The Need Has Always Been There

Disclaimer: I don't own any countries, cities, or organizations mentioned in this chapter.

Chapter 9: Goodbye, and don't be long!

Twenty-four hours later, Dr. Weir had succeeded to drive the entire expedition mental with her edgy behaviour. Not that anyone could blame her. The Atlantis Team was about to lose their military commander- even if he had been a fake- and a good friend. Many members of the expedition had been seen bidding their farwells to a sleeping Colonel Sheppard that night, making the pink-haired woman sigh in frustration. Doctor Beckett had revealed that she had muttered comments throughout both autopsies on how ridiculously sentimental that was, and how she had thankfully grown out of it a long time ago. The other two shinobi, as General O'Neill had called them, had kept their silent stances; the white-eyed one in the far corner of the infirmary, the other one awake in his bed, not allowed to move under threats of great physical pain from their female companion. General O'Neill had been awake all night as well, waiting for the two very different doctors to finish up the examinations of the enemy bodies, and file a report.

"They, obviously, had no ID with them but I recognized one of them from the battlefield, and I think I know why they were after John with a vengeance," Sakura was just finishing her report.

Both General O'Neill and Doctor Weir raised an eyebrow.

"ANBU Squads tend to be composed of four members, thus allowing them to split up into two groups easily," the pink-haired kunoichi elaborated, and then continued at receiving a nod of understanding, "A couple of years back- shortly before John was reasigned to act as a liaison with the United Nations- there was a bit of a power struggle between the Five Great Shinobi Nations, and it escalated between the Leaf and the Mist, where those three came from. There were a couple of clashes at the time, involving mostly shinobi of higher rank sent to guard the borders."

"That still doesn't explain…"

"I'm getting there, Doctor Weir, but you need to know the basic history to understand," Sakura interrupted her before she could even finish her thought. "You see, there's always been a… shall we say, more radical animosity between the Mist and the Leaf, so those 'clashes' tended to be more like all-out-battles- mini-wars if you so will! One of the shinobi sent by the Mist to do a bit of recon on our territory was Makoto Tsubaru, a very promising young Ninja who had been nominated for the position of Rokudaime Mizukage some time before."

"The 'kage' are like the mayors of their villages, except they've got an army of Ninja under them. They're the absolute bosses of their countries shinobi forces," O'Neill interjected before any misunderstanding could come up with Elizabeth.

"Okay… so…" The woman's expression was still confused.

"Makoto had good chances of actually becoming the Sixth; none of the other candidates were even close to his level of skill. He was like the Mist's version of Konoha's Yellow Flash… mentioned in the same breath as the White Fang, or the Copy Nin."

"…"

"Oh, sorry," the younger woman apologized. "I forgot that those titles mean nothing to you. But that doesn't matter; you understand the concept. In the shinobi countries everyone knows who those people are, especially in Konoha, and, by extention, the Mist. They were our most ardorous enemies after all. So anyway, this guy, barely a man yet by your standards, had the best chances of becoming the leader of his people…"

"And then he met John…" Jack suggested, heaving a sigh as if he knew what would come next.

"On the recon, yeah… Being one of our own, John didn't exactly appreciate the guy's effort to gather intelligence. He was a trespasser, and trespassers are killed on sight during times of war, or near-war. Battle ensued."

"And John killed this…boy," Elizabeth stated.

"It was kill, or be killed but yes, he did."

"And these people?" Caldwell butted in for the first time since the conversation started.

"They were his team, I think. They'd probably split into two groups, and were unfortunate enough to encounter an Uchiha, a Sharingan-bearer. All there technigues useless, Makoto still stayed to fight. The other one- I don't know his name- had to stay too, and back him up because of that decision."

"And you know this…because?" Jack wanted to know.

"I was John's team medic. I was with him at the time, and fought the other, and his mask broke. I got a glimpse of his face before... After John killed Makoto, the other one quickly retreated. I never heard of him again until now. John was reasigned, and thereby basically taken off the record…" she answered, then turned to Elizabeth adding as if as an afterthought, "We don't care much for anything outside home, you see?! We rarely get missions that bring us overseas, since most of you think that we're extinct."

"And you like it that way?"

"Yes," Sakura responded decisively. "Although, sometimes we get called to protect some of the high-ups but always under the cover of official UN troups."

"I see."

