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The Long Way Home

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Chapter One

Yeah God love your soul and your aching bones
Take a breath, take a step, meet me down below
Everyone's the same
our fingers to our toes
We just can't get it right
But we're on the road

One Republic – All Fall Down

The Stargate Program was the most prestigious and secretive project that Doctor Cassandra Pierce had ever had the pleasure of been involved in. Even now as she stood in the make shift Infirmary that she and Doctor Carson Beckett had temporarily constructed she could scarcely believe that she was light years, galaxies even away from home. One step through the Stargate was literally stepping into a completely different universe and she found that despite the rumours and stories she had heard about the original Lost City of Atlantis, the real thing was far beyond the means of her imagination.

Cass had spent the past four years as a field medic working for the military in Afghanistan and for a brief period before that Iraq. She was used to travelling, hell she even enjoyed the return trips to the dusty foreign countries because of the sense of pride she felt when she stepped off that air-plane with the intention of doing some good for both her countries soldiers and the poorer people who required aid throughout the area.

Carson had allegedly selected her for her reputation of working in some of the most heinous of conditions with the bare minimum of field tools at her service. The stories associated with her were far fetched and wildly exaggerated but some of them were true and apparently those were the ones that counted. Her field experience and ability to adapt were second to none.

Doctor Carson Beckett also had reputation that preceded him. He was an excellent surgeon who worked on the cutting edge of medical technology and a brilliant geneticist. The two of them didn't run anywhere near the same circles. Yet Cass had found him remarkably welcoming when she had first accepted the job as his second in command and field medic. Realistically she had foreseen the Chief Medical Officer to be superior and aloof but Carson was anything but. His friendliness had surprised even her and she found herself being accepted onto his team without a second thought.

Cass used her slender hand to brush her dark fringe out of her sapphire coloured eyes before her nimble fingers unclipped the straps holding her empty, olive green canvas bag she had 'borrowed' after her employment had been transferred over to Stargate Command. Her sleek, straight black hair was gathered into a neat bun at the base of her neck to keep it out of her way while she packed for the off world expedition to a nearby planet called Athos.

"It's gonna take a lot of getting used to living 'Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea'." Carson quipped in his broad Scottish accent as his gaze strayed to the ceiling above them.

Cass wondered briefly if he was looking for cracks the same way she had when they had arrived on Atlantis four hours earlier. Despite the fact every single person involved in the expedition to the Pegasus Galaxy had been briefed and then re-briefed, the information they had been given simply didn't do the marvellous underwater city any justice.

Cass was still enough of a civilian to be unnerved by the fact they were currently living God knows how many metres under the sea. She didn't understand the science behind it but as she had been told there was a shield cloaking the city from being crushed by the gallons of water pressure pushing down upon it.

Carson was worried, she could tell by the crinkle at the edges of his eyes as he wiped his right hand over his tired features. His dark eyebrows were furrowed into a rigid crease as he sorted methodically through the boxes of supplies they had brought along with them to their new home. There had been no point in unpacking everything from the plastic containers they harboured since they'd heard the news regarding the possible relocation.

At the time they had entered the city through the Stargate, Doctor Rodney McKay, who Cass had heard deemed by himself and various others as a genius, had informed them that their contact with Earth had been completely severed upon arrival. If that wasn't potentially ominous, he had followed up with an announcement declaring that the shield that was holding back the sheer magnitude of water outside beginning to fail. Effectively they were stranded on a sinking ship.

Their options were limited at best, Doctor Elizabeth Weir and Major John Sheppard were currently gathering a contact team to venture off of their own planet, where Atlantis was currently anchored and onto Athos, a nearby planet that McKay had selected. It was hoped that the exploration of Athos may possibly lead them to either find a source of energy in order to power the once lost city or to locate an area in which they could set up a new base of operations in case Atlantis did fail.

Time was of the essence in this case and she had been instructed by Weir and Colonel Sumner to make the journey with his team in case they were in need of a medic and as Weir had more delicately put it, to make nice with the world's inhabitants. Offer them free medical care and you make a friend for life, Cass thought or rather she hoped in the direness of their current situation.

"I'd say that there's no such thing as Captain Nemo or the Nautilus but I didn't believe in intergalactic space travel up until eight months ago." Cass returned light heartedly in response to Carson's initial words.

The two of them had been trying to banter between themselves for the past ten minutes, ever since they had heard of the complex array of issues that plagued their expedition. Cass was scared, she would readily admit that if asked but fear was useless here. It wasn't proactive, it didn't help their situation and she knew that Carson felt the same way.

They were doctors and they saw the facts as if they were laid out like a list of symptoms. People depended on them and they were accustomed to that feeling but this was a completely different experience entirely in all respects. Never before had Cass been asked to venture on a mission as important as the one that stood before her. This was about survival, not just her own but of their small delegation and they were swiftly running out of time.

The mutual reliance on each other in their small dedicated team was a bond she knew would be hard to fracture in the face of adversity. The fact she was carrying a weapon of her own made her feel more confident about the fact they were stepping into uncharted territory despite the fact the Colonel didn't trust her to handle anything heavier than a Glock. She knew the militarists of the group would lay down their lives in an instant but having someone that Cass herself had a brief, fleeting connection with made what she was about to do the tiniest bit easier.

Major Sheppard was the type of guy to have your back if things got a little wild out there. She had seen the evidence of that last year when she had treated him for shrapnel injuries that he had received off duty by diving over an Afgan child when a car bomb had exploded inside the country's capital. It had been the insurgent's intention to kill and maim the crew of American soldiers who had been enjoying a rare free night amongst the people of the city they were fighting to protect. He had been the only causality of the event thankfully and even then his wounds had been superficial.

Cass had removed seventeen individual fragments of glass and metal from the Major's back that night, all of the wounds shallow since he had been just on the very cusp of the blast radius. The back of his white shirt had been shredded and charred when she'd asked him to remove it. He had complained humorously about the state of his favourite shirt as Cass carefully removed each of the shards from the firm, muscular grooves of his skin.

Cass had politely ignored the quiet, deep intakes of breath John took whenever she was forced to become a little rough, yanking out the offending, foreign objects lodged in his fine, muscular structure. He never cursed at her, not once, which was a welcome change for Cass. Usually she was on the front line of a barrage of expletives. John's rapport was jovial and flirtatious,, barely slowing as she went to work on yet another area of his back. Cass had to hand it to him, the Major had a high threshold for pain.

By the time she had finished up with the stitches, John was insisting the two of them needed to be on a first name basis just in case one of his stitches popped open and he needed to contact her again. Cass had rolled her eyes at this but she had complied. There was a mysterious twinkle in his hazel eyes and the stories he had told during their last few hours together had made her laugh so hard at one point she'd had to put the tweezers down.

"I gotta say that's the best first date I've had in a long time." he teased her with that devil may care smile.

Cass passed him the sky blue, scrub shirt admiring the view of his taunt, well sculptured chest as he pulled the material over his head and down past his waist. He raised his dark eyebrows as she met his gaze head on. She didn't look away and neither did he as his large hands untangled the dog tags from the collar. There was a connection brimming between them, one she couldn't withdraw from even if she tried.

"Was it the part where I handed the bloody shrapnel back to you in a jar or the stitches?" Cass countered, folding her arms over her chest with a tired smile.

"I admit that last one where you had wriggle it around before you got it out had it's moment." John shot back, shaking the small jar in his right hand so that the shrapnel jingled.

"I knew you were a masochist at heart." she informed him, stripping off her latex gloves and tossing them in the waste bin.

"Doesn't that make you a sadist Cassie?" he joked, that smile making her heart rate accelerate just a little at the use of a nickname that hadn't been spoken in years.

"Nobody calls me Cassie any more." she reminded him from their previous conversation.

"I know."

The look in his eyes told her everything and she understood what she saw there more than he could possibly imagine. John was creating a fragment of intimacy in the vast loneliness that stretched before the two of them and for some undisclosed reason Cass let him.

For a second their defences had fallen and she was seeing his boyishly, sweet nature instead of the hardened military man who had initially stepped into her medical tent. She had no idea what he was seeing when he looked into her eyes but she could feel his acceptance there deep inside her.

"I know you." he had said, looking startled by his own confession.

"I know you too."

The words had slipped off her tongue with no control from her brain. Her emotions were overriding her mind and blurting out that knowledge from the depths of her chest. It was impossible, they hadn't laid eyes on each other before today but the compulsions she felt towards him were undeniable.

John's face changed as the walls slammed back down and they both shifted back into their natural, guarded masks. The words that had passed between them had vanished and Cass felt like she was looking into a face set in stone as John stretched out his hand to shake hers.

"It was nice to meet you Doctor." he had said.

Cass had shook it firmly as she spoke.

"You too Major."

Cass let out a deep sigh as she packed her field kit with focused precision as Carson handed her item after item that they had agreed upon for basic medical aid. In the months before their trip through the wormhole they had spent hours conferring with other teams of doctors who made haphazard trips through the Stargate in order to get a grasp with the kind of situations they were likely to be facing.

Each one of their meetings had brought something new to the table and both Carson and her had perfected procedures and drawn up lists of the possible supplies they needed. In principle Cass's field kit was practically the same as the one she had carried back in Afghanistan with a few pieces of Carson's advanced medical technology thrown in to help diagnosis anything she hadn't encountered before.

"We'll be ok lassie." Carson said into the silence between them as Cass fastened the straps and adjusted them until they were pulled tight.

His warm, reassuring hand clasped her shoulder, squeezing in a soothing manner. They had become fond of each other in the short time they had worked together, their relationship of a sibling nature. They knew there was a possibility that this mission was dangerous, the first ever trip through a Stargate had resulted in a war with the Goa'uld and numerous deaths and causalities on their side.

"Wish me luck." Cass requested, glancing at him over her shoulder as she brought the strap of the field kit over her head so it was settled across her body, the bag resting comfortably just underneath her hip.

"Aye, you won't need it." Carson told her with a confidence that Cass herself didn't feel in the slightest.

She gave Carson her own grim smile as they heard the door to the Infirmary hiss open behind them.

"Are you ready?" Major Sheppard's husky, deep voice asked her as he stood just inside the doorway.

Cass angled her body towards him, meeting his hazel eyes with an intensity she didn't realize she was exhibiting. He still looked as good as the day he had stepped into her medical tent over a year ago. Defended though, she thought as she took in his stance. Alike her, he was always on his guard. In the precarious situation they were about to step into they needed to be.

"I'm ready." she said, striding towards him in long quick steps.

As she strode through the doorway, a footstep behind Major Sheppard she heard Carson's soft Scottish lilt echoing in the quiet behind her.

"Good luck lass."

Chapter Text

Chapter Two

Do you ever feel already buried deep?
6 feet under screams but no one seems to hear a thing
Do you know that there's still a chance for you
'Cause there's a spark in you

Katy Perry - Firework

Athos wasn't much different to their own home planet, Cass thought as she lingered inside the Healing Hut, jogging the wailing infant in her arms trying to settle him to sleep. The Stargate on this planet was housed in the center of a grassy knoll with a small incline amongst a field full of wild flowers. The area they seemed to have stepped onto was extremely rural, not much different from the areas of farmland and forest back on Earth.

If she was honest Cass had been expecting something much stranger and surreal from all the Sci Fi movies she used to watch before she'd agreed to this expedition. It was her first time off world, she was a virgin compared to the experiences of Colonel Sumner and his team. Lieutenant Ford had sniggered at her comment as they'd stepped deeper into this interesting new world.

Lieutenant Aiden Ford was one of the military men that Cass had developed a brief rapport with during their short time on Atlantis. He had been one of the soldiers that had helped her and Carson carry the medical supplies through and set up the temporary infirmary. His youth was apparent from his babyfaced complexion but he made up for his lack of experience with dedication that Cass had seen in many of the more successful Marines.

After initial contact with the inhabitants of the planet, their group had been led into a small village harboured in the remoteness of the forest. It had been nightfall when they had stepped through the Stargate. At first Cass had been nervous of the darkness despite the fact she had her own weapon and set of night-vision goggles. Being apprehensive was part of her nature, she had been unnerved at the possibilities they faced.

At the crack of dawn they had sat down around the camp fire with the Athosians for their daily tea ritual and after that Cass had found herself working tirelessly on the throng of people that paraded through what the Athosians deemed the Healing Hut. She had spent the day working alongside their own Holistic Doctor Cyrus Lylimpa scribbling down notes on effective treatments and herbs that may serve some purpose in the future. In return Cass had offered the Athosians aid and her services in their Healing Hut for the day.

There had been a lot of people swarming around the Healing Hut in the early hours of the morning. Cyrus, a rotund man who reminded Cass of the traditional Budda statue, had told her the Healing Hutt was barely this busy. His suspicion was that people were really here to converse with Cass, herself as proposed to receiving treatment.

With Cyrus's permission she had indulged each member of the congregation outside, attempting to heal their ailments whilst listening closely to their stories and learning the ways of their culture. The Athosians were a proud race of people, to Cass that much was clear.

Cass was juggling a crying infant in the crook of her right arm as she rubbed the palm of her left hand across the baby boy's belly. The child was sick with colic. Cyrus had given his mother a draught to drink because she was still nursing and according to Cyrus, that and a little tummy rubbing seemed to go a long way to soothing the infant's pain.

Cyrus had been right of course, the baby was now grumbling instead of that full ear piercing shriek that had rattled through her ear drums when Nola, the mother had first entered. Cyrus had sent the other woman home in order to get some rest while the two of them cared for the little one.

"That's better isn't it little guy?" Cass murmured to the baby boy, her fingertip chucking him under the chin as he stared back at her with blinking, curious eyes. "Your a lot cuter when your not making a racket."

"I gotta tell you I never pegged you to be a dab hand with babies Doc." Major John Sheppard said from the doorway of the Healing Hut, his hazel eyes flickering to Cyrus. "May I enter?"

John's respect for these people had surprised Cass greatly. She had expected him to follow Colonel Sumner's abrupt, dismissive approach of the Athosians instead he was caring and compassionate, smoothing over the initial ripples of their gruff introductions with friendliness and humour.

Cyrus placed his hands together as if in prayer before he nodded his approval. John thanked the other man for his hospitality by mimicking the gesture before stepping inside the simple structure.

"I wanted to tell you that Colonel Sumner is taking a small crew of men out to the Ancient City." he told her in a hushed tone before lowering his gaze to the baby in her arms.

John held out his finger allowing the baby to wrap his minuscule hand around it as he waved his tiny fists. John rose his eyes to meet hers, that boyish grin breaking across his features making Cass's heart rate to pick up just a little at this relaxed version of him. She was seeing John Sheppard, the man, all over again as opposed to his counter part The Major.

"Do you really think that's a good idea?" Cass asked quietly, bending her head close so that Cyrus would not be able to hear her part of the conversation. "Considering what they told us about these things called the Wraith?"

"I'm not the one in charge." John reminded her, wiggling his finger from side to side in order to play a new type of game with the baby boy. "I'm going out of the village with Teyla, she wants to show me something. Lieutenant Ford and his team are by the Stargate, if you need anything head to them. Otherwise I'll swing by and pick you up."

"Cool, I'll probably be somewhere around here making use of myself." Cass told John glancing around the Healing Hut pointedly as she cradled the infant close.

"By making extra money babysitting?" John teased, withdrawing his finger as Cass began to wrap the infant in what looked like a home made, patchwork swaddling blanket.

"Weren't you the one that suggested making friends?" Cass retorted as he took the corner of the blanket from her busy fingertips and tucked it neatly underneath the baby's chin.

"I meant with people our own age." John said light heartedly before crossing his arms over his broad chest. "I have to admit seeing you talking to these people makes you look less uptight and serious."

"Uptight?" Cass repeated, her sapphire blue eyes narrowing at his words.

"No..." John drew out the word as he grimaced, rubbing the back of his dark head sheepishly. "I gotta go Teyla's waiting."

"I think that's for the best." Cass said, shaking her head with a small smile at his antics.

"Ah so you do smile." John remarked, raising his eyebrows.

Even just a tiny wattage of that bright smile made something inside him settle. He hadn't realized that he'd been seeking that pretty ray of sunlight and when he saw it his heart seemed to stop in his chest. It was clear what he saw when he looked at Cass and he struggled valiantly against the strange, wanting feeling. Even as he did he knew that he was failing miserably.

Cass was everything that embodied a sense of well being and homeliness for him and he had yet to understand why. It's like a piece of himself was slotting back inside him when the two of them stood together. A fun and happier version of himself. Contentment was never a word that John associated with himself. He felt foolish and undeserving of the way this woman made him feel but he couldn't help respond to the connection, he wasn't in complete control any more than she was.

"About as much as you talk about Ferris Wheels." she shot back as she set the baby down in the Moses basket which doubled as both a carrier and a bed.

If he remembered it was her banter or rather 'their' banter that he liked so much about Cass in the beginning. It was hard to find a woman who could keep up with his smart ass comments and even more difficult to keep one in regards to his job. He had been married once, secrets had rotted his relationship with Nancy from the inside out. He couldn't be there for her when she needed him, his job took him away on classified assignments way too often to maintain anything stable. In short John had learned that he had no business offering himself to anybody else, he didn't have anything to give.

Yet every time he heard Cass laugh it sounded like a classical quartet plucking at every single one of the chords deep inside him. He wished it could be different for them but there was nothing certain in his future. A relationship was out of the question but a friendship, he could deal with that. Just being near her was enough for him right now.

"I do like Ferris wheels." he confirmed as Cass twisted to face him again.

They had known each other barely twenty hour hours in total if he included Afghanistan and their brief happenings on Atlantis but somehow he felt like he knew her better than he knew anyone else back home on Earth.

The time they shared had always been fleeting but it was forging a connection so deep that he could feel it throbbing in the depths of his soul. It strengthened with every word, glance and expression they exchanged. John wanted to learn what made her tick. He pushed back the compulsion with every fibre of his being.

By now he was used to being alone and he enjoyed the freedom but there was something to be said for sharing himself with somebody else. He had bore the weight of his own burdens for far too long now, he was starting to find it exhausting.

"And anything that goes faster than two hundred miles an hour." Cass recounted, pointing at him with her forefinger as she spoke.

"And you like Chinese food and hate the snow." he reminded her with a knowing look.

The expression on Cass's face at the revelation was worth making the comment. He guessed she had suspected that her words had gone in one ear and out the other just like she must have experienced with other men. The thought of other men in Cassie's life sent a deep feral protectiveness pulsating through him and he extinguished that almost immediately.

Friends, John chided himself.

Despite the way he had left the infirmary back in Afghanistan, for weeks after he had not been able to stop thinking of the pale skinned, dark haired doctor who had treated his injuries. The crippling lonesomeness that he saw residing inside of her mirrored his own. John considered whether this was part of his attraction to her, they shared the same broken pieces he thought. To other people they both hid it well.

"So you aren't just a pretty face." Cass responded to his words with a bite of humour.

"I don't know whether to be honoured or offended." John informed her, putting a hand to his chest in mock modesty.

"Go." Cass gestured with her dainty hand waving him off. "Your keeping our new friend waiting."

"I'll be back." he saluted with two fingers and a wink.

"Did you really just quote Terminator Two at me?" Cass laughed, her dark fringe falling across her face as she shook her head in dismay.

There it was again, that familiar surprised giggle that haunted his nights after he'd met her in Afghanistan. It seemed ridiculous back then, thinking about a woman he had spent only a few hours in the company of but when he was standing here in front of her he understood why.

There was a calming influence to Cass, one that only true healers exhibited. He had seen it rarely within his world but he knew that she possessed the ability to sooth people. It was mesmerizing to see it in action.

The people of this village had been edgy and alarmed by their arrival. They had seen their team as intruders upon their peaceful existence and in a way he couldn't blame them for that. Slowly he hoped that they were changing the villagers minds. Teyla seemed to have a little faith in him but the others were still weary. Maybe with time that would all change, they could do with a few friends in this new universe.

"See it's much more fun when other people get what I'm saying." John told her, flashing one last glimpse of his smile before waving goodbye.


It was nighttime again when all hell had broken loose. It had been the sound of Lieutenant Ford's confused and troubled voice over the radio that had alerted Cass to the beginnings of a problem. She was on her feet in seconds leaving the shelter of the camp fire she had been sitting at with Cyrus and some of the other villagers to order to receive the transmission again.

As soon as she'd pressed the button to request a repeat, she was deafened by the roar of what she could only describe as a dart-like space ship zooming across the sky above her.

"Doctor Pierce to all units, they're flying over the village as we speak." she yelled into the radio over the chaos that was starting to break loose around her.

People were running in all directions, gathering up their children as they abandoned their homes before plunging into the deepest depths of the forest. In the uproar she could hear their screaming echoing in her ears as the word 'Wraith' was sounded like a call of alarm. It was insane to see so many people pushing and shoving each other in a bid to clear the village. She had seen instances like this before in Afghanistan and it never ended well.

Cass didn't know what the Wraith were but alike the people of the village there wasn't a chance in hell she was sticking around to find out. Something that asserted this much fear over people had to be something terrible. Her fingertips were already slipping across the holster on her hip, her finger flicking open the popper button as she pulled the Glock out from it's sheath.

There were shadows surrounding her, beings she could only catch a glimpse of out of the corner of her eye. It was like trying to grasp at smoke, it flitted away from her in an instant. Cass whirled around, her hands locked tightly around her weapon as she struggled to catch sight of the life form stalking her like prey.

A ball of flame erupted beside her, lighting up the dark night like a haze of fireworks as the hut beside her exploded. The sheer force of the searing, hot, blast knocked her off her feet. Cass hit the ground slapping out just like her Judo training had taught her.

The motion stopped the potentially crippling blow to her head and neck causing the shock to vibrate through her body. Her gun was gone, it had flew from her fingers and become lost in the sea of debris that had fallen down around her in the shell shocked seconds she'd spent writhing here on the ground.

Cass rolled onto her side, struggling to all fours, coughing as the rancid smoke filled her lungs. Her eyes were watering like crazy, blinding her as someone gripped her arm in a vice like grasp and yanked her completely to her feet.

"We need to get back to the gate, it's the best vantage point." Colonel Sumner was telling her over the ringing in her ears.

Cass allowed him to guide her until she found her footing once more. Her vision was clearing now and she could see the devastation that lay before them. The simple buildings were now smouldering hovels shrouded in thick black smoke that blocked out the stars above. Screams were echoing in her ears, shrieks of terror and torment prodding at her heart as beams of halogen swarmed the area.

A blast of light surrounded the two of them stopping them dead in their tracks. The brightness was debilitating, it tore at Cass's vision stripping it away as her limbs became limp and lifeless. Her mind was beginning to slip away, she could feel it vanishing as Colonel Sumner's gruff voice roared in her ears.

"What the hell..."

And then nothing at all.

Chapter Text

Chapter Three

I know that there's no turning back.
If we put too much light on this

We'll see through all the cracks.

David Cook - Lie

Major John Sheppard and Doctor Elizabeth Weir were standing on a balcony that neither of them had known existed until three minutes ago. It was stationed on the east side of the control room and it's entrance had been cleverly disguised as a wall. As Doctor Weir had said upon arrival, the city seemed to be anticipating their needs and accommodating for them.

Only ten minutes ago had Atlantis propelled itself upwards and out of the ocean, plunging through the freezing cold depths before breaking through the surface towards the dazzling sun. John had assumed this was one of the fail safes the Ancients had installed in case their generators depleted and he had to admit he was glad they had gotten around to that. Dying under a thousand feet's worth of water pressure had never appealed much to him.

Both of them leaned over the side of the balcony starring into the sea below them as the silence stretched between them. The waves were rippling calmly against the side of the stunning building as he began to construct his argument.

John was good at reading people. He knew what Weir was about to say before the words even exited her mouth and he was already strategically thinking up the right right road blocks to burn a hole in her logic. When taking on an opponent like Elizabeth Weir, one had to work on the same playing field that her mind did in order to gain some ground against the enemy. Shouting and screaming wasn't going to get him anywhere so he would play on her terms, challenge her intellect and valour.

He chanced a glance at her face to see her still shocked and awed at the sight before her. Adaptation was something that came easily to him. A balcony had appeared and he decided to use it, for Weir he understood it was more about the technical side of things, she questioned the reasoning behind the balcony being here.

"Let me guess, your not going to let me rescue our people." John began by breaking the silence.

Weir said nothing in return to his comment and he felt the familiar surge of anger and indignation fluctuate inside him. His emotions were running high as they always did in situations involving the lives of others. They were in the enemy's hands having god knows what done to them and that thought chewed at him. John couldn't afford to think of them as individuals, that would make the burden to bear even heavier but already his mind was throwing up images of their faces making the burning desire to rescue them even more real.

The strong, resilient Colonel Sumner, sweet demure Cassie Pierce and the quiet, reserved Sergeant Stackhouse. His new friend Teyla and some of her people were amongst the prisoners also and the urge to do something, anything was overwhelming. It was too late for John to turn back the clock but he could use all of the options viable to him at this current moment. He would never forgive himself if he didn't try.

"Major." Weir said finally, angling her body towards him as he paced with nervous energy. "You don't even know if they're alive."

"You don't leave people in the hands of the enemy." John shot back, his furious gaze fixing on Weir as he stood before her. "And the fact that we are even having this conversation in private let's me know that you know damn well that it's wrong and that it would totally undermine your leadership."

He paused for a second as Weir stared at him with dark eyes, stunned by his observation. She placed both hands behind her back and shifted her stance so that both her feet were parted. She was fortifying herself against his revelation and he was glad he'd smacked that card down on the table, appealing to her both her human nature and her role of leader of this expedition.

Clearly Weir expected to be having this conversation with a honour-toting jar head instead she was floored by his keen eye and deeper understanding of her situation. John had established his measure of her pretty quickly and now he was allowing her to do the same.

"So as ranking military officer..." he continued before she held up a hand to cut him off.

"Sorry, just shut up a moment alright?" she requested, snatching back her control of the situation.

John closed his mouth and clamped his lips together, trying to stem the rest of the argument that was on the very tip of his tongue. She was in charge here and she commanded his respect, there would be no mutual relationship between them if he didn't reward her with it.

"What do we really know about the Wraith?" she asked him with a flat, calm tone to her voice. "One of the things we do know is that their the enemy that defeated the Ancients."

John conceded to that information, drawing it in and storing it for later. He didn't know much about the civilization that pre-dated them but he gathered that they had been a powerful people, he was standing on top of the greatest evidence of that right now.

"When we first started using the Stargates on Earth, we got ourselves into serious trouble and why?" she prompted him, using a gesture he understood meant for him to continue the story.

And yet John couldn't. He didn't know anything about the history or the people she was talking about except for what the Hologram had told them, and the bits and pieces he'd picked up along the way. It frustrated him that she was using his lack of knowledge against him.

"I don't know that." he forced himself to admit.

"Because the people in charge didn't consider the ramifications before they reacted." Weir finished for him.

"But they took our people." he reminded her sharply, gesturing with his hands. "How am I supposed to react?"

"We're defenceless." Weir snapped,pointing out the obvious oversight. "You said so yourself."

That was another good point of hers. What use was a rescue mission if it put the larger volume of people at risk? From a personal stand point there was very little he could do to sooth the ferocious beast inside him, he despised being in this position even if it was his duty.

"How do you know going off on some half assed rescue mission isn't going to bring the Wraith right back here to our doorstep?" she questioned John without breaking his gaze.

"Maybe it will." he replied, his voice alarmingly level despite the vicious battle that was waging inside him. "But it's the right thing to do and why..."

He jabbed his finger at Weir pre-empting her next question.

"Because it is."

"John..." she implored, drawing out his first name in attempt to reconnect with him.

"If we're not gonna do this and I mean right now, let's just turn tail and pack up because their coming." he told Weir, pointing at the sky for empathises.

"You don't know that." she shook off his warning with the dismissive tone of her voice.

John was getting to her though, he could see it in her defensive posture. It was in the way she crossed her arms tightly over her chest and darted furtive glance at the white clouds rolling in across the otherwise clear blue sky.

"Our people are in the hands of the enemy Doctor, do you know what that means?" he asked her outright.

Weir tilted her head upwards and John took that as a sign to continue as he switched gears and prodded at the principles behind why she had been selected to govern this exhibition. He knew a thing or two about leadership and why she, of all people was here. He was drawing back the curtain like a magician to revel the bigger picture at play.

"It's just a matter of time before the Wraith figure out that this is the base of all our operations." he reminded her intentionally.

If he had to put the fear of God into this woman then he would if it obtained his goal. John could see the cogs turning behind Weir's eyes and he knew that already she was changing tactics and that meant on some level he was winning. He was forcing her to review her decisions as he laid down the implications in front of her like a grotesque game of chess.

"I just need more information, I mean who knows maybe I can negotiate a peaceful..."

"Peaceful?" John exclaimed as his mind flickered back to the stench of burning flesh that had filled his mouth and nostrils back at the village, the thought of it made him gag at the wastefulness of the Wraith. "We weren't there for more than a few hours before they showed up."

Something crossed Weir's mind, he could see something lurking behind those hazel orbs as his eyebrows furrowed into a frown, his lips pursed waiting for her words.

"Is it possible they came because of you?" she asked him, slipping into a more factual tone of voice.

It lead John to consider a wealth of possibilities as he diverted his gaze in thought over the ocean. His head was already nodding his agreement as his brain fired off words and images connecting the fragments of the loose ends together.

"And that one of these people you brought back with you tipped them off?" Weir persisted, referring to the Athosians refugees John had brought back to Atlantis.

"It's possible." John confessed, sounding hostile at the fact she had began to speak to him as if he were a child.

"See that is exactly the kind of snap decision I'm referring to." Weir pointed out, shaking her head.

"They're not bad all people." John told her, his voice touching some shred of humanity deep down inside her. "And if we're gonna stick around here, we're gonna need friends."

The position Elizabeth Weir was in was not an easy one and as she accepted his words she knew that he had won. He was right on so many different levels and in the end broken down her original resistance. He had bested her at this verbal chess game, his evidence was sound as was his logic and tactical observations. She had no doubt that she had just been manipulated and that was no mean feat on Major Sheppard's part.

"Ok." she finished quietly, nodding so he could see the depths of her understanding. "I see your point. Now you see mine."

They were creating an equilibrium between the two of them, a mutual respect as it were. The dynamic between the two was changing and John thought he could live with that. Doctor Weir was an open minded woman and she was glad she had taken on board his opinion. All that was left now was this final moment of truth.

"I will not authorise a rescue mission unless I am sure there is at least a remote chance of success. I'm not sending more good people including you to their deaths." she told him, her fists clenched by her sides.

John was seeing beyond the mask she portrayed, he could see the weight of those lives upon her shoulders as her eyes blazed daring him to challenge not just her authority but her humanity once more. He had pushed enough to get what he wanted it was now his turn to stand down and acknowledge her position in the chain of command.

"Ok." he spoke softly before bowing his head in acknowledgement and exiting the balcony in order to begin making plans.

Chapter Text

Chapter Four

Hold on to the past tense tonight
Don't say a word,
I'm OK with the quiet.
The truth is gonna change everything.

David Cook – Lie To Me

Patience had never been Cass's strong point, even now when the chips were down and the situation dire was she still blessed with her famous inability to wait. Her hands were wrought with agony, the indentations of their organic prison cell were etched into her palms. Her forearms and shoulders ached from the strain of the yanking and pulling that had occurred when her and Sergeant Stackhouse had attempted to dismantle the webbed door to their confined space.

Their escape attempts were thwarted by the steel-like rigidity of the door, Cass had flinched originally upon touching the fleshy consistency. It felt like skin beneath her fingertips and when her she wrapped her hands around the bars they reminded her of bone. There were claw marks in the walls from where the Atlosians they were trapped with had tried to scratch their way through the vacuous surface. There had been very little success on either front and now they had resigned themselves to sitting on the floor of their cell in order to conserve energy.

The Wraith had stripped them of everything but their clothes while they were unconscious from the debilitating tractor beam that had wrenched them unwillingly on-board this ship. It made Cass feel sick at the idea of their gnarled, blue claw-like hands anywhere near her body. Vulnerability was not feeling she was accustomed to, over the years she had erected a cold, hard shell between reality and her own inner sanctum. It was what gave her the clarity and ability to work within situations that other people would have deemed hopeless. There was no time for panic here, it would solve nothing if she allowed the icy tendrils that were squirming in her gut to get a full grip on her system. She breathed out through her mouth. The sensation of entrapment was the same as last time although their holding area was nicer.

Fifty two hours and counting. Cass thought as she sat besides Private Luke Mathews, tucked in closely beside his large hulking frame for comfort and warmth. His good arm was wrapped around her shoulders drawing her even closer together as they huddled against the freezing cold air that was beginning to descent on the cave they were confined to. Jagged rocks dripping with condensation poking against her spine as she rubbed her hands together in attempt to heat them. There had been four of them originally and now there were two. Both her and Luke had heard the gunshots periodically within hours of their companions being torn from their holding space and interrogated. It didn't leave much to the imagination in terms of their fate.

Her head was aching down the left side from the skirmish almost three days ago. It had been a routine check point out in the desert and before their vehicular had even drawn to a stop it had become a complete and utter nightmare. Guns had been thrust in their faces, the doors yanked open as Cass herself was dragged from the vehicular kicking and cursing. The last thing she had remembered was a loud cracking sound as excruciating pain exploded in her temple.

"We're going to have to fight them." Cass had uttered to Luke as her head span from the untreated concussion.

"I know." Luke had told her holding up his bandaged left hand.

The last time the insurgents had come to their cell, their degradation had been the worst so far. Speaking in fluent Arabic their eyes had flickered to the lone woman of the group as they framed one word in English so she would understand.


'One without faith.' she had remembered before they had spat in her face.

Luke's roar of indignation had echoed so violently through the caves as he lashed out at the leader of the group. She had heard the sickening crunch of bone when they had stamped on three of his fingers in a bid to punish him for his insolence. They had left soon after that with sneers and promises spoken with an intention that Cass had no trouble reading.

