First and foremost, my most humble thanks to Melissa for the beta. :hugs you:
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Slow Motion by Merlin 7

"I think it's a bad idea," John offered, from his seat at the opposite end of the conference table where Weir was holding fort.

She locked eyes with him, smiled blandly, then asked, "Why?"

John shrugged, but held her gaze. "We don't know the Pyrdians and they don't know us, but they are awfully insistent that you be the one to handle the negotiations on our end. Why is that?"

"The Pyrdians have a culture similar to the mythology of the Amazons. The women rule and they're more comfortable talking to another woman." Elizabeth's smile warmed a bit as she added, "And it's not as if I'll be alone. Lorne and his team will be watching over me."

"I'd feel better if it were my team," John shot back, leaning forward in his chair. It wasn't that he didn't trust Lorne and his men; it was just that John knew he had the best team on Atlantis. He had handpicked it for a reason. The four of them could, reasonably, be considered a ragtag band of misfits. But when they were working together, it was seamless. Somehow, someway, they became the true definition of what teamwork was meant to be.

Elizabeth nodded, accepting his concerns. "I wish you could be there too, Colonel. But given the fact that you're grounded for the next two weeks until you're fully recovered from your injuries, having you along isn't an option. Otherwise, your team would be going with me."

John hid a wince. He felt a bit guilty that he was grounded. Not that it was his fault he had gotten injured. What bothered John most was that he'd sustained the injury here on Atlantis. Teyla and Ronon had been on the mainland at the time, while John had been helping Rodney and Zelenka run some tests on the Throne chair. Zelenka believed that there was more of an interface connection between the chair and the user than they had previously believed and Rodney had decided to humor him on it. Enter John, universal guinea.

It was when they'd been thusly preoccupied, that one of the other scientists working independently had managed an overload of power that sent alarms going off. John, along with Rodney and Zelenka, had rushed to the problem area. Rodney and Zelenka had tried to do a shut down and they'd managed to force the overload into one, specific area. Rodney had been certain he was close to getting it fixed when John had, literally, thrown him out of the room. He hadn't made it completely out of there himself before the explosion hit. The last thing John remembered was hitting a wall. Hard. Then lights out until two weeks ago.

So, now his ribs were healing, his shoulder only ached after physical therapy, and his headaches were no longer as intense as they had been. But he was still grounded for two more weeks. Beckett's main concern was the lingering headaches. John bitched about it, but he still let Beckett keep an eye on him. He needed to be one hundred percent once he was back in the field. Anything less would not be fair to his team. Still, he didn't like being left behind. "Can't you hold off on negotiations for another two weeks?" John asked, already knowing what Weir's answer would be.

"They're not a patient people," Elizabeth replied. "We're lucky we're even getting the chance to talk to them. As Teyla told us, her people were never allowed a chance at negotiations."

"We don't even know what they have to offer," Rodney piped up, not even glancing up from his laptop as he spoke. He sounded annoyed, and Sheppard figured McKay wasn't thrilled with the mandatory attendance for the meeting. But John felt almost grateful to him for that small show of support, half-hearted as it was, but he could see that Weir wasn't falling for it.

Smile firmly in place, Elizabeth stated, "I leave in two hours and that's final. The negotiations are expected to last for two days, given that the Pyrdians are big on ceremony. During that time, Colonel Sheppard...you're in charge of Atlantis."

"Lucky me," John muttered, slouching further into his chair, then wincing a bit when his ribs protested. Not that it was the first time he'd been in charge. Elizabeth had gone offworld a couple of months ago, but she'd returned in eight hours. Eight hours during which nothing had actually gone wrong. Although there had been hours of paper work she'd left for him to go through. John was not looking forward to all the paper work he would be required to handle while she was gone this time. Paper work had never been his thing. John knew he'd never be a desk jockey. If he couldn't be out in the field somewhere, then he'd simply retire and indulge in other excitements. Life was what you made of it, and paper pushing just wasn't life in John Sheppard's book.

"I guess we're done then," Elizabeth said, rising from her chair.

John watched everyone leave then got up himself. He was almost to the door when Elizabeth stopped him.

She touched his arm lightly. "How are you feeling?"

"I'm good." John offered a smile. He was touched by her concern for him. "Don't worry about me. Just worry about yourself and stay sharp."

"I'll be fine," Elizabeth insisted. "Don't you have an appointment with Beckett this morning?"

John glanced at his watch and made a face. "Yeah...in about ten minutes. He's worse than a mother hen."

Elizabeth chuckled then patted his shoulder consolingly. "He's just making sure you're okay. We need you to be."

"I'm okay," John stated, then locked eyes with Weir. "Look...since you insist on doing this, I want you to take Teyla with you. Being a woman, the Pyridians should let her into the meetings with you. And if something goes down, she can kick ass with the best of them."

