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What the Eye Beholds, the Heart Denies
"...Every night, every day,
you're the one I always dream of.
Every line of your face is sketched so plain inside my heart.
You've grown so deep inside of me.
You're everything I feel and see,
and you're the one, you're the one I love..."
"You're the One"
By the Carpenters
The pod wasn't moving away from the ship. A fine mist just above the sealed door revealed the fact that the air from inside the damaged pod was venting...which would render the man inside unconscious, and then asphyxiated, if he wasn't found quickly enough. There was no way for his friends to find him in time...and left where it was, the final explosions of the ship would destroy the pod...and the helpless occupant.
First frowned slightly.
"We must do something!" Second whimpered, assessing the situation critically.
"We must protect The One," Third pointed out quietly. Nervously.
With a sharp nod, First moved toward the pod. "We will move it to safety. See to it that he is...that he will be...alive. We can do no more."
The air shimmered around the pod, and when the black of space returned to normal, the gold and silver tube was no longer hanging from three malfunctioning hooks.
In an instant the pod was settled safely in its new position. First's hand pushed slightly. The front of the tube slid open, just an inch or so. Enough to let in the oxygen that would be required.
"He is safe now?" Second asked, her frown as deep as that of her companion.
"He is safe," First confirmed.
"There is nothing...more...we can do?" Third asked, looking around expectantly. Not seeing what it was his eyes sought for. What he knew the occupant of the escape pod would search for.
"He will be safe. We can do no more," First replied. Repeating the warning to her companions, knowing that Second especially would suffer greatly in the days to come.
All three heard the summons. Glanced at one another. Their actions required explanation.
The sun was still low on the horizon when a flash of bright white light bounced off nearby trees, lit the rock wall that faced a wide river. There was no sound, until the light faded. Then the unmistakable snap of wood as tree limbs that had fallen to the forest floor weeks earlier splintered into pieces; the crackle of dry ground cover being shifted and crushed echoed for a few moments. When the silence returned, a gold and silver tube was nestled not more than twenty feet from the rapidly flowing water of the river.
The sun reached its apex, and still the silence remained unbroken. Late afternoon passed quietly, the branches of the trees whispering with the breeze, the silence punctuated by the leaves that brushed against one another. The rippling song of the water as it danced over the rocks, splotches of light poking it here and there, dared to move through the air...but could not completely disrupt the silence.
The sun kissed the sky goodnight, slipped behind the steep mountains just beyond the heavy forest. Plums and purples and indigoes dressed the sky now, bejeweled with a million stars that twinkled. Still the silence remained.
When the sun sent the first runners of pink and orange onto the horizon to herald its arrival, the dew sparkled on the silver and gold tube. The sun traveled the sky, watching the tube closely, warming the metal with its touch. To no avail. Still the silence prevailed. Still the touch of the warm sun had no visible effect on the silver and gold tube. Once again the sun dropped behind the horizon, leaving behind only the dark of night...
Dawn broke, glorious in its raiment of bright oranges and pinks and reds. Gave way to the golden sun as it changed the sky from cobalt to azure. Once again the trees whispered among themselves. The river sang its quiet song. The sun shone down, still watching the never changing metal of the tube. Journey completed for the day, the sun dropped behind the mountains, the stars taking its place in the dark sky.
The third dawn since the arrival of the tube peeked cautiously above the horizon. The sun began its daily journey. Sent warmth once again to the metal skin of the tube...
The gasp was muffled. For several moments nothing else happened. Long, strong fingers appeared in the narrow crack between the side of the silver and gold tube, and the heavy lid that covered it. The lid shifted slightly. Four more fingers appeared. The lid moved a bit more. Another gasp. The lid slid to the ground, and the occupant sat up, blinking quickly in the late morning sun.
Daniel squinted in the bright daylight for a few moments, then looked around. Okay, unless there had been some major redecorating in a woodland motif, this was not the Prometheus. He glanced at his watch. That was odd. It was actually two hours earlier than the last time he'd looked at it. Which meant...the date was three days later. Not a good sign! That meant that the emotional and mental 'rush' he'd experienced upon waking up, familiar in its intensity, was exactly what he'd thought. He'd been dead. Again.
He stood on shaking legs, willing his knees not to buckle. Carefully stepped from what looked like a gilded coffin to the forest floor. The first thing he noted was there were no marks that would indicate the escape pod had 'crashed' to the planet. In fact, the damned thing looked as if it had been set specifically between the trees where it rested.
