Summary: How it all began for the ladies of SG1...
Author's Notes: Gen, spoilers for SG1. Written for the Women of the Gate January challenge.
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended. Written for entertainment purposes only.
Begin at the Beginning
Cheyenne Mountain is cold and soulless but the Ring…the Doorway to Heaven seems somehow at home in its cramped position at the bottom of a missile silo. Artificial light bounces off the dull steel, casting some of the symbols in darkness and highlighting others.
Catherine wonders at the artefact once more, remembering the heat of an Egyptian sun and the scour of sand across her young skin when her father had raised it from the desert. Her hand clasps the gold pendant she wears around her neck.
Her father had worked for years to try and discover its secrets and it had cost them. It had cost her. (Ernest, she thinks briefly before she shoves the memory of him aside again, her father's choked voice telling her it was a lab accident echoing in her head). The device had remained forgotten for decades before two visitors, a young man and a young woman, had prompted Catherine into thinking about it again. She has continued to think about little else since.
And it has taken Catherine more years to convince the government that it was worth exploring the device again, to fund her research, but finally she has her opportunity. She stares up at the device.
"We are just beginning, you and I," Catherine whispers, "so you don't know that I will discover your secrets but I will." Her father had not despite the years he'd given to the strange ring but Catherine has her mother's stubbornness; she won't let the device defeat her as it had ultimately defeated her father.
A young Airman clears his throat behind her. "The General is ready to see you, Doctor Langford."
Catherine casts one last look at the ring and goes to begin her quest to find the truth.
It is forbidden.
But everyone is paying attention to the new baby – a son – and nobody is paying attention to Sha're. Her small chest aches with hurt. Her father hasn't once hugged her that day, ruffled her hair, or sneaked her sweets. He's too enamoured of the child in her mother's arms.
And Sha're is only a girl, a daughter. One who will be married by the will of Ra to whoever her father chooses or maybe even given to Ra himself as a priestess as her mother once was.
Sha're sneaks away, certain she won't be missed. She heads into the catacombs, her heart beating wildly at the hugeness of her rebellion.
It's not just that she's disobeying her mother, (who is strict and loving and kind and who Sha're knows will be upset when she realises Sha're is missing), or her father, (who is not strict but rather rigid and traditional, but who does love her, indulges her, even if she is a daughter and who is also going to be upset when he realises Sha're is missing – and furious if he realises where she has gone to hide), but that she's disobeying a God.
It is against Ra's command to enter the old catacombs.
She doesn't understand why as she eases through the dusty passageways, filled with cobwebs. The silence is oppressive and her torch casts a dim light. Why would Ra forbid them from coming here, wonders Sha're, her nose wrinkling at the smell of decay.
But then she sees the first image upon the wall and she freezes, her breath caught.
It is forbidden to write, to draw.
Her eyes take in the words on the wall and she wonders what it says, what it means. Her fingers skitter over the picture of one of Ra's warriors being carried away by a crowd of people and Ra's wondrous ship, fleeing.
Her God was defeated?!
It shakes the foundations of her world, seeds the beginning of doubt in her heart, even as she runs away in flustered panic, running and running until she is free from the darkness of the catacombs and back in the glaring light of the Abydos suns.
But the truth cannot be unseen and she knows as she lands by her mother's feet that she'll return one day.
Sam is trying hard not to fidget as she waits in the small office.
Her blue eyes can't help roaming the walls – the black and white pictures of archaeological digs out in the Middle East, maybe one or two in a jungle somewhere that suggested South America. There are artefacts strewn with care around the room. They obviously hold meaning for the office's occupant, her new boss.
Well, her actual Commanding Officer remains General West out at Peterson but Sam is temporarily assigned to the Deep Space Telemetry project. She felt better about it since she'd been briefed that it wasn't really about deep space telemetry so much as investigating an alien artefact that might be a doorway to somewhere…
A wormhole maybe, Sam muses. Her undergrad thesis had been all about wormhole theory but the amount of energy required to create one was phenomenal not to mention the material required to control the forces of the event horizon and prevent it from destroying everything around it was just…
Sam bites her lip. Her role is to take over the design and development of the computer system needed to get the artefact to operate. She's read Catherine Langford's reports that a secondary device was theorised but that it had not been found with the artefact and had likely fallen into German hands during the Second World War. There is a rudimentary system already in place but Sam has over a dozen improvements that she wants to make just from seeing a glimpse of the first page of the blueprint.
