AN: I wrote this after re-reading "Night Watch" by Terry Pratchett (Possibly my favourite book in the whole Discworld series) that book always puts me in a certain mood and this is what came out of it. Anyone who hasn't yet been introduced to the wonder that is TP should go and check it out, the man is a genius. There's also a wee bit stolen from the LOTR soundtrack and a quote from Andromeda that I use as well.
This is set in the "Time and Space" world and is some time after "Broken Glass" and "First Time" but the twins aren't in it. If you haven't read "Time, Space and Everything In-between" then this isn't going to make much sense so you should go read that first ;O)
Huge thanks to Annedith Sommerfeld for doing the Beta work for this and for helping me with the end.
Hope you like it and let me know what you think :o)
"Journeys end in lovers meeting,
Every wise man's son doth know."
Twelfth Night (II, iii, 44-45)
"Sir, we have an incoming wormhole." Walter reported as General Landry came to stand behind him, "There seems to be no incoming address."
"What? It's got to be coming from somewhere, Sergeant, close the iris." he ordered.
Down in the gate room tactical teams rushed in to take up positions and SG1 also took up spots around the room. There was a loud creak as the iris closed itself but the wormhole remained open.
"We have an incoming traveller." Walter announced over the PA system.
Everyone braced themselves for the thud of a body hitting the back of the iris but it never came. Instead an elderly woman stepped through the iris and down onto the gate ramp, the wormhole closing behind her. She ignored the order to freeze and began her way down the ramp, stopping when she came onto the floor.
She was tall and her thin body was clad in long white robes, her white hair pulled back from her face fell down her back in long waves and she had eyes of pure silver.
Raising her hand out, palm up, she addressed the room, "I am Celesia of Gallifrey and I come seeking my youngest self." The voice was strong but old and laboured.
Vala lowered her weapon and stepped towards the woman who claimed to be her older self. The two stood staring into each others eyes for a long moment before Vala turned her head away, "She's telling the truth, she is me."
"Stand down." Landry ordered the guards and they obeyed, leaving the room as the General made his way down to join SG1.
The older woman took a deep breath before speaking again. "I have come because my time is ending." She focused her gaze once again on Vala, "I am dying."
"Why come here? Why come to me?" Vala asked; her voice was curious yet tinged with sadness.
"No one should die alone," She told her in a softening voice, "There are no Time Lords left to aide me in this, we are all that remains."
"But there's the Doctor, couldn't he…" Cam trailed off, he wasn't sure exactly what was going on but he did know Vala wasn't the only Time Lord left.
"I cannot ask this of him, Cameron, he has witnessed enough death."
"Why not a future regeneration of us? Wouldn't a fully Time Lord version be better for this task?" Vala asked, she knew what the death rites of the Time Lords were and didn't know if a human body and mind would be able to complete them.
"The others do not understand death as we do, child. They all live such fleeting lives. Knowing that there will always be a tomorrow they cannot understand true death." Celesia explained, "But you do, you are younger than all our other selves bar one yet in many ways you understand more than they ever will."
Vala bowed her head to her older self, "If you ask it of me I will help you in this task."
"What exactly is it that you want Vala to do?" Landry asked once they where all seated around the briefing room table.
"I want her to help me to… I suppose the phrase you would use is 'cross-over', traditionally it would be the other members of a Time Lords house that would accompany them on the last journey but that is now impossible." Celesia explained.
"I don't know if I can actually help you do this." Vala said, "I'm not a Time Lord now, I don't know if my human physiology is capable of this."
"It will be dear one, your Time Lord self still resides within you. When you join with me, together we shall be able to do this."
"You're sure?" Vala still held her doubts.
"Of course she's sure, I mean you must have already lived this from Vala's point of view, right?" Sam wasn't exactly sure but it was only logical.
Celesia gave her a proud smile, "Well done Samantha. Yes I am sure, Vala." She closed her eyes and it seemed to take her a few moments to catch her next breath, "You can help me to do this because you already have."
