IOA visits from earth necessitate the team jumping through hoops to prove that they are in Atlantis for the right reasons.
John finished his shower and towelling his hair, stepped into the room to see her curled up in a ball on the floor, hands covering her face and sobbing. He dropped his towel and immediately bent to the floor beside her reaching out to take her hands away from her face. “Honey … what on earth is wrong? Tell me baby...” Her eyes were tightly shut and as the tears continued to course down her cheeks, he become increasingly alarmed. “Cass, I'm getting worried here, talk to me baby. Do I need to get Carson?”
Pushing his hands away, she leaned against the bed, using it to push herself up until she was standing in front of the mirror. “Look at me John... I am fat... nothing fits anymore... the only top I can wear is your shirt... How can you bear to look at me...?” Fresh sobbing broke out as she looked at herself in the mirror, and sending up a silent prayer of relief, he stepped in front of her to block her image from the mirror and folded her into his arms.
“Oh sweetheart, you are and always will be, one of the most beautiful woman in this galaxy and any other I would wager. I will never grow tired of looking at you... and you are NOT fat, you could never be fat, you are too tiny, you just have the cutest little basketball in front of you...”
So not the right thing to say, John thought to himself as this brought on fresh tears. Just then his ear comm activated and Elizabeth's voice spoke in his ear. “John? We have just had communciation from General O'Neill. He and a delegation of 4 international delegates and two IOA members will be arriving in Atlantis mid morning to spend 24 hours with us. They are concerned with some of the costing structures and want first hand view of some of the technology that we have managed to secure.”
“Elizabeth..” John interupted her. “Maybe this is not the best time...” He watched Cassie pick up their alarm clock .
“I'm not giving you an option here, we have our orders and I am simply telling you that you and Cassie need to be here to greet the delegates when they arrive. You will also be in charge of showing them around.” Elizabeth paused when she heard a resounding crash from John's end of the conversation, then the tinkling sound of breaking glass.
“John? Is everthing all right?”
“You know that superstition about breaking a mirror and seven years bad luck?” John moved quickly towards Cassie who stood barefoot amongst the the shattered glass of the mirror, having flung the alarm clock at the offending view it gave her.
“John? What just happened?”
“Oh nothing Elizabeth, just a little accident with the mirror...” Picking Cassie up, he deposited her on the bed to keep her away from the glass and looked around for something to scoop it into. Snapping his ear comm off, he looked down at her. “Now, do you feel better, because I'm guessing the mirror sure doesn't... hmmm?”
Cassie looked down at her hands, the tears having stopped. “Nooo, I'm still fat, but at least I don't have to look at it...” Dejected, she padded barefoot into the bathroom and slammed the door shut.
John closed his eyes and counted to ten, then stooped to pick up all the splinters of glass, making a mental note to go around and cover all the offending mirrors on base, or a lot of bad luck was going to be coming their way.
He went to visit Teyla, not knowing what he could do for Cassie to make her feel more like her old self. Teyla smiled after she heard what had happened that morning and nodded in understanding.
“John, you have to understand – Cassie has always been a desirable woman, to all men and that is a part of who she is. She doesn't see that anymore when she looks in the mirror, and she needs to feel that way again.”
“What can I do Teyla? I try to make her feel sexy and desirable, hell, it's not exactly a hardship, I get hot every time I look at her.”
“I think perhaps if she were to have some nice clothes that fitted provacatively, she would again feel herself. Leave it with me John, I will go and visit some of the Athosians and see if we can find some garments that will suit. It seems to me John, that from what I have heard of earth woman and pregnancies, they have books, and classes and special clothing and other things to make pregnancy special and exciting, and perhaps Cassie is missing some of that which she has grown up in her life to expect?”
John nodded thoughtfully, only getting what she was saying a little bit, after all he was a man and men didn't have to worry too much about those sort of things. But if she needed to feel sexy, well, hey, he would certainly be able to accommodate her there! Happy to leave it in Teyla's capable hands, and feeling relieved at having the problem taken away from him, he went off to organise things for the upcoming delegates arrival later that morning.
Teyla smiled as John left, thinking that men on all planets were essentially the same... well meaning but ignorant of many issues. Looking forward to doing something that would please her friend, she left her room to get Cassie, planning on the way what she could do to help her feel like her old self.
