Title: "In The Margins"
Spoilers: Not really. Futurefic.
Summary: Of oral history, bravery, touch, tiredness, and what Elizabeth remembers.
In the Margins
Elizabeth Weir. Mrs. Elizabeth...?
Dr. Elizabeth Weir.
3(-x)=three times the quantity negative... stop it Brianna. I'm paying attention. No. No, I'm not going to any dance with anyone. Why? I have other things to do.
Homework is so an important thing.
September 1. Ancient Civ. (9 am-10 am MWF)
The prof is late. When I'm a professor -- if, Elizabeth -- I'll never be late on the first day of class.
First impressions are very important.
Dear Mom and Dad,
I haven't written as often as I promised, but I've met someone. His name is Simon. He's a doctor. A real doctor, medical diploma and everything. It's getting pretty serious and... I just wanted you to know.
I'm accepting Dr. McKay. Have to. There's no one in the universe who knows more about wormhole physics than he does, and we're going to need him, but.
I looked over your suggestions. Thanks. I'm slightly surprised to find there aren't any references in your bibliography to articles that take issue with your own work. This oversight...
Dr. Weir -
Maybe there aren't any.
And he thought:
Dammit, strike through the whole thing.
Square roots. The Krebs Cycle. Pi.
To begin again at the ending: They are standing side-by-side in a dour family portrait. Teyla's daughter is as close as you can come to a professional photographer in a hybrid society where cameras are hard to come by and grain is a more significant issues than darkroom conditions for all of them. Serr believes in standing still for photographs, and Rodney doesn't believe in smiling, and Elizabeth doesn't feel like smiling, so they link elbows a bit awkwardly, as if they're unused to touching each other after so many years, as if they still don't feel quite comfortable in letting their bodies exhibit their emotions.
They are very good at talking about things that don't matter.
"Once upon a time -"
"Nanny, don't tell it like that."
"We came to Atlantis from a galaxy far far away."
"Absolutely speaking. With wormholes and hyperdrive technology, distance becomes a moot point."
"Nanny, make him stop."
"I don't think that's possible." She smiles. She's said this a thousand times. She means it, every word. Rodney is frustrating and arrogant and a bundle of neuroses. Then again, she doesn't mean it. These aren't the sum of him, these aren't the traits that bind him. She lives in the margins.
He doesn't get snuggly tired, not drowsy. Exhaustion becomes whip-sharp, cruel, exaggerates his faults. He goes from the state of super-confident perfection to super-confident despair in a moment that Elizabeth's very good at discerning. She listens to the pitch of his voice, watches him stumble, knows when he needs more coffee and when he needs bed. She doesn't know, can't, how to get him into bed when he needs to be awake.
In the old days this was high adventure, Rodney awake and saving their world, Elizabeth looking over his shoulder, not understanding, but knowing that he'd fix everything. She couldn't have survived if she didn't believe that.
Now it's different; it has to be. Should, ought, must. If they are inevitable, then she doesn't care what color his eyes are or that he thinks aloud instead of talking to her.
They are inevitable, now. Not because of other partnerships, Teyla's husband, Sheppard's wife, not because the isolated world needs a leader and a leader needs a husband who understands, but because of the first moments. It couldn't end any other way.
The beginning of them was this:
"Rodney McKay. Good to meet you. Listen, you have to let me come. I know you don't realize the scientific importance of what's going on, but I know wormholes and you'll need me to --"
"--explain them to you. What?"
"Okay." She smiled.
"Great. I'll get ready to leave."
"Leave your suitcase in the closet, Rodney. There are months till the Atlantis Expedition becomes a reality."
"But I'm coming."
When she was twelve and told anyone who'd listen she was going to be a politician when she grew up, most people said, "Oh, do you want to be the first woman president? That's lovely!"
If she grew up to be president, no one would ever look at her and see Elizabeth. They'd see President Weir. In history books, it would say, "Elizabeth Weir was the first female president of the United States." Everyone would remember her that way.
She liked the thought. She could vanish into the White House and no one would know her.
"They all answer to me."
"That's generally what being a leader means, yes."
"Rodney, let me think a moment."
"Go ahead. Should I be quiet?"
"Yes please. I need to think aloud. I think - this whole world, all these people - they answer to me. They know who I am - I'm their leader. The leader from the planet Earth, from the city of the Ancients... it's all obsolete knowledge, now. Everything I knew on Earth is meaningless here."
"That must be frustrating," says Rodney, and there's a flash of real panic in his eyes when he thinks about the implications of what she's said. Obsolete knowledge - this is Rodney's greatest fear.
If they could function without bodies they would, but Rodney aches and groans through the night, imperceptibly more brittle than he was a year ago, five years ago, a lifetime ago. She speaks more loudly so he can hear her, and then so she can hear herself, and in her nightmares Atlantis sinks back into the ocean and she drowns.
Rodney sometimes wakes up screaming, but he won't tell her his dreams. He lets her touch him, then, though he usually can't fall asleep when they're holding each other, never could. His body still tenses when she rubs his back, and she still flinches when she feels the scar he got on a hiveship, their third year. There's so much in that scar that Rodney won't tell her, things she knows only from an unofficial mission report, a margin scrawl she knows so well it's like a Bible verse.
Then Rodney turned towards his attacker...
"Nanny, are you going to finish the story?"
"You were telling us about when Granddaddy was brave."
"There were lots of times," she tells them. "There still are."