I sadly do not have a Beta Reader, so all mistakes are my own!

Disclaimer: I do not own Stargate Atlantis or any of it's characters!

Inhuman Part Four
Author: Maggie K. M.
Characters: Aiden Ford, Carson Beckett, Elizabeth Weir, John Sheppard, Rodney McKay, Teyla Emmagan, Zelenka
Pairings: Sheppard/Weir
Genres: General, Action & Adventure, Angst, Drama, Humor, Hurt/Comfort, Romance
Rating: M
Warnings: Abuse, Language, Rape, Torture, Violence
Summary: Sheppard enters the event horizon after giving Elizabeth his usual boyish smile. She smiles back, not knowing that may be the last time she will see him smile.

Before reading any further, make sure you read Inhuman Part One, Two, and Three!

Chapter Twenty Six "Three More Days Later"

It's been another three days and there has still been no news on the whereabouts of John's team. Meanwhile, John has become increasingly agitated and distant toward the medical staff, causing Carson and Elizabeth to worry if how their handling the situation is what's truly best for John.

"Look… I'm grateful for no longer having to endure the catheter, but I'm getting really tired of having to pee in a cup. I want to go to the restroom, and I want to go to the restroom on my own!" John snapped at the nurse that had just handed him a urinal cup. He slid his legs over the edge of the bed as his muscles protested, while the nurse tried restraining him from going any further. He was about to hop down from the bed against the nurses demands, but Carson appeared right on cue.

"What the bloody hell is goin' on in here?" Carson demanded as he came storming in from his office to see what the commotion was all about.

"Major Sheppard is insistent on getting out of bed to use the restroom," the nurse explained to Carson as she gave John a stern look. Carson was about to respond, but John cut him off.

"I'm not peeing in this damn cup anymore!" John exclaimed as he thrust the urinal cup into the nurses hands, "I'm a big boy and very capable of taking care of business without assistance. And I don't care for having an audience every time I have to take a piss!" he yelled as he gave the nurse an annoyed look. He went to slide off the bed but was stopped by Carson's comforting hand on his shoulder.

"Take it easy, John… They're just tryin' to help," Carson soothed as he placed himself in front of John to prevent him from getting out of bed. He watched John closely as he noticed him sigh a long breath. He turned his head toward the nurse and gave her a nod to let her know he needed to speak with John in private, and waited until she was gone before speaking. "Is there anythin' ye want to talk about, lad?" he asked as he gave John's shoulder a comforting squeeze.

"I… I just… I'm tired of them crowding me all the time. Their always poking and prodding me, and constantly asking me how I feel!" John sighed as he continued to calm down. Carson continued watching John as he began to fidget and wouldn't make eye contact. John took several more calming breaths and closed his eyes, as if he were in deep thought before speaking again. "I don't see why they have to jot down how much food I eat, how much sleep I get, how irritable or passive I am, and especially how often I have to piss or take a dump. Can I at least go to the restroom without the entire infirmary having to know about it?" John exasperated as he still wouldn't make eye contact with Carson.

Carson could tell this was really bothering John and felt true sympathy for his patient. "I know this isn't what ye want to hear, lad, but I do need the nurses to document that data. Once I see that ye are eatin' enough we'll discuss backin' off on havin' to document it. Ye're under weight right now, and I'd really like to see ye eat more. As for usin' the restroom, why don't I help ye to the bathroom to see how ye doin' and we'll go from there. …What do ye say?" Carson asked with an assuring tone as he watched John contemplate his answer. It took a few seconds, but John finally made eye contact and slowly nodded 'yes'. "Okay then, let's get ye to ye're feet… and I want ye to take it nice and slow," Carson instructed as he stepped to the right side of John. He held on tightly to John's right bicep with his right hand, and wrapped his left arm around John's waist from the back as he helped John slowly ease off the bed. John's knees immediately buckled as soon as his feet came into contact with the cold floor, but Carson held him tightly until John got his bearings. Once John got his legs to cooperate they started a slow but tedious walk to the restroom.

Carson helped John get positioned in front of what served as a urinal in Atlantis before leaving to let John do his business in private. "I'll be right outside if ye need anythin', and just give a yell when ye're finished," Carson informed as he helped John grasp a support bar that was just to the right of the urinal. John merely nodded, and Carson was slightly worried about how quiet John had been since they started their long trek to the restroom.

He left John to do his business as he waited patiently outside the door, but he made sure to leave the door slightly cracked open incase anything happened. John had been in there a while now and Carson was starting to get worried. "John…, is everythin' all right in there?" Carson asked as he lightly knocked on the door. He waited a few seconds for an answer, but when he didn't get one he eased the door open to peek inside. He looked in to find John still standing in front of the urinal with shaky legs as he was trying to pull his scrub pants up with one hand.

"I… I kind of ran into a problem, Doc," John stuttered as his cheeks flushed red with embarrassment.

"It's okay, John, there's no need to be embarrassed. Do ye need me to help ye out a bit?" Carson comforted as he entered the restroom and closed the door behind him, to continue maintaining John's privacy.

"Yeah… I um… My legs got kind of tired after standing in place and…" John paused with a sigh, "If um… If I let go of the bar I think I might fall…, but I seem to be having trouble finishing up with one hand…" John tried explaining with obvious embarrassment.

"It's all right, lad, ye don't have to explain. Let me help ye out a bit," Carson said as comforting as he could and quickly went to John's side. As John shyly tucked his member in with his one hand, Carson gently pulled John's scrub pants back up around his waist. He then helped John to the sink and kept him steady while he washed his hands. Carson didn't miss the fact that John was trembling, he just wasn't sure if it was caused by fatigue or by the physical contact.

By the time Carson got him back to bed John was exhausted, but he had done a fair better then what Carson had expected. He then began his ritual fussing over him by making sure the blankets were in place and that John was comfortable before assessing his vitals. He was about to praise John on how he exceeded his expectations, but didn't get the chance as a familiar voice made their presence known.

"Carson…, how's our favorite patient doing this morning?" Elizabeth asked with a smile aimed toward John as she approached the side of his bed.

"Well his strength seems to be returnin' and his vital signs are good. It looks like he'll be back to his normal daily routine in no time," Carson explained with a smile as he gave John a comforting pat on the shoulder.

"That's great news, John!" Elizabeth exclaimed with a pause as she took his hand and gave it a squeeze, "I need to speak with Carson for a few minutes but I'll be back to finish that scrabble game we didn't get to finish last night." she added as she looked up at Carson with concern when she realized John wasn't responding much. She could tell by his face that he appeared exhausted and it worried her that he seemed so distant. "John, is there anything you want to talk about?" she asks smiling down at him to try and get some kind of response, but he shakes his head 'no' as he keeps his gaze focused on the blankets over his lap. Not wanting to push the issue, she gives John's hand one more squeeze before releasing it to accompany Carson to his office.

Once they reached his office Elizabeth wasted no time, "Carson, I'm really worried about the way John's been acting lately. He's becoming more distant with each passing day, and I think we should consider allowing John to return to his own quarters for the rest of his care. I really think it would help give him back the feeling of independence." She stated, expecting Carson to say 'no' without any hesitation.

"Actually, I couldn't agree with ye more. I think givin' John some independence would do wonders for him, especially after how things went this mornin' . However, I'm not sure that sendin' him to his quarters is somethin' we should do so soon. He still needs to be closely watched and taken care of, and I'm the only doctor he'll allow to examine him. He even gives my nurses a hard time. Infact, the only people he allows to get close to him is yerself and I!" he exclaimed with understanding to her concerns.

"I've noticed that as well, and I'm willing to watch over him during the times you're needed here in the infirmary," she volunteered without hesitation.

"I'm sure ye are willin', lass, but he's still pretty weak in some areas. Are ye sure ye can handle taken care of him in my absence?" he asked, wanting to make sure she knew what she was getting herself into.

"I think it will be worth trying… It's something I think John really needs," she responded, hoping Carson would agree.

"I agree it will do John some good, but we'll also have to make sure John gets out every once and a while to keep in contact with people other than ourselves. We don't want to isolate him, it would make it even more difficult for him to get back to his normal lifestyle." he pointed out with concern on how this plan could backfire on them.

"I agree," she responded with a nod of understanding.

"All right then…, what do ye say we go see what John thinks?" he asked with a smile as he gestured with his hand for her to lead the way.

They approached John's bed and weren't surprised to find that he had fallen asleep. "Hey, John…, I need ye to wake up for a minute… Come on, lad, open those eyes for me!" Carson soothed as he gently gave John's shoulder a shake.

"Hmmmm…" John moaned as he began to wake.

"There ye go, wake up a bit more now," Carson persisted as he placed his left hand over John's forehead. "He feels a bit warm. I'll have to give him some aspirin for the fever, it should go down. …Come on, lad, wake up!" he continued as he gave John another shake.

"Wha…," John mumbled as he slowly opened his eyes.

"Hey there!" Elizabeth greeted him with a smile, and gave his hand a comforting squeeze.

"Are ye with us, lad?" Carson asked to see if his patient was fully awake yet.

"Yeah… Yeah, I'm awake…" John mumbled softly as he began to focus on Carson and Elizabeth's face, which were hovered above him.

"Hey, sunshine!" Elizabeth teased, as she smiled down at him and continued holding his hand.

"Hey…" he softly replied

"We wanted to discuss yer ticket out of the infirmary!" Carson informed as he placed a comforting hand to rest on John's abdomen. He didn't miss John's slight trembles in response to the touch.

"I don't understand," John said with confusion evident on his face.

"Carson and myself think you're ready to go back to your quarters, and that you can complete the rest of your care and physical therapy from there." Elizabeth informed him with a cheerful tone, hoping that John would perk up after hearing the news.

"Seriously?" John asked as he looked from Elizabeth's face to Carson's with remaining confusion.

"Yes, ye'll be leavin' what I call the infirmary and ye call a prison. Ye'll still be looked after, though." Carson paused slightly when he noticed John's sudden discomfort. "I'm only allowin' this if ye agree to Elizabeth and myself playin' vigil on ye," he added and was pleased when he noticed John slightly relax. "So…, ye want to give it a try or would ye rather stay in the infirmary for the rest of yer care?" Carson teased, knowing John wouldn't choose the infirmary as he gave him a couple of comforting pats on the stomach.

"When do I leave?" John answered, while both Carson and Elizabeth where pleased to hear the slight perk in John's tone. Elizabeth smiled, seeing how the plan was already improving John's mood.

"Well… I'm goin' to send for yer breakfast tray and if ye be good and eat as much as ye can, I might have ye out of here by lunch time." Carson threw in the food bribe to try and get his patient to get back to eating regularly.

"That's a deal, Doc!" John conceded as he turned to Elizabeth and gave her a slight curve of the lip. No matter how minuscule the smile was, it was enough to make Elizabeth's heart skip a beat.

Chapter Twenty Seven "The Duty-Free"

It was just yesterday before lunch that John was released back to his quarters, and both Carson and Elizabeth could already see a positive change in his attitude towards getting better. Carson was still forcing supplement drinks and jell-o down him, but John was sticking to the deal and eating as much as he could each time. John's strength was gradually returning with all injuries almost completely healed, and Elizabeth had managed to talk Carson into allowing her to take John out of his quarters for a walk without a wheelchair. As long as he didn't overdo it.

"Carson is going to kill me if he finds out I took you out this far," Elizabeth pointed out to John as they headed toward John's favorite balcony. Soon to become Elizabeth's favorite getaway spot.

"We're almost there…, and I won't tell the angry Scotsman if you don't!" John teased. He was struggling a little as they slowly made their way down the hallway, but Elizabeth helped support him with her left arm around his waist. It was a slow progress, but Elizabeth decided it was well worth it after seeing the relief that washed over John's face once they reached the balcony. It was like a big achievement he had made towards recovery, and it made him feel good that things might start feeling like normal again.

They stood at the railing for quite some time, listening and looking out over the ocean. John relied on the railing for most of his support, but he found comfort in the arm wrapped around his waist that Elizabeth insisted remain to make sure he didn't fall. She used the excuse that she didn't want to have to face the wrath of Carson if he were to fall and injure himself, but lately John was starting to wonder if that was the only reason she felt the need to be close to him. He's had strong feelings toward her for some time now, but he was beginning to feel that she felt the same for him. He wants to take action or give her some kind of sign that lets her know how he feels, but he's afraid he may be mistaken and be seeing things that aren't really there. He's worried he's just confusing an interest for a romantic companionship with a friends concern for his welfare. He would have continued running the possibilities through his confused mind, but his thoughts were suddenly interrupted by Elizabeth's comforting voice.

"It's almost lunch time, and I thought we could maybe stop by the duty-free on the way back… since it's on the way. I'd imagine you're wearing pretty thin on the jell-o Carson's been making you eat," Elizabeth teased as her arm around his waist gave a comforting squeeze. "I won't tell Carson if you happen to come across a turkey sandwich," she added with a mischievous smirk.

John jerked his head away in surprise, from the ocean view to her smiling face. "I don't know…" he responded with a worried grin, followed by a nervous chuckle.

"Come on… It'll be our little secret," Elizabeth paused to smile at him, "Besides…, when have you ever abided by Carson's rules?" she inquired as she gave a slight tug toward the door. She watched the turmoil play across his face before he finally answered.

"I guess I could use it as a rest point between here and my quarters," John justified with a sigh. "I don't know if I can make it back in one fluid trip like we did to get here. Actually…, I almost didn't think we were going to make it those final steps it took just to make it to this railing!" he joked as he allowed her to lead him away from the balcony and back into what seemed like the never ending hallway. Elizabeth smiled with triumph as she took some of his weight, with her left arm still tightly wrapped around his waist, and chanced placing her right hand on his stomach. She felt him slightly tremble to the touch, but it only lasted a few moments as he adjusted to the contact. They continued down the hallway at a slow pace until they finally reached the doors to the duty-free. The doors opened automatically as they approached and they entered with her remaining close to his side, not caring that others would see them in the position they were in.

Noticing that John was exhausted, she got John settled at a table not far from the food court and then went to get them some food. She kept a close eye on him as she patiently waited in line. She originally wanted to find him a quiet table in the corner, but decided to choose a place more toward the middle of the room so that he could get back to being around large crowds again. From what she could tell from the short distance she was from him, he seemed to be doing okay. She did notice him visibly stiffen and tense up a couple of times when someone stopped in front of him to let him know it was good to see him up and about, but he appeared to be handling it. She had expected as much, but was grateful no one made physical contact with him. She wasn't sure if John was ready for that leap yet, but was confident he would be eventually.

When it was finally her turn in line, she nervously took her gaze away from John and started gathering things onto the food tray. She immediately grabbed a turkey sandwich for John along with a cup of fruit and grabbed herself a bread bowl salad along with two cartons of chocolate milk for herself and John. She grabbed the proper condiments, napkins, and utensils needed before turning to head back. She immediately noticed the small group of soldiers that were now gathered around John and sped up her pace to rejoin him. Two soldiers were standing on both sides of John as he remained seated, with one hunched over while talking, and the remaining three were seated at the table around him. She couldn't get a good visual on John or hear what they were discussing until she got closer.

"…It's good to see you up and about, Sir!" finished the soldier that was standing beside him hunched over as he gave John a few pats on the shoulder, and he immediately flinched. Elizabeth finally got a good view of John's face and noticed right away that he was slightly paler than he was before she left him. Seeing that John's respirations had also increased and that he was unmistakably distressed, she decided to cut the group of soldier's visit short.

"Gentlemen!" she announced cheerfully, "I'm sure Major Sheppard is enjoying the company, but he needs to get some food down before Dr. Beckett pays him a visit." she explained, hinting for them to part company.

" Yes, Ma'am… Of course," responded the young soldier who was hunched over. He then stood at attention and nodded to his fellow soldiers that they needed to leave so that John could enjoy his meal. They each said their goodbyes and wished him well, while Elizabeth took residence in the seat beside John as he nervously nodded in acknowledgement to the fleeing soldiers. He appreciated their concern and cheerful banter, but he felt so claustrophobic with them gathered so closely around him. He had felt a wave of relief wash over him when Elizabeth had returned to shoo them away.

"Is everything all right, John?" she asked, noticing his breathing had evened out and that he seemed more at ease.

"Yeah…, I'm good!" he sighed as he turned his gaze from the retreating soldiers to her worried face. "Is that a turkey sandwich?" he added as he pointed to the sandwich in question on the food tray.

"That it is!" she replied cheerfully as she sat the tray down in front of them. "I wasn't sure what you liked on it, so… I grabbed a packet of each condiment," she added as she began taking things from the tray and placing them in front of him.

"That's great… thanks," he shyly replied as he grabbed a packet of mayonnaise and relish.

They sat their enjoying their meal as they exchanged a few friendly words now and then, but Elizabeth could tell that John wasn't totally relaxed as the number of people in the food court was quickly increasing as everyone was stopping in for lunch. His hands were shaking and he was becoming extremely fidgety. He picked up his carton of chocolate milk to take a drink, but his shaking hands caused a dribble of it to run down the corner of his mouth and onto his chin. Elizabeth quickly grabbed a napkin and wiped it away for him before he could use his hand. They both locked eyes and she smiled shyly at him before they both went back to finishing their meal.

