This is the final chapter...sorry it took so long to update, but it took forever for me to be happy with the final paragraphs and to be honest I was kinda reluctant to let it go. Anyway love it or hate it... Duty or Love is finally COMPLETE!
Chapter Eleven: The Price You Pay…
Teyla drew in a sharp breath, her chest tube had just been removed, her throat felt raw and each breath of air felt like fire. As she calmed she realised something was missing, she realised she could hear her ragged breaths, actually all she could hear was her breathing, and nothing else.
The absence of familiar noises scared her, no machines bleeping, she couldn't hear Carson's reassuring brogue, Rodney wasn't whining, there was nothing.
Slowly Teyla opened her eyes, praying that the quest was finally over and that this wasn't another torturous test. The sight that met her eyes terrified her, everything was frozen in motion, nurses in action, her friends were stuck in the doorway, Carson was…
…Oh God! Carson standing was motionless over John with his defibrillator panels stuck over John's chest. Its presence scaring Teyla like nothing else, she knew what that machine was for, had seen it in action years ago.
How could her heart still be beating so frantically if John's had stopped?
The absurdity of the situation made her laugh, killing Kalen, the ordeal she had just woken up from, finally passing the test; only to wake up to the strangest scene, Atlantis frozen in time and John dead.
Soon the hysterical laughs turned into heart wrenching tears it wasn't long until Teyla finally broke down and her agonising sobs travelled through the frozen halls of Atlantis.
How much was she supposed to endure?
Teyla looked up at hearing the voice, finally a sound other than her own; she had no idea how long she had spent in her frozen hell.
Somehow seeing her dead mother standing next to a statuesque Ronan only caused Teyla's hysterical laughter to return. What next?
Even though Teyla had never really met her mother before, she still recognised the reprimand in her voice.
"Mother" Teyla's voice was edged in sarcasm that would have made Rodney proud.
"It's not too late" Kerowyn tried to reassure her daughter.
Teyla only raised an eyebrow at the absurdity of that statement; her head was slightly tilted towards the scene of John's death, which was frozen to her right as a permanent nightmare.
Being stuck in limbo with the scene of John's death frozen in front of her was worse than hell; it was the final and proverbial straw that broke Teyla.
"Teyla darling, listen to me, we can still change this, we can stop this from happening you just need to have faith; you just need to believe in-"
"What! What do I need to believe in! I have nothing left, I did everything I was supposed to, I made I my choice, I sacrificed everything I am and you still took him from me. Enough, I am done."
"You know better than that Teyla, there is always a price."
"I have already paid too much…"
"Enough! I did not intervene and risk everything to hear you give up; I had hoped that you wanted to save him, your Andura, your beloved."
"How?" The hope in Teyla's voice was unmistakeable.
"I told you Teyla there is always a price, to change things of this magnitude…the price will be greater than even you can imagine." Kerowyn's words were filled with foreboding.
"I'll pay it! Anything, take my life in his place." Teyla begged.
"You know better than that Teyla, you are still needed, as is Sheppard. That is only reason this intervention is even being attempted."
"Why are you here? I mean why you mother, and how?" Teyla asked as she began to examine the situation she found herself in, the hysteria and despair had begun to recede.
Kerowyn just pulled her curly chestnut hair back to show a necklace, a familiar necklace. In fact it was the same necklace as Teyla now wore. The only exception was the colour; Teyla's was forest green, deep, dark and deadly whereas Kerowyn's was a lighter apple shade, almost peridot.
"We are linked, my daughter we always have been. The necklace allows me to venture across to meet you on this plane."
Teyla just nodded her head in acceptance; it was the least of her worries.
"How do we stop this from happening? I presume this was your doing." Teyla indicated to the frozen scene surrounding them.
"We can change it all if you are willing…I can restart Sheppard's heart and correct any damage but there is one condition…"
"Just do-" Teyla interrupted
"He will have no memory of what has transpired, he will wake and all he will know is that you beat Kalen and suffered critical injuries in the fight. Elarios, the quest, your children, all of it will be erased, only you will carry the memory of all that occurred."
Teyla's heart broke; either way she lost her John.
"That is the price Teyla, will you pay it?"
Teyla's eyes burned with betrayal and unrestrained fury but she controlled it, buried it.
