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Ancient Blood

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Summary: Just as he thinks he's settled into his new life at Atlantis, everything in John's life starts to fall apart again. (Stargate Atlantis/Harry Potter Xover)

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Stargate > Non-BtVS/AtS Stories > Crossover: Harry Potter(Past Donor)MhalachaiFR21223,97811509,17729 Jun 063 Jul 06Yes

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Chapter One

Ancient Blood (1/2)
A Stargate Atlantis/Harry Potter story


Disclaimer: Sony and MGM own all things Stargate Atlantis. J.K. Rowling owns all Harry Potter. I'm only borrowing and will return them at the end of the fic.
Spoilers: General season two for SGA; Half-Blood Prince for HP.
Pairings: My new OTP, John/Atlantis, and some mildly dysfunctional John/Teyla. (And when I say mildly I mean very).
Note: Follow-up to Songs Across the Ocean, aka the crossover that ate my brain.

~~~

John ran towards the Stargate, arms burning from half-dragging, half-carrying carrying Teyla. He didn't have time to stop to adjust her dead weight not dead she's not dead yet I'm not going to let her die and Ronon had already dialed Atlantis and was waving Sheppard on, shouting something about the shield being down, but the words made no sense.

All that made sense were the images dancing before his eyes: Ronon, bloodied, holding out his hand; Rodney, panting and white-faced with exhaustion but running at John's side; the unnaturally pale tinge to Teyla's face under the blood running from her mouth and nose. In the very edges of John's vision, tiny shivers of grey curled, familiar and horrific. If he waited long enough, he'd be surrounded by the ghosts of the people he had let die. Teyla's not dead yet I'm not going to let her die!

Then they were up the Stargate steps, Ronon grabbing John's sleeve and hauling him through the event horizon. John fell across the galaxy before he materialized in Atlantis, still falling. He twisted under Teyla's weight to cushion her from the fall and hit the ground hard, air knocked from his chest.

His ears started working again just in time to hear the shouting in the control room.

Ronon hovered over them, gun in his hand, but it wasn't going to do any good. Rodney collapsed to his knees beside John, using gore-covered hands to help John sit up with Teyla in his lap. The trip through the wormhole had jolted her back to consciousness. She fought weakly to breathe through blood-filled lungs. The gaping hole in her side glistened with bits of red flesh and dull-white bone that should never be seen.

"Kkh... Colonel" she choked out. Rodney brushed the hair back from her face, holding her head with an unlikely tenderness.

"Shh," John said, cradling her gently. "I think you can call me John."

It was the stupidest thing he had ever said. She was going to die on the Gateroom floor because he'd led his team into a dangerous situation and she'd never be able to call him John, or Colonel, or Sheppard or any of it. But he couldn't find a way to ask her to not die.

Still, the corner of her mouth turned up for a moment. Then something happened, and she spasmed in his arms, coughing blood everywhere like she was drowning in it. Rodney kept shouting "No!" over and over, but it didn't make a lick of difference.

Teyla grabbed at John's vest with one last burst of energy, and John had a wild idea that maybe she'd be fine after all. Then she stopped fighting.

No no NO! John screamed in his head. He fell back, putting one hand under him to stop his descent as Teyla slid bonelessly down his lap. This isn't going to happen, she's not dead! I can't lose anyone else!

The floor under John's hand went from cool to searing hot in an instant, a white light blinding him. Atlantis screamed as John felt something ripped from his whole body.

Then the screaming stopped and the lights were gone and John collapsed, pinned by Teyla's weight.

But only for a moment. Teyla jackknifed up and off John's legs, rolling onto her stomach and coughing hard. John's vision swam with streamers of black, but he refused to pass out.

The wound in Teyla's side was gone.

"What is going on?" Elizabeth's voice cut into John's stupefied staring. She ran down to the bedraggled group by the Stargate, followed by Major Lorne and several bristling Marines.

"What--" Rodney grabbed Teyla's shoulders and hauled her up to face him. "How are you not dead?"

Teyla choked up a mouthful of blood. "I don't..." Shaking, she wiped blood from her face with her ruined sleeve. "What happened?"

"There was a light," Ronon said. He cradled his gun, scanning the room for threats.

Rodney snapped his fingers. "Of course!"

"Rodney," Elizabeth said warningly.

"No, it makes perfect sense, if you consider that the Goa'uld are technological scavengers."

John let his head fall to the ground. He knew that Rodney kept talking, but the city was whimpering at him and John didn't know why. It was important and he had to concentrate, to put everything else out of his head, including the heavy feel of Teyla's body in his arms, the smell of blood almost thick enough to chew, the raw feeling where something had been ripped out of him by Atlantis, the tiny tremors getting closer in the edge of his vision--

"John?"

John turned his head. Elizabeth had knelt beside him. In the meantime, Dr. Beckett had appeared and was examining blood flowing out of her mouth and nose Teyla. "Elizabeth."

"Do you know what happened?"

Everyone was looking at him. He shouldn't be lying on the floor like this. He was the military commander of Atlantis, he had responsibilities, he couldn't let the near-fatal injury of one of his team members knock him off his game. He'd done it before: watched Bellatrix Lestrange slaughter Neville Longbottom, seen Ginny fall to the ground dead, ducked to the side as Percy Weasley took an Avada Kedavra meant for his mother, and none of that had slowed John in his pursuit of Voldemort.

"All right, enough of this," Beckett said, pushing Elizabeth away. "Colonel Sheppard, can you sit up?"

"Yeah," John said. He pushed himself into a sitting position, trying to ignore the ache in his chest. "That light thing... yeah." His eyes flickered to where Rodney was badgering Teyla into sitting on the stretcher, but something cracked in his head and he had to look away.

"It's obviously effected the Colonel and Teyla in different ways," Beckett said. "I'll need you all to come to the infirmary."

John wanted to stay in the Gateroom, staring at the ceiling and trying to figure out what Atlantis was trying to tell him, but he couldn't figure out any way to say that without sounding crazy.

He managed to stand without help. Everyone was staring at him, tempting John to say something in Parseltounge, simply to justify those expressions on their faces.

Fuck. He had to focus and get back to himself, not let the shock of almost losing Teyla push him down into his memories of a childhood of pain and magic.

Not looking at anyone in particular, John followed Teyla's stretcher out of the Gateroom. Too-loud voices mingled in the air around him. Rodney and Elizabeth and Lorne all chattered, almost masking Teyla's wholehearted protestations at being forced to ride the stretcher. Even Ronon's silence seemed to drown out the city's hesitant song.

John desperately wanted everyone to shut up and leave him alone with his city.

~~~

"She's perfectly healthy," Beckett said an hour later.

"As I have been telling you," Teyla replied, rather snappishly. She sat curled up on the bed, her legs pulled tight to her chest. In the white hospital pajamas, she looked impossibly tiny and frail.

"But how is that possible?" Elizabeth asked. She looked around at gathered crowd. "Her injuries were real."

"Very real," Ronon said. He continued to reassemble a stripped Beretta on the bed next to Teyla's.

John slouched against the wall, arms crossed over his chest. If he stared directly at the floor, avoiding the area around Teyla, he could almost ignore the shivering images in the edges of his sight. She's not fucking dead, she's not joining you goddamned ghosts, so go away!

"But there's something else," Beckett continued, nodding at the nearby Dr. Biro.

