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Te Domum, Venit Hesperus, Ita Carus Filia

Category/Rating: Gen, G

Pairing: Daniel/Elizabeth

Summary: Elizabeth needed the time, and she couldn't bear the idea of a public funeral procession through the Stargate.

Author Notes: I think this is probably the only story that I've been terrified to post in years. Beta by Auburn and candygramme, who suggested this should be rated T for Twitchy. Title happily subverted from Vergil's Ecloga X. ~2600 words for the sga_flashfic Ways to Die Challenge, so you know, a warning.

~*~

When Dr. Elizabeth Weir boarded the Hemera for what was possibly her last return to Atlantis, she felt empty, as if all emotion had been burned out of her. It was not a pleasant feeling; she always presented a calm face to the world, but she usually felt something underneath the mask.

Excitement thrummed through the city as the construction on the new Aurora class ship was almost complete. When Daniel had stumbled across the schematics in the Ancient database, Rodney had said, "Huh. We can do this”; now they were only moments away from achieving that goal.

A brisk wind fluttered iron-gray hair into her eyes as she stood on the East Pier with the entire population of the city gathered there. Elizabeth raised the bottle and let it really crash down against the ship. Champagne and broken glass flew everywhere, and when a piece of flying glass cut her face, Daniel laughed and wiped the blood out of her eye as she christened the ship Hemera, for the goddess of the air.

The ship seemed almost deserted when compared to other past journeys; only the crew and a few new, incoming personnel manned her. Mostly, she held the sort of inconvenient cargo that couldn't be dropped through a wormhole. The Hemera trundled back and forth ferrying just such cargo on regularly scheduled runs, but this was the first time that it carried one particular type from Earth to Atlantis.

Elizabeth visited the cargo hold just once every day, to touch the polished wood beneath the webbing that held it in place. Daniel accompanied her, grounded her with a gentle touch and a few murmured words of comfort, even as he also grieved. The rest of the time they stayed in her cabin, and avoided the other passengers. She didn't want her new people to see her distraught and undone with grief; she had to maintain her image of cool authority. Fortunately, the Hemera only took a few days to complete the journey, so they didn't have to endure for too long, though she wished for the days when the Daedalus had taken eighteen days, or more, to make the journey.

Making the new arrivals come by ship had been Elizabeth's idea. When someone just stepped through the wormhole, it was too Alice-like. They assimilated much better into the population when they had to cool their heels for a few days in hyperspace.

~*~

There were no strictures on returning to Earth anytime you wanted; they had the power to burn in both directions, and the wormhole connected so often it was almost like a bus schedule.

So when the news had come, finally, finally come, and Elizabeth had made her extraordinary request of the Gate Officer, she'd been denied simply because it hadn't ever been done before; no one from Atlantis had ever died on Earth; no protocols or treaties had ever been penned to account for the possibility. She hadn't even bothered to pack, simply walked down the steps and into the wormhole. She knew she'd be back.

There had been too many instances when the old style GDO transmitters had been lost, or stolen, and they'd put their IDC into microchips and embedded them under the skin; although the location of the implant had changed from the back of the hand after Dr. Brooks had had her hand cut off in order to forcibly gain access to the Lantean gate.

Elizabeth so rarely came to Earth; she never knew where the Stargate would be when she stepped through it. IOA Gate Operations rotated the gate every couple of years through the twenty permanent member countries; this time it was in New York-- absolutely the worst place to make the sudden transition from Atlantis to Earth. Atlantis might be the size of the Seven Boroughs in terms of square footage, but even after several decades, the Lantean population still rattled around in the nearly empty city.

After the Wraith scourge had been nearly eliminated, and the Asurans tamed, there had been a huge inrush of requests to come study in Atlantis. Anyone with the ATA gene was automatically approved. Elizabeth filtered out the nuisance applications of astrologers and psychics, and returned the rest of the applications to sender with a single question scrawled across the top for consideration. Only half reapplied, and less than a quarter of those were accepted; it was a good way to maintain slow growth.

She walked down the wide steps of the Gate Plaza and outside to the local transporter pavilion to wait in the crushing line with the seething mass of humanity (or so it seemed to her), until she caught sight of a familiar face in the crowd. She watched as Daniel Jackson, alone and in public, shouldered his way through the people, and she thought 'My God, when did we get old?' He looked good, though. He hadn't lost much of his hair, which was a fine, brilliant white cloud around his head. Daniel still carried himself as if he weren't important, but when the crowd finally cottoned onto who was jostling their elbows, the people just fell away as if Moses had parted the Red Sea. It was a hallmark of the personal importance of the occasion that he'd appeared in public in a crowd, despite the personal danger to himself. Not everyone appreciated the transformation of Earth society caused by the Stargate program, or the ready access to unlimited power from Dominat's ZPMs.