Curious, not yet panicked, he began an examination of his immediate surroundings. Nope, no sign of any sort that could mean that the pod had slid to a halt where it was resting. Time to find out where everyone was. "Casey?" His voice echoed against the rock wall of the cliff on the far side of the river. Bounced back and whipped through the trees. "Jack?"
He walked toward the river. "Casey?...Teal'c?...Sam?...Jack?...Anybody out there?"
His heart was beginning to beat harder...faster. The same feeling that had assailed him numerous times before when he'd been separated from the team settled in his stomach. Something was so not right here! What the hell was going on?
Okay, let's examine the facts, he thought, trying to remain calm. The pod was on a planet. Which meant that he hadn't been picked up by the Prometheus. The first reason that came to mind was a malfunctioning beacon...they hadn't been able to locate him. The pod had not crashed into the surface. He remembered the not so smooth 'landing' on Netu. The ground had been churned up behind the pods, the result of their arrival. If the pod had operated as programmed, the computer would have searched for the nearest, habitable planet. And then...crash landed. He walked around the pod. Nope. The only place the vegetation was disturbed was directly beneath the thing. As if...as if someone had gently set the pod down.
Now that had worrisome connotations. If someone had...intervened...interfered, then what was going on? Had he alone been saved? Had the rest of the team made it back to the Prometheus? What if...what if he hadn't actually come back to life? What if he was really dead? Now that was a damned depressing thought. He sat down on a large boulder near the river. If he wasn't located...if Jack hadn't found him in three days, four at the most, he'd know for certain if he was dead. Dead men didn't suffer withdrawal symptoms. Just the thought of his beautiful Wife, and that sweet, sweet nectar, had him licking his lips.
Another thought, one of less lofty significance and much less depressing rushed through his head. He berated himself for his lapse of what would seem to be just simple common sense. His hand went to his shoulder. Came into contact with the tac vest...but not what he had been reaching for. Where was his radio? Okay, keep calm. Careful examination of the pod proved fruitless, it was empty.
Deep breath. Stay calm. He could hear Jack's voice in his head, declaring that 'panic will just get you killed'. Right. No time to panic. Think about it rationally. When was the last time he had used it? The message to Jack that he and Casey were on their way to the rendezvous point...which had been just one corridor away from the ring transport. He was certain it had still been Velcro-ed to his shoulder when he and Casey slipped behind those support beams. He'd had it while they had been fighting their way to the escape pods, hadn't he? He frowned, closed his eyes in concentration.
The explosion caught them all off guard. According to his watch, when he had glanced at it, the first wasn't supposed to detonate for another eight minutes! The fireball that roared through the corridor, cutting them off from the transport rings had shocked them. The heat of the fire had made him break out in a sweat.
"Escape pods," Jack ordered sharply.
"We have the radios to contact the Prometheus," he argued. "If we don't make it to the rings, those Jaffa won't make it off the ship!"
"If we don't make it to those escape pods, we won't make it off the ship!" Jack barked.
"Jack, we have to try! There has to be another way-" Jack grabbed his arm, whirled him around and shoved him. He understood that SG-1 had to get off the ship. That didn't make it any easier to accept the fact that rebel Jaffa were going to die.
Another explosion knocked him off his feet, left him sprawled on the floor. His hand reached out automatically, found the body he was searching for. He was pulling himself to his feet, his fingers wrapped in the back of her tac vest, yanking her to her feet as well. 'Gotta move, gotta move, gotta move!' he thought frantically. He glanced over his shoulder. The rebel Jaffa were fighting with those still loyal to Ares, buying them time to...to do what? They had to get to those rings! Those rebels deserved a chance to live as free men...
The entire team had fallen from their hiding places, and the group of loyal Jaffa had seen them...
When he had fallen...he'd grabbed Casey...had his radio been dislodged from his shoulder? Had it been left behind? He remembered firing behind him...shrugging the strap of the P90 over his shoulder...why? His hand sweeping out, grabbing...something...shoving it into...
Daniel reached into the thigh pocket he had assumed was empty, not even paying attention to the weight or bulk of any contents. Closed his fingers around the small, rectangular piece of plastic. "Yes!" he said softly. The ear piece and cord were still attached, the entire thing had been crammed into his pocket in a sudden, unconscious movement.