"I don't know," Elizabeth hesitated. "They're expecting me to come alone. Just getting them to allow me to bring Lorne and his men through the gate was hard enough."

John was going to be insistent about this. "Lorne and his team will be too far away to do anything if you need help. Teyla can be with you. You're not equipped to handle physical combat, in case the Pyrdians are."

Elizabeth still looked uncertain. "They haven't shown themselves to be a warrior race, John."

"What you see isn't always what you get," he shot back. He knew that from experience. Painful experience, at times. "Just take Teyla with you. Worst the Pyrdians can do is send her away. But if they do let her stay, then you know she's got your back."

"Alright, I'll bring Teyla," conceded Elizabeth.

John didn't hide his relief. "Great. I'll let her know so she can be ready."

Elizabeth grabbed his arm when he turned to go. "I'll let her know. You have a doctor's appointment."

"Okay...I take it back. Beckett's not the mother hen, you are." But John's words were teasing and he nodded his agreement. "Fine. I'll go see Beckett then talk to Teyla. Just to give her a few instructions."

"So who don't you trust, John?" Elizabeth queried, with obvious interest. "Me or Teyla?"

He didn't hesitate in his reply. "The Pyrdians. I want you back quick and in one piece. Running Atlantis is not my idea of fun, so it's in my best interest to get you back soon and safe."

Elizabeth laughed softly. "Is the paper work really that bad?" She laughed again when he rolled his eyes at her.

"I swear, ninety-five percent of your job is paper work," John said, as they headed out of the conference room together. "Granted, you do most of it on the computer, but still. It's boring enough to induce a coma within two hours."

"What are you implying?" Elizabeth teased. "That I'm brain damaged?"

John knew how to slide himself out of this pothole with finesse. "I'm saying that you are uniquely qualified to do your job and that I am not. Which is my way of saying, come back as soon as you can. Preferably by tonight. Rodney's already hounding me to approve something you've been giving him the run around on."

Elizabeth quirked an eyebrow. "You mean further testing on the puddle jumpers?"

"That's the one." John headed for the nearest transporter, hoping Elizabeth would drop the subject. Instead, she simply followed him inside. When the door whooshed shut, John started counting in his head and he got to four before Elizabeth asked,

"Does Rodney really think he can turn a puddle jumper into a time machine?"

John winced then shrugged. "Janus did. Right? Rodney figures he's smarter than Janus."

A smiled curved Elizabeth's mouth. "Well...Rodney is pretty smart."

"He is." No way was John going to argue about that one. Rodney had gotten them out of plenty of hot spots time after time. That said, they continued on in companionable silence. It didn't take them long to reach the infirmary, where Elizabeth excused herself to go off and find Teyla. The Athosian woman wouldn't have much time to prepare for the mission. Not that she would need much time. John had learned, early on, that Teyla was pretty much ready for anything, anytime. It was a trait he had come to appreciate on more than one occasion.

"Colonel...lovely to see you." The greeting came from Carson as he headed in John's direction, a smile on his face.

John swallowed a grumpy reply. He knew the doc was just looking out for him and he, mostly, appreciated it. So he plastered a smile on his face and nodded. "Am I late?"

Carson shook his head. "Not at all. Right on time in fact. Come this way and we'll do a quick exam and you'll be on your way." As he spoke, Carson led John to a bed in the back. He gestured for him to hop up then asked, "How are the headaches?"

"Better." John didn't offer anything else. He didn't want to go into details. He didn't want to have to mention that he wasn't sleeping all that great due to nightmares and such. Which left him feeling tired, messed with his appetite, all of which meant his headaches were worse than they should have been.

"Did you eat breakfast?" Carson queried, as he blinded John with his penlight.

John waited until the evil light was gone, resisting the urge to wince because it made his headache worse, but being able to use the guise of rubbing his eyes to ease it a bit. "I did," he replied.

Carson was humming softly. "What did you have?"

"Food," John shot back, knowing that he was now being tested and having a feeling he'd already failed in some way.

"Toast and half a glass of juice is not enough food," Carson replied, looking smug.

John was astonished at first then he was pissed. "You're spying on me!" he accused, stabbing a finger in Beckett's direction.

Carson merely grinned. "I do what I have to do, Colonel. And you know you have to eat more than that. Which leads me to believe that your stomach is feeling off and the reason for that would be headaches. And I'm guessing the main culprit is lack of sleep."

"You got all that from my eating toast this morning?" John countered, and he was almost impressed. Almost. He didn't like the way Beckett was eyeing him.

"I got all that from the dark circles under your eyes," Carson replied as he pulled up a stool and sat down. "Why aren't you sleeping, Colonel? Are you in too much pain? I can give you something to help with that."

