ShaViva's Stargate Fan ... Stuff

Inconceivable!

I Do

Author: ShaViva

Rating: T+

Season: season 3, before Prodigal

Summary: Evan and Prue are called back to Earth, to answer to the SGC, the IOA, and ultimately, to Evan's family and friends. In meeting all challenges to their relationship they realise that the only place they really want to be is together ... forever.

Classifications: Romance

Pairings: Evan Lorne/Prudence Darnell

Spoilers for: minor for SGA and SG-1, nothing specific.

Disclaimer: I am unfortunately not associated in any way with the creators, owners, or producers of Stargate or any of its media franchises, which is obvious because one, SGA would still be on and two, Lorne would be there ALL the time! All publicly recognizable characters, settings, equipment, etc are the property of whoever owns them. Any original characters, plot, settings, and anything else I made up are the property of me, the author. No copyright infringement is intended.

Copyright (c) 2011 ShaViva

Chapter 1: The SGC and the IOA

"Major Lorne?"

Evan turned to see Doctor Daniel Jackson further down the corridor. "Daniel," he stopped to wait for the other man to catch up, smiling a greeting.

"I heard you were in town," Daniel commented, "with a certain lady," he added, blue eyes alight as he teased.

"Then you heard right," Lorne returned, not minding at all. Prue had been returned to him from the dead, literally. No amount of teasing, red tape or jumping through all manner of SGC and IOA hoops could dampen his mood. And after all they'd been through Evan was proud to claim a place beside Prue.

Daniel's manner turned assessing as he looked at Lorne. "You look well," he commented simply. "I'm happy for you." Daniel hadn't been around the last time Lorne had been on Earth, when he'd been crushed by a grief so intense he'd genuinely believed he'd never recover. "General Landry filled us in on what happened," Daniel continued. "When you have a spare moment I'd really like to meet Doctor Darnell."

"She's in with the IOA reps at the moment but when she's done I'm sure she'd enjoy that too," Evan agreed. "We're still not sure what she's retained from being ...," Evan paused, waving a hand vaguely, still not sure how to describe exactly what had happened to Prue. "Maybe talking to you will help."

"Oh, I remember that feeling!" Daniel chuckled. "That 'you don't know what you know but you suspect it's something that could be really useful, if you could just remember it'." He put a hand to Lorne's shoulder companionably. "She'll adjust," he reassured.

The two men continued walking, turning the corner towards the commissary. "Coffee?" Daniel queried.

Lorne hesitated, aware that sitting with Jackson was going to result in more questions. With an inaudible sigh he nodded. "Sure, okay."

"So, how are things really going?" Daniel asked as soon as they were sitting, mugs of coffee on the table in front of them.

"You know how this works," Lorne shrugged. "They've already interviewed us a couple of times each, repeating the same questions over and over. Eventually they'll get the message that we don't have anything else we can tell them and then ...," he tried for a confident smile. "And then hopefully we get a few days for me to show Prue some of Earth before we go home."

"I'll talk to Jack," Daniel made the offer without having to be asked. "Not that I need to - he's more aware of what's going on around here than he makes out, and he has no fondness for the IOA."

"I can imagine," Lorne agreed. "Thanks Daniel ... we can use all the help we can get." Colonel Sheppard had already suggested Evan make use of any connections he had on Earth but he hadn't had the time to do anything about it in the few days they'd been back.

"You can't blame them for being careful," Daniel offered, "much as it pains me to admit it. But the Ancients haven't exactly been above board before. Trust is ... difficult, but they'll come around in time."

"Because all Prue's tests show she's human," Lorne commented. "From another planet sure, but no different than Teyla or Ronon ... or any of our allies here."

"Yes," Daniel smiled mirthlessly. "If she were anything more you'd have quite the battle on your hands."

"Wouldn't make a difference," Lorne's tone went flat ... there was no way in hell he'd let anyone take Prue.

Daniel smiled again but didn't comment. A part of Evan felt for the other man - he'd also lost a love to forces outside his control but where Evan had the miracle ending, Daniel hadn't been so lucky. "How's SG-1?" Lorne asked, keen to change the subject.

The archaeologist regaled him with stories of the latest missions, including their various mishaps. The Ori were an ongoing threat, one that Daniel was still searching for the ultimate weapon to defeat. That entire situation was more trouble they could lay at the Ancient's door, because they were the source and because they couldn't do anything to help. Lorne had a unique perspective on why that was the case but it didn't make it any easier.

"So, you're going to show Prue some of the sights?" Daniel asked casually. "Anywhere in particular?"

Lorne was about to answer when he felt it ... that faint shift in awareness that said she was there. Looking up he saw her in the doorway, hovering uncertainly, clearing undecided on whether she should join him. Smiling he urged her over. "San Francisco, Cold Lake, maybe some of Kansas," he said absently, watching Prue approach. When she got close enough he stood, holding out his hand.

Prue took it, smiling the kind of smile she only had for him.

"Daniel, this is Prudence Darnell," he introduced her simply. "Prue, this is Doctor Daniel Jackson."

"Doctor Jackson, it's a pleasure to finally meet you," Prue held out a hand, shaking Daniel's with a friendly smile.

"You too," Daniel returned, "and please, it's Daniel. How are you finding the SGC so far?"

"About how Evan always thought of it," Prue replied, sitting down beside Lorne. "Although an IOA briefing is something you really need to experience for yourself to ... appreciate."

Daniel chuckled. "Yes, they do have a certain appeal," he said, sarcastically. "Evan was saying you're not sure how much of your prior knowledge you've retained. That's something I might be able to help you with ... if you're interested?"

Prue's eyes shot to Evan, getting a subtle nod, before she looked to Daniel again. "I am ... which is weird considering you're the reason I didn't come here with Evan last time."

"I am?" Daniel frowned.

"As far as we know you're the only other person formerly ascended who's returned," Evan said simply. "Prue's 'handlers' decided that was too big a risk, despite being able to convince Prue herself that she'd been saved directly from Occulus."

"Always inconsistencies," Daniel muttered, still frowning. "What do you recall about being ascended?" he asked Prue.

"The first time, very little now," Prue admitted. "My last clear memory of that time was the day that Occulus fell to the Wraith, when Fidesia and Devia - who I was then - broke the hold the Wraith had on the Stargate and dialled a safe planet, allowing many of our most noted citizens to escape."

"The 38 minute barrier?" Daniel queried, looking at Evan with a raised brow.

"That's the one," Lorne confirmed. "McKay is champing at the bit to talk to Prue when we get back to Atlantis."

"Grill me you mean," Prue said with a small smile. "I don't mind. I just hope I can recall enough of what we did that day to be useful."

"So you have no memory beyond the event that led to your ascending?" Daniel asked curiously.

"Before our confrontation with those who broke away from the main group I know I remembered my existence between Occulus and arriving on Atlantis," Prue explained, "but now ... it's all gone. I only know what my friend, Fidesia, told me, which was necessarily restrictive."

"You said that to her," Evan murmured. "When I was ...," he trailed off.

"When you were close to dying," Prue said starkly. "Yes. That was the moment - when Fidesia appeared. Seeing her that way was like having a veil lifted from my eyes. I don't know how I spent all those years but at the same time I am aware of the gap. It's very disconcerting to realise there are things I can't recall."

"You said the first time," Daniel returned to the topic of ascension. "What about the second time?"

"Everything," Prue said bleakly. "I was frustrated that they wouldn't even tell me if Evan was alive. I spent the entire time arguing, with Morgan mostly."

"Morgan Le Fay?" Daniel seemed fascinated by the emerging story.

"You know of her?" Prue asked.

"From Arthurian legend, yes," Daniel agreed, adjusting his glasses absently. "Half sister of Arthur and arch rival of Merlin himself. Maybe it's just a coincidence but we've also found references to many of the characters from the same legend – connected to the origins of the Ori. I've been looking for planets where Arthur searched for the Sangraal."

"The Sangraal?" Prue looked thoughtful. "The closest Ancient equivalent would be something like Holy Blood, is that right?"

"Yes, but the word has a history within the Arthurian legend itself," Daniel's vocal pace got a little quicker as his academic interest was engaged. "The Sangraal or san-gre-al was the name given to the chalice used by Christ at the Last Supper – later referred to as the Holy Grail. As an object, the search to find it dates back to the 12th century."

"Really? That's what you're trying to fi-," Evan began.

"Major Lorne, Sir?"

Evan turned to see Chief Master Sergeant Harriman, more commonly known as just Walter, trying to get his attention. "Yes?"

"General Landry would like to see you Sir," Walter announced.

"Right, sure," Evan exchanged a glance with Prue, both of them thinking the same thing. Were they finally going to find out the official position on Prue's new status? "Tell him I'm on my way."

Walter nodded, spinning smartly and disappearing again.

Lorne stood, putting a hand on Prue's shoulder. "Stay and talk to Daniel. I'll come find you when I'm done." Evan met Daniel's gaze, silently asking for the other man to look after Prue. Daniel nodded, earning Lorne's gratitude. Leaning down Evan spoke close to Prue's ear. "It'll be fine ... no matter what, okay?"

Prue nodded, giving him as much of a smile as she could manage. "I'm nervous," she admitted, shaking her head at herself. "Which is completely silly because this meeting might have nothing to do with me at all."

"True," Lorne smiled.

"I hope it does," she said firmly. "You're tired of being couped up down here and I ... I just want to know."

"We'll be fine," Evan reiterated. Hardly aware of Daniel's watchful presence he pressed his cheek to Prue's for a moment before shifting away enough to place a chaste kiss to her lips. "Stay out of trouble," he ordered with only a hint of teasing.

"That's rich, coming from you," Prue shot back, smiling.

"Children," Daniel murmured, his expression full of fond amusement. He'd always liked Evan Lorne, despite their first meeting, and their easy banter had a familiar, SG-1 feel to it.

"Okay, I have to go," Evan leaned down to kiss Prue again, straightening and running a hand over her hair before he made himself leave.

oOo

"Major, have a seat," General Landry invited.

"Sir," Evan nodded, his posture formal as he took a seat in front of the General's desk.

"The IOA have finally handed down their final report on the incident that occurred on Atlantis three months ago," Landry began. Evan kept himself from rolling his eyes. That's what they were calling it? 'The incident'? He'd almost died ... twice! And Prue had been gone for two months. That made it a little more than an incident!

"And?" Lorne couldn't help but ask when the General stopped.

"And as far as they're concerned Doctor Darnell is no longer a person of interest," Landry announced. "No offence intended, of course."

"I'm sure she'll be more than happy with not having that label Sir," Lorne said as expressionlessly as he could manage. Inside he was hit with the desire to go find Prue immediately and tell her the good news.

"Given the outcome, and the results of all the testing Doctor Darnell has completed over the past few days, we're lucky to have her on board," Landry continued. "As of today she's eligible to become a registered civilian member of the Atlantis expedition, reporting directly to Mr Woolsey on civilian matters and Colonel Sheppard for everything else. That is of course if she accepts the post," Landry smiled.

"I'll pass on the offer Sir," Lorne replied. "I won't speak for her but I think you're already aware of how much we both want to return to Atlantis to continue our work."

"Of course," Hank didn't seem surprised. "Have her come and speak to me if she has questions." His expression turned serious as he regarded Lorne for a moment before speaking again. "I'm sure you don't need me to caution you not to become complacent Major. Doctor Darnell now shares a similar status to Ms Emmagen and Specialist Dex. As representatives of Pegasus races ... with very little power to influence decisions made here."

Evan pursed his lips, his expression shifting to resigned. "Understood Sir," he said, his reply covering a whole unspoken conversation. Just because the IOA weren't interested in Prue this week, didn't mean they wouldn't be next week or next month, or next year, if something came up that pointed them in her direction. They'd also cut Prue off from Earth, from him should he be recalled, without even blinking an eye. It was that thought that worried him more than anything else.

"As for you Major," Landry continued, "the IOA are more than a little interested in what can now be achieved with the ATA gene. I'm afraid they'll have a full research team set up and making requests of you before you've had a chance to settle back on Atlantis."

