Title- A Moment in Time
Category- AU, S/W romance, K/OMC, action.
Archiving- Would be an honor, just ask.
Warnings- Violence/consensual sex
Disclaimers- I don't own this, no money, yadda yadda.
Summary: An unexpected arrival brings new hope to Atlantis
AN: This chapter contains major spoilers for the Season 3 episode 'Common Ground'. Hopefully everyone has seen it, but if not, you may not want to read this until you do.
Warning - This chapter goes some pretty dark places. If that's not your cup of tea you might want to avoid this one.
Chapter 8 - "Free Fall"
"They called you Sheppard." The ancient voice practically wheezed from the cell next to him.
Jack frowned from his position on the floor, the cool concrete a soothing distraction from the heat and pain still pulsating outwards from his chest. Twenty-five years of life in Pegasus and not one of the bastards had ever managed to lay a feeding hand on him before. He wondered idly if Todd would understand just how many Wraith would have killed to find themselves in his shoes - sucking the life out of Jack Sheppard. "Well that is my name...," He grunted slightly as he shifted positions. "Otherwise it would have been kinda awkward."
There was a quiet shuffling of movement before the man spoke again, "You are in pain?"
"I've felt better." Sheppard couldn't help but roll his eyes at Todd's 'concern', "And quit trying to act all sympathetic - it's creepifying."
His words brought a long pause as the Wraith approached the bars separating their cells, "Then you know?"
"Of course I know," Jack practically growled. "Not all humans are morons."
Todd ignored his obvious ire with a slightly perplexed expression, "And you blame me?"
"Well, you're not exactly on the Christmas card list pal!" Storming onto his feet despite the pain still radiating through his limbs, Jack got as close to the Wraith as the bars allowed. "You sucked the life out of me!"
The amused smirk Todd sported made him want to reach through the bars to knock it off him, "Your anger will only weaken you."
Jack scoffed, "Keeps me warm. Will alone can only keep you going for so long... I've found rage can get you the rest of the way."
"You do realize he is torturing both of us?" At the man's obvious skepticism he continued, "Have you ever known starvation Sheppard?"
"As a matter of fact... I have." Sheppard retreated into himself slightly as the memories bombarded him, "I can sympathize. But you have to realize that Kolya isn't going to let you have your fill - not from me or anyone else."
Todd shrugged, "It is the best I can hope for under the circumstances."
"Bullshit!" The Captain knew it was risky business antagonizing a Wraith, but anger was more useful than despair in this particular situation. "We can get the hell out of here, together. You've got to know the layout of this place after spending so much time here."
"That is irrelevant. As I said, there is no..."
"There is always a way if you're willing to fight hard enough. Listen, I know you have no reason to trust me any more than Koyla at this point..." Jack smirked slightly, "Except for the fact I'm locked down here with you, which I suppose does add a few points to my trust quotient."
Todd actually smirked at that. Well, Sheppard thought it was a smirk, but it's not like he'd had a whole lot of experience interpreting Wraith facial gestures. "You have a point."
"Good." He nodded as if agreeing with himself. "Trust is a good start. And like my mother always said, you can't have trust without the truth! So the truth is...," Jack trailed off slightly as he reconsidered, "If I was you I probably wouldn't believe the truth, which makes this all pretty fucking pointless..."
"You ramble much Sheppard." Todd's chuckle caused him to shiver slightly, "Even for a human."
"Well I'm sorry," Jack glowered as he physically ticked items off on his fingers. "I've got a bit of a concussion at the moment. I've been fed on by a Wraith. I've been shot by a harpoon gun. I haven't eaten in more than a day and despite not having slept in nearly forty-eight hours I'm afraid to close my eyes - which brings us right back to the concussion thing!"
Spinning around on a heel he began pacing the cell as he glanced at his watch, "Shit! And I'm missing a date!"
"I am sure your mate will understand." Todd tilted his head to the side, "Given the circumstances."
Jack let out a long sigh before turning back to the Wraith, "Well... thanks."
"You were right about one thing Sheppard." The maybe-smirk on Todd's face seemed to be spreading, "We are in the same situation you and I."
Nodding in agreement, Jack strode purposefully back to the bars with a new determination in his eyes. "The truth then."
