Sparks Ignited by shipper scifi
Summary: Thrown into the midst of another galaxy, Elizabeth Weir leads her expedition on an exploration both of Pegasus' worlds outside of Atlantis and deep in the heart of the Ancient's city. Stranded, cut off from Earth and surrounded by danger, all the team have is each other to sustain them. Their leader had a will of iron, competent and brilliant, but aloof; her compassion is unwavering, steadfast, but she remains distant, as if behind a wall.

One man reaches out, recognising the danger of her loneliness and seeks to bring her into the comfort of the small community, the only people that may well be hers for the rest of their lives. But as he comes to know more about the steely willed, cool eyed diplomat, Colonel Jonathan Sheppard finds himself pulled in deeper than he's ever been before, and far more than he ever intended.

With the scrutiny of their small knit community, Earth's distant but ever-present watchful eye, and danger forever on their horizon, can they overcome their differences or are they doomed to fail before they began?


Categories: Fanfiction Characters: None
Genres: Romance
Warnings: Character Death, Violence
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 16 Completed: No Word count: 37717 Read: 14468 Published: July 04, 2013 Updated: November 02, 2014
Story Notes:
This is a fanfic to match the Sparks Ingnite film trailer for a Sparky flick on YouTube. Bear with me, its pretty much completely AU although some of the scenes are the same, several missions have been rewritten and reordered to fit with the trailer sequence.

The End Notes of the chapter include the time index of the video and the scene I am alluding to.

The video is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHtwu93ROp0

1. Chapter 1 - McMurdo by shipper scifi

2. Chapter 2 - Atlantis by shipper scifi

3. Chapter 3 - Refugees by shipper scifi

4. Chapter 4 - Shakedown by shipper scifi

5. Chapter 5 - Curveball by shipper scifi

6. Chapter 6 - Business by shipper scifi

7. Chapter 7 - Shotgun by shipper scifi

8. Chapter 8 - Moments by shipper scifi

9. Chapter 9 - Ghosts by shipper scifi

10. Chapter 10 - Risks by shipper scifi

11. Chapter 11 - Sunday by shipper scifi

12. Chapter 12 - Goodbyes by shipper scifi

13. Chapter 13 - Rumour by shipper scifi

14. Chapter 14 - Enchanted by shipper scifi

15. Chapter 15 - Hive Ships by shipper scifi

16. Chapter 16 - And Replicators by shipper scifi

Chapter 1 - McMurdo by shipper scifi
Author's Notes:
This place was weird, with capitals.
This place was weird. Sheppard meant that with a capital W; and possibly all the other letters too. He’d been stationed at McMurdo for a while, a side-effect of pissing off your superiors, but it meant he spent a lot of time in the sky and, out here, his commanding officers didn’t have as many stiff spines as they did everywhere else he’d been stationed.

Plus, it was a really, really long way from his ex-wife and the rest of his family. They always had preferred Nancy to him anyway.

He’d picked up General, what was it? O’Neill. Nice guy for a general, less about the rank and more about the job. Especially when that missile came outta nowhere and tried to turn them into a fireball above the snowy plains of Antartica.

He still had no idea what that missile was, but right now, it seemed the least weird part about his day. He’d been shot at before; but he’d never been this deep under the ice, where a very non-regulation base had been carved out. It was filled with white lab coats, more scientific personnel than military and he was fairly sure his clearance didn’t reach this high.

But he had come in with the General. Good luck telling that guy otherwise, he brooked no argument and he not only had high clearance, he looked down on guys with high clearance.

‘Wow.’

He rounded the corner and saw the chair, but it wasn’t like any chair he’d seen before. It looked carved out of metal or rock, it had delicate patterns all over it and it sat mounted on a large block of stone, coated in ice. One of the scientists.... Beckett... was babbling away about experimental technology, Ancient genes and his apologies for shooting at them, when Sheppard stepped up and onto the plinth and gingerly took a seat.

Beckett turned around. ‘Wait, no! Don’t do that!’

‘C’mon, what harm could it do? What’s the chance of me having one of these gene thingies anyway.’ The Ancient gene, the key to activating the technology all around him and a rarity amongst, oh, all of humanity. Sheppard was nothing special, he was a good pilot, a really good pilot, but that was all.

With those fateful words, the chair flipped him back, and glowed from within He could hear as well as feel the hum from under him.

‘Remote actually,’ Beckett responded, approaching the chair cautiously, as if it were an irate grizzly preparing to attack. ‘Don’t move, and don’t think about anything!

He dashed away, returning moments later with several more people in tow. He recognised one of them, a sandy-haired, serious looking man he had seen in McMurdo before. He wasn't military and his name was Jackson, but that was all Jon knew. O'Neill looked at him, spreading his hands and repeated his words of warning from earlier. 'I told you not to touch anything!'

'Uh... I-I just sat down?' he offered, it was the best he could right now, he was busy trying not to think. He kind of shrugged with his expression, too wary to move in case he blew everyone up.

‘Who is this?’ A dark haired woman demanded, interrupting the tenuous conversation between them.

Sheppard switched his gaze from O'Neill and over to the woman. Someone else told him to think about where they were in the solar system. Sheppard’s mind wondered to vague childhood lessons in science, including a little astronomy. Instantly the ceiling glowed and like a 3D projection, images of the planets, the Sun, asteroids, the whole damn solar system, floated above his head, swooping and circling in perfect unison.

'Did I do that?’ he asked and, in front of him, the brunette folded her arms and grinned like she had suddenly walked in and found Christmas.

It was still weird, but he liked it a whole lot more.

It was the woman, one Dr Elizabeth Weir, who sat him down at a small conference table, surrounded by racks of supplies and outlined what this base was, she told him about the Stargate program too and their plans for some place called Atlantis. In another galaxy.

He almost laughed, but the second it showed on his face the start of disappointment showed on hers and he swallowed it down. Jackson and Beckett had made themselves scarce, so he couldn’t so much as exchange the incredulous glance that was irritating his face with someone else. He didn’t answer straight away, she didn’t expect him too, but by the time they climbed back into the helicopter, he could tell something was brewing in the General's mind.

He soon found out what it was. ‘If you don’t take this opportunity, you’re an idiot.’ The General’s actual speech was a bit longer than that, but it was the gist of what he was getting at. If anyone else had told him that, Sheppard would have clammed up and ignored the potential transfer. He was comfortable here at McMurdo. But he liked the General. He didn't take any shit and he didn’t give it either, unless he had to.

Despite the threat that O'Neill made about not wanting his ass on the Expedition if he couldn't decide by the time they landed, he still had the opportuity to think about it a little longer. The next day he found himself on leave and with a ride back on a cargo plane home, all courtesy of Dr Weir and General O'Neill. He took the chance to visit his brother and his family, he saw his father too, but none of them, except his sister-in-law, had really cared about his warning of a longterm, possibly hazardous assignment. His father had been the worst, but then he’d never approved of Jon’s choices in life.

So he found himself, two weeks later, geared up and standing in the Gateroom of the SGC, a little known base under NORAD. He was under Colonel Sumner, the military adjunct to one Dr Elizabeth Weir, commander of the expedition. It felt strange, being under the command of a civilian, but Sheppard figured he’d adapt. It wasn’t until Sumner took him to task over his past record and reminded him who was in charge, that he realised the Colonel had no intention of letting Weir run the show.

But then Weir appeared to have other ideas. ‘Thank you, Colonel Sumner, but we all go through together, this isn't a military command,’ was only part of the speech she threw at him. Up in the control room, Sheppard saw O’Neill smother a grin as Sumner stalked past, silently fuming. Weir followed, stepping around him to the head of the MALP. Sheppard felt a grin tug at the corner of his mouth as his eyes followed her.

She was attractive, smart and took no shit, not even from a Colonel waving a P90 who could probably kill her with his bare hands in her sleep. He’d read a little about Dr Weir, a diplomat, civilian, acknowledged expert in her field and consummate professional. If nothing else, he could expect a fair trial from her, unlike Sumner. Pushing through to the front, Elizabeth Weir headed straight for the Stargate, her senior team following. The mob made its way behind the MALP, creaking its way up the metal ramp and through the shimmering event horizon. He didn’t really know what to expect, so gritting his teeth and closig his eyes when it came to his turn, Sheppard stepped through the wormhole.

End Notes:
Video: No link to a scene
Chapter 2 - Atlantis by shipper scifi
Author's Notes:
She would never remember the first time.
This Elizabeth Weir would never remember the first time she stepped through the Stargate and into the slumbering Ancient city of Atlantis. Time was not a straight line, and the vagaries of fate were such that you could never know which way it was going to turn next. Weir didn't know this, it was something she would come to learn.

All Elizabeth Weir knew was the sickening rush and the icy cold of a wormhole that seemed to go on forever. A data stream, carrying the precious details that made Weir who she was, from every feature to the earliest memory, swept through the space between galaxies, reforming her, whole and unscathed, on the other side.

Atlantis had slept for over ten thousand years, turning only twice in her slumber at the stirrings of her only remaining inhabitant, a stowaway with a single purpose. Weighed down by the heavy rucksack, Elizabeth breathed in the surprisingly pure air and began crossing the Gateroom with quiet and reverent step.

Behind her, the event horizon fluctuated as one, two, four, five, and more poured through, scattering throughout the room that housed the ‘Gate. Sheppard stepped through with, Ford?, and a couple of other soldiers, gazing around him at the graceful architecture of what was to be their new home for a while.

Elizabeth Weir was already moving ahead to the steps. It was odd, watching her; she had a childlike awe and yet she seemed completely at home, as if the city welcomed her, recognising her as its new leader, and the leader of the people who had come to awaken it.

Shaking off the thoughts that filled his head, he turned his attention to his job. A job that had changed dramatically over the past couple of weeks. He followed Weir, and McKay, a brilliant but breathtakingly annoying scientist that Sheppard was praying he wouldn’t be landed with for many, if any, missions. Under his feet, the steps lit up, responded to the Ancient gene he’d been told he carried; in multiple copies if Dr Beckett had explained it correctly. Not that it meant anything in particular to Sheppard, he was still adjusting to the idea that he had this fabled gene; being a strong carrier was something he wasn't dealing with yet.

But it obviously meant something to the city, the consoles lit up under his hands, but only Weir, McKay and Zelenka, the Russian scientist that assisted the irritating physicist, seemed to have any idea what to do with them.

A voice came through the ‘Gate, letting them know everyone was through.

Weir hurried down the steps, ‘thank you, General. We’re all accounted for.’

‘Here. A little present,’ came his voice, from millions of light years and a moment away. A large bottle of bubbly rolled through the event horizon, with a large tag festivally attached in curled ribbon. Sheppard watched from the balcony overlooking the Stargate as she picked it up, smiling at the message written on it.

She signed off and the Gate flickered, falling dark and leaving only the lights of Atlantis to show the way. For a moment, everyone was still, the loss of contact with Earth a tangible thing. Then Weir turned, her smile lighting up the twilight that Atlantis lay in, and lifted the bottle, finding his gaze and grinning.

He had no idea why, but he found himself smiling back, crossing his arms over his weapon as he watched her, weighed down by her pack, dressed in combats but so utterly filled with joy, he couldn’t stop himself responding.

Then Sumner broke the moment by pulling Weir away with a string of suggestions that sounded like orders, he watched for a moment, saw the eyebrow arch upwards and knew Sumner was in for a few firm suggestions of Weir's own. He turned away and back to the milling crowd. It was time to get to work. It was a couple of hours later before he saw her again.

‘Dr McKay?’ it was Weir, appearing at his elbow. Sheppard had already swept a preliminary area of the city with several other teams. Guards were posted, ringing in the civilian scientific teams to prevent anyone wondering off and getting lost. Sheppard had returned to Ops, only to find McKay babbling away on the edge of panic.

‘We have a problem,’ McKay turned to Weir, his tablet computer over his arm as he punched in numbers. ‘You know we’re underwater,’ she nodded, a fact that had been established a couple of hours ago, ‘well, the ocean is held back by a shield, the shield is powered by a ZPM, one of three that are supposed to be fitted in the power control room.’

‘What about the other two?’

‘Dead. No way to power them up; they’re paperweights,’ McKay replied. ‘The problem is, there’s not enough power to raise the city to the surface but nor is there enough to keep the shield up. We’ve got maybe a day, max. IF we conserve power.’

‘Dr Weir?’ It was Grodin, Weir’s logistics and control room operative. ‘Look at this,’ he touched the panel in front of him and a shimmering forcefield appeared, blocking the Gate.

‘An iris’ Weir noted, ‘very good.’

‘Using power using power using power...’ McKay’s voice droned on behind Grodin. Flustered, he shut down the iris.

‘At least we won’t have to deal with unwanted visitors. Okay, Dr McKay. Major Sheppard, please find Colonel Sumner and his team. We need to decide on our next course of action.’

The meeting was brief. Sheppard found himself included, much to Sumner’s obvious disapproval, along with McKay, Zelenka and Beckett. The mission that came out of it was obvious to all concerned as well. Find a planet with a breathable atmosphere so the Expedition could evacuate if necessary. Meanwhile, they would deploy scientific and military mixed teams to search Atlantis for another possible power source, whilst McKay and Zelenka worked on improving their current situation and looking for a way to raise the city.

The meeting broke up, and Sheppard wandered out to the balcony overlooking the Stargate. He was already geared up along with the others and only had to wait for Colonel Sumner to deploy cityside teams before they moved out. McKay had pulled some information from the Ancients database and was seeking out the first few potential planets to visit.

Weir was already there, looking down at the crowd below. She was chewing on her necklace, fingers nervous. ‘Hey,’ he interrupted her.

‘Major Sheppard,’ she turned with a ghost of a smile and addressed him. ‘Sorry you came with us yet?’

‘Not yet,’ he replied with a boyish grin. ‘Don’t worry, Dr Weir, we’ll find somewhere to hole up. But I’m betting McKay can fix this.’

‘Made an impression, has he?’ she asked, the smile a little wider, finally reaching her eyes. It was better that way.

‘Yeah; don’t tell him I said this, because he’s unbearable enough as it is, but if anyone can fix this, it’ll be him.’

She nodded, a full bloom smile on her face now. Sumner appeared below and Sheppard excused him, conscious of her eyes on him the whole way down the stairs. Trouble, he definitely had a habit of getting into trouble.

Sumner eyed him narrowly, but Sheppard simply set his weapon, slipped his night vision goggles on his head, and watched as the Gate spun into action. Above them, he heard Weir’s voice, telling them to be safe and wishing them luck. He moved forward with his team; but turned his head, lifiting a hand at the lone figure above, watching them go, before turning back and disappearing into the wormhole.

Weir watched them go, Sheppard in particular. The spiky, dark-haired Major had a bad rep, but all she had seen of the soldier suggested a sense of humour, compassion and sense of fairness. Even though McKay clearly grated on his teeth, he was still even-handed enough to give the scientist his due. She wasn’t sure Colonel Sumner was capable of being that fair. Which just meant that she was going to have to be. Sumner was under no illusion as to who he thought was in charge here; she was going to have to remind him that she was Commander here. It came of being a diplomat and civilian really, but she guessed a little of being a woman was in there. Sumner wasn’t intentionally prejudiced, he was just old school.

But in Sheppard, she potentially had a military ally, someone open enough to speak up. He was fair, and would give an honest account. She had already tagged a couple of the scientific team who seemed just as open. It was important to know the people you led; being interested in your team could avert fatal disasters.

The Gate shut down and Weir turned away from the balcony. All she could do now was wait, and hope.

End Notes:
Video: No link to a scene
Chapter 3 - Refugees by shipper scifi
Author's Notes:
‘You don’t leave people in the hands of the enemy. You know that!’ he shot back. He hadn’t expected this, not from her.
Sumner touched base only once, via Sheppard’s team’s and over a radio signal sent through the Gate. They had found a settlement, friendly, quiet, able to show them how to live off the land should they need to evacuate. They knew of no alternate power sources, and there was a great deal of speculation about the new Terrans appearing in the city of the Ancients.

The Ancients weren’t a legend only in their own galaxy it seemed. One of the Athosian leaders was a Teyla Emmagen, a woman and warrior, who was more than willing to meet with Weir to discuss an alliance and trade what knowledge they had of the Ancients. The team were planning on waiting til daylight before exploring further, but the Athosian village was an ideal place to set up an Alpha base, if only temporarily whilst they searched for a solution to Atlantis’ power issues. It was perfect, their saving grace, but it was all lost within hours.

‘Major Sheppard!’ Weir came running down the steps. It seemed like only a couple of hours ago she had received Sumner’s promising report, and now Major Sheppard and his team were pouring through the Gate with a mass of huddled villagers.

‘Major! Who are these people?’

‘Refugees. We were attacked. Some of their people were taken, including some of our own men. What’s going on?’ he asked, looking around. The city was shaking, the lights flickering and a crate tumbled nearby. Weir grabbed his arm, tugging him away from the milling crowd.

‘We are in no position to take on refugees, Major! We need to evacute.’

‘Hey! Going back there is a really bad idea!’ Sheppard responded, pointing at the silent Gate.

‘We don’t have a choice! The shields are about to fail and several hundred thousand tons of ocean water is just dying to pour in here!’

His eyes widened and she could practically hear the cogs in his head whirring. He spun around a second later, pointing at one of the lads in the crowd. ‘Hey, do you know any other Gate addresses?'

‘Many!’ the boy replied.

‘Alright, c’mon,’ he grabbed the lad by his shoulder, and hustled him towards the control room.

‘I am Detu!’ the boy informed Weir brightly as he was hurried past her.

‘She’s pleased to meet you,’ Sheppard cut across him grimly.

All of a sudden the city lurched, throwing them to the floor. Crates crashed to the floor, spilling contents and a wail of fear fillied the hallways. Ford caught Weir as she fell backwards and use her counterweight to steady himself but the next lurch threw them apart.

‘The shields are failing!’ McKay’s voice cried out.

‘I’m dialling the Gate!’ responded Grodin. Sheppard rolled with Detu and caught Weir, pulling her closer, stabilising their movement and hers. Weir threw an arm over Detu, shielding him from the falling debris as Sheppard gained some traction and rose to his knees, leaning over them and pressing his shoulder against an anchored pallet of crates, grabbing hold of the webbing and praying everyone was at least as precariously safe as they were.

‘Wait!’ Weir shouted, her words aimed at Grodin, ‘we’re moving!’

He had no idea how she knew it, but as soon as McKay’s voice came back, affirming what she had said, Sheppard felt the upwards momentum of the city begin, that moment when your stomach drops and your body goes up. He held on to both woman and child as the rush increased, catapulting the city to the surface of the water.

Its spires broke through the waves first, gleaming in the sunlight. Water poured from every outside deck and terrace, streaming down the windows as Atlantis surfaced, looking upon a horizon it hadn’t seen for thousands of years.

Sun glittered on every surface, filling the city with light. The darkness was gone and for the first time the crew looked upon a sunny Atlantean day. Sheppard rose and Detu rolled to his feet, reaching down to pull Weir up with all his childish strength. 'Are you alright, Dr Weir?' he asked, breathlessly as Sheppard reached down and helped Detu pull Weir to her feet.

'Yes, Detu, thank you,' Weir replied gravely with a solemn smile at the child before her. She refuse to meet Sheppard's gaze, she could practically feel the grin she was sure was plastered on his face. They followed the crowd of Athosians and new Atlanteans alike as they slowly crowded to all the windows.

She reached out, touching the cold glass as if it to confirm the vision was real. Her other hand was still wrapped in his; but he let go as Detu wormed his way between them, staring in awe at the vast and gleaming city spread out below them.

‘I was wishing for just one more day,’ Elizabeth murmured, staring out at the spires and the piers, far in the distance, a slow smile curving her lips. ‘It looks like we’ve been given a whole lot more than that. Let’s not waste it.’ She glanced over and found Sheppard smiling back at her.

It was another two hours, one debrief and a whole lot of chaos getting the refugees settled before he found her again, on the balcony outside her office. He stormed out there, intent of tearing her reasoning to shreds.

‘What do you mean, we’re not going back!' It wasn't an auspicious start, but he as never one to hold back.

‘Major? We have no power, no shield, refugees in every corner and no idea if our people are still alive, let alone where they are. ‘

‘You don’t leave people in the hands of the enemy. You know that!’ he shot back. He hadn’t expected this, not from her. ‘As ranking military officer I-‘

‘You have no idea if going after our people will bring the Wraith right back here to our doorstep,' she interrupted him. She hadn't let Sumner ride roughshod over her just because the Airforce had spearheaded this operation and she was damned if she would let Sheppard- she hadn't expected this, not from him. 'You don’t know if there’s a spy in the Athosian ranks that brought that attack to the village in the first place, or even if that spy is here, on Atlantis. You know nothing about the Wraith except that they are an enemy even the Ancients feared. The Ancients, Jon!’

‘The rest of the Athosians don’t deserve to die because we turned our back on them over one, potential, spy. We’re gonna need friends here, and we know they’re susceptible to our weapons; even if we didn’t know that, you don't leave people behind!’

‘Okay. I get it, Jon! But you need to listen to me now. I will not authorise a rescue mission that doesn’t have at least an outside chance of success.’

‘Okay.’ It was one word, and it ended the argument in a way that left her offbalance. He nodded once and left the balcony, leaving her alone with the sea breeze and the sound of the waves far below, staring after him in confusion.

It was another hour before he could prove that a rescue mission stood a chance. The co-ordinates Ford had memorised led to a spaced 'Gate and Sheppard found himself able to pilot one of a docking bay full of Ancient ships, curved to fit through a 'Gate and therefore, an active wormhole. They were given the go-ahead.

The puddlejumper lowered from the roof, directly into the Gateroom, and Sheppard lined it up with the stone circle. ‘Be safe,’ Weir murmured as the Gate engaged and the puddlejumper shot through it, like an arrow loosed from a bow.

Sheppard barely caught the whisper over the radio. He knew, without looking, that she was standing there, watching them go. It was almost getting to be a habit with her.

The ship exited and circled close to the planet it found at the other end. In response to Sheppard’s thoughts, a holographic image appeared, superimposed on the Jumper’s forward window. With the help of the small ship they landed close to where the Athosian and AF captives were being held. Leaving the ship cloaked they headed into the lion’s den.

It was Sheppard who found Sumner, with a Wraith planting her hand in the middle of his chest and slowly draining him of each day of life. Despite the offer to end his pain, he refused, telling the Wraith he would rather die slow than give up Earth.

His courage earned him another lash of pain as more years were skimmed from his life. A fusillade of fire interrupted his torment, but the bullets had little effect on the Wraith. She simply sucked the energy from Sumner and healed herself in seconds. When Sumner saw Jon, he locked his gaze on him and gave a slow, deliberate nod.

He knew what it meant but it still took him another three precious seconds before he could pull that trigger, firing that single bullet that smashed through the Wraith's hand and shot directly into Sumner's heart. The Colonel’s misery was over, but Sheppard’s was about to begin.

They dragged him from his hiding place, out into the chamber where Sumner had died, and the husk of an Athosian they had already fed on, lay. The Wraith hissed, raising her hand, but she fell to a barrage of bullets from behind. She hit the floor and Sheppard saw Ford, weapon raised, standing behind her.

