Spoilers: For the first half of Season 2.
Summary: Elizabeth backstory combined with angst. Warning for non-main character death. Set somewhere in or after season 2, as you like.
A/N: Betaread by Fanwoman and Ellex, and dedicated to ToasterOnFire/Peanut – hope you like it.
One Step Forward
This isn't the homecoming she was expecting.
In her mind’s eye, she had imagined her small group of relatives would get together and they would gather around the dining room table, laden with food like they used to do on holidays when her mother was still alive. It had been too long. She'd been hoping that it was the kind of event they'd pull together for, but this event had shattered the family. Her father was supposed to head the table, cut up the Thanksgiving turkey – not be laid out on a table in a chilly D.C. morgue.
He isn't even in the right place. He'd been on a trip, visiting friends mixed with a little business. He never rested; even in retirement, you couldn't keep a good lawyer down, nor away from his poker games. He'd never made it to the one Shelly and Frank had scheduled; in fact, he'd barely checked off his flight before it had happened, suddenly and without warning. No goodbyes and few regrets, she imagined. Maybe he had thought he'd be fine. The rate of heart attack survival was at a new high, but he never awoke after he closed his eyes. And now, he was lies cold and still and pale under the fluorescent lighting’s harsh glare.
She nods emphatically to confirm that it is, indeed, her father lying there on the slab, and the attendant says they're sorry and leaves her alone for a few moments to make her peace.
It's odd to be given time with a man whose own has run out. In reality, she has no time to make peace, not with her father, for anything she would say is just for her own benefit. He can't hear her apologies for being such a troubling daughter, especially when she was a teen, or professions of love and pride over what a good man he was. She can't even bring herself to touch him, and it isn't simply because he's dead. He's always been untouchable, never a man for physical displays of affection. She can't recall many hugs or even pats on the shoulder from him. He was full of love, at least she thinks that was it – love or pride or a mix of both - but the comfort he gave was in his expression, now blank, and in his words that no longer come from the blue-tinged lips.
He's her father, and a good man, almost too good, because he'll forever be that man far above her, the man looking down over her, protecting, teaching and judging. She lets a single sob escape because for once she wishes she could have that physical comfort, to share herself with him by a touch – hold his hand, stroke his cheek – something to connect herself to him in more than just her mind. Instead, she stands tall and turns to leave without what she wants because she can't have it – it was never there to start with and can't be forced. She can't touch him in death any more than she could in life, as strange as it sounds. There's nothing stopping her from doing it, except that to do it would be acting like he was no longer her father, and she can't take away who he is just because he's dead. The fact that he is would only make it worse, make it more real to her.
That's why she exits the room without a further word, without looking back, because that would be to admit that he wasn’t truly there, that he won't smile slightly and wave goodbye like he always did. She leaves him as he is, both there and in her memory, and she carries on because there is so much to be done. It's a matter of dignity that she is able to deal with every detail, see that it fits his wishes as if he, himself, was lording over his own funeral. As she moves through the motions--ordering flowers, reserving a funeral hall, contacting relatives—she never reflects on the reality that drives her actions. To do so might reveal the truth. Not only does she want to keep the illusion that her father is alive for as long as she can, she doesn’t even want to face the fact that that’s what she’s doing. She never takes time to reflect back on it all; she can't face it.
Not long after the funeral they have their family meal, somewhat like she imagined, but in silence and with the head seat left purposely empty at her request. But she blocks out that part of it, pretending the seat still belongs to him, not letting anyone replace him while she is there, as if he might return at any moment.
She says very little, engaging in a brief, polite amount of small talk and telling herself it's merely because so much of what she does is classified. Then she takes her leave, once again not looking back to see what's not really there, what won't ever be there again.
Back on the Daedalus, people ask what she did, how she is, and she lies because it's easier and happier to recall what she expected rather than the harsh reality, that home isn't home at all and the final straw has fallen – that Atlantis is now her only home, even though she knows she'll be torn from that, too, one day. She fully expects next time she visits Earth that the property will have been sold off by the executor of the estate, but she knows she can't keep the house now both her parents are dead. Everything that made it home is gone. All that matters to her is now on Atlantis, and she fears that a day will come when she'll see the same fate befall her great city, because you can only hold off death for so long no matter how wise you are.
She thinks some of them suspect, from the small signs, the tightening of her voice as she talks of her father in particular, that she's not being entirely truthful – that she's smoothing over some terrible falling out. She wishes it were that simple, something she could mend, because that's what she's good at, even though it was mainly that her father taught her well and she wouldn't stand much of a chance against him. He was always two steps ahead of her. She realises it was because he was older, wiser – what made him better than her put him closer to death, ironically. It was the price to pay for her improvement, that one day the student surpasses the teacher, this time by default. Her one promise to herself this year is to make that an actuality, make his life and death have meaning by putting the years he spent on her into practice again.
For too long, she's been battling herself as well as others, with self doubt and uncertainty that taint her decisions and allow others to sway her. From now on, she's going to be her father's daughter and do what’s right, what’s best for her people, no matter what they think themselves. There'll be no more arms dealing, no more blowing up ¾ of a solar system – there'll be Elizabeth Weir, finally the woman her father taught her to be, stepping up to the head of the table to take her place there and do what she's always been good at.
Her first order of the day when she gets back is assigning herself to a diplomatic mission offworld. She still sees the concerned look from Rodney and assesses Sheppard's reasons against it. She disagrees, and when he refuses, she decides to have Major Lorne accompany her, a man who follows orders without question a lot more often than John, and trusts she knows what she's doing. And she feels the stares as she walks up to the gate. She's only been offworld a total of 5 times, and only in the most dire circumstances. She finds it amusing that they're more concerned about her going on a standard mission than about her jumping to the rescue those few times. She feels a little sorry for giving Rodney and Sheppard cause for concern, but she figures it's about time the tables were turned, especially when she's entirely entitled to go and do this.
Besides that, they’re probably more anxious because she ignored them and didn't trust Sheppard's pleas for once – but finally she sees he needs to understand that she's calling shots, that he can't always protect her, just like she can't always protect them. She plans to step through the gate and step right back a few hours later, a day at the most. Maybe she won't, but that's not the point, is it? She can't let her fear overcome her anymore. She came to explore, just like everyone else, and it's always good to start with yourself. It was time to lead by example.