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The Warmth of Winter

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Evan set down his glass and eyed his drinking companion. He had no idea how he had ended up in a tavern on an unknown planet talking about jelly beans. Looking around the room, he realized that neither of them really blended into the scene. So it wasn't like it was odd that they were chatting, but really... jelly beans?

"So they're chewy?"

"Yeah. And really sweet. Pure sugar and corn syrup. They make your teeth ache."

"And you eat these voluntarily?" she laughed.

Evan nodded. "Once I ate so many that I got sick."

The woman laughed even harder. "It sounds like something my daughter would do."

From there the conversation turned to things more domestic like life aboard a battleship with a husband and a child. Evan's mind drifted to Teyla and how her eyes softened when she held her son, but gate to a world with a Wraith threat, and those eyes were hard and uncompromising. He sensed the same sort of resolve from this woman. In fact, she often reminded him of Teyla.

Evan had been marooned on the planet for less than a week when he had first met her. The planet was pre-industrial and none of the townspeople had any knowledge of how the mysterious ring in the forest worked. Or, more importantly, how to fix the DHD. But they did introduce him to Sharon Agathon, a woman who had fallen from the sky shortly before he showed up in some sort of shuttle that had seen better days. It took a lot of explaining to convince the townspeople that they weren't from the same place. Sharon had never seen a stargate before and Evan had never heard of places like Picon or Caprica, despite the familiar sounds of the words. Sometimes he thought the townspeople still didn't believe them.

Banding together for the common goal of finding a way home, they spent most of their time together. Evan helped her test and repair components on her Raptor and then Sharon hauled a diagnostic kit to the stargate to figure out the DHD. While she spoke animatedly about the technology and seemed pleased each time she figured something out, she wasn't able to repair it.

Evan spoke often of Atlantis and his colleagues while Sharon would talk about Galactica and the fleet. For the first few days they traded stories that were from the surface of their lives; where they lived, what they did all day, food and music and other mundane daily items that they missed. It was some time before Sharon first spoke of her family, of her husband and their daughter and everything they'd been through to be together. Her face lined with the ache of missing them was saddest thing Evan had ever seen in his life.

"We'll find them."

Sharon looked up. "Don't you mean they'll find us?"

Evan shrugged and handed her the panel he'd been working on. "I'm a Marine. We're the ones who do the ass-saving."

Sharon took the panel and smiled. "Well, our people have that attitude in common."

Evan recalled that conversation as he nodded to the barkeep for another round. He and Sharon had started to run out of trinkets to trade for and had started taking odd jobs here and there. Things like repairing a barn roof or clearing a field. Not accustomed to that sort of manual labor, Evan found it oddly satisfying most days. But still, he wondered if anyone - from Atlantis or from Sharon's fleet - was every going to find them.

Placing drinks in front of the pair, the barkeep spoke. "Hear that Jenkins is looking for hands to help bring in the harvest."

"Isn't his place out south of town?" Sharon asked.

"Yup. He said that he had winter work, too. Truth is, he's not that young and his boy died in the spring."

Evan nodded solemnly. "I remember hearing about the accident when we arrived."

"Well, he can't pay much, but he said he'd put the pair of you up for the winter. Room and board, with as much pay as he can muster out of the harvest."

Sharon shook her head. "We're fine where we are."

"Well, ma'am. You are more than a bit off in the head if you think you'll be able to winter in that fancy tin can of yours. The winter's get pretty harsh around here."

Sharon was about to argue further when Evan jumped in. "Thanks. We'll head out to his place tomorrow and talk with him. See if it's a fit." The barkeep nodded and moved to serve another customer.

Sharon narrowed her eyes at Evan. "The Raptor is north of town."

Evan knew that one of the reasons Sharon slept in the Raptor was in case her people found her. She didn't have a working mobile radio and ran a routine every night searching the skies for a familiar transponder signal. He stayed with her mostly because it was too much trouble to find other arrangements and it did make whatever money they earned last longer. The thought of being cut off from her only lifeline for an entire season obviously didn't sit well with her.

