Now abandoned, the men look around their new room. Well it sure as hell beats the empty, mind-numbing monotony of all those damn hallways. Now they have a stack of a few chairs to play with.
“Well, isn’t this just great. She brings us here and then leaves us,” McKay says.
“Well you’ve been here before Rodney, what should we do now,” Sheppard asks him.
Rodney walks over to the stack of wooden chairs and pulls one off the top and starts positioning it where he wants to sit.
“I’m figuring she brought us to this room because wandering the hallways was probably drawing undue attention also. I suggest we just sit here and wait till she gets back and tells us more fun facts about why we’re here…well, actually, why Kenmore is here and we all just got brought along for the ride.”
John wanted to point out that it was Rodney who’d got brought along for the ride actually, but…
As Rodney takes his seat, Sheppard, not happy with just sitting here and doing nothing about their situation, looks around again. He notices Lorne staring back at the door. He looks back at the door too then back at Lorne.
“Hey,” he gets Lorne’s attention, “you stay with Rodney and watch out for him. I’ll go talk to her.”
Lorne glances between the door and Sheppard, uncertainly.
“With all due respect, Sir, but you don’t know her. You don’t even like her. And she doesn’t like you. And right now she needs someone she can trust. And let’s face it, Colonel, that’s not you.”
Sheppard’s not exactly thrilled with Lorne’s bluntness no matter how true it is.
“I’ll do it,” Sheppard tells him.
“Major, she’s under my command and the fifth member of my team,” he cuts him off, “Now stay here and keep an eye on Rodney. I don’t think having a half-ass—“
“Hey,” McKay interjects.
“Half-ass Ancient gene,” Sheppard goes on, “is going to keep him safe around here, him being here before regardless.”
Lorne glances at the door again. He’s not buying any of it. His loyalty and love for his friend is admirable but…
“Don’t make me make this an order, Major,” the Colonel warns him.
Evan looks back at his commanding officer…and nods. A true officer. Cut from the same cloth as Kenmore. Never would disobey an order, but it would have to be an order in the first place. And a damn good one at that too. She’s one of the few officers Sheppard’s ever met that actually read her agreement to join the military through and through, including memorizing the section about being able to disobey a direct order when it is believed that the order will be detrimental to the mission and lives by it and makes damn sure every other officer around her lives by the same standard too.
Sheppard nods back at the Major then heads for the door. He gets his hand on the wrought iron ring handle…
“Oh, and Colonel,” Lorne pipes up.
Sheppard stops and looks back at him.
“If you have ever trusted me,” Sheppard nods at him, John does, “then trust me now when I tell you, you don’t know it all. What was left out of her personnel file and the reports is what’s still lingering on.”
Sheppard nods at him again then leaves the room. Lorne looks over at Rodney and Rodney is looking like ‘What the hell did you two just say to each other?’ Then Evan heads for the back wall, if Morgan LeFay could go through it, maybe some of those Others could come through it too. No sense in not checking to see if there are any structural weaknesses they might be able to take advantage of. Maybe if they couldn’t break a chair and use its parts, or maybe they could ram McKay against it and use parts of him…
* * *
Back in the mind-numbing hallways again, only they aren’t quite so mind-numbing anymore because he knows who he’s looking for, John Sheppard comes around the corner and slows at the sight of Lieutenant Kenmore sitting on the floor. Her back against the wall, her knees gathered up against her chest. He stops. Her face is buried in between her kneecaps with her arms wrapped around her legs, her long, naturally wavy, brown hair blocking her face from view. She hadn’t been outside the door like he’d expected, but back farther along one of the many other doorless hallways they’d taken to get here. And although her hair is definitely long enough of a block to see her face, it isn’t enough to hide the emotion. He slowly walks up to her, and sits down against the wall opposite her. After a long while, she looks up. She’s been crying. Still crying, but she’s trying to hold herself in. Most likely because he’s not a friend. Then it suddenly dawns on him that he’s never seen her cry…never known her to. Get angry, sure, on basically every mission. But she’s never cried, not in front of him, not any of them.
