Chapter 04

“No, no… Torren… noo…” John managed to laugh when Torren hugged his legs as he got into the apartment, but all he wanted to do was to cry when he fell down. At least he managed it so that Torren wasn’t squashed under his weight.

It had been nearly nine months since he had been allowed to go home from the SGC and it was approaching the one year anniversary of Atlantis’ destruction. The physical therapist had finally allowed him to leave the wheelchair and try to walk with a cane, and John knew that it had been Carson who had been stalling the therapist’s decision.

He had been going crazy in his wheelchair, despite regaining control over his arm and sneakily walking around in his own bedroom for months. The wheelchair had been a way to try to control him and make sure he didn’t do anything stupid.

At least he had become better at pretending he was happy and well adjusted. He installed a new security system in the apartment, telling everyone that despite the fact that he knew that his apartment building was safe, and if not that Teyla could kick some serious ass, better safe than sorry. The real reason – and he hated to admit it – was that he knew that he could no longer defend himself, let alone those living with him. The fact was, he didn’t feel safe in his own home, or en route to therapy, or anywhere anymore.

John thought about asking Teyla if she would start sparring with him slowly so that he would be able to get back something of what he had before. It would not be an easy task, but he desperately felt the need to be able to protect himself and he would do anything to accomplish that.

Now that he was allowed to walk around and go outside by himself (which scared the hell out of Teyla, he knew) he found it hard not to be in a constant state of alertness when he walked the streets. Screeching cars made his heart race, a baker who threw his crates in the alley made him pause to catch his breath, and overall there were too many dangers outside to actually enjoy being there.

Not that he told anyone. He wasn’t a baby. Hye used to be an Air Force pilot, saving galaxies and kicking ass. Now that he was out of the wheelchair, he noticed that it was easier to pretend he was okay, because he wasn’t obviously crippled.

“What did I tell you, buddy?” John slowly sat up and ruffled Torren’s hair. “Don’t surprise me like that because as you see, I will fall and I don’t want to hurt you.” He smiled, got Torren to his feet, and got up himself.

“Did you bring me something?”

“You’re spoiled.” John replied and fished a lollypop out of the pocket of his jeans. “Don’t run around with it.”

“Thanks!” Torren smiled widely.

John still had nightmares, although they were becoming less frequent. He usually managed to muffle his screams by falling asleep with his pillow over his head. His shrink, whom he hated because there was something about the guy that gave him the creeps, had given him some medication to help him sleep, and something else to stop him from zoning out and flooding the apartment again when drawing a bath. It had been hell to clean up too, not to mention the people living in the apartment downstairs weren’t all too happy either.

He and Teyla still had to have ‘the talk’, where she would tell him exactly what happened with Elsa, and he wanted to know. Teyla still wasn’t ready for it. He never asked, knowing that she would come to him when she was ready.

The SGC had planned a memorial service for the lives lost on Atlantis for sometime next week, and even though he didn’t want to go, he hadto. He hadn’t spoken to any of the survivors apart from Teyla, Ronon, and Carson.

He hadn’t gone to Lt. Cadman’s funeral when her family finally decided to take her off life support. He hadn’t gone to visit Katie Brown at her new job, tending to some big tropical garden with special plants in some zoo. He was happy to hear from Ronon that Chuck was working as a gate tech for the SGC now that Walter had retired, and that Stackhouse was serving on SG-3. A scientist who worked with Rodney was working at Area 51, and the families of Vega and Banks were still hoping that one day, their daughters would wake up from their comas.

He didn’t needto be confronted by the fact that he hadn’t been able to save his people, or at least more of them.

As he walked further into the apartment, he found Ronon and Teyla sitting on the couch talking with some fighting program on the television. He looked at them suspiciously because as soon as he entered the room, they stopped talking and had pensive expressions on their faces. Well, Teyla did, at least. Ronon looked pissed.

“Hey…” he said as he greeted them both. “What’s wrong?