‘About damn time,’ Sheppard spun, grabbing his weapon where it had landed. ‘Where are they?’

‘Outside,’ it was Teyla Emmagen, her voice a hushed whisper. ‘Come. We must hurry.’

Sheppard nodded, grabbing one of the Wraith weapons and heading into the corridor. It wasn’t far to the Jumper, but it wouldn’t be long before someone raised the alarm either. He thought of Atlantis, the Expedition, Weir... She’ll quit worrying once we’re back, he thought to himself as the survivors piled into inside the Puddlejumper and they headed off the planet and into space.

They made it back to Atlantis in on piece. Just . Ford’s IDC dropped the shield as Weir hurried to the balcony, to watch the ship come home. Wraith fire came through first, impacting the walls and sending debris and personnel flying.

'Clear the Gateroom! Give them a few more seconds!' Weir yelled. She clutched a supporting column as another shot slammed into the steps leading up to the control room. Suddenly the Gateship emerged, shoting through the 'Gate and coming to an abrupt stop. 'Close the iris!' Weir called, hurrying down the steps to check on her team. She almost skidded to a stop at the sight of Sheppard and Ford, both grinning hugely, sitting in the cockpit. Smiling, she headed for the back of the ship as the ramp lowered and met the Athosians they had rescued.

The party was impromptu but welcomed by the expedition and refugees alike. Sheppard leaned on the balcony, exchanging a few words with Lieutenant Ford, when Weir appeared behind them, holding an assortment of cups filled with General O’Neill’s bubbly gift to the Expedition after they had landed. Ford grinned, taking his, raising his cup to Weir before disappearing into the crowd. Weir took his place against the railing, looking out over the ocean below.

‘You did well today, Major,’ she began.

‘I don’t know about that,’ he cut her off. ‘Maybe you were right, maybe if I’d left everything alone, Sumner would still be here, and the Athosians-‘

‘You did the right thing, Jon, you couldn’t have saved Colonel Sumner.

‘Yeah,’ he replied, the look in that man’s face floating in front of his for a moment. He blinked, clearing the vision and finding a pair of dark eyes gazing directly at him.

‘You have to live with that, Jon. I know. But you were following his orders; he didn’t have to vocalise them for you to hear, that’s all. And look,’ she glanced back at the milling crowd of Athosians and expedition members, tugging his arm to make him turn slightly, 'look around you.'

They were all chatting, smiling, friendships forming in front of his eyes. It was incredible, watching the two cultures merge into a single celebration of mutual survival; and suddenly, things didn’t seem so bad.

Teyla Emmagen turned, saw them watching the crowd and strode over. She had heard what Weir had told him. 'I agree, Major Sheppard,' she added, placing her hands on his shoulders and bowing her head. He eyed Ford and Weir warily, feeling odd about participating in this greeting ritual but Ford just hid his grin behind his cup and Weir waited, respectfully, for the greeting to conclude. She would, she was a diplomat after all and probably used to all sorts of cultural differences. He bent his head, touching his forehead to Teyla's and they both stood straight once more, Teyla smiling. This time Weir did grin, seeing the look on his face.

Teyla took her leave and they turned back to the ocean. Sheppard's demeanour seemed more relaxed. 'So,' she said, 'have you given any thoughts as to your team Elizabeth smiled confidently to herself, turning back to the rail. A few moments later, he joined her, his demeanor more relaxed.

‘So,’ she started again, ‘have you given any thoughts to your team?’

‘My team?’

‘You’re the ranking military officer on this base now, Major, remember?’ She raised an eyebrow, reminding him of earlier when he’d tried to pull rank on her and she hadn’t let him get away with it. ‘You’ll be leading the flagship team as well as running the military arm of Atlantis. We still need to get out there and do what we came here to do. The mission isn’t over yet.’

He nodded, staring out at the distant view and glanced sideways at her. ‘I could get us into all kinds of trouble, you know that right?’

Her laughter mingled with the sound of the waves, lifting his spirits. Grinning, Sheppard raised the cup to his lips. Today had ended better than expected, who knew what tomorrow would bring?

End Notes:
Video: No link to a scene
Chapter 4 - Shakedown by shipper scifi
Author's Notes:
Inside the city, conflict versus harmony and seems like neither of them can win.
Elizabeth mounted the steps to the control room, Grodin at her side. The man was clever, quiet spoken and more than competent. More by default than intent, he was fast becoming Elizabeth’s righthand man in the running of Atlantis.

‘We need to designate recreation areas for the children; and these supplies, we need store rooms, and can you get someone to either save or dump these ten thousand year dead plants?’ Grodin smiled briefly, nodding and making a note on his tablet screen with a stylus.

‘We’d move faster, but Colonel Sheppard is being cautious about giving us more space to designate before its been thoroughly checked out by a military team, then scientific,' he replied. The slow pace was holding up his duties in the logistics of the base.

‘I know. He doesn’t want anything to go wrong. The safety of this expedition is his paramount concern-,’ Elizabeth replied as they reached the top. Her next sentence was cut off by a general cry of dismay. Opposite her, too far away to reach, Dr Rodney McKay was toppling backwards off the balcony, tumbling over the rail and falling twenty feet to the ground below. He left behind one Major Sheppard, hand still outstretched where he had pushed the scientist over the railing.

'Oh my God!' Elizabeth met his gaze, expecting shock, instead the dark-haired soldier grinned, his eyes alight.

'Did you see that?' he cried.

'Yes!' she shot back. A laugh from below had her running forward, and Rodney jumped up, waving his arms at her.

‘I’m fine! I’m fine!’

Still reeling, Weir hurried down the steps, meeting Sheppard halfway. ‘What the hell were you playing at?’

‘Testing Carson’s gene therapy,’ Rodney chirped from below, in an inexplicably happy mood. ‘This is a personal shield,’ he pointed at the green glowing gadget attached to his chest. ‘It works! And its got great inertial properties because I never felt a thing when I hit the ground! Hit me!’ he practically threw the words at Grodin. Without hesitation, the engineer threw a fist in Rodney’s direction, crying out when his hand rebounded with a shock of pain.

Elizabeth looked between the two grinning fiends in shock. ‘Why did you think throwing him off a balcony was a good way to test that thing?’ she demanded of the Major, her eyes growing wider when she realised that its wasn’t the first thing they’d tried. Sheppard had punched, stabbed and shot him. Criticising Rodney McKay brought no joy either; he was so pleased at being Mr Invulnerable she doubted even General O’Neill would have gotten through to him at that moment.

‘Fine. Take it off, we have a meeting scheduled in two minutes,’ she finally capitulated, turning her back on the two mischief makers. A moment later, she heard Rodney utter the infamous words, it won’t turn off and sighed, closing her eyes for a minute before turning back to deal with a slightly hysterical physicist.

It took time, but she managed to get Rodney sent off with Zelenka, a mild-mannered Russian scientist who was far less excitable than McKay, to go over the Ancient database for some information on the device. They’d report to her in an hour, and she sincerely hoped that Rodney managed to remove the device from himself by the time that particular meeting was due to happen. Dismissing Grodin to carry on with his duties, she practically dragged Jon to her officer in her wake.

‘What the hell did you think you were doing? Do you really think throwing members of the team off balconies in front of both soldiers and civilians, not to mention to the impressionable children we have running around here, was that great of an idea, Major?!’

‘Well, if you say it like that...’ he replied, shifting uncomfortably under her gaze. He'd been so caught up in playing with the new tech that he'd forgotten the children running around. It had obviously been on of the first things Weir had thought of and for a moment he wondered if she had children of her own before dismissing the idea. No parent would have left their kids to come out here.

‘Any new technology needs to cross my desk for approval before its activated. You’re only encouraging McKay to disobey the rules, and he’s being quite hard enough to control as it is!’

‘Yeah I guess. But it seemed harmless enough,’ he added in his defence. Elzabeth sighed, crossing her arms.

'Harmless? Rodney might not be able to get that thing off!.'

'Point taken,' the words were ones he'd lifted from Elizabeth's speech patterns but it seemed to work. 'Okay, well, I better go see how McKay’s doing with that shield, uh, thing. And then I'll authorise two more clearance teams, get some more space freed up.'

'Thank you,' she replied graciously.

He turned, headed back through the control room and Weir slid into the seat behind her desk. The Athosians and the team were starting to form a working unit, and right now it had two leaders who hardly worked in seamless harmony. The troubling thing was that internal conflict in the expedition was the least of her worries. Food shortages, refugees in the hallways, Wraith lurking outside the gates... Pulling a stack of paperwork towards her, Elizabeth resolved to spend the next forty-eight hours purely on the logistics of the city and its inhabitants. If none of them had any room to breathe, internal conflict would become the focus of their attentions.

One problem at a time, she thought to herself, before getting to work. She wasn't there long.

'Uh, Dr Weir?' It was Pierson.

'Yes? What is it?'

'Uh, it's Major Sheppard, Ma'am, and Dr McKay. They took a Jumper out, Dr McKay had some ideas about forcing an overload on the personal forcefield by, uh-'

'Let me guess? Freefalling without being secured in his harness, hoping the impact would damage the shield?'

'Yes, ma'am. It didn't work, and now they're, well, they're squabbling, ma'am.'

'Squabbling?'

'Yes, ma'am.'

Elizabeth pushed herself out of her seat and headde for the control room where the voices of one Major Jonathan Sheppard and one Dr Rodney McKay echoed from the comm system.

'...offered you a shipment of grain!' Rodney was complaining, followed by Jon's voice arguing about building materials or logging. Either way, she didn't care. reaching over she clicked the comm and spoke sharply to the inhabitants of the PuddleJumper.

'Major, McKay, dock immediately. Sheppard, I need an update on those clearance teams asap. Dr McKay, you will not do anything more with or about that personal shield without Dr Zelenka's express approval. Am I understood?'

'Oh, come on!'

'I mean it, Rodney!'

'Okay, okay.' A possible he started it whispered over the comm but she couldn't be sure. Instead she rolled her eyes, terminated the connection and stalked out of the control room. No one spoke a word until she was gone.

In her office, Elizabeth made it to the balcony and stopped, taking the rail in a death grip as she stared out across the calm blue expanse of Atlantis' oceans. She was still there when Sheppard arrived, stepping out onto the balcony outside her office for the first time.

'Wow,' he said, coming closer and peering over the side. 'You really went for the view, didn't you?'

'It's peaceful out here. But it was the position of the office that mattered, I'm not -'

'I know,' he held up a hand to stop her from carrying on that line of thought. 'Just me and my mouth, okay, I didn't mean anything by it.'

Elizabeth nodded, turning from the distant vista to face him, looking profoundly unconvinced. ‘Both O’Neill and Sumner warned me that you don’t like to respect the chain of command,’ she said quietly. ‘Is everything you're doing a demonstration of that?'

‘No. Ma’am,’ he added the second word quickly as his brain caught up with his mouth. He held up a placating hand, ‘you’re right, I should've checked with you first but your desk is going to break in half if I keep asking before I do anything. Rodney had a sound idea, and I'm only one of three that can pilot the Jumpers right now.'

'I know. And that was fine. But the petty squabbling between you and McKay has to stop!'

'You mean like you and me?' He didn't mean to say it, it just slipped out.

Elizabeth sighed, ‘look, Jon, I know its going to take time for everything to work itself out into a smooth operation, so give me a little slack to work here, and I’ll do the same for you. Okay?’

He considered her for a moment, wondering if he could get her to laugh again like he had on the balcony, but she wasn’t looking amused. On top of losing people, food being low, and refugees needing room, her own people needing beds, she didn’t need senior staff acting like kids with new toys. But what had made him think twice about agreeing with her was the feeling that she was using a diplomatic tactic on him.

Her composure was a hard thing to see behind, despite what they’d all been through together over the six weeks, the shaking down between the two camps in the city until they felt more at ease with each other, and still he didn’t feel like that ‘shakedown’ was happening between him and Elizabeth like it would have with any other commander he’d had by now. But then he also had the feeling that she wasn’t used to compromising with her own team this much either.

‘Sure,’ he replied finally, giving in. It wasn’t worth an argument, and she was right, Atlantis didn’t need it command team at odds with each other. 'Beta team just discovered a whole corridor of what look like living quarters, one Rodney's cleared, I'll get him and Zelenka to check it out, but we should have them operational within the next couple of days.'

'Thank you, I look forward to your report.'

He nodded, hesitated a moment as if to say something more, then left, the door sliding silently shut behind him.

The conflict between her and Sheppard couldn't go on, it wasn't good for the morale or the mission. They would have to resolve this somehow but she failed to see a solution at the moment. Leaving the thought to mull over at the back of her mind, she went back to work, hoping she wouldn't be interrupted for the next twenty-four hours by either petty squabbles or major crises.

But fate has a way of dealing the cards with a heavy hand and it wasn’t long before two missing children, a presence that refused to register properly on the city scanners and blackouts in the city’s power swept all thoughts of food and lodgings to the back of everyone’s mind.

‘The Athosians are distraught. We have to find those boys,’ Sheppard restrained himself from pacing, but barely. Weir sat down at the table, waiting for him to do the same, seeing the nervous energy running through his body. He finally capitulated to the subconscious message and took a seat.

‘We will,’ she reassured, looking directly at Teyla. She wanted the message the Athosian carried back to her people from here to be one of complete confidence.

‘Their father is extremely worried. He lost his wife in a Wraith attack, and now he fears he may lose his sons. He is preparing for the death rite, I fear he has lost all hope.’

‘Not yet he hasn’t,’ Sheppard’s steely voice broke in. He exchanged a grim glance with Weir, and one of complete understanding. It was odd, being on the same wavelength, but right now they were united and in the current situation it could do nothing but good. ‘Tell him we’ll find his children. Even if we have to go through every inch of Atlantis to do it.’

The meeting broke shortly afterwards. Weir was the last to leave and Sheppard fell into step beside her as she headed for the control room. ‘Got any bright ideas?’ he asked.

‘Apart from searching Atlantis inch by inch, you mean?’ she replied, reminding him of his words in the meeting. ‘No, I wish I had. Rodney’s working on it. He’s trying to track them down with the city scanners but we can't power them all at the same time and Zelenka’s trying to find their co-ordinates from the transport room we think they climbed inside . It’s not hopeful.’

‘Right, then I’ll-‘

But she never learned what he was going to do because a tremulous child’s voice broke over the airways, interrupting every conversation and freezing every person in Atlantis. ‘Dr Weir?’

She ran for the control room, the Major hard on her heels. Slapping a hand down on the console, her voice rang out across the city, heard by every ear, including two frightened, lost children.

‘Hallan? Its Dr Weir. Can you hear me?’

A few seconds of suspense followed. ‘Yes,’ came the shaking voice once more.

‘Good boy, well done. Is your brother with you?’ Another affirmative. ‘Good. Listen, do you know where you are?’

‘No. We ran into a room when we played Wraith. But when we stepped out, the corridor wasn’t the same.’

‘Okay. Hallan, what I want you to do-‘

‘Dr Weir? I think there’s someone following us,’ his voice pitched a little higher, the fear clearly bleeding through.

‘Hallan. Listen, I know you’re scared but I need you to describe the room you’re in. Can you do that?’ She nodded to McKay, indicating he should listen well to the words that followed. The boy’s voice came again, painting a picture of the room the children had taken refuge in. Teyla arrived seconds into his description and translated some of the unusual words that came through quietly to McKay.

Rodney nodded, holding his thumb up high. He’d found their likely location. Zelenka appeared as Weir talked to Hallan again, whispering with Sheppard, Teyla and Rodney. He’d dug the co-ordinates out of the transport and McKay eliminated one of the candidate locations off his list, leaving two others.

‘It's okay, Hallan. I know you’re scared. But your father is here, waiting for you and I have Teyla next to me. We’re going to come and find you. But I need you to be brave. I need you to take care of your brother until we get there. Can you do that for me?’

‘I think so.’

‘Good lad! Do you know how to call us again if you need us?’

‘Yes.’

‘Well done. You use that console whenever you need to and someone will answer.’

‘Dr Weir? We’re not supposed to touch the anything. I’m sorry,’ the child sounded on the verge of tears. Sheppard watched her bend her head slightly, her hair not quite long enough to cover her face. The slightest tremble ran through her body as she replied.

‘It's alright, Hallan,' her tone was gentle, 'no one's angry with you and you did the right thing to call us. No one’s going to get into trouble today.’

‘Okay, Dr Weir.’

It pierced her heart to end the call, even though she reached out with a sure hand and tapped the console. She stood up, her eyes bleak and listened to the team as they spilled the potential locations of the boys. ‘Major, you have a go,’ she said for an answer, addressing Sheppard. ‘Teyla, go keep their father occupied, I don’t want him running off to find the boys. He’ll only hinder the rescue team. I know he wants to be there ut he's already injured and I want them to move fast.’

Teyla nodded, 'I understand, Elizabeth,' and she slipped away.

Sheppard turned away to go redirect his team to the likely position of the lost boys. Behind him, he heard quick steps and a light hand touched his shoulder. He glanced back and saw her standing behind him, straight as a rod but her face was pale. 'Major? Bring them back safe.' ‘I promise,’ he nodded and reached up, squeezing her arm briefly before hurrying away.

It was nearly half an hour before they located the lads. Power outages slowed them down, and flickering life signs meant wrong turns were taken and the team had to backtrack before they finally reached Hallan and his brother. The youngest was unconscious, tiredness and shock being the first candidates that came to mind, but Hallan explained that darkness had come when they stepped out of the transport and touched him. They had run and hid, but his brother had slowed down, staggered and finally collapsed in the small room where he’d opened the intercom and called for help.

‘Don’t worry, lad,’ Sheppard ruffled the boys hair. ‘We’ll take him to see Dr Beckett and he’ll be as right as rain. You were very brave, taking care of him and calling for help. Now,’ he reached stood up and held out a hand, ‘we’ll get you home to your dad, shall we?’

Hallan nodded, taking his hand as Ford lifted his brother into his arms.

‘Is he okay?’ he asked, his voice trembling.

‘He’ll be just fine, champ,’ came Sheppard’s cheerful reply. The team headed back the way they had come, watching their six and setting someone on point, but the Major didn’t expect any real trouble.

Until the darkness came.

It was like a wave, an ocean wave, taller than a man and without seeming end. It rose, taking out the power and heading straight for them. They bundled the boys and Ford into the transport for a safe journey back to the centre of the city. Sheppard turned, fired a few warning rounds, then added a few more into the centre of the fog, but it kept coming. The doors spun open and he and Miller, a young lieutenant, tumbled inside, the doors shutting and a flash of light taking them far from the darkness that had pursued them.

Weir was outside the transport as the doors opened with a security team flanking her. Hallan tumbled forward, throwing his arms around her waist. She caught him, hugged him tight and exchanged a worried glance with Sheppard before she cast her gaze over the unconcious boy in Ford's arms. She lifted one hand and tapped her communicator, 'Teyla, meet us in the infirmary. We've found them.' She signed off before questions could be asked, looking at the boy, she wasn't qualified to answer them.

Hallan looked up, tears streaking his dirty cheeks. 'Where's my father?'

'We're going to meet him now, Hallan. I made him stay behind because his leg is hurt, he could have made it more dangerous to come get you, do you understand? He stayed behind to help you.' She had no desire to make the boy question his father's courage or loyalty.

Hallan nodded and she took his hand and led the way to the infirmary. Ford handed over the boy's younger sibling and Sheppard and his team headed up to the control room. Weir would join them as soon as she could, but right now they needed to know where that black wave was going.

They left McKay working the problem with Grodin. Ford and the rest went to rearm and brief two more teams. Sheppard headed for the infirmary where he found Weir and Teyla standing aside as Carson conversed with the boys' father and checked them over. Sheppard laid a hand on Weir's shoulder and she turned weary eyes his way.

‘Are they all okay?’

‘Hallan is,’ Elizabeth replied without turning around, her eyes on the tableau before her. ‘But his brother is still unconscious. His vital signs are good though, but there’s no reason for him to be asleep. Carson just doesn’t know why. He's hoping hell wake up soon. He may just need rest.’

‘We need to talk. I saw McKay in the control room, how's the problem with his personal shield?’

‘Fine for now. But he can’t eat or drink, so if we can’t get the shield off him-‘

‘Right. I get it. But we have a more immediate problem,’ they turned together, hurrying from the infirmary as Sheppard outlined the boys experience and his own to the expedition leader.

Nothing stood against it. They’d tried every option, and finally given the black shapeless mass the equivalent of an all-you-can-eat buffet in the form of a naquada generator. They’d evacuated the Gateroom and now the team stood in the control room watching as the MALP failed to cross the event horizon.

‘The power’s gone! The MALP's not going anywhere!’ Lt Pierson cried, his fingers flying over the controls. ‘I can’t get a single response from it.’

‘And if it doesn’t move over that event horizon-‘ the Major began.

‘Neither does that thing,’ Elizabeth finished for him, leaning forward onto the rail. A movement caught her eye. ‘What-? McKay? McKay! What are you doing?’

Dr McKay was making his slow way down the stairs, entering the black fog feet first as it rose to wrap around him. Weir reacted, flying for the stairs before Sheppard caught her arms. ‘It’s too late! Look!’

McKay was gone, lost in the cloud. A moment later, Pierson called out once more. ‘He did it! The MALP’s moving!’ A ripple ran over the event horizon as the hidden MALP entered the wormhole, and slowly but surely the deadly mass followed it, leaving behind McKay, unconscious on the ground.

The team ran down the stairs, Beckett came with his team and crash cart. Elizabeth yanked the drained shield unit from Rodney’s chest and moved back as the medical team went to work. It only took a short minute, but it felt like an eternity until he took a breath, then another and, moments later, opened his eyes.

‘Well done, Rodney!’ Dr Weir applauded him as Sheppard sat him up. Carson dropped the paddles, taking a breath. He’d nearly lost two patients today but both the boy and the scientist had pulled through. Briefly, he wondered how he was going to make it through the rest of their mission here, or the rest of his life, if contact with Earth were never made again.

Later, in the mess hall, the Athosians gathered with as many expedition personnel as could make it to celebrate a second time. Beckett grinned, raising a glass of water with everyone else. They had survived another day. He watched Teyla lay a gentle hand on the boys heads, giving thanks for their lives; he saw Ronan, the latest addition to the flagship team, crack a smile and Heightmeyer talking with the boy’s father, exchanging nods and smiles. He clinked his metal cup against Rodney’s and listened as the physicist lauded himself for his own bravery. And he watched as Sheppard wandered the room, smiling, nodding, then frowning. He slipped out, looking for someone and Beckett could guess who.

In her office, Elizabeth sat with a pile of virtual and actual paperwork in front of her computer, going over reports, missives and inventories. He watched her work for a minute, considering disturbing her, but in the end left her to her own devices. He’d seen her bleed inwardly today, listening to Hallan's frightened voice and watching the unconscious child on the gurney. It was one thing to lead soldiers and adults who had accepted the danger into a new galaxy and unknown city, but another to take responsibility for the children. The boys had a father, the Athosians were led by Teyla, but he knew that she would take personal responsibility for today, for not designating safe areas sooner and not laying down stricter rules to keep them all safe.

