Title: Best Candidate

Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis

Author: Rose Wilde-Irish

Rating: PG

Pairing: Pre-Sparky

Summary: Missing scenes from I Rising /I - John Sheppard is convinced to go to Atlantis.

Notes: Thank you, thank you, b thank you!!! /b to a " Little Red /a for the awesome beta.

Elizabeth skidded to a halt, staring at the occupant of the chair. Under ordinary circumstances, she'd admire, as well. He was just her type.

He was also in The Chair—and making it work.

"Who is this?" she demanded. Everyone at the outpost was a familiar face, meticulously researched. Everyone...but this man.

Before she got an answer, General O'Neill spoke. She couldn't tell if he was being flippant or not when he admonished the airman with, "I thought I told you not to touch anything."

Dr. McKay cut in before she could compose herself, demanding that the stranger make the Ancients' device show the solar system. She was stunned when it instantly complied to create a spectacular image of the planets in mid-air. She stared at the stranger, the possible answer to many problems.

His green eyes looked around the room, met hers and stopped. "Did I do that?" he asked.

Her thoughts would not settle, revving higher and faster. He's cute, a rebel section of her thought.

Oh, great, just what I need. Thinking with my hormones.

But he's a natural!Much stronger than anyone else with the gene we've tried!

I have to have him with us. It could mean all the difference! she decided. And a small part of her celebrated and noted, Having that face around would definitely make life in Atlantis most interesting.

Part of her wondered if she was being too self-serving, while another part of her, the Simonpart of her, felt a deep unease at the whole scenario. She hadn't even considered battling for the right to take Simon with her. But he didn't have the gene, she reminded herself. If he'd hadany sort of training that would have made it easier to bring him along, she would've tried, she knew. But lawyers just weren't high on the recruitment list.

Dr. McKay was almost dancing with excitement. She knew she had to step in or the man in the chair would be there all day. "Rodney," she started, trying to catch his attention.

"Now, if you'll just—" Dr. McKay began, focused only on the chair's occupant.

"Rodney!" Her tone reached him this time. He locked his gaze with hers, silently pleading. She shook her head slightly. "Maybe we should get him out of the chair and a little more informed before we go testing everything in sight, hmm?" She shot a glance towards the path the probe had taken, meeting General O'Neill's amused glance on the way. She looked back at McKay in time to catch his eye roll, but he was nodding as well.

"Now, if you'll just...picture everythingshutting down. Like...turning off a computer. Properly!" McKay admonished as the stranger made to stand before the glow completely disappeared from the chair. Eyes on McKay, the man settled back until the glow dissipated, then, with a glance at the room around him, gingerly stood up.

Elizabeth smiled at the hesitant look in his eye, extending her hand. "I'm Dr. Elizabeth Weir," she said, "head of the Atlantis expedition." General O'Neill cleared his throat. "Pending final approval," she added, eyes twinkling.

"Major John Sheppard," the man said, taking her hand in a secure grip. She had no idea how long they stood there, hands clasped and eyes locked. It couldn't have been too long, because when she broke his gaze and looked around the room, no one was staring.

"Major, if you'll follow me to the conference room, I think we have some explaining to do..."

Elizabeth looked up from the computer display of the Major's file and stared at him as he stared at the screen, playing the classified "Intro to Stargate" she'd insisted on creating while in charge of the SGC. His eyes drank in the Stargate and the team emerging from it.

"It's a lot to take in," she said quietly.

"Yes, it is," he said dryly.

She smiled. "It also holds a lot of potential for us. The human race. It's our future, and the best hope to defend ourselves against the Gua'ould."

"They really don't seem like the friendly type," he agreed, pointing to the screen that now showed some of the battle that had taken place over Antarctica, camera jerking as the plane maneuvered.

"They really aren't," she nodded. "And we need every asset in the fight against them." She tried to put all of her own beliefs and the expedition's needs in her gaze. "We need you."

"Because I'm really good at the light show?" There was something dark in his eyes.

She wasn't sure how, but she knew she'd called it wrong. "Yes, and because you've shown you keep a cool head under strange circumstances, among other things. Major, I don't think you appreciate how rare you are, how rare what you just did is. No one on this expedition has gotten anything like the response you have, no matter how long they've sat in the chair. You could very well be the one thing that brings us success."

He stared at her for a moment, then turned to look at the screen again. "I'm not sure what you need is someone who can turn the lights on faster, Doctor," he said softly.

She wanted to scream. "Would it help your decision to know that I am?"

When their eyes met, she almost forgot to breathe. "I'll think about it," he said as he rose and moved from the room.

Crushed, she stared after him. She'd lost this battle...but she hadn't gotten where she had by surrendering the war easily. Deciding her course of action, she stood. General O'Neill was her best bet. She thought she knew just how to convince him, too.

When she saw him walking towards her at the SGC, she couldn't keep the smile off her face. She attempted to keep her posture strong, though, and didn't betray how weak-kneed his presence made her. "Major Sheppard," she greeted warmly.

"Dr. Weir," he replied. "Seems there's an opening on your team for a lightswitch operator."

She didn't know what to say, merely gazed directly at him, smiling. "We do indeed," she said finally. "Come, let me introduce you to the unit you'll be joining."

