Summary: Daniel's at it again. More mythological musings lead to... well, that would be giving the game away. Part one of a two-parter.
Usual thanks to Joy and Fabi for their invaluable help.
Ah yes, that's wonderful. You can't beat a soak in a hot bath. Pity Jack's not in here, but you can't have everything. Well, I can't have everything. Wish I could, though.
Trouble is, Jack's having fun, and when he's having fun I don't get much in the way of attention. Not that I'm complaining, really. I've been having my own kind of fun for the last week or so, mainly working on the Furling translation - what we have of it.
What I've discovered is how to read the characters; top right to bottom left as opposed to top left to bottom right like we do. I know what some of the words are, too. Also I know how the characters sound, which is fairly futile as I don't have a voice box squeaky enough to reproduce the sound. At least I haven't since the day I got my first real boner, which happened to be in class. Playing basketball with one hand over your groin isn't easy.
What did I expect? I was surrounded by lots of hot and sweaty teenage boys and a sports teacher who was hotter than hell. That will teach me to be a prodigy; I was grown up way before my time and was horny way before I should have been, I think. I quickly learned to jerk off in the toilets before each gym class, (extremely quietly because you just know the day you make a noise is the day you're gonna get overheard) just to take the edge off.
Of course, there was that one day a couple of years later that I was overheard by one of the older boys...
Ah, memories. Can't be bettered.
It didn't have to be a bad one, did it?
Anyway, Jack is currently potting to his heart's content. We've more or less gotten ourselves ready for winter, even though it's only the beginning of summer, or halfway through it at most.
We discovered a large herd of what look like buffalo and shot a couple, butchered them and then prepared the different joints. Some are salted and others are frozen. The remainder of the meat got turned into spicy, smoked sausages. A couple of wild boar have given us pork joints, more sausages and a ton of bacon sandwiches. Bliss.
We've also fenced off a large part of the woodland next to our field. In it are the furry chickens. They have enough land on which to live without us interfering with or feeding them, and there are no predators - at least land ones - able to get at them. Even the local hawk population seems to leave them alone when they're under the trees. Probably can't see them. So, this means chicken and eggs from time to time, too.
Needless to say, we've caught many fish and have prepared them for when we want them. Everything from fillets to pâté, 'fresh' to smoked.
We, or rather Teal'c and I, had to go cut a couple of blocks of the marble to take to the masons. With all our preparations we had to buy a new freezer - a large one. A very large one. And another fridge as big as the freezer. They've been put in one of the outbuildings.
Sam was in ecstasy when we discovered we had enough barter value in the block to bring her back one of their small naquada generators, like the ones they put in their fridges. Teal'c's happy because we were able to get him a bandsaw. I still don't get what he's up to, but he's happy, so I'm happy.
Calicus was happy, too, because he had an order from a Goa'uld and he wanted to make him something special. The Tok'ra are happy because Teal'c distracted Calicus and I photographed the blueprints to the Goa'uld's new home. The only downside to that is we don't know whose it is, or where, but if they find any construction going on, they'll know more about it than the snake that owns it.
I think I may be able to work out where the Furlings went. Eventually. It's going to take some time, for sure. I discovered that just as the upload switched off, we'd gotten to the point where they had put the co-ordinates into the log. We got the first three symbols.
Unfortunately, there are, according to Sam, thirty-nine thousand or so possible combinations for us to go through. She's now writing a programme, or adjusting her cold-dialling one - whatever - to go through the known gate locations using the first three that we know.
There won't be thirty-nine thousand gates, probably only a couple of hundred, but if we tried dialling them all by hand we'd have to try them all in order. When she gets a list of the hits, we'll compare them to the coloured chart given to us by the Asgard and to our records. We may have already visited some of the planets on the list.
George has also sent us brief summaries of all the new planets visited by the SGC since we left. Jacob had told him we were exploring of our own accord - he still doesn't know about the extended gate list and won't until we're sure that all the Tok'ra are on our side. Which will probably only be when he and Selmac are the last ones left.
George said he'll send us an update each week, probably by throwing a disc through the gate. By him doing that, we can keep our own records up to date - and avoid the ground covered by the SGC. I just hope the disc will be in a hard cover.
So, I'm here in the bath, thinking of the days just gone, feeling pretty good about them, too. We've been extremely busy but we've accomplished a lot. I used to think that I worked hard at the SGC but here... Here, it's not like work, really. It's more basic than that. It's survival. It's necessary. It's pleasure. The sense of achievement with every task we finish is much greater, much more pronounced.
Making dinner back in the Springs was something I did without thinking about it. Now, I have to check our stores to see if we've got what I need; hunt, trade or scavenge if we don't have it. I have to make up the fire in the stove and watch the food more closely as it cooks. Mealtimes, apart from the quick 'bread and cheese' ones we sometimes have, are events in themselves. Even bath time tends to be an event.
Back ho... back on Earth, I got up, got into the shower, got wet... I didn't have to think about making sure there was hot water because unless we had a power outage, and as they were pretty rare, it was always there. Now I need to make sure the boiler's up to temperature. I enjoy the bath more because of it.
I pity our counterparts on Earth. They spend all their time looking for ways to do things more quickly, with less effort. All in an effort to have more time to 'enjoy' their lives. If only they spent less time trying to improve things, I think they'd enjoy life a lot more.
Talking of enjoying life...
"You're in the bath? Damn. I need a shower. Was thinking that you'd join me."
I look up at my messy lover and can't help but smile.
"Why don't you have a quick shower and then come join me. Get rid of the muck and I'll take care of the rest when you're in the bath?"
He doesn't take much persuading. We haven't really spent much time together since the last mission and I think he needs the contact as much as I do. I don't take my eyes off him as he steps under the shower-head and switches the water on. I try not to laugh as he remembers he should have done that in the other order as the cold water from inside the pipes hits him first and he yelps.
And I try to ignore the fact that my dick is now doing a good impression of a periscope as I watch his fit, hot body get soaped and sluiced in record time. Bliss.
Samantha keeps asking me why I wished to purchase a large saw from the masons. Unfortunately, if I tell her the truth she will not be as surprised as I hope she will be when what I wish to accomplish is eventually finished. A 'little white lie', as Daniel calls it, may well be necessary.
"I just think that we should have as many tools as we possibly can, Samantha. You never know when it may become useful."
She looks at me suspiciously but then shrugs.
"You spend too much time with Jack," she sighs.
I smile and nod at her and then realise that she has given me an opportunity to change the subject.
"Perhaps I should spend more time with you?"
She smiles at me, her face lighting up at my suggestion. I now know what Daniel meant when he said that sometimes it feels like his stomach has leapt up and done a somersault when O'Neill says or does something special for him. It is either that or my symbiote is becoming distressed again.
"Perhaps you should," she agrees. "Would you like to come for a walk with me?"
I put out my hand and lead her outside. It is a beautiful evening. The sun still has not set completely so there is plenty of light. The sky is many colours, from the lightest blue through to the darkest purple, with reds and oranges seeming to dance through the white clouds.
I fear I am in love. Very much in love. It is only when I feel like this do I ever deign to become poetical. It is a sad state of affairs when a man who was once one of the most feared in the galaxy decides that a sunset walk with his woman is more important than fighting for his cause.
And yet I feel so inclined at the moment. We have been exceedingly busy this week and I feel most satisfied by the hard work. Walking in the sweet air seems like just reward.
"I wonder when we're going to get called up to do another mission," she sighs, leaning against my arm as she does.
"You should not have spoiled such a delightful moment with such a thought, Samantha," I scold. "Now we will find that something will happen to take us from this place."
"Hey, I'm not as much a disaster area as the guys are. You know what it's like when they say things like that, but not when I do."
"We shall see. In the meantime, could we please talk about something else? I wish to enjoy our walk."
She looks up at me and grins.
"Okay. What do you want to talk about?"
We have reached our favourite spot and I pull her to sit down.
"How would it seem if we did not talk but did something else instead?"
She smiles even more broadly at me.
"Oh? And what would that be?" she asks coyly.
I decide that showing her would be more expeditious than telling her. This patch of grass is most comfortable to lie on.
This is the life. Oh boy, this is good. I'm laying in our bath, in Daniel's arms to be more specific, and he's gently washing me down from head to foot. We have a face cloth, some soft soap and he's carefully cleaning every single inch of me.
I'm so hard my cock resembles a caveman's club; my body is writhing with each stroke of his hand and I can't help but groan when he follows his hand with his lips, dragging them over each bit of skin he can reach without letting me go. The crazy thing is, I don't want to come. Coming would mean this stops and I don't want it to stop. It's like I'm getting a full body massage and yet he's barely touching me.
Everything apart from my dick is as limp as a leaf of wilted lettuce.
He's moving? WHY?
Oh no, he's pulling the plug out.
"Come on, Jack, let's go to bed."
"Do we have to?" I whine. Okay, I know I just sounded like a two year-old.
