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A sharp clap of thunder awoke Elizabeth from her dream, forcing her to sit straight up in bed, gasping. It wasn’t a dream, she corrected herself. It was a nightmare. She wasn’t sure how, considering how long it had been, but the severe thunderstorms outside their windows must have subconsciously awoken memories from a few years before, when Kolya tried to take over Atlantis during the storm. She hadn’t slept well for days afterwards. The nightmares didn’t manifest as often as they used to, but sometimes the sound of thunder would haunt her, rendering her unable to fall asleep.

This nightmare, however, was different. Normally the events would replay like an old movie on a projector screen. But this time? Kolya held her, dragging her towards the Stargate. John was kneeling across the ‘Gate room, his P-90 trained on her? Him? She couldn’t tell. And he would always say the same things. “You’re not going anywhere.” “I will shoot you if you don’t let her go.” “I’m not aiming at her.”

But instead of sending a single bullet into Kolya’s chest, just inches away from her, John stayed motionless on the floor, staring intently at her, until she felt the familiar sensation of the wormhole as she was forced backwards through it and the thunder woke her up.

She brought her knees up to her chest, wrapping her arms around them. A quick glance to her left revealed that John was still asleep. Deviant strands of hair stood out in stark contrast to the light colored pillow cases, and his lips were ajar ever so slightly, even though he breathed through his nose while asleep. His breaths came evenly, and the thunder seemed to have no effect on him.

Then another bolt struck nearby and the room was illuminated, as if someone was shining a spotlight inside.

John’s eyes flew open, and his confusion was met by fear.

“What’s wrong? You okay?” he asked, instantly sitting up in bed and putting a hand over Elizabeth’s.

She nodded to the window. “Thunderstorms. They give me nightmares. Always have, but they got worse after … you know.”

John hung his head as he nodded. He did know; he had stayed in an uncomfortable chair in her room one night after that event to make sure she got to sleep. “Can I do anything?” he asked quietly.

“No, I’ll probably be awake for a while now, anyways,” she replied, glancing down at their hands. “You should try to get some sleep.”

John was silent for a moment. “Well, to be honest,” he finally said, tipping her chin with his finger, “It’s gonna be hard for me to get back to sleep. So I’ll stay up with you.”

“John, you don’t have to do that,” Elizabeth quickly interjected, but John’s finger flew to her fingers, shushing her before she could say anything else.

She allowed a second to admit that she loved the feel of her lips against his rough hands, but that was all. She gulped and brought her eyes up to meet his. The lightning lit up the room, and his hazel eyes seemed warm and reassuring as they stared into hers. She needed to look away, but she didn’t want to. It was ironic how safe and endangered she felt at the moment.

After another second, John pulled his hand back and rested it in his lap where the sheets had bunched up.

“So let’s talk.”

“What?”

He shrugged. “It’s obvious neither of us are going to get a lot of sleep tonight. So we might as well talk. Who knows? I might just bore you to sleep.”

Elizabeth pretended to seriously ponder that last statement, tilting her head at him. “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt.”

John smiled, then laid back down against the soft pillow again, folding his hands over his stomach.

She followed suit, but left one hand over her navel as the right hand cupped the back of her neck. “So. What do you want to talk about?”

He shrugged again. “When did you get so scared of thunderstorms?”

Elizabeth took a deep breath.

-=-=-=-=-=-

“I was eleven.”

John listened to everything going on: the quiet tones of Elizabeth’s voice, the breathing that was slowly calming, the thunder as it would become distant then suddenly strike close to the village again. He wanted to reach a hand out to her like he had when the thunder first struck and forced them awake, but he didn’t want to push his luck. She might start to think that he was just looking for an excuse to hold her hand.

Which was true.

“I had left my backpack in the trunk of my father’s car after school one day. There was a storm rolling in, but there wasn’t any thunder or lightning. Just grey clouds. Almost the instant I opened it and grabbed my bag, a bolt of lightning struck the ground 100 feet away. Scared the hell out of me so bad, I almost jumped in the trunk and closed it behind me.”

John laughed as his mind conjured up that image. For some reason, the eleven year old version of her was wearing pigtails.

Elizabeth chuckled as well. These kinds of memories were usually funny in hindsight. “Once the shock wore off, I ran in the house. I couldn’t sleep at all that night. Went and snuggled into my parents’ bed for the first time since I was a little girl.”

He softly laughed and stretched an arm over his head. Elizabeth turned her head and looked at him. “I couldn’t sleep for a week afterwards.”

“Close call like that can be pretty terrifying for an eleven year old,” John replied, shrugging it off.

“I meant the storm.”

John turned his head to the right and met Elizabeth’s gaze. Even though almost two years had passed, the desperation look that she had given him right before Kolya tried to drag her through the Stargate was similar to the look on her face right now. The memories were resurfacing, and combined with the weather tonight, there was no way that she was going back to sleep on her own.

“That night, when you stayed with me?” she whispered, reminding him. “That was the only time I could sleep. I would just lay there and stare at the ceiling, or pace around my room, or walk through the corridors where I knew no one would be. But it took me a week to finally be able to sleep again.” She wrapped her arms around herself, tightly, securely, and let out a heavy resigned sigh as she prepared to stare at the ceiling for the rest of the night.

At that moment, John made a decision. They could deal with the consequences tomorrow.

“C’mere,” he whispered, raising his left arm and starting to slide his right under her, hoping she would get the idea.

Without a word, Elizabeth rolled onto her side, scooting across the sheets and curling up against the side of his body. She settled her head on his shoulder, her arm finding its way across his chest and holding onto his waist.

His left hand pulled the sheets up around her, and he glanced quickly at the mess of wavy hair now occupying his field of vision. “You good?” he murmured.

“Yeah,” she replied breathlessly. He swore she stifled a yawn.

John started to feel the hand on his waist relax as Elizabeth drifted off to sleep. Finally, her breathing evened out, and despite the thunderstorm outside, she didn’t jolt up from the bed again that night.

He tightened the hand he had around her waist and winced. His arm was going to sleep, almost to the point where it tingled up his limb, but it wasn’t that big of a deal. If Elizabeth got some sleep tonight, a numb arm was a small price to pay.

As he started yawning, he glanced one more time out the window. A bolt of lightning illuminated the sky, and it gave birth to an idea in John’s mind. With a smirk, he finally figured out what they had to offer the Fa’torians.

Then he closed his eyes and let sleep take him.


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