A/N: Based on known spoilers for S4.

To Whom It May Concern

Walking into the spartan office, Colonel Samantha Carter wondered who'd had the strength to remove Dr. Weir's personal effects. Very little remained - a desk and some chairs, a laptop, a few neatly stacked files. An empty bookcase stood forlornly in the corner.

Sam appreciated the gesture; it was awkward enough taking over for the popular leader without having the expedition members watch her pack Elizabeth's belongings. Carter had been through three leadership changes at the SGC, and each one had been difficult regardless of the circumstances. But this….

Sam sat at the desk and opened the laptop, logging on to the network and clicking on her email. She sighed as she looked at the inbox. Forty-seven messages. She'd been the leader of the expedition for less than a day, and she already had forty-seven emails. The hour was late so she decided to tackle the messages the next morning. She wandered through various files and directories, getting the lay of the land when one caught her eye. Saved to the laptop's hard drive, the file was labeled "Expedition Leader Only" and required her command code to open.

A video sprang to life, and Elizabeth Weir's face filled the screen. Carter hit the pause button and stared at the image for a minute. The woman looked markedly different than she had a few months ago. Elizabeth's face was drawn, tired; worry had etched new lines, and there was a deep sadness in her eyes. Her hair swept her shoulders, and the red shirt she wore highlighted the paleness of her skin. Pressing play, Sam watched as Weir took a deep breath and smiled wanly.

"Hello. I am Dr. Elizabeth Weir, and it has been my highest privilege to lead the Atlantis expedition for the past three years. If you are watching this, I've either been replaced, gone missing, or died. I hope it's the last one, because I'm really going to hate it if it's one of the first two. Anyway, welcome to the hardest, and best, job you will ever have. The people here are the finest in at least two galaxies, and I'd like to take a moment to tell you about them - not the part you can read in their files, but who they really are."

Carter smiled as the diplomat began to list the department heads and her personal insights into each one. The woman was obviously fond of every person and yet gave an objective assessment of their personality quirks. Sam frowned as Weir paused, struggling to blink back tears. Looking away and clearing her throat, Elizabeth continued.

"Now, I know you will want to assemble your own team of advisors. My choice may seem a little odd, but I hope you will consider keeping them intact. Atlantis would be a distant memory if not for their abilities and actions.

"Jennifer Keller is our acting Chief Medical Officer. She has the talent and the brains to be the permanent one, but she isn't emotionally ready yet. Carson Beckett, our CMO for the past two and a half years, died recently; his loss was a tremendous blow to the entire expedition. He was well-loved and well-respected by all. Keller needs some time to find her footing and to feel comfortable with the title. She is already doing the job and doing it very well. She is kind and compassionate but a complete tiger when it comes to patient care."

Weir took a steadying breath; her slim fingers had been in constant motion as she spoke – fluttering, twisting in her hair, interlacing.

"The rest of my senior staff is actually comprised of Colonel Sheppard's team. They are an eclectic group, each bringing unique abilities and insights.

"Ronon Dex is a native of Pegasus from a planet called Sateda. He is just as tough and intense as he seems. He has seen the uglier side of this galaxy and lived to tell the tale. He responds well to authority even if he pushes the boundaries, and he knows how to intimidate so use that to your advantage if you need to. He doesn't speak much, but he says a lot when he does. Listen carefully to him."

Sam smiled. She knew the type.

"Teyla Emmagan is also from Pegasus. She is the leader of the Athosian people and as such has an understanding of the burdens of leadership. She has been a personal friend and confidante since we met. She is an unparalleled diplomat and negotiator, and she is very knowledgeable regarding potential trading partners. She has wise counsel but will not typically offer it unless you ask. Don't let her size fool you. She is a formidable warrior in both body and spirit. She also has a trace of Wraith DNA which allows her to sense and connect with them. Don't fear this ability. Use it. If she says they are near, act immediately. She has never been wrong."

A wry smile crossed Weir's visage, and she clasp her hands in front of her.

