Title: Not for the better, but for good
Author: Vicky
Rating: PG
Character/Pairing: Elizabeth Weir
Summary: She wasn't the kind of person who could go on with her life after she had made a mistake.
Spoilers: Critical Mass (2-13)
Author's Note: This fic was written for the writing challenge on the John/Elizabeth community on LJ. I got 'Critical Mass'. The saying is Catherine Willows' line from the CSI episode 'The Strip Strangler'. This is also a response to the prompt "Looking Back" on fic101 livejournal.

There was this saying Elizabeth heard once: 'Never doubt, never look back'. But she wasn't that kind of person. She wasn't the kind of person who could go on with her life after she had made a mistake. She always had to look back and think of what she could have done differently.

In the wake of the bomb threat on Atlantis, she couldn't sleep. Her actions towards Kavanagh, what had nearly happened to him, kept her awake. She couldn't stop thinking about it. Even though she despised him, he was still a human being, and she had ordered Ronon to get the code from him, knowing full well where that would lead.

Nothing, not even the threat that bomb posed for Atlantis, could ever justify that kind of order. But she still did it; she crossed the line she had sworn she would respect, no matter whether it concerned a human being or a Wraith.

She had no doubts that once he was back on Earth, Kavanagh would report her actions to the IOA. But she didn't need that to measure the consequences her actions would have had, had he not fainted; that part still made her smile, though.

Sick of tossing and turning in bed, and knowing that sleep wasn't likely to come any time soon, she got up, grabbed her robe, and went to stand before the window. Since she stepped through the gate and into Atlantis, she had always loved watching her city. It was a sight that appeased her.

The fact that Atlantis was still standing after so long, so many centuries and millennia, told her that nothing ever really changed. They evolved but they more or less stayed the same.

She thought that she wouldn't change, that she knew who she was, and nothing would change her. But she had been wrong. She felt like, she knew that she had changed. And she knew that it wasn't for the better, but it was for good.

She couldn't go back to the woman she was before. Looking back to her days before Atlantis, before the SGC, she realised that she had been idealistic, even a bit naive at times, thinking that talking was the solution for every problem. It was, to some extent, but she had come to find out that, more often than not, fighting back was the only response they could give.

Atlantis had changed her, she had known that for a long time, but today, she had learned that it was irreversible.

Movement from behind her jolted her from her thoughts. Looking back over her shoulder, she saw that John was sitting up in bed, his eyes on her.

"Did I wake you?" she asked, her voice barely above a whisper.

"No. You can't sleep?"

She shook her head no, returning her gaze to their City.

She heard John moving behind her, and soon, he pressed his front against her back, and wrapped his arms around her waist. She put her hands on his, appreciating the comfort he was offering her.

Their friends with benefits relationship had started a few days after her break up with Simon. She had needed some comfort, and had gone to John who obliged. They never discussed what was taking place at night during daylight. And they never talked about their jobs at night. Without talking about it, they decided to separate these two parts of their lives. At night, they weren't the civilian leader and military commander of Atlantis, but just Elizabeth and John, two people who needed comfort after rough days.

But tonight, Elizabeth felt the need to break their unspoken rule.

"Tell me again that I had no other choice," she whispered, pleading with him.

"You didn't. There wasn't much time to save the City. You just did what you had to do."

"Atlantis changed me," she voiced her previous thoughts.

"Atlantis changed all of us."

"It changed me more than anyone else. I wouldn't have done this before. I would never have even thought about it. No matter his faults, Kavanagh is still a human being and I..." She paused, a lump forming in her throat. "You don't know who I was before all this stumbled into my life. I was... a better person."

At her last words, he released her, and turned her around to face him. Taking her face in his hands, he forced her to look at him.

"You're still a good person, Elizabeth. Never doubt that. You're probably the best person in Atlantis because you still question your choices. Some of us have given up on doing that a long time ago. But you didn't, and you never will."

"John..." she tried to speak, but he interrupted her.

"You had a difficult decision to make. You know what it could cost, but you didn't back down. Yes, you've changed, but that part of you who thinks that words are better than violence is still there. It didn't die, and as long as it's still there, you'll be fine. I trust you."

She wanted to believe in him and his words, but she was lost. She had changed, and it terrified her; she was afraid that one day, she wouldn't be able to recognize the person who was facing her in the mirror. She was afraid that one day, her actions would come back to bite her.

"Come here," John said, as if he heard her thoughts.

He gathered her in his arms, her head and hands resting against his chest. She could feel his heartbeat under her palms; she could hear it in her ears. It was strong and steady, further proof that they faced another threat and came out of it unscathed.

"You should try and get some sleep," he whispered against the skin of her neck. "All this can wait until morning."

Not releasing his hold on her, he led her towards the bed, and lied down, with her on top of him.

She wanted to follow his advice and stop thinking about all this until morning, but her mind still wouldn't shut down. More questions were still running inside her head, and whenever she was closing her eyes, her subconscious showed her what could have had happened to the scientist had he not fainted upon seeing Ronon.

After a moment of lying together like this, she felt more than heard him humming. It seemed like a familiar tune, but she had to think for a while before she was able to place it. It was an old Irish lullaby her mother would sing to her when she was a young girl. She knew that John couldn't have any idea of what it meant to her, but she felt comforted by it.

Lulled by his humming, she let her eyes close. Behind her eyelids, she didn't see Kavanagh anymore, but an old memory of her mother and herself, in her bedroom, at night. She could feel sleep slowly creeping at the edge of her mind, waiting to fully claim her until she was ready to release her grip on reality.

She was finally letting go of the day's events. She still hadn't come to terms with the order she had to give, but she could give her mind a rest. It could wait until morning.

Looking back at her past self one more time, she decided that while she had changed, John was still right; she still questioned her choices, and that was what did matter the most.

She had changed for good, but a part of her had remained the same.