Renewing the Voice

Maybe John Sheppard hadn't been healed as well as he originally thought. Epilogue to the SGA novel Blood Ties by Sonny Whitelaw and Elizabeth Christensen, published by Fandemonium Ltd.

Warnings: There be Shep whump in this here story.

Disclaimer: The characters and storylines belong to their rightful owners. No copyright infringement is intended. Characters are whumped solely out of love.

The Blood Ties plotline you need for this story: (*Spoiler alert*) What originally is thought to be a Wraith problem on Earth turns out to be two warring groups of Ancient/Wraith/human hybrids created by an Ancient (of course). One faction has pledged to protect humans and heals them whenever possible. Mixed up in the middle, John Sheppard has his life saved in this manner – twice. Teyla managed to end the battle by triggering a kill-switch in the hybrids when singing an ancient chant. Later, when the IOA orders Atlantis to destroy T-Rex World, which is full of psychic, sentient beings, our heroes find a way to fake the destruction. Now, on with the show…

There was an audible sigh in the gateroom as the wormhole snapped shut, Mr. Woolsey now safely back in the Milky Way galaxy with his precious reports and the feeling of a job well done. Shoulders slumped, bodies slouched back in chairs, and there were more than a couple of vows of hard liquor in the near future.

Elizabeth Weir suddenly felt very tired as she thought about the past few weeks. Not long after the death of Carson Beckett, the apparent Wraith threat on Earth had forced her people to run non-stop, putting out literal and metaphorical fires in two galaxies. Despite the fact that the threat appeared to be contained for the moment, Elizabeth knew that someday the presence of the Ancient/Wraith/human hybrids on Earth and the faked destruction of T-Rex World would come back to bite them. It always did.

She risked a look at the man next to her. Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard still held his pose at the balcony railing. Although to the outside observer he might appear to be leaning casually forward, she could tell that he was tense. Of all of the personnel who had participated in this crisis, he was probably the hardest hit. He had been forced to work with the Earth-based military structure that previously had treated him so harshly, all the while traipsing around the globe on a moment's notice and nearly dying … twice. It was only thanks to the personal sacrifice of the succibi that some of her people were still alive.

"Well," she said, trying to inject some cheer into her command team. "I think there's a bottle in my desk drawer that's begging to be opened. Anyone care to join me?"

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw John slowly straighten up and stretch a bit. She turned and preceded Major Lorne and a few others into the office.

"You coming?" Ronon asked, turning back when he realized that John and Teyla were still standing by the railing. John was absently rubbing his shoulder and he looked at the Stargate. Ronon and Teyla shared a glance.

Their team leader had said little about what happened in Tasmania beyond giving the necessary sit-rep. They knew he had been injured during the battle between the Ninlil/Lilith groups and that he had been healed. He swore he was fine, and for the most part he seemed to be. But they had all seen his moment of weakness in the caves that he had blamed on blood loss. Although he had passed his physicals, his friends had noticed that he had been quiet and withdrawn lately, and that his physical injuries, or perhaps the memory of them, still plagued him.

"Spar later?" Ronon asked, seeing if he could call Sheppard's bluff.

This time the pilot seemed to hear him. "Yeah, sure. Before dinner?"

Ronon grinned. Sheppard was a much better fighter than McKay, but Ronon could still toy with him. It might do the man some good. If nothing else, maybe he would actually talk.

"Where are you going?" Teyla asked as John rolled his eyes at Ronon's predatory grin and moved toward the control room doors. "Do you not wish to join Dr. Weir?"

John shook his head. "Nah, I gotta find McKay. Drink an extra one for me, buddy," he said, slapping Ronon's arm. "Maybe then I'll actually have a chance."

Both of his friends snorted at that and watched him leave the room.

"I worry about him," Teyla said softly as the doors swished closed behind him. "I do not think he is completely well."

Ronon took a moment to answer, studying her as she studied the doors. Teyla had been alternatively amazed and unnerved by Earth, and she had been very disturbed when she had discovered the destruction her voice had wrought, even if it had helped to defeat their enemies and save John's life. Although she covered it well, Ronon could tell that she was not yet back to her normal self.

