Summary: An offworld garden has the ladies of Destiny considering their choices.
Author's Notes: Multiple canon pairings, spoilers for SGU. Written for the Women of the Gate March challenge. Although the words all came out of my head, it feels familiar so this may not be the most original fic ever.
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended. Written for entertainment purposes only.
Secrets In the Garden
"And the secret garden bloomed and bloomed and every morning revealed new miracles." Francis Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden
Chloe finds the garden first.
She's followed the barest ruin of the outer wall of the only structure they'd discovered on the planet; the shape of a building but not a building any longer. Weather and age have crumbled the stone bricks, destroyed the masonry, and left a mere shadow of what used to be. Chloe has imagination though to picture how it must have looked once upon a time, and a picture in her head emerges of an old castle she'd seen in Europe with outer walls and an inner keep, turrets rising romantically into the pale blue sky.
The garden is a surprise. The wall had given away to an overgrown hedge, wild and tangled for minutes before an opening had appeared, which hadn't by some miracle grown over, allowing the peek into the more cultivated landscape.
Most of the garden is overgrown too but there are hints of what it used to be in the shape of the foliage; the careful outline of a stone path that Chloe follows.
Chloe's reminded of the story she read as a girl; of secret gardens and hidden grief and unusual friendships. For the first time, she thinks she'd like to read the book again because she thinks she'd get it now in a way she didn't when she was a young girl.
She carries her own grief now; has watched her father sacrifice his life to save her; to give her a chance to live. She's had to make friends with people she never would have met in her usual life; with Eli and Matt; TJ and Lisa…even Vanessa despite that relationship being strained because of Vanessa's history with Matt. They're all lonely and reaching out just like the sour-faced girl and the sick little boy in the story.
She stumbles across the stone circle and stares in wonder. It's a replication of the Stargate – she's sure of that. She wonders who built it and if they knew of the Stargate's power; where they are now.
She'd wanted to be an archaeologist.
The secret childish dream tugs in her heart as she runs her hand over the stone structure. She'd fallen in love with Indiana Jones and wanted to be like him; tracking down ancient artefacts in strange quests.
She hadn't been able to hold onto her dream though. It had eroded under the weighty expectations of her parents who'd wanted her to follow in their political footsteps; under a tidal force of peer pressure to become part of the political landscape. And she'd caved, sublimating her own wants and needs to theirs.
Chloe doesn't think she'd cave now. Not after her experiences on Destiny; with living on the Ancient ship, almost being turned into an alien, being saved only to have the legacy of her changes still with her in the strange mathematical abilities she still can do. She understands herself better now; has pride in herself, confidence where once there was a pretence of the same.
She thinks of all the time she'd spent reading Daniel Jackson's Stargate journals when she'd been read into the programme; of her secret wish to join the SGC and be part of a team; be part of a quest for something strange and ancient and important to understanding the human race.
Maybe her dream is still in reach.
Her hand reaches for her radio. "Matt? I think I've found something."
Camile falls in love with the garden at first sight.
She makes the argument that it's worth exploring further to see if there's a vegetable patch; landscape cultivation usually only follows after a race has been gardening to fulfil basic needs. She doesn't actually know if that's true – her Master's in Human Resources Management not anthropology or sociology or whatever-ology looks after human evolutionary agricultural habits. But it sounds good and Colonel Young gives his permission over the radio, and Matt tells her to gather whoever she needs.
Chloe comes back to the main group to show them the way and then they're there.
Something in Camile calms.
Memories of lazy days in her own garden on Earth seep through her; weeding the flower beds with Sharon teasing her from a sun-lounger; checking on the small patch of herbs that she grows for cooking; sketching out a new design for a water pond with a babbling stream.
Camile sees the bones of beauty in the garden in front of her; there are paths and trails; foliage that has held the shape of fierce pruning; stone work that has lasted despite the rest falling down around it; the circle that's clearly art depicting the Stargate they've just walked through.
She can picture the garden as it was; aches as she wishes she could stay long enough to make it that way again and knows she can't.
Destiny has given them less than a day here.
And there are drones to consider. None have shown up so far but they could turn up again.
Camile buries the secret want deep inside of her, just as she has buried the secret want to be a landscape gardener all her life, pushed by her parents while she was still willing to be moulded by them into a practical career path.
