The Murder of Elizabeth Weir
T - Drama/Angst – JS, EW – Complete
Summary: AU. Shweir. When John Sheppard gets up tomorrow morning there'll be just one thing on his To Do list: kill Elizabeth Weir. Season 1.
Disclaimer: Atlantis is clearly not mine, since I'm in New Zealand and they're in North America.
A/N: Okay, this is weird. Severely AU, but basically everything's the same except that John was born in the Pegasus Galaxy and didn't come with them to Atlantis. This isn't the story I intended to write from the idea, but oh well. Warning: Not a happy ending. Not an unhappy ending, exactly, just not happy.
The people from Atlantis call this the Pegasus Galaxy. I call it home. My name is John Sheppard – I work for the Wraith.
Bet you weren't expecting that, huh? I spent my life fighting the Wraith; now I fight for them. I'm good at my job and I can go where they can't, so we have a deal: I do their dirty work and they only cull our dying. I once vowed to do anything to protect my world. Guess I never thought about what that meant.
"Another mission?" my brother asks when he visits to find me packing. "You only just got back! Can't they manage without you?"
"I guess I'm just indispensable, Joe. But don't—"
"—bother asking, 'cause it's classified. I know." He grins at me and I have to turn back to my packing. He is why I'm doing this, for people like him, unaware of the price of their freedom.
For our sad excuse for freedom. For my world. For my people.
My people think there's a treaty. Okay, there is, but it's not what they think. They think we gave up space travel, 'gate travel, and freedom and in exchange the Wraith only feed on the already-dying.
No one seems to question why a people who could blow us out of the sky accepted a bargain like that from food. We wouldn't accept it from pigs and the Wraith need more than just that to keep them from destroying us. That's where I come in. A handful of us, the best of those who fought the Wraith, have skills they can use. A handful of us, with our planet, our people, as hostage.
Sure, the Wraith don't usually have much use for humans except as food. But we are the best. Our world was supposed to feed the caretaker Wraith while the rest of them slept. We fought back. We held them off even when we had nothing left to fight with. I, and a few like me, am useful.
My soul is gonna spend eternity rotting in the cold depths of space.
The First Minister is there to see me off. We bow our farewells with respectful politeness, as if this was just another government meeting, but I can almost smell his fear. This could be the mission where someone screws up and our planet pays the price.
"I won't let you down," I tell him as the Wraith transport lands.
"I know," he says quietly, but there is disgust in his eyes. Not at me, at himself. He's the one who agreed to this whole treaty thing and his soul is gonna be right up there with mine. At least there'll be company in eternal damnation.
Me, I'm basically an assassin. The Wraith can be a pretty practical people – most farmers I know are. Once upon a time I snuck onto Wraith ships and made them go boom. Now I infiltrate rebelling worlds and take out the leaders so that the Wraith can swoop in and take advantage of the confusion. Less messy for them, see. Being human, I can go where they can't, just slip right in there without being noticed. Sometimes they don't even have to swoop in afterwards – I take care of the dissenters before they can incite a rebellion.
I am the pesticide keeping their crops pest-free. Hate me already? Don't worry, I do too. This isn't why I fought the Wraith for all those years, you know, I don't want to help them. But I do it anyway. One wrong move and my planet is toast.
Does that give me the right to mess with everybody else's planets? No, but this is what I do: I do the dirty work so that the people on my world can believe we've won as much freedom as we possibly can. There are probably two dozen people on the entire planet who know the truth and it's going to stay that way. Bad enough I know what I've done, I don't want my friends and family to know. It's better this way, for all of us. I can't protect everyone, but I can protect my little corner of the galaxy. If it wasn't for that protection there is no way in hell I'd be working for the Wraith.
Strangely enough, the Wraith almost make decent bosses. They can tell if you lie, but if you gave it your best shot and still failed they won't kill everyone out of hand. You might even survive yourself. Like I said, practical.
I hate Wraith interior design. It's just so, so… monotonous.