"This isn't about you and me. This isn't about escape, or survival, or even about killing Kolya's very deserving ass." Glancing around quickly to make sure the guards were nowhere near them he continued, "There is an enemy coming that will make the distinction between human and Wraith seem trivial by comparison. If either is to survive we need to start working together. We need to start trusting each other. I figure now is as good a time as any."
"And why should I trust you Sheppard? I have tasted your life." Todd ran an eye over the soldier appraisingly, "Can you honestly say you do not wish me dead?"
Jack couldn't help but shrug sheepishly. After all, he had promised him the truth. "Not dead. Injured... maybe, but not dead."
Todd eyed him for a long moment before breaking out in a tentative smile,"I suppose... that is a start."
"I must admit that I do not understand the problem." Ladon dropped his palms on the table in frustration, "Can you not simply locate this planet in your database?"
Rodney was about to throttle the man, a stinging retort about his maternal line's questionable heritage was only stayed by Elizabeth's cautioning half-glare. "I've already told you three times! The planet is in the database, but it's not supposed to have a Gate!"
"That makes no sense!" The Genii leader frowned, "You know my people aren't capable of interstellar travel!"
Elizabeth thought McKay executed his patented snort, eye-roll, and scoff combination pretty masterfully at that one. "Need I point out that hiding the extent of one's technological development is kind of a Genii trademark? Where I come from it would be considered rather odd for the Amish to have WMDs!"
After nearly three hours of bickering they were no closer to figuring out the Gate address of the planet the Captain's subspace beacon was broadcasting from. Rodney's calm had checked out over two hours ago and his agitation was only growing as they drew ever nearer to Kolya's deadline. With the exception of reeling McKay in every twenty minutes or so, Elizabeth was using every technique, every diplomatic trick she could remember just to maintain some semblance of authority and control. To her credit Teyla was doing the best she could to keep it all from fraying at the seems, but by now even she was starting to grow noticeably more short tempered.
"Our database is over ten thousand years out of date Ladon." Switching firmly into 'Dr. Weir Mode' seemed to lend Elizabeth a measure of much-needed strength, "It's likely a Gate was moved from another planet, possibly to make it easier for the Wraith to cull it. If that's the case the address would not appear in our list."
"Thank you!" Rodney pointed both hands emphatically at Elizabeth, "What she said!"
Teyla had been staring off into space up until that point, her chin resting on her hand as she thought about how much she'd rather be on the Daedalus with John and Ronon than trying to keep Dr. McKay from strangling a foreign dignitary she didn't particularly like herself. Luckily just enough words trickled through her daze to give her an idea that might speed up the process dramatically. "Gentlemen."
"There has got to be some way to find out which planet Kolya would use as a base of operations." McKay obviously hadn't heard her in his headlong rush to beat the proverbial clock, "You served under the man. You said it yourself he was planning a coup, so I'm guessing that he had to have a fallback position in the event things went all Atlantis on him again right?"
"Rodney?" Teyla frowned.
"Yes Doctor McKay." Ladon growled, "Why didn't I think of that earlier? In fact, it's all we used to talk about at our resistance meetings! Stargate addresses this, and fallback positions that. Because we so obviously assumed we would fail!"
"You'll have to forgive my skepticism," McKay tossed his hands in the air sending a few of the scattered papers littering the desk floating off onto the floor, "Because all of your previous plans worked out so freaking well..."
"Rodney!" The Athosian's glare caused both men to lean back into their chairs as she continued in a clipped tone, "As I was saying. If the planet Captain Sheppard is located on does not have a Gate."
"And according to the database it doesn't," Rodney supplied unhelpfully.
Keeping her disapproval to a restrained eye-roll Teyla nodded, "Then could we not simply compare the addresses in Ladon's posession to our database and eliminate any duplicates? Those that were left would be the only possible locations."
"Well that... It would only work if...," McKay trailed off before smacking a hand into his forehead. "Well that's an idea I should have had two hours ago!"
Elizabeth just shook her head as she stood, "Get on it Rodney. I'll be in Command."
"Doing what?" A deep frown creased the scientist's forehead, "I've got dozens of addresses to input from Ladon's list and I could really use the help if you want it finished sooner rather than..."