Maybe she needed to immerse herself in her work, maybe it was her coping mechanism. Or maybe it wasn’t. He didn’t know her that well yet. But he would, he told himself, because they had worked well today and the result has been spectacular. Atlantis and her people couldn’t afford a burned out leader, and he couldn’t afford to lose working with her, not if he was going to keep everyone here safe. For now, he’d wait and watch.

Leaving her to the quiet lap of the ocean through the open balcony doors and the monotony of reports, he slipped away and back to the mess hall.

End Notes:
Video: Scene where Sheppard throws McKay off the balcony (0:04/2:45 to 0:23/2:45)
Chapter 5 - Curveball by shipper scifi
Author's Notes:
'Oh God, he IS Kirk!'
Things went on shaking down and settled pretty well for a while. Although Weir and Sheppard couldn't seem to see eye to eye all the time, a crisis had them operating in unison. And Sheppard had a theory about why.

Elizabeth. He couldn't say her whole name without pronouncing each syllable, so he was rapidly shortening it, at least to himself and he forgot all about formalities when a crisis presented itself. She was all action then, no stiff courtesies; basically, she forgot to hold the walls in place and the compassionate but calm and decisive leader she could be shone through.

She had probably been more like this on Earth, back in her old job; he found himself wishing he'd known her back then. They would have gotten along pretty well. He was less cocky and impulsive back then too, more comfortable. He guessed that they were both adjusting to their new environments and neither of them ever really relaxed. Everyone else, it seemed, could voice their fears and concerns about the Expedition, the Wraith, the chances of returning home... but they were in charge, everyone looked to them for confidence and guidance. Elizabeth, as leader of the Expedition, felt it keenly and she didn't even have the outlet of petty squabbles with McKay to release the tension.

It was the unknown, the responsibility for every life on the base, every minute of every day with no end in sight. There was no relief, no downtime. And they needed some, badly. Now all he was left with was the task of making it actually happen.

But the opportunity seemed far out of reach. After Brannigan's team made it back, barely, through the 'Gate after being attacked, Weir's suspicions were confirmed. They had to be a spy on Atlantis leaking information. She wasn't the only one to draw that conclusion and the camaraderie that had existed between the two groups started to slowly turn to hostility.

It translated into tension in the command team, and Sheppard and Weir found themselves at loggerheads once more.

'What do you mean, Teyla can't join us?' Sheppard objected. 'She's introduced us to new allies, given us indepth information on this galaxy, assisted with the relocation plans of her people to the mainland, started supplying Atlantis with crops and done everything she can to show her loyalty and gratitude that we sheltered the Athosians when the Wraith came. You can't be serious about her being under suspicion!'

'Major, it does no good to argue like this. I like Teyla too, but if we include her, she's likely to simply tell her people what was said here. I've noticed the Athosians don't exactly have many secrets from each other.'

'Yeah, maybe we could learn something from them there,' Sheppard murmured darkly, sliding into his seat.

'Major Sheppard, nothing is kept from any member of this crew unless absolutely necessary. I try to be as honest as possible with the people under my command, and I expect the same from my senior staff. You know that! But we can't risk a potential spy being alerted to our plans!'

It was sound reasoning, and Sheppard wasn't stupid, he could work it out for himself. His objections were on a personal basis. 'I know you're very close to Teyla-' she began again in a more temperate tone. For moment she felt like gritting her teeth when she said the Athosian woman's name, and swallowed down her irritation. His loyalty to his team-mate was commendable, but he was supposed to be on Elizabeth's side.

'Hey! Wait a minute, I never meant- She's a good friend, that's all.' And it was all, despite wagging tongues. Teyla was a soldier with a steadfast heart, unwavering loyalty and a wise head on her shoulders. Plus there was a guy on the mainland that she definitely had eyes for.

'Seriously?' McKay's voice broke in from across the table, 'you're going to do the Star Trek thing? Who was it? Oh yes, Kirk! Or maybe you should be Riker since you're only second in command,' he smirked.

'Very funny, McKay!'

'You should come with a warning label,' the scientist added caustically.

'Alright, drop it,' it was Weir. She'd adapted to the constant sniping between McKay and Sheppard. The two worked very closely together and pretty well considering the diametric opposition in their personalities; the verbal sparring was their way of easing tensions when their quirks got on each other's nerves. 'We're here because of an information leak, not to air personal opinions. Any ideas?'

It was, in the end , a simple case of entrapment. To hold fair with the Athosians, Weir promised to debrief Teyla on the express understanding that she not divulge a word to her people. In return for this, Weir's own people would be held under equal suspicision and given the same treatment. Although she doubted any of her own people were to blame, she wasn't going to feed the fire between the Athosians and expedition crew by demonstrating any unfairness.

'Given the conflict that's bound worsen in light of this,' Elizabeth took the chance to address Sheppard directly as the others filed from the room, leaving only McKay and themselves behind, 'we need to present a united front, Jon.'

'We're united, you're the boss, I just follow orders.'

'You have a lot more slack than you would with a military commander and you damn well know it, Jon! When everything blows up we can't be at odds, we need to know each other, work together, better than this.'

'Okay,' like a blinding flash, the opportunity dropped right in his lap. Elizabeth admitted they needed to know each other better, he needed to shake her out of her twenty-four-seven routine of continual responsiblility. She'd never agree to downtime, so her threw her a curve ball. 'Date me!'

'What?'

'Oh god, he is Kirk!'

'Shut up, McKay. I mean it Lis'beth. You, me, dinner, we could get to know each other better, settle our differences.

McKay opened his mouth, but Sheppard shot him a foul look and he closed it. Elizabeth finally remembered to breathe, and with that came the shocking realisation that back on Earth she would have automatically smiled at that proposition and then either accepted, if she liked the guy, or thrown him offguard before verbally dropping him from a great height.

Now she was the one offguard. What's happened to me? Elizabeth thought. Sheppard was grinning like a demon and she caught the slight rise of his eyebrows and realised he had pitched a curve just see her react. She finally saw then that she was close to running on empty, burning herself out far sooner than she needed to. How the hell did he see that about me? she wondered. Clearing her throat, Elizabeth settled back in her chair, clasping her hands together on the table. 'I make it a policy not to have relationships with people under my command. I assume that's not how you prefer to do things?' she asked, arching an eyebrow in his direction. The arch look faltered slightly as she recalled yesterday morning. Sheppard had appeared on the balcony outside her office, that cocky, know-it-all grin firmly in place as he handed over a cloth-wrapped bundle.

'Happy Birthday, Lisa'beth.'

'How'd you know?'>br>br
'Mum's the word,' he'd grinned. 'Okay, so I have my ways.

'I think I figured that one out already,' she smiled

'Well, there you go! There's something you know about me,' he'd said before grinning like an idiot and slipping out, preferably before she could find she could thrown at him

And now he was doing it again.

'Now there's another thing you know about me,' he grinned. She was settling in to spar, just a little, and he knew he'd managed to hit just the right note. He leaned forward, following her movement. 'Think of it as a playdate. You need to get out and relax, we need to work together better. Consider it team-building.'

'You're got be kidding!'

'McKay, Shut up!'

'Teambuilding,' she repeated the word with a slight degree of suspicision.

'Absolutely. No strings attached. Ignore McKay. Just dinner, we'll talk, take a walk round Atlantis, no exploration, just a walk, admire the scenery. Whaddya say?'

'I'll think about it.'

McKay rolled his eyes but said nothing, collecting his laptop and moving away. 'I just don't want to know the details.'

'Team building, Rodney,' Elizabeth called after him. 'We should consider extending social events for the whole command team,' she added to Sheppard.

'But us first,' Sheppard stepped on that idea. 'It'll be fun,' he added, slipping out the door behind her as she headed back to her office.

'And since when am I "Lis'beth?",' she asked curiously.

'It's the accent and your name's two syllables too long,' he added cockily. 'You mind?'

'We'll see,' the reply was thrown back over her shoulder but he could hear the smile in her voice. He grinned, bounding down the stairs as she headed back to the control room. It wasn't a home run yet, but he was halfway there.

End Notes:
Video: Link to "Date me!" scene (0:24/2:45 to 0:35/2:45)
Chapter 6 - Business by shipper scifi
Author's Notes:
It didn't feel like business.
'They're dead.'

Carson's words were stark, all the more so for being delivered in a cold, dead tone. When his eyes met Weir's they were bleak. Without another word, he headed for the infirmary where he could do far more good than he had done back on Hoff.

'Major?' Weir carried on towards the Stargate from where she had paused on the stairs when Carson approached her. 'How badly did it go?'

'They were right. Fifty percent mortality rate; and Perna died too. Carson's taking it pretty hard.'

'I can see. What's happening with the drug?'

'They used it on everyone, kids too. They wanted us to help them distribute it to other worlds. I said no,' his voice was flat, like he was waiting for her to argue but too damn tired to defend his decision.

'You did the right thing, Major,' Weir replied as she fell into step beside him. 'Some costs are too high. We'll debrief in the morning,' she added, glancing in the direction Carson had taken. By morning he'd have his report together and be acting like his old self, even if he didn't really feel it inside.

'You're not sorry we wasted the Wraith?'

'Jon, there's still elements of that I don't like. We bend the rules here because we're cut off from Earth and our situation is precarious. When we disregard life with such callousness, don't we risk becoming more like them?'

Sheppard considered for a moment. 'No,' he replied. 'But that's why you're the diplomat and I'm the soldier. I know what you're saying,' he added with a sigh, 'but I can't feel it. They're the bad guys. That's it.'

Elizabeth nodded, his world was far more black and white than hers. It could help as well as hinder, as she was discovering, to have someone like that by her side. She took her leave, heading for the Infirmary to check on Carson and tell him about the debriefing. Jon watched her go, wondering what she would have done if he hadn't pushed her to hand the Wraith over for experimentation with the Hoffman virus.

Had he made the right decision? Would hers have been any better? He could ask himself the question but within moments he was back where he had always been - the decision was made, for better or worse. It was more important to be decisive than what you were decisive about. He'd made the right choice because it was the only choice to make. Elizabeth would always see options, and she would always question herself.

Its why you're the diplomat, his own words came back to him. 'Ain't that the truth,' he mumured, heading for the locker rooms.

Despite the recent turmoil with the Hoff and the suicide planet raising questions more of ethics than of safety, Weir had found herself relaxing, the tension easing off during her daily, mundane duties and it showed in her dealings with Major Sheppard. The staff in the control room were more relaxed; seeing Sheppard drop in to her office regularly in the morning for a few minutes had become a routine instead of a prelude to another war in the command ranks.

Which is why no one murmured when he appeared later that evening, as twilight hung deep and heavy over the city, heading for Weir's office. Through the glass Pierson watched him take a perch on the edge of her desk, and a few moments later, she closed her laptop and they left the control room, talking quietly and heading for the cafeteria. Sheppard always had a word for the night shift, just coming on as the others were finishing. Dr Weir pushed herself hard, they all knew it, it was good to see someone taking care of her since she spent most of her energy taking care of everyone else.

'How are they coping?'

'Ronan's the same as always, Teyla's in her quarters, planning a memorial rite - she'd like us to hold one with as many people as can attend, McKay's hiding in his lab, but then so's Carson. Miller and Braxton have both already gone to see Heightmeyer.'

'I'll get her to look in on the others,' she paused for a moment, 'and you?'

He winced, knowing this had been coming, but still not looking forward to the conversation. 'I'm fine, Lis'beth.'

'Jon,' the warning note in her voice said it all.

'It's not something I want to see again in a hurry.' he said reluctantly. 'But casualties happen, I've lost people before. They weren't my people.'

'But you headed up the mission, Jon, that couldn't have been easy,' collecting her supper, she headed for a table by the window whilst he followed, sliding into place behind her. He shrugged. 'Would you find it easier to talk to Heightmeyer?' she asked instead.

He shook his head, 'no, if I need to see her, I'll go. Scout's honour!' he looked wide-eyed at her suspicious look. She grinned, lifting a forkful of reconstituted eggs. Taking a bite, she hesitated for a split second before chewing and swallowing, picking up her mug to take a mouthful of tea.

He hid a smile. She was the consummate professional, refusing to let anyone see that the reconstituted dried egg, or rather, the yellow mush as he liked to call it, was the least appetizing thing on Atlantis. They all had to eat what they could get, including the dregs at the bottom of the rations bin.

'Well done,' he murmured, catching her eye. She smiled, picking up her fork again without hesitation and glanced over to the corner of the cafeteria. Grodin and Dr Clarkson sat together, laughing over two trays of rations as the last few staff drifted out and headed for their quarters.

'Yeah, they're, uh, something of a feature now,' John replied to her unspoken question. 'Supper every night, coffee every morning, if they can manage it between one crisis and another.'

Elizabeth smiled, watching them for a moment before her eyes flicked to Sheppard, suddenly apprehensive. 'Major, people don't think-'

'No, doc, they think we're discussing business on Atlantis. Which we are,' he reminded her, 'and it's a whole lot better than the way we used to talk.'

'Trying not to kill each other in front of the whole Gateroom, you mean?' she asked lightly, reminding him of the endless arguments of their earlier days.

He grinned, saying nothing as she laid down her fork. 'I think I'm done,' she announced, in a louder voice than she needed to. 'So, if there's nothing else on your mind, Major?' she paused, waiting for him to play along. He barely constrained himself from rolling his eyes but rose with her.

'No, doc. See you in the morning.'

'0800 sharp, Major. Good night!' With that, she strode away, depositing her tray and leaving without a backward glance. He followed more slowly, ignoring the curious eyes in the corner. If Weir felt their little charade was needed to defray gossip, he wasn't going to ruin her intent; but something, deep inside, lodged in the pit of his stomach. Is the thought really that bad? the errant thought came to him. He dismissed it, heading for his quarters, refusing to dwell on Elizabeth Weir's motives for cancelling out rumours that hadn't even started.

In her own quarters, Elizabeth allowed the door to slide shut before she sank back against it and closed her eyes. She reminded herself of her position, of Sheppard's, of the Expedition's precarious situation, but still, there was nothing about the last half hour of her day that felt like business, it felt like- She refused to finish that thought, heading for the shower and putting all thoughts of one Major Jon Sheppard aside.

End Notes:
Video: No link to a scene
Chapter 7 - Shotgun by shipper scifi
Author's Notes:
‘So, Sheppard sat forward, clasping his hands together on the table. ‘Why not?’

'You're kidding.'

'No, will you be quiet?'

'You're not? Seriously? No, you're kidding!'

'Sheppard! Shut up, will you?!'

'Katie Brown, Katie Brown? But she's a smart girl, why would she want to get involved with someone like you?'

'Some people, Sheppard, like brains in a man, not just brawn,' McKay replied loftily. 'Dr Brown is an intellectual, attractive woman who finds my company stimulating,' he added, putting the last word in deliberately.

'Get over yourself McKay; it’s probably a pity-date.'

'It’s not a date, it’s dinner, a dinner with friends. Friends like Katie, me, and, uh, you...'

'Me! What the hell am I doing there, McKay?'

'Because I, uh, because it’s a social event, to encourage teambuilding,' McKay replied slowly.

'Oh, stop stealing my ideas. Why don't you and Dr Brown go out, enjoy yourselves!' Sheppard grinned exuberantly; he was enjoying watching McKay squirm.

'What's gotten into you?' McKay asked curiously as Sheppard picked up a gadget he knew nothing about from the workbench and started fiddling with it. Suddenly his eyes grew wide, 'Elizabeth? ' he hissed incredulously.

'Now who's a loudmouth. And no, for your information, McKay, Elizabeth and I are just friends, we're working out our differences. That's all.'

'Yeah right,' McKay smirked.

'Hey, if you want my co-operation over Katie Brown, maybe you should play nice, McKay,' Sheppard returned, putting down the doohickey and heading for the door, 'Gateroom, one hour!' he shot back.

McKay let him go with a groan. He had too much to do to run after Sheppard now, but he made a mental note to make the effort to be nicer to him lately. That was going to take effort, he thought, picking up his laptop again. For the next thirty minutes he forgot all about Major Sheppard, but couldn't move his brain away from the question of Dr Katie Brown.

He caught Sheppard on the way to the Gate later, catching him by the elbow. 'Hey, uh, sorry, okay, about, uh, you and Elizabeth.'

Sheppard raised an eyebrow, slung his weapon across his chest and waited.

'So, you, um, wanna ride shotgun on this date?'

Sheppard had thought about this for nearly an hour. He could wind Rodney up, refuse, go along and do the third wheel thing, or kill two birds with one stone - put Rodney off his guard and get Elizabeth out of her office for a little RnR. They'd been getting along better, she'd relaxed and he'd eased up, but they still hadn't stepped quite out of their workday ritual yet.

‘Cool,' he replied, watching Rodney's face fall with shock and stopped himself from grinning too much. Behind him the Gate started spinning, the control room dialling their destination right on time. Without another word, he turned his back on Rodney and headed down the stairs, two at a time. He wouldn't say another word about it, which would drive McKay nuts. Barely holding off the smile he turned to glance up at the balcony. Sure enough, Weir was there. He raised a hand before turning back as the event horizon established itself with a watery whoosh.

Shit, he thought, I still have to tell Elizabeth.

It wasn’t worth putting off, Sheppard reflected as he stepped through the Gate back on Atlantis several hours later. The mission had been uneventful and that didn’t really help him stall the moment; but he was confident she wouldn’t say no. This was to get Rodney out of his shell, encourage his social life, make him happy, ensure his wellbeing- yeah, that last one worked, he took care of his crew but Elizabeth liked to conspire with Heightmeyer to make sure everyone’s psyche was as in order as their gear.

As soon as the briefing was over, he waited for his team to file to the doorway before waving a discreet hand at Elizabeth, shooing her back into her seat. She'd half risen out of her chair, but now she sat back down, abruptly confused. Sheppard normally tried to quit out of meetings as soon as possible. He rose, closed the door and took the seat opposite her. 'I told McKay we'd ride shotgun on his date tomorrow night,' Sheppard let the words fly rather than try to lead her up to it. Getting her suspicious first wasn’t going to get her on side.

What?!

‘Shotgun. Date. McKay. You. Me,’ he repeated slowly, trying to keep the humour going.

‘I heard what you said, John! But it’s hardly a good idea to, what, double date? Really? I’m Commander of Atlantis in the middle of the Pegasus Galaxy, following in the footsteps of ascended beings of great genius and I actually just said the words “double date”,’ Weir responded with consternation written all over her face. ‘I think I know how Dr Who feels when he grows a new face.’

Sheppard grinned broadly, ‘you want weird? I never thought I’d hear you say “Dr Who”, say “Star Trek”,’ he urged her quickly.

‘John!’ She tried but Weir couldn’t hold back the smile at the mischief written all over his face. ‘What am I going to do with you?’

‘I could think of a few things,’ he responded, arching an eyebrow. Elizabeth ignored him, switching back to the conversation he started.

‘So, this dinner. Doesn’t Dr Brown trust McKay enough to be alone with him, or is it the other way around,’ she added, ironically.

Sheppard dropped the line of enquiry, it was giving his brain too much trouble in the functioning department. Instead he cleared his throat and crossed his arms. ‘Rodney wants it to appear as teambuilding thing, he wants to get to know her better without screwing up too much. We should be able to keep him from doing that between us.’

‘I’m not sure about that,’ Elizabeth muttered.

AND,’ he thought he’d better say it again for clarification, ‘I did say I’d have to ask you first.’

‘Yes, but to terms you already agreed to,’ she replied, leaning forward on the table and fixing him with a glare.

She had him there. He gave a slow single nod, and admitted it, ‘ye-es. BUT,’ he added quickly, ‘it’s in the interests of Dr McKay’s wellbeing. Heightmeyer told him he had to socialise more with his peers.’

‘I heard,’ Elizabeth groaned, ‘before he gave her a lecture on Colonel Carter and Einstein being more his peers than anyone on Atlantis, including her.’ At which point, so the tale went, Heightmeyer had led him gently from her office and loudly announced her thanks to Dr McKay for promising to her next shift cleaning the cafeteria. Since several crewmen were walking by she included them in the conversation, pretty much forcing McKay into a socially awkward situation where he couldn’t say no without appearing the worst kind of heel. He’d skipped his weekly psyche evaluation the following week, and Heightmeyer hadn’t mentioned it. He did clean the cafeteria with the rest of the shift however, and found that the therapist had left instructions for him to be involved in a team activity for the entire shift. ‘C’mon, it’ll be good for him,’ John went on. ‘The point is-‘

‘I get your point,’ she forestalled him the prepared speech he was about to launch into.

‘So, Sheppard sat forward, clasping his hands together on the table. ‘Why not?’

Why not? Elizabeth was still asking herself that question after dinner, in her quarters as the moon rose over the black ocean. She watched it drape a silvery path across the waves and sighed, wondering when life got so complicated. She looked around for a moment, and then nearly laughed. She was Commander of an alien city in another galaxy. This time last year she hadn't heard of anything beyond her solar system. Going to dinner with three of her senior staff was hardly along the lines of complicated compared to that. Slipping into bed, she let the problem go,if she didn't read anything into it, then neither would anyone else.

Besides, it would be good for Rodney, but not Elizabeth herself. Nope. Not. At. All.

End Notes:
Video: Link to riding shotgun on McKay's date and related scenes (0:35/2:45 to 0:51/2:45)
Chapter 8 - Moments by shipper scifi
Author's Notes:
‘I trust this,’ he replied, ‘I feel this,’ he added, kissing her again.

Elizabeth wore red. It wasn’t like her wardrobe was very varied, and she’d chosen a few particular items outside of her work uniform that she particularly loved. Red and blue were amongst them. But it was less like a uniform, with the cut of the arms and the hem. She pulled on a pair of jeans, the only pair she had on Atlantis opened her desk drawer for the few items of jewellery she’d managed to jam into her rucksack before leaving her quarters back on Earth.

She hadn’t really thought they’d come in handy but she was loathe to leave them behind, just in case they never saw Earth again. She sighed, glancing in the mirror at the borrowed eyeshadow dusted across her lids. Heightmeyer had make-up as part of her uniform, she tended to colour co-ordinate depending on who she was talking to on any particular day. She told Elizabeth it had a subconscious effect as she handed over a small bag of essentials. ‘You can keep them,’ the therapist had added, ‘the next time we have a base-wide celebration you should dress up a little. It’s good for morale to see you out of uniform and you’ll be surprised what you learn when people dissociate the word Commander from Elizabeth at a party.’

Weir had nodded, thanking her and making a mental note to give it a try next time. The way things were going, the next celebration would be Christmas before they heard from Earth again.

A chime indicated a presence at her door. ‘Come in,’ she called, closing the clasp on her necklace. It wouldn’t do anyone any good, least of all herself, to be melancholy right now. Everyone here had known the score and taken the same chance.

The door slid open and Sheppard stood there, blue shirt and black trousers. She resisted the temptation to kill the smile that tried to creep across her face and let it bloom instead. They were supposed to be socialising. Teambuilding. Relaxing. Good for morale. Good for her. Good for everyone. John tucked his hands into his pockets, rolled slightly on the balls of his feet and grinned, ‘so, ready?’

Nope, Elizabeth finally admitted to herself. Not good for her. But good for McKay, and her working relationship with John. Sheppard. Major Sheppard.

