Kris goes to Lorne first.
“Sir, I’d like to be on the team that goes back to M3X-417.”
Lorne stops eating his tava beans long enough to give him a suspicious, assessing look. Kris stands his ground and doesn’t flinch. “You do, huh? What makes you think we are going back?”
That makes Kris stop breathing for a moment. “Sir?”
Lorne sighs. “It hasn’t been decided yet, Lieutenant. I can’t promise you anything.”
Kris nods, because throwing a fit won’t help his cause, and says, “Yes, sir.”
Next day, Kris spends all his time off-duty trying to get Colonel Sheppard alone. It proves harder than it has any right to be.
Sheppard has meetings – as in more than one, or two, or three – in the morning. After those, he spends an hour sparring with Ronon Dex. When they’re done, they have lunch, during which Sheppard spends approximately forty-five minutes having an argument about donuts with McKay. Just when Kris thinks everyone’s going their own way and he’ll finally get the man alone, Sheppard heads down to the Physics lab, possibly to continue the donut debate.
Kris hangs around the door of the lab for forty minutes, but then gives it up as a lost cause.
To his surprise, two hours later at the South Pier, Sheppard finds him.
“So,” Sheppard says, sitting next to him and handing him a beer. “What was it you wanted to talk to me about?”
Kris wonders for a moment if he’s caught an alien amnesia bug somewhere. As far as he can remember, he has never once had a personal conversation with the Colonel, let alone hung out at the South Pier with the guy drinking beer.
Kris didn’t even know they had beer in Atlantis.
He racks his brain, pokes his memory for holes, but upon finding nothing suspicious there, he decides to file this under ‘weird shit John Sheppard does’ and move on.
“You’ve been following me around all day, Allen, so spit it out.”
“I... Uh.” Kris had a speech prepared, with reasons why he should be sent back, all very logically explained, but now he’s not really sure if logic is the best way to go with Sheppard. He should have seen this coming. The man spends time with McKay voluntarily after all: no one can claim he’s normal. Kris should have considered this and made contingency plans.
“Let me start,” Sheppard says, gesturing with his beer bottle. “Sir, I would like to go back to the planet with the glittery temple.” He makes a face. “The answer is ‘no.’”
Kris’ heart thuds loudly in his chest. “Why not?”
“It’s just not a good idea,” Sheppard says, making another face. Kris has never had a superior officer make faces at him before. He’s not sure how to respond to that. “We’ll send a new team to patch things up. Teyla’s good at that stuff. You being there will only make things more difficult at this point.”
“I can go with Teyla,” Kris pleads. “I have to make amends. We can explain why we had to lie to them temporarily.”
Sheppard smirks. “You realize there’s no such thing as ‘temporarily’ lying to someone?”
Kris deflates a little. He does know. He knows there’s no excuse, but he also knows he had to do it. He’ll just have to explain it to Adam – tell him about the Wraith, why they needed the ZPM so much... Surely it’ll mean something that they’ll have brought it back? Just like it’ll mean something that Kris will have gone back himself.
“Look,” Sheppard says with a sigh. “This is about that priest guy, right?”
Kris stares out into the ocean. That’s the one thing he couldn’t decide whether to mention or not. Sheppard flaunts the rules himself, but he’s a leader, he gets to do that. It doesn’t mean he’s going to let others follow in his footsteps.
“I get that you two got—close.”
Kris can’t hold back a snort. That’s one way of putting it.
“It was a shitty deal, I get it. And no one would have asked that of you if it hadn’t been really important. But it’s done now. Let others make amends for you. This isn’t your job anymore.”
Not his job. Right. Kris takes a deep, calming breath, and then remembers his beer and takes a fortifying swig of that as well. Then he bites the bullet and opens his mouth. “I... wouldn’t call it a job.”
Sheppard rolls his eyes. “Yeah, I was glossing over it to make you feel better. So you had sex with him. It happens.”
