Note: This fic continues for all those who sent their requests that I continue this story. Thank you all for your pushing, but this chapter is especially for Camy who needs a new chapter right about now.
After all these years and the advances of technology the vibration through the deck plates was still obvious to John as he sat at his tiny desk. Through the soles of his military issue boots he could feel the subtle pulsation of the hyperdrive engine. Perhaps it was the recent years spent flying one person Gate Ships, practically sitting on top of a hyperdrive, that made him more aware of the physical tremor of travelling through the spiralling tunnel of hyperspace. The constant presence of the vibration had been comforting in a way through this trip back to Pegasus – finally he was headed back. Today however that vibration seemed louder and harsher than ever before, for though he appeared to be working on his never-ending sea of paperwork logged in his tiny little laptop, a part of him was steadfastly focused on the sensation that told him that they were still in hyperspace. Today they would be arriving at the coordinates for the New Athos, which had been the last known home of the Athosians. When that vibration beneath his boots stopped it would mean that they had arrived. It was crazy really because he knew a crewman would call him ahead of time as John had requested, but John couldn't stop himself waiting for the vibration to stop. He wasn't sure if that was from worry at possibly being stopped before he reached New Athos or that he was worried about actually arriving.
"Bridge to General Sheppard," a tense voice called over the ship's intercom.
Anxiety and excitement warred harshly in his chest as John looked up towards the ceiling. "Sheppard here," he replied to the empty air and he heard the click of the intercom recognising his response and opening the channel to the Bridge.
"We are expected to arrive at the target coordinates in twenty minutes from now, Sir," the disembodied voice informed him. John could almost see the tense shoulders, ramrod straight spine and worried expression of the crewman.
"Understood. I'm on way to the Bridge," John replied. "Sheppard out." The intercom clicked again at the recognised phrase and there was once again dead air in the small quarters, but John's body and mind were far from feeling dead.
He took his time closing down the laptop, making himself slow down from the mad dash he wanted to make up to the Bridge. It didn't look good for a General to rush onto the Bridge all overcome with excitement and tension. Of course his attempts to calm himself had nothing to do with the now wildly circling worries.
He stood up from the small bolted down desk and carried his small laptop over to his bed. The computer slid into the pouch of his bag and he calmly zipped it all closed. He had lived out of that one bag for the past two and a half weeks. The bag held all he really needed – a thick book, his computer with music player, two further changes of clothing and a toiletry bag. Everything else he needed he wore – his tags, wings, weapons and uniform. He had left all his recognisable Earth ID back in his locker in the Flight Control, though he had removed the dog-eared photo and slid it into his breast pocket of his uniform before leaving Earth.
He picked up his jacket and pulled it on as he turned towards the narrow mirror fixed to the wall above a small sink. There were some perks of being a General and one of them was having the most luxurious cabins in the Artemis. Of course even the most luxurious of quarters on the ship was still a tiny room, but at least he had running water and his own bathroom.
He stood before the mirror, but his gaze was directed down towards his hands closing up the buttons and smoothing down his collar. He didn't wear the flight suits that most on the ship wore instead he had remained in his Flight Base uniform – black trousers, dark t-shirt and blue jacket. It was the closest to the old style Stargate uniform that was left on Earth and that was perhaps due to John's influence. Those in his Flight Base liked their uniforms and John chose to dress like them and not wear the uptight, though admittedly smart, official uniform of his station. He adjusted his collar once more and finally looked up at the mirror.
The man who looked back at him was always so much older than he expected. People told him that he looked young for his age, but John saw only the lines and grey streaks in his hair.
He dropped his eyes from his face to his uniform and smoothed it out. Despite the years and experience he still managed to look 'rumpled' as his father had once described him. He didn't usually care too much, except for those nervous times when he had been invited to a Presidential dinner or something. Now his rumpled uniform was as good as he would ever get it, but today it made him feel more nervous for some reason that he didn't look as smart as he could.
He looked back up to his face to his green eyes and finally allowed himself to dwell on the worries. He had no idea how the past twenty years had affected the Athosians. They may be on New Athos as predicted or they may have been once again run off to a new strange world to call home. If they were even still alive. She could be dead.
The pain was tight in his chest at the thought. It wasn't like it was a new fear – he had lived with the not knowing for a long time, but now he would have his answer and it felt even more terrifying for some reason. His heart felt like it would break open with the dread, pain, excitement and the most painful of all: hope.
Besides the fears over her and Torren's survival there had been the other considerations –she could have moved on happily with her life. She may have gone back to Kanaan, or if not to him then some other lucky guy would have turned up eventually. John may have ever stopped thinking of her all these years, dwelling unhealthily in the past, but Teyla wasn't like that – she coped and she moved on. She could have had a dozen more kids and have lived a fantastic life. She might have grandkids running around her contented home and she may simply be 'happy to see him again'. He wanted to hear that she was happy, that she had lived a wonderful past twenty years, but another lonely lost side of him self wished that she had missed him as he had missed her. That the powerful emptiness inside him that he imagined had linked him to her all these years was inside her as well. Did that make him a horrible human being?
