- stargate: atlantis
- post lifeline, au. i thought someone was going to stop me. ancient language reference. title from dover beach, by matthew arnold. self-beta'd. all embarrassing typos belong to...that guy over there.
- for anuna_81, while she waits so patiently for the fic she actually requested. ♥
Elizabeth will write a book.
It will be her fifth.
Like the others, it will remain unbound; pages tacked together with small holes and gold pins. It will remain unpublished. In the middle of the night, on the back-porch of their small house, John will read the words on the pages. He will read them backwards and forwards, in pairs, and by Fibonacci Sequence. He will read them until his eyes blur and the sun rises and Elizabeth brings him a cup of coffee and says, 'Good morning, Major.'
She will not remember.
She will say to him at breakfast, 'I think I'd like to write a book. Fiction, maybe.' She will smile. 'Or anyone else's fiction, at least.'
John will smile back and nod and tell her it's a good idea. Later that day, he will take the gold pin-bound stack of pages to the post office and mail it to Moscow with a note that reads, Let me know if you find anything.
Exactly five weeks later, he will sign for a package with a note that replies simply, I'm sorry.
When he returns home, she will be sitting by the fire, or making dinner, or in the bathroom, singing.
Vitomus, it reads. I am and there swallows bright of tell me. Zman, fallatus ava gemila. Forget sof. Barely from the memory freeze under agnostics. Taiteber end paper breaks like fire carried. Les bâtiments sont grands. I no torstu carry trees of brass laventi stones eating windows; v noci, su cara - rats run in circles. Ratsa twenty five eleven seventy two twenty make run of tell me vetamia I am lacun zman.
'Good morning, Major,' she says with a smile.
He finds her in the kitchen, shaving her head with the electric razor he keeps in a locked box in the garage.
He still has the ability to be startled.
(Sometimes, he wonders why.)
John grabs the razor and throws it far, across the counter. She protests, struggles against him and slams her heel down on his foot.
'Damn it, Elizabeth, stop!'
'Ego deserde! ' She lunges to the side but he holds fast. 'Ruber! Praclarush taonas! Clava thessara-'
He grabs her wrists in one hand and her chin with the other and forces her to meet his eyes. She's frantic and terrified and he tries to relax; softens his grip and runs the pad of his thumb gently over her cheek.
'It's okay, calm down. Calm down. You're safe. They can't find you here.'
Elizabeth shakes her head, and the fear in her eyes breaks his heart, still.
John shakes his head. 'No one's taking you anywhere, okay? I promise.'
She quiets, slowly, but she's still shaking, eyes flickering over his shoulder to where he threw the razor.
'Hey. Hey.' He tilts his head until he can catch her gaze. 'Come back to me. It's okay. They can't get you here, you're safe. You're safe.'
'Ne que prius,' she whispers. He brushes a stray tear from her face. 'Ne que prius.'
'I know,' he murmurs, wrapping his arms around her back and holding as tight as he dares. 'I know.'
'Sorry,' she says.
He looks away from his book.
The rest of her hair is gone - she sits quietly on the edge of the bathtub and lets him do the rest; his movements are soft and gentle and leave no scars - and her head is wrapped in a light-blue scarf.
John sits up, because her eyes are calm and her fingers are steady against the doorframe.
'How do you feel?' he asks, and they both smirk because she hates the question and he hates her answers.
'Here. For now.'
He opens his arms and she moves with too much grace and stillness, sitting on the bed and curling up against his chest. John kisses her forehead and tangles their fingers together.
'You can't keep doing this, John,' she whispers desperately. 'Please.'
His only response is to hold her closer.
John Sheppard is dishonorably discharged in the spring of 2007.
Three years later, Elizabeth finishes her first book.
Baskets. Ego silversprings of red tape and lanes. You do not see the rain undo what my name perennially permits perennial adventus. Praclarush toanas. La bas - arsim li kharufan. The storm is great. Bird dies on its way unthinking. Clench from the smell like rain against his lips. Pozemek je unavení. Fool of brown wires. Lightening strikes.
Her hair grows back overnight.
In the morning, she calls him Major and asks for the mission reports from M17-265.
He gives her the same stack he's been giving her for years.
