Actions

Work Header

A Long Time Coming

Chapter Text

She was closer than he knew, a stunner hitting him in the right foot, not enough to knock him out, but to deaden the entire leg. Thalen toppled forward into a stack of crates, unable to react before the ferocious woman had him pinned, tying his arms over his head to the base of a shelf and knocking a tight fist into his left temple when he tried to fight.


“Before you die, Thalen, it will be with the knowledge that there is one more of my people left in the galaxy, and none of yours. So no matter what happens to me…you will lose once and for all.” Phebus dug her finger into the bullet wound on her enemy’s left arm, then delivered another blow to the side of his face.

“It’s not your body, Phebus, or mine,” he hissed as she loosened his trousers and pulled them down just enough to reach what she wanted. “This will mean nothing.”

“It means something to me.” She started pumping away at the male member, which responded more quickly than she hoped. Though common among the female members of her race to force a Taking from captured enemy soldiers to swell their own ranks, there was often difficulty in eliciting the necessary arousal. It probably had something to do with her host and Thalen’s, perhaps something shared between them, despite the screaming; so much screaming in her head.

Stop! STOP! Don’t do this to him! He doesn’t deserve this! Please!

Phebus pulled off the loose-fitting Expedition trousers and non-military issue lace-trimmed panties. She used her mouth to moisten the phallus, feeling her own (well, her host’s) nethers to be rather dry. There was more than a little difficulty in forcing the penis past tense muscle, and a not-insignificant amount of pain. Thalen’s host was well endowed, and her own apparently much out of practice. But blood could be just as effective a lubricant.

Thalen gritted his teeth and closed his eyes, not necessarily just because of the unpleasant grinding on his pelvis, but the incessant shouting of his own host was causing quite the headache.

Stop her! She doesn’t want this! You have to stop her!

But his hands were too tightly bound, his head spinning too much, and frankly, Thalen couldn’t quite bring himself to stop the approaching orgasm. Not that there was any such pleasure for Phebus, which was a mildly pleasing thought as well. He could feel her blood coating his thighs and abdomen. Phebus braced her arms on either side of his ribs, unable to stop the grunt that escaped her lips as she clenched the inner walls, forcing Thalen to cum. Both panted, but Phebus only allowed herself a moment to breathe. Rolling off the last of her mortal enemies, she wiped away the mingled fluids and tugged her clothing back on, wincing at the pain radiating from between her legs.

“Well, Thalen,” she said softly, picking up the 9mm and cocking it. “Show me that final look of defeat. Because I’ve w-”

But before she could finish, there was the sound of someone forcing open the doors far on the other side of storage bay. Cursing, Phebus grabbed the P-90 and turned in the direction of the noise, firing as she went. Thalen was regaining the feeling in his stunned extremity and curled his legs up over his shoulders until he could get his toes under the shelf overhead and push up, straining until he broke it free, toppling the whole unit and freeing his hands. Tugging his pants up, he grabbed his own weapons and disappeared into the darkness of Atlantis.

The war would continue…

*******

Moaning, Elizabeth found herself slowly resurfacing. Sending out tendrils of thought, she found no alien voice echoing back, no one stopping her from wiggling her fingers and toes. But any further movement was restricted by Velcro restraints on her wrists and ankles. Not that she felt a particular need to move anymore; everything hurt.

“Good morning.”

Turning her head, she saw John upright in bed, playing with his Palm Pilot. “What’s-her-name sure hung in there for a while. Carson had to use the restraints because he was afraid to give you any more sedatives.”

“When did she-?”

“Some time in the middle of the night, kicking and screaming.” The Colonel still wouldn’t look over at her.

“John…”

“We can talk about it later, Elizabeth.”

“Do they – does anyone know?”

“No.” Firm concentration on his gadget.

