The hours after Ronon wakes are the most difficult yet. Before, she had almost stopped expecting anything to happen, had almost grown used to waiting. But now the atmosphere in John's room feels oppressive and expectant. Every time he breathes a little louder than usual, she expects him to wake, to smile, give her a word, a second of consciousness. Just something, anything to show her, her time here has not been in vain.
But Colonel Sheppard has never been an easy companion and does not oblige.
Rodney has left the infirmary now, though he returns every couple of hours. He spends most of his visits in Ronon's room, strangely preferring the awkward not-quite-conversations that are his usual fare with Ronon, to waiting with her. Perhaps not so strangely. Who knows what happened on the top of the cliff? Maybe they found something to talk about in that long, dark wait together.
Or more likely Rodney is inclined to vent his feelings, verbally, at the moment. And Ronon is currently too tired to silence him. This will change.
So she waits alone for the most part. Elizabeth, Major Lorne, Rodney . . . they come for a few minutes at a time, sit, ask how she is, then all in the same tone, stiff with the effort of not sounding hopeful, 'Any change?'
Yes, she could tell them. Forty-two minutes ago he moved his head nearly an inch to the right. Fifteen minutes ago he paused a little longer than usual between breaths. And just before you came in he inhaled too deeply and his hand jerked towards his chest as though he wanted to tear something out.
But she only listens as they say ridiculous, childish things meant to comfort or encourage. As they leave they touch his shoulder or hand, as though he could understand through such fragile contact, all the things they cannot, dare not say, fight, don't give up, I'm sorry, goodbye, goodbye goodbye…
She rarely speaks now.
Her world seems to have shrunk to this room and its occupant. Others pass in and out like ghosts, surreal, immaterial. All her energy, all her focus and her hopes are centred on the man in the bed who is not dead, but will not wake up.
She thinks almost a day has passed since Ronon woke when Rodney comes in, bearing a tray and a nervous smile. It has been a long time since she last ate, but grief and anxiety seems to have consumed any feelings as trivial as hunger. He ignores her lack of enthusiasm however, practically forcing the tray onto her knees.
"Eat," he commands, dropping into the additional chair the room has acquired sometime in the last few days. "Or Carson will kick you out on grounds of low blood sugar. He's tried it on me a few times."
John remains a shadow in her peripheral vision, but she turns to reply to Rodney, relieved to engage in a conversation other than the one she has painfully repeated each time a new visitor comes in, "Perhaps he has merely begun to heed your warnings concerning your health."
"Well he heeds them at the most awkward times. Last time I was planning a groundbreaking rewrite of quantum mechanics when he marched in and interrupted my chain of thought with the incredible idea that food is necessary to human life. I mean who would have thought it?."
She lets him ramble on for a while, before cutting him off with, "How is Ronon?"
"Oh, uh, fine. Carson said he might be out of here in a week, you know, if he stops trying to get up and walk when no one's looking. For a guy who's managed to survive so long in this insane asylum of a galaxy, he certainly lacks self-preservation skills. " Rodney turns awkwardly to John, "And Sheppard, he's . . .?"
He watches their leader in silence for a moment, before saying without breaking his gaze, "he's going to make it."
She looks at John too. "Do you believe that?"
Rodney pauses before he replies in a tone quieter than usual, "A month after we got here, Sheppard had already had three near-misses. Five if you count the general citywide ones. I was sure he would never last the year. Thought he had a martyr complex or something."
A remark someone made to her once about pots and kettles drifts through her mind, but she does not interrupt.
"But he did. And now it's been nearly three years. Three years of war and wraith and bugs and crazy stunts that any rational human being would never even think of. And he's still here. Don't get me wrong, I fully expect the Pegasus galaxy will be the death of him. And me for that matter. But this?" His words were accompanied by a hand gesture that encompassed John, the bed and the circumstances surrounding them; "It's far too ordinary for him. Sheppard will die on some heroic, cracked mission to save Atlantis or Pegasus or the whole damn universe. And then he'll probably ascend and go on to be the glowy-tentacle-king of the whole thing just to lord it over me." Rodney looks at her at last, something of a resigned smile tinting his features, "he'll make it. If only to spite the laws of physics, nature and anything else that says it should be impossible."
He gets up, patting her shoulder in the most uncomfortable fashion before heading to the door. Just before opening it, he turns again, looking at John.
"You hear me Sheppard? It's impossible." He glances back at her. "Now it's a matter of proving me wrong, he'll manage it. You'll see."
The end comes quite abruptly and far more quietly than she had expected. It is nearly evening and she is almost asleep as she watches John, looking through him rather than at him, when she realises brown eyes are looking back at her.
"Colonel Sheppard?" She straightens in her chair, "John?"
He blinks and his lips shape a word that is soundless but infinitely familiar to her, "Teyla?"
And she is getting up, falling the half-step to his bed, crying and laughing and thanking the ancestors in a flush of joy that does not fade when Carson comes in and asks her to wait in Ronon's room. It keeps her afloat as she waits with Rodney and Ronon and Elizabeth until Carson returns, weary, but with that smile on his face that promises everything will be well. It is only then Teyla leaves the infirmary and goes to her quarters at last.
