Fandom: Stargate Atlantis
Spoilers: Lifeline, general season 4
fanfic100 prompt: #86. Choices. Prompt table
Word count: 3460
Summary: The repercussions of an encounter between John and Elizabeth leave them with a choice to make -- one that will shape the rest of their lives.
Author's notes: Sequel to Life for the Living and finished/posted for multific's 2010 finishathon. The next story in line is also mostly written, so expect more!
Time is a human construct. Breaking the flow of the universe down into seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks -- that's how humans gain a sense of control over something they otherwise can barely grasp.
Living among Replicators, Elizabeth had long since gotten out of the habit of keeping time. She slept when she had to, ate when she needed to; her crew did neither, instead working "around the clock." Time only had meaning in terms of how long it would take to get things done. It was an adjustment that was surprisingly easy to make.
She didn't mark the time that passed after the encounter with John and his team. She tried not to even think about it much. Nostalgia wasn't strictly a human trait, but that didn't make it safe. Dwelling on a personal moment wouldn't win her anything. Better to push it aside and focus on the task at hand.
She realized, at some point in the flow of time after that encounter, that something was... different. Something had changed. Something significant. She counted the days that followed that realization, finding ways to mark the time. A week passed.
She directed her ship to the nearest planet with a stargate.
John hadn't given her Atlantis' new address, and rightly so. He hadn't given her any way to make contact. Before they'd parted, though, he had quietly said, "If you need anything, find a way to get a message to me. I'll do anything I can. We all will."
She hadn't expected to take him up on that. Not now, possibly not ever. But there she was, stepping through the stargate to a world she knew would have contact with Atlantis.
It was strange to walk down the path to the town. Strange to be alone; strange to be on land. She hadn't done much of either since she and her crew had fled Asuria. It should have been a pleasant change. Somehow she had trouble enjoying it.
Luck was on her side: the team from Atlantis was making their weekly visit to the town. She found them in a tavern, eating lunch and chatting with the locals. Conversation dimmed when she entered. It took a moment for the soldiers to notice her -- long enough for her to find their leader with her eyes. When he looked up, she couldn't help but smile. "Major Lorne."
He nearly knocked over his chair standing up. "Dr. Weir!" She couldn't tell if he was happy to see her, but he was definitely surprised. So were the other three; their hands shifted towards their weapons.
She held out her hands, showing she was unarmed. "I'm alone.” To Lorne, she said, "I need to speak with you."
He hesitated before nodding. "Of course."
One of the others, quietly: "Major --"
Lorne touched the man's shoulder, stilling him. "I'll be back." He met Elizabeth's eyes and nodded.
She went back outside, the major following. He let out a long breath once they were alone in the street. "It's good to see you, Ma'am."
"You too, Major."
"I'm sorry for the way the others reacted. They're..."
She shook her head. "Don't be. Their reaction is understandable. I'm sure you all know where I've been for the last several months."
He nodded. "We've read Colonel Sheppard's team's reports. Which means we also know that you saved their lives." He paused, looking at her sidelong. "If you don't mind me asking, though: your ship, your crew...?"
"They're in orbit around an uninhabited world. I came through the stargate alone."
"I needed to find some way of contacting Atlantis."
"And you found me." His smile was warm. He straightened, his gaze serious. "What do you need?"
She paused, thrown by his tone. "That easily?"
He let out a breath that might have been a chuckle, looking away briefly. "It doesn't matter where you are now," he told her quietly. "You were ours for a long time. Without you, we wouldn't even be in Atlantis. No one's forgotten that."
It took her a moment to find her voice. "I need to see Dr. Keller."
It was his turn to pause. "Her specifically?" he asked delicately. "Or..."
"A doctor," she clarified. "But I would prefer Dr. Keller."
He nodded, concern in his eyes. "Are you okay?"
She hesitated. "It's important."
That was apparently enough for him. He nodded again. "I'll put in a call to the city. You know I can't make any promises..."
"I know. Thank you." She gestured to a nearby bench. "I'll wait here."
She took a seat as he moved away, first back into the tavern, then off down the road back towards the stargate. He had, she suspected, told one of his men to keep an eye on her, to make sure she didn't follow him or cause trouble. She had no intention of doing either, but she respected the precaution.
