Author: tielan PM
Never get between a child and his mother.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Angst - Teyla E. & John S. - Words: 12,741 - Reviews: 9 - Favs: 2 - Follows: 4 - Published: 07-12-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8312270
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It was the rainy season on New Athos, a fact which John had forgotten until he stepped out of the Gate.
Beside him, Teyla frowned slightly, but only crossed the glade in rapid strides to where Kanaan stood with Torren in his arms.
John trailed after, grimacing to himself as the raindrops slid through his hair and down the nape of his neck. Beside him, Ronon looked no more comfortable, although getting wet didn't seem to bother him that much. Ronon had a general indifference to weather of all types and kinds - the result of all those years living on the run from the Wraith.
"Didn't remember it was the rainy season?"
"I can't keep the various planetary seasons straight in my head."
"You only have to know Atlantis and New Athos," Ronon pointed out, a faint smile hiding behind his shortbeard. "It's not that much. And it's stopping."
John grimaced up at the sky as the rain petered out, mocking him now that he was quite thoroughly wet. "I've got other things in my head."
"And Teyla usually reminds you beforehand."
John didn't respond to Ronon's mutter - they'd come close enough to join the conversation between Kanaan and Teyla, and whatever Kanaan was saying was serious enough to have Teyla looking grim as she Torren in her arms.
"...in such a state - bruises all over her body, weary from hunger and the cold."
"And you did not ask for Dr. Beckett or Dr. Keller?"
"It was not needful - the warming treatment for those exposed from the cold was sufficient to make her comfortable and give her rest." Dark eyes flickered to rest on John. "Colonel Sheppard."
"Kanaan. What's happening?"
Kanaan looked at Teyla, as though for permission, and only after a second did he begin explaining. "A woman from one of our allies came through the Gate and found our camp. She has been missing from her people for some time - perhaps two months - and was thought dead by them; taken by the Wraith, perhaps, or fallen afoul of troublers. We brought her into the camp settled her, tended her, and when she understood where she was, she slept and was peaceful."
"Until this morning," Teyla said, letting Torren pull on her hair. "When she woke Torren while dream-walking."
"The simplest explanation would be that a...connection is made between two minds."
It took John a moment to realise what Teyla was referring to. "She has the Gift?"
"It is not unknown for those of us with the Gift to share dreams," Kanaan said. "Torren is more susceptible to it because of his age - he has not yet learned to contain himself."
John raised an eyebrow in Teyla's direction and caught the cool and challenging look she returned him. "So you didn't happen to catch whatever it was she was dreaming?"
"No," said Kanaan seriously. "But Torren was screaming, and when I quieted him, I realised that she was screaming, too - for Teyla."
The last time Teyla had seen Lukia, Torren had not yet been born.
She'd gone out among the Athosian allies, seeking news of her people, letting them know that there was no-one at New Athos. And in Lukia's tent, she had sat in soft cushions, drank hot tea, and allowed herself to break down as she had not dared to among her allies in Atlantis.
Lukia had been kind and gentle and thoughtful, letting her weep without awkward reassurance or mawkish sympathy, and in the end, she had insisted Teyla stay for the night to rest among people with whom she need not be strong.
For that night, it had been a relief not to have to be strong.
The woman sleeping in the bed bore little resemblance to the reassuring solidity of the friend who had fussed over Teyla all those years ago.
She was thin, almost gaunt, and the mottled bruises showed stark, even in the shadows of the tent. They were old bruises, well-coloured, and layered one on top of the other.
Teyla took a deep breath and was glad Ronon had taken Torren out of the way. She spoke softly to wake Lukia, but not to startle her. "Lukia?"
Blue eyes opened immediately. "Teyla?"It took Lukia a moment to focus on Teyla's face. "Teyla? You should not- You must go- If they find you-"
She came to the edge of the bed and sat in the chair beside it. The lamplight by the bedside fell across her face to allow Lukia to see her more clearly. "You are safe, Lukia. Among the Athosians. Do you not remember coming here to us?"
"Safe?" Lukia looked around the tent, her hands clutching at the blankets. "I am...safe? Yes. I came through the Ring. Several rings... If they followed me...but it is not me they seek..."
"'They'? Who is it that hunts you? Lukia?"
Reaching out one hand to reassure, Teyla found her hand gripped in wintry fingers - no flesh, only the skin and the bone hard beneath. "They mistook me - I had the Gift and they were not clever. And then they could not distinguish, and what they wanted of me, I could not— They were angry – so angry!" She shivered and her voice grew low and hoarse - so much so that Teyla had to lean in to hear it over the outside noises of the camp. "And then...and then when he woke-"
Her breathing grew shallow and rapid, and she began to withdraw, trying to curl back up in the blankets as though to hide like a child.
"You are safe, now." A rush of pity and grief and anger swallowed Teyla as she wrapped her hands around Lukia's fingers, warming the cold flesh, anchoring the woman in the here and now. "Your ordeal is over."
Lukia shook her head. "No, no, no! He follows in my dreams. I should not have come here- I should not- Let me leave - I must leave now!"
"You are going nowhere. You have been very sick..."
"I endanger all Athos by being here. I should not have come. I was not thinking- Let me go!"
Lukia tore her hands from Teyla's - or tried to. She was weak, and Teyla held her easily as Kanaan went to the mouth of the tent, calling for calming tea, and John stood helplessly by.
"She will calm down with the sedative," she murmured to him. And, indeed, when they brought the tea and made Lukia drink it, she calmed, although her hands trembled with the cup such that she spilled much of it on the bed.
Teyla waited until her friend drowsed, then went seeking Kanaan and John. She found them standing at the edge of the camp, watching Torren play with the other Athosian children - a hunting game of the fields with a blindfolded player and a stick that could be used for poking or swiping.
"...not unusual for Torren to wake up distressed," John was saying. Then he grimaced as though realising what he had betrayed.
"And when such happens here he comes to me for comfort, as doubtless he goes to Teyla when in Atlantis." Kanaan's speech was even and measured, although Teyla could feel the resignation in him. "This was not like that time. He woke screaming and would not stop."
"If he was sharing Lukia's dream..." John began, and stepped aside to make room for Teyla between himself and Kanaan.
"You believe that this is more than just the transference of nightmares."
Kanaan turned his head to look at her. "I did not dream-walk with Lukia, but I caught the edges of Torren's fear when he began screaming - and the hint of something else." He took a deep breath. "I may not remember much from when we were taken, but I remember that coldness."
Teyla caught her breath. She, also, remembered that coldness. Remembered a plea delivered at the edge of a precipice - and the choice she made. "Michael..."
"Michael's dead," John said flatly. "Teyla and I saw him die. We dredged the body."
"Perhaps he is," Kanaan shrugged. "And perhaps not. Your Dr. Beckett was thought dead once before, wasn't he?"
Teyla caught the look John sent her, and could not help the cold anger that lanced through her. "It is possible he cloned himself..." Lukia's words echoed in her head, It is not me they seek... And then when he woke...
More than possible, then - probable. Which meant...
He follows in my dreams...
"Torren!" She started out into the field towards her son who had paused on the far side of it, frowning out at the empty space that suddenly did not feel so empty as it looked.
Teyla broke into a run even as the air behind her son shimmered, and a familiar white-haired figure stepped out of nowhere and nothing and scooped Torren up. She heard John curse, felt Kanaan's cry of shock of anguish, but her whole being was focused on Torren as he struggled against Michael's hold, screaming for her.
