Stargate Universe is somebody else's as is The Sentinel and I freely admit that whoever's they are, I'm borrowing their shows and they retain all rights, etc.
Author's Note: This is the third part of a Stargate trilogy fusion with The Sentinel and Arthurian mythology, and was written by me in April as part of a RT challenge using the pseudonym 'TrekCat' (my AO3 id acknowledges the pseud which also has a NCIS/Sentinel fic also associated with it).
I don't believe there is a need to know anything about The Sentinel to follow the stories other than to know a Sentinel has enhanced senses and usually has a Guide who assists them in controlling this gift. There is also no real crossover here, so I am only submitting it to the Stargate categories.
The first story is set in SG1, the second in SGA. The stories can be found under my userid. You don't need to read the other stories necessarily if you're not a fan of the other Stargate shows as all stories were written to be read as individual pieces (just enriched if read as a trilogy). I also need to acknowledge that the title comes from 'I Believe' by Christina Perri.
From a challenge perspective this is the one that I thought came out just as I had planned it albeit with a slightly longer word count than I anticipated.
For my long term readers, I hope this provides a belated gift after being absent from the Stargate fandom for so long. While I've been saying it for a very long time in my profile, I will be returning to Aftershocks and finishing the SG1 series in 2016.
Spoilers for SG1, SGA and SGU ahead. Sam/Jack. Hint of John/Rodney. TJ/Young. TJ/Varro. References to other SGU canon pairings such as Eli/Ginn, Matt/Chloe, etc.
Tamara Johansen blinked the sleep from her eyes and stretched languidly under the thin duvet. She glanced over at the clock and grimaced, snuggling back into the warmth of her bed. It wouldn't be long before…
The bedroom door creaked. It had been ajar – was always ajar just in case. TJ bit her lip to keep from smiling as her little girl peeked inside the still dark bedroom.
"Mommy?" Carmen whispered loudly.
TJ's lips twitched. "Carmen?" She whispered back just as loudly.
Carmen gave a small squeal, she bounded into the room, still in the Spiderman pyjamas that TJ had dressed her in the night before. At four years old, she was an endless bundle of energy, and TJ only had moments to brace herself before her daughter was on the bed, bouncing and giggling and demanding TJ get up.
"It's Christmas!" Carmen declared as TJ got into a position to sweep her daughter into her arms and tickle her into a laughing fit.
TJ dropped a kiss on Carmen's dark head, smoothed back the still baby fine hair, and hugged her child. "Shall we go see if Santa left us anything?"
Carmen gave another happy squeal and launched herself off the bed, running half way across the room before rushing back and tugging on TJ's hand as she got out of the bed.
"Come on, Mommy!" Carmen demanded.
TJ laughed happily and let her daughter drag her from the bedroom.
Their apartment in Washington D.C. was small and cosy but it was theirs. It only took a few steps from TJ's bedroom, past Carmen's, to enter the combined den and kitchen space. The small plastic tree in the corner of the room was lit up with the white and blue fairy lights Carmen had chosen and underneath it was a small stack of presents.
Carmen immediately let go of TJ's hand and ran over to the brightly wrapped packages. TJ settled herself on the small sofa and simply watched her daughter; spending time with Carmen was a gift.
TJ absently rubbed at her chest and the ache near her heart. It had been a hectic five years since she had accepted the scholarship to the University of Seattle's medical program. Her realisation she was pregnant only a few weeks after her arrival had been devastating but her parents had stepped in.
They had moved her back into her childhood home near to the University and helped support her through the pregnancy and difficult child birth. TJ had been able to transfer from her pre-med course to a psychology course and had graduated the year before. It had been a surprise when the Stargate programme had approached her to reactivate her commission but as a member of the Biomedical Science Corps. TJ had accepted and was pleased with her position at Bethesda, training as a Clinical Psychologist, and helping to rehabilitate the wounded from the programme. The position also made the best use of her Guide gift.
Her eyes flickered to Carmen again. The young girl was a latent Guide and TJ could only hope that her daughter's experience when she finally met her Sentinel was different to her own.
Colonel Everett Young had been everything she had hoped her; darkly handsome, courageous in the field, a nurturing and fair leader. He'd also been married having given up on finding a suitable match with a Guide. They had danced around each other for weeks following TJ's assignment to the Icarus base before they'd given into their shared need to bond. Everett had asked her to keep it secret since he was still her Commanding Officer. TJ had dreamed that they would one day be as happy as Samantha Carter and Jack O'Neill. After all, hadn't the Sentinel King and Queen found each other when they had served together? Her time with Everett, as secret as it was, had been one of the happiest periods of TJ's life and she couldn't regret that it had happened. She had walked on cloud nine from the moment they had gotten together to the moment Everett had ended it.
He had gone home on leave to inform his wife of their bonding and to request a divorce. He had come back guilty and sheepish to break it off with TJ, telling her he was committed to his marriage. TJ had been shell-shocked at her Sentinel's rejection of their nascent bond but had reluctantly accepted it, sensing his deep well of shame and remorse for his affair.
Her mentor on Icarus, Doctor Simms, had been furious but she had convinced him not to report the Colonel for his treatment of her. They had broken several regulations with their affair and secret bonding. Still, TJ had been grateful when she'd received the news of her scholarship – she'd forgotten in the whirlwind of her time with Everett that she had applied for it. It had given her an escape and she had taken it.
Her contact with Everett had been minimal since. She had written to him to inform him of her pregnancy, and later of Carmen's birth. His lawyer had responded with a letter acknowledging Everett had accepted he was the father but he was relinquishing all parental rights along with notification of a small trust he had established for Carmen's education and welfare.
TJ had accepted the trust and had grieved for the loss of her Sentinel and bond; for her daughter who would never know her father.
Carmen hurried over to her mother and handed her a present. TJ took it with a bright smile, shoving her melancholy about Everett away.
"What's this?" TJ teased Carmen gently.
Carmen scrambled up onto the sofa and snuggled into TJ's side. "It's a present, silly."
TJ hugged her daughter closer and carefully undid the wrapping. It revealed a beautiful and unusual snow globe. TJ peeked inside and froze.
The bulky shape of a spaceship hung in the centre of the globe, suspended in the viscous liquid as though it was in space. Stars and glitter surrounded it.
The word whispered through TJ's mind and she pushed it away. She attempted another smile for her waiting daughter.
"It's very pretty." TJ allowed and kissed Carmen's forehead. "Where did you find it?"
"Uncle Eli found it." Carmen said matter-of-factly.
Eli. Eli had found Destiny.
TJ ruthlessly suppressed the voice in her head and shook her head as though that would dislodge it. Maryann Wallace was one of the Stargate programmes' nurses at Bethesda and Carmen's usual babysitter. Carmen had taken to Eli, Maryann's son and a home-based computer whiz, like a duck to water. She usually inveigled him into some kind of imaginative game whenever she stayed with Maryann.
"I'll have to thank him." TJ murmured.
There was a sudden knock at the door.
TJ frowned; she wasn't expecting company. She smoothed down her crumpled cotton nightdress and kissed Carmen briefly, setting aside the snow globe as she headed for the door.
Her hand was almost on the doorknob when Carmen called to her.
TJ looked back over her shoulder and stared at the young woman stood in the place of her four year old daughter. She was beautiful; dark shoulder length hair in a bob, dark chocolate coloured eyes which radiated warmth and compassion; a slim build and figure that was dressed in a simple blue tunic over white pants; gold glittered at her neck and wrist.
"Carmen." TJ forced the name through her tight throat, emotion welling inside of her; pain and loss and love…
"You need to remember your mission." Carmen said softly.
And suddenly a rush of memories filled her…
TJ stood in the infirmary, counting the bottles in the cabinet and making a note on the clipboard she held. Inventory was boring but it needed to be done, and until she actually boarded the General Hammond to leave for Earth, it was part of her duties.
A sound by the door caught her attention and TJ tensed at the sight of Colonel Samantha Carter, the Sentinel Queen and the commander of the General Hammond. She swallowed nervously and lowered her clipboard.
"Colonel," TJ said formally, "is there something I can help you with, ma'am?"
The Colonel entered and TJ couldn't help but consider how beautiful the older woman was, even dressed in the unflattering flight suit which was the uniform aboard Earth's space fleet. The Colonel had her long blonde hair in a simple bun, caught low at the back of her head. TJ wondered if she could try the same style; the tight bun she usually favoured was often responsible for a headache toward the end of her shifts.
"At ease, Lieutenant." The Colonel moved fully into the room. "I was actually just looking to speak with you."