Earth First! had been the instigators of the Power Riots (2015 - 2028). They'd claimed the assassination of General O'Neill in 2018, and Daniel had been forced to seek sanctuary on Atlantis, after a close call in the same year.

~*~

Daniel nodded and politely thanked those closest to him as he navigated the crowds to Elizabeth's side. He greeted her with a painfully tight hug and a dry kiss on her wrinkled cheek. "You popped through the gate so fast; I almost didn't have time to get here."

"I couldn't wait any more." She gave him a bitter smile.

"I know. Let's go somewhere a little more private." Daniel took her elbow and guided her to the nearest transporter pad. The keypad unlocked itself immediately when his retina scan was recognized as one of the few registered residential users. Daniel quickly pressed in his home address, and the transporter activated. In a split second the noisy New York crowd disappeared, and they were in his cool, dark house on the banks of the Nile. He led her to the living room as he quietly asked, "What's the city time? You look wrecked."

Elizabeth felt wrecked. "Very early or very late, depending how you look at it."

"You're in luck, because it's the cocktail hour here. Sit down and I'll get us something to drink."

Elizabeth protested, "I really have to get to Boston," but Daniel always knew exactly what to do in situations like this. He held up one finger and made the ack sound that he'd picked up from O'Neill. "Yes, you do, we both do, but a delay of half an hour isn't going to make any difference now, is it?" His voice echoed her bitterness, and trembled with unshed tears.

Elizabeth gave up all resistance and slumped back into the chair, accepting the drink when he handed it to her. Elizabeth took a sip. Daniel set a small earthenware bowl with allmas on the side table and sat down. She recognized the dish; Daniel had carted that thing from planet to planet, to another Galaxy and back, for forty years. She glanced up at him and smiled wanly. "Thank you, Daniel."

"You're welcome. Do you want me to call Atlantis and have someone pack something for you?"

"Yes, if I'm going to be here more than a day that would that would be easier than shopping, I think."

"You might be, considering their response." He called the Gate Communications officer and asked that they give his request some priority.

The abandoned car had been found at a rest stop on I-95 outside of Boston, and the next day, her crushed IDC chip had been found in a Rio de Janeiro slum. Two days after that, the digital images of Penelope's capture and subsequent, graphic torture were posted on the Internet.

All of the fabulous technology and marvelous wonders that Atlantis and Dominat had given to Earth were useless in the hunt for Penelope's captors, a particularly tenacious and violent splinter group of that original, multinational terrorist force.

It had taken months to discover the inside agent of Earth First! at Transport Control, but by then it was too late; the raid on the EF lair on the outskirts of Pretoria found only Penelope's bloody, emaciated corpse.

Elizabeth looked around the room with interest while Daniel was on the phone, and noticed their family photo, snapped on a Pegasus beach during a family vacation, oh so many years ago. The color was still vibrant: the golden sand, blue sky, and the three of them dressed in loose, white clothing that flapped in the sharp sea wind. They looked so young and carefree. Today, though, the picture was a jagged knife to her gut.

Daniel snapped the cell phone off and dropped it carelessly on the table. "That's taken care of." He picked up his drink. "How are you, Elizabeth?" He didn't look at her, but rolled the glass back and forth between his palms, his aged shoulders slumped.

"In a way, I'm relieved that it's over." She sighed at the tremble and quaver in her voice. "I just can't believe it. I kept expecting her to call home and say she was all right." Elizabeth couldn't stem the tide of tears that she'd held back during the six months of waiting and not knowing.

Daniel retrieved a box of tissues from his desk, handed her a couple, put the box on the table next to the allmas, and then slowly knelt in front of her with open arms. "I am so, so, sorry, Elizabeth," he whispered.

Elizabeth leaned into the offered embrace, felt his tears on her neck as she wrapped her arms around him and buried her face in his soft hair. "God, Daniel, it's not your fault." He smelled like desert sand and the smoky, spicy scent of street food vendors. He'd been so different on Atlantis. For a few moments they clung together as they grieved, then she stroked the back of his head, pushing his flyway hair down and patted him on the back.

