Time crawled on the Hive ship, day after day spent sitting around in my cell with nothing to do. If Michael had deliberately set out to torture me he couldn’t have come up with a better way ... under normal circumstances I would have been tearing my hair out but with the added pressure thinking about what was going on back in Atlantis brought it had me feeling close to the edge every second of every day.
My sessions with Michael had gotten a lot more disturbing too – that was the only time everything sped up, in the minutes before the next session was due to begin. I hated the lab with a vengeance – the Wraith decor, the machines surrounding the examination table, and the table itself. I really, really hated that table, being strapped down every time with metal clamps at wrists and ankles. It reminded me too much of Walker’s ranch ... and it worried me that as the days went by images from then and now were becoming confused inside my mind.
“How's Teyla?” I began the latest session the way I did all of them.
“Her child is well ... it will not be long before he arrives,” Michael’s answers were always about the baby despite my poor attempts to remind him that Teyla was important too ... every time I asked her directly how she was doing she would always reassure me that she was fine.
“Have you ever delivered a baby before?” that was a new question that had him glancing directly at me intently. “It’s just that there can be complications sometimes ... you need to be prepared.”
“I have taken every precaution necessary,” Michael assured me smugly ... I’d gotten pretty good at tuning in to the fringes of his thoughts without him noticing and he let something slip then. He had a place set up somewhere ... I saw grey buildings and a room full of equipment before his thoughts turned to focus on me. “Shall we begin?”
He had developed a technique for hooking his test subjects into the neural network both so that he could control them during the transformation process but also so that he could directly test the specific characteristics he was after. I wasn’t a test subject ... yet, but using that technique on me seemed to be how he was targeting specific genetic aspects ... the ones he wanted for his hybrids. In essence I think he was trawling through my entire genetic code looking for things he could add ... with the aid of his altered neural network.
Mentally it was beyond uncomfortable ... the flashes of sound and vision he used to confuse while he did his work. I had tried to find a way around all that when he’d first hooked me up but quickly realised I wouldn’t be able to, not easily anyway. Given enough time I could probably come up with a way to counteract his neural noise but I hadn’t gotten there yet.
The worst thing was that switching the machine off and unhooking me didn’t switch it off in my head. Back in my cell sometimes it would be hours before I could calm my thoughts enough to hold a controlled conversation with Teyla. After three or fours days I had a constant headache pounding behind my eyes that also made it difficult to sleep.
The session ended like all the others, Michael switching everything off, glaring at me in frustration like I was deliberately stopping him from finding what he wanted. He’d storm out of the lab and a hybrid would turn up immediately after to take me back to my cell. My cell that was always guarded because Michael knew I could open the door any time I wanted and he didn’t trust that his threats to Teyla’s health would be enough to keep me from exercising that.
This time I struggled hard to get everything back under control so I could tell Teyla what I found.
“It was not as bad today?” she asked hopefully after I’d made the connection. I knew she was worried because every day it took me longer and longer to check in with her.
“About the same,” I replied dismissively. She didn’t need to hear the specifics of what Michael was doing to me. “I must have found it easier to shut it all off because I found something out today. Michael has what looked like a maternity ward set up on a planet somewhere. I don’t know when but eventually that’s where we’ll be going.”
“Does that help us?” Teyla queried.
“I’m not sure,” I admitted. “It means maybe we’ll have an opportunity to get away ... assuming the planet has a Stargate and it will because Michael’s too paranoid for it not to. We haven’t been off this ship in nearly two weeks and I was beginning to worry Michael was waiting until you had the baby here before doing anything. So it’s something.”
“It is,” Teyla agreed, trying to be positive.
“Listen, I need you to agree to something,” I began, letting her feel my concern for her and her son. “If we get to the stage where you think you’re close to going into labour you have to let me know. I want you to agree that if that happens you’ll give up on Kanaan and the others ... only for the moment ... and let me get you out of here the way I intended when we first arrived.”
“What about your guards?” Teyla knew things would be more difficult now.
“I’ll think of something if I know I have your agreement,” I insisted.
“I will agree to this but only if you agree to something in return,” Teyla proposed. “On the planet, if you get a chance to get to the Stargate you’ll take it whether I am with you or not. You will go back to Atlantis and bring back help.”
“Teyla,” I protested emotionally. “I don’t think I can leave you behind like that ... what if I didn’t make it back in time?”
“It is the only way I will agree to leave Kanaan and the others here on the ship,” Teyla insisted. “Are we in agreement?”
Doing the mental equivalent of a frustrated growl I eventually gave in. “Deal.”
The next day Michael was even grimmer than usual and I couldn’t resist digging at him over it.
“Something not going to plan?” I asked hopefully. When he remained silent I persisted. “Come on, this place is beyond boring – the least you could do is provide a little entertainment.”
“Quiet,” Michael ordered grimly. I tapped his thoughts quickly, picked up a hint of what had him so steamed up.
Just like the day before, once back in my cell I got on to Teyla as quickly as I could.
“He’s angry,” I told her almost happily. “Something happened and he had to change course and it’s really got him worked up. I think we might be going to that planet I told you about yesterday a little earlier than he intended.”
“And this is good?” Teyla asked.
“This is very good,” I confirmed. “If means we’ll be in the one place for longer because he won’t bother moving us again before you deliver. That means more time to get out under our own steam through the Stargate or for John and the others to catch up with us!”
“I will try harder with Kanaan,” Teyla promised.
“Michael says the baby will arrive soon,” Teyla reported later that day. “There was an alarm of some kind and he left me with Kanaan. He is scared that if he helps me Michael will kill him and the others but ... I believe if it comes down to a choice between harming our child and risking Michael’s wrath he will help us.”
“That’s good enough for me,” I got up decisively. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
“I am not in my cell,” Teyla put a spanner in the works with that one. “I am in the lab Michael uses to check on the baby’s progress.”
“Any idea where that is?” I asked hopefully.
“I am afraid not,” Teyla replied unhappily. “Only that it is not on the same level and that we passed many doors on our way here.”
“Okay,” I readjusted my plans and added in a trip to auxiliary controls. “Just hang in there Teyla.”
Closing the connection I paced back and forth thinking about my options. I had two guards outside to get around before I could get to Teyla. When the idea occurred to me I decided just to go with it.
I clutched at my head dramatically and screamed like there was no tomorrow, until my throat felt raw. Interspersing that with moans and producing some pretty credible tears I threw myself into the pretence completely, hardly paying attention to see if it was working yet.
When the webbing over the door retracted I didn’t react, just kept screaming and clutching at my head like I was in extreme agony. It wasn’t that hard to be convincing ... all I had to do was tap into my memory of Walker’s serum and I was there.
“Stop!” one of my hybrid guards grabbed at my arm and tried to pull it away from my face.
I let instinct take over ... his weapon was in my hand less than a second later and I used it without hesitation. He went down with a loud groan, drawing the other guard into the room. He got off a shot that grazed my arm but my aim was true. One shot had him stumbling forward and the next stretched out on the floor.
“I can’t believe that worked!” I said aloud, surprised that using such a tired cliché to trick the guards had actually been so effective. Clearly the Wraith would have to start watching Earth TV to get a handle on all our defensive techniques!
Running from the room I headed in the same direction I had last time, the closest place to check the systems and see where Teyla was.
I was halfway there when the ship’s motion changed ... we were out of hyperspace. Realising that time might be shorter than I’d been counting on I dispensed with the stealthy way I’d been checking corners and just ran. Lucky for me there weren’t any guards and I made it to the console a few minutes later.
As before there wasn’t a map with a flashing path leading to the lab where Teyla was being held. Michael had four different labs on the ship – I knew where the one he’d used for me was and one was too far from Teyla’s cell to be likely so I ruled both of them out. That just left two possibilities, either of which could be the right one. Wishing Rodney and his enhanced laptop were there to narrow that down to one I looked at each, trying to see something that would help me decide.
There wasn’t, so choosing one at random I ran out of the room again.
This time I had to take more time than I liked to check the way before me – I was travelling down unfamiliar corridors now and had no sense of whether guards would be posted along the way. The schematics did have that kind of information but memorising all positions for both locations with the massive headache I was still sporting was a bit beyond my current capabilities.
I had to change course twice and hide in an empty room to avoid guards but eventually I made it to the first lab. There were no guards and I knew immediately it wasn’t the right one.
“How’re you doing Teyla?” I stopped for a minute to make contact.
“I am ...,” I heard the pain in her voice, waited with her through the contraction.
“You’re in labour,” I felt that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach ... we’d run out of time. “Hang on ... just ... hang on. I’m on my way.” Clearly I had no idea how to comfort a pregnant woman in labour on a scary alien ship.
Feeling a huge sense of urgency now I changed direction and headed for the second lab location I’d gotten off the control console. I was thrown against the wall when the first hit shook the ship. We were under attack! “Please let that be one of ours,” I prayed in a low tone.
Straightening with a push off the wall I kept running. More shots impacted against the ships shields ... the fact that Michael wasn’t sending the ship straight back into hyperspace had me ever hopeful the damage was severe enough to have us disabled. Of course they could fix the ship pretty quickly but with any luck we’d be stuck there just long enough for me to get Teyla and then get away.
I was only halfway there when Teyla made contact with me.
“Sabina!” her voice was excited and joyful and for a moment I thought she’d had the baby already, until she spoke again, sending me a mental picture to go along with the words. “John is here! John, Rodney and Ronon.”
“John’s here?” I could hardly believe it, that flash of John in Teyla’s lab, face pale and worried. “With you?”
“Yes!” Teyla’s happy tone shifted into the painful one as the next contraction hit.