"There is no one quite like Dr. Rodney McKay, Chief Scientist and PhD in everything. He is actually just as smart as he says he is so try to not feed his ego. He is usually thinking five steps ahead of everyone else and is caustic, arrogant and many times rude. He is a bit of a hypochondriac and whines loudly when he doesn't want to do something. Right now, you are asking yourself why this man would even be on Atlantis much less on the senior staff. Quite simply, he is one of the best men I know. Most of his words are a cover for his true feelings. He would lay down his life to protect Atlantis and her people. He risks his life on a daily basis and occasionally displays amazing acts of courage. Look past the words and see the man.

"It might also help to know that Carson Beckett was McKay's best friend. He is struggling with the loss. A man like Rodney doesn't make friends easily, and this has really hit him hard."

The love Elizabeth had for her people was palpable. Her expression had softened with affection as she spoke about each one. Carter had giggled through most of the woman's description of McKay, remembering the man she had met years ago. She sobered as she recognized the truth of Weir's comments. Rodney wasn't that man anymore.

"Which brings me to Lt. Col. John Sheppard. He has served faithfully as the military commander of Atlantis and my closest advisor for the past three years. I could not have asked for anyone better. He might be the most talented person I've ever met. He has an easy charm that belies the soldier underneath. He is fiercely loyal, able to control both Ronon and McKay, and a brilliant strategist. He has an astounding gift for thinking outside the box and is usually the one that devises the plan that saves the day.

"One thing to note about McKay and Sheppard is they bicker like siblings and can act like big kids together. It's a strange dynamic, but it works. Just know you sometimes have to protect them from themselves.

"When you read John's file, you will notice that on occasion he has disobeyed orders. Understand that it has never been for his own benefit. He has an insatiable need to protect others and will do what he thinks necessary to ensure their safety, even if it costs him his life. He rarely talks about himself and has difficulty expressing his feelings about others, which is another characteristic he shares with Rodney. If you want to know what Sheppard is really thinking, look in his eyes."

Elizabeth dabbed at the corner of her eyes and smiled directly into the camera.

"I wish you all the best as you lead this fantastic group of people. You will face unfathomable challenges and uncover the thrilling secrets of the Ancients and the Pegasus Galaxy. I have saved messages for a few people on this computer, and I would appreciate it if you would forward them on. I would also ask that you not show this video to any of them.

"I am entrusting my friends, my family, to your hands. Please take care of them for me. Thank you and goodbye."

The screen went dark as the video shut off. Sam stared at it for a while, lost in thought as she considered Weir's words. A knock broke her reverie, and she looked up to find Sheppard standing in the doorway.

"You're up late, Colonel."

"I could say the same thing about you, ma'am. Are you finding everything?"

Sam smiled sadly at him. "I suppose so. Would you like to sit down?"

The hesitation was minute, but she saw it. Emotions flickered across his face before the neutral mask slammed back in place and he smiled casually.


They made small talk for a few minutes about the control room personnel and the next day's activities, and Carter used the time to observe the man. He smiled, laughed even, but it never reached his eyes. Weir was right; everything you needed to know about John Sheppard was reflected in his eyes. They were haunted, filled with pain instead of the mischief she remembered from her time on Atlantis a few months prior. And she suddenly knew who had cleaned out the office.

"Well, ma'am, I think I'll call it a night. Do you remember the way to your quarters?"

"Yes, Col. Sheppard, I remember. Thank you. I'll see you in the morning."

"Goodnight." The pilot stopped at the entryway. "Good to have you here, Colonel."

Sam watched as he made his way through the control room, greeting each person by name. Then she scrolled through the computer files until she found the messages Weir left. She emailed them to the respective parties without opening them and closed the laptop. Pushing back from the desk, she walked to the railing that overlooked the gateroom, feeling the weight of her responsibility for the souls entrusted to her care.

"I'll take care of them for you, Elizabeth. I promise."

The End.

Written for the hiatus challenge #1 on shepsatlantis for prompt #9 (Col. Carter).