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06 April 2011 @ 09:58 pm
[stargate: atlantis fic] this is the place where your heart stands still (2(part one)/3)  
this is the place where your heart stands still (2 (part one)/3)
- stargate: atlantis
- john/elizabeth
- 6300 this section (12000 total)
- pg13
- so...this only took a year. *cough* chapter one (3000 words). you don't really need to read the first chapter to understand the second, but you'll get more out of both if you do.
- thanks so much to anuna_81 for the read-throughs, prodding and support and leanstein for the beta! thank you so much!
- for tenacious_err for the Cheer Up Aly's Face Project.




Two years earlier

Her lips are blue and her skin is grey and when he drags her to her feet she doesn't let go. Her fingers curl stiffly around his shirt collar and her eyes won't meet his, but she keeps apologizing like it's all her fault - guilt and ice and her name falling frantically from his lips, but she doesn't answer.

"Jesus," he breathes. He slams the water off and grabs a towel from the rack behind him and wraps it around her quickly, keeping his eyes on her face, her blue lips. Her weight against him is awkward and heavy, and he tries to help her stand on her own but her legs won't hold.

"Elizabeth," he says firmly. She doesn't reply, but her fingers tighten their grip on his shirt, and he can feel the chill of her knuckles against his collarbone. He shivers.

"Elizabeth."

Her teeth click together repeatedly. "S-sorry," she manages. "I-I'm so-s-sorry."

John closes his eyes and wraps his arms tighter around her. "It's okay," he says, "C'mon."

He guides her over the lip of the shower and down the hall, taking most of her weight, one arm wrapped securely around her waist. In her room, he grabs her robe off the end of the bed and tucks her into it gently, easing her onto the mattress. Her eyes fixate on a point over his shoulder.

"Elizabeth."

She blinks and shudders but her eyes don't move. She curls into herself.

"'Lizabeth, look at me," he pleads, shifting his weight so he can sit next to her, keeping a hand on her arm at all times, keeping contact, warmth. "Elizabeth."

"They t-took our h-home," she stutters. Her lips are still blue.

"I know," he murmurs, sliding his hand up and down her back. The silence falls like rain, tinny sounds echoing between them. She shakes and he sits and doesn't know what to say or how to comfort her. He knew it was bad but not this bad, and he wishes he would have come earlier, come before - her hands are quivering and white and he resists the urge to pull her to him tightly - to wrap her up in arms and legs and console himself with the feeling of her breath against his neck, her heartbeat next to his.

He isn't sure how long they stay, but he doesn't consider moving until her shaking stops and the color returns to her lips. He can feel her slowly coming back to herself, and isn't surprised when she pulls back. "Sorry," she murmurs - composed. Guarded. Her spine straightens and his hand slips away. She stands slowly and he hovers behind her, rising with her like a marionette. She clears her throat and meets his gaze. "Thank you," she says, but it's more of a cracked murmur. It gives him no confidence.

"Are you okay?"

She tries to smile. "I'll be fine."

"Don't."

So soft. So hopeless. She raises her eyes to his.

"John?"

He struggles. "Don't
go."

She frowns, but moves no closer. Barriers erected. Her hair is still wet. Instead of speaking, he reaches forward and tucks a strand of hair behind her ear, fingertips lingering on her skin.


--

One minute

"Rodney!"

"I don't know!"

Terror floods every chord of muscle.

"What did you do?"

Rodney punches the console furiously. "Didn't you hear me, I said I don't kno-"

Panic: "Figure it out!"

"I'm trying!"

"McKay!"

Harmless. The word echos, a violent clanging between them; in the room and off the walls and John's knuckles are turning white. Rodney slams his fingers down on panels and keys but the console stays dark. He barks orders into his headset demanding Zelenka, a power source, and a team, muttering: "No, no, no no no this isn't right. Why don't these things come with manuals!"

"Rodney," John warns. His fingernails dig into his palms; he's going to draw blood soon.

The minutes drag. Zelenka and a power source and a team come barging in, Ronon and Teyla on their heels.

"What has happened?"

Rodney zapped Elizabeth, is the sarcastic quip that forms involuntarily, but his teeth are clenched and his lungs are so tight that the words don't come. Rodney is panicking and Zelenka is directing and the machine stays dark, dark, dark.

