Elizabeth sat in the Gateroom, monitoring the status of the various Gate teams as they went out to as many planets as they could. She still felt faint, as if floating away on a breeze, but she managed to keep her awareness in the here and now. She felt a hand brush against her elbow and when she looked up, she saw Peter's smile. She smiled back, and he turned towards the City's computers. They had fallen into an easy rapport in the past twenty-four hours, as if he had never been gone at all.
Carson and Emmagan made sure they got rest in between shifts; there was no shortage of volunteers to take their places. Elizabeth spent the time talking with Peter, sharing meals in the Commissary, walking down Atlantis's halls. It was almost like a dream, waking up in his arms and feeling his skin against hers. For this brief time, he had returned to her, and she had returned to him.
Would she remember any of this, when he and his team went back to their universe? Or would she forget? She decided not to worry about it too much and just treasure these stolen moments.
"Doctor Weir? Radio call from Doctor Zelenka."
"I'll take it, Chuck." She tapped her headset. "Go ahead, Radek."
"Jeannie and I have finished with the DHD on PXS-653. We're resetting it for PVK-921."
"Good work, Radek. Once you're done with PVK-921, come back for a break."
"Acknowledged. Zelenka, out."
She sighed and tapped her headset again. "Yes, Major Lorne?"
"Doctor Branson's done with PRY-812. Heading over to PJR-755," came Evan's voice.
"Acknowledged, Major. Good luck with the next one. Weir, out." She touched her computer and another glowing dot appeared on the main Atlantis screen."All right, we've reached most of the ones here, in this sector, and here…"
Peter shook his head. "If we can get at least half a dozen more, we should—" Suddenly, the lights winked out, then came back on again. "What the bloody hell—?"
"Sheppard to Weir."
Elizabeth tapped her headset. "Go ahead."
"Elizabeth, I'm going to have to get someone else in the Chair right now. Meredith's exhausted, and I don't want to push him too far.We still have some adjustments to do and I don't have the Touch of the Ancestors, the Gene, as you call it."
She glanced at Peter. "Carson? Or Teyla?"
Sheppard's tone was harried. "Who's stronger?"
Elizaabeth sighed. "Carson it is. All right, I'll send him down there to you."
"Thanks, Elizabeth. Sheppard, out."
"He's going to hate this, but…" Elizabeth made the call to the Infirmary. As she guessed, Carson wasn't happy about it, but after she explained the situation, he relented without too much argument.
Peter chuckled and said, "You've always been able to convince people to see it your way."
"My job," she said simply. He winced at her words, and she reached over and squeezed his hand. "I don't think it would—" Another wave of vertigo slammed into her and she grabbed the edge of the console with her other hand. "Peter—?"
"Elizabeth? Elizabeth? Damn!" He eased her down onto the floor and glanced up at a worried Chuck. "Get Doctor Emmagan and Doctor Beckett. Hurry!"
Britgate, twenty-two hours from Atlantis
"Are our forces prepared for a space and ground assault?" Acastus Kolya asked.
"Yes," Michael replied. He gazed at the sensor readings. "We should be within the City's sensor range in twenty-two hours."
"Good." Kolya nodded at Cowen, who stood diligently at attention. "You will remain here on our flagship, while Michael and I lead our forces to Atlantis. We will finally seize the City and crush Grodin and his people under our heel. Then we will take our rightful place as the most powerful alliance in the Pegasus Galaxy."
Cowen smiled; young Ford had taken the bait beautifully, and had exposed himself as a traitor. He allowed himself a pang of regret for Sora Radim, then put it aside. Better to have taken care of the problem now than deal with it later. He glanced sideways at Michael, who turned to address Kolya.
"The Ancient space station has been taken care of. Pity we couldn't salvage it, but such is war."
Kolya smiled, pleased at the report. "And the Orion?"
"Drifting in space. They will not be able to help Atlantis."
"Good. Who's the commander on board the main Hive ship?"
Michael chuckled and replied, "One of the Queen's favorites. Todd."
