Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis
Rating: PG-13, gen, AU from season 3ish
Summary: Sheppard tries to reunite his team and go home for real.
Word Count: 12,165 (total)
Author's note: The sequel to This to me is how to leave matters unresolved and its sequel I Can't Ask These Questions That Cannot Be Answered, an unintentional series that developed out of reader response to the first story. The series is now complete. Likely to make no sense without reading the first two. If you have enjoyed this, please drop me a comment.
The drive was long and boring. Sheppard tried to spend it asleep in the backseat, but every time he nodded off Teyla would thread her hand through his arms and find his neck, searching for a pulse. He finally tried to swat her away, and she just dug her nails into his skin.
“Ouch!” He sat up, rubbing the stinging lines on his throat. “Teyla, if I’m resisting, I’m clearly not dying!”
“This is a terrible idea,” McKay said, for about the thousandth time. He glanced in the rearview mirror and he looked so worried that Sheppard reluctantly sat up and leaned against the seat back so everyone could see just how conscious he was.
“I’m fine,” Sheppard said. “Believe me, if I suddenly become not fine, it won’t be subtle.”
“We know,” McKay snapped.
“You must not remember how frightening your condition was,” Teyla said, curled up in the front passenger seat so she could look at him.
Sheppard had no memory of either Teyla or Rodney being with him in the infirmary, but that probably just meant they’d been around when he’d been unconscious. He guessed that reminding them that he had every clue of how much that time had sucked wouldn’t make them any more enthusiastic about driving ever closer to the Stargate. He put his hands up in surrender, dropping the topic and the effort to sleep through the flat, dry lands rolling past the windows.
They ended up in a little town called
“No,” McKay said. “That
They arranged the rendezvous to happen in the Wallmart parking lot, a setting that didn’t make anyone feel particularly thrilled with their plan. Sheppard felt like he was preparing for something incredibly melodramatic. Even if they were under surveillance, it probably wasn’t any better than staying in the hotel room. If they weren’t, well, they were loitering like teenage drug dealers by the Wallmart loading dock for no real reason.
The meeting time came and passed. McKay’s face fell, but Teyla continued to stare out patiently at the road.
“Forget it,” McKay snapped. “This isn’t happening.”
“Give it fifteen minutes,” Sheppard said. He didn’t actually believe that would do anything but give them more time to stew, but it was polite and Teyla still looked hopeful.
“Would you come?” McKay asked, his mouth set in a sneer.
Sheppard glanced at him. “Obviously.”
“Not you you!” McKay hopped off the bumper and threw an arm out towards the empty oncoming road. “Someone I knew two years ago came to me and asked me if wanted to commit treason against the
“We are simply old friends,” Teyla corrected. “Reuniting. We have not asked for anything illegal.”
McKay harrumphed and dropped his weight back on the edge of the car, bouncing it in place and Sheppard had to catch himself with a crutch before he lost his balance. “Some friend,” McKay muttered.
But a few minutes later, a beige station wagon pulled into the parking lot, crept past the rows of empty spaces and turned towards the loading dock. Sheppard could see the figure in the driver’s seat peering anxiously around. They were hard to miss, but he lifted a hand and waved, anyway. Teyla took a tentative step forward, relief filling her face.
“Thank God,” McKay said. Sheppard poked him in the side with the end of his crutch. “Ow! Hey!”
“Have faith,” Sheppard said, as the station wagon’s door popped open and the driver scrambled out.
Dr. Jennifer Keller hugged him so hard he forcibly redirected her hands because he genuinely thought she was busting his stitches.
“It is so good to see you, Colonel,” Keller said. Unfortunately, she immediately noticed that he was moving her hands and responded by pulling the hem of his shirt up, peering down to assess the injury. “Oh, my god. I’m sorry.” But then she was pressing against his wound with the tips of her finger, and that hurt like hell.
Finally, she released him and went to greet McKay and Teyla. Sheppard leaned back against the car and touched his stitches gingerly.
“Which one of you brought him here?” he heard Keller ask, even with her arms around McKay’s neck. She sounded kind of mad.
