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Children of the Ancients

Chapter Text

 

 

2011

He couldn’t quite grasp what she way saying.

             He didn’t know what language she was speaking.

             There was fire. Everything was hot. Far too hot.

             The light overhead flickered and went out.

             She spoke into nothingness, but seemed to get answers as they hurried along the long corridor. Years later he’d still be able to see it in his dreams. The glass and the metal. He could almost smell the smoke and the ozone as the lights overhead burst and the water tanks broke open to release their contents. He was terrified as he held tight to his mother’s jacket hurrying along the corridors of their home.

             Within seconds he felt lost and he clung even tighter to her trembling hand. He didn’t realize it then, but he’d never felt that unsafe in her presence. Her usual calm and determination was gone. All that was left of her composure had evaporated within seconds of the first tremor.

             Caleb Lorne didn’t know what was going on.

             All he did know was that his mother was terrified. That they were running and that stopping to run might result in something much, much worse.

             He stumbled and his mother paused for just a second to pick him up, whispering apologies into his hair, her low voice making up for how cold her hands were. But she still wasn’t happy. She was still scared. But she’d protect him. They’d be alright. Of course they would.

             Closing his eyes, he leaned into her embrace and after a brief pause during which she did her best to catch her breath, before the next tremor shook the floor beneath them and she started walking again. More slowly this time, but he could feel her heart hammering against her chest. He’d never seen her like this and that alone made him want to shout at her. To tell her to stop walking. To explain what was going on. But she didn’t. Not a word.

             He closed his eyes, pressing his face against his mothers neck and wishing his father were here too. He was always there. Always there to protect him, to take care of him. But where was he now?

             The corridor stretched along endlessly and as they ran, the massive explosions made his ears ring. They hurt so badly that his eyes were burning with tears before he knew it. And then she stopped.

             An icy, salty wind struck his face, making his raw skin sting even more.

             “Sh,” she whispered, kissing his cheek. “Almost there.”

             Her voice was trembling as they stepped out on the platform. The view was unlike the one in their home had been. There was no city, no more buildings to be seen from here. Just the dark grey of the icy sea below them.

             Her arms tightened around him and he felt her shoulders relax as another familiar sound reached his ears. A ball of fire flamed up right before them, basking them both in searing heat. But she didn’t fall. Just held him tighter again. And then the ship appeared in front of them. Massive and silvery. It turned its back towards them, then it opened up. He couldn’t see anyone inside, but his mother moved without hesitation, holding him tight as she jumped and they were safely inside.

             “How bad-“ she began, but was cut off by another voice. A voice which made him feel better despite the meaning of his words.

             “Bad!”

His mother moved forward, holding him steady and through the window ahead, Caleb saw the grey ocean and big balls of light rushing towards them. “Zelenka set the self-destruct. We don’t have much time.” As they moved closer and his mother sat down next to his father, Caleb saw Grace sitting in his lap. Fast asleep, her cheek against his chest as his arm cradled her. She slept all the time.

“How-“

“Daedalus is waiting for us. Cloaking.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 


2033

He didn’t much like the air inside the library. Of course he knew the air in here was perfect to keep the books in a good condition, but the smell of this place was making his head ache. It smelled like it must have been when Daniel had still been a student here. And that must have been? What? Fifty years ago?

             Caleb huffed and slammed the book shut. His eyes were starting to burn. How long had he been in here? Four hours? Six? He’d left the old-fashioned watch his uncle had given him at home, and the holo screen in front of him had frozen. With a sigh, he folded the slim keyboard and waved his hand over the flat sensor array in front of him. No use trying to find any more books. He had to remind himself that he didn’t have to adhere to deadlines as much anymore. That he was done. That he’d gotten his PHD four weeks ago and that all that was left for him to do now was to do research. Finally, all he needed to focus on was work and all he had to fear was the scorn of his colleagues. The fate of Daniel Jackson, who had been a close family friend all his life, had haunted him for all his professional career. He never wanted to reach a point where his ideas were laughed at. But when would he cross that line? And how?

             Daniel’s theories had never been proven and he’d lost every professional credibility he’d ever had because of it. But still he’d never seemed unhappy with his life. Working for the Air Force as a scientific consultant had been fulfilling enough for him, as it had been for Caleb’s mother, but Caleb didn’t even want to think about what it might mean to give up real, solid work for an full-time desk job. He tried to take every opportunity to work in the field. Sitting in a library like this wasn’t his favourite past time. Luckily that wasn’t necessary all that often anymore. Over the past twenty years, especially after that insane flu pandemic about ten years ago, when every public building, every school, every place where people could meet, had been closed off, people had stopped relying on paper less and less. His mother regretted it to this day, he knew. She still preferred paper over digital media, that would never change, but she’d adapted. Of course, going to a library and looking up certain facts every now and again, was still necessary. Not every library had all the books available to mankind digitally. But it was just a question of time, before these places would be nothing but archives.

             Caleb touched the book cover, wondering why his mother was still so fond of the roughness of the binding, of how dust seemed to cling to the skin, even when you knew there was no dust on the cover. It was Daniel’s dissertation. Since Daniel Jackson had abandoned his life in academia and had resorted to working for the Air Force and his entire research had fallen into disrepute, nobody had bothered digitizing his work. But it wasn’t all bad. Really, it wasn’t! During the first couple of years after handing in his thesis, Daniel had done some incredible work translating and interpreting hieroglyphs. His work near Lake Nasser, the digs he’d led there, should have brought him on the fast track to leading his own department. But things hadn’t panned out for him. Not that Caleb could blame the archaeological community for laughing at him in the 90’s. He himself might have done the same. But Daniel was a close family friend, heck, every year on his birthday, his dad would tell the story of Daniel delivering him in an elevator. Apparently, the archaeologist and linguist also had a knack for delivering babies, something which Daniel’s wife Vala still teased him about.

             Caleb leaned back in the uncomfortable chair and looked up. He was very nearly the only one left on this floor. Not a big surprise there. The semester was as good as over and most students used the library for work these days, not for research. Most people had already gone home. He rubbed his eyes and stretched, stifling a yawn with the inside of his elbow. The sun hadn’t set yet, but it was about to. The red light hit the large windows and almost shone directly at him through a particularly narrow line of bookshelves. He really should go home. Tomorrow he’d be leaving to his parents’ house in Colorado Springs. He wasn’t looking forward to it too much.

He hadn’t been home since Christmas. Since he’d left home for university, his mother  and father had never told him they would have preferred him to stay in the area, but the way they always subtly fed him more than they ever had when he was still living with them, told him as much. They missed him. And it wasn’t as though he didn’t miss them, but God, did he wish they weren’t so clingy. How Grace, his sister, managed it, he couldn’t say. She hadn’t moved away exactly, though, had she?

             He blinked when a shadow entered the row of bookshelves, finding it hard to adjust to the quick change of lighting conditions. The narrow frame of a tall woman was walking towards him. She was wearing a white, knee-length dress with short sleeves. He only saw her face as she was standing right in front of him. A warm smile, her dark hair tied back in a pony tail and her eyes trained directly on him.

             “Hey,” she said and Caleb was taken aback by how loudly she was talking to him. Students or no, this was still a library! And boy, did he sound like his mother, even in his own head!

             “Hey,” he answered, his voice hoarse from not speaking in hours. He reached for his old leather bag and started packing things. The gaze from those almond-shaped blue eyes was making him slightly nervous. And that, he realised, didn’t happen too often.

             “Can you help me? I’m new, and I can’t seem to find the archaeology section.”

             “Well, you found it,” he said, reaching instinctively for the book. He needed something more to hold on to than just his bag. Another realization that hit him like a hammer over the head. Her slightly deep voice, the way she was smiling at him… what the devil was wrong with him? “Are you looking for anything in particular?” he asked when he’d finally managed to slide the holo projector into its protective sleeve.

             “Mesopotamia.”

             He looked at her with a frown. He’d never seen her before. She must be close to his age, but she seemed lost. “Are you new here?” Not that he could claim he knew everybody on campus, but the archaeology department wasn’t all that big, and neither was the number of students attending classes. He got up from his chair, holding the book tight to his chest.

             “In a way? I’m working for the Chicago Herald. Just doing a bit of research.”

             “Huh.” Caleb found he didn’t have much else to say. Since when had journalists started doing proper research again? Most of them didn’t bother and just looked up facts on the internet. “Should be down that aisle,” he said pointing two rows to the right. There was a dark stain on the carpet there. He remembered it all too well. On his first week here, he’d spilled the coffee he hadn’t been supposed to bring right in that very spot when he’d seen Anna Schäfer’s name there. She was a friend of her mother’s and had also worked for the Air Force for a while, before returning to her field. Unlike his mother.