He trailed off at the utterly distraught look Dr. Weir leveled on him, realization hitting him a split second before the words left her mouth. "I'll be watching Captain Sheppard's torture Rodney... so you'll just have to find someone else to help you."
She was out the door before Rodney could respond. That was probably for the best.
It was an odd sensation to be completely aware of the fact one was coming unhinged yet unable to do anything to stop the effects. Jack supposed he had always assumed one would just sort of black out as they slipped into insanity, which at least allowed him to hope that wasn't what this was, but he seemed remarkably lucid as they removed his bindings and dragged him from in front of the camera after his second feeding session.
It had been the scream that did it. His scream. That feral sound echoing off the concrete and rebar walls surrounding them. Followed inevitably by the faces.
Alexandra. Lieutenant Bates. Corporal Willis. Doctor McMillan. Ronon. Mitchell. Rodney. His mother. They all came crashing down around him one after another. Every one the same. Every one dead.
He'd had 'episodes' in the past, but never anything like this. The battles, the pain, the dead and dying, it all seemed to descend upon him at once threatening to crush him beneath the weight of his ever-growing burden.
Despite his current, rather manic, detachment the irony wasn't entirely lost on Jack. He'd spent his entire life trying to convince people he wasn't his father only to find himself sitting here having the life sucked out of him because he refused to admit that very thing. But he wasn't Colonel John Sheppard, and as Kolya gloated and the guards dragged his slack body back to the cells, he vowed to show them all exactly what that meant.
There was a reason his wasn't among that litany of the dead streaming through his mind. There was a reason he had managed to survive everything two galaxies had thrown at him when every person he'd ever known was dead and gone. There was a reason he was not a man with whom you screwed and lived to brag about it.
This was Jack's secret. The very thing he worked so hard to keep hidden from those he cared about. Every awkward joke, every smart-ass remark, every reckless sacrifice was just one more obstacle he placed between those around him and the man he was here and now. This wasn't Jack, the likable if slightly eccentric guy next door. This was Captain Sheppard, the guy they only called in when someone absolutely, positively had to be killed overnight.
The truth was he didn't particularly like Captain Sheppard. For all the good it had done her, his mother hadn't raised a soldier. He had a deep-seeded respect for the sanctity of all life that made the casual destruction of it his job encouraged all the more repellent. Growing up, when he'd dreamed of stepping through the Stargate it had been to explore new worlds. To meet new races and make new allies. But the universe he'd found on the other side of that silvery event horizon didn't see eye to eye with him when it came to peaceful coexistence, and when the choice came between his family and those trying to kill them it had been a remarkably easy one to make.
Unfortunately he couldn't afford to be that man anymore. He was no longer allowed the luxury of a normal life. Normal men didn't kill without blinking.
He'd often heard rumors of the darkness that haunted his father and wondered more than once if he'd inherited this burden from him, only to dismiss the notion upon further reflection. His mother could never have loved such a monster. This relentless drive to survive at any cost, to take the fight to the enemy with everything he had made him no better than the Wraith who had just finished feeding on him. Most days the only reason Jack could stand to face the man in the mirror was because he knew just how many people were counting on him - needed him, and while the man he'd become made him want to shut himself off from the universe, he knew he could never quit as long as that was the case.
General Mitchell had called it his 'kill switch'. When pushed too far beyond the breaking point he simply switched off. The world around him becoming black and white, inhabited by only two kinds of people - allies and targets. When it happened, you most certainly didn't want to find yourself in the latter category.
Suddenly the idea that these Genii soldiers were all that stood between him and an end to this hell seemed laughable. Jack had flown more than thirty-five combat sorties against the enemy. He'd led a squad during the counter-attack on Trevus and had been witness to the fall of the last Wraith Queen. During the Battle of New Hebrae` he'd managed to hold an entire division of Corethi soldiers at the Elgra Pass for six days with only fifteen men. He'd killed three Wraith in close quarters with only a combat knife. He had great hair.
He was Jack. Fucking. Sheppard. "And I've had enough of this shit."
The guards shot the seemingly groggy man a confused look from their places at each of his arms when his heels planted firmly on the deck and brought them all to a halt.