"Trust me, Jack. You'll be glad you did."
All right. When his voice drops below his groin I know I'll be in for a good time. Even better than I've been having already, if that was possible.
He's standing outside the bath now and holding out a towel. I think that I don't have to do a damned thing tonight and somehow, that sounds just perfect.
I was right, he's patting the towel over my body. I just have to stand up and let him do it - not exactly a problem. I can see he's as hard as me, but if he can ignore his dick, I can ignore mine. I don't want to let him down and I think that coming too soon would disappoint him. This feels wonderful. My skin is on fire.
At last, he's finished. Just as well, really. The towels have gone into the linen basket and he's taken me by the hand without saying a word and now he's leading me to the bedroom. I'm going as quietly as a lamb - but I'll be damned if I bleat. I have some pride.
Not much, but I do have some.
I think he's been massaging me for an hour. It could be longer. I have no idea as I think I lost consciousness a while back and I've been floating somewhere strange since then. It seems like that. My body doesn't weigh a damned thing. Perhaps I've been beamed up again? Thor? Is that you? No? No, it's just Daniel's magic hands. And lips. Don't forget the lips. How could I forget the lips? Those luscious, lovely, lickable lips. Hmm.
Every inch of my body has been washed, massaged and kissed. At least every inch on the outside. Oh fucking hell, he's just started on the inside! I'm getting lubed and stretched, kissed, bitten and rimmed. My dick is twitching with every single touch and I know I'm going to come if he doesn't stop.
"Daniel!" God, I sound hoarse. "I can't hold on if you do that."
He pulls his fingers out from inside me and kneels up, rolling me onto my back and grinning like a kid who's just got what he wanted for Christmas. I lay there, looking at him in desperation and see him licking his lips. Oh dear God.
How have I held on so long? He's finally licked and slurped my dick to within an inch of its life. I'm stunned that any of my cock is left. He's spent so much time working on it that it should be worn out. Part of me wants him to fucking get on with it already, the rest of me is going to be so damned disappointed when he does. I guess he's getting pretty desperate now, though, as he's just swallowed me whole. I think I'm going to pass out.
Life does not get any better than this. I'm back on my stomach, the head of my dick is probably in orbit around Annwn, my balls are so empty that there should be a 'Danger! Vacuum!' sign attached to them and my - extremely smug - other half is currently buried up to the hilt in my ass. Whoo ya, this is the life.
I wonder what the boys have been getting up to? At least, I hope they've been getting up to something as Teal'c and I most certainly were and I wouldn't have liked an audience. Unlike Daniel, I do get embarrassed pretty easily. I shouldn't, at least not in front of the men, but I do.
Anyway, I'm still lying on the grass, only half-dressed and in Teal'c's arms. He's looking smug. A smug Jaffa is a good sight, as long as he's not smug because he knows that you are going to die and he isn't. This particular Jaffa has a good smug look at the moment, though. I guess I must have a similar look on my face, too as I'm feeling pretty smug. And satisfied. Very, very satisfied. Three times. Damn, but he's good.
The sun has set and despite the warm day, it's starting to cool down pretty quickly. It must be the altitude, we're pretty high up. I shiver for a moment and Teal'c notices - of course he does.
"Shall we go in?"
"Yeah, why not. I could do with an early night."
He lets me roll off him and then stands up, looks at me as if he's got a good idea and smiles. Somehow, that's unnerving. Ah, I know why he's smiling now, he's picked me up and he's carrying me into the house. Hey ho, I can let him do this if it makes him happy. It's no skin off my nose to wrap my arms around his neck and snuggle into him, is it?
The sun is shining through the curtains so I guess it's time to get up. Shame. Teal'c decided to share with me last night. He doesn't always, it depends on whether he needs to meditate or not.
I prefer it when he sleeps with me but I don't make a fuss if he doesn't. He's still asleep, snoring softly. He doesn't often snore - he doesn't often sleep. Usually he's in deep meditation when he's lying with me, but sometimes sleep overtakes him and I hear the gentle rumble of his snores. It could bother me, but it doesn't. It's comforting in a funny sort of way.
I try to ignore it and listen out to see if there's any noise from the kitchen yet. There doesn't seem to be, so I guess the guys are sleeping in, too. Carefully, so that I don't wake Teal'c, I lean over to pick up my watch and see that it's not long after dawn. No wonder they're all still sleeping.
As quietly as I can I get out of bed and slip on a T-shirt, finding that it's Teal'c's as I do. It doesn't matter, it works as a short dress. Saves me having to root through my drawers to find anything else. I can get changed later. Now, I make my way out of the bedroom and into the kitchen.
I try to be silent as I clean out the stove and remake the fire. Over the last weeks I've had plenty of practise at making it so it doesn't take me long. It's lit now, so I can boil some water to make coffee. There's some ground coffee in a jar in the fridge. Daniel makes sure there is plenty of freshly ground coffee here at all times. Not that it gets a chance to get stale in this house.
The sun comes up on the lake side of the house, so while the water boils, I settle in the living room and look out over the water.
Last night's words come flooding back to me as I enjoy the peace and quiet and a feeling of dread settles in my stomach. Why did I have to say that? This last week or so has been wonderful. I guess we'd all start getting itchy feet before too long if we didn't get a mission but we love picking our own places to go.
The bubbling of the stovetop kettle gets my attention and I go back into the kitchen and take it off the heat. We have a large cafetière and I wonder whether to make enough for me or for the others, too. If I know Daniel, he'll sniff out the coffee in his sleep, so I'd better make enough for us all. And if they don't wake up for it, what the hell? I'll have a major caffeine high by the time they do.
I knew it. Daniel's in the kitchen. I'm glad he remembered to put some shorts on before he came out of the bedroom, even if that was all he remembered to put on. I'm pretty certain he didn't sleep in them as his neck is covered in hickeys, as are other parts of his body.
I can't help it, I giggle as I hand him his mug and he looks at me in that cute, confused way he has.
"Sam? Wassup?" he drawls.
"Oh, looks like someone was hungry last night, that's all."
He looks even more confused now so I take him into the living room and to the large mirror that is on the wall above the fireplace. I know, it's a dumb place to put a mirror, but it looks good.
He blinks as he looks at himself and then he shakes his head as it dawns on him what I'm laughing at him for.
"Ah. Yes," he says, and returns to his coffee in the kitchen.
"So?" I push, sitting opposite him at the table.
"Sam, please, talking to you is sometimes worse than talking to Jack. What?!"
"What happened? Why are you covered in hickeys?"
He looks even more confused now as if the answer should be obvious. It is, but I want details! He sees my eyes urging him on for those details and he's no longer confused.
"Oh. Well..." He takes a sip of his coffee, prolonging the agony. "Let's just say I took my time taking care of Jack last night and when I was done, he kinda got his revenge."
"Payback. Made me suffer terribly. So badly I think I should set you on him."
His eyes are twinkling now and I can't help but laugh.
"I'll bet you fought him off energetically, didn't you?"
He ducks his head and I hear him muttering something about him having done some things energetically, but I don't think that fighting Jack off was one of those things.
We let silence fall as we finish our drinks and predictably, he refills his mug straight away, putting his hand out for mine as he does. When he sits back down, we're ready to talk.
"I've been thinking," he says, as if that's a surprise to me. "There's something in Greek mythology about Medusa belonging to a particular type of..." He waves his hand as if it's going to aid him thinking. "Physically-related character, I guess. Or race. At least, there are others who have the snakes instead of hair, even if they weren't known as Gorgons, like Medusa was. It just made me wonder if they were queens, too."
"Who are they?"
"Um, they're collectively known as the Erinyes by the Greeks, or the Furies by the Romans. Guardians of the Underworld and enactors of vengeance, especially revenge. Although, if they were ever spoken of directly by the Greeks, they were known as the Eumenides, the benevolent ones. They worked on behalf of the gods, their main task was to enact vengeance on those that had murdered their own kin."
"Doesn't sound benevolent," I say, more than confused.
"They got that name because they had persecuted a young man, Orestes, who'd killed his mother because she'd murdered his father. The benevolent side of things comes in when they stopped persecuting him. There is the other point, however, that it was common to flatter evil things to ward them off, as if saying they were nice would stop them being bad."
"So, what did they look like? You say they had snakes in place of hair?"
"Yeah, that's one of the descriptions. They were pretty terrifying and wore black cloaks soaked in blood and carried whips made of scorpions."
"Ew. Nice," I say, not meaning it.
He grins and shrugs. "That's Greek myth for you."
"How many were there? I've heard of the nine Muses and I've heard the term Furies, but I don't know anything about them."
"There were three," he answers. "Tisiphone, Alecto and Megaera."
"Perhaps we should go to the Tok'ra and see if Antec remembers them?"
"Yeah, that's what I was thinking."
"You were thinking again?"