Kolya scowled. "You mean Lord Ta'ad, don't you?"
Michael shrugged, but continued, "And with the Genii fleet and ground forces…there's no way Grodin and his allies can defend against them all." He chuckled and inclined his head to Kolya. "Shall we, General Kolya?"
"Of course, General Kenmore. General Cowen, you have the command center."
Cowen nodded. "Victory to us, sir."
Kolya's smirk was wide. "Victory to us, Cowen."
Michael smiled at his new promotion, then said a few words into his communicator. A flash of light and the next time Cowen looked, they were gone.
Cowen allowed himself the smirk he'd been hiding. After Atlantis was in their possession, the next step was to eliminate Michael and his Wraith allies. Only then could the Genii live in peace.
"They're taking way too long."
John sighed and glanced at his watch. He and Ronon waited in front of the Surgical Bay doors for what seemed like forever. It had been already three hours and was approaching the fourth. The Infirmary was in chaos, as Doctors Cho, Brown, Biro, and others prepared for the siege to come. Some of the City's inhabitants had already been evacuated via the Jumpers, Daedelusand Apollo, but others, like Charin, had refused to leave. Beckett had told her about Halling's loss at the Genii Compound. She'd taken the news stoically, but John saw the agony in her eyes.
Rodney came into the room, his face pale, and his eyes rimmed with red. John took one look, shot to his feet, and guided Rodney to the chair he'd been sitting in. "You okay, Rodney?"
He sighed and shook his head. "We've got the basic stuff set up, but I can't be in the Chair when Melia activates the Bridge. Once she does, the shielding for the Gates in the network will most probably be off-line, and with the Wraith and the Genii—"
"Yeah, we're putting a whole galaxy of people at risk to get home."
"Which is why we've got to do this as soon as we can." Rodney looked over at the doors to the surgery. "Any news yet?"
"Nothing yet," Ronon rumbled. "Never thought I'd say this, but Kavanaugh's her best hope right now."
"Hell of a note, isn't it?" Rodney said, as he leaned back in his seat.
"I kinda like the guy. This version of him, anyway. Makes you wonder what might've happened if he'd gone into medicine."
"Ugh. I don't wonder. Carson may practice voodoo, but at least he's tolerable."
The doors swung open and Kavanaugh stepped out. He sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose before giving his report. "She's stable. I managed to stop the bleeding and clean the artery, so she should make a full recovery."
John sighed in relief, but Rodney gave him a look. "But—?"
"But she can't travel through the Gate in her condition. It'll put undue strain on her body…she wouldn't make it to the next planet, much less the next universe." Kavanaugh took off his glasses and wiped them on the hem of his scrubs before putting them back on.
Ronon crossed his arms and said, "But she'd be home."
Kavanaugh met his gaze, then sighed. "I know, and I'm pragmatic enough to know that if she does survive the transition, it could change her circumstances and she might be whole and healthy in your universe, or dead. I'm going against everything I believe in to allow this."
Rodney's mouth dropped open, Ronon raised his eyebrows in surprise, and John reached over to clap Kavanaugh on the shoulder. "Thanks, Doc. I'm sure she'd want to go through with it."
"She's as stubborn as the doctor I work for. No offense, but I'd really like to have her back."
"We'll get her back, Kavanaugh. Everything should be set before—" John's radio crackled. "Sheppard."
It was Captain Zelenka. "Colonel, you and your team must report the Gate Room. We're running out of time."
Present Universe, Atlantis
"These convulsive fits are coming closer and closer together, Elizabeth," Carson warned. "It's causing microstrokes in your system. If we can't stop them from happening, they'll kill you. I've already got four people in the Infirmary close to death."
Sheppard scowled and said, "We don't have a choice. We're gonna have to cross very soon."
Peter nodded and squeezed her hand. "Elizabeth—"
"I know," she whispered softly. It was taking her an effort to keep her eyes open, but she didn't want to lose sight of him. "You have to go."
