Evening was already settling on Athosia by the time they returned to what remained of Teyla’s village. Kenmore pushes aside the cobbled ‘blanket’ of furs that acts as the Athosian meeting hut’s door and walks in. The blankets fall only for a moment behind her and as she just starts to dump the chairs on the long, rectangular wooden table in the middle of the main room, the furs swing to the side again, held open by Ronon, and Teyla walks in followed by Sheppard then McKay and finally Ronon. McKay comes to a halt with a big gaping mouth in shock at the sight of the table. It’s covered in all sorts of surveying equipment. Crap, they had taken a lot of time, Sheppard looks the table over too. She’d even had time to set up a computer. It’s sitting and waiting for her to plug in the video camera’s contents. McKay turns his gaping expression on Kenmore.
“How the hell did you do this? Did you come here twice? Once before we actually left and then when we actually left?”
“No,” she answers.
Kenmore doesn’t answer Rodney, she simply takes a step towards Sheppard, and extends her hand out to him. The Colonel, distracted by all the pieces of equipment already setup and waiting, suddenly realizes her extended hand in his field of vision and snaps out of his own thoughts. He hands the camera over to her without thinking of the action at all. Kenmore walks away and Sheppard catches the look Ronon’s shooting him out of the corner of Sheppard’s eyes. It’s clear he absolutely believes Sheppard is taking it easy on the Lieutenant. John looks his friend head on. He is not taking it easy on her; it was just, right now, she had all the cards and Ronon may not want to see what she’s holding in her hand but John sure as hell did. Without a word, Sheppard breaks eye contact with the Satedan and watches Kenmore as she plugs the camera into the waiting computer. She leans over the computer, watching the download. She rocks back and forth a couple of times before she realizes that they aren’t moving, aren’t talking. She chances a glance out the corner of her eye at Sheppard’s assembled team. But they are staring at her. Kenmore returns her eyes to the slow moving download bar.
“Woolsey gave you guys and me an hour,” she shrugs, “I can do a lot with an hour.”
“But you said you never came here before we left,” Rodney points out.
“Have none of you ever actually gone down to the supplies depot and got the extra equipment you use yourself?”
Okay, there was a hugely uncomfortable silence. She was right and as the outcast that was so wrong on so many levels no one knew where to start because there was nowhere to start, she had them. Even Teyla looked uncomfortable with the realization that no, not even the kind, caring, compassionate Athosian leader had ever actually gone down to the darkened bowels of Atlantis to the Supply Depot to get the extra equipment that sometimes accompanied them on their missions. It was usually just hanging by a hanger on a rack in their gender appointed locker rooms waiting for their next mission or waiting for them there in the gateroom in the waiting hands, or arms, of some supply staff member or another. Teyla bows her head slightly, she is not really sure if she even knew their names. That was unlike her. Kenmore is either heedless of the silence or once again steamrolling over it because she didn’t care about what it meant.
“When I volunteered to get the supplies, I picked up a few extra things. It’s still survey stuff, it’s just meant for archeological surveys. Woolsey looked the list of stuff I got over and signed off on it. I don’t think he even noticed what most of this stuff was anyways, I think he was just glad I wasn’t making a fuss.”
“You weren’t making a fuss because you were getting your own way,” Rodney snaps.
“Duh,” Kenmore goes on, “And then it took you guys a while to follow me.”
Rodney rolls his eyes and throws up his hands in exasperation at her. It was hard to tell whether or not he was actually irritated at her for what she’d done or because he hadn’t thought of it or had the gumption to do what she’d just done for the past five years.
Without looking up again, Kenmore gestures with her head back towards the wall at the end of the hut.
“I setup the sleeping bags in a room I found back there.”
Teyla looks back at the fake wall she knows is there.
“There is very little room back there for everyone to fit. That was where we stored our food,” she informs them.
Kenmore finally looks up from the download.
