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14 June 2012 @ 10:05 pm
Fic: Away From the Roll of the Sea  
Part I

Every day in the summer palace made Cameron more and more unwilling to rise from his bed. His chambers faced the east, so the sun interrupted his rest early, but he was far too comfortable where he was, in bed with his wife.

Her condition was beginning to show. As he lay in bed with her, his hand resting against her stomach, he thought back to Carolyn's first pregnancy. If he was honest with himself, Cameron had seen from the day they returned from Atlantis that his father-in-law was not wholly well. They had been preoccupied with the news about the baby, and for a time Henry's joy had masked his own situation. But before long, even Carolyn said aloud that something was wrong. The best physicians and even Janet examined him, but there was nothing to be done.

Henry of Landry, King of Caldora, died in the autumn after his only surviving child's marriage. Carolyn wept bitterly at her father's bedside, supported by Cameron. He remembered all too well the loss of his parents and his aunt and uncle, and he knew how much it was hurting his wife that Henry would not live to see his grandchild. But at the time, he had been perversely grateful to be able to focus on comforting her, for it distracted him from the panic rising in his mind.

He was not ready. He was supposed to have years to learn from his father-in-law. Never had he dreamed that six months after marrying Carolyn, he would ascend to the throne. It was not supposed to happen so fast.

He saw very little of Carolyn that day. She spent most of it shut up with her mother, grieving with her. Cameron, on the other hand, had to announce his father-in-law's death to the assembly, and the rest of the day was spent hearing condolences and petitions of the nobles in the city. Had it not been for the assistance of Stephen Caldwell and Paul Davis, he would not have made it through the day.

Then, that night, Carolyn came to his room when normally he would go to hers. She cried in his arms once more, and then they lay together in his bed. They talked of what had happened, of their prospects for the immediate future, and of both their fears. Cameron was not sure how he managed to sleep at all that night. There was too much weighing on his mind.

He had awoken at first light, having hardly slept. He was spooned up against Carolyn's back, and for a long time he resisted moving. But then his hand drifted down over her belly, and he felt their child moving within her. Under any other circumstances, that might have produced anxiety in him, for Cameron was no more prepared for fatherhood than he was for kingship, but on that morning, that first connection with his child was as wondrous and powerful as the moment Mistress Janet laid his son and heir in his arms.

The coronation would not come for six months. He and Carolyn both insisted on a period of mourning before the kind of celebrations that a coronation would entail. It left Cameron time to come to the assembly with a petition of his own. In retrospect, he knew that his inexperience had probably frightened the assembly as much as it frightened himself, but with much less effort than he had anticipated, he was able to convince them that Carolyn ought to rule with him as his equal. When he knelt to receive the king's crown, Carolyn knelt with him, receiving a crown of her own.

Aurelia, the dowager queen, had stood by with her late husband's namesake in her arms. The baby was only a few months old at the time, too young for any of the trappings of his rank, but he was present to be confirmed by the assembly as the crown prince.

Before he could dwell on the past any further, Carolyn began to stir. She soon took his hand and brought it to her lips, and he smiled as he kissed her shoulder. "Good morning."

"Good morning," she replied. He always loved to hear her speak when she had only just woken.

"How long do you think we have before the children barge in?"

Carolyn sighed. "Not as long as you'd like, I suspect."

True to form, the boys burst into the room just a few minutes later. Cameron, who was half dressed by then, herded them out to give their mother a little privacy. Out in the corridor, he found his cousin, pleased as a cat with a mouse to toy with. "I should have known," Cameron grumbled. "You could have had the decency to employ your own children in your mischief."

"Believe me," John replied, "you would not want Margaret waking you." As he walked away, he added, "I'll be down in the stables."

Cameron returned to his room. "The Prince of Atalan is no gentleman," he told Carolyn.

"And you have only now discovered this?" she asked in return, settling more comfortably in the bed again. The sickness had mostly abated by now, but Carolyn said she saw no reason not to seize the excuse to stay in bed a little later than normal while she had it.

He wasted no time in getting ready for the day. Cameron headed down to the stables as soon as he was ready, and John was waiting for him. "I suppose you will try to have me believe that your sweet little girls would be worse than my boys," Cameron remarked as he mounted his steed.

"I only call one of my girls sweet," John replied, laughing, and together they left the stables, heading north into the mountains. "Isabelle is all that a little girl ought to be. Margaret is..."

"Her mother?"

"Elizabeth's mother, if the accounts I have heard are accurate. I suppose it is only appropriate that she will likely be the Duchess of Langford someday."

