We'll Always Have M51-936 by ShipperWriter
Summary: In order to trade with the matriarchal Fa'torians, John and Elizabeth must pose as a happily married couple. Easier said than done ...
Categories: Fanfiction Characters: None
Genres: Drama, General, Humor, Hurt/Comfort, Romance
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 25 Completed: Yes Word count: 41763 Read: 43068 Published: April 05, 2012 Updated: July 04, 2012
Story Notes:
This was written as a backstory to a oneshot of mine entitled "The Right Side of the Wrong Bed". It's posted by itself at my FanFiction account, but I will work it into the story here as its own chapter. You can read it first or last!

1. First Contact by ShipperWriter

2. Meeting the Fa'torians by ShipperWriter

3. On One Condition by ShipperWriter

4. Blending In by ShipperWriter

5. Sleeping Arrangements by ShipperWriter

6. Waking Up In Fa'tor by ShipperWriter

7. Girl Talk by ShipperWriter

8. Nightmares by ShipperWriter

9. The Calm After the Storm by ShipperWriter

10. A Walk In the Woods by ShipperWriter

11. When the Crap Hits the Fan by ShipperWriter

12. How to Deal by ShipperWriter

13. To Think, Or To Feel? by ShipperWriter

14. Change of Plans by ShipperWriter

15. Backup by ShipperWriter

16. Always by ShipperWriter

17. Coup D'Etat by ShipperWriter

18. Unexpected by ShipperWriter

19. We'll Burn That Bridge When We Get To It by ShipperWriter

20. The Morning After by ShipperWriter

21. Goodbye, Fa'tor, and Thank You by ShipperWriter

22. Why They Call It Falling, Now I Know by ShipperWriter

23. That's What Friends Are For by ShipperWriter

24. The Right Side of the Wrong Bed by ShipperWriter

25. Epilogue - One Week Later by ShipperWriter

First Contact by ShipperWriter
As Elizabeth Weir entered the conference room, her attention was drawn, not to the team patiently sitting and waiting on her, but the steaming mug of coffee at her seat. She raised an eyebrow as she made her way to the head of the table. "I apologize for my tardiness," she excused herself to Colonel Sheppard's team, taking her seat while her eyes raked over the coffee cup.

On her right, John smirked and nodded as he held his own cup. "No worries. I think we're all allowed one morning to sleep in."

"Yes, but not when I have a briefing at 0800," Elizabeth gently rebuffed, glancing at the team. "So. What's the story on M51-936?"

Rodney spoke first before anyone else had a chance to even breathe. "Well, the Ancient database doesn't give us a whole lot of information, but from what I've been able to ascertain--"

"You mean, from what Teyla told you?" Ronan Dex interrupted him, nodding toward the Athosian woman while glaring at McKay.

Rodney frowned. "Database has zip," he concluded.

Elizabeth smiled graciously at him, then nodded at Teyla. "What do you know of this world?"

She inclined her head uncertainly. "It has been many years since my people were on this planet. Before my generation, in fact. They are farmers and produce a wide variety of crops. They've been remembered as a peaceful people."

“You think that might've changed?" John asked from across the table, rubbing his chin.

Teyla tilted her head uncertainly. "As I have said, Colonel, it has been many years since my people have been in contact with them. It is entirely possible that they have remained the same."

"And there's also a chance that the Wraith have culled them and taken over, and will feed on us the instant we step through the 'Gate!" Rodney emphatically suggested, ever the drama queen. "Which is why we need to send a MALP through before you risk one of us."

Elizabeth nodded in acknowledgement, doing her best to repress a sarcastic chuckle. "While I appreciate your sense of self-preservation, the MALPs are currently inoperable due to an upgrade. For the time being, we’ll operate under the assumption that Teyla is correct and the inhabitants are still peaceable. With all the chaos in this universe, we can't afford to be that cynical."

Rodney opened his mouth to reply but John interrupted. "So we have a go, then?" he asked innocently.

Elizabeth nodded. "You have a go."

Smiling, John smacked his hands against the table as he pushed his chair backwards. "All right, be ready to go in twenty minutes," he directed to his team.

Elizabeth leaned back in her chair, rubbing her hands over her eyes as everyone excepting John left the room.

He stood, stretched his arms, and sighed. "You okay?"

"I'm fine," she replied, gingerly reaching for the cup of coffee still sitting in front of her on the desk. She examined it, then took a sip. "Just not completely awake yet."

John nodded, licking his lips. "Couldn't sleep last night?"

She shook her head, standing up. She still held the warm mug in her hands as she replied, "I was awake until two in the morning. Even the ocean couldn't get me to sleep."

John flinched in sympathy. "Sorry."

Elizabeth shrugged. "The important thing is, I finally got to sleep."

He gave her a tight lipped smile, then started to head for the doors.

"Thank you," she suddenly called out, just as he got to the doorway. When he turned around and his hazel eyes sparkled in confusion at her, she lifted the mug up. "For the coffee," she explained.

He stared at her. "I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about." Then he winked and walked out, leaving Elizabeth with a blush that wasn't from the coffee.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

"All right, you know the drill. No shooting the first thing that moves."

"You talkin' to me or McKay?" Ronan asked as he pulled his blaster from the holster, ensuring it was set on stun before he dramatically replaced it.

As McKay scowled, Teyla glanced at her own TAC vest, making sure that she had gathered the appropriate equipment. She felt someone nudge her.

John discreetly handed her an extra MRE bar. "He's grouchy today. Couldn't hurt to pack some extra bargaining chips."

She smiled, slipping the foil wrapped bar into a pocket. Rodney had been rather negative during the briefing. From personal experience with the team, there were only two items that would drastically change his attitude: an MRE or a lemon. The citrus fruit, however, was starting to lose its intended effect. "A wise measure," she agreed.

John smiled, then dug the sunglasses out of his vest. "Dial it up!" he yelled to the control room.

As the glyphs began to lock into place, Elizabeth descended down the stairs behind them. "Keep me apprised of any developments. And, if it makes you feel better, we'll make the check-ins on the hour."

"Sounds good to me," John replied with a nod, putting the sunglasses on.

"Yes, very good. We'll make sure to give our radios to the Wraith and they can--"

"McKay!" John snapped at him impatiently. "Don't make me throw you through the 'Gate first!"

Rodney scoffed. "You wouldn't."

Sheppard shrugged. "Maybe not. But he definitely would," he threatened as he pointed sideways at the imposing Satedan.

Ronan grinned. For some reason, it seemed to startle people more than when he was holding a weapon in their direction. Perhaps because a smile from him was rather uncommon.

McKay acquiesced and turned around, facing the Stargate as the wormhole connected and the vortex roared to life.

Elizabeth smiled. "Do try and stay out of trouble, Colonel."

"Me? In trouble? Where would you get that idea?" he responded with a smirk.

"Too many mission reports to recall." Her face turned somber and her green eyes met his. "Be safe."

John gave her a look of equal seriousness. "I intend to."

As the team entered the wormhole, Teyla wondered if they had ever admitted that there was something more to their relationship than colleagues, or even very good friends. She couldn't quite identify it, and she wouldn't go so far as to call it love, but the dynamics between them were not easily concealed. Many people highly respected Elizabeth and John. They couldn't bring themselves to gossip about their supposed relationship.

That didn't prevent them from wondering.

As they stepped out, the sky was blue and the grass was green. It appeared the same as any other that they had encountered in the time that the Expedition had been in the Pegasus Galaxy, including the same nervous tension that they would feel as they stepped through.

Sheppard quickly turned and glanced at Teyla. "Are your spidey senses tingling?" he asked, throwing a sideways glare at McKay.

As the scientist mockingly muttered under his breath, Teyla closed her eyes and concentrated. Her unique gift for sensing the Wraith had been very helpful on missions, even if it didn't detect anything until the last minute. It had deemed her a valuable asset, and though some might want to take advantage of it, she was content knowing that her gift could save lives.

She slowly exhaled and opened her eyes. "I do not sense anything."

John turned his head, smiling sarcastically at McKay. "Satisfied?"

"I suppose," McKay grumbled, raising his weapon in front of him.

A well worn path lead away from the Stargate through a dense forest, but it seemed that the natives had carefully cut down any trees that would impede a traveler. She also noticed wooden stakes in the ground along the path, approximately her height, with a glass covered wick at the top. "This road is well traveled, both day and night," she mentioned, inclining her head to the candle holders.

"Maybe they have a lot of visitors," Ronan suggested dully as they cautiously continued.

Teyla shook her head. "If they were traders, it would be sensible for them to be located near the 'Gate."

"I think they’re the ones doing the traveling," John proposed.

Teyla stopped walking as the team noticed that Sheppard was a few paces behind them. Thy turned around and followed his outstretched arm to the tract of land on the other side of the Stargate.

Tall plants were sprouting in carefully seeded rows. From this distance, Teyla couldn't recognize the plant, but the technique was obvious to everybody. The farming industry was alive and well.

Ronan patted McKay's shoulder. "Guess they're still here."

Rodney yelped in surprise and Teyla smiled at them. "The village shouldn't be too far."

"All right, let's get going. I wanna be home for dinner," John said, leading the team further down the path.

They wound through the forest, eventually coming to an opening with a small hut visible in the distance.

"That the village?" John asked, motioning forward with the muzzle of his gun.

"I would assume so," Teyla replied, eyes glancing around for any sign of the natives.

Three figures came around the corner, holding empty baskets. As they drew closer, the two men glanced furtively at the woman walking with them. Teyla raised an eyebrow at this as the team lowered their weapons.

"Hi," John greeted in his usual, casual manner.

They stared back. The younger man appeared to be around twenty years of age, with tanned skin and fair colored hair hidden under a cap. He nudged the grey headed man standing next to him, but his eyes spoke instead of his lips. His face showed confusion and apprehension. It almost made Teyla turn around and see if they were being followed.

"Do you live around here?" John asked, trying to get them to open up.

"How dare you let the man speak for you," the woman sudden spat, her eyes sending a glare in Teyla's direction. "Are you incapable of doing so yourself?"

Teyla raised her eyebrows in surprise. Apparently, they had some equality issues. "We are not from this world," she quickly replied in defense, moving to stand in front of the men.

She heard the colonel mutter, "What the hell?" and she quickly turned to face him.

"Let me handle this," she hissed at him.

The woman dropped the basket carelessly and paced around the two men standing next to her. "Even if you are not from this world, surely you should still know our customs."

"I confess I do not. My people have not traded here for quite some time," Teyla explained, straightening slightly.

"And you are?" she queried, crossing her arms.

Teyla lifted her head in pride. "I am Teyla Emmagan, daughter of Torren." As she realized that they respected the females more than the men, she thought it tactful to add, “Husband of Tagan."

The red headed woman nodded approvingly. "What world are you from?"

"Athos."

She clapped her hands together as a smile swept her frown away. Out of the corner of her eye, Teyla noticed the befuddled look on John's face.

"Your statement is correct. It has been many years since the people of Athos and Fa'tor have seen each other." She glanced briefly at the team and waved them onwards. “Come along to the village. Prime Minister Tharon will most certainly want to meet with you.”

“Does that include all of us?” John asked innocently, sticking his head to the side and giving the woman a pointed look.

She sighed patiently and chuckled. “Yes, that means all of you. I apologize for my behavior. Many travelers are aware of our matriarchal society. I forget that we are not acquainted with all the peoples of our galaxy. I am Yelira,” she quickly added after a moment. Gesturing to the two men next to her, she told them, “My son, Azari, and my husband, Darrin.”

John nodded at the men, then gestured to the other members of the team. “Colonel Sheppard. Doctor McKay. Ronan Dex. Pleased to meet you.”

Darrin and Azari nodded back, the anxiety disappearing from their faces. “Likewise.”

Teyla sighed in relief as the tension faded. “Which way to the village?”
Meeting the Fa'torians by ShipperWriter
As Teyla and Yelira walked ahead of the men, they began to talk quietly amongst themselves. Her son and husband had picked up the basket and walked respectfully behind her, having a quiet discussion as well. John raised a curious eyebrow at this, but it faded once McKay started talking.

“So no Wraith, but the women are in charge. Just shoot me now,” he grumbled as he walked along the path, kicking at rocks with the toe of his boot.

Ronan patted his stunner. “I can do that.”

“Easy, boys,” John reprimanded in a hushed voice. “Let’s not make them think we’re any crazier than we already are.” He rolled his neck on his shoulders, feeling a slight crack as it settled.

The mood was less tense as they walked back to the village. They passed other women and John noticed how Darrin and Azari both gave them a respectful nod as they walked by.

John was actually surprised that they hadn't encountered more matriarchal societies during their time in Pegasus. When they had first met the Athosians, he operated under the assumption that the women were in charge, since Teyla was their leader. However, in the time since, it became apparent that gender wasn't an issue among them.

He thought briefly about how Elizabeth had told him about her publicized conversation with Kavanagh outside her office, and all the subsequent sexist things he had said. It was amazing how advanced humans could claim to be, and yet they could still be so primal.

He shook his head.

The pathway emptied into the middle of town. Their houses were small and simple, with glass windows and light fixtures. It was apparent that the women yielded more respect as a group of young women, dressed in long skirts and fitted blouses, stopped at the corner and motioned for an older man to come to them. He bowed slightly, then scurried away to do whatever she had just told him.

Next to him, Ronan chuckled. "I have a feeling Doctor Weir would like it here."

"What makes you say that?"

The Satedan smiled briefly. "The women are in charge."

John scoffed and stopped walking, turning to look at Ronan. “Just because Doctor Weir’s in charge of the Expedition doesn’t mean that she’s a controlling, domineering woman.”

“I know,” Ronan replied immediately, raising his hands. “I just meant they’d have something in common.”

John blinked behind his aviators, and Ronan shot him a knowing look.

As the Satedan walked on with McKay and Teyla, John stopped himself. Had he really just jumped to Elizabeth’s defense that quickly? He was loyal to her; anyone who knew him a little was aware of that, but for some reason it continued gnawing at him as he caught up to the others. During Woolsey’s interviews with them months ago, he had told Elizabeth about how the IOA representative had questioned him so intensely about her decisions, causing that little comment that still brought a chuckle to him every time he thought about it. Certainly, Elizabeth could hold her own. She didn’t need someone to defend her honor for her.

But he didn’t mind doing so.

They followed Yelira through the center of town, eventually coming to a stop in front of a large ornate building with heavy looking iron doors. She knocked, and they slowly opened as a man’s face became visible through the crack.

“I have visitors from off world. I request an audience with Tharon,” she ordered mildly.

The man nodded and opened the doors. The grating squeaking of the hinges made John wince and wish he had a small canister of WD-40 tucked in his vest. He took off his sunglasses, stuck them in a pocket, and followed the group in, keeping a relaxed grip on his P-90.

The massive doors closed behind them and they walked down the long corridor. Elegant drapes hung down the sides of the windows, and multiple tapestries covered over the stone walls of the room. The ceiling, about fifteen feet above their heads, was decorated in a similar fashion, and in the middle of the grey ceiling there was a large metal candle holder. A thick rope kept it anchored, and looked as though it could be easily unwound to lower it to arms length.

The room was looking more and more like a banquet hall from “The Princess Bride”. It made him smirk.

At the end of the room, another set of doors swung open. Darrin and Azari respectfully stood to the side and allowed them to walk through.

Teyla followed closely behind Yelira. The next room looked more like an office than a throne room. A blonde headed woman sat at a desk with a scroll of paper opened in front of her, consulting a device on her right side as the rudimentary pen scribbled on.

“Prime Minister,” Yelira greeted, causing the woman to look up. Her stern features of concentration were soon replaced with relief. John recognized the expression from Elizabeth’s face; he saw it all too often.

“Yelira!” she responded, standing from her desk and walking around, reaching her arms out and clasping her forearms. Yelira did the same, then pulled her hands back and nodded to the team. “We have guests.”

“So I see,” the prime minister responded. “I am Tharon. It is a pleasure to meet you all.”

John cleared his throat, causing Teyla to turn around and pin him with a scolding look which he ignored. “I’m Colonel Sheppard. This is my team. Teyla, Doctor McKay, and Ronan Dex.”

To his surprise, Tharon didn’t reprimand him. Instead, she looked curiously at him, tilting her head to the side. “You are not from this galaxy,” she discerned as her eyes looked over their uniforms.

“I am from Athos,” Teyla replied. “Ronan is Satedan. Doctor McKay and Colonel Sheppard come from a planet in another galaxy,” she confirmed.

“Hmm. And I take it that gender is not a a significant issue among your people, Colonel?” Tharon asked, her bright brown eyes shining in genuine curiosity.

John shook his head. “Not as much as it used to be. No.”

Tharon nodded in approval and turned her attention back to Yelira. “Thank you for bringing them here, Yelira. If you would do me the honor of having afternoon tea with me?”

“I would be delighted,” Yelira agreed, nodding her head in respect -- not just to Tharon, but to the team as well. “Good day,” she said in farewell, then walked out the doors that they had just come through moments earlier, picking up the basket that her husband held out for her.

As the smaller iron doors closed, Tharon let out a sigh and pinched the bridge of her nose. “That went well.”

Teyla exchanged a confused look with John. “You assumed it wouldn’t?” the Athosian asked.

The prime minister sighed, walking around her desk. “Yelira is a strong advocate of the matriarchal system in place here in Fa’tor. It has given her a certain amount of condescension towards any male. Even in her own family.”

John shrugged. “Yeah, we noticed when we got here.”

Tharon gestured to the seats in front of her desk as she took her own. “Please, have a seat.”

There were only two seats. Rodney tried to make a beeline for one but Ronan held out his arm and blocked his path. John and Teyla sat down as Tharon poured a cup of tea. “Where are you from?” she asked.

John glanced at Teyla. “We’re originally from a planet called Earth, but we keep a base of operations in Atlantis.”

“The City of the Ancestors?” Tharon asked in clarification as she added a small brown block to her tea.

John hoped it was sugar and gulped as he nodded. “Yep.”

“And what brought you here from your homeworld?”

“We’re explorers,” John began as he gave the standard nondescript briefing for the Pegasus locals.

She nodded and asked a few questions, and after five minutes she leaned back in her seat. Her eyebrows went up in amusement as she sipped her tea. “You wish to trade, do you not?”

“That is one of our goals, yes,” Teyla answered, picking up the glass that Tharon had previously offered to her. John respectfully declined. He couldn’t get past the strong smell that left him wanting to vomit ever so slightly.

“Compared to all the native inhabitants of these worlds, we don’t have as many friends. We appreciate having allies,” John added, leaning back in his chair.

Tharon nodded in agreement. “I believe one can never have too many allies.”

“Do the Wraith ever come here?” Rodney suddenly piped up.

John wanted to turn around and shoot him a look, but Tharon quickly responded. “Not in many years. Our last culling occurred before my birth. We still keep our guard up, and we have emergency shelters located underground in various parts of our nation, but we have not had a use for them in some time now.”

John nodded, making a mental note. No recent Wraith activity. Good place to evacuate to if the need arises.

“We noticed a field behind the Stargate when we came through,” Teyla mentioned. “I remember my parents saying that the Fa’torians were skilled farmers. I see that is still true.”

Tharon grinned. “Everyone shares in the work. Even I. I tend to go early in the morning and do my share of collecting espo beans.”

“You grow espo beans?” Ronan asked, the first words out of his mouth since this meeting started.

“Yes.” Tharon glanced up at him. “When was the last time you had some?”

“It’s probably been years.”

John frowned, eyes darting between them. “And espo beans are?”

“You’ve never tried them?” Tharon asked.

John shook his head. Ronan grinned.

She reached to a drawer in her desk, pulling it open and bringing a small burlap bag to the desk top. She pulled on the drawstrings, opening it, and the aroma of coffee spread through the room.

“They’re coffee beans?” John asked, reaching his hand out as Tharon poured some out of the bag. He examined them briefly. They did look just like coffee beans. He sniffed them, and he fought hard to suppress the urge to drool. The idea of having freshly ground brewed coffee in the morning, instead of the ground crap that the Daedalus brought, was almost good enough for him to agree to whatever demands she might present.

“Try one. They’re completely edible.”

He pressed his lips together, then threw three beans in his mouth.

“What else do you harvest?” Teyla asked as John chewed on the beans. The sharp flavors, the bitterness, the essence of something that tasted like hazelnut -- it all began to blend together and he felt his pulse rise. Even though it had been a while since he tasted it, the distinct taste was impossible to overlook. It was like an espresso shot, but without the barista. And he was already craving more. Damn, they were addictive.

“--egetables and several melons. We also grow several grains.”

“Excuse me for interrupting,” John said, raising a hand, “but what would I have to do to get more of these?”

Tharon grinned and leaned back in her chair. “Espo beans are in high demand.”

He didn’t see any dogs, but he gave his best puppy dog eyes.

It worked.

“Fortunately for you, we always plant more than we need. We trade them for a high value, but for our new friends, consider the first bag a gesture of goodwill.” Taking the bag that was laying on the counter, she pulled the drawstrings and closed it up again, handing the sack to John.

He grinned, reaching out to accept them.

As he began to chew on a few more, he listened in to Teyla’s conversation again. “We do not have much to offer you in comparison, but if it is agreeable, we would like to open more negotiations with you. Perhaps Doctor Weir might be best suited to take the lead.”

“And Doctor Weir is?” Tharon asked, adding another one of those quizzical brown solid cubes to it.

John answered, though his eyes were fixed on the box she withdrew the cube from. “Doctor Elizabeth Weir is the leader of our expedition. Not only is she a skilled negotiator, but she’s … well, female. Us being here might go better if she came.”

“And no doubt, Elizabeth would enjoy the opportunity to go off world, being cooped up in her office all the time,” Rodney mused, crossing his arms as he paced behind their chairs.

Tharon raised an eyebrow, both at the statement and at John’s eyes as they continued to follow the brown cubes. “She sounds like she would enjoy a reprieve from her duties. We would be more than happy to host a small contingent from your base while we work out a trade. Colonel Sheppard, is there something about the jerwo that is amusing you?”

John snapped back to attention. “No, ma’am.”

Her brown eyes twinkled at him. Liar.

“What is jerwo?” he asked, feeling his cheeks starting to redden.

Using the slender tongs, she picked up one of the brown squares and waved it in front of her.

He heard Ronan let out a snort behind him.

“Oh. That. I was just wondering … what it was made from.”

Tharon laughed. “Try it for yourself. If you like the espo beans, I have no doubt that you will like these.”

John frowned as she dropped the cube into his open palm. He glared at it suspiciously, almost expecting it to jump out of his hand. He passed it over his tongue, and the delicious bitter sweetness surprised him.

“It’s a sugar cube,” he stated in surprise, looking back up to Tharon for confirmation.

She nodded, stirring her tea. He was suddenly aware of Teyla laughing next to him as she drank more of hers.

“It’s made from cane sugar and espo beans. We commonly use it to tame down the strong, obnoxious flavor of the tea.”

“If the tea’s so disgusting, why drink it at all?” Rodney asked, ever direct.

“The tea has strong nutritional content. I’ve been drinking it my entire life, and I’ve only ever been sick twice.”

Rodney’s eyes nearly bulged out of his head. “Really?”

Teyla stood, turning to face Rodney. “Perhaps we should allow Elizabeth to come and discuss the particulars with Tharon.”

“Oh, yes, of course,” Rodney sputtered in an attempt to try and smooth things over.

Tharon nodded graciously at him. “I look forward to meeting Doctor Weir.”

John nodded, then glanced at Ronan. “We’ll head back to Atlantis and report. Shouldn’t take us too long.”

Tharon stood from her seat, and the team followed suit. “We will be serving the evening meal upon your return.”

John nodded. “Teyla, you and McKay stay here. Get to know some of the locals a bit better. McKay, you will do whatever Teyla tells you to.”

“What?!” Rodney asked incredulously. “Why me?”

“Because I said so,” Teyla replied in her most authoritative voice, glancing humorously at John as she said so.

Tharon shook her head in amusement. “You will both be our guests. And while I understand that Colonel Sheppard is in a position of authority, it will help relieve tensions if you follow and respect our beliefs while you are here.”

“So feel free to make him your pack mule,” John suggested, raising his eyebrows as he turned to go.

“Colonel Sheppard, there is one condition.”

The bemusement in her voice stopped John. As he turned around to face Tharon, the slight embarrassment in her voice worried him. “For the sake of unity between our peoples?”

John didn’t like where this was going.
On One Condition by ShipperWriter
"I'm not sure I heard you correctly, Colonel."

