Disclaimer: We don't own Stargate: Atlantis. We don't claim to. We only write for entertainment, not money, though we do so love to get reviews. . .
Summary: The team returns to Hoffa after the inevitable destruction of their civilization. Complications ensue. Post "Poisoning the Well". Set in Season 2. RononTeyla
Warnings: Violence, kissing
Spoilers: Poisoning the Well; Runner
Title: Quiet Collapse
Author's Note: This fic was actually inspired by a dream fyd818 had a few nights ago. We took the basic idea, expanded it, and changed it around a bit to turn it into this fic. We are having a lot of fun writing this fic, so we hope you have as much fun reading it. Thanks for checking us out – and we hope you enjoy! –TeylaFan & fyd818
Usually Atlantis's elite team was happy – excited, even – to go off-world. But this time, the mood in the Gateroom was decidedly less than enthusiastic.
Teyla Emmagan faced the silent Stargate, never having thought it forbidding despite its size – at least, before now. But she'd been on hand to see the somewhat fuzzy pictures the MALP sent back; besides that, she had that tickle at the back of her neck that spoke only of bad things.
The mood seemed to be catching for the rest of her team, as well. Her team leader, John Sheppard, seemed antsy, constantly making adjustments to his vest, his gun, his sunglasses. . . He met her eyes briefly, trying to smile reassuringly, but it came off as more of a grimace. It would appear he had equally bad feelings about this mission. Was he beginning to question the wisdom of their returning to a world they'd once considered locking out of their dialing system?
Behind and to her right, Rodney McKay was shifting his weight from foot to foot, fumbling as he checked the gun at his hip for the twentieth time (at least). He muttered something Teyla didn't catch, a distinct sulk in his blue-grey eyes. His shoulders were hunched in the particular way that suggested he was (albeit briefly) considering turning tail and running in the opposite direction of the Stargate – anything to avoid the coming mission.
Hovering less than a foot away from her right shoulder was the newest member of the team, Ronon Dex. His eyebrows were pulled down low over his green eyes, his lips tight in disapproval. Without seeming to realize what he was doing, he pulled his blaster from its ever-ready position at his hip and began to twirl it with ease, his mind obviously elsewhere. Though he was standing still save for the show with his gun, he still gave the impression of a tightly-coiled spring waiting to be released. In the short time Teyla had been acquainted with him, she'd gotten the feeling that he was a man of action, and had little time (or patience) for inactivity.
In this case, Teyla could certainly sympathize. She just wanted to get the coming mission over with, preferably as quickly as possible.
At last Sheppard deemed his sunglasses satisfactorily arranged over his eyes and turned to nod up at the control room. "We're ready!" he called.
"'S about time," Ronon muttered. He hadn't been to their destination before – everything that had gone wrong had happened before he'd joined the team – but he'd read the report and was obviously picking up on everyone else's jumpy mood.
Teyla caught Rodney's roll of the eyes from the corner of her gaze as she turned to watch Atlantis's leader motion to the Gate tech to bring the big ring to life. Elizabeth Weir was a slender woman, dark-haired and green-eyed, with a kind face that didn't smile nearly often enough. She worked well under pressure – and, at that moment, Teyla could only imagine the pressure on her thin shoulders. Outwardly she was calm, but Teyla could see the lines around her friend's mouth and eyes that showed how worried she was. The Athosian offered the Earthling a small nod and smile, as reassuring a gesture as she could manage. Elizabeth smiled wanly back, still seeming too uncertain with the decision to offer any sort of real confidence.
Turning back around to face the front of the room, Teyla was just in time to see the Stargate burst into life. The first time she'd seen it happen as a little girl she'd been terrified, but now she felt a little breathless awe each time she saw it as an adult. So many good things had happened when she stepped through that portal – she'd met the Earthlings; she'd met other countless friends and trading partners; she'd met Ronon. . .
John snapped her attention back to the present when he turned to offer a somewhat sloppy two-fingered salute to the control room. He acted like he was tipping an invisible hat, then motioned for the others to follow him through the Gate, guns proceeding them. The MALP hadn't been much help in letting them know what awaited them on the other side – the fuzzy images had only convinced them they needed to go back and check up on things, nothing more.
Teyla swallowed back her uncertainty and followed the others through the Gate – and back to Hoffa.
The others had described the planet to be advanced, a modern cityscape with a river running through it and distant mountains... But Ronon knew better than to expect the city to be full of life.
His gun was in the air in the blink of an eye, his legs aching to start running… It wasn't easy to ignore his instinct, after following it for so many years on the run. But he had his team now.
Ducking low behind a piece of wreckage, he made sure the others took cover as well. There were so many bodies, all over the landscape – both human and Wraith. Some had been deceased for a long time, others fairly recently.
Sheppard uttered a curse, his voice full of regret. Ronon knew though, having read the report, the people on this planet brought this upon themselves.
