ShaViva's Stargate Fan ... Stuff


Fortunate Journey Season Two Part One

Rating: T

Content Warning: Some adult themes, minor language, minor violence

Season: 2

Summary: The Wraith weapon is burned out ... can Sabina find another way to defend Atlantis against the Wraith? How will she handle the trouble Sheppard always seems to get in to? OC 1st person perspective story, established ShepOC relationship.

Classifications: Drama, Romance

Pairings: John Sheppard & Original Character

Spoilers for: Everything in Season 2 but especially Intruder, Trinity, Conversion, Aurora, Epiphany, The Tower, The Long Goodbye, Coup D'etat, Inferno, and Allies. Also spoilers for the beginning of Season 3 – No Man’s Land and Misbegotten.

Acknowledgements: I used transcripts from Gateworld dot com to back up my own viewing as I worked through each episode. Christopher Marlowe's poem has been reproduced in its entirety and accurately to the best of my knowledge.

Disclaimer: The Stargate characters, storylines, etc aren’t mine – I took them for a test drive and decided I really liked them so now we're going on a cross country journey together. I am unfortunately not associated in any way with the creators, owners, or producers of Stargate or any of its media franchises. All publicly recognizable characters, dialogue, settings, equipment, etc are the property of whoever owns them. The original characters and plot and anything else I made up are the property of me, the author. No copyright infringement is intended.

Copyright (c) 2008 ShaViva

Authors NOTE 1: This story continues straight on from Chapter 37 of Fortunate Journey. Sabina is my OC - all you really need to know is that she has the ATA gene as strong as Shep, as well as Wraith DNA which she used at the end of Season 1 to activate a weapon very similar to the one on Dakara (SG1 Season 8). Sabina also learnt ancient during season 1, and managed to get it on quite nicely with Shep at the end of Fortunate Journey. So you don't have to read that one ... but it would probably help!

Chapter 1: I don’t think that’s such a good idea

I was happy to snuggle down in John’s bed the next morning while he went to report in to the SGC – now that we had the ZPM regular contact with Earth was possible and I worried about how things would change as a consequence.

I had thought we’d dealt with all the issues between us the day before, until John came to tell me he had to go back to Earth. Stupidly until that point it hadn't occured to me that the ZPM meant we could go back to Earth, so I was completely surprised when John brought it up.

“I want you to come with me,” he said, already starting to pack the few items he would need while away. “It’ll probably be a couple of weeks on Earth and then another eighteen to twenty days on the Daedalus to get back to Atlantis.”

“I don’t think that’s such a good idea,” I was glad John was looking away when he dropped that bombshell because I was sure my face would have given away my distress.

“Why not?” John stopped packing and looked at me in puzzlement.

“There are other people here who’d benefit more from a visit home than me,” I pointed out. “Rodney will be keen to minimise the power used by the Stargate with the quickest wormhole we can manage so the less people the better – plus I’m sure space on the Daedalus will be limited with all the supplies and new personnel they’ll be sending back.”

“Don’t you want to go home for a few days?” John asked with a frown. “Isn’t there something you’ve missed, being away for a year?”

“Not really,” I said lightly. “No, wait – there is one thing ... driving ... I wonder what they did with my car?”

Driving is the only thing you miss about Earth?” John asked incredulously. “Are you serious?”

“Well, maybe not entirely,” I admitted. “I just don’t see the point in me going back to Earth – there’s nothing there for me.”

“How about me?” John asked quietly. “We just got things back together – a month is a long time to be away from each other.”

“But won’t me getting to go to Earth look like favouritism because of my relationship with you?” I tried a different tack.

“Of course not!” John denied hotly. “You took out two hive ships practically by yourself – I think everyone would agree you’ve earnt a trip back to Earth on your own merits!”

“Did you mention to Dr Weir that you wanted me to come?” I asked.

“I didn’t have to,” John said, still sounding slightly peeved at my reluctance. “She assumed you’d want to go home – said that people at the SGC would be keen to meet you.”

“Oh,” I swallowed nervously, starting to feel panicked that I might not be able to get out of this. I didn’t want to be away from John for a whole month, but I wanted even less to leave Atlantis.

“What’s this really about?” John asked suspiciously, finally noticing my unusual reluctance and the fact that I was carefully not making eye contact. “Sabina?” I felt the bed dip as he sat down beside me.

“All right,” I said grumpily. “Can’t a girl have any secrets around here?!” John just raised an eyebrow and waited for me to continue. “I don’t want to go back to Earth because ... I’m worried they’ll tell me I can’t come back here.” I said the last bit very quickly, looking everywhere but at John.

“That’s not gonna happen,” John denied the possibility.

“How can you be sure?” I quizzed him. “You haven’t been there for a year either – things could have changed at the SGC since you were there last.”

“Nothing is certain,” John pointed out, covering the hands I was twisting together in agitation with one of his own. “They could reassign me too.”

“Crap,” I breathed out in shock. “I never thought of that – they could reassign you! Would they do that?”

“Now that half the people here have or can get the ATA gene it’s more possible than it would have been,” John admitted.

“Then I have to come back with you,” I said sickly. “If I don’t and they reassign you then ... would they dial the gate back to Earth just for me? They wouldn’t, would they? I have to come with you ...” my voice trailed off as I looked at him worriedly.

“It won’t be that bad,” John reassured me. “Besides, Carson said you still have a long way to go to be fully recovered. Think of this as a holiday!”

“You say that now,” I muttered under my breath before asking the question I was really worried about. “What about the whole jail thing?”

What?” John looked at me incredulously. “What jail thing?”

“The last thing I did on Earth was to trespass on military property and impersonate uniformed personnel,” I reminded him. “Do you think they’ve just forgotten about that?”

“This is ridiculous,” John grabbed my shoulders and pulled me to face him. “You risked your life to save Atlantis. Elizabeth’s not gonna let them discipline you for something that happened over a year ago that wasn’t even entirely your fault!”

“Are you sure?” I asked. “Because I really really don’t want to go to jail.”

Yes, I’m sure,” John promised. “I won’t let them send you to jail!”

“So we either both come back to Atlantis, or ... if you get reassigned, do I get to go with you?” I frowned in worry.

“Depends on where it is,” John admitted. “It’s not gonna happen so don’t worry about it.”

“Easy for you to say,” I said, not giving in so easily. “Do you really have to do this?”

Yes, I really have to do this,” John put an arm around me, “and if I have to do this, then so do you.”

“Okay,” I agreed quickly before I could think up another excuse for why it was a bad idea.

“Cool,” John grinned, pulling me into a hug that quickly turned into something more. It was only the beeping of John’s radio that reminded him we were supposed to be packing.

“Give me 5 minutes Elizabeth,” John said into his earpiece, hurriedly straightening his clothes and motioning for me to get moving. “We’ll see you in the Gateroom.”

I’m glad it ended up being such a rush to get ourselves ready because it didn’t give me a chance to worry any more about what we were doing.

“Nice of you to join us Major,” Dr Weir chided him when we arrived half running. I flushed in embarrassment as I realised we’d kept all the department heads as well as Dr Weir waiting.

“Sorry,” John grinned not very apologetically. “I had to convince Sabina she’d get to come back here once our trip was finished.”

“Of course you will Sabina,” Dr Weir reassured me, before turning to look up at the control room. “Dial it up Rodney,” she ordered.

The Stargate did its thing and before I knew it John was pulling me by the hand up the ramp. He stopped at the event horizon, turning to look at me.

“Ready?” he asked, meaning more than just was I ready to step through the Stargate.

“Yes,” I nodded firmly. “Let’s do it.”

Chapter 2: You are gonna follow the speed limit?


It was very disorientating to step through the wormhole back into the Gateroom at the SCG. I couldn’t help but tighten my hold on John’s hand as I caught sight of the guards stationed around the room. My heartbeat actually accelerated in fear or nervousness ... I’m not really sure what. All I knew was that I felt insecure at the most basic level – a feeling I hadn’t experienced for many months.

“Why was this a good idea again?” I quipped to John in a shaky whisper.

“Relax,” John said, almost dragging me down the ramp behind Doctor Weir.

“Doctor Weir,” a middle aged man in uniform greeted us. “I’m General Hank Landry. General O’Neill sends his greetings and said to tell you he’ll try to get down from the Pentagon while you’re here.”

“Thank you General,” Doctor Weir replied in a confident voice. “It’s good to be home.”

Their conversation continued as we all walked from the Gateroom into a familiar corridor heading down to one of the conference rooms. I barely registered the pleasantries as I contemplated what Doctor Weir had said. ‘Home’ ... did I even know what that was anymore? We had all referred to Earth as home the whole time we’d been on Atlantis but now I was there I just didn’t get that rush of familiarity and comfort a real home should evoke. I was drawn from my internal pondering by Doctor Weir’s introductions of everyone who’d made the trip from Atlantis.

“And this is Sabina Scott,” she finished with my introduction last.

“Ah, yes,” the General looked at me closely. “I’ve heard a lot about you young lady.”

“And some of it was probably even true,” I quipped with a nervous smile, wondering how soon I could find a way to disappear into the background again.

“I’ll be meeting with all of you individually while you’re here,” the General said, still looking at me. “We can work out the truth or otherwise of what I’ve heard about the Atlantis mission then.”

I could almost feel the headache coming on as I registered what he’d said. I was going to have to talk to the General by myself? Casting a panicked look John’s way, I wasn’t reassured by the surprised and somewhat worried look on his face.

“For now,” General Landry continued, “I’d like all of you to report to the infirmary for the standard medical checks. You can make yourselves at home here ... cars and escorts have been arranged for anyone wanting to leave the mountain. Private Evans will escort you all to the infirmary and then on to your assigned quarters.”

My head snapped up as soon as I heard Greg’s name mentioned. I glanced across and saw that he was carefully maintaining a disinterested face almost as though he hadn’t recognised me. Since I was trying to put the whole ‘stowing away on an intergalactic trip through the gate’ thing behind me I decided right then that I would ignore him too. Besides, I’d never actually told John the name of the person who’d gotten me onto the base and I wasn’t exactly sure what he’d do to Greg if he found out it was him.

The infirmary at the SCG was quite similar to the one on Atlantis apart from the absence of all the cool Atlantis toys. John was whisked away to one side of the room while I had the dubious pleasure of being the centre of attention for two doctors – oh joy! To be fair, Doctor Lam was both personable and professional as she conferred with Doctor Beckett about my recovery from using the Wraith weapon.

“We don’t know for sure,” Carson said, not really even looking at me “but we think Sabina was technically dead for at least a few minutes. To be honest I don’t know how the lass survived without any permanent damage ... apart from some lingering tiredness she’s suffered no ill effects at all.”

“We’ll do some detailed blood work here,” Doctor Lam frowned as she wrote some things down in my chart, “but I don’t expect we’ll find anything the Atlantis systems haven’t already picked up.”

One of the nurses came over and took some blood, as well as doing blood pressure, temperature and all the other usual measurements they do for a general check up.

“I wouldn’t mind your opinion on some aspects of Sabina’s blood results,” Carson continued.

“DNA based?” Doctor Lam asked

“Aye,” Carson nodded. “Some rogue strands ... plus some blood proteins I’ve never come across.”

“Hey,” I spoke up for the first time. “You never mentioned proteins before!”

“It’s just a medical curiosity,” Doctor Beckett dismissed my concerns lightly. “Nothing for you to worry about.”

“You said that about my mutant DNA and look how that turned out!” I glared at him in annoyance.

“It’s not mutant DNA lass,” Carson protested.

“Mutant ... rogue” I waved a hand in the air, “it sounds like the same thing to me ... bad!”

Before I could get worked up Major Sheppard appeared at my side. “Ready to head out?” he asked, apparently oblivious to the tension between the doctors and myself.

“More than ready,” I jumped from the bed quickly, careful not to look at Doctor Beckett as I smiled up at John.

“Can I go now?” I hesitated to just leave without getting cleared by Carson.

“Yes lass,” he said, still frowning slightly. “Just remember you’re still recovering from a huge shock to your system. Make sure she doesn’t overdo it Major,” Carson directed that one at John.

“No problem Doc,” John agreed easily, before grabbing my hand and whisking me away from the infirmary.

It was a strange feeling to head for the lifts and make that slow journey up 28 floors to the surface. We cleared all the security points until we were finally stepping out into the open air ... I felt the tension leave me almost immediately. Breathing in the crisp fresh air and turning my face up to the sun I felt a smile coming on that started down in my toes and travelled all the way up to my lips.

Finally I felt a rush of happiness to be back on Earth – I turned to look at John and saw a similar look on his face.

“Where’re we going?” I asked, looking around the parking lot curiously.

“Does it matter?” John asked with a smile.

“I guess not,” I replied thoughtfully. “I wouldn’t mind going somewhere where everyone doesn’t know who I am.”

“That we can do,” John agreed. He guided me through the parking lot until we reached a shiny red 1968 Corvette. “I borrowed this from one of the guys - wanna drive?” he asked, dangling a set of keys in front of me.

“Do I!” I laughed, pleased that he’d remembered the one thing I’d said I missed about Earth. Quickly nabbing the keys before he could change his mind I jumped into the driver’s side and started it up.

“Ready?” I turned to look at John who was now sitting somewhat nervously in the passenger seat.

“You are gonna follow the speed limit?” he asked, buckling his seat belt.

“Occasionally,” I replied gleefully as I revved the engine before screaming out of the parking lot. It really was nice to be home!

Chapter 3: Who helped you get onto this base?

John was right when he said driving couldn’t be the only thing I missed about Earth. Over the next couple of days we went out for meals, saw a movie in a real cinema, and just generally existed in the midst of people who had no idea of the threats we’d faced on a daily basis. We were just another couple out on a date without fear that something or someone was going to come along and rip it all away from us.

Of course we couldn’t get away from the things that did remind us of where we’d come from and where we’d be going back to. The first was when we went to visit Aiden’s family. I accompanied John as far as Aiden’s cousins’ house but John insisted I wait in the car as he went in to tell them as much as he could of Aiden’s fate. I’ve never had to share such bad news with anyone but I could fully appreciate how hard it was for John to do that by how subdued he was when he came back to the car. I knew John hadn’t given up hope of finding Aiden and bringing him back to Atlantis but we both knew the chances of that happening were slim.

Three days into our visit we each got separate requests from General Landry for a ‘chat’ at the SCG. They’d been nice enough to slot us both in on the same day but it was pretty clear that even for me it was an order to appear, not a request. That certainly killed all the holiday spirit I’d managed to build up in three days. I was second so I spent a stressful hour sitting in the commissary waiting for John to get done before it was my turn.

“Hey,” I looked up to see John approaching my table.

“Finished?” I asked nonchalantly while trying to detect any hints of his mood from the expression on his face. “How’d it go?”

“I’ll tell you later,” John promised. “He’s waiting for you.”

