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24 April 2012 @ 10:07 pm
Fic: Husbands and Wives (1/5)  
Title: Husbands and Wives
Authors: miera_c and melyanna
Rating: PG13
Summary: Atlantis fills with dignitaries, new friends and old are reunited, and Elizabeth and John finally prepare to be married.
Notes: While there's nothing very explicit in this story, there's a scene in the last post that some might consider not work-safe. Feel free to speculate as to its content. ;)

Marcus awoke after only a few hours of sleep. Though exhausted, he braced himself for a second knock on the door, which was what usually woke him in the middle of the night, but it did not come. Instead, he heard a rustling noise followed by something that sounded suspiciously like Kate cursing.

He turned over to see that Kate was indeed in the room. He must have woken when she closed the door. He'd heard her undressing, and now she seemed to be stuck in her corset, not having loosened it enough before trying to tug it over her head. Marcus chuckled and Kate whirled about, glaring as best she could given her ridiculous predicament. He decided to be kind. "Come here," he said, sitting up and moving to the edge of the bed.

She was clearly embarrassed, but she also wasn't getting undressed without help. When she stood before him, he pulled at the laces with an expert touch. Soon her corset was loose enough for her to tug it free. When she turned around, she was avoiding his gaze. Marcus leaned forward and kissed her stomach through her chemise. "You could have woken me for help. I wouldn't have minded."

She huffed out a sigh. "And seem as though I cannot undress myself?"

He looked up at her with a flirtatious smile. "But I take so much pleasure in undressing you."

With that he tugged her down to the bed. Kate let out a little shriek that only made Marcus grin. He shifted to hover over her and trailed light kisses down her neck and lower. "I do enjoy being married," he murmured against her skin, but Kate shifted beneath him like she was trying to get away.

That was enough to get him to look up. "Kate?"

"Not tonight, Marcus," she said. Then she yawned. "It's late."

He let Kate move away from him, settling on her side of the bed, away from the door, but he still frowned at her. "That hasn't stopped you before."

She propped herself up on her elbows and turned an amused look on him. "And already you are an expert?" They had only been married a few weeks.

Her teasing mollified him somewhat. At least she was not angry with him. Then he remembered why he had gone to bed without her in the first place. Lady Sarah had gone into labor during the afternoon. As the birth had stretched on into the night, Marcus had gone to bed, needing sleep.

"I didn't mean to wake you," Kate said, lying down on her side of the bed and closing her eyes.

"I take it Lady Sarah delivered her child safely," he remarked. He thought about closing the curtains around the bed, but the midsummer night was warm enough.

Kate nodded. "A daughter. They had not yet named her when Elizabeth and Laura and I left."

Marcus grinned. "And yet I am sure Lord Jonathan is spoiling her already."

"He does have some practice," Kate said with a tired smile of her own. "Now, if it is quite all right with you, I think sleep is in order."

"I could think of a better use of the time, since we're both awake."

She turned to him with a look of exasperation and affection. "Marcus."

"What?" he asked, trying not to sound like he was whining.

With a testy sigh, she closed her eyes. "Marcus, I just watched a woman give birth. I am not in an amorous mood."

"Oh." He still frowned, though. Had they not talked about children before now? That was possibly a poor decision on his part. Her attitude alarmed him a little. "Kate, the only sure way to avoid that yourself is rather... drastic."

She looked at him and burst into giggles, something he'd rarely seen her do. The happiness on her face reassured him. "Well, at least I know you aren't lying about being tired," he said, settling on his back.

Kate turned to her side and snuggled up to him. "I am not denying you forever," she said, having calmed herself a little. "Only for a day or two."

"Tomorrow morning sounds more reasonable to me."

"I suppose that would be a fair compromise," Kate said, yawning. "But only if you can drive all thoughts of childbirth from my memory."

"A worthy challenge, my lady," he remarked, and he pressed a kiss to her forehead as she drifted to sleep in his arms.

Though John had been up late, he found he could not sleep much, so early in the morning he went to the stables and took Silvanus out to ride along the shore.  He had not gotten the opportunity to escape the palace much in the last several weeks and despite Ford riding discreetly behind him, the solitude and the open air were refreshing.

He'd sat with Jack most of the previous evening while Sarah was in labor.  Her pregnancy had not been an easy one, and Carson had been summoned to assist with the birth, raising the anxiety of the men waiting outside considerably.  All had ended well, but John had been restless afterward and unable to sleep.  The stress of the wedding preparations had been interfering with his rest for a while now.

The wedding was mere days away.  John would have expected things to be quieting down now that the plans were mostly in place, but the chaos inside the palace kept growing.  The last guests were arriving, along with additional servants and various entertainers who had been brought in to keep the more prominent guests and members of court occupied.  The town outside of the palace was bursting as well.  It reminded John of the days before Elizabeth's coronation, although back then he had been paying less attention to such things.

He passed the bridge as he approached the docks and remembered racing Elizabeth to this spot during those same days, as well as her pouting when she lost the race.  At the time, despite his inappropriate flirting with Elizabeth, John had had no inkling of how entwined his life would become with the future queen.