“Don’t wait for me,” I told her firmly. “Tell them to get you off the ship. I’ll head for the Dart Bay ... I can take a Dart and be right behind you.”
“John said to tell you over his dead body,” Teyla replied after a short pause.
“You can’t have that baby here,” I insisted. “We need –,”
“Rodney says the Wraith hyperdrive is almost repaired,” Teyla interrupted. “Stand by.”
I kept moving towards her position, not willing to change course for the Dart Bay until I’d heard back from her. I wished I could speak to John directly but this wasn't an Ancient ship I could tap into and without a radio there was nothing I could do ... despite how badly I wished otherwise. Knowing John was close by was a distraction ... to the hold I had on my emotions, to the resolve I needed to keep going even though I wanted to just sit in a corner somewhere and wait for John to come and get me. Being patient was easier when I'd known he was far away ... now that he was so close it was almost impossible.
God, I couldn't wait to see him!
A few moments later Teyla spoke again.
“John and Ronon have gone to destroy the drive,” she reported. “Rodney will help me with the baby. John insisted you stay in your current position. He will come to you when they are done.”
“There’s no time for that!” I shot back, thinking quickly before deciding on my next course of action. “Wait a few minutes and then get Rodney to radio John that I’ve gone to the Dart Bay.”
“Sabina,” Teyla put a warning in her tone but I ignored it, convinced that my way was right.
“Please Teyla, just do it,” I requested intently. “Unless you want me there with you instead?”
“I would like nothing more,” Teyla got out through another contraction, “but I do not believe you can get here fast enough. The baby is coming.”
I wanted to stay with her but the focus she needed for childbirth was too great for her to keep up the mental link ... without her willingly sitting there at the other end of the connection the risk of the other Wraith getting wind of our conversation was too great for me to force it by myself.
Making the Dart Bay my next objective I deliberately took a path that would lead me right past the lab where Michael had been investigating my DNA. There was something else I had to do first.
The place was deserted ... Michael would have diverted his forces between the Darts and repairs. Running full speed down the corridor, into the transporter and then down the next corridor I skidded to a halt just inside the doorway.
Raising the weapon I’d appropriated I was all set to destroy his machines, his computers and every scrap of information he’d stolen from me along with it.
If not for the glowing appearance of a familiar face.
“What?” I frowned in confusion, dropping the arm I had holding the weapon without thinking.
“You cannot destroy Michael’s work,” Diamantia begged urgently. “Everything I have worked for, thousands of years of struggle and effort will be for nothing if you do.”
“He’ll use what he got from me to improve his hybrids!” I pointed out grimly, raising my weapon again.
“Yes,” Diamantia agreed, “and it doing so will engineer his own demise.
“What are you talking about?” I demanded impatiently.
“You were one of a number of babies the Lanteans engineered to have the Wraith gene,” Diamantia explained. “But once I chose you and removed you from the city, brought you here, I altered your DNA again. It was just a subtle adjustment required to create a genetic time bomb ... Michael will not find it. He will incorporate it into the design for his hybrids thinking to strengthen them but it will backfire on him. He will not be able to control them ... genetic transformations will degrade ... links between individual sequences will break. If he lives long enough it will be to watch his own facade dissolve away, reducing him to nothing.”
“I’m a time bomb?” I asked in dismay.
“Only to Michael and those he would seek to create in his own image,” Diamantia insisted. “In the path of time I originally lived through there was no one to oppose Michael ... he sought to be as God, imprinting his twisted view of life onto everything. By the time he was done there was little of humanity left behind. Our people lived in hiding ... my life’s goal beyond Ascension was the study of genetics along with every scrap of history about Michael’s work. I knew I had to create a weapon subtle enough to defeat him before he even knew it existed.”
“Me,” I acknowledged.
“The beauty of it was that you did not need to be anything but yourself,” Diamantia said with a smile. “Your compassion for your friends, your strong will, the way you would put their safety first. I counted on them forcing you to reveal yourself to Michael. I knew he would not be able to resist the allure of your genetic uniqueness. And so the information required to bring about his end is now contained in that device.” She gestured towards the machines in the lab imperiously. “Be assured Sabina ... he will not be able to use what he learns from you for anything else.”
“Okay,” I dropped my arm again. “This is the end of it? There isn’t some other hidden secret agenda that’s gonna come out and bite me in the future?”
“You know the truth of your origins,” Diamantia replied compassionately. “I am sorry for the pain I caused your parents and you but believe me when I say there was no other way ... I spent many, many thousands of years developing this plan.”
“I guess I can understand,” I allowed reluctantly. “Even though I hate the fact you used me against my will.”
“But there have been benefits to you being here in this time,” Diamantia looked at me with a sly, almost teasing smile.
“Is that the trade off?” I smiled in return. “John and the happily ever after?”
“Perhaps it was meant to be,” Diamantia replied. “Perhaps something guided me to choose you.”
“That’s a nice thought,” I agreed, amused by the idea.
Diamantia frowned suddenly, looking at me with concern. “You must hurry now ... the others are already on their way to the Dart Bay.”
“Okay,” I turned but her final words held me in place for a moment.
“I will not see you again Sabina,” she said gently. “Thank you for what you have done ... for what you are. I wish you well.”
“You too,” I replied in a low tone.
Interlude 20: And being stubborn as usual
A short time later I was in the cloaked jumper, sitting in the pilot’s seat with Rodney in the co-pilot position beside me and Ronon standing behind him as usual.
“You know, Ronon and I could probably handle this,” Rodney said awkwardly. “Maybe you should stay with the Jumper.”
I didn’t answer, just drilled him with a scowl that had him wilting almost immediately.
“Or not,” he concluded.
“Daedalus, we're in position,” I reported over the comms.
“Confirmed,” Caldwell replied.
“302s are approaching,” Rodney had his eyes glued to the sensor screen as moments later the action began. “Cue the Darts.”
Michael lived up to what was standard protocol by responding with a wave of eight Darts. The open Bay doors began to close as soon as the last Dart was clear ... I was gonna have to hurry to get there in time.
“It's closing,” Rodney said worriedly.
“I see that,” I acknowledged, controlling the Jumper on its approach.
“It's closing quickly,” Rodney repeated.
“I got it,” I insisted irritably, sending the Jumper surging forward towards the closing doors. I got there just in time – with a spot of flying reminiscent of the Millennium Falcon in the Empire Strikes Back I’d turned us sideways and flown us straight into the Dart Bay.
“Daedalus, we're in,” I reported as Ronon slapped a congratulatory hand across my shoulder.
Once we'd parked the Jumper Rodney again tried to convince me to sit it out ... let he and Ronon do the hard work. Clearly I was looking a lot less than my best if McKay was willing to take a leading role.
"I'll be fine Rodney," I told him quietly, meeting his eyes and letting him see the determination in mine. This wasn't one I could sit out.
With a nod, Rodney acknowledged my silent command, grabbing his gear and following me from the Jumper.
“All right,” Rodney announced once we’d snuck our way to one of the control units. “This won't take more than a couple of seconds.” Laptop patched in moments later and he was looking for information. “That's ... troubling,” he commented worriedly.
“What?” Ronon asked.
“Michael's a lot further ahead with his repairs than I would have thought,” Rodney revealed. “Hyperdrive's almost back online. We've gotta make this quick.”
“What do you mean, "quick"?” I demanded.
“Well, like, fifteen minutes,” Rodney retorted nervously. “It's not a lot of time.”
“No, that's not a lot of time,” I agreed sarcastically. “Look for Sabina and Teyla!”
“Right,” Rodney replied quickly. “Right-right-right.” Turning back to his screen he worked for a few moments. “They’re not together,” he looked at me worriedly. “Teyla’s close by – just down that corridor a ways. Sabina’s further away – different level and a lot closer to the Bridge.”
Crap! For a moment I was frozen, knowing what I should do but unable to make myself get us underway.
“Sheppard,” Ronon called to me insistently.
“I’m here,” I told them irritably. “I’m thinking!”
“Well hurry up!” Rodney replied impatiently.
“Okay,” I said, frustrated and just a little bitter. “Teyla’s closer so we get to her first. Once we’re there Ronon and I will head further in and pick up Sabina.”
“All right,” Rodney led the way out, thought better of taking point and motioned for me to take point.
The lack of resistance had me wondering just how many hybrids Michael had at his disposal ... we'd gotten almost to Teyla's position before we ran into trouble.
A single hybrid approaching us with stunner drawn - I didn’t hesitate in dispatching him quickly, even though at the back of my mind I knew he was a victim probably not in control of his actions - just like Carson had been. I couldn't save everyone, no matter how much that gauled to admit ... my first priority had to be saving Sabina and Teyla. I'd worry about the rest later.
“John?” the welcome sound of Teyla’s voice calling to me from inside the room spurred us to action.
“Gonna get you out of here!” I called back, waiting for Rodney to bust open the door.
“Not a moment too soon!” Teyla called out.
Door open, we all rushed into the room and quickly to Teyla's side.
“You OK?” I knelt beside her ... she was pale and shaky and there was only one explanation I could think of for that, given she didn’t seem wounded in any way.
“It's my baby,” Teyla's announcement confirmed my suspicions. “I have been having contractions for over an hour now. They are very close. My baby is coming.”
Ronon reached out and helped Teyla sit down, gasping for breath.
“We need to get you back to the Daedalus,” I decided. “Ronon and Rodney will help you. I’ll go get Sabina and we’ll meet you at the Jumper.”
“John, wait,” Teyla groaned at the end of her contraction, holding out a hand to stop me from leaving.
