It's About a Baby, and These Bad Guys, and What Happens When it All Comes Together
A Merlin7 and Kodiak Bear Country production
Summary: The continuation of events in Not the Daddy. While the Atlantis team searches for explanations, and the guilty, Rodney and John find something unexpected in each other.
Warning: This story is a sequel, and unlike some, you've absolutely got to read Not the Daddy to understand what the blazes is going on, sorry! Events in season two are mentioned, so if haven't seen season two and do not wish to be spoiled, stop reading now.
The room was dark, and quiet, and from the outside no one would know that anyone was awake at this late hour, but inside the room, someone, two someone's in fact, were awake.
Cradling Lily, John hushed her softly, gently bouncing her in his arms, and trying to keep her from waking Rodney. The nursery was destroyed, infirmary in ruins, over half the living quarters unlivable, and now he and McKay had found a larger room to take up joint residence in the aftermath of the explosions in the city.
And Dreya was gone. So were three scientists, one doctor and two nurses. Over fifty injured, seven dead – and damage to the city still being assessed.
"We're all a mess, aren't we," he whispered into Lily's downy hair.
The baby, his daughter, had been almost inconsolable since Dreya had died, and though he was an adult, John almost felt the same as Lily. The last forty-eight hours had been hell. McKay was running the scientist side into the ground trying to analyze the two bomb blasted areas, scouring for every clue, no matter how remote, to help narrow down who did this. Examining everything from before, and after; a painstakingly slow progress.
The Daedalus was in lockdown, her personnel not allowed to come and go in the city, and any personnel that had come over in the second, third and even fourth wave of round-trips was under close scrutiny. The fact that they numbered in the hundreds made the task all the more difficult – that, and suspecting your own people.
Sheppard had been pushing the military side equally as hard. Lorne was looking ready to stage a mutiny by the time he'd highly suggested John go to bed. That'd been two hours ago. Sheppard had been interviewing a sergeant high on the suspect list, and he knew he was being hard. Harder than he should be – harder than what would be effective in getting the answers, but the grief and pain from the severed bond was driving him mercilessly.
Burning pain dogged his steps. It'd dull, only to flare harder and louder than before, and then dull again. Cycles of agony and relief, and he was beginning to think it wasn't ever going to go away.
Who could he ask about the pain? Dreya was dead, Carson unconscious.
The infirmary had taken a hit similar to the living quarters, and Rodney had theorized the reason was to cover the saboteur's trail. Knowing that the med tech had been interested in Beckett's files gave them an edge, but now those files were compromised and no way to find out if anyone unauthorized had accessed them. Rodney doubted they'd be able to ever fully recover all the data as it was, and Beckett had been injured by flying debris, and was laid out with a significant head injury.
He had lived the past two days with the increasing pain, and now, holding Lily in his arms, he was afraid. Lily sensed his disquiet and fussed louder.
"Shhhh," he crooned. "Don't wake your other daddy. He's cranky when he gets woken up."
Blankets shifted, and McKay poked his head up. "I'm not cranky," he denied, and yawned wide. "And I'm already awake."
Still whispering, "Go back to bed, Rodney, no reason for two of us to lose sleep," John told McKay.
The rustling blankets told John that Rodney wasn't listening, then again, when did he ever? John hushed the crying baby more, and felt McKay move in to his personal space, but didn't pull back. Jostling Lily's butt just enough to quiet her, Sheppard handed her to Rodney. "She's missing her mommy."
Gingerly, Rodney took Lily from John, and kept up the slight bouncing movement that appeased her. He looked tenderly at Lily and admitted, "She's not the only one."
It was all he could say. Talking about Dreya seemed to kick off another round of pain that flamed inside, and John couldn't talk. He knew it was the suddenness of the bond being severed, like he knew tomorrow would bring more heartache and anger – but he didn't know what to do about it. Dreya was dead, what could he do? It wasn't in his power to raise the dead. The thing that scared him was the thought that if something didn't change soon, he'd be joining her. Maybe that's why Lily continued to refuse to be comforted…maybe she sensed that something was wrong with Sheppard, as well.