"The woman you must kill is named Elizabeth Weir," my contact Wraith tells me. The Wraith don't have names, at least not that they tell their food, so I've called him Bill. "She leads a people not of this galaxy who have taken up residence in the last bastion of those you call the Ancestors."
My ears prick up at this, though naturally I don't let Bill know that. The Ancestors are the closest thing to gods on my world, a people whom the Wraith might have chased off but sure as hell didn't defeat like they can us. The Ancestors, for us, are hope.
"You must seek a planet which has trade with these people," Bill orders. "They come from a world known as Earth and now live in the city of Atlantis."
Earth, Atlantis, Elizabeth Weir. "Got it."
He looks at me, arrogant superiority leavened by just a dash of grudging respect. I resist the urge to kill him where he sits – I could do it, even kneeling here with the two guards by the door. I might (might) even survive. That's why they made the deal with us. "This will be a long-term mission, human. They do not trust easily, these Earth people. But once you tell us of her death they will fall easily under our onslaught. Do not rush and betray yourself. We expect this to take time."
"Are you trying to tell me my job?" I demand cockily, pushing him, and his eyes narrow. But they need us just enough that he doesn't push back.
"You may leave."
I hate the Wraith.
I have four identities already set up that I can slip into for this sort of mission, traders who deal in curios and other commodities that don't need constant attention. I had five, but I lost one on Meganto when I had to blow my cover to kill the High Priest (he doubled as the focal point of the local anti-Wraith movement). I've gotten pretty good at the whole bargaining thing and I've built up a decent stock in all four personas.
For this one I'm going as Eli John, a minor trader who specialises in jewellery and small artworks with a sideline in Ancestor ware. I've always collected Ancestor artefacts – the Ancestors are the closest thing to Wraith-defeaters we have, so I figured it might help my cause to keep their tech out of Wraith hands and hope that someone can use it against them. I think it's going to pay off now – people living in an Ancestors' city have got to be interested in other stuff of theirs, right?
So Eli John ghosts back onto the scene, reappearing at Taslif and making his way through the trading markets on a dozen worlds, keeping his eyes and ears open. By the time I catch a hint of these Earth people, there'll be an unbreakable trail of genuine trading behind me. I won't ask any questions, I won't draw any attention to myself, I'll just smile, wave, and listen. I've gotten pretty good at listening.
I'm good at making friends too. Put on a mask that shows them what they want to see, listen to them with apparent interest, smile at the kids, and crack a bunch of jokes. People like that sort of thing.
Obey these simple rules and people'll trust you. I've found that it's easy enough to earn people's trust if you're willing to take it slow. You just ease your way in and try really hard to forget why you're doing it. You become one of their people, share their triumphs and failures, make their concerns your own – and then when you're in deep enough you kill your target and pretend it doesn't hurt.
I sold my soul to the Wraith and there's no way in hell I'm getting it back.
All my careful listening and making friends pays off, as it always does. I find a world where they speak of strangers from a city called Atlantis, I settle down, set up a stall in the market, make some good pals. And then one day Haran leads over a quartet of strangers dressed in some kind of uniform and introduces me as someone who deals in the Ancestors' tech without my having dropped a hint to him. What can I say, I'm good at my job.
"I'm Major Lorne," the apparent leader of this little group tells me. I gesture wordlessly to my array of Ancestor goods, and one of the men dives in, muttering to himself. "This is Doctor McKay."
"Yes, hi," the mutterer says without looking up, tapping the side of one of the joke pods.
"Lieutenant Ford," the young one says, grinning and rolling his eyes at his friend's poor manners.
I bow to him politely, but turn to McKay. "I wouldn't do that if I were you."
He pays me some attention now. "Look, I know more about this technology than you do about yaks, or whatever it is you ride around here. Now just let me—" It squirts blue ink on his face.
His friends choke back laughs; Ford turns away to hide his face. I, as inscrutable trader, manage to keep my face blank, but it's a close thing. I pluck the dripping joke pod from his hand and pick up the reverser, squirting it at him before he has a chance to protest. The ink clears from his skin. "Master McKay, I don't know much about yaks, but I've traded in Ancestor ware for years and I think I've picked up a few tricks on the way."