“Did I mention that I don’t want to do this?” I asked, walking reluctantly by his side as he led me towards Landry’s office.

“Only about fifty times since we got here,” John acknowledged. “You’ll be fine,” he knocked on Landry’s door, waiting for a response before opening it and urging me inside.

“Sir,” John nodded respectfully.

“You can leave Ms Scott with me, Major,” General Landry’s tone was just slightly mocking. “I won’t bite.”

“Of course not Sir,” John gave me a quick encouraging smile before turning and leaving the room, closing the door quietly behind him.

“Have a seat Ms Scott,” General Landry invited.

“Sabina,” I said, pulling out the chair across from him and sitting down nervously.

“Sabina,” General Landry acknowledged my request he call me by my first name. “Doctor Weir has filled me in on your background as well as much of what you’ve been doing since you’ve been on Atlantis,” he continued. “The first thing that needs to be cleared up is who helped you get onto this base in the first place!”

You know how if you swallow wrong you can end up choking yourself into a coughing fit? That’s exactly what I did after that abrupt question ... the General said nothing as he waited for me to get myself back under control.

“You’re not much for small talk General,” I said lightly, trying to give myself time to decide what my best course of action would be.

“The Air Force tends to frown on trespassing,” General Landry said dryly.

“Before I set foot on this base I had no experience of the military in any capacity,” I began, hoping he’d be patient enough to hear me out before insisting again I give him a name. “I had no appreciation for the role of the military and no understanding of the importance of things like the chain of command in emergency scenarios. Then I spent a year on Atlantis, sometimes right in the midst of situations so stressful I still find myself wondering how we survived.”

“I’m not sure what this has to do with my original question,” General Landry broke in to remind me that I wasn’t going to get around him that easily.

“I appreciate you wanting to know how I got on the base General,” I said seriously, “because of the experience I’ve gained this past year. But I can’t participate in potentially ruining someone’s career because of my irresponsibility.”

“I don’t think you understand the severity of your actions,” General Landry said forcefully, leaning forward intimidatingly. “Not telling me what I want to know is not an option ... at least not one that doesn’t come with some pretty severe consequences.”

“I’m sorry General,” I swallowed nervously. “All I can tell you is that I believe the security of this base is not at risk and that the circumstances that led to my being on the base are extremely unlikely to ever occur again. If you feel that some action should be taken then that action will have to be taken against me and me alone.” I looked down at my hands as I finished, wondering if I’d just signed my own “go to jail, go directly to jail” card.

“Major Sheppard said you wouldn’t divulge your accomplice,” General Landry smiled slightly as he sat back in his chair. “I’m pleased to see he was right.”

“Huh?” I said, looking dumb founded as I sat there trying to understand what he was telling me.

“We already know that Private Evans signed you in that day Sabina,” General Landry seemed amused that I would think otherwise. “He’s already been disciplined. Major Sheppard informed me of the discipline he applied for your case on Atlantis and I’m satisfied that the matter has been resolved. Doctor Weir has been given clearance to formally register you as a member of the Atlantis expedition.”

“Thank you General Landry,” I said shakily, feeling a whole host of emotions rising up within me. I tried desperately to reign them all in but the news that I was now officially an Atlantis employee was more than I’d ever expected. I could feel my chin almost trembling with repressed tears and I had to turn my head away and take a few deep breaths before I felt able to continue with the conversation. “You won’t regret this,” I promised fervently.

“Doctor Weir and Major Sheppard both have a lot of faith in your abilities,” General Landry gave no acknowledgement of my overly emotional state, for which I was very grateful. “I had some concerns that you deliberately disobeyed a direct order during a military situation but the Major explained the extenuating circumstances and convinced me that something similar wouldn’t happen in the future.” He gave me a stern look that clearly said I would seriously regret it if anything like that did happen in the future.

“No Sir,” I promised, still hardly able to believe that I was finally off the hook and able to start back on Atlantis with a clean slate.

“Now, tell me more about the Wraith weapon,” General Landry steered the conversation in a new direction. “I’ve read the mission reports and I’ve seen the weapon on Dakara but there seem to be some differences.”

I answered the General’s questions as best I could, acknowledging my mistake in using the weapon too soon and consequently burning it out. The General had already spoken with Doctor McKay and reiterated what John had told me – that it was a miracle I’d gotten the Atlantis weapon to work even once in its untested state. Overall I walked away from General Landry’s office understanding the respect and admiration I’d sensed the General was held in by all the staff at the SGC.

“You okay?” John’s question roused me from the daydream state I’d been sitting in as I’d again waited in the commissary for him to be finished for the day.

“Better than okay,” I jumped up, unable to resist the urge to hug him. “Thank you,” I said softly, pressing my face into his chest.

“You deserve it,” John didn’t try to pretend ignorance of what I was thanking him for. He hugged me tight before releasing me. “Ready to get out of here?” he asked.

“If you are,” I replied. “You still haven’t told me how your talk went.”

“It was okay,” John said. “General Landry reamed me out for undermining Doctor Weir’s authority during the medical quarantine, told me he’s court marshal if I ever did that again, and then told me they’re promoting me and officially putting me in command of the military on Atlantis.”

“What?” I stopped in the hallway to look at him incredulously. “They’re promoting you and you didn’t tell me straight away?” I whacked his upper arm in frustration.

“I’m not sure if you’re allowed to assault a Lt Colonel,” John protested, rubbing his arm even though I knew I hadn’t hurt him.

“Wow ... Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard ... has a nice ring to it,” I teased, feeling so proud of him.

“It’ll take a little getting used to,” John admitted. “See now I really am the man ... before I was just keeping the chair warm until they found somebody else to take command.”

“You’re a natural,” I said. “Besides, Doctor Weir will be there to tell you when you screw up.” I ducked out of his range as I said that last bit, laughing at the insulted expression on his face.

“Nice,” John smiled to let me know he wasn’t offended. “See if I let you in on all the big secret meetings after that comment!”

“Do you get a ceremony?” I asked as we continued walking down the corridor.

“Kind of,” John said uncomfortably. “Tomorrow morning they’re gonna do a quick ... thing ... in the Gateroom.”

“Do I get to go?” I wasn’t sure if non military personnel would be allowed.

“Hey, if I have to go then you have to go too,” John replied. “Enough of that ... let’s get something to eat.”

It was a real buzz to watch John get promoted officially. I especially liked the words that were spoken before they pinned the new insignia on John’s uniform.

“The President of the United States has placed special trust and confidence in the patriotism, integrity and abilities of Major John Sheppard. Major John Sheppard is promoted to the grade of Lieutenant Colonel, United States Air Force.”

It was the first time I’d seen John in his dress blues too – I didn’t think it was possible that he could appear any more attractive but the uniform leant John an air of something indefinable that was very appealing. I now appreciated the whole ‘man in uniform’ allure and wondered if I’d ever be able to get John to wear his uniform back on Atlantis.

“Don’t even think about it,” he almost growled when I tried to bring it up after his ceremony had finished. “I hate this thing – it’s ... stifling and the tie is cutting into my neck.”

“Too bad,” I whispered into his ear. “Seeing you in that uniform is making me seriously ... hot.”

John raised an eyebrow as he tried to pull his collar away from his neck. “Maybe we can ... negotiate,” he said with a sly grin, pulling me into his side and nuzzling my neck.

John was pretty busy from then on, vetting new personnel to return with us to Atlantis. Turns out the expedition had been granted extra funding which meant extra staff as well as extra military to protect the larger contingent that would now be residing on Atlantis.

While John was doing all of that I found myself with nothing pressing to do – for the first time in almost a year. Everyone else from Atlantis was also busy selecting new staff so I didn’t even have someone to hang with. I’d already resolved the very few loose ends I’d left behind the day I went to Atlantis – my car had been towed and sold when no one came to claim it and the hotel had donated my few personal possessions to charity. I don’t know what it said about me that my previous life could have been resolved so easily without me even being there.

When I got a message that Doctor Beckett was looking for me I almost ran to the infirmary in the hopes he’d have something to keep me occupied.

“Sabina,” Carson greeted me with a delighted smile. “You’re looking well lass – are you enjoying your holiday?

“I was until John got promoted,” I admitted. “The promotion bit was good but now he’s busy choosing new staff for his teams.”

“Aye,” Carson agreed. “I’ve been doing some of that myself. Still, I did find time to delve into your blood results a bit further. Doctor Lam also referred your case to a geneticist she knows.”

“Find out anything interesting?” I asked, trying to project the image of not really caring one way or the other.

“Nothing we didn’t already know,” Doctor Beckett admitted. “I can’t tell you any more about your DNA, nor about the protein I mentioned except to say we’re in agreement that there’s nothing harmful there.”

“Well that’s something,” I acknowledged.

“Doctor Lam ran a match against all the DNA records she had access to – as far as we can tell you’re the only person on record possessing both the ATA and Wraith genes,” Carson seemed almost intrigued by that. “Is it possible a family member could be tested for a comparative analysis?”

“That’d be a little hard,” I admitted. “I have no idea who my family actually are ... one of the nurses at the hospital where I was ... abandoned ... named me. I checked a few years back but there’s just no way to trace my parents.”

“I’m sorry lass,” Doctor Beckett looked at me sympathetically.

“I’m used to it,” I denied the need for anyone to feel sorry for me. “I know it would have helped your research but there’s no one I can ask to help you with it.”

“There is something else you can do to help me,” Doctor Beckett said somewhat reluctantly. “You could help me identify if any of the candidates for new Atlantis positions have the ATA gene.”

“You want me to be a human ATA gene detector?” I looked at him in surprise. ‘Won’t that be a little hard to explain?”

“From my experience you’re just as accurate as a DNA test,” Doctor Beckett pointed out. “Plus you’re quicker and nowhere near as expensive. I thought I could just introduce you to each person ... you shake hands and then after you tell me what you think. If it wouldn’t make you uncomfortable?”

“Sure Doctor Beckett,” I agreed readily. I spent the next three days being introduced to more than fifty people who were all scarily over qualified. I was able to identity only a couple of people who had the gene, neither of them very strongly. After we were done I informed Carson that I if I ever had to shake someone’s hand again it would be too soon.

After that diversion I was happy to solve my imminent boredom the way I usually did – by searching out something to read. One of the marines directed me to a sort of library where I found some truly impressive books on Earth cultures and history. I briefly considered picking one of them but was drawn instead to a heavy tomb about the Ancient language. Taking it with me to the commissary I settled down to lose myself in the language and its similarities to our Latin.

“Learning Ancient?” I looked up to see a tall, fair haired man with glasses hiding bright blue eyes, and a friendly smile standing beside my table.

“Trying,” I said modestly.

“Doctor Daniel Jackson,” he introduced himself, holding out a hand.

“Sabina Scott,” I replied, distractedly shaking his hand. This was Daniel Jackson? The guy who’d written the training program on the Ancient language I’d practically memorised over the past 9 months.

“Ah,” Daniel said almost enviously. “You’re part of the Atlantis expedition.” He’d heard of me – this was the Daniel Jackson and he’d actually heard of me!

“Yes,” I replied awkwardly. Great conservationist that I was, I couldn’t think of anything else to say ... at all.

“Need any help?” Daniel gestured towards the book I’d been wading through.

“From you – absolutely!” I smiled excitedly. Thinking of all the questions I’d stored up that no one on Atlantis had known the answer to was enough to loosen my tongue and chase away my shy nervousness.

We had been talking and laughing together like old friends for some time when I felt an awareness shift through me. Glancing quickly at the doors to the commissary I spotted John standing stock still. He was looking across at me with a narrowed gaze and an expression on his face that said very clearly that he did not like what he was seeing.

“John,” I smiled in welcome as he made his way over to our table. “This is Doctor Daniel Jackson. Daniel, this is Lt Colonel John Sheppard – the military commander of the Atlantis base.”

Daniel got up from his chair to greet John and the two men shook hands.

“It was nice to meet you Sabina,” Daniel said, turning to me to make his farewells. “Perhaps we’ll get the chance to talk again before you return to Atlantis.”

“Thanks for your help with Ancient,” I replied. “It was great to meet you too.”

John’s whole demeanour was less than friendly as he seemed to suffer through our goodbye impatiently.

“Nice to meet you too Colonel,” Daniel turned to John and said amiably. “Good luck with your command.”

“Thanks,” John said abruptly. Daniel frowned in confusion at his less than friendly reception but then shrugged, smiled at me again, and left the room.

As I watched Daniel walk away I couldn’t help but see the differences between the two men. In appearance there were few similarities – John was taller and leaner than Daniel (since when did an archaeologist have to have that many muscles?!), as well as being much darker in colouring. John had that aura of command tempered by his humour and liking for being a bit of a smart arse – Daniel looked like the intellectual he was, despite the muscles, and gave me the impression that he wasn’t the wisecracking sort. Not that John wasn’t intellectual – he just didn’t want anyone to look at him and see that he had quite a decent brain hidden under that sexy head of very messy hair! From my completely unbiased viewpoint John was easily the more attractive of the two so I was completely flabbergasted when I realised a short time later that John was actually jealous that I’d spent time with Daniel.

“You seemed to be ... enjoying yourself with Doctor Jackson,” John commented somewhat sullenly, throwing himself into the chair across from me.

“Are you kidding?” I replied excitedly, missing the early evidence that John was not happy with me. “Daniel wrote the book on the Ancient language – I learnt more from talking to him for half an hour than I could plugging away for days by myself.”

“You two got chummy pretty fast,” John frowned in annoyance. “Calling him Daniel and all.”

“He was very ... hang on a minute,” I looked at John in astonishment as I finally got it. “Are you actually ... jealous?”

No,” John denied vehemently. “I just think you should be more ... cautious before you go making friends with everyone you meet here. Look what happened the last time you made a friend at the SCG!”

“Oh, you had to bring that up didn’t you?” my voice shook with the sudden anger I was feeling. “I’ve been given a clean slate by General Landry Colonel Sheppard, and I don’t need you reminding me of my mistakes every time I do something you don’t like!”

“Sabina,” John protested. “I didn’t mean it like that!”

“I don’t see how else you could have meant it,” I didn’t let him off the hook. “For the first time since we got here I was actually enjoying myself rather than worrying about fitting in with all the extremely overqualified people coming back with us to Atlantis. Thanks for ruining that!” Before he could say anything else I jumped up and strode rapidly from the room.

What an insensitive jerk!” I thought as I angrily paced in my quarters a few minutes later. How could he remind me of the mistakes that had led me to Atlantis when he knew how hard I’d been trying to put all that behind me? When a knock sounded at the door I knew it was him – if I’d thought that John might actually go away I’d have ignored him, but I knew he’d just persist until I gave in.

“I’m still angry with you,” I said by way of greeting as I let him in.

“I know,” John said apologetically. “And I totally deserve it. I was a jerk.” That was a nice strategy – it’s a little hard to maintain your anger at someone who freely admits you have every right to be angry.