Elizabeth had barely gotten the words out of her mouth when Carson arrived with news from the infirmary. Of course, John had disappeared as soon as he was awake and sure that no one was looking. Sai had apparently not bothered to tell anyone about the Colonel's new condition, and Neji had even disappeared alongside with him. To this, Sakura only sighed, explaining that they were probably sitting on some rooftop in companionable silence, and that those were just their antics.

Jack nodded, then shook his head at their slightly erratic notions before disappearing down a hallway towards the cafeteria. The pink-haired kunoichi excused herself to look after her last remaining patient, and Carson accompanied her to further the exchange of medical opinions. Teyla and Ronon had gone off to help the Athosians on the Main Land first thing in the morning, and McKay who had yet to say a word, shifted on their feet as if unsure as to what to do. There was nothing left to say, no one in the medical bay to visit, and no real damage from the storm to deal with- at least not in the city itself. Casting a look at his boss, he made up some feeble excuse and went to check his lab. Caldwell went back to normal duty almost immediately, although his voice sounded slightly flustered as he, too, excused himself.

Elizabeth gave a curt nod, then turned the other way to walk on her own route. A route that led her to the door to John's quarters. Without ringing the bell, she entered. Her gaze swept through the room, noticing how everything seemed to have a place, and every place seemed to have it's thing. The atmosphere was odd but homey, and it would soon all be gone. She couldn't miss the bag lurking out from underneath John's bed. Soon it would be stashed with his clothes, and he would leave Atlantis for the nhext military commander to protect.

"Which could be Caldwell," Elizabeth muttered tiredly to herself. "They did try to put him in charge after that first attack on the city by the Wraith."

At that prospect, she dug her face into the matress.

Soon enough, she was asleep.

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(meanwhile, on some rooftop)

A stormy breaze whizzed past, caressing their faces and playing with the odd strand of hair. The sky was clearing, and the cloudes had lost the angry shade of dark grey the storm had given them sometime during the night but it was still chilly, and therefore a good thing that Neji had insisted for John to put on some clothes before going off to find them some solitude. Solitude with two. An odd concept but then again, what was a shinobi's life if not odd. Definitely not average. Not normal. Not sitting at some desk to file out the paperwork of some higher ups. Not flying General This or Secretary That over the ice.

Working for Doctor Weir… maybe.

"You want to stay," Neji suddenly spoke up without really breaking the silence, and it was a statement. There was no question, and no hesitation, no accusation in the way he said it; he wasn't judging, merely mentioning a fact.

"Wouldn't you?" John asked back in the same hushed tones.

"It is a wonderful city…" the Hyuuga admitted.

"…"

"But that is not what you meant."

"…no… I…" he struggled with the words for a little minute but Neji only waited patiently for him to finish. "I hate being condemmed to do nothing. I'm a shinobi, and all I do is sit around in McMurdo, or play shuttle service. I'm not a taxi driver, and I never wanted to be. I was bored out of my mind before this chance came along, and even then, knowing the risks for me but mostly for the others should I ever snap, I was ready to let it slip away."

Neji didn't respond.

"But now I am here. Tsunade-hime allowed me to come here, and I'm happy… well, not happy but content. I like my job again. It's nothing compared to home but then again, nothing ever is. It's nice, though. I like it. I like the people, and I don't want to let it go."

"It's not your decision," Neji reminded him.

"I know, I know."

"You could always talk to Hokage-sama; ask her to let you stay… but, John… you know that… that you'll probably have to come back again one day, anyway, right? You're still on The List. Second or third choice."

John bit back a groan.

"I asked her to scratch me from that. It's not a position I want. Besides, there's always Kakashi, and you- hell, even Naruto! He'd jump at the chance."

Neji chuckled at the near-desperation in his friend's voice.

"You'd really not consider becoming Hokage?"

"Would you?" John asked back.

"You don't get payed nearly enough for that job," the Hyuuga joked, making his friend smile for the first time since he'd woken up in the medical bay. Neji answered with a smirk of his own before turning back towards the calming ocean. There was nothing left to say for now, their conversation was over, and so the comfortable silence, that had never quite disappeared, settled between them once more.

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(later)

There was a dip in the matress. That was what woke her up. Along with a soft, gentle voice calling her name, and a warm hand on her shoulder shaking her ever so carefully. Opening her eyes, Elizabeth took in her surroundings, not regocnizing the personalized, light blue bedcovers she was lying on top off. Shooting up into a sitting position as quick as a bolt of lightning came back to bite her seconds later when her vision blacked for a second. Her hand raised, she held her head for a few seconds until everything became clear again.

