Kenmore comes to on a cot with Doctor Jennifer Keller kneeling beside her and Sheppard and his team gathered around a few steps behind the good doctor, waiting. Kenmore glances up at the window in the wall just above her and sees the daylight of the light blue sky outside. She tries to get up as quickly as she can possibly scramble…
“Oh good God, the patients,” she gasps.
Keller tries to push Kenmore back down.
“Relax, they’re fine,” she applies her soothing voice and deeply dimpled smile.
“What happened,” Kenmore asks.
“You passed out,” Lieutenant Colonel Sheppard tells her.
“How long has it been since you’ve slept,” Doctor McKay asks.
Kenmore looks uncomfortable as she leans back on her straightened arms behind her, allowing her to sit up for this.
“Ninety-six hours,” she finally admits like a child confessing they stole a cookie from the cookie jar before they’d had dinner first.
McKay gapes at her, even Sheppard starts.
“Are you out of your mind?”
Kenmore doesn’t look at the scientist as she tries to get herself up the rest of the way.
“I don’t sleep much,” she grumbled, trying to dismiss them from asking about the reason why she doesn’t sleep much.
Keller tries to reach out to her again but Kenmore suddenly grabs her wrist, not tightly just firmly enough to make the doctor think twice. Ronon starts and John puts his hand out in front of the Satedan to stop him. Kenmore looks at Keller.
“Don’t,” and for once the word didn’t come out as a direct threat, “I don’t like to be touched, okay. Just…don’t.”
Jennifer nods. The Lieutenant releases her wrist and the doctor backs up. Kenmore swings her legs over the edge of the cot and pushes herself up to a standing position. The doctor stands up as well.
“You should get some rest,” Jennifer warns her.
“Perhaps I didn’t explain myself. You need to get some rest. It’s not good for your body to be starved of it like that.”
“I scanned her,” McKay says with the lifesigns detector still in his hand, “It’s not showing anything wrong with her anymore, not even the exhaustion it had previously registered. She’s fine.”
Kenmore glowers at him.
“Like I needed your little palm pilot to figure that out.”
The Lieutenant heads for the hut’s door.
“I didn’t clear you to return to active duty,” Jennifer Keller calls after her.
“Like I need you to,” the Lieutenant calls her response back without looking.
“I didn’t clear you to return to active duty,” Sheppard tells her sternly.
That makes Kenmore finally stop just in front of the hut’s door.
“Yes, because of course it’s always a good idea to be a man down when you’re resources are stretched to the limit and you have no back up.” She turns slightly and aims an ‘Are you seriously kidding me?’ look back at the Colonel. Then she walks out.
God dammit, Sheppard stared at the hut’s entrance, barely managing to hold himself in, she’s going to do it again, isn’t she?
Sheppard’s team and Keller walk out of the hut and eye Kenmore on the other side of the avenue, standing with Lorne and some of his men. Jennifer sighs as Kenmore slips on her green BDU shirt and starts buttoning it up.
“You know she’s right,” Jennifer says, “but I’m right too. If she tries to push herself, it’ll force you to be a man down.”
Kenmore reaches down by one of the sitting soldiers and picks up her tacvest and throws it on.
Sheppard nods, “Oh, she’ll push it. She’s got that look again.”
Kenmore zips up the vest and starts to snap its two front snaps shut.
“What look,” Rodney asks.
Kenmore gives her body a once over.
“The same look she gave before she ran off and half a warehouse wall fell on her,” John tells him, “She’s planning something.”
“Should I keep an eye on her,” Ronon asks.
“Well, whatever you watch her do, make sure you watch her eat at some point in time. If she’s going to push herself again, she’s going to need to eat to keep up what little energy she has,” Jennifer sighs again. “I’ve got more patients to see. Rodney, come with me, I’ll need the detector.”
Sheppard nods him on and Rodney leaves with his girlfriend. Ronon comes up beside Sheppard, Sheppard glances over at him, an unspoken cue is given, and Ronon starts across the main avenue of the village towards Kenmore. Teyla moves closer to the remaining member of her team, keeping her eyes on the Lieutenant.
