Elizabeth wanders into the control room to find Chuck on the comm with John’s team.
Chuck absently waves a hand at her as she walks in, but he’s absorbed in listening to the radio. It’s Lorne. “Atlantis, we’re coming back in. Have a medical team standing by. No injuries, but we’re gonna need a detox unit.” There’s a pause, voices in the background too indistinct to make out, and he adds, “Chuck, is Dr. Weir nearby?”
Elizabeth leans closer to the speaker. “I’m here, Major. Why?”
“Can you just - be there, in the Gate room, to meet us, ma’am? It’s kind of a long story. I’ll explain when we get back.”
Elizabeth blinks, looking around, but she sees only blank stares. Apparently no one knows what Lorne’s talking about. “Uh - yes, of course.”
“Thanks, Doctor. We’ll see you in ten.”
Accordingly, ten minutes later, the Gate opens and Lorne’s IDC comes through. Elizabeth lets out a long breath. Everyone’s upright and walking, which is, itself, a relief.
But John’s a mess.
His face is sickly, almost greyish, and the look in his eyes makes her start. He looks haggard, haunted, like she’s never seen him before. His eyes are red - was he crying?
Three hours ago, he was fine. He waved at her and walked through the Gate. Now he looks like his life is over.
But then his eyes fix on her, and he freezes.
It’s just a split second, three steps toward her, and he wraps her in a crushing hug, burying his face in her hair like his life depends on it.
She stumbles at the force - he’s tall, and heavy enough that she can’t quite hold herself - but hugs him back reflexively. John’s strong, solid, and until he lets go, she’s not going anywhere. It’s not really so much a hug as it is complete and total envelopment, and she can feel every ragged breath he draws in.
“You’re alive,” he mumbles hoarsely into her hair, his voice cracking. “You’re alive, you’re alive -”
“John, I’m - I’m fine -”
She doesn’t know what’s going on, but at least she can do this, assure him that it’s fine and she’s safe and whatever horror he’s picturing is just in his mind, it’s not real, everything is going to be okay.
He pulls back, cradling her face in his hands, and she catches her breath. Despite his frantic response to seeing her, the fear in his eyes, his touch is tender. Cautious. Intimate.
He kisses her soundly on the mouth, as natural as if it’s something they do (except they don’t ) and it’s all too much. His lips are demanding, searching, and as brief as the kiss is, it makes her head spin.
He doesn’t speak, just hangs onto her so tightly she can’t get a breath in. His knees buckle, and he’s heavy enough that he drags her down with him.
At a loss for what else to do, she strokes his hair, feeling his breaths slow, calming against her.
She’s on her knees in the middle of the Gate room, with the entire tech staff watching a distraught John Sheppard holding onto her like she’s the only thing he knows.
She stares at Evan, who mouths at her, I can explain.