Two hours later Cassie and Teyla arrived in the gateroom to meet the delegates, as instructed by Elizabeth. John did a double take when he saw Cassie. The Athosian women had found a stunning silk like top that fitted tightly across her breasts, accentuating creamy cleavage, then draped lightly and gracefully over her stomach, settling midthigh. She wore no tights or pants, just showing a luscious curve of thigh that had been kept in perfect shape by Ronan's workouts and her feet were shod somewhat inappropriately in some killer heels. Her hair had been teased into an array of curls pinned high on her head and left to tumble sexily down and some light makeup had erased the crying of earlier and given her a very sexy smokey look.
John wolf whistled long and long. “Hot damn woman, you are looking fine!” She sidled up to him, and ran a fingernail down his arm, sending a shiver of excitement, and she looked at him from under lowered lashes, a look that was one hundred percent sex appeal and had his heart racing faster than a steam train. She smiled that sexy siren kitten smile, and he knew that the old Cass was back and in fine form. “Like what you see, flyboy?” He leaned in close and whispered in her ear “always...” and she smiled that woman's smile again,that left him feeling extremely tight and uncomfortable in his lower region. He planned how quickly he could rush the delegates through their tour so he could get her alone.
Elizabeth cleared her throat. “Excuse me, if you two have quite finished?” but she was smiling as she said it and Ronan walking into the gate room and coming up behind them bent close and said “If you can't handle that heat John, I'll certainly be happy to take up the slack...just saying...” John turned around and thumped him, not altogether playfully,a frown appearing on his face. Maybe it wasn't so good that she looked like this. Placing a proprietory hand on her arm as he heard the stargate activite, he missed the smile of satisfaction on Cassie's face and the smile of thanks she directed at Teyla.
Ruggedly handsome as always, General Jack O'Neill stepped into the gateroom attired in his airforce dress blues, accompanied by the visiting dignitories. John always found it interesting to watch the reactions of those from earth who both stepped through the gate for the first time, and the first time impressions as they viewed the stunning glory that was Atlantis. He was not to be disappointed with their reactions today. Two of the delegates were woman, one, a striking very tall and elegantly dressed ice blonde of Russian heritage with the sort of cold looks that made him feel he'd just sucked on a particularly sour lemon. One of the men, whom he was soon to learn was the French delegate, was equally tall and striking, dressed smoothly in a very expensive looking suit, smarmy was the word that came to mind as John stifled an inner laugh, which changed quickly to a frown when he saw the way he immediately targetted Cassie with his predator eyes. There was a Chinese and English delegate to complete the united nations representatives, with the two IOA officiates dressed in nondescript grey suits, matching glasses and carrying matching brief cases. He dismissed them from his mind with little effort. Their collective gasps as they surveyed Atlantis for the first time had him nodding in satisfaction. Yes sirree, this was some place.
He kept Cassie close at his side as the introductions began and she felt him tense beside her as the French delegate, Antoinne Rousseau reached for her hand and bending at the waist, kissed it, never lifting his eyes from her face. “Cassandra Devon, what an honour to meet you. You are even lovelier in the flesh. I must admit to have been a fan of yours for several years.” His thumb travelled softly over the back of her hand and feeling John ready to spring beside her, she quickly removed her hand, but kept the warm, welcoming smile on her face. Antoine's eyes took in her burgeoning stomach and the ring on her finger and seemingly dismissed these two things as his eyes travelled greedily back to the creamy cleavage that was on display and obviously far more worthy of his review.
The blonde Russian woman towered over Cassie and gave her a derisive look, barely acknowledging her presence and Cassie gave a mental shrug, secretly envying the long slim legs in the elegant suit and tailored fit that showed off a waist, something Cassie had not seen for a while. That mental shrug however, took a slightly sour turn as the woman, Katerina, lingered over her introduction to John, standing at eye level with him and drilling her ice blue eyes into his. Cassie felt him shift a little uncomfortably beside her and wanted to giggle, not sure if John actually realised that this woman was attempting to flirt with him.
