The Price of Freedom – Epilogue

It took almost as long as John had been a slave for him to recover but finally after four weeks, he was able to go back on light duty.

This was his first day back and although Beckett had insisted that his left arm stay in a sling, he was able to use his computer, one handed. Surprisingly, Caldwell hadn't altered every single item. Although, there were still plenty of things that needed to be rearranged but it wouldn't take as long as John had thought.

As to Caldwell, he had quietly relinquished the position a week ago when he went back to his old command on the Daedalus. Elizabeth seemed greatly relived but said nothing as to why.

John sighed as he prepared to reorganise some of the offworld teams but just as he was about to hit the keyboard with his index finger, a polite knock sounded on his office door. Feeling slightly peeved by the interruption, he took his eyes off his computer and called. "Come in!" To his surprise, Sirena and Teyla entered the room.

Sirena looked a little sad as she cautiously approached his desk. "I came to say goodbye, John."

John looked at his new watch in surprise. "Wow, time sure goes by when you're stuck doing boring paper work. I didn't realise it was that late already. Come on, I'll walk with you to the gateroom." Standing up, he continued. "I'm only sorry that I can't come with you, Sirena. Carson won't let me go offworld yet but I promise to come and visit you in your new home as soon as I can."

Sirena smiled and said. "I will look forward to that." Before giving John's good hand a light squeeze.

A few minutes later, they left his office and as they walked towards the gateroom, John tried to reassure her. "I'm sure you'll be fine living with Teyla's people."

"If they are all as gracious as Teyla, I will be very happy."

"I can assure you that my people will welcome you with open arms and I will stay for a while until you have settled in." Teyla told her. "Then I plan to return to Atlantis to accompany you, Colonel, when you return to Tandara."

John nodded his thanks as Sirena whispered. "I do not wish to ever return to that planet again. I have nothing against some of the people but it holds too many bad memories for me."

"Yeah, I know what you mean but at least things seem to be moving in the right direction now."

"Yes, they are, John. The people of Tandara have much to thank you for."

John wanted to deny his involvement, but they had arrived in the gateroom and Sirena suddenly found herself surrounded by well-wishers who came to say goodbye.

Twenty minutes later, Sirena was ready to go with Teyla, but with one last gesture, she turned to John and whispered for his ears only. "Thanks to you, I got to see the world beyond my prison." Then she was gone to her new home.


Two weeks later.

The cool evening breeze ruffled his hair, making it stick up more than normal. Rodney turned towards him and chuckled at the sight before happily positioning his paper plane and sending it soaring into the air.

John watched it crash into the sea below. "You didn't fold that quite right."

"What! Oh and you can do better?"

"Sure. The design is critical if you want it to fly for a longer period. While I was stationed in Japan, I learnt the art of origami from an expert. She showed me several great designs including the Deltry and the Moth. Do you know that there is even a design call Canada Goose. I'll show you how the fold it if you like."

"What! Really?" Then Rodney realised something. "Oh, you were Kir---."

"Goddamn it, Rodney, stop saying that! Just because the expert was female didn't mean I was having it off with her." John said nothing more, but Rodney thought he detected a slight tinge of red in the pilot's cheeks.

Swallowing hard, McKay decided for his own health's sake to leave it at that. "Okay. You can show me how to fold that Canada whatzit some other time. Right now, I want to see if you can make a plane fly longer."

John grabbed a piece of paper and quickly folded it into one of the designs he mentioned. Then judging the wind speed and updraft, he launched the plane into the air. It soared for quite a while before taking a dive into the sea, but it had flown far longer then Rodney's effort.

"Hah, not so good,"

John turned and scowled at the scientist. "Well it was better than your effort. Besides you know that powerless flight has its limitations and is more difficult to achieve, especially over water."

"Yes, yes, you don't have to remind me about powerless flight over water, thank you" John cringed but said nothing.

Both deep in thought, they leaned on the railing and remained quiet until Rodney eventually broke the silence. "So, things are nearly back to normal, huh?"

"Yeah, things are nearly back to normal. I think the visit to Tandara helped a lot. How about you?"

Rodney didn't have to think for long. "Meeting up with Majel, Jonah and even Ramo was nice, but I really don't want to set foot on that planet again, if I can help it."

"Hopefully, you won't have to. Although, I wonder how long they can get away with not being culled."

"Wasn't that unbelievable? There they were thinking that by feeding the Wraith an odd slave or two, they would be protected. Then it turns out that the Wraith haven't been around for years."

John smiled. "Yeah, they were pretty stupid to believe that. I mean how naïve to leave an unwanted slave tied up on the edge of the feeding grounds and then believing that the Wraith had taken them when they disappeared. Then it turns out that they were beginning rescued by other discarded slaves who had set up their own community on the so-called feeding grounds."

"Ah, true, but how long can those ex-slaves survive if the Wraith decided to turn up again?"

John turned to Rodney. "That's questionable. Like the town slaves, some have asked to be liberated back to their home worlds. Elizabeth says it has been quite a nightmare trying to organize that. As for the Wraith, we'll do all we can to advise them but apart from that they're on their own."

"Like so many worlds."

John simply nodded as both men fell silent again, until he whispered. "It's good that Seth and the others from the mine will be all right. Carson even thinks that he'll be able to control Seth's epilepsy and help some of the slaves overcome their dust related illnesses."

"That's good to hear. What really happened on that planet, Sheppard?"

John chewed his lower lip. "I told you anything I wanted you to know, as for the rest … well … I rather not talk about it." Then John quickly changed the subject before Rodney could disagree. "Hey, how come it's back to Sheppard again?"

"What? I've always called you Sheppard or Colonel. Why should I change?"

John smiled warmly and shook his head. "Have it your way, McKay, but I distinctly remember you calling me John in the auction place."

Rodney shook his head, vigorously. "You must have been dreaming."

"Maybe, but---."

"There are no buts, Sheppard."

Holding up his hands, John conceded. "Okay," Then looking at his watch, he sighed and muttered. "Well, I'd better go and do some more paper work. Oh and ... err ... speak to Teyla regarding some super hero that her people have reported seeing."

"Yes, yes, you do that."

John quickly nodded and walked towards the door. Rodney smiled and watched him go, thinking, It's certainly good to have you back … John, before turning back to face the sea.

The End

Well that's it. Thank you so much for all your super reviews and thanks to those who gave advice along the way. I hope that the story wasn't too cheesy or predicable as slave stories can be if you're not careful.