"I'm going to stay," he had said.
And now, Dr. Garret Corrigan, archeologist, found himself standing in the gate room of Atlantis, watching the Wraith's siege unfold around him.
The radio at his shoulder squawked. "Teyla!" Major Sheppard's voice commanded. "We're waiting for you by the Control Chair! Teyla! Come in!"
Dr. Elizabeth Weir didn't turn her head from where she was staring out the window, to the vast, uncaring ocean beyond. "Garret, locate Teyla's team for Major Sheppard, please." She said in her even tones.
Garret knew that Elizabeth must be reeling from everything that was going on around her. His Gift didn't let him sense emotions, the way that hers did, but just like her, he couldn't shut his Gift off. He couldn't imagine what it must have been like for her, to be surrounded by people who were so palpably frightened that even he could feel it, but to have to act like nothing at all was wrong.
He swallowed, determined to keep his fear under control. To be one less burden. "Yes, Ma'am," he said, closed his eyes, and reached out.
He felt them all. Every living person on Atlantis. The energy that animated them, that was part of them, unique. He had been on Atlantis for just over a year, long enough to have been in contact with everyone, and have everyone's distinctive pattern of energy burned onto his consciousness. They unfolded before him, like a map.
He felt Elizabeth beside him, a subdued blue glow, dark like the ocean around them. Sgt. Campbell was at the gate controls, pulsing like pale, pale yellow light. Peter Grodin behind him, exhausted from forcing vision after vision to help their cause, his usual energy, fiery like a flame, now merely smoldering. Garret reached further, skipping over the new arrivals with the Daedalus, whose energy had not yet differentiated for him, all of them reading like blobs of white light.
Next, he found Drs. McKay and Zelenka, working in the room with the Control Chair. McKay's energy was as golden as the shield he could now create, sparking like electricity. Zelenka was a calm green, soothing, like music, especially when he used his powers. Major Sheppard was there, too--A dark, brooding energy that glowed like storm clouds with the sun behind them. So distinct that Garret could find him even when he wasn't specifically looking.
Garret felt himself break into a wide smile as his Gift found Sgt. Jamie Markham and Sgt. Daniel Stackhouse, his team-mates and friends. Jamie was getting ready to use his Gift. Garret could tell because Jamie's usual pale lilac energy was beginning to build up to the intense violet that the use of his Gift created. Garret was happy to note that Jamie's energy seemed almost whole again. After he had gotten hurt teleporting the jumper, it had been faint and weak, and now Garret's smile broadened to know his friend was okay. And Danny? Danny was--just Danny. As bright and dependable as a light bulb. Garret rested with them for a moment, basking in their glow, and then moved on.
He skipped over several other people that he knew, searching for Teyla's special signature. She flickered, yellow-blue like a candle, and equally as soothing. She was another energy signature that he wanted to rest with, like Elizabeth's. They were easy to feel, gentle in the back of his mind.
After another moment's search, he found her, along with Cpl. Jeter and Col. Everett. The Colonel's energy was still mostly a white blob to Garret. Even though the Colonel had debriefed the teams this morning, Garret's contact with him hadn't been sufficient for him to learn the nuances of the Colonel's energy. But as he touched it with his mind, something felt wrong , and he frowned. It was like a piece of the Colonel's energy had been ripped away, leaving the rest bleeding and torn. The feeling was unsettling and terribly disturbing.
"I've found her, she's on the South Pier with several soldiers," he said, hearing a note of tiredness in his own voice. On a normal day, Garret found his power no more exhausting than walking. He felt everyone, all the time, their energy signatures resting in a corner of his mind. It was a constant reminder that he was surrounded by life, by colleagues, by friends. But sorting through everyone on Atlantis to find someone in particular, now that was work. It required concentration and energy, and Garret knew he would have to husband both if he was going to continue to be effective.
Dr. Weir flashed him a brief smile. "Good work, Garret." She radioed Sheppard to give him the information, and his brief acknowledgement was followed by Teyla responding to his hail.
"I'm glad to know she's all right," Elizabeth said. Garret nodded, leaning against the railing. He had been too nervous--too frightened--to eat much that morning, and he could feel his energy slipping. He looked down at the table of supplies that had been set up by the Stargate. It was piled high with energy drinks and power bars, and he looked at it with longing. He'd been searching for teams on and off since the Wraith had landed in the city. He couldn't remember a time when he'd felt so hungry.
His longing must have broken through the clamour of fear that surrounded Elizabeth, because she turned to look at him, her dark eyes filled with compassion. "Go eat," she said, indicating the table. "You won't do anyone any good if you pass out."
Garret smiled sheepishly. "It was that obvious, huh?"
Elizabeth grinned back for a brief instant. "I would have known even without my Gift, Garret." She gestured at the table again. "Go. Eat. And bring me something back."
"Yes, Ma'am," Garret said again, and went down the stairs to the table.
He grabbed himself an orange sports drink and filled the pockets of his tac vest with Power bars, reserving one to eat as he remounted the stairs. He took a bite and felt its high caloric content race through him. Instant energy.
As he walked, he focused his Gift again, looking for one more energy signature. That of Cpl. Martin Lumano, the fourth member of their team, and probably Garret's best friend on Atlantis.
Garret loved being a part of Team Stackhouse. Not only were the guys great to work with, they had also become friends. Even though he was the only civilian--and the only non-American--on the team, none of the guys treated him any differently. In fact, Martin had kind of taken Garret under his wing: taking him to the gym for work-outs, and helping him improve his aim. Danny may have been team lead, but Martin was its heart. His nickname wasn't 'Dad' for nothing.
Garret reached out and almost immediately found Martin. Martin's energy was a light rose colour, something the guys teased him about endlessly. But secretly Garret felt it suited him. There was such joy in the man, such intrinsic contentment, that Garret couldn't imagine what other colour he could possibly be. Right now, to his relief, the pink-hued energy burned bright as ever.
Martin's energy was moving forward, surrounded by white blobs of unknown personnel from the Daedalus. Before the battle, Stackhouse's team had been split up, and Martin had been given his own command, an honour they would have to celebrate once they all got through this and the team was reunited.
Garret smiled to himself, and raised his drink to his lips, glad that Martin was still okay even while the battle raged. If they made it through this, he planned--
Martin's energy signature winked out.
One second Martin was glowing brightly, and the next he was just--gone. Gone like he'd never existed. Gone like Atlantis had been scrubbed clean of his presence. Like the flicking of a light switch, like the dousing of a flame.
It felt like a hole had been ripped out of Garret's psyche. Like a piece of his mind, his body, had been torn from him. The pain was deeper than physical. It was all-consuming, never-ending. Martin had died, and Garret was dying right along with him.
The bottle he had been holding fell silently down the stairs, orange fluid arching upward as it tumbled.
And Garret kept falling and falling and falling.
Garret woke with a start, a hoarse cry fading from his lips. He put his hand to his chest, feeling its rapid rise and fall as he breathed, his heart pound beneath his palm. His skin was damp with sweat. He was shaking.
He was in his quarters on Atlantis. The siege had ended months ago.
Martin had been dead for months. And yet still the nightmares persisted.
Garret hauled himself out of bed and went to the small bathroom attached to his living quarters and began his ritual of after the nightmare. First, he splashed some cool water on his face, then wet his hands and rubbed it on his neck.
He looked at himself in the mirror. His short dark hair was disheveled and unkempt, a testament to his difficult night. His skin was pale, paler than usual, making his dark brown eyes appear black in contrast. He looked tired, exhausted really, and for an instant Garret closed his eyes, wishing that the nightmares would end, and he could just sleep. But there was still the last of the ritual to complete before he could rest again.
Next, he filled a glass with water and went back to his sleeping area, sitting heavily on the edge of the bed. He took a sip, rested his forearms on his legs, feeling the water and sweat dry all along his back, sensing the subtle shifting of energy signatures all around him as the rest of Atlantis slept.