John considered lying to Beckett, but he knew he had to break out of the cycle he was in so he went with the truth. "Can't get my brain to shut off." After confessing, John watched Beckett closing, trying to judge the good doc's reaction. There was one thing he did not want to hear and that was Heightmeyer's name. John would do pretty much anything Beckett told him too, except talk to Heightmeyer.

Carson was eyeing John with concern, looking as if he was weighing his options. After a long moment of silence he said, "I could give you a little something to help you sleep. Something very mild."

"That's tempting," John conceded, but then he shook his head. "But not now. With Dr. Weir going off world, I can't afford to be out of it."

"Being in charge of Atlantis doesn't mean you can't get a good night's sleep," Carson countered. "You know I prescribe sedatives for Dr. Weir." He paused to lock eyes with John. "And she takes them. We all need help some times, Colonel."

John knew that better than anyone. He huffed out a breath, feeling impatient and frustrated with his own uncertainty. He wanted to get a good night's sleep, but he hated having to rely on medication to do it. Still, maybe it could help break him out of the cycle he was in. "Okay...I'll take whatever you're offering, Doc," John agreed, albeit a bit begrudgingly.

Carson looked pleased, patting John on one knee before rising from the stool. "Be back in a minute," he said, before hurrying off.

Knowing the exam was over, John slid off the table and leaned against it instead. He had to fight the urge to pace. A moment later Beckett was back with a small, green, bottle. He looked almost relieved as he held it out to John. Taking it, John shook the bottle and he was surprised to realize it was half full. He popped the top and stared at the tiny white pills. "Looks like more than one, doc," John drawled.

"To get your body back into a normal sleep cycle, it's going to take more than one good night's sleep," Carson stated. "Besides which, don't expect miracles, Colonel. These pills are fairly strong, but everyone reacts to them differently and from when I've needed to sedate you in the past, I think you'll need something stronger than average. But that still doesn't mean they'll just knock you out for eight hours. Your body may have to adjust to them before they work properly. You have enough for two weeks, and that's with taking a double dose at times. And I want you to let me know if you have to take two, especially if you have to do so for more than three days. At which point I'll see about prescribing something stronger."

"Got it." John pocketed the pills. He wasn't even positive yet he was going to use them. Maybe just knowing he had them would help. "So I'm done?" he asked, hopefully.

A frown marred Carson's face, but he nodded.

John took a step towards the door, only to pause when Beckett called him back. He turned around, expectantly. "Did I forget something?"

"No, I did," Carson replied. "I want you to get something else to eat, Colonel."

"Fine." John wasn't going to argue that one because he was actually feeling a bit hungry. He hoped that was it but Beckett was moving to stand before him, eyes looking grim. "What else?" John knew something was coming.

Carson sighed then said, "I really wish you would consider talking to Dr. Heightmeyer. I mean...just one session might help you more than any pill can."

John appreciated Beckett's concern, but he shook his head. "Talking won't help, doc. I know my demons. Some things you just have to learn to live with." He knew Beckett understood what he meant. Since coming to Atlantis the good doc had acquired demons of his own. With a pat to Beckett's shoulder, John turned and walked away, feeling the bottle of pills shift in his pocket with each step.

OoO

It felt strange to John to be the one standing on the steps of the gateroom, waiting for Doctor Weir to step through. It was even weirder seeing Lorne and Teyla flanking her. He desperately wanted to be the one going through the gate, but he hid what he was feeling behind a warm smirk. "Ready to go?" he asked, Weir.

She nodded at him, looking excited. John knew that feeling and envied her. Elizabeth seemed to notice and she patted his arm. "You'll be back through the gate soon, John."

"Not soon enough," he muttered, so only she could hear him. Then he cleared his throat and looked over to Lorne. "Bring her back safe, Major," John ordered. He was smiling as he said it, but he knew his message was loud and clear.

Lorne received it and nodded. "Will do, Sir. We'll be back in no time."

John sincerely hoped so. "Better be," he stated, locking eyes with Lorne. "I really don't want to do her job any longer than I have too. And it's already been ten minutes too long." Which was the time since Elizabeth had officially handed over the city to him. It made John nervous as hell when she did that.

Teyla stepped closer to him, smiling as she met his gaze. "We will take good care of Doctor. Weir," she promised.

"I know you will." John had complete faith in Teyla to keep her word. He smiled his appreciation then looked at Elizabeth. When she nodded he called out to the tech above him, "Dial the gate!" They all watched it whoosh open then Elizabeth turned and made to leave. John caught her by the arm to ask, "Before you go, anything to add to the to do list while you're gone?"

"No." Elizabeth's smile was wide and her eyes were warm and shining with trust as she replied, "I know you'll take good care of Atlantis while I'm gone." That said she turned and walked through the gate.

John watched her go, praying that her trust would not be in vain.