So here we have an interesting idea that I have recently been obsessing over. I love Elizabeth, but wanted to write something that was slightly more canon. Thus, I have magically reitroduced her to Atlantis. Lets assume that she cleverly outwitted the Replicators and escaped, somehow both repairing her body and disactivating her nanites at the same time. Sparky, obviously.

Elizabeth smiled sadly as Col. Carter deftly reorganized the papers on her- Col. Carter's- desk. Apparently things had changed a lot in the months since she had left. Everyone seemed...different. Naturally, Carson's death had hit everyone quite hard, and her own dissapearence hadn't helped. Chuck, normally so outgoing, had summoned a sincere yet utterly exhausted smile when Elizabeth had walked through the gate. She hadn't seen John or any of his team yet- Carter had shut them into the conference room, knowing that they would all need the privacy for this particular reunion. They didn't even know that Elizabeth was alive, much less back in Atlantis.

Truth be told, she was quite worried about seeing them again. Teyla was still with her people, and would remain there until her child was born. Teyla, pregnant... She really had missed a lot. Elizabeth pulled herself back to the present with some effort as Sam took her hands.

"You should know, they have all been through a lot. Losing Carson, and then you...it hit them hard. Teyla's people went missing just before she discovered that she was pregnant, and although we did rescue most of them, it was an extremely difficult time for both her and the team. Ronon discovered some of his closest Satedan friends managed to evade death on Sateda, only to follow them into a Wraith ambush. He was pretty upset about it, but a fairly close friendship with Dr. Keller has helped him greatly. John's father recently passed away, and I'll be honest with you. Seeing him will probably be a shock. I know you two were close."

Her smile was a little too knowing, and Elizabeth suddenly recalled her rumored romance with Jack O'Neill. She nodded slowly to her unasked question. "That's why I wanted to catch you up on all this before hand. I think he's been having the worse time with it all. Without you and Teyla here to help him, he's been... harsher. He talked a man into sacrificing himself to a Wraith. I know for a fact he's having nightmare's about it, but only because Dr. Keller told me. He won't admit to them, or having any other sort of problem. Ronon and Rodney have been trying their hardest to help him, but..." She shrugged helplessly, then brightened. "I think that seeing you will do him a world of good. I will give you all the next few days off to adjust. Take as much time as you need, and whenever you feel ready, we can discuss business. I know you are overwhelmed right now, but if you want to take your position back, I am more than willing to step down."

Dr. Wier smiled gratefully at her, trying to hold back her tears. "Thank you, but right now I can't think of anyone else I would rather have running things on Atlantis. I can't thank you enough for everything you have done here." The two women shared an understanding look. "Now, if you would excuse me, it has been far too long since I have seen my team." Elizabeth could not disguise the nervousness or excitement in her eyes.

Carter nodded. "I understand completely. Don't let me keep you any longer."

Elizabeth shot her one last grateful smile before whirling around and half-running to the conference room. Outside, she took a deep breath before she opened the door and stepped inside to see her family.

Predictably, Ronon was the first to react to her presence. The familiar sound of his gun charging up made her smile slightly as she ran her eyes over the group eagerly. Ronon and Rodney both looked relatively the same- all in one piece at least- although she noticed more lines around Rodney's face, and they both looked exhausted. She turned her attention to John and had to bite back a startled cry. He looked...terrible. And wonderful. He was there and alive, and that was wonderful, but his eyes were haunted, and his usual flyboy charm was replaced by something darker. Currently, he was standing frozen, nothing but shock and confusion evident on his featured.

"E..Elizabeth?" Rodney stammered, never at a loss for words. She smiled reassuringly at him and held up an arm in a peaceful gesture towards Ronon. "Yes, Rodney, its me. I've already been to the infirmary and both Dr. Keller and Zalenka assure me that I am completely human and entirely safe to be around."

She smiled slightly as she saw Ronon lower his gun the moment she mentioned Dr. Keller had already checked her out, before shifting her gaze back to where John remained motionless.

Rodney sighed, a relieved smile taking over his features. "Oh, thank god. Do you have any idea how worried we were? We thought you were dead!"

Elizabeth smiled and touched his shoulder in reassurance, intensely grateful for his ability to take almost anything in stride. She switched her gaze back to John, searching for a reaction. Ronon followed the direction of her stare and clapped a not so gentle hand onto Rodney's shoulder.

