There are moments, fleeting and few, where Elizabeth Weir forgets. She thinks she might prefer these moments, tries to hold onto them for longer than the few seconds her mind allows. Those precious moments when her mind is blank, when she can no longer feel the pangs of abandonment, the horrors of not knowing in what reality she exists, the constant pressure of another will battling her own. So when the whiteness comes, when she feels nothing, she welcomes it. Revels in it. Savors it. And then, as quickly as it comes --
Elizabeth sighed, wrapping her fingers around the cooling cup of coffee in front of her, pulling any heat she can from the ceramic mug. Atlantis' power has been waning, and the internal systems have chosen to neglect heat sources over other functions, such as lighting and transport. It could be worse, she supposes. It isn't hard to get warmer, to put on another layer, but it is inconvenient.
There is a knock on her door and she looks up to meet John's gaze. He is thickly bundled, wearing a sweater she thinks would never see the light of day if it weren't absolutely necessary, covered in fuzzballs and geometric shapes, but he looks warmer than she feels, so she is in no position to mock. "Teyla and Ronon are going to the mainland - seems cold weather is less of a problem there, or at least she'll have Kanaan to keep her warm. And Rodney's tinkering with the heat sources. And there's nothing to do."
She has to work to keep the smile from flooding her face - John is such a child sometimes, with his need for constant stimulation, for entertainment. "And what do you expect me to do about it?" She grips the mug more tightly, feeling a shiver roll through her body as John enters her office fully.
"The TV room is empty. And you promised we'd watch Hoosiers." Elizabeth bites back a groan. She can almost remember the night she told him that, though the memory is fuzzy. She thinks there might have been Athosian wine and John's cheeky grin involved. Her mind grasps at fragments of that evening, but the more she probes, the harder they are to find and she notices John staring at her. "It's just a movie, Elizabeth. Atlantis is quiet - we've shut the gate down, there's nothing for you to do, no reports to catch up on. You have no choice but to sit and watch Breaking Away with me."
Elizabeth feels jarred by what he's just said - something is out of place, but she can't quite put her finger on what it is, so she pushes it from her mind with a half-smile at John. "A movie it is, then." She stands and follows John, shutting the door to her office. They walk through the hallways in companionable silence and --
In between the false memories and the ersatz realities, Elizabeth gets glimpses of the world she exists in - one with bare walls and cold eyes, unyielding bars and skittering noises. She always opens her mouth to speak, to question the person - the thing - in front of her, but before she can get past the who, the what, the why, she is plunged into --
Sitting with Teyla in the mess hall has always been the way Elizabeth prefers to unwind after a particularly stressful day of manning the helm. Their quiet companionship is one of the things she has truly come to value during her tenure in Atlantis. There are no forced words or awkward silences, merely the exchanging of pleasantries and the offering of advice on dilemmas, personal or professional. It is these quiet times that make Elizabeth sure that Atlantis is as home to her as any place ever has been, when the gentle hum of the city is a soothing counterpart to the soft conversations of the people that roam the halls.
Atlantis has always been a dream of hers; from the moment the word first passed her lips, it was full of possibility, of hope, of something quixotic and unnameable. She wanted it as badly as she had ever wanted anything, and from the minute she arrived in the far-off city, she had not regretted her choice.
Yet there were times when she felt as though she were so completely Dr. Weir that the part of her that was Elizabeth was fading away. She was fully defined in terms of her position, no longer in terms of her humanity. The tacit deference to her orders, the isolation of command, these were all things she had become accustomed to, yet not entirely comfortable with. As much at home as she felt within the city of Atlantis, she had yet to feel at home in the position of leader.
