The days and nights, for John, go by in a haze. Everyone knows, everyone sees that John has ceased to function, but there is nothing they can say that they have not already said.
Teyla goes to Colonel Carter on his behalf, implores her to allow him some kind of closure. The planet has stopped shaking, and the gate has been proven intact. If they could only find Rodney's body, perhaps John would be able to move on, in his way. Colonel Carter tells Teyla that she's already given John her answer, and it stands. Teyla feels genuine dislike for the woman, and wonders how she managed to survive travelling world to world in her own galaxy, as a reed too rigid to bend with the tide.
Colonel Carter may know Ancient technology, but she is not Rodney. Whatever the Earth government says, no one knows Ancient tech better than Rodney, but Colonel Carter ought to know enough to realize that without Rodney to manufacture miracles and John to put them into action, there is very little hope for the survival of the expedition.
Three times a day, Teyla or Ronon brings John his food in Rodney's quarters. They take turns, or sometimes visit at the same time. He's wasting away, refusing to leave Rodney's bed except to use the toilet or attend to his own hygiene, and the latter only when Ronon makes him. Teyla is too polite to mention it, but Ronon threatens to toss him off the east pier if he does not shower, and so he does. The east pier is too far from Rodney's personal effects, all that John has left to hold on to.
There were rumors, before the mission, about Rodney and John, but they were just that until the day Ronon and Teyla had carried John back through the gate with a head wound, all of them covered in dust. Keller asked what had happened and Ronon told her the truth: he had to knock John out with the butt of his gun to keep him from going back into the building where they had last seen Rodney, unable to reach him as tremors shook the earth and buildings collapsed around them. When John had awoken, the rumors had been more or less confirmed.
Teyla has always seen more than a single surface layer to the easy friendship John and Rodney shared; two complete opposites, yet with so much in common. She is not certain when their relationship began to evolve, but along the way it went from something amusing and light to something deep and almost symbiotic. Losing Aiden had been hard; losing Carson and then Elizabeth such a short time apart had been nearly impossible. Losing Rodney has broken John in the way she has seen losing a limb affect a hunter. It has been weeks since he has left his self-imposed prison, and she can see his lean muscle deteriorating from disuse.
Teyla makes a decision, and with the aid of Doctor Zelenka and Major Lorne, she and Ronon take a jumper through the gate. Control does not realize that they have initiated their own dialing sequence from inside the jumper until the wormhole opens, and by then it is too late to stop them.
The majestic city that had once stood on the planet, not a mile from the gate, is nearly decimated but Teyla is able to pick out a few landmarks and instruct Major Lorne in navigating them to the grand hall, where the Opulens' collection of Ancient relics were kept. Rodney had been negotiating for a ZPM that had been simply sitting on a pedestal, fully charged according to the energy readings, and the Opulens had been hesitant, but he had been wearing them down. He had been so close.
Major Lorne cloaks the jumper as they all step out; the dust has settled since the quake, but it has left its mark in heavy, broad strokes. The grand hall, however, looks nearly intact. Teyla feels a wrench in her gut, and instinctively reaches for Ronon's arm to steady herself.
"I know," he says, and they both look up at the building in horror. They left Rodney to his death in a falling building which has not fallen. It is likely his death was a long, painful one.
"This is a recovery mission," Lorne reminds them, "not a rescue. Don't hope for anything more." Teyla bows her head for a moment in honor of those that perished before following him into the grand hall, with Radek behind her and Ronon bringing up the rear.
It takes four hours for them to pick their way through rubble to the antiquity room, only to find the door is blocked by a heavy marble pillar. It is a dangerous call in a building so precariously held together, but Lorne decides to take the chance and C4s their way through. Teyla rushes in before the marble chunks have finished flying and gasps at the vision before her.
Rodney is injured, but not badly so, despite the rust-colored blood that cakes his uniform. Teyla ignores the stench of dried blood and unwashed male, but makes sure he has no broken ribs or arms before hugging him and weeping happy tears for herself and for John that leave streaks on Rodney's skin. Rodney has managed to splint his broken leg, but suspects that Keller will want to re-set it. Teyla inspects the splint and silently agrees; Keller will likely have to break it again to do so.
He hops on one leg, a jarring action that must certainly pain his other leg, but moves aside strategically placed bits of stone and marble to reveal his secret cache: the fully charged ZPM, undamaged. Teyla is overcome with affection for her friend and laughs happily while Doctor Zelenka collects the precious power source.
Ronon decides to carry Rodney back to the jumper, and Rodney uncharacteristically agrees to allow him. Teyla is unsurprised. He is clearly in a lot of pain, and rummaging through his tac vest she discovers nothing but empty powerbar wrappers. Rodney does not say how long it has been since he has eaten, but allows Teyla and Radek to fuss over him, to feed him and give him water while Ronon looks on and Lorne pilots them home.
Colonel Carter is displeased with them, and before allowing them through the gate, threatens them with demotion, discharge and exile if they cannot give her a very good explanation for their escapade. Evan lands the jumper right in the gateroom and tells Carter to call for a medical team, then he and Ronon prop Rodney up between them and walk out of the back, Teyla and Radek behind them.
Teyla feels a distinct satisfaction she will not allow herself to feel guilty for when Colonel Carter nearly has to pick her jaw up off the gateroom floor. Rodney looks up to the sound of applause and cheers from Control. "I will go alert Colonel Sheppard," Teyla tells Carter, brushing past her. A flare of her nostrils is all the distaste she will show for now.
