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Author's Chapter Notes: AN: As mentioned, this takes place a couple of weeks after Lucius's departure, exploring the events of 'Sateda'- mainly from the perspective of Atlantis, but with further analysis of how Sumner differs from John as a commander-; hope you like what I have planned

Looking out at the city, even after nearly two weeks since Lucius Lavin had 'visited' Atlantis, Elizabeth wondered if she would ever feel entirely clean again.

After she'd come so close to having sex with Lucius while under the influence of that... herb..., after she'd been willing to virtually hand control of Atlantis over to a man she'd only just met... when she'd been perfectly willing to-

Elizabeth didn't know if she'd ever lose the urge to throw up when she thought about what could have happened if John hadn't managed to act quickly enough to come up with a plan to create and disperse a cure throughout the city. She'd been hanging so keenly on Lucius's every ridiculous word... every pathetic story or flirtation that he had told had been met with a response that would have suited a simpering heroine from an old romance novel rather than the mature woman she was... and what she could have done with him if John hadn't locked Lucius away and risked everything to escape and find a way to devise a cure...

The look on Lucius's face when they'd hauled him out of the cell alone had almost made up for the humiliation he'd put them through, relief quickly giving way to terror as he took in the glares on their faces and was forced to realise that the drug he'd been using was no longer having any effect on them. With the cure having been released over Lucius's planet to help those village residents still in 'detox' from prolonged exposure to him- Doctors Beckett and McKay had found a way to use the puddle jumpers to spray the cure over the village in a liquid state-, Lucius had been returned to his planet, leaving him to make his own way on a world that would at the very least drive him off it once they'd completely recovered from the drug's influence.

She just wished that she could find it as easy to arrange a meeting with John to apologise as it had been for her to get Lucius sent away from the city he'd so nearly practically taken control of. She'd tried to wait for John on their balcony, but he'd never shown any sign that he even knew that she was there, to say nothing of the lack of evidence to suggest that he was in position to join her.

It was almost refreshing to have the city return to normal now; they'd spent some time engaged in mandatory counselling to cope with what they'd done under Lucius's 'control'- a policy encouraged among the Stargate program ever since Hathor's near-takeover in their first year-, but with immediate potentially traumatic reactions to the mind-control cleared up, they were now returning to their more traditional routine, as Sumner and his team investigated the next planet on their list.

Elizabeth wasn't sure what it said about her relationship with John that she wished some crisis requiring his attention would emerge sooner rather than later; she had to apologise for what she'd said to him while under Lucius's influence.

Maybe she sometimes felt frustrated that he didn't feel like he could trust her with the truth about what he looked like under his mask, but she did trust that he had a reason for wearing it- even if it was mostly just habit rather than anything else-, and respected his wish to keep the mask on even when they were talking on their own; if he'd just give her the chance to explain-

The sound of the Stargate activating drove her mind back to the present, prompting Elizabeth to glance at her watch; it was too soon for any offworld teams to be coming back, which increased the possibility that something was wrong. As she walked back into the gateroom from her balcony, she was greeted by the sight of an active Stargate, followed by McKay staggering through the event horizon before he collapsed to the ground as the gate shut down, revealing an arrow sticking out of his rear end.

If this had been any other situation, Elizabeth supposed that it would have been funny- the idea of someone being injured in their ass was kind of amusing, when you got down to it-, but she didn't have the time for that right now.

"Medical team to the gateroom!" she yelled as she activated her radio, before hurrying down to the gateroom to crouch down anxiously beside her chief scientist. "Rodney, what happened? Where are the others?"

"They're... right behind me..." McKay said, shaking slightly as he indicated the now-inactivate Stargate as the medical team ran into the gateroom, quickly moving into position around McKay as he collapsed to the ground, pain etched all over his features.

"Get him to the infirmary, and get him in a condition where he can talk," Elizabeth said, nodding at the relevant doctors as she stood up.

It might be an abrupt way to deal with this situation, but she wasn't going to get her military commander and her native Wraith experts back without more information about what had actually happened to them on the other side of the Stargate, and right now McKay was the only viable source of information that she had.

An hour or so later, Elizabeth stood in the infirmary- she'd thought about waiting on the balcony to attract John's attention, but had dismissed that idea fairly quickly; judging by the arrow that had injured McKay, the planet he'd visited wasn't populated by a particularly advanced race, which limited the possibility that it was a world that the Phantom would have paid significant attention to, and she couldn't exactly ask him to help her rescue Sumner without drawing too much attention to their association-, looking anxiously at McKay as he lay on the bed, Doctor Beckett and Major Caplan- Atlantis's current military commander in Sumner's absence- on either side of her.

"So many colours," McKay said, currently on a bed in the infirmary, his voice possessing a slightly sing-song like tone as he stared out at nothing in particular. "All the pretty horses."

"What's he talking about?" Elizabeth asked, looking anxiously over at her chief medical officer.

"I gave him some morphine for the pain," Doctor Beckett said.

"I need to know how many villagers," Major Caplan said, leaning down to look sternly at the Canadian as McKay weakly raised his head to look at the man addressing him. "How far is the gate from the village?"