He took another sip, and reached for the glucose tablets he kept on his side table, popping them out of the blister pack with one-hand. Grabbing a couple, he slipped them into his mouth, making a face as he chewed. They tasted awful, artificial and chalky, but it was necessary. Garret was tired, and locating distinctive energy patterns always took a lot out of him. He took another drink of water to kill the taste, put the glass down, and lay back on his bed.
He closed his eyes, and reached out.
He found Jamie and Danny almost immediately. Their energy signatures glowed quietly in sleep, pale lilac brushing against soft white light as the two men slept, bodies intertwined.
Garret smiled to himself, comforted by their familiar presence. Jamie and Danny were healthy and well, safe and sound. Together. Alive.
He sighed, fatigue suddenly overtaking him in a rush. But he couldn't sleep. Not yet.
With great care, Garret carefully made his way through Atlantis, locating every one of its inhabitants. The green of Zelenka, gold of McKay, blue of Weir, black of Sheppard, the cool flame of Teyla, the hot flame of Peter, spikes from Chuck, waves from Aiden. Dr. Becket's energy felt sort of...bubbly, and Garret chuckled to feel it. There was Sgt. Bates' angry splash of orange, and there was Dr. Heightmeyer's still, turquoise presence. He found Major Lorne's easy indigo, Albert's intense burgundy, Miko's tight grey. One by one he found them all, present and accounted for. Alive.
The ritual was almost over, and Garret sighed again, feeling exhaustion coaxing him back towards sleep. He was almost ready to give in--just one final sweep of the city, this time to count all the unknown white blobs of energy that he had yet to meet. Some of them were already beginning to differentiate, even though the Daedalus had arrived just a few days ago. But by the end of the week, he knew he would recognize most of them forever. But for now, he just registered them, ensuring they, too, were unharmed, secure. Alive.
They were all okay, and Garret smiled, feeling himself drifting off. He touched Jamie and Danny one last time, and finally allowed himself to sleep.
The briefing had been set far too early in the morning, Garret thought, taking a long sip from his cup of coffee. He found he was relying more and more on caffeine to keep him functioning during the day. The night-time use of his Gift was physically and mentally draining him to the point where the broken sleep he was getting was no longer pulling him through.
Of course, the woman sitting at the table with them, grinning and laughing as she chatted easily with Danny and Jamie was definitely keeping him awake.
And not from happiness at her arrival.
In fact, he wasn't happy about Happy at all. That was her absurd nickname, given to her by the army boys back on Earth when they found pronouncing her last name too hard. It's English translation meant "the happy," and so Happy she was.
Her full name was Ayida L'Heureux. She was a Sergeant in the Canadian Special Operations Regiment and a fluent French speaker. While she was born in Haiti, she had moved to Toronto with her family while she was in her teens and had joined the military right out of high school. Before becoming a member of the CSORs, she had been a combat engineer, and had only recently been accepted to the SGC.
All this information Garret obtained without having to ask a single question. Jamie was interviewing her, gleeful expression on his face. It should have been Danny's job, but maybe Danny couldn't handle Happy's enthusiasm any better than Garret could.
He really didn't want her on his team.
Garret sat back, one arm slung over the back of his chair, studying her like he would an unknown ruin or ancient artifact. She was beautiful, no doubt. Her skin was the colour of coffee with only a bit of milk, smooth and taut. Her hair was fixed in tight braids that ended in a bun at the nape of her neck. She still sported the computer-generated camouflage of the Canadian Armed Forces, with its strange pattern of brown, black and green in tightly-packed squares. Even though her uniform was loose on her small frame, it was obvious that she was fit. Most likely a prerequisite for her membership in the special ops regiment that she belonged to.
She was tiny, though. Garret was no giant himself, standing just over five-six in bare feet, but Happy looked like she'd be lucky to hit five-foot with her boots off. Danny, at a slim six-one, towered over her, and Jamie, with his broad shoulders and stocky frame, looked like he could crush her with one hand. We match, Garret thought, then slammed the idea aside. The fact she was beautiful and little and Canadian did not mean that her acceptance to Team Stackhouse was a done deal.
The three of us have been doing just fine since.... Garret's mind stuttered to a halt. He wouldn't make himself think it. Not now, not so soon after last-night's horrendous dream.
We don't need a fourth, he thought instead. No matter how friendly or attractive she is.
"So," Happy said brightly. She said everything brightly. "So, all three of you are Gifted?"
Danny smiled. "I'm not," he said. And was that a small note of regret in his voice? "But both Jamie and Garret are. And you are too, right?"
She nodded, but all her attention had swung back to Jamie and--Garret was unnerved to notice--himself. "Both of you are Gifted!" she exclaimed, nearly breathless with damn happiness. "What can you do?"
Jamie beamed. "I can teleport!"
Happy's dark eyes grew round. "No way!" she said. "I'm a Teleporter, too!"
It was Jamie's turn to go goggle-eyed. "You're shitting me!"
"No!" she said. "I can teleport myself, and at least twenty-five kilograms besides, any distance in my direct line-of-sight. And you? How much can you teleport?"
"My power's a little different," Jamie said. "I can't teleport myself, only objects." He grinned. "The heaviest thing I ever moved was a jumper. Damn near killed me."
"Mon Dieu," she breathed. "I think you'd need a lot of sugar after something like that."
Jamie nodded in agreement. "I was sick for a while."
"Jamie is an inorganic Teleporter," Danny explained. "He can move just about anything made of non-biological material anywhere he can see." He looked at Jamie, and Garret could see the deep pride and affection in Danny's blue eyes. "He once teleported a nuclear bomb onto a Wraith ship. Blew it right out of the sky."
"Oh wow," she said. "I've been briefed on the Wraith. You have got to tell me that story."
Jamie opened his mouth, but Danny smoothly interrupted. "We'll save that for team bonding later," he said. "Right now, I'd like to introduce you to our third member, Dr. Garret Corrigan."
Garret's eyes flashed to Danny's face. Danny was looking at him grimly, his expression hard, and all at once Garret realized his silence and unfriendliness had not gone unnoticed.
Happy was looking at him expectantly, her deep brown eyes dancing. They really were lovely eyes, Garret had to admit. In any other circumstances....
"You're a doctor?" she said after the silence had stretched a bit too long.
"Doctor of Archeology," Garret said with a sigh. "I'm not a medical doctor."
"How fascinating!" Happy said, and Garret began to wonder if all of her sentences were going to sound like they ended with exclamation marks.
"Not really," he said. "I look at really, really old stuff while Jamie and Danny watch my back." And they don't need any help doing it. "It's not too exciting."
"Gary's from Montreal," Danny cut in. "You speak French too, don't you?"
"Yes," Garret said, glaring at Danny. Didn't he realize he didn't want to get up-close-and-personal with this woman?
"Which part of Montreal?" Happy asked. "I've visited a few times."
"Mount Royal," Garret said, naming the primarily English-speaking area. "But I went to mostly French schools as a kid."
"I really like the old part of town," she said. "You know, by the water?"
"Yeah," Garret replied, looking towards the clock hung on one of the walls of the briefing room. "All the tourists like that."
An awkward silence descended.
"So," Happy seemed to want to try again. "You are Gifted too?"
"You could call it that," Garret replied. He slung his arm over the back of the chair again. Behind Happy's head, Danny stabbed him with his eyes, and Garret made a show of studying the table-top, tracing a small mark with his finger.
Happy's tone sharpened a bit. "And what can you do?"
He looked up, and saw that her expression had darkened, her beautiful eyes narrowing at the corners. She had begun to figure out that he was being insolent on purpose.
Garret crossed his arms and looked at her. "I feel energy signatures," he said.
Happy crossed her arms and stared right back. "What, with your hands?"
"No, with my...." he paused. What did he feel them with? His brain obviously, but that wasn't quite right. "My senses," he finished.
"So," she said, and yes, there was definite hostility creeping in there. "You taste other people?"