Kris drinks another mouthful and tries not to choke. “That’s... not all.”
That makes Sheppard pause. “Don’t tell me you’re pregnant. Just don’t. I’m serious.”
And he does look serious, but that’s Pegasus for you.
“I’m not pregnant,” Kris assures him. “I just meant... it was more than sex. He – the high priest – Adam... he meant it as more. It was different.”
“Was it glowy?” Sheppard asks, but then holds up his hand. “Wait, no, I don’t wanna know.”
“It’s... it’s not the glowing or whatever. It’s just that—Adam is a good guy. He’s—he’s really special. And he doesn’t deserve...” Kris stops, runs a hand through his hair. Dammit, he sounds like a romance novel. “Look, I’m not clear on the details but – it meant commitment. To Adam. So I can’t just say it’s not my job anymore and – and – move on. That’s not—”
“Yeah, I wouldn’t expect you to,” Sheppard drawls thoughtfully. “But I don’t know if you can make things better by going back. I mean your husband? Is armed and dangerous and wants to kill you dead.”
Kris flinches—at the word ‘husband’ more than the murder part.
“But if you’re set on trying…” Sheppard salutes him with his bottle. “You’ve got my okay. Godspeed.”
Four days later, Kris steps through the gate into a green, lavender-smelling field.
He takes a deep breath and follows Teyla into the village.
Since Teyla has worked her magic before they planned this little trip, the King is willing to listen to them, and against all odds, no one starts shooting. Kris expects Adam to be standing with the King, glaring daggers at the team, but he’s nowhere to be seen. They present the borrowed ZPM, along with three crates full of gifts, and Teyla gives a long speech about why they had to do what they did. Kris tunes out most of it, instead focusing on the King’s face, studying his reaction. It’s no help though, because the King is a politician and this is not about forgiveness for him; Kris can see him weigh pros and cons, and then negotiate for more supplies, more help from Atlantis in order to stay on friendly terms with them.
It makes Kris sick to his stomach to consider that that might be Adam’s reaction as well. But it won’t. That would have been way too easy—if completely distasteful and unpleasant. To Adam, the betrayal was personal. His forgiveness will not be won with a crate full of medicine.
It takes forever for Teyla to set him free, and when she does, she gives him a look. He translates it as Don’t screw up all my hard work.
“You may take the artifact to its resting place now,” she says, handing him the ZPM. “The high priest will be there to take over.”
Kris nods, careful not to return the look with any kind of promise. There’s a very good chance that he will screw up. But that’s no reason not to try.
Two of the King’s guards follow Kris to the temple, but they stay at the bottom of the stairs. Kris ascends them on his own, his heart beating in time with his steps.
When he arrives at the top, the door is open.
Adam is sitting cross-legged on the floor, his robes pooled around his thighs, and the look he shoots Kris’ way is pure venom.
“So you did come back,” he says. “That’s a stupid thing to do.”
“I’m unarmed,” Kris tells him, raising his hands up, then he takes the ZPM out of his backpack and shows it to Adam. “I brought it back.”
“How kind of you.”
Sarcasm. Right. Kris can deal with that. So long as there’s no shooting.
“I’m just going to...” says Kris, slowly moving towards the nook that the ZPM had been hiding in. It had been easy to remove, and Kris finds it just as easy now to reattach it where it belongs. It starts glowing as soon as it’s in place and the whole temple hums around them.
When Kris looks up, Adam’s eyes are closed and he’s taking deep, even breaths.
Kris stares – he can’t not. He’s missed Adam, painfully so, these last three weeks, and it’s been killing him to think that somewhere on the other side of the galaxy, Adam cursed him for being a liar.
The truth is: Kris is a terrible liar. He’d omitted some truths, yes, and he’d stolen something Adam valued greatly, but he’d had very compelling reasons – like the Wraith, like the deaths of hundreds on his head – and about everything else, he’d been painfully, brutally honest. Adam should know that. That’s all Kris wants out of this trip.
