The team realise that Cassie possesses more than just the ancient gene - she possessed the ability to enter the mind of the wraith.
The only sound that dared permeate the thick tension presiding over the infirmary, was the beeping of the monitors and the muffled steps of the nurses as they tiptoed cautiously in and out of the room performing their routine daily tasks. In deference to keeping the battle zones clearly defined, John Sheppard was in a bed on one side of the infirmary, nursing both a healing gunshot wound and a slight head injury from his final skirmish with Kolya, and Cassie was placed on the other side, under observation until Carson was happy there were no aftereffects from the drug that she had been forced to ingest by Kolya.
So far, Cassie had spoken very little, a fact that concerned Carson and did not go unnoticed by John. Sleepless himself at night, he had had to grit his teeth tightly when he heard her restless rustling, quelling the urge to get up and go to her, relaxing only when he heard Carson's soothing voice. Sometime during that long restless night, Cassie woke up and gasped in fright when she saw John sitting still and brooding in the chair beside her bed, but still he didn't speak and she relaxed back into sleep, assured that he was just a dream, and when she woke next, the chair was empty.
The next morning John overheard Carson talking quietly to Elizabeth. He kept his eyes closed feigning sleep when he heard Cassie's name mentioned. “I'm worried Elizabeth. She doesn't sleep, she doesn't eat, seems emotionally dead. I know she went through a terrible thing and know that the memory of her previous experience is superimposing itself upon her consciousness. Medically, I cannot do anything more for her. Her emotional state is so fragile, she needs to cry, to get angry, to release everything she is keeping inside, but I'm afraid she has chosen to permanently close that door and seal them inside her.” The voices went out of range as they moved into another room and John made his decision.
Early the next morning, John was cleared for release from the infirmary and walking past Cassie's bed, saw that it was empty and made up with fresh bedding. He paused beside it and placed a hand there as if to feel her presence, but found the sheets cold and impersonal as if they too, had already moved on. Following an unknown instinct, he reached the balcony where he had found her asleep, a lifetime ago, and in the early rising sun of a beautiful Lantian morning, she stood at the balcony, back to him, framed in the irridescent glow of a brand new sun, face slightly upturned to catch the first rays. Drawn toward her by an urge almost primal in nature, he moved behind her, standing so close, not touching, but aware.
She knew that he was there, the moment he arrived in the door, feeling the pull of static that passed between them as he stood behind her, so close, not touching, but aware.
His voice was gravelly, as though not sure of what he was about to say.”We need to talk...” Still she said nothing, but he noticed her knuckles whitening on the rail and saw her muscles bunch slightly in her arms as though she was about to flee. He took a breath. “There's a part of me that will never understand why you did, what you did, and an even tinier part that does not want to forgive you. I went through hell. YOU put me through hell. You put me into a situation where I could not protect you and you disobeyed my orders...” He stumbled a little, rushing now to get the words out quickly as he saw that flight was imminent. “And seeing you... dressed like that.. with him touching you.. I keep seeing that picture in my head and I just want to be sick. Killing him was the only thing that kept me sane.”
He stepped back, needing to distance himself from her and the emotional whirlpool that was churning in his stomach.
Her shoulders hunched, then as if coming to a decision, she straightened and whirled around and John took an involuntary step backwards at the naked fury that blazed in her eyes.
“Oh all the arrogant, egotistic, selfish things you could have said... you!!!... stand there and presume to judge me for what I did? I let that MONSTER.. touch me...because seeing you shot, was like dying a little myself. You dare to judge me John? To try to understand me... and talk about forgiveness... I can still feel his hands on my body, and I feel as though I will never be clean again.”
Her voice broke and she collapsed, sliding down the balcony rail to crumple in a small bundle on the ground and all the pent up anger, all the fear rolling out of her in overpowering waves and she sobbed. John's world rocked beneath him and he too lost conscious thought as without hesitation,he dropped to the ground beside her, scooping her into his arms and just holding her, rocking slightly and murmuring senseless words, while she cried until there was nothing left and could at last begin the road to emotional recovery.
It was a long time later when at last there were no more tears and the sun had travelled a long path in the sky, now burning down hot and warm, placing it's healing fingers on previously cold skin. She raised her head now, and saw the sympathy and no censure in his eyes and she dropped her reddened eyes. He placed a finger under her chin to bring her eyes back up again. “Don't look away from me Cass, don't ever look away from me...I'm so sorry for judging you, I only saw my perspective, my hurt, I didn't even stop to think about what you were going through.” His eyes were bleak and she reached out to touch his shirt, more than just a little damp and he heard her slight chuckle. “God, I've made a mess of things John... not just your shirt either...”