He checked it for damage. Didn't see anything that would indicate that it was broken. Slipped the receiver into place. Flipped it on. Immediately the hiss of static filled his ear. He took a deep breath, pressed the button that would key the transmission. "This is Daniel Jackson to the Prometheus. Can anyone hear me?"
He fought down a wave of bitter disappointment when he heard nothing but the continued crackle of static. He'd been out...dead...for three days. Surely the Prometheus would be looking for him, right? Depending on how far the escape pod had traveled...how far from the point where Ares' ship had been destroyed, it could take a day or two for them to fully investigate each planet. Okay, he'd set up a schedule. He'd send out a signal each day...several times a day. If they were out there looking for him, they'd hear him. And they were out there looking for him. He didn't want to think about what it could mean for him if they weren't.
The morning passed slowly...silently; he stared unseeingly at the river, contemplating his situation. He had his tack vest. His P90. No extra magazines; a quick check revealed the one in the weapon almost empty. No food. No water. No first aid kit. On the upside, he had his pocket knife, an emergency fishing kit, an emergency sewing kit, and a picture of his Angel. He pulled the photograph from his shirt pocket. Technically, he wasn't supposed to have it. Knew for a fact that every man in the SGC carried photos of wives, girlfriends, and children. Their good luck charms. A visible reminder of why they did the sometimes disagreeable and usually dangerous job that they did. He smiled at his Fantasy Angel, then tucked the photo back into the safety of his pocket.
His best bet was to carry on as if he wouldn't be rescued. He was on his own, and he had to get himself out of this damnable situation. Don't think about being rescued. Concentrate on survival. Much easier said than done.
He focused on the theory that the placement of the escape pod hadn't been random. Theoretically, there should be a Stargate nearby. He spent two frustrating hours wandering the forest, searching for the stone monument that would mean escape from his current predicament. After admitting that there wasn't a Stargate in the vicinity, he trudged back to the pod, torn between frustration and fear.
If...someone...from another level of existence had seen fit to save him, wanted him to continue to be The One, he'd have to be at the SGC to do so, right? Why they hadn't just zapped him there, or to the Prometheus, was a complete mystery. But they hadn't. So that had to mean that there was a way home nearby. He watched the flow of the river for a few more minutes. There had to be a reason for putting him...here. What if the Stargate on this planet was located in or near a village? Okay, if he had been dead or dying, setting him down in the middle of a village somewhere wouldn't have been a good idea. No doubt the villagers would have opened the escape pod, found the dead man, and buried him. Not a good thing. That would have meant saving him for...nothing. Following that train of thought, this mysterious 'They' would have put him far enough away to avoid being found before the three days necessary for reanimation had passed. But close enough for him to find whoever might reside in this so far hypothetical village without too much difficulty.
Okay, he had the beginnings of a theory. Moving along...if that was the case, putting him beside a river would be sort of like setting him beside a road. Water was a basic necessity of life, and most villages were set up as closely to a source of water as possible. So, if he had been placed beside this river...Just follow the road, Danny. It made sense. Well, as much sense as any of this...situation...made.
He closed his eyes. Lifted his face toward the sun. Second problem. He was going to need food and drinkable water. And, did he really want to be in a village when his withdrawal symptoms hit? He'd done a bit of research. It wouldn't be pretty. He'd be sick, and his body would twitch and shake. He'd be aggressive when he was conscious, or at least damned irritable. If the villagers were primitive enough, they could believe him possessed by evil spirits. Who knew what kind of 'cures' they had for such things? At the very least they'd believe he'd brought a sickness to them. Either scenario could see him very dead. And possibly in a way that there would be no return from.
He heaved a sigh. What if that village was just over that hill? He could go there, find the Stargate, head to the Alpha site, have the identity verification tests run, and still be home in time for dinner.
His stomach chose that moment to announce its own condition. What he wouldn't give for a plate of Casey's lasagna right now! A thought that had his stomach growling in agreement. He fished in his pockets. His glasses were still in the case, put there just before they had ringed to the ship, a habit he had recently developed. It prevented the need to have to stop and push them up at an inopportune moment. Beside the case was the 5th Avenue Bar that Casey packed for him. She claimed he was grumpy if his blood sugar went too low. She was the one who could get downright bitchy if hers dropped, he thought, grinning mentally at the argument that little tidbit of information could cause.
