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A Day In My Life

Chapter 3

Daniel:

While Casey looks for any possible matches of the new text and the Cardorian texts, I start looking through the images of the other objects brought back along with the mural. I'll take a closer look at them later, I just want to see if there is any cuneiform or other type of writing on them. I'm impressed by the number of artifacts that were recovered. Ten urns, fourteen pottery bowls of various sizes; six platters; almost fifty tools of all types, sizes, and shapes; nearly two dozen small statues...figurines actually. This is interesting...

I've seen the Venus of Willendorf figurine...an 'Earth Mother/Mother Goddess' stone likeness. There were dozens of these Paleolithic figures found all across Europe. Debate still rages on whether they represent a real woman, or an idealization of the Mother Goddess, or if she was merely a tool with which women taught young girls about their bodies, and what to expect as they grew into adulthood, and became mothers themselves. Still others think the figurines were carved by pregnant women, claiming that the 'distorted' body shape is exactly what a woman sees when she looks down on her body, when she's heavy with child. Whatever the inspiration, the reason, or by whom, the fact remains that they were carved. And every damned one of the figurines in these photos is a similar variation of those found on Earth.

It takes a few minutes, but I'm able to find the references to the Venus of Willendorf that I need. Carbon dating puts her age at between twenty-two and twenty-four thousand years ago. Two other 'Venus figurines' date back farther, between two-hundred and thirty-three and eight hundred thousand years ago. The images of the older figures much closer resemble the majority of the photos in my hand.

Which means that the people who were on...what's the planet...R37 4X1, were either aware of the figures, perhaps knew them as ancient good luck charms or some such thing...or they were the same as the people who had carved the first of the Mother Goddess figures. And if that's the case, it means that the Goa'uld have been lurking around Earth for a hell of a lot longer than we thought. It's believed that Ra and company showed up on Earth's doorstep anywhere from forty thousand to ten thousand years ago. The 'Upper Paleolithic' period was some forty to eleven thousand years ago.

I stare at the photos. Just how damned long did the Goa'uld use Earth as a source for slaves...a source for hosts? The Sumerians have a 'King List' that goes back four hundred thousand years. Most scholars believe it to be myth, a way to establish the 'roots' of the civilization. But what if...what if those 'Kings', of which every one of the earlier names on the list were believed to be gods, or at the very least Immortal...were in fact Goa'uld?

That it turn begs the question, did the Goa'uld actually 'give' civilization to humans...to the Tau'ri? Was their presence on Earth the reason that the people came together, because they were forced to do so by the 'gods' who appeared among them? 

One thing is for sure...the more we find, the more we discover, the more questions we ultimately wind up with. The Goa'uld themselves aren't the best record keepers, most of them too busy trying to rewrite history to make themselves the strongest, the most important, so details like the truth are often tossed aside. Most of them have no idea how long their 'empire' has existed.

I know from digs conducted on the Goa'uld 'home world' that they existed for millions of years in the oceans of the planet as predators, but not as the host seeking parasites they are now. We have no idea when the first Goa'uld took the first Unas as a host. Or even why. But at some point, they did. Somewhere along the line naquadah became a part of their genetic make up...could the naquadah in their blood have caused...triggered...the change?

"Daniel?"

"Hmm?"

"What have you found? You've been frowning at that screen for the past fifteen minutes."

"I have no idea."  More questions, that's for damned sure. "Have you seen these photos?"

Casey shakes her head. "Not yet. And I can't locate any writing among the Cardorian texts we have on file that have anything even remotely similar to this." She holds up the pad I drew the hieroglyphs on.

For the most part, any groups taken from Earth retained their 'ties' to the people they had been taken from. Their culture and societies were similar, their speech and writing almost identical. The Asgard influenced the Nordic and Norman people of Northern Europe; and when they rescued nearly twenty different groups, and placed them all together, an entirely new culture arose. We just visited the planet where those refugees came together for the first time, and became the Cardorians. The Ancients left their 'mark' in what evolved to become the earliest form of Latin we've discovered. The Goa'uld, from what I've been able to find, actually seem to have established the ancient Egyptian culture, although there is evidence that the Sumerians already had a thriving society at that time. The snakes seem to have influenced just about every group of people, every tribe, every clan, in some way. By all that we know, this writing should resemble something recognizable. But it doesn't.

