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"…I have no mother, no father, no
sister, no brother
I am an orphan girl
I have had friendships pure and golden
but the ties of kinship
I have not known them…"
performed by Emmy Lou Harris, written by (Gillian Welch)
SG-1 walked down the steps away from the 'gate. They were standing on the top of a mountain. Fog and hazy low clouds prevented them from seeing anything beyond a few yards around them. Casey pulled the hood of her parka up over her head, shivered from the cold breeze that blew around them, making the loose snow on the ground whirl around their feet.
When she had searched for the Immortals she had sensed, she'd seen this place and had been able see where it was; it had taken Daniel and his knowledge of the Ancients to discern the glyphs needed to dial the Stargate. MALP images had shown nothing but the rugged, rocky terrain around the 'gate. But she could feel that the Immortals they were seeking were nearby. Her feelings were good enough for Duncan and the rest of the team. So SG-1 arrived, their mission: to find the 'other' Immortals and bring them back to the safety of Gamma. So far she had not sensed those who were hunting these Immortals.
Jack adjusted his pack, looked around carefully. "Okay, Case, give me a direction."
She took Daniel's hand, his fingers pressing against hers, waited for his gentle touch before she reached out. Caves. Several of them. On the side of a cliff. It seemed that they lived in the largest one. "That way," she said softly, pointing toward a barely recognizable, very narrow path. It was the path they had seen in the MALP images, which showed the area to be too rocky for the ATVs. Perhaps it was better to walk, she thought briefly, they'd probably stay warmer that way.
Daniel adjusted the pack on his back, then wrapped his gloved hand around hers once again. She had been quiet during the briefing, telling them only that she felt no danger from those they had dubbed the 'Immortal Hunters'. She hadn't said a word about what she was feeling from the Immortals they were about to meet. He glanced sideways at her. Her eyes were wide, and she was tugging on her lower lip. "Casey? What's wrong? What do you feel?"
She shook her head. "That's the problem. I can't feel anything! They have a seer…or somebody…or maybe something…who is…that is protecting them. I can sense where they are…barely. I can't feel them at all."
He nodded. "Maybe that's how they've managed to stay alive."
"Maybe." She took a step closer to him, her hand gripping his tightly. "I just wish I had more of an idea what we were getting into."
Sam, Jack, and Teal'c, who had been walking just ahead of the Jacksons, shared worried glances. It had been a long time since the team had walked 'blind' into an unknown situation. It made them all nervous.
The path they followed was steep, and became so narrow that it was necessary to walk single file. Teal'c led, followed by Sam, Jack, and Casey, with Daniel on their six. They held their weapons tightly, eyes moving, senses alert. With the heavy gray clouds filling the sky above them, it was impossible to tell exactly what time it was on the planet. It felt like mid-to-late afternoon.
SG-1 continued their trek down the side of the mountain. So far there had been no vegetation at all, but as Jack had pointed out, most mountaintops were devoid of plant life. They were all hoping that there would at least be low bushes of some type that could be used for a fire when it was time to stop and make camp. It would be extremely cold during the night without one.
The blue-gray of the rocks and boulders around them, the gray of the sky above them made the hike feel colder and…depressing. The usual quiet chatter was missing, each of the team members lost in his or her own thoughts. All of them were aware that bringing this group of 'lost' Immortals to Gamma would focus the attention of the 'Immortal Hunters' on them. A prospect apprehensively anticipated. But they agreed with Duncan that Immortals stood a better chance fighting together than they did alone, or in small groups. There was also the reassurance that Thor and the Asgard would assist in protecting the new Immortal home world known as Gamma. Especially considering the numerous times that the Tau'ri, and the Immortals, had helped divert disaster for the small gray beings.
