Title: Proving Your Worth
Disclaimers: Stargate Atlantis and it's known characters unfortunately do not belong to me.
"Are you serious, John? You want to let them give you this drug?"
John nodded. "I know it sounds crazy, but they've been great and only allow people who do this access to their trade planets. I mean, this is an entire system of traders, Elizabeth! We were able to see some of the items available and it could help us a lot! Especially since we haven't had any contact with Earth."
"I don't know," she replied. "I'm a bit leery about it. What are the side effects of this drug? Why do they make people take it?"
"No one has died from taking it, if that's what you mean. And they do it to weed out the not so potential allies. I think it's worth the risk."
Elizabeth was thoughtful for a few minutes. John was right on every point, but she couldn't help but worry about this. However, she was going to give in... Slightly. "OK, John, I'll approve this but only if those people allow Carson to test the drug first."
"Teyla did ask them about that and they gave me a sample," John said with a grin, holding a small vial.
An hour later John and Elizabeth were sitting in Elizabeth's office as Carson shared his findings. "As far I as can tell, this drug will not kill you. I believe it will cause some serious side effects, though."
"What are we talking about, Carson?" John asked. "Cramping, trouble sleeping?"
"Fever, nausea, hallucinations. And yes, cramping and trouble sleeping are possibilities as well. If I were you, I'd be certain this is something worth it."
Elizabeth looked at John. He was right; the potential allies they could find in these people were astounding. Ten planets within a solar system that help one another by trading and fighting the Wraith. This could be a dream come true. And then she remembered that every time they think something could be a "dream come true", chaos inevitably followed. Of course, it seemed to follow John Sheppard as well.
"Okay, here are the conditions I want if I'm going to approve this. Carson and myself will be accompanying your team to the planet. If something goes seriously wrong with how the drug interacts with your system, we will leave immediately despite any insistence you are making, John."
He nodded. "Sounds good to me."
"Good. We leave in an hour. Contact your team on the planet and let them know what's going on."
Rodney shook his head as they waited for John, Elizabeth, and Carson. "This is a very bad idea!" he exclaimed. "Nothing good can come of this!"
"Just relax, Rodney. If Carson says Colonel Sheppard will be all right, then I believe him, do you not?"
He looked at Teyla incredulously. "Oh sure, believe the voodoo doctor! Look, just because he tested that drug doesn't mean it won't seriously compromise Sheppard's system! I mean it's an alien substance!"
"What? I am?"
"I've had some 'alien substances' before and they're not all their cracked up to be. Just because one thing is good for one person, doesn't necessarily mean it's good for someone else."
Suddenly the 'Gate sprang to life and John emerged followed closely by Elizabeth and Carson. "Hey guys!" he said. "Did ya miss me?"
"How can you make jokes at a time like this? You're about to ingest an alien drug that could kill you!" Rodney exclaimed.
"Relax, Rodney. Although it may cause a few side effects, it won't kill him."
Rodney merely glared at the physician and crossed his arms as the President of the Maynard Alliance stepped forward. "Welcome back to Maynard, Colonel Sheppard."
"Thanks," John replied. "May I introduce our leader, Dr. Elizabeth Weir and this is Dr. Beckett. Elizabeth, Carson, this President Hillman."
She nodded, accepting his handshake. "It's a pleasure, President Hillman."
"Please, call me Minteer. We are deeply honored that you have allowed Colonel Sheppard to take part in welcoming ceremony."
"I apologize for being concerned, but what happens in this ceremony? Colonel Sheppard mentioned something about a drug."
Minteer smiled as he led them to the city. "There is no need to apologize, Dr. Weir. I would be just as worried about a friend as well. We have had no deaths in the ceremony, however most have exhibited signs of anxiety for a time afterwards."
"The ceremony helps us to determine the worth of the one who partakes in it. Colonel Sheppard will be asked many questions and those questions are difficult ones. Ones that will delve into his past and may cause distress."