How can a group of people who seem to have skills like those of early agricultural societies on Earth, and have 'Venus figures', have a completely alien language? Or at least an alien written language?

Warm, soft arms wind their way around my shoulders from behind. It's a reflexive response to lean back against her. That I can feel her breasts behind my head makes me want to turn around and bury my face between them. She's leaning over now, I feel her chin on the top of my head. Which means her beautiful boobs aren't against me any longer. Bummer.

"Goddess figures?"

I hold up the images of the figures taken by the men of SG-10.

"Wow."

"Yeah. The 'newest' Venus figure is about twenty-two thousand years old."

She points to the oldest of the known Venus figures. "The figures in the pictures look like that one."

"Between eight hundred and two hundred and thirty-three thousand years old."

"Too bad we can't date them. I'll bet with our equipment we could narrow that significantly," she says.

"True."

"This is amazing! This could mean..." When her voice fades, I look up at her. Those beautiful green eyes are wide. She's just reached the same conclusion I have. "Goa'uld were on Earth a lot longer, a lot earlier, than we thought."

Part of me is hoping that she'll 'see' something, a clue of some sort that will help us find the answer. Another part wants to work out the puzzle on my own. "What makes no sense is that the language seems to be so different. Usually there's something familiar, some ancient language that can be recognized."

"If the society we've discovered has its roots on Earth."

"I'd say this sort of precludes that they were from anywhere else." As soon as I say it, I realize that's not necessarily true. We haven't done extensive digging on any of the planets we've traveled to...only what's within a reasonable distance from the Stargate. We don't even know that much about the prehistoric eras of Terra or Langara.

I search my memory, trying to find any recollection, every reference to the Venus figures that I've ever read. As far as I know, from the information I have, figures like these have been found nowhere but on Earth. And none were found on the American continent. They are absolutely prehistoric...carved when tribes and clans lived in caves scattered across what is now Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. They predate the first hearty souls who crossed the frozen Bering Sea, coming from the frozen Russian steppes down through what is now known as Alaska. A few of those people remained there, to become the Inuit and Yupik, native tribes of the area. Others continued to travel farther, to populate what would one day be known as Canada and the United States. There are theories that ancient man sailed from Africa to South America. Given the 'drift' of the continents, and the fact that it's possible that 'prehistoric' man wasn't quite as dumb and helpless as we tend to believe, that theory explains much in the way that South America was populated, and why some of the oldest carvings in the oldest settlements resemble the indigenous people of Africa.

And my thoughts are wandering too far to do much to solve this particular riddle. So far, everything that we know about the people we have just discovered indicates that they don't have ties with Earth. Except for these figurines. And damn it to hell, that just leaves more questions! Was it possible that these people, or their progeny visited Earth in its prehistoric past...and perhaps one of these 'charms' was left behind, to be 'copied' by the cave-dwellers? Seems as logical as any other theory at this point. Why not...it seems that every other advanced race has paid a visit to that blue and white planet at some point in time! What was it about Earth that was so interesting? Was it the developing life forms? The wide variety of life...or just the fact that someone else had shown interest, so there had to be something there?

Earth is called the First World. Not by the Goa'uld alone. I've always believed it was named thusly because it was the First World where humans evolved. There are other species of humanoids in the galaxy...in the universe. But the humans that we have discovered are all, every damned one of them, 'transplants' from Earth. We all have a common bond.

As much as I love riddles and puzzles such as this, they also frustrate me. I want to know the why's, the how's, the when's. Staring at the images offers no answers. I've been sitting here long enough my back is starting to hurt. At some point Casey returned to the desk. I must have been deep in thought to have not noticed when she moved away from me. She's sitting there, one foot tucked beneath her, leaning on the one arm on top of the desk, tapping that pencil beneath her chin, staring at the computer monitor. I have no idea what she's reading. Whatever it is, it has her full attention. My body goes hard looking at her, watching her. She's so damned sexy when she's working! That she's doing archaeological work makes it all the more arousing.

I need coffee. The glass carafe on the coffee maker is nearly empty, so she's been working for some time as well. I pour what remains into my mug, and start a new pot. The aroma of the brewing coffee fills the room.

"That smells good."

"Should be ready in a few minutes." I offer my mug to her, hers is completely empty. She takes a sip, wrinkles her nose at the lack of creamer and sugar, then hands it back. That simple gesture makes my heart skip a beat. How often have we shared a cup of coffee like this? More times than I can count. But it still makes me feel like a school boy, flushed and sweaty and aroused and so damned in love it's almost scary.