             “Thanks,” the woman said, smiling brightly at him. “Can I, maybe, buy you a coffee some time?”

             “I don’t drink coffee,” he blurted out and feeling his ears grow hot.

             “Oh…” Her face fell and Caleb felt a lump in his throat. “I-“

             “I like tea!” Caleb added quickly. He could have kicked himself for that remark alone. Damn it, why was he always trying to be polite? But then again, why shouldn’t he? She was obviously interested in his field of study and, apparently interested in him, so why shouldn’t he give it a shot? It wasn’t as though there was a whole lot going on in the dating department anyway.

             She bit her lip. “I’ve got to work now, but can we meet up tomorrow maybe?”

             “How about next Friday? I’m going home for a couple of days tomorrow.”

             “Sure!” she said brightly, reached for his hand and started scribbling something with a thick felt pen. Caleb did his best not to flinch away at the cool touch of her skin. “Call me when you’re back, okay?”

“I’m Caleb by the way. Caleb Lorne.” Like always, he forgot to mention his title. She didn’t need to know. Not yet. He didn’t want to seem like a show-off.

She smiled at him and turned away to head for the shelves.

             Caleb stared after her, completely non-plussed by what had happened just now. He kept staring even after she’d vanished into the aisle and only when he felt the soft buzzing behind his ear, did he realize it was time to go. Shaking his head, he pressed the thin button behind his right ear love and listened to the message his sister had sent him. A familiar voice that brought him back to the present.

             Shaking his head, he picked up the book again. He’d take it home and maybe even to Colorado Springs. Maybe reading an actual book would distract him somewhat. Maybe he’d find something interesting to talk about, since he’d be meeting at least three other archaeologists, always hoping that Josh Murdoch wouldn’t show up to steal the show.

             He stretched again and started heading towards the staircase and looked down at his hand. At the note the woman had written there. A short number and a name. He’d add the number to his list of contacts later, he thought. Just in case he actually felt like calling her when he got back. Somehow, now that she wasn’t in sight anymore, he doubted he wanted to. But a slip of paper would have been easier to throw away. Wiping away this number would take forever. Seriously, who used pens anymore?

             Well, okay. Apart from his parents and their friends.

             Apparently Elinore Woodstock did.

 

 

 

Chapter Text


2033

There had been a memorial at the SGC. In her short time there, she’d already attended three of those, not including the most recent one.

This one stood apart.

            She’d known General Mitchell all her life. He’d recruited her personally for the Stargate Program, when her father wouldn’t let her near that top-secret program offered to young cadets at the Academy. Hell, he’d done all he could to keep her away from the Air Force, but ultimately he’d resigned himself to the idea that she had to make her own way. Her own choices. And Cam had known what she wanted to do. What she wanted to be. What she could bring to the SGC. She was at the top of her class, she’d become a pilot, an engineer, and now she was an explorer on top of it all. And she knew she owed it to him. To General Cameron Mitchell, who had hand-picked her for this program. Who had put all his faith in her.

            Who was now dead.

            She had her eyes trained on the black coffin as it was lowered into the ground. A military funeral was always different from a civilian one, and despite her love for the Air Force, she had to admit, she would have rather stood by her family right now, instead of apart. Her mother and brother were standing several rows behind them, her father a few feet to her left and in front of her, several higher-ranking officers between them. She was with her team, yes, but that had felt right at the SGC.

            Not in this context. Even if this was a military cemetery.

The lump in her throat wouldn’t go away. It had all happened so suddenly. One moment Cameron was there, heading the mission briefing, and then he’d gone home, gone to bed, and never woken up again. He’d been sixty-three. Four months older than her own father, who would be the same age the next day. Sixty-three. Far too young to die. And O’Neill was expressing a similar sentiment in his speech right now. A speech she barely listened to.

Somewhere to the right, almost out of sight to O’Neill, but not to her, stood John Sheppard, another one of that generation. Another unsung hero of this nation. Most people here knew who Cameron Mitchell had been. Not just a general. Not just a pilot, or an officer in the Air Force. Not just a good man.

Cameron Mitchell had been an exceptional leader. An inspiration. A hero who had fought the Ori and the Goa’uld, who had battled the Replicators and the Furlings. A man who was not done with this. Not done with this world. Not done with life. And yet, here they were. Standing at attention as Jack O’Neill took a step to the side and saluted as the coffin was lowered down into the ground, the searing hot sun blazing down on all of them. A full stop in Cameron Mitchell’s life, when there should have been a comma.

 When the funeral was over, Grace still stood rooted to the spot, her eyes drifting over to Mitchell’s former team as they stood a few meters to the side. Daniel, who was standing very close to his wife. Vala was talking in a low voice, her eyes red. Grace had barely ever seen her like this. Vala had always been the cheeriest person Grace had ever known, but to see her wiping the tears from her eyes now was harder to watch than Sam leaning heavily on O’Neill who was talking quietly to Teal’c. The Jaffa was the oldest of the group, though still looked the youngest.

She caught movement to her right and her head whirled around. Sheppard was looking at her and when their eyes met, he threw Grace a narrow smile, then turned away. She was standing by herself now, the members of her team having dispersed. When had that happened? She stood rooted to the spot, watching Sheppard retreat towards a woman with short blond hair and a tall, plump looking man who were standing by a black car. Sheppard was wearing a black suit and tie. She couldn’t even imagine him in a military uniform, though she had seen pictures in old reports. Not the standard issue uniform, but the old uniforms worn by the members of the Atlantis expedition back in the day. Sheppard in Air Force blue? That was something she couldn’t even begin to imagine.

“You’re not gonna join us?”

Grace flinched. She hadn’t heard him approach. She let out a breath and turned to look at her father. “Sorry, I was just… lost in thought?”

He nodded and carefully placed an arm around her shoulders. “Come on,” he said, “let’s head home.”

She nodded gravely and wrapped her arm around his middle. His body was excruciatingly warm. Had he even talked to Sheppard? Probably. Sheppard and her father had been in the Pegasus Galaxy together and they were still in contact occasionally. Sheppard had even come by their house when she and Caleb had still been kids. To find out the friendly, easy-going friend of the family had once been part of the military had been hard to believe at first.

Her father’s grip on her shoulders was tight, as he led her towards her mother and Caleb, who were talking quietly. What they were saying, Grace couldn’t fathom, but she got the sense that it probably wasn’t about Mitchell, not by the way Alex Lorne was gesticulating wildly. This was probably about archaeology, or a research paper, or an article they’d both read. They didn’t talk about much else these days. Not long now and they’d call in Daniel for advice. Advice which Caleb would dismiss instantly. Of course he would. With a sinking feeling, Grace let go of her father and stepped towards Caleb to embrace him. She hadn’t seen him in months, not since she first signed up permanently with the Stargate Program. What she’d found out since then had made her feel queasy at first. Now, looking at Caleb, it made her nervous and she felt a twinge of guilt as his arms tightened around her.

“I’ll never get used to that uniform,” he grinned at her, his blond hair reflecting the light and highlighting the odd reddish tone in there. Something he must have inherited from their grandfather on their father’s side. Apart from the colour of his hair, he resembled their father most of all. At least on the outside.

Grace shook her head and straightened her hat, catching her mother’s gaze, a worried expression fluttering over her face and Grace felt yet another pang of guilt. She hadn’t talked to her mother since before her last mission.

“Shall we get home?” her mother asked, the warm tone in her voice making Grace feel even worse. She exchanged another glance with her brother and nodded. Lingering on cemeteries wasn’t exactly the best activity for a family reunion. She looked over her shoulder at Cameron’s former team. O’Neill had long since retired, but Daniel was still working with her mother and father at the Academy, helping to train and prepare new recruits for the SGC, while Carter and Teal’c were barely on Earth anymore. Of course, Grace had only known that for a couple of months, and one of her first missions had been to accompany Sam on a trip on the US General Hammond to a planet that had once been known as Langara.

            Sam reached out to Daniel and hugged him once, saying a few words, before starting to walk away. Cameron was the first of their team to die, Grace realized. The first of the team to pass on to a world where nobody could follow. It must be devastating, and Grace dreaded the moment it happened to her.

