The Name of Action
Category: angst, romance
Summary: "And enterprises of great pith and moment with this regard their currents turn awry, and lose the name of action" – William Shakespeare
Season/Sequel: season 4, set directly after TMC
Spoilers: Anything up to This Mortal Coil (4-10)
Archives: my website, others ask please, I never refuse
Disclaimer: I own neither the show nor the characters. I don't earn any money; I just do it for fun.
Author's Note: Written for Icarus for the swficathon. Request was "Season 4-based story, Search and rescue, Elizabeth/Carter interaction, rated PG-13 or higher". I don't know what happened but it became a 56 pages long fic! Anyway, I hope you'll enjoy it, and I think I've respected your request. Many thanks to Jaclyn who have beta'd this extra-long fic, and have come up with the title.
You have a go !
They had decided to meet in John's quarters, knowing that they would most likely not be interrupted there, short of an emergency. Besides his team, John had asked Lorne, Zelenka and Chuck to join them, knowing that they would agree to help them without asking questions. He knew others would probably be willing to help too, but he didn't want to raise suspicion from Sam, so the less, the better they'd be.
"Before we begin, you all know that you're not being forced to participate. If you don't want to, the door's there," John said, pointing to said door, "but I just ask you to not tell anyone about this. Is that understood?" he asked, and all nodded; Lorne, Zelenka and Chuck didn't know what this was about, but they did understand that it was serious. "Ok, then, let's begin. When we met that Replicator team, you know that they told us that our Elizabeth was dead. We are not ready to believe that."
"Killing Elizabeth, even if she wouldn't stop fighting them, would have been an error," McKay added, and the others agreed. "She knew everything about Atlantis, Pegasus Galaxy, the Milky Way and Earth. She is the perfect asset for them. We've blocked her codes, but she has information only known to her. We know she wouldn't give them willingly, but as strong as she is, they have means to break her."
"What we think," John continued, "is that Oberoth made most of the Asurans, especially that dissident part, think that she was dead, so if we were ever to capture one of them, we would have learned it. As we did. Carter, the IOA, they believe that she is dead, so whatever we might tell them would mean nothing, unless we have proof."
"So you want to find that proof, sir," Lorne intervened.
"Not exactly," Teyla replied. "We have to find her. Even if we did find proof that she is alive, your IOA would never authorise a rescue mission."
"This is why I told you that you can leave whenever you want. What we'll be forced to do to bring her back will probably cost us our jobs, and maybe more. But we," he said, designating his team, "are willing to take those risks. But I can't order you to do the same. If you want to help us, great, if you don't, it's fine, as long as you don't tell anyone."
"I'm in," Zelenka said.
"What do you want us to do, sir?" Chuck asked after he and Evan agreed in turn.
"For the moment, nothing. You, Major, just keep an eye out when you're off-world, and if you find some intel, tell us. If your team knows about it too, be sure to include it in your report so as not to raise any suspicion, otherwise, leave it out."
"I want you, Sergeant, to keep an eye on everything and everyone here in Atlantis, that includes Carter. If you find anything that could be of help, or if you think someone might find out about what we're doing, one of us needs to be informed."
"Understood, sir. Sir…?"
"Do you think we'll bring Doctor Weir back?" Chuck voiced the question every person in the room thought.
"We have to. For Atlantis, for her, for us, we have to. Zelenka, you…," he started before being interrupted by the scientist.
"… will work with McKay on the program to shut the nanites inside her body off without killing her."
"Yeah, that's it. Ask for the Wraith's help if you need it… This makes me think I still haven't named him. What do you think of Dan?"
"Why do you want to name him?" Ronon asked, once again not understanding his friend's motives, and he wasn't the only one in that case.
"Because I like to know who I talk too. And it's better than calling him 'the Wraith' constantly. So, I was saying, ask Dan's help if you need it, but don't do it too often, and don't ever tell him why we need his help exactly. We don't want him to use this against us."
"And if we need McKay's sister's help?"
"No way!" Rodney cut in. "Not after what happened last time, no. I won't endanger her again."
"I hate to say this, but I agree with McKay," John said. "And they might monitor the e-mails back to Earth, so we have to be careful about that. But if there's really no other choices…," he trailed of, turning towards his friend with a meaningful look.
"Ok," Rodney relented. "But only at the last resort. And I'll code the message so that nobody can read it but her."
"Then, I think we're good. Anything else to add?" John asked, turning towards each person in turn.
"Yes," Teyla said, standing up. "I won't be able to go on missions with your team anymore, John. At least, not for a few months."
"I'm pregnant," she confessed, and the men looked at her with big, round eyes; they had expected everything but that.
"Oh wow," John was the first to speak. "I guess congratulations are in order. How far along are you?"
"Three months?" Rodney nearly cried in disbelief. "And you didn't tell us before? I thought we were friends."
"We are, but… I wasn't expecting this when Doctor Keller told me, and I needed to come to terms with this before telling any of you."
"You risked your child's life every time you stepped through the gate," Ronon said, not an ounce of emotion in his voice; she knew he wouldn't understand her choice, but he didn't know what it was like for her.
"I have been careful ever since I knew. I'm going to tell Colonel Carter tomorrow that I won't be able to go on missions for the rest of my pregnancy, and maybe for a while after the birth."
"Ok. Then, I'll ask her to put you on my team, Lorne. It'll somewhat be easier that way."
"Speaking of Keller," Radek intervened, "don't you think we should keep her informed?"
"All in due time. For the moment, she doesn't need to know. Any other news? You and Zelenka are still not getting married, McKay?"
"Ok, now I need to wash that image out of my head," Evan said, grimacing at the thought.
"Then, we can call it a night," John concluded.
They all left after saying goodnight. Teyla was the last one to go, John having held her behind with a hand on her arm.
"If you need anything, I'm here. The guys are here too, I guess."
"I know. Thank you," she said, touched by his words. Putting her hands on his shoulders, she rested her forehead against his briefly, before hugging him.
"So… Who's the father?" John asked when she released him, and she shook her head. "Come on, I won't tell the others, promise!"
"You will know nothing yet, John Sheppard. Now, rest. We have a lot to do to bring Elizabeth back home. Goodnight, John."
As the door closed behind her, John let out a sigh; another thing that was going to change in the next few months. He was really happy for his friends, but he would miss her during missions; she was the only sane one of the team after all, besides him that is. He knew deep down that even after the birth of her child, she would not resume the missions, and he would never ask her to. Her child would need her, and he didn't want her to take the risk to never come back and leave her child an orphan.
Changing into sweatpants and a t-shirt, he left the room. He jogged down the corridors, like he had done so many times; it was his only way to clear his mind these days. Not even his guitar could help him forget. Not ever since he played for her. It had only been one time. She had come to his room to return his copy of War and Peace, and he had been playing. Shyly, and it was the only time he had ever seen her act like that, she had asked him if he could play something for her. She had been down at the time, as it had been only a few days after Carson's burial, and he couldn't refuse her. And so he played for her. Since then, every time he put hands on his guitar, he was reminded of her, of the haunted look she had in her eyes that day. So no, playing guitar couldn't help him forget her these days.
Only running could, but only to a certain extent. He didn't know why, but every single time, he ended in front of the balcony door by the control room. The one everyone labelled as her balcony. It was kind of ironic how when he tried to clear his mind, he kept coming to the one place he found her so often. As always, the doors opened before him and he stepped outside. The ocean air was cool in contrast of his sweating skin, but he embraced the feeling; it helped him keep his mind from the woman he had often found out there, if only for a few seconds.
Leaning against the railing, he looked up towards the visible moons. It still felt strange to be on another planet than the one he knew for nearly three years. But he couldn't help but think that Elizabeth would love it here. He had often caught her looking towards the starry sky, and one night she had confided that when she was just a child, her father and she would go outside and he would name each constellation they could see. It was a happy memory for her, and that day he finally understood why she came to the balcony whenever she could; it was her way to be close to her father. He had never asked her about him, but he learnt when she disappeared that he had died several years ago and that now it was just her and her mother. He had given her the watch he had often seen her with just before his death, and she had never parted with it; until now.
When he went to return her things to her mother, something he wanted to do personally, no matter what others might think he had to do this, she had handed back the watch to him, saying that Elizabeth would have wanted it to be given to him. He would give it back to Elizabeth as soon as he found her; it was hers and he had no right on it.
He was jolted from his thoughts by the balcony doors opening behind him. He didn't turn, didn't want to acknowledge whoever it was; he just wanted to be left alone. But it seemed that he wasn't that lucky. He heard them walk towards him, and stop beside him. From the corner of his eyes, he immediately recognized Sam. She was nice, she was a good commander, and he liked her, but she wasn't Elizabeth, and Atlantis wasn't hers. Nevertheless, he tried to help her whenever he could; she had never run a facility like Atlantis, and she was away from her friends, the ones she loved. He could understand the feeling. But somehow, he couldn't trust her with his plan; she was one to follow the rules and she would have to report it to her superiors on Earth. And he couldn't let her do that.
"You ok, John?" she asked him, and he nodded. "You know you can talk to me if you need to. I mean, we don't really know each other, yet, but I can listen."
"I know, but no offence but, if I were to talk to someone, it wouldn't be you."
"I know. I was just saying, just in case." She paused, not really knowing how to voice her thoughts, before deciding that being straightforward should be the best. "I know what you're going through, John."
"Colonel?" he asked, turning his head towards her; she couldn't possibly be talking about what she's talking about.
"Please. Call me Sam. Colonel Carter would never tell you this."
"You often talk about yourself at the third person?" he tried to joke, and she smiled at that.
"You sound like him sometimes. General O'Neill, I mean. What I meant to say is… I've been through this before, it's never easy, and it doesn't get easier each time. But you've probably realised that already."
"I'm not stupid, John, and certainly not blind. I know you care for Elizabeth, more than you would admit even to yourself. Don't worry, it's not written all over your face," she added as shock registered on his face, "but like I've told you, I've been through this, I understand. General… Jack went missing a few times over the years. It was during one of those times that I realised that maybe he was more than my CO or just a friend for me. He had been stuck on a planet for more than three months because the Gate had been destroyed. None of our allies could help at the time, and I worked days and nights to bring him back. Janet, she was our CMO and was killed in action nearly four years ago," she explained, "she helped me realise that. Each time he went missing, I thought I had lost him without having been able to tell him. This is why after what happened when Atlantis was attacked by the Asurans, when he came back, I told him. We could have acted before that, but we never did, we just waited."
"No offence, but Elizabeth is not missing, she's dead," he said, although it hurt him to; he just hoped that the fact that he didn't believe that hadn't transpired in his voice.
"You don't believe that any more than I and the rest of Atlantis do. The only ones who really believed that are the IOA back on Earth. You know why I was transferred here?" she asked, and he wondered what prompted this change of subject all of a sudden. When he shook his head, she continued. "I know the Replicators, and I know that they don't kill a person like Elizabeth who knows so many things about Atlantis just like that, even if she resists them. It would do them no good. If they want Atlantis, and take control of the Galaxy, they need her and they know that. You know that. I know that. So don't label me as stupid, because I'm not."
"Good. Now, I know that you have a plan. I don't want to know what it is since I'll have to tell the IOA, and I don't want to do that," she said, voicing his previous thoughts. "But if you need any help, you know where to ask. It'll stay between you and me, John and Sam."
"Thank you. And since you're talking about it, I'd have a request."
"Unrestricted access to see Dan. I mean the Wraith," he added at her confused look.
"You have it. Of course, I don't want to know why…"
"Of course. Sam?"
"I will find Elizabeth. Whatever it may cost me, even if I get court-martialled for it, I'll find her."
"Let's hope it won't go to that. But I know you will. Just like General Hammond knew I would never stop searching for Jack."
