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Dragons of Atlantis

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Jinto loved playing seek-and-find. Especially when he got be the Seeker. This time he not only got to be the Seeker, he got to be Major John Sheppard. Maj. Sheppard was Jinto’s hero. The Atlanteans were all amazing and different but Maj. Sheppard was the best!

Which is why, when Jinto held the piece of dead wood in his hand like Sheppard held his loud weapon, he felt brave. He was Sheppard. He was a brave adventurer stalking the dark halls of Atlantis hunting the lone Wraith who’d managed to sneak past their defenses. He would find the Wraith, ‘take it out’ as Sheppard would say, and then win the game.

He rounded the corner and came face-to-face with… a door. The door was made of the odd metal all of Atlantis seemed to built from with colorful rectangles of glass and backlit by a dim, golden light. It looked like a lot of the other doors throughout the mysterious city Jinto and his fellow Athosians temporarily called ‘home.’

But there was just something different about this door. Jinto couldn’t think of what made it different, it was just… different. The golden backlight made the warm reds, oranges, and yellows of the glass feel welcoming and seemed to beckon Jinto towards it. There was an odd shadow in the center of the glass door that flickered just enough to draw Jinto’s attention and ignite his imagination.

What would Sheppard do?

Investigate. Duh.

Smiling to himself, Jinto looked both ways to be sure the hallway running perpendicular to the one he just came from was clear. He didn’t want to get caught. He loved his dad, but he didn’t want to see the look of disappointment on his face. Jinto knew he wasn’t really allowed to be out wandering Atlantis alone and definitely not at night. But Sheppard did and Sheppard was Jinto’s hero. If Sheppard could do it, then Jinto would learn to do it.

So he stalked towards the door and waved his hand by the locking mechanism which glowed a soft white on the wall next to the door. The colorful glass slid aside revealing a small room. Strange. It was so small. Maybe three adults could fit in here, but it would be squishy. Still, Sheppard would investigate so Jinto had to investigate.

He stepped into the small room and checked it out, bracing his wooden weapon on his shoulder like Sheppard always did and aiming it all around the room just in case. It was full of Atlantean boxes and cases. This must be a storage closet. The glint of the light on the metallic cases must have been the flickering Jinto noticed earlier.

Allowing his weapon to dip a little bit, Jinto looked up at the screen that appeared in the center of the back wall. It looked like a map of Atlantis with several white spots scattered around the city. The spots were pulsing slightly.  

One spot in particular was pulsing with a brighter ring of white around it. It looked like it was close to the center of the city. Was that… Was that where he was right now? Curious, Jinto reached out and tapped the spot. The spot flashed and a soft tinkling chime echoed in the small room right before the glass door slid closed behind him.

Oh no.

The first inkling of fear began to crawl up Jinto’s spine when he turned around and saw the closed doors. It’ll be alright. All he had to do was wave his hand over the door lock and… There was no door lock in here. Nothing. Just Jinto and the map of Atlantis. Now what?

Scream? Not yet. There was a little part of Jinto that wanted to call for his Dad, but if he did that then he would be in trouble. Not to mention, Sheppard would find out and Jinto didn’t want his hero to think little of him.

So what would Sheppard do? Investigate. Hefting his wooden weapon, Jinto rolled his shoulders and turned back to the map. The dot that had been pulsing brighter before wasn’t pulsing anymore. They were all pulsing dimly now. Nervously, Jinto licked his lips and took a deep breath. Investigate. He tapped one of white spots and blinked.

Weird. His body was tingling a little bit. Other than that, nothing happened. Oh, wait. The white dot he’d tapped was pulsing now. A hiss from behind him startled him badly enough that he jumped and may have- may have squeaked. A little bit.

The doors were open now. Jinto wasn’t going to hesitate just in case the doors closed on him again. Not that he was afraid or anything. He just didn’t like small, enclosed places. That’s all.

Really.

Wait. When did the lights in the hallway go out? It had been bright, well brighter when Jinto left the hallway. Lifting his wooden weapon back to his shoulder, Jinto looked around the dark room. A few lights on the wall lit up, brightening up the room and Jinto realized he wasn’t back in the hallway. He wasn’t anywhere he recognized.

Where was he?

Daddy?

Swallowing back his fear, Jinto bit his lip and inched further into the room. There was absolutely nothing familiar. There were no windows or doors except for the one he just walked through. How did he get here? Where was here?

Investigate.

With a heavy gulp, Jinto ventured further into the unfamiliar room. His eyes were drawn to several pedestals in the middle of the room. They looked a lot like the pedestals with those clear crystal things the Atlanteans used to control the Stargate. The adults never allowed Jinto to touch them but he’d always been curious.

But the most interesting part of the room was the light source. It was coming from a large, cylindrical device set on a podium behind the control pedestals. The glowing orange cylinder was set on its side and bound in a coppery colored metal with sliding knobs on its sides. It also made a low humming sound that Jinto hadn’t noticed before. But now that he was aware of it, he couldn’t not notice it.

It was strange but its glow was warm like cook fires back on Athos. Jinto missed Athos. This device didn’t give off any warmth, but its glow was comforting. He sniffed and lowered his stick. He missed his home. He missed his mother. He wanted his Father.

Tears prickled the corners of his eyes and slipped down his cheeks. He allowed himself a few moments to sniffle quietly before pulling himself together. Father taught him crying was wise, but to never let it control him. Crying allowed the body to relieve itself of pent up stress. But his pent up energy should be funneled to solving the problem, not worrying about it.

He would get out of this. He would. Just… after a let himself sniffle a bit more. Leaning forward, he let the tip of his stick brush the metal floor and his forehead to rest against the cylinder.

The light went out and the hum fell silent. Instantly, the room become pitch black dark and the air became thick and oily. Terrified, Jinto dropped to his knees and pressed himself to the podium the cylinder rested on. He clutched his stick to his chest and stared at the dark room around him.

The eerie silence was broken by a low hiss followed by a sigh and the sound of a body falling to the ground. Jinto hated that sound. Running from the Wraith all his life had made that sound something he was intimately familiar with and utterly terrified of. That sound meant someone had been hit by a Wraith stunner and would be left behind. Never to be seen again. Fall and you were dead. That was the life Jinto knew.

He still couldn’t resist looking. It was too dark to make out any clear details but the body looked vaguely human. The darkness swirled and Jinto squinted to see through…

The darkness swirled. It was moving!

Freezing in place, Jinto actually looked at the darkness around him. It really was moving. It swirled and had an odd appearance, like looking at smudged ash on rocks around a fire pit. Then the darkness moved across the room, away from Jinto and the body on the floor, to the far wall.

After a few tense seconds when Jinto could hear his heartbeat pound in his ears, the lights flickered back on in the room. Releasing the breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding, Jinto gasped and pulled his legs up to his chest, wrapping his arms around his shins, and whimpering.

There was no sound. The silence was a loud roar in his ears after the low hum from the cylinder and his heartbeat from moments before. Actually, there was another sound. Breathing. And it wasn’t Jinto’s.

Frowning, Jinto risked a wary glance at the body still sprawled on the floor just out of his immediate reach. Now that the lights were back on, Jinto could see the person more clearly. They did look human but their clothes were strange. They weren’t the earthy tones the Athosians wore or the dark grays, blacks, and greens the Atlanteans preferred. They were a pale blue, like the strange green-blue sheen the metal of the Atlantis city sometimes had when the light hit it just right. A cape of dark green-blue lay draped over the fallen form further disguising the person’s appearance.

The person was sprawled on their right side. Their short inky black hair fell every which way over his shoulder and the floor from the fall. A flash of white sparked Jinto’s curiosity which eventually overpowered his fear. Pushing himself to his hands and feet, Jinto crawled across the floor to the person’s side to get a better look. The white was actually part of the person’s hair. Thick bands of snowy white framed their face while other strands streaked through the black further back the person’s head.

Jinto reached out to push the white bangs aside when his knee bumped something. Cautiously, he looked down and gulped. Jinto’s people used some energy weapons to fight, but their society was mainly agrarian. Knives and staves were the Athosian weapons of choice. But Jinto knew a sword when he saw one.

The pommel was made of a sturdy, dark bluish metal with a thick crossguard. The blade itself was hidden inside the dark scabbard which was sturdy enough to be metal but felt like leather. Leather covered metal perhaps?

Jinto licked his lips, sincerely wishing the person didn’t wake up and attack him. Glancing back at the person’s still face, slack from unconsciousness, Jinto noticed something he’d missed before. Frowning, he pressed himself close to the floor to get a better look at the person’s face. They looked young. Older than Jinto but not as old as Maj. Sheppard. Yet whoever it was had seen violence.

Their right eye was slashed clean through. The thin, brown scar sliced down the pale skin of the person’s eyelid from the eyebrow to the cheek. Jinto wasn’t a healer, but he’d seen wounds like that before. He knew that eye would never be usable again. He winced sympathetically.

Actually, the scar wasn’t the only wound on the person’s body. Now that Jinto got a good look at the young stranger, there were several minor burns on the pale face and some of their clothes were singed. What could have caused that?

Did the moving darkness do that? Gulping back his mounting fear, Jinto began to think. He was trapped in this strange room with a strange, wounded person. They both needed to get out of here. Jinto wanted to see his Dad again and this stranger needed help from the nice Atlantean doctor with the funny accent.

That meant Jinto had to admit he’d made a mistake and call for help. This was going to be embarrassing. But Maj. Sheppard made mistakes too sometimes and he owned up to them. This stranger needed a hero like Jinto had needed a hero. Sheppard wasn’t here, but Jinto was. Jinto would be this person’s hero.

Now, he thought, getting to his feet and looking around, how did he call for help? The warm glow from the cylinder was gone and, based on what happened last time Jinto touched it, he wasn’t going to risk touching it again. Those control pedestals though…

He approached the first one and stared at the rectangular crystals that glowed with a pure, white light from inside the pedestal. There were symbols in the Ancestors’ language etched on the crystals and the metal the pedestals were made of. He couldn’t read them and he didn’t want to do something bad by accident, but they needed help.

With a deep breath, Jinto reached out and started touching things.

Chapter Text

"Jinto?"

Jinto jumped at the unexpected voice.

"This is Dr. Weir. If you can hear me, please respond."

Dr. Weir! The Atlantean lady! A smile broke cross Jinto's face. Someone knew he was missing and was looking for him. Hopefully, that meant he would be found.

"Dr. Weir!" he called to unseen speakers in the room. "I'm here. I'm here!"

"Jinto?" Dr. Weir's voice called once more.

"Dr. Weir?" Jinto said, confused. "Can you hear me?"

"If you're lost, if you can-"

There was a sharp click and Dr. Weir's voice cut off leaving Jinto once again in silence. What was that? Jinto bit his lip and stared down at the control pedestal. His eyes flickered between the many crystal tabs sticking out of the metal and made a decision.

He'd been tapping the crystals on the other pedestal with no obvious results, but maybe this one would come up with something. He needed to find a way to communicate with Dr. Weir. The crystals thumped dully as he tapped them randomly. He couldn't read the language of the Ancestors to know what exactly he was doing, but at this point anything was better than nothing.

"Jinto."

"Dad!"

The tears Jinto had swallowed back to focus on getting help suddenly surged forward. His breath caught in his throat and his eyes burned. Dad.

"If you can hear me-"

"I can."

"I'm not angry. I just want to know that you are safe."

Jinto sniffed, hot tears slipping down his cheeks as he listened to his father's calm voice. He wanted his father's arms around him. He wanted to be found.

"So if you are lost, or hurt, stay where you are," his father said.

Despite his fear and longing, Jinto couldn't fight back a smile. He was sort of stuck here. So it wasn't like he could leave. He wasn't even sure how he got here in the first.

"Make some noise if you can," his father continued. "We will find you."

"I know you will," Jinto whispered. He knew his father couldn't hear his words, but he prayed his thoughts would be felt.

When his father spoke again, it was a prayer to the Ancestors. A prayer Jinto knew well. He and his people had spoken similar prayers for years. Whenever they moved to a new camp, this prayer in particular was chanted by the elders. Unheard by his father, Jinto closed his eyes, raised his own hands in reverence, and whispered the same words.

"If you are angry that we have unrightfully inhabited your great city," he heard his father say in the common tongue, "we humbly apologize." Jinto took a deep breath and sent up his own silent apology to the Ancestors. "We mean no harm," his father continued. "We will leave if it is your wish. But I will not go without my son."

Surprised by his father's unexpected vehemence, Jinto opened his eyes and gasped. No one ever spoke to the Ancestors like that. It was terribly disrespectful. You asked for the Ancestors blessing or answers to questions. You respected them. You never spoke to them in anger.

Yet Jinto's father did so now. Despite knowing his father had committed a taboo, Jinto couldn't help but feel proud. Still, the sobs that fell from his lips were of longing and homesickness, not pride.

His thought of his father and his heart swelled with joy and love and yearning. The swelling of emotion was so intense, Jinto feared his heart would crush his lungs. He could barely breathe. He was afraid and proud and so very lonely.

But his father was out there looking for him. Dr. Weir and the Atlanteans were out there looking for him. He would find a way to make some noise or call for help. If not for himself, then for the stranger still sprawled on the floor. They needed help. Jinto needed to be found, but the stranger needed medical help. Jinto had to be a hero right now. The stranger needed him.

So he allowed himself to breathe through the wave of emotion and returned his attention to the task at hand.


Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. That one turned the lights off. That one made a weird whee-oo sound. That one made an eerie, echoey sound. He'd tried combinations of those before and nothing happened. Well, nothing he noticed anyway.

Huffing in mounting frustration, Jinto rubbed a hand across his aching eyes and pressed another set of crystals in a combination he hadn't tried yet. The lights flickered then dimmed, then brightened.

Then there was a familiar click. Wait. That sounded like…

"Attention everyone. This is Weir."

Oh. Maybe the click was the Atlantean turning on the speaker.

"For the time being, we need you all to remain in your quarters unless otherwise instructed."

But, just in case…

"If you see anything out of the ordi-"

"Hello?" Jinto called. "Can you hear me?"

Silence.

"Can anyone hear me?" he called again, hope making his ears strain for any hint of a sound.

"Jinto?"

Hope exploded to life. "Major Sheppard!" Jinto cried joyfully. He'd been heard. His hero heard him. He was going to be found!

"Are you okay?" he heard Dr. Weir ask, concern audible in her voice.

"I'm scared," Jinto replied honestly, shaking his head. "I don't know where I am."

"Jinto," Dr. Weir's voice said, soothing back his fear. "I need you to start from the beginning. Do you know how you got there?"

"Yes," Jinto said awkwardly. He bowed his head and braced himself for his confession. "I was playing seek-and-find with my friend in the hallway outside my quarters. It was an accident! I promise!" he pleaded. "I didn't mean to get lost."

"I know you didn't," Dr. Weir said, sounding like she was moving quickly. "We're going to retrace your footsteps if we can. Wait for us to get to your quarters."

"Okay."

Tingles of energy danced across his fingers and made his legs feel weak from relief. He felt like a slingshot strap held at maximum tautness but with no stone to sling. He had nowhere to run, no way to expel his energy except to stand here and talk. He was too afraid of moving his hands from the crystals he was touching. What if he lost the connection?

"Alright, we're here," he heard Sheppard say. "Where'd you go next?"

Jinto frowned and tried to remember. It had been dark with only the unnatural lighting to guide him. And he was so tired. He wondered what time it was? It must be very late at night.

"I can't remember," he confessed. "I'm sorry."

"He is used to the forest," he heard Teyla say, her voice softer over the speaker. "All Athosians learn to track using the stars at night or the sun during the day."

"Teyla!" he called.

"Jinto," he heard his people's leader call. "I am here. Your father is also here."

"Dad?" He immediately clamped his mouth shut when he heard his voice waver from the new wave of emotion. A knot settled in his throat and the heat of tears pressed against his eyes once more.

"I'm here, son."

He sniffed. "Dad."

"We'll find you, Jinto," his father promised. "We will. I promise."

His father had never broken a promise. "I believe you," Jinto said, smiling proudly. He tilted his head back to the unseen speakers. "I believe you, father."

Blue caught his eye and his joy faded quickly. He'd completely forgotten!

"Major Sheppard?" he called.

"I'm here."

"Is the healer with the funny voice with you?" he asked, staring at the unmoving person with concern.

"Why?" Sheppard asked. "Are you hurt?"

"No, I am well," Jinto said quickly, hoping to quell any undue concern for himself. "But I'm not alone. Someone else is here. They're unconscious."

For a moment, there was silence. Then, "What do you mean there's someone else there?" Sheppard said. "Do you know them?"

"No," Jinto said, shaking his head. "I've never seen them before. Their clothes are odd too. They appeared after I got here."