Cameron paused for a moment. "I seem to remember Margaret's other grandmother having her moments of fire triumphing over gentleness."

John chuckled. "Indeed. With a husband and six sons to her name, my mother needed a will of steel from time to time."

They rode forth in silence for a time, but eventually John found conversation again, as usual. "When does Carolyn expect to deliver her child?"

"In about four months now, or a little less," Cameron replied. "The child was our reason for coming here for so long."

"What do you mean?"

"After..." There he paused, willing the tightness of his throat to ease. "After we lost our son, Carolyn could not bear to be around the court for the entirety of a pregnancy. When she was carrying Grace, she brought the boys to Cheyenne and stayed with Lady Gairwyn for a few weeks. It did her good, even if I could not come with her as we'd planned."

He dared not speak farther, but John understood. "I know Elizabeth and I sent letters to you both, cousin, but I never could find the words to say how sorry I was."

Cameron nodded once in thanks. He'd been thinking that morning about Henry's birth, but at least as often he thought about the stillborn son that had followed Geoffrey. He knew such things were natural. Janet had assured him that he and Carolyn did nothing wrong. He'd always worried, though, and now fears sometimes threatened to outweigh the joy.

"It's all right," he finally said. "There was nothing to say."

John seemed willing to leave the matter at that, for which Cameron was grateful. He knew from letters from both his cousin and Elizabeth that they and their friends had not been untouched by such griefs. In particular he remembered a brief but unsettling account of what had happened to Lady Kate when she delivered the twins. All three had survived, of course, but Cameron was very grateful to have received that letter after Carolyn delivered Henry and not before.

John turned the conversation to more pleasant subjects, which suited Cameron well. His cousin expressed a wish to see Cheyenne, and from thence it was easy to make plans. Elizabeth wanted to join them, which meant several of her guards and at least one of her companions would go with them. A few of the elder children seemed very jealous of the excursion, but their private schemes would keep them in the summer palace.

In the end, they left Carolyn, Lady Laura, and Beckett with the children and Nicholas and Cassie and Cassie's mother, Mistress Janet, in the relative quiet of the mountains while all the rest descended to the great city. Cameron and John were equally startled and pleased by Cheyenne now. John, of course, had not seen the city since some months before his wedding; Cameron had not seen it in nearly as long. It was, in many respects, nothing like the place where they grew up. Cameron could not regret the changes – the city was more efficient now and less vulnerable – but it was not the place he remembered.

Cheyenne remembered John, though. It was a great amusement to Elizabeth that the people of the city expressed greater deference to their former marquis than to the queen for whom he had given up that title. Even Cameron sometimes seemed to fade from their view. But John was the last son of the beloved Lord Geoffrey, who had twice returned to them as though from the dead, and who had been with them in their darkest hour. It was no wonder that the city should remember him and love him still.

In the end, Cameron was glad to make the journey, but he was equally glad to be received home again by his children and his wife. The latter greeted him warmly, but he sensed something was amiss. Worried about the baby, he inquired after her well-being as soon as they had a moment of relative privacy. Carolyn laughed at him and shook her head. "No, I only want a promise from you, Cameron, that you will never again leave me so long with so many children and so little help. You cannot imagine what mayhem such little hands can create."

Laughing, Cameron readily gave his word.

Teyla had a beautiful voice, something Ronon had learned over time as he saw her with the Athosians. But it was never more beautiful than now, patiently singing lullabies to Torren with Evan and David Lorne, who slept in the same room, listening avidly. He knew this song was one her mother had sung to her long ago. It was the first song she had sung to Torren after his birth.

They had been away for a short while visiting the city of Cheyenne, so Teyla was being more indulgent than usual, but after three songs Torren began to beg for another. His son was not a patient child, and he had the combined stubbornness of both of his parents, which made him a daunting task for the nursemaid at times. However Marcus Lorne spoke from the other end of the room, "It's late, and time for bed." Ronon had never quite mastered the ability to sound both firm and completely calm, but it was effective. The boys subsided and Ronon and his wife tucked their son into bed and parted ways from the other adults for the night.

Time had soothed some of his discomfort around people, and he knew the queen's inner circle fairly well by now, given Teyla's close relationship with Elizabeth. He was still amazed at how much they could talk over every detail of every event without rest, but he had grown used to the presence of others. He counted Carson and Laura nearly as close friends as John was, and the queen had more than once asked for Ronon's advice on matters of defending the city and the country from dangers. And he had helped John in his quest to destroy the Genii threat. Atalan was his adopted home now, just as it was John's, and Ronon had honored his debt to the people who had freed him from the Wraith. He was fortunate his friends never made that debt feel like a burden.

