Chapt 18:The World According to Carter, Pt. I-VIII
: See Chapt. 1 for disclaimers, warnings, timelines.
So, for the six of you still interested…. About the long hiatus …. Erm, sorry?
I plead RL and yadda yadda yadda
And the fact that this chapter has been kicking my ass. For the longest time it wouldn’t start. And then the bugger wouldn’t end. So I’ve divided it. Conquered… well, see for yourself. But definitely divided, by gum.
So, without further adieu;
Secrets: A Father Goose Tale
A BTVS-SG1 Crossover Chapt 18: The World According to Carter, Pt. I-VIII
Part I: The World According Dr. S. Carter, Ph.D.
dS = dQ/T ergo Magic=Bullshit*infinity
Island of the Left-Handed Serpent, Lake Victoria,Tanzania, October 2007
Part II: Sammy Doesn’t Know
Mjima Nduna, Keeper of the Hidden Temple, awoke staring into the terrified face of his third wife.
“What? What is it?” he asked, sitting up on the cot he kept in the temple for his afternoon naps.
“They come!” his wife said.
“What? Who’s coming?”
“They!” the woman waved a shaking hand at the statues that lined the walls of the old temple. “The Gods! They come!”
“Woman, are you out of your mind?” Mjima said. The Gods? The Gods of this place were long gone… he shook his head, thought for a moment of simply laying back down. But it was too late now, he was awake. And something
had frightened her. She was young and pretty still, and he indulged her, but even so she knew better than to wake him from his nap without a good reason….
He shook his head to clear the last of the cobwebs. He stood and motioned for her to lead the way out, but she shook her head and hid behind him, pressing close against his back and peering over his shoulder. Mjima sighed. If this was wife one and two playing some sort of joke …
The Gods? Nonsense. Mjima was Keeper of the Temple because his father had been the Keeper before him, and his father’s father and so on …. Every year he went in to Mwanza to the european bank and signed the form declaring that the Temple was being maintained according to the ancient agreement. Which Mjima had never seen… but he had one of his wives sweep the place at least once a week, he kept the walls that looked like gold but weren’t hidden so they were no temptation to thieves, and he took his naps there to remind the local animals that man still reigned there. What more could they want? He signed the statement and was given the annual stipend. Sometimes it was a little less, sometimes a little more. The bank officer claimed it was due to some formula based on local prices of fish and beef … Mjima suspected it was more to do with how much the bank officer needed to make his own pocketbook well, but… such was the way of the world. Mjima would say nothing. The money was still enough to make him leader of his clan and a big man in the tribe, so Mjima would say nothing… For fear an investigation would find that the payments were a long forgotten error, continuing only because no one had remembered to cancel them. It was Mjima’s worst nightmare, the banker appearing on the island one day and demanding that Mjima return a hundred years worth of annual stipends…
But the Gods? Mjima lost no sleep over the Gods.
Mjima stepped out through the temple doorway and stood blinking in the sunlight, looking down the long flight of stone steps that led down to the water, then at his wife’s urging, raised his eyes and peered out across the lake….
Mjima thought of the statues, and how one had a broken nose and another had lost an arm and all had water stains and a dull coat of neglect….
He thought of his Staff of Office, that his father claimed had once shot fire and could be used to clear a garden plot in minutes, but had never done so in Mjima’s memory and was now serving as a sturdy corner post in the goat pen….
Mjima looked out across the waters and thought, Oh shit.
Camp Kendra, Havana, Cuba, October 2007Part III: Sammy Doesn’t Want to Know
Daniel Jackson tried to remember the last time he’d worn a swimsuit and couldn’t. He’d found the trunks laid out on the bed in the room he was sharing with Jack and Teal’c when he emerged from the shower, having taken Dawn’s advice to get in quick before the limited hot water supply ran out. He pulled on a tee-shirt as well and donned flip-flops and went out to explore the house and grounds, resisting the urge to go and look for Dawn… they’d been talking more or less non-stop since they’d met, it was probably time for a break.
Daniel smiled sadly. It was so pointless.
Even if sometimes the thought of yet another mission made him sag and look back at his neglected books with regret, he knew he was thoroughly addicted to the wormhole, he’d never be happy sitting on a beach even in the best of company knowing Jack and the others were off on another planet somewhere …. And it didn’t take much time with her to know that Dawn would never be at home in the SGC even if they could be coerced kicking and screaming to have her… nor was she likely to wait patiently at home in Colorado Springs and wouldn’t Hammond have a fit if Daniel went running off to see her after each mission…
But she was so bright and alive and enthusiastic and warm when she leaned against him her breast soft on his shoulder…..
And so young, he reminded himself … though she certainly seemed older than her years … he’d said as much in passing and she’d laughed, doing a passable Jeremy Irons,
“You have no
idea,” but refusing to explain.
Glancing back as he entered the large common room he caught sight of her at the end of the hall, arguing with her sister about something, and he felt his heart race. He shook his head, I’m too young to be such an old fool, he thought.
“Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, Dr. Jackson.”
He turned and saw the mysterious Irina Derevko, framed in the doorway leading out to the pool area, casually elegant in a loosely flowing and transparent skirt wrapped around a dark one-piece bathing suit. She was smiling at him, she said,
“I don’t imagine there’s ever been a man laying on his deathbed, looking back over his life who regretted making love to a beautiful young woman on a tropical island. And more than a few who regret never having done so.” She stepped forward and took his arm, “Dawn is a remarkable young woman, I should make the most of what time you may have with her, if I were you. And thus ends my lecture on the sins of omission. As to the sins of emission, I assure you, we are well supplied with the necessaries, and, not to give you the wrong idea, but Dawn knows where they are …. Now, would you like to meet her father?”
“Her father?” Daniel asked, “I thought she said he was pretty much AWOL… my term, not hers…” he added as Irina raised an eyebrow slightly.
