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Fic: Erytheia (Gen, G)

Title: Erytheia
Author: rosweldrmr
Recipient: ladysorka
Pairing: Gen (no shipping). Jeannie-centric. Minor Jeannie & Sam, Jeannie & Rodney, Jeannie/Kaleb, Jeannie & Team
Rating: General Audiences
Disclaimer: Stargate (SG1, Atlantis, and Universe) (c) Brad Wright & Robert C. Cooper
Warnings: Mostly accurate-ish science, terrible graphics
Fandoms: SGA (minor SG1 and SGU events and characters)
Timeline: After 5x06 (jump to after SGU 2x20)
Author's Notes: This is for the 2014 SGA Secret Santa Fanfic Exchange. For the lovely ladysorka. I hope this meets your wishlist. Happy Holidays! Thank you a million times to my betas ivorygraves and popkin16!

Summary: Jeannie goes on her first mission. | Jeannie leans against the cool naquadah housing of the DHD. Her breath condenses in the cold air as she labors to breathe, the blood on her uniform is beginning to freeze and the wound to her side burns like fire. Blood is on her hands, sticky and warm. Jeannie closes her eyes and wishes she knew the name of the flower crushed in the tread of her boots. It must have a name to the people here. The flowers look something like a daisy, weed-like with small dark brown petals and a black face. She will die in a field of them, her blood swallowed up by the endless black meadow of grass.

--

The rippling blue of the event horizon shimmers in the early morning light of an alien world. A planet whose name she does not know.

She knows the locals call themselves 'The Descendants'. She knows this because it was in the slim folder labeled 'Top Secret' they gave her before the mission. She wonders what a folder about earth would say to another species. 'Violent, petty, capable of great destruction' maybe.

But the folder only calls this world P7H-448 and maybe it's the only name it will ever have. Those who live there call it home, but Jeannie will call it her grave.

--

Jeannie leans against the cool naquadah housing of the DHD. Her breath condenses in the cold air as she labors to breathe, the blood on her uniform is beginning to freeze and the wound to her side burns like fire. Blood is on her hands, sticky and warm. Jeannie closes her eyes and wishes she knew the name of the flower crushed in the tread of her boots. It must have a name to the people here. The flowers look something like a daisy, weed-like with small dark brown petals and a black face. She will die in a field of them, her blood swallowed up by the endless black meadow of grass.

She's angry at the thin folder that didn't speak of death. She's angry at the sky, whose constellations she doesn't know, as she looks back in time and wonders at the Earth that she can't quite see. From her perspective, the first humans in Euroasia will have just started their global migration. Somewhere out there, a pale blue dot shines, like her daughter's eyes.

And all she can think is 'no one will know my name'. Civilians don't wear dog tags.

She will die as nameless as this planet.

--

If she's going to die like this, here, on some distant speck in the night sky, she would like to at least know the name. Jeannie decides she will name this world. She is a scientist, after all, capable of naming new discoveries, which doesn't necessarily work in this situation. But perhaps her death will grant her some special authority.

She wonders if Meredith will call this place, her tomb, 'Jeannie's World'. She will be as much a part of it as the dirt and sky by then. Maybe she'd be entitled to that.

At least.

--

Her vision begins to haze, a halo of darkness creeping in on her that she knows it isn't night. The light orange-red of its massive sun has just begun to swallow up the horizon in front of her after 63 hours of black skies and distant stars. But with so little visible light making its way to this planet's surface, everything about this place is dark. This sad daybreak is crimson and bloody.

There are tears on her cheeks.

"Erytheia," she whispers. A fitting name for this world, she thinks. Named for an island in Greek mythology that was bathed in the red light of the sun.

And then the blackness comes.



++++

"We have a mission for you, Dr. Miller." Colonel Samantha Carter sits behind a large desk. The cold, stark concrete walls, floor, and ceiling are distracting. Jeannie takes deep breaths and tries to think of clear skies and endless, open fields. Claustrophobia runs in the family.

"I'm not sure I'm up for a mission," she answers truthfully. She's never anything but - another trait that runs in the family.

"We need an expert on astro and particle physics to take a look at something." Sam is an intense woman: fiercely intelligent, strong, brave, probably a little reckless. Jeannie thinks, oddly, she would have been a good match for her brother. If she wasn't in love with someone else, anyway.

