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Author's Chapter Notes: Is the child, John's lost son, or an attempt to deceive him.

Thanks as always goes to my brilliant beta Susan.
All mistakes are mine alone.

Sheppard’s mouth fell open and his legs threatened to buckle beneath him. He drew in a sharp breath trying to ward of the hysteria that threatened. No it wasn’t possible, someone’s idea of a sick joke.

Rosa stepped forward silently insisting. She held the child out for him to see and green eyes stared up at him equally as mesmerised. Still he resisted.

Rosa took another step forward, and Sheppard resisted the urge to back away from her. Rosa’s eyes glanced from Sheppard to the child she still held in her arms. “Look at him Colonel, see for yourself.”

His heart hammered, everything felt surreal. Could it be his insatiable longing to hold his child had caused his brain to conjure up a fantasy? There was every possibility he was lying unconscious in the infirmary back on Atlantis and this whole trip to Spyros was simply a figment of his imagination.

Not until he felt a light pressure on his fingers did he realise how close he was to Rosa. Looking down in shock he froze.
The child within Rosa’s arms had reached out and taken hold of Sheppard’s thumb. A smile lit up the small child’s face and his eyes sparkled. They were emerald green. Sheppard knew of only one other person with emerald green eyes. Elizabeth.

In that moment he knew this was not a dream. This was real. His arms reached out almost ahead of his brain. Before even taking time to rationalise the child, his son lay secure in his arms. Gazing down his eyes wide, he felt the chill seep from his heart, leaving behind a warm glow.

He held the most precious thing Elizabeth and he had ever created, an undeniable link to the immeasurable love that existed between them. Their son.

His inner turmoil caused his chest to tighten and his muscles to clench, as he felt his happiness, become clouded by grief.

It shouldn’t have happened. I shouldn’t have let it happen. Elizabeth, why didn’t you listen? If she’d only listened to him, paid more heed to his fears, none of this would have happened. He paled. Appalled. How could he think such thoughts? Elizabeth was not to blame. He was. What had become of his promise to always protect her from harm? He had been negligent and because of it Elizabeth was lost to him forever-

A soft pressure on his shoulder broke through his dark thoughts. Glancing to his left he realised it was Teyla. Noticing the concerned look on her face he sighed. Am I that obvious?

“John, do not dwell to deeply on things that cannot be changed. You have a wonderful gift in your son. Allow him to show you how to love again; it is what Elizabeth would want. ”Teyla’s lips turned up slightly as she glanced down upon his son. “This may seem a strange quirk of fate but I feel it was Elizabeth that made it possible.”

“What if I can’t live up to her expectations?” he questioned. “What kind of life will he have if he loses me somewhere in the near future? Teyla we, cheat death on a daily basis. What if my luck finally runs out?”

Holding his gaze Teyla replied, “John, the same fears would have existed even if Elizabeth were here too. You spoke of these and decided it was a chance you were willing to take.”
His voice was barely audible “Not without Elizabeth.”

“You will not be without her, not completely. You have your memories. If you allow them, they will help you to develop a happy and fulfilled relationship with your son. Elizabeth held great faith in your ability to be a good father to your son. I know her faith in you will be upheld.”

“I don’t know Teyla. I want what’s best for him. Taking him away from here may not be it.” The muscles in his face were taut and his expression reflected his gloom.
Tightening her grip on his arm slightly, her voice soft and soothing, Teyla said “John, at present the loss of Elizabeth is still fresh in your mind. That pain will gradually lessen, until one day the memories you shared will provide comfort instead of the usual pain. Meanwhile you have your son to comfort you. Allow him to do so; his place is with his father. You will not be alone, we will all be willing to assist you.”

Sheppard struggled to speak as a spasm constricted the muscles in his throat. Teyla was right, but he was afraid. Afraid of being a failure in his role as a father, afraid of not living up to Elizabeth’s faith in his ability to be the father she wanted him to be.

Within him, however, there lived an even greater fear. A fear of forgetting all the little things that reminded him of Elizabeth. He feared they would fade with time. The biggest and the most special was the love they shared. A special and deep love. Something he instinctively knew he would never have again. He didn’t want to lose that feeling. Ever.

“John, do you want to continue or shall we now return to Atlantis?” Teyla’s asked softly.