"Can I ask you something else?
"Why have you accepted the position since you and General O'Neill…," he trailed off, knowing that she got the point.
"Because I'll leave. We weren't so sure others would do that. I don't imply that Elizabeth would have her job back, you know the IOA as much as I do, and for them she's been compromised."
"I know. But it'll be a start at least. She'll be back. For the time being, that's all I'm asking for, all we're asking for. It's what matters the most, the rest, we'll see to it on time."
"I'm sure you will, John. But be careful. You and I both know that she wouldn't want you to take risks to save her."
"Yeah… But she did to save me and my team, and I can't let her down. Even if she hadn't, I couldn't let her down anyway."
"John… When you find her, tell her how you feel."
Without waiting for an answer from John, Sam turned away, leaving him alone on the balcony. She hoped that what she had told him would prevent him from doing the same error as she did at first. Taking a look at her dark office, she decided against going back to work. It was late enough, and she'd have time to finish her work the next day. Another thing that she had learnt from Jack, she thought, smiling. Saying goodnight to the gate technicians and the airmen on duty, she walked down the hallway and took the transporter to her quarters.
Life in Atlantis was so different than the one she had on Earth; she had tried to make her quarters and office homey with some photos and her things, but it just didn't feel the same. But she didn't regret coming, this City was fascinating her, and being part of it was something she had wanted. She was a bit disappointed though that the gene therapy hadn't worked on her, as if Atlantis leaders shouldn't have the gene, she had joked at the time Keller had told her. She guessed she needed time to get used to not going on missions, she thought, thinking about the letter sitting in her laptop, just waiting to be printed and signed. She knew that when she'd tell her team-mates, Jack and Landry, they wouldn't understand at first, but it was something needed if she were to do what she had in mind.
Glancing at her laptop upon entering her quarters, she noticed that she had e-mails awaiting her. She smiled, guessing easily from who they were. It turned out that while she had been expecting Daniel and Cassie's e-mails, both asking when she'll be back because Jack was just driving them crazy, she hadn't expected the other two. One of them was from Mark, her brother, and for a second she was worried something happened. But she was quickly reassured when she read the e-mail that he was just inviting her for he and his wife's fifteen anniversary. Replying to him that she'd do what she could, and really being in charge of an Ancient City in another galaxy couldn't help the feeling that she wouldn't be there, again, she moved onto the next one. This one was from Jack, and she kept smiling all through the reading. He always had a way to make her feel better, no matter how far away from her he could be. But she could also read what he hadn't written, and what she felt too. She replied him too, and waited, hoping that he would be near his own laptop, maybe waiting for her answer. And she indeed didn't have to wait long; she was quite surprised, though she shouldn't be, after all, he told her that he would be there when she needed him.
After Sam left, John had stayed on the balcony for a few more minutes, thinking about the conversation he had with her. He hadn't expected that, but he wasn't that surprised either; he had heard stories about SG1, and he knew that none of them were one to leave one of their own behind. And Elizabeth was one of them.
Jogging down the hallways of the City, he felt her humming. It was a strange feeling, but it wasn't the first time it happened. It had happened more than once, and each time was when he was feeling down; it was like Atlantis was understanding how he felt, and was trying to reassure him. He had always known that the City was sentient, and now, he was sure that she was trying to console him from Elizabeth's disappearance. Despite not having the gene, she seemed to have ingrained herself in the City in a way only a few, him included, could do. He just hoped that for both the City and him that they would find her soon.
Without knowing it, he found himself back in front of his quarters. Entering them, he first went in the bathroom for a quick shower. Once done, he lied down on the bed, though he was sure sleep wouldn't come easily. Those last few days, his mind was running plans in his head, and despite himself, they all ended the same way: him finding that Elizabeth was indeed dead. But he wouldn't share that with the others; no matter how much it was eating at him, they didn't need to know that sometimes, when he was alone, he doubted of the success of the mission he had assigned himself. But that didn't mean that they didn't have to try and find her. He was pretty sure that Elizabeth would disapprove of what they were willing to do to bring her back to Atlantis, but once she was back, he would explain it to her. And maybe, just maybe, he would be able to talk to her, like Sam suggested.
After an hour of lying down, sleep was still not coming for John. Sighing, he got up and put his shoes on; he knew of somebody else who would still be up this late at night. Deciding against taking the transporter, he walked down the hallways towards the labs. It took him longer than with the transporter, but he needed the time, he needed to clear his mind off Elizabeth and the mission.
"Hey, McKay," he said, making the scientist jump.
"What do you want, Sheppard?" he asked without even looking up from the laptop he was working on.
"Nothing. I can't sleep, and I knew you would be here." The tone of his voice must have set something because Rodney turned his head towards him, a concerned look on his face.
"You're thinking about her?"
"Am I that obvious?"
"No. But it's the reason why I can't sleep either. This is why I'm here hoping to find what I've missed for the past months, instead of being in my bed."
"Carter knows," John said, out of blue, thinking that he should let him know about the conversation he had.
"What? You told her?"
"Didn't need to. You know, been there, done that. She won't tell the IOA, though. She understands why we're doing that. And we have unrestricted access to Dan."
"And if you and Zelenka have any problems, I'm sure she'll help you. After all, she knows more about the replicators than you."
"Maybe, but I'm the one who wrote that program…"
"But you don't have to be the one who finds the solution," John interrupted him, knowing where he was going.
"I've done something you didn't want me to do, something she didn't want me to do, but I've done it nevertheless, not listening to you. I wanted to save her, and she's in the enemy's hands now. This is my fault, so I have to be the one to…," he stopped there, but he didn't need to continue for John to understand what was eating him. They were both feeling guilty; Rodney because he reactivated the nanites in her body, and he because he had left her behind. "She's not dead, right? Because if she is, that would mean I have killed her, and I can't live with that."
"If she is, the Asurans are to blame, not you, not me," John said, but he didn't really know who he was trying to convince the most, him or Rodney. "But she's not, understood? We'll find her, shut the nanites off without killing her, and bring her back to Atlantis. Because this is where she should be."
"Understood. I… Can I talk to you about something else?"
"I… Jeannie asked me why I didn't propose to Katie, yet."
"And…," John prompted when the scientist paused longer than to just take a breath.
"I don't know! I mean, the thought didn't even cross my mind, before Jeannie talked to me about it. I'm happy to be with Katie, but I don't know. We've never talked about that. Should I talk to her about that?"
"Well, talking to her could be a solution, but why don't you send someone else, like Teyla? Women confide in other women. Asking would lead you to nothing. If anything, it would confuse you even more."
"You really think I should do that?"
"Yeah," John shrugged; he wasn't an expert on this kind of thing after all.
"Sheppard? How did it go for you? The proposal, I mean?"
"Nancy… Nancy was the one to propose actually, sort of."
"What do you mean, 'sort of'?"
"Well, one day, we were just sitting there, watching a movie, when she told me she'd like us to get married. I remember turning towards her, saying 'why not'. We were together for two years after all, so I guessed it was time. The next day, we went to the jeweller and she chose her engagement ring. Three months later, we were married; it wasn't a big wedding, neither she nor I wanted that, but it was nice."
"So, that's just it? Do you think I should propose to Katie?"
"Do you love her? Do you want to spend the rest of your life with her? Cliché, I know, but true nevertheless."
"I love her. When our memories were wiped, and I thought I would lose her… But now is not the right time for that, huh? For the moment, I need to keep my mind on saving Elizabeth, and then, then yeah, I think I'll propose."
"Great for you," John said, patting him on the back. "Need some help?" he asked, pointing to the laptop.
"I don't think you'd understand, but if you're really bored and can't sleep, you can stay," Rodney answered, understanding the underlying question. "You can take the laptop in there if you want to," he said, gesturing in the direction of the closet.
"Thanks… I guess."
A laptop in his hands, John sat on the other side of the table. While it booted, he took time to really observe Rodney. He had changed these last few months, since Elizabeth was captured by the Asurans. He knew that he had taken Elizabeth's disappearance harder than most people; she was one of the first people who managed to break through his façade. But he guessed that some of this change was also thanks to Katie. She really seemed to have a good influence on the scientist, and though John was a bit surprised at first, after all Rodney did have a thing for blonde women, he had to admit that he really loved the botanist.
"Why are you staring at me?" Rodney asked, jolting John from his thoughts.
"I was just thinking."
"Oh? What? How brilliant a mind I have?"
"No, actually, I was wondering where you were putting your enormous ego. You don't seem to have a problem getting through doorways, so I don't know."
"Ha ha. Very funny."
"I thought so too," John replied, before they felt silent for a while, he playing chess against the computer and Rodney busied with his program.
"Sheppard? I need your help here. I've just found something that might help in the Ancient database, but I need you to make the calculations, I can't right now, I'm on something else. I'm sending them to you."
John opened the document, and sighed; it had been a while since the last time he had to do those kinds of calculations. And he wasn't even sure the Ancients were doing it the same way as them. Calling up the search engine Rodney and Radek created for the database, he searched every document on the subject. Thanks to another creation of the two scientists, after Elizabeth had asked them, a translator had been included; he didn't know how he would have done otherwise since he didn't speak a word of Ancient.
They spent the rest of the night there, staying awake thanks to coffee, and the will to find the way to help Elizabeth. John had barely progressed with the calculations, having to first understand them, but Rodney seemed to be on a roll, typing line after line in the program.
"Gentlemen," Sam said, interrupting their concentration.
"Coffee?" Rodney said, humming the air.
"Yes," she simply said, showing the fresh pot she was holding in one hand. "Want some?"
"Thank you, Sam, we ran out two hours ago."
"I suppose I don't want to know what you're doing…"
"No, but you could help us, if you have some time, that is."
"Well, my first briefing is at 0900, so I have a good two hours. What do you need me for?"
"Could you uh… Could you check these for me?" Rodney asked, a bit unsure. He wasn't one to ask for help usually, but this time, he really had no choice but to be right.
"Sure, show me."
"We want to shut the nanites off," he started, turning the laptop towards Sam, "but without killing Elizabeth. When we activated them, they replace her damaged cells, especially in her brain. If they were in any other part of her body, we wouldn't have this problem. But they can't regenerate brain cells."
"I though that they could fix anything," John asked.
"Yes, but brain cells just die, they don't get replaced. And even if nanites are good, they're not that good."
"So, they will never be completely shut down…"
"Unless they've found a way to regenerate the brain cells, no," Sam answered, knowing that that wasn't easy to hear; with that information, John realised that Elizabeth would never get the trust from the IOA back, if she ever really had it. "So we can't shut them down, but we need to completely and effectively cut her from the others, as well as stop her from entering someone else's mind."
"That's it. We just need to create the program and update her nanites."
"And I wanted to know nothing about it…," Sam joked, but she knew that if Rodney asked her help, it was because he really needed it this time. And she would help them as best as she could. Even if it cost her her job too; Jack and the rest of her team would understand, after all, they had never left anyone behind. "And what are you working on?"
"Calculations for McKay," John answered in a tired voice. "Found this in the database, needed me. Could have been MENSA."
"And I didn't need you! You were there, moping around, and I was working on something else."
"Yeah, what I said."
Sam couldn't help but smile at the two. It was during times like these that they reminded her of Jack and Daniel, neither ready to admit that the other was their best friend, but always there to help the other when it was needed. Her smile widened at the thought of one of the last times they were all together. They hadn't seen each other for three months, and they just couldn't stop picking on each other.
"No dirty thinking during work, Sam," John joked, and she giggled.
"Should I remind you that technically, I'm your CO, John?" she said on a light tone. "And for your information, I was just thinking about Jack and Daniel."