Chapter Twenty Eight "Not Ready"

John was exhausted by the time they were heading back to his quarters, after trying to keep his nerves and emotions in check from being around so many people. He felt an aching pain in his stomach from the nausea he was feeling, but brushed it off as they approached his quarters. As usual, the doors swooshed open automatically and they entered on what last bit of energy John had left. Elizabeth helped him to sit on the edge of the bed and then proceeded to take off his shoes one by one. She felt John shiver so lightly that she almost mistook it for trembling.

"Are you cold?" she asked as she tossed his last shoe to the side of his night stand.

"Um… Maybe a little. I think it's just from feeling tired," he mumbled just before slightly shivering again. Elizabeth didn't miss it, and grabbed the blanket that was folded at the end of the bed. She wrapped it around his shoulders as she knelt down in front of him, and then started rubbing her hands up and down his arms to help keep him warm. She locked eyes with him for the second time that day, but felt herself blush as she suddenly found herself paying close attention to his lips and couldn't stop herself from licking her own. After the awkward moment had passed she went to stand and started pushing him back on the bed to lay him down, but John suddenly leaned forward and pressed his lips to hers.

"I'm sorry… I um…" John stuttered nervously after quickly pulling away from her lips. He couldn't believe he just did that. "I don't… I don't know what came over me," he added as he began to fidget uncomfortably on the edge of the bed. He would have continued apologizing but was cut off by Elizabeth pressing her lips to his in a passionate but gentle kiss. Their hearts were racing and she almost regretted returning the kiss until she felt John deepening it. She desired this man so strongly that she couldn't control herself. She knew she should take it slow with him after all he's been through, but her hormones were taking over. She went back down to her knees with her waist resting comfortably in between his thighs as they continued to deepen the kiss. She hesitantly slid her tongue in to taste him at first, but plunged further in when she felt his own tongue give approval by sliding in to taste her. She brought her left hand up to cup the right side of his face, while the fingers on her right hand combed through his hair on the back of his head. He reciprocated by placing his hands around her waist and pulling her close up against him. As soon as she felt how hard he was for her, pressed up against her belly, her desire increased. She brought her left hand down away from his face and slowly slid it down his chest to the waist band of his pants, while he began sliding his hands up her back beneath her top. His trembling hands against her skin sent tingles of pleasure straight to her core and she gently began undoing the zipper of his pants. Unable to hold herself back, she eased her hand through the fly of his boxers and tenderly pulled his erect penis out from it's confinement. She couldn't believe this was happening, and smiled with triumph as John let slip a soft groan of pleasure into her mouth. She took that as a sign for her to continue as she gently wrapped her fingers around his shaft and began to slowly run her hand up and down it. She was immediately rewarded with a gasp of pleasure from John's lips, after pulling mere millimeters apart. She took advantage of their parted lips and released her hold on his penis as she started pushing him down flat on the bed. She swiftly climbed up over him as she straddled his hips, followed by returning to their passionate kissing. She reached between their highly aroused bodies and gently began caressing his penis again, but she became alarmed when his member suddenly went limp after only the fourth stroke. She was then frighteningly aware that John was shaking beneath her. She broke the kiss immediately and looked at his face to find a few tears were streaming down the side of his face from his tightly shut eyes.

"John…, open your eyes," she soothed as she wiped his tears away with her thumbs. She felt guilty after suddenly realizing the position she was in to be the same position Teyla had taken over him back on the planet, and quickly slid to where she was lying along side him instead of overtop him. "John…, it's Elizabeth! Please open your eyes?" she continued to sooth.

He slowly opened his eyes and blinked away the remaining tears, as he tried to get the trembles that were coursing through his body under control. "I'm sorry… I…" he croaked out as fresh tears started to form from his embarrassment. He felt so ashamed, and couldn't believe his buddy betrayed him by going limp at the most inopportune moment.

"No, John… I'm the one who should be sorry. Are you okay?" she asked as she soothingly combed his hair back off his forehead.

"Yeah…," he sighed with a pause as his breathing began to even out, "But I need you to know it wasn't you… or anything you did…! You have nothing to be sorry for…! It wasn't because of you that I… um… you know…," he added frantically in a panic to try and explain to her that it wasn't her that turned him off. He started to continue explaining, but Elizabeth stopped him as she gently placed her fingers to his lips to silence him.

"It's okay… I know," she paused with a smile to comfort him. She knew he was embarrassed by his inability to perform, but it didn't change the way she felt for him. She knew the real reason for his impotency. "I'm in no hurry, John… I'm more than willing to wait until you're ready," she added with assurance to let him know that the incident wouldn't prevent any future attempts, and that she knew the real reason for his failure to perform. She saw fresh tears begin to form in his eyes again and felt them begin to form in her own. It was an extremely emotional moment for them and they laid there in each other's tight embrace. She reached down between them to tuck his penis back in and zip the fly of his pants back up before pulling the blanket up further around him. He went to speak but she returned her fingers to his trembling lips. "It's okay… Just close your eyes and get some sleep," she soothed before planting a gentle kiss on his lips, followed by sliding out of the bed. She had headed toward the chair next to John's bed, but she turned back to find John was tugging her shirt for her to return. Without a word, she removed her radio from her ear to place on the night stand and slid back under the covers with him as he wrapped his arms tightly around her. She pressed herself into him and listened to the beat of his heart and the feel of his chest rise and fall. It wasn't long before she knew he was fast asleep, and followed him into slumber not long after.

Chapter Twenty Nine "His Team Returns"

While John and Elizabeth are safely sleeping in one another's embrace, Sergeant Bates and Dr. Beckett are about to have their hands full.

Carson was busy finishing up his evening rounds, with what few patients currently occupied his infirmary, before turning them over to the night shift physician. Elizabeth had volunteered to watch John on his first night back in his quarters, but Carson decided it wouldn't hurt to stop in and check to see if John was adjusting okay before he headed for some well needed shuteye. He had just started down the corridor that led to John's room when he suddenly got an urgent call over his radio.

"Dr. Beckett, please respond! We have a medical emergency in the gate room!" Sergeant Bates addressed with authority.

"Sergeant, this is Beckett! What's the nature of the medical emergency?" Carson asked after activating the radio wrapped around his ear as he turned around and started heading back.

"It's Major Sheppard's team, Sir…! We found them…!" Sergeant Bates exclaimed over the radio transmission with some slight crackling interference.

"Put the gate room under a level four quarantine, Sergeant…! I'm on my way!" Carson responded as he quickly stopped back in the infirmary to gather medical supplies, hazmat suites, and a medical containment team before continuing on to the control room at a run.

When Carson arrived, the first thing that caught his eye were the three prone bodies on the floor in front of the gate wearing hazmat suites. He ran toward them with a medical team, but was halted when Sergeant Bates approached.

"Dr. Beckett, I've been trying to reach Dr. Weir but she appears to be out of radio contact." Sergeant Bates informed.

"That's all right, Sergeant. I'll inform her later, but right now we need to get them transported to the medical lab." Carson ordered as he slipped into doctor mode. He wanted to immediately inform Elizabeth of the good news, but there were more pressing matters at hand and he really needed her to remain where she was to watch over John.

Sergeant Bates nodded in understanding to Carson's demands and began ordering several men to help the medical staff get John's team lifted onto gurneys and transported to the lab. Carson then lead the way after informing Sergeant Bates to join him in the lab once he had the gate room under control and cleared from quarantine.

Once Carson and his medical staff had Sheppard's team stabilized in the quarantined medical lab, they swiftly stripped each patient from their hazmat suites and put them into scrubs. Carson then proceeded to assess each of them one-by-one from McKay-to-Teyla-to-Ford before ordering IV's to be inserted so they could administer the counteractive drug as soon as possible. He also instructed to have them placed in a medically induced coma until they're sure the inner contents of the slimy fruit has completely cured them. He was in the process of checking their vitals after the IV's were started, when Sergeant Bates appeared at his side.

"Dr. Beckett," Sergeant Bates addressed. "You asked to see me once the gate room was cleared from quarantine," he added to remind the good doctor why he was there.

"Aye, yes…" Carson paused with a sigh, "I need ya to debrief me on how they were found and their condition at the time." Carson requested, as he finished up writing on some medical charts to give Sergeant Bates his full attention.

"Of course," Sergeant Bates paused as he shifted uncomfortably in his hazmat suite, "It was myself and Stackhouse that came across them. We saw them from a distance in a field and we managed to get close without them detecting our presence. They appeared to be acting like savage animals toward one another as they fought over what looked like a mangled P-90. We took aim and hit each of them with a tranquilizer dart before their scuffle got out of hand. It didn't take long for the tranquilizers to take effect, and then we moved in on their position. I then radioed in to the rest of the search parties that we had found them. When they had arrived, we proceeded to put hazmat suites on them before placing each of them on a stretcher and heading for the gate. As for their physical appearance…" he paused, "…they looked the same bluish grey tint they did when you saw them in the gate room only…" he paused again as he shifted his weight from one foot to the other before stiffening, "…they weren't wearing any clothes when we found them!" he finished as he looked straight ahead instead of at Carson, who was standing to the right of him.

"Aye, I'd assumed as much when we had removed the hazmat suites to put them in scrubs. Is there anythin' else?" Carson asked, changing the subject after seeing the Sergeants obvious discomfort.

"No, Sir… Would you like me to try and contact Dr. Weir again?" Sergeant Bates asked to help change the subject. He also didn't want to get into trouble for not informing Dr. Weir that they had found Sheppard's team, especially when she had specifically told him to let her know if anything turned up.

"No… That's all right, Sergeant. I'll let her know first thing in the morning'," Carson informed him and had trouble holding back a smile after seeing the alarm on Sergeant Bates's face. "Don't worry, lad! I'll take the heat for it if need be," he added with a smile as the Sergeant slowly relaxed.

Sergeant Bates turned and started heading out but stopped and turned back around when Carson addressed him again. "Sergeant, there is one more thing I need to discuss with ye!" Carson addressed, as he stepped closer to Sergeant Bates.

"Sure, Doc… What is it?" Sergeant Bates asked with slight confusion on his face.

"The discussion we had earlier, regardin' what happened to Major Sheppard, needs to remain confidential from everyone. That includes not discussin' it with Teyla, McKay, Ford, or even Major Sheppard himself until Dr. Weir and I get a handle on the situation. I don't even want Major Sheppard to know his team has been found yet until I speak with Dr. Weir first. Do ya understand what I'm askin' ye, lad?" Carson asked in a low tone to emphasize the need for secrecy.

"I understand, Sir. The discussion we had earlier never left the infirmary and it never will. I'll inform the appropriate staff members and military personnel to keep a lid on the return of Sheppard's team until further notice. …And if you don't mind me asking, Doc… how are you going to handle the Major's team once they wake up knowing what they've done?" Bates nervously asked, as he looked over at the three people in question.

"To be honest… I don't know." Carson sadly stated, as he scratched at his chest through his hazmat suite. He really hated wearing those things, but he felt it was better to be safe than sorry. He knew the contaminant couldn't be past from person-to-person and that it wasn't airborne based on the evidence of Sheppard not getting infected, but he didn't want to prove himself wrong.

"I've actually had time to think things over since you informed me of what happened. To be totally frank… I was pissed at first for what they did to the Major, but I understand that they had no control over it… And now that we've found them I'm wondering who is in the worst position. The individual that was beaten, or the individuals that did the beating! If I were in either of their positions I could understand Sheppard not being able to forgive, but more importantly I wouldn't be able to forgive myself if I were in the same position as one of his team members. I almost feel more sorry for them than Major Sheppard, and for the guilt they'll have to live with… Whether what they did was out of their control or not," Sergeant Bates sadly confessed as he gave Carson a comforting pat on the shoulder.

"Ye have no idea…" Carson sighed, knowing the Sergeant was unaware of the rapes or the full extent of what they had conflicted on John.

"Let me know if you need anything, Doc!" Sergeant Bates offered, as he patted Carson on the shoulder again before turning to leave.

"No idea…," Carson whispered to himself after Sergeant Bates left. He then sat on a stool in front of the three occupied beds until early morning, watching them gradually change back to their normal appearance as the counteractive drug he had synthesized did it's job. He had spent most of the time he sat there trying to think of how they could rectify the situation, but with frustration he was coming up empty handed. It wasn't until the sun began to shine through the infirmary that he snapped out of his thoughts. He proceeded to perform a more thorough exam on each of them now that they were almost completely back to their normal selves. He was glad to see that Ford's gunshot wound was a clean shot that went straight through, but even more astonishing was that it was completely healed with no signs of infection. All three of them showed signs of minor bruising, dehydration, and malnutrition but they weren't nearly as bad off as John had been. Knowing that their hormones were skyrocketing during their time of contamination, he began checking them for signs of intercourse. After checking all three of them he was pleased to find no recent signs of sexual activity, but even more thankful that there weren't any signs of rape. Based on that evidence, he assumed that it may be possible that their hormones were only elevated for a certain amount of time after the initial contamination before eventually leveling back down to normal. The hypothesis explains why they sexually attacked John but left each other alone after each of them had their sexual release. Having the thoughts race through his mind so quickly after not getting any sleep last night, he began documenting his findings in the medical charts before heading off to decontamination so he could get out of his hazmat suite. He then ordered several of his nurses to attach another IV line to each of them to get their fluids back up before he headed off to debrief Elizabeth on everything that's happened.

Chapter Thirty "Telling Him"

Elizabeth woke slowly, feeling completely content in the arms of the man sleeping next to her. Tilting her head back slightly, as she unburied her face from his steadily rising chest, she looked up to admire his handsome face. She remained still as she watched John sleep peacefully on his right side, and her on her left with his arms still protectively wrapped around her. He looked so young and vulnerable in his sleep that she was tempted to bring her hand up to caress his cheek, but she didn't want to wake him. He had slept so peacefully last night for the first time in the past couple of weeks he had spent in the infirmary that she didn't want to interrupt the much needed sleep he was finally getting. It had affected her each time to watch him wake up in a cold sweat every night from a nightmare with intense fear and distress showing through his features. She gleefully convinced herself it was her close physical presence that prevented his nightmares from resurfacing last night, and it made her feel needed by him. She never thought she'd be lying next to him like this and she simmered herself in the heat that was radiating between themselves in their embrace. She unconsciously tightened her arms around his middle and reburied her face in his chest as she began to fantasize about the possibilities. She hadn't even realized how much she was moving about until John began to stir.

"…lizabeth…" John mumbled as he began to wake.

"Shhh… It's okay, John. Go back to sleep…" she soothed, as she brought her right hand up to caress her fingers through his hair on the left side of his head above his ear.

"…kay…" he mumbled back sleepily, followed by a long sigh. She smiled at how cute he looked and decided that she could easily get used to waking up to the view before her. It wasn't long before he fell back asleep, and she laid there admiring him a little longer before gently nestling back into his chest to join him in slumber.

She was on the edge of sleep when she suddenly heard the doors to John's quarters swoosh open behind her. Holding her breath, she laid as still as she possibly could. Hoping the intruder wouldn't notice her huddled under the blankets, cuddled up against Atlantis's military leader.

"Elizabeth…" the intruder whispered and Elizabeth immediately let out the breath she was holding as the voice was unmistakably familiar. "Elizabeth…" Carson whispered again as he gently rested his left hand on her right shoulder. She turned ever so slightly to meet Carson's gaze so she wouldn't disturb John. "We need to talk…" Carson whispered as he slowly began sliding the blanket off of her and more onto John. She was suddenly very thankful things didn't go too far between her and John last night. She couldn't see herself ever being able to live it down if Carson would have found her naked when he pulled the covers away. Mentally noting how that would have been an embarrassing moment for the books, she slowly slid herself out of John's embrace. John slightly stirred from her absence, but then stilled as he remained in a peaceful slumber. Once she was sure he wasn't going to wake, she grabbed her radio from the bed stand and headed towards the door to accompany Carson.

Once they were safely in the hallway, just outside John's quarters, Carson spoke at a normal tone level without having to worry about waking John. "I'm sorry to wake ye, lass, but there's been a development…" Carson sighed feeling unsure of how to break the news to her.

"Carson, what is it…? Is it about John?" she asked nervously, fearing the worst.

"No… John's fine, lass! It's not John, It's…" Carson sighed as he continued to struggle with the appropriate way to tell her.

"Carson, what is it?" Elizabeth asked more forcefully as she felt her heart begin to pound in her chest.

"Elizabeth…" Carson addressed with another sigh, as he gently placed his hands on both sides of her shoulders to help brace her for the news he was about to give.

"What?" Elizabeth exclaimed frantically, as she unintentionally lost control of her normal demeanor.

"We found them, Elizabeth…" he paused, "We found John's team." he added, deciding there was no easier way to tell her other than to just come right out and say it.

"Oh my God!" she exclaimed with true surprise evident in her tone. It wasn't what she had expected him to say. "That's great news, Carson, it's just…" she paused not exactly sure on what to say, "What are we going to do? What I mean to say is… John's just starting to come around and… How…?" she stopped mid-sentence, as this was one of those rare moments where Dr. Elizabeth Weir was lost for words.

"It's okay, lass. Take yer time…" Carson tried comforting as he could plainly see she was a bit rattled by the news.