"John," Teyla stresses, and he knows it should be loud, right in his ear - her hand on his shoulder - but he can't make it out.

(He blinked. He blinked and he lost her. It's the only thought that comes fully formed: he shouldn't have blinked.)

Nail cuts through the skin of his palms, and Rodney's face is white. "I can't get her back."

--

Her fingers curl together tightly. "Hi."

John blinks in surprise. "Hey," he returns, opening the door to let her pass. "How, uh. How are you?"

"Good, good," she says, too quickly, her back to him. John closes the door and she turns and gives him a faltering smile. "Better," she tries again. John raises an eyebrow, and she sighs. "Lousy," she admits.

John nods and resists the urge to shove his hands in his pockets. "Understandable."

"Yeah."

He winces at the silence. Elizabeth turns away again, studying his desk, the stacks of paperwork, his model plane. She runs her finger over the wing gently, lost in thought. He's about to offer her a drink or a seat, something to break the wall even a little, when she speaks.

"I, uh. I wanted to apologize-"


"You don't have to do that."

"John-"

He shakes his head and steps closer. "You've got nothing to apologize for."

Her eyes narrow and her voice sharpens, but it isn't him she's angry with. "You're not my keeper. You shouldn't have to-"

"I don't mind." Her eyebrows raise just slightly, and he backtracks quickly. "I mean, not that I want you to - I just-"

Her expression softens and she looks away. "I get it."

He breathes a sigh of relief. "Good."

She nods once. "Anyway. Thank you," she manages. "For..."

"Yeah. I mean, you're welcome."

She cracks a smile, but it's so brief and so sad, and he feels so worthless, standing in the pauses.

"I'll uh, I'll let you get back to-"

John nods. "Yeah, I should probably-"

"Of course."

She's halfway down the hall before he snaps out of it, wrenching open the door and calling after her.

"Elizabeth!" She turns. John takes a deep breath and forces the words past his tongue. "Do you want to have dinner?"

She blinks. "What?"

"Dinner. Or lunch or whatever you - just to catch up."

She hesitates. "I - yeah. Okay."

"Okay?"

Her lips curve up - "I'd like that." - and John can't stop his own grin from spreading.

"Good. So I'll call you."

She nods. "Yeah."

"You have to answer your phone," he teases, but she doesn't miss the buried fear.

"I will."


--

Five minutes

"Send me in after her."

Rodney scoffs, but there's a panic behind it John doesn't miss. "Send you in where? Even if I could get the device working again, that doesn't mean we know where-"

"It doesn't matter where, Rodney, as long as-"

"As long as what?" he snaps, "You both get stuck there?"

"She doesn't have the training-"

"To reverse-engineer an Ancient device that jumps realites?" Rodney supplies. "Neither do you!"

"McKay-" he warns.

"I am doing everything I can."

John starts to speak, anger and fear boiling over logic, when Teyla lays a hand gently on his arm. "Let him work," she says quietly, and his hands curl into fists.

He stays silent.

--

They start with lunch.

Every Monday and Thursday, when John's not off-world and Elizabeth isn't in Washington, they meet at a small cafe a few miles from the SGC, away from the grey walls and cameras and sympathetic gazes. It's a reprieve, and John breaks protocol telling her about his new team's cultural mishaps and adventures; Elizabeth tells him about the politics behind the politics, the Russian ambassador's indiscreet mistress.

She's opening up, slowly, seemingly unaware that she tells him more; that she doesn't stop mid-sentence or retract into herself if she shares too much. It humbles him, the way she smiles self-deprecatingly at the mention of past relationships and the way her hands flutter when she's excited. He finds himself drawn to it, to her, to her nervous smile and saltier language and he craves the little anecdotes she never would have given him on Atlantis; the pieces of herself in her stories that she kept so fiercely hidden. He tries as often as possible to give it back to her, to keep them on equal ground. She's always known him, been able to read him better than anyone else purely by instinct, and as much as it scares him he wants her to be able to fill in the gaps, to understand the past behind the present; he wants her to. Wants her to know him, not just the man she led a city with so far away from here--

Here. A coffee shop on fifth avenue and Elizabeth with her hands curled around a ceramic mug, smiling at his stupid jokes.

