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15 July 2012 @ 09:21 am
Heavy in Your Arms (part 2)  
Title: Heavy in Your Arms (Part II)
Author: failegaidin
Artist: quiet_jay
Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis/Hawaii 5-0
Rating: T
Characters/Pairings: Hints of John/Elizabeth, Steve/Kono, and Danny/Gabby, but any real pairings will happen in the sequel whenever I get around to writing it :)
Warnings: Violence and language.
Summary: Steve McGarrett and John Sheppard have one very important thing in common...a past full of demons. When the two of them and Grace become trapped by a sadistic creature in the Pegasus Galaxy, Kono, Elizabeth, and Danny rush to find them. But the guilt those men carry could very well get them killed...and Grace has to do everything she can to hold them together until rescue comes.
Link to art master post: here


The rooms all looked normal to Grace. After they left the kitchen, there seemed to be living room after living room, each one decorated differently than the last. There were couches with flowers on them, pianos, big fireplaces, wood floors, carpeted floors, big rooms, little rooms...none of them looked like home, but none of them looked dangerous, either. They were just rooms.

She knew that it was different for Uncle Steve and Colonel John, though. They both tried to act like nothing was wrong, but it wasn’t really working. She’d known Uncle Steve long enough that she could read most of his different faces, and lately the only thing she saw there was pain. She knew that he wasn’t physically hurt, but something inside of him was broken and he was struggling to make it through each day.

Colonel John handled things a little differently. Grace could see the hurt on his face, too, but he did his best to keep it at bay. Whenever he wasn’t going through one of his own nightmares, he would smile down at her and even tell her a funny story. Grace knew what he was doing, since her dad had a habit of doing the same thing. He wanted to distract her from what was wrong with him so that she wouldn’t worry.

She worried a lot, though.

There was almost never a time when at least one of them wasn’t seeing their nightmares. She would see Uncle Steve’s face go really tight, or see Colonel John’s body go very still, and she would know. Sometimes they did their best to ignore them, to make her think that everything was okay. The longer they went on, though, the harder that became.

There were a few times that one of them would actually cry out in pain, and the sound would drill a hole right through Grace. It made her hurt, and it made her cold, and it made her scared. Uncle Steve was the bravest and strongest man she knew aside from her father, and to see him unable to fight made it seem like the world was upside down.

She soon found out that there were worse things than that. Sometimes one of them would simply stop and fall down to his knees as though they’d had their legs kicked out from underneath them. Tears would fall down their face as they stared at the empty room - except that Grace knew it wasn’t empty for them. Though she had seen her father cry once or twice, she had never seen Uncle Steve cry, and the silence of it made her more scared than anything else.

Grace knew there wasn’t much she could do for them. She couldn’t make the nightmares go away and she couldn’t keep them from hurting the two men. They knew that the nightmares weren’t real, but Grace had had enough nightmares of her own to know that that didn’t always take away their power.

She did what she could, though. At first, she thought that leaving the room where the nightmare was would make it go away, but it just started all over again in the next room. It was just as easy - or hard - to sit down and let it run its course. She would sit them both down and hold the hand of whoever was seeing things, and try to take their mind off of it. Sometimes she would tell stories that she had made up. Other times, when she was talking to Uncle Steve, she would remind him of Danno and Auntie Kono and Uncle Chin. Eventually he would nod and slowly come back to her, but each time it took longer.

Sometimes she couldn’t get them to sit down. They would yell at people that weren’t there, or lunge forward suddenly. When that happened, whichever one of them was affected would have to calm them down.

The worst was when they were both seeing things.

The first morning when Grace woke up to find them yelling at each other, she didn’t understand what was going on. Colonel John was calling Uncle Steve a name that she didn’t recognize - Colson? Kolya? - and Uncle Steve was yelling about someone killing his dad. Once the fog of sleep finally left her head, Grace realized that they were both having a nightmare, and that they couldn’t see who they were really arguing with. When Uncle Steve reached for his gun, she jumped to her feet and ran at Colonel John, hitting him as hard as she could and knocking him to the side. Uncle Steve’s bullet bit into the wall behind them and Grace held John down on the floor.

“UNCLE STEVE!” she screamed.

She screamed it over and over again, telling him that it was her, that it was Grace, and that he needed to stop. Slowly, he blinked and looked around, and she knew that the nightmare was fading away.

“Grace,” he breathed. His face crumbled. “Oh, God. Grace.”

Steve slid down onto his knees, eyes wide and chest heaving. He stared at her in disbelief, and she could tell that he felt horrible.

“Gracie, sweetie, I -”

Unable to stop her own tears from sliding down her face, Grace forced herself to get off of Colonel John and walk over to Steve.

“It’s okay,” she said quietly. “But we can’t shoot each other, Uncle Steve. Then the bad man will win. And Danno says you’ll never let the bad man win.”

John pushed himself up off the ground and ran a hand down his face. “Dammit,” he muttered.

“Sheppard, I’m sorry -”

He shook his head and waved him off. “If you hadn’t fired, I would have in a few seconds. I thought you were...” He shook his head. “Doesn’t matter. I suggest a new rule. Guns get unloaded.”

“Guns stay with me.”

They both turned in surprise at the firm tone from Grace. It was obvious that she wasn’t kidding, though, and she didn’t shy away from them. Steve squatted down in front of her and placed a hand on her shoulder.

“Gracie -”

“I know guns are dangerous,” she said, cutting him off. “Danno likes to talk about that a lot. We’ll take the bullets out and we’ll put them in my bag.” She held up the backpack that Steve and John had fashioned for her early on. “That way you can’t have them because I won’t give them to you.”

