Spoilers: Mild S5 spoilers (baby's name).
Disclaimers: I make no profit of any kind from this fic, please no suey!
Please Note: Set after 'For Light does the Darkness Most Fear' (which was a sequel to 'And In The Darkness Bind Them'). You don't really have to have read these previous fics, but this will make more sense if you have.
The narrow corridor was bustling with activity as John strode towards the Gate Room, idly noting the sacks of grain being manhandled by his people up to the ever growing pile by the gate. As he entered the massive room his eyes slid to the gate, to the dark symbols that encircled the inner ring. He checked his watch again as he turned to the stairs and climbed them swiftly.
Ronon was standing at the top and greeted John with a silent nod.
"You changed your mind about coming on the mission?" John asked, knowing full well that the big man hadn't.
"No." Ronon grunted.
"Really? I would have thought the negotiations would be just your thing." John teased as he took his place beside Ronon.
"You want to go babysit those whining delegates that's your business. There's obviously something wrong with you." Ronon muttered as he threw John a withering look, designed to make John rethink his volunteering for this job and to one up on their banter. .
"Whatever." Was all John could think to reply in their back and forth. Together they both looked back to the Gate, eyes on the inner ring waiting for the first symbol to light up. "I could order you to go you know." John muttered thoughtfully.
"You do and I'll kill you." Ronon replied in a level tone.
"Maybe not then." John added. They lapsed into silence, both watching the assembling personnel below and the dark gate beyond them. John knew why Ronon was here watching and waiting and it was partly the same reason John was here. Even if he wasn't about to leave on a mission he knew he would still have found an excuse to be here, waiting, as he was every time. Ronon didn't even pretend he was here for any other reason that to confirm their return, but John felt he had to have an excuse each time; for the personnel on duty, for Woolsey and especially for her.
He was pretty sure she was clued into the fact that he and Ronon were always here to greet her and Torren when they had been away, but she hadn't said anything, hadn't even given them one of her knowing looks. He wondered when the protectiveness and fear would wear off. It had been two months since Michael's attack on the base and the death of the last of those shadow creatures, but John still woke in the night at times a thin layer of sweat over his body. Some nights he had even had to switch on his laptop and pull up the latest status report of Michael; just to confirm to himself that Michael wasn't coming back, that Teyla and Torren were safe. Only then and with some quiet reading could he pretend he wasn't remembering the fear that had pounded in his veins that day.
And then there were the days she went off world with Torren to visit Kanaan. When the both of them were away from the city it made John especially edgy. He knew Michael was under wraps never to waken again, but he couldn't stop worrying about them. And it appeared Ronon hadn't stopped either. So, every time she visited her people for a short break, usually to pick Torren up from a longer stay with his father, he and Ronon would wait for her in the Gate room when she was due to return. It was also always a nice excuse for John to be able to take Torren from her, to hold the child both in relief that they were back safely and in that John had felt more connected to the kid since what had happened two months ago. He still wasn't sure how Torren had helped him fight off that shadow creature, but he was sure he had and Torren seemed to recognise John more now, smile up at him with what John felt was an extra special smile just for him. Of course Torren was now smiling at everyone he now recognised, but there was something in that moment when the tiny little eyes studied John's features and then his eyes lit up and those little lips parted in a massive smile that made John feel extra special to the kid.
The symbols across the way began to light up and John felt Ronon relax his stance slightly. John checked his watch, noting she was ten minutes later than he had hoped; she would have to leave with them immediately. Looking back up he watched the wormhole engage and he held his breath. To the left he heard Chuck report an IDC and the red flicker over the Gate as the shield disengaged. His eyes fixed on the blue shimmering light and he realised he was holding his breath and silent words circled his head; come home.
She stepped out of the event horizon, Torren in her arms and several bags hanging from her shoulders. As the Gate deactivated with a rush, Ronon was already down the stairs before John had released the breath he had been holding. John watched Teyla as she smiled and received Ronon's large hug, allowing him to take her heavy bags from her. She had only been gone two days, but anyone would think he and Ronon hadn't seen her for weeks the way they behaved and Teyla didn't seem to mind all that much. Which was odd as he would have thought she would have grown impatient with their poorly hidden protectiveness. As he hurried down the stairs as casually as he could to meet her, he tried to tell him self once again that he was just worried about his friend and little Torren.
She smiled up at him as he approached, but there was no hug for him, they never hugged except in real grave circumstances. So instead he turned to Torren for the hug he couldn't share with Teyla. The little boy was staring around wide eyed at all the people around the Gate Room.
"Hey there little guy." Johns said as he stepped up beside Teyla. Torren's head turned quickly round towards John and a bright little giggle came out from his mouth. John's heart leapt and he reached for him just as the little arms stretched out towards him. John took the growing bundle from Teyla, settling him in his arm. And the relief finally came; they were back and they were safe. And he was so pathetic, he told himself. Teyla reached out and rubbed Torren's back and John met her eyes with a smile.