            “Coming?” Caleb asked and Grace nodded once. Their parents had already started walking, hand in hand, her father’s thumb gently caressing her mother’s hand. Those two had seen team mates die, she knew. How had they managed? They hadn’t talked about it yet, but Grace knew the death of Cameron Mitchell must have hit them both pretty hard. Ever since they’d all returned to Earth, Mitchell had become another regular guest at their house. They’d been colleagues first, and at some point they’d become friends.

 

Caleb was sitting in the passenger seat. Their parents had picked him up at the airport and taken him home only briefly so he could change before the funeral. Now he was holding tight to his seat as his sister rushed down the street, right behind their parents. Not long now and she’d start sighing in that annoyed fashion of hers.

            “You know, Dad will be mad if you overtake them,” he said quietly and Grace immediately slowed down.

            Caleb closed his eyes for a moment. He’d never understand why all his family was so incredibly fond of driving fast.

            She hit the breaks hard at a stop sign and the seat belt cut into his chest.

            Really, he’d never understand it.

            He let out a breath and shook his head.

            “Why are you so nervous?”

            “Why are you so angry?”

            “Funerals make me angry,” she said quietly. And he got it. He really did. Funerals weren’t fun. Their parents almost always were eerily quiet afterwards, and ever since Caleb started noticing that other couples were at least able to chat normally when they were over, he’d become more and more uncomfortable. He knew why that was. He knew about that other child they’d lost early on in their marriage, but the way they behaved still struck a chord with him. And apparently Grace felt almost the same. At least he’d tried to engage his mother in conversation. And it had worked. At least for a while. He knew she wanted to hear more about that upcoming dig in Italy.

            “No reason to get us killed, too.”

            Grace grunted unhappily.

            “When did you switch to a combustion engine anyway?” They were completely out of fashion by now, especially since electric cars could go almost as far as the old ones had twenty years ago. Really, there was no reason to ruin the environment any more than humanity already had, and Grace surely picked up on the accusatory tone in his voice when she turned the corner into their street. Their parents’ car, an odd blue sensible thing, was just parking in the driveway.

            “I just like it, okay?”

            “Didn’t say anything,” he muttered under his breath when she parked her car. “You’re the engineer. You know what you’re doing, I suppose.”

            “Yes, I do,” she said testily.

            “Really, what’s got you worked up like this?”

            “I liked Cam, okay? And he was my CO, so I get to be angry he just died, okay?”

            Caleb frowned at her and kept himself from pointing out that Cameron Mitchell had died five days ago. That, yes, he’d been a friend of the family and maybe even Grace’s commanding officer, but that didn’t justify her snapping at him like this. But he also knew there was nothing he could say or do that would make her apologize to him right now. So, instead of saying anything, he just opened his door, ripped off his tie and stepped outside.

            The dog was already barking madly at the door, like he always did when somebody started taking the steps up towards the porch. Winnie, a completely ridiculous name for a thin, greyish, scrawny dog, ran outside the moment Evan Lorne opened the door and rushed towards Caleb, his tongue hanging out and his clever, deep brown eyes trained directly at him. Obediently, Caleb knelt down to pet him. He’d been the one to pick him out seven years ago, although it’d been clear even then that he wouldn’t be staying in Colorado Springs. But those first few weeks he’d spent with the puppy had clearly left an impression. The hair felt scratchy under his fingertips, just like he remembered, but the way the dog pressed against him, made him grin despite himself. At least the dog was a refuge he could count on in this house.

            It wasn’t as though he didn’t care that Cam was dead, he thought, as Grace walked past him, her heels clicking on the tarmac as she strode up to the house to follow their parents inside. He did. He just had a feeling there was more to this death. More to the sadness and grief in his parents’ eyes and more to Grace’s anger. Not that that was entirely unusual either.

            He scratched Winnie behind the ear, let the mutt lick his face and started towards the front door. As always, his gaze immediately landed on the family photo which his grandmother had taken years and years ago, and it made him smile and almost forget the resentment he sometimes felt towards his parents nowadays. He didn’t even know why that was. They hadn’t changed their attitudes towards hi,, but there were moments when he felt like he wasn’t part of something and the fact that he didn’t know what it was that he might be missing out on, nearly always drove him to go back to Chicago as quickly as possible. His father was already in the kitchen, making coffee while his mother was talking quietly to Grace. Again, a moment of familiarity he wasn’t exactly part of. But that was his own fault this time, wasn’t it?

            Winnie stormed past him to sit on the couch in the living room to his right, as Caleb started towards the familiar paintings of his father and of old family pictures. There was that ancient one of course, probably the oldest photo in here: the one with his young parents and that sister he’d never even met. The three of them looked happy in this one. Happy and tired. And then there was that picture of him, on his first day in this world. His father had his arm around his mother, who was lying in a hospital bed, Caleb in his arms, against a backdrop of grey concrete. Boy, was Caleb glad the military hospital in Colorado Springs had since been renovated.

            And then the one with his parents, himself and Grace in a meadow somewhere, probably just outside of town. Caleb couldn’t remember that moment, but he’d been too small, hadn’t he?

            He always did this upon coming back home after a while. Look at the pictures and photos lining the walls. Greeting the house he and his sister had grown up in before sitting down to talk with his parents.

            “Caleb?” his father called out to him, “do you want tea?”

            “Yes, please!” Caleb called, back just barely keeping himself from telling his father that the tea he made was rubbish. His father, a great cook under any circumstances, just never got tea right. Neither, incidentally, did his English-born mother.

            He took a step back and, as he took a deep breath, allowed himself another moment of peace as he heard the far away and comforting whispers of his mother, and surveyed the paintings his father had made. Often they were of water. Water in different moods. Sometimes azure, sometime peaked with yellow and white, sometimes almost orange, occasionally steel grey. There were pictures of fantastical skyscrapers, glass and steel reaching out to the heavens. There were paintings and drawings of ruins, most famously that ancient sketch of the ruins of Trier, where his parents had met almost forty years ago, when they’d both been his own age. In fact, there was barely any wall left to see anymore. The entire wall opposite the front door and the one leading up towards the bedrooms was lined with photos, drawings and paintings.

            “Adam sent some shortbread, do you want some?”

            “Yep!” Caleb called, turning towards the kitchen. On his next trip to Europe, he should really take some time to visit his uncle.

 

 

Chapter Text

2033

It was way past midnight and he still couldn’t sleep. He wasn’t even thinking about anything in particular, but he was wide awake, staring up at the ceiling, a sense of unease keeping his mind from shutting down.

             Maybe it was because Caleb was so reserved. Maybe it was because it upset him to see his daughter grieving. Maybe it was because he too had grown attached to Mitchell over the years. They’d worked together closely, ever since Mitchell took over from Landry to lead the SGC, after all.

             Evan turned on his side to look out the window. There were times, even now, even almost twenty years later, when he missed the sound of the ocean crashing against the city. The wind whistling between the towers of Atlantis, lulling him to sleep. Their little apartment there had been home. A refuge in a city which was constantly bursting with life and action. And yet that place had been home, albeit a second one. And, yes, in a way he’d been relieved to return home, never mind the circumstances under which they’d come back, but he doubted a lot of people in the world had that luxury of falling asleep to the rushing of waves every night. Looking at the old paintings helped sometimes to recall that sound, but he didn’t want to get up now, fearing to wake the kids.

             The kids… he barely held back a snort. They weren’t children anymore. Not really. But he very clearly remembered what his mother had said so often back in the day. That children would always remain children to their parents. And, yes, he knew that it wasn’t just his mother who said that. Everybody did. Everybody agreed on it. Still, he also remembered how happy he’d been to escape his parents when he first joined the Air Force. How happy he’d been to be on his own.

             Caleb had gotten that, and Evan and Alex had watched him go, doing everything in their power not to let him see how much it pained them to see him leave. And they had been. How could they not be, after everything they’d been through?

             Grace hadn’t moved away exactly. She’d wanted to join the Air Force and follow in Evan’s footsteps, knowing full well they’d meet on campus every now and again. Knowing they’d have to follow the chain of command. Knowing she might have to take Alex’s or Daniel’s class at some point when she joined the special program. Well, things were going to get a hell of a lot more complicated, weren’t they?

             Turning on his back again, he wiped his face. When were things ever not complicated? There was always something to make life a little harder than it needed to be, wasn’t there? Though, to be fair, there had been more complications in his and Alex’s life than there needed to have been.

             As though she’d heard his thoughts, Alex shifted in her sleep, turning towards him. She looked so incredibly young and vulnerable when she was asleep. She always had and watching her, even after thirty years of marriage, still made his chest grow tight. Knowing how much they’d been through together, recalling every danger, every rescue, every instance where they’d had to rely on each other, only made him want to turn around and watch her sleep, even if he couldn’t sleep himself.

