John,Cassie and the team visit an old woman who has a special message to give her about the child she carries.
Teyla and Cassie were sharing a coffee in the mess hall before starting their day, while John and Ronan argued good naturedly over whether peanut butter or jam tasted better on white bread or brown. Cassie nursed her coffee and sipped it slowly. Carson had given her the hard word on cutting back her caffeine intake, and with John joining him to gang up on her, she had eventually aquiesed and was now indulging in only the one morning cup. Unfortunately the reduced caffeine had resulted in a more ascerbic mood swing, causing John to tip toe a little more cautiously around her. Now, he finished his argument with Ronan, having concluded that there was no winner this time and dropping a kiss onto the top of her head, made to leave to do some combat training with Ronan. Carson, passing them on his way into the mess hall, indicated to them that he was looking for them.
“I've found a planet in the ancient data base that I'd like to go check out. Reputedly, there is a 'medicine woman' who has discovered some extremely potent and effective medicines using plants found on that planet. I would like to take Cassie and Teyla. John – before you say anything – I believe she will be wary of strangers and as one of her successful medicines involves easing some of childbirth complications and good health for mother and baby, having a pregnant woman with us will relieve some of her suspicion of strangers.”
John already had a mutinous expression on his face and Carson had anticipated his argument. “I know you've cleared her for gate travel Carson, especially now that the first trimester is over, but really, to even consider using her as a guinea pig for some medicine woman to experiment on?”
“Good God son, give me a little credit. I wouldn't let Cassie try anything that hadn't been fully tested by my team first. I think she'll have a way with this woman, put her an ease, that's all son!”
Cassie finished her coffee, gently put her cup down and cocked her head. “Hey guys, it's me, I'm here – perhaps you could talk to me, and not around me!” Getting up she wrapped her arms around John's waist and tipped her face up to him. Unable to resist, he dropped a quick kiss onto her mouth. “Don't be a grouch and let me go John. I'm feeling fine now, the morning sickness and dizziness have gone. Please...?” She deliberately batted those eyelashes in a blatant exaggeration at flirting and he had to bite his tongue to keep from laughing. She really could wind any man around her little finger and he had long since taken up permanent residence there.
“Who are you calling 'grouch'! I'm not the one suffering from caffeine withdrawal...” but did step back from her very quickly when he saw her hand come up. Catching her hand before it could make contact, he laughed and added. “I'm coming with you. I won't let any of you go without military backup especially if Ronan is not going. Gear up guys, we'll leave in an hour.” He winked at Cassie as he left the room, leaving Carson muttering “so much for a nice little field trip...”
An eerie fog covered most of the ground and swirled through the trees as they arrived on P3X 947, a planet that had been named as Oberon in the ancient data base. No sun shone through the unusual fog as Cassie gave a shiver and rubbed her arms. “Scary...much!” she muttered looking around and feeling distinct fingers of unease creeping down her spine. John checked his weapon, similar feelings of unease drifting over him and he moved protectively closer to his team, keeping his weapon ready.
“No hostiles nearby – picking up any wraith you two?” he asked Teyla and Cassie. When they shook their heads in unison, he shook off the feeling but resolved to remain extremely vigilant. “How far is this village, Carson?”
“Not really a village Colonel, in fact not much of anything at all. She lives on her own in the forest, the planet is mostly unpopulated. There's a path over there, that would be out best bet.” John scanned the ground for tracks. “There's a lot of foot activity here, but appears animal, not human. Maybe I'll bring home some fresh meat for dinner tonight?”
John took the lead down the narrow pathway and nerves made Cassie follow very closely behind, so closely in fact, that when he stopped abruptly and held up his hand in the military signal to 'stop', she bumped into him and he turned to steady her. “Easy does it love” he murmured and looking down into her eyes he continued “you're a little spooked, aren't you? You shouldn't have picked that horror movie for movie night last night!” A small laugh escaped her. “Yeah... Wrong Turn... these woods have a distinct resemblance.” She slipped her hand under his jacket to take a handful of teeshirt, fisting it tightly. “And, I'm NOT scared!.” John looked down at where she clutched his shirt, amused. “No, I don't get that at all...”