Steve still looked unsure, but John tugged lightly on one of her pigtails to get her to look up at him.

“There’s one time you should give them to us, Grace. If we’re seeing the same thing, and you’re seeing it, too, that means it’s really there, okay?”

She nodded solemnly. “Deal.” She held open the bag. “Guns and bullets, please.”

It surprised her how much heavier the bag was.

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To say that she was surprised to find a house in the middle of that clearing was an understatement. Kono was starting to get used to weird things happening, though, and she was able to rebound quickly. Even the crazy ninjas that were even now trying to chase them down didn’t affect her like they would have on a normal day.

The old woman standing on the porch of the house, though, did make Kono slow down a little bit.

“Uh, guys?”

The woman stepped down onto the second stair, hand gripping the railing. “You wish to save your friends, yes?”

Danny surged forward. “Is my daughter in there?” He raised his voice. “GRACE!”

“She cannot hear you.”

His face was mottled with anger as he really looked at the woman. “What have you done -”

“I have done nothing to her, or to the two men protecting her. I am doing what I can to help them survive.”

“Two?” Kono pressed, needing to know that Steve was still alive, too.

The woman nodded. “I heard the little girl call them Uncle Steve and Colonel John. I assume they belong to you?”

“They do,” Elizabeth said firmly.

“Then I suggest you hurry inside. The sooner you find them, the better it will be for all.”

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“Who is she?” Grace asked.

John sat back, leaning against the wall for support. The force of the visions was getting worse, and this one had left him winded. He could feel sweat sliding down his back and pooling just below the waistband of his pants. There was a long list of things he wanted right then, and a shower was definitely one of them.

What he wanted most of all, though, was for them to be out of there and free from Stroghen’s house of horrors.

“Her name was Elizabeth,” he said, his voice rough and broken.

“Was she your wife?”

John shook his head. “No. She was my friend, though.” He looked down at his hands. “She was one of my best friends.”

“Did the bad men take her away?”

“Yeah.” He wanted to leave it at that, but his guilt wouldn’t let him. For some reason, lying to this little girl would make everything so much worse than it already was, and his mouth was moving again, forming words that he had never actually said aloud. “I should have saved her, though. She was right there. I could have run back. I could have made sure that she...” He shook his head again, frustrated with the fact that his words never seemed to come out right. “I let her down and I left her behind, and she’s dead because of me.”

He didn’t really expect a nine-year-old to have any answers or great words of wisdom for him, and John was okay with that. But it still surprised him when Grace reached over and took his hand in hers and squeezed it tightly. When she leaned her head on his arm, something caught in his throat and he was afraid that he would choke, but he forced it down, refusing to let her go or push her away.

He raised his eyes and found Steve staring at him. At first, he was afraid that the other man would be upset that Grace was comforting him - the two of them were obviously close, and he was very protective of her. Instead, he saw a look of understanding, and the other man just nodded at him.

John let out a long sigh and rested his head back against the wall.

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I will shield you, the woman had said.

Elizabeth was thankful for that blanket of protection. While a prisoner of the Replicators, she’d had her fair share of nightmares. More than her fair share, really. Each one had been a stunning display of fabricated reality, the lines almost seamless. There was no one better in the galaxy than the Replicators when it came to messing with someone’s mind, and they had wanted to break Elizabeth into a million little pieces. Their ability to get right to the core of you, to force you to live out different scenarios - both full of tragedy and full of hope - was what wore away at you, little by little. It hadn’t taken her long to realize that it was the visions of hope that were the worst. Whenever she once again became aware of reality, the pain cut that much deeper, and her soul sank even lower. Hope was more powerful than fear, she had learned, both in its power to heal and its power to kill.

And now John was facing his own nightmares in a house controlled by a madman. Elizabeth knew some of the demons her military leader carried, and she also knew that there were many more she didn’t know about. He was a man that carried guilt like chains wrapped around his torso, slowly squeezing the life out of him.

He didn’t deserve that.

A colder, more detached part of her reminded her that she would be well within her rights to be angry at him. That voice also argued that he did deserve this kind of hell. He had fought so tirelessly to throw himself in front of the killing bullet for others, he had tortured himself over the people he had lost, and yet...

And yet he had left her.

For just a moment, Elizabeth let that anger wash over her. She let it fill every inch of her, making the blood run hot inside her veins. Her heartbeat raced and her chest began to ache. Her stomach knotted painfully and her steps faltered as she let herself face the fact that John Sheppard had never come for her.

It would have been easy to let it consume her. It would have been easy to tell herself that he had left her and it was only fitting that she leave him now when he needed her most. It would have been easy.

For anyone but her.

An image of John came to mind and Elizabeth felt the anger fade out of her with barely a whimper. She remembered the way his eyes looked when he told her stories about growing up. She remembered the way they looked when he came back from a mission that had gone badly. She remembered his laugh. She remembered the worry lines that would crease his forehead whenever he thought she wasn’t taking care of herself properly.

She and John Sheppard had been friends. She knew that, just as she knew her own name. She wasn’t going to let anger or nanites or Replicators take that away from her. John had left her because she had ordered him to, because it was the only way he could protect the rest of his team. If he had never looked for her, she knew that it was because he had to take care of the city. And if Oberoth had been telling her the truth, about John being told that she was dead, then there was nothing else for him to do except perhaps grieve and move on.

That small voice tried to tell her that she could still hold it against him.

She admitted to herself that she could. But she wouldn’t.