We look up as we hear Jack's voice. I notice that he's gotten a couple of hickeys, too. Not as many as Daniel, but I can see what Daniel meant about not fighting him off but doing something enthusiastically. I can't help but smile. Colonel O'Neill would never have turned up to work with a bite on his neck, even when he was married.
Daniel's stood up and he's pouring him a coffee. As Jack sits down, Daniel says, "Yeah, I want to go to the Tok'ra to talk to Antec."
"Why?" Jack doesn't look happy. He never looks happy when the Tok'ra are mentioned. Before Daniel can answer, Teal'c enters the kitchen, still looking smug. Daniel looks at me and raises an eyebrow. Dammit, I'm blushing.
That will teach Sam to tease me. By the look of her face, she had a very good night last night. So did I. I didn't think that Jack would have any energy left after what I did to him, but he did. And he did me. Well and truly. I was pinned down, licked, kissed and bitten from head to foot.
I have no idea how late it was when he finally got around to nailing me into the bed but I'm absolutely exhausted. I'm not complaining, mind you. I am sore and finding sitting a bit awkward, but then so is Jack. And, quite possibly, so is Sam. I know women are meant to be more, er, flexible in that area, but even she must have baulked at Teal'c the first time she saw him at full mast.
Over coffee, I tell the others what I told Sam. Teal'c looks interested but Jack looks cross.
"Jack, we need to know these things."
He looks at me as if to say he knows that but wishes I wouldn't think as thinking gets him into trouble.
Eventually, he sighs and nods. "Okay, we'll go see them today. Will that do you?"
I know what - or who - will do me, but it's not seeing the Tok'ra.
"Yeah, that'll be fine. Look, Jack, it could be that the Furies are just that, myth. Unless we go see Antec, though, we won't know. If it's as written, then they'll be working for Hades."
"Hades? I thought that was the name for the Greek's hell," Sam says.
"Uh, yes and no. Hades was the name for the Greek god of the underworld as well as the place: the two names were spelt differently but pronounced more or less the same way. It was only later that the two words became synonymous. Hades is a part of the underworld, really, there's other, er, geography in that region before you get to it."
"What else do we need to know about this Hades guy?" Jack asks.
"Okay, think Sokar for levels of gentility and hospitality," I reply with a wry grin. He winces, so do the others. Okay, Netu wasn't exactly in my top ten of moons for vacationing on, either. "He didn't have a great deal to do with mortals on Earth, or, for that matter, the gods in Olympus."
"He's self-centred?" Sam asks.
"Could be, or it could be he doesn't think they're worth dealing with. Either way, my interpretation is that he won't align himself with Yu or Svarog but if he got to be strong enough, he could try to become one of the new System Lords. With henchmen, er, women such as the Furies and Hecate, it could be possible for him."
"Hecate?" Jack asks, screwing his face up. "Why is that familiar?"
I have to laugh and he doesn't know why.
"Sorry, Jack. Hecate is his companion, goddess of ghosts, black magic and crossroads. Among her powers was partial control over fertility on Earth. Familiars are items which connect so-called witches of antiquity with the Devil, like the black cats they were supposed to have. Anyway, Hecate was also connected to Artemis, the moon goddess - one of those aspect things again," I say apologetically.
I have to apologise as these aspect things can get confusing. They confuse me, so why they wouldn't confuse the others I don't know.
"The moon goddess was given three names. Artemis on Earth; Luna, uh, Selene when she was in the sky, and Hecate when she was in the underworld. It's something to do with three phases of the moon," I add by way of explanation. "Hecate was the new moon whereas Artemis was the crescent and Selene, the full moon."
He crosses his eyes and drinks more coffee. That seems like a good idea. Dammit, the pot's empty. I dump the grounds in our small box that we use for taking things out to the compost pile and rinse the pot out, putting the kettle back on the fire straight away as I'm thinking I need lots of coffee. I guess I can talk more while I wait, though, as I'm getting impatient looks from the others.
"Back to Hades," I say. "You have to understand that the Romans and Greeks didn't have a concept of the afterlife in the same way that the Celts or Vikings or Egyptians, for example, had. It was a permanent state. As a result, the Hades of myth was more than reluctant to leave the underworld. He was the supreme god of the chthonic spirits."
"The what?" Jack barks.
"Chthonic. Um, earth spirits. The original gods before the Olympians turned up. Sacrifices of black animals would be made when someone died to these spirits so that the dead person's influence in life would be continued after death."
"If he was there before the Olympians, is it not possible that he has something to do with other alien species other than the Goa'uld?" Teal'c asks.
"It's possible, Teal'c. It's only the fact that he has the nasty Furies working for him made me think that he was a Goa'uld. He was supposed to be there when they were there. It could be that he was happy to share worshippers but was, in fact, a..., I don't know, a Ka, or an Ancient, or even something we haven't met yet; or the current Hades took over from one of them, like with Thoth."
Jack's thinking. I can tell. His face takes on a kind of constipated look when he does. Like a baby concentrating on filling his diaper. If that's what he's concentrating on doing, I think we need to have words.
He screws his face up again and says, "Oh, I don't know. Furies, Furlings... Strange aliens turning up all over the place with similar names. Makes me wonder if they're related somehow."
I shake my head. "I see where you're going with this but I don't think that we're looking for the Furlings on this occasion. The Furlings' word for the Furlings doesn't sound like our name for them and the Romans adopted the Greek beliefs, anyway. The Greeks called them the Erinyes which sounds nothing like it."
He shrugs and I feel sorry for him. I can't blame him for thinking like that, and if he didn't think like that, I wouldn't make half the weird connections that I do make. I give him a small smile and hope he doesn't mind me cutting him down like that.
"Come on, let's get dressed then we can eat something and go over to see the Tok'ra. If nothing else, we might find that the Furies don't exist. That way we can cross them off the list of possible targets."
The others nod in agreement and we go get dressed.
We are at the gate and readying ourselves to dial for the Tok'ra's homeworld. Just as Daniel puts his hand on the DHD and before he presses the first glyph, we hear the gate start to dial.
"Don't look at me," Daniel says. "I didn't do anything."
We move quickly and run to the trees where we can watch the gate to see who is coming. It is not that we think we will have unwelcome visitors but we cannot take a chance. All four of us are hidden, our hands on our weapons by the time the connection is made. O'Neill has his P90 ready and he is looking through the telescope.
We all relax when we see Rya'c emerge and put down our weapons so we may go to greet him. I am especially pleased to see my son as he has been at Bratac's side for some months.
He looks around until he sees me and then he runs towards me. "Father, please, you have to come."
"What is wrong, my son?"
"It is Mother. She is dying."
Once, some time ago, Daniel told me that sudden bad news could make his blood freeze. I was unsure as to what he meant as I had never felt anything like that. I was sure it was a metaphor, as frozen blood would kill someone, but I still could not understand it. Now I do. I am unable to feel my arms or my legs and I feel like I have been injected with ice.
"Where is she? Has she been attacked?" I demand, holding onto his arm.
I realise that I am hurting him when Daniel puts his hand on my own arm and urges me to let him go.
"No, Father. It is her symbiote. We did not know it but it has matured. She did not tell me and now she will not let me get her another one."
I look at the others and Daniel runs to the DHD.
"Uh, Land of Light?" he calls out to Rya'c.
"It is," Rya'c agrees and we hear him dialling the address as quickly as possible.
"I did not know her symbiote had matured," I say, still feeling numb from the shock. "I knew that one day it would grow, but I did not think..."
"Teal'c, it's not your fault," O'Neill says. "If she'd told us before, we could have got her a new one when we got one for you guys." Then he kicks a stone hard as we jog to the now open gate. "Dammit! We killed Bastet. Unless we find ourselves a new queen we're not going to get her a larva."
We do not stop to answer him but we enter the gate and step through to the Land of Light.
I never really get used to emerging to complete darkness. We did not have time to get our night-vision goggles so my team are relying on both Rya'c and myself to lead them through the black forest. It is not easy as we are hurrying and more than once, my friends fall. They do not slow, however, but pick themselves up and continue to jog in the pitch black.
Finally, we emerge into the real light and start to run to Draya'uc's house. I must get there soon. If the symbiote does not find a host, something that none of us wish on the good people of this land, it will take over my wi... my first wife. The mother of my son.
She is lying on her back, sweat pouring from her brow. I have never seen her look so sick and yet she is making no noise of complaint. Like a true Jaffa warrior, she bears her pain well.
"Draya'uc," I say as gently as I can as I approach her. "You should have informed us of your primta's age. We were once able to retrieve larval Goa'ulds for both Rya'c and myself and we would have known to get you one."
"It is of no concern to you," she replies through gritted teeth. "Besides, I have decided never to incubate another of these devils."
"They are only devils when they are implanted into a host," I remind her. "Until then, they are your lifeline."
"We are their lifelines," she reminds me. I nod.
"It is a symbiotic relationship," I agree. "One which I and my friends are trying to reverse. One day, maybe soon, maybe in a few years' time, the Jaffa will no longer rely on these beasts. Until then, it is up to us to outlive them. Let me help you."
