<<Previous | Story Intro | Return to Stories | Next >>
"...It's the heart, afraid of breaking, that never learns
It's the dream, afraid of waking, that never takes a chance.
It's the one who won't be taken, who cannot seem to give.
And the soul, afraid of dyin', that never learns to live..."
Sung by Bette Midler; lyrics by Amanda McBroom
"So was it...difficult...seeing her like that?" Jack asked as he tugged his boots on.
Daniel took a moment to gather his thoughts, and his emotions. "At first. Every memory I have of her was just...there, all of a sudden, front and center in my thoughts," he admitted. "It...it was like the very first time I saw her."
"As I recall, you were speechless when Kasuf introduced her," Jack replied.
"Yeah, I was. Actually, I was overwhelmed...as I recall. It took a few minutes, but I could see the differences. My Sha're..." he paused, shook his head. "My Sha're never would have led the men of the tribe into thievery."
"She was a beautiful woman, but no, I can't see them following her," Jack agreed.
"When that Sha're got close enough, I could see even more of a difference. There was a hardness around her eyes, in her eyes," Daniel added. "She had...has...lived a much harder life than my Sha're lived."
"So how did Casey handle it?"
"The way Casey always handles something like that," Daniel said quietly, a twinge of guilt stabbing at his heart. "She went into protective mode until the danger was past. And then... then the doubts attacked her. The pain in her eyes when she looked up at me...I swear to god I'll never be able to make up for hurting her like I have. I've battered her heart, Jack. After all the shit she went through before we met...Every doubt that she has about my love for her is my fault."
Jack studied the interior of his locker. He could lay claim to some of those doubts that plagued the slender blonde seer. He had been complicit in the situations that had resulted in Daniel winding up in the arms, and beds, of other women. "Is she okay?"
"Yeah, I think so. She and Annika...the first time they touched, when they introduced themselves and shook hands, sparks flew. Literally. Blue sparks. We had taken a break, and we were talking about the fact that both Casey and Annika had seen what was about to happen...well, sort of...Casey saw me with a redhead, Annika saw her Daniel with a blonde. Anyway, Casey made the remark that she only knew that she was about to lose me," Daniel said. He didn't admit that he had heard her unspoken words, 'leave me for another woman, again', just as clearly as if she had voiced them. "Annika reached for her...and I...I begged her to let the woman help her. Jack, I just wanted her to find some peace; for that damned darkness that haunts her to just...go away!"
"I understand," the older man said softly. "So what happened?"
"Sparks. Lots of sparks. At first they were holding hands and just staring at each other, I have no idea what they were 'seeing', then they were hugging, and crying...no, they were sobbing. So much pain..." He and his counterpart had stood helplessly as the women they loved wept as if their hearts were breaking. The agony the women had felt had been damned near tangible, and deep. He turned his head, blinked away the tears. When he turned back to face his friend, he was once again in control. "There was this blue haze that surrounded them, you could hear the hum of power around them. Last night-"
"Last night?" Jack prompted when the young man stopped speaking.
"Last night she was amazing...it was like she'd been freed...she made this little sound...god it's beautiful, and she begged. I mean really begged. Breathless and moaning and begging ...She's never done that before. God it turned me on!"
Jack grinned. "Then everything is okay?"
Daniel's grin matched his friend's. "Yep. But do me a favor. If you...um...hear her saying things tonight, keep it to yourself. I don't want her to stop."
"Not a word, I swear," Jack promised. He owed Casey that much. If something had happened to help heal the hurts, some of them that he had helped to put on her heart and soul, well, he was glad for it. "So, they were really arguing over you?"
His grin widened. "Oh, yeah. Casey was totally pissed when Annika told her that she was touching 'her man'. She ripped the buttons off of my shirt jerking it open, then she yanked my tee shirt up, damned near choked me with it for a minute, and then she took off her BDU shirt, and pulled her tee shirt up, and pointed at our tattoos, and told Annika that I'm the Chosen, and she's My Chosen."
Jack chuckled, envisioning the scene. He could just imagine the sparks of temper that had flown from green eyes.
"Annika had that statuette, ready to clobber Case with it, telling her that it was nice artwork, but not proof, and then the other Daniel makes a comment about the symbols being Mayan. Casey turned that beautiful shade of pink that covers her cheeks when she's really embarrassed, tugged her shirt down, and then I made a comment about her wearing the blue bra. I could have sworn when she got dressed that morning she had the yellow set on."
