The smoke wasn’t rising from the village anymore, but a haze of it still clung in the air. The village is battle scarred but finally there’s a semblance of normalcy: people are milling around again. Although some are not, perhaps, doing their normal things. Some continue tending to the wounded, going in and out of buildings carrying medical supplies of their own or Atlantis’ or escorting Atlantis medical personnel to a building full of still more patients. Others, though, have returned to tending to their daily chores. Life goes on.
This building was not originally meant for this either, it had been a schoolhouse before, but now it’s yet another triage unit. Again spare beds that have been brought in from around the village line either side of the large single room main floor of the building. Some of the students’ desks have been converted into bedside tables holding all the medical supplies and medicines for whichever patients the tables are serving. The rest of the children’s desks have been moved to the other upstairs levels for the same purpose for the beds up there too. Lieutenant Ursula Kenmore helps an Atlantis nurse lay an injured middle-aged female villager back down on a bed, careful to avoid bumping or disturbing in any way both of the woman’s completely bandaged hands, and they’re not the only Atlantis Expedition members helping in this building.
The door opens and Sheppard walks in, on his rounds of surveying what all the Lantean personnel are doing in the village. He walks right up to Kenmore and leans over her shoulder.
“What else do you know about this place,” he asks urgently, crossly.
She startles for a moment, she hadn’t looked up to know it was him that had entered. She eyes him and can tell that his question isn’t a request, it’s a demand. He’s pissed off at whatever he’s seen happened to these people and the last thing he needed were more surprises. Okay, she can do that. She turns back to the villager and finishes helping the villager and nurse.
As soon as the nurse nods that the villager is comfortably settled in the bed and she’s got control of the rest of his care from here, Kenmore retreats to the middle of the room with Sheppard following so closely to here it’s like he’s her shadow. Kenmore makes sure to keep the two of them clear of the rest of the other Atlantis medical staff conducting the same care giving around them.
But Sheppard keeps his eyes on her the entire time, he wants answers and he’s going to get them.
“Well…,” the Lieutenant begins then starts looking around the room again, finds a good example and finishes one of the many answers she could give to his question. She points at another female villager standing across the room, helping tend to the injured. It’s one of the village Elders, the flame-haired one who’d informed Teyla about the ring scouts, “I’ve learned that her name is Boudica.”
Sheppard’s brows knit and rise together at the Elder, “You mean the Boudica that the Romans called Boadicea?”
Kenmore nods beside him. Her eyes still on the woman. Just as ‘Oh my God’ to be seeing her as he is.
Sheppard’s amazed, he marvels at the woman’s shoulder length wavy hair accenting her bright red, floor length gown. It has a draped cowl neckline then clings to her body all the way down to the middle of her thighs where the tight material split at each long and shapely leg. His mind barely caught notice of the red lacing from her waist down to where the split happened or the brown leather belt with a simple round gold buckle set off center to the right. Those shapely legs culminate in brown leather sandal-like anklet boots whose laces show off the top of her feet. If ever there was a woman that could get John’s heart racing and make him pant like a cartoon character, it would be this woman, “She brought Rome to its knees all over ancient Britain. She destroyed Colchester, burned London to the ground. She kicked Gaius Suetonius Paulinus’s ass. It was only because of the West Midlands’ high grounds that he actually managed to defeat her forces, but she and her daughters committed suicide rather than be taken into Roman custody. That really pissed off the Romans.” His eyes suddenly light onto the golden armband that bears a striking resemblance to a torc wrapped tightly around her bicep… God, she’s hot.
Kenmore stares at Sheppard. Her eyebrows raised along with wide eyes, mouth shut but her lower lip pressed in so much that it flattens her chin against her jawbone. Amazed by him. Perplexed.
“Wow,” she finally says.
He looks over at her, “What?” Why shouldn’t he know that?
“I, I didn’t expect you to know that,” she stammers, still perplexed.
He eyes her. Honest again, he’s starting think that one of the few qualities about her he likes.
“Introduction to Military History, freshman year. Stanford.” He answers.