During that time she had managed to set Luke's broken fingers with a flat stone from the harsh, solid ground they were sitting on and thready fabric torn from his ragged T-shirt. It had hurt like a bitch, she knew as she forced his broken bones into a decent healing position but Luke had clenched the remains of his shirt between his teeth to stifle the cry of agony that escaped his throat.

They could hear the key turning in the decrepit lock already and it sent a lance of terror piercing through every fibre of her being.

"Cass, you have to fight this. I know your scared but it's the only way." Luke whispered into the darkness.

She swallowed hard past the lump in her throat and the fear that was constricting her chest as she spoke.

"I know."

She stripped off her jacket from her shoulders leaving it in a heap upon the floor beside Luke. She pulled her t-shirt taunt over her athletic frame. They had one thing and one thing only to barter with and in the end she knew that they would take it no matter how she fought. She would rather die than let them have her and that's what she was preparing for right now. Death.

"If this goes wrong..."

The words were left unspoken between them as Luke tilted his head away ashamed by what the two of them had become reduced to.

"I'll kill you myself." he promised.

Seduction had never been her strong point but when her life depended on it she was passable it would seem. The insurgent had never seen it coming as she slipped his hunting knife from his belt under the guise of fumbling.

Killing him was the only sure fire way of getting out of this hell hole and Cass took his life with a methodical precision. She couldn't afford to stop to think about her actions, the moment she did she would crumble and her resolve would snap.

It was the sound of a chopper that had changed the game for Cass. As soon as she'd released Luke from the cell, the hum of the engine was punctuating through the air like a mechanical angel of mercy. Cass had never felt such relief flood through her veins before. It had taken twenty minutes for US forces to storm the cave and vanquish the enemy. The moment she saw the clean, pressed uniformed of the Marines Cass realized that she had never been so relieved to see anybody in her whole entire life.

The point was back then they had only had each other to rely on and Cass was finding herself now in the same dire, stringent situation. Only this time her hope was fading, she could feel it being drained and extinguished as the minutes ticked by. Colonel Sumner had been the first amongst their group to be taken and she was sure that he wouldn't be coming back. He was a stout military man, she had no doubt that he would do what he could to survive, all except give the Wraith the information they sought.

Cass wondered if she could be that strong in the face of this adversity. There were worse things than death and Teyla had detailed with that brutal honesty of hers that the Wraith were well versed in interrogation. From the information Cass had gleamed from the village and from Teyla and the other Athosians she was locked up with there Wraith were dispassionate and merciless.

From their briefest of meetings Cass had been able to tell as much. They appeared to be skulking vicious creatures, both wordless and intimating. They herded up humans like cattle, selecting their meals with no particular configuration. Their wrathful hissing had sent a compulsive shiver chasing up her spine that she hadn't expected as she had stood in the united front beside Teyla and Colonel Sumner shielding the weaker members of their group from their hungry stares.

Sergeant Stackhouse caught her eye and shook his head sullenly. Cass let out an exasperated sigh as she banged the back of her head lightly against the wall behind her in frustration at the knowledge that passed between them. There would be no rescue.

Their delegation of people lacked abilities to launch such an attempt on such an empowered enemy. They hadn't been on Atlantis long enough to recruit allies and the two of them knew that the focus on Doctor's Weir's mind would be of evacuating the giant underwater city. The greater good as it were.

The only slight chance they had was to rush the guards all at once but the problem with that plan was that the Wraith were not only more skilled and better equipped but they had also instilled such a sense of fear into most of the Athosians that it appeared they were willing to simply lie down and die. The only exception was Teyla making it three for three against an impossible enemy, still in Cass's mind it was better to die trying than to sit still while the Wraith sucked the life right out of her body.

"We're going to have to do this ourselves." Teyla said out loud as if reading her thoughts.

"We need to wait for Colonel Sumner to come back, then we can launch a rescue attempt. Four against three are better odds." Stackhouse recommended from his position in the corner.

"No offence Sergent but I don't think the Colonel is going to be coming back." Teyla told him sharply, before meeting Cass's eyes. "If we're going to do this we need to do it soon before they further deplete our number."

"We don't leave people behind, it's not our way, at least not without knowing for sure." Cass explained to Teyla as Stackhouse bristled beside her. "I know your the same way with your own people."

"It is true." Teyla agreed.

"So what?" Stackhouse questioned with sarcasm. "We just wait for the guards to arrive and rush them? Do you want me to detail all the flaws in that plan?"

"Or you could wait for someone with C4 to bust you out and take you back to their ship." John's husky whisper divulged through the bars of their cell as he fixed the tiny plastic explosive to the door.

Cass couldn't describe the feeling of elation she felt when she saw him standing there in his black combat gear. Lieutenant Ford was standing to the left hand side armed with his P-90 as he studied the corridor ahead. There was a hope in her heart and she knew it was akin to the other prisoners in the cell as they all rose to their feet huddling around the gate listening as he spoke in quiet, commanding tones. Teyla was answering his questions one after the other with adequate, full responses.

"Twenty minutes." John assured them before turning to Lieutenant Ford for confirmation. "If I'm not back in twenty minutes blow it up and take everybody back to the Puddle Jumper."

Cass wasn't the only one relieved by the his words, she could see the calmness descend over the cell like an invisible blanket. They weren't out of the woods yet but there was a clear sense of purpose in the air now. Freedom was barely a breath away and there was excitement in the air at the prospect.

Her sapphire eyes came to rest on the John's retreating back, watching as he flanked the left wall of the corridor that Colonel Sumner had been dragged down. She just hoped that twenty minutes was long enough for him to save the Colonel and get himself out of harms way.

The night sky over the city of Atlantis was truly sensational and John found himself trying to spot constellations he had once known the names to. The balcony was quiet and at the moment that's what he needed. His thoughts were scattered and incomprehensible as he held onto the coffee mug half full with untouched Moet champagne. It was an expensive brand back on Earth, one he would have gulped in an instant if he was in a celebrating mood but the truth was he simply wasn't. They had lost a man today, not a man really, but a hero and it had been by his own hand.

It had been Colonel Sumner's final wish that he put a bullet in his brain and John wasn't a man who could deny a dying man's order. There was an unspoken military tradition called 'The Nod' and that's what Sumner had given him as he had wavered with the indecision. A man couldn't be expected to live like that after having his life literally stolen from him. He knew if the roles would have been reversed he would have done the same thing.

Encountering the Wraith had been informative and somewhat terrifying. John would never admit it to anyone but it was the fear that had kept him sharp all of these years, it was what had kept him alive. He didn't have to turn around to know that it was Cassie stepping up beside him. His hands were still wrapped around the mug as his elbows rested on the ledge of the balcony, his hazel eyes looking out at the silver moon baring down on the waters shimmering surface.

"I gotta say, I'm a lot more relieved that now we're above the water as opposed to below it." Cass said into the empty space between them .

John dared himself to glance at her and found himself almost breathless. Her head was tilted upwards so she could see the stars hanging in the night sky above them. Her dark hair was loose and blowing lightly in the breeze, fluttering across her porcelain skin as she turned her serious gaze upon him. Her eyes were like sapphires glittering in the light from the reception hall behind them as she bowed her head a faint blush creeping across her cheeks as she fiddled with the delicate silver watch on her wrist.

"I want to say thank you for heading up the rescue mission. It was a brave, stupid thing to do but I'm glad you did it." she pursed her pert lips together as she rose her head to meet his stare.

"I don't think I've ever been complimented and insulted in the same sentence before." he told her half serious as he turned his attention back to the sea.

"I hear it's a skill." she said humorously, before clasping her hands together and leaning beside him on the railing.

His lips were twitching with the beginnings of a smile as he shook his head at her words. He filed that shred of information under the filing cabinet in his head labelled Cassie. He assumed it was a habit she exhibited when she was nervous and he wasn't offended by it. Even with his skill as a Major and a pilot pulling off that rescue had been a long shot.

Just having her here, this close had made the entire mission worth while. The thought of losing her had frightened him in a way John didn't care to admit. He wasn't good at dealing with his emotions so he kept them tucked away and hidden where no one else could see them. Out of all the people here it was Cassie who seemed to pick up on his dark mood and she accommodated for it by lingering intentionally in his presence, letting him know that she was there. To John's surprise he found that oddly comforting.

"Colonel Sumner was a good man." Cassie offered quietly. "I'm sorry."

It seemed to cliché for her to use those words but John could tell from the tone of her voice that she was entirely sincere. The survivors from the rescue had handed over a hub of information to Doctor McKay to be documented and catalogued but nobody had talked personally about those missing two days. John understood what it was like to distance yourself from an event like that and when he looked at Cassie, he was glad that she was still standing. A lesser woman may have broken under the strain and horrors of the abduction but Cassie was not that kind of person. She was happy to be alive. In her eyes, he understood that Colonel Sumner had been a saviour when he'd offered himself up to the Wraith.

John rose the mug of champagne to his lips tasting the bitterness on his tongue once more before speaking.

"Yea, I am too."

Chapter Text

It was three am, Earth time and Cass was still awake. She should be tucked up in bed asleep, instead she was standing on the Eastern Balcony listening to the roar of the waves in the distance. The stark black water was swirling against the base of the tower as Cass tilted his head up towards the crescent moon. In her hands she held a mug of delicious hot cocoa, it was soothing and warm against the chilled salty air. She needed to be here right now, the fresh breeze was clearing her head and chasing away the cobwebs left by the nightmares she had been having ever since they'd left the Wraith ship.

Over the past few nights her dreams had been filled with a twisted mixture of her past and the present. Her sleep was plagued with snarling Wraiths hissing and snapping at her, their palms outstretched towards her chest, and then she was back in The Cave, feeling the heat of the insurgents blood flooding through her hands as he rasped in Arabic.

Cass sipped from the steaming mug, feeling the liquid comfort seeping through her insides. The sugar hit was enough to calm her jingling nerves and she felt herself coming down from her constant state of hyper vigilance. Lack of sleep made her paranoid and edgy, she had been jumping at shadows too much these days. She felt her shoulders beginning to sag at the twinges of relaxation that pulsed through her nervous system.

Bad dreams came with the territory, she had learned that over the past four years as a field doctor. Before The Cave it had been the ones that she couldn't save that had haunted her dreams. She had seen the blood jetting from the holes torn in broken bodies, heard their youthful whimpers and ragged breathes as they pleaded for their mothers, wives or children. She remembered their slackening grip as the light drained out of their dying eyes.

"Couldn't sleep?" Elizabeth Weir's compassionate voice was in Cass's ears as the younger woman tilted her head towards her.

Weir came to stand alongside her, her elbows resting on the stone ledge as she looked out to sea. Cass hugged the mug closer to her chest revelling in the heat emitting from it as she snuck another glance at the leader of their expedition. Her uniform was clean and neatly pressed, there wasn't a brunette hair out of place on her head. Cass glanced down at her grey sweats and the faded, powder blue Wonderwoman T-shirt. She didn't have to look in a mirror to know that her hair was a tangled birds nest from all of her tossing and turning. Cass ran her hand through her hair discreetly trying to pat it down as she spoke.

"I'm guessing you don't sleep."

If she was honest Weir's perfection scared her a little, the woman was human enough but Cass felt like she was aloof from the rest of them. Being a leader must be like having to wear a mask over your real face all the time. She knew a thing or two about reigning in her emotions, she had to tip her hat to Weir and the ice maiden image that the other woman portrayed. Weakness was not something that either of them exposed naturally.

"It always takes me a few weeks to settle down when I'm in a new place." Weir said conversationally, crossing her arms over her chest as she looked out across the sea.

Cass bowed her head, staring into the deep recesses of her mug at the unspoken question. There were so many things bouncing around her head, words that she could never say out loud. Her guard was up protecting herself from what she knew could be perceived as failure. Cass didn't know Elizabeth Weir well enough to spill her guts. She wasn't even sure she could talk about what had happened.

In truth she'd spoken to the department psychologist and then as far as she was concerned case closed, she would never have to relive the event again. The scar still itched deep inside her, she hadn't known she was capable of surviving until she was forced to and in the end she knew that was part of the reason Carson had fought so bitterly to hire her.

"It's normal not to sleep after what you went through back on the Hive shift." Weir approached, wrapping the jacket of her uniform even tighter around herself.

"I didn't go through anything." Cass returned quietly, sipping from her mug of cocoa.

Colonel Sumner was the one that had been tortured and fed upon. She felt some guilt over that but she knew it was pointless, she couldn't change things no matter how much she wanted to. In the same instance Colonel Sumner would have still offered himself up to protect them again, there was no real way around that. He had died a noble and brave man in her eyes and that would be the way she chose to remember him.

"Yes you did." Weir commented forcefully into the thoughtful quietness between them. "You were taken by the Wraith and held captive for a little under two days. I want to know how your doing."

"So you can evaluate my usefulness?" Cass questioned with more hostility than she intended.

"On one level yes, but on another I'm concerned about your well-being the same way I would be about any of the other people on this base." Weir informed her, her voice indignant at the disposition of the other woman. "Now you can talk to me one on one or I can relieve you of duty until I see fit, which do you prefer Doctor?"

The stark reality of the situation was hitting Cass straight in the face, she was being unreasonable and she hated it. She lashed out when she felt cornered or threatened, it had never been her intention to aggravate Weir, she was simply defensive.

You have to stop, she told herself. You have to let your guard down sometime.

Weir had been polite from the beginning and now she had forced the older woman to reassert her authority. Weir was looking out for the expedition's best interests, the two of them had had minimal contact throughout their time on Atlantis and it had taken Cass a few moments to understand that Weir was trying to get a measure of her character, she was trying to see the reasons behind Carson's decision.

"I'm sorry." Cass said, setting her mug down on the thick ledge of the balcony before raising her eyes skywards. "I'm not good at stuff like this."

Talking, Weir thought. She was admitting she wasn't very good at opening up.

Doctor Cass Pierce was excellent in the field but she had had her reservations on the younger woman when she had looked deeper into her background. Carson had argued she was young and resilient, someone with a heart and steely resolve. In the end it was medical credentials and her history of keeping a cool head in the most dire of situations that had swung her vote.

"You took a chance on me." Cass recounted into the air.

"I don't regret it." the other woman informed her. "Sergeant Stackhouse tells me you kept your wits about you in that situation, you didn't let it get the best of you despite your past. You should be proud of that, conquering your fear is an achievement."

"Courage is not the absence of fear, it's being the only one that knows that your scared." Cass quoted off hand as her fingertip circled the rim of the mug.

Weir found a small smile crossing her features at the words. They were strangely apt in this situation. They were the words of someone who knew themselves better than anyone else and Weir found herself wondering what it was like to confront the darkness inside of yourself. The evidence of what it did to a person was standing right in front of her.

"I think that's fitting." Weir told her, watching from the corner of her eye as Cass wrapped her hands around the mug once more and stared out across the skyline.

"To tell you the truth Doctor Weir, I was as scared as hell." Cass admitted.

The words left her mouth like a terrible truth hanging in the air above them. Weir had never forgotten what it was like being a woman amongst a crowd of powerful men. She had fought wars of her own and had won the majority but she never neglected to remind herself of the terrible cost there was to bear.

"It's natural." Weir assured Cass honestly.

"I know." Cass responded with a shrug of her shoulders. "And so are the nightmares. It's all about settling again. I know myself well enough to know that soon there won't be any bad dreams until then this is all I can do for now."

She indicated to the mug between them as she spoke before propping her chin up on her elbow and focusing on the flecks of orange patterning the dark sky ahead of them.

"Next time make me a cup and I'll join you." Weir told the younger woman. "See if your cocoa has the ability to ease my mind in the same way."

"I will do that." Cass promised as the two women watched the sunrise creeping over their city for the very first time.

Cass was smiling and John found himself enduring the rare moment of contentment as he watched her discreetly from the doorway of the quiet Infirmary. Her expressive features were tilted down towards the small Athosian girl as she murmured sweet words of reassurance to the child whilst cleaning the graze on her knee with an antibacterial wipe.

This was a softer edge to her, one that she rarely exhibited these days and John found he liked it. The time he viewed her unobserved was precious and fleeting, he knew at any moment his cover would be blown and he'd be forced to create a reason for lurking in the Infirmary but for these brief seconds he would enjoy it.

Cass held out a choice of band aids to the pigtailed girl as the mother hovered anxiously nearby.

"Blue or pink?" he heard that soft tone utter before the child pointed to the vibrant blue.

Cass stripped the protective plastic away from the small bandage before fixing it firmly to the child's knee.

"Well thank you for being so brave. You should see the Major when he gets a boo boo." Cass told the little girl glancing over her shoulder at John's startled expression.

Busted, he thought rubbing the back of his head sheepishly as he stepped up to the bed that Cass was helping the Athosian child down from.

"If it flares up or anything feel free to come back and I'll take another look at it." Cass relayed to the mother before bidding them both goodbye with a small finger wave.

"Now Major, what can I do for you?" she asked him, hands on her hips as she stood before him.

John allowed himself to be seated on the edge of the treatment bed, shifting until he was sitting comfortably. Her smile was back and he found himself dazzled by the energy that was emitting from her. He could feel his heart beginning to beat a little faster as he met her curious sapphire gaze.

"I seem to be suffering from an accelerated heart rate." he found himself muttering.

"Hm." Cass made the noise low in that perfect, slender throat as she removed her stereoscope from around her neck.

John wondered what her skin would taste like underneath his tongue as his lips caressed down that beautiful, soft curve. His body tightened in response to her fingers drawing the zipper of his black fleece down to the space where his heart lay beating underneath the planes of his firm, muscular chest.

"Relax." Cass murmured as she leaned in close.

John inhaled deeply as her intoxicating floral scent invaded his nostrils as she lingered in his proximity. He could feel the heat between them brimming up in his veins as his skin flushed and prickled with anticipation as she placed the cold, metal disk on his chest. John closed his eyes as he flinched against the sensation.

God he had never felt as out of control as he did in this moment. It was taking every inch of his rigid self control not to reach out and touch Cass right now, he knew the instant he did it was over and he would have succumbed to the intense, burning desire that was stirring up an inferno low down inside him.

He clenched his jaw, stifling the moan that was building deep in his throat as the pads of her cooling fingertips replaced her stethoscope. It was a simple action but he found himself responding to her touch in exactly the way he had been trying to resist.

"Your heart rate is pretty fast, and your skin is feverishly hot." she told him quietly, her dark eyebrows furrowing in concern. "Were there any symptoms before this?"

"I've felt it coming on for a while." he admitted, trying to clear his throat against the huskiness he could hear lacing in his voice.

"Any dizzy spells?" she requested. "Headaches?"

"No." John said gruffly.

Cass turned around for a second in search of a thermometer, John found his hazel eyes taking in her slim athletic shape from behind as she bent over to reach the bottom drawer. He could imagine the glorious feel of that supple shape pressed up against every inch of his body as he whispered all the naughty things that had been crossing his mind into her ear. He could imagine Cass's whimpers and pleas ringing in his ears like a mantra as he teased her until she at the point of oblivion, coming undone in his strong skilled hands...

"John." she said his name for a third time before his hazel eyes came to focus on her once more before poking the thermometer in between his parted lips.

He scowled at her like a petulant child at the invasive movement she asserted. She sensed his defiance and pointed her finger directly at him as he moved his hand up to remove the offending item.

"Don't you dare." she said sternly.

John's eyes narrowed at the tone of her voice, their eyes met for a second and she could feel herself being drawn in all over again. There was a security that radiated from this man that she associated with no one else in the world that she had ever met. He made her feel safe and that astounded her. There hadn't been a person able to do that since her parents had died over a decade ago. When she looked at him, she could see his cautious nature coming into play masking something else behind his eyes. Something she recognized in herself whenever John was in the same room as her.

"Your not sick." she blurted out suddenly as John reached out and took the thermometer out of his mouth.

"No I'm not." John told her taking her delicate hand in his larger one before slapping the thermometer into it.

"Then why on Earth..." Cass trailed off as John rose to his feet in front of her.

He was tall and she found she liked that. It fit well with his strong, broad shoulders and his long, powerful legs. His body was toned and trained for the field, she was aware of the damage that he could do but she was never afraid of it. John didn't have the capacity to instil a sense of fear inside her, instead she felt protected. She felt all of her defences lower as she rose her eyes up slowly to venture into his gaze.

Cass couldn't take her eyes off of his face as they stood barely inches apart, the material of their clothing rustling as it brushed.

His large hands encompassed her dainty features, his calloused thumbs smoothing over the apples of her cheeks as he pressed his finely sculptured lips to hers. The moment they touched Cass was lost, she had been fighting this ever since the two of them had met and now she was surrendering everything she had to John and more. His tongue was gentle and exploratory as he delved into the confines of her hot, seeking mouth. His hands raked through her loose dark hair, dragging her under as she clutched onto his fleece for support, balling the fabric in her tight fists.

"Major Sheppard, report to the Control Room." the tinny echo of Weir's voice resounded in both of their ears causing them to draw apart unanimously.

Words were on the tip of their tongues, a flurry of explanations, questions and answers as their foreheads came to rest together in mutual understanding. Duty was important, not only to him but for her as well.

"Go." Cass said with a small smile spreading across her swollen lips.

John found himself stealing another breathtaking kiss before obeying her command.

Chapter Text

Kissing Cassie had been like seeing the sunshine for the first time after a long weathering storm. John could still taste her on his lips as he licked them lightly. She had felt better than he could have imagined pressed up against him like that. Her mouth had been delicious, hot and welcoming. He adored her floral fragrance of her as his fingers raked through her silky, black hair. Jesus he wanted to kiss her all over again until she purred underneath his touch, begging and whimpering for him to go further, to complete her as she completed him.

John needed her in every which way possible, he craved her subtle soothing undertones as she spoke softly. He wanted to listen to her murmur in the night beside him as his fingertips caressed the blush of her cheek. The depth of his feelings frightened him, never before had he felt like he was falling so foolishly.

There had been no time to talk in the hours after their kiss in the Infirmary. John wasn't even sure he wanted to talk about it, he'd been running on pure instinct when he'd kissed her and hell if he was honest he would give almost anything to do it again. It had been a long time since he'd experienced physical intimacy even longer since he had developed a stable emotional connection with anyone. The fragility of such a bond was at the forefront of his mind. It was so easy to destroy something like that and John was so very good at breaking things.

"Your thinking too much." Cassie submitted from the doorway of the Rec Room.

She could see the profile of his handsome features as he angled his head towards her, his arm resting along the back of the couch as he paused the football game. He was worried what she could see etched into his expression as he regarded her wearily.

"Gotta say noone's ever accused me of that before." he told her with a forced smile as Cassie sat down on the opposite side of the couch.

John turned his attention back to the frozen screen, his fingertips tapping out a tune upon the frame of the remote as he debated the wistfulness of saying any of the words that were rattling through his mind.

It was awkward between them and Cass hated it, she had come here to set things straight and now her defences were back blocking all comprehensive means of verbal communication. She wanted John, she wanted to learn about who he was and experience things with him. She cared for him, more than she had ever intended to. She couldn't play it off as something casual any more. Her heart responded to him almost unwillingly whenever he stepped into a room. She was connected to him just as he was connected to her. Two very lost and broken people forging together to make one whole entity she thought.

"I know you." she whispered.

Her fingertips ghosted along the back of his hand before coming to rest in the grooves of his knuckles. John watched her motions in fascination as she crept in closer. Cass's eyes were locked on his face as John pursed his lips together. Restraint, she recognized it and she herself had battled against it.

Cassie reached out, her dainty hand cupping his stubbly cheek as her thumb smoothed over his dark five o'clock shadow. There was softness in her touch that matched no other. John found himself reacting by kissing that delicate pulse point on the underside of her wrist. His hand came to rest over hers as she sighed at the peacefulness that washed over her troubled soul.

Here with him, she didn't have to fight any more. She was tired of being so selfish, she wanted to love without consequence and to be with someone who knew what it was like to be lonely the way she was. Already as Cass looked into those sincere hazel eyes she knew that he was her one and only chance at happiness.

"Cassie..." he began.

Already she knew it was protest, she could see the anxiety in John's features at the situation they had landed themselves in. He hid the fear well, but she could see it still lurking there in the background like a spectre haunting his heart. She wanted to ask him who it was that had made him doubt his ability to love and be loved in return.

They were wrong, she communicated silently to him, you deserve to be happy.

Before he could speak again her lips were on his, tentative and chaste. Her arms looping around his neck in order to draw him closer. Whatever reservations he may have had were out of the window as he returned that kiss with vigour and acceptance. His fingers were in her hair crushing her mouth against his in a possessive gesture. All bets were off when Cass kissed him, he couldn't contain the raging impulses that ravaged through his body.

Mine, he growled low in his throat at the idea of claiming her as his mate.

Cass was already climbing into his lap seeking out more of him. Her thighs came to rest on either side of his hips as his fingers trailed down her spine causing her to groan. He was ferociously intoxicating, his strength and his passion devastated all of her senses leaving her trembling with desire and need.

"Cassie." he murmured against the corner of her mouth as he used his fingertips to brush the silky strands of hair back behind her ear.

A distinct throat clearing brought them back to their senses as it reverberated through the room around them.

"Tell me that's not Weir." John muttered before daring to glance over his shoulder at the person standing in the doorway behind him.

"Sorry sir, I was bringing you my mission report. I didn't mean to interrupt your private time." Lieutenant Ford apologized, diverting his gaze from the couple on the couch.

"That's alright Lieutenant, just leave it on the table there and I'll get around to it in the morning." John said authoritatively.

Cassie slid subtly from John's lap, raising her eyes skyward as her cheeks flushed bright red with humiliation. Every ounce of her professionalism had just gone out of the window and she was embarrassed to be caught in this situation. She didn't know how John had the nerve to keep a straight face in front of his colleague

"Just to warn you sir, Doctor Weir is heading in this direction." Ford supplied as he set his file down on the table several of the other Marines used to play Poker.

"Appreciated." John uttered, pursing his lips together grimly. "Good night Lieutenant."

The dismissal was evident in John's voice as he reviewed the other man with an intense expression. It was never his intention to get caught up in Cass again but he had and now he was paying the price. Over the past few weeks him and Lieutenant Aiden Ford had developed an easy kinship. The other man looked up to him implicitly, John thought that's what happened when you were away from your close family like Ford was.

Bonds were forged to fill in the gaps that were absent. He had taken on the role of commanding officer and an older brother. He couldn't help but think that his one and only indiscretion would effect that and yet in a way he was glad that they had been discovered.

If Cass and him pursued a relationship casual or otherwise John didn't want the taboo of it hanging over his head. They deserved better than to be a secret. Yet the military had clear rules on fraternization. He wasn't sure that counted since Cass was technically medical personal, on the other hand there wasn't much Weir could do besides tell them that they couldn't be together. Even then he doubted Elizabeth would be so callous if they kept it below the radar and made sure it didn't interfere with their work.

"Goodnight sir, Doctor." Ford said nodding at both of them before removing himself from the room.

There was a moment of silence as they both listened to the sound of Ford's footsteps echoing down the hall. Cass bit her lower lip raising her eyes skyward. She hadn't foreseen this and wavered between the same indecision, there was no name for what the two of them were experiencing. Calling it 'love' was too soon, the four letter word was too much to comprehend for either of them.

"You are a bad influence." Cass accused John, poking him in the ribs with her finger dispelling the tension between them.

"Ow." John yelped, capturing her hand in his own.

"What are we going to say if he tells Weir?" Cass approached tentatively. "We don't even know what this is."

John entwined his fingers in Cass's before their unified hands came to rest upon his knee.

"If it comes down to it, we'll tell her the truth." John said quietly. "We'll tell her that we care about each other."

"I can live with that." she told him, her cheek coming to rest upon his shoulder.

John's lips brushed Cass's hairline as he spoke.

"Yea me too."

Chapter Text

It was the knocking on her door the next morning that awoke Cass from her deep, wholesome sleep. It was the first time in the past few weeks she had actually been able to sleep through the night and she relished that. Her mind was far from the torrid mess she had been sporting over the past few days, her thoughts felt ordered and precise once more. There was confidence flushing through her system, a sense of self worth that put a smile on her face and she couldn't help but think John was responsible for that.

Safe, Cass thought as she rose from her bed, rubbing at her exhausted features with both hands. Stability and refuge were important in her world and she needed them to help maintain her precarious balance.

"I'm up." she snapped at the persistent knocking at her door, swiping her hand over the locking motion in a bid to open it.

Cass found herself greeted by the scent of instant coffee as she laid her sapphire eyes on Lieutenant Aiden Ford standing before her in the doorway. He was clad in his grey military combats and a black T-shirt.

"Uh hi." Cass said, running a hand through her ruffled dark hair.

"Coffee." Ford told her, forcing the mug into her hand. "Doctor Beckett said you like it sweet."

"I do." Cass said apprehensively as Ford shifted from foot to foot.

It was a sign of anxiety and agitation. It took a second for the memories of last night to filter through to Cass's sleep fogged brain as she stared at the young Lieutenant perplexed. He wanted to talk, that much was clear and she didn't want him to feel uncomfortable with the situation that had presented itself last night. The fact that Ford was here so early in the morning was a concession that he was making to both her and John.

"Do you want to come in?" she ventured.

"Yea." Ford said rubbing his hands together with nervous energy.

Cass moved out of the way of the door to allow him entry to her quarters hearing the door hiss shut behind her as she turned to face him. Ford leaned against the wall, his arms folded over his chest as his foot came to rest on her wall. Cass wrapped her hands around her mug before sitting on the edge of her bed drawing her feet up underneath her.

"I want you to know that your secrets safe with me." Ford started, his gaze fixing firmly on hers. "I won't be telling Weir or anyone else about you and the Major."

"I appreciate that." Cass said quietly, her cheeks flushing with embarrassment as she remembered her actions from the previous evening. "I'm sorry you had to see the two of us like that."

"So long as the two of you keep it to your quarters nobody else has to know." Ford replied with a shrug of his shoulders.

It was that word 'secret' again echoing through her head. She didn't want it to be so sordid but that's what it was becoming. Nobody believed that a relationship could flourish or function in this environment, certainly not between people like them. They were honour bound, their lives and loyalties sworn to their country and to their jobs. Commitment was something they only had for their work and for the sturdy oaths they stood by.

Cass did not want their relationship to become a 'secret', she wanted to lay claim to John as her own. Possessiveness was never in her nature but the urge was resolute and pressing. She wanted him to depend on her if he had to instead of being so painstakingly self reliant. It was eating him up from the inside shouldering all the burdens that were set upon his shoulders, not once did he complain but she saw the strain bearing down on him.

"Well it's not like they can send one of us back home." Cass pointed out dryly in response to Ford's words.

"But they can make your life a hell if they want to." Ford commented as he caught a glimpse at Cass's thoughtful features. "Your wondering why I'm not reporting you to Weir?"

"It's a difficult position to be in." Cass responded wearily. "John's your commanding officer."

"Major Sheppard would never order me to keep quiet about the two of you and the fact that he respects me like that makes me respect him even more." Ford explained simply.

"He's not the kind of person to abuse his power like that." Cass agreed, clasping the coffee to her Wonderwoman T-shirt allowing it to heat her chest.

"No he's not." Ford said into the air between them before he looked pointedly at Cass. "Which makes me question the type of person you are Doc?"

"Are you asking about my intentions?" Cass asked him out loud with the glimmer of a smile.

Ford's eyebrows furrowed into a defined crease as his jaw jutted out and his dark eyes narrowed. It took Cass a second to realize that he took his responsibility to John very seriously and this was for all intents and purposes 'The Conversation'. She had never been privy to it before now and it startled her to find herself in this position. She had never been questioned about her romantic entanglements before and she wasn't sure of the adequate responses.

"Do you care about him?" Ford asked out right, his analytical gaze intent on her features studying her face for tell tale signs of lies.

"Yes." she answered with an honesty that resounded through her heart and soul.

"The Major has a devout sense of duty to this city and it's people, do you think your the kind of person who can take a back seat to that?" Ford requested as Cass took a deep breath to fortify herself.

Lieutenant Ford was pulling out all the stops, he wasn't afraid to jump to the hard questions. He was investigating her long term capability, trying to gauge what her stake was in all of this. If this had been a bit of fun between her and John the two of them wouldn't even be having this conversation but Ford had seen something different last night, something that had made his hackles rise at the possibilities.

Ford viewed Doctor Cass Pierce as a distraction for the most part and he knew that now was a crucial turning point for the Major. He had been deemed the Security Officer of Atlantis and Ford wanted to make sure that there was nothing in the way to jeopardise the future of this city. Job aside, Ford liked John Sheppard, he was funny, smart and loyal, all qualities that he himself revered. Alike many of his friends in and out of the military he simply wanted the other man to be happy.

He had heard the tenderness the Major's voice as he spoke to this woman and it had surprised him greatly. Of all the words he would have used to describe the Major 'loving' was not one of them. It had been a stark contrast to the skilled militarist that Ford was used to seeing and it made him question the doctor's motives. He had no doubt that there was a base attraction between the two of them, he had seen it the minute the two of them had bumped into each other briefly at the research facility in Antarctica before they began this expedition. It was like a current charging in the air when the Major had reached out to steady the doctor. Their initial joy as they greeted each other had come off them both in waves before they recovered their composure.

"I know a thing or two about duty Lieutenant." Cass told him evenly keeping the sting of irritation to a bare minimum. "I won't stand in the way of what needs to be done if that's what your asking."

He took her words with a pinch of salt as he studied her words from every angle before he issued her a warning .

"There's no room to be selfish here." he told her flatly, making the implications clear.

Cass looked Lieutenant Ford dead in the eyes before she spoke, her brain flicking back to that moment over two years ago when she finally understood what the word sacrifice truly meant.

"I know."

Chapter Text

Doctor Rodney McKay was in their Infirmary and in turn that made Cass a little nervous. She found herself seated at her desk, watching from the pile of paperwork as he spoke to the white mice running around in the plastic container. Not long ago both her and Carson had decided to name each of the rodents after people they had left back home on Earth. Carson had named his mice Mary and Owen after two of his siblings and Cass had labelled hers Annabel and Nicky after her young niece and nephew. It made her anxious to have Rodney in the Infirmary, he was a self certified genius and Chief Scientific Officer of their expedition. Cass found him condescending and impatient the majority of the time and that irked her. She didn't like being made to feel inferior and Rodney McKay boasted of his intellect and of other people's inability to comprehend the same things as he did.