"We can catch up later." He stated, steering McKay towards the nearest exit.

"What are you doing? I want to talk to Elizabeth! She only just got back, and..." The sounds of his protests died away as Ronon continued to haul him off, leaving behind a tense silence.

Elizabeth drew to a halt an arm's reach away from Sheppard. "John?" she asked tentatively.

The sound of his name seemed to snap him out of his stupor.

"Elizabeth?" His whisper was nearly inaudible. She nodded encouragingly.

"Yes, John. It's me. I'm here." She said the words with wonder, still half unable to believe it. She drank in his familiar features, wishing desperately that he would say something else. Hesitantly, she reached out to lightly rest a hand on his shoulder.

He jumped at her touch, and she instinctively flinched backwards. They stared at each other for several tense seconds. This time, it was him who reached out for her. His hand shook as he lightly brushed it against her cheek. She closed her eyes as tears sprang unbidden to her eyes and ran down her face.

In one explosive movement, he reached out and pulled her into his embrace. The air left her lungs as he crushed her to his body, but it seemed unimportant. She clung to him with equal desperation, needing the contact to remind her that this was real- he was real- she was really home. "Elizabeth," He whispered into her hair, pressing a soft kiss against her forehead. "I thought...we tried...I'm so sorry. I tried to come after you, I really did, but we thought..."

"Shhh. There was nothing you could have done. I'm not mad at you, and it wasn't your fault." She ran a soothing hand down his back as a single sob shook his body. "I'm safe now. I'm home."

She lost the battle with her own composure and allowed her tears to fall unchecked, burying her face into his chest. Miraculously, he managed to hug her still tighter to himself as he too broke down.

They stood that way for a solid hour, leaning against each other for both comfort and support. Eventually, their tears dried and they simultaneously drew apart to look at each other properly. "You look terrible." Observed Elizabeth aloud. John laughed shakily.

"Its been a tough couple of months. I just...can't believe this is real. There has been so much that has gone wrong, its hard to accept anything good. You've missed a lot."

Elizabeth nodded. "I know. Sam told me some of it, although not everything. I'm sorry about your father."

John nodded. "Me too." His eyes suddenly filled with panic and he jerked backwards. "Are they going to make you go back to Earth?"

Elizabeth shook her head immediately. "Look at me." She turned his head until he met her eyes. "I'm not going anywhere. Atlantis is my home. These people are my family. If the IOA wants me on Earth, they will have to come here and drag me back themselves. And if it comes to that, I'll just quit. They cannot force me to do anything then."

John relaxed visibly as he saw the familiar fire in her eyes once again. His gaze softened. "It really is you."

Elizabeth's response was cut off as his lips covered hers in a kiss.

The next few days passed in a blur of tearful reunions and laughing explanations. Sam could only smile along and shake her head in wonder as Atlantis sprang back to life around her. A city that had appeared so cold and gloomy was suddenly alive in laughter.

Elizabeth's return had given them all hope. Suddenly, there were fewer problems. Sam didn't know if it was because people were actually making less mistakes and working better or if it simply seemed that way, but either way she welcomed the change. Sam had to laugh as she noticed the changes in personnel on the base.

Ronon strolled casually into a debriefing with his normally wildly uncontrolled dreds neatly trimmed and held off his face. McKay's clothes became suddenly less rumpled, and the dark circles under his eyes faded away. Chuck stopped by her office just to say hello and bring some fresh coffee. She had caught Zalenka actually singing as he strolled along a deserted corridor.

The biggest change, however, was in one John Sheppard. Before, he had been polite but reserved. He had joked with his team, but his laughter never really reached his eyes. These days, he would wander around grinning cheerfully. He was frequently seen walking with Elizabeth around the many city hallways. Sometimes, his team would join them. Other times, they would simply wander Atlantis talking about everything and nothing and greeting all the personnel they encountered by name.

Sam noticed a friendly competition around the city develop as everyone vied to catch Elizabeth's attention. Like children begging for a parent's approval, they would seek her out to show her the advances they had made while she was gone or offer her small gifts. Every time she walked into a room, the occupants would begin to subtly (or in a few cases, not so subtly) show off.

