For Colonel John Sheppard, landing the jumper in the bay was the easy part. He commanded the small craft with an ease that was practically innate and it responded as though it were a natural extension of himself. Getting Ronon from the floor to the waiting gurney, on the other hand, was more of a challenge. At least they had Major Lorne's team along for some extra muscle. As soon as he was laid out, Dr. Keller rushed in for triage.
"Doc, you'd better get a move on," he said. "We hit him with three stun blasts before he went down. I don't know how long he's gonna stay like this."
She tugged the wide collar of his shirt briskly from one side to the other, taking note of his injuries, which seemed mostly insignificant and par for the course with Ronon. The glaring exception was the fresh, raw feeding mark over his chest. "Let's get those restraints on and get him to the infirmary," she ordered. "We need to run tests as soon as possible to see how much of the Wraith enzyme is in his system."
She reached for the thick leather straps attached to the base of the gurney and took hold of Ronon's right hand.
There was a barely perceptible twitch, a movement that could have been easily explained away under other circumstances, but with Ronon, their resident lethal weapon, it was an indicator that set off alarm bells in John's head.
"Jennifer!" Mason shouted.
As John went for the stunner holstered against his thigh, Mason dove toward her. But for all their speed, Ronon was faster.
Propelled by a drug-induced edict to attack, his bearded face contorted savagely. He contracted his left arm and swung, hitting Dr. Keller square across the jaw with brutal force. Mason caught her inside his powerful arms and kept her unconscious body from crashing to the ground. Thinking fast, he pulled her out of the line of fire and covered her in a protective posture.
John raised the stunner to his best friend and fired, and for the first time since she left, he was glad Teyla was gone.
It was dusk on the Athosian's new homeworld. Teyla walked by herself, taking in the last gasps of the fiery cascade of color in the darkened sky and the cool autumn breeze blowing over her. A short distance away in the encampment, fires were being lit and she could hear the children still at play, enjoying the last light of the day before it was time for the evening meal and, inevitably, bed.
The last two weeks had not been easy. Everyone had known it would be difficult establishing a new home on a new planet with so few able-bodied adults left, but it was what they wanted. They could not return to New Athos. Too many ghosts of the past lingered for them there, and as much as they were welcomed by John's people, the Athosians had never felt like they were truly useful in Atlantis. So Rodney had searched the Ancient database for a suitable place for them to resettle.
She yawned. Fatigue was starting early this evening, no doubt a result of her spending all day in the fields readying them for planting. She knew by now that it wouldn't be long before she could hardly keep her eyes open, so she adjusted her course and ambled to her tent. There would be no tea or stories around the campfire for her tonight. She was too tired and the morning promised to be another early one. There was still much work to be done.
Once inside, she readied herself for bed. Teyla pulled on a nightgown that had, at one point, fit loosely on her body. She rolled her eyes in frustration. The material had grown tight around her expanding midsection and it wouldn't be much longer before she was unable to wear it. First, it had been her pants. Now it seemed her sleepwear was following suit. If she kept growing at this rate, she would soon consider herself lucky to have any clothes at all.
She lowered herself to the bed and pulled the blankets over her. Unable to get comfortable, she rolled onto her other side and wrapped her legs around the blankets so they were exposed rather than underneath them. Trying once again to settle in, she rested against the pillow and closed her eyes.
A delicate nudge fluttered through her belly, a tiny beacon in the quiet of the night. Teyla's mouth curled upward. She had reached the halfway point in her pregnancy and, before leaving, Dr. Keller had told her to expect to feel movement soon. A few days ago, she had. She rubbed a hand over her stomach. "So you have decided it is time to wake, have you? It is late, little one. The day is done."
Despite the joy she took from each tiny kick, she couldn't help but feel a myriad of other emotions tainting the moment. She wished John were here to share this latest milestone with her, to celebrate their baby's life together. But, at the same time, she couldn't forget the things he had said.
"Damn it, Teyla! Don't do this!"
They had not parted on good terms. His last words to her still echoed in her ears. He hadn't come to the Gate to see her off and he still hadn't visited. She had considered returning to Atlantis herself once her own initial anger had subsided, but the camp was several miles away from the gate, too far to walk in a short time and she was needed here.
The radio they'd brought to the encampment had stayed silent. She'd received no word from him telling her when – or if – he planned on coming at all.
"Here you go."
"We have real ones here, you know."
"Not like this. Just hold still," Mason said softly. Carefully, he pressed the makeshift ice pack to Jennifer's face with his huge, rough hands. "There. Mess hall's finest. I can personally vouch for their effectiveness."
She winced at the initial contact. It was both painful and cold, but the ice soon did its job and started to numb her. Jennifer hadn't seen herself yet, but she hoped whatever swelling there was went away quickly.
Standing back with his hands in his pockets, Mason watched the tension in her face slowly release. "So how do you like being the patient, for once?" he asked with a smirk.
Her legs swinging down from the infirmary bed, she looked up miserably. "It's not my favorite."
"That's alright. It doesn't really suit you," he said. "I think I prefer things the other way around, too."
