Elizabeth took a deep breathe as she lay down on the bed that was still in Rodney's lab from the first night they had slept there. She was already linked up to numerous machines and Carson was standing next to her, quickly checking her vital signs, hooking her up to even more machines while Rodney and Zelenka configured the last few things on their sensors. She glanced over at the lab entrance to see John leaning against it, one arm folded across his chest and the other one reaching up so that his chin was resting on his hand. He had wireless sensors dotted about his body, but he barely seemed to notice them, his expression was grave, his eyes bearing none of their usual humour and it made Elizabeth nervous. She hated the fact that this was upsetting him so much, but she really didn't see any other choice; Rodney would not have suggested it except as a last resort.
"Right," Rodney said turning round, "I think we're about ready. Carson?"
"Aye," he nodded with a sigh. "We're ready." Elizabeth gave both of them a reassuring nod and watched as Rodney nervously turned to John.
"Sheppard?" he asked quietly. "Ready?"
"Oh yeah, can't wait," he muttered. Rodney cleared his throat and decided, wisely in Elizabeth's opinion, not to say anything else. She glanced over at John, he held her gaze for several seconds before nodding at her. She smiled back at him, before turning her attention to Carson.
"I'm going to administer a sedative to put you into an unconscious state, we'll stop your heart after that," he explained gently. He picked up a syringe from the table beside him and she felt a small prick as he pierced the skin on her arm and pressed the syringe in. "Just a few seconds," he told her with a soft, but sad smile.
"I'll see you in a bit," she told him, before turning back to John. Tiredness swept over her in an instant and his worried expression was the last thing she saw before darkness overtook her.
John stared at the wall in front of him, completely still as he waited down the corridor. He knew that to anyone who walked past he looked completely calm, the same relaxed, laid back Military Commander that he always was, but inside he felt like he was slowly coiling up, tension mounting with every second that passed. He still didn't think that this was a good idea, nothing could ever convince him that stopping someone's heart was the best course of action, his iratus bug experience being the one exception, and the fact that it was Elizabeth made it even harder to go along with. Something about her always brought his protective instincts to the forefront, made him want to do his very best by her, she had an effect on him that he couldn't quite describe, yet it was irrefutable. But the hardest part about this entire situation was the fact that right now, when she was most vulnerable, he couldn't be there for her; he was stuck at the other end of the corridor straining to hear what was going on in the lab and yet at the same time unwilling to listen.
He heard a sad affirmative from Carson telling John that her heart had stopped, now Rodney and Radek needed seventy or eighty seconds to complete their research before they could bring her back.
John began to count.
And as he did his memory of the last few days became sharp, the way she had smiled at him constantly, had laughed at his jokes, had put up with being thrown against walls and pulled onto the floor over and over again. Everything she had said to him, all the casual comments, the friendly conversations, those things that they didn't usually get the opportunity to share, all of them came back to him, and despite the tension in his body he found himself smiling.
But soon his mind turned back to the situation at hand as he mentally continued to count. The seconds seemed to stretch out to a ridiculous length, each one digging into him, tempting him into running back to the lab, but he fought the sensations; he was not going to jeopardise the research, not if it meant that Elizabeth would have to go through this again, and so he stood perfectly still waiting for the seconds to tick away. He glanced up as he got to eighty and saw Rodney staring at him from the doorway, a tired, but reassuring smile on his face.
"She's fine and we got what we needed."
John nodded and opened his mouth to speak, but the words were snatched from him as relief flooded through him and so he simply nodded again, gathering his thoughts as he walked back to the lab, his step quickening as his desire to see her alive and well overcame him.
His eyes snapped to her the moment he walked through the door. She looked tired and her eyes were half closed, but there was a steady beat on the heart monitor and it reassured John.
"Colonel," Carson said on spotting him. "She's fine." At the words Elizabeth's eyes opened fully and she searched him out, smiling when she saw him. He allowed Rodney to take off the sensors that had been attached to his own body during the procedure and moved as close to Elizabeth as he could.
"How you doing 'Lizabeth?" he asked quietly.
"I'm fine," she nodded. "Did you get your results Rodney?" she asked turning to the scientist who was evidently waiting to say something.
"Yes, in fact we got everything, we know how to break the link."
"What, right now?" John asked.
"Yes," he nodded.
"We need to go to the holding cells," he muttered, and John suddenly noticed how sheepish the scientist looked. Normally when he had cracked something like this he'd take the opportunity to gloat wherever possible. He glanced over at Zelenka to see the Czech smiling smugly.