Garret made a face. "No."
"You smell them."
A sarcastic smile touched her mouth. "There are three other senses. Shall I keep guessing?"
Despite himself, Garret felt the corners of his lips curl upwards. "I feel them," he said. "But I see them too. I see them in colours, but I feel them in my mind. Understand?"
She looked quizzically at him. "So, you see colours when you look at people? Do you see a colour when you look at me?"
Garret shook his head. "No, it doesn't work that way. I don't see your colour around you, I feel it, in my brain. But I feel it all the time, so I guess it's almost the same as if I saw it."
She made a face. "That makes no sense."
"It's a Gift!" Garret exclaimed. "It's not meant to make sense!"
Her expression went quizzical again. "So, is it like reading auras? My aunt could do that."
"I don't read auras!" Garret cried. "Reading auras is bunk!"
Happy's eyes narrowed. "My aunt could read auras. She could tell you your fortune too, just by looking in your eyes. I've seen her do it. Call that bunk?"
"I don't read auras!" Garret said again. "I read--I see--I feel other people's energy. In colours. It's not auras!"
"Sounds like aura-reading to me."
Garret made an exasperated noise. "Call it what you want."
The room became quiet.
Jamie cleared his throat. "Gary says my aura is purple."
"It's not an aura!" Garret nearly shouted. "It's an energy signature!"
"Purple, eh?" Happy said, looking at Jamie.
"Yeah," Jamie said, nodding vigorously. "Gary says it's light purple when I'm not using my power, but it goes really dark purple when I teleport stuff. Pretty cool, huh?"
Happy was smiling again. "Yeah, that is cool!" She turned back to Garret, her displeasure with him apparently forgotten. "What colour am I?"
"You don't have a colour--" Garret started. Then stopped. He had assumed that Happy would be a big white blob like all of the other new arrivals, but he was wrong. Her energy pattern had begun to differentiate for him already, showing streaks of bright red. He studied her. "You're, you're..." Like a ruby in the sun. "You've got dark red streaks," he finished lamely. "Kind of burgundy, but not."
"Oh," Happy said, considering. "And what does it look like when I do this?"
And suddenly, she was gone.
Her energy signature just winked out. Her energy was gone. Gone, like she'd never existed. Gone like Atlantis had been scrubbed clean of her presence. Like the flicking of a light switch, like the dousing of a flame.
It was like Martin had died all over again.
And then, in the space of two heartbeats, she was back. Glowing, healthy, whole and as fucking happy as before. "Well?" she said, looking at Garret expectantly. "What did you think?"
That you died! Garret wanted to scream. His heart was pounding. He felt like he couldn't breathe.
He stood up, knocking over his chair in his haste. "I have to go," he said to no one in particular, pushing past Danny on his way out the door.
"Are you okay?" Danny called after him, but Garret had stepped outside, and now he was running. Heading as fast as he could away from the meeting room and towards any place else that didn't have Sgt. Ayida L'Heureux in it.
Even if it meant he'd have to run all the way back to Earth.
"No," Dr. Weir said. Calmly, quietly, and just as firmly as before.
He had gone straight from meeting Happy to Dr. Weir's office, bursting in on an apparent meeting between her and the Colonel. Sheppard had immediately suggested that Garret might want to come back later, but Dr. Weir, perhaps because of her ability to sense emotions, had allowed him to speak his mind.
He was now trying his damnedest to get them to understand how important it was that Happy should leave.
So far, they weren't getting it.
"But she can't be on our team!" Garret said continuing to pace in front of her desk. "We don't need a fourth. She'll just get in the way."
"I wouldn't be so sure about that," the newly-promoted Lieutenant Colonel Sheppard said. He was leaning against the wall behind Dr. Weir's desk, arms crossed in front of him and the sole of one boot resting against the wall. The picture of cool command. Idly, Garret noticed that he was no longer sporting his gloves, and he wondered if the fact that the Colonel's energy signature seemed to spend a lot of time with Dr. McKay's energy signature had anything to do with it. "She's a highly-trained Combat Engineer with the CSORs." Sheppard continued. He raised one dark eyebrow. "I'm pretty sure she can handle herself."
"She's tiny!" Garret protested. "I mean seriously. Have you seen how small she is?"
Both of Sheppard's overly-expressive eyebrows shot up.
"Please tell me that isn't your major concern, Doctor," Dr. Weir said dryly.
"Okay," Garret relented. "Her height isn't really an issue, obviously--But she's barely been off-world," he tried again. "The Pegasus Galaxy is no place for an amateur. It could get her killed."
"That goes for every single member of the Atlantis Expedition," Dr. Weir answered. "No matter how many times an individual might have gone through the Gate before getting here, they'll still be woefully unprepared for the things that we've dealt with. Ayida is no worse off than you were when you first arrived."
"And in fact, she's better off, because she knows how to shoot," Sheppard cut in, and Garret grimaced, aware that he was making a reference to Garret's abysmal scores the first few times he used the P-90s.
"I'm better now," Garret mumbled. He stopped pacing and stood, angled away from where Dr. Weir was sitting behind her desk. He jammed his hands in his pockets.
"Martin taught you how to shoot, didn't he?" Dr. Weir asked gently.
Garret looked at her askance, caught off guard by her reference to Team Stackhouse's missing member. Dr. Weir's aura (and it kind of was, now that he thought about it) was it's usual calm shade of blue, and as he sensed it, it reminded him that Weir was a Receiving Empath, and one who could never, ever shut off her powers.
She was probably reading his grief about Martin's loss, right now.
"Martin has nothing to do with this," Garret said roughly. He cleared his throat. "I just think that she's not going to be an asset to the team."
"Well, I think she will," said Shepaprd, stepping away from the wall. There was a note to his voice, and for a second Garret started, wondering if Atlantis' only Charmer was going to use his Gift to get him to acquiesce.
Sheppard made a face, clearly reading his expression. "I'm not going to charm you, Corrigan," he said, and Garret blushed.
"I didn't mean--" Garret began, and then stopped. He sighed. "I know you wouldn't charm me, Colonel."
Sheppard nodded, but he still looked displeased at Garret's momentary lack of trust.
"Look Garret," Dr. Weir said. "We understand your reluctance to have a new member added to your team so soon after Martin's loss. But please understand, no one here is trying to replace him."
"This has nothing to do with Martin!" Garret repeated. Why did she have to keep talking about Martin? "I just don't think that she's going to work out."
"She's not going anywhere," Sheppard said.
Garret felt a surge of anger. Why wouldn't they listen to him? "Then I am!" he said, crossing his arms and turning to face the Colonel head-on. "If she stays, I'm leaving. I'll go on the Daedalus the next time it passes through."
Sheppard opened his mouth to speak, but Dr. Weir got there first. "The Daedalus isn't scheduled to arrive for another three weeks, Garret," she said. "So why don't we take a 'wait-and-see' approach? Work with Ayida for the next three weeks, and if you still feel as strongly then as you do now, I promise I'll make arrangements for you to head back to Earth. Does that sound reasonable?"
"I guess," Garret said reluctantly.
"Good," Dr. Weir said, standing abruptly. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a meeting with some delegates from PM2-10."
Despite his recent declaration of his intent to leave, Garret found his interest piqued. He was always fascinated by the civilizations they discovered out here in the Pegasus Galaxy, especially their ancient history, which always had information about the Wraith, and sometimes--if he were very lucky--information about the Ancients themselves. "PM2-10?" Garret repeated. "What planet is that?"
"The planet that you and your team will be visiting tomorrow, Doctor." Dr. Weir said as she and Sheppard strode past him and out of the office. "Briefing's at thirteen-hundred."
It had been four months since his team had last left Atlantis, and until the very moment that Garret arrived on the other side of the Stargate, he hadn't realized how much he had missed it. The sense of purpose he had as he got his materials ready to investigate another culture's ancient ruins, the sense of excitement as he realized he was the first person from Earth to ever look at the artifacts he was about to see. It was a dream job. More than a dream job, and he knew it.
