colonel. Good night."
John watched the other man leave. 'Good night?' John snorted to himself. 'With Michael alive and in the same city with Teyla and Torren tonight, not likely.'
Moments later, when Dr. Keller returned with the Colonels clean lab results, all she found were a tangle of scrubs on the floor…
He told himself he came because it was his job; he was Atlantis's military leader. It was his job to make sure all was accounted for and secure in the city. Right?
It wasn't because of his need to once again see that monster in his cage where he belonged. 'But it is.' It wasn't because he wanted to gloat, to stand in one piece before that—thing, and be the proof that once again evil had failed and the good guys won. 'Maybe a little.' And it sure as hell wasn't his fear that the hybrid had somehow escaped and was stealing his world away from him once more; that loosing Teyla and Torren was to be inevitable. 'Who the hell am I kidding…?' In the end, it was all those things and more.
"Have you come to make sure the bogeyman hasn't escaped the box you've shut him in?" A cold voice leached out behind the bars to greet the Colonel.
John remained silent, half in the shadows of the room. Eyes coldly locked upon the being before him, he felt less relief than he'd hoped seeing his 'bogeyman' still detained.
"Bogeyman. Isn't that what your people call their monsters?" The hybrid scoffed from his place just behind the bars, harsh eyes locked on his captor. "You helped make this monster, John. How easily you all seem to forget the mistakes that repulse you. Then again, everything you would find repulsive in me—in what I have done, you must also see in yourself. Why else the need to 'freeze' me away—to put me down."
Michael's eyes glinted knowingly in the dull light of the room, seemingly unfazed by his fate. 'Why isn't he fazed…?' the thought entered Johns mind, but got pushed aside by distracting anger.
"To some degree keeping me around has been like looking in a mirror, for you." Michael continued, pleased with his observations. "See something you don't like, Colonel...?"
John's fists tightened, his nails breaking skin.
"Putting you down is like putting down a mad dog. Personally I would have chosen a bullet to the head." John quickly stepped out of the shadows and up to the bars of the cell. "And I already told you, I'm nothing like you…"
"You keep telling yourself that, but some part of you knows I'm right." Michael sneered in return.
"I know that you're done." John's eyes now hard as Naquadah. "I stopped your last little scheme."
"Yes, a little bird told me." Michael growled and glared with narrowed eyes. His earlier twisted gayety now swiftly turning to anger. "Now you tell me, John. Do you tire of suppressing what you really are, a bogeyman just like me? Do you tire of playing hero? I have come to understand how men such as yourself, men covering up for something they lack, find they must overcompensate. What do you overcompensate for? What do you lack Lt. Colonel Sheppard that makes you a monster?"
John eyes held steady with his enemies. Michael's words had teeth for John, but he'd be damned if he'd let Michael see how he'd clawed under his skin and hemorrhaged his insecurities. John did see the monster within himself, had seen it take physical form, fought it in his nightmares. He hated that side of himself so deeply and yet understood its necessity for being. To make the decision he had to in this world, to endure the things of the past and to come, and to protect those he loved, John Sheppard had to be what he hated most.
"Things like you make me a monster." John finally spoke, his voice cold and even like his stare. "Maybe you didn't choose what you are, but you chose what you became, and so have I." John moved even closer to the bars.
"I will do whatever it takes, be whatever it takes, and give whatever it takes to keep my people, this city and whatever section of the universe safe from all the other monsters like you. But you…" a feral glint grew in John's eyes. "You are willing to endanger the existence of an entire race of people just to satisfy your own selfish need for revenge while you hide behind others. Maybe we are both monsters, but I am nothing NOTHING like you."
John stepped away from the cell, his eyes locked with his enemy's in a final good bye. Walking to the door he found Teyla, Torren John alert but silent in her arms. John's surprise quickly turned to caution. He didn't want them in the same room with this being, let alone in the same city. But the determined look in Teyla's eyes told him to back away from his impulse to intervene. This was her fight. So he watched her walk past him and up to the safety line that was taped to the floor around the holding cell. Her head held high and proud, her eyes leveled at their enemy and John himself could not help but feel the chill in the air and the pride in his chest.
"And where there is one, there is the other." Michael's tone dripping in false hospitality.
Teyla gave no reply, only staring through the prisoner with cold clear eyes. She had needed closure with Michael, so she came here to stand before him and look into her enemies eyes one last time. For tomorrow this horrible chapter of her, Torren and John life was to be closed and then sealed away within a frozen cryogenic crypt.
"Have you and your precious child come to pay your last respects?" Michael's words were once again met by a cold heavy silence.
Something sparked within the Athosian warrior's steady stare. A cold mirthless grin settled upon her lips. "Once I had pity for you and now that time has long passed."
"You must still have some sort of care to come here." Michael stepped closer to the bars, making John flinch and take a step closer towards Teyla and Torren's side.
"I only come to leave you with the understanding of how horribly you have failed in your attempts to destroy and manipulate. I come to show you the true future of man." her eyes slid from Michael's to her son and then looked over her shoulder to John, holding his eye for a moment before returning her attention back to Michael.
"You failed, Michael" her voice even and cold. "You have failed." Teyla stepped away, turning to face John. She had said all she needed to say.
"Bravo Teyla, bravo." Teyla did not turn back while she walked to John in the doorway. She would not give Michael the satisfaction. "But I have not failed. I have already had my hand in this future of man you speak of. Just look at the child in your arms and know that 'monsters' come in all forms." Michael called out to Teyla's retreating form, but his eyes burned aflame into Johns. "And there are no happy endings in the story for any monster. Isn't that right, Colonel?"
Teyla walked the rest of the way to John. She reached her hand to him, pulling his stony stare away from Michael, but unfortunately she could tell not his mind. Her own mind swam with unease and anger for allowing Michael to upset her one last time.
"Isn't that right?" Michael repeated his taunting question after them, but only received the silence of an empty room.