“Teyla,” McKay said, even though Sheppard distinctly remembered McKay agreeing to the plan, first.
“I did not think we could convince him to remain in
“I said he wouldn’t have a choice if we took his crutches and tied him to something in the house,” McKay retorted, apparently quoting a conversation he and Teyla had had in private.
“What?” Demanded Sheppard.
“Do you have any idea how dangerous this is?” Keller asked, letting go of McKay. “I was afraid I was going to get here and you’d be comatose and having a seizure.”
“I feel fine,” Sheppard said, placidly. “I got a little headache when we went farther than this town, but that might have had something to do with spending three hours in the car with these two.”
McKay snorted and Teyla shot Sheppard a hurt look. He ignored it, since she’d been driving when the headache and nausea had started, and that was why he couldn’t tell if it was the Pegasus voodoo or simply normal bodily fear in response to the expectation of shortly dying in a fiery car crash.
“Sounds scientific,” Keller said, unknowingly echoing half of McKay’s sarcastic opinion from earlier. She crossed her arms. “I’m going to want to examine you fully.”
“That’s not why we called,” Sheppard said, settling his arms so that she couldn’t poke at his stitches again.
“No,” Keller said, “But that was part of why I agreed to come.”
No one had told Sheppard that. He looked from McKay to Teyla and back again.
“That is correct,” Teyla said, and she didn’t look the slightest bit guilty.
“We thought you might be dead at this point,” McKay said, defensively.
Sheppard glared, wondering what else they’d talked about that they hadn’t bothered to share.
What followed had to be the least fun Sheppard had ever had while half-dressed in the backseat of a car with a girl. They could have just gone back to the hotel room, but this way he didn’t really have to cooperate fully since the cramped seating provided a lot of unintentional resistance all on its own. Also, McKay and Teyla had to find some place else to be, even if initially McKay had made to stand right beside the passenger door.
“There is going to be blood,” Sheppard heard Teyla inform McKay. He made a face and a few minutes later she was hauling him towards the customer entrance of Wallmart.
Sheppard really hoped there wasn’t going to be any of his blood, but it also looked like Keller had ransacked a hospital for everything that would fit through the door and filled the rear of her station wagon with it. He tried to point out that he’d pretty much literally just come out of yet another hospital, as the stitches and cast should clearly illustrate. Keller didn’t budge, and she launched into a reasonable imitation of a standard physical.
He tried to answer her questions; most of it was stuff he hadn’t thought about in years and seemed totally irrelevant given that he was fine now and trying to fix the disaster that had happened in between.
The dark tinting of Keller’s windows shielded them slightly from the eyes of the viewing public. Providing they weren’t arrested for public indecency by some keen eyed
“You want me to cut your subdermal transmitter out?” Keller asked, after capping off a second tube of his blood and caching it in a mini-cooler.
Startled, Sheppard touched his arm. Keller moved his fingers lower. “It’s right there.” She said. “I took out Teyla’s and Rodney’s,” she said. “A long time ago.”
“Did Rodney cry?” Sheppard asked. She rolled her eyes. Yeah,” he said, proffering his arm. “Yeah.”
It began to feel more right, now. More like a covert operation against his own government, one that was just as well organized and plotted out as hack and slash surgery in the parking lot of a Wallmart. Keller was, of course, very careful and utterly sanitary about it, but the meaning stayed.
“It’s not deep,” she said, stabbing him in the arm with something that immediately burned. For a second he was lightheaded enough to sway, and in that moment it occurred to him Keller could have been sent here to thwart their effort before it began, and that she could have done it just like that. He moved away from her, getting only as far as the other side of the car, of course, and she slid down the seat to follow.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
A strange, asymmetric numbness was spreading, replacing the burning sensation. It was local anesthetic. Sheppard relaxed as she took his arm back and began to sterilize his skin.
“Ronon,” he said.
Keller sighed. “I couldn’t…I mean, obviously I couldn’t. I did tell him, though, that it wasn’t like the other one. He knew he could cut it out himself.”
Sheppard stared at her face, watching the way she concentrated on the task at hand. He could feel pressure against his arm, a vague tickle that meant he was probably already bleeding.