As the fire receded, leaving John's nerves feeling raw, he noticed that Lily had quieted and McKay was watching him.
"Something's wrong," Rodney accused bluntly. "I've been watching you. Every now and then you tense, and pull inside yourself. No lies, Sheppard, what's going on?"
Despite the warning, the lie was ready on his tongue, but Sheppard saw something in McKay that stopped him from uttering it. "The bond," he said instead. "I think something happened when Dreya was killed."
They were only standing an arms span apart, and Lily flinched in her slumber at Sheppard's voice, regardless of how quiet he'd spoken. Knowing he'd opened the door to a conversation he didn't want to have, John took Lily back from Rodney, and slowly moved her into the crib that had been salvaged and cleaned, before being set up in their new rooms.
He settled her on her side, using a foam wedge that someone had given him. One of the nurses from the Daedalus – babies weren't supposed to sleep on their stomach because of the risk from SIDS, sudden infant death syndrome, and John was learning all sorts of stuff like that since Lily had been born.
John turned away from Lily, satisfied that she was asleep for now, and raised a finger to his lips, shushing Rodney, before closing the distance, and pulling his arm, and thus McKay, towards the door.
Once on the other side, he slumped against the wall. The door slid shut, closing them off from Lily so that they could talk freely without waking her.
Rodney folded his arms, and leaned next to John. "Okay, talk."
Rubbing a hand across his eyes in an unsuccessful attempt at shaking off the sleepiness and discomfort, John began to talk, "When Dreya died, or was hurt…hell, I don't know, either way, I felt it."
"Old news, you already told me that."
Sheppard started to pace, after pushing himself off the wall, anything to step out from the lethargy that lingered. He was nervous, and wound up, but at the same time he was tired, and hurting. "I know I told you, stop making this harder than it has to be," he said crossly. "Since then the pain flares in cycles, and it's getting worse."
Though Rodney was still leaning, John saw Rodney's fingers, the ones that had been loosely pushed against McKay's folded arms, tighten imperceptibly. His face remained obscure, but Sheppard had known him long enough to know that Rodney McKay was getting anxious.
"Carson is unconscious, McKay."
"Then ask another doctor. There's more than one in the city, it's a big medical staff, and no matter how incompetent they may seem at times, someone might have an idea…"
John came about from his pacing and looked at Rodney with annoyance. "You think I haven't thought about it? How do I know who to trust?"
The fact that Rodney himself had pointed out the obvious, that it had to be their own people behind the explosions, had set off a wave of distrust among the expedition members. John wasn't the only one looking over his shoulder constantly, watching body language and faces, hoping for some cue that would point a finger and say 'that's one of them'. The fact that it hadn't happened only made him more nervous. How do you know who to trust when everyone seems trustworthy? Obviously, some one wasn't.
McKay's face fell at the implication. Now, Rodney pushed himself off the wall and started pacing. John watched as McKay walked, the scientist unconsciously chewing on a fingernail, and trying out possible solutions in his mind.
Finally, Rodney paused, pulling the finger from his mouth. "We're going to have to trust someone. Carson's off the roster until he recovers, and God only knows how long that's going to take – you can't ignore this, Sheppard."
The fact that Rodney couldn't come up with anything better than that really brought it home just how screwed he was.
"Give me a little more time," John asked. "I'm not ready to trust anyone except you, the rest of my team – Elizabeth, Beckett…if it gets worse, I'll go, okay?"
At first, Sheppard thought McKay was going to argue against it, but then acceptance washed across Rodney, and he nodded, but it was clear he wasn't happy. McKay stared at him, as if searching for clues to just what was going on underneath Sheppard's skin, but a scowl replaced the worry, and grudgingly he said, "Fine." McKay turned, and headed down the corridor.
"Where are you going?" John called after him.
"To my lab," shouted Rodney. "I'm not going to sit here and watch you suffer!"
Sheppard slumped against the corridor. And just to add insult to injury, a soft wail leaked through the wall. He couldn't hold back the groan, "Daddy's coming," he muttered, turning back to the door. Sometimes life could really suck.
"Colonel?" called Elizabeth.