John flinched slightly as Elizabeth spoke, and he didn't blame her. The whole idea was too far fetched for him to have invented it himself, but just crazy enough to cause her to doubt.

"The Council only recognizes the authority of the ruler if she's married," John explained again as she leaned back in her seat, clasping her fingers behind her head. Ronan kept his distance, standing near the doorway, looking as though he was about to run out.

John desperately wanted to trade places, but he knew Ronan would kick his ass for it later.

She closed her eyes, bringing a hand back around to rub the bridge of her nose. "And the Council thinks that you're my husband."

"Tharon, the prime minister, knows that we're not actually married," he slowly explained, licking his lips nervously, "but Teyla agreed that if we appear to be happily wed, then the locals would be more accepting of us."

"So it's basically just for show," Ronan simplified, more for himself than for anybody.

John turned to glare at him. He made a mental note to punch Ronan later and looked back to Elizabeth.

Her green eyes blinked in what John swore was amusement, but she shook her head resolutely as she stood up. "Well, for the sake of keeping the peace, I don't see why we can't play along for a few days. Give me a little time to pack, and I'll meet you at the 'Gate in, thirty minutes?"

Ronan grunted, then walked out and down the stairs at the back of the control room.

John watched him leave, and slowly he pivoted back towards Elizabeth. Her eyes met his hazel eyes, and she sighed as he moved around the chair, sitting on the edge of her desk. “You okay?”

She nodded. “Yeah.” As she began shutting down her computer, she gave him a little shrug. “It just seems a little strange.”

John blinked. “The culture? Or the fake marriage?” he asked slowly.

Elizabeth sighed, crossing her arms. “A little of both,” she admitted.

He nodded in understanding. There had been a few times in the past when Elizabeth had accompanied them off world and John usually came to her rescue after some local bastard would hit on her, trying to conscript her into becoming his umpteenth wife. McKay had tried to play the part once, when John was not available, and one guy had laughed at him, pushing him out of the way.

It stunned Rodney, but the idiot who tried to grab Elizabeth had gotten the worse end of the deal. She kicked him in the groin.

Thank God he was drunk and didn’t remember it afterwards. As amusing as it would have been to see Elizabeth explaining to the village guru why she had almost prevented his brother from having children, it wouldn’t have gone over very well.

“Well,” he told her gently, standing from the desk, “from what I heard and saw in the village, I think this trade will be very beneficial for us. Just a few days.”

Her brown waves bounced as she nodded assent. Raising an eyebrow at him suspiciously, she uncrossed her arms, putting her hands on her slim hips. “Tell me more about these espo beans.”

John grinned at her. “You’re gonna love them. I swear. They’re like candy!”

Her green eyes narrowed laughingly at him. “The prospect of fresh coffee is very persuasive, but I can’t let that be the main reason why we’re trading with them. Not only that, but to not have anything of use to offer them?” she mused aloud as they walked out of her office together.

“We’ll find something. And the beans aren’t the only thing they can offer. Their planet has a large expanse of unused land, and considering that the Wraith haven’t been there in ages, I think it’s safe to say that it’s a good hiding spot if we ever needed one.”

“I have no intention of taking control of their planet without their permission, John. That would make us no better than the Europeans invading the Americas, forcing the Native Americans out of their lands.”

“And I’m not saying we kick them out! But if we maintain good relations with them,” he pointed out as they reached the end of the stairs, heading for the transporter in the corridor heading off from the ‘Gate room, “then we’d at least have an option if the possibility arises.”

Elizabeth tilted her head. “True. And we can use all the allies we can get.”

“Exactly what Tharon said,” he told her, pointing his finger in the air. “See? You’ll get along just fine. Nothing to worry about.”

They stepped in the transporter and John tapped the screen behind them, directing the lift to the location nearest Elizabeth’s quarters. “You do realize that you’ll have to … act less opinionated when we go to 936?”

“Yeah, I know,” he replied with a shrug as he crossed his arms.

She turned to face him in the lift, glaring lightly at him. “Might be a good idea to start practicing now.”

It took John by surprise, until he recognized the humor in her green eyes below the order. He smirked at her as she faced forward again. “Yes, ma’am.”

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Elizabeth walked in front of John and Ronan as the wormhole deactivated behind them. Two men were standing near the DHD, arms crossed respectfully in front of them. “Doctor Weir. Prime Minister Tharon has asked us to escort your party to her chambers.”

She nodded at them in acknowledgement, but her hastily murmured “thank you” was lost to the wind as a sudden gust blew through the pathway.

She pulled her jacket tighter, zipping it up. The men glanced worriedly at the sky. “We should hurry, ma’am. The storms are not kind to those who remain in them.”

The five of them scurried along the path as they felt the electric charge in the air. A bolt of lightning struck somewhere in the distance, and she felt someone press a hand to her lower back, both pushing and comforting. She didn’t need to look next to her to see Ronan jogging along the dirt road to know that it was John.

She wondered if this was John getting in character to play the loyal husband, or if it was his natural protective nature.

As the gusts of wind increased, both in frequency and size, they broke into a run. She yelled a question at her guides. “How often do these storms come?!”

“Perhaps twice in a lunar cycle! If we are fortunate, they come while we are asleep!” the older man yelled back, ducking his head respectfully as he spoke.

Another crack of thunder, this one much closer, sent a shudder through Elizabeth. She ran harder, John’s hand still gripping her waist, and they made it into the town square just as the sky opened and sheets of rain began to fall.

With the heavy raindrops stinging her eyes, she barely had time to take in the architecture of the town. As they reached the overhang of a large hall, Elizabeth let out a sigh and reached up, pulling the strands of wet hair away from her eyes. Next to her, John shook his head like a dog, trying to force the rain water out. He mussed with his hair, eventually leaving it in a chaotic state, and his eyes met Elizabeth’s again as the rain poured around them.

She nodded in response to the question he hadn’t asked yet, and he responded in the same manner as the guides pushed the door open.

Inside, a large table sat in the center of the room. Plates of food were being placed on the surface, and she caught sight of Rodney McKay starting to grab for food. Teyla smacked him on the arm, then looked up and grinned as she saw Elizabeth. Rising from her seat, she made her way across the room as they dropped their gear.

“We heard the storm approaching. I hoped that you wouldn’t get caught in it,” Teyla greeted as she nodded to each member of the group.

“Just a little,” Elizabeth replied with a smile.

A woman approached her from the far end of the table. Teyla held out her hands in a introductory gesture. “Prime Minister Tharon, this is Doctor Elizabeth Weir.”

Tharon extended her hand, and Elizabeth followed suit. “It’s an honor to meet you.”

“And you as well. Would you mind horribly if I were to call you ‘Elizabeth’?”

Elizabeth’s eyes widened in pleasant surprise. “Not at all!”

Tharon smiled. “Please, have a seat. Although on second thought, you may wish to change clothes before joining in the meal. I can’t imagine those heavy garments are comfortable when wet.”

“Not really,” John answered.

Elizabeth gave him a chiding glare.

He swallowed. “Ma’am.”

Tharon tilted her head at the display. “I do not particularly trouble myself with such courtesy. If you forget to address me in that manner, I will not mind it much. But in any case, thank you, Colonel.”

Elizabeth glanced quickly at her. “It seems to me that your view on your society is much laxer than others. From what I have heard.”

Tharon shrugged as a door opened at the far end of the room. “Times are changing. If the prime minister cannot keep an open mind to such developments, I have no place being here.”

A dark haired man walked up to Tharon, a warm smile on his face. “Tharon. Who are our guests?”

Teyla raised an eyebrow, which made Elizabeth do the same. Apparently his openness with the prime minister was unexpected.

She took his outstretched arms, clasping her hands around his upper arms. Elizabeth assumed this was a customary greeting.

What she didn’t really expect was for Tharon to introduce the handsome man as her husband.

And judging from the looks on the others’ faces, neither did they.
Blending In by ShipperWriter
As the storm continued outside, the rest of the team sat to eat with Tharon and her husband, Kerrak. The younger guide led John and Elizabeth through a hallway as she shook off her jacket. With all the rainwater it had absorbed, it felt like it weighed an extra ten pounds. She glanced back at John, trailing closely behind her. He still wore his leather jacket, which had helped to ward off the rain, but he appeared to be shivering every few seconds.

"Are you cold?" she asked quietly.

John shrugged as they kept walking. "A little. My head feels like an ice cube."

She repressed a smirk but still chuckled as she absentmindedly extended her hand, running it lightly over the errant strands. His dark hair was still inexplicably pointing all over, and even as her hand glided over she could feel the humid moisture rising from it.

They stopped walking. Her eyes caught John's, and as she processed the strange look that he was giving her, she pulled back. What had come over her? She couldn't remember ever petting his hair before. Did she subconsciously think that she was at liberty to do so now, given their current "married" status?

She pressed her lips together, mouthing "sorry" so their guide wouldn't hear them.

John shook his head, dismissing it, and gestured for them to continue walking.

They passed a set of windows, and they saw the rain still pouring in the square, making large puddles. Their path took them into the neighboring building, and the corridor emptied out into a large room that looked like a lobby. A few Fa’torians were walking around. Some were carrying large bags, muttering as they looked outside through the windows. A young man stood behind a desk, dispensing information and keys. Elizabeth assumed that it was their inn.

The guide led them up the stairs. The pack on her back was getting heavier with each step, and just as she stopped walking to take it off and carry it in her hand, the weight disappeared.

John held the handle on the top as she slid her arms out of the straps. She turned around to face him, to take the bag back, but he shook his head at her and motioned her up the steps. “I got it.”

She nodded her thanks and continued up the stairs.

The hallway on the second floor had six doors, three on each side. The guide stopped at the second door on the left. “This is your room, courtesy of Prime Minister Tharon,” he said, nodding respectfully at Elizabeth. “I hope it is to your liking.”

John and Elizabeth shot each other a wary glance, then realized that they would be sharing a bedroom during their stay here. She smiled in approval. “Thank you,” she murmured as the young man walked swiftly back down the hallway to the stairs.

She felt John’s eyes resting on her as he leaned against the doorway.

“What?” she asked, glancing up at him, lips quirking upwards in a smile.

He shrugged. “Nothing. Just repressing the urge to pick you up and carry you across the threshold.”

It made Elizabeth laugh. Judging from the smile that was spreading over John’s face, she assumed that was his plan.

The door opened and she heard John groan behind her.

She knew why. There was no couch. Only one bed. The only small mercy was that it wasn’t a twin.

The two windows in the room were straight across from the door. The bed was on the right side of the room, and a small sitting chair was on the left. There was a latched door next to the chair, which Elizabeth assumed led into the bathroom.

She walked in and John closed the door behind her. Dropping the bags in the bed, he removed his vest and unzipped his leather jacket. His black t-shirt was slightly damp around the collar, and he reached for the hem. The shirt was halfway over his head before he stopped.

Elizabeth had let her eyes roam eagerly over John’s well sculpted chest until he tugged the material back down. She averted her eyes as he looked up.

“Sorry,” he apologized, dropping his hands and sitting on the bed. “Kinda forgot who I was with.”

Words escaped her at that moment. Thankfully, a knock at the door rescued her from her speechlessness.

Elizabeth hurried over to the door and opened it. A young woman stood there, flowing fabric in her arms, stepping forward with a wide smile. “You must be Doctor Weir. I am Sebarin. I brought you garments for your evening meal with Prime Minister Tharon.”

Elizabeth’s eyes widened in surprise as John stood from the bed. “Oh! Thank you,” she replied, taking the garments from the red headed girl.

She nodded courteously at her, and walked back down the hallway.

As the door closed, she looked back at John and raised an eyebrow.

He shrugged good-naturedly, stuffing his hands in his pockets. “Guess it couldn’t hurt to blend in.”

-=-=-=-=-=-

John had taken his tunic and slacks into the bathroom to change, giving Elizabeth the privacy of the bedroom to change. He quickly yanked his shirt off, threw it on the floor, then held up the loose fitting shirt the Fa’torian woman had given him. It was tan, almost the same color as the shirts he had worn in the Ancients’ ascension sanctuary when he was trapped there for what felt like months. He let out a groan of distaste, but pulled the shirt over his head regardless.

There was a pair of dirt colored sandals resting inside, and they looked about his size. Deciding the boots would clash with the outfit, he knelt down and untied his boots, pulling them off along with the black socks.

He undid his pants and slid them down, pulling on the brown slacks. The material was soft, almost soothing against the skin of his legs that was accustomed to the harsh fabric of the Atlantis uniform. He smirked, then turned around and looked at himself in the mirror. His hair was still slightly damp from the storm earlier, and he grabbed a thick cloth from the counter and did his best to wring out the excess water.

The black hair would spike no matter what he did with it, but he ran his hands through it roughly. He gritted his teeth, then headed for the door. He knocked, then called out, “Elizabeth?”

“I’m dressed,” she responded as his hand went to the door knob.

He glanced down at his sandals as he walked out. “Maybe you can barter for this ma…”

The thought escaped him completely as his eyes took in Elizabeth, and he felt his heart stop for a moment. She was breathtaking, so much so that he had to force himself to inhale. She wore a short sleeved pale green dress with a loose fitting waist and a skirt that flowed down to her ankles. She wore similar black sandals, but with a slight heel. The neckline, though, completely mesmerized him. It started out as a scoop neckline, but just as it reached the middle of her chest it dipped and created a V. It might have been a plain dress for the Fa’torians, but on Elizabeth …

You’re beautiful was the first thing that John could think of. Unfortunately for him, the thought was so loud that he wasn’t sure if he had said it or succeeded at keeping it to himself.

Elizabeth smiled at him. “Does this look okay?” she asked and he sighed slightly. He hadn’t said anything -- he had just thought it over and over again in the expanse of a few seconds.

So he nodded -- perhaps a little too vigorously, he observed silently as she grinned shyly at him.

“You look very nice,” he finally replied, flashing a quick smile at her. He then turned around and motioned at his own clothes. “And how does your husband look?”

“Very handsome,” Elizabeth replied immediately, causing John to tilt his head at her.

“Thank you,” he replied, smiling again and extending an elbow to her.

She laughed as she took it, and they walked back down the hallway to the end of the stairs where the young man was standing, waiting patiently for them.

They walked back through the connecting corridor, reaching the banquet table as McKay’s voice began to rise. “Really, thirds? I couldn’t,” he insisted in a sarcastic tone that John was all too familiar with.

“McKay, leave some for us,” John chided mockingly as he and Elizabeth walked in, untangling their arms.

Ronan and Rodney both stared appreciatively at Elizabeth’s dress, and John was glad to see that he wasn’t the only one so affected by her outfit.

“Wow, Elizabeth, you look … wow,” was all that Rodney could produce as the steaming food on his plate went unnoticed.

“The coloring and style suits you, Elizabeth,” Teyla responded with a smile from her seat on the other side of the table.

Elizabeth nodded in acknowledgement, a sudden flush coloring her cheeks.

John cleared his throat. Noticing the servants out of the corner of his eye, he pulled out a seat at the end of the table where Tharon and Teyla had been sitting. As Elizabeth took a seat, she smiled up at him. “Thank you,” she said, so softly that he could barely hear it.

He nodded at her, at a loss for words at the moment, and took his seat at the other end of the table.

His eyes barely left her during the rest of the meal.
Sleeping Arrangements by ShipperWriter
While Elizabeth, Tharon, and Teyla sat at one end of the table, carrying on a conversation, the four men had spent their time at the other end, oddly silent.

Kerrak had brought over a platter of food that McKay immediately began grabbing food from.

A hand had slapped his arm, and Rodney looked up with a glare. “Low blood sugar? Hello?” he whined at Sheppard.

John’s hazel eyes narrowed, then he pulled his hand back. He knew full well that the colonel didn’t actually believe him; once they were home, Rodney figured that Elizabeth and Sheppard would give him a small lecture on off world etiquette.

Half an hour later, Ronan was picking at a mutilated piece of vegetable on his plate, and John was leaning on his elbow, nodding whenever someone would say something, but McKay could tell that most of his attention was on the other end of the banquet table.

It wasn’t like he blamed him. In fact, if he was confident that Sheppard and Ronan wouldn’t try to kill him, he would have ogled her a little longer than he did.

But considering men were second class citizens and the fact that he kept hearing Elizabeth’s mild reminders to be nice in his head, he turned his attention back to Kerrak. “So,” he said slowly, trying to think of a topic for conversation. “How long have you been married?”

Kerrak smiled faintly. “Almost seven years.”

“How did you meet?” Rodney asked, popping some berries in his mouth.

“McKay!” Sheppard exclaimed with a nudge in his arm. “Don’t interrogate him.”

Kerrak held up a hand. “It’s all right, Colonel. Actually, Tharon and I grew up together. We’ve known each other our entire lives.”

“So how did you get past the whole ‘when we get married, you’ll be the boss’ topic?” Rodney asked.

He didn’t miss the hard glare that John was throwing his direction.

Kerrak laughed. “You have to remember, gentlemen, that this is the way things have always been for us. When we were children, we played together, we made our fair share of messes. As equals. I suppose it was due to Tharon’s family, and how liberal they were. They let us spend more time together than most people would like.” He shook his head. “Nobody really had the right to tell them they shouldn’t.”

“Why was that?” Sheppard asked, leaning on his elbows.

“Tharon’s mother was the prime minister before her. She is actually the reason we wed. Tosara was ill, and the Council had already approved Tharon to become our next leader, but at the time of her mother’s remembrance, she was still unmarried. So I offered to marry her to allow her to carry out her duties. The Council agreed, Tosara as well, and then she died.”

“I thought you said Tosara had already died,” Ronan interjected.

Kerrak glanced at him. “Oh, you mean the remembrance?”

“Yeah, it sounded like she had already died,” John added.

“The remembrance is a celebration of a person’s life. Normally it is done in private by the grieving family with close friends, but seeing as how it was our prime minister, everyone wanted to be involved. It starts within a week of the person’s impending death.”

Rodney nodded as the information flew in one ear and out the other. “So the remembrance is kinda like Hospice,” he compared as he began chewing on a dried meat that tasted salty.

In an irritated tone, John instantly snapped, “No, it’s not. So you married out of convenience?”

Kerrak almost nodded, but stopped himself. “I respected her family’s legacy and had no desire to see the Fa’torian people fall into the wrong hands. I was … fond of Tharon, from our childhood, and I hoped that in time she would reciprocate.” He sent a lingering glance to the other end of the table, and his wife smiled back at him. “She did.”

“Well, that’s a lovely story,” Rodney replied, wiping his hands on his pants, glancing down the way at the women. “May I be excused now?”

“Rodney!” Elizabeth snapped at him, visibly irritated and embarrassed.

“No, it is all right,” Tharon said, causing the team to look at her in disbelief.

“Is it?” McKay asked, frowning.

“The sun set a while ago. We should retire for the night so that Elizabeth and I may be refreshed for our discussions tomorrow. Besides,” she added, tilting her head to a guide standing near the door, “you have not been shown your accommodations yet.”

Rodney grinned as they were ushered out of the room. Tharon and Elizabeth walked at the front, with Sheppard following closely behind them. Teyla and Ronan were in front of himself and Kerrak, who politely nodded at a few ladies as they exited a corridor and entered a large room.

Rodney chuckled in amusement as he looked around him.

“What do you find so funny?” Kerrak asked as they walked up the stairs.

“It never ceases to amaze me how so many worlds in this galaxy use the same interior decorators.”

The prime minister’s husband raised an eyebrow, but lowered it as Rodney’s point sunk in. “We are all descended from the same Ancestors. It would make sense that some worlds have the same viewpoint on their cultures, their clothing, their decorating decisions.”

“Yes, I suppose it would,” Rodney grumbled quietly as they reached the top of the stairs. The hallway stretched out in front of them, three doors on either side.

He noticed John and Elizabeth walking to the second door on the left. They must have come here earlier to change their clothes before the meal with their hosts. A meal, which by Rodney’s standards, left something to be desired.

Tharon gestured to the door opposite the “married couple”. “Teyla, I hope you will find this room to your liking.”

Teyla smiled at her. “Thank you. I believe I will.”

“So,” Rodney asked while snapping his fingers against the palm of his hand, “which room is mine?”

Kerrak pointed to the first one on the right. “Your room is here.”

Rodney didn’t bother to wait for an invitation. He reached for the door handle and opened it, letting himself into the room. It had a medium-sized window, with a direct view of the stables. Great. There was a chair next to said window, and on either side were --

“Two beds?” Rodney asked in confusion.

“Yes. You and Ronan will be sharing a room during your stay here.”

“But--”

“Rodney, say thank you,” Elizabeth instructed through gritted teeth.

He grumbled. “Thank you.”

Ronan nudged him in the arm. “Don’t annoy me, and I won’t kill you in your sleep.”

Rodney sighed in defeat, closing his eyes. “Easier said than done.”

-=-=-=-=-=-

Tharon and Kerrak bid them all a good night. The team did likewise, then went in their rooms, leaving John and Elizabeth standing just inside the door to the room they were expected to share for the next couple of days.

John looked over the room hurriedly as she shut the door behind them. There was no other place for him to sleep, unless he curled up in the chair or slept on the floor. Either way, his discomfort would be evident in the morning, and they didn’t want to arouse any suspicion on the part of the Fa’torian council.

Not if he wanted those espo beans, in any case.

Elizabeth turned to look at him, crossing her arms. “So. Any ideas?”

He nodded at her, placing his hands behind his back. “You take the bed. I can grab some extra blankets, sleep on the floor.”

She shook her head. “There is more than enough room on the bed for both of us to sleep … comfortably. Besides, the floors are made of stone. Even with blankets, it would be very rough.”

John conceded the point and nodded. “All right, so we’ll share the bed,” he agreed, although his voice betrayed the hesitation he felt.

Elizabeth chuckled, patting his arm. “The last time I checked, we’re mature adults. I’m sure this won’t be as big a deal as you’re making it out to be.”

Me?” he replied in mock indignation, crossing his arms against his chest while smiling at her. “What makes you think I’m overreacting?”

She cocked her head, a knowing look in her eyes. “Let’s get some sleep, okay?”

“Yeah.”

Like before, John grabbed his clothes and went into the bathroom to change. Black running pants and a faded grey t-shirt with a couple of small holes near the hem were the most comfortable -- not to mention clean -- pajamas that he had ready to go, and he was thankful for the foreknowledge that he would be sharing a bed with Elizabeth. It might have been even more embarrassing for him to go to bed wearing only a pair of boxers.

Once he was dressed, he leaned against the countertop for a few minutes as he brushed his teeth and mussed with his hair, waiting for Elizabeth to be done.

There was a knock at the door.

He opened it to Elizabeth, wearing a pink shirt and a plaid cotton pair of knee length shorts. “My turn.”

They decided to come through the door at the same time, and unfortunately for them, the door frame was much smaller than the door leading out to the hallway. Stuck wasn’t the word that John would have picked, but he was well aware of how closely their bodies were pressed together. Just one wrong move and he might not be able to get to sleep.

The fact was amplified as his eyes suddenly met her green ones, and he couldn’t summon the strength to look away. Their faces were so close. He would only have to move a few inches and his lips would be on hers and what the hell was he thinking?

He didn’t want this particular train of thought make him do something they would regret.

So he braced his hands on the doorpost above Elizabeth’s head and exhaled, sucking in what little stomach he had and she did likewise. Simultaneously, she stepped into the bathroom and he moved into the bedroom, making his way straight to the bed without turning around to look at her again.

As John took the earpiece out and laid it on the nightstand on the left side of the bed, he heard the door quietly shut behind him.

He moaned as he sat on the edge of the bed, holding his face in his hands. He was a man. And Elizabeth was a woman. Didn’t take a caveman to figure that out. And she was beautiful. Being in such close proximity to her for the next few days was going to test him. That was the main reason he tried to stay on the floor -- he wasn’t sure he could trust himself when she was curled up in bed next to her.

The door opened again and Elizabeth walked out, softly making her way to the other side of the bed. John felt the bed dip slightly as she sat down after pulling the covers down.

He wondered which ascended Ancient he had pissed off this week to bring this torture on him.

Shaking his head and forcing himself to make an effort to sleep, he blew out the candle that had been lit on the nightstand. As he pushed the covers down and slid his bare feet beneath the blanket, he laid down on the soft mattress, putting one hand under his neck and splaying the other over his abdomen.

He glanced sideways at Elizabeth. The blankets hid her feet as well, but she sat with her back against the headboard. Her green eyes looked back at him. “Well, good night, I guess.”

“Yep,” he responded as he forced his eyes away from hers, tugging the blanket up just so it ended at his waist.

