Pairings: Sheppard/Weir, with a little Cadman/Beckett and some vague hints at Sam/Jack
Summary: When the Atlantis Cooperative’s latest threat is at its doorstep, Agents Elizabeth Weir and John Sheppard find themselves dancing around a dangerous foe – and each other.
Notes: Many, many thanks to bluebanrigh, for successfully navigating and untangling scores of confusing sentences, and to hatcheter, for salvaging my action scenes. And more thanks to yadre for a lot of information that was invaluable. This is a fic in three parts, and while it doesn't contain specific spoilers for SG-1 or Atlantis (obviously), it does vaguely follow a story arc from the first season of Atlantis. Also, I
It had been a full year since Elizabeth Weir had made the unlikely selection of John Sheppard, pilot and math geek extraordinaire, as her new partner, and she still hadn’t gotten over the sight of him in a tuxedo.
She’d almost gotten used to the bizarre juxtaposition of his ever-errant hair with the clean lines of his well-tailored tux. She’d almost gotten used to the way he could go from awkward to debonair at the drop of a hat. She’d almost gotten used to the way he’d look at her just before pulling her out to the dance floor, even though they were supposed to be catching some bad guy instead of shamelessly flirting.
She hadn’t gotten used to him after their adventures into criminally high society, when he’d loosen his tie and kick back to find a sporting event being televised. There was something ridiculously sexy about the man relaxing after a hard night’s socialiting, no matter where they were.
On this night, they were in Malta.
The Mediterranean island had, in the course of Elizabeth’s career with the Atlantis Cooperative, become something of a second home to her. She’d certainly spent enough time there for it to qualify. But this time, they hadn’t come on business. Not exactly, anyway. She and John had been in Greece a few days earlier when the U. S. ambassador to Malta, who was vacationing along the Aegean, had dropped her an invitation to some gala at the embassy in Valletta. Suspecting that it was just a ploy on Ambassador Wallis’ part to get together with her again, Elizabeth took John with her. They’d mingled and impressed, but Elizabeth’s only contact with Simon was when he kissed her cheek and told her to head to St. Julian’s as soon as possible. And that could only mean that Teal’c was trying to contact them.
So they left the capital and checked into a hotel to wait out the few hours before they could get to Teal’c’s coastal villa, and John camped out in front of the television. Elizabeth resorted to the bathroom immediately, changing into something that would look more appropriate for a sunrise stroll on the beach. When she came back into the room, tucking loose curls behind her ears, John was still lounging on the bed in most of a tuxedo. Elizabeth swallowed and tried to suppress the thousand remarks she could make about his state. “What are you doing?” she asked benignly instead.
“Trying to find out if the Cubs won,” he said. “That game should be over by now, right?”
“I wouldn’t think so,” Elizabeth replied. “It probably won’t be over till five or six in the morning.”
He sighed. “Which is when we’ll be leaving.”
“Hey, I’m as broken up over this as you are.”
John turned over, propping himself up on one elbow. “Are you saying you care whether or not the Cubs get to the playoffs?” he asked.
“Yes,” she replied. “They’ll be easy for the Yankees to crush when the time comes.”
John narrowed his eyes and tossed the remote control aside. “Please, Elizabeth,” he said, standing up to get out of the rest of his tux, “tell me you’re not one of those people.”
Elizabeth sat down on the edge of the bed and wondered if she had time to redo her nails. “If by ‘one of those people’ you mean–”
“A fan of the evil empire?”
She turned and gave him the wickedest smile she could muster. “Well, I am from New York.”
He made a disgusted sound and pulled on a fresh button-down shirt. “I guess it fits,” he mused. “You’re about as evil as Steinbrenner.”
“Now that stings.” Elizabeth stuck her tongue out at him when he looked at her. She looked at her watch and stood up, only to lean against the wall. “You have to understand. I spent most of my childhood summers in Yankee Stadium.”
Having changed into baggy, wrinkled khakis, he sauntered over to her. He put one arm against the wall, over her head, and leaned down in her face. “Yeah, and I spent most of mine at Wrigley Field.”