Instead, she was going to save John Sheppard.

“You, uh, you have a very determined look on your face and I hate to interrupt,” Danny said suddenly, “but do we have any idea how we’re supposed to find our people in this hellish house of horrors?”

Kono shrugged. “We could try yelling for them.”

Elizabeth began to lead them up another staircase - it was the eighth one they’d come across, but nobody even mentioned them anymore. “I can find them.”

Danny looked like he was waiting for more. When she remained silent, however, he waved a hand in the air. “You can find them? Does this have anything to do with the crazy thing you did in the forest?”

Elizabeth turned on the stairs to look down at him. “There are a lot of things in this galaxy you’re not ready for, Danny. I spent a long time as a prisoner, and I came out with certain...abilities. That’s how I helped us in the forest. It’s how I knew that John and your friend and your daughter were in here. You can tell me how much it freaks you out later. For now...let’s just focus on finding the people we care about, okay?”

He threw his hands up in surrender. “I am totally onboard with that plan. I just...I talk. It’s what I do.”

Kono smirked. “You bitch.”

Danny shrugged as they continued up the stairs. “You say tomato...”

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Grace’s screams in his ear, John lunged forward, grabbing Steve from behind. Whatever the other man was seeing, it was enough fill him with rage and set him to attacking the wall in front of him. Remembering some of his own horrific visions, John could guess that Steve was facing down someone from his past, someone who had hurt people he cared about. He doubted that Steve had any idea that he was ripping his fists open against a wooden wall instead of the face he was seeing.

Gracie was screaming for her Uncle Steve to stop, but there was nothing else she could do. John tightened his hold on him, trying to pull him back away from the wall. He knew that if Steve kept this up, it wouldn’t take long for him to break one or both of his hands, and they didn’t need that on top of everything else. John had no idea how long they were going to be stuck in this hell, and his knowledge of first aid wasn’t good enough to handle broken bones without any supplies.

Steve was a strong man, though, and John was having trouble subduing him.

“LET ME GO!” he roared. “I’LL KILL HIM!”

“I’m sure you would, buddy,” John grunted, “if he were actually there. And honestly, you introduce me to this guy in the real world, and I might just help you.” The other man continued to struggle. “C’mon, Steve,” he urged. “You’re scaring the crap out of Gracie, man. Calm down. Whoever you think you’re seeing isn’t here. You know that. You know that, Steve.”

With one last kick at the wall, Steve sent them both flying backwards. John stumbled, trying to catch his balance, but all he managed to do was spin them so that Steve went down first, landing on one knee. Just barely keeping on his feet, John kept his hold on him, worried that he would charge back at the wall.

“Breathe, buddy,” he murmured. “Just breathe.”

Grace had stopped yelling, and she ran over to kneel in front of Steve. Pulling out the handkerchief that John had given to her near the beginning, she wiped at her surrogate uncle’s face.

“It’s okay, Uncle Steve,” she said, ignoring the tears that were streaming down her face. “It’s just me and Colonel John. There’s nobody else here but us.”

Still trying to catch his breath, Steve nodded and struggled to give her a smile. “I know, Gracie,” he finally said, his voice raw and rough. “I’m sorry I scared you.”

She shook her head. “I’m never scared of you.”

Swallowing a lump in his throat, Steve leaned forward and kissed her forehead.

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“That was them,” Danny said, pacing down the hallway, unsure of which way to go. “That was most definitely them.”

Kono nodded at Elizabeth. “He’s right.”

“It sounded like it could have been coming from anywhere, though,” she huffed, frustration starting to build. There had been a lot of fear and pain in those screams, but she wasn’t sure if the hurt had been physical or emotional. Elizabeth took a deep breath. “Give me a few minutes, please.”

Danny opened his mouth to say something, but Kono just took a hold of his arm and walked a little ways down the hall to give Elizabeth some space. Giving him a reassuring squeeze, she lifted her hands to his face and forced him to look at her.

“We’ll find her,” she said quietly. “You know that.”

“Actually, no, I don’t know that. Look at us, Kono. We are in some fucked up universe with some really fucked up people and one of them has my little girl. What if we can’t find her? What if we can’t get her out of this damned house? What if Steve’s already -”

She tightened her grip on his face and tugged him a little closer. “Stop it. Steve is alive. Grace is alive. We heard them, Danny. And Elizabeth says she can find them.”

“You believe her?”

Kono thought about it for a moment and then nodded. “I think she’s just as desperate to find John as we are to find our people. I’m not sure what happened to her, but she saved us from those people outside and she got us here. Let’s trust her a little further, okay?”

Danny nodded, but Kono could see that he was barely holding on. His hands were shaking, and the tremors were traveling steadily up his arms.

“I will burn this fucking house down, Kono,” he said quietly, but firmly. “I swear to God. I will burn it to the fucking ground if I have to to get my baby girl back.”

She didn’t flinch at the language or the sentiment. Not for the first time, Kono felt her chest warm at the way Danny loved his daughter so fiercely. Every little girl deserved to have a father like that.

“I’ll help you light the matches, brah,” she said softly.

She meant it, too.

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“You see your dad too, huh?” John asked, his voice low so that he didn’t wake Grace.

Steve didn’t look at him. Instead, he stared across the room at the window on the far side. It let some moonlight in, but the glass wouldn’t break. They tried in every room, just in case they had been lied to. But the panes had always held.

“Yeah,” he finally said, his voice still raw from the yelling he had done earlier. “He, uh...he died a couple of years ago.”

