Title: We Don't Pray That Way

Rating: PG-13

Pairing: none. Gen, but if you want to see ships I guess you can.

Warnings: the end of the world (as we know it).

Prompt: 156. Any. The visiting members of SG-1 were off visiting some new allies when the word came that Earth was going to blow the gate. By the time they get to Atlantis, it was too late to go home.

Summary: They get the radio call in the middle of the night.

A/N: for SG-1 it's pre-"Dominion", and for SGA it's pre-"Sunday". Written for apocalypsekree and finally finished!


Three

They get the radio call in the middle of the night. Their accommodation, a large tent where they spread out in circle, only seconds before had been filled with the comforting and familiar sounds of Cam, Teal'c and Vala's snores. Then, just as Sam turns over to lie on her stomach and Daniel sniffs in his sleep, Mitchell's radio goes off.

In a split second Cam is up in his sleeping bag, Teal'c and Sam following him, with Vala and Daniel blinking awake just in time to witness Mitchell shouting into his radio for Walter. The static is deafening – everything, every sound of that slow white noise, and like a hammer pounding nail to their ears – and then Walter's voice comes in, clean, sharp, like a knife cutting through them all. His voice punctuated by the static and the yells (the chaos) in the background, but even with all the background noise they can't miss the undertone in his words. Death. Resignation. And an ending.

There's been an attack… Earth… the Alpha Site… enact…protocol DS - Delta-X5.

And he cuts out. Those are Walter's last words to SG-1, a strung up sentence of doom.

--

Mitchell and Sam freeze, eyes snapping to each other, knowing what comes after that protocol is activated. Next to them Teal'c's back straightens, a silent foreboding overcoming his stance and not even Daniel is able to get the words out, so it's Vala that asks the question none of them want to even consider.

"Does that mean…" she can't even finish the sentence, because while she might not know all the military protocol and codes, she knows enough. She knows this team which has grown into her family, and she can read what's in their eyes too easily.

Still, Daniel answers, seeing the affirmative in Sam's eyes, "They're blowing the Gate."

Vala's eyes widen at the confirmation and as soon as the words leave Daniel everything starts moving too fast.

Cameron is yelling through the radio, trying in vain (— no, please not in vain) to get more information about why, to get through to Stargate Command to know it's still there, to get through to Walter to make sure he's still in the control room, to make sure there's a control room to get through to. His answer is more static and they move faster. Whenever Cameron's not trying to get through, Sam is, and when Sam isn't, they all are. They're all moving too fast, grabbing everything they can in their haste, and then they're letting Daniel give a rushed explanation to their host as they make their run for the Gate.

Five minutes too long later, they make it and pause. They all look at Daniel as he automatically begins dialling and it's as if the switch has been flipped because suddenly every second takes too long. Next to Daniel, Vala is staring at the gate as if her eyes on it will speed up the process.

As he presses the final symbol on the DHD the team all give one last to each other before resting their eyes towards the gate.

It doesn't establish a connection.

And the breath they all hold gets stuck in their throats.

For the next ten minutes they stand there, Daniel pressing each symbol needed to dial Earth with increasing desperation and resignation each time he finishes a sequence and the gate still doesn't dial. Sam double checks everything, the DHD, the Stargate, the DHD again, but they all know nothing is malfunctioning. Sam still doubles checks it all, and Daniel keeps dialling. None of them want to admit what has happened (please no, it has to be a malfunction on Earth's end). What they know is not waiting for them on the other side and as gate stutters out again Cameron lays his hand on Daniel's shoulder.

"Dial the Alpha Site." His voice is unrecognisable, raw at the edges and none of them can tell if it's an order or a request.

Daniel's eyes are unfocused and when he looks at Cameron for a second he doesn't seem to capture Cam's words. Vala starts to step forward when the meaning behind the words clicks together in Daniel's mind and she stays where she is. He nods and turns to dial only to find that Teal'c is already there, saving him the job. Vala slides up to his side then, touching his elbow as he stares at each symbol Teal'c is pressing.

Daniel and Teal'c's eyes meet over the last symbol, and Daniel sends a silent thank you and apology to the other man. Teal'c doesn't nod or smile, but Vala can see Teal'c gets what Daniel can't say and presses the last symbol to dial the Alpha Site. (Thank you, Muscles.)

This time the gate does connect, but instead of feeling relief, all they can feel is dread, because this only means that there was no gate to dial to anymore on Earth. Cameron takes the first step forward to the event horizon and the rest of them follow. All of them know that no matter what they find — answers, questions — none of it will be good.

--

They're right.

Stepping out they see a massacre. And for a second Cam thinks they must have dialled the wrong gate.

It's not the Alpha Site. It can't be. There's nothing but death in this place. The burn marks of weapon's fire and staff weapons are littering the ground like pock marks on a weathered face and there's a lingering smell of copper in the air that they all recognise as blood, so there's no need to ask about it.

They take the first step together, a unit, and then fan out looking for clues, survivors, hope, answers. Anything. Anything to explain what has happened here and what they're now fearing more and more might have happened on Earth.

It's more than obvious as they start recognising more and more of the fallen bodies that nobody made it through whatever happened here. Then Sam calls him over. Cam rushes past the maze of blood and people he knows - Teal'c is covering what looks one of the Marines from SG-4; Simmons, the one with the three year old — and he makes his way to Sam, focusing on what he can fix and not on everything else.

It doesn't help when he realises that Sam wasn't calling him to show him something, but someone.

Reynolds is on the ground on his side, a nasty staff blast at his side (remembers: Sam, the village, her password, fishing) and Cam falls to his knees to quick, pain filtering quickly up his thighs, and then almost chokes on his tongue, because Reynolds is alive and dying at the same time.

He can hear Teal'c, Jackson, and Vala rush over. He can hear Sam talking to Reynolds and trying to dress his wound at the same time. When she tells him to press his hands down on the gauze, Cam does. Reynolds blinks up as Sam injects a morphine shot — a mercy shot — and Cam stares into the man's eyes, feeling like a new recruit in the Academy in the face of what he sees in Reynolds' eyes.

Sam is trying to save the man, Teal'c has knelt next to them to help, but Cam can't look away from Reynolds' face. There is no comfort to be had. They all know how this going to end. But they need to know how this started.

"What happened here, Colonel?" Cam hates his voice, the command, the order, but it's what Reynolds will respond to if he's in shock.

It works.

"The Prior and the ships came out of nowhere. No warning. We were here. The mountain, they…" Reynolds' eyes slip shut, heart slowing, stopping, and Cam looks over the man's body to Sam. Her eyes are watery, but she only blinks, pulls the EP pen out and stabs the man with it (Cam can hear Jackson begin a protest too late). Reynolds' eyes snap open, his body bending and both he and Sam try to keep him still.