"You're an expert," Jeannie points out and Sam smiles. It's a tentative gesture, a measure of subtly and pragmatism that makes the beauty of the thing slip away. Jeannie knows when she's being charmed.

"I'm also a little busy." Sam's response is even and honest. Jeannie likes Sam. She likes the way people respect her. Sometimes she wishes she was more like her and less like Meredith.

"I'm a little... not qualified," is her answer. The crushing weight of the mountain rests on her shoulders and she aches to be free, to see the sun. For the wind on her face and the crunch of grass underfoot. Every part of her says 'time to go, time to go' - and who is she to argue with biology? "I have to get going."

"There's a white hole," Sam says and Jeannie falters. There is a trepidation, a fear that takes root in her. She already knows she will go. How can she not?

"It should be observable from Earth." Jeannie wonders at it, marvels at the possibilities. This would mean changing the face of modern astrophysics. Particle physics, cosmology, astronomy. She feels a rattle in her bones, the call for discovery, that aching she's only ever known when an idea takes hold and she's pulled somewhere else. It's the pull of knowledge. The promise of comprehension, of knowing the how and why of a system too big to fathom. She is drawn to it, helpless against the allure of it - she always has been. Perhaps just another one of those familial traits she can't control.

"The planet is located on the fringes of the Milky Way, in the halo of remnant dwarf galaxies. Nearly 815,000 light years away, it's orbiting what we thought was a very, very late-stage main sequence star about one solar mass." When Sam speaks, Jeannie can hear that spark of life, of passion that she feels such affinity for. Sam is beautiful when she's like this. "We've actually confirmed that the star has transitioned to a cool red giant, about 2.5 solar masses. The planet is just within its habitable zone," Sam tells her and Jeannie has to shut her eyes. She pictures a bright red dot in the night sky, infinitesimally larger than its neighbors. It denotes a class M star. Orbiting around the tiny speck, too small to be seen by the naked eye, is a planet, given a code and connected via a stargate.

"It's new then?" Jeannie verifies her assumption. If the white hole had been millions of years old, like most astrological bodies, it should have been visible from earth. Faint, maybe, but observable nonetheless. The only reason to travel to another planet, where they lack specialized scientific equipment, would be to observe a phenomenon that, while on earth, wouldn't have happened yet.

--

"You mind walking me through that one more time?" There is a square-jawed man with dull brown eyes sitting across the large conference table from Jeannie and Sam.

"Everything we see in the night sky is a picture of what it looked like in the past," Jeannie tries again and his grim expression grows haggard.

"Still not following," he says and there is something like shame that twists in Jeannie's gut.

She is not made for this. She was made for solitary thought experiments and dimly lit lecture halls taking notes, the stark contrast of black draw erase marker on a white board. Not this. Not Air Force rankings and politics. It's only ever been about the science for her. But she's nothing if not stubborn, just another credit to the McKay blood that pumps in her veins. So she takes a deep breath and tries again. "If you're looking at a planet through a telescope that's 100,000 light years away, you're actually seeing a picture of what that planet looked like 100,000 years ago. Because that's how long light takes to travel from there to here. So right now, if they looked at us, they would see a world where the inhabitants were living in caves."

"Well, more like 113,000 years ago," Sam interjects and Jeannie marvels at how someone like Sam ended up the science advisor to someone like General O'Neill. "The practical speed of light is slower than we thought, because of vacuum polarization."

Colonel Hadden gives Sam a reproachful look and says, "Okay."

"The planet we're going to is 815,000 light years away. That's like traveling 815,000 years - fine, 921,000 years," she corrects herself because she can see Sam opening her mouth, "into the future. So we can see the beginning of an astronomical phenomenon that won't show up in our own night sky for another 200,000 years."

"So, we go to P7H-448 and you observe this 'white hole'?" Hadden clarifies and Jeannie feels a sense of accomplishment that perhaps isn't quite justified. "And a 'white hole' is...?"

"The opposite of a black hole," she says and his sigh feels more like defeat than she cares to admit.

--

Two days later Jeannie finds herself at the head of the conference table, a thick binder splayed out in front of her as she addresses Hadden and the rest of SG-12.