McKay put a hand on her shoulder. "The longer we stay here, the worse you'll get, and who knows what else might happen. I just wish—"
"It's all right, Meredith." She managed a smile. "I understand. Go, while you still can."
"Take care of your Rodney when he gets back," McKay whispered. "If he's anything like me, he's going to need that."
She nodded and felt him let go of her shoulder. Peter brushed his lips against hers and tenderly stroked her hair. "I love you," he said softly. "Remember that."
"I love…you too, Peter." She struggled to stay awake, but sleep tugged at her eyes, and the last thing she remembered was his bittersweet smile.
Peter watched as her eyes closed, then looked up at Carson. The doctor shook his head and said, "An hour, maybe two."
"We have to hurry." Peter tapped his mike and called, "Chuck?"
"Recall Zelenka, Lorne and the rest of the teams. Our time's just about up."
"Right away, sir. Control Room, out."
Peter looked over at McKay, Ronon and Teyla Emmagan. "Let's go."
Britgate Universe, Atlantis
"We'll need you in the Chair, Carson," Rodney told Beckett. "You're the one with the strongest Gene."
Beckett took a deep breath and winced. His chest still ached fiercely, but he knew it was more than just his physical injury. "Aye, Rodney. I'll be there, and Rodney—"
He hesitated, but settled for a simple, "Good luck."
Rodney managed a smile back at him as he replied, "You, too."
He glanced over his shoulder as Kavanaugh, Marie Cho, Ronon, and John wheeled Teyla out of the Infirmary. She was still pale, her eyes closed, and unaware of her surroundings. Beckett reached over and squeezed her hand and whispered to her, "I'm sorry, Teyla. I only hope you can forgive me. You're going home, where you belong, to your Carson. He's a lucky man." He looked up at John, then at Ronon, and added hoarsely, "Take care of her."
"We will, Commander." John saluted him for the first and last time, while Ronon nodded gravely. Beckett returned the salute, turned and disappeared up the hall.
Chuck's voice echoed on John's mike. "Colonel, the Wraith and Genii ships are closing fast. If we're going to do this, we need to do it now, if we're going to have time to reset the shields."
"On our way." They took off at a run through the halls of Atlantis, pushing the gurney as they went. They entered the Gate Room, which was packed with people. John recognized several members of Zelenka's and Beckett's teams, of the Medical staff, and a mix of the Satedan and Athosian militias. Charin smiled at him and nodded her farewell.
Rodney tapped his mike. "Carson?"
Beckett's voice replied, "Aye. I'm here. Melia's ready to activate the Bridge as soon as your Atlantis signals ready."
I am awaiting their indication that the other team is ready to cross, Rodney. And…thank you.
Her words threw Rodney off balance. "For what?"
It has been a pleasure working with you. A welcome break from Doctor Sheppard.
Rodney chuckled and John rolled his eyes. "Thanks a lot, Melia."
He is much like you, but not like you, Colonel. I now have a few ideas on how to handle his…interesting attitude.
"Glad to have helped," John muttered, and he felt Her laughter. He looked over at Rodney, at Ronon, then down at Teyla. He looked over his shoulder at the rest of the crowd, then up to the Control Room, where Zelenka gazed back with a slight smile.
An alarm blared over Zelenka's shoulder, and he looked over at Chuck, who tapped his boards.
"They're launching Darts."
Zelenka's heart sank at Chuck's terse warning. There was no asking who "they" were. "What's their ETA?"
"Twenty-seven minutes, Captain."
"Scramble aerial defenses." He hit the comm to the Chair Room. "Commander, we have Darts incoming. As soon as the Bridge is formed and the team arrive, shunt all power to Atlantis's shield."
"Aye. Melia, lass—"
Zelenka didn't hear Her response, but he glanced over his shoulder at Bates, who nodded. "Positive flow on the Bridge, Captain."
Zelenka quickly crossed to the railing and called down to the Gate Room. "You have a go, Colonel."
"Thank you, Captain." John nodded at Ronon and Rodney. "Let's go home."
"About damn time," Rodney groused, as the Gate in front of them brightened into existence.