“My mother, all my life. And Oxford. In the UK.” She returns.
They go back to looking at Boudica, analyzing the woman’s seemingly practiced movements as she tucks in one of her people that has a freshly bandaged and wrapped side wound.
“You know the suicide thing was never proven, don’t you,” Kenmore tells him.
“Tacitus reported it in his Annals.”
“Yes, but in the Agricola he made no mention of anything like that whatsoever and he wrote that twenty years earlier than the Annals and still after Boudica’s time.”
“It was Dio that wrote she fell ill and died, not Tacitus,” Sheppard corrects.
“That is also true—“
“Of course it is,” he cuts her off.
She frowns at him and lets him have that one. He doesn’t seem to get a lot of them so it can’t hurt to get one once in awhile. Sometimes it’s like being with Doc McKay…
…but it’s History stuff and she can’t actually bring herself to let that go. Ironically, just like Doc McKay with practically everything.
“That doesn’t negate Agricola and there are indications that Dio may have read Tacitus’ writings and, like Tacitus, mentions nothing of suicide but rather he says that Boudica simply fell ill and was given a lavish burial in order to conveniently write her out of the story of Roman Briton.”
Oh bite me Professor, John abruptly turns to face her, “Oh and he wasn’t saying that in any way at all to redirect attention away from the fact that the Emperor at the time was Nero and he just so happened to have committed suicide.” He challenges her.
Kenmore whaps his shoulder like, “Oh come on. You are bringing up that bull crap just to cover the fact that you can’t admit that you’re wrong about her committing suicide because the information you’re basing it off of is faulty.”
“It is not.”
“Yes it is.”
“No it’s not.”
“Yes it is.”
Boudica casually walks past them. As she does, she speaks…
“My daughters and I outlived them all.”
She continues on to her other fellow villager patients in the beds by the door.
Sheppard and Kenmore suddenly shut up. They watch her go by. Stunned. They, they hadn’t thought she could, anyone could, h-hear them. Uh… oops.
“Didn’t she take on the Romans during the middle of the first century,” Sheppard asks, leaning closer to Kenmore and lowering his voice.
“Uh-huh,” Kenmore answers as quietly.
“And when did everything else you say is going on here happen?”
“At least twenty-five thousand years before that.”
They keep their eyes on Boudica. Teyla enters the building; John hadn’t gotten to where she’d been yet on his rounds, quite simply she hadn’t been working near enough for him to reach her before Kenmore. She walks up to her friend and team leader and Lieutenant Kenmore and immediately catches their strange expressions as they eye the flame-haired village Elder while she tends to a wounded fellow of hers near the door’s left side. Teyla looks back at the woman. Then back at her comrades. Then back at the Elder woman again. And for some strange reason Teyla feels she must eye the woman as well although she does not know why.
“What is it,” she asks.
“Oh nothing. We just got schooled by the real-life inspiration for Xena: Warrior Princess.”
Teyla looks at the Lieutenant. The Athosian’s delicate, dark eyebrows furrowing, she does not understand, “What?”
“Uh, nothing,” the Lieutenant shrugs it aside.
Sheppard sets it aside as well, “Did you need something, Teyla?”
“Actually I am here to see Lieutenant Kenmore.”
Wait a second, John’s brain tries to process that. “Kenmore,” he repeats, still not sure he’s gotten it right.
The Athosian woman nods and turns her full attention to the Lieutenant, “Doctor Jackson sent Keltoi out to find you but he happened upon me first. Doctor Jackson says he requires your presence.”
“Daniel? What for?”
“Keltoi says he is at the back of the large building at the heart of the village and that Doctor Jackson told him you would understand the message, he said the ‘Penniston Code’?” Teyla’s not even sure she’s pronouncing it right.
Kenmore’s eyes shoot wide. She bolts past Teyla. Shoving the Athosian out of the way and bursting out the building’s front door. After Teyla regains her balance with John’s help, Sheppard and she follow just as much at a full tilt run as Kenmore.