             Her lips were slightly parted as she was breathing evenly, her eyes tightly shut. She was just perfect. The thought crossed his mind every day. Even when she infuriated him. Even when they fought. It didn’t happen often, but he got the feeling he needed to talk to her about his new assignment before he talked to Grace. She wouldn’t like it, he was sure of that.

             She stirred, her eyelids fluttering, and he cursed himself for waking her by staring at her like this.  She was perceptive. Even in sleep. She smiled at him, crow’s feet forming in the corners of her eyes. He loved every single line on her face. Every bit of grey showing up in her hair when she didn’t dye it on time. This was just right. Better than he ever thought it could be. They’d grown not just together, they’d grown old together, raised a family. And it wasn’t over yet. Not even close.

             “Hey,” she whispered tonelessly, her eyes opening. “Happy anniversary.”

             “Is it?” he chuckled, turning on his side.

             “One of the few we have,” she said, coming closer to him and letting her hand slide up his side. A familiar touch, but in thirty years he hadn’t grown tired of it.

             “I suppose,” he muttered. “I always rather celebrate this than my birthday, you know?”

             She nodded. “You’ve said it every year.”

             Chucking, he pulled her closer and kissed her forehead. “Just don’t tell the kids this was the day we hooked up. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you.”

             “Harm’s done. Nothing for it,” she grinned up at him, the tips of her fingers now sliding over his chest, her eyes trailing to his lips, making them itch for her kiss.

             He shook his head and brushed the hair out of her eyes. It was still thick and sleek at the same time, just reaching to her chin. It was just enough for him to hold on to. He knew what she was up to.  The way her nostrils flared, the way she was smiling at him… he didn’t even have any objections, though he felt obligated to utter one: “The kids’ll hear us.”

             “Oh, come on!” she laughed, leaning in, finally sealing his lips with a kiss.

             “Sh,” he barely got out as she reached behind him to pull the covers over their heads, as though that might muffle all the sounds.

“They haven’t heard us in twenty-five years.”

             “Or so we hope.”

             “Evan…”

             “Alexandra…”

             She shuddered when he said her name, held his face and pulled him closer. He could only just make out the outlines of her face, but he didn’t need to see them to read her expression. He knew she wasn’t smiling. Neither was he. A sudden heaviness came over them as they lay there, her hands on his cheeks, his arms around her middle. The children were here. Not because it was his birthday, but because they’d come here for a funeral. The funeral of a friend. Of the man who had once tried (and failed) to repair their roof. Of the man who had taken Grace to her first baseball game, when Evan had been trapped off-world and Alex had to take care of a sick Caleb.            

             “Alex, I think-“ he began, but he broke off when her index landed on his mouth.

             “Can we not think for five minutes?”

             “Five minutes?” he grumbled against her skin. She wasn’t all wrong. “Gee, you have confidence in me.”

             “Honey, you’re the only man I’ve slept with for thirty-eight years,” she said, using the term of endearment as a joke. They had abandoned those in the early stages of their relationship. It made him laugh now. “I have every confidence in you.”

             “Poor thing,” he grinned, leaning in to kiss her.

             To undress her.

             To feel her.

             To feel how her body moved with his, echoed his movements in a familiar pattern, which was always the same and yet different every time. He clung to her, feeling his heart race and closing his eyes as her warm breath hit his skin as they were trapped under the covers. Shifting. Stifling their sounds as best they could. Losing themselves in each other for just a moment. In that familiar pattern, which had never grown stale. How lucky they were.

             Her hand was buried in his hair when they lay still, her chest heaving heavily against his. She was holding on to him, catching her breath. Still that wonderful woman. Still that same person he’d fallen for, and yet so much more than just that beautiful tour guide. More than just that clever archaeologist. That fighter who had saved his life time and time again. More than the mother of his children. 

He kissed her cheek, breathing in her familiar scent. His heart was still pounding. Should he be worried about that? Swallowing hard he pushed himself up on his elbows. When had the blanket shifted? He could see her face more clearly now, as she lay beneath him, her legs still holding him trapped on top of her.

             “Are you okay?” she asked hoarsely and he nodded absentmindedly. She let go of him and he sat up beside her.

             “Yeah, I’m good,” he said.

Instead of asking another question, she put her arms around him and pulled him back, cradling him in her lap, stroking his cheek. He was starting to get sleepy. The exhaustion and her touch were enough. Gone were the days when he could stay awake for hours afterwards, talking to her. Gone were the days when he could go without proper sleep for days. And yet… “Alex, I’m worried about Grace.” Mitchell’s death had thrown things into perspective. No, he hadn’t died on a mission. He hadn’t died fighting the enemy, but it had been such a long time, since Evan had had to bury someone he knew. When Grace joined the Air Force, he’d known that one day they might have to bury her too, but it had never felt so real than it did right now. Did that make him a terrible person? To worry about his daughter, when he should be grieving a friend?

“Me too,” she said with a sigh. “But so were your parents. My mom was just lucky enough never to find out about what I really did for the Air Force.”

The prospect of maybe loosing another child to this, made something in his chest contract painfully and he reached for her hand.

 

“This new planet is a nightmare,” Alex complained, pulling her hair back in a ponytail. “Seriously, who the fuck ever heard of an ocean with mosquitoes!”

             “Yeah,” Evan breathed forcing the door to their balcony shut and watching Alex lying on her side. Just a brief moment of letting in fresh air instead of relying on the AC all the time. The ZPM had run out of juice on their way back to the Pegasus Galaxy and New Lantea, forcing them to land on the nearest habitable planet. It’d been Evan’s shift in the chair, and so it had fallen to him land the city. Not an easy task, but he’d managed. The relief all the members of the expedition had felt upon landing though, had been obliterated quickly enough when they realized they couldn’t open the windows without a swarm of blood-sucking insects swarming in on them within seconds. Of course, Parrish was thrilled by the news. They’d never encountered an ocean with floating islands of plants on them, which provided the perfect habitat for these buggers and the half-rodents who lived on these islands. It was pretty disgusting, he had to admit. The Daedalus would bring mouse traps. “Sheppard says they may have found a lead to another Zero Point Module.” They still had enough juice to dial Earth once a week, but that was about it. Taking off and going to a nicer world, just wasn’t in the cards right now.

             “Ha!” Alex muttered, stroking her rounded belly and pulling Caleb towards her before he could even come close to falling off the bed.

             “You already wish you hadn’t signed up for it this time, don’t you?” He cocked his head and swatted at the mosquito buzzing by his ear. They weren’t really mosquitoes according to Parrish, but who gave a damn, really? These beasts were hell of annoying.

             “No,” Alex said, pulling a squirming Caleb closer and kissing the top of his head, “I just wish we could have landed on another planet. Anywhere else.”

             Grinning, he sat down on the bed next to her. “We’ll get off this rock soon enough.”

             “Hopefully before we find out these beasts were engineered by the Ancients to fight yet another vengeful enemy.”

             “Come on, the Ancients didn’t screw up everything.”

             “Maybe,” Alex agreed with a sigh and sat up, Caleb on her lab. She reached for Evan’s hand and kissed his knuckles. “Shall we go find out if we’re having another boy?”

             His heart leapt at those words and he nodded. Another kid. Who’d have thought they’d be here at this point again? After all time it had taken them to conceive Caleb, he would never have thought Alex would get pregnant again… but maybe there was such a thing as fate after all. Maybe.

 

 

Chapter Text

2033

Grace wouldn’t be there until at least nine o’clock. She’d have to go back on active duty that afternoon. Would she be going off-world? Would she just work in her lab? Probably not. That would have meant that she’d go in early, work until late afternoon (or until the next day) and go home.

             It gave her a strange feeling thinking that she didn’t know these things anymore. Yes, she was still involved with the SGC, she’d never stopped, but she wasn’t up to date with day-to-day activities. Up until recently she’d managed to push back these thoughts. Ever since Evan wasn’t going off-world, except on training missions, she could easily forget the dread and the excitement she’d felt about going through the Gate. About five years ago, she’d gone through the Gate for the last time to consult a team on a temple they’d found. Caleb had already been at university then, Grace had just started at the Academy, and so Evan had come along too. For the first time in years and years they had been on a mission together.