“You saw him a lot?” he asked, aware that now was not a good time to distract her.
“At first,” she said, not looking up. “Rodney tried to pull the same thing he and Teyla did.” She frowned. “It didn’t work.”
“Lying isn’t Ronon’s thing,” she said, and now she flicked her eyes up briefly, as checking to see if in fact he did remember that.
Sheppard’s chest heaved. “I know,” he said.
“Got it.” He felt more pressure, almost a tugging, and then something metallic clinked softly against the basin sitting between them. Keller held gauze against his arm, and when he looked down he could see the edges turning crimson.
After Keller washed it off, he held the tiny microchip on the tip of one finger. It looked fragile and insignificant.
“I keep mine in my bra,” Keller said.
He looked up, confused. “What?”
“Destroying it is a little obvious,” she said. “I figure it’ll draw more attention than its worth. But I like to know I can trash it if I need to, after all this.”
“Attention,” he agreed. “Maybe I shouldn’t let whoever monitors this know it’s out yet.”
“Yeah,” she said, and switched back to the medical questions. “How long have you had that cast on?”
“Couple weeks,” he said. “It’s a bitch.”
“I can get you a walking cast,” she said. His crutches were shoved in the rear.
“Okay,” he said, watching as she gathered up the equipment and began to put it away. “I need you to tell me about Ronon.”
Keller didn’t stop packing, balling up the bloody gauze and shoving it into a grocery bag. “I came here for that, too.”
“Rodney’s told me a little, but he wasn’t there for when Ronon escaped.”
“I didn’t help.” Keller said. She stripped off her latex gloves, dropping each into the trash. “I told him where the subdermal tracker was, that’s all I did.”
Sheppard didn’t say anything. He figured she’d been in the brig by now if she had helped, and she probably knew that.
“Did someone help?” he asked.
“I think so.” She shrugged. “They all thought it was you guys.” She paused. “Um, I mean Rodney and Teyla.”
“I guess he couldn’t wait,” Keller said. She peered at him. “You’re looking a little pale. You should eat something.”
She had a juice box with cartoon characters in one of the compartments near the driver’s seat. He was glad she realized she’d just sucked his blood, and it wasn’t necessarily more Pegasus voodoo at work.
“A lot of people would have helped,” she said. “But it was pretty crazy. Most of the international crew weren’t around anymore. Except Rodney. You can imagine how calm and reasonable he was.”
“I think about as calm and reasonable as I would have been,” Sheppard replied.
“They did a pretty good job keeping it secret,” Keller continued. “I think a lot of people thought he left with Teyla. They put him in solitary confinement because he was dangerous and the only reason I heard anything after that was the medical staff talks.”
“How’d he get out?” Sheppard asked.
“I don’t know. He took one of the archaeologists hostage, though, used their access card to get through most of the security.”
Sheppard imagined Ronon had probably also used a lot more to get through the SFs.
“He kill anyone?”
“No.” But her voice had a tinge of not for lack of trying.
“Well,” Sheppard said, “At least there’s that.”
“I don’t really know what else to say,” Keller said. “I don’t know where he is.”
“He hasn’t tried to contact Rodney or Teyla,” Sheppard said.
“Or me,” Keller added. “I’m not really surprised, to be honest. I wouldn’t want to talk to us, either.”
Even if he wanted to hear her opinion, Sheppard didn’t have to like it.
“This isn’t his planet,” he said. “This isn’t even his galaxy. He doesn’t understand how this place works."
Keller shrugged. “I think Ronon of all people can figure it out. Honestly, Colonel, I’d rather we don’t know where he is than he be locked up in a cage again by certain crazy xenophobes in the IOA and NID.”
“I’m not trying to bring him in,” Sheppard said.
Keller went quiet. “I can drop a few hints around the mountain that you’re looking,” she said. “Okay?”
Sheppard wasn’t sure that was a fantastic idea. It might unearth whoever had helped Ronon get out, but it would also certainly alert anyone interested in bringing him back.
“Okay,” he said.