Sheppard keeps an even tone for her sake, respecting how monumental this is, “Tell me.”
It’s not an order or a demand of any sort, it’s simply a question. What he’s asking is a lot, will she rise to it?
She won’t meet his eyes. Can’t. Instead she chooses to stare beside his boots and somewhere distantly beyond the stone bricks there…
“It’s a lie,” she whispers, “it was all a lie.”
Sheppard waits another long moment of silence then…
“What was a lie,” he asks quietly.
He stares at her, that was not the answer he had expected from her. Of all the things he could have guessed, doubting her marriage was not anything he figured. Having issues with the possibility that she’s actually descended from the sick Ancient bastards that initiated her being half-human, half-Ancient, that was definitely what he’d expected. But he can see that even though her face is still, it’s tense and her eyes are brimming. She’s in a lot of pain.
“How do you get that,” he asks.
And all of a sudden the anger is there.
“They bred us like animals. There was no love. It wasn’t a marriage, it was an experiment. Their experiment.” She seethes. Barely controlled.
“Look, I know I don’t know you very well—“
Kenmore scoffs and tears actually manage to fall from her eyes, “You don’t know me at all.”
“But I do know you love your husband.”
She looks at him. In the eyes.
“You’d rather still be married to his ghost, his memory, than anything, anyone else. Now they,” he points back down the hallway towards Rodney and Lorne’s room, the one the Ancient hologram teacher woman had taken them to, “didn’t fake that. They couldn’t. They don’t know what the hell any of that is.”
“Those two Ancient geneticists did.”
Sheppard remembers finding the video of the two…
Stumbling around the ruins of the Ancient outpost on the oceanic planet Amna of Athos’s solar system was a joy, sarcastically, unto itself. The typical beautiful marble floors of every single Ancient facility they’ve ever been in, and for Kenmore that basically amounted to Atlantis, has been reduced by humidity, weather, and time to something more akin to crumbling porous cheese. The colors have been stripped out of it too rendering it looking more like really porous concrete or concrete-colored pumice. Actually…everything’s been stripped. And it was easy to tell that none of it had been done by scavengers, no one would possibly want what wasn’t here anymore. Every single computer console or piece of anything even remotely technological has literally been eroded away. Things John never thought in a million years could rust have apparently rusted in a matter of ten thousand years and they haven’t just rusted, the parts that have rusted through have crumbled into dust and are being blown away by the winds blowing through off the ocean and the massive waterfalls outside. Wow.
The trickiest part of the whole place are the stairs though. Where Atlantis had some stairways that are made of metal grating, this place had definitely dedicated more of its décor choices to aesthetic than utility…or longevity. They’re lucky any bits of the wooden staircases are left—frankly John’s shocked that any wood is left in the place—, even though you could blatantly tell even now from the remnants that the pieces had to have been at least four feet thick; they aren’t even four inches thick now. But their planted holes left in the stone are still there to show the real size that was. As the team try to make their ways up to the second floor, hugging the walls, Kenmore’s boot slips on some fragmented wood giving way underneath her precarious step and fluttering down to the ground floor. She gasps, gives a little yelp, but keeps her hold on to the swiss cheese-like stone wall behind her as she watches the splinters flutter away from her. Teyla, beside her, and Ronon, on her other side, watch the splinters fall away too. John and Rodney up ahead of Teyla, look back.
“Are you alright,” Teyla asks breathlessly.
Kenmore nods, more breathless.
“Everything okay,” John shouts back to them over the funneling of the wind and the somewhat muffled sounds of the waterfall.
The two women nod. It’s not exactly the verbal communiqué he’d been hoping for but it’s something. The team keeps moving to the only part of the second floor of the ‘building’ still left, some frayed wooden floor guarded by some relatively stable stone exterior and interior. Rodney’s guess that the stone here was still somewhat stable was more or less due to the fact that there’s a giant foyer-like room they’d just left whose rounded walls were apparently big enough to provide this part of the building’s structure with some barrier to the elements. But blocking it from the elements is about all it did. Sheppard gets into the room followed by Rodney then a handful of seconds later by Teyla then Kenmore and then Ronon. The group looks around.