“Yeah, the local wildlife found the pantry. Tore it up pretty bad. So I pulled out as much of it as I could and set up shop.”
For the first time since he’s known her, Sheppard sees Teyla smile sourly at the Lieutenant, she drops the equipment she carried from the cave unceremoniously on the floor, then walks past the table and Lieutenant Kenmore. In a wall of seemingly just canvas and furs, her eyes easily find the crease. Teyla pulls back the furs, walks into a darkened area, and lets the furs fall closed behind her. Ronon sends Sheppard a quick glance of disapproval before he drops his equipment too and follows Teyla, and Rodney never needs an invitation. In the quiet, Kenmore returns her attention to the computer and, in quiet, Sheppard goes to join his team.
The former pantry is just as nice and cozy as the interior of the cave had been. There’s a lantern, bigger and brighter than the ones in the cave, in the middle of the room. Lighting the whole area in creamy light, adding to the cozy. There are five sleeping bags, standard-issue but nice and heavy in case of a chilly night, sitting on top of their own standard-issue cot with accompanying pillows, fluffy and ironically white considering everything else is camo green. Each team member staked out a bed leaving one left which Ronon had been staring at for awhile. Sheppard, turns on his cot for the third time, thought it was mostly because the empty cot was right by that hidden door and they could still see light from the hut’s main room from underneath the ‘door.’ All in all and due to what John had come to believe was a natural distrust of the attitudinal young Lieutenant, it was just Ronon being Ronon.
John looks over at Teyla, sitting silently on her cot. She hadn’t said a thing since they came in here an hour and a half ago, although Rodney had finally taken a breather from his running mouth. So finally John got to ask the question.
“How are you doing?”
Teyla looks at him. There’s a moment of silence in which Teyla looks shocked and maybe distressed but then her lips break into that thoughtful smile of hers once again.
“I am fine. It is just,” she stalls for a moment, “it has been many years.”
She looks around the pantry. Her friends did not know that she had spent that morning with friends like Halling, before he had gone off in search of Jinto, or Amri or Ramphi and his partner Jaden with their newborn child still slung to Jaden’s chest or Toran, who had tried to court Teyla although she refused his advances and who had been the first to die in their imprisonment onboard the hiveship. They had spent that morning brewing their tea and talking of what furs Teyla could trade on what worlds when the dawn brought light with it and Teyla had intended to go through the Ring of the Ancestors to trade fine goods and further the good name of her people before Halling had called formally at this hut’s doorway that he had brought men from away and Teyla had welcomed the chance to start the year off well for her people and said enter. And everything had changed from that moment on…Her mind returned to the present.
“I did not think I would ever return here.”
John nods at her. He remembered how it felt when they first returned to Earth after their miraculous first year defeat of the Wraith attack on Atlantis. He had come home after he personally was absolutely convinced that home was gonna be a grave at the bottom of a watery planet someplace in the Pegasus Galaxy. However, he came back to Atlantis a Lieutenant Colonel, a considerable leap from Major considering his career and the way the military brass viewed him, and he was happy to come back period. He had missed Atlantis, ironically enough. He wondered…
“Are you happy to be back or does it feel weird?”
“I…do not know…yet. It is all so…very different and yet so very familiar.”
“Did you miss here?”
“I remember missing this place.”
That Athosian smile is displayed again.
“In the beginning, when I was first on Atlantis, I missed this world, my homeworld. It was hard not having a place, a world, of one’s own. Even though my people later lived on the Lantean mainland and then later the Ancestor’s gave us our own world again, it was difficult. But New Athos and Atlantis has long since become my home. It has been a long time since I have thought of this place.”
“The lights are out,” Ronon suddenly says.