"What happened at the mountain, Al?" Sam asks, moving over to look at the dying man's face.

"They tried to warn… to send teams… too late… it was over… the gate… gone." This time when Reynolds' eyes close, nobody does anything but try and make the man comfortable. They wait for the next fifteen minutes until his heart finally stops.

--

"It had to be the Earth gate that Reynolds was talking about," Daniel says as they finish burying the bodies, the sun setting over the Alpha Site's gate. (In Judaism it is traditional to bury the dead before sunset the day after the death. In Egypt they would mummify the corpses and bury them with prized possessions, the Vikings would later follow the tradition of burying their dead with their possessions and burn the bodies on boats or stones would be placed around the bodies in the shape of boats.) Mitchell had said a few words, recited the Our Father, Teal'c had said a Jaffa prayer, and he, Sam and Vala had said nothing, but Sam crossed herself when Mitchell was done and Vala touched her chest when Teal'c was. He had said nothing.

Sam sits next to him, nodding, "Not exactly good news."

Daniel sighs, "Yeah."

On his other side Vala hands her water to Teal'c, "What are we going to do now?"

Mitchell and Sam look at each other and at once Sam standsup, "No, Cam."

"We need to find out what happen, Sam!"

"It's a risk."

"Don't tell me you don't want know what happened? Everything-"

"Our orders are clear on this." Sam argues back and not for once Daniel can see what people meant about how he and Jack were, mean about how he and Vala are. Still, it doesn't mean he has to like it.

"What orders?" He asks, glancing over at Teal'c and Vala. Teal'c, he suspects, already knows, but doesn't let anything show. Vala on the other hand shrugs, letting him know he's not alone in the confusion.

Sam turns back to him, sighing, eyes sliding over to Mitchell, "It's a contingency plan if the gate is destroyed and the Alpha Site too. Allies we go to. But with all that's been going onlately those are few and far between nowadays, so ever since Atlantis became more easily accessible, the plan's been changed to head to the Pegasus Galaxy." She sits back down, the tension in her shoulders seeming to weigh down all her body. Looking back up at Mitchell, she repeats, "They were our orders, Cam."

Across from them, Mitchell curses, but Daniel saw the reaction to orders and he knows that like Sam, Mitchell will carry out his duty. He may not like it. Daniel's not sure he even likes it, running to Atlantis, but it's the only plan they've got. The only one that might work.

Teal'c then breaks the silence that has fallen on them. "And how will we be reaching the Pegasus Galaxy?"

Sam's head snaps to Teal'c and the fact that she hasn't even thought about that lets Daniel knows just how in shock she still is. Thankfully Vala reaches over and pats Sam's knee with a small, comforting smile.

"Don't worry, I'll take care of the transportation." She stands, looking over the grave site the Alpha Site has become and smudges some dirt off her cheek. "But we should leave now."

--

They reach the planet by Stargate easily enough, and Vala guides them down the dirty streets that lead them to an old tavern where she motions for them to wait outside, announcing she's only taking Teal'c inside while waving towards their BDUs. SG teams already have quite the reputation around the galaxy, a reputation made mostly by this team, and it would be best if they didn't get into any trouble right now.

"Vala, you sure about this?" Daniel asks, looking over the bar and not feeling all that confident with what he's seeing of the surroundings.

"I'm sure it will be fine, Daniel." Sam wrinkles her nose at the man stumbling out and throwing up not two feet away from them, but nods at Vala's words.

Vala taps Daniel's cheek gently, smiling over to Sam. "See? It will be fine. Plus, I'm taking Muscles as insurance, aren't I?"

Teal'c inclines his heads, holstering his guns and handing his extra clips to Cameron. "Indeed you are, Vala Mal Doran."

"See," Vala turns to Teal'c, tugging her pigtails out, and ripping some cleavage into her vest top and slipping her handgun by the small of her back. "I'll be perfectly fine. Just going to get us some naquadah to trade, clothes, a room and hopefully a ship."

Cameron looks more convinced than Daniel, but it's obvious he doesn't want to be kept outside. "Are you sure about this?"

Vala shrugs, "If anything, I can guarantee the room and clothes. The rest we can get later."

Daniel meets her eyes, eyebrow raising, "And does that mean steal?"

Vala shoves her tactical vest and jacket into his arms, "Yes." Nodding to Teal'c, she moves towards the tavern's entrance, Teal'c at her side.

--

"Frye, love, missed me?" Vala grins, confident and happy. (Never let them see you sweat, Vala. Okay, Dad. And smile, you have a great smile and it can work to your advantage if you work it right. Yes, Dad.)

"Well, if it isn't Vala Mal Doran?" The gun pointed at her doesn't phase her, partly because this is Frye's normal reaction to her and partly because Muscles has one pointed at Frye. The man, and owner of the tavern, looks between Vala and Teal'c, smirking, "Finally got yourself somebody to look out for that skinny ass?" Frye drops his gun, slipping it back to home under the bar.

"And I've got three more out front," Vala smiles, "Now, about my old room and things?"

--

Outside, Sam keeps looking back towards the tavern's door, waiting for Vala and Teal'c to come out. She's trying to focus on the plan right now. Get to Atlantis. Find answers. Every other thought is dangerous and could very well get them all killed, but she knows she's not the only one thinking it.

When she argued Cam's idea to head back to Earth, she meant her words. It was too dangerous right now. They didn't know enough and the plan should Earth ever have the need to blow the gate was always head to Atlantis, if Atlantis is standing. And the city is. If it wasn't it'd be a different story, but Atlantis is there, waiting for them like a beacon of shining hope they're counting on. But the journey to the Pegasus Galaxy is no short trip and they have no ship, something that they might be fixing if Vala's contacts pan out. Sam already knows that she'll have to work on whatever engine they'll get, she trusts Vala's word that the woman can get them a space worthy ship, but a space worthy ship that can make the trip to the Pegasus Galaxy - a trip that normally takes four weeks on a X-303 - well, that's another story.

Thinking about how to change the hyperdrive on an Al'kesh, a Ha'tak, or even hook one up to a cargo ship, Sam barely registers Vala and Teal'c walking out. Cam nudges hers and she blinks, falling into step with him and Daniel as they make their way to Vala.

"How'd it go?" Daniel asks when they're close enough.

"We have a room for tonight and there should be some clothes there. We'll get the ship tomorrow."

"Do you know what kinda of ship it will be?" Sam asks.

"We'll be picking between a Al'kesh or Ha'tak — cargo ships are rather small for such a trip, right?" Vala leads them to the building behind the tavern and shows them where they'll be staying.