"Ma'am." TJ tried to keep her nerves hidden. The clipboard gave her an excuse to hold onto something, hiding the slight shake of her fingers.
"Oh, this isn't Air Force business; call me Sam." She smiled warmly. "I understand people call you TJ?"
"Yes, ma'am." TJ replied. One of her classmates in training had coined the nickname and she'd been known as TJ ever since.
Sam winced at the 'ma'am' and TJ grimaced apologetically.
"Sorry, ma'am, uh…"
Sam waved away the apology. "I know it's a bit difficult to call senior officers by the first name even when you have permission." Her lips twitched. "Jack gave me permission, I think on our third mission? I still called him 'sir' until we bonded."
TJ smiled back at her, relaxing a touch and allowing the presence of her Alpha Sentinel to provide her with security. "What did you want to discuss with me, ma'am?"
"Well, this is Sentinel business," Sam sighed ruefully, "actually more like Guide business."
TJ was intrigued.
"When I came online as a Sentinel I was visited on the spirit plane by a young Guide." Sam began, leaning back against a nearby bed and clasping her hands in front of her. "She told me how Sentinels and Guides were once from a planet far on the other side of the universe; that there had been a battle and the victor tried to send his rival's followers to separate parts of the universe."
"I remember the story, ma'am." TJ commented. "Doctor Jackson covers it in the Ancients 101 module. He said the young woman you spoke with had powers and sent the tribe instead to Altera the home planet of the Ancients."
"Daniel covered it?" Sam shook her head. "I might have known." She pursed her lips thoughtfully before clearly coming to a decision. "Well, you know the basics then; that those not sent to Altera escaped from captivity and there was another battle one which resulted in the cursing of all female Sentinels with a curse of insanity."
"Yes," TJ continued, "and that the curse was made into human form and sent to Atlantis where Colonel Sheppard met and cured her in the first year of the expedition there."
"Exactly and when he did he lifted the curse from every female Sentinel in the universe." Sam smiled. "It's garnered him more than a few thankful admirers."
TJ knew regardless of his admirers it was common knowledge that Colonel Sheppard was devoted to his Guide, the infamously irascible Doctor McKay. Personally, she couldn't imagine anyone could be worse than Nicholas Rush. The eminent scientist was a proverbial grouch although TJ knew a lot of his sharp edges came from his grief at losing his wife.
"Anyway, the Guide explained to me that she placed everyone in stasis to await a cure for the curse and that everyone would wake when her true blood went to the planet." Sam continued.
TJ nodded, wondering why Sam had chosen to speak to her about it.
"Last night I had a second visitation." Sam stated bluntly. "It was comparatively short. She just said that the time was drawing near and you were her true blood."
TJ looked blankly at Sam. "Me?"
"She calls herself CJ." Sam said with a faint smile.
"But…" TJ frowned. "I don't understand."
Sam shrugged. "Neither do I, but I do know that you're destined to visit this planet and bring them out of stasis just as John, Colonel Sheppard, was destined to go to Atlantis and lift the curse."
"I've resigned my commission." TJ blurted out.
It might have seemed off-topic but the Sentinel Queen was a genius and caught on quick. "I've heard." She shrugged. "I don't know whether it means you change your mind or come back as a civilian, I only know that this mission is your destiny and it is my duty as your Sentinel Queen to give this mission to you."
TJ was suddenly aware of the solemnity of the last statement; of the importance. She took a deep breath. "Then I accept, my Queen."
Sam nodded. "Well, I should get back to the Hammond. Jack has a tendency to get cranky when I'm not on board for his check-in."
TJ smiled at the other woman's clear love for her bonded Sentinel. She only wished…
"I'll see you on board for our return to Earth in three days, Lieutenant." Sam said formally.
…And with that everything flooded back.
There had been no flight home on the Hammond; no taking up her scholarship and finding out she was pregnant on Earth; no parental support as she struggled through pregnancy and childbirth; no four joyous years watching Carmen grow from a baby to a young child…
There had only been an attack by the Lucien Alliance; a desperate evacuation through the Stargate and…Destiny. More memories of the hard months of survival flickered through her mind until she reached the last; getting into the stasis pod to wait out the jump between galaxies they needed to make to avoid the drones that attacked them.
TJ's eyes filled with tears as her eyes stayed on the young woman in front of her; on the lie.
She had lost her baby.
Carmen had died.
Her white tigress howled her anguish.
"I didn't die and we have spent these past years together just not physically but here on the spirit plane." Carmen whispered across the silence, a raven flew across the room to land on her shoulder. "I'm waiting for you, Mother, and now it's time you came to find me." She gestured at the door behind TJ. "Open it."
TJ dragged her eyes away from her daughter and looked at the door. She blinked back her tears and took in another deep breath, gathering her courage. She grasped the door knob and turned it…
One moment she was fine and in the next her body ached fiercely; pins and needles and…
She opened her eyes, wondered when she had closed them and froze.
Eli stood in front of her. He'd lost weight; his clothing, jeans with an old t-shirt and open hooded grey top, hung from his frame. But the dark mop of hair was the same and his dark eyes filled with welcome and affection as she met his gaze.
Behind him the row of stasis pods reminded TJ of where she was and a quick glance proved she still stood in a pod of her own. But while the others slept, she was awake.
"Hi, TJ." Eli tried to smile but it failed rapidly as a coughing fit overtook him and TJ understood immediately why he'd woken her…he was ill.
CJ dipped her toes in the cool water of the lake and looked out at the serene blue. The lake was edged with forest and there were only trees as far as the eye could see. She sighed. She had turned seven the week before.
Her guardian, Emrys, the Spirit Man of the Cave, would always make a fuss of her on her Birthing Day. There would be some new gift and they usually went to the tavern on the road to the town for a meal where the cook, Madame Merriweather, always baked a cake for her. Often she'd hear the friendly cook berate Emrys for not fostering her with a family.
That year Emrys had taken her into town properly and they'd spent the day in the market. She hoped he'd do that again. It had been so exciting; the stalls and the crowds and so many different sights and sounds…
Nothing like the forest where they lived and their home hewn into the rock of the mountain.
Of course, the advent of her seventh year had also meant the advent of her gift – she was a Spirit Walker just like Emrys. Her raven, Blackie, had appeared to her and she had spent many a happy hour since talking with her new friend.
A rustling sound behind her had her turning sharply and the two boys creeping up behind her froze.
The one on the left was older, had a shocking head of red hair, a broad freckled face and pale blue eyes. She knew him immediately as Kay of the Keep. His father was a revered Warrior and the unofficial leader for the town. The blond haired boy next to him with the sky blue eyes was handsome and radiated inner strength.
CJ fell into an immediate curtsey. "My King."
Kay laughed uproariously and slapped the other boy on the shoulder. "She thinks you're me, Arthur!"
CJ lifted one eyebrow. "I know who you are, Kay of the Keep, and I know who the Warrior King is."
"Arthur's nothing but a fosterling! Uther's the Warrior King!" Kay argued back.
"For now." CJ agreed. "But one day he'll be gone and Arthur will be the Once and Future King."
The words came from her spirit; from her heart. She knew the truth of them and she could see her own certainty disconcert the boys in front of her. She glanced to the side of Arthur and saw the black spirit bear beside him gazing back at her with an open grinning mouth.
"Girls!" Kay said disgusted. "What do they know?" He tugged on Arthur's tunic. "Come on, Arthur! The light's almost gone! We should get back to camp before my father sends Pickers!"
Arthur stared at her for a long moment before he followed after his friend.
CJ turned and sprinted for her cave. She entered at a run, passing the faint shimmer of a shield on the entrance and paying it no note. She slowed in the tunnel, hearing voices ahead.
"…this cannot go on!" A woman said stridently. "You're risking everything and…"
"Ganos, you cannot tell me that you don't agree with my plan!" Emrys answered, cutting in.
"Don't call me Ganos! It's been a lifetime since I answered to that name."
The woman sniffed audibly. "You know if you continue they'll send me to stop you."
"You can try." Emrys said. "Besides there's time yet."
"On your head so be it." Morgan replied. "Don't say I didn't warn you."
A bright light filled the tunnel suddenly and CJ crept forward.
The first chamber beyond the tunnel was where Emrys worked and she studied. Tables covered with scrolls and parchment were everywhere. Beyond that another tunnel led to Emrys' private rooms where CJ was forbidden to enter and another to her own bedroom and washroom.
"Look at you! You look like a wood nymph!" Emrys said catching sight of her. "You're covered in filth! Go and wash up!"