She hasn't regretted it mostly. She's good at what she does. She had excellent mentors through her education in Bethany Kerrigan and Elizabeth Weir. She does sometimes regret leaving the UN for the IOA; regrets succumbing to the pressure to build off-world experience to assist her promotion efforts when she knows the glass ceiling is more than just her being a woman and has a lot to do with her sexuality.
But Camile won't ever keep Sharon a secret. Sharon is too important, too loved by her for Camile to ever consider staying hidden in a closet. Sharon is the reason Camile came out and while it's impacted her whole life, (her parents still like to pretend it's a phase), Camile doesn't care; she has Sharon.
And Sharon is still waiting for her.
When she gets home, Camile decides suddenly, she's resigning from the IOA and setting up a gardening business. Maybe she and Sharon can move somewhere rural…somewhere where they can get dogs and horses and have a huge vegetable…
A vegetable garden.
It's staring her in the face; rows of neatly planted edible things stretched out as far as the eye can see…well, not so much rows anymore as meandering lines but…food.
Camile raises her hand to signal for the others who joined her in exploring. "Over here."
Lisa Park is not the gardening type but as part of Destiny's crew she takes her turn looking after the hydroponics dome. She has to admit there's something satisfying about growing their own food but then the days when they had hardly anything to eat are still sharp and clear in her mind.
The garden fills her with glee for that reason alone.
She ignores the stone circle, a likely representation of the Stargate which scientifically she notes is quite an accurate if smaller model, and heads towards Camile and the vegetables.
They'll all have to be tested for edibility before they eat any of them but she and TJ have that process down to a fine art now. It's not what she thought she'd be doing with her very expensive doctorate in geological engineering but she remembers enough microbiology from her minor in her undergrad days for her to be the one to volunteer for it.
Lisa grimaces as she digs out the first root vegetable which looks like a carrot crossed with a beet.
She doubts anyone on Destiny thought they'd be using their expensive education to simply survive back before they knew there was a Destiny. And it's not Destiny's fault so much as the fault of the Ancients, Lisa has concluded. The race that seeded the Stargates sometimes seems to have forgotten basic needs in designing Destiny and her voyage.
She's not unhappy though. Sometimes she secretly feels proud of the way they've survived; of the way she has survived.
The first few months she had freaked out. Sometimes she thinks back to those days with a sense of bemusement at how she'd coped – sex with anyone pretty much – before her brain would logically remind her that she'd needed the comfort of physical contact, the rush of endorphins to drown out the depression and to simply stop thinking of all the things that could go wrong, that had gone wrong.
She and Ronald Greer are pretty much exclusive these days – at least he's the only one she's sleeping with and she doesn't think he's seeing anyone else. There's a secret sense of contentment at that. Ronald isn't anything like Gary, her ex she'd left back home. Ronald's solid and real and protection…he makes her laugh…he lets her cry…he's her rock.
So Lisa's pleased at how she's survived, of surviving.
Maybe she's even more confident these days about her abilities, about her skills, Lisa muses as she sets aside another vegetable – something related to rhubarb.
She secretly thinks sometimes that if they found a way home, she wouldn't know how to go back to simply being a geological engineer.
It's not all Lisa is now.
She waves to the group of volunteers who wander over to take instruction from her.
"Start with these," Lisa holds aloft the carrotesque beetroot with her right before raising the rhubarb with her left, "and then harvest as many of these as you can."
TJ takes a moment to admire the stone Stargate even momentarily reaching out a hand towards it before pulling back reminding herself why she's there. She walks briskly over to the patch of land that Camile had pointed towards and kneels down in the dirt as she breathes out sharply at the sight of the herbs.
There's so many she recognises that they need that for a moment she thinks it's a trick; that they can't possibly have found them. Good things seem to rarely happen to the Destiny crew and it reminds her a little too sharply of the fantasy world where aliens miraculously supplied everything that Destiny had built for her when she'd lost…when she'd lost her baby.
TJ pulls out the trowel from her pack and starts digging.
Her grief for Carmen is an ever present pain; her heart missing a part of itself. She doesn't know what hurts the most; that she'd believed so deeply in the fantasy of godlike aliens saving her child or finding out the truth all those months later when the people they'd left behind on the planet showed up again without her daughter.
She sets aside each plant methodically so it can be replanted on Destiny.
There are some new plants in with the familiar and TJ takes one of each of those too. She can test them for medicinal properties; for edibility. They'll be of some use even if it is as a toxin.