He thinks, not for the first time, that if this is what he gets in exchange for Atlantis, then maybe he didn't lose after all.


--

Twenty Minutes

"Anything?"

"Working," Rodney snaps, then yells at a scientist to recalibrate something and another to move something and Zelenka interjects and it's a familiar scene, but the undertone of panic is so much heavier.

John stalks the length of the room, back and forth, back and forth. Rodney doesn't notice.

The screens are still dark, still unresponsive to all their calculations and steps. John stops pacing long enough to order a team of scientists and linguists to the briefing room to scour the Ancient Database for any clues.

"I already did that," Rodney says sharply, "You think I would have let her down here-"

"Obviously you didn't find everything or this wouldn't have happened," John interjects, too angry and terrified to mask the blame in his tone. Rodney winces, hard, and turns back to the machines, barking more orders. For a long moment, John doesn't move. He stands, watching, taking in every detail of the scene before him before his eyes fixate on the place Elizabeth stood not half-an-hour ago, eyes bright and body thrumming with excitement.

"Think of everything we could learn if this works," she'd said. "All the different places and cultures we could visit. It's incredible."

"Yeah," he'd said, distracted by her smile. "Incredible."

--

He tells himself it has to be her call. Her move. He tells himself repeatedly - when she smiles, when she smirks, when she laughs - that he can't push this no matter how badly he wants to; wants her. Over and over again he leaves her with nothing more than a smile or a brush of his hand against her arm, like they aren't anything more than friends. Like part of him isn't crying out soundlessly for more every time she looks at him. He's pretty sure she knows how he feels, if the slight blush to her cheeks whenever she catches him staring is any indication.

They're out late after dinner and a movie - some horrible film with no plot and a lot of explosions - and he stops her in the middle of the street, running his fingers through her hair.

Elizabeth's eyes widen. "John?"

He smirks and holds up a piece of popcorn. She laughs and shakes her head, trying to dislodge any more runaway kernels from their brief war half-way through the movie.

"Don't want to leave any evidence behind," he says seriously.

"Of your horrific aim?" she teases, and he affects a pout.

"It was dark!"

"I was sitting right next to you."

"I still got you," he huffs, resuming their walk toward his car.

"You were aiming for my nose."

"Maybe I just wanted you to think that. Maybe it was all part of my stealth-"

"Is this a date?"

John freezes. Elizabeth looks just as startled, and quickly tries to cover it up. - "The movie, I mean, they were -- the guy and the woman who blew up the space station, they- do you think-" but John shakes his head and swallows thickly.

"Do you want it to be?"

Elizabeth wrings her hands together. Catching the motion, she drops her arms quickly to her sides and tries to meet his gaze. "…I don't know," she admits quietly. "I don't know if I'm ready for-"

"'Lizabeth." John shakes his head; reaches for her hand; drops his arms to his sides. "It's just me."

She huffs out a laugh. "Right. I know."

He smiles, but she doesn't miss the hint of sadness and disappointment he tries to bury.

"I'm sorry, John. I wish…" She stares at her hands. He inhales sharply and waits. "I can't stop thinking that there's a chance, you know? That we'll somehow get to go ho- get to back. And if there's still that chance, I can't take this chance, and I…"

John struggles for something to say, anything that will ease the pain so unguarded across her face. He shoves his hands in his pockets and tries for casual. "Well, I'll uh," he clears his throat and she looks up, watching him far too intensely, "I'm not going anywhere, so." He shrugs, and Elizabeth smiles sadly.

"You deserve better than this, John."

"I'm pretty happy with what I've got," he mummers, then starts at the admission. Elizabeth laughs softly at his expression, and John can't help the wide smile that spreads across his face.


--

45 minutes

They've got nothing. Nothing more they had than the second she vanished, white light and a spark of wires and then stillness. The briefing room is filled with scientists and military and linguists pouring over Ancient script and translations and history. Chuck updates him on what little there is, and then the words: "Sir, we may have another problem."

John frowns and Chuck takes a deep breath. "The Daedalus is scheduled to arrive in an hour."

"And?"

"And Dr. Weir was scheduled to meet with representatives from the IOA this afternoon."