She took a shuddering breath. “I’m so sorry. I can’t tell you how sorry…”

Now he looked at her, not with anger or disgust, but wide-eyed pity. “This is not your fault, Elizabeth, don’t you dare think that-”

“Good morning, then, how’re we feelin’?” The Chief Medical Officer’s chipper greeting made both of them flinch, which did not escape his attention. “That well, then? Okay, but maybe you’d feel a sight better if I took these off, Dr Weir?” Beckett moved to her side and undid the restraints, allowing her to see the deep bruising left from the fight Phebus put up in her final hours. “Are ya in much pain, Elizabeth?”

She shook her head, ignoring the vertigo that ensued. “No Carson, I’m fine. When can I go?”

“Oh, not for a while yet, love. I want ta monitor your vitals and EEG for another day at least, ta make sure there’s no lingerin’ effects. And I need ta finish yer physical without all the thrashin’ ya were puttin’ up last night.”

“There’s really no need, Carson, I’m fine, I can tell.” Elizabeth felt the desperation creeping into her voice. Beckett might not have noticed, but John did.

“How about this, Doc,” he offered, sitting up and swinging his legs over the side of the bed. “Why don’t you let Dr Weir and I go grab something to eat, walk around a bit, test things out, and then come back?”

Carson hesitated. “Well, now, I don’t really know-”

“Did you find anything wrong with us?” John demanded.

“Well, no-”

“Then see, there you go.” John took off the various monitors stuck to his skin and got to his feet. “We’ll be back in an hour.”

Sensing the Doctor’s defeat, Elizabeth started to remove her own monitors, but had to fight to keep the pain she felt from showing on her face. She went in the back and pulled the curtain before Carson could say anything and changed into the clothes she’d been brought in wearing. The blood had dried and worn off as Phebus continued her fight, but Elizabeth’s hands shook as she pulled on the damning evidence of her crimes. It took every ounce of self-control to stop the scream that so badly wanted to be released. Grasping a bruised wrist and squeezing tightly created just enough focal discomfort to distract her.

“Lizbeth, you ready to go?” John called from the other side of the curtain.

“Yeah, coming,” she answered with more cheer than she thought possible. Pulling back the privacy screen, she found John proffering an arm for her to take. “Thank you, Colonel.” False smile.

He knew. He could tell just how hard it was for her to walk and was willing to help her hide it.

“One hour!” Carson called after them as they exited the infirmary.

John waved in response, but continued on his course out and down the corridor. They walked in silence to the nearest transporter, where Elizabeth finally whispered, “Please, John, I can’t-”

“Don’t worry, you don’t have to,” he promised, pressing the icon closest to the living quarters. Looking down, he saw Elizabeth once more digging into a bruised wrist. “Hey, stop that.”

“I – I can’t.” She only stopped when he interlocked the fingers of his left hand with her right and held it tightly to his side.

The transport opened, and it was another five minutes of uncomfortable walking before they reached Elizabeth’s room, fortunately passing no one, as it was nearing lunch. Palming open her door, she made it all of three steps before collapsing to her knees, her descent halted by John’s firm grip on her.

“Hey, now, Lizbeth it’s okay,” he said, kneeling down next to her and pulling her into a fierce hug as she began to sob uncontrollably. But realization of who was holding her made her jerk backwards, throwing him off and scrambling for the far side of the room, sinking down into the corner, knees pulled to her chest.

“John, please, just go,” she begged, holding up her hands as if they could shield him from having to look at her.

“You have to know I’m not going to do that,” he told her, inching closer.

“After what I did to you? John, I raped you!”

“No!” This was said so fiercely, she felt herself freeze. “You did no such thing. Phebus… Phebus raped you, Elizabeth. No matter what you think, you did nothing wrong. You were her victim.” Slowly, John made his way across the room, but stopped a metre away and sat down. “Do you know what I was shouting at Thalen the whole time? I was begging him to find a way to stop her, not because of me, but because of you. I knew what it would do to you.”

