tzzzz (tzzzz) wrote in sga_flashfic,
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Animus, Animalia, Familae (Team Challenge) (1/2)

Title: Animus, Animalia, Familae
Author: Tzzzz
Rating: PG
Pairing: Gen/OT4, mention of past McKay/Keller, hints of Sheppard/McKay preslash
Spoilers: 38 Minutes, the Siege, Condemned, Hide and Seek, Trinity, The Lost Boys, The Tao of Rodney, Conversion, McKay and Mrs. Miller, Common Ground, Search and Rescue, vague season 5
Genre: SGA/Golden Compass fusion
Word Count: About 11,650
Author's Notes: If you haven't read His Dark Materials or seen the Golden Compass, then daemons are basically animal-formed representations of the soul. They change form until a child grows up, when they "settle" on one form that is somehow representative of their personality. It is taboo to touch someone else's daemon, seen as a very intimate act. The name for Rodney's daemon is blatantly stolen from Meerkat Manor, which I also do not own the rights to. Thanks to dossier for the beta.
Summary: To touch another's daemon is to touch another's soul. It is the greatest act of intimacy in this life.

 
Animus, Animalia, Familae




There were a lot of rumors about John Sheppard. They started before Afghanistan, before flight school, even. They called him a sine. In Latin, without. Nesasine, killer, without a daemon, but what they really meant was without a soul. They changed their minds after the black mark. An nesasine wouldn't return for his fallen comrades. An true nesasine wouldn't care. A witch, then, he must be for all anyone saw of his daemon. At the SGC, there were whispers of other worlds, seen through the quantum mirror, where people's daemons lived within them. Perhaps John Sheppard was a refugee from among them.

If you asked him about it (if you were one of the few that dared) he would just pat a small lump tucked under his jacket, just above the heart. "She's nocturnal," he'd say, even if a starry sky belied the truth: she rarely came out, even under the cloak of darkness.

In the first days of the expedition, people guessed, of course. They couldn't help it. The small lump under John's shirt was a rat, a small poisonous lizard, a fairy even (for while it might be incredibly uncommon to have a mythological daemon, John Sheppard seemed like the rare soul that could carry the mantle of imagination). A shimmering iridescent beetle, perhaps, or a scorpion, a praying mantis, a mole. But they were all wrong, as they later found out. And when they did, they didn't talk about it.

***

Rodney first met John's daemon a few weeks into the expedition. He dozed in his new, nearly empty room, on his too-small Ancient mattress, Kinkajou curled snugly in the crook of his neck. Normally, she slept next to him, but apart, a sentinel more than a companion, but not tonight. The personal shield had been both a curse and a blessing, certainly answering all their suspicions about the Ancients. Their daemons were different. It was hard to believe they even had them. They couldn't have, if they'd create a shield that would protect the body but leave the daemon out in the cold. What truly terrified him is that he'd allowed it. He'd been so scared that he kept this green barrier between them, almost to their death.

"I'm sorry," he'd whispered a thousand times into Kinkajou's coarse fur, gripping her tightly. "I'm so sorry." And she forgave him. She was the only one who would ever forgive him all his faults.

But he was not surprised that she'd been on edge tonight. He would have been too, if not for the combined effects of his hypoglycemia and exhaustion. But when Kinkajou raised her head, standing on her hind paws in her typical Meerkat pose and snatching something dark from the air just above his head, Rodney took notice. More accurately, he rocked out of the bed, tripped over his still unpacked bag and landed hard on a decorative wall-piece in the corner. The air filled with a loud, high pitch screeching sound that put his very nerves on edge, as Kinkajou turned the intruder over to examine, stretching its leathery wings between her paws.

"Stop," a small, feminine voice commanded. She sounded like Rodney imagined Wilbur the pig's spider daemon, Charlotte, might have sounded. Rodney crept closer, to stare at the crushed snout and long ears of a palm-sized bat.

"What are you doing here?" Kinkajou demanded, gripping the wings tight in her paws. Kinkajou may have been on the warpath, but Rodney was running the possibilities through his mind. He'd left the window open to catch the sea breeze and the moonlight, and there were no other points of entry. And she was a female daemon, so she could not belong to a witch. That left only a handful of possibilities. Her human must be in one of the rooms on either side of his. Sergeant Miller on the left, whose daemon was a shaggy grey sheepdog, and Sheppard on his right, whose daemon was, up until now, a mystery.

