Summary: A quest that requires bravery, teamwork and partnership. Just what will they get at the end? Many thanks to Joy for the beta and not laughing too loud at the sketch. It's supposed to be bad, okay? (I'll let you into a secret. I spent hours making it neat and tidy, a hundred times better than the one that's there. Then it dawned on me where it was going to go in the story and I had to go back and mess it up. Boy, was I cheesed off or what?)
"Well, Jack, open it up. Let's see what we've got in store for us this time."
It's been ten days since we got back from the space station. Dad and the General thought we should lie low till the Tok'ra could find out what the result was.
As we'd hoped, Anubis is taking the blame for it. Yu, apparently, announced to a hastily convened meeting of the System Lords, to which neither Anubis nor his 'representative' were invited, that he had reason to suspect that the sneaky snake was behind the destruction. Daniel said that Yu wouldn't give us away. He has way too much to gain by our actions if he helps out.
All of the System Lords are pissed that their subordinates were taken out. Baal's freaked at the loss of the station and his people (more because he now has fewer people in the ranks than the human cost).
The biggest 'hmm?' thing was the stash of weapons found on the station. Teal'c said that what there was, and more to the point, where it was, was odd. As if someone was planning an attack from the inside. Question is, who? Yu? Morrigan? Or Baal wanting to take out the opposition? Yet another of life's mysteries.
Talking of mysteries...
"We're going on a quest!" Jack announces.
"A quest?" Daniel's eyes have lit up. I can virtually see the words 'Holy Grail' written over them.
"Yup. A quest. It would seem that an SG team discovered this..."
He's putting what looks like a coded map in front of us. It's full of squiggles.
"...and the Tok'ra think it's the location of some otherwise unknown civilisation's legacy. It could be weapons, it could be anything. Anyway, as the SGC's own science base is being cut down, they've had to give this over to Area 51."
"Which means that we have a little time," Daniel says, his voice trailing as he starts to absorb the writing.
"Area 51's linguists and decoders are... unimaginative at best."
"How do you know, Daniel?" I ask. I have a feeling that he knows more than he's letting on.
He lifts his head and grins. "Ah. Well, you see, they'd managed to piss us off about something or other..."
"Us, Daniel?" Teal'c asks. He's as curious as the rest of us.
"Um, Robert, Daisy, me... actually, my entire department. So we got our own back."
"Daniel? Do tell," Jack encourages. His eyes are sparkling with as much mischief as Daniel's.
"Oh, okay. Well, we designed a code. Breakable - as long as you knew the key. Then I persuaded Martouf to give me a Tok'ra data pad."
His eyes are apologising for bringing Martouf's name up, but he's talking about Robert Rothman, so I guess it's okay. I smile at him in encouragement.
"What did you do, Daniel?" I urge.
"We put the code in, threw in a few random fragments of planetary co-ordinates, then sent the thing to Area 51 with the note that we couldn't crack it and it looked important."
Jack's sniggering. Even Teal'c's smiling.
"Do go on, Daniel," Teal'c says. "Did they crack it?"
Daniel's giggling into his coffee. "Um, eventually. It took them six months."
"What was the key?" I ask.
"April Fool," he chuckles back. "The whole thing was a set-up, start to finish. If they'd clued into the fact that the guy that 'signed' the note in the first place was a Mr. C. J. Ester, they'd have cottoned on a lot quicker."
We're all laughing at that. Who knew that Daniel was so devious? Well, me, actually.
"Why did you not tell us about this before, Daniel?" Teal'c's asking.
"Oh, I guess I forgot," he shrugs.
Hang on, if Robert and Martouf were there, it means that this happened after Shau're's death and before the damned zaytarc thing.
"Um, Daniel? When did it happen?" Jack's asking, wanting to know the same as me, I guess.
"Er, oh, after Euronda," Daniel answers sadly. "Area 51 were on my back about fucking up the deal, as were the NID. My guys decided we should get our own back."
"Why didn't you tell me you were getting hassled?" Jack asks, this time not really wanting to know.
"It doesn't matter, Jack," Daniel replies. "It's over and done with. We wasted their time thoroughly and kept them off our backs for ages."
Jack's nodding, but I think he still feels guilty about that time. Anyway, as Daniel says, that's over and done with. I guess we just wait for him to crack this code and we go on a quest.
Crap. Okay, okay, I am not going to go there again. He and I made up about that time a long time ago. I still feel like shit for killing his best bud from college though. Still, it couldn't be helped. Better that than having another friend with a snake, I guess.
"So, Daniel, have you got a clue?"
"Jack, I've had this for a few moments. Give me an hour, at least," he's saying with a grin.
"Do you recognise the language?" I persist.
"Oh. Um. No. Not yet. There's something vaguely familiar about it."
"Like the partial Mayan glyphs?"
"Um, no." His voice is going again, I can tell he's thinking about this. Time to put more coffee on, methinks. I wonder if I'll have to drag him off to the cabin at zat-point again? That was fun.
"Look, it's runes Jack. Not my strongest subject. And it seems to be a mix of them. Please, babe. I love you, I want you and I need you. But NOT NOW! Go, shoo, annoy someone else for a bit, please? I'll make it up to you later."
Okay, okay, I get the message. Sheesh. Like a good colonel, I go back to the kitchen and put more coffee on. I can interrupt now, but only if I'm carrying peace offerings. Food will be ignored. Not pointedly, but he'll look up, grin, thank me, look back down and forget it's there. Coffee, however, can be drunk on autopilot. He gets quite annoyed when he eventually picks up a mug, puts it to his mouth and discovers that the damned thing is empty. It means he has to stop to get more.
So, I do what I can. I keep two mugs on the go. One with him, one ready for filling when the other is almost empty. I watch him from the doorway, can even set my watch by how long it will take him to finish a mug, then replace the empty one before he realises it. After about four mugs, I get some food on. He usually needs to go for a leak, so I ambush him and lead him to the kitchen to eat before he can return to his work (and realise what I'm up to).
This isn't your usual 'colonel' sort of work, I agree. But then, I'm not a 'usual kind of colonel' either. Most colonels don't have to baby-sit archaeologists-cum-anthropologists-cum-linguists. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. Not at all. It's a dirty job and someone's got to do it. That someone has to be me.
Nobody else is stupid enough.
O'Neill has returned to his 'mother' role. He shall watch over Daniel, making sure that he eats, drinks and rests. I wish that there was something that I could do to help, but there is not. These runes are outside my experience.
While we wait for news, Samantha and I are completing maintenance on the ship. We are restocking the supplies, making the beds more comfortable for the humans, and bolting a table to the floor. We need to make some chairs as well. When they are done, O'Neill says that we will design and build 'runners', so that the chairs may move back and forth but not take off should the artificial gravity go off. He suggests an idea such as a car seat design. I see what he means. It will make sense.
"How are we going to build the chairs and their attachments, Samantha?"
"Not sure, yet, hun. I'll give it some thought. There, that's the table sorted. Now, let's get some measurements and we'll settle down to design the chairs, shall we?"
"That is acceptable. The Tok'ra think that our modifications are unusual."
"Tough, they're suitable for us. Bear in mind that this ship had been virtually gutted when we got it, Teal'c. We need to build these things. Not having a table and set of chairs makes conferences more awkward and so on."
"I agree. What sort of chair should we make? An armchair? A dining chair?"
"More like a dining chair, I think. We'll have to give the legs 'feet' so they can fit into the runners."
"The runners may need grease for ease of movement."
"Ask the guys. They've got plenty of lube," she chuckles.
"I do not believe water-based lubricants would work very well under such circumstances."
"How do you know what they are?" I do believe that she is surprised.
"I was curious."
"On Chulak, we use oil."
She is silent for a moment, then she says, "I really didn't want to go there, Teal'c."
Jack's mother-henning again. I know what he's up to. He's going to watch me from the doorway and keep me refilled with coffee. It's his excuse to bug me. Still, it keeps the coffee coming.
A quick look at my watch and I realise that I've been at this a grand total of eight hours. And I am more confused than before. I've figured some of it out, at least what it is. But it's the why that's confusing me. Perhaps running it past the guys will help.
"Daniel? What's up?"
See, I knew he'd be close.
"Is there any food on?"
"Can be in a matter of minutes. You hungry?"
"I tend to be when I want food, yes. Call the guys down, will you?"
"Sure. You found something?"
"I'm not sure. I need a sounding board."
He scoots off and I dare say is going to do as I ask. Love him, he's such a sweetie at times. God help me if I ever called him that out loud. I'd need divine intervention, 'cause Jack would kill me.
They're all at the table looking at me expectantly. I'm going to prolong the agony. We have fresh bread and cheese from the Land of Light, fresh coffee from the Mayans, they can't possibly expect me to talk now can they? Apparently they can.
"So?" Jack asks.
This is fun. One of my hobbies is pissing Jack off. Another one is getting Jack off, so I guess things even out.
Teal'c's eyebrow's doing its thing, Sam's trying not to laugh, and Jack? Jack looks like he's going to smack me.
"What. Have. You. Discovered?"
Damn, I could hear the exclamation marks.
Daniel really does love to live dangerously. I can see his eyes twinkling from here. Jack's getting madder by the moment. Even Teal'c is amused.
"Daniel." Oh shit, the growl.
"WHY did you want us here?"
"Well, it's like this. I've figured out some of it, at least what it is. Not sure why it is."
"Good. You do understand then."