“Yes you were,” I agreed readily. “A big jerk!”

“Hey, you didn’t have to agree so easily,” John protested half seriously. “Look ... ah ... you were right and I’m sorry I said what I said.”

“How was I right?” my anger had already started to melt and him admitting I was right took the carpet right out from under me. Another good strategy – you can’t argue if the other person agrees with everything you say. I was beginning to see how John being military was going to affect my relationship with him on a personal level.

“I was ... ah ... I didn’t like seeing you so chummy with a strange guy and I ah ... was ... jealous,” John admitted uneasily.

“I’m not flattered,” I said pointedly. “Especially since I’d just finished thinking about how different the two of you were and how much more attractive you are!”

“Really?” John smiled at my compliment.

“Really,” I confirmed. “If you agree to never bring up the whole accidental trip through the gate thing again then I’ll forgive you ... this time.”

“Sounds fair,” John agreed, finally feeling safe enough to insinuate himself into my personal space. “Does this count as an actual argument?” he asked almost hopefully, sifting a few strands of my hair through his fingers.

“I suppose,” I went along with him.

“So does that mean we get to make up now?” God, could the guy get any more charming?

“If we must,” I replied like it would be a huge hardship on my part. We smiled at each other gleefully, before getting on with making up. And deep inside I breathed a sigh of relief ... I’d discovered that being at odds with John was not a nice feeling.

Authors Note:

I borrowed the words for Sheppards promotion ceremony from SG1 Season 8 opening - I don't know if those are the real words that get used but I really liked them so here they are. Next chapter should be up tomorrow.

Chapter 4: Special rules should be applied

There was a kind of going away party in the commissary just before we shipped out to the Daedalus. John was across the room laughing with his buddies and I smiled to see him so happy. I was just about to go and join him when I spied Doctor Jackson arriving. I glanced at John and noticed he too had seen Daniel arrive – when I raised an eyebrow to him in silent question he grinned and waved a hand vaguely in Daniel’s direction. I didn’t need John’s permission to talk to Daniel but at the same time I didn’t want our last few hours on Earth to be uncomfortable over something that wasn’t really that important.

“Doctor Jackson,” I waved as Daniel looked around the room, seeming to search for something. When he saw me waving he smiled and made his way straight over to me.

“Sabina,” he greeted me. “Enjoying the party?”

“Not especially,” I admitted. “I’m not really the party type – you?”

“I usually come to these things with the rest of SG1,” Daniel said almost sadly. I’d heard lots of stories about the infamous team and wondered where the rest of them were. “Sam got transferred to Area 51, Jack got promoted to the Pentagon and Teal’c’s off with the newly formed Free Jaffa nation,” Daniel explained before I could ask.

“So you’re left here by yourself?” I asked.

“Yeah, but not for long,” Daniel said. “I finally got Jack – General O’Neill – to agree to my transfer to Atlantis. The next time the Daedalus makes it back to Earth I’ll be joining the trip back to Atlantis.”

“That’s great!” I said delightedly. Before I could say anything else I heard my name mentioned from somewhere behind me. I glanced around and saw a shortish, balding, middle aged man with glasses talkng to Doctor Weir – neither of them noticed me standing within hearing distance.

“It’s unprofessional,” the man insisted. “Colonel Sheppard’s motives need to be above reproach.”

I shook my head silently when Daniel looked like he was going to intervene. I wanted to hear what Doctor Weir was going to say about the little man’s comment.

“Are you saying you don’t think the Colonel should be allowed to have any relationships?” Doctor Weirs tone was incredulous.

“Non fraternisation regulations are there to ensure that military leaders don’t play favourites or let personal feelings cloud their judgement,” the man persisted.

“The military does allow their personnel to have families Mr Woolsey,” Doctor Weir pointed out. “Sabina has no connection to the military – the fraternisation regulations clearly don’t apply to the Colonel’s relationship with her.”

“The military doesn’t usually let families live with their officers right in the middle of a war zone!” Woolsey pointed out. “This situation is unique and special rules should be applied to it.”

“I think the Colonel and Sabina have both already demonstrated that they’ll put the good of Atlantis ahead of their own concerns,” Doctor Weir stated strongly. “And the powers that be – both military and civilian oversight – agreed with my assessment that additional regulations were not required specifically for Atlantis. We’re a long way from Earth,” Doctor Weir tried to appeal to Woolsey’s compassionate side. “Atlantis is as much a home as it is a military base and the connections staff feel for each other are what keep them going.”

“Maybe,” Woolsey conceded. “But the IOC will be monitoring this situation closely to ensure it doesn’t become a problem in the future.”

They moved away, taking their conversation with them. I stood beside Daniel, trying to understand the implications of what we’d overheard.

“Are you okay?” Daniel asked softly.

“Yeah,” I nodded distractedly. “Doesn’t even surprise me.”

“Don’t let Woolsey spoil what you have with the Colonel,” Daniel advised. “Life’s is too short – believe me I know.”

“Thanks Daniel,” I smiled. I glanced across at John and noticed he was looking at me too – he tapped his watch to show me he hadn’t forgotten that I’d only wanted to spend a short time at the party. I nodded gratefully and turned back to make my farewells to Daniel. “I’ll look forward to you arriving on Atlantis,” I said. “Look me up when you get there.” Shaking the hand he held out, I then gratefully made my way back to John and our escape from the SGC for our last night on Earth.

Once in bed that night I couldn’t put what I’d overheard out of my mind. I knew that John had questioned his decisions in the past because of me – now that he’d been promoted and sanctioned to officially be in charge on Atlantis he needed even more to be sure of his motivations. I resolved that I wouldn’t put him in that kind of position again, nor give the IOC any cause to reprimand him on my account. I also decided there was no point in telling John what I’d overheard – it was bad enough that the military would be able to look over his shoulder now we had a ZPM; he didn’t need to feel like the IOC were monitoring him too.

Even though I’d been so reluctant to leave Atlantis, by the time our visit was over I was glad John had talked me into it. Aside from the fact that I’d been made an official member of the expedition and John had been promoted, the time together on Earth had made us realise that although we missed it, Earth was no longer our home.

Although I’d decided not to tell John about the comments made by Woolsey, they did prompt me to have another, difficult conversation with him just before we left for the Daedalus.

“I think we should be discrete while we’re on the ship,” I dropped that comment out of the blue when John was helping me pack up my temporary quarters at the SCG early the next morning.

“Discrete how?” John didn’t give me his full attention, distracted by the large number of books I wanted to take with me that were clearly not all going to fit within my allocated space allowance.

“You know,” I said uncomfortably. “Not make it obvious that we’re ... together.”

“Why would we want to do that?” John pinned me with a sharp gaze. I definitely had his attention now.

“It’s a small ship and people will talk.” Pretty lame as a starting argument, but it was all I could come up with.

“People always talk,” John pointed out. “Whether it starts on the Daedalus or back on Atlantis is immaterial.”

“Yeah but all the new staff will have had almost three weeks to get to know you as the military commander before we get to Atlantis,” I replied. “It they only see you in a professional capacity then they’ll respect you before they find out anything else that’s worth gossiping about.”

“Wait a minute,” John dropped the book he’d been packing and strode over to where I was kneeling beside the bed covered with the things I’d bought while there to take back to Atlantis. “Are you suggesting that if people know I’m involved with you before they know me as the military commander they won’t respect me? That makes no sense at all.”

“Yes it does,” I insisted. “People need to know that you’ll make military decisions without prejudice or favouritism. They’ll see that more easily if they aren’t confronted with a big reason why you might not do that!”

“You do realise that some of the new people will have already been filled in on every piece of juicy Atlantis gossip before they even set foot on the Daedalus?” John sat on the bed to bring himself down to my level, not caring that he was squashing the clothes I’d carefully folded.

“Maybe,” I conceded. “But I don’t think that would necessarily include us – we didn’t spend much public time together during our stay here and the only people who know about our relationship enough to spread the news aren’t the type to gossip.”

“You didn’t seem to think it was a problem the whole time we’ve been here at the SCG,” John pointed out the illogical nature of what I was asking.

“Because I didn’t really think about it before,” I admitted. “Most of the Daedalus crew and new personnel have been busy getting ready for the trip back to Atlantis – I only thought of it at the party when I saw everyone together in the same room.”

“So let me get this straight,” John put a hand on my shoulder to draw my eyes to his. “You want to pretend that we’re nothing to each other for twenty days while we’re stuck on a tiny ship together?”

“Not nothing,” I denied. “We’re friends and I don’t think we could pretend otherwise.”

“We’re much more than friends,” John ran his hand from my shoulder down my arm in a slow caress, making me shudder despite my attempt to not react. “I don’t think either of us is capable of pretending otherwise.”

“Do you think people will take me seriously if they see me sneaking out of your quarters in the early hours of the morning?” I redirected the conversation. I had been trying to get John to see that the first days of his new command were important and that he needed to set the right first impression with his staff. Since my concern for him wasn’t getting me anywhere I decided that getting him to think I was concerned for myself might work better.

“As soon as they work with you they’ll take you seriously,” John said with absolute faith in my abilities. “And they wouldn’t have to see you sneaking anywhere if we shared quarters,” John smiled at the surprised look on my face.

“Do they have double quarters on the Daedalus?” I asked, momentarily distracted by the thought.

“Probably not,” John admitted. “But I could request something that would suit the two of us.”

“And that wouldn’t be favouritism at all would it?” I pointed out. “Besides, I know we did the whole ... sharing our feelings thing but I don’t think that makes either of us ready to live together for a month.”

“So you don’t want to move in with me?” John frowned, absently drawing circular patterns on the top of my hand.

“I didn’t say that,” my frustration was apparent in the tone of my voice. “We haven’t been together that long and I think we need to get to know each other better before we get subjected to each other’s annoying habits.”

Annoying habits?” John raised an eyebrow in mock surprise. “I don’t have any annoying habits!”

“Okay, you’re perfect,” I said snidely. “I want more time together before you find out about my annoying habits! Now stop trying to distract me – I want you to agree that we’ll down play our relationship while we’re on the Daedalus.”

“This is important to you?” John asked in all seriousness.

Yes it’s important to me,” I held eye contact with him, watching silently as he seemed to think on the options.

“Okay,” he agreed reluctantly. “We’ll refrain from doing anything we’d need private quarters for while we’re on the Daedalus. But I’m not gonna pretend you’re unimportant to me, and I can’t promise I won’t give something away in the heat of the moment. And as soon as we’re back on Atlantis the agreement is off.”

“Okay,” I wrapped my arms around his waist and hugged him close. I’d never really seen the allure of hugging just for the sake of it before, but hugging John was a whole different experience. He seemed to exude a comforting heat that warmed me through and made me feel safe.

“If I’m not getting any for the next month I need to stock up now,” John had me stretched out under him before I could blink.

“Hey, you’re messing up the stuff I was packing,” I made the pretence of protesting because we both knew he hardly had to lay a hand on me before I wanted a whole lot more.

“We’ll pack later,” John growled, kissing me deeply. He ran his hands down my body, pushing things off the bed as he went.

“Bu...” I tried to say something but forgot completely what it was when John used the hands he’d insinuated into my pants to pull me against him just where I wanted him the most.

“Stop talking,” John ordered sternly, breaking our kiss so he could look properly into my eyes. He moved his whole body against mine, setting off a host of electric jolts throughout my body. I know my eyes went all dazed and soft by the smug predatory look I saw in his. I lifted my hips and wrapped a leg around his, twisting suddenly to flip our positions. I laughed in delight at the dazed look in John’s eyes when I straddled him, pinning his arms at his sides.

“Now I’ve got you just where I want you,” I teased, both of us knowing he could break my hold whenever he wanted.

“And what are you going to do with me?” he drawled the challenge, clearly enjoying our role reversal.

It took so long to answer that we were almost late heading out to the Daedalus!

Chapter 5: I’m just full of surprises!

Can I just say that spending twenty days cooped up on the Daedalus was seriously no fun at all? I was determined to save the few books and games I’d squeezed into my personal allotment for when I got back to Atlantis. Most of the time the ship was in hyper space so there wasn’t even anything interesting to look at out the windows!

Even though it had been my idea to play down my relationship with John that didn’t mean I found it easy. I was seriously missing him only a couple of days into the journey and it only got worse the longer I was confined on the ship. He’d begun training the new recruits which took up most of his days. I was so frustrated by the lack of anything real to do that I ended up approaching Rodney in Engineering.

“Anything I can help you with?” I asked him, watching as he tapped away at his laptop.

“Huh?” Rodney didn’t even look up as he barely registered my question.

Give me something to do,” my tone was just short of desperate, and managed to snag his attention.

“Bored with Sheppard already?” Rodney smirked, knowing full well that wasn’t the case.

“Yes Rodney – we’re sick of each other already!” I smiled. “Look, he’s busy with the new recruits and I’ve run through every training program on my laptop ... twice. I need something new – have you got anything?”

“As a matter of fact I do,” Rodney swung his chair around and pushed off to move himself to the opposite console. He plugged in a flash drive and typed a few commands before unplugging it and handing it to me.

“What is it?” I looked at the drive curiously.

“Wraith language,” Rodney’s attention was already partially back on whatever he was working on. “Elizabeth said it’s derived from Ancient so you should be able to learn how to translate it. I’ve got a translation program but it’s only good for the simple things.” He pointed at the drive I held and added “that’s got all the stuff I pulled off the machines on that Wraith research planet plus what we got from the Wraith data device we appropriated from the Genii.”

“Okay,” I felt a tingle of excitement at the prospect of learning something new and just a little bit dangerous. “I’ll see what I can do.”

Things got a little easier to bear after that – I’d decided the best approach was to construct something similar to what Daniel had created for the Ancient language so that others could use it to translate Wraith too. It was easier than I’d thought because Wraith was so closely linked to Ancient and I found myself enjoying the process of describing the language constructs and setting up a dictionary with English – Ancient – Wraith translations.

John still set aside time in the mornings for us to run around the ship as best we could and we also did some stick sparring so Teyla wouldn’t get mad at us for not practising. And of course we had meals together in the mess. But it was all so ... public. I missed the private John terribly and was all set to storm his quarters and damn our agreement when a situation erupted on the Daedalus.

I was ready to meet John for our run when we were a couple of days from Atlantis. When I realised he was dressed for duty instead I knew something was wrong. “What’s up?” I asked.

“Doctor Monroe was killed last night,” John admitted. “At first Rodney thought it was a random power surge but now it’s starting to look like someone did it deliberately.”

“What?” I protested. “How can we be on a tiny ship between galaxies and still have something bad happen?!”

“Rodney and Hermiod are working on it,” John reassured me. “For the time being I want you to stay in your quarters – don’t go wandering around the ship until I tell you it’s safe.”

“Maybe I could help Rodney,” I offered.

“We’ll see,” John didn’t promise anything. “For now, go back inside – I’ll keep you up to date,” he put a hand on my shoulder and gently urged me back into my room.