John nodded. “Mine too.” He paused, and Steve wondered if he was just going to let it go at that. He wasn’t sure if he was disappointed or relieved when he didn’t. “You two get along?”

Steve thought for a long minute. “I loved him,” he said finally. “I respected him. But there were a lot of things I didn’t understand until after he was gone. And we were never as close as I think we could have been.”

“You miss him?”

“Every damn day.” When John didn’t say anything in reply, Steve finally turned his head to look at him. “What about you? You get along with your old man?”

John shook his head and let out an empty chuckle. “Nope. Not even a little.”

“He still alive?”

“No,” he replied, and his voice was subdued. “Died about a year ago.”

“Was he military, too?”

“Nah. He was a little proud, though, when I told him I was joining the Air Force. Guess I didn’t quite live up to his expectations, though. I have what you could call a penchant for getting into trouble.”

“And he was expecting a general?”

John shrugged. “Something more than a Lieutenant Colonel, anyway.” His gaze drifted over to Grace, who was sleeping between them with a shirt rolled under her head for a pillow. “She’s a brave little girl,” he said quietly. “I know trained men that would have broken under this kind of pressure and she just keeps trucking.”

“Gets that from her dad,” Steve replied. “Luckily, she doesn’t bitch the way he does.”

John smirked. “Yeah, we got one of those, too. I take it you and her dad are close?”

He nodded. “Danny’s probably the best friend I’ve ever had. I only stayed in Hawaii to find the man that killed my father, but I ended up with a family.” He paused, staring at the little girl. “Danny’s strong. I think there’s only one thing in the world that could break him, and that would be losing Grace. Everything he does is for her; she’s his whole world. I have this nightmare over and over again, where I have to tell Gracie that her father is dead. She cries and she screams and she hits me and she doesn’t understand why. But the worst one is where I have to tell Danny that his little girl is dead. He doesn’t scream. He doesn’t cry. He’s quiet, and then I see it. His eyes die and he’s gone.” I have to get her out of here and back to Danno.”

“You will. I have no idea how yet, but we’ll get out of here. We’re not gonna let this place get her.”

Steve was quiet for a minute, eyes lost in thought. “I wanted to quit a long time ago.”

That didn’t surprise John. He got the feeling that he and Steve were a lot alike, and they were both being put through hell here. He’d been through difficult times before, but he’d always had his team, always had someone counting on him. That made it easier to keep fighting on. Not for the first time, John recognized the fact that Grace was the only reason he and Steve still had their sanity or their lives.

Steve was talking again. “If you and Grace weren’t here, I think I might have given up by now. I’ve been trained to stand up in the face of every imaginable enemy, but nobody back home ever imagined we’d come up against something like this. I’d rather face a fight outnumbered and unarmed than look my demons in the eye. Because they don’t look like demons. They look like Danny, and they look like Grace, and they look like Kono, and they look like Chin. They’re the people I know and they hate me. They blame me. And they should.”

John understood that, too. “Every time I think it can’t get worse, I see Elizabeth.”

The other man looked over at him, his expression sympathetic. “I’ve heard you say her name before.”

He swallowed roughly. “I was supposed to protect her, and I didn’t.”

“You loved her,” Steve said softly.

John nodded. It was the first time he had ever admitted it, and he suddenly wondered why he had waited so damn long. “Every time I see her...she’s hurting because of me. Sometimes she yells at me, tells me that it’s my fault. And others...well, others she just looks at me. Me and Elizabeth, we...we never really needed words. That was one of the things I liked about her.” He looked down at his hands. “I think it’s worse when she doesn’t say anything.”

Steve didn’t have anything to say to that. He could admit that he wanted to comfort him. He hadn’t known John Sheppard long - at least he didn’t think he had; time was really relative wherever they were - but he knew enough to have a great deal of respect for him. They had both lost people and they both blamed themselves. And John seemed just as intent on protecting Gracie as Steve did.

It was because he respected him so much that Steve couldn’t give him empty words of reassurance. He didn’t know if what had happened to Elizabeth was really John’s fault, but it was enough that John believed that it was. It was his burden to carry and there wasn’t much Steve could do about that. He could listen, though, and he could watch the man’s back.

“Let’s get some sleep while we can,” he said quietly.

John nodded, but he didn’t lie down. He stared out the window at the moon they couldn’t reach and waited for the next nightmare to appear.

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Danny knew that he was supposed to be quiet. Kono was right. He needed to give Elizabeth space so that she could figure out where Steve, Grace, and John were. Danny wasn’t entirely sure how she was supposed to do that - there were a lot of things going on with her that he just didn’t understand - but since he didn’t have any better ways of finding their people, he was certainly willing to give her a chance.

But this was taking too damn long.

He was starting to itch. Not just his skin, but everything inside as well, and he couldn’t help but clench his fists as they rested at his sides. He was used to dealing with bad guys, but he was also used to chasing them down and either slapping handcuffs on them or shooting them. He liked to bitch at Steve for the crazy ninja stuff he liked to pull, but Danny had to admit that the physical part of the job had its perks. It was a healthy outlet for the tension that built inside of him, and at the moment, there was nothing to take his anger out on. He wanted to spin around and yell at the two women with him. He wanted to yell until his voice went hoarse and his throat ached. It wouldn’t do him any good, though. And it certainly wouldn’t do Grace any good.