"I will not!" she spits. "You would find another Jaffa and take his symbiote so that I may live. That is a disgrace and I will not allow it."
O'Neill and Daniel often wonder how I cope when Samantha is being stubborn. As they can now see, I have had plenty of practise.
"Perhaps there is another way?"
We both turn to look at Daniel and I see that he is smiling gently at her. If I know him, he will soon have her under his spell. This is all to the good. My son's mother must live.
It's good watching Daniel do his thing. We can all see the desperation in both Teal'c and Rya'c. Unfortunately, Draya'uc's being as stubborn as Daniel when he just knows he's right and no one will listen to him. We're lucky he's on our side.
"Come with us," he says to her. "I will make you one solemn vow. We will take no symbiote from a living Jaffa so that you may live, and neither will we kill one just so that we could take one from a dead Jaffa. I think I know a way to keep you alive, if not well, without your symbiote. At least in the short term. Um, possibly in the long term, too, but that might be a bit more on the drastic side. In the meantime we were just about to go visit the Tok'ra because we think we know which Goa'uld may be queens. If we can find another queen, we could find another larva without taking it from someone else. Would that be acceptable to you?"
Draya'uc looks like she's about to answer him when she passes out. I guess we'll take that as a 'yes'. She can argue with us later.
"The pain must be dreadful," Sam mutters.
"Indeed it is," Teal'c replies quietly. "Daniel, what is your idea?"
"Uh, let's take her to the Tok'ra," he answers, pointing at the door but not taking his eyes off the area of her pouch. He's only starting to relax when he sees that she still has that plate thing over the pouch entry, exit... cross... whatever it's called.
Teal'c picks her up into his arms and carries her out of the door, Rya'c hot on his heels. I look at Sam and see that she's gone a little bit white.
She looks up at me in shock and then shakes her head.
"It's nothing. Come on, we have to hurry."
Right. I'll file that one in the 'later' tray and then I'll find out what's up. We say goodbye to the local women who have been tending to her. I found out when I got here that they've been providing her with food and drink for a few days because she's been too sick to get it herself. She wouldn't let them come too close to her just in case the snake found itself a host.
I think that she was trying to pluck up the courage to pull the damned snake out of herself and wring its neck. She'd sent for Rya'c and was obviously waiting for him to come before she did it. I'm glad he came to us so quickly as that is one hell of a nasty way to die.
I've never seen Teal'c more determined to do anything on his own, ever. He won't let us anywhere near him to help. Part of that, I think, is a guilty feeling for having not thought of her before now. The rest of it is fear that we will get too close to the snake which seems to want to escape from her. It's pushing at the plate and as she is lying on her back in his arms, we see it moving every so often.
Tuplo must have organised a few guards since we got here as there are some men with burning torches at the edge of the forest.
"Thanks," I call out as we approach them. "I really appreciate this."
"Lord Tuplo sends his regards," one of them says as he leads us into the trees. "He says that he does not come to see you as he understands that time is of the essence and he does not wish to bother you with formalities. Perhaps you could come again and spend some time soon?"
"We'd love that," I reply with a smile. "Thank him for us, please. We really do appreciate all of this, and everything else you've done for us."
It doesn't take us long to reach the gate now that we can see where we're going. We don't need much light, just enough to show us that path, that's all. I did wonder why the Minoans kept the gate in the dark and then realised. They have no interest in the outside galaxy beyond helping us and the pitch-blackness acts as a good deterrent for anyone who doesn't know about the dark side thing.
Daniel dials up and we shout a 'goodbye' as we step through...
... and emerge to the scorching desert heat of the Tok'ra homeworld. From no vision because of the dark to having to put sunglasses on quickly so that we can see in the light.
As soon as we touch down, Teal'c takes off again, this time running to the transport rings.
"Here we go again," I pant and the rest of us follow closely.
As usual, the Tok'ra don't seem to be too pleased to see us, but to hell with them.
"Where's Selmac?" Daniel calls out. "Or Garshaw?"
One of the Tok'ra points down a hallway and Daniel runs down it, obviously taking over from Teal'c in the 'I can get there fastest' stakes. It only takes a couple of minutes and we see Garshaw right next to Daniel, jogging down the long corridor and coming right back at us.
"This way," she says and takes us... Oh, I know where we're going. The room with the alien healing device.
"We need to get the symbiote out before it takes over her, don't we?" he yells back as he clears the way in front of Teal'c.
"She needs a way to stay alive. This is plan A."
I'm not sure if I'm glad I ate this morning or not. I feel like throwing everything up, that's for sure. I always feel like that when I see someone put their hand into someone else's stomach, pull out a snake and then wrench its squealing head from its wriggling tail.
"That's gross," Jack complains.
We all nod in agreement, except for the Jaffa among us. Daniel's ignoring their looks and he's signalling to a Tok'ra to start up the machine.
"I don't know what this is going to do for her," he says. "There's a possibility that it may restore her immune system for good. If that's the case, we won't need to find her another symbiote. It may just keep her healthy while we try to find her one."
"This is no way to live."
We turn and look and see a very sick-looking Draya'uc lying on the table with the machine passing over her.
"Be quiet, woman," Teal'c commands. "We are trying to save your life."
"You should do nothing more," she argues. "It is my wish to die."
"Mother! Please do not say that," Rya'c begs.
Teal'c's big little warrior is nearly in tears. This is a child, a young man who would proudly fight to the death beside his father and yet his voice is breaking at the thought of losing his mother. I hope she listens to him because he's nearly making me cry with his words.
"I don't want you to die, Mother. I..." He looks embarrassed to say it. Teal'c puts his hand on Rya'c's shoulder.
"It is no disgrace to admit how much you love or need someone," he rumbles. "It is a disgrace to omit telling them."
Rya'c looks up at him and I see his big brown eyes are full of tears. He nods and looks back down at her.
"Mother, I love you," he says in barely more than a whisper. "I still need you."
"No, you do not," she argues stiffly. "You no longer need me. None of you do." She looks at Teal'c crossly, as if she's trying to make him feel guilty for leaving her, even though she was the one to divorce him.
I can't stand this anymore. If she tries to take Teal'c off me I'll kill her myself!
I feel a hand on my arm and I look around and see Jack. He shakes his head and then nods towards the door. I follow him numbly, not wishing to miss what's going on in there but needing to get out.
He's taken me to the surface where we can speak in private I guess. Before he says anything, I watch as he reshapes the top of a dune with his foot until he's satisfied and then sits down, motioning to me to join him.
"He's not going to leave you, you know," he starts.
"He will," I argue. "She has a hold over him I will never have."
"How can you be so sure?"
I'm confused and look up at him.
"Teal'c's crazy about you," he states. "Has, on many occasions, threatened to part me from my limbs if I let you get hurt on a mission."
This is true, I've overheard him doing it.
"That proves nothing. He's that protective about Daniel."
Jack grins. "Yeah," he drawls. "Kind of has me worried about them, ya know?"
I see that he's teasing me and poke him in his arm.
"Trust me, Carter." Ah, he's in Colonel O'Neill mode. Somehow, I find that reassuring. "He'll be coming back with you when this is over."
"But what if she asks him to go back with her? She is his son's mother."
He's silent for a moment and then says, "Remember Sara?"
"Your wife. Of course I do."
"She and I, we were the best, ya know?"
All I can do is smile. I remember how he called out to her when we were freezing to death in Antarctica. Even then he loved her so much.
"And you know how much I love Daniel?"
"Yeah, we all know that," I tease.
"Well... As you say, she's special to me. Real special. She was, she is dammit, Charlie's mother. And in my eyes, she'll always be real special." He takes a deep breath and then says, "You know that Daniel and I went through a really rough patch and kept breaking up?"
"One night... Uh, you do know the whole story about him and Major Davis?"
I notice how he doesn't call him 'Paul' but hide my grin.
"I know that Paul is also very special to Daniel and that they were together for a while when you two had split up."
"Did he tell you how I found out?"
"Yeah," I grin. "I think that Paul's very smart for standing down."
He shakes his head.
"I wouldn't have hurt him, not really. He was very kind as I know how he feels about Daniel... Still does. Anyway, I found them together, got really mad, ran off... I went to Charlie's grave. I always used to go there to talk to him. I told him all about Daniel," he adds with a grin. "After an hour or so, I heard a car pull up. It was Sara. She sat with me for a while, trying to figure out why I was so upset. I couldn't tell her, of course."
"She didn't know about you?"
"No. It wasn't relevant, Sam. I loved her so much... It wasn't like I ever cheated on her or would have."
"I know." Somehow, I do know that. He just wouldn't.
"I just told her I was having a hard time at work again. She invited me back to her place, I went... I had too much to drink and we so damned nearly ended up in bed together."
His voice trails off and then he sits up straight.
