Several months later

Kate gave a sigh of relief as the door slid shut behind Rodney. She couldn't pinpoint the moment when sparring with him had stopped being fun. Now it seemed like she was just going through the motions. Rodney's snarkiness was subdued as well, but the times he crossed the line into outright nastiness were becoming more frequent. And she was also very worried about his recent major lapse in judgement that had led to the destruction of most of a solar system. That wasn't the sort of thing one wanted in one's personnel file.

Today's session had culminated in Rodney screaming that an intellectually challenged murderer had more accurately psychoanalyzed him after five minutes than she ever had. And that she'd let her professional curiosity endanger him when Cadman was stuck in his head. That hurt. She had only wanted to help them both. Rodney couldn't appreciate that he wasn't her only responsibility.

Lieutenant Ford had been her responsibility, too. She remembered his session just after his close brush with death from the nanovirus. He was scared and trying not to let it show. He definitely did NOT want to talk with her at first, but gradually opened up. Kate recalled his youthful enthusiasm and pride when she helped him realize that the team he led back from the mainland helped save the city from the Genii during the storm. With a smile, she also recalled Ford's regret over the crap he'd given Carson and his unfounded fear of the physician's wrath.

Yes, Ford's mental health had definitely been her responsibility. One that she'd failed in when he fell victim to the Wraith attack. Kate had been in the back of the infirmary when he ran amok and seized the enzyme Carson had synthesized. He had been floridly psychotic, but she could sense that a part of him knew what was happening and was screaming for help. Help that neither she nor anyone else had been able to provide. Kate was afraid for both his sanity and his life now, since the new commander of the Daedalus had made it clear that his status as a security risk made him expendable.

Then there was Bates. Although she had been intimidated by him at first, she was also attracted to him. As hard as she pushed him to understand his motivations, he pushed back equally as hard when he refused to let her take refuge in psychobabble. They'd started seeing each other, and their relationship had briefly reached the physical stage when he was savagely beaten by a Wraith. Bates had been sent back to Earth with the other wounded, but Kate refused to give up hope that he would eventually recover and return to Atlantis.

Denial really wasn't just a river in Egypt, was it.

Kate sighed and slumped down on her own couch. Not for the first time, she wished the expedition had more mental health personnel. She was in desperate need of a sympathetic ear. All of the injury and death was wearing heavy on her. In addition to Ford and Bates, there was Peter Grodin, Markham, Smith, and too many others to count. At times, she very seriously considering resigning and moving back to Earth herself.

But whenever she did contemplate leaving Atlantis, her mind invariably turned to all the pleasant moments from the last year. Watching the Athosian children playing and Jinto's smuggled dog winning the hearts of all the expedition members. Laughing at the men during ladies' poker night. Discovering technological marvels most people on Earth wouldn't know enough to even imagine. How could she give up all this to return to a mundane existence?

Kate knew in her heart that she wouldn't actually leave. This place had become too much like home, its inhabitants too much like family. But she knew she would need a better way of coping with her own stress, or she would burn out quickly. She enjoyed her regular yoga and meditation sessions in the beautiful room she'd shown Elizabeth, but they weren't enough. She looked forward to talking to Carson during the evening shifts when business was slow for both of them., but knew she couldn't sustain herself on that, either. For awhile after she'd started seeing Bates, Kate had hoped that their relationship would center her, but his head injury had ended that notion.

As much stress as she was under, Kate knew that Elizabeth and John were under at least twice as much. During her sessions with them, she was impressed with and more than a little envious of their resilience. (Even though John often had to be threatened into showing up.) She had a sneaking suspicion it was due to undeclared feelings they had toward each other. Both of their attempts to dodge the issue were amusing, and she often wanted to lock them in a room together to sort things out. Far from undermining the chain of command, Kate thought that it might actually help them run the city more smoothly. And as for them being afraid to make difficult decisions about each others' welfare, they probably felt that way already.

Kate made up her mind firmly that she was not going to resign from the expedition. But she was going to ask for some time off to go back to Earth to see her family. Her other family. A few weeks of relaxation should restore her sense of balance, and then she'd be able to return refreshed. After all, she had at least another year of working on John and Elizabeth to do.