Title: Through the eyes of an outsider
Category: angst, romance
Summary: When Jack O'Neill woke up this morning, he had thought about what could happen, but this hadn't made the list.
Season/Sequel: season 4 AU
Spoilers: General knowledge of both Stargate SG1 and Stargate Atlantis could be helpful
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 the s4/s5 Fix it challenge on LJ, the prompt is "Jack O'Neill picked an interesting time to visit Atlantis". This is a sequel of some sort of my other fic Back Home. You don't really need to read it for you to understand this, though. Many thanks again to my ever so fantastic beta, Jaclyn!
When Jack O'Neill woke up this morning, he had thought about what could happen during the day, but this hadn't made the list.
Earlier this day
"So, today's the day?" Sam asked him, sipping on her first coffee of the day. When he just nodded, she continued. "You know, it's better that you're the one to go and evaluate Elizabeth."
"Yeah. They all trust you, and they would be ill-at-ease with Woolsey or any other member of the IOA. This is why they've chosen you, they know that. Just like they know your evaluation won't be influenced by your feelings for Elizabeth."
"I don't have feelings for Elizabeth," he replied automatically; she loved to tease him about that from time to time.
"Oh really. And who do you have feelings for, then?" she asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Who says that I have feelings for somebody?" he asked, putting his cup into the sink and leaving the kitchen.
"Major General Jonathan O'Neill! Come back here immediately!" she shouted, chasing after him.
"You'll have to follow me if you want to talk," Jack said, entering the bathroom with a smile on his face.
This was going to be a good day.
Jack was feeling the start of what promised to be a massive headache. Rubbing his temples, he looked at the scene before him, and for probably the hundredth time in the last two minutes, he just wanted to whine out loud. If he knew that SG1 bad luck would follow him everywhere, he would have stayed in the team; but then, he thought that he would still have to spend his nights as a lonely single old man. But really, why did they pick today of all days to do this? So, they didn't know he would come because it was a surprise evaluation, but still.
A thought struck him. He could be mistaken. This could be something else. It had to be something else. He should ask. Yes, he would ask. And right now.
"So... What's going on?" he asked, gesturing with his hands.
"It's good to see you, General," Elizabeth said, as she walked down the stairs to join him.
She had yet to answer his question, and Jack could see that she seemed nervous. And he doubted that it was because she guessed he was there to evaluate her. Which only reinforced his suspicions as to what was really going on.
"You too, Elizabeth. Colonel Sheppard," he nodded to the younger man. "Did I interrupt something?"
"Maybe we should take this to the briefing room," Elizabeth suggested.
"Lead the way."
As they climbed up the stairs, Jack noticed more and more things making him think that he might be right. But for once, he didn't want to be right; if he was right, it could only lead to one thing. And he didn't want that. When he finally looked towards the balcony, he groaned out loud.
"Nothing, Sheppard," he dismissed him. "Just... Nothing."
He entered the briefing room after Elizabeth, and noticed that John, Rodney, Teyla and Ronon joined them.
"So, what's going on?" Jack repeated his first question as he took a seat.
He noticed the looks Elizabeth and the team were exchanging, the way she pursed her lips together, looking nervous. But now that he was really looking at her, he could see that she seemed more relaxed than the last time he saw her, after she came back. And even more relaxed that the times he saw her before the whole ordeal. The Elizabeth that was sitting before him looked more at peace. Jack couldn't help but think that it had something to do with what he was suspecting.
He decided to let them off the hook, and spoke before anyone of them could.
"I think I've guessed what's going on. I just didn't want to believe it at first, but now I think I'm ok with it. I don't say that the IOA won't want a say in it, but..."
"What's the IOA got to do with it?" John interrupted. "Sir," he added as an afterthought.
"Well, I think they definitely won't be happy about you and Elizabeth getting married."
"What?" the two people concerned exclaimed.
"You and Elizabeth are getting married?" Rodney asked, turning towards his friends.
"No!" John replied quickly. "We are not."
Jack could feel the headache hitting full force behind his eyes. If Elizabeth and John weren't getting married, then he wondered why there were flowers everywhere and why they were dressed like that.
As if he read his mind, Teyla answered.
"We were celebrating the new season, the one we can identify as your spring on Earth. My people have always celebrated it, and since we came to live on Atlantis, Elizabeth, John and other members of the expedition are also participating."
"I see. I guess I was a bit misled by all those flowers, and their clothes," Jack said, gesturing to Elizabeth and John.