"Michael!" Her cry was warning and plea both - she was still halfway across the field. He tilted his face away from her struggling son and their eyes met. Then his teeth bared in a smirk and a challenge and he stepped back, vanishing as abruptly as he'd come.
He had some kind of invisible craft - perhaps a 'jumper he had found or stolen or modified. But it was there; Teyla could still hear Torren screaming for her, could sense her son in her head, could almost see through his eyes, hear through his ears...
The slap sent her reeling, sharp as though Michael had physically struck her across the face.
But when she reached the place where Torren had vanished, and took her hand from her stinging cheek there was no sense of her son.
No. NO. NO.
Nothing; no ship, no sense of Michael, no Torren.
John still remembered that first evacuation from Athos. A day of firsts - his first walk through the gate, his first underwater city, his first meeting with Teyla, his first 'jumper flight, his first encounter with the Wraith...
He remembered the exodus from Athos - fear and grief clearly seen on their faces, heard in their voices, but no panic, no desperation. The Athosians were used to running.
The Council discussed it - a surprisingly brief discussion for a group of people - and within an hour the majority of the Athosians been evacuated to the hillside cave systems. They went swiftly, the abler ones helping the children and the elderly, taking foodstuffs and bedstuffs, and leaving behind only a handful of men and women.
Those remaining headed up to the weapons cache to arm themselves in case Michael came back. It was an unlikely scenario - he had what he wanted now - but if it made them feel safer...
By the time John came back from Atlantis with Rodney and the 'jumper, the Athosian camp was nearly deserted, but for the occasional armed Athosian.
"God, that's horrible," Rodney said as they soared over the clearing, heading for the field where Michael had taken Torren. "I mean, taking Torren, and the emptiness of the camp..." John didn't need clarification; he knew exactly what the other man meant.
"Teyla, Ronon, this is Sheppard. I've got Rodney and we're going to do a flyover the field in case Michael left some kind of signature behind..."
"It's not likely," Rodney said, lifting his voice to be heard on the comms channel. "I won't lie to you, Teyla, but it's not looking good."
"I know it is unlikely, Rodney." A thread of panic whispered through her voice, unlike the usually calm and composed Teyla - but this was about Toren. "But if there is any chance..."
"If there's anything, we'll find it."
"I know. Did you contact Carson?"
"We left him a message. He'll get back to Atlantis when he hears."
But it could be days. Teyla knew that. And the longer they waited, the less likely it was that Torren would still be alive when they finally found Michael. To the former Wraith, Torren was nothing more an a lab rat, Michael's personal genetic eureka.
John flew the 'jumper in a tight circle over the field and waited for Rodney to do his technological magic. "Anything?"
"I'm worried about Torren."
"We all are. But some of us have to concentrate to work out these readings..." Rodney trailed off as the HUD began scrolling data. "Well, it's not picking anything up. No emission signatures, no ion trails, no propulsion elements..."
John swore. Michael really had disappeared into thin air.
"You know we never thought there'd be much chance..."
"I know." But John couldn't hide his frustration. The beautiful, bright little boy with his micheivous smile and his infectious giggle and his endless curiosity was in the hands of someone who saw him as nothing more than an experiment. "Teyla?"
"You have found nothing."
He heard the deep breath she took. "It is not your fault. I should have realised..."
"Hey," he said before she could go any further on that point. "Let's not play the blame game here, okay? We all thought Michael was dead. Torren was out playing, and so far as any of us knew, New Athos was safe."
As safe as anywhere in the Pegasus galaxy.
As safe as a three year-old boy could be when he was wanted by Michael.
Teyla was waiting with Kanaan and Ronon when they brought the 'jumper down in a clearing by the camp. Several Athosian elders stood nearby with grave expressions on their faces while Jinto and several other youngsters hovered just beyond them.
"So what now?" Kanaan asked, looking from Teyla to John to Teyla again. "We have no leads, no indications of where Michael has taken him. Dr. Beckett might know of Michael's labs, but he cannot be reached. And if we delay too long, then Michael will..." He trailed off, his hands clenching by his sides.
"We're doing all we can," Rodney said when John didn't respond to the Athosian man's question. "Give us a break!"
"My son is in the hands of someone who would kill him-"
"Kanaan." Teyla touched his arm, cutting across his tirade and extinguishing his anger. "This is not helping Torren."
She sounded strained beneath the calm, and John couldn't blame her. He knew how she felt - guilty and angry and afraid all at once, but unable to let any of it out because once the flood began, there was no way to stop it. Easier to dam it all up inside and deal with it later - if there was a later.
"Then what will help him, Teyla?"
She turned suddenly towards the camp, made for it like a bullet from a gun. "Lukia."
He follows in my dreams..
It made sense in Teyla's head as she made for the tent in which Lukia was resting. If Michael had used Lukia to lead him to Torren, then Teyla could use Lukia to find Torren, too.
"Teyla-" John drew alongside her, keeping pace with her hurried steps. "What's your plan?"
"Lukia knows at least one of Michael's bases - the hybrids who captured her." Thinking she was Teyla - perhaps because of the Gift. But Lukia was not Teyla, and it was Teyla - and her son - that Michael wanted.
"Wasn't she going to sleep the last time we saw her?"
"Yes. But I am going to dream-walk with her, back to where she was taken. It may be that, even if she does not know the address, there may be some clue..."
"You can do that? Dream what she's dreaming, I mean."
"It is not strictly dreaming, but, yes."
She felt his gaze on her, knew what was going through his mind as he asked, "You've dream-walked before, haven't you?"
"Yes. With Kanaan and others who have the gift." Teyla turned to look at him, meeting the questions in his eyes and neither affirming, nor denying what she had done. What had gone before was gone; they must live in the now, and with an eye to the future.
And they had to get Torren back from Michael.
"Okay," he said, and his hand reached out for hers. His hand gripped hers hard for a moment, warmth and reassurance and love, before he let go. "Okay. I'll be with Rodney and Halling and the council. We need to talk about those satellites we were going to put up."
"If it will ease their minds..."
"Hey, it'll ease your mind - and mine, too." John's smile was small and brief, but she took comfort in the honesty there. Torren might not be his, but John loved him as a son, looked after him when Torren was in Atlantis, and was as much the person Torren went to with his troubles as Teyla was. "Just... Is what you're doing safe?"
"Yes." I think, she added in her head where John could neither see nor feel.
Still, Teyla would not let that small thread of uncertainty unravel her determination. Too much hung in the balance for her to doubt herself. She must believe that she could find Torren this way. As various medical people in the city had said before, from Carson to the new psychologist, Dr. Robinson, the mind was a wondrous thing capable of many feats that they were only just learning about, even on Earth.
But when she sat beside Lukia's bed, having confirmed that the other woman slept and that she would be sleeping for some time, Teyla felt the doubt fill her.
Lukia had been through great trouble and torment while among Michael's hybrids. Did Teyla had a right to recall that? To bring it back in such force to her friend?
A shadow crossed the entrance of the tent, and Teyla looked up as Kanaan bent his head and came inside, seating himself down on Lukia's other side.
"She would want us to find Torren," he said without preamble, knowing her too well.
Teyla nodded and closed her eyes, drawing in a deep breath and letting it out, before she found the cold, quiet place in her that she come to think of as her Wraith centre and reached out with her Gift.
