Thanks to all my lovely reviewers. Well, here it is. Last chapter. It's been a long ride and this chapter needs to close on John and Cat.
Cat was restless. The night before had been everything she'd hoped for, and more and she'd managed to grab some sleep after they'd returned to their quarters, but it was very fitful. She felt as though something were unresolved. About an hour previously, she'd felt John stir and try to extricate himself from their tangled heap of legs and arms without waking her. The shower had tinkled on the distant edges of her awareness as had the gentle opening and shutting of the drawers and the stiff rustling as he dressed in his BDU's. He'd leant over, as always, and kissed her on the forehead, quietly whispering 'I love you' before heading off to his Atlantis bound duties.
Wearily, Cat struggled to open her eyes. In her half sleep she'd not really been aware of what was bothering her, but it was clearer now. One of her strengths, as well as a weakness, was her ability to make quick decisions and stick with them: the trouble was that she stuck with them regardless. As a little girl, her mother had called it her determined back, describing the way she'd stride into school as a very little girl, back straight, never looking back. Today she knew what she needed to do, something she really should have followed through days ago and she got up quickly, showering and dressing within ten minutes. What she now needed was someone who was 'in the know' but not at the sharp end of things, so to speak. There was only one person who might just have the information she needed and putting on that 'determined back' she left to find Harry Burt, Atlantis' now infamous barman.
Harry was behind the bar, clearing up the detritus from the night before, the result of a rather drunken birthday celebration given for Zelenka by some of his science buddies which had been gate-crashed by a group of rowdy marines. He stood up quickly as he heard her soft foot- fall, immediately knowing who was coming. One of his skills, apart from mixing and naming some stunning cocktails, was the ability to recognise his visitors by the way they walked. It had often proved useful, learnt from working in some of the more dangerous 'drink and duck' bars back on Earth, where knowing who was coming from behind could sometimes save your ass.
His bald head popped up from behind the bar and in a strong Irish lilt he greeted her with a jokey, 'top-o-the-mornin' to you Doctor Sheppard!' While Chief Maria Johnson certainly had a huge crush on the dashing Colonel, he was totally smitten by Cat's gentle beauty and soft English voice and Maria and he would often share a late night drink discussing the pain of unrequited love. John frequently teased her about the doey Irish eyes that followed her around the room when they were in the bar.
'Hi, Harry,' she said, as casually as possible, swinging her legs up onto a high bar stool and giving him a gleaming smile. 'So, what's new?'
This was his cue. Harry was an incorrigible gossip and having the woman of his dreams listening with rapt attention was enough to set him off. He rambled on about Atlantis trivia, who was going out with who, who'd cheated on who, who was next in line for promotion and much more, and throughout Cat maintained her patient smile, waiting for the one nugget of information that she was waiting for. After twenty long minutes she got what she wanted.
'And, that woman is leaving for Earth today,' all of Atlantis was now calling her by that epithet,' and good riddance is all I can say. You must be glad to see her go.'
He looked crestfallen at the disappearing back of his infatuation, leaving rapidly from the bar room, then shrugged his shoulders and, with a chirpy whistle, carried on with his cleaning.
Cat knew what she wanted to do. Without hesitation, she headed straight for their quarters and found the side-arm that John had strapped inside the wardrobe 'for emergencies'. The habit, he said, had come from being with Ronon too long. The big man seemed to have a never ending supply of hidden weapons, both on his person and around the city. It wasn't difficult to hide the gun: she was already wearing slightly more baggy clothes than usual to give her a little more breathing room as her girth expanded, and she tucked it into her waistband. Next stop 'her' place on the balcony. She could hide in the shadows long enough to wait for Charel to arrive in the gate room. Long ago, she'd found a quiet and secret niche covered by a door quite invisible to most eyes. Her very strong gene meant that she could see and open the door with ease. Once inside, she'd simply keep the door slightly open, hopefully able to pick up the noises as John's torturer and her guards entered. With luck, she'd be far too early for John to have set up any guards on the outside of the control room doors. She hadn't been blind to the more watchful eyes of Lorne and his marines and had guessed that John may have had a 'little word' with his second in command about looking after her while Charel was still on the base.