And now, in a matter of days, he would marry Elizabeth and be crowned Prince of Atalan.

Given the early hour, few workers were moving about in the docks. John nodded as he passed, continuing his ride along the shore until he could look back and see Atlantis silhouetted against the dawn sky.

More than once, John had feared he would never see Atlantis or Elizabeth again.  His initial concealment of his heritage from Elizabeth, the Goa'uld invasion, the loss of his father, his duties in Caldora, the objections of Elizabeth's advisors to his courtship, the rival suit of Radek of Iolan, Elizabeth's illness last summer and of course the Wraith siege in the spring had all threatened to separate them permanently.  He was thankful it had not turned out that way, but at the same time, he felt a sense of growing dread.

Something else was going to go wrong.  John simply did not believe that the universe would refrain from throwing some additional obstacle between them.  He had no idea what precisely he expected to happen, only that some difficulty would interrupt the proceedings, probably at the worst possible moment.

That fear more than anything else kept him from sleeping much these days.  He suspected it would only subside when he could wake up alongside Elizabeth in the middle of the night and be assured that he was not dreaming.

He put those thoughts away, as they might lead to inappropriate thoughts of sharing Elizabeth's bed.  The waiting was driving him mad with impatience, so the less time spent dwelling on that subject, the better.

He'd begun to make his way back toward the palace when he heard his name being called and he pulled Silvanus to a stop.  "Master McKay."

Rodney McKay approached from the docks.  With the yards on their way to being completely rebuilt, the shipwright had turned his attention to preparing to lay the keel of a new warship, the Queen Elizabeth.  While the Wraith had been badly beaten there was no guarantee they would not reappear someday, and Elizabeth was determined that her navy would be ready for any challenge.

McKay bowed.  "My lord, I saw you ride past.  I thought you would wish to know a herald went by a short time ago, bearing the insignia of Caldora."

That meant Cameron and his party would be in Atlantis some time this morning.  John would need to prepare for their reception when he returned to the palace.  "Thank you, Master McKay. I appreciate the warning."

They both chuckled and John nodded to the berth lying not far away. "I trust you are making satisfactory progress with the new ship?"

McKay made a face.  "For some definitions of satisfactory, I suppose we are."  He seemed to realize what he'd said a moment later and grew flustered.  "Forgive me, my lord."

John grinned.  "Do not trouble yourself, sir.  Sometimes honesty is preferable to politeness."

McKay shifted on his feet slightly.  "I imagine you will be tired of hearing this soon if you are not already, but I would like to offer my congratulations to you and Queen Elizabeth.  I wish you every happiness."

McKay was invited to the wedding feast, John knew, but the man would not be of much notice given the rank of many of the other guests.  He reached down and held out his hand and McKay shook it, looking somewhat surprised.  "Thank you, Rodney.  I will pass along your sentiments to my betrothed when I can."

McKay bowed and John nodded to him before resuming his return trip to the palace.  Somehow the shipwright's honest, gruff congratulations were easier to accept than the fawning of many of the nobility.  John wished, not for the first time, that his marriage was not such a massive affair of state involving so many people and so many rules.

He put the complaint away as he neared the stables. Elizabeth was frustrated with the formalities too, though she concealed her feelings better than John.  He did not want to add to her problems by being recalcitrant.  Certain sacrifices were required from any man who courted and wed a monarch.

The thought recalled his father's advice about a marquis courting a queen.  John smiled slightly to himself as he dismounted his horse. His father had seen the truth of John's feelings about Elizabeth almost immediately.  John believed that his father, and his mother for that matter, would have loved Elizabeth if they had been able to know her. He hoped Elizabeth's parents would have approved of him, eventually. It saddened him that both of them were without their parents, but as he headed for the castle to prepare to meet his cousin, he thought it fitting that he and Elizabeth would be creating a family of their own now.

Assuming the world did not end first.

Ever since the Wraith attack, Elizabeth had not been able to shake the feeling that something was going to go wrong. During the course of her reign, and her life in general, fate seemed to take pleasure in tossing some nasty complication into every plan she made. By now she was simply resigned to it. There was no way that her wedding to John was going to go exactly as planned. Elizabeth just hoped that whatever disruption was to occur would be on a lesser scale than an invasion of Atlantis.

Any disruption would also have to contend with Lady Catherine as well, and that thought comforted Elizabeth slightly.

Despite having been awake well into the night with Sarah, Elizabeth rose early, as a messenger had come just after dawn to say that the Caldoran party would be arriving that morning. Even considering the hour they all retired the night before, Kate was very late in arriving in Elizabeth's quarters. Laura had not only beaten her there, but Elizabeth was already half-dressed when Kate arrived.

Kate looked embarrassed in a way that made Elizabeth suspect her companion had not merely overslept. "Forgive me, Majesty," she said, while Laura laced up Elizabeth's corset.

"We all had a late night," Elizabeth replied with a knowing grin. Then she gasped as Laura tugged again at the laces. "Laura! I have to be able to breathe."

Laura tossed her an amused look as she loosened the corset. "It seems I am out of practice, my lady."