“Well, I’m afraid we’re at a classic impasse,” Elizabeth replied. “What do you propose?”
Any other man would have kissed her senseless after an opening like that, and Elizabeth could tell that John considered it briefly. But then he pushed off the wall and said, “Well, we could call that old boyfriend of yours at the American embassy and see if he can find out the score of the Cubs game for us.”
“It’s three in the morning, John. I don’t think Ambassador Wallis would be–” Elizabeth stopped suddenly. “Wait. How did you know he was an old boyfriend?”
John smiled mischievously. “Lucky guess.”
She let him bask in the triumph of his lucky guess while he channel-surfed, though he poked her occasionally to make sure she wasn’t plotting his imminent demise. Then, half an hour before dawn, they headed out of the hotel to a privately owned beach. Elizabeth was relatively certain that some of the other people wandering the beach were actually Teal’c’s security force, so they ambled along like tourists. To complete the illusion, they stopped at the water’s edge, bare feet lapped by the tide and hands clasped as though they were lovers watching the sun rise over St. George’s Bay.
“Beautiful, is it not?” said a deep voice behind them.
“You could say that again,” John replied.
Elizabeth turned and embraced Teal’c. “It’s been a while, hasn’t it?” she said.
“Indeed.” He turned and nodded to John. “I presume you are Agent Weir’s new partner. It is strange that we have not met before.”
John reacted well enough to Teal’c’s oddly masterful cadence and extended his hand. “John Sheppard,” he said. “Elizabeth’s been handling most of our contacts lately. Some of them are a little twitchy about new people, so I’ve usually been doing other things while she meets people for information.”
“I wish we had met under better circumstances, but I have urgent news for you,” said Teal’c. “I have reason to believe that an attack on American soil is imminent.”
“Where?” Elizabeth asked.
Teal’c looked significantly at John. “Chicago.”
By the time they reached the Chicago headquarters of the Atlantis Cooperative on the following day, the place was already brimming with activity. The operations wing wasn’t nearly as big as they really needed, but every available space was packed with people working. John and Elizabeth could hardly walk through a corridor without being waylaid by someone wanting to show them something on a tablet, even though the two of them weren’t technically running the show. It was obvious that when Atlantis got a tip from Teal’c, everyone snapped to attention.
Elizabeth was leading the way through the chaos, talking on her cell phone for quite some time. John only caught snatches of the conversation, though, as he kept having to deal with the people who wanted to talk with them.
John rolled his eyes before he turned around. Doctor Rodney McKay, a Canadian who had been forced to share control of research and development with his arch nemesis and not-so-secret crush, was running up to them. He was slightly winded when he reached them. “Agent Weir,” he said, “have you got a minute?”
Elizabeth turned to him patiently and pointed at the cell phone in her hand, then at John. “You’re already in Chicago?” she said into the phone, turning away from the two men.
Rodney then focused his attention on John. “Well, Agent Sheppard, if you could tell Elizabeth this when she’s done,” he suggested.
Elizabeth had started walking again, so John dragged Rodney along. “What do you need, Rodney?” he asked.
“I just wanted to let you know that we’re making some progress on the information you and Elizabeth brought back from Malta,” the scientist replied. “We analyzed the video that Teal’c sent of the Genii headquarters in Sarajevo. We’ve identified several of the men in it, but Doctor Jackson’s still working on a translation. Unfortunately the audio’s pretty lousy. A lot of the conversation got masked by Teal’c’s operative breathing into the microphone.”
“Strange,” said John. “Any luck on their computer system yet? Teal’c said something about his operative getting a password.”
“Not yet,” Rodney replied. “There were prints on a keyboard, but we’re still working on the potential combinations –”
“Rodney,” John interrupted. “I’m a cryptographer. You don’t have to explain permutations to me.”
“Oh, right. It’s easy to forget you’re a mathematician, what with the moonlighting as James Bond.”