And the fact that PM2-10 looked almost exactly like British Colombia on a beautiful summer's day didn't hurt, either. Even though they were millions of light-years from Earth, and thousands of light-years from Atlantis, it was hard to be homesick when every planet looked like the West Coast of Canada.
Now, if someone speaks French and offers me a beer, I'll be in heaven. Garret thought to himself with a smile.
"C'est une journée parfaite pour prendre une biere, n'est-ce pas?" Happy said as she came up beside him. She was wearing the standard Atlantis grey-and-black gear, and the black vest fit her much more snugly than her Canadian Forces uniform had. Her figure really was impressive, Garret decided. In a totally aesthetic way, of course.
Garret sighed. "What are you doing here?" He pulled his tablet out of his backpack, and made a few quick notes on time, location and the direction he was planning to head in.
Happy looked at him, a disdainful expression on her face. "I'm on your team, remember?"
Garret rolled his eyes. "I know that. Why aren't you back guarding the 'Gate?"
"Because," she said, voice thick with sarcasm. "Danny was worried you might bolt again, and asked me to watch your ass." She glared at him.
Garret winced at the obvious reference to his behaviour at the meet-and-greet the morning before. Clearly Happy had taken some offence to his rapid disappearance, and since he hadn't bothered to explain his actions, she had obviously decided to take it personally. Plus, there was a distinct possibility that she might have found out that he had run straight from the briefing room to Weir's office to get her kicked off the team, which--if Garret was honest about it--would be enough to piss anybody off.
Somehow though, he couldn't find it in himself to apologize. Besides, what was he meant to say? "I'm sorry, but we don't need you on this team? I hate to tell you this but, you'll never take the place of Martin? I'm sorry to break it to you but don't bother to unpack your gear 'cause you won't be here that long?"
"Tell Danny I don't need anyone to watch my...." He paused. "Back. I'm just fine."
"Jamie says you have a tendency to wander off."
Oh, did he? "I don't," Garret said, repacking his tablet in his backpack. "And I don't need you to baby-sit me. I've done this before. Lots of times before. You'll just get in my way."
"Danny is team lead," Happy replied, checking her weapon in a fluidity of motion that was remarkable. "I follow his orders. Not yours. I'm coming with you, whether we like it, or not." They had all checked their weapons before leaving Atlantis, but he hadn't watched her do it. The quick display of her prowess with the weapon was well done, and despite himself, he was impressed. I wonder what else she can do with those small hands of hers, his brain supplied evilly before he pushed the thought away. He had already admitted to himself that Happy was attractive, but that didn't change the fact that he didn't want her around.
"Fine," Garret said, making sure his tone told her how not fine it actually was. "But I'm going to be working, so don't expect conversation."
Happy smirked. "You mean I won't get to talk to you? Quelle dommage."
"Not as sorry as I am," Garret muttered. They headed out.
The ruins Garret wanted to look at were over an hour's hike from the Gate. He had chosen them on purpose, knowing that Danny and Jamie would most likely stay behind to guard the Gate, allowing him precious time on his own. Besides, he was pissed at Danny and Jamie: Jamie for bonding so quickly with Happy, and Danny for letting her onto the team in the first place. Didn't he know what a mistake it was?
The conversation he had had with Danny the night before had only made things worse, and Garret frowned as he thought about it. Danny had showed up at his room just as the sun was beginning to set, dressed in civvies, with a contrite look on his face. Garret had felt the stable glow of his aura approaching, and just before Danny knocked, had decided he would let him in.
"So," Danny had said when Garret had opened the door. "You up for a walk?"
They had headed out to the balcony on the East side of the City. Atlantis was completely opposite to Canada in so many ways, but the fact the sun set in the East was something that Garret still hadn't gotten used to. After Martin died and the Wraith attack had ended, Team Stackhouse had found themselves on the boardwalk, sitting on the smooth floor, watching the colours bloom through the sky. In unspoken agreement, they hadn't talked, just observed the sunset and grieved for their loss. Since that time, whenever the team needed to talk, it happened at sunset on the East Pier. It was no surprise to Garret that Danny wanted to take him there.
They walked for a few minutes, and then Danny started. "You want to tell me what today was all about?"
Garret grimaced. "No."
Danny thinned his lips. "You want me to order you?"
Garret made a face. "I'm a civilian, remember? I don't have to take your orders."
Danny stopped walking. "Jesus, Gary!" he exclaimed on a puff of air. "Why do you have to make this so hard?"
Garret turned to face him. "Make what hard, Danny? I'm not the one who invited a stranger onto our team!" I'm not the one who forgot Martin so quickly.
"What did you expect me to do?" Danny cried, letting his hands fall to his sides. "We've been grounded for four months. Four months! Weir wouldn't let us go anywhere without a fourth! Did you expect me to have us rot in Atlantis?"
"I expected you to take more time with this decision!" Garret shot back. "Like, maybe ask Jamie and me for our opinions before you accepted someone?"
"She was the best candidate for the job!" Danny said. "And I did ask Jamie's opinion!"
Garret stilled. "What?"
"I asked Jamie's opinion on whether or not we should take Happy on," Danny said again. "She was the best one for the job."
Garret felt his heart start to pound with the realization of Danny's betrayal. "You asked Jamie instead of me? Jamie?"
"He's my second in command," Danny said stiffly. "I wanted to know how he felt."
"And what about my opinion?" Garret demanded. "What about how I felt?"
Danny waved his hand dismissively. "It was pretty easy to know how you felt already, Garret. You would have said 'no' to whomever I picked. What would have been the point in asking?"
"I wouldn't have said 'no'!" Garret protested.
Danny looked at him. "Really. Because you've made it very clear that you haven't wanted anyone else on the team. Even if it meant we were grounded until Atlantis sank back into the ocean!"
"That's not true!" Garret exclaimed. "How can you say that?"
"How can I say that?" Danny repeated. "Didn't you pay attention in the meeting this morning? You were an asshole to Happy and you know it! You don't want anyone else on the team, and that's that! Well, I got news for you, Garret, Martin's dead. He's dead and you need to accept that!"
Garret turned away, pressing his fingertips to his temples. Martin's energy signature winking out. Switching off like a light. He felt dizzy, sick. His head had started to pound in time with the beating of his heart.
He felt Danny's energy shift behind him, and flinched his shoulder away just before Danny had tried to touch it. "I'm sorry, Gary," Danny said. "I know this has been tough on you--"
"You don't know anything," Garret said. He left Danny standing on the pier.
And now, he'd left Danny standing at the Gate while he led Happy deep into the forest, where the ruins were hidden. Even the locals hadn't known they were there until the jumper's sensors had found them a few days earlier. He'd avoided his team lead as much as possible that morning, and had been barely polite to Jamie for good measure. He still couldn't shake the intense feeling of betrayal that his conversation with Danny had left him with the night before. And he couldn't shake Happy no matter how hard he tried.
"If you're tired," he had attempted after their first thirty minutes of walking in almost complete silence, "feel free to go back to the Gate. I'll be fine on my own."
"I'm not tired," Happy had replied, looking straight ahead. And that had been the end of that.
Finally, they reached the ruins, a scattering of huge grey stones that held only the impression of carving after so many thousands of years of being exposed to the elements. Large statutes, their features softened and distorted by time sat before them. Great kings and queens in poses of either regal splendor or religious supplication. Garret wasn't yet sure which, but he hoped that a few hours spent investigating would reveal the statues' secrets. He felt the familiar thrill of excitement, the quickening of his heart as he surveyed the objects before him. Each statue had its own story, its own immense importance in the timeline of the civilization of PM2-10. And he was going to get to be the first one to crack the spine and read it all.
Out of the corner of his eye, Garret saw Happy roll her eyes. "You look like you're going to pee yourself."
Garret scowled at her. "Shut up."
