John Sheppard tipped his head left then right, briefly enjoying the cracking and popping sound around the bones in his neck as he released part of the tension built up after three days of running blind.
He'd shuffled through a full deck of emotions the seventy-two hours—shock and disbelief, impatience and fear—and finally settled into a lethal dose of anger that was curling itself around his mind.
Someone had taken one of his people.
And that was not acceptable.
It had been thirty-six hours since Jennifer Keller had been taken. A wink in time to the ancients, an eternity to those she'd left behind. The city had been put on full lock down with all military teams recalled and reassigned to search for the missing CMO. Friends and allies were contacted. Enemies chased down and questioned. It was a well directed mess of controlled insanity as every lead, every sighting, every whisper was tracked down and followed.
Yet every clue dead ended into nothingness. They were no further ahead now than they were the moment they'd learned of her abduction. It was starting to take its toll.
John glanced over his shoulder at the hulking statue striding through the darkness on his right. John knew the big man was hurting, but any words of comfort would be empty and useless.
It hadn't taken a genius level IQ to note there was something connecting the Satedan and the young doctor. After everything he'd been through, Ronon deserved a taste of normalcy. The comforts of home. Real friends. A companion. A woman who wouldn't take his bullshit or his solitary defiance, and who would always keep him on his toes. A beauty to his beast.
He needed Jennifer.
And Jennifer? Well, Jennifer needed someone who wasn't jaded by Earth's unwritten rules of who she should be. That she was too young for her position. Too pretty to be taken seriously. And the wrong gender to be in charge. She needed a champion. A protector. Someone to keep the wolves at bay and let her do her job.
She needed Ronon.
And while neither one would have admitted it, John hadn't missed the way they acted around each other. The awkward touches. The sly looks when each thought the other wasn't paying attention. The random times Ronon would let John win a sparring match just so they could visit the Doc in the infirmary. The way the Jennifer seemed to lose all sense of concentration whenever Ronon was around. There were too many reasons to list, and too many to miss. John didn't know for sure how far the two had progressed in their relationship, if at all, but the thread had been sewn.
They were a pair whether they knew it or not.
And now Jennifer was missing. Dragged away from the home of a woman she'd been sent to help.
SGA4 had escorted her into the small cabin, but when too much time passed and she hadn't come back out, they'd rushed in to discover the cottage was empty. There was no trace of the older woman who'd taken ill...and no sign of the CMO.
Ronon had tracked the captors to the creek running through the woods behind the cottage. Four men and two women, one with a standard Atlantis boot tread.
Jennifer had been alive when she left the cottage through the back window.
Both good news, and bad, because she hadn't gone willingly. Her footsteps had been staggered and uneven, suggesting she was walking under duress, or injured.
Ronon managed to follow the tracks back to the gate, but the trail died amidst all the other impressions from the daily gate travellers. After that all trace of Jennifer had disappeared into the stars. It was there the search had begun, and hadn't stopped.
It was only because of the mandatory check in policy he himself had ordered that he’d even paused his own part in the search and was returning to the gate with Ronon and Teyla. He would have preferred to stay in the village, questioning the last of the locals with Major Teldy's team, but sometimes being the CO meant he couldn’t throw as many fists as he so desperately wanted to.
When they reached the clearing, the stargate loomed up out of the darkness, its silver arch sparkling in the light of the full moons overhead. Crossing the open field, John turned his head towards Teyla, walking silently on his other side.
They'd lost too many friends to this galaxy. Too many had been buried. To many gone. Ford. Elizabeth. Even Teyla.
John's heart cramped to think of the days and weeks he'd searched for this woman. Sleepless nights and lost thoughts, hours of grieving and fearing the worst. Every time he looked at her he thanked whoever was up there for giving her back.
As though she could hear his thoughts, which he often wondered if she could, Teyla reached out and gripped his fingers, applying a gentle pressure of warmth of skin before she let go.
They continued on in silence, their pace brisk and purposeful. Time was not something they had to waste.
As they neared the DHD, the first of the chevrons clanked, announcing an incoming wormhole. Without a word or needing to be ordered to, Ronon disappeared into the shadows, his blaster in his hand. John and Teyla stepped back, recent events leaving them unwilling to trust any newcomers to this planet.
As soon as the event horizon stabilized, a single man stepped through. The light from the moons above highlighted familiar military hardware as Evan Lorne jogged forward.
"Colonel," Lorne nodded, sliding to a stop in front of them. "We've got something."