John chuckled and with Teyla's stretcher between them, they all walked through the Gate.
Present Universe, Atlantis
"Unscheduled offworld activation," said Chuck.
Evan nodded and opened the comm channel to the Chair Room. "Doctor Beckett?"
Carson's reply was slow in coming, the brogue thicker as he responded, "Aye, it's the other Atlantis, tryin' to make a connection…"
Radek looked over at Jeannie, who nodded. "All right, here goes," she said, and tapped several buttons on her console. "Intergalactic Bridge is forming—"
"My God," Radek whispered, as they watched the schematic on the screen. The funnel-shaped Bridge slowly coelesced into existence on their side, as its mirror image did on the other side. He frowned and pointed at the screen. "They're not quite synchronized—"
"Carson, we've got a problem," Jeannie said in alarm.
"Aye, lass," he replied, but he sounded distracted. "Takin' care of it." And as he spoke, the two points of the funnel met and expanded outward. "That's done it…I think."
The lights in the Control room dimmed abruptly and alarms blared. "Doctor Z?" Evan shouted.
"Even with the other Gates' support, we can barely hold it, and we're draining the ZPM at an alarming rate, just like the last time. We need to do this now!"
Evan went over to the Control Room railing, but Peter only nodded grimly up at him. "We heard. Thank you, Major and tell Elizabeth…to remember what I said."
"I will, sir. Good luck."
Peter smiled up at him, glanced at Chuck, then over at Captain McKay. "All right, let's go home."
"About damn time," Sheppard muttered, as they stepped through the Gate. The last thing everyone in the Control Room heard was the team's laughter at the acerbic doctor's remark.
"We're losing the Bridge!" Bates yelled.
"A couple more seconds!" Zelenka shouted back. "Commander Beckett—"
"Shields are down all over the network…reports of Wraith Darts and Genii battleships moving into position!" Chuck reported.
"Damn. We can't wait any longer—" There was a shout from the Gate Room and he looked up to see Peter Grodin stride into the Control Room. "Peter!"
"Divert all power back to the shields, now!" Peter gripped the console as the floor shuddered under him. "Status report!"
The overhead lights flickered as the City tried to compensate. Chuck looked up as Doctor John Sheppard tapped keys, muttering under his breath as he did so. "Where's McKay and Ronon?" Chuck asked.
"Organzing the City's defense," Peter replied grimly. "It seems that our unwelcome friends have decided to pay us a visit."
"Yeah, nice of them," Sheppard grumbled. "At least they waited till we got back."
"Glad to have you back, sir," Chuck said.
Sheppard nodded, but then he cursed under his breath at a readout on the screen. "Peter, we've got a problem with the power flow—"
"Some sort of surge!" Bates yelled. "It's backlashing all through the system! Failsafes are down! Beckett, get out of the Chair now!"
The City shuddered, knocking everyone to the floor, save Sheppard, who clung to the control board with all his might. Peter swore as he landed hard on his right arm and heard a bone snap. White-hot pain seared through him, but it was nothing compared to the mental scream the reverberated through his brain.
Melia screamed in anger and pain and everyone on Atlantis heard it, whether or not they could normally hear Her. Peter felt it slam into those with the Touch of the Ancestors, including Captain McKay and Doctor Emmagan, and with a heartsickening wrench, Teyla's consciousness winked out like a candle flame that had been extinguished.
In that moment, Peter knew that the surge had instantly killed Beckett, and Melia's rage burst unchecked, spilling into anyone within reach…dangerous and untamed. At the last moment, Peter felt Her divert that deadly power away from the Expedition and outward, toward the Wraith/Genii invasion fleet. He struggled to hang on to coherent thought, but failed as the first waves of change washed over him, slowly at first, then more quickly.
Thank God, was his last thought before the universe turned upside down.
Present Day, Atlantis
"Colonel Sheppard!" Evan shouted as he pounded down the steps leading down to the Gateroom. He took in the sight of Teyla on the gurney and immediately hit his comm. "Medical—"
"We're on it!" shouted Doctor Irene Cole. She rushed up to take charge of her patient and snapped rapid-fire questions at Ronon, who happened to be the closest person. "What happened? She's obviously had some medical attention, so what's been done? Hm…surgery? By whom?"