Garret glared at her again and put his pack down, fishing out his digital camera and hanging it around his neck. He also pulled out his tablet and turned to face the ruins, feeling himself become absorbed by the items before him. He viewed the ruins carefully, scrutinizing each one from a distance, judging their positions and location one-to-the-other, trying to identify patterns in his mind--
"Can I help?" Happy asked.
Garret jumped. Like always, his concentration on the artifacts had been total, so complete that Happy's energy had faded to a dull feeling in the back of his mind.
It was one of the many reasons that archaeology appealed to him, it took him far away from the constant awareness of his Gift.
"No," Garret snarled at her.
Happy made an annoyingly cute moue of disappointment. "Why not?"
"Because you'll break my concentration."
She sneered. "I don't want to talk to you," she said. "I just want to do something so I don't die from boredom. Here," she said, walking over to him and lifting the digital camera from around his neck. "I'll take pictures while you stand there and stare at stuff."
Garret tried to protest, but she had already whisked the camera away and was in the process of taking a picture of one of the statues. "Don't break it!" Garret called after her, wincing at how lame he sounded.
She gave him the finger over her shoulder and turned to take more photos. Garret took a deep breath and turned back to the statue he had been looking at originally. He studied the great monolith, mentally comparing its features with those around it, occasionally taking notes on his tablet when he saw something that he felt was particularly pertinent.
But this time he found his ability to concentrate was gone.
Instead, all his brain seemed to want to focus on was a ruby-red aura that was moving gracefully somewhere behind him. Obviously Happy had completely differentiated for him already. Fantastic. He shook his head to clear it, and tried again to focus on the statue.
He could feel Happy's aura shifting around behind him, light and lithe and graceful, sparking through his mind like crystals pouring hand-to-hand.
Garret huffed in annoyance and took a step closer to the statue, then another step, and then two more. He was now so close to the statue that his perspective was gone, and he could no longer judge the pattern of the ruins or analyze why they might have been placed that way. Instead, he attempted to turn his attention to the writing that had been carved into the base of the statue, where it stretched from below his knees to just above his head. Time and the elements had worn the letters away to merely faint grooves in the stone, and Garret frowned slightly as he attempted to identify the writing.
His heart started to speed up as he recognized one letter and then another. The writing was in Ancient! He forgot Happy and her aura as he moved closer to the stone, his hand out to trace the letters in an attempt to bring back meaning from their now near-meaningless shapes.
He took another step forward, and suddenly Garret was falling.
He hit the ground, hard. First his right wrist broke, bending and snapping like a twig as he instinctively tried to stop his fall by outstretching his arm. Then his right leg fractured as it slammed into the ground. Then his right side hit, ribs straining and cracking under the impact. It took less than a heartbeat for it all to happen.
Pain exploded with his next breath, all his injuries clawing at him. He felt like he couldn't breathe, that the hard earth was pushing his injured ribs deep into his lungs. He rolled onto his back, a movement that eased his chest, but turned his wrist and leg into an inferno of pain. He lay still, fingers of his left hand digging into the ground, leg and wrist throbbing with every heartbeat, breathing hitched and shallow as his body attempted to compensate for the searing pain in his side.
Finally, after what seemed like hours of agony, the pain eased just enough that Garret could finally take stock of where he was. The area where he had landed was full of shadows, the light from above only partially penetrating to its depths. In the dim light, it looked like he had landed in a former underground temple, complete with alter and statues in alcoves. It would have been a stunning archeological find, a complete temple apparently unnoticed and untouched for centuries, if Garret had been in any state of mind to care.
Instead, he could only focus on how far up the exit to the temple was, and how, even if he had survived the fall unscathed, it would be nearly impossible for him to get up there on his own. It looked like he had fallen about fifteen meters straight down.
"Happy?" He called, his voice weak and ineffective as it bounced off the sides of the cavern. He reached up his left hand to awkwardly click on his radio transmitter, and was met with an unnerving silence. Searching down his left side, he located the radio's holster, but the radio itself didn't appear under his questing fingers. The force of my landing must have torn it off, he thought. "Happy!" he called again.
There was no response. Garret licked his lips, feeling his heart start to pound with the first flickering of panic. Happy would find him. She hadn't been more than a couple of meters away when he had fallen. In fact, she was probably on the radio right now, telling Danny and Jamie exactly what had happened, and they were dialing Atlantis to arrange a rescue....
Or, she figured that he had wandered off, the way Jamie told her he was prone to do, and she wasn't worried about him at all.
The ruby-red of her aura was no longer tugging at his consciousness.
The flicker of panic flared upwards. Garret closed his eyes, and reached out with his Gift.
His wrist and leg and chest pounded with pain. It pulled at him, demanding his attention. He fought it, forcing himself to push through it, to focus on the auras he knew should be there, to find Happy and Danny and Jamie so he could know they were looking for him, that he would be okay.
The pain pushed back, twisting through him like some alien being completely separate from himself. No accident, no injury he had ever had before had prepared him for pain this bad. He couldn't get past it, no matter how hard he tried.
He began to sweat. A deep, consuming weariness began to climb up his limbs. He felt cold and hot at the same time, weak and shivery, and the terrible nausea that came with having burned up all the sugar in his body.
With a terrible sense of dread, Garret realized he couldn't concentrate enough to use his Gift. He was too hurt, too weak to make it work, something that had never, ever happened before. He couldn't sense anyone else around him. It was as if everyone else was gone and he were the only person left on the planet. The only one in the whole world.
For the first time in his life, Garret was totally, completely and utterly alone.
"Happy!" he screamed, pushing himself up on his left elbow. "Happy!" The movement sent spasms of agony through his wrist and leg, and felt like a knife was being stabbed into his side, over and over and over--
His vision went gray, and he sagged back down, eyes closed, retching and gagging as his injuries overwhelmed him. He gripped his right side with his left hand, scraping his left heel in the dirt in a pathetic attempt to get away from the pain.
An energy signature suddenly winked into existence, blazing like crimson fireworks in his mind. Whole and beautiful and wonderfully alive.
"Happy?" he gasped.
A cool hand touched his forehead. "Shhh, don't speak," she said, her French accent sounding thicker than he had heard it before. "Save your energy." He felt something small and round pressed against his lips. "Eat this, it will make you feel better."
Obediently, Garret opened his mouth, and she slipped the glucose tablets inside. Nothing had ever tasted as good as their pasty fruit flavour did right then. He could feel the thick energy coasting through his body, and the intense nausea abated to a tolerable level. He opened his eyes. Happy was looking down at him, her dark eyes eloquent with concern. She still hadn't taken her hand off his forehead.
"You teleported down," he began. "Thank you--" He wanted to somehow convey his gratitude that she hadn't left, that he hadn't truly been alone.
She shook her head. "I wouldn't leave you," she said as if reading his mind. "Where are you hurt?"
"My right side," Garret gasped. "My chest, wrist, leg. I think that's all."
"That's too much!" she cried. "I need to get help." She pressed the call button on her radio, and they were greeted with nothing but static from the device. Garret watched her try to hail Jamie and Danny twice, but nothing happened.
"We're too deep," Garret gasped. "It can't get through."
Happy swore in French, but got down and began assessing his wounds. He cried out as her nimble fingers found each and every broken bone. She began muttering to herself in French, but it was too low for Garret to make out. Her expression grew darker by the second.
"I will have to take off your jacket and pants to look at your wounds," she said, her accent making her words sound stilted and somewhat unnatural. "But first I will give you something for pain, yes?"
"Yes, please," Garret said immediately. Even the light touches of her assessment had left him weak and shaking again. The idea of her removing any part of his uniform was horrible for him to contemplate.
She pushed his jacket off his left shoulder and bared his muscle, wiping it with something wet, stabbed the area with a needle and then injected a cool fluid into his arm. She sat back on her heels and looked at him.
"How is that?" she asked after a few moments. "How is your pain?"
"Same," Garret panted.
"Merde," she said. "I thought that was the right dose. Maybe you need more." She did something with the med kit, and he felt the same things as before.