Grateful that his Wife never failed to look after him, he ripped open the top of the wrapper, stuck the piece of paper in his pocket. Habit. Never leave a dig site looking as if it had been treated as a trash dump, or getting permission for future digs would be impossible. He took a bite, savored the sweet chocolate and the rich peanut butter. "Thanks, Angel," he mumbled around the mouthful of candy.
Decision time, Danny. Take the chance that the village is closer than three days away, and just head straight for the 'gate and home? Or wait out the withdrawal, then try to find the village?
He stood to his feet. Never even entertained the notion that there was no village, that no Stargate existed on the planet. That his placement near the river was a totally random event. No, he clung tenaciously to his theory. And began to pick his way over the bank, heading down the slight slope toward the mountains he could see in the distance.
He chewed slowly, savoring each and every bite of the candy. His thoughts continued to whirl, although he carefully avoided the darkest of that number. He wouldn't even entertain the thought that he alone of SG-1 had survived. Casey was alive, and well, and probably raising nine kinds of hell about finding him. A thought that stopped him in his tracks.
What if the Prometheus was scanning for the pod? If they found it, but not him...Okay...that was easy enough to deal with. He retraced his steps. Tugged and pulled until the lid of the escape pod was leaning against it. Searched his pockets...ah, there it was.
He pulled the cap off of the Sharpie. He'd taken to carrying the writing instrument, along with a regular ink pen, when he continually 'lost' the darned things in his pack. He drew an arrow that pointed in the direction he was taking.
There. If they showed up, they'd know which way he was going. As an afterthought, he added the date and the time, according to his watch.
Once again he started out. Began to debate just exactly what he wanted for dinner: lasagna, or maybe chicken breasts and linguine, or steak and new potatoes, smothered in butter and parsley. They hadn't had chicken enchiladas in awhile, that sounded pretty good, too.
He began to whistle, not consciously aware of doing so. Never doubting for a moment that if the Prometheus and his teammates didn't swoop in and pick him up, he'd be going through a Stargate in just a few short hours. Sometime the next day at the latest. Totally convinced that he was just a days' walk from his way home.
A A A A A A
The afternoon sun was warm...Daniel took off the BDU shirt, tied the sleeves around his waist, then readjusted his tac vest. His mind was working on the puzzle of his current situation. How far had the pod traveled? And was the Prometheus aware of that fact?
He stopped walking, put his hands on his hips. He was breathing hard, his pace had been brisk, and the path that he was attempting to follow had probably been made by animals. A thought that had one hand reaching for and gripping the P90 tightly. And it was steep as hell now. Okay, if the team didn't know that he'd been thrown clear, how long would it take them to figure it out?
Turning sideways, he looked back up the trail. He hadn't even thought to check and see if the homing beacon was working. Would he be able to tell if it was or wasn't? Damn! He'd already been hiking for...he glanced at his watch...almost three hours. Going back uphill would add at least thirty minutes to that hike. It was times like this when he realized just how much he depended on his teammates. Neither Sam nor Jack would have forgotten to check that beacon. And Sam's expertise would have been able to assure that it worked, if she had found that it wasn't.
He chewed on his lip. That beacon could be the only hope of being found that he had. Okay, Danny. Deep breath. There hadn't been any beeping, no lights flashing. Nothing that looked or sounded like a beacon of any type. You would have noticed either of those things. So, more than likely the beacon was internal. If that was the case, he thought, he didn't have a snowball's chance in hell of trying to figure it out. He could only hope that it was working. Again the thought that a malfunctioning beacon was the very reason for the situation in which he found himself pushed forward. His frown deepened. If they didn't hear a beacon, then what?
If they declared him dead, and started getting rid of his stuff again...that thought had him groaning out loud. It had taken him weeks the last time to get everything straightened out, and to track down the artifacts that had been sold. Several he'd had to buy back. Another thought filled his mind. If they declared him dead, Casey would fall apart. Wouldn't she? And just what kind of a major ass did it make him to secretly hope that she would grieve for him, if he was declared dead? He'd grieved for Sha're, he knew the depths of the loneliness, of the sorrow. Christ, Daniel, pull you head out of your ass! How could you even entertain such a thought? If they declare you dead...no, no they wouldn't do that. Not without searching first.
He took a deep breath. They'd search. He knew they would. Because they were a team. They were SG-1. They'd keep looking until they knew for certain. Never leave a man behind.