Sheppard didn't answer, because at the moment, he was dozing in the black chair, leaned back just enough to make it comfortable and barely at that.
"Colonel?" Weir prodded again, before shooting a mildly amused look towards McKay. The returned stare confused her, because it was strained instead of annoyed, but all the same, Rodney elbowed Sheppard.
Comically, John snapped forward in the chair, moving before he was entirely awake, and almost fell on the floor, just managing to catch the floor with his feet before the wheels spun the chair out from under him.
It took a minute for him to gather his wits, but when he did, John realized that everyone was staring at him. Some, like Elizabeth, with barely concealed amusement, others with concern, like McKay and the hawk-eyed Teyla.
"Sorry," he mumbled. "Lily's teething," he explained, "Either that, or she's got her days and nights screwy."
Rodney raised a hand. "I vote for screwy. She's been sleeping," his lips curved sardonically, "like a baby during the day. Besides, if you read the baby book, it's still early for teething."
"I see," Elizabeth said. "Where were we?" She looked down at the stack of papers. "Rodney, you said that the explosive was definitely Earth-based, but beyond that there weren't any identifying fingerprints, and you were currently working to identify the plastique used?"
"Right, every bomb is identifiable, to a point – the problem is that none of us are forensic experts, and with the fact that we've been infiltrated, bringing one over on the Daedalus is problematic, isn't it?" McKay arched his eyebrow disgustedly.
She sighed, and John could tell she had a headache. He sympathized. Probably over half the damn city had headaches.
"So you're saying it won't help much, or it can't be done accurately by your scientists?"
McKay didn't seem to know whether to roll his eyes or aim for seriousness, as a result, John saw some kind of disquieted mix of the two emotions play out on his face as Rodney admitted grudgingly, "Both."
"So there is no way of identifying the traitor amongst your people?" Teyla questioned.
There was an undercurrent of past anger in her tone, and Sheppard found his thoughts drifting back to the time in the beginning when the Athosians had been under scrutiny for a similar crime – betraying the inhabitants of Atlantis. The gaping difference now was that there was direct evidence it was their own people, and not anyone else, while then, Teyla's people had been under suspicion simply because they were aliens, and it wasn't likely that their own people would betray them.
Amazing how time can change things, including ones view of their own people.
"I didn't say that," exasperated, Rodney continued, "what I said was that the bomb isn't going to yield any likely leads."
Unbidden, another wave of agony rolled through John, and he quickly lifted a hand, as if to wipe his eyes of sleep, just for the distraction, so no one would focus on the grimace tightening the corners of his mouth, and the sudden stiffness in his limbs.
When he pulled his hand away, the sharp look from Rodney let him know he hadn't fooled everybody. Purposefully, he cleared his throat and said, "Our…interviews," he practically choked on the word, because at times it had bordered on interrogation with some of the new personnel, "haven't yielded anything significant."
The fact that some of those that he'd gotten rough with were probably innocent didn't sit well with him either. Trapped in the ethics of innocent till proven guilty, they were like fish laid bare on the sand. Out of the water and no way to get back to safety.
Elizabeth shook her head slightly, frowning at him. "That's not good enough, John. We need something to go on, some lead – there had to have been one person who had something for us to go off of?"
"I'm telling you, Elizabeth, they were clean!" he exploded. "Every damn last one." His voice lowered, and John leaned forward across the table. "Whoever these people are, they're good. Tracks were covered professionally, and we'll be damn lucky if we find so much as a crumb to follow back."
Teyla looked as helpless as John felt, but she kept quiet.
"A hunch, then," she tried again. "There's got to be something, we can't just give up and wait for it to happen again."
Rodney raised a hand importantly. "As to that, I have good news."
McKay handed a thick folder to Elizabeth before sliding a copy to Sheppard. "These are new security protocols." He smiled smugly.
Flipping the folder open, John said, "Rodney, security on Atlantis is the military's concern, not the scientist's."
The smug smile didn't even falter. "Ah, yes, but when it comes to Ancient technology, I'm afraid it does fall to the scientists."
"Rodney?" Elizabeth was asking for an explanation in the clipped call of his name.