Before either of them could get much further, another engineer came running up behind them. It was Radek Zelenka, whom John had worked with a few times even before going into field work, and he was out of breath too. These scientists really needed to get out of their labs and into a gym or something. “Excuse me, Doctor Sheppard,” he said.
John blinked. “Haven’t been called that in a while,” he said. “What do you need?”
“Rodney needs to come back,” he said. “Doctor Carter is on rampage. Something about the autoclave.”
“Uh oh,” said Rodney. “Uh, I think I need a place to hide.”
“What did you do, Rodney?” John asked.
“Long story. No time.”
He disappeared around the next corner without so much as a farewell. John looked at Zelenka, who shrugged. “They will blow up the lab someday,” said the Czech.
“Hope we have surveillance video on it when they do.”
Zelenka nodded to him and headed off in the direction from which he’d come. Elizabeth glanced at John then with a questioning look, and John shook his head. “Nothing major. Rodney was trying to escape.”
She’d closed her cell phone already, and she gestured down the hall. “That was Jack,” she said, as they continued walking. “He’s agreed to give us a hand.”
“When will he be here?”
“In about half an hour.”
John frowned. “He’s already in the area?”
Elizabeth smirked. “Apparently, he was at the baseball game last night.”
John resisted the urge to smack his forehead. “Never did find out the score of that.”
“Cubs won, six to three,” she replied. “They won it on a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth.”
“See, that’s the kind of skill a team needs to win,” John said, smiling at her triumphantly.
“Luck,” she corrected.
They came into the communications office then, and before John could argue with her anymore, Elizabeth announced, “I need to know where we are with Homeland Security.”
“I just got off with them,” said Walter Harriman. “They’re sending someone from the FBI tonight.”
“Someone?” Elizabeth repeated. “We’ve finally got a credible lead on these people, and they’re sending us one person? This is just unbelievable–”
“Elizabeth,” John interrupted, “the raging liberal’s starting to show.”
“Sorry.” They stopped walking, just outside the glass doors of Caldwell’s office. “It’s just. . . This country’s been trying to pin down the Genii organization since I was in the CIA. And now that we’ve finally got something that might help, the government clamps down on any assets that might be of use to us.”
“We’ll get the job done,” he replied.
“Why the optimism?”
John shrugged. “Healthier than the alternative.”
Elizabeth narrowed her eyes. “Let’s go in.”
Inside his office, Director Caldwell was on the phone, and he didn’t seem too happy about it. “Landry,” he was saying as they entered, “my people got the tip, so my people are investigating– No, I don’t think your people are more experienced with the Genii. You do remember that Weir works for me, right?”
John cast a questioning glance at Elizabeth. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
She opened her mouth, but thought better of whatever she was going to say. “Long story. Ask me later.”
Caldwell hung up the phone – and John strongly suspected that he’d hung up on Landry, or the other way around – and faced them. “Weir, Sheppard, good news.”
“The FBI’s getting off its–”
“Not that I know of,” the director interrupted. “I used to work for the FBI. This is pretty much standard. They’re good people, Weir, they just don’t like people upsetting things. And you tend to upset things.”
Elizabeth bristled, but John spoke first. “What’s the news?”
“We sent Teyla Emmagan to Sarajevo. She got her hands on some information,” Caldwell replied. “She said that Acastus Kolya is planning to attend the Lyric Opera’s ball tonight at the Hilton on Michigan Avenue.”
“Acastus?” Elizabeth repeated. “I’d never heard his first name before. What language is that from?”
Caldwell glared in her direction. “Weir, could we stay on topic, please, instead of descending into etymological madness?”
“The opera hosts a ball?” John asked instead.
“It’s some big thing for their season opener,” Caldwell explained. “It’s La Bohème this year. The ball’s basically a fundraiser after the show.”
“And Kolya’s going to be there?” said Elizabeth.
“Teyla says that La Bohème is his favorite.”
“Well, at least he’s got taste.” Elizabeth shifted her weight off her left knee. “You want us to go tonight?”
