A/N: This very short little drabble was written for a friend over on LJ. Short, sweet, and ok, a little sentimental. Something fun to kill a few minutes. Thanks for reading!
Twice before had Teyla held him in her arms, really held him in an embrace beyond the usual touches of friendship and quick hugs of greeting. John Sheppard was an island fortress - strong, but distant. He did not invite others to cross the divide, but twice, she had reached for him when she was most in want of strength and he had been the pillar she needed.
When Kate, friend and confidant, had been taken violently from this world, she had sought him out and wrapped herself around his promise of protection, of safety. She had leaned into his warmth of friendship and he'd accepted the burden of her touch as bravely as he accepted any danger he faced on behalf of those he loved. He gave her safety and took only unneeded forgiveness in return.
When she was terrified breathless at the knife edge's breadth she had come to losing her son under the Wraith Queen's attack, John had found her. He who had saved her son and killed the Queen stood quietly next to her and listened to her fear. A second time, she reached for him. She had needed only to express her fear and overwhelming gratitude, but his body had softened from stiff reassurance into a pull of empathy. In that moment, Teyla felt him flooded with love for her child. He gave her his devotion to another man's son and in that instant, her gratitude was rendered inconsequential.
That devotion was tested and proven deeper than she could have imagined. When she cradled her newborn son in her arms, her life and her family restored to her, she struggled for words to express her humility. Had she been closer - could she have walked to him, or he to her - she would have reached for him again. Instead, she lay separated from John by a few feet of floor and unimaginable sacrifice; her words fell far short of her meaning. The gift of a name, his to her son, had only partly bridged the gap...
"Rodney! Go faster!"
Teyla snapped the command then pinched off another burst of gunfire from her P-90. More Wraith male-drones fell at the intersection she was guarding. More appeared behind them, stunners already flashing with blue energy. The steady thrum of Ronon's blaster droned beside her in deadly counterpoint.
"I'm trying!" he snapped back, his fingers never faltering, even as he let his mouth vent a little steam (as John called it). "They've figured out what we're trying to do and have cut power to every door in this section to prevent us from jury-rigging the locks. I'm having to re-route power AND bypass the security protocols, so forgive me for taking an extra second or two while I perform nearly double the work under more than double the- Oh, hey! We're in."
Teyla smiled and waved Ronon into the next room while she covered the men's retreat. John had confided to her once that Rodney's mouth acted something like a safety valve and he admitted that he would deliberately push the scientist into a verbal fit, claiming he actually worked faster. The thought of John twisted at the knot of fear in her chest. She unleashed another deadly barrage of bullets, viciously satisfied when two more drones fell, and then darted through the door. A swipe at the panel inside the frame folded the bat-like membrane shut again, and the sound of stunner hisses ceased abruptly.
Rodney was already pacing the perimeter of the new room, his scanner permanently locked in front of his eyes. "The door should keep them out for a few minutes," he was saying. "Their trick with the power will slow them down just as much as it slowed us down."
"Where do we go now, McKay?" Ronon growled, unable to lower his own energy weapon, despite the moment of respite. The Satedan was vibrating with energy, his eyes glistened with the hunt.
"I don't know. This doesn't make any sense…"
Teyla stepped to his side, again feeling John's absence. John had also confided that it took extreme intervention to keep Rodney focused. They had been a team so long, that Teyla took their roles for granted, but lacking John, she was keenly aware of her responsibility to fill in the gaps.
"What doesn't make sense, Rodney. Our rendezvous with the jumper is in thirty minutes. We must find John and return to the dart bay before then!" It had taken them thirty minutes already to fight their way this far into the hive where John was being held. It was unlikely to be any easier on the return trip.
"The scanner says Sheppard's signature is just behind that wall," he waved at the slimy, organic fabric that Wraith ships were composed of. "Except there's no door. There's also no room on the schematics we tapped into, and no hallways that lead into the room that doesn't exist. Our map says that this wall borders the dart bay we just left."
"Perhaps the door is hidden?" Teyla began throwing out ideas. The more Rodney knocked down, the closer they would get to the answer.
"Or maybe you can only get to it electronically. I'm reading a power signature that matches a Wraith scooping beam. Someone just went in there! I'm getting Sheppard plus a new signature." Rodney looked up, his eyes stricken and Teyla shared his fear: the Wraith were not unknown to spite. If they had puzzled out where their rescue team was going, the Wraith would take cruel pleasure in feeding on their victim before she reached him.
"Where is the nearest terminal? If they access the room through their beam technology, then there must be another -."
"No. There's no time. I know what room he's in."
Teyla shivered at the fury in Ronon's tone. When she looked at him, there were a hundred ghosts lurking behind his eyes.
"He's in an experiment room. It's where they -."
"Make runners?" she finished softly.
"And worse," he concluded with a snarl. "Get to the far side of the room. I'll use C4."
"Yes. Yes, yes, yes, that will probably work. Put it…there." Rodney pointed to a place on the wall and Ronon slapped his stick of C4 into a crevice of the lumpy surface. "Sheppard is about ten meters to the left of this spot. The other signature is right next to him. Hey, you forgot the detonator!"
Teyla felt herself shoved against the wall and crammed next to Rodney behind Ronon's protective bulk.
"No, I didn't."