His spirit Owl hooted at her. CJ scampered off to bathe and the meeting in the woods with the boys drifted from her mind replaced with the intriguing question of who was Morgan and where had she gone? The question kept her quiet through the evening meal of stew and dumplings until Emrys came to tuck her into bed.
"Who's Morgan?" She asked.
"Hmmm." Emrys' blue eyes twinkled at her. "I thought you might have overheard." He reached out and tucked her hair back behind her ear. "A lifetime ago she was my friend."
CJ frowned. "Is she not your friend anymore?"
"Ah, well, we might be disagreeing with each other right now but she is still my friend; that's why she brought me you." He tapped her nose.
CJ grinned at him. "Will you tell me the story?"
Emrys sat beside her and tucked her into his side. "Once upon a time in a land far away, a beautiful girl was born and named Tamara."
CJ loved the name Tamara but she knew Tamara wasn't Tamara for long… "TJ."
"Who is telling this story?" Emrys pretended to complain but his face was full of mirth. "TJ was a Spirit Walker so when she grew up she became a Knight to help protect her people. She was sent on an important quest to find the secret of Destiny, and on this quest she fell in love with a handsome Warrior named Young. But he was already wed and, although they balanced each other's gifts and he loved her too, he eventually decided to honour his marriage vows and told TJ that he could not be with her."
"Did he really love her?" CJ asked, her young heart aching for the girl whose heart had been broken.
"He really loved her." Emrys comforted her. "TJ decided to return home but before she could an evil Alliance invaded their base and they had to flee. Luckily a boy called Eli had discovered the secret of Destiny just in time and they took sanctuary on the Ancient ship."
CJ squirmed impatiently.
"The ship was very, very far from their home though and they could not alter her journey." Emrys continued. "So they settled in and tried to make the best of it. One day, TJ realised that she was with child; a child conceived from the love she and Young had once shared. She knew it would be a difficult time to bring a child into the world but she wanted the daughter she carried very much."
CJ hugged that knowledge inwardly, letting it sink into her soul.
"Then, the Alliance found them. TJ was brave but in the struggles and fights that ensued, she was badly injured. She and her baby fought for life."
A shiver went through CJ and she clutched her blankets closer.
Emrys smiled at her gently. "Watching them from the spirit plane was a being of Light who was once called Ganos Lal. She realised that the child had her own destiny, so while others healed TJ in the physical world, Ganos gave TJ a dream to ease her loss and took her child's spirit far into the past to a distant land. That child was found in the woods by a man who once had known Ganos and the child became his beloved fosterling."
"That was me." CJ said beginning to get sleepy, as the realisation that the woman she had heard earlier had been responsible for saving her life. "You found me and you named me CJ in honour of my mummy."
"Yes, and one day your mother will find you too." Emrys said warmly.
"Promise?" CJ asked, her eyes drifting closed.
"I promise." Emrys whispered. "Her tigress watches over you even now, little one."
And CJ slept, her dreams filled with her mother and love.
TJ immediately tried to move out of the pod to help Eli and gave a cry as her muscles protested. She shook away the pain and stepped out, her legs felt wobbly beneath her but she straightened her spine and shook away the muscle fatigue.
Eli coughed again but accepted her arm around his shoulders as she led him away from the pods and back through the darkened ship to the infirmary.
She settled him on a bed and started to gather supplies. "Can you tell me what happened?"
"I fixed the last pod just in time." Eli said. "I programmed it to wake me when we arrived in the new galaxy. I figured before I woke anyone else I'd check the conditions; make sure we were on track to renew our power and that there were planets nearby we could use to resupply."
"There were none." TJ surmised.
"Not straight away. I kept us in stasis for another six months once we'd renewed our power supply. But three months ago I woke up again and there was a suitable planet according to the kino recording and the ship's computer." Eli said. "It had this strange tomb in the middle of nowhere. I remember thinking I wouldn't stay long just until I'd managed to confirm there was enough there to give us supplies and then…" he shook his head, "I came to just before on the planet below – oh, we're orbiting a planet! I mean, a different one from the one with the tomb. Have I told you we're stopped? Like, stopped. There's no FTL countdown; it's like we reached our destination and…" he started coughing again.
TJ waited patiently.
Eli wiped a hand over his face and sighed heavily. "I couldn't remember anything when I woke up so I came back here, realised how much time I was missing…and I thought I had better get some help since I had these…" he waved at the lesions on his hands, "and felt like death warmed over." He gave an embarrassed smile and started coughing again.
TJ pulled on plastic gloves and reached for her medical equipment. "Have you woken anyone else?"
Eli shook his head. "I figured if I was sick…"
Better to protect everyone rather than risk them all. TJ nodded in understanding.
"I wouldn't have risked you except I don't think I can figure this out on my own." Eli dropped his gaze and TJ felt his shame bleed through her shields.
"Hey," TJ said firmly, "you did the right thing. Now, I'm going to take a look at you and see what's wrong."
He gave a relieved smile, a hint of the old mischievous Eli shining through the ill and thinner version stood in front of her.
"How was your stasis?" asked Eli as TJ began her examination and she was reminded of her friend's inability to stay quiet. "Mine was weird. It was…my Dad never left my Mom and she wasn't sick. I was at MIT and Rush was my professor. Can you believe that?" His expression saddened. "Ginn and I were dating."
TJ offered him a sympathetic look at the mention of the murdered Alliance scientist who'd briefly been Eli's girlfriend. She took blood but didn't confide her own experience. Her pain at knowing the years of being Carmen's mother had been nothing more than a dream was too raw for her to speak about.
She let Eli babble on while she took blood, measured his blood pressure, and performed test after test. Finally she tucked him into an infirmary bed and gave him an herbal drink that would help him sleep.
TJ found some basic food in the kitchen and took time for a quick meal before she headed for her computer and began her diagnosis. Her suspicions roused, she knew she needed an additional viewpoint.
She searched out the communication stones and hoped that they still worked. It had been over three years since they'd contacted Earth. There was also the possibility that the stones on the other side had gotten into the wrong hands but…she had to take the risk. She checked on Eli and left him a note so he wouldn't worry.
She took the communication stones into a small room and locked it with a combination code. She placed a pitcher of water and some fruit she'd found that Eli must have gathered, and quickly wrote out a note politely requesting whoever had her body to stay in the communication room.
A second later, she jolted into a different body.
A quick look down gave away she was occupying a young male Marine. She grimaced. It was one of the quirks of stone communication she hated; changing gender wasn't comfortable. She read the small note beside the radio on the table and picked it up, pressing down to activate it.
"Hello? Yes, this is Lieutenant Johansen. I need to speak to someone in authority urgently." She took a deep breath. "I believe Eli Wallace has been possessed by a half-Ascended being."
The sword in the courtyard gleamed brightly.
Kay sat grumbling by the wall, a sulky expression painted on his face. He had tried to pull the sword a few moments before and like every other Warrior that had gathered, he had failed.
CJ took no notice of Kay. Her attention was on the sixteen year old boy beside Kay; Arthur. He had attended the gathering only as part of the Keep's entourage and not as a Warrior in his own right. CJ was furious that his guardian had not allowed him a chance at the sword.
In the eight years previously, CJ, Kay and Arthur had grown close. As the two boys spent a lot of time hunting in the forest, they had often crossed paths with her.
Arthur was a rock; solid and durable, steady as the Earth with a heart as big as the black bear that lumbered in his shadow; a great brave spirit. Beside him, Kay was as mercurial and quick-tempered as a summer storm, but he had a good heart and she hadn't been surprised on his thirteenth birthday when a small red fox had turned up as his spirit animal.
CJ's mind flowed back to the courtyard. The death of Uther had not been a surprise. His Spirit Walker and wife, Igraine, had died a few days before and he had been distraught, feral in his loss. It had also caused something of an issue in the tribe as there were plenty of Warriors of worth but no Warrior Prince.
CJ's eyes strayed again to Arthur.
Emrys strode into the centre of the courtyard, his staff in his hand. He tapped it sharply against the paved ground and the courtyard fell silent.
"Has any not Warrior here not tried the sword?"
CJ looked pointedly at Arthur who avoided her gaze.
Kay suddenly stood up. "Father, Arthur is yet to try."
Arthur looked stunned at Kay's pronouncement.
Emrys shifted his gaze to Ector. "Ector, you did give your permission to all, did you not?" He glanced pointedly at Arthur and back to Ector.