"'The opposite of a black hole'?" Conway asks, and it feels so much like he's mocking her that Jeannie can feel her cheeks flush pink with rage.

"A black hole is a region of spacetime where gravity is so strong nothing, including light, can escape. It can only be entered from the outside," she demonstrates by holding up a fist with her left hand. "A white hole is a region of spacetime which cannot be entered from the outside, although matter and light can escape from it."

"Black holes suck stuff in, white holes spit stuff out," McKenzie adds helpfully, and Jeannie nods.

"Gotcha," Conway says, taking a pen and drawing a circle with arrows pointing out in the margins of the handouts she'd given them all.

"In modern physics we've been struggling with what we call 'the black hole information paradox'. Basically, one of the building blocks of science says that information can't be destroyed. But if a black hole is just this giant sucking monster that eats everything, it could destroy information. So, paradox." There are a set of nodding heads and Jeannie feels bolstered by this marginal success. "A white hole would solve that problem. If this thing is what we think it is, it's how a black hole dies, by spewing everything out it sucked in."

"Neat," Conway comments and Jeannie feels an instant connection to this team, her team.

"What's really neat is, according to loop quantum gravity, which hopefully we can prove, a black hole could only last a few seconds. But because it warps spacetime so much, we perceive it lasting billions of years. Imagine that, one second stretched to last a billion years," Jeannie explains, a triumphant smile stretched across her face.

"Space, man," McKenzie says, something like wonderment caught in the light of his eyes and the sound of his voice.

"Space," Conway agrees.

Hadden shakes his head, but there's a smile tracing the lines of his face.

There is an obvious camaraderie to this team that makes Jeannie ache. How much has this team been through, she wonders. Firefights and campfires, distant planets, alien races, space ships. Jeannie imagines five years of history that tie them together, bound by duty and honor. A family that extends beyond blood.

There is a painful constriction in her chest as she recalls Meredith and the family he found in another galaxy. She can still see the grimace on John Sheppard's face as Dr. Keller drilled into her brother's skull in a waterlogged cave to save his life. She remembers Ronon coming to her, the determination, the devastation when he told her there was another way.

It was love. She knew it then. And watching the men in front of her, she sees it now.

What would it be like to be a part of this team? To truly belong?

These are questions Jeannie ponders deep into the night. The steady rise and fall of Kaleb's side as he sleeps, oblivious to the distant star that holds her thoughts captive. She is loved, now. She is mother and wife and her life is infinitely better for it. But sometimes, under the protection that night often grants to secrets, Jeannie wonders what life might have been like to be loved by a family not of her own making. To have genetics bind her to brother and mother and father. To be loved as sister and daughter.

She thinks, now, she is loved as a sister. Maybe she always was. But when she was pregnant and worried, she'd turned to her brother, in love, in need, and he was the first to cast her out. Even for as far as they've come in the last few years, there will always be a part of her that will remember the pain of that. How can she not?

She always struggled with abandonment.

--

"The nights last 63 hours," Jeannie tells her team. This is their final prep meeting. A government issued watch is strapped to her wrist, signalling the countdown to departure. 3 hours, 19 minutes.

Conway whistles in exclamation.

"This world isn't like most of the other planets SG teams visit. We normally only send gate teams to earth-compatible worlds. Gravity and atmosphere, even the visible light spectrum, are usually like earth. The only reason we're visiting this planet is because it gives us the best vantage point for the phenomenon. The gravity is 93% of earth, so we're all about to lose a couple of pounds. The atmosphere, while breathable for us, contains more oxygen than we're used to, about 32% verses 21%, which means the atmosphere will be slightly less dense than earth. The carbon dioxide is also higher, nearly 1.1%. It doesn't seem like much, but earth's atmosphere is well under 1%. Most of the rest is nitrogen, like earth," Jeannie goes over the specs from the MALP telemetry that was taken and analyzed yesterday. "That means we will be lighter, and feel better. The only thing we have to be worried about is the temperature. It could get down below freezing at nights, but it should be no worse than a winter in Canada," Jeannie jokes and there are laughs all around. "We have to work at night, so we can see the phenomenon, and they have no moon, so it will be dark. Without artificial lights, we should get a good, clear view for at least 56 hours."