Yanking his left arm free with a sharp jerk to the side Jack brought his elbow crashing into the throat of the other still clutching desperately at his right. Dropping quickly to a knee to avoid the butt of the third guard's rifle he was pleasantly surprised when Todd brought his metal-sleeved feeding hand crashing down into the back of the soldier's skull sending him sprawling to the floor in a tangle of limbs.
Spinning to face the last guard left standing Jack barely managed to dodge the stun-rod barreling for his head before charging forward while the Genii was still recovering from his swing. Deflecting the next blow with ease, he took more pleasure than he probably should in flattening the guy's nose. The momentum carried both men to the floor but along the way Sheppard never quit swinging. Absolutely irked beyond words at all of this he had decided to express his displeasure by pummeling the unfortunate bastard into unconsciousness with his bare hands. Jack acknowledged belatedly that it probably wasn't the healthiest impulse he'd ever embraced, but for the moment couldn't find it within him to give a shit.
Only when the pain in his knuckles became noticeable did Jack stumble backwards from the fallen guard, swiping bloody, shaky hands across his uniform jacket. His breath was still coming in shallow gasps and as hard as he tried he couldn't seem to slow it down to a more manageable tempo. Each hammering blow of his heart echoed in his ears, the sounds of his Wraith companion removing his shackles, the chains clanking to the floor, sounding miles away.
He was vaguely aware of retrieving the rifle and combat knife from the guard who'd tried to brain him, then turning his back while Todd had 'lunch'. The only thing that bothered him about that was how little it had actually bothered him. He decided to dwell on that when there weren't quite so many Genii nearby trying to kill him.
"You fight well for a human Sheppard." Looking far healthier than he had a few minutes before, Todd joined him near the doorway. Ignoring the Wraith Jack snagged one of the Genii radios, adjusting it to pick up the Lantian comm traffic he hoped would arrive sooner rather than later.
"If you're headed to the Gate you're hoofin' it alone." Sheppard didn't bother to look up as he tucked one of the Genii pistols into the back of his pants and set about gathering up all the ammo he could find.
Todd frowned at his back, "You do not intend to escape?"
"Didn't say that." Jack feared his smirk was coming off slightly more manic than he was intending, "I've just got some business to clear up before I can ride off into the sunset. Personal stuff. Kind of a family thing actually, which I'm guessing you'd find very difficult to understand. So if cutting through a dozen armed Genii to satisfy a human blood feud isn't penciled into your day planner I'd totally understand."
The Wraith weighed his options visibly for a long moment before nodding, "Do you have a plan?"
"Kill all the soldiers between us and Kolya. Kill Kolya." Jack shrugged, "Home in time for happy hour."
"That sounds simple," Todd commented wryly.
"Yeah," Casting a last glance over the scene to make sure he hadn't missed anything. Pulling on his jacket Sheppard grabbed the guard's keyring before ducking into the adjoining passage at a slow trot. "That's just one of it's many attributes. I'm partial to the 'killing Kolya' part myself but it's got something for everyone."
Taking up a position in an open doorway Jack motioned for his companion to take the corner while he covered him. They proceeded to leapfrog through the lower passages in this fashion, moving slowly upwards through the dank and winding tunnels.
Kolya stumbled over yet another raised tree root obscured by the thick blanket of dead folliage and mud covering the ground between the base and the Gate in what he'd decided to term a 'tactical withdraw'. He'd been planning this action for months, had convinced himself that he'd considered every contingency, every possible outcome, and he had been very mistaken.
There was apparently no predicting Colonel John Sheppard.
It occurred to him the whole situation was eerily reminiscent of his aborted seizure of Atlantis. They'd had no indication at all that the Colonel had escaped until teams started failing to report in. Acostus had lost two more squads before even confirming the prisoners were in fact not still in their cells. These men had all been personally selected by Kolya himself. He had trained most of them from raw recruits and had every confidence in their abilities. Thirty-two of the finest soldiers the Genii had ever produced stood between their Commander and a pair of wounded prisoners.
Then he was forced to stand by and watch as Sheppard killed them... one after another.
Through a feat of tactical genius or a more simply explained desire for revenge, he'd managed to from the outset do the completely unexpected at every turn. Kolya had been sure the prisoners would attempt to reach the Stargate. So sure in fact he'd sent nearly half his troops to guard it. In the end the action had only served to aid his adversary as he carved a bloody path through the complex beneath him.