"Requests Sir?" Lorne asked, not liking the sound of that.

"Research Major," Hank clarified. "Probably in line with the kind of activities you've been undertaking with Doctor Darnell's guidance for some time. The IOA would like to formalise a research program, with your active participation, in an effort to learn more about the Ancient gene."

Evan sat for a moment, considering the implications. He was going to be the IOA's research guinea pig? "Ah ... I'm guessing refusal isn't an option Sir?" he asked hopefully.

"I'm afraid not Major," Landry said kindly. "Lucky for you Atlantis isn't next door. Weekly check-in along with an 18 day one way transit time naturally creates barriers. We'll try to keep the requests to a minimum. As long as you consider each request and provide some kind of report on your actions to address it I think we'll be fine."

Lorne nodded, feeling a small measure of relief. He wasn't going to be at the IOA's beck and call and he'd still be able to do his job. Of course he hadn't had the chance to talk with McKay before he and Prue left. In all likelihood Rodney had his own set of requests for Evan, now the ATA cat was well and truly out of the bag.

"Buck up Major," Landry said bracingly. "It won't be that bad. Now, clear out of here. You and Doctor Darnell are off duty for the next 10 days. I suggest you give serious thought to how to use that time wisely."

"Yes Sir, thank you again Sir," Lorne stood, straightening into a more formal posture until the General dismissed him.

"Oh, and Major?"

Evan turned back, his brow raised. "Sir?"

"Do you think you could stay out of trouble this time?" Landry asked, more teasing that serious.

"I do Sir," Lorne returned, a faint smile playing over his face, "we do," he added, feeling comfortable speaking for Prue in that regard.

"Very well," Hank nodded, his eyes kind. "Enjoy your vacation Major."

Heading back to the Commissary, Evan was thoughtful. The result was a good one, in some respects better than they could have hoped for. But he wouldn't take the General's warning lightly ... he'd need to do everything possible to ensure they couldn't justifiably separate him from Prue, something that could occur if his usefulness in the Pegasus galaxy became less than his usefulness on Earth. They weren't out of the woods yet.

Chapter 2: Grace Lorne

He found Prue still with Daniel, her expression assessing him as soon as he appeared in the Commissary doorway. When he smiled and nodded slightly her answering grin was reward enough for all the hours of talk they'd endured.

"Good news?" Daniel asked when Lorne approached.

"We're cleared to get out of here," Lorne returned, resting a hand on Prue's shoulder as he remained standing. "That is, if you're ready for your first personal view of Earth."

"I am," Prue glanced up at Evan, frowning slightly when she picked up on the caveat in his mood. "You never said where we were going first," she commented, leaving questioning him for when they were alone.

"San Francisco," Evan replied.

"What's in San Francisco?" Daniel asked curiously.

"I grew up there," Lorne shared casually.

"Ah," Daniel grinned. "The past ... a good place to start." He looked from Evan to Prue and then back. "Go on, get out of here. Enjoy your vacation."

"Thanks Daniel," Lorne took the hand Prue offered and pulled her to her feet. "Maybe we'll catch up with you before we head back to Atlantis," he added, holding out a hand. Daniel shook it, nodding.

They took a few minutes detour to grab their bags and then headed for the surface.

"You're showing me where you grew up?" Prue queried as she walked beside Evan across the parking lot.

Guiding her towards the car he'd borrowed he smiled. "I thought you'd appreciate what little history I have to share," he explained. "Plus my Mom still lives there."

Prue stopped abruptly, her hold on his hand tugging him to a stop too.

"We're visiting your Mom?" Her expression was blank as she looked at him.

"Ah ... yeah," Evan returned. "There's no way Elaine didn't talk to her after my last visit. She'll be worried. Besides, it's been a while since I saw her and ..,"

"And you really want to see her now," Prue finished. Taking a deep breath she forced a smile. "Okay, I can do this."

"She'll welcome you," Evan said simply. Prue glanced at him as they started walking again, a faint smile playing over her face.

oOo 

Travelling with someone who was literally new to everything made the common place interesting for Lorne. Prue tried to keep the wide eyed 'walk into things' interest to a minimum. Airports and planes weren't really all that impressive for a woman who'd grown up in a culture equivalent to Atlantis. It was more the people – the sheer numbers, along with how they dressed and acted that seemed to draw the most interest.

When their cab finally pulled up outside his childhood home it suddenly hit Evan – he'd introduced friends to his Mom before but never a woman he was involved with, never someone as important to him as Prue. He wasn't nervous, his trust in Grace Lorne to understand the significance as well as accurately judge Prue's character was implicit. If he had one overriding emotion it would be excitement. He was actually looking forward to his Mom's reactions, to that moment when she realised what Prue was to him.

"This is it," he told Prue, paying the driver and then hurrying around the cab to open her door.

"It's nice," she commented, her eyes tracking over the large timber house.

"Come on," he grabbed her hand, pulling her up the walk. At the front door he rang the door bell, smiling at Prue as he waited for his Mom to answer.

"Maybe we should have advised your mother that we were coming," Prue said.

"Nah, she's used to me just turning up," Evan countered just as the door opened.

"I am," Grace Lorne agreed, "but that doesn't mean a little warning wouldn't be appreciated."

"Mom," Evan said simply as she opened the door.

"Evan," Grace's expression was intent as she looked her son over, seemingly searching for something concerning. When she didn't find it a look of relief crossed her face, her eyes drifting to where Prue stood uncertainly beside Evan. "Oh, I'm sorry! Here I am keeping you waiting on the door step. Evan," she admonished. "Bring your friend inside."

Evan exchanged an amused glance with Prue but did what he was told. Once they were inside he retook Prue's hand. "Mom, this is Doctor Prudence Darnell. Prue, this is my Mom, Grace Lorne."

"It's lovely to meet you," Grace smiled, welcoming. Even without the long phone call she'd shared with her daughter after Evan's last visit home she would have known that this woman was special to her son. It was there, in the way he positioned himself as though ready to protect her, in the light in his eyes when he looked at her, in the way they seemed to instinctively move in sync with each other.

"And you as well," Prue replied. "It probably sounds clichéd but Evan talks about you often."

"More than he writes to me," Grace teased, chuckling when Evan's face took on a familiar 'naughty boy' expression.

"The base gets ... busy," he said defensively. "Sometimes it's hard to find time for correspondence."

"I'm not complaining dear," Grace returned. "Especially not with your latest surprise visit. How long can you stay?"

"We're kind of playing it by ear," Evan replied. "After last time I should go and see Elaine too."

"Oh, you won't have to do that." Grace smiled when Evan looked confused. "She and the boys are coming for their own visit. They'll be here tomorrow."

"Really? That's great!" Evan grinned. "If we don't have to waste time on travelling to Canada we'll be able to fit a quick stopover with Piper in as well."

"That's good," Prue said weakly, looking a little overwhelmed at the thought of meeting more of the Lorne family and Evan's assorted friends.

"You look a little tired dear," Grace said kindly. "Evan, show Prue around down here while I go up and prepare the guest room for her."

Falling easily into that 'do what your Mom tells you mode', Evan nodded. "You okay?" he asked as soon as his Mom had disappeared up the stairs.

"Of course," Prue said too quickly. Smiling, she shook her head. "It's a little overwhelming," she admitted. "This is just a different side of you ... and maybe I'm feeling even more nervous knowing your sister will be joining us."

"That one might require a little more explanation up front," Evan admitted, "but Elaine's been after me for years to find someone to you know, settle down with," he quickly glossed over what that would mean to his sister. "Once I've had a chance to wipe out the impression from last time, she'll be happy to meet you."

"She knows I hurt you," Prue turned away, glancing around as though looking for a diversion.

"I guess," Evan admitted, honesty compelling him not to cushion that, "but she'll also know that you're the one making me happy now."

"That's so nice," Prue said distractedly, her eyes on a large painting that dominated one wall in the living room. Moving forward, she fell silent, her expression intent.

"Nice?" Evan mouthed with a grimace as he watched her. "It's the Bay – the view from up on the roof," he explained, moving to stand behind her.

"It's wonderful," Prue breathed. "I don't know how it's possible, but it reminds me of my home."

Evan reassessed the painting, his brow rising as he realised Prue was right. There was a feeling of Occulus to the piece, in the way the sun reflected off the water, the windows. From the vision Fidesia had shown him, Occulus had been a place where light reflected freely.

"You like my Bay," Grace returned on silent feet.

"You did this?" Prue asked incredulously.

Evan shifted from foot to foot uncomfortably as his Mom smiled proudly. "Not me. Evan. That was the last painting he finished before going off to join the air force."

"Is that why there's a plane here?" Prue pointed to the small shape, more a suggestion than an actual detailed air craft, caught cruising high in the sunlit sky.

"Something like that," Evan shrugged, uncomfortable with the attention.

"Don't be so modest dear," Grace moved to stand beside Prue, her eyes on the painting as well. A wistful smile touched her face. "When Evan gave me that he told me his father – my Jonathon – was in that plane, protecting me. I think he was worried going away – he'd already been the man of the house for seven years by then."

"That sounds like something Evan would say," Prue seemed enchanted by the glimpse into the younger Evan Lorne. Her eyes narrowed thoughtfully. "He's back in the air – your Jonathon – only here he doesn't need to land," she murmured. "He can't come back to his family but he can stay up there and watch over them forever."

Grace shot Prue a surprised and intent look before turning her glance to Evan. He was looking at Prue too – absorbed in watching her - and didn't notice his Mom's regard. He'd told his girl about his past, the full story if her insightful comment was anything to go on. If there was one thing Grace needed to be convinced her son had finally found the right 'someone', that would be it. The feeling of love she had for him swept over her, intensified, and she had to look away rather than let him see the misty sheen in her eyes.

"Okay, enough talking about me like I'm not standing right here," Evan protested. "Mom can give you the Evan Lorne historic art tour another day, when I don't have to listen in."

"You're embarrassed!" Prue laughed, threading her arm through his and clinging to his elbow. "That's so sweet."

"Hey, air force pilot, remember," Evan grumbled. "We don't do sweet."

"Of course not," Prue exchanged an amused glance with Grace.

Grace chuckled, enjoying seeing her son in a different light. His complaints were playful and he was looking at Prue like she was the light, like he wouldn't be able to see without her. Grace remembered that feeling ... she'd experienced it herself almost from the first moment she'd met Jonathon Lorne. "Prue, the guest room is ready if you'd like to freshen up."

"Thank you, that would be nice," Prue agreed, glancing uncertainly at Evan.

"Mom keeps my room pretty much as I left it," he explained. "Come on, I'll show you where everything is."

Grace watched him take Prue's hand, watched him smile as he urged her up the stairs until the two had disappeared from sight. With a contented sigh she let the part of her she'd been holding tense for weeks relax. Her son was home again and he was all right ... more than all right. Where she'd feared for his future happiness and almost given up hoping that he'd ever truly fall in love, after only a few minutes of meeting Prue she knew she no longer had anything to fear.

She'd always wished for Evan to find someone to share his life with but now that he had a part of her was just a tiny bit sad. He was her baby, her first born, the one who reminded her the most of Jonathon ... but he was no longer hers. Smiling at her whimsy, Grace shook her head. Evan hadn't been hers in any real way since he'd joined the air force. And if things with Prue went where they looked to be heading she might actually end up seeing more of her son than she had in years!

oOo 

"I like your Mom," Prue murmured, following Evan down a corridor and into a sunlit room. It was cosy, the bed looking so inviting she was tempted to lie down for a few moments.

"She liked you too," Evan returned. Putting Prue's bag on the bed he turned, taking her shoulders into his hands and squeezing bracingly. "See – I told you, you had nothing to worry about."

"That's easy for you to say – you'll never have to worry about impressing my parents."

"I'd do it in a heartbeat, if it were possible," Evan touched a hand to her hair. "I'm sorry it's not."

"So am I," Prue leaned up and kissed his cheek tenderly. "It's been so long ... and it always helped imagining the lives they would have led with the Atlantians."