“Ah. Well, Mr. Giles is, I suppose one should say, her surrogate
father,” Irina explained, guiding him outside to join three men who were sitting on a slightly raised platform in a corner of the pool area, two of them holding guitars and the third a pale pink drink in a dark green hand. “Don’t worry,” Irina added, patting Daniel on the shoulder, “Giles is the one who’s not
Part IV: Faith Contemplates Carter
The green-eyed demon raised its head and rattled its chains, but they were strong and held it secure, locked down tight. Jealousy was the one demon Faith knew she would never quite kill, but she could keep him under control.
Especially when it was silly. Xander and Irina were taking a walk on the beach, as they always did when he and Faith came to Camp Kendra. There was nothing to be jealous of, she knew what they were talking about …. Irina was reporting, giving mother-hen Xan all the latest on the girls who had been staying in the house. Boring. Faith cared about the girls… but not so much she wanted to know if they were failing math or having their first big crush …And this time he’d be getting Irina’s thoughts on SG-1, she having more experience with military types than he did. Faith had already come to her own conclusions about them, so yawn.
Faith wasn’t even sure what she was jealous about, Xan spending time with Irina, or Irina, who was after all sort of Faith’s personal project, spending time with Xan.
Whatever. It was no big. It was just hardwired in, Faith didn’t like to share. But she had it under control.
Besides, she was mostly just tired and irritated… it had been a long trip, riding across the island. She knew Xan had his reasons, but still, cramped in the van with all those people, having to be nice… it made her fists itch. She walked out to the water’s edge, stripped down to her minimal black bikini and waded in. She figured a little swim to stretch the muscles would let the energy out and ease the tension. She figured maybe Miami and back would do the trick. 'Ware sharks, crabby slayer in the water.
Irina was waiting for her when she came out. Faith had of course forgotten to bring a towel, but Irina had one for her, and a wide-toothed comb to use to clean the seaweed out of her hair.
They talked about Xan.
“We had a fight,” Faith said.
“Just one?” Irina smiled.
“A real fight. I ran off. Almost got him killed. A vamp.”
“Ah. And did he blame you….”
“No, of course not, he wouldn’t…”
“Then perhaps you should accept his judgement.” Irina reached out, slid her hand around Faith’s bicep… Faith froze, tensed as she always did, then forced herself to relax, to let Irina walk with her, arm in arm. A Russian thing, Faith figured. “People fight, Faith,” Irina said gently, “Even people in love. You know that. The make-up was good?”
“Oh yeah…. So, how’s Jack?” Faith changed the subject with her usual subtlety.
“I gave him a closet, he’s left a few things. Beach shoes, a couple tropical-weight suits. One of his favorite Rugers. It’s a beginning. I don’t suppose he’s ever really going to trust me, but it’s starting not to matter so much. He comes and goes on his own schedule… he said he might drop in tonight if he could… but I try not to anticipate…”
“And Syd?” Faith asked.
Irina smiled, chatted on happily, detailing her daughter’s latest visit, her burgeoning success in the business world….. It occurred to Faith that Irina had no one else to talk to. Not about this. No one else who understood how it was to live with the constant fear that the ones you loved would suddenly remember who you really were and turn to look at you with hate and dread….
“So,” Irina said, when her Syd tales had run their course, “what do you think of SG1?”
They shook their heads at Teal’c and his live-in snake, both shuddering at the thought. Still, Faith said,
“Dude’s cool. Gotta lot of heavy shit going on behind the cool, some serious anger issues there, kinda lookin’ forward to seeing him get his rage on when we hit the worms. But not as much as he is, I bet.”
Jackson Faith pronounced ‘okay for an egghead’, and smart enough to grab something good when he sees it in front of him… and just what Dawnie needed to remove the stick that’s been up her ass lately.
“And O’Neill ….?” Both women laughed.
“Fuckin’ Admiral’s a riot,” Faith said. “And cute for an old guy … Sad though. Lonely. When its all done I think he’s gonna miss fighting with Renee more than Jacksons’ gonna miss fucking Dawn. ….”
“And Carter?” Irina asked. Faith shook her head.
“Chicks’ wack,” she said, her voice filled with genuine puzzlement. “Going off to other planets, getting’ all life’n’death with three prime beefsticks and not getting’ groiny with any of them? I’d understand if she was into split-tails, but that ain’t her thing … despite the haircut. It ain’t like the boys ain’t willing…. Well, I dunno about Teal’c… I think he might turn her down, mostly out of respect for the Admiral… but who knows, dude is a freakin’ alien after all… but I figure Jackson might hold out for fifteen or twenty seconds if she really put the moves on, and the Admiral wants her so bad he can taste it. …. But she ain’t gonna do shit. Major Sam has major daddy issues, yeah? And a problem with authority. She likes it. What Admiral Jack oughta do if he really wants it is put her over his knee and give her ass a few smacks for being a tease. Might warm her up. “ She paused, shot Irina a grin, added, “‘Course he better make sure she’s not armed when he tries it…. “
Irina laughed. They were nearing the light now, Faith could see Xan and Buffy and Giles were settling down to do the meet’n’greet as the rest of the slayers scheduled for the snake hunt ‘ported in.
Irina paused, turned toward her, Faith knew what was coming and managed only to freeze and not actually pull back as Irina hugged her. With a bit of effort she relaxed, even reciprocated just a little. Faith figured Irina had this theory that little lost Faith needed hugs to make up for the ones she never got as a child… but Faith figured you didn’t miss what you never had. She liked it when Xan held her, she didn’t need anyone else. Faith figured maybe Irina needed hugs to make up for all the ones she never gave little Syd. Whatever. Or maybe the whole thing was just a tease. Irina was laughing now, stepping back, she said.
“There now, that wasn’t so bad, was it? Another year or two, in public, maybe even without the automatic revulsion. And after that,” Irina said, “Giles.”