She's eager to get started.
Her eyes stray to a picture of a man with a young girl beside him in what appeared to be an Egyptian bazaar.
Sam's father is going to be furious at her change in orders and at Sam's acquiescence to the move. She's wanted NASA and space for as long as she can remember and taking herself out of the heavily competitive flight programme to work on Deep Space Telemetry is going to appear nonsensical to her Dad. And it isn't as though she can tell him why since the project is so heavily classified.
She sighs, her fingers twisting anxiously in her clasped hands.
Sam turns and smiles hesitantly at the elderly woman in the doorway. "I'm Lieutenant Samantha Carter. You must be Doctor Langford?"
"Call me Catherine." Catherine steps forward, light glinting off the gold pendant around her neck – the same pendant worn by the little girl in the photo, Sam realises. "You'll find we don't stand on a lot of formality here especially as you're the first Air Force personnel directly assigned to work on the project and not just as part of the support staff here in the Mountain."
And so she has to earn her place with Catherine, Sam surmises.
"Please call me Sam." She says and smiles again. "I'm really looking forward to working with you."
Catherine nods slowly before she frowns. "Have we met before? You seem familiar…"
Sam shakes her head firmly; she'd definitely remember meeting someone like Catherine. "I don't believe so."
"No matter." Catherine gestures at her to follow. "Let me show you the artefact, Samantha."
Anticipation and excitement bubble up in Sam and she hurries to join the older woman.
Reporting to her CO is something that Janet always hates with a passion. She much prefers heading to the infirmary and getting on with her job but protocol is protocol and so she follows the Airman down to the General's office.
She salutes smartly, her cover tucked neatly under arm and assumes the 'at ease' position when the General's Texan drawl orders it.
He's a solid presence in the comfortable if cramped office; fifties, robust health although he looks like he needs more sleep, he's losing his thinning hair and possibly a few pounds overweight but nothing major. He's regarding her with friendly blue eyes and a no-nonsense expression.
"You've been read in?" Hammond asks her crisply.
"Yes, sir." Janet nods.
"You have good references." Hammond says briskly, leaning back in his chair. "Combat medicine, research, general surgery and practice. It's an impressive resume and, believe me, I think you're going to need every single skill you possess and then some, Captain."
"Thank you, sir." Janet says dryly.
His eyes narrow. "Do you prefer Captain or Doctor?"
"I prefer Doctor." She admits, surprised by his sharp observation of her discomfort. She's proud of her rank and being an Air Force officer, but she's first and foremost a doctor – and besides, it means she knows someone's yelling for her in the field when she hears 'Doctor' instead of 'Captain.'
Hammond smiles. "Doctor it is then." He checks the clock on the wall. "I have a briefing about to begin for an off-world mission…"
Her heart stutters a little at that because she's been read in but actually hearing it plainly is another thing. Off-world. Aliens. It feels like she's starring in her own sci-fi movie.
"…so the Airman show you to the infirmary so you can get started."
"I'm eager to begin work." Janet says, relieved.
"Good, because you're going to have hit the ground running." Hammond nods at her. "Welcome to the SGC, Doctor. Dismissed."
Janet leaves the office and heads to the infirmary – to what will be her domain. It's a good start, she determines as she gets back in the elevator. Her thumb swipes over her finger where her wedding ring once was and she stops the nervous habit immediately. It's a new beginning for her and it's time to let go of the past.
Cassie is nervous.
She clings to Janet's hand and wishes Sam was with her instead. Sam always makes her feel brave. But Sam is away (on another planet although Cassie isn't supposed to know that) and Cassie stays with Janet. (Somewhere in her heart she knows that Janet is the one who is looking after her now but Cassie still wants Sam).
The school isn't like the old building they'd used on Hanka. It's painted bright colours and the children are all seated at tables together rather than the individual desks Miss Becca had insisted upon. But there's a familiar blackboard on the wall and the teacher has the same look as Miss Becca.
