Lifting her gaze from the still form on the bed, Elizabeth Weir uttered the most difficult words she'd ever spoken in her life. "Carson, I think it's time."
He lifted his gaze to hers. "That's not your decision to make, Elizabeth." His eyes shifted to Rodney. "It's his."
She followed Carson's gaze. Rodney was standing where he'd been for the last two weeks: at the head of John's bed, gazing down at his closed eyes and the respirator that seemed to cover most of his face.
"Rodney has Colonel Sheppard's medical power of attorney."
Surprised, Elizabeth wondered why John hadn't told her, why Rodney hadn't.
"He'll come back," Rodney said quietly. "I know he will."
"Rodney," Carson said, gently. "He has almost no brain function. He can't breathe on his own. He can't eat. He isn't asleep or unconscious. He's--"
"No," Rodney said, cutting him off. He turned to look at them both, anger in his eyes, but only on the surface. "This is Atlantis. For all we know his consciousness is off visiting some other dimension."
"Rodney," Elizabeth said, taking a step toward him, her hand outstretched.
"No," Rodney said again, shaking his head. "I won't give up on him and I won't let you give up on him either."
"Did you know?" Elizabeth asked, accepting the cup of tea from Kate and watching as the other woman sat in the chair across from hers.
"About Colonel Sheppard and Dr. McKay?"
"I'm their therapist."
Looking down into her tea, Elizabeth nodded. "Of course." She should have realized that. Kate waited for her to say something else, so Elizabeth asked the question she hadn't been able to ask anyone else. "How long?"
She lifted her head, looking directly into Kate's eyes.
"Almost two years."
Two years, and Elizabeth hadn't had a clue. She knew they had to hide it, that John's career depended on them hiding it, but they could have trusted her.
"How do you feel about their relationship?" Kate asked.
"Honestly? Hurt that they didn't tell me. A little angry. I sent them into the field together all the time." Kate nodded. She always nodded. Radek had once drawn a picture of her with a bobble head. "Jealous."
"That's a perfectly normal response."
Elizabeth didn't hear her. "I love--loved--him, too."
"I know you did."
"Do you remember when Radek found that stellar nursery in the Olympus cluster?" Rodney asked, his eyes on John.
"I remember," Elizabeth answered from the seat beside him. Her eyes were on the bed, too.
"I was telling him about it, talking about the mission we needed to plan, when he kissed me for the first time." Elizabeth looked at his profile. The corner of his mouth was turned up the tiniest bit. "He just kissed me, mid-sentence. No finesse whatsoever."
"What did you do?"
"I stared at him for a moment and then I kissed him back." Rodney paused. "I didn't have much finesse either."
"The next day was one of the hardest days of my life. I kept having to remind myself to be discreet, to not give the game away, but every time my concentration slipped I'd start smiling." Rodney shook his head slightly. "All I wanted to do was go back to bed with him. We were so bad at it. No idea what we were doing, either of us. But we had enthusiasm. John said enthusiasm beat experience every time."
Elizabeth swallowed past the lump in her throat, willing herself not to cry.
"I tried to end it a couple of times. I was afraid of what would happen if we got caught. Afraid he'd be sent back to Earth, discharged, or worse. I couldn't do it. I didn't know how to let go of him." He turned to look at Elizabeth, his eyes full and wet. "I still don't."
Pulling him into her arms, Elizabeth let him cry.
"Lt. Colonel John Sheppard was a hero," Elizabeth said. "Many of us wouldn't be here if it wasn't for him. But he was more than a brave man with a charming smile. He was a kind friend and a loving partner." Her gaze settled on Rodney as she spoke those last words. He deserved acknowledgment, deserved to be known as the person John Sheppard had loved, and who had loved him in return.
He didn't react to her words, but she hadn't expected him to. It was clearly taking everything he had to be there. But he didn't shed a tear, not even when they handed him the flag.
Later, Elizabeth would remember very little of the weeks that followed. Routines were slowly resumed and life went on. Rodney spent a lot of time with Teyla, and Elizabeth decided that was as it should be. If anyone could help him, Teyla could.
John was awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor. The president shook Rodney's hand and commented that John Sheppard had been an amazing man. Rodney snorted and replied, "He was stubborn as a mule, had terrible taste in movies, and thought that DeLoreans were cool."
Elizabeth made ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell her personal mission, haranguing the president, senators, the joint chiefs, and anyone else who might be useful with the story of the man who had saved hundreds of lives and hadn't even been able to kiss the person he loved in public.
She was still haranguing, but she was hopeful.
On the first anniversary of John's death, Rodney took a jumper out. Elizabeth feared he might not return, but he did.
On the second anniversary, they were fighting the Wraith.
On the third, she and Rodney toasted him from the balcony outside her office.
Rodney never cried in her arms again.