He hadn’t expected her to dress up, if anything he almost expected her usual black and red uniform, worn to prove a point to the rest of the base; including herself probably. Instead she wore a silky material that draped gracefully over her hips and led to a pair of very long denim clad legs.

Oh, if McKay screwed this evening up, Sheppard was going to kill him just for the pure torture he was going to have to endure sitting across from Elizabeth. Smacking his brain into gear, he grinned laconically and shoved his hands in his pockets to distract himself from lifting a single finger in her direction and asked her the obvious.

‘Yes,’ she replied. He’d shoot someone for that smile alone. Instead he lifted his chin in the direction of the corridor, back the way he’d come and they fell into step. She might not have worn the uniform but her mindset hadn’t changed, and they were discussing business within earshot of anyone who happened by as they entered the cafeteria and out onto the terrace that lay beyond.

Tables had been set up, cloths bartered from other worlds laid over them and real glasses laid out; it had fast become a custom, once a week as long as nothing went wrong, and the crew had appreciated the efforts of the catering crew to expand the social side of life in the city. Several people were already seated around them and McKay was fiddling with a napkin, glancing around as if he felt like the elephant in the room. She saw the relief wash over his face when he saw them, and she walked straight over, pulling out her own chair and sitting down before either McKay or Sheppard could pull the gentlemanly trick and make the situation even harder for her to explain away.

‘Rodney,’ she greeted him, ‘where’s Katie?’ she asked, looking around with a careless air.

‘She’s hiding under the tablecloth,’ Rodney responded sarcastically before catching himself. ‘Sorry, I-‘

Elizabeth waved the apology away, McKay had enough on his mind right now, and sarcasm was his defense mode anyway. Sheppard took the seat between them, ‘where’s the menu?’ he asked innocently, which levered a smile from Elizabeth but not from McKay.

‘There’s only one set meal,’ Rodney replied, not getting the joke. His eyes were anxiously on the glass door to the main cafeteria. A shadowy figure appeared before the door slid open and Dr Katie Brown from hydroponics stepped through the door. Rodney almost shot to his feet, but Elizabeth shook her head quickly and he only rose when Katie reached the table.

‘Dr Brown, uh, Katie. You know Major Sheppard and-‘

‘Dr Weir. Of course,’ the biologist finished for him as she shook Weir’s hand. ‘I haven’t had a chance to speak with you personally Dr Weir, or you, Major, except when the Expedition was assembled of course.’

‘I’ve been very impressed with your work,’ Weir responded as she took a seat. You seem to have gained substantive knowledge of the plant life in this galaxy.’

‘A great deal of it is similar to what you’d find on Earth, and other Terran planets,’ Katie replied. ‘Please do call me Katie, Dr Weir.’

‘And it’s Elizabeth, at least for tonight,’ Weir said.

‘John,’ Sheppard leant over and shook her hand, ‘pretty much all the time,’ he added, with a sideways glance and a grin at Elizabeth.

She took the needling with good grace, he was glad to see. Katie smiled. ‘It’s perfectly alright Dr- Elizabeth; the command structure needs to be maintained. I do understand, really.’

Weir nodded, relieved there would be no misunderstanding. Now their table was complete, one of the staff came over and delivered a trolley. Although there was little time for the formalities of serving, with the base commander at the table, some effort was made rather than leaving them to get up and go serve themselves. A pitcher of Athosian wine was added, and the crew member saluted smartly to both Major and Commander before disappearing back inside.

‘Well, at least there’s some perks to command,’ Rodney muttered, leaning over to the trolley and eyeing the food. ‘Hey, this looks pretty good!’ He broke off as a sharp elbow in his ribs reminded him to use his good manners. He coughed, stood and served the ladies first; clumsily, but with some attempt at grace. Weir bit the inside of her lip in an effort to keep her expression straight but Katie practically glowed that Rodney was making such an obvious effort.

The glow was due to wear off in short order.

Some of the conversation flowed, but Rodney was keen on bragging and his prose in that area tended to be more fluid, like his explanations of scientific concepts or problems. The trouble was that both his superiors were seated at the same table and he couldn’t quite get away with as much as he would have if he and Katie had been alone. Timely reminders from Sheppard or a raised eyebrow from Elizabeth kept him focussed and by the time food was nearly finished, he was feeling quite pleased with himself.

Katie didn’t look as enamoured as she had been when she arrived, but she was still smiling, especially when McKay raised his glass. ‘A toast,’ he announced. Elizabeth and John exchanged quick glances, the kind normally reserved for potentially dangerous situations, usually involving life-or-death and quite a few guns.

‘To you,’ he smiled at Katie, who had lifted her glass and looked slightly bemused although quite happy, by the turn of events. ‘We’ve been working together for... some time now,’ he paused, ‘what I mean to say is, uh-‘ he strangled on his own words.

‘To your success in leading the botanical department,’ Elizabeth broke in, ‘I know Rodney is very grateful to have that department in such good hands,’ she turned her gaze on Rodney. They clinked glasses together, John giving Katie an encouraging smile and McKay nodded.

‘Yes, that’s it. Exactly. Thank you, uh, Elizabeth, for being so, so eloquent.’

Katie smiled again, but it was awkward and she’d obviously chosen the stay-silent-til-its-over route. ‘Shall I, uh, go get dessert?’ Rodney asked, trying to appear at ease.

‘Let me,’ Katie almost shot up from her seat in her haste. ‘You’ve been so nice, arranging all this. I’d love to.’

‘Oh, okay then,’ Rodney smiled at her and Katie returned the favour, albeit slightly limpidly. She turned and headed for the cafeteria and, no doubt, a breath of fresh air, Elizabeth thought.

Rodney grinned to himself smugly, sitting back and draping his napkin over his lap. ‘Well, I think its going very well,’ he said, leaning outwards to look through the glass. A frown appeared on his face. ‘I wonder if she knows I’m allergic to citrus,’ he murmured. ‘Scuse me,’ he said, vaguely in their direction before dropping his napkin on the table and scooting off in the direction of the cafeteria.

Elizabeth let go of the breath she hadn’t realised she’d been holding and looked over at John. Sheppard grinned, pushing his chair out. ‘Let’s get outta here,’ he said and she nodded, practically whirling out of her seat. Together they walked to the cafeteria, through the door and straight past Rodney and Katie.

‘Something’s, uh, come up,’ Sheppard said casually, ‘sorry. It was great to meet you Katie.’

‘Yes,’ Elizabeth added,’ I’ll come down for a tour of the new facilities you’ve moved into soon.’

‘Please do,’ Katie replied, obviously unshaken and unsuprised by their departure. It was likely the only time she’d talk one to one to Dr Weir again and she had some ideas to put to her. Her plans for the hydroponics bay, as well as creating a greenhouse for more traditional growing methods were rapidly occupying more of her mind than her date, and it was becoming clear that doing this again would be a colossal mistake. ‘in fact, Rodney, do you mind...’

Her voice trailed off as they made their escape. The whole evening had had a sense of the bizarre an slightly surreal about it, so that Elizabeth cared less about the appearance of the two highest ranks in Atlantis walking together through a twilit city. By the time they were well away from the centre of the city, Sheppard was laughing and Elizabeth was doing her best to try and contain her rising hysteria. He caught her hand finally and pulled her out onto a quiet balcony in an unoccupied sector not far from the living quarters.

Outside in the fresh air, she finally let go, with the crashing waves of a rapidly cooling night covering the noise. Sheppard let go and stood, grinning as she leaned weakly against the rail. ‘Don’t ever do that to me again, Sheppard!’ she laughed, once she could speak again. ‘Poor Katie, I can’t believe McKay tried to toast her. I think I might have to talk to Heightmeyer.’

‘About his social skills?’

‘No, my trauma,’ Elizabeth responded, pushing herself away from the rail. ‘Think we’re in danger of post-traumatic stress?’ she asked.

Sheppared didn’t answer immediately. Elizabeth was standing a bit too close for his brain to work properly and a couple of glasses of Athosian wine hadn’t helped. He wasn’t a lightweight but the Athosians had never heard of percentages, and they left their alcohol to mature for as long as they felt like.

‘How about imminent stress?’ he asked, the words out before he could edit them under things-not-to-say-to-Elizabeth. He dropped his hands to his sides, tucking them in his pockets and barely stopping himself from gritting his teeth. ‘Dammit, Lis’beth!’

‘John?’ His name whispered across skin in her voice, and he stopped thinking all together. His hands rose, sliding along her jaw and tilting her head back as he kissed her. She leaned into him, fitting against him in all the right places and the moment couldn’t have been better if he’d planned it. Her arms wound round his neck, her fingers burying themselves in his hair as she pressed herself closer, deepening the kiss.

She short-circuited his brain, filling his senses until all he was aware of her was her, in his arms. The sound of waves, the city, the moonlight, it all disappeared, or could have, without him noticing. Reluctantly they drew apart, Elizabeth looking more than a little startled. ‘John? I, er, that, that wasn’t a very good idea,’ she whispered, although her proximity was telling him otherwise. She pushed herself away, stepping back and wrapping her arms around herself as if suddenly cold. ‘I mean-‘ ‘I know what you mean,’ he replied. Her brain obviously sprang back quicker than his from that kiss, he reflected bitterly. ‘C’mon. We’d better get back,’ he added. Before I pin you against the wall and kiss you senseless, he thought, turning on his heel before he could do just that.

They walked back in silence, an awkward space between them and all memory of humour lost. By the time they reached her quarters, bitterness had receded to regret and he sighed as she hit the button for her door and lingered.

‘I could practically hear the gears whirring in your head all the way back here,’ he said, ‘don’t worry, Lis’beth. I can control myself, same as you. I’m not going to blow this out of proportion.’

She looked up at that, her eyes angry even if her voice was even. ‘I wasn’t going to throw myself at you John,’ she returned smartly. ‘Nor was I going to accuse you of turning into a Neanderthal; I’m well aware that you have self-control. I wanted to ease the transition back into our working relationship. You may not have a great deal of respect for diplomacy, John, but it does help the situation!’

‘Diplomacy, diplomacy? Diplomacy isn’t going to help us here, Lis’beth. Cold showers and a sparring session with Teyla, yes, but there’s no words even you can come up with to help the situation!’

‘Then go ‘spar’ with Teyla,’ she bit off, trying like hell to keep the jealousy that had sprung up at his words from her tone before marching into her quarters.

‘It isn’t bloody Teyla I want, Lis’beth,’ his voice was right behidn her, his tone seething with barely controlled anger. She spun on him.

‘Really? You could have fooled me!’

‘Apparently, I did,’ he muttered, dipping his head and pulling her closer. The moment his lips touched hers, she forgot her next words and responded. The argument tried to fly out of the window, but she caught it by the tail end and barely managed to pull herself away after what felt like eternal moments. ‘John, we can’t,’ she whispered desperately.

Why,’ he demanded in utter frustration. ‘Jesus Elizabeth, watching you all evening was like torture, how the hell do you expect us to work together when all I can feel is you.’

She nearly laughed, ‘you’re always saying you can’t feel it. When the Athosians were settling in, when Maur was actually being above board with the treaty on ZX490, you always telling me you can’t feel it and you don’t trust it...’

‘I trust this,’ he replied, ‘I feel this,’ he added, kissing her again.

So did she, and right at that moment she wanted to do nothing else but feel. With a low moan she slid her arms around his neck, letting the argument, and all reasonable objections, melt away. Together they moved away from the door, letting it slide shut on the empty corridor, tumbling onto the bed and letting duty and regulations disappear as the moments in each other’s arms stretched out into eternity.

End Notes:
Video: The date and related scenes (0:52/2:45 to 1:05/2:45)
Chapter 9 - Ghosts by shipper scifi
Author's Notes:
Atlantis' 'ghosts' weren't the only ones she'd fought that day.
The insistent beep is what woke her. She languidly rose to consciousness, cocooned in the warmth of another body pressed against her with an arm wrapped around her waist.

Last night flooded back in technicolour. Her and John, the argument, the bed... She closed her eyes for a moment, wishing the whole scene away. This was a mistake, she could feel it rushing over her like a storm cloud, threatening to drown everything she’d worked so hard to create. Weir had already had this conversation with herself, and when it came to the crunch she folded like a house of cards.

Reaching out, she picked up her comm, flicking it on. ‘Weir.’

‘Dr Weir?’ It was Heightmeyer. ‘I have Teyla Emmagen here in my office. Do you have a few minutes?’

Weir glanced at her clock. It was 8:30am, late for the base, very late for Weir herself. ‘Sure,’ she replied, trying to keep her voice steady, ‘fifteen minutes?’

Heightmeyer affirmed the time and signed off. Elizabeth sat up, realising two things: one, she was naked, and two, John was awake.

‘Trouble?’ he asked, any personal issues between them already put aside as he registered the concern on her face.

‘Heightmeyer,’ she replied. ‘With Teyla, she wants a few moments of my time,’ she added, slipping a sheet off the bed and wrapping it around her as she headed for the bathroom. He watched her, wondering what had changed so abruptly between this morning and last night. She came out several minutes later, her hair curling damply against her neck. When she looked his way, he took the hint, taking over the bathroom and leaving her to dress.

He came out with a towel wrapped around his hips as Weir slipped her earpiece on. ‘Lis’beth.’

‘I have to go, John.’

‘Nothing needs to change,’ the words were out before he could stop them, but it needed to be said, before this whole thing blew up out of proportion. They didn’t have the choice of transferring, they still had to work together.

She paused by the door, without looking at him. ‘It already has, John,’ and then she was gone. He didn’t have another chance to talk to her as the odd events for the next two days escalated.

She was pale; anyone with eyes could see it and a blind man could have heard it in her voice. Her headaches were increasing, and Sheppard knew from Carson that she was popping painkillers faster than anyone on base to keep ahead of the pain and on top of her duties. Everyone else was either hiding under a blanket or in a dark room, or on minimum duty. But Weir wouldn’t allow herself that, not until Atlantis was safe.

Sheppard watched her carefully, wondering how to get her to cut back and take a few hours out. It wasn’t likely, especially as she wasn’t talking to him right now. McKay and Zelenka started arguing, but Elizabeth stayed quiet, when usually she would have been verbally dragging them apart. He looked over at he, her eyes were unfocussed and she shook like a leaf in the breeze. He dived forward, calling her name, as she dropped to the floor.

Elizabeth!

She didn’t answer, and he could hear McKay babbling over the comms to the Infirmary before he shifted, lifting her into his arms. She barely responded, but he gained his feet, heading for the Infirmary; the medical team took too long. Behind him he could hear McKay’s meaningless objections to moving her, but Sheppard strode ahead, straight into the infirmary and to the only empty gurney he could see

‘Carson!’

The doctor turned, ‘oh my God! Elizabeth!’ Hurrying over, Beckett pulled her earpiece away, blood spilling as he did so. Sheppard felt his gut clench, and he leant on the edge of the gurney, his gaze sweeping the room. Ronan sat hunched over, next to Teyla’s bed. Every available space was taken up with crew members unable to either stay conscious or bear the pain. Nearby, a nurse pulled a blanket over the face of a young scientist, and Sheppard looked away, back at Elizabeth, as white as the sheets under her.

And there was nothing he could do. Not for her. Not for any of them.

Rodney was the one who cracked it in the end. The strange events that had swept through Atlantis like a storm weren’t ghosts, they weren’t glitches, they were warnings.

'What do you mean? A solar flare?'

'I mean this world is going to bathed in a solar flare large enough and strong enough to irradiate the entire surface of the planet! It'll kill every living thing here and the world be dead, the atmosphere unbreathable, probably for hundreds of thousands of years.'

'So whadda we do?' Sheppard replied. McKay rolled his eyes, the Major wasn't getting it.

'We abandon Atlantis, we get out of its way and we never, ever come back,' McKay replied.

'You're not serious! From what you've told me, we can't move everyone in time. Let alone the small matter of where we'd go. We'd need days to relocate, not hours! There must be something.. .What did the Ancients do? You told me this was a recurring event.'

'Yes, they extended the whole shield around the city, but we don't have three ZPMs! We can't do it.'
'How about adding Naquada generators, turning off everything we don't need... What about just putting the shield where we need it. Do we need to cover the whole planet or just half?'

McKay ran the numbers; but the increase their chances, they couldn't dial the Gate and evacuate anyone. It was all or nothing. And since evacuating anyone meant leaving at least half the crew behind, Sheppard made the decision.

With a head that felt like an axe was splitting it in half, Sheppard took Ronan and a Jumper, heading out around the planet to plant markers for Rodney and Zelenka to hone in on and use as enhancers for the shield. That’s if any of them lasted long enough to complete the mission.

It was a close call. Sheppard nearly passed out in the Jumper and Ronan slapped him awake. With a cracking headache he landed, stumbling out of the launch bay supported by the big Satedan who dumped him in a chair in Ops, where he could badger McKay with impunity. The scientist set the shield, increased the range on the scanners and then it was a case of waiting for the flare. The moment it happened, Rodney activated the shield and Atlantis’ world hung in a forcefield in space, like a bubble in glass.

It worked, but the shield failed seconds after the flare had ceased; Rodney shut everything possible down to save energy and the sensors showed the whales moving slowly away. Sheppard sighed with relief as Carson stuck a needle in his arm, administering a liquid painkiller. The world cleared just enough for him to issue the order for the normal shield to go up before sending everyone possible to their beds. He wove his way to the infirmary, slumping in a chair next to Elizabeth’s bed before passing out.

When he awoke, he was in the bed and Elizabeth was already gone. Nearby, Teyla was sitting up and Ronan eyed him and he slowly pushed himself to his feet.

‘Where’s Elizabeth?’

‘Her office.’

‘She would not rest,’ Teyla added, ‘although we told her Atlantis was now safe, she insisted on speaking to Dr McKay and had Ronan put you on the bed to sleep.’

At least she hadn’t just left him in the chair. Sheppard nodded, grabbing his commset and heading for the Ops centre and her office. He bounded up the stairs and into the control room. Through the glass doors, she saw him coming; he could see her squaring her shoulder, and she titled her chin up, like she did every single time she was facing a confrontation.

He wasn’t usually on the receiving end, not for a while now.

‘We have to discuss what happened last night,’ she began, before shaking her head, ‘I mean, the night before-‘

‘I get it, Lis’beth,’ John replied, letting the door swing shut as he leaned over, placing his hands on her desk. He hadn’t bothered with his gear and he stood in front her with just a black tshirt and combat trousers. He looked so good her fingers itched, but she’d argued herself down after that night, and she leant back in her chair to put some space between them.

‘That can never happen again,’ she went on.

‘Why?’

‘Because I’m your commanding office, John, because the expedition relies on both of us not be compromised, because the regulations are even more important now we’re cut off from Earth! We’re our own judge and jury out here and I will not fail these people!’

‘How the hell are we failing them, Lis’beth? You and I are both too professional too-‘

‘I know! But if one person saw or heard anything, then everyone knows and its only a matter of time before they being to wonder! Morale out here is too important these people are too important. I dragged them out here and now I’m responsible for them.’

He looked incredulous. ‘No one forced us out here, we all knew the score.’

‘I know. But still, we can’t, I can’t...’ she was out of words and he was out of patience. He didn’t understand where she was going with this or why she thought their relationship would somehow screw up her sense of duty, or his. ‘I think you’re made yourself clear,’ he said finally, ‘just quit avoiding me Lis’sbeth otherwise people are going to assume exactly the opposite and then this was for nothing.’ He turned and left, striding down the stairs and out of the Gateroom. She watched him go before she escaped to her balcony, finding solace in the crash of waves and the twilight air of the city.

Atlantis was safe, and I wasn’t at the helm, she thought to herself. Was she taking too much on, assuming that only she could bear the burden of responsibility for the expedition alone? Had she just made a colossal mistake?

No, she thought to herself. It was the right decision and she couldn’t second guess herself now, not after- Atlantis ghosts hadn't been the only ones she had fought that day. She shook her head, clearing the bad memories. Leaving her doubts out there on the balcony she headed back to her work.

End Notes:
Video: Link to scene 1:05/2:45 - 1:09/2:45).
Chapter 10 - Risks by shipper scifi
Author's Notes:
'It's worth the risk!'
They didn't speak of it after that. Although, to the outside, they appeared to work in concert; between the two of them, it was a little strained. They both maintained a certain level of professionalism but not a week went by went one of them crossed the line, just a little, and it was always Elizabeth who stepped back.

'The Genii? Again?'

John nodded as they headed for her office. 'Seems they've been stirring up the locals. We had a cold reception at best and it seems as if they're more inclined to believe their generous neighbours, the Genii, than us.' Sheppard's expression pretty much told her what he thought of that idea. She felt the same.

'So, their plan is to, what? Starve us out? Remove us from Atlantis by reducing those we can trade and ally us with?'

'I'd say so.'

She sighed, running one hand through her hair. It had grown longer since they'd arrived here; and it curled at the ends, almost wilder than his own. 'Then we have to combat this.'

'How?'

'With diplomacy. I'll meet with the leaders of those who don't trust us. We'll make some goodwill gestures; hopefully swing the vote back our way. All we can do is show them we're genuine, John. The Genii will show themselves for what they, especially with Kolya in charge.'

'Yeah,' he had an odd expression on his face, and she asked him why. 'I just wish we could've gotten through to Kolya. The Genii are resourceful, strong and determined. They would have made good allies.'

It was a genuine regret. Elizabeth turned on him, looking suprised. 'I wouldn't have through you'd give them any quarter after last time,' she said.

'Yeah, well. Okay, so, back to the planet? Arrange a meeting?'

'Yes. But first, Rodney's freaking out about a storm cell brewing on the other side of the planet. His enviornment team have been tracking weather patterns, and there's an indication that it may be coming our way.'

'Won't the shield take care of that?'

'I think its a bit more serious than that,' she replied, turning their steps towards the research labs. 'Something about a supercell, I said we'd meet him in his lab.'

Downstairs Rodney had a pulled together a large team of his people, all running scenarios and tracking the storm cell. 'Finally,' McKay muttered when he saw them, 'we have a problem. There's a storm cell forming, but it's massive, and there are indications in the Ancient database that its happened before. Unfortunately, the Ancients simply evacuated everyone inside Atlantis and raised the shields. But then they had 3 ZPMs.'br>
'I take it we can't just ride out the storm with the shields up as they are?'

'No! From what the information I've been able to gather, the shields won't hold. With the power drain from keeping the planet being roasted by the solar flare, the shields will hold off attacks but not the sustained damage the storm will do.'

'Since you've been thinking a lot about this, I can only assume you have a plan,' added Weir.

'Yes. Kind of. The only plan I have is to evacuate everyone, with as many supplies as possible. We release the grounding stations and turn Atlantis into one big lightning rod. We'll be able to siphon off the power and use it to supercharge the shields. But the timing must be precise, and anyone in the halls will be fried like a catfish. That's why we have to evacuate.'

'What about the people left behind to charge the shields?'

'The main control room is shielded, I can only assume the Ancients reinforced the area in case of a last minute evacuation, or in the event of the city being taken. They can control the city and the Gate from in there. I need to remain behind, with Zelenka, and whoever else you think necessary. But I have to warn you, the less, the better.'

'Are you sure?' Weir asked.

