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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.


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