As the delegates turned to leave the gate room and move up towards the conference room, John bent slightly and whispered in Cassie's ear “creepy...” and placed a guiding hand in the small of her back, leaving it there for the duration of their walk to the conference room, a gesture that did not go unnoticed by the Russian, if her narrowed eyes were anything to go by.
Various mission reports and other notes had been set out in the conference room by John and Elizabeth prior to their arrival, knowing that some of their actions of the past few months were going to be called into question. The Frenchman was quick to hold Cassie's chair out for her, intent on sitting her beside himself, but John, with a flick of his eyes, ushered her past the proferred chair further down the table, seating her next to him, well away from the Frenchman.
Jack O'Neill, walking past to take a seat at the head of the table, bent to Cassie as he walked past, giving her shoulder a quick kiss and whispering in her ear. “Looking good, little one... pregnancy agrees with you.” John reached for her hand under the table and placed it on his knee, stroking softly as Cassie gave Jack a grateful smile.
Taking the floor, Jack gave a brief introduction as to why they were here and let the Russian woman take the floor.
“We, in Russian, are concerned that enough military control is not being excerted her on this base. Without military control, there is not sufficient protocols in place and having read some of the mission reports, it appears that serious errors in judgement have been shown due in part, to lack of military protocol.” Jack gave Sheppard a stern look as he was about to interject, indicating that he would have his turn.
“We agreed to the treaty signing of the stargate conglomerate only if there was military control on the base. Atlantis is a stepping stone for this galaxy to ours now that the second zero point module is in place on Antarctica and as such a much more formal control of that border is required.”
General O'Neill indicated that John was to be given the chance to reply and was quick to go over base protocol, much of which was military based and wherever or whenever security became an issue, Atlantis was effectively, under military control.
Katarina stood to speak again. “My other issue is you, Miss Devon. You do not possess the necessary qualifications to be here and your actions in some of the mission reports have been ill thought out and poorly conceived, and I question the logic of allowing someone such as yourself, who is pregnant, to be taking an active part in base operations.”
Cassie's eyes sparkled with fury and John's hand, still holding her own on his knee, tighened, but she pulled it from his and stood up. “Miss Kalinsky, with all due respect, while my arrival here at the beginning could surely have been questioned by you, events that have happened over the past few months would indicate, even to you, that I am here not by design, but by purpose and that purpose has been made abundantly clear to most people through many different events that have occurred.”
Oh, she was on fire, John thought, admiration in his eyes as he looked at her. She moved away from her chair to stand near the Russian. “And you sit at your desk, in your office back on earth, reading our mission reports and feel qualified to judge us on what has transpired here. Over the past few months, we have been faced with some difficult decisions and we have achieved some amazing goals, aquiring technology that is far superior to anything we have on earth, and some of those acquisitions would not have been possible if I had not been here.”
Elizabeth smiled, thinking that if Cassie was ever in the market for another job, the United Nations would surely provide a suitable platform. She stood up now. “I would suggest we take a tour around the city and we would be happy to show you some of our acquisitions and explain exactly what some of these things will mean to earth in the future. The best place to start would be with the Aurora – Colonel Sheppard?”
John, taking the hint, rose from his chair, a sign that he expected the others to do the same and led the group from the conference room. Elizabeth hung back to speak to Jack. “So General, is this to be a witch hunt then? Because if it is, they picked the wrong witch to hunt. Cassie is no shrinking violet and everyone on this base will defend her to the end game. Given all that has happened, she belongs here more than any of us.”
Jack replied “I know that Elizabeth and so does everyone at the SGC, we just have to convince these damned officials who only have paper knowledge of Atlantis. That's why I suggested this little field trip.”
Antoine had maneovered himself and Cassie to the back of the group and seeing John's quick frown, she smiled at him reassuringly and gestured that she would be fine. She endured his guiding hand at her back and his quietly spoken words as they continued through Atlantis heading to the south pier, concentrating instead on the blond Russian who continued to shadow John, continually peppering him with questions and leaning in too close to hear his response. Jealous much? Cassie asked herself,this was certainly a foreign feeling for her.