She sensed Kanaan immediately - a near-constant presence in her mind when they were on the same planet. Lukia took a little longer since her gift was not so strong as Teyla's, or even Kanaan's. But Teyla calmed her mind, quieted her thoughts, and let her mind drift into the meditative state, seeking Lukia's mind and dreams and memories.
...shouts from the field behind her as she dialled the gate from home...the monstrous creatures bounding out of the forests and cutting through the small party...a pretty house in a neat little village populated by the pitifully monstrous...the hungry neediness of them surrounding her day after day...a harvest of sullenness and anger at her reticence...the cold, measuring eyes that flicked over her and found her wanting...
Teyla yanked her mind free, out of the waking dreamstate. Air surged into her lungs, as though she had been underwater too long. She listed on the chair, dizzy from the fragmented whirl of Lukia's dreams. It had not been easy, guiding the other woman to the memories that Teyla wanted to see - to discern just how much of it had been real.
Across from her, Kanaan had his elbows on the bed and was gripping his head in his hands, as though he had a headache and sought to squeeze the pain out from his flesh.
"Did you see it?"
He managed to lift his face enough to meet her gaze, but there was exhaustion writ there, plain for her to see. "I saw the hybrids and the village, and Michael poised to strike..."
Teyla shook her head. "No. Not that. The mountain." Her voice shook. "The mountain behind the village...I have seen it before."
The problem wasn't having seen the mountain before, the problem was remembering where Teyla had seen the mountain.
Kanaan didn't remember the mountain - a great snow-capped thing that loomed over the village tucked away in a small, fertile valley. When appealed to, none of the Athosians remembered such a place either. However Teyla insisted she'd seen it somewhere,, and John was loathe to tell her otherwise, even if he was beginning to think that maybe she was hoping against hope by the time they returned to Atlantis, having exhausted their options in New Athos.
"She's sure she's seen it before?"
"If she says she did, then she did."
They were in Woolsey's office, Teyla having gone straight to Rodney's lab to look through the Atlantis survey teams' photographs of the planets they'd visited in Pegasus. Everything from 'jumper aerial photography, to MALP photos, to sketches by various geographers, botanists, vulcanologists, and the occasional artist was stored on the servers for reference. There was even a painting or two by Lorne catalogued in there.
"Colonel, I don't need to tell you that if Michael has Torren, then it's highly likely that he's already dead."
"No," John said quietly. "You don't."
Woolsey's lips pressed together. He looked away and cleared his throat, and if his voice was a little rough, he kept composure. "Has Teyla faced that possibility?"
"Yes." Then, because he knew he needed Woolsey to give them time beyond a reasonable doubt when Torren would have been killed, he added, "Michael doesn't just want Torren for his experiments; he wants Teyla, too."
It took Woolsey a moment to process that. "For himself?"
"Yeah." It made John's skin crawl. " Teyla says it has to do with Michael being a Wraith male and needing a Queen."
"But the Wraith have rejected Michael. So Teyla is his solution."
"Her friend - the one she went to see - said that the hybrids wanted something of her that she couldn't give. She's got the gift, but it's not as strong as Teyla's."
Woolsey smiled - a thin, wry quirk of the lips. "Considering what she's done with it since she came to Atlantis, Colonel, I should think not. So do you think Torren just bait for Teyla then?"
"I'd say he serves both purposes. Michael never got around to finishing his work with the hybrids - first we set him back by rescuing Teyla and Torren, and then by blowing up his lab and destroying his hiveship. And then Teyla killed him." Which they'd hoped would be permanent, but this was Michael after all. "The thing is, we've got more time than we first thought we might."
"Colonel, you're assuming he hasn't given up on having Teyla as well as Torren."
John shrugged. "Yeah, I am."
Woolsey stared at him for a long moment, then nodded. "Very well. I wouldn't stand in Teyla's way on this in any case, but if- when she finds where Michael has taken Torren, we'll discuss this again."
Which was about as much as John had looked to get. He couldn't ask more - not without knowing exactly where Torren had been taken, and what they might need to get the boy back.
Not that it wouldn't be worth throwing everything they had at Michael this time. In another universe, the former Wraith and his arm of hybrids had destroyed Pegasus - not just the Wraith, but humans, too.
As he walked through the cool blue-green corridors of his city, John thought grimly of a desert landscape, a dying city, a hologram, and the nightmare tale that had been his goad and his warning and his hope through a stasis-sleep of some two thousand or so years.
The other Rodney had spent his life trying to change the next world over, hoping for something other than death, destruction, and despair. After everyone close to him had given up, he'd soldiered on.
John thought of it as keeping the faith: he would not let Michael destroy Pegasus any more than he'd let the other man have Teyla or kill Torren.
But to do that they had to find Torren.
His earpiece beeped. "Sheppard?"
"Teyla's found the planet."
The last thing Teyla either expected or wanted was a large number of people on the mission to rescue Torren.
Michael was many things, but he was no fool. He knew that Teyla would come after her son - doubtless that had been his plan in snatching Torren away before her eyes - just as he knew that she would not be the only one coming for him. He would have planned accordingly for such an assault when he was tracked back to his lair.
So Mr. Woolsey's offer of assistance - 'jumpers and people - was surprising. Although, given what it might mean for Michael to complete his schemes to eradicate both humanity and Wraith in Pegasus, the response became a little more understandable.
Still. "I do not believe we will need more than a 'jumper piloted by Colonel Sheppard."
Brows lifted. "Teyla, while we are fond of Torren, it's very much in Atlantis' interests to keep Michael from the successful completion of his plan for the hybrids. Are you sure-?"
"I believe that, if anything, Michael will have prepared for a large-scale attack on the planet. We would have a better chance going in quietly."
"If you're sure?"
Teyla hesitated a moment, then nodded. "I am sure."
"I still think you're nuts," Rodney said later as they went up to the 'jumper bay. "What's wrong with bringing in the cavalry?"
"Don't cavalry have horses?" Ronon inquired, checking the charge on his weapon, although he'd checked it several times arleady.
"It's a 'jumper," John offered.
"That joke was bad, even for you."
"What do you mean, 'even for me'?"
As she settled into the front passenger seat without even a complaint from Rodney, Teyla reflected that the little arguments were soothing in their own way. A familiar frustration that somehow defused the greater fear and frustration of Torren's kidnapping and their search for him.
John gave her a sideways look as he slid into the pilot seat. "You okay?"
"I want my son back."
"And we're going to get him," he said, his voice gentle. "That's not what I asked, Teyla."
"Did you truly want a confession from me, John? Right now?"
His mouth curved in faint ruefulness and acknowledgement of what she was saying. "Not really. I just want to know that you're okay."
"I will be." When we have Torren back. She did not dare think of the alternative.
John nodded. "Everyon strapped in and ready for takeoff?"
"Seats in the upright position, blah, blah, blah," Rodney muttered as the 'jumper lifted off the ground. "I'm configuring the HUD to scan for hybrid life forms..."
Teyla took a deep breath and thought of her son - of his smiles and laughter, of food-decorated trays in the mess hall, and solemnly drawn pictures in the control room, of energetic tantrums and hugs-and-snuggles sessions first thing in the morning.
She had killed Michael once before, watched him fall to his death. She would do it again for the safety and security of her bright, beautiful son.
