Title: In this strange world
Category: AU, angst, romance
Summary: When Elizabeth loses everything she knew, she needs someone to lean on.
Season/Sequel: season 3 AU
Archives: my website, others ask please, I never refuse
Disclaimer: I own neither the show nor the characters. I don't earn any money; I just do it for fun.
Author's Note: Written for the Sheppard/Weir ficathon for Rushingwind. I got that prompt: "The timeline is somehow changed, and Elizabeth (pre-First Strike) finds herself in a universe, where the expedition destroyed Atlantis in the events during season 1's The Siege, and have never re-established contact with Earth. She seeks out John for comfort."
She woke up slowly, stretching like a cat. Her alarm hadn't gone off yet, so she supposed that she still had a few minutes before she had to get up. For once, she just wanted to take her time, and listen to the sound of the ocean as her mind slowly came back to the real world.
But, just as soon as she thought about that, she realised that she couldn't hear the tell tale sound of the waves crashing on the City, nor could she feel the sunshine on her face.
Opening her eyes, she sat up quickly in bed, realising that it wasn't her room. And that she definitely wasn't in Atlantis anymore. Looking around, she was surprised to see her belongings scattered around, along with some she had never seen. She was starting to get worried; she had fallen asleep in her room, in Atlantis, the night before, and she didn't know how she ended up there, nor where there was.
Getting up from her bed, she looked around the room once more, trying to assess the situation as John had taught her to do, in case she was captured off-world. But there weren't any clues as to where she was. She didn't understand how her belongings, from Sedge's photo to the jar John gave her on her first birthday in Atlantis, could be there too if she had somehow been captured. She got dressed quickly, and was about to try the door, when there was a knock.
"Come in," she answered, frowning. "John?" she said, seeing her military commander and friend. "What are you doing here? And where is here?" She watched as he frowned at her questions. She started to get worried, and asked again. "John?"
"What do you mean by that, Elizabeth? We agreed last night that I would come and get you for breakfast so that we can talk about this week's missions."
"I... I don't remember it...," she said, before letting herself fall on the bed behind her.
"What can you remember from last night?"
"I was planning to work late in my office when you came to get me for movie night. It was The Devil Wears Prada and you remembered that I wanted to see it. After the movie, I went to my quarters and fell asleep. And now, this morning, I wake up here, and I don't know where I am."
"You were in Atlantis?" he asked, incredulously.
"Yes, of course. Why?"
"Elizabeth, we destroyed Atlantis during the Siege."
Elizabeth sat outside, facing the Gate. She needed to be alone after what John had told her.
Atlantis had been destroyed during the Siege. They had been losing, just like in what she remembered, except that Earth had never sent a team to help them, and they never heard of the Daedalus. She knew that they had sent the message to Earth, but either it hadn't worked, or they had been too late, and the expedition had already left the planet. They would never know though; without a ZPM they were unable to re-establish the contact with Earth.
It had been nearly two years ago, and since then, they lived on the Alpha Site.
She didn't remember all that, though. She remembered living on Atlantis for three years, she remembered the Siege and how the Daedalus had saved John at the last second, she remembered having had to go back to Earth after the Ancients came back. She even remembered the nightmare she was thrown into after the nanites infected her.
The nanites. That had to be it. It had to be another nightmare; that was the only explanation. But then, that would mean that the nanites had found a way to reactivate themselves, and she clearly remembered Rodney telling her that it was impossible.
She sighed; she didn't know what to believe anymore. She wanted to believe that it was another nanite induced nightmare, because that would mean she had a chance to wake up and go back to Atlantis.
"You ok, lass?"
"Carson...," she whispered, as he took a sit beside her.
She should have guessed that in this reality he was still alive. Resisting the urge to throw her arms around him, because she had missed him, she kept staring at him.
"John told me what happened to you. He's talking to Rodney right now, and they're trying to figure out what could have brought you here."
"But without Atlantis, they won't be able to take me back to my reality," she continued, knowing that no matter what happened, she was stuck there forever.
"You seemed surprised to see me, Elizabeth..."
"You died only two weeks ago in my reality," she admitted. "There had been an explosion. And now you're here... And I'm here, we're on the Alpha Site and Atlantis is forever gone."
"That's a lot to take in."
"You can say that, yeah..." She sighed once more, before resuming. "I should probably go to my office, and get some work done. I may not be remembering anything from this reality, but that doesn't mean I can't do my work."
"I agree with that, but as your doctor, I order you to take a day off."
"Carson...," she started, but he interrupted her by raising a hand.
"Chuck and Bates are perfectly capable of taking care of the Alpha Site for the day. Let's go and find Sheppard and McKay and see if they have an explanation."
Knowing that she wouldn't be able to have the upper hand with the doctor, she stood up, and followed him inside one of the buildings. She would have to learn her way around the place; she couldn't let everyone know that she wasn't really the same Elizabeth they had always known.