Elizabeth nodded uncertainly, pressing her lips together, and leaned over to blow out the other candle. She slid under the covers, pulling them up to her chest, and turned onto her side, facing the window.

He let out a sigh. Their bodies weren’t touching, but they wouldn’t have to move that much for the sparks to fly. He inched a little closer to his edge of the bed and turned to face her.

“Good night,“ he whispered to her back.

“Night,” she whispered back, just as softly.

John stared up at the ceiling for what felt like hours before a dreamless sleep finally claimed him.
Waking Up In Fa'tor by ShipperWriter
Elizabeth was awake almost the instant that the morning light streamed through the window. Without the sound of the waves to lull her to sleep, she had laid awake for far too long, listening to John’s easy breathing while he slept. The sound eventually soothed her, closing her eyes some time during the early morning hours.

She looked towards the window on her right, where the heavy blinds parted and the Fa’torian sun harshly reminded her how short her night had been. She groaned as she buried her head into the pillow a little more. The order of the day was negotiations with Tharon. And even though she looked forward to them, as well as learning more about their culture, she had no desire to leave the sanctuary of the bed.

She heard John‘s even breathing next to her suddenly catch as he began to wake up. “Morning,” he faintly whispered, clearing his throat.

A small smile crept across her lips, though she didn’t know why. “Good morning,” she replied, turning over and laying on her back. She glanced at John shyly out of the corner of her eyes. His eyes were still shut, his hands were resting on his chest as it moved up and down, and he was smiling too.

One eye opened in her direction to confirm that it was morning, and he groaned, raising his hands to cover his face. “How’d you sleep?”

Considering I barely slept –

“Fine,” she answered with a nod, trying to convince herself. “You?”

“Good,” he replied, his voice slightly higher than normal, sounding unsure himself.

The tension between them made her stare at the ceiling nervously. They had shared a bed; it wasn’t like they just had a one night stand. They were keeping up appearances for the sake of peaceful relations. Why was this so hard?

“So, honey, what are you doing today?”

Elizabeth couldn’t help but laugh. And as she turned her head to look at him, she nodded her thanks.

John smiled back, lacing his fingers behind his head as he returned the nod.

“We’re officially beginning talks today. Tharon may ask Teyla to join us.”

“So, you girls get to chit-chat all day,” John deduced slowly, “and Ronan, McKay and I do … what?”

“Socialize with the other Fa’torians. Get to know some of them a little better.”

John raised a suggestive eyebrow, a goofy smile spreading over his face.

“That is not what I mean, John, and you know it,” she reprimanded as she fought a yawn. “Learn a little more about their history, their culture, the espo beans. Besides, the Fa’torians might be a little suspicious if my husband starts flirting with their eligible young ladies.”

John shook his head, turning over and leaning on his elbow. “You’ve got nothing to worry about, Elizabeth. I‘ve only got eyes for you.”

Elizabeth tilted her head again, and her smile faded. There was something else there, underneath his smug smile, something that she couldn’t quite put her finger on, and she began to feel the apprehension creeping back in to the bed. The sudden urge to stay right there was very strong, but not as strong as her flight reflex.

So she pushed the covers to the foot of the bed and swung her legs over the side.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Ronan glared up at the ceiling, fingering his blaster on the table next to him. McKay had been snoring all night. And since he ended up with a little extra time on his hands due to the unintentional insomnia, Ronan had spent it wondering how he could shut up the scientist once and for all.

So far, using his blaster to cut through the heavy plaster ceiling directly above McKay’s bed was at the top of the list.

He groaned and lifted his head. McKay was still asleep, flat on his stomach. A thin line of drool was visible, even from across the room. Geez.

His head landed on the pillow again with a heavy thud. He had considered leaving the room during the night and going to Teyla’s next door, preferring the hard cobblestone floor to the incessant nasal breathing. During his time as a runner, anytime he had the opportunity to sleep, he made himself sleep wherever he could. He got accustomed to laying on tree branches, inside hollowed wooden logs, on steel struts. However, McKay’s snoring was severely testing his patience.

But every time he tried to swing his legs out of the bed, he remembered the pointed glare that McKay had gotten from Weir yesterday when he came close to insulting their hosts. Although he wouldn’t admit it to anyone, Ronan had a lot of respect for her, and it wouldn’t let him do anything to interfere with her efforts. He didn’t want any of the Fa’torians to get any ideas if he snuck into Teyla’s room in the middle of the night.

So he continued listening to McKay’s snoring, simultaneously eying a pillow and wondering how long it would take to smother him.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Teyla finished dressing in the garments that the Fa’torians had provided just as a maid knocked on the door. A young, red haired girl smiled at her, telling her that breakfast was served in the inn below. She nodded her thanks and followed after her.

They descended the stairs and made their way around the stairwell. The smaller dining room was actually located behind the stairwell itself. Inside, the rest of her team was already assembled, and she cringed slightly. “I apologize. Did I oversleep?”

“No,” everyone exclaimed at once as they all looked at each other, exchanging casual glances.

Remembering that the inn was almost devoid of people, she eyed the group suspiciously. “Why do I have the feeling that I am the only one who slept soundly last night?”

Ronan glared at Rodney, who sat next to him at the table with his head propped up in his hands. “He snores,” Ronan stated with a grumble.

“Oh, I’m sorry, remind me to make a list of all my habits be -- I do not snore!” he cried out, raising his head quickly.

“Like a freight train,” John confirmed with a ghost of a smile, glancing at Elizabeth as she tried some of the tea. She hid a smirk behind her cup as Rodney glowered.

“Was it really that loud?” McKay snapped warily.

“A: previous experience. And B: you just owned up to it.” A look of triumph came over John’s face, quickly replaced by reluctance as the server placed a cup of tea in front of him.

Ronan grinned and clamped a hand on McKay’s shoulder. “I think you just got your ass handed to you.”

“Shut up.”

Teyla shook her head with a chuckle, then sat down next to Ronan, opposite Elizabeth. Despite the fact that it was only about nine o’clock in the morning, the Expedition leader was still yawning, and John looked as exhausted as she did. “How did you sleep?” Teyla asked, knowing full well that the answer would be a lie.

“Fine,” they replied in unison, aware of the server hovering near the doorway.

Teyla narrowed her eyes in disbelief, but said nothing else.

An uncomfortable silence fell over the group, leading John to stand from the table. “Ronan, McKay, what do you say we go for a walk?”

Ronan jumped up from the table before he had even finished speaking, showing his agreement.

Rodney groaned reluctantly. “Sure, why not? Maybe I can find something else I’m allergic to.”

As the scientist stood and walked out of the room, John grabbed Ronan by the arm. “Is your blaster set to stun?”

“Has been all night,” he replied, patting it and following McKay out of the room.

John looked back at Teyla and Elizabeth, licking his lips. “Well, ladies, have a wonderful morning … doing whatever it is that you’re going to be doing.”

Elizabeth nodded at him, leaning back in her chair and holding the cup of warm tea in her hands. “You too.”

John opened his mouth, looking as though he was about to say something else, then quickly closed it.

In a move that surprised Teyla, he ducked back down and pressed his lips to Elizabeth’s forehead. He whispered something that Teyla couldn’t hear. Elizabeth quickly overcame her shock and nodded in response, smiling back at him. “Behave yourselves.”

“Easier said than done,” John replied as he walked away.

Once he was out of earshot, Teyla turned to the servant. “Do you mind giving us the room?”

“Of course, ma’am,” he replied, exiting the same way and closing the doors behind him.

The instant she heard the latch, Teyla turned her eyes to Elizabeth, who was looking comatose. “What was that?” she exclaimed incredulously, quickly looking towards the doors.

Elizabeth took a deep breath, then leaned forward, placing her cup on the table. “I suppose it was my husband kissing me on the forehead to keep up appearances for the Fa’torians.”

“It wasn’t just that, Elizabeth,” Teyla disputed, crossing her arms against her chest. “Something seemed amiss when I walked in this morning. As if neither of you slept very well last night.”

“We didn’t,” Elizabeth frankly admitted. “It was hard to fall asleep without the ocean,” she explained, but she trailed off at the end, seeming as if she wanted to say something else but restrained herself.

Teyla nodded in understanding, then said what Elizabeth didn’t. “And you were sharing a bed with John.”

An absurd smile came over Elizabeth‘s face, turning her slightly red. “It shouldn’t matter, anyway! We’ve had to play this charade before, and every time it has been a success and we left with new allies. This time won’t be any different.”

“Except you can’t deny that something between you has changed,” Teyla said slowly, causing Elizabeth to sigh and drop her head. “I have noticed a difference between you and John, but I cannot explain what it is.”

“Yeah, neither can I,” Elizabeth replied, raising her head and pinching the bridge of her nose.

The sound of footsteps outside silently marked the end of their conversation, and Elizabeth seemed relieved as the doors opened and a guide stepped to the side as Tharon stepped into the room. “Elizabeth. Teyla. Good morning.”

“Good morning to you, Tharon,” Teyla replied. “I trust you are well?”

Tharon nodded her head, then ran a hand over her stomach. “Last night’s meal apparently did not sit well with me, but it is nothing to deter us. Come. The Council is looking forward to meeting you.”

Any hint of anxiety from their previous conversation had faded from Elizabeth’s face. What Teyla recognized as her tactful diplomatic face was securely fastened to her face with a reassuring smile. “By all means,” Elizabeth responded, gesturing to the doorway.

As Tharon led the way out, Teyla reached out and grasped Elizabeth’s arm. “We will have a very productive day, Elizabeth. And perhaps tonight, we may dine without the company of the men.”

Elizabeth’s lips tilted upwards in a grateful smile. “I would like that.”
Girl Talk by ShipperWriter
As the talks for the morning concluded with a lunch break, Elizabeth leaned back in her chair and stretched her arms. The espo beans were highly desirable by many people in this galaxy; besides using them on Atlantis, Elizabeth figured they would be useful for negotiating with other worlds as well.

The Fa’torian society seemed to be prospering, and Elizabeth was regretting that they didn’t have anything more substantial to offer them. The Fa’torian Council, however, was very pleased to have such a new, strong ally that they didn’t seem too upset in that regard.

It had surprised her and Teyla, however, when one of the council members, a petite older woman named Cynara, had asked about the possibility of defensive training for their people. Even Tharon was taken aback, but the all too common reason of “just in case” seemed to persuade her. Elizabeth had jotted down a note about putting Teyla in charge of that. She regularly sparred and trained with many on Atlantis, civilian and military alike. She was sure that no one would object to that suggestion.

She ran her hands over her pants for the day. They were made out of the same material that John had asked about bartering for, and she quickly wrote down his idea below the training note. Her outfit for the day consisted of a pastel pink shirt that wrapped around under her breasts, making her look even slimmer than she already was, and the pair of beige pants that she wanted to sleep in.

Next to her, Teyla glanced out the window and smiled. “I think I will take a walk during our intermission. Elizabeth, would you care to join me?”

She thought for a moment, then shook her head. “No, you go ahead. I probably should eat something, or Carson will be on my case as soon as I get home.”

Teyla nodded. “Very well.”

As Teyla passed Tharon, the prime minister walked around the table and took the seat that the Athosian woman had just vacated. “Are you feeling well?”

“Hmm? Oh, yes, I’m fine,” Elizabeth responded with what she hoped was a convincing smile.

Tharon gave her a knowing look. “Lies do not become you, Elizabeth.”

She sighed. “No, I suppose they don’t.”

Tharon glanced up at the guards near the door and shooed them out of the room with her hand. “All right. It’s just us. What’s wrong?”

Elizabeth took a breath and spoke about what she had discussed with Teyla over breakfast. As she reiterated the nervous tension between her and John, she was amazed at how comfortable she felt with Tharon, considering how short of a time they had been acquainted.

When she finished, the Fa’torian leaned back in her seat, crossing her arms.

“It seems to me that you care for Colonel Sheppard more than you let on.”

“I have a great deal of respect for him,“ Elizabeth replied defensively. “We work very well together. And yes, John and I are very good friends. I would almost go so far to say that he is my best friend.”

“But how do you feel?” Tharon emphasized, leaning forward in her chair towards Elizabeth.

Elizabeth frowned. “What are you trying to say?”

Tharon raised her hands. “Don’t misconstrue my advice for meddling, but given how close you are, and how much you trust and respect him, I am surprised that your relationship is purely platonic.”

Elizabeth sighed. “Even if I did have a romantic interest in John, and I’m not saying that I do,” she said quickly, “there are rules in place from our government that would prevent us from having an intimate relationship. Technically speaking, I am his superior. The chain of command--”

Tharon interrupted. “I understand. But denying that you have any feelings for him might be worse. What’s the harm in admitting that you do care for him, but acknowledging that you’re not in a position to do anything about it?”

Elizabeth buried her face in her hands. “Oh, if only it were that simple,” she whispered, letting her guard down.

Tharon placed a hand on her shoulder, causing her to look up.

“I understand what you’re going through, although now may not be the time to explain it,” she replied, glancing at the table of food waiting for them. “And I know how being forced to be so close will be difficult for you right now, but in the long run, I think that both our worlds will benefit from it.”

Elizabeth raised her head, clearing her throat, and quickly her neutral façade fell into place with a curt smile. “I agree.”

Yet as she and Tharon made their way over to grab some food for lunch, the thought of a relationship between her and John still stayed in the back of her mind, distracting her for the rest of the day.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

John, Ronan, and Rodney had spent the morning with Kerrak as he gave them a guided tour of the town and many of the farming facilities outside the city. After John and Ronan had enjoyed way too many espo beans, McKay grumbled about all the walking and stayed in the room for the afternoon.

Kerrak politely excused himself, and John challenged Ronan to a run.

They jogged down some of the paths that Kerrak had just led them down, taking a route that wrapped around the outskirts of town near the Stargate, then crossed through the village and roughly made a figure eight.

When they finished the last lap, they took the path that led back to the center of town. The tavern and inn that they were calling their home for the next few days was on the left. Elizabeth was standing on the porch outside of the inn, staring at something off in the distance. She leaned against the wooden support post, and her slumped posture told John that she was exhausted.

“Wonder what she’s looking at?” Ronan wondered aloud as they slowed their pace, letting them catch their breath.

“I don’t know,” John replied with narrowed eyes. He glanced quickly at Ronan out of the corner of his eye. “Meet you for dinner, okay?”

Ronan grunted and headed toward the path again, breaking into a run as he left John‘s sight. It seemed he still had some pent up energy.

John stuffed his hands in his pockets and quietly walked up behind Elizabeth. The creak of the wooden floor made him cringe, but she didn’t turn around. As he softly moved to stand behind her, he directed his eyes to whatever had captivated her attention.

Personally, he didn’t think a cow was worth the amount of consideration that she seemed to be giving it.

“Whatcha looking at?” he asked quietly, startling her. It made her stand straight and turn around to face him.

Uncrossing her arms, Elizabeth shook her head. “Nothing. I guess I was just … staring off into space.”

John smiled briefly, then nodded behind her. “It sure is calm around here. No technology, no enemies. McKay must be going insane.”

Elizabeth smiled, then chuckled. “Thanks.”

He nodded in return, then tilted his head, looking worriedly at her. “Long day?” he asked.

She shrugged. “It was … interesting.”

“You’ll have to tell me about it over dinner … sweetie,” John suggested with a chuckle as he gestured to the doors leading inside.

Elizabeth smiled in return, but it faded quickly as she rushed through the doors.

Something was bothering her; it irritated him that he didn’t know what it was. Yet he shrugged it off and followed her inside.
Nightmares by ShipperWriter
A sharp clap of thunder awoke Elizabeth from her dream, forcing her to sit straight up in bed, gasping. It wasn’t a dream, she corrected herself. It was a nightmare. She wasn’t sure how, considering how long it had been, but the severe thunderstorms outside their windows must have subconsciously awoken memories from a few years before, when Kolya tried to take over Atlantis during the storm. She hadn’t slept well for days afterwards. The nightmares didn’t manifest as often as they used to, but sometimes the sound of thunder would haunt her, rendering her unable to fall asleep.

This nightmare, however, was different. Normally the events would replay like an old movie on a projector screen. But this time? Kolya held her, dragging her towards the Stargate. John was kneeling across the ‘Gate room, his P-90 trained on her? Him? She couldn’t tell. And he would always say the same things. “You’re not going anywhere.” “I will shoot you if you don’t let her go.” “I’m not aiming at her.”

But instead of sending a single bullet into Kolya’s chest, just inches away from her, John stayed motionless on the floor, staring intently at her, until she felt the familiar sensation of the wormhole as she was forced backwards through it and the thunder woke her up.

She brought her knees up to her chest, wrapping her arms around them. A quick glance to her left revealed that John was still asleep. Deviant strands of hair stood out in stark contrast to the light colored pillow cases, and his lips were ajar ever so slightly, even though he breathed through his nose while asleep. His breaths came evenly, and the thunder seemed to have no effect on him.

Then another bolt struck nearby and the room was illuminated, as if someone was shining a spotlight inside.

John’s eyes flew open, and his confusion was met by fear.

“What’s wrong? You okay?” he asked, instantly sitting up in bed and putting a hand over Elizabeth’s.

She nodded to the window. “Thunderstorms. They give me nightmares. Always have, but they got worse after … you know.”

John hung his head as he nodded. He did know; he had stayed in an uncomfortable chair in her room one night after that event to make sure she got to sleep. “Can I do anything?” he asked quietly.

“No, I’ll probably be awake for a while now, anyways,” she replied, glancing down at their hands. “You should try to get some sleep.”

John was silent for a moment. “Well, to be honest,” he finally said, tipping her chin with his finger, “It’s gonna be hard for me to get back to sleep. So I’ll stay up with you.”

“John, you don’t have to do that,” Elizabeth quickly interjected, but John’s finger flew to her fingers, shushing her before she could say anything else.

She allowed a second to admit that she loved the feel of her lips against his rough hands, but that was all. She gulped and brought her eyes up to meet his. The lightning lit up the room, and his hazel eyes seemed warm and reassuring as they stared into hers. She needed to look away, but she didn’t want to. It was ironic how safe and endangered she felt at the moment.

After another second, John pulled his hand back and rested it in his lap where the sheets had bunched up.

“So let’s talk.”

“What?”

He shrugged. “It’s obvious neither of us are going to get a lot of sleep tonight. So we might as well talk. Who knows? I might just bore you to sleep.”

Elizabeth pretended to seriously ponder that last statement, tilting her head at him. “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt.”

John smiled, then laid back down against the soft pillow again, folding his hands over his stomach.

She followed suit, but left one hand over her navel as the right hand cupped the back of her neck. “So. What do you want to talk about?”

He shrugged again. “When did you get so scared of thunderstorms?”

Elizabeth took a deep breath.

-=-=-=-=-=-

“I was eleven.”

John listened to everything going on: the quiet tones of Elizabeth’s voice, the breathing that was slowly calming, the thunder as it would become distant then suddenly strike close to the village again. He wanted to reach a hand out to her like he had when the thunder first struck and forced them awake, but he didn’t want to push his luck. She might start to think that he was just looking for an excuse to hold her hand.

Which was true.

“I had left my backpack in the trunk of my father’s car after school one day. There was a storm rolling in, but there wasn’t any thunder or lightning. Just grey clouds. Almost the instant I opened it and grabbed my bag, a bolt of lightning struck the ground 100 feet away. Scared the hell out of me so bad, I almost jumped in the trunk and closed it behind me.”

John laughed as his mind conjured up that image. For some reason, the eleven year old version of her was wearing pigtails.

Elizabeth chuckled as well. These kinds of memories were usually funny in hindsight. “Once the shock wore off, I ran in the house. I couldn’t sleep at all that night. Went and snuggled into my parents’ bed for the first time since I was a little girl.”

He softly laughed and stretched an arm over his head. Elizabeth turned her head and looked at him. “I couldn’t sleep for a week afterwards.”

“Close call like that can be pretty terrifying for an eleven year old,” John replied, shrugging it off.

“I meant the storm.”

John turned his head to the right and met Elizabeth’s gaze. Even though almost two years had passed, the desperation look that she had given him right before Kolya tried to drag her through the Stargate was similar to the look on her face right now. The memories were resurfacing, and combined with the weather tonight, there was no way that she was going back to sleep on her own.

“That night, when you stayed with me?” she whispered, reminding him. “That was the only time I could sleep. I would just lay there and stare at the ceiling, or pace around my room, or walk through the corridors where I knew no one would be. But it took me a week to finally be able to sleep again.” She wrapped her arms around herself, tightly, securely, and let out a heavy resigned sigh as she prepared to stare at the ceiling for the rest of the night.

At that moment, John made a decision. They could deal with the consequences tomorrow.

“C’mere,” he whispered, raising his left arm and starting to slide his right under her, hoping she would get the idea.

Without a word, Elizabeth rolled onto her side, scooting across the sheets and curling up against the side of his body. She settled her head on his shoulder, her arm finding its way across his chest and holding onto his waist.

His left hand pulled the sheets up around her, and he glanced quickly at the mess of wavy hair now occupying his field of vision. “You good?” he murmured.

“Yeah,” she replied breathlessly. He swore she stifled a yawn.

John started to feel the hand on his waist relax as Elizabeth drifted off to sleep. Finally, her breathing evened out, and despite the thunderstorm outside, she didn’t jolt up from the bed again that night.

He tightened the hand he had around her waist and winced. His arm was going to sleep, almost to the point where it tingled up his limb, but it wasn’t that big of a deal. If Elizabeth got some sleep tonight, a numb arm was a small price to pay.

As he started yawning, he glanced one more time out the window. A bolt of lightning illuminated the sky, and it gave birth to an idea in John’s mind. With a smirk, he finally figured out what they had to offer the Fa’torians.

Then he closed his eyes and let sleep take him.
The Calm After the Storm by ShipperWriter
The sound of the wind rustling through the village awakened Elizabeth. The worst of the storm had passed overnight, and her nightmare hadn’t recurred. Her head was still on John’s shoulder, and she blinked in groggy confusion before she remembered how he had pulled her over last night to make sure she actually got to sleep a little.

To be honest, it was the best she had slept in a long time. It was a shame she couldn’t ask Carson to prescribe the handsome man to take her to bed each night.

She silenced a chuckle at the thought, and another one at the imagined look on Carson’s face if she ever brought it up. The Ambien didn’t really help her that much anymore; she still took it, following Carson’s orders, but the medication would only last for so long until it wore off in the morning and she woke up in a sweat, panicking after yet another nightmare, another bad night of sleep.

After a while, she had just decided on less sleep. Less chance for her dreams to turn evil on her.

John’s chest rose and fell easily as he breathed. She craned her neck to see if he was still sleeping and met his hazel eyes. “Morning,” he greeted softly, a ghost of a smile crossing his face.

“Morning,” she replied, almost shyly as she laid her head against his chest again. She brushed her cheek against the fabric of the black T-shirt that he wore, wiping away a rogue tear before she spoke again. Where did that come from? “When did you--”

“Right after you did,” he answered, pulling his arms a little tighter around her.

The diplomat knew that she should have pushed away. They needed to get up soon. There was work to be done. But the woman still needed the solace. The comfort that she got from being in someone’s embrace was a feeling that she hadn’t even realized she had missed until John had pulled her to him last night. But this was temporary; they had only gotten this close due to the pretense of being married, and they wouldn’t be on M51-936 for long.

So she pressed into his side again and looked up at him.

He was staring at the ceiling, but after a blink he looked back at Elizabeth. “You okay?” he whispered.

“Better than I was,” she let herself admit while her guard was still down.

He looked at her, a worried frown covering his face. “So … every time that Atlantis has a storm like that?”

She exhaled and nodded.

Then she cleared her throat, and the eleven year old girl who was scared of thunderstorms faded. She finally pulled away from John and laid flat on the bed.

Don’t let yourself get so close, Elizabeth. When you realize how temporary this really is, it will only hurt you.

John lay still for a moment, and she anxiously wondered if maybe he misunderstood what she did. Surely, he knew as well as she did that while the overnight nearness was needed and appreciated, it was temporary. She bit her lip in consternation.

He finally stretched, letting out a low groan, then let his arms drop to the covers with a thud. Then he sat up against the headboard and chuckled.

“What?”

John had a smug look on his face. “So two things got accomplished last night.”

“Oh?”

He nodded, adjusting the pillow behind him. “You got a full night of sleep, despite the storm.”

Elizabeth held up a hand, extending two fingers. “And the second?”

He chuckled. “I know what we can do for the Fa’torians that would make this a beneficial trade.”

Her eyes widened. “Really? And what’s that?”

