Full Circle


Timeline / Spoilers: Directly follows Acknowledgement
Thank you: Murron and Auburn, without whom I'd be lost.


The way from Zelenka’s quarters to the mess-hall is long and Elizabeth passes many windows on her way down there. Sometimes, she believes she can still see a fire burning in a remote section of her city, hear people trapped and screaming. It’s a chimera and she knows it, but it doesn’t stop the pictures from rising unbidden. She squares her shoulders and walks faster, ignoring the windows.

Upon the opening swish of the mess-hall doors, she is greeted by a smell that has haunted her dreams for months and has caused cravings and homesickness of the worst possible kind. She loves the Daedalus's arrival even more now.

Fresh coffee.

The mess-hall appears empty when she walks in, swift despite her exhaustion, the lure of coffee impossible to resist.

She sips at the steaming liquid carefully, religiously, with closed eyes and forgets everything around her for a few glorious moments before she feels a prickle in her neck, accompanied by the distinct feeling of being watched.

When she opens her eyes again, she sees Sheppard sitting on a table near one of the big windows. From where she's standing, she can't even see all of him, the second half of the table is hidden behind a corner. There's an almost undetectable smile on his face. He waves a hand at her in a silent greeting.

And that alone, the small hand wave and the memory of him doing the same after he first stepped through the Atlantis gate is enough to bring everything crashing down on her. The window behind him shows nothing but darkness, no ghost fires, but she feels an almost desperate need to be near him, to spend more time in his company, assuring her that he really is alive and well.

When she rounds the corner, a greeting already on her lips, Sheppard moves sharply, places a silencing finger over his lips. Then his gaze returns to the table.

Elizabeth's heart twists, unable to decide between amusement and pain.

Rodney lies, face resting on the table; his left hand still cradling a coffee mug like his most prized possession. He's so dead to the world that he doesn't even snore.

Sheppard doesn't take his eyes off the sleeping scientist. "Fell asleep half an hour ago, in the middle of a sentence. Hasn't moved since." There's an amused concern in his low voice.

"Why are you here, John?"

He doesn't answer, just lets his gaze travel over Rodney's sleeping face, his jaw set. Sheppard's expression appears calm and at peace with himself, but for once, Elizabeth believes she can see what's going on behind the mask of smiles and laziness.

"He's not Ford," she says, quietly.

A long, uncomfortable pause in which Sheppard looks as if he wants to take the mug from Rodney's tight grasp. He doesn't.

"He could be. If Teyla hadn't --"

"But she did."

"He's my responsibility."

Elizabeth isn't quite sure anymore whom Sheppard is talking about.

"You can't blame yourself for everything. You can't be everywhere at the same time, no matter how much you want to be."

He's not believing a word she says, and she knows that she doesn't, either. Every phrase is hollow, every word too much and yet she needs to say them, for her sake as much as for his.

"You can't save them all, John," she repeats, willing him to believe.

"Does that stop you from thinking about it?" It comes out hurt and angry; narrowed green gaze drilling into her.

Damned if she doesn't know exactly how he feels. She had liked Ford and his easy smiles, his sense of humour and his ability to see the best in every situation. She had liked many people they had lost.

"No," she admits. "And it doesn't stop me from thinking about how I almost lost you two as well." Her voice sinks down to a whisper and she inclines her head toward Rodney. "I could hear the both of you. Your eerie calm. Rodney's bright panic. You weren't calling for help but he was, and there wasn't a thing I could have done to help him or you. And if the Daedalus hadn't come, you …"

"Yeah." He closes his eyes briefly, suppressing a sigh, that painfully tight control slipping for microseconds before it's restored and his walls are up strong again. "We really gotta stop that."

She reaches out, impulsively, closes her hand around his deceptively slim wrist. "Don't." She tightens the grip of her fingers, feels warm skin and bones where her fingertips bypass the black wristband. "Just remember what you have. Not what you lost." She reaches her other hand toward Rodney and slides the coffee-mug free; takes his limp, sleep-curled hand in hers. "What's worth fighting for. And more, what's worth living for."

Her thumbs caress their skin and for one precious moment, when she feels both hands tighten around hers, she thinks that everything will be possible, maybe even defeating the Wraith, as long as she has this well of strength she can draw from.

When her eyes slip closed from exhaustion, she feels a hand on her head; heavy, slim and warm; fingers moving through her hair in small protective strokes.

"What are we doing?" she thinks she hears him say. It doesn't matter. The circle is still broken, but she can feel it mend before she falls asleep.

When she wakes up hours later, John's asleep with his head on the table as well, his right hand still in hers, his left on Rodney's elbow; closing the circle she began.




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