Hell, Jack's on his feet. He's got that look on his face, one reserved for Daniel at times like this. It's his 'I'm going to kill him or kiss him' face. We don't usually get to find out what because at this point in the proceedings, Daniel usually takes off like a scalded cat. However, he's not moving so this could be interesting.
Jack's up to him now, pulling Daniel to stand up nose to nose. His hands are around Daniel's throat. Perhaps the 'kill him' option is going to come into play. Or maybe not. Damn, he's laying a kiss on Daniel that could light up the stargate.
He's kissing him.
And kissing him.
Ooh, and kissing him.
They're finally breaking apart.
"Better now?" Jack's asking.
"Hmm. Maybe another go? Just to get my thoughts in order," Daniel's teasing.
Jack's grinning now. Daniel so has him on the ropes it's unreal.
"Talk, Daniel," he's saying quietly.
"Aw, okay." Daniel's sitting down, pulling Jack to sit next to him. "Basically, there are different runes and glyphs on there. Some are Saxon - from the larger futhorc."
"Futhorc? And larger?" I have no idea what he's talking about.
"Um, sort of a runic alphabet. Futhorc is taken from the first few runes in the list. Basically, there were twenty-four runes in the Viking futhorc, which then grew to thirty-one with the Anglo-Saxons in England and reduced itself to sixteen in Scandinavia. Anyway, as I said, some are definitely Saxon, some are definitely Etruscan too - which poses a real problem."
"Dates. We're talking a huge difference in time, virtually a millennium. Not to mention they were in different places too. So, why them? Then of course, there's the others."
"Yeah. They look familiar, like the Saxon runes, but they're not them. And I haven't figured out why yet."
He's putting the map in front of us. That looks familiar.
"Daniel? Is that a snake?" Sam's asking.
She's pointing out what looks like a ribbon or path which is circular and doubling back on itself and stuff.
"Yes, it is. That's not uncommon, Sam. The serpent turns up a lot in ancient history. It's a symbol of loads of things, including eternity. Which is what it's going to take me to sort this out if we're not careful."
"So, you haven't even worked out who is behind this?" I ask.
"No, not yet. I'm beginning to wonder if it is some hoax - maybe Area 51 is getting its own back for the practical joke."
"They do not know about us," Teal'c says.
"Are you sure about that? After that thing with the Mayans, I wouldn't be so sure."
"The trouble is," Sam points out, "that until you've translated it, we won't know."
Sighs all round. Even Teal'c's joining in. Ah well, it's getting late, maybe something will come tomorrow. Talking of coming...
"Why don't we go to bed, tackle this again in the morning. Maybe fresh eyes will help."
"Oh?" Daniel says. "Are we going to have visitors?"
"No, Daniel, your eyes will be fresh if they shut for a while."
"In a while, Jack, I'm not tired."
He looks at me and grins.
Dear God - it's a miracle! Daniel's got a translation and he's not going to do it. He's coming to bed with me. Hang on, where's he going now?
"Um, just thought I'd get my books..." he's waving in the direction of his study. NO FUCKING WAY!
Ya know, there are times that I love my old training. I now have him where I want him. Naked. In the cabin. Naked. On the bed. Tied up and naked. His feet and hands attached to the head and foot boards - and in that order. Naked. Did I say naked? Good. 'Cause that's the important bit. So am I.
I'm feeling particularly feral, so I'm crawling on the bed. Just as well it's big. Hmm, there's a toe or ten to play with. Yummy.
"God, Jack, please," he's whispering.
Two can play at the 'let's be obtuse' game. Besides, these toes are so cute. A lick here, a suck there, and he's moaning. I'm backing up, licking down his legs, taking each one in turn. Up his thighs and to my goal. Hard, bright-red and leaking just for me. Oh yeah. Better than his toes even.
"Jack, back up a bit," he gasps.
Huh? Oh! My favourite number.
This is the life. I'm on my hands and knees, my tongue is happily swiping at his dick, his mouth is desperately trying to eat mine... I could die a happy, happy man right now. Though later would be preferable.
I want a bit more of this, so, lower head, lower ass, take more and give more. I am such a generous man it's painful. The noises coming from him tell me he agrees. Damn, that is one talented mouth he has on him. As opposed to the one that cusses up a blue streak and the one that confuses the crap out of me. Personally, this one is favourite. Not going to let anyone else find out about it though.
Oh crap, I'm not going to hold out, so let's up the ante.
How does he yell like that with my dick in his mouth? That tickled.
Come on, Daniel, give it up for me. I want you, want everything you've got for me. That's it, I can feel it building. You and me both, baby. Oh yes. Ohyesohyesohyes. OH NO! He's STOPPED!
"I've got it!"
"Not yet you haven't!"
"No, the translation, I know what it is."
"I. Don't. Care! SUCK MAN, SUCK!"
Right, he's back with the programme. Oh yes, definitely getting there again. Whoo momma. That's it. More... ugh. Your turn now. Fingers roaming, tongue's sucking and Houston, we have ejaculation!
"God, Jack, wow. Untie me, quickly."
"Not a hope."
"You want to get back to that translation."
"No I don't, I want to wrap my arms around you."
Is there anyone here that believes that one? No? Me neither.
"It's not that I don't believe you Daniel..."
"It's just that you don't believe me? I'm hurt."
He's really trying for that 'wounded dignity' thing. Tough.
"No. Now, we sleep."
"I can't sleep like this," he sulks.
Maybe he's got a point.
"Promise me, Daniel."
"Promise you what?"
"Promise me you'll stay here?"
"I'll stay in the cabin, I promise."
Okay. I've never known him break a promise. There. He's untied and crawling up the bed. Hmm. Some serious tongue suckage later and he's resting his head on my chest. He's almost convinced me. Eyes are starting to shut, breathing is evening out...
"Ni't J'ck. L've you."
"Yeah, night babe. Love you too."
"You fucking promised, Daniel!"
"I kept my promise. I promised that I would not leave the cabin. I did not leave the cabin."
"You got up and worked on that translation! How in hell's name did you get a copy of the thing anyway?"
"I remembered it. And I couldn't sleep."
O'Neill and Daniel are arguing. Again. This is not new. Daniel has taken command of the coffee pot and he is currently hugging it to himself, not letting anyone else near it. This is also not new. O'Neill is growling. This is getting old.
"So," O'Neill says, putting his head in his hands. "What did you work out?"
"The runes, the ones that looked familiar but not?"
"They're from the original futhorc and Viking and mirrored."
"How did you work that one out?"
Daniel is looking at O'Neill, rather dangerously it would appear.
"I was upside down at the time, Jack. We were doing something mirrored at the time. How the fuck do you think I thought of it?"
"You were thinking of it when we were..."
O'Neill has been prevented from speaking further as Daniel has put his hand on his mouth.
"NOT one more word, O'Neill."
O'Neill nods. Daniel is slowly removing his hand. O'Neill is smiling. Daniel has replaced his hand. O'Neill has raised his eyebrow. Daniel's hand is coming back away from him.
"Otherwise occupied," O'Neill says in a rush.
"Ye-es," Daniel is drawling, still not taking his eyes off O'Neill's face.
"Havingmindblowingsex," O'Neill says in even more of a rush.
I do believe he has made a mistake. Daniel has put down the coffee pot. He is not embarrassed. Little embarrasses him. He is, however, annoyed.
Samantha has entered the room. Daniel has looked at her in an apologetic way. O'Neill has not seen her enter. What will Daniel do?
He is trailing his finger down the side of O'Neill's face.
"Yes, Jack," he is saying breathlessly. "I was so bored when you had your mouth on my dick and I had yours in my face, that all I could do was think of the translation. Ya know, sixty-nining it isn't as exciting as it once was. Perhaps we shouldn't do it again?"
O'Neill has just squeaked. Now he is whimpering. I am not sure that Daniel's suggestion has met with his approval. Personally, I have always found 'sixty-nining it' quite awkward, but then most of my partners have been significantly smaller than me.
Ha! Try and embarrass me would you, flyboy? Not a hope in hell. But it is so fuckin' easy to make you blush.
"So, what did you find out?" he's saying, trying to cover up the fact that Sam's just found out he loves simultaneous oral sex. If he only knew that she knows a lot more about him...
"I think that the mirrored runes are the ones we should pay attention to, and that the others were there as a distraction."
"So," he says again, this time a bit more frustrated. "What does it say?"
"Okay, I'll get the map out and explain it, shall I?" I snap back.
"Good, Daniel," he says patting my head. "Don't bite."
The coffee's poured, first mug is drunk, second's following it and... ah, that's better. I've put the map I drew on the table and it's time to explain things.
"Look, here's what I drew, without the extraneous runes."
"That is one bad drawing, Daniel."
"I was, er..."
"Tired? Is that what you were going to say, Daniel? Because if it was.."
"In a rush," I tell him quickly. "I needed to get it down while I remembered it, okay? Now, if you'll quit with the art critique for a moment, I'll tell you what it is." A little more coffee first though.
"O'Neill, shut it and give me a minute. Right, if you look at the tail, there's the first set of runes. In their correct state, they're thurisaz, kano, perth, laguz, raido and ansuz. If you don't use the sound meanings, but the pictographic representations, they mean, gateway, opening or guidance, initiation or things unexplainable, water or passage, journey and signals or inspiration."
"Like the beginning of a quest," Sam says, nearly bouncing with excitement.