She knelt beside him, looking at him intently. A few more minutes passed.
Garret's pain began to ease. It was like there was a layer of cotton wool being placed, piece by piece, between him and his injuries. He knew they were there, but slowly, the reality of them began to recede until they became a dull ache in the background. He smiled at how pleasant the feeling was, and how funny it was that the cotton wool was now spilling over from coating his injuries to coating his entire body. A deep sense of peace settled over him, an easiness of spirit that he hadn't felt in a long, long time. Since before Martin died.
"Who died?" Happy said. She whipped her head around, searching for something in the dark of the temple. "Is someone else down here?"
"No, Martin died," Garret said. He was dimly aware that this was a topic that he didn't like to talk about. But right now he couldn't remember why. Nothing hurt anymore. Nothing at all. "He died when the Wraith attacked."
"Oh," Happy said, a note of shocked sympathy in her voice. "I am so sorry."
Garret tried to smile, faltered. "Me, too."
Another minute passed, and Happy looked at him questioningly. "How is your pain now?"
Garret felt his smile widen. "It's good." He raised himself up on his left arm, wincing as his wounds protested, but this time it felt all right, and he stayed. It allowed him to watch what Happy was doing. And he liked doing that, watching Happy.
Happy smiled back, a brief, tight smile that did nothing to change the scared look on her face. "Bien," she said. "Then I will take off your clothes."
Garret laughed. "Not the place I would have chosen, but okay."
Happy's hands stilled on his boot laces. Her eyes met his, her mouth a round 'o' of surprise.
"You're beautiful," Garret said. It seemed appropriate to tell her, since it was true.
Her mouth quirked up. "I think the morphine is working." She pulled the boot off his right foot. His leg moved with her effort, causing a slight change in the position of his thigh. The muscle spasmed, scraping the edges of the broken bones against each other.
Garret screamed and fell back, left hand pressed to the side of his leg, eyes squeezed shut. The cracked ribs on his right side flared in agony, his wrist stabbed with pain all the way up to his shoulder. He was dying, being torn up from the inside out.
"Mon Dieu, mon Dieu!" He heard Happy cry out. He felt her hands touching his face, now holding the sides of his head, now against his temples. Slowly, the feeling of her hands, blessedly cool against his clammy skin, began to take precedence over the pain of his injuries. Slowly, the cocoon of cotton came back, separating him from his body once again. He felt her brush some moisture from his face, and he realized he must have been crying.
"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," she was saying over and over. "I didn't mean to hurt you. I'm so sorry."
He opened his eyes again, to see her staring down at him, her eyes were sheened with moisture.
It seemed like the saddest thing in the world, her crying like that. He reached up and gently touched her cheek. "Don't cry," he said. "I'm okay."
"No you're not!" She snapped. "I can't even touch you without causing you pain!
She stood and turned away from him, her shoulders held back, hands at her waist, looking up at the small patch of sunlight far above them. Garret raised himself up on his left arm again, looking at her as she got herself back under control. She really cares about me, he thought. The idea troubled him. He had tried to get her kicked off the team.
Happy turned back to him. "Of course I care about you, idiot," she said, using the French pronunciation of the word. "We're a team." She knelt back down, by his now-bootless left foot. "And it was pretty shitty of you to try to get me kicked off."
He must have been speaking out loud again. Garret knew that, once the morphine wore off, he'd feel really, really embarrassed about this conversation, but right now, it seemed almost like it was happening to someone else. "I had to," he said simply. "Danny was trying to replace Martin. That was wrong."
Happy looked up from where she was slicing through the thick fabric of the leg of his tan uniform. "This is the man you mentioned before, yes?"
"Yeah," Garret agreed. "Martin is--was--the fourth on our team." He felt the cool air of the cavern on his skin as Happy finished cutting his uniform up to his hip. He glanced down at his thigh. The bone hadn't broken through the skin, but it was discoloured and obviously swollen.
Happy bit her lip. "There is nothing here to splint this with."
Garret shrugged. "Tie my legs together. That's what they always do in the first-aid videos."
She brightened. "But of course!" and began cutting his destroyed pant-leg into long strips.
After a moment, she moved back to his feet, and he watched as she carefully and tightly tied his ankles together, then moved up to his knees. It was mesmerizing, watching her small hands create knots in the beige fabric, and he swallowed.
She looked up. "Are you okay?"
"Yes," he said, "It's just--I just. I probably shouldn't watch you do that."
Her expression became alarmed. "Does it hurt?"
He grimaced. "No."
Her eyes narrowed in confusion, then widened in surprise. Then she laughed, and pulled the knot tight on the left side of his knee. When she next looked at him, her eyes were wicked. "I think this morphine has made you drunk."
Garret laughed. "Maybe."
Happy reached his pelvis, and suddenly her face was only inches from his. She held the makeshift bandage in her hands and looked at him. "I need to slide this under you," she said. "Can you help?"
The idea of her sliding under him seemed like a good one, and it took a second for Garret to realize what she was actually asking. He felt himself blush, and even through the drug-induced haze, he hoped he hadn't said that out loud.
Happy's expression gave nothing away. "Don't worry," she said. "I'll be quick."
With a grunt of pain, Garret managed to help her, and in moments she had secured his hips together. He was now effectively immobilized from the waist down, and the pain in his leg eased another fraction. He sighed happily. "Thanks."
"Don't thank me yet," Happy said. "I still have to get you out of here." She stood again and looked up. "That hole is a very long way."
"Jamie and Danny will get us out," Garret said with confidence. "I'm sure they contacted Atlantis for equipment the second you radioed before you teleported down." He paused. "You did radio them, right?
"I think so," Happy said. "I don't really remember what I did after I saw you fall." She shrugged self-consciously. "I was worried."
"I'm sure you did," Garret tried to sound reassuring. His wrist was aching in a way that was becoming too hard to ignore. He shifted, trying to hold it up, closer to his body. The movement of his shoulder pulled at the muscles of his side, and he groaned, sagging back down.
"I think I need to bind that wrist, non?" Happy said. She brandished the scissors on the right sleeve of his jacket, and gently began cutting. He moved his head to watch her, the way her jaw angled neatly up to her delicate ear, the smooth angle of her neck. He wanted to run his finger down that angle, to see if her skin felt as fine as it looked.
Happy glanced at him out of the corner of her eye and smiled. "Don't distract me."
"Sorry," Garret said, not really meaning it. She finished slicing open his sleeve and inspected his wrist. It was visibly disfigured, the bone poking upwards towards his skin. Garret's stomach rolled to look at it, and he turned his head away.
"I need to splint this," Happy said quietly. "Will you let me?"
Garret nodded, swallowing against the bile in his throat. Somehow, seeing the extent of his wrist injury made it feel even worse, and the pain was now easily getting through the flimsy layer of cotton that he had thought was impenetrable.
He heard Happy grabbing something out of the med kit. "Why don't you try to find Jamie and Danny while I do this, eh?" she said. She slipped another glucose tablet between his lips, gently stroking his cheek before turning back to the med kit and fishing for something else. "Just so we know they are on their way?"
It would be a minimal distraction at best, but Garret appreciated what she was trying to do. He nodded again, chewed the tablet and closed his eyes, once more trying to reach out with his Gift. This time, Happy's aura glowed like a beacon, a blazing lighthouse of deepest red. He moved beyond it, trying to extend himself up and out of the hole, searching for Danny and Jamie.
Once again, he couldn't do it. The pain from his injuries grabbed his consciousness and wouldn't let go and he cried out in a terrible combination of pain and frustration.
"Wait," Happy said, her teeth clenched. "Je suis presque fini."
Garret pressed his good hand over his eyes, willing himself to not lose it in front of her. Thank God she's here, he thought. The fact that he could no longer use his Gift was more terrifying even then his injuries or that he was trapped deep underground. Being hurt is bad, but I don't think I could make it without my Gift.
