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Whispers From the Past
It was the first real info dump she'd had in almost two weeks. The fact that they were on their way to the commissary for breakfast guaranteed that Daniel noticed the signs. He gently tugged her to one side of the corridor, pulled her into his arms.
The minute his hand began to move up and down her back, she felt herself stiffen. It was one thing for him to touch her like this when they made love. Usually he used both hands to caress her. It was different when he touched her then, his hands moving over her bare skin. There was intimacy in the touch. But in that moment, in that particular way, standing in a corridor of the SGC...in an instant she was transported back to the briefing room, watching him comforting Sha’re, his hand moving up and down the Abydonian woman’s back. This was something they hadn’t discussed. Until this moment, she hadn’t even remembered it. But the pain was still there, just as sharp and jagged as the day it had happened.
He felt her body jerk at his touch, felt her pull away. That had never happened before! She took a full step backward. Was it the result of what she was seeing...or was something else going on? He frowned slightly. "Case?"
As the images began to twirl, she focused on staying calm, breathing slowly. She didn’t move back into his embrace, but stood where she was, damning her feelings of anger...of betrayal...even as she struggled with the influx of information. For the moment, her personal feelings would have to be pushed aside. She’d deal with them...later. She closed her eyes, something she didn’t normally do until after the flash of light that always accompanied the messages she received. Today, right now, she couldn’t look at him, couldn’t look into blue eyes that were full of confusion...hurt...love.
When he tried once again to pull her closer, to wrap his arms around her the way he always did when she had ‘incoming’, she resisted. Her arms were around her waist; she was hugging herself tightly. Just before she closed her eyes, practically squeezing them shut, he'd seen a glimmer of...of something...in those pools of emerald green, something he hadn’t recognized. Until she was ready to talk, to explain what was wrong, there was nothing he could do. So he stood there, hands in his pockets...to keep from reaching for her; clueless, worried, and not a little hurt at being so effectively shut out. Daniel felt absolutely helpless. He absolutely hated the feeling.
As soon as it was over, when she could sort through the images that had been dropped into her mind, she lowered her head. Opened her eyes slowly.
"Want to talk about it now, or later?" His voice was soft...held a hint of sadness.
Slowly, she let her gaze move up to his eyes. The hurt she saw reflected there made her heart cringe. "I’m sorry," she whispered.
Tears stung her eyes, clung to her lashes. How could she tell him...explain to him...when in her own mind she understood that the caress had been automatic? Or was that the problem? Was something that she had considered a special caress nothing more than his natural kindness, his way to offer comfort, to any and all who needed such tenderness? She shook her head. "It’s silly."
Probably not, he thought, sighing mentally, or you wouldn’t be as upset as you obviously are. "If it’s bothering you, it’s not silly to me," he said, his voice low...calm.
She shook her head again. "It’s just something I have to work out."
He cupped her chin with his hand. "Casey, don’t shut me out. Tell me what’s wrong."
She lowered her eyes. His lips were pressed together, one of the visible little body signals that she had learned during her time with him. He was upset. A combination of anger, and worry.
"You...You did..." she looked back into his eyes. Flinched visibly at what she saw there. Emotions that she was all too familiar with. "You did it for her," she whispered under her breath, so softly that the words never reached his ears.
"I what? I did what?" He was totally confused. The only thing he knew for certain was that he'd done something that had resulted in his Wife pulling away from him. So what had happened, what had changed, between the time she had fallen asleep in his arms, lying on top of him, her body still sheathing him...and right now? He began to carefully examine everything that had been said...and done...from the moment he'd opened his eyes, to that very moment, standing and watching the distress on her face.
"It’s stupid and it’s meaningless and-" She bit back a sob. No, it wasn’t meaningless. Or it hadn’t been, until Sha’re had appeared. Damn it to hell! What else had that surprise visit changed? What other demons were lurking in her heart, loosed by her insecurities, her jealousies; waiting to pounce and attack her with dark whispers?
He wanted to hold her...was desperate to hold her...but he was almost afraid to try, not willing to be rejected so abruptly a second time. When she stepped closer, her arms going around his neck, he pulled her body against his own, held her tightly, buried his face against her hair.
"I need to talk to General Hammond," she said, her voice muffled against his shoulder.
"Later, Daniel," she said softly, pulling away just far enough to look up at him. "Grab a chocolate chocolate-chip muffin for me, if there are any left, will you? I’ll see you and the team in the briefing room in a few minutes."