Dr. Biro tapped on the computer. "We ran several x-rays to be sure. Teyla broke her leg badly when she was a child, leaving some scarring on the bone. We had film on that bone from our initial tests on her when she first joined the expedition." She pulled up an image of a bone on the computer screen. The line of the break was visible, even from where John stood. Dr. Biro hit another key, and another image appeared, one that was almost identical, but the break line was gone. "We ran this today."

"It makes perfect sense," Rodney said. "If my theory is correct, then--"

"What are you talking about?" Ronon asked, snapping the safety on the gun and stowing it somewhere in his jacket.

Rodney shook his head. "The Goa'uld back in the Milky Way galaxy have a device called a sarcophagus. It's a healing and regenerative device, that can cure any wound." As he spoke, he sketched the air with his hands. "But the Goa'uld are technological scavengers. They take whatever they find and incorporate it. The Goa'uld Telchak developed the sarcophagus technology thousands of years ago, based on Ancient healing technology. What we saw in the Gateroom might have similiar link to the technology used in that case."

"But the sarcophagus is a contained unit," Elizabeth argued. "What we saw today was a wild burst."

"No, it wasn't. I had Zelenka look at the sensor readings in the Gateroom. We thought it was a wide beam, but in actual fact it was directed at one person in the Gateroom who has a perfect track record of activating Ancient technology without any idea how it works."

John blinked hard and looked up at Rodney. "I didn't do this."

"Not intentionally," Rodney said.

"Hold it!" Elizabeth exclaimed. "Why would the Ancients have something like this beam in the Gateroom?"

Rodney pursed his lips for a moment, then snapped his fingers. "In case something happened like it did today. An emergency that forced them back to Atlantis through the Stargate."

"What's important is that now that we know it's there, we might be able to use it again," Dr. Biro said. Her enthusiasm sawed at John's fraying temper. "If we can set up a test to duplicate the circumstances, then maybe Colonel Sheppard--"

John pushed himself off the wall and took two long steps across the floor to Dr. Biro. She quickly closed her mouth and seemed to have trouble meeting his eyes. "Here's what we'll do," John said with a detached calm. "You decide which of my team members to shoot a hole through, and I'll see if I can get the Gateroom beam thing to heal them before they bleed out all over the floor, how's that?"

"Colonel Sheppard!" Elizabeth exclaimed. "I'd like a word with you, outside!" Elizabeth waited until John stepped out of Dr. Biro's personal space before following him into the hallway. "What the hell was that, John?" she demanded.

John shook his head. "You heard what she was suggesting!"

"I heard what she said." Elizabeth crossed her arms over her chest. "And frankly, I don't care what she suggested. It's her role as physician to suggest things. That's what she does. What's bothering me is how you are reacting to this."

Staring at Elizabeth made John's head hurt. He turned around and put his hand against the wall to balance himself. Atlantis sighed and continued her sad humming, as John realized that he still had Teyla's blood on his hands.

"You've all had a bit of a shock," Elizabeth continued. "I'm taking your team off rotation for a few days--"

"Elizabeth!"

"Until we have a chance to make sure that what healed Teyla isn't going to cause her a relapse." John clutched the wall a little tighter. Elizabeth sounded closer and he wasn't sure he'd be able to stand someone touching him right then. "And I'd like you to go see Dr. Heightmeyer."

"For fuck's sake, Elizabeth, I wasn't the one who got a hole blown through my side!" John rotated enough to rest his shoulder against the wall. "I'm not going to see Heightmeyer!"

"John, this isn't like you," Elizabeth stressed. "Rodney told me what happened to Teyla on that planet. I know your entire team means a lot to you. Take a few days to deal with what almost happened."

You don't know a fucking thing. "Do you want anything else?" John fought to keep his breathing even. Arguing with Elizabeth had taken his attention off the vital task of keeping the things in the corners of his vision from overwhelming him. He knew from past experience, some of it in Atlantis, that he needed to be somewhere else before he seriously lost it.

Elizabeth gave him a long look. "No."

