Summary: Following on directly from Mission Impossible. With the panic over, the team has the freedom to do as they please. So, just what will they do?
With thanks to Joy and Fabi for the beta, as ever.
A sense of calm has descended on Annwn. It's early summer; it's warm, dry and peaceful. The news from the galaxy is good. Encouraging, even.
Anubis is no more. Yu did as advertised, rallied the troops, got Svarog and Olokun on his side and attacked in an all-out battle. Olokun was killed (note, there were no tears shed when we heard that), Yu and Svarog lost many ships, but in the end, they got the sneaky, snaky bastard.
So it's pretty quiet out there for now. Yu and Svarog are licking their wounds. Before they get too much of a chance to recover, however, they'll both hear that the other one has designs on their territory and position. Hopefully that will push them into total war. Of course, it will leave one in charge, but whichever one it is, he'll be severely weakened.
Our work over the last year, combined with the missions from the SGC and the Tok'ra, has reduced the minor Goa'uld to nothing more than bit-players. For now, none of them have the power or the chance at enough power to become a System Lord. The Jaffa rebellion is also making inroads. One by one, the minor snakes are being taken out. And no Jaffa in the rebellion is allowing his symbiote to be implanted on reaching maturity.
We're not sure what's going to happen in the future, though. With no apparent queens left, the Jaffa will die out. Including Teal'c and Rya'c. We need to find a way around that. We have seven years tops. Less than that, really. The sooner we find a solution, the more of our allies we can save. That way there will be less likelihood that a Goa'uld queen will turn up from the symbiotes of the many thousands of Jaffa that there still are because if we don't find a cure, the Jaffa will be less inclined to kill their larvae in order to find another Goa'uld queen so that they themselves can survive.
We're taking it easy for now, though. Licking our own wounds, if you like. We scoured the planet and found supplies of various kinds. The olive trees further south seem to be almost ready to harvest. Olive harvests on Earth usually take place in the fall, but here, things are a little different. We landed near them and checked them out. They look like olives, the chemical signature that Sam read on the scanner is the same. I crushed one between my fingers and determined that there was definitely the chance that they'd make oil and we've also found out they're not poisonous.
We've discovered fruits and vegetables that grow wild, planted all of the seeds we can... In fact our garden is really taking shape. All in all, the food front looks good. We shouldn't run low on lube, either.
I'm going to build an olive press. I have diagrams of the Roman presses in one of my books. If the design worked for them, it will work for us. I didn't have to build a boat for Jack, which is just as well. George bought an inflatable dinghy, big enough for the four of us to use. He even remembered the paddles. It was a bit of a surprise to see it come winging its way through the wormhole, but welcome nonetheless. Jack's out in the middle of the lake right now.
Teal'c is a man on a mission. He's been going through the woodland and chopping down every tree he deems suitable - thinning out the wood without destroying it. We've discovered that we can buy some tools and equipment from the house-builders if we take some more of our marble there. He wants a circular saw to make planks. Not sure why. He could use the laser-cutter. I think it's a 'man-thing'. Lasers are too easy and don't make any testosterone-inducing noises.
I don't care that Teal'c decries human males, he was just as enamoured with 'Tool Time' as Jack ever was. You only have to hear him wax lyrical about the multi-speed hammer drill he was given one Christmas to know that he's definitely no better than Jack on the power tool front.
Sam's happy. Not that we ever see her. When she's not in space, scanning the solar system for anomalies and other information, she's in the tunnels and working on her power converter so we can have electricity. Jack tried to stop her, to make her take a break, but to no avail. With no missions, she's free to do as she pleases, so she does.
We're all free to act as we want at the moment. Free spirits if you will. I've been pottering around the house, doing a bit of this and a bit of that. And when I'm not doing that, I'm reading.
I know that this is the calm before the storm, that we will get instructions to go do something again, but we've told them we want at least a month off, unless there's an emergency. We need to spend time in the good weather, just acclimatising to our planet. Strange as it may seem, we hadn't really done that. We'd moved here in an emergency and then the next thing we knew, we were in the thick of it again. Barring disaster, we're insisting that we have time off. Real time off.
We also found other supplies, including grapes and hops. Not to mention a whole load of clay, about fifty or so miles to our north. Jack says it's good stuff and we dug out what seemed like a ton of it. It now resides near his workshop and he's making jars for oil, wine and beer. George has promised to send us some starter kits for home-made wine and beer, so we'll have the basics to kick-start us. Of course, we're trying to be self-sufficient. We need to be.
If - when George retires, we'll have to fly back to Earth to pick up what we want. In the meantime, he's sending whatever we think of through the gate whenever he gets the chance. We're trying to stock up for the winter. That seems like a long way off, but we have to make sure that we have everything ready. Should we have a lot of missions nearer that time, it could mean that we wouldn't have time to get in enough food or chopped wood for the fire and stove. We might get snowed in, making it harder for us to find supplies.
Of course, having the ship makes life easier, but things go wrong, as we well know. Better to be oversupplied than undersupplied.
Our more tactical supplies are sorted out, too. Since the President has pardoned us, George has had a little more free rein to send us ammunition. The tunnels and the ship now have stocks of everything from bullets to crossbow bolts. We have plenty of gear to keep us safe on missions.
Sam has built the fourth 'invisibility cloak', so should we ever need to sneak in somewhere, we'll be fine. Unfortunately, we're still unable to cloak our noise, but she's working on that. We can't have everything, I guess. Knowledge of the cloak is being kept under wraps for the time being. Much as relations between the SGC and Pentagon have improved, they're not yet at the level where we feel safe in letting too much in the way of alien tech go back. The NID may well be 'done for', but we're sure that not all of the players in that particular scenario have been exposed.
Who knows what will happen there?
The location of Annwn is still a secret. Any supplies that are coming here are coming via other gates, sent or brought by SG-1, who visited us the other day. We heard more of the base gossip on that day than we'd heard in a year and it was good to catch up on the little things. Janet's going to visit us soon.
It's a pity that Cassie can't go through the gate, but we can't take the chance that a trip through it might trigger the bomb off. We don't think that it would happen, but we can't be sure. Maybe one day we'll be able to bring her here by ship.
In the meantime, I'm going to make the most of this sun. I'm doing nothing for once. Just lying in the sun and soaking up the rays. I couldn't tell you the last time I did this. Wonder how long it will be before I get bored?
Daniel called us to eat as the sun started to head towards the horizon. We have a few hours of daylight left, but it's definitely evening. We enjoyed our meal and now we're sitting outside, watching the sun slowly start to set, drinking wine from some pottery goblets that Jack made and saying little. The birds are singing their evening song and we feel totally at peace.
I've been really enjoying the last couple of weeks. Studying the solar system, generally taking things apart and putting them back together again... Not doing anything under pressure but for the pure enjoyment of learning something new. I've missed pure research; it wasn't something I had a great deal of time to do when I was in the Air Force.
Neither did I get the chance to have a decent relationship, one which I could totally concentrate on. Having Teal'c with me all the time is a blessing.
When we moved to Remoc, I was really happy for the guys. I hadn't known about their relationship, but I could so easily see how they'd been under a cloud until they got there. It wasn't until recently that I really appreciated the change, though. When we visited Earth, they had to 'behave' in public, unable to even hold each other's hands in view of those that don't know them. I mean, how ridiculous is that?
Then when we got back and they could be themselves again, I was able to look at my own relationship and see that if I'd been in one back on Earth, I wouldn't have been able to be open, either. Not because of the gender thing, but because of my job. If I hadn't been with Teal'c, I couldn't have been with any number of people at the SGC because of the various regulations, and I couldn't have seriously been with someone from outside the SGC because I couldn't have told him about my job.
Of course, marrying an alien would have been a no-no.
Did I just say 'marrying'? I guess I did. Teal'c's as near my husband as any guy ever has been - even if we don't have the ceremony to prove it. He calls me his wife; says that by the standards of his people, we are married. That's cool. I think I like that idea.
I wonder what the guys would do - whether they would have got married if they could have? Daniel and I had a brief chat about it; he said that there was a world of legal difference between the civil partnerships and true marriages, but he never said if he'd want to go through some sort of ceremony with Jack. Perhaps they don't need to.
They're lying together on the grass - Jack's propped up against the woodpile, his legs open, and Daniel's in-between them, resting against him. Jack's left hand is wrapped around Daniel's waist and his right hand is protectively holding his wine. Teal'c and I are mirroring them - he's propped up against the raised herb bed that Daniel built and I'm propped up against him.
One thing we're all doing is smiling. I don't think I ever saw Teal'c really smile back on Earth - come to think of it, I hardly ever saw Daniel smile, either; at least not the broad, 'I'm really happy' smile he seems to have these days. They both smile a lot now. Not sure if that's a good thing or unnerving!
"I wonder what we're going to be doing from now on?" Daniel says thoughtfully.
"I don't know. Perhaps we'll be sent to work on the minor snakes?" Jack replies.
They look at us and I can feel Teal'c shrug slightly.
"I don't know either," I say. "Maybe we'll get to explore again?"
"That would be acceptable," Teal'c announces. "If we are to meet new aliens, then perhaps we can find a 'cure' for the Jaffa's dependence on the symbiotes."
