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Author's Chapter 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.


Chapter 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)

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