“I was trying to do you a favor,” Ronon grunted. “And that favor isn’t cooperating.”

John blinked, and then shrugged it off. “I see…” he said. “Are you staying for dinner?”

Teyla glared at Ronon as she answered their friend. “He is not.”

John nodded. Ronon must have seriously pissed Teyla off for her to deny Ronon dinner. “Oh, I went to look for a job after therapy,” he said. Carson had been on his case to do something useful during the times that he wasn’t in therapy so he wouldn’t hang around at the apartment all the time, and the SGC had basically abandoned him. “I didn’t really find anything yet, when I went in to ask for details they implied that they don’t hire cripples or old people,” he said lightly to diffuse the tense atmosphere. Regardless of discrimination laws, he knew that they would come up with alternate reasons why he wasn’t considered – being over qualified he later discovered that many said.

“I’d better go,” Ronon got up. He patted John on the back on his way to the door. “Keep trying.”

He watched his friend leave before turning back to Teyla. “What was he talking about?”

“You’re doing a great job in trying to get back onto your feet, John,” Teyla smiled halfheartedly. “And you shouldn’t give up.”

“You’re making me nervous, Teyla,” he replied slowly as he studied her carefully. “Who said that I was going to give up?”

“We all know how you handle disappointment, John, and words of encouragement rarely seem to help.”

“Teyla…”

“I know, you’re ‘fine’.” She smiled sweetly and got up. “What did you have in mind for dinner, it is your day today, is it not?”

“Stop changing the subject. What were you and Ronon talking about, because frankly I am sick and tired of everyone talking about me or walking on eggshells around me. Anything about me, tell me!”

“Fine.” Teyla looked up to him with grief in her eyes. “Ronon was trying to convince me to tell you about how Elsa… You must understand that she was my friend too.”

“I know, Teyla. Which is why I haven’t asked you. I know that when you’re ready, you will.” He placed a hand on her shoulder. “Frankly, I’m actually wondering when I’ll remember it on my own.”

She lowered her head in grief. “Carson told me that you might never remember it on your own. That some block in your mind might be keeping it from you, to protect you.”

“Then so be it,” he said after thinking about it. “Honestly, Teyla, I wantto know what happened, I’m still trying to get a full picture of the siege in my head and I do remember things on my own. Not as fast as I want to, but I can’t complain about it because it’s obviously my body telling me to slow down too.” He lifted her chin and made her look at him. “I don’t blame you for not telling me. I’m not angry.”

She sighed and shook her head. “No. Ronon is right, though. In knowing, you might be able to truly put Atlantis behind you and it is difficult in keeping such information from you.”

“Teyla, only when you’re willing to share, then I’ll listen,” he said softly. “I don’t want to hurt you even more than I already have. Elsa wouldn’t have wanted that.”

“No, but she did not like secrets either. Come with me,” Teyla said, as she took his hand to lead him back to his room. Torren did not need to see how John might react. However that might be, she was not entirely sure. “It was one of her greatest qualities and flaws that she could not and would not keep a secret such as this.”

He followed her to his room and closed the door. “I’m not sure Teyla.”

“Is anyone ever ready to receive ill-fated news?” she pointed out.

He sighed and sat down on the bed. “I guess you’re right.”

Teyla paced the floor, wringing her hands around her wrists nervously, as she thought on how she would word what she had to say. “You remember that she insisted on going back to the infirmary to help with one of the scientists who had been trapped but was yet undiscovered by Ladon’s men.”

“Wait, Ladon was among the Genii on Atlantis?” He frowned. “Really?”

“Yes, he was. We did not find him suspicious as he had done well by us in the past,” she explained. “Which was one of the reasons why their take-over had been a surprise.”

Had he had known that Ladon Radim had been on Atlantis when they took the Genii in, John would have made more sense of his flashbacks sooner. “It makes sense now.”