"The yellow set?" Jack had been privy to the story of the night the two had stripped for one another. Daniel had a love life that rivaled a porn flick...or damned close! Lucky little shit! Not that he was complaining, mind you. A certain blonde colonel did a perfectly wonderful job of keeping him satisfied. He glanced at Daniel. Lucky little shit!
Daniel nodded. "Just seeing her in that set..." he shivered appreciatively. "Anyway, for a couple of minutes they were both confused, and Annika kept poking her Daniel to make sure he was real."
"Well, at least it all worked out," the older man said, sighing heavily. "But I swear, Daniel, if you do that again I will kick your ass!"
"Worried about us, did you?"
"No. But Sam and Duncan and Teal'c were a mess," Jack retorted.
Teal'c, who had been donning his BDU as well, listening to the conversation, but remaining as quiet as always, snorted softly.
"Uh huh. Teal'c said you kept mumbling under your breath about the clocks being broken, and needing a new watch, and that I had better not have touched anything to make the situation worse," Daniel chuckled.
"I have no idea what he's talking about," Jack replied, looking up at the large man.
"You did indeed display obvious concern about Daniel Jackson and Casey Jackson while they were missing," Teal'c said firmly. He looked at Daniel. "Three times O'Neill demanded that Kyle Lundstrom verify that all of the clocks on the base were working properly."
Daniel's chuckles turned to laughter as Jack rolled his eyes.
"Sure was damned glad to see the two of you come down that ramp," Jack admitted.
"As glad as we were to be walking down it," Daniel replied. "That reality sucked, Jack. Really sucked."
"So I heard. Maybe things will be a bit different now," the older man said quietly.
"I hope so. I just wish-" He broke off, stood to his feet, stuffed his civilian clothes into the locker and closed it. Stared at the poster of Casey, not actually seeing it.
"You wish what?" Jack asked.
"I wish I could have warned her. Maybe knowing that Apophis might show up will...would have...protected her," the young man said softly.
"From the sounds of it, that reality was much different. Hell, Apophis might already be dead there, or not enough of a threat to worry about," Jack offered.
"Maybe. I hate to think that she might suffer the same thing my Sha're did."
"Not your problem, Daniel. You have your own wife to worry about. Let someone else, let that reality's Daniel, worry about her," Jack replied.
He shook himself mentally. "Right."
"Let's go. If Sam and Casey beat us to the armory again, we'll never hear the end of it."
With a grin, Daniel followed his best friends out of the locker room.
A A A A A A
Casey pulled on her socks, watched as Sam finished buttoning her BDU shirt. "...So anyway, there she was, plain as day, leading about fifty guys...most of them not more than kids. I wanted to shoot her, and I didn't want to shoot her at the same time."
Sam dropped down on the bench beside the slender blonde, shoved her feet into her boots. "I think I know how you felt. Jack and I ran into Sara a couple of times in Colorado Springs. I wanted to scratch her eyes out...I know he still loves her, deep down. I mean, I know he loves me..."
"But there's a part of him that will always belong to her," Casey finished softly. The idea that a part of Daniel would always belong to Sha're stung. Even though she had made peace with 'his' Sha're. Seeing the woman's counterpart had brought up every doubt, every old hurt that the memory of his first wife always stirred.
"Exactly," Sam nodded.
"It's not like I didn't know that he had been married, and I didn't come to Daniel a virgin," the young woman said quietly.
The colonel snorted. "Damned near!"
"Well, yeah, I guess being to bed a total of five times in six months isn't a lot, is it?" Although, truth be told, she admitted silently, only twice had a bed actually been involved! And not once had what had happened between her and Kenny been making love.
"Considering that when you and Daniel first got together, it was five times a day!" Sam teased.
"It was not!" Casey objected, although her grin matched that of her friend. "Four times a day maybe."
Giggling, Sam stood and closed her locker. "Neither of you can live without the other, girlfriend, so I don't think you have to worry about Daniel ever straying."
Two faces flashed in front of her eyes before she replied. "Well, not for long anyway," she replied softly. Neither situation had been his fault. That fact didn't make those incidents hurt any less.
"Casey, Daniel loves you. Everyone knows that, can see that. And he can't survive without you."