Part V: Sam Carter and the Slayer’s Butt
Samantha Carter contemplated the red bikini.
She was fresh from the shower, wrapped in a fluffy towel, retracing her steps in her mind. Yes, she had left her duffel, and thus her clothes, on foot of the bed. Where the bikini was now. Sam did not consider it to be a fair trade.
Such a small and simple thing, she thought, the bikini, and yet still so full of complications and implications…..
“It makes your butt look funny,” Buffy said.
“My butt is not funny,” Dawn whined.
The bubble of her brief reverie popped, Sam turned to look around. She was in a girl’s bedroom, her assigned quarters for the night… That she was sharing with the Summers’ sisters. There were stuffed animals on the shelves and teen heartthrob posters on the wall between the crossed sabres and a rack of axes. And a well-mirrored vanity where the aforementioned siblings stood modeling swimwear.
“I didn’t say your butt was funny, I said it looked funny in my suit,” Buffy said. “Because it’s my
suit, designed and, here’s the big point, measured
So actually, the thing is, your butt makes my suit look funny. Ask Sam if you don’t believe me…..”
And so it came to pass that Samantha Carter found herself contemplating a pair of outthrust Summers’ derrieres ….. Buffy’s suit was black and white, a print of a medieval chess game in progress that looked as if it had been painted on her skin by M.C. Escher. Dawn was wearing the Italian flag as redesigned by Pablo Picasso in a prurient mood. And, Sam had to admit, it didn’t quite fit.
“So Sam,” Dawn said, “is my ass funny or what?
Sam said, “Umm. Er. Not really my field of expertise….” And then Buffy was laughing and Dawn said,
“Fine,” and flounced off into the bathroom, with Buffy calling after, her voice kind,
“Just wear the light blue Ujena, Dawn, sometimes simple is best. Somehow I don’t think Dr. Jackson is the type to be impressed by designer swimwear. Just don’t snort rum’n’coke out your nose when you laugh and I’m sure he’ll think you’re totally ancient and sophisticated…..”
“Buffy!” Dawn said, poking her head out of the bathroom, “Onay oytalkbay inway ontfray ofway ethay oy'sbay estbay iendfray. ”
“What?” Buffy said.
“No boytalk in front of the boy's best friend,” a bemused Sam translated.
“Oh. Right,” Buffy said, the added softly, to Sam, “She’s really worried about the scars.”
“Scars?” Sam said, suddenly feeling Buffy’s eyes on her like a cold breeze. Sam remembered Jack saying something about Buffy being “the really scary one.” She’d thought he’d been joking, now she wasn’t so sure.
“She has scars. I trust Dr. Jackson can handle … it would be best if no one made a fuss… ”
“Of course,” Sam said, “I’ll give him a heads up…..”
The slayer crossed the room, looked down at the red bikini on the bed, then looked back at Sam, nodded in approval, smiling cheerily as if there’d never even been hint of a chill as she said, “It’s a good color for you.”
“And my clothes?” Sam asked after a moment.
“Oh, don’t worry, they’ll be back early in the morning, washed and folded and repaired if necessary. Irina runs a tight ship.”
“And this Irina,” Sam asked, though without out much hope of getting an answer, “who is she, exactly?”
Buffy smiled and looked away a moment, then looked back at her, and Sam sighed inwardly, knowing she was about to get the same answer she’d gotten from Harris and Faith and Andrew, even Renee,
“Really, Sam, you’ll be happier not knowing. Really.
“You don’t mean she’s a….,“ Sam struggled with the word but managed to spit it out, “a demon
of some kind…”
“No, no, no…. she’s human enough…. Lorne’s the only demon here tonight. Well, except for Javier of course. So, Sam, look, we’re on Cuban time now so the party won’t get started for an hour or two at least. Relax a little, have a look around if you want, or catch a quick nap. Get a little private time while you can, its gonna get pretty crowded here tonight.”
“Wait a minute,” Sam said, “Who’s Lorne? And what do mean, except for Javier?”
“Oh, didn’t anyone tell you? He’s a vamp. He’s the cook’s husband. But don’t worry, he’s got a soul. Or a half-soul. Or shares a soul. I never quite got that part straight. Anyway, he doesn’t bite. He plays the guitar and does odd jobs around the place…”
“Just don’t ask him to play “Dust in the Wind,” Dawn added, emerging from the bathroom wearing a few scraps of strategic blue cloth. “Javvy doesn’t mind but Dayami gets pissed.”
“Oh, yeah, and don’t worry about your song,” Buffy said, “we’re a very kind audience. ”
“My song?” Sam said with sudden horror. “Harris was serious about that?”
“Oh yeah,” Buffy said, “but really, I promise, no catcalls or mocking of any kind, no matter how bad you are because we’ve … we have our reasons. It’s a party, Sam. Have a good time. We’ll do the serious battle plan thing in the morning. Ciao.”
She opened the door, slipped out into the hall. Dawn followed, pausing a moment to lean back in the doorway,
“Just, word to the wise, avoid the Manilow. There are … connotations….” She paused. “You won’t tell Daniel ….”
“Of course not. When it comes to …. “ she couldn’t bring herself to say ‘love’,… “personal relations,” Sam said, “he’s on his own.”
“Okay. Great. Thanks. Seriously, have fun tonight. Ciao.”
Part VI: Major Carter and the Impure Thoughts
And she was alone. At last. The Summers siblings were …. a little wearing.
She was tired. And irritated. With herself, with her hosts. They had been unfailingly polite, had included her in the morning shopping trip, in conversations … yet managing always to slide away from any questions of substance, as just now they had vanished without answering “Who’s Lorne?”
