by sugargroupie

PG-13, 1752 words

Summary: It was strangely important that she got the method right.

Disclaimer: I claim no ownership to Stargate: Atlantis or its characters.

Notes: AU, with minor spoilers for season two.  Many thanks to Ladyjax for looking this over; mistakes remain mine.

.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

The Major's death is abrupt and messy, but there's grace in the fall as his body hits the ground.

Elizabeth can only stare with wide eyes as she forces air into her lungs and stifles the urge to scream.  It tickles the back of her throat, hovering on the surface and she clamps her hand over her mouth.  She's close enough to see blood, see lifeless eyes open to the sky.  She's moving before she realizes it, adding pressure to the wound with her hands as if she can forestall a death that has already occurred.

She doesn't see the Teurian warrior standing over her until it is too late -- takes her last breath.

This is her nightmare.


In reality, Elizabeth steps through the gate covered in blood that isn't hers and the leader of four less people in Atlantis.  She still isn't sure how a routine trip off-world ended in such a catastrophe.  The negotiations went well, and she'd left the Teurian leader with an alliance and beneficial trade agreement.  Elizabeth had felt particularly confident, as the leader was also female.  They'd struck an accord.

But it's always the leaving that brings the most trouble; if nothing else, reading Lt. Colonel Sheppard's mission reports should have prepared her for that detail.  They had been so close to the gate, and she remembers smiling at her team of escorts, deciding that her next trip off-world wouldn't utilize so many officers.  Five were too many.

Someone yelled ambush, and she fell to her knees, scrambling behind the first protective shield she could find.  "What the hell?" Elizabeth screamed, as weapons fire exploded around her.  She wanted to see -- she needed to know what was happening with her people; that she hadn't brought their deaths upon them.

"Stay down ma'am," she heard through ringing ears, unable to place who was speaking.  "Man down!" ... and she blinked, because that couldn't be right.  They'd done nothing to the Teurians to warrant such violence.

Elizabeth looked over her shoulder, just for a second, and when she turned back around the Major had been sliced open... no, gutted.

It was strangely important to her that she got the method right; that she remembered every moment, because there was no other evidence when you left the bodies behind.

She vomited on her shoes at that thought, right before Sergeant Callahan used the last of his remaining strength and pushed her through the gate.


Now, Elizabeth is surrounded by chaos.  Colonel Sheppard is searching her, probably for wounds; because Callahan collapsed unconscious as soon as he hit the ground of Atlantis, and so far she hasn't uttered a word.

She is vaguely aware of Carson, and a flurry of white coats taking Callahan away; feels the doctor's hand at her back and urging her forward.  "Doctor Weir, you need to come to the infirmary so I can --"

She remembers to nod.  "I'm fine."

"Protocol, Elizabeth."

Her gaze shifts to John.  "Colonel..."

"Infirmary, Doctor, or I'll carry you there myself."

John's commanding tone snaps Elizabeth out of her trance.  "You don't order me, John, you seem to forget that."  Her hands are shaking and she crosses them behind her back, her voice is strong and direct and she meets his gaze.  She's prepared for a standoff, if necessary.  She is in control of this situation.

Turning to Carson, Elizabeth nods again and says, "Lead the way," and follows him out of command.


"I should've been there!"

Elizabeth closes her eyes, wearily rubbing her temples with her fingertips.  They've already talked about this, in the briefing room, and he was just as loud then.


He speaks over the warning in her voice.  "We had no intel about these people, Elizabeth.  It was reckless to send you out there."

Disastrous is a much more appropriate word, she thinks.  Sergeant Callahan is in a coma, his injuries too numerous and life-threatening.  And even after a long hot shower, Elizabeth can't stop looking at her hands, wondering if the blood is still underneath her nails and seeping into her skin.

When she opens her eyes again, he's pacing her office and still talking.  "Should?e sent Dex at least, and taken Major Dean's place myself, instead of warming the command chair here."

"So then it would have been you dying instead."  She's tired of this conversation already.

"Don't be ridiculous," he admonishes her.  "Besides, I'm trained for stuff like this."

"And so was Major Dean, Colonel."

"I know that, but you aren't!"

Ah, there it is.  Elizabeth arches her brow and takes a step in his direction.  "While I admit to not having any combat experience, I've led this expedition for over two years now.  We needed a negotiator on that planet, and I am the only one qualified to do so.  I was doing my job, John."