"Appeared?" Dr. Weir spoke up. "What do you mean they appeared?"

Jinto frown and thought back to that terrifying moment. He licked his suddenly dry lips before speaking. "There was this darkness," he started, feeling the fear of that living shadow return. "It filled the whole room. The lights went out. I could barely see anything. It moved like a cloud or fog but dark as night."

"Are you okay, Jinto?" Dr. Weir asked urgently. "The darkness, did it hurt you in any way?"

"No. It just swirled around like smoke. Then the person fell. They weren't there before the darkness came," he said. "I was alone when I got here. I know I was."

"We believe you," his father said, calming Jinto's nerves and bringing him back to the here and now.

"I'll go get the doctor," he heard Teyla say quietly. She must be talking to the group and not to him.

"Jinto," Sheppard's voice returned. "Do you remember going down any hallways or into any rooms?"

"Oh, yes!" How could he have forgotten. "There was a small room with boxes from Earth in it," he said, turning to look at the identical room behind him. "It had colorful glass doors."

He waited, listening for another questions.

"No boxes," he heard Sheppard mutter. "I remember helping put boxes in here."

"I went into the room, then when I came out I was here. The boxes are here as well," Jinto said, turning back to the pedestal.

He heard Sheppard sigh. "Okay, Jinto I need you tell me honestly. Did you touch anything when you went into the room?

"Yes! There was a map of the city on the wall with glowing dots on it."

"Did you touch it?"

Um… "Yes," he admitted quietly, dropping his gaze in shame.

"Where exactly?" Sheppard demanded. He didn't sound mad, just focused. Investigating.

"I…" Jinto closed his eyes and tried to summon a mental image of the city map. The map came easily, the locations of the pulsing spots and where he touched… "I don't remember. I'm sorry."

"Wait a second." McKay? McKay was there too? Wow. There were a lot of people looking for him. "We got a strange energy signature in this sector of the city last night. Right around the time Jinto disappeared. No. Wait. Oooh-uh. Nu-nuh!"

Jinto blinked. Those were odd noises. Was McKay well?

Suddenly, a mechanical hiss sounded loudly behind him, startling him badly enough that he jumped in surprise. Whirling around, he was stunned to see both Maj. Sheppard and Dr. McKay standing in the small room. Where did the boxes go? How did they get here?

"Woah," he breathed.

"It must be some kind of transporter," McKay said, his wide eyes scanning the room.

"We can name it later," Sheppard muttered, rolling his eyes. Then his gaze settling on Jinto. "Jinto!"

Immediately lowering his weapon, the Atlantean hurried to Jinto's side. Forgetting to keep touching the crystals, Jinto met his hero halfway and embraced him. It may have been childish, but he couldn't help it. He was tired and drained and relieved and wanted his dad and-

"Wait!" He pushed away from Sheppard, grabbed his hero's sleeve, and dragged him around the pedestal so he could see the person lying on the floor. "Please, he needs help."

Instead of dropping to his knees and quickly trying to offer the stranger aid, Sheppard raised his weapon and leveled it at the unmoving stranger. Surprised, Jinto stumbled back, wide eyed.

"He needs help," he insisted. "He's hurt."

"Sheppard?" he heard Weir over the speakers. They worked without him actively touching the crystals now? "What is it?"

"It's… something," Sheppard said, stepping slowly over to the stranger's still form. He crouched down, keeping one hand on his weapon at all times, and reached out with his free hand to press two fingers against the stranger's throat. "He's alive and breathing," he reported out loud for the others to hear. "Looks human."

He turned the person's hands so he could see their palms and Jinto almost smacked himself. Why hadn't he thought to do that?

"Not a Wraith," Sheppard confirmed. "Looks like some Renn Faire guy."

Renn Faire? "What's a Renn Faire?" Jinto asked, looking up at McKay.

"He's got some burns on his face," Sheppard continued before McKay could answer Jinto's question. "Nothing serious."

"His right eye," Jinto said, moving to Sheppard's side. He knelt and reached out to the person's face before he was stopped by the Atlantean. Startled, Jinto looked up to Sheppard's wary expression. "It's his eye. It's been cut. It looks old, but I don't know for sure."

"Sheppard," Dr. Weir said. "Bring him back with you, if you can. We have Dr. Beckett on standby."

"I'd rather have some guards posted just in case," Sheppard said.

"Already taken care of."

Jinto watched as his hero sighed heavily and looked back over his shoulder at McKay. "You want to use your invulnerability to help out?" he asked.

Invulnerability? McKay was invulnerable?

The brown haired man gave Sheppard a dry glare and crossed his arms in blatant denial.

"Of course not," Sheppard muttered. "We'll be there shortly," he said louder for the people they left behind to hear. "McKay, any idea what this place is?"

Jumping to attention, the scientist turned and began surveying the room in earnest. He touched one of the pedestals and some of the lights that had been dark before came to life. "My guess?"

"Yes," Sheppard drawled in a bored tone. "That is what I asked for."

McKay glared at the man and Jinto snickered.

"It looks like some kind of research lab," McKay said, choosing not to press. "We've come across several of them while exploring the city."

"Anything we should be concerned about?" Dr. Weir asked.

The scientist leaned down and studied the Ancestors' script. "Can't know for sure without more time to study it," McKay said. "However, I believe this console here accesses the city's main computer system which means some of the glitches we've been experiencing-"

"Were probably caused by Jinto," Dr. Weir finished. "Jinto? We're not mad, but did you touch anything?"

Oh. Jinto swallowed nervously. "Y-yes," he said. "I was trying to find a way to contact you. I heard you try to call me but I couldn't figure out how to reply."

"You didn't do anything wrong, Jinto," Sheppard said from his spot on the floor. "You did the right thing. We just want to be sure."

"Yeah, you think it's okay," McKay grumbled. "But we can't be sure everything was Jinto's fault. I need to know everything you touched," he said looking Jinto right in the eye.

Oh no. What if his messing around accidentally hurt someone? McKay mentioned glitches. Had one of those glitches been serious? He hadn't meant to do anything bad. He hadn't meant to hurt anyone. He just wanted to call for help. He just wanted to-

"Jinto?"

His heart skipped. "Dad?"

"I'll be waiting here when you come back."

"I'm sorry, father," Jinto said, bowing his head. "I'm so sorry."

"I think this was punishment enough," his father said gently.

His laughter was weak and watery, but it was true and that's all that mattered.


Jinto sat in the medical hall clinging to his father. He hadn't been able to let go of his father's shirt or hand since he'd first stepped out of the transporter room with Sheppard, McKay, and the stranger. He'd been greeted by relieved smiles and pats on the back.

The stranger had not been as warmly welcomed. Jinto refused to leave the stranger out of his sight and since his father wasn't going to leave him, Jinto found himself sitting next to his father in the medical hall. The stranger appeared to be male now that Jinto could see their face clearly. The person's armor, sword, and cape had been removed so only his basic clothes remained. Leather straps were buckled around the person's wrists and ankles just in case.

Jinto didn't think the restraints were needed, but after what he'd heard the adults talking about…

"Is it true?" he asked. His father tilted his head down to meet his son's gaze. "The darkness," Jinto clarified. "Is it… Is it my fault that its…"

"No," his father said firmly. "No, it's not your fault."

"Your father speaks true," Teyla said, stepping into the room. She glanced at the medical doctor busying himself in the corner with the strange Earth technology. "The darkness is not your fault."

"But I heard McKay say he thinks I released it," he said, wishing it wasn't true.

Teyla tilted her head considering Jinto's words quietly. "Perhaps that is true," she said slowly. "But you did not do so deliberately and you meant no harm. You were lost and trying to call for help." She smiled conspiratorially. "I can tell you I have personally seen the people of Earth make similar mistakes. Halling has also made some mistakes of his own," she added with a sly glance at Jinto's father.

"And I regret it," his father said with a crooked smile. "These," he looked down at the odd contraptions under each armpit, "crutches are very uncomfortable."

Reluctantly, Jinto smiled and tightened his hold on his father's arm. When he looked back at the healer's bed, he was met with a single, violet eye. The color was so deep, the gaze so old and forlorn, it took his breath away. He felt small and young and innocent. He'd never seen such a heavy gaze before.

No. He had. Once. When his father told him his mother wasn't coming home anymore.

"Jinto?" he heard his father say, followed by a quickly drawn breath.

The violet gaze slid from him to his father and Jinto shook himself.

"I will get Dr. Weir," Teyla said urgently, turning and hurrying from the room.

It was odd. Jinto didn't feel threatened. Carefully, keeping his movements slow and obvious, he sat up and pressed a hand to his chest.

"I am Jinto," he said, drawing the violet eye's attention. "I am pleased to meet you."

The stranger's head twitched in what was probably a nod of greeting. "Timaeus," he whispered.

That sounded like something from the tongue of the Ancestors.

Timaeus's violet eye moved away to take in the room and the ceiling above him. "Where are we?” he breathed. Then his eye grew wide and he quickly locked back on Jinto. "The Erebus. Where is it?"

"Th-the what?" Jinto asked, stumbling over the unfamiliar word.

"The Erebus," Timaeus repeated urgently. "It was imprisoned with us. Was it released? You must tell us. Without us to keep it calm, it will hunt."

"What will hunt?" Dr. Weir demanded, startling both Jinto and Timaeus. The red haired woman strode to the foot of Timaeus’ bed with Maj. Sheppard at her side. She crossed her arms with a frown.

"The Erebus," Timaeus repeated. "It is a creature of energy that feeds on energy. It is intelligent. Please, you must tell us if it was released. We have to be present to keep it sane."

"Erebus," Dr. Weir murmured. "That's Latin for darkness."

"The shadow," Jinto's father said.

"You must take us to it," Timaeus demanded, moving to push himself up from the bed. When he felt the leather restraints resist his movement, he froze. His lone violet eye narrowed in suspicion. "Are we prisoners then?"

"You could say that," Sheppard said. "You aren't one of us, no one knows you, you just appear out of nowhere at the same time the shadow-thing does. Forgive us for being cautious."

Jinto frowned. That was an odd way of saying that. It almost didn't sound like Sheppard was asking forgiveness at all.

Violet studied the people in the room silently. "Where are we?" he whispered.

Dr. Weir's frowned deepened. "You don't know?" she asked.

"We would not ask if we knew."

"We?" Sheppard said. "There're more?"

Teyla stepped forward so she stood by Jinto's other side and rested a hand on his shoulder. "You are in Atlantis," she said, giving Dr. Weir and Maj. Sheppard a look.

Timaeus's eye widened further, the violet iris shrinking to a thin ring. "But we could not… You are not Lantean. How did you come to the city?"

Lantean? Who were the Lanteans? It sounded like Atlantean but different.

The frown on Dr. Weir's face vanished, replaced by shock. "You mean the Ancients," she said.

Timaeus hesitated, choosing to remain silent despite the confusion evident on his face.

Dr. Weir paused like adults often did when choosing their words. "I'm sorry. The Ancients are gone. No one has been in this city for 10,000 years."

The stricken expression on Timaeus face was identical to the one Jinto remembered on his father's face when they were forced to perform the farewell ceremony without a body to bury.

Chapter Text

“Dr. Weir.”

Elizabeth twitched, jolted from her intense study of their latest guest. She reached up and tapped her earpiece radio. “I’m here, Peter,” she said. “Go ahead.”

“I’ve figured out a way to track the entity,” Dr. Peter Grodin said. She could hear the excitement in his voice. “It looks like it’s focusing on the naquadah generators.”

That wasn’t the best news she’d had all night, but it was better than all the nothing they had before. “Thank you. I’ll be right there,” she said.

“Wait!” the person on the hospital bed pleaded. “You must release us. We can help subdue the Erebus. Let us help.”

Her people were in danger in unfamiliar territory and their enemy was something they knew nothing about or had any idea how to fight. She shouldn’t wait. But if this person could help them control the shadow creature and keep her people safe, then it was worth considering.

“Why should I trust you?” she asked, turning back to face the stranger. “I don’t even know who you are or where you came from.”

“His name’s Timaeus.”

Elizabeth looked at Jinto still sitting close to his father in surprise. “Timaeus?” she said.

Coincidence?

“The boy speaks truly,” Timaeus said. “We were asked to aid in the containment of the Erebus as my people are familiar with their form of energy and molecular manipulation. We offered to keep it calm while under observation.”

Which, however outlandish, matched up roughly with what Dr. Rodney McKay had told her earlier. The Ancients had been using the shadow entity to study Ascension by capturing it and holding it in the cylindrical containment device for observation. If Rodney’s speculations were to be trusted at face value, then that meant it was possible something or someone had been helping the Ancients figure out how to Ascend in the first place.

But it did not explain Timaeus’ role in all this. If he, and whoever else constituted the ‘us’ he kept referring to, were only present to keep the entity calm, then why imprison the creature in the first place? That aside, how had Timaeus gotten here at all? It had been 10,000 years since the Ancients abandoned the city to return to Earth after they lost the war with the Wraith. Where did Timaeus come from?

“I’ll think about it,” she said.

That was the best she could offer given what she knew at the moment. She may be the leader of the Atlantis Expedition, but she was not the only one involved in this mess. She would need to confer with her advisors and colleagues on the best course of action first.

It seemed Timaeus understood because, although his face revealed his disappointment, he allowed himself to relax back onto the bed. That was a point in his favor.

“Jinto?” she said, drawing the Athosian boy’s attention. “Would you and your father mind keeping Timaeus company until I come back?”

The boy’s smile was genuine as he nodded excitedly. Outwardly, she smiled and nodded to both Jinto and his father Halling gratefully. Inwardly, she winced. The boy already appeared to be bonding with Timaeus. That could go any number of ways, good or bad. She fervently hoped for the good.

“Dr. Beckett,” she called, waving the Scottsman over as she and Maj. Sheppard left the makeshift hospital and headed for the control room and Stargate Operations.

Dr. Carson Beckett was a friendly man with a heart of gold, but he was also a doctor who held the privacy of his patients and his integrity in high regard. Elizabeth could trust him and, who knows, another opinion might be the best thing she could get right now. She already knew Maj. Sheppard’s stance on the situation.

She glanced at the young man currently acting as the senior military officer of her expedition after the untimely death of Col. Sumner at the hands of the Wraith several days ago.

Had it only been a few days? So much had happened since she and her expedition of military officers and civilians stepped through the Stargate from Earth to Atlantis with nothing but what they brought with them and the cold, hard knowledge that they may never return home. Her people were so incredibly brave.

Then her team was forced to relocate the surviving Athosians from their destroyed homeworld to Atlantis and she had twice as many people to look after and the worry of the lack of resources to handle the growth hung over her head. She already had assigned a handful of people she could spare to begin taking note of any worlds listed in the city’s archives which could be a new home for the Athosian people.

The Athosian leader Teyla Emmagan was a valuable ally and her diplomatic skills were highly desired, but Elizabeth didn’t fool herself. Teyla’s ultimate loyalty was to her own people. Elizabeth couldn’t fault the leader for that.

Although Teyla and many of her comrades were warriors, the Athosian people as a whole were an agrarian society. They thrived under the open sky, in the forests, and working the fields. Elizabeth could see the lingering fear in the Athosians’ eyes whenever they looked out the windows of the great Ancient city of Atlantis and saw only ocean as far as the eye could see.

“Dr. Weir,” Carson said, pulling Elizabeth from her sinking thoughts and back to the present.

“What can you tell me, Doctor?” she asked, looking at her friend as she continued walking to Stargate Operations.

“Not much unfortunately,” Carson said, falling into step next to her. “I can confirm that, aside from the superficial burns and severe exhaustion, he appears to be in perfect health.”

“Appears to be?” Elizabeth said, frowning.

Carson shook his head. “I was only able to do a quick exam after making sure Jinto was alright,” he said. “But I can say that I’m fairly certain at this point that very little could physically harm him.”

“What do you mean by that?” Sheppard said, not liking the sound of the medical doctor’s declaration in the slightest.

“Put it this way,” Carson said, coming to a stop just short of the stairs leading to Stargate Operations. “When I tried to draw some blood to run some tests, the needle didn’t pierce the skin. It bent.”

Elizabeth stilled, staring at her friend in open mouthed shock. “It bent?” she repeated, not quite believing her own ears.

“It did,” the doctor confirmed. “I wouldn’t go so far as to saw our new guest is impervious, but his skin does appear to be incredibly resistant to piercing damage.”

Elizabeth drew a deep breath and deliberately set the new revelation aside in favor of dealing with the problem at hand. “Thank you Carson,” she said. “Let me know if there’s any changes.”

“Aye.” With a respectful nod, the doctor returned to the medical facility leaving Elizabeth and Sheppard alone.

“Well that’s new,” the major said, accompanying her up the steps.