"You're Major Sheppard's?"

Her obsidian black eyes sparkled in the moonlight as she nodded. "You may call me Amaria, Dr. McKay."

Rodney nodded. "Let her go, Kinkajou."

Kinkajou seemed reluctant, but she complied, slinking back to stand at attention in front of where Rodney had lowered himself back onto the bed. "You didn't answer my question," she persisted. "Of course, I don't blame you. You were rudely interrupted." She turned to fix Rodney with a quick glare.

"Forgive me," that honeysuckle voice rose as Amaria did, easily hovering high enough to meet Rodney's eyes, but well out of Kinkajou's grasp. "I'm very sorry to have intruded. We were worried about you, though I highly doubt John will say as much. What you did today was very brave." Her words were formal, like something from one of those period English novels that Rodney had only ever skimmed. Kinkajou refused to acknowledge them at all.

"Thank you," Rodney stuttered, knowing that below him, Kinkajou was rolling her eyes. "I-- That means a lot, coming from him -- you." In even the short time they'd known each other, Rodney had come to covet Sheppard's respect. Not because he needed the respect of the bases' military commander, but because Sheppard seemed like a good man. Rodney and Kink, were rude, often bossy, and rarely paused to classify their actions as either good or bad, but Sheppard knew good and if he saw it in them, well, at least it was a step in the right direction.

"He does not know I'm here," she replied. "Please, do not tell him that you have seen me." And with that, she fluttered out the open window and into the night.

"Well, that was strange," Rodney breathed, trying to imagine a daemon who slunk around after dark, keeping secrets from her human. "You better not pull that kind of thing on me."

But instead of the sarcastic 'wouldn't dream of it,' Rodney had been expecting, Kinkajou stayed silent.

"You don't sneak around when I'm asleep do you?" Rodney remembered the time in grad school when they'd fought and Kinkajou had gotten into his Twinkies stash and eaten them all.

He nudged her.

"Did you see them?" she asked, finally, still standing on her back legs, looking out at the sea.

"See what? What's wrong with you?"

"The scars." An image flashed in his mind's eye then, hazy through the deep soul connection between human and daemon. Those thin wings were tracked through with knots of white, the edges perforated with missing pieces. Even the crumpled nose had been bisected by a faded line of scar tissue.

So maybe Rodney could understand. When he'd first seen Amaria he thought that maybe Sheppard kept her hidden because such a pretty man would be ashamed to have a bat for a daemon, but now he thought he understood. If someone had done that to Kinkajou, he would have done whatever he could to protect her too.

"Who would do such a thing?" Kinkajou whispered into the darkness, pressing even closer to the staccato beat of Rodney heart.

"Hey, it could be worse," Rodney offered. "At least whoever it was didn't eat his sister's babies on a regular basis."

Usually, insulting her Meerkat heritage would have gotten a rise out of Rodney's daemon. But not tonight.

***

Teyla Emmagen did not have a daemon. When he'd first seen her, it had been all John could do not to recoil in horror. Sumner had walked out of the tent, plain and simple. Here, she wasn't a nesasine, however, despite her skills as a warrior. There were quite a few among the Athosians who kept their daemons on the inside.

When John asked about it, she'd simply stated, "It is a worthy trade-off, to not see my inner nature in exchange for being able to sense the Wraith."

The Wraith had no daemons either. It was only later that they learned the connection.

"It's okay," John said, patting her hand.

She startled, because he was the first Earth human to touch her.

"It's a gift," he whispered.

"Yes, it is."

"If I had a choice, I think I would be like you."

From that moment onwards, Teyla reserved a small space in her heart to mourn John Sheppard and whatever had kept him from appreciating his own gift, that he would prefer the loneliness to his one true heart's companion.

