Destiny of the Chosen

Chapter 3 – Twenty-five Days

The delicate riff of a reverb laden guitar filtered through the room, its haunting melody crystal clear from the laptop speakers. Strings plucked one at a time, moving up and down the musical scale, changing chord as they completed a round. A fretless bass faded in from the back and joined the lone guitar.

Hey, you

Out there in the cold
Getting lonely, getting old
Can you feel me?

David sighed as he stared out of the window in his room. Space was so very cold.

Hey, you

Standing in the aisles
With itchy feet and fading smiles
Can you feel me?

His limited involvement in the search was slowly driving him insane.

Hey, you

Don't help them to bury the light
Don't give in …

Without a fight.

John.

Hey, you

Out there on your own
Sitting naked by the phone
Would you touch me?

David's eyes slowly squeezed shut.

Hey, you

Would you help me to carry the stone?
Open your heart,

I'm coming home.

Thundering drums and wailing guitars – Pink Floyd at their depressing best.

He turned away from the window, running both hands back through his hair, clasping them together tightly behind his head. Perhaps listening to John's playlist wasn't such a good idea after all. But having found the USB drive in a drawer of his brother's desk, David had been curious as to its contents. So far it had been an eclectic mixture of old and new, Beethoven and Shostakovich all the way to country, indie, and punk rock. But it wasn't his favorite tunes that David was looking to discover; it was a connection. Any connection that would bring him one small step closer to John.

Though he was in John's old room, all his belongings had been moved to his new quarters. There was no trace of him here.

Is there anybody out there?

The words suddenly loomed out of the speakers. The next track had started.

John was out there. Somewhere.

Is there anybody out there?

The high squeal of the guitar was like a serrated knife across his tightly strung nerves. A mournful guitar replaced the haunting voice. He'd noticed a guitar in the quarters John now shared with Teyla and wondered if John still played. He'd never asked. There'd been no time.

He picked up the remote and pressed next.

The catchy upbeat rhythm of "Sixteen Tons" was a stark contrast to Pink Floyd. His dark mood lifted a little.

Some people say a man is made out of mud
A poor man's made out of muscle and blood
Muscle and blood and skin and bones
A mind that's a-weak and a back that's strong

You load sixteen tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

He slowly smiled. Of course. No John Sheppard playlist would be complete without Johnny Cash.

Next.

His smile faded as the guitar started to play an all too familiar theme. It was probably the one that John used to associate with the most. But John was no longer a solitary man. He had Teyla. He had family.

Next.

He breathed gently through his nose. His smile was sad, but it was there nonetheless.

Well, I won't back down

No, I won't back down
You can stand me up at the gates of Hell
But I won't back down

No, I'll stand my ground

Won't be turned around
And I'll keep this world from draggin' me down
Gonna stand my ground

And I won't back down

It was as though John was communicating with him through his playlist, trying to lift his spirits.

Next.

"Oh, my God." David hadn't heard this since … forever.

His vision suddenly blurred, and for a moment the past came alive.

Dad's foot tapped in time with the music. John's head bobbed from side to side while he perched on Mom's lap.

I remember when I was a lad
Times were hard and things were bad
But there's a silver linin' behind ev'ry cloud
Just four people, that's all we were
Tryin' to make a livin' out of black-land dirt
But we'd get together in a family circle singin' loud.

"'Daddy sang bass.'" Dad's voice was real deep.

"'Mama sang tenor,'" Mom answered so prettily.

"'Me and little brother would join right in there.'" David laughed through his part as John shouted out the odd word in an attempt to keep up.

They all sang together. "'Singin' seems to help a troubled soul.'"

Still singing, Dad moseyed up to Mom and held out a hand. She laughed, helped John slide down from her lap, and they danced around the room.

John tried to dance, but he just bounced around like he needed to go to the bathroom. David laughed so much he was probably going to need to go soon. Mom took hold of John's hand as Dad grabbed his own. Their circle started to turn one way, then the other.

Though the circle won't be broken
By and by, Lord, by and by
Daddy sang bass (Mama sang tenor)
Me and little brother would join right in there
In the sky, Lord, in the sky

Dad swung John up into his arms and ruffled his hair, still singing …

David's own voice softly broke through his reverie. Strange. He hadn't sung in years.

"Me and little brother would join right in there,
In the sky, Lord, in the sky

In the sky, Lord, in the …"

David's throat abruptly tightened as his heart ached and his energies dipped painfully. He hit the off button and sank down on the bed.

How old was John then? He himself couldn't have been much older than seven. So that would've made John around five.

David ran a hand across his cheek. It was wet. It had been a long time since he'd wept without realizing it.

He laid back on the bed and stared once more at the ceiling. He didn't need to look at the clock. It had been 2am before he started this musical trip down memory lane, so it had to be at least 4:00 by now. He couldn't remember the last time he'd been able to sleep for more than a couple of hours at a stretch.

He was just so damn tired. Tired of riding the waves of adrenaline as the teams – his teams – ventured out into the unknown, only to have a sea of disappointment come crashing down as yet another planet was crossed off the list. Weary of hearing Colonel Mitchell repeatedly deny his requests to go out on missions. Exhausted by the intensity of his energies, which were in a constant flux, ever searching, ever hoping for the slightest hint of his brother.

But, truly, what use were they?