Okay. Logically, they'd start with the nearest planets, and if they couldn't find the beacon, they'd probably use some other means to locate him. Sam always had ideas for finding what they were looking for. Teal'c would make certain that Casey was all right, he'd keep her from giving up hope. He'd make certain she ate and slept while the search was on.
His heart beating at a more normal pace once again, he turned back to the path, started walking. When it seemed that the path was going to veer away from the river, he paused again. Water was a necessity. Even for a modern city, water was all important. He'd follow the river. It would lead him to whatever civilization could be found on this planet. And the Stargate that surely waited as well. After all, They wouldn't have put him here if there wasn't a means for him to get home. Right? Right!
The afternoon wore on. He was really getting hungry. And thirsty. He continued to watch the water in the river. Would it make him ill? Kill him? Well, a few hours, or three days, whichever. He knelt down on the muddy bank, his knees sinking slightly in the wet dirt. He leaned forward, was about to cup his hand to drink when a memory from a past mission came racing forward, tossing him back on his ass. He scanned the water carefully, it was clear enough for him to see the bottom for several feet out. There was nothing moving. No sign of fish anywhere. Which might or might not be a good thing, he thought idly. Keeping his eyes on the water around him, alert for any movement that might be a snake...literal or Goa'uld, he quenched his thirst. The water was cold and had a slightly metallic taste. What that meant, he had no idea.
His thirst satisfied, he stood up, shook his hands to dry them a bit, continued on his way. With luck, he'd be at the bottom of this mountain by nightfall. There had to be a village down there. With a Stargate. There just had to be!
A A A A A A
The sun was beginning to dip behind the low mountains to his right. He pushed his way through bushes, past trees that rivaled the giant redwoods in California. Not much farther now, he told himself. Just a few more minutes. The forest would thin out, he'd reach the valley, and the village, and the Stargate...
In his mind, he was standing in the kitchen of the little house he and Casey called home. In front of the freezer. Taking note of what casseroles were available. He knew there was a chicken pot pie. That sounded good. There was a beef pot pie as well. Had they already eaten all of the lasagna? What about chicken enchiladas? Or that sausage and pasta dish...spicy and warm, yeah, that sounded perfect. Okay, a nice salad with it. Casey loved salads...Maybe he'd talk her into making some of that vinaigrette. Brownies. He wanted brownies for dessert. With extra walnuts. And chocolate chips. She liked to add chocolate chips to brownies. And coffee. Yep, definitely wanted a cup of coffee or two...or three.
Then...he grinned. Then he was going to take a nice long bath. With the jets on. His legs would thank him. And his Angel in his arms. After that...the grin widened. He'd just lay on the bed and let her ride him. Love to watch her do that. Loved it when her hair brushed against his thighs when her head dropped back as she climbed that mountain of pleasure...He corralled his thoughts before they could cause him any problems...like an erection he really didn't need at the moment.
He was taking tomorrow off. Damn, he was tired! He snorted softly. He should be! He'd spent the morning planting C-4 on a Goa'uld ship, then fought his way to the escape pods with his teammates...and...Wait...That had happened three days ago. Didn't matter. He was still damned tired.
The air was beginning to cool as the sun disappeared. He stopped, took off his vest, put the shirt back on, the vest over it.
Maybe he should think about stopping for the night. He could barely see where he was going. Sure as hell didn't want to fall, break his neck, have some poor logger or farmer or whoever find him, and then freak out when he revived in three days. If they didn't bury him first. Yep, stopping was a very good idea.
He began a careful examination of his surroundings. He needed a place with protection on as many sides as possible. Luck had him stumbling upon a fallen giant. It lay wedged against another tree at a twenty degree angle, forming a tight vee-shaped hiding place. When he sat down, he couldn't see over the trunk. Which meant anyone approaching couldn't see him, either. He'd hear them before he saw them. "Yeah, Jack, I do pay attention to what you say. I've learned over the years, haven't I?" Although he had spoken quietly, his voice seemed to echo in the silence around him.
Clearing as much of the debris made up of broken limbs and leaves as he could out of the area that would serve as his bed, without making it too obvious that such a thing had been done, he settled with his back in the crook created where the two trees touched. He stretched his tired legs out. Tomorrow. He'd find that Stargate tomorrow. Casey would probably be pissy about him scaring her. He'd make it all up to her. Couldn't help but grin again as he thought of the plans he'd made for their anniversary. Two days in the Shiloh Inn Bed & Breakfast in Oregon. One that offered small, isolated cabins. With room service. The absolute best of both worlds. Big beds with feather pillows and down comforters. A fireplace. She'd love it. They'd never get out of bed. Well, maybe long enough to use the Jacuzzi that the brochures promised each cabin contained. She loved making love in a Jacuzzi. Now, if he could just figure out a way to talk her into finding - and wearing - a little French maid outfit...
