A/N – takes place post season 5 and Atlantis is back in the Pegasus Galaxy. My second Sentient Atlantis storyline. I do not own any of the Star Gate characters…more's the pity.


Chapter 1

Richard Woolsey stood on the floor of the gate room, his hands clasped behind his back and a benign look pasted on his face while inwardly he seethed with irritation. The IOA had, in their infinite wisdom, decided that all new employees should experience space travel using the very tools they oversaw. They would start out by gating from Cheyenne Mountain to a planet at the edge of the Milky Way where one of their ships waited, usually the Daedalus. They would then fly to Atlantis aboard her, where they would spend a few days visiting the city before gating back to Earth. He'd just received word that the Daedalus had reached orbit and the newest IOA underling would be beamed down shortly. This would make the third one in less than six months and he really had better things to do with his time. Why the hell were they hiring so many new people anyway? Apparently this one was coming over from Homeland Security and he was uneasy about that fact.

He heard Chuck call down, his unspoken opinion about the upcoming visit evident in his voice. "Colonel Caldwell is reporting they are beaming the IOA representative down now sir."

"Thank you Chuck."

The telltale shimmer of someone beaming in caught his eye and he straightened a little more. The very pretty woman who appeared in front of him made some of his irritation disappear. She appeared to be late thirties, early forties with light brown hair and beautiful brown eyes. He moved forward and extended his hand. "Ms. Kingston? I'm Richard Woolsey, Director of the Atlantis Expedition. Welcome to our city."

She smiled and took his hand. "It's nice to meet you Mr. Woolsey." She'd been given reports on all the personnel on Atlantis but had elected not to read them. She wanted to form her own opinions on the people who ran this expedition, without any of the bias that the reports could generate. She took a look around her and an expression Woolsey was all too familiar with passed over her face as he found himself ridiculously proud that Atlantis always brought a look of awe to the face of anyone new to her. "What an amazing place!"

"It certainly is and you've only seen the gate room. Atlantis has many more wonders to share with you. Would you prefer to go to the guest quarters first or take a tour?" He always made sure to refer to the rooms set aside for the IOA as the guest quarters. The first IOA underling to beam down had decided after his first day here, that he was there to stay and should take over running the city. Colonel Sheppard had asked Todd to stop by and the underling, whose name Woolsey had conveniently forgotten, had fled back to Earth at the first opportunity. He found himself hoping the lovely woman in front of him would stay a bit longer. She opened her mouth to reply when Chuck called out as the gate began to dial in, the chevrons locking in sequence.

"Unscheduled off world activation, shield raised." He paused as he anxiously waited. "It's Dr. McKay's IDC sir and he's reporting a medical emergency." The whoosh of the gate engaging startled the woman at his side, even though she'd seen it happen in Colorado.

Woolsey sighed as he felt his stomach tighten with anxiety, SGA-1 was always getting into trouble; it seemed like they attracted it like flowers attracted bees. They'd been off world to M2K-374 firming up an already agreed upon trade arrangement. There should have been no danger there. "Lower the shield and inform Dr. Keller."

"She and her team are already on their way sir." Chuck touched the necessary keys to lower the shield. The first person through was Rodney, followed by Teyla who was supporting another woman who was limping badly. They were filthy, covered in what looked like dirt and dust. Woolsey's anxiety went down a notch, thinking that this was the medical situation that needed attending. That was until Ronon exited the gate, a very bloody and obviously unconscious Sheppard in his arms, his head buried in the Satedan's chest. His anxiety ratcheted up as he saw the very large piece of glass sticking out of his military commander's side, the blood dripping through the field bandage that surrounded it onto the floor in an unnervingly constant drip. Jennifer Keller and her team arrived with a gurney and as they rushed forward, Ronon gently placed his burden on the waiting bed, the nurses moving in to immediately start I.V. lines. He heard a gasp beside him and hoped Ms. Kingston wasn't going to faint on him. He was most unprepared when he heard her ask softly. "John?"

He turned and looked at her, frowning, but she didn't notice, her full attention on the drama taking place in front of her, her face pale and mouth slightly open. "I'm sorry, do you know Colonel Sheppard?"

She tore her eyes away from the man she thought she'd never see again, to stare at Woolsey who was obviously waiting for an answer. Shaking off her stupor she replied. "Yes, he's my husband, er, ex-husband." Woolsey could only stare at her in shock.

He could hear the beeping of the machines the medical team had already attached to the military commander behind him. He put aside his questions and immediately turned back towards the activity around the Colonel when he heard Dr. Keller's worried voice as the heart monitor droned out the hated sound indicating no heartbeat. "He's flatlining, I can't find a pulse! Marie, charge up the defibrillator." She stepped up onto the lower bars of the gurney to reach him and began CPR while the head nurse did as she asked. Another nurse placed an ambu bag over his face and began to squeeze the bag every few seconds, efficiently timing it with Keller's compressions.

