For those who have read "Treasures of the Elizabethan Era," that story took place in a different universe than this one. I considered deleting it, because it was written before this fic universe came to be, but I left it up because some people had liked it. You'll notice the difference of names in Elizabeth's mother for that reason. This is my main Atlantis fic universe, which continues in "Life Support" and other fics I hope to get to eventually. This was actually written several years ago, but I'm just now uploading it. I dedicate it to all the very special children I've worked with through the years.
She walks to school with a lunch she packed
Nobody knows what she's holding back
Wearing the same dress she wore yesterday
She hides the bruises with linen and lace...
"Concrete Angel," Martina McBride
The first day back to school after the Christmas holidays was always an exciting one for Rosemary Weir, mostly because she taught a first-grade class and the children were always so exuberant upon returning, so happy to show off their new clothes and toys. Their enthusiasm was contagious, and though the end of the holidays meant a return to work for Rosemary, in the end, she found it hard to mind. It was true, what they said about work you loved-it wasn't really work. This year, the excitement was laced with a hint of poignancy; Rosemary had an empty nest at home and she was looking forward to getting back to "her" children.
Rosemary and Charles, her husband, had been trying for years to have a child, but so far, it seemed that wasn't meant to be. Rosemary was sure it would happen for them someday, when fate deemed the time was right, but in the meantime, she and Charles had become foster parents, doing what they could to help children in need. It dulled the pain of not having a child of their own somewhat, and it was incredibly rewarding, if difficult at times. Just after Christmas, another child had left their home, and while it was wonderful to see Matthew find a stable home with a fantastic adoptive family, Rosemary was going to miss him, as she missed all the children and her husband had taken in. Getting back to school would help, though. She found it hard to be gloomy when surrounded by high-spirited six and seven year olds.
As Rosemary had predicted, all the children were bouncing with the natural energy of youth, except one. Betsy Thompson had always been a quiet girl, though very bright, and she shied away from social interaction. Rosemary could tell her family didn't have a lot of money-the faded and worn clothes she wore every day were a dead giveaway. Her hair was often half-brushed; her brown paper lunch bag often contained little more than a couple of slices of bread and an apple. Rosemary occasionally wondered if the poor child had to make her own lunch while her parents ran off to work...but a more sinister part of her mind suggested there might be more to the story. She tried to write it off as overreaction-she worked with troubled children, took them into her home, and so it was only natural she would see more than was really there. Nevertheless, Rosemary had developed quite a soft spot for little Betsy and so she tried to keep an eye on the girl. She couldn't openly play teacher's pet, but now and then, Rosemary would try to give Betsy perhaps a tiny bit more affection. Heaven knew the child looked like she could use it.
Coming back after Christmas had to be hard for Betsy, with her classmates showing off their latest and greatest possessions, while all she had was the same blue dress she had been wearing before Christmas and the same ratty doll she played with at recess all year long. But, then, maybe that was why she shied away from the others, so she wouldn't have to face it as much.
Rosemary sighed and tried to distract herself from her worries as the children romped about the playground-it was a deliciously warm day, especially for January, and she had taken her class outside for recess to take advantage. As usual, Betsy had slunk off to one side of the playground with her doll. Normally, she cared for it quite lovingly, but this time, something was amiss. Betsy was shaking her finger angrily at the doll. "Stop being such a baby," she snapped, dropping her voice down as if she were trying to imitate someone else. "You're gonna catch it!"
Rosemary winced. She had seen children in her home behaving like that, working their issues out through play, yelling at toys who couldn't yell back-or worse, hit them. Rosemary had taken care of a few abused children and every red flag in her mind was going up. She took a deep breath and walked over to Betsy, kneeling down beside her. "Betsy?" Betsy nearly dropped the doll, and Rosemary put a gentle hand on her shoulder. "I'm sorry, sweetheart; I didn't mean to scare you. What are you doing?"
Betsy pointed at her doll. "Playing with Christina."
"Oh, I see." Rosemary played right along. "And are you and Christina having fun?"