'As sure as I can be. I'm not even sure it'll work; but it's the best I can come up with, unless we find a secret cache of two more ZPMs in the next ten hours. That's when I need everyone out of here. I need to start priming the grounding stations; so if we're going to go ahead...?'

He left it hanging there, Weir considering. 'Okay,' she said finally, 'start priming the grounding stations and whatever else you need to do. Major, start issuing evacuation orders, I want supplies prepped and ready to go; non essential personnel can move to the Alpha site now. I know its not ready, but it means less chaos if we have to evacuate.'

'Have to?' Rodney looked up, 'Elizabeth-'

She held up a hand, 'I'm not convinced we're out of options yet, Rodney. We've made some new potential friends, and I think we should speak with them first. I understand they know a lot about the Ancients, maybe we can strike lucky on a ZPM or two yet.'

McKay nodded, heading back to his team, and Sheppard rounded on Weir. 'Hey, they're not exactly enthralled with us at the moment, what makes you think-'

'Because I'll convince them, we're going back. Now.'

They returned three hours later. Weir acknowledged the reception could have been better, and they left the inhabitants with at least some doubts although co-operation was thin on the ground, even given their current situation. She hadn't given the full details, but then she couldn't have known about the information leak either, a new one that had recently sprung and streamed its way directly to the Genii. It was to precipitate a sequence of events that would lay bare the souls of the command team of Atlantis.

The Genii came like thieves, with the intent to claim what was “rightfully” theirs. Weir scorned that idea, and with most of her people safely off Atlantis she was free to do so. She, McKay and Sheppard were the only ones still in danger. But with the mad light that flickered in Kolya’s eyes, she wasn’t sure if three of them would make it out alive. Sheppard had a more than evens chance, he was still loose in Atlantis, whilst she and Rodney were being held at the point of a weapon by the Genii. At least, she was.

Elizabeth, beyond everything, was still a diplomat, she still believed in the power of persuasion, but right now she was starkly certain of two things, one, Kolya was going to kill her and two, she would never be able to talk him out of it. It was between him and John now.

I’m sorry, John. I wish we’d had more time. Regret and fear mixed in a dangerous cocktail and she pushed them aside, sending up a hopeless prayer for John, hoping he wouldn’t let this embitter him. Although more than willing to use a weapon, he’d come so far in using his words, in talking his way round a situation, that she didn’t want him to lose that. Violence had never been his first port of call, and he’d learn from her how to use his other skills to avoid it. Whether she lived or died, whether Kolya made it through the storm or not, she didn’t want Jon to take his vengeance on the soldier. He was better than that. It would destroy something fine and noble inside him, and she didn’t want that on her conscience.

‘Oh really!’ Kolya was mocking Sheppard on the end of a radio. ‘You need at least two senior personnel to set that bomb, and I’m about to take one of them out of the equation.

‘Kolya! Don’t do this! I’ll fly you out of here myself! KOLYA!’

Silence reigned. Sheppard stood in the lashing rain, waiting for what seemed like eternity. With a crackle the radio sprang back to life.

‘Major Sheppard. How’s this for credibility? Weir is dead.’

Kolya was neither a coward nor, Jon believed, a liar. When he said Weir was dead, there was no reason to doubt him. For a moment, all he could do was breathe through the burning ache that filled his chest. His whole world shrank down until it contained only two very important things. One, Elizabeth was dead and two, he was going to rip Kolya apart for taking from him the woman he loved. He could admit it now, in the silent vaults of his own mind. He loved her, and it went beyond what he’d ever thought love to be, beyond what he’d had with Nancy. He would never stand at her grave and grieve, he’d probably die getting Kolya.

But it would be enough.

‘I am going to kill you.’ The words were mechanical, almost meaningless, they didn’t even begin to describe what he’d do to Kolya.

‘Maybe; stay out of my way or McKay will join her.’ The radio flicked off and Sheppard took a moment to breathe, staring out into the storm, feeling the adrenaline flood his system. Turning on one heel, he ran into the city, intent on taking down Kolya and his crew.

The first two guards he took down quickly. A rapid, controlled burst removed them from the world, and he was moving on, heading for the Gateroom to cut off reinforcements. Technically, he knew what happened when you raised the shield on an incoming datastream, but it didn’t seem to matter. He didn’t really process the concept of death, just that the reinforcements would be stopped.

It was a moment’s work to take out the soldier in the control room. The rest were downstairs. Sheppard engaged the iris and peered over the console to see it take effect. The Genii below sprayed gunfire in his direction, most of it aimless in their anger and confusion as, like balloons bursting, the datastreams impacted the iris, each one worth a man’s life.

Running on, Jon sabotaged the city’s shields as he went, killing along the way It seemed incidental in the moment, so he didn’t hesitate, didn’t pause and think, he just acted. His bubble didn’t burst until the radio crackled into life and Kolya stopped him dead in the midst of a sarcastic retort as he announced Weir and McKay were no longer worth keeping alive.

‘Weir’s alive?’ Sheppard demanded, stopping dead in his tracks. ‘Let me talk to her!’

Kolya must have handed over the radio because a moment later, her voice filled his ears like a choir of angelsong. ‘Sheppard! We’re both here!’

She was outside, he could hear her straining her voice against the wind and rain.

‘It’s good to hear your voice,’ he said, his tone gentle, as if she stood right here with him in the room.

‘Yeah! Good to hear!’ She was stilling yelling above the storm. He wanted to tell her something more, but before he could form the words, Kolya took back the radio, threatening their lives again if Sheppard didn’t restore the grounding stations he’d been sabotaging.

Ten minutes. Dammit, and he was running once more.

Help came from an unexpected quarter. The Jumper that had been stranded on the mainland took advantage of the eye of the storm to return to Atlantis. Carson, Telya and Ford. A wave of relief swept over Sheppard. He had someone else to rely on now, someone else to help him kill Kolya. They swept through the city like the storm itself, taking out the enemy and forcing them into retreat. In the Gateroom, the enemy, with Elizabeth and McKay as prisoners, were heading for the Gate and their own world.

Short bursts took down half the group. Ford slipped into place on the left and shot down the soldier still holding McKay. Another dived through the event horizon and Kolya, ever the opportunist, spun, grabbing Elizabeth around the waist and pinning one arm to her side, using her as a human shield. He was much bigger than her, and although she kicked out, she was no match for the Genii commander. John slipped up on the right of the walkway, his weapon levelled at the pair of them. He could see the fear on Elizabeth’s face, fear wasn’t something he’d ever seen in her before. Not once, and he hated Kolya for putting it there.

‘Kolya!’

The commander gave him a grim smile, still walking backwards towards the Gate. Once he’d taken her through, Jon would never see her again and God alone knew what the Genii would do to her. They’d make her beg for death before the end.

‘You’re not going anywhere!’ he called, Kolya and Elizabeth still in his sights. Elizabeth dropped against him, using her weight to pull him down, but it didn’t make a difference to his steps. ‘I WILL shoot you if you don’t let her go!’

‘And risk hurting Doctor Weir?’ Kolya was mocking him now. Was it obvious, Jon thought for a split second. Was it so obvious that he cared about her.

He raised his weapon slightly higher, adjusting his scope. ‘I’m not aiming at her,’ he grated ominously. A single shot burst from the barrel, burying itself in Kolya’s shoulder. The soldier let go, thrown backwards by the impact and toppled through the event horizon. Elizabeth dropped to the floor like a stone, but regained her balance and scrambled away from the open wormhole before her legs gave out once more. Yelling at Ford to find the others, he ran for her, grabbing her shoulders and yanking her up. He had to see for himself she was unharmed.

Her eyes were wide with shock, but she didn’t look broken and bleeding. She had a large shadow at the side of her face, probably were Kolya had struck her and, for a moment, Jon wished he hadn't gotten away. ‘Are you okay?’

She shook her head, mute, unable to trust her voice to answer. After a moment, no shakily escaped her. Jon leaned forward, pressing his lips against hers, letting go of her shoulders to tangle his fingers in her hair. He took just ten precious seconds to kiss her before drawing away, grabbing her hand and pulling her to her feet. ‘You will be,’ he responded, as if he hadn’t just kissed her in the middle of the Gateroom, two minutes before imminent disaster. ‘Come on!’

And they were up and running, heading for the control room, where they would shielded against the electricity that would, within minutes, arc through the corridors and generate enough shield power to prevent the city from being obliterated by the storm. It had taken some fast thinking to come up with the plan and it was five to one against it working, but they had exhausted their energy supplies saving Atlantis from the solar flare. They were out of options.

McKay looked round as Sheppard and Weir dashed in the doorway, still hand in hand. Rodney reached out to hit the button, activating the shield, but was stopped by Carson's yells and Sheppard’s objections. Elizabeth, shaken out of her shocked state, cut across the arguments. ‘Two minutes Rodney, not a second before!’

It was decisive and it expedient. Sheppard turned to look at her, dark brown eyes wide, her face still pale and she was soaked to the skin and shivering uncontrollably, but she’d never been more in control of Atlantis than she was at that moment. McKay obeyed and they waited a tense ninety seconds before Teyla and her new found friend tumbled through the door. McKay slammed his hand down and the shields shot up, protecting Atlantis. In the control room, soaked, bleeding and bruised, the ragged remains of the Atlantis Expedition stood and waited, until the surge passed by.

Jon slid his pack to the floor and retrieved two emergency foil blankets, both of which he handed to Teyla and the redhead from the Genii. Ford copied him, tossing one to Sheppard for Weir and shaking out the other before handing it to Rodney.

Sheppard caught the package, pulling out the blanket and wrapping it around Elizabeth, rubbing her arms to get some warmth back into them and eased her back into a chair. Rodney was already sat, cradling his arm against his chest and Ford was pulling out a first aid kit for Carson. The doctor flicked a glance at Sheppard, then Elizabeth, his unspoken question clear. Sheppard nodded, reassuring him that she was okay. Teyla and the redhead had sunk down to the floor, sitting side by side, wrapped in the silver blankets and talking quietly.

When he turned back to Elizabeth, she was watching the others, still as pale as milk and shivering, but a slight smile touched her cold lips. Everyone was safe. Atlantis was safe. She couldn't ask for more. She looked back at him, crouched in front of her and leant forward, resting her forehead against his shoulder although she didn't speak a word. Jon slid his hand along the back of her neck, holding her tight, just a few moments, shaken by the realisation that Kolya and a single bullet had taken her out of his life forever.

She was training in armed combat, but once everyone was back home and safe, she would join one of the hand-to-hand training groups. Ronan's would be a good start. He didn't want her that defenceless again.

Everyone was home again by the next morning. Elizabeth breathed a sigh of relief as the last of the evacuees made their way through the Gate. Leaving the settling in to Grodin, she headed for her balcony and walked straight outside, leaning against the rail.

‘Now that’s a beautiful sight,’ his voice made her jump, but Elizabeth turned to meet him with composure, strolling along the balcony until she was sure she was out of sight beyond the slight corner of the building.

‘It’s lovely out here,’ she agreed.

‘That’s not what I meant,’ he replied, striding over and catching her hand. He pulled her into him, giving her no time to argue the point before he kissed her, wrapping his arms around her and holding her tight against him. She responded, urgently, before he spun them both, pressing her up against the wall outside her office, his fingers sliding into her hair to hold her steady as he kissed her again. They tangled together for a few moments longer. Breathless, they broke apart, but not far. Jon released her hair, smoothing out the strands with his fingers. Elizabeth dropped her gaze, and he knew what was coming.

‘I thought you were dead, Lis’beth,’ he whispered, leaning in to kiss her once more, but softly, letting her feel how much her loss had affected him.

‘I know,’ she nodded, pulling away slightly. ‘Jon, those soldiers... I’m not worth that kind of death. It doesn’t balance out.’

‘Did I scare you?’

‘It made me wonder if I ever knew you, yes. I never realised you were capable of-‘

‘Savagery? Being a soldier, it puts you more in touch with your instincts. AS far as I was concerned, Kolya had killed you. I wanted him dead. Maybe if I had more time, if they’d given me more time, I could’ve disabled the Gate rather than raised the iris. But I was out of time, out of choices and, yes, I was out of compassion and patience for them. We tried Elizabeth, we tried a lot more than they did, and still they kept coming. I will protect you,’ he added, stubbornly.

‘I can accept that,’ Elizabeth began, her voice calm.

‘I know. You’re closer to my work than any woman I’ve cared for Elizabeth, you know more about that side of me than anyone in my family. Even you give the kill order if you must.’

She nodded, it was a fact, not one she was proud of, but the truth all the same.

‘I’m sorry they had to die, Lis’beth. Does that help?’

She looked up, managing a smile and a nod, ‘it does, yes. But you didn’t let me finish, Jon. No matter what your reasons, we put everyone else on this facility at risk because of what happened between us. Would you have gone for the kill that hard if he’d killed Teyla? McKay?’

‘Yes.’

‘You’re lying.’

‘No! I was out of options, I told you that!’

‘What about next time? What if there were options, Jon? Would you see them, or would you ignore them if you had a gun and Kolya was stood in front of you?’

‘I’ve given that sonofabitch more chances at life than he ever gave us! What do you want me to do, Lis’beth? Lie and say I’d be completely rational if they killed you next time? I won’t, I wouldn’t be completely rational if they killed anyone I cared about. That doesn’t make me dangerous, or a monster, just human!’

‘I can’t risk it!’

‘Risk what?’ She was hiding something, he was sure of it. She almost shut down after the shock of what Kolya had done, avoided him from the moment the danger to the city was past until she walked out on the balcony just now, and Elizabeth was stronger than that. There was something else going on here.

‘I can’t risk the lives of my team! Not again!’ She clapped a hand over her mouth, realising what she had said.

‘What do you mean, again?’

‘I can’t, Jon-‘

‘Don’t call me a liar and then try it yourself!’ he shot at her. ‘Tell me!’

‘I was involved with a secret service agent! When we were attacked, he came for me first and the man he was supposed to be guarding was killed!’

Silence followed her outburst. Elizabeth had been involved with someone else on another op, or diplomatic mission, whatever it was called that she did. He was quiet, turning away from her to stare out at the ocean. Elizabeth, with someone else; the sight made him see red. he wasn't stupid, they both had others in their past, but this was the first time it had intruded into their lives here and now.

‘I didn’t know,’ he responded instead, turning back to her.

‘There was no reason you should. The agent in question was reprimanded of course. I wasn’t, though I should have been.’

‘Did... you love him?’ God! Why did that question hurt so much?

‘No.’

Sheppard breathed a silent sigh of relief. ‘Do you think I’d abandon my post?’

‘No!’ Her denial was swift and sure. ‘But still, I can’t-‘

‘Yes, you can! You admit that I’m not like that, you trust me to hold my post. I even dealt with the grounding stations instead of coming straight after Kolya. You know me, Lis’beth! I wouldn’t let Atlantis fall, I wouldn’t let our people down, not a single one, not even for you.’

‘How can you be so sure?’

‘Because you’d hate me for it.’ The words were starkly simple. ‘I couldn’t let them down, because I would never let you down. And I think you feel the same, you wouldn’t rescue me or avenge me just because you could. You know I wouldn’t want that on my conscience.’

She reached out, brushing light fingertips across his cheek. ‘I know,’ she acknowledged softly, letting her hand drop and heading for the rail, leaning on it to look out to sea. ‘I want to Jon, I just don’t know if I can...’

‘It’s worth the risk!’

She was thinking about it, he could see it in her face, hear the hesitant note in her voice. The encounter with Kolya had shaken her enough to consider the future, to think about regrets and what-might-have-beens and the showdown is Earth ever came back into the picture. Her experience with that agent, whoever the hell he was, had shaken her too, but she understood he, Sheppard, wasn’t like that. He joined her at the rail.

‘And if we get caught?’

‘Lis’beth, there’ve been many times I risked everything from a clip round the ear to a court martial with the chance of blindfolds at dawn,’ he paused, turning his head to look at her, so she couldn’t mistake his meaning. ‘For the right thing, the risk is nothing by comparison,’ he went on, ‘it’s never stopped me before.’

She nodded, it wasn’t an assent, more an acknowledgement of what he’d said. ‘I’ll think about it,’ she replied, her voice soft. She refused to look his way, and he knew better by now than to push her when she wasn’t ready. Elizabeth was on the verge of a major shift, and the best way to screw this up was to keep on at her.

‘Okay,’ he said, reluctantly. ‘You tell me, when you’re ready,’ he added. Letting go of the rail he headed for Gate operations.

End Notes:
Video: Link to scene at 1:07 where Sheppard comes running up to Weir, they're both soaked through (just after he shot Kolya who tumbled back through the 'Gate) and the "worth the risk" scene on the balcony. (1:07/2:45 to 1:14/2:45)
Chapter 11 - Sunday by shipper scifi
Author's Notes:
Somewhere, Sheppard was packing a picnic and the thought actually made her smile.
They were late back. Nearly ten hours now.

They’re always late back.

Not without calling in. Unless McKay’s done something stupid, or they’re in a firefight, or they’re dead, or-

Elizabeth clamped her hands over her ears as if she could physically shut out the internal voices that were driving her crazy. Pushing away from her desk, she picked up her portable tablet and strode out of her office and into the control room.

‘Any news?’ she asked Pierson who was sat at the main controls.

He shook his head, ‘no ma’am.’

‘Activate the ‘Gate, dial in and we’ll relay a message via the MALP again. If we don't hear back, we'll send the twelve hour rescue.’

‘Yes, ma’am.’ Pierson started punching buttons, but his gaze slid up and watched Weir as she walked away to stand at the balcony overlooking the Gateroom. She was tense, he could see it in the set of her shoulders. She was worried about her flagship team, they all were, but the rumour was that she worried about Jon Sheppard more than any of them.

It was none of Pierson’s business, he wished them luck as long it didn’t interfere with the running of Atlantis. Besides, no one knew when they would see Earth again. Or if. It had been almost eight months now, and there was no word, not on a ZPM to get them back, nor word, nor ship from Earth. If the commanding team of Atlantis were pairing off for the foreseeable future, maybe he should think about this place as more than a job. Maybe he really should consider it his home-

Maybe they all should.

A sudden flurry of activity across the console broke into his train of thought. ‘Dr Weir!’

She spun, frowning. ‘What is it?’

‘Incoming wormhole!’

She strode over as the Gate spun behind her, the co-ordinates lighting up fast. A wormhole formed and Pierson switched on the iris a split second before the event horizon appeared.

‘Do we have a GDO signal?’

‘Yes ma’am. It’s them.’

A sigh of relief ghosted across his shoulder. ‘Open the iris!’ She walked away, her steps taking her towards the steps before she changed her mind and smoothly switched back to the balcony. Below her the wormhole spat out its passengers. Teyla, Ronan, Ford, McKay, two of the science team.... She tensed, clutching the rail until Sheppard stepped through. All of them were muddy, right up to the eyes, but appeared unharmed.

The first thing Jon did when he stepped into Atlantis was look up. There she was, in her severe uniform of black and red, her fingers curled tightly around the rail, worry creasing her brow. He let out a breath and gave a nod to let her know everything was okay before following his team to the showers. The debrief could wait, but Elizabeth could see that, even from a distance.

He wondered if she’d thought about them since he’d asked her, almost a week ago, to take the risk with him. But from the worry etching her brow, one thing was clear- they couldn’t go on like this.

An hour later, Sheppard met her on the steps leading down to the Gateroom. McKay was already badgering the scientists they’d taken with them and poking the artefacts they’d recovered. Teyla, Ronan and Ford had other duties, so he could see Elizabeth alone.

‘Hey,’ he stopped in front of her, looking her directly in her eyes.

‘Jesus, Jon,’ Elizabeth hissed quietly. ‘Ten hours overdue, what were you thinking?’

‘We were caught in a mudslide, the radios still aren’t working. I sent them to maintenance for repair. What did you expect me to do, Elizabeth, send smoke signals?’

‘No, I-‘

‘You were scared, in case something had happened. To me?’

‘Concerned,’ she shot back, ‘for the whole team.’

‘I’m heartbroken,’ he replied, grinning laconically.

‘Liar,’ she replied, unable to maintain her anger in the face of his amusement.

He sobered up, looking at her thoughtfully. ‘You know this can end. You can just give me an answer, and this won’t happen again.’

‘You won’t be overdue again?’

‘No. You’ll stop worrying so much. We have something hanging over our heads Elizabeth, unresolved issues. It makes everything else a burden instead of a daily duty.’

‘Who told you that? Heightmeyer, or have you been reading Miller’s women’s magazines again?’ she asked caustically.

‘Magazines of course, much better for pithy psyche advice,’ he smiled, tucking his hands in his pockets before he took them out and ran one through his hair, tousling it even more than usual. ‘So?’

She regarded him for a long moment, but if the truth were told, she had been thinking about this the entire time his team had been overdue. The worst thing, the absolute worst thing about Jon never coming back had been the fact that she had never answered his question. She had never given them a chance. It hung over her like the Sword of Damocles, her biggest potential regret, and she ached to cut it down and put it aside.

‘You do realise we’d have to keep this from everyone, and even if the Expedition adapts, what about when we makes contact with Earth?’

Jon grinned, realising he’d won the battle. ‘I knew you’d say yes,’ he responded, his hands reaching out to grasp her arms, for a second he meant to kiss her but he remembered where he was and squeezed her lightly instead before letting go.

‘I haven’t said yes!’ her indignant voice was a little louder than she would have liked to admit.

‘But you were going to,’ it was only half a question. He tilted his head, giving her that flyboy charm again and she threw him a mock frown. ‘Ye-es,’ she capitulated.

‘Told ya,’ the grin was there again, and for a moment she thought he might try and kiss her again. Instead, he stepped back, tucking his hands even more firmly in his pockets. ‘I’ll see you later then,’ he said, raising an eyebrow in her direction.

‘Debrief tomorrow at 0800,’ she shot after him, determined that he wouldn’t get away with everything. He nodded, headed for the store rooms and workshops. She watched him go, blowing out a puff of breath as she contemplated what she’d agreed too. Most likely whatever it was would burn out between them in a matter of months; by stalling it, she was just making matters worse. But still, something inside her hurt at the thought. She brushed it aside, she had work to do.

It was another three hours before she heard from him again. An email popped up on her system, and she opened it. It had three short lines:

Picnic. East Pier, left dock overhang
1pm Sunday. Just you.
Jon

That was it. Weir bit the inside of her lip and wandered if they should meet somewhere so publicly. It was Friday now, and Sunday had been designated downtime for every member of staff that could be spared. But she had said it, she had meant it, and now she had to stand by her word.

Left dock overhang.... It rang a bell. Elizabeth pulled up a schematic of the station. The left hand dock overhang was where one of the supporting columns had been damaged and not approved for use yet. She clicked on the area, and the last report Jon had filed, half hour ago, popped up, along with half a dozen archived conversations. The repairs had been done, the dock was safe, and best of all, Elizabeth hadn’t ratified the report yet and only she or Jon could release the restrictions on the area. Jon’s report finished with the recommendations that, since the work had been extensive, she should personally inspect the area.

‘You devious-‘ she snapped off the rest of her words as McKay stalked straight into her office without bothering to knock, ranting about some incompetent in his team. Elizabeth sat back to listen, waiting for the right moment to interject and bring Rodney down off his high horse so he could start making sense. Sunday was looking more appealing by the minute.