John has one of Rodney's laptops out on the bed, reading something on its screen intently as though committing Rodney's every word to memory. He does not hear Teyla enter. She is pleased to note that he has bathed at least somewhat recently, and only slightly more than half of his most recent meal remains uneaten on Rodney's desk.
"John," she says softly, not wanting to startle him.
"Teyla," John answers with a voice rough from disuse; Rodney sounded much the same when they found him.
"There is someone in the infirmary I believe you would like to see."
There is a sharp inhalation of breath, and a dead silence. Finally John looks up, his face shaded with several days' worth of stubble. "Teyla?"
"I am that sorry we did not return to the planet sooner," she replies. "Colonel Carter--"
"Carter said no," John nods, then swallows. "Is he, I mean... so we're gonna have a service?"
Teyla sits on the edge of the bed and takes John's hand. "I believe Rodney would be very cross if we did. He is alive, John."
John swallows again, looks into her eyes to be certain, and then he chokes out a single sob, tears of relief and joy hot on Teyla's shoulder as she pats his back gently. "I don't understand," he says as he manages to stop shaking. "It's been--"
"We must hurry," Teyla interrupts. Rodney will share the details of his survival with John, she is certain, but there is little she will be able to answer now. "His leg is broken, and Doctor Keller will likely have to put him under in order to set it properly. I believe he would like to see you before that happens." Teyla makes a mental note to send someone to change the linens in Rodney's room before he is released from the infirmary as she leads John out into the hall.
The confrontation between John and Carter is brief and thankfully silent. John regards Carter with anger and resentment so strong they are almost palpable, feelings Teyla shares, before nearly shoving past her to get to the bed where Rodney is being set up with an IV. Teyla watches from the doorway; it is a tender reunion. John touches Rodney's face, then his shoulders and arms. He furrows his brow and touches him everywhere he can reach, including the broken leg, but gently. He is reassuring himself that Rodney is real. Teyla nearly had to sit on her hands in the jumper to keep from doing the same thing, and she is only Rodney's friend. Once John is satisfied, he kisses Rodney as hard as he can without breaking him.
"I thought we had an agreement," John says accusingly. "No dying."
"I wasn't dead," Rodney points out sensibly. "I was stranded on an alien planet, trapped in that stupid antiquities room. I managed to save the Zed-PM, by the way."
"Who cares about the fucking ZPM?" John snaps, then runs his fingers through Rodney's matted hair as well as he can. "How'd you get it?"
"Well, everyone else was dead," Rodney replies. "It wasn't that difficult."
"Someone's gonna have to call Jeannie."
"You already told my sister I died? I hope you made it sound good." Rodney's expression softens and he reaches up to touch John's face. "Are you okay?"
John barks out a harsh, dry laugh. "You're asking me? Hey, did you paint a face on the ZPM and talk to it like that Tom Hanks movie?"
Rodney snorts. "No, but then I wasn't trapped on a desert island, either. Plus I was more concerned with trying to keep my blood in my veins than fingerpainting with it."
Colonel Carter looks small, Teyla notices, and she feels a twinge of sympathy. "You could not have known," she offers despite her own anger.
"I should have," Carter sighs. "They're so like..." She trails off and shakes her head as though to clear it. "My team used to be as close as yours," she tells Teyla.
Teyla wonders if this is true, if Colonel Carter felt her teammates' pain and joy as personally as Teyla does. "I am told Doctor Jackson made a habit of dying," she says. "I am told he was once an Ascended." Carter laughs, but Teyla can see the tears she is holding back. She places a hand on her back and steers her away from the infirmary.
"It killed General O'Neill every time," Carter says once they are in an empty hallway. "And Daniel always came back. I should have known McKay would pull another miracle out of his ass. It's what he's good at, isn't it?"
"He never ceases to amaze me with his abilities," Teyla agrees. "It is not easy to make decisions for others."
"No, it's not."
"It is all right to cry," Teyla tells her. "I do, sometimes. I did, today, when we found him."
Carter squares her shoulders. "I'm not-- I don't--"
"I will tell no one," Teyla says softly.
"He would have starved to death," Carter whispers. "It would have been my fault. I thought I was making the right call."
"Sometimes there is no 'right call' to be made."
There is a choking sob, and soon Teyla is comforting Colonel Carter as she had John. "I can't do this," Carter insists between hiccups and tears.
"You have already shown that you can. Perhaps it would be helpful to recall your own team, the way you interacted and the lengths to which you would go for one another. Would you die for General O'Neill or Doctor Jackson?"
"Of course I would," Carter says without hesitation. She dries her eyes with a sleeve.
"You may not yet see it in him, but Rodney would die for me as soon as I would die for him. Likewise Ronon, and of course John. If you will put your trust in them, they will return it." Teyla smiles, but her tone grows stern. "You are not yet familiar with this galaxy. Make no mistake: Atlantis can survive without John, and it can survive without Rodney, but it cannot survive without both of them, and I am no longer certain they can survive without one another."
"I noticed that," Carter agrees. "Teyla, thank you."
"You are welcome, Colonel Carter," Teyla says graciously. "I would give you one final word of advice: it is the tree that bends with the storm which does not break."
Perhaps, if Colonel Carter learns to take this advice to heart, they will live to see the end of the Wraith. If not, Ancestors protect them all, for they are truly doomed.
Summary: When Rodney is lost in an offworld earthquake, John closes in on himself and it is up to Teyla to mount a recovery mission, against Carter's orders.