Staircase Logistics

"Ow!" Doctor Elizabeth Weir, leader of the Pegasus Galaxy Stargate Atlantis Operation and negotiator extraordinaire, had finally met her match. It was ironic that out of all the things she'd been through just since they'd come to Atlantis (she wouldn't even start on all of the hair-raising situations she'd been put in back on earth), the thing that literally stopped Elizabeth in her tracks wasn't an angry IOA representative or an alien retrovirus or even something as regular (but just as scary) as one of Rodney's medical catastrophes. No. It was the sixth step down the staircase in front of the Stargate.

It just figured that the one night she had to trip and fall and take out one of her already weak knees was the night that no one was around to help her. The night shift in the control room currently compromised of two people: a German technician who stoically refused to meet her eyes and (even worse in her opinion,) Kavenaugh. Fortunately—or maybe unfortunately, she silently revised as her left knee gave an unhappy twinge—someone with the ATA gene had finally gotten sick of the unflattering, unblinking lights in the Gate room and had dulled them to the extent that without sunlight filtering in from the tall windows behind her, Elizabeth was effectively encased in shadow as she lay sprawled in the middle of the staircase.

With a wince of discomfort, she manage to lever herself into an upright position. When she tried to stand, she had to stifle a pained yelp. She realized that her left leg wasn't going to take any of her weight. Elizabeth gave an irritated sigh and stretched out her injured limb in front of her, brushing a stray strand of hair from her eyes. This was just wonderful. She desperately wanted to be back in her quarters with a cup of coffee and a perfect view of the ocean. Now, she was confronted with the depressing and highly un-relaxing prospect of a night full of uncomfortable waiting on the stairs until someone finally came along and got her to the infirmary, where Carson would no doubt force her to stay for the remainder of the night.

If she really wanted to, she could pull herself up a few stairs and call out to the pair in the control room, but that option, reasonable as it might be, simply didn't appeal to her. And really, it was almost soothing, sitting here on the cool floor and watching the moonlight play across the inactive Stargate. Maybe she would stay here. Just for a minute, until someone came along to help…

Peter would have helped you.

She cursed the little voice that insisted on saying things like that at moments when she was least prepared to deal with them. It had been almost two years since her friend had died and the voice still showed up to remind her of it. She knew that Peter would help, if he were here. She also knew that his favorite green mug was sitting up on her desk because it was the only thing she had of his and after all this time she still hadn't put anything in it because then she'd have to admit that she was moving on.

He wasn't the only one they'd lost—she'd lost--nor would he be the last.

He was just one of those she missed the most.

Even as she thought it, Elizabeth knew it was wrong and that she shouldn't play favorites, but she was smart enough to know when logic didn't matter and this was one of those times. Because she'd had to re-record her message to Peter's sister four times before she got through it without tearing up. And because she had his empty mug on her desk, and because she still couldn't look at the new Canadian technician without forgetting and almost asking him, "And where is Doctor Grodin today?"

Elizabeth was tired, and sore, and she had never felt more alone during her time in Atlantis than she did right this minute, lost in the dark on the stairs in front of the stone ring that represented the single greatest gift to humanity ever discovered in Earth's history.

"Carson would have a coronary if he knew you were sitting here like this."

She froze, unable to believe her own ears. It was a hallucination. She had merely filled in the familiar accented voice because she missed it. Rodney was probably standing there, wondering why her face was so pale. Or maybe it was John lurking in the Gate Room, his years of military experience making him so quiet she'd missed his entrance.

But then a figure stepped out of the deeper shadows cast by the Stargate and Elizabeth's entire brain shut down, only to start up again a few seconds later with a roar that drowned out all other sound.

Peter Grodin stood casually at the base of the stairs.

His tan skin caught the barely-there light and his dark eyes flashed with good humor. His head was tilted in that way he'd always done it when Elizabeth was talking to him and he was really listening even though his hands and eyes were doing a million other things.

The one thing that made Elizabeth realize that she wasn't hallucinating from shock and lack of sleep, though, was his outfit. If she had dreamed this fantasy up, she would have put him in the only wardrobe she'd ever seen him wear: his Atlantis uniform.

The Peter looking at her now was dressed in nice brown shoes, khaki dress slacks and a brown silk dress shirt with its sleeves rolled up to the elbows. And he was smiling, just a little, his hands in his pockets as he rocked from heel to toe in a casual gesture she'd never seen before.

But then, it wasn't as if she'd ever seen anyone make a casual gesture in the two and a half years they'd been here.

Finally, she managed to break the silence. "…Peter?" Her voice barely counted as a whisper, but he seemed to have no problems hearing it.

"Doctor Weir," he greeted, his smile growing a bit even as his eyes saddened understandingly.

Elizabeth suddenly realized that the lights were on, just enough to cast a lamp-like glow over the entire scene. She glanced up at the control room only to find it deserted. She looked back to her dearly departed friend, shaking her head helplessly. "Am I dreaming?"