"I, too, would not recommend such close quarters for such a lengthy period of time." Teal'c says, checking the alley way as they head inside the room.

"Agreed." Daniel nods, stepping inside the door that Vala just opened.

As soon as the door closes and it's only the five of them in the medium size room Vala got them, Cam turns to Vala. "So, exactly where are we getting this ship from?"

"From our favourite friends, Cameron. The Lucian Alliance," Vala drops to the one bed in the room, a grim smirk twisting her lips, "Well, what's left of them."

While Cam curses the news, Sam drops onto the bed next to Vala, pulling out her data pad, working on the plans for what she'll need to fix the hyperdrives.

--

The next morning they wake up from not having really slept. Teal'c watches as Samantha Carter blinks at the rising sun from the table she had been working at. She had moved there at some point before midnight, letting Daniel Jackson take her place on the bed.

On the floor at the foot of the bed, Cameron Mitchell sits up rolling his neck and Teal'c can hear the crack. The man, like of the rest of them, hasn't really slept. They spent the night sitting and occasionally closing their eyes at odd intervals, listening to one another's sounds.

(Vala Mal Doran snores, Daniel Jackson mumbles words in Arabic, Cameron Mitchell doesn't move, but every once in a while his body tenses like it's expecting to be hit, and Samantha Carter blinks her eyes, never really having fallen asleep.)

After Samantha Carter left the bed for the small desk in the room, the sounds of her working, her fingers hitting the data pad's keys mingled with their quiet conversation about planning what has to be done today. Around 0200 they all knew what the plan was to be, and what the back-up plan was to be too and then a slight hush fell over the room again.

Teal'c watched as his friends caught snatches of sleep. Cameron Mitchell leaning against the foot of the bed and closing his eyes, hand on his side arm the whole night; above him, Vala Mal Doran had rested herself with her head closest to him and facing where Samantha Carter was sitting, offering someone to talk to and some help, respectively. She lasted about an hour longer that Cameron Mitchell, curling herself around a pillow close to Daniel Jackson's thigh. Daniel Jackson stayed quite for the most part. Teal'c could see him contemplating everything that had happened, their eyes meeting on several occasion, the same names passing through their eyes. He had offered the bed to Samantha Carter around the same time Vala Mal Doran's eyes closed, but Samantha Carter denied the offer with a wave, continuing her work. Like their blonde friend Daniel Jackson only slipped into sleep only a couple hours ago, sliding down from his sitting position the bed and letting his hand drift into Vala Mal Doran's dark curls.

Teal'c himself needed the last hour of rest he acquired by kel'noriming and now stands watching the sun rise over this city.

He looks over to his team (family, Ry'ac, Bra'tac, but first this) and announces the morning. Vala Mal Doran climbs over Daniel Jackson and nods, heading towards the toilet, grabbing one of the bags from the night before.

By the time she comes out, she's dressed in leather pants and her same ripped vest top.

"Suit up, people." She grins, "We have a ship to steal."

Samantha Carter wonders if all the pants are that tight as Daniel Jackson mumbles something about coffee.

Teal'c savours this brief moment of normalcy, because as soon as they leave this room, everything changes back. Not that it has changed at all.

--

"Sam!" Daniel calls out as he fires at the Lucien Alliance guard shooting at them.

"I've almost got the override sequence for the docking bay," she answers back from her position just inside the control room where her fingers are quickly moving across the keys on data pad that will give them the ship they're, as Vala would say, commandeering. Teal'c's already by the entrance, ready to go in while Daniel is busy making sure Sam can finish the overriding the commands that the Lucien Alliance have put on the ship and silently cursing Vala for this little plan. They really have to have a talk about her version of "in and out" and "easy".

"Daniel, I got it!" Sam rushes up to him, tucking her data pad into her flak vest and pulls her radio out to inform Teal'c of the news.

"Teal'c, we're ready to leave."

"Copy that, Colonel Carter." Daniel hears over Sam's radio.

Sighing, Daniel looks out the room to see if it was clear. "Okay, now we just have to get out of here."

About five Lucien guards are heading their way.

"How many?" Sam asks when he turns back to her.

"Five."

"Vala has an interesting definition of 'easy'." She checks her mag on her P-90 before moving to the other side of the door, getting ready to cover him.

"Vala has an interesting definition of everything." Daniel nods to Sam and they move out.

--

Rushing down the facility's halls, Vala makes the mental note that if this whole plan to Make It To Atlantis doesn't work, the team has the makings a proper thieving crew. As she reaches the flight deck of the Al'kesh, she calls Daniel on the radio and less than a second later she can feel Samantha lifting the ship off the ground, the docking door closing behind her.

Daniel should be up with Teal'c and Samantha now. Cameron is rushing through the ship next to her, holding his own P-90 and Lucian gun still at his side. As far as she knows nobody is injured and the ship is mostly in one piece.

The Lucian shipyard, a former Goa'uld ship-building and naquadah refining facility, had been embarrassingly easy to break into. Even with all the bounties on her, Cameron and the others still standing despite Ventrell's takeover, they can't be too careful - especially since from the looks of things their list of allies is diminishing.

Getting the ship had been easy enough and Samantha had done a superb job with getting it under their control. But getting the ship hadn't been what had worried Vala at all. What truly worries Vala, as she and Cameron hear Samantha announce she was engaging the hyperdrive and getting out of this sector of space, is what's to come now. She knows how long a trip to Atlantis takes and that's a long time to live with questions.

"Hey, Princess, you okay?" Cameron nudges her as they reach the Al'kesh's bridge.

She smiles, "Of course, now this is when the fun starts."

Cameron gives her look, and she wonders if he's aware how hard this is going get, but only says, "We have a world to save."

"Yeah," Vala follows him in, watching as he heads over to Samantha to probably talk about what will be their next step. Teal'c is sitting in the pilot's seat, facing forward, but aware of all of them. She walks up to Daniel and presses her upper arm against his.

He looks over to her and then glances to where Samantha is filling Cameron in on the ship's location in comparison to the Pegasus Galaxy. Samantha probably filled Daniel and Teal'c in already as they were taking off and Vala doesn't mind not knowing at the moment. She and Samantha will talk later — it's not that big of a ship and from what she remembers the trip isn't exactly short.

Daniel speaks, breaking her musings, "We have a long trip." He pauses looking at her, but Vala gets the feeling he wants to say something else so she doesn't speak. She's right.

"Is this how it felt? Moving without a place to land? Without a destination?"

Vala has to swallow the knot that grows in her throat before she answers. "We have a destination, Daniel."

He only looks back towards the windows that show nothing but hyperspace.