"Are you sure? They will all forget and you alone will know what really happened."
"I am sure" Teyla met her mother's gaze with a steely determination
With a flick of her wrist Kerowyn's wrist the scene around them unfroze.
Teyla just watched; she presumed nobody else could see her mother; instead her eyes were focussed on John, willing him to breath.
"Teyla are you ok?" Elizabeth rushed over, finally noticing that her friend had woken up.
Teyla didn't meet her gaze; instead she looked straight at her mother and said
"I will pay the price, just…please bring him back now."
Kerowyn nodded and moved to touch her hand to John's necklace, the resulting flash blinded them all.
"I will not leave you alone to carry this burden my daughter."
Kerowyn's heartfelt whisper was the last thing Teyla heard before she fainted.
John's head was pounding, he felt exhausted mentally, psychologically and emotionally he was spent. What frustrated him was that his body felt like he had just survived a lethal mission, but he couldn't remember what he had done, or where he had been.
The last thing he remembered was Teyla returning from her fight against Kalen, after that it was all blank.
He thought back to earlier that day when had woken up for the first time, he met Teyla's gaze and drew a sharp breath. Her eyes were filled with so many emotions, fear, relief, despair, guilt and hope.
It was when he asked what the hell had happened that he witnessed first hand that tiny piece of hope in her eyes disappear and right in front of him he saw Teyla withdraw from him, completely, she still had not spoken a word.
The sheer depth of despair in her eyes that flickered for a second when he asked why they had matching necklaces confused him even more. She wouldn't even speak to tell him why he couldn't seem to remove the necklace; instead she remained frozen in her silence.
The infirmary was still filled with his team, Elizabeth and Kate were keeping an eye on Teyla but all John could worry about was Teyla's catatonic withdrawal.
He looked at Teyla who was still watching him with an unreadable expression. John finally had enough; he knew something was wrong, he could feel it and he needed to know.
"Teyla what happened to us? Please you know you can trust me, please tell me what happened to you?"
The answer he received was not only confusing but from the last person he expected.
"She paid the price."
Mark Lorne's voice was rough with anger and his eyes with were filled with unparalleled sympathy, with body was taunt with tension as he lent against the doorway.
Teyla's heard Mark Lorne answer John-no the Colonel's question he was the Colonel now, that was all he could be to her. Her John was dead, she killed him. Her dark thoughts were brought to an abrupt halt as she realised what Mark had actually said.
"She paid the price"
As soon as she met his eyes, she realised he knew. Somehow her mother had given Mark Lorne all of the knowledge that Teyla thought she alone would have to carry.
"I will not leave you alone to carry this burden my daughter."
Seeing the sympathy in his eyes was too much, it just reinforced how much she actually lost, she couldn't pretend any longer. It wasn't a dream, or a nightmare. Alex, Katana and her John, she had killed them all.
Teyla finally broke. Her sobs were reminiscent of the tears she shed when she woke to her frozen nightmare. Except this time it was much worse, this time Teyla mourned the life she had lived in her dreams, the life she knew she could never live.
The entire infirmary watched as Lorne rushed to hold the small Athosian as she broke down. The first noises they heard from her since John woke up.
John watched in shock as the strongest person he knew and the woman he loved cried in another man's arms. He observed as Mark calmed her down and for an unknown reason John felt his heart constrict as he heard Mark's soft words.
"Teyla I know it hurts, but you're not alone; you paid the price and he's alive. You saved him Teyla. Wasn't it worth it? Isn't he worth it?"
Teyla stopped crying immediately and met Lorne's eyes,
She didn't need to say anything; Mark understood. 'he was worth anything'
"Teyla, are you alright?"
John's voice was riddled with confusion.
"I am fine Colonel; everything is as it should be."
Author's Note: I know everybody won't be happy about the conclusion, but I have to say it seemed the only logical and realistic way to end the story, whilst trying to keep it somewhat canon. To everybody who has reviewed, sent me personal notes, messages all I can say is Thank You. And to make all of the readers out there aware, the only reason Duty or Love got completed was because of the people who reviewed and emailed me, making sure that I hadn't forgotten the story!
Don't forget, let me what you thought of the piece as whole; likes, dislikes...you know the drill...