She hummed in agreement. When she arrived at Stargate Operations, she moved across the mezzanine to where Dr. Peter Grodin sat staring fixedly at his computer. Displayed on the screen was a depiction of a section of Atlantis. The spinning, white circles she’d come to recognize as her expedition’s naquadah generators were clearly visible on the map, as was a reddish blob moving across the map.

“What is that?” she asked.

Grodin jumped in surprise and she offered a smile of apology which he returned. “I believe that’s the entity,” he answered, turning back to the screen with focused interest. “I was able to calibrate the city’s internal sensors to pick up its frequency.”

“It looks like its heading to the generators,” Sheppard said, narrowing his eyes at the dark red blob.

“It is.” Adjusting his position in his chair, Grodin typed several quick commands into his laptop. “Based on what we know so far, we can assume the entity is feeding off the energy from the naquadah generators. I’ve been able to anticipate which generator its heading for and shut it down remotely.”

“So it’s running in circles,” the major commented, pursing his lips impressed. “Nice.”

“Yes, let’s just hope we’re not making it mad,” Elizabeth muttered. She tapped her radio earpiece. “Rodney, can you hear me?”

“Yes.”

“It looks like the entity is heading for the generator closest to your position,” she said, double checking the red blob’s position on Grodin’s map. “We’re going to be shutting the generator down to redirect it away from you.”

“That would be much appreciated.”

She and Sheppard shared a look of amusement. “Is that fear I hear in you voice?” she teased.

“Let’s not do this again,” she heard the scientist drone. “We’re all adults here.”

“Are we?”

“I heard that, major,” McKay snapped.

Still sitting in his chair, Grodin had to cover his mouth to smother his snickers. Elizabeth smirked.

“Cutting power in three,” Grodin began, his finger hovering over the Enter key, “two, one.”

He hit the key and the spinning white circle of the generator closest to the red blob vanished. The three friends stared at the screen, watching as the blob paused as if in confusion before shifting and moving towards another generator further away.

Elizabeth sighed. This was only a temporary fix. They couldn’t keep this up forever. One way or another, they had to get the entity out of the city. It wasn’t hurting anyone yet but there was always the chance that it could start. She tapped her radio again.

“Rodney, what if we shut down all of the generators?” she asked, chewing on the idea.

“I would highly advise against it,” the scientist said.

Next to her, Sheppard straightened. “Why?” he asked.

“It’s a creature of energy, major,” Rodney said in a tone that made it easy for Elizabeth to imagine the mousy man emphasizing his words with his hands. “It is energy, it feeds on energy. It’s probably responsible for some of the system malfunctions we’ve been experiencing.”

“What’s that have to do with turning off the generators?” Sheppard pressed.

“I’m getting to that. The generators are currently the entity’s sole source of food. You take that away and it’ll be forced to turn to something else.”

Elizabeth did not like the sound of that. “Like what?”

“Without an obvious source of energy, humans are the next best bet,” McKay said and yes, Elizabeth definitely didn’t like where this was going. “Now, granted, humans don’t give off anywhere near the same amount of energy as a naquadah generator does but if this thing has been imprisoned for at least 10,000 years? Then that means it was starving all that time and its hungry.”

“You’re saying it’s intelligent?” Elizabeth gasped, folding her arms as she processed the information.

“Not like you and me, but sentient, yes,” McKay confirmed.

“Can we reason with it then?”

“About as well as you could reason with a shark maybe,” McKay snarked. “Look, if it’s as sentient as I think it is, then its aware that it was imprisoned. During that time, it couldn’t eat. I don’t know about you, but going a long time without food and suddenly finding a food source nearby and then having it constantly moving away from you?”

“I’d be mad,” Sheppard said darkly.

“So would I, to be honest,” Grodin added, looking up at her with a shy smile on his tan face. “I can get pretty hangry sometimes.”

“You’re not alone,” the major reassured the scientist.

Elizabeth kept her mouth shut. She knew she had her weaknesses too but there was no need to voice them. Still.

“Jinto’s friend is awake,” she said. “He says his name’s Timaeus.”

“Oh, that’s not creepy at all.”

“You’re telling me,” Elizabeth said. She noticed the odd looks Sheppard and Grodin were giving her and waved to indicate she’d explain later. “He says he can help calm the entity. He said that’s why he was here to begin with.”

“Actually, he said ‘we,’” Sheppard corrected her. “He always referred to himself in the plural.”

“Hm. That could be a difference in language-”

“Or there’re more people out there we don’t know about,” the major countered.

“There’s no one else in the lab, major,” the scientist insisted. “Just me and my assistants. Which brings to mind, I think I might have a way to catch the entity.”

Finally, some good news. “I’m all ears,” Elizabeth said, propping her hands on her hips.

“Apparently, the containment device is capable of not only capturing the entity but luring it as well. It has a setting that gives off a unique energy signature. There’s just one catch.”

“Of course there is,” she tried not the groan, rubbing her forehead to stem the burgeoning headache. “What is it?”

“Someone has to actually be here to activate the controls that will capture the entity.”

Elizabeth closed her eyes and breathed. One of her people would have to endanger themselves in order to do this.

Actually, “Rodney, I have a quick question.”

“I’m listening.”

“In the lab notes you found, did the Ancients mention anythin about someone else helping with the experiments with the entity?” She noticed the way Sheppard’s eyebrows climbed to his hairline and Grodin frowned, unsure what he was missing.

“Yes, now that you mention it,” McKay answered. “They didn’t mention any names, but from what I understand, the Ancients were having trouble keeping the entity calm during the observation before and during the study so they called in three assistants. I haven’t finished translating the rest of the notes, but that’s the gist of it.”

“Assistants?” Elizabeth asked. “Plural?”

“Yes. Uh, it said three people. Why?”

“You think this Timaeus is saying ‘we’ because he means himself and the two others,” Grodin said.

Elizabeth nodded. “I do.”

“Oh yes, that’s ironic. How much you want to bet the other two are Critias and Hermocrates,” McKay drawling sarcastically.

“Am I missing something here?” Sheppard asked.

Elizabeth huffed a laugh. “Much of what we know about Atlantis in mythology comes from Plato. He wrote about it in two works called the Timaeus and the Critias. The third, the Hermocrates, was mentioned in the previous works, but it was either never written or never found and published.”

The major tilted his chin down and eyed her, unimpressed. “Plato.”

“Um, Dr. Weir?” Grodin said, the concern in his voice catching both hers and Sheppard’s attention. “I think you should look at this.”

Stepping closer, Elizabeth looked at the map on Grodin’s computer screen and noticed the two small white dots in the hallway the red blob was currently moving through. “Are those our people?”

Instead of answering directly, Grodin grabbed his own handheld radio and pressed the call button. “Lieutenant Ford,” he said urgently. “The entity is currently closing in on your position. You might want to find somewhere else to be for a while.”

“Acknowledged,” the young officer replied.

“Was that Lt. Ford?” McKay said over Elizabeth’s radio.

“Yes it was, Rodney. Hold on a second,” she said. “Grodin, why is it moving that way? None of the generators are in that direction.”

“I’m not sure,” the scientist said.

Peter Grodin’s worried gaze followed the progression of the two dots representing First Lieutenant Aiden Ford and Sergeant James Stackhouse. The dots stopped at the line indicating a doorway and Grodin frowned.

“Hey,” Lt. Ford’s voice came over the radio. “Did you close the doors?”

Oh god.

“No, we didn’t,” Elizabeth replied, feeling her heart begin to pound as she watched the red blob move ever closer to her people.

“It’s probably the entity affecting the city,” McKay said. “An energy draining thing like that could easily wreak havoc on the Ancient’s advanced systems.”

“Lieutenant,” Sheppard said sharply, placing a hand on the table Grodin’s computer rested on and leaning over so he hovered by the scientist’s shoulder.

“Yes sir.”

“There’s a room back near where you were standing before,” the major said. “Head back there and hunker down.”

“Yes sir.”

Together, Elizabeth, Sheppard, and Grodin watched as Lt. Ford and Sgt. Stackhouse hurried back down the hall towards the door and, incidentally, closer to the entity. They didn’t leave the hallway.

“Ford?”

“It won’t open, sir,” the lieutenant said.

“Damn!” Sheppard cursed. “McKay! Ideas.”

“Right. Okay, um. Lieutenant, is there a locking mechanism by the door?” McKay asked.

“There is, yes,” Ford replied.

“Good. Open it and tell me what you see.”

The entity moved closer.

“There’re three crystal things in slots,” Ford said. “They’re all in a line.”

“Try short-circuiting it,” Grodin suggested.

“How?”

“Take out the middle crystal and move the top one to the middle slot and tell me what happens,” McKay instructed.

The seconds of silence as the lieutenant followed Rodney’s instructions were painful. And the red blob representing the entity was constantly moving steadily closer to their position.

“Alright,” Ford’s voice said suddenly. “Did it. Nothing happened.”

“Okay, um.”

Elizabeth’s heart skipped a beat when the red blob rounded the corner of the digital hallway and began advancing on Ford and Stackhouse.

“Okay, try bridging the first two crystals with the third one,” McKay said.

“Sir?”

That wasn’t Ford. “Sgt. Stackhouse?” Elizabeth called.

The answer she got wasn’t words. It was screams. One scream. Like a man burning alive. It must have only lasted a few seconds, but to her, it would last forever. She would hear that scream in her nightmares for years to come. Dear god, Aiden was so young.

Then it was silent.

“Lieutenant Ford,” she called. No reply. “Lieutenant Ford, if you can hear me, please respond.” Nothing. “Sergeant Stackhouse.”

The radio buzzed. “Here ma’am,” the sergeant replied, sounding out of breath. “Lieutenant Ford’s unconscious. The entity got him. I don’t know what it did, but there’re burns and the lieutenant’s uniform is smoking.”

Burns. “I’m sending a medical team your way,” she said. Turning to the major, she said, “Take Dr. Beckett and get them back here. I’m going to enlist some help from Timaeus.”

“I still don’t trust him,” the major warned her as he straightened and followed her out of Stargate Operations.

“You don’t have to,” Elizabeth said curtly. “I don’t either. But if he can help us get rid of that thing without causing more problems, I’ll take what help I can get.”

Chapter Text

Timaeus was eager to help. The moment his restraints were removed, he slipped off the bed and began looking around the room. His height, or lack thereof, took Elizabeth by surprise. The man held himself with a regal aire and his words held the calm intelligence of an adult, but he was only a head taller than Jinto. That brought another group of questions Elizabeth wasn’t sure she was ready to ask.

When Timaeus noticed his sheathed sword lying on a table nearby, he immediately made his way towards it. Before Elizabeth could voice her disapproval, Maj. Sheppard was there. The major snatched the weapon away from Timaeus grasp and stepped back so he stood between Timaeus and the two Athosians.

“What is the meaning of this?” Timaeus said, his lone eye shifting between Elizabeth and Maj. Sheppard.

“I’m sorry,” Elizabeth said. She took the sword from Sheppard’s hands and sent him to help Dr. Beckett with retrieving Lt. Ford and Sgt. Stackhouse. “But I’m afraid I can’t trust you with this yet.” 

Timaeus frowned, his hands clenching with his desire to have his sword in his grasp. Yet he never actively reached for his sword.

“We can work without it,” he said slowly, his gaze drifting back to his sword, “but it will not be easy.”

“I understand. But I’m responsible for everyone in this city,” Elizabeth said, adjusting her grip on the sword’s scabbard. “I don’t know you. I can’t trust someone I know nothing about with a weapon near civilians.”

Violet flashed to Maj. Sheppard rushing quickly out of the room with Dr. Beckett hot on his heels, then moved back to Jinto and his father Halling still sitting nearby. His expression softened and his shoulders drooped with a sigh.

“We see,” he murmured. “Very well. We are at your command.”

That was easier than she expected. But Elizabeth wasn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth. Right now, she had work to do.

“Good,” she said. “Come with me.”

She waited to be sure Timaeus joined her before moving. She noticed how he chose to stand to her right so she wasn’t in his blind spot. It said a lot about the man’s attentiveness and history. Curious, she opened her mouth to speak when Timaeus unexpectedly beat her to it.

“Are you truly not Lantean?” he asked, turning to look at her. “You look like them. Minus your clothes, we suppose.” He hesitated. “But then,” he added softly, “a lot can change in… 10,000 years.”

Elizabeth smiled as she led the way briskly to the newly discovered transporter. “We aren’t. As far as we know, the Ancients have been extinct for thousands of years now. We’re explorers. We came to learn.”

“And yet you carry weapons,” Timaeus observed, careful to keep his tone even and unaccusing.

“Let’s just say we’ve made some enemies,” Elizabeth hedged.

“The Wraith. Yes, we remember them.” Timaeus sighed and returned his gaze to the path ahead. “We never had direct contact with them, but we were aware of them and their growing threat to the Lanteans, err Ancients,” he corrected, his eye flickered to her briefly. “The… Ancients wished to learn of Ascension as quickly as possible as a means to escape the Wraith threat.” His expression fell. “We wonder how that turned out.”

It wasn’t a question and Elizabeth couldn’t bring herself to answer it. She kept her silence as she led the way to the transporter. Timaeus also said nothing, following her lead without complaint and maintaining a careful distance between himself and her.

That measured distance between them remained even after they stepped into the small closet of a transporter room. Again, it was points in Timaeus’ favor. It did make Elizabeth wonder, though, about how well Timaeus was taking the transition between times. It must have been a shock for him to wake up in the far future without anything familiar to fall back on. She wondered when the shock would wear off and the true realization of his situation would set in. This wasn't going to be easy.

When the doors opened once more, she gestured for Timaeus to go first. When he didn’t move right away, she turned her head and got a good look at his face. His lone eye was wide and his face was paler than it had been. He swallowed thickly before stepping into the laboratory. Immediately, his gaze locked on the cylindrical containment device and he stilled, keeping his distance.

Perhaps the shock had already begun to fade.

“Dr. McKay?” she called, startling the mousy scientist from his in-depth study of the cylindrical device. She gestured to her guest. “This is Timaeus. Timaeus? This is Dr. Rodney McKay.”

“Oh, you’re shorter than I thought you were,” McKay said by way of greeting.

The reaction was both instant and amusing. Timaeus blinked in surprise, then huffed and crossed his arms in a very childish pout.

McKay either didn’t notice Timaeus’ discomfort or chose to ignore it in favor of diving into his latest monologue. “Right, well, I’m assuming you’re familiar with this device?”

“Unfortunately,” Timaeus replied, reluctantly looking at the glowing cylinder. “We would appreciate if you turned it off, please.”

“Hm? Why? I was just about to explain what-”

“We are aware of what it does, Doctor,” Timaeus said sternly, his violet eye staring directly at McKay. “Which is why we are asking you to turn it off. Now.”

Elizabeth lifted an eyebrow at the abrupt change in attitude but nodded for Rodney to power down the device. “Is there something we should know about this?” she asked. “We were under the impression it was used as lure and contain the shadow Erebus entity.”

“It is,” Timaeus confirmed, looking at Elizabeth. “But it was also used to contain us.”

Oh. She hadn’t thought…

“Not possible,” Rodney said in a tone that would accept no disagreement. “It’s only designed to capture and hold energy. It could capture you about as well as it could capture myself or Dr. Weir.”

“You are wrong.”

“Then please, enlighten me,” McKay said, annoyance and sarcasm dripping from his voice.

Timaeus grimaced. “In order to calm the Erebus while it was under observation in the device, our presence was needed,” he said. “Doing so requires close interaction, preferably physical contact with the Erebus itself. How do you think that was possible if we were separated by metal and subspace?”

Elizabeth felt her brow furrow as she tried to consider the possible answer. Apparently, Rodney was also struggling to come up with a solution.

“As we said before,” Timaeus continued, “we were asked to help because of our people’s affinity with energy and molecular manipulation. Our methodology is different from that used by the Erebus, but it is close enough that we could,” he shrugged, “communicate after a fashion.”

“What does that have to do with the device being on?” Rodney said.

“Would you appreciate standing in close proximity to the thing that held you prisoner for thousands of years without explanation or means of escape?” Timaeus countered.

Point.

“We were hoping to draw the Erebus here by turning off our power generators and leaving only this device on,” Elizabeth said. “The plan was to have you stay here with McKay to keep the Erebus calm while McKay manually sets it to capture entity.”

“Wait, what?” Rodney gasped, turning to her in horror. “Me? Why me?”

Elizabeth smiled. “Well, you have that personal shield,” she said, pointing to the green Ancient device currently latched onto the scientist’s chest. “It should protect you from anything the Erebus could do to you, right?”

The small device had been stuck in place since McKay had foolishly put it on earlier the previous day. Unfortunately, because he hadn’t checked all of the fine print, he hadn’t been able to deactivate the shield. Nothing could get through it, not even food or water much to Rodney's over-dramatic and yet very real horror.