It had been greatly amusing to watch John deal with the attention lavished on him in his former city for the past two days. The Prince of Atalan was accustomed to deference, but the people in Atlantis were not so much in awe of him any more.

The side trip to Cheyenne had been a useful distraction, but Ronon was glad this visit was nearly ended. He was impatient to return to Athos and be near the sea once more. Even after all these years, he grew restless and uneasy at times. It was not uncommon for him to walk the shore at night or early in the morning, but here he could only pace through stone hallways that left him still feeling trapped. Teyla accepted these habits without comment. In turn, he tried to limit his nocturnal wanderings and took care never to be away too long when she might need him.

Of course, more than once he'd been prowling the shore only to conclude there was some place he would rather be, and hurried his way back to his wife's bed.

He stripped off his tunic and stepped up behind Teyla. The journey here had given her a respite from the business of running a province and advising the queen. Most people found Teyla difficult to read, for she was exceptionally good at appearing calm and composed, but he knew her well enough to see that she was more relaxed than she was at home, and for that he was grateful. She was unbraiding her hair, watching him in the mirror above her dressing table. He began to unfasten the laces of her gown slowly and then removed it. He caught a brief, knowing glance from her in the mirror before focusing on loosening her corset and removing that as well.

In short order, she was naked before him, leaning back with her eyes closed as he caressed her body.

He paused for a moment, enjoying the sight, before Teyla turned around and swiftly finished undressing him. She was never passive about anything. Even with all the worry for her safety it occasioned, he would not have loved her so much if she had been otherwise.

He had kept his distance from her physically for nearly three years, not entirely trusting himself, and too embarrassed to tell her the truth. Teyla had breached that distance slowly and cautiously, until finally he mumbled out the confession of his inexperience. What he knew of intimacies between a man and a woman was limited to vague memories of home, and far worse memories of the Wraith. Teyla had accepted him in this as she had in every other way, guiding him and teaching him in what was possible between two people who loved one another so much.

Now she embraced him and they tumbled to the bed, laughing and reorganizing their limbs to a more comfortable position. As usual, the past and everything else faded from his mind as he focused on Teyla completely. The lack of distractions made it easier to go slowly and encourage Teyla to do the same, taking their time to thoroughly enjoy the evening until they were sprawled across the bed, sweaty and exhausted.

Teyla lay with her head on his chest, her breathing slowing gradually. Ronon ran his fingers through her hair. His own remained short; Teyla cut it every year in the spring, a private ritual they had managed even when he was spending much of his time at sea. Now he ran his other hand over her body, brushing against her stomach lightly. He remembered the shock when she told him she was pregnant with Torren, particularly since they hadn't been married yet. It was fortunate Teyla had not spent much time in court that spring so the truth of timing had been easier to conceal.

There were still moments when he looked at his son and marveled at the boy's existence, but Ronon knew Teyla wanted a large family, and for Torren not to be an only child as she was.

As if in answer to his thoughts, Teyla pushed herself up and turned, then took his hand and placed it against her abdomen more firmly. She said nothing right away, only looked at him, but he realized what she was telling him.

"Are you sure?"

"Only just. My courses are overdue by a month, but I felt little sickness, so I thought perhaps it was the journey."

He pressed his fingers lightly against her skin. The last months of her first pregnancy had been difficult. The midwife had confined her to bed earlier than normal and it had been all Ronon could do to keep the village at bay from trying to be "helpful" and disturbing her rest. Both Teyla and their son had been fine and the birth was not a difficult one, but there was always a risk.

Ronon had learned in the last seven years to set aside the worries and focus on the moments of joy that came to him. They were hard-won and worth celebrating. He tugged his wife down so that she lay on top of him and kissed her deeply. Teyla laughed, struggling to settle herself more comfortably. She propped herself up on her arms. "I admit, I'm hoping for a daughter this time."

He nodded. He loved his son but he was not averse to having a daughter as well. He could almost envision a fierce little girl with her mother's spirit storming around their home in Athos. He cared little, so long as the child was healthy, and so was Teyla. "You should see Perna as soon as we get back."

"I spoke to Mistress Janet already, actually, this afternoon when we returned," she told him. "She said all was well enough." Ronon didn't say anything, merely looked at her for a moment. Teyla rolled her eyes. "But I will consult Perna when we return if you wish."

