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Author's Chapter 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.

Chapter End Notes: Video: No link to a scene

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