TITLE: Fragile
AUTHOR: Matt, Feb 2005
SUMMARY: A tag for the Atlantis episode The Eye. This is a Sheppard/Weir piece
DISCLAIMER: This is mine, but the characters aren't. And I make no profit either.
NOTE: This is written for triciabyrne1978 who requested a Sheppard and Weir angst tale with certain elements included. I hope she likes it.
THANKS: To Allie for the beta. I always appreciate the comments.

As soon as it was determined Atlantis was safe, Elizabeth began issuing orders. In a deceptively calm voice she commanded Ford and Teyla to take their Genii prisoner to a holding cell, before strongly suggesting that Carson take a look at Rodney's injured arm. After that, she fell silent, staring out over the Gate Room; seemingly forgetting that there was still one more person in the control room.

"You okay?" he asked.

There was a split second moment of hesitation before she answered. "Sure."

"You probably should get out of those wet clothes."

He waited for a flirtatious retort, but none came. "You too," was the only response he got as she left the room.

The mirror in his quarters presented an image John almost didn't recognise. His hair – which usually stuck up at the best of times – was drying awkwardly. He growled at the reflection before beginning to quickly peal the rain-saturated clothing from his body. The heavy rain had soaked through his uniform, leaving his skin feeling clammy. He let out an exclamation of disgust.

At that moment, he wanted nothing more than to fall onto his bed and sleep. However, while the immediate danger might have passed, John knew there was still work to be done. There was no time for rest right now.

There was also Elizabeth to consider. She might have tried to hide it, but it wasn't hard to tell she was shaken by what had happened. She wasn't as used to facing death on an almost daily basis as he was; Atlantis was, on the whole, a safe place – or at least it would be until the day the Wraith would finally choose to attack. Her sodden state and Rodney's injury were just two signs of how bad things had been while they'd been held hostage.

John hastily dressed in dry clothing and set out to find her.

There was no one in the control room when John returned to it. A quick glance in her office showed the Air Force major that Elizabeth wasn't in there either. Since it was still raining heavily, there was no chance she'd be on her balcony of choice. Therefore, John decided to head towards her quarters.

He was almost at her door when he thought he heard something. Although the sound was quiet, it was enough to make him pause at the unusualness of it. When he heard it for a second time, he was able to identify it. It was the sound of someone crying.

He found his quarry in an unused storage area. Elizabeth was curled up underneath one of Atlantis's large, ornate windows. Her head was between her knees and her shoulders were shaking. She didn't even look like the Elizabeth he thought he knew. The Elizabeth he knew was strong; passionate at times it was true, but never appearing frail. It was what made her such a good leader.

She made no sign of being aware of him, and John wondered whether or not he should leave. He didn't know if it would be better to leave her alone, or to go in and comfort her. He hovered in the doorway, indecisive until her head suddenly jerked up and he knew the decision had been taken away from him.

"Oh, hi," she said in surprise. Within seconds she was rubbing a hand roughly over her face and attempting to stand up.

He stepped into the room and shook his head. She appeared to understand him, for she slumped back down to the floor. This was a woman who'd maintained her façade for too long and had grown weary of it.

"It's okay to be human, you know," he said quietly, slipping onto the floor beside her.

"I'm supposed to be setting a strong example for everyone," she sniffed. "I'm not supposed to let a little thing like this get me down."

"A little thing like…?" He shook his head. "Elizabeth, I'd be more concerned if you did just shake it off and walk away. The guy was threatening to kill you. God, I thought he HAD killed you."

"You did?" Wide eyes looked at him.

"Yeah, he took great delight in telling me. I should have known he was bluffing."

Fresh tears began to trickle down her cheeks. "I'm sorry."

He couldn't help it. His arm reached out to her. "Come here," he murmured and she went into his arms, loud sobs now coming from her. "Shhh," he whispered, "you're okay, you're okay."

"I'm sorry, so sorry."

"No, don't be," he reassured her quietly. "You've no reason to be sorry; none of this is your fault."

"It's stupid, you know," she said, her voice muffled by his shirt, "I've faced down the Goa'uld across a conference table and beaten them."

"That was different, Elizabeth," he replied. "Those guys, from what I've heard, aren't human."

"Their hosts are."

"Semantics," he told her. "You were dealing with their hosts, and they were aliens. Kolya and his cronies are human. I think that made it worse."

"I'm a diplomat, John," she said, suddenly sitting upright. "I've had to face down human enemies before."

"And I bet you usually got out before the guns started firing, right?"

She gave a rueful smile and looked down at the ground. "Yes."

Keeping his left arm around her shoulders, he lifted up her chin with his right hand. "Elizabeth, what happened here was very different but you did well. You're alive, I'm alive. Hell, even Rodney's alive. We achieved our objective. Atlantis is still ours. Still…" He paused. "It probably wouldn't do you any harm to refresh your self-defence skills a bit." He hoped she recognised the light-hearted comment for what it was.

She chuckled, and it sounded wonderful to him. "Thank you," she said. She leaned back slightly and looked at him. "I got your shirt wet."

He shrugged. "It'll dry. Just like the rest of us." He took in the clean clothes she was wearing. "I'm glad you had the sense to get out of those wet clothes though."

"Actually, if you hadn't said anything, I'd have completely forgotten all about me."

A-ha!" he exclaimed. "So you DO listen to what I say."

"Sometimes," she acknowledged with a smile.

"Hey!" he cried. "No denting of the ego, please. It's very fragile."

"Sure it is," she retorted.

The tears had stopped at last, and for that he was thankful. Only a few red blotches on her face indicated they'd ever been there. Elizabeth looked her strong self again – well, almost. But maybe no one else would notice.

A pair of lips landed lightly on his cheek. "Thank you, John," she whispered.

And then she was out of his arms and gone.