Tipping her head back, she closed her eyes, trying to enjoy the sunlight on her skin. Instead she found herself counting the minutes. They passed slowly.
He eventually returned. "I'm supposed to send you to the Alpha site," he told her without preamble. "Dr. Keller will meet you there."
The walk back to the gate was a quiet one. He glanced at her about halfway there. "You know everyone on Atlantis misses you."
She looked down. "Thank you." Mustering a wry smile, she said, "Though I'm sure it's not everyone."
He chuckled quietly.
It took a few more steps before she remembered her manners. "How have you been?"
"Oh, me? I've been good. Couldn't ask for anything better than what I've got. Every day's an adventure, you know?"
She knew. She remembered.
The rest of the walk was silent. She couldn't bring herself to make small talk. Even so, it was nice to walk with someone she trusted; a friendly, familiar face. There weren't enough of those in her life. The last time she'd seen any had been the encounter with John and his team. Before that... She wasn't sure how long she had been with the Replicators.
When they reached the DHD, she turned away, letting Lorne dial without her watching. There was a flutter of nerves in her stomach at the familiar sound of the gate coming to life. The Alpha site wasn't Atlantis, but it was a step closer than she'd been in a long time.
Lorne keyed his radio. "Alpha site, this is Major Lorne."
The radio crackled. "Go ahead, Major."
"I've got Dr. Weir here, ready to come through to you."
"We're expecting her."
She let out a breath. "Thank you, Major."
He caught her gaze, nodding slowly. "I hope you don't mind me saying this, Ma'am, but -- I hope this isn't the last time we see each other."
A smile touched her lips. "Me, too."
Four men met her on the other side of the gate. Three of them pointed weapons at her; the fourth stood slightly behind them, looking slightly annoyed at the others. Once the gate had shut down and she hadn't made any threatening moves or produced any weapons of her own, the guns pointed at her slowly lowered.
Only then did she let herself look at John, who stepped forward to meet her. She should have expected him to be there. Of course he would be worried about her – and he was, she could read that much in his look. Somehow she hadn't thought about him showing up, though, and it caught her off guard. She took a breath to steel herself and moved to meet him.
"Hey." His low voice sent a shiver through her, which she had to fight to suppress.
She managed to smile back. "John."
He moved closer. "Are you okay?"
That was the question. "I'll know once I've talked to Dr. Keller."
Her response did nothing to assuage the worry in his eyes. He didn't push it, though. Stepping back, he gestured to the temporary buildings behind him. "She's getting set up. I hope you don't mind that I came along as her escort."
Clearly the doctor needed an escort for the short walk from the gate to the Alpha site facilities. Elizabeth shook her head, smiling a little. "It's good to see you."
They fell into step, heading for the facility. He glanced at her as they walked but didn't say anything. She was at a loss, herself. There were so many things to say, but nothing for here and now. Not until she'd talked to the doctor.
Dr. Keller met them at the building's entrance. "Dr. Weir!" Her smile was characteristically bright and friendly. "It's so good to see you."
"You, too." The doctor's warmth made it easy to smile back at her.
"I'll take her from here," the doctor said to John.
He nodded. "I'll be out here," he told Elizabeth. His hand lingered briefly on her back before he stepped away. The touch made her ache.
Dr. Keller led her back into the site's infirmary. It wasn't anywhere near as well appointed as the one in Atlantis, but Elizabeth knew it could serve as a field hospital if necessary. It was more than adequate for her purposes.
They went into a private room. Dr. Keller gestured for Elizabeth to sit on the bed. "So, is this just a checkup, or is something wrong?"
It was the moment of truth. "The latter, unfortunately." She took a deep breath. Dr. Keller's kind doctor face gave her the strength to speak. "I think... I might be pregnant."
The doctor's eyes went wide. "Oh!"
Elizabeth managed a wry smile. "Not what you expected?"
"I didn't know what to expect. But no," she added frankly, "this probably wouldn't have made the list. Ah, your crew, they're all Replicators...?"
"It's not --" Elizabeth shook her head. "It wasn't one of my crew."
"Oh." Dr. Keller let out a breath. "Okay. Human, then? I'm not meaning to pry," she hastened to add. "It's medically relevant."
"Okay, then." She nodded, smiling reassuringly. "In that case, it's easy enough to find out if you're right."