Evan offered, "We'll see if we can rig up something to my radio."

Sharon didn't look convinced.

"Look," Evan continued, "if what I've heard about winter here, we don't want to be camping out at your Raptor. We'll likely get cut off from town and possibly freeze to death."

"The Raptor is only half a klick away!"

"You've obviously never experienced a blizzard."

"And you're the expert?"

Evan shrugged. "I went to college in the mid-west." He turned his attention to his drink.

Sharon scowled and raised her glass. "I don't even know what that means."

Evan grinned and launched into a discussion about his hometown of San Francisco, California versus St. Paul, Minnesota.

The next morning, they spent a couple hours fiddling with the radios. Evan would walk a couple hundred yards away, hear static, walk back to the Raptor and argue with Sharon. Then she would take his radio, walk about and grumble. They repeated the process several times before they were ready for a long-distance trial.

It was about midday when they arrived at the Jenkins' place. The older man was in the yard, sharpening blades on a harvester. He smiled when they arrived. Despite having sported a frown on her face for most of the day, Sharon smiled back. She shook his hand and amicably commented on the weather. Within an hour, they'd had a tour, a cup of tea and the three were sitting on the porch making plans for the harvest and stocking up for the winter. Sharon practically beamed at the man when he offered them to move into the bunkhouse right away.

After they had left, Evan asked "Why the sudden change of heart? I thought you were against spending the winter away from the Raptor."

"He reminded me of the old man."

"That's because he is an old man."

"No, not 'an' old man. 'THE' old man. The Admiral." She paused, looked up to the sky. "I think we'll be safe with him for the winter. And besides, your brilliantly antiquated radio seems to work."

"As long as we can keep it charged. How did you recharge it anyway?"

Their chatter moved on to mundane things like technology differences and laundry as they returned to the Raptor and packed up the meager belongings they had accumulated. When the door hissed closed and the latch caught, they glanced at each other. Neither one of them spoke about new chapters or moving on but they both had the sense that something was over. Sharon ran one last check to insure it was closed up tight before hoisting her bag over her shoulder. The two of them headed south at a quick pace, wanting to get back to the farm before nightfall.

The weeks rolled by and the harvest came in without incident. The bunkhouse was basically just one room with a fireplace, four small beds, an old wood stove, a table and a couple of chairs. The place began to take shape as Evan and Sharon settled in. The mattresses from the two least comfortable beds became a makeshift sofa they pushed against one wall. They placed the other two beds on either side of the fireplace, hoping to maximize its warmth when the cold weather set in. Evan learned to cook a pretty good stew on the stove and Sharon finally mastered corn bread.

In the meantime, before winter officially set in Evan and Sharon walked into town regularly. The tavern usually had pretty good food and the socializing became something they both looked forward to each time they headed into town.

On one such evening, Evan and Sharon became the topic of conversation at the tavern. The townspeople were still convinced that they were from the same place. Evan finally conceded that if they were talking about 'outer-space' than they were right. The crowd cheered and laughed as if a great joke had been played on them all for all these months. Sharon smiled and shook her head, still not understanding these people, but reveling in the sense of community and neighborly friendship nonetheless.

The next night, winter arrived.

Evan was dreaming of an Italian Restaurant. He could smell the marinara and sweet basil and hear the sounds of chefs in a large kitchen. He had ordered the linguini and wanted to alter his order to the penne. He hoped to get to the kitchen in time to tell the chefs. Part of him knew he was dreaming, but he was somehow convinced that if he could just assure the chefs that he wanted the penne, he would wake to an Italian dish sitting on the table for breakfast. He opened the door to the kitchen and found himself in the walk-in freezer instead. He turned around and exited the door he had just walked through, only this time he found himself in a meat locker. The temperature was dropping. He rubbed his arms and blew on his fingers for warmth. He had to get to the kitchen.

"Evan."

Evan looked at one of the sides of beef, idly wondering if it had spoken.

