They'd not had the time or opportunity to talk for a while, but with Atlantis's recent project focusing on their attempt to find 'spare' Stargates for the proposed inter-galactic gate bridge, there hadn't been much that John could usefully contribute to the project; he'd suggested that Elizabeth ignore a couple of gates without stating why he thought they should be ignored- he didn't want to lose access to his emergency supplies, after all-, but that was the extent of his involvement in it.
"Reasonably well for us, thanks," Elizabeth replied, smiling back at him. "We're making good progress finding gates for the inter-galactic bridge at our end, and apparently things are going... fairly well in the Milky Way as well."
John knew enough about the reports from the Milky Way to know that the search for Merlin's weapon had taken a dead end, but that wasn't important right now; there was nothing that he could contribute to that particular search, so pressing Elizabeth about the details wouldn't accomplish anything.
"So... what prompted this?" John asked, casually indicating the balcony. "Not that I don't mind the chance to chat, but... well..."
"I just wanted to ask you about something," Elizabeth clarified, saving him from actually voicing their 'unspoken agreement' not to discuss their lack of non-mission-related interaction; as much as John liked to think that Elizabeth would like to spend time with him outside of these meetings, putting her on the spot about the issue would have just felt awkward at best, given that there were few opportunities for them to spend time together that wouldn't have put John at risk from Sumner's military officers, particularly after the colonel's interest in the Phantom had increased following his last appearance. "We just received reports of an individual called Lucius Lavin on the last planet that Sumner's team visited, and he's apparently rather highly-regarded by his people and some other planets he's visited for some skills in exploration and medicine; he didn't exactly strike Sumner as authentic, but I wondered if you'd heard of him?"
"Name doesn't ring a bell," John replied, shrugging apologetically. "Still, keep in mind that I've been out of the loop for the last few years; maybe he's made an impact on things while I've... been away?"
"That's possible," Elizabeth confirmed, nodding in acknowledgement of his point, neither of them mentioning exactly why he'd been confined in his ability to make a greater galactic impact over the last few years. "Doctor Beckett's talking with him at the moment, just in case there actually is anything to his claims; he might be coming back to the city if the meeting goes well, so maybe you'll have the chance to meet him then."
"See him, anyway," John pointed out, smiling slightly at her, even as he felt a slight automatic tension in his shoulders at the thought of talking to anyone else outside of Elizabeth in such a casual manner.
He knew that it maybe wasn't a healthy response, but he'd spent so long hiding away from the rest of the city's inhabitants, save for when there was some crisis or another to deal with that required his direct intervention, that he just... didn't feel comfortable talking about interacting with someone in a purely social environment right now (Probably because the last couple of socialising opportunities he'd had with people ended with them chasing him away in a panic after they saw what was under the mask); Elizabeth was the exception only because he'd spent so much time talking with the body of her other self...
Shaking such morbid thoughts off, John jumped off the balcony, opening his cape so that he could glide down to his destination; it wasn't like he could complain about things in Atlantis being quiet, after all...
As he observed events in the city the following morning, John wondered if he should be concerned or just somewhat puzzled.
The news that Beckett had actually brought Lucius Lavin back to Atlantis had been a bit of a surprise, of course, but if McKay didn't prove that sometimes arrogance was deserved John didn't know who would prove such a thing; the man might seem a bit cocky from what he'd seen from his occasional glimpse of the new arrival, but after confirming that he wasn't carrying any weapons John had just settled down in a small compartment near the gateroom to keep an ear out for any potential developments after Sumner and McKay left to scout for new Stargates
However, when he woke up, he was left with the unnerving impression that something about the city had changed while he'd been asleep. It wasn't anything immediately obvious- Sumner and McKay were away, probably scouting out a few more gates, but that wasn't exactly unprecedented if they were checking out orbital gates were population contact was likely to be negligible, and everyone else seemed to be relaxed-, but there was something about the atmosphere that didn't seem right.
Granted, it wasn't like he spent a lot of time observing the fine details of everyones' daily activities in Atlantis, but he was fairly sure that the general staff should spend a bit more time perusing Atlantis's databanks and slightly less time gossiping about the new arrival... and when did a bunch of highly trained military operatives- particularly those commanded by someone as efficient and focused on the rules as Colonel Marshall Sumner- indulge in this much 'gossip'?
Maybe he was just being overly paranoid- with Orion in orbit and the drone weapon batteries fully stocked up, Atlantis was pretty much in the best condition it had been in since they'd arrived; the only thing they really needed that they didn't have was a few extra ZPMs, and the one they were using certainly had enough power to help everyone feel comfortable-, but that didn't stop John from feeling like he was just waiting for the other shoe to drop in this latest turn of events...
When he saw Elizabeth starting to walk towards their balcony, he was almost relieved at the possibility that he would get the chance to ask her a few questions; the way she was looking over her shoulder was a little unusual, but it wasn't like she wasn't allowed to be looking for someone else...
As he took up his position on top of the balcony, his smile brightened as Elizabeth walked out onto the balcony below him, but when a slightly overweight man with slightly receding curly black hair and dressed in loose-fitting white linen clothes who could only be Lucius Lavin walked out on to the balcony that he knew something was wrong.