Mr. Woolsey wished them well, and so did the technician on duty, which Teyla thought odd. But John was positioning them in front of the open gate, and a moment later they went through.
They came out into bright light - the contrast as vicious as a blade into the eyes. Something crackled, and everything went hot, then bright, then tingly.
Someone shouted in alarm, she saw something smash against the front screen of the 'jumper, and the craft dipped at one corner, juddering as it ploughed into the ground.
John had expected some kind of resistance. He just hadn't expected it quite so immediately.
White lightning lashed at his eyes, burning his retinas, sparking tears. He closed his eyes and lost control of the 'jumper for just a moment. The shudder of hitting the ground hauled both his thoughts and the 'jumper up.
It would have been useless on a any Earth-based flying craft, but the 'jumper lifted with his thoughts, although it shuddered with the strain. Something was damaged. They weren't going to get very far. Maybe just past the treeline he could see ringing the plateau where the Stargate was.
But it didn't have to get them far. It just had to get them far enough.
Lighting flashed again, and he evaded it, glimpsing the dark angles of the weapon - some kind of giant energy pulse terminus - just before the world went white again.
John activated the cloaking mechanism with a thought, and skimmed the 'jumper as high as he dared. Couldn't fly too high - if they crashed, they'd go down hard; but he didn't know how the lightning weapon was tracking them. Movement? Or something else?
Contemplate later. Get us out of this now!
The HUD was already mapping the planetary surface, showing him the options as they raced across the open Stargate field towards the mountain that reached up, up, up into heavy cloud banks through which only a hint of blue skies peeped.
It was definitely an impressive mountain, heavy grey granite and unending snow, bleak over the lush green of the Stargate plain. And there in the foothills was the village where Lukia had been held. Even from this distance, John could see the bluish-green dots of the inhabitants' faces turned towards them.
He veered away from the village..
They looped around, speeding for the other end of the plain, as far away from the village as he could take them. They were under cloak, so the hybrids couldn't see them but they had to know someone had come through the Gate. The discharge on that weapon was just too big to miss.
"John, that was the village."
"Which we don't want to be near." He urged the 'jumper on to to the edge of the trees. "We need a landing space..."
"With cover," Ronon chimed in.
"Cover or not, we need a landing space soon! The propulsion pods are failing, and if I don't get a look at them, perhaps replace some crystals..."
John took them down beneath the tree canopy - more rainforest than broadleaf. He eased the 'jumper through the trees, trying to avoid the looping vines and hanging moss as best he could. The last thing they needed was to leave a trail for the hybrids to follow.
There. It was a decent hollow - a small dip in the land, probably a bit damper than they'd like, but the green cover would make the 'jumper harder to see from a distance.
The propulsion pods whined as he settled the 'jumper down on the forest floor, and Rodney was out of his chair and checking out the systems from the cargo hold almost as soon as they were landed.
Teyla exhaled as Ronon asked, "What was that?"
"I don't know." But whatever it was, he hoped there weren't too many more of them about. "Rodney, what's our damage?"
"I'm trying to work that out now! If you'd just wait..."
Teyla was already accessing the manual interface for the HUD, bringing up the landscape and any lifesigns that the 'jumper's systems could pick up.
"Any signs of Michael?" Ronon propped himself up on the back of Teyla's chair, studying the HUD. "Other than the welcoming committee."
"Want me to do it?" John offered when Teyla hesitated over the interface.
Her lips compressed, but she sat back. "Please."
John pulled up their surroundings in a moment, orienting them around the Stargate plateau, marking in the village and their present position, and instigating a search for life-forms.
"Nothing. Can we expand out?" The visuals expanded out to encompass the foothills near the mountain. Still no significant lifeforms - neither Wraith, nor human. "There are ruins in these hills here," Teyla said, studying the map.
John focused on the ruins, watched as the 'jumper's systems mapped out not only the shape of the ruins but projected the buildings that had once been there. An old Ancient outpost which had been the core reason the planet had been on the survey list.
"But no lifeforms," Ronon noted.
"Michael would not have his lab on the surface." Teyla's gaze unfocused slightly, as though trying to communicate with something neither John or Ronon could see or hear or sense. Then her gaze sharpened and she looked over at John. "Torren is there."
Her certainty was strong enough tha John didn't question it. When it came to using Ancient technology, he knew what he was doing. When it came to sensing Torren, the Wraith, hybrids, or Michael, he trusted Teyla.
"Then let's go get him."
Teyla paused at the top of a slight incline, her gaze drawn to the slender thread of a path visible up the hillside, perhaps two hundred yards of a switchback trail that went straight up. It was the easiest way to get up to the ruins on the hillside, but also the most obvious. One would be instantly visible from the plateau to the village and anywhere in between.
"Going to be targets climbing that," Ronon noted as he came up alongside her. He glanced back, checking on John.
"I am not sure how much choice we will have."
He shrugged and turned unerringly towards the hybrid village. "Can you feel them?"
"Yes. They have begun looking."
"How close are they to finding us?"
"A while yet. They have only just reached the gate field."
John climbed up beside them. "Pursuit?"
"An hour or two away."
"I'll let Rodney know." They'd left Rodney behind to fix the 'jumper, since they would not be able to get off the planet without it. Atlantis had agreed to check in on them in eight hours if no contact had been made by then, but that was some time away. Better to fix the 'jumper if possible and have a weapon spare.
"He knew we were coming," Ronon said as John turned away to contact Rodney.
"He knows I would always come for my son."
"You know it's not just Torren he wants."
Teyla looked up at him, understanding the gravity of his statement. "Yes."
He glanced back at John who was frowning at whatever Rodney was saying on the other end of the connection. "Does Sheppard know?"
"What do you think?"
Teyla understood Ronon's concern - to some degree, she shared it. Michael's obsession with her went beyond sense - beyond the logic of a child whose genes bred true to the Wraith on both sides of his parentage, beyond the logic of the woman who had given him birth. In the end, whatever he had made himself, Michael was Wraith at the heart and core of his being.
And, as Teyla had learned in her conversations with Todd while play-acting the part of his queen, all the biology in the galaxy could not eradicate the psychological need Wraith males had for the mindtouch of a queen.
Yes, Michael wanted her still, and expected her to come for her son. Teyla was not about to disappoint him in this. Nor was she about to show leniency after he had threatened her son. Again.
And so long as they knew it was a trap, they could go in prepared. Or, as prepared as was possible under the circumstances.
John came back up the slope. "Ready to go?"
They discussed plans and options on the walk. What might lie in store for them in the ruins, what traps Michael might spring on them, what choices they had if things went bad.
They were nearly at the base of the path when things went very bad.
Teyla realised the forest was silent a split-second after Ronon half-turned towards a rustling sound too heavy for the usual animal life.
"Trap!" Ronon roared as hybrids sprang from the undergrowth, forcing them to dart to the side, to take cover from the stunners they wielded.
Within moments they had been pushed back, taking turns to cover their retreat with a scatter of P-90 fire. Ronon took the lead, heading away from where they'd left Rodney to fix the 'jumper, deeper into the forest.
"I'll take them," he said when Teyla came alongside him, taking a moment to fit a new cartridge into her gun. "You guys head on up to get Torren."
John looked at Teyla who nodded. It was the best use of their resources - Ronon could lead the hybrids on a long chase, leaving them free to confront Michael and get Torren back.