“What do you suspect she will do,” Teyla asks.
Sheppard shakes his head, “I don’t know, but whatever it is, it won’t be good.”
Teyla nods beside him.
“While Ronon tails Kenmore, we should follow Shiana…just in case.”
“Where is she,” Sheppard asks.
Teyla gestures down and across the avenue.
“One of the villagers visiting another patient near Lieutenant Kenmore’s bed mentioned that he had seen her just starting her rounds in the first hut on that side.”
“How long ago was that?”
“Fifteen perhaps twenty minutes ago.”
Sheppard eyes the hut, “How many people are in that hut?”
“Twenty, I believe.”
“Good, so say she spends at least one maybe two minutes with each villager…so she’ll probably still be there.”
Teyla nods, any leader would want to spend as much time with her people as she could while still allowing for time to be with them all at least once throughout the day. John turns to her with one of his playfully charming smiles and bows slightly, gesturing her on. She smiles at him, indeed playfully charmed, and accepts the gentlemanly offer.
* * *
Kenmore reaches out a hand to Lorne right beside her. He looks at her. She smiles at him. He smiles back and shakes her hand. Then she turns and starts up the village’s main avenue, towards the nearest hut. Ronon continues across the road and follows Kenmore using the quickly crowding street as more than adequate cover for his skills. A few huts down, Kenmore reaches into one of her vest pockets, pulls out a Powerbar, and unwraps it. She starts to take a bite, but when she looks up, she stops. A small boy wearing clothes that had been scorched and burned into rags by whatever introduction to the fires he had had is standing in front of the entrance to the next hut. He looked like he was waiting, looking, for someone, but the expression on his face told Kenmore he really didn’t expect to find anyone, let alone see them. But he was still there, hoping. Then he turned to look around some more and saw Kenmore, frozen in place with a Powerbar halfway into her mouth, and he stared at her…Rather, he stared at the hovering Powerbar and licked his lips like any other starving creature at the sight of anything even remotely edible. Kenmore took the bar out of her mouth and looked down at it then back up at the boy then back at the bar then she smiles and starts walking forward again.
* * *
Sheppard walks out of a hut, sighs, and starts looking around disgruntled. He hears a rustle off to his right and his head snaps to look over at it. But it was not the person he’d been hoping it was. Teyla steps out of another hut, letting the doorflap she had lifted fall closed behind her, and walks up to him.
“Shiana was not in there and none of her people know where she might have gone.”
“Same here,” he said instead.
He looks around again. This was exactly what he had planned on avoiding: losing Shiana in the growing crowd of concerned remaining villagers now feeling comfortable enough to either go see injured friends and family or go about their daily business.
“I didn’t think she could move that fast,” John complains, “I mean, wouldn’t you stop and take some time with your people if they were sick or injured?”
“A leader seeks to ensure the safety of her people.”
Sheppard looks at her. He knew that tone of voice.
“We are keeping them safe. She had them dying in fires before we came here,” he defended.
“I know,” Teyla said calmly in that benevolent voice of hers that sounded like the image the name Mother Earth could conjure up.
“Then what’s the problem?”
“She does not believe that,” Teyla stated matter-of-factly, understanding as a fellow leader of village-life in the Pegasus Galaxy would.
“That’s why you’re with me,” John tells her, again trying to smooth over things—And why was Rodney the only one not giving him problems today?—he hadn’t expected he’d have to smooth over, “We are going to talk to her and try to convince her we don’t mean anyone any harm. You from a leader-to-leader position and me from a Representative of Atlantis position.”
Teyla nods, silently and respectfully, but he sees the look in her eyes that ghosts the same look she gave him when he refused to help save Orin’s family during a massive Wraith culling practically six years ago now, when he made the decision to leave Kenmore to her own devices in that warehouse a week ago. Like there was looming catastrophe on the outside as well as the inside. An exchange comes back to haunt him…What else do you want from me? Too much I fear…Words and movements come back…No, Colonel, she had said politely enough with a shake of her head that fluttered the upraised tips of her shoulder-length amber hair, I chose to place my trust in you. She tilted her head to deliver the warning, There is a difference. John had lost that exchange as well. Teyla had walked away from him leaving him realizing that one of the most important members of his team, most important to him, believed his judgment was flawed but she was following him into the obvious oblivion anyway. And John had hated that feeling, still did. He looks her in the eye and opens his mouth, but before he can say anything, a marine comes running down the avenue, shouting for him…
Their heads snap to the marine.