“That’s the general idea, yes.” The director handed them a cream envelope. “Tickets to the opera and the ball. I suggest you dress nicely.”
“John usually cleans up pretty well,” said Elizabeth.
“Better than you, usually,” John countered, looking at the envelope in his hand.
“Should I bring up that time in Hong Kong?”
“I said usually.”
“Children,” Caldwell interrupted. “I have phone calls to make.”
“Yes, sir,” they answered in unison.
Six hours later, they’d checked into the Four Seasons, gone shopping, and were getting ready to head to the opera. The opera part of this assignment was under John’s protest, of course, but such were the burdens of the career. Elizabeth was rather quiet about the whole thing. Strange, as Elizabeth had never been quiet about anything.
Caldwell called once to give them more information, and he seemed rather glad that it was John who answered the phone rather than Elizabeth. She’d been touchy about the whole thing ever since Teal’c had told them that he had information on the Genii. As John fumbled around with his bow tie, he wondered what kind of history Elizabeth had with the organization. She seemed to be taking this personally.
“Honey?” Elizabeth called from the bathroom.
John didn’t even blink at the nickname. This was hardly the first time they’d posed as a married couple. “Need something, Isabella?”
She stepped out of the bathroom as he looked up, and for a moment John had to remind himself not to stare. Elizabeth was dressed in a gold silk gown that hugged her body in all the right places. She’d put a hint of red highlight in her hair since they’d gotten back from various shopping expeditions, and she was probably barefooted too – normally she wouldn’t have to hold up the hem of her dress.
John finally managed to look back at her face, and he saw that she was smiling. “It’s nice to know I still have this effect on you,” she said.
This time, it took him a moment to decide that she was probably still playing a part with him. The look on her face could have sent that statement either way, but John decided to play it safe. “Just wondering how it was I got you to marry me,” he said. “You look beautiful.”
Her smile was as genuine as the compliment. “Thank you,” she said quietly.
He held her gaze a moment longer, and then had to force himself to look at the floor, lest some baser instinct take control. “So, uh, what did you need?” he asked.
“My zipper’s stuck,” she said. “I’m not enough of a contortionist to fix it.”
He came up to her, and she turned around. John’s breath hitched for a moment as he caught sight of the back of the gown, or rather the lack of it. It wasn’t as though he hadn’t seen most of her body before in the course of first aid alone, just that she didn’t normally dress like this for long periods of time. She usually wore a bulletproof jacket when they went out to events like this.
He got to work on the zipper that ran up her right hip, trying to ignore the proximity of a good amount of Elizabeth’s skin. He wondered, too, why she was having this effect on him now. They’d always flirted a lot, and John did think she was just about the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen, but there was some truth to what Elizabeth had just said, whether she meant it as Isabella or as herself. He’d probably never get used to seeing her every day.
Finally, he freed the zipper pull from the shimmering fabric it had caught on and tugged it closed. “You’re done,” he said.
She turned around, still standing very close to him and smiling. “Thanks,” she replied. Then she put one hand on the back of his neck and pulled him down for a kiss. John recognized that this was all part of the role she was playing, but that didn’t stop him from indulging for a moment.
He let it last only a moment, though, before reluctantly pulling his mouth away from hers. “Room’s clean,” he said quietly. He’d run a sweep for bugs while she’d been in the bathroom.
“Oh.” She didn’t give anything away – didn’t look away, didn’t flinch, didn’t step back, didn’t blush – but somehow John knew Elizabeth was embarrassed, and he didn’t understand why. “I should finish getting ready,” she said.
He nodded, and she turned to go back to the bathroom. “Isabella?” he called after her, figuring it was just as well to use her alias just to get more used to it.
Elizabeth stopped, but didn’t look at him. “Yes?”
John stopped, having too many questions and no way to ask them. He scratched his head. “Can you tie this bow tie for me?” he asked instead.
She came back to him, her steps slower. For his part, John stared at the hem of her evening gown while she walked and wondered how high her heels were going to be. Then he lifted his gaze and stared out over her head while she quickly tied it. “There you go,” she said.
