Don't Ask
Rating: PG
Genres: Angst, Episode Related, Established Relationship, Hurt Comfort Warnings: None
Category: Slash, PairingsMcKay/Sheppard Characters:
Carson Beckett, Elizabeth Weir, John Sheppard,Rodney McKay


Summary: She had found the true and final answer to the many debates she had had with Teyla sitting in Carson's office, with a glass of neat whisky in her hand and a trembling Rodney at her side. Companion fic for Common Ground.





Author's Note: Some of the dialogue is copied or adapted from the episode Common Ground.

***

Teyla and Elizabeth had often discussed the relationship between Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard and Doctor Rodney McKay over a glass of wine and a late supper after Elizabeth had taken part in one of Teyla's meditation and relaxation sessions.

While neither of them could actually put their finger on any one specific thing, both agreed that the two men were closer than most people realised.

Elizabeth had always argued that John just cared far too much for everyone he was responsible for, but Teyla felt that there was something else. John was protective of everyone, yes, but he was more protective of Rodney. As Teyla had pointed out, on every mission one of them had instructions never to leave the scientist's side. Elizabeth put it down to the fact that Rodney was not a soldier and he needed protecting, which had caused Teyla to erupt into a fit of the giggles, almost spilling her drink as she thought of the numerous occasions Rodney had almost needed protecting from Ronon, because his incessant chatter and lack of stealth drove the big man to distraction.

Whatever the depth of the friendship, both women had agreed that John and Rodney seemed to need each other.

***

Elizabeth had listened, her stomach tightening as McKay's IDC was recognized, and she heard the frantic words of her head scientist:

"This is McKay—Atlantis, we're coming in hot,"

Rodney had come through the gate first, followed by Teyla and Ronon. John wasn't with them. Someone had stolen John from them, barely twenty feet from the gate.

Elizabeth had immediately sent a team of Marines back through the gate to look for John, but there was no trace of the colonel or his attackers. Rodney had looked slightly flushed and very agitated as he clutched the data pad in his hand.

"There's a good chance he's been transported off-world," he said, "so I've gathered the last fifty or so gate addresses that were dialed."

She knew that her decision to involve the Genii leader Ladon was not going to be a popular one, but to her it was their only starting point.

As soon as the man stepped through the gate, it was obvious Rodney could hardly suppress his anger, blaming Ladon for the fact that it was the codes which the new Genii leader had been given which were used to lure John's team to the planet where John had been kidnapped. Elizabeth had closed the scientist down quickly, using her best diplomatic tone, and reminded John's team that Landon was their guest.

It was a shock when Kolya's transmission came through the gate. The man had tried to kill her and Rodney and take Atlantis, and had tried to kill John more than once, and she knew John Sheppard was in trouble if this was the man who was holding him.

Kolya had been his usual charming self, and then he'd stepped away from the front of the camera to reveal John, who was strapped to a chair and gagged.

Elizabeth swallowed hard and made to speak, but before she could form her first words Rodney's voice broke the silence.

"What have you done to him?" Rodney's voice was tight and strained.

Kolya had merely smirked and said that he had done nothing to the colonel.

"Then let me rephrase that," Rodney shot back immediately. "What are you planning to do?"

Elizabeth had had to force her own words out of her mouth. "We want to speak with Sheppard." And Kolya had smiled and told her to go ahead.

Rodney had stepped in again, noting that Kolya had John gagged and had no intention of letting him speak.

Elizabeth had used Rodney's tactic. "We'll rephrase that to. We would like him to be able to speak to us."

She felt sick as John shouted out "On my command authority--whatever he asks, don't do it!" And then the gag was replaced.

Kolya smirked and informed Elizabeth that what he wanted was Ladon. And then to everyone's shock, a chained, starving Wraith was led towards John. It was clear what Kolya's intentions were, and again it was Rodney who took the lead.

"Sheppard could have left you to rot down in that hole, Kolya! He doesn't deserve this!"

And then Elizabeth was shouting at Kolya. "Don't do this! Stop! Stop!"

But Kolya didn't stop. And the Wraith placed his hand on Sheppard's chest and started to drain his life.

Rodney's voice filled the control room, screaming.

"John! No! No! Jesus! Kolya, please, please stop this! John, oh my God, John! Stop!"

And then there was quiet, and Kolya said calmly, "You have three hours," and the transmission ended.

Elizabeth and the rest of those that had witnessed the torture turned to see a shaking, ashen Rodney McKay, eyes wide and wet, his fists clenched at his sides.

"Rodney?" there was no answer. Rodney was still staring at the blank screen as silent tears slipped down his cheeks.

"Rodney?" Elizabeth said again. She moved to his side and took his hand. "I think we had better get you to the infirmary, all right? I think you're having one of your attacks." She turned towards Teyla. "Would you take Mr. Ladon to my office? I won't be long. The rest of you,"—she turned to the military and science personnel present—"I want you working on ways to trace that transmission."

Then she sat in Carson Beckett's office while he fussed over her chief scientist, until eventually he was finished and he led Rodney in and sat him down beside her.

