Author's Note: And here's THE FINAL CHAPTER. Sorry it took so long to upload. I kept getting side-tracked. Anyways, I really hope you enjoyed the story, and thank you so much for all your wonderful comments! I really appreciate it! I really enjoyed writing the story, and so I'd love to hear your final thoughts!
Bag slung over my shoulder, I take a deep breath and descend the great flight of stairs towards the towering gate. Everyone is there, waiting and watching; their faces a mixture of sorrow and confusion. I have yet to make the official announcement. Thus far, everything that is known has remained between Elizabeth, Colonel Sheppard and myself.
The crowd parts for me and I smile and nod as I pass each familiar face.
"So, nothing we can do to make you stay, huh?"
I recognize Ronon's voice and turn around. John, Rodney, Ronon, Teyla, Jennifer and Carson are all standing there among the crowd, and I am surprised I hadn't noticed them before.
I smile sadly. "I'm afraid not."
"I just don't get it," Jennifer says. "What made you want to leave all of a sudden?"
"Yeah, I mean, come on," Rodney added. "We just kicked bad guy ass—doesn't that count for anything?"
I can't help but grin and I say, "Of course it does. In fact, that's exactly the point." At their confused expressions I continue. "Now that there's no major threats left in the galaxy that means my job here is done. I have to get back to my own galaxy and worry about the threats there."
"But what about Michael?" Teyla says with a concerned expression. "We may have crippled the forces of two of our greatest enemies but the fight is far from over/ Michael still poses a great threat in this galaxy."
I nod. "I know; and believe me—I'm not taking this decision lightly. But I think you'll find your new commander to be very well suited for the job."
"Not as good as you," Ronon says with a gentle punch in the arm. I smile appreciatively and continue towards the gate without comment. If he only knew how wrong he was...
I come to a stand still in front of the gate and slowly turn around. It only takes a small amount of clearing my throat before all is silent.
"If I could have everyone's attention, please?" I say unnecessarily. I don't think it's customary for commanders to give a speech before stepping down, but then again, most past commanders weren't exactly given the chance.
Everyone is instantly attentive, and I smile graciously before continuing.
"As many of you already know—I have decided to step down from my position as commander of Atlantis." I pause, trying to find the right words. "First of all, I'd just like to say—the decision was not an easy one. In fact, I'd go as far as to say it was one of the hardest I've ever had to make; and not because I don't think anyone else can handle a job like this, or that I'm afraid I may be making a mistake. I'm not.
"If you'd remember, back when I first got here, I said I looked forward to working with each and every one of you." I look over the crowd before me, from person to person, before my gaze lands on the smaller cluster in front of me. "And now that I've had that opportunity, I must say—it's been a true pleasure."
My gaze locks with John's for a moment and he nods approvingly for me to continue.
"And now," I say, my lips forming a small smile. "Without further ado—I'd like to introduce you to your new commander: Dr. Elizabeth Weir."
The doors where I am motioning slide open and, right on cue, Elizabeth steps through them. I watch as five out of six jaws drop, a knowing grin spreading across John's face to match my own.
Elizabeth allows herself a small smile and comes over to join me, accepting the hand I immediately extend to her and shaking it thoughtfully.
"You know, a speech wasn't necessary," she says discreetly under the congratulatory applause she is now receiving.
I shrug. "I wanted everyone to know who I'm leaving in charge," I say with a grin.
She smiles appreciatively and holds onto my hand a moment longer. "Thank you," she says, her eyes speaking of nothing but sincerity. "For everything."
I nod and she releases my hand at last so I can step back and give her the floor.
I stand with my group, and can't help but smile at their changed reactions. Rodney looks over at me for an explanation but I only grin.
"I suppose," Elizabeth begins, somewhat hesitantly. "It would be appropriate for me to have prepared a speech..."
The audience grins slightly and she continues.
"I guess if I knew I'd be giving one I might have just printed out my original copy," she jokes, and there is a short chuckle from the audience.
"The truth is, I could not be more impressed by what you have accomplished in my absence," she continues, and then her eyes find mine and she nods in recognition. "And I couldn't have asked for anyone better to have taken my place."
I hold my breath for a short moment, hoping against hope that she isn't going to devote half this speech to congratulating me for my achievements, but she seems to hear my silent plea and her eyes continue their journey around the room.
"I choose now to accept this assignment because, like many of you, I have come to think of Atlantis as my home; and nothing would give me a greater honor than to command alongside those who make this expedition possible."
I smile at her words and she inclines her head in my direction.
"Colonel," she says, and I nod up towards the control room.
"Chuck," I order. "Dial it up."
The gate begins to spin as Elizabeth is rejoining the crowd. We exchange smiles and I turn again to face the team I have come to know as my own.
"So this is what you two agreed on?" Rodney asks curiously, looking back and forth between the two of us as though he honestly had no idea that Elizabeth would be taking command.
"It was Sam's idea," Elizabeth says, smiling, and I am glad to see she is finally happy with the decision.
"I was afraid Woolsey was goanna take over again," Ronon says, sounding much less solemn than before. A few of us chuckle and I glance up as another chevron locks, bringing me another notch closer to leaving the city.
A small shudder runs down my spine and I turn around again, inwardly punching myself as I begin to feel the tears well up in my eyes.
"Welp," I say, as cheerily as possible. "I guess this is goodbye, than?"
A look of worry and confusion washes over Rodney and he stammers suddenly. "W-well... you'll still come back to visit, right?"
I smile sadly. "Of course," I promise, and pull him into a hug as another chevron locks into place.
He still looks to be in a state of mild shock when I pull away from him and I can't help but grin at his reaction. I look around at the rest of the group in acknowledgement. As much as I'd like to, I doubt I can give hugs to everybody.
"Thank you," I say with a firm nod towards each member in the group. "All of you. For everything."
John raises his chin slightly; a calm, but serious look on his face. "Anytime."
The gate kawooshes open behind us and I heave a heavy sigh before picking up my bags and stepping up in front of the event horizon.
Behind me, I can hear Rodney speaking softly with Elizabeth.
"Everything's going to go back to the way it was now, isn't it?"
There is a short pause before Elizabeth responds. "No, Rodney," she says in a far-off tone of voice. "It isn't. But that isn't necessarily a bad thing."
I grin as I remember our conversation back in Elizabeth's quarters, and I turn slowly back towards the great expanse of the room. I will miss this place, I say to myself as my eyes roam over the city's interior—the place that had become my home over the last year.
"You know, you're welcome to come back any time you'd like," I hear Elizabeth say, and I nod distractedly.
"Yeah..." I agree. "I think I'll have to do that."
I glance once more at the seven faces of those who will forever be part of my life. John gives a small wave, and I step through, leaving Atlantis and the Pegasus Galaxy behind me.
I emerge abruptly on the other side and stagger a few steps to find my balance on the uninviting metal ramp. I let out a sigh as the wormhole disengages and I am faced with the cold, bleak concrete walls that make up the SGC. Yes, I truly will miss that place.
"Hey," I hear a familiar voice call, and I spin around to find the source of it. There stands SG-1, exactly as I remember them, all gathered around the foot of the ramp awaiting my return. Cameron offers me a sideways grin at the relived smile that forms on my face at the sight of them. "Welcome back."
I let my bags drop onto the metal ramp and smile to myself, remembering now, the reason I had felt so obligated to return to this cold, gray mountain complex. I take in the smiling faces of my friends and teammates and I know now, that I am home.