This time, John hooked her fingers with his own before she could go. “Is there something I should know?” he asked, very quietly.
He watched her swallow hard. “No,” she said, and he knew she was lying.
Disappointed, John nodded. “Well, we should finish getting ready.”
They didn’t speak again until it was time to leave.
Jack O’Neill arrived at Atlantis headquarters after Elizabeth had left for the day. He was a little miffed about that, but figured he’d see her again soon enough. They’d hardly spoken and hadn’t seen each other at all since his retirement, so he figured it was fair that she didn’t wait for him to drive from his downtown hotel to the suburban headquarters. Still, he was curious about her, wondering how she was doing, and wondering if she’d ever decided to stick with the blonde hair.
He was standing in the surveillance room, waiting with Jonas Quinn for the screens before them to resolve into images from the Hilton’s ballroom. They chatted to pass the time; it seemed that Jonas knew an inordinate amount about fishing in Minnesota for someone from a different country. Then Director Caldwell came in to chat about old times, but it wasn’t long before Jack heard another familiar voice in the hall, saying: “Zelenka, I swear, I’m going to kill him.”
Jack stuck his head out the door as two people walked past the surveillance room. “Samantha Carter’s developing homicidal tendencies?” he said.
The woman turned around. “Jack O’Neill?” she said. “I didn’t realize you were in town.”
“Yeah, I came down for a baseball game and got wrapped up in a web of international intrigue or something,” he replied. He pulled her in for a big hug. “I take it you’re killing Rodney McKay.”
Sam pulled back and rolled her eyes. “Who else?”
“Well, I have to get back to fixing something before Weir and Sheppard check in with the home store,” she said, “but you should stop by the lab before you leave town.”
“Yeah, we should go for a drink somewhere,” he said. “Good to see you again, Sam.”
“Yeah, good to see you too,” she replied.
Jack watched her and the other scientist walk off for a few seconds before turning back to the surveillance room. “Sorry about that,” he said to Caldwell. “Hadn’t seen her for a while.”
Caldwell nodded, and then looked past Jack. “Grodin,” he said. “What have you got?”
“We just got word,” said a young man with a British accent. “Hailey’s tapped into the hotel’s security feed. We should have video up in the next minute or so.”
The four men all turned to the monitors expectantly, and a few seconds later, a male voice came in through the speakers, sounding slightly tinny. “This thing working?” he was saying. Then there was a thumping sound.
“John,” said the unmistakable voice of Elizabeth Weir, “stop tapping the microphone.”
“What are you, my mother?” the man said.
“No, I’m your wife,” she replied. “For the moment.”
Jack reached for a microphone, which Jonas handed to him. “Sparky, this is Angler. What’s your status?”
“Angler, nice of you to show up,” Elizabeth replied. “Farmboy and I are in the parking garage, but we’re still in the car. Is something up?”
“Farmboy?” Jack mouthed to Jonas, who shrugged.
Suddenly every monitor in the room flickered to life, startling Jack. “Sparky, Farmboy, this is Earl Grey,” Jonas said. “We have visual. You’re good to go.”
“Thanks, Earl Grey,” said the man with Elizabeth.
The ballroom was dotted with lavishly set tables, and glittering chandeliers illuminated the room. All around were Chicago’s cultural elite dressed in their finest, and in one area of the room, the dancing had already begun. A couple minutes after their video came up, Jack spotted Elizabeth coming into the hotel ballroom, on the arm of a tall and rather handsome gentleman who had to be John Sheppard. She was quite the showstopper, not that Jack would ever have imagined otherwise. They were listening to the chatter being picked up on the microphones, and both operatives were maneuvering their way through this society as though they owned it.
“Margaret Wood,” a woman’s voice was saying. On the video, they saw an older woman shaking Elizabeth’s hand.
“It’s a delight, Mrs. Wood. Isabella Knightley,” said Elizabeth. “And this is my husband, John.”
The woman laughed. “Like the book?”
