Things Have Changed by AndromedaMarine

Author's Note: Tag to "Ghost in the Machine," but a bit different as in my story I have made Elizabeth's replicator body identical to the one they left on Asuras.

He's convinced the guards that she really doesn't pose a threat, and that it's okay for them to take a walk for old time's sake. They walk in silence for the better part of an hour, finally ending up on the East Pier of the city, totally alone. And the back of his mind is telling him that this is the woman he fell in love with; this is the leader he left behind... John Sheppard turns to Elizabeth Weir, or the Replicator version of her, and she watches as his eyes fill with the stinging look of sadness.

Too many painful nights have gone by for John to really accept that she stands in front of him, whole as if she never left. As if she were never taken. The tingling in his spine has just gone away from when he first saw her name on the computer screen, glowing eerily in the control room as the deafening silence threatened to consume him. But a different tingling makes its presence known, this time in the pit of his stomach. Too many lost hopes. And yet... One year, more or less, has crept by. And the woman he is gazing at just...just isn't the same.

One year. Things have changed. He blows out the breath he's held in his chest, reaching up one hand to ruffle the hair the way she used to smile at.

"John," she just barely whispers, and she knows the sound of her voice has affected his very being. She knew it as soon as that door slid open to rejoin her with her true family... But he just looks at her. She longs to lift her hand up to touch his cheek, to convey every possible thought – truth – that she's loved him a very long time.

"I...I don't know what to believe," he states simply, allowing his eyes to roam her face for some kind of confirmation that her presence isn't a façade. "But – I do know that this..." he trails off, for a moment letting the guard over his soul down so she can really see him. "Right now you're real. Here."

She senses the unsaid. "But what, John?" She relishes saying his name without the formalities, relishes standing mere feet from him. She too hasn't been able to really accept that she's finally back home. Home. It's got a different meaning now. She isn't human yet.

He hates himself for saying it, though knowing the weight on his shoulders and heart will be lifted because of it. "It's not the same."

Elizabeth bows her head and turns from him, understanding that the part of her that is real – her true consciousness – is the only part he accepts. "No. It's not. I can tell you and Rodney are the only ones who believe I am who I say."

"Teyla –"

"– is a logical and trusting Athosian. She listens to her heart and head equally... And I think that conflict with her is what's causing her doubt." Elizabeth twists her head to look at John, surprised to find him right beside her – just inches away.

"Things have changed, Elizabeth. You saw – Woolsey's replaced Carter, so many more have died... We're on a new planet for God's sake."

She forced herself to look at him. "Has everything changed?" Her question's simplicity caught John off guard.

His shoulders slumped dramatically, and he let his weight rest against the railing of the pier. The colonel knew he had to say it out loud. "No." He rubbed his cheek, glancing over at her for a moment. "Not everything."

She turned her body so she faced his side, lifting up a hand to run her fingers through his hair. As the strands slipped between her fingers the sunlight illuminated his face, she saw them. The grey strands, peppering his once pure and jet black hair. He reached up and clamped his hand over her wrist, stilling the motions.

"What're you doing?" he asked softly, searching her Replicator-eyes for a trace of the old Elizabeth.

"I'm sorry." John twined his fingers with hers. "I've kept you from moving on."

His eyes suddenly turned to a raging dark, and his grip tightened. "I said that not everything changed. That included the constant, overwhelming hope of finding you... I wouldn't have been able to move on. Elizabeth...I'm fine with the grey hair. But I can't lose you again." He pulled her into a crushing embrace, finally far enough away from the disproving stares to really tell her what he felt. "I never gave up hope on you."

John knows she isn't a threat. He knows that sooner or later, things will change again. But for right now, he's living in the moment, relishing the feel of her in his arms and against his chest, hoping that this human-builder machine thing will work, and aching that she'll be flesh and blood again soon.

"Love floods us with hope,"~ Jareb Teague