"Exactly. Follow the snake and you get ehwaz and gebo - at least I'm assuming it's gebo, that doesn't usually fit in an oval, but it's an X shape. They mean movement or loyalty and partnership or harmonic relationships. Gebo can also mean a gift - including sacrifice, but I'm hoping that it won't come to that."
"Me too," Jack's muttering. Then he looks up and says, "Next?"
"Okay, like with gebo, some of the runes are inside other patterns, so you have to understand that this is an educated guess and no more. Next we have a blockage or ice, daybreak or breakthrough, gebo again, then othila which means inheritance, usually by separation."
More mutterings from this, but I need to go on.
"The next bit is a touch confusing. Sowulo, meaning wholeness, sun or giver of life - or it could be eihwaz, which means defence or enduring. I can't be sure because the patterns are similar when they're normal, which makes trying to figure out the twisted version tough."
"What ones come after it? Maybe they'd help," Jack asks.
"Back to dagaz - um daybreak, ansuz - signals or inspiration, and berkana, growth or renewal."
"Well, daybreak and renewal would connect," Sam says. "Tie them in with the sun and inspiration - maybe it means that you'll be inspired in the morning?"
Jack's looking confused. He's not the only one.
"Could be, hun. Anyway, the next two are nauthiz and Tyr or teiwaz, which mean constraint, or the negatives of human need, and teiwaz is the symbol of Tyr - a Norse god - and of justice or the warrior."
"What was Tyr god of?" Teal'c asks.
"What else?" Jack mutters.
"Carrying on, we have only two more sets. Hagalaz and perth. As they're together I'm assuming they mean destructive forces and the unexplainable."
"I do not like the sound of that."
"No, Jack, neither do I. Then we reach the end of the journey. Quite literally. There's a theme here too. Loyalty, partnership, endurance... and the one which I think is sowulo in this context - meaning victory in this sense. Of course, there's the final rune..."
"Where? We've run out."
I thought they'd say that. "Look at the snake. On the map, it was specifically in one colour - except the eyes and..."
"The tongue. Is that a rune?" Jack asks.
"Yep. Algiz. Which has two meanings. Protection."
"The successful outcome of a quest."
Three sets of eyebrows rise, eyes are lighting up. Uh oh.
"Why are the eyes different colours? Are they like runes too?"
"Not that I am aware of, Teal'c. They may be just decoration, or..."
Daniel's doing his thing again and annoying Jack.
"Or they may represent something that I haven't figured out yet. A final element to the quest."
"A final element," he repeats. "That you haven't figured out yet."
"Give me a chance, Jack! Besides, they could just be decoration."
"True, true, but seein' as you've got them marked here?"
"I marked them there because I just didn't know, okay?"
Jack's sitting back, hugging a mug of coffee to himself and thinking.
"Is this going to be safe?" he asks.
"How the fuck should I know?" Daniel mutters. Now he's straightening his back. Not a good sign. "Look, Jack, all I can do is tell you what I know, and what I'm speculating about. This whole thing is speculation until we go there. I can't say anything for certain though because I just don't know the context in which this was found."
"The mission brief said that the team found it on a planet in a market of some sort, thought it looked interesting and exchanged something or other for it. We don't even know what planet it applies to," I put in.
"Ah, we do," Daniel says distractedly.
"We do?" Jack, Teal'c and I say at the same time.
"Oh, didn't I mention it?" One of these days, if Jack doesn't kill him, I'm going to. Before we can say anything he continues. "There weren't only Viking, Saxon and Etruscan runes there, there were hidden glyphs too. They're gate co-ordinates, I'm guessing. Well, there were six of them and they're all on the DHD."
"Hidden?" Jack asks before I can.
"Yeah, um, inside cartouches. They were turned upside down and mirrored too, which is why it took me a while to figure it out. Anyway, we can go there."
"Before we go rushing off, tell me one thing, Daniel. Who do you think is behind this? Is it the Asgard? Will they have a Thor's Hammer thingy waiting to whisk Teal'c off?"
Daniel sighs and shrugs. "I don't know, Jack. All I can suggest is that we send a VCD through the gate and look. If we don't like the look of what's on the other side of the gate, we don't go. I think that whoever it was that made up this map was well aware of both the Asgard and the Goa'uld, and quite possibly the Ancients too. Etruscan, after all, was pre-Latin, so there's a possibility of Ancients' involvement. It could just be some clever intergalactic pirate treasure map. I. Just. Don't. Know."
He's now holding his head in his hands, cross with himself for not being able to give the answers that Jack wants. Jack's sighing and he's putting his hand on Daniel's shoulders.
"Don't sweat it, Daniel. I know you can't know all the answers. I just like to be as informed as I can be before setting off on something like this. For all we know it could be a trap, a proper quest for the ultimate weapon, or a wild-goose chase."
Daniel's nodding. "I know, babe, I know. I wish I could give you more, but that's all I'm going to get from the map."
I'm not sure what else to say to Daniel. He should look happy for figuring it out, instead, he looks sad.
"Hey, come on, it's not as if we haven't gone into situations more blindly than we're doing now, is it?" I try. "We'll send a VCD through, check up on the climate, then we go through armed to the teeth."
Daniel's screwing his face up at that.
"Yeah, about that," he says. "If this is an Asgard world, then weapons, especially Goa'uld ones, might not work."
Oh for a P90.
"So, what are you suggesting, Daniel?" Sam asks.
"Basics. We'll take our zats, of course. But we should go in with knives, and, er, more primitive weaponry."
"Yeah, bows and arrows, spears, that sort of thing."
We all sigh, understanding his meaning. They won't be considered a threat, so we'll stand a better chance of not losing their use.
So, while Carter and Teal'c (did I really just think of her like that? I must have done. Sheesh - talk about the good old days - thoughts of P90s, proper C4 and the odd F-111 flood my brain) go off to throw a VCD through the gate, Daniel and I battle through the mud at the entrance of the jungle and look for some suitable wood.
We've decided on the local equivalent of the lignum vitae that we've built the cabins in, for the spears and arrows, and a really flexible sappy wood for the bows. That's the sap that goes up a tree, by the way, not the sappy-type sap which neither of us does. Much. Unless we're drunk, just had a near-death experience or... just feel like it really. Well, what do you expect? We've been through too fucking much to ignore how we feel and just pretend that we're best pals that like fucking. I can't breathe without the smug bastard.
It's been raining a lot recently. We think it's the rainy season. Given that we had a fairly dry one when we got here, it's a pretty fair bet. Monsoon season would be closer to the mark. Makes trying to get your laundry done a nightmare. I mean, all we have to do is put the things on the line and they get washed, spun in the wind and washed again, but drying? No way. Not a chance. We take them indoors, put them in front of the fire, and the next thing you know the cabin's been turned into a Swedish sauna.
Coming to think of it, we've had some fun in the Swedish sauna variety of cabin. Well, we have to take our clothes off because of the heat and the steam, and well, sitting there is hard, isn't it? Daniel can't read 'cause the pages get soggy, and it's not as if we have a TV. Not that the reception would be much good if we did. And the steam would play hell with the electrics. And AT&T just doesn't come out this far. Neither does Dominos. Which is a pain. What I wouldn't give for a Hawaiian about now.
That's a Hawaiian pizza. Not a big bloke in a pretty shirt with a surf board under his arm and why did my mind just do that?
"What the fuck are you thinking about?"
"I have no idea. My mind's doing a you."
"No, a 'you'."
"That's what I said."
"No, a you as opposed to a me. Lateral thinking."
"Oh. About what?"
"Cable TV, Swedish saunas and a Hawaiian pizza."
"I'm sorry I asked."
Okay, found a tree. Don't need the whole thing, a branch will do.
"Up you go, Daniel."
"We need a branch. That one over there will do. It's pretty straight. We'll make some good spears out of that."
I'm pointing to one about fifteen feet up in the air. He's looking at me as if I've gone insane. Perhaps I have. I don't usually think of cable TV, Swedish saunas and a Hawaiian pizza in the same context.
"Why don't you climb it?"
"'Cause you're the young one!" Duh. He should know that by now. "I'm forty-seven!"
"With the body of a thirty-one year-old. And the sex drive of an eighteen year-old and the mind of a five year-old."
"What was that?"
"Ooh, and the hearing of a seventy year-old."
"Okay, okay, I'll go up the fucking tree. You'll have to find a way to get me down from it though."
O-kay. Back at the tree with a rope. He's muttering under his breath as he climbs it, wondering how he gets roped into these things. Roped in? Ha! Sarcastic twit.
He's up, attacking the branch with the cutter and 'tim-ber'. It's down. That's it, Daniel. Now you have to come down. No, now is not a good time to have an attack of vertigo. Aw shit. I'm going to have to go and get him, aren't I?
"We're in the jungle, and Daniel's stuck up a tree. Uh - help?"
"We are on our way."
Ah, don'tcha just love backup?
Daniel is back on the ground, the branch has been recovered to the beach, and Samantha and O'Neill have gone to get wood for the bows. Daniel is looking ashamed.
"What troubles you, Daniel?"
"Oh, um, nothing. I'm fine."
"No, you are not fine. You are upset. Talk to me."
He is blushing, his head is looking at his feet.
"I'm sorry about my little, er, freak-out back there. At the tree."
"You do not normally mind climbing trees."
"No, I don't."
"So why do you think you did this time?"
"I don't know, Teal'c. Perhaps I'm bothered about the mission. I don't know what's going to happen and I hate sending us in blind."