His senses were more attuned to everything and everyone around him, which at times was completely overwhelming. He could calm the angry, feel their feelings, ease their discomfort. But it was their expectant feeling of hope, that he would once again sense his brother, would connect to him …

He'd had no visions, no insights, nothing to give them the one break they needed. He'd dreamed, of course, which he'd analyzed and quantified every single one until he wasn't even sure of his own sanity anymore.

He'd started to feel like a fraud.

So he'd done the one thing that he knew that he could do: govern. But in order to be effective, he had to understand. It wasn't as if running an Ancient city or fighting aliens had been covered at Harvard. So he studied, researched, called meetings with Department heads. He wanted to remember their names, understand their roles, listen to their issues. If it wasn't for them and the dedication of every single person in the city, his brother would be lost. He wanted to know them, to thank them and support them.

But it wasn't enough. Not nearly enough.

His energies abruptly surged as his frustration at the Ancients bubbled to the surface. They were all seeing and all knowing, after all. Why didn't they help? They had before, so why not now? Unfortunately, he'd almost expected the complete silence from Janus, but not from Mom. Just before she'd brought John back to life, she'd said something about there being a price to pay. What did that mean?What was the price? And who was to pay it?Was that the reason for their silence?

David exhaled as renewed frustrations churned and seethed beneath the surface and his energies rippled in kind. Things were better now, but ever since John was taken, there were too many questions without answers. Helplessness had hardened into anger and latent resentment, and over time his powers had become dangerously unstable.

He'd been stubbornly reluctant to ask the Monk. His infernal reticence and cryptic responses would do little to ease his demeanor. He could figure it all out. John had taught him a thing or two, after all.

It hadn't exactly gone to plan.

By around day nine, matters had finally come to a head. It hadn't been any one thing that had caused the uncontrollable outburst, but more the series of events that had led up to it. The actual catalyst was almost too embarrassing to think about.

Two more planets had been crossed off the list. His DNA had failed to activate the Rod of Janus. A pounding headache from hell. Probably caused by the constant stream of thoughts and emotions that weren't his own, intertwining with his until he could hardly distinguish where his own stopped and theirs began.

He accidently dropped his pen. It rolled under the desk. Uttering a curse, he bent down to retrieve it, but banged his head on the way back up. He sensed the bottle of water beginning to topple, but he just wasn't fast enough. A tidal wave of water took out everything in its path, saturating all his research and several folders. He scrambled to rescue the laptop, but again he was too late as it promptly fizzed and sparked its untimely demise.

Raging energies rushed to the surface, but he had no real understanding of how to handle them other than he shouldn't seek to control or contain. His frustrated growl reached a crescendo, the air reverberating so fast he could hardly breathe. His anger peaked, and the entire pane of glass of his office promptly exploded outwards.

He was incredibly lucky that it had happened in the early hours of the morning and not during the day, or someone might've gotten seriously injured.

It had been a severe wakeup call.

He'd needed help, and he'd needed it fast.

Brother Benedict had appeared at his door within minutes of him reaching that conclusion.

The lessons still weren't easy. Despite the progress he was making, his impatience to find a way of reconnecting with John had initially made him short tempered. Being repeatedly told that everything would come with time really hadn't eased his disposition.

John didn't have time.

Twenty-five days. Twenty-five days since he'd last heard his brother's voice in his mind. Twenty-five days since John's energy had touched his own. What did that mean?

All he had to do was think of the Vanir experimenting on John just as Strom had done to him, and his energies surged with a flash of heat.

He bolted upright. His breath hissed loudly in the silence. "Damn it."

Thankfully he now had a better understanding of his energies and how to manage them. He had to run this off.

Again.

At least, he was getting fitter.

Several minutes later, he finished tying his running shoes and stood up, glancing at the clock.

5am.

Wonderful. Another night without sleep.

He set off at a steady pace. Even at this hour, the city never slept and there were still people going about their duties. He returned their greetings with a smile and continued to pound down the corridors on a path that had become routine. He gradually picked up speed. Maybe if he just kept running, pushed himself harder, further, faster, he'd eventually collapse into unconsciousness.

He wondered if James was still going for their early morning runs. Probably not, considering what he'd gone through in Aspen.

He pushed himself faster as the surge of energy returned. He'd have to deal with Strom sooner or later. He didn't trust himself with the man while his powers were so volatile. Besides, he knew for a fact that the man had no idea where the Vanir had taken John.

At least James was safe, as was Nancy, and during the last check in with the SGC, General O'Neill had confirmed that all potential charges against PSI had finally been dropped. His company was safe. Safe and in good hands. James knew what he was doing.

He just wished he did.

He slowed to a gentle jog. It still felt odd to be running alone. It wasn't just that it gave you someone to pace with, to push you that little bit faster, that little bit further. It was the companionship.

John used to run with Ronon. Maybe David could ask him if he … No. Though David genuinely liked him, he didn't quite feel he'd found their common ground yet. He certainly wasn't a talker, which made connecting with him that little bit harder.

Maybe Teal'c would agree to run with him. His personal experiences and knowledge of the Asgard had been truly enlightening. But to socialize with him?

Daniel was probably the easiest of them all to relate to, but David's own research had revealed the man's truly uncanny ability at solving mysteries, so David was reluctant to disturb him while he was working.

Rodney … just wasn't a runner.

Colonel Mitchell … wasn't someone he particularly wanted to spend time with at the moment. His constant rejections to David's requests to go off-world were seriously beginning to try David's patience.

