Emotionless by AndromedaMarine

Author's Note: Written at the request of and for the title prompt given by sparklyshimmer2010.

"Why won't he look at me?" Elizabeth asked Carson, her voice filled with pain and confusion. "It's almost as if...as if I'm not here. He won't even glance in my direction." Her eyes flickered to the hospital bed where John lay; he was staring at the ceiling and not giving any attention to those who sat beside him or attended to him. "What's wrong with him?"

Carson sighed. "To be honest, love, I have no idea. He has just gotten back from a planet where he was held hostage. Perhaps he was given something in the food, or in some other manner." He glanced at the file he was holding. "I did see something interesting in his blood-work. A small anomaly was present – one quite similar to the anomalies that distinguish a clone from its donor." Seeing the horrified expression that landed on Elizabeth's face he rephrased. "Oh, no, darlin', it's not the same thing – this is John Sheppard, one hundred percent. But it seems that whatever this anomaly is, it's affecting his mind."

Elizabeth fought the tears away. Only six days before, when he'd left on the mission, he'd said he loved her. Now – now he wouldn't even look at her. She folded her arms tight against her body, wishing that John would just snap out of it and look at her, or just acknowledge her presence. She glanced at him again. He had sustained a few bumps and bruises, the worst of which being a fractured ulna. His arm was in a cast. She turned to Carson again. "Was there anything to indicate an injection site?" she asked, her curiosity kicking in. "Whatever's making him like this..."

The Scot gave a small nod. "There was a marking on his upper thigh, consistent with an epinephrine injection. But I doubt the settlement he was held hostage in has anything that sophisticated and as far as I know the Colonel's only allergies aren't severe enough to warrant such a drug. It is possible he was given something to cause this...lack...of emotion."

The diplomat took a deep breath. The man she loved – the man who had just confessed his feelings to her – was now emotionless. And with the closure of his heart hers had been locked away within him. John had stolen her heart and now he couldn't release it, even if he wanted to. Brilliant. The Scot patted her arm and left to go over John's blood-work more. There had to be a logical explanation. Maybe rational. He had to find out. He knew it was killing Elizabeth inside to see John like that.

Elizabeth walked over to John's bed and just looked at him. She studied his features – his nonresponsive, emotionless features. She took his hand and lifted it to her face, pressing his palm against her lips. The colonel showed no reaction, not even a twitch in the muscle below his skin. Nothing. "John," she said, caressing his hand. "I know you aren't doing this yourself. I know that somewhere the John I know is still there – and I'll do whatever it takes to get him back." She let his hand go, and lifted hers to touch his cheek. The growth of stubble was getting thick, but nowhere near as heavy as when he'd been forced to live with Ancients for six months. He'd been held hostage for six days. Six, agonizing, painful days for Elizabeth. And now here he was, not even able to look her in the eye. She leaned over him and kissed his temple. "I love you," she returned. She hadn't been able to say it back to him when he'd given her his confession.

The leader returned to her quarters and sat on her bed, still in shock about John. Then the tears came. She cried about John's confession and her own, about the situation, and about her own involvement considering what to do. She was lost.

--

What finally did it was the pain. She couldn't take it anymore. Not after two weeks. Any narcotic that was Earth-like would have been flushed out within that time period – but with John, nothing. He didn't look at anyone, not even Rodney. He was cooperative, yes, but no eye contact. No exchange of words, no twitch in his fingers to say that he knows she's there. Just – nothing. What finally did it was the pain. Elizabeth couldn't take not communicating with him.

She snapped. For the thousandth time she went to go see him, to try and not cry. Willing or not he refused to look at her. Refused to acknowledge her. So she snapped. He didn't see it coming because he didn't let her eyes see into his. He was afraid of what she'd see there. He didn't see the harrowing blow to his face come. Oh, how he wished he could look at her and tell her that it wasn't his fault – it had nothing to do with her.

The slap stung John's cheek, and he couldn't refuse lifting his hand to tenderly touch the pink blotch. What finally snapped him out of it was the pain. Not just physical, but emotional as well. The sting of a blow driven by pain was what knocked him back into his own head. His head slowly turned on its side, resting on the pillow. Tears were in his eyes as he finally – finally – after two weeks, looked at her. But in his eyes was a testament and monologue of apology. He told her everything in that one look, giving her heart back.

His bottom lip began to tremble and she took his head in her arms, telling him that everything was all right. She kissed his temple and let the tears fall with him. Whatever had taken his emotion from him was gone now, gone with the slap that drove everything from him. "I'm sorry," he whispered, his first words to anyone after two weeks.

He would never be able to fully explain why he'd been under that spell of heartlessness. He would never be able to tell Elizabeth why it had happened. But soon, none of it mattered. None of it mattered anymore because they were together, after six long, painfully duty-filled years. He loved her, and she loved him. No poison, narcotic, person or anything could take that away.