"Zelenka was right wasn't he," John said realisation dawning on him. "The frequency of the link; he had seen it before hadn't he."
"What," Rodney scowled, "No of course not."
"Yes, I had," Zelenka nodded.
"You hadn't seen it before, neither of us had seen it before."
"Yes, but I recognised the similarities it had with the frequency of the cell force fields."
"You never once mentioned the force fields," Rodney returned, clearly annoyed.
"But I knew that we were missing something and you dismissed it out of hand," Zelenka said smugly.
"What are you talking about?" John asked in frustration.
"When Elizabeth heart stopped the link changed slightly and we were able to compare it with all frequencies that run throughout Atlantis' different systems," Rodney explained with a sigh.
"And…?" John prompted.
"And it matched a frequency, just like I said it would," Zelenka said proudly.
"Oh come on," Rodney whined, "that's hardly a detailed prediction. The only reason we found it out for certain is because of my idea to carry out this experiment and-"
"Rodney," Elizabeth interrupted as she attempted to sit up in the bed. Carson quickly gave her a hand and John noted, with concern, how tired she looked. "Can you break the link or not?"
"Yes," he nodded. "If we put you in the prison cell and activate the force shields the link will break."
"That's it?" John asked incredulously. "That's all you had to figure out?"
"Look, it's a lot more complicated than that and we only know this now because of the transformation the link went through when Elizabeth's heart had stopped, but if I tried to explain it you wouldn't understand, so I'd appreciate a little less patronisation and a little more, 'thank you Rodney, we couldn't have done it without you.'"
"I think I'll save it until we know your theory works," John retorted sharply. "Doc, can we do this now?"
"I'd advise a good few hours of sleep first," Carson told him, "I don't know what strain a breakage in the link could put on the body."
"No, I want to do this now," Elizabeth said firmly. John bit back his frustration; why couldn't she just take things easy once in a while?
"Elizabeth," he said with a sigh.
"No, John; this way if it doesn't work, Rodney and Radek can continue working on it straight away."
"She's got a point," Rodney nodded. John shot him a sharp look.
"What if it's dangerous?" he asked her.
"Rodney," she said, turning to the scientist, "do any of your results suggest that breaking the link will have an affect on me?"
"No, not as far as I can tell." John glanced at Zelenka who nodded in confirmation.
"Carson?" Elizabeth asked. The doctor looked at her sternly.
"I have to agree with Colonel Sheppard, you need rest."
"But-" she began, but John cut her off.
"The doc has spoken Elizabeth. You better get ready for your nap." She scowled at him, but allowed herself to be led to the infirmary and within minutes she was asleep. John found himself watching her once again as he took up his vigil beside her; if Rodney's plan did work then he probably wouldn't get chance to see her like this again and he was going to make the most of it. He leant back in the chair and turned towards her, a smile on his face.
Although she wasn't going to admit it to John, Elizabeth was glad of the rest. She had felt exhausted in Rodney's lab and she didn't think she'd have managed a walk to the holding cells without falling. Now, though, she walked strongly, feeling sure of her footsteps, while Rodney, Carson and John headed the same way. John glanced back at her and gave her a smile which she returned, it would be good to get rid of the link, although she felt strangely sad at the thought of seeing John every once in a while rather than all the time; sure they argued sometimes, but she enjoyed his company more than anyone on the base, he made her laugh and, although it annoyed her sometimes, he understood her completely. At least with the link gone they'd be able to stand next to each other once again; she was looking forward to that.
They reached the holding cells a few minutes later and Elizabeth found herself being led into one of them by Rodney, while he tried to explain to her why it made sense that the link would be broken by this force field. Something about only needing to keep a Wraith restrained until they could be imprisoned and then not needing the link within Atlantis because of the security that would have been available. Elizabeth nodded at all the right moments, but she wasn't really listening; she didn't really care how it was supposed to work this time, she just wanted to find out if it did. Rodney seemed to realise this as his explanation continued because he cleared his throat in obvious annoyance and left the cell. She took a deep breath and glanced over at John to see him doing the same.
"Okay," Rodney said, as he moved over to the cell controls, "is everybody ready?" Elizabeth nodded at him and a murmur of affirmation came from John and Carson. "Well here goes," Rodney continued. Elizabeth closed her eyes and waited whilst Rodney tapped at the buttons. She heard the force field hum to life, but she felt no different. She opened her eyes, to see that John looked equally unconvinced by the success of Rodney's plan.
"Are you sure this has worked?" she heard him ask Rodney, "I don't feel a thing."