"Anything we need to be worried about?" Hadden asks and Jeannie has the sinking feeling that he didn't read the briefing.

"Most of the planet is ocean. But the water will probably be a dark purple sludge. All the oxygen in the atmosphere comes from photosynthesis from the dark purple plankton and there's so much of it, it gunks up the water. There is a small population of nomadic humans that have recently taken up residence on the small mainland where the stargate's located. They shouldn't be a problem, and since they move around a lot with the stargates, they're no stranger to new faces."

"Okay, men, you heard the Doctor. Dress for winter conditions, bring lights, and provisions for a 3 day mission. We'll be gating in before the sun goes down, so it's easier to set up. And hopefully pack up when the sun comes up. About 72 hours total."

There is a buzz in the air. Anticipation makes the tips of her fingers tingle. 3 hours, 15 minutes.

--

Jeannie writes a letter to Kaleb and Madison. It's almost an afterthought, hastily scrawled on a sheet of printer paper in blue ink 20 minutes before they're set to depart. She tells them she loves them. She tells them she's sorry. She says she will always be with them.

This is the 'just in case' letter. She leaves it unsigned in an envelope on the desk in the guest room she's been assigned.

'For Kaleb Miller' the envelope says, 'in case I die' the sheet of paper underneath it says.

Jeannie doesn't think about the letter when she steps through the gate.

Instead she thinks about the translator nanites the gate has just infused her with. Matter destroyed and transported 815,000 light years away, and reassembled. Made new, made better by this device conceived and built millions of years ago.

She wonders, is she still herself anymore? Does this make her someone else, someone different? Maybe the person she was is dead now, and she's a clone. These thoughts are fleeting though, because the dark world she's just stepped onto is strange and new and so beautiful she thinks she might die from it.

The red haze from the setting giant engulfs the sky. The ground is dark, the plants and rocks and dirt are only distinguishable as dark variations of familiar colors. Brown, purple, black, green.

An alien world.



--

Conway and McKenzie bear the brunt of hauling expedition supplies and Jeannie feels bad. But she'd feel worse if they had to scrub the mission because one of them dropped part of her telescope so she tells them to, "Be careful with that."

Hadden laughs. He's carrying two packs of food and camping supplies. Jeannie trudges along under the weight of another two packs.

It's not a bad hike. The temperature dips down as the massive sun sets. It'll be a few more hours before the halo disappears and she can begin her work. Soon it will be freezing.

--

What the 'mission report' file doesn't say, what they can't possibly know, is they aren't the first visitors to this world. If they'd only dialed in 33 minutes sooner, their connection would have failed. They might have realized the gate was already active.

If it hadn't been twilight, they might have seen the bootprints left in the muddy dirty around the gate. But they don't notice. The brown flowers are already trampled. They are not alone.

They are not safe.

~~

The Lucian Alliance scientist scurries for cover when the ring of the ancestors begins to spin. He and his small team of two hide in the woods, guarded (maybe held captive) by three armed men. They'd heard of this world from their mole in the Tau'ri base. The ideal planetary alignment for observations would only last a few weeks. They've purposefully gone early to avoid running into the Tau'ri. From the looks of it, they're going to be here several days. His plan had been to get in undetected, set up a monitoring station, and leave. Now, it seems, they will have no choice but to fight. They don't have the supplies to wait them out.

"They can't know the Lucian Alliance has been rebuilt," hisses the large man in command. "We kill them."

~~

The cold is a bitter thing. It worms its way into her bones. She feels it in her veins. She's tempted to complain. Whine like Meredith does about the unfairness of it all. But she won't.

She can just make out a streak of intensely brilliant light in the sky. The small landmass of this planet will only have a view of the phenomenon for the next few weeks so they chose to come early for initial observations in hopes that a cursory review of the data proved worthy of further exploration.

Even with as many advancements Stargate Command was privy to, from more advanced races, and the ability to travel the galaxy, they'd been so busy running from enemies and fighting battles to do too much research. Sure, they'd made great strides in Naquadah applications and energy weapons, even ships, but the core mysteries of the universe - the origins of the cosmos, particle physics, string theory - were oddly secondary.

Well, no more. Today, as Jeannie takes her first few steps on another planet, lighter than she's been in 10 years, she takes great strides for the human race.