Perhaps Major Lorne could spare some time … when he wasn't doing double shifts that was.

Rafaela. Now she could run, and she'd kept a good pace with him, too. Albeit they'd been racing to save John's life from the Vanir at the time. But would she?

Maybe.

Probably.

But he hadn't seen her in weeks, which made him wonder if she was actually avoiding him.

Perhaps it was better for everyone if he just continued to run alone.

"You aren't alone."

Vala.

From the very first moment he'd met her, he'd known her type: sexy, high-spirited, intelligent, and undeniably manipulative. Yet there was just something intriguing about her. He'd automatically rebuffed her offer of friendship for a multitude of reasons, but what she'd said had struck a chord.

Like her, he'd been shutting people out for decades. Self-preservation was key when scaling the heights of the corporate ladder, and it hadn't abated once he'd taken over PSI, since his net worth made him a target for gold diggers. Not that this attitude had guaranteed the protection of his heart. It'd still been stomped on. He still carried the emotional wounds from Rachel. And to think he'd been about to propose …

Unlike his brother, who had been far luckier in love than him. John had proposed. He'd found someone who wouldn't stomp all over his heart, whom he could trust to want him and not his money. David still didn't know Teyla that well, but he already regarded her as family, and the desire to protect his family had never been stronger than it was now. But even in that, he was failing.

At first, Teyla had continued to bear herself up with all her usual elegance and poise. Her quiet nature and resolute determination imbued in him a sense of calm in a world so unbelievably … alien. She grounded him.

However, as the days dragged into weeks, her composure had started to falter. He had no real knowledge about such matters, but Teyla's small frame made her look as though she was already eight months gone. Dark circles and anguish had replaced the sparkle in her eyes.

He'd tried to ease her discomfort, to soothe her fears, but the very touch of his energies were so much like John's that it often upset her. He didn't know how else to help her.

Other than to bring his brother home.

So, reluctantly he'd kept their interaction to a minimum. Which was not only hard, it actually hurt. He genuinely missed her gentle beauty, her gracious spirit. He felt disconnected, unbalanced.

Isolated.

But it was a small price to pay to keep her safe.

From his volatile energies.

From him.

He glanced briefly at his watch as he shot through the open outer door to the East Pier, which had sensed his approach. He'd beaten last night's time by five minutes. David didn't stop until he'd almost reached the very edge of the pier, and just as it had every night he'd been coming out to this spot, the panorama took his breath away.

He looked out, way out into the darkness.

His brother was out there.

Somewhere.

He closed his eyes to the scene and focused, turning his attention inward.

Space was cold, but the chill felt good against the heat of his skin.

Space was silent, yet the unique hum of the city was all around him.

Connecting, rebalancing, reassuring. Comforting.

His breathing levelled out; his heartbeat slowed.

He gradually inhaled through his nose, drawing and centring his powerful energies. He then exhaled deeply, reaching out with his mind into the vastness of space once more.

John?


Jennifer was a few minutes early for her scheduled 0800 meeting with David, but the man was nothing if not punctual.

David's prior meeting appeared to be with Doctor Karen Lindsay. Jennifer had gotten to know her reasonably well since her arrival to Atlantis some three years ago. Prior to that, Colonel Mitchell had shortlisted her to potentially become a member of SG-1, but thankfully his wish to bring the original team back together had been granted. Her field was anthropology, which made her like a mini version of Doctor Jackson. She was fluent in three Earth languages and Goa'uld, but it was her ability to speak and write Ancient that made her invaluable.

David glanced up at Jennifer as he handed Lindsay a file and gestured for her to come in.

"I'll have the translations done within the hour, Mr Sheppard."

He smiled graciously. "Thanks, Doctor. I appreciate it."

She was suddenly all smiles and blushes. "You're very welcome." She looked at Jennifer. "Doctor."

Jennifer stood aside to let her pass. "Doctor."

"Doctor Keller." He offered her a rather jaded smile. "Please, take a seat. I won't keep you a moment."

"Take your time, David." She gratefully sank down into the nearest chair as he typed quickly onto his laptop.

As CEO, he would've had at least one personal assistant to organize his days. Though he didn't have that luxury here, his desk was distinctly tidy. SGC folders and books sat in ordered piles. Elegant yet illegible handwritten notes bordered the edges of printouts. Yellow marker highlighted various sections of importance.

Somewhat surprisingly, there wasn't any sign of a coffee mug, but a large bottle of water sat within easy reach, which was almost empty. At least he was hydrating, but his exhausted countenance confirmed that he still wasn't sleeping well.

He looked up as he closed the lid of the laptop. "My apologies."

She offered him a reassuring smile. "Honestly, I don't mind. It's the first opportunity I've had to sit down all shift."

His expression abruptly stiffened. "There have been more injuries?"

"Lieutenant Edison suffered a mild concussion after he collapsed from heat exhaustion. Lieutenant Miller has pneumonia."

"Pneumonia?"

Her chin dipped. How she'd failed to pick up on the obvious symptoms continued to plague her conscience. She'd dropped the ball on that one. "Apparently he's been fighting a cold for weeks, and the last ice planet didn't help matters."

David sighed as he slowly shook his head.

"Lieutenant Kagan has frostbite," she continued. "Major Dorsey has a twisted ankle, and Doctor Donaldson suffered second degree burns while he was fixing a faulty circuit."