When Marie indicated that the defibrillator was ready, Jennifer stopped her efforts as she took the paddles and the nurse arming the bag pulled it off his face and stepped back. "Clear!" Jennifer yelled as she applied them to the man's chest and side. His body arched off the bed and Jennifer watched the heart monitor level back out to flatline. "Nothing! Charge to 300, I'll keep up compressions." She began again until the machine indicated it was ready and she applied it, then watched the monitor in apprehension, heart dropping as it showed no change. "Ok, 360." She began CPR once again and winced when she felt a rib break under her hands. After hitting him with the highest charge and seeing no change, her shoulders slumped. "No change, he's gone."

Nancy gasped as her eyes filled with tears and she heard a similar sound behind her. She turned and was surprised to see that the room was significantly more crowded than it had been when she'd first arrived. She turned to look back to the scene surrounding John, still unable to comprehend what she'd seen and met Mr. Woolsey's eyes. He too, had turned around at the sound. Quietly he said. "Colonel Sheppard is very well respected and liked here on Atlantis. He has a…tendency…to get into trouble and word somehow always leaks out. People appear out of nowhere to give their support, either here or at the infirmary." He put a hand on her shoulder when her chin quivered, not really knowing what to do but pretty sure a 'there, there' would not be useful, besides, he was feeling in need of some comfort himself. He'd come to enjoy working with Sheppard and the idea of anyone else taking his place was disheartening, to say the least. When they heard Jennifer indicate time of death, all the lights in Atlantis flickered and went out, emergency lights kicking in.

"Chuck?" He called out.

"I can't see anything wrong Mr. Woolsey." Chuck's voice was suspiciously husky.

Behind them, they heard Teyla say, her voice full of pain. "It is Atlantis. She is mourning John." Tears were streaming down her face as she said it. They'd just finally found each other after the incident with Kanaan and had started exploring a life together. It just wasn't fair that it was ending so quickly after so much wasted time. Behind her another voice boomed out.

"No! No, you can't stop now! The time Carson had to start his heart after the Iratus bug, it took four tries, not including the one Ford tried in the jumper!" McKay begged. He looked at Jennifer. "Jenn? Please?"

"He's right. Sheppard's strong, you need to try again!" Ronon seconded McKay. Nancy looked at him more closely and recognized the man she'd met at John's father's funeral. He looked a little different now, covered in dirt and blood, but she recognized that voice and the dreadlocks. She turned her attention back to the doctor who was again applying the paddles to John's chest and side.

"Clear." She hit him again, with the same results.

"Charge it again!" McKay yelled. He couldn't believe he was in danger of losing one of his best friends again, not so soon. Jennifer sighed and nodded to Marie who nodded back, wiping away her own tears with the back of her hand. She waited until it was ready and applied the paddles yet again, still with no results.

She stopped and looked at the team and focused on Rodney. "Rodney, I'm sorry, he's gone. There's nothing more we can do."

"One more time, please just one more time! I won't ask again." He pleaded. Jennifer didn't want to give in but she couldn't resist the heartbroken look on his face and swallowed hard. It wasn't like she didn't want to bring him back, John was her friend as well and she cared for him deeply. Plus, she knew he was good for Rodney. She dreaded how her boyfriend would react to losing another of his best friends, even though Carson had come back to them…in a way. She knew everyone was waiting for her to pull off a miracle but he'd lost too much blood and nothing was going to help if she couldn't get his heart started again.

She wished Carson were here, but he was off world helping a community stricken with the Hoffan drug. Even though Michael was dead, pockets of infected people kept cropping up. She decided to try again and would hold Rodney to his promise. Marie charged it while she once again continued CPR. She watched his body arch again and was stunned when the monitor registered several beats before flattening out again. She felt a glimmer of hope and turned to Marie who was already charging again, a determined look on her face. She was pretty sure her head nurse was just as in love with Sheppard as pretty much every other woman on the base seemed to be.

"Clear!" She called out again, sending a prayer up to every god in the Milky Way and Pegasus Galaxies. She placed the paddles and hit him one last time. Weak heartbeats registered once again, this time gaining strength as the seconds ticked by. When they didn't stop, she said. "He's back! Let's go! I need to get him into surgery now!" The lights came back on all over Atlantis at her words, startling many, but bringing a strained smile to those in the gate room as they registered the city's devotion to the Colonel. Marie was way ahead of her and was already leading the gurney away. The remaining nurse turned to the rest of the team, stopping them as they made to follow and gave each one the once over, focusing on the woman who was still being held up by Teyla.

"Teyla, are you both okay?" Caro asked.