Casey watched as her friends moved down the narrow trail in front of her. Several times the path was on the very side of the mountain, a drop-off of several hundred feet on one side, and the rock wall of the mountain itself rising sixty or more feet on the other. Heights had always bothered her, some more than others, depending on how safe she felt at the time. The steep ravines left her breathless with fear, one wrong step could send any one of them tumbling to their death. And it would be a long, hard climb back up. She reached out to the man behind her, took comfort from his gentle, soothing touch. Daniel disliked heights, but she felt no fear, no uneasiness as she touched him. She smiled, thinking once again that he was the bravest, most incredible man she had ever known.
Daniel watched her, catching glimpses of her face now and then. She was frightened, he could sense the fear. He knew that she was bothered by heights, and was sure that the numerous places where the mountain literally fell away from them were the reason for her wide eyes and slightly pale cheeks. She moved as close to the stone walls as she could when they were forced to pass over those nerve-wracking stretches. She was an amazing woman, his Wife, he thought proudly. No matter how much something bothered her, or scared her, she did what had to be done, did the job to the best of her ability, without one word of complaint. When she reached out to him, he caressed her, tried to soothe the worry from her mind. He smiled when she caressed him gently in return.
The path they were following had widened, and now low bushes and small trees began to dot the land around them. They had been on the move for over an hour. Jack called a halt so they could rest, and assess their surroundings.
"How close are we?" Jack asked the slender blonde.
She closed her eyes, waited for Daniel's soothing presence before reaching out. "I'm not sure. I keep…it's like somebody is blocking me…or at least protecting those caves. I can see the caves, I know that the Immortals are there…but…" she shook her head. "I'm sorry."
Jack grinned, put his arm around her shoulders and gave her a brief hug. "Hey, it's better than nothing at all!"
She smiled. Even when the information she had was sketchy, or as now, nearly non-existent, Jack always managed to make her feel as if she had made a major contribution. "True. I might be able to sense more the closer we get."
The older man nodded. He glanced up at the sky, which seemed to be getting darker. "Okay, kids, we'll hike for another thirty, then set up camp."
Once again Teal'c took the lead, and the team moved on. Sam walked beside Jack, their hands entwined. Daniel tucked Casey's hand into the crook of his arm. Smiles covered four faces when Casey began to softly sing the Eagle's 'Lyin' Eyes'. If she was singing, then things were okay.
A A A A A A
Camp was set up, Teal'c and Daniel collected firewood, Casey and Sam found a small stream not far from the level area where they would spend the night, and Jack used his binoculars to examine the woods around them. The water tested safe, a fire was roaring happily, and Daniel already had a pot of coffee setting in the embers, before the sky grew completely dark above them, covering the forest that surrounded them with a blanket of blackness.
The night air was cold, and the smell of snow was strong. Casey huddled close to Daniel's side. "I never was crazy about camping in the winter,' she grumbled.
"I dunno, it's not so bad. Keeps you close to me," Daniel teased.
She tried not to smile, and utterly failed. "Yeah, anything to keep you warm, right?"
"Damn straight." He playfully nudged her shoulder with his.
Jack and Sam chuckled softly. "Well, I like the fact that you brought along stew and oatmeal," Sam said, carefully stirring more hot water into her stew packet.
"It's warm, and beats MREs all to hell and back again," Casey replied.
"Got that right," Daniel muttered. He took another bite of his stew.
Jack laughed. "You're just spoiled by your wife's cooking. I remember when you used to eat MREs when you were sitting in your office at the SGC!"
The younger man grinned. "Well, now I know what food is supposed to taste like!"
Casey was staring at her husband. "You ate MREs on base? The commissary food was better!"
"He used to grab a dozen or so and hide them in his office. Then when he was working on something, the only time he'd surface was to fill his thermos with coffee again. Although I heard rumors that there were Airmen who would fill it for him, in return for pick up lines in Abydonian," Jack teased.
"Pick up lines? Like what?" Casey asked.
Daniel blushed. "I don't remember," he mumbled, glaring at Jack.
"Come on, just one or two," she begged.