Elizabeth huffed out a breath as soon as she was able. Quickly Kate and Laura got her dressed in one of her more formal gowns. Normally she did not dress so elaborately in the morning, but one did not meet a prince and princess in plain garb. No sooner than Kate finished with Elizabeth's hair did they receive word from a second page, saying the royal party was crossing the isthmus.

When they finally left her chambers, they found John waiting outside. He offered Elizabeth his arm and they set off, guards and companions trailing behind them. At the door to Elizabeth's private audience chamber, they were met by Daniel and Lord George. The latter had arrived in Atlantis a month ago, not long before Kate's wedding. As Lady Sarah's confinement had not been easy, he had been persuaded to take on some business in the court so that Jack could be with his wife, though mostly he had been dealing with the college rather than diplomatic or military issues.

"I thought you had retired from such events as these, my lord," Elizabeth said with amusement, once she had greeted the men.

He smiled in kind. "I have retired, Majesty, but we will consider this a special circumstance."

"Thank you," Elizabeth replied quietly as she went to her seat. Her guardian's presence had been a help to both Jack and Daniel, and Elizabeth was happy to see him again, even if his stay would not be long in duration.

She had just settled into her chair when the guards opened the doors and the Caldoran party entered the room. A few months ago, the arrival of Cameron Mitchell would not have warranted this much ceremony, but he was now the heir to a foreign throne. Regardless of his relation to John, Elizabeth had to follow certain protocol in receiving him.

First came Stephen Caldwell and two guards, followed by Prince Cameron. On his arm was a very beautiful woman about Elizabeth's age. This she assumed was Princess Carolyn. Behind them were another man and woman and more guards. For a moment Elizabeth thought ruefully that this must be what she looked like whenever she walked through the palace. She almost never managed to go anywhere quietly.

Her own people were gathered nearby as the Caldorans approached. When the doors were shut, John stepped forward. "Your Majesty, allow me to present my cousin, his Royal Highness, Prince Cameron and her Royal Highness, Princess Carolyn, daughter of King Henry. Prince, Princess, Elizabeth Weir, Queen of Atalan."

Elizabeth was rather proud of John in that moment. It was evident that he had been listening to Peter's instruction. But then the Caldorans bowed and it was time for her to rise to greet them properly. "Welcome to Atlantis," she said. "We are pleased to have you with us."

With the royal greetings finished, both sides went around introducing their attendants. The couple who had entered behind the prince and princess were the Earl and Countess of Dixon, Lord David and Lady Juliana. The earl would be standing up in the wedding as one of the groomsmen.

Kate then offered to show the Dixons to their chambers. The guards and other lords retreated from the room, leaving John and Elizabeth alone with the prince and princess. When all the doors were secured, John stepped forward and embraced his cousin. Then he kissed Carolyn's hand in greeting.

John stepped back to Elizabeth's side, and she gave Cameron a more relaxed smile. "It is good to see you again, my lord. You are looking well."

"I am, your Majesty. Much better than in our last meeting," he replied. He probably spoke of his recovery from serious battle injuries, but Elizabeth thought he also looked more confident of himself now than he had the previous summer. Much had changed in a year.

"And I am greatly pleased to meet you at last, Princess Carolyn," she continued, turning her attention to the other lady.

"It is an honor, your Majesty," the princess replied with a small nod. "I've heard a great deal about you."

"We will have much to speak of in the next few days, I'm sure, but before you are shown to your chambers, there is one thing we ought to establish," Elizabeth said. "Who among the Caldorans here knows of the meeting between myself and King Henry last summer?"

"Carolyn and I, of course," Cameron replied. "Caldwell and Malcolm Barrett. I do not believe Lord David or his wife know."

"And me," John put in.

Cameron rolled his eyes. Elizabeth caught the princess' gaze and they both laughed. "Yes, my lord, for all that you will soon be an Atalanian prince, you are still Caldoran," Elizabeth said to him, looping her arm around his.

John lifted her hand to his lips; she just shook her head at him and turned her attention back to their guests. "I fear I must see to some business today, but will you join us for supper? It should be a small gathering, and Lady Catherine must meet you, Prince, and Lord David, so she can instruct you on your role in the wedding."

"I thought Lady Catherine was your companion whom I met last year," Cameron said, confused.

"Different lady," John replied. "They do not spell their names the same way, and Lady Catherine is older than Kate. I suppose it should also be said that Kate's father's name is David as well, so this ought to be entertaining for everyone."

Princess Carolyn spoke before that line of conversation could go any further. "We would be delighted to join you, my lady," she said.

Together the four departed from the audience chamber. Laura was waiting just outside to escort the prince and princess away, leaving John alone with Elizabeth for a moment. "That went well," he said low in her ear.

She nodded, but again came the feeling that things were going too smoothly. There was no use in worrying over it, though. Worrying would not make her any more prepared when disaster inevitably arrived.

The Caldorans were the highest ranking guests for the wedding, and with them safely arrived Daniel made his way to the room where he had spent much of the previous night. Along with Teal'c, John and Captain Lorne, Daniel had sat up with Jack while Sarah was in labor. He wanted to check on his old friend before the day's work began. The new parents had been excused from any court affairs for the next couple of days.