As they entered a room, which turned out to be Rodney's lab, they found both men focused on the screen before them. Elizabeth immediately recognized the database from Atlantis, and knew that it was only part of it. Even in her reality, they still had barely scraped the surface.
"Did you find anything?" she asked, hoping against hope that even without the City, they would be able to send her back.
"Ah, Elizabeth. Sorry, no, there's nothing yet. Just a question, though. John told me that the last thing you remembered was falling asleep in your bed, in Atlantis."
"Did you touch anything that day?"
"No. You, well the other Rodney, wanted to show me and John something in one of the new labs the scientific teams found, but he wasn't able to make it work."
"What was it? What did he want to show you?"
"I don't know," Elizabeth said, shaking her head. She wished she remembered what Rodney had told her, but as always, he was speaking too quickly, and Zelenka hadn't been there to translate what was being said. "Do you think it has to do with what happened to me? It didn't work."
"But maybe it did, and none of you were aware of it. I guess we'll never know."
"What about the other Elizabeth? Our Elizabeth?" John asked, and she could see that he was worried.
"We won't know for sure, but I think it's possible you exchanged places. She may be in your universe, and they're trying to figure out what happened too."
"Except that they have Atlantis," Carson said, and Rodney nodded in answer.
"So, there's a possibility that I can go back home?" she said, but bit her lips as she realised that for them, it was home. "Well, I mean..."
"We know what you mean, Elizabeth," John reassured her, as Rodney and Carson smiled at her.
"And as for your question, I don't know. I don't even know what brought you here, and I won't be able to figure it out. We'll have to wait for your Rodney to find a solution, if there is one."
The small flicker of hope that had appeared suddenly, left just as quickly.
"I... I'd like to be alone for a while," Elizabeth said, turning to leave the lab.
She didn't know why she went back to her quarters, the other Elizabeth's quarters. But there, she felt safe with her belongings, and when she closed her eyes, she could imagine the sound of the waves crashing on the City. She knew she wasn't the only one hurting; they had lost their Elizabeth, and they had no way to know what happened to her.
She wondered briefly if she should make an announcement to the expedition, if she should step down from her role as their leader, because that wasn't her job. But she dismissed that thought as she remembered the loss they had suffered too. She was still Elizabeth Weir, and from what she gathered from John, she and her counterpart here were the same person; the well-being of their people was more important than their own. She would do her job as if she had always been there. If only for the sake of the expedition.
She had just convinced herself that she could do it, when there was a knock on the door. Thinking it might be John coming to check on her, she called for him to enter. She was surprised to see Teyla instead, but the Athosian wasn't the real surprise; Aiden Ford standing beside her was. Quickly thinking about what happened to her in her reality, she realised that if they had indeed evacuated the City when this expedition did, he would have never encountered this Wraith.
"John told us what happened to you," Teyla started. "He thought that you wouldn't mind and would like to speak to other people than him, McKay or Beckett."
"He was right."
"Is there anything we can do for you, Ma'am?" Ford asked.
"Yes. John tried to fill me in to what happened this past two years, since our two realities diverged, but he hadn't told me everything."
"What do you want to know, Elizabeth?"
"Anything you can tell me. Let's start with the people, and then we'll talk about our enemies, allies, and the missions," she decided, thinking that it would be easier this way.
They spent the next two hours talking about all that, and Elizabeth realised that most things were the same between the two universes, but they had never met the Asurans. Elizabeth had felt relief when Teyla hadn't mentioned them; without Atlantis, they would have been in a more dangerous position if they were to come and attack them. She would talk to John about them though, and block the coordinates to their City from the computers. She didn't want to take the risk to ever meet them; she had seen firsthand how dangerous they could be.
"What about your reality, Ma'am? Are we the same people that you know?"
Elizabeth winced visibly, and she knew that both Teyla and Ford had seen it. She had been hoping that they wouldn't ask, but it had been in vain. She guessed that the only thing for her to do was to tell the truth, just like she did with Carson.
"You disappeared a year ago, Ford." She couldn't bring herself to tell him that he was dead, mostly because neither she nor John believed that he had still been in the Hive Ship when it was destroyed.
She proceeded to tell him about the Wraith, the enzyme, and what happened since he left Atlantis.
"Well, I guess I'm better off in this reality than in yours."
"I shouldn't have told you."
"No, I asked, you only answered my question, Ma'am. And it's better that I know about this. If you ever want to talk about it, I'll be there, Ma'am."
"Tell me about my counterpart in your universe, Elizabeth."
"Well, from what I gathered the last time we talked, one of your childhood friends wanted to be more than just friends with you."
"Really? Who?" Aiden asked, and Elizabeth had to smile at that.
"Aiden!" Teyla exclaimed, before continuing in a more even voice. "I believe that it is none of your business."
"And I don't know his name. You..., Teyla didn't want to tell me."
"She would have told you when the time was right, I'm sure of it."
"What about McKay? Is he as annoying in your world as in ours?"