She took in a deep breath and slowly released it to gather her thoughts before attempting to speak again. "Don't get me wrong, Carson, this is great news but…" she stopped again.

"How are we goin' to handle this?" he finished for her with a comforting tone.

"Yes, exactly!" she exclaimed, followed by a long pause. "How are they? Are they aware of what's happened and how long they've been missing?" She asked, suddenly aware that all her concern was focused toward John with no regard to his team.

"They were shot with tranquilizers when they were found, and then I had them put into a medically induced coma until I'm sure the contaminant is out of their system. I have them quarantined in the medical lab right now and they're all stable. They're a little banged up and dehydrated, but nothin' serious." he informed, and would have continued if not for a question she squeezed in.

"Were any of them… Um… Did either of them do to each other what they did to John?" she asked uncomfortably as she felt her cheeks flush with a tinge of embarrassment.

"They're a bit ruffed up, but nothin' compared to the extent John was in. …And from what I can tell, neither of them were raped or showed any signs of recent intercourse either. There's no way to be sure though. We could have probably found out by watchin' one of the video recordin' devices they had carried like John's, but they were found without their clothes. I won't find out for sure until I get the chance to ask them when they wake!" Carson informed as he slipped into professional mode.

"But why would they attack John and not each other?" she asked with confusion evident on her face.

"Aye, I have a theory on that! It's possible that their hormone levels were only elevated right after they were initially infected, and after each of them attacked John and had their sexual release their hormone levels went back down. Decreasin' their sexual drive." Carson tried to explain. Elizabeth felt too uncomfortable at the moment to verbally express her understanding, so she settled for a nod in response. Carson noticed how uncomfortable she was getting and decided to change the subject. "How did John do on his first night back in his own quarters?" he asked with a comforting smile.

"Very well, actually! It was his first night without any nightmares," she responded with a hopeful smile. It felt good being able to reciprocate the good news.

"That's good to hear," he paused with a smile, followed by a long sigh. "I think it would be best if we told John the news about his team together," he added, hoping Elizabeth would be with him to help keep John clam when he gets the news.

"Of course… When and where?" she asked nervously, being afraid of how John was going to react.

"I think now would be as good a time as any," he answered and noticed the surprised look that immediately spread across Elizabeth's face. "It would be best. I don't want him findin' out by overhearin' the gossip as he walks down the hallway. It would be better for him to hear it from us. The sooner the better. We wouldn't be able to hide it from him for long, and we would lose what trust he does have in us if we tried." he assured her as he gave her left shoulder a comforting squeeze.

"You're right…" she responded softly as she swallowed passed a lump that was forming in her throat. Carson smiled at her to assure her that everything was going to be all right. They both re-approached the doors to John's room and entered after Carson waved his hand in front of the control panel to open the doors.

They approached John's bed to find him still sleeping soundly. Elizabeth immediately sat down, taking residence on the right side of the bed while Carson remained standing just behind her.

"John…" she addressed as she brushed some stray hairs off his forehead. "John…" she tried again, and was rewarded with an intangible mumble. "I didn't quite catch that, John! Why don't you wake up for me and try repeating that once more?" she teased to try and bring him to full awareness. She almost couldn't get over how adorable it was to watch him wake. He began to stir, followed with a couple more grumbles, before he managed to say anything she could actually understand.

"…lizabeth…" he mumbled as he slowly opened his groggy eyes.

"Hey, there…" she paused as she smiled down at him, "How do you feel?" she added as she brushed the back of her right hand against the morning stubble on his cheek.

"Like I got a real good nights sleep," John answered as he stretched his legs out. He was about to ask how she slept, but stopped when he caught sight of Carson standing behind her. "Hey, Carson!" he addressed with surprise as he rolled so that he was flat on his back.

"Good Mornin', Major! I'm glad to hear ye slept well." Carson greeted with a cheerful tone to help keep the mood light.

"Yeah… I slept real good!" John exclaimed, as he carefully propped himself up on his elbows before slowly sitting up with Elizabeth's assistance. "So… Are you making a house call, Doc, or did you just miss me?" he joked with a smirk.

"A wee bit of both, Major… And it's nice to see yer humor returnin'!" Carson responded with a comforting smile as he walked around the bed to sit opposite of Elizabeth at John's side. He brought out his stethoscope and began listening to John's heart and lungs. "Take a couple of deep breaths for me, lad." he instructed, and was pleased with the normal breathing sounds and healthy lub-dub rhythm of his heart. He then proceeded to slightly lift the bottom of John's shirt to assess the stab wound on his right side just below his ribs. He felt John tense and tremble as soon as he made contact with his skin, but it soon faded as he continued to prod the area. He noticed John wince a couple times from the area still being sore, but he was glad to see it was continuing to heal with no further signs of infection and all that remained was a large scab. "Everythin' is healin' up nicely, and I won't put ye through examinin' any other areas unless it's absolutely necessary. So… Are ye experiencin' any pain down below that I need to know about?" he asked as he gestured toward John's groin. John visibly shivered and slowly nodded 'no' after looking away from Carson and Elizabeth with slightly flushed cheeks. "Would ye tell me if ye were in any pain?" he added, worried that John wasn't being truthful with him because he was embarrassed.

"Yeah, Doc, I'm fine… It doesn't hurt anymore." John assured him, but he could still see the doubt on Carson's face. "Look… My last bowl movement was yesterday evening and it didn't sting any more nor did it burn when I peed!" he whispered to Carson, feeling slightly embarrassed that Elizabeth could probably still hear him since she was sitting right next to him.

"All right, lad! I believe ya," Carson responded with a smile as he gave John a few friendly pats on the shoulder. He had to fight back a chuckle as he watched John let out a long sigh of relief. He didn't think John would appreciate him getting humor out of his hurt pride and obvious embarrassment, especially with Elizabeth in the room.

"John…, would you be more comfortable if I left the room for a couple of minutes?" Elizabeth asked, noticing John's cheeks were still slightly flushed with embarrassment.

"No, you can stay! Besides, we're done with that discussion anyways! Right, Doc?" John asked hopefully.

"Aye, lad. Ye can relax now," Carson paused with an assuring smile, "We do have somethin' we need to discuss with ye, though," he added nervously. Knowing what Carson was referring to, Elizabeth began to fidget as she cupped John's right hand in hers.

"Oh…?" John asked, noticing the uneasy feeling Carson and Elizabeth were having. "What's up?" he added, beginning to feel uneasy himself. He watched Carson and Elizabeth exchange glances as if they were trying to decide who was going to be the bearer of bad news. "I don't have to go back to the infirmary, …Do I?" he asked nervously. The way they were acting was starting to scare him.

"No… It's nothing like that, John," Elizabeth assured as she turned to Carson and gave him a pleading look for him to be the one to tell John the news. Carson could see that John was getting worried and acknowledged to Elizabeth with a nod that he would tell him.

"John…" Carson paused with a sigh, "First thing ye need to know is that we're still here for ya if ye need to talk…" he comforted, placing a reassuring hand on John's left knee.

"Would you just spit it out?" John snapped as he was becoming slightly irritable from the suspense.

"We found yer team and they're under quarantine in the med lab right now," Carson said softly as he looked John straight in the face. John didn't respond. He just stared straight back at Carson with a blank face, but it was almost as though he was looking through Carson rather than at him. "Lad, did ye understand what I just said?" Carson gently asked, not sure that John was comprehending what was said, but John remained staring back at him with no sign of a response. "John…" he addressed softly as he slid his left hand up to just above John's left knee and brought his right hand up to gently grasp John's left shoulder, but still no response.

"John…" Elizabeth soothed as she reached her right hand across to cup his left cheek. He slowly turned his gaze toward her and blinked a few times, but he still remained silent. "John…, are you all right?" she softly asked as she kept her right hand on his left cheek and then brought her left hand up to comb back the hair straying over his forehead.

"Um… Yeah," John finally stuttered out in barely a whisper. "I… I just… You just took me by surprise," he explained as his face remained neutral.

"Just take it easy, lad," Carson comforted as he gave John's shoulder a gentle squeeze. He was worried about how John was reacting to the news. He wasn't sure what to expect in the first place, but the way John was hiding and bundling up was somewhat disconcerting to him. John's face didn't show any signs of grief, surprise, or fear of any kind.

"John…, do you understand what Carson has told you?" Elizabeth asked as she brought her hands down to cup his right hand in her own.

"Are they all right…? Can I see them?" John asked with a neutral face and tone. Both Elizabeth and Carson looked at each other in sheer surprise. They had expected John to worry about his team's wellbeing, but for him to ask to see them after what he's been through shocked them both.

"They're doing fine, John. Are you sure you…" Elizabeth was in the middle of asking when John cut her off.

"Can I see them?" John asked again, still showing no sign of emotion except for a slight tremble in his voice. Elizabeth and Carson both glanced at each other again before Carson spoke.

"They're in a medically induced coma right now, lad. Are ye sure yer up to seein' them right now?" Carson asked with concern to make sure John was aware of what he was asking. He tried locking eyes with John, but he still seemed distant as if he were looking at something other than what was right in front of him.

"That's okay… I… I want to see them… I want to make sure they're okay…" John paused to really look at Carson, "Please…?" he added with a quiver in his voice, and Carson finally got a glimpse of sadness in his eyes even though his face remained neutral.

"All right, lad…" Carson said softly, sliding his right hand from John's shoulder to cup the back of his neck as he searched John's sad eyes for any signs of fear or other emotions. "Elizabeth's goin' to stay here with ya while I check on a few things. Then I'll be back in a few minutes to get ya, okay?" Carson calmly informed him, and John slowly nodded 'yes' without a word. He stood up next to the bed and gave John's left knee a comforting pat before he left out into the hallway just outside the room.

"John, are you sure you're okay?" Elizabeth asked with obvious worry in her voice. John slowly turned his gaze toward her voice and away from where Carson used to be.

"I'm… I'm not sure…" he paused as he locked eyes with her, "I feel… I feel kind of… numb." he added, and she could see the raw emotions in his eyes. It was tearing her up to see him like this, so she reached out and pulled him into a strong embrace. She felt his arms loosely wrap around her waist and he buried his face in her neck, but it felt slightly awkward with how still he was. She didn't even feel the trembles that were usually there and she suddenly found herself feeling guilty, wishing they could have found his team at a later time.

Meanwhile, Carson was out in the hallway taking care of a few things over his radio. "Sergeant Bates, this is Dr. Beckett!" Carson addressed.

"What can I do for you, Doc?" Sergeant Bates responded.

"I need ya to put us on a private line, Sergeant." Carson requested, and there was an audible click on his radio before Sergeant Bates responded.

"Go ahead, Doc, we're on a secure line!" Sergeant Bates assured.

"Just wanted to let ye know that both Dr. Weir and Major Sheppard are aware of the teams return, but I'd still like to keep it low key. I don't want anyone approachin' the Major about it until Dr. Weir and I have the situation under control." Carson informed with fatigue apparent in his tone.

"Understood, Doc. I'll inform the proper staff members and military personnel. Is there anything else?" Sergeant Bates asked, hoping there was more he could do to help.

"That'll be all, Sergeant. I'll let ye know of any changes. Beckett out!" Carson finished before radioing in to the medical lab.

"Nurse Kelly, this is Dr. Beckett!" Carson addressed over the radio.

"This is Nurse Kelly!" she responded cheerfully.

"I'm headin' down with Dr. Weir and Major Sheppard, is the med lab still under quarantine?" Carson asked as he leaned against the wall beside the doors to John's quarters.

"No, Sir! Dr. Kusonogii tested each patient three times to make sure they were free from the contaminant before clearing the lab from quarantine. They are, however, still under a medically induced coma. Dr. Kusonogii said that remained under your authorization." Nurse Kelly informed him.

"Understood…, I need them to remain under until further notice. I'll be arrivin' with Dr. Weir and Major Sheppard within the next fifteen to twenty minutes, and I'd like you to have everyone cleared from the lab except for yourself and Dr. Kusonogii to watch over the patients until we arrive. Then I'll need both of ya to leave until I let ye know it's okay to go back in. Inform Dr. Kusonogii for me," Carson instructed in a professional tone.

"Yes, Doctor, right away!" Nurse Kelly exclaimed.

"I'll see ya in a wee bit, Beckett out!" Carson finished as he slowly eased himself away from the wall he was leaning on before heading back into John's room.

He entered John's quarters just as Elizabeth and John were breaking away from their embrace. "Are ya two set to go?" Carson asked cheerfully to try and lighten the mood.

"I believe we are!" Elizabeth answered as she smiled at John, but he only nodded 'yes' in response with a neutral expression.

Carson walked over and assisted Elizabeth on getting John to his feet. He was unsteady at first, but he eventually got his bearings. Elizabeth noticed right away that John was walking much slower than yesterday, even with herself and Carson on each side to help support his weight. She was worried about how he was clamming up, and knew it wasn't healthy for him. She wished she could see what was going on in that head of his, and wouldn't blame him if he was afraid to face his team again after what he'd been through. They were a little over half way there when she began to feel John trembling again. It usually upset her when he did that, but right now she was glad to see him giving some kind of response to what was happening. She looked over at Carson to see if he'd noticed, and he gave her a sympathetic look to let her know that he did.

"Are ya doin' all right, lad?" Carson softly asked, as he continued to support him with an arm around his waist and a hand under his arm.

"Yeah… I guess my muscles are a little tired," John lied to hide the fear that was building up inside him. Part of him was telling him to continue to make sure his team was okay, while another part of him was screaming at him to turn around and hide. There was an aching pain that was increasing in his abdomen as he began to feel nauseated, but he kept it to himself. He felt his energy level declining as he struggled to control his emotions and the tremors that were coursing through him.

Carson and Elizabeth both exchanged looks, knowing the real reason he was trembling, but remained silent the rest of the way there until John abruptly stopped four feet in front of the doors to the medical lab. They both noticed that John was starting to look a little pale and that his breathing had increased. Elizabeth placed a comforting hand on John's stomach and was worried when she felt his heart rapidly beating and his stomach gurgling.

"John, we don't have to go any further if you don't want to. We can turn around," she comforted as she tightened her hold on him. When he didn't respond she went to speak again, but stopped when he began slowly walking forward.

John could feel his heart pounding in his chest as the doors swooshed open. He felt slightly detached from his surroundings and his nauseated feeling increased. His heart beat began to pound in his ears, drowning out all sound. He could see Carson signaling to a nurse and a doctor to leave, but he couldn't hear what he was telling them. He knew they were close now and lowered his gaze to focus on the floor of the med lab. He wasn't sure what made him look down, but he stopped walking once he saw the bottom wheels of a gurney on the edge of his vision in front of him. When he felt a comforting hand rest on his upper back between his shoulder blades, he swallowed past the bile that was trying to come up and slowly raised his head to see his three team members. He sighed in relief once he saw they looked like there old selves again as they laid unconscious on the medical beds, but after blinking, their appearance suddenly changed back to how they had looked back on the planet when they attacked him and he began to panic. He rubbed at his eyes several times to see if he could get them to turn back to normal, but they still looked like they were under the influence of the alien fruit. He felt his vision begin to gray and jerked from Carson and Elizabeth's grasp. He stumbled to get as far away from his team as he could, but he had only made it a few steps when his legs gave out and he fell to his hands and knees. He could hear Carson and Elizabeth talking to him but he couldn't make out what they were saying. He hadn't even realized how bad he was shaking until he suddenly felt comforting hands on his back and arms as he remained on his hands and knees. The harder he tried to stop the tremors coursing through him, the worse they got. He felt Elizabeth's gentle hand cup over his clammy forehead and closed his eyes as he lost control of holding back the contents of his stomach. The pain in his abdomen was becoming unbearable as he continued to empty his stomach until all that was left was bile. Once he was done dry heaving, he was suddenly aware of the voices around him.

"Elizabeth, I need ye to get a damp cloth, a cup of water, and a kidney basin!" Carson quickly instructed, and John immediately felt her hand leave his forehead and shoulder to gather the items. "John… Can ye hear me, lad?" Carson asked as he slid his hand from John's upper back to rest on the back of his neck.

"Yeah…" John quivered out. He felt drained, and found comfort in Carson's touch when he began soothing his thumb back and forth on the back of his neck. He was having trouble with his arms holding himself up as they continued to violently shake, but he didn't want to end up face first in his own vomit.

"Okay, son, we're goin' to slowly ease ye back onto yer knees." Carson informed him as soon as Elizabeth had returned.

Once they had him upright on his knees, Elizabeth helped John fill his mouth with water from a cup and Carson held the kidney basin for him to spit in once he had thoroughly rinsed his mouth.

"Better?" Elizabeth asked as she smiled and combed her fingers through his slightly damp hair.

"Yeah… Thanks." John quivered out as he felt exhaustion taking over, but sharp pains in his stomach kept him wakeful. Carson noticed John wince and the look of pain on his face.

"We're goin' to lay ye back now, John," Carson informed and Elizabeth helped him ease John back so that he was lying flat on the floor in a supine position. "Can ye tell me where yer hurtin', lad?" he asked as he noticed John was still experiencing some discomforting pain.

"My stomach…" John gritted out through the increasing pain as he placed both of his hands over his abdomen protectively. He was beginning to feel overheated and was extremely grateful when Elizabeth started wiping his face down with a cool damp cloth.