"Try not to get caught," John said, the words light but the meaning there.
In answer, Ronon bared his teeth, as though John had issued a challenge. The next, he let loose a great roar as he plunged sideways off the path they were taking and headed noisily through the undergrowth. Teyla and John headed off in the other direction, moving as swiftly as they dared while making as little noise as possible.
Footsteps thundered past their position off the rough track, but none turned off to chase them. Teyla closed her thoughts up behind the barriers of her mind, letting the nebulous sense of the hybrid minds slide past her without resistance. They might realise that she was not with Ronon before they caught up to him, but without him, they would have no idea of where Teyla had gone.
They waited perhaps a minute, then began picking their way back towards the mountain path, mindful of making any noise, of letting themselves be seen or sensed.
And yet, when they reached the upwards path to the ruins, they would have little choice but to expose themselves...
Teyla paused at a gap in the canopy, where there was still enough space to see the path up to the ruins, cleared of the overhanging vines and verdant growth which covered the rest of the steep hillside.
"What are you thinking?" John asked, coming over to stand beside her.
She turned her face towards his, even as she measured the height of the cliff face with her eyes. Her son was up there. She could sense him; she knew. "Perhaps we do not need to go up the path."
John's shoulders and chest were burning long before they reached a ledge where they could rest.
In theory, it was a good idea. They'd be seen climbing up the cleared pathway, while the cliffside was still covered in greenery, and it was much harder to see people climbing up it. In practise, the cliff was pretty steep, and the climb rather gruelling. And then there'd been a few exciting moments when the vines they were holding onto had given way, and his hands were rather a mess.
So John was glad of the rest as he and Teyla sat shoulder to shoulder, their backs against the rockface as they sipped from a canteen, and ate the energy bars Teyla had produced from the pockets of her flak vest. In return, John passed her a strip of stimulants he'd acquired on his way through the infirmary.
She quirked an eyebrow as she took them. "Did you have to bleed for these?"
"No, but I had to beg."
"Did you enjoy it?"
He gave a snorting half-laugh, his cheeks heating at the arch reference. "I tried not to."
Teyla rested her cheek against his shoulder as she finished off her energy bar in neat, quick bites. John let his hand fall over hers for a moment, lacing his fingers into hers and squeezing gently.
Then it was time to take the stimulants and start climbing again.
Grip the vines, tug for safety, find a foothold, haul; grip, tug, foot up, haul. John got into the rhythm of it easier now, familiar with the moves, and with the stimulants in his system. He didn't think about Rodney, working on the 'jumper pods, or Ronon, leading the hybrids astray. They were doing what they were doing, and he was climbing a cliff with Teyla to find Torren and deal with Michael.
They'd have to do something permanent about Michael this time. But they'd done something permanent about him last time, too. Something more permanent? What was more permanent than death?
He caught Teyla pausing once, leaning back, apparently careless of the drop beneath them as she looked off to the right, away from him. He couldn't see her expression, but he guessed she was thinking of the hybrids in the village who'd captured her friend and wanted things of her that the woman couldn't give.
"Hey," he said, taking a moment to rest as much of his weight as he dared on his feet. "We still going?"
Teyla shook herself, as though waking up from a dream, and then continued the climb all the way up to the top of the cliff.
They crawled into the ruins just as twilight was falling.
"We are close," Teyla said as they rested behind the crumbling remains of what had been a retaining wall for a courtyard. "I can feel Torren close by. He is afraid, but not hurt or in pain."
"That's good." John studied what he could see of the ruins. "I'm guessing Michael's lab is underground, since there's no energy signatures around here."
"We have heard nothing from Ronon or Rodney?"
John shook his head as he stretched sore muscles and began to check his clips. "Not yet."
"Would they call us if they were in trouble?"
"Probably not." He glanced up at her, saw the troubled expression on her face. "Teyla. Torren's important to us - personally, not just because he's your son. And we'd be doing this even if he wasn't part of Michael's master plan for galactic domination."
That made her smile, just a little. "You have been spending too much time with Rodney."
"Yeah, probably. I'm saying they made a choice to come along. And if they're not calling us because they're in trouble, that's their decision, too." Not that John liked it either, but he understood why they might not call if they were in trouble. Getting Torren back and dealing with Michael had to be the priority.
It took her a moment, but she nodded at last. "If I could have done it alone..."
"If you could do it alone, I'd nominate you for galactic domination," John said with a smile. Her mouth curved in amused answer.
"And you would grovel at my feet when I ruled the galaxy?"
His heart thundered in his chest and his cheeks were flushed again. "Don't I do that already?"
"That is true." She looked up at him, quiet and solemn and strangely tender. "Thank you, John."
He shrugged, embarrassed and pleased, and uncomfortable with both emotions. "Ready to go?"
They picked their way through the ruins, looking for anything that might be the entrance. From this point onwards, they were going in blind, with no idea of how large the complex was, or where anything might be.
It was Teyla who found the doorway – hidden with Wraith technology - and who worked out the code to gain them entry. It seemed to be in the Wraith language - some kind of Wraith code - and she was better suited to work on that than John. But while she worked on the code, he set up a chain of explosives in the courtyard leading up to the door. Set to a radio detonator with a short-range wave, they could blow it just before the exited the complex, clearing the courtyard of anyone who thought to ambush them as they escaped.
Call it instinct, or just hard experience, but John had a feeling they'd need a little help on the way out.
He heard the door hiss open. "John?"
He stripped the safety tag from the detonator, and turned to enter the mountain.
In spite of the doorway mechanism, rather than the cave-like corridors of a Wraith installation or the cement-and-stone architecture of a human base, the installation beneath the ruins was of Ancient make.
"How'd the survey team miss this?" John wondered said as the light of his weapon played across the decorations on the wall.
Teyla didn't answer him. She was reaching out with her mind, trying to find the sense of Torren and where he might be. He was here, in this complex...
Torren! She caught hold of him in her mind, a mental touch like a hug. We are here to get you, John and Ronon and Rodney, too. Where are you?
Don't know! The wail was plaintive and she caught the hints of cold and tired, pale light, and hard floor. He was hungry and scared and his arm ached. He did tests like Dr. Carson but I dint get lollipop after. The words poured out of him like a torrent, and chilled Teyla to the bone.
"Michael has done his tests on Torren."
"But he's still alive, right?"
"Yes. He does not know where he is, though." Torren, what do you see?
His answer was more feelings than words: bright light and hard floor, and horizontal bars all around him, keeping him in.
"The brig," John said, a faint frown on his face, and indicated a branch-off corridor. "This way."
Torren continued to babble as they moved further into the complex. The slats of the prison had burned him when he'd tried to touch them, and so his hand hurt as well as his arm. Teyla soothed him as best she could, his thoughts cradled trustingly in hers.
"You're still in contact with Torren?"
"Yes." They took another corridor detour. Apart from the lack of natural light in the complex, there was a definite resemblance to Atlantis - the layout of the complex followed the same layout as the sections of Atlantis that held the various prison cells. "It is strange to be speaking like this."
"You always sensed him before. Like you do Kanaan."
Ah, John. "But that is a sense of someone - we do not speak this way, those of us with the Gift. Only with the Wraith."
Teyla didn't point out that she was the only one who had spoken with the Wraith. John knew and understood what she had done and why, as even her own people would not. Perhaps her gift was stronger, perhaps it was just that she had used it more extensively and to greater purpose than all those who had possessed it before her, but she understood the nature of what she was.