--

Two

Had they been taking bets like they used to do back in the— back hom— before, Cam would have never thought that the first fight of the trip was going to between him and Sam. They had all been betting it would be Jackson and Vala.

He hadn't mean to start it, he wants to clear that up right away when Jackson and Vala confront him about it later, he had just meant to suggest they have a ship. They have a ship now, and what would it take for them to check out the situation on Earth? The situation they haven't heard anything about, but Vala keeps getting cryptic information from certain "associates". She reassures them they can't trust the word of these people right before she contacts them, but they're all singing the same tune. Or near enough the same tune, and it's making Cam all sorts of antsy. So he proposes the idea for a detour to Earth to take a look at the situation. Sam looks at him with those baby blues and he can see the fight that's happening in them. She wants to go and look, but they have their orders. Walter's words are etched in their brains.

DS - Alpha-Delta-X5. DS - Alpha-Delta-X5. DS - Alpha-Delta-X5.

Self Destruct. Self Destruct. Self Destruct.

And Cam can't think of anything else. There's the slight possibility that they didn't go through with it, but they dialled the Gate and it didn't connect and when they dropped out of hyperspace to get some supplies,they tried again and nothing happened. Again. So when he goes into the Al'kesh's engine room where Sam has cloistered herself in, making sure the engine isrunning at capacity and sucking out every ounce of energy and power from them that she can, he really didn't mean to start the fight. But it happens anyway.

"Hey Sam, look, did Vala tell you what her buddies told us?" He slides into one of the stools she has set up in the room.

"Yeah, she mentioned it." She pulls her head out one of the crystals trays and licks her lips, resting against the bulkhead for a second. "It doesn't sound good."

"Yeah… it doesn't," he nods and watches as she fiddles with her lucky screwdriver, the one she always keeps in one her pockets. The words slip out. "We should check it out, you know?" The second they come out he regrets them. He knows that Sam wants to know what's going on as bad as he does, but she has— they have orders and he knows how much it's absolutely killing her to keep to them.

They don't ever talk about it in the group, but it's there, the unspoken rule that he and Sam are decision makers. The final vote, at least on most things, lies between the two of them. It's not out of entitlement, it's out of rank and the fact that they're a military team. An exploratory military team, sure, but lately the latter part of that description seems to be taking precedent. They don't always like it. And what it entails at times. (Jackson sure doesn't, but the man doesn't seem to argue the fact anymore. At least from what he's heard of the early days of SG-1. Teal'c doesn't like it either, but he's been a warrior for longer than Cam's been alive and understands it. Vala. Well, Vala, he isn't always sure about, but he can tell that as natural as a gun looks in her hands, she rather have a lock pick.)

But they have their duty to do. And that's more than a job. They know what's at risk if they don't do it right.

"Cam. Don't." Sam doesn't move to face him again, but he notices that her fingers have stopped and are now hovering over the crystals.

"We have the opportunity, Sam." He tries.

"Just because we have the opportunity doesn't mean we should take it. We have orders and we have to be smart about it. The Al'kesh wasn't built for a five week journey to another galaxy. I've checked the engine and just as long as we drop out of hyperspace for some supplies we'll make it." Sam is confident, but Cam knows; knows Sam well enough, that he's aware that half of that confidence is denial and pure will. He's proud of her because of that. Really, he is.

"And the radio bursts we've been sending?"

"No answers, Cam. We don't know what to expect, we could be flying into a trap, into a situation we're not remotely ready for."

"The ship has weapons, Sam."

"Not strong enough. And if there's more than one ship? We'd be sitting ducks."

"Vala had a friend with a cargo ship that had this pulse thing."

"I know, but do you know how long it would take me to rig one for this ship? And to get this ship battle ready? It would take longer than it would take us to get to Pegasus, Cam." She sighs, "I hate that we don't know. I hate that everything we've heard is cryptic bullshit. All I know for sure is that the plan was to get to Atlantis and that's what we're going to."

"And if Atlantis is gone?" Cam hates the words as they come out, but he hates the look he's placed on Sam's face more. Immediately he tries to backtrack, "Sam, baby… I didn't mean…"

"Don't, Cameron. Just leave." She looks heartbroken and her eyes are getting wetter by the second.

"Sam…"

"Leave, please."

He does. At the door he hears Sam's voice, cracking and raw, "It can't—won't be gone."

"Okay." He leaves the room feeling like a complete ass, because he doesn't want Atlantis to be gone either, he just can't stand doing nothing.

--

They haven't spoken for days and meal times are tense. Tonight Sam drops away back to the engine room; Vala moves Sam's half-eaten rations to her plate and follows her out.

An Al'kesh engine room is warmer than the ones on the X-303s Sam would love it if it wasn't for the fact that she hates it so damn much. She looks at the warm browns and golds and feels an anger she can't place on them. So she punches a wall.

She hears Vala's gasp and realises only now that Vala has followed her. She turns to Vala, feeling her cheeks turn red in embarrassment and shame at her actions, mumbling meaningless word that are supposed to reassure, but Vala in true fashion ignores her and gently grabs the hand she had punched the wall with. Sam tries to say something, to pull away from the other woman, but Vala has a pretty strong grip on her hand as she examines it gently. Sam feels Vala's thin fingers move over her hand, checking for broken bones and bruises. And it's when Vala's thumb brushes over her middle knuckle that Sam realises that it's the first time any one of them has touched the other in comfort. It's been denial and belief until now, but she's too tired to hold on to either. The choked breath that escapes her makes Vala stop.

"Samantha?" She's worried, Sam notes, quickly followed by the fact Vala normally hides her worry well.

"What if we don't make it, Vala? The ship—"

"We will make it, Sam." Vala smiles, Sam's aware of how much of it is purely for her but just lets her friend comfort her with well meant lies (and maybe truth). "And I'm here to help you get anything you need. Anything this ship needs to make it to Atlantis and we don't have, just let me know and I'll get for you."

"You shouldn't steal, Vala." Sam has to grin, because only a promise of theft from Vala can be a good thing.

"Who said anything about stealing? I'm merely borrowing."

"With the intention toreturn?"

"That's another story. Come on, let's get that hand taken care of." Vala wraps her arm around Sam's shoulders and leads out of the engine room. That night Sam doesn't make it back to the engine room, Vala's version of taking care of things involved an alcoholic drink she took from the last world they picked up supplies from.

Sam wakes up hours later with a headache, but a smile.

--

Daniel sits in the Al'kesh bridge with Teal'c, neither speaking, both just sitting in silent contemplation and watching as the stream of subspace passed them by. He barely registers when Vala enters the room and moves towards Teal'c, resting one soft hand on the man's large shoulder. Teal'c only looks up and nods before moving from his position and leaving the room. Daniel still doesn't move at all. He can hear as Vala sits where Teal'c had just been and out of the corner of his eyes watches as she shifts in her seat.