"Have you seen a guy around?" McKay asked, raising his head to look uncertainly at the major, grinning vaguely as he spoke. "He looks like you, but he's got curlier hair and a squarer face... And... and a... and a pretty girl and a caveman..."

"I may have given him a wee bit too much, but he was making it impossible for me to treat him," Beckett said, looking apologetically at Elizabeth as he indicated McKay.

"Snap out of it, McKay!" Caplan said, glaring at the physicist in frustration. "It's important!"

Elizabeth might have agreed with Caplan's intentions, but she made a mental note to stop him if he tried to take this 'interrogation' any further; considering that McKay was fiddling with his nose at the moment, it was

"Come on!" Caplan said, as McKay reached up and appeared to be examining his own nose. "What kind of weapons did they have?"

"I'd say something that shoots arrows is a good guess," Beckett pointed out.

"Excuse me," McKay put in, his voice sounding more normal even if it was still obviously weaker than it should be. "Why am I lying here?"

"You have an arrow, Rodney," Beckett replied. "In your gluteus maximus."

"Oh. Well, that sounds painful," McKay said, sighing contentedly as he laid his head back down on the bed with a contented sigh. "Gluteus maximus. Glootus... maaxim..."

His sing-song tone was cut off as he turned his head drowsily, apparently having processed what part of the body they were talking about even as his vocal pace remained relatively slowed.

"Oh my God!" he said, his tone shocked even if his voice wasn't significantly louder than it had been. "That's my ass, isn't it?!"

"Aye," Beckett said, smiling slightly at McKay's recognition of what he was talking about.

"Call me when he's in a position to talk more clearly," Elizabeth said, turning around and heading out of the infirmary.

Hanging around here waiting for McKay to be stable enough to talk clearly wasn't going to accomplish anything right now but distract her from other things she might be doing with her time.

Sitting in her office as she went over some of the daily paperwork, Elizabeth wondered what it said about her relationship with her military commander that she was this calm about his continued absence from the city.

It wasn't that she wasn't worried about him, but she was almost more concerned about about Teyla and Ronon's continued absence than she was worried about Sumner's. Teyla and her had formed a bond since the Athosian had first come to Atlantis as the two most powerful women in the city- even if she didn't like to think that her rank made her 'better' than anyone else, it was hard for her to ignore the fact that she had authority over virtually everyone else in the city; she sometimes wondered if part of her friendship with John was the fact that she didn't have to order him anywhere-, and even Ronon provided an interesting insight into life in the Pegasus galaxy from a military standpoint that she found useful when drawing up new treaties for their allies in Pegasus, but Sumner...

Even as they entered their third year in the city, all that she could really say about her military commander was that he did his job; he didn't really connect with anyone in the city on a personal level, and didn't seem to be interested in changing it. He might be polite enough company, but he just continued to insist that he was maintaining a professional distance to do his job, regardless of the fact that they were in a situation where the ability to rely on each other in a crisis was all that they had to depend on, particularly given the distance between them and the nearest possible ally.

Still, no matter how uncertain she might be about Sumner, she couldn't deny that he did the job; it was the main reason that she'd never bothered to try and ask for someone else to take command of Atlantis's military contingent, given that she had no real reason to object to his actions even if he wasn't the most amiable of people.

She was distracted from her train of thought when the Stargate activated again, prompting her to get up and hurry into the control room as Chuck examined the control panel.

"It's Colonel Sumner's ID, ma'am," he said, looking up at her as she walked over to stand beside him.

"Lower the shield," she said, smiling in relief before she turned to walk down the stairs, only for the smile to falter as Sumner and Teyla were the only ones to walk through the Stargate, which subsequently deactivated with no sign of the third missing man.

"Where's Ronon?" she asked, looking at Sumner.

"Still being held on the planet," Sumner said, looking grimly at her. "He visited that world during his time as a Runner and the planet was culled as a result; the Wraith left the local population with instructions to capture Ronon and contact them if he showed up again."

"Ronon was able to arrange for Colonel Sumner and I to be released by threatening to cut his own throat if they did not let us go," Teyla explained, her hurried tone clearly reflecting her horror at the scenario they'd only just witnessed. "We must return to the planet and rescue him."

"Agreed," Elizabeth said, activating her radio. "Weir to Major Caplan; I need a team for a search and rescue mission to get to the gaterom immediately."

"Understood," Major Caplan said, terminating the connection.

"They are not a particularly advanced people in terms of weaponry, but they do have the advantage of numbers," Teyla said, looking at Elizabeth. "If we can move into action as quickly as possible, I believe that we should have time to rescue Ronon before the Wraith arrive; it took us fifteen minutes to walk from the camp to the Stargate, and if we move quickly we should get back there in slightly less time."

"Good to know," Elizabeth said, smiling gratefully at the Athosian woman's optimism, even as she already had a strong feeling that it wasn't going to be that simple.

The team might be on their way, but that still left the Wraith with a fair amount of time to 'collect' Ronon before they could get him...

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