She just hadn’t found a connection, a comfort zone with any of them. Perhaps it was the age difference … startling to remember that neither Buffy nor Harris had reached thirty yet. Except the rest of her team had found a way. Daniel…. was being Daniel, land him on a granite planet and he’d make friends with a rock before the day was over. But the usually less diplomatic Jack seemed to have come to some sort unspoken agreement with both Harris and Buffy, and was clearly enjoying his feud with Renee. Even Teal’c seemed to have forged some understanding with Andrew, once the young man had calmed down a little… nor did Teal’c seem to mind the girls’ constant flirting….
But Sam was still … on the outside. It was a feeling she knew well. Being a girl genius, always at the head of her class despite usually being the youngest, usually by five years or so, hadn’t exactly made her into one of the gang. She had always been pretty enough, boys came to talk to her, but soon they went away with their eyes glazed… Sam told herself, who cares, if they can’t keep up, who needs them…. Still, she had tried, a few times, when the loneliness had her, she watched the other girls, watched the them giggle and flirt … she’d tried but her heart wasn’t in it and it had showed…
Sam had tried, today. She had, for example, tried to talk motorcycles with Faith. But Sam made her motorcycle go faster by installing custom sprockets calculated to maximize the efficiency of the final drive ratio, Faith made her bike go faster by holding the throttle wide open and leaning hard into curves… there just wasn’t that much to say.
She’d admired Buffy’s shoes and been given a virtual tour and comparative critique of Roman and Milano shoe stores …. At first Sam had thought the Slayer Prime was pulling her leg…. but other slayer from the boat, Caridad, had joined the conversation with what had to be genuine enthusiasm…. the pair chattering away obliviously as Sam stared. Surely no one could care that much about shoes.
Sam…. Wore boots. Oh she had a couple pairs of regulation dress pumps in her closet, a pair of cross-trainers, flats for around the house. But Sam wore boots.
Sam contemplated the red bikini.
The Air Force had given her structure, purpose, rewarded her for her achievements. And even, finally, given her friends. Janet, Daniel, Teal’c. Jack.
There had been men along the way. Not many. Most were too intimidated and those that weren’t saw her as a conquest. Or they had been unwilling to play third fiddle to her career and interests, unwilling to simply accept “classified” as a reason for her secrecy. Or they were doomed aliens, of course.
And now there was Jack, who knew her secrets. Jack who was safely off-limits.
She’d noticed Jack… noticing her on this trip. On the trip to Durango, to tell the truth, but even more the last few days. Probably because Harris was in charge and Jack could coast, he had more time to … think thoughts. Maybe because the rules just didn’t seem to apply anymore, not here anyway. But all the more reason …
Probably it was the clothes, mufti made a difference. The dress. Cleavage, a bit of leg. The light cloth that almost felt like it wasn’t there. She’d felt silly. Out of uniform. Practically naked. But Buffy and Caridad were so pleased, it would have been churlish to refuse ….
She’d seen Jack see the dress, see her in the dress. It wasn’t how a Colonel should look at a Major. Yet she’d been…. Pleased. Disturbed a little, but pleased.
She’d thought to make a joke of it, to ease the slight tension, but she hadn’t found the words.
And to tell the truth once or twice she caught herself looking at Jack the way a Major shouldn’t look at a Colonel. Jack, relaxed and smiling in the sunlight as Renee teased him, looking like movie star on vacation in the dark shades, light pants and the shirt that Buffy had bought him.
Sam wasn’t too happy about that. She knew she had no right to be angry. In fact, she realized Buffy had actually asked her permission, in the market, offering her the chance to chose the shirts first, to “Spiff the Colonel up a little,” then when Sam declined, said, “Oh, do you mind if I do, then?” And Sam had said no, she didn’t mind.
But she had. She had seen Buffy dressing …. her man and she felt… weak. She imagined what would happen to the woman who tried to dress Harris in Faith’s presence. Not pretty.
But Jack wasn’t hers. Not like that. She wasn’t that happy about Daniel and Dawn either. And the girls were being awful free with Teal’c’s lap…..
Sam had been Alpha female in her world for a long time now, and not just because she been pretty much the only female at her level.... it was a little disconcerting to suddenly feel like the weakest woman in the room.
Gah. Sam shook her head, stepped across the room, glared at herself in the vanity mirror. This was silly. It occurred to her that she hadn’t spent this much time in close quarters with this many females for years. Since the academy. That explained it. She was suffering from estrogen poisoning.
There were goa’uld. On Earth. Now. And SG1 was… touring the Caribbean, going to parties, flirting with giggly girls. It was driving Sam a little mad. She was getting caught up in … petty jealousies. Getting pointlessly possessive, feeling the need to defend her turf …. She was above that.
So maybe Buffy and Dawn were going to a party, Major Carter
was still on a mission, however strange. And her mission wasn’t to make friends, it was to learn as much about these people and what they knew about the goa’uld as she possibly could, as soon as she could.
And now there was the enigmatic Irina Derevko to investigate. She was apparently Russian, obviously wealthy, connected, living in Cuba long after the Russians had abandoned the island… so what, wealthy widow? Mistress to some government bigshot? Apparatchik in her own right? Sam had only had time for a brief glimpse of Derevko on their arrival… she had got a sense of elegance and precision, neither qualities she normally associated with the Russians. Still there must be something… hell, what’s the worst possible … maybe even ex-KGB? Did they really think after what she’d seen in the last few days she’d be disturbed by a few lingering remnants of the cold war?
In addition to the red bikini, Sam found an alternative selection laid out on the bed, there was a more modest white one-piece swimsuit, and a khaki tee-shirt-and-cargo-pants combo that was as near to BDU’s as made no difference. Options offered by a considerate host, Carter wondered, or a test?
She was in shape. She could wear a bikini. Did Derevko want to know if she was confident enough to wear a bikini in the company of a bunch of hard-bodied seventeen year-old super heroes?
Or confident enough not
to wear the bikini even if might make it look like she was intimidated…
Or maybe, Sam thought, I am way way
over-thinking this. And what do I care what Derevko thinks….