“Isn’t it funny how things work out?” Elizabeth replied. Jack narrowed his eyes, fairly certain that Elizabeth had chosen those aliases with the intention of reminding people of some book.
John shook hands with the woman, too, and Margaret Wood asked, “So how long have you two been married?”
“We met about a year ago in Russia,” Elizabeth explained. “It was just love at first sight.”
“I can well believe that,” the woman said.
“Excuse me, Mrs. Wood,” John interrupted. He held his arm out to Elizabeth, who slipped her hand into the crook of his elbow. “We need to say hello to an old friend.”
“By all means,” said Mrs. Wood. “Isabella, you are perfectly charming.”
Jack glanced at a different monitor to see Elizabeth smile graciously. Then John placed his hand over Elizabeth’s in a gesture that was almost possessive and led her away.
“They do this quite well,” Jack commented.
“Better than you two ever did,” Caldwell replied, “and you two were sleeping with each other.”
Jack eyed the other man curiously. “Oh, don’t act like I didn’t know about it,” Caldwell continued. “Agent Weir confirmed it when I got suspicious.”
“Bit of a breach of company policy, wasn’t it?”
“Company policy says I can exercise discretion in this area throughout my department,” he replied. “In this case, I chose to believe that Elizabeth Weir could maintain professionalism through damn near anything.
“Besides,” he added, after a long pause of watching Elizabeth and Sheppard navigate the ballroom, “I never thought you two were getting in too deep.”
“So I take it you’ve spotted him?” Elizabeth asked of John quietly, as soon as they were out of earshot of the woman they’d been talking to.
“The other guy, yeah,” John replied, and he led her to the edge of the room, where a tall, rather good-looking man in a tuxedo was standing with his hands clasped. He was staring at them, and probably had been for some time.
“Mr. Knightley,” said the stranger. “Mrs. Knightley. Why don’t we step outside for some air?”
He led them out of the room and to an elevator, where they went up a few floors, and then stepped into a lush guest room. At that point, Elizabeth heard Jonas’ voice on her earpiece. “Sparky, Farmboy, this is Earl Grey. We’ve lost visual on you. Sending another team into the hotel who can extract you if the need arises.”
Elizabeth glanced at John, who had obviously just heard the same thing. They stood near the entrance while the stranger first pulled out his gun, which made John reach for his. Elizabeth was more patient. “John Sheppard and Elizabeth Weir,” the stranger said. “I’m Malcolm Barrett. I’m with the FBI.” He pulled out his badge and held it up for them. “I’d like to see some identification from you two before we proceed.”
“Certainly,” said John. He reached into his coat and pulled out his and Elizabeth’s identification. “You understand we won’t have these on us in the future, correct?”
“Understood, but why are you carrying her ID?”
Elizabeth looked down at her gown and then back at Barrett. “Do you see pockets?” she asked.
Barrett didn’t answer exactly. Instead, he narrowed his eyes. “Agent Weir, have we met?”
“Were you in Bolivia in ‘96?”
John looked at Elizabeth suspiciously. “Do you know everyone who’s ever been involved in international espionage?”
“It looks like that, doesn’t it?” She glanced back at the FBI agent. “You weren’t with the FBI at the time, were you?” she asked.
“No,” he replied, shaking his head. “NID. I got out when it became clear that the organization was. . . troubled, for lack of a better word.”
“I think ‘corrupt’ is the word you’re looking for.”
“Well, that’s one way of putting it,” he said with a smirk. Then he sobered and said, “Kolya’s not here. You should have caught up with him at the opera.”
“Kolya’s not here?” John repeated. “How do you know?”
“We were contacted by someone within the Genii organization, and the tip was confirmed by one of our agents,” Barrett explained. “He attended the opera, and then went to a private reception being held at the Art Institute.”
“When did you get that?”
“During the intermission.”
At this news, Elizabeth frowned. “There’s something wrong with that.”
“What do you mean?” Barrett asked.
She’d already half-turned away from him. “This is Sparky. Do you have visual on Kolya and his party?”
