The Artist's Rendering by AndromedaMarine

The old Lieutenant General sighed a deep, bone rattling sigh. He rubbed his ringed hand through the gradually retreating grey hair on his head. The general had an abundance of wrinkles on his face, everything from laugh lines at the corners of his eyes to the worry lines creasing his forehead. He unconsciously twisted the faded gold ring on his finger, the ridges of his pads tracing over the design it had memorized over fifty years ago. He leaned back in his desk's chair, relaxing into the deep calm of his mind. Nothing much resided there anymore. It had been overtaxed by constant threats of impending global destruction and soon it would be his turn to run Homeworld Security. He hadn't disposed of the ring for forty-five of those long years. It would remain, glaring at him, reminding him of all he didn't do. He could almost hear the beautiful smile she'd given him when he put the counterpart on her finger. He was getting too old for his job. Although he'd had a desk job for the past thirty years his stomach had refused to balloon, and he rarely ever did anything social. Two people from the old days were all he kept in touch with. Two friends; two brothers.

The phone rang, and the general was very glad that it wasn't the red one. He didn't think he could handle another informant rattling off the number of enemy ships exiting hyperspace into their solar system. The Wraith were all but gone, the last few renegade hives fleeing the Pegasus galaxy at last. They wouldn't run to Earth, no; they'd figured out that this lonely planet had an Ancient chair as well. The general picked up the phone, and his mouth spread into a grin when he heard the familiar voice over the line.

"Hi, old friend. Care to join me for dinner?" He looked up at the painting that hung outside his office. The magnificent spires of the Ancient metropolis skewered the blue painted sky, the light that the bright yellows depicted indicating the lit sections of the now-abandoned city. Well, in his mind he'd abandoned it. In truth it was still being run by the IOA and the SGC. Now descendants of those in the original expedition were living there, save the descendents of himself and the two brothers that had finally had enough of the death in Pegasus.

The voice on the line agreed to meet the old Lieutenant General for a nice evening out. They would chat and discuss their lives. They would even broach the topic of the ring still residing on his finger. He would only see one brother tonight. The other was in Russia, doing God-knows-what for the UN. Both men had lost their families on Atlantis. The general had lost more than family, however. The woman he lost was a soul-mate and a lover. Not just a wife. But he never remarried. He knew that he would lose his chance of building and leaving a legacy through offspring, but the pain was too great and the only thing it had done was settle into a dull ache. He thought about her every day.

The general stood to leave, and he glanced at the painting again in the hall. He sometimes wondered if the artist had depicted his life instead; if his life was just a painting. The simple but complex brush-strokes illustrating the death of his wife. He looked at his watch and hurried out the door, once again smiling at the artist's rendering of Atlantis.

Thirty minutes later the general entered the small restaurant, and immediately spotted the still-fluffy grey hair on his brother's head. He briefly embraced him, and sat across from him. The man's accent was still intriguing fifty years later. "How are you doing?" Radek asked, glancing at the menu both men had already memorized.

"Not so well. The Department of Homeworld Security is keeping my phone ringing off the hook." He spoke quietly, for the Stargate program was never planning to go public. But their cover stories for the enemy vessels were wearing thin. "It's times like these I wish we were still on Atlantis."

The Czech agreed, nodding his head. He set the menu down and stared at the general with piercing eyes. "Sometimes I think that we are not in the right universe. I think Rodney was right – everything went wrong after-" He couldn't finish the sentence. Forty years later and they still didn't talk about it.

The general's eyes softened. "Yeah. Everything went wrong after Evan died."

"Yes. After Evan there was Peter's death, and Carson." The Czech's voice lowered with his eyes. "Elizabeth." He glanced at the ring still encircling the general's finger. "Sometimes I believe that we are part of Evan's painting."

The general gave a small chuckle. "I was thinking the same thing before I left the office." The two ate dinner and embraced again, parting ways. Another four months would pass before they saw each other again. Their other brother would never return, as Moscow was the first city hit by enemy fire three years later.

Lieutenant General John Sheppard returned to the SGC, but this time his eyes turned to the smaller, less conspicuous painting that hung on his wall. Evan had painted this one, too. It was the artist's rendering of Elizabeth Sheppard.