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

The team had assembled for breakfast again that morning. Tharon had come in the room, but she quickly excused herself, causing everyone to look at her with concern. Kerrak’s eyes widened, and he made a move to stand and go after her, but he stopped as John and Elizabeth walked in.

The Lantean leader’s eyes followed after Tharon, and then she turned around. “Is Tharon all right?”

Kerrak shook his head helplessly. “I do not know. She just … left.”

Elizabeth nodded, though judging by the look on her face, she wasn’t completely at ease.

John sat Elizabeth down at the breakfast table, then took the chair next to her. Since the room was clear of guards, John spoke freely. “We have a proposition for you. Something that will make this trade much more beneficial to you than us.”

Kerrak leaned forward, obviously interested. “Go on.”

“In the short time since we’ve been on Fa’tor, we’ve experienced two severe thunderstorms. I was told by the guides who escorted us from the Stargate that they happened twice a month, perhaps.” Elizabeth leaned forward, matching Kerrak’s position. “I imagine the unexpected storms cause quite a mess with your agricultural work.”

“They do,” Kerrak confirmed. “We try to put as much into storage houses as we can in preparation, but sometimes we are caught off guard.”

Elizabeth nodded in understanding. “We have a technology that allows us to conduct digital long range scans. It was actually instrumental in helping Atlantis when a massive tropical storm hit our city a few years ago.”

John’s eyes darted over to Elizabeth, but she didn’t even blink. Her stance was formal yet sincere, and she didn’t betray any of the anxiety that had been so overpowering last night. Her façade was startling and amazing. It made her one of the most treasured members of the Expedition.

He had to make it a point to start reminding her of that.

“Can this technology be brought to Fa’tor? It sounds as if it is integrated into the city,” Kerrak wondered.

“It is,” Elizabeth responded, “but we can set up a network of satellites in orbit above your planet. They can send visuals from space, and also take radar readings to let you know of impending storms.” She reached for a cup of the strong tea and smiled. “It would save you time and energy, and help your people to prepare better.”

“Especially since the number of storms seems to be picking up,” John casually threw in, with a shrug.

Kerrak nodded and leaned back, his hands against his lips in a prayerful gesture. “It seems like it would be very useful for our people. Would the delivery be a burden for you?”

“No,” John replied, glancing sideways at McKay, who returned the look with a scowl.

“Yes, of course, just assume that I can do anything,” he griped under his breath.

“Rodney,” Elizabeth softly replied, much like a mother trying to appease a five year old.

John snorted.

McKay shot another glare at him, then sighed. “I suppose I can radio Zelenka, have him rig something up. Of course, it would proceed faster with my help.”

“Then by all means,” Tharon replied as she entered the room, “feel free to help!”

Kerrak stood, and the others followed suit.

She bit her lip as she made her way over to the table and grasped her husband’s arms. “Are you well?”

Tharon nodded immediately, smiling in reassurance. “I am fine. The storms have me on edge, as I’m sure is the case with most of our people. This device sounds almost too good to be true.” She gave the team an appreciative yet rueful smile. “I’m not sure that espo beans and fabric are sufficient on our end of this exchange.”

“Believe me, this has been a very fruitful experience,” John said, causing Elizabeth’s head to rise. The glint in her eyes told John that she understood the connotation, and her lips tilted upwards for only a second before returning to the business at hand.

“We are more than happy to help,” Elizabeth replied as she stood from the table. “Do you think the rest of the Council would be open to this idea?”

Tharon nodded and rose from her seat as well. “I believe they would. But there is only one way to find out.” She nodded curtly at the young woman standing outside the door, who promptly came in.

“Yes, Prime Minister?” she asked.

“Dr. McKay will be returning to Atlantis. Please have a guide escort him to the Stargate. And notify the Council. Our meeting will start shortly.”

“Yes, Prime Minister,” she murmured as she left the room, hurrying about her duties.

The others stood, and while Tharon and Kerrak talked quietly, John nudged Elizabeth with his elbow. “So, what’s your husband supposed to do today?”

She cocked her head to the side in mock consternation. “I don’t know. Do the laundry, clean the bathroom?” she replied with a chuckle.

John smiled, then looked back at Ronan and Teyla as the Athosian spoke. “Or you can be my servants for the day.”

Ronan rolled his eyes. John bit his lip. “I’m gonna say no,” he said quickly.

“Elizabeth? We’re ready.”

He heard her reply, “I’ll be right there,” and then John felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned to find Elizabeth looking at him. He couldn’t put words to the look that she was giving him, just like he couldn’t describe the way that he was feeling right now. After spending the night in each other’s arms – granted, due to a storm – how were they supposed to say goodbye? He had a very strong desire to kiss her on the forehead, like he had done yesterday when he and Ronan had left.

But after how close they felt last night, a simple peck on the forehead didn’t seem enough.

He glanced over her shoulder and saw Kerrak and Tharon walking out through the double doors, with Teyla and Ronan following.

“John…” Her voice almost sounded pleading, and it broke him.

He gently cupped her face and kissed her.

On the lips.

It lasted only a second. When he pulled back and softly rubbed her cheeks with his thumbs, he half expected her eyes to be wide open in shock.

But judging from the contented sigh that she exhaled, it seemed that she wanted it as much as he did.

“Have a good day,” he whispered, a small grin starting to break out.

She returned it, her green eyes looking brighter than before. “Be safe.”

John pulled his hands back and walked out of the room before his body took control again and made him stay.
A Walk In the Woods by ShipperWriter
As John rejoined their group on the porch outside the inn, Teyla cast a suspicious glance at him. “Is everything all right?” she asked him, raising an eyebrow.

“Yeah. Fine.”

Ronan grunted. “So, you up for a run?” he asked them.

Teyla glanced at the crème colored dress that just came past her knees. She looked up sorrowfully at them. “Normally, I would not mind exercise, even in a skirt, but I have no desire to offend our hosts by soiling their handiwork.”

Ronan didn’t seem too upset about it. He shifted his attention to John. “What about you, Sheppard?”

He gritted his teeth. “Maybe later. I didn’t sleep a lot last night, with the storm, you know.”

Teyla could see through his excuse, and she half expected Ronan to say something. But the Satedan just shrugged. “Your decision.” And then he took off on a run, leaving John and Teyla on the porch.

John ran a hand through his hair, and she was about to call him out when he suddenly suggested, “How about a walk?”

She smiled. “That would be nice.”

They took the path that led back to the Stargate and continued walking past it, making their way along the outside edges of the tracts of land that some of the men and children were harvesting. A light breeze blew the scent of espo beans their way, and she inhaled deeply.

“It’s a shame these people never learned how to make coffee,” John mentioned nonchalantly.

“Yet another bad habit that you could teach the people of this galaxy,” Teyla mocked.

It made him smile as he looked at the ground, watching the path. “I’m telling you, it’s a tragedy that Pegasus has nothing like football. And since we’re supposed to share knowledge, I feel it’s my responsibility to teach people about football.”

“A game where heavily armored players attempt to tackle each other while carrying a ball, made from a skinned animal, from one end of a field to another?” She cast a disapproving look at him. “I think they will manage to survive without knowledge of that particular game.”

He scoffed playfully. “You never know. Maybe they’ll make their own version of it. And name it after me.”

Teyla appeased him with a snort, which she tried to cover by clearing her throat.

The conversation quieted after that. They made a few remarks about the crops and the locale as they continued walking. Teyla was still mulling over her suspicions from earlier, and was waiting for the right time to bring it up, when John interrupted her thoughts. “Something on your mind, Teyla?” he asked as he plucked a long stalk of wheat from its sheath on the ground and began chewing on it.

She shook her head slightly. “Nothing of importance.”

“But, you are thinking about something?” he pried.

Teyla smiled and crossed her arms. “Something,” she repeated in a soft tone.

John nodded and seemed content with her another for five seconds, and then he started again. “So you gonna tell me what is it, or do I have to play twenty questions?”

She laughed. “No. To both.”

The path reached a stream about ten feet wide, with stones strategically placed to allow people to pass over. Instead of continuing, Teyla sat down on the green grass of the riverbank, allowing her eyes to close as the palliative sounds of rushing water soothed her and her mind began to wander. Perhaps she had jumped to a conclusion too quickly. She considered herself a perceptive person, but maybe –

“I kissed Elizabeth.”

Teyla thought she had imagined him saying that, but as he sat down next to her and drew his knees up, he slumped and looked at her. “Is that what you were thinking about?” he asked, almost embarrassed.

“I had my suspicions,” she slowly admitted, and he hung his head with a sigh. “Do you wish you hadn’t done so?”

“No,” he replied immediately, bringing his eyes back up to look at her. “And that’s what makes it worse. I didn’t kiss her just under pretense of being married. I kissed her because I wanted to.”

Teyla slowly nodded. “Do you care for Elizabeth?”

“Of course I do!” he replied immediately, and then added, “Just like any other member of the Expedition.”

“But Elizabeth isn’t just ‘any other member of the Expedition’. Is she?”

John groaned. “No,” he quietly admitted. “Elizabeth has believed in me since day one, when my superiors wouldn’t even have wasted a spare moment to think about me. And yeah, at first we butted heads, but things have worked out. We make a great team. I have more respect for her than … well, almost anybody else I’ve ever met.” His hazel eyes met Teyla’s again, and he sighed in hesitation. “But I can’t help the way I feel.”

“And being forced to act as if you’re married certainly doesn’t allow you to inhibit those feelings,” Teyla realized aloud. “So you feel that you’re allowed to be close while you’re here, because you know it goes back to the way it was when we return to Atlantis.”

“Business as usual,” he confirmed. He ran a hand through his hair again and chuckled cynically. “This is so screwed up.”

“Indeed,” Teyla quietly agreed.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

The Council had been more than happy to accept Elizabeth’s offer of a radar system to help warn them against further storms. There had been more than one member sitting who had dark circles under their eyes, where there had been none yesterday. The sudden and unpredictable weather had rattled enough people that there wasn’t even a debate raised as to the intentions of the Lanteans, which sometimes seemed to be a common thread with off world negotiations.

The meeting ran through lunch but concluded early, and everyone left with the exception of Tharon and Elizabeth.

“That was short,” Elizabeth remarked once the doors shut behind the last council member.

“Well, there are a number of preparations that need attention for tonight,” Tharon replied, slightly distracted by a paper in front of her.

Elizabeth raised an eyebrow. “What’s happening tonight?”

Tharon looked up and bit her lip in embarrassment. “I’m sorry, I thought you knew about the dance tonight.”

She gaped for a minute, then shut her mouth and shook her head. “No, I had no idea.”

“Oh. My apologies again. We have a gathering the first full moon after the spring harvest. It’s been a tradition for a few generations. Mostly, it provides an opportunity for the people to take a break from daily life and socialize together, and of course, dance,” she replied with a chuckle. “Having you here will make this an especially delightful event.”

Elizabeth nodded. “I will make sure that the rest of the team knows, and they will be happy to attend.” The image of Ronan dancing almost made her laugh, but she held it in as she asked, “Are there any specific customs that we should be aware of, in light of the dance?”

Tharon shook her head. “Nothing particular. Most of the dances are done in groups, and rather easy to watch and learn. One custom, however, in keeping with our culture? The males must be asked to dance, and if they’re married they can only dance with their wife. The bachelors don’t have a choice in the matter.”

“There is a similar tradition on Earth, called a ‘Sadie Hawkins’ dance. The women would do the asking, instead of the men.”

Tharon tilted her head in thought. “Sometimes I wonder how our culture came to be this way. It seems that many, if not most, of the other worlds we trade with are like yours. The men have a higher standing.”

“Much has changed on Earth, just in this last century, in regards to women’s rights,” Elizabeth explained. “But even so, it’s still hard to erase years of gender discrimination.”

The Fa’torian nodded, then brought her eyes up and met Elizabeth’s with a look of determination and contemplation. “I wonder just how hard.”

As the two women left the room, Elizabeth wondered about Tharon. For a culture that had greeted the team with such disdain towards the men, she was surprised to find that their leader was so open-minded. In public, she kept up appearances and held herself in higher regard than the men; in private or with the team, she treated her husband as an equal, almost showing deference to him on more than one occasion. She seemed very curious about how men and women had achieved equal status on other worlds, including Earth.

And from her last comment, Elizabeth got the feeling that Tharon wanted things to change.

But the thought went to the back of her mind as John and Teyla walked into the lobby. They noticed her and walked up to her. Teyla was smiling, but there was a look on John’s face that she couldn’t name.

Not being able to read people’s faces was getting annoying. And given the kiss she had gotten from him in the morning, this worried her even more. She wasn’t planning on bringing it up, but she hoped the next few minutes wouldn’t be startlingly uncomfortable.

Elizabeth nodded at them in greeting, then clasped her hands together in front of her. “So Tharon just told me that there is a celebration happening tonight.”

A look of understanding came over Teyla’s face. “That would explain the lights that are being installed in the square.”

“They kinda look like Chinese lanterns,” John added. “What’s the celebration for?”

“It’s a dance, actually,” Elizabeth clarified, and John’s face reddened. She couldn’t help but laugh. “Don’t worry, John. From what Tharon has told me, the only way you’ll be dancing tonight is if I ask you.”

The news didn’t have its desired effect of calming him. If anything, John’s face became more flushed. She really could’ve kicked herself. Here she was, worried about him making the situation tense, and she did it herself.

Way to go, Elizabeth.

She and Teyla both stared at him, seriously worried, although Teyla didn’t seem as anxious. He finally cracked a smile, and she held in a sigh of relief. “I don’t think showing my two left feet is the way to start a relationship with these people. I’m liable to trip and fall and hurt someone. And knowing my luck, it’ll be that lady who met us the first day.” He scoffed. “Then we’ll never get out of here alive.”

Elizabeth relaxed. “Don’t worry. I’m sure you’ll be fine. And just to be on the safe side,” she promised conspiratorially, “we’ll keep the dancing to a minimum.” She extended her hand towards him, and he accepted it.

“Deal.”
When the Crap Hits the Fan by ShipperWriter
Ronan stared blankly into the mirror as he finished dressing in the garments that the Fa’torians had provided. He looked like something out of a bad horror movie that he and Sheppard had watched one time. Yeah, he understood the whole “putting our best foot forward” notion, but this?

He had to draw a line somewhere.

There was a light tap on the door. He knew McKay wouldn’t bother knocking if he had still been here, and Sheppard and Weir were still getting ready. “It’s open, Teyla,” he replied, crossing his arms.

She opened the door quietly and chuckled as she closed it. “Those clothes are very becoming on you, Ronan.”

He snorted, turning to look at her. “Yeah, I don’t think so. These clothes make me look like…” He trailed off, not being able to think of a good comparison.

Teyla thought of one for him. “Like a man?” she asked, walking up to his side.

Ronan sighed, then grunted. “I haven’t worn clothes like these in a long time,” he admitted, turning back to stare at the reflection in the mirror that he hadn’t seen in years.

“They remind you of Sateda?” she asked quietly.

He barely gave her a nod. “Like I said. It was a long time ago.”

In reality, the clothes were nice. A forest green tunic was belted at the waist, with a pair of grey pants that bordered on black. He wore a vest that was open in the front, the color of Teyla’s skin. It was different from what he normally wore -- clothes left over from his days as a Runner -- and he almost admitted to himself that he liked the clothes. God knows they were a lot softer than his normal attire. But if he let himself feel comfortable while wearing them, it would only remind him more of Sateda. And what he lost.

He’d tried hard to get over that pain. The wound was almost closed. He wasn’t going to rip it open again and pour salt in it.

So he turned to face Teyla and nodded. “You look nice.”

She smiled widely at him. “Thank you. I am thankful that many cultures in our galaxy have similar taste in clothing.”

The dress she wore was similar in design to the crème colored one she had on earlier. But this one flowed to her feet, and the neckline swooped a little lower. The short sleeves of before were longer, the material flaring out but bunching together at the elbows. The coloring was a dark purple, which brought out glints of light in her eyes.

He smiled back at the woman who had become closer than a sister. “So. Got your eye on someone?”

Teyla glared at his back while he walked out of the room, a smug smile on his face.

-=-=-=-=-=-

The instant that Rodney had stepped through the ‘Gate, Evan Lorne had jogged down the stairs to meet him. “Doctor McKay. What’s our status?”

“Doctor Weir has made an agreement with the Fa’torians that, in return for some coffee beans and nice fabric -- which I could probably use for bed sheets -- umm, we’re rigging a weather radar system for them.” He tapped his earpiece, calling Zelenka to meet him in his lab.

“So they’re as nice as they seem?” Lorne asked.

“From what I’ve seen, yes. And,” McKay added emphatically, raising his index finger, “they are very good chefs.”

Lorne only smiled as he watched the astrophysicist walk away.

He headed back up to the control room. “Chuck, how’s everything looking?”

“Peaceful and quiet. For once,” Chuck mumbled under his breath with a chuckle. He then became aware of the major standing next to him with his arms crossed. “Sir,” he tacked on quickly at the end.

Evan chuckled in understanding. “In that case, I’m going to head down to the mess and get some dinner. Let me know when Dr. McKay prepares to leave.”

“Will do, Major,” Chuck replied as he spun in his chair, talking with another technician in the room as Lorne left the control room.

-=-=-=-=-=-

John was convinced the Fa’torians were evil.

In a good way, of course.

He had been laying on the bed, throwing a wadded up sock in the air and catching it, waiting for Elizabeth to finish using the shower in the bathroom. As she looked around, she had made the comment that the shower stall seemed to be big enough for two.

John had shut his eyes and sighed mercifully as Elizabeth shut the door. He waited to hear the click of a lock, but it never happened.

He knew in public that they were ignoring the kiss, seeming to pretend that it never happened. John had spent the day wondering if that feigned unawareness was going to carry over while they were in private, and it had. Which disappointed him a little.

He mentally reprimanded himself for even thinking that way.

He kept playing catch with the sock, not even noticing the water being turned off in the other room, until the door opened.

Elizabeth peeked her head out, giving him a small, embarrassed smile. “I forgot to bring my dress in with me.” Judging by the fabric covered shoulder that he could glimpse, she wasn’t naked, but his jaw still dropped in slight consternation.

He finally found his voice after a moment, amazed that he had even lost it in the first place. “You, uh, want me to grab it for you?”

She cocked her head to the side. “If you don’t mind,” she said, biting her lip.

John forced himself off the bed with a grunt, then made his way over to the closet and found the dress on a hanger. He picked it up and held it out to her.

Her hand snaked out through the crack in the doorway, but instead of reaching for the hanger she grabbed his hand. She waited until he finally brought his eyes up to meet hers and quietly asked, “You okay?”

“No, I’m not,” he replied, almost harshly as the words rolled off of his tongue.

Elizabeth looked taken aback. “What is it? What’s wrong?”

“I kissed you this morning, Elizabeth,” he slowly told her. “And you kissed me back.” He wriggled his hand out of hers and hung the hanger on the doorknob. He couldn’t help but let out a sigh. “And you haven’t said anything about it. It’s like you’re pretending it never happened.”

“How can I accept that it did?” she cried out, stepping out of the bathroom, pulling the bathrobe belt tight around her waist. “John, you know as well as I do that once we go back to Atlantis, this is over.”

Without skipping a beat -- “And by this, you mean?”

Us! Once we go home, everything we feel, everything we’ve said, everything we’ve done is history. What’s the point of making things worse and exploiting the situation while we’re here?” She wrapped her arms and hugged herself. “It’s going to hurt like hell. And that’s going to be bad enough.”

“So we’re just supposed to bury everything beneath the surface and forget all of this?”

She brought her head up. Her stern face gave him the answer before her lips did. “Yes.”

John was too emotional right now, and it made him uncomfortable. His anger overtook the urge to talk about his feelings. “Fine. If that’s the way you wanna do things. But let me tell you something, Elizabeth. We’re going to this dance tonight, with our new friends, and I will dance with you and smile like a damn fool all night.“ He pointed an emphatic finger at her. “But if you think for one second that I’m going to forget this, think again.”

The bathroom door and the bedroom door slammed shut at the same time.
How to Deal by ShipperWriter
Teyla heard a door slam and opened hers to see the backside of John as he ran down the stairs. She glanced towards their bedroom door with a worried look, and stepped out of her room.

Hurriedly, she knocked at Elizabeth’s door.

“Go away!” yelled a voice that seldom yelled.

“Elizabeth, it’s Teyla.”

She heard an interior door open and the soft padding of feet over to the door. Elizabeth opened the door slightly, just enough to confirm that it was indeed Teyla and not John. She swung the door open with a groan. “Sorry, come in.”

“What happened?” Teyla asked as soon as the door was shut.

Elizabeth tied her robe tighter and stood with her hands on her hips. “John is being utterly … insane.”

Teyla raised an amused eyebrow. “And that was enough to cause you to slam your doors?”

Elizabeth sighed, and her posture slumped. “John kissed me this morning. On the lips.”

The Athosian tried her best to look shocked. “He did what?”

The other woman looked at her, gaping slightly, before shaking her head. “I‘m your friend, Teyla. Don‘t even try to lie.”

She sighed, and nodded. “John told me this morning.”

Elizabeth’s wet curls shook in consternation. “I tried to ignore it all day, and when he decided to talk about it, I told him what we both knew but didn’t want to say. That whatever happens here was going to stay here. And he acted like a love struck teenager and stormed out.”

“And yet you act completely indignant that he did such a thing.”

“Why shouldn’t I be?” Elizabeth demanded.

“It was only yesterday that he kissed you on the cheek and you admitted that you liked it. And that you do have feelings for him. So why do you admit it to me, yet deny it to yourself? And John?”

Elizabeth let out a frustrated groan as she turned around and walked to the doorway leading into the bathroom, leaning over to pick up a discarded garment on the floor. As she held it by the hanger and shook out the minor wrinkles, Teyla surmised that it must have been her dress for the party tonight.

Elizabeth glanced up at Teyla, almost in embarrassment. “It was hanging on the door when I slammed it earlier.” She held it up, looking at it with a frown, then hung it back on the door handle. “I can’t do this, Teyla.”

“Elizabeth--”

“How are we supposed to present ourselves to the Fa’torians as husband and wife when I can’t even look him in the eye without wanting to kiss him?”

That took Teyla aback.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

John had made up his mind to run around the village and get all the pent up anger of out his system until he realized that he was already wearing his clothes for the celebration tonight. As he didn’t have anything else as nice, and he didn’t want to risk having to reenter the bedroom where a woman was fuming, he walked around.

But briskly.

He was walking back towards the inn when Ronan seemed to come up alongside him from out of nowhere. “So you and Weir have a fight?”

He snorted. “What makes you say that?”

Ronan laughed. “I know the move. Husband gets mad and needs some--”

“We’re not married,” John hissed as quietly but emphatically as he could without giving away the ruse.

Ronan’s eyes darted around. “Well, you’ve sure got them fooled.”

“They’re not the only ones,” John muttered, picking up the pace and leaving Ronan behind in slight confusion.

He entered the lobby and was about to make his way up the stairs when he looked up and caught sight of the light blue dress that he had handed to Elizabeth earlier. She and Teyla were coming out of her -- their -- the room, and he bit his lip, quickly moving around the side of the stairwell so that he wouldn’t be seen.

He was planning on leaving as soon as they cleared the area, but they remained at the top of the stairs, talking quietly enough so that none of the Fa’torians mingling in the lobby could hear.

However, it was loud enough that John heard every word.

“Elizabeth, you need to tell him,” Teyla’s voice was softly urging her.

He heard a heavy recognizable sigh. “I can’t. He won’t even talk to me. You heard what happened the last time we went down this road. Believe me, I don‘t want things to end this way. I don‘t want them to end.”

John’s eyebrow arched downward in a confused frown. Either he was a stubborn ass and hadn’t heard a word that she had uttered earlier, or she was having a change of heart. He shook his head and continued listening.

“Elizabeth. The success of this mission depends largely on your status as the leader of Atlantis, which is contingent on having John as your husband. If anyone doubts, everything that you’ve worked so hard for, all the benefits for Tharon and her people, would vanish in a heartbeat.” Teyla sighed. “Is it such a bad thing if your pretense as husband and wife is strengthened by the way you really feel?”

Elizabeth let out a helpless moan, and John’s heart dropped in his chest.

It was official.

He was an ass.

As his brain took its time in processing that she felt the same way for him that he did for her, and his heart grabbed onto a little bit of hope, he heard the resignation in her voice. “I’ll be glad when this is over.”