Kono watched him with a worried expression. She understood the need to just get up and move. Sitting around was not her strong suit, and her stomach actually hurt from the nervousness eating a hole right through her. She had always known that Grace and Steve were important to her. They were ohana. They were as much family as Chin was. But the idea of them being trapped in a world where their worst fears played out right in front of them...it made her sick. Grace was a brave little girl, and Kono knew that Steve would do anything to keep her safe, but this was asking too much - of both of them.

And Steve...Kono hadn’t realized just how much she relied on him. Just his presence was enough to reassure her that they were going to get the job done and that they were going to walk out of it alive. It made her crazy to think about the asshole running this house crushing Steve under his heel, and she swore for the millionth time that she would make the man - thing - pay. Steve had enough to carry on his shoulders. He didn’t need this shit on top of everything else.

When she realized that her own fists were clenching painfully, she forced herself to focus on Danny again. She needed to keep him calm. Stepping forward, she rested her hand on his shoulder, squeezing the tight muscle there.

“Danny...”

“I’ve got it.”

They both turned at Elizabeth’s voice. She stood facing an unadorned wall, her right hand pressed against the wood.

“It?” Danny asked, surging towards her. “You mean them?”

Elizabeth turned, nodding as she looked at them in wide-eyed wonder and hope. “They’re on the other side of this wall.”

Danny practically threw himself at it, pounding his fist against the wall and yelling for his daughter and Steve. Kono wanted to rush into the next room to see if there was a way in, but the words of the old woman came back to her.

Don’t split up, she had warned firmly. I can’t protect you if you split up, and then he can separate you. You’ll be lost.

That had definitely kept them together.

She forced herself to stay in the room, fists clenching with the effort. “If we leave to check for another way in, what are the chances we find this wall again?”

Elizabeth shook her head. “Not good. If we lose this spot...we might lose them.”

Danny held up a hand. “Unacceptable. If my daughter is on the other side of this wall, then we find a way through the damn wall.”

Elizabeth’s eyes narrowed. “I think I have an idea.”

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Grace woke up to three very distinct sounds.

The first was her father’s voice and a distant banging. She sat up right away, her head whipping around as she tried to figure out where it was coming from. If her dad was here, then she and Uncle Steve and Colonel John would be okay. Her Danno would save them and they could go home.

The second was a strange hum. At first she thought it was just like a song stuck in her head, but she soon realized that it was too loud for that. Something about it dug under her skin and made her itch. It didn’t matter how much she scratched at her arms and legs though. It wouldn’t go away.

The third was a loud yell from Uncle Steve as he lunged forward and tackled Colonel John.

“RUN, GRACE!” he bellowed. “RUN!”

She got to her feet with a scream, backing away from the two men as they attacked each other. Tears streamed down her face and she realized that she was yelling for them to stop. She screamed again when she saw Colonel John pull a knife out of his boot and slash at Uncle Steve’s chest. The blade caught the moonlight coming through the window, and Grace flinched when she saw that there was blood on it.

“I’ll kill you before I let you hurt her,” John growled.

“You’re not getting anywhere near her,” Steve replied.

They started fighting again and Grace nearly screamed herself hoarse. She knew that they didn’t realize what they were doing. John didn’t see Steve, and Steve didn’t see John. Grace didn’t know who exactly they did see, but whoever it was convinced them that she was in danger and that they had to protect her.

Grace had never been so scared in her life.

Steve yelled at her to run again, and she got all the way to the door before she made herself stop and turn around. The house was magic. Even if nobody ever said it out loud, she knew that it was. What if she left the room without them? Would she get lost? Would the nightmares be able to get her, too? And what would happen to Steve and John?

Danno always told her that Uncle Steve would take care of her, but Uncle Steve couldn’t do that with the nightmares. He couldn’t take care of himself, either. That meant that it was her job to take care of him - and Colonel John - until Danno found them. She had to hold down the fort - that was something else her father liked to say to her - and that meant that she couldn’t run away.

She heard the banging sound again and she ran for the far wall, past the two men who were yelling and hitting each other. Not knowing what else to do, Grace pounded her fists against the wood, her tears turning into sobs that made her chest hurt.

“Danno, I’m here! Danno, you have to come quick! Uncle Steve is sick! Danno, please!”

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He punched the wall again. “Gracie, Monkey, I’m coming! Just hang on a little longer!” He turned to Elizabeth and Kono. “I need to get through this wall right fucking now!”

Elizabeth had been quiet since discovering that their friends were on the other side. Danny and Kono had been pounding against the wall and yelling for Grace, but she had just stared down at her hands, seemingly lost in thought. She wasn’t lost, though. All of that time spent on the Replicator planet working with her coding, trying to find a way to escape, had given her a good idea of the vast capabilities of her body with the nanites inside.

“Back away from the wall,” she said suddenly, her voice low.

“What?” Danny asked. His fists were bleeding, but he didn’t seem to notice.

“Back away,” she repeated, looking him straight in the eye.

She didn’t know what he saw there - maybe she didn’t want to know - but he took a couple of hesitant steps back, pulling Kono with him.

“You can get through?” he asked.

Elizabeth nodded. “I think so.”

She clenched her fist and Danny and Kono both gasped as it began to glow. A blue aura built up around it, and when she looked back at them, her eyes looked like they were full of an azure fire.

“Tell Grace to step back,” she warned.

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She knew that her father was on the other side of the wall. She knew that he and Kono - Grace had heard her voice as well - had come to rescue her. Knowing it only made her tears fall faster, though, and she wanted to keep banging on the wall until they came through and got her and she could actually see them. Her father had told her to back up, though, and she always tried to do what Danno told her to. So Grace took ten big steps back, her eyes darting between the wall and Uncle Steve and Colonel John still beating each other up in the center of the room.