"John and Elizabeth have taken part in the blessing, which is why they're wearing some of our ritual clothes. I understand what it must look like for you, but I can assure you that it is the truth."
"I believe you. I think I've just jumped to a conclusion, and I'm sorry," he added, turning towards Elizabeth and John. Jack couldn't really understand why, but in the presence of the Athosian, he felt the need to be more diplomatic; it was as if she had a soothing effect on him. "Now, if you don't mind, I'd like to talk to Elizabeth, alone."
"Of course. We will resume the celebration once you are done. And General O'Neill, my people and I would be honoured if you agree to participate in the celebration."
Usually, it wasn't his kind of thing. That was more Daniel's. But maybe he could make an exception.
"You are under no obligation to do that, General," Elizabeth told him. "Teyla or her people won't be offended if you turn down the offer."
She knew him well, or better, she knew his file well. Daniel told him she had read all the SGC personnel files when she was assigned there by President Hayes, so he wasn't that surprised that she read about his dislike of this kind of ceremony.
"I know. And I'm thinking about it, actually. Nice outfit, by the way."
Elizabeth was wearing an Athosian dress that probably revealed more of her body than her usual clothes. The top was low cut, revealing a bit of her cleavage, and close to her body, while the skirt of her dress was flowing around her as she walked. Jack didn't know why, but his mind kept bringing back memories of Sam in that blue dress the Shavadai insisted she had to wear. And he couldn't help the smirk that stretched his lips as he remembered that ridiculous headdress.
"General?" Elizabeth prompted, and he knew that he might have confused her.
"Nothing. I was just... remembering something."
"Does it have to do with Simarka?" she asked, raising an eyebrow in the process.
"How do you know about it?" he replied, before raising a hand to stop her from answering. "Right, I nearly forgot. You read the mission reports."
"Yes. How is Sam?" she changed the subject, and he smiled.
"She's great. She's settling back in SG1, and we're settling back to living together." There was no point in hiding from Elizabeth, Sam had told him that she knew about them. "And how are you?"
"Fine, fine. Settling back too, I guess," she added with a smile. "But you're not here so we can chit-chat, right?"
"No. The IOA sent me for your evaluation. They want to be sure that you're still fit for the job."
"I understand. But I thought you had retired?" she asked the question that had been on her mind since he stepped through the Gate.
"Well, technically, yes. But you know, you never really leave the SGC." He paused, rocking on the balls of his feet, his hands in his pockets, before continuing. "What do you say we let the Athosians continue their celebration, first? After all, I'm here for around a week, so there's plenty of time for that."
"Of course. I'll arrange for some quarters for you..."
"No, don't worry about it. Just give me the ones I had last time I was there, and I'll be ok."
"If you want to. But which quarters? The ones you were attributed but where you actually never stepped foot in, or Sam's?"
He could see the genuine smile on her face, and could feel the blush creeping on his own. He wasn't that surprised that she knew about that, but he actually hoped that not all of Atlantis knew too. Not that he was hiding it or something, his relationship with Sam was public knowledge, but he just didn't want everyone to talk about it.
"It doesn't matter," he finally replied. "Actually, Sam's old quarters would be better, since I don't even know where the other ones were..." he added as an afterthought; he really didn't want to get lost on Atlantis.
"I'll see to that. Shall we go, then?"
"Please," he said, gesturing for her to precede him. "Oh, will there be cake?" he asked, and heard a giggle escape from her.
As they left the briefing room, he noticed John questioning Elizabeth with a look. She reassured him with a imperceptible nod, and Jack could see the Colonel relaxing. The headache he had earlier? It came back.
Jack stood on the balcony watching the night sky and wished that he had taken his telescope with him. He made a mental note to not forget it next time he came here. He had never been able to observe an alien sky before, with all that running and fighting he had to do, besides that one time on Hanka. Thinking of that particular planet made him think about Cassandra. The frightened young girl they had found had changed so much since that day. She had become a beautiful young woman who had decided to follow Janet's steps and become a doctor. And as her father figure, he was now dreading the moment she would came home to introduce them to her fiancé, or worse, the father of her child. Sam and he might have stepped in as her parents after Janet's death, but that didn't mean they were ready for any of that, let alone for being grandparents.
The door to the balcony opened before he could think more about it. He turned in time to see Major Lorne stop on the threshold; he certainly hadn't expected to find the older man there.
"Sorry, Sir, I'll let you...," he started before being interrupted by Jack.
"It's ok, Lorne, you can come. There's enough space for the both of us to be here."
With a nod, Evan finally let the door slid close behind him, and came to join Jack by the railing.
