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04 March 2008 @ 01:38 pm
Help from Unexpected Places: Before I Sleep  
Sorry this one's late; it's been a very bad couple of weeks in work.

The things in this fic that aren't mine include settings, characters, themes, plots and most of the words. Previous parts are here.






Before I Sleep

“This is a bad idea,” John hissed.

“It’s from your files,” Alice said calmly. “People give presents to each other on their anniversaries.”

“Yeah, but how’m I supposed to explain knowing her birthday?”

“Don’t explain,” she said with a shrug. “Your people almost never ask each other to clarify. It’s odd.”

John juggled the pack in his hands. “It’s self defense when Rodney’s talking. I still think this is a bad idea.”

“It’s not a bad idea. Who else is going to do it if you don’t?”

“Yeah,” John sighed. “All right. Wish me luck.” Alice frowned and he shook his head. “Never mind.”

“She’s alone,” she reminded him. “You wanted to know when she’d be alone. You’ve put this off three times now.”

“This has to be planned, it’s not like...”

“Fighting Wraith?” Alice said innocently. “Although you never seem to plan that either, so...”

“You, hush.” He stepped forward, and the doors to the balcony obligingly parted.

“Hey,” Elizabeth said, almost absently.

“There you are.”

“I was just sneaking a breath of fresh air. Thought you were off exploring the city.”

John gestured vaguely. “About to.” He lifted his pack, pulling out the round parcel and handing it to her. “Picked this up on the mainland. The Athosians made it. Happy birthday.”

“Hmm.” Elizabeth carefully unwrapped the cloth and found a round pot. “It’s beautiful. How did you find out?”

He carefully didn’t look towards the door, where he knew Alice was lurking. “Mum’s the word.” He grinned innocently, heading back inside. Elizabeth studied the pot again, smiling to herself.




“Alright, we’re done with the living quarters,” John told his radio. “Moving on.”

“Woah-woah-woah-woah-woah-woah,” Rodney protested. “Before you go. You see anything better than our current quarters?”

"A few. Some of them are pretty nice, actually.”

“Well, what kind of square footage are we talking about?”

“What am I, your realtor, Rodney? We’re here to unlock the secrets of Atlantis.”

“Yeah, well, I’m looking for a one-bedroom with a den, preferably with a balcony, but I’m not married to it. Look ...”

“Sir, check this out!” Ford called, momentarily drowning out Rodney’s voice.

“... we might as well be comfortable, at least until the Wraith get here.”

“Shut up for a second,” John said absently. He and Teyla hurried to catch up with Ford, stepping into the room. The lights came on automatically as he came in, revealing a laboratory.

“What? What is it?” Rodney asked.

“Some sort of laboratory,” Teyla said, watching John prowl the room.

“We’ve come across dozens of those. The city’s full of them. Something unusual about it?”

John ran a hand across one of the consoles. A capsule on the wall lit up, revealing an elderly woman.

“I’d have to say ... yes.”

“John?” Alice called suddenly. He half-turned; she was out in the hall, peering in oddly.

He glanced at Teyla. “I’m gonna call Elizabeth and Carson. I’ll be back in a minute.” She nodded understanding, crossing to ask Ford about the capsule.

Alice spun when he stepped out into the corridor, looking unspeakably relieved. “John!”

“What?” he said softy, moving away from the door.

“Where were you?”

“I was in there.” He gestured vaguely towards the lab.

Alice frowned, studying the door. “There’s no there there, John. That’s a wall. There’s nothing on the other side, even.”

“There’s a lab in there!” John just about remembered to keep his voice down. “With a frozen woman, thank you. You’re supposed to tell me these things, remember?”

“There’s nothing there!” Alice went back to the doors, leaning against thin air as though against a wall. “See?”

John studied her for a moment, “You really can’t see it. Someone blocked it from the sensors.” He tapped his radio. “McKay?”

“Sheppard? Good. Where are you?”

“I’m standing outside an Ancient lab, you and Weir and Beckett all need to come down here.”

“Why? The internal sensors don’t show anything.”

“Really? Huh. Can you read Teyla and Ford right now?”

“No,” Rodney admitted.

“So it’s a shielded secret lab that you really need to see. Can you get Weir?”

“Yes, yes, we’re on our way.”

“Thank you.” He tapped the radio off.

“What’s in there?” Alice asked.

“A woman in stasis. A very old woman in stasis. You sure you didn’t know anything about this?”