“What is it?” My heart dropped for a moment ... was she about to give me bad news?
“I can talk to Sabina,” Teyla surprised us all with that one. “We have been using our Wraith abilities to communicate since we were captured.”
I pushed up from the floor painfully, putting a hand to my injured side. Glancing discretely at said hand a moment later I wasn’t surprised to find it covered in blood. Technically I should have reported that to Keller ... since I couldn’t I decided not to mention it to anyone. “Okay, tell her we’re here,” I ordered, waiting impatiently for the reply. I was so close now ... so close, and nothing was going to get in my way.
“She is happy you have come but said to tell you all not to wait for her,” Teyla revealed a moment later. “She was on her way here but will head instead for the Dart Bay alone.”
“Over my dead body!” I returned angrily. “Tell her to stay right where she is!”
“Uh, say, friends?” Rodney drew everyone’s attention to him. “We have a small issue here.”
“Oh, what now?” I demanded irritably.
“Looks like Michael's got his hyperdrive back online,” Rodney reported. “It's powering up.”
“Can you shut it down?” I waited for the answer even though I knew it wouldn’t be that easy.
“Well, not from this little thing,” Rodney said weakly. “Look, the drive room is just down the corridor. You slap a C4 charge on that thing, it should certainly shut it down.”
“Where?” I demanded.
“Here. I have a map.” He typed a few commands and then handed it to me.
“This other dot – that’s Sabina?” I asked quickly.
“It’s where they were holding her,” Rodney clarified. “She might be some distance away but it gives you the direction.”
“Thanks,” I looked at him gratefully, getting a wordless nod in return.
"Sabina is well John," Teyla tried to reassure me.
"I ah ... I know," I returned. "I just ...," I couldn't admit that I wouldn't really believe it until I'd seen her for myself. "Look, tell her I'll come find her as soon as I can, okay." She nodded, her face shifting into that expression I'd seen before that said she was communicating mentally.
“All right. Ronon, you're with me," I said briskly, heading for the door.
Ronon murmured a few words of encouragement to Teyla before ordering Rodney to take care of her and following me from the room.
“Sounds like Sabina’s okay,” Ronon commented as we ran down the corridor following Rodney’s map.
“Yeah,” I agreed, acknowledging that the tight knot of dread in my stomach had eased as Teyla had relayed her comments back to us. “And being stubborn as usual.”
“You wouldn’t have her any other way,” Ronon pointed out ... I couldn’t argue with that so I said nothing.
At the hyperdrive room it was Ronon who shot down the first two hybrid guards, leaving the last one for me.
“It's almost powered up,” Ronon reported after looking at the generator's status.
“Give me your C4,” I ordered, taking it and ducking underneath the generator. Reaching up plant the charges wasn’t a good idea if the sharp pain in my side was any indicator ... I tried but couldn’t avoid the groan or the need to double up against the agony. Those pain meds hadn’t lasted as long as I’d been hoping for.
“Here,” Ronon said impatiently. “Give it to me.”
“I got it,” I insisted, straightening up for another attempt.
“Give it to me,” Ronon demanded irritably. “You don't have to do everything.” Snatching the C4 block right out of my hand he reached up and easily attached it to the generator, positioned the detonator and then stepped back. “All right. On to Sabina?”
“Yeah,” I turned ... stopping when my radio crackled to life.
“Ah Sheppard,” Rodney’s voice sounded stressed and nervous. “Change of plans.”
“What Rodney?” I demanded impatiently. “We’ve already planted the charge and were about to detonate.”
“Not that,” Rodney countered. “Teyla just let me know Sabina’s gone to the Dart Bay. There’s no point following that map I gave you – she won’t be there.”
“Great,” I shouldn’t have been surprised ... two months without her had obviously dulled my ‘she’ll do her own thing no matter what I say’ detector. “We’ll head back to you – help you get Teyla to the Jumper.”
Ronon and I ran down the corridor to what I judged a safe distance before we stopped to set off the C4.
“Let's hope we're far enough away,” I commented, detonator in hand.
“Yeah, we'll see,” Ronon seemed less than troubled that we might not be.
“Fire in the hole,” I announced before flipping the switch.
The resulting explosion was satisfying, especially as I imagined Michael’s face when he realised he wasn’t fixing that one quickly. Of course now he’d know we were on board, meaning we were probably about to be inundated with hybrids if we didn’t move fast.
"Back to Teyla," I announced, leading the way.
The scene we walked back into struck a chord with me for a number of reasons. Teyla sitting there with her baby wrapped in Rodney’s jacket, delighted smile on her face.
My friend so happy ... safe with her baby in hand.
Being so close to seeing Sabina again after too long.
Visions of a similar future for us once we’d gotten off the ship.
“Wow!” That one word was the best I could do at expressing everything I was feeling.
“I caught it!” Rodney was buzzing with excitement. “Didn't hit the floor or anything!”
“He did a wonderful job,” Teyla agreed, smiling up at us with tears shining in her eyes.
“That's good. That's ... you did good, Rodney,” I said a bit lamely ... but hell, what did you say to someone who’d just helped deliver a baby on a Wraith cruiser? “All right, we gotta get you out of here,” I told Teyla.
“Ronon, you may need to help me,” Teyla cradled the baby protectively against her as Ronon lifted her without obvious effort.
We must have made a surreal picture as we traversed the distance to where we'd left the Puddle Jumper. Rodney, twitchy with nerves as he tried to look everywhere at once, sure a hybrid was about to jump us. Purposeful and silent Ronon effortlessly craddling Teyla and her baby in his arms as he strode forward confidently. Teyla - so strong, despite the fact that she'd just given birth after a month as Michael's captive. And me ... I didn't even want to think about how I looked right then. I could only hope the constant pain, the fear that everything was going to fall into a hole before I got to Sabina, didn't show on my face.
Back at the Dart Bay my first concern was that Sabina wasn’t there yet. And while that should have been my most pressing concern, it took a back seat when I discovered the Jumper was gone ... unbelievable as it was, it became clear after a few moments of searching and confirming that we were in the right spot that someone had stolen it.
“Oh, this is not good,” I forced out grimly.
“I told you you should have stayed here!” Rodney retorted irritably.
"Was never gonna happen," I returned, knowing I would have traded a hundred Puddle Jumpers to get Sabina back. “I don’t suppose there’s any chance one of us could operate a Dart?” I looked at the ones closest to us in speculation.
“Ah – no,” Rodney replied in a tone that said he was gearing up for some kind of scientific spiel. “The interface I wrote for Ford’s Dart was complex – there’s no way I could rig up anything like that and there’s not enough time to teach you all the commands you’d need to understand without it. Teyla has no experience with Darts so while she might be able to get the Dart systems on line she wouldn’t be able to control them.”
“We need Sabina,” Ronon said simply.
We did indeed. Looking at Teyla I raised an eyebrow wordlessly. She got that look on her face again that meant she was tapping into her Wraith skills.
“She is still ten minutes from the Bay,” Teyla reported after a few moments of conversation.
“Still?” I frowned. “What the hell has she been doing all this time?!”
“She suggested we find a place to wait,” Teyla didn’t pay any attention to my mood, for which I was grateful.
“This will be the first place the hybrids will look for us,” Rodney agreed.
“Okay, this way,” I gestured for everyone to follow me down the corridor. We hadn’t gone far when we came face to face with a hybrid aiming a stun pistol at us. Rodney and I responded by raising our own weapons.
“Don't shoot!” Teyla begged. “Ronon, put me down.” Ronon gently lowered her to the ground. “It is all right, John,” she told me. “This is Kanaan. He is the father.”
I had no choice but to stand there and trust that she knew what she was doing as she approached Kanaan with her baby in her arms. Kanaan ignored the rest of us completely as he put away his weapon and let Teyla show him his son for the first time. When he put a gentle hand on the child I knew she’d been right to trust him.
“This is our chance,” she told him softly. “These are the friends I told you of. They can help you get back to your old self, but first you have to help us. Sabina - my friend - in on her way to the Dart Bay ... do you know which way she would go?”
“Yes,” Kanaan nodded. “Follow me.”
“No offence, Teyla,” Ronon still held his weapon ready to use. “I don't trust this guy.”
“He has tried to save me before,” Teyla explained. “I trust him.”
I could go along with that ... with a few minor adjustments of course. “Give me your weapon,” I ordered simply. Kanaan handed it over without protest which won a few more points with me. “Okay – which way?”
Having Kanaan on our side was the edge we’d needed. When we rounded a corner and saw Sabina up ahead facing down two hybrids. They held their positions as we walked towards them - one quick order from Kanaan had them both standing down without a protest.
I stood frozen in place, for once losing touch with my surroundings and the movements of my team. My focus was entirely on Sabina, my eyes cataloguing everything as she walked slowly towards me. When she got closer I could see the signs of our time apart ... in the dark shadows under her eyes, the paleness of her skin ... the troubled expression on her face that even her joyful smile couldn't entirely mask. Grimly I added them to the tally I was keeping ... all the things I owed Michael that one day I would collect on.
And then she was there in front on me ... in touching distance. Somehow I closed the space between us. Without a word I pulled her into my arms and just hung on tight, burying my head in her hair.
We still had to get off the ship but at that point I didn't care. Sabina was back ... and I was whole again.
I couldn't have described my feelings as I watched Diamantia disappear. On the surface I knew what it meant ... what I was, what I'd been stolen and altered to be, had been used to deal Michael a killing blow some time in the future. But how to feel about it? How to see myself now the full truth had been revealed? That left me dazed and uncertain.
“Sabina,” Teyla’s voice in my head brought me abruptly back to the present. “What is your status?”