John walked away without another word.

~~~

Before going to his room, he made a detour down to the labs. Zelenka's office was empty of people. Probably all up in the Gateroom salivating over the sensor readings, John thought in disgust as he lifted various boxes to the ground. Under the cases was an old storage box that had initially held scanning equipment, and now hid the bottles of homebrew that the chemists distilled down the hall.

John discovered the still a year before, and hadn't said anything. He kept an eye on his Marines for any signs of drunkenness, on or off duty, but so far not a one had shown up for work intoxicated or even majorly hung-over. Now, John didn't hesitate as he lifted out one of the bottles and set everything back in place.

Luckily, the labs were near a transporter. John stepped inside the small room and pushed the screen to disgorge him near his room. The bright light that enveloped him was too much like the beam in the Gateroom that had kept Teyla alive, saving her when John could not.

He swayed a little as the door opened. His chest hurt and he felt like death, but at least Teyla was okay. The city could rip him into a million tiny pieces if that was what it took to save his team.

The hallway to his room seemed to go on forever. He could navigate the route in the dark, but today he made a few wrong turns. Atlantis had to give him a few reminders, light flashing farther down the hall, to get him back on course.

He stumbled into his room, refusing to look into the shadows. If anything lurked there, he would not acknowledge it.

Still, as he set the bottle on the desk, the darkness moved, tiny fingers of grey reaching out for him. They clung at him like cobwebs as he moved through the darkened room, stripping off his blood-caked clothes and dropping them to the ground. They followed him into the brightly lit bathroom, as he stepped naked into the shower. They swirled around his skin as he turned the water as hot as he could stand.

You saved Teyla but you didn't save us, the shadows whispered in John's head. He tried to ignore them as he concentrated on getting Teyla's blood out from under his fingernails. You don't even have magic anymore and you saved her.

Why her? Why not us?

John gave up on his nails and used the wash cloth to scrub at his chest. Teyla had bled so much, the red had soaked through his vest, through his BDUs, and coated his chest, his stomach, his thighs, his--

He dropped the washcloth and threw up.

You didn't act this way when you gave up on me, said one whisper that sounded suspiciously like Ford. You didn't give a fucking damn when I ran away.

"Shut up," John choked out, turning the water stream to ice cold. He let the water wash away all evidence of his lunch, then scrubbed roughly at his skin with bare hands.

You don't seem to have a problem letting girls die, so why worry about one more?

Images of all the girls and women John had seen die crowded into his head: Ginny, Luna, Fleur Delacour, Lavender Brown, the Patil twins, McGonagall, Sprout, Madame Pomfrey, the little toddler girl in Hogsmeade that Greyback had set on fire, Hermione... But now Teyla joined them in John's mind-eye, her body limp and lifeless on the Gaterium floor.

John put his head under the icy spray and prayed that everyone would just go away and leave him alone. He couldn't change the past. He couldn't save anybody.

Somehow, he dragged himself out of the shower before hypothermia set in. The cold usually drove the ghosts away, but not today. Today, they lurked in the darkness of his room, waiting for him to go to sleep, so they could dig in for the long haul.

He stumbled over to the sink and brushed his teeth a few times, until the sour taste of vomit in the back of his throat was replaced with the chalky mint aftertaste of military-issue toothpaste. He refused to look at his reflection, didn't want to see his dead father's face staring back at him.

It hadn't been this bad since after they got back from the Hive ship. Losing Ford again, watching Teyla and Ronon go crazy on the Wraith enzyme, knowing McKay was going to die, knowing everyone on Atlantis would die... None of it happened, but for weeks he'd had nightmares of losing everybody again, of trying his hardest to save them all and losing each and every one of the people he cared about, was responsible for, again.

It wasn't trauma or whatever fucking diagnosis the head shrinks might make. One day, he would lose. One day, the Wraith would get here, the Genii would get them, anything in the Pegasus Galaxy would crush the Atlantis expedition and everyone that John had sworn to protect would be dead.

Then he would be all alone again.

He didn't bother with a shirt or even underwear, just pulled on his one pair of clean pants, picked up the bottle from his desk, and stood in the open balcony door. The wind bit at his damp skin, but he didn't move.

The cold air kept swirling around him, mixing in with the shivering shadows, but John ignored it as he stared out at the ocean and the moonlight reflecting off the glass-calm water. It seemed so quiet down there, so cold.

John waited. He wasn't sure what he was waiting for, but still he stood in the balcony door, unable to step outside, not willing to go back into his room. The weight of the alcohol bottle was the only thing anchoring him in place.

When the knock sounded at his door, the cold wind had blown his hair dry. John ignored the sound, let his eyes follow a tiny ridge of waves in the ocean. The knock sounded again, then silence. John had started to hope that whoever it was had buggered off, when the door slid open.

"Colonel Sheppard?"

Teyla's hand fisting in my vest, one last burst of energy. Remus did the same thing after Wormtail shoved that fucking silver fist into Remus's gut. But Remus died in agony and I couldn't do anything to help him. "What do you want, Teyla?" His words came out harsher than he intended.

The door slid shut. John's ears pricked, hearing the soft sound of bare feet on the cold floor. "What are you doing?" she asked.

John stared at the distant ocean. "Waiting for the 5:17 train to Paddington." He wasn't sure where the words came from, but that was how he felt. Like he wanted it all to fucking stop.

"I do not understand," Teyla's voice ghosted over the room, silencing the whispering in John's head. Even Atlantis fell silent.

"Yeah," he said, stepping back into the room. Once he was back inside, he realized how cold he was. "What's up?"

Teyla stood in a patch of moonlight, staring at him with eyes a little too large. "What was it like?"

"What was what like?" John strode across the room, stepping over his dirty clothes on his way. He dropped the still-unopened bottle on his bed and dug around for a t-shirt.

"When..." Teyla watched John move around the room. "After you were attacked by the Eratus bug, and Lt. Ford stopped your heart with that machine."

John stopped fiddling with the hem of his shirt and glanced over at Teyla. "Huh? Why?"

Teyla looked away first. She walked to the open balcony door and stood in the same spot John had occupied for so long. "Dr. Beckett says I am going to be fine."

"Okay..." John said slowly. What did she want? She had never come to his room after dark like this.

Maybe because she almost fucking died today, you moron, and you're the one throwing the temper tantrum.

"I feel better than fine," Teyla continued. "I feel..." She lifted her chin, stared out at the water with an imperial air. "I have never felt so energized, so alive."

"I read a bit about the sarcophagus thing back on Earth," Sheppard said, watching Teyla almost glowing in the moonlight. "It really hypes up endorphins."

"Is that what this is?" Teyla demanded, whirling, her skirt flying around her legs. "Is that what did this to me? I--" She put her hands up as she stopped mid-sentence. "When we killed you on the Jumper, to rid you of the Eratus bug, what did you feel?"

John frowned. "You didn't kill me, you stopped my heart, that's all."

"Your heart no longer beat and you do not consider that to be death?"

John hated to hear the thinly masked panic in Teyla's voice under the anger. He picked up his gun holster off the bed and strapped it around his leg. "I didn't think anything," he said, not looking at Teyla. He slipped his handgun into the holster. "Ford was coming at me with the paddles, then I was in the infirmary feeling like someone electrocuted me."

"There was nothing else?"

John grabbed the bottle off the bed. "What do you want me to say? I didn't die, I don't know what's on the other side, any of that bullshit."

Teyla turned away.

Smooth, John. She almost dies and you start yelling at her. "Come with me."

"Why?"

"I want to show you something." John beckoned with his hand. "Come on."

After a moment, Teyla crossed the room and together they headed out into the halls. The corridors of the city were deserted. John glanced at his watch and frowned. "Jesus, it's 2900 hours."

"We returned at a late hour," Teyla said, and for a moment it was like normal, never mind that Teyla had almost died and John had nearly gone postal and they were both walking down the hall in bare feet.

"So, did Beckett really spring you or did you jump ship?" John asked as he led Teyla down a seldom-used corridor.

Teyla had to turn sideways to squeeze through a tight juncture. "He said I was in perfect health, so I took that as a dismissal."

John snorted quietly. "You know it wasn't."

"I was not going to stay in that place," Teyla said. She clambered up a set of large bulky blocks after John. "Not without Ronon and Dr. McKay."

"Why'd they leave?" John crouched at the top of the block stack and laid his hands on the wall.

"Dr. Beckett told them to get some sleep, as they had stayed with me for some time."

John winced. "Look, I had to leave," he muttered as he pushed at the wall. Open up for me.

"I am sure you believe that."

The door in the wall chose that moment to reveal itself, the opaque beige wall lighting up and morphing to transparent colors. Teyla drew in a sharp breath as John tapped on the blue lights, and the section of the wall slid to the side. "Come on in."

John crawled through the opening and onto the floor of the small balcony. He waited until Teyla was inside before sealing the wall again, keeping one eye on Teyla's reaction.

He wasn't disappointed. Teyla stared up at the giant room, wondering. "What is this place?" she asked in a hushed voice.

John sat cross-legged on the balcony and settled his back against the wall. "It's the heart of Atlantis," he said.

"Truly?"

"Yeah." He smoothed a hand over the floor, pulling a responsive hum from Atlantis. "Everything she does, runs through here."

Teyla turned back to the view, over ten stories of conduits and tubes and paneling, all lit up with power from ZPM powering the city. But it was more than just tubes; this lower section of the central tower hummed and buzzed with everything the city was.

"When did you find it?"

"A few months ago," John said. His eyes were drawn from the green and purple power conduits to Teyla. Her back was to him, but she sat upright like a child at a light show, looking this way and that to take it all in. Her hair hung around her neck, slightly damp. His gaze lingered on the line of her throat as he spoke. "I was looking for a place to think and Atlantis brought me here."

It was only after the words spilled out of his mouth that John realized he'd admitted that the city had shown him something. He had never told anyone about that before.

But when Teyla turned her head, she was smiling. "It is beautiful."

"Yeah, she is." John managed to smile back at Teyla. "Everyone thinks of the city as a collection of parts, but there's more to her." He waved his hand at the vast room. "Sometimes it's hard to remember that the city was built millions of years ago."

Teyla's smile turned wry. "Long before the Wraith."

"Long before the Wraith," John agreed. He patted the ground beside him. "Come on, sit back and enjoy the view."

"What was this entrance used for?" Teyla asked as she settled back beside John, her legs pulled up to her chest. "It is inconvenient for a spot to watch the lights."

John tapped the wall behind his head. "The writing back here says something about power lines. I figure it was a juncture to get in to fix stuff."

Teyla rested her head on the wall and watched the lights for a while. John listened to her soft breathing, and to Atlantis as the city began a soft, hesitant song. The song was so familiar, the tune of a soft Celtic dirge John had heard Professor McGonagall singing before Dumbledore's funeral. Without really knowing what he was doing, he quietly sang along with the city.

When the dirge finished and Atlantis switched into an Ancient song, Teyla sighed. "Is that a song from your world?"

"Yeah." John's word caught in his throat. He had forgotten how hopeless everything felt after Dumbledore's death.

"I did not know you sang."

"Only for the dead." John fumbled around for the bottle of alcohol and twisted off the cap. He held the bottle up in a mock toast. "To the lucky dead."

The alcohol burned on the way down, like cheap vodka, although that was a generous comparison. John handed the bottle to Teyla. She hesitated, then took a tiny sip. "This is better than the last bottle I tried," she said after she swallowed.