"Yes, my lady," he said with a grin. He drew her into another kiss. Teyla slid off him and curled up against his side, pulling the blanket over them.

Teyla yawned. "I would rather not tell anyone until we reach Atlantis," she murmured. He nodded, wrapping his arm around her body. This would be their secret for now. It was early to tell anyone, not until things were more certain, and Ronon had not had much time to grapple with Torren's impending arrival, with the wedding and the changes that had all happened at once. He wanted to savor this for a while.

He did have one thought, though. "Torren will go mad with impatience once we tell him."

Teyla stilled, then sighed. "We should perhaps wait until the last possible moment," she agreed.

Elizabeth, as keeper of the children's great secret, was whisked away by two eager princes on the morning of midsummer's eve, not to be seen again for at least an hour. John might have been concerned had the children been a little older, but they were small enough that their mischief had its limits. He remembered one time when he and Cameron were about that age and nearly set fire to a very large part of the prairie, but Elizabeth had Marcus Lorne with her. He was intimidating enough to stop that sort of nonsense. At least John hoped he was.

The day passed on as many of the preceding days had, even though they were only two days away from the Atalanian party leaving Caldora. John was a little sad about their imminent departure. Cameron was a brother and friend, and John missed him greatly. The journey had also allowed him to see other old friends who came to call at the summer palace. Nicholas and Cassie had been there with their children from the day of his arrival. Janet had followed her royal patron and patient - for she had delivered all of Cameron's children - to visit with her grandchildren and John's family for the duration of their stay.

Lord David and Lady Juliana had also come with four of their five children, something which had made the nursery impossibly louder. Their eldest, Emma, had been thirteen or fourteen when John danced with her at Cameron and Carolyn's wedding. Now she was a young lady, married to Lady Gairwyn's grandson and living with him north of Cheyenne. The Dixons had been on their way to visit their daughter, who was due at any moment to give birth, and broke their journey with the royal family.

John had missed them all, but his sadness at parting from them was tempered by a longing for home. Perhaps, like Isabelle, he missed the sea.

He knew that Cameron and Carolyn had something prepared for midsummer, for the summer solstice was to Caldora what the winter solstice was to Atalan. He was surprised, then, when Elizabeth stood from the table after supper dishes had been cleared. Prince Henry hopped up from his seat and hurried to her side. "Your Majesty, my brother and I invite you all for some entertainment," he said.

This, John realized with a smirk, was what Elizabeth had been up to that morning. She had been teaching Henry the proper etiquette for such an invitation. She curtsied slightly to him and said, "We are honored, Prince." Then she cast her gaze across the table, and everyone stood to follow her and the prince from the room.

They walked to Cameron's audience chamber. John remembered that on the first day, he and Carolyn had laughed at how excellent a theater it would make, for the far end of the room was raised up several inches, with steps leading to the platform on either side. Two doors, presumably for use of royal parties, led to antechambers. All it lacked was a curtain.

The children had not procured one, but they had gathered enough chairs for all of their parents and guests to sit down. Henry led Elizabeth to her seat in the front row and then looked for John. "I believe you will want to sit here, my lord," he said, with an air that reminded John somewhat of Carolyn. He would not mention that to the boy, though he might to Cameron.

There were not enough seats for the children, and as the parents sat together, somewhat mystified, the children dashed up the steps to the platform and out either door. "Is this going to be terribly embarrassing?" John asked of his wife.

She elbowed him. "You are talking about your children, John."

"I suppose that's true."

The children had evidently enlisted the help of the servants who were at the palace, for the adults helped them move a few large pieces of scenery onto the stage. One was a pile of small crates, set up to resemble a castle, and the rest were potted trees, which had mysteriously gone missing from Queen Carolyn's garden a day or two ago.

The first child to come out on stage was Isabelle, whose little face was flushed as she clutched a sheaf of papers. She was nervous, and John smiled at her, trying to encourage her. It seemed to help. "Your Majesties, lords and ladies," she said, then glanced at John and Elizabeth, "Mama and Papa, we bring you a play for your entertainment, written by Moira Beckett and Prince Henry."

Her moment of speaking before them finished, Isabelle scrambled down from the stage and dragged the remaining chair over to one of the steps. She sat down, and from one of the antechambers there came a sound that was probably supposed to be a ferocious roar.

It was followed by very real, somewhat familiar screaming, and John was in no way surprised when Margaret came running out, chased by one of the twins wearing a dragon mask. He wasn't sure how she could keep on screaming like that while dodging trees and avoiding the edge of the stage, but somehow she managed. But soon enough the dragon caught her, and Margaret pleaded for mercy. "No, no!" she cried. "Please don't eat me!"