They continued and came to a tiny clearing with a quaint cottage nestled in it's centre, complete with shuttered windows and smoke curling invitingly from a tiny chimney. “Anyone getting 'Hansel and Gretel' here?” Carson spoke up and when Teyla looked confused John continued “an old earth fairy tale, the upshot being the old lady wanted to eat the kids, so she kept them in cages in her cottage to fatten them up...”
“And you tell that tale to your children?” Teyla was surprised and John laughed. “Yeah, go figure? No wonder a proportion of our children grow up to be murderers, paedophiles, pyschos and downright insane. So Cass, no fairy tales for our baby eh? We'll stick to Star Wars!”
Carson was the one to knock at the door, grimacing at visions of Highland Boogeymen going through his mind. He called through the door. “Sorry to disturb you mam, we're travellers, peaceful explorers and we have come to seek trade with you.” They heard the sound of tapping and the door was creaked open slowly. By now, Cassie was pressed firmly against John's back and peeking around him to watch the door open. “So why is it, you're brave enough to face a monster like Kolya, and scared of a little old lady...?” He tilted his head back to give her a reassuring glance, and his words dwindled away as the opened doorway reveiled a wizened crone of indeterminable age, so stooped she seemed child sized, with very little hair and bright extremely blue eyes. Carson took an involuntary step backwards. She did not speak, simply opened the door wider, turning and moving back into the darkened room as though expecting them to follow.
“Colonel... I'm sure you'll be wanting to lead the way?” Teyla hesitated at the doorway. John shook his head. “For goodness sake, let's do this!” With Cassie close behind him, followed by Teyla and Carson, he entered the darkened room, following a muted glow that led to another room beyond. The muted glow belonged to a roaring fire and Cassie cast a quick glance towards the roof to make sure that there were no cages hanging there, half convinced that this was the old witch from Hansel and Gretel and they had been lured here to be cast into cages to fatten them up.
The crone sat on a stool by the fire, in front of which stood a large black cauldron that bubbled and spat. Cassie planted her feet and cast John a pleading look when he continued into the room to stand beside the old woman.
“Come child, I know who you are. You have nothing to fear from me.” The old crone looked up suddenly, gleaming eyes fixed immediately on Cassie, and she held out a hand. As though drawn by a string, Cassie felt her feet move and she walked toward the woman, reaching out with her own hand to grasp the wizened one. The woman turned Cassie's hand over to glance ponderingly at her palm and John was beside them in an instant, placing a censurous hand on the woman's arm. “Don't touch her” he warned and attempted to pull Cassie away, but she was immovable as though caught in some sort of power. “Release her – now!”
“I will not hurt her Colonel. I have a message for her, for you all, but especially Cassandra. She needs to see. Is that not why you are here?”
“What the bloody hell's going on here? How do you know who we are?” Carson was getting more confused by the minute. “We came here to seek some of your medicines and offer you a trade, we didn't come here for any message.”
“Ah, Doctor Carson Beckett, a true man of science. My magic tells me many things. I know who you are. Yes, you have brought items to trade, but that is not the real reason you are here.”
Convinced that she was simply a crazy old woman, Carson gestured to John that they should leave. It was Teyla that stopped them.
“I have heard of your magic, the stories have been passed down through my people. You 'heal' using special herbs and plants, but you also 'see' don't you. You have the second sight.”
“Ah Teyla, you are a proud strong woman, a wonderful leader of your people. I knew your mother. She would be proud of the woman that you have become.” She gestured at John. “Sit a while Colonel Sheppard. I will not harm your woman and you have need of the answers that I can give you.”
Cassie knelt at the old woman's feet as she dipped a cup into the bubbling cauldron, passing a small portion to Cassie to drink. John moved instantly to knock the cup out of her hand, but Cassie had raised it to her lips and taken a drink before he could do so and John was hauling her to her feet as her eyes rolled back in her head.