He didn’t want to let her go. Responded desperately to the kiss she offered. Watched her walk toward the elevators, her arms once again wrapped around her waist, her head down, her hair hiding her face. Goddamn it! If it's not one freaking thing, it's another. No way in hell was he letting her get by with avoiding him. He understood that for the moment, SG-1 had a meeting...apparently she'd seen something that would no doubt result in a mission. But they weren’t stepping foot out of the SGC...they weren’t leaving his office...until they had talked. The universe be damned!
With a heaved sigh of impatience, he shoved the door to the commissary open, stalked into the room, headed for the coffee maker and the stack of mugs on the table against the wall. It wasn’t his favorite, but it was caffeine, and right now he needed it. A glance at the muffin bin told him that her favorites were already gone. He only grunted in response to Jack’s greeting, telling his teammates that they needed to go to the briefing room, and why.
Casey leaned back against the wall of the elevator. As soon as this meeting was over, she would tell him. Try to explain. Somehow, someway she’d make him understand that the problem lay within her, and had nothing to do with him.
It took effort, but she forced her attention back to the images. Examined each one carefully. What she saw made very little sense. She could only see part of a building, not enough to determine where it was, or what it was. Only that it was stone, covered with ivy, and a had a bed of purple flowers were nearby. There was writing on one of the stones...although she had no idea what type of language she was looking at. The only thing she knew for certain was that it was important. But not for the SGC. Not even for SG-1. It was a message for Daniel. At least...that was the feeling that assailed her.
A A A A A A
General Hammond wasn’t in his office when she tapped lightly on the door. Knowing that this early in the morning he would most certainly be nearby, she opted to wait. She'd never actually looked at all of the pictures he had hanging on the wall. Photos of him with two presidents. Several of the general with groups of men, varying in number, all of them standing beside Air Force jets. He was young in most of those, his smile wide and brash and full of confidence.
"Casey! Good morning!"
She turned, smiled at the warm greeting. "Good morning, General."
"To what do I owe this visit?"
"Well, I just had an information dump...SG-1 needs to go on a mission...but I have no clue where it is," she admitted.
The general poured himself a cup of coffee, motioned that she should do the same, then sat down behind his desk. "I see."
She poured coffee into a cup, added creamer and sugar. Turned around to find the general watching her, waiting patiently for her to explain what was going on. "Sir, there’s text on a stone...and the message there is important for Daniel. I have no clue what it is, or why it’s important...I just know that it is."
Hammond frowned. "All right. How do you propose we go about finding this place?"
She tugged at her lip with her teeth. Cocked her head sideways...listened to the whispers. "Are there any MALP reports?"
He sifted through his inbox. "There are four here."
The seer nodded. "It’s one of them. I just need to see the photos to know which one."
Both the general and Casey looked up when the other four members of SG-1 filed into the briefing room. "Here, take these with you, have a look. I’ll be in momentarily," he said.
She accepted the folders, nodded her understanding, and hurried into the room where her teammates waited.
"What’s up, Radar?" Jack asked.
"Mission." She took a sip of her coffee.
"So I assumed. Where, and why?"
"I don’t know where yet, and it’s because-" She broke off, looked at Daniel. Relieved to see that the only thing visible in his eyes was curiosity. And love. Lots of love. She smiled, her heart turning flip flops at the shy smile he gave her in return.
He had decided to push away his worries, at least for the moment. As soon as the briefing was over, then they would address whatever it was that had come between them. Work first, he sighed mentally. Why did it always seem that something...that something work related...insisted on interfering when he needed to talk to her? Her bright smile eased his fears somewhat, and he responded instinctively with a smile of his own.
"There’s a message there for Daniel." She held up one slender hand. "I don’t know what it is. Only that it’s for Daniel."
The archaeologist frowned. "With luck, it’ll be the key to the cuneiform on those pillars."
"Still having trouble with them?" Sam asked.
He nodded. "I thought I had a handle on it...but," he shrugged, spread his arms, palms up. "I’ve located three symbols I recognize, but they don’t fit...the meaning of the text becomes garbled if I try to use them as a basis for translation. They look like symbols from a rare religious dialect of Latin, older than Rome itself. It would help if I could locate any written documents that contain all of those symbols." He looked back up at Casey hopefully.