"That's what I said, no dirty thought," he continued. "And you could have kept the details for yourself; we don't need to know everything."
"I think I'll put it on your mind being deprived of sleep, but we should just go back to work, it'll be better."
"Yeah, we probably should. And, sorry."
"For what?" Sam replied with a smile, which John returned. "McKay?" she called the scientist's attention towards her. "Maybe we should do that," she said, typing a new line of code, and he snapped.
"Yes, yes, yes. That might help. How did you think of that?"
"Let's just say that you weren't the only one trying to find a solution," she just said.
They continued working, Sam and Rodney sharing thoughts about what they should do. John was still doing his calculations, hoping that whatever he was doing would help; he wasn't good at just sitting around and waiting, so if using his maths skills could help for once. Typing the last line, he re-read everything to check for any mistakes he could have made, but didn't find one. Satisfied with what he had done, he sent it back to Rodney.
"Everything should be right. Now, if you'll excuse me, it's breakfast time."
"I should probably go too. My briefing is in 20 minutes."
"It's ok, I'll continue from there on." Sam and John were about to leave the lab when he called them back. "By the way, thank you."
They were a bit taken aback by his words; it wasn't usual for him to say them. But it seemed like Rodney understood that for once, it wasn't something he could do all alone, it wasn't something he could afford doing alone.
John followed Sam back to the control room, but neither spoke a word during the time it had taken them. He had first wanted to ask her about putting Lorne in his team, but then, he remembered that Teyla wanted to talk to her today, so it'd probably be better to wait; he didn't want to answer questions in Teyla's place.
"Thanks again, Sam," he said, just before they entered the control room, and she just nodded back.
"Teyla," she greeted, as she saw her waiting by her office. "Something I can do for you?"
"Colonel, John. Actually, yes. If you have a moment, I have something to tell you."
"I'm going to leave you alone. I'll be in the mess hall, if you want to join me after your little talk, Teyla."
"Please, you can stay. You're as concerned as Colonel Carter."
"Ok, then." He followed them in the office, and sat on the couch while Sam and Teyla took place on each side of the desk. He tried to suppress the thought of Elizabeth as he saw Sam sat in what used to be her chair, but as he realised weeks ago, it didn't work.
"I have to step down from going on missions," Teyla paused, having to take a deep breath before continuing. "I'm pregnant."
"Well, congratulations, Teyla. And that's fine with me. I guess Colonel Sheppard's team can function as a three members team for the time being."
"Thank you, Colonel."
"And actually, Sam, I have a request on the subject. I'd like Major Lorne to be part of my team during Teyla's maternity leave. I've already talked to him about it, and he's ok with this."
"Then, I don't see why I can refuse. I'll let you notify him, John. So, when are you due?"
"In a little less than six months according to Dr Keller."
"Great. I'm sorry, but I have to leave, I have a briefing with AR-5, but please, extend my congratulations to the father."
"I will," Teyla answered, a flicker of sadness in her eyes. She quickly covered it, but both Sam and John had time to notice it; Sam looked towards John and he nodded slightly.
"Is the father one of your people?" John asked after Sam left her office; he didn't feel comfortable staying there, but he didn't want to talk about that in the middle of a hallway.
"How do you…?"
"Oh… Yes. We only just started something when they disappeared, and then Dr Keller told me that I was pregnant. I don't even know if he's alive, if they're all alive. He doesn't know about his child…"
"He will know, because we will find them. I'll repeat what I said last night, if you need anything, I'm here.
"Now, why don't we go get breakfast? I'm sure little one here is hungry."
Teyla chuckled slightly, following him out of the office. He always knew how to make people feel better; no matter how down they were, one talk with John usually helped. It was his way to ensure the good morale of the expedition team, especially these last few months when they had all lost so much. But she knew that while he could help others, he couldn't do the same with himself. She often noticed him standing on the balcony, or sitting alone in the mess hall, his look in the distance, but he always covered it when someone joined him; he didn't want others to know what he was really feeling, and she could understand that, she was just the same.
When they entered the mess hall, Ronon was already there, his tray full as always. After having taken their own tray, they joined him at the table. The Satedan barely acknowledged them and Teyla knew that it was because of her. She shared a look with John to make him understand that she would talk to their friend later; it was needed, they couldn't go on like that.
"You look tired, Sheppard."
"Thanks Ronon, that's because I haven't slept at all. I've helped McKay with… a project." He stayed in the vague, but he knew that they had understood what he meant. "He might be onto something. And Colonel Carter helped a bit too. She knows," he just said at the look the two Pegasus natives gave him. "She doesn't want to know exactly what we're doing, but she won't stop us."
"Good," Teyla said.
"So, Teyla, how are you feeling?" John asked to change of subject.
"Fine. Tired, nauseous most of the time, but fine. Dr Keller gave me vitamins, and pills against nausea."
"Good. But if you start having those cravings for…, let's say ice cream and pickles, don't do this before me, ok?"
"I won't," she replied with a smile.
"Do you know the sex, yet?"
"No. To be honest, I'm not really sure if I want to know. In my people, we don't have the technology you have, and we never had the wish to know if we were going to have a boy or a girl before the actual birth."
"Some people on Earth don't want to know either."
"Would you like to know?" she asked, wanting to have his opinion.
"Actually, I don't know. I mean, it's useful to know the sex to paint the room, or buy clothes, but I guess it's exciting to wait the whole nine months. What about you, Ronon?"
"I'll wait," was his only answer, before he got up. "I'll be in the gym if you want to spar," he told John, before leaving without a glance to Teyla.
"Don't mind him," John said, patting her hand, "he'll be back to his old self in a few days."
"I hope. I understand his reaction, but I would have done nothing that could have endangered my child's life. He knows that."
"Yes, he does, but sometimes, you know, men…"
Teyla actually laughed at that, and John was proud of himself; it was what he intended since the beginning.
An hour later, they went their separate ways, John to find Lorne, and Teyla to the gym. She decided that it might be time to talk to Ronon, despite John's advice to give him a few days. But she didn't want to wait; he'd have to hear her out today, if he wanted it or not.
"Ronon?" she said entering the gym, calling his attention.
"I hope you're not here to spar," he said in a way of greeting.
"I'm not. But I'd like to talk to you. Please," she added, and the tone of her voice made the Satedan turn towards her. She let out a sigh of relief as she saw him nodding his head slightly, and went to sit on the bench. She handed him his towel as he joined her.
"I didn't want to put my child or myself in danger."
"Then why haven't you stopped going on missions when you knew."
"Like I said last night, it was unexpected, I didn't know what to do, what to say."
"You should have talked to us sooner."
"I know, and I'm sorry. I just didn't find out at the best time, and I didn't know how to say it."
"Keller hadn't asked you to stop going on missions?" he asked, wondering about that since the night before.
"She had advised that I should be relieved of duty, but I've managed to convince her not to tell anybody. I needed time. But I haven't been careless since I've known, I could have never been, you have to trust me."
"I trust you. I'm glad you've finally taken the good decision."
"Thank you," she said, placing her forehead against his. She didn't know if it was hormones, or just finally admitting that she was pregnant, but tears started to well up in her eyes. "Hormones," she just told Ronon, when he asked if she was ok, and he seemed to buy it.
"So, have you thought about names, yet?"
"I'm only three months pregnant!"
"And? I heard that it can take a lot of time to decide."
"Maybe, but I'm not ready for that just yet."
"Ok. But whenever you are ready, I have a few suggestions for you."
"Thank you," she said slowly, not really sure if she should thank him, "I'll take those in consideration."
The next day, John's team, minus Teyla, but with Lorne, was ready to leave on a new mission.
"Jumper 1, you have a go," Sam said in the intercom.
"Thank you, Colonel. See you in a few hours."
John lowered the Jumper in the gateroom before launching it through the already opened gate. The mission was a simple reconnaissance one; no life signs have been detected when they first made contact, but it was a perfect planet for a beta site. Though, John had other ideas.
"What are you doing?" Rodney asked, and he noticed that John was going into orbit.
"I'm completing the mission a bit earlier than we're supposed too."
"Oh, and can we know why at least?"
"Because, Rodney, we have somewhere else to go."
"Where? We don't have another mission planned!"
"Officially, no. But there are some things we can't do while in Atlantis, and this is why we need help from other people."
"And by other people, you mean, sir?"
"The Genii. Ladon has a thing for Elizabeth, and I think he'll help us willingly. And Larrin…," he trailed off.
"Larrin?" Ronon repeated; he didn't remember that name.
"She's the sexy alien, isn't she?"
"Yeah… Hey, you know Rodney, she might even capture you if you ask her!"
"Really?" Rodney said, hopeful, and the other three men just rolled their eyes at his attitude.
"Ok, so no life signs at all according to the sensors," John said, changing the subject back to their official mission. "What do you say we take a trip?"
"After you, sir," Lorne said, extending his arm. "But what if Atlantis tries to contact us?"
"We'll just say we were out of range. Will that work, Rodney?"
"See, no problem. Major, dial the Genii homeworld," John ordered as the gate come back in sight.
Soon after, he landed the Jumper in a clearing not far from the village. From there, they went to the village entrance, and were immediately spotted by some Genii. One of them approached them, eyeing them carefully; they might be allies, but trust still wasn't their forte.
"We'd like to see Radim," John said in a way of greetings; they don't have time for niceties.
"Is he expecting you?"
"No, but it's important."
Without waiting for the team, he started towards one of the houses, which the team knew as one of the entrances of their underground network. They followed him down some stairs, and through the dark hallways. He stopped before a door and turned towards them.
"Of course. But tell him that it's really important!" John had just time to add before he closed the door behind him. "Guess we just have to wait now."
"Why don't you tell us how you plan to find that… Larrin, Sir?"
"Well, she gave me the coordinates of a planet they often trade with, should I ever need to contact them."
"And what makes you think she will help us?" Rodney asked. "From what you told us, all she wanted from you was the gene."
"Well, we might have to find pretty convincing arguments. That don't include me, of course," he added as an afterthought.
Before the others could answer, the door opened and the same man as earlier gestured for them to follow him. They followed him down another hallway before stopping once more before a door.
"He's waiting for you," he said, opening the door for them.
"Colonel Sheppard, what can I do for you and your team?" Ladon asked, standing up to greet them. "Teyla isn't with you?" he added, noticing the Athosian's absence.
"No, she stayed in Atlantis," John just said, not wishing to say more on the subject. "And you can lend us a hand."
"I'll do what I can. I suppose you want me to come with you to talk to Doctor Weir…"
"Actually, no. We need you to help us find someone. And that someone is Doctor Weir."
"What?" Ladon was surprised; it had been a few months since his last contact with Atlantis, but he thought that as the leader, she was safe in the City. "What happened?"
"She was taken by the Asurans," John answered, not wanting to say more; he didn't need to know everything, at least for the moment. "The problem is they all think she's dead, while we don't. They won't help us, but you and your people can."
"Of course. You don't know where she is?"
"She's probably still on the Asura," Rodney replied. "But they might have moved her to another planet, for all we know."
"I'll ask my men to keep an eye out on everything that can help."
"Be careful, those Asurans are pretty dangerous."
"I know, Colonel. I've heard of how they had annihilated worlds. But rest assured that we'll help you find Doctor Weir. When you find her, if you need men…"
"Can I ask you who the new leader of Atlantis is?"
"For the time being, it's Colonel Carter. They brought her from Earth, she knows the Replicators more than anyone. They had those in our galaxy too," John explained at Ladon's confused expression.
"I see. I'll contact you as soon as I learn something."
"Oh yeah, about that… Of course, like we told you, they think she's dead, so they don't know about what we're doing…"
"So, we need to find another way to communicate," Lorne finished for his superior.
"What do you suggest?"