She'll have a lot to discuss with Doctor Brightman during their stones session. It raises her spirit because the sessions with the doctors teaching her what she needs to earn her medical degree are great and a highlight of her days on Destiny.
TJ has always wanted to be a doctor. Her family have never had the money though and TJ's grades were good but not stellar enough for the scholarships she needed for med school. The Air Force was a way in and she'd gotten her scholarship eventually with the help of supportive CMOs and COs. Only fate had intervened and sent her to Destiny…
TJ sometimes secretly wonders what she would have done if they'd made it home; if she'd taken the scholarship and then found out about the baby. Would she have even told Everett?
She doesn't think so.
He was married and as much as she hated that she'd succumbed to the cliché of 'my wife doesn't understand me' and falling for her CO, she wouldn't have told him and broken up his marriage, as she'd ended up doing because there had been little choice but to tell him on Destiny.
Would she have dropped out or pursued her career? Another question that nags at her and TJ can't imagine making that decision although she'd secretly spent days and weeks debating whether to go ahead with the pregnancy when she'd first realised (debating whether she could bring a baby into the beautiful disaster that was Destiny). She'd probably have ended up with the same decision: keeping the baby…
Maybe she'd even have carried to term…held her child…
Tears flare up and sting her eyes but TJ's had months of practice and within a minute she's wrestled them back, thoughts of her daughter locked up tight again, and is focused on her work.
She knows that in some ways Destiny has forced her to step up and become a doctor before she's had the training; to be more than a medic; to learn harder and faster than she would have done otherwise. Her teachers are pleased with her progress. She's secretly mainly relieved she saves more patients than she loses.
And these herbs will help her save more. She assesses the time and the work left to do.
TJ raises her hand. "I need some help over here!"
Vanessa James casts a look at TJ's shout but doesn't move, turning her attention back to the sky. She's been assigned security detail for the garden and she's taking her responsibility seriously. They've all learned over the months on Destiny that they can't afford to relax and slack off.
People die that way.
Her fingers tighten on her weapon as she brings her gaze back to the garden.
It looks peaceful, tranquil. Overrun with moss and grass now, yes. But there's a symmetry that even Vanessa can see especially in the path leading to the facsimile of the Stargate.
That sends chills down her spine.
Everything about the garden tells her that the planet was occupied once and that something must have happened for it to be abandoned the way it has been. Something not good. Because it's never any good.
She's second generation Stargate programme. Her Dad's enlisted; has worked at the Mountain for years as part of the team overseeing the Stargate engineering. He'd encouraged her to apply to the Academy, become an officer. She'd been handpicked from her class for the SGC Boot Camp and after being read in, she'd spent hours with her Dad talking. He'd told her about the friendly aliens; the Asgard and Tok'ra; the Nox and Tollan…
Every alien the Destiny crew ever meets either wants Destiny or to eat them or is a threat to their health…
Her gaze snags on TJ working the herb garden with Barnes beside her and wonders at just how brilliantly TJ has done at keeping them alive. Sometimes helped by time travel and luck but…
She's not sure she's done as well.
'Course she'd spent a lot of her time on Destiny stupidly hung up on Matt, wondering why she wasn't enough for him, what Chloe had that she didn't.
She'd known even when they'd hooked up that she wasn't anything more than a convenience – a willing body on a remote off-world base, a way to relieve stress and loneliness. She'd tried to convince herself that's all Matt was to her too but she'd had a hell of a crush and she hadn't been able to keep up a casual indifference in the face of him moving on so fast to Miss Middle America.
Which was bitchy.
But that was OK. She was allowed to be bitchy in her own head. It was her secret.
She never allowed herself to actually be bitchy with Chloe herself; she'd taken the higher ground and made friends with her.
And truthfully it wasn't Chloe's fault. Matt took some of the blame for treating Van with little respect but she took some of the blame too for not having enough respect for herself that she'd let him.
But that was then and this was now and secretly Vanessa thinks she's turned it around after she'd made a pact with herself to focus on being a good Air Force Officer; on doing her job. It's working for her and it's why she shrugs off her thoughts and keeps her mind on guarding the bustling garden until the radio signal comes that their time is up.
Vanessa whistles sharply, gaining everyone's attention. "Countdown to FTL in one hour, people! Pack everything up! Time to go home!"
She's the last one to leave the garden.