He drifted to sleep with images of his wife in a sexy costume dancing before his eyes. Totally confident that the valley held the Stargate that would get him home.
A A A A A A
He woke up shivering. It had started raining, and he was getting wet. Terrific. The trees had actually protected him quite a bit, but still...He pulled himself to his feet, wished fervently for a cup of coffee. Took a moment to get his bearings. He could hear the water of the river as it rushed over the rocks, heading to whatever lake or sea it emptied into. Which triggered a physical need that was quickly dealt with. He could hear Casey complaining about how it wasn't fair. That he didn't even have to expose his balls, while her entire ass had to hang out to get the job done. He couldn't help but chuckle.
He crouched down beside the river, scooped a handful of water into his mouth. Swished it around and spit it back out. Searching his pockets, hoping to find one more hidden candy bar, Daniel wondered if Casey had been able to sleep. No doubt she knew he was all right, her gift of sight...
His hands stilled. Wouldn't Casey be able to see exactly where he was? He frowned. Maybe not. She hadn't seen anything at all about the mission going tits up the way it had. All she'd had were three images. Like photographs, she had said. A dark blanket. Fireworks, and silver and gold tubes. What the hell did that mean?
They'd missed New Year's Eve...
He dropped back on his butt, the thought smashing through his brain. Three days. He'd been dead for three days. As far as the team...as far as Casey was concerned, he'd been gone, been missing for four days now! Where the hell were they? Why hadn't they found him by now? They should have found him!
He fought to control the panic that struggled to rise in his chest. Think, Danny, think! The pod had been jettisoned...what if the shock wave from the explosion had damaged it? Knocked out the homing beacon, and sent him on a wild ride, killed him...and then They, whoever 'They' were, had seen to it that the pod was set down just as pretty as you please in the middle of a forest next to a river. And just why in the hell had They interfered? Wasn't that a big Ascended no-no?
What if it hadn't been the Ascended who had helped him, but the ones that Casey insisted watched over him? Okay, that was plausible. There was the chance that they didn't have to abide by such rules.
He took a deep breath, tried to keep control of his whirling thoughts. Four days. Did she know he was alive? Was she okay? Was she eating? Sleeping? Was she spending her time worrying about him? Missing him?
The need to get to the Stargate that he steadfastly believed was waiting for him propelled him to his feet. That need overpowered his hunger and his thirst. Sent him up the river bank, and rushing down the mountain, toward the shallow valley that lay spread out at the feet of the nearby mountains.
Daniel refused to entertain the thought that there wasn't a Stargate. There had to be. There just had to be!
A A A A A A
Four days. The thought continued to spin in his mind. Fueling the panic that was growing stronger with every step he took. Never leave a man behind. That was Jack's motto. He lived by that. Had a very good reason to have made it a part of his way of thinking. Daniel was one of the few who knew that reason. Jack would never stop looking for him. Never.
He stopped long enough to drink. Ignored the growling of his stomach. And the throb behind his eyes and in his temples. He concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other. Four days. He'd been gone for four days. Missing for four days. They were still looking for him, they had to be looking for him. Four days. She'd been alone for four days. Around and around and around his thoughts whirled. Stopping only long enough to push that number forward. Four. Four days.
He stemmed the tide of panic over not being found yet by worrying about Casey. Was she drinking the protein shakes every morning? He knew how much she hated them. He cajoled and coaxed and coerced her into drinking them...it was as much a part of his morning routine as shaving. He also knew how much she needed them. She was still three pounds shy of the ten that Janet had wanted her to put on. Even though the doctor, his friend as much as she was Casey's, had confided in him and had admitted that she didn't think Casey would ever weigh more than she did at the moment. She tipped the scales at a whopping one-hundred, eighteen pounds. She was five feet, seven inches tall. She should weigh at least seven pounds more than she did, according to Janet's height/weight chart. He wouldn't complain. He couldn't see her ribs as easily, those soft curves had filled out. Casey was a slender woman. She was small-boned...delicate. In spite of her 'average' height, she seemed so damned petite!
