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Author's Chapter Notes: After a sleepless night John is full of remorse but can he get Elizabeth to forgive him

For John, the slow rising sun of the Lantean dawn signified the end of what had been a torturous night. His sheets felt damp beneath him, while his t-shirt and shorts that served as night clothes, clung uncomfortably to his skin; the result of his constant agitation and restlessness.

His relief, though, was short-lived, as all the emotions and turmoil of yesterday returned, bringing with them a feeling of despondency. Would things improve with the dawning of a new day, he wondered, or would Elizabeth and he remain at loggerheads? His stomach twisted with pain and remorse as he remembered the hurt expression on her face before she’d fled the room. He was certainly becoming a master at causing Elizabeth unnecessary heartache and pain.

He lay awake, trying to think about how it could’ve all been prevented and wasn’t surprised when he came to the conclusion it was he, himself, who had been at fault.

The long hours spent deliberating had forced him to look at it from Elizabeth’s prospective. Food supply on Atlantis was becoming scare, due to potential alliances falling short in expectations for varying reasons. An alliance with the Tronans could be the answer to their problems, especially if they were able to secure regular trade. So yes this, he understood, was too important to merely disregard.

What he still was having problems getting his head around, was the need for Elizabeth’s presence, especially after they had totally disregarded her as Atlantis’ leader on their previous visit to Tronan. Had the new government changed so drastically from the overthrown one? John prayed for Elizabeth’s sake they had.

He sighed, wistfully ‘you could rant and come up with every excuse possible,’ he chided himself, ‘it still wouldn’t change the fact that Elizabeth was going with or without your approval.’ His only option was to make sure he stuck to her side like a leech, with his senses on high alert.

Over the past couple of months, with the advancing stages of her pregnancy, he knew he had become slightly over protective; something that both annoyed and endeared Elizabeth, depending on her mood. Maybe it was just over exaggerated this time.

In the meantime, what he needed was something that would take care of his agitation and surplus energy. He knew the ideal thing and the morning was still young enough for him to enjoy some time alone, knowing it was highly unlikely he’d encounter anyone this early in the morning.

He quickly changed and, after doing some muscle stretching exercises, started off at a slow jog, intent on increasing the pace until he was almost running around the outer corridors. Very soon the cool breeze from the ocean presented its refreshing qualities and after the sticky atmosphere of his quarters, he was feeling revitalized. The solitude and stillness of the early hour also, was just what he needed.

This was short lived, however. He groaned impatiently as he became aware of heavy footsteps pounding from behind him.

“Hold up Sheppard, fancy some company?”

John tipped his head and signalled for the new arrival to join him. He was relieved to see it was Ronon, it meant he wouldn’t be submitted to an ear bashing, as the large Satedan had not yet mastered the art of conversation. John marvelled at the appearance of the man, who, by the looks of the sweat marks on his clothes, had done a few laps already, but still looked like he was only out for a Sunday afternoon stroll.

The two men ran side by side, comfortable in the other’s silence. They had done a few laps of part of Atlantis’ perimeter, when John checked his watch. Noticing the time, he suggested they head back, if they wanted to get showered and changed in time for that morning’s mission briefing.

Ronon merely grunted his acknowledgement, which was why John was surprised when the Satedan started to speak as they walked briskly back to their respective quarters.

“Sheppard.” He paused; “If you feel the need to talk...” he glanced uneasily at John clearly out of his comfort zone.

John looked at him, curiously “About what?

Ronon met his expression with an incredulous look. “Sheppard, you just tackled that run as if the devil himself was in hot pursuit and I overheard some of Weir’s conversation with Teyla.”

“John glanced across the ocean, a sour expression on his face. “Is nothing in this city sacred?”

For a moment Ronon remained silent, but his eyes spoke volumes. “I had a wife once too.” He finally acknowledged.

John met his eyes with a tight smile. “I’ve often wondered if there had been someone back in Sateda, family perhaps. You never spoke about it and I never liked to pry.”

Ronon nodded slowly his expression grave, “She died.”

An uncomfortable silence developed between the two men. John, however, knew almost instinctively that Ronon was using this chance to unload a lot of pain he’d kept locked deep inside, so waited patiently for him to continue. He observed the raw pain that clouded the man’s eyes; something he’d never allowed anyone to see previously. John sighed in relief, however, when his patience was rewarded, as Ronon once again instigated conversation.

“My need to protect her is what killed her.” He paused.” She complained I was suffocating her. On the day she died we argued. She stormed out and spent the night at the hospital where she worked, only there was a terrorist attack and the hospital took a direct hit. There were no survivors.”

For a man who favoured his privacy, such a speech must have been extremely difficult, but John was confused as to why Ronon suddenly felt the need to bring it in to the open. “I always thought there was something from your past you didn’t want to divulge, but why now?”