John stills. "Are they in range yet?"

Chuck turns to the computer and then nods.

"Get me a secure connection to Colonel Caldwell."

Chuck hurriedly types commands into the computer and then gives him the go-ahead. "Colonel Caldwell this is Colonel Sheppard."

Caldwell sounds surprised. "Colonel," he acknowledges. "To what do I owe this pleasure."

"We have a bit of a situation here, Sir, we may need your help."

John can almost hear Caldwell rolling his eyes, but the man replies without hesitation. "What's the situation?"

"I need you to stall the IOA."

"Excuse me?"

John throws a look into the briefing room. "They can't get here on time."

"Why not?"

John's throat tightens. Caldwell repeats the question.

"Dr. Weir is not currently available to speak with them, Sir."

"Why not?"

"It's a complicated-"

"I can't help you if I don't know the situation, Colonel," Caldwell reminds him.

John hesitates. "Dr. Weir is missing, Sir. One of the Ancient machines we were studying malfunctioned and…we don't know where she is. We're doing everything to get her back, but if the IOA get here and she's gone-"

"Understood, Colonel. I'll see what I can do."

John blinks in surprise. "Sir?"

Caldwell sighs, exasperated. "I understand the risks a missing leader poses to Atlantis, Colonel, especially where politicians are involved."

John slumps in relief. "Thank you, Sir."

"I'll get back to shortly. Caldwell out."

--

"John!" She nearly squeaks and John adjusts his fingers over her eyes as he guides her into his apartment.

"Just hang on, no peeking!"

"I won't," she promises, still laughing and trying to feel her way to the kitchen table. She hears him rummaging around somewhere, then bounding back into the room.

"Okay," he says, guiding her to sit on the couch before handing her a box. He sits next to her, grinning. "Open."

Her smile slowly fades as she takes in the object, resting in the open box. John's breathing hitches as she reaches in, gently removing the Athosian pot and setting the box on the floor. She runs her fingers over the sides, eyes watering slightly.

"Elizabeth?"

"How, uh." She clears her throat. "How did you find it?"

"I convinced one of the inventory guys that it possessed some special Ancient properties we needed to examine." He shrugs. "I didn't think anyone would miss it, but…I thought you might…you know. Want it back."

She swallows, unable to tear her eyes away from the engravings. "You probably shouldn't have done that," she says, but she doesn't sound convinced. "There's a very strict policy on removing artifacts from the SGC."

"You want me to put it back?"

She shakes her head. "No," she murmurs. Her hands are shaking slightly as she sets the pot down on the coffee table. When she turns to him, she's smiling, and his shoulders sag in relief. "Thank you," she whispers, and kisses him.

It's brief and chaste and he barely has time to let his fingers settle on her cheeks before she's pulling away. With another look at the Athosian gift, she stands, hands on hips and gives him a pointed look.

"I believe you said something about a homemade dinner, Colonel?"

John smirks and gets to his feet with an extravagant bow. "As you wish."


--

One hour, twenty minutes

Caldwell dials in fifteen minutes later with an engine problem. "We're going to have to drop out of hyperspace," he says, "So we'll be delayed."

"Understood, Sir," Chuck says, "I'll alert Dr. Weir."

John nods in approval before disappearing back into the city. When he reaches the lab, everything is exactly the same as he left it, and the place where Elizabeth vanished still draws his eye.

"Rodney, how's it coming?"

"We've got the lights back on," he says, "but otherwise nowhere. It's like the machine was only meant to work once."

"Well make it work twice."

"Rodney, I think I found something," Zelenka says, at the same time Rodney turns and glowers, "What do you think I've been doing down here?"

"You certainly haven't made any progress to show for your-"

"Rodney, this is important-"

"I'm working as fast as I can!"

"Maybe if you stopped bickering and started paying more attention-"

"Rodney!"

"What!"

Zelenka sighs and points to a section of Ancient text. "I think I found something."

Rodney pushes Zelenka aside and immediately begins scanning the text, ignoring the other man's explanation while simultaneously agreeing with everything as he reads.

"Good, good this is good," Zelenka says, turning to John. "We already knew the device was a gateway to alternate realities, an experiment the Ancients were trying that would give them access to other cultures and even other versions of themselves."