"Sure he can. Doctor Montigue has that handy-dandy serum. He could wean Daniel off of it in a couple of months," she said stubbornly.
"That would probably take care of his body," Sam admitted readily. "But his heart, his soul, would wither up and die without you. I know. I watched him slipping away from us when you were dead. Had you and Teal'c not been returned when you were..." she shivered from the memory. Watching Daniel sink ever deeper into depression had broken her heart.
"Just like mine would without him," Casey said softly.
"Like I said, the two of you can't live without each other." She smiled, nudged her best friend's foot with her own. "Absolutely disgusting, watching the two of you together! Married eleven years, three kids, and you still carry on like newlyweds. Yep, absolutely disgusting!"
She burst into giggles. "Yeah, well, I happen to know a general and a colonel who slip off to the lake to do the horizontal sheet-shimmy in their truck at least twice a week."
"Don't know what you're talking about," Sam grinned, sounding exactly like Jack.
"I've also heard that the bed springs in that same general and colonel's house squeak at least once a day. That's not typical of a couple married ten years with two kids!"
"And I'm not complaining."
"Neither am I. I honestly don't know who needs whom more now," Casey admitted with a grin.
"I was so relieved when the two of you walked down that ramp, safe and uninjured," Sam said quietly.
"Seeing you and Jack alive, and okay..." she turned her head, battled to control her emotions. "I hate freaking alternate universes!"
"Me, too." Sam shook herself mentally. "Ready to go look at rocks?"
Casey giggled. "You sound more like Jack everyday!"
"He has a way of rubbing on me...er...rubbing off on me...well...you know what I mean!" Sam blushed, but her eyes were dancing as her best friend continued to giggle hysterically.
"Come on. Let's see what we can learn about this particular group of Cardorians. And you can investigate that anomalous reading you found."
"Now I know how the old explorers must have felt, eager to find and claim new lands for themselves, or their king," Sam said, her eyes shining as bright with excitement as Casey's.
"Considering that the folks on Earth haven't stopped squabbling among themselves, I don't think we're going to have to worry about seeing any of them out here for awhile," Casey replied.
"I don't think it will take much longer for them to get the idea. Corporations will take their pleas for exploration straight to the people, and the politicians will be forced to go along," Sam pointed out.
"Probably. But that won't happen before we've started mining operations on PX5 726."
Casey stood up, grabbed her duffel. "Ready."
The two women left the locker room, heading for the supply room to find MREs and water, enough for the two days that Duncan had given permission for. If their investigations turned up evidence that showed more of interest, extra supplies would be sent through the 'gate, and they would stay as long as necessary...or until they were called back to face whatever crisis might crop up.
A A A A A A
When Casey and Sam entered the supply room, Daniel, Teal'c and Jack were already there, tossing MREs toward the packs that waited on the table.
"I don't suppose anyone stocked up on edible food while we were gone," Casey groused.
"Why would we do that?" Jack teased. "These meals are perfectly edible. Have all of the calories and vitamins and nutrients that the human body requires."
"Yeah, but they aren't palatable," the slender blonde complained.
"What, you want all that and taste too?"
"It's a thought."
"Can't have everything."
"I don't see why not," Casey retorted.
"Because if you have everything you want, there wouldn't be anything to bitch about, and what fun would that be?" Jack asked.
She giggled. "Typical male logic."
"Have you taken a look yet?" Jack asked, changing the subject, wisely ignoring the comment the young woman had made, although he knew she hadn't missed the fact that he had rolled his eyes.
She shook her head. "Not yet."
"Take a look, Case, tell me what we're about to walk into," the general said quietly.
With a nod, she closed her eyes. Felt Daniel's arms go around her waist, just seconds before he joined her in that sunny meadow.
"Hold me tight," she whispered.
"Always, Angel," he whispered in return. He wrapped his arms around her, mimicking their bodies' stance in the supply room.
She moved up, listening...reaching out...comforted to 'hear' the familiar 'sounds' of her own universe. Took a moment to just appreciate it, closing her eyes and letting its customary hum surround her.