"How were things?" He asked as Torren's patted a hand against his jaw. It was the closet John came to asking how Kanaan was. Kanaan spent a reasonable amount of time in Atlantis, caring for Torren when Teyla was off world, but that didn't mean John had to interact with the guy that much. He had tried, sitting in the Mess Hall with the Athosian over a cup of coffee once, but he had only managed ten minutes before his skin had itched too much with his discomfort and he had quickly made an excuse and fled. He knew Ronon spent quite a bit of time with Kanaan, but the big guy never spoke to John about him. Somehow Ronon understood John's position on it all, which was amazing as John wasn't even sure him self.
"Things are very well with my people." She replied as she turned to the preparations around them. John watched her profile as she turned away and told him self that he was imagining her slight discomfort. Had she started up her relationship with Kanaan again? Had they argued? Something was bothering her. Torren's hand tapped against John's chin and it worked as a reminder to stop staring at Teyla and he looked down at Torren's smiling face. Torren repeated his uncoordinated grasping of John's freshly shaven chin.
"Kanaan has recently begun growing a beard." Teyla said with a smile looking back at them. "Torren was quite fascinated by it."
John nodded, feeling rather weird about Torren comparing him and Kanaan in any way. "I don't think you'd like me in a beard Torren." John said down to the kid, causing the little dark brown eyes to turn up to meet his. "Because then you wouldn't like me to do this." John leant down and blew a raspberry into the side of Torren's neck. Torren squealed with delight at their usual game. John pulled back happy to see the bright smile on Torren's face and then Teyla's. Torren began to make little protesting noises that John recognised as his demands for more, but John wasn't about to start playing around with his people stood around watching. He needed to keep some respect as their military leader. One raspberry hadn't hurt it, but no more. It was time to go back to business anyway, he turned around to find the second gate team piling in.
"We're gonna have to go to the meeting straight away, they're expecting us." John told Teyla.
Teyla nodded and reached for Torren, taking her son back into her arms. "Of course, I was slightly delayed by someone." She looked down at Torren with a raised eyebrow, who only gazed up lovingly at his mother.
"You got everything you need to take with you?" John asked as he reached for the bags Ronon held.
"I will take them, you are on duty." Teyla said intercepting the bag Ronon was handing over.
"We're not expecting any trouble, Teyla." John replied pulling gently on the bag strap, but she held onto it.
"There will be representatives from six worlds there, including the Genii will there not?"
John had an image of him shooting down attacking Genii with the bright baby bag around his shoulders. Maybe not. He released the strap, but turned to one of the scientists who was standing nearby. "Hollings? Can you carry one of these bags for Teyla please?"
The young woman turned at his request and smiled. "Of course, Colonel."
Teyla reluctantly let the bag be passed over to Hollings and then she quickly slipped the other fuller yet lighter bag over her head and shoulder. Maybe she was aware of their protectiveness and growing tired of it after all. She turned to talk with Hollings, her back straight and tall and John had to remind himself yet again that she was a fully capable woman. He became aware that Ronon was rolling his eyes at him.
"What?" John demanded.
Ronon gave John one of his patented amused glares. "Nothing."
"Like you wouldn't be carrying them for her if you were coming with us." John argued.
"But I'd let her carry them if she wanted to." Ronon replied before he turned and walked away.
"Don't go eating all the popcorn while we're gone." John called to his retreating back.
Ronon waved in a way that suggested to John that there would be no popcorn when he got back, if not eaten then hidden for Ronon's amusement. John tried not to be amused, but allowed the smile to cross his face as he turned to the now fully assembled group of personnel.
"Everybody here?" He called as Lt States stepped forward with John's vest and P90. John pulled both on and listened to the reports. Happy he looked up to where Woolsey stood at the balcony over looking the Gate Room. "We're good to go, be home in time for tea." He called.
Woolsey nodded and looked over his shoulder. "Dial the Gate."
The world was pretty enough, in a rural Tudor England kind of way. The buildings in the town were squat and too close together for John's liking, but the people were nice enough and the farm animals that were allowed to wander free had stopped trying to eat the grain sacks the team had brought with them for the meeting. All the worlds involved brought gifts for this host world for the negotiations and for each other, it was customary to share in times of need was how Teyla described it. He could understand that and they had enough grain left over from their last trade to share some. What they needed was more fresh fruit and veg and hopefully if this alliance of worlds paid out they would be able to find reliable trading partners.