David rubbed a weary hand across his furrowed brow. "Damn."

"People are tired. No one can maintain this pace indefinitely."

He grimaced. "I know."

She hesitated. "And that includes you, David."

The steel blue eyes stared up at her, lingering. "The double shifts need to stop."

His succinct conclusion surprised her. "Yes."

David nodded once. "I'll speak to Colonel Mitchell."

Jennifer resisted the urge to sigh her relief. That had been so much easier than she'd expected.

"How's Major Rutherford's shoulder?"

Her eyebrows rose a little. "You heard about that, huh?"

"I saw him briefly in the mess hall."

"Simple dislocation, so he'll out of action for at least a couple of weeks."

David gave a brief nod of understanding. "And the rest of his team?"

"They're fine. He wasn't exactly … off-world at the time."

"He wasn't?"

She considered her next words carefully. "Let's just say that some of the guys felt the need to let off some steam."

"And by guys you mean … Ronon." His tone had levelled, grown quieter.

"Among others, yes. But it's what they do, David."

One eyebrow slowly lifted. "You think I disapprove?"

"Well … yeah, I guess."

He considered his hands as he linked them together on the desk. "I hate the fact that people are getting injured. But … every warrior must practice his art."

"I'm sorry?"

He cleared his throat awkwardly. "Something my old Sensei used to say."

"Okay." She knew the word, just not why he'd have one.

"Needless to say, I understand both their need to train and their desire to let off some steam."

David was obviously tired or he'd never have given up something of himself quite so easily. "Do you?"

David's shoulders stiffened a little. "And Sergeant Mehra?"

She sighed inwardly. This Sheppard was one tough nut to crack. "Frustrated that I won't clear her for active duty."

"I can imagine."

"She may be ready for light duty in another week or two. Active duty … we'll just have to wait and see."

"Majors Stackhouse and Cooper?"

"Both are making steady progress, but I'm afraid they won't be seeing any action any time soon."

"And Rodney? Is his ankle healing satisfactorily?"

She sighed. "Although it was a clean break, it'll still be another six to eight weeks before the cast can come off. But that's highly dependent on whether or not he follows my instructions."

"An uncooperative patient?"

She snorted before she could stop herself. "And then some."

His face was kind, understanding. "Is there anything I can do to help?"

In his position, David Sheppard had the power to remove Rodney from duty, and she didn't think for one second that David would hesitate in doing so if he felt that it was necessary. The idea was tempting. Yet, while she was concerned about her boyfriend's health, she knew that if Rodney was removed it would make her personal life an absolute hell. If only they had …

"Doctor Keller?"

She forced a smile. "He'll be okay."

"I have no doubt about that." His smile was tinged with what could only be described as sadness. "He has you."

A slither of guilt pulled at her heart. She sighed.

"What is it?"

"I wish …"

"Go on," he prompted softly.

"It's just a shame that we don't have a Goa'uld healing device."

David tilted his head to one side. "A healing device?"

"Yeah. I believe that Vala used it on Mr Coalfield shortly before you made your appearance on TV."

A minute pause was accompanied by a frown. "Do you know where it is?"

"I guess it's either still at the SGC or been sent back to Area 51."

David rubbed his jaw thoughtfully. "Can anyone use it?"

"Not to my knowledge, no. As I understand it, you have to have Naquadah in your blood in order to do so."

His frown deepened. "So it works in the same way as the ATA gene operates Ancient technology?"

He was catching on fast. "Exactly."

"And who would have Naquadah in their blood?"

"Well, Goa'uld, obviously. The Tok'ra and former hosts."

His eyebrows rose. "Are you telling me that Vala …?"

Her momentary hesitation was instinctive. "Was a former host, yes."

David picked up his pen and quickly wrote something on his notepad. "Consider it done."

Jennifer's eyebrows rose. "Really?" He hadn't even spoken to General O'Neill yet.

He looked up. "You think that the General will deny my request?"

"Well … "

"He won't. Believe me."

She blinked. Was he suggesting that he'd use his powers of persuasion on General O'Neill?

"Doctor," he admonished gently. "I'm more than capable of presenting a strong enough case for having the device brought here."

She blushed. "Of course. It'll make a real difference having the device, and I'm sure that Vala won't mind helping out."

He smiled gently. "I'll speak to her anyway."

"Great."

His expression shifted. "And Teyla?"

"It was her ultrasound this morning."

If she hadn't been watching him so carefully, she would've missed the fleeting grimace.

His tone was softer. "How is she?"

A couple of days ago, Rodney had said that David had been avoiding her. Jennifer hadn't raised the issue with Teyla as she'd been emotional enough during her scan. But had he been right?

"She's doing remarkably well, all things considered."

"All things considered," he echoed quietly.

"The babies started to move a few days ago, so her sleep hasn't improved. However, the scans confirmed pretty much as we expected. Both boys. One is slightly smaller than the other, but there's still time for him to catch up."

His brow furrowed deeply.

She offered him a small encouraging smile. "It's perfectly normal, David. They should start their growth spurt any day now, but she needs to be eating more. Fish and lean meats, if possible."

"Her nausea has eased." It was more of a statement than a question.

"Yes."

"Could she tolerate protein shakes?"

She nodded slowly. "Maybe."

"What about her heartburn and breathlessness?"

He seemed to know more about Teyla's health than she'd originally thought. Perhaps Rodney had been wrong, after all.