Even without the fact that Elizabeth never brought anyone else out to what he would always consider their balcony, as soon as the overweight man had walked through the door, his vision briefly turned green as the emergency energy shield systems in his mask flared into life, covering his eye sockets and extending over his exposed jaw and cheek to 'clamp' down around his neck.
John didn't stop to think; ignoring Elizabeth's obvious breach of their unofficially-established protocol in this situation, John leapt down from his position above the balcony and landed behind Elizabeth and Lucius, standing straight up as they turned to look at him.
"Oh my- the Phantom?" Lucius said, grinning as he looked at John, apparently unconcerned about the cold stare John was giving him behind the mask as he walked forward to shake the masked man's hand. "It's an honour-"
"Wish that I could say the same," John replied, folding his arms as he glared at the other man, the faint glow of green in the corner of his eyes confirming that he was looking at someone with more than a few secrets. "What are you doing to them?"
"John?" Elizabeth said, looking at him with a smile that was so sickeningly sweet John would have disliked it under any circumstances- Elizabeth could be kind, but the expression currently on her face was just soppy in a way that Elizabeth should never be-, her expression shifting to confusion as she took in his defensive stance. "What are you doing; Lucius is a wise and kind man who wouldn't do anything to hurt us-"
"And you're certain of that after he's been here for a day?" John said, looking incredulously at her. "You kept Chaya under more intensive guard than this, and she definitely had something you needed, and don't even get me started on how paranoid Sumner's men are around me even after everything I've done for this city; there's no way you're thinking clearly-!"
The implication of that statement only hit him once it was out of his mouth.
Elizabeth wasn't thinking clearly...
And, judging by Sumner's uncharacteristic attitude, he wasn't acting like he normally would in such a situation either.
Which meant that Lucius was using something to influence how everyone in Atlantis was behaving towards him...
"What are you using?" John said, his gaze fixed on the other man with renewed resolution as his sudden theory became ever more certain in his mind.
"What?" Lucius said, looking at John in what could almost be taken as genuine confusion. "I'm not using-"
"This is an automatic system that serves as an air-filtration unit," John said, tapping a finger against his cheek to reveal the glowing green glow of the simple Ancient shield he'd incorporated into the mask. "It automatically activates to protect me from toxins if I find myself on a planet with a hostile atmosphere; the city's own air-filtration systems were good enough to deal with whatever you're using when I was at a distance from you earlier, but now that we're in close proximity, something's set my alarm systems off... and since Elizabeth hasn't been offworld since the last time we met, she can't have picked something up, so the cause must be you."
"What are you talking about?" Elizabeth said, looking at him with that sick devoted confusion that put John disturbingly in mind of a child who didn't understand why Daddy was upset with Mummy (The idea of something reducing Elizabeth to this kind of state just made him feel sick...). "Lucius wouldn't do anything like that-"
"You've known him for a matter of hours, Elizabeth; how can you honestly say what this guy would or wouldn't do?" John asked, glaring over at her. "I don't care what he's using, but I do know that you're better than this; you've known me for two years-!"
"And at least Lucius has been open enough to show me what he looks like," Elizabeth countered, glaring at John with a sudden coldness about her manner that hit John with a more devastating blow than any weapon ever could have done.
Elizabeth Weir didn't believe in him...
Because of that chubby-
"BASTARD!" he roared, rational thought forgotten as he grabbed Lucius by the shirt, muscles trained and honed by years of fighting Wraith hauling the slightly overweight man through the glass windows that had so long preserved their privacy. Crashing through the window, John hurled Lucius to the ground, pinning the other man down with his own body-weight, only to hear the sudden sound of several weapons cocking around him. His rage momentarily quelled at the sound of the guns, John looked up to find himself staring down the barrels of several guns, a large quantity of Sumner's marines at the other end of them.
John wasn't sure who to curse more; himself for being so hot-headed as to attack Lucius in the first place, or Lucius for driving trained marines to the point where they were willing to shoot the guy who'd helped them survive the siege last year for attacking someone they'd only just met (Maybe he'd deserve some hostility under other circumstances, but the guy had barely been here a day and almost certainly had nothing to offer)...
"Uh... I surrender?" he said, holding his hands up as he quickly mentally deactivated his personal shield device; given that it was hidden on his back underneath his outer top, he felt comfortable assuming that nobody would find the device, but the last thing he wanted was for anyone to have reason to suspect that it was there and take it away from him.
"Take him to the holding area," Sumner's voice said, the colonel walking down the stairs from where he'd been apparently working in the control room, looking scathingly at John as he quickly searched his belt and removed his weapons. "I knew you were screwed up, but I didn't think you'd fall so low that you'd attack Lucius."
John tuned out everything that Sumner was saying to him as he stood there in silence before he was taken away down the corridor leading to the holding cells; right now, all that he was focusing on was the look of disappointment on Elizabeth's face as she stared at him.
Disappointment at the fact that he'd attacked someone who'd turned the most incredible woman he'd ever known into a simpering fangirl...
He'd always assumed that he couldn't hate anyone more than the Wraith, but Commander Kolya had proven that theory wrong, and what Lucius had done to Elizabeth had pushed him so far up John's hit list that he was surprised he hadn't accidentally subconsciously ordered Atlantis to destroy the guy already.
Right now, he was going to give Lucius a chance to relax, work out what he was using, and then...
John fought the urge to smile at the thought of what he would do to Lucius once he had established what the other man had done to those he had sworn to protect.