“I’m about half way to the Dart Bay,” I reported as I left the lab. “How about you?”
“My baby is here,” I felt the smile, her joy, and couldn’t contain the grin on my own face.
“That’s fantastic,” I replied. “Are you okay?”
“I am well,” Teyla reassured me.
"And the baby?" it was difficult not to worry - a baby on a Wraith cruiser was just wrong on so many levels.
"He is perfect," Teyla's mental voice was awash with awe and love. “Ronon is helping me but there is a problem. The Jumper has been stolen. John wishes to know how far away you are.”
“You’re in the Dart Bay?” I questioned, waiting for her affirmative before continuing. “Okay, it’ll probably take me another five to ten minutes to get there if I don’t run into resistance. You might want to find a place to hide until I can find you.”
“I will let John know,” Teyla promised. "Be careful," she added before closing off the connection.
I shouldn’t have made that comment about resistance ... it was just asking for trouble, which I found about three corridors later.
“Stop!” I turned slowly, hands held high as two hybrid guards approached, weapons trained on me.
“This ship isn’t going anywhere,” I tried for the logical approach. “There’s a big battleship out there right now just waiting to destroy us. Why don’t you win yourself some points and let me go. I’ll put in a good word for you.”
“Michael will reward us for your capture,” one of them replied.
“If I know Michael he’s already thinking about how to get out of here himself,” I laughed mockingly. “Do you really think he’ll take you with him, look after you? He used you ... if you let me go I can get help for you, maybe get you switched back into whoever you used to be.”
“We do not take orders from you,” the second guard reached for my arm, pulling me roughly towards him.
With the two of them crowding me in the narrow corridor I didn’t like my chances. I’d have to play along and hope for an opening to appear ... not liking the odds of that happening anytime soon I prepared to let Teyla know they’d have to find another way off the ship.
And that’s when I saw them ... down the other end of the corridor came Kanaan with Teyla close beside him. And following them were John, Rodney and Ronon.
Knowing John was on the ship and seeing him in person were two different things. Tears blurred my vision as I stood watching their approach, waiting silently to see what would happen next. My hybrid captors did nothing as Kanaan approached, keeping quiet but continuing to hold onto me.
“Release her,” Kanaan ordered when he was still a few feet away.
They let me go without a word, stepping back respectfully as Kanaan strode towards them.
My eyes were locked to John's ... nothing else penetrated my notice apart from the emotion I saw in his. His joy and relief ... his obvious love had my feet moving without my conscious effort as I walked slowly towards him.
And then I was in his arms and he was holding me so tightly and it was the best feeling in the galaxy ... hell, in two galaxies.
“Oh God,” I muttered, pulling back. Putting a hand on either side of his head I urged him to look at me. “You’re really here!”
“Sorry it took us so long,” John smiled weakly.
“None of that matters now,” I laughed through my tears, pulling him down to me and kissing him enthusiastically. He got into the spirit of it too and I completely forgot the still dire circumstances as well as our audience. It was only when I leaned into John, running my hands up his back and holding him closer that I realised something was wrong.
He groaned and it wasn’t an ‘I wish we were alone so I could take this somewhere intimate’ groan. No, this was a classic John Sheppard “I’m in pain and manfully trying to hide it” groan.
“John,” I pulled away abruptly, taking a step back so I could get a good look at him. He was deathly pale and sweating, the cuts on his face a vivid red. How had I not noticed that immediately? “Are you hurt?”
“I’m fine,” he replied casually, an act ruined when he looked away.
“Don’t lie to me,” I retorted grimly. “The ‘I’m fine’ routine might work with everyone else but I can see right through you. How bad is it?”
“I’m okay to get back to the Daedalus,” he put a hand to his side, grimacing at the resulting pain. Looking down at his hand and seeing the blood – both fresh and old - had the worry replacing all my other emotions. I didn’t wait for permission, just pulled his shirt up so I could see how bad it was. Frowning again I looked at the bandages wrapped tightly around his stomach.
“Teyla never mentioned a fight,” I looked at him suspiciously. “When did that happen?”
“Before,” John gestured vaguely.
“Ronon?” I looked up at him expectantly, knowing John wasn't going to confess to anything specific.
“Back on the planet,” Ronon admitted with an apologetic shrug for John. “Jennifer patched him up.”
“You shouldn’t even be here!” I said angrily. When he made to offer some kind of excuse I interrupted before he could get a word out. “No, don’t say anything. We need to get you and Teyla and her son back to the Daedalus asap. I’m assuming a Dart is still our only option?”
“My people can fly you to safety,” Kanaan offered.
“There are other Athosian’s on board?” I asked curiously.
“A few,” Kanaan agreed.
“You need to round them up then,” John advised. “Once we’re clear our people will destroy this ship.”
“I will need time,” Kanaan looked at Teyla worriedly.
“I can fly the Dart,” I reassured him. “You grab your people and head for the Bay. I’ll just beam everyone up and then fly us clear. It has to be me or the F302’s will attack – the Daedalus won’t believe it’s us unless one of us is there to talk to them.”
“Very well,” Kanaan shared a wordless gaze with Teyla before hurrying away.
“This is all very touching,” Rodney had been unusually patient but had obviously reached his limit, “but there’ll be plenty of time for reunions back on Atlantis. So what do you say we get out of here?”
"Yes, I'm glad to see you too Rodney," I said, his familiar impatience having me smiling despite our circumstances and John's injury.
"Uh -," Rodney stopped for a moment and then looked at me. Was that real emotion I saw in his eyes? "Good to have you back Sabina," he said simply.
"Good to be back," I returned casually, like I'd been out shopping instead of held prisoner by the Wrath for a month.
"Time to go," Ronon's tone was serious but I could see the hint of a smile playing across his face too. I really wanted to find out how they'd all been doing while I'd been away but had to resist the temptation to ask - there'd be time for all that later.
“Good idea,” John grabbed my hand and pulled me into motion.
He’d obviously gotten to me under his own steam but he looked so pale and weary that I felt the need to help him in some way. Ducking under his arm I positioned myself so that I was supporting some of his weight as we walked.
And he let me ... smiling down at me mutely he let me help him all the way to the Dart Bay.
After some debate about the merits of beaming a newborn baby into storage we all agreed it wasn’t a good idea. That left me sitting in the cockpit of a Wraith Dart with a baby nestled in my lap while John and the others huddled in a close group waiting for me to collect them. It seemed like too long as I sat in that Dart with my eyes locked to John's, waiting, but eventually Kanaan ran in with a few others in tow, joining the group. I got the Dart into motion, all my previous experience coming back without conscious effort.
It was surreal ... to have gone from captive to leading the escape from the ship ... surreal in the best possible way.
Moments later I had everyone on board and was heading from the Dart Bay and out into space.
Finally Teyla and I were free!
Spotting the Daedalus I immediately began broadcasting a message on the radio Rodney had given me, telling them not to destroy us and giving the authentication code John had made me memorise.
“I repeat, this is Sabina Sheppard ... giving Colonel John Sheppard’s authentication code Bravo Delta Charlie Alpha Niner. Daedalus, please come in.”
“Authenticated ... under the circumstances,” Colonel Caldwell replied. “Sabina, where’s Sheppard and the others?”
“I have everyone beamed into storage,” I reported. “The Jumper went missing and this was our only option.”
“Do you have Teyla with you?” Caldwell asked.
“Yes, and the baby,” I smiled down at her son, currently sleeping peacefully in my lap.
“You beamed a baby into Wraith storage?!” Caldwell asked incredulously.
“Of course not,” I replied, insulted that he’d think that. “I’ve got him right here in my lap. There’s nothing left to save on that Cruiser so any time you want to take it out is good for me.”
“Copy that,” Caldwell acknowledged.
It was a thing of beauty, watching the Daedalus sweep towards the Cruiser with Asgard beam shooting out the front. I felt a savage pleasure when Michael’s ship flew apart, pieces whizzing off in every direction. With any luck Michael had been on it when it blew. I know - unlikely given history and what I knew of him. In fact I was pretty sure I knew exactly who'd taken our Puddle Jumper but was pushing it to the back of my mind. Time enough later to blame myself for giving Michael another tool in his campaign to take over the galaxy. Diamantia hadn't said anything about exactly when that time bomb would go off and I was pretty sure there'd be suffering and death for too many people before it happened ... and that I'd spend a lot of time trying to convince myself it wasn't my fault.
“Sabina, why don't you head down to the planet, beam everyone out and land that Dart?” Colonel Caldwell suggested, interrupting my grim thoughts. “I'm pretty sure you can dial up that Stargate now. I’ll beam Doctor Keller down to take care of Teyla and the baby.”
“Now that is something I can get behind,” I smiled, looking down at Teyla’s son fondly. “Isn’t that right little guy? I bet you’re pretty keen to get back to Mommy.”
The baby didn’t reply, just yawned and snuggled down to continue his sleep.
Following Colonel Caldwell’s advice I flew the Dart down to the planet, doing a sweep around the Stargate so I could find the best spot. Depositing my cargo I landed the Dart a safe distance away and proceeded on foot back to the others, Teyla's baby still sleeping in my arms.
Doctor Keller was already tending to John when I got to them a few minutes later. She had stretchers for both John and Teyla and a few medics helping her secure them for gate travel.
“Here he is,” I carried the baby carefully to Teyla and deposited him into her waiting arms.
“Thank you Sabina,” she said gratefully, holding him close. “Not just for this but for everything you did on that ship.”
“There is no need for thanks between friends,” I intoned wisely, smiling when she recognised her own words being repeated back to her. “Pretty sure it was you who said that to me about a year ago.”