Ector's florid face deepened its red flush. "I offer a thousand apologies. I may have forgotten to give explicit permission to my fosterling." He gestured towards Arthur. "Go on, lad."
Kay patted Arthur's shoulder. "It didn't work for me so it'll probably not work for you, but you should try anyway."
"Kay…" Arthur murmured.
Kay only patted him again.
CJ smiled at Kay approvingly. "He's right, Arthur. You should try."
His bear roared its agreement.
Arthur looked at CJ and she realised he wasn't nervous because he thought he was going to fail; he was nervous because he knew he was going to succeed.
She dropped into a familiar curtsey. "My King."
Arthur smiled at her at the shared memory of their first meeting. His shoulders straightened and he walked across the courtyard with fierce determination. CJ watched as Emrys leaned down and said something to Arthur before he left him alone in the middle of the courtyard, joining CJ and Kay.
The crowd murmured as Arthur reached out to the sword. He grasped it firmly and pulled…
The sound of steel sliding against rock filled the air…
The sun broke through the cloud and lit up the courtyard as Arthur held the sword aloft.
CJ glanced back at Kay to see how the brash young man was taking Arthur's ascension and found Kay beaming proudly at his foster brother, only love and affection in his eyes. Kay suddenly looked over at her and CJ gave him a nod of proud acknowledgement. Their eyes met and held. Something stirred in her soul but CJ tore her eyes away from Kay and looked again at Arthur who was gazing at the sword with awe.
Once and Future King, CJ thought happily.
It was his destiny.
Earth was apparently taking its security much more seriously.
The stones were kept on a Beta site in the Pegasus galaxy. TJ had been questioned briefly by the base commander, a female Sentinel who held the rank of Colonel, before being escorted through the Stargate to Atlantis. It had been hard not to gawk at the sight of the city as she was led through the corridors and walkways to the conference room.
She'd been greeted by an older looking and distinguished General Sheppard who'd waved off her formality and ordered her to call him 'John.' McKay, who was clearly combating the impending baldness by keeping his hair closely cropped, had shrugged and told her to call him Doctor McKay. Carson Beckett had rolled his eyes at that and he'd shared an amused smile with the General's XO, Colonel Lorne. The other members of the Atlantis team Teyla and Ronan were apparently off-world. Richard Woolsey was surprisingly still the expedition leader and he welcomed her warmly, ushering her into a seat and offering her refreshments.
A large screen had been set up to one side and projected the image of General Jack O'Neill. His hair had gone from grey to white. He still looked formidable, wearing an updated version of green BDUs rather than the service blues, and stood in front of a bustling room deep underneath the Pentagon. Daniel Jackson stood beside him in similar BDUs, hands deep in his pockets as he gazed at them.
Beside Doctor Jackson was the familiar form of the Stargate's Chief Medical Officer, Janet Fraiser. She had come online as a Sentinel while performing emergency treatment under heavy Jaffa fire. She'd almost been killed except for the warning of her spirit animal a fierce brown wolf. Luckily Jackson had turned out to be Doctor Fraiser's Guide and he'd managed to stop her from going feral.
TJ kept her nerve as O'Neill's gaze raked over her.
"Lieutenant, you're late with the check-in." He rocked back on his heels a touch, hands in his pockets, and a glint of humour in his eyes despite his grumpy disposition.
"Yes, sir." TJ agreed. She succinctly summarised everything Eli had told her.
The three Earth based members all exchanged a concerned look.
"Describe Mister Wallace's lesions, please." Fraiser instructed.
TJ took a breath and kept her answer crisp; black lesions covering thirty percent of his body, prevalent on his face, torso and hands. "The blood results show an increased white cell count."
"An infection then?" Carson murmured.
"Unfortunately the infection is a side effect not the cause." Fraiser stated firmly. "We've seen this before."
"Around the time Jack was appointed commander of the SGC," Jackson confirmed, pushing his glasses up his nose, "Anubis possessed a Russian soldier who was joining the programme. Vaselov was only possessed a week but he had most of the symptoms you've described."
TJ was relieved to hear they'd come across it before. "What was the treatment?"
Fraiser's expression took on a mask TJ knew only too well; the mask of a doctor about to impart bad news. "Unfortunately the damage to his immune system was too great. The antibiotics we tried couldn't do anything other than alleviate the symptoms."
"Vaselov sacrificed himself to trap Anubis." Jackson said, folding his arms over his chest.
TJ wondered if his regret was bleeding into the spirit plane; she could almost feel it. Her own heart ached for Eli.
"Unfortunately the only treatment is to make him as comfortable as you can." Fraiser continued.
"Uh, not to seem insensitive here but is anyone else bothered about the possession?" McKay waved his hand in the air. "Something took over Wallace and had access to Destiny for over three months!"
"He has a point." O'Neill remarked caustically.
"He usually does." Sheppard agreed. He was perched on the table, sleeves of his black BDU rolled up to his elbows.
"So the only half-Ascended being I know is Anubis." O'Neill said, looking toward Jackson.
"He was reported dead just before General Hammond retired." Woolsey stated. His gaze was also directed at Jackson who squirmed under the attention.
"He is dead, right, Daniel?" O'Neill asked brusquely.
"It's probably more accurate to say that he was locked in eternal battle with Oma Desala." Jackson admitted.
"And if she took her eye off the ball for a second?" O'Neill asked bluntly.
Jackson sighed and grimaced. "Maybe he'd get free…"
"Great." O'Neill muttered.
"From everything the Lieutenant has said though it's likely that Anubis has already left Destiny." Jackson said hurriedly. "He must have used Wallace to gain access to the ship when Wallace found the tomb. Once Destiny arrived at this other planet, he made Wallace travel to the planet and left him."
"That would be consistent with how we know Anubis' possession worked previously." Fraiser said.
O'Neill nodded briskly and turned back to face the camera. "Lieutenant Johansen, you need to return to the ship and wake the rest of your command staff. We need to confer on what action to take next. If Anubis is free we have a clear and present danger to the rest of the universe."
"We also need to discuss bringing you home." McKay added.
"Home?" TJ asked surprised.
McKay nodded, his chest puffing outward in smug self-satisfaction. "I managed to perfect the Ancient wormhole drive technology and…"
"You, Sam and Radek perfected the Ancient wormhole drive technology." Sheppard corrected firmly, an amused if admonishing look directed at his Guide.
"Yes, fine, they helped." McKay admitted grudgingly. "The point is that we have a way to bring you home. If we have the coordinates we can look to send a ship within the next few days."
TJ nodded, hope bubbling inside of her. It would be good to get home except…she cleared her throat. "Sirs, I think I should inform you…when I was in stasis I was visited on the spirit plane by my daughter."
They all looked at her concerned.
"Lieutenant, your daughter died from injuries sustained when you were shot." Fraiser said gently.
TJ held up her hand. "I realise how insane it sounds."
The use of the word insane made everyone else pause.
"But it's the truth. I know I dreamed my daughter was sent to another planet and that dream was wrong but…" She raised her head proudly. "Just before we were attacked on Icarus, Colonel Carter…"
"General." McKay corrected. "She's a General now."
Sheppard waved at TJ to continue, sending McKay another chiding look for interrupting. "Colonel Carter as she was then…" he prompted.
"She gave me a mission as my Sentinel Queen."
O'Neill rocked back and sighed. "Of course she did."
"With everything that happened after and when I lost…when I lost my baby, I'd forgotten. But while I was in stasis, my daughter's spirit told me to remember my mission." TJ concluded.
"What was it?" McKay asked impatiently. "What was your mission?"
"You're the Guide's true blood." Jackson said leaping to the answer in a flash of intuition. "You're destined to release the home planet of the Sentinels and Guides from stasis." His eyes widened. "You said Destiny had finished its journey? The planet below you…what if it is the planet?"
TJ could feel the ripples of shock and excitement that filled everyone around her.
"Wake your people, Lieutenant." O'Neill ordered. "You have a mission to perform."
"Do you have to leave?" CJ complained loudly, folding her arms over her chest.
Emrys barely halted in his pacing. "The King made his feelings very clear, CJ."
"Arthur didn't mean…"
"Arthur meant every word." Emrys corrected her with more gentleness than he would have done if it were anyone but her.
"He's just upset." CJ muttered.
"He has a right to be." Emrys said. "While I spoke truthfully, in his eyes I have dishonoured the name of his new Queen whom he loves very much."
CJ sat down heavily on a nearby bench. "She's really going to go mad one day?"
"Yes," Emrys said, "but I fear she will have help on her way. You must be vigilant against the snake that Arthur loves so much."