"Now that would be something worth looking for," Jack agrees.
Yeah - that would.
I think that Daniel's starting to get twitchy about our future plans. I get that.
It's been great doing nothing. I've been fishing a lot, and we've been using the smokehouse to preserve them. One of the types of fish tastes like smoked mackerel and Daniel made a delicious paté with it. It went well with the bread we got from the Land of Light when Teal'c visited Rya'c the other day.
The news on that front is that Rya'c's now leaving there and going to train with Bratac. I'm not sure if Teal'c's happy about that or not. Part of him would seem to be, but another part - the father side, I guess - is worried sick. Can't say I blame him. If Charlie had shown an interest in joining up, I wouldn't have been too happy. Sure, I'd have been proud that he wanted to follow in my footsteps, but I know what it's like, and how dangerous it is.
We've packed up and it's time for bed. Since we've been on downtime, we've really been on downtime. The urgency of our relationship has passed, we don't make out at every opportunity. It was dissipating over the last six months anyway, but now we've got to that lovely, comfortable stage that means we don't have to make out.
Not that we've stopped - of course not - first thing in the morning is a prime example. We're both still guys, both horny; we wake up, we grope, grind and sometimes get as far as a fuck. Talking of which...
"Yeah. You tired?"
"Not really. You?"
"Not really. I haven't done anything today, Jack. I don't think I could be tired."
And there's my cue!
"So... you want to do something to make you a bit more tired?"
He looks at me and grins.
"That might work. Have anything in mind?"
"I'm sure I can think of something."
I put my hand over towards him and he takes his own cue, moving until he lies on top of me. We stop talking now, but continue to tease, letting our hands roam over each other's bodies, our lips brushing over each other's skin. I call this our 'meet and greet' - a little exploration as if we don't already know each other like the back of our hands. We can keep this up for hours if we want to. I think that tonight we might well do that.
I was right, we've been at this for ages. I'm taking a break. I've just kissed every single inch of Daniel's body, reducing him to a puddle of goo. It's his turn to do that to me, now. I'm shuddering as his fingertips gently brush over my chest as his lips trail down my arm.
The inside of my arm is a particular hot spot and my already hard cock jumps when he licks the bend of my elbow and the inside of my wrist. It throbs when he takes each finger into his mouth, one at a time, and sucks and licks them, staring into my eyes as he does. I don't know why his stare makes an already electric situation more erotic, but it does - I guess the wicked smile that I see in his eyes just adds to it.
He backs off, knowing that if he doesn't, I'm going to come. I can see he both wants to come and let it last all night at the same time. I feel the same. So we take a moment, then he starts again on my other arm.
I have no idea how long this has been going on. It's dark outside. It wasn't quite dark when we got into bed, but now it's pitch-black. We've explored, kissed, sucked, licked... I nearly came when he licked my balls, then again when he took just the head of my cock into his mouth... um, and again when he stuck his tongue up my ass. To be fair, he nearly came when I did the same thing to him.
Oh fuck. I just yawned!
"Bored, Jack?" he asks, his voice teasing.
"Nah, just starting to get tired. How could I be bored with this?"
"Want to go to sleep?"
I look down at my cock, see it looking right back at me and say, "Not yet!"
He laughs out loud and rolls onto one side, pulling me to face him. We start kissing again and I feel his right hand drop and take a hold of my cock. Oh yeah, he's got his, too. All I have to do is lie here and let him work. Having said that, I'm kissing him back.
My one free hand is reaching for his chest and I up the ante, pinching the first nipple I find and twisting it. He gasps, then speeds up, jerking us harder and faster. I stop kissing him and move to his neck. Finding the spot, I bite at the same time I twist his nipple again. He moans, calls out, saying no real words but telling me in his own way that I'm doing just the right thing.
I bite his neck again and suck hard and that does it - I feel his cock pulse, feel him coming over me and it pushes me over the edge.
We lie there, panting hard, coming down off our incredible high. I reach for a cloth that we always keep on the side table and clean us up quickly, before the bed gets a wet spot the size of our lake.
"Wow, Daniel, that was incredible," I say to him in a whisper - I don't have the energy to speak louder. Oh, he didn't hear me. "Daniel?"
I look at him and see that his eyes are shut, his body is relaxed. He's out cold.
"I think we should visit the planets marked in lilac and silver," Daniel says as we eat our breakfast. "I doubt we're going to have too many big missions from now on, and while I'm loving having a break here, I think we'll get stale if we don't go out and do something soon."
We all look at him and then all nod.
"I agree, Daniel," I say. "We will not find a cure for my dependency on a symbiote by staying here and waiting to be sent somewhere."
O'Neill and Samantha murmur agreements, as well.
"I'll contact Jacob," O'Neill says. "Let him know what we're up to. Do you want to explore with MIB?"
"How about we tell them what we're doing and see what they want to do?" Samantha says. "Perhaps they can explore different planets so that we can cover more ground? We're on a time limit after all."
"Sure. Makes sense," Daniel agrees. "Why don't you call them over when you call up Jacob, Jack?"
O'Neill nods. "Okay. You guys clear up, I'll go call."
"Anything to get out of the washing up," Samantha teases.
"Gotta love being the boss," O'Neill says as he picks up a VCD from the shelf and exits with a wave.
We look at each other for a moment, then Daniel says, "Well, you heard the man. Let's get this cleared up. Sam, when we're done, we could do with some sort of list for the androids."
"I've already done that, Daniel."
"Yes. When we got the new gate details, I realised that I wanted to look into them, so as soon as we got this downtime I typed them all up into my gate program on my laptop. Each colour is marked out, so we can see who's what. I was thinking that you could help me, actually, Daniel."
"I have some mission details on the computer - don't worry, it's not one that leaves this planet and it's all encrypted. But I thought it might be a good idea to try to remember as much as we could, maybe to remind us not to visit some planets. You know, it's just a case of having information on the grounds that you never know when you're going to need it."
"That is an idea of merit, Samantha," I say. "I shall also assist you, if you wish."
"I was hoping you would, honey. I'm sure that there will be other planets that you've been to that we haven't. Maybe you can remember details about them? Even if it's something as trivial as who lives there, or what we can trade with them for. Any detail will help us draw up a better picture of what's going on in the galaxy."
"Daniel? What is amusing you?"
"Oh, it just struck me that we're going to be writing mission reports. Admittedly they'll be in note form, just enough details to remind us, I guess, but that's pretty much what we'll be doing. Jack's going to hate that."
"Indeed he will. But even he will see the benefit of this, will he not?"
"Oh sure, he always did see the benefit of mission reports. It's just that since we moved off Earth, one of the things he told me he didn't miss was writing them. Giving verbal reports has been enough for Jake, and because George hasn't wanted official records, they've been good enough for him too. We've done the main job we set out to do, and now he has to go back to writing them again."
We all see the amusement in that, and are still laughing when O'Neill returns to us, with MIB in tow.
"Kids? What's so funny?"
MIB have agreed to join us on our latest crusade. We've all agreed that our primary objective is discovering a way to eradicate the Jaffa dependency on symbiotes. Most likely, our initial find will be some sort of medicine or surgery, taking the place of the immune system. That way we will be able to keep the Jaffa that have already been implanted alive.
After that - or possibly alongside it - we'll look for a way to reverse the genetic engineering that turned humans into Jaffa and so stop future Jaffa being born into slavery. Teal'c's face was a picture when he realised that exploration, while fun in its own right, isn't our main objective. The fact that finding the 'cure' is our 'prime directive', and it's one we all agreed on without hesitation, has just been the icing on the cake.
Jack left a message for Jacob to come and visit us. He's a bit busy on the intel-gathering front at the moment. We won't go anywhere until we've told him what we're up to, just in case he needs us in a hurry.
We've decided to inform George of our decision to explore and the reasons behind it, but Jacob will have to be the messenger. MIB are wary about going back to the SGC, even though George gave us GDOs and permission to go back whenever we want. They're not convinced that the NID wouldn't try to take them, and maybe this time they'd get found out. If they do go back, we can't go back, or confusion would really reign. Which of us is the real team?
In the meantime, we're sitting around Sam's laptop. Frankie's doing the typing, given that her hands won't tire and that she can type accurately and a lot quicker than the rest of us. We're outside, on the grass, soaking up the sun. The androids love sunbathing even more than we do. The only difference is, their skin doesn't tan or burn.
What we're doing is just as we thought. Remembering co-ordinates and events on different planets. It's a giggle, actually.
Some of the memories aren't good, of course. We don't go into great detail, we just need 'red flags' to remind us of dangers or allies; the sort of information that was on the base computer back at the SGC. Sam's program numbers planets in the same way that the SGC computer does. Well, she wrote that program, too. It's the only program she has running on this computer - just as well we bought some more, really.
"P90-1XJ," Frankie says. "There's something familiar about that one."
"Let me look at the glyphs," DJ prompts. He remembers details like this a lot better than I do, which is a pain. Considering he's only remembering things that I know, it's annoying that he recalls them easier. "Oh yeah. I remember this one. Surely you remember it, Daniel?"
I look at the glyphs. Frankie's right, there's something familiar about them. "DJ?"