***

John's breaths were harsh and shallow and his face contorted in a pained wince, but that was not what broke Teyla's heart. A high pitched keening permeated the air. Teyla felt it as a pain in her very bones. Amaria screeched and flapped uselessly, rolling against John's chest, her feeble claws scratching ineffectually against the yellow underbelly of the insect. Teyla had not been surprised by the shape of John's daemon, when they'd found her, screeching on the forest floor next to him while he struggled with the insect. She was a creature of the air, as much as John. Aiden had gasped in shock however, and it had been Kinkajou who'd scooped her up in her front paws, while Aiden's black Labrador daemon hesitated. Perhaps, when all the commotion was done, assuming they all survived this, she would ask Aiden what had given him such pause. In Teyla's experience, a daemon was no more capable of being ugly than a sunset or a mountain lake, even if the leathery creature that belonged to John was not the charismatic animal one might expect.

While Rodney worked at the control panel, Kinkajou perched on his shoulder, watching John more than the exposed circuitry they were supposed to be concentrating on. Aiden's Sachi whined in counterpoint, nudging the distressed daemon with her nose. They were running out of time, and John was in so much pain.

"Move her," Aiden commanded, pulling out a set of paddles which Dr. Bekett has referred to as a portable defibrillator. "Teyla, cut open his shirt."

Sachi held the still struggling daemon delicately in her mouth, all traces of the previous reluctance gone, watching Aiden prep the paddles with worried brown eyes. Teyla herself was not prepared for the way John's body arched up off the floor, nor the way Amaria seemed to fade, the way a daemon did during feeding by the Wraith. She barely had time to react when Aiden removed the insect and filled it with bullet holes.

"I will take him," Teyla said. She did not want to spend one more moment with that creature, even if it was now dead. Aiden eyed Amaria, where she was still resting in his daemon's mouth. "Maybe we should do it."

"No," Teyla replied. "Release her to me."

Amaria fell limply into Teyla's palm, faded almost to nothing. Teyla felt a deep sadness spread through her heart, like ice encircling a lake at winter. But she pushed to feeling aside, gathering John in her arms and stepping through the waiting stargate.

The next thing Teyla remembered was Dr. Beckett's medical team swarming around her, removing John from her arms and pulling him down onto a gurney. But the image that stayed with her was the tingling warmth in her fingers, the soft feel of a delicate wing solidifying in her palm as Amaria took a gasping breath, looking up at Teyla with huge dark eyes that seemed to smile.

***

The world glittered with the bright sparkle of exhaustion, but Kinkajou blinked it away easily. They were long practiced at this, having perfected the art of one sleeping while the other stayed awake. They were geniuses after all.

Rodney was snoring lightly on the cot behind her, body finally giving in to a massive stimulate crash. Kinkajou, however, could not fall asleep, her little heart still hammering with the rush of it all, the tantilizing orange sheen of equation after equation. They had a ZPM. They had a way home.

With one last look to Rodney, Kinkajou hopped up onto his lab bench, easily operating the small electric elevator he'd installed to allow her easy access. The temptation of the laptop was near. She could work on the ZPM field regulation equations, but instead gave in to her animal insticts - to stand on her hind legs and keep watch. In the wild, a large female meerkat like herself would be queen of all she surveyed. Responsible, too, for the hard decisions of her clan. When they had been younger, Rodney had imagined something large and brave. She'd spent most of their childhood as a lioness, or a leopard, like the men of legend and action novels. Rodney had bragged endlessly about how fierce she'd be when she settled and she never had the heart to tell him that the large mythical forms felt alien to her, like a mirage. She'd never been a meerkat before she settled. They knew of them from trips to the zoo, but that was it.

Sometimes, she thought Rodney blamed her, for not settling as he wanted her too. He'd given in to hypochondria and self-derision, then, as though he'd already failed at life and disgusted at his true heart's nature. And then, she didn't dare mention how right this form felt, how even in their often-bitter anger, she always felt at home. She wondered if Sheppard felt the same, when he hid his daemon away. Perhaps that was the strange kinship she felt for him, and for Amaria - the familiar jolt of unease, inability to value one's own self.

Kinkajou marveled at her instincts once again, when she noticed a slight movement in the doorway, despite being lost in her musings. "Hello?" she called out, sensing that figure moving out of the shadows into the lab was not a threat.

"Teyla." The woman without a daemon. It must be so lonely, Kinkajou imagined. And yet, Teyla was one of the wisest, most caring people they knew. She must have a daemon, on the inside.