CJ knew he was talking about Morde; his spirit animal was a tiny black deadly snake called Asp. Arthur's young half-brother had been the product of a drunken night's grieving between Uther and his wife's sister just before Uther's death. Once Arthur had known of Morde's existence he had insisted on raising the young boy.
"He won't listen to me about him either." Emrys sighed and she pondered that she had never before seen him look so old. "It is time. If not for you I would have left long ago." He gazed at her with loving affection. "You are everything I ever hoped you would be, my child."
CJ blushed but she got up and hugged Emrys close. "I could come with you."
"No, you must stay and face your own destiny." Emrys said. "Your mother will come."
"You'll stay in touch with me." She knew he knew that she meant on the spirit plane.
"For as long as I can." Emrys agreed. He hugged her again and stepped back. "Don't forget; you have the power to change things but you cannot alter destiny."
And with his final words, Emrys changed into a flowing white energy being and disappeared.
Her raven gave a cry and landed on her shoulder to offer her comfort, nuzzling into her hair. CJ sighed. She would seal up the caves and return to Kamlot. Arthur would give her sanctuary; he knew of her healing gift and he was a good King. Her lips and firmed. It would also be easier to watch the snake if she remained close to him.
It only took a few moments to pack up her belongings and before long she was stepping outside of the cave. She laid a hand on the rock and commanded it to close the entrance.
The sound of an awe-struck man had her turning hurriedly but CJ relaxed at the sight of the Queen's Champion, Lancelot, astride his horse. Guinevere sat on a horse behind him, her eyes wide with astonishment.
"What are you doing here?" CJ asked, bristling a touch when she realised the most likely explanation was that they had taken offence at the prediction of madness and come for revenge.
"We came to ask Emrys about the prediction." Lancelot said simply, dismounting and taking hold of the reins to lead the horse over to her.
"Oh." CJ said, flustered a little.
She marvelled again at how beautiful Lancelot was. He had the same blond hair as Arthur and the same blue eyes but the two young men were very different from each other. Arthur had grown and was stunningly handsome in a manly rough-and-tumble way; he was popular with the Warriors who viewed him as a brother as well as a King. Lancelot was more classically beautiful; there was an elegance in his bearing and an empathy that came with his Spirit Walker gifts.
"Warriors are quick to anger but we know better do we not?" Lancelot chided her gently. His white dove cooed at her from a nearby tree.
"I was not angry." Guinevere dismounted gracefully. She wore riding leathers; pants and vest over a plain white tunic. There was a sword strapped to her back and CJ knew that Guin knew how to use it. Her dark hair was tied back into an elegant plait. She looked regal and CJ felt every bit the country bumpkin in her own modest outfit of a green tunic and breeches. "I was concerned."
"Emrys has left us." CJ returned to the original reason they had for visiting. "He won't return."
Lancelot frowned. "But the threat…"
CJ held up a hand, and shifted the pack she carried. "He fears the snake in the grass."
Lancelot's handsome face distorted into a scowl. "Morde." He spat out. "He is poison."
"He is Arthur's brother." Guin chided softly. But her eyes gave away her worry.
"He is Arthur's bane." CJ said, the words springing unbidden from the spirit plane.
She flushed as they both turned their attention back to her.
Guin's gaze returned to her, sharp and fierce. "You have the same powers as Emrys. You can stop this."
"I can't change what is to come." CJ said firmly. "But I will stand by Arthur."
"You love him." Lancelot said, almost accusingly.
She flushed and glared at Lancelot. "I do. He is my brother and I am a sister to him." She held Lancelot's gaze. "I love him as you love Guinevere."
Guin broke into a wide smile. She and Lancelot had been raised together in the court of Guinevere's father, the Warrior King of the South. They often squabbled like siblings. She hooted with laughter. "She's got you there, Lance."
Lancelot nodded slowly. "My apologies. Others have accused me often enough that I should know better to do the same."
CJ waved away his apology. "As you say, Warriors are apt to quick tempers and jumping to conclusions but we know better."
She knew many of Arthur's Warriors feared the closeness between the Queen and her Spirit Walker, but she also knew that while Guin loved Lancelot as a brother, she was devoted wholly to Arthur.
Guin pointed at the pack. "You're coming to Kamlot."
"Yes." CJ said.
The sound of another rider approaching arrested their discussion and they all turned to greet the new arrival.
Kay pulled up his mount and looked at the three of them with surprise. He jumped down and gave a small bow to the Queen before raking his eyes over CJ.
"I came to see if you were alright." Kay said. "Arthur said he and Emrys argued and you'd left with him."
CJ sighed, grateful for his concern. "Emrys left. I only came after him to try and convince him to stay."
"He's gone though?" Kay checked, looking around as though he was expecting Emrys to jump out of a bush.
"Yes." CJ said sadly.
His head turned swiftly back to her and he held out a hand. She clasped it grateful for the small gesture of comfort from her old friend.
"You should come back to Kamlot." Kay said firmly. "It's not safe for you out here and…"
Guin cleared her throat and gestured at the pack CJ carried. "That is the plan."
Kay flushed bright red as Lancelot tried to hide his wide smile. "Of course. Right." He turned to CJ. "You can ride with me."
"We can discuss how best to protect our tribe and our King while we travel." Guin added.
CJ let Kay help her mount his horse. A ride would be quicker than walking and allies in her quest to protect Arthur would be much appreciated.
As Lancelot and Guin mounted their rides and they all turned the horses away from the cave, CJ looked back. Emrys had been her guardian, her mentor and her friend…she was going to miss him.
The dining area ended up acting as an emergency conference room. TJ reflected it wasn't the first time and it wouldn't be the last.
Eli was absent; his condition was too bad for him to attend. His close friend Chloe Armstrong had opted to remain in the infirmary with him.
To TJ's right, Chloe's boyfriend and Everett's second-in-command, Lieutenant Matthew Scott sat at a table and looked a bit desolate without his girlfriend beside him. Ron Greer stood beside the Lieutenant with his game face on; stern and unyielding. TJ knew there wasn't anyone better to have at her back and she gave him a nod when he glanced at her sensing her regard.
Beside Greer, Doctor Lisa Park sat, her eyes unfocused and staring into the distance. She had been quiet since she'd woken from stasis, explaining that in the dream world she had created, she could still see. On the other side of the table were the other two scientists TJ had roused; Doctors Volker and Brody. Both had proven their worth to the Destiny crew and she trusted them.
Sitting at the next table was Doctor Rush. He sat alone a bowl of the porridge like substance they had picked up in front of him. His head was down and he wasn't looking at any of them. She wondered what he had dreamed about in stasis. As her eyes flickered back to her left where Everett sat beside Camile Wray, TJ considered that all of them were dealing with the emotional strain of leaving stasis world behind.
Everett finished bringing the command team up to speed, based on the briefing TJ had given him and his own trip to talk with General O'Neill via the communication stones.
Rush put his bowl down with a clatter and pushed away from the table, standing. "I refuse to believe this planet is where Destiny was meant to travel." He crossed his arms across his thin chest.
"Refuse all you want," Everett stated bluntly, "we're here and we've stopped."
"We don't know what the thing that possessed Eli did to the ship!" Rush pointed out passionately. "This may be a complete diversion from the journey the Ancients originally intended!"
"Perhaps you're right," Camile stepped in soothingly, "but we have other urgent matters to consider first."
"I've received orders to track and find the being responsible for possessing Eli and to assess the threat to Earth; eliminate them if possible." Everett stated crisply. "That's priority one."
Rush seemed disgusted but didn't speak.
"Priority two is the Sentinel mission, Lieutenant Johansen is tasked with performing; namely to travel to the planet's surface, discover if this is the home planet of the Sentinel and Guides as expected, and to wake any in stasis." Everett's dark eyes gave away his worry for her but TJ steeled herself not to react.
She knew Everett was divorced and that her counterpart in another time had relented and agreed to try again. By all accounts that TJ had been happy with Everett until she had become incapacitated with a degenerative condition. TJ still couldn't quite contemplate a reconciliation though; he'd hurt her badly.
She needed to focus on Carmen, TJ thought firmly.
"Priority three, is the chance for those that want to return to get home." Everett said. "We've provided Earth with our coordinates and they're sending a ship. It should arrive in two days."
Rush snorted in disgust.
Everett flashed a warning at him. "Nobody is forcing anyone to get on that ship. If some want to stay, then they'll stay."
Rush's expression turned from stormy to contemplative.
"We need to consider everyone else in stasis." Camile said. "Are we going to wake them?"