“Yes,” Teyla smiled graciously, cradling her baby with a cheek to his. “And yet in this case I feel the need.”
“You can thank me by letting me babysit that little guy from time to time,” I suggested with a grin.
“We would both like that very much,” Teyla agreed, looking lovingly down at her son again.
“See you back on Atlantis,” I moved aside to let the medics wheel her away. Turning to John’s stretcher I watched for a moment, trying to judge the urgency of Jennifer’s movements as she tended to him.
“How bad is it?” I drew Jennifer’s attention to me, putting a hand on John’s shoulder to announce my arrival.
“He needed surgery and a transfusion hours ago,” Jennifer admitted with a guilty glance my way. “It doesn’t look like he’s done any further damage but I need to scan him to make sure.”
“But he’ll be okay?” I persisted, still concerned because John was so pale and obviously in a great deal of pain that he was doing an uncharacteristically poor job of hiding.
“He should make a complete recovery,” Jennifer reassured me. “I’m sorry Sabina ... I never should have allowed him off the Daedalus.”
“I’m sure he made it very difficult for you to say no,” I let her off lightly, fully aware of how persuasive John could be when he wanted something.
“He is lying right here you know,” John complained the lack of attention he was getting.
“Sorry,” I smiled down at him, reaching a hand out to smooth back his hair. “I’d be happier about going home if you weren’t lying on that stretcher.”
“I can walk through the Stargate if it’ll make you feel better,” John offered, half rising from his prone position with an involuntary wince.
“What? No!” Jennifer reacted promptly, pushing him back down with an impatient sigh. “I swear you’re the worst patient I’ve ever had. Carson had notes you know ... reams of notes devoted just to handling you.”
“Carson!” I exclaimed suddenly. “I forgot - I saw him! How the hell is that even possible?”
“Clone,” John said succinctly. “Don’t get too excited Sabina ... we had to put him in stasis because Michael had him on some kind of drug. Without it he was gonna die.”
“I’m working on a treatment,” Jennifer added before I could react. “It’ll just take time.”
“Oh,” I frowned, not sure how I should feel about that. Realising there were four weeks’ worth of Atlantis stories for me to hear about that couldn’t be covered in five minutes I pushed my curiosity to the background, focusing again on John.
“Ready to go home now?” he asked seriously.
“Hell yes,” I took his hand, walking slowly alongside the stretcher, through the wormhole and back to Atlantis.
I don't think in reality that Caldwell would have accepted John's authentication code from anyone other than John but ... well, Sabina wouldn't have one of her own so I went with him bending the rules given the circumstances.
Chapter 60: How many made it out?
I stayed with John once we were in the infirmary, waiting for Jennifer to prep everything for his surgery. I’d already checked and been dismayed to hear it would take a few hours and that John would be out of action for at least a couple of weeks. It really was both the highs and the lows all at the same time – the joy of being with John offset by the fact that he was seriously injured, despite his attempts to gloss over it.
“I’m still angry that you attempted a rescue mission in your condition,” I told John disapprovingly.
“Attempt?!” John retorted indignantly. “The last time I checked, I succeeded.”
“We can debate who rescued who later,” I told him sagely, trying not to smile.
Teyla, in the bed beside John’s with her son in her arms, laughed at that.
“How's the kid?” John asked her.
“Doctor Keller says he's perfectly healthy,” she reported, smiling down at the baby. “I say he's perfectly everything.”
“That's great,” John glanced across at me with a look that said he was thinking about more than just the surface of his words. “That's great.”
"A part of me still cannot believe that we are finally home, that my son is here," Teyla admitted, "even though we never gave up hope that you would come for us."
"I wasn't even sure how you'd find us," I admitted, "just that I knew you would."
"You'd do the same for me," John said with such certainty. I narrowed my eyes at him suspiciously. The look he was giving me said there was a story there somewhere ... one I was determined to hear just as soon as he was up to it.
More would have been said but Jennifer walked in then, dressed for surgery.
“All right,” she announced. “You ready, Colonel?”
"Ready?” John replied. “From my understanding, I'm not doing anything.”
“Well, that's right,” Jennifer agreed. “You just have to lay still and let me play with your insides.”
She’d been smiling at her own joke but John’s less than impressed straight-face had the smile fading quickly. “Sorry,” she apologised weakly. “Um, let's go.”
John turned to Teyla before they could start wheeling him away. “What are you gonna name the kid?”
‘Well, if it's all right with you,” she glanced at me and added, “all right with both of you, I was thinking of Torren John Scott, after my father and after the two of you.”
“Really?!" John and I said in unison.
John looked touched and pleased by that. I felt a surge of pride for him along with a healthy dose of emotion at her suggestion. That she would use a name I'd given up to take John's ... the surname of parents I liked to think had partly made me what I was ... it meant a lot.
"Without the two of you I fear the future for my son would have been much different," Teyla explained simply.
"Thank you Teyla," I said softly, my vision somewhat hazy through a sheen of tears.
"I - we - would be very honoured,” John responded with a smile, squeezing my hand firmly.
“Very well!” Teyla smiled down at her son. “Torren John Scott Emmagan,” she said softly.
“I’ll be here while you’re in surgery,” I promised John as the medics started to wheel his bed away.
“Yes you will,” Jennifer said sternly. “Don’t think I haven’t noticed you’re carrying some injuries of your own. I’ve already asked Doctor Cole to check you ... that should keep you occupied until John’s in recovery.”
“Lucky me,” I muttered, ignoring John’s amusement over my childish reaction.
“Be nice to the doctors Sabina,” John called out as they wheeled him from the room.
“I’m always nice,” I looked across to Teyla with a frown. “Aren’t I?”
After an exhaustive check-up Doctor Cole returned to let me know she was admitting me ... just for a few hours.
“You’re dehydrated and exhausted,” she announced, “and I’m concerned about this headache you say you’ve had for days. I can replace your fluids much easier with a saline drip and it’ll give you a chance to get some rest.”
“Okay,” I didn’t argue, almost happy to have a reason for staying there when I’d had every intention of doing that anyway. "Doctor Cole?" I called her back before she could walk away to get my stay organised.
"Do you need something else?" she asked, returning to my side with a worried expression.
"No," I said quickly. I was in one part of the infirmary where examinations took place ... it was pretty quiet there considering the events of the day and I couldn't help but wonder. "I just ... it's been pretty hectic since I landed that Dart and I ah ... I was wondering about everyone else on that mission, the one where John was injured. I didn't want to ask before but maybe you could fill me in?"
"We suffered losses," Doctor Cole admitted. "Colonel Sheppard and Major Lorne led two teams of marines to -,"
"Is Evan all right?" I broke in quickly. "And my team - Alex and Colin – are they okay?"
"As far as I know Lieutenants Parker and Brown weren't on the mission," Cole replied. “Doctor Keller said the building had been booby trapped – that it exploded with everyone still inside. Major Lorne was with Doctor McKay during the collapse. Apart from a broken leg he was very lucky. In fact, they should be transferring him down from the Daedalus as soon as it returns."
"How many made it out?" I asked, beyond relieved that everyone closest to me was safe but still dreading to hear the answer.
"Lieutenant Edison, Major Lorne, Doctor McKay," Doctor Cole said sadly, "plus Colonel Sheppard and Ronon. They searched for other life signs but there weren't any."
"Uh -," I swallowed hard, doing the sums in my head as I tried to control my emotions. Two teams meant four, maybe more, good soldiers who weren't coming home ... because of me.
"It's not your fault," Doctor Cole said softly, putting a comforting hand on my shoulder. "I'll send one of the nurses to admit you and set up that drip. Try and get some rest Sabina," she added, before leaving me to my thoughts.
Intellectually I knew it wasn't my fault those men had died. I wasn't the one who'd set out to capture Teyla and I hadn't destroyed that building. Michael did that - he was to blame. It made sense in my head but in my heart all I could think about was the families who'd now be getting news that their sons, their husbands, their father's weren't coming home. And it was all I could do not to break down and cry.
I submitted willingly as one of the nurses settled me into a corner bed and hooked me up to the drip. Closing my eyes I let my mind drift ... glad for the respite from company for a while. It wasn’t avoidance as such ... but being in the infirmary delayed for a while all the reunion scenes I knew I’d be in for. Not that I didn’t want to see my team, or catch up properly with Ronon and Rodney. I just didn’t feel like I’d had a proper reunion with John yet and I wouldn’t feel comfortable being back until I did.
Of course being in the infirmary didn’t stop everyone from catching up with me.
“Sabina,” Sam drew my attention away from my thoughts with her arrival late in the afternoon.
“Hey Sam,” I smiled a genuine welcome.
“Doctor Cole says you’ve come through this surprisingly well,” Sam commented.
“Michael didn’t want to break his new toy,” I said somewhat bitterly. “But don’t worry – I have it on good authority he won’t be able to use what he got from me for anything other than his own destruction.”
“Ah ... okay,” Sam said uncertainly. “Is there anything I need to know right now?”
“Not really,” I replied. “Even assuming Michael made it out of that Cruiser before it was destroyed, I can’t see him being capable of hitting back at us any time soon.”
“All right then,” Sam nodded. “Once you’re out of here you’ll have to brief me on the details.”
“Of course,” I agreed. “So ... how bad was it?”
Sam didn’t pretend not to know what I was talking about. “About as bad as you’re imagining,” she admitted, “but he got through it. John has a story of his own to tell when he’s feeling up to it.”
