Title: Waking Dreams
Author: Mer
Genre: General
Season/Spoilers: season 1, vaguely season 2, but no spoilers, really
Summary: Kolya and the Genii return to Atlantis in force, seeking revenge and control of the city. Plenty of Shep whumping. (John/Liz friendship, angst)
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters. I'm just borrowing them for a bit.

AN: At last, we've reached the end! I had a lot of fun writing it...thanks to all the patient readers, everyone who posted reviews, and of course Hah and Em for beta'ing! Warning - this chapter gets a bit shippy. As much as my cold anti-ship heart can manage ;) Please read and review :D

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Waking Dreams

By Mer

- Chapter 6 -

John looked pale and shaken, and Elizabeth instinctively put a comforting arm around him. She was silent for a minute, not sure what to say, unable to understand his traumatic experiences.

"Do you want to talk about it?" she eventually managed.

"No…it's okay…"

"John, it's not okay –"

"I mean, I don't think I'm ready yet…not right now."

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to…"

"No, it's alright, Elizabeth." He licked his lips and tried to change the subject. "…How have you been?"

"Not so good, actually," she confessed.

John's face fell, dragged down by the burden of guilt, and he replied softly, "I'm sorry…" He hesitated, unsure what else to say. He should have been there for her, he told himself. At least he could be here for her now. He gave her a sympathetic look, showing he was here to listen to whatever she needed to say.

"John, you died right in front of me. So many of us never made it home. The fact that I'm talking to you right now is…is…" She shook her head disbelief at the whole situation. "How can I be sure this isn't just a dream?"

"This…" John took her hand in his and held it tight, "…is real." Elizabeth gave him a small smile and looked unconvinced.

"Do you want me to pinch you?" he offered with a grin.

"No…no, that's ok," she rolled her eyes. Only the real John Sheppard would be such a smartass at a time like this.

Her face darkened as a wave of emotion washed over her; six months of repressed anger, grief and guilt that she finally let flow freely. "Why didn't you let us know you were okay?" she demanded. "We buried you, we grieved for you. I spoke about you at the memorial service! I thought you ascended beings could appear in human form, and if you could come back, why did you wait so long? We were lost without you… I was lost." She immediately regretted her words. He didn't deserve this.

"Elizabeth, I'm so sorry. It's… complicated. I thought, maybe, if I was ascended I could make a difference that way…" Pain of newly recalled memories flickered in his eyes.

"But you couldn't."

"No," he said, voice resonant with sadness. "I couldn't help anyone." John stared out the window, lost in a distant memory. Wraith hive ships hovered above the tiny sphere of a world, preparing for a culling. Panic radiated from the helpless population below, the terror, wild terror of so many minds. But there was more…He could feel them, their terrible hunger. Pleasure, as an appetite was sated, and simultaneously the pain of a life being drained. His mind raged and struck out at them, but the thoughts and images blurred as powerful forces held his powers at bay…

Elizabeth squeezed his hand and brought him back to the present. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said all that. It's just… I missed you, John. More than I can say."

"Me too." He curled his lips into a sweet smile and she felt comforted. He'd always had that effect on her.

"I'm glad you found your way home."

"So am I… Apparently, I'm not cut out for the ascended life." He flashed his trademark crooked grin.

God, she had missed that grin. She couldn't help but crack a smile. "Daniel Jackson lasted a year before they kicked him out," she teased.

"Well, you know me. I can't just sit on my hands and watch…"

"I know." So why did we do it when it came to our feelings for each other? Oh yes, protocol. She couldn't think of any protocols having to do with ascended-descended men who showed up naked in her bathroom…

She looked up and John was looking back at her with those green eyes that she wanted to lose herself in. They were being given a second chance, she realised. Don't make the same mistake twice. Impulsively, Elizabeth leaned over and placed a soft kiss on his lips, brushing her hand through his hair as he responded by wrapping his arm around her. We've waited so long for this. When she pulled away, John looked stunned and she blushed as she began to regret what she'd done. John sensed her fears and broke the awkward silence.

"Sorry… It's just all a bit weird right now… I'm still getting used to this whole being alive again thing…"

"I'm still getting used to this you being alive again thing…"

"…But it felt good…right." He smiled and she saw in his eyes that he spoke the truth.

"I'll be here when you're ready… and when you're ready to talk about it."

"I know." His smile was warm and he looked more at ease now. "So, you spoke about me at the memorial?"

"Only good things, I promise." She let herself smile back.

They stayed up all night talking about the brighter side of the past six months: Rodney, locked in his lab with the Ancient tech they'd managed to bring home, still hoping for that Nobel prize; Carson, making medical breakthroughs that would make all their sacrifices worth it. They wondered how the rest of the team would react to seeing John again, and he grinned at all the possible ways he could use the opportunity to give Rodney a good scare.

The first light of dawn began to color the sky.

"Hey…you hungry?"

"I haven't eaten in six months."

"Funny," she smirked and got up to go to the kitchen.

She returned with two spoons and a pint of Ben and Jerry's, and watched John's eyes light up. Ice cream had been a rare commodity on Atlantis too.

"So, no ice cream on the higher plane of existence?"

"Nope," John shook his head as he scooped out a large spoonful.

"And they call themselves enlightened."

John laughed and she couldn't help but join him; they'd forgotten how good it felt to laugh. After all this time, they were both glad to be alive again.

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