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John walked into his quarters, dimmed the lights, and threw his jacket on the floor. He didn't bother stripping off the rest of his clothing before collapsing on top of his bed. As his eyes closed, he reached out and tugged a corner of the blanket over him. He was asleep within seconds.

***

"You're not taking care of yourself." Elizabeth was standing in the middle of his dream, which John knew perfectly well hadn't been about her at all. In fact, she was giving the horde of Wrath behind him a curious look. "And have you talked to Kate about these nightmares yet? They're getting worse."

"Why are you here again?" asked John. These recurring dreams of Elizabeth had to end. "It'd bad enough I can't stop thinking about you when I'm awake. Do you have to show up in my dreams too?"

"You can't stop thinking about me?" asked Elizabeth. The quirk of her mouth was exactly the same as he remembered. "Why, John, I never knew--"

"I hate my subconscious," groaned John, interrupting the imaginary Elizabeth. He sank back into an easy chair as Steve the Wraith stampeded by him, insubstantial as a ghost.

Elizabeth took one step closer to him. "I'm not a dream," she said. "I promise you that. What will it take to make you believe me?"

"You're a dream. You have to be. There's no possible way for you to be here." John lifted his head to look at her. She was still in the red shirt and black pants that had been the old expedition uniform. "The Asurans are still holding you."

"Believe me, I'm aware of that." Elizabeth's voice held a weary resignation. "But it is me. Given all the amazing things we've encountered in this galaxy, why is this the one you refuse to believe?"

Because he wanted it so damn much, that was why. "Prove it." John shook his head as Athos vanished from his dream, and they were standing on Navy Pier in Chicago, staring up at the Ferris wheel spinning slowly up into the sky. "Prove that you're not just wishful thinking. Tell me something about you that I don't know."

"Something you can verify when you wake up, you mean?" Elizabeth wandered over to a bench and sat down. John sat next to her, achingly conscious of the heat of her arm as she leaned against him.

"Yeah." John's voice was rough with suppressed emotion. He glanced over at Elizabeth, and she could read everything he wasn't saying. Just like always. "Something like that."

Elizabeth nodded once, her eyes thoughtful. "All right." She stayed lost in thought for a moment, and all John could do was stare at the curve of her neck. "Talk to Rodney. When he thought he was going to die, during the time he was altered by the Ancient technology that was a short-cut to Ascension, he wrote my biography."

"Rodney wrote your biography?" John snapped his jaw shut. "Really?"

"Mm-hmm." Elizabeth's cheeks flushed pink, and John tried not to grin as she hid an embarrassed smile. "Five hundred pages' worth of it."

"Jeez." He knew Rodney admired Elizabeth, but that was a little much. "What's a guy got to do to compete around here?"

"You never needed to compete." Elizabeth placed one hand over his as she turned to meet his gaze.

He could still see her green eyes, full of affection and something else he couldn't read, as he woke up.

***

That afternoon, John wandered down to Rodney's lab. They were on stand-down, since Ronon had pulled his shoulder, and Keller wouldn't clear him for active duty no matter how much he glared at her.

After five minutes of small talk, Rodney was glaring at him. "What are you doing here? Don't you have, I don't know, something to do?"

"Not really." John leaned on Rodney's work table because he knew it annoyed him. "Hey, did you ever write a book for Elizabeth?"

"What? Book?" Rodney froze. "You haven't been going through her personal files, have you?"

"No," said John, drawing out the word. "Just something I thought I heard." From Elizabeth. In a dream. So it couldn't possibly be true.

"Oh." Rodney wasn't looking at him.

"So did you?" asked John.

"Uh, yes. I just--" Rodney stopped typing and finally turned to look at John. "What with all the problems the idiots at the IOA seemed to have been giving her, I thought that since I was exhibiting an advanced understanding, I'd explain a few things about her."

"Five hundred pages' worth?" John knew he sounded disbelieving.

"How did you know?" asked Rodney. "You have been going through Elizabeth's personal items, haven't you? I didn't tell anyone about that, and neither did she. Sheppard, if--when we get her back, she's going to kill you."

"I didn't know," said John. "I just-- Never mind." He turned around and left, trying to ignore the sick dread gnawing at him.

***

That night, he lied and told his team he had a headache, and went back to his room shortly after dinner. When he finally fell asleep, Elizabeth was there waiting for him.

"How?" he asked her hoarsely. He walked toward her, stopping only a few inches away. "How can you possibly be here?"

"When you broke quarantine to save me from the nanites, you were infected with some of them yourself. Only a few." Elizabeth smiled sadly. "I can connect with them now, enough to talk with you, but only when you're asleep."

"I thought you were just a dream. I spent months thinking my subconscious couldn't stop torturing me." His hands were on her shoulders now.

"I'm sorry, John." Her mouth was slightly parted. "I know this isn't easy on you."

