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What the Eye Beholds, the Heart Denies
He held a hand over his eyes, wished for his sunglasses. The mountain rose steadily behind him. There was no way to deny the fact that he was standing on the valley floor. A large meadow lay spread out in front of him. It did not, however, boast a city or a town or a village...or even a small encampment of people. Nor did he see a Stargate towering anywhere in the vicinity.
His heart fell. He'd been clinging to the belief that he was just a couple days' hike away from a way home. His eyes swung back to the tall mountain that he had descended. Estimated that he had been about half way between the peak and the valley where he stood. Should he have stayed near the escape pod? He lowered himself to the ground, pulled his legs up, wrapped his arms around them and rested his chin on his knee. Watched the water flowing in the river. Felt a connection to the tributary, having followed it so closely for two and a half days. It was odd to think of the channel of water as something almost sentient. As if it had been responsible for keeping him safe so far. For his finding food when he needed it.
This, Danny boy, is how the worship of such things as the earth and the sky and water and rain and wind and the sun came into being. He frowned when he thought of the almost prayer he had uttered when he'd killed that deer, and when he'd buried it. It seemed that he wasn't as far removed from his primitive ancestors as he liked to believe. How much was ingrained into the very DNA of modern man...that respect for life, the need to worship...or at least acknowledge...powers far greater than what a simple mortal mind could grasp?
He looked around the meadow again. Shoved down the disappointment that had flooded him when he'd failed to locate anything that even closely resembled a Stargate. Now what? Keep moving? Keep searching? Or settle back and wait to be rescued? His thoughts had vacillated between the two competing courses of action since he'd awakened in the escape pod...hope for rescue, and the fear that his escape from this empty planet was up to him to accomplish.
A slight breeze was blowing. Not cold, but with just enough of a chill to remind him that he'd stumbled into this world at a very bad time of year. Winter would have been worse, of course. Without the proper clothing, he'd have frozen to death by now.
Which dropped an entirely new set of problems in front of him. By his count, he'd been missing for five and a half days. It was possible that the search was taking longer, because they'd have had to try to figure out just exactly which planet he'd landed on. He had a basic idea of how the search grid would be laid out. He just had to bide his time until they showed up here. The question was, how much time would it be? And how long did he have before the weather did turn cold?
There was plenty of wood. A Swiss Army knife wouldn't do him a damned bit of good when it came time to chop something down. But there were enough rocks that could be chipped into some sort of an ax...which could take days, he grumped mentally.
He squinted up at the sun. Then twisted around to look at the forest that surrounded the meadow on three sides. If he could build some sort of shelter, the large trees would protect him from the majority of the wind and any rainfall. The river would continue to provide the water he needed.
Food was going to be a major concern. Unless winters were mild here, most of the game would be hibernating for the season. Of course, there were probably more deer out there somewhere. If he could find a large one, manage to salvage all of the meat...dry the meat over a fire, which would take several days, it would last for weeks...
He closed his eyes. Just a few days. He only had to hang on for just a few more days. If he was going to be spending another night here, though, he wanted something more substantial than a tree trunk to sleep against...or in.
With a sigh, he pulled himself to his feet. Headed in a straight line from the river to the forest that stood guard over the meadow. Just a few feet into the growth of trees he began finding fallen limbs, low bushes...all the sort of material that he could use to build a rough shelter.
Now all he needed was the 'right' place to put it. He wandered among the trees, the old giants, the younger trees that were still larger than he was accustomed to seeing, the 'saplings' as large as the trees in Grant Park, keeping the river in sight, until he found a copse of small trees in what looked like an area that had been cleared at some fairly recent point in time. A discovery that had his heart pounding with hope. It couldn't have been too long ago that the trees had been cleared. From the size of the returning growth, not more than ten years. The reality of that estimation forced its way into his thoughts. Whoever had been here was long gone. They could be anywhere by now. On the other side of the damned planet, for all he knew.
He sighed. Once again disappointment washed over him. He was going to be facing withdrawal symptoms soon. He needed to have some sort of shelter before he was too ill to build one. Needed to make himself as safe as possible for the duration of the withdrawal process. The decision made, he examined the copse closely.
Three of the trees grew within arms' reach of one another. If he piled brush and limbs around them, he could create a shelter that would protect him from the elements. The fact that the copse was completely surrounded by huge trees with trunks as big around as he was tall was another bonus...those giants would protect him from the worst of any wind that might decide to blow. There was nothing for almost fifteen feet from the three trees on one side, which would allow him to build a fire without too much worry.
Just a few days, he chanted mentally, refusing to give up hope. Just a few days. This would give him something to do...something to focus on, while he waited for SG-1 and the Prometheus to find him.
A A A A A A
The afternoon found him working on his temporary home. He was struggling with a large limb that had nearly a dozen smaller limbs that protruded from it. He'd managed to break off all of the small twigs from one side, making a 'flat' area to lay against a small bush he'd uprooted and shoved between the two trees that stood closest to one another. The limb was heavy enough to keep the bush in place. One of the smaller sprigs caught the material of his shirt, just below his shoulder.