"You've had this moonshine before?" John asked, taking another swig. The alcohol coated his empty stomach with a warm burning. Yeah, this won't take long at all.

"Yes." She gave him a look before reaching for the bottle. "Who have you sung for?"

"Huh?" John asked as he pulled one leg up to his chest.

"You said you only sing for the dead."

"Oh." John rubbed his eyes, then stared at his wrist. He'd forgotten to put his black wristband back on, and the mound of scar tissue where Lucius Malfory had carved the Dark Mark into John's arm was a little too visible. "My, uh... This guy I knew when I was a kid, he was killed when I was sixteen. I heard someone singing it then."

"Was he a friend?"

John turned his wrist over so he didn't have to see the old scars. "Sort of. More like a mentor."

"How was he killed?"

"One of my teachers murdered him." Then John shook his head. "But he was dying anyway and Snape killed him so goddamned motherfucking Draco Malfoy wouldn't have to, not that it ever fucking mattered." The names tasted like danger on John's tongue. But Teyla didn't know any of them, and knew nothing about Earth magic. She couldn't have given him away even if she wanted to. He took the bottle away from Teyla and took a long drink. It burned all the way down. "My friend, he told me, when I'd almost died when I was eleven, that death was like some great adventure. How can it be an adventure when everyone is killed?"

He snapped his mouth shut before he said anything really stupid. Teyla stared at him with those indecipherable eyes, and he really wished she'd stop.

"How old were you?"

"What?"

"When you first almost died?" Teyla took another sip from the bottle, licking up a drop of alcohol off her lip. "I was three, when the Wraith came. My mother threw me clear of the culling beam, but she was taken." Her stoic voice did nothing to hide the pain in her eyes.

"My mother died for me, too," John muttered. "Both my parents did, the first time. I was just over a year old."

"One year? What happened?"

John shrugged. "The bad guy came knocking. Killed my dad first, then gave my mother a choice. He'd kill her then me, or she could stand aside and let him kill me."

Teyla set the bottle down with a thump. "What sort of creature would do that?" she demanded, horrified.

John took the bottle from Teyla and took a drink. He should probably stop this soon, the room was starting to wobble. At least the streaming grey tremors had gone away for now. "You know how the Wraith eat humans?" Teyla nodded. "Voldemort was like that, only he didn't do it for food, he did it because he enjoyed pain and hatred and power. He was told that if he killed me, he'd be safe."

"What happened?"

"My mother didn't move." A flash of green light haunting my nightmares for so many years, and high evil laughter. "He killed her and tried to kill me, but it didn't work." John shrugged. "Everyone thought he'd died, but he wasn't and he came back when I was eleven, and started again."

"Did no one else stand against him?" Teyla demanded, going up on one knee.

"Some did. They died." John let out a sharp bitter laugh. "Hell, everyone died anyway, it didn't matter."

"When did you kill him?"

A shiver ran down John's spine. "Why do you think I was the one who killed him?"

Teyla laid her hand on John's arm, so warm. "Because you are the one who came after us into a Wraith hive ship," she said. "You defended this city from the Genii. You flew a bomb into the hive ship. You do all these things to defend us, and you walk towards death as a man who does not expect to walk away."

John licked his lip nervously. "McKay--"

"Rodney uses his mind to solve the impossible, because he cannot accept the possibility of his own death," Teyla said, inching closer. "You do the impossible because you walk into every moment expecting to die."

"Teyla--"

"I died tonight, and there was nothing there," Teyla whispered, too fragile. She shifted her weight so she was leaning against John's bent leg. "Dr. Beckett says it is not so, but I know what happened!"

"Hey, it's okay," John said quickly, sitting up and putting his hands on her bare arms. "So what if you died for a few seconds? You're back, and--"

Teyla pushed away from him. "It is not okay!" she exclaimed. "If there is nothing after we die, then what matters? Why bother to fight the Wraith at all?"

"We fight for the same reason we do anything else!" John shouted at her. "Because we're here and we may as well keep it that way!"

"But nothing we do will matter!"

"If nothing we do matters, then the only thing that matters is what we do!" John was far too drunk to get involved in a philosophical debate about anything with anyone. "If it didn't fucking matter, then I wouldn't have busted my ass to get you back through the Gate this afternoon!"

"Why did you?"

John had absolutely no idea what to say. "What the hell do you mean?"

"What would you have done if Ronon had taken the shot? Or Rodney?"

It was like she was digging in his mind for the very images he'd been trying to avoid all afternoon. The only reason they had been able to get back to the Gate was that Teyla was so very tiny. They'd never have been able to carry a wounded Ronon, or Rodney.

Rodney had been standing right beside Teyla when the blast hit her in the chest. Another few inches, and the hole would have been in Rodney's gut. Rodney would have died and that couldn't happen. Rodney was the only thing that kept Atlantis from falling apart. Hell, most days he was the only thing that kept John grounded.

John pressed his back against the wall and blindly reached for the bottle. He wasn't drunk enough to deal with the thought of Rodney dying.

When he finished, Teyla took the bottle from him and took another drink herself before curling up beside him. "No one died today, John," she said, resting her head on his shoulder.

John stared blankly at the lights streaming up and down the opposite wall. "It's a matter of odds," he muttered. "Sooner or later, our luck's going to run out."

"But in the meantime, it is what we do that matters."

"I thought that was my line," John said, but faltered when he looked over at Teyla. He didn't think he'd ever quite seen that expression on her face before, especially not directed at him.

She glanced at his mouth for a moment, then looked back into his eyes. Jesus fuck, John thought muddily. She can't... she won't...

"I do not want to die, John," she whispered. Then Teyla kissed him.

There were several things wrong with that sentence, John thought fuzzily as he found himself with a lapful of Athosian. For starters, it was Teyla, whom he'd held in a position similar to this earlier in the day, although now she wasn't bleeding and dying, but more squirming and pressing. Then there was the kissing part, which was going a hell of a lot better than John had imagined. Her mouth tasted like vodka and warmth and the faintest hint of copper, but that was probably his fucked-up imagination.

The last wrong thing in this equation was him. He really shouldn't be letting an emotionally traumatized teammate straddle his thighs and kiss him like the world would end if they didn't do this. He shouldn't have been kissing her back just as hard, his hands skimming around her slender waist and pulling her closer to him. Most of all, he really shouldn't be reaching up under her skirt as if she was the only real thing in the universe.

I need to stop this.

Now.

Maybe in a few minutes.


Teyla broke from the kiss with a gasp, pulling back enough to yank John's shirt over his head. Getting naked isn't a good way to stop this. John reigned in his hormones enough catch Teyla's face as she came at him again. "Teyla--"

She kissed him, feather light. "Please," she whispered against his lips.

John shut her up by deepening the kiss. She clenched her thighs against his hips, grinding against him, and it was apparent that he was as caught up in the moment as she was.

Her fingers slid between them, going for the waistband on his pants. He shoved her hands out of the way and reached under her thigh to pull his gun out of the holster and shove it against wall, out of the way. Then he pulled out his headset and set it on top of the gun.

Teyla watched him, then solemnly laid her headset beside his. That simple act made everything more real in John's mind. They were really going to do this. The movement stretched Teyla out on John's lap, and he took the opportunity to trace fingers up her stomach to unlace her bodice. Part of John's mind was screaming at him that undressing a teammate was a very good way to mess up his whole life, but he ignored that. Teyla wasn't military. She'd almost died. He trusted her. They'd sparred together so often, they knew how the other moved, this was sort of like that.

That little delusion died when he pushed her bodice over her head. Naked from the waist up, she looked... Wow. John ran his hand down her side, cupping the curve of her breast, then continuing lower, to where there had been a large bleeding hole in her side. Now, not even a scratch remained to mark its place.

John pressed his hand against her ribs, feeling them solid under his palm, and something frantic churned in his gut. A second later, and she would have died. The blood that he'd washed off his body in the shower would have been the closest he'd ever have gotten to her.

He couldn't wait. He undid his pants buttons and shoved the cloth down far enough to pull himself out. Teyla took him in her hand and John forgot how to breathe for a long moment. He would have liked to have watched what she was doing, but she started kissing down his throat at the same time and he forgot what he was trying to do.

Luckily, his body hadn't forgotten what to do with a half-naked woman. Hands moved over skin, almost too rough. John wasn't sure if it was him or her that pushed Teyla's skirt up her thighs, or which one of them pulled her underwear to the side.

Then Teyla shifted her hips, and he was sliding into her. The sensation tore a moan from his throat. So warm, so alive, so not dead.

Still alive.

Breathing heavily, Teyla began to move, John's hands on her hips. John might have been able to pretended this didn't mean anything, even as Teyla sank down on him as far as she could go, but then Teyla put her hands on his shoulders to steady herself and rested her forehead against his.

That made it real, the intimacy of the Athosian embrace between them. John closed his eyes as he slid his hands around Teyla's waist and up to her shoulders. After a moment, Teyla kissed him as she started moving once more.

Their movements matched, getting sloppy as they got closer. In spite of the alcohol, or many because of it, it didn't last long. John managed to open his eyes in time to see Teyla throw her head back and cry out, then he went over, pulling her down as hard as he could, his fingers digging into her thighs.

He came back to himself slowly, having a hard time catching his breath. Teyla wrapped her arms around his back and rested her cheek on his shoulder.

Running his hand up her bare back didn't seem awkward. Not yet, anyway. "You okay?" he murmured.

Teyla nodded against his neck. "And you?"

"Yeah."

He pulled back first, and then it was really awkward. Without looking at each other, they managed to disentangle themselves and rearrange their clothing.

John felt like he should say something, but he couldn't think of the right way to phrase what he wanted to say. It couldn't ever happen again, even if it had just been frantic drunken "reassurance that we're not dead" comfort sex.

He wasn't sorry.

In the end, he grabbed his headset and slid it into his ear as he laid back on the balcony floor, cushioning his head with an arm to watch the dancing lights above. Atlantis's song was quiet and happy now.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Teyla lie down beside him, not touching but close enough to feel warm. "Even if our 'luck' runs out one day, we will still have made a difference," Teyla said, continuing the conversation as if they hadn't just fucked on a hidden service balcony deep in Atlantis. "By standing against the Wraith, we make a difference."

John cleared his throat. "But what if it's not enough?" He laid his free hand on his stomach, drumming his fingers. "If the Wraith can't get to Earth, then they'll keep eating every human in this galaxy until there's nobody left."

"It is not your fault, Col-- John. You did not make the Wraith."

"No, I just woke them all up." John blinked hard. It was exactly like with Voldemort and the magical civil war, only this time, John's actions wouldn't simply kill the people of one community, they would eliminate a whole galaxy full of people.

And if the Wraith got to Earth--

John closed his eyes. He didn't believe in any kind of God, and there was no one he could ask to forgive him. The dead did not grant absolution.

"How many people have you lost?" Teyla asked softly.

The sound of her voice centered John. He couldn't take back what he had done, but he could keep trying to make it better, to fix the mess he'd made. "All of them."

Her hand settled over his, squeezing gently. "You have not lost us."

There was something John needed to say, to apologize for almost letting her die, for taking so much from her and her people, but Atlantis distracted him with a wistful sigh, and he fell asleep.