"On me?" John laughed bitterly. "You're the one who's in Asuran hands. You're the one who's suffered the most from all this."

"They haven't been treating me poorly." She was lying. Her expression hadn't changed, but John knew she was lying.

"I don't believe you," he said, and when Elizabeth flinched, he knew he'd been right not to believe her. "We'll get you out. I'll talk to Colonel Carter. We'll come up with something."

"I don't know where they're keeping me," she said.

"That doesn't matter." He gripped her shoulders tightly, barely noticing that she'd settled her hands on his chest. "We'll find you. We'll get you back. I'm not going to let anything stop me."

"Maybe you will." Elizabeth smiled wanly. "I have to go. I can hide this from them, but not if they're looking for me."

John started awake, his heart thundering in his chest.

***

Colonel Carter was cradling a large cup of coffee to her chest for this morning's briefing. The dark circles under her eyes were as deep as the ones John knew he was sporting. "Colonel Sheppard, why did we need to move the morning briefing up an hour?" she asked. Rodney was staggering in behind her, followed by Teyla, who looked even more exhausted than Colonel Carter. If that was even possible. The only person that didn't look bone-tired was Ronon.

"I've been having dreams," said John.

"Yes, so?" snapped Rodney. "We all have dreams, Sheppard."

"Of Elizabeth."

Rodney sat up straight. Teyla leaned forward.

"You're sure?" asked Ronon, his voice a low rumble.

"John, you are having dreams of Elizabeth?" asked Teyla. "Are they significant somehow?"

"What kind of dreams? What's going on?" asked Rodney. He was frowning at John.

"It's Elizabeth. She's in my dreams." He splayed his hands out on the briefing room table and leaned forward. "I didn't think it was her at first, not until she told me about Rodney's book."

"Elizabeth told you about that?" asked Rodney. "Jesus, Sheppard, why didn't you say something yesterday?"

"I just said I didn't think it was her," said John. "I made her tell me something she'd know that I wouldn't. She told me about the book."

"What book?" asked Colonel Carter.

"Nothing, nothing," said Rodney, and since he looked just that damn embarrassed, John didn't push it. "Just something Elizabeth and I were talking about."

"She's in trouble." John knew he was radiating intensity. He knew it was tearing down most of the careless persona he'd worked on building for Colonel Carter, but he didn't care right now. It was Elizabeth. She needed them.

"Colonel, what are you trying to say?" asked Colonel Carter. She'd set her coffee mug down with a slight thud. "Is Dr. Weir somehow able to contact you in your dreams?"

Rodney almost lunged across the table at John. "You were infected with nanites when you broke quarantine to see Elizabeth, weren't you?" he asked, pointing at him. He turned and looked at Colonel Carter. "It's possible she could get in contact with him via those nanites. Highly unlikely, but possible."

"It's her," said John.

"You are certain?" asked Teyla. "Is she well? Where is she?"

"I said it was her," snapped John. "It's Elizabeth. She says they're treating her well, but she's lying. You need to authorize a rescue mission."

"Excuse me?" asked Colonel Carter. "Colonel Sheppard, you have to realize that we have no clue--"

"You won't do it, will you?" asked John.

Colonel Carter glared, and John narrowed his eyes, just daring her to look away first. "We don't leave our people behind," she said firmly. "But I need more intel on Dr. Weir's location."

"Oh." John deflated, sinking back in his chair. "I-- Tonight, maybe. She said she could only do it when I was asleep. I'll ask her for everything."

"As soon as you have the slightest chance of a viable rescue plan, Colonel, I'll authorize a mission." Colonel Carter's smile was tight. "All of you, and Major Lorne's team as well."

"I am afraid I will not be able to go on a rescue," said Teyla. She glanced sidelong at Rodney. "I am with child. Dr. Keller has said that the Asurans' interrogation technique could cause a miscarriage."

"You're pregnant?" Rodney blanched. "Pregnant? How long have you known?"

"I just found out this morning," said Teyla. She reached over to take Rodney's hand. "I did not want to say anything until I was certain. Dr. Keller confirmed it for me this morning."

Sam was staring at Rodney and Teyla, looking incredibly confused. "You two are in a relationship?" she asked. "But--"

"I am not of Earth," said Teyla calmly. "While I am aware that some of your planet's rules forbid a relationship between Rodney and myself, I do not consider them to apply to me."

"I'm going to be a father?" asked Rodney.

"If I don't kill you first," growled John. "McKay, what were you thinking?" How could he do something like that? This galaxy was too risky; they could die at any time. Teyla could be captured, and then what would Rodney do?

"I was thinking, for your information, that I'm not gonna lose Teyla the way you lost Elizabeth!" spat Rodney. "Not without actually telling her how I feel."