"They made it through the gate that day?" Evan realised abruptly that he should have asked Prue about her family long before now.

"In the first group," Prue chuckled. "Fidesia and I were insistent in that being our motivation – if our program could break the hold the Wraith had on the gate then they all had to leave. Her parents were just as reluctant as mine but they agreed. I wondered later if that was because they really didn't imagine that we could do it."

"But you did."

"We did," Prue agreed simply. "Lucky for us they all honoured their promiseto leave." Taking a calming breath she smiled. "And I think that's enough maudlin reminiscing for one day. Show me your room."

"Ah sure, okay," Evan agreed. It had been a while since he'd been home and he couldn't recall what condition he'd left it in. Leading the way to the room next to hers he opened the door almost cautiously, peering inside and relaxing when he saw nothing out of place.

"This was your childhood room?" Prue asked, looking around curiously.

Evan glanced around too, seeing what was probably a pretty standard room for an adolescent boy. Pictures of various aircraft, an air force promotional poster, high school flag, and art works decorated the walls. He had a bookcase packed with the kind of books that matched what was on his walls – that, a desk and chair, and the single bed made up the entirety of the room. He hadn't lived there beyond visits since he was seventeen and had never bothered to redecorate. There were a surprisingly large number of sketches, paintings and various other samples of his artwork displayed throughout the room. For a time he'd pinned up anything he'd produced – memory had dulled how taken he'd been with his art until all that remained was his love of flight and his ambitions to join the NASA space program, but as he looked around he was reminded again of the delight he'd taken in losing himself in a landscape until he'd gotten it down on canvas.

"Until I left for the academy," he shrugged. "It hasn't changed much since then."

"I like it," Prue smiled. Sitting down on the bed she patted the space beside her. "So, how come you never told me you were an artist?"

"I did tell you," Evan countered, frowning as he sat beside her.

"No, you told me you used to paint," Prue disagreed. "You made it sound like you dabbled a little – from what I saw downstairs and here," she gestured around the room," it's a lot more than that. You're good – really good."

"Thank you," Evan shrugged again, natural modesty urging him to make light of his talents. "Art was just something we did – my Mom's been putting a paintbrush in my hand for as long as I can remember."

"She wanted you to do that, instead of the air force?"

"If I'd wanted it too, hell yes," he returned. "But I didn't ... and for a long time we carefully avoided talking about my career. She's okay with it now but never misses the chance to remind me I should be doing more with my art."

"You should," Prue agreed. "Maybe when we go home you could paint something for me."

"I think I could manage that," Evan said simply. In sharing Devia's thoughts with him, in showing him her past, Fidesia had all but burned that imagine of Occulus into his brain. He was sure, with the time and the supplies, that he could reproduce something of Prue's original home world. It wasn't the same as being able to go back there, but maybe it would help.

oOo 

Being back in his old bed usually had Evan dropping to sleep easily, but not that night. He couldn't switch his mind off - thinking about what General Landry told him, his warning and what it implied. With a sigh he sat up, deciding if he was going to be awake he might as well go down and get a drink.

Padding silently past Prue's door he continued on down the stairs to the kitchen. He was standing with the fridge door open when his Mom spoke, startling him.

"Surely it's not hot enough that you need to stand there with that door open," she admonished him.

"Mom!" Spinning he frowned at her. "Don't sneak up on me like that."

"I didn't sneak," Grace replied, "and besides, aren't you some kind of military 'expert'? I would have thought no one could get close enough to surprise you."

"Yeah, well, at home I like to relax a little," Evan muttered, flushing a little that his Mom had gotten the jump on him. His mind really was somewhere else! "What are you doing up so late?"

"The same thing as you I imagine," Grace gave him a pointed look. "Come and sit down and talk to your mother."

Evan smiled, happy to do what he was told. At first he asked the questions, getting her to fill him in on her own life since he'd last seen her. Eventually that topic of conversation ran out and he fell silent.

"Do you want to tell me what's on your mind?" Grace asked gently.

"Ah ...," Evan sighed, "not really. It's just ... nothing is ever as simple as it should be."

"Are you happy?" Grace queried.

"Of course," he smiled suddenly. "I wish I could tell you the full story because then you'd appreciate how much."

"Elaine told me how you were last time," Grace admitted. "She was worried - not about your injuries, although she said it was obvious you'd been through a lot. She was much more concerned about your mental state, and convinced the only thing that could have brought you that low was if something had happened to Prue."

"Something did happen," Evan ran a hand through his hair, frustrated by not being able to tell his Mom everything. "At the time I was convinced I'd lost her. It was a miracle that she was able to come back."

"She works with you, where you're stationed?" Grace asked.

"Yeah, one of the civilian contractors," he revealed.

"Are you worried you'll lose her again? Is that why you're not sleeping?"

"I don't think I'll ever get over worrying about something happening to Prue," Evan admitted, "but I can't let it stop her from doing her job. We'll handle it."

Grace regarded her son for a moment, thinking about what he wasn't telling her. "It's lucky for you that Prue has a job where you're stationed," she commented. "What would happen if that wasn't the case anymore, if they reassigned one of you?"

"That could be a problem," Evan took a deep breath, meeting his Mom's eyes. "There's a chance they'll assign me back to the States. Prue's contracted to stay where she is - as it stands now I don't have a say in that." It was skirting the true as much as he was willing to do for the chance to see what his Mom thought about his situation.

"Is there any way you could have a say?" Grace didn't want to say it herself even though the solution was obvious to her.

Evan laughed, shaking his head. "You never give up, do you?" he said fondly. "Sure, there's a way I could force the issue - if Prue and I were married we'd be legally entitled to considerations we can't claim at the moment. There are a few complicating factors so it wouldn't be as simple as that but it'd be a start. I'm just not sure either of us is ready for that particular conversation. I think we need to just enjoy where we are right now, for a while at least."

Grace didn't let herself get excited - but he'd mentioned marriage so casually, like he was comfortable with the idea where in the past he'd slammed the door shut before anyone could even say the word. "Do you see yourself with Prue, years into the future?" she asked gently.

"I do," Evan replied, not having to think about it. It was true, he couldn't imagine a day that didn't have Prue in it, not anymore.

"Then you know what you need to do," Grace said simply, putting a hand over one of his. "And you'll know when it's the right time to do it."

Evan nodded, patting her hand. "Thanks Mom."

"Don't thank me," Grace returned, smiling. "Just marry that girl and give me more grandchildren to spoil - before I get too old to enjoy them."

"Mom!" Evan laughed even as he protested.

"You think that's bad - wait until Elaine sees you and Prue tomorrow," Grace said pointedly. "She'll have your wedding planned out before you can say much more than hello."

Evan groaned, knowing she was right. "I'll talk to Drew," he decided, still frowning. "Maybe he can head her off."

"If you think it will help dear," Grace replied, amused.

He nodded, knowing she was right – there was little chance he'd be able to stop Elaine from pushing her own agenda, once she'd forgiven Prue for how he'd been on his last visit. He sat with his Mom, enjoying the silence of her company for a time before he spoke. "You don't have regrets, do you?"

She knew what he was talking about immediately. "I could never regret any of the days I had with your father. I only regret that there weren't more of them." She looked at her son closely, her heart full when she realised just how much progress he'd made if they were sitting there discussing Jonathon Lorne so openly. "He gave me so much Evan … I think you can understand that better now. And he gave me you and Elaine … if he'd told me up front that we wouldn't get to grow old together I'd still have chosen him. Having you and your sister all these years isn't something I could ever give back. I wish he could be here to be as proud of you both as I am but it wasn't meant to be." She put a hand over Evan's, her touch motherly and loving. "He's not gone Evan, because I see him in you … I still miss him, every day, and I'll carry him in my heart until we're reunited again."

"I think he'd be proud of you too," Evan said softly. "I am. I don't thank you enough Mom, for everything you've done for me over the years. Thank you … for that and for how you've welcomed Prue. It means a lot."

"I won't deny to feeling a twinge of reluctance," Grace admitted. "You're my baby – my first born. I've always wanted you to find someone to spend your life with but now that you have it's harder let go than I expected. I couldn't do it for just anyone, but Prue … she's special, anyone can see that."

"You're not letting me go Mom," Evan admonished with exasperated humour. "Face it – you're stuck with me for the long haul. You might as well resign yourself to that."

"I'll try dear," Grace Lorne gave a long suffering sigh, ruining the mock sombre mood by laughing when Evan did.

"Love you," Evan said when they'd calmed down.

"I love you too dear," Grace returned.

oOo 

Evan rose very early the next morning. knocking on Prue's door quietly and then going in when she didn't answer. "Prue," he said quietly, touching her shoulder.

"Uh," Prue opened her eyes, squinting in the dimness to see Evan squatting beside her bed. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," he smiled, ruffling her already messy hair. "I wanted to show you something," he said, standing up. "Put on something comfortable for walking." Not waiting for her to protest - she'd never openly converted to enjoying getting up early like he did - he left to wait in the hall.

"Where are we going?" Prue asked when she finally joined him.

"To see the sunrise," he said, leading her out into the pre-dawn light, closing the front door quietly behind them. Breaking into a light jog, he grinned when Prue rolled her eyes before falling into pace beside him.

Breathing in the air, a faint tang of sea carried from the nearby beach, he grinned. This was more like it – the physical exertion and being outdoors, with Prue was just what he'd needed to clear away the last of the cobwebs. When they got close to the shore he slowed, falling to walking pace when they broke from the side streets to see the ocean laid out before them.

"Oh," Prue breathed, taking his hand absently, her eyes on the water. "It's different from being in the city," she murmured, captivated by the waves breaking over the sand.

"Yeah," Evan tugged her forward, heading for the nearest ramp. "You didn't have beaches on Occulus?"

"Of course, but not like this. We had high cliffs – it was hard to get down to the water," she explained. "And it was a long way to travel just to get that much."

"I thought of this as my beach when I was growing up," Evan commented, "so now, it's yours too."

"I like that."

Putting his arm around her shoulders, Evan drew her close. "Stop talking now ... it's almost time."

Prue narrowed her eyes at him, ready to protest until she noticed the twinkle of teasing in his eyes. Smiling she nodded, turning her attention to the horizon. Evan did too, both of them silent and still as the barest hint of burning orange grew bigger, streaking the atmosphere with every imaginable shade on the spectrum between yellow and red. The sky lightened as the sun rose until day arrived to the Bay.

"Are you going to tell me what General Landry said that has you worried?" Prue broke the silence to ask.

"Okay," Evan sighed, taking her hand and starting to walk along the shore. "It's nothing concrete Prue – more of a warning for the future. The I.O.A are very interested in the gene."

"Which means they're interested in you." Prue frowned. "What does that mean?"

"For the moment, nothing really," Evan explained. "The General did mention a research team they're setting up – said they might request I undertake various tasks for them and report back. With Atlantis being so restricted it won't encroach on my role."

"Then why are you worried?"

Evan hesitated, not sure how to express his concerns. Prue watched him for a moment before speaking. "It's not now you're worried about," she said. "It's the future."

"Nothing is certain," Evan stopped, turning her to face him. "We, more than most people, know that. There's a risk at some point in the future someone up the chain of command will decide I'm more useful here than I am on Atlantis. Unless I resign my commission I'll have no choice but to follow orders and go where they tell me – do what they tell me. Either way my time in Pegasus would be over."

"Then so would mine," Prue said simply.

"You're sure?" Evan didn't want to assume the kind of commitment she was suggesting with her declaration meant the same thing to her as it did to him ... and despite or maybe even because of the upheaval of the past few weeks he wasn't ready to broach the subject with her. As he'd said to his Mom the previous night, they needed time to get used to each other again. Prue needed time to adjust to her new life as well. Hell, he didn't even know what the customs were on Occulus, or how much Prue knew about the way people from Earth went about committing to a life together.

"I'm sure," Prue returned. Clutching his arm she laid her head against his shoulder, her eyes back on the ocean. "This is beautiful," she murmured, as though she hadn't just promised to leave an entire galaxy behind for him if the need arose.