Even though she was trying really hard to be brave, Grace couldn’t help but let out a scream when something came through the wall. It looked like a fist, except that it was glowing blue, and it punched right through the wood. Covering her mouth with her hands, she stepped back a little bit more as the fist came through again and again, making a hole in the wall. Soon there were other hands pulling at the wood, until the opening was wide enough for someone to fit through.

And then Danno was there.

Grace ran towards him and he caught her up in his arms, hugging her like he was never going to let her go again. She buried her face in his neck and started to cry, her shoulders shaking uncontrollably. Danny just hugged her tighter, his own voice cracking.

“I’ve got you, baby,” he said. “I promise I’ve got you.”

It wasn’t over yet, though, and the reunion was cut short as the other two men in the room continued to punch and kick each other. Kono and Elizabeth were through the wall now, and for a moment they just stared in disbelief at the brawl going on in front of them. Then John landed an uppercut that threw Steve backwards. The SEAL slid across the floor, landing in a heap, while John started to move forward with a murderous look on his face.

Kono didn’t pull her gun. Instead, she rushed forward and put herself between the two men, gathering Steve up in her arms and holding him to her. His face was bloodied and his breathing heavy, and she wondered how long they had been going at it before she and the others had managed to get to them.

John was still moving forward, though, a blade glinting in his hand. Elizabeth had never seen him like this and it chilled her to the bone. She could only imagine the nightmares he had had to endure to push him this far.

“John!”

The sound of her voice against the silence made him stop. The anger seeping out of his face, his eyes went wide as he turned to look at her, and there was so much grief there that it almost made her stumble.

“‘Lizabeth,” he whispered.

Still clinging to her father, Grace asked, “Is that your Elizabeth, Colonel John?”

He whipped his head around to stare at the little girl. “You can see her?”

Grace nodded. “They’re not nightmares, because I can see them, too. That was the rule, right?”

Slowly, John lowered the knife, his eyes going back to Elizabeth. “Yeah,” he said quietly, “that was the rule.”

Steve looked around in disbelief, eyes resting on Danny for a long moment before settling more firmly on the woman in front of him.

“Kono too, Grace?” he asked, cautious hope in his voice.

“Kono too,” she confirmed, resting her head on Danny’s shoulders.

Something inside of Steve seemed to let go for just a moment. His shoulders sagged as he realized that they were finally safe, and that this wasn’t just another ghost trying to break him. Kono gave him a watery smile as she cradled his face in her hands, her thumbs brushing over his cheeks.

“You know, boss, you really need to stop getting into so much trouble. You know what it does to Danny’s blood pressure.”

He coughed out a broken laugh. “I’ll work on that.”

“I’m gonna hold you to that.”

Before he could say anything else, the house around them shook like it had been hit by a terrible earthquake. Danny stumbled into the wall behind him, holding Grace to him tightly; Kono pushed Steve down so that her body protected his. Elizabeth jumped as she felt someone touch her, and she looked up to see that John was holding on to her, the blade gripped tightly in his hand again as he angled himself in front of her.

“What’s happening, Daddy?” Grace asked.

A flickering image appeared in the center of the room as the house continued to shake. Somewhere below they heard glass shattering and wood breaking.

“Run!” Mannara ordered. She seemed to be having trouble staying solid, but they could see the triumph in her eyes warring with the worry. “RUN!”

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The shaking wasn’t confined to the house, and as the tremors ran through the ground, Gabby looked over her shoulder at the building. It had been hell, but their group had managed to fight their way into the clearing. Elizabeth - how the hell had ELIZABETH shown up? Gabby asked herself - and the other two that had disappeared with her were nowhere to be found, and she figured that they had gone inside. Gabby and Lorne had managed to get up onto the porch, but there were too many crazy ninjas for them to leave everyone else to defend themselves.

“What the hell is going on?” Lorne demanded as he grabbed for the railing to stay on his feet. The tremors were growing worse.

“Don’t know,” Gabby replied. “But I’m hesitant to think that it could be anything in our favor.”

She was pleasantly surprised to see that she was at least partially wrong as the window just behind Lorne shattered into a thousand pieces and people she cared about began tumbling out of it. Elizabeth and John were there, along with the others she had yet to meet. She figured that since the ninjas were trying to kill them as well, she could count them as friends instead of foes.

One of their red-tattooed adversaries leapt up onto the porch then, weapon held high and aimed at the man holding a little girl. Gabby shouted a warning and then jumped over everyone else still trying to get to their feet from the jump through the window. She pushed the man out of the way just in time to catch the tail end of the swing, and her side burned in agony. Stamping the pain down as much as she could, she raised her right arm to catch the next attack, twisting it back and up.

Her opponent was good, but Gabby had been well-trained. She didn’t get many chances on Atlantis to use her skills, even with the amount of scrapes that John managed to get them into, and her mind and body relaxed into the old role with a sense of completeness and relief. She felt each movement instead of seeing it and her breathing was steady and calm. There was an order to fighting that set her at ease, and everything else fell away as she slowly beat back the man in front of her.

He knew that she was winning; Gabby could see it in his eyes as he lost more and more ground. With one final sweep, she managed to take his weapon from him. This close, she could see that it was something like a staff with blades on each end. Spinning it experimentally in her hands, she got a feel for the weight and then swung it so that one of the blades sliced across his throat. The ninja fell backwards, over the railing and out of sight, and Gabby turned back to the others.

The house was still shaking, the tremors getting stronger, and she knew that they needed to make their escape.