The Aurora was a beautiful sight and Cassie stood back as the delegation moved on towards the ship, content just to look at it from afar for a little while. She recalled vividly the last time she had been on there and the feel of John's arm across her throat, constricting her air supply. He obviously did too, because he turned then and gazed back at her. She sent him a private message with her eyes, indicating that she was fine and to go on. As she paused there a while longer, Rodney came up behind her, late for the meeting due to an experiment in one of the lower laboratories that was not going well. “So...? Have we been hung, drawn and quartered yet?” He cast a derisive glance at the delegates that were getting ready to board the ship.
“You're late Rodney, and I'm the only one getting hung, drawn and quartered here...” Cassie sighed and Rodney turned to look at her. “Yeah, I know – had to get those energy readings down to a more manageable level, and I'm sure you didn't let those smug polititian types intimidate you... hmmm?” He gave her a brief hug and taking his lead, Cassie followed him to the ship.
Cassie paused in the door way to the ship, a cold feeling sliding down her back. Wraith, here in Atlantis. Alarmed, she caught John's eye and seeing the agitation on her face, he excused himself from explaining the mechanics of the control panels to his fascinated delegates, and hurriedly made his way to her side, reaching out a hand automatically, to touch her. “What's wrong Cass, I'm not liking that look on your face...”
“Wraith, John, here in the city!” His body stiffened instantly on alert. “You're sure? Crap, how'd they get in, nothing's been picked up on the long range scanners, no sign of any darts... Rodney?”
He gestured to the scientist who was staring rather fixedly at the cold face of the Russian, and diverted his attention, then keyed his ear comm. “Teyla? You picking up anything... unusual?” He listened to her reply, waiting until Rodney had joined them. “Teyla's getting nothing. Are you sure Cass? Teyla is generally on the same frequency as you.”
Cassie took shallow breaths and gripped John's hand. “It is slightly different than normal, not as strong, almost as though this wraith is weaker... Rodney, you said something about energy readings? What are you working on in that lab?”
Rodney gestured back towards the control room. “I took one of the stasis pods from Aurora – we are sure that they are empty, but I am trying to get them open to see what sort of information is still stored in there.”
“You are SURE they are empty Rodney, either they are or they aren't!” John looked pensive. “Ok Rodney, Cassie, get Teyla and Ronan and head down to the lab, I need some marines as well, weapons ready. Cassie, you're only there to observe readings, understand?” When she didn't reply he looked sharply at her. “Cassie?”
“I'll do what needs to be done John, you know that, so quit with the orders!” She turned smartly in place and pulling Rodney with her, headed back into the city. Jack had wandered over, interested in their little interchange. “Something I need to know Colonel?” John thought briefly about denial, then thought better of it. “It seems Cassie has picked up some wraith energy. Can you take care of this lot? I need to get down to that lab and see what's going on.”
Jack's eyebrows raised several notches. “Wraith? Great! They picked a super time to pay us a little visit... this is going to go down a …. treat... with that lot!” Grimacing at John, he moved back to the waiting party.
The energy readings that Cassie was picking up grew marginally stronger as they got closer to the lab that Rodney had been working in. Teyla and Ronan met them partway, with Lorne and a small group of marines. “Something about wraith?” Lorne, with his usual dry humour, quipped.
Teyla looked at Cassie. “I'm getting nothing. Are you sure?”
“It is different Teyla, but definitely wraith and I would wager John's football collection that he came out of that statis pod you're being playing around with Rodney.”
“Playing around? Now see here...”
Cassie didn't let him finish. “Have you managed to analyse any of the data Rodney?”
“Some, but it's jumbled and as I said before, I was concerned about the level of the energy readings. They seemed a little high, so I wanted to contain those before I began further analysis.”
Lorne spoke to his marines. “Well lads, look like we might have ourselves a rogue wraith on the loose, I'm thinking probably only the one?” he raised his eyes questioningly at Cassie, who nodded. “So let's be on the lookout, unfortunately it's a big city with a lot of hiding places and we only have one link at the moment, so Cassie, you're it!”
John came up behind them at this stage, having managed to convince the delegates that a lunch break might be in order and left Elizabeth to supervise that. He had quietly mentioned in her ear the possibility of a wraith here on the base and she shook her head, thinking that the day was going from bad to worse.
“So team, do we have a plan?” Lorne nodded, and headed off with the marines. Cassie went to follow and John held her back. “I want you out of the way!”