She shook her head. “I should have been able to stop her, should have found a way. Letting her control me is no excuse. I have to – I need to turn myself in for trial. The IOA needs to find a replacement-”

“Enough, Elizabeth!” John couldn’t stop himself from closing the distance between them, taking both of her hands in his. “If you want, we can tell someone, but not yet, not until you realize that none of this is your fault. That Phebus is most to blame, and I… I’m not entirely innocent either.”

Her head snapped up and eyes locked on his. “How can you say that? John, you were doubly innocent in this, possessed by Thelan because Phebus – because you trusted me. And you never can again. Nor should you.”

“Elizabeth…” He wasn’t sure what made him say the words, but truth seemed to be the only way to get through to her: “I love you.”

“…What?”

“I love you. Which is why I couldn’t stop…” John looked ready to cry with his own shame. “Thelan wanted no part in what happened; his people detested the practice of the Taking by Phebus’s kind. But it was…you. I saw you, I saw what I’ve wanted for so long. And I’m so sorry, but I couldn’t stop myself because I love you.”

Elizabeth shook her head. “You can’t. You can’t love me. Not after this.”

“I can. I do. Before. After. Always. Let me prove it to you.” Moving closer still, only inches from her, John waited, gave her a chance to turn away from him; but she did not. The kiss was not passionate. It was gentle, loving, lips only lightly tasting lips, meant only to comfort and to reassure. “I love you, Elizabeth,” he breathed.

Her tears came again, partly out of lingering sadness, partly out of a confused joy. “I love you, too, John.” And she kissed him back, a little more forcefully, tongue finding its way into his mouth, tasting him, holding on to him for dear life.

Finally breaking away for breath, John got to his feet and pulled Elizabeth up with him, leading her to the bed. “Come on.” He laid on his side behind her, forming himself around her curled body, right arm draped over her waist to hold her protectively. “Everything will be okay. Just rest. I’m here.”

*******

“Dr Weir? Elizabeth, are ya alright?!”

Carson used his medical override to barge into her room, medical kit in hand, Teyla and Rodney close behind. “Oh, thank god,” he said when both were startled awake. “Ya gave me a fright when ya didn’t come back, and no one saw ya at lunch, and-”

“Beckett, Beckett, chill,” John pleaded, getting out of bed, but holding Elizabeth back. “We just…needed to talk, and we fell asleep, that’s all.”

This was not what the CMO wanted to hear. “I will not ‘chill’, Colonel, ya will both get back to the infirmary right now!”

Looking down at Elizabeth, at the panic in her eyes, John shook his head. “Not right now, Carson, maybe later.”

“That wasn’t a suggestion, Colonel Sheppard!”

John wasn’t giving in. “Look at us – we’re both breathing, both conscious, both not-possessed by aliens. Just…leave us alone for now, Beckett. Please.”

It was likely that no one had ever seen Dr Carson Beckett as angry as he was at that moment. “You – ya both are on medical suspension from duties until I say otherwise! Colonel Caldwell can run this madhouse until ya both come to yer senses!” He expected a fight from the Expedition leaders, and it was damn worrying when he didn’t get one.

“Carson,” Teyla said gently, placing a hand on his arm and pulling him out of the room with an understand nod towards Sheppard.

Sighing, John laid back down and curled himself around Elizabeth once more, propping his head up on his left hand while his right combed through her dark curls, watching the tension ease from her face. “At some point, we’re going to have to deal with all of this.”

“But not today,” Elizabeth whispered.

“Not today,” John echoed.

*******

Nor the next day. Or the day after that.

John would go out to grab food from the mess hall (ignoring the stares and whispers) and bring it back to Elizabeth’s room, where he would have to encourage her to eat every bite. From his quarters he retrieved his portable DVD player and several movies; they didn’t talk, letting The Princess Bride, Die Hard, and Rudy heal the wounds between them. Sometimes John would read from War and Peace, trying on terrible Russian accents to make Elizabeth laugh. And when she slept, he had to hold her, because when he didn’t, the nightmares would come, waking her up in a panic. Sometimes she was in the warehouse again, on top of John, who begged her to stop; other times, John was on top, expression vacant as she pleaded for him to stop. Often their friends were there, watching with disgust.