"Well, we've already tried antacids, but unfortunately they didn't seem to help. Gentle exercise and eating light meals more frequently should help reduce the heartburn."

"And her breathlessness?"

"Her bloods have confirmed that she's anemic, which means that she has fewer red blood cells, so her body has to work harder to provide enough oxygen for not just her but the babies, too. I've given her a liquid iron supplement, so hopefully that should improve now."

"You said gentle exercise. What would you recommend?"

"Gentle being the key word here. She still needs plenty of rest, but she can continue to practice her yoga, take light walks, and perhaps even start swimming again when she feels strong enough."

"Swimming?"

"Sure. You do know that there's a pool here, right?"

"It was on the twenty cent tour." The smile was transitory as his frown returned. He looked completely shattered.

"Are you okay?"

He reached for his pen, but made no move to use it. "Never better."

Sarcasm. It made a change to the usual response he gave her. "Are you managing to get any sleep?"

Silence.

She was used to evasive techniques. She adopteda more forceful tone. "David?"

A slight pause. "Some."

Finally, progress. "Did you try the sleeping tablets I gave you?"

He grimaced. "They didn't work."

"How many did you take?"

"Six."

"Six?" Her eyes widened. She'd prescribed him two. Six would've tranquilized an elephant.

He looked rather embarrassed. "Apparently my … constitution seems to neutralize the effect of the drugs."

"Oh." She hadn't even considered that might've been a problem. "I'll update your records and let Doctor Beckett know about this. He may want to take another blood sample and run some tests."

"Whatever you need, just let me know." He re-opened the laptop, which suggested the end of their meeting.

She stood up. "Thanks again, David."

He looked up at her. "For what?"

She smiled."For caring."

Something briefly flickered across his countenance, and then was gone. "I'm the one who should be thanking you. The hours you've been putting in lately …"

"We all have, David. Besides, it's my job."

A small exhale through his nose. "Nevertheless, you still have my thanks, Doctor."

"You're welcome. And it's Jennifer."

A ghost of a smile. "Thanks. Jennifer."

She turned around at the doorway. "You know I hear that meditation works for some. You might wanna try it."

He sank back against his chair. "I have. I usually find exercise works best."

"Yes, well, I'd be the first to advocate exercise, but you also have to feed the body."

"Protein. I know."

Though she'd been angling towards him actually eating in the first place, once again he'd surprised her. "Yes."

He struggled to contain a smile. "Spent most of my youth in strict training for some competition or another. It became a way of life in the end."

"It shows." Her cheeks rushed with heat. "Sorry. That so didn't come out right."

He finally released a genuine smile. "I'm fine, Jennifer. Honestly."

She knew that his statement wasn't entirely true, but at least he'd opened up a little. Plus, he'd finally started to use her first name.

Small steps were still steps.


Daniel smiled at Amelia as he headed past her console towards David's office. With back to back missions and the hours of research he'd been putting in, Daniel hadn't had much chance to properly catch up with him. David had been somewhat of a closed book ever since the episode with the window, so Daniel wasn't exactly expecting a heart to heart with him. He also knew for a fact that David had yet to take Vala up on her offer of friendship, but everyone needed coffee at some point, right?

It looked like Mitchell had beaten him to it.

Although there was something about the way his teammate was standing before David that made Daniel think that this wasn't a social visit.

Looking like the utilities magnate that he was, David sat with hands linked together on the table. His posture was almost regimentally stiff and his demeanor was as commanding as any General.

He also looked like he'd pulled yet another all-nighter.

"I take it you heard about Lieutenants Edison and Miller?" David asked, his tone clipped.

"Of course," Mitchell replied rather defensively.

"That's two Jumper pilots out of action."

"David," Mitchell said warningly. "We've discussed this."

"I understand your need for caution, I do, but I've flown a Jumper before."

"Once. For like five minutes."

"Maybe so, but I am a qualified pilot, and—"

"To fly business jets, David. Not Ancient spacecraft."

"Do the math, Colonel. A reduction inworking hours, plus the injured personnel, equals less boots out in the field."

"And the answer's still no."

Daniel inwardly sighed. He'd been wondering how much longer it would be before the gruelling hours would stop, which meant that David would expect to play a more prominent role in the search. Unfortunately, he knew Mitchell's view on that issue only too well.

Daniel forced an upbeat grin as he leaned against the doorway. "Hey, guys. Anyone for coffee?"

The two men continued to regard each other in a silent battle of wills.

"What's the worst that could happen?" For a moment, David sounded just like John.

Mitchell folded his arms. "Oh, I dunno. You get abducted, experimented on …"

David let out a derisive snort as he leaned back in his chair. "Been there, done that."

"Which is exactly why—"

"Need I remind you that so far, not one mission has encountered any resistance, nor any indigenous life for that matter."

Mitchell raised a finger. "Yet."

"Colonel …"

"Until we bring Sheppard home, it's my responsibility to ensure the safety of this base and everyone on it, and that includes you."

"I don't need your protection." There was slight condescension to David's measured tone.

Mitchell regarded him calculatingly. "If Sheppard were here, what do you think he'd want you to do?"

"In case you've forgotten, Colonel, John was the one who reached out to me." David's tone had hardened.

"But since then he hasn't, has he?"

Silence.

David's expression darkened as his eyes flicked to Daniel's for a second, his mouth a tight line. He looked away. "I need to be out there, Colonel."