Cass had been brought up to see the good in people and if she was honest Rodney's prickly nature made it hard to see past all of his gaping faults.

"Got your eye on anyone?" he asked the mouse they had deemed as Owen.

"Not really." Carson muttered as he filled the syringe in his hand from the glass vile in his hand.

"Actually, I was talking to the mouse." Rodney informed the other man straightening up as he turned to face Carson. "But now that you mention it some of those Athosian women are pretty hot and we did just save them from the Wraith so we need to trade on that before they discover we're not actually that cool."

Cass snorted in response to that comment as Rodney tossed a small inanimate object between his hands. He turned to glare at her as she tilted her head towards him, a small pout forming on her lips.

"You have something to add Doctor Pierce?" he asked her pointedly.

Cass shook her head before her gaze strayed down to the offworld reports in front of her.

"Nothing at all Doctor McKay." Cass said politely, toying the the biro between her fingers.

Carson tapped the treatment table loudly drawing both of their attention back to him as he spoke.

"Sit down here Rodney."

It was like watching a kid at Christmas rushing down to open his presents. Already Rodney was jumping up upon the table with excitement, his fingers rolling up the blue sleeves of his uniform to allow Carson access to his veins.

"I'm surprised your so eager to volunteer for this Rodney." Carson told the other man stretching out his arm.

"Well you know me." Rodney dismissed as Carson grasped his wrist and reached for the syringe. "Always happy to help."

"Right..." Carson drawled out the word, his gaze meeting Cass's as she set down her pen in order to watch the proceedings.

"I'm surprised you didn't put yourself down for this Cassandra, you could have been the first human to receive the ATA gene now I guess the credits all mine." Rodney said offhandedly as he glanced at the young woman.

Cass's brows arched at Rodney's proclamation as she leaned forward, placing her chin on her hand to review the procedure.

"I like my genes the way they are." Cass informed Rodney before continuing. "As much as I trust Carson I don't want anyone messing with my physiology unless it's a dire circumstance and besides I wouldn't want to be at your beck and call every hour of the day when you decide it's time to 'test' something."

"I resent that." Rodney retorted.

"The only reason you considered getting the Ancient gene in the first place is because your getting sick of people bitching at you about the more important things they have to do with their time." Cass pointed out.

"My work is important." Rodney protested shrilly as Carson tied the tourniquet his bicept.

"Yes it is." Cass agreed. "But maybe people would be more willing to work with you if you were nicer to them."

"Carson are you going to let her talk to me like that?" Rodney bristled, offended by the younger woman's assault on his character.

"The lass got a point." Carson said as he hovered the needle above the most predominant of Rodney's veins. "Any questions before we begin?"

"I'm sorry, medicine is as much of a science as voodoo." Rodney retorted as Cass rolled her eyes at his words. "All I need to know is that this will enable me to use Ancient Technology like Major Sheppard or yourself."

"Yes, hopefully." Carson uttered as Cass rose from her desk and moved so she could monitor the effects of the ATA gene more closely when it was administered. "You are the first human trial."

"Well why now?" Rodney asked as the words filtered through to his brain. "I mean if it's possible we need as many people with the gene as we can get."

"Well actually without proper FDA approval it was virtually impossible on Earth..." Carson glanced up, catching the expression of disbelief on Rodney's face before continuing. "Let's just say it's legal here in the Pegasus Galaxy."

"And completely safe?" Rodney persisted as Carson gripped the other man's arm firmly underneath the elbow.

"As far as experimental gene therapy goes." Carson shrugged as Rodney stared directly at him speechless.

"He is manipulating your DNA." Cass reminded Rodney, gesturing with her hands.

"Maybe I need to hear more." Rodney said withdrawing his arm from Carson's grasp as Cass crossed her arms over her chest.

"We believe Ancient Technology Activation is caused by a single gene that is always on instructing various cells in the body to induce a series of proteins and enzymes that interact with the skin and the nervous system an the brain. In this case we're using a mouse retrovirus to deliver the missing gene to your cells." Carson explained as simply as he could.

"A mouse retrovirus?" Rodney repeated.

"It's been deactivated." Carson reassured the other man.

"If that's the case then why isn't she trying it?" Rodney requested, tilting his head towards Cass.

"I told you, I really don't like the idea of someone messing with with my genes." Cass reminded Rodney. "It's one thing doing it to save somebody's life, it's another doing it as an experiment."

"Can't you order her to do it first?" Rodney asked Carson who frowned at the other man.

"That would hardly be ethical now would it?" Carson said, shaking his head as he jabbed the needle into Rodney's arm, dispelling the liquid gene into his blood stream.

"Any side effects I should know about?" Rodney queried, his gaze darting between the two of them as he toyed with the oval object in his hand.

"Dry mouth, headache. The irresistible urge to run on a small wheel." Carson said with a lilt of humour in his voice.

Cass couldn't disguise the snigger that emitted from her mouth. Rodney scowled at her as he twirled the object in his hand even faster.

"What is that?" Cass asked, stepping closer to catch a glimpse of the item.

"Oh, it's something I found in one of the research labs." Rodney said holding it out for Cass to see. "Something that the Anchients were experimenting with."

"Do you know what it is?" she asked quizzically, looking down at what appeared to be an amulet.

"I'm pretty sure." Rodney answered with uncertainty.

"Which means he doesn't have a bloody clue." Carson informed Cass with a wry smile before stripping off his latex gloves signalling the end to the procedure.

Chapter Text

Cass was sleeping, her head was propped up on John's shoulder as they shared his dimly lit single bed in his relatively small living quarters. He had been spending his days with other members of his team investigating each area of the uncharted city. It was slow going but John was anything if not meticulous, the safety of their people was his responsibility and it was one that he took seriously.

Cass had made an appearance an hour or two ago after he had gotten back to his living quarters and he had been glad to see her. He had missed her over the past few days, her absence from his routine had left a painful pang in his chest, one that he had hidden well within the ranges of his mechanic functionality.

The mission was always his priority, it was the only thing at the forefront of John's mind when he was working. He had sacrificed so much over the years to do his job, there was a fierce part of him deep inside which needed to protect and fight, serving in the military catered to that instinct. It was the challenge that John needed to grow and develop as a person, it was also the job that had stripped away any of the personal loyalties that he had harboured.

In the past it had always been a struggle to maintain a normal relationship, women idolised his courage and patriotism but a long haul was out of the question. They always wanted more, they wanted emotions and feelings, someone who was going to be there for them on cold dark nights. It was about them, for those girls and even his ex-wife it had never been about him.

Cass though, Cass was different. Pressure was not her style, neither was manipulation. John understood already that what he saw was literally what he was getting. Over the past few days their lives had taken separate turns, she had spent her time in the Infirmary checking out each of the Athosians refugees that they had taken in and returned to her own quarters at night. They had barely seen each other long enough to exchange more than a quick smile but it appeared she didn't mind. John wasn't used to the lack of grief surrounding his duties. It was refreshing and made everything about Cass more enticing.

The research papers that Cass had been reading were fanned across his chest, the palm of her hand was resting above the steady beat of his heart. She was nestled into his side, her head tucked on top of his left arm. He could feel her long shallow breaths against his ribcage and took solace in the fact she was living and breathing beside him. It was moments like this that he relished, he appreciated the sheer simplicity of their budding relationship. John pressed a kiss to the top of her head as he set his own book down on the night stand. He had brought 'War and Peace.' with him as a means to fill his time and so far the book had proceeded to bore him rigid.

Cass mumbled in her sleep, her head tilting upwards until her face was buried in the curve of his neck. Her soft breathes tickled his skin as she stretched out along the length of his muscular form, her lean legs entangling with his. Her lips crept up along the line of his rugged jaw before her mouth fastened on the sensitive patch of skin at the base of his throat.

John tipped his head back into the pillow, sighing blissfully into the silence as a fiery hot thrill chased down his spine, igniting every single one of his nerve endings as Cass swept the papers from his chest and onto the floor.

"I thought you were sleeping." John murmured as her hand bypassed the hem of his fleece.

Her fingertips traced up along the line of his treasure trail, over his belly button and caressed the ridge wash board abs before climbing even higher.

"I was." Cass whispered in his ear as his own hand followed the line of her back until the pads of his fingertips connected with her cool bare skin. "And then I thought there were better things we could be doing."

"You promised you wouldn't tempt me." John reminded her as he tugged her yellow v-neck t shirt up even higher.

Her teeth grazed that sensitive spot once more sending a fluctuation of heat rushing through his body as Cass trailed hot mouthed kisses down to his collarbone. His skin was prickling in anticipation as her clever fingers explored the contours of his chest under the material of his black fleece.

"I did no such thing." Cass retorted, raising from her passive position along side John until she was straddling his hips.

She leaned over him so her loose, silky dark hair fell over her face as John's rough calloused hands smoothed up and down her thighs. His thumbs lightly brushed the 'V' of her parted legs causing Cass's hips to grind against his in response to the notion.

"We said we were going to take it slow." John told her as his palms dragged up the hem of her uniform, his fingertips raking her tender flesh. "How do you expect me to be a gentleman when you tease me like this?"

He watched the expression of pleasure cloud her features as he pulled her top up and over her head leaving her pale skin clad only in a form fitting lilac bra. Cass watched his face contort with arousal at the sight of her half naked body. Jesus he made her feel so confident and sexy when he looked at her with such a demanding hunger. His hazel eyes were burning brightly with desire as his skilled blistering hot hands stroked up along her waist, his nimble fingers unhooking the bra before he tossed it aside.

John's hands were already cupping her modest breasts, his thumbs circling the outline of her nipples before toying with the erect nubs.

"I don't expect you to be a gentleman." Cass said in between ragged, harsh breaths. "I expect you to fuck me."

John moaned at her words, his mouth fixing over hers, his tongue diving into her mouth seeking out her own as the two of them tangled together amongst his fresh navy blue sheets. His hands were touching her everywhere, stroking, caressing, teasing every inch of her from the waist up until she was tightening and writhing above him like a woman possessed. She didn't hold back, she couldn't. John was stealing away every single one of her inhibitions and kicking them to the curb.

"If we're going to do this." John muttered huskily into the corner of her mouth. "We're gonna do it my way. I'm gonna make love to you, fucking is something I do to girls I don't give a shit about."

His fingertips were digging into her waist, just above the line of her grey trousers as he flipped her onto her back so she lay submissive and gasping underneath his demanding body. Cass's hands were palms up, laying on either side of her head in a subservient gesture as she stared up at him, black hair fanned out across his crisp white pillow. Her pert pink lips were swollen with the heat from his kisses and John found himself satisfied at the position he had her in. This was where she belonged, with him, in his bed.

It had been a long time since he'd touched a woman like this and Cass made it all the more unique with every tiny cry, whimper and word that left her throat. She was perfect in his eyes, from the tiny red scar that nicked the hollow of her collarbone to the way her dark blue eyes glittered with a desire so powerful he could feel it gripping the both of them in drawn out sensual waves.

Cass's hands were already yanking the fleece up and out from in between them, ridding his scorching body of the material before she drank in the entire muscular structure of his supreme male form. He was magnificent. Cass found her fingertips running over the rivets of his skin as she sought out the map of his life etched into the ripples of his chest. John watched her curious features as she enclosed her mouth to the white scar just above his left nipple. A gluttonous groan tore from low in his throat as her tongue flicked over the raised skin, his hands threading in her hair drawing her head back as his lips descended on hers once more.

John was so frighteningly addictive, every single passionate kiss he placed upon her was another step closer she was coming to losing herself entirely in him. Already as his tongue delved into the confines of her hot, wanting mouth, her hands caressing the scars she had helped pattern along the shape of his powerful back, she knew that she was falling. There was such a sense of belonging here with him and John made loving him so vivaciously easy.

Already she was taking the next step, reaching between them so that she could unfasten his combats and her trousers. She wanted this more than she had ever wanted anything else in her whole entire life. John was already shifting allowing her access to his lower body.

"Cassie." he mumbled into her mouth as the palm of her hand rubbed along his increasingly throbbing erection. "Cassie, don't stop."

Her fingers unzipped his combats before she pushed both his underwear and combats down past his hips releasing John's glistening cock. Her fingers enclosed around his molten hot flesh, his growl of desperation echoing through her ears as his hands wrenched the trousers from her own body, leaving her clad in matching lilac panties before he removed those too.

The feel of her slick naked skin against his was driving him insane. The irresistible urge to claim Cass as his own was consuming as he stared into her sapphire eyes and into the very depths of her soul.

"I can't wait any longer." she told him as the tip of his impressive member brushed the entrance to her moist core.

God, she was so wet and ready for him right now, he could feel his instincts taking over as he slipped the foil packet from underneath the pillow and pressed it into Cass's hand.

"I want you to be sure." he murmured, his thumb gliding over the blush of her cheek as his nose trailed along hers until their lips were barely apart.

"I am." she whispered, tearing the foil packet open between deft fingers.

John held himself at the base aiding Cass with the application of the latex sheath. Her skilled, playful hands covered him completely making him arch into her grasp. She released him unwillingly, her fingers threading through his chocolate brown hair drawing his lips back towards her own.

John's mouth smothered Cass's as he penetrated her with an antagonising slowness. Her hips arched into his thrust burying John's cock even deeper into her supple, inviting body. This was the moment that they had been waiting for, they were the missing pieces of each other's lives and finally they were becoming one.

Connecting had never been such a sweet and delicious experience. John found himself drowning in the serenity of the moment as they began to consummate the most basic of acts. They merged together, tongues mingling, hands fumbling and touching every single inch of each other as they rocked in unison.

The sensation of John inside her was amazing. Cass already knew that this was it for her. He was The One and she would never feel like this again if it wasn't with him. John's loud husky moans were like symphony in her ears as they began to pick up the pace. They were close, already her nerves were blazing with the ecstasy of their coupling as he drove her further into that gratifying oblivion.

"I want to hear you say my name." John told her, his voice rough with desperation and passion as he spoke.

Cass was heaven and the moment their climax hit him he knew there would never be another after her. This was more than just a hope and a prayer, this was a mating and he was damn well making sure she knew that she was his. He wouldn't tolerate her with another man and the thought of that made him savage and vengeful.

"John." she cried out, her nails scrapping across his strong shoulders as her inner walls began to tense around cock. "John Sheppard."

"Mine." he keened through gritted teeth as he felt the euphoria erupting like fireworks through his veins. "My Cassie."

Complete, whole, absolute.

Cass gave him all of that and more than he could have possibly imagined. John hadn't believed in souls until now but the instance their orgasm tore through him he knew that any denial he had once had was gone.

The feeling was indescribable.


That was the only way he could verbalise the intensity of what was happening to them, she had made a permanent mark on his soul, one that could never vanish.

The sheer force of the climax vibrated through the two of them at the height of their coupling. The strength of it erupted through the both of them as the orgasm stole their breath melding their souls together entirely. Elation, joy, love, it all descended on them like a mist as the two of them lay there tangled in the aftermath of their activity. The minutes slipped by peacefully as their kisses became reverent before John removed himself from Cass's body, stripping himself of the condom before depositing it in the bin.

Cass moved allowing him to settle down beside her on his back before he gathered Cass up in his arms and drew her to him. She fit snugly into his side, her legs entwining with his amongst the mess of sheets that barely covered their hips. Her mused up, dark hair, tickled his neck as her head came to rest upon his shoulder, his fingers stroking through it absent-mindedly as he pressed a kiss to her hairline. Cass's fingertips came to rest upon the space where his heart was beating safely underneath the planes of his chest. She closed her eyes against the knowledge that besieged her brain as the endorphins began to fade from her exhausted form.

She now belonged completely to him.

Chapter Text

The lights were flickering again and Cass found that overly annoying. It had been happening on and off over the past few hours and now it was becoming more and more frequent. The power surges were disruptive not only to the lighting but towards the other medical machinery. She'd shut down the scanners because she couldn't risk them becoming damaged if the power went haywire. Carson was at a meeting with the other Heads of Operations. It had been called abruptly and in Cass's opinion that usually meant one thing, there was trouble brewing.

God, she hoped the city wasn't going to sink. Cass didn't really want to think that was even a possibility at this point. She doubted that the restricted access call out would have gone out if that was true, which made her consider that it was something else. She had been hearing stories over the past few weeks of ghosts trailing the hallways at night.

Cass had thought that was clearly people's minds playing tricks on them at the time. The Athoians were frightened and the city, she admitted was very unsettling at first. It taken her a little while to get used to it herself. Lately Cass had been hearing whispers among the Athosians of the Wraith and of the spirits of the Ancestors. She, herself had seen nothing to indicate that they were right but then again in a universe where Space Vampires could suck the life right out of your chest with the palm of their hand, anything was possible.

"Doctor Pierce, you have incoming." her comm chimed in her ear with the gruff voice of Paul Deakins, head of one of their Medical Team.

"Bring it straight in, details?" Cass responded, already in motion.

She was already slipping into a yellow plastic apron, one of her nurses was behind her fastening up the bindings as she snapped on a pair of latex gloves from the box along side the automatic doors.

"Lieutenant Ford, he's unconscious but stable. Burns on face and likely chest and upper body, we had to intubate on site." Paul fed the information through to her comm.

"What happened?" Cass questioned, stepping through the ancient doorway into the Trauma Bay.

"Looks like an electrocution, Sergeant Stackhouse is minutes behind us." Paul relayed before hesitating for a moment as he speculated. "Could be something to do with all the power surges Doctor."

"That would be my guess, How far are you out?" she requested, darting a furtive glance at her field kit, trying to decide whether it would be quicker for her to go to them.

"Two minutes." Paul promised as Cass flicked on the Diagnostic Scanner before speaking into her comm.

"I'm ready."

Lieutenant Aiden Ford was steaming, literally. There was smoke coming off his padded black utility vest in waves from the heat that had fused the zipper of it shut. Cass was hoping for the best in this situation, being struck by electricity played havoc with all sorts of body functions and the results from the initial scan still weren't back yet. Right now, her and her team of trauma doctors were focusing on damage control. They had already hooked him up to a ventilator so that his lungs were getting air, at the very least she was hoping that the paralysis of his respiratory system was only temporary. They were damned lucky the jolt of electricity hadn't disrupted the rhythm of his heart.

"We need to get this off him to assess how bad the damage is underneath." Cass told her team, holding her hand out for a pair of scissors. "It looks like it's fused to his fleece."

Cass was already snipping along the zipper line in order to disconnect the melted plastic and material from Ford's dark flesh. It came away with ease which made her breath a small sigh of relief, the material hadn't fused to his skin meaning he was very lucky in deed.

"Have the results from the scanner come back yet?" Cass asked Doctor Auster as her nimble fingers gently tugged the material away from the younger man's naked chest surveying the damage visually.

The burns were large and ragged in size and structure, patterning Ford's torso with raw intensity. Cass leaned closer examining the flesh and trying to ignore the stench of scorched meat that invaded her nostrils. The wounds were glossy with seeping moisture, the top layer of skin furling backwards and seared with black from where the electricity had struck at his body.

"I need cool water compresses and sterile dry bandages." Cass relayed to the team scurrying into action around her. "Also get an I.V in his arm, he's been losing a lot of fluid from these second degree burns."

"Doctor, the scan." Doctor Auster said, thrusting the tablet into Cass's hands before she flicked through the information.

She was distracted momentarily by the hiss of the automatic doors as Carson swept into the room already yanking on his own yellow apron.

"What have we got lass?" he called out into the room as Cass handed him the tablet containing the details from the scanner.

"He's damn lucky." Cass informed Carson, pointing out the younger man's vitals. "It looks like he got hit with lightning. His internal organs are intact, no swelling in the brain. We have him intubated for now because his respiratory system went into paralysis due to the shock."

"Hence the ventilator for now?" Carson questioned as his eyes strayed to the machine.

"When his body calms down he should be breathing unaided." Cass confirmed before gesturing to Auster who was applying the cool water compresses onto Ford's damaged skin. "I'm running an I.V to help with the fluids he's losing due to the burns. As far as I can tell there won't be much need for a skin graft."

"It looks like you won't be needing me after all." Carson complimented her before setting the tablet down and lingering by Ford's side to catch a glimpse of his burn injuries.

"Carson..." Cass beckoned him to one side. "I don't understand what happened here. The lights have been on the fritz all day and then Ford gets hit by some sort of electricity burst. Should we be on alert in case it causes more accidents like this?"

The question was an educated one. Ford had been lucky that his injuries hadn't been too severe, it would take him days to recover with the technology they had at their disposal. Cass couldn't help but wonder whether someone else may not be so lucky.

Carson's eyes fixated on hers, as he grasped her underneath her elbow lightly in order to guide her away from prying ears.

"It wasn't an electricity surge that did this to Lieutenant Ford. It appears there's an entity loose in the city, it's attracted to the power coming from the generators." Carson explained as best he could. "That's why we're on lock down, the soldiers were patrolling the corridors searching for it when it attacked Lieutenant Ford."

Carson's features were strained, already she could see more words dangling on the tip of his tongue but sensed his restraint. Pieces slotted into place as he pursed his lips together, arms crossed over his chest as he let out a deep sigh.

"Are we in danger?" Cass asked directly, meeting his gaze.

"I don't know lassie." Carson told her honestly. "They'll be fair warning if it does head this way. I hardly believe they'd leave us to fend for ourselves."

Cass nodded her agreement at his words before turning her attention back to her patient.

The infirmary was running on emergency power, they were using the bare minimal amount of energy they could afford in order to support the basic materials they needed to treat all of their patients. Carson was worried that The Entity, as the two of them had deemed it, would be drawn to the large amounts of energy they used to power the scanners so they had shut them all down once more.

From what little intelligence that she could gather, the situation had gone from bad to worse so Carson and herself had reduced the Infirmary to a skeleton crew and sent everyone else back to their quarters.

There were familiar footsteps treading towards her softly. Cass propped her chin on her hand as she took in John's familiar form stepping towards her. He was wearing his charcoal grey combat uniform, which meant he was ready for action. Things were serious, she had known that from the minute they'd all been forced into lock down earlier in the afternoon.

"Major." she greeted, raising to her feet as John paused at the end of Ford's bed.

His expression was unreadable as he took in the sight of his fallen comrade. His arms were crossed over his firm chest, his jaw set as he stared down at the Lieutenant's sleeping body. The burns were already starting to fade from the intense treatment they had subjected him to. Cass was glad that their technology was so advanced, it made the healing process a lot faster and of course a lot more manageable.

"How's he doing?" John said gruffly as she came to stand beside him

"We've put him in a medical coma until we can get all of our systems online again. He's not in any pain and he's healing up better than I hoped." she relayed the information in a clinical voice.

John needed the facts and she was laying them out in a language that he could understand. There was a struggle across his features, an internal war that Cass had no place stepping into. He had been responsible for this man and he had gotten injured on his watch, it weighted on him greatly as he regarded the consequences. His hands enclosed on the bar of the bed, his knuckles turning white under the strain of how close one of his men had come to death. The situation was already preceding to get worse with every second The Entity was loose.

His distress was evident and Cass wished more than anything else in the world that she could take it away. Realistically she knew that was impossible, John took on the burdens that other people broke under, it was his way. He made the hard choices the ones that other people dared not to face. Her fingertips ran lightly over the knuckles of his fist before coming to rest in the grooves.

"He's going to be alright." she told him quietly, her thumb caressing the side of his hand as the tension of his grip released.

"I'm going after it." John stated bluntly, staring down at her pale hand upon his tanned skin.

He didn't dare raise his head to look into those sapphire eyes, he was terrified of what he might see. This was how it started, the deterioration of every single relationship he'd had began with a mission and ended with a breakup. He couldn't stand to see the tortured heartbreak in Cass's eyes knowing that he'd put it there.

"I know." Cass told him frankly.

That surprised him, Cass could see it in his cautious expression and in his hazel eyes as he inclined his head towards her studying her for lies. Cass opened herself up to his gaze, allowing him to see the sincerity behind her actions. She would never make him feel ashamed or inferior because of his job, he had a duty and she understood that more than most. It was part of John, and Cass would never try to change that. She would never exert the same pressures as the previous women in his life and he needed to accept that.

Cass squeezed his hand lightly before drawing away back into the safety of lamp light. There was faith shining in her features, it lit her up like a star before his eyes as she fixated on him with a knowing smile.

"I'll still be here." she offered him pointedly.

There wasn't a single doubt in John's mind that she was telling the truth.

Chapter Text

They were on the pier near the Southern side of the city. Their feet were in the small river that ran from the main area of the city out to the sea. The water was fresh and clean, feeling ultimately soothing upon their skin as their legs paddled lightly in the flow of the water. The sun felt glorious upon Cass's pale skin as her and Carson sat side by side with their jeans rolled up to their knees. Their sneakers were placed neatly side by side in between them as they sat enjoying the rare quietness of a bright sunny day.

After The Entity had been neutralized or rather tricked through the Stargate by a surprising act of courage on the part of Doctor Rodney McKay Carson had decided the two of them needed a break. They had left the night shift supervisor in charge of the Infirmary while they enjoyed a rare day off. They were still in contact if needed, their comms attached to their ears. Cass admitted she liked the comms lot better than the pager she'd been forced to carry during her initial training in the E.R.

"I can't believe you found this spot." Cass said to Carson, leaning back on her hands and tilting her face up towards the sun.

"Aye, I used to do this with my brothers and sisters back home in a little brook where we used to live in Scotland." Carson told her with a smile on his wholesome features.

There were many reasons that Cass liked Carson Beckett but the first one was the fact he made her feel completely at home. He was patient and kind, never making her feel stupid when she asked him to explain some of the advanced technology that they were working with. Admittedly Cass was used to working with more basic implements so she felt spoiled by the amazing amount of tech they had at their disposal.

The friendship that had developed between her and Carson over the past nine months had taken on a more sibling mentality than she had previously expected. Cass had never had an older brother, but she had always wanted one, her sister had tried her best but there was something to be said about having someone to guide you through life's pitfalls.

Cass was used to relying on people in a professional capacity, her job depended on a certain level of trust between her and her team mates. She had never rewarded them with the same kind of bond that she shared with Carson. The truth was she could trust the soldiers she had worked with previously with her life but never with herself.

"What about you? Any siblings?" Carson asked, watching the ripples of the water as he paddled his feet.

"I have a sister back in New York, she lives there with her her two kids, a boy and girl." Cass found herself confiding. "Annabel and Nicky."

"Aw so you have a niece and a nephew." Carson said with a knowing smile. "You must miss them, I miss mine furiously."

"I do miss them but they enjoy it when I drop back every now and then." Cass revealed, running a hand through her loose dark hair. "The way I figure it I'm trying to help make the world a better place for their future or rather I am helping the people who can do that."

At the time when he had recruited Cass, he had been simply content that he had an apt and experienced field medic on his team. She was the best fit for this expedition and her resourcefulness knew no bounds. Circumstance had brought her to his door almost two years ago and he hadn't looked back since.

The tarmac was hot, in fact it was so hot that Carson could swear that it was sizzling beneath the soles of his shoes. He had never gotten used to the heat in California, it bore down on him, dry and unrelenting as he stood on the airstrip of the military base awaiting the passengers to disembark from the cargo plane in front of him.

The sunglasses were fixed on his wholesome features as he stood with apprehension mounting in his chest as the door of the plane opened. Carson had expected to see more next of kin here, awaiting the return of their loved ones to America but so far he was the only one and it took him a second that this was part of the privilege that was his position. He had been recruited to the SGC last year and that allowed him some credibility among the ranks of the military.

After seeing those videos that had been delivered by the rebel forces to the military base in Afghanistan he hadn't had high hopes of seeing his close friend Luke Mathews ever again. Seeing the larger Scot restrained to a chair covered in bruises and abrasions had sent Carson's brain into a tale spin. He felt sick at the possibilities that stretched before his friend if America didn't bow to the insurgents impossible demands. He knew how much damage the human body could take and he had forced himself to remember that Luke was tougher than he gave the other man credit for. Carson's mouth had gone dry as he watched his friend thrash and buck at the ropes that held him in place, it hadn't been until the rebel leader had delivered a sharp blow to the back of his head with the butt of an AK-47 that Luke had fallen still.

It had taken until the next video to realize why Luke was battling so hard instead of conserving his energy. Already Carson had seen the two videos of the other American soldiers who had been killed by a swift bullet to the brain. One had been mortally wounded prior to his death and the other was suffering a broken jaw so talking was out of the question. They were useless to the insurgents but as it turned out Luke and the Doctor were not.

Carson's had heart had broken for the female medic as she was wrestled into that chair in front of the video camera. The rebels were old school, they believed that a woman's place was below a man and it showed in their treatment of the doctor as they forced her down by her shoulders into the seat. Already her face was bruised, her lower lip was split as blood dripped down that porcelain skin onto her uniform. An open gash had been visible across her collarbone as the blood seeped into the material of her crumpled uniform. She had read from the paper in her lap with a tremor to her voice and with a numbness in her eyes that had showed her resigned attitude towards the situation.

Luke had been the first of the survivors to step off of the plane. His movements were stiff and rigid as he took the steps with a lumbering precision. His right forearm was in a white cast clutched close to his body as he descended slowly.

The doctor followed seconds after, her hair was loose and free flowing over her pale features hiding the extent of the bruising that marred her delicate cheekbones. The black eye was vivid, ugly and purple, her hand was brushing through her fringe so that it fell across her eyes. Luke turned back, glancing over his shoulder at the doctor as he spoke. His entire body was between her and the run way as he scanned the immediate area and Carson understood the gesture well.

Luke's protective instincts were still running into overdrive, the two had depended on each other for days in captivity and there was no doubt in Carson's mind that Luke had been thinking of his four sisters in the same position during that dark time.

His friends aquamarine eyes came to land on Carson as he stood apart from the hurried activity that was going on around him in terms of refuelling and checking the plane. Carson approached the pair as they stepped off the stairway, his arms open as he enveloped his friend in a huge heart felt hug.

"Welcome back laddie." he said as the other man clasped him tightly with his good hand.

"Thanks for coming." Luke returned, his voice gruff with emotion as the two men drew apart.

It had been later that night when the two of them had sat on the back porch of Luke's beach house sipping beer as they studied the cascading waves in the distance that Luke began to talk. He and Cass had spoken about it on and off on the journey home but Luke needed to cauterise the wound, to flush it out so it could heal. Carson became his confidant as he detailed the horrors of the event, the grief at knowing their friends were being tortured and killed, the helplessness at being confined at an unknown location awaiting death or worse interrogation.

Cass had been his reason for holding on, leaving her there alone to suffer the insurgents went against every single fibre of his being. He had grown up with four sisters and Cass was one of his own, protecting her hadn't even been an option. It had made him sick to the stomach letting her flaunt herself to the young insurgent in a bid for freedom. Even more he wished it had been himself that had dealt the final stab that had killed the rebel. He was a soldier, he was used to taking lives, Cass had lost people in the heat of battle but she had never killed before and he watched a piece of the woman die as she stole the life from their jailer. Luke had harboured such guilt over that and Carson had seen the darkness in his friend's eyes as he bleakly filed away the information.

When Luke was better, Carson had taken it upon himself to read up on the medic who had effectively saved his friend's life. Her expertises were exceptional in trauma situations, she kept a cool head and utilised everything within reach. He had spoke to her superior officers and colleagues, and studied her psychological recovery and then intervened when her application for a fourth tour had been processed. She'd been all set to go when he'd pulled her in for an interview before offering her the position on the spot.

It taken all of two days for her to call him with a decision.

"Aye Lass that's true. My mother always said all the worlds ills can be cured by a nice cup of tea. I can't help but wonder what she would say if she met the Wraith." Carson uttered into the air between them as a smile fluttered across his features.

"Your mother sounds like a born negotiator, handling the seven of you. She'd get them to sit down with Weir and Sheppard and we can all work out our differences." Cass commented, light heartedly.

"Somehow I don't think they'll be eating the chocolate fingers that's for sure." Carson bounced back casting a glance at Cass.

The two of them met each other's eyes before breaking into a fit of laughter. It was good to feel the joy filling her up like this. It had been a long time since she'd been able to do anything without restraint and now she felt like she was living for the very first time.

Carson had that way of brightening up things. She had been a pessimist before Atlantis but that was quickly changing. Things had become lighter for her as of late, she found herself smiling a lot more recently and that was really something.

"So what are you thinking of the Galaxy so far? Is this going to be another tour for you? Or are you settling down?" Carson asked her making reference to the eight month long tours she'd spent yearly in Afghanistan.

"If the Stargate doesn't get fixed then that may not be such a bad thing if it was sunny like this all the time. We get a little cocktail bar going over in the corner and some loungers and it'll be a real vacation spot." Cass responded as she stretched out her limbs luxuriously.

It was so relaxing being in the sun like this. It was hard to believe that they weren't on vacation when the weather was like this. She enjoyed the feel of the cool ocean breeze on her skin as they sat so within range of the ocean. It was rare that they had the ability to simply sit back and breathe. The quietness in this area made everything around her seem serene. There was no fear or pain here only contentment. Cass hadn't felt like this in a long time, the freedom was overwhelming. She wondered if she would feel confined again if they were able to return to Earth. Realistically she couldn't stand that thought.

Atlantis made her feel different, for the first time in a long time Cass was herself. It was a person she didn't recognize when she looked back at the past two years. She knew Carson was relieved to see her cheerful side shine, she doubted he was the only one.

Chapter Text

The mission had been a disaster from the very beginning. Over the past week Cass had been supporting Sergeant Bates's team in the field and she had come to appreciate the Sergeant's gruff, serious nature. It had kept her alive more than once in the past month. Bates was serious and hyper vigilant, his attention to detail and procedure matched the permanently stern expression on his features. He was a realist at heart and that showed in his tell it like it is mentality.