The dragon huffed a few times, looking down at his fallen quarry. Then he grabbed Margaret by the arms and dragged her back toward the dangerous-looking pile of crates. At that point Margaret had to oblige him by climbing up into her prison herself, because the boy couldn't very well carry her up there. John held back a snicker.

Behind him, Cameron leaned forward. "You're not concerned about your daughter's safety?" he joked.

John half-turned. "If that's what Henry's done to Margaret, you should be concerned about what he's done to your daughter."

The dragon started into a speech about his treasure and his war with the nearby king of Icelandia. The king had been hunting him for a while, so he had kidnapped the king's daughter.

"My papa's going to have your head!" Margaret shouted from her perch.

The dragon sighed and shuffled off the stage, and John could feel Elizabeth shaking with suppressed laughter.

From the other door, Rebecca Beckett came out with her hair all fastened up with ribbons. She had a staff in her hand, and Andrew, Juliet, Lucy, and Torren were all crawling alongside her, bleating like sheep. Into this pastoral scene came Henry, a wooden sword propped up on his shoulder. He swaggered like his father, or at least as his father had as a younger man.

"Fair shepherdess," he said to Rebecca, his voice high but confident. "Fair shepherdess, will you turn aside to answer a question?"

Rebecca came to a stop, and in a moment of authenticity which could not have been planned, one of the sheep tried to keep going. Rebecca halted the wayward Lucy with her staff as though she really were a shepherdess and Lucy her sheep. With order restored, Rebecca delivered her line. "That depends on the question, sir."

Henry leaned forward. "Have you seen a dragon in these parts?"

"I've seen many dragons, sir," Rebecca replied, to Henry's astonishment. "You must be a visitor to our land."

"Indeed," he said. "I come from a land far to the north, where dragons are but legend."

The pair went back and forth for a while about dragons and unicorns and some other things that probably weren't relevant, but it was quite charming. The first time Isabelle had to correct Henry on one of his lines, Elizabeth grasped John's hand, and he saw she was smiling. Isabelle was shy, but hardly faint-hearted.

Rebecca eventually suggested that Henry pay a visit to the lady in the tower in the middle of the town. John wondered for a moment if Henry was about to find the missing princess so quickly, but the lady he found was Moira Beckett.

Moira, like Rebecca, resembled her mother strongly, but it was soon clear that for this role, she had chosen Teyla as her model, not Laura. When Moira offered to accompany Henry on his rescue, she was obliged to prove that she could hold her own on the quest. She had a sword too, and soon the two were dueling. The scene reminded John very much of the day he had come upon Teyla and Ronon sparring in the armory before Atlantis was besieged by the Wraith. Knowing where that had led, he thought it was lucky for the two children that none of their parents knew about it. He glanced behind him at Teyla, who merely glared at him for a moment before turning her attention back to the stage.

Moira bested Henry, which made John wonder about how they had come to that particular creative decision, and they went on their way together. They traveled through a haunted forest, where the little ones were now frightened animals and Owen and Cameron played ghosts, then came upon a unicorn, who was, of necessity, invisible. The unicorn, whose voice sounded suspiciously like Margaret, promised to leave them clues as to where to find the fair maiden.

But next they came upon a wise old man, who was Geoffrey in a very large hat. John had to admit that he was impressed by the variety of costumes involved in this production. It also explained where his traveling cloak had gotten off to.

The plot of the story got complicated from there in a way only children could invent. Isabelle kept dutifully to her prompting, and as the play progressed, all of the parents found it more and more difficult not to laugh at what their children were doing. Grace, for example, was the most adorable witch John had ever seen, when she was supposed to be terrifying. At one point Torren decided that he did not want to be a cow anymore and began barking instead. His father covered his face with his hand and shook his head.

Before long, the two weary wanderers found the dragon and his tower and rescued the princess. David, his dragon mask accidentally ripped off, was defeated more by Moira than Henry, but the little prince would soon surprise her. As they were parting, Moira held out her hand in the polite fashion. He ignored that and kissed her swiftly on the lips.

Moira might have been more surprised than the parents in the room, but not by much. Without any hesitation, she shoved Henry so hard he collided with their crate castle, making it even more unstable. Henry turned bright red, but managed to say his final lines. While John held in his laughter, he glanced at Moira and Henry's parents, who happened to be sitting together. Carolyn's fingers were wrapped around Cameron's wrist so tightly she was probably cutting off blood flow, and Laura was shaking badly, her fingers covering her mouth.