The day in question dawned light and perfect, the blue skies stretched beyond the horizon, and the sea was calm, deep and inviting. Across Atlantis, plans were made for the day, and the mood was light and cheerful no matter where Elizabeth walked. Somewhere, Sheppard was packing a picnic and the thought actually made her smile as she made her rounds before heading to her office to clear some paperwork so she could enjoy her afternoon off with impunity.

She met Carson in the hallway a few hours later, heading off on a minor medical call out, he said. He almost walked past her, but took a second glance and realised the brunette with the seagreen blouse and the black linen pants wasn’t another member of the Expedition but Elizabeth Weir herself.

‘My, don’t we look nice!’ He grinned from ear to ear. Carson was one of the most likeable members of the expedition; he always had time for everyone and forgave McKay, one of his closest friends, his constant misdemeanours in the area of friendship, a field at which McKay was not adept. ‘Are ye off on a hot date?” he drawled in a heavy Scottish accent.

‘Who told you that?!’ Elizabeth looked shocked, freezing in her tracks and Carson’s mouth dropped open in suprise.

‘No one. I was joking. I was right. Who is it?’ He jumped on her bowled over defenses before she could mount a sensible counter argument. Carson grinned as he watched her hesitate, wondering how to word her answer. He waved her off. ‘None o my business,’ he bowed slightly, stepping aside to wave her on her way, ‘have a lovely afternoon, Elizabeth,’ he said, lifting his eyebrows mischievously.

‘Thank you, Carson,’ Elizabeth replied demurely, walking away.

‘You smell nice too!’ he called after her helpfully.

‘Shut up, Carson!’

His laughter rang in her ears as she walked away, praying the burning in her cheeks was something she just felt, not something that every member of the Expedition could see in her face. She headed for the nearest transporter, tapping the control panel as the doors closed behind her. In a flash of light, she found herself within minutes of the East pier. When she stepped outside, in the cool, fresh breeze, she breathed a sigh of relief. The pier was deserted, most people would use the Southern pier today to catch the sun and do a little picnicking of their own. The catering staff had worked flat out the past two days, packing up requested lunches and providing a buffet this morning that would cater for the whole day. She would have to thank them personally for making today possible for everyone else.

She made it to the overhang, but before she reached it, she could already hear the clink of glasses. Jon had reached the pier before her, and as she rounded the corner, the gasped in surprise. Laid out was a large blanket, probably sneaked out of supplies, with a basket packed with food and in a wastepaper bin, shiny and clean, sat a bottle of Athosian wine nestled into ice. In the centre sat several small glass jars, each with a candle inside, already lit and throwing off the shade of the overhang. On the other side of the blanket, Jon stood in a black shirt, jacket and a pair of jeans. He still wore his combat boots, but they’d been polished to a high sheen. Elizabeth fiddled with the locket at her throat, and bit her lip to keep herself from smiling too wide.

Sheppard walked round the blanket, hands tucked laconically in his pockets, his cocky, flyboy grin firmly in place. ‘Lis’beth,’ he said, by way of greeting.

‘Jon,’ she replied.

It was a smile to die for, he decided as he reached her, taking one of her hands in his. Gently he tugged her closer, taking a step forward himself until she was stood so close, he could feel her body heat. ‘You look beautiful,’ he whispered, lifting her hand to his lips to kiss the back of her fingers.

Her smile changed, from sunshine bright to warm, glowing gently. ‘Thank you,’ she said. ‘This looks amazing, you look-‘

‘Good enough to eat, I hope,’ he interrupted. He lifted his other hand, turning her chin with two fingers until she was looking right at him. ‘You do,’ he promised, dipping his head to kiss her. As badly as he wanted her, he held back, keeping it light and lingering. Her arms wound round his neck, and would have pulled him closer if he hadn’t moved away.

She would have been disappointed if she hadn’t seen the grin on his face. He took her hand and pulled her down onto the blanket, reaching for the wine. ‘We have all afternoon. No interruptions, no emergencies. Just us, and this,’ he added, waving a careless hand at the wide expanse of ocean spread before them.

‘No guarantee on the lack of crisis. McKay’s in residence isn’t he?’

‘Teyla’s handling him. And I lied to Grodin, told him you needed some downtime, and only to call in the event of catastrophic failure of all systems or an attack by Hive ships.’

‘That’s not funny, Jon,’ she rebuked, giving him a shove with her shoulder. ‘Teyla knows?’
‘Uh, yeah... I was going to tell you about that. She caught me, uh, packing this all up,’ he handed her a glass and looked moderately guilty but she fairly sure that look was contrived.

Leaning back on one hand, she held up the glass and spoke, ‘okay then, spill it, Jon Sheppard.’

He grinned, leaning in for a moment to kiss her again. This time, he forgot his sense of delicacy and went in for the kill. The presence of fragile glassware and candles stopped him from pulling her down onto the blanket altogether. Instead he broke away, and recalled the conversation he’d had with Teyla less than an hour ago.

She’d caught him packing the picnic. He’d tried to talk his way around it, ‘it’s, uh, a formal, diplomatic, uh, picnic!’ He’s finished the sentence awkwardly and it sounded like bullshit, even to his own ears. Teyla had raised one golden eyebrow and made a non-committal noise.

‘Okay, fine, I’m taking Elizabeth for a picnic. I’m packing the candles and wine as a surprise.’

‘You... and Elizabeth?’

‘Yeah,’ he was suspicious of the disbelieving note in her voice. ‘We’re just getting to know each other a little better, that’s all. We have command of Atlantis, it’s important that we learn to rely on each other instinctively. She’s not a soldier, so we have to find other activities that engender team spirit but allow for a good work balance.’

‘Major Sheppard,’ it was never good when Teyla turned formal on him. ‘That was as rehearsed and contrived a sentence as any I have ever heard. Are you courting Elizabeth?’

‘Woah there, we’re, uh, we’re just getting to know each other better that’s all.’

She nodded, his story making some kind of sense, finally. ‘I am surprised, that is all.'>br>
‘She likes picnics.’

‘I meant, her lack of judgement. There are many on Atlantis far more suited to the role of Elizabeth’s partner.’

‘What! Who?’ he had demanded almost instantly.

Teyla had simply laughed that rich, warm laugh of hers at having aroused his jealousy. ‘So, you care for her. Good. I would not like to kick your ass, Jon Sheppard.’ She stepped forward then, her expression suddenly serious, laying both palms on his shoulders. ‘You are allowed to have feelings, Jon, I know you and Elizabeth try your hardest to maintain a calm demeanour, especially during emergencies, but you are allowed to let go. Atlantis will not crumble and no one will judge you. You are both immensely liked and respected, amongst my people and your own. They would rejoice to see you happy.’

‘Thanks, Teyla.’

‘You are welcome. Now, if you will excuse me, I have some plans of my own to attend to...’

He smiled as he recollected Teyla’s words. ‘I didn’t realise I had my own doubts until she said those things. I thought that maybe we might disrupt Atlantis by doing this, which is why I asked you to come out here, away from everyone. Maybe the world wouldn’t crumble, and I’m glad Teyla knows about us, but I want to stop it there. I don’t care if they’d throw us a five star party, I don’t want an audience, not yet.’

She smiled in pure relief, ‘I’m glad. I’m not comfortable with an audience Jon, and when you picked this spot, I realised you understood that.’

‘No second guessing then?’

‘None,’ she replied, and the warm glow was back. She took a sip of the wine, but it was all she managed. Jon reached and removed the glass from her hand, placing both down and, carefully navigating the candles, he joined her on her side of the blanket. He pulled her down, onto the blanket and into his arms. ‘We can talk later,’ he murmured, and she barely nodded before his mouth met hers and all conversation was forgotten for a long time.

She was glad he had brought a second blanket, Elizabeth realised. He sat propped up against one of the columns, and she sat between his legs, leaning back against him so they could both see the ocean. The wine and food had been dragged within reach and he had wrapped the spare blanket around them both against the stiff seabreeze.

Other activities might have diverted their conversation, but Elizabeth found she was quite content with the comfortable silence that lay between them, broken only by the occasional murmur or query. Jon had one arm wrapped possessively around her waist and her curls spilled over his shoulder. Every so often she would feel him brush a kiss against her hair or her skin, and she would find herself turning into him, seeking more physical contact.

The sun light changed, the sun moving across the sky and the shadows deepend. Although she was loathe to leave, Elizabeth made the first comments about moving. Sheppard’s reaction was predictable.

‘Nope.’

‘What do you mean, ‘no’?’

‘I said nope, not no,’ that was predictable too.

‘I heard you Jon, but we need to-‘

‘Relax. We need to relax Elizabeth. God knows, we both need some time out, and I can’t think of a better way to spend my RnR. Teyla will call, or Grodin, or Pierson, or, God!, even McKay. If the Wraith were coming, we’d have seen them by now, and then we’d call us in.’

‘Funny,’ she responded. ‘I don’t want to neglect my duties.’

‘We’ve been out here about four hours, Lis’beth. I won’t let anything happen to Atlantis. Or us.’

‘I know you won’t, but-‘’

‘Shh, then trust me,’ he murmured, leaning down to kiss her once more. ‘We’ll go back soon, I swear. Scout’s honour,’ he added, deviously.

‘Were you ever a scout?’ she enquired suspiciously.

‘You never know,’ he muttered, shifting them both further down on the blanket. ‘Half hour?’ he asked instead

‘Half hour,' she agreed, settling back against him.

It was longer than that, Elizabeth realised as they packed up the picnic. Jon was looking pretty smug with himself but had promised to wipe the expression off around the city, and his team members. Elizabeth rolled the blankets together, and he reached out, taking her hand and kissing the back of it, like he had done when she arrived.

‘You go first,’ he told her, I’ll follow in a while.’

She nodded, kissing him one last time. ‘Briefing at 0800 sharp.’

‘If I don’t see you before then,’ he murmured.

‘Jon Sheppard, are you planning to compromise my honour?’

‘I’ve already done it,’ he responded, grinning that cocky grin of his. Elizabeth laughed and walked away, heading for the city and the transporters at the eastern end. He gave her a ten minute headstart and then headed back himself, transferring to two different portals to break his trail. He headed for his quarters, the memory of the afternoon still warm in his mind.

They were watching television. Trust Jon to sneak DVDs into his bag on the trip out here. She'd already seen that Johnny Cash poster and wondered what else he'd considered "absolutely essential". Next time they were alone, she would ask him that question, the desert island one. Who and what he'd take.

Me, her subconscious prompted with a smartass answer. She nearly blushed but managed to stop herself, apparently Jon Sheppard was rubbing off on her more than she cared to admit.

Teyla was perched on the edge of a chair, her expression slightly dazed as she tried to take in the concept of television, let alone the complicated sporting rules that were being flouted before her eyes. When Elizabeth interrupted them, she looked almost grateful, equiring if there was a problem but receiving a negative response.

'Are you sure?' She sounded almost desperate. 'No Wraith attacks? Genii plots? New planets that need recording?'

Elizabeth grinned widely, shaking her head and looking actually regretful. 'I'm sorry, Teyla, but no.' Reaching over the back of the chair, she stole a handful of popcorn from the bowl sitting in Sheppard's lap and popped one into her mouth. It was still warm and buttery.

Jon looked up, finding her gaze and giving her a quick smile before coming over all indignant. McKay made a comment about the game, Ronan asked where the weapons were, Teyla laughed and Elizabeth grinned down at the tousled head as Jon's attention was diverted. She leaned over, grabbing another handful before walking away. Behind her a popcorn fell uselessly to the floor, completely missing its intended target. She flashed a glance over her shoulder and found him grinning at her. She laughed and left, heading back to her office.

Behind her, Sheppard turned back to the game and his team. Beside him, Teyla dropped a hand on his arm and squeezed gently, flashing him a quick smile of approval. She was happy for them but best of all, Elizabeth wasn't avoiding him. He was afraid she might, after what happened last time. He knew she'd taken the plunge, opened her mind and her heart, but after Sunday he was afraid second thoughts might steal in.

They hadn't. It had been a few days since they'd been alone together and it had been driving him crazy, Maybe tonight he'd drop by her quarters.

End Notes:
Video: Link to "I knew you'd say yes" scene, "hot date" scene and picnic scene (1:15/2:45 to 1:42/2:45)
Chapter 12 - Goodbyes by shipper scifi
Author's Notes:
She was fearless in the face of new discoveries. A facet of her personality that could quickly kill him.
'Are you sure this is safe, Rodney?' Sheppard watched the two people-size capsules suspiciously. Nothing ever good just dropped out of the sky and although these two hadn’t exactly dropped, they had come from nowhere and even less was known about them.

McKay and Carson were in the room and Ford, with Beta team all standing guard outside. Elizabeth stood close to the capsules that had contained the old woman, too close in Sheppard's opinion. He cast Elizabeth a grim glance from across the pods, and she met his with a calm, unwavering gaze.

She was fearless in the face of new discoveries. A facet of her personality that could quickly kill him.

'Just think,' she had smiled, 'we could be giving them their last chance to say goodbye.'

'You're a hopeless romantic,' he had returned acidly, still uncomfortable with Elizabeth presenting herself as the first guinea pig, but she had compelling reasons and he couldn't really gainsay her on this one.

'Then you're just as hopeless,' had come the reply, 'you agreed to this too.'

Only because we think they might be husband and wife, and if they are, you're not saying your long goodbyes to
anyone but me! He hadn't given the sentiment voice but he swore she had seen it in his face.

Evn now, her eyes laughed at him although her mouth only smiled.

'Ready?' asked McKay.

Elizabeth nodded, took a deep breath and stepped forward. A light glowed, touching her face and the leader of Atlantis promptly hit the floor.

Oh yeah, her curiosity was so gonna kill him, Jon thought as he hung over her hospital bed. Carson ran around him, having given up the idea that he could shift the Major away. Under his gaze, Elizabeth's eyes fluttered before she opened them. He could see the difference immediately, she looked around as if she hadn't seen this place before, and when she looked at him, she looked through him.

God, he hated that.

Then a flicker of recognition chased across her face. 'You are.... Jon. Jon Sheppard. Elizabeth knows you.'

'Where is Elizabeth?'

'She is here. She is safe. She is sleeping.'

'And can we talk to her?' Nearby Carson had stopped fluttering around and was waiting, holding his breath and listening to her responses.

'No. If I wake Elizabeth, I will cease to be. This was not her wish. She will awaken of her own accord in some few hours. I do not have long, tell me, was I alone when you found me?'

Sheppard shook his head, 'no,' he began cautiously. 'There was another pod.'

She sat up, hands clasped in front her, lip trembling as if she hardly dare to give herself hope. 'Please, I must see it! Jon,' she caught his arm in a familiar gesture. 'please. It's very important.'

And because he was dumb enough to believe her, because, if it had been Elizabeth, he would have wanted to say goodbye ad because it was what Elizabeth wanted, he let her see the occupant of the other pod. All those reasons added up to one very big mistake.

They wheeled her to the laboratory where McKay was still tinkering, right up the capsule and Elizabeth-aka-Phoebus, as she gave her name, peered in.

'Thalan,' she whispered tremulously, running a gentle hand over the pod. She turned to Sheppard, 'from Elizabeth I know you were to host his mind as she is hosting mind. Will you still allow this? Neither of us hopes to live beyond a few hours, but it would be our chance to say goodbye.'

Gritting his teeth internally, Sheppard nodded and with that gesture, sealed his fate. For the next little while, Phoebus sat off to one side whilst McKay fussed over the second pod until it was ready to transfer to Sheppard. The light glowed, fell upon his face and then he swayed, gripping the edge of the table. Thanks to Carson's analysis, he'd boosted a neurochemical in Sheppard's system, easing the transistion from the sudden trauma that Elizabeth's brain had experienced to the wave of dizziness that Jon felt, correcting itself quickly.

Sheppard-aka-Thalan looked around the laboratory as everything came slowly into focus. Elizabeth's voice sounded and he turned his gaze on her. 'Thalan, it's me, Phoebus.'

'Phoebus?' his voice wavered uncertainly, unused to using Sheppard's vocal chords.

'Yes. These kind people have consented to host us for a few short hours, a few precious hours to say goodbye to my husband!'

'You... consented to this?' he asked of the bystanders warily.

McKay nodded, Ford watching them for any signs of suspicious behaviour.

'They've been so kind,' Phoebus was making her way towards him now, until she stood right in front of him. 'We have the chance to say goodbye. Under guard of course.'

'Of course,' he murmured, his gaze dropping to her face. Without another word she stepped forward, her hands sliding along his jaw as her mouth met his and she drew him into a lingering kiss. With polite murmurs everyone in the room looked away, except Ford, who watched the process steely eyed. He wasn't going to let this whole thing become a cock-up just because his superiors were kissing in the middle of the lab.

When they broke apart, Thalan murmured, 'this isn't what I expected.' It should have put him on guard, but didn't because, as they learned afterwards, Phoebus was very quick on her feet, add Elizabeth's instincts, skills and knowledge to that quick mind and Phoebus was suddenly a very formidable opponent.

It was moments after she was assuring him that it was her and that the Expedition had placed guards strategically at both doors, that the two of them made their move. Ford missed most of the action, Sheppard had taken him out on the way to the door.

What else could you expect of a race that had been fighting to the last man, woman and child, for over a hundred years?

They chased them through the city, Phoebus using Elizabeth's knowledge to deadly effect. It was only Teyla's quick thinking and the perfect opportunity that saved the whole day from turning into an unmitigated disaster. With Sheppard in the infirmary and confirmed as himself, they put Elizabeth in a gurney nearby and Jon sat, watching her with hooded eyes, wondering when she was going to wake up and if she would be herself when she did.

Across the infirmary, McKay's voice sounded frequently, an irritating backdrop. He'd landed himself here by standing between Phoebus and her target. He'd been the lucky one, she'd shot Ronan.

Eventually though, the events of the day caught up with him and, to the quiet sound of McKay snoring, Sheppard finally lay down and slept.

He awoke to sound of a scream. Sitting up in the bed, he turned and saw Elizabeth, shrieking and flailing. An orderly came running, but John was there first. ‘Lis’beth, LIS’BETH! Calm down!’ Behind him he heard more footsteps and Carson appeared at his elbow; he could see Rodney waking up in the other bed.

‘Carson, what the hell’s wrong with her?’

‘I don’t know, Major,’ the doctor replied, shouldering him aside. He spoke in a soothing babble of nonsense that had zero effect on Elizabeth, scanning the displays before she jerked upright, yanking out the wires. The displays went dark.

‘It’s Phoebus!’ Carson cried, ‘I don’t think she’s letting go and Elizabeth is fighting her,’ he added. Elizabeth struck out, catching the orderly on the jaw and knocking him to the floor. Carson grabbed her, wrestling with the struggling diplomat to get her to lie back down.

‘Help her!’ John yelled.

‘I can’t, Major! I don’t know how to, and anything I give her might do more damage- Dammit!’ This last as she kicked him, shoving him away from the gurney; he caught himself against John’s bed, and took a moment to catch his breath.

‘Screw this,’ Jon reached down, snatching the IV out of his arm. Across the room, Rodney was sitting up bed, watching the proceedings, wondering if he should intervene when Sheppard jumped on Elizabeth’s gurney, pinning her down. ‘Sedate her!’ he yelled at Carson.

‘It’s too risky!’

Sheppard swore and let go of her arm, drawing back his arm and slapping her sharply across the face. ‘Elizabeth! Look at me!’ She closed her eyes, refusing to comply. He cradled her head between both hands, holding her down with his weight. ‘LOOK AT ME!’

Her eyes flew open, her face contorted in desperation. ‘Jon,’ she pleaded, her voice a hoarse whisper. ‘Help me.’

‘NO!’ It was Phoebus again, her rage untempered by her imminent demise. ‘I won’t go, I won’t! NO!’

‘Just die, you bitch! Give her back to me! NOW! Elizabeth, if you can hear me, hold on okay, just hold on!’ And then she was there, determination chasing away the fear and for a moment, she stopped struggling.

‘Jon, if she won’t go, you can’t let her live-‘

‘Stop! Right there. She’s going, you’re staying. Hold on, sweetheart, hold on!’ His tone was certain, dragging her back from the darkness where she’d been forced by Phoebus. He bent down, kissed her hard and pulled away just far enough to look into her eyes. ‘Stay with me,’ he murmured.

Nearby, Carson slipped closer, taking the ends of the wires and reattaching them to the equipment. On the gurney, Elizabeth lay unmoving, her gaze fixed on Jon’s, her hands wrapped around his wrists so tight her knuckles were white. On the display he followed the traces of two minds, watching as one became progressively weaker. He glanced over at the other monitor, where Elizabeth’s original trace ran and tapped a couple of buttons. The two images merged, the computer program searching for matching patterns. Elizabeth’s pattern normalised as Phoebus’ diminished. As it reached the end, the computer merged the two images, verifying that only Elizabeth lived in her own mind now.

With a sigh of relief, Jon slipped off the gurney, leaning on the edge and wrapping both Elizabeth’s hands in his own. She rolled onto her side and stared at him, unspeaking, until he leant in and kissed her once, and softly. He moved away just long enough to grab a chair before slipping into it and taking her hands once again. She shivered and he pulled the blankets up around her shoulders.

‘Go to sleep,’ he murmured. ‘I’ll be here.’ She nodded slightly, and he lifted one hand, brushing back one dark lock from her face. She didn’t take her gaze from his face, but slowly sleep stole over her until she finally closed her eyes. Around him, he could hear Carson, treading lightly, fixing the mess and attending to the orderly, but he never looked away, leaving the others to think what they would.

Carson eventually stopped by Rodney’s bed, checking over the scientist’s vitals. ‘Ye can go in the mornin’ Rodnay. Just come back once a day and I’ll check those stitches.’ It wasn’t the first time Rodney had been stabbed, and it hadn’t really required a hospital stay, but since it had been Elizabeth who had done it, Carson was taking extra precautions to assuage any guilt she might feel. He checked Rodney’s pulse and glanced over at Sheppard and Weir. She was finally asleep, and he would check on her soon, but for now he left the two of them alone. Hot date indeed! He’d been spot on, and it wasn’t really a tremendous shock to the find the two of them together.... But still, the way Sheppard had gotten through to her, his familiarity with her, suggested a relationship that had been going on for quite some time.

‘They must’ve wanted to keep it under wraps very badly,’ he pointed out to Rodney, nodding to the pair of them.’

‘Yeah, I know, how weird is that? I mean, I get Sheppard, but Elizabeth? I thought she had more sense. This could ruin her whole career. Does he even know the damage he could do to her?’

‘My point, Rodney,’ Carson went on, cutting across his babble, ‘is that the two of them have obviously been together for some time and they managed to keep it secret. I don’t think they want the whole of Atlantis to find out just yet.’

‘It’s going to come out some time-‘

‘I mean- Rodney!- that we don’t have ta say a word? Do we?

