This Not So Mortal Coil
Word Count: 3247 (so far!)
Prompt: KrisRussel on GateWorld – What if it was the REAL Elizabeth in the jumper that went down in This Mortal Coil
Summary: What if it was the REAL Elizabeth in the jumper that went down in This Mortal Coil?
Spoilers – This Mortal Coil
'It was easier this way', she had told herself as the blatently lied to her old 2IC. She wasn't a clone, well not completely anyway, yet she wasn't Elizabeth Weir either. The Replicators had screwed with her mind so much in the past few months she had almost lost all sense of self, reduced to a trembling shell that had been 'reprogramed' more times than she could remember in order to subdue her human tendancies and her strong willpower. Every time she had woken up on the same bench in the same empty lab, not daring to believe anything that her senses told her. This time however, things were different.
Sometime during her last 'reprogramming' she had been taken by the rebel Replicators and trust into a simulated Atlantis in order for them to learn from her vast Ancient knowledge how to ascend. While it was something she was acutely interested in, the thought of staying alive usually overpowered any thoughts of trying to ascend to escape the hell her life had become since she'd been taken. She met up with a cloned Atlantis team, completed with a cloned Dr Keller, heck even down to Chuck in the control room. As they began to work things out they were tossed in a jail cell, apparently too dangerous to continue without being 'reset'. It was then the replicators attacked, and Elizabeth had begged for them to be released so they could make a difference. Thankfully the Keller Replicator had done just that, giving them the tracking system from a core of one of the Replicator ships, before allowing them a puddlejumper to escape the destruction of the pseudo-Atlantis.
After catching a lift on the hull of a Replicator ship and stealing another from the Replicator homeworld, the team ended up on M34-227, and bumped into Major Jordan. Perfect.
" I'm not Elizabeth. Well, not the Elizabeth you knew. I have all of her memories and all of her thoughts – everything that makes her me. But I'm a duplicate. I was created by a faction of the Replicators as a means to attaining ascension. " She lied, her face a mask devoid of all emotion. If he knew she were dead, he wouldn't keep trying to rescue her, risking his own life and those of whoever he brought with him. She would never be the same Elizabeth anyway, and it would be easier for him to beleive she were dead.
An arrangement was made for the 'real' Atlantis team to come to M34-227 to meet up and discuss the tracking device, and as expected the McKays got along not only famously, but irritatingly so. They bustled each other out of the way of the one set of equipment available to them, both as eager as the other to get into the guts of the tracking device.
Elizabeth decided to take a walk with the 'real' John to solidify her case with him, claiming that the Replicator Keller had told her that her original was dead. Not that there was any way for John to rectify her statement, so he would have to take her word for it. He made a good argument though, encouraging her to bring her team back to the 'real' Atlantis and make a life for themselves there. She could feel her composure crumbling, her mind as twisted as the Replicators had made it wanting to desperately go back to her old life. Yet she couldn't, and wouldn't put John through that. He deserved so much more than a leader and a best friend who was part replicator.
Ironically it was then that Oberoth's Replicators decided to attack, sending down streamed of weapons fire onto the surface of the planet as well as blocking the Stargate to prevent their escape. Her first priority was the lives of the 'real' Atlantis team, she couldn't let any harm befall them, not when 'her' team were merely clones. They planned a diversion, taking the puddlejumper and drawing the Replicator's attention and fire. A blast hitting the rear of the jumper sent them all sprawling inside the small cockpit, then careening out of control towards the forest below. The impact sent them flying, and for a moment, Elizabeth knew that this pain was real, not something that the Replicators were trying to trick her mind into feeling. Her leg was twisted underneath her, the bone splittered into a thousand peices by the impact and a trickle of blood oozed from where her head had connected with the bulkhead. Pain coursed through her body, the nanites within her repairing the damage even as she lay in agony. Footsteps approached the jumper and she feigned unconsciousness, which wasn't particularly hard as she was teetering on the verge of it. The ramp descended and a team of Replicators approached her, probing her mind to see how alive she really was. She blocked them, emptying her consciousness of anything other than emptiness, hoping it would fool them. 3 more Replicators entered before John swivelled round, pulling a weapon on them. They fired first, and he slumped forward, his face resting on the consol of the jumper. They fired again and he vanished entirely, ceasing to exist in anything but her memories. They repeated the process with Ronon, Teyla and Rodney before turning towards her, their weapons trained on her crumpled body.
" This is Oberoth, return to the ship" Came the mental transmission that Elizabeth picked up between the Replicators, and they thankfully left her, beleiving she was indeed dead and not worthy of wasting their time to disintergrate. Another volley of weapons fire from orbit heralded the departure of the footsoilders, leaving her very much alone in the forest. A blast hit the puddlejumper and her mind once again shut down.
" Colonel we have to go back there to see if they made it" John implored the next day to Colonel Carter, knowing full well the Replicators would have left by now if the other team were dead. If they had escaped, the Replicators would be hunting them and a cloaked jumper could avoid their detection.
