Chapter 5

Elizabeth had to take a deep breath before dismissing Lorne. She left her office after him and tried to maintain a professional façade while walking the corridors towards Kate's office. She had to take Abby back from her and tell the girl that her father wouldn't be home soon. She didn't know how she would react to that bit of news and wondered if Kate should be there just in case.

She arrived in front of the door to Kate's office and stared at it for a while. She nearly turned back but she knew she had to be the one to tell Abby and to take care of her in John's absence; she couldn't just run away from it as much as she'd want to at the moment. She finally knocked and entered the room when the psychiatrist told her to.

"Hey, Abby," she said, acknowledging the girl who was lying on the floor, drawing.

"Is Daddy here?" she asked, standing up and running towards Elizabeth who lifted her in her arms.

"Why don't we sit? I have something to tell you."

"Elizabeth?"

"It's ok, Kate, you can stay. Actually, I'd rather you stay." She stopped for a moment, trying to form words in her head while Abby was looking at her expectantly. "Sweetie… Daddy won't be here with us for a while," she finally said and she immediately saw tears welling up in the girl's eyes.

"Why? He doesn't love me anymore?" she sniffed.

"No, Abby, Daddy loves you so much. It's just…" She paused, tears in her eyes. "Daddy and his friends, you know Rodney, Teyla and Ronon they… They got lost and they'll need some time to come back, ok?"

"When?"

"I don't know… It may take time, but they'll come back as soon as they can." She stayed silent for a moment, watching as Abby's fist curled up her t-shirt in a firm grip. She was clearly trying to keep her tears at bay and failing, as well as herself. "Why don't you draw something for Daddy so you can give it to him once he comes home?" Abby nodded slightly and Elizabeth put her down. She took back her place on the floor while Kate came to sit on the sofa beside Elizabeth, handing her a box of tissues. "Thank you."

"You're welcome…" She continued her voice lower so that Abby couldn't catch what they were saying. "Do you want to tell me what happened?"

"We still don't know. Major Lorne just said that they weren't there."

"But where are they if they're neither on Atlantis nor on this planet?" Kate thought out loud. Elizabeth was about to answer her when her radio crackled and then came to life.

"Doctor Weir?"

"Yes, Radek?"

"I might be onto something. Could you come to the labs, please?"

"I'll be right there. Kate, would you mind keeping Abby for a while longer?"

"Not at all..."

"I want to come with you!" Abby cried, latching onto Elizabeth's legs.

"Fine. But don't touch anything, ok?"

"Ok."

"Here," Kate handed Abby her things. She then turned towards the other woman. "If you need anything…"

"Thanks, Kate. I will."

With one last smile towards her friend, she left the room. Kate watched as the door closed behind her and sighed. Despite what she said, she knew that Elizabeth wouldn't come to her; she knew the woman and knew that she's not really one to confide in someone else. Girls' poker nights were the exception; and yet she didn't really tell them what was on her mind. Kate tried to talk to Elizabeth a few times, during John's ordeal with the retrovirus or after she was possessed by that alien entity, but she always told her that she was fine and didn't need to talk. She could only hope now that the team would come back soon, for both their sakes and Abby and Elizabeth's.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth and Abby arrived in the labs and spotted Zelenka towards the back.

"So, what do you have for me?" she asked while she helped Abby sit on one of the stools.

"I'm sorry it took that long but I wanted to be sure."

"And?" She was becoming impatient and though usually the calmness he emitted would soothe her, this day it was the entire contrary.

"You remember I told you I wanted to study that surge we got just before the Gate closed? Well, I still don't know what exactly did it but I can only guess it came from the planet."

"The energy source they were searching for?"

"Maybe… I won't be able to tell until I examine it myself."

"It might take some time. Lorne's team hadn't found it yet."

"Anyway, I don't know if you remembered but the SGC gave us access to all their files just in case we'd find ourselves in a situation similar to one they already had."

"So, you've found something?"

"Do you remember how they had found the second Gate? The one that was in Antarctica?"

"Colonel Carter and General O'Neill gated there instead of the SGC, right?"

"Yes. Because of an energy surge coming from the planet they were dialling out." Once Radek said those words, everything clicked into place in Elizabeth's mind.

"You mean that because of that energy surge, they were transferred elsewhere?"

"That's it."

"But where? We don't have a second gate in Atlantis…"

"No. But before they found out that Colonel Carter and General O'Neill were on Earth, they thought they could be on any planet along the wormhole that was opened between P4A-771 and Earth."

"And you think that's what happened with AR-1 too."

"It's the most plausible explanation."

"How many planets do we have then?"

"Thirty. I know it seems to be a lot but they are all planets referenced in the Ancient database and that have Stargates."

