John has some soul searching to do - he must come to terms with what he did to Cass.
“I didn't peg you for a coward Sheppard!” Ronan stepped up behind John, having spent the better part of two hours looking for him. He stood near the water on the mostly unused north pier,hands in pockets, facing out toward the water. He did not turn, nor acknowledge Ronan's presence.
“So... you're just gonna hide here and hope it all goes away? It wasn't your fault, Cassie knows that more than most but what's hurting her right now is the fact that you're hiding somewhere with your tail between your legs. You know the thing she always admired the most about you Sheppard? You are so damn brave in the face of everything. All guts no glory. Don't let her down, man!”
John whirled around to face Ronan, palpable anger is his stance as he fisted his hands at the side of his body, craving the release that hitting something would bring.
“What's hurting her the most Ronan? Well, that would be me! Physically! I hit her hard, I can't go to her and see that damn mark on her face that I put there or that bruise across her throat. You're damn right I'm a coward. I'm a coward for raising my hand to a woman, my woman! In my world, that's rock bottom!”
“So it looks like you've got a lot of anger needing to go somewhere?” Ronan flicked his eyes at John's clenched fists. “Man up and deal with it!”
John growled as red hot fury swept through him and he came at Ronan, head lowered to midriff level. Ronan had anticipated this and provoked his anger deliberately, knowing that John needed an outlet with which to release his frustrations. He sidestepped and John went down hard, groaning in pain as he landed on his shoulder, but adrenalin and anger had him bouncing to his feet and coming at Ronan swinging. He managed to connect a solid blow to Ronan's jaw much to the big man's surprise and the extra fuel of anger and self hatred had him locking Ronan's arm behind him and getting a lock around his throat. Too late, he remembered that this was the last touch Cassie had felt of his and in disgust he pushed Ronan away.
“Don't make me go there Ronan! Tell Weir I'm taking a jumper.” He whirled away heading back into the city, leaving Ronan standing shaking his head. Things had always been black and white in his world and he found it hard to think in shades of gray.
Carson had put ice on Cassie's bruised face and knew that this would heal faster than what pain had been caused inside, he was however concerned with the bruising along the throat, having constricted her tiny frame sufficiently to also bruise the larynx, resulting is some huskiness to her voice. The constricted flow of oxygen for a short time had not caused either her or the baby any harm and Carson had run extensive tests to ensure that all damage was surface only.
Teyla had brewed up a special tea to assist with the bruising sustained by the larynx and Cassie was sitting up in the infirmary sipping this as Ronan walked in. She raised her eyes in question, knowing that Ronan had been out looking for him.
“Give him some time Cass. He's hating himself right now and imagining that the rest of Atlantis must be feeling the same way about him as well. He's not in the mood to listen. He's taken a jumper and I'm betting that he's gone to the mainland to vent out some of that anger.”
“Thanks Ronan.” she noticed his bruised jaw. “You're a good friend to him. I guess he needs to step back and see that also.”
“He knows Cassie, he's just seeing other stuff at the moment as well. I”m not defending him here. I told him he needed to man up and not run away, not my style and not his style either... I just wanted you to know what's going on with him right now.”
Cassie stepped into Ronan's embrace. “We share the same memories Ronan, what's going on in his head is no mystery to me. But that doesn't mean I don't feel the uncanny desire to thump him right now!”
“Hold that thought Cass, he'd probably feel a lot better if you did just that!” He kissed the top of her head, envious that Sheppard had found a woman who had such unshakable faith in him and hoped that through stupidity, he didn't blow this little piece of magic.
Flying had always been a salve to ease any pain he had going on, but today it was going to take a damn strong antiseptic to rid the infection. He landed on the mainland well away from the village near the base of a small range of mountains that he had discovered on a previous trip. Grabbing one of the survival packs from the back of the jumper, he glanced up at the tallest peak and figured if her pushed himself hard enough, a small measure of penance might be earned.
