In 2016, after a year in which no-one emerges as a big bad bent on killing and/or enslaving everyone, the IOA goes public about the existence of the stargate program, the existence of life on other planets, Pegasus, Atlantis, spaceships... everything, basically, so that there won't be any surprises later on.
To no-one other than the IOA's surprise, the people of planet Earth don't take it all that well.
Most people at the SGC think it would be best to let them panic and accuse and generally over-react until they calm down enough to listen. The IOA, in its infinite wisdom, decides that what the public really needs is to see the heroes of the nineteen year long fight to keep Earth safe, and so they invite the media to a ceremony at which intergalactic campaign ribbons will be presented.
Like the general population of Earth with the revelation of the stargate program, the members of the program, current and past, don't take it all that well.
John and Cam argue over taking their son, Alex, along.
"Who's going to watch him at the ceremony?" John demands, standing in their kitchen, ruining what was supposed to be a nice evening while Alex was sleeping over at a friend's. "Everyone we know will be getting a fucking ribbon."
"Ask Colby," Cam says, trying and failing to sound reasonable. "He'll be there for Evan."
"I don't want him there," John says. "What if the media get their hands on him?"
"Everyone we know will be there," Cam says. "I think someone will look out for him."
"He's eight. He shouldn't have to -" John sighs, feeling exhausted and old. "What if they find out where he really came from?"
"They could. It's probably in a file somewhere, they make one widely worded Freedom of Information request and our son's all over the media because he doesn't come from Earth."
"It won't happen," Cam says.
"It might," John counters.
He wants to say: you go in my place. He knows that will never be allowed.
Sam tries to engineer a reason for the Hammond to be in another galaxy, maybe in hyper-space so she can't be reached. Apparently, Caldwell tries the same with the Daedalus, which he's stubbornly refused to be promoted out of command of over the years.
"At least you won't be remembered as 'that guy who flew one of the ships'," he grumbles over private video link when the message comes down that they will both make themselves available or will both start thinking about how they'd like a posting in Antarctica.
"No, I'll probably be remembered as the woman who got shunted out of a base command onto a ship so they could replace me with a male civilian." She sighs; it's great, not being at war, but there's no manufacturing a scientific emergency.
"You'll be every little girl's hero," Caldwell says, dismissive of her concern. "Premier gate team member for most of a decade, head of Atlantis, ship's captain."
Member of a team she never got to command, though she should have; head of the city until they replaced her; charged with a ship that she suspects won't be remembered for its part in ending the war with the Wraith.
"Maybe," she says.
Daniel, like some of the more high profile civilians in the program, gets invited to attend. No campaign ribbon for him, even though he's been more of a soldier than a civilian for years, but there'll be a nice speech about the valuable contributions of the civilians, and a handshake.
He writes back, politely, no, and gets a phone call the next day from General Franklin in Washington.
"Your country needs to see its heroes right now," Franklin says. "Disgraced academic turned inter-galactic explorer – you can influence a lot of people by standing up there."
"No, thank you," Daniel says, and unplugs the phone.
He hasn't set foot in the SGC since Jack died of a heart attack eight months ago. He has no plans to change this.
Lorne and Major Hatsford, his second-in-command, draw straws over who gets to stay on Atlantis, and Hatsford wins.
"Bad luck, sir," she says, not sounding all that upset.
"You rigged it," Lorne accuses.
"Marines don't cheat," she says, mock-offended.
"I've been working here for more years than I'd like to remember. Marines cheat all the time."
"It's not cheating if you don't get caught."
Lorne looks at his straw – he knows Colby will be waiting when he gets back to Earth, with questions. He suspects one of them will be: when are you going to at least move back to the same galaxy as me? He doesn't have an answer for that question, or for any of the others. He wonders how long it will be before he doesn't need to find them any more.
Rodney demands, loudly, to know why he has to go at all.
"It's not even my country, let alone my military."
