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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.


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