It wasn't unusual to see the wife of the military commander walking towards the control room and most of the military presence was concentrated around the lower area, around the gate, so she was allowed to walk unhindered and unnoticed. Once, she caught Rodney in the distance, striding purposefully towards the canteen and she stepped back into the wall to avoid him, breathing a sigh of relief as his stomach once again won over his observation skills. Rodney was nothing if not single minded in matters of the belly. As she'd hoped, the marines posted by Lorne were looking out from the balcony across to the gate and Cat silently shuffled into the narrow space, closing the door with a swift thought, leaving a tiny gap where the sounds of the room could just about percolate through. Here, she shut her eyes, willing patience to ease the fluttering of her chest brought on by nervous anticipation.
So, here she was. All she'd need to do was to step out at the right time and fire the weapon into that woman's head. John had trained her well in firearms skills and she was now a darn good shot, surprising herself given her total fear of guns before she'd come to the city. She settled back into the shadows, prepared to wait for as long as it took.
John had made an important decision. Up to this point, he'd avoided Charel, unwilling to face her despite his much improved fitness. Now, he needed to show that he was back in a position of strength and make sure that she understood how she'd failed. And yet, there was something inside of him that shied away from the meeting, something not yet healed. No, he was John Sheppard and he didn't walk away from challenge or danger just for personal convenience. He would go down to the cells and personally oversee her removal from the city. That would be the best revenge.
Charel looked a little taken a back at first, but she soon rose to her full height and looked him proudly at him. He, in turn, silently returned her stare, a glint of emerald in his hazel eyes the only evidence of the heaving emotions inside him, leaving her in no doubt as to his meaning and he took some pleasure in the almost imperceptible slump of her shoulders when she registered what he was doing. The guards tightened her handcuffs and they had marched her here, to the gate room, a strange convoy walking through deserted and echoing corridors, all Atlantis' residents ordered to stay away from the passage it would take. The door swished open into the gate room itself and he heard Woolsey hail The Daedelus to prepare for and transport the prisoner. She turned to look him, smiling an arrogant smile, attempting, but failing at, one last act of defiance. He could see the fear in her eyes and thought, with no little enjoyment, that she had every right to be scared. Where she was going would not be a pleasant experience, he was certain.
Cat heard the door swish open and the sound of soldiers' boots on the shiny gate room floor. This was it. Her chance for final retribution against the woman who had so nearly taken away the one who meant everything to her. She pushed the door open a little more and stepped forward a pace, gun ready to fire, just as John had taught her.
'No! Stop!' A voice that wasn't a voice bubbled up from inside her, shouting in her head. A familiar voice and yet still not yet known. Cat stopped, poised to attack, shocked into stillness, unable to move. Beneath her she heard the sound of the transporter and knew that her moment had gone. With a sudden need for escape and self-preservation, she slipped from the niche, running out of the control room in the shadows, hoping that no-one had noticed her, desperate to return to the safety of her rooms.
'No! Stop!' The voice was so loud in John's head that he jumped and looked round for its source, causing Lorne to give him a strange look. John smiled a reassuring smile at him and tried to wipe the puzzlement from his features, wanting Charel to see his strength and defiance to the end. It was only after the transporter had taken her away that he allowed himself to consider what had happened. That voice! He knew it. He'd heard it before. In the torture chamber. When he was dying. And, in that moment, he knew what had nearly happened and rushed from the control room, desperate to find Cat, knowing that she would need him.
Cat slumped at her dressing table, the gun still in her hand as she rested it on the cluttered surface, tears streaming down her face. She heard the door behind her and was aware of a gentle hand taking the gun from her hand and the click as the safety was put back on. She felt herself being guided from her seat towards the bed and the soft mattress beneath her as a strong arm sat her down gently, but firmly. John's face appeared in front of hers as he knelt down before her, taking her chin in his hand, wiping away a tear with the other.
'It's okay, my love. She's gone. She can't harm us anymore. It's over.' He tried to smile encouragingly, but she could see the pain in his eyes too.
'I'm so sorry,' she blurted out, 'I wanted to kill her, to make her pay for what she's done to you. Something stopped me. I....' Here she paused and looked more directly at him. He simply nodded.
'I know. I felt it too,' and he ran his hand over her swelling belly. 'That's twice you've saved us now, little one,' he said to her stomach, then he wrapped his wife in his arms, confident at last that the horror was over and they could finally look to the future.