"I've been checking some of the Langaran and Terran files...I thought I might find something there. But it doesn't seem that their history goes back far enough...at least, not when compared to Earth's. Terran history only goes back fourteen thousand years," she says.

"Because Unlinkil took them from Earth about that time." Which reminds me, we haven't heard from him in awhile. He returned to his home once Nergal was defeated, totally and forever. I have no idea if he's still 'watching and listening', or if he's just content to pass his days quietly.

"The Langaran history goes back about twenty thousand years."

That's about the same time that Ra was taking Egyptians through the Stargate, and scattering them on various planets. The others didn't begin doing that for at least another five thousand years.

"I can't help but wonder...do they...the scientists on these planets...wonder why there isn't any trace of civilization, of even simple occupation before those times?"

"Maybe. The Terran were aware that their 'god' had brought them to Terra. I doubt they thought about looking for any signs of earlier occupation."

She runs her hand through her hair. I watch that blonde silk settle back against her shoulders. "I suppose so."

It suddenly dawns on me that I haven't even checked the inventory list for other photos brought back by SG-10. It's possible that there might be other...clues...that would help to determine just who these mysterious people are...or were. There are five envelopes full of photos. I've been through two of them. I eagerly open the other three packets. "Hey, check these out!"

"What?"

As soon as I've looked at each photo, I hand it to her. Several graves were uncovered. Now we can toss in another piece to the puzzle. These bodies were mummified. And from the looks of them, it was done following the same procedures as those used by the ancient Egyptians. And that thought triggers another in the back of my brain. "Where's that pad where I copied the hieroglyphs?"

She gives it to me. "What?"

"What what?"

"You have that look in your eyes."

"What look?"

"The one that says you've just figured it out."

I can't help but grin at that. I have an idea. Doesn't mean I've figured it out. But if I'm right...well, then I've figured it out. Sort of. The figurines are still an oddity. Certainly would make this group the oldest 'transplants' that we've found to date.

I know the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs as well as I know the alphabet. But what if those who were taken from their homes, put on this planet, didn't? What if, like children first learning to write their A, B, C's, they could only remember part of what each 'letter' was supposed to look like? Spoken, the language would have remained the same. The meaning of their written words would have remained the same, because the meaning of each symbol was the same. Only the symbol itself had changed.

Taking that idea a step farther, the writing would have 'evolved', just as all of the ancient writing on Earth evolved to what we have today. So I have to take that into consideration. Somewhere, among one or two of these symbols, there has to be something...one thing, one mark, that will either prove or disprove my theory.

It doesn't take long for me to realize that examining each of the hieroglyphs, searching for any familiar curves or tics is going to take time. I'll have to take each of the unknown symbols, and then list each of the corresponding hieroglyphs it could be a representation of. Then, through the process of elimination, simply from the text itself, I should be able to come up with some sort of translation. That's going to be time consuming. And a glance at the clock tells me that it's almost four. Better to start this in the morning.

I almost grin as the thought that I'll be better rested tomorrow, better able to work on this puzzle, crosses my mind. Long gone are the days...and nights...when I worked for hours at a time, surfacing only for more coffee and a bit of food. I've proven to myself over the years that I accomplish more if I take a break. If I get a good night's sleep. If I have a nice, hot fix of my sexy Wife. Nope, no more burning the midnight oil for me...unless it's an emergency. This isn't. It's fascinating. It's frustrating. But it's not an emergency.

Terry walks into the office, an inventory list in his hand. "Just wanted to let you know that we finally inventoried the crates from two missions...four weeks ago."

"You inventoried them four weeks ago, or they came in four weeks ago?" Casey asks absently, still staring at the monitor.

"You're a smartass," Terry retorts. He sounds tired. A bit cranky.

Case looks up, her eyes wide with surprise. "It was a legitimate question!"

"And I repeat, you're a smartass. The stuff came in four weeks ago. When the hell would we have had time to inventory them?"

"When they came in?" Case has one thing going for her at this point. She's my Wife. And I am so staying out of this.

"Funny. Ha ha. Four weeks ago we were still trying to inventory the stuff from three weeks before that. For your information, Miss Smarty-pants, some of us have been trying to keep your database up to date."

"Then did you know that there are four broken links?"

Terry moaned, moved around the desk to look at the monitor. "Which ones?"