Teyla nodded and paused in her pacing to look out the window. “His second, I do not recall his name, was injured. He found Elsa trying to get out of the infirmary with a geologist who had been in there when the attack began. I am sure that he killed the scientist then forced Elsa to treat his injuries, and she was doing such when you and I arrived to get her.”

He slowly nodded. Elsa was always busy with her job, she wanted to do her absolute best and if not, die trying. It had been difficult to pry her away from the infirmary for her first off-world trip to look after Rodney, and even during their lunches together, she observed the people having lunch in the mess hall to look for a hint of sickness or other ailment.

Glancing back, Teyla found that John was managing well so far as he listened silently. “When we reached them, the Genii soldier took her by her neck and held his weapon to her. We had a standoff for, oh, I don’t know how long.” She sighed. “There was nothing but evil in his eyes. I could tell that he had no intention of leaving any of us alive…”

She’s going to finish patching him up,” Ladon’s voice sounded as his man let go of Elsa, keeping his weapon trained on John and Teyla while the injured soldier had his gun on Elsa. “Shoot me, and he will shoot her.”

Why are you doing this?” John demanded. His eyes were burning from the smoke coming from the corridor behind him, his chest was hurting from the knife wound he had received earlier, and he had a few broken ribs from continuously falling over and getting stuck under debris from collapsing ceilings.

Until YOU came back to the galaxy with this ship of yours, we were doing fine in helping the people of this galaxy rebuild their worlds.”

Oh, so it’s a jealousy thing then,” John said. “You could have said something. Instead, you’re destroying our home.”

“…just as we started to believe that he might actually let Elsa go and allow us to leave through the gate – he did not know we set the self destruct – the soldier released her from his hold.”

She had nothing to do with us coming back, this is her first time out of her own galaxy,” John tried. “You can let her go through the gate, as well as Teyla, and do whatever you want with me.”

John, don’t. I won’t leave you,” Elsa said calmly but with clear fear in her voice. She held her head high but could not help in crying out when the soldier forced her to her knees.

The smile on the soldier’s face turned sadistic as he made the connection between the two. He grabbed Elsa by her hair and pulled back for her to look up at him. “She really is quite attractive, Colonel Sheppard. You have good taste,” he growled as he studied her, bending over to press his nose into her neck as a lover might.

He tightened the grip on his P90, not sure who to shoot first; Ladon or his lackey. “Let. Her. Go,” he ground out, trying to control his rage.

No no, I think I might give her a try myself,” he taunted with a grin as he attempted to unbuckle his pants as Ladon held Sheppard and Teyla back. “Such a pretty thing…”

With Elsa on her knees John now had a clear shot of the soldier towering over her, but there was still Ladon to deal with, who was grinning like a madman. Yes, he was crazy for coming to Atlantis and attacking it from the inside out, crazy enough for it to actually work. John steadied his breath, and before he knew it, he had placed a bullet in the middle of the soldier’s head, dropping him to the floor like a house of cards.

“Instead of letting her go, Ladon turned his weapon from us to Elsa. He – he executed her right there. She did not have a chance to do anything but get out a few words before he pulled the trigger,” Teyla said before she broke down crying.

He just sat there in silence for a while, not realizing that he was holding his breath, not realizing that Teyla was sitting next to him now, crying. He had gripped his knees tightly, his knuckles were white and he was angry as hell. She didn’t even have a weapon, and that… scumbag shot her, he killed her, she was gone, the hope of ever seeing again was gone. What was there to live for now?

He slowly put his arm around Teyla, feeling numb, and softly comforted her by caressing her back. Apart from that, he hardly moved at all.

Once the initial shock began to wear off, Teyla laid her head on John’s shoulder. “Her last words,” she said softly, “her last words to you were that she would always love you. She knew that by going back to the infirmary, she would die. I saw that in her face when she insisted on helping.”

“She knew the risks…” he managed to say softly. “We all did…”

Teyla nodded. “Elsa would not want you to spend the rest of your life grieving for her but to cherish her memory and live. Please do not give up on living, for her.”

