Disclaimer: I do not own Stargate: Atlantis, any of the characters, places, things, or ideas therein. I am writing this story for entertainment purposes only, and with no copyright infringement intended. I am making no monetary gain from this venture -- though a couple of reviews would be nice. . .

Summary: Sometimes the rules of engagement are even harder to follow than the rules of life itself. JohnElizabeth

Rating: T

Warnings: Violence

Pairing: JohnElizabeth (Sparky)

Part 1/2

Title: Rules of Engagement

Author: Mama Jo

Author's Note: While watching one of my favorite SGA episodes, I started wondering: What if in fyd818's Journey to Forever/Shattered universe, "Common Ground" took place after John and Elizabeth's engagement? Originally, I planned to do the whole fic solely from Elizabeth's POV; however, John was less than happy about that, and kept wanting to put in his two cents' worth! Hence the first two-parter I ever (realized) I'd write! (This, of course, being written before fyd's SAWS aka Spanky a Week Summer, in which I still have an unfinished 3-part story. . .) fyd: "Trying to turn a novelist into a short story writer is like trying to turn a bonfire into a firecracker." Thanks for bailing me out again, sweetie! This story may be recognizable from my days in YotS, and I hope it brings enjoyment to those who have read it before, and those new to the story. Thank you for checking it out, and I hope you enjoy!


Rules of Engagement

Mama Jo

Part I: Elizabeth


Even before the official announcement, the news zinged through Atlantis at approximately light speed: Dr. Weir and Col. Sheppard were engaged to be married! In both the civilian and military components of the expedition, jubilant approval ensued.

In other quarters, however, word of the impending nuptials got a – less – than enthusiastic reception.

Dr. Elizabeth Weir felt cold fury curl outward from the pit of her stomach. As every tech in the control room, whether military or civilian, kept their heads turned rigidly down towards their consoles in a desperate attempt to seem oblivious, she stared unblinkingly at the image on the main wallscreen in front of her. Briefly and deeply, she regretted the hairlessness of Richard Woolsey's pate, since she wanted nothing more at the moment than to snatch him bald—

—Despite the fact he and she were currently in separate galaxies.

Pronouncing each word with an icy snap, she said, "Mr. Woolsey, what I do in my personal life is none of your – or the IOA's – concern."

"On the contrary, Dr. Weir," he fired back. "In becoming romantically involved with the military commander assigned," he ever so slightly stressed the word, "to the Atlantis expedition, you've allowed your personal life to compromise your executive position. And that gives the IOA abundant reason to doubt your future decisions."

Elizabeth put her chin up, even as she narrowed her eyes at him. "Please," she said, "spare me the melodramatic rhetoric. 'Romantically involved'? 'Compromise'? Do you really believe that after all the difficult decisions Colonel Sheppard and I have already taken to ensure the survival and success of this expedition, we're going to – so how would you phrase it? 'Throw it all away for love?'" She made no attempt to damp down the biting sarcasm in her voice.

For a long moment, their gazes locked and held. Then, almost imperceptibly, Woolsey's expression and stance seemed to soften the least little bit. His voice retained an austere note, however, as he replied, "What I believe – or don't believe – isn't the issue. You and Colonel Sheppard have put yourselves into a very precarious situation, Dr. Weir. It remains to be seen whether or not that position becomes," he paused for an intense beat, "untenable. Woolsey out."

The screen went blank.

For several agonizingly long seconds, Elizabeth wished she could simply cut loose and kick something. Or break something. Or even just swear profusely. Instead, she made herself draw a deep, steadying breath, then another, and another. Almost without realizing what she did, she raised her right hand to brush her fingers over her splendidly unique engagement ring. With what calm dignity she could muster, she looked around her and said quietly to the control room at large, "I apologize profoundly to you all for being forced to witness that." She started back to her office, concentrating on keeping her pace unhurried.

But unexpectedly, tiny Aiko Fujihara stepped away from her station, halting what Elizabeth wretchedly acknowledged inwardly as being a retreat. Placing her hands on her knees, she bowed deeply. Holding the pose, she said fiercely, "Weir-san, we are with you and the Colonel. All of us."