Jack had known the man since he joined the SGC, they even went on a few missions together, and he had noticed the changes in him. He looked older than when he first met him, what he had seen during his missions taking their toll on him. But he also seemed more confident, and Jack thought that he would soon recommend him for a promotion. It was high time for him to benefit from the work he had done all those years.
"Sir?" Lorne's voice jolted him from his thoughts. "Can I ask you something?"
"You just did."
"Yes, sir," he chuckled. "I wanted to know if you would take our opinions into consideration."
Jack didn't need to think twice. He knew how Atlantis worked; it was exactly the same as the SGC. They were a sort of close-knitted family, looking out for each other, trusting each other, and wary of any outside people. He wasn't an outsider, but the IOA was, he was part of the family, but at the same time he was working for the IOA. Those people felt like they could trust him, like they did when they worked at the SGC along with him, but the fact that he was there for Elizabeth, their leader, could work against him.
So he did the best thing he could. He told Lorne exactly what he thought.
"Whoever wants to talk to me about Doctor Weir, I will listen to them, and will take what they say into consideration. I can assure you of that, Major. I'm not working against Elizabeth. This woman, along with Sheppard's team, saved my life. The least I can do for her is to listen to anyone who wants to talk to me."
"Thank you, Sir."
"So, I guess you're the first, right?" At the other man's nod, Jack's lips stretched into a small smile. "Just so I know, tell me, how many people are in line?"
"Probably most of the City."
"That's what I thought." This was going to be a long week. "Then, talk. We're both here, and I'm listening to you."
"I respect Doctor Weir a lot. No offense to Colonel Carter, but I think that Atlantis needs her. She brings everyone together. When Colonel Sheppard's team was forced to leave her behind on Asura, you have to know that most people volunteered to go and get her back. And I think that Colonel Carter would have authorized it, but Colonel Sheppard decided that it was too risky. At first, people were angry at him, me included, but then, we all understood that Doctor Weir wouldn't have wanted that. She would never put her own well-being before that of the City. She wouldn't risk people's lives if it was too dangerous."
Jack knew about that already. Sam had explained everything to him just before the IOA decided to put her in charge. And he knew that because he had seen her being the one in charge, both back at the SGC, when she took on the challenging task of replacing General Hammond, and here in Atlantis. He also knew what it felt like, because he had been in charge of the SGC too and had to be the one to evaluate the risks.
"But I think you didn't need to hear that," Lorne added he saw Jack's face. "I guess what I wanted to say is that all of Atlantis is behind her, Sir."
"I know that, Major." He paused, before turning towards the other man. "So, let's talk about you, Major."
"Yes, you. You still don't want to come back to Earth?" he teased, knowing that along with pretty much all Atlantis personnel, the fact that they had to leave the City when those Ancients came back had been difficult.
"No, Sir," Evan chuckled slightly. "I think I've found my place. Working at the SGC was already great, but Atlantis is home. And you have to admit that the view is better."
"As Teal'c would say: indeed."
"Well, Sir, while it's been a pleasure to talk with you, I have a mission tomorrow, and you know better than me that it's when you haven't got much sleep that you are attacked," Lorne said, and Jack could do nothing but agree.
"Goodnight, Major," he dismissed the younger man
With that, Jack was left alone once more.
He reflected back to the conversation he had with Elizabeth after the celebration. She hadn't tried to defend herself more than necessary, and he guessed that was because she was asked to do that more than once these last months. He also knew that if she were asked to leave her position, she would do that without a moment of hesitation; her main concern was Atlantis itself. Jack knew that it was a possibility, even if his evaluation said that she was still fit for the job. The IOA didn't like her being in charge; she might still be the same Elizabeth as the one who first stepped foot on Atlantis, but for them she had changed because she had ascended. He guessed he could still have Daniel talk to them if it came to that. After all, the archaeologist was probably the best person to talk about ascension, having experienced it twice.
Sighing, he pushed away from the railing and walked to the doors. He should get a good night of sleep since Major Lorne pretty much told him than a lot of people would want to talk to him during the next few days.
Jack found himself back on the same balcony the night before he was due to leave Atlantis. This time though, he was sitting, watching the stars through the telescope one of the scientists lent him. He had been right; this was a beautiful view they got there, so different from the one he was used to on Earth, but yet, so familiar too.