John stealthily slid into the dining room which lay behind the staircase, circling around to appear on the other side. He cleared his throat and looked up the stairs, smiling at Elizabeth and Teyla. It was much easier, now that he knew what he did. “Good evening, ladies.”

Teyla nodded at him, a slight smile flitting across her face. “John. You look well.”

“Thanks,” he murmured as he got distracted by Elizabeth’s dress.

It had looked fairly simple as it hung on the hanger, but draped over Elizabeth’s body …

He suddenly lost his ability to speak.

It was a lighter shade of turquoise, and true to the Fa’torians’ culture, the hem ran to the floor. The neckline scooped modestly across her chest, but the sleeves were made of a transparent gauzy material. It looked as though the sleeves had been cut on the underside from the shoulder down to the wrist. Something bound the fabric at the elbows, letting it drape over her arms freely. The first word that came to John’s mind was angel.

“You’re beautiful,” he said, unashamed.

Elizabeth pressed her lips together in a bashful smile. He wasn’t sure at this point if she was just playing along or if she was betraying her emotions. At this point, he would take either.

He extended his arm and watched with a smile as Elizabeth stepped down and inserted her arm through his. She didn’t clamp her hand around his elbow as tightly as she had on previous occasions, and her eyes weren’t wrinkling. Yeah. The posturing was fake.

Which made him even more determined to see his plan through.

He was going to dance with Elizabeth, make her laugh, give her his undivided attention, do everything he could to make up for his stupidity.

And if she smiled at him, just once, it would be worth it.
To Think, Or To Feel? by ShipperWriter
Tharon glanced across the room as it began to fill up. More and more of the citizens were being escorted in. Wives walked in on their husbands’ arms, and the children followed behind them with wide smiles. The women always wore beautiful garments that they prided themselves on, and tonight was no exception. They had surpassed themselves. The thought of everyone dancing tonight made her think of the small, wispy clouds that she often saw floating in the skies above.

Someone next to her nudged her arm, distracting her. Kerrak smiled warmly at her. “Is everything all right?”

Tharon nodded, grasping the back of her chair as she stood behind it. “Yes, everything is perfect.”

“Maybe not everything,” he suggested in a hushed murmur as the delegation from Atlantis entered.

Teyla and Ronan walked in together, standing side by side, being greeted by a few of the Council members that Teyla had become acquainted with. The tall man looked as though he wanted the clothes to disappear, and keeping in mind what he was wearing when he first arrived on their planet, Tharon understood completely. It wasn’t his style, but she was appreciative that he had adopted their clothes for the occasion.

Teyla appeared not only at ease, but radiant. Her easy smile added to her natural beauty, and Tharon silently wondered that she did not yet have a mate of her own. Considering how many worlds it seemed that Atlantis had made contact with, it was even more astounding. Perhaps there were men on those worlds who fell asleep, remembering the warrior woman among the Lanteans.

Tharon couldn’t help but chuckle. It sounded like something out of a children’s book. Very childish, indeed.

But tonight was about celebrating, enjoying life. How could you if you didn’t let yourself dream once in a while?

Kerrak cleared his throat. “What do you make of that?”

Tharon narrowed her eyes in observation as she found the reason why Kerrak had suggested that not everything was ideal. John and Elizabeth had entered the hall behind Ronan and Teyla, but despite their linked arms, they seemed hostile towards each other. John’s posture was very stiff, not at all the relaxed mood she had seen when they first met. Elizabeth was no better. She smiled, but it was obviously fake. Her eyes should be laughing, too.

The prime minister sighed in worry. “They must have had a falling out.” Noticing that the unaware population was crowding in, she added for good measure, “As husbands and wives tend to do.”

Kerrak nodded, but he understood the import of her words. Dear man, he always did.

She smiled brightly. “Nothing that an evening of eating and dancing can’t cure. John, Elizabeth,” she greeted as they approached the table. She walked around the length of it and held out her arms to Elizabeth.

The Lantean leader accepted the gesture, returning it. “Tharon. The room, really, the town, everything looks so beautiful.”

“Food smells good, too,” Ronan added.

Tharon repressed a snort as Elizabeth chuckled. “Thank you for allowing us to partake.”

“Of course!” Tharon gestured to the seats next to hers and Kerrak’s. As she and Elizabeth sat, she explained, “It is the custom to celebrate life. Whatever reason we are given, we make the most of it. Especially having new allies.”

John nodded politely as he sat next to Elizabeth. “So, what kind of dancing do you do?”

“We have a wide variety. Line dances, couples, groups. And it matters little how skilled you are. Especially as some of the dances are specifically designed to make you look like a fool.”

She wished she had a way to capture the slight look of horror on John’s face.

“Without laughter, how can you enjoy life and everything that it entails? Sometimes, you need to be the child that you used to be.”

Elizabeth nodded, looking over at Teyla and Ronan. “I can’t disagree with that.”

Tharon smiled, then turned her attention to John. “So as I said. Your skills do not matter. You will laugh, and possibly fall, nonetheless.”

John nodded in resignation and sat back in the seat.

Elizabeth started to look unsettled again, but only Tharon seemed to notice. But just as she turned to quietly ask if everything was all right, a chime rang near the doorway.

It was time for the celebration to start.

So Tharon rose and took her place as the leader of her people.

While she still could.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Later that night, Elizabeth lay on her right side, facing the window, when John finally got into bed. She heard a heavy sigh, and she knew what it was for. The argument while they were getting ready for the dance had made his feelings clear, without any trace of confusion. Deceiving people was not a normal part of his personality, but his performance tonight as the doting, attentive, loyal, submissive husband had been Oscar worthy. He had taken her out on the floor and danced with her, and his attempts at dancing even made her laugh a few times. She began to enjoy herself so much that she almost forgot about the argument, and the way he felt about the whole thing.

And it had hurt him. They had left the party, their arms looped, a slight delirious smile on their faces. But the instant they were in the dark shadows, the frown returned and he drew his arm back and just walked away. She was left standing under the faint light of two moons, trying desperately to rein in the tears that threatened to fall.

Because as much as she didn't want to admit it, it had hurt her too.

She barely felt the tug on the covers as he settled the blankets over himself. Her hands folded under her head, willing herself to stay quiet, willing him to not say anything, to let her sleep in some quiet semblance of peace.

And then, in the most honest voice that she had ever heard from anyone, he whispered, "I'm sorry, Elizabeth."

It broke her.

She blinked her eyes open, repressing a sob but the tears streamed down her cheeks, falling from the edge of her face onto her hands.

"You didn't deserve that." His voice was low and hoarse, and it almost sounded as if he had been crying. But she had never seem him lose it and break down like that. She knew that she couldn’t bring him close to tears. "I got carried away and my emotions got the better of me. I wasn't thinking clearly." He cleared his throat, and the distinct sound of a sob was impossible to disguise. “And I’m sorry.”

She found herself incapable of moving, of breathing, of thinking for a long moment.

He finally opened his mouth again, but whatever he planned on saying was cut off by Elizabeth, pressing her lips fervently against his.

She didn't even realize she had done it, but in a millisecond she had turned over and laid her upper body across his, cupping his head in her slim hands, kissing him as her thumbs lightly ran over his cheeks. She kissed him, again and again and again, almost as an apology of her own. Faintly, she heard herself whisper, “I’m sorry,” and wondered if he would hear it. Or believe it, for that matter.

She pulled back for a brief moment, and she almost bit her lip in regret as she saw the expression of "what the hell" that covered John's face. It quickly vanished as he reached up, holding her face in his hands, desperately pulling her back down to him.

John accepted her kisses without any more hesitation and gave her some of his own, but when they couldn’t breath anymore and she pulled her head up, panting, he frowned at her. “What made you change your mind?”

“My entire life, I’ve been trained to do what I knew was right, what I thought was right.” She tilted her head at him and smiled. “I decided it was time to do what felt right.”

“I’ll accept that,” John replied with a chuckle, reaching up and cupping one cheek, bringing her lips back down to meet his.

They stayed like that for the longest time, until one time when Elizabeth pulled back and tried to suppress a yawn. She did so unsuccessfully, as her arms were currently busy holding her up above his body.

John just smiled at her and brushed a strand of hair behind her ear with his fingers.

“I overheard you talking to Teyla. Before the party,” he admitted, stroking her chin while she sighed.

“I thought you might have.” She bent her elbows and brought her chest down, laying it flush over John’s. She inhaled sharply. The scent of John made her want to start assaulting him with kisses again, but she held back.

“This won’t last,” John said, and Elizabeth raised her head. Her eyes widened in surprise at his admission. He shrugged at her reaction. “I know, I know. When we get back to Atlantis, it’s business as usual.”

Elizabeth nodded in understanding. It seemed that they both had accepted the reality of the situation, despite how much their hearts warred against the idea. She was getting ready to lay her head back on his chest and drift off to sleep.

Then he smirked.

“We’ll do what we know is right when we get back. But in the meantime--” He reached up and cupped her cheek again. “--let’s do what feels right.”

She didn’t even have time to voice her agreement before he brought her lips back down to his and began exploring her.
Change of Plans by ShipperWriter
John awoke with a slight headache, and inhaled sharply.

The scent of some type of berries filled his nostrils, and when he opened his eyes, the brown hair directly in front of him caused him to frown in confusion.

Pretty sure that’s not mine.

Then the soft hand wrapped in his squeezed and he heard a soft sigh as the person in front of him shifted slightly.

He blinked once, then chuckled in realization and pressed a kiss to the back of the neck that was now visible to him. “Morning,” he greeted, starting to work his way around the left side of her neck, the pale vastness opening up to him.

She turned her head with a moan, and John craned his neck as their lips finally met again.

He pulled back, and Elizabeth smiled up at him, shyly. “Good morning,” she whispered in reply, a playful smile on her lips.

John leaned down and kissed her one more time before rolling back onto his side, spooning Elizabeth as he had during the night. Their intertwined fingers rested on the small rise of her hip, and he pulled himself closer to her, breathing her in.

As the fog started to lift and the realization of last night hit him like a soft nudge in the arm, he sighed. Judging from the camisole top that Elizabeth was still wearing, and the fact he could still feel his boxers, it was safe to assume that they hadn’t actually had sex last night. He felt disappointed and relieved at the same time, and he hated himself for it. Despite his adamant disapproval of Elizabeth’s principle of “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” he couldn’t help but let his mind wander to what repercussions they would have to face when they returned to Atlantis.

An invisible hand hit him upside the head. He was laying in bed with Elizabeth, his arms wrapped securely around her. Don’t start on what’s going to happen once you get home. You’re still here. Enjoy it.

He raised an eyebrow and chuckled.

Elizabeth finally spoke again, almost reading his thoughts. “We can’t stay in here all day, John,” she chided in a light voice, yawns threatening to drown her out.

“Mm. Sure we can. The Fa’torians aren’t gonna care. They probably encourage this sort of behavior between husbands and wives.”

Elizabeth giggled. “And what about Ronan and Teyla?”

John let out a mocking groan. “Eeh. I’ll take care of them later.”

She rolled over in his arms, letting him readjust his right arm under her waist before she settled. “I foresee a few problems with that.”

The sight of Elizabeth, her hair mussed from being pressed into the pillow, the lavender nightshirt that she wore that exposed so much skin, and the sated look on her face made him forget what the conversation was about. “Yeah?” he asked absentmindedly, pressing a kiss to her collarbone.

She gasped, then cleared her throat. John apparently wasn’t going to deter her, even though he was going to try his best. “They will -- ooh -- figure out where we are, sooner or later.”

“Okay,” he drew out, trailing down her skin towards fabric that just covered her breasts.

“And when Rodney gets back, someone will tell him.” She pressed her hands against his bare chest, gently forcing him to stop.

John groaned, pulling his head up. “You had to throw that in there, didn’t you?”

She shrugged, then grinned.

He cupped her cheek and kissed her again, more forcefully this time, trying to convince her to change her mind.

But when he pulled back, Elizabeth was making a face at him that was both pleading and apologetic. “I’m supposed to meet with the Council one more time this morning. We may be finished this afternoon, if everything works out.”

John grimaced, then flopped over and lay on his back. He grunted assent, then began to study the ceiling.

Elizabeth pushed the covers down and made a move to sit up. John let his eyes roam over her back. The rise of her spine was visible as she leaned forward, and as much as he wanted to reach out and run his hand over her back for the umpteenth time, he restrained himself. They had shared last night, which was more than John honestly expected, and he didn’t want to ruin the rest of their time here with gestures which would distract Elizabeth from finishing her talks with the Fa’torian High Council, or that would hurt even more once they went home.

John. Shut the hell up.

But instead of swinging her legs over the side of the bed and standing, she turned to her left and curled up in John’s side again.

When he cocked a curious eyebrow at her, she gave him one of her own. “Five more minutes.”

“Deal,” he replied, kissing her hair and wrapping his arm under her waist again. It was probably going to be numb in a matter of minutes, but he didn’t care. Nothing could phase him at this moment.

Except for the heavy knocking on the wood door.

“Sheppard!”

John’s eyes widened in worry as Ronan’s voice carried into the room. He pulled his arms back from Elizabeth and jumped out of the bed.

He opened the door just a crack, thankful that the angle shielded the bed -- and Elizabeth -- from view. Mindful of his current lack of clothing, he hid his body behind the door. “What is it?”

Ronan turned and glanced down the hallway towards the lobby. “Something’s happening. Teyla and I were downstairs, and all of a sudden, the villagers started yelling and carrying on.”

John turned and noticed Teyla standing next to Ronan. “Any idea what is it?”

Teyla shook her head. “I do not know. But I heard a rumor from the guide downstairs that the prime minister called an early meeting of the High Council.”

By now, Elizabeth had gotten out of bed, pulled on a thin robe, and made her way to the door. She tapped John on the arm, and he opened the door a little more. “They’re having an emergency meeting?”

Teyla‘s eyes flickered quickly between them, but John had a feeing that it was more do with his current attire instead of Elizabeth’s. “That was all that I have heard. But Elizabeth? I have not seen Tharon at all. Nor did Kerrak join us for breakfast this morning.”

John and Elizabeth turned to each other, exchanging worried glances. He knew that she was thinking: what was going on that could have possibly turned the Fa’torians hostile in the past twelve hours?

She frowned in thought, then her eyes widened. John knew that she had figured it out, and wished he understood too.

“Teyla, we need to find Tharon.”

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

As Tharon paced back and forth in her office, the ramifications of her actions washed over her like a deluge of water. The thought of what she had done, what she had proposed to the Council, was making her physically ill. It shouldn’t be, but as she ran across the room to a waste basket and emptied her stomach of its breakfast, it was the only logical conclusion that she could come up with.

She reached for a cleaning cloth and used it to wipe the edges of her mouth. The feeling of nausea began to subside, and she knelt on the floor and let out a heavy sigh.

Did I do the right thing?

Regret was starting to eat away at her. She should have informed Elizabeth of her plans, but she didn’t want the Lanteans any more involved than they already were. The timing of their arrival was almost perfect. If things got out of hand, she knew that the weapons they had arrived with were still upstairs in their bedrooms.

Ronan didn’t even need a weapon, she thought with a small smile.

Just then, the door flew open and shut just as quickly.

Kerrak rushed over to her and knelt down as well. “Are you all right?” he asked in worry, eyes roaming over her.

Tharon nodded. “I’m fine, I’m fine.” She sat down, her back against the bookcase that the cloth had laid atop of earlier. “Breakfast didn’t agree with me.”

Her husband frowned, narrowing his blue eyes at her. “That’s the second time this week that your breakfast hasn’t agreed with you.”

She heard the sounds of shoes and boots shuffling on the stone ground outside her door, and she dismissed the thought with a shake of her head. “We have more important issues to deal with than my stomach. Help me up.”

The instant that she stood on her feet again, the door swung open without the usual consent.

Elizabeth and Teyla walked into her office, followed by John and Ronan who quickly shut the door behind them. Elizabeth and John appeared to have hastily gotten dressed. While he had thrown on the clothes that he had worn when he got here, his black shirt wasn’t tucked into his grey pants, and his boot laces were undone. Elizabeth was wearing the clothing offered to her by the village, but her hair was slightly disheveled, indicating that they had rushed down here in a hurry.

If Tharon had been in their place, she would have done the same.

“Tharon, is everything all right?” Teyla asked, skipping over the formal greetings that normally accompanied their meetings.

She nodded, her short blonde waves bouncing as she did so. “Yes, why do you ask?”

“We heard about your early meeting with the Council. And we heard the angry mob that gathered shortly afterwards.” Elizabeth tilted her head. “We’ve been completely honest with you about our intentions. Can we expect to have the favor returned?”

Tharon closed her eyes and sighed slowly. “I was hoping to discuss this at a later time, but it seems I am overruled.” She moved across the room to sit at her desk. “There is a matter, which I have been wanting to present to the Council for quite some time, and I thought the morning after the celebration where most of the members would have drunk far too much raa’zin would be the perfect time to put it forward.” She looked up at Elizabeth. “I was wrong,” she admitted with shame.

Elizabeth sat down opposite her, leaning forward as her face scrunched up in an worried expression that Tharon recognized all too easily. “Tharon … what did you do?”

She folded her hands on top of the desk. “I told them it was time for a change.”

“What kind of change?” John asked.

She could sense his impatience, but mostly his worry. Tharon had a feeling it had to do more with Elizabeth and not with the Fa’torians’ situation, but that was a topic for later debate.

Her eyes met Kerrak’s reassuring gaze.

“I announced my intention to relinquish my position as prime minister. To Kerrak.”

The last time she had seen such shocked faces was twenty minutes ago in the Council chambers, when she had told them the same thing.
Backup by ShipperWriter
John paced back and forth near the door, biting his lip. The crowds outside would subside for a few moments, then someone would get them all worked up again and they would start yelling. They weren’t speaking English, but he could still understand the gist of their protests.

Something along the lines of “off with their heads”.

He crossed his arms and frowned again. Elizabeth was still sitting at the desk, speaking with Tharon and discussing the best way to handle the situation. The Fa’torian Prime Minister had apologized again and again about the team being stuck in the middle of this situation, but Elizabeth had only nodded and emphasized that right now, the objective for all parties was peace.

Tharon had wholeheartedly agreed.

Kerrak had stood by her side the entire time, keeping his composure. For someone who had just been thrust into an awkward position, it surprised John to see him not at all unnerved. Maybe he was on the inside, but he didn’t let it show.

Maybe this would work out for them, after all.

Ronan was starting to get antsy, and the last thing that John wanted was for him to get out and start taking out villagers. Teyla stood near the desk, but kept glancing back towards the doorway when the cries would rise up again.

John sighed, then dropped his arms and walked over to the desk. “Do you keep any weapon caches in the village? Or anyplace nearby that is easily to get into?”

Tharon glanced hurriedly at her husband. “I do not believe so. There has been no need for weapons for many years.”

“The villagers are getting pretty worked up.” Ronan shrugged. “Wouldn’t take much for them to make something themselves.”

Kerrak raised an eyebrow worriedly at the group. “Do you foresee this becoming violent?”

“I may not speak your language, but I know an angry mob when I hear one,” John retorted, pointing a thumb over his shoulder to the securely locked door behind them. “Ronan’s right. It’s only a matter of time before they take things into their own hands and this gets worse.”

Tharon looked helpless, and John felt for her, but only for a moment. “What can we do?”

John turned and looked at Elizabeth, who raised her eyes at the same time. A flash of concern swept across her face, but she quickly discarded it. “Rodney is due back soon with the radar equipment. Perhaps he can bring an extra team with him.”

“I’m thinking three teams. With stunners.” John crossed his arms again in thought. “Mainly for crowd control.”

“Perhaps we should consider evacuating Tharon and Kerrak to Atlantis, until the mobs die down,” Teyla suggested.

No,” Tharon adamantly replied, pressing her hands flat against the desk and standing up in a rush. “These are my people, and I will deal with the consequences of this unexpected decision.”

“Tharon, with all due respect, your people sound like they’re out for blood. You just announced your intention to rewrite how many years of history for your people, and you think they’ll be placated by some reassuring words?” Elizabeth stood up and crossed her arms as well. “If you stay, your people will most likely kill you. We can offer Atlantis as a temporary asylum for you. After the crowds die down, we will be more than happy to return with you. Even send a peacekeeping force if necessary, but that will not even be an option if you decide to stay.”

Tharon looked ready to shake her head no, determined to remain in Fa’tor and ride this out, but Kerrak gently gripped her arm and turned her to face him. “Tharon. We don’t have a choice. If we stay, we will die. All of us.”

John saw a shocked look pass between them, but he had more important things to do than decipher its meaning.

He turned to Ronan and Teyla. “Do you think you can sneak out the back? Get to the ‘Gate undetected?”

Ronan smiled at him. “Not a problem,” he confidently stated.

Teyla nodded next to him. “We’ll send a message through the Stargate, requesting backup. Once it arrives, it should be safe to escort Tharon and Kerrak to Atlantis.”

John nodded at them. “All right, be careful. Radio back when you’ve made contact with Atlantis.”

They made their way to a back door that led outside, away from where the grounds were starting to gather in the main street.

Once the door shut behind them, John turned and looked at Elizabeth. “All right, we’ll wait for them to radio back. In the meantime,” he asked, directing his attention to the Fa’torian leaders, “do you have a backup plan just in case the rioters break down the door?”

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Rodney had slept on his own mattress, which was considerably more comfortable than the one that the Fa’torians had provided for him, and he groaned at the thought of having to spend another night on it. Maybe they’d get the radar installed, give the locals a crash course on how to use it, and then he could be back in his own bed for the night.

A ridiculous thought crossed his mind. The IOA had allocated money for every imaginable position that an expedition this size would need: a barber, a psychiatrist, a dentist, even a cafeteria manager. Why couldn’t they have sent along a chiropractor, or, even better, a massage therapist?

He made a mental note to ask Katie Brown about her skills in that area, but it got lost in the shuffle as Chuck yelled out from across the control room, “Unscheduled off world activation!”

Evan Lorne walked in from Weir’s office. “Any IDC yet?” he asked as the Stargate fully activated and the wormhole came to life.

Chuck pressed his lips together and was about to shake his head no when he suddenly replied, “No IDC, but we have a signal being transmitted through the ‘Gate. Audio only.”

“Let’s hear it.”

Chuck ran his fingers over the keyboard and Rodney stood and walked over.

Atlantis, this is Teyla. Please respond.”

“We read you, Teyla. What’s the situation?” Lorne responded.

There has been a development. Tharon announced to the Council early this morning that she intends on stepping down as Prime Minister, turning the position over to her husband.”

“Oh geez,” Rodney muttered.

Lorne frowned. “If I remember correctly, this is a matriarchal society, right?”

Correct. Apparently, word has spread and a number of villagers are beginning to protest. Ronan and I barely managed to avoid them en route to the ‘Gate, but we were not seen. Doctor Weir wants to bring Tharon and Kerrak back to Atlantis for safety until the crowds die down, but we are unable to get them out of the village. Colonel Sheppard requested that when Doctor McKay returns with the radar, he be accompanied by three teams armed with stunners.”

“Understood. I’ll have them ready to ship out with Doctor McKay.”

As Lorne clicked his earpiece, Rodney spoke up. “Teyla, about how many people did you spot in the village?”

I did not look closely, but I would estimate at least thirty people. I believe more will join them as word spreads.”

“And Elizabeth wants to bring Tharon and Kerrak here,” McKay stated in reiteration.

Yes,” Teyla replied in an exasperated voice.

“Doctor McKay, how much time to you need to finishing preparing the radar?” Lorne suddenly interjected.

McKay cringed slightly. “Well, actually, I delegated that assignment to Zelenka--”

“I don’t care if you delegated it to a five year old, at this point, Doctor,” Lorne snapped. “Be ready in ten minutes.”

“But -- I need--”

“Ten minutes, Doctor. That’s all you have.”

Rodney left his tablet sitting on the top of the desk and ran down the stairs.
Always by ShipperWriter
Tharon and Kerrak were sitting behind the desk, hands clasped, as they talked quietly. Elizabeth cast a look of pity their direction, then moved across the room, closer to John.

He stood by the door, listening to the crowds as they got riled up and then fell silent for a few moments. The pattern was occurring like clockwork, with no sign of letting up. It worried Elizabeth greatly; the calm society that she had only met days ago had turned, their behavior border lining on savage.

Even if she was deaf, she would’ve known about all the commotion outside just by John’s body language. Whenever the crowds would become loud and boisterous, he would tense, and his hand would instinctively go to the absent gun holster on his right thigh. As the people calmed, so did John.

She reached out and touched his arm. “Everything all right?”