He looks at me and says, "How about some word association? If I say 'native', 'party', 'body paint' and 'George in orbit'?"
I look at the others and we all fall about laughing. I remember that mission. Remember is used in its loosest possible sense.
Only the film from the security video in the gate room told us what we actually looked like when we staggered through the gate after, what turned out to be, four days of partying. Apparently, we kept dialling up the SGC and telling George that we were in delicate negotiations. So delicate, that when we got back, we were wearing nothing more than our underwear and a lot of body paint, which had been put on us in many and varied patterns and colours.
George really did go orbital. He wiped the floor with Jack for letting us party, I got it for not reading the anthropological signs correctly, Sam got it for missing the technology that we'd been sent to investigate and even Teal'c got carpet burns because he should have known better. We spent a whole two weeks confined to base after that - no off-world missions.
It was only in the second year of us being a team. Not that long after I'd failed to bring Shau're back to the SGC when she was having the baby. That's why we got away with it. Even the confinement wasn't as harsh as it should have been; none of the punishments were. George knew how hard we'd all been hit. He should have removed Jack from his command for fucking up, but it didn't even appear in his record. And the Pentagon wondered why we'd walk through fire for the man.
Our laughter is stopped when we hear the alarm go off at the gate. A quick check on our VCD receiver tells us it's Jacob, so we relax again. We switch off the computer. As much as we trust Jacob, and - to a point - Selmac, we don't want to let them in on the whole plan.
They don't know about our enhanced gate 'phone book', and for now, we're not going to tell them. Just like they don't know about our telepathy. We don't trust Selmac not to tell the Tok'ra things we think they shouldn't yet know. And given their tendency to be absolutely crap at detecting spies, well, let's just say we're never likely to trust Selmac that far. If it was just Jacob, there wouldn't be a problem in telling him.
He joins us on the grass and we tell him our cover story.
"We've decided that in-between missions for you, Thor and George, that we'd go off and explore," Jack says.
"Our objective is to discover the means by which we can relieve the Jaffa of their dependency on symbiotes," I add. It won't hurt the Tok'ra to know that. Maybe they'll help.
Jacob thinks for a moment, then he shrugs. "I guess you've thought it through?"
"We sure have, Dad," Sam answers.
"Indeed. We wish to aid the Tok'ra by eliminating the support for the remaining Goa'uld," Teal'c adds. "If we can end the need for symbiotes, then we will be able to persuade more and more Jaffa over to our cause."
Jacob's head ducks and Selmac speaks.
"That makes sense. Would you require our assistance? Where would you look?"
"We'll look in places we haven't looked before," I say cryptically. "There are hundreds of gate systems we haven't visited. We haven't found any trace of the Furlings, after all. Maybe they'll be able to help. We just don't know unless we go look.
"I know that the SGC is starting to rebuild its science base, but I can't see purely science-based expeditions being authorised for a while. And I doubt very much whether the Pentagon would be much use in supporting our cause, so to speak. Only a few there have any clue as to what we do out here - what the SGC is supposed to do.
"As for your help - who knows? We don't. We haven't decided where to go, yet."
"What about backup?" Jacob asks. "Even though we haven't been able to provide effective backup for you so far, we've always known where you are. We knew when you should be back."
"Don't worry about it, Jake," Jack says. "We'll know where MIB are going, they'll know where we're going. We'll make arrangements to meet up after each one, set times for missions and so on. If one team disappears, we'll know where they're supposed to be, at least. We'll let you know if we find anything interesting after we debrief with each other. You can pass the information on to George."
"Will you tell me when you're going?"
I can see a problem here.
"Jake, if you're not available to tell directly..." My voice trails off as the others look at me. Knowing that they want more, I say, "I'm not being funny, Jake, but we have to be honest here. How many of the Tok'ra can you absolutely trust? You've had more spies in your camp than Soviet Russia ever did. I don't know about the others, but I'd rather nobody but you know about our absence from this place. I have no idea if that last spy you had even knew the address of Annwn or not. He could have told Anubis.
"Okay, Anubis is dead, but Yu isn't and neither is Svarog, or any number of lesser Goa'uld. This is why we have all the security systems in place. If someone were to tell Yu where we were, and that we'd gone away from the planet for a day or two, don't you think he'd sneak in and look to see if he could plant some spying device?"
"Why wouldn't he just wait here and kill us?" Sam asks.
"Because he could learn more if he watched," I shrug. I look at Jack and John and they both nod in agreement.
"What about setting up some sort of video surveillance?" Frankie muses. "We'll do it at the palace as well. If the gate powers up, it could trigger cameras to record who has come through."
"What if they come in a ship?"
"Motion sensors near the house," she shrugs. "We'd only need to switch them on when we leave our homes. Use the usual alarm system that we've already got to see who's coming, but wire it up to a recording device?"
"There is Goa'uld technology that would allow that easily," Jacob says. "Similar to the vo'cuum."
"Isn't that the thing that we saw the message from Apophis to those kids on?"
"Yes, Jack," Sam answers. "It would be a good idea."
"I'll do what I can to get you the equipment. I'm surprised you didn't think of this before, Daniel," he scolds.
"Why should it have been me?! Of all the people here, I am the last one that should have thought about tactics!"
Jack looks at me oddly, then he shrugs. "But you always think of the crap things, Daniel," he says, as if it's perfectly obvious. "God knows it's you that should have been called 'Cassandra'."
I glare at the others. That stops the sniggering pretty quickly. Well, except for John's sniggering. A raised eyebrow in DJ's direction gets him glaring at John, and soon he stops too.
Dad's gone. We've agreed not to go anywhere until we have a recording system up and running. It makes perfect sense.
Daniel's thinking about something, but I don't know what. He's just got up and he's wandered off to the house, DJ by his side. Obviously, they're trying to figure something out. We'll find out what it is when they get back, undoubtedly.
"So, are you going to look at the lilac stars and we check out the silver ones?" John asks, as I boot up the laptop again.
"Why don't we mix it up?" Jack replies. "Fresh eyes in similar situations and all that. Besides, there are plenty of other planets that the SGC haven't visited that come under the Ancients', neutral and Goa'uld colours. I'm thinking that we should also check out the Ancients' planets as a matter of urgency. They seem to be technologically advanced enough for us to reach our goal."
"That is true," Kar Shel points out. "But they are also on the list of planets that the SGC will one day visit. There is the danger of meeting up with an SG team if we were to do that."
We agree with him and decide to think on that a little more before taking action. In the meantime, we'll check out the planets John mentioned first.
"We've got it," Daniel says suddenly as he comes back, his hands full of multicoloured objects, and with DJ in tow also carrying some things.
"Got what? Is it infectious?"
"Jack! Hush. We've figured out a way to tell Jacob when we're due back without letting anyone else know."
"Oh? Okay, what have you got?"
"Right. These are just as an example," he says. "I think that we need to find something a little less obtrusive for the real thing, but we'll use colours."
"Yeah." He puts down some clothes. "Look, if we can't tell Jacob directly, he'll need to know when we're due to return, just in case he needs us in a hurry. If each colour represents a day, then by leaving something with a particular colour near to the gate, we can tell him the last planned day for us to be away. Um... we can always figure out a system to let him know where we are, too. I know, rocks."
"Rocks? You've got rocks on the brain," Jack mutters. Daniel pokes him in the arm for his trouble.
"Listen. We find a place near the gate. Jacob comes through if he wants us and goes first to the agreed spot. We'll keep it somewhere that he has to go to, not somewhere that can be seen directly. That way no one else will see it. Then we place a painted rock, or pebble, or whatever there. That will tell him the date. If we get... hmm... I know, two different types of pebble, in sufficient quantities, we can leave enough in piles to tell him the address."
"I don't get it, Daniel," Frankie says. I must admit, I agree.
"It's like when we went to see Thoth," he sighs, as if we really should get it. "We used one of the glyphs as a starting point to count from. Then each one was given a number. There are two rings on the DHD, right?"
We nod, not wishing to break his explanation or else we'll never understand him.
"So, if we get two different types of rock, one can represent the inner and the other can represent the outer ring. For an address that uses glyph four, seven and ten on the inner ring and three, eight and eleven on the outer, we leave six piles of pebbles. There will be two types, and each pile will represent each number. So three pebbles for glyph three."
I think I see what he's saying. Yes, if anyone else sees it, they'll know it's intentionally put there, but they couldn't know what it meant.
We're all silent for the moment and he watches as the light dawns on each of us.
"I think I get it," Jack finally says. "So, what colours do you want to use?"
Daniel puts down a yellow T-shirt and says, "Sunday." We nod. He's using colours we can associate with days where possible. "Monday," he says as he puts down a silver-grey one. Of course, the moon. "I'm torn between two colours for Tuesday," he says with a grin.
"Why is that?" Kar Shel asks.
"Well, Tuesday, in French, is Mardi. Basically 'Mars' Day'. So I was thinking 'red'. But since the quest, and based on the fact that Tuesday is named after Tiwaz..."
"Green," Jack, Teal'c and I say.
"Yeah," he grins.
I'm not surprised. That planet was so green that it just jumps out at us.
"Let's do the others and see what's left," Jack says. "We can choose later. What's Wednesday?"
"Wodin's day," Daniel says with a frown.