"Goddamnit!" He ripped the offending twig from the limb with a vicious jerk. Then felt the tremors move through his body. He took a deep breath. By tomorrow, the shakes would set in. He'd be into full blown withdrawal the day after that. He'd read enough to know what to expect. He could only hope he'd remain cognizant enough to not destroy his new home!
He ate the last few chunks of meat, wondering if his Immortality would be any advantage to the withdrawal from his Wife's sweet pheromones. If he was very lucky, what the medical sites online had described as a process that could take a week or longer would be over in a matter of days for him. Going through withdrawal alone wasn't pleasant to contemplate...but he had no choice. The most he could hope for was to pass out and remain unconscious for the majority of the time, while his body purged itself. Another thought that gave him pause. He'd deal with it later. Maybe, just maybe, it wouldn't be as bad as Janet predicted. Maybe he'd get lucky, and being dead for three days had done the majority of clearing his system. He could always hope.
His shelter was small, just big enough for him to stretch out in. He'd managed to stack the deadwood high enough that he could stand in it as well, the bushes on the very top creating enough of an overhang to keep him relatively dry. It resembled a small alcove, or even a shallow cave. "Home sweet home," he muttered, dropping to the ground.
He was tired, and filthy. After a few minutes rest, knowing that a fire was going to be a necessity as the weather continued to grow cooler, he decided that he needed a 'proper' firepit. That required, he decided, the necessary tools. The army knife would break up the dirt, but he needed something to scoop with. Yeah, a shovel, he thought dryly. Of course, if he had a shovel, most likely he'd have his pack. And if he had his pack, he'd have MREs. And water. His hand brushed against the pocket that held the radio. He moaned out loud. He'd been so intent on reaching the valley...this meadow, as it turned out, that he had completely forgotten to try to make contact with the Prometheus!
He flipped the radio on. Ignored the static. "This is Daniel Jackson. Can you hear me? Prometheus, this is Daniel Jackson, respond please." He paused. Waited. "Prometheus, this is Daniel Jackson. Where the hell are you guys?"
Nothing. Once again he quelled the sheer, blinding panic that attempted to rise from his belly to his throat. They were out there. They were looking for him. He was certain of it! In the meantime, he had to survive long enough for them to find him. No sense tipping anyone off to the fact that he was Immortal.
He concentrated on his firepit. A trip to the river had netted another flat stone. Working tenaciously, he dug a large hole. A dozen more trips to the river and the hole was lined with stones. Wet stones, but they were the right size, where they didn't fit, he used his knife to dig away at the dirt until they did.
A fire was soon crackling merrily, completely warming the small shelter he'd built as night fell, and the air grew cooler. So far, so good.
A A A A A A
The discovery of what appeared to be a type of pecan tree during his search for building materials prevented him from going to sleep hungry. Oh, he was far from being 'full'. But the nuts would keep his stomach from growling at him all night. He'd even gathered enough for breakfast. When he got home, he was hitting IHOP. He wanted a stack of pancakes, and eggs, and sausage and bacon, and coffee...god what he wouldn't give for a cup of coffee!
He found himself longing for his journal. If he could at least write down his thoughts, his ideas, his worries, maybe he could make sense of what was happening. He'd always used his journal as a way to work out the puzzles, and the problems, that he struggled with. Writing things down helped him to process and categorize what he knew, what he suspected, and what he theorized.
What he wanted the most, however, was to be with his Wife. He missed being with Casey. Hearing her chatter about her day. Her impressions of the people they worked with. She could do Jack as well as Jack could, he thought, grinning broadly. To just sit beside her, to know she was there.
"So how was your day, Stud Muffin," he said out loud. That's what she'd say. She'd have her arms around him, resting her head on his shoulder. Or sitting beside him on the sofa, holding his hand. Or maybe they'd be lying on the sofa, holding one another. Or they'd be in the kitchen, working together to prepare their dinner. Stud Muffin. He couldn't help but smile. Could remember exactly how she had looked at him when she'd given him that very amusing nickname; so sweet, so seductive....standing in the shower in that hotel room, her soft hand wrapped around his cock...
He shook his head. Thoughts like that would get him nowhere fast. He'd wind up aroused, with no way to seek release. Well, other than his own hand. Didn't sound like much of an idea to him. Especially without her there to watch, to get so damned turned on...to touch herself for him, then the two of them...Damn it!
"Frustrating. Busy. Pick one," he continued. "Like always. Just like always." He picked up stick of wood, broke it into pieces, tossed it into the fire. "What about you, Angel, how was your day?"
He rolled his eyes, ran his hand over his face. "You're losing it, Danny, sitting here having a conversation with your Wife." Who I miss like crazy, he thought, tears filling his eyes.
Do you miss me, Angel? Are you worried about me? He stretched out in his shelter. Closed his eyes. Was she all right? God, she had to be frantic by now. This was his third night on this planet...third night alive on this planet. Six days, by his calculations. He'd been missing for six days. Surely her gift of sight would help her...help the team find him, right?