Betsy shook her head. "She's crying a lot. She doesn't like the yelling."
Rosemary's heart broke a little more. "Who's yelling?"
Betsy shrugged. "Her daddy."
It was a classic behavior, to put everything on the doll, because if it happened in the doll's world, it was okay to talk about. Rosemary was definitely going to have a word with the principal later, see what she could do about getting Betsy some help. Something was definitely going on and it wasn't good. "What does he say when he yells?"
"Lots." Betsy seemed disinclined to want to provide details and Rosemary didn't think it was a good idea to push just yet. "Mrs. Weir?"
"Yes?" Rosemary asked.
"Christina wants a hug."
Rosemary had always made it clear to her pupils that if they wanted a hug from her, all they had to do was ask, and many of them took her up on it regularly. But Betsy had never before asked and Rosemary knew it wasn't Christina who really needed the hug. "Of course, dear," Rosemary assured her-and promptly hugged them both.
Rosemary left the school that day feeling more than a little frustrated. The principal had listened to her concerns and thanked her for coming to him, but he insisted they couldn't do anything without proof. Apparently, he wanted bruises, he wanted Betsy to come out and say things were bad at home. Christina's woes were apparently not convincing enough to him, despite Rosemary's experience with children in crisis. Rosemary only hoped they wouldn't get the proof they needed when it was too late to help.
As Rosemary was driving home, she saw Betsy walking along the sidewalk and frowned. The home address the school had listed for Betsy was a good three miles from the school. Rosemary pulled over and rolled down the window. "Betsy?"
Betsy nearly jumped out of her skin, but calmed when she looked up and saw Rosemary. "Hi, Mrs. Weir."
"What on Earth are you doing, walking home?" Rosemary asked-at least she assumed that was what Betsy was doing.
"Mama didn't come. She usually picks me up, but she's pro'lly busy." Betsy sounded a little too casual about that. "It's okay. I know the way."
"Then you can tell me." Rosemary got out of the car and held out her hand. "I'll drive you home."
"But Mama always said not to take rides from anyone," Betsy insisted.
"And that's normally very good advice," Rosemary agreed, "but it's strangers you should be most careful of...and I'm not a stranger, am I?"
The logic appeared to win Betsy over-that, or she realized how long a walk it would be and knew this was the best solution. "Okay. But if Mama gets upset, will you explain it? I don't want her to cry."
Rosemary feared both Betsy and her mother cried too much. "I promise. Now let's get you home."
The next day, Betsy didn't come to school and Rosemary feared the absolute worst. It was on her mind all day and as soon as school let out, she drove straight to the house she'd dropped Betsy off at the day before. The police car outside sent a shiver down Rosemary's spine and it was all she could do to park her car properly before jumping out. The officer was busy, but neighbors provided the sad story-horrible, wasn't it? They'd always said that Mr. Thompson was a dangerous man. No one was entirely sure what had happened, but he was nowhere to be seen and his wife was dead. Poor little girl-she had been taken to the county home. Rosemary wanted to cry, wanted to scream at them and ask why no one had done anything if they knew the man was so dangerous, but she couldn't and so she got into her car and drove away. She hadn't gotten more than a block away before the tears started to fall, blurring her vision.
Charles was wonderful and supportive, as always, but even he couldn't mend Rosemary's broken heart. He did, however, hold her as long as she needed it and assured her that despite the horrible circumstances, Betsy was in better hands. Rosemary knew that much was true, but would she be placed with a family who knew how to deal with children who had seen such trouble? A child who might act out, test limits, do anything to see if the love they had found was permanent or could be snatched from them at any time? The more she thought about it, the more Rosemary knew exactly what she had to do. She and Charles were awaiting their next foster placement anyway, and while families typically didn't make requests for a specific child, this time, she was going to. The school might claim conflict of interests and put Betsy in another class, but Betsy would do okay with another teacher. What she really needed was a loving home. Charles agreed, and Rosemary's first call the next morning was to Children's Services.