"Ah…" the voice was back. "Back from La-la-land I take it?"

"Huh?" was the most intelligible sound that her throat could muster.

"I'd straighten out that hair of yours, otherwise someone will come to the wrong conclusions when they see you leave my quarters in the evening- all flustered and ruffled," the voice teased. It came from the bathroom, Elizabeth noticed the light shining there. Then she heard steps, and soon John was standing infront of her, holding out a glass of water to her with a gentle smile.

"Thanks," she murmured as she took it. "And I'm sorry. I didn't realize I had fallen asleep."

"Of course not," he replied, waving the apology away with his hand. "You'd have to have been conscious to realize you were asleep, which is impossible in the first place as sleep is a state of unconsciousness."

She couldn't seem to help the smile but the seriousness returned to her face almost immediately when she saw the bag sitting beside her on the bed now. She watched him for a moment, looking on as he moved forth and back between his closet and the bed. An uneasy shudder went through her body at the sight. It made him hesitate for but a moment, then he just went on as if he hadn't seen.

"You're really going, aren't you?"

"You really don't want me to answer that, do you, Elizabeth?" John questioned. "You know the answer already. Please don't make me say it. It's hard enough as it is."

His voice had grown tired; weary. He wasn't anymore pleased about this outcome than she was. His lips pressed together into a tight line, he refused to look at her as he kept on packing. She asked if there was anything she could do, if he would stay if she asked him to but he could only shake his head, reminding her how little choice he had in this. He said down beside her, and waited patiently as she contemplated, biting her lower lip. After another few seconds, Elizabeth's arms encircled his waist and his went around her shoulders. Her face pressed into his chest, and his lips landed on her hair, whispering soft comforts at her.

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(next day, Gateroom)

It looked like the entire expedition had gathered into the now very crowded Gateroom to see General O'Neill and the three strangers off, their (former) military leader, for now replaced by Major Lorne, alongside them. The man they knew as Lt. Colonel Sheppard wasn't wearing his standard BDUs when he ventured into the Gateroom, and walked up to the General. He had exchanged the american military attire for a pair of fitting black pants that ended somewhere underneath his just-as-black boots. He was wearing the same sleeveless shirt he'd worn the day this mess first started, and the leather straps were back in place around his upper arms along with that object the other shinobi used as a headband. Additionally, he had put on metal-enhenced gloves that were cut off at the first knuckle of his fingers.

His eyebrows raised at the sight of the send-off committee before his lips turned upward in a smile. He got promptly enveloped in a giant bear-hug once he passed Ronon, then said goodbye to Teyla by the traditions of her people, and watched McKay shift and shuffle while searching for something to say. John gave the scientist a smile, and patted his friend's arm. Then he moved to stand besides the only other american travelling back home that day.

"Dial the Gate," General O'Neill said evenly.

They were then approached by Doctor Weir.

"He can't stay," Sai spoke up before anyone else had the chance to. His fake smile in place, and still as easily to see through as ever. Sakura's head shot up to smack first her own forehead, then the back of her teammates head for being rude. At receiving the other man's apparently confused expression, Neji just shook his head like someone who'd just found a five-year old with his hand in the cookie jar.

"I know," Elizabeth answered once the commotion was over. "I just wanted to say goodbye, and- in the name of all of us- don't be long."

Her warm, slightly hopeful smile was returned before the Stargate sprang to life. Sakura dragged Sai through before the black-haired Root Agent could say anything else that might offend someone. Neji followed with an obvious reluctance at getting involved in this endless dance of his two friends, still shaking his head. Only General O'Neill stayed to witness the affectionate, almost intimate hug between the expedition leader and her- former- as he had to remind himself- 2IC. Clearing his throat to draw their attention while he could distinctly hear hushed 'awws' resounding through the Gateroom from here and there, Jack pointed at the bright puddle.

With another short hug, and the promise of talking to his Kage- the promise of Hope- John stepped through the event horizon.

End of chapter 9!

A/N:Hmm, maybe I'll write an epilogue... Or maybe not. What do you think? Should I give it another finishing touch, or should I leave it the way it is? Leave a review, and take control! ;)