"I'm off to dig a latrine," McKenzie calls, and Jeannie erupts with laughter.

--

"I'll take the first watch," Hadden informs them at dinner, a quiet affair of pre-packaged, lukewarm meals. The gas heater ticks and creaks quietly as it cools.

Jeannie is exhausted. The dark is murder on her eyes. She feels strained. Her eyes, her brain, her body. The cold is brutal now. It seeps under her shirt and into her gloves. She can barely see what she's doing. But finally, the equipment is set up and recording.

Now, they wait.

And Jeannie is more thankful than she can articulate to Hadden for the gift of rest. She crawls into the tent, sandwiched between McKenzie and Conway. It's more efficient this way, she supposes, but she has a feeling the tent has more to do with keeping 'their' scientist safe than anything else.

Jeannie can't bring herself to ask what happened to their last scientist.

--

Jeannie wakes in darkness to the sounds of gunfire. It's a sound she's only recently become familiar with, and in the frigid chill of the night it seems as foreign as the moonless sky.

"Hadden!" Conway shouts, already trussing up his boots, a P90 slung across his back.

McKenzie kneels at the foot of the tent, still in his longjohns, a pistol aimed at the still-closed zipper. "Get dressed," he tells her and there is a terrible moment where Jeannie is frozen in fear.

"Colonel?" she asks, and finds that she's shaking.

"Up, Miller!" McKenzie shouts and Jeannie jumps into action. She yanks on her uniform hunched over and trying not to make a sound. There is a soft amber glow from a portable lamp hanging from the center of the tent that she keeps bumping into.

Their shadows sway against the dark green canvas of the tent.

"Ready?" Conway asks, and Jeannie nods.

She doesn't trust her voice.

It's quiet. Not even the sound of their breathing can be heard, as they wait to spring into action.

Then Jeannie hears the rattle of gunfire before she's pushed back and down. Conway is laying on top of her, shouting at McKenzie and firing his P90.

The cold hits her hard. She doesn't know how long she slept, but her body seems to have forgotten what it felt like to be this cold.

"Conway?" she asks quietly.

"Get her out of here!" McKenzie calls before he's gone, swallowed up by the darkness. His white longjohns only visible a few seconds after he bursts, barefoot, into the spray of bullets.

There is a scream in the distance, and Jeannie swears she can hear a body fall.

"Come on," Conway says, pulling her up by the elbow. "Time to run," he tells her before she has time to draw breath.

--

"Get to the gate," Conway instructs. He's been shot through the shoulder. There's blood on Jeannie's face. She's shaking so violently now, she doesn't know how he expects her to run. She wants to ask him 'how, how, how?' but instead she runs.

Lungs pumping. The added oxygen in the air makes her feel young and fast. And the gravity is light, so she flies. She's never run this fast in her entire life, she's sure of it.

On a planet without light, she easily spots the fires in the distance from the locals. She angles them to her left and runs. Their encampment is northeast of the gate... if this planet had a north. If the gate was in the south.

She wants to mourn for Hadden, who is surely dead. She wants to worry about Conway and McKenzie. But all she can do is run. If she's fast, if she's strong, if she's just lucky enough she can dial earth and call for help. Or keep the gate open for them. Or, to escape.

Would she? Should she leave them? Conway gave no further instructions, other than to 'run'.

So she does.

There is just the faintest glow of blue in the distance, and Jeannie knows it's from the DHD.

"Get to the DHD," she tells herself. The loose bun she'd tied her hair in when she went to sleep has come undone. Her hair whips her face and flutters in her wake.

Distantly, she hopes they won't shoot at the DHD. Surely they must know they need it to get off the planet. Maybe, if she can get there, it'll be okay.

She can see it now, a barely there outline of steely grey against black grass and dark brown flowers.

And she thinks, 'Yes!'.

"I can do this," she tells herself, arms already outstretched, reaching for it.

'Home, home, home,' she thinks.

That's when she feels the sharp, white-hot pain in her side. There is shouting in the distance, the crack of weapon's fire, and the small pop of light as bullets leave the barrels of guns.

