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They had opted to do sentry duty in pairs, and Casey and Daniel had drawn the last watch. They sat cuddled together on the steps of the ‘gate, watching as the first streaks of dawn washed across the horizon. They didn’t speak, merely held one another and watched the glories of nature.
Casey was still bothered by a dream she'd had earlier, one that she couldn’t quite remember, except for the fact that it had felt important. She shook herself mentally. She didn’t have time to worry about dreams right now. They were on a mission. They had to find Methos, and they needed to find and stop Framone. It still bothered her that Oma had helped Daniel to find her, but had not been forthcoming with any assistance in locating the oldest of the Immortals.
Daniel stretched, then stood up. "Ready for some more coffee?" he asked softly.
"Yeah, that would be great," she replied. The sun was over the horizon now. She went first to the tent where Sam and Teal'c were sleeping, reached in and gently shook Sam’s foot. "Wakey, wakey, campers," she said, grinning as the two opened their eyes and looked at her.
"Coffee," Sam grumbled.
"Daniel’s working on a fresh pot right now," Casey replied. She moved over to the tent where Duncan and Tessa were asleep. "Hey you two," she said, moving the flap back and forth, "keep your hands where I can see them!" She peeked in, saw Tessa’s grin. Duncan scowled at her. "Still not much of a morning person, huh?" she asked, a wide grin on her face.
"No, he’s not," Tessa replied.
"No one should be that chipper this early in the morning. It’s annoying," Duncan grumped. He attempted to roll over.
Casey looked at Tessa, raised an eyebrow, her question in her eyes. Tessa put her hand over her mouth, and nodded, her blue eyes dancing. Casey threw herself on top of Duncan. "Wakey, wakey, Highlander. Open your big brown eyes and greet the day!"
Tessa shook with laughter, leaning on top of Casey’s back.
"Get off me, you little upstart," Duncan said, trying to move under the weight of the two women. When his arms were finally free of the sleeping bag, he managed to toss Casey towards the opening of the tent. She landed on her backside, where she rolled to her side laughing.
Daniel looked over at her and grinned. "You realize you will pay for that," he said.
Casey stood up and brushed herself off. "Yeah, well, you’ll protect me."
"Don’t count on it," Daniel said, his eyes dancing. He had watched her tease the Highlander before, and had enjoyed every minute of the payback she received. Since the Ceremony of Fire, there was no longer any fear that the dark-haired man would ever claim Casey’s heart or love. There was a special relationship between the two Immortals, closer perhaps than would have existed had they not suffered from the Fire…thanks to the machinations of Framone, and the ‘prophecy’ he had created in an attempt to bind them together. But he felt no threat from it. The two men had been able to forge a friendship as well, not exactly a close one, but it was there.
Casey was getting ready to go into the tent she and Daniel had slept in when two large hands grabbed her around the waist and turned her upside down. She let out a surprised squeal. Duncan continued to hold her upside down, grinning at her. She felt the blood rushing to her head.
"Say uncle," Duncan demanded.
"I can hold you here ‘til you pass out."
"Go for it."
He shook her slightly. "Say uncle," he demanded again.
She was getting light headed. "Okay, okay, uncle, you big brute."
He let her go, she fell awkwardly to the ground. He brushed his palms against one another, then went to get a cup of coffee.
Casey got to her feet, brushed herself off, then dug in her backpack for her hairbrush. "Bully," she said, brushing her hair, removing the grass that had managed to get into it when she had hit the ground.
"Brat," Duncan replied, not looking at her as he sipped his first cup of coffee.
By now the others were laughing out loud. Casey changed tactics. "Love you, Duncan."
"Really I do. Sort of like a wart that just won’t go away," she said, a wicked grin on her face. That did it. He cracked up. Satisfied that she had ‘won’ the encounter, she moved over to Daniel and handed him her hairbrush.
Daniel ran the brush through the silky strands, and with skill born of practice had her hair in one long braid in a matter of minutes. He placed a kiss on her neck, grinned when she shivered, then helped her roll the sleeping bags and take down the tent.
They all complained good naturedly about the MREs they ate for breakfast. Then, making sure that all their watches showed the same time, they set out to continue their search for Methos.
A A A A A A
This was the third planet in as many days. This one, unlike the other two, was heavily forested. They moved slowly, weapons ready. Teal'c, who was on point, was examining a small bush when the others caught up with him.
"What is it, Teal'c?" Sam asked quietly, not wishing her voice to echo.
"I believe it is blood, Colonel Carter," he said pointing to several of the leaves. All eyes turned to Casey.
"I don’t know if he was bleeding when we got 'Oma-ed out'," she told them.
Sam nodded. "Okay, people, let’s keep sharp. Somebody, or something, is out there."
They began to move again, the tension visible in every step. Their eyes never stopped looking, scanning, examining. When they stumbled across a narrow path, they decided to follow it. An hour later, they came upon a small cluster of cottages. The inhabitants stopped whatever activity they had been engaged in and stared at the newcomers.