Rodney would casually offer her the last of his coveted chocolate, then beam proudly when she would smile in thanks. Ronon would appear from no where every time she got near anything heavy, lifting it before she could. John would look smug for hours if one of his jokes made her laugh. She had even heard Lorne brag about how she had touched his shoulder when he brought her a painting he had done of Atlantis.

Sam had expected people to begin to resent her once Elizabeth returned. She assumed that they would hate the fact that she hadn't yet stepped down. Instead, she got people stopping by to thank her for taking care of them during such a difficult time, apologizing for not being more helpful, offering their assistance if she ever did need it, and thanking her for continuing to hold the position while Dr. Wier recovered. It completely baffled her. If she were in their situation, she would not take so kindly to some stranger hanging around once their true leader was home. (Even in her own mind, she knew that Elizabeth was the rightful leader of Atlantis, and truthfully whenever she asked for the post back Sam would hand it over with relief.)

She decided to ask Elizabeth about it one day during one of the weekly lunches they shared. Elizabeth had laughed freely, shaking her head in admiration. "You have done a fantastic job here- they all like you a lot. I think they all feel slightly guilty that they weren't more appreciative. Being out here-so far from Earth- we are a family. It had to have been hard on you coming in to such a close knit group and trying to replace me without seeming to push me out. I think now that they are thinking of something other than their own grief they can see how hard you tried."

Sam grimaced slightly and shook her head in admiration. "Well, I did try, and I appreciate that they are thanking me for it, but seeing them interact with you...you must have done one hell of a job. I can't even imagine how hard it must have been for you starting this whole thing out."

Elizabeth laughed once again, her green eyes sparkling. Sam noticed yet again how much better she looked now than when they had first found her. She looked much...freer. Sam knew all too well the burden of leadership, and suddenly wondered if Elizabeth would even want to resume her post. As if reading her mind, Elizabeth leaned forward intently.

"Sam, I want to thank you for everything you have done for everyone one this base. This city, these people, were my reason for surviving. They kept me sane, and as crazy and hectic and accident prone as they are, knowing that you have been here to keep things running gives me...unbelievable comfort. If you would be up for it, I would like to ask you to remain here temporarily and help me ease back into working full time. I can offer you your own off world team, you have got to miss going through the 'gate."

Sam's eyes lit up instantly. That was more than she had ever hoped for. Being able to stay and learn more about this city and galaxy and these wonderful people, but without all the burden of leadership? "Yes!" She nearly shouted. Elizabeth sighed in relief.

"Thank you. You are always welcome to stay forever, you know. In any capacity you want. Off world teams, science department, we can offer you free reign over all of it."

Sam smiled. "Thank you, and I appreciate the offer, but eventually I think I might return to SGC and see if I can't bother Jack. I will be making frequent visits, however. I may even have to drag him with me."

Elizabeth nodded in acceptance, an automatic smile spreading across her lips as John entered the mess hall, trailed by Rodney. Behind them, a very pregnant Teyla gestured impatiently at the hovering Ronon. "I am perfectly capable of walking. Now what is this surprise you dragged me here for?"

Elizabeth's face lit up. "I can understand wanting to be in the same galaxy as your team. Teyla!" She hurried over to where the younger woman had stopped in shock and greeted her in the traditional Athosian way.

Teyla smiled in surprised pleasure, touching their foreheads together once again. "Elizabeth? It is good to see you!"

"Me? Look at you! Poor girl, I bet the boys have been hopelessly overprotective. When is the baby due?"

The two young leaders linked arms and wandered out onto a balcony, chatting happily. The three 'boys' following silently several steps behind. Sam smothered a laugh as Jennifer noticed their direction and moved to cut them off. She placed a gentle hand on Ronon's arm and shot them a slightly scolding look.

Rodney looked down and muttered something that was clearly a complaint, for she promptly smacked his head lightly. "Go eat." She commanded. "They will be fine for ten minutes on their own. Besides, it will all be girl talk anyway. Babies, the usual."

She watched them until they reluctantly had gathered their food together and sat down before turning to join the women on the balcony. On her way, she caught Sam's eye.

"Col. Carter! Come join us!" She invited, and Sam willingly abandoned her trey to join her teammates.