I just stand back and watch and listen as they continue to discuss the database, the broken links, and the fact that somebody should stop making so many trips to the supply closet, and get more work done. It takes me a second or two to realize that Casey wasn't referring to us. I listen for a few more minutes, and it finally hits me. Whoa! I knew that Mike and Terry were...close. I guess on some level I knew, or at least understood, that they cared for one another. I have a tendency to not notice the obvious around me. For years...most of my life actually, I tried to ignore the relationships that went on around me...no matter what kind they were...I was never a part of any of them...family groups, friends, lovers...I was on my own for so long that I learned to shut people out. I can communicate well enough. And when I'm paying attention I can tell you how each person is connected to those around him or her. But I don't often pay attention. Especially where I work. Again, just habit. It used to protect me, keep me from feeling so damned lonely. Or at least I told myself that it did. Then it was to keep me out of trouble. I learned the hard way that when people in the SGC were seeing one another, they often didn't want that fact announced to anyone else. I learned in the first year after returning from Abydos to keep my head down, my mind on my work, and my mouth shut.

I realize that both Terry and Casey are staring at me. "What?"

Casey giggles. God, I love that sound. "I told you he was still working."

Terry grins. "Just wanted to let you know that I won't be here tomorrow. Uh...Mike won't either."

"Not a problem," I tell him. I probably shouldn't ask, but I am curious. Just part of who I am, I guess. "Any special reason?"

Terry and Casey exchange a glance. "Our anniversary," Terry says softly.

"Congratulations. And have a great day."

The man fairly beams at me. "Thanks. We will. See you day after."

"We'll be here."

Casey is watching him walk down the stairs. "I'm happy for them." Her voice is so soft for a minute I wonder if I actually heard her.

"So how long have they been...together?"

"Since they came to Gamma. They've known each other for about seventy, seventy-five years. But they didn't admit their feelings until about twenty years ago, and Terry said they never acted on those feelings until they moved here."

It's typical that she knows more about the people we work with than I do. Ask me about Sam, or Jack, or Teal'c, and I can probably tell you just about anything you want to know about them. They're my teammates, my...family. But anyone else...no way. I keep to myself. Like I said...habit. "If they're happy, that's all that matters."

"Exactly."

Hope is a fairly 'progressive' city. No one is interested in what goes on behind closed doors. As long as the participants are of legal age, and are willing, what happens is nobody else's business. Any two adults who want a marriage license can get one. Whether or not their marriage is 'sanctioned' by any of the half dozen religious organizations now in Hope is a different matter. But none of those groups make a peep about anything of which they 'disapprove'. Tolerance is expected from everyone, because everyone is free to hold his or her own belief's. Freedom is for everyone in Gamma, not just those 'special interest groups' who can make the most noise.

It's a strange thing in a way, to see the steeple of the new Catholic church, or the bell tower of the Presbyterian church, or the spires of the Muslim mosque, or the square, white walls of the Jewish synagogue. There are a few Protestant churches in town as well. Maybe living on 'the edge of the frontier' makes having something...someone...to believe in all the more necessary. I have always believed in a Higher Power, if not actually a 'god'. Casey believes in the existence of Gods and Goddesses who worked together to create the universe. Knowing who her parents are, especially her father, I find it endearing that she can have such faith. And, as an anthropologist, I know that wherever people go, they take their belief's, their gods, with them.

My mind is certainly wandering. Which means it's time to quit for the day. I have my theories written down. I'll start the 'search' tomorrow to see what I can find. In the meantime, we have to go to the grocery store. Or so I was told last night. "Ready to call it a day?"

Case looks up at me. The green of her eyes mesmerizes me. I could lose myself in those beautiful emerald depths. "Sounds good to me. There are a few more Cardorian tablets I want to take a look at, just to be certain I haven't missed anything."

"You probably won't find anything. I have a theory."

She sits forward, I can see the interest...the excitement...on the delicate features of her sweet face. "What?"

"It's possible that these people were taken from ancient Egypt. But that they didn't know how to write. They probably recognized some, or all of the hieroglyphs. But their written language is based on what they could remember."

She looks at me for a minute, then a soft smile tugs at her lips. "Daniel, that's brilliant!"

I don't see how. Simple reasoning, actually. I shrug. And my arms go around her automatically when she stands up, walks over and wraps her arms around my neck.

"You're a brilliant man, Doctor Jackson," she says softly.