"Good evening, Kinkajou." Teyla was also one of the few that agreed to address Kinkajou directly, no matter what she advised their lab monkeys. If they worked as individuals, they could get twice as much done. That was the thing that took their brilliance to the next level - their ability come up with separate ideas. Not just about what should be done, but about what couldn't be.

"Is it evening?"

"I have just come in from watching the sun set."

Teyla looked tired. Even now, she was beautiful, as Rodney had long since noted. "Shouldn't you be sleeping? After connecting with the Wraith, you must need rest."

"I could say the same about you."

Kinkajou snorted. "We've been awake for longer. It's not bad if you take it in shifts."

"The battle is done, there is no need."

"And you? What is your need?" Kinkajou snapped. Just because she was fine, didn't mean she wasn't also cranky.

"I cannot sleep. I dreamed I looked in the mirror, and a Wraith stared back. It was not inaccurate."

Kinkajou sighed. Of course Rodney would sleep through all the tough conversations. "And yet, thanks to you, many Wraith are dead. And thanks to your gift, we're all still alive."

"I always thought that lacking a daemon was the sacrifice the Ancestors demanded to grant me the gift. But it was not the Ancestors who granted it, but the Wraith. And I am more similar to them than I ever knew. What is it your people say? Sergeant Bates was right when he accused me of it."

"Nessasine. And no, he wasn't right."

"All of you wear your souls in front of you. I look at you and I see Rodney's true nature. In a moment, I know more about him than he may ever tell me. That he is vulnerable, but proud. Smart. He's a leader. But when you look at me, they see a gaping wound. Some have become physically sick at my deformity. Perhaps the Sergeant was right not to trust."

"We trust you," Kinkajou replied. And it was the truth. They trusted Teyla with more than just their very important lives. They trusted her with their heart, and to see such a proud woman, suddenly so doubtful broke that heart.

She's not sure why she did it. She'd never done such a thing with anyone, not past lovers, not their sister, nobody, but she climbed forward to where Teyla stood and reached out a paw to brush against her hand, as though going to hold it as a human might.

Teyla gasped. The sensation was powerful, more powerful than anything Kinkajou had ever felt. She heard Rodney gasp, too, still sleeping peacefully. Pleasure mixed with a split-second feeling of wrongness and painful vulnerability. And then, Kinkajou was left to marvel. As much as Rodney had whined about not wanting the 2.5 kids and the wife and having to share Kinkajou with anyone, this had been what was missing. This was necessary.

She leaned forward, hoping to feel Teyla's smooth careful hands on her back, to be lifted up into trust and safety and the humming pleasure of connection that surrounded her. But Teyla left her hand where it was.

"Thank you," Teyla whispered. "Thank you for this. But should you not wait for him? For someone you truly love?"

"We love you," Kinkajou replied easily, but she understood, nonetheless. She must wait for Rodney.

Long after Teyla had gone, and Kinkajou was curled up at Rodney's side, floating in a haze of pleasure, her whole body singing from the connect, unable to move past the moment, Rodney stirred. "Good dream," he smiled, hugging her close.

After that, they slept in perfect peace.

***

Sheppard limped into the training room, though the man obviously tried to hide it. After seven years, Ronon had eyes for only weaknesses and strengths. It had taken several offhanded comments from McKay for him to even realize what most people first noticed about Sheppard: that he was an exceedingly attractive man.

"Tough fight?" Ronon asked. He had not been impressed by Sheppards's skills in close combat. On Sateda, the man most likely would have had to repeat basic training. But then again, Sheppard was a pilot, not infantry. And it hadn't been Sheppard's fighting skills that had impressed Ronon today. There was something familiar in the cool edge to his voice, the confidence with which he commanded, the intelligence behind his hazel eyes.

He reminded Ronon of Kell in a lot of ways. It made Ronon's bones ache to think about it. "You could say that. Jumper crash, too. I can't believe you're in here." He gestured to the bandaging around Ronon's leg where the arrow had pierced it.

"No big deal."

Sheppard snorted. "Sure. I'm just surprised Carson let you out."

"He didn't," Ixta had always been the more talkative of the two of them. He didn't know why she chose to talk now, however.

Sheppard nodded, but didn't move to order Ronon back. Ronon hadn't heard Sheppard give many orders, but today he learned that the orders Sheppard did give were ones that had better be followed.