"Then I want the list on my desk first thing in the morning."

"Here. I've already done it," he said, handing her a sheet of paper.

"Thank you, Radek. Could you send one to Major Lorne? He's in charge until John comes back."

"Already done too."

"You sure, they can't be anywhere else?" she asked, wanting to explore every possibility.

"I don't think so. The wormhole had to discharge itself somewhere close to its original route."

"But why haven't they come back yet?"

"Maybe they can't access the Gate for the moment, or maybe they have problems with their DHD."

"Or maybe they're hurt…," Elizabeth whispered, voicing her fears.

"Maybe. We won't know until we find them so don't think the worst."

"I try, Radek, I try. Thanks. Have a good evening."

"You too, Doctor Weir," he said, watching her leaving with Abby. He turned towards Rodney's work bench and sighed; he had to admit he kind of missed him.

After leaving the labs, Abby and Elizabeth, with Sedge still in tow, went to the commissary but neither of them was really hungry. The diplomat forced some of her food down to show the girl the example but thinking about the missing team made her lose her appetite. Across from her, Abby too was more playing with her food than eating; even the prospect of getting chocolate cake for dessert couldn't help her eat.

Twenty minutes later, they left the commissary, more food left in their trays than in their stomach. Once in their quarters, Elizabeth gave Abby her bath before putting her to bed. She read her a story and when she left the room, the girl was sleeping, Sedge at the foot of her bed. In her room, she half sat, half laid down on her bed, the list of planets Radek gave her in her hands. She knew it would take time to find them because they could just open the Gate to one of these planets and try contacting the team by radio: they could be out of range. She would have to send teams in Jumpers to search a rather large area around the Gate, hoping that they would find them as soon as possible.

She was interrupted in her thoughts by the door of her bedroom sliding open, revealing Abby in a half-sleeping state, her Teddy in her arms. She climbed onto the bed and Elizabeth held the covers open so she could settle beneath them. The girl cuddled against her and she couldn't help but smile at the sight. Elizabeth put the list on the bedside table and laid down, putting one of her arms around Abby.

"It's going to be ok...," she whispered against her hair, kissing her there in the process. "Daddy will be home soon, I promise."

She knew she shouldn't make that type of promise but she couldn't help herself. And it was as much for Abby as it was for herself; she needed to believe that John would come back soon, otherwise she couldn't help Abby.

Just as she was ready to turn off the light, she saw her dog waiting expectantly by the bed and she had to smile at that. Any other time, Sedge would have already jumped onto the bed and taken her place at her side but these last few weeks, things had changed; it wasn't just the two of them anymore, there were John and Abby too. With a nod, she encouraged her dog to join them and Sedge obeyed immediately.

Switching off the bedside lamp, Elizabeth remembered that night at the SGC when she woke up to find John there and she couldn't help but hope that it would repeat itself that night.

The next morning, Elizabeth and Lorne were in the briefing room with three teams, giving them their last instructions. They would each take a Jumper and search a planet that day, in the hope that AR-1 would be there. There were no questions after the two leaders' speeches, everyone knew the objectives of these missions and knew that the sooner they'd depart, the better it would be.

Elizabeth watched them leave from the balcony of the control room before joining Abby in her office. She stopped at the door, watching the girl sat in her chair, and drawing. She had to smile at that sight; she barely reached the edge of the desk.

"Hey, what are you doing?" she asked, coming to stand just behind Abby.

"It's for Daddy," she simply answered, putting the final touches to it. "You like?" she asked, showing it to Elizabeth.

"It's beautiful. And I'm sure Daddy would like it too."

"Lizzie?"

"Mmh mmh?" she mumbled while searching for something on her desk.

"Can I learn how to write?"

"You want to?" Elizabeth looked up, surprised and she watched as she nodded excitedly in response. "Then I should teach you. Ok, let me sit." Abby jumped off the chair and once the woman was settled in her chair, she sat on her lap. "We're going to start with the alphabet," she continued, taking a sheet of paper.

She then started to write each letter down, both in capital and small, naming them as she was doing so. Abby tried to copy them as best as she could and Elizabeth had to admit that for a first time, it wasn't bad. She knew she was no teacher and that it wouldn't be easy to teach the young girl how to write, but she also knew that one day or another she and John would have to teach her since there was no teacher in Atlantis.

By the end of the day, Abby knew her alphabet, even though she still had some difficulties with a few letters. Elizabeth felt proud of both herself and Abby for having achieved this in just a few hours. She had to interrupt their lesson thrice when the teams came back empty from the planets they were assigned too; they still hadn't any news on AR-1. After a light dinner, neither of them was really hungry, they went back to their quarters. Once more, Abby slept in Elizabeth's bed, both trying to take some comfort from the other's presence.