And now she was right back to the beginning, how would Jack react?
Of course in the line of duty they’d all seen each other in various stages of undress at one time of another … but it was one thing to see a fellow soldier roll out of a sleeping bag in her bvd’s, another to have your second-in-command prancing around in a couple bits of red cloth….
If the dress caught his eye, what effect would the bikini … Sam wondered what she’d do if he weakened….They walk together in the warm air, leaving the music behind for the soft susurrus of the beach, they’ve been dancing, his hand warm and strong on her back, her breasts against his chest, nipples hard like electric rocks, sending suggestions down below…... he leads her away from the others, into the dim glow of the starlight, tilts her head back, leans in for the kiss….
“Colonel,” she would say….
“Jack,” he would answer, “just for tonight, I am Jack and you are Samantha, and that’s not my sidearm, and I can’t take it anymore, being so close … think of this as a little rip in the space time continuum, another time another place, Jack and Samantha in a parallel dimension….. in the morning we can be Colonel and Major again.”
Except it would be too late then. No matter what happened, if she resisted or gave in it would be different in the morning … but it would never happen, Jack would never……
She put on the bikini.
And then, because even Sam Carter is human, she went over to the mirror, took an assessing look, turned around, bent, looked back over her shoulder to check out her ass.
And then she pulled the cargo pants and tee-shirt on over top of the suit and went out. She had work to do.
Part VII: Major Sam and the Writing on the Wall
Use the kitchen knives in the Kitchen Only.
Use Only the Kitchen Knives in the kitchen.
Do Not Throw the kitchen knives.
Do Not Juggle the kitchen knives.
No, you may Not use Dayami’s favorite Sabatier chef’s knife, even if you really really promise not to break it. Again.
Do Not throw veggies up and try to slice them in mid-air, not even if you did it last night and it was really cool.
Do not throw fruit, meat, fish, bread, pastries or Anything Else up and try to slice it in mid-air.
Do not tell the cook how much flan reminds you of Ornak demon pus.
Do not tell the cook what calamari reminds you of and what you did to it.
I really mean it about the knives.
Yes, Renee, these rules apply to you.
All of them.
Sam could hear voices, laughter, the unnaturally fast rat-tat-tat of a knife on a chopping block… the door swung open and Caridad poked her head out,
“Ah, Sam, good, thought that was you, come on in, want something to drink, a quick snack…..?”
“No, thank you..…..” Sam said and was ignored.
“Here, give this a taste,” she was handed a small bowl of steaming dark liquid and a soup spoon, “careful, it’s hot….”
She held the bowl gingerly while Caridad, kindly and correctly assuming that Sam had not retained the arrival introductions, did them again, pointing out three girls lined up over a long cutting board and playing idly with knives, Isobel, Jacquie and Fairuza, slayers currently in residence at Camp Kendra. She introduced Dayami, the thirtyish cook hovering over the pots boiling on the large stove who gave her a quick wave. There were two other Cuban women about the same age, spatulas and pot-holders to hand, friends who’d come to help with the party.
“And last but not least,” Caridad said with a smile, “Tia
Laline, the Witch Queen of Cuba….”
“Oh hush, you,” the older woman said, though clearly pleased. She looked the part, black hair swept up into a towering tight bun, black lace shawl around her shoulders, hands beringed with jeweled silver, in her left she held a half-full goblet of red wine and had been clearly been taking on the role of supervisor in the work at hand.
“I am honored to meet you, Major,” she said, her accent thick but the words still clear enough, “May I shake your hand?”
Puzzled, Sam held out her hand, “Of course…”
The old woman took her hand in her own stronger than expected grip. Sam felt old eyes meeting hers and looking long for moment, then shifting their gaze to her arms, the rest of her as if she was some sort of novel invention.
“Amazing. To think you’ve been … to other planets. To places so far away we can’t even imagine…. And yet here you are. I have so many questions I don’t know where to begin.”
Sam stood appalled. She’d understood that Harris had spread the word, to the Watchers, to the slayers who might encounter goa’uld in the field. It hadn’t occurred to her that he’d spread the word to the …. cook’s aunt. To part-time caterers assistants….
“I’m sorry. That information is classified….“ Sam said.
“Oh child, ” Laline said, “we already know the big part, surely you can tell us a few details. We won’t tell a soul…..”
“No!” Sam said, more harshly than she’d intended. “It doesn’t matter what you know. That information is classified and I am not at liberty to discuss it. I’m sorry. Please excuse me.”
She found herself standing in the hall again, holding the bowl of black liquid.
“Don’t worry it’s just black bean soup,” Caridad said. “Not some witches brew. And, Sam, the ladies are discreet… and even if they weren’t, if you went into a bar in Havana and announced that the Americans were meeting with space aliens half the people would call you crazy and the other would tell you everyone knows that, been going on for years.“
Sam took a sip of the black liquid. It was black bean soup. It was good.
“I’ll tell Dayami you approve,” Caridad said, “C’mon, I’ll give you the grand tour.”
Sam followed the slim slayer about the house, making mental notes of exits and entrances, the defensive fortifications…. The architecture was light, airy, designed to encourage the flow of air. The paint on the walls bright, tropical pastels, the occasional display of medieval weaponry seemed out of place if one didn’t realize the swords and staffs and pikes were placed there more for reasons of easy access then aesthetics. Sam noted were no other decorations, no paintings on the walls, no family photos, no knick knacks on corner shelves, no sign of Derevko in the house at all.
They poked their heads into the classroom, Sam read the assignments on the board… Algebra – Read Chapter 5, do the odd numbered problems on page 62.
Demonology – list three demons who can’t be killed by steel, describe their natural lairs and feeding habits. Expound upon when and if they should be killed, and how.
Friday’s history test has been postponed pending the goa’uld battle, certain girls would be wise to use the extra time to study….