Deflated by the premature end of the suspense, he sighed. "Fine, fine – some of these surprises are like a good wine, they need to age to be fully appreciated, but since everyone is in such a hurry -"
"McKay," warned Sheppard.
Aside from an irritated look, that still had an edge of worry, McKay started to explain. "Atlantis has its own monitoring systems. Now, on it's own, it doesn't help us much because the city isn't full of Ancients, but with a few adaptations, thanks to your resident genius, we've been able to tweak the program for our own personnel."
Teyla bristled. "You are spying on the people living in the city?"
"I prefer…observing," he replied.
Ronon had remained quiet, not having anything to add because up to this point, none of it had any meaning for him, but now he was as disgruntled as Teyla. "I don't want to be watched," he said gruffly.
"It's not like that," argued Rodney. "Look, think bigger picture people. The city does the monitoring, if it detects any suspicious behavior, and its learning curve is remarkable, it will alert several key locations – ones that I've programmed and will only share with limited individuals."
Sheppard said, "So there aren't people hunched over screens watching us take showers and do other…things?"
The droll look McKay fixed on him now had everything to do with the 'other things'. "No, they're not."
How Rodney managed to inflect so much disdain in everyday words was beyond John, but he did. Instead of responding in kind though, he just rolled his upper body a little to relax the tensing muscles and said, "Good."
"Thanks to Rodney's discovery, we at least have something to work with," said Elizabeth. She closed the fat file, and pushed her chair away from the table, standing. "Colonel, I suggest you get some sleep, and Ronon, Teyla, come with me to my office, I have a job for you." She nodded towards Rodney, "Good work."
Sheppard stayed in his seat while Elizabeth, Ronon and Teyla left. Truth be told, he didn't want them to see how slow he was to get to his feet, and how much it hurt to move.
Alone finally, he dropped his head to the table. He felt hot, and more tired than simple lack of sleep accounted for. The last wave of pain had drained away what small amount of energy he had left.
"It's time to see a doctor, John."
Rodney. Shit. He'd forgotten about him.
"I know," he whispered wearily into his hands, not even bothering to lift his head. "Beckett is awake, recovering, but still on medical leave."
Movement behind him, and John knew Rodney was standing at his back, waiting. "I'll help you to the infirmary," he offered.
You'd think it would've been gentle, or kind, but instead it came out with all steel and hardness, because Rodney wasn't letting it go any longer. He'd given John time, and now Sheppard knew his time was up.
The only problem was getting up.
"Uh, Rodney?" John started to ask for help, but another spike of the familiar agony raced down his back, and things grayed out. He felt his fingers clenching into tight fists, knew his muscles had flexed, and that this was going on longer than before, but he couldn't break out of it. "H…help…" he managed, before he was tilting sideways, and falling –
How many times had he been in this position? McKay shook his head trying to dispel the depressing thought, because it'd been too many times.
Ever since Dreya had bonded John, their lives had changed, and sometimes it felt like it was the best thing that had ever happened, while others – others felt like it was the worst thing.
Right now qualified as one of the worst.
Rodney stared impassively at John's still body. There was an oxygen monitor clipped to his index finger, and the wire threaded along his arm, through the metal slats, and looped lazily short of the floor, before coming up to the plug on the machine. Another cord from the same machine trailed up farther to John's arm and attached to the blood pressure cuff.
Beckett had insisted on being attending physician, despite the fact that he could barely keep on his own feet, and had mumbled something about John's pressure being dangerously low. Rodney wasn't sure what exactly, because he was too busy being worried at the fact that the undeniable was being confirmed.
John Sheppard was dying.
"Have you talked to Ronon and Teyla," Carson asked raggedly.
So lost in his thoughts, Rodney hadn't heard the man approach. Shrugging numbly, he didn't say anything. He didn't want to talk…didn't trust himself to talk.
A warm hand rested on his shoulder. "We're doing everything we can."
"It's not enough, Carson," savagely Rodney came to life. He pointed at the IV, and oxygen mask, and EKG leads, "He's going to die, and I'll be damned if I sit here and watch while he does!"