"It is," he agreed, eyes on her instead of the view. She'd already given up ascension for him ... the fact that she'd give up even more humbled him.

Chapter 3: Elaine Lorne Rider

Once they returned to the house there was only time enough for a quick breakfast before a cab pulled up in the driveway and Elaine Rider, followed closely by her husband and sons, emerged.

"Answer the door dear," Grace urged Evan, her expression making it clear she was looking forward to her daughter's reaction.

With a sigh, Evan complied - there was no way to put this off in any case. "I'll be right back," he told Prue before heading for the front door. He felt the need for a bracing breath before he pulled it open.

"Evan!" Elaine almost squealed when she saw him, dropping her bag and throwing herself into his arms. "I've been so worried!"

"Lainee," he smiled, hugging her tightly and dropping his head to her hair. Seeing her brought back a little of the darkness he'd been under when he'd seen her last.

"Let me look at you," she demanded, stepping back but keeping hold of his hands. "Wow - you look good," she said, surprised. "Are you ... is everything okay now?" she asked, confused.

Evan looked past her to where Drew and the boys were watching. "Listen, let's get the boys inside first. Then I'd really appreciate it if we could talk, just you and me. Okay?"

Elaine frowned, searching his expression for a moment before she nodded.

Drew, ever in tune with his wife, only stepped forward then. "Evan," he held out a hand, shaking Evan's firmly. "This is a pleasant surprise."

"For me too," Evan slapped a hand to his brother-in-laws shoulder. "I thought I'd have to use up a few days travelling to see these two little rascals," he added, squatting just in time to catch two human missiles. Laughing he hugged Jon and Matt close, rising to his feet with them still in his arms.

"Did you come to see me Uncle Evan?" Jon asked with childlike certainty that all the events around him must have something to do with him. Matt was babbling in Evan's other ear, one out of every few words somewhat recognisable.

"I would have," Evan explained, "but you saved me a trip. Pretty clever trick there sport."

"I'm cle-ver!" Jon declared, laughing in delight.

"You are," Evan agreed. "Now," he said, hoisting them up a little higher to get a firm grasp, "are you two ready to come inside. There's someone I really want you to meet."

"We already knowed Grandma Uncle Evan," Jon pointed out with earnest helpfulness.

"I know that sport," Evan laughed. "This is someone else okay?" He looked to Elaine and Drew, brow raised. Elaine nodded, her eyes narrowed as she tried to work out what was going on. "Let's go," Evan tightened his hold on his nephews as he ducked low through the front door and headed for the living room.

"Grandma," Jon called out as soon as they got close enough. Wriggling his little body he stopped to kiss Evan's cheek as though making sure his attention had been equally divided between all the people who loved him. Evan carefully lowered him and Matt to the floor, enjoying the way they ran to Grace without hesitation, getting the kind of welcome only a grandmother could deliver.

Moving to where Prue sat, he took a seat beside her, putting a hand over where hers were clasped tightly in her lap. "Relax," he murmured, waiting for her to look at him and nod. "Time for introductions," he said a moment later when it seemed Matt and Jon had run out of steam. Taking Prue's hand he pulled her up to stand beside him.

"Guys," he drew the boys attention, knowing Elaine and Drew had already been aware of the stranger in their midst. "This is my friend, Prue," he said, squeezing Prue's hand.

"Is she your girled friend?" Jon asked innocently.

"She is," Evan agreed, smiling.

"She prit-tee," Matt giggled, ducking his head into his grandma's shoulder when Prue smiled.

"She is," Evan said again, grinning. "Prue, this is my sister Elaine, her husband Drew and their two boys - Jonathon and Matthew."

"It's a pleasure to meet you," Prue smiled warmly but Evan didn't miss the way she kept close to him or the fact that she was holding herself tensely.

"You too," Drew was the one to speak first. Stepping forward he offered her his hand, forcing her to move from Evan's protectiveness to return the greeting. "Evan mentions you in his messages home all the time - I feel like we know a lot about you already."

Evan smiled, grateful for Drew's easy manner and open friendliness. Elaine was keeping back, her expression thoughtful as she assessed the situation and Prue.

"He talks about you all too," Prue returned. "Especially his nephews. I can see why now."

Drew probably couldn't help the proud father smile that emerged at her words. "They're pretty charming," he commented, watching his sons who'd already gotten bored with adult small talk and were taking toys from a crate Grace kept in the living room for just this kind of occasion. "When they're not being little pests," he added with a chuckle.

Elaine still hadn't said anything and Evan knew he'd have to talk to her before the silence got awkward. "Prue, can you sit and talk to Drew for a few minutes?" he requested.

Prue nodded, her eyes going to Elaine before she looked back to him. "I'm fine - go and talk to your sister," she murmured.

Touching a hand to her shoulder he looked at Drew, the unspoken request obvious. "Look after my girl - and be nice!" Drew nodded, looking more than a little amused. "So tell me Prue, what is it you do at this base you and Evan work at?"

Shaking his head, Evan motioned for Elaine to walk with him. She didn't hesitate, following him towards the kitchen after the briefest of shared looks with her husband.

"She's the one who hurt you?" Elaine said as soon as they were alone. "She's the reason you were so ...," she trailed off, wanting to say 'broken' but not wanting to remind him of how bad it had been.

Taking a seat Evan waited for her to do likewise before he answered. "Indirectly, yes she is," he said simply. "I wish I could tell you the full story so you'd understand what Prue did for me, but I can't."

"Because it's classified," Elaine sighed, hating the military all of a sudden. A few weeks ago her brother had been as low as she'd ever seen him. Now it was as though it had never happened, but Elaine was certain Prue had been the cause. At the time she'd been convinced Prue had been killed but clearly that wasn't the case. She must have left Evan willingly - she'd hurt him - worse than anyone ever had - and Elaine wasn't sure she could forgive that. How could she trust that the same thing wouldn't happen again?

"Yes," Evan confirmed. "What I can tell you is that it wasn't Prue's choice to go ... but it was her choice to come back. She gave up a lot to do that ... and I trust her implicitly."

"And you want me to do the same," Elaine frowned, trying to read between the lines.

"I do. I know this is frustrating as hell for you," Evan shook his head. "Just give her a chance, okay?"

"Of course," Elaine returned. Leaning forward she put her hand over his. "I'll keep an open mind because I can see how important this is to you. But if you let her hurt you like that again I don't know who I'll be coming after first - you or her."

"It won't happen like that again," Evan said confidently. "So, you ready to start over?"

"Lead the way," Elaine jumped to her feet, threading her arm through the elbow he offered her and smiling at his gallant gesture.

"Prue," Evan drew her attention, "this is my sister Elaine. Lainee, this is Prue," he introduced the two like it was the first time.

"It's really nice to meet you Prue," Elaine said, letting go of her brother's arm so she could offer a hand to Prue.

Prue looked at Evan and he nodded, smiling as he gestured for her to respond. Her answering smile was radiant as she turned back to Elaine. "It's really nice to meet you too."

oOo 

After the stilted greeting Evan could be forgiven for not realising that Prue and his sister would hit it off so well. They had little in common besides being the kind of women who'd stand up instead of sitting back, who'd defend what they believed in. No, it seemed the only real subject they had to talk about was him, and both of them seemed more than keen to do so. When Grace Lorne excused herself to get ready for work it only got worse.

"You won't stop them," Drew murmured, amused as Evan protested again that Prue didn't need to hear any more stories about him as a kid.

Evan looked at the woman he loved, her eyes shining as she sat on the couch beside Elaine, hanging on every word. "You're right," he caved abruptly. Elaine's stories were mostly harmless and how could he deny Prue the chance to bond. "I don't have to listen though," he decided, motioning for Drew to follow him. "Time for a little play time," he grinned, heading for where Jon and Matt were still playing.

The boys were more than keen for 'man time' as Drew called it, the four of them going outside with a couple of balls to play catch. Standing beside his brother-in-law Evan was content to just throw the ball and watch Jon and Matt scramble after it, giggling as they stumbled over themselves before racing to bring it back.

"So ... Prue," Drew commented.

"Yep," Lorne glanced at his friend before turning his attention back to his nephews. "Go on, say whatever it is you want to say."

"She suits you."

"That's it?" Evan asked incredulously after a few moments of silence.

"What, she doesn't suit you?" Drew queried.

"Of course she does," Evan shot back. "I'm just surprised you're not all over this - after years of my commenting unfavourably about settling down."

"Is that what you're doing, settling down?" Drew smirked when Evan frowned.

"I guess," he shrugged.

Drew knew how to use silence to get Evan to open up - after more than a decade he'd honed the skill to the point he hardly had to say anything before Evan caved and told him what he wanted to know. This time would be no different.

"Fine," Evan declared abruptly. "I'm crazy in love with Prue and as soon as she's ready to hear it I'll be popping the question. Happy now?"

"Are you?" Drew asked quietly.

"Hell yes," Evan grinned suddenly. "And don't think I don't know that's what you wanted me to own up to. I've got secrets no amount of silence could weed out of me - you know that right?"

"This is great," Drew laughed, ignoring him. "I am so looking forward to telling Marcus and the others that the last hold out to matrimony has crumbled. Evan Lorne has finally met his match!"

"Hey, I'm not ... we're not," Lorne stopped, gathered himself. "I haven't asked her yet."

"What's stopping you?" Drew seemed genuinely surprised.

Evan watching Jon and Matt chasing each other around the yard for a few moments, his thoughts back to the city he couldn't tell Drew about. "Prue and I went through something pretty horrific," he offered quietly. "She needs time ... and so do I."

"Maybe," Drew agreed, "or maybe you both just need to know how the story ends."

Evan's brow rose as he considered his friend's words. "Maybe," he allowed, a faint smile playing over his face.

"Uncle Evan!" Jon ran up to his Uncle, grabbing his hand and pulling insistently. "Come and play with us."

Smiling, Lorne made a play at being reluctant, loving how determined Jon was as he pulled his Uncle into their game.

oOo 

Elaine watched Drew and Evan leave the room, smiling once they'd disappeared from sight. Finally she could grill Prue without Evan jumping to her defence.

"So tell me, what really happened back in July?" she asked bluntly.

Prue froze, her eyes shooting to Elaine's before she looked away. "What did Evan tell you?"

"That it wasn't your choice to leave him but that it was to come back," Elaine summarised.

Prue smiled wistfully. "He's such a good man," she murmured, looking for all the world like she'd forgotten Elaine was even there.

Elaine didn't want to be won over so easily but she could see the admiration and respect Prue had for her brother and it warmed her - it gave the two women something crucial in common.

"I'm not sure if you know this," Elaine began, after arguing with herself internally over what she could in all good conscience reveal, "but the last time Evan was here - after whatever happened happened - he was as close to broken as I've ever seen him. And that's with losing our Dad and him losing close friends along the way. It scared me, seeing him so ... vulnerable. I don't ever want to see him like that again."

"And you're worried I might do the same thing sometime in the future, leave him like that?" Prue queried.

"Wouldn't you be, if our positions were reversed?" Elaine replied.

Prue thought for a moment and then seemed to come to a decision. "You know there are things I can't reveal, right?"

Elaine nodded.

"What I can tell you is that your brother is the bravest man I'll ever know," Prue said earnestly. "He was willing to give his life to save me and everyone on the base - I'd come so close to losing him already and I just couldn't let that happen. In the end we were lucky." She stopped, eyes locked on the carpet, deep in troubled thought. "If it ever came down to something like that situation in the future, I'd make the same decision if it meant he'd live. Even more so now I know he has a loving family to help him survive."

Elaine was speechless, for once having no comeback in the face of such intensity. "You love him," she finally got out.

"More than anything," Prue replied simply. "He's forgiven so much, more than I deserve. He's too good for me."

"No," Elaine said firmly. "It sounds like you're perfectly suited to each other."

"So I have your blessing?" Prue asked, her expression hopeful.

Elaine felt suddenly guilty - for her actions having led to Prue thinking she needed a sister's approval. "You don't need my blessing."