He was not the only one to have such an impulse, for he found Carson Beckett departing Jack's suite as he arrived. Beckett indicated both Jack and Sarah were awake at the moment, so Daniel slipped inside. He found Jack standing near the fireplace, although no fire was lit, with a bundle of blankets in his arms.

Jack looked quite tired but he was staring at the child with an almost puzzled expression, as if wondering how she had gotten there. Daniel smothered a laugh but Jack looked up and glared at him anyway.

"I trust the two of you are getting acquainted," Daniel said with a grin.

"She's not much of a conversationalist," Jack retorted.

"That will change," he said confidently. Jack merely rolled his eyes. The baby was moving, though her eyes were closed. "Luckily she seems to have gotten her mother's looks," he joked.

"I would not argue with you there," Jack observed wryly.

Before he could say anything else, there was a knock on the door that preceded Teal'c into the room. "O'Neill," he said, bowing slightly. "I hope all is well here."

Jack glanced toward the door, which was closed, a slightly worried expression on his face. "Perna is with her now. Beckett has just left."

Teal'c must have sensed Jack's distress, because he observed calmly, "I am sure Lady Sarah is greatly fatigued, but I doubt the queen will allow her to lack for assistance as she recuperates."

Jack nodded, though he observed ruefully, "It may be me who needs the most help." He looked down at the baby. "I cannot believe I'm doing this again."

Daniel patted him on the back, though he was gentle, so as not to jostle the child. "At least this time you've had practice." Before Jack could protest how often he'd been absent in his son's life, he added quickly, "After all, you've had a hand in raising the queen and Laura and Kate. You are no stranger to the antics of young ladies."

Jack looked slightly alarmed at that, then went pale as Teal'c said, "Indeed. I am sure Lady Laura will be an excellent role model for the child." Daniel could easily imagine what Jack was thinking. Laura had always had a habit of mischief even from her earliest days in the palace.

"Seeing as she and little Moira are so close in age, I am sure they will be fast friends as well," Daniel added, unable to resist the barely suppressed panic on Jack's face.

The teasing was cut short as Perna appeared and Jack made good his escape to lay his daughter in Sarah's arms. She invited Daniel and Teal'c in a moment later. "I am pleased to see you safe, Sarah," Daniel said gently. She smiled, though she was also suppressing a yawn.

Teal'c sensed her weariness as well. "We will not keep you from your rest, Lady Sarah. I only wished to convey my sincere congratulations to you both."

"We thank you," Sarah said.

"Does she have a name yet?" Daniel asked before departing.

The new parents shared a look. "We have not decided," Jack answered.

Daniel said nothing, though it was on the tip of his tongue to make a remark about how six months could pass without a decision on this matter. The look on his oldest friend's face warned him off.

"Very well," Daniel replied, with a small smile at the look on Jack's face.

He and Teal'c retreated to the hallway. As they made their way down toward the main areas of the palace, Daniel sighed.

"Is something amiss, Daniel Jackson?"

"No." He slowed his gait and Teal'c matched him. "I suppose I will always think of my wife and our son at moments such as these." The pain of those memories had dulled with time, but he knew it would never disappear entirely.

Teal'c did not speak, but Daniel could sense the sympathy in his friend. A moment later he added, "On top of Elizabeth's wedding, it seems much is changing. I am glad of it, but..."

Teal'c considered that for a moment. "We are both too well acquainted with the changes wrought by loss, Daniel Jackson, to grieve for changes brought of joy."

He shook himself. Teal'c was right. After so much heartbreak and misery, it would not do to give in to maudlin thoughts just now.

Besides, as Elizabeth had lamented more than once in the last week, the list of things to do before the wedding and the coronation was growing longer by the minute. Daniel knew that Lady Catherine would have something for him to do, and he would be better off helping his cousin than dwelling on the past.

After showing Lord David and Lady Juliana to their chambers, Kate followed Elizabeth through the morning's meetings trying to hide her yawns. She was not certain how Elizabeth, who had never functioned that well without sleep, could be so alert and attentive while Kate could barely keep her eyes open.

Granted, the difference between Kate and the queen now was that the queen did not have a husband yet. Kate had successfully put off Marcus' advances in the night, but when morning came he had thoroughly seduced her. She was trying very hard not to think of it, sure that she blushed every time.

Being married was more than a little strange. She and Marcus had spent years striving to hide their feelings from each other, then from everyone else. Now there was no cause to hide anything, but such liberty would take time to become natural. Even so, the intimacy between them was the least awkward part about the whole business. Marcus' standing in the court had risen dramatically as a result of their marriage. Now he was not just the captain of the queen's guard but the son-in-law of the chancellor of the college. Despite his lack of a title, Marcus could now sit at the queen's table when he chose, rather than stand by silently and discreetly. He would not quit his position simply because he had married well, but his place in the court was somewhat altered.

Kate was sure she would grow used to all of that eventually. It might even happen faster once her mother was no longer in court. The last several weeks had not been unendurable, but planning the wedding might have been less stressful without Maria.

