It had been decided almost immediately that the identity of the old man would remain a secret. There would be too many questions asked if the residents of the city were told the truth. Specifically, questions about the technology the man had used, both to leave and return; questions that the siblings felt could not, under any circumstances, be allowed. The people in the city were smart, very, and if questions were asked, answers could follow. It was too dangerous.
Jeannie and Douglas took the advice left on video by General O’Neill seriously. They had watched it together several times, as he laid out the dangers involved in releasing the tech, or making it general knowledge. They lacked his paranoia and his knowledge of the dark side of both human and alien nature, born of years of experience dealing with the greed and hate of others.
Jeannie had watched Jack’s handsome, craggy face, and warm brown eyes and believed. Douglas, being a pure scientist, much like his great-great-uncle, had itched to examine the discs and perhaps recreate them, but understood the dangers of doing so. He had initially resented his father for laying this burden on them. He quickly overcame his resentment realizing his father had carried the secret for as long as he’d been able.
Jeannie and Douglas still couldn’t understand how anyone actually believed that John and Rodney had done their research on Atlantis. No one, to their knowledge, had ever questioned where the two men had found the time to work out complicated equations and theory when they were under almost constant attack by the Wraith, and the city had needed near constant repair. The only people privy to the truth, as far as they knew; General Jack O’Neill, Doctor Daniel Jackson, Doctor Radek Zelenka, Jeannie Miller, and General Samantha Carter had hidden the truth and kept the secret.
The old man recovered in Jeannie’s infirmary and was given quarters. But, Atlantis and he had changed too much for him to be comfortable. A small low-tech house was built for him on the mainland, and there he lived out his final years. He had company, lots of it, especially the children from the village, but he was lonely, nevertheless. It was Jeannie who found him, five years after his arrival, cold and still in his bed. She held his hand and hoped he had been reunited with the lover he’d never stopped grieving.
Putney, Vermont - - September 21, 1792
The elderly man looked around the comfortable bedroom, with its fire burning brightly, the dark, hand carved furniture, with its paintings of a fantastical city in the middle of a deep, untouched ocean and vibrant ink drawings of plants, knowing he would never see it again. The rooms outside were packed with family and friends, voices hushed in deference to the man dying on the bed. The doctor had left a short time ago, somber and quiet as he’d explained that death would not be put off for many more hours.
Lorne had given David a half dose of the laudanum, wanting his pain to abate somewhat, but needing him to be aware enough to enjoy this last excursion. He was dreading the moment he would lose his lover, but was grateful he’d had thirty more years than he should have had.
After the doctor’s departure, Evan had dressed David as well as he could, and then wrapped his frail body in a warm blanket. He pocketed the small blue bottle and patted the pocket of his trousers, making sure the disc he’d dug up from the garden two weeks ago was still there. He removed it and put it on the bed within easy reach.
Evan positioned himself behind David, cradling him gently in his arms. He snatched up the disc, holding it tightly in the palm of his hand. It had been thirty years since he’d last used the device, but the feel of the Ancient tech was still the same.
Evan saw the room shimmer and fade and then he and David were in a puddle jumper. Feeling the welcome presence of Atlantis in his mind, he positioned David as comfortably as possible and readied the jumper for flight. Distantly he heard alarms going off as they tried to shut down the jumper and close the bay doors. He heard Atlantis override all the commands and he was suddenly cloaked and in the air.
“You took me to your city,” the man beside him said weakly.
Lorne turned soft eyes on his lover. “Yeah, I did. I couldn’t let you die without seeing it once.”
“I should have let you take me when I got sick,” Parrish confessed. “I was afraid to leave the life we built for ourselves, Evan. It was a good life, don’t you think?”
Moving closer to David, he rearranged him on his lap. “It was a great life, David. The best. The only thing I regret is every moment I didn’t get to spend with you.”
Lorne set the autopilot to slowly circle the city. A number of jumpers had taken off shortly after he did, presumably to search for him, but he wasn’t worried about them; they’d vanished from view almost immediately, rocketing off into the stratosphere.
For the next three hours Lorne held his lover, talking to him about the life they had shared in a small village in Vermont, and of the children they’d taken in and made a family with, and of friends, and of love. When David grew weaker and could no longer respond, Evan told him of his time on the city, and of the friends he’d put aside to be with his love.