"Sam and Mitchell?"

Vala doesn't turn towards him. "Still not speaking. I suspect Cameron will apologise soon, though."

"Had a talk with him?"

She still doesn't turn to him, but he can see her smile, "No, it's Muscles' turn."

He chuckles, the sounds feeling wrong in his mouth so he doesn't say anything else. Vala doesn't prompt him.

It takes about ten more minutes (not that he's counting) for her to speak. "I thought it'd be us, didn't you?"

"Us?" He moves in his seat to face her, noticing how she still hasn't faced him, watching the blue out of the windows.

"Fighting. I thought it would be us, but we haven't had one fight. We've barely spoken, really spoken, I mean." There's a twitch at the corner of her lips, but he can't tell if it's meant to grow into a frown or a smile.

Daniel sighs. It's true that ever since they've acquired the ship he and Vala haven't really talked to each other. Small conversations, but they haven't shared the same space for longer than the thirty minutes that they have for dinner with the team in, usually at 2100, if they all manage to make it. (Late dinners became more and more common in the 1700s, due to new developments in culture and technology. Before the 1800s the main meal of the day was dinner. In the Middle Ages, great nobles ate the most formal dinner, around noon or one pm. Their dinner was more than a meal; it was an ostentatious display, a statement of wealth and power, with dozens of servants attending in a ritualised performance. Most nobles and lords ate supper between four and six pm. Now, dinner is eaten any time from noon to midnight, and most people never have a supper anymore. Meals are as fluid and changeable as the rest of our lives. Some times there is no fluidity at all.)

"I'm sorry."

"I wasn't looking for an apology, Daniel."

"I know. I'm still sorry. It wasn't about you. I guess… I guess, I just don't—"

"Daniel," she interrupts and now only turns to face him, "it's not supposed to get easier." For a second their eyes meet and Daniel experiences one of those rare moments where Vala is trying to show him sometimes, where she's letting herself open up to him more than she's comfortable with. He thinks he gets it, some days more than others he thinks he gets it. "I got you something when me, Muscles, and Cameron when down to get supplies. I left it in my room." And like that the moment is gone, but he feels it today, that he got it. Maybe.

"Oh?" He says, because there's nothing else that's safe.

"A text, in a minor Goa'uld dialect. Thought you might want something to keep you busy."

Daniel blinks, surprised that she thought that he might get bored waiting on ship for Atlantis' horizon, but he smiles. It's not like he brought anything but the clothes on his back with him. "Thank you." He waits a beat. "Did you steal it?"

Vala laughs and it warms him in the pit of his stomach, "Well, I couldn't very well waste our naquadah on frivolous things, now could I?"

"You shouldn't have." He sighs.

"Daniel, lets not fight."

"I was just saying, you shouldn't have risked yourself."

"I wanted to." She leans her head on the chair and smiles at him, "It was nothing." He mimics the gestures and they sit once again in silence.

--

Teal'c finds Colonel Mitchell on the gilder fight deck where the man's been hiding ever since his and Colonel Carter's fight. Its empty, the wide room filled with the ghosts of the Jaffa that have been sent to die from here and Cameron Mitchell's own that have attached themselves to the man ever since that crisp morning. Teal'c can easily see the tension straining around the edges of Colonel Mitchell's shoulder, a heavy weight he cannot seem to let anyone carry for him. Teal'c recognises it. He had seen it for many years on O'Neill in many moments, but O'Neill had let it settle on him and then carried it like an armour, a weapon. Colonel Mitchell keeps batting it away unaware of what it really is. The burden of command is still new to the young man, and the weight it lends sometimes too heavy.

"Colonel Mitchell," he walks towards the man, nodding when Colonel Mitchell turns to him in surprise.

"Teal'c! Is it my turn on the bridge?" He stops the pacing that he was doing, but rocks back on forth on his feet for a second. Teal'c hides a smile.

"It is not, Colonel Mitchell. I have come to find you to see if you are well."

Colonel Mitchell shakes his head, "Oh. Yeah, I'm fine. I'm—" he sighs, "Sam's still pissed at me, isn't she?"

Teal'c only inclines his head a fraction on an inch, "Colonel Carter will be fine. She understands what you are feeling."

"Yeah, maybe…"

"She does, Colonel Mitchell. We all do."

The other man paces for a few seconds in front of Teal'c then deflates and leans against the closest wall, running his hand over his face and hair. Teal'c is aware he is watching Cameron Mitchell trying to hold it together. And the man is holding on by an inch. Crossing the small distance between them, Teal'c goes to lay a hand over Cam's shoulder.

Cameron Mitchell takes his hands from where they are covering his face and for a second, from the look Teal'c reads in blue eyes, Teal'c thinks that the man is asking for absolution. Teal'c can only offer comfort.

"I do understand, Colonel Mitchell. We have not been able to contact the Jaffa either." Closing his eyes for a second, Teal'c lowers his own walls and lets the faces drift through his mind. Dry'uec, Ry'ac, Bra'tac, O'Neill, General Hammond, Ishta, the team - Daniel Jackson, Samantha Carter, Vala Mal Doran, and the man standing in front of him. Faces that have made up the bulk of his life. Faces that he will keep fighting for.

In front of him Cameron Mitchell sighs and Teal'c opens his eyes again.

"Oh man, Teal'c. I'm sorry, I just — I don't even know what I'm feeling. Its like I'm trying to grab a hold of something and there's nothing but air. I don't know what I'm looking to find."

Teal'c nods. He remembers the feeling. Years of duty to gods that imprisoned his people. He remembers that O'Neill was the one to give him something to grab hold of – hope. Cameron Mitchell isn't finding hope. Yet.

"Answers, Colonel Mitchell. That is what we are all looking to find."

"And Atlantis has them." The smile Cameron Mitchell gives him is a shaky one, but it is better than the angry fear that has been residing in the man's eyes until now.

"We can only hope."

"Yeah, hope."

--

One

They come out of hyperspace to face a blue planet. Lantea has almost no green, just one large land mass in blue waters that covers the majority of the planet. And in one small area of that vast ocean lies Atlantis, like a beacon. A star shaped city that has become their true north.

They know they can't approach too fast, they're in a Goa'uld ship after all. Cam turns to Sam and nods, and right away she is hailing the planet, using SG-1's codes and back-up codes just in case (you can never be to careful, after all). In the Al'kesh's bridge SG-1 stands, all of the touching one another, their equal tension curling around them like smoke.