He sighed, running a hand through his hair as his hazel eyes looked down. “They’re a little quieter than they were before.” He frowned, then looked up. “But not by much.”

Elizabeth crossed her arms, hugging herself. “They should’ve made it to the ‘Gate by now.” She was trying not to let herself worry about Ronan and Teyla, but as the minutes stretched on, feeling like hours, she dropped her guard and worried.

John attempted a smile, reaching out to touch her elbow. “They’re fine. Rodney probably answered the phone back home.”

She smiled, just for a second.

Then John’s radio crackled. “Colonel Sheppard, please respond,” Teyla’s voice calmly called out.

He pressed the switch. “Go ahead.”

Major Lorne is sending the teams through as we speak. Shall we discreetly return to the village?

Elizabeth nodded her head. “Tell them to hurry. It’s only a matter of time before the villagers come after them.”

John clicked his radio again and walked towards a window. “Yeah. Try to keep out of sight, and hurry up. We don’t have a lot of time.”

Understood. Teyla out.”

As the radio fell silent, John turned around and glanced at Elizabeth. To anybody that was observing, it was a brief look of reassurance. But Elizabeth saw something else, something that had always been there, hiding under the depths of his hazel eyes. It mirrored the look that she was giving him in return.

Worry. Concern. Desire, even.

Love?

She shook her head at him, breaking eye contact, and gave him a hesitant smile. “We’ll be fine,” she tried, trying to seem as optimistic as she could, given the circumstances.

John took a step towards her, slowly nodding. He lowered his voice so that only Elizabeth could hear him. “You mean them? Or us?” he quietly asked, reaching out to take her hands in his.

John.” The tone of warning she had tried to convey was nearly overshadowed by the desperation she felt. Despite the dire situation that they now found themselves in, the urge to take him by the hand and lead him to a lonely spot was almost getting the better of her.

John raised an eyebrow, then gently tugged her hands, walking backwards to the window. She helplessly followed him.

They sat down on the window seat. He ran a hand through his hair anxiously and she immediately missed the contact. “I know that, for the past couple of days, things have been … different between us,” he stated, licking his lips as was his custom when he was nervous. “And I know that, once we go back to Atlantis, things have to go back to the way they were.”

No, they don’t, was the first response that came to Elizabeth’s mind, but she quickly suppressed it as his hand covered hers again.

She was acutely aware of John‘s thumbs rubbing the tops of her hands, causing goosebumps up the length of her arms. But her eyes were on his, and she was listening to every word. “But I want you to know that, no matter what, I will always be there for you. It doesn’t matter if I’m the military commander of Atlantis, your partner, or your closest friend. Anytime that you need anything, someone to talk to, whatever it is -- I’ll come.”

I need you.

John smiled, almost embarrassed. “You know, it’s funny,” he said, looking down at their hands. “I’m not the kind of guy to talk about my feelings.”

“I’ve noticed,” Elizabeth dryly commented, the only thing she could bring herself to say without betraying herself.

He cleared his throat lightly, raising his head. “But I care about you. A lot more than I ever expected to. And I--” She thought she heard a sniffle, but convinced herself it was just a sharp breath. “And that’s how I feel. And nothing will ever change that. Do you understand?”

Elizabeth couldn’t look him in the eye anymore. Staring down at her lap until she felt John’s hand touch her cheek. “Hey,” he whispered. “Look at me.”

“I can’t.”

“Why not?” he gently pressed.

She finally got a hold of herself, but as she blinked and looked up, a tear escaped down her cheek. “Because I won’t be able to stop myself.”

The deluge began to break and she let herself start to mourn for the end of their relationship that never really even came to fruition.

John sighed. “’Lizabeth,” he whispered in empathy, pulling her to him by the shoulders and just holding her for a second.

She had more crying to do, but now was not the place or time. As she started drawing back, John cupped her cheeks and wiped the trails of tears away. “You gonna be okay?”

Timidly, she shook her head. “I don’t know.”

John dipped his head and gently kissed her. It was chaste and sweet, but mostly reassuring. “We’re gonna be okay. Trust me, all right?”

“I do.”

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Teyla and Ronan led the team through the woods that surrounded the square. They made their way to a dirt mound on the northern side of town and hid behind it. When they finally caught sight of the village again, their fears were confirmed.

“Looks like the entire town has mobbed together,” Ronan said, checking the setting on his stunner.

“Indeed. I hope that Colonel Sheppard and Doctor Weir are still safely indoors with Tharon and Kerrak.”

Ronan noticed a movement in the town square. A new group of people approached from the southern entrance, holding familiar looking devices in their arms and hands.

“Damn,” Ronan muttered, sinking down behind the dirt mound next to Teyla.

Her eyes widened. “What’s wrong?”

His eyes met hers. “They’ve got guns.”

They watched in slight horror as the villagers approached the others and began distributing the weapons freely.

Teyla reached for her radio. “Colonel Sheppard, please respond.”

Go ahead, Teyla.”

“We’ve arrived back at the village, but there’s been a development.”

What kind of development?” he asked, starting to sound a little irate.

“They’ve got guns. Handing them out to everyone gathered in the square.”

Oh crap,” was Sheppard’s immediate reply. “How the hell did they even get weapons in the first place?

His query was answered by someone in the room. Judging from the high pitched voice, it was Tharon. “The Council members knew where the weapons were stored. One of them must have told some of the villagers where to find them.”

“Colonel, do you have your weapons on you?” Teyla inquired, even though she was fairly certain of the answer.

No, my P-90 and my sidearm are both up in our bedroom. Ran out too quick this morning.”

After letting out a moan of frustration, Teyla nodded at the Marines, who began to stand and move around her. “We’re coming to get you. Be careful.”

She heard a cocky smirk. “Yeah, I don’t have much of a say--

The next sound through the radio was the door being broken down and the yelling of villagers as they demanded Tharon and Kerrak to give themselves up.

They stealthily snuck around the buildings, being careful to avoid anyone.

They took off running when they heard the first gunshot, and the sound of someone screaming in pain.
Coup D'Etat by ShipperWriter
John didn’t have the chance to finish his sentence as the disgruntled villagers finally decided to kick in the door leading into Tharon’s office. The prime minister and her husband rose from their seats behind the desk, seemingly outraged. “What is the meaning of this?” Tharon demanded, her eyes sweeping over the crowd.

A woman stepped in between the two men standing at the front of the crowd, firmly holding their rudimentary guns that looked like muskets. “You dare defy the traditions that have been obeyed by our people for centuries, and you have the nerve to ask what we’re doing?”

Next to him, Elizabeth bristled. “Cynara.”

John’s eyes quickly looked to her for an explanation, but before one could be given, Cynara had already walked around the length of the desk. Kerrak moved protectively in front of his wife as the shorter woman sneered at them.

“I should have known it was you,” Tharon admitted harshly. “Who would ask new allies for defensive training in exchange for espo beans?”

The petite woman shook her head in condescension. “So ignorant. Just another reason why you are no longer fit to rule our people. You will come with us,” Cynara ordered, nodding at another woman from the crowd who came around with a rope in her hands. “And you will be found guilty of treason and executed.”

“Oh crap,” John muttered in a voice just low enough for Elizabeth to hear.

She looked up at him. Her green eyes flashed in defiance at him, and John started to worry. What did she have up her sleeve?

“Cynara, you do not want to do this,” Elizabeth spoke up, causing the crowd to avert their gaze and look at her. Unfortunately, this also included the two men at the front who were still holding their guns.

“You’re right, Doctor Weir. I have absolutely no desire to see one of my dearest friends put to death. But her decision to turn control of our people over to that -- that puny man -- is unacceptable, and it goes against the highest law of our people.”

“But laws are forever changing! You can’t stand here and tell me that there isn’t one law in the history of your people that wasn’t reformed, to the benefit of your people.”

The group seemed to turn to each other and consider this, but Cynara wasn’t to be deterred. “It makes no difference what happened amongst our people generations ago! What matters is here and now! The genders will never be equal, and that is a universal truth!”

John was starting to get anxious. But just as he began to calculate a plan to overtake the two men with guns, Elizabeth shook her head and -- laughed?

“Do you want to know the irony? One hundred years ago, on our homeworld, men said the same thing.”

That threw everyone for a loop, including Cynara, whose eyebrows were raised in startled curiosity.

“For the thousands of years that humans have existed on our planet, men were the dominant species. Women only gained the right to vote, to bear arms, to earn equal wages in the past century. But it never would have happened if not for a small group of women to decide it wasn’t fair, and the law needed to change.” Elizabeth lifted her hand, motioning at Tharon. “She’s the one who decided to stand up and make a change. But don’t think for a second that she hasn’t questioned this. I mean, would you want to be the one to front a reform that you weren’t positive if it would succeed or not?”

John found himself nodding along, then shook his head. Damn, she was good.

“The only way that you’re going to find out if it will succeed or not is to let it happen. And it’s entirely possible that you might decide to revert back to your customs. But you have to at least try. What’s the harm in that?”

Cynara had walked closer to Elizabeth as she spoke, so that when she finished her speech, the rebel rouser was standing in the middle of a straight line between himself and Elizabeth, and Kerrak and Tharon. Cynara looked as though she were sincerely contemplating the words that Elizabeth had spoken. “You’re right. You are right. This might work out to our benefit, or it might not.”

Then she turned and gave Elizabeth such a hard glare that the hairs on the back of his neck were standing up. It reminded him of Cruella DeVil. “And it’s entirely possible that without your meddling influence, things might have stayed the way they were.” She quickly nodded to the men in front. “Shoot her.”

“Cynara, don’t--” Tharon pleaded as the gunman took aim.

“Shut up! This is on your shoulders, Tharon!”

John’s instinctive reflexes kicked into action, and he rushed the gunman to grab his arms, trying to push the gun upwards and wrestle it away from him.

Then the gun went off, and a distinctly feminine voice let out a agonizing scream.

That did it. John turned to the man, who was now appearing shell-shocked, and punched him in the face. He dropped to the ground like a deadweight.

He grabbed the gun and pointed it at the rest of the villagers, but couldn’t avert his eyes to see who was on the ground.

Suddenly, the familiar sound of boots clamoring against the stone floor echoed into the room, and John was relieved at seeing the familiar brown dreadlocks as Ronan and Teyla entered the office, P-90s pointed at everyone.

John met Teyla’s eyes first. “Are you all right?”

“Yeah,” he panted. “I’m fine.”

The Athosian nodded, then her brown eyes descended to the floor behind him. “Oh, no.”

John snapped and whirled around, dropping to his knees when he saw Elizabeth sprawled out on the floor. He laid the shotgun down and grabbed ahold of her shoulders, trying to rouse her. “’Lizabeth!” he yelled, panicking as he searched the length of her body of any signs of a gunshot wound.

She moaned, then whispered, “Ow.”

“Can you move?”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine,” she said as she rolled herself over. A cut on her right forehead was the only injury that he had seen so far, but he wouldn’t stop worrying until he had checked her out completely. “Kerrak?” she called out, and he almost slapped himself for forgetting about them.

John peeked his head around the desk. Kerrak was sitting against the wall, holding his wife against his chest, pressing a blood soaked cloth to her left shoulder. Tharon’s breathing was labored, and she groaned as she tried to readjust her position. “I’m all right,” she lied, hissing as the pain grew.

John stood up, and discreetly hid a smile at the sight before him.

All of the rebels were on their knees as the rest of his team tied their hands behind their backs. Cynara was at the front, glaring begrudgingly at him, and he returned it with one of his own. At least six Marines had covered the back of the room, and he spotted the young red-headed man who had run the Boston Marathon on his last leave. “Foreman!”

“Sir!”

“Get to the ‘Gate as fast as you can. Radio Doctor Beckett and tell him to have a medical team ready to receive a gunshot victim.”

“Yes, sir,” he quickly snapped, and took off running.

Elizabeth moaned as she stood up, and he held onto her arms to balance her. “You okay?”

She nodded. “A little dizzy, but I’m fine. The bullet hit Tharon, not me,” she added, sensing the waves of worry emanating from him.

John pressed his lips together, and let out a long sigh. “Okay.”

Elizabeth squeezed his hand reassuringly, then turned her attention to Tharon. “So were you planning on a bloodless coup? Because that strategy just got shot to hell.”

“Elizabeth--”

Keeping her eyes on Cynara, she held up a hand to John, cutting him off. “No matter how this turns out, you’re the one responsible for the shooting of your prime minister. Doesn’t that act carry a weighty sentence as well?” she inquired cynically, looking back at Kerrak.

He nodded at her. “Treason. The same sentence as you wished to impose on Tharon.”

“So now it has come full circle,” Elizabeth slowly replied, raising a hand to the laceration on her forehead. When she pulled her hand back, her fingers slightly tinged with blood, she showed it to Cynara. “Is this really the way you want to start a new era for your people? With unjust accusations and bloodshed?”

Teyla stepped forward. “Tell me, what was wrong with the way that Tharon ruled your people?”

“She wants her husband to rule us!”

Teyla tilted her head. “That was not my question. Was there anything wrong with the way that Tharon carried out her duties as prime minister? Did she leave the poor out in the cold, with no shelter or food? Did she accuse people of crimes without any basis for it? Did she ever threaten the overall well being of your people by plotting with the Wraith to cull your world to preserve a few?” The Athosian knelt down in front of Cynara. “Because we have seen it happen on other worlds. You should consider yourselves fortunate that you have such a caring ruler.”

“Kerrak has proven himself to be as trustworthy and upright as his wife,” John added. “Is his being a guy the biggest complaint you have against him? Really?”

Content that they had each done their part in making Cynara and the other rebels feel like idiots, they turned their attention to the wounded woman. “We need to get her to Atlantis.”

“Ronan!”

The Satedan made his way around the crowd and gently picked Tharon up in his arms.

“Get a head start. We’ll meet you at the ‘Gate.”

As Ronan, Teyla, Tharon, and Kerrak left the room, John crooked his index finger at the lieutenant standing near the door. “Phillips, keep an eye on these guys. Radio us if they cause any trouble.”

Phillips grinned slightly as he patted his stunner and his gun, holstered on opposite thighs. “I think we’ll be all right, sir.”

John smiled and nodded back.

He turned to find Elizabeth, but there was no sign of her in the room.

“Uh, sir? Doctor Weir went that way,” one of the sergeants responded, pointing to the open doorway.

John gave him a curt nod and left the room.

The passageway went three ways once you left Tharon’s office. One way was a short corridor into the Council chambers. The other was the door leading out into the village.

And the third was the path that led back to the doorway in the inn.

As John was trying to decide which path to follow, he caught a glimpse of someone moving towards him out of the corner of his eye. When he turned to face the person, Elizabeth clasped her hands around his neck, pulling his lips down to hers, kissing him ardently.

John’s hands gripped her around her waist, drawing her body closer to his. When she needed to breath and her lips left his, he kissed her forehead and hugged her tightly. She rested her head on his left shoulder, wincing slightly at the contact of her head injury against his shirt.

Words were escaping him. “I couldn’t … I didn’t …”

She drew back, just enough to see his face, and gently pressed the palm of her right hand to his cheek. “I know,” she assured him, and John was yet again completely amazed at how in sync they were. He barely had to say anything, yet she already knew what he meant.

He let a soft smile show, just for her, then cupped her face and gently tilted her head to get a better look at her cut. “Carson needs to take a look at this.”

She nodded in resignation.

As they walked down the hallway that opened up to the village, Elizabeth timidly reached over and inserted her hand in his, fingers lacing together tightly.

John looked down at their joined hands, then back up at her. He chuckled before placing one last kiss on her lips and opening the door.
Unexpected by ShipperWriter
Coming into the room where the Stargate was located in Atlantis, Kerrak barely had time to admire the Ancestors’ handiwork before his wife was lowered onto a mobile bed, and a man with dark hair and a different voice than the others stood right next to her.

“Hullo there,” he called out as he pulled a device out of his pocket. “I’m Doctor Beckett. Any other injuries than the gunshot wound?”

“No,” Tharon breathed out as she lay back on the bed.

The doctor turned and regarded Kerrak with a look of concern. “You must be her husband.”

Kerrak nodded. “Will she be all right?”

“Well, it doesn’t appear that the bullet hit any major arteries or vital organs. Once we get her to the infirmary and under a scanner, I will know for sure, but I think Miss Tharon will live to fight another day.” He gave a reassuring smile, then motioned for Kerrak to follow them.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

As John and Elizabeth reappeared on the Atlantis side of the wormhole, they saw the medical team heading down the ramp on the left side of the stairs leading to the control room. They briskly walked up the stairs and made their way over to Evan Lorne. “Major. How are things?”

“Amazingly normal, for once,” he commented with a slight smile, handing her the tablet he had been holding.

She accepted it and looked over it quickly.

Feeling Lorne’s blue eyes on her, she looked up. “Major?”

He frowned in concern. “Ma’am? What happened to your head?”

“Ask Colonel Sheppard.”

“Sir,” he asked, addressing John, “what happened over there?”

“Well, after Tharon told the Council her decision this morning, one of the members decided to stage a coup d’etat. They got into her office and she accidentally got shot in the shoulder. Of course, as luck would have it, that was the exact moment that Ronan and Teyla showed up.”

“We were very fortunate in that regards,” Teyla remarked, joining the group after walking up the back stairwell with Ronan.

John nodded at them. “Yeah. Nice timing. Thanks.”

Ronan shrugged. “It’s what we do.”

Elizabeth leaned a little closer to John. “It’s official. He’s spending too much time with you.”

“You make it sound like it’s such a bad thing.” He added a wink, just for good measure.

“I’m surprised that you didn’t go to the infirmary first thing when you got back, ma’am. Doctor Beckett will have a cardiac when he sees that.”

“Doctor Weir, Colonel Sheppard, please respond.”

Elizabeth chuckled. “He has impeccable timing.” She clicked her earpiece. “Go ahead, Carson.”

“Would ya mind coming to the infirmary? I have something to share with you.”

She looked back up at John, a worried expression on her face. “On our way.” Nodding at Lorne, she and John descended down the back stairwell, heading for the nearest lift.

Once they got inside, and the doors closed to prying eyes, she turned to face John. “Before we leave here, there’s something I need to know.”

John tilted his head in confusion. “Okay,” he said slowly.

“When Cynara’s men broke the door down, and there was a gun pointed at me, did you hesitate?”

He frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Did you have to decide whether to protect me, or to protect Tharon? Or did you follow your instincts?”

He shrugged nonchalantly. “I followed my instincts.”

Elizabeth slowly nodded, then turned around, content with his answer. “Good.”

“However,” John interjected, raising a finger, “my instincts are to protect you.”

He kissed her cheek, and the transporter doors opened to a gaping Elizabeth.

She turned around to skewer him with a glare, but he held his arm out like a gentleman. “My lady.”

Elizabeth couldn’t hold in a chuckle, but instead of laying her hand on his arm, she reached for his hand.

They let go as they walked into the infirmary. Elizabeth walked up to Carson, sitting at a desk and leaning on his elbow. “How is she?”

Carson sighed. “The gunshot wound was clean. It didn’t hit any major arteries, so it was easy to take care of. However, I found something else when I put her under the scanner.”

Elizabeth leaned over his shoulder, and John walked up behind her, hunching over. “Is that what I think it is?” she asked in amazement.

“If you’re thinking it’s a fetus, you’re correct. According to my scans, Tharon is approximately eight weeks pregnant.”

Elizabeth raised her head and looked at John. “That would explain why she ran out of the dining room so suddenly.”

“And why she didn’t have any of the rat’s sin at the party,” John added.

Elizabeth tilted her head, an amused smile appearing. “Raa’zin, John.”

He smirked. “I knew that.”

“Fortunately, the baby seems to be okay,” Carson replied as he turned around in his chair. And without missing a beat, he said, “Bloody hell, Elizabeth. What happened to you?”

“I fell and hit my head during the skirmish.”

“And you didn’t come to see me? I’m wounded, Elizabeth,” he replied with a slight lilt in his voice.

At that moment, Rodney came around the corner. “Hey, I heard about what happened from Teyla,” he said, pointing a thumb down the hallway behind him. “How’s everybody?”

“We’re all fine,” Elizabeth answered as she got up onto a bed.

“So your, you know, head is okay?” he asked in his usual awkward manner, pointing at his own forehead.

“Yes, I am fine, and no, you are not in command of the city.”

Elizabeth could’ve sworn that he pouted slightly. After a moment, he seemed satisfied with the answers and left, mumbling something as he fell out of earshot.

John hovered by the wall as Carson ran his scans and asked Elizabeth questions to ascertain if she had a concussion, or just a nasty bump. His arms were crossed, and his face was dark with worry, but his eyes still shone with affection, and when Carson declared that it was just a bump and dressed it accordingly, he allowed himself to smile.

Elizabeth hopped off the bed and peeked her head around the corner. “Have you told Tharon yet?”

“No. I actually thought it might be better if it came from you.”

Elizabeth felt a little ridiculous at the suggestion. “Me? Why?”

“You have a working relationship with her. And she was very worried about you when she came in. She might like to see that you’re okay.”

Elizabeth knew she could argue her way out if she wanted to, but at the moment, she was too tired to do so. She nodded at Carson, then glanced at John. “Are you coming?”

“Yeah,” he replied instantly.

They walked through the infirmary to an area that had been sectioned off by a curtain. Elizabeth pulled it back slightly and peeked her head through. “Tharon. How are you feeling?”

“Good! Please, come in.”

She drew the sheet back and allowed room for herself and John to walk a little closer to the bed. Kerrak sat in a chair on her left, holding her hand and looking as though he were about to drift off to sleep himself.

After everything that had happened over the course of the morning, Elizabeth didn’t blame him.

“How is your head?”

Elizabeth unconsciously reached up to the bandage covering the cut. “It’s just a cut. Nothing too serious.”

“That is good news.”

Elizabeth looked down at her feet, gripping the end of the hospital bed. “Our doctor, Carson, found something else when he was running some scans.”

Tharon frowned. “What is it? Is it serious?”

Elizabeth cocked her head to the side, and laughed slightly. “Well, it is life-changing. You’re pregnant, Tharon.”

Tharon blinked at her, no expression on her face, then leaned forward, as if she hadn’t heard her the first time. “I’m sorry. What did you say?”

“During his scans, Doctor Beckett discovered that you’re eight weeks pregnant. Which would explain the vomiting and the queasiness you’ve been experiencing.”

Tharon raised her head, eyes wide in shock. “You knew about that?”

Elizabeth nodded. “I had my suspicions. Knowing this makes everything fall in place.”

John raised an eyebrow. “You had no idea you were pregnant?”

Tharon shrugged, then looked sideways at Kerrak. “As Elizabeth said, I had my suspicions, but we have no definitive way to know if we are carrying a child until …”

“Until you get big?” John asked, smiling.

Tharon laughed. “For lack of a better word, yes.”

“Perhaps in addition to the weather radar system, Doctor Beckett can arrange for some pregnancy tests to be sent to Fa’tor. Normally, they can detect a pregnancy within the first few weeks that you begin to suspect.”

Kerrak looked confused. “You’re still willing to help us?”

Elizabeth smiled. “Of course! Why wouldn’t we?”

“Well, after what Cynara did, I suppose we assumed you would think us an unstable ally.”

At that moment, Elizabeth realized that during the course of most of their conversation, Kerrak had been the one to answer questions about their relationship and pose some of his own. Tharon looked on with pride, but her eyes kept drifting to her abdomen, mindful of the small life growing there that she was now responsible for.

It seemed that Tharon was making the transition at just the right time.

She dismissed Kerrak’s worry with a wave of her hand. “Governments go through upheaval all the time. The actions of one with a small crowd of supporters is not normally indicative of the entire population. We would be privileged to keep in touch and continue the relationship that we have formed.”

“As long as we still get some epso beans,” John added for good measure.

The laughter helped to dissolve some of the tension, and John and Elizabeth left to let the couple handle their news. They began walking absentmindedly through the corridors, slowly keeping in pace with each other.

“What do you think will happen now?” John asked, stuffing his hands in his pockets.

“I don’t know. It’s possible the rest of the Fa’torians will accept the change.”

“Do you think they will?”

Elizabeth sighed and stopped walking. “It can be very hard for someone to adapt to a change, especially if it’s one they do not agree with. But over time, it can become easier to deal with.”

John nodded, then started walking again, bringing up the look on Rodney’s face when he realized one of the appetizers at the celebratory dinner was garnished with some type of citrus.