The sun was setting when Evan realized David had died. He kissed the thin lips one last time and was assailed by memories. They came thick and fast; memories of David on Atlantis and memories of the lover he’d found in the past. He held his lover, letting the memories and tears come and directed the puddlejumper back to the jumper bay.
Lorne waited, knowing any threat would be met with deadly force. He waited, still holding David as the tears continued to fall. When the back end of the jumper opened, he was unsurprised to see guns drawn and pointing at him. The men holding the guns were dressed alike in snug black uniforms, and seemed confused when faced with Evan and David.
One of the men called for the doctor as he holstered his weapon, unwilling to frighten the crying old man. A tall, slender blonde entered the jumper slowly, her hands raised to show she was weaponless. Ordering the men to stand well back, she knelt by Lorne’s side, her blue eyes kind and worried. “Hello. I’m Doctor Jeannie McKay Miller. Can you tell me your name?”
“Jeannie?” the man asked, his hand shaking as he lifted it to stroke Jeannie’s face. “You - - you look so different. How long?”
She didn’t understand the question and tried again. “Sir? Can you tell me who you are?”
“Lorne. Colonel Evan Lorne,” he said softly.
Jeannie rocked back on her heels. All places have their myths and legends and in Atlantis, Evan Lorne was one of those legends. For children on Atlantis, learning the names of the men and women who had left Earth and awakened the city was a requirement in History class. Evan Lorne, with his chiseled good looks and subsequent disappearance had always been a figure of romance. Jeannie could remember quite clearly watching videos of the man.
So many of the names of those first adventurers were still in use today, descendants of the first wave of colonists; Emmagan, Dex, Zelenka, Beckett, Carter, Kusanagi, Markham, Stackhouse, Biro, Cadman, Bates, and Simpson to name a few. There were even several Sheppards on the city as John’s brother had given his younger daughter his blessings when she’d been recruited.
For Jeannie, it was as if a page of history had come to life. But, this man was old and somewhat frail. He was still clutching his precious burden, and Jeannie didn’t want to upset him. “How about we get you to the infirmary, Colonel, and I’ll explain everything to you.”
Lorne nodded his head in agreement. Jeannie signaled one of the men to come help her. When he moved to take David from Evan’s arms, he held on tighter, not yet willing to let go.
Jeannie shooed the soldier away as she knelt and whispered, “Can you tell me who this is?”
“David, David Parrish,” he responded, remembering suddenly that he could now openly state the truth of their relationship. “My husband,” he said, clutching the body of his lover.
Jeannie was unsurprised by the name. “I promise that he’ll be treated with respect, Colonel.”
Lorne allowed David to be taken from him and let Jeannie help him up. A wheelchair was waiting and she guided him into it for the trip to the infirmary. On the way, she radioed her brother and her father. She wheeled the elderly man slowly when she saw his reaction to being back on the city.
Lorne kept reaching out to touch the walls as he looked around in wonder. It was all so familiar to him even if the corridors were far more crowded than he remembered. There were two men waiting in the infirmary once they arrived.
Jeannie wheeled Lorne to a bed and dismissed her staff. She ordered her brother, Douglas to help her undress and get Lorne into the bed. She quickly set up an IV, as the man was dehydrated, before injecting a very mild sedative. He’d calmed down quite a lot and was no longer crying, but as she didn’t intend to have anyone lie to him in any way, she was concerned he might become upset again.
The siblings noted almost absently that the Colonel’s clothing came from a time in the past. His trousers had buttons rather than a zipper and his shirt appeared to be hand sewn. His undergarment was one piece and ended at his knees. They exchanged a look, agreeing silently to discuss this later.
She swiftly brought her father and brother up to speed on their unexpected guest. Jeannie showed them the device she’d found in Lorne’s pocket, holding it up so they could see it was nearly dark before giving it to her father. She would have preferred to keep him out of the loop, but he was the only person on Atlantis that knew both the secret of the tech Lorne had used and the man himself. Granted, he had been a child when the Colonel had vanished, but the event had left an indelible mark in his life.
Jeannie laid out the information she had in dry tones, not mentioning any of the places her agile mind had jumped to during her admittedly brief conversation with Evan. Although her father was still a young, vital man, Jeannie forced him to sit when she noticed him pale at her words.