Dr. Peter Grodin suggested the personal shield device, much like many other Ancient technology, likely had a mental component to it. If Rodney truly wanted it removed, it would turn off. But Elizabeth couldn’t fault the scientist for being afraid, whether McKay admitted it or not.

She would fault him for the sudden deactivation of the device. She watched the green glow abruptly fade as the personal shield powered down, exactly as she suspected it would. McKay was brilliant, but he was still a coward and was not shy of announcing that fact.

“I figured,” she said dryly, turning back to Timaeus. “Well, if McKay is too afraid to stay, then I'll ask Maj. Sheppard do it.”

“We thought you said you were not Lantean,” Timaeus said, staring at the deactivated Ancient technology in Rodney’s hand in disbelief.

“We aren’t,” she insisted. “But some of us are descended from the Ancients. Not all of us have the gene needed to use Ancient technology, I certainly don’t, but enough of us have it that we can inhabit the city.”

“We… see,” Timaeus said. Then something sparkled in his eye and he hummed. “A pity then that one such descendant is so afraid of the dark.”

Elizabeth pressed her lips together and ducked her head to hide her grin.

“Is there a reason why you refer to yourself in the plural?” McKay asked, obviously not liking the fact his cowardice show without his deliberate intent and hoping to distract himself.

“Why are you so afraid?” Timaeus countered, the corner of his mouth twitching upwards in what Elizabeth believed to be a smirk.

“I’m not afraid,” McKay snapped.

“No?”

“No. I’m just… concerned.”

“Ah, we see,” Timaeus said, nodding sagely. “Then perhaps you should be concerned elsewhere. The adults need to speak in private.”

Elizabeth bit her lip to fight back her amusement. It wasn’t easy when she saw the faint flush in McKay’s face.

“Rodney,” she said, halting any chance of the bickering to become an argument. “Why don’t you go down to the medical hall. Let me know if Lt. Ford and Sgt. Stackhouse are there yet. If they are, send Maj. Sheppard up here.”

Obviously not pleased with the situation, McKay left the lab in a huff, grumbling under his breath.

“He is most entertaining,” Timaeus said, watching the scientist leave. “We can think of at least one person who would enjoy tormenting him and another who could likely match him for intelligence.”

Interesting. “Friends of yours?” she asked.

“Close friends.” The man’s smile softened. “The only ones we have left, we think.”

Left alive, that is. Right.

“Forgive us, but it will be easier if we had our blade when we deal the Erebus,” Timaeus said, changing the subject as he turned his attention back to her. “It can offer us some protection from the detrimental effects of the entity.”

Elizabeth considered her options. If Timaeus was telling the truth and the sword was more than just a simple sword, then Elizabeth wasn’t sure if she felt comfortable arming someone she didn’t entirely trust. But if it was a choice between that and continuing to allow her people to be haunted by the shadow entity, then she would consider it.

"If this plan doesn't work, you can have it," she said.

"We will hold you to your word then," Timaeus said, offering her a shallow bow of acceptance.

“Someone piss off McKay?” Maj. Sheppard asked the moment he stepped out of the transporter.

“We merely asked if he was afraid of the dark,” Timaeus replied with an easy shrug of the shoulders.

The major huffed a laugh. “I take it the answer was yes.”

“You noticed,” Elizabeth teased.

Sheppard rolled his eyes. “Kind of hard not to when the guy wouldn’t stop talking with his mouth full.”

She chuckled, quickly attempting to recover when she noticed the confused smile on Timaeus’ face. “I take it he explained the plan?” she asked, changing the subject.

“Got the gist of it,” Sheppard replied, resting his wrists on the P-90 strapped to his bulletproof vest. "All I have to do is turn something on and off? I think I can do that."

“Good. And Lt. Ford?” she asked, hoping to stifle to mounting worry.

“Just a few minor burns,” Sheppard said, glancing significantly at Timaeus who frowned. “Nothing serious. Dr. Beckett wants to keep him overnight for observation just in case.”

“What happened?” Timaeus asked, his eye narrowed in calculation.

“Lieutenant Ford had a run-in with the Erebus entity,” Elizabeth explained.

“Looked like you when we found you,” the major said, meeting Timaeus’ gaze warily. “Want to tell me what that was about?”

“Major,” Elizabeth warned. She didn’t want to alienate what little help they had.

Timaeus, however, appeared unaffected by the major’s mistrust. He merely sighed and bowed his head in acknowledgement.

“The Erebus has been imprisoned for years,” he said simply.

“As were you,” Sheppard countered in the same, calm tone.

Timaeus nodded. “This is true. Our people and the Lanteans have not been on the best of terms for a long time. But when they asked us for our aid, we did not refuse. Besides,” he continued, his shoulders drooping as he turned his gaze to the cylinder, “the Erebus was not at fault. It simply wished to live. We could not allow the Lanteans to observe it without knowing the creature would come to no harm.”

The violet eye closed. “Have you ever been in subspace?” he asked. “It is cold and dark and lonely. Time has no meaning. A second could be an eternity or an eternity could be a second. We knew time was passing but only in the sense a dreamer is aware of time. For us, it was a form of stasis. For the Erebus, it was torture.”

He winced. “We did not feel hunger or thirst because of the stasis. The Erebus did. We had developed a trust with the creature, but starvation can ruin even the closest of relationships. We cannot fault it for wanting to live. We too wish to live.”

“Is it possible to reason with it?” Elizabeth asked hopefully. “I would rather avoid harm to either side if possible.”

Timaeus considered the suggestion. “We will attempt to do so,” he said. “But if it has indeed progressed beyond reasoning, then it would be best for all parties involved to either send it away from the city or, if all else fails, kill it.” His eye closed. “Though we would prefer to avoid that outcome.”

There was a heaviness to his words that Elizabeth recognized from listening to veterans speak of lost comrades. As a diplomat, she had traveled all over Earth and interacted with many people who had lost someone. The heaviness wasn’t always as pronounced from person to person, but it was always present. She wondered if Maj. Sheppard noticed it as well.

“I would prefer no loss of life as well,” she said, looking directly at the major. He returned her gaze with a flat look and she smirked. “Play nice, you two.”

“If we have to,” she heard Sheppard mutter under his breath.

It wasn’t until she was finally alone in the transporter that she realized something. Timaeus had expertly avoided explaining why he referred to himself in the plural. She hadn’t noticed the avoidance. Not until now.

This could quickly turn into an interesting can of worms.


 

Jinto lay in his bed, unable to sleep. It was all his fault. Lieutenant Ford may have told him it wasn’t, but it was. If Jinto hadn’t wondered off in the middle of the night to play seek-and-find with his best friend Wex, he never would have gotten lost. If he hadn’t gotten lost, he never would have found the laboratory of the Ancestors and released the shadow. But he had and now the shadow had hurt someone.

“You should listen to the lieutenant,” his father said from his place on the bed next to Jinto.

“‘Stuff happens,’” Jinto quoted, repeating the words the young soldier had told him.

“He is correct.”

Startled by the new voice, Jinto sat up to see Teyla standing in the doorway smiling gently at him. The Athosian leader looked to Halling for permission to enter, stepping into the room only when she received it.

“You should know no one in the city blames you for what happened,” Teyla said, moving to stand by Jinto and Halling’s shared bed. “No one except you. I doubt even Timaeus blames you.”

That’s right. Timaeus hadn’t appeared until Jinto released the shadow. Had the man been imprisoned with the shadow too? Jinto shuddered at the thought and prayed to the Ancestors that that wasn’t the case. He would be having nightmares for a while after this night.

“You should rest,” Teyla said, pulling out her small igniter and lighting the nearby candle. “The shadow will not come here tonight.”

Wary and so terribly tired, Jinto looked up at his father first, then Teyla. “How do you know?” he asked.

The woman smiled and sat on the side of the bed. “Because it is afraid of fire,” she replied.

Jinto tilted his head in confusion. “It is? But it’s a shadow. Why would it be afraid of fire? Why would it be afraid of anything?”

Teyla’s smiled faded slightly. “Everything is afraid of something,” she said seriously. “Keep the candle lit and no harm will come to you.”

She left soon after but Jinto still couldn’t sleep. The candle’s comforting light flickered in the dark room, casting dancing shadows on the walls and ceiling. He thought about Teyla’s words as he listened to his father’s breathing slowly even out as sleep overcame him. The shadows reminded him too much of the living shadow and the sigh before Timaeus collapsed on the floor in the lab.

The swirling blackness that Jinto could feel and breathe. Every time he closed his eyes, he was back in the lab surrounded by impenetrable darkness that weighed on his body. He felt heavy and not in the comfortable, mind-slipping-into-deep-sleep kind of way. He felt crushed.

The shadows on the walls and ceiling jumped and skipped. They didn’t swirl and flow like the living shadow. These shadows weren’t alive, they were created by the candle. He was too far from the tiny flame to feel its physical warmth, but he could see it.

The flame wasn’t alive either. But it was lit by a friend and his father was sleeping soundly next to him. His fellow Athosians were scattered throughout the central tower of Atlantis huddled around their own candles. The Atlanteans stalked the hallways with their advanced weapons, ready to defend both their people and Jinto’s.

He rolled his head to the side to get a good look at the Atlantean warrior moving down the hall past the door. He recognized the warrior’s face but he didn’t know their name. A scientist trailing behind the warrior was also a new face. The scientist’s brown hair was thinning and stuck out every which way. Those odd metal and glass things sat on the scientist’s nose as he spoke faster than Jinto could in a language Jinto had never heard before.

These people were so naïve to the dangers of Jinto’s home galaxy, but they were trying. They were just as displaced as the Athosians. The Atlanteans may not have lost their planet in the same way Jinto’s people had, but they were lost. They were afraid but they chose to stay and fight rather than run and hide.

They were brave. Major Sheppard was brave. Timaeus was brave.

Timaeus had looked so afraid when Dr. Weir spoke to him. Jinto would have too if he’d woken up 10,000 years after his father died. Jinto looked at his father’s sleeping face and then back up at the ceiling. Even though he’d been afraid, Timaeus had chosen to help.

Jinto wanted to be like that one day. He would be like that one day. He would find a place for his people to live safely. He would.

Even if it was only in his dreams.

Chapter Text

When Major John Sheppard decided to accept the position on the Atlantis Expedition, he knew it would get him as far away from his mistakes as humanly possible. Figuratively and literally. That turned out to be not as true as he’d hoped. He was surrounded by humans, both his fellow Earthlings and the Athosians, and fighting a war with an enemy his people knew very little about, while trying to survive in an ancient city in the middle of the ocean on an alien planet.

He didn’t regret his decision. Not in the least. But he did wish he’d known what was coming so he could have prepared better. But hindsight is 20/20 and he wasn’t going to let something as annoying as regret bother him. Not really.

He’d try not to anyway.

At least his current companion wasn’t against talking to break the tension. Even if Timaeus’ constant use of the plural pronouns was… odd.

“And this move is called a… ‘Hail Mary’?”

John shrugged. “Well, I’d call it a Hail Mary. That one play won them the whole game,” he said, grinned proudly. “Definitely one of the best games in history.”

Timaeus laughed, the sound startling John a bit. “We’re not so sure about that part,” Timaeus said. He tilted his head. “But we will grant that it was likely the best game in your people’s history.”

John pursed his lips and nodded in thoughtful agreement. “We can agree to disagree,” he said.

The stranger chuckled. “We suppose so.”

“Major Sheppard. Timaeus. Come in.”

Immediately snapping to attention, John tapped his radio. “Loud and clear, doctor,” he said in reply to Dr. Weir’s call.

“We’re about to cut the power,” she said. “Get ready.”

Timaeus moved in the corner of John’s eye and he watched as the man took up a position between the far wall and John and the cylindrical device. What they had initially assumed to be just a smaller observation room that was part of the lab, turned out to be a small access door to a hallway they hadn’t explored yet. They couldn’t figure out how to get there and Timaeus didn’t seem to know either.

However, since the shadow entity interfered with Ancient technology, both Timaeus and Dr. McKay figured it couldn’t use the transporter to access the lab. Therefore, they had to hope that the creepy thing could find its way through the uncharted sections of the city to reach the lab’s back entrance.

This was a crazy plan and John wasn’t one hundred percent behind it, but it was worth a shot. If Timaeus could hold up his end and convince the creepy shadow to get back into the cylinder, then the Atlantis team would chuck the device through the Stargate and let it go about its life undisturbed from there. If they got it into the container. In John’s experience, plans rarely went according to, well, plan.

So when the lights went out and the subtle hum of technology he hadn’t even been aware of vanished, his senses leapt to hyper alert. The cylinder glowed a warm orange-gold that illuminated the immediate area and the back of Timaeus long cape. For his own comfort, John turned on the flashlight attached to his P-90 and raised his weapon. He wouldn’t fire unless he needed to. He wasn’t even sure if his solid bullets would hit a creature of pure energy, but it was his best bet.

The silence hung heavy and surprisingly loud in his ears. He could hear his own breathing as well as Timaeus’. He could feel his heart in his chest and the gun in his hands. Nothing else. Everything outside the globe of orange-gold light was shadowed and unclear. There wasn’t even a hint of daylight filtering in from the unseen hallway since the sun wasn’t due to rise for a few hours yet.

It was like the suspenseful few seconds before the serial killer strike in a slasher film. John made a mental not to rewatch one of those when he got the chance.

“Be ready.”

Timaeus’ whisper might as well have been a shout in the silence. John immediately lifted his weapon and aimed it at the darkness in front of Timaeus. For now, the darkness there seemed natural.

Then it moved, thickened like black food coloring in water, and surged forward. It was a lot bigger than last time John saw it. Careful to keep his movement slow and nonthreatening, John took a single step back, away from the cylindrical device. Two steps.

Timaeus hadn’t moved an inch. Nor had he spoken. He simply stood still and silent, as if waiting for something. As John watched, the shadow entity surged towards Timaeus and the cylinder behind him. Then it stopped.

It was enormous, filling the space between Timaeus and the far wall. John’s flashlight couldn’t penetrate the entity as if it was a solid, physical thing. How the hell was that huge thing going to fit in a glowing cylinder the size of a human torso? Screw this weird sci-fi nonsense.

And yet, even with the enormous, light-swallowing shadow looming in front of him, Timaeus hadn’t made a move. Tendrils of shadowy darkness curled around Timaeus arms, legs, waist, and neck. Only then did Timaeus make a sound.

It was sigh, thin and shaky. Black hair, oddly a shade lighter than the shadow entity’s essence moved as shadows wove through it. The few white strands scattered throughout Timaeus’ dark hair helped define the shape of his head when it threatened to vanish into the shadow entity’s semi-solid form. It almost looked like the darkness was attempting to caress Timaeus.

John kept his mouth shut and his weapon raised but did nothing else. He didn’t kid himself into believing he knew what Timaeus and the shadow entity had gone through during their imprisonment, intentional or not. He was all too aware of the consequences of long-term solitary confinement. Timaeus and the shadow entity might not have been alone in the cylinder, but they probably weren’t able to speak or interact in a sane and healthy way in there.

However, he did frown when he noticed Timaeus’ cape ripple with movement and tightened his hold on his gun. Then Timaeus’ arms came into view, the sea glass color of his clothes standing out against the inky blackness. It was only when John looked closer that he realized the color didn’t just stand out against the darkness, it glowed. Timaeus’ arms were glowing. It was dim and wavering compared to the warmth of the cylinder or the bright beam of John’s flashlight. But it was still noticeable.

The shadow undulated, the top of its not-body curving downward like a cresting wave and something like a blurry bubble rippled into being just above Timaeus head. The bubble reflected the subtle sea green glow Timaeus gave off.

Then the bubble shifted, lifting ever so slightly and moving to hover over the cylinder. The shadowy tendrils slowed their slithering movement around Timaeus body. John felt his mouth go dry when the bubble tilted up and regarded him. Holy shit. That must be the thing’s face.

They’d been made.

Timaeus’ entire body jolted, his muscles tightening just as his glow vanished and a choked cry caught painfully in his throat. John raised his weapon but didn’t fire. He had no guarantee Timaeus wouldn’t be hit. The shadow entity let out an eerie hiss and overwhelmed Timaeus, obliterating the man from John’s sight and silencing any cries the man might be making. Then the creature withdrew from the lab, retreating through the back door at a speed John hadn’t known the thing was capable of.

“Son of a bitch,” John cursed.

He released his hold on his weapon, letting it fall to his bullet proof vest as he ran to Timaeus’ side. He caught the man’s limp, gasping form, and eased him down to the floor. Timaeus coughed, leaning over on his knees and clutching his throat.

“What is it?” Weir called through the radio. “What happened?”