"You wouldn't be anywhere else, Rodney," softly Beckett spoke, eyebrows heavy with the shared burden.
McKay had watched John go through the pregnancy, the delivery, the suicide attempts, and he'd gone through the emotional upheavals side by side. He'd felt so much of what Sheppard did, felt so much because John meant that much to him, though he'd never been able to come out and say it. Rodney had done what he could to show it, and he knew that John understood by the tacit acceptance of the dogging McKay had done to him. But the difference before is that he could make a difference, now –
Angrily, McKay pushed the chair back and stood up. He felt like his insides were one big whirlpool, swirling and circling and spiraling to doom. If Sheppard died –
Looking up at Carson and meeting his stare, Rodney admitted for the first time what he hadn't been able to before. "I love him, Carson. I love him, and it took this long to finally accept it, and now the sonofabitch is going to die and leave me all alone!"
As angry as he was, it didn't come out that way, instead his words came out laced full of hurt and pain, and raw emotion.
Beckett's eyes glittered, and it was almost Rodney's undoing. He turned away abruptly. He couldn't take Carson's pity. Not now.
"Did he know?"
The question sat like a big fat gray elephant, mammoth in the small room that suddenly felt very close and stifling. Still looking away, Rodney kept his arms folded tight against his chest, useless armor against anything except the psychological boost of an extra layer for the pain to fight through.
"I don't know," he finally answered, frustrated with himself, hell, with the world in general. "Maybe…possibly. God knows he tolerated my hovering, and the only one who ever did that was my girlfriend in college, and believe me," he chuckled harshly, "I didn't hover near enough with her."
Beckett was quiet behind him, but after a few moments, footsteps approaching prevented further discussion. Rodney did turn to see who had arrived at that point, and the look Carson shot him promised their conversation wasn't over.
Ronon and Teyla nodded at both men. "We came as soon as we heard," said Teyla. "How is he?"
Rodney's first reaction was to snap that John was dying, so how do you think he is, but he fought the impulse down because it wasn't fair. He wasn't good at keeping his aggravation from spilling outward on to others, but he was trying. "Not good," he said instead. The fact that he was even trying was thanks to Sheppard's influence.
Ronon's face got even darker. "Do something," he ordered Beckett.
The weariness that washed over Beckett had nothing to do with the severe concussion he was recovering from, and everything to do with the helplessness of the situation.
"We've done all we can," Carson said. "Despite our best efforts, his vitals continue to fall."
Teyla's face took on a haunted appearance, and Rodney watched her as she touched Ronon's arm slightly, circumspect, in a way that wasn't meant for other eyes to see, and slipped closer to Sheppard's bed. She traveled the distance from his head to his toes with her eyes, and then looked back to Beckett, upset. "We must do something."
"Lass, this has to be something from the bond at work, but Dreya's dead, and we can't change that -"
"Sa'cra'la," Ronon's deep voice rumbled into the conversation and startled everyone. All eyes shifted to the large man. He was looking surprised by his revelation and explained further. "Sheppard told me that Dreya was doing 'sacrala' on him after the twin died. Something about keeping his sanity."
Hope flared in Rodney's heart, and he fixed Beckett with an intense glare. "We've got to take him to Eradia! Carson, why didn't we think of this before? The bond was severed when Dreya was killed, of course! They can save him!" He was almost giddy with the lifeline that had been thrust out for John.
Carson was nodding slowly, thoughtfully staring at the runner. "Aye, you might be on to something."
He tapped his radio comm, and winced as it jarred his sore head. "Elizabeth, have a jumper readied. We've got to take Colonel Sheppard back to Eradia. It's a matter of life and death," he added.
And once again, Rodney had something to do, something that would make a difference…
Hamas was standing over Sheppard's bed, watching the soldier sleep, and when McKay saw him, he felt an odd undercurrent in the air. Rodney walked through the doorway, into the small room, and purposefully strode into Hamas' line of sight.
"The healer thinks he's going to make a full recovery," Hamas said.
A chair was sitting empty, and Rodney flopped down in it. Carson was talking to the healer right now, so Hamas wasn't telling him anything he didn't know. What Rodney did know was that Hamas had hesitated before offering the services of his people.