"Ah. That explains it, then. You were otherwise occupied. Your mind perhaps was playing tricks on you?"
"Could be," he concedes, kicking his feet in the sand as he trims the branch.
"Do not think that we think less of you, Daniel. We all have our fears."
He snorts. I do not believe that he believes me.
"You think that we do not?"
"No, Teal'c. You guys always seem so cool."
"I do not have phobias, that is true," I admit. "But there are many things that I prefer not to do. And I do not like bugs."
He looks at me, his eyes opened in amazement and not a little amusement.
"Bugs. Specifically of the aerial variety."
"Ah, mosquitos. Given your, er, incident with the mosquito on steroids, and that time at Jack's pond, I'm not surprised."
"Quite. They... disturb me."
"You find this surprising?"
"I do. You never seem to be afraid of anything."
"I am over one hundred years old, Daniel. I have had a long time to perfect my card look."
"Poker face," he returns with a grin. "I'll bet Jack isn't scared of anything."
"What?" He now looks stunned.
"Losing you. That fear resides in his very core, Daniel. It is his greatest fear, his deepest phobia. Every time we go on another mission he is frightened that it will be your last one. This affects him greatly."
"I'm scared of losing him too," he says quietly. "I'm scared of losing any of you."
"As are we. Do not feel ashamed of your fear of heights, Daniel. We think no less of you, I assure you. You have, on many occasions, battled your fear and overcome it, aiding us in our missions, saving us as you do. Your conquering of your fear in the Hall of Thor's Might saved not only us but an entire planet. You should be proud of yourself, and ignore small lapses when it is safe to have them."
"The tree, Daniel. It was safe for you to be afraid. You were not putting any of us in danger. You would never allow your fear to do that."
He says nothing, but his mouth is open. I hope that he has listened to me.
That was so embarrassing, but I've been in worse situations and the guys have always come through for me. I guess that's what they mean by us being a close team. Forgiving stupid lapses like that, helping each other out and not placing blame. Teal'c was really cool about it so, if he can be, I can be, I guess.
Anyway. The weapons are made, it's late, we've eaten and now we're off to bed. We're going first thing in the morning. Teal'c and Sam said that they didn't see anything that looked like Thor's Hammer, so we're hopeful. We're going via the gate because when Sam looked at the co-ordinates for the planet she discovered that it would take us about three years to get there in Mia. Not really what we want to do.
"Daniel? You're quiet. You okay?"
"I'm fine, Jack. Just tired, a bit nervous about tomorrow and so on. I'm thinking we should take survival equipment with us."
"Of course we will."
"Yeah, but more so. Like the ropes and things. Climbing equipment too. Teal'c said that he saw mountains in the background and we don't know if we'll need to go there."
He nods and agrees with me.
"Okay, so, what, like a hiking holiday? With weapons?"
"Yeah," I snort. "Look, if this is like one of those mediaeval quests you see in the old epics, we'll face different sorts of trials. We have to be prepared for every eventuality. Including search and rescue, I suppose."
He's pulling me into a hug.
"Daniel, if you have misgivings..."
"No, nothing like that. I guess I'm just nervous about not knowing what we're up against."
"We rarely know what we're up against."
"True, but we usually have an idea. I have no idea, Jack."
"Well, there's nothing we can do about it till we get there. So, how about you come up against a quest of a different sort tonight? Or more to the point, let me go on one of my own making."
"Lie down, Daniel, and you'll see what I mean."
Oh, okay. I can do that. I'm not even naked - which makes a change. Ohgodohgodohgod, he's kissing me. I know he kisses me a lot, but not like this. My brain's melting. My toes are curling. My fingers are holding the bed in a death grip. My... oh my! Oh boy. Hnnng.
"Damn, O'Neill, you should patent that mouth."
"Nobody kisses like you. Nobody. More?"
"Just you lie there, babe, and you're going to get more. Now, my first task was to tame the beast. Did I do that?"
He's trying not to laugh. "O-kay, task two is to clear the way, scythe my way through the forest and into the clearing."
"How are you going do that?"
"Watch and learn, Daniel. Watch and learn."
Oh God, he's undressing me. Slowly. Kissing the skin as it appears. My senses are on fire, my dick is hard enough to knock nails in and he's only taken my top off! I'm not going to survive this. I'm going to spontaneously combust.
I don't think I've ever been kissed so gently before in my life. I'm on edge, desperate to get off, but he's not touching me there. Oh - OH - God - my eyelids. He's brushed his lips over my eyelids. Shit. I'm crying - not in a sobbing way, I'm not upset, I'm horny. But tears are falling down my face and he's kissing them away. I know he loves me, more than his own life. I know it - I know it. I've just never felt it in this way before. I feel like I'm tied to the bed. I'm not, I could grab him and pin him to the bed, kiss the shit out of him then fuck him senseless, but I'm not going to. That would spoil this and I am not going to do that.
"Love you," I whisper as his lips ghost against mine. "Loveyouloveyouloveyou." I want to say more. I want to tell him how much he means to me, but I don't know how. I've run out of words. I speak nigh on thirty languages these days and not one of them has the right words to tell him how much he means to me. How deep my feelings go. "Please, Jack," I whisper. I'm not sure what I'm pleading for though. I don't want this to stop.
He's stopped touching me, he's just holding himself up with his hands, lying over me, our eyes are locked. His beautiful brown eyes are smoky, filled with love and desire and I've never in my life felt as loved as I do now - which is saying something as he's shown me how much he loves and desires me on many occasions. He's smiling.
"Love ya, Daniel," he murmurs.
"I know." Weak, I know, but it's all I can say. It was the right thing to say. His eyes look even happier.
Where's he going? Don't go! Oh. There. Okay. Pity in a way, it means he's going to take this to its, er, conclusion. I'm in two minds about whether I want this or not now. Crazy I know. My dick is aching to get off, so much it's painful. But I don't want him to stop with the kissing.
Ooh, he's going on with it. Stomach, thighs - the back of my knees nearly put me into orbit. FUCK. He's just breathed on my dick. If he so much as touches it, I'm gonna...
I wanted to call his name but I forgot it! One lick. That's all it took. One fucking lick and I came so hard it hit my chin.
"Where are you going! Get back here!"
He's standing up.
"That was the next part of my quest, Daniel. To conquer the snake. I think I did that."
"Oh, I think you did. What's next?"
"Well, there's this cave..."
I'm on my knees, twisting, facing away, all fours now...
"Yeah, that one. I've got to enter it and see if I can't..."
"Can. You can. Do it!"
He's sniggering, the swine. I hear his clothes hit the floor, I grab the lube and throw it backwards. He's laughing louder now.
"Time to do battle," he says with a smirk in his voice. Ooh yeah.
An old song comes to mind.
Heaven... I'm in heaven...
And I am.
Daniel's grinning like a moron this morning. I'm guessing he got laid last night - not that that is unlikely. Even Jack's whistling.
"Morning, guys. You get some sleep?"
Jack scowls and Daniel carries on grinning.
"Yeah, a very good night's sleep," Daniel says with a purr in his voice. "Jack told me a wonderful bedtime story about a brave and handsome warrior who went on a quest to tame a beast. With actions too. I don't think I've ever enjoyed a storytelling session as much in my entire life."
I know Daniel. I know when he's lying. He's not lying - as such. But I know that I'm only getting a very small bit of the story, so to speak. Jack's looking a little shyly at him. Aw, he is so cute when he does that.
"So, Jack, are you going to tell me that story sometime?"
His mouth has opened wide, Daniel's started to laugh. I guess not then.
Breakfast is over, our equipment has been collected together, we're all ready. Hey ho, it's wormhole time.
We emerge to a world that looks like it belongs in a saga. Green - at least it would be if it wasn't so misty. I'm half-expecting to see a knight on his charger come through the fog and appear, lance in hand, asking us of our quest. I'm not telling the guys that. I'd get way too many 'lance in hand' jokes coming back at me if I did.
"So, Daniel, which way should we go?"
Daniel's looking at the map - he made a copy of the whole thing - false runes and all, on the off chance that they weren't as false as he thought they were.
"Um, I think that way," he says distractedly, pointing at a bank of fog that's rolling around.
He looks at me as if he's wishing I wouldn't ask things like that.
"Well, if we look at the whole map, and not the bit that I sketched, you'll see that the snake pattern was inside a few others. I'm thinking that they're false trails, like the false runes. Now, look at the floor. You'll see, well, you would see more clearly if this damned fog would lift, that there would appear to be paths going in the same directions as the 'paths' on the map.
"Using the tail of the snake as the gate location, and with some luck on our side, this path is the one we have to take. Now, I'm not saying that the paths will hold true to the directions, especially as the snake crosses over itself a few times, but I think it's there to show us which one to start on."
Seems like as good an explanation as any of us could come up with - better than any of us could come up with if I'm honest. I look at Jack and he shrugs. May as well go down that path, then. It would seem that the first set of runes has come to pass, so to speak. Gateway, water - which the gate looks like, opening... yeah, we're on our way.
"So, Daniel, what was the second set of runes again?" I ask.
"Ehwaz and gebo."
"And they mean?" Jack prompts. Well, Daniel doesn't expect us to remember, does he? Oh. He does. Oops.
"Loyalty, partnership or harmonic relationships," Daniel starts.
"Oh goody," Jack sniggers, taking Daniel's hand in his. "Well, I for one think that we'll qualify there."
"Just as long as the harmony doesn't refer to us having to turn into a barbershop quartet, we'll be fine on that score," Daniel mutters.