“Damn thing took one look at the device and high tailed it out of here,” he snapped. “Did a number on Timaeus too.”

He gave Timaeus a hearty thump on the back. The man coughed once more before gulping down a lungful of air without coughing it back out. After a second or two, Timaeus nodded in gratitude, tears brimming his eye.

“It thinks we’ve betrayed it,” Timaeus said breathlessly. “It will not trust us again. It is beyond reason.”

“Damn thing’s a lot smarter than we thought,” John grumbled, helping Timaeus to his feet.

“I see.”

John hated the disappointment in Weir’s voice but he knew there wasn’t anything they could do about it. They would just have to think of something else.

“Think you two can get back to the control room from there on your own?” Weir asked. “We can’t risk turning the power back on.”

Oh boy. “We can manage,” John said, rolling his shoulders and readying himself for a long walk. “Timaeus,” the man lifted his head curiously, “think you’re up for a bit of a hike?”

You know, for a guy with only one eye, Timaeus could channel a hell of a lot of sarcasm in that violet gaze. John huffed and hefted his gun so it was back in his grip.

“We’re taking the long way,” he said.

“Understood. And Timaeus,” Weir said.

“We are here,” the man replied patiently.

“I’ll have your sword ready when you get here.”

Timaeus nodded grimly. “You have our thanks.”


 

Teyla listened to the Atlanteans bicker as they tried to find a way to deal with the entity. Without turning on their power generators, they had no way to use the city’s sensors to track the creature. The sun may be up shining bright, hopeful light through the windows of the city’s central tower, but the people in the city were still in the dark. Their fear was palpable.

She understood their fear for she felt it as well. But as the leader of the Athosian people, she could not let that fear control her. The parents told her of their children’s fitful sleep last night. The children might believe her story of the shadow fearing fire, but the adults knew her words to be empty comfort.

And yet, even with the city’s power cut and no sources of energy left in the city except for the people in it, the entity had not attacked a single person. Lieutenant Ford, resting comfortably in the medical facility with Dr. Beckett, was still the only victim of the shadow. Well, she corrected mentally, her gaze shifting to the silent figure standing by the railing overlooking the Stargate, the only non-human victim.

White smoke no longer rose from Timaeus’s clothes in thin wisps, but he had not spoken a word since Teyla arrived. That had been an hour ago. The man just stood by the railing and stared out at the Stargate flooded with the pinkish gold light of the sunrise. His sword hung from his hip, his left hand resting on the blueish metal pommel.

“Are you well?” she asked softly, approaching Timaeus’ side.

“As well as we can be,” he replied with a sigh. The lone violet eye flickered to her briefly before returning to the Stargate below. “We wish for this to end. We wish to return home.” A fragile smile tugged at his lips. “If we even have a home to return to. Much can change in 10,000 years.”

“Indeed, it can,” Teyla said, bowing her head. “Where is your home?”

Timaeus’ smile softened to something warm and friendly, if melancholy. “Far from here,” he said. “It lies in the galaxy of Avalon. We were told that this Stargate,” he nodded at the ring below them, “is the only one capable of reaching our home galaxy.”

“When this is over, I am sure the Atlanteans will help you return home,” she said, offering Timaeus a warm smile. “They too wish to return to their world.”

“Why come here at all then?” he asked, glancing back over his shoulder at the Atlanteans debating amongst themselves. “We understand they wished to explore and learn, but even explorers must return home every now and then to rejuvenate themselves.”

“There you are quite similar to them, Timaeus,” she said, drawing the man’s curious gaze. “They are unable to return home.”

Timaeus frowned. “Why?”

She sighed. “As I understand it, returning home requires more power than they can currently generate. One of their goals when they first arrived here was to find a power source that will allow them to travel back to their homeworld.”

“So they came believing it to be a one-way trip,” Timaeus murmured in understanding, regarding the Atlanteans with a strange respect. “Brave and foolish.”

“Curiosity is a powerful driving force,” Teyla said, smiling. “Any parent would tell you that.”

That drew a quiet chuckle from the man. “That, we believe.”

An electrical hum rose from around them and a sharp snap startled them both. Together, they turned to the Atlanteans who were looking around the control room warily.

“Power’s back,” Peter Grodin confirmed before looking down at his computer screen. “I’ll bring the city’s sensors back online.”

McKay groaned and John pressed his lips together in a grim line.

“Can you track the entity?” Dr. Weir asked, leaning over Peter’s shoulder. A moment later, she winced. “It’s headed this way.”

“Uh, yeah, because you turned the power back on,” Rodney said in annoyance.

“Rodney,” Dr. Weir said, straightening her shoulders, “we cannot live like this. We need power which means we have to deal with this. At least with the sunlight we have a better chance of seeing it coming.”

“If it arrives in this room,” Timaeus spoke up, drawing everyone’s attention, “we should be able to contain it.”

“How?” John asked suspiciously.

Timaeus tapped his finger on his sword pommel. “We have our sword back. That gives us more options with which to work with.”

“Why didn’t you say that before?” John demanded in disbelief.

“Would you have believed us?” Timaeus said calmly. “And even if you did, would you have a way to remove it from the city?”

“You could have contained the thing and forced it back into that subspace prison,” John nearly shouted, pointing back down the stairs behind him.

Teyla grimaced and turned back to the Stargate, listening to the argument and trying to organize her own thoughts. Arguing would do them no good right now. They needed ideas, not disagreements.

“No, we could not,” Timaeus countered. “We did not have our sword then and, as we said, even if we did have our sword, it would have done you no good. As we are now, we can either create and hold a barrier, amplify a barrier, or remove a barrier. While we do have some ability to manipulate the form the barrier takes, it is easier to utilize barriers in a circle form. Other shapes are difficult to maintain and easily broken.”

“We still could have used that!” John argued.

Timaeus shook his head. “If we had created a barrier to contain the Erebus, then it would not have been able to enter the prison. We could have held it in place, true, but only as long as we could stay awake and provide the power to do so. Since the Erebus feeds on energy…”

“It would have fed on your barrier,” Dr. Weir said in understanding.

“It would have taken time,” Timaeus admitted, “but that would be the inevitable result. We could not have held it there forever. It would escape eventually,” his gaze hardened, “and it would not have dealt with us mercifully.”

Escape. Leave.

“Does it want to be here?” Teyla asked, turning to Timaeus. “It’s been trapped here for thousands of years.” Her hand rested on his arm near his elbow. “As have you. You wish to return home. Perhaps it does as well.”

“It doesn’t think on that level,” Rodney said in exasperation. “It thinks about eating. That’s it.”

“You would know,” John snarked.

“You are mistaken,” Timaeus said, cutting off Rodney’s burgeoning monologue. “It does comprehend something as basic as ‘home.’ But whether it wishes to return there,” he shook his head, “that we do not know. But,” his gaze settled on Teyla, “we would be surprised if it did not wish to leave.”

“What are you thinking Teyla?” Dr. Weir asked, intrigued.

That had been a half hour ago. Now Teyla stood on the mezzanine watching as Rodney and John packed one of the Atlantean generators into a case and prepared to send it through the Stargate. When the two men turned on the generator, the Erebus should come drawn by the power output. The rolling robot would carry the generator through the Stargate and lure the Erebus through it allowing the creature to escape. To prevent it from slipping back into the city, Timaeus would erect and hold a barrier around the Stargate. It was the only plan they had but Teyla had faith it would work.

“Alright!” John called.

Rodney scampered up the steps to the mezzanine to watch from a safe distance. John shot a wary look up at her and Timaeus standing on the stair landing before powering on the generator. Almost immediately, his attention snapped to one of the hallways and he raised his weapon.

“Stand back,” Timaeus warned.

Obediently, Teyla withdrew so she stood behind Timaeus and watched in awe as a thick, roiling sea of impenetrable blackness poured across the floor around the Stargate from the hallways on either side of the Stargate Operations room. Her lips parted in amazement. The creature was larger than any living thing she had even seen.

John had just enough time to hit a button on the rolling robot and race up the steps to the landing where she and Timaeus stood before the entire floor was obscured in writhing blackness. Once John was safely behind him, Timaeus stepped forward and drew his sword. Without a word, he flipped the weapon so the blade pointed at the floor and waited. Once he was sure the entire entity was in the room, he let the tip of his blade touch the floor.

A pale green shield shimmered into existence from either side of Timaeus’ blade, encircling the entire Erebus. It sealed shut above their heads creating a nearly full sphere of pale, translucent green. Timaeus stood still, his gaze locked on the Erebus below. His hands never left the handle of his blade.

“We cannot hold this for long,” he said with a faint grimace. “It is already draining our energy much faster than we thought it would.”

“Its size must make it feed faster,” Teyla heard Peter Grodin say.

Teyla frowned and stared down at the creature. The Stargate had not rippled once. “Why is it not going through the Stargate?” she called.

She watched as the Atlantean scientists rushed frantically through their notes.

“Damn thing must’ve drained the MALP’s battery,” John said, hurrying up to join his friends.  

MALP. So that was what they called the rolling robot.

“Shut down the ‘Gate,” Dr. Weir ordered in defeat. “Rodney? I said shut it down.”

Teyla followed Dr. Weir’s gaze to McKay who was staring down at the inactive technology in front of him.

“I can’t,” he said, his expression falling slack in horror. “I can’t shut it down.”

“It must be feeding off the ‘Gate’s power and the naquadah generator,” Peter said, awful despair shining in his eyes.

Dr. Weir swallowed thickly then shook herself. “Alright, how do we fix this?”

“We can’t,” Rodney snapped.

“He’s right,” Peter said. “Unless someone can go down there and physically push the generator through the Stargate…”

“Then it’ll stay like that,” John muttered with a groan. “Alright, I’ll do it.”

“You can’t,” Peter said, grabbing John’s arm before the military man could leave. “Without protection, it could easily drain you of your energy too.”

Teyla stopped listening and tried to think. Timaeus could hold the Erebus in place for a limited time which they could use to create a new plan. But she had no doubt that the moment the shield fell, the entity would either flee or attack Timaeus for attempting to imprison it. She would not blame it and she was certain Timaeus would not either.

The Erebus acted like a starving child. Hungry and afraid, it searched for anything to feed on while seeking a way to escape this place. It didn’t harm Timaeus until after it felt Timaeus had betrayed it. Much like a child whose secret nightly games of seek-and-find had been reported to a parent would yell at the friend with the wagging tongue. If she could-

Something bumped her shoulder and she jumped in surprise. Her surprise became shock when she recognized the green sheen of the Ancient personal shield surrounding Rodney McKay’s body.

“The barrier is permeable from this side,” Timaeus said when he noticed Rodney standing on his other side. “But once you pass through, you will be unable to return.” His lone violet eye met Rodney’s frightened blue. “We will not lower the barrier until we run out of strength or the Erebus is gone. Do you understand?”

The scientist gulped, his shoulders drooping in weary acceptance of his terror, and stepped through Timaeus’ barrier. His passing caused a ripple of sea green to shimmer across the shield’s surface attracting the attention of the others still on the mezzanine.

“What’s that?” Teyla heard someone mutter.

“Rodney?” Dr. Weir called. “Rodney!?” Teyla looked up to see the red-haired woman rush to the railing and stare down in dismay at Rodney McKay’s shielded body vanish into the Erebus’s darkness. “Rodney!”

Teyla held her silence. There was nothing she or anyone could do now but wait. She did not know McKay well, but she had come to respect the man. She was a warrior who had grown up in a universe ravaged by the Wraith. Very few people ever survived to die of natural causes. If this is how McKay chose to die, then she would not stop him. She would mourn his loss and tell his story to the others so that it would be remembered, but she would not stop him. Any death was better than a death at the hands of the Wraith.

But she did pray to the Ancestors for Rodney’s survival. If death could be avoided, then it should be. Too often death was seen a solution. To her, death was too permanent a solution to a temporary problem.

So when the living shadow suddenly convulsed and began flowing through the Stargate, her heart began to pound in earnest. Finally, when the last vestiges of the Erebus vanished through the ‘Gate, she breathed a sigh of relief. That relief faded to sadness when she saw Rodney lying motionless on the floor below.

Next to her, Timaeus lifted his sword so the tip of the blade no longer touched the floor and the pale green barrier disintegrated. She slowly began to descend the stairs from the landing, gazing at the clear sunlight streaming into the room, illuminating the fallen scientist. Footsteps rang from behind her and she moved aside. Without looking at her, Dr. Weir, John, and Peter raced past her and down the stairs to their fallen friend.

Their friend who opened his eyes. Ah, then her tale of Rodney and the Erebus, the unexpected hero and the shadow, would have a happy ending. Truly a rare thing for her people.

“It is done then?” a voice from behind her said.

She did not know that voice.

“It is.”

Timaeus? Frowning, she turned and saw what could not be. Three men where there should be one.

“Do you think we can go home now?” the young man with brown hair and golden eyes asked, gazing at Timaeus.

“Unlikely,” the owner of the first voice replied, his midnight blue eyes a stark contrast to his striking blonde hair.

“In my experience,” Timaeus said, meeting Teyla’s gaze evenly, “nothing is ever that easy.”

Chapter Text

His first thought all to himself was of relief followed immediately by guilt and an intense loneliness. He could not stop himself from reaching out and grasping the arm of the person standing closest to him, clutching the cloth and muscle with as much strength as he could muster.

He hadn’t realized how truly exhausted he was until this moment. The closeness that he’d experienced with his companions from moments ago was sorely missed. The silence in his head was almost physically painful and the abuse his body had suffered was finally beginning to register. Everything hurt and he wished for nothing else than to sleep in a warm bed with his companions’ presence within touching distance.

He didn’t even notice at first when his knees gave way. All he could clearly perceive was the strong hand hooking under his armpit and another pressing against his back, bracing him. Hermos. Gently, Hermos helped ease him down until he could sit on the cool metal steps. His vision was spinning and he felt so heavy.

Cool fingers brushed his check bones and pressed against his temple and forehead just above his eyebrows with patient skill. Critias. Two fingers tilted his head back and he blinked, willing his swimming vision to still and focus. Dark blue the shade of the dusk sky gazed at him with carefully restrained worry. Wearily, he offered his friend a smile.

Critias frowned. “You look awful,” the blonde man said in even tones that Timaeus had long ago learned contained more emotion than Critias would ever admit.

Timaeus winced then huffed a weak laugh when he saw Critias stagger from the sharp elbow jab from Hermos.

“Shut it, wings-for-brains,” Hermos groused, nudging Critias aside so he could see Timaeus more clearly. Waving shyly, Hermos grinned revealing his sharp canines. “Hello wingbrother,” the brunette said. “It’s good to see your face on your own body.”

Timaeus caught the obnoxious eye roll and groan from Critias and chuckled. “It is good to have my self back,” Timaeus said. His smiled faded. “Even though I wish…”

He couldn’t find the words to continue. Thankfully, Hermos and Critias knew him well enough to understand. Sharing one mind and one body for so long -ever so long- had a way of doing that. Especially since they had been friends for years before ever embarking on this misadventure so long ago.

Warm solidity pressed against his forehead and ochre eyes slid shut, a low rumble just loud enough to be heard reaching his ears. Welcoming the gesture, Timaeus allowed his own eye to slip closed. It was a mistake. He wouldn’t remember anything that transpired afterwards.


 

Critias sat back, letting Hermos take care of their wingleader. The young hunter may be a wild youth, but he was thoroughly bonded to Timaeus. However much Hermos got under Critias’ scales, he knew the boy would never deliberately harm Timaeus. Especially not while they were all suffering from a bone-weary exhaustion and the heart wrenching loss of oneness.

When Timaeus’ lone eye finally closed and stayed closed, Critias breathed a sigh of relief. Resting a hand on Hermos’ shoulder, he stood and actually looked at the room around them through his own eyes. Despite the subtle changes by the modern city-dwellers, the room was still distinctly Lantean. He hated it.

Movement to his right caught his eye and he turned his gaze to the woman standing a few steps below him on the stairs. Her eyes were a deep, earthen brown that pierced unlike any Lantean gaze he had ever faced down. Her skin was tanned from birth and sun, a shade or so lighter than her shoulder-length hair. She would be at least a head and a half shorter than him had they been standing on the same step, but she did not seem it. Her gaze and the way she held herself made it clear she was a leader.

This was someone he could respect. He tilted his head to her in acknowledgement, a gesture which she reciprocated. There was wariness in the sharp edges to her stare but a willingness to listen as well. Perhaps not all was as bad as Critias had initially feared.

“Is Timaeus well?” the woman asked.

Critias squeezed Hermos’ shoulder before allowing his hand to slip away as he nodded. “As well as can be expected,” his gaze moved to the stunned Atlanteans standing on the floor below, “given the circumstances.”

