AN: Welcome back, my lovely readers! I humbly apologize for the delay, but I hit some sticky spots then RL decided to toss in a few more. Be aware, I WILL FINISH this story! It has 1-2 chapters left, so bear with me. Special thanks to Kickstand75 for betaing this chapter!
AN2: Thanks to my very good friend Anna for naming my creation!
Now, on to the good stuff ;) …
Rodney looked down at Sheppard's still form and wondered at the effects of the recent revelations. Finding out that the Big Bad Wolf and a lot of other, formerly make-believe creatures were real had turned his world-view sideways. Finding out that his best friend was part of a group theoretically engineered to act as cops or game wardens to said fairy tale creatures had tilted it even more.
He would never admit it and would, if asked, vehemently deny it, but he was worried about Sheppard. Neither he nor Burkhardt looked good. They were pale, their chests barely moving with respirations, and their skin was chill. The pallor of his skin made the bruises from the fight at the restaurant stand out in stark relief.
It had been Hank's decision for them to leave him there while they got help for Sheppard and Burkhardt. A quick call had gotten them help in the form of Monroe and Rosalee and Hank had visibly relaxed when the pair showed up. Rosalee took the pod so she could examine it for traces of the mixture that took out the two Grimms while Monroe and Ronon loaded the pair into the Tahoe. Ronon then surprised them by volunteering to stay behind. Teyla had questioned him about it, and Ronon's answer had been that he might find something to help them find the Wraith. Strangely, Hank agreed.
The trip to the Spice Shop had had Rodney checking the mirrors constantly. He'd even managed to stay in his lane and not hit anyone, which would have made Sheppard happy.
Rodney listened as Sheppard inhaled sharply, his breath rattling in his lungs on the way out. "Whatever you're doing, you better make it quick! Sheppard's getting worse."
"Peace Rodney," Teyla said as she rested her hand on his arm. "John is strong, as is Nick, and they are fighting with all their might."
"Look at him Teyla," Rodney gestured towards his friend's still form. "He's literally turning gray." Sheppard was turning gray. His skin was ashen and his mop of fluffy hair had a substantial amount of gray among the dark strands. Rodney's shoulders slumped at the reality of the situation. "Face it, of all the things that have tried to kill him, this one may succeed."
"Have faith, Rodney. Remember what Carson has told us many times, that even though a person may be unconscious they can still hear you. We must think positively and stay strong. John and Nick's very lives depend on it."
An hour later, Rodney had started counting the seconds between John's breaths. The lag was really beginning to worry him.
"Oh, thank God!" Rodney sprang to his feet as Rosalee and Monroe entered the room where the two men lay. He glanced at their hands to see what form the antidote was in and fell back in shock. "What the hell is that?"
"This?" Monroe held up the item in question. It appeared to be a fireplace bellow, but it had a lidded funnel attached to a tube and a forked nozzle. "This is an entgiftungsbalg, a detoxification bellows. The antidote has to enter their systems the same way that the poison did."
"So you're going to put that," and Rodney pointed at the bellows, "up their noses?" and he pointed to the unconscious Grimms.
Rosalee nodded her head. "Yes. I need you and Monroe to hold them down. When this is administered to wesen, they tend to have a variety of reactions including convulsions. Grimms … tend to go to the extreme. They could be quiet or go wild. We had this problem when Nick encountered a cracher-mortel."
"Would it not be more prudent to restrain them?" Teyla asked.
"It would, but that can cause problems of its own," Rosalee said. "I don't know him well, but I'd guess that John would react very badly to restraints."
Rodney saw Teyla's shoulders slump in resignation. It was such a minuscule motion that he only spotted it through long familiarity.
"We need to do this now," Monroe called from his position by Nick. "Who do we do first?"
"Nick," Rosalee said in a firm tone. "John's military training makes him more dangerous. We do Nick first and hopefully he can help us if John gets wild."
Monroe nodded in agreement then rolled his head and woged.
Rodney heaved a sigh and was moving to join the rest at Burkhardt's side when a thump caught his attention. The first was followed by another and he looked down to see Sheppard arch off the cot. "We have a problem!"
The others turned in time to see John convulse again.
"Change of plans. We have to do John first. Now."