"Was there not more to it, Daniel?" Teal'c asks.
"Yeah. The bit we didn't like the sounds of. Gebo. It can also mean a gift, which can be the gift of sacrifice. Let's hope it's just the harmonic relationships bit there."
"Yes, let's," Jack agrees. But I notice that he's tightened his grip on Daniel's hand.
I look up at Teal'c and he smiles at me and lets me slip my hand into his. We don't often walk hand-in-hand. To be fair, neither do the guys. There's something about this quest though that's pulling us all together. We don't know what, and we don't know why. There's nothing overtly dangerous about it.
We're almost certain that if any alien race is behind this, it's likely to be the Asgard and not the Goa'uld. And they are not vindictive. Infuriating at times yes, enigmatic, most assuredly - but not nasty. It's not their way. Even when we tackled the Hall of Thor's Might, Thor scared the crap out of us, but he didn't hurt us. He forgave us for destroying his hammer, helped us out against Heru'ur... no, he won't do anything to harm us, and I don't believe that the Asgard as a race would deliberately set out to harm. They may not always help, but actively harm, no.
So, with Jack whistling Follow The Yellow Brick Road, we're off. Whether we'll see a wizard or not is anyone's guess. Given the feelings that we're getting about this quest, I wouldn't be surprised if we did. I'm half-expecting to have to do battle with a dragon - it's that sort of sensation that we're getting.
We've been walking a while now and the fog is lifting. The scenery is stunning. We're in a valley, a mountain either side of us. It's green. Emerald-green grass, bottle-green trees... just green. Mountain streams are glistening in the morning sun, rainbows forming as the light hits the little waterfalls that appear now and then. The tops of the mountains are still covered in fog, but now it looks like low cloud.
It's like every movie scene of a beginning of a quest you've ever seen rolled into one. We're on a path. This place has been lived in, visited from time to time. We just crossed a large stream which had a wooden bridge on it. I didn't tell the guys but I wouldn't have jumped too high from shock if a troll had appeared from under it.
I think we've just hit our first obstacle.
"Okay. How the fuck are we going to get across this?"
There's a gap, a crevasse. It's just there in front of us, appeared out of nowhere. The path is on the other side. I get out my binoculars and look up and down the gap and see nothing - no way to cross.
"How far across is it?" Daniel asks.
I look at the range finder in my glasses and see that it's fifteen feet. Fifteen feet isn't a huge amount but none of us are long jumpers.
Daniel's doing something. He's gotten his spear out. He's put my hand on one side, Teal'c's on the other.
"Lift," he instructs. So we do. He's gotten hold of it. Ah, I see. He's testing the strength of it. It's not bending, but then it wouldn't. This wood is incredibly strong. If this goes it will just snap without warning.
"Okay, I think it will do it. Teal'c. Look over there, there are two rocks close together. Do you think you can throw the spear, with a rope attached, so that the spear gets caught up behind them?"
"I can but try, Daniel."
"We'll end up one rope short, Daniel," I tell him.
"You got a better idea?"
"Um, no. Okay. How are we going to do this?"
"See if Teal'c can get the spear over there first, huh?"
We tie a rope to the spear and Teal'c throws. He's gotten it past the rocks but as he tugs on the rope, it comes over them.
"Try again," Daniel says quietly.
He's done it again, but instead of pulling on the rope standing up, Daniel's lain on his stomach and he's pulling like that, a lot flatter. It's working. Now he's sitting and digging his heels into the earth and pulling hard. It's not moving.
"Find something to tie this onto, Jack," he instructs as he gives me the end of the rope. There is a tree nearby, a big one. The rope just makes it there and around the trunk. I tie up one of my best knots on it and the rope is twanging, it's that tight.
"Give me one of the other ropes," he says.
Now he's tying it around his waist and giving the other end to me.
"Just in case," he says.
"Daniel, let me go first," Sam says. "I'm lighter than you."
"Yes, I know. But if it breaks for me, then Teal'c won't be able to cross. And I think that Jack and Teal'c will stand a good chance of holding onto me if it goes. It's got to be me, Sam."
Ya know, that makes no sense whatsoever. If it looks like danger for Sam, none of us will cross it. He's looking at me, pleading in his own way.
Ah, I know what this is. He's trying to make up for yesterday's little tree episode. I'd tell him that he doesn't have to make up for that, that none of us think less of him, but then he'd know I was thinking of it and he'd put two and two together and come up with twenty-three and think that I think he's a coward. I don't know why he thinks so little of himself, but he does. I guess it's up to me to prove that I believe in him.
"Okay. Do it, Daniel," I say.
I can see that Teal'c and Sam are about to question me, but I glare at them and they don't. I'll explain later if I have to, but for now they do as they're told.
He's gotten the rope well tied round him. All three of us have a hold of it. He's sitting on the edge of the crevasse and now he's grabbing the tight rope - literally a tightrope. I'm not going to ask him to walk over it though. He's gotten hold, wrapped his feet around it and now he's inching his way along it. I want to call out to encourage him, but my heart is in my mouth and I can't speak. He's halfway there. I'm sure that the rope is lower than it should be.
Come on, come on, Daniel, move it. Nearly there. He's dropped his feet now and doing it all by hand. He's spotted some footholds in the side and he's aiming for them. That's it, Daniel, I know what you're doing. Good thinking. He's at the edge, his feet stuck into the side and he's using the rope to haul himself up. Hang on, what's that? Creaking?
"SHIT Daniel! The spear's breaking!"
Damn but that boy can climb fast when he's motivated. He's thrown himself onto the grass, just as the spear snaps in two, comes through the gap in the rocks and...
Fuck. It's smacked him on the head.
"DANIEL! DANIEL! Answer me for God's sake!"
"'M okay, Jack," he says. Over the communicator. He isn't okay. Damn.
"Daniel, how badly are you hurt? I can see the blood from here."
"Head wound, Jack. Always look worse than they are, you know that. I'm fine. Give me a minute will you?"
We can't leave him over there on his own, not now - not that we would have anyway, but still. He's standing up, steadily, thank God. Now he's taken his rope off his waist and he's tying it to the one rock. Ah, I get it. Okay, we'll secure this side to the tree and use the original one as the safety line to cross to him.
Daniel appears to be hurt. O'Neill is desperate to get across to him, but he knows that we have to take this carefully. Samantha has taken the first aid kit and she is going to be the first one to cross the gap. If there were only a tree nearby on the other side we could make a proper rope crossing, but as there is not, we must do it this way. She is across, I am relieved.
O'Neill tells me to go, but I believe that he should be with his mate sooner rather than later.
"Go, O'Neill. I will collect all the equipment and tie the last rope to it. When I am across the gap you and I will haul it together."
It is to my relief that he has accepted this. It is giving him something to concentrate on other than Daniel. First he calls Samantha.
"How is he?"
"Don't worry, it's just a cut. Give him a little break and he'll be right as rain," she calls back. This is good news.
O'Neill is across the gap quickly. Now that the rope is secure it is much easier to cross. I have collected the equipment, tied a loop around the crossing rope, and now it is my turn to traverse the crevasse.
I believe that Daniel was being exceedingly brave by being the first to cross this. If the spear had snapped earlier in his journey, he would have been saved, but he would also have smashed into the side of the ground and been damaged. Given his fear of heights, this was a courageous act. Which is likely the reason for his actions. To prove to himself, as much as to us, that he could do it and would not let us down. I am... impressed, I believe the word is.
I am with my teammates, my family. O'Neill has checked Daniel with his own eyes, been told off for fussing too much, and is now helping me haul the equipment over. It is heavy, as we have brought everything we can carry.
The last piece of equipment is with us. It is a pity that we will have to leave a rope behind. Or perhaps we will not. The crevasse has disappeared.
"WHAT?" O'Neill calls out.
"It's the Asgard," Daniel mutters. "Thor's Hall all over again." He looks up at the sky and yells, "Ya know, Thor, you could just tell us what this is all about. It's not as if you don't know us, for crying out loud!" He sounds more like O'Neill every day.
"So, do we go back and get the rope?" O'Neill asks with a sigh.
"I'd be wary of it," Samantha answers. "I'm sure that that gap was genuine. I have no idea how they do this, Jack, but I wouldn't trust them not to strand one of us on the other side if we went back."
This is true. I have an idea.
"Do you think that the gap will be here on the way back?" I ask.
"I doubt it, Teal'c," Daniel answers. "These things are here to test us. Once we've passed the tests, they've no need to do it again. I have a feeling that it'll only open when someone is on that side of the crevasse and is heading this way."
Good. I pick up a bow and arrow. I have not used one of these in many years. I wonder if I can still do this?
Wow. Teal'c has just split the rope where it was tied to the tree. A quick tug and it breaks and we pull it over. It's only a couple of feet shorter than before. It may be necessary before the end of the quest, so it's good to have it.
"So, I'm hoping that that was the first test, Daniel. A test of team work, the gift..."
"Sure. Your gift to us. Bravery, Daniel. You were prepared to take a chance, maybe to sacrifice yourself to one of your greatest fears. I'd say that was a gift, wouldn't you?"
"You guys wouldn't have let anything happen to me," I shrug.
"Maybe not, Daniel. But that was still a very courageous act. We are all grateful to you."
Aw shucks. I'm gonna blush - not.
"So, what's next on the map?"
Thanks Sam, my eyes tell her. I'm grateful to her rescuing me from a moment of embarrassment.
