The Long Way Home

Title: The Long Way Home
Fandom: Stargate Atlantis
Pairing: John Sheppard/OC
Rating: T for now, M later on.
Synopsis: It was a journey John Sheppard just had to make. Series 1 Onwards

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4. Patience

Chapter Four

 

Hold on to the past tense tonight Don't say a word, I'm OK with the quiet. The truth is gonna change everything.

David Cook – Lie To Me

 

Patience had never been Cass's strong point, even now when the chips were down and the situation dire was she still blessed with her famous inability to wait. Her hands were wrought with agony, the indentations of their organic prison cell were etched into her palms. Her forearms and shoulders ached from the strain of the yanking and pulling that had occurred when her and Sergeant Stackhouse had attempted to dismantle the webbed door to their confined space.

 

Their escape attempts were thwarted by the steel-like rigidity of the door, Cass had flinched originally upon touching the fleshy consistency. It felt like skin beneath her fingertips and when her she wrapped her hands around the bars they reminded her of bone. There were claw marks in the walls from where the Atlosians they were trapped with had tried to scratch their way through the vacuous surface. There had been very little success on either front and now they had resigned themselves to sitting on the floor of their cell in order to conserve energy.

 

The Wraith had stripped them of everything but their clothes while they were unconscious from the debilitating tractor beam that had wrenched them unwillingly on-board this ship. It made Cass feel sick at the idea of their gnarled, blue claw-like hands anywhere near her body. Vulnerability was not feeling she was accustomed to, over the years she had erected a cold, hard shell between reality and her own inner sanctum. It was what gave her the clarity and ability to work within situations that other people would have deemed hopeless. There was no time for panic here, it would solve nothing if she allowed the icy tendrils that were squirming in her gut to get a full grip on her system. She breathed out through her mouth. The sensation of entrapment was the same as last time although their holding area was nicer.

 

Fifty two hours and counting. Cass thought as she sat besides Private Luke Mathews, tucked in closely beside his large hulking frame for comfort and warmth. His good arm was wrapped around her shoulders drawing her even closer together as they huddled against the freezing cold air that was beginning to descent on the cave they were confined to. Jagged rocks dripping with condensation poking against her spine as she rubbed her hands together in attempt to heat them. There had been four of them originally and now there were two. Both her and Luke had heard the gunshots periodically within hours of their companions being torn from their holding space and interrogated. It didn't leave much to the imagination in terms of their fate.

 

Her head was aching down the left side from the skirmish almost three days ago. It had been a routine check point out in the desert and before their vehicular had even drawn to a stop it had become a complete and utter nightmare. Guns had been thrust in their faces, the doors yanked open as Cass herself was dragged from the vehicular kicking and cursing. The last thing she had remembered was a loud cracking sound as excruciating pain exploded in her temple.

 

"We're going to have to fight them." Cass had uttered to Luke as her head span from the untreated concussion.

 

"I know." Luke had told her holding up his bandaged left hand.

 

The last time the insurgents had come to their cell, their degradation had been the worst so far. Speaking in fluent Arabic their eyes had flickered to the lone woman of the group as they framed one word in English so she would understand.

 

"Infidel."

 

'One without faith.' she had remembered before they had spat in her face.

 

Luke's roar of indignation had echoed so violently through the caves as he lashed out at the leader of the group. She had heard the sickening crunch of bone when they had stamped on three of his fingers in a bid to punish him for his insolence. They had left soon after that with sneers and promises spoken with an intention that Cass had no trouble reading.

 

During that time she had managed to set Luke's broken fingers with a flat stone from the harsh, solid ground they were sitting on and thready fabric torn from his ragged T-shirt. It had hurt like a bitch, she knew as she forced his broken bones into a decent healing position but Luke had clenched the remains of his shirt between his teeth to stifle the cry of agony that escaped his throat.

 

They could hear the key turning in the decrepit lock already and it sent a lance of terror piercing through every fibre of her being.

 

"Cass, you have to fight this. I know your scared but it's the only way." Luke whispered into the darkness.

 

She swallowed hard past the lump in her throat and the fear that was constricting her chest as she spoke.

 

"I know."

 

She stripped off her jacket from her shoulders leaving it in a heap upon the floor beside Luke. She pulled her t-shirt taunt over her athletic frame. They had one thing and one thing only to barter with and in the end she knew that they would take it no matter how she fought. She would rather die than let them have her and that's what she was preparing for right now. Death.

