Sheppard had followed her to her office, despite the toll using the device had obviously taken on him. He looked wiped out. 'Like you left her the first time?' Sam asked, her clear, blue-eyed gaze catching his, holding it for a moment before he looked away, furious at her for saying it. She was sorry for being so brutally direct, but she wasn’t going to beat around the bush, she needed to know his motives, pure and simple.
'I'm not blind John,' she went on, her voice quiet. 'And I understand.'
'Do you?' he snapped, forgetting this was his commanding officer.
'Colonel,' she replied, her voice a warning. She knew he was hurting, hell, she'd been in the same position before, not knowing if someone she cared about was alive or dead, leaving them behind against every instinct, obeying her training to maximise the lives she saved, the good that could come out of the situation her team had found themselves in. But he was skirting insubordination.
In a way, it helped, he wasn’t asking for them to proceed out of mere curiosity. This was really eating at him. But he needed to consider the bigger picture.
His eyes flickered her way, and the anger subsided. It wasn't Carter's fault and she was being a hell of a lot more understanding than any of his previous CO's. 'My apologies, ma’am,' he muttered, running his fingers through short dark hair, leaving half it stuck out at odd angles.
She gave a nod. Apology accepted; provisionally.
'You made the right call, Colonel, by leaving her behind. And that's all any of us can ever do,’ she gave him the reassurance before hitting him with the guilt. ‘But whose life are you willing to risk to bring her back? Are you asking me to potentially had over control of my mind to creatures we know nothing about in the hope they're not lying? Do you think the Replicators you met lied about her death now?'
He flinched, the hope that had risen before him driving back all rational objections, which Sam had now placed in front of him, starkly real under the bright light of command. She was right, risking their lives to rescue one of their own was a duty, throwing lives away on a rumour was foolhardy.
Well, no one ever accused him of being sensible.
But she was right. Just because he’d played with these aliens once, didn’t mean they weren’t holding their cards in reserve. They could be planning anything and he wouldn’t know.
'What if I do it?' he asked suddenly.
'You think they'd let you?'
'No, I mean, what if I let them do whatever they're gonna do to you. I might not understand, but we could find out if it's safe.'
'Colonel-' Sam began.
'Please. I'm willing to take the risk,' he turned round in his seat, leaning forward on the desk to speak earnestly, aware that he had to convince her of his sincerity. It didn't take much effort, since not a word that passed his lips was a lie. 'I can't spend the rest of my life wondering if I left her behind in the hands of Oberoth to live, maybe for years, with his hand stuck inside her head. That's no way to die. And it's no way to live. For either of us.'
Sam sat back, considering him with those expressive blue eyes, the ones that could go from warm to ice-cold in a heartbeat. He’d seen those eyes watching over Atlantis, wondering if the mind behind them ever thought of her predecessor, a woman she’d worked with but hadn’t particularly struck a rapport with either, not like their team had had here, in the Pegasus Galaxy.
'I'll consider it Colonel. Dismissed.'
He considered arguing the point, but for once Sheppard clamped down on the urge to have the last word, Sam was fair-minded and a damn good commander. She trusted her people.
It was time for him to trust her now.
With a nod, he stood, saluted and left the room, hurrying down the stairs from the control room without a backwards glance, disappearing in the direction of the armoury and his usual duties. Sam watched him go, releasing a breath she hadn't realised she'd been holding.
His reaction was the one she'd been waiting for, almost since she'd stepped foot on Atlantis. He wanted to go back for his commander, every instinct demanded it, and he’d skirted demands to be released to go find her. If it hadn’t been for the other people under his command, the need, she was sure, to see Elizabeth’s work wasn’t undone, he’d have skipped town long ago, and found her himself.
But Elizabeth Weir had left too much trust in the hands of Atlantis’ military commander. And now, John Sheppard had finally trusted her, not just with Atlantis, but with Elizabeth Weir's fate, and his own.
Her own instincts, both militarial and scientific, demanded they do this, but there were so many potential dangers that she hesitated. Nowshe was the one to consider whether the wacky idea were worth pursuing, the insane plans worth the risk... she couldn’t simply ride with her own instincts, she had more at stake to consider. And she was unwilling to tangle with another species that could turn out to be an undiscovered enemy.
They had enough to deal with right now.
And yet... the memory of Elizabeth Weir, letting her take the only Alkesh they had on a long-shot chance to save one of her team, rose in her mind. Sometimes all you had was instinct, and Sam's instincts told her to do all she could to bring Elizabeth home.
Pushing away from her desk, she wandered outside to the balcony, leaning on the rail to watch the white-capped waves crash against the walls of Atlantis, turning over the possibilities in her mind. She pushed back the feeling that she’d already made the decision and started looking at ways to minimise the danger.