With a soft sigh of contentment, she concentrated on the planet designation, and felt herself pulled toward the small red and brown orb. It was a dead planet; all life had vanished thousands of years before. She sensed no danger. There was something...different...about it, however. Something very old; older than the Cardorian ruins that they had already seen in the MALP images. Moving closer, she tried to focus on that ancient 'feeling'. Deep...very deep underground. She frowned. There didn't seem to be any type of entrance...she returned to the sunny meadow.
"I think I found something there," she said softly.
"I don't know. But it's old. Very old. Much older than the ruins. And there isn't any way to get to it...at least, not that I found," she explained.
"Can you tell what it is?"
"It felt like a room...a very large cavern or room."
"Maybe that's all that it is, an old, subterranean cavern," he suggested.
She frowned again. "Possibly. I might be able to pick up more once we get there."
"The planet is dead. No life, no water. That it has an atmosphere is surprising."
"Well, Sam seemed to think that the atmosphere is changing, and that in a few hundred years, there won't be enough oxygen left to be able to breathe there," he said.
Casey nodded, remembering Sam's report during the mission briefing.
"Let's tell Jack," Daniel said. He took the time to kiss her, felt the shiver that moved her slender frame in his arms. With a satisfied grin, he moved away from her. "Love you, Angel."
"Love you, too." She watched him 'disappear', then opened her eyes.
"Well?" Jack asked immediately.
"There's something really, really old there, but Daniel thinks it's probably just a cavern."
The older man frowned. "We'll check it out."
The slender blonde shook her head. "There's no way to get to it. It's really...deep. And there isn't any sort of entrance."
Sam glanced at Daniel. "Then I would have to agree with Daniel's assessment. It's probably a cavern that was created during the last volcanic era of the planet. From what samples came back from the MALP that happened at least a million years ago."
"That's all you saw?" Jack asked.
"That's it," Casey replied.
"Then let's go, campers." He swung his pack onto his back. Couldn't help but grin. Almost sixty years old, and he still felt as hale and hearty as he had at twenty! Once again he blessed his Immortality. Even though he had never felt as if he had done anything to deserve the 'blessing', he most certainly appreciated it!
The team fell into step behind him, Sam and Casey walking together, Daniel and Teal'c bringing up the rear. Duncan was waiting in the control room. "Regular check-ins, team," he told them. "Godspeed."
Jack waved his acknowledgement. Led the team up the ramp and through the event horizon. When all five team members had cleared the wormhole, the event horizon collapsed, and the 'gate hissed closed.
The Highlander stared at the empty circle for several long moments.
"Boss, is something wrong?" Kyle asked.
"Hmm? Oh, no. Just thinking that there is no way I'd ever walk through that 'gate if I had been through just half of what SG-1 has been through," the Scot replied.
"I hear that. I don't like going through it unless I absolutely have to. The SG teams..." the younger man shook his head. "They all live for it. I don't think any of them could stop going on missions, even if ordered to stand down permanently."
"Probably not. They're modern day explorers. With the burning need to know what's out there," Duncan agreed.
"That, and a deep-seated desire to destroy the Goa'uld," Kyle grinned unabashedly.
"Yeah, I think that's about half of the motivation." He frowned as he continued to stare at the monumental ring. He had been an explorer, had been on several expeditions into the unknown when he had been younger. Remembered well the feelings of excitement, of adventure. When had he become so...cautious? So willing to stand by and let others take the risks? He grunted softly. He didn't have time for adventure. He was always up to his elbows in paperwork. One day, he was going to deck George Hammond! He couldn't help but grin mentally. The general had assured him that, unlike Jack, he had the temperament, and the diplomatic skills, needed to run an SGC. Not that Jack didn't possess those skills. He did. The military man just preferred to let someone else deal with paperwork and diplomats. Being President of Gamma had kept him from being able to leave on a whim as well...although the mayor's office now controlled the majority of power for the political processes on the planet. He was the final authority when it came to decisions that dealt with the protection of the colonies. Thankfully, he had some damned good men and women around him to help make those tough decisions.
"So, thinking about joining one of the teams?" Kyle asked.
The older man smiled, and shook his head. "I've spent more than enough time getting shot at by some enemy or the other. I'll let the youngsters deal with it."
Kyle looked at his CO. "Yeah, I'll bet you have," he said softly. MacLeod was over four hundred and twenty years old. He had seen a lot, experienced much in those years. "I hear that you were involved in some way in almost every...conflict...all the way up to the first Gulf War."