"Is it dangerous?" Landry didn't want to put Vala at any more risk than necessary. He knew he couldn't stop her but he could at least make her safe while she did it.
"There is no danger involved General" Celesia assured him, "If there were, I would not risk my younger self."
"Because if anything were to happen to Vala you would no longer exist." Teal'c commented.
"Exactly." Celesia rubbed her head in an effort to clear the fog that was settling there. It was becoming harder each day to keep going. If she had waited any longer to make this journey it would have been too late.
"What do you need?" Landry asked.
"Nothing more than a place to rest, time will take care of the rest." Celesia answered, "But first, with your permission General, I would like to walk under the Earths sky one last time."
"I see no problem with that, however for obvious reasons you can't leave the base and you'll have to be accompanied at all times. We'll have a room prepared for while you're on the surface." Landry stood and the meeting was dismissed.
Teal'c rose from his seat once the General had left the room, "I would be honoured to escort you to the surface."
"Thank you, old friend."
Together the two of them left to go to the surface, the rest of SG1 still reeling from the day's turn of events.
Teal'c and Celesia walked off of the main road out of the mountain. As they reached the grass that covered it Celesia slipped her feet out of the soft white sandals she was wearing and allowed her feet to sink into the cool grass.
"It is good to feel the dirt under my feet once more." She told Teal'c, "I have walked in the heart of suns but there is nothing like the feeling of dirt between ones toes."
"Indeed." Teal'c replied with a slight smile.
They walked for a while in comfortable silence, neither feeling the need to fill the air with words.
As they walked Teal'c observed the woman beside him and noted the changes in her from the woman he had left behind in the mountain. If it had been Vala walking beside him he knew she would never have been able to stay silent this long, it seemed that Celesia, in her old age, had learned the art of patience. There were other differences too. While both of their eyes showed their age Celesia did not seem to carry the same burden in them that Vala did, there was a sense of serenity and acceptance to this older version of his friend that her younger self had not yet achieved.
They continued on their walk until they where near the top of the mountain and Celesia began to tire.
"Thank you for this Teal'c." She said as she sat on a small outcrop of rocks, "You where always a true friend."
Teal'c simply bowed his head and took the seat beside her, "As you have been to me." Looking out down the hill Teal'c spotted Cam making his way towards them, "I shall take my leave of you now." He told her as he stood and began the walk back down the mountain.
As Cam passed him he gave him a pat on the shoulder then continued towards Celesia and sat in the spot that Teal'c had just vacated. The silence that followed was not the comfortable one that had been shared with her and Teal'c but the awkward one of two people who didn't know what to say to each other.
"This is weird." Cam said when the silence had gone on a while. "I mean even by your standards this is weird."
She laughed at him, "You think this is weird for you? I'm sitting here with a man whose funeral I've already been to." She absently picked up a stone from by her feet and threw it at a close by rabbit hole.
"You went to my funeral?" Cam asked, his face losing some of its colour.
"Oh yes, it was nice, very dignified. Not as many crying ex-girl friends as I expected" She gave him a smirk that was 100% Vala and it was strange to see it on her face.
"Do I… Do I have long?" He didn't know if he really wanted to know the answer.
"You have what we all have, Cameron, you have a lifetime." The smell of rain and lilacs washed over her, as it always did when she thought of Cam, and she had to close her eyes against the tears as she remembered just what would become of her dear friend.
They lapsed back into silence as they each took turns throwing stones at the small hole in the ground. Cam would often come out here to think when things got too much. It was always Vala that would come out here after him and together they would sit and play their silent game until he was ready to go back inside.
"It's been 8 life times for me since I've been on Earth." She told him eventually.
"Why so long?"
"It got too hard to come back I guess. It became less painful to forget than it was to remember." Her voice was laced with age and regret, "But now there is no place else to run to, no more time, there's never enough time. Come on, then, it's time to go back."