It seemed like hardly any time had passed before I noticed that the Daedalus had dropped out of hyperspace. I really wanted to know what was going on and it took all of my willpower to sit quietly and wait as John had asked. I’d vowed I’d do the right thing so as not to cause John any trouble with his command – what hope did we have if I broke that vow at the first sign of trouble? Luckily I only had to wait a couple of hours before John turned up at my door again.

“Rodney asked if you could come help him with a translation,” John gestured for me to walk with him down the hall.

“Did something else happen?” I asked apprehensively.

“Yeah,” John admitted. “Doctor Lindstrom found something but before he could tell Rodney what it was he was jettisoned out the airlock.”

“Is Rodney alright,” I felt sick at the thought of what happened to a body in the vacuum of space and how horrible it must have been for Rodney to witness that.

“He’s fine,” John reassured me. “Hermiod discovered a computer virus in the navigational systems and Rodney says it’s Wraith. Colonel Caldwell has ordered all the new personnel to be confined to quarters because he doesn’t trust that one of them isn’t responsible. He was happy for you to help though.”

“Nice,” I said sarcastically. “My status has gone up because of the Wraith ... again!”

John dropped me off in Engineering before heading back to the Bridge. Hermiod and Rodney were tracking the Wraith virus through the systems – it freaked me out a little to see the Asgard for the first time and I found it hard not to laugh as I recalled John’s comment about the wrongness of him being naked.

With the similarity between the Wraith and Ancient languages I had already made significant progress in understanding it. I only had to watch the symbols scrolling across the screen for a few moments before I realised what I was looking at.

“Its metamorphic code,” I said in discovery.

“Yes,” Rodney looked at me in surprise. “Being able to translate Wraith wouldn’t have told you that though.”

“No,” I admitted. “One of the jobs I did a while back was ethical hacking – my favourite method was to try to get a virus into a system undetected. I liked the metamorphic ones best – when that kind of virus multiplies by infecting new files the resulting child virus never looks like its parent.”

“You know about viruses?” Rodney asked dumbfounded.

“Oh I’m just full of surprises!” I laughed to see the great Rodney McKay momentarily rendered speechless. “Look, I can probably knock up a quick anti-viral program to help find this thing within the non Asgard systems – the metamorphic nature of the virus means that the usual pattern recognition process won’t work but I know a few tricks to get around that.”

“By all means,” Rodney waved a hand towards a vacant console. “I’ll just go and ... ah ... report to Caldwell on the Bridge.”

I remained in Engineering for a few hours working with Hermiod to better understand which systems were affected by the virus. My anti viral program did help find the virus but it was much more sophisticated that I’d ever seen and the usual methods for containing and eradicating a virus just weren’t effective. If I’d had more time I might have been able to get around that, but the rate at which the virus was taking over the key systems meant we just didn’t have that kind of time.

Being there in Engineering meant of course I heard about the transmitter coming on line. John’s solution of physically taking out the transmitter was inspired but, as was typical with most of his outside the box plans, something went wrong. John ended up stranded in the F302, having to be beamed back from a great distance using just his radio frequency. I was relieved when John arrived down in Engineering with Rodney and Doctor Weir, looking none the worse for wear.

“You okay?” I asked discretely

“As far as I can tell,” John joked. “I haven’t checked that all the parts are there ... maybe you could help me with that later.”

“Ha ha,” I glanced at Doctor Weir to see if she’d overheard that and breathed easier when I saw she was concentrating on what Rodney was doing.

I stood back with John and Doctor Weir as we all watched Rodney bouncing from one console to the next making preparations for a complete shutdown of all the systems.

“This is what I do when I have problems with my laptop,” John commented in a low tone to Doctor Weir and me. “I turn it off, and then I turn it on again.”

“I think this is a little bit more complicated than that,” Doctor Weir pointed out.

“I'm just saying that if we're taking a page from the John Sheppard Book of Computer Repair, we're really desperate,” John persisted.

“That might be true if it were say a car and you had to pull over, switch off the engine and then switch it on again,” I commented. “But for a computer it’s not as stupid as it sounds.”

“Alright, Colonel,” Rodney’s announcement interrupted our conversation. “We're ready.”

“All personnel, this is Colonel Caldwell. Prepare for a full system shutdown.”

“Alright, Doctor,” Colonel Caldwell instructed. “Go ahead.”

“And ...,” Rodney pointed at Hermiod, who activated some controls on his console.

Around us all the lights on the consoles went off as power to the ship was cut off, plunging us into darkness. I held my breath for the few seconds it took for Hermiod to be satisfied it was safe to reboot the systems. All the lights came back on, followed quickly by Colonel Caldwell’s voice over the Comms system asking for a status report.

“All systems are functioning normally,” Rodney reported in relief. “No sign of the virus. Looks like it worked, Colonel.”

“May I suggest we vacate this system?“ Hermiod said. “Our current position may well have been compromised.”

“Can you give me hyperdrive?” Caldwell asked.

“That will take longer to get back online,” Hermiod admitted.

“I can get you sublight,” Rodney offered, with a smug half grin.

Of course it wasn’t that easy. Within seconds of the Daedalus engaging sublight engines the virus was back, taking over navigation and putting us on course for a close pass of the nearest star. Rodney quickly realised the F302s were an ideal hiding spot for the virus during the shutdown and he and John headed off to pull all the memory units.

“Hermiod, this is Caldwell. Colonel Sheppard and Doctor McKay are cut off. Can the beaming technology transport them inside the fighter bay?” Colonel Caldwell’s question came through only minutes after John and Rodney had left.

“I will need to make some adjustments,” Hermiod replied. “Stand by.”

“Is that safe?” I asked nervously.

“The system was not designed to perform a site-to-site transport within the ship,” Hermiod said in his emotionless little voice. “However, the principle is the same as conventional transportation using beaming technology.”

“So that’s a yes?” I muttered under my breath.

“In theory,” Hermiod replied – he had much better hearing than I would have suspected with those tiny ears! Hermiod activated the beam and I looked across at Doctor Weir in relief when Doctor McKay reported that it had worked successfully.

My relief was short lived when I witnessed Hermiod rapidly shifting controls on his console. “Colonel Sheppard, Doctor McKay,” Hermiod tried to get through to John and Rodney. “Can you hear me?”

“Yeah, we're reading you.” John’s voice came through loud and clear.

“I have raised the fighter bay shield in order to prevent the atmosphere from escaping,” Hermiod reported. “However, the virus has invaded the system and it is only a matter of time before it gains control. Therefore, I suggest you complete your task as quickly as possible.”

Why was it always John who got into these situations? I paced back and forth in front of Hermiod as I waited for John and Rodney to complete their task.

My feeling of dread only increased when Hermiod reported that not only could he no longer stop the virus from gaining control of the shield but that he could also no longer beam them out because that system was compromised too. I nervously chewed my bottom lip as I waited for John to report back in.

“Come on John,” I prayed under my breath. “Hurry it up!”

“Colonel Sheppard, come in,” Colonel Caldwell asked for a status report. “Colonel Sheppard, do you read me? ... Colonel Sheppard, do you read?” What was taking John so long?

“This is Sheppard,” the wonderful sound of his voice echoed through the Engineering. “We're OK. We managed to get into the last F-302 before we lost atmosphere. Any chance you can beam us out?”

“Sorry, John,” Doctor Weir replied. “We lost the transport beam. You're gonna have to sit still for a while.”

“We pulled all the memory units,” Rodney reported. “Another shutdown should work.”

“Understood,” Doctor Weir acknowledged.

Hermiod made a few adjustments to the setup that was already in place and reported that everything was ready for the second shutdown attempt.

“All hands, this is Colonel Caldwell. We're gonna give this another shot. We're initiating total systems shutdown now.”

Once again we were plunged into total darkness, save the few torches some of the ships personnel carried. After a few moments Hermiod reinitialised the systems and the lights came back on again.

“Did it work?” Doctor Weir’s voice broke the silence that had descended on the Engine Room.

“We will know momentarily,” Hermiod said without emotion.

“This is Sheppard. What just happened?”

“Stand by,” Colonel Caldwell instructed. “We're trying to figure that out.” Only a few seconds later the Colonel said in disappointment “It didn't work. We're still on course for the corona sphere.”

I couldn’t help the nervous chuckle that escaped me when I heard Hermiod engaging in what could only be described as Asgard swearing. When even an Asgard didn’t know what to do to fix a problem you knew things were getting pretty desperate. I don’t know if it was my imagination but I started to feel the heat of the sun we were fast approaching.

“Engine Room, this is Sheppard. Prepare to initiate another shutdown on my command.”

“John,” Doctor Weir frowned. “What are you doing?” Good question! What the hell was John thinking of doing this time?

“Getting rid of the last place the virus can hide,” John replied in a relaxed tone – the one he usually used just before he went off and did something dangerous or crazy.

“The other F302,” I said quietly. “He’s going to go take out the F302 we abandoned – it must be tracking us.”

“I have them on my screens,” Hermiod pressed a few controls and a computer image of the two gliders came up on the screen. “The computer-controlled ship is preparing to fire.”

Crap, crap, crap!” I thought. My heart was racing as I watched the screen in the same sick way someone might watch a car wreck - dreading what I might see but unable to look away. I had just realised I was holding my breath when the ships suddenly switched positions.

“Nice move!” Doctor Weir said, impressed.

“Indeed” Hermiod acknowledged.

John and Rodney were chasing the computer-controlled ship towards the corona sphere now ... much closer than could possibly be safe. My heart jumped when our screen suddenly went grey.

“What happened?” Doctor Weir turned to Hermiod in concern, while I stood frozen in shock still staring at the screen.

“They are approaching the corona sphere,” Hermiod said. “There is too much interference.”

Right - too much interference. So they were too close to the star for the computers to work properly – did that mean they were too close for John and Rodney to ... work properly?

“How long can they survive those radiation levels?” Doctor Weir asked the question I couldn’t bring myself to ask.

“I believe it has already been too long,” Hermiod said almost sadly – well for an Asgard anyway.

I couldn’t restrain myself any further – tapping my ear piece I said in as controlled a voice as I could manage. “Colonel Sheppard, do you read?” When there was nothing but silence I said a bit more desperately “John, please respond ... Rodney, do you read?”

“Daedalus, this is Sheppard,” John finally responded just when I was starting to feel on the edge of a panic attack. “Target is destroyed. I repeat target is destroyed. If you try one more shutdown, I think it might just work.”

“Well done, both of you,” Doctor Weir shared a relieved smile with me as she congratulated them. “You had us a little worried there for a minute.”

“Sorry about that,” John responded apologetically. I could feel my knees weaken in relief that John was actually all right. Not waiting to hear anything else, I quickly turned and left the room.

Chapter 6: I suppose you do deserve some kind of ... reward

I’m not sure how long I’d been sitting in my quarters in the darkness lessened somewhat by the purplish glow of our travel through hyperspace. When I heard my door chime beep I got up to let John in before returning to my seat on the bed.

“Bit dark in here,” John commented, turning toward the light controls.

“Don’t,” I spoke in a quiet but firm voice before he could turn on the light.

O-kay,” John walked towards me, stopping to squat in front of me. “Wanna tell me what’s going on?”

“I’m sorry,” I kept my eyes fixed firmly on my hands as I spoke. “I should never have spoken to you while you were up in the 302. It was too personal and unprofessional and ...”

“It doesn’t matter,” John dismissed my apology as unnecessary. “Is that why you’re sitting here in the dark?”

“I’m not used to it,” I admitted softly, finally looking at him directly.

“Not used to what?” John frowned in confusion.

“Caring about someone ... having someone care about me,” I said. “It’s more difficult than I would have expected.”

“I ... ah,” John clearly had no idea what to say to me.

“You don’t have to say anything,” I reassured him. “I always knew that what you do is dangerous ... this is just the first time I was actually present right in the middle of it.”

“I’m sor-,“ John began to apologise.

“Don’t,” I interrupted him. “Don’t say sorry when we both know you’re not and that you’ll be putting yourself right back in the middle of it the next time some crisis occurs.” I smiled to take the sharp edge off my words. “I’ll be okay – I just need time to accustom myself to feeling ... concerned for you from time to time.”

“So we’re still good?” John rose from his crouched position and sat next to me on the bed.

“Yeah, we’re still good.” I bumped shoulders with him before resting my head against him.

“Have you changed your min-“ John started to ask with a hopeful tone.

“Don’t even think about it,” I interrupted him again. “Our agreement stands.”

“Fine,” John grumbled. “But the minute we’re back on Atlantis ...” he left the sentence unfinished.

“You’d better get back to work,” I stood up and escorted him to the door.

“Colonel?” John was a few steps down the corridor before I called out to him. John turned back to me with a raised eyebrow. “Nice sunburn!” I said, laughing at his pained expression. It was probably petty to take delight in teasing him – since I knew the sunburn wasn’t exactly painful and John had only gotten burnt doing something on the edge of crazy, I decided he deserved a little ribbing about it.

I felt like a child in the back seat forever asking “Are we there yet” for the remainder of the journey until finally we broke out of hyperspace and returned to Atlantis. I beamed down with John’s group but stayed near the gate to assist with organising the new arrivals and supplies. I was vaguely aware that he had accompanied Doctor Weir and Rodney up the stairs to the Control Room to meet with Teyla. John came bounding back down the stairs a few minutes later with one of those computerised files in his hands.

“Ready” he said.

“Doctor Beckett still needs a hand with these medical supplies,” I replied, gesturing to the large number of storage containers being beamed down from the Daedalus.

“That wasn’t a question,” John said intently. Then before I knew what was happening I’d been whisked away from the Gateroom, down familiar corridors until we arrived at John’s quarters.

“Aren’t you on duty?” I asked breathlessly, as he urged me inside.

“Nah,” John replied. “I’ve got stuff to catch up on but I’m not gonna be able to concentrate on anything until we’ve blown that stupid agreement out of the water.” He drew me against his body and kissed his way up my neck towards my lips.

“It wasn’t stupid,” I denied, turning my head away before he could completely distract me.

“Yeah it was,” John insisted, almost dancing me across the room towards his bed. “I only agreed because you said it was important to you.”

“That’s big of you. I suppose you deserve some kind of ... reward,” I ran a hand down his chest, toying with his belt. “What do you want?”

“You,” John captured my gaze with the strength of his regard.

You would think that after almost two months of being together I would be used to his impact on me but I wasn’t. Having John Sheppard look at me with those fascinating hazel eyes sent a jolt of awareness straight down the centre of my body. I was hardly aware of our passage from standing fully dressed beside the bed to being naked and tangled together on top of it. The feelings and sensations were at once unfamiliar and yet well known. My heart lightened as we reconnected with each other on the most basic level ... with intimacy came the feeling of being home again.

“I still think it was a good idea,” I said sleepily some time later.