"I'd walked in on Daniel and Paul in the morning, had spent most of the day and then the evening with Sara. We had talked so much, drank so much, too... Just before I decided to go, she asked if I was seeing anyone. I had to answer honestly that I wasn't. After all I couldn't guarantee that I'd get back together with Daniel. She suggested that we made another go of it.
"Part of me wanted to; it would have been so much easier. I could have told the whole damned world about her instead of keeping Daniel a secret. I'm sure I could have tried harder this time, too. I did and do love her enough to try. But when it came down to it, there was no contest. Daniel came first. I had to try with him again. Much as I loved her, it wasn't enough, not really."
I don't know what to say to that.
"I think that when it comes down to it with you, Sam, there'll be no contest, too. Teal'c loves Draya'uc. He also feels incredibly guilty about what's happened to her over the past few years. Let him help her now, it will help him get over the guilt. That, in turn, will help you. Trust him."
"I do trust him. He's the most honourable man I've ever known," I insist. "But I think he loves her more than he loves me, that's all. I wouldn't blame him if he chose to return to her."
"He won't. I think that he doesn't see how much worry he's causing you or else he wouldn't be wearing his heart on his sleeve as he is, Sam. I also think that he's not afraid to show how much he loves her because he has so much faith in your relationship that he knows that this won't interfere with it. Just the same way Daniel can love Shau're... or Paul," he adds with a shrug, "and I can love Sara."
"That's possible," I concede.
He goes silent for a moment and then stands up, putting his hand on my shoulder to make me stay where I am.
"Before you come down, Sam, I want you to think about something. At the moment, you're scared. You're afraid he's going to leave you, right?"
I nod, unable to say anything.
"And this is because you love him and you couldn't bear the thought of life without him, right?"
Again, I nod.
"Daniel found out about Sara wanting to get back with me," he says quietly.
"What did he do?"
"Offered to step aside. In just the way Paul did for me. Tell me, Sam. Do you love Teal'c enough to let him go?"
Jack's just turned up again. Don't know where he went but Sam's not with him. He's looking serious but he's saying nothing. Maybe I'll find out what's up later.
In the meantime, I think I need to step in with the Jaffa again. Draya'uc's seemingly desperate to die. I understand why, she's fed up of living and frankly doesn't relish the idea of living with the Tok'ra. We've discovered that the machine has killed off any bugs in her and for the moment, she's healthy. However, she'll need to stay near the machine just in case she picks any other bug up.
"Draya'uc, may I have a word, please?"
I glare at Teal'c when he opens his mouth to interrupt and he backs down. Rya'c is still looking close to tears, poor thing.
"You may speak," she permits. Damn, she's going to be one, tough audience.
"Where do you get the idea that now that Rya'c is training to be a warrior he doesn't need his mother?"
"No Jaffa goes back to his mother when he enters training," she sniffs.
"I can't believe Teal'c never visited his mother when he got the chance," I counter.
He nods. "As long as she was alive, I supported her," he confirms.
"Why?" I ask.
His eyes flash and I know that he's got the message.
"Because she was my mother and I loved her."
"Did you need her?"
He looks at the floor for a moment and then nods. "I did. Many times I felt the need for comfort, even if I could not say the words out loud. Only a mother is able to detect that sort of need and is able to impart the right amount of comfort without making a son feel bad."
I smile at him and then play my trump card.
"I'm kind of jealous," I say and I get a confused look from Draya'uc.
"My mother - and my father for that matter - were killed when I was eight years old. For years I was in one short-term home after another. Oh, the people that took me in were kind enough," I say with a smile. "I never wanted for anything. Well, except one thing. A real mom."
I feel Jack standing behind me, the heat from his body comforting me in its own way.
"When I was twelve, I got myself a new mom and dad. They were wonderful. They loved me and cherished me, and I felt the same way about them. I thought that finally, I'd got what I wanted."
Now I feel Jack's hand on my hip, offering even more comfort.
"However, when I was fifteen, they were both killed in another accident. I never had another real mom and dad after that. I never went to graduation ceremonies at college because I had no parents to join the celebrations. I never had anyone to go home to during my vacations, no one to write to when I was on expeditions... And I never had anyone to turn to when things went wrong.
"I wanted my mom and dad back. Either set of them. Especially the mothers. Even now I'd love both of my mothers to be alive so I could take Jack to meet them."
It's time for me to push slightly further. I hope that Jack doesn't mind. I feel him squeezing my hip as if he's guessed what I'm going to say and he's encouraging me.
"Jack has a mother back on Earth. He had to say goodbye to her when we left the planet. And because of what's happened to us, he'll never see her again. When he said goodbye I had to hold him for so long to comfort him that I thought he'd never stop crying."
I feel a tighter grip on my hip and I put my hand on his and hold it, then lean back against him to offer him the comfort.
"You see, Draya'uc. Even a grown warrior needs his mother. Even a man of Jack's experiences wants to be able to share his life with someone that special. Much as he and I live in each other's pockets, the relationship he has with her will always be particularly exceptional. I'm not jealous of it really, I encourage it."
I look at Rya'c and see that his tears have finally overflowed.
"You must live, Draya'uc. I know that this isn't a pleasant existence, but it is temporary. One way or another, we will find a way to get you back to where you belong. It's up to you to be strong and survive. It will be up to us to help you live. Rya'c needs you and will continue to need you for many, many years to come. It is your duty to survive."
"But this is no life," she hisses.
"I know. For now it is not." I stop again and think and then say, "Back on Earth, some people have problems with their kidneys, uh, organs in their bodies. Sometimes they have diseases that affect them, other times they have injuries to them... Whatever the reasons that cause the problems, they have to wait for an organ transplant. That happens when someone dies of an accident and the family is kind enough to donate any organ suitable for those on the waiting lists. It is possible, if difficult, to do that.
"But when they wait, kidney patients sometimes have to go on dialysis. That means they have to go into hospital, or sometimes they have the treatment at home if it's possible, and they have to get hooked up to a special machine so that their blood can go through it and be cleaned out, basically replacing the function of the kidneys. It depends on the severity of their illness, or so I believe, as to how often they need to do that, but some people need it nearly every day of their lives.
"It isn't much of a life, being tied to one of those things, but it is life. And where there is life, there is the hope that one day, things will improve.
"What you will have to go through is very minor in comparison. You will just have to stay with the Tok'ra, perhaps you can even help them while you're here. When it is necessary, they will put you in this machine and in a short time you will be well again. We will go straight out and get you a symbiote. It may take us a few days as we have put restrictions on how we will get you one.
"I have made you a solemn promise to not kill another Jaffa to get one for you and the others will honour my promise. Won't you?"
I look at Teal'c and Jack and they both nod.
"You have my word," Jack says quietly.
"You have my word, also," adds Teal'c.
"Rya'c will stay with you," I offer. "You can catch up on what he's been doing with Bratac."
Rya'c looks at me with pain in his eyes. He wants to help us but I think he'll be more help here.
She's softening, I can tell. Finally she nods.
"You have one week," she announces. "After that, I will no longer be part of this."
I see Teal'c's shoulders relax. One week it is.
I feel most agitated. I know that my team are doing the best they can to aid Draya'uc but we are just sitting and talking. Daniel has passed on his idea about the Furies to the older Tok'ra and they are currently looking through their records, Daniel helping them with the research. I know that I could help, too, but my mind will not allow me to concentrate.
Samantha and O'Neill are once again speaking to Antec, a particularly grumpy individual in a very old host. He and O'Neill, however, seem to have reached an understanding with each other and he is assisting them as much as is possible.
This is not enough. I need to do something.
I turn and look at Daniel who seems to have his head bowed as he looks at yet more records, but I can tell that he's about to say something to which we should all listen.
He looks up, blinks and then nods.
"Right," he repeats. "I think we should return to Medusa's palace. She had many rooms there which we didn't explore. If there was Athene's address there, and if the Furies were in some way related to her, there may be some other hints left there. We're getting nowhere fast here, and we can't afford to hang around anymore."
I agree. If nothing else, I will be able to do something concrete.
"Jack? You done?"
O'Neill and Samantha look over at us and O'Neill stands.
"Yeah. Antec here thinks he remembers Hades and his henchwomen. Or at least talk of them. Back in the old days, right?" He looks at the old man and I see him nod.
"Indeed. Hades would not speak to the other Goa'uld. He was powerful enough to be a System Lord but had no interest in anything that was outside his usual sphere."
"But now there is a power vacuum?" Daniel asks.
"Who knows? Perhaps millennia in the cold has warmed his heart towards taking over."
"What about Jaffa numbers?" I ask. "Did he have Jaffa?"
Antec shrugs. "All I heard was that he was powerful. This could mean either many Jaffa and many ships, or perhaps he was technologically advanced."
"What does Athene think?"
We turn and look at Samantha as she speaks.
"I mean, she must know of him. Mustn't she?"
She looks at Antec and then Daniel who blinks at her and then nods.
"Probably. Anyone know where she is?"