Sheppard and Teyla look over at him, he keeps staring, then they look over at the ‘door.’ It had gone dark on the other side. Sheppard looks back over at Ronon and nods then he looks over at Teyla and puts a finger to his lips. Kenmore had to be coming in eventually and, yes, they weren’t talking about her right now but maybe later. Ronon nods back at him with another look of disapproval at John’s apparent going easy on the Lieutenant as he eased himself back onto his bed. John frowns it off. He wasn’t. He knew he wasn’t. It was just…Damn it, he wanted to see those freakin’ cards she was holding so close to her vest. Last time, he hadn’t and it’d gotten Shiana assassinated and the time before that, it’d almost gotten the Lieutenant killed and them pinned down by a wraith ambush. Teyla nods with silent non-judgment and settles into her sleeping bag, quietly but there’s an air of duty about her movements like she was holding something back or not allowing herself to go near it but keep an eye on it from the outskirts, like she’d trained herself to do it. Rodney McKay could sleep pretty soundly but apparently the sounds of people talking had the unmitigated effect of waking him up. And Rodney…was Rodney.
“You know she’s a complete whack job, don’t you,” he asks in his normal volume of voice, John rolls his eyes, the same volume that has absolutely no regard for the concept of quiet let alone silence, “I mean who hi-jacks, hi-jacks, a mission to go off and do their own thing and get their own way.”
John can’t let this one slide.
“Like someone who, oh, I don’t know, say hi-jacked a mission for his own personal needs and ended up blowing an entire solar system to smithereens,” John smirks up at the hut’s ceiling.
Rodney glares at him as the scientist gets comfortable underneath his sleeping bag again.
“Oh very funny.”
It was. John thought it was. But as funny as it was, it didn’t bode well for the rest of the night. If Rodney is going to be this talkative…He stands up and heads for the fake wall. McKay freezes.
“Wait. Where are you going?”
“To make sure she isn’t ditching us again,” he sort of lied. It was a half-truth, but John didn’t figure it would be nice to say ‘To get the hell away from your mouth and to make sure she isn’t ditching us again’.
With that Sheppard lifts the door flap of furs and walks out. Rodney glances back at the others. Teyla has already settled in for sleep with her back towards the center of the room and Ronon just harrumphed as he stared at the ceiling. Clearly there had been or was trouble brewing in Bromance paradise. Rodney just rolls his eyes and settles even more underneath his sleeping bag. Well, if no one is going to acknowledge what a liability this chick was on their team…
Sheppard walks out into a completely, pitch dark room. It was such a stark contrast to the room he had just left. ‘Lights out’ had been an understatement. It was like light had never existed in this place. Sheppard looks around, not like he could really see anything until his eyes refocused, but still…and he saw the door of furs slightly open revealing a small, practically minute wedge of clear, full moonlight outside and a silhouette crouched down by it. Sheppard silently walks over and crouches down by Lieutenant Kenmore. Suddenly he hears rustling, not at all trying to hide itself, outside. Sheppard starts but Kenmore puts out an arm across his chest, stopping him. He has enough room to look out the wedge of open door and see the small pig emerge from the forest nearby and run across the open ground in the bright moonlight and into the other side of forest.
“Relax, he’s been circling the camp for the past hour.”
“It was so nice of you to inform us.”
“Oh gee, I’m so sorry the pygmy pig is scaring you people.”
Okay, John did not need that. He wants to say something to her but she’s so focused on watching outside, he wasn’t going to get the satisfaction of seeing her expression when he told her off. Damn it, that seemed to be the thought this kid always evoked in him, just Damn it.
She’s partially in the shadow of the hut’s wall and he figured what could be seen of her from the outside, her face, was pretty well shadowed by the visor of the BDU cap she’s wearing. Whoever taught her, taught her well. John couldn’t’ve done much better if he tried. Assuming the same silence she seemed to exude being completely still, shallowly breathing, and all, John settles down to watch beside her.
“You don’t have to do that,” she says, “I’m quite capable of taking First Watch by myself.”
I know you are, that’s part of the problem. John lowers his head for a moment, feeling like he should nod, if it were anybody else he would have but the expression Ronon’s been shooting at him all day floats back up in his mind and he can’t bring himself to do it. This kid is not part of his team. He isn’t about to treat her like one. Sheppard lifts his head.