The whine of Ronon's gun being turned up to full power preceded an ear-splitting blast that brought tears to Teyla's eyes. When she had blinked the painful pressure away, Ronon was gone from her back, already disappearing into the smoke towards the fractured wall.
"Stay behind me," she snapped at Rodney. "As soon as we secure John, find out where that Wraith transport beam goes and if we can use it, too."
Teyla took a deep breath and held it against the acrid smoke, then dove through the hole only inches behind Ronon. A flash of blue stabbed at her the instant she cleared the smoke on the other side and she curled into a roll, came up on one knee and fired at the Wraith before even calculating the dimensions of the room.
Ronon's gun fired once at the Wraith as well, then faltered. A heavy thud explained it's sudden silence, but Teyla needed no more assistance. She had the Wraith in her sight and fury in her heart. Her bullets pummeled the Wraith long after it had ceased convulsing, its body giving itself up to gravity.
"Rodney! We're clear. Help Ronon. I'm getting John."
She paused only long enough to assure herself that Rodney had obeyed, and then she skidded the ten steps it took to reach the chair that sat among a clutter of Wraith tech. She thought only that it seemed a little like the control chair on Atlantis before she turned her whole attention to the man who sat strapped into it.
"Oh, John," she whispered, struck stiff by the sight that greeted her.
John's arms and legs were bound firmly to the chair by thick, organic-looking ropes. Blood was crusted around his wrists where he'd twisted the skin under the bindings raw. Another rope was pulled unmercifully tight around his neck. His uniform shirt was torn open, and the t-shirt underneath displayed the tell-tale holes of Wraith feeding prints. Stricken, she searched his face and hair for evidence of aging.
"S'ok," he whispered weakly and Teyla realized that John was watching her through pain-hooded eyelids. "He took a little but gave it back." She confirmed with a glance that the blood on the edges of the holes was dried, and the skin underneath was smooth.
"Let me cut you free. A jumper is waiting for us."
John only nodded then coughed a little when the rope on his neck pressed into his windpipe. She cut that rope first. He gasped as the pressure was released, then began to shake, as if freezing.
"Rodney, John is weak and in shock. Can we use the beam device or not?"
John sighed with relief when she cut the bindings around his wrists and put shaking hands on his face. Teyla spared a glance at Rodney who was poking at a control pedestal. Ronon was standing on wobbly legs beside him, blinking hard to shake off the glancing stunner beam he'd taken, but standing none-the-less.
"I think so, yes. Wait…I mean, yes! This is great. The Wraith don't use transporters like the Ancients do on their ships, but this guy rigged up two dart beams and made himself his own little secret hidey hole. Probably wanted to keep his prisoners all to himself for special treatment or midnight snacks."
"We activate the beam in here and we'll come out at the dart bay!"
"So what are we waiting for?" John rasped. "Let's get the hell out of here." Teyla shared his eagerness but something in his voice caught her attention and she stepped closer. "Can we please go?" he pleaded. The fear in his voice brought fierce tears to her eyes.
"We're going, John. You're safe. Can you stand?"
John breathed through another teeth-rattling shiver then leaned forward as if to get up. Teyla braced herself and looped an arm under his, pulled when he shoved against the armrests. She grabbed for his other arm to steady him, reached for his waist when he seemed to be falling forward.
To her utter shock, he wrapped his arms around her and crushed her to his chest. His cheek pressed against her hair and his hands splayed against her back, pulling her even more tightly into his arms.
Everything but John vanished to her perception. There was nothing except his body, pressed against hers, trembling with shock and clinging to her with the desperation of a child awakened by nightmares. She heard only his ragged breaths, hitching softly against her ear. He smelled of sweat and fear, but underneath the stench of Wraith was still the sweet scent of John.
She had nothing to give except her arms around him. She raised her hand to the back of his neck and entwined her fingers in his hair as she would to comfort her son. When he shuddered, she pulled his face into her shoulder and he curled around her, leaning more and more heavily against her solid stance.
"Thank you," he whispered, the words mere puffs of air against her neck.
"We would do no less for you than you have done a hundred times for us, John." She pulled him even more tightly to her. "For me."
"Oh, ew," came Rodney's voice from her shoulder. "I'm glad I didn't cut him loose."
The room flooded back into Teyla's awareness and she pulled away to find Rodney bouncing on her toes next to them, his face showing the concern his words did not. "I've got the controls figured out. Walker just contacted us via radio, they're waiting for us in the cloaked jumper. We can go. Is he alright?"
"He is ill," she confirmed. She pushed a bit further away, trying to look into John's face. His head continued to droop against her shoulder. Rodney grabbed for an arm at the same time Teyla felt John's shoulders go slack and his weight begin to sink.
After a moment of awkward juggling, Ronon rescued them by heaving John over his shoulders in what John called a fireman's carry. Sounds of banging and stunner fire drifted to them from beyond the hole they had made in the wall.
"Let's move!" Teyla bellowed, leading the way towards the transport beam and safety.
On the jumper ride home, she sat across from a semi-conscious John where he was propped between Ronon and Rodney who anchored him upright, offering support and dignity in equal measure.
Twice Teyla had held John, really held him, and once he held her. Her arms still tingled with warmth from his gratitude beside the chair where he'd been tortured and bound. Tears stung in her eyes, and she looked away to blink them back. In three embraces he had given her more than she could bear.
She didn't know if she could endure a fourth.
But she was willing to try.