At last the little play was over, the adults all applauded enthusiastically, and the children took their bows. John did not miss that the crown prince came flying off the stage straight to the comfort of his mother's arms. Smiling, Carolyn embraced her son and kissed the top of his head. The other adults effusively complimented the children on their performances and creativity while the small actors beamed with pride over their success.

On another night, the children would have been sent straight to bed, but this was midsummer. The carriages were ordered, and together the whole party headed south of the palace, to a wider part of the creek. There Marcus and John built a small fire, and Cameron and Ronon brought out a trunk that had been loaded onto one of the carriages. In it were candles in little wooden bowls. There was one for everyone, even the very youngest among them.

Cameron seemed a little surprised when Isabelle knew exactly what they were to do. John had never made a public display of this, but after Isabelle was born, he and Elizabeth began to keep this tradition as well. Every year, when the sun set on the summer solstice, they would go down to the little grotto beneath the palace of Atlantis and would set a lighted candle in the water. It was a private matter they did not share with anyone, but John wanted his children to know of this tradition from his homeland.

The candles were lit, and one by one they all went down to the water's edge and set the lights afloat, with the parents helping the littlest children first. Cameron, as was appropriate, began the blessings. "May there be love among each one of us," he said, as his son and heir set down the last of the candles.

John stood behind his wife and wrapped his arms around her as she made her reply. "May there be peace, ever and abounding."

"May there be wisdom in all our dealings," said Carolyn.

John spoke the last of the traditional blessings. "May there be joy in the coming year."

After that, it was up to each person to speak his own blessing. Some of them surprised John. Ronon spoke for courage in the face of change; Kate spoke for patience. Carson spoke for perseverance and Marcus for boldness to take risks. When all the adults were finished, the older children spoke for themselves. None was as amusing as Henry, who said, "May Moira not hate me forever."

Moira, as was her wont, stuck her tongue out at him.

On the morning of their departure, Elizabeth woke early, restless, and she slipped out of bed and went to the desk on the other side of the room. Throughout their stay in Caldora, she had been writing an account of it to Radek. He was well acquainted with the children through Elizabeth's letters, so he would certainly be amused by the previous night's entertainment. Alexander and Katryn, Radek's own children, gave concerts for their parents and friends on a regular basis. Radek had confessed himself baffled by this at first. Apparently the children's musical talents were an inheritance from their mother.

John, predictably, was irritated by her absence when he woke sometime later. "Elizabeth," he mumbled, "come back to bed."

"It's almost time for you to get out of bed, John," she replied.

"Yes, and you don't sleep well in a carriage, so you ought to try to get as much sleep as possible before we go."

"Perhaps you should have thought of that before you tried to keep me up all night."

John grumbled, and she heard him push aside the covers. "You used to like it when I tried that."

"I don't love you any less, John. I just need sleep more now than I did eight years ago."

That got him to laugh a little, and she smiled when he came up behind her and kissed the top of her head. "Still writing to my rival, I see."

Elizabeth laughed this time. "I wonder, my lord, if you will stop thinking of him as a rival in another eight years."

"Will you still be writing to him?"


"Then probably not."

Finishing the letter would have to wait. It was time to prepare themselves for the journey ahead. When they were both dressed, they headed to the children's room, where Laura, Kate, Carson, and Ronon were all busy getting the children ready. It was every man for himself, apparently, as the children outnumbered the parents badly and Rebecca was the only one being the least bit helpful. "How did Lorne get out of this?" John asked while he chased and finally caught Lucy. "And Teyla, for that matter."

"He's getting the coaches ready," Kate replied. "Teyla's helping him."

John continued grumbling. Elizabeth hid a smile while Rebecca held a squirming Andrew in place long enough for Elizabeth to get his shoes on him.

Several of the children were already upset by the time they finally reached the breakfast table. Prince Henry seemed particularly subdued. Moira sat next to him and acted as though nothing had happened the night before, but she seemed sad to be leaving. They had all had such a lovely time here, and Elizabeth fervently wished that the bonds the children had formed this summer would last.

They lingered as long as they could at the table, but at last it was time to leave. The royal family of Caldora saw them to their coaches, with Cassie and Nicholas and their children looking on. All of the older children and most of the little ones ran up to the king to hug him; he had, after all, been their faithful playmate on many occasions. Henry, Geoffrey, and Grace all had hugs for John and Elizabeth. Then the children said their goodbyes to each other while the adults took their leave. While Elizabeth embraced Cameron, she said, "Perhaps next summer you will come to visit us. Maybe in Neill."