“Nothing.” Alice stared uncomfortably at the door. “There’s nothing, John.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” he reminded her. Tapping his radio again, he added, “Carson?”



Teyla lingered when Elizabeth left the lab, watching John pace. “Well?”

“Atlantis can’t see this room at all.” John glanced back towards the corridor; Alice was standing outside the door, one hand pressed against the ‘wall’. “She can’t see us, she doesn’t know anything about the woman, she didn’t know this room was here.”

“This room is blocked?”

“McKay couldn’t see you and Ford, either. Don’t think it’s occurred to him to wonder why.”

“He is a little preoccupied,” she pointed out neutrally.

“Yeah.” John halted, staring at the capsule. “Yeah, I know the feeling.”



John had argued, hard, for them to transport the woman to the infirmary, but Carson was worried about unnecessary stress on her and insisted on using the lab. Unsurprisingly, it came prepared with everything they needed to revive her.

“Breathing shallow, pulse rapid,” Carson mused, examining her. “I’ll run an EEG to determine any brain activity.” Turning away, he caught sight of a piece of paper in her hand. Tugging lightly, he freed it.

“What is it?” Elizabeth asked.

“Don’t know.” He passed the paper to Elizabeth.

“It’s Gate addresses,” Rodney said, reading over her shoulder. “Five of them. M7G-677 – we’ve been to this planet.”

“Doctor Weir?” Teyla interrupted them. The woman was shifting, waking, and Elizabeth stepped closer to the bed, watching.

“Hello? Can you hear me?” she asked gently. The woman didn’t react, staring straight ahead.

“Yeah, that’s what I was afraid of.” Rodney waved his hand in front of her eyes. “Freezer burn.”

“I thought she wasn’t frozen?” Ford protested.

“Ten thousand years,” Beckett reminded them. “D’you expect her to dance a bloody jig?”

“It’s the eyes, Carson, you look at the eyes. The lights are on but nobody’s home. Don’t take a medical professional to know that ...” He trailed off, watching her focus on him.

“Of course she can see us,” Elizabeth said gently. “And hear us. Hello. How are you feeling?”

“It worked,” the woman breathed.

“What was that?” Rodney demanded.

“She said, ‘It worked.’ “ Elizabeth said absently.

“What’s that mean?”

“I assume something worked,” John told him.

“Yes, that’s very sharp!”

“Thank you.”

“Hello?” Elizabeth said suddenly, cutting across them. “She fell asleep.” Glancing at Carson, she added, “Once you’ve got her more stable, transfer her to the Infirmary. And I want video on her at all times recording everything. We might not get a second chance at anything she may say.”

“Let’s hope we get a first, huh?” Rodney muttered.




John stretched absently, studying the screen in front of him. “Too big, huh?”

“I’m not saying it’s too big, I’m just pointing out its dimensions,” Rodney corrected him.

“Huh. It’s not that...” He cut himself off when Elizabeth came in.

“Gentlemen.”

“We were just wondering whether there were any other frozen bodies out there in Atlantis that we haven’t discovered.”

“There aren’t,” Alice muttered. John didn’t look at her; Alice had been sulking since he’d left the shielded lab.

“And I was just saying there’s no way of knowing in the short term. It’d be like searching every room in every building in Manhattan. It’ll, uh, take a while. God knows what other kinds of surprises are out there not showing on the sensors.”

“Well, that’s what we’re here to find out,” Elizabeth started, but before she could continue her radio activated.

“Doctor Weir,” Carson said.

“Yes?”

“You’d better come to the Infirmary.”

“Is our patient awake?”

“Aye – and she’s saying the most peculiar things.”

“On our way.” Elizabeth gestured the men out ahead of her.



Carson glanced up as they reached the infirmary, crossing to meet them near the door. Keeping his voice down, he murmured, “She’s drifting in and out – still very weak. But there’s something a wee bit odd about this woman. She called me Carson. She knows my name.”

“Maybe she overheard you talking with someone,” Rodney suggested.

“No. I was alone in here when she woke up.”

“Well, what about subconsciously? I’ve read stories where coma patients have been able to hear...”

“No, no.” He interrupted Elizabeth without seeming to notice. “It’s more than that. She knows things.”

John lingered in the doorway as Carson led Elizabeth and Rodney to the bed. “Alice?”

“Yes.”

“What’s going on? How does she know Carson?”

“She’s Elizabeth.”

“What?” he hissed, barely remembering to lower his voice.

“Oh yes,” the woman was saying, and he glanced over. “I’m you, Elizabeth.”

