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Heaven Called While You Slept
Scope lights on their P90's were necessary as the team trekked through the dense forest. Consensus between the teammates was that it was somewhere near midnight, local time. Moving quickly over the narrow, barely discernable path, they were dogged in their determination to return the stone to the rightful owners.
Jack led the way, his conscience demanding answers that his brain just didn't have. Radar had been hell bent to get here, in order to prevent any innocent villagers from dying...
He paused in his thoughts. No, she'd said that dead would be better...he glanced over his shoulder, watched as the slender blonde walked beside her husband. What would have happened if the team hadn't been there? She'd said that the snake wouldn't even have acknowledged the existence of those people...that they'd have been left in the condition in which he and Teal'c had found them. He was no doctor, but catatonic was the best way to describe what he'd seen. Those three people had been catatonic with fear.
Was it possible that other villagers would have suffered the same fate, had SG-1 not intervened? And just what the hell had been going on, anyway?
"...our being here led to their...release..."
Okay, so maybe they had saved those people after all. Sometimes, saving someone didn't always mean keeping them alive, he thought. Not the easiest fact to accept, but a fact nonetheless.
Even in the dim illumination of the scope lights, Casey had noticed the way Jack continued to work his jaw. She smiled up at her Husband, gave his hand a gentle squeeze, then hurried forward, matching her pace to that of her CO. "Jack?"
"Are you all right?"
Brown eyes met green depths that seemed capable of seeing through to his very soul. "Just thinking."
"You did save them, Jack," Casey said softly. "Just not the way you intended...or wanted."
"You're annoying when you do that, ya know."
"Part of my charm," she quipped lightly. "Just remember what I told you...our presence was what led to the release of those poor, tortured souls. And prevented any of the other villagers from suffering the same fate."
Jack sighed. "Right."
"We're all hurting, Jack," Daniel said quietly. The screams of those innocent people had chilled them all to the bone...the sounds rife with absolute terror. The desire...the need...to help had filled five hearts and minds. Only two had been in a position to actually attempt a rescue.
The memory of the faces of the man and two women filled his vision for a moment. Catatonic, Jack thought. Scared literally out of their minds. "Right," he said again.
"I wonder just what happened," Casey murmured.
"We'll probably never know. Let's go. I want to get that thing back where it belongs," he said, nodding at the silk wrapped stone that Teal'c carried. In the heat of the moment, emotions stirred in response to the events taking place around them were pushed to the back of their minds...to be dealt with when the time was 'right'. He had no doubt that his 'kids' were dealing with their own feelings of inadequacy and frustration over what had happened. He paused mid-stride. His 'kids' circled him immediately. He looked from face to face. "Everybody okay?"
Four heads bobbed up and down. While death was never easy to accept, it was a part of life. The deaths of innocent people...people they were determined to save, people they wanted desperately to save...weighed heavily on their hearts. But that weight wouldn't incapacitate them, nor would it prevent them from stepping into the fire again, to save as many innocent lives as they possibly could. It had helped to take out the Goa'uld responsible for those deaths. And Casey's insight would take the sting out of what had happened...make it easier for them to accept that they'd done their best.
In typical SG-1 fashion, they'd dealt with the aftermath of their actions. They would mourn the loss of those innocent lives just as they did every time such a thing happened. They would celebrate the defeat of one more monster. And they would keep moving forward. Sometimes, it really was that easy, Jack thought gratefully.
"I wonder just what Nirrti thought that stone could do," Casey mused, as the team began walking again.
"She thought she'd open a portal and gain control of an army of demons," Daniel replied.
"Well, we put the kibosh to that demented scheme, didn't we?"
He couldn't help but chuckle at the hint of triumph in his Wife's soft voice. "Permanently."
"We can add that bitch to the list of snakes we've taken out," Casey gloated.
"I know Janet and Cassie will celebrate this one," Sam smiled.
"I've been thinking," Casey said.
"Uh oh," Jack retorted, hiding his grin.
"Oh, you're just a laugh a minute," she grumped.
"What have you been thinking about, Angel?" Daniel asked, not bothering to hide his own grin.
"We need to find a way to make that list visible."
"Visible?" Daniel repeated.
"Yep. Like, making a list and posting it somewhere."
"That's not a bad idea, Radar," Jack said. "It would be a boost to morale every time we can add a name."
"We could post it in the 'gate room," Sam suggested.
"Considering the number of times the 'gate room has to be repainted because of some attack, maybe it would be better to post it in one of the corridors," Daniel suggested. "It would be easy enough to just paint them onto the wall. We could put them in Goa'uld, and then again in English."
"That would spin up any snakes that come for a visit," Jack chuckled. While visits from the Goa'uld were rare, it wasn't completely impossible that there might not be another 'summit', such as the one that had seen Earth added to the Protected Planets list.
"They'd just accuse us of lying," Casey retorted. "Ooo...we could add the dates, and maybe a few of the details about the demise of each snake! Like which team took the snake out...and the planet designation where it happened."