"No, but you're important to Evan," Prue explained. "I want you to like me because it will please him. He won't admit it but I know he'll be upset if he thinks there are issues between us."

"I can see why Evan is so taken with you," Elaine smiled, touching a hand to Prue's arm. "How can I help but welcome you to the family?"

"Really?" Prue's eyes misted over, her smile trembling suddenly.

"Really," Elaine felt overly emotional herself, the two women spontaneously hugging before breaking apart with matching watery laughs.

"Tell me more about you," Elaine requested. "Do you have family here in the States?"

"No," Prue admitted. "I lost my parents a long time ago and I never had any other family."

"Then it's lucky for you that Evan comes with strings attached," Elaine declared. "Now you have our Mom and me and my boys, not to mention all the friends Evan's made over the years. You'll have so many new connections you'll probably be overwhelmed."

"That sounds wonderful," Prue wiped at her teary eyes, laughing again. "I need to calm down before Evan comes back inside, otherwise he'll think I've been crying for the wrong reasons."

"Men never understand happy tears," Elaine said with a chuckle. She gave Prue a few moments to compose herself before changing the subject. "So tell me ... how do you feel about marriage as a general rule?"

"Marriage?" Prue's face went blank.

"Yes, as in you and my brother committing to live the rest of your lives together, preferably in the near future," Elaine clarified.

"We haven't talked about anything like that," Prue said dismissively.

"I can see we're meeting at just the right time. You my dear, are in desperate need of a future sister-in-law's guidance then," Elaine almost rubbed her hands together, her expression calculating. "Evan's smarter than the average male so he'll work out pretty quickly what you're up to. In fact, all you really need to do is mention that I asked when you guys were getting married and you didn't know how to answer and then sit back and watch the show."

"We don't need marriage - we're happy as we are," Prue insisted.

"Every girl needs marriage," Elaine countered. "And Evan loves you."

"I know," Prue smiled, clearly still amazed by that one simple fact.

"Well then?" Elaine looked at Prue expectantly.

Prue laughed, delighted with Evan's sister.

"What's so funny?" Drew asked, walking back into the room with Evan close at his heels. Each had an exhausted little boy in his arms.

"It's a girl thing," Elaine declared, exchanging an amused glance with Prue.

"That's it - it's all over buddy," Drew nudged Evan, motioning for him to put Matt on the couch. "Run while you still can."

Evan laughed, eyes locked with Prue's. She looked so happy ... and comfortable in a way that said she felt like she belonged, something he'd never seen in her before. "I don't need to run," he said simply, earning himself an even more radiant smile from Prue.

Looking at Elaine, Evan nodded, silently thanking her for whatever it was she'd done to convince Prue she was welcome. Elaine smiled back, giving him an approving nod in return.

Chapter 4: Piper Jones O'Hara

The following days at his Mom's were idyllic for Evan – there was no other word fitting to describe how he felt spending time with Prue and his family, all together under one roof. It reminded him of holidays of the past, when it was just he, his sister and their Mom, and then later with the inclusion of Drew and then the boys. He'd witnessed his family grow – saw how easily they reformed to include Drew into the mix, how him being there added more than just a single person's contribution to the whole. Now, he got to see another transformation as Prue was welcomed and made a part of the family. It warmed his heart to see his choices supported so fully but even more so to see something inside Prue open and expand as she let his Mom and Elaine into her heart.

He didn't want to leave … Prue seemed equally content to bask inside the Lorne family unit until they were both called back to the SGC. Evan considered leaving it at that for Prue's first visit to Earth but he'd made promises in the past and hadn't kept them the last time he was home. Most notably to Piper and her family – and although he knew she'd understand why he hadn't visited Nebraska last visit like he'd promised he would, still Evan couldn't bring himself to leave without making an effort this time.

"Your family is wonderful," Prue commented softly as they walked the shore near sunrise one morning just over a week into their visit. It had become a regular daily activity, a chance for them to be alone together as they couldn't inside a house overflowing with visitors.

"They are," he agreed simply. They continued on for a time in silence before he spoke again. "My Mom and Elaine have been a constant in my life, even when I wasn't around for months at a stretch. Drew too since we met during the years I spent in Canada … I've been lucky that I've found others who've been there for me when I've been away from home – friends who are just as much family to me now."

"You want to go and visit some of them?" Prue queried.

"Yes – one in particular," Evan replied. "Her name's Piper O'Hara – Piper Jones when I first met her during this week long training program we call Red Flag. She was a fellow pilot even though she's a marine." He stopped, thinking on how much of the story to tell so that Prue would understand how important Piper's friendship was to him. "There was a woman – someone I thought I cared about more than I really did. That part's not important except that Piper was there for me when things blew up in my face. When I was stationed in Afghanistan the first time she was in my unit – just random chance but it really helped to have a familiar face over there and someone I knew I could trust straight up." He grinned, giving Prue a sidelong glance and seeing how interested she was in his story. "Piper has a way of putting things into perspective - putting me in my place she calls it. You should like that about her."

Prue laughed. "How much does she know about me?" she asked.

"Everything that isn't classified," Evan said unapologetically. "Piper's just one of those people you meet and feel instantly connected to. We clicked as friends – and when I met her fiancé Rob it was the same all over again. He's a great guy – nothing ever fazes him. They have a little girl too – Shannon. I'm her godfather but it's been so long since I've seen them in person she won't know who I am."

"They sound wonderful," Prue smiled. "When do we leave?"

Evan put his arm around Prue and hugged her close, pressing a kiss to her temple in gratitude. "After breakfast, if that's enough time for you to be ready to go."

"I won't deny that it would be easier to just stay with your Mom until it's time to go home," Prue admitted. "But then I remember how nervous I was to meet her and your sister and how silly that's turned out to be, so … I trust your judgement and I know if you love Piper and her family then I will too."

"Thank you," Evan stopped, turning to face the ocean with Prue by his side. "I love this time of day," he murmured, resting his eyes on the faint hints of light just starting to appear along the horizon.

"I know," Prue said fondly. "I can't believe I'm going to say this but … me too … now. I always saw getting up so early as a necessary evil – one of many I was forced into because of the Ancients – but somewhere along the way you won me over."

"Sometimes that's all it takes – someone to help you see with different eyes," Evan commented, no longer talking about the lure of sunrise. He knew that Prue had opened his eyes too. Before her, before losing her, he'd seen emotional attachments as a risk and if he were honest, a weakness too. Now he realised how stupid that had been – how much he'd cheated himself. His late night chat with his Mom just cemented how wrong he'd been in the past, thinking she'd have been better off never having loved Jonathon Lorne. No matter how it ended, Evan knew he was better for having loved Prue.

oOo 

After teary goodbyes with promises to visit next time they were home Evan and Prue left his Mom's house and headed to the airport for a mid morning flight to Nebraska. The contrast in environment when they landed at Lincoln airport three hours later was stark – from busy seaside city to a slower, rural way of life. After deciding to hire a car, Evan had them out on the road a short time later, heading towards the outskirts of Springfield where Rob and Piper's farm was located. They'd chosen the location primarily because it was only a short drive to Offutt air force base where Piper was now stationed, although no longer in an active combat wing.

Autumn was upon them and the trees were bright with deep orange and red foliage. It wasn't a long drive and Evan almost wished for more than the hours distance they had to travel just for the chance to enjoy the scenery a bit longer.

"This is nice," Prue commented, her posture relaxed as she gazed out the window. "We could be off world back home."

"Sure … if you take away the car and the roads and power lines," Evan agreed. He could see her point though – aside from Atlantis itself life in the Pegasus galaxy would fit more comfortably inside the setting Piper and Rob had chosen for themselves than it would in San Francisco.

"No one there gets a choice on how simply they want to live," Prue said, her tone somewhat sad. "I can see why people would choose somewhere like this … it's peaceful."

"It does make you wonder just how advanced the Pegasus galaxy would have gotten if the Wraith hadn't stalled development."

"Occulus would rival the grandest of your cities," Prue said proudly. "We were one of the first races to achieve contact with the Ancients. If only we'd focussed on defences instead of music and art we could have helped them win the war."

"You can't know that," Evan countered. "The Ancients were around a lot longer than your people – as far as I understand it they developed here first and then went to the Pegasus galaxy. That's why they came back here when they couldn't defend Atlantis anymore." He straightened abruptly when the notion occurred to him. "You said your family evacuated through the Stargate to Atlantis?"

"That's right," Prue agreed.

"Then they came here too," Evan glanced over and saw the way Prue's gaze sharpened. "Your parents lived out the remainder of their lives here, on Earth. Maybe they didn't end up in the States, but you are following in their footsteps, in a manner of speaking."

Prue nodded, her eyes shining with unshed tears. "They lived here," she repeated in a low tone.

Ever since he'd been shown the fate of Occulus through Fidesia, Evan had felt for Prue. To lose your home and never know what happened to the people you'd saved was a huge weight to bear. "You never felt tempted to check for yourself?" he asked curiously. She'd been ascended for a long time – with the power to go anywhere and any when. If it were him the temptation to make sure his family was okay would have been very hard to resist.

"Every day," she said simply. "But it was forbidden and for many years Fee and I were watched closely, as was anyone newly ascended. They allowed us our reconstructions of Occulus and we spent hours there, adjusting to the changes. They never gave us the freedom to explore on our own, not until it was too late and everyone we knew was as dust. Neither Fee nor I saw the point in going back to witness what was done and could not be changed."

"I'm sorry," Evan reached across to put a comforting hand on her knee.

She clasped his fingers tightly, giving an audible sigh. "I accepted what happened long ago," she told him. "Fee and I knew we'd given our people a chance and when all was said and done it was enough. We took delight in imagining the lives our families might have lived, mapped out entire histories for each of them … I don't need to know how close we got to reality." She smiled across at Evan before her eyes returned to the view outside. "Still, knowing we share something in common, it's nice." When Evan frowned she grinned. "My family – my ancestors – lived side by side with yours Evan. How else do you think you ended up with the gene?"

"Right, sure, of course," Evan shook his head ruefully. "I never really thought about how I got the gene."

"Well, when a man and a woman love each other they want to express that. Your ancestors did and the result was children who were a mix of both of their genetic codes," Prue instructed, her eyes twinkling with amusement. "Then those children repeated the cycle down through the years until we get to you."

"Is that so?" Evan teased back. "How do you know they loved each other? Maybe it was just a hot and heavy fling, over before it really began."

"I just do," she insisted.

"Is that what you see in our future?" It was as close as he'd come to asking Prue what she wanted from their relationship – aside from her promise that if he had to leave Pegasus she'd go with him.

"Elaine asked me how I felt about marriage," Prue shared with her usual bluntness. "She explained that it was what most couples committed to a life together do."

"What did you tell her?"

"That we don't need marriage," Prue revealed.

"I bet that didn't sit well with her," Evan commented.

"No," Prue laughed. "In fact she said that every woman needs marriage."

"No wonder she didn't say anything to me!" Evan laughed too. "I should have known she'd be more subtle than that."

"She loves you and she wants you to be happy," Prue smiled. "I didn't mind her questions."

"You say that now but just wait until you have years of Elaine style manipulation under your belt," Evan warned. Since the opening was there he decided to take it. "What was the custom on Occulus?"

"We didn't call it marriage but our practices were very similar," Prue explained. "A couple would declare their intentions to both their families and then serve a required period of being promised to each other before their joining was made legal and binding. During the promise period they would complete a series of tasks to ensure they were suited before being allowed to formalise their union."

"What kinds of tasks?" Evan asked, intrigued.

"It depended on the couple," Prue smiled. "My people took the union of two people seriously … to break such a union was rare and required as long a period of proof that a dissolution was required as the promise itself. Only after such time could it be broken. The promise tasks were designed to ensure no such dissolution would be required."

"Well that sounds a lot better than what we do here," Evan admitted. "Divorce rates are pretty high – and it's a lot easier to break up a marriage than it used to be."

Seeing the turnoff to Springfield Evan indicated and then pulled off the highway. Prue was silent as he drove around the outskirts of the town towards Piper's home.