“You know what they say about abstinence,” John replied. “Neither abstinence nor excess ever renders man happy.”

I was too sleepy to do anything more than wonder idly how a Colonel in the US Air Force was able to quote Voltaire with such familiarity. There was more to John Sheppard than met the eye and I was determined to learn him much as he had begun to learn me.

It only took a week to settle in and start feeling like I’d never left Atlantis. I had a recognised job on Atlantis now – research and translation of Ancient artefacts - and there was plenty to do to keep my brain occupied. Since I’d been made an official member of the Atlantis expedition I even had my own lab to work in – mostly because we had to have somewhere to put all the gadgets Rodney wanted tested but I still thought of that little room as mine.

I happily spent hours there, searching the Ancient database for references to interesting planets or research. I’d been at it for a few hours a couple of days after we’d returned to Atlantis when John turned up at my door.

“You ready for a break?” he asked casually. I nodded eagerly, shutting down my computer before jumping up to join him.

We got a few looks from the new staff when we walked in to the commissary together. John, ever contrary, decided to hammer home any doubts the gossips might have had about our relationship by putting his arm around my shoulders and escorting me to a table. He even went so far as to get drinks and such for the both of us, making a big show of ‘looking after me’ when he returned to our table.

“Was that necessary?” I raised an eyebrow when John took a seat next to me, sitting much closer than he needed to.

“Was what necessary?” John quizzed me with an innocent expression, appearing unusually interested in his coffee.

John,” I said in a warning tone.

“All right,” he turned his body towards me so he could look at me directly. “I just wanted to make it clear to all the newbie’s that you’re with me – to avoid any ... misunderstandings that might crop up.”

“What kind of misunderstandings?” I wondered what he thought could possibly happen to me.

“A few of the younger marines were talking about which of the civilian women they’d like to ... get to know better,” John’s expression made me realise that he’d probably toned down what had actually been said. “Your name came up which made me realise that thanks to your ‘be discrete’ policy on the Daedalus they didn’t know you were off limits. I just made sure they’ll know it now.” John seemed quite satisfied with himself.

“So you thought you’d stake your claim, put your ...mark on me, that sort of thing?” I asked in a dangerous tone.

“Huh?” John suddenly realised that perhaps I wasn’t as happy with his actions as he clearly was. “I didn’t think of it like that,” he admitted with a puzzled look. “I thought you’d appreciate not being bothered with any unwanted advances!”

“I’m quite capable of taking care of myself Colonel,” I made to rise from the table but was pulled back into my seat as John grabbed my arm to keep me there.

“Stay where you are,” John did the whole ‘I’m in command’ voice I could never resist obeying. “You can’t run away every time a conversation gets a little heated.” When I slumped back in my chair with my arms crossed stubbornly over my chest and said nothing, John sighed before looking away with a frown. “I don’t understand why you’re angry,” he admitted.

“Do you think I need you to look after me?” I asked in a quiet voice.

No,” John answered immediately. “I thought you might appreciate me doing it though. Don’t you get tired of taking care of everything yourself all the time?”

“Oh,” I looked at him in surprise. “I, ah ... I’m actually a little touched by that!” I admitted, nudging his shoulder with a shy smile.

“Yeah, well, it didn’t go according to plan so maybe next time I won’t bother,” John grumbled. From the twinkle I spotted in his eyes I knew he was just teasing me.

“I’m not used to someone else looking out for me,” I admitted reluctantly. “I guess that’s something else I have to get used to huh?”

“You will,” John put his arm around me again and I leaned into his chest with a sigh.

“I can’t believe I’m gonna admit this but you were partly right when you said I was staking my claim,” John said after a few minutes silence. “I like people knowing you’re mine – and before you protest I know you don’t belong to me. And it’s a two way street - I’m happy for you to feel the same way about me. If you’ve got a problem with that you better speak now because I’m pretty sure I’m just gonna keep doing the same sort of stuff given half the chance.”

“As long as we’re talking mutual ownership here I don’t have a problem with it,” I looked at him in complete seriousness. We did the whole staring into each other’s eyes thing for a few moments before we each seemed to find what we needed there.

“Just so you know,” I gave a semi serious warning; “if you ever go out looking to ... purchase ... from someone else I will hurt you ... badly. You’ve sparred with me so you know I’m capable.”

Rather than be offended by my comment John grinned in delight, squeezing my shoulders tightly. “Back at you,” he said still with a slight laugh in his voice. That laugh disappeared when he added “except I’ll hurt the other guy and then find some more ... creative ways to make you regret it.”

It all sounded macho and aggressive but it wasn’t – it was just our way of making our relationship an exclusive one. Even though we’d each admitted our feelings to the other we’d never discussed what that actually meant for our relationship.

John had given me the right to feel possessive of his time, to expect that he’d consider me when making decisions, to expect some accounting for his actions – within the boundaries of his role as military commander of the base. And I had given him the same rights in return.

Chapter 7: You know how to use these?

 “I can’t believe that guy,” John complained as he readied himself for a mission to P3M-736 in the hopes of finding Lieutenant Ford.

“What guy?” I asked in confusion.

Caldwell,” John said hotly. “He thinks there’s nothing Beckett can do for Ford – said Aiden’s a security risk and insinuated I should have no trouble with a mercy kill since I’d already done the same for Colonel Sumner.”

I knew that John often thought about what he’d done to Colonel Sumner and that inevitably that led him to thoughts of guilt over waking the Wraith. There was nothing any of us could say to excuse him from feeling that way when he’d yet to reconcile the situation within himself. John wasn’t exactly an introspective person and I held little hope that he’d ever fully deal with the emotions he felt over what happened his first week on Atlantis. His motto seemed to be “what doesn’t kill you only gives you more stuff to bury at the back of your mind”. As a consequence there were very few people on Atlantis who knew that John was even bothered by indirectly being responsible for the mass cullings that were now a common event.

“Did Doctor Beckett say Lieutenant Ford was beyond cure?” I cut to the heart of John’s current frustrations.

“Not exactly,” John admitted. “But he said it would be difficult and that maybe Ford was too far gone on the enzyme to go through withdrawal.” John checked his watch, getting up quickly when he saw it was almost time for him to leave. “I’ve gotta go,” he pointed out the obvious. “Stay out of trouble while I’m gone.”

“Too easy,” I smiled as he approached me for the usual goodbye hug and kiss. “Good luck,” I said softly as he walked away.

It had always been hard to be the one left behind, even before we got our act together as a couple. I always tried to stick to the normal routine when John was on a mission, which meant a morning run by myself followed by a sparring session with whoever was around and willing. Stopping off at my quarters to grab my fighting sticks I made my way silently to the sparring room. Just before I got to the door I overheard a conversation going on inside.

“She’s only here because she’s doing the boss,” a snide voice remarked cruelly.

“I heard General Landry was gonna throw her in the brig back on Earth before Colonel Sheppard intervened,” another voice replied gleefully.

“But she took out two Hive ships with the Dakara weapon,” a third voice remarked, sounding almost a defence against the other two.

“So she says,” the first voice returned. “No one saw her activating that machine ... could’ve been accidental – she might not have had anything to do with it at all.”

The conversation paused as the sounds of sparring issued from the room. I leant numbly against the wall sickly thinking how it was true – you never did hear anything good about yourself while eavesdropping. The only question now was what should I do about it? I could just walk away, ignore it ... I was sure that’s what John would have advised. But I didn’t want to. Taking a deep calming breath I turned and strode briskly into the room.

“Anyone interested in sparring?” I asked amicably, glancing at each occupant in the room. I didn’t recognise any of them apart from the vague knowledge that they were all new recruits to Atlantis.

“I’ll take you on,” one of the men smiled smugly at the other two, no doubt looking forward to proving how useless I was.

Deciding he must have been the one who’d cast the first doubt on my abilities, I dubbed him Mr Smug. His mate was Sheep because he was clearly just a follower. I decided to reserve judgement on the third guy until I’d seen how he reacted to my being there.

“You know how to use these?” I pulled a spare set of sticks from my bag and held them out.

“I’ll work it out,” he replied, taking the sticks and swinging them quickly in each hand to get a feel for their weight. Mr Smug had clearly had some experience with that type of weapon before – rather than worry me that knowledge made me smile in anticipation. It was always more fun to beat someone who had some skill, after all. I did a very quick warm up and then made my way to the centre of the room.

“Ready?” I asked casually.

“Yeah,” Mr Smug replied, looking ... well smug!

Before I’d even taken up a fighting stance he leapt at me, swinging one stick towards my neck and the other at shoulder height. I blocked him easily, stepping into his space and taking advantage of his forward momentum to propel him rapidly toward the wall. He stumbled but didn’t fall ... regaining a steady footing he made his way back towards me with narrowed eyes.

“Come on Brett,” Sheep urged, while his companion remained silent.

Mr Smug attacked again, being much more careful with his defensive moves. I let him take the offensive, rapidly blocking each attempted hit as I assessed his skill level. He was good but overconfident and too inclined to rely on his superior bulk. Deciding on the best way to use that against him I shifted the mood of the fight, upping the speed and taking any opportunity to get in a hit if it was there.

Mr Smug held his own, blocking most of my hits – the ones that did get through had enough force to hurt but he didn’t let on that he felt anything. I was moving around him rapidly now, working him hard hoping to tire him.

We battled silently for twenty minutes - I could see Mr Smug was getting impatient to finish me off, even though he’d yet to lay a single blow on me. He rushed me suddenly, trying to back me into the wall. I ducked low and swung a stick at his ankles, sending him crashing into the wall, fighting sticks flying across the room to land near our audience.

Almost growling in anger he turned quickly and rushed me again – this time I stepped to the side at the last moment, grabbing his arm and using his momentum to flip him. He landed heavily on his stomach – I leapt forward, putting a stick across his throat from behind and pulling up hard. With my knee pressed firmly into his back there was no way he could move.

“Do you yield?” I asked quietly. He was panting with exertion while I gave no indication I’d been fighting.

He turned his head and glared at me mutinously, trying to lever himself away. I increased the force of my stick at his throat, watching calmly as he struggled to breathe.

“I can do this all day,” I commented cheerfully, leaning down hard with my knee. He groaned in pain but still held out for a few moments more before slumping down in defeat.

“I yield,” he mumbled. I let go of him immediately, stepping back and giving him room to get up.

“Watch out,” the third and so far silent member of the group called out. My back had been to Sheep so I didn’t sense his movement towards me until he’d gotten close enough to take a swing at me. I turned just in time to get one of Mr Smug’s discarded sticks in the face. I took the hit silently, turning my head with the blow to lessen the impact. Launching an angry kick straight at Sheep’s stomach I took great delight in watching silently as he doubled over, moaning and gasping for breath.

“Do you want a go?” I asked the third guy aggressively.

“Hey, I warned you, remember?” he protested, holding up a hand to placate me.

“Sorry,” I mumbled, turning away from the three of them, putting a hand to my cheek as the pain of that hit finally registered.

“You okay?” the third guy asked.

“Yeah,” I said grumpily. “Who are you guys anyway?”

“I’m Josh Smart,” the third guy introduced himself. “Those two are Brett Stokes,” he pointed to Mr Smug, “and Dave Cornish,” he gestured to Sheep. “We're all Marine Privates - shipped in on the Daedalus with you and Colonel Sheppard.”

“Thanks for the warning,” I told Josh. Turning I watched calmly as Stokes and Cornish got to their feet.

“I suppose you’re gonna go run to your boyfriend and report us now,” Stokes almost sulked at me.

“Well I could do that,” I acknowledged. “Talking about people behind their backs isn’t a nice thing to do. Maybe I could just mention how ... hurt ... I was about what you said. If I mentioned it to Colonel Sheppard though he’d probably just give you clean up duty and what’s the fun in that? Now Teyla on the other hand ... ” I left it to their imaginations, knowing that Teyla's reputation for fighting was legendary in Atlantis.

“I’m ... ah ... I’m sorry about what I said,” Stokes looked at the floor before looking back at me. I maintained my glance with him for a few moments and when he didn’t look away I nodded silently.

“It’s cool – you don’t know me so ...” I let him off. “You were a worthy opponent so if you wanted to spar again sometime ...” He nodded silently.

“As for you,” I looked at Cornish. “Attacking someone when their back is turned is dishonourable and unworthy of a Marine.”

“I’m sorry too,” Cornish muttered, looking ashamed.

“I let my guard down,” I admitted. “The Wraith have no honour – they wouldn’t hesitate to shoot someone in the back. This,” I gestured up to my aching cheek, ”will remind me to pay attention next time.”

“Colonel Sheppard’s gonna want to know how you got the bruise,” Josh pointed out helpfully.

“Probably,” I acknowledged reluctantly. “This kind of thing happens in training all the time though so don’t worry about it. While I’d love to stay and chat,” I said, gathering up my gear, “I need some ice. It was ... nice ... meeting you all.”

With that I turned and left the room, vowing I’d never try to eavesdrop again.

John’s team wasn’t due back for a while yet so after icing my cheek I finally made it to my lab to begin my days work.

It really was hard to be the one going about the normal routine instead of going off doing something exciting on another planet. That was never more the case than when team Sheppard failed to check in or turn up on time (which was practically all the time!). John’s current mission proved no different – this time it was one of the new military team leaders, Major Lorne, who reported in that they’d lost contact with John and Teyla. I did the usual pacing, worrying and waiting to hear something.

John had been missing overnight and into the next morning before he finally checked in to request Doctor Beckett come and operate on someone they’d met on the planet.

I could easily have ‘just happened to be’ in the infirmary so I could find out what was going on but I decided not to. I had to start trusting that John would be okay and anyway ... what good was knowing he was in trouble if I was stuck on Atlantis with no way to help him?

Eventually, as always seemed to be the case (please God let their good luck continue!) John, Teyla and Rodney returned through the gate. As part of my new ‘nonchalance’ with John’s off world missions I didn’t go running to the Gateroom - I knew they came through okay and John didn’t need to see how worried I got while he was away from Atlantis. John ended up dropping by the lab to find me instead ... which was kind of nice.

“You’re back!” I said like I didn’t already know that before he’d turned up at my door.

“Yeah,” John absently picked up a gadget and then hastily put it down when it lit up at his touch.

“You okay?” I turned away from my laptop to give John my full attention. I noticed straight away the troubled expression on his face. “Did you find Lieutenant Ford?

“Yes and yes,” John responded. He walked over to the window and looked out across the ocean. I waited patiently for him to continue. “I tried to get him to trust me ... told him I wasn’t letting him off that planet unless he came back to Atlantis. Hell, I even shot him for real this time!”

“Did you ...?” I couldn’t finish the sentence but he knew what I was asking.

“Didn’t even make a dent,” John said grimly. “He ran into a Wraith culling beam deliberately to get away from me!”