Carson opened a drawer in his desk and pulled out a bottle of whisky. "I think you could both be doing with a drink," he said softly.

"I'm sorry," Rodney said quietly, more to himself than anyone else. "I'm sorry, John. God, I'm so sorry." And then he turned to Elizabeth, finally truly focusing on her. "We have to find him."

And the pain in his blue eyes told Elizabeth everything she had ever wanted to know about the relationship between her head of the Atlantis military contingent and her CSO.

***

The next hours were a blur, and then Rodney came rushing towards her, looking excited and maybe even hopeful.

"Doctor Weir, we got a match!"

Elizabeth had said only one word: "Go."

Now a man she had never met took command of John's team and his Marines.

"All right, people—we do this one by the numbers. We get in, we get our man, we get out. Stay sharp and stay alive." Only, Elizabeth thought, she should know this man, because it was her friend Rodney McKay.

"Just bring him back," was all she could find to say to him, feeling that if he didn't, she would lose them both.

The mission was a disaster. John wasn't there and Elizabeth had stood with Ladon and witnessed another feeding, watching as sleek, untamed black hair became streaked with grey and hazel eyes seemed to lose their lustre and sink into tired skin.

Now she was standing here yet again in front of the screen, telling this man who she hated with every cell of her body that she would not trade John Sheppard's life for that of Ladon's. No matter how much part of her wanted to.

"Then you're effectively ending his life," Kolya said, as though he had only expected what the answer would be.

"I'm not going to go there," she heard herself saying, and then Kolya was turning to the Wraith as his men again released its hand from the steel cast.

"Take your fill," Kolya said.

Ronon roared his anger like a wounded lion.

Elizabeth looked at Rodney, unable to stop herself and yet terrified at what she would see.

Rodney's eyes were fixed on John Sheppard. His features were blank, his chest hardly moving to take breath, though his fists were clenching and unclenching almost spasmodically at his sides. Carson Beckett was next to him, his hand on his friend's shoulder, trying to share Rodney's pain.

But Elizabeth didn't think anyone could share Rodney's pain. Except John himself.

They waited for John to die, but the wraith, amazingly, stopped.

"He is near death," it said quietly when it lifted its hand away from John's bleeding chest.

The look of rage on Kolya's face told them that their other prisoner had spoiled John's execution, but he just turned to the camera and said coldly, "Now you have two hours."

When Ladon had finally contacted them with the information on where to find John, Elizabeth really didn't know if she should let Rodney go. He was so close to the edge that part of her was certain finding John, even if John was even alive, would break Rodney completely. But she couldn't deny him this—what was most likely his last chance to say goodbye to this man who obviously meant far more to him than she had ever thought. She had found the true and final answer to the many debates she had had with Teyla sitting in Carson's office, with a glass of neat whisky in her hand and a trembling Rodney at her side.

If John was still alive, she owed both men this last time together; Carson said it was likely just hours. Elizabeth would deal with whatever fallout there might be when Rodney broke down afterward.

And in truth, even if she tried to deny Rodney a place on the rescue mission, Elizabeth didn't think she would be able to stop him.

***

When Telya, Ronon, Carson and a squad of Marines vacated the jumper, Elizabeth took a cautious step up the ramp. She knew what the Wraith had done, knew he had reversed all the damage to John, but she had made a decision which should have cost John Sheppard his life. She didn't ever want to make a decision like that again, and she hoped that both Rodney and John could forgive her.

The first voice she heard was Rodney's, which was so natural it almost made her smile.

"God, you really do look younger than you did before," Rodney was saying. Then, his voice so low Elizabeth almost couldn't hear it, "Don't ever do that to me again, John. Promise me, please. Please, John."

Elizabeth stood quietly to the side, watching as John pulled Rodney into his arms.

"You know I can't do that, Rodney," he said with astonishing gentleness. "Neither of us can."

He dipped his head, placing a soft kiss on Rodney's lips, and Elizabeth tried not to gasp and shuffled uncomfortably on the ramp.

Both men looked up to see her.

"I'm sorry," she said quietly, meaning that she was sorry she had inadvertently witnessed this private moment, but also meaning so much else.

"Don't be," John said, while pulling away from Rodney, looking unashamed. "You did the right thing."

Elizabeth knew she'd done what she'd had to; she would never be sure it was right. She looked at Rodney, more afraid of his reaction than she had been for John's. "Will you forgive me, Rodney?"

Rodney looked from John to her and back again. "She knows," he said quietly, though Elizabeth couldn't imagine how John didn't know that by now, with what she'd just witnessed—what he'd let her witness. "I broke down. I'm sorry, I didn't meant to—I just yelled out when the Wraith started feeding." His voice dropped even further. "I couldn't help it. It was like—" He shook his head mutely and turned away.

John lifted his hand and brushed Rodney's cheek with his thumb. "It's okay, Rodney," he said, then looked towards Elizabeth. "It is okay, isn't it, Elizabeth? Don't ask, don't tell, and all that, right?"

Elizabeth took a deep breath and finally allowed herself to move up the ramp to where John and Rodney were standing. "It is okay," she said. Then she smiled. Welcome home, John."