Rosalee positioned the entgiftungsbalg while Monroe, Teyla, and Rodney readied themselves. She squeezed and the purple powder in the funnel swirled as it disappeared. She worked the bellows again to speed the powder along then removed the device and stood back. At first there was no discernible effect, then Rodney noticed Sheppard's fingers twitch. The first tics were soon followed by tremors then full body spasms. Rosalee set the entgiftungsbalg aside and jumped in to help. The convulsions increased in severity and Rodney began to fear for his friend, then with a mighty inhale, John heaved upright and managed to break everyone's hold including Monroe's then flopped back to lay still.
Rosalee stood and dusted herself off. She peeled back one of John's eyelids to check his pupils then examined his skin tone. "The gray is fading and his pupils are reacting normally." She bent to listen to his chest. "And the crackles are fading as well. He's going to be alright."
Rodney felt a smile crease his face at the news.
Rosalee stood and picked up the entgiftungsbalg then opened a brown jar and refilled the funnel. "Now for Nick."
They each took their previous positions as Rosalee inserted the nozzles for the bellows. She pumped it twice then removed it and set it aside. Nick's breathing eased immediately and his color started returning. Rodney retreated to sit beside John as did Teyla while Rosalee took the device to clean it. Monroe pulled up a chair and dropped into it.
"Man, I'm glad this is …" The rest of his sentence was cut off by a roar as Nick surged upright, skin gone pale, eyes red and filled with madness. Monroe went flying thanks to a powerful right hook.
"Nick? What the heck, man?" Monroe asked as he rose from the floor. His answer was a snarl as Nick charged him.
John woke to a cacophony of crashes and roars, none of which were helping his headache. He struggled upright and blinked his eyes to clear them and looked around as another crash sounded. He peered around as he swung his feet off the cot and was taken aback. He didn't recognize the room he was in, but the place was trashed.
John was on his feet and headed for that cry before he made a conscious decision, not that it mattered. He rushed down the stairs to see Teyla and Rosalee, both with their backs to him, each holding onto an arm, being flung around as they tried to hold back his fellow Grimm. Nick had a tall metal lamp gripped in one hand and was about to bring it down on Rodney's unprotected back where he huddled on the floor protecting Monroe.
John charged across the space, snatched the rod from Nick's grasp and tossed it away. "Why don't you pick on someone your own size?"
John was shocked when Nick turned on him, but he didn't let it affect his actions. He blocked the fist aimed at his head and returned a punch of his own. His right hook landed with the force of a sledgehammer, knocking Nick back and away from everyone else. Without looking away, John ordered Rodney and Teyla to get the wesen out of the room.
"But, John …" Teyla began.
"I've got this. Now go!"
He feinted towards Nick and forced the other Grimm back further to give the others a clear escape. "Now, it's just you and me."
A wild light entered Nick's eyes as he darted forward and threw a roundhouse punch at John's head. John blocked it and the low jab that followed it. He captured Nick's wrist and, using it to control him, shoved him several feet away. John wobbled as his headache spiked. He needed to make this short. Feigning more weakness than he felt, he lowered his guard and slumped. As expected, Nick took the opening and rushed in. Some part of his brain was working because he waited until the last minute to swing and grazed John's ribs. John staggered from the blow as he allowed Nick's momentum to pull him past then swiftly side-stepped into Nick's back trail and looped one arm about his neck, drawing his fellow Grimm into his chest. John ducked and turned his head inwards to avoid Nick's searching fingers. "Dammit, Nick! Get ahold of yourself or I'll choke you out!"
Nick's reply was a deep growl so John tightened his grip, bringing his other arm up to lock the hold in place. He squeezed and eventually Nick's struggles slowed. "Come on, Nick! You're a protector, not a monster. Snap out of it!"
Nick's frenzy slowed even more as his knees went limp. In his weakened state, John couldn't hold them both up and thumped to the floor with him while maintaining his grip.
Vision tunneling in, John almost missed the hoarse whisper amidst the sounds of their heaving breaths. He loosened his hold a fraction. "Nick? You with us?"
Nick coughed to clear his throat. "Yeah. Thanks for stopping me."
John released his control and wilted further, his head pounding a crescendo. He managed to get out "You're welcome" before the darkness closed in.
Still dazed, Nick's reflexes allowed him to spin and catch John before he hit the floor. He drew him in gently and cradled the other man's head against his shoulder. "Rosalee! Monroe! I need some assistance!"
Tramping feet heralded the arrival of his two friends, as well as John's wife and friend.
Rosalee knelt at his side, Monroe hovering behind her. "What happened?" she asked as she peeled John's eyelids back.