“Ahh sweetheart – shirts can be replaced, and wounds can heal – forgiveness, now that's a bitch!”
“Yeah, and red eyes are not such a treat either...just saying!” His turn to laugh now, and he dropped his forehead so that it touched hers. “Red eyes and all Cassie love, you'll still turn heads!”
The city itself seemed to breath a tangible sign of relief that some of the emotional tension had been released and while there was still a lot of healing to do on both sides, the first steps had been taken.
Rodney and Zelenka had successfully installed the new ZPM and after extensive testing Rodney was jubilantly relaying to Elizabeth, information that the city shields and cloaking system were now at full power and could hope to withstand the wraith threat that was heading their way. They were at this moment, meeting in the control room, Zelenka voicing his concern that the wraith ship was now only days away from Atlantis.
Elizabeth, while relieved that the ZPM was operational, was also concerned. “That is wonderful news Rodney, but I don't know if it is simply enough to repell the ship and hide. We need to send a message to the rest of the wraith that we are a force to be reckoned with.”
“Now that's the sort of thinking I like.” said John. He too, was looking at the screen and frowning at the approaching wraith ship, blinking like an unwelcome beacon, and Ronan nodded in agreement. “How far away are you and Zelenka from completing the nuclear device that Layton secured for us.” Saying his name, still left a bitter taste in John's mouth, the double crossing at the hands of the Genii fresh in his mind.
“Yes, yes Colonel Sheppard. If we can get it finished, can we somehow get it aboard the hive ship?” Zelenka gestured excitedly, anxious for John's approval and was rewarded with a snap of his fingers as the idea put down very healthy roots in John's mind. “A cloaked jumper...” John felt the wheels turning as a plan began to formulate.
Ronan spoke up. “That would be a suicide mission Sheppard!” Ignoring him, John turned to Teyla. “Just how strong is your connection the the wraith?”
“The closer they come, the stronger the connection I think.” Teyla gave careful consideration to her reply. “Sometimes there is something at the corner of my mind...”
“... a flash of something, then it's gone...” Cassie continued from the doorway. “Blurry pictures, like watching a movie with cotton wool over your eye. The inside of a ship, I think that is what it is, pipes, but not really pipes, like soft tubes, some of them seem to move and they are covered with a substance, and phantoms just flickering, voices... but they don't speak, just seem to come through the mind...”
Cassie spoke softly, eyes downcast as though in a trance and now those green eyes came up hesitantly to find all attention on her and feel the nearness of John as he moved to stand in front of her. Cupping her chin gently in his hand, he tipped her face carefully, wincing slightly at the vivid bruising that still stood out in detail. “Why didn't you say anything sooner...”
“I started get the uneasy feeling yesterday, but thought.. maybe.. the drugs” she paused and her voice got softer and broke slightly. “Then last night the visions... pictures came. I thought they were dreams but there was nothing there that I recognised.”
John turned to Teyla. “Is it possible she could have the same connection that you do?”
“It is possible” Teyla replied. “If her ancient gene is strong, then she could also have the ability to sense the wraith.”
Rodney interjected. “Yes... perhaps the ancients built in a sort of early warning system into their genetic make up... and Cassie, that could be the inside of a wraith ship you are seeing. According to the ancient database, most of the ship's operational systems are organically based, so it would appear to have 'living' components.”
Excited, he waved his hands wildly, clicking his fingers to get his point across. “Colonel, we could use this. If we can get her to concentrate under controlled circumstances, perhaps she can go further into their 'world' and get some serious intel.”
John was already shaking his head. “Too dangerous, we don't know anything about the sort of ability that Teyla, and now Cassie has and what, if any, repercussions there will be if it is utilised. I can't support that Rodney! Given what has just gone down, I can't support her being in any situation where I cannot guarantee protection.”
“Colonel, I'm sure Carson can put her under hypnosis and with Teyla guiding her through it... we have to give it a try. We may be able to find a weakness in this ship and perhaps you can use it to familarise yourself with the interior so that you know where to place the bomb.”
Ronan spoke up. “It could work Sheppard, and we need every advantage we can get.” John scrubbed his hands over his chin, feeling the rasp of two day growth, knowing that apart from personal reasons, he could not give a valid reason why they should not give this a go.
“Damn it, I don't like this!” His troubled gaze locked onto Cassie's and he saw her green eyes soften slightly as though trying to give him a signal and he made his decision, one he hoped he wouldn't live to regret.
“Controlled situation only, with Carson in full agreement and Cassie? The moment I sense you are in any distress, it ends, OK?”
