Well, here's the last chapter. Thank you so much to everyone who reviewed, and be sure to let me know what you think of the ending! Rx
John heard the stargate activate in the distance and breathed a sigh of relief. Finally. He had been back on Tabol for almost six hours, waiting for his team to show up, which he had figured would be easier than gating back to Atlantis straight away. It also meant he avoided bumping into himself.
Still, it was a decision that hurt. He had wrapped his wrist as best he could and taken a couple of painkillers, but it still throbbed constantly. The shrapnel in his shoulder dug in more every time he moved, and his jaw was aching like he'd just eaten a ton of toffee. That backhand the wraith had given him had sure been a bad one.
He was also starving. Powerbars just didn't cut it.
John eased himself up away from the tree he was leaning against and shuffled forward on his knees to the edge of the treeline. He was sitting just inside the woods, with a clear view of the top of the path. He just had to make sure he wasn't seen.
A few minutes later, Ronon appeared at the top of the path. He turned around and called over his shoulder, and very soon was joined by John and Rodney.
John watched himself look around from his hiding place. This was weird on so many levels. It was way worse than seeing his evil dream self or the replicator version of him, because this guy actually was him.
Ronon pointed at something, and John remembered the body lying under the cart. He shuddered. It was probably someone he had met, had talked to…
John watched himself say something to Rodney, and remembered that he had asked him to check for lifesigns, because he had felt he was being watched. John hunkered down behind a large tree trunk and some brambles, to make sure his other self didn't see him. His shoulder protested angrily at his new position but John stayed still, until he heard Rodney yell.
John sat up again and saw that he had found and activated the device.
Atta girl, Teyla, John thought. She had got the device back.
He watched himself grow fainter and fainter – Rodney was staring at him in shock, and Ronon had his gun out, pointed straight at his fading form. A moment later he was gone.
Ronon and Rodney looked at each other.
"Sheppard?" Ronon yelled.
John's radio crackled into life on his vest and Rodney's panicked voice came through. "Colonel? Colonel come in…"
"Sheppard?" Ronon yelled again.
John stood up and started to stride towards the town, trying to forget the last time he had walked across this field, and the fight with the wraith that had happened feet away.
The place was really starting to get to him. He had to get out of here.
"Wait, Ronon, there's someone here," John heard Rodney say suddenly. He always forgot his radio was on.
Deciding that now was a good time to put his friends out of their misery, John activated his own radio. "It's me," he said. "Three o, clock. Don't shoot me."
Rodney and Ronon spun round to face him, and after a moment started to stride towards him. John noticed that Ronon's grip on his gun didn't lessen, but he would expect no less.
John tried not to look as he walked past, but his eyes couldn't help drifting as he went by the house he had stayed in. The house in which Tagan had died. As he had thought when he and Teyla had appeared that morning, it had been burnt to the ground.
John stopped suddenly. There was a small boulder next to where the front door had once been. Carved into the boulder was an Ancient symbol. John didn't know what it meant, but he did know he'd seen it before – on Athos.
Teyla had burnt down the house when she had returned to Tabol. She had laid her father to rest.
John stared at the boulder for a moment, before continuing walking, shaking his head sadly. Rodney and Ronon were nearly upon him now.
"Hey," John said casually as they got closer.
Rodney gaped at him. "What the hell happened to you?" He asked, taking in the bandage on his wrist and what John was sure was a very colourful bruise on his jaw.
"I broke my wrist," John said.
"How?" Rodney demanded.
"Where did you go?" Ronon asked.
"It's a long story," said John. "Which ends with me sitting here in a quite lot of pain for six hours, so can we please talk about it when we get back home?"
It wasn't just the pain he felt that made John eager to return to Atlantis – he had to see Teyla. He was almost positive that everything had worked out the way he planned, but he had to see her to be sure. And he needed to talk to her. He walked past Rodney and Ronon, and started towards the path.