"According to this," Rodney interrupts, "It's on a timetable. It transports the other person in and out of the alternate reality on its own, which is-"

"Which is why we haven't been able to turn it back on."

"Yes, Radek, I was getting there," Rodney drawls impatiently. "Because it expends so much energy transferring people from one reality to the next, it shuts itself off to conserve power."

"So that it won't drain the ZPM."

"That's all well and good if you want to go on a joy ride," John interjects, "But we need Elizabeth back. Now."

"Yes, yes," Zelenka mutters, "And according to this-" he taps at the Ancient text "we may be able to push up the timetable by altering the machines configurations."

"Might," Rodney interjects, "A very small might-"

"Do what you have to," John says. "Just get her back."

--

And then it's gone.

The chance he'd been desperately hoping for, and Atlantis is theirs again. Hers. He watches her from the balcony doors as she takes in the sight of the ocean, the city lights. She turns, her smile brilliant and her eyes bright and as much as he wishes, he knows he could never take this away from her, would never even dream of it. It's their home, their life, his life too, but a part of him can't help but selfishly want all of it--want his job and his home and her. He wonders if it's just too much to ask.

Her voice breaks him out of his thoughts. "We did it."

He nods, crossing to stand next to her, leaning against the railing. "We did."

"It was a brilliant idea," she says, "the shield."

He shrugs. "I'm just glad it worked."

Elizabeth shakes her head. "You can take credit for it, John. You did…" she laughs, relief and joy and hope. "Thank you."

His throat tightens, and he nods. "So, uh. What now?"

"Well, we'll have to get the city back up and running. Rodney's already working on the control room. The Daedalus will bring our people back, necessary personnel first, of course. It'll take a few weeks, I imagine, to-"

"I uh," he coughs and offers an apologetic look for interrupting her. "I was thinking more…what does this mean for us?"

Elizabeth winces. She reaches for something to say, some platitude, but he can't hear it.

"Right," he mutters.

"John," she tries.

He can't help the bitterness in his tone. "Gotta love irony."

"John." She's begging him. Her eyes and her voice. She reaches for him, then lets her hand fall away. She wants to apologize, but knows the words will be inadequate.

"I get it."

"Are we okay?" she asks, humbled and desperate.

There's nothing he can do but nod. "Yeah. We're okay."

She nods slowly, but she's guarded and hesitant and he wishes he hadn't even asked.

"We're home," she offers, unable to hide her wistful relief. "We're home."


--

Two hours, five minutes

"If we stay out of hyperspace much longer we risk being detected by the Wraith," Caldwell informs him.

"How much longer can you stall?" John asks, looking to the scientists.

"An hour at the most."

Rodney shakes his head. "That's not going to help. We've got the device back on, but we're nowhere near figuring out how to reverse the process. Everything in the database so far has been about the great cultural advancements it could bring, and very little about the actual science." Rodney's tone belays his disgust readily. "I swear, every time we find something that could potentially be of great use, there's some Ancient who screwed the whole thing up and now I have to fix it."

"We have to fix it," Zelenka corrects, but Rodney just waves his hand.

"We'll keep you posted, Sir," John says, and breaks the connection.

--

"What the hell were you thinking?"

John starts, turning toward the rough voice. Elizabeth is standing over him, pale-faced and angry. The infirmary is dark and quiet and John shifts awkwardly in an attempt to sit up. His stitches pull angrily, and he slumps back down. Elizabeth doesn't seem to notice. John swallows and tries to protest, but she shakes her head. "I'm not in the mood, John," she says. "I'm incredibly angry. And I'm angry with myself for being angry and I'm having a difficult time deciding if I want to slap you or kiss you, neither of which would be a good-"

"Elizabeth." He smiles gently. "I'm okay."

She huffs, and deflates slightly. "Yeah."

"Everyone's okay."

"I know."

He hesitates, then throws her a cheeky look. "I could get on board with the kissing."

"John," she chastises, but she's almost smiling.

"Just saying'."