The wedding ceremony and the feast had lacked the grand trappings Maria wanted, but she had been exceedingly pleased by the guests. Kate was a little horrified when she realized that her wedding was going to be an evening of entertainment for the increasing crowd of dignitaries gathering for Elizabeth's wedding. But Elizabeth would not miss seeing Kate and Marcus married at last, and as Laura had joked, the guests for the other wedding could not be left to themselves, lest they burn the palace down in a quest for something to do.

Still, the wedding went without trouble. Neither bride nor groom hesitated or misspoke, and Kate had the great pleasure of setting a crown of flowers on Marcus' head. John had remarked to her during the dancing that in his heart of hearts, he was grateful that he got to avoid that. Marcus had borne it with grace, although he had removed the crown forcefully as soon as was possible.

So now Kate wore his ring and Marcus wore hers. In the evenings he would wait for her to finish with her work, and they would walk together to the chambers they now occupied, which were closer to the royal chambers than the small room Marcus had previously had. Elizabeth was doing the best she could to give them time to themselves, though some of that time was inevitably taken up by Kate's mother, who had stayed in court for the queen's wedding. Kate was grateful the queen was too busy to spend much time with Maria, who had moved from talking over Kate's wedding to speculating about her future grandchildren and whether any of them might end up in service to the crown, or even married to a future ruler of Atalan. Though it was good-natured on Maria's part, Kate would rather not subject Elizabeth to such speculation for a variety of reasons.

In contrast, Marcus' parents had not stayed long. They had seemed vastly uncomfortable with the entire situation, prompting Kate to ask Marcus one night if he had felt similarly out of his depth when he first came to Atlantis, for he had entered Elizabeth's personal detail fairly quickly after he arrived. He confessed that he had, but devotion to duty had kept him occupied until he was more accustomed to life in the palace.

By the time the wedding arrived, the Lornes were a little warmer toward Kate, for she had done her best to show that she was marrying their son out of love and affection, not out of necessity or foolish impulse. Eventually, they were resigned to the marriage, if not happy about it. Kate was willing to accept that outcome for now and hope time might improve the situation.

While Elizabeth spoke with Lord Henry Hayes at length about the court in Rainier, Kate retreated to the edge of the room. Ostensibly it was to give the queen an opportunity for a private conversation with the ambassador, but she met Marcus' gaze and he joined her. "You look exhausted, Kate."

Under other circumstances, she might have mistaken the tone of his voice for concern, but she knew the wicked amusement in his eyes. She blushed and ducked her head. "Marcus."

He took her hand for a moment, smiling openly now. "There is no reason to be ashamed," he said gently.

"And deprive you of the pleasure of embarrassing me?" she shot back.

"You may have a point."

There was a knock on the door and they separated instantly, Kate returning to the queen's side. Marcus opened the door, and in came a page, who bowed to the queen. "Your Majesty, a ship has arrived bearing an unfamiliar standard."

Elizabeth looked at the boy curiously. "Do you know what the standard looked like?"

"Blue, with a black bird in flight."

"Then Prince Ronon has returned, for if my memory has not failed me, that would be the standard of Sateda."

She gave orders for the ship to be allowed into the harbor and the page bowed again and left. Elizabeth turned to the ambassador. "Would you come with me to receive the prince?" she asked Hayes. "If he has not made his way to Iolan yet, I imagine he would be pleased to meet you."

Or as pleased as Ronon ever seemed to be, though Kate did not give voice to that thought as they all filed out of the room.

Ronon had not intended to arrive in Atlantis just yet, but the winds had decided otherwise. He was not entirely sure of his welcome as the small ship navigated into the harbor, but he was granted passage and assigned a berth in the yards. The place had changed dramatically in the short time he'd been gone – the harbor mouth was more guarded, and everywhere was evidence of building.

The small crew - some former Wraith prisoners, others mere sailors he had hired on - battened down the ship and made for shore. Ronon collected the meager possessions he needed, including a small wooden box with a metal lock, and followed.

He had left Atlantis and delivered home a handful of men who had been carried off by the Wraith last fall. In the process he had taken on cargo to carry, earning a small amount of coin in addition to the reward granted to him by the queen. It was enough to hire crew and to reach his homeland.

What he had found there had been no surprise, but seeing the condition of Sateda had allowed him a chance to grieve without fury or survival clouding his mind. It had not been a pleasant experience, but it had been a necessary one. Unfortunately he had no more idea of his future than he had possessed when he left Atlantis.

He had no time to dwell on that at the moment, for a party approached him and he recognized the queen among them. He remembered his manners and bowed to her when she stopped before him. "Majesty, I did not expect to see you so soon."

She smiled graciously. "I was informed of your arrival and thought I would seize the opportunity of introducing the ambassador from Iolan, Lord Henry Hayes."

Ronon nodded as the man bowed. He scanned the rest of the party but did not see the person he was looking for. Though he had ostensibly come to attend the wedding, as even he did not wish to ignore a royal invitation, in truth he had other reasons for returning to Atlantis just now.

"I thought if you had not had the opportunity to go to Iolan yet, you might wish to speak to Lord Henry during your stay," the queen continued.

He nodded. "That was most kind, my lady."