Jonas was a step ahead of Elizabeth when she finally spoke to him again. “Sparky, Earl Grey,” he said, waving the others in the room up to the monitors. “I’m scanning the ballroom. There’s no sign of him yet, but–”
“Earl Grey?” said John, but Jonas’ mind was somewhere else already. To his left, he froze a monitor on the face of a man in his mid-thirties.
“I know this guy,” Jonas said to himself, tapping the screen. “Why do I know this guy?”
“I don’t know, Jonas,” said Jack. “Why do you?”
Jonas shook his head and started typing. “I know this guy,” he said again, pulling up a file on someone in the Genii organization. “This guy,” he proclaimed, pointing at the dossier photograph. “Ladon Radim.”
“Jonas,” said Caldwell, “not to state the obvious, but this guy at the ball doesn’t have a full beard.”
“It’s the same guy,” he insisted.
Grodin walked up behind him then and pointed at a higher screen. “That girl,” he said. A young woman in a sleek black ballgown had joined Ladon, and it was obvious that they knew each other. “She looks familiar.”
“That’s. . . Sora Tyrus, I think,” Jonas replied. A quick search of the database brought up an image of a pretty strawberry blonde. “Yep, that’s her.”
“All right, Earl Grey,” came John’s voice over the speakers. “Care to tell us what’s going on?”
“No one’s seen Kolya,” Jonas replied, “and. . . yeah, I’m getting confirmation of that from our other agents in the room. However, we’ve IDed two known Genii agents.”
“Make that four,” said Caldwell. He gestured to two men. “I recognize these guys.”
“And those two talking to Radim and Tyrus look like they know each other already,” Jack supplied.
“We’ve got at least six,” Jonas relayed. “Make that nine.”
Grodin was staring at the monitor showing Sora and Ladon. “It looks like they’re running whatever operation is going on here,” he commented.
“It’s like they’re the Genii version of Weir and Sheppard,” said Jonas.
Beside him, Jack frowned. “Are they an item?” he asked.
“We don’t have that much intel on them,” Jonas replied.
“I wasn’t talking about the Genii.”
It took Jonas a second, but he got that. But before he could comment on whether or not it was appropriate to be making that kind of a speculation in this situation, he started seeing a pattern on the screens. “These guys aren’t just wandering around. . .”
Then Jack suddenly commandeered his microphone. “Sparky, get out of there,” he ordered. “These guys are looking for you.”
It was infuriating enough that John couldn’t see what Jonas was talking about, so he could only imagine that Barrett’s frustration level must have been extraordinary. Then he heard Jack’s voice loud and clear, and he waved at the window with his gun. The FBI agent got the hint and shut the curtains as quickly as he could.
“Angler?” Elizabeth was asking. “What’s going on?”
“They’re looking for you,” Jack repeated. “You guys have been set up. You need to get out of the hotel as quickly as you can. Jonas, can you navigate for them?”
John heard the sound of fingers on a keyboard. “Affirmative,” said Jonas.
“Sparky, Farmboy, this is Fearless Leader,” Caldwell said. “I’m sending Shotput and Ping-Pong to extract you and Barrett from the area. Get out of the building as quickly as possible, please.”
“You can’t get out by way of the parking garage,” Jonas then explained. “I’m going to get you out to the back of the building. This should be safe.”
“I’m hearing an awful lot of uncertainty,” said Elizabeth.
“Just pay attention and I’ll get you out of there. Someone will have to come back for your car later.”
“And check it for tampering,” John added. “Good thing we didn’t bring mine.”
Elizabeth rolled her eyes. “Come on,” she said to Barrett. “Let’s get out of here.”
They spent the next ten minutes navigating hallways, back staircases, and the odd maintenance elevator before arriving at the back of the Hilton. It was fortunately a warm night, or Elizabeth would have sorely missed her coat, still at the coat check at the ballroom. The threesome sneaked over to State Street, and a black SUV pulled up, the driver’s window rolled down. “Get in,” said the woman at the wheel, and the three of them crammed into the back.