They went on like this for two more days before an unscheduled gate activation had Elizabeth running out of her office after having told Abby to stay there.

"Who is it?" she asked Chuck but he just shrugged; no IDC had been sent yet.

"It's Doctor McKay's IDC," he finally announced, a smile in his voice.

"Lower the shield," she said, sighing in relief. She was at the top of the staircase, ready to go down to meet the team when McKay came through the Gate.

"We need a med team!" he shouted while turning towards the Gate.

The smile she had fell from Elizabeth's face when she next saw Ronon coming through, John lying across his shoulders, Teyla in tow. She went down the stairs in a rush while the Satedan carefully laid him on the floor; she could see blood splattering his uniform and his face was pale. Elizabeth resisted the urge to kneel beside him, wanting to assess his condition, but the medical team, Carson first, entered the gate room and started their work on John.

"Daddy!!"

Elizabeth turned in time to see Abby running down the stairs, probably having seen him from her office. She caught her around the waist and lifted her in her arms before she could reach her father, not wanting the young girl to see what happened. She felt her struggle against her, desperately wanting to be put down. "Calm down, Abby, Daddy's going to be fine but you can't see him right now." She continued to try calming her by whispering some words, while turning them away from John's unmoving form.

"Elizabeth…" Rodney started and for the first time she noticed he was cradling his left arm.

"What happened?"

"I don't know. I dialled Atlantis but we gated to another planet instead, and I don't know why."

"Doctor Zelenka has a theory about it. But what happened on this planet?"

"Wraith," Ronon simply said and it was enough for Elizabeth to understand.

"Ok, he's stable," she heard Carson say, "we're moving him to Op Room 1."

They rushed from the Gate room and she followed immediately, Abby still in her arms, and the rest of AR-1 in tow. She knew that even though she left no orders that the personnel in the control room knew what to do.

Once in the infirmary, she went to the observation room, while nurses stopped Ronon, Teyla and Rodney to examine them. She hadn't noticed it, her mind focused on the man she saw lying in the room beneath her. Even though her arms were starting to kill her, she didn't want to put the girl down; she needed her as close to her as possible at the moment.

She didn't know how much time had passed when she saw Carson enter the operation room, ready for the surgery. She knew that Abby shouldn't be there, but she couldn't part herself from her and she knew that the girl wouldn't want to be left alone somewhere else.

"Abby shouldn't be here," Teyla said in her soothing voice, voicing Elizabeth's previous thoughts.

"I know…" She turned towards the two Pegasus natives who entered the observation room and silently wondered where the last member of the team was.

"McKay broke his arm," Ronon answered even though she hadn't asked out loud. She had to smile at the fact that he probably already knew her better than she knew him. "He has to have a cast."

"What happened?"

"Like we told you earlier," Teyla started to relate, "we gated to another planet instead of Atlantis. A Wraith stronghold. They were guarding the Gate and they had weapons we've never encountered before. They were defiantly not stunners. John was hurt before we could take cover. He kept insisting he was fine but he lost a lot of blood."

"We had to retreat," Ronon continued. "Wraith were searching for us and we had a few close-calls. It was in one of those that McKay broke his arm. But for once, he said nothing."

"He was probably worried about Colonel Sheppard's condition," Teyla guessed and Elizabeth could only agree with her.

"By the time we could make it back to the Gate, Sheppard had already collapsed. We managed to take down the two Wraith who were guarding the Gate and dialled Atlantis. You know the rest."

"Yes. Thank you, both of you."

"You said earlier that Doctor Zelenka had an explanation as to why we gated to another planet?"

Elizabeth opened her mouth to answer the Athosian's question when she heard a long beep. Teyla and Ronon just had time to see shock written on her face before she turned back towards the glass looking down at the operation room.

"Oh God, please no," they heard her whisper while they watched the medics bustle about John.

They both knew what it meant; John's heart just stopped. Coming closer to the window, they saw Beckett and his team trying to revive him. Teyla turned her head towards the diplomat and could see her clutching a clueless Abby to her. The girl rested her head against Elizabeth's shoulder and was looking straight ahead, seemingly blocking out sounds around her since she hadn't reacted to what was happening. The Athosian leader reached out a hand to rest it on her friend's arm, trying to show her some comfort.

Turning her head to the other side, she saw Ronon looking straight ahead too and wondered what was going on in this mind of his. Lowering her gaze, she noticed that he was clenching his hands into fists, his knuckles turning white.

She turned back to the window when she heard a faint, steady beep coming from the operation room; John's heart was beating again. She released a breath she didn't know she was holding as Carson looked up towards them, a look of relief on what she could see of his face.