"We never know where we're going on missions, but we can still contact you whenever we're off-world, so you can tell us what you have."
"That could work, but I have a solution," McKay interrupted, snapping his fingers. "Remember how we now can send e-mails to Earth without the need of the Gate?"
"Yeah, yeah. You bragged enough about it when you first had the idea. I thought it could only work with Earth?"
"Not if I add a line to the program."
"Won't someone notice it?" Lorne asked.
"That won't be a problem. Zelenka and I are the only one who have access to the program. Now, you just need this," he said, reaching for his data pad. And I should probably explain how that works."
"And how will you explain that you don't have it anymore?" Ronon voiced the others' thoughts.
"Well, you know how a trip on an off-world planet can be dangerous sometimes. I mean, I nearly lost my footing and fell into a ravine. Sadly, the data pad wasn't that lucky."
John silently nodded; he had to admit that it was a rather believable explanation. Of course, he wasn't worried about Sam's reaction, but others', that was another question.
After Rodney finished explaining everything to Ladon, they left the Genii leader, but not before he wished them luck on finding Elizabeth. He wasn't that sure he could help them for the moment, but when the time came to fight against the Asurans to get her back, he and his men would be there.
"Now, let's just hope that at least someone from the Travelers is there, or we'll have to leave a message."
"And what do you plan to say on that message, Sir?"
"That the guy who helped her needs some help in return. She might get the message. And then," he continued, anticipating the next question, "I'll say that I'll wait for her there in four days. Our next mission is in four days, right?"
"Six days, Sir," Lorne corrected him.
"Then, six days it is."
As the Jumper went through the Gate, John found himself hoping that she wouldn't be there. It wasn't that he didn't want to see her, he just didn't want to see her. If he could just find someone from her fleet to give the message to, it'd be for the best.
He landed the Jumper near the Gate, and cloaked it, just in case. They had never come to this planet, and though he was sure it was a safe planet, otherwise it wouldn't be such a trading place, he'd better be safe than sorry. Once in the village, they split in teams of two, John and Rodney on one side, and Ronon and Evan on the other, to be more efficient; the sooner they find Larrin, or someone to relay the message, the sooner they'd come back to the first planet and then to Atlantis.
But it seemed that their luck had ran out; none of the Travelers was there, but they left the message to a man who told them that they would come in the next few days or so. Now, they just had to wait.
Weeks went by without any news from Ladon or Larrin for the matter; she hadn't come to the rendezvous, and none of the traders had seen one of her people. While John knew that they had other place to trade with, he couldn't help but wonder if something had happened. He hoped she would have tried to contact him in some way or another if that was the case, but in Pegasus, you never knew.
Teyla, for her part, had started to show. Those who had wondered why Evan was replacing her in the team now had their answers, and speculations started. Most people assumed that she was pregnant with one of her team-mates' child. The three, having chosen to not address the rumours, were particularly amused by that, even Rodney who had to reassure Katie when she first heard about Teyla's pregnancy. But her team, and Evan, Radek and Chuck, since they were there when she decided to talk, were the only ones to know that the father was Kanan, one of the Athosian.
On the program front, news wasn't that good either. Rodney and Radek had hit a wall, and whatever they did, they couldn't overcome it. They had asked Sam's help, but she hadn't been able to find time, yet. The IOA had wanted a complete report of all of Atlantis personnel. No one, not even she, knew why, but it seemed to be important for them.
John was getting rapidly frustrated with the lack of progress. He had known that this would take time, but he had hoped for at least some results by then. But they weren't even getting close. And he had yet to check if Elizabeth was still on Asura. If she wasn't, he didn't even know where to start searching for her. Of course, they had the core drive, but they didn't know if she was on one of the ships, and they couldn't search them one by one; even if they did that, at one point the Asurans would realise why they were there, and their small chance at getting her back might be compromised.
"John?" Teyla said, putting a hand on his arm.
"Oh, hey!" I didn't hear you coming. How are you doing? And how's Junior?" he asked. He had taken to call her baby that way, and she found it really amusing.
"We're both fine. And he kicks a lot."
"That means he'll be a great football player."
"We'll see in a few years. What about you? Are you feeling ok?"
"Yeah, yeah, don't worry."
"John… You know you can talk to me. I know what you're going through because it's what I live too. Kanan isn't there when he should be, just like Elizabeth. But we'll find them. I know they're both alive, I can feel it. They're going to come back to us."
"I'm glad you're that confident, Teyla, because these days, I don't know anything," John admitted. "What if she's not on Asura?" he asked, finally giving voice to his doubts.
"If she isn't, then we'll find her elsewhere. The galaxy may be vast, but you'll find her. But I have to say that I doubt they moved her."
"What do you mean?"
"Like you said yourself, she's too precious for them to not keep her close. But you won't be able to locate her from space."
"I know. They have probably disabled her locator beacon when they captured her, so if we want to find her, we'll need to get inside. It won't be that easy, but we'll manage."
"I wish I could be there to help you."
"Not me. I'd rather have you and Junior safely back in Atlantis, than with us. But we'll come back with Elizabeth, and she'll get to tease you about not having told her about Kanan. And then she'll play Auntie Lizzie along with the rest of us when your child is born."
"She will," Teyla nodded, hoping that they weren't just getting their hopes up.
"By the way, you still want to wait to know if it's a boy or a girl?"
"Yes. But, I don't know why, but I feel like I'm going to have a son."
"Some mothers can actually feel it. Don't ask me why or how, I don't know, they just do. Some don't on the other side; my mother was pretty sure I was going to be a girl," he added and she laughed. "Hey! Don't mock me, I would have made a pretty girl!"
"I prefer not to think about that," she replied; the image she had in her head was really disturbing. "I should probably retire for the night. I'm not sure if the baby will let me sleep, but I guess I should get rest while I still can."
"Yeah. Goodnight, Teyla."
"Goodnight, John. And try to get some sleep too."
A few minutes after Teyla left the balcony, he went inside too, and seeing that Sam was still in her office, he decided to go remind her of what time it was. On that point, and on some others he had to admit, she was just like Elizabeth; staying awake late at night to finish some work that could have waited until the next morning.
"Still up?" he asked, entering the office.
"Yeah, but I'm taking a break from the reports. I've just finished going over what McKay asked me to…"
"I've found something, I've sent it back to him and Zelenka, let's see what they can do. Now, I'm working on something else that you could use."
"An efficient program to freeze all the Asurans. Something they can't overcome."
"Is that even possible?"
"Yes. The program will have different… firewalls I can say. Each of them completely different of course."
"How many firewalls?"
"At least 100, if you want time to find Elizabeth and get to safety without any problems. I'm nearly done, actually. Just a few more lines, and it'll be good. I'll let McKay add a few firewalls if he wants, but that should be enough."
"No need to."
"Well, I'll let you work, then."
He left the office without waiting for her to acknowledge him. They might actually be closer than never. If she had indeed been able to overcome the problem Rodney and Radek faced, then it might just be a matter of days before they're going back to Asura. And maybe, next week, Elizabeth would be back with them.
Tomorrow, he would go to another routine mission with his team, and they would once more try to contact Larrin. If tomorrow was unsuccessful again, they'd just have to go without the help of her fleet. He'd need to send a message to Ladon too, to tell him to get his men ready.
As unsure as he was just an hour ago, now he knew that in the next few days, he would either find Elizabeth, or a proof that she was really dead. And that wasn't something that could help him sleep. So, instead of going to his quarters, he went to the labs, where he was sure that at least McKay, and maybe Zelenka, was still working. And once more, he wasn't mistaken; they were both there, arguing over something he didn't really understand.
"Stop bickering," he said, entering the lab, and the two scientists looked up from the laptop. "I've seen Sam…"
"Yeah, yeah. We're working on that. We're close, really close."
"She told me she was working on a program to freeze the Replicators long enough for us to go and get Elizabeth."
"Yeah, she mentioned something about that, but if you will, we'd like to continue working."
"Ok. Just… Soon, right?"
"Don't forget that tomorrow we have another mission. So, don't stay up all night."
Rodney didn't answer, just sighed before concentrating once again on his laptop. Radek gave John a small nod before returning his gaze on the screen too.
Instead of going to his quarters, John went to Elizabeth's. They were empty, but he was sure that soon, her things would be back there. He wondered how her mother would react to someone coming to take her things. He knew that it couldn't be Elizabeth, since it would probably be a few weeks before she was cleared to leave the City, and probably even the infirmary, but he guessed that it would be better if it was someone she knows. If he wasn't in the brig, he could ask Sam for a few days leave. He'd rather be the one to tell her that her daughter was alive and well, and he had after all promised her to keep her informed.
On that thought, he left the room, silently hoping that next time he would come, it would be with Elizabeth.
The next day, John landed the Jumper on the trade planet. Tension was filling the air. When they had reached the first planet, Rodney had told them that after having pulled an all-nighter, the program was finally done. They now just needed to find Elizabeth and upload the program in the nanites in her. That also meant that it would be their last chance to get in contact with Larrin. If today they were once more unsuccessful, they'd have to do without her. Rodney had already sent a message to Ladon to tell him to get his men ready.
"Ok, we don't have much time here, we still have to complete the mission. So as always, we split in two groups and ask for them. If one of you has a contact, radio me, I know Larrin, it'd be easier that way. If in one hour, we have nothing, we'll have to leave."
"Yes, Sir," Lorne answered while Rodney and Ronon just nodded.
"Rodney, you go with Ronon, and I guess you're stuck with me, Lorne."
"I'll survive, Sir."
Once at the village entrance, they went their separate ways. They questioned some of the villagers again, and again, they got the same answer: they hadn't seen any of the Travelers for weeks now. It was with resignation that they met back at the jumper.
None of them talked while John flew the Jumper back to the Gate. They all knew that they were losing a precious advantage, but they couldn't do anything about it; they couldn't delay their mission to wait for contact with potential allies any further. Elizabeth was the priority now that they had the program.
But as he was about to ask Lorne to dial the gate, he noticed someone waiting near the DHD. Easily recognising Larrin, he landed the Jumper in a clearing closer to the Gate than the one they were before.
"What are you doing?"
"Larrin's there," he just said, already leaving the Jumper, his team hot on his heels.
"I heard you were looking for me, Sheppard?" she said as a way of greeting. "Missed me?"
"Not really. But I need your help." He paused, waiting for any sign that he could just forget it and leave. When she nodded for him to continue, he let out a small sigh; at least she wasn't opposed to helping them. "A friend of ours was captured by one of our enemies; we need at least one of your ships to get her back. We need to get to the planet where she should be, but for that we need the hyperspace. McKay, here," he pointed to the scientist, "had managed to put a Jumper in hyperspace, but we're not sure it'll suffice this time. We need a bigger ship in case they'll attack. We have a way to stop them before they even tried, but we never know how it can turn out. So, what do you think?"
"What do I get in return?"
"Our eternal gratitude?" John tried, though he knew that that wouldn't work.
"What do you want?"
"Some help to finish the adaptor would be great to begin with."
"McKay will help you."
"Hey! McKay hasn't said yes!" the concerned one objected.
"But you're going to. For Elizabeth," John reminded him and the scientist immediately relented.
"But only after you've helped us. After that, I'll help you."
"Fine. I think we have a deal. So, when will we take this little trip?"
"In five days from now. You'll wait for us here with a ship in orbit."
"How many men do you need?"
"Just a crew on the ship who will be able to fire the weapons just in case. We'll have enough people to go on the base."
"Ok. See you in five days, then."
After she had left them, the team went back to the Jumper, their mood a bit lighter; with a ship, they might have a better chance. Of course, they don't have the means to destroy the Asurans, even if they were frozen, but at least, they could come and go more easily. Getting rid of them wasn't their aim, anyway, at least not for now.