He looks at his hands, no longer blue, and searches for a way to regain his dignity. His friends don't seem willing to grant him that opportunity, still snickering. "Yes, thank you," he turns on them. "Ha ha, very funny, we've all had a good laugh." He turns back to me. "Now do you have anything serious in that collection or is this just a waste of my time?"
"Data-pad, small energy source, book of tales, stunner," I point out. "Leave that one there alone, though, it's just another gag one."
He's ignoring me again, so I turn back to his friends. "I am Teyla Emmagen," the woman says, inclining her head.
I give a respectful bow. "The name of Emmagen is known to me. Tagar Emmagen was a great man."
"My father," she smiles, pleased.
While McKay sorts through the display of Ancestor ware, the others look around. Emmagen is intrigued by my jewellery display, while Lorne and Ford seem unused to markets and look around warily at the bustling crowds, hands on what I assume are weapons.
My fingers itch to try one out and find out what it's like to kill a Wraith with one.
"This is a lovely necklace." Emmagen has picked up the star of my collection, a necklace of finely-wrought gold crafted in an intricate, elegant design to house vivid red stones like frozen drops of fresh blood. I've had it for years, getting it for an excellent price even by my standards, but buyers at markets seldom carry the money they'd need to buy such a piece. It isn't so much a piece of jewellery as a work of art, and having worked as a dealer in both I should know.
"It's kinda pretty," Ford agrees, but McKay happens to look up at that moment.
"Yes, yes, it's very nice, but we're not here for jewellery, are we?"
Emmagen puts it back carefully. "I was thinking," she said coolly, "that it would suit Doctor Weir."
His mouth twitches, but he is silenced by this. I, meanwhile, am very interested by this first mention of the woman I have to kill. McKay waves Emmagen off and turns to me. "There's not much here. That other man, Hasan—"
"Whatever. He said you're a dealer in this stuff."
"There's not much call for it in a market like this," I point out. "I've got a couple more boxes out back if you're interested."
"Yes!" he says immediately, then recovers with an uncomfortable laugh and tries for nonchalance. "I mean, uh, you probably don't have anything useful, but I wouldn't mind a look."
If I want to make friends with these people, I really shouldn't laugh at them. Don't they have to trade back in their world? McKay must be overcharged every time.
I fetch out the boxes and he disappears into their contents, getting Lorne and Ford to hold things. Emmagen holds back, not quite a part of their group. While McKay's not looking I nudge toward her a pair of gold bracelets that I saw she liked. They're nothing too expensive, and I don't mind trying to turn these folks up sweet. She tilts her head to look at me, not taking them, and I grimace at McKay and roll my eyes. She smiles, and dips her head in thanks. Guess I'm not the only one to find him a bit abrasive.
It's the beginning of a relationship. I have stuff parked on a dozen worlds, so every week or two I dash off to one or another to fetch back boxes of Ancestor leavings for McKay to sift through and while he does so I get to know these people. Ol' smarmy Bill, I don't think he knows anything about these people if he thinks that killing their leader, no matter how much they might adore her, will stop them. I think it'll just make them really, really pissed.
This is a slow business, getting them to trust me, but I need to do it. Either they need to take me home with them, or I need Weir to come here. Because even as I get to know these people, get to like them, I have to remember why I'm here. I don't have to like it, I just have to remember.
So I take it slow. I agree to procure stuff for them to look at, no strings, and I hand over whatever they show an interest in. Do they know I'm practically giving this stuff to them? Do they know how much this stuff is really worth and think I'm just stupid? It doesn't matter. These people – they are hope. They are something I never knew existed, a people with confidence that they will defeat the Wraith or die trying. No giving up, no accepting, no half-measures. They actually think they can win. Against the Wraith.
I almost believe them.
I want to believe them.
I make myself useful, I insert myself into their lives and make them like me, make them think they need me. I'm good at this, this is what I do. I don't think about what will happen when I betray them. That's not important. I have a job to do and I will do it.
Then finally, success.