"Let's see what's goin' on in that stomach of yers," Carson stated as he put on his stethoscope. He did his best to work around John's hands and Elizabeth could tell by his facial expression that he wasn't happy with what he was hearing. "John… Can ye tell me if it's a sharp pain or an aching pain?" he asked after removing the stethoscope from his ears.

"Sh… Sharp… Ahhh… Doc, it hurts!" John pleaded as the pain continued to increase. Carson placed a comforting hand on top of both of John's, which were still holding his stomach protectively.

"Carson, what is it? Is he okay?" Elizabeth asked with worry, as she continued to wipe the perspiration from John's face and used her other hand to soothingly comb through the hair on the top of his head.

"I'm not sure… I have a hunch, but I can't be for certain until we get him to x-ray. Stay with him while I get a team together to take him to the infirmary to run some tests," Carson explained and then patted John on the shoulder before leaving.

"He'll be back with some help, John. Just hang in there…" Elizabeth soothed after seeing John's face scrunch up in agony. The pain was getting so bad for him that she doubted that he was even aware that she was speaking to him.

She was impressed on how swiftly Carson returned with several nurses and a gurney. She quickly gave John a kiss on his feverish forehead before backing away to let Carson and his team get John onto the gurney. They had him up on the stretcher and rushed through the hallways of Atlantis with such incredible speed that Elizabeth was having trouble keeping her mind caught up in all the chaos. She wanted to follow them into the infirmary, but as usual, a nurse asked her to remain outside and told her that Dr. Beckett would be out later to speak with her.

It had only been about forty five minutes since they had taken John into the infirmary, but it had felt like hours by the time Carson had come out to speak with her. "Carson, how is he?" Elizabeth asked frantically as she began to fidget where she stood.

"It's what I had predicted…," he paused with a sigh as he rubbed his fists in both of his tired eyes, "He has an ulcer on the inner linin' of his stomach, and I think it was brought on by everythin' that's happened. John has a tendency to keep things bottled up and it's doin' a number on the acidity in his stomach," he informed her with exhaustion apparent in his features.

"Is he going to be all right… Can I see him?" she pried as she felt a strong need to be with him. She always trusted Carson's words, but she felt that she needed to see for herself that he was all right.

"He's doin' fine now, lass. I've prescribed him a prescription for the ulcer and I've given him a mild dose of Valume to make him sleep for a couple hours. The nurses are gettin' him ready to be transported to his quarters at the moment. I think John would be more relaxed there, and I've assigned a nurse to sit with him until yer available. I was hopin' ye'd accompany me to the med lab to speak with John's team before ye go play vigil on him," Carson pleaded. He felt the need to have her there for his support and theirs when he wakes them from their medically induced coma.

"Yes, of course!" Elizabeth replied, and couldn't hold back a smile once she saw relief wash over Carson's face. She wanted to go to John right away, but she was also worried about his team's wellbeing. She was confident that John would be in good hands until she could join him, and headed off back to the medical lab with Carson.

Chapter Thirty One "The Team"

Elizabeth followed Carson through the doors of the med lab and stayed back until Carson had everything prepped and ready. Once everything was set they approached McKay's bed first. The first thing she noticed was how much thinner he was, but was glad that he looked like himself again.

"I've cut his meds, so he should be wakin' any moment now." Carson informed as he leaned forward. "Rodney… Rodney, can ye hear me? I need ye to wake up, lad," he addressed as he gave Rodney's right shoulder a gentle shake.

All Rodney could see was darkness and he could hear distant voices, but he couldn't make out what they were saying. All he could feel were aches and pains in his joints and muscles. He wanted to drift off back to sleep, but the voices that were now becoming clearer were being persistent. He just wanted to sleep, but he managed to force his eyes to open halfway. Once his vision came into focus he found the faces of Carson and Elizabeth hovering over him with worried expressions.

"There ye are… Are ye all the way with us, lad?" Carson asked, not sure that Rodney was truly awake. Rodney didn't respond as he kept staring at the faces hovered over him. He was a little confused considering the last thing he remembered was being off world.

"Rodney…" Elizabeth addressed as she placed her left hand on the middle of his chest. The contact snapped him out of his confused thoughts.

"What happened?" was the only response Rodney could come up with as he raised his left hand to rub at his left temple.

"Ye might have a wee bit of a headache, but it should go away after a few minutes." Carson paused, "Rodney… What's the last thing ye remember?" he added as he got out his penlight and began flashing it into each of Rodney's eyes.

"Well if you'd stop with the light show, I might be inclined to share!" Rodney snapped as he waved his hands in front of his eyes, where he was seeing spots.

"Rodney!" Elizabeth warned with a playful smirk. She was glad to see they had the old Rodney McKay back.

"The last thing I remember was this disgusting yellow fruit that I wouldn't eat even if someone paid me, and with my luck it would have citrus in it…" Rodney started his usual rambling.

"Rodney…" Carson interrupted, "There wasn't any citrus in it. I made sure to check before puttin' it in your system. The inside of the fruit was more like a melon than a lemon. Now… Is there anythin' else ye can remember? Anythin' at all?" Carson asked with slight annoyance in his tone. Rodney always seemed to bring it out of him.

"Actually, I had more to say before I was so rudely interrupted," Rodney paused as he gave Carson his usual irritated look, "I remember Ford whining about not feeling well, and then that's when I noticed I was feeling sick to my stomach too. The next thing I knew… I woke up here," he explained with a shrug of his shoulders before something dawned on him. "Hey, wait a minute… before…, what did you mean by you checked it before you put it into my system?" he asked with confusion plastered on his face, and an accusing finger pointed at Carson.

"That's a long story, lad. Now… Are ye sure that's all ye remember?" Carson asked with concern.

"Yes, why?" Rodney asked with annoyance.

"That's a long story too, and I'll get around to tellin' ya after I check on the rest of the team. Just rest and take it easy for now, Rodney. Everythin' is goin' to be okay," Carson assured him before leaving to Ford's bed. Elizabeth followed him after giving Rodney a few comforting pats on his left forearm.

Rodney watched them approach Ford's bed with confusion clouding his mind. He got a strong sense that something was very wrong, but he hadn't the clue what that something might be. When he looked around, he suddenly realized one of their team members were missing. "Hey… Where's Major Sheppard?" Rodney asked frantically, fearing that was the something that was out of place.

"He's fine, Rodney… He's resting in his quarters," Elizabeth responded from beside Ford's bed. Rodney was about to ask more but Carson cut him off.

"Just sit back and take it easy, Rodney. I'll fill ye in on everythin' once I'm finished checkin' the rest the team." Carson reassured him from beside Ford's bed.

Rodney accepted their responses in silence as he let himself relax. He felt more at ease after they had told him that Major Sheppard and everyone else were going to be okay. He closed his eyes and allowed himself to relax, knowing that Carson would explain everything to him shortly. While lying there, he listened in on the conversations that were carried on between Carson, Elizabeth, and Ford along with Carson, Elizabeth, and Teyla. He was glad to overhear that neither of them could remember anything more than what he could. It made him feel less insane after Carson had continually kept asking him if there was anything else he could remember, as if there was supposed to be something more.

When he didn't hear anymore voices, he opened his eyes just in time to see Carson entering his office with Elizabeth. He could see them through the glass walls, but he couldn't make out what they were saying. He suddenly wished he had taken a lip reading course as an elective back when he was in college. Not getting anything from watching them through the glass, he turned his attention to the others in the room. "So… Anybody care to guess what's going on?" Rodney asked both Ford and Teyla.

"I don't know… but somewhere between that slimy fruit and now, I got shot in the leg. And get this… It's almost completely healed. So… either I heal unnaturally fast or we've been unconscious in the infirmary for a long time!" Ford exclaimed, sounding a little panicked.

"It is all right, Aiden. Carson assured me that we are all fine and that he will return shortly to explain what has happened," Teyla calmly explained in her usual serene manner.

"He said the same to me," Rodney pitched in.

"Me too, but I still feel like something isn't right," Ford pointed out just before Carson and Elizabeth reemerged from his office smiling.

"So, Carson… What's going on?" Rodney asked nervously as he was eager to hear what Carson and Elizabeth had to say. They both approached the end of Ford's bed, since he was in the middle of the three of them, before Carson started speaking.

"Well, I'm sure ye'd all be happy to hear that the three of ye are doin' very well and will probably be released from my clutches by late this evenin'. Ye'll all be off duty for a couple days on medical leave to rest up and, Rodney, that includes ye!" Carson stated, pointing an accusing finger that annoyed Rodney to the core. "I mean it, Rodney! No workin' in the lab until after I clear ya. Understand?" Carson firmly instructed.

"Fine!" Rodney said childishly while Teyla and Ford just nodded politely.

"Hey, Doc! You mentioned that you were going to fill us in on what's happened." Ford reminded as he began to fidget in the bed.

"Aye, I did… Dr. Weir and I have decided it would be best to fill ye in on everythin'," Carson paused to give Elizabeth a quick glance, "The slime on the outside of the yellow alien fruit ye came into contact with made each of ye very ill. Major Sheppard had never come into contact with it, and since he couldn't carry all three of ye… he hid ya behind some large bushes and headed back to the gate to get help. On his way back to the gate he ran into a group of savage natives that took him by surprise. They beat him up pretty bad, but he managed to make it back to Atlantis just before he passed out. He was stabbed just below his ribs on the right side, suffered some broken ribs, a gash on his forehead, a concussion, and a number of deep bruises. When he regained consciousness in the infirmary, he told us what happened and Dr. Weir immediately sent a team through the gate to retrieve ya. The team brought one of the alien fruits back along with ya, and all three of ye were placed under quarantine. After studying the fruit we discovered that the antidote was ironically the inner contents of the fruit. And again, Rodney…" he paused as he looked at the man in question, "Yes… I checked the fruit for signs of citrus before I put it into yer system." Carson didn't miss Rodney's death glare before he continued, "I had managed to synthesize the solution so that it could be given to ye intravenously. It didn't take long for it to take affect, and here ye all are… alive and well!" Carson finished explaining with a long sigh as he looked to Elizabeth and smiled.

"But, Doc…! How did I get my gunshot wound?" Ford asked and Carson was taken by surprise. He opened his mouth to respond but nothing came out, so Elizabeth stepped in to save him.

"The team that brought you back was under attack by the natives just before they could get you through the gate. One of our men, who has asked to remain anonymous, got into a scuffle with one of the natives and when the gun went off… the bullet hit your leg as a couple of the men carried you by on a stretcher to get you through the gate. The soldier in question feels horribly responsible for shooting you and hopes that you won't demand to know who he is." Elizabeth blurted out, hoping that everything came out the way her mind said it did. Ford seemed skeptical but accepted the explanation without pushing to know who shot him, while Rodney became even more suspicious. He still felt as though something wasn't right, and that there was something they weren't telling them. He didn't see how Carson could have so easily left out the rescue team being under attack just before they had returned them through the gate. His surprised expression after Ford had asked him about his gunshot wound was very strange.

"Is Major Sheppard well?" Teyla asked with concern after hearing the injuries that were inflicted on him.

"He's doin' better…, but he's not to be disturbed anytime soon. I have him on complete bed rest," Carson assured them. There was an awkward silence until Elizabeth decided to break it.

"I think it's time all three of you get some rest before Carson releases you this evening… I'm glad to see you're all doing well," Elizabeth directed toward all of them with a smile before heading to leave. Carson said his goodbyes as well as he left his patients in the hands of the few nurses that were present during all of Carson and Elizabeth's speech on what had happened. He then joined Elizabeth in the corridor outside the lab as they headed toward John's quarters.

"Do you think they bought it?" Elizabeth asked nervously as they walked down the corridor.

"I hope so…" Carson responded with a sigh as he walked along side her.

Chapter Thirty Two "Don't Tell Them"

Two hours had quickly passed since John had been returned to his quarters, and Elizabeth hoped that he hadn't wakened yet to find her nowhere in sight. When her and Carson reached his quarters and entered, she was glad to find he was still soundly sleeping in his own bed under the covers. The nurse sitting in a chair by John's bed smiled and nodded to their presence before getting up and leaving the room. Once Elizabeth heard the doors close with a swoosh after the nurse left, she made herself comfortable on the edge of John's bed. Carson took up residence in the chair the nurse had recently occupied before speaking.

"I suspect it will be at least another hour before the mild dose I gave him wears off." Carson informed her as he sat back in the chair and propped his feet up on John's bed. Since he didn't get any sleep last night he figured it wouldn't hurt for him to try and get an hour or two of shuteye.

"I don't mind waiting," Elizabeth responded softly as she gently combed her left hand through John's hair. She heard a soft snore come from Carson's direction, and when she turned her gaze toward him she couldn't hold back a chuckle when she saw he was sound asleep in the chair. "That was fast!" she exclaimed quietly to herself as she turned her attention back to John. She was still convinced that she could get used to watching this man sleep, and continued to play vigil on him as he slept.

She wasn't sure how long it had been since she had accidentally fallen asleep, but she woke to find herself lying next to John with her head on his right shoulder. She wasn't even sure what woke her until she heard John moan and slowly begin to stir. She sat up and quickly looked down at her watch to find it had been two hours and forty five minutes since herself and Carson had arrived.

"Carson…" Elizabeth addressed softly as she reached across the bed and shook his right leg, which was crossed over his left. She then took John's right hand and cupped it in between hers.

"Wha…?" Carson mumbled as he jerked awake, and his feet flopped down from the edge of John's bed to the floor with a thud.

"It's okay, Carson. It's been almost three hours and I think John is trying to wakeup," she informed slowly to allow Carson time to fully wake.

Carson began rubbing his eyes free from sleep when he heard a pained moan come from John's bed. He got up from the chair and sat on the edge of the bed beside John, opposite from Elizabeth. He placed his left hand on John's abdomen and his right on John's forehead. It felt a bit too warm to his liking. "He's got a bit of a fever. It was probably brought on by the ulcer… or the stress of everythin' that's happened. I'll give him some aspirin later if the fever persists," Carson informed as he looked to Elizabeth.

"Is he all right? He seems in pain…" Elizabeth stated with concern as John moaned again. She kept his right hand cupped in her left, but brought her right hand up to stroke back some hairs that were straying over his forehead.

"Aye, lass, it's his stomach ulcer. They tend to cause people pain in their sleep, and a lot of times lead to risks for sleep deprivation." Carson explained to her with sympathy before turning his attention to John. "John… John, can ye hear me? Come on, lad, wakeup." he conjured as he lightly shook John's left shoulder.

"Hmmm…" John groaned as he slowly blinked his eyes open halfway.

"Hey, there…" Elizabeth soothed as she continued to comb her fingers through his hair.

"Elizabeth?" John question as he still felt slightly groggy from just waking up.

"I'm here," Elizabeth cooed as she tightened her left hand over his right.

"Ahhh…" John gasped in pain as he placed his left hand over his stomach.

"Take it easy, lad. Here…, I have a prescription for ye and some water." Carson informed and John swallowed down the pill and water that was handed to him. "It will calm the acid in your stomach, which should relieve any discomfortin' pain. I put the prescribed bottle over here on yer night stand, and I want ye to take one whenever the pain flairs up. Just don't take more than one within a four hour period, okay?" Carson instructed as he watched John's face slowly become pain free as the prescription took affect.

"Thanks, Doc… That feels a whole lot better…" John sighed in relief as the sharp pain in his stomach gradually disappeared.

"There's no need to thank me, lad. I was happy to oblige!" Carson comforted with a pat on John's left hand that was still on his stomach. "We do need to break some more news to ya, though," he added with a sigh as he looked to Elizabeth and then back to John.

"That seems to be happening a lot lately," John pointed out as he sat up with Elizabeth and Carson's assistance.

"That it does, Major," Carson said with a comforting smile as he patted John on the back. He was saddened when he felt the slight trembles John was emitting.

"So… Who's going to break the news to me this time?" John asked with a smirk as he looked from Carson to Elizabeth.

Elizabeth looked to Carson and nodded before speaking. "I guess I could be the messenger this time," she volunteered with a smile as she placed her left hand on his thigh, with her other still holding his hand. She felt him trembling, but kept her hand in place. It upset her to see how his team's return has caused him to relapse. He was just starting to come around before their return, and she has confidence that he can reach that point again in time. "McKay, Ford, and Teyla are awake now, and they can't seem to remember anything after handling the alien fruit. All they remember is feeling ill before everything went dark, and then waking up in the infirmary with myself and Carson." she explained, while keeping her eyes on John's face as she began rubbing her hand on his thigh in a soothing manner. She could see the surprise spread across his face.

"Seriously?" John asked with his voice full of hope. He was so worried about how they would react when they woke up that he never considered the possibility that they may not remember any of it. Hell…, he wished he didn't remember any of it.

"John, are you okay?" Elizabeth asked after watching several different emotions play across John's face.

"Yeah…" John paused with a sigh, "Actually…, I'm great!" John exclaimed as he suddenly realized that this could work for him. If they don't know what happened, he could act like nothing happened and he was comfortable with that. "Wait a minute…" he added as he realized something, "What did you tell them… What did you tell them after they said they couldn't remember?" he asked with a tinge of panic in his voice, and his eyes went wide with fear.