~~~

"Colonel Sheppard?"

Fuck. John slapped at his headset, wincing as the movement set his head pounding. "Yes?"

"Did I wake you up?" Beckett asked.

"Yeah, Doc, you did." John opened his eyes, then quickly closed them. He'd forgotten how really bright things were in this room. "What?"

"I was wondering if you'd seen Teyla since last night."

John's eyes popped back open. Teyla lay curled up at his side, not touching, but close. Yeah, I saw I hell of a lot of Teyla last night, he thought. Shit. "Why do you ask?" he said instead.

"She's not answering her headset and I wanted her to come back in for some more tests. We can't seem to find her."

Somehow, John managed to avoid saying Hold on while I wake her up. "If I see her, I'll let her know you want to talk to her. She probably took her headset out to sleep."

"I hope you're right," Beckett said, and cut the connection.

John stared up. Overhead, above the ceiling and the floors of circuitry and metal, was the base of the control room. Idly, John wondered what time it was. He felt worse than the previous day.

Yesterday you just got your life-force sucked out of you by a six-million-year-old city, John reminded himself. Today, there's that, plus you're hung-over and hungry.

The thought of food made John's stomach churn. He managed to sit up, realizing that his entire left arm had fallen asleep under his head. It was sort of neat to watch, flopping his numb hand back and forth.

John used his limp arm to nudge Teyla's hip. "Hey, wake up."

Teyla opened her eyes immediately, then scrunched them shut just as fast.

"Beckett's looking for you," John continued, handing over her headset. His arm was beginning to prickle with pins and needles. "He sounds worried."

Without moving any other muscle in her body, Teyla put her headset into her ear and pressed gently on the button. "Dr. Beckett?"

John shook his arm while Teyla waited for Beckett to respond.

"No, I am fine. I fell asleep. No, not in my room." A long pause. "I feel fine. Really. There is no need for me to... In an hour, then. I-- No, I will be there in an hour. There is no need for me to rush." She reached up and cut the connection.

"Anything wrong?" John asked. His arm had enough feeling back for him to put his gun into his holster.

"Dr. Beckett wishes to run more tests on me." Teyla sat up slowly, moving with great care. "I think it would be best if I shower first."

"Good idea." John considered taking the alcohol bottle with him, but decided against it. He'd leave it here, just in case. "Showering is good."

"Then we should leave."

John didn't know what she was thinking, and that was probably for the best. He went to the entrance panel and opened it up, then let Teyla out before sealing it once more.

They walked in silence to the juncture of the hallway where they would part ways, John trying to figure out what to say the entire way. When Teyla turned to leave, he said, "Hey, are you going to be all right?"

The stiff set of her shoulders and back gave him his answer. "I will, Colonel Sheppard," Teyla said formally. "I will speak with you later." With that, she walked off down the hall.

