Moments: Reflections of a Fallen Leader

Related Episode: This Mortal Coil

Featured: Ronon, Sheppard, Teyla, Zelenka, Sam

Summary: Some of the Atlantis team's thoughts on the loss of Elizabeth Weir. Not beta'd, forgive my grammatical/spelling transgressions.

Author's Note: Rodney isn't in this until the end; I felt he had more reaction to Elizabeth's death onscreen than the others (and I'm not comfortable writing him yet!).

Teyla

How strange. She'd stepped into her apartment and only advanced a few steps before her feet rooted themselves. The room was the same as she'd left it. Necessities and curios in ordered spaces.

The bed made up. The floor space uncluttered. The lighting subdued.

The quiet. Teyla's thoughts snagged. She slowly looked around. The quiet.

The lack of a special sound she may never hear again.

Her voice.

Teyla felt her knees bend, her legs fold under her until she touched the floor. She knelt and sat back on her heels, welcomed the coolness that warmed her cold flesh.

"Elizabeth," Teyla whispered to the still, quiet space. How clear her voice sounded in memory's chamber. Leader to leader, they'd learned to meet on that common ground until they grew at ease. The tear spilled at last as Teyla raised her eyes to the ceiling knowing she would not see her. Hear her ever again. "I miss you."

When they'd returned without the being who was so much like Elizabeth but who was not, Teyla had no feelings at all.

"No one else is coming," Col. Sheppard had said, and his words spewed a dark dampness over the control room and spread instantaneously, it seemed, throughout the city, the ocean, maybe the galaxy. Their narrow escape should have had her blood racing hot. Yet when she'd gone to shower away the grime and sweat of near death, the hottest water wouldn't warm her. Teyla would have been seriously scalded if she hadn't snapped out of it.

And now, after Samantha Carter's words, Teyla sought solitude again. To once again realize that the fierce and gentle woman she'd learned to trust and laugh with and who never thought of herself before others; that woman was gone. But not gone like dust before a wind or wood consumed in flame. Teyla took a deep breath and gracefully stood, then wiped her tears.

"I'm alive this day, and I thank you Elizabeth Weir, for giving it to me."

Teyla lifted her head. Because of Elizabeth, Teyla lived to fight, to laugh, to cry another day. She looked around. Everything looked the same except the air was lighter by the absence of one. But in her heart she felt the presence of her good friend; solid, enduring.

Zelenka

Of all the things that could have happened, that had happened, losing Dr. Weir had not occurred to him. How could it? She was as integral to Atlantis as its foundation. That was how he'd always seen her since they'd arrived. He didn't understand how the city still stood without her.

"Elizabeth," he murmured, studying her image on one of the many memorial blogs from the others around the city. He stared at his workstation. The full impact of the loss had finally stunned him. Rodney had the right of it after all; keep busy, keep working, keep from thinking too hard or too long about it. And although he knew the being who had contacted them was in fact not really Elizabeth Weir, Zelenka could not help but wish he had gone with the team to meet her, too. It was as close as he would ever get to her again, and now it was too late.

He straightened from his hunched-shoulder position over the desk in time to keep the wet drop from hitting the keyboard.

"Fascinating," he said softly. "I never told you that." He paused to make sure no one had come in yet. "You see, I had a bit of a crush on you and of course you didn't know that. Silly, I know. The last thing you'd expect from me is silly." His eyes misted again. "But there it is. You made me feel important, Elizabeth. Ha. Me, a scientist among other scientists and I felt important when you just listened to me. You knew how important it was to feel, well, important.. Funny, though; you probably made everyone feel that way. Even Rodney."

Wearily, Zelenka reached up beneath his glasses to rub at his burning eye. He'd walked beside her and basked in the singular moment of being the center of her attention for a brief time. Of course it was about work and she expected him to make sense and not cast her adoring looks. There would be no more adoring looks from afar; watching her tour the labs or preside over the control room. His eyes clamped shut. If it's all true, he wouldn't see her again, ever.

Zelenka had maintained a secret doubt of Elizabeth's death. Did they really trust the bio-Replicator Weir? But he was a scientist. Dr. Weir was human, and thus infinitely vulnerable to damage unlike the Replicators. She would be far easier to kill and so much time had passed now. His mind did that curious un-scientific dance away from these thoughts. Instead, he straightened in his chair and stared at a thoughtful Dr. Weir caught forever on a particularly sharp digital image.

"It's a great day to be alive, Dr. Weir – Elizabeth. Thank you," Zelenka whispered to the screen. It flickered but she of course was silent. He felt her here, however, where she'd been so many times whether he'd seen her or not. Today, tomorrow, he knew he'd never be far from her in Atlantis.

Ronon

Yet another enemy had stolen someone in his life who could never be replaced. Ronon stalked out of the control center once Sheppard ordered the gate shut down. He thought he could explode from anger, go mad with rage.