Sadness filled dark eyes. "Not always because I wanted to be. Sometimes, it seemed as if trouble - the battles - just seemed to follow me," Duncan admitted softly. "I've seen too much fighting, too much death. Killed too many...far too many."
The younger man nodded. "Nothing ever changes, does it?"
Duncan gave a sad smile. "No, it never does. Let me know when SGI-7 checks in."
"Will do, boss."
With one last look at the Stargate, Duncan returned to his office. And pushed away thoughts of what he would have done had the device been uncovered when he was a much younger, brasher man.
A A A A A A
"Oy." Jack stood on the steps that led to the 'gate, squinting as he looked around. He put on his sunglasses. "This place is definitely dead."
"I believe that was covered in the briefing," Sam said, walking past him, putting her own sunglasses on.
"Yeah, something about atmospheric pressure and lack of water and some sort of wicked virus released by an asteroid or comet hitting this rock. Oh, and something about the ozone layer disintegrating, too. That won't be dangerous for us, will it?"
All four of his teammates turned to look at him. Or at least, their sunglasses were focused in his direction. They were surprised that he was able to tell them that much about what had been discussed during the briefing. Normally he tuned out anything he didn't fully understand...or wasn't interested in.
"What?" he asked innocently
"You're scaring me," Daniel said. "If you're listening to Sam's briefings, next you'll be listening to mine..." he gave a forced shudder, bringing smiles to the faces of his teammates.
"Never gonna happen. Your rocks just don't interest me," Jack grinned. The grin widened when Casey choked in an attempt to keep from pointing out the obvious double entendre.
"But the weather patterns and the effects on this planet do?" Sam asked.
"Well, sort of. We aren't gonna get any viruses, or get sunburned, or skin cancer or anything like that from being here, are we?"
Sam shook her blonde head. "No, Jack. Nothing like that."
"Good. Well, you kids run along and do what it is you came here to do. Teal'c, let's get a perimeter set up."
Daniel couldn't help but grin. They were standing on a dead planet, but Jack would set up a perimeter, complete with motion sensors, and they would take turns standing guard duty for the entire stay. "Come on, Angel. I believe there were a few things you wanted to look at."
A A A A A A
The ruins of the city were in various states of disrepair. There were a few buildings that could boast standing walls, although most had only one or two. Three buildings had all four walls in some semblance of integrity, however the ceilings were nothing more than rotting beams on stone floors. The buildings that remained most intact were located in what had been the center of the city, and two appeared to be temples. The temples faced each another, and the only standing obelisk was centered in the courtyard between those two structures. The stelai that the UAV had located were in front of the third building, which sat adjacent to the twin temples. Perhaps a civic center of some sort.
Casey had her camcorder out, and was carefully recording the scene. "Daniel, can you get the temple walls recorded? I want to start translating these," she said, stepping closer to the nearest stele.
He grinned. "Be glad to." He watched her for a few minutes, noted her intense concentration.
"Just like another archaeologist I know," Sam teased, stepping closer.
"Did you hear her, Sam? She finally admitted, out loud and in front of witnesses, that she is an archaeologist," Daniel asked, referring to the debrief after their 'side trip'.
The tall blonde smiled at the pride that filled his voice and eyes. "I heard, Daniel. I'm glad she sees it. She had the best teacher there is."
He blushed slightly. "I don't know about that," he mumbled.
"I do. Why do you think that the others are willing to listen to her, to accept her as an archaeologist? You've been vindicated, proven right. And for eleven years you've tutored her, trained her. She's had the benefit of being taught by the only archaeologist to see what was in front of everyone for centuries," Sam replied quietly. She patted his shoulder. "I have to get this equipment set up."
Longer than eleven years, he thought. Much longer. Memories - faded and hazy as they might be - of those years together, before he had been made Immortal, before Oma had brought the entire team back in time, flashed through his mind. He, Casey, and Duncan, however, were the only ones who remembered those events. Who were aware that they were 'reliving' those years. And that they had changed the timeline in a very drastic way...at least...for them. He could only hope that whatever the dire threat had been, the reason that SG-1 had been sent back in time, and granted Immortality, had been dealt with...and satisfactorily. Which of the Goa'uld they had faced had been that threat? Or had it been the Renegade Ancients? Or maybe the lofty Committee that had required...discipline? Whatever it was...or had been, he could only hope that SG-1 would be...or had been successful. He shook himself mentally. Casey was kneeling in front of the upright stone now. He glanced at his best friend. "Need help?"