"If we're going after the thing that possessed Eli, we're going to need more troops." Matt said.
"I'd like to wake Varro." Ron said.
Everett was visibly surprised at the mention of the Lucien Alliance fighter who had since proven himself to the crew.
TJ held her breath. She and Varro were a good match despite his status as a Guide. He was a good man for all he'd joined the Alliance, and perhaps he was right to say no-one on Earth could understand the pressures brought to bear on those who lived under Alliance rule.
"He's a good tracker, sir." Ron explained.
Everett nodded slowly. "We'll wake him and a small contingent of other military personnel." He held up a hand when Camile went to argue. "I'd like to hold off placing any additional civilians in harm until we get a handle on the Anubis threat." He looked over at Park, Volker and Brody. "Who's best deployed to which problem?"
Volker and Brody exchanged a look and Park glanced in their general direction.
Lisa answered first. "My blindness puts me at a disadvantage on the ground. I'd like to remain on board and assist Doctor Rush in understanding what happened to Destiny during the time she was under the control of whatever was possessing Eli."
"I'd be grateful for the assistance, Doctor Park; thank you." Rush sounded positively convivial compared to his usual biting sarcasm.
"Maybe I can work out some way of trapping Anubis." Volker offered tentatively. "The Ancients had an energy being trap. I might be able to find something that could work the same way?"
"Excellent. Then you're with Lieutenant Scott." Everett ordered.
"I have some experience with the stasis chambers." Brody conceded with a shrug.
"You're with Lieutenant Johansen." Everett gave a nod. "Get prepared and get ready. I want everyone on the shuttle in one hour."
The night sky was filled with stars, twinkling and shining, unaware of the drama that was playing out on the land below.
CJ envied them their ignorance. She sighed and glanced to her left.
The Warrior King sat on a boulder looking out at the lake. He looked despondent; his face creased with worry and fatigue. He looked older than his twenty years.
He and what remained of their tribe had fought a bloody battle to free themselves of Morde's chains and escape captivity. CJ felt his anguish and grieved for him. Arthur had trusted his brother and Morde had betrayed him.
Guin approached her husband and sat beside him. They leaned against each other. CJ turned her gaze away. Arthur would accept Guin's comfort and her love; the Warrior Queen was truly his balance.
Her gaze shifted across the camp of Warriors to where Lancelot sat with his wife, Elaine. They were well-matched for all Elaine had no gifts. Instead it was as though her very normality kept Lancelot balanced. She watched as Lancelot lay a hand on Elaine's rounded belly. Their child was only a few months from being born.
Someone sat down next to her and CJ didn't need to turn to know who it was.
"Here, you look like you could use it." A tin mug appeared in front of her filled with strong ale.
CJ took it, grateful.
Kay sat down beside her. He was a grown man now; older than Arthur. His once unruly mop of hair was trimmed short but the freckles that covered him hadn't changed and their familiarity comforted her.
"We've lost so many." CJ commented sadly, looking around their make-shift camp.
"You saved who you could." Kay replied. "If it weren't for you we'd have lost more."
CJ blushed. "Morde's powers grow. I was barely able to divert it."
"But our people are safe?" Kay checked.
CJ nodded. The planet she had sent them to had been Emrys' home planet once. She was certain the people there would embrace their tribe and watch over them as Emrys had watched over her.
"And together?" Kay prodded.
CJ nodded again.
"Then we will miss them but they are safe." Kay said gently.
CJ leaned against the solid strength of him. "It's not over." She sighed. "He hunts us even now."
"We'll find a way to defeat him, my Nimue."
She moved upright swiftly to stare at him. "What did you call me?"
"Nimue." Key repeated. "Lady of the Lake." He gestured at the waters in front of them. "We found you here did we not? By the water's edge? I've always remembered you that way." he ducked his head.
CJ suddenly felt as though she'd been rather stupid. "Oh."
Kay looked at her sharply. "You've not realised it before?"
"That you're my Warrior?" CJ shook her head.
The red fox in front of her barked in remonstration while her raven laughed at her from the safety of a nearby tree.
"That," Kay said, reaching over and gently clasping her chin, "that and the truth that I've been in love with you for an age."
CJ looked deeply into his eyes and saw the truth of it. "That and the truth that I've been in love with you too."
Her heart raced as he leaned in and kissed her, claiming her.
"Nimue." Kay said reverently as he pulled back.
Suddenly, he was ripped away from her and sent tumbling across the ground by a fierce punch.
"Arthur!" CJ shouted angrily. "What are you doing?!"
Guin restrained her husband as he stood over his fallen Warrior.
CJ hurried to tend Kay.
"How could you, Kay?!" Arthur shouted. "She's as good as my sister!"
"And he's your brother!" CJ said furiously. "A damned better one than the snake you call the name!"
"CJ's also his Spirit Walker." Lancelot said, keeping his distance, but coming to stand near to the action.
All the others were pretending to ignore the scene which suited CJ fine as she helped Kay to stand and took a look at his bloody lip.
"Truly?" asked Arthur, his ire dissipating with that particular fact.
"She's my balance, Arthur, truly." Kay said, dabbing at his lip.
Arthur's expression turned sheepish. "Then, I'm sorry, Kay. I thought…" he shook his head, "I saw you kissing her and lost my head." He held out his arm and Kay clasped it warmly.
"I swear, Arthur; I'll protect her for as long as I breathe." Kay said solemnly.
CJ rolled her eyes and shared a look with Guin. It wasn't as though they couldn't protect themselves. But the manly bonding seemed to fix things between the men so they didn't protest.
Arthur allowed himself to be chivvied away by Guin and Lancelot gave them a mock salute and returned to his pregnant wife.
Kay and CJ returned to the boulder and sat down. CJ gently examined his face and the damage Arthur's punch had wrought.
Kay turned his head and kissed the palm of CJ's hand. "You'll let me love you now?" His eyes met hers insistently.
CJ kissed his hurt lip gently and shushed him. "Always."
The shuttle had landed in the square of a large castle. Around the ruins, the forest spread out and up across the side of a mountain, and there was a lake behind them glinting blue.
TJ adjusted the grip on her weapon and for the first time in a long while opened up her shields bringing her empathic and spiritual gifts to the fore.
"I need to head inside." TJ said.
Matt nodded. "James, you're with TJ. Lee, Weber! He directed two Corporals to TJ's side." He looked at her. "We're heading to the lake where Eli said he woke up. Good luck."
TJ nodded. Her eyes caught Varro's. The Alliance soldier stood at the back of the open shuttle watching her. She saw his open concern and gave him a nod; she'd stay safe.
Varro tilted his head in acknowledgement and disappeared back into the shuttle.
The memory of Everett saying goodbye to her before she stepped into the shuttle ran unbidden through her mind…
"Lieutenant…" Everett tilted his head to the side of the shuttle entrance and TJ followed him rather than argue.
"Yes, sir?" TJ inquired briskly.
Everett sighed heavily. "TJ…Tamara…" he shifted weight from one leg to another and finally met her gaze. "I know you think Carmen, that your…our daughter will be on this planet but…" his eyes were filled with grief and loss, "but she died and I just…I don't want you to get hurt."
The 'again' went unsaid but TJ heard it anyway.
"I don't know what's going on," TJ admitted, "but I know she's alive." Her chin lifted. "I feel it."
Everett reached out and took one of her hands in his. "I hope you're right and if you are…" he squeezed her hand gently, "I look forward to meeting our daughter."
He'd let her go then or perhaps she'd pulled away. TJ couldn't quite remember. TJ collected herself, stowing her personal angst and pulling on the mantle of a military leader. Her father had served before he'd become a tailor and he'd taught her as a child the importance of leadership; of ensuring the troops had no clue to anything she was going through.
"This way." She said and began to cross the square to the main building. The empty corridors and rooms of the main castle were chilling. The kino went ahead of them, checking for danger. TJ kept her senses on high alert.
"This place is like the Marie Celeste." Van muttered under her breath.
TJ couldn't argue with her.
Brody brought the kino to a halt and checked his tablet. "I'm picking up an energy signal."
"Finally." Weber said.
TJ admonished him with a sharp look and turned to Brody. "Where?"
"Below." Brody swallowed. "In the dungeons."
TJ pressed her lips together but motioned for him to lead the way.
Lights came on as they descended the stone steps downwards and TJ shivered at the strange dichotomy of advanced technology in such a medieval setting. She hoisted her gun more firmly and kept going.
The kino darted around a corner and TJ saw her white wolf waiting; a raven launched itself from the light fitting and flew out of sight following the kino.
