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Summary: The grieving that follows a loss is real, and can be very painful. (An AU where Earth is no longer an option.)

Updated: 28 Feb 2009; Published: 16 Sep 2008

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Author's Chapter Notes:
The first chapter is shorter than I had intended. The others will be longer and posted at most once a day, more likely a few days to a week apart.

"We must remember that one determined person
can make a significant difference, and that a small group
of determined people can change the course of history."

- Sonia Johnson -

The expedition had been on its own for eight years when Elizabeth made the announcement. Bullets had long ago run out and clothing had been fashioned from fabrics they bartered for; foods that had once been frustratingly unfamiliar had become favorites.

They had survived times that should have torn them apart, but instead forged friendships. Relationships had blossomed – straight and gay alike. Marriages and birth announcements were not unusual to find on the inter-city message boards. Refugees had integrated into the original crew, increasing their numbers and happily learning whatever the former Terrans wanted to teach.

In short, Atlantis had become more home than a military installation or science facility. It seemed with each passing day that the city was returning to what she had been thousands of years earlier.

Then Elizabeth had called to the conference room the senior staff to share the news she had received in a data burst from a distant coordinate of space – Earth had not forgotten them and soon there would be a ship in orbit with supplies, letters, crew.

Many had rejoiced. They all missed the simplest of things like shoes that weren't made with reeds and strips of bark, ready-made meals, and hot dogs. Popcorn, anchovies, and bacon were hard to come by and Jamaican Blue coffee beans weren't exactly something they'd come across at the bazaars on Miana or Kroviani.

There were, however, those who'd looked at the arrival of contact with Earth with fear. The ship was military, the occupants no doubt Air Force and Marine assigned to Stargate Command, and who knew what orders they would bring. There were plenty of expedition members that could be recalled, leaving behind families.

"Rodney, it's been eight years – the majority of our military staff's enlistments were up a long time ago," Elizabeth pointed out to him an hour before the Icarus arrived.

They were sitting in Elizabeth's office, feet up on the coffee table and aged computers sitting in their laps. Though the programmers and the engineers had managed to keep the majority of their electronics going, Rodney had to admit that not having to deal with motherboards and processors crashing left and right would be a nice change.

"I'll concede there, but the other things – Elizabeth, they could tell you you're out and send someone new," he told her. It was among his greatest worries, topped only by the scenario where Sheppard and Lorne were reassigned and the one involving newly introduced science staff members. He refused to acknowledge the worst of them all where the entire mission was called off and everyone was ordered out of Atlantis.

"That would be horrible. You'd have to break in a new person to allow your insanity," she teased, tossing out the oldest of jokes between them.

"Don't. I'm being serious."

Sighing, Elizabeth nodded. She'd hoped the humor would lighten the mood since all of Rodney's fears were making her own leap to mind. The last thing she wanted was to needlessly nurse her anxiety before she met Colonel Alton and end up some how making it seem as though she was no longer capable of running the expedition.

A knock on her door stole their attentions from the conversation and they both looked up to see John standing there with his three-year-old adopted daughter clutching him tight around one leg.

"Would someone please watch their goddaughter for ten minutes so I can get my uniform on?" he asked, desperate. He'd unsuccessfully tried to pry her off of him in their quarters until it'd become clear that she was not letting him go anytime soon and then set out, slowly, to find one of Abby's beloved elders.

"No!" Abby's little voice declared.

Apparently, she was also one of the denizens worried about military influences. Rodney gave a mental cheer to his niece's intelligence and cleared his lap, opening his arms and waiting for her to leap at him as she normally did.

John groaned when she continued to cling to him. "Next time someone," he emphasized the word, "wants to have a freak out, could it please be done out of her hearing range?"

"I thought she was asleep!" Rodney defended, getting to his feet.

The two men ended up needing to enlist Chuck's help to unwind the child from her father's body and John had run off with the promise that he would relieve them as soon as he was changed. Rodney had simply told him to take his time since he had no intention of showing up in anything other than the clothing he wore everyday.

"You know, Carson will not be pleased that you didn't even attempt to make yourself more presentable," Elizabeth pointed out after Abby settled and reluctantly began to play with the homemade crayons and paper.

"Presentable is like beauty."

"In the eye of the beholder?" She asked.

"No – it only matters on the surface."

"Take time to deliberate;
but when the time for action arrives,
stop thinking and go in."

- Napoleon Bonaparte -