"Shut the damn door!" Jeannie shouted from the Control Room. Her voice carried over the chaos and Rodney's head snapped up.
"Jeannie?" he shouted. Not only was he shocked by her appearance, but the fact that she'd used language he'd never heard her use before. "What—?"
Radek added some Czech invectives that Rodney hadn't heard before, either. "I can't! The Gate's stuck open! Chuck?"
The Gate tech shook his head and made a gesture of helplessness. Rodney thundered up the stairs, followed by John. "Who's in the Chair?" Rodney demanded.
"Carson," Radek answered.
"Get him out of there!" Rodney immediately began unlatching panels and yelling orders. "Shut off those connections before I get fried! I'm yanking the crystals. Bates—" He bit off the name and went on, "Radek, some help here!"
Radek squeezed Jeannie's hand briefly before going to help Rodney. Unfortunately, Rodney saw it and said, "What the…you getting comfy with my sister since I've been gone?"
Jeannie sighed, but didn't stop what she was doing. She only glared down at him as Rodney dove into the innards of the DHD. "Can we discuss this later, Mer?"
"Simpson to McKay. I can't get Beckett out of the Chair, not without causing him irreparable harm!"
"What?" Rodney shouted."Sheppard—"
John was already heading down the stairs as soon as he heard Simpson's report, but he only made it halfway down before a wave of pure agony struck him. He nearly lost his balance, and it was only reflex that saved him from a fatal tumble. All his nerves screamed in pain, his inner ear tried to convince him he was falling to his death, and his stomach threatened to revolt against him.
He heard shouts from the Control Room, but he couldn't respond. Is the universe changing 'cause we're back?
He hoped so.
The Universes, now with the balance restored, realigned themselves to their proper tracks. Not perfectly; some of the changes were too far ingrained to be reverse, but enough.
And time started once more…
Britgate Universe, Atlantis. Restored Timeline
"Oh, come on, Bates. That one was too easy. Give me another one."
"All right, then. 171."
Sheppard took off his glasses and wiped the lenses on the hem of his jacket. He made a disgusted noise. "Not prime."
Chuck glanced over his shoulder at them and rolled his eyes. "Divisible by 3."
Captain McKay shook his head as he came up the stairs. "Are you guys playing that game again?"
Sheppard smirked and replied, "Hey, McKay: 323."
The captain made a noise of irritation. "Prime. Oh, for crying out loud, Sheppard."
"Just checking." He straightened up from his slouch and put his glasses back on. "So, this mission to PXM-597 is a supply run?"
"Arrangement for some grain products and some really good Pegasus Galaxy ale in exchange for vaccinations for the kids. Teyla's almost done in the Infirmary."
"She with Beckett? Thought he was minding the store this time"
"Nah. Beckett needs to get out; he's spending way too much time doing paperwork. Besides, our resident negotiator can keep them both out of trouble."
Sheppard snorted in derision. "Yeah, she'll need to keep a close eye on those two—" He clamped his jaw shut as a soft Scottish brogue echoed in the Gateroom. Curious, he went over to the railing and saw Beckett and Teyla there, standing quite close to each other, talking and laughing. As he watched, a woman came in through one of the side entrances and greeted them. Doctor Elizabeth Weir-Grodin, wife of the Expedition leader and chief negotiator extraordinaire, said something that made Teyla laugh and Beckett blush scarlet.
"Marriage's been good for 'em, don't you think? Think Beckett might follow suit?"
McKay chuckled and caught Peter's look of contentment as he surveyed his domain from his office. "Maybe."
Sheppard raised his eyebrows. "You know something."
"Maybe. I do know Beckett asked Ronon to get something for him from Sateda…something that Melena owned. 'Something borrowed'."
"About damn time." Sheppard said with a grin. "So, it's gonna be me, Beckett, Elizabeth and Teyla going on this one, and you and Peter minding the store for a change."