Rodney did not like the sound of this one bit. "Wait a minute! First off how do you prove one world's worth by one man and secondly, does Sheppard even know what he's getting into?"
"My spiritual guide and physician, Jensen, is currently giving him another opportunity to decline by telling him this information," Minteer replied, obviously accustomed to having questions as those directed at him. "This practice has been in place for thousands of years, we are not intent on changing it anytime soon."
As they were seated and food began to be served, a man walked over to them. "Sir, Colonel Sheppard is ready and willing to participate."
Minteer nodded. "Good. Dr. Weir, Dr. McKay, Dr. Beckett, Ronon, Teyla, this is Jensen. He has been my spiritual guide for almost 15 cycles of the sun. I trust him implicitly."
"It is good to meet you," Elizabeth said.
"Thank you, Dr. Weir," Jensen replied. "Dr. Beckett, Colonel Sheppard said you are his physician and you would like to speak to someone regarding this. I would be happy if you joined me at my table."
"That would be great, thank you," Carson said, standing.
Soon everyone was talking and eating, although Elizabeth was so nervous that she could barely eat anything. John had gone through so much since they day she met him plus whatever happened to get him stationed in Antarctica. She could only imagine.
"Are you all right?" Rodney asked her.
"I've been better," she replied. "I'm just worried about him. I know how hard he tries to hide his emotions and this is going expose all of them to complete strangers."
Teyla nodded in agreement. "Colonel Sheppard is one of the most emotional men I've ever met but he does not readily show them unless he is angered. I believe he will over come this."
"Yeah," Ronon said. "Sheppard's strong."
Minteer stood as John was led into the room. "Friends, Allies, welcome. Today we are shown the courage and tenacity of the people of Earth. May I present Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard. Please show him respect when asking him your questions."
John sat down away from the food tables because he was already starting to feel nauseated by all the smells combined. He was sure it would smell good in there if he didn't have the drug in his system.
When Jensen explained the process and what would be happening to him physically, emotionally, and mentally, John was half tempted to rush back to the Stargate. However he knew how important this was and what better excuse to get things off his chest by saying he was drugged.
After a few minutes of just trying to calm his nerves, a woman came up to him. She sat down, smiling. John smiled back because she reminded him of his grandmother. "Hello, dear," she said.
"It was mentioned that your people have been in this galaxy for a little over three years. What is the one thing you regret doing since coming here?"
John took a deep breath. There were so many things he regretted doing, but he would have to give her the number one reason. The reason he knew these people were going to change their minds once they learn of it.
"Waking the Wraith."
"I see," the woman replied. She seemed so calm and John really didn't know how to take that. "How did that happen?"
"We had just arrived on our new homeworld and things were as we hoped they would be so we dialed the 'Gate to another planet to find some place to stay." John continued the story, heart still hammering in his chest. He finally came to the end. "I stabbed the Wraith queen and in doing so, woke up the Wraith."
She merely nodded, stood up and kissed John on the forehead. "I know how much this hurts you, dear. You had no idea that was going to happen. All you were thinking about was saving your friend's lives and that is the most important thing."
John watched as she walked away. He felt cold and dizzy and all he wanted to do was lie down and fall asleep. Of course that wasn't going to happen. The next person to come over to him was one of Minteer's guards.
"Colonel Sheppard. I am Major Naring, military commander of our people. How long have you been a commander among your people and what are your policies? Have you ever gone against orders?"
John raised his eyebrows at Naring. "Too the point," John said. "I can do that. I have been commander of our expedition for three years. My number one policy is that we don't leave our people behind and I will admit that I have gone against orders many times."
Naring nodded. "Please elaborate, Colonel."
John went on to tell him about saving Mitch, Dex, and Holland. He told Naring of the times he defied Elizabeth and one of the most recent adventures of defying General Landry to save General O'Neill and Woolsey.