Kevin waved away his fussing daughter impatiently and took several deep breaths in an obvious attempt to regain his equilibrium. His color was returning to normal when he dragged a chair next to the man in bed. He took a moment to carefully study him, noting that the man’s face was still handsome, if less chiseled, and the grey eyes that could look brown or blue were exactly the same as he remembered. The man’s hair was white, but still thick and longer than it used to be.
Kevin took Lorne’s hand in his own. “Evan?” he asked softly.
“Yes. Do I know you?” Lorne replied.
“You knew me when I was a child. I’m Kevin McKay Miller. My mother was Madison,” Kevin answered, choking on his mother’s name. Madison had vanished on the night she’d told him about the devices and Kevin had never forgiven her. He couldn’t imagine whom she’d gone to search out in the past.
Her relationship with Kevin’s father had been strained even before his birth. Kevin had always felt like an obligation to his mother; valued only for his intelligence. He’d resented it as a child and tried to understand it as an adult. He’d come to the conclusion that his mother had shouldered too much responsibility and had had too many losses throughout her life. It had closed her off as a person. She wasn’t cold, but she was distant.
Understanding filled Lorne’s eyes. “You look very much like your great-uncle,” he smiled.
“So I’ve been told,” Kevin laughed. “How long were you gone?”
“Thirty years,” Lorne said.
Kevin examined Evan with a critical eye. Lorne had vanished when he was in his late fifties. It was possible he was now in his late eighties, but Kevin thought he might be at least a decade younger. It appeared his mother’s research had been accurate after all.
After Madison had left, Kevin had found her notes. She’d documented five trips using one of the discs, leaving out mention of anything personal. She had noted that the device appeared to be building worlds, carved out of a particular time and place. Age, she had observed was not always consistent, at least in the past one was transported one to. Additionally, Madison had observed that you only got a one shot with the devices. Once a choice was made and the disc initialized, none of the others would work for the individual.
According to the documentation, Madison had spent varying amounts of time in the past and had arrived at a different point on each excursion, always coming back to Atlantis one minute after she had left. She speculated that despite being brought back a minute after leaving, there might be circumstances in which the device would bring someone back to a future or past time in Atlantis. She had no proof for this, admitting only to a gut feeling.
She’d also tried to take apart the device for study with no success. The technology behind the device had eluded her. Kevin hadn’t bothered studying the device in any meaningful way. If what his mother had told him was the truth, the beautiful discs had started a chain of events that had resulted in pain for his family members for a number of generations. He hated that he knew the secret of the devices and had turned over the box containing the devices along with the secret to his children when both had come of age.
He turned over Evan’s answer in his head wanting to ask the man dozens of questions. He didn’t need Jeannie to tell him not to upset Lorne. “It’s been fifty-five years since you left, Evan,” he said gently.
Lorne’s small laugh was bitter. “I had hoped to come back and say goodbye.”
“I’m afraid most of the people you might have wanted to see are no longer here. They’re either gone or they’ve returned to Earth,” Kevin explained.
Evan sighed. He’d always known his decision to leave was selfish. He remembered the grief that had surrounded Rodney’s disappearance and then O’Neill’s. It wasn’t easy to leave people you cared about with a mystery, to know they would wonder for the rest of their lives. And he’d done the very same thing twice. “I guess no man should expect more than one miracle,” Evan noted.
“Most don’t even get one,” Kevin remarked. “But there’s something we need to discuss right now,” he said, holding up the darkening device. “There might be one more trip left on this thing. Do you want to stay or go back?”
Lorne hadn’t really thought beyond David’s death and seeing a few old friends. He’d never considered that he could go back. And when David had lived, he hadn’t minded all of the sacrifices living in the past had entailed. He knew he didn’t want to live that life without his lover. The family he had built in the past would do just fine without him; he’d left them money and property and had taught them a self- sufficiency that would serve them well.
“I think, Kevin, I think I’d like to stay.”
The family and friends that were braced for David’s death soon had to deal with his disappearance along with Evan’s. The woods surrounding the house were searched, as were most of the larger ponds and the small lake a mile away.
No trace of the two men were ever found and life went on.
The mystery of what became of Evan Lorne and David Parrish still endures. Locals claim that their spirits haunt the land on which they lived. Every so often, almost from the time they vanished, someone will report hearing or seeing something strange.
Even after the Stargate program and Atlantis were declassified, the locals only thought it a happy coincidence that their local ghosts bore the names of two of the brave men who had lived and died on Atlantis. And every year, on September 21, flowers are left on two empty graves.