Does she have any idea what she does to me when she looks at me like that? Awe, pride, love...all right there in those beautiful green eyes. If she said she thought I could fly, told me to do so, then I'd spread my arms and take off. That's what she does to me. That's what her faith in my...abilities...does to me. "You think so?"

"Know so."

Spring flowers and vanilla. Her scent. I pull her close, push my face into her hair and breath deeply. She always smells so damned good! Feeling her soft, warm, firm body against mine is sending messages to my brain that I should probably ignore right now. "Unless you want to make a trip to the supply closet, we should probably get going," I tell her softly.

She sighs. "As much as I'd love to frisk you-"

The thought...the memory...of her 'ordering' me to 'assume the position', her hands running up and down my body...makes me shiver.

"-we'd probably better go. We'll pick up the kids so Mom can go home."

I have no doubt that Erin would stay as long as we needed her. But Casey has always been adamant that the only time the kids are with their grandparents when we're not working is on Saturday nights. Our 'marathon love making nights', as she calls them. When we make love all night. When we 'play games'. When she drives me out of my mind again and again and again. I have got to think about something else or I'm not going to make it down those stairs.

"Daniel?"

"Hmm?"

"Do you want to go to the supply room?"

"Want to? Absolutely. But if we're going to get to the grocery store, we really don't have time." Because when the Jackson family goes to the grocery store, it takes at least an hour and a half to get through. Longer if she's picking out the ingredients for the casseroles that feed us during the week. Which no doubt will be the case today. While she makes out her list, I'll get the kids ready. Sounds simple enough, doesn't it? But I know from experience that it's about as easy as unmasking a mummy with boxing gloves on.

She pushes her hips against mine. Oh, hell, that has the anaconda's attention! "I don't want you...uncomfortable," she whispers, just before her lips press against my throat.

I want to laugh out loud. I spend most of my time half aroused, just seconds and a heartbeat from a full raging hard-on. Simply from being near her. That she's concerned about my...comfort...makes my heart soar. "I think I'll survive until tonight."

Notice that I said I think I will. There's always a chance I'll have to drag her to the restroom in Murphy's and screw her senseless. Normally, however, I'm able to maintain some semblance of control. How in the hell does she do it? She's always so calm, so beautiful...always in control...and I feel like I'm constantly on the verge of bursting into flames.

There's that smile, the one turns my brain to mush. The smile that can light the darkest night. Or room. That pours sunshine into my very soul. "I promise to make it up to you," she says.

Now that's just downright cruel. My mind will conjure up image after image of her...of what she'll do to me...for me. I'll torment myself just a bit more. And kiss those sweet lips.

There's a combination to gaining entrance to her warm mouth. I know it well. Run my tongue lightly over her lips, then just a bit more pressure against them the second time around, then run just the tip against her bottom lip and...Open Sesame! She tastes so damned good...always so damned good. Back away now, the brain warns me. I let her move away from me. Note the glimmer in her eyes. She's as turned on as I am. Okay, time to go. Now.

"I think we'd better go," she whispers.

"I think you're right."

We're half way down the steps when the phone rings. Casey dashes up to answer it. I can tell by the look on her face we're not going to be leaving the base early today after all.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Everyone is waiting for us when we walk into the briefing room not more than five minutes later. It's a bit of a surprise to see Methos and Wade sitting at the conference table.

Wade. My younger brother. Son of my parents, just as I am. Although he was born to and raised by different parents. Another one of those mind-bending situations. When he first entered my life, I would have gladly killed him for what he'd done to Casey. Oh, I know it wasn't his fault. I knew it then, too...although it didn't matter to me at the time. It was one of those wrong place at the wrong time sort of things. But nevertheless, she suffered because of him. That alone was reason enough to kill him. Or at least beat the crap out of him.

It took time, and a visit from the Being who had been my mother's 'Guardian', to make me think about the fact that he's all that I have of them...of Melburn and Claire Jackson. It took time, and a bit of effort for both of us, but we've managed to find a comfortable place, a relationship that 'fits'.

If the two of them are sitting here, something is up. Wade smiles at me, but I can see the tension in his face. A face eerily identical to my own. "Hello, Daniel," he says softly.

"Hello, Wade."

He smiles at Casey as well. "Greetings, Little Sister."

"Hi, Wade. Hey, Old Man."

"Hey, yourself, Brat."