Ronon heard Rodney get out the life-signs detector, his hands clumsy in his hurry to get it working. But he already knew the answer to their unspoken question; just by looking at Teyla he could tell that there were Wraith in the area, and not the dead kind.
Teyla's jaw was set and her pupils seemed bigger, a grim expression on her face as she turned her head to see Rodney nod at Sheppard. It was a confirmation of what she was feeling.
Narrowing his eyes, Ronon shifted into a slightly more comfortable position, his thumb immediately flicking to the stun/kill switch on his weapon. The zip noise of it switching from stun to kill was a reassuring sound to his ears. Sheppard caught his attention, motioning for him to fan out with the others to check the immediate area. He nodded his silent understanding, sticking close to Sheppard since he was closer. Teyla kept one eye on McKay as she went off.
Curling his nose, Ronon kept low and eased his way among the bodies strewn through the ruins of Hoffa like so many rag dolls. The stench was horrible, though he knew it had been worse in the past. He'd stood witness to such scenes as this in the past, during his days as a Runner, but he knew he'd never get used to it. He'd never accustom himself to seeing the destruction the Wraith seemed to find sick pleasure in bringing about. Nausea unfurled itself in his stomach, and he swallowed hard. It was all too easy to picture Atlantis and her inhabitants like this. The thought was immediately and roughly shoved from his mind.
Ronon caught sight of Sheppard out of the corner of his eye. The colonel was picking his way through bodies carefully, his features set in a twisted expression of mingled disgust and sorrow. Dex didn't even pretend to hold such regards; he carefully avoided the bodies in regular clothes to honor the Hoffan dead in some way, but he plowed through the Wraith without bothering to slow. They didn't deserve such courtesies.
By the time he and Sheppard finally made it to the opposite end of the main thoroughfare through Hoffa's largest town, a full hour had passed. The bodies and debris littering the streets had made it slow, tough going; thankfully they hadn't seen any living Wraith, though it was obvious they were around. Somewhere.
But why? Ronon couldn't figure out the answer to his own question.
Sheppard pulled his sunglasses off and rubbed the bridge of his nose, undoubtedly momentarily using his hand to shield the stink. By now Ronon had halfway accustomed himself to it. "Where's Teyla and McKay?" the colonel asked, squinting at the life signs detector he held.
Ronon hadn't noticed until then that he'd lost sight of the duo some time before. "I don't know," he said, unease building up inside his chest, constricting his throat. "I haven't seen 'em in a while. Think they found a nest of Wraith?"
"I haven't heard gunfire. They haven't contacted us." Sheppard squinted up at the sun thoughtfully. "We'll just head in the last direction we saw them, and do a little more investigating on the way. If we haven't heard from them in fifteen minutes, I'll radio."
Sighing infinitesimally, Ronon followed his team leader. Sometimes he wished the Lantians weren't so blasted patient.
Carefully choosing her path through the field, Teyla glanced over her shoulder, making sure Rodney was still close by.
"You know," Rodney started coughing, "they should really put some masks in with these uniforms, 'cause there's all sorts of bacteria in the air here, happily waiting to get sucked up by us and make themselves right at home in our bodies… Not to mention the smell," he muttered, shuddering. "Ugh."
Teyla sighed inwardly, choosing her words carefully. "Rodney, I know it is unpleasant for you right now, but you must try to stay quiet, and to keep moving."
"Oh yes, sure – let's just keep moving further away from the others, 'cause it's not like there are Wraith in the area waiting to sneak up on us," he snapped.
She halted, turned around to face him, and gently rested one of her hands on his shoulder. "Colonel Sheppard will contact us when it is necessary, but if we radio them we could risk making their presence known to anyone close to them. We do not know their situation, so we will simply have to wait and continue searching for survivors." She raised her eyebrows, making sure he understood.
Rolling his eyes, he shook off her hand, then stepped past her. "Fine, fine..."
One of the corners of her mouth curling in amusement, she quickly moved to walk behind him, following him through what was now the beginning of a forest.
The ever-present cold from deep inside her chest was still disturbing, making her edgy, which was why she was so persistent about keeping Rodney from talking. She couldn't feel any presences nearby, but it was always hard to determine the exact distance between her and any Wraiths. Her gun was still up in the air, sweeping the area quietly while she carefully made sure there was no movement around them.
A sharp gasp escaped from her mouth then, alerting Rodney. "Wraith!" she whispered, moving closer to a tree and pulling Rodney with her. "Get your gun ready!"
Rodney's eyes were huge as he stared back and registered what she was saying, and he moved to get his gun from his holster, yanking it when it didn't give right away.
She felt it now, close… Too close. Perhaps not even ten feet away. Moving forward, her grip tight on her weapon, she swept her gun in a semicircle searching for her target, which had yet to make itself visible to her.