“Bloody hell woman, what have you done?” Carson was beside her in a flash as she lay limp and unresponsive in John's arms. Lifting her eyelids he said “Cassie, can you hear me?” Teyla turned to them. “John, relax – she is not harmed, the potion will not affect the baby, you will see... trust her, please!” Teyla indicated a thick woven mat on the floor in the corner. “Place her on the pallet over there” and John, having no choice but to trust Teyla, gently lay Cassie down, noting that the warmth of the fire could be felt. Carson dropped down beside them to check Cassie's vital signs. “She seems fine John, no signs of distress, the baby too..”
Staring balefully at the old woman, John cupped Cassie's cheek, feeling the slight ticking of a pulse under her skin. She murmured slightly, then suddenly sat up.
“John!” His hands were framing her face. “You OK honey?” Cassie smiled, a beautiful serene smile that brought light to the room and took his breath away. “I saw him John – our son... he will lead the new race. The ancients will rise again, and our son will lead them.” She laid her hands across her stomach and felt her baby's answering touch as if he too, had been passed this knowledge.
The old woman nodded wisely. “It was foretold long ago my dear. Teyla knows some of the stories, but there are some that are only known by seers such as myself and we only pass these particular stories on to others with the 'sight'. You child” she indicated Cassie “have the sight, and your child will too. He will be strong and brave just like his father and he will forge an alliance with the Asgard and lead a race of people that are not of your knowledge yet. The ancient gene is strong in both of you, but the potency of the gene in your child has been increased ten fold and he will be ancient reborn, but with human traits, and he will seek and eventually understand, the power of ascention.”
Teyla sighed as the words of old stories came back to her, passed down through her people.
'...and he shall rise pure of blood and spirit, with courage in his heart and music in his soul, he shall be the one man to rule them all...'
Teyla's eyes had turned inward. “It was all foretold, not just your arrival Colonel Sheppard, and not just your union with Cassie.”
John was overwhelmed by what he had heard and shook his head in confusion. “But how can you know this? Any of this? One day, the Atlantis expedition will return to earth.”
“No Colonel, your son will be a stranger to earth. The particles that flow through this galaxy will be in his genes, in his blood. Come Colonel Sheppard, allow me to show you. I will give you that gift, for just a brief moment.”
He looked down at Cassie, confusing warring on his face, wanting to hear, not wanting to believe and this first won out.
Leaving Cassie's side, he walked toward the old woman and knelt in front of her, drawn to her in the same way that Cassie had been previously. She touched his forehead and there was a moment's fire as though he had been branded and he closed his eyes and let the pictures come to life in his mind. He saw his son, grown tall and handsome, dark hair not unlike his own and Cassie's beautiful green eyes. He was piloting a ship, engaged in battle over skies that he did not recognise. For an even briefer moment, he made eye contact with his son and there was recognition, acknowledgement, then it was gone and John was left gasping for breath and oddly bereft.
Cassie was beside him, cradling his head and he leaned into her needing her touch. “I saw him Cass... he was tall and strong, dark like me, your eyes looking at me... oh god, I saw him look at me and recognise me.”
Cassie smiled and rested her chin on the top of his head. “Our legacy John...”
“I have more to tell you, but I know your man of science grows a little weary of the non science. Perhaps Doctor Carson Beckett, I can show you what it is you think you came here for... my plants and herbs are out the back. We will see what trade arrangement we can come up with. Come... come...”
They followed her through the back door of the house into a large cottage garden filled with plants, herbs, vegetables and flowers, of all description. A bench area had been set up and there were plant cuttings in the process of drying, set out with her tools for grinding and powdering. Carson, now in a more comfortable environment, was content to follow her through the garden as she pointed our the plants and their various qualities and allowed him to fill up his sample bags. Teyla too, was interested in her medicinal potions and listened carefully to the explanations that were given to Carson.
Meanwhile, Cassie feeling a little weary and enjoying the warmth of the sun that flickered through the surrounding trees, wandered over to smell a particularly beautiful tangerine coloured flower that bloomed brightly at the back of the garden. John followed her, not particularly interested in the rather technical explanations, content to wander with Cassie, keeping a hand at her waist. Watching her smile as she bent to smell the flower, he checked to make sure the old woman was not looking, and quickly picked one to place behind her ear, looking just right amongst the blonde curls. The moment it made contact with her skin, he saw her eyes widen as a swirling blackness drew her down immediately and the garden was gone.