“Teyla!” she yelled. “Start leading them back to the jumper! Shoot your way through! Ronon, you’ve got the right! Lorne, the left! I’ll cover you!”

There was no hesitation, no argument. They began to move out, getting off the porch just as the rest of the windows in the house exploded outward. Using the weapon she had procured from her last adversary, Gabby engaged any of the ninjas who came close enough for her to reach. She silently marveled at the way each of them was trained. This was a prime fighting force, and she wondered who their allegiance belonged to.

It didn’t take them long to realize that she was a big threat, and that won her companions a little more breathing room as they ran for the jumper. Gabby risked a glance over her shoulder to see how close they were to the ship, not realizing her mistake until it was too late. The men following them grouped together and surged forward, cutting her off from the others. There were just too many of them for her to take down on her own, and even as she saw her friends run into the back bay of the jumper, she realized that there was no way she was going to be able to follow them.

“GO!” she yelled at Ronon, who was guarding the ramp. “GO!”

She wasn’t expecting the flash of blue light as Elizabeth came running out of the jumper, a dark-haired woman right behind them. Three of the ninjas got caught by the light and flew to the sides, opening the space just enough so that the two women could reach Gabby.

“What the hell are you doing?” Gabby asked.

“Kono and I thought that you could use some help.”

Kono nodded. “Besides, I’m not letting you have all the fun without me. I’ve wanted to punch something ever since Steve and Grace went missing.”

There wasn’t any time to argue and Gabby couldn’t deny that she was happy to have some company. Maybe there was a chance they could all come out of this alive.

“I realize we don’t have time to talk about the blue glowy-thing going on with you, darling,” she said to Elizabeth, “but we most definitely will later. For now, I think you should just blast these bastards and we should get back to the jumper.”

Elizabeth’s eyes were hard as she pulled her right arm back, the blue glow once again growing in the palm of her hand. “I was thinking the same thing.”

Somehow sensing that the tide was turning, the ninjas leapt forward as one and tried to overwhelm them. It wasn’t as successful as they were hoping. Gabby found that her new weapon quickly became comfortable in her hands and it soon felt like an extension of her arms rather than a separate object. Elizabeth seemed to still be finding her footing as far as the weapon she carried inside of her, but she threw it out at their opponents as best and hard as she could, keeping them at bay, sometimes throwing them into trees hard enough to knock them out.

They almost lost Kono once. Gabby caught just enough of the other woman’s fights to be impressed, but at one point she was simply overwhelmed. Seeing that Elizabeth had her opponents under control, Gabby rushed to her new companion’s aid, slicing through ninjas with a vicious ferocity. Kono managed to regain her feet, her left arm bleeding from a cut that ran the length of her bicep. In her right hand she held a weapon that matched Gabby’s, and she threw herself against the nearest ninja, nearly decapitating him in the process.

A sudden roar behind them made Gabby spin around. One of their foes had managed to get around them and was sneaking in from the side, unseen. Ronon, still standing guard at the jumper, had caught his movements, though, and he threw a large knife that impaled itself deep in the man’s neck. He crumpled to the ground with a wordless cry.

“Time to leave!” the Satedan roared.

Elizabeth threw one last blast of energy at the remaining ninjas and then the three women broke for the jumper. It started to lift in the air in anticipation of leaving, and Ronon reached down to catch Gabby’s hand and haul her inside as the last passenger. Kono was already slumped down on one of the benches, while Elizabeth stood in the center uncertainly.

“Sit down, darling,” Gabby said, reaching out to squeeze her friend’s arm. “We’ll figure everything out when we get back home.” She gave her a warm smile. “I’m just glad to see you alive and well.”

Elizabeth returned the smile gratefully and the two women sat down on one of the benches as Lorne guided the jumper back to Atlantis.

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Danny held Grace’s hand tightly as they walked through the unfamiliar halls of Atlantis. They had been given a tour a couple of days ago, but Danny hadn’t quite wrapped his head around it yet. Sheppard had given him a data pad with a map in it, and he was currently using that to make his way through the city. He had already managed to get turned around a couple of times, but as they came up to the open third door on the left, he let out a sigh of relief. They had finally found their destination.

He raised his free hand to knock, but something made him hesitate. The woman sitting behind the desk was fully immersed in whatever she was working on on her laptop, a pair of black-rimmed reading glasses settled on her face.

Gabby Marcotte wasn’t exactly a leader on Atlantis, but she was the women who kept the day-to-day affairs running as smoothly as possible. Danny hadn’t known anything about her at first, but eventually someone had mentioned her. Apparently she was the one responsible for 5-0 getting rooms so quickly and close together, and she had gotten them clothes and toothbrushes and had even found a stuffed animal for Grace to sleep with.

And she had done all of this after saving their lives and getting seventeen stitches in her side.

“Miss Gabby?” Grace asked, discontent to wait for her father to knock.

Gabby looked up sharply before a warm smile spread across her face. Slipping her glasses off and setting them on the desk, she pushed herself to her feet, almost managing to hide the wince of pain.

“Hello, there,” she said, her British accent somehow softening her voice. “What can I do for the two of you?”

Danny felt slightly off-kilter, and he didn’t know why. Regardless, he gave her a smile. “We, uh...we wanted to thank you.”

“For what?”

“You saved us,” Grace said.

Danny chuckled. “Major Lorne told us how you ended up with those stitches,” he explained. “In the midst of jumping out of the crazy house and trying to make sure that my daughter and my team were okay, I didn’t see that you leapt in front of us and took a hit.”