Leaves rustled above her, a hiss came from close by, and then she was knocked sideways, the world tilting. Her breath having painfully been knocked from her lungs, she hit the ground with a thud, gasping for air while she frantically tried to scramble back up. Lifting herself on her knees, she raised her arm, firing the gun at the Wraith, several rounds penetrating his chest.
Hissing at her, it swung back its leg, kicking her in her ribs. The force lifted her off the ground, gravity forcing her back to it again, painfully smacking her down on the damp forest floor. Her head twirling, she tried to lift herself up, unsure of which way was up or down. Feeling down her leg, her hand found her knife, strapped against her calve. The familiar weapon fitting comfortably in her hand, she raised her head just in time to see the Wraith approaching. His hand firmly folded itself around her neck, shutting off her air-supply. Struggling with all her might against his grip, Teyla embedded her knife deeply into his arm, succeeding only in fuelling his aggression more.
His feeding hand was in the air now… Time seemed to slow down as he stretched out his fingers, curling the tips, moving his hand backward further… It came down on her chest with so much force it paralyzed her as she felt her flesh come into contact with his.
The sickening fear spread across her stomach, as she waited for her life to be drained… Taken away from her.
Blood dripped out of the Wraith's mouth, black as ink. He stopped feeding, twitching as his body got hit by bullets, more and more, until she saw him collapse, falling down on the ground beside her.
Teyla gasped in a breath of sweet, sweet oxygen, at the same time rolling away from the body. At first she thought it was dead, after being hit by so many bullets, but when it groaned and tried to raise itself up again she knew it wasn't. Growling, she quickly leaped to her feet and positioned herself over him before he could rise. Grasping his head between her hands, she braced herself and then quickly jerked him to the side, snapping his neck. She let go, her hands sticky with his viscous black blood, watching with satisfaction as his body went limp on the ground before her. Fortunately a broken neck was not something a Wraith easily recovered from, especially in this one's weakened state.
Now that the threat was gone, she looked up and around to see who had shot the Wraith while it had been feeding on her. Rodney stood less than half a dozen feet away, his mouth and eyes gaping wide, staring at her as he still held his handgun up at chest level. Obviously he'd been firing in an erratic pattern, hoping he'd hit something that wasn't her.
"You're okay," the scientist squeaked.
Drawing in a deep breath, Teyla gingerly touched the bleeding handprint on her chest, making a wry face when her hand came away even stickier than before. "Yes," she said, a little surprised. Lifting her hand, she carefully examined her skin. She didn't feel any older, and her skin was still smooth and unwrinkled. Allowing herself to finally let out a breath of relief, she looked up to smile at Rodney. "Good job, Rodney," she praised.
"Yes," he replied, still standing frozen in place. "I did do a good job, didn't I?" Her compliment seemed to break him from his stupor, and he holstered his gun again. "You're welcome."
"Thank you," Teyla replied promptly. She recovered her weapon, which had been knocked away in the struggle, then immediately turned with it up and ready when a commotion came through the woods toward them.
Rodney yelped and ducked behind a tree, peering nervously around the trunk as he motioned to her that his gun was out of ammunition. She sighed while sighting down the barrel of her own, hoping it was her other team mates because the coldness in her chest had eased more to a frosty chill than an icy knot.
Ronon was the first into the little clearing, his longer legs and time as a Runner letting him run faster. Sheppard was only a few seconds behind. Both men immediately trained their weapons on the dead Wraith, until they realized that it wouldn't cause any more trouble.
McKay stumbled from behind his cover, waving his hands frantically. "It's about time you two showed up!" he shouted. "Just like you, to come after I've saved the day!"
The two newcomers' attention were drawn to the scientist. "You did that?" Ronon asked doubtfully, pointing to the Wraith with the hand not still holding his weapon.
"Not entirely," Rodney admitted. "But it had Teyla, so—"
As one, Dex and Sheppard spun to face her. They both noticed the bleeding wound on her chest at the same time, and sprang into motion. Moments later she had one of them on either side, each grasping an arm to hold her up. "Are you okay?" they asked as one.
Teyla shook them off. "I am fine. It did not have a chance to complete the feeding process, Rodney was so quick on the trigger." She tilted her head in the astrophysicist's direction thankfully.
John's face settled into an expression of mingled concern and anger. "That's it," he said. "We're packing up and moving out. The Wraith can have what's left of this dump – we're finished here." He shot a quick, wordless glance in Ronon's direction, then jerked his head in the opposite direction as he took off. Rodney followed, still babbling to ease the rest of his nerves.
Before Teyla could move to follow, Ronon swept her off her feet, following silently with her in his arms despite her protests that she was fine. "Doc needs to check you out," he finally said hoarsely.
Now that she was paying attention, she realized he was right. Her adrenaline had worn off, leaving her surprisingly tired and achy. Trying not to think about how frightening the recently-past experience was – or how good it felt to be carried by someone (Ronon) – she gave in and closed her eyes.
Little did she know that she'd just had the most dangerous experience in her life, or how little time she could have left to live it.
-To Be Continued-