They went back to the first planet, and completed their mission rather quickly. As if she knew what they were really doing, and she didn't, John didn't want her to know everything, just in case, Sam was giving them routine missions, just some explorations to see if the planet was inhabited, or if they could use it as a back-up planet.
That evening, John asked his accomplices to come to his quarters. He would tell them of the final moves of his plan, those he hadn't told anyone about yet. He wasn't sure how they would react about it, but it wasn't like they had any other choice.
"So what now?" Rodney asked after they were all settled.
"Now… Now comes the most difficult part of the rescue mission. The part we can get court-martialled for," he said turning towards Evan and Chuck, "or even just fired. But it's the most important part too, as you all know. We'll proceed this way. We have no missions planned for the next week or so, and I won't ask Carter to add a mission. I don't want to get her more involved that she already is."
"So, we just take a Jumper and leave?" Rodney asked, incredulously, sure that he had a plan.
"That's it. We're going AWOL. That's why I said that we can have problems."
"And what if she's not on Asura, sir?" Evan asked, voicing the concern all of them shared.
"We obviously can't come back until we find her, they wouldn't let us go back out there."
"Weir is going to have our heads," Ronon grunted.
"Yeah, but as long as she's here, I don't care. Does anyone have any objections?" he asked, but they all shook their heads. It wasn't like they really had a choice anyway. "Good. Then, Rodney, Ronon and Lorne, let's meet at 0730 in the jumper bay, geared up. Sergeant, we count on you to lower the shield when we come back. Zelenka, check the program again, we'll need it once we'll be back here. And keep an eye on Teyla."
"I can look after myself, John."
"I know. But let me just have it my way for once. So… Now, that that's done, what do you say about a little poker?"
They all laughed slightly at how he changed subject, but were grateful of that. They needed to take their mind off of what will happen in the next few days, and what was better than a little game between friends.
The next few days were spent in a blur for all of them.
When John entered the Jumper Bay, a little before 0730, his team and Teyla were already there, waiting for him.
"You should be sleeping," he reprimanded Teyla for what he realised could be the last time, but was smiling nevertheless; he was glad that she was there to tell them goodbye.
"Good luck," she just replied, putting her forehead against his, before he pulled her into a hug.
"Take good care of Junior. Well, you ready guys?" he asked, and they nodded. "Ok. Teyla, you should go somewhere else, we don't want them to suspect you, which they would do if you stay there.
"Bring her back," she said before leaving the men alone.
They took their time to embark on the Jumper, knowing that it was the time they were waiting for since the last few weeks; the last few months to be honest: a chance to save Elizabeth from the Replicators.
John took a deep breath before settling his hands over the controls.
"You ok, Sir?"
"Yeah. You can dial the gate, Major."
They had agreed to first gate to different peaceful planet, before going to the Genii homeworld. That way, if they wanted to find them, it would take them time.
"Unscheduled gate activity," Chuck said, as the gate came to life.
"What's happening, Sergeant?" Sam asked, coming from her office.
"I don't know, Ma'am," he lied. "But it seems someone took control of the gate and activated it.
"Can you shut if down?"
"No. I have no access to the controls."
As he said this, the roof on the gateroom opened, and the Jumper lowered before going through the Gate in one swift motion.
"Good luck," she whispered, before continuing, out loud this time. "Find me who was piloting that Jumper and where it went, and get Colonel Sheppard in my office."
Sam went to sit in her office, waiting to hear what she already knew. John wouldn't come to her office, as he just left with his team to find the previous leader of the City. She had known that would happen eventually; he couldn't ask her, because she would have had to tell the IOA, and they would have never approved such a mission. For them, Elizabeth was dead.
What really bothered her was that she'll have to report them, and arrest them as soon as they got back. Even if she wasn't against what they were doing, they had still stolen a Jumper and broken laws. And with the IOA looking over her shoulder, she wouldn't be able to let that go.
As soon as they had arrived on the first planet, John turned the Jumper back and Evan dialled a second planet. Then a third.
Before they knew it, they were on the Genii homeworld. Ladon and five of his men were waiting by the gate. He landed the Jumper, and opened the rear hatch. The six of them entered, much to John's surprise.
"You're coming with us?"
"While being a leader to my people is great, I miss the action," Ladon just replied, and John had to smile at that.
"Well, if everything goes according to the plan, there won't be much action involved."
"Just going on a mission is action to me, these days, Sheppard."
"Then, with this one, you won't be disappointed. Please take seats gentlemen, Air Sheppard is going to take off for its next destination."
While the Pegasus natives didn't understand what it meant, Rodney and Evan rolled their eyes at John's antics. As Evan dialled the Gate to their final destination, he realised that during those little moments where he was joking, his superior's heart wasn't in it. His eyes and the tension radiating from his body betrayed his current state of mind. He hoped that once Elizabeth was there, things would be back to normal. He knew that John would be serious when he wanted to, but he didn't like what he had become these last months; he wasn't the John Sheppard he had learned to know anymore.
After the Jumper emerged on the other side of the Gate, John headed towards the planet's orbit. If she hadn't changed her mind, Larrin would be waiting for them there with one of her ships. And indeed there she was. They established contact, and John landed the Jumper in Bay 2 as asked.
"Where to?" she asked as they entered the command centre. "And who are they?"
"They are our allies, and they're going to help us. And McKay is going to enter the coordinates."
"We should be there in under an hour," the scientist continued. "Just enough time for you to brief everyone one last time, Sheppard."
"Yeah. Larrin, you and your men will stay onboard and get ready for a quick escape. As soon as we're safely back, you'll have to jump in hyperspace. If the program we have works, we won't even have to fight, if it doesn't, then we might have a problem, but we'll have no other choice but to complete the mission. We won't have another chance at that. If we don't get her this time and they realise it was us, they'll move her somewhere else, somewhere we can't find her. We can't let that happen." He paused, silently praying for everything going according to plan. Turning towards the Genii, he continued. "You and your men will come with us. We don't know exactly where to find her, so we'll have to split in two teams. Radim, you and two of your men will come with me and Lorne, the other three will go with Rodney and Ronon. One thing though, we're in charge of this mission, you don't go against our orders, is that understood?"
"Yes," Ladon replied, knowing that it couldn't go any other way; they didn't know the enemy they would face contrary to the Lanteans.
"McKay, you have everything ready?"
"Yes, yes. We'll jump out of hyperspace far away enough from the planet so that we'll have some time. Once there, we take the Jumper, and in stealth mode, as soon as we're close enough from one of their ships, I'll switch on the program. If that works according to plan, they'll freeze instantly, and it'll take a long moment for them to override it with all the safeties. Then, we'll come to the less easy part of the plan…"
"We'll have to find Elizabeth," John finished for him.
"And you don't have the slightest idea…," Ladon trailed off when the team shook their heads. "So, how do you plan to find her?"
"I'll try to access their database, they must have something about her in there."
"And if they don't?" Larrin asked.
"I guess we'll have to try the labs and the brig first, and then if she isn't there, we'll have to try every other possibility."
"In other words, we'll go haphazardly," John translated for them. "But let's hope it won't come down to that. Otherwise, Larrin, once the Replicators are frozen, you'll bring the ship closer to the planet. We might have to make a quick exit, so you'll get the hyperspace ready, just in case."
"I think we've covered everything," he said, turning towards his team who nodded in answer. "Good. Then, we're going back to the Jumper to get ready. Contact us when we're about to drop out of hyperspace."
Larrin watched them leave; she had noticed that they were tense, as if they knew they couldn't fail. She didn't know who this Elizabeth was, but she seemed to matter to those men, to the Lanteans especially. Turning towards her men, she gave them instructions for when they would be waiting for the Jumper to return. They had to be prepared in case of an attack, even if according to Sheppard and his team, it was highly unlikely.
Meanwhile, it was in silence that the team and Ladon and his men returned to the Jumper. They all knew the importance of this mission that would take place in less than an hour. And if they didn't mess this up, Elizabeth would be with them, probably shouting at them as soon as she learned what they had done, soon after.
They spent the time they had left fidgeting in the Jumper, checking their weapons twice, or in Rodney's case, checking the programs for errors that weren't there for the hundredth time. But no one could blame him; the well being of the mission depended on those programs. Two minutes before they were to drop out of hyperspace, Larrin radioed them, and they took their seats.
John started up the Jumper. As soon as the ship was out of hyperspace, the bay doors would open and he had to be ready to get out.
"McKay, you ready?"
"All set. You just have to bring us close enough to one of the ships."
Before John could answer anything, they felt the ship leaving hyperspace, and the bay doors opened. John put the Jumper in stealth mode, and left the ship. He flew quickly through space, knowing that those precious seconds they would win now might let them complete the mission without any problem. In the distance, he could already see two ships coming towards them, having spotted the Travelers' ship. In a few seconds, they were close enough to them for Rodney to switch on the program.
"It seemed to have worked judging by how the ships just stopped."
"Can it be a trick?" Ladon asked.
"I don't think so, but there's only one way to find out."
"We'll soon know, we're nearly there", John nodded. "I'm landing at the same place as the last time. And we'll go as we agreed."
The Jumper entered the planet's atmosphere, and there was still no movement coming from the Asurans; the program seemed to be working just fine. They landed and immediately left the Jumper, on their guards; it could still be a trick as Ladon suggested.
"We stay in contact, and McKay search the database, and if you have anything…"
"Yeah, yeah, I know. Don't take too long, I don't know how long it'll take for them to override the program."
Nodding, John left with his team, and Ronon, Rodney, and the Genii with them went to the control centre. He could have access to the database from any computer, but at least from there, he could control if there was any movement in the City, besides them.
"Ok, give me a minute," Rodney said as he connected his data pad to the mainframe. He started running a search on everything that could concern Elizabeth, but knowing that it could take time, he went manually through different files.
"Is there something?" Ronon asked, earning himself a glare from the scientist.
"'Give me a minute' is an expression, Conan! That means that you give me time to find what I search for. And no, for the moment there's nothing," he still answered, before tapping on his earpiece. "Sheppard, you found something?"
"Not yet. We've come across a few Asurans, but they're completely frozen."
"Yeah, same thing there. I'm still searching the database. It's not as big as the one on Atlantis, but there are still many files," he said, just as his data pad beeped. He sighed, before continuing. "There's nothing on Elizabeth here."
"Ok, we'll start with the brig," came John's resigned voice.
"Wait! There's nothing with Elizabeth's name on it, but there might still be something. Give me more time. I'm searching for the experiments they are conducting. They might not have mentioned her name, especially since they tried to make everyone believe that she was dead, but she might still be somewhere in there."
"You really think they're conducting experiments on her?"
"I don't know. But it's a definite possibility. She's a human with nanites keeping her body alive, I would want to experiment!"
"Sorry," he apologized, realising what he had just said. "Not that I would, of course. It's Elizabeth, not…"
"I got it. So, is there anything?"
"I'm not sure. There's a lab in activity, but I can't access the files. We should go take a look."
"Ok, where to?"
Rodney gave him directions, while leading his team to the lab too. As they came closer and closer, he actually started to get nervous; she might be in that lab, they might be able to bring her home.
"In there," Rodney said, pointing to a closed door. Ronon was ready to enter, when he stopped him. "We should wait for the others, John would want to be there."
"Ok. How much time left?"
"I don't know, I can't even guess. They might have overridden it already and just wait to see what we're doing."
"You were waiting for us?" John asked as they arrived. "So, it's there?" he asked, and wondered if the others could hear his anxiety in his voice.
"Ok, Ronon, and you three," John pointed to the Genii, "you cover us, just in case. Rodney, open the door."