"Sorry, Stud Muffin. No clue what you’re going to find."
"If you don’t know where this place is, how are we going to get there?" Jack asked.
She held up the folders. "It’s here. I think," she added. There were times when it seemed too damned arrogant to claim she knew something for certain...especially when, in her own heart, she wasn’t always so sure.
When she dropped down into the chair beside him, it was just natural reaction to reach for her hand. She squeezed his fingers, flashed that zillion watt smile at him, and then extracted her fingers from his grasp. He tried to assure himself that is was only because she needed both hands to deal with the folders.
She opened the first folder, took one look at the first MALP image, and slapped it closed. "Nope, this is desert."
The second folder didn’t remain open any longer than the first one had. The third folder netted an excited whoop, bringing a round of chuckles from her teammates. She studied the photos carefully. There were no signs of a building anywhere near the Stargate. According to the file, there had not been a UAV sent to do an aerial reconnaissance. "I know it’s there," she said confidently.
Jack pulled one of the photos toward himself. Great, just what he loved...not. Forest. Not jungle. That was a good thing. Not desert. Also a good thing. But forest. Trees. So damned many trees. So many lovely places for nasty things...or nasty people...to hide. From which to carry out an ambush. Oy. "You’re certain this is the place?"
"Yep. That’s the place."
General Hammond hurried into the room. "I have a mission briefing with SG-10 in fifteen minutes," he said sitting down, putting a stack of folders on the table in front of him. "Casey, am I to understand that this is important? Or can it be put off for a day or so?"
"It’s not life and death, at least, I’m not sensing anything...desperate," she replied slowly, choosing her words carefully. "However, I think we should leave as soon as possible...there’s something...I wouldn’t call it urgency, exactly. Just...important...very important. I’m not sensing any threats, no danger at all. It might be a bit of a hike to get where we need to go."
Jack groaned. More from habit than an actual dislike of hiking. With Immortality, his knees didn’t bother him, which meant that his lower back didn’t bother him. He could hike for hours with the best of them, just like he had when he'd been younger.
"How long will you need?"
Slender shoulders moved up and down. "I don’t know, sir. I have no idea what else might be there."
Sam pulled the folder closer, looked at several of the readings taken by the MALP sensors. "No analyses registered. Soil analysis will give us more of an idea of what’s there, or not there."
The general nodded. "Very well. You’ll have forty-eight hours, unless you find something that warrants a longer stay."
"Yes, sir," Jack said, speaking for his team.
"Whenever you’re ready, you have permission to go."
"Let’s go, campers. ‘Gate room in twenty."
Daniel stood to his feet with the others. Determination settled into his being. "We’ll meet you in the supply room," he said firmly. Took Casey’s hand, and dragged her toward the corridor.
Jack frowned as he watched them leave. Something was up...the way Daniel had stormed into the commissary...alone...had been sufficient evidence of that. The behavior of the two during the briefing, which he noted quite happily had been very brief, had been normal. But their exit...
"Something’s wrong," Sam said quietly.
"Indeed," Teal’c nodded.
"Let’s hope they get it worked out fast," Jack said, still staring at the door that the Jacksons had disappeared through.
A A A A A A
"We’re going to talk, Casey. We’re not leaving my office until we’ve hashed out whatever it is that’s going on in that pretty little head of yours," he replied.
She almost smiled. It seemed that he had learned a valuable lesson on the day Sha’re and company had shown up. But she still didn’t know how to tell him something as silly...as trivial...as what was prodding at her heart.
When they arrived at his office, hand in hand, he led her inside, then closed the door. Glanced at it, frowned, and locked it. No interruptions. Not this time. "Okay. Tell me what happened a little bit ago."
"Info dump," she said, toying with one of the statues on the work table. Used as a talisman against evil spirits, Daniel had told her. It had probably sat near the entry of a home.
"Yeah, how about that. Is there a particular reason that my touch is suddenly repugnant to you?"
Her head flew up, her eyes locked with his. "I love it when you touch me!"
"You sure as hell could have fooled me!"
Casey shook her head. "It’s stupid and it’s trivial and it’s my problem."
"I don’t care how stupid or trivial you think it is. And it’s not just your problem when it’s affecting me as well!" Daniel declared.
"Affecting you? How?"