Carson came by every day, but John never let him in, just reaffirmed that they were both ‘fine’. Rodney came to complain about one thing or another Colonel Caldwell (who had taken up temporary command) wouldn’t let him do, but he also never got past John. Teyla came by and offered to take their laundry, for which Sheppard was immensely grateful. Ronan came by only once to ask him about sparring, and John said he would let him know; the practical Satedan took him at his word. An entire week passed like this. Even John started to worry at the hollowness appearing in Elizabeth’s features and the growing length of her silences. A week without sun, without stepping out of her room, showering only when John pushed her towards the bathroom, speaking only when he started the conversation.

“I need you to talk to Beckett, or at the very least, Dr Heightmeyer,” John said on day eight in the middle of a grilled cheese lunch. Elizabeth looked up from her nibbled sandwich, askance. “Lizbeth, I need you to find a way past this, because until you do, I can’t either.”

And then it hit her, what her own misery had done to him, how much it hurt him. The darkened eyes and faded pallor she saw the in the mirror every day was showing on the Colonel’s face as well. Though he had told Elizabeth he loved her, she didn’t realize how much until this moment, willing himself to follow her into Hell. For the first time in a week, she cried. “I’m sorry, John, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to.”

“I don’t want you to be sorry, Elizabeth.” He reached out to cup her chin and make her eyes meet his. “I never want you to be sorry for this. But I do want you to find a way to be happy again. For me. Please. Because I can’t just sit here and watch you waste away. I love you too much for that.”

She nodded. “I’m sorry – I…Okay. Okay. I can do that.”

“Thank you,” he whispered, giving her a peck on the lips that tasted of warm butter. “Now finish your sandwich.”

*******

“Dr Weir, can I come in?”

So John had sent Heightmeyer first. Probably a good choice. The Colonel himself had left an hour before to check on the city, giving Elizabeth strict instructions: Brush her hair and her teeth, put on a clean shirt, make the bed, and answer the door. She’d gone further, trying to clean the whole room when she realized someone besides John would be in here.

“Come in,” she called, standing in the middle of the room, hands clasped professionally behind her back, diplomatic smile on her face. “Dr Heightmeyer, thank you for coming.”

“To be honest, Elizabeth, Carson was about a day away from grabbing me and a team of Marines to kick in the door and drag you back to the infirmary. So thank you for not letting it come to that.” The psychologist’s eyes wandered around the room, taking it all in before settling back on her patient, unhappy with what she saw. “Is there somewhere you prefer to sit?”

Holding a hand out, Elizabeth indicated towards the small desk that doubled as a dinner table that she and John had been using (the dirty plates and empty water bottles currently stashed under the bed). “Can I get you anything, Kate? Coffee? Tea?”

“You could sit down, Elizabeth, and stop pretending that everything is okay.” Kate was never one to mince words. “We need to work out a plan to ease you back into a normal routine. You have no idea what your self-imposed isolation has done to Atlantis.”

“I – what?”

“You love Atlantis, Elizabeth, but a city can’t love you back; its people do, though. I never encourage the worship or heroes or idols, but that is what you are here. Even I can’t help being in awe of you at time. Yet now you’ve cut off not only the friends who care about you, but the people who look to you every day as the embodiment of our mission here. People who never came to see me before suddenly feel like they need to talk, their fears and anxieties bubbling to the surface. You’re filling my scheduled, Dr Weir, and depleting our supply of Benzos and SSRIs.”