Cassie nodded once then turned to Teyla rubbing her forehead as an ache settled into her temple. “We need to do this soon Teyla, I don't think we have much time.”
Rodney and John following them into the infirmary and Carson looked up in surprise as they entered. “As much as I enjoy your company love, I really didn't want to see you back here for a long time.” He smiled at Cassie, his professional eye mentally noting that the tension had lessened and her features, drawn tight with emotion of late, had softened slightly. However, the smile was soon gone and he sat down abruptly when Teyla told him of their plan.
“You want to do what, exactly? Get inside the mind of a wraith? You are all stark raving mad. The lot of you!” Carson wound up for another rant. “And look at you lass, just starting to get some colour in your cheeks. Colonel, you're going to allow her to do this after the last bloody performance you put us all through?”
Cassie went up to Carson and put her arms around him, rubbing her face into his shoulder, and in spite of himself, he quietened and hugged her back. “I don't want to see you hurt again lass.”
“I know Carson, and I love you dearly for that, but the only way John will let this happen is if you complete the procedure. I'm only one small part of a big and scary picture. I know that, and it's time other people around her accepted that also.” At that John ducked his head, knowing that the comment was directed at him.
Carson gave in, enjoying her hug and gave her an affectionate rub on the back before pushing her gently away, but told them warningly “at the first sign of distress, I'm pulling you out and you'll get your information another way.”
Carson had offered her a light sedative before beginning the hypnosis, but she refused wanting no further drugs in her system. She lay on the bed, jiggling a little nervously and it was Teyla who stood close to her and held her hand. John paced nervously at the back of the room and Ronan leant vigilantly against a wall, ready to spring at the first sign of trouble. Carson had her under quickly and efficiently and Teyla talked her through the connection which was almost immediate. Cassie gripped Teyla's hand tightly, and her eyelids fluttered dangerously fast and when she went rigid and spasmed off the bed, John ceased his pacing to move quickly to her side, placing his hands firmly on her hips to anchor her down. Carson monitored her pulse and heart rate, which was almost dangerously high and he tossed a warning glance at John. Her eyelids sprung open but she did not see anything in that room, rather a projector of sorts starting running behind her eyes, relaying jumbled, misty pictures and she spoke, her voice low and slightly mechanical.
“I am walking down a hallway. I am on a ship, it is 'their' ship. The walls are slimy to touch, there is something on my hand, it's sticky... ugh...” a look of distaste crossed her face. “Like a giant spider web, there is something behind here, it's moving. I'm pulling it apart and there is a face... oh god, it's human, they are human, they're covered in sticky stuff...” She was getting agitated and John had to press firmly to still her. Teyla murmered softly “those are cocoons, that is where they store the humans for future feeding. Cassie, you cannot help them now, you need to find the control room, leave them now, there is nothing you can do for them.” Teyla's voice was soft and soothing and Cassie stilled on the bed.
“The phantoms are back.. at the edge of my vision... wait, they are getting clearer... oh god.... wraith, they are wraith, beside me, walking in the hallway.” Abruptly she sat up in the bed and John's hand moved to her shoulders, but he was afraid to speak in case he severed the connection she had with Teyla. “Do they look at you Cassie?” Teyla queried, “do they know you are there?”
“Yes!” she replied “they are speaking with me, but no words, just mind pictures, it hurts...” She grabbed her head and John glared angrily at Carson who moved forward to bring her out. “No!” said Teyla forcefully, “not yet. We are nearly there.” John growled under his breath, feeling the impotence of the situation, but gentled his hands on her shoulders so that she did not feel the tension that was building up in him.
“Cassie, they can't hurt you...” Teyla continued to walk her through the mind connection. “Go to the control room.”
“I can't find it....!” cried Cassie. “Wait... I think I'm there. It's cold... “ involuntarily her body began to shiver and John shrugged off his BDU jacket and placed it around her shoulders, anchoring it in the front with his hands. She continued. “This is where the main power supply is... I can feel something, an energy, it's near...”
Her eyelids fluttered then, and her body appeared to briefly collapse and John caught her and held her against him. Then she was pushing away and when he looked down at her her eyes were open and she looked straight at John and she was no longer there but back in the infirmary. Brown eyes locked with green eyes and he read the intensity there. “I know how you can destroy the ship.”
Impatiently she shrugged off his jacket and slid off the bed. “Easy lass” warned Carson “you should rest for a while. You'll be feeling disorientated and a little dizzy.”