She shot a look at one of her ladies. "I fear we were not entirely prepared for your presence, so your rooms are still being sorted out. We are a little overwhelmed at the moment," she added apologetically.

"It is no matter, Majesty. I would not detain you further."

"Thank you," she nodded. "I imagine you are quite weary as well. There is a supper tonight for some of the guests, but we shall not hold it against you if you are too fatigued for company."

He nodded gratefully, trying not to fidget. The idea of the lengthy small-talk of court still made him uncomfortable. But the queen paused for a moment and met his eye, her expression becoming more serious.

"I am pleased you will be here for the wedding, Prince, and I know John will be as well."

She said nothing else, to his relief, but merely inclined her head. He bowed again and she swept off to whatever business a queen always had waiting. One of the attendants remained to lead him to his room and Ronon was able to summon enough courage to ask that a bath be brought to his chamber. The servant scurried off to make the arrangements, leaving him mercifully alone again. Hopefully he would be able to acclimate himself enough to get through the next several days of being surrounded by people again.

In the afternoon Elizabeth was summoned to deal with more diplomatic issues and Kate was with her mother, so Laura busied herself with laying out Elizabeth's clothing for the evening's festivities.  Moira was with her, lying in a basket and gurgling to herself as she usually did when she woke up.

Laura had been seeing to this part of the queen's daily routine mainly because it allowed her to be near her own rooms around the time Moira would need to be nursed.  Elizabeth had been generous with giving Laura freedom to see to her daughter, but Laura saw no reason not to combine work with family when she had the opportunity.

Moira was happily attempting to stuff her tiny fist into her mouth, so Laura laid out the pale pink gown and the jewels Elizabeth would wear that night and tidied up the room.  It was strange to think of this room as anything but Elizabeth's bedchamber.  Laura was barely used to the fact that she no longer slept here herself, and now neither did Kate.  But in a few days it would have a new occupant for the first time in more than a decade.

She was overjoyed for Elizabeth but there was a bittersweet feeling to so many changes happening so rapidly.

One of those changes concerned the door on the far side of Elizabeth's bedroom that connected to the adjoining suite. For as long as Laura had been in Atlantis, the door had been sealed with a padlock as well as a bolt and had never been opened.  The padlock had been removed two weeks ago when the preparations for Lord John to claim the adjacent rooms had been finished.

Moira was still content so Laura went to the door and opened it, noting with amusement that the bolt was still there.  Should Elizabeth decide in a fit of pique to lock her husband out, she would have the means to do so.

Laura had not seen the inside of the consort's suite before.  Every nook and cranny had clearly been scrubbed thoroughly, including the windows.  The sunlight came through them at a different angle than it did in Elizabeth's room, due to the curve of the tower.  The room immediately adjoining Elizabeth's was another bedchamber, smaller and less crowded.  A private toilet area and a dressing room stood off of it.  Laura glimpsed fine clothes already stored there, the new wardrobe that had been created for the Prince of Atalan.

Beyond the bedroom was a study, which was larger and more pleasant.  A desk already sat near the window, and shelves filled with books lined one wall.  The furniture in John's suite had been a wedding gift from Daniel and Jack, so that Elizabeth and her betrothed had not had to trouble themselves with finding it.

The room was comfortable, if notably more masculine in décor than Elizabeth's study.  There were hangings on the walls, but these did not depict the history of Atalan.  John had gone to his father's house before leaving Caldora for the last time and ordered some of his family heirlooms to be boxed up and sent to Atlantis.  The wagon had arrived a week after the Wraith attack on the city.  He had evidently had some of the items brought here, to make the room his own.

Laura knew that one of the doors to the study led back into the hallway, coming out on the far end from her own room.  A small room for a guard was on that side of the tower, and Lieutenant Ford would sleep there from now on.  Lieutenant Stackhouse had taken Marcus Lorne's old room when Marcus and Kate had claimed the other large suite on the opposite side of the hallway after their wedding.  This floor of the tower had gotten quite crowded in a short amount of time.

There was another door in the study, which led to more rooms so that the suites could be expanded or contracted as necessary.  This door was still locked, as John had said he had no need of more space at the moment.  Eventually rooms surrounding Elizabeth's chambers would be needed for a nursery, but that was well ahead of them yet.

The thought reminded her of Moira and Laura retreated back to Elizabeth's bedchamber.  The baby had just noticed she was hungry and started to fuss.  Laura shut the door to the consort's suite and busied herself with tending her daughter. She wondered idly just how much use John would get of his private bedchamber.  She and Kate had not the luxury of sending their husbands off to sleep elsewhere, though there had been nights when Laura had wished for it.  But the rules governing royal marriages were slightly different.

Then again, knowing Elizabeth and John, the usual rules might apply to their marriage as much as they had to their courtship, which was to say, not at all.

After a supper with more than half the guests from other lands, Elizabeth gathered a much smaller number in her sitting room, only those directly connected to the wedding party. Lady Catherine needed to give instructions about clothes and rehearsals and all manner of things, and it was only now that most of the party was assembled. Teyla was still absent, having business to attend to in Athos after her journey to Dakara, but she would be back in Atlantis in the morning, in plenty of time to learn what she needed to know.