Another room reminded her of Dr. Fraiser’s domain, well-stocked with sundry medical supplies and large posters outlining the proper procedures for CPR and stopping arterial bleeds. Another room was dominated by a wide-screen TV, looming over a few battered leather couches and flanked by a large if odd collection of chickflick and kungfu DVD’s. There was also a top of the line stereo system in one corner and a wall of cd’s, a couple game consoles, a couple racks of glossy magazines and chicklit paperbacks…
They went upstairs, Caridad pointed down the hall, “Those two rooms, that’s Irina’s and Syd’s bedrooms. That’s …. private, anywhere else, feel free…”
And then there was the library. In the center of the large, high-ceilinged room a long table supported a row of workstations that made Sam’s fingers itch …
“Go ahead,” Caridad said with a grin.
Sam sat at one of the workstations and touched the keyboard. A suspiciously Dawn-like avatar appeared on the screen and waved at her, the words appeared, “Hello, Major Carter. Would you like to play a game?”
“Maybe later,” Sam said. She stood, gestured toward the books, “May I?”
“Of course,” Caridad, then, seeing the question in Sam’s eye, added with a gentle smile, “Because the really dangerous books aren’t kept here, because Xander believes the more you know the more you’ll be on our side, and because it would be too much of a bother to hide them. I’ll leave you to it, if you need anything, just holler. Or feel free to come back down to the kitchen. No hard feelings, I hope? Laline didn’t mean to…”
“I know,” Sam said. “Tell her I’m sorry for .. being so abrupt.”
She browsed the shelves, one wall covered in leatherbound, supernaturally themed tomes, a second wall covered in more modern, eclectic fare, heavy on the political and technical, a disturbingly thorough section on modern weaponry … including, Sam cursed under her breath, a few soft bound reports she knew were damn well classified. Some were Russian. And some were Chinese.
As well, there was a very thorough section on psychology with emphasis on childhood development, particularly of the gifted child … Sam recognized some titles she’d seen the shelves of her guidance counselors over the years…. The Watchers’ collection, Sam wondered. Or Derevko’s?
An wide-ranging selection of fiction and philosophy filled out the remaining shelves. The books not just for show, either, picking a few volumes at random Sam found their spines broken, the occasional cryptic notes written in the margins, the occasional dog ear.
And in the rear corner of the room Sam found a door, open just a crack. She pushed and it swung open. She hesitated a moment, innate courtesy informing her that she was about to cross over the line from exploring to snooping … but she was curious. And on a mission. She went in.
And found herself in what she immediately thought of as Derevko’s refuge. The room was spare. Comfortable but austere. A leather chair, a large wooden desk bare but for three framed photos; a rather solemn man in a suit, a smiling, fit young woman, and one formally posed photo of the same two people flanking Derevko herself. There was a painting of a wintry landscape on the wall facing the desk, on another wall a striking, dark-toned painting of wizened old women gathered around a seated goat… Hardly to Sam’s taste, but the style seemed familiar somehow …no doubt a copy of something famous … There was a bookshelf below the painting, leatherbound volumes, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy in Russian, Balzac, Proust in French, Becket in both French and English, Maugham, Greene, Shakespeare in English, Faulkner and Saroyan and Algren in American.
And finally there was a window that looked out over the courtyard and pool below.
Sam stood looking down. The scene below her suddenly disturbingly surreal, though Sam told herself it was just the light … the electric illumination in the pool laid down a base of liquid blue while carefully spaced tiki torches and chinese lanterns layered the night with a warm red glow … Harris and Buffy had come out to sit by the pool where they were soon joined by an older man in a white linen suit who seemed to spend a great deal of time polishing his glasses … Giles, Sam thought, that has to be Giles, the One Who Knows All. Then like ghosts taking corporeal form, Faith and Derevko herself emerged from the beachside shadows, Faith pausing to grin and rub her wet hair into Harris’ neck before taking the seat at his side, leaving Derevko standing in attendance. Sam felt a twitch of sympathy. Obviously a woman of power, of wealth, of formidable intellect, and yet her house, and presumably her life, had clearly been invaded, colonized, taken over by Harris and his horde. Sam knew how that felt.
Not that Derevko appeared unhappy, laughing now at something Harris said, then turning and striding toward the house, calling out instructions. Moments later Andrew and a couple of the resident girls came out and unrolled a red carpet with a with a large white pentagram embroidered in the center. One of the girls produced a switchblade out of thin air and pricked her finger, moving around to anoint each point of the pentagram with a drop of blood. Then a second placed a lit candle on each point and Andrew stepped into the center, held up a scroll and read aloud, facing each point for a moment… the candles flared, each burning bright as a fourth of July firework, then suddenly going out. An easy effect, Sam thought automatically, a bit of coating on the wick, a layer in the wax…
And then … nothing. Andrew rolled up his scroll, picked up the candles and went inside, the girls dove into the pool, laughing and splashing one another. And, nothing.
Dawn came out, carrying another chair and sat next to Buffy.
And then suddenly there were people in the pentagram, two girls in matching zebra striped bikinis and carrying duffel bags that sagged with obvious weight, though the girls swung them about easily. The third person was a bearded man in some sort of pajama-like outfit. They came forward to shake hands with Buffy and Giles, to hug Harris and knock knuckles with Faith…. to chat awhile before Derevko re-appeared and led them off, presumably to settle them into their quarters.
Before long others appeared, in pairs and threesomes and quartets, mostly girls in their teens or at most early twenties…. with a few older people interspersed …. Watchers,
There was a fantastic quality to the scene, it lacked only an ominous drumbeat to transform into some sort of a pagan ritual, or maybe a scene from an old Viking movie, a tribal warlord gathering his mystic knights … Harris with his eye-patch, scepter of a cane, iridescent shirt and virtually naked Faith lolling at his side only adding to the image.