             Five years…. but she’d been out of the loop- the real loop- for much longer than that. Back in the day she wouldn’t have had to ask Grace where she was going next or what she was working on. She would have known, because these things, the general idea of things, were openly discussed at the SGC. But now… all she saw these days were expectant new members of the SGC, eager to learn about the cultures they’d encountered, about the history of the Stargate Program, the history of the galaxy as far as they knew about it by now. All she saw were classrooms, the books she, Daniel and Balinsky had written to help the new recruits along. She was more thoroughly involved in Academia than she would’ve thought possible when she first joined the SGC all those years ago.

             Alex cradled the mug in her hands and raised it to her nose. The bitter-sweet scent of coffee made her stomach grumble. She was sitting on the porch to their backyard, where the sun was just grazing the hedge on the opposite side. It was already warm, and the day was promising to get hotter than yesterday had been.

             Behind her she heard a familiar yawn, and a few moments afterwards Evan sat down next to her, a mug in his own hands. “You should have woken me.”

             “Should I?” she asked, turning to face him. “Why?”

             He sighed. “I don’t know.” Raising the mug to his lips, he smiled at her and took her left hand into his right.

             Alex carefully put the mug on her knee and watched as he opened her hand and examined the barely visible whitish line. The scar. It’d been the first time she had ever been inside this house. They had sat in this very spot, then, barely touching, barely speaking. Drinking coffee. Not knowing what the future held in store for them. Really, it was typical of him to think of a moment like this on their anniversary.

             “Happy birthday,” she said, making him grin as he probably recounted the previous night and the little talk they’d had. The little blush on his cheeks gave it away.

             “Thanks.”

             She quickly kissed him, tasting toothpaste and coffee, remembering his touches and greedy kisses of just a few hours ago and smiling against his lips. “I love you.” Weren’t their children here, she’d drag him inside and start all over again, but that would have to wait until that night. He would have to go into work, too, albeit later that day.

             “Love you, too,” he nodded. It was not something they said often. They didn’t need to. It had never felt necessary to express it verbally.

             Interweaving her fingers with his, she leaned against him. “Do you know where Grace is going?” she whispered, and he sighed, his hand squeezing hers gently, reminding her that he wasn’t really allowed to tell her, but that he also didn’t care about those rules.

             “About that…-“

             “Urgh, you two are terrible, you know that?”

             Evan sighed again and she felt him shift as he put his arm around her. “Just you wait until you’re old and disgusting and then you’ll know how cool the two of us are, son.”

             Caleb snorted behind them. “I said terrible, not disgusting. There’s a difference,” he mumbled and Alex heard the kettle starting to rumble softly behind them. She sat up a bit and looked at her son. He was standing by the bar, eyes trained on his mug, deliberately not looking at them. She was handsome, she realized, not for the first time, and a twinge of pride made her smile. He had his father’s eyes, his father’s chin and as he finally looked up at her, she saw that little cherub again. The one he’d been as a little boy. He still looked younger than twenty-five. “What?” he smiled at her and Alex found she couldn’t help but return that smile. He was done making his tea, a drink which he’d always preferred over coffee. Where had he picked that up? Probably from his uncle. Definitely not from her or Evan.

             “Come, sit with us.”

             With a low grunt, Caleb grabbed one of the kitchen chairs and set it down outside on the narrow porch. “Winnie doesn’t want to get up.” He held up a hand, telling them both to wait, then he went inside again.

             “Lazy dog,” Evan grumbled. Next second the tell-tale sound of paper made him raise his eyebrows.

             “When are you going to retire to drag the dog out of his laziness?” Caleb asked as he sat down and handed a square gift-wrapped package over to Evan. “Happy birthday.”

             “One last assignment,” Evan said with a wink. “And thank you. You know, you didn’t have to get me anything.”

             “I know, we have the same conversation twice a year. What did you get him, mom?”

             “An art print.”

             Evan looked up at her briefly, his eyes twinkling. She had given him an art print of a painting he’d told her about ages ago, and on their last vacation to Europe he’d shown it to her. He had stood there, still fascinated by the painting, staring transfixed at the woman and the men sitting around a table eating potatoes. But there’d been more than just a fascination with the painting, she realized. She’d seen something else rush over his face and it had taken her a moment to realize that it was sadness. That he remembered something. Something he recalled. It was almost like seeing that painting made him homesick. And as she took his hand and looked up at the painting, she couldn’t help but recall their little house on Larsa. They had talked about it so often over the years. About their life there. About the losses and the gains. Their lives. The spoons they’d taken from there and which hung on the wall in their kitchen today was a constant reminder of that time.

             So much had started there and so much grief lingered there.

             And yet he had smiled. Emotions were a funny thing sometimes. They rarely made sense. If there was anything Alex had learned through all of this, it was that.

             He was smiling fully at her now, before he turned to the gift and started ripping away the dark blue paper to reveal a thick volume. He laughed out loud and leaned back to grin up at Caleb. “Van Gogh! Perfect! Thank you! Did you talk to each other about this?”

             “No,” Caleb said, sipping his tea. “But you kept babbling about that museum in Amsterdam when we talked on the phone two weeks ago.”

             “And it’s not even an e-book!” Evan kept grinning, making Caleb roll his eyes.            

             “Ha ha…”

             “No, this is great. Thank you.” He nodded appreciatively and opened the book in the centre. “Wish you could’ve come with us.”

             “Dad… you know I was busy.”

             “Yeah, yeah, I know.”

             “Some other time.”

             Evan nodded, eyes trained on the book. Alex put a hand on his knee. It still fascinated her, the way he could look at art. Just stare for hours on end, forgetting his surroundings. It was so different from what he was like when he painted.

When he painted he was focused, but also completely in touch with the world around him, or at least with the object he was painting. When he was looking at a painting, or any other piece of art. He was grinning down at the page which showed sreetlights reflected in a sea of darkest blue, their blurred mirror image expanding towards the viewer and the couple who walked along a dark blue, unsteady river.

Evan would find other words to describe it. Better words. More accurate words, but he was quiet, looking down at it and tracing his fingers over the page.

             “Yeah, that one kind of reminds me of some of yours,” Caleb said, looking over Evan’s shoulder. “Looks familiar, huh? The way you paint water, especially at night.”

             Evan shut the book, maybe too quickly, or maybe Alex just thought he was doing it too quickly. Caleb didn’t suspect. He couldn’t. To him the paintings in their house, the few they’d put up upon returning, were the only ones they’d managed to get to Earth about half a year before they finally had to abandon the city. “Well, can’t say Mister Van Gogh didn’t influence me,” he smiled unconvincingly, looking at his watch. “But thanks for thinking I paint a bit like one of the greatest masters who ever lived.”

             Caleb grinned mischievously. “Didn’t say that.”

             Leaning against the pillar of the railing, Alex watched father and son as they started talking about the picture, joking and laughing. It was eerily hard to see them talk like this. Like friends. Somehow, when she was pregnant, she’d never thought of their child growing up to be such an incredible person. An adult. Wasn’t that weird? And it had happened far too quickly. And yet, she was proud. Proud of the man he was now. Proud of the woman his sister was, too.

             “I’m gonna start making breakfast,” Alex said, but before she could even start getting up, Evan put his hand on her knee. “Nope, let me do it.”

             Well, some things never changed, did they? Evan’s confidence in her cooking abilities for instance. Not that she could blame him.

 

Grace still looked tired when she arrived at the time they’d set the previous evening. For a second there Caleb even wondered whether she’d been crying, but the moment she greeted Winnie, the thought was driven clear from his mind. She was okay. Sad, yes, but okay. That probably was all he could expect. She’d always been overly fond of Cameron after all.

             “So what’s new with you?” Grace asked, after they’d all settled at the kitchen table. The glass doors leading outside were wide open, letting in a soft summer breeze and allowing Winnie to head outside and back in again at will.

             “I’m going on a research trip to Italy in a few weeks,” he said, reaching for the massive tea pot he’d have all to himself by the looks of it, ignoring his mother’s head snap up.

             “Oh?” she said, her English accent more pronounced in that one syllable than usual. He caught his father smirk a bit, but she probably didn’t even notice. “Where?” She hadn’t been on a research trip in years, much less on a dig of any kind and that usually made her even more keen on hearing about Caleb’s.

             “Castel del Monte. The surrounding area.”

             She frowned at him and for a brief moment he saw a flicker or recognition and something else cross her face as her eyes widened for the fraction of a second. What was it? Fear? That seemed unlikely. “What does that have to do with your research?” she asked, a tad breathless and Caleb saw his father shift slightly in his chair. Immediately Alex reached for her mug and took another sip.