Cassie tries hard not to quail under the stern gaze as they sit in the empty classroom when the class lets out for recess. She reminds herself that Janet has told her they don't the cane here for punishment. Cassie's glad about that. She never received the cane herself but Peter got smacked with it once after he'd played a mean trick on Elmer.
Grief tugs at her again. Peter and Elmer and Miss Becca all died. Cassie won't ever see them again.
She clutches Janet's hand tighter and Janet takes a moment to smooth a hand over Cassie's head, comforting and solid, grounding her back in place as Janet continues talking to the school teacher.
"…so, her therapist has suggested getting her enrolled, even on a part-time basis while she has private tutoring to catch-up, would help with her grieving process and…"
Cassie tunes out and gazes out of the wide window at the children playing.
There's a group of girls her age with a skipping rope near to the window. They're jumping the rope and chanting a song that Cassie can't quite hear beyond the rhythmic murmur. One of the girls waiting for her turn looks over to the window.
She's blonde and pretty. She reminds Cassie of Sam. She waves at Cassie and smiles brightly.
Cassie waves back.
Maybe it won't be so bad to begin her schooling on Earth.
Elizabeth takes a moment to breathe as the car pulls up and the waiting Airman steps forward to open her door.
She glances around at the sterile concrete; the dull colours that denote the base's identity as a military installation. She takes another deep breath as she enters the complex.
Elizabeth adjusts the hold she has on the slim brown leather briefcase she holds. It's slightly battered but it was a graduation gift from her father and she needs the comfort of its familiarity. In contrast, she schools her expression to one of confidence and keeps her body language projecting the same. It's important she makes a good first impression on the staff of the SGC.
She suddenly regrets her decision to try out being a blonde. It had started off as a joke between her and her fiancé, and she has enjoyed being a blonde to some degree – it has made her a little freer in expressing her ditzy side, she realises, and she's even used that in her recent negotiations at the UN. But she can't afford to appear ditzy to the military; they won't take her seriously. She straightens her shoulders and resolves to correct the hair issue at the first opportunity.
The elevator stops and she's quickly ushered through another checkpoint and into another elevator. She tries hard not to show how uneasy she is at being so far underground.
The walk from the elevator to the office isn't far and she's only half-surprised that the office door is already bearing a gold plaque with her name and credentials. She's ushered into the adjoining conference room – large with a steel shutter down over an internal window – and the blue suits waiting for her snap to attention.
"Colonel Pearson, ma'am." The Colonel moves to shake her hand. "I'm currently the senior office in charge here at the SGC."
"Colonel O'Neill?" Elizabeth asks, glancing at the other man, a dark-haired Major who is clearly not Colonel O'Neill.
"General Hammond gave the Colonel the weekend to get his affairs in order following downloading the knowledge from the Ancient repository into his head in an effort to keep the information from Anubis and to find some way to defeat him." The Major responds and puts out his own hand. "Major Paul Davis, ma'am. I'm the liaison with the Pentagon. General Hammond thought it might be useful for me to brief you on the history, missions and current political position with our allies, while Colonel Pearson briefs you on current operations, protocol and procedure here at the SGC."
Elizabeth shakes his hand and tries not to feel ruffled by the way the military has assumed she will follow their direction.
"We can recall SG1 if you feel you would prefer receiving the briefings from them directly." The Major says quietly.
And she'll look like an insensitive bitch.
But she's impressed that he's seen her discomfort. The Major is a diplomat, Elizabeth realises, for all that he's military – and it also explains why Pearson is letting him take the lead despite the rank disparity.
"I'm sure you and Colonel Pearson will be fine." Elizabeth says smoothly. "I'm hoping…"
The klaxon cut off her words and both military men are already turning and heading down the spiral staircase before Elizabeth can recover her poise. She hurries after them and stops in shock at her first sight of the Stargate.
"Unscheduled incoming wormhole!" The technician at the computer states loudly. "Receiving SG9's IDC."
"Open the iris." Pearson orders.
Elizabeth breath catches in her throat as the metal centre of the ring spirals away leaving a shimmering blue and white centre.