"I hope so," he replied, pulling away. "Of course, it will depend on the baby." He kept his voice low, though the way he touched Carolyn's arm probably would have told the story to any adult who was observing them. There was also the possibility that Elizabeth would be with child again soon, but she did not speak that thought aloud.

John and Cameron were the last to say their farewells. They embraced for a long time, and Elizabeth did not ask John what they had said to each other. She knew John had always missed his cousin, but distance clearly had not diminished the bond between them. They would always be as brothers, no matter how much time passed.

With their farewells said, it was time to get the children into the carriages and be off. While John lifted Andrew up to Elizabeth, she happened to look out the back of the coach and notice Moira and Henry standing by while her parents helped her little sisters. Moira glanced around quickly, though not thoroughly, before kissing Henry on the cheek and pushing him back toward his parents. The boy was blushing as his mother wrapped her arms around him, but he waved and smiled to them all as the carriages set off.

John had noticed it too. While their children watched the countryside go by, he said lowly, "I think little Henry may have met his match in Moira."

Elizabeth laughed. "I would not be shocked if he has met his queen."

He rolled his eyes at the thought. "Thank you for this," he said.

"No need," she replied. "I'm anxious to be home, but I'm glad we came."

With a smile, he set his arm about her and pulled her to lean on his shoulder. Elizabeth went willingly. "I think Moira would probably make a very good queen."

"Iron fist in a velvet glove," John muttered.

"I'm told Carolyn did the proposing when she and Cameron married, so that might appeal to Henry," Elizabeth pointed out.

"Elizabeth," he said, "I want to enjoy the children now as they are. They're growing up fast enough."

He had a point. Sometimes it seemed like only a few days ago that Moira had been a baby and she and John had just been married.

As though he read her thoughts, John reached for her hand and brought it to his lips. The touch reminded her that he would do everything in his power to protect her and their children, as he had almost since the moment they met. Ten years had passed since that day, when their eyes first met and neither of them could look away, but time had not dulled that connection. Instead, the intervening years had made it more intense, because they knew each other and loved each other so well.

Elizabeth felt a kiss pressed to the top of her head and she smiled, squeezing his hand. As the carriage rattled up the bumpy mountain road, she thought that there could be no better situation in life for her than this one: a husband whom she adored, healthy children, and friends who wished her well. All the trials and stress of the crown were worth the family around her.

"Mama," Isabelle said, from the other seat in the coach, "how long until we reach Atlantis?"

Elizabeth sat up and brushed her hair back from her face. "A few weeks. We're stopping in Heightmeyer, remember?" Isabelle sighed, and Elizabeth beckoned her over. She chose to sit in her papa's lap. "Why are you so anxious to be home, Isabelle?"

"I miss the sea."

Elizabeth could sympathize, but it was John who comforted their daughter. He kissed her temple and then said, "I remember the first time I arrived at the shore. The sea was immense, and the waves even in the quiet afternoon were so strong. I had been riding for days and days, so I went to splash the water on my face."

Margaret, who was sprawled on the opposite seat, piped up, "And you met Lady Teyla then!" The children had all heard this story before, of course.

"I did!" John replied. "She snuck up behind me, as she is so good at doing." The children giggled at that. John continued with the tale, leaving out the parts about the Wraith and other things not fit for small ears, while Margaret chimed in from time to time. Isabelle was content to listen, her head against John's shoulder. Andrew climbed over and snuggled in Elizabeth's lap and fell asleep.

As Elizabeth listened to John recount the history of their first meeting, she couldn't help but be amazed at what had led them to each other. Theirs had been a difficult story, but love and tenacity had kept them together through every hardship that sought to separate them.

In the end, John had become her rock, just as Atlantis was her home, and Elizabeth knew that no stormy sea could ever shake them.

On a personal note, I've had an incredible time with this universe. I'm sad to see it end, but I'm honored to have shared it with my coauthors and all of you reading. Thank you so much.
miera_c: funny facesmiera_c on June 15th, 2012 03:17 am (UTC)
Rebecca came to a stop, and in a moment of authenticity which could not have been planned, one of the sheep tried to keep going. Rebecca halted the wayward Lucy with her staff as though she really were a shepherdess and Lucy her sheep. With order restored, Rebecca delivered her line. "That depends on the question, sir."