Either the karma they'd built up came through for them or the state had simply seen the benefit of putting a fragile child with a family who wouldn't be complete strangers to her, but Betsy was placed with the Weirs in record time. Given all the trauma Betsy had already endured, the school decided it was in her best interests to remain in Rosemary's class for the rest of the school year, as long as Rosemary didn't show any obvious favoritism. All in all, it couldn't have worked out any better.
Betsy had been in Rosemary's home a week when she woke up screaming from a nightmare for the first time. Rosemary was sure it wasn't the first nightmare, but it was the first that had been quite apparent from down the hall. She rushed in and shook Betsy awake, then held the little girl as she cried.
"Mrs-um, I mean...Mom?" Betsy asked hesitantly.
Rosemary hugged her again. "I told you, you don't have to call me that until you're ready to-if you're ready." The child had lost her mother less than a month ago; Rosemary certainly wasn't going to insist on being called "Mom" so soon.
Betsy nodded tearfully. "Can I ax you something?"
Given the circumstances, Rosemary didn't correct the pronunciation. "Of course, Betsy."
"Can...can my name not be Betsy now?"
Rosemary was puzzled at first by the request, but then she realized, it was probably part of Betsy's attempt to put the past behind her, in her own childish way. Children declared they had changed their names all the time; Betsy certainly had reason enough to want to. "What do you want to be called, then?"
"Mama always used my real name...said I wasn't Betsy, really, 'cept Daddy wanted me to be." Even in the dark, the pain in the girl's eyes was clear and Rosemary would have given anything to take it away. "Can I be Elizabeth again?"
Rosemary smiled. "I think Elizabeth is a beautiful name."
Six months later, Elizabeth had absolutely blossomed, and Rosemary and Charles couldn't have imagined life without her. They had bonded with their previous foster children, but not the way they had with Elizabeth, and she called them Mom and Dad freely, loving them as fiercely as they loved her. It seemed they had found a child of their own, even without genetic ties, and there was no hesitation on their part when the social worker asked if they would be interested in filing the paperwork to adopt her. Another six months later, the adoption was final, with no going back, and Rosemary couldn't have been happier as she signed the papers that would officially change Elizabeth's last name to match theirs.
That wasn't to say there weren't problems along the way-with a past like Elizabeth's, it was unreasonable to expect there wouldn't have been. But even as she rebelled, tested limits, or went to hide in her room for the better part of a day, Elizabeth knew she was loved and that meant everything would work out eventually.
While she hadn't been able to be there for Elizabeth's baby days, Rosemary found she took her pleasures of parenthood from the same things other mothers did-art projects, flowers picked from the yard, best friends, first dates. Even as Elizabeth matured into an adult, she never failed to amaze her parents, when she gave up on her English major after the first year, changed to Political Science, and never looked back. She knew what she wanted out of life and she had seen enough heartache that she never thought twice about going after it...though why on Earth she wanted to head up an international team doing research in Antarctica, Rosemary had no idea. They talked about it when Elizabeth came home on emergency leave after Charles suffered a fatal heart attack, and though Rosemary knew she wasn't privy to many of the details, she could sense that this work was important. She pulled Charles' favorite pocket watch out of its drawer and tucked it into Elizabeth's hand, assuring her that her father would have wanted to see her chase her dreams, wherever they led. Of course, that only started both of them crying again.
The next time Elizabeth came home, it was only long enough to say goodbye. She had another important expedition to supervise, one that would take her to some far-flung place she couldn't talk about, but it could mean a lot to humanity. Rosemary wasn't sure if Elizabeth's eagerness to keep globetrotting had anything to do with her relationship with Simon, but she didn't say anything. Simon was a good man, but Rosemary didn't think he was ultimately right for Elizabeth. He would take care of her, but he didn't share her adventurous spirit, her wanderlust. It was her decision to make, though, her life, and while Rosemary would offer advice if asked, she hadn't been asked. She could only give Elizabeth her blessing, make her promise to get in contact if she could, and beg her to stay safe, wherever she went.