John felt himself go cold and dead. He stood, ignoring concerned looks from Colonel Carter and Ronon, and only barely noticed as Teyla turned to Rodney with a furious glare. "I'll be back with your information," he heard himself say.

Beckett had given him some sleeping pills before he'd died. John had never taken them; they were still sitting in a drawer in his quarters. He'd never needed to use them, not before today.

***

"You look like hell." John walked over to Elizabeth, cursing, once again, the fact that she wasn't here in person. Her hair was lank, and her skin was sallow. She'd never looked this tired before, not even during their first year on Atlantis.

"I don't feel very well," admitted Elizabeth. She stood there, in the middle of his dream, and even looking like she'd been through the wringer, she was the most beautiful woman John had ever seen.

"Do me a favor," said John, "and don't try to tell me they're treating you right. We're the closest thing to Ancients out there, and they hate those guys. So they're taking it out on you."

Elizabeth nodded. Somehow, her hand has found its way into his. "All right."

"We're gonna get you out." He squeezed her hand, and she smiled, but there was still fear lurking in her eyes. "We're working on it. We need to know as much as we can about your location. Are you on the Asuran homeworld?"

"I think so," said Elizabeth. "That's why you can't come looking for me. They're all over this planet, and I think they've come up with a way to reprogram themselves so they're immune to Colonel Carter's disrupting weapon."

"I'm not leaving you there." She couldn't stop him. No matter how much Elizabeth tried to convince him that it was for the better, she wasn't going to stop them from coming for her. "Rodney's already working on a plan for that." John paused. "Unless I pissed him off too much in the morning briefing."

"What could you possibly have done that would have upset Rodney that much?" asked Elizabeth.

"You don't wanna know." John let the dream pass them by. All he wanted to do right now was stand here and talk to Elizabeth. "But since you're going to pester me until I tell you, he kind of accidentally got Teyla pregnant. And then I kind of on purpose asked him what the hell he was thinking."

"Teyla's pregnant?" Elizabeth's eyes widened in that surprised-but-not-in-a-bad-way look that she got. "John, that's wonderful news."

"She's not coming along on the rescue," said John. "Keller says the Asurans could accidentally trigger a miscarriage if they stick their fingers in her head. Carter says the instant we get intel on your location, she's sending us off with Lorne's team, so--"

"John, you can't take that risk." Elizabeth shook her head.

"You don't get to make that call," said John. He clamped his mouth together. Now or never. "I can't do this without you. So don't you dare give up. Don't you dare."

"All right." She looked resolute. "I won't give up. But I don't want you risking your lives for me."

"Doesn't matter right now what you want," said John. "Atlantis needs you. I need you."

Elizabeth mouth opened to say something, and when John's radio buzzed and woke him up, he spat out the loudest, longest string of curses he'd heard since basic training.

***

"Given my spectacular genius, I was able to ascertain which of the nanites are in Elizabeth, given how long she'd been in Atlantis." Rodney looked incredibly pleased with himself, and John couldn't blame him. "Exposure to Atlantis and the EMP when she was in the infirmary altered them enough that we can determine her location."

"So how is it that the Asurans don't know she can talk to me?" asked John.

"Because you were in the infirmary when the EMP went off," said Rodney. He was smug. "That's why they can't detect what she's doing, not if she's not directly interfacing with any of their systems. The few nanites in your system are dormant. They can only be activated when she's trying to contact you."

Colonel Carter and Teyla shared a similarly exasperated and amused look as they glanced at each other. "You aren't the only one who can take the credit, McKay," said Colonel Carter.

"Oh, yes, well," said Rodney. "You, Radek, and Miko certainly helped. But I'm the one who had the major breakthrough. You have to admit that."

"I don't have to admit anything," said Colonel Carter. "All right. We can determine with reasonable certainty where Dr. Weir is. You and Major Lorne's team have a go. I've asked Dr. Keller to go along with you as well."

"So what are we waiting for?" asked Rodney.

"McKay--" John fell silent when Rodney waved his hand.

"Oh, please," he said. "You can apologize to me after we get Elizabeth back, and you're in your right mind again."

"When you're both in your right minds again," said Ronon. He twirled his gun and smirked at them. "Can't deny it."

"We cannot," said Teyla. She was smiling, though. The prospect of getting Elizabeth back was lifting spirits throughout Atlantis. They hadn't been able to keep it quiet.

"You have one hour before your mission starts," said Colonel Carter.

John nodded and turned to go.

"Colonel Sheppard." Colonel Carter's voice was quiet.

"Colonel Carter?" John stopped turned back around, looking impatient. They didn't have any time to waste.

"Bring Dr. Weir home," was all she said, but the look on her face said she knew how she felt. Hell, it even said she'd been right where he was standing.

John nodded. "I will." He wasn't going to let Elizabeth down. None of them would.

--end--


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