"Dr. Weir?" She looked up as Colonel Sumner walked in, step firm and jaw a touch stiff.

"Colonel," she greeted, warmer than she felt.

"About our latest addition. I've seen his file and—"

"So have I, Colonel, and the Major's pluses outweigh whatever minuses you saw in there."

"I don't agree. He's a liability, Doctor, and we need every advantage we can get."

"Which is exactly why he's coming with us, Colonel. His ability to use the gene is unparalleled."

"As is his capacity for insubordination. I need to know my men will follow my orders."

Her eyes narrowed. "As do I, Colonel." For a moment the two stared at each other. Elizabeth found herself dismayed at the rift she could sense growing between them. She'd hoped they'd have more time to forge an alliance before any problems with policy or command decisions arose.

"I don't want him under my command, Doctor," Sumner stated flatly.

"Well, I do. And since I'm the one in charge here, I have final say. Major Sheppard stays."

He frowned, anger clamped down. "As you wish, Doctor," he said, stiffly.

She reached out a hand, touching his gently. "I i hope /i you can come to see the benefits of having Major Sheppard with us. And I'msure he'll be a model soldier."

His gaze was level and a touch too formal. "I hope you're right, Doctor."

She watched him exit and placed her head in her hand, sighing.

"Bad timing?" She jerked to see Major Sheppard standing in the opposite doorway, expression unreadable. She glanced at the door Sumner had just exited and bit her lip, wondering how much he'd overheard.

"No such thing as good timing, unfortunately, this close to departure, Major," she said coolly. "What can I do for you?"

He cleared his throat and shuffled a bit. "I just wanted to thank you for the opportunity...and for letting me have the time to make up my mind about this."

"No second thoughts, I hope?" she asked, keeping her tone light despite a stab of fear. She couldn't say why, but she was convinced theyneeded him.

He smiled a tightlipped smile. "I'm not that type of guy, Doctor," he said, and a bit of warmth reached her.

"I'm glad to hear it." She smiled. "You'd be hard to replace."

"Been told I'm irreplaceable," he said, mouth quirking in a smile that set off warning signals in her head. This man was trouble in more ways than one.

"Is that so?" she couldn't help but ask.

He nodded, smugly. "Got it from a very reliable source."

Elizabeth clicked off the camera and sighed. It was the cowardly way out, she knew. But if she faced Simon, she'd have to explain more than she wanted to, answer more questions than she felt she could handle. He'd want to convince her to stay, or to take him with her. And she knew she could do neither.

Her feelings for Simon ran deep, but this felt like the end she'd always feared would come. Her future wasn't here beside him, it was out there, exploring and solving problems. Simon wouldn't thrive in that world, but she would.

This was her life's work. Nothing could stop her. Not even the man she loved.

Elizabeth paused in the doorway, watching as Major Sheppard stepped beside the Colonel and greeted him. Something about the way he moved told her he'd heard a lot more of her conversation with Sumner than she'd thought he had. Sighing, she ducked back for a moment and steeled herself.

Brushing past both men, she strode forward. "Can I have your attention, please," she called out, took a deep breath, and began her speech.

"...I'd like to offer you all one last chance to withdraw your participation." She shifted, looking anywhere but at Major Sheppard. When no one moved or spoke, a soft smile crept over her face. "Begin the dialing sequence," she said, moving into the crowd.

She saw Sumner and Sheppard exchanging words she couldn't quite hear, body language conveying a quiet battle taking place. "That would be Dr. Weir, right?" came to her at a larger volume, and inwardly she groaned at the expression on the Colonel's face. She was going to have quite the job, getting those two to see eye-to-eye. She quickly squashed the gleeful voice that rejoiced at Sheppard's indomitable attitude. She took the stairs two at a time and smiled at General O'Neill, slightly out of breath, and it seemed like forever until the green light was given.

She raced down to the Gate, in time to match Colonel Sumner's best drill sergeant voice with one of her own. Together they walked to the Gate, and she intentionally didn't look back until the last moment. General O'Neill gave a short nod that spoke volumes, and she returned it, stepping through with a firmness she didn't quite feel.

On the other side, she couldn't help but look back, wanting to linger to greet the new arrivals. Instead she moved further into the room, looking around…and being caught by wonder. The city was amazing, even dark and empty as it was.

Suddenly, the lights started turning on, and she glanced around, startled. She saw Major Sheppard moving further into the room, and more of the city started to awaken. She started to wonder if bringing him was paying off already, but before that thought could complete, she started to really see the city that might be her new home.

She wasn't sure how long she stared at her surrounding, but she knew it was a while. Half the expedition had arrived by the time she turned back to the Gate. She shifted, moving further out of the way as equipment and people filed past.

"That's everyone," Colonel Sumner informed her, and she reached for the radio she held, feeling clumsy. And excited. She keyed the radio on and took a breath.

"General O'Neill?" she said. "Atlantis Base offers greetings from the Pegasus galaxy. You may cut power to the Gate."

True to form, the General said nothing, but a bottle of champagne rolled to her feet before the Gate closed. Lifting it, she found herself searching out the person she'd most like to share it with.

Looking back at her, Major Sheppard nodded. She felt her heart lighten. This was where they belonged.