Kenmore tears through the village. Dodging people left. Right. Heading straight for the very building Emmagan had described. The tallest of the important tiled-roofed buildings, made up of solid thick blocks of gray stone. Its exterior walls have been vitrified, making the medieval church-designed structure reflect the sun like a beacon. It’s definitely not hard to miss. Especially after last night’s battle, this is one of the few buildings left totally intact and chiefly unscathed. Hot on her heels are Sheppard and Emmagan. Kenmore runs straight up to the vitrified building’s large front double-doors. Pulls one of the hefty things open and rushes inside. Kenmore’s hand doesn’t even leave the door before Sheppard’s is there to catch it with Teyla waiting to go inside right behind him.
Dark wood, dirt floor, and a slender cross cut into the wood of the wall directly ahead and dead center at the end of the two-person wide center aisle. It should have dumbfounded Sheppard to see a Christian cross here, but something else jars him first. Before Kenmore takes another step in the room, she suddenly drops to one knee, makes a quick sign of the cross over herself, then kisses the side of her finger, and extends her hand and eyes toward heaven in the way a child blows a kiss, she blows a kiss to God, her part of the ritual. Rapidly she stands back up and doesn’t run down the aisle. She speed walks while reciting an anxious mantra to herself that John is thinking borders on the most psychotic display of, of, of anything he’s ever seen in his life. Has she cracked or what?
“You’re in a church. You’re in a church. You’re in a church. You’re in a church,” over and over as she hurries restrainedly down the center aisle towards a door directly underneath the cross cut in the wooden plank walls and behind a simple dark-stained wooden altar.
Sheppard and Teyla look at Kenmore weirdly but still follow her at a quick-paced walk. Playing along until either the cracks become a shatter into lunacy or the Lieutenant manages to pull herself back together, whichever comes first. John’s personally hoping for sanity.
In front of the altar, Kenmore suddenly dips to one knee again for another quick sign of the cross and finger kiss to God. Sheppard and Teyla almost trip over her but manage to stop in time. Kenmore rises again and speed walks around the altar reciting her mantra excitedly over and over again. When this mission is done, Sheppard’s gonna have the city counselor give her a psych eval. Kenmore opens the door, quickly steps through…
…and as soon as she does, her mantra abruptly stops.
“Not a church. Run,” she bolts down the center of the new room they’re in, some sort of study hall. Leaving Sheppard and Teyla in her dust.
The two catch up just as quickly by the time Kenmore reaches the end of the grand room, coming up to another door. This one guarded by a pair of ceremonial guards, dressed in bronze chainmail tunics belted by golden toned leather belts and silver chest plates inlaid with a Celtic knotted cross, bright red capes with a lavender purple Celtic knot designed Suns pinned at the shoulders by circular bronze brooches, and horned helms with nose guards sharply angled down to the tips of their noses, and U’dana. Kenmore slams the breaks before she slams into the old woman, an ungainly near miss. Of course she catches U’dana’s eye. The Elder chief nods at her and Kenmore ungainly re-hits the gas, diving past U’dana for the door. She opens it, rushes through, and leaves it to slam loudly behind her. And simultaneously slamming it in John’s and Teyla’s faces as they suddenly skid to a halt in the immediate presence of the Elder and the formidable looking guards. John would dare anyone to pick a fight with those two, it looks like the instigator would definitely lose.
Daniel jumps in his oversized dark-stained wooden throne-chair at the out of the blue bang. An aged and incredibly thick book open in his hands.
Ursula hits the brakes again. Staggering unceremoniously to an inelegant stop a handful of feet away from the edge of the large table he’s sitting at.
“So… Emmagan said… you needed me,” she asks, winded but putting on a casual air as she straightens up and tries to smooth out some of her dishevel.
Daniel stares at her.
Ronon Dex immediately runs in to backup his teammates. He’d seen them chasing after Kenmore through the village and hadn’t hesitated to follow. He figured she was pulling crap like the assassination she’d pulled on Shiana’s planet and Ronon wasn’t about to let that happen right under his nose again.