But then the furor froze in his gut, its tendrils leaching the hot emotions away. He wound up in a distant but familiar turret room, very hazy about his journey here. Or why. Then Ronon remembered. Here was where he brought Elizabeth after her recovery from the nanites. Where he'd finally loosened his tongue and spoke with the formidable leader of Atlantis.

"I shouldn't have come back without you, Elizabeth," Ronon murmured as he dragged himself fully into the small space. The view was the same, the ledge they leaned on, the isolation. Elizabeth had offered him refuge. She offered more: friendship and trust. He'd let her down in the worst way, like a coward. The guilt had crawled under his skin ever since and no other crisis made it go away. "You belong here, not me. It should have been me."

Ronon paced and found himself turning twice in one spot. Finally he stopped and just leaned his forehead on the glass. The city of Atlantis, haven of the galaxy, had lost its leader. Lights had begun to come on as dusk fell. He wondered if light would ever reach the dark hole in his heart where she once was. Even this small enclosure was too big without her; Atlantis had lost critical mass without her. He drew in a deep shaky breath.

Without her.

This Replicator-made Elizabeth Weir didn't reproach him or them for leaving her behind. That didn't mean they didn't deserve it. Seeing her, it was unfathomable that she wasn't their Elizabeth. Adding the "other" Atlantis team, the revelation that their Elizabeth was dead set his brain blazing with denial. He just couldn't absorb the thought or the reality, so he just fought it back.

It was later that he learned the others were just as resistant, and his turmoil dropped to a manageable simmer. They didn't give up on her and neither would he.

"Elizabeth, you gave me another day. I couldn't save you but you saved me, us. Thank you," Ronon said in his quarters. He'd looked at himself in the mirror, cleaned of the grime of their previous mission. He could look himself in the eyes and not hate the man who'd left the Atlantis leader on her own. "You didn't let us down. I won't let you down again. You're still out there, I'll find you, bring you home."

Ronon felt surprised at the calm his words brought him. True, it began with the task the new commander of Atlantis ordered. He just didn't think anything would make him feel he could go on after this. That they could still do what needed to be done. But he felt they would, now. He would do no less, give no less than Elizabeth Weir did.

Sheppard

"No one else is coming."

The hardest words he'd ever spoken in his military life. Someone hadn't made it back, and now never would. Everything after those words blurred or maybe he blanked them out but he only had energy to carry out a task reserved for commanders, the ones who survived their teammates. Somehow he must have alerted Lorne to the news, for his mission was reported to the SGC and relayed to Col. Carter. But he didn't know he'd done that, not really.

"I'm sorry, Elizabeth. I'm – sorry," John said to her apartment. It was silent; spare, neat and with a teasing trace of her favorite scent. He'd never known exactly what it was, only that it was subtle and exotic and unique to her. The solitude dragged at his senses, pulling chunks out of the wall around his grief. He stood with head bowed, the posture of the accused ready to confess, accepting of punishment.

They'd left his Elizabeth Weir behind. He'd sworn to get her back. He failed. The wall crumbled completely until his face buried itself in his hands in a vain attempt to stifle the howl erupting from his soul. She should be here, coming back here after dealing with all the problems in Atlantis to sleep in her own bed. Sheppard doubled over and gripped the down-like covers on her bed, gasping for breath. Bleary eyes saw pillows, bed sheets, the shaggy soft rug for her feet; waiting for her. It wasn't fair that Elizabeth wouldn't come back to them, leaving them alone.

"Damn it, I was coming for you, I was." Sheppard sighed and sank to the rug with his back against the bed. His body was fatigued from more than their escape. There'd been a jolt of hope when he'd seen her on the viewer; all of his senses went into overdrive. And even as they walked together and she explained what she was (and wasn't), the optimism hadn't receded. He'd felt they were close to rescuing Elizabeth and the tension was extreme throughout their mission.

It all went to hell, and he felt he'd never left.

"Ah, crap!" He got to his feet as fresh anger swelled over his reproach and hopelessness. He felt as though she'd walk out of the wash room or get up from her desk or walk in – Sheppard swung around to face the doors. Expectations dwindled as fast as they arose; the door was mute and closed. That was stupid, he thought. Elizabeth wouldn't be walking through anymore doors.

"It shouldn't have gone down like this. Why did I listen to them?" The room waited. Sheppard felt the urge to cry grow stronger; he turned helplessly in a slow circle. "I should have gone after you when I wanted to. But I didn't. I followed orders and you…you damn it! You should have waited for me, I didn't forget you!"

Sheppard felt blinding rage burning him inside, building to an emotional explosion that might rock the station. He needed an outlet, to do something, now. He spotted her dresser and strode over with every intent on throwing everything on it into the nearest walls. His hand swiped up an object. And caressed it. His hand was shaking. Breath forced out of his lungs in painful panting. The slender object felt cool but warmed in his grasp.

