Title: Help me be brave
Category: angst, romance
Summary: As soon as the door closed behind her, she let the tears fall.
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: This fic was written for Sparky Bunny on LJ. Failegaidin asked for a fic with the prompt 'cry'. Oh, and tissues are needed. Enjoy!
As soon as the door closed behind her, she let the tears fall.
She had been holding them back since the moment General Landry contacted her with the devastating news. She held them back long enough to leave the City in Lorne's very capable hands. But as soon as the door of her quarters isolated her from the rest of Atlantis, she couldn't hold the tears back anymore.
Her mother was gone, that was what Landry's message said. Gone; if that wasn't the worst euphemism one could use in these circumstances. Her mother was dead, and she would never come back. Her mother had died and she hadn't been there for her. She had never thought this would ever happen.
When her father died, she and her mother had been there until the very end, holding his hands in theirs. Even though she had always refused to think about it, it had never been a possibility that she wouldn't be there for her mother when the time came. But that was what happened; her mother had died without her only daughter by her side.
She cried even harder at that thought, clutching a pillow to her chest.
If anyone could see her right now, they wouldn't see the strong leader she prided herself to be, but they would only see the little girl who had just lost her mother. Maybe they wouldn't blame her for that, but she knew she would blame herself; she didn't want others to see her flaws. The circumstances didn't matter for her; she had to be strong for those she was leading.
She should start packing, start getting ready to go back to Earth, but she couldn't move. Her eyes were set on the framed picture of her mother resting on her bedside table. This was the one she took the last time she had been on Earth. This was also the very last picture she had of her mother. She had taken it just over two months before, and her mother had been fine. There had been no hints that this could happen.
General Landry hadn't been able to tell her what had happened, and she couldn't help the hundred scenarios running through her head. Only one didn't make any sense. She just couldn't have been sick; her mother would have told her in her last letter.
The tears continued to fall, and she couldn't see clearly anymore. She didn't care.
When he stepped through the Gate back to Atlantis and saw Lorne standing at the bottom of the stairs, he had known something happened. This wasn't like Elizabeth to not be there when a team came back. And he had been right: something did happen. When he was told the contents of the message Elizabeth had received, his first thought was to go and find her. But he knew he had to go to the infirmary first; she would have his head if in his haste to go to her he didn't respect the steps they put in place.
It felt like the check up was taking twice as much time as usual, but he knew that it was only because he wanted to check on her as quickly as possible.
Finally, after what felt like an hour, he was free to go. He denied his team's request to go with him; Elizabeth wouldn't want anyone to see her like this. He wasn't even sure she would welcome his presence, but she was his friend, and he had to at least try.
He paused before the door to her quarters, his raised hand ready to pass over the sensor to let his presence known. He didn't know what stopped him exactly; he just knew that if he chimed, she wouldn't answer it. Instead, he just willed Atlantis to open the door for him.
He was greeted by the sight of Elizabeth, sitting on the bed, as she cried her eyes out for the one she had lost. Without thinking, he just crossed the distance between them, sat down beside her, and gathered her in his arms.
She came willingly, her arms releasing the pillow she was still holding against her chest. She buried her face in his neck, while her hands clutched at his shirt, as if she wanted to make sure that he wouldn't leave until she was ready.
He didn't say a word, didn't whisper words of comfort to her, because he knew that anything he could say was useless. Even if she was listening to him, she wouldn't trust his words. He chose to stay silent, and let her cry, let her mourn her mother.
She didn't speak either, didn't try to push words past the lump in her throat.
He didn't know how long they stayed like this, but after a while, the crying stopped, replaced by her heavy breathing and the occasional sobs. She was calming down, but he knew that one thing could start it all again. He might not have cried as much as she did when his own mother died, but he still understood, and knew, what she was feeling. Losing a parent, no matter how old you were when it happened, was still one of the hardest things to go through. He would be there for her if she wanted him to.
"Come with me," she finally said in a croaked voice.
He didn't need time to think about his answer. He had known his answer since the moment Lorne told him what happened. He had known he would accept if she were to ask. He might not have known her mother, but he knew Elizabeth, and if she asked him to come, it was because she needed him there with her. And he couldn't say no to that.
"Yeah," he whispered, nodding against her head.
After a while, she detached herself from him, and started packing what she would need for the few days they would spend on Earth. He knew he should go to his own quarters and prepare his backpack too, but he didn't want to leave her alone, not when she could still need him. Instead, he waited until she was done, and together, they left her quarters for his.
It was when they were walking in the hallways that he noticed she had put her mask back on.
It wasn't until they were truly alone again that she let herself cry.
Not once in the few days since they had left the City did she let other people see her tears. But today, as they were standing before her mother's fresh grave, she had to let them go. But the tears falling down her cheeks now weren't the heavy sobs that wrecked her body a few days before. They were silent tears meant to say goodbye.
She could feel John's hand resting lightly against the small of her back; a gesture meant to assure her that he was there for her. And he had been. Since the moment he had entered her quarters, he hadn't left her side, and she probably wouldn't have let him even if he wanted to. She needed him by her side to know that everything would be fine.
Feeling his eyes on her, she turned her head to look at him, and managed a small smile through her tears. Reaching behind her back, she grasped his hand and squeezed it. He squeezed back and leaned down to peck her lips.
"Thank you," she whispered, resting her free hand on his cheek.
Releasing his hand, she wrapped her arm across his waist, and snuggled close to him, wanting to feel his warmth. Her gaze returned to her mother's grave, as she dried her cheeks with her free hand.
"She would have loved you."
"Because you're here for me. You protect me."
"It's my job," he replied with a shrug.
"So you're just doing your job?" she teased, cocking an eyebrow at him.
"No, not just that, you know that," he answered, tilting her head back to kiss her slowly. "Definitely not just my job."
She turned back to look at the grave. This was the end of the path; with both her parents gone, she wasn't someone's daughter anymore. But another path was starting just before her, and she was ready to take it, as long as John was by her side. Looking heavenwards, she sent one last goodbye to her mother, and promised her that she would be fine.
"Let's go home," she said in a soft voice, as not to disturb the peaceful mood that had settled.
John nodded in answer and not releasing their hold on one another, they started walking.