Once again the thought of her gift gave him pause. What was it she had said, just before they had ringed over to Ares' ship? Blind. She'd felt blind, because she couldn't see or feel anything. He knew that it bothered her. She took her role as the 'Seer of the SGC' seriously. Any surprises that the teams faced on their missions haunted her, especially if they were of the not-so-great variety. It didn't happen often. Usually was the result of someone not heeding her warnings or advice. But she viewed each of those instances as a failure on her part.
The last 'download' she had received had been at Jack's cabin. God, it felt like a lifetime ago. In reality, it had been eight days. She'd been frustrated by the lack of information. Just three images. Like snapshots, she had said. A dark blanket. Fireworks. And gold and silver tubes.
Then she'd whispered to him, as they made their way to the ring transporter on the Prometheus that she felt as if she were being smothered, covered by a...
Blanket. His heart began to pound. Covered by a blanket. A dark blanket. Daniel opened his eyes, sat up, stared into the low flames that licked the last pieces of wood he had added to the fire. A dark blanket, fireworks, and gold and silver tubes. She had seen what was about to happen, or pieces of it, although she hadn't been aware of it at the time. Hell, he'd been trying to help her figure it out as well, and had been unable to do so. The fireworks could only have been the explosions on the ha'tak. And the gold and silver tubes..."Escape pods," he hissed out loud.
She'd been blocked before. When he'd been on another mission for the Tok'ra. What the hell was it about the Tok'ra that seemed to spell disaster for SG-1 in general, for him and Casey in particular? And if there were...Beings...who where blocking her 'sight'...what the hell was going on? Was this another attempt to keep them apart? Had they decided to take him this time, since they had failed at killing her?
If he'd figured this out, he knew that she'd done so as well. And knowing Casey, she was blaming herself...that was so not a good thing! No doubt she was having nightmares, if she was able to sleep at all. Her nightmares left her terrified and shaking and battling with guilt that wasn't hers to claim in the first place. It could take hours for her to fall back asleep if the images she struggled with had been particularly brutal. If she was alone...oh this was not a good thing at all! "Casey," he whispered, his heart aching as he speculated on what his Wife was going through...suffering...enduring. "Not your fault, Angel. It's not your fault."
Once again tears filled his eyes as he continued to worry about his Wife, fretting about her being alone as her nightmares tormented her. Worrying that those nightmares would lead her too far into the darkness for her to be able to escape from alone. She could be on a downward spiral mentally and emotionally, and he was stuck here, powerless to help her...to protect her. Exhausted physically, Daniel fell into restless sleep.
A A A A A A
When he opened his eyes again, dawn was just beginning to break over the horizon. He was shaking like a leaf, and being cold was only part of the problem. Daniel managed to stir the embers of the fire, added more of the wood he had gathered, held his hands toward the flames that jumped and crackled. What he could see of the sky was cloudy and gray. The day was as gloomy as his mood.
He stared glumly toward the river. Why in the hell hadn't the team shown up by now? Had they written him off so quickly...so easily? What about Casey...would she have accepted his loss....would she have allowed the others to convince her that he was dead? Contradicting thoughts bounced around in his head. Taunting him, torturing him. Was he alone because his was the only escape pod that had been 'rescued'? Was the fact that he was still on this damned planet because the rest of the team was dead? No. He would never accept that. Maybe it was the Beings who had attempted to kill Casey the first time who had 'saved' him, not his 'protectors'. Maybe they'd put each of the escape pods on other planets that didn't have Stargates, in an attempt to keep SG-1 apart. Maybe his Wife and teammates had been convinced that he was dead. Any one of the 'theories' could be the truth. Or a combination of them. Or none of them at all. Maybe he should just give up trying to figure it out. Without Casey's insight, he was doing nothing more than tormenting himself. He needed her...to help him figure this out. Needed her to just be with him...
God he missed her! He missed sleeping with her curled around him, her body soft and warm, her sweet scent filling the air he breathed. Missed showering with her. Missed that adorable, entertaining chattering. He missed seeing her eyes light up when he walked into the room, the warmth of her love filling them when she looked at him. Missed feeling the soft touch of her hand, the sweet taste of her kisses. "Casey," he whispered softly.
His body continued to shake, and the intermittent cramps in his legs and hands let him know that he was moving into withdrawal. He could close his eyes, see her lying on the bed, the soft glow of the lamp giving her skin a golden hue. He could smell her...taste that sweet nectar. A particularly violent shudder made his teeth rattle in his head.
A sudden need to move had him bolting from the shelter. He ran to the river, dropped down onto the bank on his stomach, stuck his head into the cold, fast moving water. Pulled his head up and shook it, as if he was trying to rid his head of every thought that bounced and whirled inside.
Too agitated to remain still, he began to pace. Where in the hell were they? They should have been here by now! Damn it, what happened to 'leave no man behind'? Had Jack changed it while he hadn't been looking, to 'leave no man but Daniel Jackson behind'? He shook his head again. No...no, Jack would never do that. Jack was his best friend.
If Casey was convinced he was dead, then the others would be as well. Was Jack taking care of her? Or was Teal'c the one spending time with her, making certain she ate, that she slept? That Jaffa had been attracted to her from the beginning. Couldn't turn his back on either of them, they'd steal his Wife away in a second if they could. Because she was beautiful, and sweet, and generous, and why in the hell hadn't she done a search before the mission? Damn it, she should have seen this coming!