They wait, again.

A minute passes. Vala's hand in Daniel's tightens, but she says nothing. Teal'c feels the tension of Daniel and Cam on either side of him, and Cam's hand makes indentations on Sam's shoulder. None of them speak and a minute passes.

"This is Atlantis control tower. SG-1, is that you?"

John Sheppard's voice breaks the silence that grabbed hold of the room and the relief they feel, the hope, blankets them. Sam leans back against her chair, Cam's fingers relaxing on her shoulder and he answers.

"This is SG-1 actual. Good to hear your voice, Sheppard."

They can hear the commotion in the Atlantis control room and then a new voice comes on the intercom.

"Welcome to Atlantis, SG-1. I can only imagine what you've been through." Elizabeth Weir greets them warmly, if not cryptically, and Daniel and Vala share a smile. "Do you have the ability to beam down?"

Sam shakes her head at question looks she gets, and answers Elizabeth, "Unfortunately we don't, Dr. Weir. We'll need a jumper to pick us up or the Daedalus to beam us on board."

As the wait for Elizabeth's answers, Daniel turns to Sam. "The Daedalus?"

Sam licks her lips, looking over the blue planet, "I can't pick it up on the sensors, but it could be it's just away."

"Sam."

"It's better to know some things right away."

Elizabeth saves Daniel his answer, "I'm afraid the Daedalus never made it back from Earth. We only have the Apollo, but it's unfortunately off-world at them the moment."

"We understand. We'll wait for the jumper then."

"I'm sending Colonel Sheppard and his team right away. And SG-1?"

"Yes, Elizabeth?" Daniel answers.

"I can't express how happy we all are that you're all okay."

In the bridge none of them feel okay, but it's not the time for that now so Cam thanks Elizabeth and tells her they'll be waiting for Colonel Sheppard's team before he signs off.

--

Atlantis is warm thanks to the sun streaming through its many window and cool to the touch. Vala stands on the balcony, taking in the sunlight that hits the city. They managed to get to Atlantis during mid-morning and now it's mid-afternoon. They had the de-brief ( …six weeks ago we got a radio burst from the SGC telling us they were under attack — that Earth was under attack — it must have been after they called all the off-world teams they had, because not soon after the message began we were cut off — …the Gate didn't dial back up and after a day of trying we decided to try using the Carter-McKay intergalactic gatebridge to see what had happened, but use another Gate in the Milky Way and reconfigure the macro like I did when we had to return to Pegasus, which would have been relatively easy since I had already done it before, but the closest gate to Earth — was Abydos — and that's gone too… We were prepping a Jumper anyway for re-con when we got word from the Apollo. They had just been on the fringe of the Milky Way when they got the same radio message… The Daedalus was staying on Earth this run for some repairs, which is why it was the Apollo on its way here. They made it here just two weeks ago — …and where is it now? — On its way back to Earth to see what happened — Any word? — Nothing.) But she had barely been able to keep her mind in that room, her thoughts drifting back to the planet she had begun calling home, at least to herself and the people there that must be experiencing hell, if they were even alive. The Apollo was still too far from Earth from their last radio burst and they had to stop at the Midway station to drop off a team so they could contact Atlantis once they reached Earth.

But there was nothing else they could do but wait. Right now Samantha, Teal'c and Cameron were talking to Colonel Sheppard, and Daniel was still talking with Elizabeth in the office behind Vala. She had stepped out when it was obvious that they were only going to discuss what they had been discussing on the ship.

Atlantis was so different. Everybody, almost everybody at any rate, in the city thought of the city as home, Vala could tell. It was clear in their eyes, in the way they spoke about Earth. Elizabeth held a sadness in her face, in the tension of her shoulders, but Vala could also see relief, relief that Atlantis was safe. McKay was different, his eyes were clouded, dark circles gently bruising the skin underneath and the way he was now hovering near Samantha asking questions, Vala remembered Samantha telling her about his sister and niece. But it was Sheppard that had caught Vala's attention. The way he kept glancing around every few second, on guard, as if he was waiting for the bottom to drop out. He wasn't the only one.

Tightening her grip on the hand rail of the balcony, Vala took in a shuddering breath. The wind was blowing on her face, the sun was warm on her cheeks, but it was all Vala could do to keep her tears in. The Al'kesh had given them an odd sort of pause button. All they had had to do on it was Get To Atlantis, but now they were at their destination and they had nothing to grab hold of. No answers. No hope. Just a place to rest their feet.

It would have to be enough, for now, because if what they all feared was true, they would never feel the wind and sun of Earth again and she didn't think any of them, Atlantis included, was ready for that.

"Vala?"

Daniel voice startles her, making her quickly wipe her hands under her eyes before she turns back to him. "Darling?"

He looks at her for a second, studying her, his eyes lingering at the slight redness lingering by her eyes and takes a step forward. "Come on, Elizabeth is showing us to where we're going to stay."

Vala nods, stepping to him, letting her hand brush across his wrist. "Are they putting us in the same area?"

"Yeah, Sam asked Colonel Sheppard," he answers and they walk together to where Samantha, Cameron and Teal'c are waiting by Colonel Sheppard and Dr. Weir.

All the way down to where SG-1's quarters will be (one hall, five rooms) Vala notices how everybody looks at them. It takes her a few seconds to realise: they're probably all that'sleft from Earth and the SGC, and she feels the ground become unsteady under her feet. She hasn't felt this in two years.

--

Three weeks after the Apollo left Atlantis on its mission to find out the situation on Earth, SG-1 has been there for just over a week. They lose themselves in the city. Sometimes literally.

SG-1 has unofficially grounded themselves, but nobody says anything. Elizabeth just lets them know that if they should want to start going off-world they're cleared to go. She also suggests for them to the to talk to Dr. Heightmeyer, but Daniel's pretty sure that none of them have gone. He's seen Mitchell and Sam talk to her in the mess, and once he caught Vala talking to her in the halls, but Vala had just told him she was just asking for directions. Daniel's pretty sure that was a lie, but he lets it slide. If Vala wants to talk Heightmeyer, then who is he to judge?