"You have a home pregnancy test in your kit?" Elizabeth asked dryly. Unexpectedly, an old memory flashed through her mind – going to the drug store with her college roommate in the middle of the night, comforting the other girl through a pregnancy scare. Her breath caught in her chest. The memory seemed so far away, so completely foreign that it might have happened to someone else. She was a galaxy and a lifetime away from that night, now.
"Not quite." The doctor smiled, oblivious to her trip down memory lane. "But I do have what I need for a blood test."
She drew the necessary blood and passed it off to one of the nurses stationed at the Alpha site. While the nurse tested the blood, Dr. Keller took the opportunity to do a full physical exam. Elizabeth was just as glad to let her. The last time she'd been in a doctor's care had been... quite a while ago, she suspected, and she had nearly died then. Would have, if not for the nanites.
She wondered, sometimes, if it would have been better if she had.
The doctor pronounced her healthy, though she prescribed vitamins to make sure Elizabeth was getting enough. "I know your crew doesn't have to worry about food, but you need to make sure what you get for yourself meets your nutritional needs," she chided. "That's especially important if – well, we'll talk about that when we find out." She glanced at the clock. "I'll go see if the results are back yet. Stay here, okay?" And then she left Elizabeth alone with her thoughts.
When the doctor came back, file in hand, Elizabeth couldn't gage her reaction. Her calm, reassuring expression hadn't changed. She set up a couple of chairs facing each other, rather than making Elizabeth sit on the exam table. "I kinda wish I had a desk," she commented ruefully. "I think we'd both be more comfortable. But this will do. Please, have a seat."
Elizabeth did as she was told. Butterflies danced in her stomach. "So?"
"So." The doctor sat across from her. "The nurse triple-checked the results," she told her quietly. "You are pregnant."
Elizabeth looked away. Pregnant. Her mind went numb, blank except for that one word. After a long moment, she remembered how to breathe. "I had suspected," she managed eventually, "but knowing is..."
Dr. Keller nodded sympathetically. "Ordinarily I would offer congratulations, but these aren't what I would call ordinary circumstances."
"No." Elizabeth looked down at her hands. "No, they're not."
The doctor hesitated. "Have you thought about your options?"
"To be honest, I've been trying not to."
"Well, now you need to." Her tone wasn't unkind, though her expression was serious. "You have a lot of serious risk factors that we can't ignore. The nanites in your bloodstream? No one's ever looked at what they would do to a fetus. They might see it as a foreign body and force a miscarriage. If they don't... The baby gets its blood from you, which means he or she will likely have the nanites, too. There's no telling what they'd do to his or her development."
Elizabeth had to look away again, suppressing a shudder. The nanites were generally beneficial to her, but the thought of them being inside a child – of that child potentially having the same connection to the Replicators that she had – made her stomach churn.
Dr. Keller gave her a moment, then quietly went on. "Even setting that aside, your life isn't exactly well-suited to carrying or raising a child."
"No, it isn't," she agreed softly.
"You don't have reliable access to a medical facility. You had to jump through hoops to get to me. If you have a medical emergency, I'm guessing you don't have any resources at your disposal."
"And then there's the fact that you're surrounded by Replicators. Beings that could turn on you if you lose control over them."
Elizabeth nodded, talking past the lump in her throat. "They would probably see the pregnancy as a signal of weakness. It's too human."
Dr. Keller's look held sympathy and unease. "I don't know how you've managed to stay with them for so long," she admitted. "And maybe that's something that can be changed. You being with them, I mean."
It was a question Elizabeth had asked herself repeatedly. She didn't have an answer.
The doctor lifted a shoulder in a slight shrug. "It would alleviate some of the concerns, but frankly... the medical issues, the nanites, that's a lot more significant."
Elizabeth nodded again. "You think I should... end the pregnancy."
Dr. Keller took a moment to compose her thoughts before answering. "Medically," she said carefully, "yes. There are so many unknowns, and the risks are pretty severe. On the other hand, you could carry to term and deliver a healthy baby. We just don't know. And that level of uncertainty scares me."
"It scares me, too," Elizabeth admitted honestly.
"It's your decision," Dr. Keller told her quietly. "Whatever you decide, I will do anything I can to help you. Okay?"