"Do you have any idea how useless...how helpless I feel when you’re getting a 'download'? Holding you, helping you focus, keeping you calm...it makes me a part of that...it gives me a way to be there for you! Even if it is just an illusion to keep myself from going crazy worrying about you!"
His words hit her like a ton of bricks. He'd told her of his concerns, his fears of something happening to her while she dealt with the influx of information that seemed to come from nowhere...and everywhere. Only now did she fully understand; his blunt confession left no room for doubt concerning his feelings. The words he'd nearly shouted wrapped around her aching heart, offered consolation. "Oh, Daniel," she said softly. She closed the distance between them, wreathed his face with her hands, kissed him gently.
He indulged for only a moment...he was resolute in his desire to learn what was wrong...and to fix it. To make better whatever it was that was bothering her. He ended the kiss slowly...but determinedly. "What happened, Casey? Why did you pull away from me?"
Once again tears filled her eyes. "I thought...I always..." she shook her head, lowered her eyes.
"You thought what, Angel?" he asked softly.
"Whenever I’m scared, or angry, or upset, you hold me...and you run your hand up and down my back. I love that; it always made...makes...me feel so safe and warm," she said, barely catching her slip.
Daniel didn’t miss the change of tense either. "What changed it from makes you feel safe and warm, to made you feel that way?"
"I guess I never thought that it might just be sort of...automatic...just something you do when you’re trying to comfort someone. Anyone."
He was totally lost. Apparently his touch was no longer able to soothe her. She'd even reacted as if it...bothered...her. Which scared the hell out of him. When this unpleasant change had occurred, he didn’t have a clue. "I don’t understand."
She shrugged. "I just have to deal with the fact that it’s not something special that you do for me."
"What in the world makes you think that it’s not?" he asked incredulously.
One tear made its way down her cheek. "Because you did it for Sha’re," she whispered.
He closed his eyes, let his head fall back. So how many other ways had he screwed up that day? Ways that were going to hurt her, haunt her...drive a wedge between them. He silently damned the moment that the woman who looked like his first wife had stepped through the Quantum Mirror. "I don’t know what to say," he admitted.
"There’s nothing to say. Like I told you, it’s just something that I’ll have to work out for myself."
He was going over the events of that day in his mind, frantic to find the moment that he had so unwittingly hurt his wife, stolen something from her without even realizing it. "When did it happen?"
"At the end of the briefing, right after they arrived. It was when she was getting ready to pitch a bitch about leaving you," she said.
There wasn’t much of the first part of that meeting that he actually recalled. He remembered standing up. Remembered the need to get Sha’re to the VIP room before she had a total melt down. "To be honest, Case, I don’t really recall much of that meeting. The only thing I can remember clearly is wanting to get her the hell out of there...no matter what it took."
A frown puckered the skin between her eyebrows. "So you were what, placating her?"
"As much as I could without giving her what she wanted," he replied. Wasn’t completely certain that in that moment he'd been thinking clearly enough to have recognized that fact.
"Not me, not exactly. She wanted her Daniel. I just happened to look like him. And for her, in that moment, that was enough." He took a deep breath, blew it out slowly. "I can’t honestly tell you if...touching...someone that way is habit for me or not," Daniel said softly. "I can tell you that you’re the only one I consciously want to touch, that I want to comfort."
She turned the words over and over in her mind, examined them carefully. "So, for me, it really is a special caress?"
He smiled. "I believe it is...that’s the way it’s intended. I love that my touch means so much to you, Angel. That my touch can offer you safety...security. I’m so damned sorry for hurting you."
"It’s not like you were even aware of doing it! I told you it was silly and trivial and stupid-"
Daniel put his finger on her lips, stopping the recriminating flow of words. "Nothing that bothers you or hurts you is ever silly or trivial or stupid. You’re right, I wasn’t aware of doing it...not at that moment, when I was comforting Sha’re. But I know every time I touch you," he said emphatically. "Every time I touch you, it makes my heart pound and my pulse race, and I feel like I can’t catch my breath. Every time my hands move over your body I feel it...I feel your love...so warm and gentle and beautiful...and it surrounds me; I can feel your response, the way your body moves, and shivers, every time I touch you...and those reactions go straight into my heart and soul."
She stood for a moment, letting what he had said sink in, letting the meaning fill her heart, soothe away the ache that had held it in such an icy grip.
He frowned, worried when she said nothing, just stood staring at him, tugging her lip between her teeth. "Angel?"