“Please tell me that I at least killed him.”

Taking a deep breath to find strength, she nodded. “Yes, and more. You were the one that had armed the self destruct and right after Radim fell, you made a comment about all of them dying for what he did. You tried to go for her body but I could not let you. There was not much time left and I had to pull you out to get to the gate. Unfortunately, on the way, you and I got caught under another ceiling collapse. Sergeant Stackhouse had been on his way back when he found us with a few scientists and helped me get you out.”

For the lack of having anything better at hand, he threw his cane across the room. He was angry and sad at what had happened to Elsa, and even more angry with himself for not remembering on his own. He wanted to seriously hurt someone right then, but tried to remain calm. “Thank you, Teyla, for sharing this with me…”

“Please do not leave us,” she said barely in a whisper. Her greatest fear now was that John would cause himself harm, whether it was physical or emotional torture.

He couldn’t promise that. His first reaction was to go to a hotel for a couple of days to get it out of his system without causing harm to Teyla or, god forbid, Torren. “I can’t promise that,” he muttered and planted a kiss on the top of her head.

Nodding, Teyla wiped the tears from her eyes. “I will go check on Torren and give you time to yourself. I do not think you and I are very much up to eating lunch now but I must make something for him. If you would like anything, please let me know.”

He reached into the drawer of his bedside table and retrieved an Air Force-issued knife. He handed it to Teyla, who just stared at him in shock. “Just in case I do consider hurting myself.”

She looked down at it before taking it. “Thank you.”

He quietly spent the rest of the day in his room, not even going out to have dinner. He didn’t know what to do with himself, other than knowing that he really wanted to get into trouble, and hurt someone. He wanted to release his anger, but he knew he’d probably get his ass handed back to him if he started a fight.

He wrote a note to Teyla, promising that he wasn’t leaving forever, and that he was even taking his cellphone with him, but that he needed to have some time to himself without disrupting the peace of the apartment, and scaring Torren in the process.

Late at night, he snuck out of the house and took a cab to the hotel that he had made reservations at earlier that day. Once there, he raided the mini bar while he cried his eyes out.

Of course, he’d known that there was no chance in hell that he’d ever see Elsa again, but with his own memory of her death failing, and Teyla finally telling him about her last moments, it was all too real all of a sudden. The woman he had dared to open himself up to after so long was gone, never to return, and he had to continue to live with himself and the shitload of problems that had come down on him after he had woken up from his coma.

Sure, he had been lucky. For one, he had made it off Atlantis and he was up and about, and that had to mean something, right? Yeah, he’d rather have bounced back to his normal self, his confident, carefree and ableself, but that was impossible.

John was still angry with Carson and that specialist for telling him that he wasn’t allowed to go back to work at the SGC due to his injuries. He realized that they’d probably have made him retire anyway if he hadn’t been hurt, because of his tendency to do stupid things when feeling down.

He felt like crap, maybe it was for the best if he’d just end it all, but he didn’t want to leave Teyla. He couldn’t help but feeling guilty about disappearing when she asked (or begged) him not to leave them, something inside of him had shattered when she had said that.

He was tired of crying when he called room service to bring him more alcohol. He wasn’t drunk enough yet, he wanted to get completely wasted and forget about his pain for a while. Forget about about the uselessness of his life, the emptiness that he felt, and act like the pathetic jerk he was, but didn’t show his friends.

It was 7 am when someone finally knocked on the hotel room door and he staggered to open it – okay, so maybe there had been more alcohol in that mini bar than he had anticipated – thinking that it would be room service, only to find Carson standing in front of him.

Damn the tracker, he thought. He had forgotten about the subcutaneous babysitter that came standard with signing the release forms and contracts for joining the Stargate program. “Tell me that you’ve at least brought alcohol,” John greeted his friend and stepped aside to let Carson into the room.

