Why I Quit by AndromedaMarine
The doorbell of John's apartment rang, insistently, and refused to stop until the door was opened. The retired colonel's beard had made its comeback; he was clutching a beer in one hand, and a TV remote in the other. Awkwardly he opened the door, glaring at the culprit of the doorbell. But his eyes softened when he saw her. Suddenly he felt too exposed, and he hastily put the things he was holding on the counter after ushering her in. His hair was still as unruly as ever, but flecks of grey were here and there – flecks that refused to disappear even when he dyed them. He coughed, and Elizabeth turned to him.
"What are you doing here?" he asked gruffly, not having seen her in over a year and a half.
"I was in town and felt compelled to stop by," she answered swiftly.
He rubbed his beard. "So I wouldn't be the reason of your trip here in the first place? There's nothing diplomatic going on here."
"Besides the Stargate Program."
John rolled his eyes and fell onto the couch. "Right," he said sarcastically. "Besides the Stargate Program." He gave a humourless laugh, and turned his back towards the old friend. "Why are you here, Elizabeth?" he asked again, not willing to accept her first answer. His voice had more force in it.
She sighed. "General Mitchell wants you back on Atlantis."
"Well, he can't have me."
"John," she said, sitting across from him, "it's not going well. We need you back there – everything went wrong after you left."
He looked at her big, green eyes that still looked as youthful as they did when he first saw them. "I'm retired, Elizabeth. Tell that to Cam. I don't want to go back."
His last words stung Elizabeth. She'd known him for nearly twenty years, and she'd never heard him say anything like that before. "John..."
"No, Elizabeth," he interrupted, glaring again at her. "I don't want to go back."
She wasn't and couldn't be satisfied with his answer. She crossed her arms and returned his glare. "Why? You spent most of you life there – why are you turning your back on us – on me? John, you were the best military commander ever posted on Atlantis."
Completely ignoring her he got up and snatched the beer bottle from the counter.
"I don't care if you don't want to. You need to." Her eyes closed, remembering why she'd gone there in the first place. "Like I said, it's not going well."
John gestured with his hand. "Elaborate," he said in a mocking tone, still glaring at her. "Stargate Command doesn't like keeping me in the loop anymore, remember?" He took a swig from the bottle and stared at her, expectant.
Elizabeth took a deep breath and brushed a lock of hair from her face. "Everything fell apart after you left. Colonel Lorne was only military commander for a few months before the Wraith killed him, too. We lost Radek, Jennifer, and Heightmeyer. Teyla and Ronon returned to the Athosian people and set up their own strike forces that took down many Wraith land-bases. We almost lost Rodney during the most recent siege."
As she spoke John's face steadily lost its sternness, and he found himself ridding his hand of the bottle and sinking down onto the couch next to Elizabeth, who was fighting for composure.
"I know that even before you left we'd been losing people all over the city, but it just got worse without you there." She sniffed, and wiped a stray tear from her eye. "Eventually we became allies with Todd and a few of the renegade who'd had enough of the power struggle between Michael and the rest of the Wraith." She stopped and looked around the room, finally seeing the place she was in. "But everything got worse. The Daedalus was destroyed during a fierce battle, taking Colonel Caldwell and Hermiod with it. General Mitchell had known the Daedalus was getting old, and already three more X-303s were on the way: The Pegasus, the Cassiopeia, and one Rodney grew rather fond of – the Enterprise. After Evan died Colonel Carter became military commander, but she was killed in an ambush on the Cassiopeia nearly two months ago. It was then that I put in a request for your return."
John's eyes widened. "You requested me? Not Mitchell?"
Elizabeth nodded. "Yes. Of everyone I'd worked with, you were the best. No person could have done it better than you – and I know what you're thinking. I'm not saying this to butter you up. I mean every single word of it. John, I need to know why you quit. It seemed so...unexpected."