 

"If this goes wrong..."

 

The words were left unspoken between them as Luke tilted his head away ashamed by what the two of them had become reduced to.

 

"I'll kill you myself." he promised.

 

Seduction had never been her strong point but when her life depended on it she was passable it would seem. The insurgent had never seen it coming as she slipped his hunting knife from his belt under the guise of fumbling.

 

Killing him was the only sure fire way of getting out of this hell hole and Cass took his life with a methodical precision. She couldn't afford to stop to think about her actions, the moment she did she would crumble and her resolve would snap.

 

It was the sound of a chopper that had changed the game for Cass. As soon as she'd released Luke from the cell, the hum of the engine was punctuating through the air like a mechanical angel of mercy. Cass had never felt such relief flood through her veins before. It had taken twenty minutes for US forces to storm the cave and vanquish the enemy. The moment she saw the clean, pressed uniformed of the Marines Cass realized that she had never been so relieved to see anybody in her whole entire life.

 

The point was back then they had only had each other to rely on and Cass was finding herself now in the same dire, stringent situation. Only this time her hope was fading, she could feel it being drained and extinguished as the minutes ticked by. Colonel Sumner had been the first amongst their group to be taken and she was sure that he wouldn't be coming back. He was a stout military man, she had no doubt that he would do what he could to survive, all except give the Wraith the information they sought.

 

Cass wondered if she could be that strong in the face of this adversity. There were worse things than death and Teyla had detailed with that brutal honesty of hers that the Wraith were well versed in interrogation. From the information Cass had gleamed from the village and from Teyla and the other Athosians she was locked up with there Wraith were dispassionate and merciless.

 

From their briefest of meetings Cass had been able to tell as much. They appeared to be skulking vicious creatures, both wordless and intimating. They herded up humans like cattle, selecting their meals with no particular configuration. Their wrathful hissing had sent a compulsive shiver chasing up her spine that she hadn't expected as she had stood in the united front beside Teyla and Colonel Sumner shielding the weaker members of their group from their hungry stares

.

Sergeant Stackhouse caught her eye and shook his head sullenly. Cass let out an exasperated sigh as she banged the back of her head lightly against the wall behind her in frustration at the knowledge that passed between them. There would be no rescue.

 

Their delegation of people lacked abilities to launch such an attempt on such an empowered enemy. They hadn't been on Atlantis long enough to recruit allies and the two of them knew that the focus on Doctor's Weir's mind would be of evacuating the giant underwater city. The greater good as it were.

 

The only slight chance they had was to rush the guards all at once but the problem with that plan was that the Wraith were not only more skilled and better equipped but they had also instilled such a sense of fear into most of the Athosians that it appeared they were willing to simply lie down and die. The only exception was Teyla making it three for three against an impossible enemy, still in Cass's mind it was better to die trying than to sit still while the Wraith sucked the life right out of her body.

 

"We're going to have to do this ourselves." Teyla said out loud as if reading her thoughts.

 

"We need to wait for Colonel Sumner to come back, then we can launch a rescue attempt. Four against three are better odds." Stackhouse recommended from his position in the corner.

 

"No offence Sergent but I don't think the Colonel is going to be coming back." Teyla told him sharply, before meeting Cass's eyes. "If we're going to do this we need to do it soon before they further deplete our number."

 

"We don't leave people behind, it's not our way, at least not without knowing for sure." Cass explained to Teyla as Stackhouse bristled beside her. "I know your the same way with your own people."

 

"It is true." Teyla agreed.

 

"So what?" Stackhouse questioned with sarcasm. "We just wait for the guards to arrive and rush them? Do you want me to detail all the flaws in that plan?"

 

"Or you could wait for someone with C4 to bust you out and take you back to their ship." John's husky whisper divulged through the bars of their cell as he fixed the tiny plastic explosive to the door.

 

Cass couldn't describe the feeling of elation she felt when she saw him standing there in his black combat gear. Lieutenant Ford was standing to the left hand side armed with his P-90 as he studied the corridor ahead. There was a hope in her heart and she knew it was akin to the other prisoners in the cell as they all rose to their feet huddling around the gate listening as he spoke in quiet, commanding tones. Teyla was answering his questions one after the other with adequate, full responses.

