Category: team drama with John/Teyla pairing
Word Count: 60,147
Spoilers: Up to Common Ground, with hints and mirrorings from the seasons after.
Notes: Sequel to my sgabigbang story from 2008: The Astonishing Persistence Of Memory: Past Time which goes AU after Common Ground but retains certain plot elements of the series.
Copious Thanks: Thanks go to my betas with_apostrophe and michelel27, who gave excellent concrit and did wonderful beta jobs to the tune of mucho panic and fretting. They also go out to the cheer squad over at sga_team, who were encouraging and helpful when things got stuck, and encouraging and supportive when things were going well. And finally, they go to ladyjax, whose persistently expressed desire to read this story has been my fluffy blankie for the last couple of months.
Summary: After being missing for six months after Kolya tried to use him as a hostage, John Sheppard is once again back in Atlantis, back with his team, back among his friends. But even as he tries to attain 'normality' in his life, the shadow of what the Wraith did to him in those missing months looms - and threatens not only him and his team, but all of Atlantis, too.
Made with the assistance of scrollgirl!
They were mostly out of the planet's gravity well now, just below the point where something might drift out to space or might drift down toward the surface. And John drew his breath and took one last look at the planet as he wrestled with the city's hyperdrive navigational systems.
It was one look too long.
Hello, John Sheppard of Atlantis. The mind seized him in a cold grip, like an icy pincer on his thoughts. It has been a while.
He retained enough defiance to reply, at least, although it was like shoving his brain through a sieve. Not long enough. We had a deal!
And I kept to it. You have your life back, and, for what you returned to me, I will spare it.
But not Atlantis. Not Earth. John saw that now through the weblike maze of the Wraith's mind. He would survive whatever plans the old Wraith had, but the protection offered to his life didn't extend to anything he'd give his life to protect.
The awful irony of it stabbed at him, tearing through his gut.
And he flinched from the hand that touched his cheek, burning hot against the ice of his skin. Carson. "He's gone cold. Eyes are open but non-responsive."
A light flashed in his eye and he jerked his head away.
"Not now!" He ground the words out, over the cacophony of voices and conflicts, swatting the human hand away, fighting off the alien mental touch. He had control of his body, but his ability to interface with the city was suffering as his mind was held fast, his will subverted to that of the Wraith.
Someone was gabbling into their pickup a few feet away. John ignored them.
You won't have this.
You may fight all you wish, said the creature solemnly. The end result will remain the same; no matter where you run, I will find you.
The worst part? The Wraith wasn't gloating. This wasn't a victor taking pleasure in its victory, simply a statement of a fact.
"...seems to be struggling..."
"...Wraith are coming..."
"...can't disconnect him – he's the only thing..."
"...die than risk Earth! Sergeant..."
Hands grabbed him, dragging at his limbs where they lay rigid in the chair.
"...is mad. Do you know what kind of..."
"...nel Sheppard is..."
And suddenly there was no-one else in the room but him and a tall, spindly figure.
He was sitting in the chair, his body pressed back against the silver chasings while the Wraith stood before him, 12 o'clock. He'd forgotten how tall the creature was, the hollow height of it towering above him. In Kolya's bunker, it had hunched more, bowed over with captivity and hunger.
Now, it stood proudly – an invader to the city, one who regarded the room it stood in with curiosity.
It had to be John's mind painting this place, which meant the Wraith was in his mind, which meant...
The open door out to the corridor slid closed and the locks snapped down. John felt better for the marginal defiance – perhaps the Wraith would break through his thoughts with nothing more than a mental flick of the wrist, but he'd done what little he could.
"I look forward to seeing your...City of the Ancients."
"Sorry I'm not in a position to give the tour." At least here he could speak, even if it felt like freezing knives were being thrust into his brain, stabbing deep into his thoughts. The pain was overriding his ability to speak, John was pretty sure he wouldn't be able to manage this conversation back in the real chair room.
As it was, he strained to keep the Wraith from completely overpowering his mind. It had him in a freezing, bitter grip right now, but that wasn't the same as having John's co-operation.
"It will not be necessary. We will have many aeons to look at this wonder of our Ancient enemies."
Behind its shoulder, something shimmered. John pulled back his lips in a half-snarl, half-smirk. "Or not."
The Wraith frowned. "You underestimate your strength, Sheppard. You will not last long."
"Perhaps he will not," said Teyla from behind the Wraith. Her voice was cool and strong. And John felt the Wraith's grip drain away like water as she stabbed a long-bladed skinning knife through the Wraith's chest. "But he does not need to. Now, John!"
He yanked his thoughts from the grip of the Wraith, and reached for the city. It responded uncertainly, like a dog unsure if this was its master's hand, but he commanded it, forcing it through with all the will and strength he possessed.
Drones exploded from their firing shafts, whirling gold projectiles that swirled around each other in a brilliant dance before speeding towards the Wraith hives. Ten, twenty, forty, a hundred – John didn't know how many; he didn't care.
Atlantis' time was done here; it was time to go.