The military man he remembered from his time as Timaeus held his mechanical weapon at the ready. He wasn’t sure what to make of the device. Most races he had contact with preferred energy-based weapons. A fact which he and his people took advantage of when designing their own weapons. He fingered the pommel of his sword, the familiar weight resting comfortably at his hip.

Hmm, it seemed the Altantean did not like that gesture. He deliberately did it again and grinned, flashing a fang because he could.

“Major Sheppard,” he said, choosing to take the advantage he’d been inadvertently given. “Dr. Weir,” he added, turning to the red-haired woman. “Dr. Grodin,” he said, glancing at the dark haired scientist. He hesitated before addressing the cowardly scientist who had so dramatically fainted while facing the Erebus. Then again, he had faced the Erebus alone. That did deserve acknowledgement if nothing else. “Dr. McKay,” he said reluctantly.

Dr. Weir stepped forward, her hazel eyes wary but open as she assessed the situation. Taking care to make her movements slow and clearly seen, she raised her hands in the universal sign of surrender. Her forehead creased as she considered the situation and how to wisely navigate it.

Possible diplomat training? If so, she could prove to be either an ally or an obstacle. Critias would have to differentiate between those two options quickly.

“One of Timaeus’ comrades, I presume,” Dr. Weir said by way of greeting.

“You presume correctly,” Critias replied in kind.

He glanced at the Atlantean still holding his weapon aimed at him before dismissing him. Critias doubted the man would fire unless he detected a credible threat to his leader. Wise choice, if incorrect. Pity the man knew so little.

Hermos tugged his dark blue cape and Critias glanced at his young wingmate. The youth spoke no words, but his intent was clearly evident in his eyes. Critias nodded, shifting so he stood between the Atlantans and his wingmates.

“Is Timaeus alright?” Dr. Weir asked, drawing Critias’ attention back to her. “We have a doctor on hand if he needs it.”

A dual-edged sword. On the surface, the offer was harmless. Aid for an injured potential ally. But it could also prove to be dangerous. As long as Timaeus was under the care of the Atlantean doctor, Dr. Weir and the Atlanteans would have a slight advantage over him and his comrades. It was a less than ideal situation.

But Timaeus did need aid.

Reluctantly, Critias bowed his head. “That would be much appreciated,” he said. “He is suffering from exhaustion and overexertion.”

“Will you let me call for the doctor?” Dr. Weir offered.

“That won’t be necessary,” Critias countered. “We remember the way.”

He tapped Hermos’ shoulder and waited as his wingmate gathered Timaeus’ unconscious body into his arms, stood, and hurried up the stairs to the healing hall by way of the mezzanine. Knowing his wingmates were safely out of the line of fire, Critias focused his full attention on the people in front of him.

Descending the steps slowly, he passed Teyla and approached Dr. Weir. She met him with squared shoulders and an even gaze despite being half a head shorter than himself. Diplomat training, definitely. He could feel Teyla’s regard from behind him and listened closely for the tell-tale sound of her feet as she came down to join them.

“I am Critias,” he announced. “Scholar and wingmate of Timaeus.”

Interesting. There was recognition in Dr. Weir’s eyes. Why was that?

“You know of me,” he said, narrowing his eyes.

“We have stories,” Dr. Weir confirmed. “A philosopher from our world wrote several literary pieces called the Timaeus and the Critias. There was supposedly a third called the Hermocrates but it was either never written or never found.”

Unsure what to think, Critias lifted an eyebrow. The woman had too much surprise in her voice to be lying, but her words were difficult to believe. How could someone from her world know about him and his wingmates? Unless the Atlanteans had a closer connection to the Lanteans than they let on, which was possible.

It also led Critias to a darker realization which he sincerely hoped wasn’t true, if only because he wished it wasn’t. If Dr. Weir knew of tales named after him and his comrades, then that implied someone knew about them. Someone remembered them. Someone knew they were still imprisoned in that accursed subspace and left them there when Atlantis was abandoned.

Restraining his fury, Critias chose to focus on the last part of Dr. Weir’s answer instead. “Hermocrates?” he said dryly. “You’re sure about that?”

Dr. Weir nodded. “I’m sure,” she said. “I researched as much about this city as I could before leading our expedition here.”

“Is that so?” Critias thought for a moment, then smiled. He was going to enjoy this. “I see,” he murmured. “In that case, well met.”

Turning to Dr. McKay, he ran his gaze down the length of the man then back up. Hopefully Timaeus’ assessment was true and the man’s brain was more impressive than his physical form.

“Dr. McKay,” he said, startling the man, “Timaeus may have been teasing when he commented on your fear of the dark. However,” he continued, cutting off the man’s response before it could take form, “you should be aware now that sometimes the dark should be feared. The Erebus is not a single entity. It is a communal existence. Everything it saw and experienced here was simultaneously seen and experienced by the entirety of its kind.” He grinned. “They all now know you are the one who bested it and banished it to a desolate planet.”

The man looked like he would piss himself from fear. Critias allowed a single fang to flash in amusement before turning on his heal and walking away.

“I will be with my wingmates in the healing hall if you need us,” he said before leaving the room and following the hallway to where his friends were.


 

“I will accompany him,” Teyla said, hurrying after Critias.

“Thank you, Teyla,” Elizabeth said. “We’ll be right behind you.”

“We will?”

Unfortunately. “Dr. Beckett needs to clear you fit for duty, McKay,” she said, turning to her lead scientist. “Besides, I don’t like the idea of leaving them alone unwatched.”

“Want me to keep an eye on them?” Maj. Sheppard offered.

She thought for a moment. “Not yet,” she said eventually. “Lieutenant Ford is still with Dr. Beckett and I understand Sgt. Stackhouse hasn’t left his side?”

Sheppard shook his head. “Except to go to the bathroom, no.”

“He probably blames himself for what happened to the lieutenant,” Dr. Grodin said.

“That won’t go away easily,” Sheppard said, nodding. “He’ll need to let it go on his own.”

Elizabeth nodded. “Then I think that should be fine for now. Make regular check-ins, but otherwise let’s try and make our new guests comfortable.”

“You’re taking this surprisingly well,” Sheppard observed as they all made their way back up to the mezzanine.

He had a point. “I don’t trust them yet, if that’s what you mean,” she said. “But I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. They did help us out. What I’m most interested in is where those two extras came from and what that energy field was that Timaeus made.”

“I swear, Timaeus was the only one there when I went past,” Sheppard said sincerely. “Teyla was the only one who stayed back. I can ask if she saw anything.”

“I’ll start running diagnostics using our systems and the city’s sensors,” Peter said, pushing past her to get to his laptop.

“Good,” Elizabeth said, nodding in approval. “If we can miss two people running around the city while we had a security threat present, then I want to know how. The last thing we need is a security breach when we least expect it.”

“Yeah and leaving them to their own devices is the perfect way to avoid that,” Rodney said sarcastically as he leaned against one of the control pedestals.

“You said yourself the Ancient records specifically mentioned three assistants who helped them capture and control the shadow entity while they studied it,” Elizabeth said, clasping her hands behind her and studying her lead scientist curiously. “We suspected there were others Timaeus hadn’t introduced us to yet.”

“Yes, but did any of you expect them to just appear out of thin air?” Rodney countered. “Because I certainly didn’t.”

“He’s right,” Sheppard said, leaning against the railing and resting his wrists on the butt of his P-90. “After what Timaeus just pulled back there with a sword,” he said emphatically, “I’d say there’s a whole lot more to these guys then what we’ve seen. That could be a good thing, or it could be very, very bad.”

“As much as I would like to disagree with the major,” Peter said, looking up from his computer, “I think he might have a point.”

“Thank you,” Sheppard said, gesturing to the scientist.

Instead of an acknowledgement, Peter sat up and turned his computer around so the screen faced Elizabeth, McKay, and the major. “This is what the city’s sensors picked up before the Stargate closed,” he said.

They watched the dot indicating Timaeus’ signature sit in the center of the screen with another life sign nearby that was likely Teyla’s. However, unlike Teyla’s life sign, Timaeus’ signature was not a simple, white spot. It was pale blue and pulsed slightly.

“Why is Timaeus’ symbol different from ours?” Elizabeth asked, crossing her arms.

“Possibly because he’s not human,” Rodney said. When he suddenly found himself the focus of the group’s attention, he huffed and rolled his eyes. “Don’t tell me none of you noticed the very distinctive fangs that Critias guy showed us. Also, show me a human who can create shields with swords.

Well, when he put it that way, it did make sense. Timaeus never did say he was human and implied he wasn’t an Ancient. He might not be an enemy but Elizabeth certainly wasn’t the only one wondering what race Timaeus belonged to, out of curiosity if nothing else.

“Can you play it through?” she asked.

Peter nodded. “Sure. One second.”

The scientist pressed a button on his keyboard and allowed the sequence on the screen to play through. The red blob they knew to be the Erebus filled the left side of the screen around the Stargate with McKay’s life sign in the center of the red blob. As they watched, the red blob vanished through the Stargate and their own life signs moved past Teyla’s and Timaeus’ signatures.

Then Timaeus’ pulsing blue spot brightened and seemed to separate like cells during osmosis until suddenly there were two other life signs pulsing on either side of him identical to his own.

“So these Critias and Hermocrates guys literally appeared out of thin air,” Sheppard wondered aloud.

“As far as the city’s sensors were concerned, yes,” Peter said. “Or, more like they were all standing in the same place at the same time then just stepped apart.”

“But they weren’t there,” Elizabeth said, looking up at Peter in confusion. “Timaeus was the only one there.”

Peter shrugged, at a loss. “I’m not sure what to tell you,” he said. “I can only show you what the city detected.”

“They could have been invisible,” Sheppard suggested.

“Unlikely,” Rodney said, shooting that idea down quickly. “The city should still have been able to detect them even if they were invisible.”

“We don’t know that for sure,” Elizabeth said. “Even SG-1 had to modify their equipment to detect the aliens who could make themselves invisible like the Reeto.”

“The city could have those types of modifications already built in,” Peter suggested.

“Or they weren’t invisible to begin with,” Rodney argued, holding his ground.

Elizabeth sighed and went over some ideas in her mind. “Okay, we know the Asgard have transporter capabilities and the city has a form of that technology,” she began. “Is it possible Critias and Hermocrates were just somewhere else in the city and teleported here?”

Rodney stood and rubbed his hands together. “I doubt it.”

“Why don’t we ask Teyla?” Sheppard suggested, drawing their gazes. “She was standing the closest to Timaeus. Like I said before, I’ll ask her if she noticed anything hinky.”

“Hinky?” Rodney repeated in disdain. “Who uses that word?”

“Lieutenant Ford,” Sheppard replied with a grin.

“You’re not Lt. Ford,” Rodney said.

Sheppard and gasped. “You noticed,” he teased. “Before Rodney makes any more enlightening observations,” he added with a sneaky grin, “I’ll be checking in on Lt. Ford.”

“You do that,” Elizabeth said, not bothering to hide her amusement.

“That was uncalled for,” Rodney grumbled.

“I thought it was funny,” Peter said, raising his hand.

“Yeah, well no one asked you,” McKay snapped before stalking away the mope.


 

His hair was so pale. Jinto had never seen someone with such pale hair except for the Wraith. But this man couldn’t be a Wraith. He didn’t look like one and besides his hands were normal. Ish. The man’s fingers were long but neither of his palms had the trademark Wraith appearance.

But the man wasn’t Human either. Jinto couldn’t quite explain it, he just knew. It was like a wild animal suddenly stepped into the room. Jinto felt it when he first met Timaeus and felt it again when the brown-haired stranger came into the healing hall carrying Timaeus in his arms. But now the feeling wasn’t as pronounced as it had been.

Before, Jinto had just been aware of where Timaeus was in the room at any given time. Now he wasn’t aware so much as alert. The stranger gave off the same non-Human, wild aura as Timaeus but it was muddled. Even with both Timaeus and the stranger present, the feeling wasn’t stronger or more intense. It was just ambient.

It was weird.

Then the man with the pale hair came in and Jinto knew he wasn’t Human. He wasn’t scared or anything. He was just more alert now, almost like he was back on Athos hunting in the woods. This was an alertness he was familiar with. It was strangely comforting.

The man with the pale hair spared him a glance before moving to Timaeus and Jinto realized he’d been recognized. Like a wolf noticing the presence of another potential predator and silently agreeing to keep its distance if he did the same. Except Jinto was curious and he didn’t want to keep his distance.

He wanted to know if the man’s pale hair was real or if he was older than he looked. Timaeus had white hair around his face. Maybe it was something unique to their race. He wanted to know.

Which is how he found himself in this situation when Maj. Sheppard arrived.

Chapter Text

Teyla watched curiously as Jinto finally built up the courage to slip out from around the corner and approach Timaeus, Critias, and Hermocrates. Critias seemed to notice the boy almost immediately, his dark blue gaze following the Athosian boy’s progress. Yet he made no threatening move, choosing to simply stand and wait for the boy to approach.

When Jinto was within touching distance, he stopped and fiddled nervously with his hands before speaking. “Why is your hair so pale?” he asked.

Teyla pressed her lips together tightly to resist the urge to burst into chuckles. Critias lifted a single blonde eyebrow and stared at the boy, unimpressed.

“Because it is,” he said.

“But why?” Jinto pressed.

Shifting so he faced Jinto directly, Critias hummed. “Because I wanted it to be this color,” he said. “It made sense to have paler features considering.”

“Considering what?” Jinto asked, tilting his head to the side.

There was a barely muffled snort of amusement from the medical bed where Hermocrates sat by a slumbering Timaeus. Critias must have heard it too but chose to ignore it.

“It’s icy where I come from,” Critias said.

Jinto wrinkled his nose. “What’s that got to do with anything?”

Critias let out a long sigh through his nose and let his shoulders droop. “Have you ever been outside in the snow before, boy?” he asked.

“Of course.”

“Then tell me,” dark blue eyes sharpened, “which is harder to see? White on white or black on white?”

Jinto thought for a moment before his eyes grew large and his mouth formed an ‘oh’ of understanding. It quickly became a frown. “But then why not have white hair?” he asked. “Timaeus has white hair,” he added, pointing to the man sleeping on the bed. “Sort of.”

The amusement faded slightly from Hermocrates’ face while Critias’ expression remained largely unreadable.

“It wasn’t always that way, kid,” Hermocrates said, offering Jinto a sad smile. “It used to be all black.”

Teyla felt her chin dip in grim realization. She noticed the gleam of dusky blue flicker in her direction. But when Critias made no move to acknowledge her, she held her silence.

“How did it change color then?” Jinto asked innocently. “Is he older than he looks?”

“Why so many questions?” Critias countered in a curt tone.

Jinto shrugged. “I’m curious.” He hesitated, starting to fiddle with his fingers again. “Am I intruding? I apologize if I was. I just wanted to know.”

Critias remained silent for several seconds before sharing a look with Hermocrates. The brunette pursed his lips and shrugged as if to say ‘why not.’ Midnight blue then settled on her and she tilted her head in silent permission. Some things were best learned the hard way.

Retuning his attention to Jinto, Critias crossed his arms over his chest. When he spoke, his voice was steady. The subtle inflections hinted at the emotions he refused to show on his face. Hatred. Anger. Disdain. Grief. Emotions Teyla knew well from her years running from the Wraith with her people. But never had she heard such emotions directed at the Ancestors.

“Timaeus was imprisoned and tortured for approximately 10,000 years by the people who built this accursed city,” Critias said, watching the blood drain from Jinto’s face. “We came as allies offering aid. We were treated as subjects of study and used as a control mechanism for the Erebus without our permission. The stress of protecting us from the adverse effects of the Erebus as well as the effects of the pocket of subspace for so long was enough to cause such a change.”

The boy swallowed thickly, ducking his head in dejected silence.

“Oh,” he murmured just loud enough for Teyla to hear. “I’m sorry.”

“You have nothing to be sorry for, kid,” Hermocrates said suddenly, his voice warmer and friendlier than Critias’. “You didn’t do anything. Besides,” he grinned and winked at the boy’s shy gaze, “it’s good to see kids in the city again. Kids are just saner than adults.”

“Further proof that you are indeed still a hatchling,” Critias said, the tension easing from his shoulders.

“Say that again, you arrogant wings-for-brains!” Hermocrates hissed, glaring at Critias back in annoyance.

“Why? Did you not hear me the first time?” Critias asked calmly, turning his head to the brunette. “Perhaps you should get your ears checked as well as your claws.”

“You-”

Teyla blinked, unsure of what she just heard come out of Hermocrates’ mouth. It sounded like a mesh of syllables and consonants in a language she had never heard before. But it was clearly a word or series of words because Critias seemed to understand it. The man’s eyes gleamed and he smirked victoriously.