~~

Conway sees a figure in the distance and takes a shot. There is a gurgle of blood in their throat, where his bullet hit, before they topple. The man lays prone in the black grass, and Conway recognizes the uniform. But he doesn't have time to do anything more than crouch and take out the next figure that comes charging toward the gate.

He doesn't have to worry about friendly fire. Not now. Hadden is dead, he saw the body when he'd pulled Jeannie out of the tent. And McKenzie went down a few seconds later, still in his pajamas. Distantly, he thinks of Stevens.

He can still see the blood, staining the forest floor of P9G-844. He'd barely survived that mission. The only reason he was alive today was because of McKenzie.

He doesn't allow himself to dwell. He's taken out three guys, McKenzie or Hadden took out one. He's not sure how many there are, but he'd rather not let Jeannie find out.

Putting the dwindling fires of the nomads at his seven o'clock, he heads for the gate.

He hears more gunshots in front of him, followed by a gut wrenching scream.

"Miller!" he shouts, and pushes himself harder. He knows he's lost a lot of blood already. He feels dizzy. He can see the DHD in the distance.

"Hey," he shouts at the shadowy figure he can't quite make out. But he can hear them breathing.

He drops to the deck, just as a rain of bullets fire in his direction. Tracing the shooter is easy work in the dark. Their gun is lit up like a flashlight. He takes aim and puts two in their chest, and one in their head.

They're dead before they hit the ground.

Conway can hear a quiet whimpering. "Dr. Miller?" he calls.

~~

Jeannie can hear someone calling her name. She thinks maybe it's Conway. But she doesn't stop. She's crawling now, through the mud, a trail of blood she can't make out behind her. She makes it to the DHD. The sound of the address being dialed is almost deafening in the otherwise silent night.

The gate whirls to life, the wormhole rushes out, bright and iridescent blue before it settles back into the event horizon of the stargate. Her radio is still hanging around her neck, where she'd pulled it out before she went to sleep.

She pulls it to her ear, hiding under the DHD, and radios for help.

"SG-12 to Stargate Command. This is Doctor Jeannie Miller. We are under attack!" she cries, sobbing openly now. "Colonel Hadden is dead. Conway and McKenzie are injured. Please, help. Please."

There is a crackle in her ear as she lets the line drop, waiting for a reply.

It only takes a second, but then her earpiece comes to life. "Acknowledged, Dr. Miller. Please send your IDC, and we'll lower the iris."

It's Sam's voice. "Sam!" Jeannie sobs. "I don't have it. Please, I've been shot." As she says the words, something inside her shatters. Splits into fragmented pieces of who she was. "Don't let me die, please. Tell Kaleb I love him. I left a letter for him. Please, Sam!" Jeannie begs.

She's not made for this, for war and death. She's not made to be a hero, for guns and stargates. This isn't her life. "I'm a vegetarian," she says desperately.

"Conway here," she hears in her ear, "sending IDC now."

"Jeff!" Jeannie is hysterical now.

She tries to stand. She pulls herself up enough to look over the DHD. Against the brilliant light of the starry sky, she can see his silhouette perfectly. He's a few hundred yards behind her. But his isn't the only silhouette she sees.

"Jeff, no!" she screams. "Behind you!" But it's already too late. She can see the figure raise a gun, she sees the flash and hears the shot. Then Conway collapses, boneless, his body just another mound of black on this dark world.

"They killed him," Jeannie cries into her radio, sinking back down under the DHD. She knows she can't make a run for it. She'd be dead before she made it through the gate.



++++

Jeannie wakes to the whorls and blips of a hospital. Antiseptics and bleach are the first thing she smells. It's dark, and distantly she wonders if she's still on the alien planet. But then she realizes they don't have hospitals.

She feels strange, loopy and more languid than she should be. She concludes that the lack of pain is probably a pretty good indication she's high on something wonderful, like morphine.

"Hello?" she slurs, and it comes out more like 'umlo'.

Immediately she realizes that there'd been a hand holding hers because it's gone, and she can feel pressure on her shoulders.

"Dr. Lam!" a voice calls. "She's awake!"

"Hey," Jeannie says, "I know you." But that comes out a jumbled 'ey eye ooo ouu'.

"Shhhh," Meredith instructs and Jeannie almost asks him what's wrong. She's never seen her brother cry before.