"Into orbit, Methos. One shot. Pow. Free trip," Casey grumbles. Methos continues to chuckle through her entire litany. It's always the same thing with them...a ritual of sorts. Anyone who didn't know them would think they disliked one another. Which couldn't be farther from the truth.

I sit down in my 'usual' chair. "What's up?"

"I just asked that," Jack says, looking over at me. His eyes have that worried look in them.

Duncan leans back in his chair. "We have a problem."

Jack snorts. "When don't we have a problem?"

That's a damned good question. It seems that we're tossed from one crisis to the next, with precious little time in between to catch our collective breath.

"Jordan has been talking to some of the Goa'uld around him," Methos said. "He approached me two days ago."

Okay, Goa'uld. Expected that. Methos is pretending to be one of their number right now. If he's here, Goa'uld are involved.

"It seems that he's convinced that the Tau'ri, especially those of Gamma, have become too great a threat to be allowed to continue as they...as you...have been."

Oh shit. Here it comes. We've been afraid of something like this happening. We, the Tau'ri of Gamma, are responsible for getting the Goa'uld work together in the first place. When we managed to get the snakes to unite to take out Nergal, we had hoped to just get them to ally long enough to take that particular snake out. Given the chance, we would have stirred up the animosity among them, pitted them against one another as soon as Nergal was gone. Circumstances pulled us into that particular war. Which seems to have focused attention on us. We've popped off nearly half a dozen of the most powerful Goa'uld in three sectors in the past few years, and we've earned a reputation for ourselves.

"If he can gather enough support, they'll be heading this way," Methos tells us.

Jack ran his hand over his face. "Well, we can't say we haven't expected this."

Expecting it is one thing. Facing it is something else again. Years ago, when Duncan and Casey were suffering the effects of the Fire, something that Framone had 'programmed' into them, we met a being...an Ancient named Reggie, on PX3-695. We've dubbed it "Immie Central", because that's where the tablets that explained the origins of the Immortals were found. It's where the altar that the Ceremony of Fire is performed on still exists. I'm certain that Framone killed Reggie for failing to 'marry' my Wife to the Highlander. But not before that old man said something...something that I know is important. I just can't seem to 'nail down' what it was. Once again the thought that what was said is vital to the protection of Gamma flitters across my brain.

"We have all of the satellites up," Sam is saying. "They'll all be fully functional tonight."

"But how long will they last?" Methos asks. "Once they're destroyed, Gamma...Hope, is pretty much defenseless."

That is not something that any of us want to hear...or admit to. But he's right. No one else has asked...so I will. "How many Goa'uld are we talking about?"

The Old Man looks at me and shrugs. "From what I'm hearing, could be as many as couple dozen."

Jesus, Joseph and Mary! When we battled Nergal, Methos was able to get ten Goa'uld to stand up to the snake bastard. Ten! And we were damned proud of that number! About half that many promised any assistance that they could offer, short of sending ships to do battle. According to what we've been able to find out, that was the first time since the Goa'uld were tossed off Earth that so many actually worked together. We had no choice but to 'unite' them, it was the only way to defeat Nergal. But it seems that in doing so, we sparked memories of their ability to work together to achieve a common goal. Great idea when they're focused on one of their own. Not so great when wiping us out is that goal. And there is no way that we can withstand an attack by that many. Two dozen Goa'uld means a hell of a lot of ships. Well over two hundred, if they all throw everything they have at us. Hope would be rubble in a matter of hours.

Casey cocks her head. Incoming. She looks over at me. Well, hell. I already know I don't want to hear this!

"We have The Chosen," she say softly.

All eyes are on me. There are times that I absolutely hate this...'position'. One that I was thrust into...without even having the chance to refuse it. Casey was pregnant with Emily when Lya, of the Nox, informed me that I had been Chosen. Thanks so much. Appreciate the notice.  I'd rather just be a regular archaeologist. The Immortal thing isn't bad...I can handle that. But They can keep the rest! What I can do, what I've done, still scares the bejeezus out of me. I don't mean to, but a heavy sigh escapes my lips. "What do I have to do?"

"Unite the Protectors."

What? Do what? Unite who? I have a feeling this is one of those times that Casey has no clue what she's just said, or why. In a flash I hear the words that Reggie spoke...he was talking to Methos...but still...

"...And when you’re needed, you use the power you’ve been given to help protect those Innocents, do you understand me, boy?"