“Such vulgar language,” he taunted. “There are hatchlings present.”

Hermocrates hissed, then jerked in surprise, a sly grin worming its way onto his face. “I thought you said I was a hatchling. Are you taking that back?” he asked, pleased with himself.

“Apparently your ears do need to be checked,” Critias replied easily. “‘Hatchlings’ is plural.”

Hermocrates’ ochre eyes widened in shock a split second before narrowing. It took a moment for Teyla to recognize that Hermocrates’ eyes had actually narrowed. The black pupil changed from a perfect circle to a vertical slit that was wide and predatory. She knew from sensing Timaeus that these people were not Human, but she hadn’t realized they were so far from Human that they were hiding their true appearance.

She wondered what they truly looked like. Surely it couldn’t be as terrible as a Wraith.

“Winged bastard,” Hermocrates growled.

“Control yourself, hatchling,” Critias said with a lazy grin. “You’re scaring our hosts.”

His gaze slid to her, and something behind her. She felt the presence next to her moments before Maj. Sheppard appeared in her peripheral vision. She turned to him and saw her own wary surprise reflected on his face.

The major’s hazel eyes were wide with shock, his fingers grasping his weapon but not quite raising it in an active threat. “What the hell?” he breathed.

Jinto gulped and backed up a step. Immediately, Hermocrates’ furious expression faded to something more akin to shame. The pupils of his eyes returned to a more Human round shape and he ducked low over Timaeus bed, as if trying to make himself appear smaller, less of a threat.

“What in the hell are you?” Sheppard demanded.

The brunette shut his mouth and dropped his gaze to the floor, choosing to remain silent. Critias also kept his silence, though he did not look away. He matched the major’s gaze with a calm strength that held the promise of a threat. Teyla could see no visible weapons on the men other than their swords, which no one had reached for yet. But she knew better than most how often weapons could be made from everyday objects. A broken stick could kill as effectively as a blade.

“Are you Wraith?” Jinto asked, fear making his voice quake.

“They are not,” Teyla said, taking a chance and approaching the group so she stood next to Jinto. She could hear the major follow behind her as she did so. Placing a hand on Jinto’s shoulder, she offered him a reassuring smile. “I would have warned you if they were.”

The boy swallowed but nodded, trusting her. Teyla was one of the few Athosians who could sense the Wraith. They served as an early warning system for their people, often giving them enough time to seek a safe place to hide before a culling. Her word was trusted.

“We are not Wraith,” Critias confirmed, studying her in quiet contemplation. After a few seconds, his midnight blue eyes shifted to the same slit-pupiled appearance that had alarmed them before. “Do the Wraith have eyes like these?”

“They do,” Teyla said, nodding. “Though I have never seen a Wraith with blue eyes before.”

What could pass as a smirk tugged at the corners of Critias’ mouth. “They are yellow then,” he said. Behind him Hermocrates’ form drooped dejectedly. Critias glanced at his companion before sighing. “We are not Wraith, but we are not Human either. Does that make you uncomfortable?”

Major Sheppard rolled his shoulders in indecision. “A little,” he admitted. “But I’m… getting used to it. Kind of.”

“Get used to it quicker,” Critias snapped coldly. “Holding these forms can be tiring, especially for Hermos. He’s younger than he looks.”

“Oi,” his friend grumbled, glaring at Critias’ shoes in mild irritated. “I’m not that young.”

“I’m sorry,” Sheppard said, shaking his head. “Who?”

“Hermos.”

Sheppard frowned. “Not Hermocrates?”

Critias’ forehead crinkled in mock confusion, a teasing grin working its way onto his face. But it was the brunette who spoke.

“It would be my name that gets butchered,” he muttered, scratching his brown hair with his sharpened fingernails. “It’s Hermos,” he said louder, lifting his head just enough to look at them. “Whoever told you it was that,” he waved vaguely, “weird whatever-it-was you said was dead wrong.”

“They probably are dead,” Critias said in an amicable tone as if he were discussing the weather.

Hermos hesitated, then pursed his lips and nodded. “Yeah, probably,” he agreed, rubbing the back of his head. “Wow, that’s going to take some getting used to.”

“If I may ask,” Teyla began, drawing both amber and blue gazes, “if you are not Human-”

“As you know we are not,” Critias interrupted.

“-then what are you?” she finished. “Timaeus said you were from the Avalon galaxy.”

“Avalon?” Sheppard gasped incredulously. “Like King Arthur? Merlin? Morgan le Fey? That Avalon? It’s a galaxy?”

Hermos and Critias shared a look of bewilderment. “I have no idea what those other things are,” Hermos said, “but yes, Avalon is a galaxy. The Lanteans who originally inhabited this city were also from there.”

“Debatably,” Critias said.

“Well,” Hermos stopped. Then waved, conceding the point. “Alright, true.”

“Where is this Avalon?” Teyla asked.

“Are there Wraith there?” Jinto asked, finding his courage once again.

“Far from here,” Hermos answered. “And no,” he added to Jinto, “there are no Wraith there. At least,” he looked up at Critias in concern, “there weren’t last we were aware.”

“If we were to show you a star map, would you be able to identify it?” Teyla asked.

Critias scowled cautiously. “Why?”

“We’re from another galaxy too,” Sheppard said. “We had enough power to Gate here, but not enough to get back.”

“We’re aware,” Critias said.

“Sounds stupid if you ask me,” Hermos said. “We only came here because the Lanteans promised to send us home when they were finished.”

Critias spat something Teyla knew was very likely a curse but again wasn’t in any language she recognized. But Hermos seemed to agree with the sentiment if the enthusiastic agreement was anything to go by.

“What language is that?” Jinto asked. “It sounds funny.”

“Your language sounds funny to us, too, you know,” Hermos said, with a teasing grin. “Actually,” he sat up and rubbed his jaw thoughtfully, “so does our language, now that I think about it. It really is hard to talk correctly with this mouth.”

“The vocal chords aren’t right,” Critias said, leaning back against Timaeus’ bed and crossing his arms, appearing wholly at ease. “The range of sound is too limited.”

“There’s that,” Hermos said. “But also, the whole…” He gestured at his whole body. “Everything is just weird. Two legs? Hair? Ears?” He shook his head in wry amusement.

Teyla caught the flicker of amber in her direction and Teyla began to suspect this bickering was a display meant to lower the tension in the room. Should she take their words seriously? If so, then it did make her wonder what sort of creatures had more or less than two legs, no hair, and no ears. If she was not meant to take the words seriously, then it left her further in the dark regarding these strange men.

“Having two legs is weird?” Jinto asked shyly.

“For me anyway,” Hermos said, raising a hand and shifting where he sat on Timaeus bed. He pointed his thumb at Critias next to him. “He’s more familiar with it than I am.”

Critias shrugged. “I’m older.”

“By a few years,” Hermos groused, glaring at his friend without any real heat. He smirked. “Grandpa.”

Midnight blue flashed, the slit pupils widening slightly as Critias slowly turned his head to Hermos. “Hatchling.”

Hermos rolled his eyes but didn’t rise to the bait this time. Instead, he kicked his legs back and forth through the air between the bed and the floor childishly. It was such an unexpectedly innocent motion that it caught Teyla off guard. A quick glance at Sheppard assured her that she was not the only one puzzled by this.

It occurred to Teyla that, up until this moment, she had been basing her entire view of these people on Timaeus alone. Timaeus may have been her first point of contact, but he had been all she had to go on then. Timaeus had been mature, quiet, contemplative, and wary. But when he saw his skills were needed, he had offered his assistance without ever asking for payment. He was honorable and even friendly to a degree.

Of those traits, only Critias struck her as the closest equivalent. The blonde man was by far more mature than Hermos. He was reserved and wary but his tongue was sharp and his words could be downright vicious.

Hermos, on the other hand, was approachable and spoke with little thought given to filtering his words. He smiled readily and teased Critias with the familiarity of a long friendship. He was also much younger than Critias and possibly even Timaeus in maturity if not literal age.

That being said, both Hermos and Critias had expertly avoided answering any questions regarding their race, their home, or their language. Just like Timaeus. They also knew things only she and Timaeus spoke of. Perhaps, if she wanted them to trust her, she should be the first to extend a hand.

“Do you trip a lot?” Jinto asked, startling the half-formed question from Teyla’s mind.

“Oh yeah,” Hermos said fervently. “My center of balance isn’t where it’s supposed to be. I have to constantly adjust my stance to keep from falling over.”

Critias sighed heavily. “You fell flat on your face when you came through the Stargate,” he said, earning him a not-so-subtle jab in the side by Hermos’ elbow.

“I did not,” the brunette argued, glowering at the blond. “I stumbled. I did not fall.” Suddenly, he grinned. “At least I didn’t slide across the floor like you did that one time back-”

Hermos suddenly found his mouth sealed shut by one of Critias’ hands, the long nails digging into his tan cheeks.

“You swore you would never speak of that,” Critias hissed in indignation.

Jinto edged closer, drawn by the friendly comradery. “What happened?” he asked. “Why did you slide across the floor?”

“I did not slide across the floor!” the blonde cried, struggling to keep his hold on Hermos’ squirming body.

His grip slipped and Hermos managed to get his mouth free. “He totally botched his landing,” he said gleefully, ignoring the embarrassed sound from his friend. “Just skidded clear across the ice.” He gasped and freed his mouth once more. “Hit a wall and-”

“You hit a wall?” Jinto gasped, moving closer.

“So graceful.”

That was the last Hermos managed to get out before his mouth was sealed shut once more by a flustered Critias.

“I will push you from the balcony,” Critias threatened. Hermos rolled his eyes dramatically. “Timaeus won’t stop me,” Critias swore. “I’ll push you right into the water.”

Perhaps Teyla’s initial assessment of Critias’ maturity was a bit too optimistic.

When Hermos relaxed, Critias finally released his hold. “You know,” he said, with a sly grin, “of the two of us, you’d probably struggle the most in the water.”

This time, Critias glare could have burned Hermos alive where he sat.

“You can’t swim?” Jinto asked. “I can teach you!”

Caught off guard by the Athosian boy’s cry, Critias stiffened and spun around, focusing his wide-eyed gaze on Jinto. Without regard for his safety or the seriousness of the situation, Jinto rushed passed Critias and grabbed Hermos’ arms. Pushing himself up to his tiptoes, Jinto stared at the brunette’s eyes with a brilliant smile.

“I love swimming!” Jinto babbled excitedly. “Can you swim too? Awesome. Can we teach him together? My dad taught me how to swim. I’m sure my dad could help him too.”

Critias had given up arguing and chosen to bury his face in his hands. As Jinto continued to talk, he removed one hand and pinched the bridge of his nose with the other. Teyla could still see the tell-tale hints of a truly impressive blush from under the man’s hand. It brought a smile to her face.

Sometimes, children were the best at breaking down barriers. She turned to the major and chuckled at the discombobulated expression on his face. She couldn’t remember ever seeing the Atlantean so thoroughly befuddled.

“Okay,” Sheppard murmured. “This is… not what I expected.” He looked around the room. “Where’s Dr. Beckett?”

“In the corner,” she said.

She pointed to the far side of the room where the good doctor sat at his work station. The man was currently staring at something on his worktable through a magnifying glass. It must be interesting if the nonsense taking place over here hadn’t distracted him. No longer concerned about Jinto interacting with Hermos and Critias, Teyla nudged Sheppard towards the doctor.

“Doctor Beckett,” she said, startling the man. Bright blue eyes lifted from the table to her face and she smiled. “May we speak with you?”

“Oh, yes of course,” he said, standing and tugging the gloves off of his hands. “Major,” he nodded to Sheppard. “Is Dr. Weir coming?”

“Not right now,” Sheppard said, glancing back over his shoulder briefly. “She’s working on a few things up in Ops first.” He frowned. “Why? What is it?”

“Well, remember when Timaeus first came in earlier?” the doctor asked. “I tried to have some blood drawn.”

“Yeah, you said his skin bent the needle,” the major said.

Startled, Teyla turned to Sheppard with wide eyes. “I was unaware of this,” she said.

Sheppard shook his head. “A lot was happening,” he said.

“Yes,” Dr. Beckett said. “I assumed his skin was resistant to piercing damage because of that. Well, it appears I might have made that call too early.” His looked down at what Teyla recognized to be a phial of blood on the table. “Because when I tried it again, there was no resistance.”

Sheppard approached the table carefully. “None? At all?”

“None beyond what I would normally expect from human skin,” Dr. Beckett confirmed. “I haven’t had much time to examine it yet, but I can tell you this.” He glanced at Timaeus still resting on the medical bed. “Timaeus, and I’d be willing to bet his two friends as well, have a much cooler body temperature than we do. If he were a human, I’d have diagnosed him as hypothermic.”

Teyla frowned. “Hypothermic?”

“Medical term,” Sheppard explained. “It’s what happens when the body gets dangerously cold.”

“Ah. Why would his body temperature be so low?” she asked.

Dr. Beckett shook his head, apparently at a loss. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “It’s too early to tell. Not without asking them directly, which I’m not sure would be well received yet.”

“They seem to be pretty active for hypothermic lizards,” the major commented.

“Lizards?” the doctor repeated, puzzled.

The major pointed to his eyes. “Their eyes. They’re like a cat’s.”

“They are?” Dr. Beckett blinked in surprise. “Timaeus’ eyes seemed normal when I checked. What’s that got to do with lizards?”

Sheppard shrugged. “Just the stuff they said about scales, four legs, hatchling, wings…” He spread his hands in a gesture of surrender.

“Lizards,” the doctor murmured, obviously not paying attention any longer. He sat back down at his table and reached for a nearby notebook and began scrawling in it in his illegible handwriting. All the while muttering “Lizards” under his breath.

Chapter Text

The ambient temperature was warming as the sun moved through the sky to shine directly through the windows of the medical wing. It was tempting to leave his post and lounge in the dwindling sunlight before the storm clouds on the horizon blocked it out entirely. But that would require leaving Hermos and Timaeus out of is reach and that was out of the question. Besides, the coming storm would help revitalize him, if it got here fast enough.

Timaeus was still sound asleep, but at least he had shifted on the bed to a more comfortable position. That was a relief. Hermos was curled up close to Timaeus side and snoring softly. Critias felt his forehead crease in worry for his youngest wingmate. Timaeus was a few months older and more world-wise than Hermos; so while Critias worried about his wingleader, he didn’t fear for him.

Hermos, however, was much too young to have been exposed to the Lanteans machinations. He was too trusting. Critias had been suspicious of the sudden request for aid after so many years of forced silence. Thankfully, Timaeus had heeded his warning and decided all of them would go instead of Timaeus coming here alone. That one choice was probably what saved them all.

Timaeus would have likely died during or immediately after being freed from the subspace prison. Hermos and Critias would have sensed his death and though Critias would have suffered, Hermos would have suffered more. Hermos was too open to their shared bond, too raw. It scraped at Critias psyche sometimes, but he couldn’t bring himself to hate it. It wouldn’t stop him from teasing his friend about it though.

Still, Critias was exhausted and watching his small weyr sleep peacefully for the first time in so long was making him feel his own sleepiness more acutely. His eyelids were drooping and he could feel his body beginning to sink towards the floor.

Instantly, he staggered back to his feet and shook himself. This was neither the time nor the place. Someone had to keep watch. Timaeus may have a tenuous trust with these new Atlanteans and Hermos was inherently curious but Critias had reservations.

“I can hear you thinking from here.”

Startled, Critias straightened and spun to the hospital bed. Timaeus’ gaze was heavy and clouded from sleep but the violet was warm and friendly. With a heavy sigh, Critias pushed away from the wall and approached the bed.

“I did not mean to wake you,” he said softly, unsuccessfully willing away his fatigue.

Timaeus huffed and shifted to wrap an arm around Hermos’ shoulders. “You did not,” he said, closing his eye and taking a deep breath. “The sunlight did.”

Ah. Critias grimaced. “There’s not much I can do about that, I’m afraid,” he said.

That got a chuckled from his friend. “You should rest too,” he said, his smile fading as violet opened and focused on him. “I doubt they will knife us while we sleep.”

Critias huffed, absently rubbing his arms where he would typically feel his scales lifting in indignation. “I don’t expect anything as base as that,” he said. Timaeus lifted a single eyebrow and Critias flushed. “Perhaps…” he admitted reluctantly, “I am jumping to conclusions.”

“Perhaps,” Timaeus agreed. “Or perhaps your life has taught you to think thus. That is not a crime. It is a trait I value highly. It was your wariness that convinced me not to come here alone. Your wariness and dedication to detail as well as Hermos’ ingenuity and curiosity are all traits that convinced me to ask you to be a part of my weyr.” He smiled. “However small it may be.”