"More or less. Wodin, Odin, take your pick."
"Blue then. Grey-blue," Jack says with a shrug.
"Sure you don't want that for Thursday?" Daniel asks. "Thor's Day? Or Friday? Frejya's Day? Or was that Frig's Day? God knows there are enough of similar names. I can't remember offhand which was which."
"I see your point," Jack scowls. "What about Saturday?"
"Saturn's day. Orange?"
"That'll do," Jack agrees. "Close enough."
"Hang on, we have three definites," I say, "so we're left with four others. Make Tuesday red, Wednesday green, Thursday grey-blue and Friday purple."
"Why purple?" Jack asks.
"I like it."
"Fair enough. If we have reasons for some of the colours, the rest will be easy enough to commit to memory."
"You can do the same in the palace," Daniel says to the others. "Find cushions or something that belongs in the palace in those colours and place them where Jacob can see them when he goes there. Maybe you can use candles or something in place of pebbles?"
"We'll find something and work it out with him when he gets there. Right, what's the first glyph?" John asks. "We need to make sure we're talking about the same starting point."
"We used the one to the left of the point of origin," I say. "That's usually in the same place, isn't it?"
They nod, then we refine our ideas and Jack and John pick the first planets that we want to investigate. As soon as Dad comes back with the equipment and we're all secure, we'll go. Now all we need to do is find some paints.
I knew my pottery would come in handy. Rather than painting pebbles, I made small discs and painted them with glaze in the right colours. I made two of each colour, so MIB gets a set, too.
They were stuck for something in sufficient quantities for the glyphs, so I came up with a neat idea. There are candles at the palace, so I made them some candle holders - two sets, each set with a different base colour for the glaze. There are nineteen in each set, and each one has a mark on it that represents a glyph. One dot for number one, up to nineteen dots for the last one. All they have to do is pick six candle holders, put candles in them and leave them on a shelf near the gate, with the coloured disc next to them.
We can't do the same thing here, candles would just look weird and a definite set-up. So we found the little pebbles as Daniel suggested.
When Jacob came back, he was as confused as we were about the explanation, but he finally got it. We found somewhere to put the pebbles - another natural niche along the 'wall' from the DHD. It's out of sight of the gate, so won't be visible with a VCD. Of course, we had to agree what day we were actually starting from.
Today's Monday, as far as we're concerned. Annwn's day is similar to Earth's. Not precisely the same, but close enough. We've decided to re-calibrate our 'watches' every few months to make sure we're all on the same time. Sam took our watches and slowed them up slightly, so that they appear to be working on a twenty-four-hour system. Jake has one, too, and we'll get one each for MIB to make sure they're on the same time as us.
We've got the recording system set up and tomorrow, we're going to explore. We had a look through the gate before settling down to dinner and the planet looks uninhabited. Of course, we're not taking that as read. We're going in armed to the teeth.
Daniel's grinning. I knew that despite his enjoyment of the relaxation, he'd be itching to get back out in the field. I get that. I was getting a little bit bored, too. We're born explorers, I guess. Even though we come at it from different perspectives, we both like to learn new things. Not that I'd admit to that, of course. I have an image to maintain.
He's in bed and looking at me with a particular smile. I know what that smile means. Not taking his eyes off me, he's twisting his body and now he's lying face down - or rather, stomach down, face tilted to one side.
I smile back at him, reach for the cloth on the table and give it to him. He's smiling wider now and he puts it between him and the sheet. He loves the sensation of the rough cloth against his dick as I fuck him into the mattress. And, of course, it keeps the sheet clean. Forward planning is something I excel at, and if it gets Daniel off better, then that's a bonus we can both live with.
I still say nothing as I lube myself up. He says nothing as I plaster the inside of his ass with more lube, he just squeezes his eyes shut in pleasure and pushes his ass back to my hand. I see a small look of disappointment flash over his face as I stop fucking him with my fingers, followed by a look of anticipation as he knows I'll take their place pretty quickly. He loves being fingered - loves me sticking pretty much anything inside him. The slut.
I try not to laugh as I think of that, just get myself under control as I kneel between his legs. He lets out a moan as I push his ass cheeks apart, knowing that I'm not going to hang around, I'm just going to fuck him.
Oh yeah. I defy anyone to tell me that there's anything better than sliding into Daniel's willing ass. My stomach makes contact with his bare back, his head is still tilted and I can see his face. I'm holding myself up and he sees the muscles in my arm tensing with my weight. I know how much of a turn on it is for me when I see him do the same - see his strong arms holding him up, and I guess it's the same for him. He's swallowing hard. I'm not moving yet, I'm all the way inside him and all I can do is watch his face for cues as to how he's feeling. Finally, I get what I need.
He nods. Just slightly. He's adjusted to me, made the most of my presence and now he wants me to move, so I do.
I drop my arms so that the whole forearm lies on the bed. He's being held down by me, my body is pressing him into the mattress. I'm on my knees and using my whole body to slam into him. His eyes are shut again, he's almost totally silent. It doesn't mean that he's not enjoying it - it means the opposite, in fact. He's just concentrating on the sensations.
I've got a good rhythm going; not too fast, not too slow - the pressure just enough to make his body move every time I get all the way in. I feel him shudder as I brush over his prostate with each stroke and soon I get the inevitable.
He whispers it, letting me know he's getting close and can't take much more. I speed up, push harder, screw him into the bed. His ass raises a little, not so that his cock leaves the cloth but just enough for me to get that final bit further into him. That does it. I hear the grunt that tells me he's coming, feel the contraction of his muscles around my cock and he milks me, wringing every last drop of come out of me until I can no longer give him any more.
I pull out slowly and he frowns. He hates it when I do that. So do I. I flop onto the bed next to him and see a tired smile.
"Thank you," he mouths.
I lean close and kiss him slowly, loving it when I feel him smile against my lips. Then we break away and clean up, get under the covers and he rests his head on my chest. Time to sleep now, I think.
We are prepared to step through the gate. We have a mix of weaponry on us, as we do not know what we will need - if we will need anything. O'Neill insisted on taking his P90; Samantha has her hand gun. It is not a surprise that Daniel has a zat, he does not like to kill unless he absolutely has to. Needless to say, I am carrying my staff weapon.
We also have other weapons - O'Neill and I carry our crossbows and Daniel and Samantha their longbows. We have been practising in the meadow and we are all proficient. Daniel used to practise archery at one of his universities and was already most proficient before he came here. He has never fired directly at someone, however, so that may well be a disadvantage.
The planet was selected randomly from the list of silver and lilac gated worlds. O'Neill suggested that we have a maximum of forty-eight hours scheduled for each exploration. Should we determine that more work is necessary, then one of us could return to replace the coloured disc to let MIB and Jacob know.
Jacob also suggested that he leaves a 'message' of his own. O'Neill made him small pottery squares. A blue one means 'I came to see you and will see you when you get back, but there is no panic'. A red one means 'contact me immediately'. He made him two sets so that he can do the same for MIB. For MIB, he made a set of small triangles, one blue, one red, meaning the same things. We have a similar set to notify them. The more communication we have set up between us, the safer we will be.
We have sent another VCD through and we get the same picture that we did yesterday. There is no apparent path, no apparent settlement, just natural fields and a river nearby. O'Neill looks at us and nods. Together, we step through the gate.
As soon as the gate shuts down, we collect the VCDs and Daniel puts them in his pack. Then we look around and see what is behind the gate for the first time.
"To the Emerald City, as fast as lightning," O'Neill says quietly, after letting out a low whistle.
"I always knew you were a witch," Samantha mutters. "It's bright, isn't it?"
"Yeah," Daniel replies, unable to take his eyes off the sight in front of us. "Do you think it's real?"
"What do you mean, Daniel?" I ask.
"I don't know. It just looks too... well, it just doesn't look..."
Unfortunately, I do believe I understand him. The city, or town, or palace or whatever it is, is a few miles away. It is, as Samantha says, bright. It also seems to be shimmering as the sun reflects on it. The shimmering is making it look like it is disappearing from view.
"We have a choice. We go and investigate or we go home," O'Neill says.
"We came to look," Daniel points out.
"We did indeed, O'Neill," I add. "However, if you are sensing something that makes you feel nervous?"
"Um, no. But it's as Daniel said. There's something strange about it. Ah well, we won't find out what it is unless we go there. Just listen out for a cackling laugh, watch out for a yellow brick road and mind you don't tread on the Munchkins."
We have left the land of the comparatively sane and we're now in the realms of the totally loopy. There's something surreal about this place and it's not something that any of us can absolutely nail. It's like one of those vague ideas you get, remembering the answer to something, but every time you try to name it, it slips out of your mind.
We're heading towards the 'city'. We can't tell if it is a city, because every time we look at it, it looks different. It must be covered in coloured glass or jewels or something, as each angle we observe it from, the light reflects on it like a...
"It's a hologram. Or at least it looks like one."
They stop and look at it again. Sam keeps looking at it as she walks to one side. By the time she's gone a hundred yards, we hear, Daniel's right. It looks different here.
We see what it looks like to her in our minds and she jogs back.
"So, is it real?" Jack asks.
"I have no idea, Jack. All I can tell you is that I don't think we're seeing what's really there. Don't know about you, but I want to go see it for real."