Elizabeth allowed herself to laugh, but couldn’t help but wonder if John had understood that she wasn’t talking about just the Fa’torians.
We'll Burn That Bridge When We Get To It by ShipperWriter
Later on, during the afternoon, Carson allowed Tharon to be released from the infirmary. A lieutenant brought her and Kerrak back up to the Stargate control room, where John and Elizabeth stood behind a panel.

The Stargate was active below them, and Tharon spotted something on wheels nearing the blue surface. “What is that?” she asked curiously.

Elizabeth answered. “It’s called a MALP. It’s a robotic probe that we normally send ahead of teams to the various planets they will be exploring. It allows us to take readings of environmental statistics, life signs, and much more.”

Rodney McKay nodded at the probe as it disappeared through the wormhole. “We just sent that one to M51-936.”

“The designation our computer system gave to Fa’tor,” Elizabeth clarified.

Tharon nodded. “And what will it do once it arrives?”

“We’ll make contact with the team of Marines still on the planet. They’ll bring one of the other Council members to debrief us about the situation, and if things have simmered down, we may be able to return.”

“We’re receiving imagery,” reported a brown headed man sitting at the console in front of them. He had a similar patch on his left arm as did Rodney -- a rectangular symbol with a red leaf in the middle.

“Thank you, Chuck,” Elizabeth replied, and she turned her attention to the right at a larger screen that flickered to life.

The young man who had run to the Stargate shortly after she was wounded became visible. “This is Lieutenant Foreman. Do you read, Atlantis?

“We copy you, Lieutenant,” John confirmed. “Give me a sit-rep.”

“Sir. The locals have stopped rioting. It seems seeing their leader with a gunshot wound and the person responsible for it being tied up brought back some common sense. Most of them have expressed worry about Prime Minster Tharon. I have Councilor Letera with me.”

“May I talk with her?” Tharon asked, moving closer to the screen.

“Of course,” Elizabeth responded. “Lieutenant, please ask Letera to step into view of the MALP.”

He motioned off to the side, and within seconds, the familiar tan skin and bobbed hair cut of one of her most trusted advisors appeared.

Tharon, are you there?” Letera asked through the camera.

“I am. Are you well?”

Letera smiled. “We are fine. Everyone has been most worried about you.”

“Assure everyone that I am all right. Atlantis has a most capable doctor here. I barely feel any pain now.”

I am glad to hear it.

“Letera, Kerrak and I wish to return home to finalize our negotiations with Doctor Weir. I trust you, and your judgment. Do you believe it safe for us to return?”

She nodded. “Yes, it is. Cynara had bribed many of the villagers. That was why she gained so much support. But as the young man here said, once they saw you being carried out and found that the blame rested with her, they quickly explained why they had sided with her in the first place.”

“How do you think the rest of the Council will respond to my decision?”

Letera shrugged. “I’m still getting used to the concept myself, but I believe it is a change that will be beneficial for our people. I have confidence in Kerrak … and yourself.” She smiled, then tilted her head. “He will need someone to help guide him until he becomes comfortable with his responsibilities.”

Tharon let out a heavy sigh of relief. “You have no idea how pleased I am to hear that. Very well, then. We will plan on returning shortly. After we’ve concluded our meeting with Doctor Weir, we will make a decision on how to handle Cynara’s revolt.”

Letera nodded. “Very well, Prime Minister. We look forward to your return.

As she stepped out of sight, Tharon turned around and faced Elizabeth. A wide, confident smile appeared on her face. “Elizabeth. I believe we have some work to do.”

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

That evening, Elizabeth leaned against the chair in the now empty chambers where the Fa’torian High Council had just dismissed their final meeting. Tharon had broken the news to them about her pregnancy, as well as her reaffirmation that Kerrak become the Prime Minister.

This time around, it was accepted with much more respect and approval than before.

Elizabeth had quirked an eyebrow. Maybe there was hope for them, after all.

A boot scraped against the doorway and she looked up, finding a very familiar set of hazel eyes watching her. “Hey,” she greeted, closing up her notepad.

“Hey,” John greeted in return, walking in slowly and sitting down on the edge of the desk next to her chair. “So how did everything go?”

She exhaled through her mouth. “Amazingly well. I think that Kerrak will do a good job. He sat in on the meeting today and asked questions that I hadn’t even thought of.”

John nodded. “So McKay just finished installing the radar system. He’s explaining it to a few of the locals, make sure they know how to use it. And I’m a little hungry.”

“I’m starving,” Elizabeth replied, looking up hopefully at John.

He grinned and pushed himself off the table. “Luckily for you, I’m good friends with the hotel staff. C’mon. We’ve got room service waiting for us.”

She chuckled, then stood up from her chair, stretching out her back. “I imagine you went all out.”

John shrugged. “It’s our last night here. Figured I should make it count.”

They walked back to their room in relative silence. Elizabeth had been anticipating this day at the start of this mission, but now, as each step brought them closer to the end, she found herself dreading it.

From the slow pace that John was walking, and the melancholy way that he stared at his feet while he walked, she assumed he felt the same way.

He opened the door for her, and she let out a soft laugh.

A blanket had been spread on the floor, close enough to the window for the moonlight to stream across it. Two candles were lit on the blanket, giving just enough light for her to walk across the room without crashing into anything. A variety of food was laid out on small platters, and a bottle of what appeared to be raa’zin was sitting next to two glasses.

John muttered something, and Elizabeth craned her neck. “What did you say?”

He smiled as he closed the door behind them. “I took French when I was in high school. Trying to remember a little bit.”

“Did that help you when you were trying to ask girls out?” she teased.

“A little.” He frowned. “Until they realized the only thing I was saying was, ‘Can you please show me where the bathroom is? I think I’m going to vomit’.”

Elizabeth laughed as she knelt down on the blanket. “Smooth.”

John discarded his jacket on the bed, then dropped to the blanket next to her. “So from what I remember, the raa’zin has a bit of a kick to it.”

She nodded at him.

“Let’s start with that.”

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

About half an hour later, John was laying on the blanket, leaning back and supporting his upper body with his elbows as Elizabeth finished her second cup of the Fa’torian wine. She smiled at him, then carefully set the glass down. “I don’t think I should have any more. I’d like to actually remember tonight in the morning.”

John cocked an eyebrow at her. “What do you mean?”

Elizabeth blinked innocently. “It’s our last night on Fa’tor. I’d like to remember all of the good we accomplished today.”

He slowly nodded, but he wasn’t completely fooled. The feeling that she meant something else wouldn’t leave his mind, no matter how hard he tried to convince himself.

Smiling, she picked up a piece of cheese and popped it in her mouth. “John?”

“Yeah?”

“There’s one thing I’d like to do before we have to go home.”

“What’s that?” he tried to ask as nonchalantly as he could, even though his heart was pounding loud enough that he was sure she could hear it.

A shy smile crossed her face. “I want to dance with you.”

He almost snorted, then realized that she was serious. “Umm,” he responded, pointing around the room, “there’s no music.”

Elizabeth shrugged. “That’s okay. I can hum.”

Either she was already drunk, or one more drink would’ve put her over the line. Good thing she stopped herself. John pressed his lips together, then nodded. “Sure.”

He stood up from the blanket, being careful to not knock anything over or step on anything, and extended his arms to help Elizabeth up.

They stood clear of the blanket, and the nervous look on her face reminded John of his 8th grade dance. He smiled reassuringly at her, then slid his right hand around her waist and held her right hand in his other one. She rested her left hand on his shoulder and stepped closer to him.

“So. Any particular song in mind?”

She whispered a name in his ear, and he flushed. He knew the song, but wasn’t a big fan of singing. So he softly started to move with her, humming the music while the lyrics played in his head.

See the pyramids along the Nile
Watch the sun rise from the tropic isle
Just remember, darling, all the while
You belong to me

See the marketplace in old Algiers
Send me photographs and souvenirs
Just remember when a dream appears
You belong to me

And I'll be so alone without you
Maybe you'll be lonesome too

Fly the ocean in a silver plane
See the jungle when it’s wet with rain
Just remember till you're home again
You belong to me


Even though the lyrics ended, he kept humming the music. It was the perfect song for them, in this moment. He had told her how he felt, and even though when they went back to Atlantis life would return to what consisted of normal for the two of them, he couldn’t help the way that he felt about her. No matter what they would do, or even where life might take them, John’s heart would always be Elizabeth’s. It would always belong to her.

She started to become heavy in his arms, and he realized that the wine was affecting her and making her sleepy. Just as he was about to jostle her, or move her towards the bed, she raised her head and kissed him.

But this was different. All the kisses before this were chaste, in comparison. This one was passionate, needing, desperate, open mouthed.

Before she had even pulled away, John knew where this was going to end up.

“Elizabeth. Are you sure about this?”

Her green eyes were darkening, and he could feel her pulse rise in the hand that he still held. She inhaled sharply, and when she exhaled John didn’t smell as much wine as he expected to.

“When we go back to Atlantis, I don’t want to regret anything about this.” She removed the hand that she had placed on his shoulder down to the hemline of his black shirt, and began to pull it up.

He didn’t fight her; instead, he raised his arms to make it easier for her to tug his shirt over his head.

Elizabeth dropped it to the floor and timidly pressed her hands against his chest. Something on his chest caught her attention, and he winced as the realization hit him.

She ran a light finger over the still healing scar above his heart. “Oh, John,” she whispered, lowering her head and pressing a feather light kiss to it.

His eyes closed as he sighed. “It wasn’t your fault,” he told her quietly, resurrecting the debate from shortly after he had returned to Atlantis after Kolya’s imprisonment of him.

“I know,” she replied immediately, her eyes still drawn to his chest.

He chuckled, then dipped his head. “My lips are up here,” he teased her.

Elizabeth raised her head and kissed him soundly again.

John began to walk her backwards until the backs of her knees hit the edge of the bed. But instead of sitting down, she rotated them so that his back was to the bed. She pressed down on his shoulders, forcing him to sit.

He wanted to bite his lip at the next thing that came out of his mouth. “If we do this, what’s gonna happen when we go home?”

The irony that he was the one trying to bring up the consequences of their actions tonight was not lost on him.

She sighed, but instead of crossing her arms, her hands snaked to the bottom of her own shirt and swiftly pulled it over her head.

As John’s eyes readjusted in the dim light and he reached a hand up to trace the outline of the black bra against her small breast, she smirked. “We’ll burn that bridge when we get to it.”

All logical thought was lost to him as she pushed him back on the bed and crawled over him, straddling his waist.
The Morning After by ShipperWriter
Afterwards, they lay awake for the longest time.

John was spooned up against Elizabeth, holding her against him, brushing his fingertips across her hands that lay in front of her. Just when she thought he was about to fall asleep, he would lean forward and kiss the back of her neck. It was comforting, a reminder that he was still there.

Would always be there.

She wanted to turn around and talk about this, but she couldn’t summon the strength.

John seemed to sense it too. He pushed himself up a little higher and gently pulled her body around in his arms so that they could see each other, face to face.

The look in his eyes was sleepy yet content, and he smiled at her. “Get some sleep,” he said, gently pressing his lips to hers. “We’ll talk in the morning.”

She smiled against him, then rolled back over and pulled John’s arm tighter around her.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

When the sun peaked through the blinds again, Elizabeth was laying facedown on the bed, her head sideways on the pillow, watching John as he slept. Her right arm was framing her head, and she gently pulled her head up and slid her hand underneath it, giving it more height.

“Morning,” John suddenly whispered, and she narrowed her eyes at him.

“How did you know?”

“Being off world so often, it kind of becomes habit. Especially when you wake up to a village of little people staring at you.”

She laughed, and instantly she knew that his story was a lie. He only said so to make her laugh.

And right now, she didn’t mind.

He finally opened his eyes and blinked a few times, then turned his head towards her. “Hi,” he greeted again, feigning shyness.

She pressed her face into her arm, truly feeling the same way. “Hi.”

“How’d you sleep?”

“Mmm. Wonderful.”

“That’s good,” he evenly replied. Then he frowned at her. “On a scale of one to ten, how did I do?”

She burst out laughing and buried her face in the pillow.

The smile on John’s face was disarming her, and she forgot about the elephant in the room.

He leaned over and brushed the hair away from the nape of her neck, and he pressed a kiss there, sending chills down her spine. “So,” he drew out slowly, moving his lips across her exposed shoulder, “what’s on the agenda for today?”

As his lips continued to wander, she spoke quickly, knowing that it wouldn‘t be long until the thought left her. “Umm, I have a meeting with Kerrak to help him prepare for the transition and we have one last brunch with him and Tharon and oh my God, John,” she pleaded as she rolled over in the bed, rolling her head back against the pillow.

John shifted in the bed and pressed one knee in between hers as she wrapped her hands around his head and pulled him down. Instead of meeting her lips, he angled his head and kissed, then sucked, at that one spot at the juncture of her neck and shoulders that sent her arching into the bed every time.

“John,” she whispered, threading her fingers through his hair.

He pulled his head up, but the goofy grin was gone. “Yeah,” he replied in a resigned tone.

Elizabeth frowned at him, then chuckled. “I didn’t say stop.”

“I know,” he replied, leaning sideways on his right elbow and running a hand through his hair. “That was me.”

“Why?” she asked as his eyes darted around the room.

He sighed, then looked back at her. “We’re gonna have to talk about this, at some point.”

Elizabeth closed her eyes, and ran a hand over her face. “I know,” she admitted, rubbing the back of her neck nervously.

John turned and lay on his back, biting his lip as he stared across the empty room.

She didn’t like the tension that had suddenly crept back into the room. So she turned on her side and sprawled a hand across his chest. “Let’s finish doing our best to help Tharon and Kerrak, and then we’ll talk about this when we get home.” She tilted her head to the side, then brought her green eyes back to look John in the eye. “We will figure this out.”

He narrowed his eyes at her doubtingly. “You sure? Because when I first brought this up, you wanted to--”

Elizabeth pressed a slim finger against his lips. “I’m sure,” she answered, replacing her finger with her lips.

She felt him smile and she pulled her head back, resting it on his shoulder while he let out a sigh of relief. After everything that they had been through, everything that she had finally let herself feel, it was impossible to just leave this newfound relationship on Fa’tor and pretend it never happened.

“John?”

“Hmm?”

She paused for a moment, then looked up at him and said it. “I love you.”

John craned his head and looked back at her, lips parted in shock.

Elizabeth smiled back at him, ensuring that she was sincere. “I’ve always liked you. But somewhere along the way,” she told him, “I started to love you.”

He still didn’t say anything, but he pressed his lips together and sat up a little more against the pillow.

She shrugged lightly. “I just thought you should know that.”

He leaned forward and captured her lips again, and she smiled.

Especially when he replied, “Love you too, ‘Lizabeth.”
Goodbye, Fa'tor, and Thank You by ShipperWriter
The team met downstairs for their last meal with Kerrak and Tharon, and afterwards the two female leaders whisked the new prime minister away to give him a quick tutorial on how to deal with the new changes in his role. John caught a glimpse of Elizabeth winking at him as she walked out behind the married couple, a mysterious smile on her face.

He quickly returned it, then snapped his head back to his team and made sure they didn’t see anything.

Afterwards, he went back upstairs and packed what few belongings they had brought with them in the sturdy black packs. He pulled the zipper closed on Elizabeth’s, and as John reached to grip his, he caught a movement near the open doorway out into the hallway.

“I thought you’d be with Elizabeth,” he greeted with a smirk, looking up at Teyla.

She shook her head. Her arms were crossed, but her smile was warm. “Elizabeth doesn’t need any help. For that matter, I don’t believe that Kerrak does either. He seemed ready and prepared for what he is about to undertake.”

John sat down on the bed and let out a long sigh. “I wish I was,” he begrudgingly replied.

Teyla frowned as she walked in the room. “What do you mean?” she asked, taking a seat next to John on the bed.

He began to study the toes of his boots as he cleared his voice. “Nothing.”

She chuckled softly next to him. “John, you were never good at hiding things from me.”

He looked up, suddenly serious. “Well, maybe, this one, I should.”

“Does it have something to do with you and Elizabeth?”

John nodded, then stood up. “I think we decided to give it a try,” he answered awkwardly, rubbing the back of his neck.

Teyla stood up as well, tilting her head. “But?”

He pressed his lips together, then blew out a breath. “You know how you want something so bad, and everything seems to be falling into place, but it’s happening almost too easily?”

Teyla blinked at him. “I suppose.”

“That’s what it feels like right now. This thing, with Elizabeth. I mean, I like her a lot. Hell, I even--”

Love her?” Teyla filled in before John could insert whatever synonym he had to stop and think about.

He stood with his mouth open, then pointed a slightly accusatory finger at her. “It’s not nice to interrupt,” he sarcastically commented. He glanced back at her, almost apologetically. “But yeah.”

Teyla sighed sympathetically. “But you believe that it’s in vain to even attempt to have a relationship?”

“You remember what happened when I first brought up the subject to Elizabeth. We slammed the doors so hard, I think the villagers working out in the fields heard us!” He shook his head. “Part of me thinks that Elizabeth got caught up in the moment, and said something that she might regret once we get home.”

“She admitted she has feelings for you as well?” Teyla asked cautiously, raising an eyebrow.

John bit his lip and nodded.

Teyla narrowed her eyes at him. He knew that look too well. Once again, he had stuck his foot in his mouth and said something that he shouldn’t have, and she picked up on it. “What do you mean, she got ‘caught up in the moment’?”

“They had sex,” Ronan replied simply from the doorway, where he leaned on the frame.

As Teyla turned around in surprise, John groaned at him. “Jesus! Where the hell did you come from?”

Ronan only shrugged. “Don’t change the subject, Sheppard.”

Teyla turned back to face John, casting a suspicious gaze on him. “John?”

He growled and resisted the urge to stick his tongue out at Ronan.

The Satedan only smirked at him.

His dilemma was suddenly resolved by an all too familiar and welcome voice in his ear. “John, what’s your status?

He clicked his earpiece, maintaining a glare leveled at Ronan. “All packed up and ready to go,” he replied coolly.

What about Teyla and Ronan?

Eager to get home,” he replied, throwing a look over his shoulder at Teyla.

She held in a chuckle, but acknowledged the gesture. She walked to the exit and grasped Ronan’s arm, pulling him away from the doorway.

He sighed, then pressed his hands to his hips. “How’re you doing?”

Good. I think I’ve done all that I can do. I have every confidence in Kerrak and Tharon. At this rate, we’ll be getting espo beans for a long time.”

“Well, that’s good,” he replied with a chuckle.

He heard her laugh softly, and then she sighed. “Our hosts want to say goodbye before we leave.”

“All right. I’ll grab your gear and meet you downstairs.”

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Elizabeth waited with Tharon and Kerrak at the bottom of the stairs as she kept stealing impatient glances upwards. Ronan and Teyla had already descended and begun to say their goodbyes.

Ronan’s, as usual, were brief and curt. Despite their short stay with them, the Fa’torians didn’t seem to expect anything different.

Ever the diplomatic native of the team, Teyla was smiling as she talked with Tharon, discussing the next eight months that the former prime minister had to look forward to.

Even though she had just learned of her pregnancy, Tharon was already keeping a protective hand over her abdomen. Carson had prescribed her a series of prenatal vitamins, and she left Atlantis knowing that if she ever needed anything, their doors would always be open to her. Tharon had tried her best to assure the doctor that there were midwives on Fa’tor who had experienced this situation many times before, passing the knowledge gained over the generations onto the next, but she still gave him permission to make regular visits to check on her health.

Kerrak was holding his head higher than he had. Perhaps it was the news of impending fatherhood as he gave a smile that seemed to show more teeth than he really had. Or maybe it was the knowledge that he was starting an era of change for his people. For their people. After spending part of the morning with him, Elizabeth was amazed by his mildness and his reasonableness. With all the experience that Tharon had from her family, combined with his own unique traits, she predicted that Kerrak’s time in office would be monumental and beneficial for generations to come.

Elizabeth heard the footsteps on the creaking wood before she saw John.

She looked up at him, and didn’t bother to hide a smile.

He walked over to her and held her pack out in his hand. “You want to carry this, or do you want to use your indentured servant one last time?” he teased.

She raised an eyebrow, feigning arrogance. “I’m competent enough to carry my own clothes, thank you very much!”

Tharon chuckled. “I cannot thank you enough for everything that you have done for us. I look forward to our dealings in the future.”

“As do we,” Teyla agreed, nodding at her with a gracious smile.

Rodney walked in from the corridor that led into the Council chambers, holding a tablet. “Okay, we’ve got everything set up for you, and I explained to three of the Council members how the radar system works. Any problems,” he told them, handing the tablet to Kerrak, “you know who to call.”

“I have no doubt that this will prove immensely helpful for us. Thank you again.”

Rodney smiled briefly, then sniffed the air. “Do I smell food?”

Smiling, Ronan smacked him in the arm and nodded to the doors leading outside. “Wait til we get home, McKay. Chef said she’s making something special for you.”

Teyla and Rodney followed after him. “Yeah, last time she said that, I ended up with hives…”

Elizabeth watched them leave, and turned her attention back to John as she slid the straps over her arms. “Well, I suppose we better get going,” she said in resignation.

He nodded, then turned to face Kerrak and Tharon. His best neutral smile graced his handsome face. “It’s been an interesting couple of days.”

“I hope your next visit will not be as exciting,” Kerrak replied with a smirk, extending his hand.

John shook it, then nodded respectfully at Tharon. “Ma’am. Congratulations again.”

“Thank you, Colonel.” She looked at her still flat stomach, considering it for a moment, then looked back up at them. “It is amazing how something so unexpected and not planned can change your life so wonderfully.”

As they finished saying their goodbyes and John and Elizabeth began to walk towards the door, she realized that Tharon wasn’t just talking about her recent news.

Elizabeth stopped and turned, gaping at Tharon. She only smiled back and pointed to the doorway. “I believe your husband’s waiting for you.”

True enough, John had halted by the doorway and was sending a curious look in her direction. “You okay?” he asked when she neared him again.

She smiled and slipped her hand into his. “Let’s go home, John.”

Just before they stepped out into the sunlight, she pressed her lips to his cheeks and he squeezed her hand tighter in response.

At this point, she didn’t care about what anyone might say. She held his hand all the way to the Stargate, only letting go a second before they entered the wormhole.
Why They Call It Falling, Now I Know by ShipperWriter
Normal standard operation procedure was that all team members must report to the infirmary and be checked out by Beckett before returning to duty on base. But the instant that the final team from 936 stepped through, Elizabeth ducked to the ramp that ran underneath the walkway to her office and disappeared.

John frowned after her, then glanced at Lorne as he walked down the stairs.

"Welcome back, sir." His blue eyes blinked twice at the group. "Where's Doctor Weir?"

John was about to shrug and reply, but Teyla beat him to it. "I believe she is on her way to the infirmary."

The major nodded, then fingered the tablet in his hands. "I'll wait until Doctor Weir comes back to hand this over."

"Probably a good idea," John replied as his eyes roamed around the room.

Lorne nodded and walked back upstairs.

The colonel sighed, running a hand over his face. Considering how intimate they had been on 936, even holding hands on their way back to the Stargate, Elizabeth's behavior was more than confusing. It was insane. She had done a complete 180 on him, and it didn't just bug him.

It worried him.

John turned and looked at his team. "Go ahead and get checked out," he ordered as he began walking out of the Gate room, passing a sergeant who took his weapons and gear from him.

"What about you? Where you going?" Ronan called after him.

"I'm going to find Elizabeth."

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Carson was sitting at his desk, awaiting the arrival of Colonel Sheppard and his team, along with Doctor Weir. He was surprised, however, when Elizabeth arrived by herself, still wearing her black off world jacket and her backpack.

She nodded at him as she took her pack off and dropped it to the ground. "Carson."

"Elizabeth. Welcome back."

Her green eyes looked tired, and - he didn't know if it was the right word, but antsy, almost. She kept looking towards the door that she had just walked through.

"Is everything okay, love?" Carson gently asked, patting her arm.

"This entire mission was … not at all how I expected it to be," she said, avoiding his question and taking a seat on one of the beds. "It's made me realize how easily your life can change."

Carson bit his lip. He was starting to worry about the direction this conversation was heading. "Did anything unusual happen?"

A smile flitted lightly across her face, but it quickly disappeared as it was replaced by a grimace. "This stays between us."

"Of course it does. But what is 'this'?"

She brought her hands up to her face and tried to stifle a moan.

Finally, she dropped her hands and looked up at Carson. He saw tears starting to streak down her cheeks. It was impossible for him to remember seeing her like this before. He never had.

"I need you to give me a pregnancy test."

During the time that he had been in Atlantis, he had heard many bizarre things.