Sam closed her eyes, pinched the bridge of her nose. These weren’t Sam Carter thoughts. Details, she told herself. Get a head count. Look for patterns. Factions. Signs of discontent, dissent. Something useful.
They all came forward, each new arrival, for a brief moment of formality with the …. Harris could protest ‘til his nose turned blue but Sam knew commanders
when she saw them even if they called themselves something ridiculous, what-was-it … Scoobies.
A moment of formality with the Scoobies, they were greeted and welcomed and dismissed into Derevko’s care….
Gradually the courtyard and the pool began to fill up, with bodies, voices, laughter, as the newcomers began to mingle, Sam saw friends hugging, here and there she saw an introduction being made. The surreal seemed to fade into the normal, and yet something still bothered her about the scene. Okay, a hundred things bothered her about the scene, but this was something specific. Something missing.
It was only when the scene shifted again, the carpet was rolled up, Dayami appeared and began supervising the installation of long, well laden buffet tables and the unfolding of temporary chairs and tables to be placed around the pool, forcing the Scoobies to break up their little circle … then it hit her. The Red Witch was missing. All the principals from the game were there, Prime Slayer, Dark Slayer, One Who Knows, One Who Sees, even the One Who Tells. But not the Red Witch.
And not only from the scene, Sam realized, the witch had been absent from all conversation … perhaps it meant nothing. But Sam’s gut said otherwise.
Doing her initial research on the ‘net Sam had found other names for Willow Rosenberg … DarkWillow the Avenger, who could ride lightning and throw electric bolts like a god, WhiteWillow, Goddess of Light, whose presence in the world staved off eternal night, GreenWillow, Earthmother, who could make rivers writhe, and mountains rise and fall… at the time Sam dismissed it all as one part poetry and nine parts idiocy, but now…. Of course such powers had to be wild exaggerations, but now that she had fought vampires and seen the slayers ply their trade … If the idea of magic still stuck in her throat, nevertheless there was some unexplained power … And Sunnydale was
a big hole in the ground that had never really been explained.
She was worried about a missing witch
. Sam’s brain said she needed a second opinion.
She needed to talk to Jack. To Daniel. She needed to hear Teal’c say “Indeed.” She needed to touch base with her team, to make sure she wasn’t alone down here in the rabbit hole.
Part VIII: Samantha Carter: Alone again, naturally.
She found Daniel first. He was … dancing,
Sam supposed was the charitable term. He was doing some sort of chicken-bob thing with his head, one hand on his hip, the other waving about while he did a sort of skipping motion, two skips to the left, three skips back the right and a sort of gangly pirouette back to center. It was a little reassuring that he was not doing this alone but aping the motions of a rather tall man in a very bright yellow silk suit. A tall, green man with blood red eyes and matching horns on his forehead.
Sam had come in search of a little taste of normality, of the familiar. This wasn’t helping.
“Ah, Sam,” Daniel said, straightening, “There you are. Good. I want you to meet Krevlorneswath of the Deathwok Clan. He’s from another dimension. Where they have no music, but interestingly enough they do have traditional dances. He was teaching me the Dance of Inevitable Disappointment….
“It was my specialty in my youth,” the green man said. “Delighted to meet you, Major Carter, please call me Lorne,” he reached out … after a brief moment Sam recalled her manners and extended her hand for him to kiss with continental flourish. She braced herself to show no revulsion at his touch, but found the instinctive reaction unnecessary as his palm was warm and dry and not in the least bit froglike. Well, no reason it should be, really, she chided herself. And then the green man winked at her, smiling, as if he understood exactly what had gone through her mind. Sam felt her neck warming just a little.
“And this,” Daniel said, guiding her toward the elegant Cuban man who was putting aside his guitar and standing to greet her, “is Javier, master guitarist.”
“Dr. Jackson is too kind. A sus ordenes,
Major,” the man said, bending to kiss her hand as well. His hand was cold and … hard somehow. Except for Javier.
The vampire on the half-soul. “I trust you are being made comfortable?”
“Oh yes, thank you,” Sam lied.
“Good. But if you need anything, please let me know. That is my true role here.”
“Nonsense,” Daniel said, “he’s amazing. You’ll hear him play later, I trust?”
“Or course,” the vampire nodded.
“So,” Daniel continued, “have you met Rupert yet, Sam? Remarkable fellow. He had some fascinating things to say about dimensional portals, we really must all sit down and compare notes…. “
“Yes,” Sam said, “I was just thinking that myself, we should have a little talk before dinner starts, just you, me, Jack and T…..” she trailed off, seeing that Daniel’s attention had left her. She glanced back over her shoulder and saw Dawn approaching … as she passed by one of the torches the low angle light illuminated the young torso … sheesh, Sam thought, I can count her ribs…
and highlighted the long white scars on her abdomen. Sam remembered Buffy’s warning and turned back to Daniel … and saw by the archeologist’s cheshire smile that no heads up would be necessary.
“Hey Sam,” Dawn said, arriving and handing Daniel a chilled glass, offering a second to Carter, “Mojito?”
“No thank you,” Sam said. “I was just….
“You‘re sure? Okay. There’s sodas and juice if you’re avoiding the alcohol, please help yourself, …Would you excuse us, I need to borrow Danny for a few …”
“Of course,” Sam sagged.
Sam found Teal’c out by the water’s edge, sitting cross-legged side by side with Andrew. The young man’s head was bobbing weirdly, looking closer Sam saw that the big Jaffa’s head was doing a similar weave, albeit at a much slower tempo ... walking toward them Sam began to hear the music over the surf, there was a high-pitched melody skittering over and around a steady base. There was a single small oil lamp flickering between the two men, in it’s light she saw the pan pipes moving in Andrew’s hands as he blew the tune, she saw the long wooden tube that T’ealc held to his lips, his cheeks puffing in steady rhythm. Both the were staring out over the water as they played, Sam followed their gaze, at first seeing nothing but the froth on the waves …. Then as her eyes adjusted she began to see the silver flickers, saw the patterns that slowly resolved into the shapes of fish, dancing on the surface…. not just leaping about, but dancing, matched pairs, grouper to grouper, skate to skate, shark to shark, snook to snook, whirling about on the shifting plane of their liquid ballroom, lacking only the chandelier and the sharp-eyed duennas watching from the corners….