A link between Wraith and human, as John was a link between Ancient and human. Both of them human, and yet both of them carrying the traces of other in their blood, in their bones.
Torren, carrying even more of the other in his blood, would be something else yet.
And never - never would Teyla allow Michael to harm her son again.
"Light," John said quietly. "Up ahead."
A crack of light showed beneath the doors in front of them - the brig - and they moved silently up to the door.
It opened as they approached, spilling brightness out into the dark corridor.
Still, Teyla saw the shadow of the blow as it descended upon John, and moved to block it, using the weight of her P-90 as a club. The hybrid stumbled back, and she followed it two steps into the room.
And froze, as Michael levelled a stunner at Torren's head. "I believe we have an impasse."
Teyla let the muzzle of her weapon drop and held her hands out wide. Behind her, she heard John flip the safety on, lower his weapon, knew that the taste of defeat was bitter in his mouth. "You have the advantage of us."
Michael stood well back from the door - more than enough room to shoot Torren - or her - before she could reach him. Additionally, two other hybrids were in the room, apart from the one who'd attacked as they'd entered. One held Torren, the other trained a stunner on John.
Torren's mind was in a churning panic, cold fear, and the faintest tendrils of bright anger. Mama!
She sent reassurance, and felt him calm a little. He believed in her with all the fierce hope of the young, and it warmed her and chilled her, both. Meanwhile, her gaze never left the figure who stood in the long, dark coat with its subtle embroideries - Wraith clothing, but his pale hair shorn and short, unlike the long locks of the Wraith males.
He smiled - a satisfied look that confirmed her suspicions.
"You wanted me, Michael; I am here."
Behind her, John caught his breath.
"I offer you an exchange, Teyla." He looked into her face, Neither Wraith, nor human, but something between - a thing created against his will, rejected by the Wraith, considered repulsive by humans, accepted and acceptable to neither. Atlantis had wronged him, yes, and Teyla had been party to that. But he had chosen his course of action, he had made his tea and drunk it – steeped it until it was bitter and no other would drink it."You will come to me of your own free will, and you will stay with me. In exchange, I will set your son free."
"You already have what you need of him."
"Yes. But I also offer you this: so long as you are with me, I will make no move against the humans of Pegasus for at least fifty years - the length of Torren's lifetime."
Teyla blinked. She had expected a bargain, only - not this.
"And you think we can trust you?" John's voice rang scorn off the walls of the brig, but Teyla heard his tremble in the echoes.
"Teyla knows I speak the truth," Michael said, but his eyes never drifted from her. "Fifty years, Teyla - your life in exchange for the life of your son and the lives of those you know."
"And the Wraith?"
"I do not think you will weep for their demise." No more than would he, perhaps.
"Teyla..." When she turned her head, John was looking at her, his eyes dark with anguished understanding. "Don't do this."
He knew the score, knew the odds and would buck them if he could, but he also knew what the gain might be in such an exchange. John knew what she would do for Torren - and for him, Atlantis, and the people of Pegasus. And he feared it.
"It is a fair bargain."
"Not from this end. And what about Torren?"
She heard the question he did not voice, but answered the one he did. "You will look after him, I hope. You and Kanaan, both."
"Of course I'd..." He bit off the words, realising she had shifted the conversation from contemplation to agreement. He turned to Michael. "Take me instead. Atlantis started this; we'll pay for it."
"And what use would I have of you, Colonel?" Michael's lip curled as he surveyed John.
"Revenge. A whipping boy."
Michael's expression twitched faintly, she felt the burn of his emotions like acid against her thoughts. "If all I wanted was revenge, Teyla would still serve me better than you. No. My offer is for Teyla and Teyla alone – I'll take nothing less."
"If you want me to be your queen, Michael, then you will have a queen."
He shrugged. "Even the drones have their choices, their strengths – and the hybrids yearn for a queen."
"No less than you do."
Another shrug – this one, jerkier. "Make your choice, Teyla. Your son, Sheppard and Pegasus weighed against you – it's not so difficult a decision is it?"
Her gaze met John's.
"I can't stop you," he said.
"No." Whatever else they shared, he could not make this decision for her. "You would choose the same."
"Yeah." His jaw set and his expression stiffened into bleakness. "I'll work things out with Kanaan about Torren."
She nodded, and turned away before she could give in to the emotions that battered against her. Her gaze pierced Michael. "You will keep your word – to the spirit and the letter." It was not a question. There was no deceit in him – not in this – but that did not mean that there were not plans within plans. Michael was nothing if not deep and cunning, and Teyla could mitigate him, but he was beyond even her control.
"Your friends to take your son, and no move to be made against the humans in Pegasus so long as he lives."
"For fifty years," she corrected. "Even should something happen to him, the agreement holds for fifty years."
His eyes flashed, pale and triumphant. "Agreed."
Teyla nodded once and went to Torren, ignoring the hybrids when they began to move against her before Michael waved them back. She would know them later, right now she had only a few precious moments with her son before she was lost to him.
She hoisted him up and savoured the feel of him in her arms, the softness of his hair against her cheek. Already sturdily built, yet he was so small, so young! Would he remember her in five years or fifteen, let alone fifty?
"I am here, Torren. You are safe now." Safe, but no longer hers to keep safe. Teyla choked back bitter grief. Her bargain was made, and the cost would be worth the gain. "You must go with John, Torren. He will take you back to Atlantis."
"And you come with us?"
Of course he heard what she did not say, sensitive to the currents in the air, although he surely did not understand them.
"I cannot." Teyla closed her eyes and hugged him to her. "I must stay here."
"No!" He started struggling, pushing against her shoulders, kicking out at her. "You come home! You come home!"
Helplessly, she looked to John, who'd come up alongside her, and her vision blurred.
"Torren!" She reinforced her command with a firm mental touch, even if she couldn't keep her voice from wavering. "I have something that...that I need to do. And it...it may take some time..."
But Torren wasn't listening. He wailed on her shoulder, beating small hands against her shoulders in fruitless temper and fear. Teyla held him tight until he slumped against her, her own eyes aching. Then she stroked him until his cries had muted into hiccuping sobs and he lifted his face from her damp shirt and scrubbed his fists into his eyes.
"Torren..." Her throat closed up for a moment, unable to force the words out. "You should go with John."
"Mama come home. Soon?"
"Maybe someday." A long time into the future. And maybe there would be opportunities to see him...
John had moved in, his hand resting on Torren's back, his gaze resting on Teyla's face. "Come on, little buddy. We have to go..."
"I love you," she whispered into Torren's hair as she hugged him, but kept her eyes on John, "Always remember that."
"Keep him honest," he murmured, and his eyes flicked to the side where Michael stood, his face still and stiff, observing and silent. The hybrids were gone, at least, they had no witnesses other than Michael, now. Still, that was bad enough.
They eased Torren into John's arms, and she let her fingers press against the warmth of his hands as he took her son to safety.
She saw what he wanted in his eyes, and touched her forehead to his for a long moment, Torren leaning out to rest his head against her jaw.
"Go." It was a whisper, but he heeded it, and she felt the brush of his hair as he pulled away like a caress.
Her last sight of them was of Torren's eyes filling with tears again as John walked to the door with resolute steps. And then they were gone, son and beloved both, leaving her in the room with Michael, who turned burning eyes from the closed door to her face.