While Lady Catherine prepared to start the meeting, the rest milled about, the Atalanians and Caldorans mixing with more ease than Elizabeth might have imagined. Soon, though, Moira's unhappy voice rose above the rest. Laura set the baby on her knee and rubbed her back, something she normally liked, but evidently she was having none of it this evening.

But before Laura could calm her child, Prince Cameron crouched down in front of them. "You are a pretty girl, aren't you?" he said, touching the baby's cheek with two fingers. Then he asked of Laura, "What is her name?"

"Moira, my lord."

Cameron smiled at the baby. "May I? Let's give your mother a little rest, Moira," he said. He lifted Moira gently from her mother's arms and stood. To the surprise of many, Moira soon calmed entirely, especially once he held her so that she could see the room.

Elizabeth glanced at John, who was grinning. "Is this a trick you learned from Mistress Janet, cousin?" he asked. Elizabeth remembered a number of stories involving the midwife.

Cameron made a face at John, which made most of the rest laugh. Then Elizabeth noticed Princess Carolyn as she watched her husband from a chair several feet away, Lady Juliana at her side. As Lady Catherine's instructions were aimed primarily at others, Elizabeth felt at liberty to give her attention to her royal guest.

She moved to sit next to the princess, and she spoke lowly. "Lord John told me about your wedding," she said. "According to him, it was lovely."

"I'm surprised he was paying enough attention to have an opinion about it," Carolyn replied rather dryly.

That made Elizabeth smile. "So was I."

Carolyn laughed softly, but then her expression grew more thoughtful. "I don't actually remember much of the wedding," she confessed. "I wonder if it is the same for other women."

"I shall have to let you know," Elizabeth replied. "Though Laura and Kate have said the same thing." She paused for a moment, wondering if her next question was too personal. "Were you nervous?"

The princess nodded immediately. Lady Catherine seemed to have found what she was looking for, so they lowered their voices while the elder lady spoke to everyone else. "I do not know how your coming marriage compares to mine, politically," Carolyn said. "But Cameron will be king. I think even under the best of circumstances I should have expected to be nervous about marrying."

Elizabeth's gaze drifted to her betrothed, who was not really listening to Lady Catherine and was instead making silly faces at Moira. "I know what you mean," she replied, as John took the baby from his cousin and kissed her cheek. "I have no doubt we will be happy together, but his role will be more political than I truly expected."

"My husband told me something to that effect," Carolyn said. "I am not certain he knew the particulars."

Elizabeth then went into an explanation of the consort's role in the government, and Carolyn listened attentively to the details. They probably could have gone on discussing the differences between the royal courts in Redwater and Atlantis, but soon Lady Catherine interrupted, looking displeased. "I am not certain how we missed this, your Majesty, but we have three bridesmaids and two groomsmen."

Elizabeth opened her mouth for a moment but no sound came out. She looked to John, who shrugged helplessly. "I knew about Kate and Laura. I did not realize Lady Teyla would be standing up with us as well."

Elizabeth was unsure how such a detail had been overlooked as well, but fortunately there were solutions at hand. "We will find someone," she replied. "If all else fails, we'll use Daniel. He will have little to do that day anyway."

John rolled his eyes slightly. "In that case, let Teyla stand up with me and you may keep your cousin."

The Atalanians in the room all laughed at that. Lady Catherine gently turned their attention back to the wedding plans, and Elizabeth looked at Princess Carolyn. The lady was smiling. "My mother was tenacious in making sure my wedding had no such problems," she said, anticipating Elizabeth's next question. "As she has a princess for her only child, everything had to be perfect."

Elizabeth smiled politely, but not without a little pang at the memory of her own mother. Not for the first time, she wondered what this would have been like had her mother lived. She had Lady Catherine and her friends to fuss over her bridal preparations, but it was not the same and she knew it.

Fortunately, her attention was drawn away, for Lady Catherine had come to the end of her discussion with the rest of the wedding party and needed Elizabeth's help. "Have we any idea when Lord John's coronation will be, or what preparations will be necessary?"

Elizabeth gave Princess Carolyn an apologetic smile and came to stand with her betrothed, who was now grumbling. She addressed him first. "Remember, John, it was either a real crown or a wreath of flowers in your hair."

There was a moment of stunned silence from the Caldorans. Finally, as Carolyn rose to join her husband, Prince Cameron said, "Flowers?"

"An old custom in Atalan," Laura said, laughing. "My husband and Lady Kate's both endured it."

"If I may, my lady," Lady Catherine said, before more could be said of flowers, "we need to know soon if there is some precedent to follow for crowning the prince. It may not be a part of the wedding itself."

Elizabeth turned to the prince and princess. "What was the procedure for your coronation, Prince?"

"It was after the wedding, before the feasting commenced," Cameron replied. He turned a curious glance at his wife. "Was there protocol to follow? I only stood where people told me to stand and answered questions when they were asked."

Carolyn cast a half-hearted glare at him. "There's always protocol, my lord."

At that Elizabeth laughed and said, "We have that in common."

At home, the view from Carolyn's window was of the plain extending far to the south of Redwater. In the chambers she and Cameron had been given here, her view was no less expansive, yet it was vastly different. The window faced north, over the sea.