Jack O'Neill was ready to leave Atlantis. His work was over here and he was desperate to get home, to his semi-retirement and his fishing. The meeting with Laden had gone well and it looked as though he, with a little support from his allies, would be back in power very soon. The various rebel Genii factions were already in disarray. John Sheppard was fighting fit again and more than ready to take full control of both Atlantian and off-world operations. All Jack had to do now was wait for The Apollo to arrive and he'd be off. His little excursion to Pegasus had seemed quite exciting at first, but enough was enough, he ironically thought, for a man of his advancing years. Oh, and there was the little ceremony tonight as well. That was certainly not one to be missed, although the blue dress suit and stiff collar were not his favourite items of clothing. With a last attempt to smooth down the rebellious flick of hair that insisted on sticking up at the back of his head no matter how short he cut it, he strolled from his quarters towards Atlantis' gate room, chosen location for the expedition's latest batch of military honours. As usual there was a raft of medals and commendations to hand out, inevitable in a place where the battle for survival was so much part of the daily grind.
Jack smiled as he entered the gate room. John Sheppard was standing with his pretty wife, looking as uncomfortable in his blues as he felt. Given the man's courage and bravery, and what he'd achieved here, he was remarkably unwilling to stand in the limelight or take any kudos and he'd insisted that his particular 'award' be a surprise for his friends. Something about wanting to see the look on McKay's face, which Jack could seriously empathise with. He was quite looking forward to it too!
John nodded in Jack O'Neill's direction which was a cue for the ceremony to begin. He was genuinely nervous about the last bit which was to do with him, but really enjoyed giving out medals and awards to his men. Elizabeth had once criticised him for giving all his people above average or better in their performance reviews, but he had no problem with it. As he'd said then and meant, all his people are above average or better. And, he hated this damn uniform. He'd tried for at least half an hour to get his tie straight and, even with Cat's intervention, he'd failed. Mind you, her intervention was a little more discomposing than just trying to tie the tie and she'd showed her appreciation of how he looked in his blues which memory made him smile , causing Jack O'Neill to give him an amused glance.
Cat stood at the bottom of the temporary dais, admiring her husband. She couldn't see anything else but him: he looked so handsome and sexy in his blue suit and white shirt, the tie still slightly off centre despite all their efforts. She too smiled. An hour earlier, both dressed to the nines, they'd managed to divest themselves of their carefully put on clothes. She'd not been able to resist him and he hadn't been able or willing to say no. In fact, she was already plotting the night ahead: a man in military uniform whisking her away from the stuffy party for a night of wild and passionate sex seeming like an excellent way to celebrate his promotion. From the top of the dais he caught her eye and, guessing what she was thinking, winked at her.
Finally, they reached the end of the other awards and citations. John stepped from the podium as planned and stood at the bottom of the steps. It was clear to the audience that The General had something else he wanted to say and they assumed it to be a nice little speech about how much he'd enjoyed his time in the city etc.
Jack cleared his throat. 'I have one more task to perform before I leave your wonderful city. There is one person here who we haven't yet mentioned today.' A slight murmur went round the room. 'A man who I have personally taken great interest in and who has been responsible for saving this city and protecting its inhabitants on numerous occasions, at great personal risk. He is one of the bravest men I have met, and that's saying something. So, it gives me great pleasure to read the following citation:
For services to his country and to the people of The Pegasus Galaxy I am delighted to announce that Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard is promoted to Colonel from immediate effect.
The President of the United States.
A huge cheer erupted in the room as John Sheppard stepped up and shook General O'Neill's hand, then turned to face the crowd. He immediately looked for Ronon, Teyla and Rodney. Ronon was grinning like the Cheshire Cat and gave him a huge thumbs up. Teyla smiled broadly and nodded her head in approbation. And Rodney? The shocked expression had given way to a huge smile. There was nothing in what had just happened to cause even a smidgen of cynicism to pass his lips and no-one who, he felt, deserved the honour more. John looked down at his friends and to his pregnant wife and felt fully, and for the first time, that this was really where he was meant to be. While the he didn't need the promotion personally, it meant some kind of forgiveness for the 'black mark' that had so blotted his record and an acknowledgement that something good and right had come from what he'd achieved here in Atlantis. And, while the guilt and doubts would probably return to haunt him at some time in the future, for now he was content and happy.
And Cat? The love and pride she felt for him then would carry them through all the times ahead that would be less easy and she remembered the first time she'd met those expressive hazel eyes as she'd arrived in the city and how she knew then that life would never be the same for her again.
Please R & R if you want. You know I like it!! It's over and I didn't want to see it go. Of course, there's more of their story if you want it. I may write a series of little one-shots about their pregnancy. I think they deserve a rest from torture and troubles for a bit, don't you?