Daniel pressed his fists to the sides of his head. Part of him understood that the turbulent thoughts were nothing more than chemically imbalanced rants. God what he wouldn't give to be nestled between Casey's thighs, taking what she gave him so willingly, slurping at that sweet twat...
He wiped the back of his hand across his mouth. Just a few minutes. He just needed a few minutes. He knew how to turn her on. How to get that sweet honey flowing like wine. "Just a little bit, Angel, I just need to taste you," he mumbled out loud. He spun around. Where the hell had she gone? She knew he needed her! "Casey!"
The echo of his voice cleared his head, at least enough for him to understand what was happening. Apparently, his Immortality was speeding up the process. His stomach was beginning to ache, whether from hunger or withdrawal, he wasn't sure. Damn my legs hurt! He opened and closed his hands, trying to ease the sharp pains that shot through his fingers. His condition was only going to get worse...and he needed to prepare for it now, while he still could. He had an idea of what to expect, and having his meager belongings safe when he came out of withdrawal was important. With a particular task to focus on, Daniel hurried back to his shelter. He didn't know how long he had, but he didn't think it would be more than a few hours at the most.
He pulled off his tac vest. He didn't have much, but what he did have, he desperately needed. Pulling at the flaps of his pants pockets, he began to empty them, setting the items on the ground with exaggerated care. He frowned...something was missing...but he couldn't figure out what that something was. No time to worry about it now. Smiled at the face of his Angel, ran his fingertip over her lips. Tucked the photo safely between the emergency fishing kit and the emergency sewing kit. He filled the tac vest, his fingers uncooperative and trembling. He gritted his teeth with frustration as the pain in his hands slowed the task considerably. Made certain the Velcro closures were secure. It seemed to take forever, his hands cramping by the time he had finished. He found a limb that jutted into his shelter the slightest bit near the top at the very front. The tac vest swung against the 'wall' when he looped it there by one arm opening. Stayed there securely. Good, that was good.
He should gather more wood for the fire...if he had enough nearby, he would be able to keep it going. He pulled himself to his feet. Groaned as the weight of his body added to the shooting pains in his thighs. He struggled to remain upright. Pulled two large limbs toward his shelter. Sweat broke out over his brow, he could feel it running between his shoulder blades. Fighting his body, which was shaking so hard now that it was difficult to hang onto the deadwood he found lying on the ground, he began to make a pile of branches and fallen tree limbs. He even managed to pull a small bush from between two saplings. It should make a nice fire, he thought. Had to have enough so that he didn't have to get up later.
Twice he fell as the cramps in his legs became worse. His head was throbbing, his vision blurred, the shaking worsened.
"Okay, never leaving the base without the serum again," he muttered. How many times had he said that? Only to convince himself that they were only going to be gone for an hour or so. No need to worry. Bullshit. Something happens to screw up the plans, every time.
The pile of burnable limbs had grown considerably. It would have to do. Exhausted, in such pain he wanted to scream, he dropped to the ground, scooted into the shelter. Felt the world begin to spin. Held himself upright with stiff arms. Blinked as the world faded from daylight to gray and back again. What the hell had happened...why was he here? He struggled to remain conscious, coherent. The Tok'ra. Mission. Tits up. "Goddamned Tok'ra!" he shouted. Then grimaced. Shouting made his head hurt. Thinking made his head hurt.
God he was so cold! He tried to snuggle down into his BDU shirt as much as possible. Added more wood to the fire until the flames were roaring as they consumed the offerings he provided. He could feel the heat...much better...his eyes drifted closed. He just needed to rest. Just for a few minutes...
A A A A A A
At first he wasn't certain what had filtered through the heavy fog of sleep to wake him up. Then he felt it again. Rolled to his side, curled into a ball as the cramps assailed him. He fought back the bile that continued to rise in his throat. Another cramp...he wasn't even aware of the fact that his bladder had been pressed so hard by the muscle spasm that it had emptied. Barely made it to his hands and knees before he began to heave, yellowish fluid dripping from his lips as his empty stomach protested both that hollowness, and the effects of the nausea that rolled over him in waves.
When the worst of the convulsions had passed, he managed to toss more wood onto the nearly dead fire, hoping that the embers would catch the few leaves that clung to several of the small branches. The effort was almost too much, he collapsed into a heap, barely conscious. How long? Groaning as he attempted lift his arm, his bleary eyes tried to focus on his watch. It was no use, he could barely see the face of the instrument, there was no way to identify the individual marks that signified the hours.
His legs began twitching, his hands curled into claws, the pain that accompanied the actions ripping screams of pain from his lips. It was her fault...all her fault! This was what she had done to him...he was never touching the little bitch again...all her goddamned fault!
It was impossible for his fevered brain to form any further coherent thoughts as pain assailed him from all sides, leaving his body shaking and jerking. He moaned, the sound no different than what was made by any animal in such deep agony. The giant trees stood as silent witness to the scene, as the man's body struggled to deal with the depravation of the much needed...much loved...pheromones that provided such pleasure...such happiness.