"List...hieroglyphs and calligraphy. In the corridor," Daniel said suddenly, his voice low.
"Who? What? Huh?" Jack asked. He stopped walking again, turned to look at his best friend. Who just might possibly be losing his marbles. Surely spouting off something that sounded liked nonsense was a sign of marbles falling clickety-clack out of your head.
"In that alternate reality," Daniel explained. "Remember? They had a list of names, all the Goa'uld they'd killed. We saw it on our way to the conference room."
"Yeah, I remember that," Jack added. As he recalled, the list of all the Goa'uld killed by that SG-1 had been damned impressive. He started out again, relieved to know he wasn't going to be forced to find an archaeologist to fill in for Daniel while he took medical leave to recover from some freaky, alien-virus induced insanity.
"Now that you mentioned it, I do remember that," Sam said.
"Indeed. It was most colorful."
"It really was beautiful," Sam agreed.
"I'll suggest it to the general," Jack grinned. Certain that his commanding officer would recognize the value in having something that the men and women of the SGC could see, reminding them of their victories in the war against the Goa'uld. Something like that could go a long way to helping them stay focused when things were going bad. Which happened far too often, it seemed.
"Who's going to paint this list?" Sam asked.
"Radar. It's her idea," Jack replied easily.
"Me?" the seer squeaked.
"I'll help you, Angel," Daniel promised. "You've done a bit of calligraphy, haven't you?"
"Years ago. I just need to practice," Casey replied. Her excited smile brought grins to the faces of her teammates. "It will be so cool to see all those names there! We'll have to send out photos to all the snakes still slithering around. It's sure to freak 'em out!"
Teal'c chuckled. "It would seem that the time Casey Jackson has spent on Goa'uld ships has left a lasting impression."
"How so?" Daniel asked.
"The Goa'uld boast of their conquests on the walls of their ships."
"That's what all of those symbols are?" Sam asked.
"Indeed," Teal'c replied.
"In the holding cells, they're warnings against trying to escape...and that begging for the mercy of the god who holds the prisoners is the only hope of survival," Daniel said drolly.
"No kidding?" Jack asked. "Well see, if we'd have known that, it would have made every escape all the sweeter." He paused, turned to look at Daniel. "Why didn't you ever mention this before?"
"Because we were always too busy trying to escape to worry about what the walls said," the archaeologist retorted.
The path had become steeper. Comfortable silence fell as the team continued to plod forward. Determination to fulfill their mission objective kept weariness at bay. There was no doubt in their minds that they would collapse from fatigue when they returned to the SGC.
A A A A A A
The sun was nearly at its zenith when SG-1 began to climb the path toward the dwelling place of The People...and the cave where the stone belonged. They had been able to move at a steady pace. Unconcerned about discovery, the return trip had been easier, and a bit faster, than when they had headed for the other village.
Hania had placed lookouts along the cliff...waiting for the return of the strangers who had arrived in their greatest hour of need. Jack saw the faces peering down at them as he started his ascent up the nearly vertical path.
They could hear the excited shouts, voices echoing against the canyon walls that surrounded them.
"Well, they know we're here," Jack told the team. "Radar, do we take the stone to that cave, or take it all the way to the village?"
"Well, I can't 'see' anything about it, but I think returning it to the cavern would be the best idea," the seer replied.
"I agree," Daniel said. "The sooner the maNika is back in place, the happier those people will be. It's possible taking it all the way to where they dwell could be a breach of etiquette, or even bad luck."
With a nod, Jack began to search for the opening to the cavern. It wasn't easy to see, even knowing it was there. Had to have been a bitch to find in the dark, especially by someone who'd never even seen the cavern. Casey had said the two men were afraid of the Goa'uld...the fact that they'd found the cavern was proof of that. Fear could make a person capable of the damned near impossible.
Scope lights were once again activated, and the team reverently entered the cavern. Teal'c laid the silk on the ground, and unwrapped the stone. He had just placed it back on the rock column when Hania hurried in.
Ignoring the presence of the 'outsiders', Hania lovingly caressed the stone. His fingers traced the grooves of the nine chevrons, then placed them against the rock of the altar, making certain that the raised chevrons were lined up with the inset chevrons of the stone. An audible 'click' could be heard when the two pieces fixed together once again. Holding his arms up, palms facing the 'altar', the darshinah began to chant a prayer of thanksgiving.
Daniel had pulled his boonie from his head; Jack followed suit, taking off his ball cap. All five of the team members stood quietly to the side, waiting until the man finished.
The silence of the strangers, the reverence that their posture demonstrated, only heightened the respect that Hania felt for the five people. Truly they were good...and most worthy. He nodded silently in response to the whispers he heard from his Teacher. These strangers had more than earned the blessing of the maNika!
With a final flourish of his hands, Hania turned to the members of SG-1. "Come. We will celebrate your success."