More so he was glad to have a medic on his team, over the past few months they had spent on Atlantis their encounters with the Wraith had become increasingly more frequent. Bates liked having options and a medic provided more possibilities for survival offworld.

The minute Cass stamped her foot through the make shift alter in front of the Stargate Cass knew it was going to be a bad day. There was a stone square set in front of the circular structure heaped with a mixture of wild flowers, terracotta pots filled with what she assumed was a mixture of incense. Clearly whoever worshipped the Ancestral Ring had built a mini shrine to it and Cass had just destroyed all of that hard work with one clumsy footstep.

"Doctor?" Bates questioned, his gaze lowering to the clay pot her foot was currently embedded in.

There was saffron yellow paste smeared across the top of her black combat boot, staining it with it's juices as she gingerly lifted it from the mess that she had created. She ignored the sniggers from the soldiers around her as she skipped over the rest of the alter.

"I'm good." she responded, wiping her boot across the plush green grass as the first drops of rain began to splatter on the top of her head.

Cass tilted her head up towards the sky as the water began to pitter patter down upon her porcelain features like tears raining down upon her cheeks. Something was wrong, she could feel it in the atmosphere draining the energy out of every step she took.

The heavens opened abruptly, the heavy dark clouds bursting as the sudden storm of water and hail showered down upon the them. Before they even had time to register it, the rain was pouring down in waves drenching them from head to toe in freezing cold moisture. Already her dark hair was plastered to her head, her uniform sticking to her limbs, weighing her down.

"Let's get this over with." Bates said into the open air, gesturing for his team to move forward, before casting a pointed look at Cass."And watch your step."

It was the mudslide that eventually called an end to their trip off world. They had been hiking up an unstable path towards a small settlement when the ground had literally slipped from beneath their feet.

Cass been lucky, Bates had lashed out as crumbling layer of soil had broken underfoot and grasped her arm, wrenching her back onto solid ground so hard it would leave bruises for days. One of the other team members Sergeant Myers hadn't fared so well. He had taken a tumble down the embankment and crashed through the dense undergrowth, snagging on shrubbery and branches as he went.

The loud, sickening crack had been audible as both her and Bates progressed down the slope, slipping and sliding their way down towards their fallen comrade. The two of them were covered in mud, it was smeared across their faces and limbs as Myers howled in horrendous pain clutching at his broken left arm.

Between them Bates and herself had managed to splint Myer's arm with two long, firm sticks before securing them in place with medical tape while the rest of their team stood guard watching for trouble. Cass had managed to use her own belt to create an ample sling by lassoing it around Myer's neck and wrist, hugging it close to the Myer's chest. With the help of Bates and herself they had managed to trudge back up the hill at an agonizingly slow pace, supporting Myer's between them.

By the time they had made it back through the Stargate, she was in an even worse state of disarray. She had seen the expressions of solitude upon the features of the staff as her group had stepped into the control room. There seemed to be a revered silence hanging in the air. Usually the control room was a talkative, bustling area and now it was just eerie. The onsite medical team were already taking Myer's from her and Bates as they stood shivering in the vast room.

Yet again that feeling of dread was mounting in Cass's chest as she rose her head up to the balcony that overlooked the Stargate acknowledging Weir's absence. It was rare that the other woman was not there overlooking their return. Weir was a very hands on leader, she liked to make sure that her teams were coming home safe and sound before the initial debriefing.

"You look like hell." Lieutenant Ford told her, his arms crossed over his torso as he stepped forward onto the platform as the Stargate closed behind them.

Cass diverted her attention to the man standing in front of her distractedly, trying to piece together the puzzle that was currently plaguing her senses. Something was wrong here, it was as if they all knew something that she didn't.

"Myers took a tumble down an embankment and broke his arm, unfortunately me and Bates had to follow suit." Cass explained, her eyebrows crinkling into a concerned frown. "You don't look too good yourself Lieutenant."

It was true, his face was gaunt and sallow as he stood before her in his downtime clothes, his trademark cap pulled down over his exhausted features. His back straightened as he met her gaze and she could see the struggle going on behind those eyes. He looked so much like a child trying so desperately to be an adult. There was a lump in her throat as Ford coughed into his fist in an attempt to clear his voicebox.

"The Major was injured off world today, an Iratus Bug attached itself to his throat and was bleeding off his life force. We managed to get it off of him but there were complications..."

"Complications?" Cass repeated, taking in this new information with a clinical detachment.

"To get it off him, we had to shock him with the portable defibrillator. It stopped his heart, it took us a few attempts to bring him back." Ford submitted. "He's stable and Doctor Beckett's looking after him in the Infirmary. He woke up a few hours ago and he seems to be grumpy from the pain but otherwise he's ok."

Cass exhaled deeply, the breath that she hadn't realized she'd been holding was free now and she took a second to grasp back all the niggling strands of self control that were failing her at the current moment. Composure was important right now, if they're relationship was going to work in Atlantis she needed to have a clear head in situations like this. Things like this happened in the field, it was hard for them to be avoided, she couldn't let the flurry of emotions take over like the whirlwind that raged inside her. Worry, fear, anxiety they were all negative feelings that rattled her senses completely, she couldn't walk into the Infirmary and let John see all of those, it would add to the edginess he must already be feeling.

Cass forced herself to focus on the positive aspects of this revelation, John was alive and in no immediate danger. He was safe in the Infirmary and in the best care they had in two galaxies. His outlook was positive and if he could afford to be grouchy then that was a bonus.

"I'll walk you to your quarters so you can change." Ford offered, breaking into the refuge of Cass's thoughts in a bid to spur her into action. "I'll explain more on the way."

"Thank you." she said quietly, fixing him with a knowing stare.

The unspoken words were there in between them, an alliance in the stalemate that had been constructed between them previously.

Ford's respect for the Doc had just risen a notch or two with her reaction to how she had taken the news. He had steeled himself for the worst, prepared to deal with an alarmed, upset girlfriend so that the Major wouldn't have to. Yet she'd handled it with a dignity and reserved calm he hadn't expected. His measure of her was changing dramatically now that he was starting to understand that this ran a lot deeper for her than he had anticipated.

As it turned out Cass Pierce might just be the right woman for the Major after all.

The incident that John's team had suffered in the Jumper been over four hours ago and now John was sleeping peacefully in the infirmary under Cass's watchful gaze. He had woken briefly after his ordeal according to Carson and stayed awake long enough to assure his friends that he was fine before drifting off again. The Wraith-like bug creature had taken a lot out of him, he was rejuvenating the energy it had stolen from his body.

Cass had sent Carson to bed so she could cover the night shift. The man had been working over twelve hours straight. It would be a lie if she didn't admit that her intentions were somewhat selfish. This was a time she could spend with him unobserved and alone. The urge to protect him was so overwhelming it made her want to laugh out loud. She had never associated vulnerability with John Sheppard but while she sat in the chair beside his bed and watched him sleep she could see the man underneath all the title.

His skin was waxy and pale against the harsh halogen lights of the Infirmary. His chocolate brown hair was sticking up in all directions as Cass checked his temperature for what seemed like the millionth time. She didn't like feeling helpless, it simply wasn't her way. She was aware she was hovering, the nervous energy pulsed inside restlessly. Worry ate up at her insides. Ford had told her the story of how this had happened and of every single one of the thirty eight minutes they had spent trapped in the Jumper. Carson had detailed John's treatment as kindly as possible and she appreciated that in more ways than she could have said.

Cass rubbed at her gritty, tired eyes. She couldn't imagine what it must have felt like for John and his team to have been trapped in such a dire situation and at the end of the day she couldn't think of that. They couldn't survive on a life built up on if's and maybes, Cass refused to even consider it.

The truth was she couldn't, relationships were full of expectations and visions of the future. Their lives were so adamantly stuck in the present it was impossible to think beyond that. Of all the people Cass had met John was more deserving of happiness than anyone. He was bold and courageous, his loyalty knew no bounds. He had his faults, already she had learned he was rash and impulsive but those were qualities that she herself harboured.

"Hi." John's deep voice was rough as Cass rose her sapphire eyes to meet his.

"Hi." Cass returned with a small smile."How are you feeling?"

"Like a horse kicked me in the chest." he answered, wincing as he brought his hand up over his red scrubs, rubbing across the stinging nerves.

"That tends to happen when you get two hundred volts of electricity jump starting your heart." Cass reminded him as she picked up the chart at the end of the bed and unclipped a pen from the clipboard. "Well you have one hell of a Hickey and you need a few days rest but otherwise Carson has assured me you'll be ok."

Cass replaced the clipboard on the end of the bed. There were a thousand things she should be saying to him right now but she could barely bring herself to breath past the ache in her throat as his hazel eyes fixed on her. It was unfair to ask for reassurances, know how close to death he had come tapped into her emotions on a level she had never even considered before. It was debilitating, in the few short weeks they had been together John had made such an impact on her life it was startling.

"Come here." John requested patting his hand on the mattress of the hospital bed.

"I don't really..." Cass began trying to distance herself from the situation.

"Cassie." his voice using that name was like liquid honey pouring over every single one of her senses and she found herself compelled to obey his wish.

Cass sighed out loud before stepping towards his bedside and seating herself beside him so their hips nudged lightly.

"If your asking me to play nurse..." she warned him.

"The thought is now crossing my mind." John told her, bowing his head to hide the fire burning in his eyes at the thought of Cass clad in a little white uniform.

"I'm glad your ok." Cass murmured placing her dainty hand over his, her fingertips playing lightly over the back of his hand.

John caught her fingers in his, interlacing them. The gesture was simple but intimate and he didn't fail to notice that Cass didn't draw away. She stared down at their entwined fingers looking torn. He thought maybe he understood that feeling, being alone for so long was hard, he had stood on the brink many times before now and he knew he would again. Cass deserved better than to be part of something like this but the truth was John was selfish, he needed something to come home to and she was it for him.

"I'm sorry." John said helplessly, as he had said to so many women so many times before.

"You don't need to apologize. I'm not going anywhere." her voice was firm and resolute as she leaned in so their lips were inches apart.

Cass found herself starring directly into his eyes. For the first time Cass noticed the tiniest flecks of green around his irises. His gaze lowered to her pert, rose coloured lips as they parted. She was finding it hard to breath as the air thickened between them, crackling with tension.

She closed her eyes as John's calloused fingertips brushed along the curve of her cheekbone. She could hear her own intake of breath as his thumb skated across her lower lip. The anticipation raced through her body as the fresh scent of his clean, masculine essence flooded her senses.

His lips brushed over hers tentative and exploratory as his hands threaded through her hair drawing her even closer. Every single part of her ached for him, a delirious desire was coursing through her synapses, setting her nerves blazing at the sensation of his hands upon her skin as he cupped her face.

Cass had never felt so alive, there was such power in John Sheppard and she could feel it erupting like a firework in her chest. There was a tenderness in his touch that she hadn't expected and somehow she knew that he reserved that only for her.

They drew apart breathless, John's eyes still fixated on hers as he took her hand gently in his and pressed it to his rampaging heart.

"Tell me you feel that." He said softly as Cass splayed her fingers across his chest.

Cass reached down between them taking his own free hand in hers and placing it on the same spot in which he had placed hers. The two of them broke into jubilant grins at the sensation that passed between them. They were sharing something new and profound with each other, something that they had never experienced before.

"I'm here for you." she promised him fiercely. "I'll never ask you to change who you are or what you do."

He had never heard those words before and it opened up a floodgate inside him. It was an omission of something stronger, a lifeline into the future and he knew at that instant John truly believed her. She was restoring his faith, little by little and building it back up again from the crumbling ruins it had become.

"Cassie." he whispered against her lips as he spoke his own truth. "I trust you."

Chapter Text

It was day two in their Afgan hell hole and they were hungry, hurt and sleep deprived. Mathews was attempting to conserve strength by curling into a ball and cat napping in the furthest corner of the cell. Connors had been removed from The Cave, the day before for his interrogation. They had spent hours grilling the older man before they had returned him to their cage with a broken jaw and burn marks all over his battered body. He couldn't talk, instead he made antagonizing whimpering noises as Cass cradled his head upon her lap, smoothing the ginger hair away from his deformed features. She couldn't help much with the way the bones were broken in his jaw but she could provide some comfort to his injured form as Rucka prayed to their God on his knees beside her. He was the next to go and on the dawn of her thirtieth birthday he was the first of them never to come back.

Cass's heart was racing when she woke up, she could feel it pounding against her ribcage just underneath John's hand as she jerked awake from the reverie as if she'd just been shot.

"What's wrong?" he whispered into the darkness, his voice still thick with sleep.

His nose was trailing up an along the curve of her throat until he planted a butterfly kiss on that sensitive spot just under the lobe of her ear. His firm muscular body was curled around hers, spooning it lovingly on the compulsory single bed.

"It was a dream." she murmured, daring not to move from the safety of his embrace. "Go back to sleep."

There was shame in her voice, John could hear it as much as he could feel it in the wrought tension that had invaded her muscles. She was like steel, immobile and unrelenting in his arms as he kissed her naked shoulder.

"Cassie." he singsonged her name quietly, propping his head up on his hand before she flopped onto her stomach, maintaining the contact of their nude bodies as she peered at him from beneath her flurry of dark hair.

John's fingertips played along the knots of her spine as he doodled patterns on her supple skin. He knew she found the gesture relaxing, he had spent hours in the aftermath of their love making mesmerising every single contour of her body with his hands.

"We all have bad dreams." he told her, his head coming to rest on the pillow so that their faces were

inches apart.

His fingers were still working their magic, massaging the physical echoes of the nightmare from her taunt form. She'd had the same dream last year as well. She wasn't sure if she could still call it a dream when in reality it was really a memory of an event that had occurred two years ago. There was still a terrible guilt resting there on her shoulders, she knew it wasn't logical. Both her and Luke had survived what had happened in Afghanistan by sheer luck. If it had been the other way around she wouldn't have wanted Connors or Rucka to harbour any issues over her death. After it was all said and done, there wasn't a damn thing left to change.

"Your thirty two today." John stated quietly as his thumb traced over the apple of her cheek.

Cass didn't question how he knew that. John was the ranking military officer to Atlantis, he had every single member of the expedition's files at his fingertips. It did make her wonder how much he really knew about her but she could never bring herself to broach the subject. Somehow she doubted that he would invade her privacy in such a manner. She thought Carson had probably told him about her birthday, he was given her the day off despite her protests.

John's thumb smoothed over her parted lips before his mouth descended on hers as he cupped the side of her face. He placed the most tenderest of kisses upon her pursed lips before he whispered into the corner of her mouth.

"Happy Birthday."

Being smacked down onto the floor hurt like a bitch. Cass's body was aching all over as she lay flat on her back staring at the swirling patterns on the white washed ceiling above her. Her right hand was throbbing like hell from where she'd slapped out against the fall with her palm upon the green mat absorbing the shock. Her heart was racing from the bout of physical activity as she stayed motionless for a second completely breathless. In the field this kind of behaviour would have gotten her killed, but in the gym on the mat it was ok to stop and catch a second's worth of breath against the fatigue.

Teyla's pretty face appeared in Cass's vision as she blew the dark hair out of her eyes as sweat plastered her fringe to her forehead. Her hand was reaching out to Cass as she studied the other woman lying before her serenely.

"You are getting better." Teyla approved as Cass's hand clasped hers in a symbol of friendship and unity.

"Really?" Cass questioned as the other woman helped her to her feet. "Because it feels like your still kicking my ass all over the place."

The work out was a gift to herself. She would do anything today to keep herself distracted from the dark thoughts that plagued at her. It was frightening how one day could take her back to that terrifying place. She was glad that John had left at some point before she had awoken this morning. Rodney had already commented on her distant attitude at breakfast and Cass knew her restless, irate mood would only get worse as the day wore on.

"That may be true but you are getting better." Teyla told her, without any trace of the smugness that Cass was used to being the recipient of.

"You make it impossible for me to hate you." Cass informed the other woman as Teyla passed her a towel from the built in wardrobe.

"Your hate would be misplaced." Teyla assured her as Cass dabbed at the back of her neck.

"Yes." Cass agreed, slinging the towel over her shoulders. "Yes it would."

It took a few minutes for the two of them to tidy the small sparring room before Teyla opened the door allowing the two of them to exit.

"I really appreciate you teaching me hand to hand combat." Cass said as the two of them walked down the corridor together. "I picked up a few things on and off over the years from some soldier buddies of mine but nothing as disciplined as what your teaching me."

"I think it's wise for you to learn to take care of yourself, especially with your recent trip off world." Teyla informed her sagely.

"It was a brief encounter with the Wraith and not one I care to repeat." Cass admitted, shaking her head at the memory.

Facing the Wraith again was one of Cass's worst nightmares after her abduction the first time off world but fear was something that she had conquered before and she had convinced herself she could do again. The Wraith had become the enemy and it was something that she could use against the terror that they generated within her. An enemy, she could fight back against, it took away the horrific power they had held over her being. That and the lightweight P-90 that Lieutenant Ford had been teaching her to use at the firing range they had created.

It had been close, far too close for Cass's liking. They'd barely been on the planet more than two hours before the Wraith darts had flown over head and they'd been forced to make a hasty retreat back to the Stargate. She and the rest of Sergeant Bate's team had barely been able to dodge the oncoming Wraith stunners before they'd hurtled back through the gate.

She had no doubt with all the hand to hand training in the world that if she and a Wraith went head to head without any weapons she would come off worse but learning these skills may help in other more situations. They hadn't encountered a hostile settlement yet but she knew that they were out there and she'd rather be prepared than the underdog in any fight.

After helping the Athosians set up their new settlement on the mainland outside of Atlantis, Cass had approached Teyla regarding hand to hand combat training. Over the past few weeks as Cass and Carson had helped build and ferry supplies to the growing campsite she had struck up an easy friendship between Teyla and herself. Cass had many questions regarding the culture of Teyla's people and the other woman was happy to oblige. Soon Cass felt comfortable enough to ask the other woman for help defending herself.

The fight between them in the beginning had been nowhere near evenly matched even though it was useful for Teyla in order to gauge Cass's current skill set. The pale skinned woman's blend of Judo, Self Defence and instinct stood no chance against Teyla's controlled and somewhat brutal martial arts. Watching the Teyla move with such grace and fluidity was startling for Cass and being on the receiving end of such power was both painful and immense.

"How are your people settling into their new home on the mainland?" Cass asked the other woman as the pair of them strolled towards the living quarters.

"Very well." Teyla relayed gratefully. "Even without the suspicion of some of the Atlantians, being away from the forest disquieted them. On the main land they feel more at peace."

After John's disappearance during the early hours of this morning Cass had tried to sneak out of his quarters and back to her own. Admittedly it was usually her that disappeared from his bed before John awoke to attend the Tea Ceremony the Athosians engaged in at daybreak every morning. Cass and Teyla had become accustomed to sharing the ceremony alone each morning since her people had left, Cass thought the other woman enjoyed the company as much as Cass enjoyed the serene energy that pulsed through her form after they preformed it.

"Can you wait here a moment?" Teyla requested as they lingered outside the other woman's quarters.

"Of course." Cass replied, leaning against the wall while Teyla disappeared into her quarters.

Teyla reappeared with a traditional wooden tea tray in her hands. Upon it was a small, double spouted, cast iron teapot, two minuscule terracotta cups and delicate whisk made out of beech wood. There was a ziplock bag of tea leaves resting in the small stone mortar and pestle.

"Major Sheppard mentioned it was your Birthing Day today." Teyla said with a knowing smile as she bowed her head. "So from one friend to another."

Teyla placed the gift into Cass's surprised hands as she stared stunned at one of the most thoughtful presents she had ever received. She was truly touched by the other woman's gesture, she hadn't expected anything like this and the sincerity behind such a notion astounded her. Teyla was someone with a loyal heart and a compassionate nature and Cass was glad that she was worthy of the other woman's friendship.

Her cheeks flushed humbly as she met Teyla's gaze ensuring the other woman understood the full extent of her earnestness as she spoke.

"Thank you."

The Mess Hall was quiet as Cass sat alone at a vacant table, leaning back on the plastic chair. Her research notes from over the last few days were clasped in her hand as she bit into a red apple she had acquired from the canteen. She had spent the past few trips off world gathering a catalogue of diseases and remedies from the local healers of each planet. Carson and herself had decided that it would be a wise move in case the city suffered an outbreak.

"All work no play makes Cass a dull girl." Carson remarked as he sat down across from her.

His tray bumped into hers lightly as he set it down on the table. Cass barely glanced up from reading her papers as she inclined her head towards him in greeting. In reality she was still mad at him for forcing her into this situation, then again she had no right to be angry at him.

The problem was with her. Most of the time she was fine, she had dealt with what had happened in Afghanistan but there were still moments, days even where her strength faltered. She thought that she was hiding that well underneath her aloofness, she didn't want anyone to know how badly damaged she really was inside.

"Can't help it, lots to do." she muttered, placing the apple core back down on her lunch tray.

"Any particular reason you seem to be working harder today than any other? I gave you the day off for a reason lass." Carson informed her, watching the concentration on her porcelain features.

"I told you I would have rather worked today." she said distractedly.

"Come on now Cass. Your being silly." Carson stated, picking up his fork and poking at his food.

Cass exhaled deeply, trying to keep her focus on the words in front of her. She didn't want to think about today, she wanted to work herself into oblivion until she was too exhausted to function. Carson thought he was doing her a favour by giving her the day off. It was completely infuriating and endearing all at the same time.

"I know what will cheer you up." Carson said brightly into the silence between them.

Cass set her papers down as Carson removed something from the pocket of his chinos and pushed it across the table towards her. Cass frowned, her fingertips playing over the organic, green leaves that were wrapped around something hidden inside.

"Open it." Carson insisted, spearing a tomato from his chicken salad and popping it in his mouth.

Cass obeyed, her finger working within the grooves to separate the vegetation parcel wrappings to reveal a slender piece of jewellery. It was a bracelet, made of tightly weaved black cord, in the centre was a flat, beige, oval shaped stone with a rune etched into it.

"According to the Athosians it means freedom." Carson told her softly. "Freedom from your past and freedom in your future. I thought if anyone deserved to have that it would be you."

Cass rose her gaze to meet Carson's and at that minute she sensed the depths of his understanding into her psyche. Carson always saw right through her walls no matter how much she tried to hide things from him. There were things in her past that she was regretful of, choices she had made that had ended badly for herself and for others and Cass had let them shape her. Carson's gesture was monumental in her world and he knew just how many levels this rune worked on.

"You need to let it go." he advised her in his hushed Scottish accent. "You have a real shot at happiness here and your letting what happened back in Afghanistan alter the person that your meant to be. You can't change the past lassie, but you can make damn sure that it doesn't ruin who you are."

His dexterous fingers were already removing the bracelet from it's trappings. Cass lifted her wrist so he could slid it underneath the smooth skin before tying the knot securely at the base of her palm.

Cass stared at her friend completely mesmerized as Carson met her eyes once more. She had fought for her freedom and for that of others. Carson was telling her to stand tall and accept that there was no shame in survival. Just as the thought crossed her mind, she could feel the trappings that bound her snapping like straining ropes as something beautiful and weightless broke free. The surge of tranquillity that besieged her was unique and she could only attribute it to knowledge that she was finally coming to terms with her actions during and after Afghanistan.

"It's time to let it go Cass." he stated firmly, ensuring she caught the meaning behind his words as she met his gaze intently with her own, her lips moving as she formed the most honest words she had ever uttered.

"I already have."

Chapter Text

The beach was stunning as the two of them sat upon the golden sands side by side, watching the dark water crash across the stretching shore line of the mainland. The campfire John had made out of Hexi blocks and dry sticks was crackling beside them. John's strong arm was wrapped around Cass's small shoulders drawing her snug against his firm body, the fingers of her left hand were interlaced in his as she tilted up her head to look at the stars glittering brightly in the sky above.

The trip had started off as a quick run to the main land in the Puddle Jumper to take some medical supplies over to the Athosians. She couldn't operate the Puddle Jumper without the ATA gene so John had volunteered. It had taken a while for Cass to realize that there was in fact camping equipment stowed away amongst her supplies. A raised eyebrow in John's direction had been returned with a wide smile as he suggested an over night stay on the island.

"You know this is going to cause all sorts of rumours back at Atlantis." Cass stated, her lips caressing the back of John's hand. "Overnight stay in a one man tent away from the Athosians..."

"Yea, you know I kind of got bored with all the midnight tiptoe and the sneaking around." John informed her light-heartedly before his tone changed to something more serious. "You deserve better than that."

"So this is your way of saying to hell with it?" Cass asked him, tilting her head up to meet his gaze.

"They're going to find out sometime, what's the point in hiding it any more?" John said nonchalantly.

Cass raised her hand to her mouth in order to hide the smile that was lighting up her dainty features. John wondered why she did that, why Cass hid her feelings behind a mask. He loved seeing her happy, the way her eyes shone in the moon light captivated him, she looked radiant and blissful as she peered up at him. Her fingers were picking up a sky blue coloured, curved shell from the sand as she toyed with it between her fingers.

"Did you ever used to do that thing where you pick up a sea shell and listen to the sound of the ocean?" Cass questioned as she cupped it to her own ear.

John shook his head, holding out his own hand for the shell. He had heard of it a thousand times before but he had never stopped to actually try out the urban myth, whenever he was at a beach he was usually too busy surfing to even notice there were shells on the sand around him. Cass placed it in his palm before John brought it to his ear, frowning at the roaring sound emitting from the depths of the sea shell.

"I always thought that was one of those rumours you hear as a kid, you know like 'eating your crusts makes your hair curl' and stuff like that." John said handing the shell back to her.

"You know McKay probably has some huge scientific reason behind what it is but I like keeping the magic of it." Cass told him cupping the sea shell between her hands.

"I have something for you." John said abruptly, raising to his feet.

Cass watched as he returned to their tent not ten meters away and before withdrawing something from it. There was a box clasped in his large hands when he sat back down again. Cass studied him quizzically as he held the medium sized rectangle towards her. She took it, setting the gift down on her lap before studying it with curious fingertips.

The gun metal grey lockbox was heavy and made of iron from what she could tell. There were a few faded surf board logos stuck to the lid. The corners were rounded and there was a heavy duty lock on the front, John jangled the keys beside her before taking her delicate hand in his and placing them inside her palm.

"I remembered you telling me about your memory box back home, the one you left with your sister." he told her, gently closing her fist around the keys.

Just in case, she had told him as they lay in bed together. She had been away so much she wanted her nephew and niece to have something to remember her by if for some reason she could never make it back.

It was a realistic possibility, one that he had long ago accepted.. As far as his father was concerned John was dead to him anyway after turning his back on the family business to make his own way flying helicopters for the US Airforce. His brother Dave was of the same grain, he didn't approve of John's tempestuous relationship with the old man. They hadn't spoken for months before John had agreed to the Atlantis Expedition. The only people that really cared about him were all here in the Pegasus Galaxy. Ford, Teyla, Weir, Beckett, Cassie, even McKay.

They were his family now. A ragtag bunch of misfits with a variation of skills that differed from his own. He was an easy going, open minded man and he took care of his own people. It was hard for him to show it sometimes, it was difficult for John to explain his feelings verbally. He was emotionally withdrawn until he met Cass and then it was as if she'd stolen his agony right out of his soul. He could feel again, believe that he was worthy of happiness and love.

Ruined, was what he proclaimed himself to be after divorcing Nancy. Damaged and broken.

Selfless, courageous, compassionate. Those were the words that Cass murmured into his ear in the dead of night as those soft lips kissed along the line of his jaw. He had never asked for her praise, he could never ask Cass for anything but when she spoke he trusted that she was telling him the truth. She had given him so much of herself over the past few months, her heart, her body, her soul. He could feel that in every touch, word and caress that she blessed him with.

John had nothing but his dogtags to his name and a few items in storage back at home. He didn't see the point in keeping a lot of stuff when he wasn't around much to enjoy it. The only thing he had to give Cass was himself and he thought that he was a poor prize for what she truly deserved.

So here John was gifting Cass with a piece of himself. The lockbox was something he'd had in his possession since his teenage years. He used to collect baseball cards back when his mom was alive, she had given him the lockbox to store them in along with the pineapple surf board wax he had favoured at the time. It was his most treasured possession in the world and now he was giving it to the most precious person in the world.

"I thought it was time you started to make some new memories." John said quietly.

He watched as Cass unlocked the box with her new set of keys before opening the dense lid before she took the pretty blue shell and deposited it in the lockbox. He could see how much it meant to Cass to receive a present like this. That cute little side smile was making an appearance once more as it curved across her beautiful features. Her fingertips smoothed over the shape of a yellow surfboard as she traced the outline.

"Now it has our first memory." Cass told him, beaming as she tilted her head to look up at him.

God, Cassie Pierce had no idea what she did to him when she looked at him that way, in the way that told him he was everything that she wanted, everything that she needed. Her hand reached out, her thumb brushing along the darkening stubble of his cheeks. John's lips grazed the palm of her hand as she met his intense hazel eyes.

"Thank you for this." Cass murmured against his mouth. "Thank you for all of this."

Cass's hands were threading through John's messy brown hair as she lay underneath him. She was kissing him like a woman possessed, her hands smoothing over his broad shoulders as his tongue parted her lips, dipping into her mouth and tasting that delicious unique blend of her person. He was powerless against her beauteous form as she writhed with delirious pleasure underneath the hard planes of his body. Her slender thighs were locked around his taunt waist as John thrust inside her inviting supple frame.

Jesus, Cass couldn't get enough of him. He was always so tantalising and so passionately responsive to her kisses and ministrations. His teeth grazed that tender spot just above her collarbone, her head tipped back into the pillow as she called out his name. He knew how to work her up so much she was trembling and begging for more.

His skin was molten hot against hers as the waves of ecstasy claimed her violently, dragging Cass under as she drowned in the euphoria of John's physical ambiance. His hips were moving just that little bit faster hitting that sweet spot over and over again until he held her just on the edge begging for release.

"God John." she whispered against his lips. "God your so damned perfect for me."

Those words were music to his ears, they made him feel every inch the man he was in her eyes. It was amazing how she made him feel, the sense of contentment was incredible. John's mouth enclosed over hers once more, stifling her moans of joy. He was stealing her heart and soul all over again. The sense of belonging she made him feel was amazing. They were each other's salvation. He savoured every moment with her, every time they could be together without boundaries or consequences.

God, she tasted sweet under his lips. Her desperation was in every single one of her cries as her body bucked and tensed clambering on the very cusp of climax.

John was falling, he knew that the second he had laid his hands on Cassandra Pierce. By his nature he was a solitary man or at least he had been before he'd met her. Her tongue was in his mouth exploratory and seeking as her hips nudged against his insistent and demanding that he complete their union. His right hand found hers, their fingers entwining as he picked up the pace.

"Cassie." he mumbled against her mouth indicating just how close he was to their release.

His senses were dazzled by the endorphins that erupted through him. He was wrapped up entirely in Cass and he loved every single second of it. Her taste was on his tongue, her feminine scent in his nose, he could see the rapture on those pretty porcelain features.

Making love to Cass was phenomenal in a way that even he could barely understand. They were communicating beyond words as they erupted together at the highest of peaks. Even without speech he knew that he had claimed her. There was no question that Cassie Pierce now belonged to him entirely as he held onto her gaze.

John felt Cass let herself go completely as her fingertips dug into his knuckles. Her orgasm was already clenching around his dick like a velvet fist. God, he could feel it igniting, inside his soul as she moaned against his mouth. He was holding onto Cass as she crested, her climax drawing out John's. He erupted deep inside of her, a low gluttonous groan leaving his lips before he kissed Cass once again becoming lost completely in this stunning young woman.

Their kisses were lazy and clumsy as they came down from their high. Cass gave a shaky laugh as John pressed his forehead against hers so he could stare into her sapphire gaze.

"Jesus." she laughed out loud at her own exclamation as John's nose traced along the length of hers.

"Is that what your calling me now?" John murmured into her mouth as his lips brushed over hers.

"You are such an egotist." Cass told him, her slim fingers lacing around the back of his neck as she drew him even closer.

"I thought that's why you liked me." John retorted in between long, deliberate kisses.

"Hm, it's one of the reasons." Cass mumbled as John's hands cupped her flushed cheeks before he pressed another loving kiss to her mouth whispering the words.

"Happy birthday."

Chapter Text

John was asleep. His chin was resting on his palm so his head was tilted towards the screen of his laptop as she watched from the solid doorway with a small smile spreading across her features. He'd been burning the midnight oil recently.

Cass had barely seen him over the past few weeks, she'd been covering Carson's shifts at the Infirmary while he worked on some gene research with the Hoffans. The people of that planet thought that they had been working on a vaccination that would stop the Wraith from feeding on humans. Unfortunately they were decades away from getting anywhere with the formula. However with Carson's help and advanced technology it would appear he had stepped up the process and they were getting ready to put a prototype into action.

John had been spending a lot of time offworld recently, mission after mission through the Stargate had taken it's toll on him. She had seen the exhaustion set on his features over the past few days. He rubbed his eyes a lot when he was tired, his handsome features had looked haggard.

Cass stepped into the room, setting the mug of coffee beside the laptop before blowing lightly into John's ear. He jerked awake as his hand slipped out from underneath his chin. Her delicate hand was on his shoulder, her thumb rubbing light circles over the knots in his shoulder.

"Sleeping on the job Major?" Cass teased in a low tone before placing a butterfly kiss upon his unshaven cheek.

"Hm." John uttered, his fingers curling around her slender wrist and gently pulling her arm around his neck so that she was hugging him around his broad shoulders. "Just resting my eyes."

"I don't believe you." Cass's breath ghosted over his ear, as she withdrew from his weary body.

"Hence why you brought me coffee." John responded gratefully as he leaned forward to take the mug between his large hands.

Cass dropped into the chair across from John, crossing her legs as she propped her chin up on her hand watching him intently.

"I appreciate this." John said toasting her with his cup.

"You look like you needed it." Cass told him simply.

