Pace, pace, pace. Pace, pace, pace.

Pause to chew on my thumbnail.

They know Rodney's gone. They know that Sheppard, Weir and Beckett are gone too.

And they pulled me in for questioning.

Luckily, I've got plausible deniability. I mean...I know they went back to Atlantis, but I don't know too many specifics. That didn't keep the military types from trying to wring every single ounce of information out of me, but I handled it pretty well.

They've been gone from Earth for three days without word back and I'm getting...

Well, more anxious than I already was.

Pace, pace, pace. Pace, pace, pace.

Pause to chew on--...huh, I seem to have chewed that one down to a nub. Actually, I've chewed all of my nails down to the quick.

This does not bode well. I'll start gnawing on my hand pretty soon if we don't get some kind of news from Atlantis.

I shouldn't have let him go.

I should have screamed at the top of my lungs and kept him from doing this...this...absolutely idiotic thing!

What if he's dead?

Stop pacing.

Why should I care?

Oh don't be stupid, Lydia...we're not friends, but we're far from being the bitter enemies we once were. I'm allowed to be a little bit worried about him.

If he got himself killed, I'll never forgive him. I'll curse at his grave until the cows come home if he went and died on me!

Resume pacing.

And what about Beckett? And Sheppard? I liked them too...

Weir I could do without, but I don't want the woman dead.

Zelenka popped by Area Fifty One yesterday...some kind of planned visit thing...but I didn't get the chance to talk to him.

He looked about the way I feel though. Frazzled, anxious and worried.

Flop down on my chair.

Okay...I don't pray often. I really don't. It's not that I don't believe in God, I just...don't believe in organized religion so much. But somehow, I think my nerves might quiet a little if I

If you're there, God, and you're not too wanna do me a favor? Keep them safe. You know which 'them' I mean. Or at least don't let them get hurt too badly. Just all of them back in one piece would be nice. I don't care if Atlantis falls or not, just make sure they don't get blasted to kingdom come if the place goes up, okay? Amen.

Gah. I can't take this. I need news! I need to know what--


I think my heart just stopped and sank all the way down to my sneakers.

"Who is it?"

I hate how meek and terrified my voice sounds. HATE IT.

There's several moments of excited gibberish which my ears register as being Czech before my visitor remembers the person he's trying to communicate with speaks only English fluently. "It is Radek! I have news!"

Dart across the room and fling the door open. Heart is thumping at breakneck speed inside my chest.

"Are they okay?"

He's positively beaming. "Better than okay!"

I fling my arms around Radek's neck. I have no idea what's just come over me, but it's an impulse I can't control, so I just give into it. Maybe it's relief? It certainly feels like unbelievably strong relief. I can't stop laughing with the strength of it and my eyes are threatening to spill over. There's a part of me that doesn't like the way that feels in the least, but the majority of me is too thrilled to care. "That's wonderful, Radek!"

He laughs a laugh of pure, unadulterated joy--clearly I'm not the only one who'd been on the verge of frantic, worried hysteria over the disappearance of our fellow expedition members--and squeezes me briefly before releasing me. "Atlantis is back under Earth's control!"

My heart has stopped again, but for an entirely different reason. "Does that mean…?"

"We are to return to Atlantis next week!"

"The entire expedition?"

"All of us!"

Another hug and a squeal of happiness erupts from my throat. I should feel like a complete idiot, but for some reason, I can't bring myself to give a damn about how stupidly embarrassed I would be under ordinary circumstances.

I'm going home.


A/N: Well, that's it folks. No more Lydia Winter. Nuh uh. Not from me, never ever again. She's been a fun character to write, but I've done enough with her to last me a lifetime. The Retribution! Saga (every story I've written featuring her) is currently being turned into a book (just like When Plot Bunnies Attack), and it's already big enough to scare me.

However, I hereby give her to you, the readers, to do with as you please. Pick up where I left off, write her into anything you want. As long as you give me credit in an author's note, she's yours for the taking. Goodnight, my beloved audience. It's been a blast, but I've gotta run. Be sure to check out my other stories if you liked this one. Adieu, adieu, parting is such sweeeeeet sorrow.