Sheppard reaches for the door handle and the guards instantly shove their long spears made of solid shining steel over the door to form an ‘X’ across it. Blocking his hand. Sheppard looks at them. They glare at him. The first hostile or ungracious thing he’s ever encountered from any of the villagers since the scouts aiming arrows at them when they’d came out of the forest surrounding the path from the Stargate. John looks over at U’dana. She too is glaring at him. The second hostile encounter.
Rodney races in, panting heavily, to join his team. He doubles over right behind Ronon and puts out an arm on his tall friend’s back to keep himself from completely falling over.
“You are not allowed behind this wall,” U’dana informs Sheppard. Her voice stern and unfriendly.
“She is Tuatha Dé Danann. She is Sidhe. She is a daughter of the Sky Riders. Your blood may be part Alteran, child, but you two are not the same blood.”
Sheppard’s mind startles again, he doesn’t know whether or not to be relieved by the fact that the old woman just confirmed that John’s own bloodline had nothing to with the Veritas experiment or be disturbed by the fact that this is the first time in the Pegasus Galaxy he’s ever heard anyone call the Ancients by their actual name: the Alterans. Then there’s the whole fact that apparently she can sense the Ancient gene in him, really disturbing.
“But you allowed Doctor Jackson in,” Teyla points out.
“Only because she supports his endeavors.”
“Why do you support her so much,” Ronon asks as he shoves his way forward to take the old woman head on himself. Using his formidable presence to intimidate her.
U’dana turns a steely and wrathful gaze up at him, Sheppard feels himself shrink back from her as well as Teyla shrink back. The size difference between her and Ronon vanishing.
“What is this Doouh—“
U’dana’s voice is still stern and now passionate and lethal as she cuts him off before he can insult any further than he was already building up to, “They are my children. My descendants. She is my child. And if you dare challenge, no god you pray to will save you from me.”
Silence. The team watches the tense stare down. After a moment, Ronon nods at her, acquiescing, then turns, and walks away. Not only leaving their group but also leaving the room. Relief doesn’t exactly fill them as they watch him go. Rodney looks back to meet Sheppard and Teyla’s gazes already trained on him, Sheppard gestures with his head for Rodney to go after Ronon.
“You cannot be serious,” Rodney starts, “Do you know how pissed he is? Like I’m really going to be able to stand any hint of a chance against that. Send Teyla. At least when she hits him, she actually manages to hurt him.”
Sheppard and Teyla refine their looks at him; John’s features setting more firmly than they already were in his stare down at the stubborn physicist and Teyla’s features losing some of their softness but none of their delicacy as she keeps her eyes focused solely on Rodney’s own eyes even as she tilts her head. Rodney looks back and forth between them before he sighs and turns around.
“Give my regards to Jennifer and tell her how I want my funeral planned,” he retorts as he stalks off, complaining as he goes, but going nonetheless.
Sheppard and Teyla return their attentions to U’dana—she’s vanished. How’d she do that so silently, without anyone’s notice? Did Rodney see her leave in his arguing with them and didn’t think to mention it? They look around the room. It has two fourteen-feet tall floors separated by a grand staircase suitable for any governor’s mansion. The lighting is sparse, a few simple hanging chandeliers made of black wrought iron and a few candle stands made of the same thing are also around the two levels, and the wood is so naturally dark and then stained an even darker color that the whole room looks like it’s perpetually trapped in midnight. U’dana isn’t anywhere else in the room. They can’t readily see another entry or exit from the room other than the two doors at either end, despite the gloom. And it’s not like she’s blended in any place either. There are tables, three on each side of the main aisle and equally spaced near the balcony railing of the second floor, affording a good view of the first floor, and well-stocked bookshelves everywhere. There are even some people cowled in dark robes like monks with their heads down, pouring over more aged books, some of them are even writing with elegant quills on stiff pieces of parchment. Someone wearing the bright, by comparison, clothes that U’dana is would surely stand out. They look back at the guards. The one on the right answers.