“What is it?”
“Lieutenant Kenmore’s in a confrontation, Sir…with Shiana.”
God damn it. That’s what Ronon was supposed to put a stop to. The marine skids to a stop as Sheppard and Teyla rush up to him. He ushers them past him and then runs full tilt behind them.
Sheppard runs up to the wall of a screaming, yelling mob of villagers and starts to push his way through to the fracas at the center of it all. He sees some of the villagers on the far right side of the mob break off and run towards a hut nestled at the end of an alley created by two other larger huts at the forest’s edge. He pushes his way harder and breaks into the small birth given to Shiana freely standing her ground in front of her people, in particular a small malnourished-looking boy, and Kenmore. John was thankful to see the Lieutenant was being held back and up off the ground by Ronon, although she was kicking and fighting against the Satedan’s strength. She looked like she was being quite the handful to him, but at least she wasn’t being the handful in Shiana’s arms or grappling with Shiana down in the mud in front of her people. But there again, both women were screaming at each other, and that wasn’t good in front of Shiana’s people either. Subsequently, John was also grateful to see a few SGC soldiers trying to keep the peace behind Ronon and Kenmore. The Colonel steps forward.
“What the hell is going on here!”
The crowd quiets down, even Shiana does, so does Kenmore, but she still keeps fighting Ronon’s uplifting grip on her. Shiana’s breathless fury is back in her eyes. Huffing and puffing, she points an accusatory finger at Kenmore…
“I caught her trying to poison this boy!”
Sheppard looks at the emaciated child being held back from the fray by the villagers behind her again, Okay, that explains him…And? Sheppard turns to Ronon, from behind Kenmore’s ornery failing Ronon stares back at him, and Sheppard nods. Ronon puts the ornery Lieutenant down. She’s huffing and puffing just as much as Shiana is. She regains her balance from her semi-stagger to get the hell out of the Satedan weapons specialist’s reach and stands there glaring at the tribal leader. Her puffs of air rhythmically fluffing dislodged strands of her hair that had fallen across her face.
“I was not. I was giving him my Powerbar,” Kenmore snaps.
Sheppard glances at Ronon for confirmation.
Ronon begrudgingly nods.
“She’s right,” he tells the group in his gravelly voice.
Shiana laughs sourly, “Of course you would lie to save one of your own.”
Wow this woman had a lot to learn, Sheppard thought, Ronon would have gladly thrown Kenmore to the wolves, but apparently he draws the line at lying to do it. Good thing to know.
Sheppard turns to address Shiana and sees that the villagers he had seen run away have pushed their ways back to the front of the crowd behind her and they’ve come back armed. We don’t need any of that…
“He’s not,” he needed to defuse the situation quickly, “Look, where we come from a Powerbar is a source of nutrition. It’s food. Apparently she was trying to feed him. It’s alright.”
“We do not need your food. We can feed ourselves!”
The vehement leader turns to the crowd gathered behind her, all their eyes are focused on her. She nods at the armed men then reaches forward, takes the boy, and walks away, clearly feeling she’d won that one in the polls of public opinion. And judging by the way the crowd disperses with her, both John and Shiana knew she had it; it was now only a matter of time before she’d have the Atlantis personnel tucking tail and running back through the gate to their beloved Lost City of the Ancients. John watches Shiana’s back, the boy practically being dragged along beside her because his legs are just too short to keep up the strong, quick pace of hers.
The little boy’s eyes turn and look back longingly at the partially eaten, partially unwrapped Powerbar lying in the dirt of the road. The boy licks his lips at the image again, salivating, so desperate. Sheppard has no doubt that later the kid’ll probably sneak away from Shiana, come right back here, and eat the bar no matter how dirty or stepped on it would be by then, how it was now. Sheppard eyes the kid knowing if Kenmore hadn’t started causing problems, they could probably have given the kid a full MRE right now without a single squabble about it—well, maybe not without a single squabble but at least a hell of a lot less of one than this had been.