"Yeah, I got that," I acknowledged. “Thanks for letting him do what he needed to do,” I added softly. “I know I blasted him for going on a mission in his condition but ... it would have hurt him even more if he’d been forced to stay behind.”
“I know,” Sam agreed simply. “Listen, I’ve been called back to Earth for an SG-1 thing, plus the IOA want to do another evaluation. I’ll schedule a briefing with you when I return.”
“Thanks Sam,” I smiled as she got up to leave. “Tell Daniel ... and Jack I said hello.”
“I will,” Sam said in amusement.
Jennifer was smiling when she returned from John’s surgery a few hours later, everything I needed to know written on her face. Sighing in relief I relaxed back in bed tiredly. They’d removed Teyla to a private room so she and Torren could get acquainted without an audience and it was quiet and peaceful in the main area.
I must have dozed for a bit because it only seemed like minutes later that one of the nurses was shaking me awake and telling me John was back in the infirmary if I wanted to sit with him. I’d finished with the treatments Doctor Cole had prescribed and they'd removed the drip so I got myself up and headed over to John’s bed. These days no one bothered to try and get me to leave ... too many stubborn stands and sneak backs after dark had dimmed the drive of even the most stringent of nurses so I knew I wouldn’t be bothered.
Taking a seat by John’s bed I took his hand and settled in to wait for him to wake up. It was a familiar feeling being in the darkened infirmary alone ... even given the circumstances, a part of me welcomed that. All part of the process of coming home ... of feeling like I was home.
The sound of someone approaching got my attention an hour or so later. Glancing quickly at John and seeing that he was still sleeping peacefully I turned towards the door, a grin taking over when I saw who it was.
"Evan!" I jumped up and rushed over, almost skidding to a stop in front of him once I'd gotten a good look at his condition. "Geeze, you look like hell," I muttered, registering the cuts on his too pale face along with the heavy cast on his leg. The sound I'd heard was the crutches he needed to get around ... the ones he was leaning on more than just a little. He was dressed in casual clothes but it looked more like he should still be an inmate of the infirmary. "Should you even be up and about?"
"Probably not," he admitted. Shifting around me he moved to the nearest bed and propped the crutches up beside him before turning and leaning back against it, taking some of the weight off his feet. And then he just looked at me, his expression unreadable.
"Is everything okay?" I asked worriedly, closing the distance and putting a hand on his shoulder.
"It is now," he said simply. He glanced over to John's bed before looking at me. "There's just one thing I have to do." And then he pulled me into him, wrapping his arms around me and dropping his head to rest against my shoulder. He hugged me so tight that I could do nothing but return the embrace. It was a strange moment in many respects ... Evan and I were close but hugging wasn’t a routine part of our friendship. In fact, apart from that one dance I couldn’t recall another instance where we’d gotten that close – a fact that had quite the impact on my thoughts.
I should have realised how responsible he'd feel for what had happened to me and to Teyla ... how he'd probably been blaming himself all the weeks we'd been gone ... but I hadn't and suddenly I felt like the worst kind of friend for not considering his feelings.
"It wasn't your fault," I said softly. "And both Teyla and I really are okay."
Squeezing me one final time before letting go, Evan looked away, rubbing a hand over his eyes before looking back to me. His eyes looked too blue and not as happy as I would have expected. "Evan?" I asked with a frown, not sure exactly what I was questioning.
"Don't ever do that again," he ordered, his voice just a little rough.
"What? Throw myself into a culling beam? Get captured by the Wraith?" I listed the possibilities a little flippantly, not liking seeing the usually unflappable Major Lorne visibly upset. "Disappear for a month?"
"All of the above," he said more in his usual voice. "You have to stop throwing yourself into danger like that Sabina. Next time you might not be so lucky."
"I had to do it Evan," I insisted, urging him to sit on the infirmary bed and then hopping up beside him. "Would you have preferred me to let Teyla go through all of that alone?"
"Of course not," he shot back. "But ... you have a knack for getting yourself into trouble and one day ...," he stopped, shooting me a quick glance before looking away. "You worry me Sabina. One day you'll do something like this and ... you won't come back. It won't matter whether it's on my watch or not - I'll still feel responsible because I've let personal feelings get in the way of being a proper commanding officer. If I had done that maybe you wouldn't be in such a hurry to land in the thick of trouble."
“That is such crap Evan Lorne,” I retorted firmly. “You think John put me on your team so you could turn me into Miss Obedience? He chose you because he knew more than anything else I needed to feel like I was part of something ... part of a team. He knew I needed someone other than him who’d care about me. And he knew you’d be all that for me ... I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.”
“Maybe that’s true,” Evan allowed, for once not trying to step around a discussion about ‘feelings’ like he usually did. “Only makes me feel more responsible when something happens to you ... so maybe you could do me a favour and stop trying to be the hero.”
"Believe me when I say I am all done with heroic acts," I told him. Nudging his shoulder teasingly, I smiled. "So ... is this your way of telling me you really do care about me?"
"I swore I'd never admit this because it'll just give you more ammunition to wheedle whatever you want out of me," Evan shifted a little to face me. "But after the past month ...," he took a breath and then looked me in the eye. "You're a friend Sabina ... a close friend. But it's more than that ... out here you're the nearest thing I have to family."
I was speechless for a moment. The way he ducked his head as though embarrassed ... how uncomfortable he was but he'd still forced himself to make the effort ... that all had me grinning with delight. "I love you too Evan," I said cheerfully, putting an arm around his shoulders and squeezing tight. "Does this mean I can go little sister on you?" I asked teasingly. "Screen all your dates, ask you nosy questions about where you're going and with whom, stuff like that?"
"No it doesn't," finally there was amusement in his eyes as he mock glared at me. "It means you have to start behaving yourself ... because I'm not above siding with John if it means stopping you from doing something crazy."
"Ha!" I narrowed my eyes at him. "I'm taking back that whole sister thing if that's how you're gonna behave."
He chuckled but didn't say anything. I let the moment settle as I thought back over what he's said and realised that one thing stood out to me. Evan had called John by his first name - something he rarely did even when it was the two of us discussing something unrelated to work. I could only surmise that John had leaned on Evan for support, even just a little, over the past month. They'd probably had more than one personal conversation and it made me happy to see Evan finally relaxing enough to trust in the friendship he'd always had with my husband.
"So ... did John do anything crazy while I was gone?" I asked curiously.
"Ah ... you should probably talk to him about that," Evan avoided a direct answer. Looking at me intently he continued. "It was hard for him Sabina but ... well, you should be proud because he kept it together, did his job ... and he got you and Teyla home."
"Thank you Evan," I said softly.
"I didn't do that much," he shook his head. "And nowhere near enough."
"You supported John when he needed it," I was sure of that. He shifted slightly and I didn’t miss the grimace of pain on his face, the way he paled just a little. "I'm really sorry you got hurt.”
"I'll be back in action before you know it," Evan dismissed lightly.
I nodded wordlessly. As I looked at his battered facade ... hyper aware of John looking even worse in the bed close by and with thoughts of those marines who wouldn't be going home ... that feeling of being close to the edge returned. On top of everything else I was trying to handle - the truth about myself, fear of what Michael would do with what he'd stolen from me before whatever was going to happen happened - it was too much. I hadn't cried since that day in the Wraith cell but I couldn't hold it in any more.
"I'm sorry," I sobbed as tears rolled down my face in streams and my breath hitched audibly. Jumping up from the bed the only thought I had was getting out of there, finding somewhere to curl up and let it out. I had to get my balance back before John woke up because there was no way I was putting everything I was feeling right then on him when he was injured and still hurting from our time apart.
"Don't," Evan grabbed my arm before I could get away. Pulling me around to face him he grabbed both my hands and held on tight. "None of this is your fault Sabina," he said firmly. "And everyone who went on that mission wanted to be there."
"Wasn't it?" my voice was hoarse as I looked at him miserably. "You said it yourself ... I've got a knack for getting into trouble. Maybe it would have been better if Diamantia had chosen someone else to be her little science experiment."
"Do you think John feels that way?" Evan looked at me intently.
"He wouldn't know any different," I shot back, tugging on my hands in a silent plea for him to let me go. "And who's to say John's life wouldn't have been better without me around to mess things up?!"
"Sabina," Evan gave me his classic Lorne exasperated face as he kept me there. "He'd say it! So would I. You're a pain in the ass - you make being a team CO more challenging than anyone I've ever commanded ... but I wouldn't have it any other way. Life has been a hell of a lot more interesting since you forced your way onto my team."
"Hey, I didn't force myself on your team," I shot back, finally managing to pull a hand away to wipe my eyes.
"Of course not," Evan smirked as he watched me closely. "So - enough of this silliness okay? You're here because this is where you're meant to be."
"Okay," I sniffed, wiping at the tears that were still coming despite my attempts to calm myself down. “Just ... just give me a moment here.”
“Sure,” Evan said lightly. “You know ... another thing little sisters get is a shoulder to cry on.”
“Really?” I asked tearfully.
“Yep,” tugging on the hand he still held, Evan pulled me into his side. I rested my head against his shoulder as invited and he just let me cry ... no questions asked, no need to explain ... and consequently no guilt or embarrassment.
I don’t know how much time passed before I finally felt calm again. I pulled away, swiping at my eyes with a self deprecating laugh. “Now I’m the one who probably looks like hell,” I joked.
“Well ... I didn’t want to say anything but now that you mention it ...,” Evan trailed off with a smirk.
“And there I was about to say you’re gonna make some lucky girl very happy one day,” I retorted, smacking his shoulder lightly.
“Don’t -,” he began.
