She was just imagining it. Like always.
It felt like a trip from Atlantis to Earth took longer than it actually did. Maybe because the distance was greater. She’d closed her eyes upon stepping through the event horizon, her son pressed tight against her chest. Before she took the final step, she felt Evan’s gaze on her, knowing how he must feel, but refusing to turn around again. She didn’t want the last expression he ever saw on her face to be one of doubt and fear.
“Doctor Lorne.” Carter was standing at the bottom of the ramp, Daniel right by her side. He held up a hand and waved awkwardly at her.
She took another deep breath and walked down the ramp, Caleb still clutched tight against her chest. There’d been little time to gather all the things she might need, and she hated how much she’d had to leave behind. Evan’s most recent paintings especially. But they were too big to carry back now.
“Hey,” Alex said quietly. “Colonel Sheppard is coming right through. He was still talking to Mister Woolsey.”
Carter nodded and gave her a smile. “Are you staying on the base?”
“Here I have at least a chance to find out what’s going on.”
Daniel gave her another half-hearted smile and gestured for her to go ahead to the door on their right. “Care to take the lead?” he asked, his eyes drifting down to Caleb, who observed him with wide blue eyes. “Gosh, he’s grown.”
“Since you delivered him? Sure.” Alex adjusted the strap of her bag as they walked through the metal doorway. Behind her she heard Carter greet Sheppard.
“He’s a lot heavier, too.”
With a soft grunt, Daniel led her over to the elevator which would take them up to the living quarters. She wouldn’t be going home. It was no use. This planet wasn’t safe anymore, but at least this base was a little bit better equipped than the rest of the world.
“Aren’t you going to the Alpha Site?”
Alex shook her head as she stood beside him and the doors closed before them. She kissed the top of Caleb’s head and closed her eyes for a moment, pushing down the mind-numbing fear rumbling deep inside her. For her homeworld. For her colleagues, friends and family. For Anna and Josh who were stranded several billion lightyears away from home on the Apollo. Anna’s journey back home had been considered non-essential travel, which meant that she’d been aboard the ship when it encountered the Hive ship heading straight for Earth. And the Apollo had been hit so badly that it would take her several months to get back home. If there was ever a home to get back to.
“When is Atlantis leaving?” Daniel asked.
“They were about to take off when I went through.” Evan had retrieved a stash of Zero Point Modules with his team and after that she’d been ordered by Woolsey to take Caleb and go back to Earth. Torren and Kanaan were on New Athos, which meant that no children were now left in the city as it rushed to help Earth. “Still can’t believe this is happening.”
“At least people believe you nowadays,” he half-joked, clearly remembering the first time an alien ship had been on its way to destroy them all. Back then he’d known it would happen, but nobody had believed him. He and his team had to defy orders and try to stop Apophis’ fleet by themselves. Daniel sighed and looked over his shoulder at her. “Last I heard the Wraith ship has already arrived in the solar system,” he said, his voice low. The elevator came to a stop and its doors opened noiselessly. For a second Alex remembered the birth and feeling the panic amidst the pain and the fear.
“How long until they’re here?”
“A couple of hours, I suppose.” He paused for a moment and waited for her to step out of the elevator first. “Are you sure you don’t want to go to the Alpha Site?”
She did. And for the first time she was terrified of it. But she shook her head. She did want to keep their son safe. But what she didn’t want, was to spend the rest of her life among politicians, cowardly politicians at that. “We’ll see,” she said, looking down at Caleb, at his pouty lips and the blue eyes under that thin layer of blond hair. The shape of his eyes already reminded her of Evan, as did the shape of his mouth. To think that he might be all that was left of him, made her want to shut the rest of the world out. “Is there a chance I can follow what’s going on?”
“Sure. We can go to my office, if you want. We can stay up to date there, but I suppose the military doesn’t want us down there right now. We won’t be a whole lot of use there.” He seemed a bit down at the prospect, but he was no pilot who could try and intercept the Darts which would surely come. This time there was no weapon for him to find which could fight off this threat. The weapon, their last line of defence had already been found. Atlantis was on her way here, and they’d have to fight it out. And he’d be part of the last line of defence here on Earth. Underneath this mountain.
“Sure, show me what you’ve been working on.”
He nodded absentmindedly as they walked along the corridor. Nothing was out of place. Everything was as calm as it always was in this part of the base, except for the low hum of the air conditioning and computers.
Evan was holding Caleb as he was standing on the balcony, showing him the ocean and the flickering light on the waves below. It wasn’t the first time Alex wished she could draw like him to capture the beauty of this scene. The way he held Caleb. The way the wind ruffled his hair. Caleb’s laughter as he listened to the words which his father whispered into his ear and which he couldn’t understand.