He heaved a sigh. "Let's see…'The stars in your eyes are brighter than the stars in the heavens'," he said.
"That sounds lovely. What does it mean?" Sam asked.
Daniel translated the phrase. Casey put her head against his shoulder. "That's beautiful. It would work on me!" she declared softly. She smiled when he kissed the top of her head.
Jack tried to repeat the phrase, looking at Sam, a smile on his face. Daniel to burst into laughter. "What?" the older man asked, slightly baffled at the response.
"You just told her that her eyes look like a mule's forelock," he gasped.
Sam punched her husband on the shoulder.
"Hey, it's not my fault! I just mispronounced one word!" Jack declared in self-defense.
"Uh, more like three words," Daniel corrected, still laughing. He repeated the phrase slowly.
Jack shook his head. "Uh uh. Not even going to attempt it again."
"You could just say it in English," Sam told him.
"And have you get all mushy? No way!" the older man replied. He grinned and pecked her cheek.
Sam shook her head. "Good thing I love you," she complained. The sparkle in her eyes belied the tone of her voice.
"Yep, good thing," Jack replied.
Watch rotation was decided upon, and the team made ready for the night.
Casey shivered as she squatted behind one of the low bushes. "Damn, it's cold!"
"Tell me about it," Daniel said softly as he zipped his pants up. "My balls just crawled into my stomach!"
"At least your entire ass isn't freezing!"
He chuckled. "True."
Casey wiped carefully, pulled her pants up, then shoveled the dirt back into the shallow hole she had dug. "Okay, now you can warm me up!"
He put his arm around her and led her back to the tent. They undressed hurriedly, and crawled into the sleeping bags. Casey cuddled as close to his body as she could get. "Damn, you're cold all over," he complained, when her skin came in contact with his. He jumped when she pushed her icy feet under his calves.
"Yep. So warm me up!"
He rubbed his hand over her arm and hip. "C'mere," he said, pulling her to lay on top of him. His hands continued to move over her back and hips. "Better?" he asked, feeling her skin begin to warm.
"Much." She snuggled closer, smiled when his arms tightened around her.
"Sleep, Angel," he said softly. He smiled into the darkness when she cuddled closer still. His arms closed further around her slender frame, holding her tighter. The smile widened when he heard her soft sigh. He closed his eyes, her body tight against his, her breath soft and warm against his neck.
A A A A A A
Teal'c called softly at the end of his watch, waiting until Casey had pulled on her clothes and was walking toward the fire before he slipped into his own tent. She tossed another piece of wood onto the fire, then smiled to find a pot of coffee ready and waiting. The Jaffa preferred tea, but always made sure that there was coffee ready for the next person on watch.
She hadn't been on watch long when the first snowflakes began to fall. She moved closer to the fire, held her hands out to the warmth. She reached out, trying to get a sense of what was around her. She felt nothing, only the emptiness of the land around them. She pulled back, touched the man sleeping in the tent behind her, caressed him lightly.
She wondered about the Immortals they were searching for. She knew that they were hiding themselves. A thought skittered across her mind. She reached out, searched for the caves she had seen before. She hovered, letting her 'presence' remain in one of the large caves. She examined it while she waited. It was dark, but still she could make out the rocky walls around her. There! Someone had sensed her! She concentrated…thought only about Gamma, and Immortals, and safety, concentrating more on feelings than words. She waited another moment, then slowly pulled back. She shivered, another thought, a frightening one this time, filling her with dread. She carefully searched her mind. She was alone. Whoever had reached out to touch her had not followed her. Her was heart pounding, her body shaking; her common sense reproached her for the dangerous stunt she had just pulled. She hadn't made a search alone since Nergal had followed her back into her mind. The fear that now drummed in her veins insured that she wasn't going to do it again, either! She reached out one more time, touched Daniel gently, needing only to feel him. She took comfort from his presence.