A large cow like creature standing to John's left sighed heavily, releasing a smelly cloud of fermented grass over John. He turned to the creature, "Thank you for that." He muttered. The thing's large pink nose twitched at him and John looked up past the cow like wet nose, past the very un-cow-like scales that lined its face to the wide black eyes that regarded him thoughtfully. The thing began munching on its mouth full of grass again and John got the feeling it wasn't too impressed with him. Great he was getting issues from a scaled alien cow now.
The door behind him creaked open and he turned to see Teyla walking towards him. The light breeze caught her Athosian coat and it billowed out behind her. John looked back at the cow once more before he headed over to meet her, feeling the large black eyes following him. They met in the middle of the yard that surrounded the meeting hall.
"How's it going in there?" John asked, wondering where Torren was.
She smiled. "Well, I think."
"Torren enjoying himself?" John asked.
She smiled as she lifted her face towards the warm sun that shone down on them. "Indeed, Mapa was a very close friend of my father's and he is a most doting uncle for Torren."
Her expression changed to seriousness and he stood straighter slipping into work mode again.
"It appears there have been more cullings that we previously thought." She began. "Laster of Kraya reports that his people have been almost entirely wiped out."
John shifted his weight uncomfortably at the news. "They had the virus?"
"He says he had not heard of any new sickness, but his world is divided into several larger continents and he only knows of his lands."
John looked back at the cow that was now wandering off. "Anyone sick on this world?"
"No. I asked Mapa and he says there have been no reports of sickness from Michael's virus here."
"Beckett thinks it might get passed through the genetic line, so it might not be the last we see of these retaliation strikes from the Wraith." He replied turning back to her.
"Laster would like to speak to you." Teyla added.
"Me? Why?" John asked, desperately unwilling to be pulled into that meeting room. Teyla was great at the whole negotiations thing, he was not and especially not dealing with the man's pain and suffering from losing his people.
"I believe he needs more aid than these other worlds can offer."
"You represent Atlantis as well as the Athosians, why can't he speak to you?" John asked, still trying to find an excuse not to get involved in the meeting.
Teyla smiled knowing up at him. "They seem to accept I represent Atlantis as well; however I feel they would like to have someone from the city they could speak to."
"What there aren't enough of us here to prove you're with us?" John indicated the field to his right which was full of scientists all milling around the small Ancient ruins that sat beside the meeting hall.
"John." Teyla said with a light smile.
"Fine." John muttered. He tapped his ear piece. "Lt States?"
"Yes, Sir?" The young male voice came back over the radio immediately.
"Is the Gate still secure?" John asked, even knowing that it would be. They would have contacted him if not.
"Yes, Sir. All quiet here." Great; no excuse there.
"I'm heading in to the meeting hall. Let me know immediately if anything changes."
John looked over at the marine to his left who was the closest on sentry duty watching over the meeting hall and the scientists. They exchanged a nod and John walked back towards the hall with Teyla.
They stepped through the hall's doorway and a vague damp smell assaulted his nose as they walked through the lobby space. The main meeting hall was a round, high room, full of flickering candles and full voices. John's eyes immediately fell to the Genii, their uniforms drawing his attention out of reflex. They had changed the colour of the uniform slightly, which John was pleased about; being that it was less like the one Kolya used to wear. The female Genii negotiator turned and nodded to John politely before turning back to her discussion with another representative. Her two guards studied him more intently, but John saw no hostility in their eyes. Teyla's hand on his arm broke his study of the Genii and he turned to find her indicating another man.
"Colonel Sheppard may I introduce Laster of the Kraya world."
The man was half a foot shorter than John, though with the way his neck was pulled down into his shoulders it was difficult to tell. He looked thin and the clothes he wore suggested they were old and well worn. "It is a pleasure to meet you Colonel Sheppard. We have heard much of your exploits across the stars."
The praise made John even more uncomfortable. "Thanks." He muttered, before clearing his throat. "Teyla said you wanted to speak to me."
"Yes." Laster lifted his grey eyes up to John's and though the man appeared tired and weak his gaze was strong. "You may have heard that my world was recently devastated by a Wraith culling by three Hives." John tried not to twitch at that, three Hives working together? "Our population has been left greatly reduced and disorganised. We require medicines and perhaps some assistance in quelling some recent lootings of villages." It was typical behaviour, when leadership and order fell people grabbed what they could. "And in return we would like to offer use of some of our abandoned farmland."
That caught John's attention and he and Teyla shared a look. If they had lost so many of their population then there would be farmland freed up, and they would need people to help clear the land, plant and harvest. It could be a good deal, no wonder Teyla wanted him to hear this. John opened his mouth to respond when an almighty explosion shook the ground releasing dust down from the ceiling above them.
John reached out to steady Teyla as the ground rumbled and Laster stumbled against the wall. John let go of Teyla as she rushed away, no doubt to gather up Torren. John tapped his ear piece the same time as people began shouting over it.