"Oh my God." Brody exclaimed.
"What?" Van asked sharply.
Brody swallowed under the combined regard of the military personnel and gestured at the corner. "You'll see."
TJ hurried forward and…stopped.
"Fuck me." Van said beside her.
"Don't even think about saying something stupid, Weber." TJ called out.
Weber snapped his mouth shut.
TJ took in the row after row of stasis pods. She reached for her radio. "Johansen to Scott, come in."
"Scott here." Matt's voice crackled over the radio.
"We've found them." TJ said, her eyes pinned on the pods. "We've found the tribe." And she swallowed hard against a sudden surge of emotion; she had found her lost daughter.
"He's too strong!" Arthur shouted as they took cover behind a battlement. Lance and Kay dragged him further down under cover.
Guin shot them a thankful smile beside CJ.
Another bolt of blue lightning shot from Morde's fingers and hit the stone close to them.
"Lance and I should be able to trap him on the spirit plane but we need a diversion." CJ said.
Lancelot's face twisted into a frown but he nodded. "I'll follow your lead."
"Diversions." Kay quipped cheerily. "That'd be us then, Arthur." He looked at the Queen. "Guin stays to cover Lance and my Nim."
"I can live with that." Arthur lifted the sword CJ had gifted him for the battle. She'd pulled it out of the lake, knowing Emrys had left it there for the King to use. "On three; one…" He leaned over and kissed Guin.
"Two!" Kay said and dived in to steal a kiss from CJ.
"Oi!" Lance said disgruntled. Elaine was safely inside the castle out of harm's way looking after their one week old son, Galahad.
"Three!" Arthur said and leaped up. His bear followed him a bounding beast.
Kay waggled his eyebrows at CJ and went after his brother.
CJ reached for Lance's hand. "With me."
Lancelot grasped her hand tightly and closed his eyes.
The world turned white and faded away into a different planet…night was upon them and above them there were three moons.
"Where are we?" Lancelot asked.
"His tomb." CJ said. She closed her eyes and cast out a net for Morde's spirit…
He was fighting with Arthur, sword to sword, the clash and clang of steel ringing through the plane…
Kay fought beside him, stopping Morde's men from coming any closer.
"Morde!" CJ saw his spirit animal slithering away and sent Blackie, her raven hunting. The raven dived and caught the snake between its claws. And CJ yanked him from their world to the one on the spirit plane. "No more!"
Morde knew; she could see the realisation hit him and his eyes opened wide. He reached and thrust with a dagger with his dying breath into Arthur's side…
Arthur cried out and pushed his sword deep into Morde's heart.
And Guin went feral, leaping for Morde to rend him limb from limb.
Morde dropped the dagger, blood streaming from his mouth and spat at her. "Cursed you shall be! Feral ever more! Every Warrior Queen in your likeness!" His eyes rolled back and his body crumpled.
On the spirit plane, Morde's half-Ascended spirit tried to escape but CJ held him too fiercely.
She dropped him into a tomb. "Now!"
Lancelot pushed a slab of rock over it and sealed it forever.
CJ stumbled as she caught the faint echo of the curse. She closed her eyes and reached out. She couldn't stop it but she could change it…make an end for it…
Her spirit searched time and space and found what she needed…
A Queen who escaped the curse because of a healing property in her blood; a Warrior Prince who would reach out to lift the last of the curse found within the spires of Atlantea; a mother whose love would save her daughter…
And it was done.
CJ opened her eyes and she was back in the physical world. Lancelot stumbled back from her and gasped for breath.
"Nimue!" Kay called to her desperately from Arthur's side.
CJ hurried to them and froze as Guin growled at her. CJ sent a pulse through the spirit plane and Guin fell unconscious.
"What did you do?" asked Lancelot urgently.
"She's cursed." CJ said tersely. "Morde was able to send her mad. There is a cure but we won't have it for a while."
"Arthur!" Kay's voice was a moment away from a sob. His tear-filled eyes met CJ's. "He's slipping away!"
CJ kneeled beside Arthur and cupped his cheek.
"Guin!" He said weakly.
"She'll be cured, Arthur, but you must fight!" CJ pushed his hand away from the wound and set her own above it. A glow formed between them as she healed him with the powers Emrys had taught her. Eventually Arthur's eyes closed and CJ slumped back.
"He's healed but he'll go mad alongside Guin if we don't do something." CJ wiped her brow tiredly and remembered what she had seen. "We have to take them to the lake!"
Kay and Lancelot didn't argue with her. They left the other Warriors dealing with the remains of Morde's followers and escorted the King and Queen to the lake and Emrys' cave.
CJ ushered them to place Guin and Arthur into the two pods hidden away in Emrys' workroom. The pods sealed locking them away into sleep.
"What now?" Lancelot said. "They can't stay like this forever!"
"They won't." CJ assured him. "They'll be a time when they'll wake."
"Once and Future, right, Nim?" Kay realised. He opened his arms and CJ went into them, accepting the hug he offered her gratefully.
"We need to make pods for the rest of the tribe. No female Sentinel will be safe from the curse until it is lifted." CJ said tiredly.
Lancelot nodded. "We'll do it." He gazed back at the King and Queen. "We'll all sleep until they rise again."
Until her mother came, CJ thought wearily; they would all sleep until her mother found her.
TJ's heart pounded as she reached the pod the raven was perched upon. Brody quickly joined her and linked up the pod to his tablet.
He nodded. "All looks good. Power is stable."
TJ took a deep breath. "Wake her up."
The pod cleared and opened revealing the petite figure of a young woman in her early twenties. Her dark hair was shoulder length and she was dressed in a red gown. Her eyes blinked furiously before they opened fully; dark and sorrowful…they lit up as they landed on TJ.
TJ nodded tremulously.
Carmen stepped out of the pod, reaching for her and TJ pushed her weapon aside to hug her daughter; wrapping her up tightly into her arms and holding her…just holding her.
Emotions swarmed over both of them; happiness at their reunion; sorrow at the time they'd missed; love and affection…
Carmen was the one to break hold, stepping back and swiping at her wet cheeks. "I wish we could spend hours together but we need to wake the others." She smiled brightly. "There's someone I want you to meet."
"We have another problem." TJ said. "One of our team visited a planet on the outer edge of the galaxy with a tomb…"
"Oh no!" Carmen gasped. "Morde!"
"Morde!" TJ repeated. "We thought it was Anubis! Was Morde half-Ascended?"
Carmen nodded. "I'm on the cusp and so is Lancelot. That's why we were able to bind him to the tomb!"
"Well, he's free." TJ said. "He used Eli to get to this place and…"
"Uh, there's an empty pod back there." Brody wagged a finger at the one he meant.
Carmen hurried over and sighed. "Damn. He's taken Lancelot's body!" She closed her eyes in anguish. "He's gone after the King and Queen!" Her eyes opened again, filled with determination. "We have to save them!"
TJ placed a hand on her daughter's shoulder. "We will."
Her radio crackled. "Scott to TJ."
"TJ here." TJ responded.
"We're outside a cave entrance but we're taking fire; some kind of blue lightning!"
"We're on our way." TJ said.
Carmen held up a hand. "Wait! If I'm to do this I need balance." She went to the pod next to her own and started the sequence to deactivate it.
It opened and revealed a young man with red hair and a friendly freckled face.
He woke and blinked at them sleepily. "Nim?"
Carmen gave a cry and launched herself at him. "Kay!"
TJ cleared her throat as the embrace continued. "We have to leave."
Carmen nodded and dragged Kay from the pod. "Right." She grasped Kay's hand and held out her free hand to TJ. "Take it!"
TJ didn't hesitate; she slipped her hand into her daughter's.
The world shifted…
Suddenly, TJ stood on the edge of a clearing with Kay and her daughter beside her. They immediately ducked as a flash of blue lightning appeared.
"Where did you come from?" Matt asked shocked by their appearance.
"Never mind that," Ron said gruffly, "we need more firepower! He has too much cover!"
"There's another entrance!" Carmen said. "Follow me!"
Matt gestured at Volker. "Can you get that thing to work?"
The metal contraption in front of him gave an unhappy beep. Volker shook his head, despondently.
Matt indicated for Varro and Ron to stay where they were; he and TJ followed after Carmen and Kay. The second entrance was luckily around to the side. It was a narrow fit and TJ was grateful for her slim figure and that she wasn't scared of tight places.
"Great, just great." Matt muttered under his breath.
They inched out into a dimly lit room. There were two pods inside; one with a female form and the other a male.