“U’dana’s ruling still stands, you may not enter here, but you may remain in this room if you like or in the church or return to the rest of the village.”
John measures up the man and woman and their weaponry, they’re still forming a cross with their spears over the door and they aren’t glaring at him anymore but their looks still aren’t what he would call ‘friendly’. Teyla and he still have stunners on them, it’d be easy just to pull them and take out these two and go into the room before anyone could call for help. He doubts they’d get much of a fight from the monks… but on the other hand, he remembers last night. Everyone had put up one hell of a fight, he measured last night that any of these villagers would be a match to any of his people. It had been a privilege to fight alongside all of these people… John judges that it wouldn’t be a good thing to start a fight over this. Hopefully they’ll find out what Jackson’s discovered later.
John Sheppard nods at the guards, turns, and begins walking back to the other door at the far side of the room, Teyla falls in casually by his side. He waits a handful of feet before he leans over to talk to her, making sure to keep his volume private.
“I thought I was going to have to intervene back there. I mean, I know Ronon wasn’t going to hurt her, but I didn’t think he was going to back down either.”
“I knew he would.”
John looks at her.
“How,” he asks.
Teyla keeps her eyes straight ahead, “She reminds him of someone.”
“How do you know that? He’s never mentioned his mother.”
Her espresso eyes slide slyly over to look at him, she knows something he doesn’t, “He has never mentioned his mother to you. He speaks of her quite often when he visits Torren.”
“He visits Torren?”
Teyla nods, again knowing something he doesn’t, “Yes, quite often. And when I am not there, he talks with Kanaan. I believe it is because he is lonely.”
Teyla nods again, her eyes returning to looking ahead.
“Why is he lonely? He has us and plenty of other friends in Atlantis… Is this more stuff about missing Banks?”
Teyla shakes her head as they reach the door, “I do not believe it is. I believe Ronon is missing his family.”
“But we’re family.”
Again Teyla shakes her head, John is missing the point, “Yes, we are his family now, but Ronon has always missed Sateda. When Tyre and his other friends were found, he was overjoyed.”
“No, John, you do not. You were not there. Either time,” Teyla tries to explain, “When Ronon found his Satedan friends again, he was as I have never seen him in Atlantis despite everything we have been through together. He was smiling greater, laughing…,” words fail her at the memories of, first, Ronon reuniting with his dear friend Solen Sincha then at his reunion with even dearer friends Tyre, Ara, and Rakai, despite how badly that had ended emotionally for Ronon, “Yes, we are his family now, but we were not his family then.
“Even I have had moments where I long for my Father and my Mother and Charin so deeply I can scarcely breathe, I cannot get out of bed, but I do and I exhale because I do not want such feelings for Torren or Kanaan or anyone else in my galaxy.”
John keeps his eyes on hers, but he’s not sure how to take what she’s just said. Teyla puts a hand on his bicep, a kind gesture trying to help him understand, as though she could transfer the knowledge to him through touch.
“Yes, friends may become family but they were not born family and sometimes that is exceedingly hard to live with,” she tells him.
After another moment, John nods and Teyla let’s go of him. He guessed he never thought of that before, should have considering the problems he’d had with his biological family and Nancy… and standing in front of his Dad’s coffin with those issues unresolved and running into her during that moment turned mission, feeling the same lack of resolution. Bitter. Depressing. A hole, he’d never believed anyone before when they’d talk about actually being able to feel empty spots in their hearts. Then he stood by his father’s coffin. Then had to work with Nancy, look at her again. Everything about her was still the beautiful girl he’d fallen in love with in high school, still made him fumble for words of any sort and put him in a constant state of gut-check. It was excruciatingly painful. Especially when she was talking to him about her new husband in her car. The looks she’d give John when he’d go away or come back from operations he couldn’t tell her about, and didn’t want to tell her about—why should he tell her about crap that haunted him, why would he want to tell her—, the doubt in those enchanting eyes of hers. How she sees that same doubt in her new husband’s eyes, whatever they are. The look his brother Dave had given him when John told him that he had to leave their father’s wake because of yet another classified mission he couldn’t tell his brother anything about. In all the chaos of their lives in Atlantis, John Sheppard hadn’t thought of any of this that way because born-to family was back on Earth. Left behind. It wasn’t in Atlantis with him. It was easy for him to forget that that was not true for all of his people.