“Buckle up,” the driver ordered as she hit the gas. “The last thing I want is to be pulled over because my car is full of secret agents who aren’t wearing seat belts.”
Within twenty minutes, they were back on the fifteenth floor of a suburban corporate building, the headquarters for the Atlantis Cooperative. Elizabeth was sitting on top of a table, her four-inch spike heels next to her. John really didn’t understand how she could walk in those things, nor why she needed to when she was so tall already. He was sitting in a chair facing her, just far enough away to avoid getting kicked when she swung her feet.
Barrett was looking annoyed in a corner, while Marcus Lorne and Laura Cadman, their two rescuers of a sort, were standing nearby, also still in evening clothes. It wasn’t long before Caldwell, Daniel, and Jonas came in, with a third man whom John didn’t recognize.
“Elizabeth,” the man said, “good to see you.”
“Hello, Jack,” she replied. So this was the legendary Jack O’Neill.
He leaned in, John assumed, to kiss Elizabeth’s cheek, and Elizabeth jerked at the last second, ensuring that Jack could only get to her cheek. John narrowed his eyes, wondering what she had anticipated and why.
“All right, boys and girls,” Caldwell said, drawing John’s attention away from Jack and Elizabeth, “let’s figure out what the hell happened.”
“The FBI got a tip during the opera,” Elizabeth explained. “Whoever it was told them that Kolya was heading to a reception at the Art Institute instead of going to the ball.”
“And on that information, I pulled Agents Sheppard and Weir out of the ball, intending to take them to the sting my team had set up at the Art Institute,” Barrett explained. “The tip was credible. About five minutes after we got the call, the Washington office got the same information from a contact in Sarajevo.”
“So here’s where I’m confused,” Caldwell replied. “We get information that Kolya’s going to be at the opera and the gala. Then we can’t find him at the gala. We’re not even sure he was at the opera, because no one was looking for him there. Someone dropped the ball on this one, and I think it’s both agencies represented in this room.”
“Actually, I’m not sure they did,” Daniel interjected.
“What do you mean?” Lorne asked.
“I’ve made some progress with the translation of the tape that Teal’c provided,” the linguist said. “They planted the information Teyla got, in hopes that Elizabeth would be the one to act on it. You guys were right. Those guys were looking for Weir and Sheppard.”
“Why?” John asked, looking straight at his partner.
She didn’t look back. “I have some history with them,” she replied. “Back when I was in the CIA.”
He was going to ask about that later, but this was hardly the setting for the discussion of why she’d lied to him. Instead, he let Caldwell take control of the meeting again. “Well, whatever the case, we’re going to have to be more discriminating about all information we get from here on out. Doctor Jackson, I need you working overtime on that translation,” he said.
“If I could borrow Zelenka from engineering, it might go faster,” Daniel replied. “As I understand it, he’s the only other person here who speaks this language.”
“Done,” said Caldwell. “Tell McKay I’ve signed off on it.”
Daniel nodded and left the room. And at almost the same moment, Carson Beckett came running in from the other direction. “Laura!” he cried. “Oh, thank God.”
Cadman looked at him in amused puzzlement. “Carson, it wasn’t a dangerous operation. The most dangerous part of it was getting on I-55 from Lake Shore Drive.”
“No, I just saw on the news,” he said. “There was an explosion in the parking garage of the Hilton. Car bomb.”
Elizabeth hopped off the table. “Was anyone hurt?” she asked.
Carson shook his head. “I don’t know. It couldn’t have happened more than five minutes ago.”
John loosened his tie while Caldwell said to Barrett, “You should probably call the field office and see if they need you. Everyone else, let’s try not to let the world fall apart at the seams tomorrow, all right? Dismissed.”
As they were filing out, John leaned down to Elizabeth’s ear and said, “And now I’m still glad I didn’t drive my car down there.” For that, she smacked him with her shoes.
'Tis the season of giving, so feel free to give feedback. ;)