Sheppard eyes darted around everyone. He’d sunk so deep into his thoughts that he’d forgotten their presence. He wanted nothing better that to take his son, and turn his back on this planet. To forget the evil that had occurred here, but he couldn’t. Peace would never be his until he knew the whole story, no matter how much hurt it caused. He needed to hear it for himself and for Elizabeth.

Standing up he braced himself, forcing the pain and angst into the far recesses of his brain. His voice held none of his inner angst as he spoke

“No we came here for a reason and we don’t leave until it’s accomplished.”

Ronon stepped forward and slapped him lightly on the back his action signifying Sheppard had his support. The remainder of his team quietly voiced their support for his decision.
Rosa had subtly retreated, allowing the group to come to terms with the mixed emotions she knew they would be experiencing. She however looked up and smiled as Teyla closed the gap between them. The younger woman obviously had something she needed to discuss. Her instinct was proven correct.

“Can you tell us how John and Elizabeth’s son survived? We were led to believe it was not so.” Teyla enquired.

The remainder of the group turned their attention to Rosa. The survival of Sheppard’s son raised many questions, this being the most important.

Rosa mentally prepared herself, for the first of which she was sure would be many questions. Answering them would be far from easy but it had to be done. She could tell they were strong and capable people and would not want anything held back.

Casting her eyes in the Colonel’s direction she wasn’t surprised by his lack of emotion. Only his eyes told of the angst he was experiencing.

Rosa admired his display of inner strength and courage. He carried his pain and heartbreak bravely, possibly too much so. His unwillingness to open up, to anyone, would make it difficult for him to share his true feelings. From past personal experiences Rosa knew how dangerous this could become.

Sensing the tension, Rosa knew they were anxious for her to answer the question. Her heart pounded and she took a deep breath, attempting to control her anxiety before answering them.

“That is what we led Kolya to believe.” Rosa didn’t try and keep the contempt for Kolya out of her voice. Her hatred for the Genii Commander was real. “But the truth differed vastly. It was Elizabeth herself that devised the plan. Her bravery and determination allowed it to succeed.”

Rosa shut her eyes momentarily, preparing herself for the heart breaking tale she needed to share. As she reluctantly opened them, her attention was drawn as if by some invisible force, to the shadow of a building almost hidden from view. She felt a familiar ache in her chest as she recalled its significance.

Within its walls Elizabeth had lived out the time allotted to her by Kolya before meeting her death.

What had previously been a place of comfort and healing now signified only pain and suffering. Tainted by the evil that had been performed with in its walls it now remained for ever vacant. Locked and secured to prevent entry, it was a symbol of the inhumane cruelty that existed all too freely.

In attempt to banish it from her mind, she turned her back to it and sat down on the one of the only two chairs in the room. A sudden feeling of despair and exhaustion further dampened her already low spirits.

She fought to concentrate on the slightly irritating voice of the one she’d heard being called Dr McKay. It was obvious as she listened to him speak; he was going to question every little thing she had to say. However she quickly swallowed her rising irritation for the man. After what these people had gone through, it was right that they had their suspicions. She therefore remained silent while the Doctor vented his misgivings.

“Sheppard, tell me you’re not believing this garbage. Not with what we know of Kolya.” McKay turned and glared at Rosa. “You’re trying to imply that Elizabeth had her child, Connor I think you claim his name is. Then somehow he is miraculously snatched from under Kolya’s nose without him being in the least suspicious. Then... you claim you have kept him here awaiting our arrival, how did you know we were going to turn up, oh wait... you’re about to tell us you read the future by looking into some crystal ball-

“McKay,” growled Sheppard, his jaw tense.

“What?” McKay looked at Sheppard indignantly, “you’re just going to accept the child is yours, no questions asked, and no lingering doubts.” He used his arms to emphasise his words, disbelief showing clearly on his face.

“I only have to look at him to know he is mine.” Sheppard replied his voice low and dangerous whilst his eyes flashed a warning.

“So you say he is yours. Okay let’s say we accept that.” McKay was oblivious to the dark look from Sheppard. “Have you forgotten about Kolya…?”

Sheppard went to take a step forward, his eyes ablaze, but Ronon put an arm out to stop him.

“Do you seriously think I would forget the bastard who took away the most precious thing in my life?” spat Sheppard furiously.