These were the only thoughts she kept from Teyla; she had no doubt these insecurities would be met with words of comfort and reassurance, yet that was not what she needed. She gripped the coffee mug in front of her, the smell of her strong, bitter drink mixing with the tangy odor from Teyla's warm tea. As she opened her mouth to say something, her eyes caught sight of --
She can't understand why they have her live these moments, why they feel the need to delve into these memories. They are of no consequence, have no bearing on anything that might be useful to her captors. The only purpose she can see is the pain that it causes her, to have these things put in front of her, these things she can never have again, will never have again. And when she sees the hand reaching out for her, she can't decide whether to welcome the torment of knowing the realities of her captivity or to give in to the anomy of the worlds they create in her mind - because as long as she is trapped in the worlds they make her, she is not aware of what she has left behind. The hand reaches, always reaching, and she has a brief moment of calm and peace and then --
Wet skin, slippery skin, sweaty skin. Hands fighting for control, leaving bruises and scratches forgotten the moment they are imprinted. The fingers in her hair are rough with passion, the mouth against hers insistent. When she breaks for air, she sees John's face above hers, breathless with anticipation and she thinks that this has to be a dream - this is like nothing she remembers. But dream or not, her body still arches to his touch, still responds to his precise ministrations, her mind heady with sensation. He is a military man, she thinks, and he has planned this operation carefully, deploying tactics to leave her senseless in his wake.
His mouth is on hers again, and she closes her eyes, luxuriating in the sensation of his tongue laving her mouth, his hands tangled in her curls, his body pressed against hers, leaving no room for any doubt between them.
And as she gives herself over completely to feeling, the moment passes. It is quiet, with the morning light streaming in through the windows, dust motes filtering through the beams, reminding her of the day so long ago when Atlantis rose from the depths of the ocean. She hears the gentle breathing of someone next to her, turns to see John, his face endearingly pushed into the pillow, a small puddle of drool indicating deep sleep. She reaches out to brush a stray strand of hair from his forehead, stuck to his skin from the previous night's exertion. As her fingers brush his scalp, his eyes flutter and --
It is always the worst when she is awoken from realities that never happened, but realities she wished could happen. When the moments that are so far from her grasp now are played over and over in her mind, only reminding her of what she can't have, of what she will never have again. This is torture, pure and simple, and there has never been any other name for it. She just wishes she could know what the intention was, what purpose they could have for keeping her here, like this. In the times when her mind is her own, she thinks of Atlantis, of her team. She tries not to wonder why they haven't come for her, tells herself they would be here if they could be, that they never leave a man behind. She bites her lip and closes her eyes against the onslaught of imagery she knows is soon to follow this moment of respite, braces herself for --
"We're not leaving you behind" John's yell is piercing, cuts her to the core, but she knows what she is, who she is now. She is no longer fully human, no longer fully anything. And there is nothing she can do, nothing save this small thing, this minuscule thing - holding out her hand to force Oberoth's will aside, to let her team escape. She turns her head half towards him, trying not to lose her focus on what's right in front of her.
"If you don't leave right now, none of us will get out of here, so go! That's an order." But there is no us anymore. There is her, there is Atlantis, and there are the Replicators and she is the only bridge between them. She can feel her control slipping, she can see the opportunity for her friends' escape shrinking. Ronon is desperate, and she can see it in his eyes as he yells for John to come. She wants to tell him she understands, that she has to stay, that he has to leave her.
"Elizabeth?" his voice is uncertain and she knows how hard this is for him. She hears the tell-tale skittering noises, knows that the end is near, and knows there is nothing that can be done. She can do nothing for him, save this. He may not see it as saving his own life, rather ending hers, but she thinks, hopes, one day he will forgive himself.
"GO!" she yells, and she is overcome by --
They show her that moment most, the moment when her foolish honor kept her from returning from Atlantis, when it left her helpless against a powerful opponent. She alternates between cursing John for leaving her behind, despite her orders to the contrary, and thanking anyone out there listening that she is the only one subjected to this. She can always feel Oberoth's smirk, his mocking of her nobility. It has gotten her nothing except a prison cell and an infinite sentence to this half-life. She thinks it would be easier if she could just forget everything, just immerse herself in the artificial, in the ephemeral, in the fabrications that fill her mind.
There are moments in between it all, the moments where she no longer knows it isn't real, where she has forgotten about the hand in her forehead, the cold bars that surround her and bare floor beneath her, where she thinks she really is seeing the light streaming through the windows of Atlantis, with John's soft breathing next to her. Those are the moments she longs for. When she doesn't question why she's here, or for what purpose. When her mind tells her that nothing is out of the ordinary, that she has never left Atlantis, that she will never leave Atlantis, that she is forever at home. The sun fills the room with warm light, and Elizabeth closes her eyes, feeling the beams against her face as sleep overtakes her, fading fast from the world, with a smile on her face.