"He took me down. I could see what was happening, but it was just like the time after meeting Baron Samedi. I couldn't stop."
Rosalee glanced up at him and Nick could see the understanding in her eyes. "What else?"
"After he released me, he slumped and closed his eyes like he had a bad headache, and then he collapsed. I caught him and yelled for you."
Rosalee finished her exam and sat back. "Everything checks out so I think this is the headache mentioned as one of the side-effects. He'll be fine after he gets some rest." She looked up and stared at Nick. "How are you feeling?"
"I've got a bit of a headache and I'm really thirsty, but otherwise I feel fine."
"Seriously? Doesn't anyone believe in hospitals or doctors? I know medicine is only one step above voodoo, but this is ridiculous!"
"Enough, Rodney," Teyla admonished.
"No! Sheppard could be bleeding in his brain and that powder they inhaled could be turning their insides to mush!"
Nick started to intervene, but Monroe beat him to it. "Man, I know you're worried, but chill out! Herbal medicine was around long before doctors or hospitals. Plus, what would we tell the doctors that wouldn't get all of us locked up, hmmm? The traces of the two powders would raise lots of red flags that none of us need, not to mention the rate the two of them heal. At least, I know Nick heals fast and I'm presuming John does too."
"Indeed, Monroe. John does heal quickly," Teyla said.
Nick peered down to see John's eyes partially open.
"This isn't SGC. These're civilian doctors and it's not like Carson doesn't look for outward signs before he turns to the scanners," John ground out, his voice a wreck.
The excitable scientist visibly deflated. "But …"
"I know. You react to certain doom a certain way, but we're not doomed," John said softly. "I jus' need somethin' to drive away the guy with the pickaxe in my head and some sleep an' I'll be fine."
Rosalee stood. "I'll make some tea for you then you both need to rest."
Nick caught her gaze and nodded. "We'll wait for you here."
Teyla nodded. "That is an excellent idea. Rodney and I shall stay and assist you in getting settled."
Hank entered the Spice Shop with a sense of dread. He hadn't asked for a phone call, but he'd hoped for one to let him know that Nick and John were okay. The destruction that greeted him and Ronon as they stepped into the private portion of the shop only served to feed his fear.
Beside him, the tall alien stepped forward, palm on the hilt of his gun. "This normal?"
Hank shook his head as he scanned for clues. "No. Not even close." He edged closer to the back room while Ronon moved towards the stairs.
Hank hurried over and covered the Satedan as he ascended the stairs to the upper level. He'd heard of a man of few words, but the dreadlocked alien took it to extreme.
"I talk when I have something to say," Ronon said over his shoulder. "And no, I don't read minds."
As he neared the top, Hank hissed and gestured for Ronon stop. "Hello?"
The door opened and a head poked through that he didn't immediately recognize.
"It's about time the two of you got here!"
"Nice to see you too, McKay," Ronon said.
"Yes, yes, I missed you too, Conan. Where have you been?" Rodney said.
Hank decided to cut this short. He needed to know how his partner was. "What happened?" he asked as he moved up the stairs.
"Your partner tried to kill us all!"
Teyla appeared in the doorway and placed a hand on the Canadian's arm. "Be calm. Remember what John said – we are not doomed. Plus, I am certain that he would not look kindly upon being awoken right now."
Rodney took a deep breath. "You're right." He waved back into the room. "I'll just …"
"That would be fine," Teyla told him. She waited until Rodney slid back inside then stepped out.
"How are they?"
Teyla smiled. "Nick and John are recovering. There were complications, but they are fine. They are resting currently."
Hank felt a smile crease his face. "Let me guess. Nick trashed the place."
A look of surprise crossed Teyla's face. "How did you know?"
"It's happened before. So where are Monroe and Rosalee?"
"They are downstairs. Rosalee wished to check Monroe for injuries then I believe she planned to fix a meal."
Hank gestured up the stairs. "Let's get cleaned up then we'll get this place straight. Hopefully, we'll have an idea of where to find this bunch by the time our Grimms wake up."
Nick stumbled down the stairs to the aroma of fresh coffee. Rosalee always had the best blend in town. A cheerful blue mug blocked his path and he glanced past it as he reached out to take it. "Thanks, Hank, you're a life saver."
Hank smirked as he crossed the room towards the kitchen. "Hey man, no problem. Can't have my partner dying from malnutrition. Coffee is part of the food pyramid for cops."