"Okay, Daniel, you’re on," Sam whispered.
Daniel lowered his P90, let it swing at his side. He held his hands up and away from his body. "We’re explorers from another place. We come in peace," he said, speaking slowly and distinctly.
A large man with long blonde hair stepped towards him. "Who are you, what do you want?"
Daniel listened carefully, frowned, shook his head.
"I said, who are you and what do you want? Why have you come here?" the man demanded.
It took a few seconds of thinking, searching his amazing mind for the sounds and nuances that would help him, then Daniel began to speak. "We come in peace. My name is Daniel, these are my friends" he said, motioning to his companions. "We are explorers, we come from a place far from here. We seek a lost friend. A tall man with black hair."
The man looked at them carefully. "If you come in peace, we welcome you. I am Kullen. There have been no strangers to our village. This friend you seek is not here."
Daniel turned to Sam. "He says there haven’t been any strangers here, that Methos isn’t here."
"Find out if there are other villages near here where he might have gone," Sam instructed.
He nodded. "Are there other villages nearby? It might be possible that he found his way there, instead."
"We are the only ones here. Ours has been the only village for nearly a century. Great sickness came upon us. Those you see are the children of the survivors." Kullen said.
Daniel looked at the group of people that now surrounded them. There were maybe a hundred. A hundred people in the same number of years? "How many survived the great sickness?"
"One woman, two men." He pointed to a small wooden statue in the center of the group of cottages. "Her name is Katrin, and she is the Mother of us all. If not for her, life on Graia would have ceased."
Daniel translated to the others.
Casey giggled. "I doubt she did it all by herself. Seems those two men had to have contributed a little something." Tessa snickered behind her hand. Even Sam was grinning.
Kullen looked at the women and frowned. "My words have made these women laugh?"
Daniel frowned, then shrugged. "They say that Katrin could not have been a mother to you all without the help of the two men."
Kullen threw his head back and laughed. He walked over to Casey, who had been the one to speak, and put his palm against her cheek. "This one with the eyes of green has great spirit. She understands the usefulness of a man. What will you take in trade for her?"
Daniel bit back a smile. "She is my Wife," he said simply.
"Forgive me, one called Daniel. I meant no offense." Kullen patted Casey’s cheek, and somewhat reluctantly dropped his hand.
"None is taken. You could not have known."
Sam looked around her. "Look, if these people haven’t seen Methos, we need to move on."
"Sam, what about the blood Teal'c found?" Casey asked. She was dying to ask about the hand on the cheek thing, she had seen the amusement in Daniel’s eyes. But she would wait until more important matters had been dealt with.
The tall blonde colonel turned to Daniel and smiled. "You’re on again."
Daniel turned back to Kullen. "We noticed blood on a bush not far from here. Is there someone here who was hurt, or is it perhaps an animal?"
Kullen shook his head. "We do not venture in that direction. The Great Circle is there. Our ancestors told us to leave it alone, and so we do. If there is blood, it must be from an animal."
Daniel nodded, and relayed the information to Sam. He turned once again to the leader of the group that stood around them. "We would like to return, one day soon, and speak to you more, learn more about your people. Is this acceptable to you?"
"You are most welcome here, Daniel. You are most welcome to stay now," Kullen replied.
"You are very generous, Kullen. But we must find our friend. We will come again."
Kullen nodded, and stepped away from the group of strangers. "Travel with God, Daniel, you and your beautiful wife and your friends."
Daniel nodded once again, and turned. The others followed him, and they made their way back to the Stargate, disappointment flooding them.
Casey made her way to her husband’s side. "So, uh, what was with the hand on my cheek, what was that all about?"
"Yeah, Daniel, what was going on?" Sam asked.
"Kullen wanted to know why the three of you had the giggles. I told him what you said. It impressed the hell out of him that you ‘understood the usefulness of a man’. He wanted to know what I’d take in trade for you."
Duncan laughed out loud. "Two chickens and a goat," he said.
Sam bit the inside of her cheek to keep from laughing.
Daniel snorted, then chuckled, then laughed. "Nah, three chickens, two goats."
Casey glared at both men. "Laugh it up, you two. I know where you both sleep."
Tessa fought back her smile. "Come along, Casey, and we’ll leave these two…traders…to their discussion." She grabbed Casey by the hand and pulled her ahead to where Teal'c walked.
"Teal'c, I’m so glad you’re not like them," Casey sighed, slipping her hand into the Jaffa’s large one.
The large man only smiled. "On Chulak, you would have brought at least three of the animals that are similar to your horses."
Daniel and Duncan nearly doubled over with laughter.
"T, you disappoint me," Casey sighed. She squared her shoulders and marched ahead of the group, reaching the Stargate before the rest, already dialing for home as the others caught up with her.
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