That's what John liked about Cass, he didn't feel pressurized by her in anyway. As far as she was concerned he was busy, they would make time for each other if they could. He enjoyed stolen moments like this. It was a moment of silence in his busy mind, a fragment of their connection. She always knew what he needed without the words ever emitting from his mouth.

"All these mission reports just keep piling up." John told her, rubbing his hands over his rugged face.

"With great power comes great amounts of paperwork." Cass said sympathetically, raising her eyebrows knowingly.

"Here's me thinking you were gonna quote Spiderman on me." John retorted before drinking deeply from his mug.

"Spiderman's too whiny." Cass informed him with a grimace. "Batman however, he has a lot of things going for him. Broody, dark and intimidating with the best Detective skills in any comic franchise. "

John rolled his eyes in response to her list before speaking.

"What is it with you and McKay?" he asked her. "The two of you are like D.C's main supporters. Marvel is so much cooler The X-men, The Incredible Hulk..."

Cass snorted at his statement.

"Really?" she scorned. "The Incredible Hulk was one of the best things to come out of Marvel?"

"Whoa, whoa." John held up his hands in mock surprise. "You think I don't know your judging my comic book collection based on the movies you've seen?"

"They were bad John, I mean literally awful. I turned off Hulk half way through because my brain started to shut down at the stupidity of it." Cass informed him, gesturing with her hands.

"See you have to read the comics and see how his story develops. It's actually quite endearing in a large, smashing things kinda way." John told her humorously.

Cass held up her index finger indicating she'd just had an idea.

"Ah ha, I see where the impulse comes from." Cass uttered light heartedly before she pointed at him. "You do the whole John smash thing when you go off world."

"Hey people shoot at me." John told her with a shrug. "I just shoot back. I can't help it if they find my personality a little..."

"Your a smart ass." Cass interrupted as she looked at him pointedly. "That is what makes people want to shoot at you."

"They don't usually manage to hit me." John said with that charming boyish smile settling across his rugged features.

"Please I have seen that bullet hole." Cass reminded him, patting the indentation in his right thigh knowingly.

John chuckled as he ducked his head staring into the recesses of his coffee mug. His fingers were wrapped around the heated mug warming his cool fingertips.

"Your the only one that has." he told her before clearing throat gruffly."Your working tonight right?"

It sent a little possessive streak running right through Cass at that knowledge. That was her claim to him, he wasn't her possession and she would never see him like that but she was glad he was her person. He was dominant and dependable. Each scar that patterned his body was a piece of his history and Cass liked being the only one to know the story behind each and every one of them. She adored running her eager fingertips over the raised flesh and kissing them until John's only memory was of her mouth.

"Sadly." Cass answered in response to John's question.

"Maybe I'll come by." John said nonchalantly. "You know see how people in the Infirmary are doing."

Cass understood the meaning hidden underneath his words. He wanted to see her. She had taken a step by entering his work environment as his partner and yet again their relationship was changing. It showed him she was comfortable with their situation and that he was permitted to do the same. The relationship was becoming more than a secret and John was content with the fact Cass was taking the words he had spoken on the beach seriously. He didn't want what they had to be some sordid and hidden affair.

They were partners, he couldn't tell her to her face yet but he thought this was for life. Cass was more than just his girlfriend. John had never believed in soulmates, hell he had never believed in souls until now but when he looked at Cass he knew that his beliefs were shifting. He felt like God was sparing him from a life of aloneness by blessing him with this woman. She was becoming everything to him and he had never realized he needed her until she had stepped into his life.

Cass cast him a final smile before she rose to her feet and slipped right out the door.

Chapter Text

Doctor Rodney McKay was sitting on the Treatment Table in front of Cass as she read through his latest test results. She was biting her lower lip as she shook her head in response to what she was reading on the screen of the tablet that processed the scanner information.

As much as she liked Rodney McKay despite his rough edges, he had the notorious habit of being a known hypochondriac. He was a pain in the ass most of the time but there were moments when he showed genuine compassion for other people. She knew that he cared for the people around him, he was just arrogant and irritating sometimes.

Most times...

"Well the Diagnostic Scanner confirms my findings so far." Cass told him as her fingertips scrolled down the screen of the tablet before she hugged the item to her chest reviewing Rodney with a frown. "There's absolutely nothing wrong with you."

"I have a head ache." Rodney exclaimed, his hands on either side of his head "I can't sleep. I'm jittery."

"How much coffee have you had today?" Cass questioned, arching her eyebrows.

"Eight to ten cups in the past twelve hours." Rodney revealed reluctantly.

"And before that?" Cass prompted tilting her head towards Rodney knowingly.

"I've been up running the diagnostics on the jumper we've repaired and then I was trying to figure out what the little Ancient clicky thingy was for." He told her making a 'Rubix Cube' gesture with his hands.

"So more coffee?" Cass concluded with a grim smile.

"Maybe a few..." Rodney petered off, staring down at his busy fingers before his gaze jolted up to meet hers. "Are you sure it's not a brain tumour?"

"See this?" Cass asked him, holding up the scan of Rodney's brain function for him to see. "We'd be looking for a black mass, your brain is fine. Lack of sleep is making you paranoid Doctor McKay."

"Paranoid, is that what your calling this?" Rodney snapped, raking a hand through his hair. "We're in another galaxy light years away from any real medical care..."

"Rodney." Cass said sternly setting the tablet down on the metal night stand beside the Treatment Table. "Do you really think you would let yourself come here if you didn't believe that you'd be in the best capable hands?"

"Well you could be wrong, doctors have made mistakes before and medicine is not even a real science..." Cass tuned out Rodney's rant before holding up her hand to silence him.

"Do you really want to go there?" Cass asked him pointedly, her hands were on her hips looking firm and authoritative.

"So sleep huh?" Rodney decided to change the subject as Cass nodded her confirmation. "You got anything for that?"

"Not until the caffeine's out of your system." Cass responded sympathetically.

"Any idea when that might..." Rodney trailed off as Cass shook her head.


"So I am guessing I should probably..." Rodney said jerking his thumb towards the doors leading to the quarters.

"Go to bed." Cass advised before jabbing her finger at him. "And drink lots of water."

"And if I die in my sleep?" Rodney questioned, completely serious.

"Then I'll make sure you have a nice funeral." Cass shot back, rubbing her dainty hand over her weary features before she met his gaze once more. "Seriously Rodney go to bed."

Rodney rose to his feet grumbling before he moved towards the electronic doors as they opened. John walked past him through the doorway, his dark eyebrows creasing into a frown before he turned to face Cass.

"What did you do to him?" John asked quizzically as he entered the Infirmary.

"Doctor, patient confidentiality." Cass said tapping her nose lightly. "Let's just say he should probably lay off the caffeine."

"He's stressed repairing the jumper." John conceded, rubbing the back of his mused up dark head before he slipped into the metal stool from the work station next to Cass's desk.

"I understand he's been trying to learn more about it so that he won't feel so helpless if anything like that happens again." Cass responded quietly, as she shuffled the reports between her hands trying to align them.

"Knowledge is power." John agreed, reaching out and encasing her small hands with his larger ones.

"You sound like a fortune cookie." Cass told him as the pads of his fingers traced along the line of her knuckles.

"And do you like fortune cookies?" John asked, placing his palms upon the desk as he hoisted himself up to lean over it.

His lips were curving into that boyish, handsome smile. There was a glint of mischief in his hazel eyes as his nose trailed down the length of hers with a deliberate slowness until their lips were barely inches apart. Her sapphire eyes closed as she felt his soothing calm wash all over her body, her dark lashes fluttered upon her pale skin as John cupped the side of her face with a doting caress.

"Depends what the next words out of your mouth are." Cass teased in her sweet, husky tone.

"You will live a long and prosperous life." John announced, enjoying the sensation of anticipation that was building up between the two of them.

"With you?" she questioned, a smile ghosting across her lips.

"I can't promise you either." John said with an honesty that tore at his own heart.

It was the truth that he had been dreading. His heart was thudding against his ribcage as he closed is own eyes against the reality of those words. It wouldn't be practical to promise her forever no matter how much he may want to. He wondered if she had thought of that, if she'd been thinking of their future the same way he had. John had never allowed himself to think in terms of the long haul and now it was becoming all too potent.

The life span for his job was never determinable and Fate had a way of being cruel sometimes and too many times he had been the recipient of it's vindictiveness. He thought this was one of those times, that she would wake up and realize this wasn't what she wanted. He dreaded that thought, it was like a barb prickling underneath his skin.

"I can't promise you forever." John whispered as Cass kissed the corner of his finely sculptured mouth. "But I can promise you as long as I live."

It always surprised him how much Cass had the capacity to steal away his fears. He hid them well beneath the Major persona he always wore. There was no room for regrets when he was the Major. He was always in control but with Cass he was so furiously out of his depth. In his world the Man always came second, the Man had weaknesses, he was emotional and caring. Over the years he had buried the Man under the cold, metallic shell of the Major.

And now he was the Man all over again.

"You know any normal woman would have run for the hills by now." John mumbled as his fingers threaded through her loose dark hair drawing even closer.

"You were clearly not dating the right kind of women." Cass teased.

John's mouth enclosed over hers, his lips tentative and loving. There was pure emotion in this kiss and Cass could feel it pulsing through her body as he swept her away with the mere simplicity of his touch. God, he loved her, there was no denying that's what this feeling was sweeping through every fibre of his being. Jesus he would never stop wanting to kiss her like this, he could never stop feeling this way about her.

"You know I think I'll just get my prescription filled while I'm here..."

The two of them drew away from each other at the sound of Rodney McKay's voice trailing off at the sight before him. Cass opened her eyes focusing on the man beyond John's shoulder as she pursed her lips together and rose to her feet with a dignity that she barely felt.

"Are the two of you..." Rodney trailed off as John turned on the stool to face the other man unable to keep the grin off of his handsome features as he answered the question with ease.

"Yes." John responded, crossing his arms over his chest. "Yes we are."

"Well..." Rodney trailed off searching for the right words to say. "It seems to be working out for the two of you."

Cass bowed her head, allowing the serene smile to cross her features as she peered up at Rodney through her dark fringe.

"Yea it is." she told him coyly before holding her hand out for the prescription sheets clutched in Rodney's grasp.

"So this been going on a while or is it new?" Rodney asked, indicating between the two of them as Cass busied herself selecting Rodney's medication from the glass cabinets they were stored in.

"Three months." John answered as Cass set out the line of medication bottles.

"And nobody else knows about this?" Rodney asked them incredulously.

"Ford." John responded, casting a glance at Cass inquiring.

"Carson." Cass murmured as she checked the label on the bottle in her hand.

John had expected that. Carson was watchful and protective of Cass. At first he thought it was because the doctor had a crush on the young woman but as he watched the two of them interact he realized the true nature of their relationship was far from romantic. He knew what the love and loyalty between siblings looked like, and there was no desire in the Scottish doctor's eyes when he spoke to Cass. Intellectually the two of them were similar and there was a friendship there that John admired and approved of. Cass wasn't used to having other people in her life to rely on so knowing that there was someone else she told her secrets to made him glad.

Yet John could tell there was something else there beneath the surface of their friendship. A history maybe, a concealed past that she hadn't shared with him. Whatever it was he knew it was harrowing, he had no doubt it was what disturbed her peaceful slumber in the dead of night. He never asked, he didn't want to take her back to that place. Holding her in his arms and kissing away her fears was enough for him right now.

Cass turned around to face Rodney jiggling the ziplock bag of medication bottles in order to get his attention.

"That's everything." she told him with a bright smile as she handed him the bag.

Cass didn't take offence as Rodney checked through the assortment of bottles before he turned on his heel to leave the Infirmary. They watched as he paused by the door before he glanced at them over his shoulder.

"Congratulations by the way."

Chapter Text

Cass had only seen their holding area once during her time on Atlantis and that been during a tour of the City that Weir had given when they were trying to get used to all the new sections that were becoming available to him. The cube of bars were electrified and in any normal circumstance Cass should have been reassured by this but today she wasn't considering what was on the other side of those bars.

The Wraith was called Steve, or at least that was what John had allegedly named him after he had captured the organism off world. It had stuck amongst the militarists of Atlantis and now Cass found herself using the term herself to describe the violent creature.

Steve was watching her, his wide green catlike eyes were on her face as she stepped up beside Lieutenant Ford, medical kit in hand. There was fear crawling up deep inside her. She could feel it's icy cold jaws locking on her heart as she stood before the creature. The last time she had been this close to one of them Colonel Sumner had stepped up and taken over the exchange. There was a greedy, hunger in the Wraith's eyes, it watched her with predatory lust as she stood stock still.

Cass knew why it was choosing to focus on her as opposed to John who stood on her right hand side and Lieutenant Ford who stood on the left clasping a Wraith Stunner. She was the weakest link here, it saw her as a young, pitiful female yet just agreeing to this made her anything but weak.

Doing this would help them to learn from the Wraith and perhaps maybe prevent the cullings that were going on offworld. Carson thought the drug he was helping the Hoffans create could save millions eventually. Cass didn't understand the genetics of it all but she did understand the probabilities.

Carson was still on Hoff, working through the different dynamics of the formula with their Chief Scientist Perna. The last time she had spoken to Carson he had had a spring in his step and he was smiling more than she had ever seen in the entire time they'd been on Atlantis. Cass sensed he had was smitten with the other woman. She was a regal, attractive, middle aged blond woman who shared Carson's enthusiasm for genetics.

Carson spoke about her animately in conversation detailing her brilliance and Cass was glad to see the glimmer in his eyes as he spoke of her. It was rare for Carson to be so fascinated by someone and it was good for him to have another more cerebral person to bounce his ideas off. Unfortunately that left Cass to withdraw the blood they needed to confirm several of the results of their tests.

"Hi Steve." John greeted as he clasped his clasped his hands together in front of him.

The cell door slide open as they stood before it starring in at their captive. There was that moment of pure insight where they simply studied each other before reality snapped back into place with a sudden movement that made Cass flinch. The Wraith was in motion, hurling itself towards her. It's hand was stretched out, that feeding slit parting open as it came straight at Cass. John was in front of her before she even had a chance to blink his gun drawn without a split seconds hesitation.

"Bye Steve." John uttered as Lieutenant Ford jabbed the Stunner into Steve's chest.

The howl of agony that resounded through the confined space physically hurt Cass's ears as Steve writhed and twitched under the onslaught of energy that rattled through his bones. The roar that rattled through the cell erupted once more as Ford struck the Wraith again, this time for longer until the pain or at least the shock of the Stunner rendered it unconscious. At least she hoped it was.

"Right Doc, he's ready for you." Ford said almost cheerfully.

"It is definitely unconscious?" Cass's sapphire eyes straying to the immobile Wraith splayed out on the ground.

Ford poked Steve with the Stunner to prove his point as Cass inhaled deeply trying to steady the trembling of her hands as she gripped the medical kit even closer to her hip. It was a show of failure to display her fear and it was against her nature. It was moments like this that defined a person in the eyes of others as Cass stepped inside the cell. Both John and Ford flanked either side of her as Cass pursed her lips grimly together drawing out the inevitable.

John's presence lingered at the edge of her senses. It was reassuring to know that he would take control of the situation if the need occurred. It was ridiculous to rely on him like that. She was a self sufficient, independent type of person, this was a new experience for Cass.

"Trust me on this one, he's not getting back up." John uttered, sensing Cass's unrest as he tilted his head towards her. "At least not for a while."

"Almost looks peaceful doesn't it?" Ford said brightly as Cass let out turned her head towards the younger man casting him a disgruntled scowl.

"The quicker you get this done, the quicker you can leave." John reminded her.

"I know, I know." Cass sighed as she knelt down beside the unconscious Wraith.

She laid the small medical kit down upon the cool cerement floor before tearing back the velcro and spreading out the implements she needed. Cass pulled on the pair of latex gloves she stored with the kit before selecting a syringe and fixing the needle into it's rightful place.

Five vials...

That's all Carson wanted, five little vials.

It was an execution. That was the only way Cass could describe what they were going to do. They were condemning a terminally man to an early death at the hands of one of the universe's most brutal creatures. It was monstrous in her eyes, injecting a human being with their test vaccine and feeding him to the Wraith to test it's reaction to the solution. It didn't matter that he had volunteered it was still sickening.

Cass perched on the edge of her bed in the guest room the Hoffans had assigned her. It was a simply furnished small room, with a single bed pressed up against the stone wall. Cass rubbed her hands in agitation over her face as she tried to generate some relief against the roaring torrent of emotions flushing through her insides. She had never imagined that they would end up in a situation like this and she was powerless to intervene.

She didn't look up as she heard the door click open and then shut quietly after John stepped into the room. His presence was authorive and commanding as he leaned against the wooden door with his arms crossed over his broad chest, his foot resting on the firm wood. She could feel his hazel eyes on her, judging her reaction to the conversation that they had been engaged in previously.

She hadn't even had to open her mouth to protest because Carson had done that for her. He disagreed with the Hoffan's obsession with this new drug. A live test was a hideous idea and it had come far too quickly and easily to the people in charge. They were on a very slippery slope and she couldn't help but think it showed that the means served a greater purpose than the method. People should not be dispensable, already she knew the Hoffans had another person lined up and willing to step up if another test were to be conducted.

"Don't." Cass snapped as she rose her head in time to see John's purposely blank expression. "Just don't speak to me right now."

Her arms were wrapped around her waist as she hugged herself trying to ward away the coldness that was residing inside her. She turned her head away unable to look at John as he studied her silently. She couldn't stand to see what he thought of her right now and she was trying as hard as she could not to unleash the furious burning frustration that was pulsing through her veins.

"He's terminal." John said impassively. "He wants to do it."

The dam broke and Cass could not hold it back any longer as the collection of intense, vengeful sensations filled her up.

"Your talking about feeding someone to a Wraith." she snapped, glaring at him. "You know what that's like and your supporting that decision."

"This drug could benefit millions of people all over the Galaxy..." John began.

Already Cass was on her feet, cutting him off with the sweep of her hand indignant. Her eyes were bright with rage as she faced the taller man, her hands coming to rest on her hips, her feet apart. It was an aggressive gesture, the first that John had ever seen. She looked like a small warrior goddess provoking him like this. He wasn't used to being challenged by her and he found himself at a loss.

"It may not work at all." Cass snarled at him. "And the cost..."

"One life." John held up his finger to indicate the number. "One person who volunteered for all those others."

"Do you really think it's going to stop with just one man?" she questioned him, going for the jugular. "God John you don't even know what the long term side effects of this drug could be."

"Well we know what the long term effects of the Wraith are don't we?" John retorted as she raged in front of him.

She was too far gone to see that this was all a front. She was too consumed by her emotions to even see beyond the mask that was starting to slip away from his handsome features.

It was a rare thing, something that he never allowed to happen but he was already seeking out that connection between the two of them. He barely ever questioned his own actions, he was all about the greater good and he refused to show anyone the weight that each decision burdened him with. Yet he could feel his bravo and his defences crumbling as the Major began to slip away leaving the Man in his wake.

"Your just using that as an excuse to feed the Hoffans obsession. As soon as you mentioned this vaccine your eyes lit up like a kid on Christmas." Cass spat angrily. "Carson and I took the Hippocratic Oath John and we know this isn't right."

"Jesus Cassie, don't you think I took an oath too? An oath to protect our people and our allies and if this is the way to do it, I will do it." he found himself bellowing as he jabbed his finger in the small space between them.

"You know where you can stick your oath..." Cass growled back as John's hands settled on her dainty shoulders.

"Do you really think that this doesn't effect me?" John questioned harshly as he stared straight into her sapphire blue eyes, their connection wide open and free flowing. "Look at me and tell me what you see. I mean it Cassie look at me."

For the first time since this argument had started Cass did as he requested and met his gaze head on. There was anguish in his eyes and it tore at her so badly she thought she could feel her heart bleeding inside her chest.

"It's not easy." he told her frankly as his fingertips glided up her throat until he cupped her face in his calloused hands. "But it's the best option we have right now. I don't want to send someone to die like that but we have no choice."

Cass sighed underneath his soft hands as they caressed her delicate cheekbones. He could feel the fight flowing out of her at his admittance. She was seeing him all over again for the first time as the Man and he was letting her. She was seeing his burden, pressing down upon his shoulders as he stood there before her.

This weighted heavily on him even more than he cared to admit. He wished he could turn his feelings off and make decisions like this without doubts because there wasn't any room for them in his life. Cass needed to see this. She needed to see the human side of him, to know that this was difficult and it wasn't something he supported rashly.

Cass had to know it hurt.

Her arms wrapped around his waist as she hugged him against her slender frame her, forehead coming to rest upon his solid shoulder. He buried his face in her silky, dark hair inhaling her sweet feminine scent as he held onto her for dear life. He was so tired right now. The energy drained out of him as he clasped her to his chest savouring the intimacy between them.

"I knew you weren't that guy." Cass murmured into the hallow of his throat, her lips brushing along the tender skin.

"I don't ever want to be the guy that's ok with something like this." he breathed into her ear.

"I won't let that happen." she promised, her gentle, calming hands rubbing up and down the muscular planes of his back.

"I'll be there tomorrow." he whispered. "He won't be alone."

Chapter Text

The Chancellor's Chamber was a sizeable reception area containing a gorgeous mahogany table that Cass found herself adoring as she sat opposite Carson. Her fingers glided over the glossy surface as she straightened her posture in the matching chair that accompanied the assemble. Cass glanced up, catching the quizzical expression on Carson's features at her actions. She appreciated good craftsmanship and this sturdy, arresting piece of decadence reminded her of the table she had back home locked away in storage collecting dust. She had always had a thing for hand carved wood. When she was on leave from Afghanistan her and her sister would take her niece and nephews to the nearest craft or antique fairs in the district. It still astounded her that someone could make something so detailed.

"Do you and the table want to be left alone?" Carson asked her with an amused look upon his weary features.

It was rare that Carson suffered from sleepless nights but as he sat with his elbows resting upon the table reviewing her, Cass could tell that he had had the same amount of sleep that she had. The dark circles under his dark lashes highlighted the red rims of his vibrant blue eyes.

Her cheeks heated at his comment before Cass's hands settled in her lap to prevent her from fidgeting with impatience.

"I used to have one like this at home." she said by way of explanation. "I like the idea of sitting around something like this when you share a meal."

"Ours was more like a picnic table." Carson revealed with a small smile before interlacing his dexterous fingers and bowing his head.

There was a silence between them, it hovered in the air oppressing the two of them as they sat in the simple but luxurious surroundings. It was time to address the elephant in the room and Cass dreaded it with every fibre of her being. The pressure Carson was under was immense and she could see the moral implications chipping away at his soul as he gnawed on his lower lip in agitation.

"I really don't know how much help I can be." Cass said, peering at Carson through the dark fringe that feel over her eyes. "I have a basic knowledge of the vaccine, I'm not sure I even understand the stuff you've been altering."

"But you understand the stage we're at now and why it's important that they suspend the inoculations." Carson submitted. "We can't allow them to vaccinate thousands of people with a drug that hasn't been appropriately tested."

"This has gone so horribly wrong." Cass spoke into her hands as she rubbed them over her gritty eyes. "I'll shed no tears over Steve's death but they should have waited until after the autopsy on the test subject before even considering inoculating their own people."

After injecting the test subject with the vaccination that they hoped would prevent the Wraith from feeding on humans they had all born witness to what could only be described as a monumental event. Steve had tried his damned hardest to suck the life straight out of the test subject's chest with no avail. As it appeared the serum worked and the Hoffans and themselves had rejoiced at this turn of events.

Carson hadn't even known that they were putting the drug into mass production until Perna had informed him that the inoculations had began and she in turn had been one of the first to receive it. It was an idiocy in his eyes and he had marched straight into the Chancellor and told him as much. The results of one test were not enough to determine that the vaccination was fit for the general populace but the Hoffans were in denial, they wanted their line of defence against the Wraith, no matter the cost.

It was several days later that Steve had started to show symptoms of something much more sinister. The Wraith had been weak and irate due to starvation before that had brought him to this planet so when he had broke into convulsions and died originally they had assumed that was the cause of death before Carson had preformed an autopsy that instead showed that the serum proved toxic to the Wraith.

Which in turn led the Chancellor to begin vaccinating their own people with the drug immediately so that they would indeed have not only a defence against the violent creatures but also a form of biological attack. It had been John and Teyla that had stepped in at that point, talking to the Chancellor about the possible consequences surrounding such an idea. If the Wraith discovered that the entire planet of Hoff had been vaccinated with a poison that could kill them when they attempted to feed they would all be slaughtered to prevent the threat from spreading to other food sources.

Six hours after the conversation the test subject had died from acute respiratory failure. Due to the nature of his terminal condition an autopsy failed to show whether the serum had paid a part in his death or not. Carson had argued the point with Perna and the Chancellor but neither of them had budged on their standing of the situation and the vaccinations were still being distributed.

"Lassie." Carson addressed her, leaning across the table with his hands clasped together. "You know the real reason I've brought you here."

Cass pursed her lips together grimly before meeting Carson's stoic gaze with her own.

"It's been three days since the first round of people have been inoculated." Cass responded with the facts he had presented her. "If there were any side effects to the drug we should be seeing them any time now if the autopsy was anything to go by."

"Aye, it's just a precaution. It's our responsibility to provide the best care we can if there any ill effects because of this vaccine." Carson stated like the humanitarian he was.

Cass placed her chin on her palm as the two of them fell back into a thoughtful silence.

She hoped to God that Carson Beckett was wrong.

The medical centre was heaving. The place reminded him of an institute that pre-dated the nineteen fifties with it's décor and simplistic structure. It was insanely understaffed and ill equipped for the surge of people entering it's doors. There were people slumped in the hallway, leaning against the walls or huddled on the ceramic tiles in what seemed to be an entire queue of sick people. Their wet, rasping coughs filled his ears as he marched down the corridor towards the Treatment Room with intent and purpose.

The entire medical staff looked dishevelled, nurses clad in old fashioned uniforms were wheeling unconscious patients to and from varying locations in a bid to save them. He already knew from Carson's briefing only a few hours earlier that those were the people that they ought to be making more comfortable.

He pushed the doors to the Treatment Room open with both hands, swallowing hard at the sight before him. The beds were littered with people choking and gasping for air, as were the seats they usually used for visitors. Everybody in this room was either completely stationary, locked in respiratory distress or in a flurry of motion tending to the sick and dying.

Cass was in the midst of the madness, barking out orders to the Atlantian medical teams as she thrust things into their hands and pointed in the directions she required them to go. She was fierce and vibrant in situations like these. This was where she flourished and already John was stripping off his jacket and tossing it into the pile of belongings in the furthest corner. His hands were already in the closest sink as he scrubbed them raw with soap before snatching up the nearest set of latex gloves and snapping them on. He found himself in front of Cass as she raised her head to look at him.

What he saw in her eyes haunted him. There was nothing he could say to wash away the blood that marred not only her hands but his as well. Together they had created this problem or at least been part of it. Now was the time to respond to the fall out that was wreaking havoc upon this population.

"I'm here to help." he told her.

Cass pressed a hand held oxygen mask and pump into his hands before gesturing towards the opposite side of the room.

"There's precious little we can do for them but you can assist Carson in the Triage area over there." she said before turning her attention to the nurse that was beckoning her over.

Chapter Text

It was late and the two of them were sitting across from each other in the dimly lit Mess Hall at one of the uniformed metallic tables. There were barely any lights illuminating the room and that was the way the two of them wanted it. They didn't want anyone to see how the two of them were drowning at the current moment. The ordeal with the Hoffans had worn them down, they had nothing else to give right now and they were in a place where they didn't have to. Carson felt comfortable in Cass's presence. He wasn't afraid to show the extent of his feelings and he knew that more than anyone that she would be the one to understand. The gruelling images from Hoff were flashing through his brain like photographs every time he blinked.


Carson's fingers wrapped around the bottle of Ruus Wine before he poured more of the fiery liquid into the plastic mug for the third time over the past hour. The Athosians had gifted him with the bottle the last time they were on the Main Land as a 'thank you' for helping with their treatment plans.

He couldn't bring himself to think of Perna right now, she had been so resolute in her actions right until the end. She had still believed that they had done the right thing in created the serum even thought fifty percent of the population were dying as a result of what they had done. Carson tipped his head back letting the smoky liquid slip down the confines of his throat. It left a fruity tang on his tongue and warm, burning sensation in his chest. His head was starting to spin just a tiny bit as he sagged over the table, his cheek resting on his fist as he reviewed his empty mug before Cass reached out and filled it once more with Ruus wine.

The alcohol was working it's magic, it was draining every single one of his emotions away and filling right to the brim with a numbness he needed now more than ever. They hadn't spoken since the two of them had sat down at this table and started drinking, there was an aptitude and understanding in their silence. So many words were flitting between them unspoken and that was the way it needed to be.

They knew what it felt like to watch the life draining out of someone's eyes as their body quivered and quaked in terror. They say you lost twenty one grams when your soul escaped your body when you died. Carson wondered what the weight was when your soul dissolved piece by piece.

"I'm sorry about Perna." Cass said quietly, her hands wrapped around her mug as she stared into the depths of it.

"So am I." Carson returned gruffly, taking a sip from his mug. "Somehow it doesn't seem right to toast her."

It didn't. He was remorseful over his hand in her death and he would miss her dearly. Perna had been the first person in this galaxy to have even a vague understanding of genetics. They had become more than friends over the past few weeks they had worked together. There had been nothing inappropriate but they had cared for each other and as he held her hand in those final moments he wished he had showed it just a little bit more.

Together they had created something horrific, something that was going to guarantee the extermination of a nation. Their blood was on his hands even if he wasn't the one that actually doing the killing.

"They chose their fate." Cass reminded him as she watched him drain yet another mug of wine. "You tried to stop them numerous times. The only thing your guilty of is trying to shake them out of denial."

"The responsibility is on my shoulders one way or another." Carson stated, his expression completely stoic as he shook his head in memory of the past twenty four hours.

"You've paid your penitence." Cass told Carson as she topped his mug with the remains of Ruus Wine.

Somehow Carson Beckett didn't think that that was nearly enough.

Cass was tipsy, to say she was drunk was far too strong. The alcohol had not effected her as badly as John had originally thought. He had heard from Ford that the two doctors were drowning their sorrows in the Mess Hall, as it turned out Carson had been the one to consume the majority of the bottle. Cass had simply been the company to his misery. After John had helped Cass get the heavy set Chief of Medicine back to his own quarters and onto the bed the two of them had began a slow, talkative walk back to her room.

John liked his side of Cass, she was chatty and more open. Her guard was down as they strode through the corridors languidly, Cass's dainty hand slipped into his larger one before she clasped it tightly.

"I'm ready." she told him, exhaling deeply before she tipped her head up to smile at him.

He knew what she meant when she said those words and for a single second he considered the possibility it was the alcohol talking. John was sick of playing midnight tiptoe, he wanted to be able to touch his partner how he wanted, when he wanted instead of restraining himself all of the time. Cass had been opposed to the idea, she had told him she simply wasn't ready yet. She didn't want people to judge them for what they were doing and in the end John had pointed out the people who mattered whose opinion they cared about.

"Cassie..." he began.

The smaller woman reached up on tiptoes and pressed the softest, most loving kiss he had ever experienced upon his finely sculptured lips. Her kiss silenced every single protest that ran through his brain. He had been ready since this had started. Cass's hands took his gently, her thumbs running over the grooves of his knuckles as she drew away.

"I'm ready." she repeated.

John's fingertips brushed the strands of dark hair out of her eyes, before he placed a butterfly kiss upon her forehead.

"Ok." he murmured against her delicate skin.

Cass stepped back as John held out his hand ready to take hers. The instant their fingers entwined John knew that she meant everything she said. The intimacy in that simple touch told him everything he needed to know as her hand clasped his. Her head was held high in dignity as the two of them began to walk down the corridor.

He had never seen this Cass before, the brazen, carefree goddess that held his hand as they walked through the towards his quarters. There weren't a lot of people around at this time of night but the ones that were didn't try to hide the fact they were stunned by this show of unity. There were a few that shared a brief smile as they passed by, it was good to see that someone was happy around here.

John could feel that proud smile curving across his features as he leaned in even closer to Cass. They had talked about taking their relationship to the next level a lot over the past few weeks. By doing this Cass was registering a commitment that he had thought she had been secretly shirking. He had been ready for this since the moment he'd laid that kiss on her lips back in the Infirmary all those months ago.

This wasn't a secret any more, this was a relationship.

Chapter Text

They had been in the underground facility for two minutes and already Cass despised it. Her heart was thudding against her ribs so hard it was constricting her breathing. She could feel her head spinning just a little from her shallow breathing as she exhaled deeply trying to get a handle on herself once more. The ranks were closed around her, the others were sensing her distress and were subtly forming a shield between her and the threat.

She needed to get a grip, she couldn't allow being in this place to twist her up the way it was. That made her a distraction to the others and that was something they couldn't afford in a possibly hostile situation.

It had started off as routine offworld visit to arrange a trade for food supplies as they were running low back on Atlantis. The Genii were supposed to be a peaceful people that had initially reminded Cass of the self sufficient Amish communities back on Earth. Teyla and the Athosians had dealt with the the hapless farmers time after time over the years and the Atlantians were hoping to establish a similar relationship.

That was until John and Rodney had stumbled upon the Genii's secret underground bunker. Teyla, Ford and herself had been led at gunpoint to an interrogation room in order to join the others. As it turned out the Genii were a lot more technologically advanced than anyone could have anticipated.

After the discussion of nuclear technology Cowen, the leader of the Genii had decided he wanted to show them something, Cass's guess was whatever it was, was attached to the conversation he had had with Rodney regarding nuclear fusion. They were now being escorted through a narrow corridor fixed with heavy set, metal doors that made Cass feel even more claustrophobic than usual. Places like this brought back a lot of memories for Cass, things that she would rather forget.

The walls were close together and restrictive, she was very aware that there was a substantial amount of ground between them and the surface. The lights were little more than a bulb attached to a wire used to illuminate the darker hallways.