"Was I right to tell Elaine we don't need marriage?" Prue asked.

Evan glanced her way but her attention was firmly fixed on the scenery passing in a blur outside her window so he couldn't get a read on why she was asking. "For right now, yes," he agreed. "But I won't deny that it would make a lot of things much simpler for you Prue. The air force provides for the spouses of service men and women – including reassignment and relocation."

"So they wouldn't transfer you from Atlantis without considering me … if we were married I mean?" Prue looked at him then, her expression hopeful.

"No," Evan shrugged. "At least I hope not. To be honest I don't think there're regulations to cover intergalactic marriages. We'd be writing the rules as we go."

"Then we should get married," Prue stated abruptly, her posture too stiff, her eyes everywhere but on his.

"No," Evan said quietly.

They'd reached Piper's farm – pulling up beside their family car, Evan switched off the engine and turned to face Prue. She was staring out the window but he could see the faint tremor of her body and hear the way her breath caught. "You don't want to marry me," she murmured, still refusing to look at him.

"What? No! Yes! That's not what I meant!" Evan grabbed her hand and tugged, urging her to look at him. "Marriage is something you should do for the right reasons, not rush into because it's expedient. When we go down that road it won't be because either of us is afraid of what might happen if we don't."

"Oh," Prue sniffed, wiping at her eyes. "You're right," she tried to smile. "I just … those days when the Ascended kept me from you were difficult Evan. I don't think I can do that again. Not knowing what was happening for you was … painful for me."

"I know," Evan squeezed her hand. "You have to trust me when I say that will never happen again – not while I have breath in my body to stop it. Okay?"

"Okay," Prue said softly.

"Right, so, ready to meet Piper?"

"She's not like Elaine is she?" Prue asked.

"If you mean is Piper going to grill you about my intentions, then no, she's a lot more up front than that," Evan laughed when Prue's expression fell. "Relax honey. I just meant that she'll ask me herself rather than plant the seeds with you."

"And what will you tell her?

"That I could write a book I have so many intentions for you," he said suavely.

Prue laughed. Relieved, Evan got out of the car, moving to open her door. Reaching out he took her hand, murmuring another 'relax' as they walked to Piper and Rob's door.

"Well it's about time," Piper said, opening the door the instant he knocked. "I thought you were going to sit out there all day." She looked from Evan to Prue curiously, not giving Evan time to do introductions. "Hi. I'm Piper. And you're Prue."

"Yes, I am," Prue replied, surprised.

"Evan talks about you all the time – I would have known you anywhere," Piper revealed. Moving aside she grinned. "Come in – and excuse the mess. We weren't expecting visitors … not that notice would have mattered. With an eighteen month old in the house mess is a way of life."

"Speaking of eighteen month olds, where is the lovely Shannon?" Evan asked, glancing around and noting the small changes made to the décor since the last time he'd visited.

"Out back wrapping Daddy even more firmly around her little finger," Piper replied. "Go on out – I'll grab us something to drink and meet you out there."

Nodding Evan took Prue's hand and led her through the house towards the back yard. It was large and rambling – a picket fence meandering in its own path to delineate the residence from the rest of the property. Rob O'Hara ran a small but growing stud service, breeding horses as well. It was a long way from his first career as a lawyer but suited the man and his family situation better than running his own practice ever had.

oOo

Back in the kitchen Piper put both iced tea and water on a tray with a few glasses. Seeing Evan was a welcome surprise, even more so because he'd brought Prue with him. Almost from the first mention of the other woman in his letters Piper had known that Evan had found something he'd always denied he was looking for. With the standing of a long time friend Piper was reserving judgement on whether Prudence Darnell was good enough – in the end it wouldn't matter because Evan clearly thought the world of her.

Picking up the tray she carried it outside, smiling to see Shannon held firmly in her godfather's arms. It wouldn't be obvious from the surface he presented but Evan Lorne was such a pushover with children. She'd long thought he'd be a wonderful father … as great as it seemed his own father had been.

"You look comfortable there," she commented, pouring Prue a drink and handing it to her with a gracious smile.

"We're just getting reacquainted," Evan returned, tickling Shannon's tummy and getting delighted giggles in return. "Isn't that right sweetheart," he smiled down at the little girl.

"Da!" she declared loudly, giving her mother a cheeky grin.

"How long can you stay?" Rob asked, watching the scene with a fond smile.

"A couple of days, if that's okay?" Evan replied. "We can get a room in town."

"No you can't!" Piper denied firmly. "You'll stay here – and don't argue Evan Lorne. We have plenty of room."

"Okay, great, thank you," Evan winked at Prue who was watching them both curiously. "See – in my place," he quipped.

Prue laughed. "Evan's told me a bit about you as well Piper," she shared. "He said you had a knack for putting things into perspective."

"That's a very diplomatic way of saying you're bossy," Rob commented to his wife, amused.

"Say what you will," Piper waved a hand airily. Her expression turning serious she met Evan's eyes. "I'm just glad to see you in one piece. We didn't hear from you for so long I was worried."

"You called my Mom," Evan realised abruptly, wondering why his Mom hadn't mentioned that before they'd set out for Nebraska.

"Of course I did," Piper retorted. "Do you know how long it's been since we haven't heard from you at all in more than three months? I'll tell you – never! Even when you were away for a year we still got a regular letter every month of so. When it got to two months I had to call Grace."

"I made her call," Rob admitted, putting a hand over his wife's in support. "She was driving herself crazy imagining the worst."

"I'm sorry," Evan apologised. "I ah … I didn't think."

"It was my fault."

Piper's eyes shot to Prue at the other woman's stark words and she frowned.

"I did something and Evan got hurt," Prue explained.

It was vague but Piper understood that it had to be. They lived on a classified base after all.

"And then?" she asked, her eyes tracking from Prue to Evan and back again, intrigued when Evan remained silent, letting Prue tell the story in her own way.

"And then I was lucky enough to get a second chance," Prue said simply. "Don't be angry with Evan for not contacting you. It was a," she hesitated, "difficult time."

"You were injured," Rob queried Evan.

"Ah, yeah," Evan admitted with a shrug. "Nothing serious."

"Second degree burns, a concussion, and severe exhaustion," Prue said at the same time, giving Evan a pointed look. Piper smiled, charmed at the byplay between the two. Clearly Prue was no push over – Evan didn't need that. He needed someone who'd stand up to him and push him when he was digging his heels in for the wrong reasons.

"How'd you …?" Evan trailed off with a frown.

"I asked, because I knew you wouldn't tell me yourself," Prue said without a trace of remorse.

"That's our Evan," Piper broke in, lightening the serious mood. "Never one to talk about himself!"

"So I'm forgiven?" Evan asked Piper, ignoring her teasing.

"You're forgiven," Piper replied.

"Da-da-da," Shannon bounced up and down on Evan's knee, determined to get her father's attention. "Hos!" she declared as soon as Rob looked at her.

"Horse," he translated for those who didn't speak 'Shannon'. "She wants to show you the newest foal," he told Evan. "He was born last week and seems as intrigued by Shannon as she is by him."

"Great," Piper got in before Evan could organise things to his liking. "Prue and I can stay here and get acquainted."

"Right, sure," Evan said blandly, sharing a speaking look with Prue before whatever he saw in her eyes reassured him that she'd be okay. "We'll be back soon," he promised, touching a hand to Prue's hair before he let Shannon and Rob drag him away.

"Thank you for being so understanding," Prue said as soon as they were out of earshot. "I know it wasn't Evan's choice to not stay in touch with you. He thinks the world of you Piper – you and your family."

"I know, and we think the world of him," Piper replied. "I'd forgive him anything … he just doesn't see that. Evan's all about honour and duty and service – that's why he appreciates so much his family and his friends. He's always been so concerned about the times when he's not here I don't think it occurs to him how much he gives us."

"What was he like, back when you first met?" Prue asked curiously.

"Wow, that was so long ago," Piper chuckled. "You know, he was a lot like he is now in many respects. Mature, responsible, so much in control. And God, so capable in everything he did you'd hate him for it if he wasn't such a nice guy. The best pilot I've ever flown with, hands down."

"He loves being in the air," Prue smiled.

"Always has," Piper agreed. "He's had some tough times – you should ask him about Afghanistan sometime." Prue nodded, waiting for Piper to continue. "I think the biggest difference between the Evan I first met and now is that he seems more settled, at peace within himself. There was always a part of him he used to hold himself back from life. He's always been a great officer, a great friend, but he never let himself be anything more. Until now."

"Really?" Prue looked touched and it just made Piper like her even more than her first impressions.

"Really," she said firmly. "You're good for him Prue. Don't let him hold back from you okay. He needs to share his stories – he just doesn't see how much of a difference it will make."

"It's in the past, that's what he always says," Prue offered. "I could never push him because I always had secrets of my own."

"And now?"

"Now he knows everything there is to know about me," Prue laughed, "the important stuff anyway."

"Then push," Piper advised. "He loves you … he won't be able to shut you out once he realises how important it is to you."

Prue nodded again, eying Piper curiously.

"What?"

"I'm just … surprised," Prue admitted. "I thought you'd be questioning where we're heading and what our intentions are … that or thinking I couldn't possibly be good enough for him."

"Evan loves you and he's the best judge of character I've ever known," Piper shrugged. "That's a good enough reference for me. As for the rest of it, I don't need to ask about Evan's intentions because they're written all over his face every time he looks at you. When it happens doesn't really matter because I can see it will happen. For the guy who never wanted to even say the word marriage let alone apply it to anything about himself, that's plenty of progress for the time being."

"Perspective," Prue said with a smile.

"Exactly," Piper agreed approvingly. "I am curious about something though."

"What's that?"

"Do they allow children on that secret base of yours?" Piper watched as Prue flushed. "Not something you've talked about yet?" she asked gently.

"Ah, no, not exactly," Prue said vaguely, sounding so much like Evan when he was trying to avoid a topic that Piper had to laugh.

"Don't worry – plenty of time for that too," she soothed, deciding she liked the woman Evan had chosen for himself very much. "Do you like horses?" she changed the subject.

"I've never been close enough to one to say," Prue admitted.

"Well, that's something we can fix right now," Piper jumped up, grabbing Prue's hand and urging her up too. "Let's go see how much my daughter has charmed your man."

Prue grinned and Piper just knew it was because she'd labelled Evan as Prue's man. Yes, she really liked Prudence Darnell … and thank god for that because she'd have forced herself to pretend with the best of them if she hadn't, but it would have been an effort.

oOo 

Later that evening Piper stood on the porch, her husband beside her. They watched the sun set every day, in those moments after Shannon was settled for the first part of the evening. Of course she'd wake up multiple times and demand her parents attention but for now they had silence and a chance to appreciate the other.

"He's happy," Rob commented, nodding to where Evan was walking towards the back fence with Prue, the two holding hands.

"I know," Piper grinned. "Can you believe it?"

"After all these years, not really," Rob admitted. "I think I'd decided that Evan was going to be our single friend we'd include in all our family events – once he retired from the air force. He'd dote on Shannon and worry us whenever he wasn't here because we'd know he was probably spending most of his time alone."

"You were worried about him too?" the thought hadn't occurred to Piper before.

"Of course I was," Rob frowned down at his wife, surprised. "After I don't know how many years he's my friend too … he was from the day I met him because he helped you get through Afghanistan and I don't think you'd have taken that command without his encouragement. Maybe we wouldn't be where we are today if you hadn't realised what you could do and that you didn't need to do it anymore."

"Maybe," Piper agreed. Evan had been around during crucial times in her career – his support and just seeing what he'd gone through at Kandahar had been enough to have her examining her priorities and deciding to put Rob at the top. Now they had a good life – her job, the farm, their daughter, and …,"

"How do you feel about a brother or sister for Shannon?" she asked wistfully.

"Favourable," Rob turned her into him, gathering her close. "Very favourable," he added, leaning down to kiss her, the two forgetting their guests still walking in the garden.

oOo 

"They're a lovely couple," Prue commented, she and Evan stopping just shy of interrupting Piper and Rob's embrace.