"You have the heart and soul of a poet," she sighed, locking her arms around his neck.
He pulled her close, pressed his face to her hair. "I love you, Casey, and only you. The only woman I want to touch, that I need to touch, is you."
"I love you, too."
"Do you feel it, Angel?" he whispered, moving his hand up and down her back. "Do you feel my touch?"
"Yes," she whispered in return.
"I have to touch you, I have to do this, because I can’t not touch you," he continued. "I need to do this, as much as you need for me to."
She buried her face against his throat. What had been a special caress, something she had treasured, was returned to its rightful place...it was hers, and hers alone, once again. "Thank you," she murmured.
"For giving me what belongs only to me."
He smiled against her hair. "Only for you, Angel," he whispered in her ear.
Sudden pounding on the door caused both of them to jump. "Hey! Open up! What’s going on in there?" The voice was muffled, but the tone was clear enough.
Daniel grinned at the sound of Jack’s voice...and the fact that it was more panicked than pissed. He hurried over and unlocked the door.
Jack burst into the room, took one look at Casey’s tear-streaked face, and shook his head. "Do I want to know?"
"None of your business," Daniel replied calmly, walking back to his Wife. He gently wiped the tears from her cheek, smiled when she closed her eyes briefly from the caress.
The older man bristled, glared at the younger man. "When it affects members of my team, it sure as hell is my business! Radar’s crying. Whatever you did-"
Casey smiled. "What he did was give me something very special. Well, actually gave it back to me."
Jack looked from Casey to Daniel, then back again. "Okay. Lost here."
"We need to get to the supply room." She linked her arm with Daniel's, and when they were close enough, reached out and linked her other arm with Jack's.
"You’re not going to tell me, are you?" Jack asked accusingly.
"Nope," Daniel replied.
"Everything is fine, Jack," Casey assured her friend and CO. "Daniel always makes everything...perfect."
He looked over her blonde head to the smiling face of the archaeologist. Okay, as much as he wanted to know, maybe it really wasn’t his business. And as long as they were both smiling and happy, then all was right in his world. "So, you say we’re going to have to hike?"
"I think so. Not far, though, I hope."
"Why, don’t like hiking?"
"I don’t mind hiking. It’s carrying the pack I don’t like," Casey retorted.
Jack snickered. "Yeah, well, it’s not my most favorite thing, either."
Once they were in the elevator, Daniel glanced at his friend. "Thanks."
"Huh? For what?"
He smiled. "For caring so much."
Jack’s brown eyes met blue ones. "Family, Space Monkey," he said softly.
A A A A A A
Sam and Teal’c had the packs on the table that sat in the middle of the supply room, carefully sorting MREs and energy bars. The major looked up as the three trouped in, smiled to see all was well. "How long, Case?"
"I’m guessing not more than two days. I don’t feel that it’s going to take longer than that," the seer replied.
With a nod, Sam walked over to the shelves of uniforms. Started tossing tee shirts and BDUs, knowing the sizes needed by heart. Jack and Daniel caught each piece, put them on the table.
Jack stepped passed Sam, grabbed five extra pairs of socks. "You can never have too many pairs of clean socks," he said. A lesson learned from an infantry officer early in his Special Ops days.
Each team member sorted through their lockers to find underwear; often just being able to wipe off with the Wet Ones that they carried, and putting on fresh clothes from the skin out could make a bad day better. Hopefully, there wouldn’t be any bad days on this mission.
Jack, Sam, and Teal’c were filling tac vests; making certain that simple things like sewing kits, fishing kits...which consisted of nothing more than a length of fishing line and three hooks in a sealed cellophane package...matches, pen lights and extra batteries for radios were within easy reach.
Daniel plopped his boonie on his head, then hurriedly braided Casey’s hair while she filled their tac vests. As soon as he'd finished, he tugged a boonie over her head, kissed the tip of her nose.
"Okay, armory and out of here." Jack said, hefting his pack on to his back, planting his cap on his head. Sam grabbed a cap, followed him and Teal’c.
There were a few curious looks from several of the Airmen who passed them in the corridors; according to the roster, which was posted in the control room, SG-1 wasn’t slated for any missions for another week. Everyone knew, of course, that anything could happen, and changes occur in a matter of minutes.