"Oh, god." The artifact was a representation of an Athosian guardian, a legendary female of mythic wisdom and courage. His eyes blurred a little as he noted other little objects from Teyla's people. They'd come to accept her as a worthy leader while not displacing Teyla.

He saw another gift from Zelenka, the pocket watch she liked to fiddle with, and even a trinket from Ronon for her birthday. Sheppard clamped his eyes as wetness built behind his lids. His gift to her wasn't here. She'd been wearing it when she disappeared. And the bio-Replicator Elizabeth was wearing it, too.

It was part of her memory; she'd remembered him, his gift.

In the end, being in Elizabeth's space was too much. "Not bad for a dead woman." Sheppard shook himself and denied those awful words.. He couldn't do this now while the events were so raw. He'd headed for Rodney's lab, passing hushed crewmembers and a very unnatural lack of activity. No official announcement had been made; everyone was wondering, waiting. And just when their day got even worse with Rodney's discovery, Col. Carter returned.

Sheppard let out a breath, a natural, easy one. Probably the first in hours. He glanced back at the gathering from his spot on the balcony. Then he turned back to look at the ocean. All oceans were eternal, he mused; it would take a cataclysm to destroy an ocean and even then, dried oceans always left something of themselves behind. Seashells, silt, their shapes impressed on the earth where they once flowed. Some things never really died, were never completely gone.

"Thanks for this day, Elizabeth. I won't waste it, that's a promise. And if you are still out there I'll thank you in person one day," John said softly to the vista before him. Ronon, Teyla, Rodney and Sam drifted out to stand along the railing with him. A few minutes later Zelenka found them. No one spoke. They contemplated this temporary refuge, still vital because Elizabeth sacrificed herself so they could keep it. And keep it they would.

Sam

"You're not giving up on Elizabeth Weir," Col. Sam Carter ordered. She faced the solemn and rebellious faces of the Atlantis team in the briefing room. Their eyes snapped to her in surprise. "John, you said this – this bionic Replicator told you Elizabeth was dead, but her source was the Keller Replicator. Maybe Keller knew the truth, maybe not," she said to Sheppard. His head dipped in agreement but his expression was wary. "We have no way to confirm her death yet, correct?" Heads nodded slowly. "Then Dr. Weir is still officially MIA." The room was so still it looked like a sculpture exhibit. Sam took a deep breath. "Our objective remains: to follow any reasonable leads regarding her whereabouts for rescue."

Sam had come through the Atlantis gate in a fury and in full command mode. Sheppard and his team weren't there and that sent her temper into critical. The command room scurried out of her way, hastened to carry out her order to summon the team to her office stat. Behind the fire was, of course, the devastating news about Elizabeth and the new face of the Replicator threat in the Pegasus Galaxy. She wanted to think she could have made a difference, but could she?

God, why didn't the IOA light a fire under their picky butts? Waiting for the team, Sam felt torn up inside at the finality of Elizabeth's situation. She should have been in Atlantis, not finessing the well meaning but woefully ignorant oversight panel. Sam paused, trying to settle the guilt of also being in the company of someone dear to her when all of this was happening. That she made the journey from earth in near impossible speed (quarantine was waived for her) didn't quite wash that guilty pleasure away. She'd almost lost a team while she was away; fiddling around while Rome burned came to mind.

The team filed in minutes later. Sam noted the bone-weariness of their postures, movements, faces. And more, the hopelessness. These were her people, now more than ever. She was learning their strengths, shortcomings, preferences, and the bottomless depth of their commitment to Atlantis. Sheppard looked only seconds away from folding into himself with guilt while Rodney was eerily silent. Ronon was just short of going nova with grief and resentment. Teyla worried her most; the woman looked frail and Teyla was the most robust woman she knew. Zelenka's head was down as if studying microscopic details in the table. She let him stay even though he wasn't on the mission itself.

Sheppard's report was brief and given in a hollow spirit and voice. No one added to it, or said anything at all.

All this put a cap on Sam's initial rage. Nothing short of this very incident would affect these hardy people this way. She was possibly looking at the destruction of a team. Memories of SG-1 peppered her thoughts quickly. Sam stood and faced them.

"We're not going to grieve today. You're here today because Elizabeth Weir gave you this day, these minutes, these hours," she said firmly, catching each set of shocked eyes trained on her. "I know, this shock isn't as deep for me as it is for you. But I care about Elizabeth and I care about all of you. She gave you and everyone in Atlantis another shot at surviving this fight and I'll be damned if you're going to spend it in mourning at this point. So," Sam paused for breath. Still very quiet but heads were up and eyes were attentive. Ok, go for it.