Mitchell winced and softened his voice. "When the time is right, yes. But now is not the time."

David slowly lifted his head. "Then when?"

Mitchell didn't relent. "The threat is still out there."

"You think I don't know that?" David's retort was sharp, like the crack of a whip.

Daniel felt the all too familiar electrical charge beginning to build in the room.

Mitchell took a deep breath. "You're not field ready."

David abruptly spread his arms wide with palms up. "So make me field ready."

"It takes months of hard training, and we just don't have that kind of time to—"

"And neither does my brother," David interjected harshly over Mitchell's words.

Mitchell winced. "I'm sorry, David, but I just can't put your life in danger."

"It's my life, my choice to make."

"No."

The static charge grew heavier, and David inhaled deeply as his eyes drifted closed.

Mitchell slid his gaze over to Daniel as David slowly exhaled and the pressure in the room began to dissipate.

David's eyes opened deliberately and then rose to his feet. He paused as he drew level with Mitchell. "We'll talk about this again, Colonel. And when we do, I want you to keep something in mind."

"What's that?"

"Persistence beats resistance. Every. Single. Time."

Mitchell's entire demeanor instantly deflated the second David had left the room. "Hot damn."

"What?"

"For a second there, I thought he was gonna do his thing."

"His thing?"

"You know." He waggled his fingers towards his head.

"Actually, I was more worried about your pants suddenly catching on fire," Daniel quipped. The humor quickly dissipated, however, sobered by Mitchell's insinuation: David's abilities to influence the mind. "You really thought he'd do that?"

"Didn't you?"

Daniel quirked an eyebrow. "He hasn't yet."

"Yeah, and why hasn't he?"

"He obviously respects your position, Mitchell, not to mention your judgment."

Mitchell pulled a face of surprised acknowledgement. "I guess so."

"Though he's only gonna sit on the sidelines for so long."

Mitchell's expression hardened. "I won't endanger his life."

Daniel perched on the edge of the desk with a sigh. "But you can't keep him here indefinitely either."

"I know. But until we have something—anything—to go on, I will not take that risk."

"And when that time comes?" Daniel folded his arms. "C'mon, Mitchell. We should be field training him now."

"Yeah. And if there were more hours in the day."

"Then, adjust the rotas."

"I'm going to. It's why this whole discussion started in the first place." Mitchell huffed and sank into a chair. "I was kinda hoping that his Jedi training would've come up with something by now."

Daniel's smirk was fleeting. "Yeah."

Mitchell regarded him uneasily. "It's been weeks, Daniel."

Daniel winced, trying not to let his imagination run riot as to the reasons why David had not heard from John.

"Maybe he just needs to be … I don't know. Out there."

His teammate snorted. "Compelling argument."

"Or not," Daniel conceded graciously. "But at this point, what have we got to lose?"

Mitchell gave an exasperated sigh, his expression pained. "He's all we got, Daniel. And if there's the slightest chance that the Vanir might decide that two Sheppards are better than one …"

Mitchell slipped into silence, and Daniel inwardly shuddered. "If we don't get a break soon, he may be the only chance that John Sheppard has."


Major Anne Teldy grabbed her water bottle from the holder as she maintained her relentless pace on the exercise bike. Her teammates, Anna Dean and Alison Porter were on the treadmills to her right, their strides synchronized as they listened to whatever music they were plugged into. Dusty Mehra was due to finish up her rehab session soon, and they'd arranged to meet her here afterwards.

Her team continued to go off-world, yet Mehra was never far from her thoughts. Teldy knew that it was hard for her to sit on the sidelines. Despite knowing that her injury had been serious, she was a woman of action, not to mention loyalty. Her wound was a constant reminder that, if it hadn't been for the quick thinking of Colonel Sheppard, she wouldn't be alive today. He'd had her six, but—in her mind—she hadn't had his, and it was tearing her apart.

Though that sentiment was shared by all, none felt it more than the man that was currently taking out some of his frustrations on a nearby punching bag.

Dressed in simple yet noticeably designer workout gear, David Sheppard had been at it for almost half an hour.

She'd been off-world at the time, but word of his breaking a window with his mind had spread through the city like wildfire, so she'd kept a weather eye on him, watching for the slightest sign that he'd once again lose control. But rather than punching a hole through the bag like Superman, his gloves continued to beat the leather into submission like any normal guy. The only signs of his inner turmoil was the odd grimace across his intensely focused expression as his fist delivered yet another precisely executed punch, which made the chain rattle and strain against the solid metal fixture in the ceiling.

If anything, his punches were beginning to slow, easing back from the ferocity that he'd displayed the moment he'd arrived.

Teldy glanced down at the display. Five more minutes and then her workout was done. Mehra should be out by then.

Sudden movement in her peripheral vision pulled her attention back. David had finished pummelling the punch bag and was pulling off his gloves as he wandered over to his bag that lay on the bench across the far side of the room. His sweat drenched t-shirt molded to his back like a second skin. Hardly surprising, given the intensity that he'd been displaying up until now.

He dropped the gloves into his bag, swept up his water bottle, and took a brief swig before he started to remove the wraps from around his hands.

"Goddamn motherf—"

"Mehra." Teldy inwardly winced at the weakened appearance of her teammate. She grabbed her water bottle and got off the bike. "Good session?"