His mind's eye pulled up image after image of her...the creamy shoulders...prominent collar bones. Beautiful round, firm breasts. Tiny waist. Narrow hips. Long legs. That heart-shaped ass that had a sway that could make a dead man sit up and take notice. Such a beautiful face...big green eyes, a saucy smile that could make his knees shake. "Casey," he whispered out loud.
By the time the sun had reached its zenith, if he could consider the lighter color of the clouds above him to be any indication, his hunger would be ignored no longer. He began to look for any bushes or trees that might have any sort of fruit or nuts. For the first time realized that the leaves were more brown and gold and red than green. Great. He'd arrived just in time for autumn. He continued to push on...determined to find that village and the Stargate. He knew they were there...didn't doubt it for a moment.
A A A A A A
It was sheer luck that had him coming upon a small animal that resembled a deer. It stood and looked at him, munching on the leaves of a low bush, seemingly unafraid of him. He eased the strap of the P90 from his shoulder. Didn't need to look to switch the weapon from automatic to semi-automatic. He didn't want to waste what few rounds he had left.
Man and animal stared at one another. That was food. Meat. His stomach understood that, as it growled yet again. It was starting to cramp from hunger as well. Yep, definitely needed to eat something. He could continue looking for berries or nuts, or some sort of fruit. Or he could take advantage of what had to be a gift from the true gods, and have meat. Images of a thick juicy steak danced behind his eyes. The internal debate continued, part of him understanding the need to survive, the other fighting against what seemed to be so cruel and heartless. The scholar in him balked at such brutality. Until his mind forcefully insisted that the steaks he so enjoyed back home didn't grow on trees. Nor did the chicken in those pot pies and enchiladas grow in nice neat, garden rows. Just because he didn't slaughter and butcher the meat himself didn't mean that it wasn't done. He examined the words, realized that they conveyed the true process of what happened to provide the meat for his table. What needed to be done. And he admitted to himself that he sure as hell enjoyed a good steak...or chicken. Cattle and chickens were raised for one purpose: to provide food.
Okay, so maybe that animal hadn't been born specifically to be his meal. But just as the placement of the escape pod couldn't have been a random thing, finding a source of food, even if it was still on the hoof, couldn't be so random either. Someone, somewhere, was watching out for him. He could feel that. Was as certain of that fact as he was that Casey loved him. Danny, you're getting spiritual here. Either shoot the damned thing, or move on!
Daniel wasn't exactly a hunter. Not that he'd never participated in the activity before...he had. Once. It had been years since he'd been on that hunt on Abydos. When he'd accompanied Skaara and Kasuf and the other men of the tribe on their annual hunt, he had been along as an observer, not a participant. His eagerness to try to learn everything about their way of life had amused the members of the small group of people with whom he had remained, their indulgence of his strange ways evidence of that amusement. So a-hunting he had gone. And when the time had come for dressing the kill, the older men, those most skilled at the task, had dealt with the carcasses and the meat, while he and the others simply helped out wherever they were needed. As he recalled, he'd been sent to fetch water more often than not...one of the tasks delegated to the women of the tribe for the most part. Skaara's continued snickers let him know that they were teasing him; a joke carried over from when he had insisted on doing 'women's work', like grinding flour, as he had done a few weeks beforehand. It had been hard work, and he had hoped to at least get the men of the tribe to understand that helping their wives was a noble thing to do. Not that it had worked. He'd been laughed at. While he had ground the yaphetta flour. While he had fetched water for the hunters. He still wasn't certain whether he should have been insulted or not.
He closed one eye, sighted the deer...or whatever it was. Felt a moment of deep remorse. Then his stomach growled...again. He squeezed the trigger, the shot resounding around him like thunder. The animal dropped to the ground, twitched twice, then lay still.
"I'm sorry," he whispered as he approached. Daniel had no idea how to clean or gut an animal...he'd never actually gotten close enough to the men who had dressed the armadillo-looking creatures that had been butchered by the dozens to see just exactly how it was done. And those armadillo-things were much different than deer. From his extensive reading, he was aware of the fact that certain glands could spoil the meat if not removed properly. That was the extent of his knowledge regarding field dressing a kill.