McKay’s face became void of colour as he realised what he had said. “I…I, look Sheppard I didn’t mean it the way it sounded.”

Shaking his head Sheppard glanced quickly at McKay “You never do McKay but it never seems to stop you.” His disappointment was clear in his voice.

Teyla immediately spoke up alarmed at the rising tension. “John I do not think Rodney meant to be unkind. I think he was trying to protect you from further pain. His manner is perhaps unfortunate. However maybe we should allow Rosa the chance to explain before we say anything further.”

The two women’s eyes met briefly. Teyla’s seemed to be asking for understanding. Rosa however could understand why she was being regarded with suspicion. It was natural given the circumstances. She needed to convince them of her sincerity and maybe then they would stop regarding her as their enemy.

Firstly though she turned her attention to Dr McKay, “I can understand your suspicions Dr McKay and I can say truthfully, if the situation were reversed I would feel as you do. However I hope your uncertainties will be laid to rest as I explain the truth of what occurred.

McKay’s eyes nervously darted from Rosa to Sheppard before he gave a verbal nod.

Rosa’s expression turned grim. “The plan we devised to ensure even an inkling of success... It was something neither of us took lightly.

However, ultimately the decision rested with Elizabeth. I have to say though, on hearing her decision, I initially objected to it rather strongly.”

“Why?” asked Sheppard in confusion.

She glanced down to the floor, remaining silent for a moment. With a heavy sigh she lifted her head looking straight at Sheppard. “Ensuring the success of Elizabeth’s plan meant exposing her to much pain and humiliation, mainly at my hands.”

Her lips trembled as she remembered discussing this with Elizabeth, the cause of their one and only fall out. “I who prided myself on never rising to, or participating in violence. I said I couldn’t do it, that there had to be another way. But she was stubborn and refused to even contemplate any other option, no matter how much I argued with her. She had made up her mind and there was no changing it.”

A slight smirk fleetingly appeared on Sheppard’s face although his eyes remained haunted with pain. “I think we’ve all experience that side of Elizabeth and when in that frame of mind she is,” his eyes darkened and for a moment he looked crestfallen. “Was... a force to be reckoned with. If she thought she was in the right,” His eyebrows creased into a frown “which for the most of the time she was, nothing but infallible evidence would convince her otherwise.”

“That I can imagine!” Rosa gave a hint of a smile “You would have been proud of her Colonel, I can truthfully say I have never seen anyone so determined to succeed as Elizabeth.”

He softly massaged his eyes, willing the dull pounding in his head to disappear. Sensing McKay’s impatience, he again looked to Rosa. “McKay does have a valid point. Kolya is certainly no fool, past dealings have proven that. How did you manage to pull it off?”

Rosa gave a small smile, “Actually it was partly due to Kolya himself. You see he decided the safest and most convenient place for Elizabeth, was within the confines of the building attached to my property. It, up until then, had served as a place where the sick came to be treated. At the time I objected, strongly. I didn’t want the only place I could effectively carry out healings to be turned in to a prison, all be it on a temporary basis.”

She noticed Sheppard screw up his eyes as the sunlight suddenly darted in through her window. “Colonel why don’t you take a seat, it will ease the weight in your arms also.” Her lips turned up slightly as she looked at Connor. “He may be small but he is sturdy.”

Sheppard frowned, and opened his mouth as if to decline the invitation. Instead he sat down, immediately looking at home in Rosa’s chair, with Connor now sound asleep in his arms.

Rosa noted the dark circles around his eyes and his pallor. He looked like he badly needed a full night’s sleep. If only she’d been able to save Elizabeth, Sheppard could have been spared his present pain.

When she’d established Sheppard was sitting comfortably in the chair she continued with her painful recollection. “Elizabeth wanted Kolya to believe her child was dead when born. To do this we needed to convince Kolya my feelings towards Elizabeth were unchanged, and that I treated her with contempt and disgust.” She stopped as her voice started to waver, her heartbeat pounding.

Sheppard took advantage of the temporary silence.”I still don’t get how Kolya entrusted you with Elizabeth’s care. You weren’t even Genii, just a stranger who appeared to dislike his prisoner as much as he did himself.” Sheppard’s voice although filled with concern lacked the sarcasm that had dripped off McKay’s tongue.

“Finally you’re showing some common sense,” sniped McKay.