"Why don't you come along, too? I could use a good sparring match," he said.

Teyla raised an eyebrow. "The way you were teasing John, I assumed you wanted to win tonight."

Ronon chuckled. Maybe sparring would help them all.

"Do you want me to come back later?" John called to the room at large as he entered the gym. Ronon and Teyla were circling each other, each poised to swing their bantos rods on a moment's notice. John figured it would be a while before one defeated the other, but in the meantime it would be fun trying to distract them.

"We will not be long," Teyla answered, eyes never leaving Ronon's. Her feral smile made John shudder. He had been on the receiving end of that smile before, and it had never ended well for him.

He set his bag down near the window and began stretching as the other two once again engaged. The air was filled with the cracking of sticks, and John couldn't hide his grin when he heard Ronon grunt in pain.

John rubbed at his shoulder as he warmed up. It still bothered him slightly, but it was nothing that he couldn't handle. He would never trade another person's health just to get rid of a bit of niggling pain. He'd live.

His head shot up as he heard Teyla grunt and hit the mat.

"You lost focus," Ronon said as he extended his hand to help her up. Teyla rose gracefully and glared at him, although they all knew she was more angry at herself than with him for her momentary lapse.

"Fine," she said with fake primness as she moved over to the window seat. "Perhaps John will be a more worthy adversary."

John sighed while the other two grinned. "Fine, let's get this over with," he said.

He and Ronon started off with slow, easy swings to warm up before speeding up their hits.

Teyla watched from the side, thinking. Yes, her concentration had slipped, but only when she had caught a glimpse of John again rubbing his shoulder. This newly-acquired behavior immediately sent her mind back to recent events, and Ronon had taken advantage of her pause. She did not blame him, though. Out in the field, distractions could get them killed.

Turning back to the match in front of her, Teyla was impressed with John's performance. He had been practicing, it seemed. Ronon had told her about his training session with McKay right before they 'gated through to Earth. Rodney was no competition for Ronon, but John appeared to be holding his own.

For his part, John did not notice the passage of time. Frankly, hitting things was usually therapeutic. It felt good to be going through the familiar movements of sparring again. The exercise helped to clear his mind, narrowing his focus to the anticipation of Ronon's next move and his counter-attack.

Suddenly, one of Ronon's sticks caught John across the front of his right shoulder. White-hot pain flashed across the joint, and John didn't even notice when his sticks clattered to the ground and his knees hit the mat.

Teyla was across the room in a flash, and Ronon managed to pull his next hit as soon as he realized something was wrong. Dropping his own sticks, he grabbed his friend as he started listing forward.

"What did you do?" Teyla asked, even though she had seen with her own eyes that Ronon's hit should not have caused more than minor pain and embarrassment.

"It shouldn't have hurt him this bad," Ronon said as they eased John down on to the mat, where he curled up into a ball. He was shaking and gasping, and Teyla could feel his pulse racing as she held his wrist.

"John, can you hear me?" she asked, brushing some hair back off of his forehead.

Slowly the pain began to recede and the voices in the background began to form words. John realized he was on the floor, but he didn't remember getting there. All he could remember was the pain. It had been the pain of getting his shoulder shattered by a bullet, bone and muscle torn apart. It had receded somewhat, but there was still a sharp pain in his shoulder that took his breath away. Apparently his mind was ready to supply any details he might have forgotten.

He jumped as he felt a hand on his forehead. Teyla. It was then that he realized his eyes were still closed. He slowly blinked them open, looking up at both of his teammates.

"John, are you all right?" Teyla asked. From her tone, John thought it must not have been the first time she had asked.

John could only nod. The pain was still there, pulsing with his heartbeat. He felt vaguely ill.

"Can you sit up?" Teyla asked again. John closed his eyes and nodded, knowing that this was going to hurt.

Ronon did most of the work, but John was still panting in pain by the time he sat up. It took him a moment to realize that he was leaning against the larger man, but at the moment he was in too much pain to care.