Critias gaze dropped to Hermos’ sleeping face and he felt lost. It took two tries before he could find his voice to speak again. “I fear we might be the last weyr in existence now,” he whispered.

Timaeus winced but did not voice any disagreement. Instead, he turned his head to stare at the ceiling in silence. Hermos grumbled and shifted, arching his back and rolling as if to scratch an unreachable itch.

“He will be flying again soon,” Timaeus said. Critias just nodded. “He’ll have to take it easy to be sure he doesn’t re-injure his wing. I may be more at home in water than in the air or on land, but I can at least keep an eye on him while he glides in case his wing gives out over the water.”

“I promised to push him from the balcony,” Critias said curtly, crossing his arms.

Violet widened. “What? Why?” Timaeus gasped, obviously caught between shock and laughter.

Warmth seeped into his cheeks and Critias avoided his wingleader’s gaze. “He brought up the… Incident,” he mumbled.

For a moment, Timaeus said nothing. Then he had to cover his mouth to fight back the laughter threatening to break free. “That was truly one of the best things I have ever seen,” he declared gleefully.

“It was humiliating,” Critias countered in frustration.

“It was brilliant,” his leader argued. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you so flustered in my entire life.”

“She was watching!” Critias groaned, rubbing his face in his hands in the remembered shame.

“She still accepted your courting request did she not?” his leader teased gently. Critias’ blush was answer enough. A pale hand reached up to catch one of Critias’ and grasp the scholar’s fingers. “I’m truly sorry, Critias,” Timaeus whispered, his violet gaze full of pain and sympathy. “I am so, so sorry.”

Critias blinked in brief confusion before his heart suddenly plummeted. Oh. Oh by the First Flight. He hadn’t even fully processed it until now. He’d known, he’d joked about it even, but he hadn’t comprehended…

They were alone. They were alone. It had been 10,000 years. Their kind lived a long time but nowhere near that long. That meant…

That meant…

“Kisara.”

It was a breathless whisper that was almost a sob. His mate. His beloved mate. She was gone. Dead. The last she ever heard of him was his farewell embrace, the murmured ‘I love you,’ the kiss he planted on her forehead, and the backwards glance he threw her before departing through the Stargate. She never knew the truth.

What if she thought he’d abandoned her? What if she lost their clutch to her grief? What if she never felt happiness again? She must have believed he had died. Critias prayed to the Deep Eyes that she had at least found peace eventually.

Before she died.

The despair was too much. He couldn’t even find the energy to weep. The tears simply slipped free of his eyelashes and trailed down his cheeks. He felt lost and alone and his heart was breaking. His chest ached and breathing was becoming difficult around the intense emotion. He was drowning in it.

There was nothing but a gaping hole into oblivion where Kisara’s subtle mental presence used to be. How had he not noticed earlier? How had it slipped his notice? His people mated for life. Now there was nothing. Nothing. It was crushing him.

“Critias!”

He blinked when he felt his body shake and found a single violet eye inches from his face staring at him in horror. Timaeus. His wingleader had pushed himself up from the bed and was clutching his shoulders, shaking him. When had Timaeus moved?

Kisara.

“Critias, you mustn’t let it destroy you,” Timaeus pleaded. “You are not alone. Fight it, my friend. Latch onto me if you have to, but I beg of you, do not give in to it.”

“Critias?”

A hand, calloused from years wielding a blade, grabbed his arm and jerked him forward. He fell…


 

“Wha- What happened?” Hermos demanded, fully awake and staring at the place where Critias had once stood. “I felt…” He swallowed convulsively. “I felt… What was that?”

He turned to his wingleader and best friend for answers. Timaeus had wrapped his arms around his chest and was hugging himself, his lone eye squeezed shut. When violet opened, Hermos felt the weight of Critias’ hopelessness fade to something more tolerable, less present, muffled by Timaeus.

“He realized he lost his mate,” Timaeus replied quietly.

Hermos paled, his entire form drooping. He rested his forehead against Timaeus’ shoulder and hummed. It was the closest he could get to the deep rumble he could create in his true form but he hoped it gave comfort to his wingmate.

For once, Hermos was glad he was the youngest of their little group. Timaeus was technically the same age as Hermos but everyone knew those with a water affinity matured sooner than the rest of their kind. They had to. They had the highest number of natural predators in the ocean. If they didn’t mature fast enough, they died.

Hermos had grown up knowing he would have years before ever being required to be responsible for more than himself and his sister. Waking up now was something he was trying very hard not to think about. When he and Critias were still merged with Timaeus, those thoughts had been acknowledged, catalogued, and filed away for a later time. Their three minds working together tended to prioritize better and handle situations with cooler tempers than they ever could individually.

When they’d first separated, they had other things to worry about and distract them. Hermos had even been able to finally get some much needed sleep with no dreams. But Critias had finally crumbled under the stress. Normally, Hermos would tease the scholar mercilessly for that, but not now. Now, he was struggling to keep his own sadness at bay. He gulped, feeling the tears come.

Voices echoed from the hallway but Hermos ignored them in favor of looking out the window. The setting sun currently tinging their healing room shades of red and orange was nearly gone behind a wall of dark, looming clouds. He may not be fond of thunderstorms, but he knew someone who was.

“Do you think they would mind if we went outside?” Hermos asked, drawing his wingleader’s gaze. He nodded to the window and Timaeus turned to the fading sunlight. “Critias might enjoy a good flight.”

Timaeus hummed thoughtfully. “He might indeed,” he agreed. He glanced at the door to the hallway and grimaced. “If we are given permission, that is.”

“Oh good. You’re awake. We were getting worried.”

Startled, Hermos sat up and turned to the people standing by the foot of the bed. He must have missed the door sliding open. The woman with red hair Hermos remembered from his time merged with Timaeus to be Dr. Weir, the leader of the Atlanteans, stood with Major Sheppard on her right.

Dr. Weir opened her mouth to continue before pausing and looking around the room with a faint frown of confusion. “Where is Critias?” she asked.

“Resting. He’s not…” Timaeus winced. “He is not in the best of moods at the moment.”

Dr. Weir glanced at Maj. Sheppard and who shook his head subtly. “No one ever left this room,” the major said firmly.

“We never said he left,” Timaeus said. “We said he was resting.”

Both Sheppard and Dr. Weir looked around the room, noting it was empty of anyone but Timaeus and Hermos. Dr. Weir frowned and crossed her arms. “I don’t understand,” she said. “Resting where?”

Hermos blinked in confusion and pointed at Timaeus. When Dr. Weir’s frown only deepened, Hermos began to wonder if he was missing something. The Atlanteans did know what Hermos and Timaeus were right? They were in the city of Atlantis. The Lanteans knew what they were, the Lanteans put much of their knowledge into the city’s computers, and the current Atlanteans had full access to those computers. Surely they looked into it.

“I’m not sure I understand,” Dr. Weir said, eyeing Hermos’ wingleader suspiciously. “You said your name was Timaeus.”

“Yes,” Hermos said slowly, eyeing the woman strangely. “But he’s also Critias right now.”

“You mean you speak for him?” Dr. Weir asked.

Timaeus nodded. “We do. If you insist, we can bring him out. But he is not… emotionally sound.”

“Oh, back to the plural, are we?” the major said dryly, crossing his arms and cocking his head to the side.

“Well yes,” Timaeus said, nodding. “We are not just Timaeus at the moment, we are also Critias. We thought that was clear.”

The military officer rolled his eyes and groaned. Dr. Weir opened her mouth, then shut it and shook her head, rubbing her temples.

“We don’t understand,” Timaeus said, looking between the Atlanteans and taking in their frustrated and bewildered demeanors. “Why does this confuse you? We thought you were the descendants of the Lanteans. Are you not aware of the Alliance?”

“What alliance?” Dr. Weir demanded, her frown becoming a frustrated expression

“The Alliance of Four Races,” Hermos said, hopping off the bed to stand on his own two feet and count off the races on his fingers. “The Lanteans, the Nox, the Asgard, and the Furlings.”

“We’re aware,” Dr. Weir said, focusing on Hermos with a furrowed brow. “It’s Five Races now.”

“Five?!” both Hermos and Timaeus gasped.

“Who’s the Fifth Race?” Timaeus asked eagerly. “When were they added?”

The woman tilted her head curiously. “Humans,” she said after a moment. “We were added by the Asgard a short while ago.”

“The Asgard?” Timaeus breathed, a smile breaking on his face. “Then we are truly well met. We apologize for our secrecy up to this point,” he said, bowing as deeply as he could while still in bed. “Had we known you were part of the Alliance, we would not have been so reluctant to trust you.”

Dr. Weir eased her stance and returned the bow, though she was careful not to bow as deeply as Timaeus had. “Thank you. If I may ask, how do you know about that Alliance? We were under the impression that Alliance was unique to our galaxy.”

“That would depend,” Timaeus said, tilting his head in consideration. “No, the Alliance is not unique to a single galaxy. As far as I am aware, races from at least two galaxies were included in the Alliance. If your race was added as well, then that could possibly mean three galaxies now.”

“Are you from the Asgard home galaxy?” Hermos asked.

The woman shook her head. “No. We’re from the same galaxy as the Nox.”

“Oh!” Hermos’ gasped happily. “So are we! We call our galaxy Avalon. The Lanteans adopted the name after they met us.”

“If you are truly descendants of the Lanteans,” Timaeus said thoughtfully, “then you are likely from the planet they seeded. It would explain why you look so much like them,” he added, his violet gaze traveling over the Humans’ bodies with renewed interest.

Dr. Weir’s eyes widened in surprised understanding. “You’re Furlings,” she murmured.

“We are,” Timaeus confirmed readily, a friendly smile on his face. “Have you not met our race before in Avalon? If you are members of the Alliance and already met the Asgard and the Nox, then it would stand to reason you met others of our race.”

Hermos felt something cold settle in his stomach when the woman shook her head slowly.

“No,” she said, reluctantly. “We’ve never met the Furlings. As far as I know, no one has had contact with them for a long time.”

“Understandable,” Critias said suddenly, materializing next to Timaeus and ignoring the stunned reactions of the Atlanteans and the military officer’s quickly raised weapon. “I find it difficult to believe our people would have kept to the Alliance after we failed to return.”

Timaeus paled and turned to his friend. “You think it ended,” he said quietly.

“It was already on shaky ground before our departure,” Critias said with a halfhearted shrug. “It’s likely that, when we didn’t return, our people cut off all contact with the other Races, the Lanteans in particular. There is no way our people would risk trusting them again. If the Asgard and the Nox refused to acknowledge the crimes of the Lanteans despite our warnings, then we would have withdrawn from the Alliance.”

Leaning back in mild surprise at his wingmate’s sudden appearance, Hermos studied Critias closely with a wince. He really did look worse for wear. To put it politely, “You look awful.”

The scholar tossed him a glare without any heat to it. There were circles under Critias’ eyes and his skin was paler than Hermos remembered his wingmate preferred aside from the blotches of color in his cheeks. The anguish that had threatened to swallow the scholar and had startled Hermos awake had faded to a tolerable level for the time being. It would never cease to amaze Hermos how well his wingmate was at controlling himself. It made the few instances when Critias’ control did slip so shockingly intense.

“Excuse me,” Dr. Weir said, her voice cutting through the Furlings’ distraction. “Can someone please explain what’s going on here? Where were you?” she demanded, pointing at Critias. “And where the hell did you come from?” she added, gesturing to the room around them.

Hermos frowned and shared a wry glance with Critias. Then together they pointed to Timaeus who waved.

“There,” they said.

“I did say I was Critias as well as myself,” Timaeus said, a sly grin teasing his lips. “As a race, we have the ability to manipulate molecular shape and density as well as several forms of energy.” He held out his hands in an open gesture. “I thought I made that clear.”

“So, let me get this straight,” Maj. Sheppard said, sarcastic disbelief dripping from his words. “You expect us to believe you three can,” he pursed his lips and struggled to find the right words, “become one?”

“We can,” Timaeus said, nodding. “By adjusting our density and shape on a molecular level, we are able to merge together to form a single being. We maintain our individuality and are free to split whenever we wish, but we are often at our most powerful when merged. The power of three life forms in a single being tends to be greater than the power of three separate life forms working in tandem."

“This isn’t always the case,” Critias said, tilting his head in consideration. “But in the case of the Erebus, it was. Three minds working as one are harder to outwit, the density of three people in a single body is harder to damage, and because we were merged together,” he aimed a piercing, slit-pupiled glare at the Humans, “we were imprisoned together. Had Timaeus been imprisoned alone, he would have died. The only reason we survived, is because we were together. We will not be separated. Ever.”

The major met Critias’ glare without flinching, then gradually lowered his weapon in acknowledge. “Okay,” he said slowly. “Consider us warned.”

Critias bowed his head in cautious thanks. Hermos narrowed his gaze warily. Something had passed between the Furling scholar and the Human warrior that, while not the same as an cease fire, was akin to a tenuous pact between uneasy allies.

As a hunter by trade, Hermos was familiar with such pacts. He’d made them himself often enough. Most hunters worked alone though some worked as pairs. Though more often than not, those who worked in pairs were mated. Hunters did sometimes join larger groups as guides, protectors, or something along those lines. But it was rare to find a group of three or more hunters. That meant splitting the winnings too many ways to be feasible.

Being a hunter hadn’t been easy and Critias constantly teased Hermos about his open heart despite his dangerous choice of profession. But Hermos loved his work. He could travel and adventure and meet new people and learn new things and the constant threat of danger was addicting.

That was probably why Hermos found himself more comfortable with this whole insane situation than Critias or Timaeus. Critias was a scholar who, until befriending Timaeus, had never ventured beyond the high, craggy mountains of his home. For a bookeater, he wasn’t bad. Annoying, but not bad. Timaeus had done much to tame him.

And yes, Hermos knew better than to ever say that out loud. Critias may be a part of his weyr, but that did not mean the wings-for-brains wouldn’t wring Hermos’ neck. With or without Timaeus’ permission.

Speaking of Timaeus. “Did you still want to go outside?” Hermos asked his wingleader.

“Outside?” Critias repeated hopefully.

Timaeus sighed. “I do,” he said. "Are you sure you are well enough for that, Critias?” he asked, his lone eyes shining with sympathy as he lifted his gaze to his older companion. “You need to rest.”

“What I need,” Critias said in a stern tone, “is for you and the hatchling-”

“Hey!” Hermos squawked in offense.

“-to stop worrying,” the scholar continued, trampling over Hermos’ cry of indignation without pausing, “and for me to find a place to roost for the night. Alone.”

Timaeus laughed merrily. “I see. Then if it is acceptable,” he said to Dr. Weir and Maj. Sheppard, “would we be allowed outside? The balcony by the Stargate will do.”

For a moment, Dr. Weir didn’t say anything. Instead, she studied them closely. Finally, she nodded. “Fine, on one condition.”

“Name it,” Timaeus acquiesced easily.

“Timaeus!”

“Be still, my friend,” Hermos’ wingleader said in a gentle but stern tone. “Name your condition, Doctor.”

The woman smiled in relief. “Teyla and Maj. Sheppard informed me you can change your form,” she began “I guess it makes sense if you can,” she hesitated, “merge your bodies.”

“Still weirded out by that, by the way,” the major spoke up.

Hermos snickered. “You aren’t the first, and you definitely won’t be the last.”

Dr. Weir’s smiled eased to something more warm and friendly. “Then I want to know what you really look like,” she finished.

Oh. Well, Hermos looked around the healing room calculating. “I think Timaeus could fit in here,” he said, ignoring the annoyed glare his wingleader shot his way.

“Definitely not,” Critias scoffed with a straight face, much to Hermos’ amusement and Timaeus’ mortification. “He may be small,” Timaeus squaked in indignation, “but he’s still arguably a respectable size.”

“He might fit in the Stargate hall,” Hermos offered.

Critias sniffed in derision. “We could all fit in that room,” he said snidely. He blinked, then amended his statement. “Well, you and I together wouldn’t fit. But if it was just Timaeus and one of us, it would work. It would be a bit tight for us, but Timaeus should be fine.”

“Betrayed by my own weyr,” Timaeus groaned in exasperation, burying his face in his hands.

“I take it Timaeus’ form is smaller than yours,” Dr. Weir said, obviously trying to hold back her amusement. Major Sheppard didn’t even bother, grinning in delight.

“Very,” Critias said easily. “Even by our standards.”

“I hate both of you,” their wingleader grumbled.

Hermos burst out laughing. “We’ll show you,” he declared. “But I’ll have to be inside. I have an injury that’ll make it difficult for me to shift on a small balcony.” He rubbed his back surreptitiously.

“I suppose I won’t push you off the balcony if you joined us outside,” Critias said mildly. “Yet.”

Hermos gulped. He wasn’t looking forward to the scholar’s threat being realized.