A slurp followed by furious typing sounded from the table in the corner. "Apparently it's a necessity for scientists too."
"Any word from the warehouse," Nick asked as he settled at the table. He still felt a bit shaky after the previous day's events and was glad he didn't need to cook.
"No, but Wu said they'd found some trace at the scene and he'd be in touch later," Hank said as he cracked eggs into a bowl. "I called the Captain and filled him in. He said he'd call if he heard anything through his sources." He gestured towards a duffle bag lying on the floor. "Juliette came by on her way to work and brought fresh clothes for everyone. She went up and checked on you, but you were still pretty out of it."
Rosalee glided into the room and made her way to Nick's side. "How do you feel?"
"Still a bit sore and stiff, but I'll be alright."
"Good. Let me know if anything unusual happens. I'm going upstairs to check on John."
Teyla entered the main room as Rosalee stepped in from the kitchen. "Excuse me, Rosalee, but Monroe asks that you join him in the Spice Shop. He said a customer is asking for hellebore and he cannot locate it."
Rosalee threw her hands up. "Men. Why do we put up with them?"
Teyla thought of John's soft kisses and agile fingers. "I believe it is because they do have their uses."
"True," Rosalee admitted. "I was on my way to check on John. Would you do that while I help Monroe?"
"It's probably better if you do it anyway. You'd be more likely to spot any unusual behavior."
After a side trip to the kitchen, Teyla made her way upstairs. Sitting on the chair beside John's bed, she reached out and gently peeled back the covers. John appeared much improved from the previous day. His color was back to normal and the dark circles beneath his eyes were reduced to faint shadows. Reaching out, she brushed her fingers along his cheek and into his hair. She had missed sleeping next to him last night. On her third pass, she felt him stir and glanced down to see John's eyes opening.
"Good morning, sleepyhead. It is a bright and beautiful day outside."
John groaned and burrowed his head beneath his pillows. "Ugh. Just shoot me now and put me out of my misery."
"I have something better," she replied as she bent over and picked up a thermos. She unscrewed the top and held it out. As she knew it would, the smell of rich, dark coffee drew him from his burrow.
John sat up and took the thermos, drinking deeply. "You are a goddess, Teyla."
"We have known each other for many years and seen each other in many situations. After all that time, I would hope I know what you prefer when you wake."
Teyla sat on the chair near his bed. "How do you feel this morning?"
John set the thermos aside and stretched. "Stiff and a bit sore. A hot shower and a couple of Tylenol will take of that."
"Here," she held out a small tote bag. "I anticipated your needs and inside are fresh clothes and a packet of Tylenol. The bathroom is across the hall. While you shower and dress, I shall see about getting you some breakfast."
John stood under the falling water and let the pounding spray massage his sore body even as he let his mind go still. He wouldn't call it meditation, although others would, but the act calmed his thoughts and allowed actions to make themselves known. So much had happened in the last week that he needed time to assimilate. Everyone who'd ever gotten him to try meditation, Teyla included, always told him to clear his mind and he failed. He wasn't in Rodney's league, but his awareness was always in motion, keeping an eye out for possible threats.
His stomach growled and told him in no uncertain terms that it was time to eat. Shutting off the water, he dried and dressed in the black BDU's Teyla had brought. He padded down the stairs in the old building, past Rodney who was ensconced in the corner typing madly, probably haranguing one of his minions via Instant Messenger. Ronon nodded from the stove then turned back to whatever he was cooking, which John hoped was his breakfast. Nick and Hank were at the table hiding their grins as Teyla played gofer for Ronon.
John joined them and poured another cup of coffee. "What's on the agenda today?"
"Hopefully, we'll be able to put an end to this," Nick said. "It depends on whether the lab results come back today."
"They should," Hank pointed out," considering how badly the department wants this case closed."
"My people want it over quickly too. The sooner we get rid of this Wraith, the sooner we can go home."
Nick and Hank looked at him strangely, but John was used to it. "You don't consider Earth home," Nick asked.
"Nope, haven't for years," John said. "It's nice to visit, but Atlantis is home. The city responds to me as though it's alive."
John leaned back as Ronon set a plate of scrambled eggs and sausage in front of him.
"Yeah, can't wait to get back," Ronon said.
Nick and Hank turned to discussing current cases as John tucked into his food. The more he thought about it, the more he realized it was true. Atlantis was home and he couldn't wait to get back.