While Carolyn stood at the window, Cameron moved about the room, setting things in order. When he had nothing left to do, he came and stood behind her. His arms went around her waist, and he bowed his head to kiss her neck. "Looking at this, I think I understand why John fell in love with this place," he said quietly.

Carolyn nodded. Though it was quite late, the sun was not down entirely yet. The sunset was out of her view, but the evening sky was clear, red to the west and indigo to the east. Stars were coming out, and the water still reflected the brilliance of the sunset. Not far from the island, a tall ship was passing by, carried by the wind to faraway places which Carolyn would never know.

Cameron's arms tightened about her, but he said nothing more. Carolyn's thoughts turned away from the view before them to the room behind them. She was a little surprised that they had not been offered the option of separate chambers. It was likely a testament to how crowded the palace was now. They would have refused it in any case. Between the night they fought and their departure from Redwater, Cameron had come to her room every night, and they were giving serious thought to abandoning the pretense that they were keeping separate chambers.

Cameron's thoughts were evidently elsewhere. "You must be tired, Carolyn," he murmured.

She nodded, and Cameron drew her away from the window as he worked open the laces of her gown. "I have a maid," she pointed out.

"And you have a husband," he replied. "Your maid is tired too, and I have no objections to such labors."

Carolyn looked to see him grinning, and she offered no further objections as he helped her undress for bed. She sat down on the bed while he also undressed, and she let out a sigh. Cameron looked at her in concern, which turned to curiosity upon seeing how she was sitting, with her knees pulled up and her arms wrapped around them. "I've never been so far from home," she explained. "Since my brother's death, I've spent most of my time away from one parent or another, but I've never been more than a few days away from either of them."

Cameron sat down in front of her on the bed and touched her cheek with his warm, callused fingers. "His death must still be painful to you," he said, uncertainty in his voice. "I do not believe I've ever heard you speak of it."

Carolyn nodded. "He was just a little boy." She caught his hand in hers and studied it for a moment before speaking again. "And of course, when William died, everything in my life changed."

"Your mother left Redwater," he said.

That was true, but it was not the only change. "My father never held that a girl's education extends no further than what is necessary to manage a home," she replied, "but from that day forth, my education looked more like what my brother's would have been. I think he understood how much my husband would have to learn. He was not born to the throne either."

Cameron pulled her hand to his lips, and Carolyn smiled at him. "And when that day comes, I assure you, you will be my only source of confidence," he said.

That made Carolyn laugh softly, and Cameron came around the bed to sit with her, mimicking her posture. "I've never been so far from home either," he remarked. "How old were you when your brother died?"


"That's how old I was when the Ori came."

Carolyn looked and saw a pensive expression on his face. "And when all your cousins left, and the first time anyone thought you might one day be the heir to the marquisate."

"Speaking of which, I should ask John when he plans to give that to me once and for all," Cameron replied, making his voice more cheerful. "Perhaps I will build you a summer palace there, in the shadow of the mountains."

"Only if it is much, much cooler in the mountains, my lord," she teased.

He narrowed his eyes at her playfully; even with that warning she let out a little shriek when he pounced on her. They tussled briefly, until her lips met his, and for several minutes there was nothing but warm, sweet kisses.

They had little energy for anything else, though, and Cameron settled on his side while she lay on her back. "I do want our children to know Sheppard," he said, and his hand trailed up and down her stomach. "Even with all the troubles of those years, I had a happy childhood there."

Carolyn smiled. Though he spoke of their children in the abstract, on the journey here she had begun to suspect that she was with child already. Cameron was uncomfortable with the pressure on them to produce an heir, but at the same time Carolyn knew he wanted a family. Watching him play with Lady Laura's little one would have told her as much, if she had not already known. But she did not want to tell him until she was sure.

She pulled the bed curtain closed on her side, as there was still a good deal of light in the room. Cameron did the same. Unaware of her thoughts, he pulled her close, wrapping his arm about her waist. "I'm glad you came with me," he said, yawning.

Carolyn let out a deep breath and steadied her voice. "So am I, Cameron."
Fafers' Journalfaith_king on April 26th, 2012 12:47 pm (UTC)
More than once, John had feared he would never see Atlantis or Elizabeth again. His initial concealment of his heritage from Elizabeth, the Goa'uld invasion, the loss of his father, his duties in Caldora, the objections of Elizabeth's advisors to his courtship, the rival suit of Radek of Iolan, Elizabeth's illness last summer and of course the Wraith siege in the spring had all threatened to separate them permanently.

Hahaha, I love the "Ren Recap" paragraph.

I think my favorite part of this was Laura touring John's quarters. Partly because I have a fetish for seeing what's behind locked doors inside castles (no, really, I do, though admittedly I haven't had much chance to scratch that itch in my real life), and partly because it was a good way to execute the "Oh, things are changing and I'm so happy but I also want to cry!" (I'm not sure if Laura wanted to cry, but I definitely would've, in her shoes).

Elizabeth and Carolyn comparing notes was also fun, and Cameron with Baby = Supreme Awww. (And Jack with Baby, lest we forget!)