"Yeah, they are," Evan agreed. "Been together since before I met Piper, so they're solid." He glanced at Prue curiously. "Did she grill you?"

"Of course not!" Prue returned.

"Then what did you talk about?"

"You mostly," Prue looked amused at Evan's expression – dismay and dread. What the hell had Piper told Prue about him? "Nothing bad. I just asked her what you were like when she first met you."

"What did she say?"

"Much the same as you are now only not as settled," Prue summarised what Evan was sure had been a much more detailed conversation.

"I am settled," he agreed, pulling her into his arms and hugging her close. "With you," he intoned, dipping to kiss her lightly.

"She also asked me if children were allowed on the base?" Prue assessed his reaction as she continued. "Ours that is."

"What?" Evan swallowed too quickly, coughing when he succeeded only in choking himself. Letting her go he cleared his throat, looking at her quizzically. What the hell had Piper been thinking asking a question like that?

"She wanted to know if we'd be allowed to have children and still live on the base?' Prue clarified even though he didn't need it.

"Oh," Evan wasn't sure what to say. "Do you want children?" he found himself asking.

"Do you?'" Prue returned.

"I asked you first," he shot back, knowing how immature that made him sound. He didn't want to answer first though – he wanted to know her thoughts without his own desires colouring her answers.

"And Piper said you were mature," Prue commented. When his brow rose and he looked at her expectantly she smiled. "Okay, yes, I do. I want children. I never did before but now, with you, the idea of a child we could create together … what they'd be like, which parts of you and I they'd inherit … it's captivating."

"It is," Evan agreed, feeling a little like he was on shaky ground. "I've never given any thought to children Prue … but the idea of a little girl just like you … when we're both ready … I couldn't say no to that."

"You'll be a great dad," Prue said softly. "I see it in how you are with your nephews and with Shannon. I like seeing that side of you."

"Yeah, well just don't let it get out that I have a soft side," Evan complained for form.

"I wouldn't dream of it," she returned. Reaching for his hand she tugged, turning to walk beside him again. It was peaceful in a way he didn't get anywhere else. With Piper and Rob back inside the house and Shannon sleeping; the horses bedded down in the stables too, it felt like he and Prue were the only two people awake in the world. The feeling of contentment that washed over him, how comfortable it was to walk in the twilight with Prue beside him, was something he hoped he never got used to.

Chapter 5: Prudence Darnell

After a few days spent at the O'Hara stables Evan regretfully informed his friends that he and Prue had to get back to work. "Our transport heads out in a couple of days," he told Piper the last morning of their stay. The Daedalus had been delayed a few extra days for some irregular maintenance but was now ready for the return trip to Atlantis. Prue was packing her bag and Rob had Shannon off helping him with the horses so for the moment it was just he and Piper.

"It's been wonderful having you and Prue here," Piper said softly. "She's perfect for you Evan. Don't mess it up."

"Hey, since when do I mess things up?" Evan complained.

"True, it's usually not you directly," Piper conceded. "Besides, I'd like to think you're finally old enough and smart enough to know a good thing when you see it and hold on to it tight."

"Well, thank you very much," Evan said sarcastically. "Not the most inspiring compliment I've received lately but I'll take it."

"Stay in touch this time," Piper ordered.

"Yes Ma'am," Evan shot back. Relenting he let out a sigh. "I really am sorry I worried you Piper. I just … I didn't have any words. I couldn't talk about what happened."

"Because it was classified?"

"That and because it just cut too close," Evan admitted. "I can't tell you the specifics but I don't have to imagine what it would be like to lose Prue to appreciate what I have. I already know … and I don't want to ever feel like that again."

"There are no guarantees," Piper reminded him gently.

"I know. More than anyone I know that," Evan replied. "But for the first time I understand that cliché – 'it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all'. I don't want to lose but I know I'm better for having Prue, regardless of what happens in the future."

"Then you truly have come a long way," Piper put her arm around his shoulders and squeezed fondly.

"I had to have the message burned into my brain but yeah, I have," he agreed, giving her a rueful kind of smile.

"We'll miss you," Piper said it bluntly, to hide how close to tears she was. She hated saying goodbye, always had.

"We'll come back next time we're in the States," Evan promised.

"You better," she warned.

oOo 

"You know ... technically we still have most of today left. I don't have to report back for duty until tomorrow," Evan commented as they sat in Lincoln airport waiting for their flight back to Colorado to be called for boarding.

"Sounds like you already have a plan," Prue commented, a faint smile just touching her lips.

"Indeed," Evan grinned. "It occurred to me last night that I've never taken you out – on a real date I mean."

"A date?" Prue queried.

"Yes, a date," Evan repeated. "It's usually the first step in a relationship, when a man and a woman go out together, for dinner or a movie, to give themselves a chance to see if there's potential."

"We already know our potential," Prue pointed out.

"True, but still, I'd like to take you out tonight – see you dressed up just for me," Evan shrugged, flushing a little. "That sounded a lot more 'me male, you female' than I intended."

"It's okay, I get it," Prue put a hand over his. "I'd like to do that – dress up for you, have you take me somewhere special."

"Then consider it a date," Evan replied intently.

Their flight arrived just after lunch. Although it carried some risk, Evan didn't like the idea of Prue heading out alone even though she'd insisted that if she was going to dress up for their date he couldn't take her shopping - it had to be a surprise, just like a real date. He'd called Daniel instead, asking the other man for advice on whether Vala was available to escort Prue around the Springs, assuring the other man that he'd foot the bill for anything Prue wanted. Daniel had laughed initially but then relented and told him Vala was well suited for and would welcome the mission.

And so it was that he found himself at just shy of nineteen hundred hours, sitting at a table in the nicest of the restaurants local to the SGC, waiting for Prue to arrive.

He felt her presence before he spotted her, his eyes going to the entrance just as she stepped through the doors. She took his breath away, with her simple strapless, figure hugging dress, her hair arranged to cascade down her neck and over her bare shoulders. He noticed how the light colour complemented her complexion, how the trail of flowers over the bodice suited her delicate, feminine frame, but that was in the background. The forefront of his mind was too occupied with how the evening would end, and on how much he was already anticipating undressing the beautiful package she presented to him.

"Hi," she smiled, stopping hesitantly beside their table for two.

"You look … amazing," he said, standing quickly and moving to pull out the other chair so she could sit down.

"Thank you," her smile was pure delight, with his compliment and with the novelty of his gentlemanly act. There were few chances to have chairs pulled out or doors opened for you on Atlantis.

"So … I see shopping with Vala went well," Evan commented once he was seated again.

"It did," Prue agreed. "She's so full of enthusiasm for everything I ended up buying some things to take back to Atlantis as well," she admitted. "I hope that was okay."

"More than okay," Evan said simply. "I'm glad you enjoyed yourself."

"We bartered … on Occulus," Prue's voice lowered as she mentioned her first home. "We prided ourselves on the beauty of our mechandise … meaningless trinkets left behind for the Wraith to destroy."

"I'm sure that some of those things had great value," Evan countered, "sentimental if not monetary." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small box, handing it to her, the expression in his eyes telling her that it's contents fell into the sentimental category.

"What's this?" Prue took the box, her expression curious. Not being from Earth, of course she wouldn't recognise that it was the kind of box that usually signified a significant event. For some reason that fact relaxed Evan – without the anticipation of already knowing what question he was about to ask, the asking itself took on even more meaning for him.

"Open it," he invited. He watched her raise the lid, her eyes going soft as she saw the delicate ring nestled inside, the small diamond twinkling in the lamplight.

"Evan," Prue looked up at him, "it's beautiful."

"It's my Mom's," he explained, taking the box and carefully lifting the ring free. "My Dad gave it to her the night he asked her to marry him. Just before we left she gave it to me … for you."

"Oh," Prue pressed her trembling lips together, her expression both hopeful and guarded.

"It's traditional to offer a ring as a symbol of the promise a couple makes when they decide to get married," he continued. "Nothing would please me more Prue than for you to agree to wear this ring, to make that promise to be my wife."

Prue was speechless for more than a few seconds, her eyes locked to his. "But you said we shouldn't get married because it was expedient," she eventually reminded him.

"I'm not asking you because it's expedient," he replied softly. "I'm asking you because I can't imagine ever wanting anything more than I want you beside me. I know I said we should do this when we're ready, but it occurred to me that being ready to actually be married is different from being ready to make a mutual promise. I already know how this story ends Prue … with you and I, together, no matter where the universe takes us. I'm more than ready to promise you my future. Are you ready to do the same?"

"Yes," Prue began to smile as she looked at him. "Yes Evan, I'm ready for that too."

"So you'll marry me … when the time is right?" he clarified.

"Yes, I'll marry you when the time is right," she confirmed.

"Wow," he was suddenly glad he was sitting down, his legs feeling weak with the adrenalin rush. Holding out his hand he took her left hand in his, carefully placing the ring on her finger. "It looks good," he commented, adjusting it and then rubbing his thumb lightly down to her knuckle.

Instead of answering Prue jumped up abruptly, rounding the table and all but throwing herself into his arms. Laughing, he shifted back just in time to make room for her on his lap, not caring who might be watching as he kissed her. "You've come a long way Captain 'Love' Lorne," he thought to himself ruefully, holding his new fiancé close. A long, necessary way, to be the man he was meant to be.

Pulling away he looked at Prue intently, not sure how she'd take what he wanted to say next. "How hard would it be for us to do those challenges you talked about – the ones you'd have to do if we were following the customs on Occulus?"

Prue blinked, not expecting the question. "Ah," she thought, her brows raised as she considered her answer. "There are few records still in existence but there may be something in the Ancient database. I never looked because …," she shrugged, her eyes misting as they always did when her home was mentioned.

"Maybe Occulus was gone when you were ascended," Evan said gently, "but now that you're here, there is one Occulan to carry on the traditions of a proud, distinguished race."

"I'll look in the database," Prue decided abruptly. "Even if there's nothing there I remember enough joinings to be able to create something close. We'd have to ask someone to administer the requirements for us – if we're doing this it has to be more than just a pretence – it has to be as real as it would be if Occulus was still as it was in the past."

"Agreed," Evan returned. "We'll ask Colonel Sheppard and Teyla – I'm sure they'll both agree to assist."

"Yes," Prue smiled, pleased with his suggestions. "Teyla knows much of the customs of many Pegasus races to officiate and John has sufficient rank to represent the authority of a family elder." Prue let out a sigh but it was a wistful, hopeful one with only a small measure of sadness. She pressed close to Evan again, resting her head against his chest. "I love you," she murmured, the words expressing so much of her feelings and her thanks for what he was giving her.

"I love you too," he said, the words coming so easy he wondered how he could have ever hesitated to let them out.

oOo 

Their return to the SGC came quickly, only when he was inside the grey corridors did Evan admit that he was glad to be going back … going home, because that's what Atlantis was to him.

"The Daedalus is ready to leave on schedule tomorrow morning Major," Walter Harriman informed Evan and Prue when Evan reported his return to duty.

"Thank you," Lorne returned. "Anything interesting happen while we were away?"

"Just the usual Sir," Walter replied. "General Landry would like to have a word with you before you go sir – just routine."

"Is he in now?" Evan asked.

"Yes Sir," Walter moved to inform the General that Major Lorne was there. "He'll see you now," he announced once the call was finished.

"Great," Evan moved towards the General's office and then stopped. "Prue has some paperwork to do – for her placement on Atlantis. Can you help her with that?" They'd talked about the General's offer on the way home and quickly agreed that it made sense for Prue to sign on as a permanent, albeit alien member of the Atlantis expedition. Evan hadn't told her that he intended to amend his own records to show Prue as his next of kin and the benefactor of any entitlements should the worse happen. He'd tell her about that when he needed to – for now it settled something within him to have her openly acknowledged inside the framework of the United States air force.

"Of course," Walter agreed.

"Great. I'll be back soon," he told Prue, getting a nod and smile from her before he left her in Harriman's capable hands.

"General," he said, stopping respectfully in the other man's doorway.