“Are you out of your mind?” Carson ranted as soon as the door closed. “Teyla’s worried sick about you!”

“I’ve only been gone for a couple of hours… relax…”

“Make that days, Colonel.” Carson glared at him. “I hope you had your fun with your pity party, but it’s time for you to go home and clean yourself up. Eat. Rest and feel fresh again tomorrow, as you’ve got a memorial to attend to.”

“I haven’t been here for days!” John blurted. “I left the night Teyla told me about Elsa, which was yesterday.”

“That was Monday, yes. It’s Thursday,” Carson said worriedly. “Are you okay?”

“I was until you showed up,” John grunted.

“Have you had lapses in time before?”

“I don’t believe it’s Thursday,” John said. “So, no, I haven’t.”

Carson threw the day’s paper at him. “See for yourself.”

John mouthed an ‘Oh’ when he managed to read the small date printed on the paper. “Teyla could have called me when she was worried,”

“She has, I have, Ronon has,” Carson said. “You weren’t picking up.”

“Oh.”

“Let’s pay for your room shall we? I’ll take you home.”

The moment he staggered into the apartment he got assaulted by Teyla, first hitting him a few times in the chest, kicking his legs before she flung her arms around him and started to sob. “I’m sorry,” he muttered. “I didn’t know…”

Carson managed to pry Teyla off John and then pushed John into his room. “I need to check if he’s alright, Teyla, then you can hurt him in any way you see fit.”

“I don’t wish to hurt him” Teyla said in a tiny voice, happy that Torren was spending the day with Ronon. “This is the exact reason that I’m not letting him out without knowing where he is or where he’s going to, Carson,” she said. “He sometimes still forgets things or wanders off and then comes home all disorientated.”

“He had raided the mini bar in the hotel, and assaulted a few of the staff, I’m actually surprised that they called Cheyenne Mountain instead of the police.”

“I should never have told him…”

“It’s not your fault, Teyla,” Carson soothed her. “John needs to find a way to deal with his emotions. He used to do that by sparring with you or Ronon, or running around on Atlantis. Those aren’t options for him any more.”

Teyla nodded and sighed. “Perhaps we moved too quickly with getting him on his feet? Do you think we should continue?”

“Oh yes, but now, let me check him out, I think he must have fallen asleep by now.” Carson smiled warmly at Teyla before he disappeared into John’s room.

“I’m fine,” John muttered when Carson started to examine him.

“You might be,” Carson said as he sat down on the bed. “But still, I’d like to take you in to make some scans of your head.”

“Not necessary, I’m fine. Just drunk.”

“John…”

“Carson, I’m drunk.” John looked at him. “That’s all, I’ll be fine and back to my usual self tomorrow, I promise.”

The doctor sighed heavily. “That’s our point. We are concerned about your usual self…” Carson looked at Teyla and quietly asked her to get some bottles of water so that their friend could begin the process of re-hydrating himself.

“Look… I misbehaved, I get that,” John groaned and pulled the pillow over his head. “I’m working my ass off otherwise to satisfy the rest of you, I’m fine, I just slipped up.”

Teyla came back looking tired and emotionally drained. “Other than – this – he has been doing well. As you said, he previously had an outlet for his emotions…Would it be good if I began training with him again? It might help us both.”

“Aye, it might, if you’d take it slow.” Carson nodded and lifted the pillow off John’s head and pushed a bottle of water in his face. “Drink.”

“No.”

“Yes, otherwise I will call the SGC and have them lock you up in that padded room,” the doctor argued.

“I don’t think I care at this point.” John decided to humor Carson anyway and unscrewed the bottle before making the effort.

“You’re one depressing drunk,” Carson told him and handed him another bottle when John drained the first in one go.

“Better than a touchy-feely drunk,” John retorted and sighed, taking the other bottle and drinking that too. “Satisfied?” he glared at Carson.