The old woman's shout of alarm mingled with his own and he caught her as she spiralled into the darkness. “No! You should not have touched those. They are not meant for her. She needs the light, and they bring the dark!” Upset, she reached Cassie's side and plucked the flower from behind her hair, casting it away in anger. “You cannot interfere with what you do not understand. You should not have given her the flower.” Muttering, she reached inside her apron pocket for crushed leaves, and opening Cassie's hand, she placed the leaves inside, closing her hand around it to hold it in. She pushed Carson's hand aside as he reached for her to check her vitals. “You must leave her to my care now Doctor Beckett – your medicine will be of no use here. Only I can bring her back to the light. You must go... now.”
John was furious. “No! I will not leave her here. What is the dark and light? Where has she gone?” He moved to shake the old lady, but Teyla stepped in to stop him as the woman answered.
“The dark is the wraith, the dark place that they inhabit. Because she is 'sensitive' to their mindlink, she can never go there for fear that she will get lost and not be able to return. The light is the ancient link, it is the essence of her being. If she opens the door to the dark, it can consume her and she will be lost to you.”
“No, this is not happening.” John was almost out of his mind with fear for Cassie. “She touched a damn flower for god's sake. What the hell is this crap about dark and light? You are crazy!”
The old lady opened her arms to encompass her garden. “These are not just flowers, not merely plants. Each has been grown especially for a purpose and the uninformed should not touch what they do not know. You must let me tend to her now, I cannot delay any longer.”
“Carson, we're taking her back to Atlantis! Get a sample of that flower and bring it back with us. This is crap!” John glared menacingly at the woman. “If you or your plants cause her permanent harm in any way, I will come back and kill you, that I can promise you.”
Teyla placed a cautionary hand on her arm. “Colonel, I believe she will be safer here. I know you and Carson do not trust or believe in this woman's magic, but I know of her skills and I believe that she is the only one who can bring Cassie back. I fear if you take her back to Atlantis, she will worsen and possibly die.”
The old woman came up to them and there was only kindness in her eyes. “I give you my word. I will not cause her more harm. You need to go. Your energy is counteracting any good I will be able to do. Teyla will stay, she will know how to assist me. Please... go...” she faltered. “I need to help her now...”
John's face was like thunder as he turned to Teyla. “Can you give me your word you will keep her safe Teyla? I don't trust that old woman, but I have no choice. If we take her back and she worsens, I won't have that on my conscience. Damn it Teyla, this is my fault... I shouldn't have come... shouldn't have picked that damn flower for her...” Teyla soothed him with her voice. “It is not your fault Colonel, fate finds a way for things to happen for a reason. I will watch over her and come to the stargate to report on her condition at regular intervals. You have my word. Now, move her inside and let the old woman tend to her.”
Walking away took almost more strength than he had, and Carson, a man of science, was adamant that he could have taken Cassie back and worked out how to reverse the effects and did not agree with John's decision to leave her there. The woman had allowed him to take a flower along with his other plant samples and he told John that he would get a team to begin researching as soon as they got back.
Ronan was waiting in the gateroom on their return and lifting an expressive eyebrow at John's thunderous expression and the notable absence of the two woman. Carson shook his head warningly at Ronan, picked up his container of samples and left the gateroom immediately, wanting to begin analysis on the orange flower and Ronan was left to follow John as he strode in angry silence towards Elizabeth's office.
John burst into Elizabeth's office, not bothering to knock and Ronan hovering a little warily at the door. “So John, come in... do sit down and make yourself comfortable” she began dryly, but stopped when John smashed a fist against the wall.
“It's my fault Elizabeth. It's my damn fault! I was so concerned about her going offworld without my backup... my fault!” Alarmed, Elizabeth rose from behind her desk and Ronan came into the room to stand beside his friend.
“What on earth are you talking about John? You're not making any sense! Ronan?” Elizabeth directed her questions at both of them.