“How is that...” His voice was unexpectedly loud in the quiet room, and Rodney and Carson glanced at him. “Sorry,” he muttered, taking a couple of steps back.

“Carson hasn’t tested her DNA yet,” Alice said quietly, “but when he does, it’ll match.”

“Your scanners read DNA?” he demanded.

“In here they do. They’re both Elizabeth Weir. But one is ten thousand years old.”

“Ten...” Looking up, he caught Rodney’s eye and demanded, “Time travel?”



“That’s what she said,” Elizabeth said later. “She somehow found a way to travel back in time to when the Ancients inhabited the city.”

“How did she do this?” Teyla asked.

“That will be one of the first questions I ask her when she wakes up again.”

If she ever wakes up again,” John muttered.

“Well, let’s not be too quick to exclude the possibility that the woman might be, umm, what is the clinical term ... nuts?” Rodney, to give him credit, looked mildly discomforted at the idea.

“She may be senile, yes,” Elizabeth agreed, “but that doesn’t explain that she knows so much about all of us.”

“Is time travel even possible?” Ford asked.

“Well, according to Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, there’s nothing in the laws of physics to prevent it. Extremely difficult to achieve, mind you – you need the technology to manipulate black holes to create wormholes not only through points in space but time.”

“Not to mention a really nice DeLorean.” John cut him off before he could start explaining wormhole physics.

“Don’t even get me started on that movie!”

“I liked that movie.”

Carson came in, passing a computer pad to Elizabeth. “The results of the DNA test. It’s a match. She is you.”

“Told you,” Alice reminded John. “And your computer records say that teams from your SGC have time traveled before. In both directions.”

“McKay, what do you know about time travel?” John asked. Rodney started to answer, and he added, “Short version.”

“It’s possible. SG1 have traveled into both past and future, although that involved an odd combination of sunspots and wormholes.”

“So she’s not, say, from another dimension? Shapeshifter? Alien impersonator of some kind?”

“Entropic cascade failure,” Alice murmured.

“She’s not an alien,” Carson said firmly.

“She’s definitely been in that capsule for ten thousand years, so she’s hardly an imposter. And if she were from another dimension we’d be seeing entropic cascade failure by now.”

John slanted a glance at Alice, who was smiling contentedly. “Show-off,” he muttered. Louder, he added, “So she’s really Elizabeth Weir? From Earth?”

“She is,” Carson agreed.

John glanced at Elizabeth, who was staring blindly at the pot on her desk. “Well, call us when she wakes up again. McKay, why don’t you go poke around the tube some more? See if it’s got a log, or anything?”

“I must also go,” Teyla agreed, turning to Ford. “You promised to show me that move, Aidan, remember?”

“Uh...sure, Teyla,” Ford agreed, letting her usher him out of the room.

John and Carson had a brief, silent conversation before Carson capitulated and left them alone. John shifted out of his seat, perching on the side of her desk. “Elizabeth?”

“Ten thousand years,” she said reflectively. “It’s a long time to sleep.”

“You—she must have had a reason.”

“Yes, I suppose so.”

“Eliz...”

“Don’t you have some security to check on?” she said too fast, cutting him off.

“Yeah,” he said slowly, studying her. “I’ll go do that.” He tapped the desk in front of her, catching her attention. “Call me if you need me.”

“I’m alright, John. Just...need to take it in.”

“Alright,” he echoed, sliding off the desk.

Outside he murmured to Alice, “Turn off whatever scanners you can. Let her have some privacy.”

“I can’t turn them off,” Alice said, “but I’ll bury the feed so no one will find it.”

“That’ll do. Thanks.”



Much later John slipped into the infirmary, watching Elizabeth watch Weir. So far, the story made a sick kind of sense, but telling it was draining Weir faster than any of them would have believed.

“How’s she doin’?” he asked quietly.

“Stabilised but still very weak – and getting weaker.”

“Your own mortality staring you right in the face. I can’t imagine how you must be feeling.”

“When she looks at me, it’s as if she’s sensing my thoughts, and I’m sensing hers. It’s very unsettling.”

John shifted uncomfortably. “Just when you thought this place couldn’t get any weirder,” he offered.

Rodney came in, glancing from one to the other.

“Well, it’s obvious. The Puddlejumper they escaped in must have been some sort of a time machine; had to have an additional component built into it.”

“Flux capacitor!” John said, grinning.

“... Yeah.” Rodney immediately dismissed him, turning to Elizabeth. “The question is, where’s the time machine now, hmm?”