It didn’t take the team long to arm themselves...four P90’s, five nine-millimeter Beretta’s and holsters, and Teal’c’s staff weapon. Extra rounds for the weapons were stuffed into the leg pockets of the BDUs. Radios were clipped to tac vests, the cords for the earpieces draped behind their necks, the devices there if needed.
Sam dashed into the control room to dial the gate, the mission folder in her hand providing the needed glyphs to accomplish that task. As soon as the program had accepted the symbols, she jogged into the ‘gate room to join her teammates.
General Hammond, who was briefing SG-10 on their mission, heard the sound of the ‘gate coming to life. He moved to the window, couldn’t help but smile when the team looked first toward the control room, then at the windows of the briefing room. He gave a salute, received a sloppy salute in return from the colonel, then watched as the team walked casually up the ramp. He didn’t have to hear the banter to know it was happening.
A A A A A A
The Stargate was sitting flush on the forest floor. It might not have been built that way, but time, and the ever encroaching forest, had caused the current result of stepping directly into dirt, pine needles and fallen leaves.
Jack immediately scanned the area around them. "Keep your eyes open, campers. MALP didn’t show any signs of life, but it wasn’t here for long. Radar, which way?"
She closed her eyes, reached out tentatively. There, just beyond that rise. She couldn’t see much, just ‘repeat images’ of one stone building. Which meant it had to be the one they were searching for. Eyes opened, she pointed to their left. "That way."
He gave a nod. "Teal’c, take point. Daniel, with me on the six."
The team fell into step. There was no discernable path...from what they could see, there hadn’t been anyone, or anything, through the thick underbrush in a very long time.
"Sort of reminds me of that moon Anubis was using," Jack mused quietly.
"More deciduous trees here," Daniel replied.
"Not so many bushes."
"Those things were just nasty. Never seen thorns so big."
"Difficult to move through."
"Yes, they were."
Casey and Sam exchanged a smiling glance as they listened. The quiet voices were the only sound to be heard, other than the gentle rustle of the leaves in the limbs above them. The breeze was light and warm, and heavily scented by the numerous trees that surrounded them.
When she started humming softly, the rest of the team relaxed visibly. When Casey was humming or singing, she wasn’t picking up anything they needed to be worried about.
A narrow stream cut a path through the forest floor, rushing merrily on its way to whatever destination awaited it. Sam took a sample of the water, and a bit of soil from nearby. Neither tested positive for naquadah.
"I think we need to add machetes to our list of required equipment," Sam groused, grabbing at the limb of a small tree that blocked the path, pushing it out of her way, holding it until she felt Casey’s hand against hers.
"I agree," the seer grumbled.
"Try picking better planets to do these searches on," Jack suggested.
"Ha ha. Don’t quit your day job, you’ll starve to death as a stand up comedian," Casey replied. "I didn’t pick this planet. I didn’t pick the mission. It picked me! Or, rather, us."
Daniel stepped over another tree root, nearly as big around as most trees, feeding the Goliath that it was connected to.. Most of the large trees in the area were just that, giants that had to be hundreds of years old. There were younger trees, even saplings, that struggled to stake their own claim on a bit of dirt, reaching up toward what sunlight filtered through the green canopy above them. "One thing is for certain, no one has used the ‘gate in a very long time."
"Yeah, that’s a good thing," Jack agreed.
"Unless they just have a ring transport," Casey tossed back at them.
"You could keep your rather depressing insights to yourself," Jack complained.
"And then you’d gripe because I didn’t tell you everything," she countered. "Besides, I’m just saying that it’s possible, not that it’s a reality."
The forest began to thin, making their trek easier than it had been. Teal’c stopped when he realized they were standing on the top of a large hill. Spread beneath them, in a valley that seemed to go on for miles, was a very large city. From what they could see, it was completely deserted.
That wasn't the most surprising thing, however. Between them and the first of the buildings, the earth had been churned up, dark soil laying exposed like a wound. Pieces of what they could only assume was some sort of vessel...a space craft was the first thought...were strewn about like the toys of a child after a temper tantrum.
"Oh, that can’t be good," Casey murmured.
Slowly, the team picked their way down the steep incline, sliding several times, catching themselves and one another each time, their boots sending puffs of dust and seeds from the grass-like ground cover beneath their feet into the air.
"No one could have survived that," Sam said softly.
"Probably not," Jack said. "Let’s take a look anyway. Keep your eyes open. Teal’c, see anything that looks Goa’uld-ish?"
