Pairing: Laura Cadman/Evan Lorne primarily, Samantha Carter/Jack O'Neill secondarily, background Jennifer Keller/Ronon Dex, Teyla Emmagen/John Sheppard, OFC/Rodney McKay, Carolyn Lam/Cameron Mitchell, Vala Maldoran/Daniel Jackson, mention of past Laura Cadman/Carson Beckett
Fic Title: Coming Back Home
Author: EvaFlack001 http://evaflack001.livejournal.com/ or http://www.fanfiction.net/u/1571239/EvaF
Rating/Warning(s): Mention of past canon character death
Genre: Romance, Angst, Comedy
WIP?: One chapter from completion, sequel in the works
Why This Must Be Read: Coming Back Home is one of my favorite feel-good stories for Stargate Atlantis or SG-1. It's utterly charming, warm and engrossing. This story has something for everyone, balancing tense emotional drama with delightfully light comedy. At its heart, this wonderful story by a talented first-time author is a study of the relationships on Atlantis and in the SGC, not just romantic but those of friends, coworkers, parent and child and superior to subordinate. The exquisitely written narrative focuses primarily on is the 'will they or won't they?' relationships of Laura Cadman and Evan Lorne and Sam Carter and Jack O'Neill. Here as in canon, the bonds of marriage, partnership and friendship are a source of strength, comfort, guidance and joy, and the author wisely allows the dramatic conflict to arise naturally from how these relationships overlap, intersect and change. The list of pairings seems enormous yet each utterly believable couple receives enough attention to make their fans happy and convey palpable chemistry. Coming Back Home won a 2008 Isis Award in a tough category so though I am biased as its beta, I think I can safely guarantee you'll love it too.
The enjoyable story opens with Laura Cadman returning back to Atlantis five years after the death of her fiance Carson Beckett, with their daughter, Cara. Laura was pregnant and stationed at the SGC at the time. With the help of friends like Cameron Mitchell and Carolyn Lam, she survived but her demeanor is deceptively saucy and cheerful. She has never actually recovered from her grief. She's thrown off-guard by the discovery that the forward operating base she left is now a community of military and scientist families. Laura finds her old friends are overjoyed to welcome her back and she is shocked at how quickly Atlantis becomes home again. Laura tries and fails to keep from losing her heart to Evan Lorne. She is emotionally torn and fearful, wracked with guilt for betraying Carson. The sarcastic Lorne is irresistible as he wholeheartedly courts her. He's just as smitten with Cara Beckett as with her stubborn mother. He is so brave in his emotional vulnerability that I hurt for him when Laura tries to keep him at arms’ length.
In sad contrast to this fragile and tentative love in first bloom, the tortured nonrelationship between Sam and Jack has reached a painfully abortive end prior to the story's beginning. Sam, still the Atlantis expedition leader here, has finally hit her limit after more than thirteen years of mixed signals. After an ugly confrontation at Cameron and Carolyn’s wedding, she decides to stop hoping for Jack to be anything but her superior officer and to stand up for her self-respect and emotional health. Sam is determined to move on but an equally stubborn Jack refuses to let her.
Inevitably their friends on Atlantis and the SGC meddle with these relationships even while embroiled in their own dramas. Ronon and Jennifer have reached a critical point commitment-wise in their relationship. On the eve of giving birth to their first child, Teyla worries about whether John will still love Torren as much and how their marriage will change. Vala longs for more from Daniel and Rodney tries to woo a pretty and smart major without being humiliated by his friends and godchild Torren, who spies on him and gleefully reports back to John.
The story's quite long but so well paced that the tension never lags and events never feel drawn-out. The author has a canny ear for dialogue and ace comedic timing. There are many laugh-out-loud hilarious scenes, which she expertly builds to a fantastic pay-off, particularly with Rodney and the kids. All the characterizations are incredibly multi-dimensional, logically evolved from canon and carefully fleshed out. The original characters of Cara and (to a certain extent) Torren, are standouts. Even those who despise kidfic will enjoy these precocious and funny cohorts in mischief and mayhem, who have all of Atlantis and the SGC firmly wrapped around their little fingers. Equally vividly drawn is John and Teyla’s adorable newborn, who's enough to kickstart your biological clock. I won’t bore you with a recital of my many other favorite parts but I have to mention how much I love the quiet scenes of female friendship, John and Lorne joking as they efficiently run the military installation, Laura and Rodney's mutually begrudging friendship, the utterly right-feeling depiction of John as an adoring, fun and supportive father, both to Torren and the new baby, and the endearingly soft-touch Rodney, despite his loud protests that he hates children.
John!” Cara spotted John making his way towards Rodney’s lab and scampered down the hall like an eager puppy. “Are you going to see Rodney too? Is Lily in that bag?” She pointed to the fabric sling John wore around his shoulders.
“Hello, Cara,” John returned with a smile for the child. “Lorne.”