Teyla tore her eyes away from the vanishing gurney holding the love of her life and focused on the question. "What? Oh, yes, I am fine but Maylara needs to be looked at, she injured her leg. I believe it to be broken." Caro headed towards her only to find the woman backing away, pulling Teyla with her.

"No! No, I want to go with John!" She said loudly with a determined look on her face.

Teyla turned to her. "Maylara, you will. John is on his way to the infirmary and that is where we need to go as well. Please, let Caro take a look at your leg."

The woman searched her eyes and then turned to the hall down which everyone had disappeared and finally gave a short nod. Caro bent over and examined her left leg. She nodded once and stood up. "It looks like a clean break, we'll need to get a wheelchair up here and get her down to the infirmary." She tapped her comms and ordered one to be brought to the gate room. She then turned a critical eye to the rest, coming to rest on Ronon. "Ronon? Are you hurt?"

Ronon pulled his eyes away from the same hall Maylara had been staring at, torn between following his friend and staying to make sure the rest of his team was okay, and looked down at himself. "I'm fine. It's all Sheppard's."

"Very well, but you all need your post mission physicals. You look like something the cat dragged in." Her small attempt at levity crashed and burned. She turned as the wheelchair appeared. Maylara was settled into it and they began their trek to the infirmary.

Ronon merely nodded and started down the same hallway, following impatiently behind the wheelchair, Teyla and McKay at his side. "I'd like a report on what happened please." Richard said as he followed along in the team's wake, the ex-Mrs. Sheppard glued to his side.

"There was an earthquake and the building we were in collapsed." Ronon replied.

"Strallosquake." McKay corrected absentmindedly.

Ronon looked at him. "What?"

"You said Earthquake. We weren't on Earth, we were on Strallos. Therefore, it was a Strallosquake."

"This is why Sheppard doesn't let you name things!"

"What? He does too!"

"No, he doesn't."



"Does too!"

"Gentlemen!" Woolsey broke in, he wanted to be irritated but knew that the bickering between the two team mates was the way they dealt with their fear and worry. Nancy had been watching the back and forth with interest, wondering what the story was there, trying to force down her worry for the man she'd never stopped loving, even if they couldn't make a go of it as a couple. Woolsey opened his mouth to get the men back on track when Maylara spoke.

"Why did he do it?" She sounded bewildered.

Woolsey turned to her. "Why did he do what?"

"Go back into the crumbling building. He was out safely yet he went back in."

Ronon answered. "It's what he does." His voice was full of pride, masking the worry that Sheppard doing what he did, was going to result in him losing the best commander he'd ever had. A man he was proud to also call friend. The man who had saved him from a life of running from the Wraith and had given him a home and a purpose.

"Explain." Woolsey said.

"Sheppard was the last one out, making sure everyone else was out safely. He yelled at me that he'd heard something and headed back in. The entire building collapsed on him before he could get out again." Ronon supplied.

"Do you know why he went back in? What he heard?"

Maylara answered. "He heard my five year old niece crying. She was not even supposed to be there! She snuck in before the treaty signing started, hiding under the table. She fell asleep there and woke up when the ground began to tremble. She was afraid she was in trouble and stayed quiet until the building began to fall down. John heard her crying for me and that is why he went back in. She was no one to him, why would he risk his life for hers?"

"John would never leave anyone behind, especially not a child. Not if he thought there was anything he could do." Teyla said, her voice soft and her love for him was evident. Nancy looked at her and frowned. The woman was exotically beautiful and obviously a big part of the life John now led. She felt jealousy rear its ugly head and pushed it down, something to be pondered later when, or if, he survived.

"And the child?" Woolsey asked.

"She is safe, only some scratches and bruises. John saved her life. She would surely be dead if not for him. She is all that is left of my family. My mate, sister and her mate were all culled several years ago. She came to live with me after that. We were not blessed with children and I love her as I would any child of my own. She is the main reason I was so eager to sign the treaty with Atlantis. I hoped that it would give her a better chance to live a long and happy life. I never expected that to be the truth the second the treaty was signed. John, and Atlantis, will have our unswerving loyalty from this day forward. I vow this to you, as leader of my people."

Teyla put her hand on Maylara's shoulder and squeezed. The woman placed her own hand over Teyla's and looked up from the wheelchair. "I am so sorry Teyla but, I cannot wish that things had turned out differently. I love that child more than life itself. Can you understand? As one mother to another?" Nancy's head shot up at that. Teyla had a child? Was it John's? Had he moved on that far? Yes, she'd remarried, a marriage that had broken down for the same reasons hers and John's had. Secrets held, destinations confidential, only this time it was her holding back. She'd wondered to herself after the second divorce, if maybe her new found understanding of what he'd gone through, having to keep things from her, not because he wanted to but because he had to, could lead to them reconciling and trying a second time. That was if she could only find him. It would now appear that she had, but that she was too late and felt a great loneliness sweep over her.