“Josh asked me to help out. And, I mean, there hasn’t been a whole lot of research done in that area, and Josh is trying to find evidence that the fortress wasn’t just a hunting lodge. I mean, it is unlikely, and the whole layout of the thing is completely futuristic for its time. No way to defend it and all. His guess is, according to some script he found in Alexandria, that there used to be a cloister nearby. Somewhere where monks might have lived and studied ancient texts. I mean, it’s still a bit fat-fetched maybe, but this is just the first research trip of many.”

             Alex swallowed hard and nodded, her gaze turned on her plate.

             “How is Josh?” his father asked casually, but Caleb couldn’t help but keep staring at his mother. What a weird reaction. “Anna mentioned he started teaching in New York?”

             Caleb nodded once, feeling a twinge of annoyance as Grace put her hand on Alex’s arm. “Yeah,” Caleb mumbled. Josh Murdoch was probably Caleb’s oldest friend. His mother and Alex had been colleagues when Caleb was born, and his father, Oliver, had served with Evan before retiring to work for the private sector. “Yeah, he’s okay. Like I said, busy with research and he and I are collaborating on that project a bit.”

             “Your mom and I have been thinking,” Evan said and Alex raised her eyes again, “about going on a trip this fall. We haven’t been to Trier in forever, and we wondered if you’d like to come along?”

             Caleb barely held back a groan, but only when he caught his sister’s eye and her raised eyebrow. “Why?” Caleb coughed instead.   

             “Because it’s where your mom and I met, and we’d like to show you around?”

             Caleb shrugged. “I’m not sure I’ll have the time.” Just thinking of going there didn’t sound like a good idea. He’d never been to Trier, and he knew it must mean a lot to his parents, but what he didn’t want was to spend a week with his family, always trying to ignore the veil of secrecy. He knew his father had been involved with black ops, or something like it, he was well aware that his sister was working on some top secret project for the Air Force, but he hated that they always tread around the subject like he wasn’t even supposed to know there was a secret.

             “Oh…” Alex said again, her face falling, but just a second, before she put on a half-hearted smile again that didn’t quite reach her eyes. “Okay.”

             There. He’d done it. He’d hurt her without meaning to, but the truth was, the prospect of spending an entire week or even more with his family, under this veil of half-hidden secrecy on top of everything, didn’t sound like an entirely happy prospect. Well, maybe he’d just have to grit his teeth and get it over with. His parents had always supported him, had always been loving and understanding, so why the hell shouldn’t he give it a try? He sighed, picked up his fork and started poking at the scrambled eggs on his plate. “I’ll see what I can do,” he muttered.

             “Same here,” Grace said, sounding slightly disgruntled. Hang on, was she also not looking forward to that family trip? He raised an eyebrow at her, but she just shrugged and picked up a strip of bacon with her fingers.

             “Caleb? I’d like to show you something,” Alex said quietly, putting down her own cutlery.             

             “What?”

             She wiped her mouth on the napkin and got up from her chair. “Come on, it won’t take long.”

             Well that certainly sounded ominous. He stood up, picked up his mug and followed her out into the hall. She was heading to the bookshelf in the living room, waving him over with an excited smile. But Caleb made the mistake of looking back over his shoulder. At his father, leaning over to Grace and muttering quietly to her.

 

Chapter Text


2033

This whole situation was unorthodox to say the least.

             “I’m taking over command at the SGC.”            

             The words hat struck her. If anything, she thought he’d told her he’d retire, but instead he had told her about his new assignment. As her commanding officer of all things! Yes, these sort of entanglements were highly unusual to say the least, but she recalled very well that the on-base surgeon, Doctor Lam, had been General Landry’s daughter, and she had served here for over twenty years already. First under her father, then under General Mitchell.

             And yet… she wasn’t sure how she felt about him taking command. Why he wanted to do it, she couldn’t even begin to guess, but when she found herself thinking that he should just take bloody retirement already, she realized that she was angry.

             Standing at the ramp leading up to the Gate, she looked up at the briefing room, where Colonel Davis was standing now, and where her father would be waiting for her when she got back. Davis was just here to oversee the transfer and he’d leave to go back to Washington right after the ceremony. A ceremony which she would miss.

             Was it worse to know the first time she’d see her father again would be up in that briefing room?

             A promotion at his age. It was a bit unusual, but she got why he was being promoted. After all, he’d served the Air Force for decades, had gone through so much and had done even more, not just for this country, but for this world. And hadn’t he been part of the team to push back the Furlings eventually? Hadn’t he been on that Wraith Hive when it attacked Earth? Well, he’d gotten the promotion to Colonel when the second Atlantis expedition took, off, but still. Of course he was bound to receive another promotion. Why now though? This was her turf. Couldn’t he have been posted somewhere else? On another ship like the Hammond?

             Service Before Self.

             She knew her father took this very seriously. And she knew taking command of the SGC can’t have been an easy decision to make, neither for him, nor for the people in charge. There was always a chance he'd be accused of favouritism should something go wrong, but somehow she doubted her father would ever favour her before anyone else. His record was as spotless as it was possible to be. And besides, he was one of the few veterans still involved with the Stargate Program and since there was next to no war going on right now, they had settled for someone familiar with it all. All in all, it was better to have a military man in charge rather than some civilian, hell bent on changing the way the SGC operated.

Even if it was her father.

Even if she could forget any sort of promotion for as long as he was in charge. Well, she wasn’t that old. He would retire in a year or two. Maybe she wouldn’t be a Captain at twenty-five like he had been, but she’d get that promotion eventually.

             “Lorne, you coming or what?” Ferretti asked. She was already standing by the Gate, her gun at the ready. This was a humanitarian mission, but that didn’t mean they could just walk unarmed into a situation they couldn’t exactly control.

             “Yeah,” Grace sighed, following her superior officer through the Gate.

 

“I didn’t know you had to work today, Dad,” Caleb said. He was sitting on the stairs. It’d always been his favourite place to sit in the house weirdly enough. Even when he was studying for school, reading books, ranting about Grace…

             “Just a couple of hours.” He had to be there to go through the ceremony that would take place the next morning, long before Grace and her team were due back. In a way he was glad his daughter wouldn’t be there. He’d have some time to start settling in. “And tomorrow. I’ll be there tomorrow night.”

             Caleb huffed, disgruntled. “Right. I’ll just see if Lucas is home.”

             There it was again. That pang he always felt when he remembered there was this whole part of his life that he hadn’t told Caleb about yet. In a way he had been relieved when Grace joined the SGC. At least ever since then he’d been able to talk to her about it. And she was more at ease with the whole situation, with the fake birth certificate and with the lies he and Alex had told them growing up. Because she knew about keeping secrets. She knew about the necessity for them. But Caleb… Caleb would be angry. He already was.

             One day he would have to tell him and hang the consequences. “Sure,” he said, and the way his voice sounded fake made him turn his back on his son as he slung the tie around his neck.

             “Caleb, do you want to go on a walk with Winnie and me?” Alex chirped in from the kitchen. She couldn’t have heard the conversation, but Evan was grateful for the alternative she was offering their son right now. Because Lieutenant Lucas Quinn was off-world with Grace right now.

             Caleb sighed, but he didn’t sound too annoyed. “Sure. Can we go shopping after? I’d like to cook tonight. Grace is coming, right?”

             Evan gave himself exactly two seconds to arrange his features. Lying to reporters was child’s play. Lying to his parents had been easy.  At least in comparison to this… and hadn’t his father found out a good part of what was going on on his own? He turned around and caught Caleb frowning at him despite his words.

             “I don’t know. Guess she said something about having to work late,” Evan said, catching Alex’s eye. Well, this was going to be harder than he would have thought possible.

 

“No offense,” Ferretti said when they’d passed through the Gate and arrived on the other side. Grace had been on this planet once before and she was almost glad Major Miller and Lieutenant Quinn weren’t waiting for them but had already started walking towards the settlement which was located about five clicks away from the Gate on another hill.

             “But?” Grace prompted, taking the sunglasses out of her vest pocket and putting them on.

             “No offense, but why didn’t they get Colonel Carter to take the helm here at the SGC?”

             Grace sighed. Captain Ferretti, whose father had served with O’Neill during the first mission to Abydos, surely wouldn’t be the last person to ask Grace that question. “She refused,” Grace answered. “At least that’s what he told me.”

             “Mind, I don’t envy you,” Ferretti muttered as she took off her cap, shook it about and then put it back on her dark brown hair. “I’d hate for my old man to be in charge like this.”

             Only that Louis Ferretti was well in his seventies by now.