“He’s not himself,” I reminded John what Doctor Beckett had said – that Aiden was driven by the same impulses as any drug addict. “You had no way of knowing what lengths he’d go to avoid capture.”

“Tell that to Colonel Caldwell,” John muttered half under his breath.

“I take it he’s not impressed that Aiden is still at large?” I was really starting to dislike that man! I didn’t make the mistake of asking if it mattered what Colonel Caldwell thought – even though John didn’t have to report to him, Caldwell would no doubt be voicing his concerns whenever he returned to the SCG.

“Hardly,” John turned back to me, looking at me closely for the first time. “What happened to your cheek?”

“Oh,” I put a hand up like I’d forgotten the bruise was even there. “Training accident yesterday – didn’t duck fast enough.”

“You okay?” John put a hand lightly against the injury.

“Yeah,” I replied. “My ego’s more bruised than my cheek ... no permanent damage done.”

“Okay,” John let the matter drop with no further questions. “Wanna grab some lunch?” Knowing he needed some time away from his troubling thoughts I agreed immediately.

I put the whole eavesdropping sparring thing at the back of my mind and tried not to let it worry me that at least some people on Atlantis were thinking I didn’t belong there on my own merits. It wasn’t like there was anything I could do about it and the last thing I wanted was John to feel like he had to fix it somehow.

“I heard some interesting gossip today,” John said from the doorway of my lab a few days later.

“Since when were you interested in gossip?” I asked in surprise.

“Since it was about you,” John replied. I looked up and saw that he was quite serious.

“Whatever it was,” I pointedly looked away disinterestedly, ”I don’t want to know.”

“That’s too bad,” John walked into the room and stood looking down at me as I studiously continued tapping away at my computer. “The rumour going around is that you wiped the sparring room floor with two of the new recruits while we were on P3M-736 looking for Ford.”

“That certainly is an interesting rumour,” I said in a bored tone.

“Sabina,” John’s voice commanded me to look at him.

What?” I said grumpily. “You want to know if it’s true?”

“I already know it’s true,” John countered. “I spoke to the three marines concerned and got all the details.”

“Then what are you talking to me for?” I turned back to my computer again. John grabbed my arm and swung my chair around so that I was facing him.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” John demanded.

“Because I didn’t want you to feel like you had to fix it,” I looked up at him earnestly. “It was a minor incident – no one got hurt.”

Putting a hand under my chin he turned my face up to the light. “No one got hurt?” he trailed a finger over the bruise that was still visible on my cheek. “What about this?”

“My stupidity did that – let my guard down when I shouldn’t have,” I said quietly.

“Private Smart told me Private Cornish came at you with a fighting stick when your back was turned,” John pointed out.

“Yes and the Wraith always announce they’re gonna attack before they do it,” I replied sarcastically. “I hope you didn’t reprimand your marines for what happened – I handled it.”

“So Smart said,” John pulled me from the chair and into his arms. “He also told me what started the whole thing. I’m sorry you had to hear that.”

“Not your fault,” I said, resting my forehead against John’s chest. “I wasn’t even that surprised - I did tell you some people would think that once they knew I was involved with you.”

“Do you mind?” John asked, pulling back slightly to look at me.

“Not enough that I’d change anything about you and me,” I replied firmly. “It’ll die down eventually ... when something more interesting comes along.”

“Well, you won a fan,” John said with an amused smile. “Smart seemed to be delighted with the chance to tell me what really happened ... he said I was a lucky man.”

“You could be,” I raised an eyebrow at him suggestively.

“How can I refuse an offer like that,” John laughed, hugging me tight before turning and towing me out the room.

I’m sure there were others who thought I’d only gotten to Atlantis because of my connection to John but I never heard anything about it again. That made me suspicious that John had said something to his men ... but there was no point in taking it further because I knew he’d never admit it.

Chapter 8: He’s convinced I’m a threat to the city

You know, weird crap seemed to happen a lot on Atlantis. That was never truer than the day Doctor McKay came back with the consciousness of Lieutenant Laura Cadman in his head. I was called in by Doctor Zelenka to assist in interfacing with the Wraith Dart – we’d made modifications to Rodney’s translation program but there were still many aspects of the Wraith language that required ad hoc translations. I’d never witnessed anything quite as disturbing as Rodney apparently arguing with himself – an opinion obviously shared by John, Doctor Weir and Doctor Zelenka if the looks on their faces were any indication.

Over the next day or so I continued to assist Doctor Zelenka as best I could with the Wraith Dart, learning a lot about Wraith technology in the process. I’d done all the translating I could long before any real solutions to Rodney’s problem had been found. Even though it would have been nice to hang around and help in some other capacity I knew I’d just be in the way and so returned to my usual duties, hopeful that Doctor Zelenka would come through for Rodney.

John was busy assessing the skills of Ronan Dex, the man they’d brought back from P3M-736. I hadn’t actually met Ronan myself at that stage but Teyla regaled me with the story of how he’d insisted Doctor Beckett operate on him without the benefit of an anaesthetic. John was pretty impressed with Ronan’s fighting and shooting skills and wanted to put Ronan on his off world team right there and then. I had to remind him that Doctor Weir would have to approve that assignment herself and that she’d probably not be impressed John had already offered a spot to Ronan without asking her first.

While John went off to convince Doctor Weir he’d made the right call with Ronan, I made my way to the gym for my usual practice session with Teyla. When I got there she was already sparring with a very tall, imposing man who could only be Ronan Dex. A poker faced Marine stood off to one side of the room, impassively watching their display. They traded blows almost faster than I could follow before coming to an impasse, sticks held to each other’s throats. I decided that was as good a time as any, and cleared my throat to announce my presence.

“Sabina,” Teyla greeted with me with pleasure, stepping back from Ronan and bowing slightly. I watched as he returned the gesture before turning to look at me without expression. As I took a few steps into the room I realised that this guy was seriously big – I wasn’t short myself but I’d guess he was almost twenty centimetres taller than me. To go with that height he had the build of a warrior, coupled with long dreadlocked hair and a serious, intimidating demeanour. The beard and moustache he sported gave him an almost piratical appearance.

“Sabina, this is Specialist Ronan Dex,” Teyla introduced us. “Ronan, this is Sabina Scott. Sabina works with the Ancient artefacts and language.”

“You’re joining Colonel Sheppard’s team,” I decided up front that this guy was not the small talk kind.

“Haven’t decided yet,” Ronan admitted.

“Well, for when you do decide,” I continued. “Welcome to Atlantis.” Ronan made no reply but I could tell he was faintly surprised by my response. “Are you ready for our practice?” I turned and directed my question to Teyla.

“I am ready,” Teyla agreed.

“Mind if I stay?” Ronan surprised us by asking.

Teyla looked across at me in query and I shrugged to indicate that it was up to her. “Not at all,” Teyla agreed graciously.

We took up our positions in the centre of the room, bowing respectfully before assuming defensive postures. Although I had demonstrated some skill against those three Marines I wasn’t in Teyla’s league. After almost a year of practice I could now hold my own in defence against her and sometimes even produce attacking moves that surprised her. John and I were more evenly matched – the result of a sparring match between us was by no means a foregone conclusion like it was when I sparred with Teyla.

I drowned out all distractions surrounding us and focussed my full attention on Teyla. We traded moves, with Teyla instructing me each time she managed to get through my defences. Towards the end of our session I almost got a hit aimed at Teyla’s knees past her defences. She grinned in delight and congratulated me on my near success. We ended our session with the usual bow of respect before I again thanked her for her time in training me.

“You’re good,” I’d forgotten Ronan was even there until he spoke.

“It’s all relative,” I dismissed the compliment. I took my leave of Teyla and was surprised when Ronan did likewise before following me from the room. We walked down the corridor in mutual silence, accompanied by Ronan’s Marine escort.

“Does that bother you?” I asked, gesturing back at his escort.

“I understand the reason,” Ronan deflected my question. “You a scientist?” he asked curiously.

God no,” I laughed. “I leave the big brain stuff to the likes of Doctor McKay and Doctor Zelenka.”

“But you’re not military?” Ronan persisted.

“Nope,” I agreed, volunteering no further information.

“Then what are you?” Ronan asked rather rudely.

“Late for lunch,” I quipped, glancing down at my watch. “I’ll see you around,” I added, before turning and jogging off down the corridor. I wasn’t sure what that had all been about but resolved to not let his apparent suspicion bother me. John had told me Ronan had spent the last seven years running from the Wraith – maybe he was that suspicious of everyone.

Since I was joining John for lunch I took the time to stop off at my quarters to shower and change. We were into the third day of Rodney being possessed by the presence of Lieutenant Cadman and I was eager to hear if any progress had been made. Spotting John immediately I hurried over and threw myself into the chair next to him.

“Sorry I’m late,” I apologised. “I met your new team member – Ronan. I think he’s now convinced I’m a threat to the city.”

“Elizabeth wants to talk to Ronan herself first, so it’s still not official,” John admitted. “What’d you say to make him suspicious?”

“Nothing much,” I insisted. “Ronan was trying to label me as either scientist or military and I refused to go along with either of those tags.”

“Well he’s coming this way so maybe you could think up another label you are comfortable with,” John said in a low tone. “Ronan,” he called out in a louder voice.

“Sheppard,” Ronan responded, frowning when he realised he knew the person sitting with the Colonel.

“Ronan,” I greeted in a friendly tone. “Long time no see.” John gave me a pointed look, wordlessly instructing me not to be so flippant.

“Join us,” he invited, pointing to the chair across from him. Ronan slumped in the chair, stretching his long legs out to the side.

“I hear you already met Sabina,” John put an arm around my shoulders and drew me in close to his side. I looked at him in surprise and found him pointedly looking at Ronan instead of at me.

“Yeah,” Ronan looked from me to John and then back at me again. “Is he your mate?”

“Mate?” I almost choked on the coffee I’d just taken a sip of.

“Sabina doesn’t like ... labels,” John drawled, helpfully slapping me on the back as I coughed. “If by mate you mean are we a couple, then yes.”

“Mate,” Ronan slouched back in his chair, glancing at John to judge his reaction. “As in pledged, betrothed, joined ... whatever word you guys use for that.”

“The word is married,” I answered. “And although it’s really none of your business the answer is no.”

“You’re available then?” Ronan continued, still looking more at John than me.

No,” John glared at Ronan before adding “where we come from two people can be committed to each other without being married – that’s what Sabina and I are.”

“So you don’t believe in marriage?” Ronan asked. I frowned as I tried to work out why he was persisting with this line of questioning. Before John could answer I stepped in, thinking that perhaps I knew what Ronan was really asking.

“We take our commitments very seriously,” I told him calmly. “We have to be sure that we can live up to them before we take that step. Once we make a commitment we stick to it, defend it at all costs, and fight for it if we have to.”

Ronan nodded as he registered what I was really trying to say – that John would not have made the offer for him to join team Sheppard unless he meant it. That John was offering Ronan more than just a job or a place to live – he was offering him the chance to belong somewhere, as well as our protection and our loyalty in the fight against the Wraith.

“If Doctor Weir agrees,” Ronan glanced at John briefly before looking down at the table, “I accept your offer.”

“Cool,” John had that look that said he was well pleased with his world. We both knew that John would get around Doctor Weir with no effort at all so Ronan joining his team was now a done deal.

“How’s Rodney?” I’d almost forgotten to ask in my confusion over Ronan’s seemingly personal questions.

“He came up with the idea to tie in the Wraith dematerialiser with the Stargate – worked like a charm,” John said, still smiling. “He’s recovering in the infirmary, with Lieutenant Cadman in the next bed.”

“That’s great,” I was relieved that both of them were okay. “I’ll leave you guys to talk about ... whatever it is guys talk about when we women aren’t around,”

I rose from the table and stood beside John’s chair. When he looked up at me curiously I couldn’t resist the temptation to lean down and lay a steaming kiss on him. Just before I was in danger of losing myself in him I reluctantly pulled away, running one hand regretfully through his hair before straightening up.

“I’ll see you later,” I said huskily, leaving the table and walking slowly towards the doors. I couldn’t help but overhear part of their conversation as I walked away.

“Dangerous woman,” Ronan commented.

“You have no idea,” John replied.

Grinning gleefully, I continued on my way.

Chapter 9: You went over my head!

“I want to go on an off world mission,” I dropped that comment into the middle of the conversation one night when I was sharing dinner with team Sheppard (John hated it when I called them that but the description just seemed to fit!).

“Absolutely not,” John reacted without seeming to even think about it.

“Not a front line mission,” I clarified my request. “Just a research mission – something nice and safe.”

“Why?” John asked.

“There is no such thing as nice and safe,” Teyla pointed out before I could answer.

“She’s right,” Rodney admitted. “I’ve lost count of the number of missions we’ve been on that were supposed to be a cake walk that turned into a disaster.”

“I’ve got plenty of interesting stuff to go through here,” I admitted. “The Ancient database is immense and it’ll take years to fully explore everything. I found references to another planet the Ancients were interested in the other day – Doranda. From what was in the database they sound like a fascinating race ... I’m just not sure I want to be the person who finds all the interesting mission material and then hands it over to someone else. I want to see it for myself.”

“The Wraith don’t care about interesting,” Ronan said almost harshly. “Can you defend yourself against an attack?”

“A lot better than Rodney could,” I pointed out confidently, “and he goes off world all the time - no offense Rodney.”

“Rodney’s the genius,” John explained, getting a pleased grin from Rodney for the compliment. “He’d got the rest of us to protect him.”

“So if I were smarter I wouldn’t need to be able to defend myself and I’d get to go on a mission?” I asked incredulously.

“You’re both smart enough and tough enough,” John acknowledged, confusing me completely.

“Then why can’t I go on a mission?” I frowned as I tried to understand what he was telling me.

“Because I won’t put you in danger unless it’s absolutely necessary,” John admitted. “I knew you’d ask eventually and I’ve thought about it – unless there’s a genuine need for your skills you’ll stay on Atlantis.”

“Are you basing this on personal considerations?” I asked incredulously, hardly aware of the uncomfortable expressions on Teyla and Rodney’s faces. Ronon looked on impassively, like he was watching a movie instead of real people.

“Yes I am,” John said freely. “The military implications support my decision though – you possess both the ATA and the Wraith genes which makes you a valuable target. We can’t afford for someone with your talents to fall into enemy hands.”

“I’m now the most proficient translator of the Ancient language,” I pointed out, forgetting my natural modesty in my desire to get my way. “I’m also pretty handy with the ATA gene – there might come a mission where you need those skills.”

“Like I said,” John held my glance with the intensity in his eyes. “If a situation arises that requires those skills then you’ll get to go, with the rest of us along to protect you. That’s the best I can promise you right now.”

“Okay,” I gave up for the moment. “I’ll just have to accept that.”

Dinner broke up soon after– as the others got up to leave John raised an eyebrow at me in query. We had taken to spending many of our evenings together in John’s quarters – sometimes we’d listen to music or read but more often than not at least one of us would have work to do. I nodded silently, holding out a hand for John to pull me from my chair.