"Myself and Elizabeth discussed it in my office before we approached them as a group. We took into account that they may regain their memories later on down the road, but we did what we thought was best…" Carson explained but was frantically interrupted.

"What did you tell them?" John asked in a panic as he looked from Elizabeth to Carson. Elizabeth could feel John's trembles increasing as she watched him start to fidget nervously.

"Take it easy, John… We decided to tell them that ye hid their bodies after they fell ill and headed back to the gate to get help. We told them ye ran into some trouble on the way back, and a group of natives gave ye a pretty fair beatin'. I only told them about yer knife injury, some broken ribs, a concussion, some deep bruises, but nothin' more." Carson paused as he watched John slowly calm down, "I didn't reveal anythin' else that happened to ya, lad," he paused again to give John's shoulder a comforting squeeze. "I continued on by telling them Elizabeth sent a team back to retrieve them after ye came to in the infirmary and supposedly told us what happened. I had forgotten to explain how Ford got his gunshot wound, but Elizabeth stepped in to save the day. She explained that he got shot by accident by one of our own men from the search and rescue team when he got in a scuffle with one of the same natives that had attacked ye." he finished explaining and was glad to see that John had calmed down, but wasn't pleased that John was still trembling.

"We can tell them the truth if that's what you wish, John?" Elizabeth asked softly, feeling that John deserved to have a say in it.

"God, No… Don't tell them! I'd rather we leave it the way it is!" John stuttered nervously, but was adamant in his decision. "Thanks for not telling them about… everything," he added as his cheeks became slightly flushed.

"I would never break that trust, John. Not only as yer doctor, but as yer friend. The same goes for Elizabeth," Carson assured as he looked to Elizabeth and she nodded to John.

"Thanks…" John repeated with a sigh of relief. He didn't know how he could ever face his team again if they knew he was sexually assaulted. Especially if they knew it was them that sexually assaulted him.

"Everything is going to be okay, John… We're going to get through this together." Elizabeth soothed as she brought her left hand up to comb her fingers through his hair above his right ear. He shivered to her touch, but it quickly subsided.

"Ye've been through a great deal today, so I'd like ye to get some rest and stay in bed the rest of the day. I'll pop back in every couple of hours to check in on ya, while Elizabeth will stay here to keep ya company, okay?" Carson instructed to his patient. John nodded in response and looked over to Elizabeth, who was smiling at him. He loved the way she smiled. It always made him feel safe and relaxed.

"We could finish that scrabble game we never finished!" Elizabeth offered cheerfully.

"That'd be great!" John responded shyly. Carson smiled and patted John on the knee before getting up to leave. He watched the two of them continue in conversation as he walked to the door, and wondered if they would ever realize he was gone. It pleased him to see how close they were becoming. He then headed out to return to the med lab and see if John's team was well enough to be released to their own quarters.

"Hey, Elizabeth… Where's Carson?" John asked as he looked around the room with confusion.

"I'm not sure… I didn't even notice him leave. That's strange…" Elizabeth responded as she too looked around the room in confusion.

"Elizabeth," John paused until she turned her gaze from searching the room back to his face, "I've been wanting to mention something to you, but never seem to be able to get it out…" he added as he began to fidget nervously by zipping and unzipping his uniform jacket.

She noticed how nervous he was and scooted closer to him as she gently stopped his fidgeting hands with hers. "You can tell me anything, John," she assured him as she looked him in the eyes with nothing but desire and admiration.

John could feel his heart racing as he looked back into her eyes with the same desire and respect. "It's… It's your smile… It's very intoxicating!" he said nervously as he brought a shaky hand up to cup her cheek and brush his thumb across her lips.

"Really…?" Elizabeth teased with a smile, and amusement spread across her face. She then brought her hand up to cup over his, which was still resting gently on her cheek.

"And… It's not just your smile," John swallowed with a pause as his mouth became dry, "When you look in my eyes and I'm looking back in yours, I feel… excited… and at the same time terrified. Terrified that you don't feel the same way I feel for you!" he softly confessed as he remained looking into her needful eyes. John's heart was pounding in his chest as he waited for her to respond. He could see that her eyes had become watery and he began to wonder if he had said the wrong thing. "I know we came really close to… Um… you know, last night… but I wasn't sure how you felt about us and…" he began to ramble as he became unsure about himself, but was cut off when Elizabeth pressed her lips to his. He immediately responded by deepening the kiss and bringing his other hand up to cup her other cheek. Elizabeth brought her other hand up to cup the back of his head in return. When they broke apart for air, Elizabeth eased them both back onto the bed as she laid down beside him.

"Incase the kiss wasn't a good enough answer for you… I feel the same way when I look at you," Elizabeth responded softly as she pecked another kiss on his lips before snuggling up against him. He wrapped his arm around her and kissed her gently on the forehead as they laid there holding each other. They both fell into a peaceful slumber feeling they could overcome any obstacles.

Chapter Thirty Three "Reunited"

Carson had released them that very evening and had ordered them to go straight to their quarters to rest, but what they really wanted to do was check in on John.

"Major Sheppard's quarters is just down the hall from mine… I was thinking about stopping by there if either of you would like to join me?" Rodney slightly asked Ford and Teyla, who were walking along side him to go to their quarters as they were instructed.

"I would also like to check on the Major, but Dr. Beckett ordered us to go straight to our quarters." Ford responded. He was concerned about his commanding officer, but he didn't want to have to face Carson's wrath if he disobeyed his orders.

"I am inclined to agree with Aiden, Rodney. Though I would like to check on the Major's wellbeing, I do not think we should do so against Dr. Beckett's wishes." Teyla responded in her calm manner.

"All right… fine… Why don't we meet outside my quarters in the morning at 0900 hours and go visit the Major together?" Rodney persisted.

"Sounds like a plan to me. How about you, Teyla?" Ford responded a little more cheerfully.

"I do not think that would be wise. Dr. Beckett stressed that the Major was not to be disturbed and that he was on bed rest." Teyla calmly stated, no matter how much she would like to make sure John was okay.

"If I know the Major, he's probably bored out of his mind and would appreciate the company." Rodney persisted further. Ford looked to Teyla with a pleading look.

"Very well," Teyla sighed. "I'll see you both at 0900," she added before heading down the corridor that lead to her quarters. She still wasn't convinced that it was a good idea, but she was looking forward to seeing how John was doing.

"Well… see-ya then, McKay!" Ford exclaimed with a partial wave as they both parted ways to their own quarters. Rodney smiled with triumph as he made his merry way down the corridor by himself.

Carson stopped by John's quarters at 0830 hours in the morning to check his vitals. He walked in to find them both wide awake as they sat at a small table that was folded out at the end of the bed. He smiled at how cozy they looked sitting so closely together as they used the end of the bed as their chairs. He had to hold back a chuckle when he got close enough to see that they were playing a game of scrabble and struggling to keep their letters hidden from each other, seeing as they were sitting so closely.

"Ye two are up early!" Carson exclaimed as he approached them, and both of them jumped in surprise.

"Oh… Carson, you scared us! We didn't hear you come in!" Elizabeth exclaimed with her hand placed over her chest as she tried to even out her breathing.

"I noticed! Ye two must be really gettin' into the game!" Carson teased as he gave Elizabeth a playful wink. She playfully smirked back at him in response. "So… how are ye feelin' this mornin', John? Any pain or nausea?" he asked as he grabbed the chair next to the bed and slid it near John before sitting down in it. He found it very amusing that neither of them thought to use it to play their scrabble game so that they wouldn't have to struggle with hiding their letters from each other. He could tell by their expressions that they knew he was thinking that very thought, because their cheeks were slightly flushed with embarrassment. However, he was glad to see that they wanted to be close to each other. Especially for John, after what he's been through.

"I had some stomach pain early this morning, but it went away after I took one of those pills you gave me. Those pills are great by the way!" John exclaimed as he patted his stomach with his right hand, "Since we were already awake… we decided to finish our scrabble game," he finished shyly as he looked from Carson to Elizabeth, and then back to Carson.

"That's good to hear… I just stopped by to check on ya," Carson paused with a smile as he stood up next to John and leaned over to place a hand on his left shoulder, "I need ya to lie back for me while I check a few things," he instructed as he gave John's shoulder a comforting squeeze.

"All right…," John sighed to Carson, "But no cheating by peeking at my letters while I'm down!" he exclaimed as he playfully pointed an accusing finger at Elizabeth. She gave him an evil smile in response. "I mean it!" he added as Carson eased him back to where he was lying flat on his back.

"Just relax for me, lad," Carson comforted as he began prodding different areas on John's abdomen. He noticed John was trembling and winced a couple of times when he pushed in on a couple of places. "Pain?" he asked with concern.

"Just a little sore," John responded as he took some deep breaths. Carson then reached up to feel John's forehead and was pleased to find it free from fever. He then proceeded to check his pulse and respirations, finding them both within the normal range.

"Okay, lets sit ya back up," Carson said cheerfully as he assisted John back to a seated position. He noticed John wince in pain again and it concerned him. "I'll be back to check on ya this afternoon, but if the tenderness in your abdomen increases I want ye to let me know before hand. Understood?" he instructed as he patted John on his left shoulder.

"Sure thing, Doc!" John responded with cooperation.

"Make sure ya do, lad! Otherwise, Elizabeth here has been ordered to tattle on ya!" Carson teased as he gave Elizabeth a wink.

"Hey now… No need to gang up on me!" John stated as he held his hands up in surrender. "I'll be good," he added.

"That's good… I'll check in on ya later." Carson informed as he headed for the door. "By the way, Major! Elizabeth is trying to spell the word 'Wraith'!" he exclaimed and smiled just before the doors closed behind him, after seeing the treacherous look Elizabeth was giving him. He then looked down at his watch to notice it was 0855, and headed to get some well needed shuteye. The past couple of days he had only managed to fit in a couple hours sleep here and there.

"That's a horrible word! What on Earth possessed you to form that?" John asked playfully as he tilted his head at her.

"First of all… We're not on Earth, John! Secondly… I didn't purposely search for the letters to form it! And thirdly… It will give me just enough points to put me in the lead! I couldn't help it!" Elizabeth defended as she teasingly pouted her lip at him. She kept her gaze on him as she waited for his comeback, but she noticed a sudden change in him when she heard the doors swoosh open to the right of her. She could feel John's thigh that was up against hers begin to tremble as his facial expression went blank, while he starred at whom ever opened the door. She turned her gaze to where his was and felt her breath hitch when she saw why John's mood had suddenly changed.

"Major!" Rodney greeted as Ford and Teyla followed him into the room, "You do realize that bed rest involves actually laying in the bed and resting, not sitting on the edge of it!" he joked as he walked further into the room.

"What are you all doing here? Didn't Carson mention to you that Major Sheppard was not to be disturbed?" Elizabeth asked calmly as she gently grasped John's right hand to try and calm him. Ford and Teyla both bowed their gaze like two children who had been caught doing something they knew they shouldn't, but Rodney raised his chin and remained adamant about his decision.

"He might have mentioned it… But he looks fine… other than he's unusually quiet…" Rodney paused as he walked to where he stood in front of the table they were sitting at. Elizabeth could feel John's trembling was increasing and she could hear his respirations were becoming rapid with panic. "…And you look a bit pale! Are you all right, Major?" he asked as he reached out and touched John's left shoulder. John immediately jerked away in fear and stumbled back until he fell off the side of the bed. He then stumbled to the far end of the room and slammed himself into a corner as he pulled his knees up to his chest protectively.

"What's wrong?" Rodney asked frantically as he watched John shaking violently on the floor in the corner, with his arms tightly wrapped around his knees. He then noticed John begin to rock back and forth with his eyes squeezed shut.

"Dr. Beckett!" Elizabeth exclaimed over the radio wrapped around her left ear, but there was no response. "Dr. Beckett… Dr. Backett, I need you in Major Sheppard's quarters immediately!" she urgently requested again as she ran to crouch in front of John.

"I'm on my way…" Carson responded, sounding as though he had just got out of bed. He had just lied down no more than fifteen minutes ago.

"What's going on?" Rodney demanded as he began to approach John and Elizabeth.

"I need all of you to wait out in the hallway, now!" Elizabeth ordered them with authority as she directed her stern gaze at Rodney.

Rodney got the hint and followed Ford and Teyla out of the room. They ran into a very tired looking Carson as soon as they stepped out into the corridor, and he did not look happy to see them.

"What in the bloody hell are ye all doin' here?" Carson demanded as he was trying to catch his breath from having to have run to get there.

"We were… What's going on? What's wrong with him?" Rodney asked frantically. He didn't know what was going on, but he knew something was definitely wrong. Teyla and Ford stayed back and stood quietly as they watched the scene play out in front of them.

"Not now, Rodney! I'll explain later…, I just need all of ye to stay out here." Carson instructed as he pushed pass them and entered John's quarters.

He searched the room quickly and found both John and Elizabeth in the far left corner of the room. He rushed over to see Elizabeth was knelt down in front of a violently shaking Major Sheppard.

"Carson…, I can't get him to calm down!" Elizabeth exclaimed with worry in her voice. Carson wasted no time and reached down in the medical bag he had brought with him to pull out a syringe that contained a mild sedative. He knelt down beside John and quickly jabbed the needle into his trembling thigh. John hadn't even flinched, and his violent shakes gradually decreased down to light tremors once the sedative took effect.

"Elizabeth, I need ye to help me get him to the bed." Carson instructed as he slid his left arm under John's knees, and his right arms behind John's back and under his arms. With Elizabeth's help he was able to hoist John up into his arms like an infant. John may be taller, but Carson had broader shoulders. He then slowly walked over and gently laid John on the bed as Elizabeth began covering him with blankets. She immediately began combing her fingers through his hair in a soothing manner, and held his right hand tightly. They sat and talked to him with comforting words until he gave in and fell asleep from exhaustion and the mild sedative Carson had given him. Once they were sure he wasn't going to wakeup anytime soon, they headed out into the corridor to speak with John's team.

Chapter Thirty Four "Not Buying It"

Teyla and Ford stood quietly for a long time as they watched Rodney nervously pace back and forth in front of them. He couldn't seem to stand still as he tried to piece things together that would explain the Major's reaction to him. He couldn't understand why John was so frightened of him and would have continued to ponder on it, but Teyla's voice interrupted his thoughts.

"We should not have gone against Dr. Beckett's wishes. He clearly had reasons why Major Sheppard was not to be disturbed, and we intervened when we should not have." Teyla confessed with concern that they had done John more harm than good by visiting him.

"She's right, McKay! We shouldn't have come here until Beckett said it was okay." Ford also confessed as he was worried for his commanding officer's wellbeing. Rodney was about to respond, but was cut off.

"Yer absolutely right, Lieutenant!" Carson addressed, as himself and Elizabeth walked out of John's quarters. "None of ye should have come here until I had cleared the Major well enough for visitors." he confirmed as if he were scolding three misbehaved children. Both Teyla and Ford looked ashamed of their actions, but Rodney was his usual arrogant self.

"What happened in there? Why did the Major react to us the way he did?" Rodney demanded after he stopped pacing and pointed his finger at both Carson and Elizabeth.

"As we had said before…" Elizabeth spoke up with a stern tone as she glared at Rodney, "Major Sheppard had been through a traumatic experience at the hands of the natives. He had barely made it back through the gate alive from all the blood he had lost. He even coded a couple of times and Carson had to bring him back. He's been through a great deal, and as a result he's a bit jumpy around people." Elizabeth explained as her anger faded away. She knew they meant well when they had decided to visit John.

"A bit jumpy!" Rodney exclaimed with a pause. "I had barely touched his shoulder when he went aye-wall and scurried into a corner. It looked to me like he was absolutely terrified!" he pointed out, knowing that none of them had ever seen John that scared before. "…And how is it he isn't afraid of either of you?" he added as he looked from Elizabeth to Carson in confusion.

"He was afraid of us at first, but he eventually let us get close to him. He just needs time, Rodney. He'll come around…, just give him some time." Elizabeth comforted as she looked from Rodney-to-Ford-to-Teyla. Teyla and Ford nodded to her explanation in understanding, but Rodney just shifted his weight from one foot to the other.

"I think it would be best if all three of ya return to yer quarters and rest, as I had instructed ye to do so earlier." Carson instructed with a comforting tone as he had pointed out that it's what they should have been doing in the first place. Teyla and Ford did as they were told and headed down the corridor to return to their corridors, but Rodney hung back. He stood there staring at Carson and Elizabeth with a questioning look, and waited to speak his opinion until he was sure Teyla and Ford were out of range to hear him.

"I'm not buying it!" Rodney exclaimed as he pointed an accusing finger at the both of them.

"What are ye on about, Rodney?" Carson sighed with annoyance as he tried to act as though nothing were wrong. However, Elizabeth couldn't stop herself from looking at Rodney in surprise and Rodney didn't miss it.

"Major Sheppard has faced the Wraith, a whole platoon of Genii, and god knows what else before he came to Atlantis. Are you trying to tell me that a small group of angry natives ruffed him up, and now he's gone aye-wall? I'm sorry, but… I'm! Not! Buying! It! I've gotten to know him well enough to know that it would take a great deal more than a beating to make him break down like that. There's something you're not telling us, and I'm going to march right into John's quarters and ask him about it if you don't tell me what's really going on here…! And I mean right now!" Rodney demanded as his worry for John escalated.