He felt hands softly hold his face, and he reluctantly opened his eyes again. Teyla's face was directly in front of his. "John, you must slow down your breathing. You are hyperventilating."

John tried his best, but it took time for her words to sink in. He felt lethargic, slightly disconnected from reality. He was cold, but shivering was a bad idea as it just intensified the pain. He could see Teyla talking to a point slightly above him, but he zoned out of the conversation.

Suddenly, he was hoisted to his feet. His vision greyed for a moment, but he locked his knees, not wanting to fall over again. He was more than willing to put one foot in front of the other as he heard the word 'infirmary' floating around. After all, that's where they kept the good drugs.

Teyla was surprised when John managed to stay on his feet, even if his mind seemed to be somewhere else. From his labored breathing and the way in which his right arm was clutched almost painfully to his side, she was pretty sure it was due to pain.

"Ronon, I really think we should at least call for a wheelchair to get him to the infirmary," she said, concerned about her friend's pale pallor.

"It's just his shoulder. He'll thank us later," Ronon said, John's left arm slung over his shoulder. He knew his friend hated showing any weakness in the hallways of Atlantis, especially riding on a gurney or in a wheelchair. Teyla did not agree, but Ronon would be the one to carry John if he collapsed partway to the infirmary.

Surprisingly, John did manage to walk all the way to the infirmary, albeit very slowly. Teyla was pretty sure that he would not remember it. The symptoms of shock seemed to dissipate slightly as they had draped his uniform jacket over his shoulders. The walk seemed to make him more lucid, although he had not uttered a sound beyond a couple of involuntary whimpers. Teyla wished there was more they could do for their friend.

"Oh my god! What did you do to him? Look at him!" Teyla flinched in commiseration with John as Rodney McKay's voice cut across the infirmary when they entered.

"Shush, Dr. McKay. I actually have patients, you know," said Dr. Jennifer Keller as she raced across the room toward them.

"What happened to you?" she asked the colonel as she nodded at the nearest bed. She could tell from his posture and breathing that the man was in pain.

Ronon answered as he helped John to sit on the gurney. "Took a hit to the right shoulder. It shouldn't have hurt him. Something's wrong."

"Did you get your medical degree while I was turned away?" McKay asked indignantly as he joined his teammates. "And do you have any idea how hard you hit?"

Ronon moved in front of John to keep him from toppling off the bed as he slumped forward. Jennifer knew that the colonel wasn't the most talkative man in the city, but she found his silence disturbing.

Teyla took it as her cue to step in. "Ronon is correct. The hit should not have been a painful one. I believe this is might be the remains of an injury from our time on Earth."

She could not help but smile as John summoned the awareness and energy to shoot a traitorous look in her direction.

Jennifer gently prodded John's shoulder, startling when he suddenly hissed and straightened up. He began panting again as the pain once again increased, and Jennifer's brow knitted with worry.

Calling a nurse over, she turned to the team. "I'm going to put him under the scanner. It'll take a little while, so maybe, um, you guys could go take showers or something."

Ronon towered over the doctor, glaring down at her although Teyla could see a smile forming on his lips. Jennifer refused to look directly at him. Teyla rolled her eyes. Everyone took Ronon too seriously, and he certainly took advantage of that.

"Come," she said, turning toward the entrance. The sooner she showered, the sooner she could sit with her team leader. Without looking, she knew her teammate was still tormenting the doctor. "Ronon, leave Dr. Keller alone."

Ronon huffed, then grinned at Jennifer to let her know he was joking. Teyla seemed to have eyes in the back of her head, as John put it. She would make a good mother.

"Rodney, feel free to leave anytime, as well," Jennifer said as they helped John settle back onto the bed.

"What? Why?" McKay sputtered.

"She's politely trying to say you smell," John mumbled from the gurney, eyes still closed.

"Oh ha, ha," Rodney said, snarking to hide his relief at John's normality. "That must be the good drugs talking."

"I haven't had any drugs, McKay," John said, a bit touchier this time. "But the sooner you leave, the sooner the good doctor can give me some."