Feeling her knees go weak, Elizabeth dropped into the other chair, burying her face in her hands and struggling for control. Ego had never made her shy too far from the admiration of others; it was especially helpful at the negotiating table. But she remembered back to her father’s death, how her mother, the woman she most admired in the world, had crumpled for a time, just adding to the pain of her father's loss. Now she had done the same to over a hundred people, all suffering in their own way. “You’re right, Kate. Of course you’re right. I’m sorry for not realizing it sooner. I need to get back to work, stop hiding from everyone.”

“Absolutely not.” Kate’s firm tone was startling.

“I don’t understand. Isn’t that why you’re here?”

“Absolutely not,” she repeated. “I don’t care if or when you go back to work, as long as it’s not until you are ready. And you’re not going to be ready until you face whatever happened when you were possessed by Phebus, because I know for damn sure there’s more than what’s in Colonel Caldwell’s report, or Carson’s.”

“I… I don’t remember what happened.”

“That is a lie.”

“Dr Heightmeyer-”

“Dr Weir, John Sheppard came to me an hour ago and told me what happened.”

Elizabeth’s heart stopped and her lungs froze, her eyes losing all focus and she willed the world to wind down and end right here.

“Breathe, Elizabeth.” Somehow Kate had moved around the desk and was crouching in front of the woman-turned-statue, rubbing a hand across her knee to bring her back to the present. “Just breathe. And don’t be mad at the Colonel; he had to tell me, not just so that I would understand you, but so that I can help him as well. I think the both of you are stewing in this shared sense of guilt, that you both feel responsible for what happened to the other rather accepting that you were victims.”

“It was my fault,” Weir hissed, clenching her fists to feel the ragged, chewed nails dig into soft flesh. “I wasn’t cautious enough when we opened the life pod. I wasn’t strong enough to stop Phebus from tricking John into being Thalen’s host. I wasn’t strong enough to stop her from…raping my best friend in this galaxy. And I wasn’t strong enough to move past it, dragging him down with me.”

Taking Elizabeth’s hands in her own, Kate worked the fingers loose, palms keeping her patient’s own open and flat. “Does it make you feel better to say that out loud? I know it’s what you think, what you feel, and no reassurances from me or anyone else is going to help. You’re going to have to learn to forgive yourself. Do you think you might have stopped Phebus if you had a stronger will? What about John? He couldn’t stop Thalen. Do you think that he’s weak?”

“No, of course not!”

“Then why do you think you should have been able to do what he could not?” Silence was the only answer. “If things has been reversed, if Thalen had raped you, would you blame John?”

“I think you know I wouldn’t. But I also know he wouldn’t be able to stop hating himself for it.”

“You would do everything in your power to convince him otherwise, though, wouldn’t you?” Weir nodded. Of course. It was the same reason she had invited Caldwell to see the stasis pod opened, to let him know she didn’t blame him for what the Trust did. “Why did Phebus rape Thalen?”

It was the right way to phrase the question, to remove Elizabeth from the equation. “Phebus came from a matriarchal society. As the numbers on her planet began to dwindle, it was common for female soldiers to take genetic material from Thalen’s people, not just to keep their genetic pool diversified, but the belief that it would humiliate the enemy to have their own children fighting against them; that every time they saw one of her kind across the battlefield, they might pause and wonder if the soldier they were about to kill was a relative spawned from a Taking. It was…highly effective.”

Kate nodded slowly. “I can see that it would be. And in a matriarchal society, the father wouldn’t be of much consequence, just that the mother was one of Phebus’s people. To them it wasn’t a crime, it was a matter of survival, of winning the war, which I think we can all admit both sides took to extremes.”

“There are still several matrilineal societies on Earth, such as the Navajo tribe in America, the Nubians in Africa, and even traditional Judaism. Before DNA testing, you couldn’t always know who the father was, but you always knew the mother. It’s not that rape wouldn’t be a crime among them, but the child of that violation would never be excluded from the group, as they so often are in patrilineal societies.” Elizabeth stopped her lecture and realized Kate was smiling. “What?”