She sits on her bed and thinks of the hurt and the grief and the terror of the last few days. She inhales, feeling the aches and stiffness and the sting of salt in her eyes. She remembers the crash, the waiting, the responsibility that made her head ache and her hands tremble. A sound escapes from her throat that could be a sob or a laugh or something else entirely.
And then she falls back into the pillows, exhales and lets it go.
Teyla smiles as they walk towards the Jumper bay for their first trip since the crash. It will be a short flight to the Mainland and back, officially to check in with the botanist teams conducting a three-week survey there. Unofficially, it is to ensure Atlantis remains safe from the boredom of her team while they recover. Ronon is proving quite a danger with his cast which seems to make his arm twice the size it normally is, though she would imagine that does not entirely account for the number of people who have received injuries from Ronon 'accidentally' raising his arm as they walked past him. She suspects he will be rather sorry when Doctor Beckett removes it.
Rodney is back to his usual self, happily ranting on about the latest chaos one of his 'goldfish-brained-dingbat-techs' has caused. He is perhaps a little paler than usual since he has spent most of the last couple of weeks with the puddlejumpers, working more than his fair share of nightshifts. She has hopes that today's excursion will put an end to this. He walks on the uncasted (unarmed) side of Ronon and they seem to have resumed their normal, awkward relationship, save that Rodney addresses him directly a little more often, and Ronon occasionally ventures more than a one-word reply.
Colonel Sheppard walks beside her, concentration furrowing his forehead. He has only recently been released from the infirmary and his injury still bothers him. He has been released for light duty (which according to the Colonel translates to, "paperwork, paperwork and turning pretty lights on for the lab geeks.") However walking and talking is still somewhat of a strain for him at the moment so he contributes little to the conversation, only reawakening Rodney's wrath when it seems to be fading, by venturing that his staff, "can't be entirely incompetent. I mean, we haven't blown up just yet." This sparks a diatribe on how the exact level of uselessness displayed by every member of the science team. (Rodney appears happy to evaluate each person's ineptitude individually) followed by a prolonged explanation on how, why and several instances of when the city, the Pegasus and Milky Way galaxies, and it seems, the universe have been saved so far only by Rodney's enormous intellect. Which was exactly what the Colonel intended.
Rodney leads the way into Jumper four, still expanding on his many skills and talents to an unfazed Ronon. She is about to follow them when Colonel Sheppard touches her arm, "Teyla."
He looks quickly at the Jumper, Rodney's voice can still be heard, apparently unperturbed by the loss of most of his audience; "I just wanted to say, back on the planet…"
She was expecting something like this. Since the Colonel's recovery and subsequent move to the main ward, she has had little opportunity to discuss the events from their last mission with him, has not wanted to. But John must have concerns. She pressured him, even forced him to accept treatment against his will. Logically, she knows she did what had to be done to save him. But regardless, it was a breach of trust, perhaps of their friendship and she regrets what needed to be done.
She stares at him, "Thank you?"
He meets her eyes, awkwardly, but with a determined set to his features, "You saved my life back there. I know I wasn't exactly grateful at the time… but yes, thank you."
She shakes her head; "you had cause." She considers for a moment, "You once told me you would do anything, for any of us."
His voice is rough and a little unsteady as he replies, "yes?"
"I just wanted you to know," she smiles at him; "the feeling is mutual. For all of us I believe."
He breaks into a grin, just as Rodney looks out from the jumper entrance, "are we flying today or are you two throwing a coffee morning for the Recent Victims of Alien Landscapes society?"
They head into the jumper, Colonel Sheppard heading straight for the pilot's seat though officially Rodney is flying today ("We just had one crashlanding Rodney, I'd really rather not be two for two.") However piloting a puddlejumper takes little physical effort, and Rodney will be there if John needs a break. She sits behind them, listening as they run through pre-flight and the craft raises off the ground with a gentle hum.
They are soon flying over the ocean with no signs of trouble from craft or pilot. The sun is high over the horizon and the water is a clear deep blue. The banter between her teammates fades into an unusual, but companionable silence as they look out over the horizon.
She watches them, her team, her family. They have survived again where few others would have. She knows this is not the last time they will face danger together. Similar misadventures, perhaps worse, lie ahead of them. She will wait with them, worry and grieve for them again. But life is precious here, where it is always at risk, and she loves it too well to waste time worrying about the future. At least they will face what comes together, not alone.
Rodney says something and Ronon grunts agreement. John laughs and the jumper zooms quickly forward over the sparkling, unending sea.
Authors note: And it's DONE! It took me way too long for a 20,000 word fic but it is COMPLETED!!!! Die-Sheppard-die fic is no more! I hope you enjoyed it. Whether you loved it, hated it, or are still getting over the nausea caused by it (it could have been worse, I had this lovely 'skewed kitten' metaphor all set up but the beta said no!), please click the little review button and let me know?
Thanks go to the lovely Rachel even though she is not around to read this atm, for making me write this, encouraging me, and occasionally causing me great pain to motivate me ;)
Thank you for reading!