It was a hot day and overdressed for this heat in base uniform he pushed himself to reach the top of the peak in just under two hours, drenched in sweat and having earned back just a tiny portion of his damaged pride. He stood at the top of the peak, the tallest spire of Atlantis a tiny mirage in the midst of the glistening sea, and let hot tears fall, dropping to his knees with gut wrenching sobs ashamed at what he had allowed himself to do. Finally drained, he dragged himself to his feet and battled the thoughts chasing through his head. Thinking, what's done is done... you can go forth and love her till the day you die, or you can stop right now and rip out the only decent part of your life, but if you do that Johnny boy, you might as well die right now.
Taking a deep breath, he put his backpack on and pushed himself into a fast run down the mountain, further penance for the actions of a coward. Ronan had been right.
Still not ready to head back to Atlantis, John flew the jumper to the Satedan village. Keisha had seen the jumper arrive and flew towards him in excitement. “Colonel John, you came!” She threw herself at him and in spite of the dark place he was in, he was able to smile at the honest and humble actions of a child. “How's my favourite girl?” He buried his unshaven chin into her neck and she giggled. “You are all scratchy Colonel John. Where is Cassie?” He wouldn't allow the dark cloud to settle, but focused on the sunlight that was this adorable little girl who he had grown to love. “She's resting sweet, I'll bring her next time ok?” She had on the pink ruffled dress that Cassie had bought her in New York for Christmas, in fact he doubted that Keisha had taken it off since opening the gift.
“Will you read us a story Colonel John? A scary one about ghosts...” John laughed then, and the dark cloud was gone from the horizon.
“As long as you invite me to dinner first... I'm starved!” And he was, quite suddenly he realised as the ensuing growl of his stomach confirmed it.
He arrived back on Atlantis late that night while most of the city slumbered. Ronan had been keeping an eye out for him and when he heard the sound of the jumper coming in, he was there to meet him in the jumper bay. Sheppard looked as though he had battled his share of demons that day, but the hatred had gone from his eyes and he walked with a lighter step. They stood a distance apart and said no words, but as John went to walk past him, he paused and grasped Ronan's arm tightly,a time old gesture of solidarity. Ronan nodded once and let him past.
It was after midnight as John let himself into their room. She lay sleeping in the centre of the bed, sprawled as always, taking such a large space for such a little person. He stood watching for the longest time. The vivid bruising on her cheek was a blow to his middle and he heard the slight wheezing as she breathed caused no doubt by bruising on the larynx.
Shrugging off his clothes that were sweat stained and filthy, he left them where they fell and carefully slid under the covers and lay quietly on his back staring at the ceiling. She sensed his presence in the bed immediately and rolled toward him, his heat a homing beacon and she fitted her limbs around his body as she always did. Her touch sent heat through him and he wanted her, immediately, like a fist to the stomach and he reached for her, his beacon in the dark. She stilled momentarily.
“Cass...sweetheart. I don't know what to say to you right now. I'm so ashamed of what I did.” He took his hands from her body, feeling as though he did not have the right to touch her anymore,and it was this simple gesture, or lack of it really, that made her realise in one gut wrenching moment, how deep her love for this man actually went.
“I know what I want to say to you John...welcome back lover...this cold bed has been waiting for a certain warm body to warm it up...” and snuggling into him she buried her face into his chest, then drew back. “However...perhaps a shower may be in order... just saying...”
Laughter burst out of him, more healing than any medicinal balm and she continued, needing to get this one thing off her chest. “And FYI John, that free pass you gave me all those months ago? Consider it used up, because if you EVER run out on me like that again, I will personally take your precious golf clubs and send them into deep space where you may never see them again.. and your DVD collection? They don't play so well covered in scratches... and don't get me started on what I will do to a certain part of your anatomy.. comprende?”
Wincing at the description of violence she was making him picture, he replied “Comprende sweetheart, oh yeah...”
“Oh and about that shower... lover... I'm thinking perhaps I'll join you...” And John smiled, feeling his axis tilt back to where it rightfully belonged.