“It’s just nice to hear you sound like…you. I imagine you were a wonderful teacher back at Georgetown. It would have been interesting to audit your class.” Heightmeyer released Elizabeth’s hands, pleased to see they didn’t resume a fist. “Elizabeth…John said there was a lot of blood. No matter what you think, some part of you was fighting what Phebus did to Thalen. As I understand it, you put up quite a fight when they brought you in; did Carson get a chance to…examine you?”

She shook her head quickly. “No, I’m fine. It’s not necessary.”

“I’m not saying it has to be Carson, or even should be. We can have a female physician-”

“I said no, Kate.”

“Are you still bleeding?” The flinch did not go unnoticed. “I’ll take that as a yes.”

“It’s almost stopped,” Elizabeth whispered. “No worse than having a bad period.”

“Even after it stops, you’re probably going to be quite tender for some time.” Silence passed between them. Kate didn’t want to push too hard on the first day, lest she not be invited back. But she was far from done. “Would you like to have dinner with me?”

“Oh, no, I couldn’t – I’m not even really hungry-”

“It wasn’t really a suggestion, Elizabeth. I want you to come to the mess hall with me and eat a full meal. You don’t have to talk to anyone else. We’ll bring Teyla as well, if that makes you more comfortable. Girls’ night. Do this, and I won’t call Carson today.”

The caveat did not go unnoticed. “And tomorrow?”

“We’ll see. Maybe I just extort another dinner date out of you. But don’t forget that Carson has relieved you of your duties. You’re going to have to face him eventually.”

“But not today.”

*******

It was hard not to notice the whispers and stares at dinner, though Teyla and Kate did their best to engage Elizabeth in normal conversation, catching her up on the city’s events. Colonel Caldwell stopped by their table to offer only the briefest of greetings after a look from the Expedition’s psychologist told him he was not welcome to any more than that. When Rodney heard that Elizabeth had made a reappearance, he nearly came running and thrust his tablet under her nose and demanded permission to do something or other. Teyla made to intervene, but Elizabeth didn’t mind dealing with McKay; it made her feel normal. He wasn’t happy (when was he ever?) to hear she did not presently have the authority to authorize what he wanted, and to take it up with Caldwell once again.

“Well, just go apologize to Carson, and I’m sure he’ll reinstate you,” the scientist whined.

“Rodney,” Teyla warned. “Dr Weir has been ordered to take time off.”

“McKAY!” Major Sheppard’s bark carried across the mess hall, rendering instant silence. He was glistening with sweat, a bruise spreading across this left cheek, and the giver, Ronan, stood just behind him, none the worse for their sparing session. “Not. Now.”

“Fine. Of course. It’s not like we’re in the lost city of the Ancient’s to actually discover anything or advance humanity,” Rodney grumbled, but as soon as Ronan took a step towards him, he retreated from the mess hall.

John looked over at Elizabeth, eyes softening immediately. “You okay?”

“I’m okay. If I was actually listening to him, it might actually be an interesting project,” she admitted with a shrug.

He nodded towards her half empty tray. “Is it any good?”

“Not really, no.” Elizabeth wrinkled her nose. “But I was blackmailed into dinner, so I’m making a good faith effort.”

“Colonel,” Kate said sweetly, “Maybe you could get Dr Weir another serving of the Athosian vegetables? She seemed to like those.”

“Yeah, sure. Back in a minute.” John motioned Ronon to follow, but the giant Satedan paused to smile and nod at Elizabeth, a positively warm greeting.

Once the boys were gone, Kate leaned in closer across the table. “Elizabeth, we don’t have to stay if you don’t want to; we can take the rest of your dinner back to your room.”

“No, it’s fine, I don’t mind. The air, if nothing else, is certainly fresher. I should thank you, Teyla, for getting some of my laundry done before things got any worse. A few more days and I might have just suffocated in my own quarters. And who would have noticed the smell of a decomposing corpse in there compared to the present stench?”

