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Author's Chapter Notes: It's been quite sometime since I updated so here's hoping there's still interest in the story.

As always a big thanks to my beta Sue and all mistakes remain my own.

Sheppard’s gaze focused on Teyla as she rose with natural grace, the dressing she’d applied, now firmly secured with a makeshift bandage. Tilting his head slightly, Sheppard continued to regard her from behind his eyes. He noted the concern that lingered under her weak smile.

With some hesitance, he scanned the faces of his men as they continued to establish some order amongst the present turmoil. Expressions of disillusionment, and unease, were visible on at least half of those present, confirming Sheppard’s suspicions.

During the time of Sheppard’s reluctant incapacity, Lorne’s team along with Ronan and McKay had successfully overpowered Kolya’s men. It would seem the success of this hadn’t, unfortunately, raised moral.

Sheppard pulled at his collar suddenly feeling the impact of the increased temperature. The fine mist of earlier had lifted leaving no protection against the unyielding rays of the sun. This wasn’t the basis of his current discomfort however. Realisation, that the present negativity of the men was likely interrelated with his injury, was what caused Sheppard's distress.

Sheppard felt the pinch of frustration, as he recollected the initials reaction of Atlantis on hearing of Kolya had resurfaced.
Nearly everyone wanted the option of seeking redress for Elizabeth’s death. Every since her death a melancholy seemed to radiate through the halls of Atlantis. Subsequently the necessity of her people, to see justice served, almost equalled his own. The knowledge that ultimately this was possible had raised their spirits and expectations. They’d departed from Atlantis with grim determination and confident of success.

It had soon diminished when they found they were powerless to act, as their Military Commander was almost annihilated by a random bullet. Awareness of his survival had restored some of their earlier zeal. It was their disquiet at having to deal with Kolya’s men, whilst Kolya himself appeared to have gotten away, that Sheppard now sensed.

His determination to continue, despite his injury, wasn’t helping either. Although they wouldn’t question him on it, given he was their Military Commander, Sheppard knew they felt he was making a rash decision.

In any other circumstances, he would have been of the same thought. He’d confidence in their ability to accomplish what they set out to do. It wasn’t even as if he had reason to assume different today. Each and every one of them had proved their worth. The reason for his decision was something entirely different and couldn’t be discussed with anyone. Not even with his own team.

An unpleasant dryness in his mouth, reminded him of the bottle of water Teyla had thoughtfully left by his side. His fingers, as they reached out, curled around the plastic bottle, pleasantly surprised by its coolness despite the heat from the sun. Unscrewing the cap, he tipped his head back and took a couple of large gulps. His thirst quenched, he swirled the water around in his mouth his parched tongue bathing in its coolness.

Tucking an index finger under the cuff of his sleeve, he pulled it back exposing the face of his watch. Sheppard glanced down at his watch his eyebrows quirked, and he felt some small, momentary relief. His senses it seemed hadn’t been entirely accurate. Less time had gone by than he’d originally thought. Even so, he couldn't shake off the impression they were wasting precious time. Time he knew, Kolya would be using to his advantage. Well not any longer, it was time for action.

The stiffness in his legs warned him against hurriedly springing to his feet. So too, did the numbness in his posterior, and he came to the conclusion sitting for so long, on the not so flat rock surface, wasn’t such a terrific idea. Almost reluctantly and with some difficulty, he manoeuvred himself forward, longing for the impression of solid ground under his feet.
The relief he felt on finally discovering the ground beneath his feet disperse a good deal of the tension that plagued him. Now sitting on the edge of the rock, with his hands stretched out behind him, he found himself debating the easiest way to complete the mission. Catching sight of his vest in his peripheral vision he acted out of instinct, and stretched out his left hand to where it lay abandoned on the dust covered ground. Almost instantaneously a hiss escaped from his lips as the searing pain, brought on by the movement, radiated through his side.

A familiar scent wafted up his nostril, and he bit his lip in an effort to hold back a moan of pain. Aware of Teyla’s fingers as they lightly brushed his shoulder he somehow managed to utter a few words as she bent down effortlessly and placed her hand on his vest. “Eh... thanks Teyla.”