Sheppard’s eyes narrowed and his voice was sharp. “McKay if I were you, I would think very carefully before opening my mouth again.”

Not one for subtle hints McKay was on the verge of retaliating, but Ronon beat him to it. Grabbing him by the back of his collar he growled, “McKay, enough.” The threatening look from Ronon was enough to clamp his mouth shut.

Sheppard’s expression softened. “Look McKay, I understand your feelings of caution and even your distrust. However, if I truly thought Rosa wasn’t being 100% honest with us, I’d be the first one to question her on it.”

For a moment McKay had the grace to look crestfallen. “I felt with the discovery of your son, you were blind to the true situation.”

Shaking his head Sheppard replied, “Rodney you know me better than that. Haven’t I proved time and time again that I don’t allow personal feelings to override the safety of this expedition.”

“Yes but this is different, you’ve just been given back your son.”

Teyla decided to step in as mediator. “Rosa so you understand, all of us on Atlantis, John in particular, have been deceived in the cruellest way possible. To develop feelings of trust again, especially for strangers, is exceptionally difficult. People we deemed to be trustworthy have so often proved the opposite.” She glanced fleetingly at John before continuing. “The loss of Dr Weir under normal war conditions would have been devastating but eventually it would have been accepted. What no one on Atlantis can accept is the way it happened. It was cowardly and cruel.”
“I would feel the same if the position was reversed but I can assure you I am not your enemy. I simply played a role needed to ensure Elizabeth’s plan succeeded.”

“I am sure we have all had to do something unpleasant to ensure the success of something more important” replied Teyla sympathetically. “Maybe you could explain why Kolya was so lax with his security around Elizabeth.”

Nodding grimly Rosa replied. “The reason is really quite simple. Commander Kolya had not thought of the implications of taking a heavily pregnant woman prisoner. The thought of having to deal with the, not so far away birth, repulsed him even though he was sticking to the story that the child was his. He also insisted she remained in chains, even whilst it remained necessary for her to be confined to bed. The guards on duty were the only ones with a key.”

Sheppard eyes narrowed “They kept the chains on her for what reason, to feed their sick minds? What, did they think she was going escape from a heavily guarded and locked room?”

“John,” Teyla bent forward and laid a hand on his arm.

For a moment their eyes meet before Sheppard replied. “Its okay, I’m fine.” Teyla looked uncertain but Sheppard insisted “Really, I’m fine.”

The skin of Rosa’s knuckles paled significantly as her grip on the arm of the chair tightened. This was affecting them all, the sooner she told it the better.

“As I said earlier, Elizabeth felt for the plan to succeed, it was essential that the guards and Kolya believed that my initial feelings of disgust and dislike remained just as strong. The plan we concocted had a greater chance of success due to Elizabeth’s confinement to bed. She was still suffering the after effects of their harsh treatment and physical exhaustion and therefore unable to see to her own personal care. I also implied there was a great risk of her giving birth prematurely if she did not remain in bed. Kolya was desperate for her child to born healthy so he didn’t challenge me on it.” She stopped to take a shaky breath finding it more and more difficult to continue. Her hands trembled as she desperately gripped the arm of the chair.

Teyla bent down and laid a hand on Rosa’s shoulder. “Do you wish to take a break for a moment? I am sure Colonel Sheppard will understand if you do.”

“No I will continue, but maybe we could take a walk outside. It tends to get somewhat stuffy in here.” She looked across to Sheppard as she spoke.

Nodding, Sheppard stood up cautiously. He looked down at his son, still sound asleep. A feeling of pride consumed him when he realised his son obviously felt protected and secure enough to settle down and sleep. He looked up sheepishly when he had realised Teyla was speaking and he’d not heard her.

“Sorry Teyla, I was miles away.”

She smiled in reply “I can understand why. However if you are intent on going outside it may be best for him to remain here. Now the sun is up there is an incredible heat coming from it.”

For a moment he seemed reluctant but eventually with a slight smile he held his son out for Teyla to take. “You’re right it is probably better, but only until we return.”

Smirking Teyla replied, “Of course Colonel, though give it a few days and you’ll be begging me to take him so you can take a break.”

“Will not,” replied Sheppard with an indignant expression.

Teyla give a grin “We shall see.”

Chapter End Notes: Thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed.

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