Beside her, Elizabeth left her post there to go sit on one of the chairs of the room, her legs finally giving way. She shifted Abby on her lap so that the girl was sitting sideways and put her chin on the top of her head. Knowing that Ronon would keep his vigil, Teyla went towards Elizabeth and sat down next to her.

"You ok?"

"I will be," Elizabeth said, her voice no louder than a whisper.

"Can I get you something? Some water, maybe?"

"No thanks."

"When can I see Daddy?" Abby asked, leaning her head up to look at her step-mother.

"Soon, honey, soon. Do you want something to eat or drink?"

"I'm hungry."

"Then, what do you want me to bring you?" Teyla asked, but the girl just shrugged in response.

"It's nearly dinner time," Elizabeth replied, looking at her watch. "Bring her a tray of food from the commissary. And don't forget the dessert."

"You sure you don't want to eat something?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. She probably won't finish her plate, anyway, right?" She looked at Abby but she just ignored her.

"Very well," Teyla said before leaving the room.

Silence fell in the room, the three of them being too preoccupied by John's condition to start a discussion. Ronon was still turned towards the window and even though Elizabeth would like to know what was happening, she knew she couldn't bear what happened twice.

When Teyla came back a few minutes later, she noticed that the Satedan hadn't moved at all from his position. He might have not acknowledged her, but she knew he was aware of her presence in the room. She put the tray on a chair beside Abby and took some time to observe the other woman of the room. Elizabeth's head was hung low, as if she was trying to close herself from the world around her.

Before she could talk to her, Rodney, his left arm now in a cast, entered the room, looking worried.

"How's it going?"

"Doctor Beckett and his team are still operating on him," Teyla answered when it was clear no one else would do so. "How's your arm?"

"Broken in two places but nothing too serious."

Teyla was once more surprised to see the scientist acting like that. Usually, when he had nothing more that a scratch he couldn't stop complaining and today he said nothing. He did worry about John a lot, the only other time she remembered seeing him like that was during John's mutation.

Rodney McKay was not known for showing his feelings, it was actually all the contrary, but as she was watching him now, sitting on the other side of Elizabeth with an arm draped across her shoulders, Teyla understood once more that it was just a façade, like most of them had.

"They're done." Ronon's voice jolted everyone from their thoughts.

They knew that Carson was going to come and see them, and they hoped he would have good news. They waited for a good ten minutes before the doctor entered the room, an unreadable expression on his face; that worried them even more.

"We've nearly lost him…"

"What? When?"

"His heart had stopped for a moment, Rodney," Carson answered, surprised that no one had told him that. "Anyway, he lost a lot of blood because of the haemorrhage. We managed to stop it and fix the damage the weapon did. We should all be grateful that it didn't hit a major organ, otherwise I don't know if he would have survived."

"But he's going to be ok?" Rodney wanted to know.

"Yes." With that single word, the doctor knew that he relieved all the adults in the room.

"Can we see him?" Teyla asked.

"He won't wake up till tomorrow. I suggest you all get a good night's sleep and come back tomorrow morning."

Without a protestation, because they knew it wouldn't help, Rodney, Teyla and Ronon left the room. Carson let out a little sigh when he saw that Elizabeth had stayed behind with Abby. The girl was done with her dinner and by Elizabeth's side, hugging onto her leg tightly.

"You could really use a good night's sleep too, love. He'll still be there tomorrow." Although Carson knew she wouldn't easily buy it, he had to try. He could pull his CMO status and order her out of here but he also knew that she would come back as soon as she could. "Fine. You two can stay but I hope that you get a few hours sleep at least. And I want you to finish that tray, Elizabeth. It won't be much but I don't think I could convince you to eat a proper meal, right?"

"Thank you, Carson."

"No need to. I understand how you might feel." He left the room after a last smile to the diplomat.

"Can we go see Daddy?"

"Yes, sweetie. But I need to eat something first, otherwise Carson won't be happy. And once we are with Daddy, you'll have to stay quiet, because he needs to sleep and we don't want to wake him up, ok?"

"Ok. Lizzie?"

"Mmh?" the concerned simply said, her mouth full.

"I left my drawings for Daddy in your office…"

"Then, we'll go there first."

Once Elizabeth was done, they left for her office to retrieve Abby's drawings after a nurse offered to take the tray back to the mess hall. They then returned to the infirmary where they sat on a chair beside John's bed after Abby dropped a kiss on his forehead. Elizabeth could help but let a few tears fall when she saw him lying there; she had been really scared when his heart stopped and had thought that that was it, that he had finally run out of luck. But now, he was going to be fine.