"I think we just walk, at least until we get to the blockage or whatever it is."
Jack's acknowledging this.
"Okay then, let's go for another hour, and assuming we don't run into any trouble, we'll take a break and have something to eat. Rest up for an hour, then keep at it till we find what we're looking for. Didn't you say something about daybreak, Daniel?"
"Um, yeah. Blockage or ice, followed by daybreak or breakthrough - but the bit that worries me is the last rune. Inheritance, usually by separation."
"What does that mean, Daniel?" Sam asks.
"I'm not totally sure - these meanings would appear to be applied in their vaguest sense as it is. It could mean - in the worst-case scenario - to 'inherit through death'. But I doubt that would be the case," I add hurriedly.
"Why not?" Jack's growling.
"Because the further we go, the more I'm convinced that we're having something to do with the Asgard. They don't kill indiscriminately, Jack."
"No, no, they don't," he agrees.
Then he starts to walk again. We all follow him, aware of the not-brilliant mood that he's in. He's put his hand out so I've moved up next to him and taken it. It's not like him to get like this. I think the whole 'unknown' thing is getting to him too. We don't even know what we're going to find at the end. It could be the Asgard equivalent of a certificate.
'Congratulations, you've completed your first quest'. Sheesh.
Lunch was nice. The food was good (fresh food takes up loads more room than MREs but it is edible), the coffee delicious (real ground beans from the Mayans instead of the old freeze-dried crap we used to have), a good chat around a camp fire and a cuddle with my honey.
One of the things we love most about this underground living is being able to be us. We knew that Teal'c and Sam wouldn't have dropped us in it, but there was always the fear that we'd get used to being us on a mission and do something stupid at the SGC. Now that everyone knows, Teal'c and Sam are happy for us and so on, Jack and I are way happier than we've ever been.
And seeing them together is wonderful. They make such a nice couple. He's devoted to her and it's plain for anyone to see. Even though he's still the stoic Jaffa, being with Sam has lightened him enormously. He smiles a lot more now, laughs out loud when something amuses him... it's wonderful. He's got such a lovely smile. Sam's a lucky, lucky woman. She'd have to go a long way to get someone as good as him.
And it's true the other way around too. She's nuts about him, is always smiling at him. Her blue eyes are more blue, I think. They're usually twinkling too.
"Daniel? What's up?" she asks, looking at me with a grin.
"Oh, nothing. Just thinking how lucky we all are." I cast a look at our men and she beams back at me, takes my hand and squeezes it.
"Yeah, I know," she says.
If any other man walked hand-in-hand with Sam, I think that Teal'c would eviscerate him. But I'm really lucky, he doesn't mind, is in fact happy for me to be with her. I'd hold his hand but somehow I just think that would be weird. He'd probably think the same thing too. Doesn't mean that I don't love him, I do. Dearly.
O-kay - what was that all about? Come on, Daniel. Pay attention. You've known how lucky you are for a while, so why think it now?
I look at the others and they're all smiling too.
"Do you feel... happier... than normal?" Jack asks.
"Yeah. I was just thinking that," I reply.
"Me too," says Sam.
"As was I."
"Okay, happy juice? Did someone slip something in the coffee?" Jack demands. We all shake our heads.
"Perhaps it's just the excitement of the mission?" I suggest.
"Whatd'ya mean?" he asks.
"Well, think about it, Jack. One of the reasons that we've been so nervous about this mission was that we knew nothing about the place, the quest, the reasons behind it."
"I'm getting to it. This is more like the old days, Jack. Exploring. Not knowing. Not being sent in to kill or to start a rebellion. It's us as a team. SG-1 again, not MIA. I think that that is the reason behind it."
I get three "Ah!" sounds coming back at me. I'm hoping that that is the reason anyway. It makes sense to me.
But then we were more nervous before. What is going on?
We have been walking for many hours and it is starting to get dark. O'Neill has stopped.
"Okay, kids. We'll just go around the next corner, then we stop for the night. By my reckoning, I think it'll get dark in the next hour - too dark to travel that is. So, we'll find somewhere to camp out. Don't know what you guys think but it's starting to get chilly too."
We all agree. The temperature is falling. There is no place to pitch a tent here, it is too rocky, so we carry on around the corner in the hope that there is somewhere better.
I do believe we have found the blockage we were concerned about. There is a huge wall of ice that covers the valley, from one mountain to the other.
"Task two," Daniel mutters.
"You said that daybreak may give us the answer?" O'Neill enquires.
"Yeah. Whatever, Jack, we're not going to find the answer in the dark."
"Right. Okay, Sam, Daniel, pitch the tent. Just the one. It's going to get freezing tonight, we all share the same one. In fact, we should all share the sleeping bags. God only knows what that ice will do to us and I don't want us becoming permanent fixtures."
"I doubt that would happen," Daniel argues.
"Daniel, Asgard or no Asgard, I'm not taking any chances. Please, do as I ask. I'll get some firewood. Teal'c, put up the perimeter sensors, would you?"
I like the Tok'ra equipment, it is much smaller than the Tauri's. I place a few small objects in a square shape around the camp site and when O'Neill returns, as he has done now, I press a button on my bracelet. They are now armed and active.
Dinner was pleasant. Samantha felt the need to 'snuggle' as the temperature dropped. I was not put out by this. O'Neill and Daniel sat very closely as they ate, and we discussed the possibilities for the morning. I cannot join the three in the sleeping bag, I need to meditate. However, I am used to having them near me. O'Neill has insisted that I sit in my sleeping bag. It is awkward, but I can do it. Samantha is wrapped in Daniel's arms, who is, in turn, wrapped in O'Neill's. They are all tired and are going to sleep quickly. I will meditate lightly and stay alert. I fear something may happen in the morning.
Teal'c has just called us awake. The first crack of light is appearing. For once, Daniel's up and about without complaining. Much. Well, it is cold. Fucking freezing in fact. I was right to insist that we slept together last night. Team work at its best. Just in case we only have a few minutes to discover how to break through this ice wall, we've skipped breakfast and put down the tent. The first proper sunrays are starting to come up now. Daniel's looking strangely at the wall.
"Look, Jack. Over there."
He's pointing to where the light is hitting the wall and I see what he means. The colour of the ice is different. A real bright blue.
"Let's go see, shall we?"
Teal'c has picked up the tent, Sam has the bows and arrows and spears and Daniel and I have the rest of the equipment on us. As the sun is getting higher, so the blue streak is brightening. WOW. It's like a doorway has just appeared. It's phasing as the light rays hit it. I'm guessing we only have a minute before the angle is wrong.
"Come on, guys, quickly."
I call out to the team and we run towards it. Daniel's first and he's just gone through it. I'm right behind him and I can hear the others close by. We're standing and watching as they close in on us, but they're not the only ones closing. The door is too!
"MOVE IT!" I scream at them.
Teal'c has grabbed Sam and he's pushed her through. Daniel's caught her in his arms. Teal'c... where is Teal'c? He's disappeared!
"TEAL'C! Buddy come on. Give me a sign here, will ya?"
Nothing. Nada. ZIP FUCKING ZILCH!
"Teal'c?" Sam's just realised that he's not there. She's starting to shake. Worried now, I guess. She's not the only one.
"Sam, shh, angel, it's okay," Daniel's saying. "Listen to me, Sam. We'll find a way to get him back. Think about it. Even Thor's Hammer didn't kill him, did it? My guess is that he's been transported in a similar way, that whatever the outcome of this quest is, the Goa'uld weren't supposed to find it."
"But what about Teal'c? What if he's in a cave like before?"
"Sam," I put my hand out to her and place it on her arm. "I think Daniel's right. When we get there, we'll find him. I'm sure of it. What I want to know is why didn't the transporter thingy recognise him? Like it does on Cimmeria?"
"It's not Thor that's behind this, is it?" Daniel says with a sigh. "It's possibly Tyr. I'm of the opinion that when we get to the end, we'll find Teal'c, one way or another."
The door is completely shut now. We've tried raising Teal'c on the comms but they're not working. When we get back, I'm definitely going to ask for Earth weapons and radios to be sent for when we're going into situations like this. The Goa'uld are just too damned unpopular.
"I think that was definitely the last bit of that test," Daniel says. "Sacrifice and inheritance through separation. Teal'c pushed you through, Sam. Don't feel bad. I know he's still around... somewhere."
She's sniffing back the tears, nodding stiffly and now she's jutting her chin out.
"Okay then, what are we waiting for? Let's do this and get to him quicker."
That's my girl. And if she heard me call her that, she'd castrate me.
Daniel had better be right. I don't know what I'd do without Teal'c now. I've grown so used to him being in my life. That sounds selfish. I guess it is. I love him like I've never loved anyone before. He's special. He's such a gentle man, but he treats me so respectfully, convinced of my intelligence and independence but at the same time recognising that I'm a woman. Sounds odd, but it's too damned easy to find a guy who wants either your body or your brains. My Teal'c wants it all and I'm happy to give it to him.
I'm understanding the guys better too, their relationship with each other, their co-dependency. As a team we've always been like that, but as pairs it's the same but on steroids. There aren't words in any language to describe how we feel. I'm sure that Daniel agrees. So, not getting Teal'c back is not an option. I'm not leaving this planet till we find him.
"So, what's next?" Jack asks as we head off down the path.