Barracks. Not military like the ones on the desert planet, Laema Dar, but more…dormitory. Of course, Rodney and Zelenka had discovered before the team came here that the planet’s only structure had been a school dedicated to the Arts. Think Juilliard. Ancient beds, devoid of mattresses, paired with Ancient bedside tables, devoid of lights or any other technology like that, lined up against the parts of the room’s walls left standing. The concrete-like, stripped marble flooring looked even iffier than the first floor’s. No wall sconces or other forms of lighting of any sort anywhere to be seen.
There’s really not much left. The colding wind blows through what’s left of the ruins and tousles their hairs around. Really, not much. Rodney, of course, makes his way over to the safest looking part of the room, this side of the wall they’d just clung to to climb the stairs to get up into here. But it’s why he’s gone over there that’s different. He saw something. Not an animal, if Rodney thought he’d seen the Pegasus Galaxy answer to a rat scurrying around over there he would have either shot at it while screaming like a seven-year old Drew Barrymore coming face to face with E.T., or tried to run the hell out of the room while screaming, again like a seven-year old Drew Barrymore coming face to face with E.T., or just plain screamed. No, Rodney saw something shiny. Something he recognized. A crystal. And not just any crystal, a control crystal the kind of which are used on Ancient laptop computers. Small, but usually pretty damn tough to remove—he knows McKay knows that from personal experience. Rodney bends down into the elementally torn up floor boards and pulls out the Ancient laptop. He dusts it off as the team gathers around him, no one willing to stray from the rest of the group too far in the falling apart building for fear of it falling apart the rest of the way and taking them with its fall without being able to reach out to anybody for help. Rodney opens the once bright white, small computer up and tries to see if it’s got any juice left. And magically enough it does. Actually a lot more than even McKay’d thought it could possibly have left in it.
“What do you think it’s for,” John asks McKay, nodding his head at the computer in the scientist’s hands.
McKay stands up and starts pushing buttons, just to test out how many of them are still in proper working order. The others crowding in close…when suddenly the laptop’s screen activates. And so does its speakers, loud and clear.
There’s no mistaking the moaning and groaning of the woman and man. And definitely no mistaking what the naked woman straddling the naked man are doing.
The team’s eyes bulge and immediately let alone does Teyla look away, she moves away too. The other four just stare.
“Wow,” Kenmore says. “Really? We didn’t come up with calling someone a ‘frigid bitch’ on our own,” referencing some of Nemesis’ translated journal passages from back at the Athosian ‘college campus’, “And now we apparently didn’t even come up with homemade porn on our own? Really?…I mean, really? Is anything we have nowadays, anything, even remotely original that we came up with on our own or did we just inherit everything from them? Seriously.”
Sheppard and Ronon are actually kind of enthralled by the sight, and it’s in a really confusing way. Confusing as in they don’t really know whether or not to find it interesting or to gouge out their eyes. It’s more like accidentally catching your parents having sex…right now both men, especially John, are erring on the side of eye gouging.
“Wha-wha-what else is, is there…on that thing,” Sheppard stammers. Uncomfortably running a hand through his tousled and windblown hair.
Rodney tries to check but all the thing is letting him do is check while not removing the homemade Ancient video from its screen. Split screen. Great…
“Well, all I can tell you is that there are a lot of communications, probably back and forth between the two of these two, and that’s there’s more videos than just this one. Oh and this video’s length.”
“How, how, how long,” John manages to get out.
“Eighteen hours,” the others exclaim at him.
“Wait, you mean that this video is eighteen hours…of just this,” Kenmore points flabbergasted at the coital couple still going at it on the small screen.
Rodney looks back at her, “Well, I don’t actually know. I haven’t seen the whole video. I’m just telling you what the computer is telling me.”
“And it’s telling you that this is eighteen hours long?”