Rodney and Jennifer shared a glance. They both knew that things had to be pretty bad before John Sheppard would ask for pain-killers.

"Fine," Rodney sniffed, pretending to be put out. "I'll come back when it's more convenient for you."

Luckily John's left shoulder didn't hurt, and he let that hand do the talking. Rodney wasted no time in leaving, knowing that his friend was uncomfortable. After a quick trip to his lab to pick up a laptop, Rodney settled into a waiting-room chair that completely lacked any lumbar support and waiting on news of his friend.

It wasn't in Jennifer Keller's nature to swear, but she let out a few choice words under her breath as the scanner focussed on Col. Sheppard's right shoulder. Although the joint itself looked fine, there were several large pieces of something lodged in the surrounding tissue. Shrapnel? Jennifer wasn't sure, but she guessed that that Ronon's hit had driven a couple of floating pieces directly into the muscle. No wonder the man was in pain.

Now she would have to cause more pain by taking him into surgery, but he would feel better afterward. Jennifer and Marie carefully cut off the colonel's t-shirt; Jennifer was confused when she didn't see any sign of a scar on his shoulder.

"Colonel, have you ever been hit with shrapnel?" she asked.

"Not in the right shoulder," he said, his answer noncommittal. Then his eyes popped open. "It might be bone."

Jennifer shook her head. "That's not possible. Your shoulder joint looks fine. There aren't any pieces missing."

"I don't know," John said, snappy as he lacked the patience for a debate. "Maybe new bone generated when she healed me. She didn't get to finish, so maybe she wasn't done with the cleanup."

Jennifer leaned over him. "What are you talking about? How did she heal you? If we can figure out how this happened, that could have great potential…"

"Can we save that part for later?" he grunted. His shoulder and arm were still on fire so he didn't have the patience for a medical debate right now.

"Sorry," Jennifer said, feeling a bit sheepish that her excitement had overtaken her care for her patient. "I'll need to remove the pieces surgically, but I can do it with an arthroscope so you'll be back to fighting the bad guys in no time."

John wasn't thrilled, but he felt a bit better seeing that the doctor wasn't too concerned. He needed to be at his best, no questions asked.

In the meantime, all he could do was lie back, relax, and hope that Keller was true to her word.

Awareness returned slowly to John. He could feel the bed dipping on one side. Probably Ronon in his usual position, feet up on the mattress. An absence of clicking, talking or snoring suggested that Rodney was elsewhere. Everything else was quiet.

He felt hot, but the pain was greatly diminished. John finally managed to peel his eyes open and was surprised to see that Teyla was sitting on the other side of his bed. Usually she would hum as she sat with him, knowing that he found it soothing, but tonight she was silent. Ronon sat across from her, watching them both.

It was movement that finally woke the nausea. John moved to push down the blanket and seek some relief from the heat when the bile rose in his throat. He struggled to sit up, but before he could say a word, strong arms lifted him and another set of hands shoved a bowl in front of him. John gagged and dry-heaved longer than he ever thought possible.

Jennifer had put him under because she thought a local anaesthetic would not be enough, but now she was beginning to regret that decision as she saw John's teammates leap into action. According to his file, Carson had never used this particular drug on John. Some people had reactions to it, and it appeared now that the colonel was one of them.

Moving quickly, she turned up the rate of his IV and injected some anti-nausea medication into the drip.

As the medication took effect a few minutes later, John lay back and closed his eyes. He felt like crap, although part of his mind registered that his shoulder hardly hurt.

"How 'm I doing?" he asked, fighting off the lethargic effects of the drug.

"Well, I pulled several pieces out of your shoulder. You were right, it was bone," Jennifer said, warming to her subject. "Do you want to see them?"

"Not really," he muttered, swallowing back the remaining nausea.

"Do you need anything for the pain, Colonel?" Jennifer asked softly as he began to drift off to sleep.

"No, I'm good," he mumbled. Knowing her patient's penchant for understating injury, she turned to his teammates.

Teyla studied the pilot's face, which was now relaxed. The familiar lines of pain around his eyes had eased and he seemed peaceful. She shook her head. "I believe he is telling the truth … for once."