"Major, come in," General Landry replied. "Have a seat."

Evan sat, back straight, waiting to hear what was next.

"I wanted to update you on that matter with the I.O.A we discussed before you left," Hank began. "As expected, they did move fast. We now have an official I.O.A liaison for ATA gene research. The good news is that they agreed the most qualified person to run things from your end was Doctor Darnell herself. I trust it won't be a problem for you to work with the good doctor?"

"Ah, no Sir," Evan kept his expression blank. The I.O.A trusted Prue enough to give her the running on their newest area of interest? That was a turnaround he wasn't sure he could trust. Not that it mattered – it was a long way between Earth and Atlantis and Prue was smart enough to manage the relationship with the I.O.A to their benefit. The committee had underestimated her if they thought she'd be a pawn for them – or maybe they'd missed the part about Prue and Evan's relationship. Speaking of which ... "I ah … can I assume the regs aren't a problem if Doctor Darnell and I continue to work on the research together?"

"Yes you can Major," Landry seemed amused that Evan was uncomfortable asking about the personal stuff. "Doctor Darnell will continue to report to Colonel Sheppard – all reports for the I.O.A. will go through Doctor Weir."

"That's good Sir," Evan said somewhat lamely. He felt even more awkward as he continued. "You should probably know sir that Doctor Darnell and I are newly engaged. We're not intending to marry for some time yet but I'm guessing there'll be some new rules that will need to be set in place to cover this kind of thing."

"Congratulations son," Hank seemed genuinely delighted with the news. "I'll set the wheels in motion in Washington but for now I don't think the I.O.A. need to be apprised. You let me know when you decide on a date and we'll make sure there'll be no red tape standing in your way."

"Thank you Sir," Evan said sincerely.

"Keep your eye out for trouble Major," Landry warned more seriously. His unspoken message was clear – the motives of the I.O.A., regardless of the fact that they were supposed to be working with the SGC, could never be counted on.

"I will Sir," he promised.

"Very good," Landry nodded. "Dismissed."

Standing, Evan nodded instead of saluting and then made his way from the General's office. It had been interesting and the inclusion of the I.O.A. into their lives wasn't ideal, but clearly the powers that be – the ones that counted – were on his and Prue's side.

oOo 

The trip back to Atlantis passed without incident. Being beamed down to the city reminded Evan of the first time he'd arrived – with little fanfare externally but an overwhelming mental welcome from the city itself internally. Of course now Evan understood what he was hearing and after a brief moment to reassure himself that everything 'sounded' right, he turned to find Prue watching him with amusement.

"The city missed you," she commented with a half-smile.

"I guess," he shrugged self-deprecatingly.

"Major, welcome back," Sheppard jogged down the steps from the control room to greet his 2IC.

"Thank you Sir," Evan returned. He and Prue had agreed to settle back in to life in the city before sharing their news. He'd insisted she wear the ring openly though – if someone noticed and asked then the news would go through the city like wildfire, saving him the effort of having to announce anything. Prue quickly worked out his plan, agreeing to it only after he promised he'd speak to John and Teyla as soon as practicable, before chance found them out.

"Prue," John turned his attention to Evan's companion, smiling when she gave him a small wave. "I hope Evan showed you the sights while you were on Earth."

"It was wonderful," Prue replied earnestly. "You have a beautiful home John."

"We do," John agreed. "So, ready to get straight back into work?" he asked too hopefully.

"What reports are you dodging this time Sir?" Evan asked pointedly.

"Why would you …," Sheppard stopped, giving Lorne a rueful look. "Good to have you back Major," he said.

"It's good to be back Sir."

oOo 

Evan grunted as Prue pushed him down until his back met the mattress with a thud. They were in his quarters, their first day back to work done. Prue had missed having him around during the day, if her uncharacteristic aggression was anything to go on. "Wh-" he began before her lips on his stopped him. She kissed him until his breathing was ragged and his mind full of only her before she lifted up.

"I want to see you," she murmured, running her hands down his chest before slowly rising again as she undid each button. When she folded the shirt away to reveal his bare chest she smiled.

"Ah … you have seen me before," he pointed out, squirming just a little when her fingers just barely brushed his skin, leaving a tingling, almost tickling sensation behind.

"Not like this," Prue insisted. Her fingers continued their journey from his abdomen upwards until she stopped. "Where did you get this?"

Evan craned his neck to see her fingers resting over a long thin scar that ran diagonally across his chest. He'd never been one to give much thought to his appearance but had wished from time to time that his chest wasn't quite so smooth and hair free. Every mark on him stood out in stark relief, nothing to hide behind. "Afghanistan," he replied. "Got into a little … dispute with a terrorist leader who took offence to my blowing up his weapons facility."

"And these?" Prue moved to the streaks of silvery skin tracking from the centre of his chest outwards.

Grabbing her hands he held firm when she tried to pull them free. "You don't want to do this Prue," he told her quietly.

"Yes, I do," Prue insisted. "Every scar is a part of your story Evan … a part of our story. I want to know you."

"You do know me!" he returned impatiently. "Better than anyone."

"Maybe, but it's not enough," Prue met his eyes, her expression hard to read. "Unless you don't want to tell me?"

"It's not that," he began. "Some of it isn't pleasant Prue."

"All the more reason to tell me," she said simply. "We're going to be together for a long time Evan … I'm just going to keep asking so you might as well tell me now."

Evan hesitated for a moment and then let out a sigh. "Fine," he said, letting her hands go as he slumped back into the mattress, giving his grudging permission for her to continue.

Prue smiled, returning her fingers to brush over those silvery scars. "These?" she asked again.

"Burns … from the shield device," he admitted. She'd known about his injuries – she knew he'd bear physical evidence of that day, so this was about more than just his battle scars. He raised his right arm and swivelled it until the light illuminated similar, much fainter marks on his forearm and both wrists. "Here too."

"I'm sorry," Prue rested her palm over his chest, the warmth of her skin seeping below the surface to warm him.

"This is why I didn't want to do this," Evan covered her hand with his. "I don't want you apologising for what happened Prue … not now, not ever again. It's in the past."

"Even though you'll carry the reminder for the rest of your life?"

"Yes."

"It hardly seems fair though," Prue continued, trailing her fingers from the centre of the burn, where the scars were thickest – where Evan had taken the brunt of the energy surge that had killed Prue first. Those scars represented the killing blow she'd taken in his stead …something he'd never forget.

"How so?" he asked, shivering again, her light touch raising the sensitivity of his skin.

"The ascended … Morgan, Fidesia, me – we were the ones to bring what happened down on you and yet you're the one who ended up with the scars."

"I don't think death and ascension are going to be a popular alternative to permanent scaring Prue," he retorted with sarcastic amusement. It was the first time he'd attempted to make light of losing Prue and it was hard.

"You know what I mean," she chided, smacking his shoulder irritably.

"You see it as a reminder of something bad," Evan said more seriously. "Maybe it is but it's also a reminder that you chose me Prue, that day and again when you gave up ascension. A few scars are a small price to pay to have you here … with me."

"Evan," Prue intoned, leaning down and kissing him with heated passion. He was more than happy to oblige, to be drawn from the seriousness of their conversation, but clearly Prue wasn't done. After a few pleasurable moments she broke away, rearing up, her eyes once again on his body.

"What about this one?" she asked, touching her fingers to his right shoulder.

"Gun shot – walked into a bullet coming out of the gate off world," he shrugged. "Genii trap."

"And this," she pointed to a similar looking scar on his left shoulder.

"Another gunshot – Afghanistan again," Evan chuckled when Prue's brow rose in surprise. "Yeah, that's a long story right there," he continued, giving her the basics as he crossed off a couple more scars.

"You seem to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time a lot," Prue commented after he told her about the bullet wound on his right thigh – a reminder of his time on SG-6.

"That's what my Mom always says too," he complained. "Where's the sympathy, huh?"

"You poor baby," Prue crooned, pressing a kiss to first one shoulder and then the other. "Is that better?"

"It's getting there," he said grudgingly.

She smiled, trailing kisses across his chest, lightly touching on each scar. She cradled his hands in hers and repeated the process, the teasing tone of their interaction dropping away to be replaced by a more serious intent.

"Thank you," she said, shifting to lie with her head over his heart, pulling the blankets over both of them.

"For what?"

"Sharing," she said simply.

He rested quietly for a moment, running long strands of her hair through his fingers. "The scars you can see aren't the ones that still hurt," he said, his tone low.

"I know," she said just as quietly. "Tell me."

And so he did, everything – his Dad, John, Jason Ritter, too many good men lost in battle, and her for those months when he'd thought that all was lost. He talked about all that he'd lost over the years, the burdens he carried. Evan opened up like he never had before. When it was done he felt lighter somehow even though those burdens were still there and always would be.

With a tired yawn he fell silent, waiting for some kind of reaction from Prue.

"I always knew you were a good man Evan Lorne," she said, settling down to rest beside him, her hand back to lightly caressing his chest under the blankets. "Now … you humble me."

"Prue," he wanted to protest, to say more, but she shushed him with the simple expedience of putting her hand over his mouth.

"Sleep," she commanded.

With a sigh he relaxed into the mattress, drawing her closer until her warmth engulfed him. He wouldn't have thought it possible but between one breath and the next he was asleep.

oOo 

Prue watched as Evan let sleep claim him, his features relaxing until he looked calm, boyish … content. Tenderly she stroked a hand over the arm he'd placed around her before settling back herself.

She knew how lucky she was to have found someone like Evan to share her life with – to reclaim life just so that she could be with him. The details of her time as an ascended being had faded but strangely all the moments she'd spent as Devia at first infatuated with and then in love with the man beside her were as sharp and crystal clear as if they'd happened yesterday. Perhaps Morgan was responsible for that – another gift for the man who's asked nothing for himself.

Her first impressions of Evan and what she'd learned as an observer proved truer the longer she knew him … he was a man with the passion of an artist, the steely nerve of an air force pilot and the calm purpose of a soldier. He'd done so much, put himself out there time and time again knowing his life was on the line, and through it all felt so much she couldn't conceive of how he'd been able to hold it all inside to do what had to be done.

And he was hers … he loved her as much as she loved him … enough to promise her his future. To have come from losing her home, her family, her people, through years of being removed from anything that could really matter to her, to where she was now was mind blowing. She had a place with Evan and she'd do everything in her power to be beside him – when he needed her and when she needed him.

He was the family she'd longed for for millennia. And with him she had finally found home again.

"I am happy for you."

Prue stiffened at the familiar voice, glancing upwards.

"Fee?" she called out softly.

"Prue," Fidesia materialised, walking gracefully to stand beside her friend. Prue smiled, pleased that her long-time companion had referred to her by the name she'd earned on Atlantis. "You are happy," Fee said it with wonder.

"I am, I really am," Prue admitted.

"You love him," Fee said it like a part of her still didn't understand how it was possible, even with everything Prue had given up to be with Evan. "Do you think you will always feel this way?"

"I do," Prue said simply. "Evan is … worth everything the ancients put us through Fee. We are promised to each other now … by his customs and soon by the ones we knew on Occulus as well."

"He will meet the requirements of an Occulian joining?" Fee asked, surprised again.

"With some amendments because there are no elders to reside over them, yes," Prue confirmed.

"This pleases me," Fidesia admitted, "even though all logic says it shouldn't matter."

"I knew as an ascended being that it was wrong to reside over the affairs of the lower planes," Prue began, "but it was just as wrong to distance ourselves from our emotions. Surely there is a way to be both."

"I never wanted that … it was too hard to want that … but now," she glanced to where Evan slept peacefully. "You inspire me."

"Then I'm glad," Prue agreed.

"I will not see you again," Fee said sadly.

"I know."

"Goodbye my friend," Fee lifted a hand even as she faded from view.

"Goodbye," Prue whispered.

"Prue?" Evan's sleepy voice drew her attention back to the man beside her. "You okay?"

"With you? Always," Prue smiled, settling back beside her man. With a contented sigh she let herself relax and soon joined him as they slept and dreamt of the future … together.

The End

 

 

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