This week had been a long one. One of the teams had been captured off-world by a group of rogue Genii who had once worked with Kolya, and he had watched Elizabeth as she refused to negotiate with them, standing her ground despite the threats they were giving. He remembered Daniel telling him how she had negotiated with the System Lords, and he now knew better than to play cards with her; she had one hell of a poker face. He had wanted to be part of the rescue team, but as he was going to tell Sheppard that he would come with them, he realised that it wasn't his place, his job anymore. He was the one who stayed behind, had been for a few years now.
And Lorne hadn't been mistaken either; most of Atlantis had come to find him to talk about Elizabeth. They all wanted him to understand that she meant a lot to the City, not that he didn't know it already. But the one he had been expecting hadn't come, and he couldn't help but wonder why. He had thought he would be amongst the first, but he hadn't. Now, with only a few hours left, Jack realised that he probably wouldn't come.
Just as he was thinking this though, the man stepped onto the balcony. Jack nodded at him, before turning his head back to the telescope. John came to stand on the other side, leaning against the railing.
"You seen any Hive Ships that we should be aware of, Sir?"
"You can relax, Sheppard, I don't think they'll come tonight."
"Good. I wouldn't like missing the movie night," John replied with a smile.
"From Russia with Love."
"Ah, James Bond! So, maybe it's time for us to talk seriously, don't you think, Sheppard?" At the other man's nod, he continued. "To be honest, I was expecting you sooner."
"I know, Sir. I wasn't so sure what you would think if I come and talk to you. I'm still not entirely sure it's a good idea."
"Sheppard, just speak your mind. Don't worry about how it could be interpreted."
"Yes, Sir. I believe I'll only repeat what others have said if I told you that Atlantis needs Elizabeth." When Jack nodded, John sighed. "Then, if I might add, you've seen how she works these past few days, or in the past. You and the IOA think you know Elizabeth, but you don't. You know Elizabeth, the leader of Atlantis, but you don't know the woman behind the facade."
"And you do?"
"Yes. She's passionate and strong-minded, but she has her moments of weakness. I have seen her when we lost Atlantis; she took it the worst. She had drawn away from me, Rodney and Carson. Atlantis needs her, but she needs Atlantis. Just like any of us. She's the best leader Atlantis could ever have because she thinks of it as a home. She doesn't care about politics, she wants the best for Atlantis. She's not willing to put it at risk. You and I, we both have the gene and we can feel Atlantis." He waited for Jack to nod before resuming. "You should have felt Atlantis when we lost Elizabeth. She was mourning her too. And when she came back, Elizabeth told me that she could feel the City. She doesn't have the gene, but they have this connection. Take Elizabeth away from Atlantis, and they'll both lose the connection." He paused, looking out towards the ocean, before continuing on a softer tone. "I shouldn't be telling you this, but..."
"You love her," Jack interrupted him, coming to stand beside John. He saw him open his mouth, but put a hand up to stop him. "Don't deny it. You might have not acted on your feelings, but they're there. You're trying to ignore them, to stop them from rising to the surface, but they're there, and they won't go away. Believe me, I've been through the same thing. I know how it is to care about someone a lot more than I'm supposed to," he repeated the exact same words as the ones he pronounced during the re-testing. "They won't go away if what you're feeling is real. And having seen you, both of you..."
"I'm screwed," John summed up.
"If you want to put it like that. Have you ever tried to talk to her?"
"Not really. But we both know it's there. Though with the IOA breathing down Elizabeth's neck, I don't think..." he stopped there, shaking his head.
Jack could see that John had thought about it before. He guessed there must be a curse or something like that on people working around a Gate. They fell in love with co-workers and were afraid to act on it. He and Sam had waited about nine years, after all. Even when he wasn't her boss anymore, they were both avoiding the big talk. Right up until they couldn't anymore. He knew how John was feeling, and he didn't want to see John and Elizabeth go through the same doubts. Not if he could help it. If Sam knew he was going to play matchmaker, she would laugh her ass off. Or worse, if Daniel knew about it, he would be in an isolation room, waiting for the results of every possible test the archaeologist could have asked Doctor Lam to do.
"I'm going to repeat you something a wise woman told me once," he said, thinking back to the words Kerry had told him when she broke up with him. "Elizabeth may be your boss, but she's a civilian. No one can have a say in your relationship, should you choose to have one. That is as long as the City comes first. But I don't think that would be a problem."
"No, Sir. That wouldn't be a problem."
"Good. Now, go inside, and drag Elizabeth out of her office to take her to your first date. Though, better not tell her yet that it's a date, she would ask questions and you'll never be able to make it for the movie."
"Is this the experience talking, Sir?" John asked with a smile in his voice and on his face.