Taking a deep breath, he palmed the door open. From the threshold, they could see nothing; the lab seemed empty. John entered first, followed by Rodney, who bumped into him as he stopped abruptly in his tracks.
"Hey! What are you doing?" he asked, before his gaze fell on the only occupant of the room. "Oh my god… Elizabeth…"
She stood there, frozen, but they knew better than to think it was the result of what they did. She was suspended a few feet above the ground, and she might have been in suspended animation way before they arrived; she might have stayed like this since they captured her for all they knew.
John made a move to go towards her, but Rodney stopped him with a hand on his arm.
"Wait. I need to run the program first. You might not want to touch her while her nanites can infect you."
"What do you think they did to her," Ladon asked, his eyes glued to her; her hair was longer, and she seemed thinner than he remembered, and he wondered if it was a result of her captivity or if she was like that before.
"I don't know. But I'll find out, and if they hurt her in any way, I'll kill those bastards. Hell, even if they just kept her like that, I'll kill them."
Ladon had never heard him talk with such a cold voice; he was almost afraid of the colonel. But he could also understand him. He knew that if someone were to do that to his sister, he would react the same way. He had learned a long time ago that John would do anything to save his team and Elizabeth, and he had found out first hand. It was one of the reasons why he had learned to respect him, a reason why he'd rather be his ally than his enemy.
"Almost done, almost done. Just let me check… Ok, that's it, according to the sensors, she's fine. The nanites are still keeping her alive, but they're harmless."
He had just time to finish that sentence that John went to her. But he couldn't reach her.
"Yes, yes, sorry. There's a force field around her, keeping her in suspended animation, let me deactivate it, but stay close. As soon as it's down, she's going to fall."
John nodded; he was ready to catch her. Two seconds later, she was falling right in his arms. He dropped to the ground, and checked for her breathing and pulse; everything felt normal.
She was in his arms, and she was alive. She was there, he had found her. He hardly could believe it himself. He felt like he was in a dream, and that he would soon wake up in his room in Atlantis, and she would still be missing. But it felt real; she felt real, her skin cool under his touch, her hand in his, her pulse beating under her skin. It was the reality.
"Sheppard?" Ronon's voice jolted him from his thoughts.
"Is she alright?" Rodney continued.
"Yeah," he reassured them before turning his gaze back towards Elizabeth. "Elizabeth, wake up," he said, shaking her slightly, but she didn't respond. "Come on, show us your pretty eyes, we're here to bring you home. Me, Rodney, Ronon, Lorne, and even Ladon and his men. Come on, Sleepy Head, time to wake up and go home now."
"I've unfrozen her, but it might take a moment before she regains consciousness," Rodney said, still a little worried. "But we should go. We might not have much time left."
"I'll take her," Ronon offered, and John nodded, knowing that it'd be for the best. At least the Satedan would still be able to fire his weapon, while he would have had his hands full with Elizabeth. Releasing her in his care, John got up. His gaze fell one last time on Elizabeth, before he nodded to the others; it was time to leave while they still could.
John took lead with Lorne, Ronon was in the middle of the group, protecting Elizabeth. They all breathed a sigh of relief when they noticed that the Asurans were still frozen; at least they won't have to take a fight with an unconscious Elizabeth in the middle of it.
It wasn't until they were back at the Jumper, and Ronon had laid Elizabeth down on one of the benches, that they heard a beeping.
"Oh no. Sheppard, we must go now!"
"What? Why?" he asked, still taking his seat and taking off.
"I've set up an alarm to tell us when they would reach the last firewall. They'll get through it any second now."
"Larrin, this is Sheppard. Get ready for a quick escape as soon as we're onboard."
"Copied that." There was a pause, and then she continued. "Sheppard, the ships are coming back to life, and they're firing at us!"
"We're almost there," John answered, dodging a drone. They might be invisible, but they weren't invincible; at least they didn't know where they were. "Open the bay doors," he instructed as they were approaching fast. Entering the bay at full speed, he slowed down at the last moment. "Hyperspace, now!" he shouted over the radio, and as the bay doors closed, they felt the pull of the ship entering hyperspace, but not before one last drone hit the ship. "Everybody's ok?" he asked, turning to his passengers.
"Yeah," McKay breathed while the other nodded. "Elizabeth?" he asked Ronon.
"We need Keller to take a look at her," Lorne voiced the team's thoughts.
"We need to go back to Atlantis, anyway. Wouldn't want to miss my court martial," he tried to joke, but it didn't work. Opening the rear hatch as he heard someone enter the bay, he watched as Larrin came closer.
"Mission was a success," John answered, nodding towards Elizabeth. "Please, meet Elizabeth Weir, leader of my people in Atlantis. Well not currently, but she'll soon have her office back. Sorry, but she can't reply. How's the ship?"
"Some damages, but the shield took the most of it thankfully. A few of my men are hurt, but nothing too serious. One of them is dead, though."
"I'm sorry. They haven't followed us, I suppose."
"Even better. McKay, do a quick scan of the ship to see if some of those sneaky bastards managed to get onboard," he ordered, and Rodney immediately started to work on it. "And then, you can drop out of hyperspace wherever you want, as long as there's a planet with a gate close. We need to go back to Atlantis as soon as possible."
"And what about our little agreement?"
"If you're willing to wait a few more days, or weeks, it'll depend of a lot of factors, McKay will help you."
"Yeah, yeah. I've completed the search while you were chatting. There's nothing to report."
"Ok. I'll tell my men to stop at the next planet. It was a pleasure working with you again, Sheppard."
"Well, since I haven't been tied up this time, I can say the same."
As she left, John let his gaze fall on Elizabeth. He could see her chest rising with each breath she took, but he was still worried that she hadn't woken up yet.
"Please be alright," he surprised himself whispering, much to Rodney's confusion, who was standing beside him.
"No, nothing. I was just talking to myself."
The ship dropped out of hyperspace, and with one last promise to Larrin that they wouldn't forget their promise, John flew the Jumper out in space and towards the planet. Silence filled the Jumper, neither feeling the need to talk; their mission was a success, and they didn't face that many problems, there was nothing to talk about.
"You can just leave us here, and go back to Atlantis," Ladon suggested, and John had to admit that he had that thought. "She has to see one of your doctors, and the sooner the better. But keep me informed."
"We will," John said, landing the Jumper by the Gate. "Radim?" he called back, and the Genii turned towards him just as he was leaving the Jumper. "Thank you."
The other man replied nothing, just gave him a tight smile; he wouldn't have done it for anybody, but for Elizabeth it was another thing. He respected and admired the Lantean leader, and if he could help her... And after all, John had killed Kolya and for that he was grateful.
The team watched as the Genii went through the Gate. Three years ago, after the Siege, John would have never thought that he would ally with them, but now, now he was thankful that they were there. Not that they faced any problems while on the planet, but he felt more confident than if there were only the four of them. At least with ten people, there would have still been someone to bring Elizabeth to safety.
"I guess it's time to face the consequences of our acts. Look, you can say that I ordered you and left you no choice, if you want. Actually, tell them that."
"No way, Sir," Lorne objected.
"We're in this together," Rodney continued.
"And they would never buy that you have ordered me and that I just followed anyway," Ronon said from his place beside Elizabeth, and the three had to agree on that.
"Fine. If you're all sure about that…"
"We knew what we've signed for when we joined you, Sir."
"Then, Major, dial the Gate, and send the IDC. I'm going to make radio contact before actually going through the Gate. Just in case they decide to not lower the shield."
"Unscheduled off-world activation!" Chuck's voice resounded in the control room.
Sam left her office just in time to see the blue puddle forming. The shield was raised without her asking, and she waited for Chuck to tell her about an eventual IDC, or for something to hit the shield.
"We received an IDC. It's Major Lorne's," Chuck continued, and she couldn't help but notice the relief in his voice; as if he had been waiting for that.
"Atlantis, this is Sheppard."
"Colonel, I'm listening to you."
"Good. I know we've left in a hurry, but we need to come back."
"You realise that you and your team are going to face the consequences of your actions, John."
"Yes, and we're ready for that. Permission to come back?"
"Granted. Lower the shield, Sergeant."
"One last thing, we need Doctor Keller and a medical team in the jumper bay."
"I'll contact her immediately."
She was climbing the stairs as the Jumper made its way into the control room. She didn't turn, knowing who was going to be there with the team. Things were going to complicate very quickly, and she wasn't sure everything would resolve for the better.
She waited by the door as the Jumper landed in the centre of the room, the rear hatch facing her. It took a minute, long enough for the medical team to join her, for it to open.
"Oh my god," she heard Keller shout beside her.
John had an unconscious Elizabeth in his arms and was coming towards them, followed by the three other men. He laid her down carefully on the gurney, under the surprised eyes of the medical personnel; they hadn't expected this.
"The nanites won't harm anybody anymore," John started. "McKay had ensured that they only keep her alive, they won't control her, they won't leave her body to go to another. When we found her, she was in a sort of suspended animation, unconscious, and she has been ever since."
"Ok," Keller said. "But I still need to run a scan on you four, so you'll have to follow me to the infirmary."
"That's ok with me," Sam said as John turned towards her. "But after you get cleared, you'll be escorted to the brig."
She watched as the team followed the gurney back to the infirmary, staying as close as possible to it, as if to reassure themselves that she was really there. Sighing, she made her way back down to the control room, and asked Chuck to dial the SGC. She already had one hell of a headache only thinking about what would happen in the next few hours and days.
"Colonel," General Landry greeted her, "what can I do for you?"
"It's about the situation we had before…," she said, reminding him of the conversation they shared a few hours ago.
"There's been a new development. Colonel Sheppard, Major Lorne, Doctor McKay and Ronon have come back…" She paused, but not long enough to let Landry talk. "With Doctor Weir. She's alive."
"I see what you mean by new development. So I take it that their little departure earlier was about that."
"I'll inform the IOA. In the meantime, put them in the brig."
"Already done, Sir. Well, nearly done. Doctor Keller is running a scan on them just in case they've been infected, and I've given orders that they're brought to the brig as soon as they're done."
"And keep Doctor Weir under close guard."
"Will do, Sir."
"Good. SGC, out."
The screen went black and soon after the Gate closed.
She knew she was under the scrutiny of the people present in the control room. She could have taken the conversation to her office, but somehow, she couldn't bring herself to. She wanted them to overhear the conversation; they needed to know that she was back.
Her feet took her to the balcony, and she breathed in the ocean air. She didn't know what would happen, and if she was honest, she didn't really want to know. Atlantis would probably lose some of its best people over this, and she didn't know how the expedition would react. Badly, she knew; they had already taken her arrival the wrong way, so soon after Elizabeth had went missing, and they would take the new changes that were coming even more badly.
The door switched open behind her, but she didn't turn, nor acknowledge the presence of the intruder.
"Ma'am," she finally heard, and immediately recognized Chuck. "I have to talk to you."
"Whatever it is, I don't want to know. I really don't. Go back to work, and whatever you wanted to tell me, forget it, ok?"
She didn't wait for an answer, already returning her thoughts towards the ocean. She heard him leave the balcony and breathed a sigh of relief. She knew what he wanted to talk to her about, but like she told him, she didn't want to know. As far as she's concerned, only four people had broken the rules, and those four were soon to be brought in the brig.
John paced the room they were brought in. The scans were done, but he asked the guards to give them more time, just a little more time to know about Elizabeth's condition. Reluctantly, they had accepted, mainly because they knew that they wouldn't make any difficulty coming with them later.
It had been nearly an hour since Keller had left with Elizabeth, and Teyla had joined them, waiting anxiously too to hear some news. She had hugged the four of them tightly, giving her raging hormones as an excuse, but they knew better.