"Nope. You do what you need to do," she said, walking toward the spot where F.R.E.D. waited.
With a nod, he turned his attention back to the woman who took his breath away with each and every movement she made. He watched as she began to make a rubbing of the stele, her hands moving slowly, carefully over the ancient cuneiform.
"Take a look at this."
He walked toward her. "What?"
Casey pointed to the section of text that had caught her eye. If it said what she thought it did, they had discovered more than just the oldest Cardorian ruins to date - they had discovered what appeared to be the actual 'birthplace' of the Cardorian civilization, and a possible source of Orrinite.
Daniel moved his finger over the marks in the stone as he read. "Wow."
"So it is talking about the gods who saved them, and brought them to 'this place where the gods themselves resided'? Were there Asgard here?"
"Apparently. Translate this one. I'll work on the other one," he said quietly. It was possible that SG-1 had just discovered an ancient Asgard city, or at least an outpost.
"That's what's so old!" Casey exclaimed suddenly. "Laboratory! It's a laboratory that I sensed!"
He frowned. The Asgard seemed to favor underground rooms and caverns for their laboratories and observation posts. He suspected that it was a 'hold over' from the earliest days of their civilization, when living in caves and caverns had been a necessity on their storm ravaged home planet. "So how do we get into it?"
She shook her blonde head. "There has to be something, somewhere that takes us there...somehow."
His frown deepened. In the past the team had discovered devices left behind by the Asgard that did indeed beam anyone within proximity into hidden rooms or caves...or in this case, a laboratory. "Don't touch anything," he said sharply. "Back away from the stele, babe. Now."
Confused, but certain that Daniel had good reason for his warning, Casey did exactly as her husband had directed.
"Jack, Teal'c...don't come any closer!" the young archaeologist said as the two men approached.
"Asgard. That cavern Casey sensed? We think it's an ancient Asgard laboratory. And somewhere around here is the device that will take you there."
"Like on Cimmera?" Sam asked from near the vehicle that held her equipment. Twice the team had gone to that planet, during the first years of the SGC. The first time such a device had sent Jack and Teal'c into a cavern where they were imprisoned. The second time she and Daniel had gone with one of the local women to try and locate a way to protect the people of the planet from Heru-ur. Amazing that after nearly eighteen years the memories were still so clear.
"I'm guessing," Daniel admitted. "But this stele has text that speaks of the Cardorians being brought here by the 'true gods', and living where the gods themselves resided."
Jack frowned. "I thought the Cardorians died out about a thousand years ago."
"Ascended, actually. But the civilization itself was much older, by thousands of years" Daniel replied. "Until we have carbon dating on these samples, we won't know the definite age of these ruins. But I have a feeling that this particular city of Cardorians is much older than we ever suspected. We theorized that the Cardorians first...emerged... as a civilization about ten thousand years ago. I have a feeling we're going to have to adjust that figure."
Casey shook her head slightly. "It's possible that this city was...ancient...when the Cardorians arrived...well, were brought here. So the age of the city may or may not correlate with the age of the Cardorian civilization."
Daniel frowned. "True," he admitted. Grinned mentally when he realized that Casey had made the assessment before he had time to come to the same conclusion himself. She was the resident expert on the Cardorians. She'd studied everything they had discovered about them...no, she had devoured every bit of information they'd discovered about this unique group of people.
Jack looked at the two archaeologists. "See what you can find. Just be careful."
With a nod, Daniel slowly approached the first stele. When nothing happened, he motioned for Casey to move forward. With deliberate steps, she moved toward the second stele. Again, nothing happened. He gave a sigh. "Shouldn't take more than a couple of hours to get these translated."
"Do it," Jack said. He turned to his wife. "See if you can pick up any type of energy readings. That might give us a clue as to where this hidden device is...if it exists."
Sam grabbed her equipment and began to scan the area.
The older man looked around. The tiny hairs on the back of his neck weren't standing up. Casey had sensed no danger. But experience told him that they were on the brink of something...and his gut was telling him that it was big. He could only hope that whatever it was, it wasn't nasty as well.
<<Previous | Story Intro | Return to Stories | Next >>