He gave a one-shouldered shrug, still not removing his hands. "Not quite. But trust me when I say that you do not want to know the logistics involved in one of these conversations."

"One of these…" Something clicked in the back of Elizabeth's mind and then she felt the tears start, because she'd wondered a hundred times and she'd never been able to know for sure. "You Ascended," she breathed out on a shaky sigh, with an even shakier smile. "I'm so happy for you, Peter." She even meant it, mostly.

His smile shifted this time from his sincere grin to an expression a little more plastic, a little more troubled than before. "It's…being Ascended is like nothing you've ever dreamed of, Elizabeth." She wasn't sure if the use of her first name or his expression unnerved her more. "It's not exactly a walk down the lane, but we're managing."

Elizabeth felt lost again. "We?"

That grin she knew so well returned full-force. "I've made some friends."

That, at least, she could believe. "Of course you have." She tried to stand, only to find her knee still painfully swollen. She huffed out an annoyed breath. "You couldn't have fixed this?"

"Logistics," Peter reminded her with an even bigger grin. He came to her instead, settling next to her on the stairs. He propped his elbows on his knees casually, folding his hands together as he turned his head to hold her eyes. "I've been keeping tabs on this place. Rodney with superpowers, heaven help us all."

She smiled sincerely for what felt like the first time in months, feeling relaxed despite the total absurdity of her situation. I'm going to have to talk to Heightmeyer when this is over with. "At least he came back."

Peter didn't miss her secondary meaning, even if she hadn't meant to bring it up so soon. He did, however, ignore it. "He was really there for a minute. I very nearly came to greet him at the pearly gates."

Elizabeth's smile suddenly froze when she realized. "That answer didn't just come to him, did it? You gave him all that information that Radek needed to fix the machine."

He winked cheekily at her. "Even geniuses need help from a higher power sometimes."

That time she couldn't help but laugh. He chuckled along with her until her eyes turned sad again and she reached out a hand. Her fingertips couldn't quite make contact with his cheek and he gave her a long, apologetic look. She smiled wryly. "Logistics?"

"Not of my own choosing, I assure you." He glanced at the watch on his left wrist that Elizabeth was sure hadn't been there a moment ago. "I'm afraid I'm running out of time," he said with something that sounded like real strain in his voice. She wondered what exactly this visit was costing him.

Her heart plummeted. "Already? But you only just got here! There's so much--"

"I wouldn't be able to tell you most of what you want to know anyway," he interrupted, softening the cold fact with a warm look. "I really only came because you were finally ready to know."

She nodded slowly. "I can respect that." She could. She didn't have to like it, though.

He stood reluctantly, looking down at her for what felt like a long time before he reached out a hand of his own, his fingertips almost touching her cheek. "You're doing famously, Elizabeth. Things will work out."

The leader of Atlantis stared at him and realized that she'd never needed to hear any words as badly as she'd needed those. But she couldn't help but ask. "…How can you know?

His smile didn't reach past his eyes. "You'll just have to trust an old friend who knows these things."

For another long moment she held his gaze before saying without a hint of mirth, "I can do that."

"Good," he replied softly. His outstretched hand fell and he shoved it into a pocket again. "I need to go." He looked as reluctant as she felt to end their time. He turned from her and walked down a few steps before suddenly turning again. "Elizabeth?"

"Hmm?" She was trying hard not to cry.

"There's a letter tucked inside my medical file that…well, Carson should read it. He knows it's there, and the bloody coward's been avoiding it for nearly a year." The affection in his tone overrode the insult. "Tell him to read it. There are some things in there that need to be taken care of."

Elizabeth nodded slowly. "I'll tell him."

Peter gave her one last smile, and this one lit up his eyes and made her heart ache with bittersweet feelings. "I'll be around," he said softly. His words held the weight of a promise not soon broken. She nodded her understanding, and he inclined his head in a gesture of respect that took down her last barriers and let her tears loose.

"Take care of yourself," she whispered.

He was walking again, standing at the bottom of the stairs where he'd first appeared by the time she'd blinked. He looked up at her one last time. "You too. All of you. And for heaven's sake, use that mug!"

As suddenly as he'd appeared, Peter Grodin was gone.

Elizabeth Weir didn't notice that the lights were suddenly gone again. She didn't hear the loud argument going on in the control room above her--which was a good thing, because Kavenaugh was losing a discussion that he badly needed to lose.

For a long time, she looked into the shadows of the Stargate. Finally, her heart lighter than she could remember it being in far too long, she noticed that her earpiece was lying right next to her on the staircase when she knew for a fact she'd left it on her desk. "Thank you, Peter," she whispered to the darkness one last time.

Then she wiped the last tear from her eye…and paged Doctor Beckett.

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Author's Note: I hope you enjoyed reading this; there just isn't enough decent Peter Grodin fanfiction in the world, and with any luck this little piece remedied that a little. Several more shorts will be coming up in relation to this one: about Peter's Ascension and maybe a few episode tags. We'll see.

In any case, Merry Christmas to all you Peter fans out there, and as always I appreciate any comments you care to give. Cheers!