"You should go because we've been invited," Jennifer says. She tells herself, over and over, that she's a patient person; that her husband is not worse than an injured marine who wants to be on a rescue mission. Most of the time, she believes it. Right now, the thought of being surrounded by people she cares for, seeing them be celebrated, is really appealing. "And because a lot of our friends are being presented with ribbons."
"It's not like they're getting medals," Rodney scoffs. "It's a bit like saying, let's go to a ceremony where people get given a piece of paper saying they went to grad school, but nothing about the actual degree they got."
"I'm sure it won't be like that," Jennifer says. She wants to say: I'm going, do what you want, but she tries to be patient with Rodney when he gets on her nerves. It's the deal she made with herself when she asked him to marry her; if she wants him to change, she has to change as well. "I want to see John and Sam and Evan up there in dress uniform."
"You want to check out Sam in her dress blues," Rodney coreects, grinning.
"Like you won't."
Teyla lies on their bed between Kanaan and Ronon and asks, "Will we go?"
Both she and Ronon have been invited, as civilian workers for the program, to be recognized, and many of their friends will be being recognized as well. She would like to be there for them, and there is a part of her that would like to go for herself.
"I think it would be best if I remained here, with Torren," Kanaan says.
Ronon reaches over her to grab his shoulder and shake until Kanaan looks at him. "We're family," he says. "Other people are bringing their partners."
"Other people's partners are the only partner they have," Kanaan points out. "I do not think we would be welcome like this on Earth."
Ronon ducks his head, his forehead pressed to the back of Teyla's neck. "You could just say the two of you are together," he offers.
"No," Teyla says immediately. "We will all go, as we are, or not at all." They did not struggle for months to find a way to be together that worked, only to start denying it now.
"Then we shall go together," Kanaan says. "You have earned that."
Vala and Laura plot ways to escape the ceremony, the country, the planet.
"My parents want to join a campaign to end all inter-galactic exploration," Laura says, when Vala finally asks why she doesn't want to go. Laura ducks her head, letting her hair fall over her face. It horrifies her mother that she's part of the SGC; she doesn't want to imagine what they'd say if they found out her girlfriend comes from another planet.
"People get scared," Vala says rationally. "They'll come round."
Laura shakes her head, then curls her legs under her and lays her head in Vala's lap, letting Vala stroke her hair. "I want them there," she says. "I don't want to go if they're not."
"Then we won't go," Vala says.
Laura knows they will anyway. If only because there are people on the planet with "Aliens Go Home" placards, and she wants to give Vala somewhere else where she's safe and wanted.
Teal'c receives two invitations: one as a a founder member of SG1 and one as a representative of the Jaffa Nation. He assumes that this is an error, until he responds to the former and receives a phone call asking if he will be attending. The person on the other end of the call seems not to realize, even after Teal'c explains several times, that he is in fact both of the people invited, and, although there have been clones of him, there are none presently living who will also be attending.
He finds this troubling, but also not atypical of Earth. At least he is unlikely to also be announced as dead, unlike Daniel Jackson, whose name he fears will be amongst both the dead and the non-attending.
In the end, almost everyone who is invited attends, most of them less than completely willingly. The IOA member presiding over the ceremony looks pleased as he invites General Landry to the dais to open the proceedings.
Landry begins by reading the names of every single member of the SGC that they've lost, since O'Neill and Jackson opened the gate nineteen years ago.
It takes him nearly half an hour, and when he finally looks up, after Dusty Mehra, Staff Sergeant, Atlantis, he sees row after row of bowed heads through tear-filled eyes.
The public get their heroes: sad and angry and broken and disillusioned, with passionate speeches about learning to live together with people who aren't like us, and still-sharp memories of fallen friends, and amazing stories of discovery and learning and wonder.
They get their heroes as people, not as heroes, and, to the IOA's well-covered dismay, it works far better, means far more, than any parade of shiny Captain Americas in space ever could.