McKay rolled his eyes. "Yeah. Now get outta here, Sheppard, before you make me change my mind."
"I'm gone. Oh…1521."
McKay groaned. "Not Prime. Now move before I throw you through the Gate."
Sheppard laughed and joined the team down in the Gate Room. McKay leaned on the railing and watched as Chuck opened the Gate and the four started through. He saw Beckett put an arm on Teyla as they walked into the Gate and thought, Yeah, about damn time.
"Indeed," Peter deadpanned. McKay jumped; he hadn't heard him approach. At Peter's wicked expression, McKay laughed and shook his head.
Atlantis, Present Universe. Restored Timeline
"Jeannie, I do not overwork that husband of yours!"
She snorted and rolled her eyes at him. "Mer, give him a break. It's been nearly three months and you promised, remember?"
Rodney shook his head and sighed as he gazed at his sister. Ever since she'd married Radek Zelenka last spring, she seemed so happy. Not only was she a brilliant physicist, but she was one of the best in Atlantis—save him, of course—and Rodney was so proud of her. Not that he'd tell her that to her face.
I think she knows anyway. I don't have to tell her. He huffed, "Fine. Two days on the mainland."
She frowned. "Four."
It was Rodney's turn to roll his eyes. "Fine. Three. Go. Have fun, and don't get into trouble."
"Oh, don't worry, Mer. We won't. Much." She winked at him and sauntered out the door, as he sputtered in frustration. John passed her on the way and raised his eyebrows in question.
"Don't ask. Just…don't ask," Rodney groaned.
John smirked. "Come on, Rodney, give 'em a break. She's your sister."
"Yes, she's my sister. I never should've introduced those two to each other." Rodney sighed and closed his laptop. "Where's Teyla?"
"In the Infirmary with Carson."
"Did she beat him up again?"
"What? No." John shook his head. "He's coming with us on this trip. Seems like the folks on PXM-597 need some medical supplies and Carson's volunteered to help 'em."
"Carson volunteered to go off world? Does this have anything to do with him mooning over Teyla?"
"For God's sake, Rodney, he hasn't been—"
Rodney snorted and interrupted him. "Sure, he hasn't. He's been doing it since the first day we met her, and after that Ring Ceremony, and that run-in with the Genii and—"
John raised his hands and said, "All right. If you're that curious, why don't you ask him?"
"And him sticking me with large, pointy needles? I like my gluteus maximus, thank you very much." Rodney sighed and shook his head. "I tell you, Sheppard, something's going on between those two."
"Then ask Teyla." John chuckled and inclined his head toward the door. "C'mon. They're waiting for us."
"Yeah, yeah. I'm coming."
When they reached the Gateroom, Elizabeth Weir stood at the railing. She smiled at John and Rodney, then looked over at Teyla and Carson, who were standing to one side, talking quietly with each other. Ronon hovered nearby with a bemused expression on his face, as if he knew something no one else did.
"All right, let's do this," John said.
"Good luck, Colonel. See you in twenty-four hours." She smiled and turned towards the man at the Gate controls. "Activate the gate, Peter."
Doctor Peter Grodin smiled back and nodded at Sergeant Chuck Campbell, who input the coordinates. The Gate activated like usual and Peter announced, "It's open."
Elizabeth watched as John, Rodney, Teyla, Ronon and Carson went through the Gate. Peter, with his usual quietness, moved to the railing next to her. She glanced sideways at him.
"You know something," she said.
"Maybe. I do know Carson asked Charin and Halling for their blessing yesterday."
"About damn time." Elizabeth laughed as he wrapped an arm around her waist. "Think marriage will be good for them?"
"It's good for us." He grinned and added, "So, Doctor Weir, shall I take you to lunch?"
She smiled back and said, "You may, Doctor Grodin."
Together, they went down the stairs, much to Chuck's bemusement. The sergeant shook his head and said to no one in particular, "Some things were meant to be in the universe. That's one of 'em."