"Um, why not?"
He looks at me as if he's trying to figure something out, then he shrugs. "Okay. It's not as if there's a game to get back for, is there?"
We pick up our pace and start to hurry towards it.
"I want to get there before nightfall," Jack says.
At which point, the sun sets. We stop dead.
"Okay - did that seem weird to any of you?" he asks.
"Totally," I agree.
"I'm with Daniel," Sam nods.
"As am I," adds Teal'c.
"Cool. It's not just me. I mean, that shouldn't be able to happen, should it?"
"Um, no," Sam says. "The sun has to set. You just can't go around turning it off like that."
As she says that, the sun comes back.
"Eclipse?" Jack squeaks.
"It would have to be an incredibly quick one," Sam answers - but her voice is nearly as squeaky as Jack's.
The crazy thing is, I don't feel like I'm in danger. I ask the others and they're feeling the same way. Confused, a bit in awe, a bit nuts possibly, but not in danger.
"So we go on?" I ask.
"Sure, why not?" Jack says. "I'd like to meet whoever's behind this... this... whatever it is."
Me too. We continue on and walk for a while. Now the city looks like a castle. A yellow castle. Not the green city it was. Or the pink town it was soon after. Or, come to think of it, the blue fortress it was soon after that. I'm half-expecting to see a gingerbread hut pop up next.
Um, guys - if you have anything serious to say, say it in our minds, I warn.
Why? It always has to be Jack that argues, doesn't it?
Well, Jack. The 'night' fell when you mentioned it, and the sun came back when Sam said it couldn't happen.
Ah. Got you. Any ideas as to what's going on yet?
Not a single one, Jack. Without some idea for the motivation of the whole set-up, I haven't got a clue as to what's happening. I need the why to work out the wherefore and the how. I think that Sam could do with a clue, too.
Jack mutters something about Sam always needing a clue. Unfortunately for him, he broadcast that to all four of us. She's now beating him up.
"So, Teal'c. What do you think of the scenery?" I ask, ignoring the shouts of 'uncle!' from behind us.
"It is most pleasant, Daniel. A sufficient path and enough trees to keep O'Neill annoyed."
"Hey! What's this? Pick on Jack day?"
Oh dear, my honey sounds put out.
"No, Jack. Every day is 'pick on Jack' day, you know that," I sigh. "Today is 'annoy the shit out of Jack until he screams' day. It is the first Tuesday in the month after all."
He looks at the three of us, then scowls. "Typical," he mutters.
Adventures in Wonderland; part, the second.
We've been walking for four hours. We're getting grumpy and tired. We're also no closer to the hologram or city or whatever it is than we were four hours ago.
"Hold it, kids," Jack calls when we reach a stream. "Time to eat."
Gratefully, we drop our gear and I collect some small fallen branches. I pile them up on the bank, near to the stream, get out our firelighter and start the fire.
"The stream! It just ran up and over the fire! Look at the wood! It's soaking. So am I for that matter."
"Ah, quit your whinin'. A wet T-shirt looks good on ya. Besides, it was probably just a small surge or a splash from a fish or something."
"Oh no, it was most definitely a surge. A deliberate one."
"Daniel, cut it out. Just light a fire or you get no coffee."
"No. You light the fire."
He gathers up some fresh twigs - I notice he piles them up a bit further from the stream than I did. He looks a little nervously at me, and we all stare at him. He flicks the lighter and...
"I said that," I say with a grin. "Quit your whining, O'Neill. Wet pants look really good on you."
"Okay. That stream most definitely did that on purpose. Can someone tell me how and why it did?"
"Fire prevention?" Sam suggests. "An automatic response?"
"What, to the slightest spark?" I turn and look at her in amazement, but then think that she's possibly right.
Wow. What would the various foresters on Earth give for a response like that? The first sign of a fire and nature takes over and puts it out. Daniel's scrunching up his face in that 'I've got an idea' way he has.
"Um, may we have permission to light a very small fire, please?" he calls out. "Just to heat up some water for us to drink. We'll make sure it doesn't go any further than right here and we'll also make sure it's totally out before we leave it. We promise."
He looks a little embarrassed, but he shrugs. "Can't hurt," he says. "If it's some sort of response, but not automatic, how is whoever is watching us to know we don't mean any harm? After all, we're carrying weapons.
"I get the feeling we're being watched. He or she doesn't know we only carry the weapons for self-defence and that we'd never usually attack anyone who didn't attack us first. So, by the same process, they wouldn't know that we would care enough about the forest to make sure that we didn't burn it down."
"Screwy as that sounds, it makes sense," Jack says. "Try it again."
With a huge sigh, Daniel picks up some more dry sticks from near the trees. This time we move a little further away from the trees and down the bank a bit. We're close to the water again - but this time it's deliberate. To show that we want to be able to put the fire out when we're done. With trepidation, he flicks the lighter. This time, it doesn't result in a drenching. He's able to get a small cooking fire up and running in seconds.
"Thank you!" he calls out. Then grins. "It never hurts to be polite."
In minutes, we have some water heating to make coffee and some food dished out.
"So, kids, what do you think now?" Jack asks.
"I think that whoever's behind this is basically benevolent," Daniel says quietly. "Whoever it is, I want to meet them soon."
We all agree with that assessment. Despite the weirdness, none of us are scared. And let's face it - I want to meet someone this nuts. It'll make a change.
As soon as dinner was done, Daniel picked up the remaining coffee and threw it on the fire. Then he rinsed out our mugs, deliberately filling each one with water from the stream and emptying it onto the remaining embers. To make triply sure, as soon as the last hissing had stopped, he dug some earth and covered it over.
"There. That should do it," he said. Then he shouted out, "I hope that's okay?"
We had no response, so we just hope it was.
Do you get the feeling that we're actually getting closer to the castle? I ask as we walk.
They look up at it and agree it definitely looks bigger.
Oh, I wonder...
We all try not to look at Daniel as he thinks in our direction, trying to keep our communication between us.
I wonder if we're being tested?
In what way?
Well - with the fire, we showed that we were no harm to the environment. At least, we're not going to burn down the forest. Maybe if we keep showing non-hostile intent, we'll get closer still?
Again, we all agree. It makes sense - in a screwy kind of way. Jack shows his own tender side by taking Daniel's hand in his. I see what he's doing and take Teal'c's in mine. As Daniel's right next to me, we also hold each other's hands. It might look a bit childish, but if we're holding hands, we're not holding weapons.
Although we all start to giggle when Jack starts whistling 'We're off to see the wizard'.
Um, guys? Can you hear voices?
Jack's words nearly make us stop in our tracks, but we manage to carry on.
No, Daniel replies. Teal'c and I concur.
I'm sure I can hear something, Jack insists.
Ah, it's not those voices again, is it? I tease.
Jack's mental voice is wry when he says, No. I lined my hat with tin foil this morning. Those voices never get through that. I'd have thought that you would know that, Sam.
We all have to smother a laugh at that.
But then we stop. I think I hear something, too. A quick look at Teal'c and Daniel and I know that they've heard something.
"Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they're not out to get you," Daniel mutters.
We look around. Teal'c and Jack look like they're about to get their weapons ready.
No! I say. Keep your hands off your weapons. Remember what Daniel said about non-threatening?
They make a conscious effort to not put a weapon in their hands. I can see that it's costing them both. Daniel looks at me and grins, rolling his eyes as he sees the same thing.
The voices stop, so we carry on towards the castle (we're calling it that now because it's the most consistent image), but we don't seem to be getting any closer to it. The sun seems to be genuinely setting now, too.
Should we make camp? I ask.
Probably would be a good idea, Jack agrees. Just don't mention anything about night. As soon as you see somewhere suitable, just stop walking.
We keep going for a while until we find a large clearing near the stream, which seems to have been following us. I know that sounds like a screwy thing to say, but it has. Every time we turned away from it, we heard the noise of the water recede into the background for a moment, then get louder again. Of course, it could just be a coincidence, but given everything else that's been going on, I don't think it is.
Daniel called out and asked permission to light a larger fire as soon as we stopped. We're well away from anything that would catch and burn, and the water didn't put the fire out, so we are taking it that we've been granted said permission. He wanted to find some rocks to surround it, as a safety feature, and as soon as he mentioned it, I saw a pile of rocks which were so not there before. We're still under the impression that we're on some sort of trial.
I should be anxious. I should be wanting to get my kids out of here. It's an unknown situation. We don't have to be here. Whoever is watching us is obviously technologically advanced and quite possibly powerful. However, my trouble radar isn't going off, neither is Daniel's or the others'. Teal'c is relaxed. When the big guy relaxes, my own guard drops a bit. He's highly instinctual when trouble is about.
So, we're all sitting around the fire, discussing some stuff aloud, other stuff telepathically. The food's been eaten, the coffee's been drunk and now we're just enjoying the firelight in the dark.
"We should put the fire out before we go to bed, Jack," Daniel reminds us.
That's not such a bad idea. We don't want a sudden soaking just because the stream decides to put it out for us. It's pretty warm here, anyway.
"Sure, Daniel. Teal'c, put up the perimeter alarms, will ya?"
"Do you think that they will be effective, O'Neill?"