John watched her go, then shook his head as he padded down the hall on bare feet towards his own room. You fucking idiot! he berated himself. Totally brilliant way to mess up any trust you had with her!

Although it didn't mess things up with Hermione... but Teyla's not Hermione. John got into his room without running into anyone and locked the door behind him. He jerked off his clothes and dropped them on the bed, then almost tripped on the dirty clothes from the previous day, now crunchy with dried blood.

And Teyla started it. Shaking his head, John continued into the bathroom and headed right into the shower. He turned the water a little too cold, so he wouldn't linger, then quickly washed.

Even if Teyla started it, that didn't mean you had to go along with it, no matter how drunk you were. John turned off the water and toweled dry. She was freaking out, and you--

John draped the towel around his neck as he looked into the mirror above the sink. There were dark circles under his eyes, and he looked more drawn than normal. As much as the thought of food nauseated him, he needed to eat, to put on some more weight, in case they ran into a situation without food the next time they went through the Gate.

I was freaking out too.

What had he done?

~~~

"Colonel Sheppard," Dr. Zelenka said in greeting as John walked into the labs.

"Hey, Doc." John continued over to Rodney's desk, where the astrophysicist was bent double over a machine. “Morning, Rodney."

"Sheppard." McKay didn't look up from his readings. "Did Beckett talk to you?"

"Looking for Teyla? Yeah, she's down there now." John rubbed at his chin. He'd made himself shave, and his face felt a little weird, like it always did with a hangover. "You got any coffee?"

McKay finally glanced up. He looked at Sheppard for a long moment, and something shifted in his eyes. "The cafeteria has coffee."

"You guys make it better." What the hell was wrong with Rodney?

"We're working here, Colonel, perhaps you can go find someone else to pester," Rodney snapped. He picked up his datapad and his coffee mug, and stalked deeper into the lab.

Baffled, John looked over at Zelenka. The scientist looked vaguely apologetic. "I guess that means no coffee," John tried to joke.

Zelenka shrugged. "You should adjust your shirt before going to cafeteria," he advised, and pointed at his throat before following Rodney.

My shirt? John blinked for a moment, then a horrible thought occurred to him. He turned and headed toward the door, where the scientists had stored a large mirror.

Sure enough, peeking out from under the edge of his t-shirt neck, was a purple-red mark. Teyla gave me a hickey. John wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry.

Oh God! Suddenly, Rodney's anger made sense. He saw the hickey, and I said Teyla was with Beckett and no one could find her last night...

Crying was probably the way to go.

John left the labs, found a deserted hallway, and banged his forehead against the wall a few times. Why do I always find a way to perfectly fuck up my life?

~~~

Three days later, John had discovered that not only was Rodney still pissed at him, but Beckett shot him angry glares every time they passed, Teyla was avoiding him, and his strength level wasn't anywhere near it had been before Atlantis ripped into him to save Teyla's life.

On the upside, the scientists had a fun new life-saving toy to play with.

On the whole, John felt like he'd gotten the raw end of the deal.

John spent a lot more time with Major Lorne and the Marines, running over training schedules and duty rosters and team assignments. One thing he'd learned from Hogwarts and its House system was that if people worked in the same groups too long, rivalries began to develop. He wasn't going to have that happen under his watch.

On the fifth day, John showed up at Elizabeth's office, new duty roster in hand. She waved him in while she finished typing on her laptop. John took the opportunity to slouch in the chair, resisting the urge to close his eyes. No matter how much sleep he got, or how much food he ate, he felt dragged out.

"What can I do for you, John?" Elizabeth asked, closing her computer.

John pushed himself up with a sigh. "New duty roster for the Marines," he said, handing it to her. "I was thinking about testing it out next week, then if it works, putting it into effect in about a month. Maybe take a look, see if you have any feedback."

"The military is your responsibility," Elizabeth reminded him as she looked down the list.

John rolled his eyes. "You sound like Colonel Caldwell," he said. "You know the scientists, I know the Marines. Just let me know if you see any potential personnel conflicts."

"I will. Thanks."

John shrugged and pushed himself out of the chair. "Right."

"John?" Elizabeth said before he could leave. "Can I speak with you for a moment?"

No. "What do you want?" he asked, sitting back down with a thump.

Elizabeth folded her hands together in front of her on the desk, something she only did when she was nervous about something and didn't want to show it. John's heart sank. "I've noticed a bit of friction among your team in the last few days," she said carefully. "Is there anything I can do?"

"No."

"John--"

"It's little stuff, Elizabeth," John lied. "You know, near-death stuff."

"That's not little."

"But it's our problem. We'll handle it."

Elizabeth looked at him. John fought the urge to squirm in his chair. She had a way of looking at him that made him wonder if she could read his mind. Near enough; she had a preternaturally keen sense of what was happening on the base. "Will you handle it in a few days?" she asked.

"Maybe," John said slowly. "Why?"

Elizabeth smiled, which in itself wasn't all that interesting, but what came next was. "Ronon and I have been discussing his time Running from the Wraith, and he recently recalled a planet with ruins that he suspects might be Ancient in origin."

It took all of John's restraint to not raise his eyebrows at Elizabeth. What he wanted to ask was, How did you get Ronon talking? but instead he said, "What kind of ruins?"

"His memory wasn't clear; it was several years ago." Elizabeth leaned forward. "But he does remember writing in Ancient, and several things of interest."

"Do any of these items of interest include a ZPM?" John had to ask.

"Nothing quite so definite," Elizabeth said with a smile. "But I'd like you to take your team and check out the area, if it's safe for us to send through the anthropology team to look things over."

"When?" John asked, glancing down at his notes. He had scheduled several interviews with some Marines, but he could delay those a little. Or maybe move them up. Or get them out of bed. He wasn't above a bit of Marine character building.

"Would you be able to wrap up any problems by tomorrow?"

"Elizabeth, we haven't got problems, we--"

"John?" Elizabeth gave him a look. "Whatever it is, fix it."

Pushing down a wave of frustration, John nodded. "Yes, ma'am." Before she could ask anything else of him, he left.

Frustrating woman, John thought. Why hadn't she come out and said what she wanted him to do? Diplomacy didn't work well with him. He was more point and shoot.

Speaking of shooting things, Ronon was coming up the Gateroom stairs. "Sheppard."

"Ronon," John said, moving on. Ronon walked with him. "I hear you're telling Elizabeth your life story?"

"Like you ever asked." Ronon shook his head, dreadlocks flying. "She listens."

John bit back a groan. The last thing he needed was one of his team members and the leader of the expedition making googley eyes at each other over the briefing-room table. "Yes, she does," he said vaguely.

"Yeah. Anyway, we going?"

"Sure, why not?"

"Because you look like crap."

John stopped and stared at Ronon. "What?"

"Ever since Teyla got hurt, you've looked bad." Ronon propped himself up against a handy wall. "Why?"

"I'm fine," John said shortly. "Let's have a briefing in five hours to talk about this planet."

"No."

"No?"

"I'm not taking you to this place if you're sick," Ronon said. "You're too heavy to carry back to the Gate."

"You sonofa--"

"You're the only one Beckett didn't see after Teyla's accident," Ronon said, pushing off the wall. "If he says you can go, we go."

"What the hell gives you--"

"See you later," Ronon interrupted, walking away.