“Stay,” John mumbled a few hours later. Usually I managed to sneak out when John was sleeping but every now and then he’d wake up before I could escape.

“I can’t,” I said, pulling myself out of his arms and searching around for my clothes.

“Yes you can,” John drawled. He raised his head from the pillow and looked over at me sleepily. “It’s easy – you just get back in the bed and fall asleep ... next thing you know it’ll be morning.”

“You have a mission tomorrow,” I reminded him. “I’d feel guilty if something happened because you were tired.”

“If I’m tired it’ll be because you woke me up leaving,” John pointed out.

“Go back to sleep,” I returned to the bedside fully dressed and leant down to kiss him, dodging quickly when he tried to pull me back into bed.

“Don’t want to,” John almost pouted. “You could just move in you know – then you wouldn’t need to sneak out.” It wasn’t the first time John had mentioned the idea but since he usually said it with a hint of teasing humour I’d decided up front not to take him seriously.

“Where would be the fun in that?” I teased in return. “Besides, remember ... annoying habits and all that.”

“Fine,” John mumbled into his pillow. “G’night.”

“Night,” I murmured softly, lingering for a moment just to look at him. In sleep his face seemed less the face of a military commander and more the face of an innocent boy dreaming.

“You’re staring,” John complained, still giving the appearance of being asleep.

“I’m going,” I laughed, turning and quietly walking out of his room. There was no one around at that time of the night and I made it back to my quarters, falling tiredly into bed.

I’m not sure if it was my mentioning the Ancient database reference to the Dorandans or if it was just a coincidence, but only a few weeks later John’s team went on a mission to that very planet. The initial mission went according to plan (that alone should have clued us in that something bad was bound to happen!), leaving both John and Rodney excited about the existence of a ground-based version of the satellite weapon we had used to destroy a Hive ship some months ago. Rodney was especially excited by the fact that the weapon on Doranda appeared to be much more powerful than the satellite had been.

When I found out a research team was going back to the planet I immediately approached Doctor Weir in her office.

“Do you have a minute?” I asked from her doorway.

“Of course Sabina,” Doctor Weir invited me in. “I haven’t caught up with you in a while – how are you settling in to your new lab?”

“It’s great,” I said enthusiastically. “I’ve found a lot of interesting references in the Ancient database which is partly why I wanted to talk to you. With your permission I’d like to accompany the research team back to Doranda. The chance to study the outpost first hand would advance my studies immensely and I think the risk is minimal.”

“Did you speak to Colonel Sheppard about this?” Doctor Weir asked with a thoughtful expression.

“Is it his decision?” I asked, without answering her question. Whether or not Ronon joined John’s team had been her call and I was hoping my participation would be the same.

“That depends on the perceived level of military risk,” Doctor Weir admitted. “And that is the Colonel’s call.”

“I haven’t spoken to him about this specific mission,” I admitted reluctantly. “But I did speak to him about the concept of me going on an off world mission and he agreed that if my specific skills were genuinely needed then I’d get to go. I think this mission to Doranda fits within that agreement.”

“I’ll speak to Colonel Sheppard,” Doctor Weir conceded. “Be prepared to leave first thing tomorrow morning.”

“Thank you Doctor Weir,” I said excitedly, almost bouncing my way out of her office.

You went over my head?” John was pacing angrily in front of me later that night. I’d been hiding out in my room, expecting some kind of reaction once Doctor Weir had spoken to him.

I had to!” I didn’t back down nor admit that it was wrong of me to talk to Doctor Weir before talking to him. “This mission needs my skills and we both know you were never going to agree to let me go unless I brought in an outsider. Doctor Weir is completely impartial and if she thinks the mission needs me and that it’s safe for me to go there should be no reason for you to object.”

“I don’t care whether Doctor Weir thinks it’s safe,” John dismissed my argument harshly. “What I do care about is your safety and whether I can provide the level of protection necessary to ensure it.”

“You can trust me,” I said softly. “I’ll follow all your orders without question and the minute you say leave, I’ll come back here without protest.”

I watched as John rubbed a hand over his brow, looking at me intently as if trying to judge the validity of what I’d said.

“Promise?” he asked ruefully.

“Promise,” I said firmly. “Does this mean I can go?”

“You can go,” John agreed, quickly bracing himself as I launched myself into his arms for an excited hug. I covered his face with happy kisses as I chanted thankyous in an exuberant voice.

“Just don’t make me regret it,” John said before letting himself get captured by my enthusiasm.

Chapter 10: Did you at least get something interesting off the database?

My job on Doranda was going to be similar to what I imagined Daniel had done in the early days of SG1. I wasn’t going to be involved in anything to do with the weapon – instead I’d be searching the database there attempting to find out more about the Dorandans, their connection to the Ancients, and whether there were any other weapons or technologies mentioned that could be useful for Atlantis.

I was so excited that first day, almost bouncing in my anticipation of riding a Jumper through the gate for my first real mission.

“You’re like a kid at Christmas,” John teased, grinning at my antics.

“At least I’m not jaded like you,” I retorted.

“When you’ve been through the gate as many times as I have,” John drawled, “all the planets start blurring into each other.”

“I can't imagine ever getting to that stage,” I said, making myself comfortable in the back section of the Puddle Jumper along with the rest of the research team.

The trip was short and before I knew it we were flying over the devastation that was Doranda. My face fell as I realised there was little chance that anything of the Dorandan culture had survived beyond what was at the Ancient outpost. We had to climb down into the facility via a metal ladder which led straight into the main lab. The entire building seemed to be dominated by the central lab containing various consoles and a window showing a cylindrical room with some kind of device inside. Just off from the main lab was another smaller room that contained a single console – this was where I set myself up to access the Dorandan database.

“Stay in this room,” John instructed me. “I’ll be close by but keep your radio on,” he checked to make sure my ear piece was in place. “Call me if you need me.”

“I’ll be fine,” I said confidently. “Go – help Rodney.” John nodded reluctantly before leaving me to my work.

I didn’t get much done in the whole scheme of things that first day ... just enough to know the database was big enough that I wouldn’t be able to copy the whole thing to my laptop like I’d hoped. I’d have to come up with some criteria to narrow my search or risk being distracted by the variety and colour of the information stored there.

Rodney and Doctor Zelenka had much more success. They discovered that the outpost was, as Rodney put it, the greatest discovery of all time. It appeared that the weapon was powered by a power source of such magnitude that it would make ZPMs obsolete. It had come too late for the Ancients to win the war but Rodney was confident he could complete their work and perfect the technique.

We returned home for Rodney and his team to do the necessary analysis of the command code. I was impatient to get back to Doranda but had to wait a few days before Rodney was ready to return. As before, I headed off to the smaller lab while the rest of the team converged on the main lab. That became our pattern over the course of the next week as research and simulations were conducted to determine if the system could be powered up safely.

"This place is amazing," I commented to John a few days later when he came to check on me.

"I know - Rodney's practically jumping up and down in excitement out there," John said, gesturing vaguely out the door.

"No - not just space-time vacuum energy, although that is pretty cool," I said. 'This place was prototype city for the Ancients. There's reference to a whole bunch of failed projects here. I think this is where the Ancients concentrated their efforts towards the end of the war - they were desperately trying to find ways to defeat the Wraith. I've linked the weapons research inventory device to the database here and I'm streamlining my search parameters ..." I broke off when I noticed John was grinning at me delightedly. "What?" I demanded.

"Nothing," he said. "It's just that you're so ... cute when you get all scientific. Are you sure you don't wanna join Rodney's Mensa chapter?"

"Very funny," I turned away so he couldn't see that I was amused by his comments. "Did you come in here for some reason other than to annoy me?"

"Yeah," John turned serious. "Rodney and Zelenka are about to try a controlled power-up of the system. Do you want to come watch?"

"Nah," I said. "You go ... I want to keep searching the database."

"Okay," John turned to leave the room. "Keep your radio on, just in case," John added before disappearing out the door.

Shaking my head fondly I turned back to my work. I was trying to find references to 'defensive' weapons as a priority - given the way the Wraith tended to punish with force of numbers any planet that attacked them I had decided that an effective defence against that kind of tactic would serve us better in the long run. I'd been at it for a few days and was starting to think there wasn't going to be anything other than the reams of stuff I'd found on shields (all requiring a ZPM to power them so probably useless to us for the moment). When my laptop started beeping I tapped at the keys not really expecting anything. The computer had stopped on something called project Imperium. As the Ancient text scrolled across my screen the words 'powered control' and ‘telepathy’ jumped out at me. Feeling a tingle of discovery I realised that I was finally on to something.

"Attention all personnel," Rodney's voice coming through my earpiece jolted me to awareness. "Stand by for power-up on my mark. Three, two, one, mark ..."

Ignoring the weapons test, I punched in some commands to transfer all the data on the project I'd just discovered from the Dorandan database to my laptop. There was a fair bit of data there and I couldn't help shifting from one foot to the other nervously as I waited for the transfer to complete.

"Sabina," John's voice came through my earpiece a few minutes later. "We're evacuating to the Jumper - get moving."

"I'll be there in a minute," I replied, watching the copy bar that indicated I still had about a tenth of the file left to copy.

"Now Sabina," John ordered sternly.

"On my way," I acknowledged, almost bouncing up and down as I waited impatiently. The copy bar hit the edge and my transfer completed. Quickly unplugging my laptop and unhooking the Ancient weapons inventory device I grabbed both and juggling them awkwardly, ran to the door.

John was pacing at the top of the ladder leading down to the outpost when I climbed up breathlessly a few minutes later. Grabbing the Ancient device impatiently from my arms he motioned for me to precede him towards the Jumper.

"What happened," I asked as I threw myself into one of the passenger seats next to Rodney. The other researchers were standing in the back section, strangely quiet compared to the buzz of noise that had accompanied our arrival. Rodney was sitting there with a shaky hand pressed to his face.

"Collins," he mumbled sickly. "The power levels were overloading and then ... something happened ... Collins was in the access tube ..." Rodney drew to a halt, leaving it to my imagination as to what had happened to Doctor Collins.

I raised an eyebrow at John as he turned from the pilot's chair to check on Rodney's condition. "Dead," he confirmed quietly.

I put a comforting hand on Rodney's shoulder but otherwise made no acknowledgement of the news. We made it back to Atlantis safely; John and Rodney disappeared immediately for an emergency meeting with Doctor Weir and the others. I spent the remainder of the day transferring and organising all the data I'd gotten from the Dorandan database so far.

"You broke your promise," John accused. It was later that night and I'd just arrived at his quarters for the evening.

"When?" I asked in confusion.

"On the planet," John persisted. "You said before I agreed to let you go on the mission 'the minute you say leave, I'll come back here without protest' but you didn't."

"But I did leave when you said," I insisted, surprised he was quoting me - did the guy memorise everything I said?

"No - you finished your download, unplugged your machines, and then left with a heap of equipment weighing you down," John clarified.

"But that only took a few minutes," I protested. "Was I supposed to leave everything behind?" I had thought I'd done exactly what he'd asked and now I was confused that he saw it differently.

"Yes you were," John said sternly. "When I said evacuate, you should have dropped everything and left."

"But it was only a few minutes," I pointed that out again.

"Even a few seconds could be the difference between escaping and being trapped somewhere," John pointed out. "In any evacuation the first rule is always to save yourself first - everything else can be replaced."

"I didn't know I was supposed to do that," I complained. "When did we make that rule?"

"Its standard operating practice," John pointed out. "It was part of the theory you studied during basic training."

"Oh," I said in surprise. The boring stuff ... that I'd skimmed through just enough to pass my tests. "Well how was I supposed to remember something I read once almost a year ago?"

"You really didn't remember?" John asked in a more reasonable tone.

"No," I insisted. "I thought I was doing the right thing - that weapon's inventory device plus what I copied off the Dorandan database probably isn’t replaceable. I thought it was my responsibility to ensure we didn't lose them."

"Okay," John said reluctantly. "I'll let you off this time ... but if I ever order you to evacuate in the future you'll drop everything and run to the evac point the second I tell you to."

"Of course," I agreed easily.

“Did you at least get something interesting off the database?” John asked.

“Yes!” I’d almost forgotten my discovery in the horror of what had happened to Doctor Collins. “I found details of a project called Imperium – that means 'Control'. I don’t know for sure but my first thought is that they were looking at defensive methods to stop the Wraith from using their greater numbers against the settled planets.”

“Sounds interesting,” John commented. “You should probably fill Doctor Weir in before you pursue it any further.”

"Will we be able to go back to the planet?" I asked curiously, sitting down at the desk John had positioned in an alcove to the side of his bed. "There might still be something useful in the database."

"Not for a while, if ever," John said. "We might be able to send someone to copy the rest of the database though."

"There's lots of good stuff on shields in there," I pointed out. "Even without additional ZPMs we might be able to do more with the city's shield."

"Interesting," John commented, clearly no longer paying full attention to what I was saying. He made a move towards me but was halted when his door alarm beeped. "What now?" he muttered as he went to answer it.

"Harry K Daghilian," I heard Rodney's voice from the doorway. Luckily my position at the desk was mostly hidden from view behind the floor to ceiling column that sat in the middle of the room for no particular reason that I could see.

"Who?" John questioned.

“He was a scientist,” Rodney said. “Worked on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos. He was only twenty-six years old. Accidentally irradiated himself while performing a critical mass experiment on two half-spheres of plutonium. Took him a month to die. While his body was slowly shutting down from radiation poisoning, you know what he did with his last thirty days, hmm?” Rodney waited a few seconds for John to respond. When John said nothing, Rodney continued. “He worked. He tried until his last breath to understand what had happened to him so that others could learn from the tragedy, so that his work, his death, wouldn't be rendered meaningless. Now, have you considered what would have happened if they'd just shut the Project down after that.”

"This is different," John replied when it seemed that Rodney had finished his long spiel.

"Is it?" Rodney's voice rose slightly in volume. "Collin's death is a pointless waste of life unless something comes of this, and I am not sure that I can ... " Rodney's voice shook as if he were swallowing tears. "I think I know what happened," he said more confidently.

"Let's hear it," John invited seriously.

"Can I come in?" Rodney asked.

"No," John refused, obviously remembering at that point that I was waiting for him. He didn't tell Rodney I was there and I agreed with the sentiment, knowing that Rodney wouldn’t be pleased to learn how much of the conversation I’d already overheard.

Deciding Rodney deserved some privacy I plugged my IPod earphones into my ears and leant back to listen to some music while I waited for John to finish his conversation. After a few minutes, John moved away from the door, rubbing a hand over his hair as he frowned in deep thought.

"Is Rodney okay?" I asked, shutting off the IPod.

"He's struggling with guilt over Collins," John admitted. "Rodney's not military, despite the experience he's gained here. He's not used to ordering people to do things that end up getting them killed."