Carmen immediately began the process to deactivate the pods and the couple woke swiftly.
"CJ!" The dark haired woman stepped out of the pod and hugged TJ's daughter.
Kay helped the man get his bearings before glomping him with a manly hug. "Arthur!"
TJ's eyes widened a touch and she exchanged a 'can you believe it' look with Matt.
An explosion rocked the chamber.
"What was that?" asked Arthur drawing his sword.
"Morde," Carmen explained grimly, "he escaped his tomb and is possessing Lancelot's body!"
Guin drew her sword. "Show us!"
TJ and Matt were left spectators as they followed after the two couples.
They made their way through dusty chambers, tables filled with scrolls covered with cobwebs after centuries of disuse. TJ wondered if any of it would survive or if it would crumble to dust on the first touch. They crept up behind Morde in the wide tunnel to the outside and took cover in the natural crevices.
"Morde!" Arthur shouted gaining the other's attention and stopping his attack on TJ's friends.
The blond haired man whirled around. For a second, it was as though another looked out of his eyes before the manic expression reappeared.
"It's too late!" Morde snarled. "I'm free and I will destroy you!"
But a dove dived out of nowhere and attacked him. Morde cowered beneath.
"The spirit plane!" Carmen ordered, grabbing Kay's hand and reaching for out for another…
TJ took it and held her hand out to Matt. He took Guin's who grabbed hold of Arthur's free hand, his other was taken already by Kay…
They simply shifted from the physical to the spiritual; the tunnel remained but where Morde had stood physically alone, in the spirit plane, they could see he was actively wrestling with Lancelot.
Morde's snake kept diving out of the way of Lancelot's dove.
And TJ knew what needed to be done. "The only way to stop him is the way Oma stopped Anubis. One of us has to remain in battle with him."
Arthur immediately made to move forward. "I'll do it."
"You can't!" Carmen said. "My mother's right but it can't just be any one of us! It has to be someone who is Ascended!" She darted a look toward Kay who was already shaking his head.
"No, Nim. Don't! Please!" Kay clasped her hand in his. "You're my life!"
Arthur and Guinevere looked on gravely.
"I have to do this!" Carmen said, crying.
TJ could hardly breathe; she'd just found her daughter – she couldn't lose her again, she couldn't!
"No!" Lancelot's voice rang out in the tunnel.
They all turned…
Lancelot had clearly gotten the upper hand; he had Morde up against the wall of the tunnel, a vice-like grip on Morde's throat; Morde scrabbled at Lancelot's wrist trying to ease the pressure. Beside them, the dove held the asp in its claws tightly.
Lancelot looked over at the group and smiled. "This was always my destiny; to give my life for my Queen…"
Guinevere sobbed and shook her head in denial.
"…and my King."
Arthur wrapped an arm around Guinevere and gave a grim nod to Lancelot. "It has been an honour."
"Lance!" Carmen swiped at her face. She shook her head but then took a deep breath. "Thank you."
Kay held onto her daughter as he added his own wordless thank you with a deep look of gratitude.
"Take care of Elaine and my son." Lancelot asked turning back to Arthur.
"As my own." Arthur promised.
Lancelot gave a nod and turning back to Morde began to transform, his spirit losing form into a white energy being and forcing Morde into a black wisp of smoke that Lancelot grasped…
They both disappeared in a flash of white light.
It was over.
TJ made her way to her daughter and wrapped her arms around Carmen as she sobbed out her sorrow on Kay's shoulder. Carmen eased away from her Warrior and into her mother's embrace. And TJ comforted her daughter and knew her mission was over but her own destiny awaited.
Destiny was bustling.
Rush, with Lisa's help, had found that Morde had interfered with Destiny's programming. With Eli healed by Carmen's pre-Ascended abilities just in the nick of time to save his life, he and Chloe had calculated a jump to get them back on course where they'd resume their journey.
They'd waited though for the Earth ship 'Thor' which had arrived above the planet on schedule two days after they had come out of stasis. 'Thor' was under the command of Colonel Grogan; his wife, Colonel Hailey was the Chief Engineer aboard taking care of the wormhole drive. They had brought supplies and personnel with them.
Some were transferring to Destiny. The original mission commander Colonel Telford had been killed in action a year before – something that had shocked the Destiny crew who remembered the man all too well. Instead the command was offered to Everett who had accepted it. Rush had been surprised but had quipped 'better the devil you know' before holding out his hand for Everett to shake.
TJ was certain that the two would come to blows again but she wasn't worried; she wasn't staying with Destiny. She wondered if Everett had thought she would stay on the crew when he accepted but he hadn't discussed it with her when she had provided him with her transfer orders. TJ was surprised at how many of the Destiny crew were remaining to see the journey through.
She wandered into the infirmary and nodded at Doctor Keller, a veteran of the programme. Keller had briefly been Head of Medical on Atlantis before the clone of Carson Beckett was found, and she was taking over Destiny's infirmary along with a small staff of three others. Keller had offered TJ an internship but she had turned it down.
She checked her watch; it was almost time to leave. She gazed around the infirmary one last time and made her way through the ship to the Stargate.
TJ's throat closed with emotion as she realised how many had turned out to see her off.
"Well," Everett cleared his throat, "it's been an honour, Tamara. We wish you were coming with us but we can understand why you've chosen to stay behind."
TJ nodded at him briskly, trying not to cry. "It's been an honour, sir."
"Good luck." Matt stepped forward and hugged her.
She hugged him back. "Captain Scott." She said, tapping his bars as she eased back.
Chloe was next; then Eli.
Hugging Lisa goodbye was hard; both of them were crying at the end.
TJ wiped her face and was grateful when Ron held her tight for a long moment. "God be with you, Tamara."
Rush gave her a quick nod and TJ nodded back. They'd never been close but there had never been the enmity between them that Rush had cultivated with some of the others.
Volker and Brody waved goodbye from the other control console.
They were all remaining on board; choosing to remain within the strange raggedy team that they'd had to become in the long hard months after their arrival.
Only Camile and Van were missing having chosen to go the day before to 'Thor'. Camile had been reunited via the stones with Sharon and had been touched and astounded to realise her beloved had waited for her. Van had chosen reassignment back to Earth for her career but her continuing wistfulness at Matt and Chloe's relationship was too obvious for anyone not to know it played a role in her decision.
TJ looked her fill one final time and nodded at Everett. He tapped his radio. "Destiny to Thor. Lieutenant Johansen is ready for beam out."
And as their eyes met one last time, TJ felt the beam take her.
CJ paused by the edge of the clearing and looked at the tense figure of her mother standing by the water's edge. Destiny had departed the day before and the 'Thor' had finally left orbit early that morning. The sun was just beginning to rise, bleeding gold into the darkness, sending light over the ripples of the lake.
She crossed over and wrapped her arms around her mother. TJ turned pulling CJ so she stood beside her, their arms still around each other. CJ watched in comfortable silence as the sun chased the last of the night away.
Blackie cawed from a nearby tree and a fox darted through the undergrowth. TJ's white tigress looked on indulgently at their play.
CJ's lips twitched at the sight of another scarred tiger hidden almost under the foliage of a nearby bush keeping watch. Although there was an anthropology team from the Stargate programme and a small contingent of military personnel with them, only her mother and an ex-Alliance soldier named Varro had chosen to stay on the planet. She had sensed Varro had feelings for her mother but CJ was waiting to see what would happen. Perhaps Varro would help her mother heal. TJ had been hurt badly in the past and deserved some happiness.
CJ's mind drifted to the meeting she'd had with Everett Young. Her father was battered and wounded spiritually; too caught up in guilt and self-recrimination to allow himself to heal, to open himself up to loving TJ again as much as he still loved her. She had forgiven him and let him go. CJ hadn't lacked for a father figure growing up with Emrys after all.
"You didn't have to stay." CJ said eventually as the sun turned the lake a stunning shade of turquoise blue.
TJ smiled at her, nothing but love in her eyes. "There was never a doubt, Carmen, about where I belonged. This is where I'm meant to be; with you."
CJ smiled back, happy and content, loved beyond measure by Kay and her mother, her spirit soaring.
She breathed in the new day and whispered a thank you across the spirit plane; to the Queen who had saved them all; the Warrior Prince who had done his duty and lifted the curse; to Lancelot who had sacrificed his eternity so they could live.
Finally, she rested her hand low on her abdomen, thinking of the red-haired daughter who would be doted upon and adored by her grandmother, the next Sentinel Queen to rise; and Carmen Johansen gave thanks for the new life that was just beginning.