"I sure hope so. We'll take watches, anyway."
"There will be no need for that," Teal'c replies. "I am in no need to kel'no'reem any deeper than a light meditation. An entire night of that will give me more than sufficient energy for tomorrow. You well know that I remain alert during this form of meditation."
"If you're sure, Teal'c. But if you get tired, give me a shout."
We've only brought the big tent. Daniel and I never make out on this sort of mission (it's different when we're in space on the ship for days on end. We need exercise then, after all), and neither do the others, so sharing is kinda natural. When it's cold, Sam shares a joined-up-sleeping-bag-combo with us. When it's warm, like now, we all sleep on top of them.
Sam usually ends up in Daniel's arms at some point, no matter how we sleep. I should get jealous, so should Teal'c. We don't though. I never end up in Teal'c's arms, needless to say. Somehow I don't think the T man would like that - and Daniel probably would get jealous if I did. With Sam, he wouldn't, but with Teal'c... Let's just say that dildo he bought in Minnesota has a lot to answer for.
Youch. I shouldn't have thought of that. My dick has an automatic response to it. Don't know why. I never was one for toys and things - guess I never saw the need for them. If I've got a partner, then I've got someone to 'play' with. If I haven't, when I hadn't, I tended to not think of sex if I could. It was too damned depressing if I did.
Besides, too much masturbation and your right hand develops a Pavlovian reaction. First thought of sex and it heads directly for your groin. Pretty embarrassing if you're in a meeting with a general.
Daniel is ready to lie down. Sam's on one side of the laid out bags, I'm on the other.
"Woo hoo, I get to be the filling in the sandwich," he says with a grin.
"You always get to be that particular filling," I moan.
"Want to swap?"
"Nah, it's okay. You moan louder if you get cold."
"Guys, shut up!"
He's laying down now, on his back. I'm waiting for him to say or do something. Daniel always seems to have the last word.
"Ah well, guess we should get some sleep. Night Teal'c!"
Sam and I call that out to him too, and we get a 'Goodnight' from him. Then Daniel turns and gives me a kiss.
"Yeah, night, Daniel."
Then he turns to Sam and gathers her up in his arms.
"Daniel?" she squeaks.
"Saves time," he mutters, planting a kiss on her cheek. "Night, hun."
She giggles a little as she wishes him goodnight. If I hear 'Goodnight John Boy', I'm going home.
I now hear three sets of quiet snoring from the tent. They are all able to sleep quickly on missions. Unlike on Annwn. Samantha is like Daniel. Her mind works too hard and she cannot settle easily. I must admit that taking her mind off physics is usually most pleasurable.
As I did earlier in the day, I am sensing that someone is watching me. My instinct is to cry out, or order whoever it is to show themselves, but I remember Daniel's warning. I must show myself to be no threat. This is not easy. I have nearly a hundred years of training to be a threat.
"Please come out and speak to me," I say. "I mean you no harm. We mean you no harm. We are but explorers."
I stop speaking and wait. There is no reaction to me, but soon I feel that the eyes are no longer watching me. I will listen intently as I meditate. The state of mind I put myself into leaves me highly alert to disturbances.
"Well that was weird."
I turn to see O'Neill emerge from the tent as daylight breaks.
"I'll say," adds Samantha.
"Whoo ya," agrees Daniel. "What about for you, Teal'c?"
"I am unsure as to what you are concerned with," I say. "I spent the night in light meditation, as you know, and I heard nothing unusual. At first I thought I was being watched, but that soon went. The rest of the night was spent extremely quietly. What was so weird, O'Neill?"
"Um, my dreams. They were really... real."
Samantha and Daniel nod. I get up and make a fire, knowing that coffee is the only solution at this moment. Only after I light it, do I realise that I have not asked permission. I did not get wet.
"Thank you," I say. "We will, of course, put the fire out before we leave."
The others do not even look at me as I speak, as if speaking to no one is normal now.
"What did you dream of?" I ask as we sit around the fire, eating our breakfast and drinking our choice of beverage.
"Kind of like my life flashing in front of me," O'Neill replies. "In technicolour, widescreen, surround-sound, the whole megillah."
"Same here," Daniel says with a nod. Samantha also says the same thing. I am most concerned. All three have terrible memories as well as good ones.
"Did the images linger on particular moments?" I ask.
"Uh, yeah," Daniel says, looking into his coffee. "Kind of the major ones, you know?"
"Were you once again forced to relive the death of your parents?" I enquire softly.
He says nothing, but he nods. Samantha is closest to him and I see her put down her coffee and engulf him in her arms. I approve.
"My mom dying," she informs me. Daniel is now holding her so close that she is almost sitting on his lap. One of his arms reaches out towards O'Neill. I have no need to ask O'Neill what image stayed longest for him, it is written over his face. Samantha has left Daniel and is now in my arms. O'Neill and Daniel are holding each other. No words are being spoken. None are needed.
"Did you see good times?" I ask after a few minutes' silence.
I see a grateful smile on Daniel's face. "Oh yeah. I kinda relived the moment Jack and I got together. Um, sorry about that, Sam." He is blushing.
"That's okay," she replies. "I was thinking of Teal'c at the time."
She is also blushing. Now she looks into my eyes. "We didn't do anything, honestly!"
"I believe you. You also know that if something happens between you when you are under some sort of alien influence, I will not even need to forgive you as there will be nothing to forgive."
"Thank you, sweetie," she sighs. I hold her closer.
"You think we were under alien influence?" O'Neill asks, moving to sit back on his own.
"It would be the most likely scenario," I reply. "Given that you are not prone to dream in this manner, and all three of you were affected."
"Did you meditate in any different way to normal, Teal'c?" Daniel asks me. "I mean, I know that when you're in deep kel'no'reem, you use images to help you. Did that happen this time?"
"No. In light kel'no'reem, I use the sounds and sensations around me. I feel the air on my skin, hear things more sharply, and so on. By concentrating on my senses, I forget everything else and it helps me relax."
"Okay. Which could explain why you weren't affected by that. I wonder why we went through it?" Daniel ruminates.
"To see what we're like?" O'Neill suggests. "I mean, how better than by our actions to see if we're mass murderers or other evil beasties?"
"Good point," Samantha agrees. "Let's just hope that our dreams didn't get taken out of context."
"What do you mean, Samantha?"
"Well, we've been in a lot of dangerous situations. Battles and so on. Without knowing the political context or the reasons for us being in those fights, we might be seen as belligerent."
"Do you think it's worth us continuing?" Daniel asks quietly.
He turns to O'Neill and answers, "Because if it's as Sam says, and this... being now sees what we've done and doesn't understand why we've done it, there's no way it will spend any more time and effort checking us out. I wouldn't want to meet me if all I'd seen was my most vivid memories."
We are silent again, then O'Neill speaks.
"Daniel, remember how Thoth described you?"
Daniel's face reflects his confused nature.
"He told you to continue on your gentle path, remember? He saw into your soul. He knew, Daniel. He understood. Let's give whoever this is a chance to learn more about us, shall we? When it gets to know you, we'll meet up, I'm sure."
Daniel lets out a hollow laugh. "You're biased," he accuses.
"Maybe," O'Neill shrugs. "But I know you, too. Come on. If we don't get where we're going by lunchtime, we'll head on back to the gate. We'll need to get back to let the others know we're safe anyway."
We've cleared up and we're walking towards the castle again. I don't think it's going to be worth our while, to be honest. I mean, the memories I had...
Sure, the one of my parents probably won't be blamed on me, but there was the one of Shau're being killed by Teal'c. Unless whoever it was could see that Amaunet was trying to kill me at the time, it's going to look like Teal'c murdered her. I guess we're just lucky that Teal'c's memories weren't plundered. The things he's seen make ours pale into insignificance.
Jack's caught hold of my hand again. He's offering me support, but allowing me at the same time to give him unspoken support back. He doesn't want me to mention Charlie and I know it. So, by the same path of logic, I can't give him overt support for that time being dragged up again. All I can do is keep hold of him firmly, to let him know I'm not going anywhere.
We've turned a corner and now we're clambering over a pile of rocks. The castle seems to be really close now. Maybe we did pass the test. Who knows? We still haven't seen hide nor hair of the occupants.
"It's pretty," Sam says as we scramble down the other side.
"It sure is, Sam. Do you think that's the real thing yet?"
"I have no idea." She's silent for a moment, thinking obviously. Then she says, "I'd really like to see this place as it is supposed to look. Wouldn't you?"
We all agree with her vociferously and continue to walk. Before we've gone ten paces, it's changed again. This time it's the real thing. Solid. Tangible. And very alien.
It's silver. Not only is it silver, it's like silver glass. There don't appear to be any sharp edges. It's large, seems to be sticking out of the side of a mountain, something like one of those castles that appear out of the rocks down the side of the Rhine. But it looks nothing like a German castle.
There isn't a single shape. Or rather, there are many shapes, but no one single one. Every multidimensional shape seems to be represented. Pyramids, cubes, cylinders, spheres... a geodesic dome sits on top. The whole thing is strange as no edge is represented, but seems to be smooth, kind of like when you get a cube of wood and rout the edges down so that they're rounded off. It makes it hard to see where they are.