Thankful that the pain had all but diminished, he directed his attention more fully on Teyla as she stood up gracefully, the vest held firmly in her hands.

His lips parted, ready to express his thanks and he extended his arm-the right one this time-to take the vest from her grasp. His eyes widened however, at the admonishment in her eyes, effectively halting him in his tracks, and he shut his mouth with a snap.

With raised eyebrows he silently waited for the verbal reproach that was sure to follow. The arch of his eyebrows became more distinctive with the ensuing silence and he looked at Teyla baffled by her lack of response. His confusion increased as he observed the reason for her unusual quietness, his vest it seemed had suddenly become a significant source of interest. Why, he wasn’t sure. From his current position, it was an effort to see much at all. Having to squint against the sun made it near impossible.

His present position he could do something about unlike the situation with the sun. Sunglasses would be the ideal solution, if he’d had the presence of mind to bring them along, which he hadn’t. Placing his hands flat on the rock surface, he used them as leverage and struggled to his feet. Feeling slightly lightheaded, Sheppard rested his hand on the rock now behind him immediately feeling the benefit of its support.

Finally, he was able to follow her gaze, right... let's see why you’ve developed such a keen interest in my vest. The wrinkling of his brows deepened, as her fingers drifted over the ragged edges.

The vest had ties just under the arms and kept both the front and back in place. Whereas the right side showed only few signs of fraying, the only thing remaining of the laces on the left were a few threads. Remnants of the lining could be detected hanging loose inside the vest and distinct stains on the lining looked suspiciously like blood. His own he reckoned.
Okay, he thought, it looks like I’m going to need a new tac vest.

Ha! consider yourself lucky it’s only a vest you’re in need off, spoke a voice in his head. He felt the rush of blood to his ears. It was true.

He only now realised how close he’d come to having his life snuffed out. He snorted. So much for the vest protecting me.
It was just his misfortune that the bullet had found the only real flaw in the vest.

Although designed to withstand the impact of a bullet the designer hadn’t given much thought to likelihood of a bullet penetrating the laced edges or slipping in between them. In fact, it was probably the bullet hitting the tie that saved his life.

The bullet must have impacted with the ties and then somehow travelled down the inside of his vest, ripping the flesh from his hip as it went. He’d known it hadn’t imbedded itself in his hip, even before Teyla had treated his injury. Why. Because he could still remember his surprise when it dropped at his feet although at the time, he’d been too preoccupied to dwell on his lucky escape.

This awareness, of what it could have cost him only succeeded in planting the first seeds of doubt in his mind. Could he continue to take such risks? What of the people who depended on him, like Connor and Atlantis, or their allies, who for some reason, would only trade in his presence.
You know why you must take the risk the voice in his head chided. He did as well. The only way to guarantee Connor’s safety was to remove the source of the threat. Namely Kolya.

Shutting his eyes, he pushed the negative thoughts to the far depths of his brain. It was imperative he remained focused.
He opened his eyes as he felt someone brush against him and gave Teyla a hesitant half smile as she stopped a few inches in front of him, the vest still firmly gripped in her hand.
“John, why do you feel the need to place yourself in such a position? What of your promise to your son.”

For a brief moment, he felt anger at her reference to his son. It lasted only briefly, as he remembered Teyla had no way of knowing his proposed actions were to shield his son.

For a long, poignant moment, he remained motionless. His eyes dropped to the ground his expression hidden under his lowered eyelids. Teyla’s words had inflamed the ambivalence that simmered away below the surface. Not predominantly for the choice he’d undertaken, but for the continuing secrecy of those actions.

Turning his head slightly, he directed his gaze with purpose until finally he had Ronon and McKay in his sight. He could hear McKay’s ranting from where he stood, and Ronon’s expression left Sheppard in no doubt as to his feelings. Clenching his fists against his thighs he tried unsuccessfully to ward of the rising tension. How could he make them understand that every instinct pointed him in this one direction, his blood boiling, with the anticipation of the forthcoming clash with Kolya?

The light touch of Teyla’s fingers on his shoulder startled him and he turned his head back until their eyes locked. The expression on her face and arched eyebrow puzzled him until her remembered with a start she was still waiting for an answer to her question.