“Don't ask me!” Ronan was as puzzled as she was.
Rodney, who had been passing Elizabeth's office, paused in the open doorway with a quick smile, about to launch into a fascinating explanation as to how he had singlehandedly managed to lower the energy output of the gate shield and was told brusquely by John to “shut it”, causing Rodney to rock back on his heels and huff out an agravated breath. “Now see here Colonel...” was as far as he got, John had him by the scruff of his neck and pushed up against the wall.
“Stand down John, or I'll have a team of security in here now. What the hell is going on, from the beginning...” Elizabeth spoke angrily, but Ronan had moved behind John and had him in a grip, pulling him off Rodney and standing between the two to separate them. John took a deep breath, closing his eyes and Rodney's eyes widened in understanding as John relayed his story. By the time he was finished, John was sprawled in a chair, hands covering his eyes.
“I feel useless Elizabeth! If I had brought her back, she may die, but leaving her there...? I felt something... that old woman does possess some sort of sight and touch, but I need something tangible to trust, not magic and potions.”
Elizabeth, understanding that John was foremost a man of action, sighed. “Colonel, you need to trust that Teyla will not allow the woman to do anything to Cassie, and let Carson research what he can from this end. We are in an unknown universe filled with unknown cultures. What is accepted and recognised here is not what we would acknowledge on earth, except perhaps indigenous cultures that have still kept their old ways. This is how we learn and understand John, and eventually accept, that our way is not the only way.”
Elizabeth rested her hands on John's shoulders and flicked a glance at Rodney and Ronan. “Go make yourself busy John, it could be a long wait.”
John changed into shorts, t shirt and running shoes and went to the south pier where he and Ronan had planned out a running route. He mostly came down on his own, preferring the solitude, pounding out the circuitous route when he needed time to think. He had done that a lot in the three months that Cassie had been back on earth, and as he eased into the comfortable pace that elevated his heart rate to a steady working rhythm he focused on the vision that the old lady had given him and the knowledge that one day his son would grow into the sort of man who would make his own legacy in the world, in this galaxy.
Rodney went down to the research lab where Carson had begun organising his team of assistants to break down the flower and categorise it's biological makeup. “No recognisable poisons Rodney.” Carson looked up as Rodney came in. “I can't find anything in this flower that shouldn't be there. I just don't understand!”
“Carson?” Rodney was thoughtful. “Far be it from me to look toward an explanation that is not grounded by science, but does it seem likely to you that Cassie's reaction is caused by her genetic makeup and subsequently, that flower would not have an effect on anyone else? I don't know if you will be able to quantify it medically from what Sheppard has told us. We know that she has superior ancient genes and her reaction to certain things has always been far more pronounced than anyone else. Not wanting to sound too whimsical here, but it has become more or less obvious that she was 'steered' to Atlantis for a reason.”
“For God's sake Rodney, you're a man of science! How can you believe such nonsense?”
“Come on Carson! You've seen things too, since you've been here, things that the laws of science cannot explain. You're mad, because it should be a simple thing, analysing the flower and finding a cure. But what if, this time, it is not that simple? What if we have to put our trust in faith, in something else? Something we don't understand?”
Carson was angry. “You do this your way Rodney, I'll do it mine. I'll not fail the lass!”
Rodney sighed, and walked out intending to go to the ancient database to do a little research of his own.
Cassie spiralled into the darkness, darker than space, cold as a vacuum but filled with noise that she was unable to filter. In a part of her mind she knew where she was and knew in that small corner of her mind that John had gone and she was alone on this planet with Teyla and a woman who could see inside her soul. When she spiralled upward through the darkness, there was no purchase, the walls were slippery smooth and she fell backwards, falling, falling, that small fragment of sanity a tiny light above, just out of reach.
It was then that she felt the hands touching her, and they were not kind hands – but it was her mind at risk, they could not hurt her physically. The hands reached cold tendrils into darkened corners, probing her very essence, wanting the knowledge that she had. She knew they were wraith, had felt the immediate mindlink and knew also, that she would not be able to break from this link unaided.