Daniel let her go of her, grabbed the arm of her chair, pulling himself up and into the other chair, knees cracking. He grabbed a tissue and wiped his face, and Elizabeth watched him blow his nose. He sighed and gave Elizabeth a weak smile.

"How are you, Daniel?" She dabbed at her face with her tissue.

"About like you. Identifying her remains is probably the most difficult thing I've ever had to do."

She nodded and swallowed. They'd both lost so many people, but this... This was the worst one, for both of them.

He cleared his throat. "Well, I think the summary dismissal of your request has more to do with the fact that this hasn't ever happened before."

Elizabeth nodded. "I know. That's why I came; it's so difficult to negotiate through a wormhole, but Jesus-- Daniel, after all of the horror and publicity, how could they just say no?"

"We'll just have to make them understand. And we will." He gave her an encouraging look. "Where are David and Verity?" Daniel, despite whatever faults he'd had as husband, had always been an exemplary father, and grandfather.

"They're with John and Rodney for Aquil's birthday party."

Daniel chuckled and shook his head; even after all the years, the idea of Uncle Rodney and Uncle John still had the power to make him laugh. "As unsettling as that idea is, I'm glad to hear it."

Elizabeth took a deep breath, and returned to the matter at hand. "So, I guess we have a few things to take care of. Have you talked to Leon or his parents?"

"Yes, he said he's a day or so away from a transport station. I expect they'll be here as soon as possible."

Together they took care of Dr. Penelope Weir-Jackson's final affairs and obtained presidential permission (because even now, who wasn't in awe of the combined forces of the man who cracked the gate, and the woman that had saved Atlantis?) to put her remains aboard the Hemera. Elizabeth needed the time, and she couldn't bear the idea of a public funeral procession through the Stargate.

~*~

Lantean burial customs came in two standard varieties: you could elect to have your body returned to Earth or be 'cremated'. The last was done in a uniquely Lantean manner; your body would be disintegrated in the kawoosh of an opening wormhole. This was the question scrawled on the top of the application forms, to highlight that even now, the Pegasus galaxy was still a dangerous place. No one ever asked you this question when you went to Earth.

Atlantis moved too often to have the luxury of a graveyard, and Elizabeth couldn't bear the idea of her baby rotting in the ground of a planet in another galaxy. For Penelope, Earth had only been a way station, a place to fill in her educational gaps, even though it was her father's home

The large funeral party gathered in the departure lounge, standing on the wide staircase and packed along the rail of the suspended walkways. Alongside Elizabeth and Daniel were virtually all of those of the original expedition, as well as those who had come later and had known Penelope. John had made a very rare trip away from Dominat, accompanied by the small handful of his progeny that had known Penelope as a close 'cousin'. Rodney and Shaaziya had returned to Atlantis for the funeral too, though most of their children lived and worked in the City.

Daniel had convinced Father Luis Escobar, even though he was incredibly old, to come with them to Atlantis, to speak at Penelope's funeral.

When Penelope was a child she was fascinated by the various religions that had been imported to Atlantis. The major ones were represented; Catholic, Islam, Protestant, Jewish, Qaroptimat and Peragroilla, and they all used the same cathedral-like room to hold their services. She would explore all of them in turn, but she had developed a particularly close relationship with the Catholic priest. She didn't want to join the Church; she wanted to learn about it in all its forms. Elizabeth had always joked that Penelope was Daniel's clone.

Father Escobar spoke the eulogy, and, in turn, Daniel and Elizabeth spoke for and of their daughter. Their grandchildren stood quietly with them as others spoke, until Verity broke out into tears. Daniel picked her up, and she clung to him, but David was stubbornly aloof and silent.

When the service was over, the Stargate was dialed and Penelope's coffin was disintegrated by the wormhole. John took Verity, limp and worn from crying, and ushered David up the staircase with a gentle hand on his back as the crowd drifted away. Daniel and Elizabeth stayed, drawn to the mesmerizing sheen of the event horizon; neither wanted to leave.

Daniel pulled a tiny bag of sand from his pocket and poured it into his cupped hand. He held it to his face, and gently blew the sand into the open wormhole, whispering an ancient prayer for his only child, commending her to eternity and whatever gods might still be out there.

When the wormhole snapped closed, Elizabeth touched Daniel's shoulder. "Stay for a few days?"

He put his hand over hers and squeezed it. "Of course."

 

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