"And how much…for the woman?"
When two of Mikros's men dragged Teyla in, John was glad that Ronon and Rodney were outside the shelter, guarding the jumper. There was so much blood and dirt that he couldn't even tell how badly she was injured. She sagged to her knees as soon as they let her go—with her eyes fixed on the ground, it looked like she was only half-aware of where she was. Maybe. Or maybe she was trying to tell him something.
John cleared his throat. "We'll give you 50 kilos of flour, but if you think you're getting any more C4, you're crazy."
"That's all? For your woman?" Mikros sounded skeptical.
"We could pick up a woman on any planet with a ring."
"As beautiful as this one?"
John shrugged. "Nothing's prettier to me than high explosives."
Mikros stared at him for a moment, then laughed, a great, roaring laugh. "I like you, Sheppard. It's a shame we're on opposite sides." He considered. "100 kilos."
"I've got places to be. 75."
"All right." Mikros gestured, and the two men pulled Teyla to her feet.
When Ronon saw her, he swore. Rodney paled. But they were looking at her, not at him. That was the important thing.
"She's going to be okay, isn't she?" Rodney said.
John pushed her into Ronon's arms and headed for the pilot's seat. They needed to get out of there before Mikros sprang whatever trap he had in mind. "See what you can do, okay?"
"75 kilos of flour, huh?" Ronon said.
He pretended not to hear as he powered up the jumper. And he didn't turn around two minutes later when he heard Ronon's "Hey! Watch her head, McKay!"
"Um, Sheppard, she just passed out," McKay called to him.
John was scanning for hostiles as they skimmed over the grass approaching the gate. "You two are going to have to handle it."
"But she's bleeding on me!"
"Only so much I can worry about at one time, Rodney!"
"I really question your priorities at times, Sheppard," McKay groused.
He wasn't the only one. The jumper accelerated, and they passed into the gate just as something big blew up behind them.
After that, it was mostly just a matter of outwaiting Rodney and Ronon in the infirmary. Rodney was easy; after an hour or two, he started twitching and muttering about the Ancient crystals they'd gotten from Mikros, and how it would be a shame to waste Teyla's work by not investigating them immediately. It wasn't long after that that he retreated to the lab. Ronon was harder; he sat there like he was prepared to outwait mountains. John couldn't tell whether his stoicism was the usual, or whether it had an extra element of anger at him. But Ronon'd had a rough day of it himself, and around 0200 hours John heard his bone-rattling snore begin. He glanced around for stray nurses, then pulled his chair closer to the bed where Teyla was lying.
A few minutes after that, her eyes fluttered open. "Where…?"
"Atlantis," he said softly. "You're safe. Just a concussion, couple cracked ribs, assorted lacerations. Nothing you can't handle."
"And the…" She swallowed with difficulty. John gave her some ice chips. She accepted them and lay quiet until they melted in her mouth. "The crystals?"
"Rodney's got 'em in the lab." He forced a smile. "You should be more careful. We can't always be overpaying for you like that."
She tried to smile back, but it turned into a grimace. His own smile cracked and fell away, and he clenched his fists.
"Fuck!" He tried to keep his voice low enough not to wake Ronon. "Fuck! Fuck!"
"John," she murmured. "You did the right thing."
"Funny, it doesn't feel like it."
"This is…this is exactly the reason we decided not to tell."
He glanced guiltily at Ronon. "I guess."
She sighed. "John…"
She sounded so wiped. And there he was, acting like he was the one who'd taken the beating. He shook himself and leaned in close, taking her hand. "It's okay. You don't have to worry about me."
To his surprise, she lifted her head a little and brushed his cheek with her lips. "Thank you."
"For doing as you promised. I would have done the same thing."
"I know," he said, and that was the thing, small and vulnerable as she looked at the moment, he really did know. That was just one of the many reasons it had been worth crossing a galaxy to find her. Why it was worth lying to everyone from the lowest-ranking Marine all the way up to God, if he was interested, to have her.
She closed her eyes again. He sat back in the quiet, holding her hand for as long as he could.