And that would maybe set Adam’s mind at ease as well, because he looks like he hasn’t slept a wink since Kris left. His skin appears clammy, and the bruises under his eyes are worrying.
Has he been sick? Could they have made him sick by removing the ZPM? It seems farfetched, but Adam is connected to the temple somehow and what if—
“Are you sick?”
Adam’s eyes snap open, his face expressionless.
“I... you don’t look good.”
“You stole the light,” Adam tells him in a completely detached voice. “And you poisoned me with your lies. Now you care?”
“I borrowed the light,” Kris rushes to correct. “And I had to—my people would have been killed. There was a Wraith attack; we needed it to power our shields—”
“Yes, yes,” Adam says, rolling his eyes. “Your people have told us the story. You had no choice, you had to act quick, there would have been deaths...”
Kris nods along. It’s the truth. He has nothing else to offer but the truth.
“Lying and deceiving and taking things without asking... it’s all okay if your people deem it necessary, I suppose.” Adam raises his chin up, pushing his hair away from his face with the back of a hand. “I’m glad we’ve had this talk. Now you can leave.”
Kris stands there, feeling stupid, not sure what to do with himself. There’s no winning some battles, and you can’t always piece back together the things you’ve broken. You tried, he tells himself. Now it’s time to leave him be.
Except, when he tries to turn around to leave, he finds that he can’t do that.
“You said you knew me,” he says instead. “What does that mean?”
Adam narrows his eyes, brilliant blue peeking through the slits suspiciously. “What does it matter?”
“Just – tell me,” Kris insists, shaking his head.
“I have dreams sometimes,” Adam says. “About things I have no way of seeing.” Kris knows what comes next, but it still makes his breath catch. “I used to dream about you.”
“You’re sure it was me?”
Adam huffs, annoyed. “I never saw your face, but yes. I dreamt of you in strange places. Places like nowhere I’ve ever been.”
Kris takes a step closer. “Like?”
Adam closes his eyes. “A metal swing. A tree with red leaves. Warm wind. Scent of something sweet in the air...”
A dry, soundless chuckle leaves Kris’ throat. “Wha—what color? The swing, I mean. What color was it?”
“Light blue,” Adam tells him, opening his eyes to hold Kris’ gaze. “The chain is rusty, and most of the paint has peeled off, but whatever’s left of it is a very light blue.”
“Right,” Kris says, rubbing a hand over his eyes. “That’s in my parents’ backyard. I lived there for twenty years.”
Adam shrugs with a very deliberate roll of his shoulders. “The dreams are real. I just seem to have misinterpreted their meaning.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Kris demands.
“It means that I was warned about you. I just didn’t understand.”
Kris makes it out of the temple and into the sunlight this time, walking with hurried steps until he feels the wind on his face and lets it carry away his frustrated growl.
This reminds him of the day he broke up with Katy, except a hundred times worse, because as unreasonable as Katy had seemed that day, she’d had nothing on Adam. Kris knows that Adam is hurt and that’s why he’s lashing out, with words and everything else he manages to hide underneath them, but Kris doesn’t have the time to deal with that. They won’t let him stay, especially if he’s not wanted here, and if Kris leaves this time, there will be no coming back. Adam will never forgive him. He will forget in time, but there will be no forgiveness. And Kris just can’t deal with that.
He storms back in, hands fisted by his sides. “Do you want to hit me?”
“Excuse me?” Adam says, rising up from where he’d been kneeling in front of the glowing slab of stone.
“You heard me,” Kris says, advancing towards Adam until he’s close enough to touch. “I said, ‘do you want to hit me?’ It’s the fastest way of getting this out of your system.” He opens his arms invitingly. “I’m not going to hit back, I promise.”
Adam looks unimpressed. “Is this how your people deal with their problems?”