"All right, Rodney, calm down… There's no point in lyin' to ya any longer…" Carson sighed with his hands up in surrender, and Elizabeth looked at him in shock. He couldn't risk Rodney interrogating John for answers. "What I'm about to tell ya needs to remain confidential. Do ya understand?" he explained as he looked down the corridor to make sure it was clear, and Rodney nodded in response.

"Carson!" Elizabeth warned in shock. She couldn't believe what Carson was saying.

"It'll be all right, Elizabeth." Carson assured her as he gently clasped one of her hands in between his. She was about to protest, but Carson had already turned back to Rodney and began speaking. "John received more than just a beatin'…" he paused with a sigh as he placed his right hand on Rodney's shoulder to prepare him for the news, "The natives sexually assaulted Major Sheppard… He was raped by both female and male genders. I can't go into the details, but I think that statement says it all." he softly stated as he watched the expression of horror spread across Rodney's face.

"Oh my god!" Rodney exclaimed as he folded his arms across his chest and began to fidget uncomfortably. He felt like a deer caught in headlights! He hadn't expected that, and it made him feel outraged and upset all at the same time.

"Aye, it's a wee bit of a shock! It was very traumatizin' for John, and I'm trustin' ye to keep this to yerself. Under no circumstances is anyone to know!" Carson stressed as he gave Rodney's shoulder a firm squeeze to insure he was getting through to him.

"Of course… I'll just, um… I'll just be…" Rodney stuttered nervously and didn't finish what he was going to say as he walked away toward his quarters. Elizabeth stepped up beside Carson as they watched Rodney walk away dumbfounded.

"You really had me scared there, Carson. I thought you were going to tell him everything…, and I'm glad you didn't! But… did you really find it necessary to tell him about the rapes? Couldn't you have told him something else?" Elizabeth asked, sounding a little upset that Carson had broken John's trust.

"Aye, lass. I had to tell him, otherwise Rodney wouldn't have let it go. And because of what I've told him…, he will less likely confront John about it." Carson explained, hoping that he hadn't made a mistake.

"I understand…" Elizabeth sighed as she looked down at the floor in front of her. " I just hope we're making the right choices," she added with sorrow as she looked up at Carson.

"Aye… I hope so too, lass… I hope so too." Carson replied softly, followed by a short pause. "I'm goin' to sit with John for a while, so… I suggest ye take a break away from John to get some paper work done. I'll take good care of him while yer gone." Carson practically ordered, and she didn't get a chance to respond. He turned and entered John's quarters with the doors shutting behind him before she could protest. She smiled, knowing that Carson didn't give her a chance to respond on purpose. He knew that she'd rather stay with John if she was given a choice. Reluctantly, she headed for the control room to do her job.

Chapter Thirty Five "The Video Tape"

Rodney was so frustrated that he passed up his quarters and headed straight for his lab, against Carson's orders. He needed to be somewhere he could think things through, and the science lab was just the place. He was upset about what the natives had done to John, and he was becoming more angry with them with each passing minute it took to reach the lab. John is one of the strongest men he knows, but after hearing what the natives had done to him he had a better understanding of why John reacted the way he did when he had reached out and touched his shoulder. However, there was something in the back of his mind that had been bothering him ever since Carson had mentioned the presence of natives on the planet. Even if the natives had arrived through the gate sometime after them, the ancient handheld device would have picked up the energy source from the gate being activated. The device is also a life signs detector and should have picked up any signs of life, yet it didn't alert them of the natives. He was beginning to wonder if there was something he had missed from being so intent on finding the source of the distress signal, that he was starting to feel partially responsible for what happened to John. Knowing he wouldn't miss something so relevant, he reverted back to the suspicion that something wasn't right. Things just weren't adding up! He let out a long sigh of anger as he approached the doors to the lab, and entered to find Dr. Zelenka fussing over something on his laptop.

"Dr. McKay, It's good to see you! How are you?" Zelenka greeted when he looked up after hearing the doors to the lab swoosh open. He could tell right away that Rodney seemed agitated about something as he watched him storm into the room and then take residence on a stool at a lab table on the far end of the room.

"Never better…" Rodney sighed as he propped his elbows on the table in front of him, and began to wring his hands together nervously. "Anything interesting happen while I was away?" he asked, hoping to get his mind on something else.

"Fraid not! At least nothing worth mentioning." Zelenka informed as he turned his attention back to the laptop. He wanted to ask him if everything was all right, but he knew Rodney would just shrug him off. Rodney was the kind of man who would willingly convey if anything ailed him, but he was not one for sharing his feelings.

"Humor me!" Rodney snapped, determined to get his thoughts on another topic. Zelenka looked at him suspiciously before speaking.

"If I must… We did find a hidden signal within the distress call that was coming from the planet that you had previously visited. It was actually some type of physiological wave stream that seems to only affect individuals that possess the ATA gene…" Zelenka was explaining, but was rudely interrupted.

"Get to the point, Radek!" Rodney huffed with annoyance. Zelenka glared at him before he continued.

"Fine…! We believe it's possible that the signal was never a distress beacon, but a warning sign! One that the Ancients put in place ten thousand years ago. We don't know why they would want to warn their own kind away from this particular planet, but the signal causes anyone who possesses the ATA gene to feel unusually fatigued and wary of their surroundings. The effects of the signal also seem to increase as the individual gets closer to the source of the signal. There were a couple of the search and rescue members who possess a small amount of the Ancient gene that complained of slight fatigue when they were on the planet, but they claimed to feel better once they came back through the gate." Zelenka paused as he watched Rodney assimilate the information. "We're still looking into why the Ancients created this warning signal, but it's becoming a lengthy process. Most of what we have come up with has come from the Ancient database, but most of the information they have on this planet is under a secured file. We were fortunate to get what information we have. We are hoping to get past the security code so we can find out why the Ancients were warning their kind away from the planet. Until then…, I suggest we don't send any of our off-world teams there until we know more." he finished before taking a sip of his coffee.

"Huh…" was all Rodney had to say as he considered what Zelenka had just told him. He did recalled feeling a bit more tired than usual when he was on the planet, but not significantly. Recalling that John had seemed unusually tired, he wonder if it had affected John more because his ATA gene was much stronger. Thinking about John made him revert back to pondering over what Carson had said the natives had done to him, and he looked up to find Zelenka back to working on his laptop.

Rodney sat in silence as he watched Dr. Zelenka continue to fuss over whatever it was that he was working on. He still felt like he was in a state of shock from the news Carson gave him regarding John, and started wandering his eyes around the room. He didn't get to look at much when his eyes fixed on a young female Lieutenant that just entered the lab. He actual thought she was quite attractive, considering she had long brown hair. Especially since he usually had a thing for women with short blonde hair.

"Dr. Zelenka, I was wondering if you could help me with something?" the Lieutenant asked as she stood next to Zelenka.

"Of course… What can I do for you, Lieutenant?" Zelenka responded with a charming smile. Rodney didn't miss the Lieutenant blush, and thought he was going to be ill if he had to witness the flirtation much longer.

"I'm due to embark on a mission in ten minutes, but I can't seem to get my vid cam to work." the Lieutenant explained as she pulled her video recording device from her vest pocket and handed it to Dr. Zelenka.

Rodney was up and out of the room before he could hear Zelanka's solution to the Lieutenant's dilemma. Seeing the video recorder had given him an idea, but he was going to need Ford's help to pull it off.

When he arrived at Ford's quarters and knocked several times, the doors opened to reveal a very sleepy Lieutenant. "Don't tell me you've been sleeping… It's the middle of the day!" Rodney exclaimed as he watched Ford rub the crust from his eyes.

"It's not like I had something better to do, McKay!" Ford pointed out, followed by a yawn.

"Don't do that! Don't you know how contagious that is!" Rodney protested and couldn't stop himself from yawning. "See…! Now come with me… I need your help with something," he insisted. Ford sluggishly slipped his standard issue boots on and headed out the door to join Rodney.

"You do realize, Beckett wasn't kidding when he told us to stay in our quarters to rest." Ford pointed out as he walked along side Rodney down the corridors.

"You can return to your quarters and go back to sleep if you want," Rodney shrugged as he tried to use reverse psychology on the young Lieutenant.

"No, I'm good! I'll stick with you!" Ford responded adamantly. He was getting way to bored hanging around his quarters to pass up an opportunity to get out and do something. "So… Where we headin'" he asked with some excitement in his tone.

"Dr. Weir's office." Rodney plainly stated.

"What for?" Ford asked with obvious confusion.

"I don't know about you…, but I still feel like there's something their not telling us. There are certain things they told us that just don't add up…, and I intend to get to the bottom of it." Rodney stated as they turned down another corridor.

"I felt like something was a little off too…, especially the explanation of my gunshot wound. But how is going to Dr. Weir's office going to help. I mean… if they are hiding something, their not going to change their minds about telling us just because you want them to." Ford responded, hoping Rodney wasn't going to snap at him like he usually does when he points out flaws in his plans.

"Yes… Yes…, but we're not going to speak with Dr. Weir." Rodney stated with annoyance.

"I don't understand," Ford paused with confusion. "Why visit her office if not to speak with her?" he added as he followed Rodney into a transporter.

"I don't know why I didn't think of it earlier, but… If we want to find out if there is anything they're not telling us… All we have to do is get a hold of one of the video recordings one of us was wearing on the mission!" Rodney explained before they left the transporter and started walking down a new corridor. "Ingenious isn't it?" he added with pride.

"Don't tell me that genius brain of yours thinks Dr. Weir is just going to hand it over to us?" Ford asked with sarcasm.

"Nooo…" Rodney drawled out with annoyance.

"Oh…" Ford replied after realizing what Rodney's intentions were. "How are you planning on getting in her office without Dr. Weir catching you?" he added with obvious puzzlement.

"That's where you come in, Lieutenant! I need you to keep her occupied while I go in." Rodney explained with a smirk.

"Are you sure this is such a good idea?" Ford asked nervously as they reached the control room. They both saw Elizabeth standing next to one of the main consoles as she watched a team go through the gate. Rodney recognized one of the soldiers as the female Lieutenant Zelenka had been helping earlier.

"You're on, Ford!" Rodney responded with a pause, "I'll return back here once I've got the tape, so keep her talking till then," he added as he gave Ford a slap on the back to boost his confidence. They both parted ways toward their destinations.

Weir's Office:

Rodney entered Elizabeth's office as soon as he could see that Ford made sure that her back was facing toward her office. This was definitely one of those many times when he wished the walls to her office weren't made of glass for everyone to see in. He quickly went to her file cabinet and hoped that no one else in the control room, besides Ford, was paying attention to what he was doing. He skimmed through the mission files with speed until he came upon the one he was looking for. He had expected to find four compact disks, but there was only one. When he noticed the name 'Sheppard' was written on it, he just assumed that Ford's, Teyla's, and his own had not yet been transferred to video format. He stashed the disk in his pocket and quickly returned the file back where it belonged before he headed back out to wait for Ford.

Back In The Control Room:

"Dr. Weir!" Ford addressed as he nervously approached her. He purposely stood to the right of her, so that she would have to turn with her back facing her office.

"Lieutenant, I thought you were supposed to be resting in your quarters?" Elizabeth asked, surprised to see him up and about. Ford could see on the edge of his vision behind Elizabeth that Rodney was searching through her file cabinet. He was terrified that something would happen to make her turn in that direction, causing his heart to pound in his chest.

"I'm sorry, Ma'am! I don't mean to disobey Dr. Beckett's orders… It's just there was something bothering me that I was hoping I could talk with you about." Ford said softly, feeling very on edge.

"Of course… Would you like to talk in my office?" Elizabeth offered with sincerity as she began to turn around.

"No!" Ford responded a bit more abrupt than he had intended, but it stopped her from turning around. He noticed several staff members stop what they were doing to look where the loud tone of voice had come from, and he felt as though his heart had lodged in his throat. "Talking right here is fine with me…" he said more gently as he noticed the room was getting warmer. He couldn't believe how close she came to turning around toward her office, and he could still see Rodney on the edge of his vision continuing to go through the file cabinet.

"All right…" Elizabeth soothed as she placed a comforting hand on his right shoulder. "Just relax, Aiden. You're so wound up I'm afraid you'll shoot through the roof!" she teased to try and ease the tension. She could tell by the way he was acting that something was really bothering him.

"Sorry, Ma'am…" Ford sighed with a pause, and was starting to feel slightly agitated as he could still see Rodney searching through the cabinet. He didn't understand what was taking him so long.

"That's all right, Aiden. Just take your time," Elizabeth comforted as she smiled at him.

"I'm really worried about the Major, and I was wondering if he was truly going to be all right. The way he had reacted to McKay earlier was very out of character for him." Ford inquired, not being able to come up with anything better to say. It had been on his mind for a while now, and figured this was as good a time as any to get it off his chest.

"I know your concerned for him, Aiden. As are we all, and I promise you that with time Major Sheppard is going to be okay. He's just going to need our help and patients to get through this." Elizabeth softly assured him. She smiled when she saw him visibly relax. It made her feel good knowing that she was able to comfort him and put his mind at ease.

"Okay…" Ford sighed in relief. He was not only relieved to hear her assure that John would be okay, but that he looked over her shoulder to see Rodney putting a file folder back in the cabinet and quickly leaving her office. Elizabeth turned around to see what Ford was looking at, but Rodney was already gone.

"Are you all right?" Elizabeth asked, after turning her gaze away from her empty office and back to Ford with a confused smile.

"Yeah… I was… I was just thinking about what you said." Ford responded, feeling more relaxed now that Rodney was done burglarizing.

"All right then… I suggest you return to your quarters and get some rest before Carson catches you walking around!" Elizabeth teased as she reassuringly rubbed her left hand up and down his right arm a couple of times.

"Yes, Ma'am!" he replied with a smile. He left to rejoin Rodney in the hallway, while Elizabeth headed the opposite direction towards John's quarters.

"Did you get the disk?" Ford asked eagerly when he approached Rodney.

"Got it!" Rodney exclaimed with a smile of triumph as he waved the disk in his hand before returning it to his pocket. They both then headed down the hallway toward the science lab. "Teyla, this is McKay!" Rodney addressed after activating his radio that was wrapped around his left ear.

"This is Teyla… Is something wrong, Dr. McKay?" she responded softly over the radio.

"No, nothings wrong. I've got Ford with me, could you meet us in the science lab?" Rodney asked as himself and Ford continued to head toward the lab.

"Did Dr. Beckett not ask us to remain in our quarters to rest?" Teyla pointed out.

"Just trust me… I've got something you'll want to see, and hopefully it will give us some answers!" Rodney persuaded, hoping she'd change her mind and join them. There was a long pause before she responded.

"Very well… I'll meet you there," Teyla responded.

"See you in a few minutes!" Rodney declared as he looked to Ford and smiled. They both sighed in relief and continued walking down the corridors of Atlantis as they headed toward the science lab.

Chapter Thirty Six "The Footage"

Teyla walked down the corridor that led to the lab, hoping she wouldn't regret leaving her quarters. When she arrived at her destination, she entered to find both Rodney and Ford sitting at a lab table. She recognized what she was told was a laptop sitting in front of them, and walked toward the table to join them.

"Glad you could make it!" Ford greeted her from where he was sitting. She nodded and smiled at him in response.

"Yes… Yes…, Glad you made it!" Rodney pitched in as he was waiting for the laptop to power up. Meanwhile, Ford snatched another stool and placed it beside his and Rodney's so that she would have somewhere to sit. She gestured her gratitude by smiling and nodding toward him before sitting down.

"McKay's just getting things set up," Ford informed her as he sat back down between Rodney and Teyla. Rodney then slid the laptop in front of Ford, since he was in the middle, and then pulled the disk out of his pocket.

"What is this all about?" Teyla asked as she gestured her hands toward the laptop with confusion.

"Well… You know those recording devices we wear in our vest pockets on every mission?" Ford asked with a pause, and continued once Teyla nodded that she understood. "Okay… Once we return from a mission a group of technicians transfer what was recorded onto a compact disk, which can then be played back on a laptop." Ford gestured with his hands toward each item as he explained.

"And that disk is…?" Teyla inquired as she pointed to the disk in Rodney's hand.

"This…!" Rodney exclaimed with a pause as he waved the disk in his hand, "Is a recording of our last mission. However, the only one that was available was the one from John's point of view and I think that's because he returned through the gate before we did. They probably haven't gotten around to transferring ours to video just yet." he explained as he popped the disk into the laptop's hard drive.

"If this is from John's point of view… Will we witness when he was attacked?" Teyla asked nervously as she adjusted herself on the stool.

"Yes…" Rodney sighed sadly, "I actually need to warn both of you about something Carson and Elizabeth had confided to me before I start the video!" he added nervously with another pause. "I can't tell you exactly what Carson had told me, but… I will tell you that the natives did some god awful things to the Major when they beat him up. I can even fast forward through that part when we get to it, if need be." Rodney finished nervously as he wrung his hands together.

"We understand, Rodney," Teyla responded as calmly as she could. Ford swallowed past a lump in his throat and nodded for Rodney to continue. Neither of them were quite sure they understood what the natives had done to John that was so awful Rodney was incapable of telling them, but they knew they would find out soon.