For a second time Daniel was able to make it to his hands and knees, just cognizant enough to try to crawl to the opening of his shelter before the heaving sent him sprawling face first into the dirt. His body continued to purge itself, the manifestation of its objections to the denial of the chemical...the pheromones...it was accustomed to receiving on a daily basis.
Every ounce of strength drained from his body, shivering from the cold and withdrawal, Daniel curled into the fetal position where he lay, consciousness blessedly slipping away from him.
A A A A A A
He opened his eyes. God, he hurt! Every inch of his body felt as if he'd been beaten. The fire was out, although he thought he could see faintly glowing embers. He struggled to sit up. Became immediately aware of the aftermath of the withdrawal. Now that was just fundamentally wrong on so many levels, he thought disgustedly. He stirred the ashes, gratified to see the red glow among the deepest of the lot. He added leaves and twigs, which caught instantly. Fed in more wood, watching as the flames licked at the offerings with impudence.
A cursory survey of his shelter had him sweeping out the worst of the leaves and dirt. He piled it all to one side, he'd deal with it later. Barely able to make it to his feet, he stumbled toward the meadow, and the river that lay as a boundary against it.
The trip took him nearly thirty minutes. He had to stop twice, a third time he had dropped to his knees and heaved, although not even bile was coming up now. Another thirty minutes to get his boots off. He debated for a moment, then stripped completely. He rinsed out his clothes as well as he could. Took a deep breath and plunged into the cold water, gasped loudly. The water numbed him within a matter of moments. He washed as best as he was able, feeling better mentally about the situation, if not physically.
When he reached for his wet pants, intending to spread them and his shirts out so that they would dry, the radio fell from the pocket. How long had it been since he had attempted to contact the Prometheus? Were they still looking for him? Had they given him up for dead? Shivering from the cold as a breeze blew across his wet, naked body, trembling fingers reached for the radio. "This is D-d-daniel J-j-jackson," he stuttered. "Is anyb-b-body out th-th- there?"
The hiss of static made his heart drop to his feet. Fed the sudden, inexplicable rage that filled him. Goddamn them! How dare they? How dare they leave him to die like this! Why in the hell hadn't Casey warned him! "Damn you!"
Shouting made his head throb. Furious at the situation, at his teammates, at his Wife...at the universe in general, Daniel hurled the radio to the ground. It was built to military specifications, and merely bounced against two rocks. Which only served to make him all the angrier. He picked up a large rock, and brought it down on top of the radio with every ounce of strength he could muster. The plastic housing cracked. He hit it again. This time the radio exploded into a dozen random pieces.
The effort was too much. In a fit of protest against the activity, his body began to shake uncontrollably, throwing him to the muddy bank. Renewed waves of pain rushed him from all sides. He slipped, fell face first into the water, just as the world faded to black around him.
Worried glances were exchanged. Their instructions had been very specific. They watched, waiting...hoping. When the man didn't move, the worry edged toward alarm.
Second stepped closer. Knelt down, gently rolled him to his side, making certain that his face was clear of the water that lapped around him.
"No more," First said quietly, a warning tone in her voice.
"He will die."
"Only if he remains here for too long," First replied.
Third smiled. "Do you believe the boy will follow the trail?"
First returned the smile, shook the long skirt of her robe...shorter now by about an inch. "His curiosity is as great as that of The One. He will follow."
Second looked down at the naked body of the man she had observed since his birth. She longed to at least dress him, the bluish hue of his fingers and lips concerned her.
"I know, it's difficult," First said softly, putting her arm around her companion in an attempt to comfort the younger being. "But we can do only what we must to insure that he lives. The rest...is up to him."
"I hate them! I hate them for what they have done!" Second whispered angrily.
Third stepped closer to his young companion. "They have acted in accordance to what they believe to be right."
"They are evil, and should be destroyed!" she declared, raising her chin slightly.
"They will be."
Second and Third both looked in surprise at their companion. Neither had ever seen the look of satisfaction that filled her eyes. Their gazes moved to the man who lay unconscious at their feet. The implement that would bring about the end of what never should have been.
They continued to watch...and wait...
A A A A A A
As long as he could remember, it had been the custom of his people. When the elders had reached their time, they made the final journey to that place where the gods themselves had resided. It was a bitter truth that this time the journey was his own. He was not serving as companion to the elder making his...or her...final trek to the sacred mountain.
The young man who walked beside him, who had tempered his own youthful gait so as not to rush legs that no longer moved with the same certainty with which they had in the past, pointed again. "There is another one!"
He nodded. Like pieces of a spider's web, grown thick and strong through time, bits of a soft white substance had dotted their path for the past half day. Even his old eyes could see yet another scrap, just up the trail.
"What is it?"
The old man accepted the piece of gossamer light material. "I have no idea," he admitted.
Frowning, the young man turned toward the path that the pieces of white seemed to follow. "Whatever it is, it follows the old path."