"No thanks to you," Rodney accused.
The Eradian leader didn't look the slightest bit remorseful. "Tell me, Doctor McKay, if your brother was killed, then your sister by marriage absconds to another world with your niece, and then you find out that she dies as well, leaving now one non-blood relative, would you be so eager to save the remaining guardian?"
It suddenly struck McKay how old Hamas looked. The man appeared to have aged ten years since they'd met him almost a year ago. His question gave Rodney pause. What would he do? "I wouldn't let an innocent man die if I could prevent it," he affirmed. He wouldn't. Rodney might be many things, including selfish, but he wasn't cold enough to do that.
"I didn't, did I?"
The Eradian man left, aged and tired, and Rodney actually felt sorry for him, and at the same time, thankful that he'd listened to Elizabeth and left Lily behind in Atlantis.
While they had admitted the cities intact status to Hamas, they had not allowed him to see the gate address. The fact alone that Hamas knew of its continued existence still caused an edge of unease in Rodney, but they'd only been able to do so much after the bond became an issue.
This whole situation sucked. Traitors, and death, and love mixed in just to make it all the more scary and screwed up. Sighing, he pulled the laptop out of the backpack that he'd left in the room earlier. Rodney never went far without his work.
The Dell booted up, and his program was waiting. Losing himself in the calculations, McKay started typing at the keys, trying to throw his heart and soul into the solutions so they wouldn't be available for anyone else.
Sheppard remembered a dream of Dreya standing in the mists of morning sunrise, and their hands pulling apart, moving rapidly away, and Dreya whispering urgently in his mind to take care of Lily.
John woke up suddenly, not knowing what was dream or reality. Dreya, she'd been there, he knew she had – but Dreya was dead.
The clacking on keys stopped, and Sheppard rolled his head towards the spot where the noise had come from. Rodney was hunched over a laptop on his knees, and his fingers crooked in interrupted movement.
"You're awake," he stated, surprised.
Sheppard started to chuckle, but he wound up coughing.
McKay set the computer to the floor, and leaned towards a table where a cup of water sat, before moving to help Sheppard sit so that he could drink without spilling it.
Despite Rodney's help, he still dribbled some down his chin, and as Rodney pulled the cup away, he instinctively wiped John's chin with the sleeve of his shirt.
Time paused, and their eyes met.
Rodney moved first, quickly pulling his sleeve back, and saying awkwardly, "You had some…water…dripping." He stopped trying to explain because it was coming out strangled and stupid.
John's green eyes were deep and saw too much.
"Thanks," he told Rodney, trying to say more than what he could.
"Yes, well," Rodney fumbled the computer back on his knees, "Someone has to take care of you, since you're completely inept as it is."
"Beckett's going to be back any minute now," Rodney interrupted. McKay's focus remained on the computer screen. "Ronon and Teyla are preparing the jumper."
Sheppard wished the wall hadn't been raised, again, but he respected it. For now. "Good," he said. He started to assess his physical state. Tired, mind numbingly tired, but the horrible burning pain was gone, and unlike before when it had come in waves but always lurked in the background, now there was nothing but a lethargy that soaked through to his marrow. "I'm tired." He stated it, but really he was asking it. What was the prognosis? How long would he be like this, tired and wrung?
Rodney grunted sympathetically. "The healer said it'd be a few days just to get on your feet, and probably a good week to approach anything near normal, because it went so long after her death."
"So, it was the severed bond?"
"Yeah, and speaking of that," and this Rodney really didn't want to speak of, but he had promised Hamas, after he'd gotten the leader to help John, and he would keep his promise, "the funeral for Dreya is tomorrow. Hamas asked us to stay on as his guests and attend. Carson said you wouldn't be up to it, but -"
"Rodney," John interrupted.
McKay looked at him and stopped talking.
"I want to."
Sighing, Rodney nodded. "I figured you would. I wanted to, but…I…I wasn't sure you were going to make it, and -"
"Rodney, it's okay, just…stop. We'll both go."