What is more incredible is the way a team emerges from the light to step onto the metal ramp, a cohesive four regardless that two of them are civilian and two military. They all turn in unison with a tilt of their heads to gaze upwards into the control room. She's unsurprised at the suspicion that flickers across their faces when they catch sight of her.
Pearson leans down to the microphone. "Welcome back, SG9. Report to the infirmary."
"All off-world SG teams have been recalled," Davis informs her in a quiet voice, "but some of our operations require a long shutdown procedure such as the Alpha site. Others such as SG9 were asked to pass the message to our allies that we may be out of touch for a while before returning home. We expect all teams to be Earth-side by oh-nine-hundred tomorrow."
The light show in front of her winks out and Elizabeth takes a deep breath. There are a hundred questions bubbling up inside of her.
"Shall we return to the briefing room?" asks Davis politely.
Elizabeth nods briskly. "Let's." She says and leads the way.
It's time she began to control the agenda.
She's going to kill Jack O'Neill, Carolyn muses, as she comes to a startled halt at the sight of a new SGC commander standing behind the desk in the cramped office (which gives away the change in ownership between the boxes and folders strewn around the floor and on every available surface, and the walls which are by comparison bare of art and personality) and who is definitely not Jack himself.
She's not going to kill Jack; she's going to inject him with the most painful but non-lethal virus imaginable and leave him to writhe in agony.
"So," her father says brightly, "I'm guessing from the look on your face that this is a surprise to you too."
Carolyn's eyes widen even more at that. "He didn't tell you?"
"God, no." Her father huffs out a laugh as he thumps into the creaky leather chair behind his new desk. "I would have warned you if I'd known."
They haven't seen each other for two years, five months and some days. Carolyn remembers the last time very well. He'd finally gotten around to meeting with her and had taken her out for lunch. He'd been late just as he had always been late for everything because of his job; because of the military. They'd argued over starters, resorted to chilly small talk over mains, and Carolyn had eschewed dessert on the basis that she had to get back to her lab at the CDC. They've had four phone calls since then; two on her birthdays, two on his.
Carolyn crosses her arms defensively over her chest. She wants this job. She really wants this job. She's liaised with the SGC a few times before but never had full disclosure and now she has it, she really wants the job. It's discovering the methods and technology to cure diseases and injuries; healing men and women who play in alien environments on a daily basis. It's cutting edge and advancing medicine; it's why she became a doctor.
Her father nods as though he's read her mind. Maybe he has. He always seemed to have a knack for knowing what was going through her head despite never being around.
"It's not a problem for me, if it's not a problem for you." Her father says.
Carolyn arches an eyebrow. "Isn't it a conflict of interest?"
Her father shrugs, the motion pulling the uniform shirt tight across his shoulders momentarily before settling again. "I'm sure Jack must have that covered."
"I can't be designated as your primary physician and we keep our relationship professional." Carolyn states firmly.
His brown eyes twinkle at her. "I can live with that."
Carolyn nods firmly. "OK, then." She presses her lips together. "So…" she takes a deep breath, "I believe I'm supposed to tell you that I'm Doctor Lam, your new Head of Medicine, reporting for duty."
"Welcome to the SGC, Doctor Lam." Her father says with warm affection as he emphasises the formal use of her name.
She rolls her eyes at him but can't help the quick quirk of her lips as they curl upward. She always forgets in the maelstrom of anger and resentment about the past, just how easily her father can make her laugh.
"Thank you, General Landry." Carolyn says back causing him to snort with amusement.
Her mother, (who despite her own refusal to speak to her ex-husband has always encouraged Carolyn to have a better relationship with her father), is going to laugh herself silly, Carolyn thinks, as her father waves her toward the only available chair and they turn their attention to their brand new jobs.
Vala sits primly, adjusting the sweep of the skirt easily so that she can sit comfortably without the material pulling.