“Well, not exactly eighteen hours,” the others roll their eyes and scoff, it would figure Rodney would pad a number like that, “it’s actually eighteen hours thirty-eight minutes and forty-five point sixteen seconds. Exactly.”
They gape at him again. Over eighteen hours?! Are you kidding me?
Rodney nods at them. Teyla goes back to at the very least managing to avoid the video if not the audio, while the others go back to watching. The four of them start tilting their heads to the left, following the action. The fortyish pale skinned woman’s long black ringlet curly, like some Art Noveau siren’s, hair certainly is bouncy. They finally have to actually turn their shoulders a little with their heads too.
“You know, I never thought of Ancients being quite that flexible before,” Rodney comments.
“Wow,” Ronon says.
“It’s sort of like Twister…or gymnastics,” John observes.
Suddenly the moaning and groaning hit overdrive, Teyla cringes, she really doesn’t want to be here for this. Suddenly Kenmore straightens up and her expression says just as much as her words…
“Oh come on,” she exclaims, “that’s not gymnastics, that’s more like the Exorcism of Emily Rose…only naked. Although come to think of it, I could see how a virgin priest would confuse a screaming orgasm with demonic possession. Especially if he’d seen this.”
If it were any other time, John’d probably burst out laughing at what Kenmore just said.
…and John shakes his head.
“No, no, they didn’t. That was lust. That was screwing. That wasn’t love. That wasn’t staying married to a corpse because you can’t bear to not be married to him for one second in your life even if he’s not in it anymore…even if he can’t be in it anymore.” The reluctant acceptance of those last words, he’s speaking from his personal memories of sitting in a divorce attorney’s office going through the bitter as hell divorce from Nancy. There’s a lot of pain there too.
They stare at each other in a moment of silent understanding. Then…
“The fire,” Kenmore says.
Sheppard nods, “Yes, the fire of loving them. The—“
Sheppard comes up short.
“The fire of his death,” Kenmore breathes.
He stares at her and she keeps her eyes on him as she tells her story.
“We were, we were on base that day, my son and I, he was two years old. We were on base when it happened.
“My, my husband had developed a weapon to use against the Ori. He and his team were testing it. Its first test,” she loses her voice breathily then regains it, “Something went horribly wrong. There, there was an explosion.” She breaks, Sheppard waits for her to get herself back…she does but she can’t look at him anymore.
“I, I was one of the first responders to the scene…and, and,” she starts to crack again, “…I saw, I saw his body…on, on fire.” She can’t handle it. She can’t handle the memory even though it’s one that she nightmares every night of her life since it happened.
Sheppard sees it when she grabs the side of her head, her fingers poking through her hair as she grips anguished chunks of it. John sees the bright red splotches starting to show up on the skin of her forearms and her hands. The start of burns. He suddenly realizes it. It’s not just that she remembers it. Her Ancient abilities make her relive it. She’s there again. Trying to pull her husband Michael’s burning corpse out of the fires. Immediately John crawls over to her and wraps his arms around her.
“I saw, I saw what, what was left of his body on fire.” She loses it into the collarbone of his black t-shirt. Grabbing chunks of the cotton fabric over his chest in her hands.