It was a completely different situation to the previous one she had been in although it was still a precarious one. There was a musty earth smell that she associated with her time back in The Cave and it was here too seeping from the walls around the group, intoxicating her with it's pungent odour.

She wasn't the only one that noticed it, she had seen Rodney wrinkling his nose as they progressed deeper into the bunker. Cowen was still talking, Cass didn't understand the meaning behind his words. She was fuzzy on any science that moved beyond her field of expertise. What Cowen and Rodney were talking about went far beyond her reach of understanding.

"You do realize that long term exposure to these levels of radiation are dangerous?" Rodney told Cowen, as his forehead wrinkled into a frown at the readings coming from the Life Signs Detector.

"Our scientists tell me otherwise." Cowen responded drolly as he continued to meander at his steady , slow pace at the head of their procession.

"Well their wrong." Rodney stated flatly, clearly trying not to exasperate the situation but rather attempting to make Cowen aware of the dangers.

"Are we in danger now?" John questioned, tilting his head towards Rodney in search of answer.

Wonderful, Cass thought raising her eyes skyward. If the Genii didn't put a bullet in their brains, the radiation would probably melt their insides.

"It would take days or weeks at these levels of radiation but I assume the Genii spend days or weeks down here?" Rodney asked Cowen.

"Many of their people have spent their entire lives down here." Cowen boasted, his head tipping upwards with pride.

"They're entire short lives." Rodney muttered, dropping into step along side Cass as he shook his head. "We'll be fine just as long as you weren't planning on having children."

He cast a glance between her and John pointedly. John cocked his head towards Rodney scowling while Cass lowered her gaze to the concrete floor below their shoes.

"Do you find that your population seems to suffer from varying neurological dysfunction or lymphatic tumours?" Cass found herself requesting despite her unrest.

Cowen twisted his head towards her, regarding her with a blank stare as the group drew to a gradual halt. Cass didn't like having Cowen's complete attention focused upon her but she met his gaze evenly with her spine straight and her head high. She would not allow herself to be viewed as weak, especially not to someone they were on unsteady ground with. Despite the Genii's seemingly friendly treatment it was unclear to Cass whether they were still prisoners or allies of these people.

"Do you think you have medicines that can help cure the sickness?" Cowen asked with interest as Cass placed her hands behind her back to hide the tremble in them as she faced Cowen.

"I won't know until I look at your patients." she informed him honestly.

"Major would it be alright for your Doctor to visit our medical facilities?" Cowen queried, angling his body towards John.

John met her gaze squarely. His hazel eyes fixed on hers as he stood rigid and taunt before her. He wasn't happy with this, she could tell from the way he pulled himself up to his full height and by the tightening of his firm muscular structure. He wanted her where he could see her, somewhere safe but he was leaving the decision in her hands.

Four years in Afghanistan, he reminded himself, she was almost a veteran.

Cass could handle herself, he'd seen her in action over the past seven missions they had worked together since their arrival on Atlantis. She had survived Afghanistan but it was still risky sending her off into the depths of a city that they had no knowledge of.

John's eyes came to rest upon the soldier just over her shoulder. He'd clocked the guy the minute Cass had stepped into the interrogation room and he hated the jealous, possessiveness that streaked through him at the way the young, blonde Genii looked at Cass. His evergreen eyes had slithered over every single inch of her body as they'd sat in that interrogation room addressing the situation with Cowen. He knew what the other man was seeing when he looked his significant other and John wanted to knock his head right off his shoulders as the knowing smirk crossed the other man's lips.

On the surface Cass looked pretty, demure and even submissive from the way she was behaving at the current moment. Her unease was putting his insides in dire straits as it radiated off of her in waves. He could tell that she was twisting it to their advantage, the less of a threat that she appeared the more likely the Genii were to underestimate her if anything came to a head. Cowen was a man used to playing the games of war, John had seen that the instant the farmer routine had fallen flat.

"I'll take Teyla with me." Cass conceded, chancing a glance over her shoulder at Teyla whom nodded her agreement.

"Well ok then." John said grimly, giving his consent.

Knowing that Teyla was with Cass gave him some relief from the savage protective beast that prowled inside him. The Man inside was reminding him that this was his mate and hell have no fury if anyone else dared to lay a hand upon on her. The Major was already shutting that part of him down to focus on the task at hand. There were three other members of the team that he had to think about right now and the more they were able to collaborate with the Genii, the more likely they would all be to get out of this situation alive.

"Sergi, escort our guests to the hospital wing." Cowen ordered the young soldier.

"Yes sir." Sergi responded, bowing his head respectfully to his Commander before he gestured in the opposite direction down the corridor with his right hand. "This way..."

John watched as Cass reluctantly turned her back upon him. He could sense her need for distraction and the discomfort she was feeling at the demeanour that she was portraying. Hopefully she would learn something valuable from her time in their hospital wing, maybe even do some good to score some extra points with the Genii.

Sergi's palm came to rest on Cass's lower back, his fingers splaying over that intimate area as he stood just that little bit too closely in her personal space. Teyla's eyes met his as she cast a glance at the Major over her shoulder, she gave him the tiniest nod of reassurance. John struggled to sooth the writhing anger that snapped and bit at his insides, causing his blood to boil and his hackles to rise.

John Sheppard had never liked playing war games.

Radiation poisoning. The majority of people in this entire hospital were sick with varying degrees of radiation poisoning. Everyone from the children to the middle aged. There were no elderly here and Cass had never seen so many people stricken with cancer before, but she had seen the studies from Hiroshima. Then the guy she worked on back in New York in the E.R before she'd joined the military, the one that had tried to make an nuclear reactor in his shed.

She'd liaised with the doctors here trying to advise them on a course of treatment to help treat the people who were just shy of terminal. Her first words had been telling them to get the sick above ground but they had shirked her completely. They had dealt with The Sickness for years, they were interested in her medicines but not in her knowledge. They were older, wiser and they had deemed her unworthy of their people and that pissed Cass off.

After the ordeal on Planet Hoff, Cass had felt useless and helpless to intervene. No matter what she said or did they ignored her and that aggravated her in a way she couldn't bring herself to exhibit. This was their own ruin and she could not prevent that, it sickened her though to know that innocent people were dying because of sheer pigheadedness.

Now she was getting an awful tension headache. It had started as a sharp pain stabbing behind her eyes and was now tightening its way up into a monsoon of pain. She had ended up standing in the corridor outside the hospital wing in attempt to sooth away the frustration she was feeling at this entire situation.

"Is there anything you can do for them?" Sergi asked, surprising her as he closed the door to the hospital wing behind him.

"Maybe for some of them. We have a drug called Prussian Blue back at our own Infirmary, we can use it to help the people with minor radiation poisoning but then again none of your people believe that the Uranium is actually to blame for any of this." Cass snarked rubbing at her temples with her fingertips. "Where's Teyla?"

"She's inside trying to talk our doctors into taking your medicines." Sergi said, placing his hand on the wall beside her head, causing Cass to frown at his invasion of her personal space."Is there anything I can do to relieve the pressure?"

His voice was low and gravelly as he spoke, his evergreen eyes dropped to her pert lips. He leaned in even closer and Cass realized he hemming her in. She felt her heart beat accelerate just a little faster as his fingers grazed the blush of her cheek, causing her to wrench away until her back was pressed against the wall. The gesture was too familiar for her to feel comfortable with and it was leaving a bad taste in her mouth. Already his demeanour was shifting from the straight laced guard he had been in the interrogation room to that of a budding Casanova.

"Don't." Cass exclaimed sharply, holding her hands up to ward off his advance.

Sergi took hold of her wrists with his rough hands. Before Cass even had a chance to blink he yanked her even closer to his lightweight frame, crushing her against his chest as his head swooped down to capture her lips with his domineering mouth. The kiss was bruising as he forced it upon her un-wanting form. She tried to tear herself away but he held her firm in an iron clad grasp as she struggled for ownership of her body.

Jesus she couldn't breathe, her lungs were taking in oxygen in short, ragged pants that Sergi seemed to misread as something sexual. One hand pinned both of her wrists to his chest while the other fixated on the zipper of her flak jacket drawing it down until the jacket hung open revealing her simple black T-shirt. There was bile twisting up in her stomach as fear's icy cold fingers took a hold of her completely. She couldn't do this, she couldn't let this happen. She was scared, she wasn't in control.

"Don't fight it. All you have to do is lie there and let me do all of the work. Afterwards you can tell me everything about Atlantis." Sergi murmured as his hand snaked up to her swan like throat until his fingertips were digging into the tender flesh. "You want your friends to live don't you?"

He sensed her resistance faltering. Those words had power in them and he was determined to use every means necessary to get his prize. It was his duty and he had made an oath to Cowen that he would get the information they sought. The doctor was frail willed and naïve he thought. Manipulating her would be easy and he was allowed to take a way a little something for his troubles. She was an attractive woman, there was no question of that. Her pale skin ached to be touched and marred by his own solid hands. Getting her away from Teyla had been easier than he had thought and now it was just a matter of luring her back into his quarters to have his way with her before forcing her divulge the information he required.

The moment she stopped fighting he knew he had won. He released her hands almost instantly allowing them to rest upon his shoulders as he looked deep into those oceanic blue eyes. He could see fear in them, it clung to her like a second skin causing his lust to flare like a moth to a lightbulb. It meant he was in control and soon she would learn to accept his obedience, maybe he could even use it to twist her against her own people. The possibilities loomed before him giving Sergi a sense of satisfaction as he felt her grip on his shoulders tighten just that little bit as his hands slid inside of her flak jacket coming to rest upon her hips. His hands slid up along the outline of her waist until he cupped her modest breasts.

The abrupt pain in his groin was sheer agony as he stumbled backwards, the breath erupting out of his lungs as his knees buckled leaving him in a crumpled heap on the ground. He clutched at his genitalia fighting for air as nausea claimed him like a tidal wave.

The door to the hospital wing burst open spilling Teyla out into the corridor before her observant eyes surveyed the scene in front of her.

Their escort was on his knees on the floor in the throes of what looked to be excruciating pain and Doctor Pierce was sagging against the wall, one hand massaging up and down her throat as she stared at the injured man. Her lips were red and raw as she used the back of her free hand to rub across them once more trying to rid herself of the taste of scum. Her dark hair had been pulled back into a neat bun at the beginning of their mission and now it was loose and dishevelled. Her flak jacket was hanging open and Teyla watched as the other woman tried to use her trembling fingers to zip it back up again to her throat in order to hide the bruising.

"Doctor Pierce?" Teyla questioned as Cass turned her attention onto her, jamming her hands in her pockets to hide the shaking.

"I'm fine." She said quietly as the two women's eyes met for the briefest of second before they fixed on the man on his hands and knees attempting to stand up.

"We need to get back to the others." Teyla told Cass gently, before giving her a pointed look.

Cass understood what that meant. They were in a very precarious position with the Genii at the moment. If she kicked up a fuss about this that would be as good as signing their own death warrants. This was unmentionable in front of the other Genii, by accusing Cowen of ordering this attack she would be condemning them all. The other members of their group could not know what had happened here for the moment, putting them in that position could cause a clash of tempers that was best avoided. However no matter what happened Cass wanted away from this place as soon as possible, the first thing she wanted to do was scrub the filthy touch of this bastard off of her skin.

Cass straightened her spine completely and tilted her head high in a bid to win back her decorum. Her sapphire eyes were glacial as she stared down at Sergi as he hugged the wall for support, her fist clenched. She would not let this go entirely unpunished. She wanted the Genii or at the very least Cowen to know that the Atlantians were not a people they could victimise or fool.

"You can tell Cowen that his game didn't work." Cass snarled, jabbing her finger at Sergi. "I won't be a casualty of the war you think your waging."

"You've made this personal." Sergi told her with a sadistic smile. "I don't take rejection very well."

Cass fixed him with an arctic glare before issuing her own words of warning.

"I swear if you come after me or my people like that again it will end very badly for you."

Sergi's expression was practically predatory as he reviewed her as if she was a piece of meat he was contemplating filleting.

"I look forward to the challenge."

Chapter Text

Cass was quiet, unusually so. She had been all the way through the examination he had given her with the scanner. Usually there was a smile, a laugh or a joke but instead there was nothing but silence. She was regressing into herself. When he spoke to her he thought she wasn't really listening , she was reliving her time in The Cave. Every noise she made in response to his conversation had been non committal but he kept talking. Sometimes that helped with victims of trauma. He didn't know what had happened off world but he knew it was something debilitating.

She had come here with the Major and Carson had seen the unrest within her the minute he'd laid eyes upon her. Carson had never seen such a softness to the other man before today. His gaze when he looked at Cass was tender, his touch was supportive and affectionate as he hovered closely at her side. His hazel eyes were suspicious and inquisitive, seeking and searching out threats to his lover. Hyper vigilance, Carson thought, the Major had been in a heightened state of awareness the whole entire time he had been here.

Carson had seen his reluctance to leave. It had been in the way he wavered for a second too long as he exited the Infirmary. He had cupped Cass's face between his hands and placed a feather light, butterfly kiss upon her forehead before whispered something against her lips. Carson had had to turn away at that instant, he felt he was witnessing an intimate moment between the two of them, something so deeply personal that he should not be a part of it.

It was after that Cass had shut down. She had gone through the scanner without another word as she examined her radiation levels and declared her safe. It was when she had stripped off her flak jacket in order to shrug on her lab coat that he saw the bruising starting to form upon her throat.

"Cass?" he murmured.

Cass glanced up at the sound of her name as she fixed the collar of her lab coat. Her sapphire eyes met Carson's vivid blue and he could see that she was back again, back in the present with him.

"I'm fine." she said with a small smile.

"Are you?" Carson questioned. "I mean really are you?"

"I am now." Cass told him, shoving her hands in her pockets. "There were just a few things that I needed to work through."

Carson crossed his arms over his chest before he leaned back against his desk.

"So do you wanna talk about that?" he said gesturing to her throat.

"I feel like all I've done is talk about it." Cass reeled off the list whilst counting on her fingertips. "Teyla, John, Elizabeth, Ford by proxy. It was humiliating the first two times and now it's kinda numbing."

"I'm guessing the Major didn't take that too well." Carson told her with a grimace.

Cass tilted her head from side to side in indecision. She knew John wanted to rip Sergi's head off for even touching her. She found she liked that in a way, having someone care about her so much someone who wanted to defend her honour. She had seen the way his knuckles had turned white as he gripped the steering column. He was her Commanding Officer, he had needed to know the information at hand, to know what the Genii were capable of. She's watched as the Major had taken control once more and instead of the biting, sharp remarks she had expected there had been nothing but a strained cold silence as John grappled with the raging, primal urges that were banging against the cage he had locked them in.

Cass knew they couldn't afford to throw this possible alliance away because of one Genii's abysmal behaviour. There was no proof that Cowen had ordered Sergi to seduce her but she was very apprehensive about the plan to destroy the Wraith Hive Ship. She wouldn't put it past Cowen to double cross them. He was a dictator, blinded by his own delusions of power. At least that was her view.

"It won't effect the job." Cass told Carson, crossing her own arms over her chest.

To say she was concerned was an understatement but this was just a mission after all and John had survived more dangerous encountered before, the evidence of that was patterned all over his body. He was savvy when it came to the ways of others and he allowed people to underestimate him if it worked to his own advantage. She knew he had kept information from the Genii, she thought it was time for her to take a leaf out of his book and wise up to ventures of others. She'd been trying to build a bridge when she'd offered to check out the Hospital Wing and to provide herself with a distraction against the mounting panic that had started to over come her.

She had seen the apprehension in John's hazel eyes but it was too late by that point. Cowen had already been orchestrating the situation for his own purposes, backtracking would have been an omission of distrust.

"You haven't told him about Afghanistan."

It was a statement more than a question. Carson knew it to be true from the way she turned her face away from him at the mention at the topic. Already he was biting his lower lip in order to stop himself from sighing out loud. Cass may be a whizz out in the field but when it came to love Carson could see she floundered a lot of the time. Emotions were not something that she was used to obeying, she was disciplined and after leaving the military it was hard to get out of that habit. Yet he sensed that wasn't the only reason Cass was holding back. Snippets from conversations with Luke out by the barbecue were coming back to him.

"She had something to come back to." Luke had told Carson nursing the beer bottle in his left hand. "She has a fiancé in San Francisco, someone to take care of her."

By the time she'd applied for the next tour to Afghanistan there hadn't been a man in the picture. She'd told him she was single when he had asked her during the interview.

"The last time I told someone about Afghanistan..." Cass trailed off shaking her head.

"He left you." Carson finished, watching as she pursed her lips and hung her head.

"He wanted me to settle down for a long time before that and he thought what happened was the perfect example of why I should stay at home." Cass submitted into the air between them, rubbing the back of her neck absently. "He wanted me to be the trophy wife, maybe work in the E.R if I really had to. He wasn't prepared to deal with the emotional ramifications of what happened over there. The nightmares were troublesome for him."

A burden was the word that she had omitted from the sentence. She had become a burden upon her previous lover and that made Carson furious. Cass was one of the unsung heroes that didn't get a mention from the bigwigs up top and he couldn't imagine what it would be like to live through something like that only to be rejected once you were back on safe ground.

"We started sleeping in separate rooms and before I knew it he was moving out." Cass ended, distancing herself by playing with the pen that she had picked up from her desk.

"Aye well, he sounds like an idiot letting someone like you go like that." Carson said into the silence that fell between them.

A small smile twitched at Cass's lips as flicked the cap off the pen and then clicked it back on again.

"Yes he was." she murmured before the smile curved into a full, radiant grin. "John's so different, he makes an effort to know other people and embraces their faults. He just makes me laugh so much, I don't think I've ever smiled as much as I have since I've been here Carson."

Cass paused for a second as something seemed to dawn on her for the very first time.

"I'm happy here." she found herself confessing. "This is the happiest I've ever been."

Chapter Text

It was late by the time John made it back to Atlantis. The sky had already turned black and the stars were twinkling overhead. The moon was glaring down upon the city, highlighting the glossy buildings with its glow. Cass would have loved spending a night like this on the mainland, everything was so clear and bright. She adored looking at the twinkling stars in the night sky, he thought that had something to do with growing up in a city.

He remembered that night not long ago that they'd spent lying on the East Pier starring up at the bright stars and naming the constellations.

"I am calling that one Sheppard's Belt." John pointed out the patch of stars set close together in a straight line, the one that kinda reminded him of Orion's Belt.

"I think you have had enough of naming things." Cass asserted, counting on her fingers as she reeled them off. "The Puddle Jumper, The Life Signs Detector, the other day I heard you trying to name The Chair, The Battledrome. "

"It's a cool name." John defended, his hands coming to rest upon his stomach as they stared up at the sky.

"Yea, if your a ten year old boy with a plastic sword." Cass snorted as her delicate hand came to rest in the space between the two of them.

"Your just jealous." John said, patting Cass's hand with his own larger one. "But don't worry when you cure some rare alien disease, you can call it Pierce Pox."

Cass elbowed him in the arm causing John to yelp in mock pain. He liked teasing her, it made her nose crinkle and her smile even brighter.

"Your mean today." John told her playfully as they both turned their attention back to the stars shining in the sky above them.

"That's what you get for being a smartass." Cass informed him.

"I thought you loved the words that come out my mouth." John said, rolling onto his side and propping his head up on his hand so he could look at the beautiful woman lying beside him.

Cass's eyes swept up to meet his as she arched her eyebrows before speaking.

"Only the dirty ones." she responded with that wicked smile.

John had laughed at that before he had dipped his head low and stolen a long, sweet kiss from her pert, pink lips. It was moment of bliss in the madness that was their lives and he savoured it. Everything about this moment was complete and utter heaven and John could feel the words rolling off his tongue with a tenderness and sincerity he had never felt before.

"I love you Cassie." he had murmured under the gorgeous star pricked sky.

His fingertips had caressed the apple of her cheek, his lips curving into an even wider smile as Cass's fingers were threaded through his untidy brown hair. Her glittering sapphire eyes had met his hazel gaze as his lover spoke her very own truth, one that had made his heart soar and soul elated.

"I love you too John."

Now that John was home, he was filled with a sense of purpose and importance. He had been quiet and sullen upon their journey back through the Stargate. His mind was racing, scrambling over the facts and slotting them into pigeon holes to be worked through later. His explanation of Cowen's betrayal to Weir and the debriefing had taken longer than he had anticipated.

John hadn't trusted the Genii from the onset and he had been correct in his assumptions of their leader's character. John had crossed men like Cowen before, the Genii were used to being the main military power in the galaxy albeit a secret one. Like a neighbourhood bully they didn't like the idea of being usurped by the new kids on the block.

The only positive to their mission had been the fact they had returned with a vital piece of Wraith technology but that was a small consolation compared to everything that had occurred over the past few days he had spent off world.

The shower was running when John stepped inside of Cass's room. When they had become a more public item the two of them had had Rodney program each other's specifications onto the door codes for their quarters so they could come and go freely.

Their relationship had progressed enough for John not to assume he was being presumptuous by joining his significant other in the shower. He was already stripping off his leather flak jacket, allowing it to drop to the floor as as he strode towards the bathroom door. His black t-shirt was already joining his jacket before he pushed open the unlocked door and stepped into the steamy bathroom. Already he was fumbling with his combats, his boots had been left by the bedroom door alongside her tidy row of shoes.

John could see the blurry shape of Cass's naked form through the patterned glass as she sang just a little under her breath. He wondered how she could do that? How she could act like nothing had happened back at the Genii's underground compound?

John drew back the glass door to the shower before stepping inside the warm moist space and closing it behind him. He found himself face to face with Cass, his hazel eyes intent on hers as she stood before him underneath the water stream looking amused. She was gloriously naked except for the 'freedom' bracelet that had never left her wrist. The bruises were coming out now more predominantly and John could feel that flash of indignant rage burning up deep inside him as he reviewed them.

He wanted to murder the bastard that had harmed his Cassie, tear him limb from limb from what he had tried to take from her. It sickened him knowing that Sergi had gotten away with it. The Major in him was aware of the ramifications it would have caused dealing with the other man the way he wanted but The Man in him was out for blood. If the chance came John couldn't say that he wouldn't put a bullet in the back of the other man's head.

"He hurt you." John all but growled as he stepped into the steady stream of water allowing it to sooth over his aching muscles.

Cass's hands came to roam over his firm, well muscled chest as he tilted his head down to meet her sapphire gaze. His eyes were fierce as his eyebrows furrowed into a frown as he studied her with an intensity that felt tingles vibrating through her entire body.

"It doesn't hurt so much." Cass hushed, as her fingertips traced along the line of his silver dogtags. "You could kiss it better?"

Those were the words that John had been waiting for. That need to reclaim her as his own was resolute, it had been wrecking havoc on his emotions ever since Cass had detailed the attack on her person. The idea of another man's hands on her especially unwillingly made him want to break something. Having her here in front of him was confirmation that she was ok, but the animistic side of him needed it's own reassurances on it's mate's status.

It was primal, the desires he had right now and when he looked into Cass's eyes, he knew that she felt it too. She was urging him to assert his will, to prove his love. She would never ask for that but he felt it in the bond that was struck up between them. This was a moment where she needed everything that he could possibly give her and he could do that for her.

John had been prepared to play it loving and gentle. He could be caring and slow if that's what she required of him but when he looked at her he could sense that wasn't what she wanted. They were two halves of the same person, they had the same desires, the same wants and needs.

They're bodies were barely touching but already Cass's eyes were brightening with arousal as she took in the sight of his naked body. John truly was a work of art, his entire muscular structure was finely sculptured and etched with the scars that mapped out the trail of his life. Her fingertips trailed up along the white bullet hole that marred his right thigh.

"You know I like it when you touch me like that." John sighed as her hand inched higher towards his throbbing erection.

"I want you to show me that it doesn't matter what he did, that you still want me." Cass requested quietly.

It wasn't a concession she made lightly and John knew that just admitting that had cost her dearly. She was putting herself in his hands, John could never deny her when she spoke to him like this. There was such a desperation in her voice, he would never have heard it if she hadn't let him. Her trust in him was immense and he would do anything to keep her happy and safe.

"It does matter." John told her, his eyes lowering to her pert pink lips as his large hands cupped her delicate features. "And I will never stop wanting you."

His lips descended on hers, tender and loving as his hands came to rest upon her naked shoulders smoothing over her wet skin with a delirious slowness. Cass's flesh prickled with anticipation as their lips locked, John's tongue seeking out the delicious, hot confines of her mouth. The blistering warmth of his hands upon her supple flesh made her arch and moan as she pressed against him with a demanding desire for intimacy.

Already John was awakening every single one of her senses as his fiery fingertips traced along the outline of her lithe shape. His thumbs were already ghosting over her nipples. She gasped out loud into the depths of his captivating kisses as he massaged her modest breasts.

"All I want you to think about is me touching you like this, how my mouth feels on your skin." John's ragged pants were in her ear as his feverish fingers trailed even lower.

Jesus, the noises Cass was making were driving John absolutely crazy. That erotic whimper was so delectable as she responded to him in that dynamic intuitive way of hers. Her nails were raking over his flesh as his fingers slipped between her parted thighs seeking out her moist core. Her lips were parted, her sapphire eyes interlocked on his letting him see absolutely everything as his fingers entered her. His thumb glided over her clit as he curved his fingers slightly, hitting that exact spot that drove Cass completely insane.

Her expression was one of sheer ecstasy as Cass's fingertips dug into his tender flesh. His lips covered hers once more, smothering her moans of pleasure and then disappointment as he removed his hand from the cleft between her legs. John's calloused, sultry hand caressed down the length of her thigh before he guided it up to his hip allowing John access to her most intimate of areas.

Cass was already drawing him closer with her eager hands. She had never felt so desirable before, John did such wonderful imaginative things to her body. His aching member was already pressing at her slick feminine area. The tip of him brushing against her opening denying her of everything that she could ever want. He held her in place, working her up until the pleasure of his ministrations had her in a wanton frenzy.

"Now." Cass pleaded, her hands gripping his firm ass to bring the two of them even closer to completion.

John couldn't resist her any longer. He penetrated her with an antagonizing slowness as his mouth enclosed over hers, stifling her moan of contentment at their union. They were the perfect fit for one another. She empowered him completely. He had never felt so cherished and appreciated before he had met Cass. He had never loved someone so much. He could feel their souls entwining as they connected. They were moving together, John's hand on the shower wall behind Cass for support as he kissed her with everything he had.

Her hands on his shoulders for leverage as John thrust into her supple body. He was close, they both were, she could hear it in his sexy, husky groans as they rocked together in unison. The orgasm was already sizzling through her body, her nerves were erupting with tiny fireworks. The waves of ecstasy over came her completely as she mumbled endearments against her lover's skilled mouth.

"I love you John." she whispered as they crested together. "I love you so much."

They climaxed at the same time, John was calling out her name like a mantra as he clasped Cass to him as if terrified to let her go. She was writhing and bucking as the euphoria consumed the two of them like a drug. There had never been this completeness before they'd met and this sensation was beyond addictive. His fingertips were brushing back the damp strands of dark hair away from her exquisite, pale features as he stared into her beautiful blue gaze.

"I love you too Cassie."

Chapter Text

They were tangled up in bed together, Cass's clean white sheets draped over their naked bodies as they lay entwined with one another. Her kisses were soft and endearing as Cass's fingertips caressed John's rugged cheeks. It was impossible for her to say how much she loved this man. John was so vitally important to her being. He was like the sunshine after a long and stormy night and Cass couldn't help but think it was time to air all of her secrets. What had happened in Afghanistan played a large part of who she was now, he deserved to know after her reaction to the events surrounding their time with the Genii.

"I need to tell you something" Cass muttered into the nape of John's neck, her lips ghosting along the curve of his throat. "Something about me."

"That sounds ominous." John murmured against Cass's hairline as his fingertips doodled patterns along the trail of her spine.

"I need to tell you why I was freaking out so badlyback in the Genii bunker." Cass told him, tucking her head underneath his chin.

John's fingers combed through her straight, damp hair as he held her close. He had known the instant the group had stepped underground that she had become unsettled and alarmed. Her fear had been horrendous, he could feel it coming off Cass in waves as they progressed into the deeper levels. He had thought it was due to their hostage situation. She may have spent four years in Afghanistan but nothing prepared you for being captured. Sometimes he forgot she wasn't a soldier, the kinsman-ship he felt to her was different from what he was used to when they were wearing their professional masks.

"A year before I met you in Afghanistan my convoy was attacked." her lips brushed against his chest as she spoke, her fingers tracing over the writing etched into his dogtags trying to distance herself from the memories. "We were captured and held in an underground cave for three days before..."

She trailed off unsure how to phrase the next part of her story. John picked up on her indecision as it wavered in the mental space in between them. His mouth went dry at the prospects, he knew the kind of interrogation the rebels used in that country. Women weren't viewed as equals there, their role in society was underneath men. He had kissed the rare scars he had found upon her flesh.

The one on her collarbone, that curved white line that streaked across her temple hidden by her hair, the one that reminded him of the butt of a gun. He had never asked, he had thought they were events from her childhood. Now he suspected they were more.

"Tell me." he mumbled into her hair, his thumb smoothing over the ridges of the rounded white scar at her temple. "I want to know everything."

"I can't tell you that." Cass said quietly, closing her eyes as she breathed in the essence of her shelter.

"What did they do to you?" he whispered again.

"They drowned me." she conceded, her forehead coming to rest upon his firm chest. "I couldn't tell you how many times but it seemed like it went on forever until it stopped."

Dunking, it explained the lack of physical ailments from her time in captivity. The insurgents would have wanted something more from her and it would have been a shame to them to ruin her before they had had their fun. It made him sick to his stomach to imagine her in such a hideous position. He couldn't get the images out of his mind.

Cass with her hands bound behind her back, the rope knotting her wrists together at the base of her spine. The insurgents hands were tangled in her dark hair shoving her head under the surface of the stagnant water. It flooded her nostrils and mouth as they held her bucking, fighting. She couldn't breath, God she could feel the water slipping down her throat as she tried to splutter and gasp into the icy cold liquid. There was no relief from the chilling depths. She was suffocating, she could feel her chest seizing up against the invasion as she jerked and twisted frantically against her restraints. The darkness twinging at the edges of her vision. They say your life flashed before your eyes but there was nothing but the sting of water against her sensitive eyeballs as she stared into the endless abyss.

Torture like that only halted for one of two reasons that John knew of, the interrogators had gotten the information they wanted or the prisoner...

"You died." he stated in a voice devoid of all emotion.

It left him empty and numb to consider that possibility. His soul mate lying broken and lifeless was becoming one of his own worst nightmares. He couldn't stand it, the idea of her leaving him made his throat constrict as a pained growl emitted from low in his throat. It was a noise of remorse, of hurt and anger for the plight she'd survived.


"Briefly." Cass answered, her palm coming to rest just over the place where his heart beat underneath the tips of her fingers. "And then they brought me back again and started over."

"Live to drown another day." She had cracked to Luke as she struggled to keep warm against the freezing cold sensation that had invaded her body.

She hadn't been able to get the heat back into her bones after that, not even when Luke had tucked her trembling form against his body, nestled into the recesses of his flak jacket. Her wet clothing clung to her upper body and she knew without a doubt that they were going to die here.

"We need a plan." Luke muttered, tipping his head back so it came to rest on the rock behind him.

Cass rubbed her hands up and down her arms underneath the protection of the jacket. She remembered the hungry eyes of the insurgent who had dragged her back to their prison, the trail of his hand across her wet shoulder blades before he shoved her forward back into the cage so her weak knees buckled and she lost her balance.

"I think I have one..."

"There are two reasons I'm telling you this." Cass murmured, her lips caressing the sensitive spot just over his heart. "Our lives are dangerous and you need to know that I will do anything necessary to come back, to survive and the second reason..."

Cass closed her eyes tightly against the ache that was building in her throat. The idea of losing John terrified her. Terror was something she associated with a physical attack, feeling like this on an emotional level was something she was completely inexperienced in.

"Your shaking." John uttered as he gathered her even closer against his muscular form.

"If you want to leave I understand." she whispered, her breath tickling across his chest.

"Why would you think that?" he asked her, his warm hands rubbing up and down the curve of Cass's soft, naked back. "Why do you think I would want to leave you after you've shared something like that?"

"It's happened before." Cass confessed unwillingly.

John's brow furrowed for a second before he managed to fit all the missing pieces from their previous conversations into place.

"The Heart Doctor." John remembered.

She had been engaged to a Cardiologist before they had met. She had told him that being away all of the time had put a strain on their relationship, now he realized the real reason that lay behind the breakdown of her engagement.

Cass nodded her agreement. John bent his head capturing her stunning sapphire gaze with his before he placed a butterfly kiss upon her forehead, her closed eyelids, the tip of her nose and finally her lips.

"I'm not going anywhere." John said into the corner of her mouth before gathering up the sheets in his fists and tucking them around Cass's slender frame.

"You always have a way of making me feel safe." Cass murmured as her head came to rest upon his firm chest, her arm wrapping around his waist and snuggling even closer. "You feel like home."

For John home was exactly where the heart is.

Chapter Text

The City was deserted, Cass had never experienced the deathly silence in Atlantis before and never again did she want to. The Infirmary was eerie quiet, she was used to the steady thrum of visitors and the friendly chatter of nurses but instead the place was vacant. The absence of life was unnerving, the noiseless echoes were haunting as she shuffled through the vacuous room checking to ensure each medicinal cabinet was locked.

They had received the news several hours ago that a great storm was on the way, one that had the potential to decimate the City. Already they had evacuated all non essential personnel from the City and all that remained was a team of six people including herself. John, Weir and Rodney were putting Rodney's latest plan into action in order to turn the City into a giant conductor to harvest the energy from the storm into the Shield Generator.

Two Marines were guarding the Control Room and the Stargate while she finished up locking down the Infirmary. With Carson on the main land helping with the evacuations she was left temporarily in charge of their small but capable medical centre. All of their patients had been moved to the Alpha Site already and she had already stocked her own field kit up in case she needed to attend to any injured parties. Cass grasped her green canvas satchel and slung it over her head so the strap was across her chest.