"Dagaz and eihwaz and/or sowulo and berkana. I'm really not sure what we're going to come up with. Dagaz can mean daylight or God's Light as well as daybreak. So, that could mean it's something we find in the day. Berkana - growth or renewal."
He's gone quiet now, thinking I guess. We're all quiet in fact. I know that losing Teal'c has affected them too.
Jack insisted that we took a break and ate. We needed to, though none of us ate with the same relish as before. And by that I mean enjoyment, not mustard or sauce and why is my mind thinking of stupid things like that? I guess I've been around Daniel too long. It's been hours since we lost Teal'c.
"I think we've come up against the next task," Daniel says distractedly.
Okay. Who put a jungle in the way?
"How is this here?" I ask, knowing the answer, I guess. It's not real. Or if it is, it's artificially here. These Asgard can do what they want after all.
"Growth, endurance... this is going to be a task that takes us all day," Daniel explains.
"But renewal?" Jack asks.
Then we find out. He's taken out his knife and he's cutting the twisted creepers that block our path. We move forward and then discover that the cuts have healed and we're trapped.
"Keep at it," Daniel advises. "Just keep cutting. Take it in turns. Five minutes each or something. This entire quest strikes me as being something to do with teamwork. So, we work as a team."
On the grounds that I don't want to think of not succeeding, I'm going to accept that as the answer.
I am officially fucked. And not in a nice way. We've been at this for ages. Hours and hours. I'm hungry, the others are hungry. We're sweaty and smelly and disgusting, but we're not giving up. The sun is starting to set.
"Look!" Jack calls out.
So we do.
Okay, this is officially getting weird. As the sun's rays are dropping, so the creepers are pulling back. We're out of it.
"Come on, let's get away from here before it comes back. It may grow again in the daytime tomorrow, so I want to be away from here when it does."
Jack's got a good point. We move as quickly as we can and make it to a clearing. Time to put up the tent... except Teal'c was carrying the tent. Right.
"Um, Jack? There's no tent."
"Fuck. And no suitable trees or growth for cover, either. I'll go get some wood, you guys find what we've still got and see if you can't think of something."
Sam's still got the spears... Ah, I have an idea.
"Sam, give me the spears, will you?"
"Sure, what are you going to do?"
"Make a tent."
I put them in the ground in a triangle shape. The one at the point, so to speak, is going further in.
"Get the sleeping bags out, Sam," I call as I struggle with the final one.
"Oh, I get it!" She gets them out and we open up the one, zip it to another open one and put the double one over the spears. Using the weight of the rest of the equipment, we hold it down. We have two left now as we were carrying Teal'c's. Zip them both together and though it will be a touch tight, we'll all stay snug and warm.
"Nice work, kids," Jack calls out as he drops some wood on the floor.
I do my job and get a fire lit quickly and we get some food and coffee on.
"Do you honestly think we'll find Teal'c?" Sam asks quietly as she eats.
"Sure of it," Jack says in that confident manner of his. "Daniel thinks so and he hasn't let us down yet with his theories, has he?"
Thanks for the vote of confidence, Jack, but I'm praying that I'm right on this one. I have no idea what it will do to Sam if we don't find him.
Time for bed. We've put up the perimeter sensors, though I'm not sure if they'll even work here now. It's not the same without the big guy. Teal'c? Where the fuck are you?
Where am I? Hello? Answer me! Am I dead? Why don't you answer me? I need to get to my friends. How can I protect them if I am here? Wherever this is. How can I take care of my woman? How can I watch out for my brothers? SPEAK! I demand that you come to me!
Morning has broken - and like the first morning, it's foggy. Shit. We've eaten, packed up, and now we are heading down the path. Daniel says that we're going to meet the next test which is something to do with justice and the negatives of human need. Not to mention that the old god of war thing might come into play. Or not. He hates this not knowing, but there are just too many variables for him to be sure.
"Tell me about this Tyr, Daniel," I say, hoping to distract him for a while.
"Um, Tyr, also known as Tiwaz, Tig, Teiwa and Tiw, was the chief god of the sky and of war for the Norse men and the Germanic tribes. Think of him as Mars if you like. Tuesday is named after him, like the French equivalent, Mardi for Mars. Anyway, he's a biggie, so to speak. He represents law and order, or justice. The legend has it that he has only one arm as he sacrificed his other to bind up the mouth of the wolf, Fenrir. Fenrir's escape is what will trigger off Ragnorok, by the way, because then he'll eat the sun. Tyr is supposed to be killed by the wolf Garm in that final battle. He's not a bad god, Jack."
"It could explain the sacrifice thing that we seem to be coming up against all the time," Sam says quietly. "If he was supposed to have sacrificed his arm to save the Earth, at least I assume you mean that planet, then he may have a thing about it, wanting anyone to make the sacrifices that he did."
"Let's hope he doesn't want one of us to sacrifice an arm for this," I mutter. They look at me curiously. "Come on, it'll make fighting the snakes a touch tricky."
"You always said you could take one out with one arm tied behind your back, Jack," Daniel teases.
"Pfft. Piece of cake."
Sam's smiling back at me now. Good. Let's hope that she really does believe that we can do this.
Daniel wasn't kidding when he said that this would be an endurance test as much as anything. We've been going for hours and there's nowhere to stop and rest. Literally. We're on a very, very, very narrow path going up the side of a mountain. It's hard enough to keep our balance. If we stop, we'll likely make a mistake and fall. We have to concentrate on our movements.
"Jack, I think we're in the middle of the next test," he calls back to me.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I'm tired and hungry. Aren't you?"
"Yeah. But there's nowhere to stop."
His voice is tired. I get it now. The negatives of human need. We need to stop and rest and eat. But we can't. We have to fight this and continue.
"How long do you think we'll have to keep on?" Sam asks.
"No idea. We just have to keep going. Um, Jack, if you have a rope handy, and if you can do this, you should tie it around your waist and then pass it to me. I'll do the same and then pass the end to Sam. We'll keep each other going."
Don't know if it would make a huge difference but if he feels it's necessary, then we'll do it.
"Okay, babe, it'll take me a while to do it as I can't stop."
"Take all the time you need, Jack."
It took me a while but I did it, then I watched as Daniel futzed about and tied himself up. He was right though. Not long after Sam got the rope, she stumbled. Daniel was able to hold her until she got herself back up. By the time she had, we had both wobbled about. We really can't stop.
It's getting dark. If we don't find somewhere to stop soon, we could be in trouble.
Sam's got a flashlight on her wrist, as we all do. We need them now. It's really dark. We still can't stop though.
We're still walking. It's about three o'clock in the morning. We're tired and hungry. Very tired and hungry. We're not giving up though, no way. We can't. If we do we might never get Teal'c back and that is not an option.
"I need to stop," Sam says quietly. She's been leading us for all this time. We would have swapped but there has been nowhere to do it.
"Don't give up, Sam. Teal'c's waiting for us, you'll see. Come on, honey, you can do it."
Daniel's encouraging her as he's the closest to her. Heck, he's singing to her. Something lively, a folk song I think. Not sure what it is, it's not in English. She's still walking, taking it easy but continuing. Aw, that's a shame, the song's over.
"Daniel, what's after this one?"
"What do you mean?"
"The next test."
"Oh, um, hagalaz and perth. Destructive forces and things unexplained. It's likely to be lousy weather and some mystery we have to solve."
"O-kay - here's a mystery for you."
"Why the FUCK did we start this?"
He's sniggering. So is Sam. I get no respect.
Hello? Answer me. Where am I? Why do you not speak? Why am I held prisoner? I have done nothing wrong. Help me, please. Help me.
Who are you?
The sun's coming up. Just as well. We've been walking all night, not to mention all of yesterday and the day before. But this time it's been getting on for twenty-four hours with only one meal break early on. We're starving. It's no matter though. We will, no, we will get Teal'c back and soon.
I don't believe it, we've found a larger space, somewhere we can stop.
Sam's collapsed on the ground, I'm right behind her and I'm pulling Jack down with me. Rest first, then we eat.
"Eat, Daniel," Jack orders.
"No. Eat. We need it. Come on, you can sleep, you will sleep better if you do."
He's right, I know he's right. He passes out the water bottles that we'd refilled in a mountain stream just before the narrow path and we all take a drink. Then the last bit of our bread and cold meat. We have some fruit and cheese left for later, but this will do nicely for now. Hmm, that's better. It's not too cold. Just get into our sleeping bags and... zzzzzzzzzz.
Wha? Huh? Who are you?
"I am Tiwaz."
"Oh, pleased to meet you. Are you Asgard?"
"I am. You know of us?"
"Yeah, Thor's a good friend of ours. Especially Jack. Um, Jack? What have you done to him?"
"He sleeps, as does the female."
"I wished to speak to you. You are a scholar?"
"But you are with warriors."
"I can fight when I have to."
"I saw your bravery at the beginning of your quest, that much is clear. Why?"
"Why do you fight?"
"More like 'whom' do I fight?. We fight the Goa'uld. We're from Earth, um, Midgard. The Goa'uld took my wife and were responsible for her death."
"Your friend the Jaffa was responsible. Why did you not get revenge?"
"Because it wasn't his fault. He was doing his job, then he had to kill her to save my life. Have you seen him? Is he safe? Where is he? Can we find him?"
"Enough. He is safe. For now. I wish to know why you forgave him."
Oh boy, ask the easy questions, why don't you?