John reaches over and opens the door for Teyla. She walks into the church and he follows her in, closing the door politely behind him.
* * *
Rodney McKay finally catches up with Ronon Dex in another triage building. He waits for the Satedan to finish laying a large man into a bed for a nearby nurse to finish tending to. Then as soon as the nurse comes over to administer more medical care to the man, Ronon moves on to a new patient. Rodney travels with him, hanging just out of his friend’s considerable striking distance should he choose to lash out at something tangible, you know, living and breathing and relatively slow moving by comparison. This time the nurse attending the patient tells Ronon to finish up rolling bandages over the young man’s newly sewn up forearm. Ronon nods and the nurse moves away to another patient. This is Rodney’s chance. Probably his only one knowing Ronon.
“What the hell was that?”
Ronon stays silent, bandaging carefully. Rodney’s never seen the man so methodically and helpfully medical before. For a moment his mind strays to exactly how much ‘training’ Jennifer had given Ronon during the time that both Ronon and he were vying for her personal attention. But he forces it from his mind and switches quickly back to the pressing matter at hand.
“You know she’s the leader of these people, right? You can’t pull crap like that. What’s wrong with you?”
Ronon finally looks over at him. Rodney re-checks that he’s still out of striking range. Leaning back a little but holding off on stepping back just yet.
“I wasn’t going to hurt her.”
Rodney has a hard time believing that, “Really? ‘Cause it didn’t look that way.”
“I wasn’t going to hurt her. You know me, McKay.”
“Yes…,” Ronon locks eyes with him, “I do know you. Now this isn’t you, me, and Jennifer stuff and it’s certainly not Amelia stuff, this is something completely different. Now tell me, what’s going on? What happened with you back there?”
Ronon’s dark brown, almost black eyes return to his work. He finishes bandaging the man up. Then claps him on the shoulder. The young man nods at him, hops off the table, and walks away, leaving the two flagship team members alone together. Ronon starts to clean up the torn apart bandage wrappers in silence. But after a handful of seconds, he gives up.
“I wasn’t going to hurt her because she reminds me of my mother, okay. And my grandmother.”
Rodney’s shoulders suddenly loosen. For a moment he doesn’t know what to say. He looks at his friend’s uncomfortable profile, Ronon never let anything out about his past and when he actually did, he wasn’t exactly comfortable with people looking at him and making eye contact was even less appealing. Ronon looks down at his hands again and does his own extremely restrained version of fidgeting.
Rodney’s voice is soft, “I, I, you’ve never mentioned your mother or your grandmother before.” He isn’t exactly comfortable with personal stuff either.
“My grandmother died of age, but my mother… she was culled when I was a kid.”
Oh…, now he’s even less comfortable, “And, and your father?”
“He took my mother’s culling really hard. Got lost in drink and never came back. During another culling when I was fifteen, I watched him walk straight into a culling beam. My grandmother raised me.”
Ronon nods in silence and his fidgeting switches back to picking up the torn wrappers up off the table top, Rodney looks back at the door.
“Well if a woman like that raised you, that explains a lot.”
Ronon’s eyes and raised eyebrows slide over to look at McKay, thinking there’s an insult coming.
Rodney gestures back at the door with his thumb, “She scares the crap out of me.”
Ronon starts smiling, “You know, McKay, that’s not exactly hard to do.”
Rodney shoots him an ‘Oh very funny’ look as Sheppard and Teyla walk in. The two men look over at their approaching friends.
“Anything,” Ronon asks. Smile gone.
Sheppard shakes his head, “Nope.”
“Oh so what else is new,” Rodney comments disdainfully.
The rest of the team nods. It seems they’re always getting left out of things like this these days.