Teyla lifted her chin; if she was to be captive here, she would resign herself to what she must. But Michael would find her bitter company for some tim7e yet, and she would make no pretence for him.
"I do not expect you to be glad," Michael said after an awkward moment, and she could feel the tension in him, expecting her fury. "But I hope you will not be unhappy here."
There was nothing she could say to that, and after a moment, he seemed to accept it with a grim nod. "So be it. I will show you to your quarters."
Thankfully, he didn't seem to expect anything more of her as they walked out into the place that would henceforth be her home.
Torren was surprisingly quiet on the journey out of the complex, the silence punctuated by the occasional sob of "Mama."
"I know," John murmured. "I want her back, too."
But John knew better than to take this choice out of her hands. For Pegasus and for Atlantis and for Torren, she would spend a lifetime with Michael, far away from everything she knew and everyone she loved.
He tried not to think what had happened the last time someone had sacrificed themselves to the enemy. Elizabeth had ultimately died at the hands of the Asurans, even if her consciousness lived on.
You would choose the same.
They understood each other only too well.
He took the turns unerringly, remembering the way out from his familiarity with the layout of Atlantis. No hybrids tried to stop them, and the doors they'd opened on the way in remained open until they'd passed through.
When he judged them close enough to the surface to make radio contact, he intiatied his earpiece again. "Ronon? Rodney? This is Sheppard. Come in."
"Sheppard?" Ronon sounded like he was running - not breathless, exactly, but with the steady pants of a man pushing the limits of his endurance. "Where are you? I'm on the way up the cliff."
"I've got Torren. We're in the complex beneath the ruins."
John hesitated to tell Ronon the full truth right now. "She's dealing with Michael."
"Good." Ronon grunted slightly. "Nearly at the top. I've got hybrids after me."
"Shit." Whatever bargain Teyla had struck with Michael, it seemed it didn't extend to Ronon and probably Rodney. Then John remembered he had Torren in his arms. "You didn't hear that," he muttered at the little head on his shoulder. "Rodney?" Silence. "Rodney!"
"I've been trying to get through. Not getting anything."
"All right," John strode to the door and swiped his hand past it, hoping that whatever Wraith measures had been initiated from the outside of the complex, the inside of the complex still operated as Atlantis did. "Get up to the top and we'll deal with the hybrids together. Then we'll have to get down..."
He trailed off as the doors slid open.
The courtyard was full of hybrids.
John reached for his weapon, then realised he couldn't reach his weapon because Torren was effectively sitting on it. The kid clung to him like a limpet, and John set his jaw ashe turned to shelter Torren from the hybrids, waiting for the blow from the first hybrid.
It pushed right past him on its way into the complex. So did the second and third and fourth.
"Sheppard!" Ronon stood at the courtyard entrance, his weapons out and ready to fire but silent as the hybrids moved past him on their way into the mountain. "What's going on?"
"They're going inside to swear allegiance."
"To Michael?" Dark brows drew together as he looked about him. "Teyla's still in there?"
Ronon stared, understanding without needing to have it explained. "No. She can't."
"She made a bargain. She stays with Michael and Michael lets us go and keeps his hybrids from ravaging Pegasus."
"He'll never keep it."
"She'll make him." If anyone could, it would be Teyla.
"She can't." Ronon nearly growled the words. "He can't be trusted..."
"It was her choice. And she wanted Torren safely away..."
"Yeah, well, she's hardly safe with all the hybrids running into the mountain..."
"Mama!" Torren announced, as though the mention of the creatures had prompted a response. "Hybrids go for Mama."
John stared at the kid, who stuck one paw into his mouth and looked like he'd been caught with his hand in the cookie jar, tears and all. Hybrids go for Mama. There wasn't much room for misinterpretation in that statement - and that Torren should say such a thing...
Hard on the heels of that thought came the lightning strike: Torren has the Wraithgene.
There were things John knew without really knowing, but right now, looking at the boy sitting in his arms, sucking on his fingers, John knew that the hybrids were under the control of a three year old boy who'd just lost his mom.
"Torren? Have you... Did you send the hybrids to get your mom back?"
Torren stared at him for a moment, wide-eyed, then looked away. It was the look of a little boy who knew he'd done something wrong but wasn't willing to own up to it just yet.
"Shit." The realisation that Torren had worked out how to control his own personal army of hybrids was more than a little terrifying. John swung to look at the doorway to the underground complex and thought about what might be happening below. "Ronon..."
"Yeah, I'll go." Ronon headed after the hybrids. "You hang onto Torren and try to get us a ride."
"Ronon get Mama," Torren said, pulling his hand from his mouth and waving in the hand-hinge way that kids did. "Bye bye."
"Okay, little buddy. Now that you've upset the applecart, how about we go find somewhere quiet and see if we can't call up Rodney?"
"Oh-kay," said Torren. "Get Rodney. Eat apples."
John shook his head. "Whatever."
Teyla did not expect the rooms Michael took her to – comfortably appointed, although simple and sparse. She wondered if she would be permitted to send to Atlantis or New Athos for her personal things, or if she was to be cut off from that life forever.
Perhaps it would be better if she were cut off.
"I may look like a monster, Teyla, that does not mean I am one," he said, correctly interpreting her surprise.
"I did not..." Lies availed her nothing. "It is...nice." For a prison.
She did not imagine that it was anything else. In time, she might be given greater freedom to move around, but Michael would be suspicious of her acquiescence - at least until he was sure that John and the others were gone and would not be coming back.
And they might. Teyla admitted that hope and that terror. Once Torren was safely returned to Atlantis or New Athos, John and the others would return to free her if they could.
They would be long gone before then. Teyla had no illusions: Michael had not survived so long in a galaxy where all faces were turned from him without being cunning.
"You will understand if your stay here is short," he said, confirming her thoughts. "I don't trust Sheppard not to return with an armada to rescue you. It would not be the first time."
She looked at him with eyes that held equal parts compassion and anger. "That was when you abducted me against my will and held my people hostage. This time I gave you my word, Michael."
"And yet you will understand that I am slow to trust it. I saw Sheppard's face. There is nothing he would not do to get you back."
"The same could be said of you," Teyla retorted, goaded by his anger. "Or was I mistaken in the bargain you made - my life in exchange for not only Torren, but John, and all the humans in Pegasus?"
He didn't flush. His skin did not permit it. But there was something in his expression as he looked at her: a yearning that went beyond sexual or personal - that went deep into the genetic and psychological soul of who and what he was.
"I don't expect your regard," he said after a moment. "But I will thank you to keep your scorn to yourself."
"My scorn-" Teyla began, then frowned as she heard a commotion out in the hallway. "What is that?"
Michael's brows drew close as he strode to the door and palmed it open. "I do not-"
He broke off at whatever he saw, and as Teyla came to the door, she saw the hybrids walking down the corridor towards them. Their tread was steady and inexorable, their faces closed and blank, and when she reached out with her gift, trying to touch their embryonic minds, there was nothing there to touch.
"This should not be," Michael said, bewildered and angry. "They are not drones, mindless and thoughtless..."
But they moved like them - like puppets on the end of a string, their gazes fixed unerringly on Michael, their target, their goal.
And suddenly Teyla knew.
She grabbed Michael's hand before she realised what she was doing, dragging him out through the door and along the corridor in the opposite direction to the hybrids. "How do we get out of here? Which direction?"