" You're sure the Replicators would have left?" Carter asked, tapping her laptop idly as John pleaded his case.
" Sure enough that if they were still there a cloaked jumper would easily slide under their noses" John replied, injecting his voice with as much 'please believe me' as he could.
" Alright, but if you hit ANY resistance, I want you all back here ASAP" Colonel Carter aquiesed, unable to hold her smile as John all but bolted out of her office. She knew this was important to him, if they other team was dead, it would provide closure, if they weren't, there was the possibility of a rescue, and she would cross THAT bridge if and when it appeared in front of her.
Within 20 minutes the jumper descended through the ceiling of the gateroom, Carter wishing them 'Good luck' as they vanished through the event horizon. Seconds later they were on the planet, cloaked and invisiable to both the naked eye and most sensors. Thankfully the Replicators were nowhere in sight.
" I've found the jumper... its about 30 klicks northwest" Rodney reported, tapping his tablet to gain more accurate information.
" Any lifesigns?" John asked.
" None yet... but they were replicators remember" Rodney remarked.
" The others were, but something was... I dunno... different about Elizabeth. I don't think she was like them" John said sadly, knowing in his heart that all they would be finding would be bodies.
They flew in silence for a few moments more before the jumper appeared on the forest floor, a gouge of destruction marking the path it took to end up half submerged in greenery and soil. John eased their jumper to rest nearby, lowering the ramp and holding his weapon ready in case anything unexpected was lumped upon them.
The other jumper was a mess, twisted metal and componentry spread amoungst the trees and shrubs. The basic hull was intact, but that was about it. The ramp bad been partially lowered, but the inside was pitch black, giving no insight as to what they might find inside. Outwardly John was impassive, his expression neutral and his actions deliberate as he moved to check the interior of the jumper, inwardly his heart was in his throat, his stomach twisting in so many knots he thought he might be violently ill at any moment. The next few moments would determine everything.
Flipping on the light on his P-90 he gingerly made his way inside, finding a plethora of shrapnel imbedded in every soft surface within the rear compartment. Then he saw her, crumpled in a heap on the floor, her face clearly visiable but relaxed, one of her legs twisted and broken beneath her.
It was then he noticed her chest rise and fall ever to imperceptibly, the exhalation of air ruffling a small strand of hair that had slipped across her face.
He crept forward, weapon still raised and dropped to one knee, pressing his fingers to the side of her throat in the age old tradition of checking a persons vital signs. He almost lost all coherent thought when he felt it thrum beneath his fingers.
Wait a minute.. did replicators have a pulse? His mind raced against the posibilities and came up with a negative.. why would a replicator need a pulse?
" Elizabeth?" He called her name softly, the hand not on his weapon gently sweeping the hair from her face. She stirred a little under his touch.
" John?" She asked, not quite opening her eyes just yet.
" Yeah.. who else would risk their ass for you, even if he'd be lied to?" He quipped, his relief evident in his voice.
" I hurt like hell" She admitted, grimacing as the pain in her leg became evident. The nanites within her still worked to repair the injury, but she had been so badly damaged both in the crash and the weapons fire afterwards they hadn't finishing repairing everything just yet.
" You're the real Elizabeth aren't you?" John asked quietly, digging through the small medkit in his vest to find some painkillers.
She opened her eyes, the apology clear within their green depths.
" I'm sorry John, if you'd just moved on then you wouldn't be here risking your ass for me" She admitted, tears beginning to glisten.
" God Elizabeth..." John swore, pulling out a small vial of morphine and loading a medipen with it. He injected her with the medication, easing her pain whilst be made contact with the rest of the team waiting patiently outside the jumper.
Part replicator or not, she was going home.
Three days later Dr Elizabeth Weir was released from the infirmary, the nanites in her body finally having repaired her splintered leg with the aid of some surgery. The bone was pinned back together and the muscles were already repairing themselves, allowing her to walk with only a slightly noticeable limp until the nanites finished their repairs.
As she wandered through the corridors she had the distinct feeling that she was caught between worlds. While people seemed happy that she was back she could see the uncertainty in their eyes, and the two marines shadowing her didn't overly sell the whole idea that she was 100% normal. Thankfully Teyla seemed to be her constant companion, something that Elizabeth was more than thankful for. She had always respected Teyla's ability to put people at ease and to allay their fears, and sometimes the softly spoken words of the Athosian put her trouble mind at ease more than she realised. The one thing that concerned her more than the Atlantis team accepting her back into their ranks was the disappearance of John Sheppard. Whilst she knew he was in the city still and not 'lost' per say, it was more than he seemed to be avoiding her, distancing himself from her. Dr Heightmeyer assured her it was merely his way of coping with her return, but Elizabeth had a strange feeling there was something more going on. Something was weighing on John's mind and he wasn't going through his normal channels to alleviate it. He would normally have cornered her in her office, or on the balcony if he needed to get something of his mind, but the sinking realisation that it was no longer HER office, and the balcony was more likely Colonel Carter's more than hers made her realise that things had changed since she left.