Mehra glared at her as she held a hand over her wound site, her face pale. "What do you think?"

"What did Doctor McBride make you do this time?"

"It's what he didn't want me to do. He's such an a-hole. I told him that I could do it, and I would've done if he'd just—" Her breath suddenly hissed and she folded forward.

It was a sure sign of her level of pain that Mehra didn't resist as Teldy's firm hand steered her towards the nearest bench.

"Sergeant?" David wiped the back of his neck with his sweat towel as he made his way towards them.

Unsurprisingly, Mehra tried to straighten up and her smile became a grimace. "Hey, Mr Sheppard. How you doin'?"

"You really should listen to the Doctor, you know."

"Yeah. Sure." Her tone was dismissive, bordering on disrespectful as she glared at the floor.

David regarded her contemplatively, then squatted down in front of her, balancing on the balls of his feet. Mehra looked up, her gaze instantly captured by his steel blue eyes.

"You were badly wounded."

"I've had worse." Her chin lifted proudly.

"You must allow your body time to heal."

Her expression had lost a little of the anger but none of the resentment. "I ain't got time. I need to be out there."

A glimmer of something flashed across his countenance. "I know, and I need you out there too. But your health matters more. Don't let your impatience disregard reason."

Her silence, although unusual, was predictable. Whether he was using his powers or not, David Sheppard was an incredibly charismatic guy.

"Have faith, Sergeant. Small steps are still steps."

Mehra slowly nodded her compliance, and she carefully leaned her head back against the wall.

David stood up and glanced at Teldy.

She tipped her head in silent gratitude, which earned her a lopsided smile. "Major."

"Mr Sheppard."

"Were you about to use the mats?"

"No, we're done." Teldy still had to squash down the automatic response of adding 'sir' at the end. He wasn't military, but he carried an air of authority, nonetheless.

David headed back over to his belongings.

"Hey, Dusty." Dean rushed over, Porter following close behind. "How long you been here?"

"Not long." Mehra was noticeably more subdued.

Dean and Porter shared a concerned glance before turning towards Teldy for elaboration. She shook her head. Going back over it would only rile their teammate up again.

"We didn't realize David Sheppard was here again," Porter said, glancing over to where he stood.

Teldy raised an eyebrow. "Volume set too loud?"

Dean looked a little sheepish. "That and the treadmills are facing the wrong way."

David's presence in the gym had become more frequent lately. Which was kinda nice. It felt like he was one of them and not some stiff suit who just sat in his office. Richard Woolsey notwithstanding, of course. David was a slick combination of Suit and sports fanatic.

"Six o' clock," Dean murmured, and Teldy looked around.

David had removed his shoes and socks. His bare feet padded softly across the mat. He headed for the center, rotating and stretching his shoulders. Then, he took a slow deep breath and went utterly still.

Sharing the gym while working out was one thing. Watching him like some kinda groupie was quite another, and Teldy wondered if they should leave him to it. But then, if the guy wanted privacy, he wouldn't have come down to the gym. If his charismatic TV interview was anything to go by, he certainly wasn't fazed by having an audience.

She'd seen that he was pretty capable in Aspen, but she was curious to see just what other kind of moves he had.

It took no more than five seconds for Teldy to recognize the moves. Tai Chi Ch'uan, and the meaning of the words weren't lost on her.

Tai Chi. It meant the source, the beginning.

Ch'uan meant fist.

Judging by the way David was performing the kata, he'd practiced this particular form for years. Every movement was smooth and graceful, the actions dynamic and powerful. His regulated breathing controlled and deep. Movement in stillness, stillness in movement.

As she continued to watch, Teldy felt her heart rate steady. Her tight muscles relaxed and her overall tension eased. She couldn't decide whether David was using his powers or if it was just the hypnotic moves that were having this effect on her, but one look at her teammates—who looked just as chilled out as she was—she didn't really care.

Teldy felt a wash of disappointment as David finished the kata. But then the disappointment slowly morphed into something more.

She could sense it in the air, feel in her gut.

David's eyes were now closed. His chest rose as his breathing deepened.

Then ever so slowly, he extended his right hand.

Something came hurtling through the air, straight into his upturned palm.

David's eyes were wide with astonishment and a small smile emerged. It turned into a delighted grin as he stared at the slim white object in his hand.

Her team gasped beside her, and Teldy felt her own mouth drop open. Not only had David very publically displayed one of his powers—a fact that seemed to have surprised even David—but the object also looked shockingly familiar.

David inhaled sharply then flicked his wrist, and the unmistakable shining metal began to extend.

"Whoa," Porter murmured.

"Holy cow," breathed Mehra. "Isn't that the Colonel's sword?"

"It … can't be." Teldy whispered. The Colonel had been using it moments before he'd been taken. The image of her CO wielding his almost magical sword against the Vanir was probably going to stay with her until the day she died.

David's own expression was a mixture of awe and wonder as he regarded the sword as though he was seeing it for the first time.

Even though they were standing several feet away, Teldy had never seen the weapon this close before. It had no pommel on the end or crossguard at the hilt. The grip was only evident by the thickening of the titanium looking metal. Strange yet elegant markings ran down the center, which tapered to the sharpest tip. It was simply beautiful.

David brought the sword up vertically as if in some kind of salute, then stepped back in a deep stance. Light glinted off the slim blade as it sliced through the air to rest down by his side. His eyes were once again closed, his expression serene. It reminded her of the Colonel whenever he sat in the Control Chair.