Kris nods. “Sometimes, yeah. You wanna hurt me right now, so go ahead. And then we can calm down and talk – hopefully without the sarcasm and the snide commentary this time.”
Adam crosses his arms over his chest. “That’s barbaric. I’m not hitting you.”
“You almost shot me,” Kris points out.
“I was angry back then.”
“And now you’re not.”
“I’m...” Adam pauses, seems to pick his words carefully. “...disappointed.”
Kris looks down, the word making him cringe. Perhaps it’s a good thing that he won’t get to stay. He can’t deal with this passive-aggressive I-expected-more-from-you crap. He would take a beating over this anytime.
“Well, I’m sorry that the reality doesn’t live up to your fantasies,” he tells Adam. After all, Kris knows he’s no one’s dream guy. He’s the guy that does what needs to be done. That’s all he’s ever been, and he’s proud of it. “You know,” he adds after a thought. “I’m a little disappointed myself.”
“Yeah. I mean, you’ve apparently been dreaming about me for years, and I’m pretty sure you could read me or feel me or whatever it was that stone was doing when we touched, and you still can’t tell I didn’t mean any harm?” Kris shakes his head, breathing loudly through his nose. “There’s nothing else!” he says. “I don’t have any other way of showing you!”
Then his eyes land on the stone, seeping light through tiny cracks, and he pulls Adam down by his robes and kneels next to it. “Here,” he says, pressing one hand to the surface of the stone and the other to Adam’s cheek. “See for yourself. No lies. No deceit. Nothing but me.”
The stone pulses with a warm, yellow light.
Adam’s eyes open wide.
Kris waits. He waits for Adam to do something, say something, but Adam stays frozen, caught in a golden current, staring at Kris with wide-open eyes.
Then something breaks.
There’s no sound or movement, but Adam’s feelings start to pour through to Kris – a whole confusing jumble of them – and even though he can’t pick any one of them to analyze it, the general sensation of loneliness hits Kris hard and knocks the breath right out of him.
“I’m sorry,” he says, forcing himself to focus, not get lost in the torrent of emotions.
Adam closes his eyes. He nods.
“You’re strong,” Kris says soothingly. He runs his hand through Adam’s hair – Adam is not wearing any feathers in his hair today – and lets his fingertips massage Adam’s scalp. Adam has a headache; he’s had one for days.
Don’t ask Kris how he knows. He just does.
“You’re beautiful,” he continues. “And you’re really, really special.”
Adam hums contentedly, turning his head in Kris’ lap to look up at him. His eyes are so bright, Kris is almost afraid to stare directly into them.
“And I’m an ass, really,” Kris says. “I don’t deserve your forgiveness.”
“I don’t understand the purpose of this,” Adam says.
“I’m trying to make you feel better,” Kris informs him.
“You’re very odd,” Adam tells him.
Kris smiles. “But is it working?”
Adam hums again and arches into Kris’ touch.
It’s not easy to get private radio time with the Colonel, but Kris gives Teyla his saddest look and makes her pull some strings.
“Lieutenant,” Sheppard greets him. “You’re not dead.”
“No, sir,” Kris says. “I’m alive and well. And I would like to request some time off – to stay behind with the anthropologists.”
“Really?” Sheppard says. He sounds like he’s grinning. “For what exactly?”
“Is that what you crazy kids are calling it these days?” Sheppard drawls.
Kris winces. “Yes, sir.”
“All right, Lieutenant,” Sheppard says, “permission granted. You can have two weeks off effective immediately.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“You can have your honeymoon,” Sheppard adds, “but no more sick days for you. And when you’re back, we’re going to have to talk about this.”
“Understood,” Kris says, already dreading the conversation.
“Have fun, Allen.”
Kris sighs, thinking that Sheppard has signed off, but this exchange has obviously not been painful enough yet. “Oh, and, congratulations, I guess,” says Sheppard’s amused voice in his ear.
Kris winces. “Thank you. Sir.”
Sheppard laughs. “Over and out.”