"Six hours?" Repeated Rodney as he went by him. "How were you here for – oh my god have you seen your shoulder?"
John rolled his eyes. "No, but I can sure as hell feel it," he said, still walking.
He picked up the pace when he got nearer to the Circle – it seemed like everywhere he looked he could see more dead bodies, covered in brambles and debris from falling buildings. He could see that the remains of the stalls were still arranged in the intricate circular formation that had become so familiar to him, and the inn where he had eaten with Tagan and Teyla had been blown apart by wraith weapons.
John had a feeling he was going to need some serious therapy after this one.
Rodney and Ronon didn't say anything as the three of them made their way down the winding path towards the stargate, but John could almost hear the looks they were giving each other behind his back. He didn't blame them – he couldn't imagine what he would think if this had happened to one of them. But it felt wrong, telling them what had happened before talking to Teyla about it first.
John picked up the pace again. He reached the DHD and paused, having to lean on it. His quick walk had done nothing to lessen the pain of his injuries, and he was feeling quite light-headed – lack of proper food and physical trauma. He'd felt it many times before.
Rodney dialled the gate and sent through his IDC. He activated his radio. "Atlantis, this is McKay requesting a medical team to the gate room. Colonel Sheppard's been injured."
"I can walk to the infirmary, McKay," John said as he walked towards the gate. He paused just before the event horizon and looked back over his shoulder, across the plain towards the steps, and knew that he would never come back to this planet. He took one last breath of Tabol air and stepped through the gate.
John felt hugely relieved when he stepped through the gate onto Atlantis – after spending three days not sure if he'd be able to get back, it was very gratifying to be home. He still felt a little uneasy, though, and looked around the room for Teyla, but she wasn't there.
Colonel Carter came running down the stairs from the control room. "Colonel, what happened?" She asked as she came nearer. Ronon stepped through the gate next to John and a few moments later, with a whine, the MALP drove through, reversed in by Rodney. John dodged out of the way of the MALP and turned to face Sam.
"Sam, have you seen –"
But Dr Keller and her team arrived at that moment and he was suddenly surrounded by medics, forcing him onto a gurney and peering at his injuries. John glared at them all but they ignored him, and started to wheel him away.
John's uneasiness increased. The reasonable part of his mind told him that there was no reason for Teyla to be in the gate room – his team hadn't been expected back yet, and she was probably in a whole other part of the city. Still, he needed to see her.
"Excuse us, Teyla," said Dr Keller suddenly.
John sat bolt upright as the gurney was wheeled past Teyla, who flattened herself against the wall to let them pass.
John opened his mouth to say something but nothing came out – instead he just drank in the sight of her, fully grown and here. Teyla caught his eye and her jaw dropped as she watched him speed past her. The medics rounded a corner and she was out of sight.
The infirmary was empty apart from John as he was directed to sit on a bed by Dr Keller. She cut off his flak jacket with a large pair of scissors, looking highly confused.
"Colonel, these injuries look several hours old," she said.
John nodded. "Yeah, about seven hours," he said. "Listen Doc, I –"
Keller cut him off. "But you were only gone for half an hour," she said.
"It's a long story," said John. "Doc, I really need to speak to Teyla."
"That can wait," said Dr Keller. "We need an X-Ray on the wrist, and shoulder and jaw, right away," she said to a nurse standing nearby.
"My jaw isn't broken," said John.
"Perhaps not, but I want to have a look," said the doctor briskly.
"Please, Doc, let me speak to Teyla," John said again. This was going to take ages, and he needed to speak to her, right now.
"Ten minutes, Doc," pleaded John. "It won't hurt."
Keller completely ignored him, and at that moment Colonel Carter walked into the infirmary, looking completely bemused.
"John what happened?" She asked. "McKay and Ronon said you disappeared and a minute later you reappeared and you were injured –"
"I need to talk to Teyla," John said firmly. He couldn't tell Carter about what had happened until he'd spoken to her first.