The doctor shook his head nobut said nothing. Opening another bottle he handed it over while Teyla watched on from across the room.

“Are you trying to drown me?”

“You need to get re-hydrated, you’ll feel better,” Carson said, wondering when John would drink up the bottle.

“And piss like a horse in an hour.”

“I’m not the one who decided to get drunk, now drink up.”

He sighed and drained the bottle, then nearly vomited the water right out again, but he managed to keep it inside. “Carson, one more bottle and I will throw up on you,” he warned as he lay back down, groaning, and feeling sick.

“Good. Serves you right,” Carson replied and left for Teyla to tend to the man.

Teyla managed a chuckle when she pulled the covers over the fully clothed – and slightly smelly – Colonel. “Rest, you have the entire day and night to sober up before the memorial tomorrow.”

“I’m not-”

“Yes, you are, Colonel.” Teyla hit him on the head and put the pillow back over his head. “Sleep well.”

John tightened the grip on his P90, not sure who to shoot first; Ladon or his lackey. “Let. Her. Go,” he said, trying to control his anger.

No no, I think I might give her a try myself,” he growled with a grin as he attempted to unbuckle his pants. “Such a pretty thing…”

This time, though, as he managed to shoot the soldier, Teyla took out Ladon Radim. He felt a perverse sense of happiness when he pulled Elsa in his arms and kissed her senseless while Teyla insisted that they make their way towards the gate. “I’ll never leave you now, you’ve saved my life!” Elsa laughed.

John woke up crying, trying to find his bearings. Right, he was in bed. His own bed. His arm instinctively reached out to the other side but it was cold and empty. Elsa wasn’t here. Of course not. She’s dead, he told himself and got out of bed. He needed to piss, and to take a shower. Then, he’d make himself some fried eggs with ham and cheese and a big mug of coffee to make him feel better. He was definitely hung over and didn’t know what time it was, and he honestly didn’t care.

He got rid of his smelly clothes by putting them in the hamper in the bathroom and stepped under the shower. For months he had to wash himself while sitting down, and now that he was able to stand, he was able to finish much quicker. After his shower, he went to shave himself – Carson had been right, he had been in that hotel room for days, according to his beard – and felt a lot better when he got into clean clothes.

Time for a good anti-hangover breakfast,he thought as he made his way to the kitchen where he found Teyla making tea. “Good day, John,” she chuckled. “You’ve slept well.”

“I have?”

“I was about to come and wake you myself,” Teyla said. “Carson is picking us up in an hour to go to the SGC.”

“I slept that long?”

“Yes. It is good to see you in good spirits, we are going to need that today.” Teyla shifted over to make room for him at the stove.

He slowly nodded as he started to break an egg into the frying pan. “Would you like some?” he asked and pointed at the pan as he grabbed the ham and cheese.

Teyla made a face and shook her head as she stirred in her tea.

“Your loss,” John shrugged. He was already dreading the memorial. It was going to be hard for all of them, and it was times like these where he secretly wished that he wasn’t, hadn’t been, a high ranking officer so that he could skip the whole thing. Since Woolsey and Carter hadn’t made it out, he hadto go.

“While you were… out, the last couple of days,” Teyla started, “the family of Amelia Banks made the decision to take her off life support.”

“Oh hell…”

“I worry for Ronon. Even though he and Amelia separated before we returned to the Pegasus Galaxy, he did love her.”

“Yeah…” John sighed, wondering when the endless body count of the k siege of Atlantis would end. Probably soon, he realized, as the only one still in the infirmary was Captain Vega, and she wasn’t conscious; with her, it was a question IF she’d ever wake up again.

“John?”

“Yes?”

“Did you ever contact your brother or your ex-wife, informing them about your return?”

No, he didn’t. He shrugged and lowered the fire on the stove as he grabbed a few slices of bread. “They wouldn’t care.”

“John…” Teyla rolled her eyes.