John breathed in through his nose, trying to avoid screaming at Ronon down the crowded hall. What gave the laconic man the right to tell him he looked like shit? John was the team leader here, not Ronon.

The really sad thing was that John wasn't running after him. I must be feeling worse than I thought.

And if he went to talk to Beckett, maybe he could get something for his perpetual headache.

Damn it.

~~~

"Why the bloody hell didn't you come to see me before?" Beckett demanded, stalking about the infirmary. "You're borderline anemic, you've got a potassium deficiency, and let's not even go into your metabolism!"

John shrugged. "It's not that bad. Right?"

Beckett glared, as if John had done all this to spite his doctor. "You're still functioning fine, barely." He pulled vials from the wall and set them on a tray. "But it's no wonder you feel like crap!"

"I wouldn't go that far--"

"That's what you said to the nurse, and I quote, 'I feel like crap'," Beckett shot at him, bringing out a needle. "All right, when did it start?"

"When did what start?"

Beckett pointed the needle at him. "You know damned well what."

John really didn't want the man to be pissed when he approached with pointy things, so he gave in. "The day Teyla got hurt."

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah. What's that?"

"An injectable vitamin," Beckett said. "And you need to eat better, I'll give you a diet plan." He expertly administered the vitamin shot. "Can you tell me what you did that day that did this?"

"What, besides having the city suck energy out of me to heal Teyla?" John asked, wrinkling his nose at the needle.

"What did you say?"

John raised an eyebrow as he pushed some gauze against the needle mark. "I told you about this."

"No you didn't, son. Start from the beginning."

John knew better than to argue with the Doc when he was in this mood. "When the beam hit us in the Gateroom, it felt like it ripped something out of me when Atlantis healed Teyla."

"Then what?"

"Then I've just been kind of slow ever since. It's nothing. I've had worse."

"It's not nothing," Beckett said. "What did you do that night, after you left the infirmary?"

John suddenly became very interested in the gauze. "Nothing much."

Becket shook his head. "Anything you tell me will be kept in confidence."

"No."

"Colonel, I'm not clearing you for duty until you tell me what happened that day." From the expression on the doctor's face, he meant it.

Goddamn it. John looked around, making sure no one else was within earshot. "Not much. I just, um, kind of freaked out and threw up. And had a cold shower." He went back to the gauze. "And got drunk and had sex and slept on a floor," he muttered.

Beckett pinched his lips together, like he wanted to bury his face in his hands, but he was too professional. "Do you try to make my life complicated?"

"Believe me when I say you were the furthest thing from my mind!" John exclaimed quietly.

Beckett shook his head. "Are your symptoms getting any worse?"

"No, it's a bit better."

"Fine." Beckett scribbled something on a pad of paper and handed a slip to John. "Eat this, get enough sleep, and come back to see me tomorrow. If you're looking better, I might clear you to go on this mission of Ronon's."

"Does everybody but me know about these ruins but me?" John demanded, reading the prescription.

"Yes. Now, unless you want me to strap you to a bed for some sleep, get out of my infirmary."

John stuffed the paper into his pocket. "What's your problem?"

"I have work to do."

"Is this about Teyla?"

Beckett sighed. "The two of you are adults."

"Yes, we are."

"And you're both bloody stubborn and annoying."

"Hey!"

"Look, Colonel, if my suspicious are right, then you were physiologically affected by that beam as well," Becket said. "You, negatively, while Teyla was healed. We know the Goa'uld sarcophagus affects the mind with repeated usage."

"That's not it," John told him. "That's not why-- That's not it."

"It might be." Becket made shooing motions with his hands. "Go eat. Come back tomorrow."

"Fine." John hopped off the bed, and didn't even sway. "Bye."

Just because he had been hit by that beam didn't mean everyone else in the city had to go crazy.

~~~

"Apple?"

Teyla looked up from her lunch. "That is not an apple."

John looked at it. "It's sort of apple-shaped."

"Do you want something?"

He slid into the seat across from her. "Yeah. Listen, we need to talk."

Was it his imagination, or did she blush? He didn't have time to ask, because she deliberately laid down her fork and pushed her lunch away. "Yes, we do."

"Right."

"Indeed."

They sat there for a few minutes, letting the sounds of the cafeteria wash over them. Then they both tried to speak at once.

"I am sorry," Teyla said, looking down at her hands.

"No, please go ahead," John said. This was turning into a bad comedy sketch, and he really didn't have the time or the energy. He needed to talk to Teyla, deal with Rodney, browbeat Ronon, yell at several Marines, and then maybe, maybe, get some sleep. He was tired just thinking about it.

"Thank you." Teyla drew a deep breath, then raised her gaze. "I need to apologize."

"You-- What?" Damn it, she was blushing. She looked downright mortified, and John had no idea why.

"I need to apologize for my... behavior, that night." Her word were deliberate, as if she'd practiced this little speech several times. "I was... overwrought, with all that had occurred, and I took liberties with our friendship and your inebriation."

It wasn't funny, but John felt hysterical laughter bubbling up in his chest. He ruthlessly shoved it down. Teyla might kill him if he started laughing now. "You really don't have to apologize--"

"Yes, I do."

"No," John said firmly. "You really don't." He leaned across the table so he could speak quietly. "I was coming over here to see if there was anything I could do to, you know, make us okay."

She stared at him for a long moment. "I think the best way to make us 'okay' would be to put this behind us and never discuss this again. Ever again."

"Deal."

Teyla smiled faintly and returned to her lunch tray. "Has Ronon spoken to you about his proposed mission?"

John rolled his eyes. "Is there anyone who doesn't know about this plan?"

"I believe that one of the chemists has been in the infirmary who does not know," Teyla said, spearing a small vegetable with her fork. "Dr. Weir has been very vocal about her enthusiasm for the mission."

John chose to let the more disturbing aspects of that sentence fly over his head. "So, rocks."

"Yes." Teyla smiled again. "You should tell Dr. McKay about the observation room."

The change of topic was a little too much for John. "Why?"

"Because it would be of great interest to him, you know how he is about the city."

"He's pretty busy these days." John tried to deflect Teyla's statement, uncomfortable with the sensation settling in his gut.

Teyla's smile turned to a frown. "Too busy for this?"

"You know how Rodney is." John realized with a shock that he was jealous. Of Rodney, putting his busy hands on Atlantis's inner workings. I need some serious help.

"I do." Teyla glared at John. "You must tell him of this."

"I will," John said defensively.

She narrowed her eyes at him, as if she didn't believe him.

"I will. Hey, how's things on the mainland?"

As distractions went, John knew she didn't fall for it, but still, she told him a story about how Jinto and his friend Wex had single-handedly built a fishing weir. The story was silly and light, and it gave John the tiniest bit of hope that he hadn't destroyed everything between them after all.

~~~

By comparison, the conversation with Rodney was a fucking disaster.

"Go away!"

"I can't go away, you jerk!" To illustrate his point, John sat his butt down in Rodney's work chair and crossed his arms over his chest. "We have to talk."

"I have nothing to say to you!" Rodney went back to work on his machine, and John started counting down from ten in his head. When he got to one, Rodney spun up and around. "How could you?"

"How could I what?" John asked in resignation. He was really, really glad that the lab was devoid of an audience.

Rodney waved his hands in the air. "Do that thing with Teyla?"

John narrowed his eyes. "What. Thing?" he said carefully.

"Oh, don't sit there and be all scary Air Force glowery at me," Rodney snapped. "You know damned well what I'm talking about!"

John counted to ten, then to twenty. When that failed to calm him down, he spoke anyway. "I'm only going to say this once. First off, it's none of your business. Second, Teyla and I have talked about this and come to an understanding, so it's not an issue. Do you understand?"

Rodney shook his head. "She almost died," he said after a minute, and there was something so unfamiliar in his voice that it took John a moment to realize what it was. Fear. "We almost... she almost died, and you shouldn't have done what you did."

Since John didn't disagree with Rodney, there was nothing he could say. So he left.