It was a morbid comparison, drawing a look of concern from Kate. “Well, then, a thorough Spring Clean should be next on our To Do list.”

Teyla had the same frequent look of confusion she got when John used American idioms. “How will cleaning springs help Elizabeth?”

“Because then she’ll bounce right back,” John interjected, sliding into the chair next to Teyla and setting two bowls in front of Elizabeth; one with roasted vegetables, and one with cubes of red Jell-O. “Dinner isn’t dinner without dessert.”

“Jell-O does not count as a dessert,” Elizabeth grumbled, poking the jiggling mass. “Why do we always have Jell-O? It’s been nearly two years. Can’t we do better?”

The Colonel grinned. “I know what I’m getting you for Christmas!”

“Do I even want to know?”

“Of course you do! An Easy Bake Oven! It’s perfect. And I bet with a few modifications from Rodney, he could make it cook those little cakes a lot faster. A 60-watt light bulb has nothing on a naquadah generated laser.”

“John, you’re the quintessential stereotype of the undomesticated male if you can’t tell the difference between baking and incinerating.”

“Less talking,” Kate ordered, emphasizing with her fork, “More eating.”

Elizabeth took a bite of vegetables, then paused before picking up another, seeming to struggle with her alimentary canal.

“Are you all right, Dr Weir?” Teyla asked.

She finally managed to swallow, but looked a little like the green Jell-O. “I’m fine, just…maybe too much to eat. Or too much of whatever this entrée is.”

Kate pulled the tray away from her. “I think you’d better stop while you’re ahead.”

*******

“Hey, Lizbeth, you coming to movie night?” John called, barging into her office. He stopped at the sight of books on the floor and spilled coffee; Dr Weir was neither clumsy nor slovenly. “Elizabeth?”

Jogging out to the balcony, he arrived just in time to see the last of her dinner go hurling over into the ocean and her knees give out. Gasping for breath, her pulse beating loudly in her ears, Elizabeth didn’t hear the Colonel coming up behind her or his words, just felt the hand on her back rubbing slow, comforting circles. She looked up at him with bleary eyes that couldn’t find a point of focus.

“John?”

“Yeah, Lizbeth, I’m here,” he whispered, manoeuvring to cradle her in his arms and stand. “That’s the third time this week. It’s not the mess hall food; it’s you. So we’re going to see Beckett.”

She was too weak to fight him, or even ask for the dignity of walking on her own two feet. Everything hurt, and had for days. She’d been vomiting even more than John knew, but didn’t want to see Carson. He’d only just released her back to unrestricted regular duties three weeks ago, and she wasn’t going to give him any excuse to side-line her again. These thoughts finally made her cognizant of where they were going and she started to push against her captor. “No, John, I don’t want-”

“I don’t care what you want at the moment, Lizbeth,” he growled, more angry at himself than her. “I should have done this days ago.”

They ran into Carson on his way out of the infirmary to watch The Great Train Robbery, which wasn’t happening now. “Good God, Elizabeth, what happened?”

“She’s sick, Beckett. Been throwing up all week.”

“And ya didn’t say anythin’ sooner?” the CMO chastised, pointing to a bed in the back where most of the senior staff ended up at some point. The finger monitor showed a slight fever and rapid heartrate. Taking one of Elizabeth’s hands, Carson pressed down on her thumb nail until it was white, then frowning at the slow return of pink. “She’s severely dehydrated.” He called out to one of the nurses: “Shannon, can ya grab me two units of Ringers and potassium, please, and 25 mils of promethazine?”

“What’s that?” John winced as the doctor tried sticking an IV line into the back of Elizabeth’s hands.

“She needs glucose and salts immediately, and potassium to stabilize her heart. Damn,” Carson cursed, failing again to find a solid vein and losing his grip as Elizabeth puller her abused arm away. “Colonel, hold her down. She’s too dehydrated, I need a bigger vessel.”