"I have to tell the crew something and I will. But my orders for you are to be followed to the letter. You will each find a moment to thank Elizabeth for this day. Each of you has something to say to her, say it today in your first private moment. Just between you and Elizabeth. From then, we move on. Am I clear?"

Sam paused. The team seemed to blink as one. Then Sheppard had the ghost of his soldier face on. In fact he seemed about to salute.

"Yes, ma'am. Thank Elizabeth today."

"I understand, Col. Carter," Teyla said softly. Sam thought she was just too pale and made a note to speak on this later.

"Right. Thank Elizabeth. Smart, yes," Rodney roused himself and dipped his head twice.

"Yes," Zelenka said sadly.

Containing the impulse to let out a deep sigh of relief, Sam nodded back to them.

"I need you with me when I make an announcement. Follow me," Sam said. And until that moment she hadn't realized someone hadn't responded until he did.

"Lead on," Ronon's voice said. Sam turned to look at him. His earlier intensity had dulled if not exactly cooled. His tone conveyed a respect she hadn't really considered since their first run in. He now bowed his head to her.

And the Atlantis team followed her to the control room. Sam held onto her composure, knowing she was going to need a private moment as much as they. They were here because the woman the IOA considered replaceable bought their escape with her life. Oh, she had a lot to thank Elizabeth for, too. Activity in the center of Atlantis faded as all eyes turned to them, to her. Please let me get this right, she prayed silently.

"Atlantis, this is Col. Carter and I need your attention. I know the news about Dr. Weir has circulated. As of now, Dr. Weir is still considered missing. We are NOT in mourning. To that end, I want everyone to meet at 2130 hours. Bring your blogs, your videos, pictures, or just a favorite moment of your experience with Dr. Weir," Sam paused and gauged the surprise on the control crew. "We're still on alert, so section leaders will coordinate attendance and break time so everyone can attend at some point. We'll honor Elizabeth with a celebration of her life and what she means to Atlantis. I look forward to meeting you then. Col. Carter out."

Well, that happened. Sam was almost out of the stunned control center when the first conversations erupted.

"Oh my God, I know just what I'll use." "I know what –" "Never thought I'd get to show my blog!"

She nodded to Major Lorne as he stood aside then fell in step with her.

"I gotta say, I didn't see that coming, Colonel. Wait till you hear mine," Lorne said, a sad crooked smile on his face.

"I can't wait to hear it, Lorne," Sam replied. Heads turned in her direction and nodded as she passed. The previous malaise was fading as crews went back to work with the new information and their upcoming gathering.

In her quarters, Sam sank heavily on her bed. Her thoughts, feelings were finally coming out of the critical reactor range but that wasn't necessarily a good thing. Elizabeth could have been such an ally if she hadn't gone missing, or even if she was removed from her post. Sam thought of her as a female version of Daniel Jackson; compassion and backbone, intelligence and a keen sense of duty and obligation. So much to admire.

"Elizabeth, I'm…I'm so sorry you went through this. But you saved Sheppard, Teyla, Rodney and Ronon. Hell, all of Atlantis but for these four I'm especially grateful. I'll do whatever I can to find you." Sam stood and went to the framed photos on her desk. "They're my team now, and I promise to take good care of them just like you did. I know we haven't spoken much but I do miss you. Atlantis misses you."

Sam sighed and replaced the picture she'd picked up. So much to do, to prepare. The SGC, the "brilliant" party she'd ordered for the city's morale, the Wraith-Replicator conflict. Suddenly she felt her presence was like a familiar cloak. She could do this, maybe not the way Elizabeth would but at least she felt Elizabeth would approve.

"Hang in there, Elizabeth. I'll leave the lights on for you," Sam whispered. That felt right.

sgasgasga

The lights from Atlantis' skyscrapers illuminated the waves flowing past. The starry night sky with the distant moons seemed fantastical tonight. This moment of brief peace and restored equilibrium cast an infinite kindness to the alien darkness. And suddenly the darkness was split by a meteor. More crewmembers from the celebration crowded behind them to view the sudden sight.

They all looked up, breaking into smiles of awe as the lone meteor was joined by others and a full meteor shower cut up the black sky. As quickly as it began it petered out but one last, lone fragment blazed brighter than all of them. The ocean lit with its golden reflection for a few dazzling heartbeats and then was gone.

Stunned, the Atlantis team stood taller, their eyes misted although no one admitted this. And of course it was the sluice of waves against the pilings, or the little breeze that ruffled their hair as it blew off the ocean. No one spoke of hearing it, a voice they knew well, saying gently

"I'll always be with you."

The End

A/N: My take, anyhoo. I really wanted to post this before Season 4 continued but it's a close call. Real life and the muse can be so finicky. I've stayed as far away from spoilers as I could so I'm looking forward to the new episodes. The turret room Ronon alludes to was mentioned in my story, "Another Moment," a tag to The Real World.

Love to know what you think, so please talk back. And thanks for reading.