“Why don’t we ask her?” Elizabeth suggested. John took a couple of steps closer, watching Weir open her eyes.

“What happened?” she asked.

“Can you tell us: the ship that you escaped in – where is it now?” Elizabeth asked.

“It’s gone,” Weir said quietly. “We flew into a fight, we didn’t know who anyone was...there was an explosion. The next thing I knew, I woke up here.”

“You mean now?” John asked.

“No. Then.” Her gaze was distant. “There was an Ancient there; his name was Janus. He healed my wounds and explained to me what had happened...that the ‘Jumper had gone down. Only I survived.”

“Ha!” Rodney said happily. “Ah, the bitter taste of ultimate failure, hmm?” He grinned at John.

“Well, if you’d just figured out how to fix the damn shield in the first place, none of us would have died,” John reminded him.

Weir and Elizabeth exchanged rueful grins when Rodney protested, “I did everything I could, including valiantly attempting to save your sorry...”

“Gentlemen,” Elizabeth said sharply. “Focus. Please, continue.”

“Needless to say, I was very confused,” Weir went on. “He explained to me that the ship we had escaped in was a time machine. He was the one who built it. After I was feeling better, he brought me before the Atlantean Council.” Her gaze shifted again. “They told me of beings called Wraiths – a vicious, formidable enemy whose power and technology rivalled their own.”

“Yes – actually, we’ve already, umm...” Rodney trailed off uncertainly.

Weir didn’t seem to hear him, continuing, “The Atlanteans sent a delegation protected by their most powerful warships in the faint hope of negotiating a truce. One on one, the Atlantean ships were more powerful, but the Wraith were so many. After that great battle, it was only a matter of time. They were preparing to leave, to retreat to Earth.”

“You didn’t go?” Elizabeth asked.

“I wanted to come home. Here.” She glanced around the room. “They refused. Too damaging to causality. They ordered the ‘Jumper destroyed, and I was to return to Earth with them.”

Carson came in, catching Elizabeth’s eye, and she excused herself. John wandered into the furthest corner, out of Rodney’s hearing.

“Alice?”

“Yes, John,” she said from behind him.

He didn’t jump, but it took almost everything he had. “Don’t do that,” he hissed.

“Sorry, John.”

“You didn’t tell me Elizabeth was on Atlantis before!”

She blinked. “Was she?”

“Haven’t you been listening?”

“Privacy for Dr Weir. All the recordings are being buried...you told me to do it.”

“I didn’t tell...I did tell you to do that. Alright. Stop doing it now. Can you retrieve the last five minutes?”

Alice glanced away. “I wasn’t online.”

“When?”

“Ten thousand years ago. I’d been turned off by the time Dr Weir arrived.”

“Turned off?”

“Information retrieval and problem solving,” she reminded him. “There wasn’t any need for me, everything was shut down. All the research.” Glancing over his shoulder, she added, “You’re wanted.”

John turned to see Rodney trying to catch his eye. As soon as he joined them, Carson started listing the things that were wrong with Weir.

“How long does she have?” John asked, cutting through a list that he, sadly, mostly understood.

“I doubt she’ll live out the night,” Carson admitted.

“Please,” Weir breathed. “I don’t know how much time I have left to tell the story I have waited so long to tell. Oh ... the Council. They were very upset.”

“Yes – you said they decided to destroy the time machine,” Elizabeth prompted her.

“I tried to talk them out of it. I didn’t give up hope. Thankfully, I had an ally. Janus fought to get me home, used up all his favors, anything he was owed. All for nothing; no one would listen. I would go to Earth, the city would sleep, and in ten thousand years it would happen again.”

John glanced at Alice, who was visibly upset; before he could do anything about it, Weir was continuing.

“Of course, Janus refused to concede defeat. The more someone told him not to do something, the more he had to do it. So he came up with an alternate plan behind the Council’s back. It was all I could do to try to keep pace with him.” She smiled faintly. “Like listening to Rodney explain something.”

“Uh—thanks?” he said uncertainly.

“He planned to have the city use only one ZPM at a time, to extend their lives. He showed me... I didn’t believe my eyes. Three ZPMs right in front of me. His plan had a hitch, though; the ZPMs needed to be physically switched during the ten thousand years.”

Elizabeth’s eyes widened and she glanced at John. “That’s why...” he muttered, but Weir was still talking.

“Their transport ship was inbound. It was taking heavy fire. The pilot couldn’t...” She tossed fretfully, and Carson hurried forward.