“I know you are, that’s part of the problem.”
And there was your resounding rendition of ‘You’re not one of us’, well maybe not as resounding as John wanted to be satisfied with. He looks out the wedge and Kenmore, to her credit which John wasn’t about to give her, didn’t even glance at him from the corner of her eye. And silence took back over as two soldiers kept watch.
It was the third time Sheppard looked at his watch that Kenmore decided to speak up…
“You could go get some rest if you’re tired.”
“I’m not tired.”
“Then why do you keep checking that watch?”
Before John can answer…
“It’s because you’re either bored or tired. And I can’t use either one out here.”
Sheppard’s mouth falls open.
“Excuse me. You aren’t ‘using’ anything because you aren’t team leader. You have no team here,” Sheppard stabs a finger in her direction, “And another thing—“
The shrieking scream cuts him off and both of them look out into the open. The pig’s screaming doesn’t stop and Kenmore bolts out of the hut like its gut instinct for her to run towards anything screaming. Sheppard runs after her. He reaches out and grabs the camo green blanket she’d wrapped around herself. He pulls on it to yank her back to him but the Lieutenant struggles out of it and leaves him in the dust as she charges the rest of the way across the open ground and just before she enters the forest, she slams the pair of night vision goggles she’d been wearing on top of her cap down over her eyes. Then she’s gone. Sheppard slams the blanket on the ground as the rest of his team runs out of the hut. He doesn’t wait for them, he charges into the forest right after Kenmore, and his team follows him. They’re blind and he could care less.
Kenmore charges through the forest, jumping up over fallen logs or scrambling under balanced but equally downed trees. The screaming isn’t stopping and all she can think is Oh God, the poor creature, and I’ve gotta save ‘em.
Somewhere behind her, Sheppard is tearing his own path. Granted there isn’t a whole lot of light but there is enough that he can see most of the obstacles ahead of him and what he couldn’t see was slowing him down and pissing him off even more than Kenmore slipping out his grasp and running off again. Behind him he can hear Ronon just barreling through anything obstacle or not and further behind he could hear Teyla and somewhere behind her he swore he could hear Rodney hitting every obstacle like it was a brick wall. It’d be a miracle if the scientist made it with them to wherever they were going.
Kenmore climbs over a massive stump. Suddenly the poor pig’s screaming stops with a pathetic and heart-wrenching groaning, moaning into nothing. Kenmore runs faster and slides ungracefully down the lip of a root saturated, eroded hill. As she tries to get off her butt, a few feet away she sees a small pool of something, probably blood, glowing in the moonlight peeking through the treetops and it has a trail leading off further into the forest. Her whole body stops except for her panting breathing. Then Kenmore carefully picks her way over to the pool. She looks at the ground all around her and sees the tiny marks of hoof prints where the pig had come from around the hill and had apparently been sniffing around the base of it, either for food or bathroom facilities, whichever the prints quickly go from the pressure of searching something out to the mad, panicked scurry of an animal that has itself been searched out. It had moved in circles. It hadn’t been allowed to move far, indicating two assailants, two to corner it. The little creature had spun around and around, kicking up all sorts of dirt and decaying leaves and broken, rotting twigs. It had tried all it could to survive but despite the amount of blood, Kenmore figured the animal had not been killed here. Mortally, fatally wounded but it hadn’t died here. Perhaps with the wound, its adrenaline had triggered its flight response a second time and perhaps its attackers had figured they had done it in well enough that they could do whatever it was they had planned to do with it whenever it ran out of time, but Kenmore isn’t sure about that. With the amount of blood, yes, the animal had still been alive but she needed to be able to see more and the moonlight just isn’t cutting it. Despite the hitherto helpful combination of darkness and light, Kenmore lifts up her goggles, pulls her flashlight off of her vest, and flicks it on. She starts its concentrated beam of light at the pool of blood then follows the trail. As she walks around the pool to continue to follow the trail, she hears Sheppard coming and out of consideration more for the crime scene than his safety, calls out…
“Watch out, there’s a drop!”