“Major Lorne!” Jennifer strode into the infirmary, crossing her arms over her chest and glaring at him pointedly. “What did Doctor Barker tell you before they released you from the Daedalus infirmary to beam down here?”
“Ah,” Evan had such a guilty look on his face it was almost comical.
“I knew it!” I shook my head at him, hovering between teasing and being genuinely concerned for his wellbeing. “I knew you should have been somewhere resting.”
“I had some things to take care of first,” Evan didn’t apologise, just looked at Jennifer without remorse. “There was no way I was resting until I’d seen for myself that Sabina was okay.”
“Well, you’ve seen her now so off you go,” Jennifer urged, picking up his crutches and holding them out expectantly. “And straight to your quarters Major or I’ll revoke your get out of the infirmary free card and admit you myself.”
“I’m going,” Evan grinned at me on his way past. He was almost at the door before I called out to him.
“Hey Evan?” he stopped to look back at me. “Thanks for stopping by, and for ...,” I waved a hand vaguely, “you know, everything.”
“Any time,” Evan promised, his expression serious.
“Let’s see how our patient is doing,” Jennifer’s words drew my attention back to her and when I glanced up again moments later Evan had disappeared.
Jennifer did the usual night time checks and pronounced John as doing very well.
“I don’t suppose I can convince you to go rest in your quarters,” she said lightly.
“I’ll rest here,” I replied with a faint smile.
She nodded, hanging John’s chart in the usual spot before wishing me good night.
Back at John's bedside I held onto his hand tightly, leaning forward so I could rest my forehead against his uninjured side. Seconds later I was asleep.
“Sabina,” John’s quiet call along with the hand caressing my hair drew me from sleep some time later.
Frowning because I didn’t know where I was for a moment I sat up in my chair, wincing at the pain in my neck. Looking around the infirmary I saw it was still night - although probably shifting into the early hours of morning.
“You should have gone to bed,” John admonished, drawing my attention back to him.
He was awake! My spirits lifted as I took in his rumpled appearance. God he looked good - even in his current, less than 100 percent condition!
“I’ve grown fond of the infirmary vigil crick in the neck,” I quipped in return, running my eyes over him assessingly. “You look much better.”
“Feeling it too,” John said simply. “What about you - you’re really okay?” he looked at me in concern as he raised himself to a semi sitting position in the bed. “Carson said he shot you.”
“He did,” I agreed, putting a hand to that shoulder instinctively. "Not that he had a choice. Michael patched me up, pretty good from what Doctor Cole said. Apart from a lingering headache I’m in surprisingly good shape – and that’s a direct quote from the Doc herself.”
“That’s ...,” John’s eyes shimmered in the dimly lit infirmary, “that’s a relief.”
“You were worried,” I began, knowing we’d have to confront our separation so we could move past it and get on with being happy together again.
“I’m not sure worried quite cuts it Sabina,” John ground out. “The first day maybe, but after that I went past worried into distressed, tormented, scared beyond belief eventually bordering on crazy.”
“I’m sorry,” I offered miserably. “I’d say it wasn’t my fault but I know Evan told you I threw myself into that beam after Teyla. I didn’t have a choice though ... I knew I could save her and there was no one else close enough.”
“What made you so sure you could help Teyla?” John asked in a low tone.
After my conversation with Evan I wanted John to understand that I hadn't just thrown myself into danger without thinking about the consequences - to him and to everything we had together. As usual that meant I had to reveal that I'd kept something back ... not with any clear purpose although it might look that way to him at first.
“Ah ... because Diamantia pretty much said I could,” I admitted in a rush.
“What?” John’s tone was grim as he looked at me in disbelief. “You had prior warning this was gonna happen and you didn’t tell me?”
“Not exactly,” I denied. “All I had was a vague reference to ‘a companion’ being taken by the Wraith and Diamantia’s warning that I had to be there when it happened. How was I to know it’d be Teyla or that being there would be so literal? I thought she just meant I’d be able to stop them from being taken in the first place!”
“And you didn’t tell me because you thought I’d restrict your off world travel,” John concluded blandly.
“That was part of it,” I agreed, “but not a big part. Honestly," I emphasised that, wanting him to understand. "I didn’t believe her John ... I was sure the whole ‘brought here from the past’ thing was some kind of trick, even with what I found in the Ancient database. I’d decided I should do what I always would just in case it was true only because I’d have hated myself if it turned out I could have helped but I wasn’t there. To be honest I didn’t even realise part of what Diamantia predicted was actually happening until the moment Teyla was taken. Instinct just took over after that.”
“Okay,” John let go of his anger over my deliberately placing myself under Michael’s influence. “What did he do to you?”
I told him everything ... how Michael had treated me as nothing more than a tool he struggled to work out how to use ... how he'd bombarded me with mental noise and confusion that still had my head aching. How I’d offered myself up deliberately to shift attention away from Teyla ... and how Diamantia had appeared at the end and stopped me from destroying Michael’s work.
“So you do believe her now?” John asked intently.
“Hard not to,” I admitted. “I made the decision to believe her, gave up the chance to set Michael’s work back months if not longer. The Daedalus destroyed his Cruiser so maybe it all got destroyed anyway but I don’t think so. She was so adamant John ... so sure Michael would use what he’d stolen from me and that it would destroy him in the end.”
“You think he escaped with his research intact,” John concluded.
“I do,” I agreed. “He downloaded everything after I spoke to Diamantia and then he took the Jumper somehow and was out of there before we even hooked up again. Sometime in the future he’ll work out what I did and he’ll come after me. And some time after that the genetic bomb will go off and he’ll be gone.”
I'd promised myself I wouldn't cry and I really thought after all those tears I'd off loaded on Evan that I could live up to that - that I wouldn't have any left to shed. So it surprised even me when my voice quivered at the tail end of that last sentence. Before I knew it tears were running down my face.
John didn't say anything as I leaned forward in my chair and dropped my head to his shoulder. His hand stroked my hair lightly, soothing me and reassuring me at the same time.
"I'm sorry," I got out eventually, sitting back up and wiping at my eyes impatiently. "I don't know why I've even crying ... we got away. Maybe Michael will never work it out ... never trace it back to me."
“He will never touch you again,” John promised vehemently, his eyes fiercely determined, glittering with unnamed emotions. “I swear to you he’ll never be able to hurt you again.”
“John?” I looked at him in concern, my own tears forgotten instantly.
“Just ... give me a minute,” John drew me down to him, wrapping his arms around me tightly and burying his face against my chest. It wasn’t the most comfortable posture but I let him take all the time he needed ... I could feel my back muscles protesting before he let go, swiping at his eyes like a little boy.
“I really am okay you know,” I reassured him softly. “In fact I feel pretty fantastic all things considered.” I waited for him to nod, to be back under control, before I continued. “Now - you know everything that happened from my side ... don’t you think you should tell me your side of it now?”
He began with the ending, telling me about the building collapsing and he and Ronon being trapped in the rubble. That explained the injury but not how they’d known to go there in the first place. That’s when it got interesting. I’d expected a brief litany compressing four weeks of unsuccessful off world missions into a few words. Instead I got a tale straight out of science fiction – and that was saying something since I already thought of what we did as firmly seated in that realm.
“Let me get this straight,” I held up a hand when he was only partially through his explanation. “You were transported forty eight thousand years into the future?”
“Sounds incredible I know,” John agreed, “but it happened. It was much like the future you say Diamantia described although obviously not exactly the same because you were part of it. But because we didn’t save Teyla Michael was able to use her son’s genetic material to improve his hybrids ... pretty much what he'll do this time around using yours. But then – no time bomb going off and eventually no humans left in this galaxy. This place was deserted and buried in half a desert of sand.”
“That must have been pretty disturbing,” I tried to imagine how I would have felt under the same circumstances ... and couldn’t.
“It would have been even more so if I hadn’t had company,” John admitted, going on with his story.
It was upsetting to hear about the future that would have been if John hadn’t returned to the right time ... Teyla, Ronon, Sam – all dead and Jennifer soon after. Rodney devoting his whole life to getting John back. John only gave me the bare bones of each story but that was more than enough for me to appreciate how grim that future had been.
“And what about me?” I asked. “Don’t tell me you didn’t find out because I know you would have ... not at first but before you went into stasis.”
“You’re right,” John agreed. Scooting over in his bed, he patted the space beside his uninjured side invitingly. “I need you up here nice and close for this bit,” he said intently.
“Okay,” I raised an eyebrow in surprise, no longer sure I wanted to hear about a Sabina Sheppard with John MIA.
“You went back to Earth for my funeral,” John began, putting his arm around me and arranging us so I could rest my head on his shoulder. “It all sounded very familiar ... in fact exactly like the vision Davos gave you.”
“You think that’s what he showed me?” I looked at him in surprise.
“It happened,” John stated simply. “Rodney found a way to change it, to make it not happen but I think that’s what Davos was showing you – a future that's already happened ... but won't anymore.”
“Well that’s a relief,” I acknowledged, feeling that edge of dread I'd been carrying round for too many months finally ease. “It pretty much completes everything he showed me. So I went back to Earth ... then what happened?”
“You walked away from Arlington,” John said in a low tone. “You were gone from the SGC for about seven months with no one hearing a word from you - Lorne looked but from the sounds of it you were pretty determined to stay hidden ... until you were forced to return.”
“What would force me to go back if you weren’t there?” I frowned, trying to anticipate the next bit.
“A baby,” John revealed, our eyes meeting and locking as he delivered those words. “You were pregnant Sabina ... seven months after my funeral you came back to the SGC to have a baby ... our baby.”
“But ... I’m not pregnant,” I sat up abruptly, looking back at John feeling I didn’t know what. Scared? Frozen? Did I mention scared?