"So, what kind of animal is she, again?" Sheppard indicated Ixta. Ronon wondered, not for the first time, if it were common among the Atlanteans to speak of daemons as if they weren't there. Perhaps it was just Sheppard. After all, he kept his own daemon hidden away as though she were herself invisible.

"A gualupiel."

"Looks like a kind of mix between an iguana and a llama to me." Sheppard eyed Ixta carefully. She stared back, her orange eyes unblinking. "On Earth, reptiles don't have fur like that."

Ronon nodded. Gualupiels were unique creatures in this galaxy as well: lizards large enough for hunting with a long line of knifelike spines and shaggy brown fur in between intricate twirls of smaller spikes. The fur let them live in environments most reptiles couldn't. The majority of the warriors on Sateda had large four-legged mammals, some birds. Nobody laughed at Ixta, but nobody understood either. Gualupiels were independent, aggressive, solitary. They were survivors and none of military psychologists had known what to make of that. Kell had, however. He'd taken Ronon in when many of the other taskmasters had feared him. Maybe Kell had known all along what would happen to him when Ronon discovered his betrayal.

"What about your daemon?" Sheppard showed him everything about this city except for that. Ronon had caught a glimpse of something circling in the air when he'd first captured Sheppard and Teyla, but it hadn't fallen to the ground upon stun, as most daemons did. He needed to know.

Sheppard shrugged. "What about her?"

Ronon gritted his teeth, not sure what game Sheppard was playing at. His nonchalance was nothing short of degrading.

"We want to see her," Ixta clarified, curling around Sheppard's feet, just short of touching.

"I'm sure you do."

But a small furry head peaking out the collar of Sheppard's jacket, despite his best efforts to keep it down. The eyes were black and bottomless, the face strange and flattened with a nose like the intricate carvings of the people of Craa. The daemon pulled herself up with thin claws, spreading leathery, almost transparent wings like nothing Ronon had ever seen. She hovered in front of him in the air. Ronon wanted to flinch under her gaze and the soft puffs of air that blew on his face with every beat of her wings.

"Amaria," Sheppard warned, gritting his teeth the way he had back on the prison planet.

She ignored him, fluttering down to land beside Ixta on the floor. "So you will stay here with us?" she asked. "You will pledge yourselves to fight by our side." She knew the words. Somehow, she knew what Ronon needed.

He wasn't sure about Sheppard. He wanted to believe that these people had the power to fight the Wraith, Sheppard especially. But it had been seven years since he'd known how to trust. Maybe he'd forgotten how.

But Ixta knew, Ancestors bless her. Of course she remembered. She rolled easily onto her back, exposing the vulnerable white scales of her neck and belly. "We pledge ourselves to you."

Amaria seemed to nod, her dark eyes shining when she took off for Sheppard's shoulder. "Touch your fingers to her neck," Ronon heard her whisper.

Sheppard hesitated as no Taskmaster ever had. But then, from what he'd come to know of the Atlantean military, it seemed reasonable that they would not participate in a similar ritual of initiation. They lacked the intimacy that Ronon had come to know among the Satedan forces.

"Ronon, I don't--" Sheppard began, but his daemon silenced him with a quick nip to the hollow of his neck, strong enough to draw blood. He didn't startle, just nodded, oblivious to the small trail of red now dripping onto his shirt collar. He crouched down, the way one approached a fallen predator, his eyes fixed on Ronon, movements slow and deliberate.

"You're sure he's not going to shoot me?" he joked.

Ronon flinched. He shook with the urge to protect his daemon. He'd protected them for so long and yet Ixta was on her back, jumping head first into the arms of a new Taskmaster. She was as still as the moment before dawn when all the world is quiet, hushed in natural supplication.

Ronon shook with anticipation, watching Sheppard's narrow fingers as they skimmed along the vulnerable surface of Ixta's neck, closing his eyes at the tingle of intimacy and fear that danced up his spine. Sheppard sucked in a harsh breath. Ixta's electroreceptors could taste the frantic beat of Sheppard's heart and Ronon could too, through the connection that sung through the air between them, eating up all the stillness of the room.

Objectively, Ronon knew that Sheppard's hands had laid on him for mere seconds, but it felt like an eternity, watching almost outside his body as once again, they promised their faith away.