But the cool, composed Elizabeth Weir asking for a pregnancy test?

He didn't know whether to laugh or be worried.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

John had gone to Elizabeth's quarters, but there was no sign of her.

He racked his mind, but he couldn't think of anywhere else she would have gone. So he paced hurriedly towards the infirmary, and was surprised to see Elizabeth laying out on a bed, underneath a scanner.

A firm hand on his shoulder steered him away. "Colonel."

He turned and looked at Carson. "She okay?"

"Aye, she's fine. Just running a few extra tests while she's here. Making sure the nanites are still inactive in her system."

John closed his eyes in remembrance. Their respective ordeals - his with the Wraith and the Genii, and hers with the Replicator nanites that tried to take over her body - were still burned on their minds, but with everything that had happened over the past couple of days, he had let himself forget. He knew that the IOA was aware of Elizabeth's circumstances, and that if there was any reason that they could invent to remove her from command, they would. So Carson had loyally checked her every week to make sure that the nanites stayed inactive.

His face softened as Carson circled around him and sat down. "She took off pretty quick when we got back."

The doctor only nodded, keeping his eyes down on his computer as he typed.

John leaned on the desk. "Carson."

"Hmm."

"What are you not telling me?"

Beckett looked up at him. "Why do you assume that I'm withholding information?"

"Because you are."

Carson sighed, then looked up at him. "Colonel, there is nothing that I can, or will, tell you. Elizabeth is fine."

John glanced over at the bed which now lay empty.

"I thought if I got it out of the way, Carson wouldn't have to track me down for my next physical."

Elizabeth's voice next to him surprised him, and he stood up quickly. An unsure smile graced her face, and she was wringing her hands nervously. She didn't look as calm and unworried as she had when they had left the planet, and it irked him.

"How about the good doctor checks me out, and we grab lunch?"

She nodded, but the smile that had seemed permanently fixed on her face this past week was gone.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

They left the infirmary after Carson had cleared them both. She and John started chit chatting lightly, not even noticing where they were headed. They just meandered through the city. Elizabeth even thought that John had taken her through some new corridors that hadn't even been touched by the science teams yet.

She would glance at him out of the corner of her eyes, without his notice, every few seconds and it was slightly worrying her that John wasn't bringing up the whole incident from 936. Considering how strongly he had reacted when she suggested leaving it on the planet, the fact that he was seeming to ignore - or forget - was nagging Elizabeth.

If truth be told, the more time that would pass, the more optimistic she got that he wouldn't bring it up.

John started a new conversation, talking about how conveniently timed the MALP upgrades were completed, and she found herself giving only a nod as a response. Eventually, though, he mentioned something about the village on Fa'tor, and she felt her pulse quicken - but only slightly.

Even though she tried to change the subject every chance that she got, they still ended up talking about Fa'tor. John steered her towards a door on the right side of the hallway, and she absentmindedly followed, racking her mind for a new item to talk about.

When the next door in front of her slid open, and she realized that they were standing out near the East Pier, what seemed like miles away from anyone else, she panicked.

"We walked farther than I realized," she said, trying to back herself into the corridor again.

John was standing behind her, and he reached around with his strong arms and gently grasped her shoulders. "I brought us out here on purpose. We need to talk."

She let out a frustrated groan and turned to face him. "John-"

"I'm only gonna say this once, because dragging it out just hurts too much. Do you want to have a relationship with me?"

She tried again. "John-"

"Yes or no. Do you want to be with me?" The pleading look in his hazel eyes was almost too much for her, and before she could stop herself, she mumbled an answer that her heart supported but her mind disagreed with.

"Yes," she whispered, so low she barely heard it herself.

Much to her surprise, John didn't smile. "But you can't."

"John, you're the military commander of Atlantis. And I'm the Expedition leader. You report to me. And having any relationship right now could prove to be too much of a distraction, and if something were to happen to the people here because of a misjudgment on my part-"

John held up a hand, biting his lip as he nodded at her. "I understand. The whole 'needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few'."

"John-"

"No, really," he replied with a half hearted smile. "I get it. You don't have to explain it to me."

"No, John, you don't."

His eyes bored into hers. "Then explain it to me."

She let out a groan. "John, what we did on that planet … we had sex."

"I know. I was there."

"Unprotected sex." She gave him a hard look.

He swallowed hard. He began grasping for words. "Are you - did we-?"

Elizabeth shook her head. "I'm not pregnant. But I shouldn't have had to ask Carson to run a pregnancy test." She took a step closer to him. "It was irresponsible, John. And it should never have happened. But it did."

He glared down at the floor. "So what? We're just gonna go back to forgetting it happened?"

She reached out to him, her fingers skimming over his hand. As much as he wanted to be an ass and pull his hand away, he couldn't. Her slim fingers wrapped around his. "I'm not going to forget what we shared. But there's too much at stake if we tried to make it work."

John shook his head. "You make it sound so easy to just leave this alone."

She tried to repress a sob. She failed. "It's not," she promised him.

He pulled her towards him and wrapped his arms around her, timidly at first, then tighter, as her body shook while she cried. John heard her murmur something, but it was only when she pulled back a few inches that he could make it out.

"I'm sorry."

He pressed his lips together. "Me too," he whispered into the heavy air, kissing her gently.

The kiss deepened and she felt herself slipping away. She knew that she should have been resisting more, putting up a fight, but the sensation of being in his arms, of feeling his warm breath dance across her face, it was almost enough to change her mind.

But not enough for him.

He pulled back with a jerk, his eyes darting around. "I should go."

Elizabeth found herself nodding and wished she could crawl into a hole. "Yeah," she whispered.

John released her, pulling his hands back, and just turned and walked back through the doors.

Elizabeth wrapped her arms around herself, then cleared her throat and stood up straight. Once her composure returned, she walked through the same doorway.

She didn't look back.
That's What Friends Are For by ShipperWriter
Carson quickly cleared Teyla and Ronan, and without saying a word, they began walking in the direction of the cafeteria. On the way, Teyla had suggested calling Sheppard and inviting him, as he had seemingly disappeared after they returned home.

Ronan grunted and called. Sheppard never answered.

Teyla raised a suspicious eyebrow, but Ronan shrugged and walked through the open doors.

In line, he nodded at the lady serving him. Ronan didn't know a lot about her. Previously, she had said she was from Alabama. He didn't know that much about Earth; it was like people saying Beckett was from Scotland. What the hell was that supposed to mean?

He just nodded and asked for more potatoes.

Teyla waited for him at the end of the line, and motioned over to the corner. At a lonely table sat their missing teammate.

Sheppard was sitting slumped in his seat, his back to them as he poked at the food on his tray. His feet were propped up on the chair facing him. He didn't seem to notice their approach.

Ronan walked up behind him and, holding his tray with one hand, clamped the other down firmly on his shoulder.

Sheppard jumped in his seat, whirling around and staring at Ronan. "You gotta stop doing that," he ordered as he pulled his earbuds out of his ears.

"We were trying to contact you earlier, but you never answered."

Sheppard shrugged and pointed at the earpiece on the table next to his water bottle. "Didn't feel like talking to anybody."

"Do you mind if we sit down?" Teyla asked, nodding to the seats next to him.

He shrugged, replacing one of the earbuds. "Sure." Then he put his head down and crossed his arms.

Teyla glanced up at Ronan as they sat down. He placed his tray on the table and pulled out the seat next to Sheppard. "Whatcha listening to?"

"Music."

Teyla folded her napkin and laid it in her lap. "What kind of music?" she asked with a smile.

John's eyes flickered up to hers. "Johnny Cash."

Through a mouth full of meatloaf, Ronan asked, "The guy hanging on your wall?"

John looked at them with narrowed eyes. "What's going on?" he asked slowly and suspiciously.

"We're making conversation, I suppose." Teyla's reply might have seemed innocent, but Ronan could sense the slight accusation in her voice. John was normally the loudest, if McKay was absent.

And instead, he was sitting at a table, listening to music.

Ronan had enough of Teyla's diplomacy.

"What happened, Sheppard?" he asked directly.

Teyla scolded him with a glare, but Sheppard quirked a smile and pushed the tray away. "You know, I'm still not feeling very talkative. I think I'll go for a run."

Teyla grimaced. "John-"

He stood and picked up his earpiece, stuffing it in his pocket. "You can come if you want. But just running. If I needed to talk, I'm sure Heightmeyer would yank me into her office."

As Sheppard walked away from the table, Ronan turned back and looked at Teyla. "Something's up."

"Yes, but calling him out on it directly may not have been the best way to address it," Teyla gently rebuked.

Ronan smirked as he stood. "Sheppard and I have something in common. We don't like to talk a lot." He ran to catch up with him, leaving his dirty tray and an exasperated Teyla at the table.

-=-=-=-=-=-

Elizabeth had taken a walk through some of the desolate corridors and finally gotten her composure back. She released a heavy sigh, and decided her absence would be noticed soon. She made her way to the control room. Major Lorne smiled when she walked up the stairs and, after handing her a tablet, followed her into the glass walled office and quickly briefed her about what she had missed. A MALP sent to M28-567 showed some promise, and she approved his team for the mission. He looked like he was jumping at the bit to get back out into the field.

As she began to read the report that Lorne had typed up, she couldn't help but smile. It was thoroughly explanatory yet concise, something that seemed lacking in too many of the reports she read on a regular basis. He might not be ready for a command of his own, but he had the makings of a good base commander.

Elizabeth tilted her head, unsure of where that thought had come from, and went back to reading.

She had just neared the end when there was a soft knock on the window near her entryway. "Do you have a minute?" Teyla asked, eyebrows raised.

"Of course, come in," she replied, putting the tablet to sleep and setting it off to the side of her desk that was the least cluttered.

The Athosian woman sat down in the chair closer to the secondary door. She had an apprehensive look on her face, which made Elizabeth frown a bit. She leaned forward on her forearms, clasping her hands together. "Is everything all right? You look unsettled."

Teyla smiled. "I am fine," she said. "But there is a friend of mine that I am concerned about."

"A fellow Athosian?" Elizabeth asked, leaning back in her chair.

Teyla shook her head gently. "No. Although she is very close to me. In many ways, she is the sister I never had."

"Someone on Atlantis?"

Teyla's brown eyes met Elizabeth's, and she sighed. "You, Elizabeth."

"Me?" she exclaimed incredulously. "What's there to be worried about?"

"Ronan and I just ate with John."

Without betraying too much, she let out a sigh. "Oh."

Teyla scooted forward in her chair and lay her hands over her knees. "I do not know exactly how close you and John became during the mission, but it is obvious something has happened. John would barely say anything during the meal. Ronan was speaking more than he was!"

Elizabeth chuckled and bent forwards, fingering the fob watch on the desk. "That is definitely unusual."

Teyla brought a hand up and laid it over Elizabeth's. She raised her eyes.

"I know what it feels like to have a heavy burden on your shoulders. But sometimes you still need someone to talk to, to lift that burden for a while. It's wonderful when you talk with someone you trust, who can share that burden without feeling encroached on."

Elizabeth smiled sadly as Teyla pulled her hand back. "Are you offering a listening ear?"

Teyla nodded, returning the smile though the corners of her mouth lifted a little higher than Elizabeth's. "Yes."

She chuckled softly and was about to thank her when Teyla added, "John's."

It caught her off guard. "What?"

"You and John have a symbiotic working relationship. From the times I have met various ones from Earth, such as Mister Woolsey, Colonel Everett, even Colonel Caldwell at first, I got the impression that none of them approved of your position as leader of Atlantis, nor of John's position as military commander. But you and John do what is right for the good of everyone here. And I do not solely refer to the inhabitants of Atlantis." Teyla regarded her solemnly. "My people have been saved by the results of your teamwork. I shudder to think what might have become of us if we hadn't become friends."

"We accidentally brought the Wraith to your doorstep, Teyla," Elizabeth reminded her. "It's possible that, had we never met, the Athosians might still be living in peace on Athos. Instead, we relocated your people to the mainland on this planet, without direct use of a Stargate."

"That may be, but Elizabeth, we are still alive. And life is not about the what ifs. You will never know what could happen unless you try."

She smiled. "We're not talking about the Athosians anymore, are we?"

Teyla gave her a sly look. "You may think that it is not possible to balance your responsibilities as leader and a personal relationship with John, but trust me. The benefits to the city, and to many other worlds, are far greater when you care for each other." As she rose to leave, she glanced back at her friend. "You shouldn't feel obligated to deny the love you have for him."

"I never said I loved him."

Teyla grinned. "You never had to."

Elizabeth leaned back in her chair.

Teyla walked out, leaving Elizabeth alone with her thoughts.
The Right Side of the Wrong Bed by ShipperWriter
Author's Notes:
Author's Note: I wanted to thank everybody again for reading this story. I'm proud of myself for not putting it off and actually getting it finished in a timely manner!

I wanted to make a note before you read this chapter: this was originally posted on Fanfiction.net as a oneshot, "The Right Side of the Wrong Bed", and it served as the starting point for this story. However, during the course of writing, some plot points changed and I added a bit to this chapter, so it's not the exact same story.

I hope you enjoy, and thank you so much for reading and your reviews!
John moaned as sunlight began peaking in through the blinds. He raised his head with just enough effort to look out the windows to the left, between his bed and the door, and confirm that it was daylight and not an optical illusion. After the night he had just endured, if he could have held the moon in the sky and postponed sunlight, he would have. He did not want to get up, and his tired body agreed.

Ronan had accompanied him on his run for the first five miles, but once it because obvious that he didn't want to talk - at all - and he was running more to torture himself than for the health benefits, the Satedan dropped out. John had made a comment about him being a wuss, partially hoping that he might take a swing at him, but Ronan put his hands up as he panted.

"If you wanna try and kill yourself instead of talking to Weir, that's your choice."

As Ronan walked off in the opposite direction, John frowned. He had never said anything about his problem. And he didn't want to.

His head dropped back to the pillow like a dead weight, and he closed his eyes to the world, only to be interrupted by the damned alarm clock to his left.

Groaning low in his throat, he tried to roll over to hit the snooze when he realized that there was an object - no, a person - laying next to him on the small mattress.

He squinted, staring at the mop of brown strands as he gingerly reached over and hit the button. It was very disturbing to him that he couldn't recall any memories of last night that would have led to this. After the vigorous run he had tortured himself with, he had come straight to his quarters, showered, and fallen into bed. Alone.

The brunette stirred, moaning as she reached for the covers.

John bit his lip, leaning back, away from the foreign person -

- And fell right onto the cold floor.

"Damn," he whispered to himself sharply as he rubbed his thigh. He glanced at himself and quickly raised and lowered his eyebrows. At least he was still wearing boxers.

His hazel eyes looked up and came in contact with an equally confused set of familiar green eyes.

Oh crap.

"John?" she voiced uncertainly but with a hint of amusement, pulling the sheet up around her. "What are you doing?"

"What am I - you're the one who's laying half naked in my bed!" he exclaimed, standing and reaching for a pair of black running pants that lay across the shelf next to the bed.

She cocked her head. "I'm an optimist. Let's go with 'half dressed'."

"Tomato, tomahto." He pulled his pants up and crossed his arms, narrowing his eyes. "Care to explain how this happened? Because as I recall, you didn't want this to go any further as of last night."

Elizabeth smiled bashfully. "I, umm, guess I got used to it. You know, after last week?"

John opened his mouth to unleash another snaky reply, but he clamped his jaw shut after the memories invoked by her words flooded his mind. The flowing gown from the dance, the large bed that still seemed too small, the phony displays of affection that somewhere along the line became sincere …

He nodded and rubbed his forehead. "Yeah," he quietly answered, sitting down on the bed next to her.

Elizabeth dropped the sheet that she had been tightly holding, and John realized that she was more correct than he was. She was wearing a white tank top and black yoga pants, and as his head stopped spinning he noticed a robe laying over the chair behind her. She must have come during the night and snuggled into his side, just like they had done for the past few days on M51-936. He hung his head in remembrance; as much as he wanted to forget the feelings and everything that mission had encompassed, his heart wouldn't let him.

Even after that heart wrenching exchange out on the East Pier, after that earth shattering kiss that he had given her that he didn't really regret, he couldn't let her go. He couldn't get over her.

He didn't want to.

She timidly reached out her hand, laying it atop his, causing him to look up at her.

"I was wrong." She sighed, looking down at their hands. "I was scared. When we got back, I really wanted to make this work. But when I walked into the infirmary and remembered Tharon being here, and finding out she was pregnant, it scared the hell out of me." She shrugged. "So I started finding every excuse in the book to drop this. But it wasn't fair to you."

"So what do you want?" John asked simply, raising his free hand to lip her chin.

Her green eyes finally met his again.

"I want you. Nothing less." Her brown hair was disheveled slightly from sleep, but with the few strands that were falling over her face and the small smile she was wearing, she looked innocent. Devious, even. It was the latter that made him worry.

"I don't have to report til 1000 hours," she softly told him as she turned his hand over. She brushed the hair out of her face with her free hand, then brought it down to his captive one and slowly started rubbing small circles in the palm of it.

He sighed, closing his eyes, getting ready to voice a refusal, when he felt the warm sensation of her lips pressed against his.

John's eyes flew open at the unexpected yet welcome gesture, and just as quickly shut them tight, hands wrapping around her neck and bringing her closer.

Her agile hands began working their way up John's strong arms, into the short hair at the nape of his neck, holding him against her. She kissed his lips like a child holding a mother's hand - afraid that if they let go they would be lost.

As much as he didn't want to admit it, John Sheppard knew that he was lost without her.

They pulled back, hands still firmly woven around each other's necks, as they drew breath again. Hazel eyes met green, and lips met again for a second round. "'Lizabeth," John half muttered as she began kissing a trail down his neck, close to his jugular, making more than his heart skip a beat.

"Hmm," she replied in a tone so quiet she was barely heard.

He sighed in resignation, then the alarm went off again before he could make his point.

Unclasping her hands, Elizabeth reached an arm behind her, harshly hitting the button, and turned back to John. He was sure the regret on his face was evident as her own features fell. "Oh," she finally said in what seemed like resignation.

"I'm on duty in an hour," he told her as his hands latched onto her upper arms. His thumbs were caressing the soft skin as he tried his best to clear his voice.

Elizabeth pressed her lips together, smiling slightly as she looked into her lap. "I understand," she finally said, trying to break away from him and stand up.

In a flash, he realized Elizabeth had misunderstood him. She probably thought he was blowing her off.

He had already screwed things up too much. He wasn't about to make it worse.

"So what time do you get off?" he quickly asked as her arms slid through his grasp. He grabbed her hands and gave a tug. "Because I don't know about you, but I fully intend on seeing this through." He grinned at her.

Elizabeth blinked in shock. "Are you sure?"

His eyes fixated on hers, he replied, "Positive."

She sighed after a moment, and John was expecting a refusal, somewhere along the lines of "I don't want to get hurt again".

But she let out a laugh. "Come get me for dinner. Knowing you," she added, starting to turn away, "I'll need my energy."

As she grabbed her robe and walked into the bathroom, John lay back down on his bed, hands folded under his head, a pleased expression on his face.

Then the alarm rang for the third time.

"Damn."
End Notes:
I'm planning on one more chapter, an epilogue, and then this particular Sparky saga is completed! Thank you again so much for reading!
Epilogue - One Week Later by ShipperWriter
Author's Notes:
Author's Note: Well, we've finally reached the end! I want to thank all the readers and the kind reviews that you left. Seeing the number of reviews go up, even by one, gave me the reassurance I needed to continue working on this! It was a blast!

I have a new Sparky story on the backburner, but I'm giving myself a bit of a break to catch up on some RL things. So keep an eye out, and thanks again!
One week later.

Elizabeth tapped the touch screen on another requisition report from Rodney and set it down on the right side of her desk. She glanced at where the pile had previously been on the left and heaved a sigh of relief.

She was finally done.

Leaning back in her chair, she clasped her hands behind her head and smiled contentedly. Something had changed in her work dynamic. She didn't like leaving her office at night, knowing that the pile of work waiting on her desk would only double in the morning, so she was making a conscientious effort to complete everything by the time her shift was done. Her work ethic had improved dramatically, due to the fact that she usually had plans with someone every evening after work. Carson hadn't even had to call her down to the infirmary and berate her on her lack of sleep.

Elizabeth smirked. Thanks to her military commander, she had been sleeping just fine.

Just then, John Sheppard came walking across the walkway into her office, arms swinging and smiling like he didn't have a care in the world. "Hey," he called out, taking a seat on the outside edge of her desk.

She sat up in her seat. "Hey yourself."

He looked across the desk and let out an admiring whistle. "Wow. You got all your paperwork caught up? Didn't stuff it in a drawer to make it look like you're all done?"

She smiled, then closed her laptop and took her PDA off the dock. "No cheating. Everything's done."

John narrowed his eyes. "That's the third time this week that you've left your office with a clean desk."

Elizabeth gave him an identical look. "And you're keeping count."

He shrugged, then stood up. "So, you wanna grab some dinner?"

"Sorry, can't. Have plans." She rose from her desk and glanced casually at her PDA, then left it on the desktop.

"Oh. Sure. With Teyla?" he asked, sliding his hands in his pockets.

"No," was Elizabeth's short response as she moved around the desk, heading towards the exit.

"'No'?" John replied, following her out. "With who, then?" he asked in a slightly higher voice.

She turned around to regard him when they neared the stairs. "Good night, John," she replied with a tight lipped smile, and descended down the stairs.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

After a quick shower and a change of clothes, Elizabeth left her quarters and began walking through the city. She bit her lip, wishing she had brought her PDA. The person she was having dinner with had emailed her earlier with the specific location, but she had gotten distracted and left it sitting there in her office. It was some obscure place in the city, and she could barely remember the general location, much less the exact spot.

She reached to tap her earpiece and call to ask for directions, but just as her finger almost came in contact with the earpiece the corridors became increasingly familiar. She cleared her throat and glanced nervously down a corridor, and was relieved to not see anyone. She smoothed the faint wrinkles out of her dark jeans and kept walking, looking out the windows to see if anything was familiar.

A faint sound of glass clinking echoed lightly down the hallway, and she made a turn to the left. Sunlight was streaming in an open door at the end, and she walked towards it, a little more confidently.

She walked through the doorway and found her dinner date, wearing an off white, slightly wrinkled buttoned up shirt and a faded pair of jeans.

"Hi."

John turned around and smiled widely. "Hey! I was beginning to think you'd gotten lost," he told her, walking up to her and cupping her face, giving her a swift kiss on the lips.

"Almost," she replied, tilting her head and nodding to the labyrinth of corridors behind her. "So, you picked a secluded spot for a date."

He shrugged. "Had to make sure no one saw us. By the way, you did a good job blowing me off in the control room. Almost had me convinced."

She smiled, then looked back at the balcony to see what he had set up for dinner. There was a blanket spread out on the hard floor, with a standard Expedition storage bin laying towards the back of it. She snickered. "What, you couldn't find a picnic basket?"

He glanced down at it. "Yeah, because that wouldn't have been obvious."

There was a bottle of wine setting next to the bin, with two wine glasses next to it. That must have been the sound she heard down the hallway. Elizabeth lowered herself onto the blanket and picked up the wine bottle, looking at the label. "And yet, you somehow absconded with wine glasses."

John nodded as he sat down next to her on the blanket. "Yeah. The cafeteria lady owed me a favor."

"Oh. She's so sweet."

"Yep." He pointed at the wine bottle. "You want some of that?"

She laughed softly as she handed it to him. "John, you do remember what happened the last time the two of us had a bottle of wine during dinner?"

He twisted the cork out of the bottle neck with a pop and smiled. "No, actually, I don't. Care to remind me?"

In a graceful twist, she leaned over and cupped a hand behind his neck, pulling him towards her. She kissed him, but instead of the chaste greeting kiss that John had given her only moments before, this one was passionate, craving, hungry.

John disengaged and held up a finger, then carefully put the wine bottle back on the floor, up against the wall.

Elizabeth pulled back just enough to meet his gaze and smiled in slight confusion. "I thought we were having dinner."

He smiled, tilting his head as he kissed her neck. Elizabeth was immediately happy that her pale green shirt had a wide neckline, giving him more access.

"Yeah, so did I."

She chuckled and pushed John down onto the blanket, then carefully maneuvered around the bin and straddled his hips.

He looked up at her, slightly startled, and she only shrugged as she began to unbutton his shirt.

"I thought we'd just reenact it."

He smirked at her, and before Elizabeth lowered her lips to meet his again, she began planning exactly how to get that smirk off his face.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Fin.
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