Once he was finished, John was shaking uncontrollably. He had no idea what a shock like this was going to do to him. To think back and remember everything. Everything he did wrong... Things he couldn't forgive himself for.
John wanted to scream, but instead, he looked up at Naring in silence as the man stood. "You are to be commended, Colonel Sheppard. I shall be proud to call you my friend and ally."
This went on for a good hour. He was asked about his family, his fears, and his beliefs. When Minteer finally came up to him, John thought he was going to keel over. He was cramping all over, his head was pounding, and he didn't remember ever being so cold.
"Colonel," he said, placing a hand on John's shoulder. "We are finished. Your friends will take you to a place to rest while we discuss our findings. But do not worry for I truly believe you have been accepted into our circle."
John nodded slowly. Right now he didn't really care if they kicked them back to the Stargate, he was so emotionally drained it wasn't even funny. And the effect the drug was having on him was not helping anything.
He barely felt strong arms lift him to his feet and normally would be fighting against Ronon carrying him, but as he finally drifted off into a restless sleep, he found that again he just didn't care.
"How's he doing, Carson?"
The physician looked up from his patient. "The same as the last time you asked, Rodney," he replied in exasperation. "His body won't be back to normal until the drugs have completely left his system."
Elizabeth sat quietly in the corner, wondering if she did the right thing by agreeing to this ceremony. She had never seen John so... she really couldn't figure out how to describe it. It was almost as if he were only a shell of the man they once knew.
She reached up to wipe the tears from her face, but stopped. Elizabeth didn't care right now if they saw her upset. These were her friends and they would understand her feelings. She decided to let it all go now, before John was lucid enough to see her in this state.
Rodney gave up bothering Carson when he heard sniffling behind him. He knew it wasn't Ronon and, at the moment, Teyla was busy meditating. Rodney was not one to show affection to people, but he'd changed in the years since coming to Atlantis.
"Elizabeth," he said, kneeling in front of her taking her hand. "He'll be all right, he's strong. Besides, he has us, right?"
She nodded, finally feeling a little better, and wiped her tears. "Thanks, Rodney."
When John woke up he knew he was back in Atlantis before he even opened his eyes. He could tell by the soft familiar hum of the city. Once he was fully awake, he took a look around the infirmary.
A few nurses were milling about, one checking on someone in the corner bed, but there was no sign of his friends. John thought back to ceremony. He really didn't think he was going to live through that. Relieving some of the hardest moments of his life was very difficult for him.
However, he was surprised to note that it was cathartic as well. John was broken from his reverie when he heard Carson's voice. The physician looked very happy and nodded in approval.
"Colonel Sheppard. How are you feeling?"
"Much better than... how long ago was that?" John asked. "I know it was more than a day at least."
Carson nodded. "Aye, you've been unconscious for nearly two weeks."
"It was a time for healing that you needed. That drug took a lot out of you. You are very lucky man, Colonel."
John adjusted himself so Carson could check his heartbeat. "So how did things go with the Maynard Alliance? Was I worthy enough for them?"
"It was unbelievable, John," Elizabeth said as she joined them. She saw Ronon, Rodney, and Teyla behind her.
"Hey guys. So what was so unbelievable?"
Ronon grabbed a chair and sat backwards as he replied, "Those people practically thought of you as their god when the rumors started of your... what did they call them?"
"Exploits," Teyla supplied.
"Yes, harrah, aren't we all excited. Of course Sheppard's getting all the attention. I'm sure every Father will want his daughter to marry him and every woman will to have his babies, but do we really need to inflate his ego any further?"
"You're just jealous, Rodney," Carson replied.
Rodney crossed his arms and glared at Carson. "So what if I am!"
"Because," Ronon said standing, "if you don't shut up I'm going to make you."
"Jealous? Who's jealous?"
John chuckled at Rodney's change in demeanor. It felt wonderful to laugh with his friends. Although his demons were never going to leave him completely, he knew he wasn't alone to deal with them and that was all he could ask for.