"I admire you."
John tapped his fingertips along the floor. The rhythm echoed and he didn't look up. "Well, that's nice."
He could feel her smile, deceptively sweet. "You're an extremely dangerous enemy."
He let his head fall back against the wall, the contact was jarring but he didn't wince. His fingers stilled and the silence became a presence of its own, so stifling that though he hadn't intended to he spoke. "I'd have made a better ally."
"I've never doubted that," she said, and her voice seemed sad. He couldn't really blame her. He'd be sad too—he was. "May I ask you something?" He hadn't come to talk, but she sounded so solemn that he decided he owed her that.
"Why not," he said. He could see her shadow move slowly across the wall in front of him—her form melding into the long linear shadows cast by the bars.
"Do you regret what you've done?" Strangely, there was no censure in her voice. The words cut him anyways.
"It's a little hard not to regret," he said simply. He briefly closed his eyes. "But I'd do it all again. Every time. No question."
"You were fighting for your people," she said. "We would have done no less. We do no less." He could hear her breathing at every pause. "I would feel no remorse in your place."
"Oh, I think you might," he said wryly. He had seen remorse in her eyes already, and really, she was as much a victim as anyone. The Genii government had trained its soldiers all their lives, made them what they were. He'd killed sixty victims of circumstance.
"You were only defending your home," she said, her voice was passionate now." He still wouldn't turn to meet her eyes, but he could feel her watching him. "I admire that."
"You've said. I just find it hard to believe. I wish I hadn't done it, and hell, they weren't even my people." His fingers wanted to start tapping again, but he didn't want to do something to give himself away. She might be behind bars, half-converted, but she was still more an enemy than a friend and he wouldn't have her see him weak.
"We are trained," she said, "to fight the Wraith, to admire prowess—warriors. You have become this, defeated all of my strike team, and without having the threat constantly over your world of Wraith attack."
"I had Nintendo as a kid." She was moving again. He watched her shadow stream back along the wall. He saw it shorten as she slid to the ground.
"This is something to be admired, Major Sheppard."
"You need new role models," he said. He'd meant to sound glib, but he sounded more tired than anything else. His shoulder was throbbing, though the pain was not entirely unwelcome. It was a small price to pay and many others had paid far more. Two of his men were dead. Two weighted against sixty—that was some final score. He was pretty sure it meant he was winning.
"Kolya lives," she said. "I'm sure of it. He will want revenge."
"I'd want it to," John said. "Only difference is I didn't start this war. We would have helped you."
"You continue looking back," she said sharply. "Look forward instead. You are honorable."
"I didn't come here for forgiveness," John snapped. He turned to look at Sora, finally, but she knelt at the back of the cell, and her figure was backlit by blue light—as dark as the shadow it was casting.
"But you want it," she said, and he thought she sounded as though she was smiling. "I'll give it to you if you ask."
"It isn't for you to give," John said. He turned away again. Atlantis was such a quiet place. The equipment never made a sound, not unless you pushed it past its limits. It had sat silent for centuries, and that silence had its pull on them all still.
"Then why are you here, Major?" she asked.
Because he flipped a coin—he'd regret that too but he couldn't quite bring himself to; besides, he knew she wasn't referring to all of Atlantis so much as why he was sitting on the floor, outside her cell. He couldn't really begrudge her that curiosity. "Someone has to guard you."
"I have a feeling it doesn't have to be you," she said slyly.
It didn't. He was supposed to be taking the rest of the day off. He'd gone to his quarters, taken one look at War and Peace and then he had torn off his coat and thrown it against the wall. It wasn't satisfying, and it didn't shatter, but what he had he couldn't afford to break. Next thing he knew he had found himself here, relieving the guard, sliding down the wall.
Maybe he had come for absolution. Only problem was there was no such thing, and no chance of finding it. He still saw Sumner in his dreams.
"If it had been you, would you have activated the shield on the Stargate?" He shouldn't be asking her that. It was indulgent and pointless, and he shouldn't have been there at all. He had to ask anyway—he needed to know.
Her shadow seemed to shrink before she finally spoke. "Without hesitation."
Her words bring nothing of absolution. They don't help at all.