When a video arrived nearly a year later, with Elizabeth telling what little she could of the wonders she and her team had seen, Rosemary knew her daughter had made the right decision. That quiet little girl in the back of the classroom had grown up and she was doing incredible things. There were still days Rosemary thought of Elizabeth's biological father, doing life in prison for the murder of his wife, and the anger still rose within her-but then she looked at the beautiful, vibrant woman on the videotape and reminded herself he would never know the pride and love Rosemary felt. If only he could have known what he'd missed, what he'd tossed away without a second thought. If only he could know the intensity of all the things Rosemary felt for her daughter, but have to live with the fact that he could never have any of it. Then, justice might have been truly served.
A statue stands in a shaded place
An angel girl with an upturned face
A name is written on a polished rock
A broken heart that the world forgot...
"Concrete Angel," Martina McBride
"I told you, you didn't have to come with me." Elizabeth Weir glanced at her companion. "There's probably a lot of other things you could be doing here on Earth."
"Nonsense, love," Carson Beckett chided gently. "You looked like you could use a friend-and, besides, I'm headed for home to see Mum tomorrow. Until then, I'm all yours."
He was such a dear, and it wasn't the first time Elizabeth had thanked the heavens that she chose Carson as the chief medical officer of the Atlantis team. Not only was he a damned good doctor, he was a wonderful friend. "It's just a trip to the cemetery."
"There is never 'just' a trip to the cemetery," Carson countered, putting a hand on her arm, "and I happen to know you've already made a trip to your father's grave. This one's different."
"Yeah." Elizabeth sighed. He knew her too well. "I haven't been here in years, actually, but before we head back to Atlantis, I just felt like I should...I don't know. It's complicated."
Carson gave her a look, as if he understood all the things she didn't want to say. "I've read your file, Elizabeth, like I have for everyone on the expedition. If you don't want to talk about it, that's your business, but if you do...I'm here."
Elizabeth blinked back the tears that burned at her eyes. "Thanks, Carson." She patted his hand, which was still on her arm, steadying her, lending her the strength to do this.
She found the grave easily; she'd been to it quite a few times in her childhood, before she decided it was best to move on. Now, she wanted to come back, and while she hadn't invited her mother on this particular trip, she was sure her mother would have understood. Heck, her mother had brought her here for those childhood visits.
September 4, 1946- January 11, 1973
There wasn't more written on the polished stone, but there didn't have to be. Elizabeth swallowed hard against the lump in her throat and touched the lettering. She couldn't have asked to find a better family than the one she had after everything went so horribly wrong, but the emotional scars remained, even after the bruises faded. Amazingly, she only carried one visible scar from her first six years, a small one on the back of her left shoulder, barely noticeable unless one was looking for it. Simon had seen it once and asked, but after Elizabeth had turned into a sobbing mess while trying to explain, he hadn't asked again. That one, she still couldn't talk about-the wound hadn't been deep and it had only required a few stitches, but she'd received it that terrible night. January eleventh. It was a Thursday, she thought. Her fingers lingered over the date for a long moment, her tears falling. Dammit, if only she didn't remember-but a part of her didn't want to forget. Every day, she was grateful for the teacher who had taken time to care, who had been a mother when she'd lost hers, for a father who had loved her as a father should. But...dammit, the past still hurt. However, one could either run from the past or learn from it.
Elizabeth was tired of running. She glanced up and saw the cement angel looking down over her, over the grave, keeping watch as always. Funny, how she remembered it being so much bigger. Then again, she'd been smaller. Carson wrapped an arm around her as she started to cry, finally releasing the tears she had held onto for so long, not only for her first mother, but for all the children who hadn't been as lucky as her, and even for the members of the Atlantis expedition whose families faced a similar ritual of graveyard visits now. In a few minutes, she would collect herself, move on, call her mother, and make a mental note to schedule an appointment with Kate once she was back on Atlantis, one she wouldn't reschedule. And then there was dinner with Simon and life would go on. But, for now...the deeper healing had begun.