Sheppard walks forward up to Kenmore and Ronon, but shifts his eyes to the armed men. They’re staying behind, watching the SGC members.
“‘Apparently’,” Kenmore repeats angrily beside him.
Sheppard keeps his eyes coolly on the men. It was just the men and them left in what had once been the first circle of the mob. With the crowd fully dispersed now, the armed men finally heft their weapons onto their shoulders and take them back to the nestled, semi-secret hut. Sheppard watches them go in then walk back out again, unarmed. Okay, so there was an armory here. Great, that was a big help. At least now he knew where to find the villagers if and when the boiling point broke the thermometer. John still hoped he could salvage this operation, he had to; there was just one problem left, if he could get rid of it…
“There was nothing ‘apparently’ about it,” Kenmore keeps going beside him, “Don’t try and cover my ass.”
Suddenly Sheppard, tensed taut face and gritted teeth, turns on her. He viciously grips Kenmore’s upper arm and starts dragging her over to the nearest hut. An empty one used for storage that he’d stumbled across last night with Teyla by accident thinking it held casualties. They’d thought it was another hut of flame refugees, their last of the night; thank God it wasn’t and they were blessedly given an earlier night to eat and rest. Thank God it would do just fine for him…
“What the hell are you doing,” she snaps.
“Covering my ass,” John finally allows himself to growl at her as much as he really wanted to. To be as mad as he wanted to. To be as hateful of her as he wanted to be.
He opens the hut’s door. And it is an actual door at that, despite its scraggly appearance. With a knob made out of knotted rope and everything. And throws Kenmore in. She bumps into the chairs and table in the center of the room. She turns around.
“Now you stay here and—”
Kenmore lunges forward, trying to get out. Sheppard throws himself in the doorway. There’s a struggle as Kenmore tries to shove her way past him. He absolutely refuses to let her do it, even if he has to hogtie her in the middle of the room to do it…Then he hears it. Some Velcro give somewhere on his body. That’s it! He brings his leg up in between them and shoves with all his strength, attitude, and anger. Kicking Kenmore back. Kenmore staggers against the chairs and table harder this time. Her hands come out behind her to stop herself from falling as one of the chairs crashes to the floor and the table gives behind her a little. Sheppard steps back out the doorway and slams it shut. It bounces wobbly off of its frame slightly, stunned by its own ferocious velocity. If he couldn’t finish what he wanted to say, fine! Let the brat stay there!
Suddenly he grabs Ronon’s jacket lapel and drags his friend the two steps over to stand in front of the door. Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard was fuming.
“You stand right here and don’t move,” he yells in Ronon’s face, slamming his extended index finger downward.
Suddenly the door tries to shoot open with a loud wooden crack. It doesn’t open very far. It runs into some of Ronon’s unmoving mass. Sheppard right hooks the door closed again and Ronon steps back fully against it to make sure it has absolutely no room to open whatsoever. Sheppard, seething, jabs his finger at the door right beside his friend’s head…
“And if she tries to get out again, shoot her! I don’t give a damn what Woolsey thinks! I don’t give a damn she has a kid in Atlantis! Just shoot her!”
He storms off back into the rest of the village. Teyla in shock watches him go then glances at Ronon, who was smiling happier than she had seen him smile in a long time. And that was a bad thing, Ronon looked like he was on the hunt again. She hurries after Sheppard. After a moment, the door starts to rumble again and Kenmore can be heard yelling behind it. Ronon’s grin broadens.
Teyla pushes her way past people and between them as gracefully and considerately as possible as she hurries through the dispersing crowd.
“John,” she calls after him.
He keeps going, “I don’t want to hear it Teyla.”
Suddenly he rounds on her and shoves an irate finger in her shocked face. They stop dead in their tracks.
“I’ve had enough of her, okay. Enough! And if I have to lock her up or shoot her, then fine. I’m gonna do that.” He storms off again, leaving Teyla behind. Stunned in his wake.