She felt her eyelids beginning to droop and she had just the time to look down at Abby, who was already sleeping, before she succumbed to sleep herself. The last few days had been distressing with the team's disappearance and she hadn't slept as well as she would have liked. But now that they were back and Carson had assured her that John was going to be fine, all the tension fell down and she could finally rest.

After they had left the infirmary, Rodney went to his lab; even though he wouldn't admit it, he was dying to know what Radek had found on the Gate malfunction. The Czech scientist was still there, his back to the door and he turned when his colleague entered.

"How's Colonel Sheppard?" he asked immediately.

"Beckett said he's going to be fine."

"Your arm?"

"Itchy. So, what did you find? Elizabeth told me you had found the reason why we gated to there instead of here in Atlantis."

"Yes, yes. Did you remember when during their first year, Colonel Carter and General O'Neill where sent to Antartica?"

"I think I've read something about that, why?"

"Well then you don't remember why they were sent to a different gate than Doctor Jackson and Teal'c…"

"Yes, yes, yes," Rodney finally understood, snapping his fingers. "They had an energy peak and the Alpha Gate was damaged. After the first two went through it closed and the wormhole discharged itself on the Beta Gate. But wait, our Gate wasn't damaged, right?"

"No. But we registered an energy surge of some sort…"

"It came from the planet. I noticed it just before we went through, but I didn't think it was dangerous."

"Well, it was in a way. I gave it some thought after I had told Doctor Weir my theory. I think the Atlantis Gate couldn't withstand it and maybe the Ancients conceived some sort of failsafe in that case. So the wormhole was redirected to another Gate close to its original route."

"Wait, there's a problem here. Why the gate here couldn't withstand that energy? And why another one could?"

"I don't know," Radek had to admit. "Maybe there's something about it in the database and we haven't found it yet."

"Maybe…" An idea started to form in Rodney's mind. "Yes, that has to be it. Maybe the Ancients created that sort of failsafe so that if the Wraith started bombarding their gate with an energy of some sort…"

He stopped there but Radek got the main idea and had to say that Rodney was probably right; it was the most plausible idea. But there was still a problem…

"Wait. If it comes from the energy you picked up on the planet how come Major Lorne's team could have return safely back there?"

"The DHD!" they both exclaimed at the same time before Radek continued.
"You used the DHD but Major Lorne's Team went there in a Jumper, so they used the Jumper DHD…"

"The DHD was the first conductor, then the Gate. But since Major Lorne hadn't used the DHD on the planet, the Gate couldn't receive the same energy spike and they hadn't had a problem to gate to Atlantis."

"But it's still just a theory. We must find something in the database to corroborate it."

"It has to be it. How could you explain what happened otherwise?"

"I can't Rodney, I can't."

They both sat down in front of the computer and, despite the hour and Rodney's broken arm, they started to search the Ancient database for some sort of information.

Meanwhile, Teyla couldn't sleep and went to one of the balconies of the East Pier to seek some fresh air. The night wasn't cold but she was still feeling a bit chilly; she put that under the last events. The sky there showed the same stars as when she was on Athos with her people but still, it felt different. Her life was different since she met John and the rest of the expedition. Aiden, to whom she was pretty close, had left and she didn't even know if he was still alive, she didn't live with her people anymore even though they still saw her as their leader, and she found out that she had Wraith DNA in her genetic make-up.

This was where Ronon found her a while later. He was coming back from the mess hall after a midnight snack when he noticed her on the balcony. He took a moment to observe her and decide whether or not to join her before his hand opened the door on its own volition.

Teyla turned as she heard the door sliding open and was surprised to see Ronon standing there. She beckoned him to come closer before she turned back to look at the sky once again. She heard his footsteps as he walked towards the railing and mimicked her position. They stayed silent for a long moment, neither one a huge speaker usually, and neither feeling the need to speak at the moment.

Looking at the stars, Ronon couldn't help but wonder if Sateda was one of them. He wondered what life could have been if the Wraith hadn't come and destroyed everything, culling and killing his friends and family in the process. What if he hadn't become a Runner, what his life would have been. He probably would have never met those he considered his friends today. After having spent seven years running from the Wraith, gating from planet to planet everyday and sometimes more than once a day, he hadn't thought he would have settled somewhere easily. But then, he would never have thought that he could be free again one day.

It wasn't that easy for him to settle here on Atlantis, to realize that the Wraith wasn't that big of a threat for him now. But he managed and that was thanks to John and Teyla mainly. They accepted him in their team and as a friend quite easily given the circumstances under which they had met. He had found a home again and for that he was grateful to them.

"You alright?" Teyla asked him, jolting him from his thoughts.