The two of them stood and Cam took her arm as he helped her down the hill. He could feel her lean more and more of her slight weight on him as they went on and she grew more tired.
They passed through the checkpoints and Cam led her to the V.I.P room that had been prepared for her. Vala and Daniel where there waiting for them and they helped him get her comfortably situated on the bed.
"You too should rest child" Celesia told Vala, "For what is to come we shall need all of our energy."
Vala and Cam made their exit and left Daniel alone with the future version of his wife.
At first he thought she had fallen asleep but then, after a while, she spoke.
"Daniel" She whispered.
This was the first time they'd been alone together since she stepped through the gate. Celesia had been both hoping for a moment alone with him and dreading it at the same time.
"Are you really going to die?" He asked, "You don't look ill." And it was true. Apart from a tiredness that always surrounded her she didn't seem ill at all.
"I'm not ill Daniel, I'm simply old."
"Then how do you know?"
"I'm a Time Lord, remember? It's just something we know." She explained.
"Do you know how long?" He asked her softly.
"Not long, a few hours, maybe a little less." Her eyes where beginning to fall closed, "It was good to see you again, Daniel, one last time."
Her eyes shut and as her body slept Celesia allowed her mind to walk the familiar halls of the SGC and touch the minds of her friends one last time.
Beside her she could see the deep purple that represented Daniel. Always so full of emotion and passion. She couldn't bring herself to call him 'My Daniel'; he hadn't been her Daniel in over 1000 years and even the man standing before her couldn't bring back the man who would, 60 years from now, die in her arms as he slept.
Further away she could see Teal'c and Mitchell as they sparred. Teal'c was a cool silver and Mitchell a hot red; both so contrasting yet so similar at the same time.
Teal'c would never give up his quest to redeem himself for the things he had done in the service of Apophis. Over the years she had told him many times that he had earned forgiveness, but he always gave her the same answer 'Not yet."
Mitchell's mind blazed red hot while he sparred but she knew if she lingered she would see it return to a deep scarlet colour. He could shine so brightly if only he would let go of his doubt about his place on SG1. Even after all these years he still didn't think he could rise to meet the example the 3 original members had set. She knew he shouldn't worry; he would rise, so much further and sooner than any of them would be prepared for.
She found her own mind in the mess hall half-heartedly eating a bowl of pudding. There were dark swirls of blood red and deepest blue hidden beneath the veil of gold that coated her whole presence. She didn't linger on the mind of her younger self - this version of herself was so raw and damaged, it frightened her to remember and to see.
As she travelled towards the surface, she was drawn towards the shining light that would always be Samantha. Even at this time the pure energy that she contained could not be dampened. Celesia had definitely met smarter people but not since leaving Earth had she felt that brilliance that was just so Sam.
Her mind wandered towards the surface, brushing the minds of those it passed until it came to the open sky.
A lone kestrel flew over head and she gently covered its mind with her own, seeing and feeling everything through the bird. The sun beat down on her back and the wind rushed under her wings as she soared.
In that moment, Celesia flew.
Daniel left a sleeping Celesia and sought out his wife.
He found her sitting in his office staring at the picture of the twins that he kept on his desk.
"I didn't want to think about this." She told him with out looking round.
"Think about what?" He asked coming beside her and wrapping his arm round her shoulder.
"That one day you'll all be gone" She rested her head against him, "And I'll just keep on going. I can feel her in my mind Daniel, and she's so alone."
"But you'll survive, that's got to mean something right?"
Vala gave him a harsh laugh, "Yes, I'll survive, that's all I ever seem to do isn't it?"
"Vala" He lifted her chin so she was looking at him, "we always knew that this was what would happen, that one day you would become a Time Lord again, that you would live on after we where all gone. And in a way we wont have gone, not while you still remember us."
"I don't know if I can do this Daniel. I don't know why she chose me."
"You can do this, I know you can, and as for choosing you, well I hope I know the reason for that."
"And that is?"