“Morning sir,” Lorne greeted his CO with a nod. “Going to annoy McKay?”
John smiled wickedly. “I live for it, Major.”
“We’re going to see how long it takes Rodney to complain,” Cara confided, her blue eyes serious. “Evan said that he’s always complaining about something and that he needs a good kick in the ass sometimes to keep him from being a damn girl!”
Lorne’s jaw dropped as John raised one eyebrow questioningly. “ Cara, I didn’t tell you that,” he stammered, almost feeling Laura’s wrath if her pretty daughter started swearing like a seasoned crew dog.
“You said it to Ronon,” Cara reminded Lorne with a guileless stare. “I was there. You just forgot that you’re not supposed to swear in front of Torrin and me.”
Taking pity on his XO, John took Cara’s hand in his and suggested they go inside to see Rodney. “And I wouldn’t tell your Mom that Lorne here forgot he had two kids with him,” he told her. “She might kick his a-“
“Butt!” Lorne cut in immediately. “Right sir?”
“Right,” John said with a roll of his eyes. “Good morning Rodney!”
Rodney looked up from the computer he was working on and his eyes widened. “What is this? Father’s Day? Take-your-daughter-to-work day?” He pointed at Lily, sleeping soundly in her sling. “And what is that? You look like a girl.”
John looked down at the material draped over his shoulders and shrugged. “She likes to be carried. I think it’s the heartbeat. Helps her sleep.”
“She’s growing pretty fast, sir,” Lorne commented, leaning in to get a closer look at the now wide-eyed and awake baby, who stared at him without blinking. “She has Teyla’s look.”
“She’s a carbon copy of Sheppard!” Rodney looked at Lorne as if he were crazy. “She’s got the same hair, to start with. Poor child. It’ll never sit flat. Don’t touch that!” He yelled the last at Cara, who was gazing at a strange looking machine in awe. It was beeping intermittently, emitting a strange glow. Every now and again, it would shoot a bubble of light from the opening on top of it. The bubble would float, and then make a curious popping sound several moments later.
Cara jumped backwards in fright, knocking against the table and sending coffee everywhere. Rodney groaned. Cara’s lip trembled.
“It’s okay, sweetheart,” John assured the frightened child. “He’s just a nasty old scientist. He didn’t mean to bark at you. Want me to lock him in the brig?”
Cara looked at Rodney, wide eyed. “No. But what does that machine do?”
“We don’t know yet,” Rodney admitted. “Lieutenant Cadman’s team found it and sent it back with Dr. Douglas.”
“Mama’s here?” Cara looked around, confused. “I thought she was off-world.”
“No, Dr. Douglas brought it back,” Rodney said impatiently. “Don’t you listen?”
“Not when you don’t make sense,” Cara retorted, making Lorne snort with laughter. “Where’s Anna?”
“Anna?” It was Rodney’s turn to look confused. “Who’s Anna?”
“Douglas,” John offered, raising his eyes to the heavens. “Dr. Anna Douglas.”
“You should know that,” Cara informed Rodney loftily. “I know lots of things you don’t know about people. Why don’t you know what that machine does? And where’s Anna?”
“Anna,” Rodney emphasized the word with a glare at John, who was trying valiantly not to laugh, “has gone to the bathroom and then she’s getting me some coffee, if she knows what’s good for her.” He swivelled his head around to look at John. “Don’t look at that! Ancient devices just seem to either light up or explode around you. Remember P75-412?”
“I do,” Lorne chimed in. “Weirdest thing I ever saw. Even you couldn’t make that thing work and Colonel Sheppard just looked at it and it went up like…like…”
“A bomb? Well aren’t you clever!” Rodney gave him a sarcastic smile.
John moved closer and studied the device carefully. “Looks like a lava lamp,” he pronounced. “Maybe that’s what it is.”
“I doubt that,” Rodney said sarcastically. “I highly doubt that.” He watched as John picked it up curiously, his eyes widening. “Hey, don’t! Put it down! It could be explosive! You have a baby around your neck, for God’s sake!”
Lily was watching the lights intently. John smiled indulgently at her. “You like the pretty lights, sweetie? They’re pretty, like you are!”
Lorne was just about to comment on his CO’s foolish baby talk when the machine started to glow brightly. “Sir, is it supposed to do that?”
“What did you do?” Rodney demanded, hopping off his chair. He blanched when the machine glowed brighter. “Oh God! Shut your eyes, it could damage your retinas!”
Lorne clapped a hand over Cara’s eyes hastily, visions of having to explain to Laura just why her daughter was short-sighted all of a sudden dancing in his head. He heard John’s muffled curse and opened them. His jaw dropped.
“Rodney,” John said menacingly. ”What is this machine?” He clamped a hand on the scientist’s wrist and squeezed. “What is it?”
Rodney was ashen. He stared over John’s head, his mouth opening and closing. No sound came out.