John rubbed a hand through his hair and crossed his arms. "I quit because I'd gotten sick of losing every battle. I quit because the IOA refused to give us more of those we needed. I quit because everyone gave me the message that I wasn't needed." He stood, advancing on her. "I quit because I lost more friends on Atlantis than I ever did in Afghanistan. I quit when I lost you. I lost you when you refused to look at me after I spent a month in Michael's jail cell. The only thing that ever got me through that was your face – and you didn't even let me have that when I got back. I quit because I'd had enough of the pain, the agony of losing life. You could have forced the IOA out of Atlantis – and they're the ones who hindered us in our search for Teyla. Michael got the kid – and that's what really caused your problems – not my departure. If you want to blame someone for turning the tables, blame Woolsey. Blame Gupperton. Hell, blame Mitchell. Just don't blame me, and then ask me to come back and fix what you broke."
John's word had hurt her. She stood angrily, and stormed towards him. "I don't want to hear it, John. I don't want to hear you blame me for what happened. It was your decision to leave, not mine. I couldn't stop the IOA from interfering."
The colonel gave another humourless laugh. "That's rich," he said sharply, his eyes boring into hers. "You couldn't keep a hell-bent organization out of Atlantis which, I might add, is in another galaxy? All you had to do was keep those shields up. While I'm sure they can handle a thirteen day trip through hyperspace, I'm less willing to bet they'd be happy with being beamed through a shield that can resist space. Lorne died because of Michael's advancements with the hybrids. Teyla and Ronon left because their worst enemy had taken away the one thing that could have made their lives complete – a child. I'm just surprised that Rodney didn't give up like you did." John cleared his throat. "The Daedalus was destroyed because Michael's army was growing bigger and stronger. And Sam died because your Wraith buddy Jimmy leaked information on the Cassiopeia's whereabouts. You can't blame me. It's physically impossible, and I know Rodney'd attest to that. Your problems started when Michael took Teyla's child. Your problems started when Woolsey wouldn't let Atlantis alone. The IOA didn't let us do our jobs. Now you can't say you don't know why I quit." He sat down heavily, and his head sunk low into his hands. "I can't go back. Not for Atlantis, not for Rodney, and most certainly not for you."
His words hit her like a ton of bricks – and she knew it was all true, every word. "For Torren, then."
John looked up at her sharply. "Who?"
Elizabeth gave a small smile. "Torren John Emmagan was what Teyla named her son before Michael took him." She knelt in front of the man who used to lead Atlantis by her side. She took his hands in hers and kissed his cheek. "Knowing you and Rodney, the two of you could come up with some plan to set things right. A plan that keeps Atlantis together. Whatever it is will be worth the loss of our family. And I meant it when I said I don't care if you want to go back or not – you abandoned a responsibility that can be fulfilled now. I realized that it was mostly the IOA's fault for what happened. I guess I just needed to hear it in a more familiar voice. We need you back there, John. We need you to help us fix an error that probably will cost the loss of Earth in the long run."
He looked into the eyes that he'd fallen in love with over fifteen years ago. He saw her pleading with him. He'd been bluntly honest with her – and if that was what she'd needed, so be it. He'd always regretted leaving his home, but he knew the truth – he wasn't ready to return. "Goodbye, Elizabeth." He dismissed her out the door and leaned back against it heavily, pondering everything that they'd exchanged in that room. He'd seen the absence of a ring on her finger. Maybe she'd felt the same way for him – but by now it was too late. There was nothing he could do to change the past.
"Walter," Mitchell said, "you know what to do." The already-bald gate technician began dialing Atlantis. Elizabeth Weir stood behind him, silently regretting ever going to John's in the first place. Mitchell stood next to her, his arms crossed as he watched the chevrons encode. The vortex erupted and Mitchell turned to the aging woman. "See you soon," he said, saluting her as she walked toward the stairs. Someone came up to Mitchell and spoke into his ear. "Hold it, Liz," he called out, pointing his finger at her. "I've just been informed you're taking someone back with you." He smiled and stepped aside to reveal John, laden with a large duffle bag and an enormous backpack.
He walked up to the surprised woman. "For Torren."