"John, sit down," her calm voice came to his ears, but he just shook his head. "You can do nothing, and you're driving me crazy here as you put it."
"Sorry. I'm just not good at being the one waiting."
"Yeah, you're usually the one we wait for news about," Rodney mocked, but it was true; more than once, they had been there because of him.
"She's going to be fine," Ronon said in that gruff voice of his.
"And how do you know it?" Lorne asked.
"Because she has our asses to kick."
"Ronon has a point," Teyla noted. "It will not go well when she finds out to what extent you went."
"I'm ready to take anything, as long as she's ok."
As John said it, Keller entered the room, an unreadable expression on her face. None of them could say if she had good or bad news.
"Jennifer?" Teyla prompted.
"She's fine," Keller started, and they all released a sigh of relief at that. "But she's still unconscious. Technically, nothing is preventing her from waking up, but she might need time. Those last few months had been difficult for her, and she might have found refuge in a world she created in her head. But when she realises where she is, she'll wake up. And about the nanites," she continued, knowing that it was the next question she would get, "they seemed to be harmless. I can't be a 100 sure, but I don't think she'll be a danger, and that's what my report will say."
"Ok. Then, guys, I think we can go," John said, turning towards the guards. "Keep us informed, please."
On their way to the brig, they crossed path with some people who didn't already know what happened, but they weren't worried. The rumour mill would soon do its wonders, and the entire City would know everything by the time the sun set.
The door closed behind them, but the shield wasn't raised, the guards seeing no point in that; they knew they wouldn't try to escape, so why bother?
They saw no one until the next day when Colonel Carter entered the room with both General O'Neill and Richard Woolsey. John nearly growled at the sight; Jack he could take, but Woolsey another matter.
"I guess you know why you're here," the IOA representative started. "What you did was irresponsible! You went in search of a woman who may have turned into our enemy…"
"Elizabeth is not our enemy!" John interrupted, already being irritated by him.
"You do not know! And you might not know until it's too late. You put the City in danger. The Asurans might now have the new location and…" This time he was cut off by Rodney.
"No way. We've bound the nanites in her. They can't do anything but keep her alive. There are no signals sent, I can assure you of that. She's completely cut off from the other replicators. And Elizabeth is no threat."
"And how sure can you be of that?"
"Because we wouldn't have gone without an efficient program. As much as we wanted Elizabeth back, we wouldn't have risked the City's safety for that. She would have never forgiven us. The program works, ask Keller. And no, they won't override it," he said, anticipating the next question.
"You haven't tested it before," Woolsey continued. "You have no way of knowing it's working as it should."
"It's working. We haven't been infected, and Keller says it's working. If you don't want to believe me, believe her. She has nothing to do with what we've done."
"Really? How can I know that?"
"Because you have the only four people involved in the mission before you," John answered in a somewhat calmer voice. "You didn't seriously think that we would endanger the mission by telling other people? Especially since all we really needed was McKay's brain. Ask General O'Neill, he would tell you, the less people involved, the more successful the mission can be."
"He's right," Jack conceded as Woolsey turned towards him. More than once, SG1 had defied direct orders without telling anyone else for the well being of the mission. Turning towards Sam, he could see the apologetic look in her eyes, and understood that he wouldn't like what she was about to say.
"I helped McKay."
"You what?" Woolsey shouted, surprised. "Colonel, I don't think I heard that right."
"I helped McKay with the program," she repeated, looking straight at him.
"Yeah, right!" Rodney got indignant. "You say that now because it worked, and you don't want them to think that I'm more intelligent than you are. But news flash, I am! I've written the program without your help because I didn't need it. So don't try to make them believe you did. And, you're really stupid to say that! The only thing you'll earn out of that is being put in the brig with us. I'm glad I didn't ask for your help, because now I'm sure you wouldn't have helped but mess everything up."
"Ok, enough, I don't want to hear anything more on this," Jack said, effectively cutting McKay off as he opened his mouth to continue. He couldn't figure out why he did that, but Rodney actually tried, and probably managed, to save Sam's ass. "We'll find out if someone else has been helping you, but for the time being, only you four are concerned."
"I'm going to make my report to the IOA, and they'll decide what to do with you and Doctor Weir."
"Leave Elizabeth out of it," John growled. "Do anything you want to do with us, but leave Elizabeth alone. If anything, now that she's back, she should be reinstated as the rightful leader of the City as she is. No offence to you, Sam."
"She's been compromised," was Woolsey's only answer.
"And what? Codes have been changed, she can't connect anymore to the collective, she's no threat to us. If anything, she now knew more than anyone else in Atlantis or on Earth about the Replicators. And if you even try to experiment on her," his voice became low, almost dangerous, "you won't see us, ever again."
"Is that a threat?"
"No, Mr Woolsey, it's a promise."
"As long as I'm in command of Atlantis, no such things will happen. You can be…," she stopped mid-sentence, putting a hand on her earpiece. "Go ahead." A pause, then she continued. "We'll be right there." She looked towards the team, a smile on her face. "She's awake. I'll keep you informed," she added just before following the men out of the room.
"That went well."
"I wouldn't go that far," Rodney replied to John's comment.
"You think she's fine?" Lorne asked.
"We would have known immediately if something was wrong," John tried to convince himself and the others.
Sam, Jack and Woolsey entered the private room Elizabeth was in to find her sitting on the bed, Keller checking her vitals.
"Gentlemen, Colonel," she greeted them upon seeing them.
"Doctor Weir. How are you feeling?" Sam asked.
"I'm fine. Doctor Keller explained to me that the nanites in me won't do anything more than keeping me alive. But can I ask how I came here? To be honest, the last thing I remember is telling John and Ronon to leave without me. What happened?"
"That was several months ago," Jack said slowly, knowing that she would need time to take in the news.
"Several months… So, you just waited and then sent a team for me?"
"Not exactly," Sam paused, not knowing how to explain, but Woolsey beat her to it.
"We thought you were dead. Colonel Sheppard's team took a Jumper and went AWOL just to find you."
"They what? Where are they?"
"Where they should be, in the brig."
"I want to see them."
"Listen, Doctor…," Woolsey tried, but she cut him off.
"I want to see them, now!"
"They'll be here in a minute," Jack replied, knowing that they shouldn't try and talk her out of it. Dragging a protesting Woolsey behind him, he left the room with Sam who was contacting the guards. "Ok, where are the stairs to that observation room?" he asked when she was finished.
"Sir?" She was not following him this time.
"Come on. I don't want to miss her dressing them down, and there's no way I stand in the same room as them. I want to live."
She conceded him a point; that would be a memorable sight. Leading them towards the observation room above Elizabeth's room, they waited for the team to arrive. From where they were, they could see Elizabeth fuming, and Sam couldn't help but wonder if she should ask for a medical team to wait, just in case.
"Elizabeth," John said entering the room with his team. "We're glad you're awake."
"What did you think you were doing?" she shouted, startling them; they hadn't been expecting that, at least, not right now.
"No, you listen to me. You've risked your lives when you were told I was dead. You've put the whole City in danger."
"We were conscious on the risks…," he tried, but she interrupted him once again.
"You've gone against direct orders! Do you even know what you might face? You knew I wouldn't have accepted that, but you did it anyway. You should have left me there, but once again, you didn't think, you've just acted. I thought better of you, of the four of you. Wait a minute… Where's Teyla?" she asked, finally noting the Athosian's absence; she really hoped for them that nothing happened to her, or she would have their heads.
"She's fine. She wasn't involved in all of this."
"At least she had some sense. But you… I thought you…" This time, it was John who interrupted her.
"Now, you listen to me, Elizabeth. We don't care about the consequences, we did it because it was the only thing to do. Everyone else believed you were dead, but us. And if we were to go back in time, and to face the same circumstances, we would do it again, no matter what would happen to us. Remember the saying?"
"'You don't leave people in the hands of the enemy'," he repeated what he had told that first day here. "We couldn't leave you behind. I couldn't leave you behind," he said, and she could hear his voice crack. "You belong here, and this is where you should be. Here, in your office, leading the City as you've always done."
Listening to him, Elizabeth felt some of her anger leaving her. She knew why they did it, but it didn't mean that she could accept that they had risked their lives for her; she would have never forgiven herself if something had happened to one of them when trying to save her.
"Elizabeth?" John tried, stepping closer to the bed, and taking one of her hand in his; he nearly let out a sigh of relief when she didn't pull back. "Say something?"
"Thank you," she whispered, tears in her voice.
Hearing her, so vulnerable, John couldn't stop himself and pulled her in a tight hug, burying his face into her neck. She returned it, holding onto him as if he was her anchor. He breathed her in, knowing that she was there, that she was back.
She closed her eyes, willing the tears to go away, but she didn't know if she would manage. She didn't know how much time really passed for them, but for her, it was like she had closed her eyes for a few minutes while she was on Asura, and opened them again to find herself in Atlantis. She didn't know what they did to her, and she wasn't sure she ever wanted to know, but she hoped that she wasn't a threat for her friends, for the City she loved, anymore. She couldn't stand it if something happened because of her.
After what felt like a few seconds, but really lasted a few minutes, they pulled away slowly from each other. They shared a smile, before John backed away from the bed.
"What are you doing?" he asked, as he saw her pushing the covers away.
"Keller said nothing about it, and my legs work perfectly well, so why can't I?"
"Ok, you have a point. Want some help?"
"I'll be fine, thanks."
She slowly got up, and walked towards Rodney. Without saying anything, she just pulled him into a hug. After a while, she pulled away and did the same with both Ronon and Lorne. Neither spoke, but words weren't needed in that case.
"Elizabeth? You're awake."
Elizabeth left Lorne's arms, not before noticing the faint blush that crept up his cheeks, and turned towards Teyla who just entered. Whatever she wanted to say caught in her throat when she noticed her state.
"I think I've missed something," she said, before Teyla went towards her and engulfed her in a hug.
From where her head was resting against her shoulder, she saw the four men mouthing 'hormones', and couldn't help but giggle. But she soon sobered up; who was the father, could one of them be the father? Shaking that thought out of her head, she pulled away slightly.
"I'll explain everything to you…"
"But now's not the time," Woolsey interrupted her. "Bring them back to the brig. And if you would leave too, we need to talk to Doctor Weir, alone."
Reassuring her friends that she would be fine, she watched them leave the room. She went to sit back on the bed, but as Woolsey opened his mouth to talk, she stopped him by raising a hand.
"What will happen to them?"
"Well, if you really want to discuss this… Major Lorne and Colonel Sheppard will probably face a court martial, Doctor McKay's fate will be in the IOA hands, and for Ronon, he has accepted our rules when he joined the City too."
"Can we make an arrangement?" she tried, knowing that she probably wouldn't be heard.
"What do you suggest?" Jack asked, just as Woolsey was shaking his head no.
"General, can I speak to you for a moment?" he said, obviously not ready to listen to anything Elizabeth had to offer.
"Has your mom never taught you to listen to ladies? Go ahead, Elizabeth."
She spent the next few minutes explaining to them what she had just come up with. Their faces were unreadable, so that she couldn't know what they were thinking. She was pretty sure it would be pointless, but she had to try; she couldn't let her friends face the consequences of their actions when she knew that they did it for her.
"We'll have to talk about it with the IOA, and probably the President too. But I can't guarantee you that they will follow what you suggest, Elizabeth."
"I know, General. But for the time being, can they be released from the brig? I don't ask for them to resume their duty, but just to be released."
"I don't see why not, as long as they don't leave the City. Any objections, Carter?"
"I don't think that's a good idea," Woolsey spoke up.
"They saved your ass, the least you can do is trust them."
Woolsey relented, knowing that he wouldn't have the last word, but adding that if they were to disobey an order before they reached a decision, she couldn't do anything for them.