"Evan!" Sharon shouted from a few feet away.

Finally pulled from sleep, he rubbed his eyes and mumbled something in reply.

"What's penne?" Sharon's lips seemed to be turning blue.

"What?"

"You were muttering something about penne and Russian mobsters."

Evan sat up and realized it was freezing in the bunkhouse. "Holy mother of..."

"Yeah, it's frakkin cold. We should've taken Jenkins up on his offer of more blankets." Sharon pulled her thin blanket tighter around her shoulders.

"You woke me up to tell me that?"

"No, I woke you up so you'd stop talking. I'm trying to sleep over here."

Evan threw his pillow at her. She didn't give it back. After a few attempts at tossing and turning, Evan decided a) it was too cold and b) he wanted his pillow. He got up, grabbed his blanket, and walked over to Sharon's bed.

"Scoot over."

Sharon's eyes narrowed as she looked at him. "Evan..."

"Sharon, for cryin' out loud, it's freezing in here. If we share our blankets and maybe a little body heat, we just might not freeze to death. Besides, I want my pillow back."

Without waiting for further argument, he climbed in and added his thin blanket to her thin blanket. Sharon stiffened momentarily, but was won over by the warmth of combined resources. After only a few slight adjustments, an arm here or a leg there, they swiftly fell asleep.

More weeks went by, although it was becoming a little difficult for Evan to keep track. Sharon always knew exactly what day it was and kept up with her calendar, his and the calendar of the planet they were stranded on - which had eight-day weeks.

"Are you sure it's Sunday?"

"Yes."

"For me, I mean. It's Sunday? Because it feels like Saturday."

"It's Sunday on your calendar."

"How can you be sure?"

"Cylon's have a very good sense of time."

"Whatever." He scribbled a quick calculation out on a piece of paper. After a few moments, he balled it up and tossed it into the fireplace. "Ok, fine. Sunday."

"By the way, it's your turn." Sharon handed him an old leather coat that some previous occupant of the bunkhouse had left behind. It smelled faintly of horse manure and whiskey, but it really did a decent job of keeping the cold at bay. At least for a short time.

Evan bundled up and headed out to the barn. A few minutes later, Sharon wrapped both blankets around her and headed directly to the main house. Every few days, they would take firewood up to the main house, make sure Jenkins didn't need any other supplies restocked from the barn and catch up on any news. Jenkins had a shortwave radio and talked with folks in town just about every day. They took turns wearing the coat, but whoever wore the coat had to do the hauling. Today was Evan's turn.

Jenkins would usually have a pot of tea ready and a tin of cookies that Evan liked. Sharon didn't have much of a sweet tooth, but enjoyed spending the afternoon sitting and listening to gossip from town. She felt like she knew so much about these people now.

Though trips to town had been rare during the winter, they'd not been as isolated as Evan had first imagined. They'd even trekked out to the Raptor one day, only to find it buried beneath snow. Sharon had been in favor of digging out the hatch and checking inside, but Evan had talked her out of it. Opting, instead, for introducing her to the Earth tradition of a snowball fight.

Just as Sharon was approaching the kitchen door, Jenkins swung it open.

"Greetings! Greetings! I've been waiting for you two. Come in. Come in."

"What is it?"

"News. Oh there's been lots of exciting chatter about town this morning. Come in!"

Sharon stomped her feet to dislodge some snow from her walk across the yard and hung her blanket on a coat rack by the door.

"What is it?" Sharon repeated, following him into the kitchen. "Did Fran finally let Jonah come back home or is he still sleeping in the tavern?"

"No. No. Strangers. More strangers. Like you and Evan."

Sharon froze. "What? In town?" She moved to the table which housed the shortwave radio.

"No. They came across the shortwave briefly. I was in the middle of talking with Davey about the possibility of opening up the western plot this year and wondered if he was planning on herding there this spring. All of a sudden the shortwave just went silent. It didn't lose power. It didn't go to static like interference. It just got real quiet."