"Um, wow," Sam says in awe. Three 'dittos' soon follow.
"I wonder how we get there?"
They all turn to me as I say that with as much confusion on their faces. There doesn't appear to be a road or path up to it.
"Perhaps we're not supposed to?" Sam suggests.
"Then how..." Jack starts, but he stops soon after and sits down on the nearest rock. I shrug and sit next to him. The others look at us and then join us.
We say nothing for a moment, then Jack calls out, "I think it's time we met up, don't you?"
Nothing happens, so he continues. "Ah come on! You must know we don't mean you any harm, don't ya? If you don't, we'll just go. I mean, there's no point in wasting our time here."
Still nothing. I try.
"We came here to talk," I say. "We want to find out about you. Talk about your history. Who you are, where you came from. We'll tell you the same about us. I know you've seen into our dreams, but you can't know about us from them. How can you know what drives us? How can you understand why we continue to explore if you don't talk to us? Please. We won't hurt you."
Put your weapons on the floor, guys, I suggest. Perhaps that's the last thing we need to do?
I don't have to look at the guys to know that they're not happy with my suggestion, but at least they're doing it. If Jack's wanting a second opinion, he's doing it telepathically and not letting me in on it. Still, he's doing what I say. We all are.
With our weapons on the floor, we wait. This time, we're answered.
A silver-grey humanoid has just appeared in front of us. I felt Teal'c twitch as if he wanted to reach for his staff weapon. I put my hand on his knee and he relaxed a little, but not much. I guess Daniel did the same with Jack. Neither man is known for letting their guard down and Daniel has a hard time keeping Jack in check sometimes.
He (I assume it's a he, I could be wrong) is about six foot six, so even taller than Teal'c. Daniel has stood up to greet him, but he quickly warned the rest of us to stay put. I guess that's so we don't look too threatening. Anyway, the alien is in clothing which is like the castle. It's seamless, in a silvery colour. I can't see how he puts it on. There are trouser-like clothes on his legs, but they flow like a skirt. His top covers his arms and body and his head has a scarf or large hood covering it. His eyes are as grey as his body and the clothes.
"Hi. I'm Daniel," Daniel says. "But I guess you already know that. If, er, if you don't, these are Teal'c, Sam and Jack," he introduces us in turn. "We came through the gate to meet people. Some we hope will become allies in our fight against the Goa'uld. Others we just hope will be our friends. If you want us to leave you alone, just say. We will."
He stays silent and waits for a reply.
Finally, the alien speaks. "My name is Godam."
"Hello Godam, we're pleased to meet you. Uh, what is the name of your species? We call ourselves human. At least we do - Teal'c is a Jaffa. A kind of altered human."
"We call ourselves the Asse."
Jack! Shut up!
Both Teal'c and I hear that and we have to fight down a laugh.
Daniel persuades Godam to sit down with him and then they start to exchange information. Daniel's doing all the talking for us, as usual. The three of us look at each other, then at him, then at each other again and grin. It's going to be a long day.
After a few hours of talking, Jack went to pull some food out of his pack. Godam jumped as if he was about to disappear. Jack put his hands up in the air and said that he was only wanting the food. It took a few minutes for Daniel to calm Godam down, but he eventually did.
Jack let him look in the bag and find the food himself. He sniffed it suspiciously, then invited us to the castle. Of course, he insisted that we leave our weapons behind. I could see the pain on Jack's face for that, but Daniel's own face was pleading.
I don't know if they were battling telepathically, but eventually, Jack said, "We will need to pick them up on the way home. Whereas I'm sure you will be no threat to us, there are other, much more dangerous aliens out there. I have to be armed to keep my people safe. You understand?"
Godam nodded, then said that we would be reunited with them when we left. It was as good as we could hope for, I guess.
Anyway, in the blink of an eye, we found ourselves inside the castle or whatever it is. I have no idea how we got in there. We didn't get the same sensation we get when gating anywhere or transporting with the rings. Not even the Asgard transport system leaves us totally sensation-less.
The first thing we notice is the very disorientating fact that all of the surfaces are like the ones outside. No sharp edges anywhere, so you can't tell where the floor stops and the walls start. The second thing we notice is that there are other Asse here, but they're even shyer than Godam. Only Godam is speaking to us at all, and he's only really speaking to Daniel.
Daniel's using his friendliest, most harmless face and voice as he does speak, trying to keep his hand movements down to a minimum. Which is a job and a half for him, as he speaks with his hands as much as an ASL speaker does.
We've been led to a long hall, at a guess it's the one which looked like a pentagonal tube on its side from the outside. The walls are the same shape on the inside. I'm getting a headache, I think.
They offered us food. We were a bit wary, especially after my experience with the Asgard, but it turned out to be the most delicious fruit. A few of the more courageous Asse joined us on some cushions on the floor, though they left Godam to speak for them. I think they're telepathic. I wonder if they know we are? Godam hasn't brought the subject up, so I don't suppose it bothers them.
Finally, I think we get to the point. Daniel's found out a lot about them, but little of it is of much interest to the three of us.
"What is it you require of us?" Godam asks.
"Well, like I said, we have different reasons for visiting each planet. Depending on the people we find, we would hope to find different things. We want friends, first and foremost. We've already exchanged some information about each other, and we could do more of that. If you were the sort of people to have weapons we could trade for, we could use them to protect our home planets against attack by the Goa'uld.
"But if you have genetic or medical information, then perhaps you could help us in our greatest hope."
"What would that be, Daniel?" asks Godam gently.
"We need to find a way to help the Jaffa. They are forced to carry a Goa'uld symbiote or they will die. In exchange, they are compelled to fight on the Goa'uld's behalf. In effect, they are slaves. We wish to end this dependency to free them from slavery. If we can do that, the remaining Goa'uld will have no armies, so there can be no more wars.
"The Goa'uld queens seem to be dying off and there are fewer larval symbiotes to replace the mature ones. The children of the Jaffa won't be getting their first symbiote soon, and they'll die. In the next seven years, the Jaffa as a whole will die out."
"But apart from your friend here, and a few others you have mentioned, the Jaffa are your enemy?"
"No. They are not our enemy. We have never had a quarrel with a people forced to fight us. Yes, we fight them when we have to, but we don't think of them as our enemy and haven't since we met Teal'c and understood their position. We want to help them. To free them. If you have experience in this matter, we ask that you help us."
"You would not prefer us to channel our efforts into actively pursuing the Goa'uld?"
Daniel looks over at Teal'c and smiles. "No, Godam. You are not fighters. You are technologically advanced, but I can't see how your physical technology would aid us. Neither would I ask you to abandon your nature and enter a war that is not of your making. But. If you do have the means to help us with the Jaffa, then please, help us."
"What would you offer in return?"
"I don't know," he answers honestly. "We do not live on our home planets, we work independently of them for reasons I'm not going to go into right now. Frankly, they're long, convoluted and quite boring. Not to mention they're no longer totally relevant. So we only have ourselves. We will give you our stargate address if you want.
"If you have need of us at any time, you can call on us. If we are not there then leave us a message. Um, I know, a piece of your fabric. It's unique. We'll know it's from you. If we see it there we'll come as soon as we can and help you in whatever way we are able."
"So you offer us friendship?"
"True friendship, Godam. We will help you even if you can't help us."
He smiles at the alien as he says, "Surely it is better to have friends than acquaintances or worse - enemies? Even if we never need to call on each other, wouldn't it be pleasant to meet up just to catch up on news and information?"
Godam remains silent for a moment, then he says, "We will need to scan the Jaffa Teal'c. With that information, we will attempt to see what has been done."
"Thank you. You'd better scan me too."
"Why is that, Daniel?"
"Because the Jaffa were once human. The Goa'uld genetically altered them. If you use me as a baseline, then you can see the differences."
"That is a good idea. Come with us, please."
Okay, for the record, I'm not exactly pleased with the idea of Daniel and Teal'c being prodded and probed. Not even in the name of science. However, Daniel growled at me when he saw my reaction and he told me that he'd rather have me as the conscious and/or free-to-move person, as I'm better at defending him that he is of me. I could argue that point, but I do know what he means.
I doubt that the Asse will attack them. They haven't shown any aggressive tendencies at all. If anything, they're really shy and nervous. Let's just hope that they can do something for the Jaffa.
Both men are lying on beds next to each other. We're in some kind of infirmary, I guess. They've been told to lie still and they're doing their best to comply as they are scanned by a hand-held device. Sam and I are watching carefully - both our other halves and the surrounding aliens. They're not harming them, no probing, thank God. I am the only one that gets to probe Daniel under any circumstances.
Eventually, they're done. Godam speaks on behalf of the scientists.
"We are not sure if there is anything that we can do. Your physiology is distinctly different from ours. However, we now understand what your differences are - at least between the two of you. This may well help us devise a treatment."
"Thank you," Teal'c says, his low voice making the Asse jump. "Your efforts, no matter what the outcome, are most appreciated. I am indebted to you. As Daniel said before, call us and we will come to your assistance should you ever require us."
"Thank you," Godam answers, in a way that really makes me a little nervous. "Now, it is time for you to depart."
"Uh, Godam, don't forget..."
"Your weapons. I have not forgotten. Please, come with me."