Teyla nodded her understanding, not able to trust her voice. If John didn't survive, how would she explain to Torren where the man he had started to look on as a father had gone? She swallowed her tears, she would not give up. John would survive and she would stand at his side for whatever life the Ancestors found fit to bless them with.

"What happened after the building collapsed?" Woolsey asked, fascinated despite the dire circumstances currently surrounding Sheppard.

"Once the…quake…stopped, we were able to start digging through the rubble. It took almost two hours to get to him. Maylara was a great help until a piece of debris shifted, knocking her down and breaking her leg. The Strallosians worked just as tirelessly to find John as we did." Teyla responded, having found her voice and refusing to call it either an Earth or Strallosquake and start the whole bickering again.

"And?" Woolsey prompted.

"We found the two of them near the center of the main room. It looked like he was able to get to her and was on his way out when he realized it was too late. When we found them, the child was under his body, protected from the worst of the collapse. I was able to pinpoint his sub-q transmitter so that we were able to determine where he was instead of digging randomly. He somehow managed to curl around her so that she wasn't crushed by his body, but it meant he took the brunt of the falling debris. He only regained consciousness long enough to ask after the child and the rest of us. He's been out of it since." McKay answered, his voice shaky as he thought about what his friend had gone through.

"The child was not badly hurt, only scared with some minor injuries. She told us what had happened, how she had come to be there and how the pretty dark man came to save her." Teyla picked up the thread of the story.

Ronon snorted and Rodney just sighed. "Doesn't matter how old they are." He muttered under his breath.

They reached the infirmary and scattered. Teyla went with Maylara, worried about leaving her with strangers, but desperately wanting to join the rest of her team to wait for news about John. She craved their strength and support. Once the Strallosian leader assured her she was fine and Caro had seconded it, she wished her well and hurried to find Ronon and Rodney. She skidded to a halt when she realized they were not alone. The area that had been designated as the waiting room was full of people. She saw Lorne talking with Ronon and headed their way, or least tried to as she was stopped every few feet by people asking if she'd heard anything or to give her their sympathy. It was not exactly a secret that the two of them were together now. In fact, the major sentiment of most of the Atlantis personnel was that it was about time, something that had surprised both her and John. A reaction that had sent both Ronon and Rodney into gales of laughter.

She finally reached the men in time to hear Ronon say. "Yeah, I met her at his dad's funeral. Seemed nice enough. She used her role at something called Homeland Security to get us information that helped us stop the replicator."

"She's a looker, surprised he let her go." Lorne replied. Ronon said nothing as he caught sight of Teyla standing behind Lorne with her arms crossed and her left eyebrow raised. Lorne noticed that the Satedan wasn't looking at him anymore and swallowed hard. "Teyla's behind me, isn't she?"


Lorne turned and attempted a smile at which she just tilted her head. "Would you care to explain who you are talking about?" She asked.

"Sheppard's ex-wife is here on Atlantis." Ronon said baldly.

"And you met her before?"

"Ah, yeah,"

"And you never felt the need to tell me about this?"

"Ah, no."

"Would you care to introduce me?" Lorne took a step back at the tone of her voice and quietly distanced himself from the two friends.

"Ah, no."


"Fine, come on then." He turned and led the way to where Woolsey was talking with Nancy. The two stopped their conversation as they watched the big man, with the diminutive woman at his side, approach.

Before he could say anything, Nancy reached out a hand and said. "Ronon Dex, correct? We met at Patrick's funeral."

He shook her hand and then gestured to Teyla. "This is Teyla Emmagen. She's another member of Sheppard's team and a close…friend."

Nancy didn't miss the hesitation before the word friend and found her jealousy on the rise again. She turned to the woman and looked her up and down, knowing exactly how it would come across but seemingly unable to help herself. Instead of stiffening like most woman would under such scrutiny, the other woman seemed to relax instead, smiling and holding out her hand. "It is nice to finally meet you. John has…spoken of you." Teyla had learned early on how to deal with people such as John's ex. She knew that John would not approve of the way his ex-wife was behaving towards her and it only served to lessen her concern about the fact that this woman was on Atlantis. However, she wasn't above giving as good as she got and deliberately paused before saying 'spoken', knowing the other woman would wonder what she had been about to say instead.

"Really? All good I hope?"

"I am sure." Teyla's answer left Nancy wondering if she meant she was sure it was all good or she was sure that Nancy hoped it was. Nancy found herself admiring the woman, even though her jealousy went up a notch. This was a not woman to be underestimated, but Nancy Compton Sheppard Kingston had been playing with the big boys for a long time now and knew how to get what she wanted and she'd just decided she wanted John back.