He placed his hands on her face and kissed her before he answered her, "Because you promised to come back to me, always."
"Always" She whispered, "Even at the end of all things I'll come back to you my Daniel."
"I know." He sighed and leant his forehead against hers, "What is it that you have to do?"
"I'm not sure exactly, I only ever took part in this ritual once before and even then there was other Time Lords involved. Our minds will join and then… I'm not sure if there are human words for what happens next. Think of it as a cross between death and ascension, the 'sole' leaves the body and goes to another place." She tried to explain, but there where no words to convey something so spiritual. Celesia wouldn't die exactly but where she was going there was no coming back from.
"And you have to help her do this?" Daniel wasn't sure exactly why this required two people.
"She said it herself; nobody should have to die alone. Traditionally the senior members of a Time Lord's house would accompany them on this journey but…" She trailed off as she thought about the others who should have been here for this event.
Daniel didn't attempt to say anything; he knew that the pain of losing her people was still so raw that nothing he could say would help. All he could do was gather her into his arms and hold her as she cried for her lost world.
The only person who could truly help her in these moments was the Doctor and at the moment he was unavailable. Over the past few years the Doctor had gotten into the habit of dropping by a few times a year and they would disappear off into his TARDIS for a night of reminiscing and comfort.
After a few minuets Vala composed herself and took a step back from his embrace, "We should go back to her now, it's almost time."
Daniel nodded and, taking her hand, they left the room.
Vala entered the room alone to speak with Celesia one last time.
Celesia had awoken from her sleep but she seemed more tired than ever as she motioned for Vala to step forward.
"There is so much I wish I could tell you" The older woman told her as Vala sat on the side of the bed, "but I can't, something's you have to live through to know the true meaning of them."
They sat for a moment in silence, "I dream of things sometimes." Vala told her, "The things that are to come."
"There is more Time Lord about you than you care to admit." Celesia told her, "There are things you will see that you'll wish you hadn't, things you want to prevent but can't."
"The lilacs?" Vala questioned, it had been praying on her mind for some time, the dream of Cam and a song she couldn't remember the words to and always the smell of lilacs and rain.
"The lilacs will bloom no matter what you do."
"But time doesn't work like that, there's always a way…"
"And history always finds a way to claim its prize, some things are fixed and cannot be changed, no matter how much we wish it where different." Celesia sighed, "The lilacs will bloom and there will be blood on the streets but all you have to do is the job that is in front of you. Remember that, it's all you can ever do."
"It's time isn't it?" Vala asked as she saw Celesia's eyes begin to close again.
"Yes, call the others in." Her voice was barely a whisper.
Vala went to the door and brought the rest of SG1 into the room and then returned to Celesias side.
"Do not worry child, death is just another path that, one day, we all must take." Celesia told her as they joined hands.
Once their hands where joined a golden glow began to appear in the air around them. Celesia closed her eyes and SG1 looked on as she began to regress through all 13 of her regenerations until she was in her first form. The young woman now lying on the bed was a striking beauty and Daniel could see the remarkable resemblance that his own daughter had to her. The Doctor had been right, Alexis did have Celesias eyes.
The glow increased until they could no longer see the two women and a smell that could only be described as Time itself filled the room.
As the light grew Vala and Celesia found themselves walking on the surface of an ocean of midnight blue water. Behind them the water stretched out towards the stars and melded with the eternal twilight. Far in front of them was a beach that seemed endless and yet beyond it they could see the crest of a hill, an eternal sunrise casting a golden glow behind it.
"Have you come home from your journeys? Have you come home from your past?"
The words came to them from across the expanse of beach, the voice of time itself calling Celesia home. Together they walked hand in hand towards the beach and as they grew closer the outline of people could be seen on the crest of the hill. Tears slipped from the eyes of both woman as they realised that the shapes where the outline of the 43 other cousins of the house of Lungbarrow.