"Okay…," Rodney sighed with a pause. "Here we go!" he added, as he reached over and selected play after the laptop had finished reading the disk.

The first thing that appeared on the screen was John's face when he had turned the recording device on. It then showed one of John's fingers covering up half of the screen as the device was shoved snuggly into his vest pocket. The screen went blank for a few seconds until the lens was properly aligned with the view hole that is stitched into the pocket. John was then leaving his quarters and heading down the corridor toward the gate room. He had turned a corner to reveal Teyla not far up ahead and the video bounced up and down as John jogged to catch up with her. At that point, McKay pushed fast forward and both Ford and Teyla thanked him with a smile. They didn't want to watch what they had already experienced and remembered. McKay allowed it to fast forward for a long time and didn't push play until the point that John had settled himself up against the bottom of a tree to rest. From John's position, the video was perfectly aligned to catch all three of his team mates within the picture. Once it showed all of them fall ill and lose consciousness after handling the yellow alien fruit, their eyes remained glued to the screen.

They each leaned further onto the lab table as they watched the events play out before them. They sat there for a long time as they watched the video footage, unable to tear their eyes away from the screen. The last thing they saw before the screen went blank was Elizabeth's pale and worried face streaked with tears before she pulled the disk from the recording device.

Now that the events that occurred had been revealed to them, they each responded in their own way. Teyla had tears streaming freely down her face, but she never once took her eyes off the screen until it went blank. She then lowered her head and began to sob as she brought her hands up to cup over her eyes. Ford portrayed a blank expression the entire time and continued to stare at the blank screen. He then slowly stood up and walked across the room to have some time to himself in complete silence. But his silent moment didn't last long as he dropped to his knees and began puking until all that was left was dry heaves. McKay, on the other hand, remained seated and brought a shaky hand up to eject the disk from the laptop. Doctor Rodney McKay, the man who never stops talking, was speechless.

They were all beyond upset and slightly angry that nothing they were told happened on that screen. They weren't emotionally prepared for the events that played out before them. They felt ashamed and hurt for what they had done, and neither of them were sure on how to handle it. They were definitely unsure of how they'd be able to face John again, or whether or not he'd ever be able to face them. They now understood why John had reacted to them the way he did.

They could never forgive themselves for what they did to John, no matter how much they tried to convince themselves that they weren't in control of their actions. Most importantly, they knew John would never forgive them, and they wouldn't blame him one bit!

Ford forced himself to stand on shaking legs with his back still turned to Teyla and Rodney. He swallowed back a mouthful of bile before he found the strength to speak. "I… I think we need to… to speak with Beckett and Weir immediately!" Ford managed to croak out as he was closely on the verge of breaking down into shameful tears. He didn't hear either of them respond as he continued to hear Teyla's sorrowful sobs, but he knew it's what they wanted to do.

Chapter Thirty Seven "We Know"

All John could see was a vast expansion of darkness, but he could hear a soft and gentle voice in the back of his mind. He tried to clear away the fuzziness, and soon the voice became more pronounced.

"John… John, can you hear me? John…!" Elizabeth spoke softly to him as she combed her fingers through the hair on top of his head.

"Hmmm…" John grumbled out as his vision slowly focused on Elizabeth's face that was hovered over him.

"Carson, he's awake!" Elizabeth exclaimed, and soon Carson's face was hovered over him as well.

"How ya feelin', lad?" Carson asked with concern as he felt John's forehead. He was pleased to find it free from fever.

"Kinda fuzzy…," John responded softly with a sigh as he was still feeling the effects from just waking up.

"Aye… That's understandable, lad. I had to give ye a mild sedative so yer probably feelin a little funny right now," Carson explained as he placed a comforting hand on John's stomach. He could feel John trembling and started caressing his thumb back and forth over John's abdomen in a soothing motion. "Just relax, John. It's okay…" he comforted and watched John take several deep breaths to try and calm himself.

"It's okay, John…" Elizabeth cooed, as she brushed some stray hairs back from his forehead with one hand and held his hand with her other.

"I really think I could have handled things a lot better if I would have been prepared. I… I wasn't expecting to see them and I…" John tried to explain, but Elizabeth gently placed two of her fingers over his slightly quivering lips.

"Shhh… I'm sure you would have, John." Elizabeth cooed and then removed her fingers so she could return to combing them through his ruffled hair.

"We know ye would have, lad. Just take it easy on yerself, all right?" Carson added as he continued to comfort him. John didn't feel like saying much more so he just nodded in response.

They sat there a while longer in silence, hoping that their presence was comforting to him. Carson could tell that John wasn't really feeling up to conversation, but he didn't want John to start shutting people out. He started to say something, but he didn't get a chance to get it out when a voice suddenly came through on his radio.

"Dr. Weir… Dr. Beckett… This is McKay!" Rodney's voice came over the radio that was wrapped around Carson's right ear. He reached his hand up to activate it as he looked over at Elizabeth, and noticed that she had heard it over her radio as well.

"This is Beckett…, Dr. Weir is with me!" Carson responded back over the radio.

"We need to speak with both of you immediately. We were told that you were in John's quarters, and we're waiting just outside the door," Rodney tried his best to calmly inform over the radio. Both Carson and Elizabeth could tell there was something different in the tone of his voice.

"Just give us a minute and we'll be right out!" Carson responded, and Elizabeth nodded to him in understanding before they both turned their attention back to John.

"John, we're goin' to step just outside yer quarters for a wee bit. Will ye be okay by yerself for a while?" Carson asked with concern as he gently patted John on the stomach. He worried about leaving John alone in the state he was in.

"Both of you?" John asked softly as he squeezed Elizabeth's hand.

"We won't be gone long." Elizabeth assured him as she, in return, squeezed his hand.

"Okay…," John sighed as he slowly released her hand. She immediately missed the skin-to-skin contact. "I'll be fine," he assured both of them. Elizabeth gave him one last stroke through his hair before getting up and heading to the door, while Carson gave him a comforting pat on the shoulder before joining her.

The first thing they noticed when they came out of John's quarters was how red and puffy Teyla's eyes appeared. She looked as though she had been crying a great deal, and Ford looked as though he were struggling to hold back the tears. McKay just appeared on edge, and like the rest of them, slightly pale.

"What's happened?" Elizabeth asked with concern as she took in the appearance of the three individuals that were barely able to stand before her.

"We know…" Teyla softly quivered out as fresh tears began to roll down her pale cheeks. Elizabeth gave Carson a worried look.

"Let me guess… Rodney opened his big mouth and told ye what really happened to John!" Carson exclaimed as he looked at Rodney with annoyance.

"Not exactly, Doc," Ford said nervously as he swallowed back another mouthful of bile. Carson and Elizabeth turned to each other with puzzling looks before turning back to look at the three with confusion.

"I don't understand." Elizabeth stated with obvious confusion.

McKay reached in his pant's pocket to pull out a disk and handed it to Elizabeth with a trembling hand. After turning it over to see the date and the name 'Sheppard' written on it, both Carson and Elizabeth recognized the disk right away and said, "Oh my God!" simultaneously.

"How did you get this?" Elizabeth asked frantically, as she raised the disk in question and waved it around in front of her.

Rodney ignored her question on purpose, "Why didn't you tell us the truth? Why did you keep beating around the bush?" Rodney demanded with his obvious anger showing through.

"We did what we thought was best for all of you!" Elizabeth explained, seeing they were obviously upset and angry.

"When we discovered that none of ye remembered what happened… We had to think fast and make a decision. We were trying to protect all of ye!" Carson pitched in to try and help ease the tension.

"To protect us from what… The truth?" Rodney asked angrily as Teyla and Ford remained silent.

"Yes, Rodney! To protect all of you…, including John!" Elizabeth exclaimed more adamantly, not caring that she had used Major Sheppard's first name in front of his team.

"Well… I demand that we be allowed to see our own recordings to find out what happened to us after Sheppard went back through the gate!" Rodney exclaimed nervously, not really sure that he wanted to see what other shameful things he had taken part in.

"That won't be possible." Elizabeth stated.

"And why not?" Rodney demanded with confusion.

"They weren't found on ye when ye were brought back through the gate. In fact, the search teams hadn't found any signs of yer uniforms." Carson informed him with the utmost sympathy.

"What…? That would mean…" Rodney began to state the obvious, but snapped his mouth shut with embarrassment. Both Teyla and Ford's eyes went wide with surprise as their cheeks became slightly flushed.

"Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying." Carson responded softly as he looked to each of them. "From what I could tell during yer exams, none of ye had done anything to each other that showed the same signs of assault that were apparent on Major Sheppard. However, there is no way of knowin' for sure! Not unless the recordin' devices miraculously appear, or ye eventually regain yer memories." he finished informing as he watched their faces fill with shame. "None of ye were in control of yer actions. Try not to be so hard on yerselves… John knows you weren't in control of what ye did!" he softly stated to try and comfort them, but their facial expressions remained saddened. They stood there quietly, for what seemed like several minutes, before Carson spoke again. "Major Sheppard had agreed with our decision to not tell ye what happened, and wanted to keep things that way. He didn't want any of ye to know what ye had done to him. He's havin' enough trouble strugglin' with what he knows, and I don't know how he would react if he found out ye all saw the video…" he gently added to let them know what a dilemma this has caused.

"Can we see him?" Teyla asked softly as she wiped her face free from tears. Everyone's eyes immediately fixed on her with surprise.

"Teyla… I don't think…" Elizabeth had started to gently deny her request but didn't get to finish.

"Please…?" Teyla pleaded softly with tears building back up in her eyes. "It would be wrong of us to allow the Major to believe we don't know!" she persisted as she met Elizabeth's gaze.

"She's right! We can't just let him continue believing that we don't know what really happened. There's no way we'd be able to hide our reactions! It wouldn't be fair to him! If I were him… I'd want to know!" Ford spoke up, strongly feeling it was wrong to keep John in the dark.

"It might benefit us as much as the Major if he were aware that we knew. Who knows… Maybe we could help each other get past all this." Rodney declared nervously, trying to convince himself as much as he was trying to convince them. He truthfully wasn't sure they'd ever make it through this. He knew as well as the others that things would never be the same as they were before.

Elizabeth felt very protective over John, and wasn't convinced that what they were suggesting would be in the best interests for him. Carson could see the doubt in her eyes and decided to step up to the plate.

"I'd have to agree with them, Elizabeth." Carson condoned as he cupped both of her hands between his and looked her in the eyes.

"What?" Elizabeth said with surprise as she looked straight at Carson's face. She couldn't believe he was even considering what the others were suggesting. It made her wonder if she was the only one who was truly thinking of what's best for John.

"Think about it, lass. Do ye really want John to pretend that nothing happened…? He'd never truly get past this unless he faces it and accepts it. I think giving him the option of being able to discuss it with his team would be very helpful. Not only for John, but for his team as well! They would have each other, along with mine and yer support!" Carson explained to her softly with the utmost sympathy for how she felt towards John. There was a long pause as they all waited to hear her decision.

"I see what you're saying," Elizabeth stated softly in defeat as she looked down at her hands that were still cupped between Carson's. She had never considered the consequences of what might happen if John used the excuse of his team not knowing what truly happened as a reason to ignore that anything had happened. She realized it would only hurt John in the long run, and that she had allowed her feelings for him to cloud her judgment. She was so fixed on protecting him that she wasn't able to see that the truth could ultimately set him free from his burden.

"It's settled then…," Carson paused with a sigh as he patted his top hand on hers for comfort. "I suggest myself and Elizabeth warn John that ye'll be visitin'…, so that he'll be more prepared this time. We'll let ye know when it's safe to enter," he paused with another long sigh, "I think it might be best if one of ye break it to John that ye know what really happened, and I'll leave it up to ye three on who that will be." he explained calmly.

"I will tell him…," Teyla said gracefully as she put up her inner walls of strength. She knew John would need her to be strong for him, she just didn't know if she could stop her walls from crumbling when she finally faced him.

"That's okay with me…," Rodney responded softly and Ford nodded in agreement. They both knew they wouldn't be strong enough when the crucial moment presented itself, and were impressed that Teyla believed she could. But they wondered if she would really be capable of keeping it together when faced with the task.

"Very well…," Carson paused with a sigh as he gave Teyla a look of sympathy and understanding for the weight that was placed on her shoulders, "We'll let ye know when the Major is ready for ye to enter," he added just before himself and Elizabeth reentered John's quarters.

Chapter Thirty Eight "Window Of Opportunity"

They entered John's room to find him sitting up on the edge of the bed. He had slipped his shoes on and was now trying to tie his shoestrings with trembling hands.

"And just were do ya think yer goin'?" Carson asked John as he sat beside him on the bed, while Elizabeth knelt down and helped him tie his shoes.

"I was hoping you might let me get out for a little bit. Maybe…, get some fresh air out on one of the balconies?" John asked hopefully as he watched Elizabeth tie his shoes. He felt slightly ashamed that he couldn't tie his own shoes because his hands wouldn't stop shaking.

"Maybe later, lad… Right now there's somethin' we really need to talk about." Carson stated softly as he gave John's left shoulder a comforting squeeze. John noticed that Elizabeth had remained awfully quiet since she had returned, and that made him worried. Anything that has her speechless has him concerned.

"Ummm… Sure!" John responded nervously as he watched Elizabeth get up from in front of him and sit on his right, with Carson still seated on his left. She then placed his right hand firmly between hers, and John couldn't keep himself from interlocking his fingers with her bottom right hand. She smiled at him in response.

"It's yer team, John… They'd like to see ya, lad," Carson calmly informed him. He could immediately feel John's trembling increase through his hand that was still on John's left shoulder, but he noticed John's face showed no apparent response.

"Oh…," John paused with a sigh, "I guess that's okay. When do they want to visit?" he asked softly, and Carson noticed that John was becoming nervous.

"They're actually waitin' just outside yer quarters, lad," Carson responded softly as he continued to watch John closely. Looking for any signs that would tell him John wouldn't be able to handle a confrontation with his team, especially so close to their last encounter. Which they all knew that didn't go so well.

"Ummm… Okay… I just need a minute," John informed nervously. He closed his eyes and took a couple of deep breaths to try and calm himself. He could feel the pounding of his heart begin to calm, and the comforting squeeze Elizabeth gave his right hand. He squeezed her hand in return, and opened his eyes before speaking, "O… Okay, I'm… I'm good!" he stuttered nervously.

"Are ye sure, John?" Carson asked, not sure that John was really ready. He could feel that John's trembling had decreased, but it was still present.

"Yeah…" John assured with more confidence, followed by a long exhausting sigh. "Although, I'd feel a lot better if I were standing when they visit. I wouldn't… It would feel less like they were towering over me… I'd just feel more comfortable if I were standing," he practically begged as he looked from Carson to Elizabeth with pleading eyes.

"That's fine, John… You don't have to explain…," Elizabeth soothed as Carson helped her get John to his feet. He swayed slightly, but managed to get his bearings. "Would you like me to stand with you?" she asked, wanting to give him as much support as she could.

"Thanks, but… I'll be okay." John responded softly as his soldier bravado shown through. He really wanted her to remain at his side, but he didn't want to have anyone to fall back on or hide in when his team entered. He wanted to appear strong in front of them, so they wouldn't become suspicious of the lies they were told. Elizabeth nodded to him in understanding before stepping aside. She knew his decision had nothing to do with pushing her away, and stood beside the chair next to his bed. Feeling a bit more at ease.

"I'm goin' to let ya go now, lad." Carson warned as he gently released his hold on John's left arm, and then waited to continue speaking until he was sure John wasn't going to fall over. "I'll let them know it's okay to come in," he informed and John nodded in response as he straightened his stance. He could feel his heart was racing as he watched Carson approach the doors and leave. He kept repeating to himself that he needed to remain calm. He didn't want to give anything away that would make them think there was anything more going on than what they were told. He took several deep breaths as his eyes remained glued to the door.

Carson was the first to come through the doors and immediately joined Elizabeth as they tried to stay in the background, but not too distant from John just incase the plan went downhill.

John could feel his body shaking in anticipation, but forced himself to remain standing strong. The first member of his team to enter was Rodney, and John could swear he looked just as nervous as he felt. Following closely behind him were a similarly nervous Ford and Teyla. Rodney and Ford filed around the room, while Teyla slowly approached him with a gentle smile.

"How are you, John?" Teyla softly asked after she stopped an arm's length in front of him. He could feel himself relax once he realized she wasn't going to come any closer, and it was only then that he realized her red rimmed and puffy eyes. He could tell that she had been crying, he just wasn't sure why.

"I'm okay… How are you guys holdin' up?" John asked as if nothing had happened. However, Teyla didn't miss the slight quiver in his voice nor the small tremors in his legs as he tried to remain standing.

"John…," Teyla sighed with a pause as she reached a comforting hand toward him, but retracted it as soon as she saw him flinch. "I believe you should know that… We are aware of what happened to you," she added calmly as she continued to keep her walls of strength in place.

"Yeah… We'll have to remember not to send the hostile natives a fruit basket!" John joked sarcastically as he began to fidget. He always had a habit of trying to hide himself in humor.

