Author's note: This is based around 'The Storm/Eye'. It's another episode addition, the third in a series, though it is a stand alone. Enjoy!

Third Step

By Steph7085

For the fifth time that week Elizabeth was pulled from her sleep. She shot up, her breath hitching fiercely as she tried to quell the panic threatening to take control. It was hard, but the fact that her hands found no bullet wounds on her chest and there was no red in sight helped her regain her balance. Sort of…her hands were still shaking violently and she was willing to bet that her face matched the colour of her sheets.

There was no way she was going to get back to sleep now so she threw the covers off her legs, stood and made her way to the bathroom. Placing her hands on the edge of the sink she studied her reflection, noticing the heavy exhaustion displayed on her features without her clever makeup to hide it, she sighed, turned the cold water tap and let her hands fill with the refreshing liquid. Her eyes fluttered shut and she threw the water on her face before repeating it again and again.

It had been six days now, almost a week since her life had been threatened by Kolya, and only one of those nights were free of his visage haunting her nightmares and that was only because Rodney had had an accident in the lab and she was kept too busy to sleep, leaving her dream free for a whole night.

With a sigh she wandered back into her main room and started to shuffle through her drawers, pulling out her usual red top and some black cargo pants. She was in the process of pulling her top over her head, looking forward to a hot, steaming shower when a light tapping at her door caught her attention. She stopped mid motion, pulled her top back down and moved over to the door opening it. She was greeted by a nervous looking Major carrying what smelt a lot like Rodney's special blend of coffee.

"John?" She questioned, her eyebrows furrowing in confusion. John shifted anxiously on his feet.

"Hi," he said, passing the mug to her. She took it gratefully.

"Hi," she replied, amusement lacing her tone. "What are you doing here?

"Well…I figured since you've been up and wondering Atlantis at this time of night for the past few days that I'd keep you company this time," he informed her casually, running a hand through his hair.

"What would you have done if I wasn't awake?" She asked with a raised eyebrow, taking a sip of the beverage.

"Umm…I'd probably have given McKay his coffee back," he admitted with a grin. Elizabeth shook her head as she gestured for him to come in, then walked over to the bed and sat on the edge pulling a pillow over her lap and resting the mug on it. John hesitated slightly but eventually followed, dragging a nearby chair and placing it just across from Elizabeth before he slumped into it with a sigh.

Elizabeth took another sip of coffee. "I'm guessing Rodney didn't give this up willingly.

"You'd be right," John agreed happily, "I snatched it just after he made it.

"John," Elizabeth scolded, trying her best to look as stern as possible. It really didn't help that her lips were curving up against her will.

"What? He just left it lying there," John defended, "besides, he caught me, and when I told him it was for you he just grumbled something and let me have it. How did you do that by the way?"

"Easy, Rodney likes me," Elizabeth stated with a shrug, she laughed at John's hurt 'puppy-dog' expression before they both fell into a comfortable silence.

"So…you okay?" John asked, finally voicing his true motive, his concern apparent.

"I'm getting there," Elizabeth told him truthfully, her eyes falling to the coffee swishing in the cup. John straightened in his chair, leaning forward.

"Nightmares still?" John asked knowingly, receiving a nod as an answer. John's voice lowered dangerously as his hands gripped the chairs' arms, his fingers turning white with the pressure, "If I see him again I swear I'll kill him." Elizabeth threw him a pleading look and he deflated. "Right…sorry."

"It's alright, I understand," she told him with a small smile.

"No…I don't think you do," John murmured quietly. "I swore to myself that I wouldn't let anything happen to you, and I failed. I suppose I should be used to it by now," he admitted bitterly.

Hearing enough, Elizabeth leant forward placing her hand over his to gain his attention. Their eyes met.

"John, you did protect me, I'm here, I'm fine, and I that's because of you," she told him honestly. "I know the risks, I didn't sign onto this job blindly, and you can't blame yourself every time something goes wrong. I know that you'll do everything you can, and I trust you. I feel safe with you," she confessed. "The nightmares, are just nightmares, they'll go away soon and they're nothing I can't handle. I'm a big girl now you know."

John chuckled, "Even 'big girls' need to sleep. He gave her a knowing look and she blushed, smiling slightly.

"You know I don't sleep anyway," she retorted. "Just do me a favour?"

"Name it?"

"Don't tell Carson," she pleaded, causing John to laugh out loud. They both knew that if Carson found out he'd 'mother' her, and although Elizabeth thought it was very sweet, she had a lot of work to do.

"I won't," he promised, the grin still on his face. "As long as you have lunch with me later and…"

"And what?" Elizabeth pushed, narrowing her eyes.

"Anytime you have a nightmare, or just need to talk, talk to me. I'm only a few doors away," he told her simply causing Elizabeth to smile appreciatively, her gaze almost tender. John returned her smile and swung around. Elizabeth's hand on his arm stopped his progress to the door.

"John," she said softly, meeting his gaze when he turned to face her. "Thank you."

John's expression softened, his eyes gazing at her warmly. Without conscious thought he held her hand, squeezing it gently. It was different to when he had held it before, when he was pulling her away from the Stargate, to where Kolya had held her as a target, the fear and anger still pulsing through his veins. This time it meant more, he wasn't pulling her to safety, he was doing it because he wanted to, no, because he needed to.

Reluctantly, he pulled himself away.

"You're welcome Elizabeth," he replied.

It was the first time he'd ever used her first name.