--

"Ugh," Jeannie grunts awake sometime later. Her mouth is dry, and she feels cold.

"Morning, sunshine," Meredith says. He's eating something. An apple maybe.

"Hello to you too," she tries for nonchalant, but ends up winded trying to prop herself up.

"Let me," he says and touches a button on her hospital bed. The bed hums and slides into an upright position and the change in axes makes her stomach lurch. She's pretty sure if she had anything in there, she'd have puked it up. "You know where you are?" he asks.

"Hospital?" she asks.

"You know what planet?" he asks and there's a smile in his voice his face doesn't show.

"Hopefully earth," she responds.

"'Atta girl," Meredith praises her, and if she'd had the strength she would have swatted at him.

"What happened?"

"Later," he tells her and there is no smile anymore. "Get some rest now."

She can just make out his hand reaching for her IV cord. He hits a dosimeter '+' a few times, and then Jeannie falls back into darkness.

'No,' she thinks, 'not the dark.'

--

"Mommy!" Jeannie wakes up to Madison climbing into bed with her. The pain of her IV pulling from her hand jolts her awake.

"Madison!" Kaleb admonishes, already scooping her up into his arms.

"Kaleb!" Jeannie sobs and reaches for them.

--

It's been two months since the mission to P7H-448. Jeannie knows this because she has it written in her calendar. But it doesn't feel like two months.

Apparently SGC shut down the connection as soon as she stopped responding, and dialed in. But it was too late by then. Hadden, McKenzie, and Conway were already dead. The only reason he didn't kill Jeannie is because he was too busy burning his dead and hiding any evidence of who they were. When SGC dialed in, he wounded two more airmen before they managed to take him down.

So Jeannie is left with the uncomfortable feeling of not knowing. The 'why' of it eats at her. And SGC has nothing but tightlipped diplomatic responses whenever she asks. But privately Sam tells her they're probably with something called 'The Lucian Alliance'. Honestly, Jeannie still isn't sure what that means, or why they'd named themselves like something out of a Star Trek movie. But they were supposed to have been wiped out a few years ago.

The only real thing she takes away from it is that it wasn't the locals. The Descendants. And she's still hung up on that. If she'd known, maybe she would have gone to the village. Maybe Conway would still be alive...

Her SGC assigned therapist keeps telling her that thoughts like that are dangerous.

Jeannie agrees.

Sam tells her that she was in a coma for 3 weeks. She lost a pinky toe to frostbite. Kaleb is still waiting for the right time to make jokes about it. Maybe soon it'll be funny. But for now, Jeannie can't mourn her toe. She's still mourning the men who died to protect her. Hadden and McKenzie and Conway. She doesn't even know where they're buried. And it's not like she could meet their families and tell them what they did for her. Her official police report says mugging.

Civilians don't get classified medical records.

Sam also tells her that they were only on the planet for 13 hours, so there's no way she could have blacked out to the rising sun. It's disorienting, but Dr. Lam said it wasn't unusual to hallucinate. She was in shock. Her therapist agrees.

A week after her release from the hospital, Sam asks her about 'Erytheia'.

At first Jeannie doesn't really remember. Everything is a blur. She barely remembers the week Meredith spent at her bedside at the SGC medical facilities before she was transferred to a civilian hospital and allowed to see Kaleb.

But eventually she remembers the red sky and the lonely island. She tells Sam it's what she called the planet and Sam agrees the name is fitting.

There is some official note made in some super-duper top secret file that officially names the planet. Jeannie is a footnote that will probably never be declassified.

The equipment was too far damaged in the fight to recover any useful data. And by the time she'd woken up, the phenomenon was only visible from the other hemisphere, which was all purple, gloopy ocean. Sam says they'll try again someday, maybe find another planet in range where they can observe. But Jeannie knows she won't be going on any more missions.

'Lucky to be alive' is the way they refer to her.

Jeannie doesn't feel lucky.

She feels hollow. Cold and hollow, as if the stargate replaced all the marrow in her bones with pockets of chilled night air from Erytheia. She knows this is not so. She's seen her medical scans. 'Clean' is what they come back as.

She doesn't feel clean either.

She still walks with a cane. She probably will have to for a year at least.