"It hasn't been that long since Doctor Lindstrom either," I pointed out.

"No ... I think Rodney feels that he should be able to put this sort of thing behind him ... it'll take him a while to accept that you never put it behind you," John's face was troubled with memories he'd probably never share with me. He blinked before focussing back on me "He wants me to speak to Doctor Weir for him."

"Are you going to?" I asked.

"He asked me to trust him ... said he'd earned it," John seemed to be still considering his options. "He has come through for us in the past," John admitted.

"So you'll talk to Doctor Weir tomorrow," I deduced that John would go into bat for Rodney, despite his misgivings.

"Yeah," John agreed, moving towards me again. "Now where were we?"

Chapter 11: Do you think Sheppard will forgive me?

The next day, John spoke with Doctor Weir and obviously convinced her that Rodney knew what he was doing. He was in the Jumper bay preparing to head back to Doranda when I caught up with him.

"You're going back to Doranda?" I asked from the open Jumper door.

"Don't do that!" John protested, pretending to be startled at my abrupt arrival.

"You're going back," I commented again, ignoring his antics.

"Yeah," John admitted. "Doctor Weir agreed but only on the condition that someone go to protect Rodney from himself."

"And that someone has to be you?" I questioned seriously.

"It'll be fine," John glossed over the seriousness of the mission.

"Do you have some deep seated need to put yourself in harm’s way?" I asked somewhat angrily.

"My job requires -" John began.

"Don't put this down to the job!" I cut him off before he could excuse his choice as duty. "Your job is to be in command of the military here - you should be the last person risking your life on a mission anyone could do."

"Stop right there," the dangerous edge in John's voice cut through my righteous indignation. We stood staring at each other for a few seconds before John looked away, running an agitated hand through his hair.

"Look,' he turned back to me and said in a more reasonable time. "I know where this is coming from ... you'll just have to trust that I wouldn't let anyone go back to that planet if I thought it was too risky. If it's safe for anyone to go then it's safe for me to go."

"You're right," I nodded, understanding the logic behind that. Even though I knew he wasn't above sacrificing himself for the greater good I realised that he wouldn't put Rodney in danger like that. "I'm sorry ... it's just that you always seem to volunteer yourself for these crazy missions ... I had no right to question your decision ..."

"No," John broke in. "I gave you the right to question me when we made this an exclusive deal, ' he gestured a hand to indicate the bond between us. "I don't wanna put restrictions on what is or isn't included in that." He closed the distance between us and pulled me into his side. "Are we good?" he asked.

"Yeah, we're good," I agreed, leaning in to him. To be honest I was a bit startled at the power he was giving me - if I'd thought about it for more than a second when I first heard he was going back to Doranda I never would have brought it up in the first place.

"Good, then you can help me with my pre flight checks," John pulled me to the front of the Jumper.

"Just promise me you'll pull the plug if the weapon begins to overload again," I asked quietly.

"Could have been Mensa, remember?" John quipped. I didn't need the reminder that he was smarter than he presented himself to be. We continued to prepare the Jumper for his mission in silence, and before I was ready John and Rodney were off through the gate to Doranda.

Knowing I needed something to take my mind off John and Rodney, I headed down to my lab to begin working through the data I'd copied from the Dorandan database. I knew that I could have headed up to the Control Room to wait it out until John and Rodney returned. I was seriously tempted to do just that but I didn't for two reasons. My temperament was not suited to sitting around doing nothing, especially if things started to go downhill. If I had to sit there listening to John getting himself into trouble it would drive me nuts to be powerless to help him. The second reason was that I knew everyone else would be in the Control Room during the mission - of course they all knew John and me were a couple but that didn't mean I wanted them to witness the depth of my feelings for him. I'd discovered on the Daedalus that it was hard to contain intense emotions during a crisis situation - I'd rather sit it out in my lab with my radio linked in to the Control Room so I could suffer in private!

I was glad to be by myself when I heard the entire conversation between Doctor Zelenka and Rodney. The fact that Doctor Zelenka believed the weapon had killed the Ancients who designed it filled me with dread, especially when Rodney just completely discounted the seriousness of what that meant. Did he really believe that he could solve a problem the Ancients had been unable to?

"Come on John," I whispered to myself. "Pull the plug!"

"I'll call you back after the test," John told Doctor Weir instead. "How does that sound?"

"How does that sound? How about idiotic!" I said aloud, glad that no one else could hear me. I could only assume that Rodney had said something to convince John he really did know what he was doing.

Pretending I was fully engaged with my research, despite no one being there to witness my diligence, I waited out the next hour in tense anticipation. When I heard the Jumper was returning I couldn't resist running down to the Jumper bay to check they were all right. The Jumper had been parked in its usual spot by the time I got there. I stood at the door watching as first John and then Rodney exited the Jumper, apparently unharmed. I raised an eyebrow when John turned without acknowledging Rodney and headed at a brisk pace towards the door.

"Colonel," Rodney called out in an almost pleading voice, hurrying after him.

John kept walking, ignoring Rodney completely. I looked at John questioningly when he reached me but he just shook his head, putting a hand under my elbow to draw me along with him. I glanced back over my shoulder and saw Rodney standing there, looking dejected. Although both were physically unhurt, something had been broken on that planet and I feared it would be some time before it could be mended.

The gossip doing the rounds by evening was that Doctor Weir had chewed Rodney out but good over destroying five sixths of a solar system and putting people’s lives at risk. Doctor Weir believed that Rodney had known there was a question about what he was doing, even though Rodney had denied it.

"You've got to talk to Sheppard for me," Rodney cornered me in my lab early the next day.

"Why would I do that?" I asked Rodney. John had filled me in on what had happened on Doranda the previous day and I was feeling a fair bit of anger towards Rodney on my own account.

"Because I've been looking all over for him and I can't find him," Rodney said in agitation. "I've already apologised to Elizabeth and Radek and I just ..."

"If John's avoiding you it's because he's not ready to talk Rodney," I tried to put myself in his shoes and knew I'd be pretty desperate to mend things if I thought I'd damaged John's trust in me.

"Couldn't you just ... you know, put in a good word for me?" Rodney begged.

"I'd like to help you," I began before stopping myself. "You know what? That's a lie. I don't want to help you Rodney - you risked John's life yesterday as well as your own because you wouldn't listen to anyone else ... a habit you really need to break."

"You weren't there," Rodney began to protest. "You don't have the right to criticise my-"

"No," I agreed, cutting him off. "I wasn't there - but I did hear your conversation with Doctor Zelenka. You asked me to help - as far as I'm concerned that gives me the right to comment." I looked at him, noticing that he was looking down at the floor miserably. It was a saddening site to see the great Doctor Rodney McKay reduced to the indecisive person I saw before me and I felt my heart soften despite my anger.

"Look Rodney," I said more gently. "No one doubts your brilliance, nor your ability to come up with solutions in the midst of a crisis." Rodney looked up with a pleased smile at my words. "But you really suck at dealing with people," I added. "You need to allow for the possibility that someone else can be equally brilliant and that a solution can be made better by considering everyone's input." I smiled as Rodney looked away with a grimace.

"Do you think Sheppard will forgive me?" he asked hesitantly.

"I don't know why sometimes, but John likes you Rodney," I said in a teasing tone, pleased when Rodney laughed instead of taking offense. "You used the trust between you to do something that deep down you couldn't have been that sure of," my expression turned serious. "John knows that and it'll take a while for him to forget it. You'll need to earn his trust back."

"Are you sure you can't ...?" Rodney broke off with a hopeful look.

"Nice try, but no," I said firmly. "I'll tell him you're looking for him though.”

Rodney did eventually catch up with John - John gave him an opening to eventually gaining back the trust he'd damaged. On the surface it seemed that everything was back to normal between them ... speaking to John privately I knew that wasn't quite the case but that in time it would be.

Chapter 12: What's wrong with you?

"It was really weird," John said, holding out his right arm and showing me where the feeding mark should have been. "I had blood dripping on the ground but now ... nothing."

John was back from the infirmary where Doctor Beckett had given him the all clear to return to his usual activities. He'd come down to the lab to tell me what had happened on the mission he'd just returned from. I ran a hand down his arm, looking closely at where he'd said Ellia had grabbed him.

"Are you completely sure it was all your blood?" I asked even though I knew it'd be unlikely John would make a mistake like that.

"Yeah," John pulled his sleeve down over his arm, looking at me with a strangely intent gaze. "It hurt like a son of a bitch - can't make a mistake with that."

"What did Doctor Beckett say?" I could feel that horrible sense of foreboding you get when you just know something bad is about to happen ... a feeling which I studiously ignored it.

"He's running my blood work now," John seemed to be almost brimming with repressed energy. "Said it'd take half a day to get the results." Before I could say anything else John changed the subject. 'Wanna do some sparring a bit later?"

"Sure," I agreed easily. It had been a few days since our last session.

"Great," John said, heading for the door. "I'm gonna go for a run with Ronan first - I'll give you a call when I'm done."

"O-kay," I said the last part of that word to myself - John had already left.

About an hour later I walked into the gym, carrying my fighting sticks with me. John was already there, swinging his sticks in a circular motion. He was alternating in a pattern of crossed arms with sticks at shoulder height and arms outstretched at hip level much more rapidly than I'd ever seen him do before.

"Looking good," I complimented him. When he didn't acknowledge my comment I grabbed my own sticks and worked through my usual warm up routine in silence.

"Ready?" John asked intently, watching me closely.

"If you are," I agreed.

We took up fighting stances and before I could even register that the fight had begun John had leapt forward in attack, swinging his left stick toward my arm while swiping the other at hip height. I jumped back to avoid a hit to the waist but couldn't completely get clear and received a hard hit to my shoulder.

"That's gonna leave a bruise," I complained as I rubbed the spot with a grimace.

"Sorry," John said somewhat insincerely, waiting for me to resume my fighting stance.

"Have you been practising?" I asked puzzled that his skills seemed so much more ... advanced than the last time we'd sparred.

"Not really," John admitted, raising his sticks for us to begin again.

This time I was more prepared for his speed and managed to hold off his rapid attack by giving up ground. Just before I hit the wall I ducked low, running around him back to the centre of the room.

John grinned at me, throwing one of his sticks to the floor and facing me with just the one stick held out towards me. When he put his other hand behind his back I could feel my anger starting to surface. That had been just plain condescending and that wasn't like John.

"What's with the ... aggression?" I asked hotly.

"Just spar," John almost growled.

I put the full force and control I had at my disposal into my next attack - John deflected every blow with ease, again making me give ground to avoid getting hit. He feinted left when I attempted the same ducking manoeuvre and instead of escaping I found myself pinned to the wall with John's fighting stick pressed to my throat.

"John?" I was panting at the exertion while he seemed to have hardly broken a sweat. "Do you want to go again?"

John didn't back away or answer - just stared at me with an intense expression I was hard pressed to meet. I began to feel nervous at his uncharacteristic behaviour and struggled not to let him see it. "You're hurting me," I said softly, feeling the stick pressing into my neck to the point of cutting off some of my air.

John frowned slightly before lowering the stick and throwing it across the room. I put a hand to my neck, watching him closely. When he grabbed my head in both hands and started kissing me fiercely I initially thought nothing of it - it wasn't the first sparring session we'd had where we'd gotten just a little too ... passionate and resorted to a different sort of physical contest.

Only a few seconds into the kiss I realised this time was completely different. John had never treated me as though I was fragile but he'd also never been as rough as he was being then. He ground his lips against mine, starving me for air as he pinned me hard to the wall. I struggled to pull away, finally resorting to jabbing him in the stomach to break his hold.

We stood frozen a step away from each other, both breathing hard as we stared into each other’s eyes.

"I'm not really sure what just happened," John said in a more normal voice. He made a move towards me and I couldn't help but flinch away from his touch. "Sabina?" his expression became pained when he realised I was struggling to hold back tears.

"What's wrong with you?" I almost whispered, still breathing hard.

"Look," John began, also panting slightly.

"Colonel Sheppard, please report to the infirmary!" Doctor Beckett's voice from the radio interrupted him.

"You okay?" John asked, making no move to leave.

"Doctor Beckett will be expecting you," I ignored his question, trying to put on a calm face.

"Yeah," John admitted. He looked at me for a few seconds, obviously torn between the desire to stay and fix things and the knowledge that whatever Carson wanted to tell him was probably urgent. Finally he turned to leave, giving me a regretful look before he disappeared out the door.

As soon as he was gone I dropped to the floor. Resting my hands over my raised knees I leant back against the wall, breathing deeply to control the desire I still had to burst into tears. My mind was racing over the contradiction of John's behaviour today with what I was used to. It was hardly a surprise therefore when Doctor Beckett called me down to the infirmary a short time later.

"Colonel Sheppard has been infected with the iratus bug retrovirus," Doctor Beckett told me.

“Retrovirus?” I looked questioningly at Carson.

“We’ve been working on a way to strip out the iratus bug elements from a Wraith and leave only the human elements behind,” Carson revealed. “Unfortunately our first strain had the opposite effect to what we intended. When Ellia tried to feed on the Colonel she passed the virus to him.”

"What does that mean? I asked in concern.

"Maybe nothing,' Carson said hopefully. "The retrovirus could just break down in his system."

"And if it doesn't?" my voice was barely above a whisper as I asked the question I wasn't sure I wanted to hear the answer to.

"Then the virus will start rewriting the Colonel's DNA,' Doctor Beckett admitted reluctantly.

"Would it alter his mood?" I asked reluctantly. "When we sparred earlier John was behaving ... strangely."

"I don't know what the effects are likely to be," Doctor Beckett said in frustration. "The virus was never designed to be given to a human."

"What can I do?" I met Carson's eyes with a pleading look.

"The Colonel's due to check in a couple of hours from now," Doctor Beckett said. "He won't show it but he'd probably pretty worried right now ... maybe he'll open up a bit more with you, let loose some of the stress he's under."

"Okay," I said. "I'll just go and ... check on him myself then."

Deciding the most likely place for John to go under the circumstances would be his quarters, I headed there straight from the infirmary. John was sitting on his bed prodding his right arm in sick fascination when I opened the door. As I got closer I realised there was a patch of scaly skin surrounded by a blue discolouration right where John said Ellia had tried to feed on him. His unguarded expression at my unexpected arrival clued me in that Carson was right - John was on the edge of freaking out. The shutters closed over his eyes immediately, leaving the usual 'John Sheppard care free wise guy' expression behind.

I raised an eyebrow at him, looking pointedly at the affected arm. Tapping his ear piece John spoke reluctantly into the radio.

"Hey, Doc? This is Sheppard."

"Yes, Colonel," Carson's voice replied straight away.

"We may have to bump up our first check-in." John admitted.

"Come on," I said, reaching for his other arm. He let me pull him up from the bed and walked quietly by my side as I escorted him back to the infirmary. 

 On to Part Two