Sheppard was a ghost. Where he tread men simply disappeared. A few spent shell casings and a smattering of blood told whispers of the deed, but his soldiers had yet to find a single body in their frantic search. Unfortunately, the generators were housed in a deep sub-basement and had been knocked out early in the battle. Kolya grunted at the word. Could one man against a small army really be considered a 'battle'? He supposed that depended on whether or not the one man was victorious.
An hour and a half and twelve men into the catastrophe Kolya finally relented to his lieutenants' advice and recalled the squads protecting the Gate, only for them to be ambushed by the renegade Wraith Sheppard had apparently allied himself with. Only two had escaped with their lives, the same two that were now on his flanks as they retreated headlong towards the only way for any of them to escape this planet alive.
They hadn't seen or heard from anyone since departing the complex and they were less than a kilometer away from the Gate itself. Kolya could feel the hair on the back of his neck rise to full attention. Considering the way the night had gone up until this point, this was just too easy.
A few steps further and there was a sharp crack of gunfire, both of the Commander's guards falling forward without a sound. That's more like it...
"You made a big mistake Kolya." Sheppard's voice echoed out from the trees, the tone eerily neutral. This wasn't the cocky pilot who he'd traded insults with in the past. This was the Sheppard he'd met after he'd claimed Dr. Weir was dead.
Stalling for time as he drew his pistol, eyes frantically searching the tree line for the slightest hint of movement. "What is that?"
A long silence settled over the clearing, the only sounds to be heard were the myriad insects, the nocturnal mammals who fed on them, and the rain driving relentlessly through the leaves around them. Walking backwards slowly from the direction he reckoned the sound had been coming from Acostus could feel every nerve in his body screaming for flight. An ancient an animal instinct was trying desperately to convince him there was a predator nearby.
"I'm not John Sheppard."
Spinning at the last moment his instincts were unfortunately confirmed as Sheppard stepped around the tree behind him, snatched his gun hand and slammed it viciously into the stump until the weapon bounced free to disappear in the decaying vegetation littering the forest floor. Before he could recover his balance a sharp jab to the chest sent him reeling backwards, slipping and sliding through the mud as he tumbled down the small hill behind him.
Anticipating an all out brawl Kolya was more than a little surprised when he made it back to his feet unmolested. The light rain was starting to pick up, heavy drops pelting the leaves around him in every direction and filling the forest with a veritable cacophony as he struggled to locate his adversary in the darkness. Icy fingers raced down his spine that was only peripherally caused by the frigged downpour. "Who the hell are you?"
Again the laugh that answered him seemed to be coming from everywhere at once, causing Kolya to spin slightly as he drew his knife from it's booth sheath and slipped into a combat stance. He would never stand a chance if he couldn't even manage to figure out his opponent's location. In hopes of tilting the scales a little bit further in his direction he growled out into the night, "Who are you?!"
"This is who I am Kolya." The voice seemed to be carried by the wind, bouncing off everything in sight, amplified by the very rain itself. "Who they made me. John Sheppard was an explorer. A hero. A good guy. I'm only a good guy by virtue of the side I fight for. My methods tend to be more... unconventional."
"I know you're disappointed you didn't capture my father and you should be. If you'd captured him... you probably would have survived this."
"You're Sheppard's son?" Acostus frowned, lifting a hand in a vain effort to keep the driving rain out of his eyes.
"You're a speed bump Kolya." Jack shook his head from side to side as he emerged from the tree line, Genii assault rifle trained squarely on the other man's chest. His normally spiky hair matted down and dripping heavily as he emerged from the cover of the trees and into the downpour flooding the small clearing. The streaks of mud he'd used to black out his face and neck had sloughed off by the time he closed the distance between them, a limp noticably altering his gait, "I didn't come back for you."
Kolya squared off with his adversary, knife at the ready even as he spoke, "Then why are you here?"
"To deliver a message." Tossing the rifle to the side, Jack raised his hands to shoulder height with his palms outwards.
Stepping forward with the knife raised the older man smirked. He may not be John Sheppard, but he was a Sheppard nonetheless. He wouldn't take advantage of the 'unarmed' Commander. Kolya wasn't that noble. "All this for a message?"
"All this." Jack glowered, "Was because you tortured me."