She drank another cup of coffee, even though she knew that before she crawled back into the sleeping bag with Daniel she'd have to go to the bathroom again. The snow was falling heavier now. She shivered, checked her watch. Time to wake Jack. She did so as gently as Teal'c had awakened her.
"How long has it been snowing?" Jack asked quietly, pouring a cup of freshly made coffee.
"Since about fifteen minutes into my watch. It's only gotten heavier in the past few minutes," she replied.
He nodded. "Okay, get some sleep."
"Have to make a stop first," she smiled.
He grinned. "Not too far from camp."
"No way. I'd pee right here by the fire if I thought I could get away with it."
He chuckled. "Not gonna happen. But you don't have to go far." He pointedly turned his back toward the fire.
With a smile, she wandered a few feet, still able to feel a bit of warmth from the flames that danced in the dark of the night. She did what she had to do. "Thanks, Jack. My butt appreciates it."
The older man chuckled again. "I'll bet it does. Goodnight, Case."
"'Night, Jack." She slipped back into the tent and stripped. She cuddled next to Daniel's warm body. He reached out for her and once again pulled her on top of him. Within minutes she was warm and asleep.
A A A A A A
When she opened her eyes, she was alone in the sleeping bags. Daniel had taken the last watch of the night. She hurriedly pulled on her clothes. Teal'c and Sam were also awake, Jack was still asleep. Snow covered the ground, and the tents.
She held the cup of coffee that Daniel handed her with both hands, grateful for the heat. "I…uh …I did another search last night while I was on watch," she said softly.
Daniel jerked, looked hard at her. "And?"
"I went into one of the caves, just sort of waited around. I felt someone…just that they were… sensing… me. I thought about Gamma, and Immortals, and safety. I think they were able to pick up that we can offer them refuge."
"Damn it, Casey Renee! Don't you ever do that again!" Daniel said, his eyes flashing with fear…and anger.
She cringed slightly at the emotions that played through those incredible blue eyes. The ordeal she had faced when Nergal had followed her back into her mind had been extremely hard on him. Daniel had cleaned the blood from her body himself when the battle that raged in her mind had resulted in physical wounds. When the fact that she had nearly been beheaded by the Goa'uld only a few weeks prior was taken into consideration, his fear…and anger…were well warranted. He was still dealing with the pain of believing that she had been lost to him forever; her capture and that whispered goodbye still haunted his dreams at night. "I'm sorry, Daniel, I promise, I won't," she said, her voice almost a whisper.
He pulled her into a hug. "It scares me, babe," he whispered into her ear. "I can't lose you. I can't."
She held him tightly. "You won't, My Heart. I promise, no searches unless you're with me."
Daniel nodded, kissed the side of her head. "Let's get the sleeping bags rolled and the tent down."
Jack emerged from the tent he shared with his wife a few minutes later. Sam whispered what had happened. "Casey, are you nuts? Don't you ever do that again!" he said, when she walked back toward the fire.
She couldn't help but smile. Since her capture by Nergal, and their visit to the 'special rooms', where the three men of SG-1 had seen the torture chamber in which she had been held, and had been faced with the knowledge that some of the blood that covered every surface of the room had been hers, they had become overly protective of her. "I promise, Jack. I won't."
Teal'c raised an eyebrow. "Do not attempt to do so, thinking that we will not know about it simply because you refrain from telling us."
Casey bit back a smile. "I promise, Teal'c. No searches without Daniel."
The Jaffa studied her for a minute, then nodded.
Sam looked over at her best friend and winked. "Okay, now that the male members of the team have asserted themselves, let's have some breakfast."
The three men looked at the tall blonde, pained expressions on their faces, but none of them replied.
The oatmeal and coffee, or hot tea in Teal'c's case, served to warm them. After eating, they broke camp, made sure the fire was completely out, and started on their way. With Daniel 'holding' her firmly, she reached out. And found the caves once again. This time she was able to 'see' their location. It would take most of the morning to get to there.
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