They've all found their own niches in the city. Their own comfort areas. The ATA gene takes to Mitchell like a fish to water and where Sheppard is all instinct with the Jumpers, Mitchell is perfect efficiency, making it obvious how good a pilot he really is. He doesn't ask for a team of his own, and he doesn't ask any of the others if they want to start going off world. Sam has found a science lab to call her own near McKay and Zelenka. He knows Elizabeth offered her and Mitchell positions on the senior staff, alongside her and Colonel Sheppard, but neither have taken Elizabeth up on it. Plus, it's understood, that here in Atlantis, it wasn't a necessity but a courtesy. Atlantis runs like a beautiful and well-oiled machine and Elizabeth knows how much they're – even Atlantis - is hurting. But for better or worse the city might just turn into home (used to be Cairo, used to be Mom and Dad, used to be Abydos, used to be Sha're, used to be the SGC level 28, used to be safe), but not yet. Teal'c spends his time in the gym sparring with Ronon or meditating with Teyla. He's even joined the woman for tea, Daniel thinks — correction, Daniel thinks Vala mentioned it to him. Daniel's thought about talking to Teyla about her people and their beliefs about the Ancients— the Ancestors, to the Athosians, but he can't break away from the search for answers. A clue. (He always finds them.) And there's Vala, who keeps herself near one of them at all times, only leaving their side when feels the Lantean walls get too close. And they do.

He's been losing himself in the Ancients, he knows. Trying to find answers that might not be there, but Atlantis was meant to be a place of joy and discovery. Now, it only serves to remind him of everything that wasn't there anymore. There's no going back, they have no back to return to. (Point of origin was Earth for so long — a pyramid and sun — he's going to have to memorise new symbols.) It tugs at him, to be surrounded by Ancient things and he can't help but feel bitterness eat away at him. Nothing he's looked at has helped and its makers are watching him — them, Earth, Tau'ri, humans — lose a battle that they didn't finish. But expect them — humans, Tau'ri, Earth — to finish it.

The Ori and Ancients are blurring horribly in his mind. The ones that have taken. The ones that sit idly by and wait.

Rules be damned, he wants nothing more than to find answers that will save them. (He always does.) What's left of them? (Milky Way, Earth, home. Used to be Cairo, Abydos; always was Earth. Pyramid and sun.)

He knows he's losing himself. Throughout his long days and longer nights Vala seems to be his only companion, one of the few people that doesn't stop at the look in eyes. Mitchell, Sam and Teal'c drift into his (unofficial) office, which Elizabeth gave him in the archeology department, but no one else from the city enters it anymore, just him. And the team. It's almost like before (level 18, some of Catherine's book are still there. Maybe.) Where they would spend most of their time, not in the Gateroom, or Sam's lab. Except unlike before everything is punctuated with loss and they spent enough time together on the Al'kesh anyway.

Atlantis should have felt different, he thinks. He should have felt relief in finally making it, but everything feels skewed, like he's reading backwards in a language he can't decipher. There is no Earth, no SGC, to dial. Atlantis is on their own again, but they've done it before, Daniel just doesn't know how. They haven't done it before. SG-1. They've always has the SGC's backdoor open to them, welcoming them home, so this sits heavily on their hearts, and painfully because they're SG-1 and if there had been anybody to save the Earth (again, it's the seventh time, maybe more, he'd have to ask Teal'c) it should have been them. And that's what he knows is weighing down on Mitchell, on Sam, on all of them. They're all thinking it, expect maybe Vala, who understands better than most that you can't save everybody, but then again, he can never guess what's going on in her mind on a good day, and they haven't been having good days. But he knows she gets something, something that he gets: loss is loss. And they're all feeling it.

They had been lucky so far. Had been lucky.

Not lucky anymore.

--

They get the radio burst from the Apollo three weeks after their arrival in the city, not that Cam's been counting. It's been six weeks since the Apollo left and two weeks since their last radio burst. The Earth gate still doesn't dial up, and everyone in Atlantis is on edge. The rationing began last week, and they've been going off-world to trade for food more than ever before according to Sheppard. Even more than the first year. After all,according to the statistics McKay throws out about, the population of the city has grown by 35.7. Cam had given a dubious look to the man, but then Sam confirmed it and well, he's sold.

The radio burst does nothing to soothe their souls. It's short and they must be right at the edge of the Milky Way to get the message across this clear via the subspace transmitter.

"Sending acquired intel in data package... Earth has been taken by enemy forces... Causalities ranging in the hundreds of thousands... No SGC to speak off… Sustained enemy fire, returning to Atlantis… damages…" is all they manage before they cut out.

Cam is standing in the control room with the rest of SG-1, Dr. Weir, and Sheppard's team blanches at the news. It shouldn't be a shock. It was what they all expected, but to hear Ellis' words is another story and the feeling that he's been pushing away in his heart takes over. Grief. He feels it shake out of his heart, crawl through his body and settle in his bones. But there's something else there. Anger. Cold anger.

He turns to Weir, Sam and Sheppard. They four (himself included) are highest ranking officials. He and Sam haven't said anything about position because they've been waiting. It's time now.

"What the plan?"

Sheppard turns to him, "We should wait for the Apollo to return."

"We've waited long enough."

"Cam," Sam steps up, looking between him and Sheppard. Cam knows that he and John are motivated by different things; fight for Earth, keep Atlantis safe; save a planet, protect a city, with one reason behind it: survival. Earth might be this expedition's home planet, but Atlantis has become their home. Cam also understands that with Earth taken, Atlantis is now their hope for the human race. He's just not ready to give on Earth just yet.

"We should take a look at the intel the Apollo gathered, before we decided anything." Dr. Weir suggests and Cam hears Sam agree. "Colonels, agreed?" She turns to him and Sheppard.

Sheppard doesn't break eye contact with Cam, but nods to Dr. Weir. "Sure, Elizabeth."

"Yeah, okay. We need a plan anyway." He turns away from Sheppard and meets Sam's eyes. He can see something is festering in her mind.

"Conference room, please. Rodney?"

"Just give me one second—"

"Rodney." Sheppard intones.

"Hey, if you want to understand a word of this you'll give me one second. It's encrypted, and I would have done it already if you would stop interrupting me."

"Fine, hurry it up," Sheppard sighs and Sam moves towards McKay. Cam follows Dr. Weir towards the conference room, Jackson and Vala two steps in front of him.

This is the meeting they should have had weeks ago, Cam thinks.

--

Sam spares a look at Cam as they end the meeting and watches as John drops a friendly hand on Cam's shoulder. Cam nods and John follows Elizabeth out of the room as Rodney rattles facts about the overall success of what they've discussed. Sam waits until the top three people of Atlantis' chain of command leave the room, before turning to her team.

"Okay, Cam what do you really want to do?"

"We need to get to the Milky Way, faster the better."

"If the Apollo made it there and back it could mean others have survived." Vala adds.

Sam looks between Cam and Vala, and Daniel and Teal'c, she knows what they've been thinking, because she'd been thinking it too. "The fastest way is by Stargate, of course, but with the Earth gate gone, we have no way to get to get to Earth."

"We can steal another ship. We did very well last time."