He then began a series of moves. It looked to be some kind of sword kata, but it wasn't one that Teldy was familiar with. Maybe it was something that Brother Benedict had been teaching him.

Advance one step, withdraw one step. Chop once, cut once. Hand and sword in conjunction. Coil and spin, rise and fall, his body followed the movements of the sword. Lithe and graceful, surprising and subtle; body and sword were as one.

It was utterly cathartic to watch.

The kata seemed to come to an end as David brought the sword back up to the vertical position.

The silence felt heavy, the atmosphere tinged with a poignancy that grew stronger as David gently rested the blade against his forehead that had deepened to a frown. The serenity of his expression started to fade.

Suddenly, the sword was in motion once again. His shoulders rolled easily through each rotation as he spun the blade in a continuous figure eight, and the air seemed to vibrate with every turn. As the momentum increased, the pressure in the air grew heavier and the blade began to blur into a white light. The harmonics began to change. It had started to sing.

It wasn't the same soulful sound that Teldy remembered the Colonel's sword had made. It seemed broken,disjointed. Less of a melody and more like an instrument being yet thealmost spiritual purity of its tone was still there.

It had to be the Colonel's sword. But how did David come to have it?

And then everything stopped.

David carefully lowered the tip of the blade towards the floor as he turned away. He took a small step towards his belongings but paused.

"Oxygen."

It was barely a whisper, but the unexpected clarity of the word sent shivers down Teldy's spine.

He tilted his head up as he inhaled deeply. "Hydrogen."

Teldy frowned.

Another step, another deep breath in. "Chloride."

Wasn't chloride something to do with chlorine? Chlorine was a seriously toxic gas. Teldy cautiously sniffed the air. She couldn't smell anything. She glanced at Mehra, who looked as perplexed as she was.

"Sodium."

Sodium was a type of metal, which didn't even have a smell. What was David talking about?

"Magnesium."

Her heart abruptly stumbled. After so many weeks, was David finally having a vision?

"Oh boy," Porter uttered on a breath.

"What?" Teldy demanded quietly.

"I might be wrong, but …"

"What!" she whispered sharply.

Porter's eyes were wide. "It's the composition of sea water."

"Lost … in liquid."

Her gaze shot back to David. His trance-like utterance sent ice cold dread straight through her.

The Colonel was … under water?

Agonizing silence stretched.

Then David made a very small strangled sound as he hunched forward.

All she could see was his back, but it looked as though he was cradling his stomach.

"Mr Sheppard?" Teldy took a small step towards him.

"I'm … fine."

The quiver in his voice did little to reassure her. "You sure?"

David started to turn around. "It's time."

For a moment, Teldy was completely struck dumb at the dramatic change in his appearance. Dark circles around his downcast eyes were a stark contrast against the sheen of his deathly pale skin.

"Time … for what?" Teldy found her voice but almost dreaded the answer.

David grunted as he winced, tightening his hold about his waist as though he were holding himself together.

"Mr Sheppard?" She took another small step and his gaze snapped up.

She gasped as incredible sapphire blue eyes stared back at her. "Daddy's coming."

Teldy had no words.

He groaned and exhaled slowly through gritted teeth.

Vision or not, David was clearly suffering. It was time to call for some backup. She reached up to ear and silently cursed. Her comm was in her locker. "Anyone got their comms?"

Mehra grimaced, Porter shook her head, and Dean started to fumble through the pockets of her pants.

"Crap." David ground out the word on a trembling breath, and the sword suddenly clattered to the ground. He folded over, both arms clutching at his stomach.

Teldy rushed to his side and started to reach out, but the piercing blue eyes swung back towards her, stopping her dead in her tracks.

Time seemed to stand still as she stood transfixed, watching as the sapphire blue slowly began to transform.

Distorting from the outer edges, an opaque shadow bled over the surface of his eyes like an oil slick, sliding across the ocean of blue, devouring the light with its dark until nothing but the lifeless pools of ebony remained.

She'd only heard about what had happened in the jumper back in Aspen, but Lorne's simple yet graphic description had rocked her to the core. Cold, lifeless. Like a shark. It hadn't been long after that, that the Colonel had … died.

David suddenly rasped loudly as though he couldn't breathe, seemingly breaking her inability to move.

Teldy bolted forward just as David's legs buckled beneath him.

Then everything went to hell.


Footnotes:

And so the cliff hangers begin …

David's musical journey was originally a lot longer, but I felt the need to cut it short.

Tai Chi Ch'uan. Carefully researched, though its actual meaning seems somewhat varied in interpretation, so please overlook any discrepancies. It's leaning towards self-defence rather than John's natural preference towards combat, not to mention the very logical link to energy, felt the most appropriate form for David. And a very interesting insight to the Jedi in Star Wars. But that, as they say, is another story.

Additional Intel:

The following are all genuine characters from the series and are still very much alive:

Doctor Lindsay: seen in SG-1 Avalon Part 1, then SGA - Coup D'etat.

Lieutenant Edison: SGA - Search and Rescue.

Lieutenant Kagan: SGA - Phantoms.

Major Eliot Rutherford: SGA - Sateda

Major Dorsey: SGA - Tabula Rasa.

Doctor Donaldson: SGA - Grace under Pressure

Doctor McBride: SGA – Adrift, Identity and The Legacy of Janus