“You don’t have to thank me for that, Daniel. I wasn’t going to let any of you get hurt if I could help it.”

“And we greatly appreciate that. You, uh...you’ve also taken pretty good care of us since we got back to the city. The rooms, the clothes...”

“And the teddy bear,” Grace added. “Was he yours?”

Gabby’s smile widened. “Yes, he was. I always found him to be a good friend to cling to whenever I was afraid. He’ll take good care of you.”

“But what if you need him again? Even grown-ups get scared sometimes.”

“They do indeed. And I’ll make sure to come to you if that happens, alright? Then I can borrow him until I’m not afraid anymore.”

Grace nodded sagely. “Deal.”

Danny started gesturing with his free hand, drawing Gabby’s attention back to him. “We were hoping that maybe you would join us for dinner. If you’re not too busy, that is.”

Gabby glanced down at her watch, eyes widening when she saw what time it was. “Oh my. I didn’t realize how late it had gotten.”

“Even administrators of lost cities in far-off galaxies, who fight ninjas in their spare time, need to take a break and eat.”

“That is very true. And I would love to join you.” She reached out to tap a few keys on her laptop, and Danny frowned as he saw her left hand start to quiver. Gabby shook it a few times and then resumed typing for a moment before closing the lid and looking up at them again with a smile. “I’m ready when you are.”

Filing away his observations, he nodded. “Let’s go, then.”

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Steve stormed out of Carter’s office, not sure where he planned to go. Her words were still ringing in his head, making it difficult to breathe. Maybe if it had been just him, it wouldn’t have been so bad. But the idea of telling Danny and the others made him sick to his stomach. They weren’t going to be happy. Hell, he wouldn’t have been surprised if they were devastated. And he had to be the one to break the news to them.

If there was anything he could have done to change the situation, he would have done it in a heartbeat. There were no options, though, nothing he could do. He hated that more than he ever could have described.

When he eventually became aware of his surroundings again, Steve realized that he was in one of the large ship bays - “jumpers,” they called them - and that he wasn’t alone. Elizabeth Weir stood close to the edge of the open bay, staring out at the rain pouring down outside. There was just enough of a breeze to push the rain in at them, and he saw that the floor around her feet was damp.

It definitely looked like she wanted to be alone.

“I’m sorry,” he said, when she turned to look at him. “I didn’t mean -”

Elizabeth shook her head, her eyes sad. “It’s okay, Commander. I wouldn’t mind the company.”

He walked towards her slowly until he was standing right next to her. The cool breeze and the spray coming off the water had a surprisingly calm effect on him, though maybe it shouldn’t have been that surprising. The water had always been a comfort to him. A sharp pang went through him at the thought of the beach behind his house.

“I take it you got the all-clear from Beckett and McKay?” he asked quietly.

Ever since they had gotten to Atlantis, Elizabeth had been locked away in the infirmary. Even after telling her story of manipulating the nanites inside of her body and finding an empty Replicator planet, her friends were skeptical. They had run every test imaginable until they exhausted their ideas and finally had to conclude that she was who she said she was. Carson had given her a relieved smile and hugged her tightly, though McKay muttered under his breath about missing something.

No one had mentioned the blue light that Elizabeth had thrown at their enemies.

“I did,” she replied, staring out at the water. “I’m not really sure it matters, though.”

“Give them time. From what I hear, you were gone a long time. It’ll take some getting used to.”

“They don’t trust me.”

“They’re cautious,” he argued. “Give them time,” he repeated.

Elizabeth opened her mouth again, and Steve thought that maybe she was going to mention Sheppard. Instead, she just scowled and shook her head before changing the subject.

“You look like you just got some bad news,” she said. “Did you talk to Sam about getting back home?”

Steve’s jaw clenched as he nodded and looked out over the water again. “We can’t get back.”

“Carson told me,” she said gently. “I’m sorry, Steve.”

He shook his head. “There has to be a way. I can’t just tell Danny that he’s never gonna see his parents again. I can’t tell Kono and Chin and Malia that they’re stuck here for the rest of their lives!”

“It could be worse -”

“How can you say that? How can you just stand there and accept that you’re stuck here? Don’t any of you want to go home again? Don’t you have people waiting for you?”

Elizabeth looked down. “We’ve all had to leave someone behind, Commander. The weight of it is crushing. But it doesn’t change the facts.”

He looked at her in disbelief. “And you’re content with that?”

“Content isn’t the right word. But I know for a fact that raging against something I cannot change won’t get me anywhere. For the foreseeable future…Atlantis is your home.”

He didn’t know what to say to that.

“It’s not all bad, Commander,” she said softly. “You’re not alone. You have your ohana with you. And really…isn’t home wherever they are?”

Her words rang true in an uncomfortable way. Aside from his sister, there wasn’t really anything or anyone else from Earth that he was going to have trouble getting by without. Steve knew that he would be okay as long as he had his team with him and could keep them safe. That was all he really needed. The others, though...they had families, loved ones. The news was going to break their hearts.

“I think maybe we’ll be okay, Steve,” she murmured, reverting back to the informality of his name instead of his title. “I promise to stick it out and give it a chance if you do.”

It wasn’t like he had a choice. He had the people he cared about, though, and they had a safe place to call home. He knew that telling them wouldn’t be easy, but they’d get through it. Nothing had beaten them down yet, and he wasn’t going to let this be the first.

Nodding to let Elizabeth know that he agreed to the deal, he turned his attention back out to the water. The two of them just stood there, facing the oncoming storm, and wondering what fate had in store for them.