Cass touched the comm lightly signalling the others across the channel.

"It's Doctor Pierce, I'm done in the Infirmary and ready to move onto the Alpha Site." Cass said as she stepped out of the Infirmary, the automatic doors closing behind her.

"You may need to hold your horses on that one Doc," the voice of an unfamiliar Marine told her over the line. "We have incoming, there's been an attack on Manara, we have an Athosian party incoming with wounded."

"Did you receive that Doctor Weir?" Cass prompted.

"Loud and clear, we on route." Weir murmured into the receiver.

"Me too." Cass replied as she swiped her hand over the panel, hearing the locks click shut as the mechanism slipped into place.

The Control Room wasn't far from the Infirmary. Cass broke into a run, her boots slapping across the tiles as she sprinted as she took a corner and sprinted towards the larger room. Already she could see two bodies lying in wretched heaps on the steps leading to the Stargate. She hurried even faster as they came into view, the sight of their grey uniforms hit her like a slap to the face.


She slowed as her brain scrambled over the details, her lips parting in horror at the pool of blood stretching from underneath them as their vacant eyes bored into hers. She didn't understand, she had just heard their voices over the airwaves...

Cass's arm was seized in a vice like grasp as she stepped into the Gate Room fully. The fingers were bone crushing as they clenched her arm, hurling her out of the door way and even further into the room. Something solid and cold was jammed into her side and it took Cass a few seconds to make sense of what was happening as she twisted to face her initial aggressor.

A sneer curved across familiar thin lips as vicious, glittering eyes fixed upon hers. The blond crew cut was hidden underneath his evergreen, uniformed cap as he twisted the double barrelled hand gun against her sensitive flesh.

"Doctor Pierce, it's nice to see you again." Sergi uttered at her through bared teeth.

His triumphant smile and empty, soulless eyes reminded her of a shark surveying his last meal. Only sharks didn't torment their food before eating, the graze of the gun metal against her skin was irritating to say the least. His grip on her arm was needlessly painful. She wasn't going anywhere. The room was full of Genii for God's sake, all equipped with firearms.

"Sergi, stop playing with the hostage, there'll be plenty of time for that later." The voice was gruff with the twinge of an accent that reminded her slightly of Russia.

The Commanding Officer was as tall as he was broad, his stature reminded her of a hockey player. His tough, leathery skin was pock marked and indented with what looked like old, healed burns. His hands were behind his back in a resolute satisfied manner as reviewed the interior of the Gate Room in all of it's splendour.

"I'm afraid you have us at a disadvantage." Weir's voice chimed from nearby, drawing Cass's attention to her and Rodney in a similar position on the opposite side of the room. "You seem to know about us but we don't seem to know about you."

"It's the Genii." Rodney submitted, staring hatefully at the soldier's who had swarmed over his Control Room.

Cass clenched her jaw to prevent herself from crying out as Sergi allowed his weapon to dig even further into her flesh. She really didn't see how today could get any worse.

The Jumper was grounded and it made Ford feel completely ill at ease to be trapped in such a small space with a raging storm howling outside. He had been through storms back on earth but nothing that resembled a hurricane. Already the wind was blowing a horrendous gale outside, trees were practically bending under the tirade of the great storm.

The rain was lashing across the window of the Jumper making a hailstorm of noise as Beckett, himself and Teyla sat in the cockpit area of the small ship. The hunting party they had been awaiting were huddled in the back, wrapped in blankets on the benches that lined the back of the ship.

"This is Major Sheppard to Jumper Two, Jumper Two are you receiving?" The radio crackled with static as the thin, throaty sound of John's voice sounded over the speakers.

Ford was already snatching up the radio and holding it to his mouth before Beckett had a second to reach for it.

"Major Sheppard, this is Jumper Two responding, we're still grounded on the Main Land." Ford informed his superior.

"Your on the Main Land? Well good we have a situation here, the Genii have invaded the Control Room and taken Weir, Cassie and Rodney hostage." John informed the small crew.

"Those fellas who wanted us to help build them an Atom Bomb?" Ford questioned, shaking his head in dismay. "How did they even get through the gate?"

"They were posing as injured Athosians." John relayed. "Look that's not important. What's important is that you get back here to back me up. It looks like they've got a strike force."

"We've got bad news Major, we're grounded at the moment. There's not a chance we can fly in this weather." Carson said out loud into the cockpit, his voice twinged with concern.

"Well that is bad news." John returned as he grabbed the Life Scenes Detector. "Just get here when you can."

"Received Major." Ford told him before setting the radio down and letting out a growl of frustration. "We need to do something."

Ford's fingers flicking over the switches in order to start the Jumper engines before Carson slapped his hand over the other man's, holding it in place. Ford turned his furious gaze upon the the dark haired doctor, his eye blazing with agitation.

"Are you out of your mind son?" he exclaimed, his brows furrowing as he indicated towards the weather. "We can't fly in this."

"Did you not hear what he said?" Ford retorted angrily. "The Genii are holding our friends hostage and trying to take over Atlantis."

"Aye, and I am worried about them too but we're going to be no use to them if we crash land this thing." Carson snapped.

"Carson is right." Teyla intervened stepping between the two men, her calming hands resting upon each of their shoulders. "We will be no help to the Major if we can not fly through this weather. We will have to sit here and wait until we are able to fly."

Ford sagged back in his pilot's chair letting out a growl of fury as he slapped his cap on the control panel.

Lieutenant Aiden Ford didn't do well feeling useless.

Chapter Text

To say that John Sheppard was pissed was an understatement. Pissed was a curse word that didn't even start to cover the rampaging emotions that were exploding like nukes within his gut. The rage was fiery and his thirst for blood unquenched. His fists were clenched as he listened to the conversation between the Genii, Weir and Rodney over the radio channel. There was so much fury in him right now, John had never felt such a powerful surge of emotion before.

This was his City and now his people were in danger, it had made his blood boil underneath the surface of his skin to know that the Genii had used their weakness against them. He should have known that Callen was an opportunist. Someone had leaked the information that they were vulnerable and the results of that betrayal were proving costly.

Already from what he could gather their Control Room had been swamped with a small strike team of Genii shoulders whose main goal seemed to be to over take the city. Rodney had rather cleverly managed to alert John to their demands without making the Genii aware of his presence by leaning on the control panel that activated the comm system. It had worked only for a few minutes but John now had some leverage to work with.

"For God's Sake Elizabeth it's not worth our lives, just give him the C-4, the medical supplies and the Wraith Device." Rodney's irate voice had exclaimed over the radio attached to John's ear.

He had four hours until the storm hit, three hostages to rescue before the corridors became electrically charged and God knows how many Genii standing between him and the survival of this city. The odds were not good but the stakes were high, higher than they had ever been for him. Weir, Rodney, Cass...

John felt his chest tighten at the thought of her in the hands of the enemy. It had been days since they had spoken about what had happened to her back in Afghanistan but still her words were fresh in his mind, her abuse antagonizing every step he took. Jesus it was tearing him up inside not to rush in and be her knight in shining armour yet that would be unproductive and the only thing that would come of that was failure. He couldn't stand the idea of her vanishing from his life. Now that he'd had her letting her go again was not an option.

If Cass died then his own destruction would surely follow. His soul would fracture and fragment and before anyone knew it John Sheppard would be no more. He couldn't guarantee he wouldn't do something stupid if she was harmed during this venture. He knew himself well enough to understand he would lose control completely and revenge...

He had never believed it was a dish best served cold.

Trust was never something he gave freely, it took a long time for people to earn it but now John Sheppard was putting his faith squarely not only in Cass's hands, but in Rodney Mckay and Elizabeth Weir's too. He couldn't allow his worries to override what needed to be done here no matter how much it killed him to think of them trapped amongst the Genii.

Cass's words were ringing in his mind as he stood stationary for a second gathering his thoughts and developing plans on the knowledge he had at hand. Her whisper against his heart, echoing in the darkness as they lay entwined in each other.

"You need to know that I will do anything necessary to come back, anything to survive."

John ran his calloused hands over his rugged features, even more infuriated by his position. If there was ever a time to start believing in something it was now. It was time to let all of his reservations go, he couldn't hold onto them any more. There was a moment of fear, a fear so intense his throat physically hurt as he swallowed as hard as he could past it before he released every concern that knotted up deep inside him.

Courage was being the only one that knew you were afraid, he remembered his mother once telling him.

It was surprising how at a time like this her words always came back to haunt him like the spectator he had once wished for as a teenager.

The Major took over once more, his interior armour slotting into place as he built up his shields like a fortress at the forefront of his mind. He ran his assets through his brain cataloguing each of them and labelling their priorities as he began to build a plan and explore the possible tactics for a situation with this many hostile. He had the home advantage and the element of surprise, he had to make them work in his favour.

There was too much at stake for him to lose this game of Risk.

Rodney as it turned out could not lie, or at the very least he wasn't very good at it. It hadn't taken more than five seconds for Commander Koyla to work out something was afoot. While Weir was away collecting the Wraith device they had snatched from the Genii the first time around Koyla had decided to question Rodney on the real reason a scientist of his calibre would still be residing in the city. When he hadn't gotten the answers he sought he had unleashed a younger, more aggressive looking Genii upon the scientist. Cass had been forced to watch as Koyla pinned Rodney's wrist to the control panel allowing his soldier to use the serrated edge of his combat knife to pierce the flesh of the scientist's forearm.

There were many times she had treated Doctor Rodney McKay over the past few months, most of his illnesses had been episodes of hypochondria. Cass thought even with being a genius you had to have a few faults. His ability to convince himself of many fictional illnesses was one of them. Yet Cass would never forget the whine of agony that escaped his mouth when that wicked blade has plunged into his skin.

Rodney had spilled every single one of the details of their plan to save the City, yet somehow he had managed to withhold the fact that John was still running around inside of the City. Something Koyla was now well aware of since John had intentionally left a radio in the Armoury for the Genii to find after he had hidden the C-4. Cass understood his main goal at the time had been to strike up a bargain, the hostages go free through the Stargate and John, himself would fly out the Genii, the C-4 and whatever else they wanted out of the City on a Puddle Jumper.

Instead Koyla had threatened to kill them and there had been radio silence ever since from John Sheppard. Cass had no doubt he was still out there somewhere wrecking havoc upon the Genii. The majority of the strike team had been dispatched around the City in search of the C-4 and John, leaving Sergi and a small team of others guarding the Control Room. Koyla had now taken residence in Weir's glass office above them and it seemed to Cass that he was proceeding to make himself at home.

Sergi had dogged everyone of her actions since he had returned to the Control Room from his brief exchange with Koyla in Weir's office. It didn't take a genius to work out what they were talking about and she hoped to God if she was the first one to die they did it quickly.

Currently Cass was on her knees beside Rodney who was sitting with his back pressed against the wall of the lower level of the Control Room. The grey sleeve of his uniform was stained with vivid red blood as Cass clamped her hand over it while gesturing for Sergi to hand over a cotton pad. He had confiscated it over an hour ago from her person, taking great care to work his fingers under the strap that fell across her body. The possibility of using her scalpel as a weapon was gone and apparently he seemed to think she was equally as dangerous with a needle and thread so instead of suturing Rodney's would as required she was forced to make do with temporarily stifling the bleeding.

Cass held her hand out for the wad of bandages as she kept on hand firmly applying pressure to Rodney's cut, it wasn't deep as she has originally suspected but it was long and it was going to scar. She had emitted that information when she had explained what she was doing to Rodney. Somehow she doubted the scientist would take very kindly to the news. Rodney held his arm out to her as she wrapped the bandage over the cotton pad before firmly securing it to his arm with medical tape.

It had been impossible to talk with Sergi lingering so close, so she had let her empathy show through the kindness of her touches as she wrapped his arm. Rodney had met her gaze as she leaned in close, taping the bandage tightly to his arm and she could feel his gratefulness in those eyes of his. She didn't know that he had expected her to roll her eyes at his injury, to brush it off and say she'd seen worse. He appreciated her care in the direness of their situation, it was good to have a comrade in arms so to speak.

"Your finished with him?" Sergi questioned gruffly from behind Cass, raising to his feet as he spoke.

Rodney watched his motions with a curiosity that irked him. When it came to physics, maths or computers he was the guy you went to, a self certified genius. Yet when it came to social skills or studying people's behaviour Rodney didn't get it at all. For the past hour he had watched this svelte soldier stalk Cass like a Lion in the Serengeti and he found that completely unnerving.

There was something in the air, it was convulsive and potent, the awful feeling growing when the other man looked at the doctor. The fact he was touching her so much was another thing that was sending Rodney's brain into hyperdrive. There was no real need to clasp the back of her neck the way he had when she'd knelt down beside Rodney, no reason for him dig his finger tips into her shoulder or stand so close.

The expression on Elizabeth's face at Koyla's mention of Sergi had been what had set him on this trail in the first place. As soon as the word had been uttered, her features had contorted into dismay as her gaze shot to Cass. Something had happened between these two last week in that Genii bunker, he knew it. It had been the reason that John had been so irritant and bad tempered throughout the whole mission, why he had guarded her like his own personal treasure in the days after.

"Just about." Cass answered Sergi, barely bothering to keep the resentment out of her voice.

The other man prodded the back of her skull with his weapon once more, his free hand already seeking out the hair elastic that was holding her hair in a messy bun before he tugged it out. Rodney watched as Cass's entire body tensed at the intimateness of the gesture as her dark hair spilled out to her shoulders, framing her pale features. Every single alarm bell inside Rodney was ringing loudly as Sergi ran his fingers through her kinked hair causing Cass to clench her jaw against the feigned caress.

"What are you doing?" Rodney spat, unable to help himself.

He wasn't a brave man but he couldn't stand to see this any longer. It was intolerable to watch this bizarre display of affection taking place in front of him. Despite how irritating he found Cass most of the time, with her self righteous arguments about how he seemed to lack manners and social skills, she was still his friend and it sickened him to see her being mistreated like this. He knew without a doubt that Sergi was dead if John ever got his hands on him.

"It looks better down." Sergi sneered at him, his malevolent glare fixating on the scientist as he continued to stroke Cass's hair as if she was some kind of pet.

"You know we would probably get on a lot better if you stopped poking me with your gun every chance you get." Cass snapped as her patience at the situation finally began to waver.

Rodney had no idea how she'd managed to sit through that for so long without biting the guy's hand off. He'd seen her in the field and while she was nowhere near the same calibre of fighters as the Marines or Teyla, she was a force to be reckoned with when they were backed into a corner.

Sergi's fingertips raked her scalp as he grasped her hair in his fist and tugged her head back suddenly causing Cass cry out in pain.

"You should have more respect for me." Sergi told her, jamming the gun under the hinge of her jaw roughly.

It had to hurt but Cass barely made a sound. Rodney had felt the tremble of her hands when she had fixed his bandages so he knew that she was scared. Cass was just better at hiding it than he was and he understood the notion of not wanting to give this brute the satisfaction.

"Maybe we can all just calm down and stop prodding each other with weapons." Rodney said, holding his hands up in surrender to remind the Genii that he was not armed.

Sergi was already wrenching Cass to her feet by the grip he had on her hair, she had no choice but to comply as he tugged her against the length of his body. His mouth was near her ear, his breath tickling her neck as he inhaled deeply. Cass rose her eyes up to the ceiling, feeling her chest tighten as he used the gun to trace the outline of her waist.

"I think it's time we finish what we started don't you Doctor?" Sergi murmured, his voice was low and full of intent.

"I don't think that's a good idea." Rodney said, raising to his own feet in indignation at the other man's words.

It was rare that he acted before he thought but in this situation it was understandable. He was never one to be ruled by emotions and usually the only instinct that he followed was hunger but he couldn't let this continue. He wasn't at risk the same way Cass was. He was invaluable to the Genii because he was the only one that could teach them what to do with the C-4 and how to develop their nukes. Cass was punishment for John's defiance in the face of adversary. Killing any of them would warrant a fury that Rodney didn't even dare to consider and if it had to be Cass...

Rodney severely doubted that any of the Genii would be getting out of here alive.

"I can't let you take her." Rodney proclaimed with the shake of his head. "If you do this you are ruining any chance of alliance you could have had with us."

"We're taking over your city. There is no alliance." Sergi informed the other man, as he pointed his weapon at Rodney's kneecap. "Now sit back down before I shoot you."

"Rodney, seriously it's ok." Cass soothed, trying to pacify not only her captor but her friend as well.

They couldn't afford for Rodney to be injured, he was the driving force behind saving Atlantis. All of his theories and plans had saved so many people's lives over the past months. If one of them had to die it should be her, Rodney McKay was simply too damn important to the cause.

"She's a doctor, you can't just take her. You may need her and she's a really good trauma surgeon, she once saved someone's life with a Bic. You can't pass up those kind of skills." Rodney bargained, gesturing wildly with his hands before sighing at the blank look on Sergi's face. "It's a pen, look she has skills that you could need."

"We have our own doctors." Sergi reminded the scientist stonily. "She has no purpose."

Cass could see the logic in his words. The Genii didn't believe the Uranium was harming them and putting one of their own lives in her hands was practically giving her a bartering chip. They couldn't take that chance, she was useless as a pawn to them.

"That's not true." Rodney argued, seething with frustration. "She has medicines, she can cure people."

"The order has already been given." Sergi confirmed their unspoken suspicions. "The disruption your Major has caused can not go unpunished."

Hearing the words out loud was like a bullet to the heart as Cass reviewed her own mortality. She did not want to die, the desire to save herself had never been as strong or as desperate as it was now. She had too much to live for, friends, family, her lover. She couldn't bear the thought of being ripped away from him like that, not when they had just found each other. It wasn't fair that he be punished for doing his job, for saving other people.

Cass didn't intend to die here, she would look for an opening, an opportunity to survive. She wouldn't allow herself to be the willing hostage that Sergi was expecting. She would not willingly stand by and let him kill her. He had underestimated her the first time and she thought he was making the same mistake yet again. Just because she had been so placid while he abused her did not mean that she would go down without a fight. It was simply a matter of biding her time.

"You can't do that." Rodney protested with an expression of outrage. "She is not responsible for..."

The gun came out of nowhere, striking Rodney across the face so hard it knocked him to the ground. He groaned clutching at the side of his face as he lay on the floor trying to breath through the pain that exploded along the line of his jaw. This was why he didn't embark on acts of heroism, he had a low threshold for pain and they tended to get you hit.

"Stop, just stop ok?" Cass erupted shrilly, a twinge of panic in her voice as she turned around to face Sergi, making sure she was between the brutal soldier and the courageous scientist.

It endeared her completely that Rodney was stepping up for her, she knew how much it cost him to actually make a stand but she couldn't allow this to continue. Sergi wouldn't spare a thought to putting a bullet in a limb if it shut him up, she couldn't let him go through that. She couldn't stand to watch Rodney hurt any more than he already was, he had already done to much for her. More than she had ever imagined he would.

"I will do whatever you tell me to do just stop hurting him." Cass promised Sergi meeting his evergreen eyes with a resolve she struggled to erect.

Already she was fortifying herself against the possibilities that loomed before her. She would kill Sergi if she had to. There would be no pleasure in his death but if it came down to it she could do it, the only problem was how. She had no weapon but she had made a promise to fight, she would do whatever she could to walk away from this. It wasn't going to be easy, he was a trained soldier, one of the best if he was part of Koyla's strike force and she was under no illusions of grandeur regarding her own skills.

"Don't you understand?" Rodney rebelled as he managed to drag his aching frame into a sitting position. "He's been ordered to kill you."

Cass's gaze never shifted from Sergi's features as she framed the words on her pert pink lips.

"I'm just another casualty of war right?"

Sergi's mouth curved into a cruel sneer as he regarded her with those cold dead eyes. His expression said it all, she was worthless to him, a commodity. There was no need for niceness between them, he had her exactly where he wanted her, manageable and compliant. He could do anything he wanted and there wasn't anything she could do about it. The moment he saw the defiance die in her eyes was the minute he decided he couldn't wait any more. There was something so special about demoralising someone, about stripping away every single hope they had in the world until they're faith was mutilated. There was no escape and the doctor had finally accepted that.

"Are you going to be a good girl for me or am I going to have to find a way to make Doctor McKay extremely uncomfortable?" Sergi drawled, gesturing to Rodney who looked nauseated by the exchange.

It was demeaning the way he spoke to her and he enjoyed seeing her shoulders sag in response to his words. She was nothing to him and he wanted to make sure she knew it. In time to come he would degrade her and show her how degenerate she really was. He held all the power and she was about to discover what it was like to be a slave for him.

"You don't have to do this." Rodney asserted, there was a pleading in his voice.

They both knew what was going to happen the minute he led her out of his room. Goodbye, she wanted to tell Rodney. Thank you and goodbye, just in case.

"Tell him..." Cass said finally. "Tell him 'I love him' ok?"

It was so acutely personal and the irony wasn't wasted on him. She was asking the most socially defective person on Atlantis to relay her last message. It hurt, Rodney hadn't expected it to hurt so much but it did.

"Bye." he forced himself to speak past the excruciating lump in his throat.

Cass cast him one last watery smile over her left shoulder before she was removed from the room.

Chapter Text

The storm was ferocious, the rain was lashing down like tiny needles upon John's face as he stood beside the ruined control panel of the fourth grounding station. His hair was plastered to his head, the wind blowing like a typhoon in his face as he stood in the midst of the storm screaming into Genii communicator he had snatched off the wrist of a soldier he had killed. It was going wrong, it was all going so horrifically wrong. His rage was bubbling over, his voice hoarse from yelling into the damn thing as those words prickled at his consciousness feeding the murderous beast in the pit of his stomach.

"Doctor Pierce is dead."

John didn't believe it, he refused to. It wasn't possible that Cass had died, he would have felt her life being extinguished as part of his soul disappeared along with her. Yet the possibility was tearing up his insides and wrecking havoc on his damaged psyche. The thought of her corpse drove him literally insane. He wanted to destroy something, to ruin and mangle anyone who had had a part to play in her murder.

There was a darkness growing inside of him, one that he greeted with wide open arms allowing it's numbness to overtake him in abundance. He needed not to feel at the moment. The cold, barren wasteland was dragging him in once more drowning him in a sea of emptiness before he came to stand on the abyss once more. He was alone, for the first time since he met Cass he was completely devoid of emotions. He couldn't feel anything, just a strange absence where his heart and soul used to rest.

He wouldn't allow himself to think of the moments he would now live without her. He couldn't stand the echo of her voice in his ears, repeating the same words over and over again like the chorus from his favourite song. Her eyes would never glimmer like diamonds when she gave him that sweet, careless smile. Her touch...

John closed his eyes for a second at the sense memory of her skin contacting against his. He would never be able to kiss her again, to murmur in her ear at night so that she laughed so hard he could feel it vibrating against his ribcage.

"Your perfect." she had whispered in the early hours of the morning as he kissed her lips, his hands doodling patterns down and along her midriff.

"Perfect is a first." John told her, his fingers tracing a circular motion along the dip of her belly button.

"So was beautiful." Cass admitted, as John's fingertips teased just a little bit lower, hooking on her sweats and caressing the tender flesh underneath.

"Never?" John questioned, trailing his nose along the length of hers.

Cass closed her eyes, her breathing hitching as she arched against his mischievous fingers as he sought out the warm cleft between her legs.

"Only you." she mumbled against his lips.

He was alone. His happiness had been so viciously snatched away and there was vengeance in his veins. John dealt in violence daily and he was sure as hell going to use it to cause some mayhem for Koyla and his strike team. This has just become personal.

There wasn't time to grieve and John wasn't the type of guy to break down and cry. At the end of this he would drink himself into a stupor but not before he'd taken out the bastards that had killed Cass. He forced everything back, putting up bricks to cover up the raw intensity of his feelings. The wall would hold for as long as he needed, just as it had when his mother had died. He had lost so many people over the years. His mother, his friends and now Cass, he had never expected Cass to become a causality of his troubled life.

"I am going to kill you." John promised Koyla over the communicator before tossing it to the ground and crushing it under his boot.

This was war.

Irony wasn't wasted on Cassandra Pierce, just like she knew it wasn't wasted on the soldier she only knew as Sergi. Healing people was her life's work and the Infirmary was the sheer embodiment of everything she believed in. It was also the place in which she was about to take her final breaths.

Sergi's evergreen eyes bored into hers as she stood before him. They had been standing like this for minutes and the apprehension was killing her. She was waiting for the next attack, she had been expecting it the moment he'd shoved her through the automatic doors but it hadn't come. Instead he had had her pack their entire stocks of Prussian Blue into a medical kit bag for him before they had come to this point. It was the moment of no return and there was no going back for either of them.

"Strip." he framed the words on his lips, licking them as he spoke.

"Make me." she challenged.

Her defiance was back with a final burst of vigour and Sergi found that commendable. There was fire in her eyes and Sergi remembered this was what it was like when you destroyed someone. This was that last tremble of hope before the end. He knew how to break that down, she wasn't the first person he had diminished and she doubted that would be the last.

That slap resounded through the air like a gunshot as the back of his hand connected with her cheek, turning her head so hard it caused her gasp to echo through the empty room. Already his grasping hands were on her open flak jacket shoving it off of her shoulders and yanking it down her arms and tearing it from her slender body. It dropped to the floor in a heap at his feet.

Cass wrenched away, the backs of her thighs banging against the treatment bed as Sergi's fist grabbed at the front of her T-shirt hurling her closer. She felt the cold, steel blade of the combat knife penetrating through the material of her yellow T-shirt before it brushed across her tender flesh. Her breathing hitched as the knife travelled higher, the point digging into her skin leaving a thin scratch in it's wake.

Sergi's lips were curled into a sneer as he leaned in even closer, pressing the point into the space just under her ribs.

"Tell me that you want this." he growled, adding just the tiniest bit of pressure.

"That I want you to cut me?" Cass hissed through her teeth as he dragged the blade across her stomach.

It hurt like hell. The warm blood was trickling from the incision, leaving a rivet of red seeping through her buttercup yellow T-shirt. His face was buried in her throat as he inhaled the sweet scent of her supple body.

God he wanted her, willing, unwilling it didn't matter. Under duress like this just heightened the lust that was racing through him. She felt so good pressed against him like this. They had a little time together before he killed her, he wanted to look into her eyes at the height of his climax as he slit her throat with his combat knife.

Cass's hand was already slipping towards the holster on Sergi's waist where the double barrelled gun was residing. Her fingertips were wrapping around the grip of the weapon withdrawing it from the holster as Sergi's fingers chased up the inside of her shirt along the line of her rib cage.

"Put the knife down." she uttered, jabbing the barrel of the gun hard into his sternum.

"You think you have the upper hand here?" He asked her as that sick smile twisted across his lips.

"I'm the one holding the..."

The abrupt explosion of pain in her gut was excruciating. Cass screamed in agony at the sudden fiery sensation that lit up her insides as she squeezed the trigger of the gun she was holding. There was a roaring in her ears as the pistol bucked in her hands at the point of recoil.

Sergie stumbled a step backwards, his glittering eyes wide with surprise as he stared at her, the bloody knife still clasped in his hand from where he'd stabbed her. The thick red patch was spreading rapidly across his olive green uniform as his knees seemed to collapse out from underneath him.

"You shot me." he rasped, raising his arm towards his mouth.

It took her a second to realize that he was reaching for the communicator on his wrist. The gun was still level with him, her hands shaking as she tried to hold it steady. The second gunshot hit him straight in the chest before he even had a chance to flick the tiny red button to call for help. His body bucked at the impact before his eyes seemed to glaze over and his body sloped to the floor as if in slow motion.

The gun slipped from her fingers as the adrenaline coursed through her body. It clattered to the ground at her feet as she swayed for a single second whining at the ragged, burning in her stomach. She was barely managing to keep herself upright as she gazed down at the steady stream of life that was pouring out of her own wound through her slim fingers. She had seen enough stab wounds in her years as a doctor to know that this was bad. She was already responding on impulse, her slick fingers already groping for the nearest bundle of heavy duty cotton pads, before she snatched up the roll of gauze along side it.

She only had minutes to grab what she needed before more of the Genii arrived to check out the gunshots. There wasn't a chance in hell she could fend them off, not in this state. Already the adrenaline was beginning to creep out of her system, she could feel her energy diminishing as blood drops stained the pristine tiles of the white floor.

She needed somewhere safe where she could patch herself up, somewhere the Genii couldn't find her or enter, somewhere to ride out the attack on their city until help arrived. She clasped a pad to the bleeding gash before exiting the Infirmary through the set of double doors before her eyes came to rest upon the Teleporter at the end of the corridor.


Her mind was working as fast as it could as it flagged up images of her stealing away inside of the closet sized contraption. The Genii weren't imprinted on the mechanism so the only way they could enter was by manually pulling the doors open. They wouldn't even have to know she was in there if she managed to keep quiet, when they had first arrived on Atlantis, they had suspected the Teleporters were small storage areas.

Move, she urged herself as the sound of footsteps echoed further down the corridor around the corner. Faster.

Cass's hand smashed against the panel as she sagged against the doors, begging them to open as the heavy set of footsteps grew louder. There were two of them, she could hear their chatter as they strode even more quickly towards the 'T' junction at the opposite side of the corridor.


The doors open and Cass hurtled herself inside the confined space, smacking the close button with the palm of her hand as her knees suddenly buckled from underneath her. She collapsed to the floor, writhing in pain at the exertion as the doors closed, sealing her safely inside. Her breath was coming in ragged pants as she shuffled into a sitting position, her back pressed against the interior wall as she struggled to breath through the somatic sensation.

It was only then did she dare to look properly at the stab wound she had just endured at the hands of Sergi. Her hands were trembling when she lifted the cotton pad to inspect the damage. Nausea was clawing at her stomach as she tried to look at it objectively and failed miserably. The incision was deep and ragged, the flesh torn as it oozed blood freely. She was starting to feel light headed, she suspected blood loss was the cause behind it but there wasn't a damn thing she could do about that besides try to stifle the bleeding.

The agony was almost unbearable now, her entire body was shaking as she felt all of her nerves begin to vibrate in shock at the trauma she had suffered. She grasped a fresh cotton pad and held it as tight as she could to the gaping rip on the lower half of her torso in an attempt to stop the bleeding.

A coldness was sweeping in over her body, it wrapped her up like a blanket as she felt her eyes starting to flutter shut as her head tilted back against the wall. There was barely a fleeting second to accept the knowledge that this was how Cassandra Pierce was going to die.

Chapter Text

There was blood on the floor and the sight of it smeared on the tiles of his Infirmary disturbed Carson Beckett more than he cared to admit. The dead Genii was laying splayed out across the floor in a pool of his own vivid red secretion as Scottish doctor stood over him observing the scene with clinical detachment. Corpses were nothing new to him, over the years he had lost people to violence and studied cadavers but there was something about the state of the Infirmary that caused an uneasiness to settle in his bones. There was something he was missing about this picture, something he was struggling to put his finger on.

There was a wicked combat knife glinting inches away from Genii's fingers as the cold, deceased eyes glared vacantly at the ceiling. There was malice on the other man's features, his final moments depicted upon his face. There were two bullet holes in the corpse, one in the stomach and one in the chest. The stomach could possibly have been survivable if he had received medical attention, the chest wound however had been the killing shot, from the blood that had bubbled upon the dead Genii's lips it was more than likely the bullet had punctured a lung.

It took a few minutes for Carson to realize what the first thing was that was bothering him and that was only because the double barrelled weapon clattered when he accidentally nudged it with his foot. It was the Genii's gun and Carson wondered briefly why the Major had used the man's own weapon upon him before putting it down to survival.

"Hey Doc," Ford's voice broke into his thought pattern as he held up a small leather flak jacket that he had found heaped upon the floor. "I thought Doctor Pierce was supposed to be at the Alpha Site."

Carson's vivid blue eyes landed on the name plate on the lapel of the jacket. 'Pierce' stood out proudly, the letters embedded in the tough material. His stomach was already in knots, twisting and writhing in mounting concern as he twisted his head to look at the scene around them in a completely new light.

"She must have been caught up in the chaos when the Genii attacked the city." Ford muttered as Carson wiped the back of his hand across his dry lips.

"Doctor Beckett." Teyla erupted as she burst through the doors of the Infirmary.

Her voice was twinged with urgency as she stood before him, her strong, warrior's hands sticky with blood. Her face was contorted in horror and concern as she stared at the dead Genii before shifting her focus onto Carson.

"I've found Doctor Pierce in the Transporter but she is severely wounded and it appears she's lost a lot of blood." Teyla informed the two men.

Carson was already moving into action, he was slipping into the private administration area and snatching up his own field kit from the spot beside his desk. There hadn't been a chance to use it so far on Atlantis as Cass took care of the majority of their field cases but he kept it well stocked just in case. His fingers were already fastening on his key card before he swiped it across the panel for the blood reserve, the doors hissing open to allow him access. He was already grasping as much O positive as he could carry and stuffing the plastic carriers into a box they used for organ transplants.

"What are you doing?" Ford exclaimed as Carson grabbed a handful of fresh needles and a line of clear tubing and shoved that on top of the blood packs before closing the carrier. "She needs your help now."

"In exactly fifteen minutes the storm is going to hit Atlantis and the corridors are going to become conductors. The only place that's safe is going to be the Stargate Command area." Teyla reminded Ford from the meetings they had sat in regarding Rodney's plan.

"If I can stabilise Cass, I can move her to the Control Room and treat her properly there while we wait out the storm but I need the right materials to do it."Carson informed the younger man, before he picked up the carrier and progressed towards the exit of the Infirmary.

"Do you think you can get her to the Control Room in time before the storm hits?" Ford questioned the doctor before they reached the 'T' junction of the corridor.

"I'm bloody well going to have to." Carson informed the other man, taking long strides towards the Teleporter further down the corridor.

"Me and Teyla will go help out the Major, by the time you get to the Control Room, hopefully we would have cleared it of the Genii." Ford told Carson as the reached the crossroads of their path. "You need to keep an eye on the time Doc, make sure you both get there before the fifteen minutes is up understood?"

"Aye." Carson agreed before the three of them wished each other good luck.