"When he took Shau're, he didn't know her. All he knew was that he was a slave in the service of Apophis and he did his job. Even though his job was different from my other friends' jobs in that they are freemen, free to choose to serve, there was enough similarity in that he was following orders. If Jack and Sam here disobeyed an order, they'd have been punished. Teal'c would have been killed, horribly. His wife and son too, quite possibly. His own father was murdered. Teal'c left Apophis to try to help us overthrow him. We succeeded. Without him, Apophis, Cronus and other System Lords would still be terrorising the galaxy. He is my friend, Tiwaz. My brother. I love him. Please, let him go if you are holding him."
He is silent. I'm looking at him closely now, he's in his hologram state still. One-armed, just as the legend says.
"Why did you forgive him for killing your wife?"
Tough one. I want to say it's because I love him as a brother and I trust him. But I know I must speak the truth.
"Because she asked me to. I wouldn't have been as forgiving otherwise, but Shau're communicated with me, just as the Goa'uld that possessed her was trying to kill me. She told me to forgive him. Begged me to. I didn't want to. I wanted to hate him for what he had done. But she was right and I'm glad that I forgave him. To be without him now would be as bad as losing her, and that broke my heart."
"You love now."
"I do. I love Jack. He is at once my best friend and my lover. But I love Sam and Teal'c too. They're as much a part of me and my life as Jack is. To lose either of them would be worse than," I cringe as I say this, "losing a limb."
"Would you die for them?"
"You speak without hesitation."
"I speak from experience. I have died for them."
He is silent again.
"Complete the quest successfully and you will receive your reward."
"Just give us Teal'c back. That's what we want."
He smiles, nods, and then disappears. Am I dreaming or was that real? I have no idea.
Daniel's looking lost. Jack has made him eat again, but he's hardly speaking.
"Right, Daniel. Time for silence is over. What's bothering you now?"
"I think I was put on trial," he says distractedly.
He gets the requisite 'what?' from both Jack and me and he looks up.
"Tiwaz, um, Tyr, appeared to me. I'm not sure if I was sleeping or awake. You two were asleep. He questioned me about Teal'c, er, why did I forgive him and so on. I answered as honestly as I could. He said we'd get our reward at the end of the quest and that Teal'c was safe."
He's not telling us something.
"Daniel? What aren't you telling us?"
Jack's noticed as well.
"Daniel." Damn, Jack can growl when he puts his mind to it.
"No, Jack. I'm not hiding anything. Like I said, I wasn't sure if it was real or I was dreaming. I'm not really sure about a thing. I'm prepared to believe that Teal'c is safe though. That's all I want."
Him and me both.
We've set out again and Daniel's prediction about lousy weather is right. We've roped ourselves together again because the fog descended thickly and we nearly lost each other. Then, it cleared suddenly and chucked it down so hard we couldn't see. We would have tried to find shelter but we know we have to battle through it. Currently, we're tackling gale force winds. I am so glad that I'm tied to the guys. Weapons and kit or not, I was lifted off the ground earlier.
Ooh, joy. Thunder and lightening. All we need now is baking hot sun followed by snow and hail and we'll have pretty much covered every extreme.
Me and my big mouth.
I now look a total sight, if looking at the guys is anything to go by. Sunburn. Hair that looks like it's been slept in damp for a week. Wind-burnt lips. Water-streaked clothes. And now, if I'm not careful, frostbite to go with the FUCKING BRUISES that I got from the hail stones.
Oh, thank God for that. It's stopped. A drowned rat look would be a serious improvement on what we've got here. We're still shivering with cold. Daniel's stopped and he's put his hand out to both me and Jack and we're now all hugging together. I'm tired, cold, wet and I want my Teal'c.
"Hold on, old girl," Daniel says. "Won't be long now."
We can only hope.
Okay, the final part of this bit of the quest is a mystery of sorts apparently. And we've just found it. Three paths in front of us. There is no indication on the map as to which one to take.
Daniel's collapsed onto the floor, looking up at the trees that line the way, I think. Looking for inspiration, that's for sure.
Uh oh, what's he doing now? Um... Daniel?
"Yes, Jack, but if you come down here, look up there and..."
"Trees with branches in certain shapes. Look dammit!"
"It would help if I knew what I was looking for!"
I can see him counting in his head. Backwards. In Russian. Or ancient Greek. Or something.
"There. Sam, look, up there. Like a sideways V. Kano. An opening."
"So we go there?" I ask. Well, opening, sounds good to me.
"No. Look at that one. Like an R. Raido. Journeys, remember?"
"Okay, so that one?"
"Don't think so. Look at that one."
"The snake's tongue?" Sam says. I was about to say that! What? I was!
"Algiz. A protective sanctuary or the successful outcome of a quest. It would be my opinion only, but I'd say that that would be the best bet."
"But the others, Daniel, they're just as compelling. Opening, journey..."
"Yeah. And we saw them right at the beginning of the quest, remember? There's every chance that we've doubled back on ourselves."
"Why do you say that?"
"Because we have a mountain on our left."
"Daniel. We've had a mountain on our left since we lost Teal'c... ah. I see what you mean. We may have gone around it. So, your hunch is that those two paths will take us back to the gate?"
"Yeah. Like I said, Jack, this is a guess, no more."
Well, considering that all his other guesses have been spot on...
"Algae it is."
I knew that. He is just too damned easy.
"So, Daniel, all those other runes at the end. Do you think that they're a test too?" asks Sam.
"I have no idea," he replies sadly. "I guess we'll just have to wait and see."
I am bored. I am still worried, but my main emotion is boredom. I do not seem to exist in reality. My entire world is one of mist. I feel nothing under my feet. The stranger has gone. I cannot meditate. I am most definitely bored. When O'Neill next complains of boredom, I will be more sympathetic. If I ever see him again. I must not think like that. I will see my family again. My brothers. My Samantha. Not seeing them again, as O'Neill would say, is not an option.
I am very bored.
"Um, guys? Remember the two eyes?"
They're looking at me most suspiciously.
"Daniel?" they say in stereo.
I point up at the side of the mountain and they do. Look, that is.
"Yeah, that's what I thought."
There are two caves. One has a set of bars, like prison bars, in front of it.
"I guess we have to go..." Sam points up at them.
"I'd say it's a fair bet."
I really don't want to do this. Jack and Sam are the ones with mountain climbing experience. They've gotten out the climbing kit that we brought, have instructed me on how to use it, have tied me up into a harness (I guess they're scared that I'm going to flip out again. Can't say I blame them. I won't though, not now. They need me.) and we're off. We're only taking what we need. The only weapons we now have are the knives in our boots. No food, no water, just us and the climbing stuff. It's going to take a while.
Yup, I was right. It is going to take a while. I'm an archaeologist, not a mountain goat!
It did take a while. I didn't freak once. I nearly fell a couple of times, but I didn't freak. I will later. When I get home I'm going to get out-of-my-skull-drunk. Then I'll yell at Jack for dragging me on this stupid quest. He'll take it, he's a big boy now. He knows I get PMS (post-mission stroppiness). He can deal.
Yes! He's behind the bars of the one cave.
"WHOA!" Jack yells out. "What's the catch?"
I think I know.
"Uh, Jack. Look. There's the key to the lock. Unlock the bars and we get Teal'c out. However, if you look at the way that this is weighted..."
I point up and at a pulley system. It's very basic, but I think that that is the whole point. Inside the other cave is something that looks like a piece of Asgard technology. And it's sitting on what looks suspiciously like a weighing scale pan. So is Teal'c - who is unconscious. Take one of them off, the other will drop down into what looks like a bottomless pit from here. Also, you can't take them both at the same time. The way the bars are balanced that I'm betting anything that the minute we unlock them, a set will come down over the other entry.
Sam's looking at them both and nodding at me. Yup. You get your pal or the tech.
"Open the bars, Sam," Jack orders. "Looks like this trip out was a waste of our time."
As she puts the key in the lock, there's a flash of light to our side.
"Tiwaz," I say.
"We meet again, scholar. You will not take the technology? It is a shield that will protect your planet from the Goa'uld."
"Um, no, no thanks. We'll take Teal'c."
"But the shield will protect all."
"So will Teal'c," Jack says. Sam's saying nothing.
"Teal'c's already protected Earth from invasion on a number of occasions," Jack explains. "Putting aside the fact that he's our brother and Sam's partner, er, mate, for a minute, he's a valuable and valued man. He's loyal, true, smart and brave, and he has a son that needs him. You won't tempt us. We are taking Teal'c."
Sam looks gratefully at Jack, but I don't know why. It was never in any doubt that he'd take Teal'c over the tech. The only time he'd leave anyone would be if it were to avert an immediate threat, like he did with me on Klorel's ship. That is understandable.
Tiwaz says nothing, he just watches as Sam opens the gate. As it rises, Teal'c wakes up.
"Samantha! O'Neill. Daniel. It is good to see you again."
"You too," Jack and I chorus as Sam runs into his arms. She's dragging him out of the cave quickly, not trusting the gate to stay up. As predicted, the shield, or whatever it is, sinks slowly into the ground. Hey ho, you can't win them all.
"You have completed your quest," Tiwaz says as they emerge. "You have found something more important than technology."
"What's that?" Jack asks.
It is good to be with my friends again. As the Asgard disappears, we find ourselves, kit in hand, at the stargate.
Daniel has dialled up without a word. O'Neill is right next to him. Samantha is next to O'Neill, and I am at her side. The gate has opened, and as one, we step through.
As we emerge, I realise that my last thought is more apposite than I could have imagined. We are as one.