"Colonel, we are under attack, repeat, under attack."
"Where are you?" John demanded as he strode out through the lobby, but he didn't need to hear the response for the hall's door stood open and through it he could hear screaming and another explosion almost knocked him from his feet. The first thought that ran through his mind was; the Genii, but he passed aside that thought and stepped cautiously from the doorway, his weapon raised.
"They are attacking from the field east of the meeting hall." Someone reported.
"Retreat back to the meeting hall." John shouted into his radio.
Weapons fire led him around the hall, people and farm animals running past him in a hurry to leg it as far away from the fighting as possible. The Ancient ruins were a mess, small fires littering pieces of stones, dirt, technology and even a few pieces of a body caught his eye. He pushed down the natural nausea he felt, as his eyes eventually found the main remains of only one fatality that he could see. Looked like a landmine or maybe someone threw in a hand grenade. By the ruins the scientists were wisely covered behind several carts of hay. Protecting them John's people were firing out at a group of people moving swiftly towards them across the fields. The enemy didn't appear to be put off by the bullets taking down their colleagues. Not good.
He tapped his radio again. "States; how's the Gate?"
"Still secure Sir. You need assistance?"
"I'll let you know, just keep that Gate secure." He ordered as he finally reached the huddled scientists. "Everyone alright?"
Hollings looked up at him her eyes wide, blood smeared over her right cheek. "We loss Terry." He must be the one in pieces among the ruins. John nodded. "Okay, I need the rest of you to head back to the meeting hall while we cover you. Don't go inside, just wait by the entrance. Go." He shoved the closest into moving. They obeyed, which he was thankful of. He wished Rodney was here, as least he was a scientist who could shoot a weapon well enough now, well, not that well, but at least he followed John's orders now.
"Sir, they're still coming and there's more approaching now from the south."
"We're going to pull back." John shouted, "We need to keep a perimeter between them and the meeting hall."
"Yes, Sir." The two marines closest chimed together.
However another explosion echoed from their right. John turned towards the sound, seeing the high plume of dirt and fire spat up from the explosion from the far side of the Tudor town. Uh oh. People began to run out from the town towards the hall, all screaming and terrified. Things were about to get really out of hand.
"States?" John shouted into his radio. "I need you to send two of your people up towards us, there's a whole hell of a lot of terrified locals coming your way. Let them go through the gate, but keep them as ordered and as calm as possible."
"Yes, Sir." Came the reply. "Gate is still secure."
"Why haven't they attacked the Gate?" The closest marine asked him between firing.
It was a good question. John thought it over as he watched the advancing men who were carrying actual pitchforks as well as blades, torches and bottles in their hands. Bottles?
He watched in horror as one set a bottle's opening to the torch of the man next to him, then reached back and launched the bottle towards them.
"Fall back!" John shouted as he began to run backwards firing though his eyes were locked onto the high arc of the bottle as it flew towards them. The bottle hit the hay cart just late enough that the four of them had pulled back in time and then whatever else was in that bottle exploded, the concussion wave knocking him off his feet onto his back forcing away his breath and dazing him for a moment. Behind him he heard above the screams more weapons fire, and looked up to see the two Genii firing at the approaching men.
A hand fell on John's shoulder pulling him out of the daze he had been in and he looked up at Teyla and realised the screaming was from Torren. Panic, completely unrelated to the pure military position they were in reared up; Teyla and Torren were both here and in serious danger. He was up on his knees and then to his feet in quick time, his head clearing. rest of the team were up as well, all okay. The roaring fire from the explosion was acting as a barrier which was buying them some time from the enemy's advancement.
John turned to see all the representatives standing out side the hall, all pale and fearful. Behind them crowded some of the locals, too stunned at what they had seen to follow the rest that were running away down the road towards the Gate. John realised then what was happening; they were being herded out of the town to the Gate. But, he didn't have the manpower or time to stop it. Damn, if he at least had a Jumper….
"We need to get the representatives to safety." Teyla was saying to him as she tried to comfort Torren's crying.
He nodded, reaching up with his slightly soot covered hand to stroke Torren's back. "They're pushing us back to the Gate."
She looked over her shoulder at the road full of fleeing people and then back towards the enemy approaching from at least two sides. "Maybe we should let them." She replied. She had realised the same; they didn't have time or resources to stop this.
"Let's get them out of here, even if it's to Atlantis, then we can come back with greater force." John said as he turned to the crowd. "Everyone to the Gate!" Wide eyes stared at him, rather like the cows, all of which had quickly vacated the town. "Now!" He shouted. That was what they had needed and the rush was on, everyone running for the road. John hated to start a stampede, but as another Tudor house went up in sudden explosive flames, he didn't think he had much choice.