"Yeah. I was just thinking. What are you doing up so late?"

"I couldn't sleep after all that happened."

"It's understandable."

"I can't even begin to imagine how Doctor Weir must have felt these last few days. Especially since she had to keep a good face for Abby."

"She's a strong woman and a leader, just like you, Teyla. She knows what we're up against."

"You came to respect her a lot, don't you?"

Instead of answering her, he turned away and looked once more towards the starry sky. If he wasn't sure Elizabeth was fit for the job in the first times of his arrival, she showed him more than once that it was all the contrary. Without her, he was sure Atlantis would fall apart; she was the one who managed to mend the fences between the civilian and military members of the expedition.

"She and you are the same. You both place your people's safety before yours. This is why they came to respect you…"

"Despite the fact that we're both women," Teyla finished for him, and he didn't correct her. She understood why he thought that; in this galaxy as well as any other, it wasn't that easy for a woman to lead men. But both Elizabeth and she had proved everybody wrong. They showed them that they could lead their people as well as any man.

"I don't think I've ever thanked you or Sheppard for what you did to me, for trusting me," he said, changing the subject. "So thanks."

It wasn't much, but Teyla knew that the Satedan wasn't a man who liked to show his feelings. She was touched by his words and turned towards him, enjoining him to do the same. Putting her hands on his shoulders, she placed her forehead against his. They stayed like this for more time than was necessary and when they moved away, they shared a small smile.

"I should probably go back to my quarters. Good night, Ronon."

"Good night," he replied, watching her leave the balcony. He turned back to the Lantean Ocean, thinking of all the things he lost, but also those he had won since he met John and Teyla.

He had lost the most important thing to him when Sateda was attacked by the Wraith, and if he could never forget, maybe, just maybe, there was a chance to start another life, here in Atlantis. Then, maybe he should try.

Carson was about to leave the infirmary when he saw Elizabeth and Abby sleeping in the chair beside John's bed. It couldn't be comfortable for either of them, but he didn't have the heart to wake them up. And the Colonel would probably be happy to see them at his waking.

Despite the fact that he was hungry, Carson decided to go to his quarters and forget about his stomach; it was already past midnight and he was dead on his feet, he needed sleep and the rest could wait until the morning. Opening the door to his quarters, he smiled as he saw Laura asleep on the cover. She had probably have been waiting for him to come back and fallen asleep without really noticing.

He sat on the bed beside her and put a hand on her hair, stroking it gently. She woke up slowly and smiled when she saw him there. Sitting up, she kissed him lightly on the lips before snuggling in his arms.

"How's Colonel Sheppard?" she asked and even though he should feign being hurt, he wasn't surprised that she was concerned about her superior's wellbeing.

"He's going to be fine. Elizabeth and Abby are sleeping in the infirmary, they didn't want to leave him."

"I understand that. I wouldn't leave if you were the one lying on that bed. How are you?" she asked him although she saw the dark circles beneath his eyes.

"I'm tired. I should probably have left sooner but I had all this paperwork waiting for me. I'm sorry I kept you waiting."

"Don't be. But I hope you don't mind me staying here tonight…" She stopped seeing the sly look spread on Carson's face. "Shake that thought off, mister. Neither of us is up for this tonight. No pun intended."

"Of course…" As if he believed her with the look she gave him. "Ok then, just sleep. I'm ok with that actually. I feel like I could sleep for a week." As they were talking, they changed into their nightwear, well at least Carson. "Not that I mind, but you really have to sleep in nothing at all?"

"Hey, it's not my fault if I'd rather sleep naked. And usually, I don't hear you complaining," she added with a smug smile.

"Because usually, I'm not too tired to enjoy it."

They settled in bed and Laura snuggled as close as possible to her lover, both of them needing the proximity. Despite his tiredness, Carson couldn't help but think about how lucky he was to have Laura; he would never have thought that a girl like her would go with a guy like him.

"Carson, stop thinking and sleep," Laura whispered in the darkness of the room and he chuckled; she knew him so well already.

Yes, like he told his mother, he wouldn't let this one go, she meant just too much for him to do that. His left arm draped across her waist tightened its hold on her as he put his head against hers.

"I love you."

"Back at you," she just muttered, sleep already claiming her.

The next morning, when Carson entered his infirmary, he noticed that Elizabeth and Abby had moved onto the bed next to John's; the woman had probably awoken during the night and figured that they would be more comfortable than on the chair. Trying not to wake them, he went to check on his patient's vitals, relieved when he found out that they were better than the night before.

A few minutes after he left, John started to stir, causing Elizabeth to wake up slowly. The fog in her mind disappeared and she finally understood what was happening. With a huge smile on her face, she rose from the bed and went to her companion's side, taking one of his hands in hers. He opened his eyes completely after a few tries and saw her. He opened his mouth to speak but she stopped him, a hand on his arm.