Before she could blink once, all the other techs – civilian, military, American or not – were on their feet as well, their eyes focusing on her with solemn intensity. Deeply moved as well as shaken by their unanimous show of support, Elizabeth felt tears threaten, even as her shoulders went a little straighter. Returning the Japanese woman's bow, she said huskily, "Domo arigato, Fujihara-san. Thank you – all of you," as her eyes swept around the earnest young faces turned in her direction. "As you were," and she escaped to the relative privacy of her office.

She'd barely had a chance to compose herself enough to turn on her laptop again when the Stargate activated unexpectedly. With McKay yelling loudly over the radio that the team was coming in hot, and her nerves still raw from her confrontation with Woolsey and his implied threats, Elizabeth suddenly found herself plunged into the lowest circle of her own personal hell.

[[[]]]

This time a different kind of ice filled her veins as Elizabeth stared at the grainy picture on the wallscreen in the control room. At Acastus Kolya and his captive Wraith, twin embodiments of her darkest nightmares. . .

. . .At the man she loved with all her heart, bound, gagged, visibly older, obviously dreading what he knew was to come—

—And just as obviously determined not to yield, either to his dread or to those inflicting it.

Looking directly into the camera, Kolya said, "Will you turn Ladon Radim over to me in exchange for Colonel Sheppard?"

Elizabeth didn't – couldn't – answer at once. Her gaze went to John. His eyes burned into the camera as though he could actually see her. For the second time in a little more than two weeks, all of time seemed to draw down to the present instant. She knew that look so well. She'd seen it only slightly more than a month ago: on the face of the John Sheppard who'd died to change an entire timeline in order to prevent her death in his past. Difficult as it had been, and still was, for her to accept, she knew her John firmly believed her life to be one of the things worth the price of his.

Safeguarding Atlantis, and therefore the rest of the Pegasus galaxy, from evil megalomaniacs qualified as another.

But, the thought crept through her mind, insidious and weakening, I can't do this, I can't do this, I can't watch this again!

On the thought, as if he felt her wavering, John shook his head at her, the barest of movements. The expression in his eyes became even more intense. Almost, she could hear his voice inside her head: Don't do it, 'Lizabeth, don't even think about giving in to this scum. I'm not giving in, so don't you dare either!

With her eyes fixed firmly on John's face, and the eyes of everyone else in the control room on her, Elizabeth felt her mind clear, even as her inner chill deepened, numbing her heart. Well, that was a good thing, in light of what she had to do. She unconsciously curled her fingers around her engagement ring.

"Dr. Weir?" Kolya spoke again, a slight sneer on his scarred and deeply lined face, his voice oozing patently false courtesy.

The future Mrs. John Sheppard wondered wildly if she were about to be widowed before ever being wifed. Dr. Elizabeth Weir, however, steeled herself and uttered one implacable word.

"No."

She saw John incline his head in a grim nod of approval. But both sides of her took precious little comfort from that, or from doing what she knew was the right thing.

Especially when she had to watch as the Wraith was once more allowed to feed on John.

[[[]]]

As she heard the whine of a jumper's rear hatch opening, Elizabeth took the last few stairs up to the jumper bay even more slowly than she'd ascended the rest. She stood aside at the top so the squad of Marines who'd gone on the rescue mission could pass her. Much to her surprise, Lt. Silvano half ducked his head as he came abreast of her and brushed his forehead lightly with his right index finger: not quite a salute, but very close.

Carson, Rodney, Teyla, and Ronon came down the ramp next in a cluster, relief radiating from them. Ronon's right arm rested around a smiling Teyla's shoulders; Rodney, as usual, was chattering nonstop. The scientist started to swerve towards her as he called her name. Ronon suddenly reached out, grabbing the back of McKay's tac vest with his big left hand and hauling him back on course for the stairway.

"Just keep walking, McKay," she heard the Satedan growl, just prior to looking over the head of his protesting teammate and meeting her eyes for an instant. After his earlier unconcealed scorn, was that really respect she saw glimmering in those dark green orbs?

Then they were past her and gone, and she was alone. Well, not exactly alone – one person still remained inside the jumper. The one person she both longed and dreaded to see.

Uncertain if she had enough strength of will to do this, she made herself walk over to the little ship's berth. Intellectually, she knew she'd done the right thing, the thing he'd wanted her to do. Second- guessing herself at this point was worse than useless; she knew that, too. Yet still—

Mounting the ramp, Elizabeth entered the jumper.

To Be Continued