“No, Teyla, they wouldn’t.” John cursed himself for raising his voice. “Nancy… well she might, but Dave?” He shook his head. “He’d be telling everyone the same thing he’s been saying my entire life – that I had it coming.”

She looked at him. “I thought you had resolved your problems with him after your father’s death.”

“No… we reached a mutual understanding about dad’s money and my intentions for being at the funeral, that’s it. I’m still the black sheep of the family.” He didn’t really care about it either. Sure, he could always call Dave, say ‘hi’ and then what? He didn’t want to deal with his biological family. He had a new family now, but he had his own that cared about him, even if he didn’t know why they did.

Just before Carson was due to arrive, Teyla took Torren to one of John’s neighbors who had agreed to watch the boy while they attended the services. Heading down the in elevator to go to the car, the mood between John and Teyla was quite somber and dark.

During the memorial service, John was glad to see that there was one piece of good news as well; Stackhouse received a promotion for his heroics and leaped from being a Sergeant to being a Master Sergeant. John agreed wholeheartedly.

John kept to himself, occasionally comforting Teyla, and tried not to listen to the words General Landry spoke. When they were all in the mess hall for coffee after the memorial service, John decided to sit in a corner quietly and drink his coffee, biding his time, waiting for Teyla and Carson to return back home. Remembering what happened on Atlantis was still hard for him, and he had wanted to throw up when Landry had named every single casualty during the memorial.

John went as far as thanking Stackhouse for saving his ass and congratulating him on his promotion during the time they were in the mess hall, but that was it. He only wanted to get out of there and move on the best he could. If he was able to, he’d probably walk away from everyone, everything that would remind him of Atlantis and Elsa, but he couldn’t. In a way, he was responsible for Teyla as it was their agreement all those years ago when they planned for a scenario such as this if they had to evacuate to Earth and she was separated from her people.

Having had enough, he went looking for her, despite the fact that Carson was their ride home. He’d just pay for a taxi. John found her talking to someone from SG-10 in the gateroom. “Hey, want to go?” he asked, his tone clear that he needed to get far away from there.

“Alright, John,” Teyla agreed. “I will find Carson.”

“Nah, let him stay and chat. I’ll pay for a taxi,” John said, carefully avoiding looking at the stargate behind him.

“Well, did you call for one already? I’m sure Carson wouldn’t mind…”

He looked at her steadily. Of course he would have called because whether she wanted to leave or not, he was. “I need to get out of here, Teyla.”

“I was just wondering,” Teyla said. “Let’s go then.”

John was relieved when they finally got home, he could breathe again, but he felt physically and emotionally drained. He let himself fall onto the couch and didn’t plan on getting up for the next few hours as he kicked off his shoes. He was still feeling as if he could snap or freak out at any moment but at least he was in a safe environment now, no guns could accidentally go off, and no Stargate for any threat to come through.

“I’m going to pick up Torren, and then I’ll be taking him food shopping. Is there anything you wish to have for dinner tonight?” Teyla inquired, as she looked at the ‘sack of potatoes’ sitting on the couch.

“I’m not really hungry, Teyla,” he said softly.

“Then we’ll be having chicken,” Teyla said. “I’ll make sure to get slices of Turkey for you so you can make a sandwich if you’d like.”

“Thanks.”

~o.O.o~
A month later, John had found a job in a store as one of the maintenance men. He wasn’t good at it, but they agreed to let him work for them for minimum wage and teach him some things here and there, but it wasn’t what John wanted. He didn’t mind the minimum wages, he had enough money, he hated it that whenever something fell, his entire body tensed up and scared the shit out of him. He also hated interacting with the customers, which he tried not to, but they kept asking him things that he couldn’t possibly know and had “You can go and ask a teller, ma’am,” in his head as a default response.

Sure, he could probably get a better job, since he had a college degree, but he didn’t see the point. He was actually surprised that the department store hadn’t fired him on his second day after he nearly crushed the larynx of one of his co-workers when he poked John in the back with a broom stick. He suspected that General Landry had given them a heads up and paid the man some ‘danger’ money or something.