Evan walked in and hearing the tail end of the conversation asked, "Want one of us to take a look? Sharon's pretty good with radios."

Sharon practically bolted from the room. "Radios!!" She grabbed the coat from Evan and took off to the bunkhouse.

Evan watched her run across the yard and then turned to Jenkins. Jenkins shrugged and started the tale again.

Sharon raced across the yard, nearly slipping twice on packed snow. She threw open the door to the bunkhouse and looked at the items strewn across Evan's bed. Not that he was a slob, in fact, most of the items were hers. It's just that no one actually slept in Evan's bed since winter had set in, so it became a repository of miscellaneous stuff. Like a junk drawer. Beneath a pair of wool socks she found Evan's handheld radio. She turned the dial and tuned it to the raptor's frequency and listened. She didn't hear a thing.

Sharon checked the power and it was low, but still operating. She decided she needed a better vantage point and walked out into the yard. Checking again, she still heard nothing. She eyed the hill behind the main house. Then she remembered that Jenkins hadn't finished telling her what happened. He had said strangers arrived and only got as far as the fact that the radio went silent.

She found Evan and Jenkins crowded around the shortwave, listening intently to static. Evan looked at her questioningly.

"No. Nothing." She handed him the radio.

Jenkins cleared his throat. "As I was saying..." Sharon resisted the urge to stick her tongue out at him, "the radio went silent." He wagged his finger at Sharon and grinned like he knew what she was thinking. He stood and moved over to the radio.

"Well, I couldn't raise Davey again, so I tried a couple town frequencies. I still couldn't raise anyone. That's when I tried the emergency frequency. Tuned it in and heard strangers talking, voices I didn't recognize. I tried to reply, but they either didn't hear me or didn't respond."

"What did they say?" Evan asked.

"I didn't hear enough to gather their conversation. Just sounded like the tail end of one. Something about 'we'll head north' and another one saying 'check in every something or other'. If he said a measure of time, it wasn't one I recognized."

"That's it?" Sharon asked.

Jenkins leaned back and smiled. "Yup. That's it."

Evan placed his hand on her arm, before she could launch into an interrogation. "Well, let's see if we can't find them, shall we?" He glanced back at his shortwave radio. "Is this the emergency frequency you heard them on?"

"Oh, no. That's one of the town frequencies. The shortwave came back up and several of us heard them. We all had lots to say about these strangers." Jenkins looked positively excited as he changed the dial. "This is the emergency frequency."

"Okay." Evan said absently as he reconfigured his radio to match. He looked at Sharon as he thumbed on the radio and said "This is Major Evan Lorne, USMC Atlantis Expedition. Do you copy?" A long pause was followed by a brief millisecond of static.

A moment later, Evan tried again. "This is Major Evan Lorne. Do you copy?"

Finally, the radio came to life.

"Lorne, this is Sheppard. Just where the hell have you been? Do you know how long we've been looking for you?"

Evan whooped and picked Sharon up in a bear hug, swinging her around the kitchen. While she smiled along with him, Evan didn't notice that the smile didn't reach her eyes. She had so desperately wanted to hear Karl's voice on that radio. Or Starbuck's. Or Hotdog's.

Less than an hour later, Evan walked up to the puddle jumper as it landed in the yard. Sheppard had dropped McKay and a couple marines from Evan's team at the gate and they were working on repairing the DHD. Prior to that, the team had been investigating some energy readings north of town.

"That's probably Sharon's Raptor." Evan explained, turning and preparing to introduce Sharon to his commanding officer.

"Ah, Lieutenant Agathon, I presume?" Sheppard said before Evan could speak, reaching out a hand in greeting.

Sharon shook his hand, glancing at him quizzically. "Yes, sir. How did you know that?"

"We met a group of folks a few months back, they've been hanging around with us off and on lately. Call themselves 'Colonials'. Ever heard of them?"

This time, Sharon's smile lit her entire face as she flung herself at Evan in a celebratory hug.