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String Theory

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This isn’t a love story.

*

They meet while he’s looking recalcitrant and she’s annoyed. Honestly, that should have told her something.

First impressions and all that.

*

Weeks later, she picks him out of the crowd of doctors and soldiers while she gives her little pep talk. Her knees are shaking (not that anyone can tell), and she kind of wants to go throw up before the gate connects and sends them off into the unknown, but there are appearances and hey, she’s giving a speech about hope and venturing forth.

It kind of undermines the whole thing when the speaker has to run out of the room to vomit.

She’s doing her best to look positive and optimistic (it’s a skill) when she catches his eye. He’s smirking at her and she just knows he’s thinking, Bullshit.

She lets the corners of her mouth raise a little bit and allows herself a smug look. Damn straight, bucko, she thinks, and weirdly, feels better.

*

Her first thirty hours in Atlantis are, at turns, a blur and shocking moments of stark clarity.

The blurs are filled with panic and screaming and the heady rush of adrenaline pumping through her veins.

The others...

Turning, staring at the alien room.

The exact detailing on the ancient guide’s clothing.

The look on Rodney’s face when he’s demanding they shut down the power.

Watching that first team disappear through the gate.

The way sun hit the stained glass for the first time in thousands of years.

There are so many moments from that scary, hard, thrilling first day and a half. So many life changing instances and horizon-broadening snap-decisions.

But while she’s got her hand wrapped around John Sheppard’s radio and is bodily dragging him away from a rather large group of refugees, she doesn’t notice the moments or the blurs. When she swings around to start yelling, mostly she just wants to kick him.

Later, when he’s confessing to a penchant for troublemaking over two mugs of champagne, she realizes that during most of those blurs and crystal clear moments, he was standing right there.

It’s strangely reassuring.

*

He almost dies immediately after. Before he does, he wants to tell her something. In other circumstances (if they hadn’t known each other for just three days), there would have been talk. Instead there is just speculation.

What was he going to say when Dr. Weir cut him off?

She hears it while passing one of the areas designated as lab space.

Elizabeth laughs at that, silently. She knows what he was going to say.

What he told her in the infirmary wasn’t a lie. It wasn’t the whole truth, but it wasn’t a lie.

*

“Are you okay?” Lightning flashes behind him, illuminating hard features.

“No,” she says, and takes his hand when they run.

She can feel the gun calluses along the ridge of his hand, and even though she knows she’s starting to cry, it’s enough to make her focus. There are more important things to do right now.

*

Rodney leaves her office, bounce back in his step now that death is no longer an immediate option.

She is biting her metaphorical (and literal) lip and staring at her head military officer. There is a part of her, female and angry, that is hurt by his behavior. It’s in the back of her mind crying and stomping its foot because dammit, he should trust her.

The rest of her, the diplomat part of her is also pissed off.

“I was right,” he says, still not looking at her. His tone is belligerent and yet quiet. Sure of itself, that the ends justify the means.

“No, John.” She looks down, worries a cuticle before looking up at him, dead straight and proud. “You were lucky. I was right. And if you’d listened to me-“

“We’d still be stuck!” He jerks his arm back, his whole body a perfect example of body language reading: Frustration. “We wouldn’t be sitting here!”

“Maybe not,” she says, face never wavering. “But we’d have been safe. There’s too much out there wanting to kill us. There’s a lot here, in this city that wants to kill us. The rules and protocols are there for a reason, John. They’re something we can control.”

She turns away then, stares out over the control room and the gate room below. His boots slap hard against the floor as he walks away.

*

Elizabeth dies on her birthday.

Scratch that. An Elizabeth dies on her birthday. 10,000 years she spent, sleeping, all to save a few lives.

John finds her on the balcony, after everything is done.

“Are you okay?” He leans next to her, and she takes a moment to bask in the slight body heat. 10,000 years, she thinks, and wraps her arms around herself just a little tighter.

“I don’t know.” The wind kicks up for a second, blowing her growing hair into her eyes. When she blinks it away, his hand is warm and strong on her back.

“I’m sorry,” he says, and she knows that he is.

*

A few hours in to the bombardment, Elizabeth’s adrenaline rush leaves her shaking and exhausted against the wall of her office. It’s not an image she wants her people to remember (image is important all these months later, maybe moreso) so she drags herself out onto her balcony and watches the bombs hit their shield.

She counts them until she loses track, and then she goes back inside.

John is waiting for her, ass firmly planted in ‘his spot’ on her desk.

“You’re going to wear a groove, you know,” she smiles at him half-heartedly. He does the same and shrugs.

“It’s a way to leave my mark.”

She laughs for the first time in too long, and takes it as a victory when he smiles (for real) back.

*

“Go,” she says, watching him nod and run away.

The floor is missing, she thinks, breathing slowly through her nose and trying not to wrap her head around the fact that she just sent another man, sent John to die.

Her fingers are tingling and her lips numb when she finally turns around and walks back into command.

It’s a very small comfort that they’re all probably going to die anyway.

*

She hugs him in front of God and everyone for a lot of reasons. She’s exhausted. Weeks of little sleep compounded by forty plus hours of no sleep have left her wrecked and lost. She’s relieved. He’s alive and real and he didn’t manage to sacrifice himself for the sake of the city. He’s home, if a little battered.

Mostly she just wants to hug him. To know that he’s real and there and breathing.

She wraps her arms around him, letting herself cling and breathe him in. It takes a few seconds and then he’s wrapped around her too.

It comes as a surprise that she doesn’t want to let him go.

*

This isn’t a love story.

Except for the part where it kind of could be.

-fin-