The park was everything that Cass remembered and more. The vibrant grass felt plush and dewy underneath her toes as she swung her bare feet forward and backwards from her sitting position upon the wooden bench. She was wearing a flimsy, white, sleeveless summer dress that came to rest just above her knees.

Her father was sitting beside her, the two of them watched the children in the distance giggling as they played joyfully. Cass tilted her head towards him taking in his appearance. He looked exactly the same as the last time she had seen him. He was wearing light denim jeans and a worn, green and black sweatshirt. His own dark hair was mixed with salt and peppered streaks and those familiar dimples appeared as he smiled at her before handing her the strawberry cone of ice cream in his right hand.

Cass took it gratefully before raising it to her lips and licking the blob of strawberry that was running down the wafer cone. Her father was already devouring his own vanilla ice cream as the two of them ate in silence.

"I'm dead aren't I?" Cass said finally.

"Your getting there cher." Her father answered in his warm Louisiana lilt. "You've passed out from blood loss."

"So this..." Cass began, waving her hand at the entire parkland in front of her. "Is all one giant hallucination?"

"I'm here because you want me to be." her father told her, taking the final bite out of his ice cream cone.

"Am I going to die?" Cass asked quietly.

"That's entirely up to you sugar." he drawled, studying the profile of his youngest daughter's face. "I just want you to be happy."

"You won't believe the things I'm doing Papa, the places I've been or what I'm seeing." Cass said with an awe that surprised her.

Atlantis was amazing, living and existing in the Pegasus Galaxy had opened her eyes up to possibilities that she had never allowed herself to imagine. She believed in the strength and good in people, exploring breath taking new worlds and helping where ever she was able. It was undeniable how wonderful that made her feel, how much she was learning and experiencing.

"Or who your seeing?" her father teased with that knowing smile.

Her father never missed a trick in the days he had been alive and it appeared he was still the same in death. Her cheeks flushed with heat at his words as he tapped his temple.

"Everything you know I know." he informed her.

Cass pressed her palms together before settling them between her knees as she pursed her lips together in thought. Clearly this was a figment of her overstressed mind, she had heard of hallucinations during blood loss before but this was her first real experience with one and the frightening part was that it all seemed so very real. The sun was beaming down on her skin just the way she liked it as she bowed her head with a small sigh. Everything was perfect here. She was in no pain, there was no struggle, no battle. It was peaceful.

Yet that was part of the problem, it wasn't real. This paradise wasn't for her yet, there was too much to do back home, so much she needed to help with and fix.

John, she thought her heart aching at the thought of what he must be going through. He would blame himself for this, he would cut himself off all over again and it would be worse than before. He would become bitter and he deserved so much more than that.

"You know I can't stay." Cass found herself murmuring as she twisted her head so she could meet her father's sky blue eyes.

There was understanding there. Her father had always been that way. He was the man that she had turned to whenever she'd had a problem and he had always made time for her no matter how silly it seemed. He had been a patient and attentive father in his living years and she knew that he was still exactly the same.

Her motives for returning were selfish but she had been selfless for such a long time she thought now she could take something back from life. The universe owed her in a way.

"You gotta do what you gotta do." Her father told her frankly, his strong arm wrapping around her small shoulders and drawing her into a hug as Cass whispered.

"Bye Dad."

Chapter Text

John was at an incredible loss. In his own haste he hadn't seen the ambush coming and that infuriated him. He couldn't lose anyone else today, Cass's death was too much for him to bear and the possibility of losing either McKay or Weir, maybe both was like pouring acid into the wound and watching it bubble. Even now he was aware that the seconds were ticking by but there wasn't a damn thing he could do about it.

At the time he was being damn clever by removing the power supply from the generator. It had taken out the whole power grid in the Control Room so what was left of the Genii strike team couldn't track him. He had managed to get the shield up on the Stargate just in time to prevent the entire fleet of Genii reinforcements from swarming through it and taking over the city.

The fact that fifty five men had died in swift stroke of strategy did not phase John, they were the enemy, invaders who had murdered his lover and were trying to steal his city. He had killed more if he included the dead members of Kolya's original strike team and it still wasn't enough. His savage, vengeful side was still baying for blood and it never be satisfied until Koyla was lying at his feet dead.

John cursed under his breath as he raised his hands in an omission of surrender, his back was to his captors and the power supply was still clenched in his hand. The generator was barely inches away from him and he was still unable to restore the machine to its original order. It would take less than a minute to slam the thing back into the slot and for power to be returned to the Control Room.

"I don't want to seem like a bad prisoner or anything but Koyla's gonna kill one of my people if I don't get this thing turned back on in time." John appealed to the two soldiers holding him at gun point.

"Turn around." the leader of the two ordered, leaving John's entire body rife with frustration as the moments slipped by.

Death by Genii wasn't going to solve any of his problems so it was in his best interests to do exactly what they were suggesting and wait for an opportunity to arise. He had to hope that Koyla wouldn't fulfil his promise or that his two goons would radio in his capture before the time was up. It was their only chance at this moment in time.

John's hands were still raised as he exhaled deeply before turning around to face the two Genii soldiers standing behind him. John's eyes caught movement beyond the two men, he could see the shadows moving as Lieutenant Ford's face appeared in the background followed by Teyla. Beckett was nowhere to be seen. John supposed he was back on the Jumper, the other man was practically a civilian, he didn't blame him for staying behind.

"You turn around." John responded smugly to the two Genii guards who stood with their weapons trained upon him.

"What?" the leader of them sneered incredulously.

"Well if I have to turn around you should turn out." he stated making a swirling motion with his forefinger.

That moment of sheer disbelief gave Ford the adequate time he needed to stun the two guards into submission. Their eyes rolled into the back of their heads as their weapons slipped from their grasp and their bodies tumbled to ground unconscious.

"What the hell took you so long?" John responded, turning on his heel and placing the power capsule into the open cavity of the generator.

"Major, we found Doctor Pierce..." Teyla began tentatively.

John cut her off with the sweep of his hand, his jaw clenched as he shook his head. He didn't want to hear about it, he couldn't listen to the details of her demise. He just wanted to get through this and deal with everything else afterwards.

"We have more important things at stake here." he told her bluntly.

There was no emotion in his voice as he spoke that stunned both Teyla and Ford as they reviewed the Major's hunched shoulders as he reloaded his weapon. There was a coldness in him that Ford had not seen before and it was truly unsettling. He had closed himself off from everything but the mission ahead and although Ford had seen that a hundred times before he knew this was different. The mention of the doctor's name made the Major flinch inwardly, he could see the pain in the other man's eyes as he averted his gaze, exhaling deeply.

"Major." Teyla prompted lightly, placing her hand upon John's arm to draw his attention back towards her. "Doctor Pierce isn't dead. She is very badly wounded but Doctor Beckett is working on her as we speak."

There was a moment where time seemed to freeze, John's shoulders went rigid at the news as he stared at Teyla in complete disbelief. The bitter aching in his chest suddenly stopped as his brain began to register his friend's words on an intellectual level.

"She was holding on when we left Beckett." Ford confirmed, stepping into the Major's line of sight. "He's aware of the time constraints and will be meeting us in the Control Room in less than ten minutes with the Doc."

The relief was momentous. He couldn't vocalise the easing in his lungs at the knowledge. He could breath again, the dark cloud above him was lifting. He wasn't out of the woods just yet, he wouldn't be until Cass was alive and well in his arms but there was hope. His faith hadn't been betrayed, she was trying to keep her promise.

"That's the best news I've heard all day." John told the two of them neutrally, the weight on his shoulders temporarily lifted.

There was a glimmer of the man they knew underneath the surface and Teyla found herself releasing the breath that she had been holding. John Sheppard and Cass Pierce were good people, they deserved to be happy with one another. It wasn't easy to let people inside after you had suffered and even though John never spoke of his own past very much Teyla could see the pieces of his fractured psyche as if they were etched upon his flesh.

"Ford and I will launch an assault on the Control Room. Teyla can you help Beckett get Cass and any of the supplies she needs to treat her into the Control Room. You guys can rush in after we've reclaimed it."

Teyla nodded her agreement before turning on her heel and racing down the corridor back towards the Infirmary.

Cass was awake but barely, her eyelids were fluttering open so she came to stare up at the ceiling of the Transporter. Everything was fuzzy, there were black dots dancing before her eyes as she blinked rapidly in an attempt to clear her vision. She was cold, she could feel her body shivering compulsively, her breaths coming in forced ragged pants as the pressure increased on the writhing fire in her abdomen.

"Welcome back." Carson's voice was ringing in her ears as her head tipped back to lean on the wall.

"Bleeding won't stop..." Cass mumbled through broken breaths.

Her pallor was ashen and grey, her skin looked waxy underneath the harsh lights of the Transporter. The copper tang of her bleeding was in the air. Carson could taste it on his tongue as he inhaled the metallic scent. He had grown used to it during his years as a doctor.

"I've got it under control for now Lassie but your going to need a transfusion." Carson told her, pressing the palm even harder upon her flat stomach.

The truth was Cass needed surgery. The wound was deep, she was lucky it hadn't lacerated any of her vital organs. He had secured the gash with stitches temporarily until he had the opportunity to use the laser to seal the flesh. They wouldn't hold for very long but hopefully long enough to move Cass to the Control Room in order to wait out the storm.

"Cold." she muttered.

Carson was already stripping his jacket from his arms before draping it over her chest and tucking it around her delicate body.

"This will warm you up in a jiffy." he told her kindly, rubbing her arms for a second to generate some heat.

Carson thread the strap of the field kit through the transfusion box handle so it came to dangle uncomfortably against his hip.

"I'm gonna pick you up now Lass." Carson warned her as he crouched down beside her.

He took Cass's arm and guided it around the back of his neck as she grasped the collar of his tight black T-shirt. His arms looped underneath her knees and back before gathered her up against his chest and rose to his feet. Cass cried out in agony at the sensation as red hot, pain tore at her insides at the abrupt motion. The excruciating noise wrenched at Carson's heart as he settled her in his arms so he could carry her.

"I'm sorry." Carson said in a low soothing tone as he began to take quick steps down the corridor.

Cass's head came to rest on his shoulder, her cheek pressed against his collarbone. She reminded him of a child huddled in his arms like this. She was so tiny, he could hear her choked, shallow breathing as she clung to him for security. There was a moment of silence before she sniggered out loud.

"You ever seen that old movie 'The Bodyguard'?" she asked him as Carson tried to keep her as still as possible.

"I'm a poor stand in for Kevin Costner if that's what your thinking." Carson responded as he kept his eyes open along the corridor as he took careful steps.

"I can't remember that song." Cass said dreamily. "You know that awful song."

"Aye Lass, I'm not singing it you." Carson informed her as Teyla appeared at the end of the corridor.

She took up a guard stance as Carson hurried towards her. Time was running out and he couldn't allow the three of them to get caught out in the corridor when the lightning started to strike. He had no idea how long they had left but already they were in motion once more Teyla leading the way as they jogged through the vacant halls.

"It could be my dying wish." Cass murmured against his chest sounding sleepily.

"Your not dying." Carson told her defiantly. "You just need to hold on a little longer until we can get some blood in you and then you'll be as right as rain."

"I'm so tired." she confided as her eyes fluttered closed once more. "I just want to stay here and go to sleep."

"Cass." Carson said sharply, jolting her abruptly in order to keep her awake.

Her head lulled backwards on it's own accord, her body went slack in his arms. Her grasp on his shirt collar was already slipping as her fingers unfurled. Carson tilted his head downwards slowing his step as they rounded the corner just a few steps away from the Control Room. Her lips were parted, he could barely see the raise and fall of her chest. His eyes fixated on the growing red stain spreading rapidly across the thick material of his jacket. The stitches must have torn at some point during their journey and sure enough when he glanced up the corridor there were splotches of blood trailing along their path.

"Clear." Teyla's voice chimed as she stepped forward into the Control Room.

Carson was steps behind her, the minute he stepped into the wide open space of the Gate Area he was down on his knees laying out Cass's body with the greatest of care.

There were shouts and exclamations behind him but Carson ignored them as he stripped the jacket as gently as he could from Cass's barely breathing body. The stitches had ruptured leaving the gash open once more as blood flowed like tiny rivers across Cass's pale flesh.

He was barking instructions out to Teyla, who was already beside him tearing open the container they used for organ donations and pulling out the blood packs stacking them methodically before she grasped the plastic tubing and a clean syringe.

His field kit was already open, it was the one that he had allowed Cass to pack. His hand wrapping around the tool he needed. Carson had laughed when Cass had added the heavy duty staple gun to the list of tools to include in their field medical kits. They had debated over it for over an hour until Cass relented and told him the story of how a fellow field medic had temporarily sealed a scalp laceration with a staple gun when they had been trapped in an old compound.

After hearing that story he had complied to her demands. Carson had never thought he would have the need to do this, the pros our weighted the cons more than he could have dreamed. He wanted Cass to live, he could deal with infections later. Right now he just needed her to survive. His gaze strayed up to her features as the room seemed to halt around him. She was limp, the tiniest bit of colour she did have was seeping away along with her life. He was glad she was unconscious for this, glad she wouldn't have to feel the sting of the pressure or hear the noise that would erupt as he pulled the trigger.

Carson pinched the skin of her wound together between his fingers before pressed the staple gun to her stomach.

"By god lass, I hope this works."

Chapter Text

Storms had never scared John Sheppard. In fact there wasn't a lot that did frighten the Major besides clowns and he thought he was perfectly within his rights to think they should be regarded with suspicion. He had flown helicopters through sandstorms, navigated through dark clouds and howling winds before but this was different. Right now this storm, right here was killing him.

Cass was the one that disliked storms, back in Afghanistan she had told him she had gotten through them by gritting her teeth and distracting herself. It was the thunder she hated, the noise rattled through her bones and ever since she was a little girl it had made her think that God was angry at her. Cass was far from religious but old habits held strong and though her father had moved from the Louisiana to New York in order to live with Cass's mother he had still retained his religion and passed it along to his two daughters.

John had never really believed in God, he had seen too much to believe that there was some higher power up there watching over them all and yet right now John Sheppard found himself praying.

For two hours the storm had been pounding at the city, relinquishing it's fury upon the tall steeped buildings. Lightning was crackling in the air and John could taste the ozone in his mouth as the thunder rumbled and vibrated through the building.

Cass lay flat out across the floor of the Gate Area. They hadn't dared move her since Carson had began patched her up again. He thought the other man had gone insane when he'd whipped out that staple gun.

John had never allowed himself to have faith in other people before but the moment Elizabeth had put her hand on John's arm to stop him from rushing into the makeshift surgery, he knew that he was starting to. They had all watched in silence as both Carson and Teyla worked on Cass. The people around him were his family and he drew comfort from their stability and strength.

Two transfusions later and her pallor was starting to flush with colour. According to Carson she wasn't out of the woods yet but right now she was stable and that was all that mattered right now.

Cass's head was resting upon his lap, John's fingers combed through her silky dark strands as she moaned out loud. Her sapphire eyes were flicking open and revolving around in terror as she tried to shift groggily. She whimpered as she flexed her limbs, struggling against the heavy coats they had covered her up with in order to keep her warm. John's calloused hands encompassed her face as he stared down into her open eyes, filling up her vision as his thumbs smoothed over the flushed apple of her cheeks lightly.

"Your safe." he murmured in an attempt to keep her calm. "You just need to stay still so you don't hurt yourself."

His words filtered through to her ears as Carson hovered by her side, his fingers capturing her wrist in order to check her pulse. Her breathing became rapid and shallow as Cass tried to tear it away from his dexterous grip, mewing like an injured kitten when Carson refused to relinquish his grasp.

"Cassie." John drawled out her name like a lullaby, drawing her attention back to him. "It's ok. It's just Carson trying to help you."

His gentle fingertips were brushing the hair away from her pale features as she closed her eyes briefly as if gathering strength from his actions. She was disorientated, John had seen it a few times before in the aftermath of an traumatic injury and he would do anything to ease the transition.

"It hurts." she mumbled, allowing Carson to take her pulse.

"You have to be brave just for a little while longer." John told her softly.

"Your the brave one." she reminded him haughtily. "I'm the one that patches people like you up."

"Quite the little miss attitude aren't you?" John teased, almost relieved at her grumpiness.

It was good to see her like this, the real Cass was coming into play. The strong, vibrant young doctor was back. She was bruised, battered and wounded but she was here with him and that meant more to John than he could verbalize. She had come back just like she promised.

"Sergi?" Cass muttered abruptly, leaving John to cast a tense glance at Carson who lowered Cass's arm as he spoke.

"He's dead. You've got nothing to worry about Lassie." Carson said kindly as he warmed her hand between his palms.

John stifled the savage growl that was threatening to leave his throat. Ford had disclosed the circumstances in which they had found Cass while Beckett and Teyla had worked on her. He didn't know the full story but he knew enough to be able to fit the pieces into place himself and he was mortified at the hell his lover had been exposed to. He would never allow her out of his sight every again if he had his way. He knew that it was irrational to think like that but the beast pacing around inside of him was furious that their mate hadn't been more protected.

The reality was he was enraged with himself. His training and assertive militaristic behaviour had prevented him from rushing to her aid like a civilian would have. Duty to this city had come before the individual, even if it was Cass. That didn't sit well with the Man, it made him doubt the extent of his feelings and he despised that.

Part of him wanted to find away to reanimate Sergi and rip the pervert to pieces, the other side of him wanted to curl up around Cass to protect her from harm. These instincts were unfamiliar to him, the primal urges were deep seated and basic. He had never been the possessive type of man before he met Cass not even when he had been married to Nancy. Cass had brought out a side of him he had never seen before, he was more committed to her than he had ever been to his marriage.

"Can you give me something for the pain?" she hissed through grinding teeth as she shifted just a little trying to get comfortable.

She had been lying on the floor now for over two hours and John knew she had to be feeling more than a little stiff. It wasn't productive for her to move, she had almost died when her stitches had been torn out. The staples would hold so long as Cass didn't over exert herself, which in his book meant make any strenuous movements.

"The only things I've got will put you under again." Carson told her gently. "I can do that if that's what you want."

"Will you stay?" Cass asked, raising her exhausted sapphire eyes upwards to John as she nestled into his lap, her cheek coming to rest against his hip.

"I'm not going anywhere." John reassured her with a grim smile.

It was time that Cassandra Pierce came first.

Chapter Text

There was darkness, so much darkness that it scared Cass. She couldn't see a damn thing but she could hear a flurry of voices around her. Carson's broad Scottish accent as well as John's husky lilt. Her stomach was in agony, she could feel the searing pain clawing up inside her as she groaned out loud trying to shift her body in order to ease the constant, throbbing ache.

Her eyelids were heavily, fluttering open as the brief spell of nausea writhing in her belly hit her hard. She rolled onto her side and grasped for the kidney tray she knew they stowed away in the regiment night stand. She pulled it onto the bed just in time before she threw up violently into the small dish. Gentle hands were in her hair, drawing it back away from her face as she vomited again.

Her cheeks were flushed with heat. Already she could feel her skin slick with sweat as the bowl was removed from her shaking hands, a plastic tumbler of ice cold water replacing it. Cass took it gratefully, her hair tumbling down upon her shoulders once more as it was released. She sipped from the water, it felt like heaven down her burning, acidic throat.

Already John was propping the pillows up behind her back as Carson handed off the kidney dish to the small trolley beside him before crossing his arms over his chest and reviewing her studiously. Both men waited patiently for Cass to shuffle into a comfortable sitting position. John took the plastic tumbler from her hands and placed it onto the night stand as she settled down once more.

"What the hell is wrong with me?" she asked the two of them, holding out her hand and watching it tremble with absolutely no control.

Carson regarded her with an sympathetic smile before he allowed himself to speak. It alarmed him how close they came to losing her. He had come to view Cass as if she were one of his siblings and seeing her body torn up like that had fractured pieces of his heart as if it were glass. He had conducted the surgery with Teyla, although the Athosian had limited medical expertise she had listened to his instructions when he had asked her to participate without flinching.

"Your wound is infected from the staples we used to close it." Carson informed her gently. "We've had to flush it with antibiotics and pack it with gauze."

Cass raised her eyes skyward as if to pray as her understanding of the situation dawned upon her through her cloudy brain. The staples that had once saved her life were now making her sicker. They had known that infection was probable when they had stowed away the staple gun in the field kits but Cass would rather take a chance like that than watch someone bleed to death. It was a slow and tortuous experience.

"That means your going to have to take it out and start over everyday until it heals." Cass muttered to herself, sagging back in her pillows.

"Aye lass. You'll be staying with us a little longer than we thought." Carson confirmed Cass's thoughts as if she'd spoken them out loud before excusing himself as a call came over his comm.

Cass sighed turning her head away from John's inquisitive hazel eyes. Her gaze came to fall upon spot where her attack had taken place. The blood had been scrubbed clean from the tiles and the body removed from where it had fallen. She wondered how long she had been out for and decided it had to be more than just a couple of hours if they'd had the time to do that.

It was playing back in her head like a series of grotesque video clips, the instant the knife entered her skin slicing through her like butter. His taunting laugh resounding through her ears as he dragged her unwillingly towards his body, the feel of his breath on her throat as his fingers twisted in her hair.

John placed his large, warm hand over Cass's, his thumb caressing the joint of her wrist bringing her back to the present as her head tilted down to watch his actions. There was a tightness in her chest and her throat felt like it was starting to constrict as tears stung and pinpricked at her eyes.

"Cassie..." he drawled her name like it was the most intimate word in the world.

She let out a shaky breath as she fixed him with those glistening sapphire eyes. There were no walls between them and John was seeing every single ounce of the hurt and fear that was racing through her fragile form. She looked so terribly vulnerable curled up under the white sheets. She reminded him of a scared little girl trying so desperately to be brave.

John reached out, his soft fingers running through her hair as he came to cup her face between his calloused hands. His thumbs chased away the first of the tears as he pressed his forehead against hers so she could see into the depths of his soul through his hazel eyes.

Cass could feel the refuge that he created for her. Her entire universe was in those eyes. He was the beginning and the end for her and he too was so venomously scared. He wanted to fix the broken parts of her mind and soul but he didn't know how. Her distress was his and John was doing everything he could to take it all away.

The exchange between them was wordless. Cass scooted gingerly to the opposite side of the bed allowing John the space to climb onto the bed beside her. Their hips nudged as he wrapped his arm around her slender shoulders and drew her into the solid comfort of his body. He was her security, her guard against the harsh, cruel world outside. She turned her head burying it in the planes of his chest as her fists bunched up in his clean black t-shirt.

John pressed his lips to the top of her head, sprinkling it with butterfly kisses as her defenceless form began to quake against his torso. He gathered her up, clasping her even closer as the first choked sob emitted from her mouth.

Jesus, it ripped him apart hearing her make that noise. It made his heart ache and instincts shift once more as he held her close whispering sweet endearments into her hair. John would never let her go, she was too precious to him to ever lose again.

If he had to spent the rest of his life making her feel as cherished and safe as he could he would do that. He would guard her with every single one of those primal instincts because he loved her with the very core of his being. She was a part of him and hearing her cry like this was like a physical blow as he cradled her.

Cass's agony wrenched at his soul and he never known that something like this could hurt so much.

"You came back to me." he found himself saying. "You survived."

It wasn't come without it's cost, the price weighed heavily upon her head. Yet there wasn't a thing worth having that didn't have a cost. They're relationship had more value to it than John could have ever imagined. He would give up everything for her if that's what she asked but he knew she would never do such a thing and it made that fierce, vibrant love burn even more deep down inside him.

"I love you." she whispered as her forehead came to rest upon his broad shoulder. "I love you so God damned much."

John took her fragile hand in his own and pressed it to his beating heart so she could feel the constant thrum of it's rhythm underneath the tips of her fingers. His lips were pressed against her hair line as he spoke with utmost sincerity.

"I love you too Cassie."

Chapter Text

It had been four mind numbing, relentless weeks of being poked and prodded before Carson had proclaimed her as physically fit. The time she spent trapped in the infirmary, spending her days being drained and by the end laser treated in an attempt to reduce the ragged scarring between her belly button and ribs had almost driven her literally insane. There had been so many things going on in the city and she had been desperate to help.

There had been a brief spell where John had joined her in the Infirmary for a couple of hours as a patient after he returned from an off world mission with cracked ribs and graze from a bullet singed into his skin. Carson had treated him next to Cass's bed so they could converse. John had been sullen and withdrawn when he had returned from his trip to the desert planet. They had lost two scientists to a psychopathic, super Wraith. The battle with the Wraith had nearly claimed not only John's life but Rodney's as well before Ford and some of the Marines had arrived to help.

That was three weeks ago now and John had made a point of visiting Cass as often as his time table allowed and she was content with that. After the storm several areas of the city had been flooded and it was up to John and the Marines to escort the scientists safely around while they checked for structural anomalies.

Last week had been the worst, the city had gone into automatic lock down after sensing an outbreak of a virus that had been laid dormant since the times of the Ancients. She had been confined to the Infirmary while Carson and John had dressed in Hazmat suits and aided the afflicted until they had managed to destroy the virus using a huge electric magnetic pulse.

It had killed Cass not being involved. It made her feel useless especially after she had witnessed the first of the dead being rolled past in her in the aftermath of the cotangent. They had cremated the bodies and put the ashes inside Athosian made urns in order to return to their families if they ever made it back to Earth.

The memorial ceremonies had been quiet reserved affairs which they had all attended and the wealth of respect for those people never failed to astound Cass. Everyone here had felt the resounding sense of loss that haunted the lonely halls of the City.

Life seemed so short and fleeting when Cass thought about what they had been through. John got into death defying situations all of the time, he was the leading strategist here, trouble was in his nature. Cass couldn't lie, she was exactly the same. Their lives were so full of violence and instability that thinking towards the future was pointless and stressful. She couldn't imagine a life without John, here or back home on Earth.

Briefly she wondered if they would have felt this way if they had become an item on Earth and the truth was no matter where they were or what their circumstance the two of them were meant to be together.

Cass swiped her hand over the door panel to John's room and stepped inside when the door slid open. John was lying on his bed, his hands behind his head as he tilted his head towards her He was clad in his regulation tight black t-shirt and grey combats. A small smile graced his lips as she strode towards him with purpose.

"Well hello there Major." Cass murmured seductively, climbing onto the bed until she straddled his hips.

John's large hands came to rest upon the curve of her waist as she looked down at him, her silky dark hair falling over her face as her sapphire gaze met his. Cass's delicate fingertips were doodling heated patterns along the contours of his chest through his clinging black T-shirt. Her lean thighs were hugging his hips as she arched, grinding down against his aching groin. It was clear what she wanted. This was the first time that they had been alone and intimate since before the storm.

John was reaching up, his fingers were tangling through her loose waves guiding her down towards his lips. Her tongue teased along the shape of his pursed lips before she sought out the hot confines of John's finely sculptured mouth.

John had never encountered this aggressive, sexy side of Cass before. He was used to being the dominant one in their relationship but he was enjoying this. Seeing this naughty, wanton version of his lover was driving him insane in ways he had never thought possible. Her teeth grazed his lower lip as her hands entwined with his drawing them slowly up his body until they were above his head in the most submissive of gestures.

This was all about control and he understood her desire to claim it back after what had happened to her. In any other circumstance he would be the instigator, pleasuring her until she was whimpering for release but Cass needed to feel secure and empowered. She was the only person he would ever allow to encumber him like this. Their relationship had never been a balance of power, it was a partnership and this was the ultimate show of trust.

"This is my first time." John mumbled as Cass's blistering mouth fastened on the underside of his throat.

John's head tipped back into the pillow, a low, hoarse growl resonating from his thorax as Cass arched her hips against his, causing a delicious friction against his throbbing erection. Her fiery hot fingertips were already tracing patterns along the line of his ribcage as he thrust up against her clothed moist core.

"Just enjoy the ride Major." she whispered into his ear, dragging his black t-shirt up along his stunning body.

A delicious thrill chased up his spine as Cass drew the t-shirt over his head until his wrists were trapped together. Cass twisted the shirt even tighter, securing his hands in place as she kissed his mouth once more with a fierce and intense passion.

His tongue mingled with hers, his body writhing with desire as her fingers unclasped the fastener on his grey combats. The palm of her hand dipped into his underwear, cupping his thick, shaft with her fingers as she began to massage him.

John moaned in appreciation as he bucked up into her hand enjoying the sensation of her tight ring of fingers wrapped around his cock, jerking him off. Cass's mouth was leaving a trail of fiery kisses marring his torso as she licked and sucked at his firm muscular structure, driving him into dire straits as his body stretched taunt and straining under her ministrations. She was tugging off his combats and underwear leaving John gloriously naked before her as she stepped off of the bed.

Her eyes were firmly fixed on his as she stripped her own midnight blue t-shirt up and over her head, leaving her clad in a simple black bra that quickly followed suit. Her jeans were next, she shimmied them off, down along her lean thighs before stepping out of them. She was clad in a pair of lacy black panties and nothing had ever looked so damn erotic to John before now. She was so tantalisingly out of reach, he knew he could break free of his bonds in a second and close the gap between them but he wouldn't. This was her game and playing it with her was full of enticing promises.

John bit down his lower lip stifling his own aroused groan as she hooked the panties with her thumbs and guided them slowly down her hips.

Cass was gorgeous, her pale flesh was stunning as she stood before him naked and free. He knew every single intimate curve of her beautiful body, he had spent months learning her with his expert hands and inquisitive mouth. He knew what every single one of her cries sounded like in his ears, how her sleek skin felt underneath his fingertips as he drove her closer to completion. She was his forever and always and nothing, not even that fresh injury could change that.

The scar was predominant on her skin. It glared, daring him to reject her as he inspected the indented vibrant pink flesh from his position on the bed. It branded her in his eyes, reminded him that she was a survivor the same way he was. It was another aspect of her person, another piece of her history and John accepted it the same way he did with everything that came along with her. He would never stop wanting Cass, and he would never stop loving her.

She was watching his reaction as he reviewed her with hungry hazel eyes. There was defiance in her gaze and John let that charming, boyish smile curve across his handsome features letting her know that it changed nothing.

"Come back to bed." John beckoned hoarsely. "I want to feel you pressing against my skin."

Cass raised her eyebrows at his request, her expression turning sultry as she mounted the bed once more. She crawled up the length of his legs, her eyes fixated seductively on his as her lips planted rampant, open mouthed kisses up along his tender inner thigh until she reached the shape of his pelvis.

Her tongue flicked out, gradually licking from the base of John's stiff erection all the way up over the head and to the very tip. John's moan of delirium made Cass's lower body moist with anticipation as she tasted the salty pre-cum on her lips. He always tasted so additively delicious and Cass relished having him in her power like this.

John awakened every sexual impulse she'd ever had. She felt like a deviant, risqué goddess in his eyes and the things he did to her body were far beyond the exploits of her previous lovers. She had never fallen in love so vivaciously before she had met John, there had been no one that could ever compare to this astounding man and she knew that no one ever would. The minute he had kissed her that had been enough for her, his name was imprinted on her soul and on her heart.

John cried out as her lips encircled his throbbing member, her tongue teasing the tip as she drove her wet, needy mouth further down his shaft. Her hand wrapped around the base of his cock holding John's arching body in place as Cass sucked at his length taking him even deeper.

John was in a state of complete and utter euphoria, the sight of his cock disappearing between Cass's lips turned him on more than any other lover before her. Cass was so captivating and provocative and the way she was ravishing his body right now was enough to make him believe that he'd died and gone to heaven. His muscles were starting to tense as she tormented him with lavish strokes of her skilled tongue. His lower back was starting to tingle with the excitement of that devastating orgasm.

"Cassie, your driving me crazy." he groaned between hitched breathes as she took him to the edge of oblivion. "Cassie..."

Cass drew away at the crucial moment leaving John hanging urgently on the cusp of climax. He was grinding his teeth and exhaling deeply as the deep thrum of pressure that had mounted throughout his body. He was close, he was so god damn close. He couldn't take any more teasing. He needed Cass in every which way he could have her. She was his aphrodisiac.

This was what she had wanted, him begging and pleading for Cass to make love to him and he would do that for her. He would hand over every ounce of his control he had because he loved Cass so ferociously it scared him. Her thighs clasped his hips as she straddled his athletic frame once more.

"Cassie please..."

She had never heard that tone of his before, that rough, wanting, dangerous lilt that twanged within his voice signalling the end of his self control. Her hand was already guiding his cock towards her most intimate opening. The tip of his demanding erection was pressing against her slick folds before Cass slid down his dick inch by antagonizing inch until he was buried full hilt inside her.

Jesus Christ, the ecstasy was already exploding like bursts of flame in his body as he hissed through his teeth trying to stave off his orgasm as Cass began to rock back and forth to her own climatic rhythm. God, she was so wet and tight, the pleasure was ricocheting through him as her sensual whimpers echoed in his ears like a crescendo to a symphony that only his heart could hear.

Cass was cumming, he could feel her walls clenching like a velvet fist around his dick as her head tipped back, his name rolling off of her lips like a secret meant only for him. His body stretched taunt as he arched even harder into her gripping tightness.

The climax was unbelievable, the waves of pleasure stole away their breath as they erupted at the same moment riding out the intense rapture together in a sea of bliss. They had never felt something to extraordinary before. There was a moment of sheer heaven where there were no barriers, no problems, no responsibilities. Only him and her living, breathing and existing together in one space.

Contentment descended upon the two of them in a lazy haze as John released his hands from the make-shift bonds and pulled Cass down to his level. His fingers were threading through her hair as he smothered her mouth with his own. She radiated both love and happiness as she mewed into his mouth, drinking in his adoration for her greedily.

"Thank you." she murmured in between long, affectionate kisses. "Thank you for loving me."

Her hand sought out his, their fingers entwining as John's free hand glided over the shape of her lithe form, caressing her smooth, naked flesh. Her cheek came to rest upon his collarbone as John closed his eyes, breathing in the tranquillity that resided in his heart and in his soul.

For the first time since the storm he was finally at peace.