Evan wasn’t in full gear yet, but mere seconds ago, he’d been called to duty again. “Are you gonna start packing?”
Alex nodded, a lump in her throat. “If this works out-“
“If this works out we’re gonna leave this planet.”
The words hung in the air for a moment, making her feel every second that passed by like a stab of pain. His lips twitched into a smile, then he closed his eyes and kissed the top of Caleb’s head. All of a sudden it didn’t really matter anymore that they didn’t have any more time to explore the secrets of the Pegasus galaxy. That the secrets of the steles and the Zero Point Modules, of the Nox and the other races they hadn’t encountered yet would be lost to them forever. What counted now was the survival of Earth. Everything else could and would come later. She refused to accept any other possibility.
He approached her and kissed her too. His lips were warm and even though they were so far away from the surface of the water, she could taste the salt on them. She’d miss that, too.
“I gotta go.”
She nodded, feeling lonely and desolate. “Go.”
A suicide mission.
Another one. They had a plan, albeit a bad one, but it was a plan nonetheless: Infiltrate the Hive through the Stargate which the Wraith had brought onboard, cause as much damage as possible, dial out to the Alpha Site.
And that plan was all he allowed himself to think about. Not about the fact that Sheppard had somehow managed to sneak onboard. Not that Ronon had almost died on them. Not that, should they lose, they’d fail to save Earth. Not that they were already in Earth’s orbit. Not that Teyla needed to get back home to her son. And least of all about his own family. Not about that they’d be lost, if he and his team failed.
His heart was hammering in his chest, as he fought off the attackers. Drones. All of them. Mindless killing machines. The barely visible scar on his chest started itching just seeing them. He dodged behind a pillar to reload, McKay of all people, covering him. Gritting his teeth, he slapped the magazine into his gun and exchanged a quick glance with Sheppard. He’d flown his 302 into the Dart Bay and it was rigged to explode. They were running out of time. Atlantis wasn’t coming. The last of their assailants was dead, and Sheppard was moving again, Ronon, Teyla, McKay and Evan right behind him.
The gun was hot in his hands. They needed to act. And soon. This new development had taken them all by surprise and, as usual they’d had to think on their feet and act as quickly as possible.
Nobody had prepared them for this. For the Wraith to be able to get here. To Earth. But there it was. And now it was clear that they were out of time. Sheppard was about to detonate and for a brief second, Evan allowed himself to think of his family. He’d resigned himself to the idea that he might never see them again the moment he’d volunteered to lead Sheppard’s team through the Gate, but he’d pushed down the thought of the implications. That Alex would be alone. That Caleb would grow up without his father. That the child they’d known about for a few weeks only, their unexpected miracle, would have to say that its father had died before it was even born.
Alex would wake up without him for the rest of her life. She’d be alone for a while and then she’d find someone else. Who knew, maybe she’d end up with Jonas after all. And that thought was enough to make him close his eyes for a moment. At least she wouldn’t be alone.
Sheppard’s finger was on the detonator.
Caleb would be brilliant like his mom. But he had his dad’s eyes. He’d grow up to be someone amazing. Someone Evan could be proud of. Whatever he chose to do with his life, Evan would never know about it.
He’d never hold that other kid. He’d never be able to tell it how much he’d never expected to be father to a third child. He’d never be able to tell it he loved it. That he wanted it. And it tore at his heart to know that he’d never get to kiss it… but at least they’d be safe. They all would be. They would be okay, and that was worth every sacrifice on his part.
Mitchell was among the pilots who had to try to fight off the invading Darts, and he was on standby now, waiting to launch with the remaining squadron. There were only about two dozen F-302’s left. With Teal’c being off-world and Carter being engaged in the control centre, she was alone with the two remaining members of SG-1 in Daniel’s office, equipped with a tap into the radio transmissions.
For once Vala wasn’t trying to diffuse the tension. She was sitting next to Alex, legs crossed, leaning on Daniel’s desk. She’d casually put her hand on his knee, but he didn’t seem to notice.
Evan was on that ship. Evan and Sheppard’s team.
Alex took a deep breath, holding Caleb closer to her chest. Carter had just urged Sheppard to detonate the bomb. To save Earth from an alien invasion. Not long now and he’d push the button, effectively ending Evan’s life along with his own.
Caleb was twisting the rattling ball in his hands, as though trying to shut out the tense atmosphere and how much his mother was shaking. Evan was about to die. The thought was abstract and terribly imminent at the same time. She’d known this might happen one day. From the moment she’d met him, she’d known. But to listen in on it. To wait for it to happen was worse than seeing it. Worse than watching him grow old and weak in a matter of seconds.