“Easy,” he murmured. “Relax, love.”

“Carson...” She smiled. “I missed you.” She drifted back towards sleep, and Carson straightened, sighing.



It was late that night before Weir woke again. Rodney and John had both dozed off, but Elizabeth had been unable to sleep. She was sitting by Weir’s bed, absently stroking her hair.

“Damn,” Weir murmured. “Fell asleep again!”

“Well, you’re not the only one,” Elizabeth assured her, glancing at Rodney and John. “Are you in any pain?”

“Would we admit it if we were?”

“I wish there was more we could do for you.”

“Oh, look at you! Always worrying. You put too much pressure on yourself. Remember that miserable Baltic negotiation? What Simon told us afterwards?”

“ “Breathe” – among other things!” Elizabeth smiled.

“John,” Alice said, loudly enough to wake him. “Don’t move,” she added quickly. “But I think this is it. She won’t wake again.”

“Enjoy the moment – what’s here right now,” Weir continued. “The sun, the breeze ... our birthday!”

“Sheppard couldn’t keep it to himself, huh?” Elizabeth said wryly.

“I’m just saying stop being so damned hard on yourself. Life is quick.”

“Not for you,” she said softly.

“It was my choice, Elizabeth. I didn’t second-guess it then, and I don’t regret it now. Janus told them I’d gone already. But I was getting ready to sleep. Janus prepared the stasis chamber for me – said it would be like a deep, dreamless sleep. I would wake three times, twice to turn the ZPMs, once to greet you. He programmed a failsafe as well.”

“The rising,” Elizabeth agreed.

“The rising. The city would rise to save you, if I couldn’t. And then they left – all of them; returning to Earth through the Stargate. And then I was alone. I set the city to slumber...and began my long journey home.”

“It worked,” Elizabeth said quietly. “The stasis, the failsafes. You gave up your entire life.”

“No – because we are the same person. The best part of my life – it’s just beginning. I’m exploring a new galaxy. I have years ahead of me still. Trust yourself, Elizabeth. All that matters is right now. And the note – I wrote it in case I didn’t survive. Has Rodney figured it out yet?”

Elizabeth shook her head. “Five Gate addresses.”

“Outposts,” Weir corrected her. “Each one with a Zero Point Module. Janus told me.”

Elizabeth rose, moving to wake John and Rodney. “The note she left – coordinates of planets to have known ZPMs.”

Rodney pulled the note from his pocket; John plucked it from his fingers. “They could still be there.”

“M7G-677’s on here! I mean, this is amazing! Elizabeth, we’ve got...”

“John,” Alice said quietly. Rodney had already stopped talking, realizing Weir’s heart monitor was flat lining. Elizabeth crossed to the bed, reaching to hold her older self’s hand.

“I liked Janus,” Alice said reflectively. “He was a good man.”

“Not the time,” John muttered. She nodded, turning away.



“Do you have privacy settings?” John asked idly.

“I don’t go in your quarters,” she said with a shrug. “The People didn’t program me for privacy—if they didn’t want me, they turned me off.”

“Can I program you?”

“I’m self-programming. Tell me what you want.”

“I want you to bury anything you’re recording of Elizabeth when she’s alone.”

“For how long?”

“Until I tell you to stop. Can you do that? Bury them so no one will find them?”

“Of course I can.”

“So Rodney won’t fall over them?”

“Even him. Trust me.”

“I do.” He glanced around. “She alone?”

“Has been since the last time you asked.”

“What’s she doing?”

“Privacy,” Alice reminded him, and he made a face.

“Yes, fine.” He headed for the balcony.

Outside Elizabeth was slowly fitting the lid back onto the small round pot. John stepped close enough to the edge to see the cloud of ash still drifting down, but he was careful not to comment.

“We’re about to start our mission briefing, so...”

“I’ll be right there,” Elizabeth agreed. John hesitated, about to say something, but changed his mind, heading back for the door. Just as it opened, she added, “Actually, John—give me a minute, will you?”

“Sure,” John agreed easily, heading back in and letting the door slide closed behind him.
 
 
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When it is darkest, men see the stars.: Man in Blackwitchofthedogs on March 4th, 2008 02:16 pm (UTC)
These stories are perfect.

Thank you.
Acting my shoe size: Homewild_force71 on March 4th, 2008 06:23 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm so glad people are enjoying this; I've been worried about it, but it's been getting mostly good reviews, so... ::Shrugs::

Thanks for your comment. :) Icon love!