"We did, but you all heard what the Apollo said, Earth's under Ori forces. We wouldn't be able to get pass them with an Al'kesh."

"What about a pyramid?"

The fact that the question comes from Daniel shocks them all, but Sam can see the determination in his eyes and under that she can see the anger. Sadly it's that Sam knows is driving force behind the last question. "Vala?" he asks, turning to her, who blinks to hide her own surprise, "do you think you can find us one?"

Vala sees something in Daniel's eyes too because she just nods, no jokes, "Yes. One of Qetesh's hidden worlds. I know the gate address."

Cam and Daniel nod, both turning to Sam. Teal'c also looks at her. They're waiting for her, for her plan, for her to give the okay, for her to put her hand in the cookie jar. Team.

"If you give me the gate address, I can then program the midway station to take us there. Just like McKay did when the Replicators took over the city. I can use a similar macro."

"Better one?" Cam grins, and Sam knows he's already ready to go.

"Of course." Sam smiles back, and it's set. She's sure Atlantis' plan of waiting for the Apollo to return is the safe one. So far, the Ori don't know about it and the city is safe, she knows that's the driving force of Dr. Weir, Colonel Sheppard and even Rodney: keep Atlantis safe. She commends them for it and for not bending to the fear so many must be feeling, but SG-1 is different. They have their own driving force and saving Earth comes before survival.

"I believe this means we will need one of the Jumpers," Teal'c says and with that Sam knows:

All in.

--

The next morning John Sheppard walks into a the mess hall to a strange sight. SG-1 is sitting at one of the far tables by the window eating breakfast, and smiling. Ever since they arrived to in the city in that slightly decrepit Goa'uld ship that was actually a big hit among some of the scientists and archaeologists, they had barely interacted with the major population of the city. Mitchell flew the Jumpers, testing them out when he or Lorne were too busy and he even went to visit the Athosians with Teyla, Ronon and Teal'c a couple of times, but overall John had noticed how deeply frustrated the man is. Colonel Carter -- Sam as she asked him to call her -- mostly lives in her lab a few doors from McKay, who John guesses was her only visitor from outside her team and Elizabeth. It isn't that Sam isn't friendly, damn, she's ten times nicer than McKay, but she was sad. John could tell and work made her forget it, which is why most had learned not to bother her. And Dr. Jackson? John's pretty sure nobody has even tried to make conversation with him, unlike Carter the man has a 'do not speak or touch' air around him that he carries like a shield. The only people he would pause for conversation with was Elizabeth and his team. Teal'c and Vala are a different story though, they seemed to adapt best to being i the city; Teal'c spending time with Teyla and Ronon, and Vala, he notices, was always smiling and chatting with someone.

But as he looks at them now, he can see how much of those smiles had been an act. He really can't blame them, losing Earth hits John in the gut, but the city is in one piece, Elizabeth is worrying in her office, McKay is driving Zelenka mad, his people are safe, and that, god, that is more than he can ask for right now.

Making his way to their table, he only plans to stop for a quick hello. They pause their speech as he approaches, but he feels no insult. It's just the way of a team.

"Morning, all."

"Hey there, Sheppard. What's up?" Mitchell smiles brightly, confusing John for a second.

"Uh, nothing much, you still planning to join us for the Jumper's flight test today? see how you feel flying next to an expert?" John winks at Vala, surprised when she winks back.

"Now, Sheppard, better not let too many people hear you say that, you're setting them up for a disappointment." Mitchell leans back in his chair and John smiles.

"We'll see. See you later."

"Later, Sheppard." As he leaves, after grabbing some coffee, John turns back and notices that SG-1 has bent their heads, their voiceslow. He gets a feeling he can't describe in his guts and decides to go see if Elizabeth knows what's up.

They all get their answer two nights later when the control room radios Dr. Weir and Colonel Sheppard reporting that a Jumper has just been taken through the Gate. The system appears to have been overridden and the technician on duty can't raise the shield.

Elizabeth and John get to the control room at 0203, three minutes too late and just look at each other.

John shrugs, turning to Elizabeth. They both know what just happened, "Took them long enough."

Elizabeth smiles, turning her head as Rodney enters the control room ranting about he should never trust blondes and says nothing.

Good luck, SG-1.

--

Zero

One week later the Apollo makes it back to the city, beaten and broken, and when Ellis hears about SG-1's stunt he raises hell. Elizabeth staves him off, bringing up the fact the SG-1 felt the need to what they did and she doubted that even Ellis would have been able to stop them. Ellis doesn't argue for too long though, and Elizabeth knows that like her, Ellis gets why SG-1 did it. Earth, for all purposes, is gone. They can't dial the gate, the SCG is gone, and there are Ori ships orbiting the planet as Ellis reported. The city has lost Earth again, but they're not lost like that first year and they have the Apollo, which may be only one ship, but it's more than they had last time.

Now when she stands on the balcony she only hopes that SG-1 have been able to do whatever they had been planning. Until then she has a city to look after.

--

It's three months after SG-1 first arrived in the city and the city has fallen into a new pattern, with the Apollo they have a significant advantage, but they are very much aware that they're alone again. Then, like the day SG-1 appeared in the space over Lantea, another Al'kesh, followed by an Asgard ship and the Odyssey comes out of hyperspace over the planet.

Zelenka is the one that notices the ships on the monitor and Elizabeth rushes to it. Right away sheorders Chuck to hail them, while calling John and Rodney to the control room.

The radio is silent for a few seconds when Jack O'Neill's voice comes through, his image appearing on the screen in front of Elizabeth. He's on the Odyssey and for the first time really looks his fifty plus years. When he speaks his voice sounds aged, strong, and full of tragedy.

"Atlantis, this is General Jack O'Neill. It's nice to see you. We're going to need some help here."

Elizabeth can already tell that's more than half a lie, but she doesn't have time to decipher the reasons as to why, although she suspects she already knows. "It's good to see you too, Jack." She smiles softly, "If you have people in need of medical assistance you can start beaming them down to the infirmary."

Jack nods, "There more people and a couple Jaffa in the Al'kesh."

"Not a problem, if they can't beam down we'll send jumpers."

"Thanks, Elizabeth." Jack looks ready to collapse, but Elizabeth needs to ask. Because if she's reading him right, well, she doesn't want to be reading him right.

"Jack, SG-1? Did they…"

"They found us, they—" Jack starts and breaks off before regaining his ground, "they did a good job."

There's no questioning to what that means and there is silence in the control room. It's the same silence that must be eating Jack alive right now. Nobody speaks for a full minute. Silence, a moment.

Elizabeth blinks, her eyes feeling wet, "What now, Jack?"

"We keep going." It's the only answer she gets and he signs off.

--

They do.