 

"Twenty minutes." John assured them before turning to Lieutenant Ford for confirmation. "If I'm not back in twenty minutes blow it up and take everybody back to the Puddle Jumper."

 

Cass wasn't the only one relieved by the his words, she could see the calmness descend over the cell like an invisible blanket. They weren't out of the woods yet but there was a clear sense of purpose in the air now. Freedom was barely a breath away and there was excitement in the air at the prospect.

 

Her sapphire eyes came to rest on the John's retreating back, watching as he flanked the left wall of the corridor that Colonel Sumner had been dragged down. She just hoped that twenty minutes was long enough for him to save the Colonel and get himself out of harms way.

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The night sky over the city of Atlantis was truly sensational and John found himself trying to spot constellations he had once known the names to. The balcony was quiet and at the moment that's what he needed. His thoughts were scattered and incomprehensible as he held onto the coffee mug half full with untouched Moet champagne. It was an expensive brand back on Earth, one he would have gulped in an instant if he was in a celebrating mood but the truth was he simply wasn't. They had lost a man today, not a man really, but a hero and it had been by his own hand.

 

It had been Colonel Sumner's final wish that he put a bullet in his brain and John wasn't a man who could deny a dying man's order. There was an unspoken military tradition called 'The Nod' and that's what Sumner had given him as he had wavered with the indecision. A man couldn't be expected to live like that after having his life literally stolen from him. He knew if the roles would have been reversed he would have done the same thing.

 

Encountering the Wraith had been informative and somewhat terrifying. John would never admit it to anyone but it was the fear that had kept him sharp all of these years, it was what had kept him alive. He didn't have to turn around to know that it was Cassie stepping up beside him. His hands were still wrapped around the mug as his elbows rested on the ledge of the balcony, his hazel eyes looking out at the silver moon baring down on the waters shimmering surface.

 

"I gotta say, I'm a lot more relieved that now we're above the water as opposed to below it." Cass said into the empty space between them .

 

John dared himself to glance at her and found himself almost breathless. Her head was tilted upwards so she could see the stars hanging in the night sky above them. Her dark hair was loose and blowing lightly in the breeze, fluttering across her porcelain skin as she turned her serious gaze upon him. Her eyes were like sapphires glittering in the light from the reception hall behind them as she bowed her head a faint blush creeping across her cheeks as she fiddled with the delicate silver watch on her wrist.

 

"I want to say thank you for heading up the rescue mission. It was a brave, stupid thing to do but I'm glad you did it." she pursed her pert lips together as she rose her head to meet his stare.

 

"I don't think I've ever been complimented and insulted in the same sentence before." he told her half serious as he turned his attention back to the sea.

 

"I hear it's a skill." she said humorously, before clasping her hands together and leaning beside him on the railing.

 

His lips were twitching with the beginnings of a smile as he shook his head at her words. He filed that shred of information under the filing cabinet in his head labelled Cassie. He assumed it was a habit she exhibited when she was nervous and he wasn't offended by it. Even with his skill as a Major and a pilot pulling off that rescue had been a long shot.

 

Just having her here, this close had made the entire mission worth while. The thought of losing her had frightened him in a way John didn't care to admit. He wasn't good at dealing with his emotions so he kept them tucked away and hidden where no one else could see them. Out of all the people here it was Cassie who seemed to pick up on his dark mood and she accommodated for it by lingering intentionally in his presence, letting him know that she was there. To John's surprise he found that oddly comforting.

 

"Colonel Sumner was a good man." Cassie offered quietly. "I'm sorry."

 

It seemed to cliché for her to use those words but John could tell from the tone of her voice that she was entirely sincere. The survivors from the rescue had handed over a hub of information to Doctor McKay to be documented and catalogued but nobody had talked personally about those missing two days. John understood what it was like to distance yourself from an event like that and when he looked at Cassie, he was glad that she was still standing. A lesser woman may have broken under the strain and horrors of the abduction but Cassie was not that kind of person. She was happy to be alive. In her eyes, he understood that Colonel Sumner had been a saviour when he'd offered himself up to the Wraith.

 

John rose the mug of champagne to his lips tasting the bitterness on his tongue once more before speaking.

 

"Yea, I am too."

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