Happy looked at him as she tied a final knot. "Pardon?"
"My Gift," Garret explained, realizing he had been speaking his thoughts once again. "I've been able to feel energy signatures for as long as I can remember. My mom thinks I was born with it." His left shoulder gave a tiny shrug. "I'm used to feeling people all around me, I guess."
"Wow," Happy said. "Most people don't become Gifted until their teens." You are unusual."
"That's what I've been told," Garret said. "But--I can't feel Jamie and Danny, because of the pain."
"Don't worry," Happy said as she moved to his front and finished the sling, gently placing his forearm into it. "As soon as you are better, it will all come back."
Having the sling on allowed his muscles to relax. The pain in both his wrist and side immediately lessened, and he sighed in relief. "Thanks."
"Pas de quoi." She sat back on her heels, looking down at him. "I think you are afraid of being alone."
Garret put his left hand under his head, meeting her gaze. Now that she had splinted his wrist and leg, the pain had receded again, and he could feel the wondrous cottony feeling come back. Maybe he was drunk from the drugs, like she'd said.
"I can be alone," he said. Part of him felt that, perhaps he should be upset about what she had said, but most of him was enjoying looking at her, and the warmth seeping through his mind. "I've been alone lots of times."
She smiled at him. "I mean, alone, Garret. Alone without the winking and blinking of auras all around you. Without knowing if there is anyone else there."
"I don't know," he replied honestly. "I've never felt that. Until I fell here, that is." He smiled, "but then you came down, and it was okay."
She looked up at the hole. "It is not okay if Jamie and Danny are not coming."
"They'll come," he said. "Don't worry."
Happy continued staring up at the hole. "I could teleport up, then radio."
"No!" Garret cried instinctively. Just the thought of that precious ruby aura disappearing again, winking out like Martin had done--
Happy was at his side, gripping his good hand in hers. "Non, non, non!" she said soothingly, "don't worry, I won't leave."
"That's why you can't be on the team!" Garret said, gripping her hand fiercely and holding her gaze with his own. "I'm really sorry, really sorry," he said. "But that's why you can't be on the team. Because of your Gift! Because it feels...it's like...." He stopped talking, it was suddenly too hard to move the words past the lump that had formed in his throat.
Happy looked at him, her eyes locked on his, comprehension reflected in their depths. "My Gift," she said slowly. "When I use it, does it feel the same as when this Martin died?"
Garret could only nod, not trusting himself to speak.
"I understand," she said, sitting cross-legged on the ground beside him. She continued to hold on to his hand. "You have many reasons to not want me on the team, don't you?"
"I'm sorry," Garret said again. "I really am."
"I know," she said. She smiled a small, sad smile at him. "You loved this Martin very much."
Garret could feel the tears starting to slide down from the corners of his eyes. "He was like my brother."
"I don't want to take his place," Happy said quietly. "No one could take the place of a friend like that."
"I know," Garret said. "It's just, it feels wrong, somehow. To get a new fourth member, to go through the Gate again. To keep going like nothing happened. Like he didn't matter!"
"But he did matter," Happy said. "And he knew that, and so do you. And I don't think he would want your life to stop, just because he died."
"I know that!" Garret snapped. "But...but having someone else on the team is just--it's like there's this great big hole where he used to be," He took a breath, "It's hard enough not to think about him all the time," he said thickly. "Having you on the team makes it so obvious that he's dead. And when you use your Gift? It's too much. I can't take it."
"When I teleport you can't feel my aura?" Happy asked.
"No," Garret agreed. "It just, stops. One second you're there, and the next--"
"It's like I've died," Happy said. Her expression became deeply sympathetic. "You felt it when Martin died, didn't you?"
And Garret felt something inside him break, as surely as his injured bones.
Somehow, Happy managed to lever him upwards so that he was half in her arms, his forehead against her shoulder as he cried.
Happy held him and patted his back, and after a while the intense grief faded to something else. Still a deep sadness, but less, somehow.
She must have sensed it, because Happy changed position so that he was resting his left side against her, one of her arms across his shoulders, supporting his weight, the other across his chest, her hand just above his hip. It felt good to be held by her, and he knew that he definitely wanted to return the favour.
"Thanks," he said after a few moments of companionable silence. "I think I needed that."
"When my best friend died in Afghanistan," Happy said, leaning her chin on his shoulder. "I thought I couldn't go on. I threw myself into training, tried out for the CSORs, anything to distract myself, to get away from the pain. But you know what? The harder I ran, the more the pain followed me, until I realized I had to make a choice."
Garret smiled. "To be or not to be?"
He felt her short laugh vibrate through him. "Something like that. I had a choice to keep living, truly and well and honour my friend, or I could keep being only half-alive and dishonour us both. I chose what I felt my friend wanted, and eventually, I wanted it too."
Garret reached out with his good hand and patted her arm. "I'm glad you're here."
He felt her smile. "So, I can stay on the team?"
He smiled sheepishly although he knew she couldn't see it. "I'm really sorry?"
"All is forgiven," she said. "Especially as you're going to hate me for what I'm about to do."
Garret felt a flash of panic. "What's that?"
"Teleport us both out of here," she said.
"But you said you couldn't teleport more than twenty-five kilos beyond your own body weight!" Garret said, alarmed..
"I've only attempted up to that amount," Happy replied calmly. "But the Gifted trainer at the base always felt that I could do maybe twice that."
"Wait, wait!" Garret stuttered desperately. "I weigh one hundred and forty-five pounds! That's closer to seventy kilos! Can you do that?"
"Well, we'll find out, won't we?" she said. And a heartbeat later, they were gone.
Garret sighed deeply and turned the page of his magazine. It was awkward to maneuver the shiny paper with his right wrist in a brace, but he felt he was beginning to get the hang of it, especially as he had read the same magazine three times.
He had been in the infirmary for all of a day, and already he was so bored he could scream. In sympathy from his own recent stays in the base hospital, Jamie had brought him one of his precious motorcycle magazines to read, and Garret hadn't had the heart to tell him that he appreciated vehicles more for their practicality than their speed or design, and at best had always felt motorcycles were dangerous wastes of money. But beggars couldn't be choosers, and Garret had accepted the magazine with thanks.
He had been out of his mind with pain and fatigue by the time he had been brought to the infirmary. Happy's teleporting him had been painful--broken bones shift during teleportation, it turned out--but it had, in the end, been the easiest part of his journey back to Atlantis. The hardest was the sixty-plus minute trek back to the gate on the stretcher lugged by Jamie and Danny, his broken limbs bouncing and jarring with every step. Even the third dose of morphine Happy had given him hadn't helped at that point.
Danny must have updated Dr. Beckett en route, because the second they arrived on the Atlantis side of the Gate, the good doctor had pounced on him, started an IV, and injected him with something that caused a near immediate and welcomed loss of consciousness.
When he had woken up, several hours later, he discovered that both Olivetti and Johansen had used their healing Gifts on him. His ribs and leg had been re-set and were nearly healed, and the absence of pain was wonderful. His wrist had been the worst break, and Dr. Becket had straightened the bones and put on the brace while Garret was asleep. He would have to wait in the infirmary, Dr. Becket had said, for at least a day while Olivetti and Johansen recouped their strength in order for them to properly finish the job on his injuries.
Garret had nodded and promptly fallen back asleep before he could request some good reading material. And thus he was now dependant on a magazine whose only redeeming quality was the photos of stunning landscapes throughout--once you blocked out the motorbikes.
Taking a break from the effusive prose, he focused his attention and went in search of Dr. Weir. When she had visited him yesterday, she had seen his limited choice of reading material and had promised to bring him back her latest copy of Northeast Anthropology as soon as she had the chance. He found her almost immediately, apparently sitting in the briefing room with Major Lorne. Both their auras were blue, but Weir's was a deep, calm colour, whereas Lorne's was a bright, electric indigo. Both energy signatures seemed well-entrenched, and Garret sighed again. It might be a while before he got that journal.