McKay accepted it, but got to his feet, folding the computer closed with a snap. "In that case, I'm going to tell Ronon to get a wheelchair and come back." At the unhappy look on John's face he added, "Unless you want Ronon to hold you like a baby during the service?"
"Jerk," John muttered.
"Indeed I am," he smiled for the first time. "Don't go anywhere."
Rodney dropped the machine on the chair, and headed out the door, sliding out of the way as Carson met him coming in, "He's all yours, Carson."
Sheppard was still rolling his eyes at the 'don't go anywhere' comment. His muscles felt like he wouldn't be going anywhere for a long time. He could only hope the healer's estimates were right, because he didn't see how he'd be standing in only a few days. In fact, right now, he couldn't imagine ever having the energy to stand again. He felt almost paralyzed from the fatigue and something else lingering in his limbs.
"What's the verdict, Doc?" he croaked.
Beckett's face crinkled in a wry grin. "I'm afraid we're stuck with you for a wee bit longer, Colonel."
"That's good." Sheppard tried not to sound so hollow. "Really good." He was thankful. He had Lily and Rodney, but he also had suffered through a lot, and he wasn't through with the suffering. Dreya's funeral, finding the infiltrator's before they had the opportunity to kill again.
"Get some rest, Son," Beckett said quietly. The doctor didn't look too steady on his feet, and the bandage almost faded into his skin tone, but the doctor nonetheless cared for his patient, pulling John's blanket up closer to his shoulder's and patting him reassuringly, trying to convey that everything would be fine.
As his eyes closed, John couldn't help but think Beckett was wrong.
"The Ground accepts its child back to the womb, to be reborn again, in another form."
Hamas was standing next to the clothed bundle that was Dreya, and as he finished talking, he motioned to men on either side of the shallow grave.
John watched as the men took hold of her body, and lowered it into the ground.
It was quiet. No sounds of animal or insects to be heard, and the sky was cloudy and gray, threatening to pour on the mourner's gathered around. He wished it would, because it seemed right for the heavens to cry along with everyone else. Maybe it'd count for him, because Sheppard hadn't quite managed to go there yet. Not much anyway. He blamed the lack of time, the lack of getting to really know who Dreya was – but the lack was his alone.
Grown men didn't cry. He'd come close, but he'd never fully given in, and he felt the heaviness from all that pain held tight inside, and wished he could just let go, once, and let it out. Not a little…but all of it.
Shivering, Sheppard watched as Hamas lifted a handful of the freshly turned dirt, and sprinkled it over the linen shroud.
"Goodbye, Sister," Hamas called.
A procession had moved to form a line, and soon one after another, lifted a handful of dirt, and tossed it down, saying goodbye and stating friend. She'd had no other family.
A heavy weight dropped on to his shoulders, and Sheppard pulled his eyes away from the depressing scene.
"You're cold," Rodney stated simply.
Ordinarily, he would've protested, but he was cold and John didn't have the energy to pretend otherwise. The line had emptied fast, and now Hamas stood waiting, and looked pointedly at John.
Sheppard didn't know what to say, but McKay wheeled him over to the pile. Ronon, Teyla and Beckett were waiting behind him. Slowly, he reached for the dirt. It was colder than he'd thought it would be, and he wished they'd had a wooden coffin for her. All that cold dirt piled on top of her – "Goodbye…Dreya," he said simply, because there weren't any words made to describe their relationship.
He tossed the dirt, and watched it fall. The small clumps broke and scattered to rest in the folds of the cloth.
McKay called out friend, as did the others.
Meeting Hamas' pain-filled gaze, Sheppard turned away, and muttered to Rodney, "Let's go home."
There was a lot to talk about, but though Ronon tried to get Sheppard to say something, he answered with short replies and never reciprocated. Conversation dies without two people willing, and the ride home was silent and heavy.
John was still in the wheelchair, and his lap covered with a blanket, and Rodney's jacket draped over his already jacketed upper body, but he was still cold. He needed Lily to make him warm again. He needed to talk to Rodney. God, there was so much he needed to do – and all he could think of was how much he wanted to go back to sleep.
It was going to be a long road ahead. A very long road.