She hesitates, then sits tentatively on the edge of the bed near his knees. She's quiet, too quiet, and before he can think he reaches for her hand. To his surprise, she meets him half-way and grips his fingers tightly, desperately. She tries to make small talk, asking him how he feels without putting him on the spot, light gossip about Rodney's latest adventure in the commissary, and so on. John hangs on her words and hangs onto her hand until she trails off, finally admitting what's written so blatantly in the lines on her face.

"It doesn't get easier," she says quietly.

He nods soberly. "I know. It's not supposed to."

"I know. I just…" She shakes her head. "I'm glad you're okay," she murmurs, and finally pulls away. "I'll let you get some sleep."

"Elizabeth." She stops near the door and turns. "Thanks."

He wishes he could have asked her to stay.


--

Four hours

"Where are we?" Caldwell asks quietly, standing to the side while Teyla greets the IOA members and ushers them towards the mess.

"Dr. McKay and Dr. Zelenka are trying to speed up the timetable on the device. They've got it powered, finally, but it's a drain on the ZPM."

"You shut off other systems?"

John nods. "Life support, lights and automatic power functions in the sub-sections of the city. Teyla told the IOA Elizabeth's off-world with Major Lorne's team, so that'll buy us a few hours."

"Good thinking, Colonel. Anything I can do?"

John smirks wryly. "Got anything I can blow up?"

To his surprise, Caldwell smirks in understanding.

--

John is released a few days later with a bottle of pain killers and strict orders not to do anything taxing. Carson eyes him warily and threatens him with bed rest if he doesn't comply, but for once he's just too exhausted and strung out to even bother defying his advice.

He collapses on the bed fully dressed, groaning. His chest is still bruised and his ribs still sore. He knows he should shower, change, and change the bandage but he's asleep before the thought fully registers.

The nightmares keep him fitful. He wouldn't change what he did, not for anything, but the faces haunt him, looming over him. He can hear her voice in the background, close to begging. There's a gun, a cocked trigger, the sound echoes and he closes his eyes and the shot goes off and--

"Hey, hey it's alright." Soft hand. Gentle tone. "You're alright."

John inhales sharply and his bones protest. "'Lizabeth?" he rasps, confused and disoriented. He blinks up at her. She smiles.

"Hey."

"What-what're you doing here?" he murmurs, struggling into a sitting position.

"I think that's my line," she teases gently. John frowns, and as his eyes adjust, he looks around the room.

Her room.

"Oh." His ears turn pink and he tries to sit up faster. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean-"

"You're fine, John. Don't worry about it."

"Sorry. I'll just-" He tries to stand and his legs buckle. Elizabeth grabs him around the waist and he hisses loudly, stumbling back onto the bed.

"Whoa. Hey! Careful. You alright?" she asks, pulling away, an apology in her eyes.

"Yeah. Carson's meds pack a helluva wallop."

Elizabeth looks at him disapprovingly. "I'm sure they would have, if you'd accepted any." John starts, but Elizabeth just raises an eyebrow. "I have my spies."

"Yeah."

There's a pause, then Elizabeth rises from the bed and bumps his shoulder gently. "Take your shoes off and go back to sleep."

"What?"

She smiles patiently. "Go back to sleep, John."

He tries again to get up, but pain spikes through his chest and he collapses. "But it's your-"

"John," she reprimands, putting a hand firmly on his shoulder. "Here, I got it," she murmurs, and before he can ask what she crouches down in front of him and starts removing his shoes. He tries to protest but she ignores him, dumping his shoes and socks to the side of waving a hand in front of her face. "Whew. Smelly," she teases, and John affects a glare.

"Ha."

"Here," she murmurs, helping him shift back onto the bed and covering him with a spare blanket. "Get some rest."

"Do you have to go?" he asks suddenly, then looks away, embarrassed.

"It's the middle of the afternoon," she says gently. "I have work."

"Oh."

He nods, and turns his face into the pillow. It smells like her. There's a long silence, and he thinks she's gone when suddenly the bed shifts. He opens his eyes and finds her sitting next to him, back against the wall and a stack of files on her lap.

"'Lizabeth?"

"Go to sleep," she says.

He nods, not entirely understanding, but grateful for her presence. He falls asleep to the sound of her soft typing and soothing murmurs.

*

When he wakes up again the room is dark, save for a small light on Elizabeth's side of the bed. She's still awake, reading something on a data-pad, her face expressionless.