Weir comes to visit the trader who's helped them so much, got them Ancestor tech and swung deals with just about every trader I know to help them out. Her people, the four I know so well, surround her, keeping an eye on the surrounding crowd as if they expect that someone will try to kill her. Do they always worry so much about her? Why is she so important? How is it that this one woman is feared by the all-powerful Wraith and leading the closest thing to hope in this whole galaxy?
I can believe it, because she smiles at me and I fear her. She smiles at me and I have hope. I can't afford hope. I bow to her and try to hide the confusion running through me.
"Trader John? I'm Elizabeth Weir. I'm very pleased to meet you."
She holds out her hand. I know now that this means she wants me to shake it, that it's a sign of friendship and greeting, but I hardly dare to touch her.
Emotions, incidentally, are not helpful for an assassin.
I wouldn't call her beautiful. Personally, I think Teyla is prettier than the renowned Doctor Weir. But Teyla doesn't make my mouth go dry and a fist clench around my heart. Teyla doesn't give me a jolt in my stomach and the feeling that I just drank way more short beer than I'm supposed to. This is the woman I'm supposed to kill, looking at me with warm eyes and smiling at me.
Someone – Ancestors, gods, Wraith, someone – really doesn't like me.
"H-hello, Ma'am Weir." What, I'm stuttering now? Me? I never have trouble talking to women. I'm suave and charming and keep my distance.
I'm all that's keeping my planet from all-out destruction. This is not happening.
This is such a mess. Rodney's lost in my latest box of treasures, Teyla's idly running a silver chain through her fingers, Marcus and Aiden are standing guard, and Elizabeth Weir has accepted my offer of tea and is smiling at me over her cup. I don't know what to do. This is crazy, this is not happening to me. This is the woman I have to kill and I'm sitting here trying not to melt at her feet?
In my search for a neutral topic, I reach blindly for the necklace Teyla once admired. "Ma'am Emmagen thought you might like this." I offer it to her and the moment she touches it I know I'm not getting it back. I can't stand the thought of someone else wearing it. "It's yours," I say. "You can keep it. No charge."
She wants it, I can see that in the moment before she pulls down a negotiator's mask. "Trader John—"
"The people who make that jewellery say that all art has a soul, and that there is only one person in the universe at a time to whom that soul is matched. To keep the two apart is just wrong. I'm a trader, not a mystic, so I never believed it until now." Could I sound more ridiculous? I seriously have to pull myself together here. I've fought the Wraith; I have a mission and it doesn't involve bad romance ballads. "It's yours. Besides," I add with a sly grin, finally regaining my equilibrium, "you're going to be buying a bunch of other stuff off me."
She chuckles, acknowledging the truth of this. Rodney is pretty thrilled with my latest collection.
I don't kill her, not this time. I argue with myself, pointing out that we're never alone so I don't have a chance but countering that I don't need to be alone with someone to kill him. What happens to me afterwards isn't important so long as I'm successful. But, I argue back, the Wraith want me to be able to contact them and let them know my part of the plan has succeeded. This is true, and I wave the Earth people farewell with relief.
I don't want to kill her.
Then again, I never want to kill my targets. She should be no different to any of the dozens of other people I've killed. I'm going to have to do it, I know I am. It's not up to me to decide whether one woman's life is more important than a planetful of people. I'm glad it's not up to me, because I'm too scared to admit which one I would choose.
She comes again, a quiet torture with warm eyes, talking with me while Rodney mutters to himself and her people wander the colourful stalls, always keeping one eye on her for direction and for her safety. She seems to like me, and I could almost think it's not just my mask she sees. It's like she sees right through me if I try to spin her any lies, a mocking smile curled in the shadow of her lips until I admit the truth.
"So how do you know which of these devices could be useful to us?" While Elizabeth sits with me, Rodney is in the corner cooing over a power source I found, something they call a zed-pee-em. It's only partly charged, but it's still a coup for me, a way to get even deeper into their good graces.
"I'm a good guesser." She gives me a Look. I shrug. "Okay, I've got some contacts." Her eyebrow arches. She still doesn't believe me and I sigh in resignation. "All right, so I can read the writings and I've had experience with these things." We used some Ancestor tech in our fight against the Wraith.