We follow him out of the infirmary or lab or whatever it is, and back down the corridor to where we came in. I guess we'll be returned to where we were taken from.
Or not. We're at the gate. At least our weapons are there, too. I guess they moved them the same way they moved us.
"Thank you, Godam," Daniel says. "You can watch me dial up our address. Will you remember it from that?"
"Good. If you come through our gate and we don't respond to you in a few minutes, look for a little hole in the wall of the gully that the gate stands in. It will have some pebbles in it so you'll know that's where you need to leave your message."
"Why just a piece of cloth?"
"It's enough for us to know you need us and not enough to tell anyone else who you are."
Godam nods. "I see. I hope that I will have good news for you one day. As I said before, I cannot promise that we will manage to solve your problem, but I can promise we will try."
"That's all we can ask of anyone, and we are grateful."
An uneasy silence descends, as if they've run out of polite things to say. So I help out.
"Time to go, Daniel. Dial us out of here."
Daniel goes directly to the DHD and Godam watches him carefully. Then the gate engages, we pick up our stuff and with a wave to the alien, we step through it.
"So, Daniel," says O'Neill as we walk through the gate and stop at the niche to check if there is a message. "What exactly did you learn from the Asses?"
"The Asse, Jack. It's a plural noun."
O'Neill knows this, of course. I often wonder why he insists on deliberately making a mistake.
The niche is as we left it, so O'Neill picks up the coloured disc, Daniel places the pebbles into the pots he had placed at the back of the niche, and we head home.
"Asse, Asses, whatever. What did you learn?"
"You didn't listen?" Daniel sounds surprised and put out. I have no idea why.
"Daniel, you were talking anthropological stuff. You know how boring that is."
"Like military stuff you mean?"
"Precisely." Then O'Neill looks strangely at Daniel. "What?"
Samantha feels that it is time to step in. "Guys. It's getting late. Why don't we make some food, sit around the table and then discuss it? Then you can annoy the crap out of each other when you go to bed and you can leave Teal'c and me out of it."
Daniel looks amused, O'Neill looks annoyed and I look grateful. I always know when to thank my woman.
Daniel hurriedly made dinner and I accompanied Samantha as she got her laptop, to give me the opportunity to check that the recording system had not picked up on anything. It had not, and after switching it off, we have returned to the kitchen to eat. Or rather O'Neill and I are eating. Samantha is eating and typing as Daniel tells us what he learned.
Samantha has explained the program to me. Next to the address we have a link for information. That now contains the name of the species, the name of our contact, a few trigger words to remind us what to expect there and what they are doing for us. I have no doubt that Daniel will be making much more detailed notes on his own computer later - or tomorrow, depending on how quickly O'Neill gets him into bed.
"The Asse have never been aligned," he says. "And they've never really explored. They're very nervous about meeting others. The Ancients arrived there a long time ago and placed the gate on the planet. But because the Asse don't really trust outsiders, they agreed to leave them off the list of 'visitable' addresses.
"Over the centuries, they became a little more curious about the rest of the galaxy. They used a list of gate addresses that the Ancients had given them and visited one planet, but they arrived on a Goa'uld-held base. Only one of them survived the experience. It's why they developed their technologies for hiding their home. They've managed to adapt their environment to react to their needs at any given moment. Real control over nature, including the weather. I guess we should feel lucky they didn't get too scared by us."
"Why?" Samantha asks, as she continues to eat and type.
"Think about it. Oma could control the weather, and look what happened to Apophis' ships."
"Oh yeah. I guess they could have fried us easily, if they'd wanted to."
"Or frozen us, or baked us..." he agrees.
"Ouch," O'Neill interrupts while grinning. "I think you're right. You made a good call on that planet, Daniel. I hate putting down my weapons but as you have proved to me more than once, sometimes it's the best thing."
"It's just not easy, eh?" Daniel prompts.
"Oh no. Especially not when putting them down could put you guys in danger."
I agree with O'Neill. It is not something that I am comfortable with.
"So why the holograms?" Samantha asks. I do believe that she paid about as much attention to Godam as O'Neill. I do know that she was particularly interested in the technology around her, so perhaps her lack of attention can be forgiven.
"I think it's not really part of the hiding as much as trying to confuse," Daniel says. "By not letting us see them as they were, we had no idea who they could be. The change of the planetary layout... I mean, remember the moving stream?"
"Well, that change, along with the change in the building and the fact that it seemed to be retreating as we walked towards it, might well put the less inquisitive off. If you were an invading force, you'd need to have a specific target, wouldn't you? If that target is a moving target then you might just give up and go away."
"That's a Nox-type thing to do," O'Neill says. "If you can't see it, you can't hurt it."
"For Nox read ostrich," Daniel mutters.
O'Neill smiles and then he says, "Well. I call this mission a result. We went, we said hi, we made friends, we came home unscathed. And we might get some help on the Jaffa front. Let's hope all the future missions go the same way."
Daniel raises his drink in salute, as does Samantha. I nod in agreement. Somehow, I doubt it will be that easy.
"So, you okay?" Jack asks as we get into bed.
"Jack? Like you said, the mission was a peaceful success. What's not to enjoy?"
"Oh... I dunno. The dreams, maybe?"
Ah, I see. He's bothered by them so he thinks I should be bothered by them.
"Jack, are you okay?"
He's silent for a moment then he shrugs. "It's not as if I don't think of him every day, is it?"
I shake my head. He knows I feel the same way. I think I know what to do. It's time to make him forget.
Actually, I think I'll make him forget how to think.
"Jack, do you trust me?"
"Dumb question. Didn't I show you that today?"
"Hmm. You did. And I thank you for that. But this is a little different."
"Oh? What do you want me to do, Daniel?"
"You are to do nothing except enjoy yourself, Jack."
"I think I can do that."
Okay, that's the initial stage over, now he gets to find out exactly what I want.
I've lifted his hands and he's feeling the bandana that I'm tying them together with.
"Jack, please. Let me. I won't hurt you."
"I know that, Daniel. But I don't get anything out of this."
"Jack, trust me. You will. If you don't, we'll never do it again, I promise."
I see him trying to make a decision, but finally, he nods sharply. I smile at him and lean down and kiss him, taking his mind off the fact that I'm now attaching his hands to the hook on the wall.
He loved it when we spent half the night kissing before finally making out and I'm going to start out as if we're going to do the same. He's kissing me back, as far as his hands will allow him anyway.
"Jack, just lie back and let me do everything."
He's a control freak, which is the main problem. I just need him to give me control tonight. It's either that or he's going to have a nightmare and I know it.
I get another bandana and tie it around his eyes.
"Use your other senses, Jack. Listen for my actions. Use your sense of smell, of touch. Remember what Teal'c said about how he uses his light meditation to increase his sensory abilities. This will help you do the same. I promise it will get better, you'll feel better."
He's saying nothing, probably doing the mental equivalent of battening down the hatches and letting me get on with it. I'll change his mind.
I've got some oil and I'm massaging it into him, rubbing my hands over his chest, his shoulders... working it into his biceps. I think I'm getting through to him already. His cock, which was limp when I tied him up, is now waking up and starting to thicken. Looks tasty.
I work down his chest, pouring more oil onto his skin and using every single trick I know to get him worked up. His thighs are just begging me to work on them, so I do, bringing my face down near his cock so that he feels my hot breath on it. I lick a stripe up from behind his balls and up to the tip of his cock. He cries out and his dick jumps so hard, it smacks me on the chin.
My oily hands lift his thighs, and I work the back of them, massaging deeply in just the way he loves. His legs move apart voluntarily and I see my goal. I push his legs up and push my tongue inside him. He shudders violently and moans louder and louder.
I keep going. All I want to do is make him feel good. But I don't want him to come yet, and I pull back, changing my tack and taking first one ball, then the other into my mouth, rolling them around and sucking gently. Jack's totally incoherent, he's turning to jelly. I think it's time to take it up a notch.
My hands are now roaming over his chest, he's arching his back as I pinch his nipples. I watch his reactions for a while as I play with his body, loving seeing him react to my touch. I make him think that this is all I'm going to do for now, not letting him know that I'm about to do something else.
He's panting, trying to hold back from coming. I make my move and take him into my mouth and suck hard. That's all it takes. He pours down my throat and I have to swallow quickly or choke.
I can't tell what he's thinking, his eyes are bound so I can't see how they're reacting. I just have to move and accept that he'd tell me if he was unhappy. I put more oil on my fingers and slide them inside him. He's relaxed, welcoming me easily. It takes only a few moments before I feel he's ready for me. A bit of oil on my cock and I'm pushing inside him in one, smooth stroke.
He can't reach up for me the way he usually does, but I don't think that he could move if I untied him. I make the most of his quiescence and decide to stop thinking for myself. It's time to fuck him. Hard.
He slept all night. No nightmares. He was pretty much out cold by the time I'd removed the bandanas. In fact I'm awake and he's still sleeping. I think it's the longest he's slept in years. I don't know if I'll ever do that to him again, but I know that he's definitely going to be considering asking for it at some point. Can't be bad.
All we need now is for MIB to pop over to say they're home. Then we get to decide where we go next. I'm liking this free spirit thing. I never was one for orders.