But the corridors were familiar to her - she was moving through them without conscious thought, heading for what should be a door to the outside.
Michael's hand shifted, the better to fit with hers. She felt the healed ridge of the feeding slit against her palm and gritted her teeth to keep from pulling away, even in the midst of escape.
A door slid open ahead of them and Ronon stepped out, his weapon rising as he saw Michael.
"Let her go."
Michael bared his teeth. "You might ask her to let me go."
"Teyla?" The barrel of his weapon never wavered. "I've got him in my sights. You can step away."
It beckoned to her, the promise of freedom. She could step away and Ronon would kill Michael and that would be an end to it.
Why did she hesitate? She had deliberately killed him once before - kicked him from Atlantis' heights to keep him from ever threatening her, Torren, or Atlantis again. And he had tortured her friend, kidnapped her son, entrapped her...
Strange to realise that, even through the revulsion and hatred, she could still pity him this much.
"I gave my word, Ronon."
"It was a stupid word."
"It is still mine and I have given it." She shook her head, frustrated. "And this is not the time. Torren has the hybrids."
"Yeah. Smart kid."
Teyla resisted the urge to roll her eyes. "I do not care if you do not like Michael. I am not so fond of him either. But I gave my word and neither you, nor John, nor my son will make me break it!" She met his gaze, hoped that Michael was not taunting Ronon behind her back, and asked, "Do you know the way out of here?"
Ronon's jaw clenched. "Yes." He glared narrowly at Michael, then jerked his head. "This way."
They passed through doors and corridors, and it was perhaps several minutes later when Michael spoke. "He shows prodigious mental skill."
"He is what his bloodlines made him," Teyla said coolly. "And he is my son."
She could almost hear Torren in her mind - the bright sense of him, incandescent with a childish temper that now had an outlet – and an army to do his bidding. Control of the hybrids came easily to him, where Lukia had failed and she had struggled. But Teyla couldn't reach him - not like this. She needed to speak with him face to face, needed to make his young mind understand what he was doing - why he mustn't kill.
Ahead of them, two hybrids stumbled into the corridor, turned their heads and raced towards them. Ronon shot one with his stunner, but the other plunged on, ploughing past Ronon and Teyla to shove Michael away and against the wall.
Ronon grabbed for her arm when she turned back. "Teyla! Come on!"
Teyla shook him off, taking the hybrid by the shoulders and using her momentum to twist him away from Michael. Then she half-hauled the former Wraith up and dragged him along, behind Ronon, whose exasperated look said everything he didn't voice.
Twice more they encountered hybrids. Each time Ronon shot them down before they reached them, although once more the hybrids managed to get hold of Michael. Once again, Teyla freed him and they ran on.
"It would be easier to leave me to die," he panted as they reached corridors that seemed vaguely familiar.
"And have your blood on Torren's hands?"
"Ah, of course. One does not show compassion to the unworthy."
She ignored his sneer, focusing on the door at the end of the corridor - a Wraith door, unlike the rest of the complex. They burst out into cool grey air, breathless in the rocky ruins of the Ancient outpost, and Ronon bellowed for John as they ran to the edge of the courtyard.
They nearly bowled into John and Torren coming from the other direction.
"Mama!" Torren came scrambling around the corner, racing for her arms, and Teyla ran to scoop him up.
"What are you doing to the hybrids? Torren?"
But Torren had spotted Michael over her shoulder, and his little face scrunched up. "Mama! Bad man!"
She turned, but Ronon and John already had Michael in their sights. "No!" At least they weren't firing. Yet.
"If they do not," Michael said with a thin smile, his hands held well away from his body, "it seems your son will."
"Torren!" She shook Torren, cutting through his tears and temper. "Let the hybrids go!"
His lower lip trembled. "No! Bad mans, Mama!"
"Bad mans, or not, you will let them go, Torren John Emmagan!"
But he held on in the face of her order, too strong and too stubborn to give in. Too afraid of losing her. Too young to understand. She might have torn herself away when he was a baby - perhaps. But now? Now, it wasn't just John and Ronon and Rodney who wouldn't stop searching for her, but her son. And he had resources that even her team-mates did not and no understanding of the things he must not do – at least, not until he understood their full import.
All this Teyla saw in the flash of an eye, even as movement drew her gaze away - the first of the hybrids had reached the door.
They barely hesitated as they began to cross the courtyard, pouring out – so many in number and all of them in Torren's control. A soft whine of noise rose in the air behind them.
"Rodney's here," Ronon called.
"Teyla-" John began.
Teyla looked at Michael where he stood, unmoving in the face of the oncoming hybrids. He seemed more defiant and amused than afraid, his eyes burning as he looked at her.
"You have what you need to perfect your children," she said. "My child needs me more."
She would have kept her word if the circumstances had not changed. But neither of them had predicted Torren - and she would not let her son become a murderer - even of Michael.
He nodded once, and Teyla felt the betrayed sting of his thoughts for just a moment before she ran for the cliff edge with Torren, where Rodney was hovering the 'jumper right at the very edge. The cargo ramp was down for them to step on, and Ronon waited with one hand out as John headed for the pilots' seat.
"They're in! Let's go!"
And Teyla put Torren into Ronon's arms and turned to see Michael overrun by a wave of hybrids. "Torren! Stop it!"
Torren's face scrunched up in rebellion as Ronon lifted his weapon and fired once.
The meaning of the Lantean Beretta only pierced her mind a moment later. By then, the bullet had long since pierced Michael's head. The dark mess of splatter around the hybrids clustered where his body had been left no doubt that Ronon's aim had been true.
Teyla turned on him, and her guilt and anger was a hot stone beneath her breastbone. "I gave him my word."
Ronon lowered the gun and there was no apology in his gaze. "I didn't."
John found her sitting by the window, the curtains back to show the moon riding high above the glassy sea. There was a glass of wine in her hand and one waiting on the coffee table for him. He sat down beside her without invitation, resting an arm along the back of the sofa and resting the glass of wine on his knee.
"You still mad at Ronon?"
She sighed, a heavy, weary sigh. "No. Ronon is Ronon. And I cannot exactly judge him - not after I kicked Michael off the ledge."
John rubbed his hand across her back, noting the tension in her shoulders. "How's Torren doing?"
"Sleeping. He is not apparently any worse for having commanded his own zombie army, as Rodney is calling it."
"Torren John Emmagan, king of the zombies." John swirled the wine in the cup, habit rather than intent. "Has a certain ring to it."
"I do not particularly care to be mother to the king of the zombies," Teyla murmured, leaning back against his hand when it paused at her nape. "And he is only three. John..."
He let his fingers tangle in her hair, leaned over to press his face into the silky strands, breathed deep of the scent of her, the warmth of her. "Just think of what he'll be like at thirteen."
There was a hint of laughter threaded through her voice as she sighed, "I am trying not to."
He pressed his cheek to a slip of skin through the strands of her hair, and tried not to think about how close he'd come to losing her. Death was bad enough, but the thought of her alive, trapped somewhere with Michael, tied to him in exchange for the safety of Pegasus...
Her hand lifted, stroked through the hair at the back of his head. "It didn't happen, John."
But it could have.
So many things to say, and neither of them wanted them said.
John left them unsaid, and Teyla did, too.
And they sat there at her window until the moon slid soundlessly into the dark water.