Sheppard lifted his chin his eyes fired with dogged determination, the rigidity of his chin, a tell tale sign of his obstinacy.

Teyla, however, wasn’t going to be easily dissuaded. Her eyes glistened with similar spirit, eyes never straying from his as she spoke. “John, will you rethink your actions.”

Her voice although persuasive held an almost soothing lilt to it. The small vertical line between her brows creased as her gaze dropped to the bandage on display beneath his bloodstained combat shirt. “I do not think you should take this risk.”

For the briefest of time, John hesitated irresolute, a response Teyla quickly took advantage of.

“John no one will think any less of you, especially, given your injury.

Teyla had no way of knowing that her words were going to have the opposite to that she desired. Instead of making him rethink his decision, her words essentially renewed his commitment.

“But I will.” He exhaled impatiently. “Look Teyla, I’ve already told you of my decision, and it’s not going to change. This is one thing I can do for Elizabeth, and nothing you or anyone else have to say, will make me change my mind.

Teyla shook her head sadly “Do you think this is what Elizabeth would want? To have you place your own life in danger so that she may be avenged?”

Despite the muscles on Sheppard’s arm flinching, beneath her touch, Teyla didn’t remove the hand she’d placed on his arm. Her eyes held his unfaltering. “I would imagine she would be dismayed at the very idea if she were here.”

A dark shadows crossed Sheppard’s face, and he gulped an agonised breath. “Well... she’s not here is she..., and we all know the reason why... because I failed her.” This time he abruptly pulled his arm away, his eyes cold “I won’t do it again. Not this time.”

He turned his back on Teyla, unwilling for her to observe the battle that raging with in him, as his conflicting emotions strived for supremacy.

What if in the process of freeing Connor, from the danger posed by Kolya, he also succeeded in depriving his son of both parents? On the other hand, he didn’t want to have to face an even greater agony. The damage to his son, if he did fail to act.

If he allowed Kolya to escape as he’d done in the past, the day would happen when Connor would fall victim of the wrong Kolya exuded. That, he could not live with.

Visualising this in his head, along with the horror he felt, had made him realize there could only be one conclusion. So in the early hours of this morning, after much tossing and turning, he reached a final decision. Kolya must be taken care of, permanently.

It was imperative, however, that any repercussion fell on him and him alone. This undertaking not only gifted him with the firmness of purpose. It also enabled him to remain steadfast against his team’s opposition.

Movement in his peripheral vision, along with the words uttered by a curt voice, enticed Sheppard from his deep thoughts. He felt the tightness of his sleeves as his muscles knotted with tension. With his feet still firmly planted where he stood, he turned his head slightly in the direction of the reluctant spokesman.

“She’s right, Weir wouldn’t want this, said Ronon.

Sheppard’s eyes turned a shade deeper as they flashed with anger, but the pain of his loss could be heard in his words as he addressed his team. “Elizabeth wouldn’t want our son to suffer a similar fate as she did.”

Teyla nodded her expression softening “His safety is of great importance to the rest of us as well John, but so is yours. We can deal with Kolya if you will only allow us.

“Leave Kolya to me,” Ronon replied, his smirk lacking in humour.

The ensuing silence stretched out for a few minutes as they waited for his answer. Even McKay, who had followed in Ronon’s wake, didn’t seem inclined to break the silence.

Sheppard stood unclear of the best way to proceed. Dare he tell them? Could he chance the risk and hope they’d not only understand, but support what must be done. Not only that, but also accept he alone had to be the one who undertook the risk, so great was the chance of discovery. Would it be fair to burden them with this?

There again, what choice did he have? Although his intentions regarding Kolya, had remained, up until this moment, confidential unto himself, he sensed his team’s rising curiosity.

Unconsciously rubbing his neck, he glanced at each of them in turn, with rising trepidation, before heaving an eventual sigh. Instinct told him there could be only option, whether it turned out to be correct one remained to be seen.

Chapter End Notes: Thanks for reading. Next chapter shouldn't be long if the interest is still there. Pleasew review and let me know what you think

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