And then the music faded and the fish sank out of sight leaving Sam blinking, thinking it must have been some sort of hypnotic illusion, perhaps aided by images thrown by a hidden projector to reflect on the spray….
To her surprise she heard the rare sound of T’ealc laughing. “Again!” he said. She heard Andrew murmuring softly, then the music started again and Sam waited but nothing seemed to be happening. After awhile she backed away and went in search of Jack, not noticing the seabirds beginning to gather and form up into squares.
Major Carter found Colonel O’Neill in the TV room, towering over Renee and Jun Lee like Gulliver in Lilliput and clearly just as trapped.
“No,” he said wearily.
“How ‘bout this one?” Jun said, holding up a CD.
“Ohh, this would be good,” Renee said.
“No!” Jack said.
“Oh, c’mon. Me and Jun could do the chorus easy, maybe we could borrow one of Syd’s wigs for you…”
“No!” Jack said.
“But it’s so right for you …. Kharma kharma chameleon, you come and go, you come and go,”
Renee sang, dancing loosely at O’Neill’s side.
“NO!” Jack said, and Renee dissolved in laughter.
“I’ve got it!” Jun said, reaching up to pull a CD down from the top shelf. “This is perfect.”
“No,” Jack said automatically.
“Lemme see,” Renee said, taking the CD from Jun’s hand, “Ohhh. Yeah. Good call.”
“Um, no?” Jack said.
“C’mon Jack, we’re almost out of old people music. If you don’t pick soon, we’re just gonna pick for you…”
“And make me sing … how?”
“Ve haf vays to make you sing, Colonel,” Renee intoned.
“Besides, if we do this one, you only have to sing half of the song,” Jun said.
“Yeah, me an Jun’ll do the other half.”
“Well….” Jack conceded
“Good. C’mon, let’s go rehearse.” “What?!”
“Practice,” Renee explained.
“I know what rehearse means,” Jack said. “But you don’t practice karaoke
for crying out loud…
“If you’re gonna sing with us you can’t just get up there and goof around. You’ll make us look bad. You don’t want to make us look bad, do you, Jack? Hey Sam, all yours, help yourself,” Renee added, nodding toward the CD shelves as she and Jun dragged the feebly resisting Colonel out into the hall.
“Carter,” his voice trailed back, “help me.” But she could tell his heart wasn’t in it.
Sam found herself alone again, half amused, half pissed. She sagged into one the couches, resting a moment, trying to decide whether her time would be better spent upstairs hacking into the computer system or mingling at the party.
“Colonel O’Neill seems to be enjoying himself,” a low voice behind her said.
Sam turned and saw Irina Derevko glide through the doorway to curl up smoothly on the couch opposite, the suppleness of her movements belying the long years that showed in the tell-tale wrinkles in her hands and neck, in the lines around her eyes. The eyes themselves striking, ageless, direct. Amused. Once again, not quite what Sam was expecting. Sam wasn’t quite sure what she was expecting …. But Irina Derevko in the flesh seemed much more like a favorite aunt, the one who sent post cards from far away places, than some unspeakable evil.
“Yes, he is,” Sam said simply, carefully.
“Xander seems to think,” Derevko started, then paused, there was some shouting from the courtyard, someone calling for Harris,
“Will you excuse me, please,” Derevko said, already heading for the door.
“Of course,” Sam said, following close on her footsteps. They burst out onto the courtyard, then stopped, Sam felt Derevko’s hand take her shoulder and move her out to the way as one the girls from the kitchen flashed by, a heavy duffel slung over her shoulder, running to where Harris and Faith stood waiting, Harris talking rapidly on his cellphone.
Another girl was laying out the pentagram carpet again, the candles set and lit so fast it seemed to Sam like a switch had been thrown.
And then there were was a girl there, laying on her back, dressed only in ripped jeans and the torn remnants of shirt and covered in blood, her arm behind her back at an angle that made Sam cringe.
Derevko was barking orders then, two girls appeared with a stretcher and scooped up the girl and ran for the infirmary, Derevko following after.
She glanced back at Harris and saw that he and Faith and Caridad were arming themselves from the heavy duffel, Harris with an axe and a shotgun, the girls with assorted blades, she saw Faith holding out a wicked looking weapon with sharp stake at one end and a long wide curving blade at the other, heard her rasp,
“So waddya say, B, you in for a little payback?”
“Oh yeah,” Buffy said, and took the weapon, as one the group stepped onto the carpet, gathered in the pentagram, and then suddenly they were gone.
“Hey Sam, you okay?”
Sam turned and saw Dawn standing beside her, looking. Sam thought, a little pale.
“Yes…. Are you?”
“Yeah…. I’m just….” The slayer’s sister looked down, embarrassed. “I … have a little trouble with blood sometimes. Makes me queasy. I’ll go check on her again when they’ve finished cleaning her up….”
“How bad is it?”
“Well, she made it back here alive, she’s probably going to be alright. Slayers are tough." Dawn took a deep breath, shook out her hair, stared away a moment and exhaled slow and steady, then turned back to Sam. “So, Sam, decided what you’re going to sing yet?”
“What? We’re not still going to ….”
“Sure we are, Sam. We’ve got all these people here for a reason. A slayer getting hurt doesn’t happen every day, but still, it’s just a day in the life. Well, you’d know. The beat goes on. La de da de de, la de da de da.”
To be continued. Soon.