"We pledge ourselves to lead you and protect you from harm," Amaria pronounced. On Sateda, that was not part of the ritual.

***

"Hey McKay," John whispered, trying to distract Rodney from his ever spiraling do-loop of panic and hyperventilation. "Didn't Ford's daemon used to be a Labrador?" Sachi was now a snarling jet black doberman pincher, staring down at Kinkajou where she stood in a mirror of Rodney's usual defiant arms-crossed pose. He couldn't help notice how far apart they were as well. Ford was at least a room away, more when he let Sachi accompany Rodney to the labs alone.

"This is your daemon. This is your daemon on drugs." John would have laughed if the situation had been even remotely funny.

"Shut up, Kinkajou. Can't you see we're busy freaking out over here?"

John did have to grin at Rodney's snarky relationship with his daemon.

"Oh my god. I'm drugged too! Before I know it you're going to turn into a wolverine or something."

Kinkajou rolled her eyes, turning her back to Sachi and climbing up Rodney's sleave to perch on his shoulder. "That'll be the day. And remember to breathe. We need oxygen, you know."

"Yeah, McKay, relax," John added. "What's a little alien speed between friends?"

Rodney rounded on him, his eyes wide and blue and terrified, the same way they'd been since they arrived here, "I can't do this, John. I was wrong: this is so much worse than that time I toked pot in college."

"Shh. Rodney, you can do this. It'll be okay," John whispered, running his hand down Rodney's forearm in a way he sure as hell hoped was comforting. "I promise."

"You can't promise that," Rodney snapped, pulling away. John spared a moment to wonder if that was the enzyme talking.

"Look, you have to trust--"

John was interrupted by a loud grunt as Ronon and Teyla came tumbling out of the training room.

"Hi guys," he started.

"Well, it's good to see Conon and Xena haven't been adversely effected," Rodney sarcastically grumbled, stirring his speedy vegetables listlessly.

Teyla grinned, waiting until Ronon's back was turned before jumping him. But he was quick, and Ixta sensed much more of a range of motion then people did, the way Amaria helped John sometimes, especially in dark places. Teyla only grinned wider when Ronon spun and dumped her unceremoniously onto the floor. She simply rolled to her feet, diving not for Ronon, but for his daemon.

Rodney spit out big spray of salad as Teyla's hands closed around Ixta's neck, leaving the large lizard thrashing and biting at her. This wasn't right. John reached forward to ply Teyla's hands away, but all he received for his efforts was an elbow to the jaw and the faint dance of stars in front of his vision.

When John's vision had cleared and he'd managed to push himself to his feet, Teyla had released Ixta, and she and Ronon were staring at him, repentant, but still grinning from their fight.

"That's enough!" John shouted. "This has gone too far."

"But it works, Sheppard. Ford is right. I'm stronger, faster--"

"More willing to go after someone's daemon in a fight?" Rodney blurted. He held Kinkajou close. "It's not natural."

"It's not right," John added. "And I'm ordering you not to do it again. When we get out of this, you'll regret it."

His jaw throbbed and he had to talk to Ford, lie a little more until the opportunity arose. John had no idea whether or not Teyla and Ronon were still grinning when he turned and walked away and if they were, he didn't want to know.

***

"Problem," Caoimhe had said, only to have Carson hush her. It was more than a problem, of course. Even with a bloodhound daemon to sniff out the Wraith DNA eating away at him from the inside out, there hadn't been enough time.

Amaria's wings sparkled, clear and iridescent now, transforming as slowly as he was. "Kill me," she whispered, fluttering around his head. "I don't want to be it. I can't be that. Not after what it did to us."

The Irratus bug. John fingered the rough patch of scales on his neck, already swelling blue and tender. If he hadn't been bitten, maybe there wouldn't have been any Irratus DNA in him for the retrovirus to activate. Maybe he'd be just fine. "If I kill you, I'll be killing us," John snapped, reaching up to try and snatch her out of where she fluttered spasmodically around the ceiling.

"Then kill us. John, we are a danger. Can't you feel it? The hunger."

"No!" John snapped, bounding up, surprised that he could scale the wall to grab her. Squeezing her tight hurt him, too, but this feeling of strength that coured through his veins made up for it.

