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As the talks for the morning concluded with a lunch break, Elizabeth leaned back in her chair and stretched her arms. The espo beans were highly desirable by many people in this galaxy; besides using them on Atlantis, Elizabeth figured they would be useful for negotiating with other worlds as well.

The Fa’torian society seemed to be prospering, and Elizabeth was regretting that they didn’t have anything more substantial to offer them. The Fa’torian Council, however, was very pleased to have such a new, strong ally that they didn’t seem too upset in that regard.

It had surprised her and Teyla, however, when one of the council members, a petite older woman named Cynara, had asked about the possibility of defensive training for their people. Even Tharon was taken aback, but the all too common reason of “just in case” seemed to persuade her. Elizabeth had jotted down a note about putting Teyla in charge of that. She regularly sparred and trained with many on Atlantis, civilian and military alike. She was sure that no one would object to that suggestion.

She ran her hands over her pants for the day. They were made out of the same material that John had asked about bartering for, and she quickly wrote down his idea below the training note. Her outfit for the day consisted of a pastel pink shirt that wrapped around under her breasts, making her look even slimmer than she already was, and the pair of beige pants that she wanted to sleep in.

Next to her, Teyla glanced out the window and smiled. “I think I will take a walk during our intermission. Elizabeth, would you care to join me?”

She thought for a moment, then shook her head. “No, you go ahead. I probably should eat something, or Carson will be on my case as soon as I get home.”

Teyla nodded. “Very well.”

As Teyla passed Tharon, the prime minister walked around the table and took the seat that the Athosian woman had just vacated. “Are you feeling well?”

“Hmm? Oh, yes, I’m fine,” Elizabeth responded with what she hoped was a convincing smile.

Tharon gave her a knowing look. “Lies do not become you, Elizabeth.”

She sighed. “No, I suppose they don’t.”

Tharon glanced up at the guards near the door and shooed them out of the room with her hand. “All right. It’s just us. What’s wrong?”

Elizabeth took a breath and spoke about what she had discussed with Teyla over breakfast. As she reiterated the nervous tension between her and John, she was amazed at how comfortable she felt with Tharon, considering how short of a time they had been acquainted.

When she finished, the Fa’torian leaned back in her seat, crossing her arms.

“It seems to me that you care for Colonel Sheppard more than you let on.”

“I have a great deal of respect for him,“ Elizabeth replied defensively. “We work very well together. And yes, John and I are very good friends. I would almost go so far to say that he is my best friend.”

“But how do you feel?” Tharon emphasized, leaning forward in her chair towards Elizabeth.

Elizabeth frowned. “What are you trying to say?”

Tharon raised her hands. “Don’t misconstrue my advice for meddling, but given how close you are, and how much you trust and respect him, I am surprised that your relationship is purely platonic.”

Elizabeth sighed. “Even if I did have a romantic interest in John, and I’m not saying that I do,” she said quickly, “there are rules in place from our government that would prevent us from having an intimate relationship. Technically speaking, I am his superior. The chain of command--”

Tharon interrupted. “I understand. But denying that you have any feelings for him might be worse. What’s the harm in admitting that you do care for him, but acknowledging that you’re not in a position to do anything about it?”

Elizabeth buried her face in her hands. “Oh, if only it were that simple,” she whispered, letting her guard down.

Tharon placed a hand on her shoulder, causing her to look up.

“I understand what you’re going through, although now may not be the time to explain it,” she replied, glancing at the table of food waiting for them. “And I know how being forced to be so close will be difficult for you right now, but in the long run, I think that both our worlds will benefit from it.”

Elizabeth raised her head, clearing her throat, and quickly her neutral fašade fell into place with a curt smile. “I agree.”

Yet as she and Tharon made their way over to grab some food for lunch, the thought of a relationship between her and John still stayed in the back of her mind, distracting her for the rest of the day.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

John, Ronan, and Rodney had spent the morning with Kerrak as he gave them a guided tour of the town and many of the farming facilities outside the city. After John and Ronan had enjoyed way too many espo beans, McKay grumbled about all the walking and stayed in the room for the afternoon.

Kerrak politely excused himself, and John challenged Ronan to a run.

They jogged down some of the paths that Kerrak had just led them down, taking a route that wrapped around the outskirts of town near the Stargate, then crossed through the village and roughly made a figure eight.

When they finished the last lap, they took the path that led back to the center of town. The tavern and inn that they were calling their home for the next few days was on the left. Elizabeth was standing on the porch outside of the inn, staring at something off in the distance. She leaned against the wooden support post, and her slumped posture told John that she was exhausted.

“Wonder what she’s looking at?” Ronan wondered aloud as they slowed their pace, letting them catch their breath.

“I don’t know,” John replied with narrowed eyes. He glanced quickly at Ronan out of the corner of his eye. “Meet you for dinner, okay?”

Ronan grunted and headed toward the path again, breaking into a run as he left John‘s sight. It seemed he still had some pent up energy.

John stuffed his hands in his pockets and quietly walked up behind Elizabeth. The creak of the wooden floor made him cringe, but she didn’t turn around. As he softly moved to stand behind her, he directed his eyes to whatever had captivated her attention.

Personally, he didn’t think a cow was worth the amount of consideration that she seemed to be giving it.

“Whatcha looking at?” he asked quietly, startling her. It made her stand straight and turn around to face him.

Uncrossing her arms, Elizabeth shook her head. “Nothing. I guess I was just … staring off into space.”

John smiled briefly, then nodded behind her. “It sure is calm around here. No technology, no enemies. McKay must be going insane.”

Elizabeth smiled, then chuckled. “Thanks.”

He nodded in return, then tilted his head, looking worriedly at her. “Long day?” he asked.

She shrugged. “It was … interesting.”

“You’ll have to tell me about it over dinner … sweetie,” John suggested with a chuckle as he gestured to the doors leading inside.

Elizabeth smiled in return, but it faded quickly as she rushed through the doors.

Something was bothering her; it irritated him that he didn’t know what it was. Yet he shrugged it off and followed her inside.


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