Warily eyeing the simple Swiss Army knife, he began the gruesome, messy job. The work went slowly, and twice he suffered a case of dry heaves. The single slip of his knife blade filled the air with the pungent smell of a ruptured scent gland. Shit! Gagging from the stench, he gave up trying to do a proper job of cutting the meat, and simply sought any that hadn't been tainted. There was a spot near the shoulder that seemed untouched. Eventually he had hacked enough meat from the carcass to make a decent meal.
Starting a fire took much less time, thanks to the cigarette lighter he carried, and he managed to rig up a spit of sorts for cooking the meat. He debated for nearly an hour over whether or not to bury what was left of the poor creature, or leave it for whatever scavengers might be lurking about. Decided that if there was something larger out there, it would be to his advantage to keep it from becoming interested in him. If he disposed of the animal, anything that might be out there would have to dig for it. And by that time, he'd be long gone...in that village...through the Stargate and home.
He needed a shovel. Didn't have one. Would have to find a suitable substitute. A search along the riverbank netted a rock that was mostly flat. If he'd had a piece of flint, he could have sharpened one edge of it. The thought that he should probably look for such a stone settled in the back of his mind, not consciously recognized. He used the knife to break up the dirt as much as possible, then scooped it out with the stone. He had to stop occasionally to turn the meat that was hanging over the fire, cooking slowly. By the time he had a hole sufficiently deep enough, he was drenched with sweat.
"I'm sorry," he whispered again as he pushed the carcass into the hole. Covered it completely. He glanced up at the sky. "Thanks," he whispered. His acknowledgement to whatever gods might have been watching.
The aroma of cooking meat filled the air. His stomach continued to growl as he slowly turned the stick that held his meal. Fat dripped down onto the fire, making it flame up, blackening the outside of the meat. He cut a small slit to check the cooking progress...the meat was still blood red inside. He'd wait, although his stomach was beginning to argue with him about the fact that he could smell food, but nothing had been forthcoming. After what felt like an eternity, but had been thirty minutes, according to his watch, he carved off a chunk. It was still mostly raw inside. He liked his steaks medium rare. This was close damn enough!
It had a sharp, wild taste. He'd had wild venison before, and this was certainly similar. As he recalled, he hadn't been particularly fond of the wild version of the game meat. He was also too hungry to be picky. He ate his fill. Not wanting to leave any behind, he searched his pockets for something to put the last few chunks in. There wasn't anything nearly large enough. Finally settled on putting the meat into pockets. It took a bit of rearranging, but he managed to stuff the meat into two pockets of the vest, and the contents of those pockets went into the right thigh pocket of his pants. Where he normally kept the small flashlight case that held the serum that mimicked Casey's sweet nectar.
Once again thoughts of his Wife, pushed to the back of his mind while he dealt with simple acts of survival, rushed forward. God, she had to be going crazy by now. At least, he would be, if she was missing. He shook his head. He'd had experience with that very calamity, actually. Too many times for his own liking, that was for certain. She was a strong woman. She'd manage, until they found him. He couldn't help but grin when he decided she was probably driving Jack nuts demanding that something be done to find him. A thought that gave him considerable comfort.
He drank again from the river, thankful that it was there. Yep, whoever had put him in that particular spot had intended for him to make use of the river, not just for plotting a course to whatever civilization the planet had. They'd known he would need the water for survival. Temporarily, he quickly assured himself. Just until he reached the Stargate. Which was just waiting for him, in the valley at the foot of this mountain.
One step at a time. He'd concentrate on one step at a time. His boots crunched through the fallen leaves. Snapped twigs that had lay in what he had deemed a path. He whistled, more an attempt to break the nearly suffocating silence than because he felt like doing so. Casey always sang or hummed when the team had to hike on missions. He missed hearing her soft voice.
He'd spent the majority of the day playing hunter, tending to the meat...finally eating his fill. When the heavy clouds began to darken, Daniel again began to look for somewhere safe to sleep. By his calculations, he should be in the 'heart' of the valley sometime the following day. He considered building a fire, then decided not to risk it. He wouldn't be able to stay awake to tend it, and no doubt it would burn out long before he awoke. And he certainly didn't want to take the chance of it setting something nearby on fire. No sense burning the damned forest down.
He tugged his shirt tighter around his frame as the temperature settled into what he figured was typical for an autumn night. He closed his eyes, imagined himself in the warmth of his bed at home. Could feel Casey's soft body pressed against him. Could smell that sweet scent of spring flowers and vanilla. He drifted to sleep, comforted by his dreams.
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