With that last thought he clamped his worries shut, or as shut as he ever could. He rolled back his shoulders and returned his attention to his face. He watched his expression change in the mirror, idly fascinated to see the very physical change to his features as he pulled his 'work face' into place. The man who stared back at him was a General, despite the absurdity of it to him, and the stars glittered on his shoulders as he turned from the mirror. One more deep breath and he was opening the door to exit his quarters. The door slid aside with the smooth efficiently of modern Earth technology and he stepped out into the corridor of the Artemis.
As he strode calmly down the corridor the weight of the small worn photo in his breast pocket seemed to rest against his chest with a pressure that seemed absurd.
The swirls outside the portholes of the Artemis' Bridge were pretty enough to Ronon as he looked out, waiting patiently for the time when it would all collapse and real space would be visible again. Patience was something that he had developed over the past decades and yet it still felt rather alien to him. In his younger days he would have been pacing the Bridge, or at least shifting from one leg to the other as he attempted to hide the impatience in his soul that seemed to have existed ever since the day Sateda had burned.
But things had changed. Many years spent exploring and discovering the many planets of the Milky Way galaxy had filled that hunger to keep moving, and over time part of him had felt…satisfied eventually. It was true that despite those travels there was little in his life to show, but that had never really meant all that much to him.
Ronon turned his head slightly and Rodney's reflection came into view in one porthole. It had been difficult for McKay to leave Earth, for his wife and son were back there. The years had calmed Ronon's friend a little, though those first years following Angus' birth had been more of a set back, but now the boy had grown up enough that Rodney felt less like the failing parent he had once confessed to Ronon that he felt. Ronon had teased his friend endlessly after that, along with John, but finally he had told Rodney the truth – that he was a good father. And the man was, of a sort. He clearly loved his son and did all he could to try and be the best he could be for his son. Being away from the boy and his wife had taken a clear emotional toil on Rodney, but he had wanted to visit Pegasus one last time. Like John and Ronon, Rodney needed to come back here, even if it was to 'put demons to rest'.
Ronon turned his gaze away from Rodney's fluttering around the Bridge behind him and focused once again on the bluish swirls outside. Pegasus. It was Ronon's home galaxy, but strangely it didn't really feel that way anymore. Though he had been offered this trip as a way to return to Pegasus if he wished, Ronon knew he would not be staying. Though he did not have much back in the Milky Way, there was still enough there for him to return. Being away had made that very clear for him.
Her image came to mind as he stared outside. He missed her more than he would have thought, but there she was – on his mind. She had been born a Jaffa, but had been part of the resistance against her people's former 'Gods'. Ronon had met her in his travels some ten years ago and through those years they had crossed paths more and more frequently, until the time he had realised that he had been making excuses to see her. She had returned his advances and he spent a considerable amount of his time now with her on her people's new home world. When he had told her of this trip she had wished him well and had told him plainly that should he chose to return she would wait for him. He had told her he would return, but could not say how long he would be away.
Now away from her it was even clearer to him that he would return to her side as quickly as possible and that finally it was time to solidify their relationship. Nothing had made that as clear to him as watching John over these past weeks on this trip. Ronon was never one for emotional observation or internalising, but it was clear even to him that John had never quite gotten over leaving Pegasus. Sure some of that was due to the way it had ended with the destruction of Atlantis, but most of it had been due to leaving Teyla behind. John had fought to return here for years, trying not to show just how much he wanted it, just how much he needed to come back here. Ronon was a believer in moving on with your life, but he knew that there were some things that a person just could never move past.
Ronon heard the boot steps arriving down the corridor that heralded John's approach. John knew how to walk quietly for what he hadn't learnt himself Ronon had perfected with him. John walked just loudly enough to make sure that everyone on the Bridge knew he was coming. Ronon listened to the drop of whispering and the sudden air of forced efficiently on the Bridge, despite the fact that the Artemis had the most skilled crew of any in the Earth fleet.
Ronon turned to look round at John as he entered. Though John didn't really enjoy the mantle of command all that much he still wore it well in Ronon's opinion. John was a General who commanded respect, but only so much that was necessary. What made most of those on the Bridge nervous was his reputation, not so much the man and John knew that. Ronon would never have thought John would one day consider those kinds of things, but then 'everyone grows up eventually' had been John's response. Still, Ronon saw easily through the mask of The General to the laid back man beneath. Though, in truth John hadn't been all that laid back for the last twenty years and today the mask of command seemed even more forced and brittle to Ronon's eyes.
John nodded to him briefly. Ronon held his friend's gaze just long enough to make sure he understood. Ronon didn't need to say anything more. John knew Ronon was here for him.
Ronon turned back to the blue of hyperspace and was surprised at the twinge of pain in his chest. He had seen the brittle fear in John's eyes mixed with cautious hope. Ronon felt it too, but that was likely to be only a pinch compared to what John was feeling. Ronon did not envy him.
"We will reach the target coordinates in ten seconds, Sir," someone reported.
Ronon kept his eyes forward waiting for the moment when he would see his home galaxy's stars once again. In a few minutes they would find out the answers to some long held questions. In a few minutes John's life could be made or broken completely. Ronon squared his shoulders as if he could somehow bear some of that burden for his friend.
The blue swirling tunnel flickered and died away instantly and the glorious blackness of empty space appeared ahead. Ronon smiled at the sight, at the sparkling distant stars and at the planet set just to the left. It was time.