"Sadly, yes. But don't tell Sam I've ever mentioned that, Sheppard, or I'll have you scrub the Gateroom with a toothbrush."
"You have my word, Sir."
Saluting the General, John left the balcony. Jack stood in the threshold to watch as he walked straight towards Elizabeth's office. He observed as Elizabeth looked up from her computer as he entered, and sent him a smile. He couldn't hear what they were saying from where he was, but he could see the confused look on her face as John started to talk. He wasn't very good at reading people, but he could see that John was nervous, his hands in his pockets, and rocking on the balls of his feet. Finally, Elizabeth seemed to take pity on him, smiled and nodded. She stood up, and together, they left the office, Elizabeth brushing past John as he let her precede him. He caught Jack's eyes just before leaving the control room, and nodded.
Jack returned to the telescope. There was really no way that Sam and Daniel would ever hear about it. Though he didn't think that they would believe it...
Jack was finishing putting his belongings into his bag when the door chimed. Opening it, he was surprised to see Elizabeth on the other side.
"Is everything ok?" he asked, worried that she was going to tell him that his departure was delayed.
"Everything's fine, don't worry. Can I come in?" she asked, and he noticed now that she was wriggling her hands together, a gesture he soon came to associate with nervousness with her. "John told me about your conversation. We talked after the movie, about us, about what you told him. Thank you," she said with a smile.
"Don't mention it," Jack replied, patting her hands.
"Do you really think there would be no problems with the IOA? If I keep my job, that is."
"Like I told Sheppard, as long as you both keep doing your jobs as if nothing has changed, I don't think they would have anything to say. And don't worry about your job. I shouldn't tell you this, but I'm recommending that you stay in charge in my evaluation. Now, that doesn't mean that the IOA would follow it, but there will be people fighting for you if it comes to that. I'm glad you're giving it a chance. After what you went through..."
"Yeah... It was time, I guess. You know that when I came back, Janus descended me in John's quarters, in his bed?" she smiled at the memory.
"Sam told me about that," Jack smiled too; then he remembered the last time Daniel descended, in his office, and wondered why he had to go in there.
"I guess Janus tried to play matchmaker too, in a way. But before last night, we didn't talk about us. We admitted we were worried about change. We're friends, good friends, and if it doesn't work..." Elizabeth trailed off, shaking her head. "But we've decided that we had to try, and we promised ourselves that our friendship wouldn't suffer from it."
"That's the best thing to do," Jack replied, remembering that he had the same conversation with Sam when they decided to start exploring this thing between them. An idea popped into his mind, and he decided to go along with it, pretty sure that Sam would agree with him. "You're one of the first to know; Sam and I are getting married."
"That's... Congratulations!" she exclaimed, her lips stretching into a wide smile. "Permission to hug you, General?"
"Permission granted," he replied, and soon found himself in Elizabeth's arms. He hugged her back. When he told her that not many people knew about it, it was true; besides Daniel, Teal'c, Cameron, Vala and Sam's brother, they had mostly kept it to themselves. Though he wouldn't be surprised if by now all the SGC knew; Daniel could be quite a gossip girl when he wanted to. "Sam and I would be happy if you and John could come to the wedding. We haven't chosen a date yet, but we'll send you the details once we have them."
"You can count on us. That is, as long as Atlantis isn't under attack."
"Of course. Well, I think it's time for me to go."
"I'll walk you to the Gateroom."
On the way there, they were joined by John. Jack tried not to notice the looks they were sharing while walking, or that from time to time Elizabeth's hand found her way into John's. He would keep an eye on the two of them, if only because he wanted to make sure the IOA didn't want to mess with them.
Once in front of the Gate, having already said his goodbye, and waiting for it to activate, Jack realised that he had always picked interesting times to visit Atlantis. The first time he came here, the Asurans had attacked the City, and he and Woolsey only owed their lives to John, his team, Elizabeth and Carson. The second time, he had been there when two Wraith hive ships were heading towards the planet. Thankfully, they had been able to cloak the City and the hive ships had left, thinking that they weren't there. And now, the third time proved to be the most interesting of the three. He had come during a springtime celebration, made assumptions about John and Elizabeth, thought that they were going to get married. All that happened before he played matchmaker and talked John into starting a relationship with Elizabeth.
There were days, days like today, when he thought that someone up there just didn't want him to spend some time just relaxing in Atlantis. That or SG1 legendary bad luck had followed him and should now be renamed 'Jack bad luck'.
With one last look to Elizabeth and John, who were standing close to each other, Jack walked through the Gate, leaving Atlantis behind, between Elizabeth's more than capable hands.