"Shh. Drink some water first," she said, handing him the cup.

He took a few sips under her constant scrutiny before turning his head away.

"I should probably get Carson," she started but this time it was his turn to stop her.

"What happened?"

"To cut a long story short, you were injured on the planet. When your team brought you back, you were in a serious condition. We nearly lost you," she said, her voice full of tears. "You scared us."

"I'm sorry. You stayed here all night?" he asked, noticing Abby still sleeping on the other bed.

"Neither Abby nor I wanted to leave you. Not after…" She paused, not sure if she should tell him.

"Not after what, Elizabeth?"

"During the surgery… Your heart stopped, John. I thought…" She finally let her tears fall and John beckoned her to come closer so he could hug her.

"Shh, it's ok, I'm here now."

Breaking the embrace, Elizabeth put her forehead against John's. They stayed like this, looking into each other's eyes and sharing a kiss here and there, until a small voice interrupted them.

"Lizzie?"

"Hey, sweetie," Elizabeth said, moving away from John and turning to face Abby. "Look who's awake."

As soon as she saw her father, Abby's eyes lit up and she jumped off the bed, asking Elizabeth to help her climb onto her father's.

"Be careful, ok?" she told the girl who nodded in response. "Good. Now, I'm going to find Carson. He'll probably want to run a few exams on you."

As she left them, she heard Abby starting to recount the last few days to her father. Carson was in his office, a stack of paperwork sitting on his desk, already engrossed in one of them. She entered the room, knocking softly on the doorjamb as she did so.

"And I've already done at least a third of them last night," he sighed nodding to the pile.

"I understand, believe me."

"Yeah, I know. So, what can I do for you, lass?"

"John's awake. I thought you would like to see him."

"I'm coming right away. You might want to tell Rodney, Ronon and Teyla, too."

"I'm going to radio them."

She smiled at him and they left the office. As she was radioing the team, Carson could see that the worry lines she had on her face for the last few days weren't there any more. They reached the bed just as Abby gave her drawings to her father. They hung back for a moment, watching them interact before John noticed them and beckoned them closer.

"How are you feeling, lad?"

"A bit tired, but otherwise I'm okay. When will I be released?"

"You made that sound as if you were imprisoned," Elizabeth said, shaking her head in disbelief.

"Well, you gotta admit that we can't do a lot of things when we're stuck in the infirmary… So, doc?"

"Son, you have to understand that you lost a lot of blood and we nearly lost you during the surgery. You're going to stay there for at least three to four days."

"Do I have to?" John groaned; it's not as if he hated the infirmary, but like he told Elizabeth it was easy to get bored here.

"I'm sorry but yes. I don't want to risk an infection or some other problem. And before you ask, about the missions, you'll have to wait at least two weeks. And I'll have to clear you personally," he added as an afterthought, knowing his patient.

"It's not like I really have a choice, right?"

"No," Carson answered just as the rest of his team entered the infirmary.

"Is your patient already bothering you?"

"Not as much as you can, McKay," John threw him back.

"I'm not asking every five minutes when I can go," Rodney replied before realising that maybe he shouldn't have said that.

"No, of course, you act like a crying baby for every single scratch you get."

"That is not true! Carson, tell him."

"Gentlemen," Elizabeth said, thus saving the doctor from a delicate situation.

"We're glad you're awake, John" Teyla said for herself as well as for Ronon.

"Thanks, guys. And thank you for bringing me back."

"That's what a team is for," Ronon simply replied.

"Now, if you'll excuse me," Elizabeth started, "I probably have paperwork waiting for me." She paused before adding. "But first, I'm going to the mess hall for some breakfast," knowing that both Carson and John would have said something. "Abby, you coming?"

"No, I want to stay with Daddy!"

"He needs to rest…," she tried but John interrupted her.

"It's ok. She can stay, if Beckett sees no problem with it."

"That's fine with me. I'll send a nurse for two breakfasts, then," he said, leaving to do so.

"Ok, then. See you later you two," Elizabeth said, leaning in to kiss him lightly on the lips and Abby on the cheek.

"We're coming with you," Teyla told her, following the diplomat with Ronon and Rodney.

"Daddy?" Abby started once they were alone.

"Yes, sweetie?"

"I like Lizzie," she said as if agreeing with her father's choice.

"And I'm glad you like her, because I really really like her. I know it's not easy for you, Abby, but Elizabeth will never try to replace your mom or Dinah. She just wants you to see her as someone you can count on if anything happens."

"What if one day you die like Mommy?"