"Quickening!"

"What?" Jack asks, looking at me peculiarly.

I hadn't even realized that I had spoken out loud. My heart is thumping against my ribs. "All Immortals possess the Quickening."

"Yeah?" Jack doesn't have a clue what I'm talking about.

"How?" Methos asks. He does.

"I don't know...at least, I'm not sure," I admit.

"It's up to you to bring them together," Casey tells me.

Like Methos, I'm clueless as to how this is supposed to happen. Just a clue, one freaking clue would be nice. "How?"

One slender shoulder moves up an down. "I have no idea."

I can see the smile tugging at Sam's lips. Yeah, Case sounds like me. Gotta love it! "If you get one, let me know." Grumpy, I know. But I get so damned tired of being the one responsible for saving everyone, and not having a hint how to do so.

"A what?" She blinks a couple of times. Yep, one of 'those' times.

"A clue on how I'm supposed to unite the protectors," I tell her.

She frowns. "I hate it when that happens!"

Duncan is frowning. Well, we all are, actually, but his frown is especially deep. "Darius had a book, written on tanned skins. It was a fable...a story...or so he said," the Highlander says softly.

"What was this story?" Something tells me this is important.

"It was a story of the Gathering. Except, it wasn't what we thought it was going to be. Darius believed it was nothing more than the heartfelt wishes of an Immortal weary of the Game."

Which tells me absolutely nothing. It's difficult to keep from urging him to get to the point.

"All of the Immortals were gathered in a valley. There was a threat...and together they met and defeated this...enemy."

And that tells me what I've already surmised.

"According to the story, The One would unite..." his voice trails off, and he stares at me.

I get that feeling, the one that always causes a shiver. Old wives' tales describe it as 'having someone walking over your grave'. Casey's fingers close around mine, her hand soft and warm.

"When the time comes, you'll know what to do," she tells me softly. The look of faith; absolute, utter faith that fills her beautiful eyes takes my breath away.

"I hope that will be soon enough." Yep, still sounding pissy. I can't help it. No one understands the weight that I carry on my shoulders. It gets damned heavy, sometimes. Not even Casey can comprehend it, although she probably has more of an idea what I deal with than anyone else in this room. And I hate not knowing...having to wait until I'm literally in the heat of battle for the knowledge that I need to come rushing from my subconscious, left there, no doubt, from my time as an Ascended Being.

"It seems that once again we're left with nothing to do but wait," Duncan sighs.

Jack nods. "At least we know that they're organizing."

"Right now, they're doing nothing more than discussing the possibility of meeting to discuss an alliance," Methos says. "I'd suggest talking to all of the Immortals. Let them know what's going on, and what might...will be...expected of them."

"We'll have to do it quietly," Duncan says. "I don't want the mortal population panicked."

"At least they'd know that Immortals are their best hope of surviving," Sam points out.

"When the time comes, we'll tell them what they need to know. In the meantime, I'll talk to Robert. We'll get the word out," Duncan replies.

"How long can you stay?" Casey asks, looking from Wade to Methos and back again.

"We just dropped by long enough to give you a heads up. We need to get back before we're missed," Methos tells her. "This was something I didn't trust to send as a message." Most of what he sends is done in such a way that if any Goa'uld spies intercept it, he can easily explain it away.

"We appreciate it," Jack says softly.

Within minutes, in almost a flurry of movement, we walk to the 'gate room, watch as the Oldest of the Second Race of Immortals, and my brother, walk back through the event horizon, to resume their masquerade as a Goa'uld and his lo'taur.

Duncan looks at his watch. "Call it a day, team. See you in the morning." He shoves his hands into his pants, and walks back toward his office. He'll leave shortly, I'm sure. He has a family as well.

Her hands are around my arm. A familiar gesture...usually one that tells me she's uncertain...nervous...frightened...excited...or on occasion, possessive. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine." There's nothing I can do for the moment, and I've learned that dwelling on a problem only makes me moody. My family deserves better than that from me. "Ready to get the kids and go to Murphy's?"

"As I'll ever be," she sighs. She still hates grocery shopping. Especially now that Murphy's Market is about three times the size it used to be.

"Let's go, babe." I put my arm around her shoulders, pull her close. Draw comfort from the warmth of her body against mine as we walk to the elevator. If the Goa'uld show up, we'll deal with them. We always have. We always will. It's our job. It's what we do.


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