Elizabeth had spent a great deal of time working with Colonel Carter and Dr McKay since she'd returned from the planet, mainly trying to work out a way to neutralise the nanites without killing herself in the process. Until that was done the guards would be her constant companion, and whilst she didn't appreciate being treated like a prisoner in her own city, she understood the reasons why.
As she arrived back in her old quarters, she found some things almost as she'd left them. Some of the personal belongings lay neatly stacked in boxes along one wall, as though someone had begun to pack them up before getting called away for something urgent. The guards thankfully remained outside her door, allowing her a modicum of privacy.
" I am sorry that we started packing your belongings" Teyla apologised, picking up one of the boxes and placing on the bed for Elizabeth to start unpacking.
" It's ok Teyla, I honestly didn't think I would be coming back myself" Elizabeth replied quietly, unable to take her eyes of the items in the box. Uniforms, casual clothes, knick knacks that she'd had around her quarters were all carefully folded and packed with great care and reverence.
" Who did this?" Elizabeth asked, picking up the jacket of her old uniform, complete with the Atlantis pin still attached to the lapel that designated her as the leader. She hadn't worn that jacket in years, preferring now the black jacket and pants that were way more comfortable.
She saw Teyla hesitate, before gathering herself to reply.
" John did, he would not let the rest of us aid him" Teyla replied softly, casting her eyes towards the box as Elizabeth unpacked things one at a time.
" I'm worried about him, it's not like him to avoid me" Elizabeth couldn't help but admitting out loud, how was it that Teyla could always get her to say what was really troubling her without evening trying?
Again, Teyla paused.
" He... feels responsible for not rescuing you sooner" The Athosian answered, carefully choosing her words.
" He's beating himself up over this isn't he?" Elizabeth knew John almost as well as John knew himself. She knew his ability to punish himself when he thought he had failed someone.
" He is, and he will not listen to anyone, not Colonel Carter, Ronon nor myself" Teyla admitted honestly.
" Could you ask him to see me? As a friend?" Elizabeth asked before she even knew the words were out of her mouth. 'Where did THAT come from?' she criticised her mind in the milliseconds after she'd spoken.
" I can try, but I do not guarantee he will in his current state of mind" Teyla finished before turning and head out of the room, leaving Elizabeth alone with her troubled thoughts.
She unpacked her belongings, setting each item back in its original place before stacking the boxes to one side to be disposed of in the morning before wandering over to the long window and staring out in wonder at the city she never thought she would see again. She had no idea how long she simply stared at the glowing lights emanating from the buildings that surround the one where her quarters were located, before a knock on the doorframe startled her.
" Come in" She called, turning to face the intruder. John walked through the door, his face a mask of impassiveness, not expressing a single emotion. He was hiding from his own feelings, burying them as though nothing had happened, but refusing to even acknowledge her presence since she had returned.
" You wanted to see me Dr Weir?" He said officially, his stance rigid and stilted.
" John, I just wanted to say thank you, and that you aren't responsible for what happened" Elizabeth started, her expression honest and open. Darn it why was he making this so hard?
" It's my job to protect you, I failed" John replied stoically, his expression unyielding.
" John, there was nothing you could have done..." Elizabeth started to explain.
" Damnit Elizabeth, I left you behind in the hands of the enemy!" John's anger exploded and Elizabeth resisted the urge to back-peddle away from him. He was almost shaking in self loathing.
" John, I survived, why can't you see that?" She raised her voice, not quite shouting, but loud enough to break through the self-loathing echoing around his mind.
" I should have tried harder, I should have gone back sooner" John repeated, almost ignoring her words entirely.
" And done what? Get caught yourself? John it wasn't pleasant by any means what they did to me, and I'm thankful that I was the only one they had to screw with. I couldn't bear having you go through the same thing." Elizabeth said quietly, her anger subsiding as she finally started to get through to him. Had she just admitted the one thing they had both promised never to acknowledge in public? Had she just stepped across the line they had be toeing for so long?
John was quiet for a moment, his expression conflicted as he digested this new information.
" If I'd gotten there sooner, they wouldn't have tortured you" He stepped forward, grasping her by her shoulders " I should have prevented it from happening in the first place" He implored, meeting her eyes for the first time. She saw the anger and torment hidden in their depths, the pain and self-loathing evident only to those who really knew him.
" No-one could have prevented it, and for what its worth, the mission was worth it" Elizabeth retorted gently, unused to seeing him this open and vulnerable.
" You're worth more than any mission" John said with an intensity that shock Elizabeth to her core. The arms slipped from her shoulders to wrap around her back, pulling her forward into an embrace she had no hope of recovering from. She melted against his strong frame, her chin tucking in towards his neck as his body pressed against hers. She drank in his scent, the hint of aftershave mingled with the unique scent that was simply John Sheppard. Despite all that had happened, for those few moments she was enfolded within his arms, she could forget the horrors of the past few months and simply be herself.