He could feel the indecision in his young companion...follow an enticing trail, and perhaps discover what these white, spider web-like bits were, or remain on the path to the sacred mountain. He paused, leaned heavily against the thick, carefully carved staff that he carried, that assisted him with each step. Taken from the very center of a red-leaf tree, he had inscribed his entire life on it, the carefully notched lines and circles representing the events that made up his collection of memories. He remembered what his grandfather had told him, with the last breath of life, three days before reaching their destination. That his bones would not know where they were buried. That his ka would be free of the shell that was his body, and would be able to travel unhindered to the sacred mountain, to join the ancestors who had gone before him. So he had done as the old man had requested...buried his body, then continued on alone, taking his grandfather's belongings to the sacred mountain. He left the pack that held all that the old man had owned near the dried, brittle packs that were gathered near a large tree, sang the ancient songs, and sent his grandfather's ka to join the ancestors.
With a heavy sigh, the young man turned to his withered companion. "We should stop soon, you grow weary," he said gently.
"I am not yet so old and feeble that I don't know when to make camp for the night," he snapped. He pointed a gnarled finger in the direction where the mystery laid. "We will take this path."
"One last hunt, before I die," the old man said softly. "I don't know what it is that we track. But it will be interesting to find out, will it not?"
The young man's face broke into a wide smile. "Very interesting!"
The two travelers followed the Great River, It had been nearly an hour, but no other bits of white had been found. The young man pulled the gathered pieces from the animal hide bag slung over his shoulder. He examined each carefully. "It is as if they were meant to be one piece," he said.
The old man waved him away when the eager youth attempted to show him. "My eyes cannot make out the detail that yours can," he complained. "But I will take your word for it."
"So soft...I have never felt anything so soft. Not even the down of a new born fawn."
The old man shivered when a soft, cool breeze moved past him. One of the spirits of some ancient family member, he was certain. He said nothing to the boy. But he had felt the same presence twice now. The first time had been just before the intriguing trail of white web-like bits had appeared. There was a reason he had been led in this direction...that they had been led in this direction. It had been many long years since he had been so certain of such a thing. Only once before in his life had he experienced a spiritual encounter...
Half dead after being gored by a wild boar, a beautiful woman had appeared to him. She had told him he had a Destiny to follow, that it was not his time to die. She had bid him sleep, and when he had awakened, hunters had found him, bound his wounds. Took him to their camp with them. He had remained, intending only to stay long enough to repay his debt. His heart, however, had made other plans...giving itself over to shy smiles and dancing brown eyes. "Laha," he whispered. Soon, my beloved one. I will join you very soon.
The narrow path opened to a large meadow, surrounded on three sides by the forest. The steep mountain of the Forbidden Ground lay just beyond. Something was lying beside the river. He squinted. It had the appearance of a heap of flesh.
The young man looked at his companion.
"Go," the old man nodded.
Dropping the heavy hide bag - the pack that held the old man's belongings - and the smaller pack that held his own traveling gear, he sprinted ahead. Gasped when he was close enough to make out the body of a man. Naked, and apparently dead. He jumped when one of the hands twitched slightly. Or not so dead. "He is alive!"
The old man hurried, wheezing and gasping for breath, cursing the pains that filled his body. "He won't be," he gasped, "if we don't warm him up!"
Beside the man was an odd heap of...the young man wasn't certain what they were. Never had he seen skins such as these before. "These must belong to him," he said, picking up the sodden items of clothing.
The old man pointed with his walking stick. The flames of the fire could barely be seen. "That must be his camp."
"I will return for them," the young man promised. He grasped the wrist of the man, noted how cold the skin was. Heaved the stranger over his shoulder. Didn't have time to notice the dark blonde hair. Took only a moment to wonder about the colorful marks on his chest. What looked like white wings...surely a symbol used by a powerful shaman. He carefully carried the man to where an obvious shelter waited. From the stench nearby, it was apparent that the man had been ill.
Feeding the fire with wood from a gathered pile, the old man watched the unconscious stranger as the youth laid him gently inside the hollow created by bushes and limbs.
"Bring the hides, we'll need to wrap him. Then you can fill the cooking skin with water. There is enough meat left to make a fine broth."
"I'll search for sticklewort. Tea will warm him more quickly."
The old man smiled. "You have learned well. Yes, do so. Now hurry!"
In less than thirty minutes time the unconscious man was wrapped in the two heavy robes that had been meant to wrap the old man's body for burial. While settling the stranger in his shelter, making certain he was as comfortable as he could be made, the young man had found another odd item...it had been carefully hung to one side of the shelter. Obviously the belongings of the stranger. It was considered rude to rummage through what belonged to another, so he left the odd...thing...alone, although he was burning with curiosity. Examination of the strange...skins...revealed that they were similar to their own clothing, as far as fitting over arms and legs. The young man spread the clothes over low hanging branches near the fire. It would take time, but they would dry. They would also be stiff, but a bit of working, rubbing a stone over them, would soften them again.
The cooking skin was hanging above the fire, held in place by the heavy limbs that the young man had fashioned into a spit. Filled with water from the lake, he added pieces of the dried meat that his mother had packed for the journey, the remainder of the taavo he had trapped and had roasted for their meal the night before, as well as the yams that he had found earlier in the day.