The Satedan looked long and hard at John before answering. “Because you’re heading down that same road.” His mouth twisted into a frown, “Don’t make the same mistake, Sheppard.” Getting up, Ronon strolled off to his quarters without a backwards glance.

John stood outside the shower, testing its scalding water before stepping inside. He could not help but contemplate Ronon’s words. Was he suffocating Elizabeth with his constant attention? He had never thought of it like that, merely seeing it as a way of ensuring her safety. But did Elizabeth feel the same way about it, especially after their recent fallout?

He realised now how badly he had handled yesterday’s revelation. In hindsight, it would be madness to turn down such a lucrative deal. He reached for the shower gel and lathered the suds to a rich crème, enjoying the feeling of the scented balm on his skin. Something was missing though and he immediately felt dejected as he realised what, ‘Elizabeth.’ Normally, they relaxed in the shower together, when their schedule permitted. She loved to lean sleepily against him sighing in bliss as he gently caressed the soap filled sponge over her skin, or massaged the shampoo into her scalp. Suddenly the joy he felt from the warm shower evaporated as he felt an overwhelming need to seek out Elizabeth.

Wrapping a towel firmly around his waist, he glanced at the clock on the wall as he stepped from the shower. He was relieved to see he still had a few spare minutes as long as he forfeited breakfast; there would be plenty time for that after the meeting.

Hopefully he might get the chance to catch up with Elizabeth, in private, before his team started to filter in. It was possible he could find his way into her good books by just being early for a change. He knew his lack of punctuality was something that grated on her nerves and with her present frame of mind it would do more than that if he were to be late today as well. What she would say or do he never wanted to find out.

Finally ready, he made his way along to Elizabeth’s office where the briefing was to be held. His hopes of getting her on her own for a few minutes were quickly dashed when he realised a number of people were already present. Sighing in disappointment, he took his seat.

As the briefing got underway, John was able to convey his change in attitude and was sure he saw a fleeting expression of relief pass over Elizabeth’s face.

It was obvious, with Lorne in attendance and the apologetic expression in his eyes, that Elizabeth had requested the attendance of John’s second in command.
It seemed she had been under the impression that John was going to refuse to lead the mission, he could see why she’d think this but it didn’t help diminish the hurt he felt at so easily being dismissed.

He couldn’t deny refusing the mission hadn’t gone through his mind but only if it would have served its rightful purpose and that was to prevent Elizabeth going also. However it hadn’t taken him long to come to the conclusion Elizabeth would go with or without the attendance of her second in command

Whatever her thoughts had been on the matter, it was soon clarified that no-one but John would be heading the mission, along with his own team. Lorne would be in charge of Atlantis until both leaders returned.

When everyone had been updated on all the relevant information regarding their pending mission, the briefing was brought to a close. The number of people present gradually dwindled, as they left to carry out final preparations for the forthcoming mission.

Finally the only ones left were himself and Elizabeth so John quietly moved his chair closer to her so he would be guaranteed her attention. He had no intention of leaving until he had had his say.

Elizabeth, whose attention was on her unfinished reports, appeared to be unaware of his presence, but the nervous shake of her hand as she worked through the unfinished paper work gave away her pretence. John heard the quiet sigh that escaped from her lips before she gave in and looked up at him,
a closed expression on her face. “Was there something else, Colonel?”

Sitting down beside her, he observed how tired and depressed she looked. “About yesterday.”

Holding up her hand, she interrupted him. “Hold it right there, Colonel, I don’t want to hear any more on that subject.”

John tried to take hold of her hand, but she immediately pulled away from him in anger. He was not going to accept rejection, however; he needed her to listen to what he had to say. “Look, Elizabeth, I admit I over reacted yesterday, without thinking about the proposed alliance seriously.

She raised an eyebrow, “I think that is an understatement, Colonel. The way you reacted was totally unnecessary.”

John leant back in his chair, squirming uncomfortably. “Do you think I don’t realise that now? It’s not the alliance itself that’s the problem; I was concerned for you.”

Elizabeth was about to object, but John laid a hand on her arm. “Please, Elizabeth let me finish. That’s the mistake I made yesterday; not waiting to see the full picture before going off the deep end.” She gave a silent nod, indicating for him to continue.

“I realise our priority has to be Atlantis and, for the alliance to be successful, your attendance is a necessity. Thankfully, the Tronans are not known for aggression, but I need to know your security isn’t in jeopardy either. So I need you to agree to any additional measures I feel are necessary.”