"Why do you weep? What are these tears upon your face? Come now and be with the ones who came before, they are calling from across the distant shore"
When they had came out of the ocean completely and begun up the beach Celesia turned to Vala and let go of her hand, "You have brought me this far but you cannot come any further. The beach must be crossed alone. For some the crossing takes an eternity and for others it lasts only a moment, but it must always be done alone." Celesia placed her hands on Vala's shoulders and kissed her forehead, "You have so much to do, so much to see and become. And it's going to be fantastic."
The young Celesia gave her a wide grin before taking off at a run up the beach. To Vala it seemed that she crossed it in an instant and was in the arms of Quences, the man who she had always thought of as a father.
Once again the light began to engulf her and Vala found herself back in the SGC, her team mates stood around her. The smell of time left the room but just on the edge of perception the smell of the ocean lingered. On the bed before them where Celesia had laid there was now nothing but a shining white jewel and some white sand.
Vala reached out her hand and picked it up, "It's called a soul stone." she explained, "It's the whole of her physical body reduced to… a diamond I suppose. She became something that can never be destroyed, something that will last forever."
She tucked the stone into the chest pocket of her fatigues shirt near her heart, feeling its warmth and yet the coldness of the loss of the person it used to be.
Closing her eyes, she knew what she had to do with it, knew the perfect place for Celesia to spend her eternity.
With a sigh, she took her husband's hand as he tried wordlessly to comfort her on their way back to their quarters.
Nearly a decade later, Daniel and Vala took Alexis out for a meal the night before her 18th birthday.
They ate at the restaurant where Daniel had taken Vala on their first 'date' which, even after all this time, he still maintained that their first dinner together was not a date. At least over the past 20 years Vala had learned that when you ask a waiter for their recommendations you don't have to have all of them. The memories triggered a small smile.
"What's funny?" Alexis asked her.
"Oh, nothing. Just an old memory" she said looking meaningfully at Daniel who had the grace to hide his smile behind his napkin.
"I have something for you, something very special."
"What is it?"
Vala pushed a square black velvet box towards Alexis who squealed with delight as she reached for it.
"You're definitely your mother's daughter" Daniel observed with an affectionate chuckle.
Alexis opened the box carefully and peeked inside. Nestled on a bed of red satin was the soul stone but now it was snuggled closely within a silvery web and hung on a glowing silver chain. She realized she'd been holding her breath only when she let it out slowly.
"It's beautiful." she breathed softly, gingerly touching the silver wrapping, then the stone beneath. Her eyes widened as she felt a tingle of awareness from the stone and she quickly looked at Vala.
"It's a soul stone, in fact it's my soul stone." Vala explained gently "When my last regeneration passed over, this is what her physical body became. I want you to have it, my precious girl, but I want you to make me a promise as well." She waited until Alexis had nodded in reply, "I want you to pass this on to your daughter on her birthday, just like this, and make sure she makes this same promise. Do you understand?"
"You want it to be passed on, through the family?" Alexis asked.
"Yes, did you feel that tingle in your fingers when you touched the stone?" Again she waited for Alexis to nod in reply, "That's the awareness of all my future selves. No matter where this stone is I will always be connected to it, it'll be my way of looking after you all, even after I'm no longer human. I'll always be able to watch over you."
Daniel could see his daughter didn't know what to say so he stood and took the box from her. Taking the necklace out Daniel stood behind her and gently placed it around her neck.
Alexis gasped as she felt the stone come into contact with her skin. She couldn't feel the mind that resided in the stone but she could feel the love that it emanated and knew that as long as she was wearing this she would never be alone.
She stood and turned, hugging her father, before making her way round the table to embrace her mother.
"I promise" She whispered into her mother's ear.
From that night on the necklace never left Alexis and, true to her word, on the night before her own daughters 18th birthday she took her out to dinner and she gave her the necklace. She explained the importance of it and ensured that the same promise was made.
And so the tradition began, where the stone and the secret behind it was passed on to the next generation and Celesia, from beyond the farthest shore, watched over her human family and their descendants until the end of time.