“Not a chance John, I'm the only link these boys have with that wraith, I'm not letting them go in blind. Hopefully Teyla will pick something up the closer she gets, so if we split up we'll increase out chances of finding him before he does any damage.”
Cassie stopped at the armory to pick up a weapon and slipped off her heels so that she could move a little faster. Lorne and his marines fanned out around her, keeping her tightly covered with as much protection as possible. Cassie tried to calm her mind and empty it as much as she could in an effort to pick up the tendrils of wraith energy that whispered down the hallway, the lingering proof that a wraith had indeed passed this way. Pausing at one point, Cassie slumped slightly and Lorne tucked an arm around her waist, taking some of her weight. She rested her head briefly on his shoulder, feeling a headache blossoming. “He's getting stronger Evan, I think Teyla should be able to sense him soon.” As if on cue, Lorne's mike activiated and Teyla's voice was heard. “I sense him too Major Lorne, but I don't think he has been this way.”
“Teyla?” Cassie pushed herself out of Lorne's steadying hold. “I think he is in this direction, the energy is stronger here. John?”
“Here, Cass – you ok?”
“Meet us in the control room John. We are nearing that now and I am picking up some very scattered random thoughts. He wants to use the stargate I think.”
“Roger that Cass.” Lorne's comm crackled again and Cassie knew that John was talking to Lorne about her as she felt Lorne's gaze resting on her, hand still at her waist and his non committal reply. “Will do Colonel, don't worry. I've got it covered.”
As they neared the control room she groaned and clutched her head. “Teyla?” she groaned. “Are you near?”
“I'm here Cassie, we are almost at the control room on the other side – he strengthens. Are you all right?”
“I don't think so Teyla, he is trying to control my mind and it hurts to keep him out.” Lorne had dropped his weapon and was fully supporting her now. “Ok Cass, if he's in there, you've done your bit, time for you to back away and let us do ours.” She sank to her knees as another spasm clenched her mind and she fought to keep him out.
“John! He wants to use the stargate. You need to force him out of the control room, I can't go in there...” she broke the connection and to Lorne she said “Go, leave me. I'll be ok. You need to go in there now, he has a hostage.”
John burst into the control room where the wraith stood near the control panel holding the Russian delegat by the throat. His levelled his yellow eyes at John and hissed. “Give me your system code to lower the shield or I will kill the woman.”
Katarina was terrified and she reached out a hand to John. Lorne burst into the room from the other side and the wraith struck out a hand and using mind control, brought Lorne and his marines to their knees, scattering their weapons. He gestured again to John, who was attempting a stealthy advancement while the wraith had been distracted. “Human! Enter your code now. If you do so, I will spare the woman and leave without harming others. You have my word.”
“Somehow, that doesn't inspire me with any confidence...” John muttered, P90 aimed steadily at his target.
Teyla and Ronan had silently entered the other side of the room, unnoticed by the wraith and began edging carefully around the outside of the room, keeping to the shadows. “Cassie, no!” Teyla called urgently as she saw the younger woman enter the control room, unable to stand by helpless as she had seen Major Lorne's team incapacitated. “You can't be in here, leave and let us take care of this.”
John, now alerted to her presence backed up, keeping his weapon trained on the wraith. The wraith swung his gaze toward Cassie and increased his mind presence, causing her to cry out. “No!” John yelled. “Cassie, get out – NOW!”
With a will of iron she remained on her feet, holding onto a table for support and took a calming deep breath as she focused on what she knew was inside her. Pain flashed across the wraith's face and John thought admiringly – score one for Cassie.
“You are not strong enough human – I will crush you!” Another breath, another intense push from within and the wraith staggered slightly, his grip on Katarina no longer as secure.
Cassie was weakening, John could see where her knuckles gripped the side of the table as she fought to stay upright. “John...” Cassie whispered, some of the strength gone from her voice also. “You'll only have one shot at this, be ready. I can't hold him any longer.” A primal cry erupted from her and she threw her head back, pain the only thing registering in her mind and the wraith, having met a superior mind force, released his hostage. John, eyes flickering relentlessly between Cassie and the wraith, tightened his finger on the trigger in anticipation and as soon as Katarina was clear, he began firing, cutting down the wraith where he stood.