"She rests," Antec replies. "Since you brought her here, she has not been in the stasis which she used to preserve herself. Her host is very old; she is the original host I believe. Without either a sarcophagus, which she will not use, thank goodness, or returning to stasis, she will need a new host, and soon. Unfortunately, she is reluctant to take a host until she meets the right one." He rolls his eyes. "Females can be so picky."
We cannot help but smile at his tone of voice. All except Samantha who looks put out.
"What sort of host is she looking for?" Daniel asks curiously.
"One like her original host. Young, pretty, blue-eyed... not much," he mutters, looking at Samantha.
"Absolutely not," she insists.
Antec chuckles. "Fear not, Samantha," he says slyly. "I think she is looking for a much younger host."
Now I fear Samantha is most upset. I think that I must make it up to her later on. O'Neill and Daniel are not looking at either her or each other and I believe that they wish to laugh. They had better not. She will be impossible to live with if they do.
"Um, can we see her?" Daniel finally asks before he spoils things for us.
"I will ask," Antec replies and he shuffles down the corridor.
"Young?" Samantha hisses.
"Sam, he was teasing you," O'Neill soothes. "He saw an opportunity and he took it. You should know Antec by now, he's an old devil."
She is slightly mollified, but not much.
"So, will we go to Medusa's place if Athene doesn't come up with a better suggestion?" Daniel asks, obviously trying to change the subject.
O'Neill nods. "It's a lead," he shrugs. "You never know what we'll get from it." He looks at his watch and frowns. "Look, time is moving on. It's already early evening our time. Sam, why don't you come back to Annwn with me? We'll get dinner cooking. You two speak to Athene and then come home. We'll plan our next moves over dinner and go tomorrow morning."
Much as I would prefer to leave for Medusa's planet now, I understand his plan and nod in agreement. Daniel has not slept a great deal this last week, and neither has Samantha. When they have not been working on household tasks, they have both been concentrating on more academic pursuits.
This has, out of habit as much as necessity, led them to stay up very late most nights. Last night was the first early bedtime that either has had in about seven to ten days. If we are about to go on a mission which could possibly last many days, then they should both be totally rested.
I watch as Samantha and O'Neill leave us and wait with Daniel for Athene to appear.
"Do you really think she will help us?" I ask him.
He shrugs. "Who knows? It's possible." Then he turns to look at me. "You know she's going to be in a very bad mood now, don't you?" I know he is not talking about Athene.
"I do. It is why I agreed to O'Neill taking her home."
"We'll make a Tauri man out of you yet, Teal'c."
I look down at myself and then across at him.
"I do believe," I say, keeping my face straight, "that if you were to try to do that, you would end up with enough material to make two Tauri men."
He looks at me in shock, his mouth opening silently and then he laughs out loud and claps my arm. I do believe he has been amused.
I know Teal'c wants to get a move on but I can't, in all honesty, just take off without preparing better. We're not equipped to go out into that big, bad universe at the moment, we really need to go home and stock up on weaponry and the like. And Daniel needs to sleep. At a guess, Sam does, too. She also needs Teal'c to tell her he's not going back to Draya'uc. No matter how many times she hears it from me, she's not going to totally believe it until he says it himself.
I automatically check the 'answering machine' and see that no message has been left by MIB. While we've been stocking up on stuff, they've had a couple of missions of their own. They don't need to store food or wood and so on, and they get bored even quicker than we do. I know they're off somewhere on one of the lilac worlds at the moment and I've got them on my mind. I always do. They're a part of us.
"I think we should let MIB know what we're up to," I say as we make our way to the house. "Uh, write them a note and hide it somewhere. Maybe they could help out?"
She looks at me and nods, still saying nothing. She hasn't spoken since we left the others.
"Sam, stop your worrying, will ya? It'll be okay. Trust me."
I get a small smile from her and that tight nod she gives when she isn't really happy.
"I know," she finally says. "Anyway, what do you want to eat?"
We enter the house and I look into the fridge and see it's so full that I can't think what I want. There is, as they say, an embarrassment of riches.
"Uh, not sure. What do you want?"
She looks pained. "I'm not really hungry."
I know what she means. We have to stop this storage thing, it's getting out of hand.
We sit at the table miserably and think.
"The others will want to eat," she says.
"Yeah. Teal'c will definitely want to eat."
"And Daniel. You know what he's like. Doesn't look for food but when you put it in front of him, he's like a bottomless pit."
This is true. When he does the cooking, it's different, but if we're cooking, he doesn't come in for meals unless he's called. He's totally oblivious to the fact that he's hungry. When he is brought in, though, and the food is put in front of him, he'll eat anything and everything, desperately filling his face as if he hasn't eaten for a week.
"I guess we'd better make something then."
We both sigh. Not sure why, but neither of us can be bothered. Sam looks glum.
She looks at me sadly.
"I need a hug."
Now, that's something I can do. I put out my hands and without her thinking, she comes over to me and straddles my lap, putting her head on my shoulder. We hug for a while and I feel her relaxing against me. There's nothing sexual in this, just a couple of pals comforting each other. Not that I need comforting, but there you go. Yet again it proves to me that there never was anything between us. No sparks, no desire stirring in my loins... heck, gotta watch the words. Teal'c's the poetic one, not me.
"Come on, how does paella sound?"
"Uh, Spanish?" she answers with a grin. Then she frowns. "We haven't got any prawns or other shellfish."
"True. How about Paella à l'O'Neill?"
"What's in it?"
I shrug and say, "Anything I can get my hands on."
She laughs and gets off my lap and heads back to the cupboard. We have a large Tupperware box into which the paella rice has been decanted - next to various other boxes in which we find God only knows how many types of rice and pasta. It's literally full of them. When we were shopping on Earth, Daniel found a kind of warehouse shop which supplied local cafés and the like with sacks of rice and spices and so on. I can't see us wanting more for a year.
I find our giant-sized wok which gets used for our giant-sized appetites (I know that when Sam and I start to eat, we'll eat everything we can stop Daniel eating) and pull out various meats from the fridge. It won't be traditional but then neither am I.
Jack's been really good as he cooks, teasing me and joking with me and generally trying to take my mind off Teal'c. I can't help it, my stomach's knotted so much I'm thinking of entering it into the macramé class of the next craft show I come across. Don't know why I should be so bothered but I am.
Hope the guys come home soon. The longer Teal'c's away from me, the more my mind is imagining how Draya'uc is working on getting him back. Not that she's even looked like she wants him back! This is irrational. Totally irrational. Somehow, knowing that doesn't help.
I need to change the subject.
"Why have we got so much food?" I ask. "I mean, I know why we're storing up for the winter and all, but..."
"I think it's Daniel," he says. "Remember how hurt he was when we had to leave Remoc?"
"Yeah," I sigh. "He really took it badly."
"Well, it's my guess that he's working overtime to convince himself that Annwn is really his home. By having so many home comforts, full cupboards and so on, it means that he doesn't feel like he's just a visitor here."
"That makes sense, at least in a Daniel sort of way. It must be hard for him. I mean, he's rarely found somewhere to call home and every time he does, it gets taken from him."
"So we have to make sure that this one isn't taken from him," he says firmly.
I have to agree with him. I love it here, it's really home to us. As soon as the house was built and we moved in, I felt like I belonged here. There's a state of peace on this planet that doesn't exist on Earth, at least in the towns and cities I've lived in. I guess the nearest we'd come to living like this on Earth would be if we lived in Jack's cabin in the woods in Minnesota. No matter how much we rag him about it, it's a beautiful place in a lovely state.
The only real difference there is that it doesn't take too long to get to so-called civilisation. If you run out of goods, it's not too much of a trek to replace them. Unless it's winter, of course. Here, we either have to make do with what we can make or find or we have to literally travel across the galaxy to get what we need.
It's better to make do, I think. We have no one to impress, no danger of some TV-imposed fashion statements encroaching on our beautiful house. The decoration here is extremely simple; all the walls are painted in the same base colour, a warm off-white, where they're not just plain stone. The floors are wood set over more stone which sits on the foundations and we have some of that lovely marble around the fireplace.
Only the bathrooms have any real inbuilt colour, the whole of both rooms are covered in mosaics, some of which are highly-coloured and in wonderful Roman patterns. The masons must have a sense of humour, though, as there are people in the mosaics that line the bottom of the baths. Teal'c and I have a male/female couple, that mysteriously (or not so mysteriously) are large and black and smaller and blonde with blue eyes. The guys have two males of similar colouring to them. Both couples - the mosaic form - are entwined with each other in what can only be described as very suggestive patterns.
The only colour we have in the house apart from that comes from the throws and curtains, rugs and wall-hangings and other soft furnishings we've got. Some of those came with the house, others from Earth and the Land of Light. It's pretty eclectic.
It looks good though, at least we think so, and so do any of the visitors that we've had. And of course, we have a view which is second to none. Through one window, the lake over which the sun rises. On the opposite side of the house, the woodland. Out of our bedroom window, the mountain and the waterfall from which we get our water. The guys look over the field which heads out towards the cliff that goes down to the valley and the other mountains opposite. Perfection.