“You are,” John was smiling now as he watched me try to understand something he’d already had time to digest.
“I think I’d know if I were pregnant John,” I insisted grumpily.
“Not this early,” John disagreed, taking my hands and holding them tightly. “We need a test to confirm it but you better believe it’s true. We, my love, are somewhere around seven months away from being parents!”
“Oh God,” I took my hands from his and covered my face as I realised what that meant. “God John – that whole time on Michael’s ship! I let him experiment on me! What if –,”
“Don’t!” John pulled my hands back down. When I wouldn't look at him directly, he threaded his fingers through my hair and pulled my eyes up to his. “None of that matters ... and I know with one hundred percent certainty that the baby is fine.”
“Tell me everything,” I demanded, desperately needing something to counter the horrifying thoughts running through my head. Michael had wanted Teyla's baby and in offering myself up to stop that I'd almost given him mine. How that had been avoided was anyone's guess - I could only presume without the outward signs Michael hadn't thought to check for that kind of thing.
Had Diamantia known that aspect of my future? Was that part of what she'd meant by the benefits of me being outside my own time? And should I be feeling angry she'd seen fit to still have me risking myself when she'd probably known it wasn't just me I was risking? It was unlikely I'd ever know the truth ... another thing I'd have to bury in the 'no answer' box in my head. Shaking myself internally I refocused on John. “What are we having? What name did I use?" I asked impatiently. "Did you find out anything else?”
“You really want to know?” John asked, looking at me closely. “Keeping in mind that everything I found out about our future is gonna be different now?”
“But you know what we’re having,” I pointed out. “I would have wanted to know and you can’t be sitting there for the next who knows how long keeping that to yourself.”
“Okay, I’ll tell you that, but nothing else,” John insisted. “I don’t think that future you, if she could be here right now, would want me to tell you anything else.”
My eyes narrowed as I considered those words. His deliberate turn of phrase was uncharacteristic and there was one thing I knew for sure - he wasn't telling me everything. "John," I raised an eyebrow expectantly, that one word a wholly articulated question that said he better spill the beans or suffer the consequences.
"I knew that wouldn't work," John muttered under his breath. With a sigh he shook his head. "This is gonna annoy you no end but ...," he hesitated before continuing, "you insisted I tell you nothing else - nothing beyond what I've already shared."
"I insisted?" I repeated in confusion. "Pretty sure I'd remember that ... unless ...," I trailed off as possibilities for how that could be true began to occur to me. How far would I have been prepared to go to make sure John wasn't deserted all alone in that future Atlantis?
"You found a way to get a message to me in that future," John explained vaguely. "I agreed not to reveal too much, for fear that I'd stuff up this new future. I promised and in my mind it's a promise to you ... I can't break that."
"Not even if I give you permission to?" I asked.
"Ha - nice try," John said with amusement. "Believe me when I say there is no one who can give me permission to break that promise. So ... I'll tell you what we're having since you'll find that out eventually anyway, but nothing else. Agreed?"
I looked at him thoughtfully ... I knew John. Once he'd given his word nothing was going to sway him. I'd have to accept that he couldn't tell me everything he'd experienced - there was no other choice, despite my burning curiosity to know. In the end it wasn't that much different from not wanting to hear about the visions Davos experienced. I believed the future was unwritten - that we could influence it with our actions. All that remained was for me to live that ... and I would, as soon as I'd confirmed one more thing.
"Nothing untoward happened?" I asked, watching him intently. "There wasn't anything disturbing or upsetting that you're gonna carry forward?"
"No," John said simply. "Even with all that tragedy you were exactly as I expected Sabina - more than. In fact, your actions both awed and humbled me ... I won't forget it but it's not going to adversely affect our future."
"Um," I didn't know what to say to that, "I ah ... I guess that's a good thing ... right?"
"It's a great thing," he returned, a slight smile indicating that he was amused by my reaction. "So - do we have a deal?"
“We do,” I agreed abruptly. Future unwritten - no lasting negative effects. I could be comfortable with that. “Well – don’t keep me in suspense here! Boy or Girl?”
“A boy,” John laughed as I threw myself against him, wincing when I forgot about his injury. “Hey ... walking wounded here, remember.”
“Sorry,” I scooted back quickly, grinning madly. “A little version of you running around here ... it’s just incredible. I can’t believe it ... I don’t feel any different.”
“This is certainly an inside out version of how these things usually go,” John commented. When I looked at him with a puzzled frown he elaborated. “You know ... girl suspects she’s pregnant, does a test, sits on the positive result for however long and then finally shares it with whichever male got her that way.”
“You could be the first male in the history of this sort of thing to get the news first,” I suggested with a teasing grin. “Speaking for the rest of mankind, how was it?”
“I enjoyed it,” John replied seriously. “I can understand why people keep it a secret ... anticipating your reaction and then seeing how you honestly feel about it because with that initial knowledge you can’t hide anything. I guess it’s all the things women feel in that space of time between finding out for themselves and then sharing it with their other half. The whole Michael thing aside your first reaction was very ... maternal - fear, concern, responsibility, wonder, pride ... happiness. I saw all that in you and it was ... amazing.”
“Oh,” he’d actually managed to get me speechless for a moment. “Is that how you reacted? Since it seems I got cheated out of seeing it for myself.”
“Let’s see,” John replied thoughtfully. “Ah ... disbelief, worry, excitement, a bucket load more worry, fear ...,” he trailed off. “I could go on but you get the picture. You being Michael’s captive and me being forty eight thousand years in the future at the time kind of put a bizarre spin on the whole thing.”
“Of course,” I nodded, understanding that completely. “What about now?”
“I'm over the moon,” John admitted, “especially now I can share it with you. You know how much I wanted this Sabina. That hasn't changed. I can’t wait to tell everyone.”
“Let me have a chance to enjoy it for a bit before we tell anyone else,” I requested lightly.
“Ah ... Jennifer already knows,” John looked at me worriedly, waiting for a reaction.
“You used that to convince her to let you go to Michael’s Cruiser?” I looked at him in disbelief. “John!”
“I had no choice,” John insisted with little sign of remorse.
“You could have been sensible and stayed behind,” I pointed out heatedly.
“Yeah, and then if it all went to hell I could have spent the rest of my life beating myself up about it,” John retorted. “You know that’s what I’d do. I’m sorry I couldn’t check with you first before telling Jennifer you were pregnant but let’s be honest – I’d do the same thing in a heartbeat.”
“You would,” I agreed, resigned to accept that as the way John was built. “It’s okay ... and I don’t mind you telling Jennifer. She’d have known in a couple of hours anyway when we ask for that test.”
“So we’re good,” John commented, shifting lower in the bed and drawing me back down to rest beside him.
“We’re good,” I agreed, putting a hand over his heart with a sigh. “You know, all these different versions of the future are kind of confusing,” I said after a moment’s pause. “The first one Diamantia lived through where I wasn’t even here, then the one you saw, and now the one we’re gonna have which will be different again. Even the one from Rod’s alternate reality.”
“I know,” John agreed. “But the only thing you’ll get out of trying to get it all straight is a sore head.”
“True,” I laughed. “The only present ... the only future that matters is the one we’re gonna have ... together.”
We lay there quietly for a time, both thinking our own thoughts before I spoke again. “Wow ... a baby.”
“It’s big,” John agreed, pressing a kiss to the top of my head.
“You realise I’d be jumping you right about now if you weren’t injured, right?” I shifted, raising myself up on one hand so I could look at him, my expression telling him I was quite serious.
“That’s right, torture the injured man,” John complained.
“Sorry,” I looked at him for a moment before kissing his lips softly once and then again. “You know I love you.”
“You know I love you back,” John replied, hand at the back of my head so he could kiss me more forcefully.
We were managing to get a nice passionate buzz happening until a throat being cleared behind us announced an audience.
“That’s enough of that you two,” Jennifer was smiling when we broke apart and looked at her with guilty expressions.
“Ah .... sorry?” I began. “John was just filling me in on the news.” Jennifer looked puzzled so I tried to clarify it. “You know ... the news!”
“Oh! Right!” Jennifer exclaimed. “Actually that’s part of what I wanted to see you about. I took the liberty of running a test on the blood sample Doctor Cole took ... just wanted to give you the confirmation. I’d estimate you’re about 7 weeks along. Congratulations!”
“Thanks Jennifer,” John and I grinned at each other madly. “That’s great news!”
“What’s great news?” Rodney walked in, followed closely by Ronon.
“Nothing Rodney,” John dismissed, ploughing right through Rodney’s protests. “Did you hear about Teyla’s baby’s name?”
I grinned - nice distraction tactics there.
“Yes and as usual there’s no justice in the world,” Rodney took the bait instantly. “I was the one who had to deliver that baby and let me assure you there were parts that were frankly horrific. Sabina threw herself into a culling beam for Teyla so you know ... she earned it. What did you do except bleed all over the place? At the very least I should have gotten a middle name.”
“Yes Rodney,” we chorused. It was all so ... normal. That on top of talking things out with John finally had me feeling like I was truly home at last.
John and I shared a secret smile as the others talked over each other, sharing comments about their experiences with babies and naming them.
There were still things I wanted to know, things I needed to share with my friends but I knew there’d be time for that later. In fact I believed right then that I had time enough for everything I wanted to achieve ... and time enough to live happily ever after with John and our children. It was a hell of a trade off for being taken from my biological parents ... and I refused to feel guilty for thinking that way.
“You okay?” John asked quietly.
“Never better,” I replied, resting my head against his chest with a happy sigh.