She hears Sheppard slow down practically to a stop and pick his way forward then the slide of him coming down the eroded hill, apparently about as gracefully as she had. Sheppard gets slowly to his feet as he sees the pool of blood and calls back to the apparently incapable of being silent rest of his team…
“Watch out! Hill!”
Sheppard’s team heeds his warning—well, McKay heeds the warning by falling down the thing, but he rebounds nicely enough—and they’re all there. As Kenmore’s examining some blood splattered on a tree with her flashlight, Sheppard, Teyla, and McKay have their flashlights out and trained on the pool.
“What did this,” Teyla asks.
Before John can say natural predator, Kenmore walks off, following the blood trail of heavy drips. Bleeding like hell, screaming for its life, the poor creature had made a run for it. The trail zigzags like the animal had tried to go in different directions but was forced to return to this one path, probably stalked to the bitter end, making Kenmore believe even more firmly that there had been more than one assailant, and then she stops and lets her flashlight continue following the trail across the dust and dirt-covered, rotting leaves groundcover and the bits of broken stone and onto the slab of ceiling now acting as the floor of the cave system’s entrance and the main cave itself. Staring at the dark entrance, she takes a deep breath then heads into the cave-in. Somewhere behind her she hears Sheppard yell…
…and she ignores him.
Inside the cave, her flashlight shines on the blood. It’s gone from drips now to one continuous pool. The poor animal had been in its death throes here and was probably simply staggering and…Kenmore’s light shines on the little pig’s carcass lying in a massive pool of its own blood. Its belly is cut open.
“Aw, you poor baby,” Kenmore says quietly like she was referring to her own son. Of course, she is referring to someone’s son.
She walks over, kneels in the blood, and scoops the little animal up in her arms, cradling it like she had cradled her own precious child when he had been this small.
Sheppard paces back and forth a few steps away from the cave’s entrance. It wasn’t going to do anybody any good if he just blew up at her right now. And he sure as hell wasn’t sending anybody in there. The place had just, just caved in. That place was a friggin’ deathtrap. And she just walked right in! He is so pissed. He can’t believe she’d do this again—well, yes, yes he can. How could she do this again? Half a warehouse wall had fallen on her the first time and that had been a lot more stable than a small rickety old carved out room that had a cave-in two hours ago. Then he hears her footsteps coming down the entrance of the cave. Okay, so he wouldn’t be getting that cool down time. Fine. Sheppard rounds on the entrance and stops on the brink of yelling at her. Kenmore walks out cradling the body of the little pig in her arms like she was cradling a baby all she was missing was the little cotton blanket the color of a perfectly cloudless day. The little body is covered in blood and looks like it’s been gutted. That was why it had been screaming, it’d been gutted alive, and finally left to die in misery from blood loss in some caved in little hole. What a way to go? Kenmore walks past McKay and as she passes…
“All of that for a pig. I thought someone had been attacked.”
“Someone was being attacked,” she answers him simply.
“But it’s a pig.”
Kenmore rounds on Rodney.
“Just because someone isn’t as smart as you doesn’t make them any less of a sentient being. It was screaming for its life Doctor McKay. It was scared and hurt and it knew it. It was self-aware.”
Rodney’s left silent as Kenmore walks away. She takes more care cradling the pig than she does to let the flashlight’s light guide her feet. The light traces the outskirts of the path.
Each member of the team looks towards the other. They had not expected such vehement passion from her. They all knew she could get just as angry as the rest of them, she’d taken on Woolsey in the briefing room after all…and assassinated Shiana, but this wasn’t just anger, it was different. McKay looks genuinely ashamed. He looks at the ground, away from the looks of his team members, for a moment then his eyes come back up and Ronon leads the team after Kenmore.