"You're still up?" he asks groggily. She starts and looks over, and even in his sleep-induced haze he doesn't miss the pained expression that crosses her face.

"Reports don't read themselves," she offers casually. He isn't buying it.

"Elizabeth?"

It should be uncomfortable. He's here, in her room, in her bed and they've never been this close, his head near her thigh and his hand almost on her knee. She catches his gaze for a moment, then looks away.

"Nothing. Sorry."

John nods in understanding. "Rodney's report."

Elizabeth inhales sharply. "Yeah. He was un-customarily succinct."

"Yeah."

"John-" she starts.

He shakes his head. "Not your fault."

"I know, but-"

"Good," he interrupts. "You need to sleep."

"Later."

"Now."

"John-"

"I just want to sleep, Lizabeth," he says, and it means more than the words, more than the syllables. There must be something in his expression, because she nods slowly and puts the report on the nightstand, sliding down to rest her head against the pillow. John smiles and throws some of the blanket in her direction. She chuckles and curls up, facing him, so close and yet not touching.

"I'm okay, Elizabeth."

"I know," she murmurs, but her voice cracks, and she fumbles under the blanket for his hand.


--

Five hours, fifteen minutes

"Oh, no."

"What?"

"Oh, no this is not good!" Rodney mutters, frantically typing on the data-pad.

"McKay," John warns.

Rodney turns to him, eyes wide and face pale. "Not all realities operate at the same speed or space in time, some move faster, some move slower it's a law of physics we haven't figured out yet, but it has to do with keeping them from being interchangeable; keeps the total energy signatures separate from realities they might be close to."

"Your point?"

"According to these readings, this is one of those realities. The one Elizabeth is trapped in. It's moving faster."

"How much faster?"

"A lot faster."

"McKay-"

"If these calculations are right, then the time ratio between our universe and theirs is…oh my god." Rodney looks at his watch and panics. "It's already been five hours."

"And?"

"And, so for every hour that passes here, three years pass for Elizabeth."

"Are you sure?"

"Positive."

Teyla frowns, looking from John to Rodney and back again. "But that would mean that Elizabeth…"

"Is already sixty years old."

"Rodney."

"What."

"Work faster."

--

"John, what are you-"

She doesn't get to finish when he grabs her face between his palms and kisses her. She starts, hands pushing at his chest until he stops, but doesn't let go.

Slightly breathless: "John."

"I don't care," he says fiercely.

"John-"

His voice cracks. "I don't care, Elizabeth!"

"We can't-"

"Why not," he demands, hands falling away from her skin as he paces. "Give me one answer that isn't an acronym."

Elizabeth narrows her eyes. "Don't be a smartass."

"I'm not. Give me something."

"John-"

He leans in suddenly and kisses her again, light and desperate and searching.

"Stop it," she begs, but it's so soft and so unconvincing that he shakes his head.

"No. You need this just as much as I do." He holds her elbow, his touch gentle but firm and his other hand cups her jaw. "We almost lost you," he murmurs. "I almost-" He chokes. Light and glass and fire. The city rising and her chest falling and everything narrowed to the blood on her face and the flatline on the monitor. "I can't. Please." He begs. "Please."

"We have to keep this place together," she says, but she has one hand on his arm and the other covering his hand and she's leaning into him; for the first time, leaning on him, all her weight in his hands.

"We have to keep ourselves together first." She meets his gaze, eyes wide, and he can't stop. "I fall apart, Elizabeth. I fall apart when you-"

"Shh." A finger to his lips. Her forehead to his. "I know," she murmurs. They're both shaking. "I know."

"I fall apart."

Her eyes close against his touch. "Me too."


--

Five hours, thirty minutes

"--brought her down here in the first place!"

"I know!" Rodney shouts back. "You think I'm not acutely aware of how much this is my fault?"

"You're damn right it's your fault! I told you to make sure it was safe!"

"I know."

"Radek warned you, I warned you-"

"I know."

"Blowing up half a solar system wasn't enough-"

"I said I know!"

"No, you don't know! You have no idea what you've--damn it!" John breaks off suddenly, and without warning slams his fist into the wall. Rodney jumps, Zelenka freezes and the room goes deadly quiet. Everyone is staring at him, but it doesn't matter. Nothing matters.