The second the young soldier laid a single booted foot within range Kolya dove forward, blade slashing downward across his chest. Pivoting to the side Jack captured the man's wrist in an almost casual gesture, snapping it back in the other direction until the bones gave way and the blade dropped into his open palm. Releasing the now useless appendage he drove his forearm into Acostus' neck and slammed him back into the tree beside them. "This is for trying to kill my mother."
Kolya never saw the blade that slipped in from under his ribs and pierced his heart. All he saw was the ice green eyes of the Ghost across from him before slipping off into the darkness.
Letting the body drop limply to the forest floor Jack nudged Kolya over onto his back and kneeled beside him. With a shaking hand he tore the Atlantis mission patch from the shoulder of his jacket and set it on the center of the dead man's chest, drawing a deep breath before driving Kolya's blade through the small circle of fabric, pinning it in place. His 'message' was clear.
Atlantis was still around and it wasn't about to give up without a fight. He knew his mother wouldn't appreciate the sentiment, but it would be effective.
Returning to his feet and swiping the dirt and blood from his hands, Jack retrieved his rifle and slung it over a shoulder. He hadn't expected his Wraith companion to return the life-force he'd stolen from him, but it sure had made things easier. Sheppard didn't want to contemplate how hard that would have been in his earlier state. He knew that Todd would be long gone before he arrived at the Stargate, but he'd done his part and he had the information he needed to contact Atlantis in the future. If things played out the same way they had in the previous time line, they wouldn't have to wait long.
The trek to the gate took less time than expected, the icy rain had let up and was now a refreshing mist as the circular form became visible from the tree line. It had been so thoughtful of that dead Genii guard to provide him with such a detailed map or he might never have found the place.
He was only a few steps shy of the DHD when five bright lights flashed around him before dissolving into the forms of a heavily armed combat team. 'Bout freaking time...
Jack ran a tired eye over the men surrounding him, various expressions ranging from non-comprehension to total confusion before Jack could force a smile. "Afraid you guys missed the party."
John nodded slowly, running a critical eye over the scene. There were ten Genii bodies around the Gate, at least three of them had obvious been fed on by a Wraith. "Looks like it was a hell of a time."
"Yeah but the company was atrocious." Shaking his head the younger Sheppard tossed the Genii rifle off to a smirking Ronon Dex. "Good thing you guys showed up when you did. I wasn't sure how I was gonna get home without my garage door opener."
Rolling his eyes John activated his comm, "Sheppard to Caldwell. We've uh... we've got things pretty much in hand down here. Thanks for the help, but you can get on your way to Earth now. We'll dial out from here."
"Understood Sheppard, Caldwell out." The man sounded less than pleased with having been dragged out here just to find the battle had already ended. But it's better to be there and not needed than to be needed and not there.
"So..." John turned back to his son.
"I'll be more than happy to explain." Jack sighed, "Once we're home."
Nodding side to side his father smiled as the Gate sprang to life behind them, "Fair enough. Kolya?"
When the last word escaped his lips Jack had been walking past him towards the Gate. If he'd have blinked he would have missed it, but for just a moment he saw the mask the kid kept up at all times fall away. For the first time since he'd met the man he got the impression he was seeing the real him, not just what he wanted people to see.
As if in slow motion he turned his head a fraction to the side, a single eyebrow quirking up as a tightly controlled smirk pulled his mouth to one side. "He won't be making the debrief."
His son disappeared across the event horizon a split second later, and John could feel the breath torn from his chest follow after in a sharp gust. He knew that look...
For more than a month the Colonel had been racking his brain, looking into every clue with a dogged persistence that wasn't exactly his style. And he'd been greeted with failure at every turn. But here, now, standing among the bodies of nearly a dozen dead Genii... he'd finally met his son.
Beside him, Ronon slapped a meaty hand onto his friend's back. "Whats wrong with you? You should be happy Sheppard. Jack's fine."
"Yeah," John's eyes were still bugging out as he started forward towards the portal that would take him home, to her. "But I think I know who his mother is."
Sorry about the super long delay between updates but I have another story that's taken a lot of my attention. I intend to get back to regular updates on this one though so *fingers crossed* hopefully this shouldn't happen again.
As always I really appreciate your reviews so please leave one and let me know what you think.