Today, had been a bad day. There were crying children all over the department store when he was on his ladder trying to replace a broken light bulb, he could feel the ladder wobble whenever the other children, hyped up on sugar, decided to run around it, annoying the hell out of him. He loved children, he loved Torren, who was a model child compared to little rats he was currently dealing with. He managed to replace the light bulb, but he decided to quit there and then. At least he had tried.

On his way back home, he bought Torren a new toy he had seen on TV, and bought some expensive chocolate to bribe Teyla with in case she got angry with him for quitting his job. He’d try to find something else, he’d promise that, and he just hoped it required a minimum of spending time with other people.

“Why won’t you offer yourself up as a guest lecturer for colleges?” Daniel Jackson suggested that night at dinner. “I mean, I do it all the time.”

“That’s because you have PhD’s in just about everything,” John pointed out. “I have a BA from Stanford, in economics.”

“Then do something with your economics stuff,” Daniel shrugged.

“Too boring,” John chuckled as he took a bite out of his stupidchicken. Teyla had learned many ways to prepare chicken, and her home-made Italian chicken was better than the one she used to order from the Italian restaurant. He still hated chicken, though, just as Teyla couldn’t stomach steaks. He was convinced that it couldn’t be healthy to eat chicken at least three times a week.

She rolled her eyes as she smiled at Daniel before getting up to clear the table. “Then what would you like to do? You enjoy cooking at times, how about the small diner down the street? I heard they were looking for some help,” Teyla suggested.

He winced at the thought of working at the diner but smiled anyway. “Sure Teyla, I’ll go and have a look tomorrow,” he replied, not telling her that what he wanted, was something he wasn’t allowed to, or couldn’tdo anymore.

“I would have thought that the SGC would have helped you find something,” Daniel commented, shaking his head.

“They probably don’t know what to do with me,” John shrugged. “And I haven’t asked. I try to avoid the SGC as much as I can. I don’t want to torture myself.” Well, he did, but not full blown Stargate torture; being there reminded him of home, and that was wrong. However, unknown to Teyla, he had stopped by the shooting range one day, and had started to practice to shoot again. Not that he didn’t know how to shoot a gun, but he needed to learn to work it with his bad eye, and he was making a lot of progress with it. Maybe, in the future, he could go and work for a security firm or something.

~o.O.o~
The diner had been a bust, they made him clean up after the patrons first, and clean the toilets and all the shitty work they made you do when you had no experience whatsoever.

He tried to work at a video rental store next, surprised to see that there still was such a thing, but the kid he worked with liked war movies and had the most recent release of some movie on repeat all day on a big screen and he nearly punched the kid for finding it ‘awesome’.

In the end, he just gave up trying to look for a suitable job and spent most of his days outside, walking around the park in town and feeding pigeons, only to make Teyla think that he was actually keeping a job this time around as an ice cream vendor.

One day when John came to the park, he found General Landry feeding hispigeons. “The handy thing of a tracker is that we can see where you are at all times, Colonel,” General Landry said smiling.

“Last I knew, I wasn’t a Colonel anymore, General.”

“You’ll always be a Colonel. You’re just not an active one. That’s something completely different.”

John shrugged and sat down on the bench next to the General.

“Fancy ice cream cart you have.” Landry pointed at the loaf of bread John was holding in his hands.

“Yeah, it could use a little paint…”

“John, I’ve been following your every move… well, almost every move, in the past few weeks. How’s the shooting going?” He smiled and threw some more seed on the ground.

He winced. “That was something I didn’t want anyone to know about…”

“You didn’t answer the question.”

“Getting there,” John eventually said, knowing that he was fighting a losing battle with the man. “My percentage is at about 85% or so.”

Landry nodded. “That’s good to hear. There – may be a job that you can do for the SGC and IOA…”

~o.O.o~

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