Elizabeth swallowed. "Thank you. I, um..." She stood. "I need to get some air."
She felt the doctor's eyes on her as she escaped the room. It didn't feel like much of an escape, not with what felt like everyone's eyes on her as she found her way back outside. Even there, there were several armed guards loitering about, all eying her warily.
And there was John.
He started towards her immediately, his eyes full of concern. "So?"
She couldn't imagine what he saw in her expression. "Let's take a walk."
He studied her. "Okay."
They headed away from the buildings, following a rough path through the grass. John waved off the guard who started to walk after them. Only when they were well and truly alone did the skin between Elizabeth's shoulders stop crawling. She let out a breath. For just a moment, she lifted her face to the sunlight, feeling and thinking about nothing but its warmth and feel of the breeze in her hair.
John said her name softly, bringing back to herself. She turned to face him. For a moment, looking at him, she was at a loss. How could she tell him what barely made sense to her? She forced her mouth to for the words that felt so foreign to her.
It was hard to watch the emotions that passed across his face, from confusion to shock to understanding – not just of what she said but of what it meant. Visibly shaken, all he could say was, "Wow." After a long moment, he managed, "That's not --" He cut himself off with a shake of his head. Stepping forward, he reached out and hesitantly touched her arm. "Are you okay?"
"I don't know," she admitted softly.
He ran his hand up her arm, squeezing gently. "I'm sorry. I should have – I just didn't think --"
"Neither did I." She gave a small shrug. "We were both caught up in the moment."
"Yeah." He let out a breath. "A kid." Wonder crept into his eyes. "Our kid."
Her chest ached. "It's not that simple."
"Well, no, but..."
"Dr. Keller --" She took a breath past the lump in her throat. "She said that medically and logically, I should... terminate the pregnancy."
John's fingertips tightened on her arm. "Medically...?"
"The nanites. She doesn't know what they'll do."
"Right." He looked ill.
"Plus, I live with Replicators. They're dangerous, John, you know that."
"I don't even have reliable access to a doctor."
He touched her face with a shaking hand, brushing back her hair. "You sound like you're trying to convince yourself," he told her gently. "What do you want to do?"
She swallowed. Tears pricked at her eyes, but she refused to heed them. "I don't know." Looking up at him, she asked softly, "What do you want? It's your child, too."
His palm rested against her cheek. "I want it."
His quiet conviction stole her breath away. "You're that sure?"
He nodded. "It's my kid." His gaze was warm and serious. "Our kid. I want him – or her – and I want you."
She had to swallow hard against the threatening tears. "Because I'm carrying --"
"Because I care about you," he corrected her. His fingers stroked her face. "I thought I made that clear last time."
She believed him. Her chest ached. "You know they won't let me come back to Atlantis."
"We don't know that. Maybe I can convince Col. Carter and the IOA. Maybe Rodney and Dr. Keller can find a way to deactivate your nanites again. We don't know unless we try, right?"
Hope was a treacherous thing. It broke down her defenses, letting the tears find their way through. She felt the first of them slip down her cheek and then she was in John's arms. He held her close while she shook, fear and despair and longing wracking her with silent sobs.
She still clung to him after the tears subsided. The emotional storm left her worn and weary. She was able to think again, though. Not clearly and maybe not logically, but... she was human. She raised her head slowly, resting her chin on John's shoulder. "I don't want to lose this baby," she whispered. "I've sacrificed so much already."
His arms tightened. "We'll find a way to make it work."
She wanted to cry out How? but it would have been unfair; he didn't know any better than she did. She pulled back a little, shaking her head. "I can't just walk away from my crew."
"You don't owe them anything."
She hesitated. "Some of them, I do. They helped me escape, willingly. But the others – no," she corrected herself, "all of them – none of them can be trusted on their own. They're my responsibility. I can't walk away and leave them to wreak havoc whatever havoc they want on the galaxy. Not even if staying puts me and our – our child – at risk."
His eyes were dark, but he nodded. “We'll figure something out. I don't know what, yet, but – we will.”
She leaned into him again, closing her eyes. His words and the strength of his arms felt like a promise. She echoed it in the quiet of her own mind – a promise to herself, to John, and to the new life they'd started together.
Somehow, they would make this work.