Jack glanced at Daniel. "I don't suppose we could just say thanks for the offer, and go home?"
Daniel smiled. It seemed that Jack and Sam understood far more Goa'uld than he'd been aware of! "Probably not. This is a big deal to them, Jack."
Giving a weary nod of understanding, Jack motioned for his team to follow the native seer.
The sounds of chanting and shouting was discernable before the cliff where the cavern that housed the people came into sight. Where there had been sadness, and not a little anger, faces reflected sheer joy. Wide smiles greeted the team members as they stoically struggled to put one foot in front of the other.
The Elders were dancing in a circle where they had been sitting earlier, beseeching the mahAlaya to guide and protect the five who had come to return the maNika to her Womb.
Hania could see how weary the people were. Frowned slightly. "Have you slept since you left here?" he asked Daniel.
Daniel shook his head. "We were able to rest a bit, but no, we haven't slept."
No one, not even his own people, understood the true reason for the wide smile that lit the darshinah's face. "Come. We will drink tea. And then you will rest."
There was probably little need for the special tea that would bring deep sleep to the five people, Hania thought. But it was part of the ceremony. Once they had partaken, he would lead them back to the Womb of the mahAlaya. There, wrapped in furs, they would sleep. And they would dream. Whatever messages She held for them, they would receive.
Their packs and weapons were left near the entrance of the cavern, in the same area where their tents had been. Sitting in a semi-circle in front of Hania, the team did their best to stay awake.
"Do you have furs or blankets for sleeping?"Hania asked.
Daniel nodded. "We have sleeping bags...er...special blankets for sleeping," he replied.
The darshinah nodded. "Good."
Small yellow flowers were crushed and added to a metal pot of boiling water. While the tea steeped, Hania collected the tools to start a fire, and the purple flowers that would aid in the dreaming process. He sat back down, noted that the 'dreamers' were nearly asleep already. Carefully ladling cups full of the hot tea, he passed them out to the members of SG-1. Nodded encouragingly, smiled when they sipped carefully at the steaming liquid.
"Your hearts are pure, and you have been found worthy,"he intoned solemnly, his arms spread wide. "The mahAlaya waits to greet you. She will show you that which you seek."
Daniel frowned slightly. If he wasn't so damned tired, he knew he'd be able to figure out exactly what was happening...
"Drink, my friends, you have earned this blessing,"Hania said gently.
Jack thought for a moment that he should be alarmed, or at least a little bit worried about the whole 'blessing' thing, but he was doing good to remain sitting upright. Coherent thought was pretty much beyond what he was capable of at the moment.
Believing that they were simply going to be allowed to get the sleep their bodies craved, the team obeyed. The tea wasn't good...but it wasn't too bad, either.
"Darshinah, your people must gather their sleeping blankets now,"Hania said to Casey. Watched as she nodded.
"I think he means our sleeping bags," Casey said, fighting back a yawn.
Stumbling to their feet, practically staggering to their packs, the members of SG-1 pulled their sleeping bags free, prepared to drop where they stood.
"Come,"Hania said firmly...kindly.
With a roll of his eyes, Jack gave a slight nod. He wanted to sleep, for just a few hours. He waited until Daniel, Casey, and Sam had fallen in behind the native seer. His shoulder bumped into Teal'c's as they followed.
The team was more than a bit confused when Hania led them back into the cavern that The People held as sacred.
"Hania? Why are we here?"Daniel asked.
"Do not fear,"Hania replied gently. He knew the cavern as well as he knew his own dwelling. Found the firepit near the far wall. Had a fire started within a matter of minutes, the small flames tossing golden light against the rough walls of the cave. He turned to face the dreamers. "There is plenty of room here. You will not be disturbed."
Glances were exchanged. Apparently the darshinah understood just how fatigued they really were, and wanted to ascertain that they were able to sleep peacefully. For which they were all grateful. No doubt the celebration would go on all day. While there was the chance that they were so tired they'd be able to sleep through it all, having a nice, quiet place was so much better. Less chance of being woke up before they were fully rested.
"You heard the man, campers. Let's get comfortable," Jack said.
Daniel and Casey zipped their sleeping bags together. Jack and Sam shyly did the same, casting nervous smiles at their teammates. Teal'c positioned himself between the two couples. Boots were tugged off, and the team settled in for a much needed rest.
As soon as the dreamers were lying down, their eyes closed, their breathing growing slow and steady, Hania sprinkled a handful of purple flowers onto the fire. He busied himself lighting torches that would provide the necessary illumination for the dreamers when they awakened. Another handful of flowers went into the flames. "Find that which you seek," he said softly.
He watched for a moment as the smoke of the fire crept over the now sleeping people, then slipped out of the cave. A feast would be made ready; for when the dreamers awoke, they would no doubt be hungry. He wondered briefly what these very special people would learn as they moved through the dream world.
Neither the darshinah, nor the five people who were sleeping on the cavern floor, were aware when the stone on the alter began to glow...
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