"Yeah, I know, you don't need to remind me."

"Apparently I do," she says sharply, surprising them both into silence.  John tightens his jaw, mouth opening to speak but clamping shut instead.  Elizabeth turns her back to him, dismissing him and the conversation.

She is so tired, standing in the same spot as the seconds tick by, thinking that John has already gone.  It isn't until his hand clasps the back of her neck, callused fingers stroking the sides that Elizabeth realizes she's suffocating in this room with him.  "Don't," she whispers and shrugs him away.

She doesn't hear him leave.


Weeks have passed; two or three, Elizabeth has lost count.  She's had time to strip back the argument with John, reach beyond her own anger and focus on the doublespeak that sounds a lot like blame, and guilt; both of which she is familiar with.

She knows his nightmares, has combed her fingers through his hair as he strived for calm in the middle of the night.  They share so much besides the burden of keeping their city alive, and if she has to cope with sending him through the gate with no promise of returning safe, then so does he.

And she needs to tell him.

John's quarters are light enough to throw shadows across the room, and when he invites her inside she almost asks him if he's been waiting for her.

He doesn't greet her like a lover, but with quick, wary glances raking her body and then the door.  They haven't shared a bed in weeks, though Elizabeth remembers clearly the last time she was in his room.  By the look on his face he remembers as well.

"What can I do for you," he asks, and she notices the subconscious habit he has of licking his lips, pensive and waiting.

Clearing her throat and forcing her arms to remain at her sides, she strides over to his bed and sits atop half-wrinkled sheets, meets his gaze.  "I came to talk."

"Figured that."  His response is dry, and exactly what Elizabeth has come to expect from him.

"Okay, listen to me.  You and I... whatever it is that we're doing, cannot interfere with our responsibilities to Atlantis."  John nods and opens his mouth to speak.  "I'm not finished.  You forget that I stand there every time your team goes out on a mission, hoping that you return safely.  And not once have I tried to undermine your authority, because I trust that you know what you are doing."

John nods again.  "And I appreciate that Elizabeth, but you can't compare our situations.  And you can't tell me not to worry about you."

"I'm not.  I need you to trust that I know what I'm doing and back up my decisions.  I'm not a child, John, and I've been heading negotiations for a long time now.  I know the risks.  I wouldn't be here otherwise."

Elizabeth stands and sighs heavily into the silence, unsure of what to do next.  With anyone else, she'd have her closing statement on the tip of her tongue, body poised to move on to the next agenda on her list.  But she hadn't planned this visit and now she is reluctant to leave.

"I hear you," John says, as if picking up a forgotten thought.  He's close enough to her now, that she can see the stubble on his chin, the slight redness of his eyes.  "I hear you," he repeats with a low voice.  "Maybe we can set up a special team to accompany you off-world; a compromise.  We both want to protect the people here, and that includes you."

And that is something she is guilty of forgetting at times -- she's not just the leader of this expedition, but an inhabitant as well.  Commanding the city doesn't seem quite as daunting when she knows someone is also looking after her as well.

Once again words fail her and all she can do is nod her thanks.  Elizabeth turns to leave when John clasps her hand in his and their fingers immediately intertwine.  "Damn," she whispers, and pulls him forward until they're breathing each other's air, suspended in movement.


She interrupts with a short shake of her head.  "Shh... she murmurs.  Don't talk.  Framing his face with her hands, she brings his mouth to hers, licks his bottom lip and slips her tongue into his mouth.  With another sigh, she deepens the kiss and directs him to the bed, climbing into his lap and settling into his space with the ease of an old lover.

Don't talk, she thinks, letting herself go.


"I wasn't going to say no," he says, after, while he's still inside her and she's fighting for air to breathe.

Elizabeth pushes against his chest and he pulls out and rolls away.  She wants to confess again -- and damn John for being so easy to talk to -- that she didn't force this because she thought he would deny her.  She did it so that she wouldn't be the one to walk away.  And it's tempting, even now, to slip back into her clothes and leave, lock herself inside her quarters and scrub his scent from her body.

But that would only make sense if she had no intention of sleeping with John again, and Elizabeth can at least admit to herself that she wants to do this to him, with him, over and over again.

So many responses run through her mind, and she's tempted to say nothing at all.  She simply sighs and touches his hand.  "I know."



e n d