“No time!” Cassie sent a hum of electricity through the room. “Come on John, I'll show you!” She grabbed his hand and he yelped slightly when some static energy pulsed down her arm and made the connection with his hand. In reply, she tightened her grip, and urged him to follow, and he did, feeling the continued buzz that tingled his fingertips and made her long hair stand out in medusa like strands around her head. She looked primal and he knew that something truly ancient travelled through her veins at that moment and he was simply along for the ride.
They reached the chair room, and when she turned to push him down into it, her hands connected with his chest and it was as though he saw, for one moment, into her soul and her eyes glittered with a glow that was not earthly, but something else entirely. The others ran into the room after them.
John could not take his eyes off the supercharged particle that was Cassie, as she leaned close to him. “For God's sake Cassie, what the hell is going on. You're scaring me. I have no idea what you want me to do!”
Static licked from her fingers. “The chair John, you need to control it, now. Visualise the wraith hive ship … NOW!” she snapped at him when he hesitated. Not wanting to incense her further, he lay back and did just that, and immediately it came up on the holographic screen before them, just as it had with Cassie that first time, so long ago. “Now.. visualise the hallway, the one I walked down,see it in your mind just as I described it... yes John, that's it...” she almost purred as it showed clearly on the screen. Fascinated in spite of himself, John followed her instructions. “You'll come to a T intersection, take the right fork, yes keep going, it twists a little here and you'll find yourself in a large room. Walk through it, and on the other side, that one there, keep going... yes, you're in the control room now...” the blueprints, in perfect reproduction, flashed in front of them.
“You're almost there John, see that panel near the ground, the one with the funny symbol on it?” She waited until John had acknowledged by zooming in closer and bringing it up in large detail. Cassie put her hand on John's and used her stronger control to deactivate the chair and turning to face the others in the room, she announced. 'If you place the bomb there, you will destroy the entire ship.”
Startled, John sat up. “Are you sure Cass? We only get the one shot at this.” He rubbed his head feeling a pressure building behind his temple. “John, I was inside a wraith mind, I saw what she saw, I knew what she knew... and something else I should have told you earlier...” She slumped now, the electrical current that had been pulsing through her now fizzled out and John drew her down beside him on the chair. Her head snapped up as she finished her sentence. “The wraith sensed me also and managed to probe my mind... she knows who I am.” John closed his eyes in resignation and pulled her close to him. It had all been put in motion now and there would be no turning back.
The nuclear device was completed after bickering between Rodney and Zelenka over who had managed to come up with the idea for the final missing component. Rodney devised a specially padded backpack into which it was stored so that John could transport it through the wraith ship with his hands free.
John, in full flight gear, was going alone and as he entered the jumper to supervise the secure loading of the warhead in it's specially designed backpack, he pushed all negative thoughts from his head, pulling up the mental blueprint of the hive ship. Content that his pay load was secure, he went to take the pilot's seat. As he sat down, he patted his left chest pocket, reaching inside to take out the tiny gold locket held on a fine gold chain and pressed it into his fist. Cassie had chosen not to come to the jumper bay to see him off, and he let his mind wander, just for a precious moment.
There had been a hesitant knock at the door last night, very late and he heard it immediately, lying restless in his bed. Pulling on sweatpants, he had opened the door to find her leaning there, saying nothing, just gazing up at him with those crystalline eyes. As if in a dream, he had reached for her, to draw her inside, needing her inside... As the door whispered closed behind her, he pulled her hard against him so that she could feel his need, and her head tipped back, exposing the long line of her neck, and he bent, tasting it for the first time, almost heady with desire. Her hands went to the buttons on her shirt, and they popped free with little effort and as his hands moved lower, they slid the shirt from her shoulders and he was able to see her, just her, for the first time. Gently he spanned her waist, so tiny, so perfect and picked her up to lay her gently on the bed. Her arms moved to snake around his neck and they kissed, their first kiss and the world ceased to tilt, for John it had finally righted itself.
Her hands fumbled with his clothing, but soon it was gone and he moved beside her, touching, stroking remembering and always loving. She marvelled at the easy strength in his arms, the wonderfully muscled thighs and rested her head on his chest just to feel the beating of his heart.
When they finally joined, they became, as Teyla had said, life mates, her blood became his, his breath became hers and as they spiralled together on this journey that had taken a lifetime to get to, she clung to him and cried, tears of longing.
Shaken, he tucked her beside him, and drew up the sheet up to ward out the chill night air. One leg draped possessively over hers and all through that night he held her as though he could hold on to this night forever.
When he awoke in the morning she was gone and on the pillow, was the locket with a note that read 'carry this close to your heart'.
Now, mentally prepared for his mission, he returned the locket to his pocket, placing it near his heart as she had asked and sent up a prayer to anything or anyone who might have been listening, that he would see her again.