"You didn't feel a thing when the link was first initiated either," Rodney pointed out. "Right, that should be it," he said a few seconds later. He looked around at everybody once more before turning off the cell force field and opening the door.
Elizabeth didn't move, and looked over at John to signal that he should. He took a deep breath and slowly moved forward, while Rodney and Carson looked on. Elizabeth didn't take her eyes from John's as he approached, but she knew when he had passed the 1.371 limit, because his face broke into a wide smile and he stepped forward quickly until he was right in front of her. He held up his hand, obviously intent on testing that physical contact had also been re-established. Elizabeth reached up her own hand and pressed her palm to his, revelling the feel of being so close to him once again. But then, to her surprise, John linked his fingers through hers, she gave him a confused smile, but followed suit and they stood there for several seconds, their hands held together, watching each other closely.
"I think you owe Rodney an apology," she told him a few moments later, a wry smile on her face.
"Nah, he thrives under my scepticism," John grinned, "gives him chance to show me how wrong I am."
On cue Rodney came forward, a smug smile on his face and reluctantly Elizabeth drew her hand back from John's.
"I think it's safe to say that I have saved you once again," he murmured.
"Thank you Rodney," she told him, pouring her gratitude into the words.
"Thanks buddy," John added, giving Rodney a firm pat on the back.
"I'd like to say that it was my pleasure, but I'm tired and I'm caffeine deprived and I have to say there were better things that I could have been doing."
"Well we appreciate it," Elizabeth assured him. Carson stepped forward.
"The two of you better report to the infirmary before the end of the day, just to check everything's fine."
"Will do," John nodded, before Carson disappeared into the corridor. Elizabeth turned to John with a sigh,
"The paperwork on this is going to be a pain," she told him.
"Well we could go to your office and get it out the way now," John suggested with a shrug.
"Wait a second," Rodney said with a frown, "you've been stuck together for the last two days and it's the lack of the 1.371 metre limit that you make the most of? I thought you'd want to get away from each other."
"What's that supposed to mean?" John asked him sharply.
"No not you," Rodney said with a shake of his head. "Elizabeth's good company, I get why you're staying, but aren't you fed up with him?" he asked, turning to Elizabeth. She tried in vain to hide the smile that was threatening to spread across her face, but one look at John's thoroughly annoyed expression made that impossible.
"It's a good job you just helped me out Rodney, or I'd have a few things to say," John muttered.
"It's a fair question," he argued, turning to Elizabeth, but she simply smiled at him and he seemed to decide that he was better off in his bed, because he headed off without further comment.
Elizabeth and John headed down to her office, walking shoulder to shoulder as they made their way round the corridors, enjoying the use of transporters once again.
"Well that's all sorted out," John told her as they headed into her office; there was a stack of new papers on her desk and she hid her dismay at the work she was behind on. She decided that for now she would ignore it and sat down on her chair while John took up his usual position on the corner of her desk.
"It's been an interesting couple of days," she nodded with a smile.
"Admit it; you've had a great time," John told her with a grin. She raised an eyebrow, but didn't argue; she'd had worse days in Atlantis. "So I guess now we just need to do the report."
"Here," she said, turning her laptop screen to face him. "I started writing mine up yesterday, you can use it as a template if you want."
"I dunno; kinda feels like cheating on my homework."
"So you don't want it?" she asked.
"I was never one for rule following," he grinned. She smiled back at him and quickly emailed the file over to his account. With that done she sat back on her chair and looked up at him; they had nothing else that they needed to do together.
"So, I guess I should probably go and track down Ronon; I'm sure he'd like the chance to kick my ass again."
"And it looks like I've got some catching up to do," she said, nodding towards the things that were spread all over her desk.
"Okay…well I'll see you later," John said slowly, getting up from the desk, she nodded back and he turned to go, but couldn't ignore the disappointment that swelled in her chest as she watched him walk away; she was glad to be free of the link, that was for sure, but she no longer had an excuse to chat to John, to share with him, just to be with him. She sighed and looked down at her work, sadness flowing through her, but a knock on the glass brought her gaze back up. She smiled; there was John, leaning against the doorframe, his hands folded lazily across his chest.
"You know," he said matter-of-factly, "I really feel like we haven't made enough time for each other recently, Elizabeth. Do you feel like heading to the mess hall for a coffee?" She stared at him for several seconds before standing up and walking over to him, unable to stop the smile that was creeping onto her face.
"I'd love to," she nodded, taking up her place at his side as they headed across the bridge.