“I don’t want you going anywhere near the SGC,” Keller continued. “I mean it. You dying isn’t going to help find Ronon.”
“Ronon’s not in the SGC,” he said, reasonably.
Keller was looking out the window, towards the Wallmart. “You should probably keep Teyla as far away as possible, too.”
Sheppard followed her eyes; McKay and Teyla were walking from the exit. McKay was holding a paper sack.
“Why?” he asked, darkly. “She hasn’t said anything.”
“I’ve heard about growing interest in her Wraith abilities,” Keller said. She coughed pointedly. “Something they didn’t know about before Rodney got her out.”
“Got it,” he said, and tried not to be utterly horrified.
Sheppard put his shirt back on and managed to be more or less back together with the door open and his crutches in hand by the time McKay and Teyla returned.
“You look pale,” Teyla said. She reached inside Rodney’s paper bag and produced a package of raisins. “You should eat.”
She was looking very concerned, so he took it. “Thanks, Teyla.” He tipped his head at Keller. “She’s a vampire.”
“I bought donuts,” piped up McKay, and dropped the bag in Sheppard’s lap.
“Get your blood sugar back up,” Keller agreed.
They were the chocolate-coated mini kind, and Sheppard immediately abandoned Teyla’s raisins. He would have said thank you to McKay, except that Keller casually lifted his crutches up and walked away, stopping just out of earshot where McKay and Teyla joined her. If the effort to distract him had been any more skillful than chocolate donuts and they’d done anything more sinister than stand directly in front of him while quite clearly talking about him, Sheppard might have been pissed.
Instead, he stuffed a donut in his mouth and rapped his knuckles against the side of Keller’s car in annoyance. “Guys!”
The conversation was short. Keller brought his crutches back, at the same time that Teyla made a beeline for the back of the car and opened the trunk. She and McKay began transferring the boxes of medical crap into McKay’s car.
“That for me?” Sheppard asked, pointlessly.
Keller pulled a pen and pad of paper from her purse. She’d scribbled a bunch of names and phone numbers on the first page, and she ripped it out and handed it over. It was pretty much every medical professional in
“Go back to Colonel Mitchell’s house,” Keller said, sounding mostly hopeless.
“Colonel Mitchell’s cousin rents Rodney the house in
“Oh,” he said. “Who’s Colonel Mitchell?”
“He leads SG-1,” Keller said. “He’s a good guy.”
Repeating her suggestion to return to
They spent another two weeks in
Teyla sat up, squinting in the darkness while Sheppard tried to reconnect everything. He was pretty sure he’d lost a couple decades of his life from the near heart attack he’d had each time the alarms sounded directly next to his sleeping head, and if Teyla hadn’t been watching he’d have turned the whole system off and been done with it. He thought that was why she watched him.
Unfortunately, while she supervised him, McKay realized he’d have to get out of bed to retrieve his pillow so he reached over and swiped hers, shoved it under his head and rolled away from her with his arms wrapped tightly around it.
Sheppard couldn’t see in what followed in the dark, but it involved Teyla asking for her pillow back, McKay grumbling, and then an undignified squeal that resulted in him returning it immediately and stumbling out of bed looking for the one he’d hurled away. If moving wasn’t likely to make the monitors come loose again, Sheppard would have found a way to keep it hostage for the rest of the night.
As much as he’d missed his team – and he had, even if he hadn’t really told them that – being confined in a tiny hotel room together did nothing to make up for the two years he’d lost. In the interest of peace and tranquility and no one beating anyone else to death with Sheppard’s crutches, McKay found the one WiFi hotspot in town, took his laptop, and vanished to do some work.
Sheppard and Teyla were left to entertain themselves. Teyla had little interest in watching television, which reduced their options drastically. He tried to argue that he’d been deprived of it for his entire time on Atlantis and also
Those two weeks were all it took for Sheppard to notice something that sucked: he didn’t feel fantastic. It was tempting to blame the general feeling of fatigue on sharing a room with McKay and Teyla, who for not really being married had developed the irritatingly intimate habit of whispering to each other before they slept. But he couldn’t blame them for the mild nausea that began to surface after every meal and the fact that he sometimes vanished into the bathroom like an anorexic girl afterwards. He got headaches that came and went, annoying but not crippling. The general aches and pains from the Apache crash intensified, as well. It sucked. It was barely comparable to the nightmare he remembered in the Atlantis infirmary in terms of pain, but at the same time it was completely comparable in every other way and that was scary as hell.