"Like I've said, our two universes are quite similar."
"Is that a yes, Ma'am?"
Elizabeth didn't answer, but the smile she sent to Teyla and Aiden was enough to make them understand what she meant.
That night, Elizabeth found her spot back outside, in front of the gate. A cup of Athosian tea sat on the ground before her, its content long forgotten, and now cold. Her eyes were looking at the night, and she tried to recognize the constellations she had become familiar with in the past three years. She knew it would be in vain, as the Alpha Site was in a different part of the Pegasus Galaxy. But she couldn't help herself. She needed to feel close to what had been her home up until the night before.
"Penny for your thoughts?" John's voice startled her.
"They're not worth your penny," she replied, as she gestured for him to sit down beside her.
"I believe they are. Tell me, Elizabeth. Let me be the shoulder you can cry on," he added, and she laughed.
"That was pretty lame. Did you actually get any girl with that line?"
"At least, that made you laugh." He paused, and looked at her as she returned her gaze to the sky. "You've been through this before. Well, my Elizabeth... Our Elizabeth," he corrected himself quickly. At her pointed look, he continued. "When we first arrived here, I would often find Elizabeth sitting outside late at night. She had taken the loss of Atlantis pretty hard. Harder than anyone else. You've just lost your version of Atlantis. And your reality too, all in one go."
"So what do I do, now?"
"You mourn. That's the only thing you can do."
"Will you be there for me if I need you?"
He didn't answer but instead wrapped an arm around her shoulders, tugging her into his side. She knew it was his way of telling her that he would, because even though he wasn't her John, he was still the John she knew.
Over the next few days, Elizabeth and John spent more and more of their downtime together. He would make her laugh, make her forget that it wasn't really home, but that it was close enough.
Three weeks after her impromptu arrival in this reality, Elizabeth finally made her peace with the fact that she would probably never see her own again. The comforting presence of her friends, of John did help, and she would need to find a way to thank them all. She was sitting in the commissary, long after most of the expedition retired for the night, leaving only the graveyard shift awake, when the door opened to reveal John.
She wasn't surprised that he had found her. He had always seemed to know where to find her, wherever she was hiding. In her reality, after Carson's death, she had hidden in one of the many uninhabited parts of the City, and he had still been able to find her without any trouble. She hadn't minded it at the time, and she didn't mind it now. She knew deep down that she was seeking him out for comfort, that she had been taking whatever he had been willing to give her.
"What are you doing here in the dark?" he asked her, though he didn't make a move to switch on the light.
She shrugged, and he must have seen it because he didn't repeat his question. Instead, he walked towards where she was seated, and took a seat beside her. He put his hand over the one that was resting on her knee and squeezed.
"You know what I miss?" she whispered, not wanting to kill the quietness that had settled. "Chocolate."
"I can't help with that. It's been a long time since I saw a piece of chocolate. I guess you didn't come across a planet where they make chocolate."
"No. The Daedalus usually brought some from Earth. You?"
"Too bad," Elizabeth sighed.
A comfortable silence fell upon them once more. John's hand was still on hers, and she turned hers to intertwine her fingers with his. Turning her head towards him, she noticed that he had been looking at her. Even with the moonlight as the only light in the room, she could see the faint blush on his cheeks as he tried to look away. She wouldn't let him though and with her free hand, she held his chin in place.
She didn't know who closed the distance in the first place, but she soon found herself kissing John. The hand that had been on his chin was now on the back of his head, holding him in place. Her other hand was still holding one of his, and his free hand was on the small of her back, pushing her towards him.
But, just as soon as the kiss started, it ended. Elizabeth pushed away from him, and stood up. Before she could leave though, he caught her wrists.
"You won't do that again, Elizabeth."
"What are you talking about? I haven't..."
"Elizabeth, my Elizabeth," he clarified, "when we lost Atlantis, we started to spend a lot of time together, for comfort, just like we had been doing, you and me. One night, we kissed. And she left, just like you were about to do. After that night, she did her best to avoid me outside of work. That lasted more than two months, before I was able to corner her and have a discussion with her. Tell me you weren't going to do just that: avoid me at all costs." He paused, waiting for an answer from her, but when it was obvious she wouldn't say anything, he continued. "Tell me that you didn't feel something when we kissed, and I'll leave you alone."
"I did. But I can't do that. I'm not your Elizabeth."
"And I'm not your John," he added. "But we're both here."
Before she could say anything, he kissed her again, his hands cupping her face. This time, the kiss came to its natural end, and she rested her forehead against him, their faces still close to each other.
As she felt John's lips moving to her neck, she thought that he was right; they were both here, together. They were cut off from Earth, and from what she had been told, there were already some couples on the base. This was home now, just like Atlantis had been for her, and for them. It was time for her to let herself go.
As John kissed and nipped the base of her neck, she stopped thinking altogether, and realised, in one last coherent thought, that maybe coming here, in this reality so close and yet so far from her own, was what she needed.