"You speak Ancient?"
"The Ancestor tongue? Sure. It's the language of scholars back home, and for a while there they thought I might make a good scholar. A real short while." I make it a joke but somehow she senses the squashed bitterness and there is empathy in her eyes.
"So instead you become a trader?"
I've learnt to be cautious with my words around her. "Among other things."
Her gaze is sharp – it would be disconcerting if it was anyone else but her. I can't lie to her. I lie to everyone I meet but I can't lie to her.
Maybe I am still human after all.
She comes again. And again. This, drinking tea behind my stall while Rodney ferrets in a box like a child on his name-day, is her relaxation. She's a leader, and in their new home she is always The Leader – but I'm not one of her people. She doesn't have to be the leader with me and I'd rather she wasn't. I like Elizabeth way more than Doctor Weir.
She can talk to me, you see. She can get angry or upset or admit she's tired. With me she doesn't have to be In Charge and In Control. I like it. I like being the one to make her laugh, the one she can complain at, the one she can admit weakness to.
I just wish – I wish a lot of things. I wish I'd met her in a different time and place, without a blade at my throat. I wish I could talk with her as freely as she can talk with me. I wish I could tell her my problems and my dirty little secrets and listen to her tell me that things are going to be okay. I'd believe it if she said it. I trust her, I want to tell her about my real job, about the gun pointed at my head. She might even be able to help – but even if she can't, if I could just tell someone it would feel like I'm not quite so alone.
If my target was someone different I'd tell her right now. Even if she hated me afterward, she'd still help me. But she is my target, and I don't have the courage to tell her, to tell her that none of this is real, that I've planned getting close to her just so I can kill her. Even if I had the courage I wouldn't. It's not that I don't trust her, you've got to understand – I don't trust me. If she asks something of me I don't think I can say no.
I want tell her everything – but I have to kill her.
"Now, this—What is this?" Rodney demands. "This isn't Ancient technology. Have you been duped again, John?"
I lift my eyebrows at Elizabeth and she hides a smile. Rodney improves on acquaintance, but he'll never be polite. "What that, Rodney? You're grateful to me for going to all this trouble for you? Aw, shucks, Master McKay, it weren't nothing."
"Oh, please. We pay you for this junk."
"If it's junk, why do you keep coming back?"
I should have learnt by now that Rodney doesn't know when to quit. "Because Elizabeth likes you," he retorts.
Two counts of red faces? Check. "Just gimme that, Rodney. Oh, that. Sorry, I meant to take that out."
"What is it?" Rodney repeats, refusing to hand it over and investigating it.
"It's a gun and you're pointing the muzzle right at your head."
That gets his attention and he hastily points it away. "That's not—You're kidding, right?"
"Please, I never kid." This earns me a second 'You're kidding, right?' in Elizabeth's expression. "The guy who sold it to me thought it was Ancestor tech, but it's actually from my home planet. I figured I could take it home for a collector."
"It doesn't have anywhere for bullets," Rodney points out. "What does it fire, rubber bands?"
"No," I say, rolling my eyes. "It's an energy weapon."
"Really? I didn't think people who rode yaks had energy weapons. I mean, we don't, not really. Not our own anyway."
"I've never ridden a yak in my life. Actually, that's pretty old tech there, you can tell from the design. They haven't made a decent-looking gun since before I was born."
"Whatever. So how does it work?" Rodney asks and points the thing in our direction.
"Would you put that down! You'll kill one of us waving it around like that. It sends an electrical pulse that stops the heart. Fatal, unless you can restart your heart."
"Really? How does it generate the pulse? Does it need recharging? Does it have a stun setting?"
I shrug. "No, just a fatal, heart-stopping setting. Unless you're a Wraith, of course."
"Why? What's so special about Wraith?"
"They can restart their heart or something. You need at least four shots to kill one of the damn things."
"Oh." Losing interest, he drops it to one side.
But he's got the information I need him to have. I just hope he'll remember it.