‘What? No, of course not. I mean- Well, yes, it is their secret but-‘

‘I’m glad we agree. I’d hate to have to redo that very pretty line of stitches, but sticking your nose in where it isn’t wanted might tear them open, and wouldn’t that be a shame?’ the doctor finished pointedly, staring hard at Rodney. It had taken the metaphorical equivalent of a hammer, but he’d finally got the message and he subsided underneath his covers. Across the room, the little tableau played out well after he had gone to sleep and Carson, apart from pulling the curtain loosely around Elizabeth's bed, left them well alone.

End Notes:
Video: Hospital bed scene, where Sheppard and Weir are both in the infirmary along with Rodney (covers 1:47/2:45 to 1:49/2:45)
Chapter 13 - Rumour by shipper scifi
Author's Notes:
‘I think you can safely say our cover is blown,’ she remarked.
‘What’s this now?’ Carson asked. He had wandered into the mess hall seeking lunch and ended up abandoning the whole idea in favour of the apparent pow-wow at one of the far corner tables. Rodney, looking possibly more puffed up than usual, was presiding over an informal meeting. Heightmeyer, Miller, Ford, Ronan and Teyla were all there. Rodney had tried to chivvy Carson himself into lunch half hour ago, but obviously he hadn’t been McKay’s only target.

Heightmeyer would have come to limit trouble and get ahead of current rumours so she could tackle them head on. Ford would be here in Sheppard’s best interests, Miller because McKay probably lied outright and Teyla to put the stops on Rodney- along with Ronan because she would need someone tall and angry-looking to help encourage him without an outright threat being made.

He didn’t know why he had been targeted but he could guess. Rodney wasn’t going to take his advice about the stitches.

‘Carson, uh, I didn’t think you were coming.’

‘Decided it was a bad idea of after all, Rod’nay? I thought we talked aboot this?’ Carson enquired, crossing his arms and directing a hooded glare at his friend.

‘Yes, well, I just... I’m concerned, about operations in the city. I just wondered if anyone else had, uh, noticed anything. That’s all.’

‘Since you are not subtle by nature, Dr McKay, why don’t we address what s troubling you outright?’ It was Heightmeyer. Sometimes you had to lead Rodney to water to make him drink.

‘I know this sounds crazy, but, uh, it’s about Dr Weir and Major Sheppard. They appear to be quite, shall we say?, close?. I think there’s definitely more going on here. I’m right aren’t I?’ he delivered his final sentence, straightening up slowly, as if he had just revealed something of great import and was quite clever for figuring it out.

‘That’s it?’ Ronan growled in a dark voice, barely glancing up.

‘You’re just getting that now,’ Ford muttered from his seat.

‘It is none of our business Rodney,’ Teyla began.

‘Rod’nay!’ Carson exclaimed in dismay. They all spoke at once, none of them noticing the very pair they were discussing slipping into the mess hall and collecting their lunch, taking a seat not too far away and wondering what a number of the core staff were up to in the corner.

Heightmeyer just sat back, crossing her arms and already considering strategies. She already knew Sheppard was in neckdeep as far as Weir was concerned and whilst she had seen a certain level of reciprocation, both of them had been avoiding her for weeks, citing they were far too busy but would make time soon. She had cornered Sheppard a few days ago but he had been unusually good at deflection- it was obviously the Weir influence. She would need to see them together now, but later, and discreetly. For now, she had to diffuse the Rodney Rumour Mill.

Sheppard watched the display with interest and a dark look in his eyes. Rodney would pay for this, one way or another. He should have come to Sheppard himself if he had an issue. Or Elizabeth, or Heightmeyer if he felt he couldn’t talk to them about it! But this, in the mess hall for crying out loud! This was exactly what Elizabeth had wanted to avoid.

She had looked uncomfortable for a few minutes there. He was confident that no one else could hear what was being said, the mess hall was mostly empty, it being a touch early for lunch, which was precisely why he’d been able to goad her out from behind her desk. Pierson had shot them a smile, he was fairly sure the only reason Weir ever went off duty for ten minutes was Sheppard’s watchful eye. He was also fairly sure what was going on between on, but frankly he could see they were nothing but good for each other and Atlantis, so he did his job, supervised Gate room operations and kept his nose out. He had a good view up here and only Heightmeyer and Ford really knew how much he saw. They shared many of the same traits.

But now Elizabeth was looking more relaxed. She turned away from the tableau, shooting him a wry grin and sinking back in her chair, picking up a slice of melon, or as close to melon as they could gather from the mainland. The Athosians were a crucial aid to Atlantis in keeping her food stores stocked. ‘I think you can safely say our cover is blown,’ she remarked.

Her distinct tones were not loud, but carried enough for Teyla to hold up her hand and lean forward to delicately inform the table that the subject of their discussions were behind them. Ronan glanced at her, ‘you only just noticed?’

‘Why did you say so in the first place then?’ she asked, gritting her teeth and embarrased for her friends that they would think they were the subject of rumours and tawdry gossip.

‘Why? We’re not saying anything we wouldn’t say to their faces,’ he shot a glare at Rodney, ‘are we?’ he asked pointedly.

Rodney looked flustered for a moment, opening and closing his mouth briefly before realising there was no excuse he could make without making him appear exactly like an underhanded old gossip. With Ronan’s eyes on him, he wasn’t keen on making that statement. Instead he pushed back his shoulders and crossed his arms again.

‘No, no we’re not,’ he replied, the end of his sentence sounding more confident than the beginning. Taking a breath he walked straight over to Weir and Sheppard’s table, Carson right by elbow in case he he needed to drag Rodney away before Sheppard shot him.

‘Okay, so, uh, we get there’s, uh...’ he appeared lost for words, ‘something going on? I just, uh, I don't get the act. You're not the only ones-' he stopped short before finishing his sentence as Jon shot him a look that promised a great deal of pain if he kept speaking.

'Do you make it a point of personally involving yourself in the details of everyone's relationship on Atlantis, Dr McKay?' Weir carefuly set down her coffee and looked up at him, fixing him with a direct, penetrating gaze.

'No, of course not, I just-'

'Thought it would be acceptable to treat myself and Major Sheppard to speculation and discussions in the most public meeting place on Atlantis because you thought it was- what? Appropriate?'

'I'm allowed to have concerns,' McKay defended himself. Carson was looking more and more uncomfortable by the minute and the other were by the table, tense as they tried not to watch the fall out that was obviously coming McKay's way.

'Your concerns, yes. Such concerns should be laid before an appropriate members of the senior staff, such as myself, Major Sheppard, Dr Carson or Dr Heightmeyer in private, she added sternly. These concens would be treated with the utmost care and confidentiality. However, you chose to parade them before as many base personnel as you could, probably hoping more would join you. You've made excellent progress here in the last ten months, Rodney, I am disappointed to see you behaving in this fashion. Perhaps Dr Heightmeyer,' she raised her voice slightly so the ash-blond woman could hear her, 'would like to see you for a few extra sessions whilst you work out what is really going on here.'

Weir stood, obviously with the intent of closing the conversation and lifted her tray. 'Good day, gentlemen,' she glanced down at Jon, 'good day, Major Sheppard.' And then she had walked away, leaving the mess behind her. Sheppard grinned into his glass and then raised it in a mock toast to McKay.

'You really know how to piss people off, you know that McKay?' Sehppard enquired before standing up and stalking off with his tray. He ditched it near the doors and walked through leaving a confused physicist behind him. He wasn't concerned by Elizabeth's words nor even the form of address she had used on him. When she felt under pressure, precise, cool formality was like a bullet proof vset for for her. He would find her later, in the meantime he didn't want to add fuel to McKay's little fire.

End Notes:
Video: Link to scene where Rodney says there's more going on, the hospital bed scene cuts back to the last chapter, and then back to "our cover is blown" in this chapter. It's a tiny bit out of sequence from the video but I couldn't write it together in the correct order because what Rodney says before and after the video hospital scene connects in a single paragraph. (1:43/2:45 to 1:53/2:45)
Chapter 14 - Enchanted by shipper scifi
Author's Notes:
Jon snapped, thumping him on the arm. ‘Buck up, Carson!!’

This was supposed to be a trade alliance, Sheppard thought darkly as he took in Elizabeth’s sparkling eyes and brilliant smile. The rest of them weren’t much better. He thought the village had been a little too besotted, but this was taking things too far and he wondered just what the hell was going on.

They had met Lucius Lavin in a small village where the local residents, including Lucius’ six wives, were apparently besotted with him. Although he seemed open and friendly, getting Weir and the rest of the Expedition to divert all their resources to harvesting a particular plant from a Wraith-infested planet was not his idea of equal trading.

Right now, most of the Expedition worked for Lucius and it was fast looking as if he was going to gain himself a seventh wife, in the form of one Elizabeth Weir with an option on Heightmeyer. The only sign he’d had of normality from her was how upset he’d made her when he disapproved of her decisions regarding the harvesting and the danger she was exposing their people too.

Abruptly he sneezed. Carson looked his way, back to Lucius and then back to Sheppard, his Hippocratic oath obviously poking him with a pointy stick. ‘Are ye alrigh’ Major Sheppard?’ Carson asked, concern and happiness warring in his voice. Lucius looked his way with a broad smile and expansive gesture.

‘Oh dear! Major Sheppard does not look well, Dr Beckett, not well at all! You should attend to him, we don’t want anyone getting sick do we?’

‘What?’ Carson started. ‘Now?’ he replied, looking slightly distressed at the idea of leaving Lucius’ side, he had become something of a righthand man to Lavin since his invitation to Atlantis and he was loathe to give it up. Several other Expedition lead members were jostling for his position already and if he left it unattended...

‘Yes, yes,’ Lucius insisted, ‘Dr Weir and I have many things to discuss.’ Rising, he held out his hand and she took it without a qualm, flashing a happy look at Jon. For a moment, she paused, looking almost puzzled and her hand, seemingly of its own accord, rose towards him. Lucius caught it, bringing it round towards himself and patted her crossed hands. ‘Now, now,’ he said reassuringly, ‘Major Sheppard isn’t well, we must let Dr Beckett take care of him. You wouldn’t want him to get worse, now would you?’

Elizabeth looked positively horrified at the thought. She shook her head, looking back at Jon as Lucius led her away. ‘Get well, Jon,’ she called, concern lacing her voice. She watched him for a moment more, the puzzled look coming back as if she wasn’t quite sure what was going on before Lucius distracted her once more.

It was something at least. Somewhere inside, Elizabeth knew something was wrong, which meant she either wasn’t completely in thrall, or in thrall yet, or Lucius need to stay in proximity to maintain his hold. Jon’s presence was disrupting that. As much as he wanted to follow her, deck Lavin and shake Elizabeth out of trance, he couldn’t risk it. Too many armed personnel were on his side already, and he had no idea what that action would do to Elizabeth herself.

Beckett was walking towards him, looking as disgruntled as the rest of them at the loss of Lavin’s presence. But a plan was forming in Sheppard’s mind. He forced a smile on his face, ‘don’t worry Carson, you’ll soon be back up here with him, but we wouldn’t want to disappoint Lucius, would we? So, if you help me, I can help Atlantis run smoothly, which means more of a harvest and you know how happy that would make Lucius!.’

Beckett nodded, throwing only one wistful glance towards Weir’s office before following Sheppard down to the infirmary. Sheppard didn’t need any help, it was only a cold, or the Pegasus equivalent of one, but he allowed Carson to medicate him so the doctor would be on his side.

‘Feelin’ better?’ Carson asked.

‘Oh much,’ Jon agreed. He probably would after the medication kicked in, but he went along with it for now. ‘Now, I’ve just thought of something to help Lucius.’

‘I thought ye didna like him?’ Beckett asked, snippily, obviously Lucius’ presence was wearing off.

‘Oh, I’m starting to,’ Jon reassured him, ‘and helping him, helps Atlantis which makes Dr Weir happy, you know all I want to do is make Elizabeth happy.’

Given his prior knowledge of their relationship and the current trance he was in under Lucius’s control, the logic appealed to both his conscious and subconscious mind, so Beckett nodded happily.

‘Now, when we went to the planet where we met Lucius, you were studying his herbs, do you remember this herb we’re gathering?’

‘Oh, aye, it had some very unusual properties.’

‘Great, well, the more we know about this herb, the better harvest we’ll be able to gather. Shall we get your notes and see what we can learn? Think how pleased Lucius will be that you went to all this trouble for him!’

It was working, Jon had to keep steering him in the right direction, but it was working. They gathered the resaerch and Beckett’s portable lab kit before detouring past the Jumper bays where, he assured Beckett, they were going to check the storage conditions and capacity of the Jumpers for the harvest. ‘Think of it, all those calculations and yields done for him, Lucius will love you for it.’

Beckett was so sold on the idea that he barely registered when Sheppard pressed a needle containing sedative into his neck. He dropped like a stone and the Major caught him, settling him into a set and strapping him in. Getting out of Atlantis was going to be easy compared to getting back in when they’d figured out what Lucius was doing.

But first he had to get Carson’s co-operation. Once he had found a safe place to land, Sheppard realised that wasn't going to be so easy.

‘But he needs me!’ Carson pleaded. Beckett’s attempt to reach the controls had resulted in him being tied to a chair now. All he could do now was make puppy eyes at Sheppard and plead for his freedom- all for Lucius’ sake.

‘Carson! Just think for a moment, just do this one thing for me, okay? Think!’ Beckett closed his eyes, letting out a deep breath and concentrated for a few minutes. Jon willed him to make some kind of breakthrough in the crap Lucius had been telling him.

‘All I can think about is Lucius!’ Beckett wailed. ‘Yer jus’ jealous because he likes Elizabeth! Why didna kidnap her,’ he finished resentfully.

‘Because Elizabeth can only stop the harvesting, she can’t break the trance he’s holding over out people and she can’t figure out what’s in that herb! Besides, she’s besotted and under guard, even if I could get her away, without someway to break his hold over her, Elizabeth could be affected even worse than you, he’s spending more time with her. She could get hurt, I don’t want to put her through that.’ ‘Yer doing it ta me right now!’ Beckett wailed.

Jon snapped, thumping him on the arm. ‘Buck up, Carson!’

‘Ow,’ muttered the doctor, looking crestfallen. Sheppard sighed, this was going to take longer than he thought. Once Carson went from downtrodden to irritable though, he realised that the only way he was getting back was to help Sheppard. With dire warnings that Lucius was naturally fabulous and there was nothing in the herb, Carson set to work. The longer he worked, the better grip he managed to get on himself. Years of training, healing people and working on problems far outweighed the transient hold Lucius had over him.

Even so, Sheppard had to push him into taking his own antidote. With a miserable face and a slightly puzzled frown, Carson did he was told. It didn’t take long.

‘Major Sheppard?’ he queried, looking around at the Jumper, ‘what are we-? Och no!’ he slapped a hand over his mouth, eyes wide with shock. Sheppard figured events had just caught up with him. ‘Oh ma God!’ Carson muttered, sliding into the nearest chair, ‘what have ah done?’

‘Nothing that can’t be undone, but we have to hurry before Lucius gets our people killed,’ Sheppard replied urgently.

‘Oh ma God! Elizabeth!’ Carson went on as if he hadn’t heard, ‘and Dr Heightmeyer! They were going ta-‘

‘Going to what Carson?’

‘I think Lucius was going ta marry them!’

Sheppard cursed, ‘alright, with luck, the ladies are already fighting over him and nothing’s been done yet. Can you synthesize more of that?’

‘Aye. Quite a bit here, but not enough for everyone.’

‘it’s okay, we’ll get to the first people we can, arm ourselves with tranqs and shoot our way through to the control room. Once we’re there, we can get Elizabeth, Rodney, Teyla, Grodin and Pierson and figure the rest out from there.’

‘How are we going ta get back in?’

‘Still workin’ on it doc, get to work, we don’t have much time.’

Beckett nodded, heading back his equipment and Sheppard returned to the controls, turning the Jumper around and heading back to Atlantis on the other side of the planet. It went pretty smoothly over all. An insanely happy look on your face, waiting until there were only three or four people in the corridor and a quick round with the tranqs sorted out the problem. Things got harder further in. Luckily most of the personnel were offworld and whoever wasn’t was in the messhall setting up the wedding celebrations. Beckett had grabbed Sheppard’s arm at that point and hustled him away from the unsuspecting informant.

‘We’ll just hurry along and give them our congratulations. Major Sheppard is thrilled,’ and he practically railroaded a seething Sheppard out of there.

‘I’ll kill him,’ Sheppard muttered darkly.

‘First, we hafta help the others,’ Carson said firmly, ‘then I suspect ye’ll hafta get in line behind Elizabeth, Heightmeyer and Ronan before ye get yer hands on him.’

If anyone would kill Lucius before questions could be asked, it would be Ronan, Sheppard made a mental note to stress the innocents that would try to protect Lucius. If it was anyone else he would tranq first and cure later, but Ronan would be vaulable against the large numbers that Lucius had in thrall.

In the control room a disgruntled Teyla and Heightmeyer, with flowers in their hair, stood behind Elizabeth. Jon hadn’t been aware that she had a dress on Atlantis, although, looking at the style, it was Athosian. She had flowers in her hair and a smile that could stop traffic. Jon felt fingers squeeze tight around his heart.

It was over in a matter of minutes. Only Ronan had been armed in the control room, which showed how lax security had become under Lucius, and once he was down, it was easier for Sheppard’s small team to administer the cure to the others. Elizabeth had demanded to know what was going on and her usual dignity hadn’t deserted her. Instead, she had glared him down, disappointment obvious in her eyes. He’d ignored it, injected her and watched as the same dazed look had come over her. She staggered and he caught her, but when she looked up all he saw was a dawning horror on her face.

‘Stop,’ he ordered, ‘right there! None of this was your fault; I brought Lucius back, even though everyone at the village was acting odd. I should’ve seen through what was happening to Beckett. We just have to get the rest of the Expedition back on base, cure ‘em and everything’ll be fine.’

She nodded, she hadn’t bought his spiel, that was obvious, but she knew they had an obligation to save their people before she started analysing what had gone wrong here. ‘We have to go through with the ceremony,’ she said instead.

‘Oh no way in hell-‘ Jon began.

‘No!’ she hissed, clutching his arm, ‘I mean we have to go down there as a wedding party. We can spring it on them if they think we’re still coming down for the wedding. He already knows you and Carson went missing though, you’d better hide at the back.’

‘How many people are down there?’

‘I don’t know, we’ll check the security cameras, it should give us an estimate.’

Nearly two dozen personnel were in the messhall. They went past the armoury first, rearming, even Elizabeth, she insisted. ‘I have to Jon, I can shoot straight, I’m in your drilling team remember? I’ll be close enough to take down at least three or four, they won’t expect it from me anyway, not even subconsciously. Then I can take care of Lucius,’ she finished, with a hard look in her eye.

‘Tranqs, right?’ Jon asked.

‘Of course.’

‘Yeah, just checking,’ he replied before they fell into formation and headed for the messhall. It was messier than the control room and several lethal shots rang out before the wielder of the gun was taken down. Weir tranquilized the ‘wedding official’ and a couple of those behind him before she turned the gun on Lucius. Behind her, she could hear Ronan, who had escorted her in to give her away, firing off rapid, steady shots. Suddenly, all sounds of fire stopped and Lucius looked down in horror at the gun.

‘Er, Elizabeth, darling,’ he began tenuously.’

‘Goodnight, Lucius,’ Elizabeth smiled and shot him in the leg. He stared for a moment, smiled and collapsed like a sack of bricks.

‘Good riddance,’ came Ronan’s dark voice from behind her, ‘can I kill him now?’

‘No, now put it down,’ Elizabeth told him and, with reluctance, Ronan holstered his big gun and lifted the tranquilizer, firing a second one into Lucius’ leg. ‘Just in case,’ he added innocently. Weir threw him a frown and had to turn away before she grinned. Catching sight of Jon, standing by the door, the appalling state of things came rushing back to her and the smile fell away. She had almost married Lucius. The discomfort at being at odds with Jon, his disappearance, which had had her almost frantic before Lucius had brought her back down and reassured her, had all affected her deeply, but it hadn’t been enough to throw off the bonds Lucius had placed on her.

He was staring at her, probably wondering how the hell she could have done this, after how hard he’d had to work to get her to agree to stay together and she’d thrown it all away on Lucius. She felt no desire to punish Lavin, the only person she blamed here was herself.

But there were other considerations that took precedence. The offworld teams for one thing and curing everyone currently down in the messhall, not to mention any stragglers throughout the city. Carson patted her arm and took his leave, heading off to the infirmary, with Teyla as a bodyguard, to synthesise more of the cure. Elizabeth, Heightmeyer, Grodin and Pierson headed back to the control room to recall their teams and Sheppard, Ronan and anyone still standing fanned out to gather the stragglers and disarm those still under Lucius’ spell.

It took several days to sort out the mess. The entire harvest was burned, carefully, on an unoccupied section of the mainland with Zelenka calculating for prevailing winds. Lucius they returned to his people; Sheppard personally escorted him back to the village with cryptic comments about his six wives and keeping his hands off other people’s wives whilst he was at it. Lucius went along happily enough, relieved the Atlanteans weren’t going to do anything worse to him, unknowing that the Atlantean team and their cure had gotten there first.

They could hear his protests almost all the way back to the ‘Gate.

Back home, Elizabeth had sent everyone who had recovered back to their stations, encouraging them all to get back to their routines and insisting that no one had done anything wrong, reassuring them that safeguards would be put in place to prevent this kind of thing happening again. A team would be sent to the planet again, she said, and they would burn the entire crop as generations of the Pegasus galaxy had done before them, being well aware of the damage this herb could do. Even with the Wraith-infestation, it was too dangerous to allow the plant to be so accessible, especially to their enemies.

Sheppard dropped off his gear at the armoury and headed straight up to her office. Dusk was drawing near and he knew where he’d find her.

Out on the balcony, Elizabeth stood with her back to the door, staring out over the waves. She was wearing her usual black and red, like comfort food, the uniform reassured her. She didn’t turn around but spoke instead, ‘hello, Jon, I was waiting for you.’

He joined her at the rail. ‘I know, I thought I’d find you here.’

‘I’m sorry,’ she turned to him, her eyes filled with dismay. ‘I couldn’t stop him. All the time I was aware you didn’t like it, and every time we disagreed and when you went missing, it hurt, but I still couldn’t break free! I know the herb was to blame, I know Lucius used it willingly and it was his fault, technically, but still-‘

‘Do you know, Carson analyzed your blood sample today. You had a very high dose in your system, the same dose he had to use on Ronan to keep him in check. Only a handful of personnel had levels that high, and Lavin kept them very close. He had a hard time keeping control of you, Elizabeth. You need to keep that in mind.’

‘I know,’ she dropped her hands to the rail and looked out over the city and the ocean again, watching the sun sink lower and the twilight creep further overhead. ‘I still owe you an apology.’

‘No, you don’t,’ he replied, gripping her arm with one hand and turning her to face him. ‘What you owe me if not to give up on us because some idiot throwing a hypnotic drug around like candy managed to get a foothold on Atlantis.’ He gave her a wry smile, ‘I can see it in your face, Lis’beth, you’re already backing away.’

‘I’m still here, Jon.’

‘Just about,’ he gave her a wry smile, ‘you didn’t do anything, especially not by me.’