"No, John… We know what really happened…" Teyla softly soothed, as she stepped closer to him and placed her hands just above his elbows that were resting at his sides. He tried to flinch away, but she held strong.

"What are you talking about?" John asked as he chuckled nervously. She could feel through her hands, the tremors that were radiating through him. She felt responsible for the emotional pain he was experiencing, and in return she felt her walls begin to crumble.

"We… We know of the pain we had inflicted upon you," Teyla choked out as she felt the tears reforming in her eyes.

"I don't understand!" John exclaimed almost frantically as his soldier bravado was starting to fade. He tried to pull away from Teyla's contact again, but she still held on tight without causing him any harm. He looked to Carson and Elizabeth with worry before turning his gaze back to Teyla, just in time to see a single tear escape down her left cheek.

"They did not tell us…," Teyla paused with a sigh to assure John that Carson nor Elizabeth betrayed his trust, "We managed to gain possession of a disk without permission that showed us video footage of our last mission… From your point of view," she managed to force out calmly as more tears stained her cheeks.

John immediately froze and stopped trying to pull away from her. She couldn't even tell if he was breathing, but she could feel that his trembling had severely increased.

"Wha…?" John whispered out in shock as he let out the breath he was holding. Teyla decided to take advantage of the state of shock he was in to let him know how horrible she felt for what she had done to him.

"John… I want… I want you to know that I would never harm you of my own free will… nor under threat of death! What… What that video showed me… I will never forgive myself for what I had done, and I do not expect your forgiveness." Teyla quivered out as the tears began to fall freely down her pale cheeks. John's eyes had become watery, but he remained frozen were he stood as the tremors coursed through him.

Both Rodney and Ford saw the window of opportunity as well, and decided to let John know that what they had done was just as unforgivable.

"Major, I… I want you to know that, I too, would never purposely cause you harm… And… In light of recent events, I don't see how our friendship could possibly… No, that didn't come out right…," Rodney paused and struggled to hold back the tears when John raised his gaze from Teyla to him with tear filled eyes, "What I mean to say is… I'm truly sorry for what I did to you… And… I no longer deserve your respect or faith in my abilities," he croaked out as he almost lost the battle of preventing the tears from falling. Ford saw him struggling and decided to step up to the plate to get everyone's eyes off of Rodney before he broke into tears.

"It's like a bad dream, Sir…, and I don't think anything I say would be a worthy enough apology to earn your forgiveness. …And I will not ask for your forgiveness, because I will never be able to forgive myself for what I had done to you. I have the utmost respect for you, Sir, but I do not deserve that respect in return! I deserve more than a shot in the leg from you, Sir!" Ford stated as he stood at attention like a true soldier, to pay his utmost respect for his commanding officer. It wasn't until he stood at ease that he noticed John was looking right at him with pain filled eyes and a sense of mutual respect.

John swallowed past a lump in his throat before he managed to find the words to speak. "You… You weren't yourselves," John croaked out with a pause as he felt his eyes burning with unshed tears, "I can forgive… but… but I… I don't know if I can forget," he managed to quiver out before he broke down into a fit of painful sobs. Teyla immediately pulled him into a comforting embrace as his tremors became violent. John tried to pull away with all his might, but he was so weak that it didn't take much effort for Teyla to keep a strong hold on him. She felt his knees begin to buckle as his trembling legs could no longer hold him, and she gently shifted most of his weight onto her. He gave in and allowed exhaustion to take over as he buried his face in her neck while he continued to sob uncontrollably. He was too tired to fight any more. He felt so ashamed that he had fallen apart in front of his team, but blessed that he had such good friends that were willing to openly express their shame to him. With no regards to the traumatic experience they had gone through themselves. He didn't know what he had done to deserve such loyal friends.

The entire occupants of the room watched John with utmost sympathy. Rodney hesitated at first, but slowly walked over and wrapped his arms around both of them in a strong embrace. He felt a few tears escape down his own cheeks as he listened to John's painful sobs and felt how violently John was shaking. Ford watched for a few seconds, unsure of what to do, and then walked up to place a comforting hand on his commanding officer's shoulder. When he felt the tremors that were running through John, he couldn't hold back any longer and joined the rest of them in a strong embrace.

Elizabeth watched the emotional event play out before her as she remained silent in the background, and wiped her hands across he eyes to realize she had tears streaming down her cheeks. She was startled when Carson placed a comforting hand on her right shoulder, and she placed her right hand over it in response.

"I think they could use some time alone…," Carson whispered in her ear and he could tell in her eyes that she didn't want to leave. "How about ye join me for super?" he offered with a charming smile as he gave her shoulder a comforting squeeze.

"I'd love to…," Elizabeth sighed in defeat, knowing that Carson was right. They did need some time alone. "I'll join you outside… I just need a minute," she softly conceded as she smiled at him to show her gratitude.

"All right, lass. I'll be just outside," Carson responded just before he turned and left the room. He knew it was eating her up inside to have to leave John for even a moment when he was in such an emotional state.

Before leaving to join Carson for super, Elizabeth took one more look at the four individuals wrapped in a tight embrace as if she were taking a mental picture. She wiped away a few more tears that escaped down her cheeks, knowing that they weren't sad tears, but hopeful ones. What she saw before her was not necessarily a broken friendship, but possibly a growing one. She knew deep down in her soul that if this group could bring the city of Atlantis back to life, then they could surely bring their friendship back to life.

Chapter Thirty Nine "Seven Months Later"

It's been seven months since John's team had returned and things were shaping up. Their friendship was not back to the way it used to be, but they were still friends. It even shows the signs of a friendship that could possibly be even closer and stronger than before, as they draw strength from each other for support to make it through the events in the past.

"Elizabeth!" John addressed as he jogged to catch up with her.

"John…, how are you?" she asked as she perked up from his presence.

"I'm good! So… where ya headin'?" he asked shyly.

"My quarters, why?" she asked out of curiosity.

"No reason…," he paused with a sigh, "Do you mind if I walk you to your quarters… for protection that is!" he added nervously.

"I don't need protection, John!" she teased with a slight giggle.

"I meant for my protection," he teased back and she stopped to turn at him with an amusing grin. "What…! It gets creepy in these corridors at night!" John exclaimed with mischief written on his face.

"Very well, you can walk with me to my quarters!" she giggled as she began walking again. "So…, how are you and the team getting along? Carson tells me the group sessions have really been helping." she asked with concern.

"I think everything is going well," he paused uncomfortably, "McKay is back to driving people crazy, Ford is flirting with several of Carson's nurses as we speak, and Teyla is continuing to kick my ass at sparing," he finished with a slight tinge of humor in his voice.

"And you?" she asked sincerely, and placed a comforting hand on his left forearm as they continued to walk.

He was never one to be comfortable with answering such personal questions, and was thankful they had arrived at Elizabeth's quarters just in time for him to use it as an excuse for changing the subject. "Well… it looks like we're here!" he exclaimed thankfully.

"So it would seem," she responded with one raised eyebrow. She knew he was avoiding the question, but didn't pry.

"You know…" he paused with a crooked grin, "…you've seen the inside of my quarters a number of times, and yet I haven't even seen yours from the door let alone been inside it." he added with a confidence that she hadn't seen from him in a while, and it surprised her.

She stared at him for a moment with amusement before answering, "Would you like to come in for a few minutes?" she asked with a shy smile.

"Well since you won't stop begging, I guess a few minutes wouldn't hurt!" he teased, which earned him a playful punch on his bicep from Elizabeth. "Ouch!" he exclaimed, while rubbing the sting on his upper arm as he followed her into her quarters.

The door closed behind them immediately after they had both entered the room. "See…, nothing special!" she exclaimed as she quickly scanned her quarters, hoping she didn't have any undergarments lying out in plan site for John to see. She then turned around to face John and was abruptly startled to find him right behind her.

"Oh, I don't know…" he paused as he looked straight into her eyes, and raised his right hand to gently caress her cheek. "I'm looking at something in here that I would consider very special." he whispered with a deep sexy voice, as he placed his other hand on her lower back and brought their lips to mere centimeters apart.

She could feel the heat coming from his body and the warm breath on her lips just before their lips touched. She pulled back slowly for a mere second to look into his eyes, "Are you sure?" she whispered with concern, not knowing whether or not he was ready for such intimate contact. He didn't respond with words as he leaned back in and gently kissed her. She felt herself melting in his arms as the kiss became more passionate. Bringing her arms up around his neck to draw him closer, she ran her fingers through the hair on the back of his head. It earned her a soft moan from John's lips, so she chanced sliding her tongue into his mouth as they kissed and he returned the favor with a deep desire. She felt warm tingles all over as John's hands began to venture under her favorite red shirt, and couldn't stop the moan that escaped her own lips. She was having trouble fighting the urge to rush things. Her desire for him was strong, but she didn't want to do anything that would frighten him off or make him stop. She felt him press further up against her and could feel the growing hardness of his groin up against her hip. She rocked her pelvis up against it, and was pleased to earn another groan from John's lips. They were both breathing heavy from their passionate kisses, and she couldn't hold off any longer. She began guiding John to her bed as their lips remained locked and their bodies entwined. She gently sat him down on the bed as she knelt down on the floor in front of him. She left his lips and began running gentle kisses down his jaw and neck just before grabbing the bottom of his shirt from the back and lifting it over his head. She then slid what remained off of his arms and began tracing gentle kisses down his chest. She hesitated over the scare that resided on his right side to plant a few tender kisses on it before moving further down to the waistband of his trousers. Sliding her hands up his thighs, she began to undue the zipper of his pants. She quickly looked up at his flushed face to make sure that he was all right, and then pulled his erect penis out from the fly of his black boxers. She felt her own groin begin to burn with desire and become increasingly wet and aroused when John began to moan as she caressed her thumb around the tip of his penis. Without thinking, she took him into her mouth and began to suck hard as she twirled her tongue around the tip. She could hear his breathing increase and what she assumed where moans as his breath began to hitch. She then realized that his penis was going limp and stopped to find that he wasn't moaning, but asking her to stop.

"Elizabeth… stop…" he begged as his breath continued to hitch.

"I'm sorry, I… I hadn't realized… Are you all right?" she cooed as she placed gentle kisses on several places of his face.

"Yeah…" he breathed out with a sigh, "Sorry…I'm just not ready for that yet…" he added softly with embarrassment as he avoided making eye contact with her.

"It's okay, John! We can do other things… or we don't have to go any further if you don't want to." she breathed out heavily, hoping that he would want to continue. She stopped kissing his face and rested her forehead up against his as she tried catching her breath and waited for John to respond. She didn't get much of a chance to catch her breath as John cupped her face in his hands and drew her in close for a passionate kiss. She returned the kiss eagerly and slid her hand down his chest to his groin. She began to gently stroke the shaft of his penis and it quickly began to harden once again. He began to moan with pleasure and slid his hands back under her top and lifted it up and over her head and arms, breaking their kiss for mere seconds. She began to groan with desire as well when she felt his hands caress up her sides and then cup her breasts. Breaking the kiss, she got up from her knees and gently laid John back on the bed as she straddled his hips. She immediately got the impression that he was not comfortable with that position by the way he quickly reacted to turning them so that she was beneath him. He placed a few gentle kisses on her lips and then began to trail down her neck to her breasts. He slid his hands beneath her and unclipped her bra with experience. After removing the bra and tossing it aside, he cupped both of her breasts in his hands and massaged her nipples with his thumbs. She arched her back abruptly with pleasure as she pressed her groin up against his erect penis that was hanging down from the fly of his boxers. Feeling her desire, he took the nipple of her right breast into his mouth and twirled his tongue over it as he sucked and gently applied pressure with his teeth. The teasing was driving her crazy and she couldn't stop the cry of pleasure that escaped her lips. "Ahhhh… Jo… ahhh… John, please…" she begged, but she really didn't want the teasing to end. Hearing his name said with such desire coming from her lips sent warm tingles of pleasure through him and caused his member to twitch. After teasing her left breast in the same manner he did with her right, be ventured down her belly with soft kisses until he reached the waistband of her grey dress pants. He kissed her groin through the fabric of her pants and applied just enough pressure to earn him another outcry of pleasure from her pleading lips. "Ahhh… John, please!" she begged as she raised her hips for more contact. He gently pushed her hips back down and began undoing her pants. He quickly pulled both her pants and panties all the way down to her ankles, and then all the way off once he slipped off both of her shoes. He hovered back over her and admired the view before embracing her in another passionate kiss. He then reached down between their firmly pressed bodies to slide two of his fingers between her folds and began rubbing her clit with a slow rhythm. "Ahhh…Ahhh…!" She started crying out with pleasure and tried pushing her hips up toward his painfully throbbing shaft, but he slightly rocked back as his talented fingers continued with an increased rhythm. He could feel right away that she was wet and ready for him, but he continued his torment. "Oh God…! John, please…," she begged as she tried pushing herself toward his penis again. He then gently eased himself forward to were his penis rested right outside her opening and brought his hand up to cup her face just before placing light tender kisses on her swollen lips. The heat they could feel radiating off of each other's body was hot and intense. She wanted him inside of her right then, but fought it off as she decided to do a little teasing of her own.

She reached between their bodies and began tugging at the waist band of his pants to pull them down, but she couldn't push them very far from the position she was in. He got the hint and quickly tugged his pants down and off right after kicking off his shoes. He laid back down overtop of her and returned to their passionate kissing, but she had other plans in mind. She gently slid her hand in between their bodies and wrapped her hand around his throbbing penis. She couldn't help but smile with triumph as he groaned into her mouth with pleasure. She gently caressed the shaft of his penis and applied just enough pressure to drive him wild as she began to torture the tip with circular rotations from her thumb. He broke his lips from hers as a soft whimper of pleasure escaped his lips, "Ahhh…!" She slightly raised her head and placed a few gentle kisses on his partially parted lips as she continued her teasing. He gently grabbed her hand that was caressing him and stopped her torment. "I'm not going to last much longer if you keep that up," he pleaded with heavy breaths. She just smiled in response and guided his penis to her opening. She wrapped her legs around his slender hips and waited in anticipation for him to push in, but before pushing in he looked passionately into her eyes. Once he was convinced that she was looking back into his, he slowly eased his penis inside her.

She couldn't stop the gasp of pleasure that escaped her lips as she felt her inner walls form around him. It was a tight fit, but the friction and pressure was perfect and intense enough to cause there thoughts to seem fuzzy in ecstasy. He couldn't hold still for much longer and began a slow rhythm as he kept gazing into her eyes. He could see the desire on her face that she had for him and it was so overwhelming that he couldn't stop himself from deepening his thrusts. Her thoughts were lost as she reached her first orgasm and would have cried out in pleasure, but John knew he wouldn't last much longer if her outcry had escaped her lips and stopped her with a passionate kiss. She moaned into his mouth as she road out her orgasm and tightened her legs around his waist as John began to pick up speed with his thrusts. He couldn't continue to go slow any longer after feeling her inner walls pulse up against his penis following her orgasm. It was to much for him to handle any longer as he pumped into her harder and faster. He could feel his balls tighten and knew he was close. The friction was so intense that she could feel another orgasm coming, and knowing that he was close too, she broke their kissing and allowed him to bury his face in the side of her neck just above her right shoulder as she wrapped her left arm around him more tightly and caressed her right hand through his hair just above the back of his neck. She could feel the hot air from his heavy breathing on her neck and shoulder as it sent tingles coursing through her, and that's all it took to send her into another orgasm. He heard her panting and crying out next to his right ear as he felt her walls begin to pulse against his penis once again. One more deep thrust was all it took and her outcries of pleasure became mixed with his as they both road out their orgasm together and she felt the warmth of his seed fill her.

He is the first to reopen his eyes as he looks down at her flushed face, and feels happier than he has felt in a long time as he watches her slowly open her eyes with exhaustion. He remains inside her and starts placing gentle kisses on her lips after locking eyes with her, and she returns them with unmistakable affection. They continue holding each other in a loving embrace as their thoughts slowly return, and she starts to tighten her hold on him but stops when she feels John trembling. "John, your shaking! Are you all right?" she asks with sincere worry and concern, as she reaches up and strokes some damp strands of hair away from his forehead.

"Don't worry… It's the good kind!" he assures her with his infamous Sheppard smile as he caresses her cheek with his thumb. She didn't miss the smile and tears of joy began to stream down the sides of her face into her hair as she remained underneath him. She never thought she'd see that smile again, not since that horrible day. "Elizabeth, are you okay? Did I hurt you? Is something wrong?" he asked with true fear and panic on his face as he wiped a few of her tears away with his thumb.

"John… You didn't hurt me… Nothing's wrong! Everything's perfect!" she exclaimed with that hypnotic smile of hers as she cupped his worried face in her hands. She could visibly see his fear fade away and they both tightened in each other's embrace as they brought their lips together for another round of passionate kisses. Both knowing that there would be many more in the future.

THE END


Would you like a sequel... It's up to you boys and girls!

I would LOVE to know what you thought of my story, so push on that lovely review button! I'm hoping to post more stories, but only if you gals and guys want me to! Please keep in mind this was the first story I had the courage to post, so please be kind when you review! I love positive feedback! Hope you enjoyed "Inhuman", and I might be doing a sequel to it! (Giggles!) LOL!