He pulled a stone cup, carved to such a delicate thickness as to belie its strength, from his hide bag. He gently ground the leaves of the plant he had located, using a long, narrow stone with a carefully carved, bulbous head. Poured water from a specially tanned skin into the cup, then nestled it among the coals of the fire. The wooden tongs he would use to retrieve it when the water boiled were placed carefully beside the stones that surrounded the fire.
Both men had taken a moment to examine what they could see of the firepit. It was different from anything they had ever seen, the stones reflecting the heat, the dirt that they were pressed into preventing them from overheating. It was something that the young man would remember, would share with the others of his clan.
Twice now the stranger had moaned. They could only assume that it meant he would be rejoining the land of the living soon.
The heavy clouds that had been rolling across the sky grew darker. The first drops of rain hissed against the fire.
"Perhaps we should stretch a hide above the fire, high enough that the smoke will continue to blow away, but close enough to keep the rain out of it, and off of us."
The large skin that had been used to wrap all of their belongings in was unrolled. The young man's experience and a stone axe provided the posts, made from tall, strong saplings. Lengths of sinew rope were threaded through holes...which had been carefully punched through the hide when it had been stretched and tanned...then tied around the poles. More rope wrapped around smaller pieces of wood, and used as stakes, kept the skin tarp from collapsing on them.
The young man put the flat wooden tongs on either side of the cup, gently lifted it from the fire and placed it on the ground nearby, making sure it wouldn't tip before releasing it. The two men shared the soup quietly, dipping their spoons into the simmering pot, filling the shallow wooden bowls that were part of their personal trappings.
"The tea is ready," the young man said, testing the cup with the pad of his thumb.
"See if you can get any down him," the old man instructed.
Carefully, not wishing to cause the man more discomfort, the young man pulled the stranger against his chest, so that he was almost sitting up. He tested the liquid, to ascertain that it wouldn't burn the stranger's mouth or throat. It was quite warm, but not scalding. Held the cup to the unconscious man's lips.
The old man crawled to his feet. Bent over and gently opened the stranger's mouth. "Slowly, so that he doesn't choke." One gnarled hand stroked the stranger's throat, encouraging him, even while unconscious, to swallow. It took time, but eventually the cup was empty. "Start more. When it is ready, it will be time for the next dose."
With a nod, the young man obeyed, following the same steps as before. Afternoon faded to evening. Evening gave way to the cold of the night.
When the second dose of the tea was administered, the heavy robes had slipped down a bit, exposing the stranger's chest. The young man stared at the marks. The white wings were very well done. He had no idea what the other marks meant, nor could he explain where the colors had been found. "He is a great shaman?"
The old man studied the tattoo. Never in his life had he seen anything like it. He had heard of tribes that marked their skin in such a way, but he'd never seen it for himself, nor had he ever understood the significance of the marks. "Possibly."
"Then saving him was a very good thing."
"Saving any man's life is a good thing," the old man replied firmly.
The two good Samaritans took turns sleeping, watching over the stranger they had found near the brink of death. They continued to pour the tea down his throat, hoping that it would help to warm the man as he shivered violently.
A A A A A A
Warm. He was warm. Not so comfortable, something was poking him in the back. And something smelled musty...like an animal... That thought had his eyes flying open. Above him were the branches and limbs that he had piled together to make a shelter of sorts. His vest was hanging almost directly above him. Okay, that was familiar, that was a good thing.
The next thing he noticed was the tarp above the fire. Well, about seven feet above it. Not exactly a tarp though...it didn't look like plastic or canvas. He shifted slightly. His body was still shaky, movement caused tremors in his arms and legs. Which were wrapped in a...what the hell was he wrapped in?
"You're awake. That is a good sign," a voice said from somewhere to the right of him.
He turned his head. If the man staring at him wasn't two hundred years old, he'd eat his boonie. Just as soon as he had one. It hit him that he hadn't understood what the man had said. He shook his head. "I'm sorry, I don't..." sighed deeply. Tried again...in Goa'uld. "I don't understand you."
The old man frowned. The words the stranger spoke were unlike any he had heard before. Stories were told of people who lived on the far side of the mountains. People who worshipped different gods and hunted different animals, and spoke in a different tongue. He had long held them to be just stories, told to while away the long winter afternoons, the creations of the storytellers. Now he came face to face with the reality of those stories. "Where are you from?"
Daniel frowned slightly. There was something familiar about the cadence of the language, if he could just hear a bit more...he smiled, nodded, pulled his hand from beneath the...animal fur. He was wrapped in animal furs! That was a puzzle for later. He waved his hand in a circle, then pointed to the old man.
Not certain what the stranger wanted, the old man reached for the cup that held still warm tea. Offered it to the man with hair the color of dark honey. He had never seen such hair. Nor eyes that were the color of the summer sky.
A bit frustrated, Daniel accepted the cup. Sipped cautiously when the old man mimed drinking. Barely managed to keep his face from revealing just how bitter he found the concoction to be. A thought that triggered another - concoction...decoction... Faint images...opening his eyes...the fire burning low, something held to his lips...drinking...choking just a bit...then drinking more...
The old man nodded approvingly when the stranger emptied the cup. "Your color looks better today. Not blue."