             “Well, can’t be helped,” Grace said, following Quinn and Miller down the slope. “We’re gonna have to make the best of it. And, to be fair, I’m glad he told me as soon as he knew. They didn’t tell him until a few hours before the funeral, apparently.”

             “Hm,” Ferretti grunted and shrugged. “Let’s just hope they don’t ask your mom to sign back on. Or Jackson. I’d hate to have to wait for them to catch up every time we have to pick up the pace.”

             Grace just grinned and didn’t reply as they did indeed pick up the pace to catch up to their team leader. Ferretti would be surprised at how fit both her mother and father still were. “Although,” she said the moment they’d caught up to Quinn and Miller, “you’d have to agree we could use another archaeologist here.”

             “My dad’s been saying something like it for a while now,” Quinn said. Another son of a former SGC veteran, and like Grace he was born on Atlantis. The son of the survivor of a long-lost civilization and a Canadian, he’d been raised after the fall of Atlantis and had joined the Air Force the same year Grace had.

             “Your dad’s still in the loop?” Major Miller asked, her eyebrows raised.

             Quinn bit his lip and shrugged. “Well he worked at the SGC until five years ago, didn’t he? And nowadays he just has to ask me who’s still there and who replaced who?”

             Miller shrugged. “If we’re not careful they’re gonna start calling us the Next Generation team.”

             “If I’m not mistaken,” Ferretti added, “that’s exactly what General Mitchell called us the moment we got together.”

             Miller shrugged. “Don’t tell my uncle,” she muttered.

             “Doctor McKay would love that,” Quinn added grinning at Grace. “Wouldn’t you agree?”

 

Grace and Caleb were both waiting by the car, their backpacks almost as big as they both were. Caleb wasn’t even on his phone, but just kept staring at the clear blue sky, yawning loudly. His younger sister took off her own backpack, placed it between her tiny feet, folded her arms over her chest and kicked at a nearby pebble which Charles had dropped there the previous day.

             Charles was yapping at his feet now, demanding his attention and Evan knelt down to stroke his head. Behind him, he heard Alex cleaning up the kitchen.

             After two weeks of quarantine, it was nice seeing the kids outside, waiting to go to school. And they must be looking forward to it as well. Already they were getting bored. Frankly, he wasn’t too happy about staying at home full-time either. There was no training at the Academy or travel to training facilities on other planet at the moment, never mind missions to go on. No use spreading this virus throughout the galaxy.

             “Evan…” he heard Alex say and he grinned at her over his shoulder. The sun wasn’t shining through the window in the kitchen yet, but it would in a couple of hours. “You-“

             “Sh!” he raised his index to his lips and slowly got up to look at his children through the dining room window. He’d sent them out to wait for him by the car.

             “Come on, it’s still cold out there.”

             “Yeah, yeah I’m going,” he said quietly, patting Charles one more time and moving over to the front door.

             As he opened it, neither Caleb, nor Grace looked up at him. They were both bored. Both still tired. Granted, they were up earlier than they had been in two weeks.

             “Hey guys,” he called out to them and Grace’s head shot up first, her blond hair catching a ray of sunlight just right. God, they both looked so much like their mother. For a moment, he felt that familiar pang that always hit him when looking at his kids. There should be three. But the pain was felt and ignored quickly enough. “Can you tell me what day it is?”

             Schools all over the country had been closed for two weeks now. This morning he had woken them up to take them to school again. It was high time, he’d said.

             “Huh?” Grace said, pulling an earpiece out and looking at him with a frown.

             Caleb rolled his eyes. “Come on, Dad, let’s just go! It’s Wednesday!”

             “Can you tell me the date?”

             Grace looked at her brother and muttered something. Something he could only barely make out. “April first.”

             There was silence for a moment. Caleb’s eyes widened as the realization hit him. With a groan, he threw his backpack to the ground. “You’ve got to be kidding me!” He grunted. “April Fools’ Day.”

             Grace whirled around, outrage driving the fatigue clear from her blue eyes. “Dad!” she shrieked running towards the front door, her long hair flowing behind her as Caleb laughed and yet clearly irritated by his father and by himself for believing it. There was no school. Not today. Not for the next couple of weeks.

             “Got ‘em!” Evan shouted over his shoulder at his wife as he opened the door for Grace to stomp back inside and throw her own school bag on the floor.

             “You’re a mean man, Colonel Lorne.”

             “I know,” Evan grinned at his son, who now trudged back up the stairs.

“I’ll get you next year, dad.”

             “That’s what you said last year, son. Good luck.”

 

Chapter Text

2033

His shirt was soaked with sweat, his heart pumping. This had started happening a lot recently, but he’d be damned if he went to visit a doctor because of it. It was just the lack of stress. He knew it must be. He wasn’t constantly on edge anymore. He wasn’t yearning to go to bed after a long day at his desk.

Of course it was harder to fall asleep when he hadn’t had a full day of work behind him. At least that’ was what he told himself. Not a particularly healthy habit he had gotten himself into.

The light wasn’t on downstairs, which made him almost scream when he heard a voice coming from the living room on his left.

             “Is everything okay?” His mother’s voice. Just her. Of course it was her… who else would it be?

             Swallowing hard, he shrugged. “Yeah, why don’t you have the light on?”

             “Dozed off,” she said quietly, stretching. He could see her silhouette now. He reached over to the light switch, but she was faster, turning on the reading lamp next to the sofa. She was lying on the sofa, a book forgotten and face-down on the carpet in front of her and a blanket draped over her despite the residual warmth still stuck inside the house.

             “Dad’s still not here?”

             She shook her head and rubbed her eyes. She’d always done that: stayed up, all night if she had to, when her husband was late to show up from work. Really, Caleb shouldn’t have expected his father to be on time. Not on his first day of a new assignment. Why his mother looked worried though, he couldn’t say.

             “I was going to fetch some water. Do you want something?”

             Once more she shook her head and Caleb hesitated for a moment, wondering whether or not he should go inside and talk to her first. They’d spent the entire day together: walking, or rather, hiking, picking up groceries, cooking and having dinner when the birthday boy didn’t show up after all. It was surprising to sense that feeling of abandonment creeping up on him now. He was almost twenty-five years old, so why the hell did it hurt that his dad didn’t show up for dinner? A newly-appointed general had duties after all. And Caleb knew that. So why? He went into the kitchen, filled two glasses of water from the tap and when he got back to the living room, he saw that his mother hadn’t moved at all.

             Alexandra Lorne was still a beautiful woman, he thought, even in her early sixties. But a mother would always be the most beautiful woman to her son. Hadn’t he heard that somewhere once? Yes, he thought with a smile, as he sat down on the sofa next to her, handing her the glass she hadn’t asked for. “I just remembered that movie you made us watch when we were kids.”

             “Which one?” she asked, her blue eyes twinkling with amusement. She didn’t look well-rested at all. Who could blame her? It was past midnight and she’d spent the last hours sleeping on this sofa, which was way too soft and far too old to still be comfortable.

             “The one with that cheesy young boy who lives in America with his mom, but then has to go to England to become his grandfather’s heir? The grandfather was Obi-Wan?”

             “Ah,” Alex said, nodding. “Little Lord Fauntleroy.” She held the glass close to her chest and looked out the window again.

             “Do you still wait up for him? Even now?” His dad wasn’t even a full-time training instructor after all. From what Caleb knew, and he doubted he knew a whole lot, Evan Lorne spent most of his time at his desk.

             “Hm,” she said, pulling her legs close to her chest and wrapping her arm around it. “I only started waiting up for him every time after you were born. Before that it was only sometimes.”

             “Did you pick that up from your mom?” Her father had been a military man himself. He’d died a long time before Caleb was born. Why Alex had chosen to marry a pilot in the Air Force after her own father had been shot down when she was only twelve years old, he’d never understand. Love was stupid that way, probably.

             “No,” Alex said, shrugging. She rarely talked of her father, but Caleb knew the marriage of her own parents hadn’t been half as harmonic as that between his parents was. “They fought a lot. I think she didn’t like it that he was away so much, and when he got back home, it always took them forever to get back in sync. Sometimes I think they would have gotten a divorce if Dad hadn’t died.”

             “Huh,” Caleb said, who couldn’t exactly picture his ancient grandmother getting angry at someone. Probably a grandson’s privilege. “What does Adam say about that?”

“We never really talked about it to be honest. Not about the divorce thing, but he saw and heard a lot more of the fights.”

Caleb nodded again. His uncle Adam was four or five years older than his mother. “You and dad don’t fight, do you?”