She was left alone not long after, wondering what they would say when she told them about her offer. She knew that they would probably get angry at her, but she had no choice. Leaning back against the cushions, she closed her eyes for just a few minutes.
Next thing she knew, voices were coming towards her room, and she opened her eyes just in time to see John, Rodney, Ronon and Evan entering the room. John and Rodney were bickering, but she couldn't make out the subject, and frankly, she didn't care; as strange as it sounded, it was nice to see them like this.
"Please, Elizabeth, tell him," John pleaded with her, but she looked at him in confusion.
"Tell him what?"
"That Colonel Carter didn't release us because she's madly in love with him."
Elizabeth couldn't help but roll her eyes at that; she had thought that he was over Sam, but it seemed that he had his moments. She shook her head, and shared a smile with the guys, before turning serious again. It seemed that she'd have to talk to them sooner than she thought.
"John's right, Rodney, she didn't release you for that."
"Oh, and how do you know that?"
"Because I know why you're not in the brig anymore."
"You know?" John said, in surprise, a surprise he shared with the rest of his team. "Elizabeth, how can you know? Unless… What have you done, Elizabeth?" he asked, as if reading her mind, and she couldn't say she was surprised; he knew her, and were he in her place, he would have probably tried to make a deal too.
"I've made them an offer so that they leave you alone."
"What kind of offer?" Rodney intervened, wondering to what length she might have gone.
"Elizabeth," John prompted when she didn't answer.
"I won't be the leader of Atlantis anymore, not even if Carter left, I wouldn't ask to have the position back," she began, and they let out a breath; they guessed they could live with that. But she wasn't done yet. "I'll have to go under monthly check-ups to be sure that the nanites aren't trying to take control. And…," she paused, not sure how well they would welcome what was coming next.
"And…?" Rodney repeated, knowing that whatever she wanted to say, it might not be good.
"If you find a solution to annihilate the Replicators, even if it could kill me in the process, you'll do it without a second thought."
"What?" John exclaimed at the same time Rodney shouted.
"You can't ask us that," John tried to reason her.
"I don't say that it will happen, but if it does, I want you to do it. I'd rather die like that anyway." She looked down at her hands; she couldn't meet their looks, she didn't want them to try and change her mind. And anyway, there was no guarantee that the IOA would agree on this. She told them so.
"I hope that they won't," Evan said, to her surprise. "No offence Ma'am, but your idea is stupid. You're giving them what they want: a way to get rid of you. And you want us to accept that, because otherwise we would lose our jobs, or worse. Sorry, but I can't."
"I understand your point of view, Evan, but please, understand mine. I couldn't stand here watching you get court-martialled or just fired because you've helped me."
"Let's not talk about it now, ok. Just tell me about what has been going on in Atlantis since I've… left. And more importantly, who's Teyla's baby's father?"
"You couldn't wait to ask me, couldn't you?" the Athosian teased as she entered the room. They hoped that she didn't hear their previous conversation, none of them wanting to upset her in her state.
"I would have asked you for details anyway. So, who's the father?" she asked again, this time to the concerned one.
"Alright, it's Kanan."
"Your long-time friend? I knew there was something else," she added, and Teyla just shook her head in answer. She patted the bed, and invited her to sit on it, knowing that it should kill her to be standing up.
"Thank you. So what else do you want to know?"
"Everything you can share, actually."
"There's something you should probably know," John started. "We lost Heightmeyer."
"It was my fault."
"No, Teyla, it was my fault. If I hadn't touched that crystal off-world, she would still be alive."
"What happened?" Elizabeth wanted to know; she was sure that John wasn't really responsible for her death, but felt like he should be. She listened carefully as he explained it all to her, and she understood why he considered it to be his fault. Seeing how upset he was, and wanting to comfort him, she got up from the bed and went towards him, pulling him into a second hug that day. But they both needed it; Elizabeth because she had found out that she had lost yet another friend, and John because he was still feeling this death strongly. "Anything more cheerful to share?" she asked after a while.
"Katie and I are engaged," Rodney announced, much to everyone's surprise.
"Congratulations," fused from everyone in the room.
"Glad you've finally decided on marrying the girl, Rodney," John said, clapping his shoulder. "After all, she's the only one who seems to…"
"Ok, stop there," Rodney interrupted him, "my sister already did that one."
"I knew I liked your sister for a reason!"
"Hypochondriac!" John replied, knowing that he would react immediately to that.
"I'm not hypochondriac. I just take great care of myself."
"That's what I said."
"Wait a minute," Evan said. "If you and Katie Brown are engaged, why did you react like that when Colonel Carter freed us?"
"How well, you know…"
"We don't want to, Rodney," Elizabeth cut him off, knowing all to well where this could end up. "But I'm really happy for you and Katie."
"Thank you, Elizabeth. I'm glad you're here to share that with us."
"I'm glad to be here too."
They continued talking for what felt like hours, just reacquainting, glad that she was there with them once again.
Elizabeth stood on the balcony, breathing in the ocean air. Night had settled a long time ago, but she didn't feel like sleeping just yet. She quietly observed the new sky that this planet was offering her. It was so different from the one on Earth, or just the one she got used to the last few years, but she liked it. She just had to learn all about it again.
When she had told the team to leave without her, she had never thought that she would one day be back in Atlantis. She had thought that she would die, then and there, but she hadn't, and there she was, back again. Back home. They hadn't given up on her, and this was why she hadn't given up on them after either.
She still remembered the conversation she had with Sam after the team had left her, on the day she had woken up to find herself back in the City.
Elizabeth was re-reading John's copy of War and Peace, that he had brought her earlier, when she heard steps coming towards her room. Thinking that it was someone of the team, or one of the nurses, she looked up, and found herself facing Sam.
"Colonel," she said, maybe a little too harshly; ever since she had tried to blackmail her, their conversations had been tense.
"Doctor. May I talk to you for a minute?"
"Please," she gestured for the chair besides the bed, but Sam declined; she'd rather stand.
"General O'Neill dialled from Earth. It will take a few days before they reach a decision concerning the agreement."
"I understand. I hadn't expected an answer today anyway. Is there something else?"
"Yes. I… Are you sure about what you offered them?"
"I am. I have no other choice. I don't want them to be sent back to Earth, or just sent away from the City for Ronon. I don't want John and Evan to be court-martialled because they had wanted to help me."
"They took a Jumper and went AWOL in a desperate attempt to find you and bring you back. They could have got themselves killed, and endangered the City."
"I know, and I've told them that. They know I'm not happy about that part, but as I've learned, there's nothing I can do about it. Besides yell at them, that is, and I've already done that," she said with a smile, that Sam returned; and yell she did.
"I knew what they were going to do," Sam finally admitted. "But I did nothing to stop them. I agreed with what they were doing, because I would have done the same. As you may or may not know, with SG1 we defied orders when we thought we should do so, and, not that I think that it was the right choice, but sometimes, it was the only choice we had. It was the only choice they had. They needed to do it, to find you themselves, because no one else would have tried."
"I know," Elizabeth repeated. "And I think that with time, I might understand. But for the moment, there are still too many things going on in my head. I need to take some time to think. You have to understand, that while for you, months had gone by, it doesn't feel the same for me. It's like I've just spent a few hours sleeping and found myself back on Atlantis. This is… weird."
Silence fell upon them as both tried to take in what the other said. Knowing that it was time for her to leave, Sam turned heels, before changing her mind.
"Jack will do anything he can to make them accept this arrangement. But he will also try to drop some of your conditions, especially the last one about killing you if necessary. He doesn't really agree with that, and I don't either."
"I see." She paused, before a mischievous smile made its way on her face. "Jack, uh?"
"It's a long story. But yeah, Jack."
"I'm glad for you, Sam."
"Thank you. I'll let you rest now. If you need me…"
"I know where to find you."
Elizabeth watched as the new leader of Atlantis made her way out of the room. Having asked the others' opinions, she knew that she was a good leader, and she wasn't surprised by that. In some way, they were the same; they cared about their people, and would put their well being before their own.
End of flashback
Lost in her thoughts, she failed to hear someone knocking on the door. They finally entered on their own, knowing that she would be there. And indeed they found her on the balcony, her gaze in the starry sky.
"A penny for your thoughts."
"John!" she turned around, surprised by his presence.
"Sorry. I knocked, but you didn't answer so I let myself in. I hope you don't mind."
"Not at all. How was your day?"
"Fine. I'm sick of being stuck here, but I guess I should be thankful in a way; it's just for a few more weeks. So thank you."
"You're welcome, John."
"And what about you?"
"Well, I've continued working on those translations Rodney needed, but I'm not done. I wished that the nanites in me gave me the possibility to read and translate Ancient on the spot."
"But where would be the fun of that?" he asked, and she had to say that she agreed; that was when she wasn't stuck in a translation. "I saw you've finally finished unpacking."
"Yeah. Thanks again for having gone to my Mom and brought back my things."
"No problem. She would have wanted to see you, but she understood that you couldn't leave just yet."
"I know. But soon, I hope. Would you come with me? I'm sure she'd like to see you again," she said, leaving out her mother's letter in which she indeed asked that she brought John next time she came to visit.
"If I can have the time off…"
"So… Have you named any of them, yet?" he asked, looking towards the constellations shown in the sky.
"Not yet. Got some ideas?"
"Not really," he replied, before turning his gaze towards her. "I know I've said it already, but I've missed you."
"I know. I wish I could say I've missed you too, but…"
"I know," he repeated her previous statement, before putting his hands above hers that rested on the railing.
She redirected her gaze towards their hands, and couldn't help but smile. A few months ago, she would have probably removed her hand, but not tonight. Not because they were alone, on the balcony in her quarters, but just because it felt good. It was something they both needed, to reassure themselves that the other was there.
Turning her hand over, she intertwined her fingers with his, and looked towards him. He was looking confused, not having expected it, but then he smiled at her, locking his gaze with hers. Without warning, she came closer to him, and kissed him. She could say it was a spur of the moment, a way to thank him to have come after her, but if she was honest with herself, she had to admit that it was something she had really wanted to do.
It was nothing but lips pressing against other lips, but when she pulled away, a smile was stretching her lips, and she could see John mirroring it. Their lips met for a second, more passionate kiss. Her arms went around his chest, while his hands were cupping her face, preventing her from going anywhere; not that she had planned anything like that. She could feel something pouring in his kiss, but she chose not to address it, at least not now, it could wait.
As they parted, he rested his forehead against hers, both panting. They didn't speak at first, neither wanting to break the moment, but soon John found his voice.
"I want that to happen again," he confessed. "But if you don't want to…"
"Let's take things slow, ok. We both need to adjust to the changes, and I don't want to rush in anything for the moment. I don't want to regret anything."
"We take things slow then. I don't mind taking things slow when it comes to relationships, anyway," he waggled his eyebrows, and she blushed, knowing what he exactly meant.
"Get your mind out of the gutter, mister. When I say 'take things slow', that means this part too."
"But you love me for that." The words were out of her mouth before she could stop them. Pursing her lips, she lowered her head, not wanting to meet his eyes. But he wouldn't let her do it, as he put a hand under her chin to bring her look back to his.
"You're right. That's one of the reasons why I love you."
She just smiled, nodding in answer. She hadn't expected those words from him, especially not tonight, and she wasn't ready to reciprocate. He seemed to understand that, giving her a quick peck on her lips, before letting her go.
She turned back towards the dark sky, and soon felt his arms wrapping around her from behind. His chin rested on her shoulder, while she put her hands on his. She sighed softly, leaning her back against his chest.
She was back in her City, though it wasn't really hers anymore, her friends were there, and for the first time in years, she could allow herself to have feelings, and just live the day.
She was just happy.