Sheppard did not say a word about it to Teyla or McKay. He was vaguely curious if the monitors he wore at night would reflect any kind of decline. Keller was going to collect the readings at the end of the week, and he had every intention of lying to her as well.
Teyla didn’t like television, but she did like walking aimlessly around Wallmart. Sheppard didn’t even try to keep up with her, he just hopped into one of those motorized carts for the disabled or morbidly obese and laid his crutches across his lap. McKay was absolutely mortified, accused Sheppard of re-enacting the Daytona 500 in the aisles – initially, he had a point – and refused to be seen in the same section of the store with him.
The stupid cart didn’t have that much zoom, though, so after a while Sheppard just kept pace with Teyla. He wished he’d been around when she first saw a Wallmart, back when McKay said she tried to barter. Now, as much as she liked to pick merchandise up and touch it, she hardly every wanted to buy anything and McKay said straight capitalism bored her.
A few days before Keller was scheduled to visit again, Teyla asked him if he thought there would be any news of Ronon.
“Not unless he wants there to be,” Sheppard said, truthfully.
“I agree,” Teyla said, and went back to sniffing the body spray from a purple-colored bath set. She didn’t like to wear the lotions – she said it felt artificial and stifling on her skin, but she thought the arrangements were attractive and the scents were interesting. “I hope that Jennifer was correct,” she said, moving along to a pinker set of bottles. “That he had help escaping and is among friends.”
“He’s not among us,” Sheppard said.
“No,” she said. “I still find it strange that he chose to run to the surface.”
“The surface,” she said. “When I planned my escape, I intended to go through the Stargate.”
Sheppard blinked at her. “Your escape?” He didn’t bother cautioning her to be more discreet. Mostly he no longer cared, but the aisle was empty and this was Wallmart.
“I had many plans,” Teyla said. “Rodney discouraged them all and then he was able to secure my release. But none of my plans were to remain here.” She wrinkled her nose, losing interest in the bath sets. “I assume Ronon has the same goal as I do: to return home.”
Sheppard didn’t say anything, but he noted her use of the present tense and then found he really couldn’t say anything.
Later, when he and McKay went to pick up dinner from
“Maybe we should ask her why she’s still working there, huh?” he muttered.
“We need to keep Teyla away from the SGC,” Sheppard said. “We can’t let her –”
McKay rolled his eyes and interrupted. “Believe it or not, the only thing Teyla has let me do through out this whole thing is marry her.”
Sheppard sat back, confused. “What?”
“I’m not an idiot! I didn’t just take the
“Mrs. Meredith Rodney McKay,” Sheppard interrupted, since McKay wasn’t getting to the point.
“Oh shut up!”
“What didn’t she want you to do?”
“I tried to get her out of the country,” McKay said. “I tried to send her to my sister in
“Oh.” Sheppard paused.
“I mean it’s not like they couldn’t still – if they wanted to be internationally criminal – which they probably don’t have any qualms about, actually – but, I thought, it’d be harder and more laws and –”
“That was smart,” Sheppard interrupted. “She should have gone.”
“I know!” McKay twisted his face up. “She wanted to find Ronon, and she wouldn’t leave the country, and I sure as hell couldn’t make her do anything!” McKay dropped his voice. “She got a bunch of amnesty offers from the EU before, and she wouldn’t take them because someone showed her a map of where the
“Zelenka?” Sheppard asked. “You were gonna let her marry Zelenka?”
“He came up with the marriage thing,” McKay admitted, quietly. “And hell no.”
“The things they might have in mind for her…” Sheppard began.
“Don’t think I haven’t imagined it! I had months, John. At this point I wouldn’t even put vivisection past them.” McKay went as if to cross his arms in anger, then remembered he was driving and savagely grabbed the wheel. “I hate this.”