"I don't know, sweetie. I guess it'll depend whether or not you want to stay here with Elizabeth or go back to Earth with Dinah. But let's not talk about that now. So, why don't you and Sedge go ask Carson if he doesn't have a stack of cards in his office so we can play?"

"Ok."

She jumped off the bed and he followed her with his eyes as she left with the dog, trying to find the doctor. Abby's last question surprised him, even though it shouldn't have; he always knew that his daughter was realistic. She knew her mother wouldn't come back and that she only had her father now, despite Elizabeth and Dinah's presences in her life.

One day, and the sooner, the better, he would have to talk about this with both the women. If anything happened to him, and yesterday it came really close to that, he should ensure that Abby would be taken care of, just like Clare did.

Seeing his daughter coming back with Sedge in tow, he pushed these thoughts to the back of his mind. That could wait, for the moment he was going to enjoy spending time with his family.

Epilogue

Dinah,

Yeah I know, it takes a long time for a letter to reach us and vice versa but we have no other way to communicate. The three of us are fine, thanks, and I'm glad you now have a boyfriend. Just tell him that if he hurts you, I'm going to have to talk to him, and you know that by talk I mean something else. Uh, just a question though, could I easily beat him alone or should I ask a friend of mine to come with me?

As you can see, Abby learned to write and she wanted to write you a letter on her own. She had asked Elizabeth to teach her one day, and since then everyday or so, we teach her how to read and write. It's not easy for neither us nor Abby but we have fun and wouldn't have it any other way (and couldn't anyway).

I wish I could tell you more about our location or our job, but you know I can't. Maybe one day, I'll be able to but for the moment it's a big no-no. Anyway, don't worry, both Elizabeth and I take good care of Abby and won't let anything happen to her. I wish you could see her these days. The first times were difficult because she had to adapt to a new place and to Elizabeth at the same time, but now it's getting better and better everyday. She usually stays with Elizabeth since she can keep an eye on her more easily than me, and she told me not so long ago that she'd like us to stay together. As if I would ever consider leaving her.

You remember that day when Clare and you asked me why I've never stayed more than a few weeks with the same woman, if not only days. I don't quite remember what I had answered you that day, though it would have been along the "I don't stay at the same place long enough" lines, but now, I think I have the right answer. Maybe I was just waiting for the one. I know it sounds totally cliché and so not like me, but I think it's true. During the first few months after we met, I had a quite strenuous working relationship with Elizabeth; we even butted heads a few times actually. But then things changed and we became friends. And things evolved again until we naturally took the next step towards a relationship. Things are not always simple because we're both strong-minded but I love her.

You probably wonder why I'm telling you this. I wanted to wait till I can talk to you face to face, but our job is very demanding and I don't know when we'll be able to come back to the States. A few weeks ago, something went wrong and I nearly died. You have to understand that I can't tell you more on this. The thing is that after I woke up Abby asked me something quite unsettling. She wanted to know what will happen to her if I were to die. I had no other answer to her than 'I don't know'. I hadn't really thought about it before she asked me and I guess it was a mistake since I know that my job might be dangerous. So I gave it a few thoughts and I think I might have found a solution. Whether or not it's the best one, I don't really know. So here it is. I want Elizabeth to adopt Abby officially. I haven't told her yet because I wanted to run it by you first and I wanted to ask her something else. And I'm guessing the big grin on your face. Yes, me John Sheppard is going to pop the question. Can you imagine this? Anyway, about the adoption thingy, I wanted you to know and to be ok with this first; your Abby's godmother and Clare's best friend and I wouldn't want to do something that you wouldn't agree with.

To change the subject, we hope to be able to come visit you soon. Abby misses you. But like I told you, it's not easy with our job. It should at least be possible for us to come around Christmas. I'll keep you posted about it.

Well, I should go. Elizabeth took her afternoon off after Abby and I begged her to and we promised Abby we were going to… somewhere. Sorry, I can't tell you more or I'll have to shoot you. Kidding. And you probably have tons of things to do as well as always (do you ever stop?).

Hoping to see you soon

Abby, Elizabeth & John.

Dinah smiled as she folded the letter and put it back in its envelope. She might not know what John and Elizabeth were really up to, but she understood that their job could be dangerous; John had told her so when they were here. She guessed she couldn't help but be concerned about Abby's safety there but there wasn't much she could do. She didn't even have the heart to prevent John from asking Elizabeth to adopt his daughter. It took her only an instant to appreciate the other woman and she knew she would make a good mother for Abby; she probably already was.
What only mattered to her was Abby's happiness and she was glad to know that Elizabeth and she bonded. They were a family and she was just an aunt, as she always was and always will be.

Fini