She stared at him silently for a few seconds, before reluctantly nodding her head. Her eyes, as they bore into his, held a warning, which she then verbalized, “But if you do or say anything to jeopardize this mission…”

John couldn’t think of an answer to give, so remained silent. He didn’t want to acknowledge aloud, that he would take any measures necessary whilst on the Tronan home world and challenge anything suspicious, even if it did jeopardize the success of the alliance. She, thankfully, took his silence to mean he understood what she was implying.

Dropping her eyes back to the computer she told him coldly “I suggest you get yourself prepared Colonel, as I intend to head out at the appointed time, whether you’re ready or not.” She clicked her pen, her attention immediately returning to the unfinished reports, which effectively dismissed him.

John wasn’t ready to leave yet, however. He intended to finish what needed to be said. Parking his rear end on the corner of her desk so he could see her reaction, he leant into her personal space. “That’s not all we need to discuss and you know it.”

“That’s all we’ve got time for; anything else can be discussed at a more appropriate time.” She glared at him for a moment before her eyes dropped back down to her desk.

Opening his mouth to say something, John thought better of it and instead simply nodded. However, he couldn’t hold back his final words as he left the room. “I’m not going to give up on us. I made the mistake and I intend to rectify it.” With that he left in search of his team.

Teyla had observed the gratitude and relief in John’s eyes at finally having a short time alone with his team members as they’d carried out their final preparations. She was aware it had calmed him slightly when they’d assured him they’d be on guard for anything suspicious and would ensure Elizabeth was fully protected.

The two remaining team members sauntered slowly towards the mess hall, deep in conversation, although they intending to snatch a quick bite to eat before heading out. Rodney and Ronon had gone on ahead, leaving John with Teyla.

“So what do you suggest I do now Teyla? Leave her to stew, and all the while the situation intensifies inside her head or do I make her listen?”

Stealing a quick glance at her companion, Teyla was not surprised to see he looked equally as disturbed by yesterday’s events as Elizabeth herself did. It was easy to see the dark shadows under his eyes and the weary drop of his shoulders, indicating a night of sleep had passed him by.

Teyla felt frustrated with them, especially John. All the upset could have been avoided if both of them had given a little, but in many ways they were so alike and stubbornness was one of them. It had only succeeded in upsetting them both. Elizabeth had herself spent a very unsettled night and at one point Teyla had considered calling Carson to come and talk to her, but thankfully exhaustion finally won the battle and she fell into a troubled sleep.

As they reached the confines of the mess hall, they quickly collected their breakfast before seeking out Ronon and McKay, who were sitting in a fairly secluded corner. Both John and Teyla were equally concerned when they came to realise Elizabeth had neither appeared for breakfast, nor instructed anyone to deliver it to her office. Thankfully, Carson had come in to snatch a quick coffee, having had his breakfast first thing and he was going to take a tray up to her. The doctor had no intention of leaving until she’d eaten something.

John stirred his spoon about in his cereal absent-mindedly, and then dropped it, causing it to rattle against his plate. “What am I supposed to do now? I tried to get her to talk but she was having none of it. Somehow I don’t think she’s going to let go of this anytime soon.”

Rodney had somehow remained oblivious to everything until now. With his mouth still full of cereal, he looked at John; his expression one of accusation. “What did you say this time to upset her?” Speaking resulted in the food spraying out of his mouth and all over the table.

“Gee thanks for that McKay! If I wanted half your breakfast I’d have asked for it.” John pushed his plate away in disgust.

Rodney was about to say something in retaliation but the threatening rumbles coming from Ronon were enough to silence him.

Teyla waited until silence settled before continuing the previous conversation.
“John, you will have to give her some time. She had a night as disturbing as you look to have had.”

He gave a cursory nod to the members of one of the teams just returned from an overnight trading mission, before returning his attention to the conversation at the table. “I don’t like heading off world with her and this unpleasantness still not settled. What if she doesn’t take seriously any worries I have that her security has been breached?”

Teyla’s worried look mirrored John’s. “What exactly is it about the Tronans that concerns you?

They were unable to continue the conversation, as they were requested over the intercom to immediately make their way to the jumper bay.

Elizabeth had taken her usual seat by his left side, but an uncomfortable silence remained present between them. It wasn’t long before John felt her eyes burning into him. He turned around slightly and gave her a warm look before gently squeezing her hand; an action she surprisingly accepted. There was surprisingly a hint of a smile on her face, which helped John relax. He felt good knowing that although he was not her favourite person at the moment, she still felt the need to have him close by.

Reluctantly returning his attention to flying the jumper, it wasn’t long before they were approaching the Tronan home world. John had forgotten how enchanting the approach was, with the vivid colours of the various plant life out in force. Before long, he was piloting them in for a safe landing, just a short distance from the Tronan settlement.

End of flashback

Chapter End Notes: The meeting with the Chief Councillor of the Tronan people appears to be a success but sometimes things are not what the appear causing John to lose something dear to him.

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