Now parts of that he understood. Color. Blue. Today. It was a dialect used by ancient Bedouins, a group that had been traders and caravan owners during the earliest Egyptian Dynasties. Traces of it had been found on tablets near what had once been one of the greatest oases in the desert. No one was completely certain what the spoken language sounded like, although there were words that seemed to be the same as the first of the Egyptian languages. Clay tablets that had been covered with hieroglyphs, and then what appeared to be a phonetic break down of each word, was all that guided the knowledge of that particular dialect. Okay, so there were a few words in common. If there were people on this planet, they had been brought here a very long time ago. And if they had been brought here..."Chappa'ai?"
The old man shook his head.
Daniel searched frantically, found a small stick, Cleared leaves and debris from a spot of dirt beside him. Painstakingly drew a representation of a Stargate. Then of a DHD. When the old man shook his head again, he dropped back onto the ground. Okay, so maybe these people were indigenous to the planet. They had discovered two planets so far where life had evolved as it had on Earth...just not at the same time, or pace. One group was had still been living in caves. That wouldn't explain how the languages were the same, though. If this old man didn't know about the Stargate, it either wasn't on this side of the planet, or it had been buried in antiquity, and could literally be anywhere.
His heart fell just a little more. The sound of someone approaching had him reaching for the P90 he'd stuffed beneath a small bush at the back of the shelter. He hesitated...the old man didn't seem alarmed. Which meant whoever was coming was expected It was rather silly to think this old man and whoever his companion might be would help him, obviously trying to nurse him back to health, only to bash his skull in. He pulled his fingers from the weapon.
The young man gave a start when he realized that impossibly blue eyes were watching him. He grinned broadly. "You are awake!"
The kid immediately reminded him of Skaara. The same gentle nature, the same eager smile. He couldn't help but smile in return.
The young man came closer, stopped when he saw the 'drawing' on the ground. He studied it, frowned, held a brief conversation with the old man. "What is it?"
He didn't understand the words, but the tone of voice, and the fact that the kid was pointing to his dirt drawing was a clue. "Chappa'ai," he said.
"Close enough," Daniel nodded. He supposed that, under the circumstances, introductions were in order. "Daniel," he said, tapping his chest lightly. "Daniel."
"Dan'yel," the kid repeated, pointing to himself.
Daniel shook his head. Sat up, willed his stomach to remain where it was, and his head to stop spinning. Tapped his chest again. "Daniel." He pointed to the boy, then cocked his head sideways. "Daniel." Tap, tap, tap.
With a wide grin of sudden understanding, the young man grinned from ear to ear, patted his own chest. "Kiam."
Returning the grin, Daniel pointed to his newfound friend. "Kiam." He pointed to the old man.
"Old Father Maelu."
Well that was a mouthful and a half, Daniel thought. "Old Father Maelu," he repeated, stumbling over the pronunciation just a bit.
Kiam laughed. "No, Old Father Maelu," he said slowly, enunciating carefully. "He is called only by Maelu."
Daniel repeated the seemingly shortened version of the name. The old man chuckled and nodded. He started shaking again, but the pains and cramps in his joints and muscles were much less intense. He'd wager a guess that not only had his Immortality sped up the onset of the withdrawal process, it was going to speed up his recovery as well. That was perfectly fine by him.
The last thing he remembered was needing a bath, because he hadn't been able to get up when he had needed to...sort of remembered being pissed as hell about something. Then...nothing. Nothing before that, other than building this shelter, getting the firepit dug and lined with stones, nothing since his 'bath', until opening his eyes. Well, just the vague feeling that he had been awake earlier, and had drank whatever that nasty tasting crap was.
He looked at his watch. Holy Hannah! To quote a very good friend, he thought. Four days. He'd been out of it for Four days! He was certain that it was some sort of withdrawal record. What he'd read had indicated that it could take two to three weeks to be fully recovered from withdrawal. He wasn't ready to run any foot races just yet, but he was certain that the worst of the ordeal was over. By his calculations, he'd been on the planet at least ten days.
It took concentrated effort not to just break down and cry in frustration. If there wasn't a Stargate on this god forsaken planet, then the only way he was getting off of it was if the Prometheus picked him up. Where the hell were they? Surely his teammates wouldn't give up on him, wouldn't stop searching for him...would they? Certainly Casey would never give up. Was she trying to search for him, trying to reach out and find him? Was she still being blocked telepathically? Was that why they hadn't located him yet? If this had all been...arranged...by someone on another plane of existence, that was a very possible conclusion. It didn't bode well for him.
The blue eyes of the stranger had taken on a sad, haunted look. Kiam sat down, wondering what could bring such a look to his eyes.
Maelu scooped a bit of broth into his wooden bowl. Handed it to the young man beside him. "Eat, you need your strength," he said.
Daniel couldn't say that the watery broth was any better than the tea. But it was hot, and no doubt it would give his depleted system something to work with. If he was dehydrated, and he was just about certain that he was, then he need all the fluids he could get.
At least, his thought wearily...sadly...he wasn't alone on the planet. If he had to stay here, he wouldn't go slowly mad from loneliness.
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