“How is she doing?” Teyla knelt beside the pallet. The old woman had moved her stool so that she was beside Cassie. She had mixed up a foul smelling paste from unknown herbs and gestured to Teyla that she open Cassie's jacket and remove her teeshirt. Cassie lay unmoving, no telltale flicker behind her eyelids. It was as though she was just... gone... and her limbs were unresisting as Teyla completed the requested task. The woman began smearing the paste over her rounded stomach, now starting to show some evidence of the child she carried within, and Teyla watched in fascination and with a little fear, as an answering ripple across Cassie's stomach signified that the baby was aware.
“He will help fight for her, to bring her mind back – he is strong.”
“Tell me where she is. Help me understand.” Teyla touched the old woman's hand. In response, the old woman handed Teyla a cup of liquid from the boiling cauldron. “Drink this to open your mind. You will see. You will understand.”
Trusting, Teyla drank deeply and she was immediately spiralled into the same darkness. If she did not have her own inbuilt connection to the wraith, she would not have been able to do this and she reached out quickly to search for Cassie. She heard the old woman's voice as though from a great distance. “You will not be able to help her, to touch her – only to see. You do not possess the strength. Only the boy can help her now.”
Cassie's mind essence was a living tangible thing. Swirling purple and orange clouds gathered in the dark and Teyla knew with certainty that this was Cassie and she was enveloped by the dark black solid box that fought to contain her colourful prism.
“That is the wraith minds Teyla. Do not get too close. They do not want you, but if you attempt to interfere, you will not be able to fight them.”
Teyla felt her own mind essence, pale yellow in colour, hover and anxiously watch the dark ominous box squeezing tightly, shrinking the brilliant hues of Cassie's mind to a smaller, compact frission of energy.
“They are attempting to merge her with their own minds Teyla. They need her power. She is stronger than them and once they absorb her mind they will become a far more powerful enemy. They will have her genetic memory and ancient power. It is the boy's destiny to stop this from happening. Look Teyla, see – he grows stronger.”
And she did see. A brilliant green of unbearably bright light launched itself down the tunnel, and without hesitation, hit the black encompassing box that was slowly absorbing Cassie's light. Smaller, separate jets of green energy kept up a relentless barrage on the combined wraith power but it was a long time before cracks and fissures began to appear in the firm confines and slowly, the purple and orange fingers of energy began to widen the cracks.
Teyla's mind nestled in the darkness and it was with awe that she witnessed Cassie's brave fight and the mind essence that was undeniably her son, come to her rescue. The old woman rubbed more of the paste onto Cassie's stomach to give the boy more strength and it was one final almighty smash that shattered the wraith minds to pieces. The purple and orange that was Cassie erupted in triumph, mingled briefly and fiercely with the brilliant green. Mother and son embraced on a mind level, for one ecstatic moment and Teyla gasped at the beauty and sheer power of those mingled minds. She felt Cassie's warmth as she brushed up against her pale yellow, then with a streak of dare devillry, just like his father, the green light was gone and Cassie and Teyla clawed their way up the now not so slippery slope, towards that slice of sanity.
John had almost completed 10 miles of his run when a clenching spasm hit him and he crashed down hard onto the floor, feeling an intense pain in his head. There was an explosion of colour and he had to close his eyes – purple mixed with orange and then the most brilliant green he had ever seen, then the pain was replaced by a warmth that spread through his body. With a sound that John swore was a giggle, the green disappeared, leaving the loving warmth of the purple and orange only. His son. John knew without words, without tangible knowledge – his son, and now Cassie, his woman, that warmth in his mind and he curled up on his side holding that knowledge close.
Carson found him ten minutes later and rushed to his side. “Colonel! What is it?” Rolling him over, he saw the dreamy smile of John's face and sat back puzzled. “What on earth...?”
“She's ok Carson, and so is my son... they're ok!”
Carson shook his head. “How did you know John? We only just received word from Teyla.”
“There are ways other than those we know and trust Doc and I think I just witnessed one of those ways. He stood up, just a little shaky and had to be assisted by Carson. “Time to bring my family home.”