Awkwardly, John leaned over, pressing down both of Elizabeth’s arms as Carson shoved the large needle in near the clavicle, breathing a sigh of relief when it worked.

“Owwww,” Elizabeth moaned, eyes still closed as she twisted under John’s grip. “You’re crushing my boobs, John.”

“Sorry,” he said, quickly straightening up and wiping his hands on his shirt, as if it would remove the offense.

Carson’s worried frown deepened. “Colonel, could ya step out a minute?”

Though he hesitated, John left. Nothing would be gained in defying Beckett. It had been hard enough patching up their friendship over the last few weeks. They’d not told the doctor much of anything, but had at least submitted to further MRIs to prove their brains were indeed their own brains and agreed to continue seeing Heightmeyer.

Lowering his voice, Carson said softly, “Lemme know if this hurts, lass.” His hands started low, palpating her sunken abdomen, moving from intestines up to stomach, which made her groan unhappily, but the slightest pressure on her breast made Elizabeth gasp, eyes snapping open. Carson brought his lips down until they were inches from her ear, not wanting anyone to hear his question. “Elizabeth, love, I have ta ask: is it possible that ya could be pregnant?” She looked over at him in sheer terror and the heart monitor spiked, which was all the answer he needed. “Aye, then, I’m gonna need ta take some blood.”

“Everything okay?” John called from the other side of the curtain. But the sob he heard escaping from Elizabeth compelled him to step back in. “What’s wrong? What happened?”

Elizabeth couldn’t look at him, covering her face with her hands and curling up on her side, trying to stifle her tears. Beckett glared over at the intruder. “Colonel, it’s not really appropriate for ya ta be here right now.”

“I’m sorry, John, I’m sorry,” Elizabeth mumbled, over and over.

Daring Carson to stop him, Sheppard pulled up a chair and sat down in front of the distraught woman, pulling her hands into his own and pressing them to his cheek. “Hey, Lizbeth, look at me. Look at me. We’ve talked about this. You have nothing to be sorry about. Understand? We’re not going down that road again.”

“No, John, you don’t understand,” she sniffed. “You can’t.”

“I can if you let me try.” He leaned in to kiss her forehead, giving her his best reassuring smile, the one he saved for dire circumstances and permission to do something dangerous. “Tell me. Tell me what I can do to help.”

“You’re going to hate me.”

“I never would.”

“Then it’s enough that I hate me.” Her voice faded to breath, her eyes closed, and she drifted off to sleep.

John looked at the doctor, concerned. “Beckett?”

“It’s the Phenergan,” he admitted. “Great for nausea, but an even better sedative.”

“Tell me what’s wrong. Please. It’s been so hard these last few weeks. I thought we were making progress.”

“I’ll tell you, Sheppard, if you tell me: did somethin’ happen between the two of you?” Carson waited, letting the silence grow, then turned to walk out.

“Wait.” John looked down at the woman he loved, still holding her hands. “We…when she was possessed by Phebus…there was a practice among Phebus’s people during the war, for the women to take captured enemy soldiers and…impregnate themselves. It was a cultural and survival thing.”

While Carson knew Elizabeth had mentally collapsed after being released by Phebus, he didn’t understand why until now. “Are ya saying she…raped ya, John?”

“Not Elizabeth. Phebus. And Thalen. It’s absolutely tearing her up, and no matter how many times I tell her it wasn’t her fault, that she’s a victim, too… I thought Kate was getting through to her. I thought we were going to be okay.”

Carson felt a cold dread in his belly, hand gripping the blood sample he still needed to run. “Colonel…John, I have to run a test, but…I think Elizabeth has hyperemesis gravidarum. It’s a form of debilitating morning sickness that could prove quite dangerous if not monitored.” He watched Sheppard’s face move from confusion to shock. “I think she’s pregnant, John.”