A shadow crossed her face and she shrugged. “We do. Guess it’s a good sign you’ve never really seen us when we’re at our worst. I mean… we did break up once, so we haven’t always been as good at making up again.”

“Yeah, but you didn’t break up because you were fighting.”

“True… but we were cowards, both of us. A good fight and a proper reconciliation might have done us some good back then.” She smiled and patted his knee. “Come on, why are you asking this stuff?”

“I just… I just wondered… seeing you still up.”

“Not exactly up, you know?”

Caleb laughed, relieved. Somehow it was easier talking to his mother these days, an no matter how much he hated that, he felt almost relaxed now. “I had a bit of a nightmare.”

“Want to talk about it?” she asked. Caleb knew she had her fair share of nightmares herself every now and again, though she never talked about them. At least not to him.

He sighed. “Nothing unusual. Just the ordinary running through corridors dream. It feels so real every time, but I have no idea what’s going on. I guess that’s what bothers me most about them. Not knowing.”

“Hm,” she said, staring pensively at her knee. “Happens quite often in dreams, you know? A seemingly never ending state of being stuck in the unknown?”

“Yes,” Caleb sighed again, drained his glass and got up again. “I’m going to bed again.” What bothered him was not that he didn’t know what he was running from in those dreams. What bothered him was that it was always the same dream. The same set of corridors. The same fear in his mother’s voice as he hoisted him up and carried him. What bothered him was that it all felt too real. But he couldn’t tell her that, could he? She’d tell him to see a shrink. “You’ll be at Dad’s promotion ceremony tomorrow?” Why his father was being promoted was a bit of  mystery to Caleb, but he knew very well that his dad had friends in high places and they were probably keen to have him in a full-time office job in a non-essential command position before he retired. Maybe as a thank you for years of service.

“No.” Alex cradled her own glass against her chest. “I’ll be right here with you.”

“You spent a fair amount of time at Cheyenne Mountain, didn’t you? At NORAD?”

“Hm.” Shrugging, she looked out of the window again. She’d been a consultant there, before teaching languages at the Academy. She was no linguist, but again, her connections must have gotten her the job there. What else should an archaeologist who hadn’t published a single paper in over twenty years have done, except retire? But his mother had always been too energetic for retirement, no doubt about that. And somehow Caleb doubted even that desk job wouldn’t keep his dad from throwing in the towel.

“It was a weird time,” she said with a smile.

 

“Could you take him for a while? He’s getting heavy!”

             Evan turned around and frowned at her. Why was she even carrying him and the backpack full of books? It wasn’t as though they were in a rush. Frowning, he set down the crate and rushed back towards her. “You could have just waited up on the Daedalus, or in the control room,” he said. They had exited the transporter about five minutes ago and it wasn’t far until they were back at their apartment.

             Alex scoffed and gratefully placed little Caleb in his arms. She wasn’t wrong, he realized, as he held his son close to his chest, those blue eyes looking up at him as though they wanted to ask a very important question.

             “Not a chance,” she breathed, massaging her bump. “I want to get settled straight away and get to work.”

             Evan stared at Caleb, his eyes just as wide as his son’s before he blew a raspberry at him. As usual the sound made Caleb laugh out loud and he stretched out both his hands to touch Evan’s cheeks, urging him to do it again. Evan obeyed without hesitating, ignoring the Marines walking past them and eyeing the three of them.

             “You’ve been working the whole trip,” Evan argued. After arriving back in Pegasus, they had only spent about a month here, before they were both called home.

             She leaned in and kissed his cheek. “Okay, I’m good now, give him back.”

             “D’you want us to carry that crate, Sir?”

Evan looked over his shoulders at the Marines. Neither of them was new to this expedition. They knew Alex and Caleb. They probably knew a whole lot about him, too. But he didn’t mind. He’d stopped taking everything so seriously in regards to airmen he outranked a few months ago. He didn’t mind them seeing him with his family. Mainly because his family had become even more important than ever before. And by now everybody was fully aware of the three of them. No… four… soon there’d be four Lornes here on Atlantis.

             “Yeah, thanks.”

             The older man, the one with the short, bristly red hair nodded once and picked up the metal box Evan had been carrying. “Your apartment?”

             Evan nodded again, ignoring Caleb patting his cheek. “Thanks.”

             “Sorry for your loss, Colonel,” the younger man said, his dark eyes sincere as he looked him in the eye.  

             “Thank you, Sergeant.” And he meant it. Somehow, even roughly two weeks after the funeral, he still couldn’t wrap his head around the fact that his mother was dead. It might take him some more time to really understand what that meant.

             Alex’s hand was on the small of his back when the two Sergeants turned their backs on him and Alex and started heading for their old quarters. She wasn’t smiling at him but reached up to brush her hand through his hair. God, he was so grateful to have her with him.

             Caleb patted his chin and, obediently, Evan blew a raspberry against Caleb’s cheek, making his son shriek with laughter. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the older Sergeant look at them over his shoulder and smile.

 

There simply wasn’t enough space in the Embarkation Room for the ceremony. Only a small number of people were there to witness the transfer, considering how many people worked here and off-world.

             His head was starting to spin just thinking about it. Five hundred of the eight hundred people stationed on the twelve off-world bases were military. One thousand people worked more or less constantly from Stargate Command.

Then there was research and recruitment at the Academy.

Pilots.

Doctors.

Scientists.

The crews of ships.

All of them under his command. Roughly three thousand souls were his responsibility now. And then there was Grace. She wasn’t even here right now… not that she’d be asked to be present at the ceremony, given her low rank in one of the newest teams, but still… there were so many unfamiliar faces in this all-too familiar room for his liking. Maybe he was too old for this, after all.

             Not even Alex was here. Not only could he not have asked her to come here, because Caleb was still at home, but unless she was asked to visit the facility for her expert opinion, she had no place there. Not anymore. Not right now.

             Well… maybe some other time.

             The men and women were standing at attention, watching on as their new commanding officer was sworn in, were familiar. He’d help train most of them. He knew a few of those face from his own time here at the SGC. Well… he knew two. Lam and Beckett.

Evan told himself he wasn’t nervous. And why should he be? Earth and her allies weren’t facing any immediate threat, after all! The size of Stargate operations had been cut down drastically. Really, three thousand people under his direct command wasn’t a huge number in comparison to what Hammond, O’Neill, Landry and Mitchell had had to face.

             Hammond.

             O’Neill.

             Landry.

             Mitchell.

             Of these four names only one was still living and breathing. Four men, whose footsteps he would have to follow now. If he was honest, he wasn’t entirely sure he was up for it.

             God, how he wished Alex was here. Just knowing she was in the crowd had given him a massive boost of confidence when he’d received his silver oak leaf and then, later on, the silver eagle. A very long time ago, she’d been there for his first promotion, too.

             He took a deep breath when he’d received his new insignia and it was time for his speech, he approached the podium. About a hundred people. That’s how many were assembled here. The few civilians were almost copying the straight backs of their military counterparts, except maybe the member of the IOA. It was strange, he thought, for a brief moment, how very much like Woolsey that fifty-something French woman looked. Not exactly because she resembled him physically, but the way she never seemed to smile. The way she looked at him with thinly-veiled disapproval. The way she held herself. Jacqueline Bisset didn’t look like she approved of his appointment. But then again, Evan hadn’t warmed up to Woolsey until he was leader of Atlantis.

             Did people here feel towards him the way he had felt towards Woolsey at first?

             Clearing his throat, he touched the podium and let his eyes wander over the faces looking up at him.

             Three thousand all in all. Luckily there were only about a hundred here now.

             He only got the first word out, before a familiar siren started sounding around them. Red lights started flashing and within seconds his body was back on familiar turf. Only that this was his command now. His job to tell everyone to clear the way for the airmen guarding the Gate.

             “Unscheduled off-world activation,” a strange voice was saying. Not Walter. Walter Harriman had been retired for years.

             “Clear the Gate Room,” he ordered, though he didn’t really need to. The space below the ramp was clear within seconds, the iris closed before the wormhole engaged. This hadn’t happened in weeks, he knew. But things could still go wrong. On every damn mission.

             He took off his cap as he pushed past the airmen aiming at the Gate.

             Evan’s eyes darted across the room and he approached Freeman, whose long dark hair was held back in a severe bun at the base of her neck. “Who is it?” Evan asked, Davis right by his side already. His eyes darted up to the holo-screen, at a familiar depiction of the Gate and the little window in its centre depicting the transmission of a GDO-code.

             “It’s SG-8, Sir.”

             His heart sank. Grace’s team. On their way back ahead of time. “Open the iris.”