She tried to smile, but her sore lip objected harshly. "How's Ronon?" she asked.
"He's awake," he replied, matter-of-factly. "He's pretty bad."
Jennifer nodded. Having just gone through this with Tyre, she didn't need to imagine what was happening. His teammate was likely strapped down to a bed, flailing around and shouting loud enough to rattle the walls. For now Ronon was enraged and out of his mind, but soon withdrawal would kick in and he would get horribly sick.
She slid off the bed. "I really need to get back to work. I should check in on him."
He blocked her path, though, pulling his hands from where they hid long enough to clamp them down on her shoulders. "I don't really think that's a good idea, Jennifer. Let someone else take care of Ronon."
"I'm fine, Mason. Really. I can handle this. You don't need to worry."
"I know you can," he said, "and I'll worry if I damn well feel like it. But that's not it."
She stopped trying to push her way past the big marine to hear him out. He pursed his lips and lowered his voice. "I don't think he should see you like this. He may not care right now, but trust me, he will. I sure as hell would, if I'd done that to you."
She was struck by his tone and the flash of intensity in the marine's blue eyes. Feeling slightly awkward, she tried to find her voice again. "Oh. I, uh ... didn't even think of that. Is it that bad?" With the way her face ached, she didn't have any illusions that it looked good, but ...
Mason chuckled. "You've looked better."
That was the Sgt. Capshaw she was friends with. Brutally honest. "You have terrible bedside manner, you know that?"
"That's why I try and leave the doctor stuff to you," he said. "Don't sweat it, though. For my money, you're still the cutest doc in Atlantis."
Jennifer smiled and shook her head. The casual flirting was relatively new, but she enjoyed it. It was flattering and fun. It drew her away from her natural shyness without the added pressure that comes with a romantic relationship. "You shouldn't waste lines like that on me. Save them for someone who actually believes them."
"Got anyone in mind?" he joked, but when she actually looked like she was going to throw a name at him, he stopped her and adopted a more serious expression. "Don't even think about it, Jen. You know as well as I do there's no point. I'm not gonna last much longer around here."
"I don't think ever met anyone as pessimistic as you."
"With good reason." He gave her a slight push in the direction of the door.
"I haven't heard any complaints from you yet this round, so you'll forgive me if I choose to think the glass is half full," she said. "I'm looking forward to the day when you won't have to be my own personal lab rat anymore."
"Of all of the crap I've had to deal with because of this," he said waving to his chest, "that's probably been my favorite. Now let's get the hell out of here before something else happens and somebody needs an actual doctor, because I don't think I'm ready for that yet."
Jennifer laughed. "No?"
"Ice packs are pretty much where my expertise ends."
She obediently moved toward the exit and he followed closely behind, sliding his hands back into his pockets.
Richard Woolsey, senior member of the IOA and recently appointed head of the Atlantis expedition, said, "Colonel, are you certain this is wise?"
From the gallery above, they looked down into the room where Ronon was using every ounce of his strength as leverage against the bed and the restraints keeping him hostage. More than once, he'd nearly flipped the entire thing over and the soldiers standing by had been forced to intervene.
"Yeah," Rodney echoed with a pained expression on his face. "I don't think he's really in the mood."
"Look, I'm not gonna stay long. If anything goes wrong, you two can call in the troops. But I'm going down there," John said. "He's not gonna do this alone."
Both of them seemed to accept his decision and John turned toward the doorway. "Try not to piss him off, okay?" McKay said, shaking his head in wary disapproval.
On his way out, John managed a half smile. "I'll do my best, Rodney."
When he strode through the doorway to the lower level, Ronon ceased his maniacal tirade and glared at him. His skin pale and dark circles surrounding his bloodshot eyes, Ronon looked like a vampire. Appropriate, considering it was the Wraith who made him that way. Being cautious, John stopped short of the bed and out of his friend's reach.
"How long are planning on keeping me prisoner?" Ronon growled.
"As long as it takes to clear your head."
He snorted. "I. Feel. Fine. You and the others can let me go."
"You may feel fine, but you look like hell," John said. "And things are gonna get a lot worse before they get better."
"I don't know what you and Woolsey want, but it's not gonna work. You either kill me or you let me go." With each successive word out of his mouth, the Satedan's voice grew a touch more menacing and desperate.
"You know we can't do that."
"Get me out of here, Sheppard," he snarled. "You kill me or let me go. Those are your choices, because if I have to get myself out of here, I won't stop until every last person in Atlantis is dead!"
"You're already feeling it, aren't you?" John asked him. "That high you're jonesing on is starting to slip away. We're gonna get you through this, Ronon. I promise."
"You kill me or let me go."
"Sorry, buddy. It's for your own good."
Ronon screamed at him and strained against the taut leather holding him in place. "You kill me or let me go!"
The colonel turned around and walked away.
"John Sheppard!" Ronon bellowed, testing the limits of his muscle against the restraints, causing the leather to bite through his wrists. "You are a coward! A miserable coward! No wonder Teyla took your baby and left!"
Ronon's parting words slipped through the door like a knife. John suddenly felt like he'd taken a hit and he couldn't breathe.