"I do not, O’Neill," Teal’c replied. The first to reach the scars the crash left on the planet’s surface, he stepped carefully among the dirt and wreckage. "I see nothing that is familiar to me."
They moved slowly, carefully lifting larger pieces of metal sheeting.
"Here," Jack said quietly. It seemed he had found what was left of the cockpit. Two bodies were still strapped into the seats, construction eerily similar to the seats of their own jets. The impact must have been hellacious, he thought. The faces were bloodied, looked a bit leathery, which might or might not have been normal for their skin, but were definitely human. Or at least humanoid.
"These people have been dead for some time," Teal’c observed.
"How can you tell?" Daniel asked.
The large man pointed to the hands. Which were beginning to separate from the wrists. It was obvious that both pilots were suffering from fractures and breaks on each wrist, the result of the impact, no doubt. The fingers were locked around what looked like some sort of control sticks, still attached to the console that lay at an odd angle in front of them; gravity was pulling on the still extended arms.
"We should bury them," Casey said, her teammates picking up the distress in her voice immediately.
"We do not know what their cultural belief’s are," Teal’c said gently. "Perhaps to do so would be disrespectful of their own death rituals."
"I hadn’t thought of that," she said softly.
"Well, we’ll just put this back for now," Jack decided. He and Daniel lowered the sheet of metal that had covered the bodies, and more than likely protected them from the elements.
Daniel cleared his throat, pulled the boonie from his head, bowed it slightly. "We don’t know who these people are...er...were, nor how they worship, or the names of the gods they might call upon. But we ask that their souls be given peace."
"Amen," Sam said, her voice soft and full of reverence.
"Amen," Casey echoed. She slipped her fingers against Daniel’s, smiled when his curled around her hand, and squeezed gently. "Thank you."
"You’re welcome." He put his boonie back on, looked around warily.
Knowing that the impromptu memorial service was over, and that their tender-hearted seer would accept the simple gesture as doing all that they could do under the circumstances, Jack pointed toward the city with the muzzle of his P90. "Okay, Radar. Which one?"
She shook her head. "I don’t know. The only thing I saw was one wall." She frowned, tugged her lip between her teeth. "Flowers! There were purple flowers nearby...like a flowerbed planted with them."
"Okay, we look for purple flowers near a stone wall," Jack sighed.
"Hey, it’s better than having to check every last stone," Casey said, slightly affronted.
The older man looked over at her, gave her a grin. "Good point."
She fell into step beside Daniel, their fingers entwining automatically. "I wish I could see more," she said softly. "But the only thing I was shown was part of a stone wall, with text on it, and a flowerbed nearby with purple flowers. Nothing else. Didn’t have a clue we’d find this city!"
They left the grisly crash site, and began to walk through more tall grass toward the apparently abandoned city. "You saw enough, Angel," he assured her.
"Doesn’t feel that way."
"Without you, we wouldn’t have come here...or at least wouldn’t have come here so soon. Who would have said a few words over those pilots?"
She smiled. "Thanks."
He smiled, lifted her fingers to his lips, pressed a kiss against the tips. "Anytime."
Teal’c held one meaty fist in the air, his teammates dropped to their knees, seeking to hide among the tall blades of grass.
"What is it, T?" Jack asked softly, using his radio. The others were hurriedly putting earpieces on.
"I thought I saw a wisp of smoke," the Jaffa answered quietly.
"I see it," Sam said. "Just lower than two o’clock."
"Got it," Jack said. He raised the miniature binoculars to his eyes. "Can’t see much, but that’s definitely smoke." He scanned the area around them. "These buildings all seem deserted."
"Except for there," Daniel said.
"Right. Okay, we’re going to split up, and come in around that fire. Stay down, stay out of sight," Jack instructed. "Teal’c you take the far side. Carter, you’re on the west side. Daniel, east side. Radar, you’re with me on the south side."
With nods of understanding, the five slipped from the grass to press up against the walls of the outer buildings. Some were stone, others stucco, very few were wood. Odd, considering the abundance of the stuff, Jack thought. He motioned with his hands, sending each team member on their way.
Daniel wasn’t exactly thrilled with the idea of being separated from Casey, but hopefully he’d be able to keep an eye on her from his position. She’ll be with Jack, he told himself. She’ll be all right. If anything happened to his Wife, he’d knock the shit out of Jack O’Neill.
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