Rating: Guided by Conscience
Summary: For them all to survive one must sacrifice.
Spoiler: Season 4 what-if conjured by the wombats in my head
Disclaimer: Don't own it, except on DVD. Don't profit from it, except to gain fodder for the wombats.
He was running out of time. Running out of options. He didn’t understand most of what McKay had rambled on about. He did know that if Elizabeth wasn’t moved from Atlantis the Asurans would definitely find them. She had to run or they would all die.
Ideally he wanted Ronon to take her. If anyone knew how to run, it was him. But she needed to disappear in order to survive. There was only one person he knew who did that successfully.
John didn’t know what sort of convergence the fates were playing at when he stumbled into Ford. It probably wasn’t ascended Ancients. They weren’t exactly known for help and this was the furthest thing from it.
John was looking for a safe planet for Elizabeth to shelter on. One she could escape a culling. Not too archaic. One where there was limited technology so the replicators had no chance of detecting her, so not too advanced either.
He was doing some recon in a network of caves as a knife crept out of the dark and got friendly with his jugular. He figured Elizabeth’s negotiating skills must have been absorbed by osmosis because he’d never bargained so hard or fast before in his life. He needed to make it out if she was to ever survive. When he reached the heart of his story the menacing blade was sheathed and a deal was struck.
Ford had been able to hijack a dart and land it on the far side of the planet. He was a tenacious survivor. Risky, but tenacious. It was exactly what they needed. Aiden moved around a lot, discovering and building several outposts. He still struck out at the Wraith whenever he could but he no longer actively sought them until his enzyme supply got low and unlike their last encounter, he was flying solo.
Something about him had changed. It seemed for the better. The former Lieutenant admitted the burden of leadership was meant for those with wider shoulders than his. He confessed it was one of the reasons he admired John and Elizabeth. Most likely it was the reason he agreed to John’s plan.
As uncertain and dangerous as this would be they had no other choice. Elizabeth could handle him. John was certain. He had to be. Ford was strong and clever but his loyalty lay with his dependence. The addiction was stronger than the Asurans function of obliteration.
Elizabeth would live in the danger and instability of an addict. The possibility of Ford losing it would be her everyday reality. He could hurt her. Or abandon her. He could even dope her with the enzyme while she wasn’t aware, making it easier for him to convince her to go on those crazy missions. Or, she could stay in Atlantis and bring about the destruction of the city.
No. He needed to stop this. What if-ing would only sabotage his nerve. He needed to be confident in his decision. Or at least convince himself he was. With Ford, they faced the lesser of two evils.
They agreed to meet on a neutral planet for the drop-off. No jumpers. No teams. Ronon insisted he went along anyway, just in case.
John fiddled with something in his pack.
“Here,” he handed Elizabeth a rectangular object wrapped in an Athosian cloth. “Something to keep you occupied in case you get bored.”
It was his copy of War and Peace. The gesture tugged at the corners of her mouth as she leafed through the pages.
“You’re not finished,” she observed.
“Don’t lose my place.”
His watch beeped. Their time was running short.
No. No way in a million years would this ever work. He was putting her in more danger than if he slapped a bulls-eye on her back and paraded her in front of all their adversaries. He was ready to call the whole thing off.
“This is crazy,” his jaw worked in time with his tightening fist.
“I’ll be okay.”
She grabbed his clenched fist and slipped her hand into his. She wasn’t exactly sanguine about the entire situation but Elizabeth had come to terms with their decision faster than he had.
“When this is over,” he pulled her close so neither Aiden nor Ronon could overhear. “I’ll find you. I’ll bring you home.”
“No man left behind,” she whispered back.
A distant cough interrupted them.
“Time to go,” her new guardian called.