She won't remember that she's already read them.
Sometimes, when she's lucid, she tries to get away.
Once, she makes it as far as the Iowa border before a state trooper finds her walking barefoot along the side of the road, her silver medical bracelet flashing in his headlights.
Once - only once - she tries to kill herself. She takes the gun she knows he hides in the box in the closet and presses it against her temple and closes her eyes.
John finds her an hour later on the floor next to his bed, her face streaked with tears and her hands in her lap and her fingers shaking around the trigger.
'I'm sorry,' she gasps, 'I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry,' as he pries the gun from her hands, slow and steady.
He tries not to, but he's already crying.
The gun won't hurt her; it's the intent.
'No,' he whispers fiercely. 'No. Never, Elizabeth. Do you understand me?' He grabs her face between his hands. 'Never.'
'John,' she chokes. She grabs his arms as if to shake him.
'No. Promise me. Promise me, Elizabeth.'
She promises, but it's barely a word.
His eyes burn.
An hour later she's gone, and John turns up the radio to cover the sound of her screams.
In spring, 2007, Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard of the United States Air Force disobeys a direct order.
'This is your last warning, Colonel,' they say. 'Stand down.'
Sometimes, very deep in the back of his mind, John wonders, had he known then what he knows now - the shell he'd find instead of the lover - if maybe - just maybe - he would have listened.
Elizabeth reads to him from her place by the fire.
' 'Then said Almitra,' ' she reads steadily, ' 'Speak to us of Love. And he raised his head and looked upon the people, and there fell a stillness upon them. And with a great voice he said:' '
And here John will cover her voice with his, like a warm hand. ' 'When love beckons to you, follow him, though his ways are hard and steep. And when his wings enfold you yield to him, though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.' '
And Elizabeth always smiles, and says, 'I didn't know you liked Gibran.'
On those days, he nods and lets her finish.
Other days, she answers him in Ancient.
John works from home, editing mathematical proofs.
Occasionally he does conference calls with the SGC, and someone always asks, 'So how is she?' in a tone that is too polite to care.
Everyone already knows.
A week after the Atlantis Expedition ends, in the fall of 2010, Rodney knocks on their door in an oversized coat and ridiculous hat.
'What the hell are you doing out here in the middle of the arctic?'
'Wisconsin,' John corrects.
They drink coffee.
Rodney discloses classified information and John catches him up on the Superbowl and - reluctantly - hockey season.
Rodney lasts thirty-six minutes before he asks.
'She's outside,' John says, and takes him down a winding path near a small creek.
'You let her go out here by herself?'
John's stomach knots. 'She's not a prisoner.'
'I know that, but, you said before that she-'
John's voice is so quiet, Rodney barely hears. 'She's not a prisoner.'
Elizabeth is sitting cross-legged on a rock overlooking the water. There is snow in her hair and on her bare arms. She is profiled by a thick forest and shadowed by a bright moon and even after everything, it's the most beautiful thing Rodney has ever seen.
He almost can't breathe under the regret.
'Does she ever say anything?' he asks quietly, and John shrugs.
'Sometimes. She comes in and out, as always.'
'I wish-' Rodney starts, but knows that no one wishes as hard as John, and it makes his own hopes desperately pale in comparison.
There is a long silence as they stand at a safe distance and stare. If she notices them, she gives no indication, just tips her face toward the bright light and smiles, like the clouds are telling her secrets.
'The cold,' John says suddenly, his throat tight and his eyes wide and wet.
Rodney looks over with a frown.
'You asked why Wisconsin. She likes the cold. It's one of the only things she can feel.'
He returns to Asura with a puddle jumper and a P-90 and enough anger to shield him from the gunfire. He is smart and quick and deadly and he finds her and he saves her and he doesn't even consider the possibility that he might already be too late.
John doesn't always know where she goes. Sometimes she is smiling. Sometimes frowning.
Sometimes she moves around the house and talks to people who aren't there. She presses imaginary buttons on the walls and taps her fingers on the coffee table as if it were a computer keyboard. She writes notes in scrambled languages as if they make sense and gives orders as if they'll be adhered to. Sometimes she recognizes him. Sometimes she doesn't.