"You feel the hunger. You've always felt it. That's why you choose this sick form of yours. An Irratus isn't a far step." He'd never complained about it before. He'd been ashamed, maybe, but never complained. Something about a vampire bat was honest. And not just that Rodney could compare him to Dracula. "You knew all along, that this is what you would eventually be."

"You're not thinking straight." She struggled ineffectually in his grasp, the glitter of her wings like a grotesque Tinkerbell, only it was the soft fur of her belly that she shed, not fairy dust. "You know why I settled like I did. I'm you as much as you deny it. And I only ever feed from you. This is different. We're good, John. We're right and we have to do the right thing. Kill us."

"John?" the voice startled them so much that John nearly dropped his daemon.

Amaria ceased her struggling. They were both drawn to the human down below. Her voice was so soft, concerned, vulnerable. "John are you okay?"

They could feel her pulse, beating strong and healthy. They could take it. They wanted it. He wanted it.

Elizabeth a part of John's mind supplied. Her familiar floral scene filling John's nostrils. Perfume he recognized. It made his stomach roll, to think that she'd spoil the scent of life with that cheap mask.

"Elizabeth," Amaria cried out. "You have to kill us!"

But it was too late. John had already slammed Elizabeth up against the wall, dislodging Bethan, her civet daemon, from his familiar perch across her shoulders. It was only Amaria's sharp nip to his wrist that stopped him from squeezing her windpipe closed.

"Jesus," he breathed, stumbling backwards as Elizabeth's body slumped. It was all a blur after that.

***

Rodney's Kinkajou glowed now, sometimes shifting from form to unfamiliar form so quickly that Teyla couldn't hope to keep track, though never on the large feline that had been Rod's daemon. He might do it, she realized suddenly. Rodney, of all people, might actually ascend, and he'd leave all the rest of them behind. She didn't know how to feel about that.

She'd meditated, and studied all her life for the chance to send her spirit up to the heavens with the Ancestors, even though it had been generations since an Athosian had done it. It would be arrogant to assume that she would suceed, and downright blind to think that she could simply overcome her lack of a daemon by wishing it to be so, but she'd dared hope, nonetheless. And that very pride was the biggest of her burdens.

"You healed Ronon's back," she stated, moving to light a few of her meditation candles. "You did not have to do that."

Rodney snapped his fingers and all the candles in the room suddenly came alight. "I wanted to. It's funny. I get so caught up in things. I get caught up in myself and I forget to do these little things. But it's not that I don't mean them. I always meant them, and if I could have taken away Ronon's scars a long time ago, I would have. I don't know if I would have thought to, but--"

"He is your friend."

"Exactly. And so are you. I wanted to do something for you." Wanted. They'd known each other for years now, and yet he couldn't think of anything.

"I have all I need, Rodney."

"But it could be better. Let me--" He reached forward, for her chest in the way a Wraith brings a hand down. She would have flinched at the gesture if this hadn't been Rodney and she didn't trust him with all her heart.

His hand seemed to disappear for a moment, reaching inside her chest with a subtle tingle and a rush of pleasure so fierce she gasped, clenching her eyes closed against the overwhelming intimacy of the gesture. The sensation dulled just a fraction, though she still felt bouyed up by a see of warmth and comfort. When she opened her eyes, Rodney was smiling, a beautiful snow-white bird craddled in his hands.

Teyla didn't need to ask who that was. The sight alone was familiar, something she'd been seeing out of the corner of her eye for her entire life, it seemed.

"Hello," the bird stood up regally, the elegant crown of blue and white feathers surrounding his head fluffing out easily. "I am Torrell. So nice to finally meet you."

Her hand shook as she extended it to him, but Torrell seemed unfazed. "How is this possible?"

"I have been with you all along. Rodney only revealed me."

"Thank you," Teyla whispered. "Thank you, thank you, thank you," she hugged Rodney to him, mumbling the words into the skin of his neck, feeling his hands come up awkwardly around her.

Later, she felt neither jealous nor surprised when the numbers announcing his proximity to ascension began to lower, nor when he elected to stay with them after all.

"I never doubted him," Torrell remarked, from where he perched at the bottom of her bed. She could barely sleep, not wanting to take her eyes off of him, but eventually she did, trusting that he would always be there.

Part 2
Tags: author: tzzzz, challenge: team
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