Carter frowned slightly. "Well, she's just outside…" she said.
John stared at Colonel Carter pleadingly. "Please Sam," he said. "Let me see her first."
Carter stared at him, the frown of confusion still in place. She glanced at Dr Keller, and then back at John. "Okay," she said after a moment. "I'll send her in."
John slumped in relief. "Thank you," he said.
He looked up at Dr Keller, who was glaring at him.
"Ten minutes, Doc, I swear," he said.
Keller narrowed her eyes. "Fine," she said exasperatedly. She nodded to the nurses to leave and started to draw the curtains around John's bed.
"But you sit back and don't move," she warned John.
John scooted back further onto the bed, the image of the model patient. Dr Keller narrowed her eyes at him again and yanked the curtains closed.
John listened to her footsteps fade away, and then to other footsteps drawing nearer. He drew a deep breath as the curtain opened and Teyla stepped in. She looked at him in concern. "Are you alright, John?" She asked.
John waved his right hand dismissively. "I'm fine," he said. He wasn't sure how to explain to her what had just happened to him – he only hoped she remembered it.
"Teyla, listen –" he began, but stopped when she held up something, wrapped in an Athosian cloth. She pulled away the cloth to reveal one of the Ancient devices. She smiled slightly and placed it on the foot of his bed.
John stared at it for a moment, and then looked back up at Teyla. "How did you know?" He asked.
"Your wrist," Teyla said. Her eyes swept his face. "Your other injuries." She took a step closer to the bed and looked at him seriously. "How you looked that day is something I never forgot," she said.
John stared at her. She remembered. What's more, she had always known this was going to happen. Ever since he had known her, she had known.
"I can't believe you never said anything," he said. "I mean, I understand why you didn't, it's just… it's been three years!" John shook his head in disbelief. "How did you never say anything?"
There was a chair near the foot of the bed, and Teyla pulled it closer to John and sat down.
"It was difficult at first," she said after a moment. "When you arrived on Athos and you did not know who I was…"
John thought back to their first meeting, thought of the way Teyla had spoken to him that day – so calmly and unfalteringly. But so trusting as well. She had always trusted him, and John had never wondered why. He had just trusted her in return.
"It must have been so weird," he replied.
Teyla smiled slightly. "A little," she said. "But after the first few weeks it became easier. In recent years I have thought of Tabol very infrequently."
John smirked slightly. "Forgot all about me, huh?" He quipped.
"Never," Teyla replied at once, completely seriously.
John blinked and had to look away, away from the intensity in her eyes. She had been waiting to talk to him about this for three years – seventeen, really – but to him it was so fresh. It had all happened a matter of hours ago. He could still hear the screams of the people of Tabol; feel Teyla shaking as she sobbed into his chest; see the look on Tagan's face as he gripped John's hand.
"I'm sorry," John said after a few seconds. He looked back up at Teyla, who was frowning at him.
"For what?" She asked.
John hesitated, and fought the urge to look away again. "For not – I'm sorry I couldn't save him," he said.
Teyla's eyes widened and she shook her head. "John… there was no way you could have," she said.
John's brow furrowed at the memory. "If I had –" he began, but Teyla cut him off, placing her hand on his.
"John," she said softly, as he looked at her in surprise. "You killed the Wraith. You saved me."
Teyla's expression darkened. "No one escaped the culling of Tabol," she said. "No one but us."
Her eyes bored into his. "There was nothing you could have done."
Teyla's hand was still on top of John's. He was very glad when she started speaking again, because it gave him something else to concentrate on.
"For years, when I thought of you, I could only remember how you got us out of there," said Teyla. "How strong you were, when I was..." Teyla's voice trailed off uneasily. She shook her head slightly and continued.
"When we met again, it took me many months to realise that you were not a …" Teyla shrugged and smiled, looking a little embarrassed. "A superhero, who had rescued me when I was a child."