A flash of ruby-red caught his attention, and he focused on it, breaking into a broad smile as he traced the path of Happy's energy signature with his mind.
She was coming towards the infirmary and--he hoped--coming to visit him.
"Salut!" Happy called to him as she approached. She was wearing jeans cut to mid-calf and a t-shirt, and her slim braids were held back by a broad elastic. She looked casual and relaxed and completely different from the way she presented herself in uniform. In her uniform, she was all competent soldier: strong and tough and fiercely beautiful. Out of uniform, she looked sweet and serene and almost heartbreakingly lovely.
Garret felt a pain in his chest that he knew had nothing to do with his healing ribs.
"Hey, Happy!" he said. "Nice to see you!"
"And you," she replied. She bent over and gave him a quick kiss on each cheek in the classic greeting of French people everywhere. Her skin was smooth against the roughness of his unshaven face, and the contact far too brief for Garret's liking, and yeah, she smelled good, something that Garret wasn't sure he could guarantee about himself after over twenty-four hours without a shower.
"So, how are you?" she asked, settling down on the chair someone had placed beside his bed. She looked down at the thick black brace on his wrist, and winced. "That looks painful."
"Actually," Garret said, gesturing at the copy of Inside Bikes resting on his lap, "the wrist is a lot less painful than reading this crap. I am now Atlantis' foremost expert on where to ride your motorcycle in the Florida Keys."
Happy laughed. "Bored, eh?"
Garret made a face. "I even read the 'letters to the editor' section."
She laughed harder. "Don't worry," she said as she put the bag she had been holding onto his lap. "I have brought you gifts."
"Thanks!" Garret said, and pulled out its contents. The bag contained a pad and pencil, a book and a chocolate bar. "Eragon!" Garret whooped. "That's one of my favourites! How'd you know?"
Happy laughed again and rolled her eyes. "Geek." She rested her forearms on the bedrails.
"What?" Garret said, looking at her. Her dark eyes were dancing with mirth. "Geek? What? Isn't this yours?"
"Hell, no!" she said. "I borrowed it from Sparky on your behalf. He said that you would probably like it."
"I do like it," Garret said, heart sinking. "You were, uh, talking to Sparky?" Dr. Gordon "Sparky" Sparks was a tall, red-headed surfer-dude from Auckland with a wicked accent and an even more wicked set of abs. All the straight women on Atlantis loved him, sighing and cooing about how gorgeous and funny he was. If Happy had set her eyes on Sparky, Garret knew he didn't have a chance.
"I thought it would be a good idea to get to know him," Happy said conversationally. "He is on Ford's team with Corporal Kaufman." She eyed him intently. "Lieutenant Ford has asked me to join them."
He felt his heart stop. "You're on our team!" Garret protested. "Tell him to poach someone else's Teleporter!"
The smile Happy gave him was dazzling. "I was hoping you'd say that," she said. "I wasn't sure you meant it when you said it before."
"Before?" Garret asked. "You mean, like, down the hole, before?"
She nodded. "You were in so much pain, and then you had so much morphine. I didn't know if you had actually said what you meant."
"I may have been drugged," Garret said, angling himself towards her. The movement twinged his healing ribs, but he ignored the pain. "But I remember what I said, and I meant every word. I'm sorry I was such a jerk to you before, and I'm really glad you're on our team."
She made a moue with her mouth and shrugged. "You were grieving for your friend and didn't even know it. I understand."
"No," Garret said, taking her right hand with his left. "I shouldn't have acted the way I did. I should have realized that Martin's death was affecting me so badly, but I didn't, until you told me it was. I owe you a lot."
A blush darkened the deep brown of her cheeks and she looked away. "It was nothing."
"Hey," Garret said, unclasping her hand. "You risked your life for me, when you teleported us both out of that hole. I wouldn't call that nothing."
"We're a team," she said. She turned back to him and met his gaze. "You did mean it, right?"
"Yes," Garret nodded solemnly. "I meant everything I said down in that hole."
Happy's expression grew wicked. "You meant everything?" she said. "Really?"
Garret licked his lips, suddenly nervous. He remembered falling down and being in pain, and then talking to Happy about Martin once the pain had receded after she gave him the drugs. He was even vaguely aware that he might have been crying at some point. He definitely remembered apologizing for his awful behaviour towards her, and her teleporting them both out of the hole. But beyond that, it was only the vaguest of impressions. What did I say? He asked himself desperately. Was it bad?
"I'm, I'm not sure," Garret said, staling for time. "I think so."
"So," Happy said, leaning further over the bed railing and smiling a wickedly sexy smile. "Did you mean it when you said I shouldn't cry?"
He couldn't tear himself away from her incredible eyes. "Y-yes," he said.
Her smile deepened, and she leaned even closer. Their lips now only centimeters apart. "And did you mean it when you said I was beautiful?"
"Yes," Garret said softly. Her breath ghosted against his mouth.
"And," she said, her voice only a whisper. "Did you mean it when you said that it was okay for me to take off your clothes?"
Garret pulled back. "I did? I said that?"
Happy burst out laughing.
"Oh God, I didn't!" Garret cried, falling back on the pillows. He could feel his cheeks flaming in embarrassment, and he clapped his good hands over his eyes. "Please say I didn't say that."
She pulled his hand away, and he turned to look at her, hoping he looked apologetic.
"Don't worry!" she laughed. "I was very flattered."
"Oh," Garret said. He sat back up. "Well, uh, good, I guess?"
"And...." she said, deliberately giving his hospital-gown-and-sheet-covered body a long once-over. "Intrigued by your offer."
Garret felt his mouth fall open.
"You are a good-looking man, Dr. Corrigan," she said. "And you can be very sweet when you're not being a dick." She slid off the stool and stood on the floor, still holding his eyes with her own. "I think I'll like being on your team." And so saying, she left, winking at him once over her shoulder.
Garret sagged back down on the pillows, staring up at the ceiling.
It took nearly a full minute for Happy's words to sink in, but as soon as they did, Garret laughed out loud. And to think I tried to get her kicked off Atlantis. I'm an idiot!
He could hardly wait until he saw her again.
Still grinning, he closed his eyes, and reached out. He followed her crimson aura out of the infirmary, down the hallway and into the 'Gate room, then branched out, letting his Gift roam freely.
He passed by Dr. McKay and Col. Sheppard, Teyla and Ronon, sitting together in the mess. Next he found Miko, then Sgt. Bates, who seemed to be with Dr. Heightmayer, his orange energy signature less agitated than usual. Maj. Lorne was no longer with Dr. Weir, but was now with Dr. Parrish, and the two of them were moving off towards a balcony. He let his Gift drift higher, taking in an aerial view of Atlantis, letting the auras light up like Christmas lights as he passed over. Red for Peter, burgundy for Albert, green for Dr. Zelenka, pale yellow spikes from Chuck, dark yellow waves from Aiden.
He sensed both Danny and Jamie, and stayed with them for a moment before moving on, taking it all in. All the people he knew and cared about. Atlantis, his family. His team.
His smile softened as he thought about Martin, and how much he missed him. But the grief was no longer crushing, something he felt he had to ignore to survive. Aydia had given him that, literally and figuratively pulling him out of a hole. For the first time in a long while, he actually felt happy. Happy, he thought, the name suited her.
He couldn't be sure, but he felt that his months of nightmares might now be over. He didn't think he'd have to perform the ritual again.
And if he was lucky, he thought, sliding his good hand behind his head, and continued to be nice, maybe Happy would like being on his team enough to take him up on that offer.
Grinning again, Garret swooped by her aura one more time, brushing it with his consciousness before letting go, and letting all the energy signatures fade into the background of his brain. A quiet but reassuring presence of the lives all around him.
And for the first time since his death, he allowed himself to remember Martin, and how precious that friendship had been. And how much Martin would want him to live.
He thought about that for a long time.
And every once in a while, he thought about Happy.