“John,” Carter said, her voice distorted through the radio and Alex felt the muscles in her back tense when Carter added the other word. Her tone was calm. Decisive. Just a statement. “Wait.”
Alex closed her eyes. Pressed her lips to Caleb’s head, breathing in his scent. He’d be okay. No matter what happened, their son would be okay. And so, with any luck, would be the other child she was carrying. They hadn’t told anyone yet. Only Keller, Oliver and Woolsey knew. They’d asked her to leave because of it. She stopped breathing, her eyes shut tight against the fleeting glances of her friends.
“We’re detecting another ship.”
Another pause, but Alex allowed herself to blink. To look down at her son, who was squirming to get away. To reach for Daniel’s pen, which lay abandoned in the centre of the table.
“It’s Atlantis, they’re engaging the Hive!” Carter’s voice again. Just a couple of words, but they were enough. She could almost see the magnificent city floating in orbit, its’ spires protected by the bubble-like shield which would protect it against the Hive’s massive fire power. The city, which had been their home for the past few years. The members of the expedition, who had come to save them. And to give their people on that ship time to escape.
“They can still reach the Gate,” Vala said quietly, almost making Alex flinch. She looked up at the other woman, but found that she couldn’t smile. She couldn’t know that. Nobody could say that any of them would survive.
But Alex could see that Vala meant it. That she truly believed what she was saying.
Taking a shaky breath, Alex looked over to Daniel as the reports came in. Of drones being launched from within the city. Of the Hive being hit. Of the Hive breaking apart and the city starting to crash towards Earth. And then the final report came. Of a giant fireball just out of orbit.
The Hive was destroyed.
And the radio signal of the team was lost.
The first thing Evan did was to pull her close and kiss her and damn anybody who dared to look. Damn them all. She was trembling all over, even now, a day after she must have received the message that he was okay.
He brushed away he hair, held her face and pressed his lips against hers, revelling in the fact that he was home and that they were all safe. That McKay had managed to get them out of there. That the Wraith were destroyed.
Caleb squealed happily behind her and he reluctantly let go of her. He’d made sure that his son was okay. His parents were here with Alex and his heart seemed to expand just seeing Caleb in his grandfather’s arms. His grandfather, whose eyes were trained on the ocean behind Evan. Glass separating them from the magnificent view over the Pacific Ocean. Nothing out of the ordinary could be seen from here, from the naval base near San Francisco. It was just a small port, but nothing big was needed as of now for the city floating out there. Atlantis wouldn’t dock here.
“I missed you” Alex breathed, and Evan at her. She looked tired. Like she hadn’t slept that night, and she probably hadn’t. Not with what was going on right now.
He nodded, kissed the tip of her nose, then strode over to hug his parents. To kiss his son. He was alright. He was alive. Miraculously, everyone on Atlantis had survived. Every single member of the expedition. Despite the fact that Beckett had landed the city after its rapid descent.
“Evan, you look pale,” his mother said, and he nodded.
“So do you,” he grinned as Alex approached him and wrapped an arm around him.
“Why are we picking you up here?” his mother asked and Evan shook his head, avoiding to catch his father’s eye. David Lorne already knew far too much, and he was probably guessing wildly again. In all likelihood he wasn’t at all wrong about what was going on.
Shaking his head, Evan took Caleb from his father and kissed his chubby cheek. “Wanna take a look?” he muttered into his ear and the tickling sensation made Caleb squeal with laughter. Laughter which Evan had thought he’d never hear again.
“Evan?!” his mother insisted, but David put a hand on her arm. She sighed and shook her head. “We’ll be waiting in the car. Ellen is waiting at home, so hurry up.”
Evan nodded absentmindedly and found his father still staring at him. A glance which told him that, like it or not, he’d have to tell his father at least some of the things that had brought him here. To this naval port, into which only Alex’s security clearance and a permit from the President himself had brought them.
Evan had only gotten off the boat a few minutes ago. In a day he and Alex would be returning to the city. Nobody knew yet, when or if they would return to the Pegasus galaxy.
Alex squeezed his side and together they walked towards the glass looking out over the ocean. Below them, they could see three boats getting ready to head out to sea again. They’d dock at Atlantis, take much-needed supplies there. They’d get back here with more personnel, striving for some time off-duty with their loved-ones.
“How are you?”
“Usually everybody asks if I’m okay, you know?” she grinned up at him and he laughed softly. Caleb wasn’t as light as he used to be, and Evan shifted him in his arms as he listened to his parents’ footsteps retreating.
“I didn’t know that,” he admitted.
“I am okay, though,” she answered, her blue eyes sparkling in the light of the setting sun.
He pulled her close against his side and watched, intrigued, as his son stretched out his hand to touch the cool glass. Just above the spot where Atlantis must be right now.
To be continued…