My meetings with Elizabeth are almost regular now, and I can't tell myself I'm just doing research or waiting for them to trust me more. The only person I'm fooling here is me, and while I take Elizabeth for a walk to see the local ruins of the Ancestors, my people are waiting for me to save them.
Every moment I spend with her that she doesn't die is a betrayal of my world. Every moment I hesitate is a moment closer to an unknown deadline. The Wraith accept that a long-term mission takes a long time, but they won't wait forever. They won't start with destroying the whole planet, they'll just destroy my home city and wait for word to get out. How do I know this? They've done it before: Ranevah is vaporised. It no longer exists.
If that doesn't work, they'll probably try another city. If they get proof of my betrayal – there goes the planet.
If it was just my life then I wouldn't care. I'd die for Elizabeth, simple as that. But it's not just my life. I can't make that decision.
I have to stop running.
One final box of Ancestor ware is waiting for them on their next visit, with my prize hidden at the bottom for Rodney. I have them a zed-pee-em, unused, in mint condition, and all ready for them to use. Maybe it'll help them take out the Wraith. I hope so, but I'm thinking much smaller right now. My world is this small store-tent behind my stall and the woman standing in front of me. I have her alone, and were this a kinder universe I would sweep her off her feet or propose a happily ever after. But this isn't that universe and I have a mission. This is it. The end.
I touch her cheek. I've never let myself touch her before, knowing that would get me in too deep, but now… It's too late now. She smiles up at me, open and trusting, and I hate myself. I've hated myself for years, but now I really hate myself.
She trusts me, and I think that this is the worst part of my job. Not the killing, not the pain – the betrayal. People are used to death in the worlds farmed by the Wraith, but this betrayal of a dearly-bought trust, when we should all be banding together against our common enemy, this is the worst blow I can deal them.
"Ford! Ford, look at this!" Rodney's voice startles me and I snatch my hand back from her cheek. She chuckles at my nervousness. Gods, Ancestors, I can't do this!
But I have to. For Joe. For my world. So that someone else doesn't come home to the news that Ranevah is gone and his parents are dead because someone else was too slow.
I close my eyes. There are more important things at stake here than my own pathetic feelings. "I'm sorry, Elizabeth." I open my eyes and step back. "Look out for the Wraith – they're coming for your people." She's frowning, confused, her mouth opening to speak. But I have a mission.
I kill her.
This is the real world, after all, not some kid's tale where we can defy the bad guys and still live. I don't want to kill her, I don't want to hurt her people, I don't want to live in a universe where Elizabeth Weir isn't alive and smiling. The Earth people, they're hope to me, hope that someday someone can give the Wraith the ass-kicking they deserve. They're hope – and Elizabeth, she's more than hope. She's everything. But for the sake of a world kept safe only by my actions, I can't let her live. I have to do whatever the Wraith demand, no matter what the cost is.
But I do it my way.
I know these people, you see. I've listened to every word they've said, taken it apart, cross-referenced it, added it to my store of knowledge. I've researched them so very carefully without them even knowing. I know what they can do. So I kill her with the gun from my planet, the one Rodney knows about, the one that stops the heart. Most places I know, that means dead.
Where her people come from, it doesn't.
So it doesn't matter how she looks when she's dead. It doesn't matter that she stares up at me with a glassy look of accusation from where she lies in a puddle of limbs on the floor. It doesn't matter that her people – my friends – come bursting in and see what I have done. It doesn't matter that they raise their weapons as they lift their gazes from her dead body. They had to be nearby, even if it makes my escape risky. They had to find her immediately so that they can take her back to their city and they can put her in the hands of their doctor and they can bring her back to life. That's all that matters. I killed her, but she will live.
That's all that matters.
Elizabeth will live.
"I killed her," I tell the Wraith who come for me. That's the truth and they can feel that it's the truth. They know I can't lie to them. My people are safe. "I killed her."
I close my eyes and see her startled face, the betrayed look in her dead eyes, the glitter of a familiar necklace around her neck like drops of blood. She has to be alive, and I hold on to the certainty that her people saved her. I killed her, but she is alive.
It doesn't matter if she hates me, just as long as she's alive.