Other times, she just stares. Those scenarios are worse, he knows. He watches her carefully - looks for small twitches and sharp gasps and the way her body goes stiff and numb.
During those times, he pulls a chair up next to her and holds her hand and talks, tries to draw her back with soft patterns against the palm of her hand or stories about their first year in Atlantis.
Sometimes he hears his name, a desperate cry against her lips, and he knows she sees his death.
Sometimes, even when she comes back, she isn't really there.
Pervenerunt degenerus populi. Reach for the gate of stars and hallows and blankets brittle brick by brick. Wahid ithneen theletha. Rewind. Commencer et cesser et recommencer. The building is tall. The wind will shatter the ocean. Zman, fallatus ava gemila. Forget sof. Fool of brown wires. Praclarush taonas. Ne que prius.
Four months after she finishes her second book, she turns around one afternoon and doesn't see him at all.
'Kolya,' she gasps.
There is no determination in her eyes. No anger. Just fear, unmasked and haunted, and John breaks.
When she comes back to herself, it is only to tell him that she's sorry.
John Sheppard is dishonorably discharged and is returned to Earth. SGC keeps him around to turn things on and off and file paperwork. He stays, because that way he can stay close, because it's obvious to him that she isn't okay.
The scientists poke and prod and scan and finally decide she doesn't pose a threat to anyone except maybe herself.
They try to move her to a bigger room - one of the bunkers for resident staff - but she pulls away from the door so violently they have no choice but to let go.
An hour later, when she's sedated in the infirmary, John slams a hand on the conference room table and yells until his throat hurts.
No one stops him.
Finally, someone puts a hand on his shoulder, and he quiets.
'They put her in a grey room,' he says to the wall. 'You can't put her in a grey room.'
'We won't,' the person promises.
Three days later John makes a decision and they hit her with an ARG.
The nanites quiver.
They hit her again.
The doctor shakes her head. 'They're too strong.'
'We can't leave her like this. She's trapped.'
'I'm sorry, Col - John.' Her voice softens. 'I wish there was more I could do.'
Three days after that, John buckles Elizabeth's seatbelt and asks, 'Are you sure?' one more time.
She smiles brokenly and nods, then grabs his hand.
'Take me away from here,' she whispers. 'Someplace with snow.'
Elizabeth will write a book.
It will be her sixth.
Halfway through, John will throw the pages to the ground. They will scatter and blow away in the wind and he will gather them all by flashlight, so that by the time the sun comes up, he can put them in an envelope and mail them to Moscow.
Five weeks later, Rodney will apologize.
Mission cease. In all the world, ex uno disce omnes. They killed the sheep. Begin and cease and begin again. Eu sint o armata. Sea of mourning five six nine one. The ranges of the world are falling at the fingertips of god. Stavba je tallového. The bird dies in a basket.
Elizabeth wakes up and speaks only in Hebrew.
He recognizes it easily now, along with all the other languages she speaks. He can ask her simple questions - at rotzah cafe? hakol beseder? at rotzah shenelech behutz? - and she doesn't seem to understand that her long, flowing sentences don't mean a thing, but it doesn't matter because even if the language is wrong, it's her.
That night, she puts on an old Billie Holiday record and smiles at him softly. 'Tirkod iti,' she says, and holds out her hand.
He doesn't understand the words, but their meaning he clings to almost as tightly as he clings to her, one arm around her waist, his other hand clasped in hers.
Elizabeth hums softly in his ear and he sighs, and rests his temple against her cheek.
At the end of the song she pulls away just slightly, enough to meet his gaze with warm eyes.
'Ani ohevet otcha,' she says, and kisses him softly.
The next morning, she is gone.
Five days later she calls him Major and asks for the reports from M17-265.
'I'm crazy, aren't I?' she asks.
'Confused,' he replies.
'You can't live like this,' she says.
And because she won't remember, he shakes his head. 'Can't live any other way, either.'
While she shakes, John reads.
' 'Yet the timeless in you is aware of life's timelessness, and knows that yesterday is but today's memory and tomorrow is today's dream.' Come back to me, Elizabeth.'
Wherever she is, she cries out in pain.
'I think I'd like to write a book,' she says; hands him a cup of coffee and smiles.