~~~

A day later, as John used the Jumper to dial up Ronon's world of ruins, Rodney and Teyla sat in the back flight chairs in a glowering silence. John tried to ignore them as the Jumper lowered into the Gateroom, but finally the silence became too much for him to deal with. Beckett had given him a clean bill of health, with the warning of no undue stress to his system, and Elizabeth had sent them on their way.

"Okay, fuck it." John held the Jumper in place before the open Stargate and turned around in his chair. "Are we going to be okay?" he asked Rodney and Teyla.

Teyla, who was pissed that John had not yet told Rodney about the Atlantis power room, raised her chin. "Perfectly fine," she bit out.

"Bullshit," John exclaimed. "Are we going to go through that Gate and be able to deal with whatever serious and fucked-up dangers we find? Because if not, I'm turning this Jumper around until we can sort out this mess."

Rodney and Teyla exchanged glances. John wasn't too sure if they knew why the other was mad, and he really didn't want to be around when Rodney tried to explain to Teyla he was trying to protect her virtue. Then Teyla shook her head. "I am willing to do that."

"Me too," Rodney said quickly. "Let's go."

John raised his eyebrows. Turning back to the front, he saw Ronon giving them all the 'those wacky Earthlings' look. "What about you?"

"I'm good."

"Jumper One," Elizabeth's voice came over their headsets. "Is there a problem?"

"Nah," John said, taking the controls again. "Just had to make sure Rodney brought enough gum for everyone. See you in a bit."

"Be safe," Elizabeth said, just as she did before every mission, and John flew the Jumper through the Gate.

"Trees," Rodney said dispiritedly when they shot out of the Gate on the other side. "It's always trees. Why is it always trees?"

"Come on, Rodney, trees are pretty," John said, pulling up the scanner.

"Pretty full of pollen. Alien pollen. Freaky alien trees wanting to have sex with our eyes."

Ronon made a choking sound. John faked a gag. "God, Rodney, can you be any grosser?" He looked over at Ronon. "Quick, tell me where to go."

"I can tell you where to go," Rodney grumbled, but it was quiet enough that John could pretend he didn't hear.

"Three tarlaks that way," Ronon said, pointing. John did the conversion from Satedan measurement to imperial, and came up with six miles. "There is a rise in the cliff face, with some flat space to leave the ship."

"I see it," John muttered. He scanned the area for ships, but there was no sign of anything unusual. "Looks like the Wraith aren't here."

"Looks like," Ronon agreed. "When I was here before, there were no humans I could find."

"How long did it take the Wraith to find you here?" Teyla asked from the backseat.

Ronon stared out the window, expressionless. "Four days," he finally said.

Four days. Seven years on the run from the Wraith, after having his home world destroyed. Fuck. And I was freaking out because I had to fight Voldemort for seven years, John thought. At least he'd had some good times in those years. First kiss, good friends, a chance to be normal, if only for a little while. He hadn't had to sleep with one eye open all that time.

"It's over there." Ronon pointed down at a tiny clearing beside a sloping stone hill.

"Okay." John touched the Jumper down in the space, branches brushing the sides of the ship as they landed. "Gear up, everyone. We're looking for all kinds of threats, dangers, anything that might eat the archeologists."

"Or us."

"Or us, Rodney." John set the cloak over the ship, and was the last to leave. His team was already standing outside, armed to the teeth and ready for anything. "Everybody remember where we parked."

"That wasn't funny when Kirk did it in Star Trek IV," Rodney groused as he hurried to keep up with Ronon.

"Yeah, but I've got better hair," John quipped back.

"And we are not looking for whales," Teyla added. Rodney and John both turned around to look at her, John's eyes bugging out. "What? Major Lorne brought the movies with him from Earth."

"Major Lorne is into Star Trek?" Rodney asked, incredulous.

"General O'Neill suggested it," Teyla said, and nodded ahead of them. "We are going to lose Ronon."

Further over the ridge, Ronon was already halfway up the hill. "Fine," John said. "Ladies first."

Teyla's eyebrow went up. "For what purpose?"

"Because..." John's voice trailed off. Saying 'because you're a girl' would get his ass kicked, and going for the injury angle would lead them back to subject better left in the past. "Because I'm team leader and I should be in the back."

"Yes, you are team leader, but that means you should be in the middle, in case of an emergency," Teyla replied, anger heating her words.

"Oh, for God's sake!" Rodney exclaimed. "Can't you two fight about this later?"

John and Teyla looked at Rodney, then at each other. John could tell the same thing occurred to Teyla. "Fine, Rodney." John clapped a hand on Rodney's shoulder. "You can bring up the rear." He and Teyla started walking.

"What? No! That's not what I meant!"

~~~

"That... wasn't... fair."

"If you stop talking, Rodney, you'll get your breath back faster," John advised, hauling Rodney up the last few steps into the cave. "It's not like Teyla or I would have let anything eat you."

Rodney panted and raised wide eyes to Teyla. She took pity on him, as she always did when he was inches away from hyperventilating. "We would have ensured your safety, Dr. McKay."

"Good!" Rodney puffed. "Great."

John thumped Rodney on the back in a friendly manner, then glanced down as his life signs detector. Only the four of them. "Hey, Ronon, where are these ruins?"

"In here," Ronon's disembodied voice drew them deeper into the cave.

"That's interesting," Rodney said.

"Define interesting," Teyla asked, the light from her P-90 sweeping the cave floor.

"Oh God, oh God, we're all going to die?" John said.

"Would you stop quoting science fiction movies?" Rodney demanded. "I mean there are residual power readings coming from somewhere in this cave."

"How powerful?" John asked him. There was something pricking at the back of his head, something he should know. It wasn't the power Atlantis gave off, it was different, older.

It made him want to run.

"I can't tell you that, not until we find the source. It might be shielded."

"Over here," Ronon said. His voice led them toward a large crack in the wall. Rodney went first, then Teyla. John shone his light back the way they had come, illuminating their footprints on the dusty floor.

"This is amazing!" Rodney exclaimed.

John turned to ask him what was so neat. As he moved his foot, he stepped over a magical circle of protection, the spell tingling up through his body as his flashlight swept over the Celtic runes inscribed in the floor and the walls, all the way up to the ceiling.

He forgot how to breathe, to react, anything, as his flashlight came to rest on an ancient stone archway, cracked and crumbling. The tattered black veil that hung over the unsupported archway fluttered very slightly in the still air of the cave, as if it had just been touched.

Harry saw Sirius duck Bellatrix's jet of red light: he was laughing at her.

"Come on, you can do better than that!" he yelled, his voice echoing around the cavernous room.

The second jet of light hit him squarely in the chest.

The laughter had not quite died from his face, but his eyes widened in shock..

It seemed to take Sirius an age to fall: his body curved in a graceful arc as he sank backwards through the ragged veil handing from the arch.


"No."

to be continued
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