Ronon snorted and Jennifer grinned as she went back to her rounds.

The others returned to waiting in silence.

The second time John awoke, he was feeling much better. He couldn't help but grin as Rodney made no effort at being quiet, instead muttering about his minions' collective incompetence in his absence despite the lack of an audience.

Slowly opening his eyes, John blinked at the brighter light. It was now morning, judging from the slant of the sunshine on the wall. While Rodney sat typing at the foot of his bed, Ronon was snoring quietly in the same chair as before, head leaning back against the wall.

He turned his head the other way. Again, Teyla made no noise but instead was curled quietly into a chair. John wasn't sure if she was asleep or just relaxing.

His throat felt dry and he coughed slightly as he tried to move. Rodney's head shot up.

"Oh, hey. You're finally awake. I'm gonna go find Keller," he said, not waiting for John's response.

A few moments later he returned with the doctor in tow. "How are you feeling this morning, Colonel?" she asked brightly after handing him a cup of water.

"Much better," he said truthfully. His shoulder hardly hurt except for the tiny incision, and he no longer felt ill. His stomach chose that moment to growl, backing up his claim.

Jennifer looked down, blushing slightly. "I'm really sorry about the anaesthetic. I've put a note in your file so it won't happen again."

John shrugged. "You didn't know and I didn't know, so don't worry about it. Everything's fine now."

"You always say that," Rodney interjected, rolling his eyes.

"But it is," John argued, "and I don't remember asking for your opinion."

Rodney didn't take offense. "But my opinion is extremely valuable," he shot back.

A chuckle and raised eyebrow at that statement signalled that Ronon was awake and held his own opinion on Rodney's statement.

Jennifer looked a bit taken aback, unsure of whether the teammates were joking or not. Then she felt a hand on her arm. She looked down to see Teyla still curled up, looking back at her.

"Do not be concerned," the Athosian told her. "This is perfectly normal for them."

"I don't know how you deal with them," Jennifer said, shaking her head as she walked away. Three indignant 'hey's!' followed in her wake.

After John ate a small meal of toast and juice, Rodney was called away on city business but Ronon and Teyla stayed behind. Although John was feeling much better, yesterday's pain and illness had taken a lot out of him and he settled in for a nap.

Ronon stood up, intending to head to the cafeteria for some lunch. "You coming?" he asked Teyla quietly.

"No, I will stay here with John for the moment," she said.

"Thanks," the pilot mumbled, turning toward her but not opening his eyes.

Something caused Ronon to stop at the door and watch his friends. Both had been troubled lately, but Sheppard seemed to be feeling physically better now.

They sat in comfortable silence for a minute. Teyla thought John was asleep and jumped when he spoke.

"You've been so quiet in here," he said to her. "I couldn't even tell you were here without looking."

Teyla hesitated. Music had always been something of beauty that she could give to her world, but now she saw it differently. "I have not felt like singing lately."

"But it's nice," he said, opening his eyes and giving her his puppy-dog eyes. "Please?"

Teyla paused and felt her heart-rate increase a bit as she remembered the destruction in the cave. She reminded herself that nothing bad would happen here, and that her singing could be seen as a thing of beauty once again. Taking a breath, she softly began to sing an Athosian lullaby.

John's eyes darted over to Ronon and he smirked slightly. Ronon shook his head, not realizing until now that the pilot had known he was there all along. McKay was right: Sheppard really could just smile and get women to do anything for him. But he had to give the man credit. Despite being hospitalized and half-asleep, he had gotten Teyla to sing again. Ronon could see the tension drain from her body as she continued with her song.

By the time her final notes faded away a few minutes later, Sheppard was obviously asleep. Without turning, Teyla said in an amused voice, "You can go now, Ronon."

The former Runner turned and quietly walked away. Every crisis on Atlantis brought new challenges, but his team would always be there to right those who needed to find their balance once again.

FIN.

Thanks for reading, folks! It's been a while since I have posted, so it feels great to be writing shorter pieces again while I work on a much bigger SGA project. Watch this space!