He holds on to her. She didn’t needed to be patted like a child or petted like a dog providing comfort. She just needs someone there. And he is here. Just as he had been when Teyla came to his quarters after the announcement of Doctor Kate Heightmeyer’s, the Expedition’s then psychiatrist, death. The well-loved woman had died in her sleep, because of a nightmare that an invading organism inside of her, one that John had inadvertently brought back to the city with him, used to make her body believe the nightmare it was going through was real. Heightmeyer died in a nightmare. Teyla had believed that John had tried to kill her in her nightmare, but her body nor psychology gave in to the manipulative organism and she survived. It was also the reason she’d shown up on his doorstep like that, tear-streaked cheeks, calm but hurt demeanor. Because of her nightmare, she had treated John differently. Treated him like the to-be-avoided enemy that he had been in her nightmare. But at Heightmeyer’s death, because of her death, Teyla had come to John to make amends. Without a word she had stepped forward, wrapped her arms around him, and hugged him, the side of her head embracing his chest. All John could think of to do in return was put his arms around her too and accept her silent but heartfelt apology. Silently too, it was something he had always hoped she would do, come to his quarters…but he had hoped that it would have been under different circumstances and definitely for an entirely different reason, a more personal, intimate reason…
Somehow Ursula manages to get her voice back. And John can’t help but admire the strength of a widow as it all comes tumbling out…
“I tried to go in. I tried. I tried to go into the fire to save him. To save something of him. But they wouldn’t let me. Evan…Cam…Teal’c. It, it took Cam and Teal’c to hold me back. And then, and then there was a pinch in my shoulder and, and then everything started to blur and then it all went black. And, and then I don’t remember anything until, until…,” she cracks again, John holds on, then her voice comes back in a whisper, “until I woke up in the infirmary…And, and I saw, I saw Cam and Daniel and Sam and General Landry there and…and I saw Jack. Jack was there…and I knew. I knew Michael was gone. I knew my husband was gone.”
She breaks against John’s chest again. He holds her tighter. She’s trembling. Shaking with the loss. With the realization. It’s like every fiber of her is coming apart at the seams. Every raw nerve is becoming exposed. And each nerve ending is being jabbed with a dull edged stick over and over and over again.
Then she somehow, somehow, he doesn’t know how, gets her voice back. My God, widows, he marvels.
“And then…and then I started screaming for my son, our son, and Dan, Daniel told me that Teal’c had him. Teal’c had my son on the surface…showing him flowers, and the sky, and nothing about…nothing about his father, nothing about me, nothing about fires or death, nothing…dark.”
John nods. The side of his chin rubbing against the side of her head. And Ursula’s fists full of his shirt tighten. Shaking even harder. He holds her tighter still as she fights to pull herself back from the brink. Finally she eases. It’s more than she’s simply done telling for now, he can feel in her body that it’s because she’s exhausted by remembering at least this much…and voicing it. Her forehead simply rests on his collarbone now. He can hear her panting, feel the heat of it easily penetrating through the cotton of his shirt and slamming rhythmically against his chest. Flickering and moistening and matting his black chest hair underneath. Her hard shaking goes back down to uncontrollable trembling.
John looks back towards the room where Rodney and Lorne where…only they aren’t there anymore, are they. Rodney and Evan are standing at the turn in the hallway just a few feet away from John. And judging by their looks, Rodney’s especially, the two men have heard every painful word she’s vented. John gestures with his eyes for them to go back to the room. Evan nods and goes without a single sentiment of hesitation; now he knows John knows, the ball is in his commanding officer’s court. Rodney lingers for a few more moments then, just when John was thinking he was going to have to make it an order, walks away using a skill and tact in complete and utterless stealth that John never knew the man had in him.
John returns his attention to Kenmore. The trembling has ebbed out of her body. Finally, he takes hold of her upper arms and pulls her back from him. He looks at her.
“You see,” she looks up at him, she’s a mess. Exactly what he expected to see, pain incarnate, what he’d been steeling himself to see in those few precious moments before taking hold of her arms and pulling her back from him so he could look at her, “They can’t fake this. They can’t fake how much you loved him. They can’t fake how much you still love him. How you feel about him is not a lie. It never was. It never will be.” The voice of experience from an attorney’s office.
Suddenly there’s footsteps rushing down the stone hallway floor, they skid around the corner and Rodney looks down at the two of them. There’s something that’s gone on here, something that makes him feel uncomfortable. Something after he and Lorne left. There’s a moment of silence between all three of them then…
“She’s back,” Rodney blurts out, “Ganos Lal is back.”
Ganos Lal, so that’s her name. Quietly, Sheppard and Kenmore stand up. The Lieutenant shirking her CO’s help and taking up the customary distance, especially physically and emotionally, that a subordinate is supposed to maintain in the presence of a superior. It’s actually something John’s admiring about her even more. They follow Rodney back to the storage room.