There was a flurry of activity that followed. John stepped up to the wraith to make sure he was dead, Lorne and his marines, released from the mind hold grabbed their weapons and surrounded the wraith to make sure he stayed dead considering their rather annoying tendency to regenerate, Jack and Elizabeth burst into the room with the other delegates and immediately took Katarina under their care, calming her. John's thoughts after that were only of Cassie and when he turned, he saw her, still standing, resting back against the desk, her face now clear of pain. Eyes locked onto his, and still standing and looking like one of the goddesses from a long gone day. He took her hands, freezing cold, and rubbed warmth into them, resting his forehead against hers.
“If I thought it would do ANY good at all, I would yell at you... but I don't have the energy to be angry Cass... maybe later... come here baby, I need to hold you.” He drew her into his arms and slid the two of them down to the floor, finding at the moment that he held her, his legs no longer had the desire to support him.
Carson came into the control room with a gurney and a team of support staff having been alerted by Elizabeth, and Cassie was his first stop, pushing John out of the way so he could check her over. John may have shelved his anger but Carson certainly did not. “You are seven months pregnant my girl, and you're out chasing wraith? This is ridiculous. As head of medical and as your doctor, I will not allow this anymore and I forbid you from any non approved base or off world activity. Is that clear?” Concerned as he saw her shoulders begin to shake, he turned her face towards him, and instead of tears he saw that she was trying, unsuccessfully, not to laugh.
“And just what is so funny eh? If you don't stop this nonsense, you will make yourself ill and cause stress on the baby!”
Cassie's laugh was rich and she gave up trying to hold it it. “Stress? Are you serious Carson... stress?”
Shaking his head in consternation he asked “what the bloody hell is going on around here. Have you gone mad?” John had given up trying to keep a straight face, and had slid back down onto the floor and was also laughing.
“You are all stark raving mad!” Carson ran his hand through his hair, stood up and looked down at Cassie.
“Aye Carson, that we are...stress? This poor wee lad in here has known nothing by stress since the day he was conceived.”
The delegats were clustered around Jack O'Neill looking a little worried at the hilarity that was being displayed by John and Cassie. “Oh don't worry about them folks... space sickness... affects people in different ways.” Looking over at John, Jack made frantic cutting motions out of sight of the delegats and John did his best to paste a somber expression onto his face.
Cassie pushed herself up and made her way over to Katarina who now sat on a gurney being checked over by Carson. The Russian's eyes were no longer hard as they looked at Cassie.
“Thank you for what you did. I don't understand what it is that you did, but I know that somehow you saved my life at possible risk to you own and your baby's. I am sorry that I appeared to slant you in an negative light earlier. You may be rest assured that I will going back to my country with a favourable report on what has been achieved here.
Cassie shot Jack a sureptitious glance as he winked at her. “Katarina, ten months ago I stepped through that stargate along with all these people. I didn't want to be here. Yes, I was a spoilt rock star...” a sly smile was slanted John's way as she said this “... but that woman no longer exists. The veneer is gone, the sheen is just a little harder now and less bright and the rose tinted glasses that coloured my life to that date, long since shattered. I worked alongside these brave people and I began to believe in myself and believe that we all have a purpose in life, and mine became clear. And I fell in love with a man who has constantly pushed me to become the woman I know I am meant to be. So, dump on me, but the men and women of this station are above reproach and are amongst the most honourable people I could ever hope to work with.”
With a cool smile at Katarina and amidst clapping from the control room, Cassie, feeling an immeasurable calmness, turned and quietly left the control room. She had barely left the room, still barefoot but with head held high, when John caught up with her and reached for her arm, swinging her around to face him. She saw no censure there, only love and she fell into his arms, laughing.
“Tell me I did good this time Colonel... just this one time...”
“Cassie love, you are a one of a kind, and yes, you did good.” As he held her tightly, his hands encountered the soft flesh of her thighs and he felt her breath quicken.
“John...?” he voice was a whispered question.
“Ask me witch... I'm already under your spell.”
“Make love to me ...” He backed her into a transporter and as the doors slid shut his hands were dragging her skirt upward so that he could cup her bottom and pull her hard against him.
“Here...?” he barely breathed his question.
“Now...” she sighed and the spell she wove over him created it's own special magic.