The dress is new; a high necked blue satin number with a form fitting bodice, bare back and full skirt; Samantha Carter had presented it to her that evening as a 'welcome to the team' present. The blue sandals she wears are also new and were given to her by Teal'c at the same time as Samantha had presented her gift. She suspects they shopped together. Cameron Mitchell's gift had been the coat she'd shrugged off and set aside; a warm fall of dark wool. Her hand strays to the simple diamond earrings that adorn her ears; a present from General Landry and his daughter. She had laughed then and asked Daniel Jackson where his gift was for her. He'd replied that he was taking her to dinner.
They're not at the fancy restaurant that Daniel had selected for their meal out before Vala had been kidnapped and tortured and lost her memory and found her memory again. No, they're back at Sal's Diner despite being decked out in formal wear.
Daniel looks good in a tuxedo, Vala considers, letting her eyes drift to the man opposite her, taking in everything from the dark sweep of his hair to the way the white of his dress shirt contrasts with his tanned skin; the furrow between his eyebrows as he considers the laminated menu.
They're also not alone as they were before.
Teal'c sits next to Daniel in a sharp grey suit and grey hat hiding the mark that adorns his forehead; Cameron sits on a chair at the end of the table in his dress uniform; the picture perfect recruitment poster for his Air Force. Samantha is beside Vala in a stunning black number that Vala almost wishes had been for her.
"I highly recommend the pie." Vala says brightly.
"Sounds good to me." Samantha comments, setting aside the menu.
"I'm in the mood for a burger." Daniel says. "With everything."
"I concur." Teal'c agrees solemnly.
Cameron scratches his head. "Pie or burger…decisions, decisions…"
Something inside of Vala clenches painfully as the others begin to tease Cameron with gentle knowledge; the thrum of friendship and belonging zinging through each thrown comment. She excuses herself to the bathroom.
She stands in front of the mirror and stares at her image. The light is unforgiving. It highlights each frown line; each blemish. Her eyes are filled with memories; heavy and painful. It isn't a wonder she tried to forget and maybe there's more than a smidgen of regret that she's remembered.
She's stopped running, Vala reminds herself. But she can't quite believe that she has what she wants; a home, a place with people who care about her. It's there within her grasp – the badges that were her best present that day – waiting for her in a locker in the mountain where the Earth hides its Stargate.
She's a team member now; it's official. She's off probation and accepted. It feels different. Scary. Vala feels a familiar urge to run.
The door creaks open and she isn't too surprised to see Samantha.
Their eyes meet in the mirror. Samantha comes into the room fully, letting the door swing shut behind her as their gazes hold in the reflected surface.
Vala feels the hum that tells her that Samantha was a host to a Tok'ra just as Vala was a host to a Goa'uld once. She wonders if the horror of the experience wasn't the same.
"We ordered you pie." Samantha says, surprising Vala who thought she might try for some kind of pep talk thing that Vala might need even if she doesn't want to hear it.
"Why?" asks Vala, surprising herself with the seriousness of her question. But she's desperate to know. Why had they offered her SG1 now? She's tried wheedling her way into the team ever since Landry had given her the opportunity to stay but…she has to know why. Maybe then…maybe then the urge to run will go.
Samantha smiles gently. "Because we want you."
The simple sincerity of it takes Vala's breath away.
Vala blinks away the sting of tears because she refuses to cry and ruin her make-up. "I could have been asking about the pie." She points out lightly to cover her churning emotions, something settling inside of her as she assimilates that she's wanted. Nobody has wanted Vala for just being Vala for a long time.
Samantha rolls her eyes. "Come on. If we stay any longer in here the rest of the team will come barging in here thinking someone's trying to kidnap us both. I had to talk the guys into letting me be the one to come into the ladies as it was."
Vala lets herself be nudged back to the table and as she settles back into the booth, she accepts Teal'c's nod of acknowledgement, Cameron's concerned look as he sucks on his soda, and Daniel's warm smile as he reaches across the table to touch her arm gently. Samantha is a solid and reassuring hum beside her.
It feels like a new beginning for all she's been on Earth for months. There are people on planets across the galaxy who will laugh at the notion of Vala settling down, straightening out - her father, the eternal conman, included. But Vala has people who want her and she's stopped running so maybe the fact that it feels like a new beginning is because it is a new beginning, and one Vala has every intention of making the most of for the rest of her life.