Okay, my mind's wandering again. I've comforted myself with how much I love the house. All I need is the man I love to come home to it.
We're off home. Antec was right, Athene was very cranky when she was woken up. We did get some useful information out of her, though, so it was worth the onslaught.
There was some good news for her, too, which seemed to cheer her up. Over the time we've been off-world, as we've helped free slaves, some of them haven't been able to go home. Some of them have gone to live on other worlds we have marked as 'safe' (at least, as safe as any planet we can find) but others have stayed with the Tok'ra to help fight the Goa'uld. Not as hosts necessarily, but the Tok'ra do appreciate any human help they get as sometimes it's not possible for one of them to go somewhere. The humans, who were often servants, can act as spies for them among the snakes.
Anyway, one of them, a very pretty young blonde girl, has agreed to meet Athene to discuss the possibility of her being the next host. I managed to pull her to one side and question her and I know that she's really willing to do this, so hopefully, Athene's knowledge will be preserved.
She's been helping out, listing all of the information she can remember, but as she says, she often forgets things until we ask about them specifically. Because Hades was quiet at the time that she was active among the 'gods', she hadn't brought him to mind yet.
But now she has and she's told us all that she knows. Which isn't a great deal, unfortunately, but it's a lot better than we had before. Yet again, we have myth mixing with fact in the most intriguing way. I've got a good story to tell the others when we arrive home.
Talking of which, there it is. I love emerging from the trees to see it, it grants me a sense of peace and security I haven't had in a long time.
Jack, we're home, I think. Is dinner ready?
Not long now. Come on in. You found out anything?
Yeah. I'll tell you over dinner.
Sounds good. Uh, by the way, Teal'c is with you, isn't he?
Okay, okay. Look, Sam's worried that he's going to go back to Draya'uc, that's all.
Ah. Well, I understand that, but I don't think it's going to happen.
I know that. You know that. Trouble is, Sam doesn't know that. I have a horrible feeling that until this is all over, she's going to be a bag of nerves.
I let out a mental sigh, turn to tell Teal'c what Jack has just told me but realise that Sam's standing at the door and we're really close by. I'll tell him later, I guess. If nothing else, he can then sort things out with Sam before she worries herself to death. I remember when Jack and I got back together and he told me that Sara wanted to make another go of their marriage. I wanted to just die.
Paul had stepped aside, Jack had just come back into my life and there he was, telling me something that made me think he was going to leave me again. Mercifully, he told me not long after, a matter of moments I guess, that he wanted to be with me. Those moments seemed to last an entire year.
Walking into the kitchen, I can't help myself. I see him standing in front of what looks like an O'Neill special in the wok and hug him quickly. I need to. He looks over his shoulder and grins.
"Hey," he says as I drop a kiss on his nose. "You ready to eat?"
My stomach answers him and he laughs.
"Okay, sit down. I'll dish it up."
So, the meal's been eaten - and very nice it was too. We've cleared up and now we're going to talk over glasses of whatever beverage we so choose. It's still so warm this evening that we've moved outside to our favourite spot by the lake.
"You going to tell us the news?"
"Sure, Jack. Well, Athene remembers Hades and, as usual, we have to give the myths a lot of latitude. Having said that, she says that she's pretty sure that he has Jaffa. And if he has Jaffa, he has to have access to a queen. He certainly never had anything to do with the System Lords, so the chances of him having a queen are pretty good."
They all look comforted with that news, even Teal'c, who already knew it.
"The myth about Persephone was just that, a myth."
"Persephone?" Sam asks. "You didn't mention her."
"Oh. Right. Well, to cut a long story short, Persephone was Demeter's daughter and because of Aphrodite's interfering and Cupid's arrow, Hades fell in love with her and captured her, taking her to the underworld with him. Demeter, after a long search which took months, turned to Zeus to help her. He said if she hadn't eaten anything when in the underworld, she could be taken away from it. But, she'd eaten a few pomegranate seeds..."
"What was she?" Jack calls out. "A supermodel?"
We can't help but laugh and I wait for everyone to stop before carrying on.
"No, Jack, a goddess' daughter. Anyway, she'd eaten them so Zeus couldn't make Hades let her go. Cutting the story shorter, a compromise was reached and Demeter was able to have her with her for half the year but she had to go back to Hades for the rest of it. Because Demeter was the goddess of the earth and farming, she was basically in control of the weather and fertility of the ground. She spent six months happy, six months sad, so we get six months of reasonable or nice weather and six months of lousy weather - a.k.a. the seasons. Unless you believe the version where she spent three months a year in Hades..." I stop when I see Jack's eyes glaze over.
"There was a point to this?" he asks.
"Not really. Only to explain about Persephone," I answer. He rolls his eyes and waves 'carry on' to me.
"It seems that even though Persephone was known as his wife, Hecate, someone who gets precious little in the way of mythological mentions, so we know little about her, is the one that's his real companion. I'm going to read something tonight which may help but to be honest, I'm not hopeful I'll find anything useful. Athene says that she's a nasty, spiteful bitch. Her history, as I said, says that she was one of the chthonic spirits and she's the mother of the sorceresses Medea and Circe."
"I've heard of them," Jack says, looking a little put out.
I grin. "Good to see you were paying attention when I took you to that lecture on magic in mythology, Jack."
He looks sheepish. He pretended to ignore everything that went on. Couldn't blame him, most of it was pseudo-new-age crap, people taking bits from myth that they liked and making up their own version of classical Greek witchcraft. Total hooey.
"Also," I let him off the hook, "remember I said something about crossroads?"
They nod, good. Means they were paying attention before.
"The myth goes that where masks are placed where roads meet, she'll rise up. Not sure what she does after that, though." I sigh and screw up my face. Not intentionally, I just know I'm doing it. "I think that we need to concentrate on Hades. He's going to be in charge of whatever is there."
"So, what do we know about him and his planet?"
"Of his planet, I know little, Jack. Except that it may well be the underworld as we know it."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, in the Odyssey, the underworld is described as being beyond the ocean and at the end of the world. Sound familiar?"
"A gate?" Sam suggests.
I nod. "Many times we've come across the idea of gate travel as being through water, so it's a distinct possibility. Something that may be important when we get there is the fact that there were supposed to be five springs or rivers in the underworld, again depending on which source you read.
"The Acheron, which means 'woe', the Cocytus, which means 'wailing', the Lethe which is 'forgetfulness', the Phlegethon which means 'fire', and the most famous of all, the Styx which means 'hate'. That's the one across which the souls of the dead were ferried by Charon and leads to the tradition of putting coins on the eyes of the dead so that they can pay him."
I smack my head and they look closely at me.
"Daniel?" Jack prompts, his voice drawling in a warning.
"Minos. Remember when we were at the space station? I couldn't find out who he was allied to. Dammit, this is starting to make sense."
"It may make sense to you, Daniel, but it's not making any sense to us," Sam grumps.
"Uh, oh, of course. Minos is one of the judges of the souls of the dead. He lives, er, lived there. Some, the better souls would end up in Elysium, but most souls would go to the dreary Plain of Asphodel. If anyone had outraged the gods, though, they ended up in the dire Tartarus.
"I was just thinking. What if Hades had heard about the problems that the System Lords were having and he sent Minos to the summit as a spy? Remember the weapons on the station? We thought they were Baal's. What if they weren't?"
"Daniel, couldn't you be reading too much into this?" Sam warns. "I mean, just because the myths say Minos was part of Hades' set-up, doesn't mean that after all this time he was still part of it."
"This is very true, Sam. But considering it's a possibility, whether we find a larva for Draya'uc or not, we have to go there to check it out." I look with pain in my eyes at Teal'c, apologising for that. He stares straight back at me. "That's still going to be our priority," I assure him. "Of course it is. But, Hades was an extremely rich and powerful god, even if he didn't do anything with that power.
"He was also the god of riches because all minerals and gems and precious metals come from the earth. He had control over those things, according to myth. We saw how Anubis was biding his time, taking millennia to come and try to take over. Yu and Svarog are now weakened. If Hades has found this out and if he's as powerful as legend has him..."
I leave the rest to their imagination. They know exactly what I'm talking about. Hades could take over the galaxy without much in the way of competition. I don't know about the others, but I'm definitely erring on the side of me that doesn't want to be ruled by a god of the dead.
I understand Daniel's words. I accept them. However, I cannot abandon the chance to provide a larva for Draya'uc. I made a vow to my son before we left that I would do what I could, I would die trying if necessary. I cannot go back on my word.
Daniel has left for the tunnels wherein his books reside. He is going to cram his mind full of every single reference to Hades and his henchmen that he can so that tomorrow, we may go fully armed with all the knowledge available to us. Samantha has gone to help him, I believe.
"You think we should call MIB in for this one?" O'Neill asks.