Rodney swallows thickly, then turns away in disgust and guilt. "Get him out of here."

--

He wakes to find her staring, looking down at him with a soft, wistful expression on her face.

"Hey," he murmurs groggily.

She smiles. "Hey."

"What're you thinking about?"

"Isn't that my line?" she asks, propping her chin on her hands.

"I like to shake it up a bit. Keep you on your toes."

Elizabeth grins wickedly. "Hmm, yes you do."

"Dirty mind."

"You love it."

"Obviously," he returns, running his fingers absently through her hair. She arches an eyebrow at the gesture but it dissolves into a smile as he pulls her closer, brushing his lips against hers.

"I like that thought," she murmurs, curling one leg over his. John's lets one hand settle at the base of her spine, and tucks a strand of hair gently behind her ear.

"Me too."


--

Six hours, six minutes

He can't breathe. He knows he needs to sit, needs to slow down, needs to calm down, needs to breathe, but Rodney's voice is echoing and John's hands are shaking and it's Teyla who follows him, who grabs him and ushers him into her quarters before he breaks.

"John," she says firmly, holding his gaze. "You need to calm down."

"She's aged fifteen years, Teyla. Fifteen years."

Teyla nods somberly. "I know. We will get her back, John."

He tears away from her. "That's not-" He shakes his head. "What if it doesn't matter? What if we're too-- We don't know-"

"You cannot think that way, John," Teyla says calmly.

"How the hell else am I supposed to think?" he shouts. Teyla doesn't flinch. "We don't even know where she is! Rodney could have beamed her to a hive ship for all we-"

"John!"

He freezes, staring at her harshly.

"Thinking this way helps no one," she says firmly. "Especially Elizabeth."

"And what? Talking about my feelings will make it go faster?"

Teyla shakes her head and ignores his snide tone. "Of course not. But it may help you clear your head, so that you can focus-"

"On something besides Elizabeth?" he snaps.

Teyla lowers her head demurely. "I know it is difficult for you, John, but there are other matters in the city that need attending to. Matters that Elizabeth would not want you to ignore."

"None of them are as important as-"

"I agree. I am not against you, John," she says gently. "Finding Elizabeth is everyone's top priority, and we are all doing the best we can." Approaching, she lays a hand gently on his arm. "This is not something you can fight, John, not physically. Rodney is doing everything in his power to fix this. You must give him time."

"We don't have time, Teyla," he says desperately. "We don't-" he breaks off and looks away. "I need to do something."

"I know. And the moment will come for you to act, but for now you must be patient, John. And be kinder to Rodney."

John sighs heavily and nods. Teyla smiles softly and squeezes his arm before letting go.

"I will leave you to gather your thoughts," she murmurs, "Stay as long as you need."

"Teyla."

She stops near the door and turns. John stares out the window, his back to her, muscles tight and drawn.

"Yes?"

The silence anchors. Teyla waits and John stares and the sun fades in and out and then his voice, so small she barely recognizes it: "Elizabeth's pregnant."


continued
 
 
 
Andy: yellow_heartankareeda on January 2nd, 2012 10:59 pm (UTC)
OMG! OMG! OMG! I WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNA READ THE REST OF PART 2 NOW, BUT I HAVE TO GO TO BED! OH NO! THIS IS ABSOLUTELY EPIC AND WONDERFUL AND OMG I CAN'T TELL YOU HOW MUCH I LOVE IT! IT'S PURE MAGIC! AND I WANNA HUG JOHN AND ELIZABETH ALL THE TIME! I CAN'T EVEN... WOW! SORRY FOR SHOUTING AT YOU, BUT THIS IS SO AMAZING! THANK YOU! I'LL READ PART 2 OF PART TWO TOMORROW! ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Edited at 2012-01-02 10:59 pm (UTC)
☮ + ♡ + ☺hihoplastic on January 4th, 2012 02:40 am (UTC)
HEEE Thank you so much bb!! I'm so happy you've enjoyed it! :D *flails* *squishes you* Thank you so much for reading and commenting! <3333 YOU CAN ALWAYS SHOUT AT ME, LOLOL