‘But I would have-‘

‘I know. Listen, Carson did some more work on that drug. He said long term exposure causes brain damage. Everything that happened to the Expedition is reversible, but some of the people from the village are having problems. He’s going to work with them some more and try to alleviate some of the damage Lucius did. He’ll have his report and a formal request on your desk in the morning. So give yourself a break. Give us a break.’

She nodded and leaned towards him. It was all the signal he needed and Sheppard pulled her into his arms. Her hands pressed against his back and he felt her sigh and relax against him. He felt relief wash over him, Elizabeth would still analyse the whole incident, break it down and strip it for future lessons like he’d an engine for parts, but she was still here with him and that was all that counted.

End Notes:
Video: Link to scene between Sheppard and Carson (1:54/2:45 to 2:00/2:45)
Chapter 15 - Hive Ships by shipper scifi
Author's Notes:
'Don't do that to me!' he exhaled.

The quiet couldn't last after the events Lucius Lavin had forced upon Atlantis, but the next two months of pure quiet was a blessing, like the eye of the storm, they would say later, looking back over the events that shaped both Atlantis and the Expedition into what they would both become. It was Pierson, in a routine study of the long range scanners, that noticed the warning lights and the blip on the screen that would prove a prelude to an all out Wraith attack.

Although he took Miller, Elizabeth could see he’d rather have gone alone. Their plan was tenuous, the risks high, but short of abandoning Atlantis altogether, there was little choice. Sheppard was taking a Jumper, cloaked, to break into the Hive Ship and blow it from the inside.

‘John?’ Her voice was light, deliberately so, he could tell. She stood in the open doorway of his quarters as he reviewed the Hive Ship schematic. Hopefully, this class of Hive ship wouldn’t be vastly different from the intel they had gathered already from their allies and past missions. Either way, once he made it inside, he knew exactly where to place the explosives. The only thing he couldn’t do was disable the Dart launching sequence. Atlantis would be dealing with them on her own, which was problematic to say the least since their ZPM was depleting fast.

He looked up, ‘come in,’ he said, slipping a pile of clothes and paperwork off the side of the bed and onto a chair. She slowly entered, crossing her arms and hesitating before he reached up, taking her hand and pulling her down beside him.

‘It’s going to be okay, Lis’beth,’ he murmured, slipping an arm around her and pulling her close.

‘You can’t know that John. Do me a favour, okay. Don’t lie to me.’

He nodded, she was right, he couldn’t lie to her. ‘Then Atlantis is going to be okay. Rodney’ll find a ZPM or boost the power and the shields will hold. I’m know that, I can feel it.’

She nodded, but he wasn’t sure she believed him anyway. ‘What about you?’ she whispered, refusing to look at him.

‘I’ll be fine. Cloaked ship, Miller’ll keep me from stupid heroics, we’ll blow up the Hive ship and make it back home for dinner.’

A ghost of a smile touched her lips and she nodded again, taking the hand on her shoulder and pulling his arm tighter around her. She turned her head, kissed the back of his hand and let go, standing. ‘I’ll see tomorrow, mess hall, 1800 hours sharp then Major.’ Without turning she strode away, leaving him with his own dark thoughts as he watched her go. Shaking them off, he returned to the schematics he had been studying.

Miller leaned heavily against the side of the Jumper, half slumped in her seat. Sheppard glanced across as her, ‘you okay?’

‘I will be,’ she replied through gritted teeth.

Sheppard nodded. ‘Right. Hold on, we’ll be home soon. Carson’ll fix you right up.’

She acknowledged his words with a weary nod, pale as milk. ‘Yessir.’ Leaning even more into the side of the Jumper, she closed her eyes, trying to relax and let the pain recede.

He activated the Jumper’s engines, sending it gliding through space faster than the crippled Hive ship could follow. The mess he’d left behind was irreparable but Sheppard had another trick up his sleeve. As soon as the jumper was clear, he set off the last explosives, shattering the core of the Hive ship and behind them space was briefly lit with a new sun as it was torn asunder, spilling its guts, including Wraith, into the cold darkness between the stars.

They cloaked, Hive darts streaking past them, hell bent on reaching Atlantis and wreaking vengeance. Desperate though he was to reach the city, Sheppard reserved his power and erred on the side of caution. He couldn’t reveal their ship to the Wraith Darts, else he and Miller would never make it back to base alive.

He darted a sideways glance at the lieutenant. Still breathing. Good. And the blood flow seemed to have slowed down. All he had to do now was get to Carson. They followed the trail of Darts, praying that Rodney had found the ZPM Teams Four and Six had gone after and that the city was safe against all assault.

Inside the city, sparks flew as the first of the Darts reached Atlantis, beaming inside the shields and bombarding her from clear blue skies. Somewhere in the depths of the city, McKay was racing for the power room with a ZPM, and Elizabeth prayed none of the Wraith would find him. Standing over the scanners with Zelenka, she targeted Wraith signals, diverting teams to intercept the enemy and fight them on the ground. The control room shook, another wave of fire shattering another spire.

‘Rodney!’ Elizabeth’s voice echoed over the intercom. ‘Rodney! We’ve got about five minutes before the central dome collapses, we need that shield before the main attack force gets here!’

He heard the words, but Rodney was unable to do anything about it. Ahead of him, four Wraith beamed into the corridor between him and the power control room. ‘Shit,’ he hissed, sliding the box to the ground and ducking behind a pile of crates. He felt for the gun strapped to his thigh holster, wondering how many he could kill before they took him down.

For the first time in his life, Rodney wished he could shoot straight.

He heard their voices, speaking in their own language. He didn’t understand a word, but the meaning was clear, they knew he was here and intended to have a little fun. Well, if he was going to die, Rodney McKay wasn’t going to die cowering on the ground.

He stood, pulling the gun. ‘Alright! Have it your way! Come on then!’ He yelled the words with defiance, yanking his pistol. The first shot missed, the second grazed a Wraith, the third took him in the chest and then the gun clicked.

Click, click.

‘Oh, hell!’ Rodney’s eyes grew wide as he realised he couldn’t even shoot himself, let alone a Wraith at that point. With a guttural laugh from the roar of fury his assault had evoked the leader charged forward, hand outstretched.

Rodney braced himself but a fusillade of fire filled the corridor and the Wraith fell, spilling blood and shaking with the impact of a spray of bullets. Behind him his comrades went down too and Teyla appeared, tawny hair flying as she raced towards McKay, taking down the last Wraith.

‘Dr McKay. Are you alright?’

‘Yeah, uh, yeah, fine. Good timing. Brilliant.’

‘Do you have the ZPM?’

‘Huh?’ he replied, still staring at the bodies on the ground.

‘Rodney! Do you still have the ZPM?!’ Teyla demanded again, her voice urgent.

‘Yes, yes. Right here.’

‘Good. We must go. Dr Weir needs the shields. More Wraith are coming. Dr McKay, hurry!

He nodded again, grabbing the box and dashing after her as she took point, heading for the power control room.

As soon as he was within range, Sheppard scanned the city. She had sustained damage, and he called out over the comms. ‘Atlantis, Atlantis, this is Sheppard. Do you read?’

‘Jon! Yes, we read you.' It was Elizabeth's voice.

‘The Hive ship is down. I repeat, the Hive ship is down, but you have darts incoming. Raise your shields, Atlantis!’

‘We can’t.... offline...’

‘Dammit,’ he hissed. He was too far away to help them, too few to stop the entire fleet. He paused, looking over his shoulder at the spare explosives the jumper still carried. If he set them right, he could close the front bay and string out the explosives like mines if he ploughed straight into the ranks of the Wraith Darts. It would splinter their fleet, destroying their concerted attack on the city. It would certainly take out a dozen ships, maybe more, and it would definitely buy Atlantis more time.



The only downside was the Jumper would probably be taken out by collision if not by firepower.

Miller watched him, her eyes flickering wearily from the cargo to his face. ‘Do it,’ she said suddenly.

‘What?’

‘Do it. Whatever it is you’re thinking. Do it. Otherwise we lose Atlantis.’

He nodded, setting the Jumper to autopilot and jumped up, heading for the explosives.

Down in the power control room of the city, Rodney put the ZPM into its slot, dashing to the console but he couldn’t see a damn thing. Nothing was happening. From Ops, Elizabeth’s voice cut over the comms. ‘Rodney! We need those shields!’

‘They should be active!’

Distantly he heard Zelenka, ‘I have nothing!’

‘Dammit!’ He ran forward again, slapping a hand on the console before trying to force the ZPM into its slot. All of a sudden it moved under his hands, sliding downwards silently, the whole console lighting up.

In the Op centre, Elizabeth approached the windows, watching a dark cloud gather in the distance. A rain of Wraith Darts, heading directly for the unprotected city. ‘Rodney!’

‘Yeah, go now. Go now!’

Zelenka activated the shields, a blue wall sliding up over the city, protecting inside a domed forcefield. Elizabeth spun away from the window, activating the second channel on her comm. ‘John! John! We have shields! Get clear of Atlantis!’

Inside the Jumper, the radio crackled and Miller leaned over, activating it. ‘...have shields!’ Weir’s voice filled the cabin and Miller grinned, turning her head to meet Sheppard’s shocked gaze. ‘Get clear of Atlantis!’

Pushing Miller aside, John jumped in the pilot’s seat, swinging the cloaked Jumper up and clear of the diving Wraith fleet. He watched as they dived bombed the city, yellow fire filling the space where Atlantis had been. The concussion wave came then, throwing them higher until the blue disappeared and the stars shone silently in front of them. The Jumper stuttered and stalled, hanging in space.

‘Atlantis?’

‘Atlantis?’ The silence was deafening, and he exchanged a grim glance with Miller before trying again. ‘Elizabeth? Come in, what is your status?’ He tried to keep the panicked tone out of his voice but the silence stretched out again, and he willed them to still be there, to be safe.

‘We... still here- That’s our status,’ the signal cleaned up fast, but it didn’t matter what she said, just that she had said something. He let go the breath he had been holding, taking another and another, the relief washing over him in a wave. 'Don't do that to me!' he exhaled.

'Sorry,' he could almost hear the grin in her voice.

‘It’s all clear up here. Looks like Atlantis’ defences saw them off.’

He could hear her sigh of relief over the comms before she told him to go ahead and dock. He flew the Jumper towards Atlantis, slipping through the shields and into the docking bay, calling or a medical team to come and collect Miller. Promising to look in on her later and reassured she would be fine by Carson, he left them to it. When he made it down to the Gateroom, he couldn’t help but look around, checking for signs of damage. But, with another wave of relief he saw relatively little. ‘Well, I’m home, ‘ he called.

Before he could move a step Elizabeth was there, coming down the stairs and walking directly to him. She didn’t pause, but folded both arms around him, leaning in for a moment and he felt the tension ebb out of her as he wrapped one arm around her, confused by the public display, something she usually avoided. But sometimes she would slip up and he would wonder if she wasn't as lost at times as he felt without her.

He shied away from that thought, dependence was not his nature. The moment was over and she stepped back, ‘yes you are,’ she replied in answer to his call earlier, the relief evident in her face and voice. ‘I truly thought-‘

‘Yeah, yeah, I thought the same thing about you a minute ago,’ he didn’t like thinking about the way he’d felt up there, stuck on the Jumper whilst she faced a Wraith Hive fleet without him. ‘We gotta stop that,’ he added, with an attempt at a smile, trying to alleviate the situation.

‘I’d like that!’ she grinned, her eyes lighting up. He could have lost himself in that smile, and for a moment longer all they did was stand there, gazing at each other like they’d been apart for days instead of hours. He broke the tableau, afraid he’d kiss her in front of the entire crew if he didn’t step away.

‘So, uh, where are we?’ he asked, his tone awkward, deliberately distancing himself from her and forcing them back into the current situation. They turned together, heading for Ops, whilst Elizabeth gave him a rundown of their status. There would be weeks of repairs, but they had two ZPMs now, one a little low on power but still worth it's weight in gold. The Hive ship had been dealt with but it took time and some intelligence reports from the field before they realised that the Hive ship had been a rogue. No one, apparently, knew the location of Atlantis. Even if they did, the Wraith's numbers weren't high enough to attack Atlantis in force. The ship had been an opportunist, nothing more.

End Notes:
Video: Sheppard is standing in the Gateroom and Weir walks up and hugs him (2:01/2:45 to 2:02/2:45)
Chapter 16 - And Replicators by shipper scifi
Author's Notes:
'Not yet, we're not!' Sheppard shook him off, striding to the isolation tent, ignoring the cry of alarm behind him and ripped it open.
'Dr Weir?' Zelenka tapped politely on the open door of the gym where Teyla was showing Elizabth how to spar with a set of fighting sticks. He waited for a moment as they finished up and the two women unlocked from their current manuevre.

'Dr Zelenka. You needed me?' Elizabeth asked, turning his way and pulling her towel from the rail.

'Yes, I know you left instructions not to be disturbed this afternoon, but we have found something in one of the new labs we uncovered in sector eleven. Dr McKay was adamant you would want to see this.' In truth, Zelenka himself appeared quite excited by the new discovery.

'Very well,' she turned back to Teyla and they formally bowed out of the combat before she smiled and rolled her shoulders, easing the ache in them. 'Thank you, Teyla. Next week?'

'I look forward to it,' Teyla replied. 'You are progressing very well. One day I shall have you sparring with Ronan.'

Elizabeth laughed. 'I'm not sure about that, but it would certainly put me to the test! Are you leaving today?'

'Tomorrow morning,' Teyla replied. She was leaving for a few days with her people on the mainland.

'We'll see you when you return; have a pleasant journey, Teyla!'

'I will. Goodbye Elizabeth,' the Athosian called as Weir hurried down the hall after Zelenka. She smiled quietly to herself, glad to see the Atlantean leader had relaxed a great deal from her first few months in the Pegasus Galaxy. She felt more at home now and the lack of contact with Earth for well over a year now had led to even more personnel beginning to view this as their home. A number of Expedition personnel spent their downtime on the mainland. Small balcony gardens had begun to spring up, other materials such as wood for carving and wool or material for crafts had been bartered for from both the Athosians and other worlds that Atlantis traded with. Hydroponics was being extended and recreation areas were designated throughout the thoroughly explored parts of the city.

And, unless Teyla was very much mistaken, Dr Elizabeth Weir or an appropriate member of the Athosian settlement would soon have to preside over Atlantis' first marriage in over ten thousand years. Grodin and Clarkson had become very close, and the city's leaders were quietly marking off the three-quarter mark to when their standing orders would take over and Atlantis would declare herself an official colony.

She knew Dr Weir was confident that they would see Earth again, but she was equally weighing her options over self-governance and had questioned Teyla extensively on some of the political systems of the Pegasus Galaxy including the way the Athosian's led their people.

Atlantis and her inhabitants were in for a great deal of change.

'We found it in a stasis chamber,' Zelenka was explaining as they hurried from the transportation room to the lab in question. I've read some of the reports from the SGC, and I believe the best way to describe it would be as a human-form Replicator, only these were built by the Ancients!'

Elizabeth grabbed the scientist's arm, pulling him up short. 'Are you telling me we have a Replicator in the city?'

'In stasis, yes. There is no reason to believe he will cause trouble as long as he is kept in there and then we can analyse the risk-' he stopped as they rounded the corner and entered the lab where McKay and several other scientists were working. The stasis pod was empty and lying on the large table in the middle of the room lay the human-form Replicator. Ringed around the room were a security team, all with weapons trained on the unmoving figure.

'Rodney!' Elizabeth's sharp ccry of dismay filled the room. Sheppard, who had been standing next to the door, stepped up to her shoulder.

'I said exactly the same thing,' Jon said with weary sigh. 'I got here as the defrost cycle, or whatever it is, ended. It was too late to stop it.'

Elizabeth nodded, fixing McKay with a hard stare and striding over to the table to face him across it.' I want it in isolation, McKay, get it into a Jumper and off the planet, I want it where I can blow it out of an airlock.'

'Come on,' McKay exclaimed, 'that's easily overkill!'

'Did you read the SGCs reports on these things, Dr McKay,' Elizabeth demanded, gripping the edge of the table and leaning forward. 'They are unstoppable. I don't like to shy away from a challenge, but I want this thing off Atla-' her words choked off as the figure moved, faster than anymore thought possible, it's hands wrapping around Weir's neck. She grabbed it's wrists, choking as her knees buckled.

'Elizabeth!' John yelled. 'Open fire! Check your aim!' He dove forward, grabbing the hands of the Replicator to pry them away from Elizabeth. It had risen to it's knees now, Rodney backing up in horror, and it's back presented a broad target.

A fusillade of bullets peppered its back, the impact dislodging its grip and Jon pulled her free, dragging her back through the door and into the corridor. The scientific personnel all took cover as the second round of guards opened fire and parts of the Replicator started to collapse. Rodney darted across the room, hitting a few keys on the console attached to the Naquada generator, a standalone that had been moved into the lab to power it's systems which had been disconnected from the city's powergrid. With a whine it overloaded and the resultant EMP field blew apart the Replicator's building blocks. The figure collapsed into a pile of tiny metallic parts.

'Medic! I need a medical team down here!' Jon called over the comms. He glanced into the lab. 'Get those pieces quarantined and I want them packaged up and thrown into the nearest star, McKay!' 'But-!' 'Forget it!' Sheppard cut across him. 'I don't care what it takes, find a way. Zelenka, you're in charge of this mess. Don't let him do anything without your permission!' He looked down at Elizabeth, her hand pressed to her bruised throat, drawing in harsh breaths. He knelt next to her, lifting her her up until she was leaning back against him. Carson arrived minutes later, adminstered oxygen to help her breathing until she waved him off and stood up.

Her throat felt raw and her neck was red and heavily marked, the edges of yellow and blue just starting to set it. 'Yer goin' to have a lvely bruise there, Elizabeth. We'll get ye up to the infirmary and check yer over there,' Carson announced. She nodded, coughing again and waving Jon away.

'Stay here,' she rasped. 'Be fine.'

He nodded, turning back to his security team and sending out orders for a puddlejumper whilst McKay and Zelenka figured out the best way to permanantely incapacitate the Replicator blocks.

It was over an hour before he got the call over his comms. It was Dr Beckett, telling him to make his way to the infirmary immediately. Dread filled his gut as he raced for the medical bay and when he entered he saw a hive of activity. At the centre of it lay Elizabeth, lying pale and still on an infirmary gurney, surrounded by a quarantine tent whilst a nurse in full biohazard gear tended to her.

'Carson?' Sheppard asked breathlessly. He couldn't take his eyes of Elizabeth, barely glancing at the doctor when he came to stand at his shoulder.

'She's infected with some kind of nanites,' Carson told him gravely. 'They're replicating and massing in her brain. Every indication is that she is in some kind of REM sleep, which means-' 'She's dreaming,' Sheppard filled in. 'Aye. But if the nanites are in her brain, controlling the signals, then I think they're manipulating what she's dreaming aboot. In the past half hour, her reactions have started ta drop off an' I'm worried aboot her BP, it's starting ta dip. I think they're killing her, Jon.'

'Get them out!' he spun on Beckett. 'Why haven't you removed them from her system?' he demanded.'

'Hold on, lad,' Carson replied calmly. 'I can't. We're exploring ways of purging them from her system, but right now, nothing I have will do the job. I need McKay and his team up here once they've disposed of that Replicator. It would help to examine the pieces.'

'No!' Sheppard's tone was adamant. 'There's information banks in the laboratory, they might be able to give you the information you need, but there is no way I am authorising anyone experimenting with those Replicator blocks.'

'An' if it's the only way to get the information we need?'

'Find another way. I won't let those things infect Atlantis. Replicators are already defeating Thor's race back in our own galaxy. I won't let that happen here. Not even for Elizabeth,' he added, stepping closer to the tent, watching her sleeping face. 'She'd never forgive me,' he finished in a whisper.

He had to leave, to finish the mission, but Teyla came to take his place. 'Let me kinow if she gets worse,' he said quietly, watching her still sleeping face through the iso-tent.

'You have to go, Jon. Carson will take good care of her, and I will not leave her side until you return. She will not be alone,' Teyla reassured him, laying a gentle hand on his shoulder, her golden eyes pledging a promise.

He nodded, squeezed her hand briefly and slipped out to oversee the destruction of the Replicator, or what was left of it. When he returned, it was to a flurry of activity. 'Teyla?' he asked, shoving back an imminent sense of panic.

'She had taken a turn for the worse. I was trying to call you, but they said the radiation interefered with the signal. By the time we could reach you, you were already returning.'

'Yeah. They told me to get right down here,' he replied abstractedly.

'Major Sheppard!' Carson strode over, tapping the touchscreens that displayed the readouts of Elizabeth's condition on the wall of the room observation room Elizabeth lay in. He sighed in dismay turning back to Sheppard and Teyla. 'We're losing her,' he confided gently, laying a hand on Sheppard's arm.

'Not yet, we're not!' Sheppard shook him off, striding to the isolation tent, ignoring the cry of alarm behind him and ripped it open, stepping inside and wrapping both hands around her bare arm, skin on skin. 'Lis'beth! You've been infected by nanites. They're trying to take control of you, take over your mind. They're going to kill you, Elizabeth, they're lying to you. You need to fight them, so fight!. Please, come back,' he whispered the last words, almost like a prayer.

Hands wrapped in biohazard suits reached out, grabbed him, hauling him away. He didn't fight them, he didn't want to put anyone else at risk, but he didn't care if he was infected either. If he was, maybe he could find out how to fight them, find out how to save Elizabeth.

He wasn't infected, but his actions had sent a surge of adrenaline through her system, the nanites had fallen back and one by one they were greying out on the screen as they fell dormant. Carson wouldn't let him out of isolation whilst the scans were running, but he promised to go back and check on Elizabeth. He met Ronan, McKay and Teyla standing outside the iso-tent and just then Elizabeth rolled her head to the side and opened her eyes, looking straight at them.

'I'm back,' she whispered.

'Ye never left,' Carson reassured her with a smile. He squeezed Teyla's arm, grinning like a fool. 'I'll tell Jon you're awake. He's in isolation.' She blinked, licked her lips, trying to stay awake long enough to ask. 'I think he'll be jus' fine,' he added, reassuring her. She nodded slowly, rolling her head back to look at the ceiling as her eyes slid shut.

The moment he was out of isolation, cleared of any nanite infection, Sheppard was back at her bedside. The nanites were breaking down, her own antibodies were attacking them breaking them down. They would be of no further danger but she was in isolation all the same until Carson was sure. He apologised, but he couldn't let Jon in.

'I know, doc, it's okay. I won't breach protocol again either, I promise,' he added gravely.

Beckett nodded. 'Ah suppose ah can't blame ye,' he said, smiling.

'It was a risk.'

'Aye, but ye saved her life. We all risk our lives oot here, and you've risked yours ta save more people than jus' her. It's yer duty, an' yer nature, Major, so don' go second-guessing now,' Carson reassured him. 'There's quite a few people aware of whas goin' on with you two, an' not a single one have I heard objec'. It's helps them, ye know, to make a home here, knowin' yer doin' the same.'

Sheppard nodded, Earth was a long time gone now, and life went on. He would tell Elizabeth when she woke up and then they were going to have some time to themselves, off Atlantis, on the mainland, he'd make it happen. Somehow.

End Notes:
Video: No link to scene
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