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As soon as Atlantis was secured on its new home planet and nobody needed him anymore, he fled to his quarters. He ran away to be alone. Alone with his misery. He didn't switch the light on. He remained in the dark. He couldn't stand any light at the moment. It was possible that he couldn't stand any light ever again.

She was gone.

He forced himself to stay calm; after all he was a man, a soldier. He almost succeeded. Almost. His eyes stayed dry but his heart was aching like hell. He couldn't believe he had lost her. Lost her to the enemy. That was his fault. He had left her behind. He had left her in the hands of... those machines. What will happen to her? How will they punish her? Was she dead already? He didn't want to imagine all the cruel possibilities. He had been under torture too often himself. He knew how bad it could be. He didn't want to think about her hurt or dead.

"Elizabeth." Her name floated through the room without a reply. He said it, again and again, though it didn't help to make the pain go away. Imagining her strong and beautiful face, which was burnt into his memory, made it even worse. He didn't need a picture to remember her but now he wished he had one. Only one small picture for himself to look at, day after day, night after night. One picture he could treasure forever.

He swallowed and one stupid tear ran down his cheek. He wished... he wished... he would have dared to kiss her - just once. It was too late now, wasn't it? That's me. A fearless fighter in battle but a coward when it comes to feelings. Elizabeth is braver than me. She even dared to hug me. I never took a risk. The fighter. The soldier. The killer. I didn't take the tiniest risk to win her for myself.

His throat felt as dry as it had been in the desert of Afghanistan. He felt like he was lost there again, stumbling in vain after a mirage, and dying of thirst. He needed water. Now! He rushed to the bathroom where he made the mistake to look into the mirror. His face looked like a war-ravaged country. Empty. Deserted. His dull eyes were barely open, his cheeks unshaven, his lips a trembling line of misery. This is me! Lt. Colonel Sheppard. Broken for eternity. With shaking hands he drew water and swallowed plenty. It didn't sate his thirst. His throat remained to be as dry as sandpaper, as dry as if he was going to be sick. And sick I am, am I? He splashed his face with icy water until he felt frozen through and through. It didn't kill the pain. It didn't help to make the big lump which sat inside his throat and blocked his airway go away. The pain stayed fresh and hot like a burning wound, a wound which was bleeding without stopping. His difficulty to breathe grew.

"Jesus!" he croaked. He hit the mirror with his fist. The glass cracked. A thunder of pain shot through his entire arm. He screamed in fury. "Crap! Goddamned! Crap!" His shattered reflection mocked him like a dark twin. He screamed again and smashed his fist into the broken glass. "ELIZABETH!" His stupidity hurt beyond all bearing, but he didn't care because the pain in his heart hurt much worse. Blood trickled from his knuckles. He swore and raced over to his bed. His empty bed. Nobody had shared it for a long time. The knuckles of his right hand were bleeding plenty. "Idiot!" He threw himself on the bed, smearing the white linen with his blood. It didn't matter. Nothing mattered anymore.

She was gone.

The one woman he had wanted most passionately to become his one day. Gone. He was alone. Alone in a galaxy far far away from home. Atlantis wasn't home without her. She was the one who had brought him here in the first place. For her he had come here. Because of her he had learned to enjoy being here. With her gone there was nothing left. Nothing but emptiness. Around him and in his heart. A heart which had never been easily touched. But she had been able to touch it. He had been frightened by how easy she had got under his skin. Frightened to the core. The fear of losing her and the way she could make him feel had been beyond his grasp. Now the worst had happened.

She was gone.

He couldn't turn back time. He couldn't undo it. He couldn't do anything. Being so helpless made him mad with fury. He needed to fight. That was what he had learned to do in a crisis. Taking a gun and shoot someone. Problem solved. But not this problem. He couldn't solve this with a gun. The defeat was final, the damage irreparable. But what's left then? What can I do? What? Nothing but... to mourn her? He blinked rapidly, though his defenses were crushed. The moment had come. Tears sprang to his eyes and streamed down his cheeks, tears he had hold back for so long, so dreadfully long. He was done being ashamed to allow himself to cry. The fighter. The soldier. The killer. He cried for all the lost opportunities. He cried about something which was meant to be.


But not anymore.

"...I love you..."

He cried for her.