I don't know if that would be my all time favorite paragraph from the entire series, but it's certainly in the top 5.
timespirt on June 15th, 2012 03:28 am (UTC)
Thank you for sharing it. I'm sorry to see it end. Hope you will still be writing SGA and or au fics.
gravity.not.included: sgagrav_ity on June 15th, 2012 03:37 am (UTC)
I am a laughing, crying, MESS of a person right now.

Thank you so much for keeping on with this. I love each piece of it, but I love the whole even more. I know it was hard, but it means a lot to me. I've read it in three different continents (and on opposite sides of Asia, which I think should count for two!), multiple countries, three different laptops and various states of sleep deprivation. I have carried it with me around the world, because it is something that I love. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU.

I was going to make a list, but it would pretty much be everything. It's the perfect ending.

melyanna, miera_c, angelqueen04 (and special guest sache8, a resounding WELL DONE!
the_scary_kitty: City on the edge of forever...the_scary_kitty on June 15th, 2012 04:28 am (UTC)
*sighs in contentment* I can't think of any better way to cap off this story and this series than what you've done here. One generation giving way to the next, even as a still newer generation begins to take shape themselves. Perfect.

And darnit, you've already got me shipping Henry/Moira! Stargate!Ren: The Next Generation, indeed! LOL! :P

While I'm sad to see this wonderful series come to a close, it's been one exciting ride. Farewell, Elizabeth and John, Cameron and Carolyn, Kate and Marcus, Teyla and Ronon, Carson and Laura, and everyone else. I'll miss you and reading about new adventures that yet await you, but I know I'll always be able to come back and reread my favorite moments whenever I like. And I will be coming back. A lot.

Ladies, thank you for sharing this fantastic adventure with all of us. It's not just a great story, it's great storytelling, and that's a tremendous achievement. Brava! \o/
stexgirl2000stexgirl2000 on June 15th, 2012 04:30 am (UTC)
What a lovely end to the series. Y'all did a magnificent job. Brava! Well done and thank you!
angelqueen04: stock - book openangelqueen04 on June 15th, 2012 01:14 pm (UTC)
*melts* Seriously, now I'm shipping Moira/Henry too, and they're still adorable little kids! EEEE! SO CUTE!

Oh my, it's been quite a journey here, hasn't it? Millions of emails (thank goodness for Gmail, indeed!), dozens of hair-tearing occasions (usually trying to figure out a title, among other things ;D ), and many moments of glee and triumph (usually when the fans were flailing like crazy).

I'm honored to have played a part in this amazing series. I think we four have all done something here to be proud of, and I'll always love coming back here to read it again. Thank you so much for letting me take part! *hugs tightly*
Vicky: [Atlantis] Sparky - Flirtvickysg1 on June 15th, 2012 04:39 pm (UTC)
Once more, I loved this story. I love this universe, it's so wonderful! And I loved reading about the new generation.

Thank you, to all of you, for this series. You worked hard to give us something fantastic to read each and every time. I know I'll go back and read these stories again and again, because I just love them all. It's sad to see it all coming at an end, but all good things come to an end, they say, and it wasn't just good, it was amazing! Thank you again!
xakliaaeryn: Sparky wordsxakliaaeryn on June 15th, 2012 09:57 pm (UTC)
That was amazing! Thank you for sharing this wonderful universe with us, I am so sad to see it finish :'-( But thank you for all of your dedication and hard work on creating such an excellent piece of work. I love this series and it will remain number one on my re-read list for the foreseeable future. Thank you again!
miera_cmiera_c on June 17th, 2012 03:37 am (UTC)
There is a list of the families and ages of the kids here:

(Anonymous) on June 18th, 2012 01:48 pm (UTC)
bravo, brava to you all

thank you so much for allowing me to take this journey -- it's been amazing from start to *sniff* finish.
shipperwriter on July 12th, 2012 03:02 am (UTC)
Whoops, I thought I left a comment already!

Wow, just wow. I loved this little epilogue, seeing how everything turned out for the families down the road. And yes, I'm already shipping Moira/Henry too. LOL I love how the story ends with John telling the kids, yet again, his and Elizabeth's story. Beautiful, and full circle.

You ladies have done a wonderful job of bringing our favorite characters to life in a different world, and we just love them even more! Thank you so much for your hard work! :D
Napoleonic Powermonger: Aeryncutevaleria_sg_1 on December 28th, 2014 09:54 am (UTC)
I realize I'm commenting very late on this, but still, I want to thank you for all the time and effort you put into this saga.

I started reading back in the day, but then RL happened and I fell behind. I was recently reminiscing about SGA and its fandom so I decided to read the whole thing from the beginning and finish it this time. Thank you for this great ride :)