"If they have returned to the palace, then perhaps it would be of use. I have a feeling that Daniel's hunch may play correctly."
"Yeah," he sighs. "It usually does. Hang on."
I hear him call to the others in his mind and he informs them that we are going to the palace. Calls back to take care are heard by us both and we walk to the gate, a VCD in O'Neill's hand. We never step through a gate without throwing one through, not even 'safe' gates.
"You know, you've got Sam worried," O'Neill states as we walk through the trees.
"In what way?"
He stops and looks at me, perhaps he is wondering what he should say, or how he should say it.
"Out with it, O'Neill."
"Okay. Well, you know, it's this thing with Draya'uc. Don't get me wrong, she wants to find a snake for her. She doesn't want any harm to come to her and she certainly doesn't want Rya'c to lose his mom. She knows all about losing a mother as a teenager and she wouldn't wish that on anyone, let alone a kid she loves."
"I understand. What is the problem?"
"Ach, you know how it goes, T. She's worried that you may feel guilty about Draya'uc or something."
We have reached the DHD and I dial the address, pondering his words, or rather, his tone of voice.
"She believes that I will return to Draya'uc out of guilt?"
He shrugs again, his hands in his pockets.
"Ridiculous, ain't it?" he replies. "I told her you wouldn't, that you love her like crazy and all..."
He's looking into my eyes, awaiting confirmation.
"I swore to Samantha that I would never leave her."
He strolls to the gate which has connected and throws the VCD through, looking at it when the picture comes to us. It is clear, so we walk to the event horizon.
"T," he says as we reach it. "You swore that to Draya'uc when you married her."
With that, he steps through and leaves me shocked.
I do not have time to think on his words. MIB have returned to the palace and we are now informing them of Daniel's thoughts. DJ agrees, which is hardly surprising. John has volunteered their help and O'Neill has agreed to it - gratefully, I think. We hear of their latest mission which turned out to be a visit to a quiet world with a peaceful, new alien species. They found no connection to the Furlings or any possible help for the Jaffa, so much as the exploration was fun for them, it was of no concern to me.
We arrange that they will come to our planet in the morning and we will first go to Medusa's temple to see if there is a clue to Hades' whereabouts. Now we are leaving to return home.
"T," O'Neill says as the gate dials up. "You're very quiet."
He looks at me for a moment then shakes his head before stepping through the gate. I must think on his words before I speak to Samantha.
"Okay, it's late," O'Neill says as we finish getting our weapons ready. He has taken apart all of his guns and has cleaned them and oiled them thoroughly, reloading each one so that we have the maximum ammunition with the minimum of need to carry extras. "Time to get the kids to bed." He looks at me curiously. "What do you say, Teal'c?"
"I agree. They must be rested before tomorrow."
"Good. I'll go get them. No point in calling them, they'll only stay down there."
He puts his gun down and then heads for the rings without another word.
What should I say to Samantha? I will not leave her. I promised. But Draya'uc needs me...
This is no good. I must wait until we have completed our mission. For now, I need to meditate.
Samantha was not overly happy at being brought up from the tunnels, and neither was Daniel. He, however, is O'Neill's problem. She is mine.
She is mine.
She is mine.
She is mine.
Draya'uc is no longer mine.
O'Neill was right. I do feel guilt for the way I treated Draya'uc, but do I feel the love that I feel for Samantha?
I turn to look at Samantha and she looks pained.
"Samantha? What is wrong?"
"I was about to ask that of you, honey," she says sadly. "You've been very quiet."
"I have been thinking."
Can I answer that? Perhaps I should.
I see the colour drain from her face and realise that she is afraid.
"Oh?" She is trying to hide her fear, sticking her chin out in the defiant way Daniel does when he is preparing himself to be let down.
"I should tell you what I wished the bandsaw for," I announce.
Now she looks confused.
"Sit with me, kalash'me."
I sit on the floor in front of the fireplace and light the candles that are in the grate. She sits next to me, warily. To reassure her, I take her hand in mine and we stare at the flickering candlelight for a while.
"On my travels around Annwn, I discovered a beautiful river. Nearby, there is high ground and a large enough clearing for a cabin. Much as this house is our home, and much as I enjoy sharing our lives with the men, I wished to make a home for us. Similar in nature to O'Neill's cabin in Minnesota. It would be somewhere that you and I could go to be alone."
She looks up at me in surprise, the colour returning to her face.
"Do you not feel the desire to be alone with me, my love?"
Now she smiles broadly and that feeling of love that I got from her smile just yesterday returns. I know I have made the right decision.
She does not answer me but turns and flings her arms around my neck. All I can do is hold her closely and make a vow to never let her go.
"Do you think that Teal'c's going to sort things out with Sam tonight?" Daniel asks as he gets into bed next to me.
I'm kinda glad to change the subject. I've just been subjected to a ten minute lecture on how he should know every single detail of myth that's available to him just in case it's needed. Of course, I've been agreeing with him and pointing out that he needs every single available moment of rest tonight as it's more than likely going to be needed.
"Yeah, should do," I reply. "I prompted him to when we went to see the androids."
"What did he say?"
"Nothing. I think he was shocked."
"Yeah, well," he says with a yawn as he snuggles under the covers. "Let's hope he reassures her before tomorrow. I don't want Sam being upset when we're trying to figure out what's going on out there."
I couldn't agree more. It's only a matter of moments before I'm under the covers with him and finding him turning until he's plastered to me, his face on my chest, his arm and leg wrapped around me, and the man who only minutes ago was proclaiming that he wasn't tired, is out cold.
I woke Daniel up the way he likes to be woken. First, I got him a mug of coffee and when he was drinking it, I took the covers off him and went down on him, taking my time as I didn't want him to spill any of it. I am so thoughtful. Of course, when he'd finished - in both senses of the word - he repaid the favour, flipped me onto my back, greased up my dick and sat on it. There are times that I really love mornings.
Unfortunately, MIB are here, we're all dressed and ready to go and we really can't put off stepping through the gate any longer.
The VCD gives us clearance and the eight of us step through it. There's not going to be any sneaking around this time, we're running to the temple to cross the grass as quickly as possible. We have no idea if the worshippers will be coming back anytime soon, so we need to be fast. I am so glad that my knees were fixed.
"Right," Daniel pants as we get to the temple's edge. "The room with Athene's address in it was down here. I didn't see any other address on the film I took of it, but I might have missed something. Perhaps we should start there?"
Sounds as good a place to start as any, so we do.
It doesn't take us long to find it and as soon as we get in, Daniel points out the star chart on the ceiling to the droids. We all look for other clues.
"Daniel? Is there anything else in the mythology about the location of Hades?" Sam asks.
"Uh, yes. It's at the end of natural chasms and is on the further shore of the Styx. Um..." We watch as his mind wanders again and his eyes trawl the ceiling for clues. "Anyone got a compass?"
"Which way's west?"
He looks at me in exasperation.
"Because the west's often associated with underworlds because that's where the sun sets. And I'll be damned if I can remember the reference but I'm sure I read somewhere that it was thought to be in the west."
DJ's taken pity on him and wandered over to one side of the room.
"This way, Daniel," he calls.
I look at John.
"Built in compass?" I ask. He nods with a grin. "Cool."
Just in case he's wrong - as if - we're continuing to look elsewhere. Of course, we're relying on the fact that Daniel's thought of a connection between two types of 'god' which could just be coincidence. But then again...
We turn and move towards the Daniels and look up at where they're pointing.
I can't see it.
"Daniel? There's nothing there."
He grins at me and runs around the room, shutting the door and pulling what can only be described as way over-the-top drapes over the windows.
"Hit it, DJ," he calls.
DJ flicks the flashlight on his wrist - we all have them on as Daniel says that Hades is likely to be dark - and we see what he's saying. A set of constellations shine in the dark, six in all. There's no way I'd have seen them in the light, so I'm guessing that DJ with his super-vision saw them and pointed them out to Daniel.
"I know which ones they are," Frankie announces moments later and then we hear her scribbling furiously on a piece of paper. "Right, we can go."
Even though it's pitch-black in here, I know they're all turning to look at me.
"What if that's not Hades?"
There's silence for a moment.
"After all, we're only hoping that Medusa and the Furies are related, aren't we?"
"This is true, O'Neill," Teal'c says. Or is that Kar Shel? I don't know, they both sound the same in the dark. "However, do you have a better idea?"
"Well, no. But I just want to make sure we're all on the same page here. This might not be Hades. It may be somewhere worse."
"Somewhere worse than Hell?" Daniel asks sceptically.
I use his voice to guide me to his side and then say, "Somewhere way worse," in my lowest, nastiest, most Hammer Horror voice. He jumps a mile. When he shut the curtains, I was behind Teal'c and the furthest away from him.
Then he hits me. Heh heh heh.
On the upside, Sam's looking happy this morning.
On the downside, we've just dialled up Hell itself. I thought Netu was dark and scary. Oh hell.