She lets Madison name it 'Mr. Cranberry' (she came home around Canadian Thanksgiving). Over the next few months, Jeannie lets Madison dress up the cane for Halloween and Christmas. The winter doesn't help with the cold.

Her therapist says it's psychosomatic. She calls it 'a manifestations of disabilities that are based on intellectual infirmities'. She's probably right.

It doesn't feel right.

--

Sam doesn't ask her to go on missions anymore. Occasionally she still helps out Mer with something he's working on, or Sam if the SGC needs more eggheads. Mostly though, she's a mom. 18 months after the mission, Jeannie holds her three month old daughter in her arms.

"Connie," Jeannie says and traces the roundness of her head. The day she found out she was pregnant, she asked Kaleb if it would be alright to name he or she after Conway. Kaleb had agree immediately, rocking her gently as she sobbed.

--

It takes her two years, but finally one June day, she goes into her 'winter' drawer for a pair of socks to play with Connie and she sees it.

A white envelope with the words 'For Kaleb Miller' scribbled on the front. Her brother is the one who gave it to her, when she was still in the SGC hospital. He said he didn't open it, and now she feels a little bad she didn't think to write one for him. But this one had been a last minute thing. She didn't know how to tell him that, and she'd still been pretty hopped up on pain meds, so she'd just thanked him and cried.

She's forgotten about it. She wonders if the others left letters. She supposed they must. They'd been in bad situations before. She wonders what they say, who these men were who died when she got to live.

She slowly rips the envelope open, expecting to find that trite letter she'd written so long ago. She's already crying, but that's not what she finds.

It's a letter from Meredith. His messy handwriting is startling. He almost never handwrites anything.

"Dear Jeannie," it says and Jeannie hugs Connie close, the socks and game of puppets forgotten. It's okay. Six month olds are more forgiving than nine year olds.

"Your letter was terrible. I threw it out. Hope you don't mind. I thought, maybe, when you were ready, this might serve you more."

He signed it 'Rodney' and Jeannie laughed. "As if," she says under her breath.

There are three sheets of paper under his letter. Copies of some SGC paperwork. Jeannie inspects it closer to find they are evaluations. Some protocol where a team ranks compatibility of new members. They are her evaluations. Filled out just before they went on their mission.

Jeannie gasps. She's not sure how Meredith managed to get his hands on these, but she's sure he'd be in really big trouble if anyone knew.

--

Hadden calls her strong. She doesn't feel strong. He calls her intelligent and spunky. He gives her a 9/10 compatibility. Had it been ink, the pages would have bled from her tears.

McKenzie calls her quick and funny. 'A good addition to the team'. Under the 10/10 he gives her he writes 'already feels like one of the gang' in the margins.

Jeannie waits until Kaleb comes home after classes to read Conway's. She's read the header of it a thousand times. But she can't bring herself to read any further. Not while Connie coos gently in her arms.

She shows him the letter and he nods, like he knows exactly what she needs. And he does. He takes Connie from her arms and kisses her temple and whispers, "If you need me," before he leaves her alone.

--

He calls her brave. And she breaks all over again. Shatters, just like she did on the planet after she watched his body fall. She rocks herself in bed and takes huge, gulping breaths.

He calls her fearless and independent. He says she has great potential, and the SGC is lucky to have her. He says the human race will be better for it.

And Jeannie breaks.

She breaks, she breaks, she breaks.

Broken heart, broken mind, cracked open like pomegranate, a puzzle she will never be able to reassemble.

~~

Sam stands to shake Jeannie's hand. It's been a few months since she's seen her, and she's lost nearly all the pregnancy weight. "Jeannie," she greets, "you look amazing."

"Thanks," Jeannie says and sits.

"I was surprised to hear from you," Sam confesses and it feels like an accusation, though she doesn't mean for it to.

"Yeah, it's been a while," Jeannie agrees. Her face is pale. Sam knows she hates being underground, just like her brother.

"So, what can I do for you?" Sam asks.

"Actually, I've been thinking about what I can do for you," Jeannie says, and there's a bit of the old Jeannie in there. A little mischief, a little humor. Sam had almost written off ever seeing that Jeannie again, at SGC at least. "I know how to save the crew of Destiny."


the end



Science info





Stargate info

Tags: genre: general
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