Sheppard let the car go silent until they were on their way back from the restaurant, their order steaming in Styrofoam boxes in the backseat.
“You ever talk to the IOA?” he asked, mildly.
McKay laughed bitterly. “They call about once a month,” he said, “trying to get me to come work for them again. I like to remind them they’re heinously unethical not to mention hilariously incompetent and there had better be a Wraith cruiser over my head before I ever do anything for them again, so they should fuck off.”
“Hmm,” Sheppard said.
McKay looked at him. “What?”
“Maybe next time they call, you should say something else.”
“What? Why? You can’t possibly-”
“Because,” Sheppard interrupted, wrapping one arm around his midsection and wishing the scent of dinner wasn’t already making him nauseated. “Teyla wants to go home.”
That was how Sheppard and Teyla ended up driving back to
Sheppard tried to lie to Keller, too, but that worked less well.
The machine monitoring him at night had some kind of memory disc that Keller plugged into her laptop, producing an incomprehensible screen which apparently told her things like ‘poor oxygenation’ and ‘increased heart rate’.
“I feel fine,” Sheppard said, and shrugged.
They were in the hotel room this time, and McKay and Teyla were giving him all the privacy of sitting on their bed rather than his. He wouldn’t have minded, since he was fully clothed and intending to stay that way, but then they started participating in the examination.
“Liar,” McKay said, immediately.
“He is getting headaches,” Teyla said. “Frequently.”
Before Keller could even ask him to confirm it, McKay went on. “And he’s puking a lot.”
Sheppard glared at them, betrayed, and Keller looked accusingly at him while she scribbled in her notepad.
“Thanks,” he said, sarcastically, while Keller said it completely genuinely.
“Colonel,” she said, and waited.
“Headaches, nausea, vomiting, general fatigue, and two really nosy roommates,” he ticked off.
He was surprised she didn’t yell at all.
“You know the only course of treatment, Colonel,” she said, flatly.
“Yeah,” he said.
“We will return to
He shot her an annoyed look, anyway. “Ronon?” he asked Keller.
“I spread it around that you’re back,” Keller said. “No one bit. I think you might get a fruit basket or something from your old soldiers, though.”
“Fantastic,” McKay muttered. “You’ve been a huge help.”
Keller scowled. “Actually, your name came up a lot more, McKay. Something went boom on one of the Daedalus-class ship – burned a lot of people – and they’re having trouble fixing it so that it won’t happen again. I got asked if now that Sheppard’s back, you’re rejoining the program.”
“What?” McKay looked offended. “I didn’t quit because of him, I quit because of what they did to Ronon and Teyla, among every other evil and stupid thing…”
Keller waved him off. “Maybe someone will contact you, Colonel.”
In a quiet curious voice, McKay asked, “What went boom?”
Things went boom all the time. The only reason anyone was asking about McKay this time was because they’d called Keller and had her do more name-dropping.
Sheppard wasn’t too worried about McKay. He didn’t really have to do any acting. No one expected him to be calm or play nice in general, let alone after the terms on which he’d left. McKay genuinely missed getting to play with classified technology and the IOA would believe that was why he’d come back. Providing he could keep his mouth shut enough to gain both trust and access to any kind of ship that could handle an intergalactic journey, they’d eventually have Teyla’s ticket home.
And maybe they’d eventually have Ronon to send with her.
It weighed heavily on Sheppard’s mind as he and Teyla drove back to
It bothered him to be going the opposite direction, while McKay headed north with Keller. If he didn’t imagine another SWAT team coming for Teyla, it would have been more tempting to drive her back to Rodney’s house, and then take off. Except he’d already gotten sick 3 hours from the SGC, any closer and he might not even be awake.
He must have been radiating angry vibes, because Teyla poked him in the shoulder.
“I do not like this, either,” she said. “But you would not be safe.”
“Neither would you,” he said, kind of ruining the plan to be subtle about it.
Teyla gave a mild shrug. “I am not afraid.” She shifted in her seat, resting her chin in her hand.
“This sucks,” Sheppard said, and drove faster.