John looked away, feeling very awkward. It was strange to imagine Teyla thinking of him like that.
"I realised that you are just a man," said Teyla. "And I came to respect you all the more."
John looked up at Teyla again and gave her a lopsided smile. He turned his hand over underneath hers and squeezed her fingers. "Thanks, Teyla," he said.
Teyla smiled tremulously and gripped his hand tightly. "I am glad you were able to meet my father," she said.
John's throat tightened. "So am I," he said. "You're just like him."
Teyla's smile lit her entire face and she tilted her head to the side. "Really?" She asked. For a moment she looked and sounded so much like the girl John had come to know that he had to grin.
"Yeah," he affirmed.
Teyla looked down for a moment, and when she looked back up her smile wasn't completely gone, but it was sad.
"I miss him," she said quietly. "Sometimes, I wish I could be a little girl again, with my father to take care of me."
Tagan's last words raced through John's mind, and he thought of what he had promised Teyla's father as he died. But he couldn't think of how to tell her – he wasn't even sure that he should.
John gripped Teyla's hand tighter and said nothing.
Teyla gave him another smile and stood up. "You should talk to Colonel Carter now," she said, letting go of his hand.
John nodded. "Yeah. This is gonna take some explaining," he said. He looked at the device at the end of his bed and smiled ruefully. "She and McKay are gonna go crazy over that thing," he said.
Teyla chuckled. "That I do not doubt," she said.
John raised his eyebrows at her. "And McKay will never forgive you for keeping it to yourself for three years," he told her.
Teyla raised an eyebrow right back at him. "He will get over it," she said.
She turned away and started towards the curtain, and John's eyes drifted down to her stomach. He thought of his reaction to her pregnancy and how awkward things had been between them. He thought about how he people were still missing, and how alone and helpless Teyla felt. He realised that he had already let her down in so many ways.
"Teyla," he said suddenly, making her stop near the foot of the bed and look back at him.
John took a deep breath. "I know I'm not… that is I…" John's tongue was twisting like it usually did in these situations. He took another breath and stared at Teyla determinedly.
"I promised Tagan that I'd take care of you," he said. Teyla's eyes widened, and John ploughed on.
"Even if I hadn't I'd still…" His voice trailed off and he tried again. "I want you to know that…"
Teyla walked back towards him, and John shut up. "I know," she said softly as she reached his side and grasped his hand again.
"You always have, John."
Even if John had known what to say in response he wouldn't have been able to speak as Teyla placed her other hand on his shoulder and leant down. John closed his eyes as their foreheads met, knowing that she meant what she said, and completely overwhelmed by the faith she had in him.
He vowed there and then that he would do more to deserve it.
Teyla straightened up and gave him a small smile before leaving John alone, thinking over the conversation they had just had. He couldn't help but feel that they had just turned a critical corner in their relationship, though he didn't quite know how.
He didn't have time to ponder it though, because the curtains were pulled open almost immediately to reveal Dr Keller, who had three nurses behind her wheeling over the portable X-Ray machine, and a determined look on her face.
He gave her a small smile. "That was less than ten minutes," he said.
Dr Keller rolled her eyes and started to direct the nurses to X-Ray his wrist first. They were manoeuvring the machine into position when Colonel Carter appeared at the end of his bed – Rodney and Ronon were right behind her.
Teyla hung back a little, one hand on her stomach.
Carter leant on the railings at the end of his bed. "Right, Colonel, what – what is that?" She asked, catching sight of the device lying by John's feet.
"It's a personal time travel device," John replied casually as a nurse guided his left arm into the X-Ray machine.
Sam Carter's blue eyes lit up like a Christmas tree and Rodney stepped up right behind her to peer over her shoulder. "What?" He said, flabbergasted.
John looked at Teyla, and they exchanged a knowing smile before he looked back Carter and Rodney, who were still staring at him.
John sighed. "This is a long story."